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Every juvenile prison must be immediately closed and all of its prisoners freed.
Oh. Oh. Oh! That sounds too drastic and simplistic and revolutionary.
We talk about being reformist or revolutionary as if it were a personality choice. Yet we also talk about being scientific, about being reality-based. Unlike reactionary climate-denying racist creationists we claim, most of us, to recognize such phenomena as climate change and to act on them (leave aside for the moment whether we're really acting appropriately on that one).
The science has long been crystal clear: juvenile prisons are worse than nothing. They increase rather than reducing crime. In our failure to abolish them, we -- and not the children we torture -- are the seemingly hopeless recidivists.
We spend in the United States $88,000 on average per year to lock a child up, compared to $10,652 to educate a child. We have over 66,000 children locked up, 87% of them boys, and our police arrest 2 million juveniles each year.
A recent longitudinal study of 35,000 young offenders found that those who are locked up are over twice as likely to be locked up as adults compared to those who committed similar offenses and came from similar backgrounds but were given an alternative penalty or were just not arrested. In some states over 80% of those locked up as kids will be convicted of later crimes. Studies have found that, more than family difficulties or gang membership or any other factor, the best predictor of criminality is whether someone has been imprisoned in what amount to factories for crime.
Well, but then, isn't the best predictor the initial commission of a crime that led to the initial incarceration? Actually, no. Eighty to 90% of teenagers in the United States commit illegal acts that could land them behind bars. Most of those put behind bars are put there for minor, nonviolent offenses. A third of all teenagers have even committed a somewhat serious crime, but most are never arrested, much less imprisoned. Almost all grow out of it.
If the minority of young people whose lives are ruined by prison were selected randomly, we might be a bit more likely to do something about it. Anyone who is a parent and finds out what happens in juvenile prisons must be highly unlikely to tolerate their continued existence unless convinced that only other people's children will be locked up. And in fact, it is highly disproportionately kids from poor neighborhoods and with darker skin who get locked up. A non-white child is far more likely to be arrested for the same act than a white child, far more likely to be charged and detained, far more likely to be sentenced to prison, and far more likely to be given a longer sentence.
In fact, the idea that sub-human monsters, of whatever race, must be made to suffer and must be kept away from the rest of us, is the leading candidate as a major explanation of the continuation of juvenile imprisonment. If the goal were preventing crime, the prisons are worse than nothing. We've tried alternatives within the prison system, and found that reforms help but can only go so far. We've tried alternatives outside of the prison system, and found them far superior in results. We've even seen states shut down lots of juvenile prisons, primarily because of the financial cost, and seen the benefits in cost savings, in the lives of young people, and in reduced crime rates. But other states don't follow suit, and the states making the cuts need only see a rise in revenue to begin rebuilding the torture palaces.
The lessons are of course obtainable from abroad as well. The U.S. locks kids up at a higher rate than any other nation. The next closest is South Africa, which locks up children at one-fifth the rate of the U.S. While the United States slowly, reluctantly, begins to stop throwing away packaging, it remains intent on throwing away people. For many who accept disproven ways of thinking, setting those 66,000 children free would make us less safe, just as cutting the military or disbanding it would endanger us all. These are powerful myths, but the evidence overwhelmingly disproves them. If our rural communities went back to farming food instead of prisoners, we would all be better off.
Much of what is routinely done to tens of thousands of youths in the United States would be illegal if done to prisoners of war. Torture in these houses of "correction" is the norm, not the exception. Isolation is the central abuse, combined with food deprivation, assault, rape, temperature extremes, deprivation of medical care, deprivation of education, sadistic exercises in humiliation, forced nudity, stress positions, piling on, attacks by dogs, and of course indefinite detention without criminal conviction. These practices have been transferred to international prisoners after becoming routine for U.S. prisoners, including juveniles. And, while much of the abuse comes from other prisoners, most of it is committed by guards -- or, excuse me, "correctional officers."
This disastrous system seems in dire need of reform, and the idea that it can be reformed is quite tempting. Children's bodies are dug up behind an institution in Florida. A judge in Pennsylvania gets caught taking bribes to send more kids to hell. A sexual assault scandal in Texas gets big enough to make the news. Kids hog-tied and left outside in freezing weather in Arkansas create some waves. But the scandals are everywhere. A review found only 8 states where there was not conclusive evidence of system-wide mistreatment. And the scandals have been there for a century and a half. The reforms have been needed and been worked on since day one. They are not what's needed. Children need love and companionship, safety and trust, respect and encouragement. They are even worse equipped to survive imprisonment than adults. Locked up kids commit suicide at a far higher rate than others, nearly rivaling that of war veterans. These facts are continually reconfirmed by new science, but they and the failure of juvenile prisons have been known practically since the invention of juvenile prisons.
Solitary confinement greatly increases suicide rates, and yet is used as a punishment for the offense of being suicidal. This is not a nifty contradiction to be examined in a master's thesis. Rather, it is part of a process that fundamentally destroys our young people, a process which we pretend improves them.
Or do we? Polls suggest that we, the public, in fact understand the madness of government child-abuse currently engaged in to the tune of $5 billion. The public prefers rehabilitation and treatment and is willing to pay higher taxes for those approaches, even though they actually cost less. We test this, prove it, and then don't act on it -- or at least our government doesn't act on it. Oregon tried an experiment in Deschutes County, giving the county the money it would have taken to lock kids up and requiring the county to pay the bill for any kid that did end up locked up. The county spent the money on prevention, neighborhood programs, community services. In a year, the number of children sent into the fortresses of misery and horror dropped by 72%.
Everything I've just claimed, and much more, is documented in a new book by Nell Bernstein called Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison. This book includes numerous personal stories, countless examples, endless studies, and all the evidence anyone claiming to base policy on reality would need to become a "radical" when it comes to the malfunctioning of juvenile prisons. Bernstein looks at the worst and the best of the institutions. The best remains far from good enough. The best remains worse than nothing at all. Improving the mass abuse of children is not pragmatic; it's immoral. It's like being in favor of the war on Libya because the war on Iraq was worse; doing so requires averting one's eyes from the state Libya is in.
Burning Down the House should be taught in our schools. Maybe free young people would find the power to speak up on behalf of their imprisoned fellows, if they knew. Maybe parents, if sufficiently intent on discarding both sadism and racism, would act if they heard it from their children.
There is a hurdle to be overcome, however, higher than the false belief that injustice only happens to those who deserve it, or the corruption of our misrepresentative government by profiteers, or the cooption of the corporate media by the government. The hurdle is this: everything that's wrong with prisons for children is also wrong with prisons for adults. If we stop thinking about imprisoned children the way that we must think in order to allow their imprisonment, we'll be in danger of ceasing to think about imprisoned adults the way we must to allow their imprisonment. Are we willing to risk that danger? I certainly hope so.
No human being wants to be ruled by their people's murderers. Forgiveness through restorative justice may be possible, but being ruled by murderers is asking for too much.
Yet, that seems to be the Hobson's choice behind the Afghan presidential election, which is into its run-off between Dr. Abdullah / Mohaqiq's team and Dr. Ashraf Ghani / General Dostum's team, neither team having won more than 50% of balloted votes in the first round.
Both teams have members who are warlords accused of human rights abuses, as reported by the New York Times, including Dr. Abdullah Abdullah's running mate, Mohammed Mohaqiq, and General Dostum, who is Dr. Ashraf Ghani's vice-presidential candidate.
General Dostum, allegedly on the CIA's payroll in the past, apologized for his past war crimes when he registered as Dr. Ashraf Ghani's vice-presidential candidate. One of those crimes is the Dasht-e-Leili massacre which occurred in the fall of 2001. New York Times and Newsweek investigations alleged that hundreds or even thousands of surrendering pro-Taliban prisoners died of thirst, hunger and gunshots when they were stuffed into shipping containers for transport to an Afghan prison.
Both presidential hopefuls in the run-off elections on June 14th have already vowed to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement, which President Obama mentioned in his surprise visit to Bagram Air Base in Kabul, not even bothering to visit President Karzai who declined to visit him at Bagram.
Article 7 of the Bilateral Security Agreement, states that, "Afghanistan hereby authorizes United States forces to control entry to agreed facilities and areas that have been provided for United States forces' exclusive use…" and also that "Afghanistan shall provide all agreed facilities and areas without charge to United States forces."
Article 13 includes this: "Afghanistan ... agrees that the United States shall have the exclusive right to exercise jurisdiction over such persons in respect of any criminal or civil offenses committed in the territory of Afghanistan."
It is understandable that President Karzai isn't willing to sign the agreement. It may leave a disastrous legacy.
I asked an activist who has been working in Afghanistan for ten years what he thought about the run-off in Afghanistan's elections. "Many Afghans, and people all over the world, are getting more and more cynical about elections," he told me. "And they should be, because how did our psyche become conditioned to accept that by electing corrupt, selfish, proud, wealthy and violent elites every four or five years, our ordinary lives will be changed? Our planet is exasperatingly unequal and militarized. To place in power the ones who continue this status quo is bizarre."
Bizarre, yet disturbingly familiar.
From June 6 to 9, the peace movement from around the world will gather in Sarajevo. See http://PeaceEventSarajevo2014.eu We speak with one of the planners of this event, Reiner Braun.
Reiner Braun is based in Berlin, Germany. He is the Executive Director of Scientists for Peace and Sustainability and the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility. Since 2004 Reiner Braun has been working for various projects related to the Einstein year at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and for the Max Planck Society. Since 2006 he has been the Executive Director of the German branch and since 2012 of the full International Association Of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms. He is project manager of the Vereinigung Deutscher Wissenschaftler (or Federation of German Scientists), the German Pugwash group. And since Septmber 2013 he has been Co-president of the International Peace Bureau and one of the speakers of the German peace mouvement.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
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If war were inevitable, there would be little point in trying to end it. If war were inevitable, a moral case might be made for trying to lessen its damage while it continued. And numerous parochial cases could be made for being prepared to win inevitable wars for this side or that side.
War has only been around for the most recent fraction of the existence of our species. We did not evolve with it.During this most recent 10,000 years, war has been sporadic. Some societies have not known war. Some have known it and then abandoned it.Just as some of us find it hard to imagine a world without war or murder, some human societies have found it hard to imagine a world with those things. A man in Malaysia, asked why he wouldn’t shoot an arrow at slave raiders, replied “Because it would kill them.” He was unable to comprehend that anyone could choose to kill. It’s easy to suspect him of lacking imagination, but how easy is it for us to imagine a culture in which virtually nobody would ever choose to kill and war would be unknown? Whether easy or hard to imagine, or to create, this is decidedly a matter of culture and not of DNA.According to myth, war is “natural.” Yet a great deal of conditioning is needed to prepare most people to take part in war, and a great deal of mental suffering is common among those who have taken part. In contrast, not a single person is known to have suffered deep moral regret or post-traumatic stress disorder from war deprivation.
In some societies women have been virtually excluded from war making for centuries and then included. Clearly, this is a question of culture, not of genetic makeup. War is optional, not inevitable, for women and men alike.
Some nations invest much more heavily in militarism than most and take part in many more wars. Some nations, under coercion, play minor parts in the wars of others. Some nations have completely abandoned war. Some have not attacked another country for centuries. Some have put their military in a museum.
Forces in Our Culture:
War long predates capitalism, and surely Switzerland is a type of capitalist nation just as the United States is. But there is a widespread belief that a culture of capitalism — or of a particular type and degree of greed and destruction and short-sightedness — necessitates war. One answer to this concern is the following: any feature of a society that necessitates war can be changed and is not itself inevitable. The military-industrial complex is not an eternal and invincible force. Environmental destructiveness and economic structures based on greed are not immutable.
There is a sense in which this is unimportant; namely, we need to halt environmental destruction and reform corrupt government just as we need to end war, regardless of whether any of these changes depends on the others to succeed. Moreover, by uniting such campaigns into a comprehensive movement for change, strength in numbers will make each more likely to succeed.
But there is another sense in which this is important; namely, we need to understand war as the cultural creation that it is and stop imagining it as something imposed on us by forces beyond our control. In that sense it is important to recognize that no law of physics or sociology requires us to have war because we have some other institution. In fact, war is not required by a particular lifestyle or standard of living because any lifestyle can be changed, because unsustainable practices must end by definition with or without war, and because war actually impoverishes societies that use it.
Crises Beyond Our Control:
War in human history up to this point has not correlated with population density or resource scarcity. The idea that climate change and the resulting catastrophes will inevitably generate wars could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is not a prediction based on facts.
The growing and looming climate crisis is a good reason for us to outgrow our culture of war, so that we are prepared to handle crises by other, less destructive means. And redirecting some or all of the vast sums of money and energy that go into war and war preparation to the urgent work of protecting the climate could make a significant difference, both by ending one of our mostenvironmentally destructive activities and by funding a transition to sustainable practices.
In contrast, the mistaken belief that wars must follow climate chaos will encourage investment in military preparedness, thus exacerbating the climate crisis and making more likely the compounding of one type of catastrophe with another.
Ending War Is Possible:
Human societies have been known to abolish institutions that were widely considered permanent. These have included human sacrifice, blood feuds, duelling, slavery, the death penalty, and many others. In some societies some of these practices have been largely eradicated, but remain illicitly in the shadows and on the margins. Those exceptions don’t tend to convince most people that complete eradication is impossible, only that it hasn’t yet been achieved in that society. The idea of eliminating hunger from the globe was once considered ludicrous. Now it is widely understood that hunger could be abolished — and for a tiny fraction of what is spent on war. While nuclear weapons have not all been dismantled and eliminated, there exists a popular movement working to do just that.
Ending all war is an idea that has found great acceptance in various times and places. It was more popular in the United States, for example, in the 1920s and 1930s. In recent decades, the notion has been propogated that war is permanent. That notion is new, radical, and without basis in fact.
David Swansons wants you to declare peace at http://WorldBeyondWar.org His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition. He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.
Michael Arria's new book Medium Blue: The Politics of MSNBC is a nice summary of how a liberal corporate or liberal partisan television network falls short -- something of an update from Jeff Cohen's Cable News Confidential and the bad old days when MSNBC dumped Cohen and Phil Donahue for being anti-war. It turns out the good new days of MSNBC-gone-liberal are seriously flawed as well.
The flaws do a disservice to a large section of the population, many majority perspectives, and large numbers of people whose opinions would improve if their information did.
Yes, of course, it's nice to have a 24/7 channel that everybody receives making fun of Republicans. But the Comedy Channel (Comedy Central) does that too. The comedy fake news shows also make fun of Democrats and anyone else they can identify; they build cynicism and disgust without offering any better course of action than a mass Rally-for-Nothing to give people too smart to attend other rallies a chance to rally ironically.
But what does MSNBC offer? Beyond its mocking of Republicans, it gives a significant pass to Democrats, resulting in dishonest presentations of facts and a proposed course of action that's doomed to fail. There are many exceptions, of course, and MSNBC easily soars over the low bar of producing more honest and useful commentary than CNN or Fox. In fact, a book that collected the highlights of MSNBC would be quite interesting as well. It would feature a good bit of Chris Hayes, of honesty about climate, even a bit of reckoning with Israel. (In fact, I make no claim to know what all it would include, which is why I'd find it useful.) Such a collection might encourage networks, including MSNBC, to realize what can be done without the sky falling. But the lowlights, and the lines of limitation that are not crossed without corporate penalty are crucial and are the focus of Arria's book.
MSNBC gives voice to one side in a series of narrow debates, the side previously represented by the likes of Alan Colmes. But the change is basically one to a larger microphone, rather than to a wider range of opinion. The debate remains framed within the same limitations. A prime example is war and militarism. MSNBC is in favor of wars with a different wrapper, rather than of eliminating wars from U.S. foreign policy.
Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, Chris Hayes (not at first, but he came around), and other MSNBC voices were all in favor of bombing Libya, and as far as I know are not particularly focused on the horrendous results.
Maddow declares Iran a dictatorship, and dates that dictatorship to 1979, never 1953. She's lied that Ahmadinejad was known for publicly defending Iran's "pursuit of nuclear weapons." And she grotesquely distorts the history of Palestine and Israel, claiming that Israel innocently declared independence and was attacked the next day by five nations. As Obama pushed for missile strikes on Syria, Maddow did a story on how many nations she believed a President John McCain would have attacked.
Ezra Klein finally turned against the war on Iraq, years too late, because "the odds were high we couldn't do it right" -- using "we" in the usual way for a media outlet that identifies with the government, and maintaining the important pretense that attacking foreign nations can be done correctly or incorrectly.
Touré defended the drone murder of Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki. Martin Bashir insisted that a guest not doubt the integrity of "a senior military officer." Adam Serwer demanded that "service members" all be "supported" "unconditionally."
Are these unfairly handpicked examples of military-worship on MSNBC? I doubt it. When Chris Hayes questioned whether every dead U.S. soldier is necessarily a hero, he was then apparently faced with the choice of taking a stand and losing his job or doing what he did instead: apologize for the outburst of honesty. Cenk Uygur, in contrast, took a stand for critical coverage of the Obama administration and was fired by MSNBC President Phil Griffin, who told him, "We're insiders. We're the establishment."
Was Hayes right to apologize in order to maintain his voice on the air, a voice that's better than some of the other ones? I don't have a strong opinion on that question. My interest here is in pointing out, along with Arria, that a voice willing to question whether every hired killer in every popular and unpopular and illegal war is without question a hero is not permitted on MSNBC.
When I say that the best of MSNBC is its coverage of Republicans, I don't mean to give a blanket endorsement to all such coverage. The over-obsession with the right wing gives prominence to much that would better be treated with silence -- silence that instead is reserved for the left.
MSNBC follows the lead of the party and politicians it has given its loyalty to. And it doesn't just follow their lead. MSNBC has hired Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod, among others who can bring the Obama line straight to the viewers of a network that has more than once debated whether Obama should be added to Mount Rushmore. "My President Obama? Is he your President too?" Ed Schultz demanded of a guest while insisting that Libya be bombed as Obama desired.
Schultz even ignorantly claimed that Obama couldn't have been elected if he'd campaigned on increasing troops in Afghanistan -- as of course Obama had very prominently done. But think about Schultz's defense of Obama, rather than his ignorance of basic facts. Schultz is claiming that Obama lied about ending a war in order to get elected, and then escalated the war once in office. That's the good Obama of Schultz's imagination. That's Obama on the model of Wilson and Roosevelt. There's a reason Bill Clinton calls MSNBC "our version of Fox."
I said MSNBC promotes a program of action that Comedy Central does not. But its program of action is not principled issue-based nonviolent engagement; it's voting for one political party as a path to progress. Anything else is unrealistic, MSNBC ridiculously maintains. Melissa Harris-Perry claims that supporting Obama despite any failings is "realist." She says that critics of Obama from the left are, in fact, not just unrealistic but racist. She dismissed the Chicago teachers' strike and proposed that they solve their problems by voting in public elections. She also insisted that Edward Snowden should have worked within the system. How realistic is that, exactly?
The MSNBC worldview generally pretends that everything was good in 1999 and easily can be again. Says Rachel Maddow: "I'm in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-Era Republican Party platform." So, maybe a bit earlier than 1999.
The perspective that MSNBC believes its viewers hold, and which it relentlessly instructs them to hold was exemplified by a recent comment that Chris Hayes made to Glenn Greenwald: "People feel they have to choose between Barack Obama and Glenn Greenwald and there are millions of people in this country who are like if that is a choice I choose Barack Obama." Hayes then gave reasons to choose Obama. No doubt Hayes believes he was simply articulating the spontaneously generated view of the masses, of which a good organizer must be aware for better or worse. But he never suggested the slightest critique of the way of thinking that he was in fact modeling on national TV. He demanded that Greenwald alter his "tone" to accommodate such a idiotic perspective, but he never hinted at the possibility that people might alter their idiocy, that they might stop choosing between personalities and deal with facts, that they might vote for politicians and simultaneously critique their failings, that they might view elected officials as representatives rather than deities.
Of course, Hayes wasn't just referring to the unknown unwashed masses when he claimed that millions of people place loyalty to a president above their duty to know what their government is doing and hold it accountable for its abuses; he was referring to his colleagues and the official policy of his employer. And that is the limit of a partisan, corporate, insider media outlet of any flavor.
Now, we have alternatives, including Democracy Now, Free Speech TV, Dennis Trainor, the RealNews.com, RT, Youtube, etc., and the written word. We may manage to replace MSNBC or circumvent it. We may manage to come up with media outlet(s) that will produce an Occupy movement and sustain it. But I think it's an open question whether improving MSNBC would actually be bad for its profitability. For years, TV executives seemed to believe that creating a Democratic Fox would not succeed as well as creating a second lesser Fox. They eventually proved themselves wrong. Now, they are clearly convinced that creating an independent populist challenge to a government that 80% of the country believes is broken wouldn't succeed outside of Comedy Central.
It's possible they're wrong. It's possible that going where the majority is on corporate trade pacts and single-payer healthcare and wars would increase viewership. It's possible that access to such viewers would attract politicians and advertisers as well or nearly as well as softball interviews and corporate friendly views. We'll never know unless someone gives it a try.
The three laws of robotics, according to science fiction author Isaac Asimov, are:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
I would gladly have accepted a $20 million Pentagon contract for the job of pointing out these three laws.
OK, maybe $25 million.
Sadly, the Pentagon has instead hired a bunch of philosophy professors from leading U.S. universities to tell them how to make robots murder people morally and ethically.
Of course, this conflicts with the first law above. A robot designed to kill human beings is designed to violate the first law.
The whole project even more fundamentally violates the second law. The Pentagon is designing robots to obey orders precisely when they violate the first law, and to always obey orders without any exception. That's the advantage of using a robot. The advantage is not in risking the well-being of a robot instead of a soldier. The Pentagon doesn't care about that, except in certain situations in which too many deaths of its own humans create political difficulties. And there are just as many situations in which there are political advantages for the Pentagon in losing its own human lives: "The sacrifice of American lives is a crucial step in the ritual of commitment," wrote William P. Bundy of the CIA, an advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. A moral being would disobey the orders these robots are being designed to carry-out, and -- by being robots -- to carry out without any question of refusal. Only a U.S. philosophy professor could imagine applying a varnish of "morality" to this project.
The Third Law should be a warning to us. Having tossed aside Laws one and two, what limitations are left to be applied should Law three be implemented? Assume the Pentagon designs its robots to protect their own existence, except when . . . what? Except when doing so would require disobeying a more important order? But which order is more important? Except when doing so would require killing the wrong kind of person(s)? But which are they? The humans not threatening the robot? That's rather a failure as a limitation.
Let's face it, the Pentagon needs brand new laws of robotics. May I suggest the following:
1. A Pentagon robot must kill and injure human beings as ordered.
2. A Pentagon robot must obey all orders, except where such orders result from human weakness and conflict with the mission to kill and injure.
3. A Pentagon robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
This set of laws differs from Asimov's in a number of ways. For one thing, it completely lacks morality. It is designed for killing, not protecting. By prioritizing killing in the First Law, rather than protecting, this set of laws also allows for the possibility of robots sacrificing themselves to kill rather than to protect -- as well as the possibility of robots turning on their masters.
This set of laws differs much less -- possibly not at all -- from the set of laws currently followed by human members of the U.S. military. The great distinction that people imagine between autonomous and piloted drones vanishes when you learn a little about the thought habits of human drone pilots. They, like other members of the U.S. military, follow these laws:
1. A Pentagon human must kill and injure human beings as ordered.
2. A Pentagon human must obey all orders, except where such orders result from human weakness and conflict with the mission to kill and injure.
3. A Pentagon human must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
The job of the philosophy professors is to apply these laws to robots while neither changing them nor letting on to have figured out what they are. In other words, it's just like teaching a course in the classics to a room full of students. Thank goodness our academia has produced the men and women for this job.
"MaryAnne Grady-Flores was convicted in DeWitt Town Court last night on 2nd Degree Contempt of an Order Of Protection. Grady-Flores, who did not intend to violate the Order despite its immorality and invalidity, was taking pictures of others at the base - the Ash Wednesday Witnesses - who engaged in nonviolent civil resistance blocking the front Gate to Hancock base for which they were subsequently acquitted.
"In a heinous abuse of an instrument meant to protect the innocent from violence, Orders of Protection are being used to protect violent transgressions of international and moral law from citizen oversight. While trying to publicize and support a movement to ground the drones and end the wars which take countless innocent lives, Grady-Flores was arrested for noncompliance with an order that does not specify particulars outside of how you might attack another human, something she would never do. She understood the Order to mean that she was forbidden to join the protest.
"The Guilty verdict was proffered by a jury 5 minutes after they had asked the judge for a legal definition of 'keep away', and he had replied that they 'are the sole triers of fact'.
"The two-day trial included testimony from Colonel Earl A. Evans who is the party protected by the OOP, Catholic Priests Father Bill Pickard and Tim Taugher, Catholic Workers Bill Frankel-Streit and Ellen Grady, sister. Grady-Flores also testified on her own behalf."
Back in the USA I had my senior high students watch as I climbed a fence into the largest store house of nuclear weapons in the USA. I was in a Santa Clause suit and a bag with candy and hand bills urging federal workers to find a real job….a life giving job.
Environment was major with my students and they commandeered the four corners of the original IBM setting in Endicott NY demanding that IBM pay per pound of hydroflorocarbons emitted each year…IBM the greatest polluter of the Ozone according to the EPA. Locals, with IBM the backbone of the job force, had no idea that their wonder company was doing wrong -- until students contacted media and the story was blasted. Kids can make a difference. (Two years later, President Bush met with IBM officials in the Rose Garden to award them for their winning reduction of ozone pollutants. Students by then were in college or elsewhere and of course, not mentioned.) My main claim to fame is my thousands of students who understood I didn’t buy the lies fed to them by the text books and media bullshit. I hope they are questioning and acting. But being a sheep has its advantages even for the committed.
So, my activism has been education. Our play, The Bench, a story about apartheid, made it to many schools around the Southern Tier of NY while Mandela was still incarcerated at Robins Island. Today, my play, The Predator, (you helped clean up a few items in it) has been done around the nation in small group settings such as the Pittsburgh Foreign Affairs Council etc. I believe education is the key -- slow, but it works if persistence is one’s forte.
I told you a bit about my activism to close the US Army School of the Americas and my southern jail, federal diesel therapy and various federal prisons for a six month ‘holiday’. It did close but opened up weeks later with a new name. C’est la vie. C’est la guerre.
Why do you believe protesting is a strategic tool?
It has worked historically. Need I repeat what most people of historical awareness know as fact….in the past 100 years….Gandhi, King, Chavez, Walesa, Mandela, Romero, Berrigans, etc.
Silence is the enemy of justice and we have great silence today. Silence is based in fear but is comfortable and safe. Sheepherders are our guides today rather than national leadership. Hiding in the middle of the flock is safe. Few speak out about our murderous ways.
How have the approaches of the police and the courts changed?
Police are doing their job. I once witnessed Federal Marshalls at the Pentagon (back in pre 2001 days) hosing down old ladies who were doing a ‘die in’ to protest Pentagon support for a school of assassination at Ft Benning. Elizabeth McAllister (widow of Phil Berrigan) was standing next to me and she asked one of the Marshalls if he would do the same thing if it was gasoline. The Marshall turned to Liz and said: "I'd follow my orders, Lady".
So cops are doing what they are paid to do. They are not told to stop the killing going on inside of the base so they do what they are told and arrest those who say our government should not be breaking the law of country and God and natural law. But like the pilots who do the killing and the surrounding support people, it's the system that thrives on doing what they are told to do by the criminals at the top. We need to educate the police to have a conscience and see the real enemy . . . the killers, not those who protest.
Courts are not much different. There is a sense of affinity between the Air Force personnel, smartly dressed, ramrod straight who stand or sit before judge and/or jury and make a fine presentation of patriotism . . . doing the job of heroes. It's a tough act to question. Judges and jurors have been taught to respect those who kill to keep us safe. The decisions made by the judges have been almost all in favor of the base and the killing Q9 drones and their crews. The one jury trial so far, just last week (May 17th.) rendered a decision in favor of the base. The case was a charge of a violation of an Order of Protection. An OPP is usually used to allow a spouse to keep away an abuser. Now, it is being creatively used at Hancock Air Base as an instrument to prevent First Amendment Rights to be practiced. Mary Anne Grady, a long time nonviolent peace activist, mother of four, every day hard working business woman was at a demo on Ash Wednesday at Hancock to do the media work of photos and video. She did not engage in the demonstration for she was ordered to not go on the base. She is shown in videos on the road in front of the base (cars and joggers going by right next to her) but Hancock Air Base now claims to have a lease on half of the public road that Mary Anne stood on and filmed. She faces a possible severe sentence on July 10th being found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a Syracuse jury of six. (Mary Anne was told months ago that juries may not be any better than judges -- tens of thousands stand and cheer at Syracuse Basketball games for the military and staff of the 174th Attach Wing at Hancock.)
What is your current legal situation?
My legal status is a jury trial at DeWitt Court starting at 8:30 a.m. on July 14th. First day mostly picking of jurors and opening statements and second day direct and cross examination, judge advise to jury and decision of guilt or innocence. I could be sentenced to one year in the Jamesville Penitentiary for my nonviolent die to remember those we have killed in Afghanistan (and God and the NSA only know where else). I think there is a chance of winning this one. If so, it could set a precedent. There are many jury trials to follow mine. Schedules go into late 2015….all for the same action. One judge said: "This has got to stop". Former President of Veterans For Peace, Elliott Adams, agreed with the judge. Elliott said, "Yes, your honor, it has to stop, we need to stop the killing and you need to be part of that stop effort."
I’ve been to most trials and have to say that there is little concern of judges to do anything to stop the assassinations. They are doing their job and following the "law". Now, we need to prove the so called law is illegal.
What would you recommend that people do who share your concern?
Here is what Ed Kinane had to say about recommending what to do. Ed walks the walk. Ed has lived in federal confinement for his peace and justice activism. Ed says:
That depends on whether they are far or near and where they are in life (in terms of dependents and responsibilities). Our campaign has a whole range of tactics they can join in or support: educate themselves; read some of the key drone books and reports; write letters to the editor...to elected officials...to base commanders; take part in our twice-monthly demos across the road from Hancock; attend the De Witt court when we defendants appear there; take part in annual conferences (usually in April); invite us to speak to their classes, community groups or congregations; contribute $$$ to our bail fund or to such anti-drone groups as codepink; work to pass local resolutions and ordinances restricting surveillance and weaponized drones over local or regional airspace; take part in fact-finding delegations to drone-plagued areas (Pakistan); risk arrest at Hancock, at other drone bases, or other relevant venues (federal buildings, drone research or production facilities, etc.); become a federal tax resister -- i.e.stop paying federal income taxes (much of which goes to the Pentagon war machine).
I'll add a few more:
Visit Upstate Drone Action Reports at http://upstatedroneaction.org/wordpress
Plan for a Global Day of Action Against Drones on October 4, 2014.
Join the movement to end all war, with all weapons, at http://WorldBeyondWar.org
And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us a secret memo that gets us out of the bit about Thou-shalt-not-kill.
And, lo, as I was driving home from the committee hearing I was pulled over for speeding, and I said unto the officer, "I've got a memo that lets me speed. Would you like to see it?" and he said, "No thank you, and not your grocery list or your diary either."
Transparency in drone murders has been a demand pushed by U.N. lawyers and pre-vetted Congressional witnesses, and not by the victims' families. Nobody asks for transparency in child abuse or rape. "Oh, have you got a memo that explains how aliens commanded you to kill and eat those people? Oh, well that's all right then."
Seriously, what the filibuster?
I don't want to see the memo that David Barron wrote "legalizing" the killing of U.S. citizens with drone strikes, after which (or is it beforehand?) I'll decide whether he should be a federal judge.
Laws don't work that way. A law is a public document, known to or knowable to all, and enforced equally on all. If a president can instruct a lawyer to write a memo legalizing murder, what can a president not instruct a lawyer to legalize? What's left of legality?
Let's assume that the memo argues with great obfuscation that, in essence, killing people with drones is part of a war and therefore legal, will we better off or worse off after watching all the human rights groups and lawyers bow down before that idol?
Just because Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch don't recognize the U.N. Charter or the Kellogg Briand Pact is not a reason for us not to. Laws don't work that way. Laws remain law until they are repealed. These laws have not been. If a memo can make a murder part of a war and therefore legal, we are obliged to ask: What makes the war legal?
The answer is not the U.S. government, not the pretense that the president can declare war, and not the pretense that Congress has declared eternal war everywhere. The U.S. government is in violation of the U.N. Charter and of the Kellogg Briand Pact.
Or let's assume the memo says something else. The point is not what it says but its purported power to say it. The law against murder in Pakistan and the law against murder in Yemen don't cease to exist in Pakistan and Yemen because a new Jay Bybee, willing to say whatever's needed to become a judge, writes a secret memo -- or a public memo.
And, as this conversation plays out, think what it will have U.S. editorial pages all silently assuming about the legality of murdering non-U.S. citizens. If a memo is needed to kill U.S. citizens, what about the other 99% of drone victims? That, too, is not how actual laws work. The laws against war don't prevent war only on U.S. citizens. The laws of Pakistan don't protect only U.S. citizens. The amendments in the U.S. bill of rights, for that matter, don't apply only to U.S. citizens.
Now, the memo is likely to describe people who are an imminent threat to the United States. And our newspapers are likely to remind us that President Obama made a speech claiming that one of the four U.S. citizens known to have been killed under this program was such a threat. It will be tempting to point out that Anwar al Awlaki, on the contrary, was already on the kill list prior to the incident that Obama claims justified putting him there. It will be tempting to point out that nobody's made even a blatantly false argument to justify killing the other three U.S. citizens, much less the thousands of other human beings.
We shouldn't fall for those traps. A president is not legally allowed to invent criteria for killing people. Never mind that he doesn't meet his own criteria. We should not be so indecent or so lawless as to engage in such a conversation. We should not want to see the blood-soaked memo.
The Marshall Islands have sued nine nuclear nations to compel compliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty, which requires the elimination of nuclear weapons. We speak with Rick Wayman, director of programs and operations at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Rick is a graduate of Marquette University’s College of Business Administration and has a Master’s Degree in Non-Profit Management and Political Advocacy from the School for International Training. Rick began working full-time on nuclear weapons issues with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the UK before moving to California in 2007 to join NAPF. Learn more at http://nuclearzero.org
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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An international one-day strike by fast-food workers is something new, and also something old. People without a union are organizing and acting in solidarity. Others are joining in support of their moral demand for a living wage. They're holding rallies. They're shutting down restaurants. They're using Occupy's people's microphone. They're targeting the one-percenter CEO of McDonald's who apparently is paid $9,002 per hour for the public service of ruining our health with horrible tasting processed imitation food.
Jeremy Brecher has released a revised, expanded, and updated edition of his 40-year-old book, Strike, that includes the origins of these fast-food worker strikes and puts them in the context of a history of the strike in the United States dating back to 1877. This opening passage of Chapter 1 sets the context beautifully:
"In the centers of many American cities are positioned huge armories, grim nineteenth-century edifices of brick or stone. They are fortresses complete with massive walls and loopholes for guns. You may have wondered why they are there, but it has probably never occurred to you that they were built to protect America not against invasion from abroad but against popular revolt at home."
And what revolts there have been! Brecher's book should be read for inspiration. The most marginalized of workers have repeatedly taken matters into their own hands and won radical changes for the better. Success has followed selfless acts of solidarity. Failure has followed strategic calculation and compromise. The potential for greater victories has been frustrated time and again by the decision not to press working people's advantage forward -- a decision generally made by labor unions.
The vision of replacing capitalism has driven the efforts that have reformed it. A century ago, World War I provided the excuse to beat back workers. But their demands exploded upon the war's conclusion. Workers took over Seattle and ran the city, effectively replacing the government. In the 1930s, coal miners opened their own coal mines. Unemployed workers during the great depression joined picket lines in support of striking workers rather than competing with them. Workers at a rubber factory in Akron developed the sit-down strike, which spread like wildfire and might work well in McDonald's restaurants all over the world today. Customers could join workers by sitting in at tables and not eating. We could bring our own food; McDonald's has internet.
Brecher's book brings the story of strikes, including general strikes, up to the present. The lessons it teaches open up possibilities not usually considered. Brecher sums up what we're up against:
"The ideology of the existing society exercises a powerful hold on workers' minds. The longing to escape from subordination to the boss is often expressed in the dream of going into business for yourself, even though the odds against success are overwhelming. The civics book cliché that the American government represents the will of the people and is therefore legitimate survives even in those who find the government directly opposing their own needs in the interests of their employers. The desire to own a house, a car, or perhaps an independent business supports a belief in private property that makes expropriation of the great corporations seem to many a personal threat. The idea that everybody is really out for themselves, that it can be no other way, and that therefore the solution to one's problems must come from beating other people rather than cooperating with them is inculcated over and over by the very structure of life in a competitive society."
One day we will all strike, and we will strike for more than a day. We will strike until we replace the "very structure of life" with different ones. We'll strike forever, occupy everything, and never give it back.
A remarkable article appears in the June 2014 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. (Also available as free PDF here.)
The authors, experts in public health, are listed with all their academic credentials: William H. Wiist, DHSc, MPH, MS, Kathy Barker, PhD, Neil Arya, MD, Jon Rohde, MD, Martin Donohoe, MD, Shelley White, PhD, MPH, Pauline Lubens, MPH, Geraldine Gorman, RN, PhD, and Amy Hagopian, PhD.
Some highlights and commentary:
"In 2009 the American Public Health Association (APHA) approved the policy statement, 'The Role of Public Health Practitioners, Academics, and Advocates in Relation to Armed Conflict and War.' . . . In response to the APHA policy, in 2011, a working group on Teaching the Primary Prevention of War, which included the authors of this article, grew . . . ."
"Since the end of World War II, there have been 248 armed conflicts in 153 locations around the world. The United States launched 201 overseas military operations between the end of World War II and 2001, and since then, others, including Afghanistan and Iraq. During the 20th century, 190 million deaths could be directly and indirectly related to war -- more than in the previous 4 centuries."
These facts, footnoted in the article, are more useful than ever in the face of the current academic trend in the United States of proclaiming the death of war. By re-categorizing many wars as other things, minimizing death counts, and viewing deaths as proportions of the global population rather than of a local population or as absolute numbers, various authors have tried to claim that war is vanishing. Of course, war could and should vanish, but that is only likely to happen if we find the drive and the resources to make it happen.
"The proportion of civilian deaths and the methods for classifying deaths as civilian are debated, but civilian war deaths constitute 85% to 90% of casualties caused by war, with about 10 civilians dying for every combatant killed in battle. The death toll (mostly civilian) resulting from the recent war in Iraq is contested, with estimates of 124,000 to 655,000 to more than a million, and finally most recently settling on roughly a half million. Civilians have been targeted for death and for sexual violence in some contemporary conflicts. Seventy percent to 90% of the victims of the 110 million landmines planted since 1960 in 70 countries were civilians."
This, too, is critical, as a top defense of war is that it must be used to prevent something worse, called genocide. Not only does militarism generate genocide rather than preventing it, but the distinction between war and genocide is a very fine one at best. The article goes on to cite just some of the health effects of war, of which I will cite just some highlights:
"The World Health Organization (WHO) Commission on the Social Determinants of Health pointed out that war affects children's health, leads to displacement and migration, and diminishes agricultural productivity. Child and maternal mortality, vaccination rates, birth outcomes, and water quality and sanitation are worse in conflict zones. War has contributed to preventing eradication of polio, may facilitate the spread of HIV/ AIDS, and has decreased availability of health professionals. In addition, landmines cause psychosocial and physical consequences, and pose a threat to food security by rendering agricultural land useless. . . .
"Approximately 17,300 nuclear weapons are presently deployed in at least 9 countries (including 4300 US and Russian operational warheads, many of which can be launched and reach their targets within 45 minutes). Even an accidental missile launch could lead to the greatest global public health disaster in recorded history.
"Despite the many health effects of war, there are no grant funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health devoted to the prevention of war, and most schools of public health do not include the prevention of war in the curriculum."
Now, there is a huge gap in our society that I bet most readers hadn't noticed, despite its perfect logic and obvious importance! Why should public health professionals be working to prevent war? The authors explain:
"Public health professionals are uniquely qualified for involvement in the prevention of war on the basis of their skills in epidemiology; identifying risk and protective factors; planning, developing, monitoring, and evaluating prevention strategies; management of programs and services; policy analysis and development; environmental assessment and remediation; and health advocacy. Some public health workers have knowledge of the effects of war from personal exposure to violent conflict or from working with patients and communities in armed conflict situations. Public health also provides a common ground around which many disciplines are willing to come together to form alliances for the prevention of war. The voice of public health is often heard as a force for public good. Through regular collection and review of health indicators public health can provide early warnings of the risk for violent conflict. Public health can also describe the health effects of war, frame the discussion about wars and their funding . . . and expose the militarism that often leads to armed conflict and incites public fervor for war."
About that militarism. What is it?
"Militarism is the deliberate extension of military objectives and rationale into shaping the culture, politics, and economics of civilian life so that war and the preparation for war is normalized, and the development and maintenance of strong military institutions is prioritized. Militarism is an excessive reliance on a strong military power and the threat of force as a legitimate means of pursuing policy goals in difficult international relations. It glorifies warriors, gives strong allegiance to the military as the ultimate guarantor of freedom and safety, and reveres military morals and ethics as being above criticism. Militarism instigates civilian society's adoption of military concepts, behaviors, myths, and language as its own. Studies show that militarism is positively correlated with conservatism, nationalism, religiosity, patriotism, and with an authoritarian personality, and negatively related to respect for civil liberties, tolerance of dissent, democratic principles, sympathy and welfare toward the troubled and poor, and foreign aid for poorer nations. Militarism subordinates other societal interests, including health, to the interests of the military."
And does the United States suffer from it?
"Militarism is intercalated into many aspects of life in the United States and, since the military draft was eliminated, makes few overt demands of the public except the costs in taxpayer funding. Its expression, magnitude, and implications have become invisible to a large proportion of the civilian population, with little recognition of the human costs or the negative image held by other countries. Militarism has been called a 'psychosocial disease,' making it amenable to population-wide interventions. . . .
"The United States is responsible for 41% of the world's total military spending. The next largest in spending are China, accounting for 8.2%; Russia, 4.1%; and the United Kingdom and France, both 3.6%. . . . If all military . . . costs are included, annual [US] spending amounts to $1 trillion . . . . According to the DOD fiscal year 2012 base structure report, 'The DOD manages global property of more than 555,000 facilities at more than 5,000 sites, covering more than 28 million acres.' The United States maintains 700 to 1000 military bases or sites in more than 100 countries. . . .
"In 2011 the United States ranked first in worldwide conventional weapons sales, accounting for 78% ($66 billion). Russia was second with $4.8 billion. . . .
"In 2011-2012, the top-7 US arms producing and service companies contributed $9.8 million to federal election campaigns. Five of the top-10 [military] aerospace corporations in the world (3 US, 2 UK and Europe) spent $53 million lobbying the US government in 2011. . . .
"The main source of young recruits is the US public school system, where recruiting focuses on rural and impoverished youths, and thus forms an effective poverty draft that is invisible to most middle- and upper-class families. . . . In contradiction of the United States' signature on the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict treaty, the military recruits minors in public high schools, and does not inform students or parents of their right to withhold home contact information. The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery is given in public high schools as a career aptitude test and is compulsory in many high schools, with students' contact information forwarded to the military, except in Maryland where the state legislature mandated that schools no longer automatically forward the information."
Public health advocates also lament the tradeoffs in types of research the United States invests in:
"Resources consumed by military . . . research, production, and services divert human expertise away from other societal needs. The DOD is the largest funder of research and development in the federal government. The National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allocate large amounts of funding to programs such as 'BioDefense.' . . . The lack of other funding sources drives some researchers to pursue military or security funding, and some subsequently become desensitized to the influence of the military. One leading university in the United Kingdom recently announced, however, it would end its £1.2 million investment in a . . . company that makes components for lethal US drones because it said the business was not 'socially responsible.'"
Even in President Eisenhower's day, militarism was pervasive: "The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government." The disease has spread:
"The militaristic ethic and methods have extended into the civilian law enforcement and justice systems. . . .
"By promoting military solutions to political problems and portraying military action as inevitable, the military often influences news media coverage, which in turn, creates public acceptance of war or a fervor for war. . . ."
The authors describe programs that are beginning to work on war prevention from a public health perspective, and they conclude with recommendations for what should be done. Take a look.
We speak with Pat Alviso and Paula Rogovin of Military Families Speak Out about their campaign for Zero Troops in Afghanistan. See http://mfso.org
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
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Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!
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"5. (C) Ukraine and Georgia's NATO aspirations not only touch a raw nerve in Russia, they engender serious concerns about the consequences for stability in the region. Not only does Russia perceive encirclement, and efforts to undermine Russia's influence in the region, but it also fears unpredictable and uncontrolled consequences which would seriously affect Russian security interests. Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face."
There are those claiming that Obama never wanted to send missiles into Syria. Thus they explain that public pressure against those missile strikes was pointless and unnecessary, as opposed to effective and successful. However, Obama made a hard pitch to the public and Congress in favor of the strikes, and it's on video. Watch him try to sell the public:
Watch him try to sell Congress:
Watch the videos he showed Congress and the public:
Remarks in Los Angeles, May 10, 2014.
Thank you to Pat Alviso and all the individuals and groups involved in setting this event up. Thank you to Lila Garrett for doing twice what I do at twice my age, including hosting the best radio show around. And thank you to our friend, recently lost, Tim Carpenter, for whom there is a memorial event today in Massachusetts. We will not forget you, Tim, and we will carry on.
Now, about ending war.
This goes deeper than the usual war lies.
We've had plenty of those. We weren't told the Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over to a neutral nation to stand trial. We weren't told the Taliban was a reluctant tolerator of al Qaeda, and a completely distinct group. We weren't told the 911 attacks had also been planned in Germany and Maryland and various other places not marked for bombing. We weren't told that most of the people who would die in Afghanistan, many more than died on 911, not only didn't support 911 but never heard of it. We weren't told our government would kill large numbers of civilians, imprison people without trial, hang people by their feet and whip them until they were dead. We weren't told how this illegal war would advance the acceptability of illegal wars or how it would make the United States hated in much of the world. We weren't given the background of how the U.S. interfered in Afghanistan and provoked a Soviet invasion and armed resistance to the Soviets and left the people to the tender mercies of that armed resistance once the Soviets left. We weren't told that Tony Blair wanted Afghanistan first before he'd get the UK to help destroy Iraq. We certainly weren't told that bin Laden had been an ally of the U.S. government, that the 911 hijackers were mostly Saudi, or that there might be anything at all amiss with the government of Saudi Arabia. And nobody mentioned the trillions of dollars we'd waste or the civil liberties we'd have to lose at home or the severe damage that would be inflicted on the natural environment. Even birds don't go to Afghanistan anymore.
OK. That's all sort of par-for-the-course, war-marketing bullshit. People who pay attention know all of that. People who don't want to know any of that are the last great hope of military recruiters everywhere. And don't let the past tense fool you. The White House is trying to keep the occupation of Afghanistan going for TEN MORE YEARS ("and beyond"), and articles have been popping up this week about sending U.S. troops back into Iraq. But there's something more.
I've just read an excellent new book by Anand Gopal calledNo Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes. Gopal has spent years in Afghanistan, learned local languages, interviewed people in depth, researched their stories, and produced a true-crime book more gripping, as well as more accurate, than anything Truman Capote came up with. Gopal's book is like a novel that interweaves the stories of a number of characters -- stories that occasionally overlap. It's the kind of book that makes me worry I'll spoil it if I say too much about the fate of the characters, so I'll be careful not to.
The characters include Americans, Afghans allied with the U.S. occupation, Afghans fighting the U.S. occupation, and men and women trying to survive -- including by shifting their loyalties toward whichever party seems least likely in that moment to imprison or kill them. What we discover from this is not just that enemies, too, are human beings. We discover that the same human beings switch from one category to another quite easily. The blunder of the U.S. occupation's de-Baathification policy in Iraq has been widely discussed. Throwing all the skilled and armed killers out of work turned out not to be the most brilliant move. But think about what motivated it: the idea that whoever had supported the evil regime was irredeemably evil (even though Ronald Reagan and Donald Rumsfeld had supported the evil regime too -- OK, bad example, but you see what I mean). In Afghanistan the same cartoonish thinking, the same falling for one's own propaganda, went on.
People in Afghanistan whose personal stories are recounted here sided with or against Pakistan, with or against the USSR, with or against the Taliban, with or against the U.S. and NATO, as the tides of fortune turned. Some tried to make a living at peaceful employment when that possibility seemed to open up, including early-on in the U.S. occupation. The Taliban was very swiftly destroyed in 2001 through a combination of overwhelming killing power and desertion. The U.S. then began hunting for anyone who had once been a member of the Taliban. But these included many of the people now leading the support of the U.S. regime -- and many such allied leaders were killed and captured despite not having been Taliban as well, through sheer stupidity and corruption. We've often heard how dangling $5000 rewards in front of poor people produced false-accusations that landed their rivals in Bagram or Guantanamo. But Gopal's book recounts how the removal of these often key figures devastated communities, and turned communities against the United States that had previously been inclined to support it. Add to this the vicious and insulting abuse of whole families, including women and children captured and harassed by U.S. troops, and the revival of the Taliban under the U.S. occupation begins to become clear. The lie we've been told to explain it is that the U.S. became distracted by Iraq. Gopal documents, however, that the Taliban revived precisely where U.S. troops were imposing a rule of violence and not where other internationals were negotiating compromises using, you know, words.
We find here a story of a bumbling oblivious and uncomprehending foreign occupation torturing and murdering a lot of its own strongest allies, shipping some of them off to Gitmo -- even shipping to Gitmo young boys whose only offense had been being the sexual assault victims of U.S. allies. The danger in this type of narrative that dives deep into the crushing Kafkan horror of rule by brute ignorant force is that a reader will think: Let's do the next war better. If occupations can't work, let's just blow shit up and leave. To which I respond: Yeah, how are things working out in Libya? The lesson for us to learn is not that wars are badly managed, but that human beings are not Good Guys or Bad Guys. And here's the hard part: That includes Russians.
A petition to the President and the Attorney General has just been posted by several organizations, including one I work for, asking that the Department of Justice stop threatening New York Times reporter James Risen with prison if he refuses to reveal a confidential source.
This story, among other stunning features, I think, threatens to expose an unknown known of the highest magnitude -- by which I mean, not something lying outside Donald Rumsfeld's imagination, but something that everyone paying attention has known all about for years but which would explode the brains of most consumers of corporate media if they ever heard about it.
Here's a great summary of the matter at the Progressive. The focus there and in the petition is on the threat to freedom of the press. But read this offhand bit of the explanation carefully:
"The information concerns a source for a chapter in Risen’s terrific 2006 book, 'State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.' That chapter dealt with a scheme to give the Iranians faulty blueprints for a nuclear weapon."
Not only is the Justice Department (universally understood to take its orders from the White House) trying to pressure a reporter to reveal a source, but it's trying to pressure a reporter to reveal a source who told him that the United States gave Iran plans for building a nuclear bomb.
Imagine if the general public had a clue that this had happened!
Rather than reporter, I should probably be saying author. And I should stop attaching the insulting modifier "New York Times" in front of "reporter". Because this was a story published in a book. The same book included several interesting stories that I don't think ever made it into major media outlets.
One exception was a story about NSA mass-surveillance. The New York Times had sat on that story for over a year and explained that failure as a desire not to inform the public of what its government was up to prior to an election (the 2004 election). When the book came out, the New York Times finally reported the story. But if the Times or other outlets have informed the public that the CIA gave Iran nuke plans, I've missed it. This shocker certainly has not been extensively covered.
The genius plan was to give Iran nuclear bomb plans with some little portion altered. But reportedly it was quite clear to scientists -- yes, even in Iran they have scientists -- which bit had been altered.
The result was not the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb program. As Gareth Porter's new book documents in detail, Iran has never had a nuclear bomb program, and we've simply been lied to about that fact for 35 years.
But, here's the point: if your Uncle Homer knew the sort of moron stunts the CIA was engaged in with a nation marketed for 35 years as a force of evil, the result would out-do by far the outrage heard last summer when Obama and Kerry proposed joining a war in Syria on the side of al Qaeda (which everyone had been told was Evil Inc. up to that moment).
Don't Obama and Holder risk bringing more attention to this lunacy by prosecuting James Risen? Can they really trust the Press Corpse (sic) to bury the substance of the story?
More to the point: Will we let them? Please sign the petition to the President and the Attorney General.
Someone just emailed me to say that Dick Cheney is coming to his town and that he knows Cheney can't be scared away like Condi, but isn't there anything that can be done? WTF? We scared Cheney away from Charlottesville VA -- This is not difficult. Follow the steps below:
A new book called Mainstreaming Torture argues that torture has been with us for a long time and remains with us and has been mainstreamed and increased in acceptability in the years since Bush and Cheney left office. We speak with the author, Rebecca Gordon. She teaches in the Philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. Previous publications include Letters From Nicaragua and Cruel and Usual: How Welfare “Reform” Punishes Poor People. She is an editor of WarTimes/Tiempo de guerras, which seeks to bring a race, class, and gender perspective to issues of war and peace.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!
Here are the other five.
Leverett and Amherst, Mass., both were expected to consider resolutions. I haven't heard any news from Amherst.
The Leverett news is courtesy of Beth Adams.
I haven't seen official text, but here's some idea of what was passed, or at least what was considered for passage, in Leverett:
Town meeting in Leverett will consider a resolution calling on the federal government to end the use of drones for assassinations on foreign soil and to enact regulations on the use of the unmanned aircraft in the United States.
It would ask U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and U.S. Rep. James McGovern to bring forward legislation “to end the practice of extrajudicial killing by armed drone aircraft” by withholding money for that purpose and “to make restitution for injuries, fatalities and environmental damage resulting from the actions of the United States government, the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, allied nations and/or its private contractors.”
The second aspect of the article is to ensure that drones stay at least 500 feet above private properties unless otherwise authorized by town officials.
According to Beth Adams, a Leverett resident and co-author of the measure, the resolution was inspired by one passed in Northampton last summer. “We think it is important for the public to be informed about the rule-making going on without any public input,” Adams said.
May 3 town meeting
The resolution in Leverett, which was authored by a group called Pioneer Valley Citizens Concerned About Drones, received 19 signatures — nearly double the number required to get an article on the warrant. It will be voted on close to the end of the meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. May 3, according to Town Clerk Lisa Stratford.
Adams said “We think people need to be educated about this topic, and we hope other communities will follow our example and pass resolutions that will protect their communities from potential violations before the (Federal Aviation Administration) changes the rules.”
"Town meetings in Amherst and Leverett will consider resolutions calling on the federal government to end the use of drones for assassinations and regulate the unmanned aircraft locally. The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported that Amherst Select Board member James Wald said he isn’t comfortable with the town having a foreign policy when the federal government doesn’t have one. Frank Gatti, a Town Meeting member and lead petitioner in Amherst, said the drone resolution would express concern about the US government killing people in Pakistan and Yemen. It would ask US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey and Representative James McGovern to propose legislation to stop funding drone killings. A second restriction would keep drones at least 500 feet above private property unless otherwise authorized by town officials."
"A second restriction would keep drones at least 500 feet above private property unless otherwise authorized by town officials."
I'm looking forward to speaking on Saturday, May 10, at the United We Stand Festival in Los Angeles (and at an earlier event) where dozens of speakers and musicians will be standing together against such evils as: "the PATRIOT Act, NDAA, NSA, war on drugs, drones, ... war, GMO, ... central banks, corporatism," and in favor of "Internet freedom, election reform, honest media/music/art, education/student leadership, the environment, ...."
This is nice timing, with Vermont having just become the first state to call for a Constitutional Convention to strip legalized bribery out of U.S. politics, and with the U.S. Senate planning a vote on a Constitutional amendment to allow Congress to limit said bribery. Sixteen states have urged Congress to act, which remains a quixotic pursuit. Even more disturbing than Congressional dithering is the failure of each of those 16 states to tack on a few words to do what Vermont has done and create a work-around should Congress members choose not to bite the greasy hand that feeds them. Think about what must motivate that failure to add a call for a Constitutional Convention.
There's also the problem that should Congress and the states ever pass an amendment allowing Congress to limit campaign "contributions," Congress would still have to take the additional step of actually doing so. And you can guess as well as I can what Congress considers a reasonable limitation -- just look at the minimal limitations that Congress was imposing before the Supreme Court outrageously attacked those limits in Citizens United and McCutcheon, after which the impeachment of some justices, or the legislative removal of some powers from the Supreme Court would have made more sense than accepting that the Constitution needed changing.
The Constitution was not intended to give rights to corporations or to equate bribery with the protected act of free speech. But it's going to take a massive movement of public pressure to compel our government to read or rewrite the Constitution well. So, perhaps we're just as well off rewriting it. And that opens up all sorts of possibilities, most of which can't possibly be worse than what we've got now. We could end the presidential system, the Supreme Court's unaccountability, gerrymandering, corporate monopolies -- including of communications media -- and the pretended legality of war. We could create a guaranteed income and mandate environmental sustainability.
But without even diving that deeply into creating a better Constitution, we could add something like this:
<<The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law. The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.
All elections for President and members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate shall be entirely publicly financed. No political contributions shall be permitted to any federal candidate, from any other source, including the candidate. No political expenditures shall be permitted in support of any federal candidate, or in opposition to any federal candidate, from any other source, including the candidate. The Congress shall, by statute, provide limitations on the amounts and timing of the expenditures of such public funds and provide criminal penalties for any violation of this section.
State and local governments shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for state or local public office or any state or local ballot measure.
The right of the individual U.S. citizen to vote and to directly elect all candidates by popular vote in all pertinent local, state, and federal elections shall not be violated. Citizens will be automatically registered to vote upon reaching the age of 18 or upon becoming citizens at an age above 18, and the right to vote shall not be taken away from them. Votes shall be recorded on paper ballots, which shall be publicly counted at the polling place. Election day shall be a national holiday.
Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.
During a designated campaign period of no longer than six months, free air time shall be provided in equal measure to all candidates for federal office on national, state, or district television and radio stations, provided that each candidate has, during the previous year, received the supporting signatures of at least five percent of their potential voting-age constituents. The same supporting signatures shall also place the candidate's name on the ballot and require their invitation to participate in any public debate among the candidates for the same office.>>
I'm confident that there are thousands of people who can draft this reform that well or better, that Congress will only scrape the surface (and that only if a Constitutional Convention is looming), that such a Convention actually happening would be a big step forward, and that people who are ready for serious change are starting to stand united: https://unitedwestandfest.com
U.S. Military Bases in Okinawa and Japan-U.S. Relationship: A Discussion with Nago City Mayor Susumu Inamine, Member of the Japanese House of Representatives (Okinawa) Denny Tamaki and other experts, facilitated by journalist David Swanson.
When: May 20, 6pm - 8pm
Where: Busboys and Poets, (14th & V) 2021 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
Sign up here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1440683952839158
Seventy years after WWII, Okinawa, one of the fiercest battlegrounds of the Pacific War (1941-45), continues to be occupied by U.S. military bases, mostly marine bases, posing threats to the safety, health, and life of people and the environment. Despite firm opposition by the majority of the people of Okinawa, U.S. and Japanese governments are forcing through their plan to build yet another marine airbase with a military port, with massive reclamation that is likely to cause damage to the endangered bio-diverse environment of the Northeastern shore of Okinawa. Mayor Susumu Inamine of Nago City, where the planned military base construction site is, was first elected in 2010 and re-elected this January, both on the platform of opposing the new base. Please join Mayor Inamine and a panel of experts think together about the U.S. citizens’ responsibility to bring justice and democracy back to Okinawa.
Sponsored by Busboys and Poets and the New Diplomacy Initiative.
Inquiry: Busboys and Poets, phone: 202-387-7638
New Diplomacy Initiative, firstname.lastname@example.org
The U.S. public is not longing for a U.S. war in Ukraine.
Seven percent want military options considered (poll by McClatchy-Marist, April 7-10), up from six percent a bit earlier (Pew, March 20-23), or 12 percent for U.S. ground troops and 17 percent for air strikes (CNN, March 7-9).
Polling is similar on U.S. desire for a war with Iran, or for U.S. military involvement in Syria. Many more Americans believe in ghosts and UFOs, according to the polls, than believe that these would be good wars.
The U.S. public never got behind the war on Libya, and for years a majority has said that the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan never should have been launched.
The search for a good war is beginning to look as futile as the search for the mythical city of El Dorado. And yet that search remains our top public project.
The U.S. military swallows 55.2 percent of federal discretionary spending, according to the National Priorities Project. Televised U.S. sporting events thank members of the military for watching from 175 nations. U.S. aircraft carriers patrol the world's seas. U.S. drones buzz the skies of nations thousands of miles from our shores.
No other nation spends remotely comparable funds on militarism, and much of what the United States buys has no defensive purpose -- unless "defense" is understood as deterrence or preemption or, indeed, aggression. As the world's number one supplier of weapons to other nations, ours may be said to extend its search for a good war beyond its own affairs as well.
A 2006 National Intelligence Estimate found that U.S. wars were generating anti-U.S. sentiment. Former military officials, including Stanley McChrystal, say drone strikes are producing more enemies than they are killing. A WIN/Gallup poll of 65 nations at the end of 2013 found the U.S. far ahead of any other as the nation people believed was the greatest threat to peace in the world.
It is the ethics of a coward to believe that safety justifies all, but of a fool to commit immoral acts that actually endanger oneself. And what is more immoral than modern wars, with deaths and injuries so massive, so one-sided, and so heavily civilian?
Military spending produces fewer jobs than spending on education or infrastructure, or even on tax cuts for working people, according to studies by the Political Economy Research Institute. It is the ethics of a sociopath to justify killing for economic gain, but of a fool to do so for economic loss.
The military is our top consumer of petroleum and creator of superfund sites, in addition to being the hole into which we sink the funds that could address the real danger of climate change.
War justifies secrecy and the erosion of liberties: warrantless surveillance, lawless imprisonment, torture, and assassination, even as wars are marketed as defending "freedom."
And of course the maintenance of nuclear and other weapons for war risks intentional or accidental catastrophe.
The downsides to war, even for an aggressor nation with overwhelming fire power, are voluminous. The upside would seem to be that if we keep fighting wars, one of them might turn out to be a good one.
But ask people to name a good war, and most will go back 73 years to World War II. A few will express badly misinformed views about Yugoslavia or Rwanda, but most will focus right in on Adolf Hitler. Think about that. Our top public project for the past three-quarters of a century has to go back that far to find a popular example of its use.
We live in a vastly changed world, and public opinion reflects that. The power of nonviolent action to resist tyranny and injustice is dramatically more realized, as is understanding of nonviolent conflict resolution and wise conflict avoidance.
Winston Churchill called World War II "the Unnecessary War" claiming that "there was never a war more easy to stop." That war would not have happened without World War I, which nobody claims was itself unavoidable.
Just as the U.S. sells weapons to abusive nations today and prioritizes militarism over aid to refugees, Western nations helped fund the rise of the Nazis and refused to accept Jewish refugees. There are ways to prevent situations from ever reaching the point of war.
Or rather there would be if we weren't so invested in the military industrial complex of whose "total influence" President Dwight Eisenhower warned.
David Swanson's books include War No More: The Case for Abolition and projects include WorldBeyondWar.org.
Imagine if China were stationing large numbers of troops in the United States. Imagine that most of them were based in a small rural county in Mississippi. Imagine -- this shouldn't be hard -- that their presence was problematic, that nations they threatened in Latin America resented the United States' hospitality, and that the communities around the bases resented the noise and pollution and drinking and raping of local girls.
Now imagine a proposal by the Chinese government, with support from the federal government in Washington, to build another big new base in that same corner of Mississippi. Imagine the governor of Mississippi supported the base, but just before his reelection pretended to oppose it, and after being reelected went back to supporting it. Imagine that the mayor of the town where the base would be built made opposition to it the entire focus of his reelection campaign and won, with exit polls showing that voters overwhelmingly agreed with him. And imagine that the mayor meant it.
Where would your sympathies lie? Would you want anyone in China to hear what that mayor had to say?
Sometimes in the United States we forget that there are heavily armed employees of our government permanently stationed in most nations on earth. Sometimes when we remember, we imagine that the other nations must appreciate it. We turn away from the public uproar in the Philippines as the U.S. military tries to return troops to those islands from which they were driven by public pressure. We avoid knowing what anti-U.S. terrorists say motivates them, as if by merely knowing what they say we would be approving of their violence. We manage not to know of the heroic nonviolent struggle underway on Jeju Island, South Korea, as residents try to stop the construction of a new base for the U.S. Navy. We live on oblivious to the massive nonviolent resistance of the people of Vicenza, Italy, who for years voted and demonstrated and lobbied and protested a huge new U.S. Army base that has gone right ahead regardless.
Mayor Susumu Inamine of Nago City, Okinawa, (population 61,000) is headed to the United States, where he may have to do a bit of afflicting the comfortable as he tries to comfort the afflicted back home. Okinawa Prefecture has hosted major U.S. military bases for 68 years. Over 73% of the U.S. troop presence in Japan is concentrated in Okinawa, which makes up a mere 0.6% of the Japanese land area. As a result of public protest, one base is being closed -- the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The U.S. government wants a new Marine base in Nago City. The people of Nago City do not.
Inamine was first elected as mayor of Nago City in January 2010 promising to block the new base. He was reelected this past January 19th still promising to block the base. The Japanese government had worked hard to defeat him, but exit polls showed 68% of voters opposing the base, and 27% in favor of it. In February U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy visited Okinawa, where she met with the Governor but declined to meet with the mayor.
That's all right. The Mayor can meet with the State Department, the White House, the Pentagon, and the Congress. He'll be in Washington, D.C. in mid-May, where he hopes to appeal directly to the U.S. government and the U.S. public. He'll speak at an open, public event at Busboys and Poets restaurant at 14th and V Streets at 6:00 p.m. on May 20th.
A great summary of the situation in Okinawa can be found in this statement: "International Scholars, Peace Advocates and Artists Condemn Agreement To Build New U.S. Marine Base in Okinawa." An excerpt:
"Not unlike the 20th century U.S. Civil Rights struggle, Okinawans have non-violently pressed for the end to their military colonization. They tried to stop live-fire military drills that threatened their lives by entering the exercise zone in protest; they formed human chains around military bases to express their opposition; and about a hundred thousand people, one tenth of the population have turned out periodically for massive demonstrations. Octogenarians initiated the campaign to prevent the construction of the Henoko base with a sit-in that has been continuing for years. The prefectural assembly passed resolutions to oppose the Henoko base plan. In January 2013, leaders of all the 41 municipalities of Okinawa signed the petition to the government to remove the newly deployed MV-22 Osprey from Futenma base and to give up the plan to build a replacement base in Okinawa."
Here's an organization working to support the will of the public of Okinawa on this issue.
And here's a video worth watching:
Michael Nagler has just published The Nonviolence Handbook: A Guide for Practical Action, a quick book to read and a long one to digest, a book that's rich in a way that people of a very different inclination bizarrely imagine Sun Tzu's to be. That is, rather than a collection of misguided platitudes, this book proposes what still remains a radically different way of thinking, a habit of living that is not in our air. In fact, Nagler's first piece of advice is to avoid the airwaves, turn off the television, opt out of the relentless normalization of violence.
We don't need the art of war applied to a peace movement. We need the art of satyagraha applied to the movement for a peaceful, just, free, and sustainable world. This means we have to stop trying to defeat the Military Industrial Complex (how's that been working out?) and start working to replace it and to convert the people who make up its parts to new behaviors that are better for them as well as for us.
It can seem out of place to shift from a discussion of the world's largest military to personal interactions. Surely giving John Kerry a complete personality transplant would leave in place corrupt elections, war profiteering, complicit media outlets, and the assumption held by legions of career bureaucrats that war is the way to peace.
No doubt, but only by learning to think and live nonviolence can we build an activist movement with the greatest potential to transform our structures of government. Nagler's examples highlight the importance of knowing what is negotiable, what should be compromised, and what must not be; what is substantive and what symbolic; when a movement is ready to escalate its nonviolence and when it is too soon or too late; and when (always?) not to tack on new demands in the middle of a campaign.
Tiananmen Square should have been abandoned and other tactics pursued, Nagler believes. Holding the square was symbolic. When protesters took over the Ecuadorean Congress in 2000 one of their leaders was elected president. Why? Nagler points out that the Congress was a place of power, not just a symbol; the activists were strong enough to take power, not just ask for it; and the occupation was part of a larger campaign that preceded and followed it.
Nagler has a lot of praise and hope for the Occupy movement, but also draws examples of failure from there. When a group of churches in one city offered to join with Occupy if everyone would stop cursing, Occupiers refused. Dumb decision. Not only is the point not to get to do every little thing we want, but we are not engaging in a struggle for power -- rather, in a learning process and a process of building relationships, even with those we are organizing to challenge -- and certainly with those who want to help us if we'll refrain from cussing. It can even be helpful, Nagler documents, to be accomodating to those we are challenging, when such steps are taken in friendship rather than subservience.
We are after the welfare of all parties, Nagler writes. Even those we want removed from office? Even those we want prosecuted for crimes? Is there restorative justice that can make an official who has launched a war see his or her removal from office and sanctioning as advantageous? Maybe. Maybe not. But seeking to remove people from office in order to uphold the rule of law and end injustices is very different from acting out of vengeance.
We should not seek out victories over others, Nager advises. But doesn't the organizing of activists require informing the deeply victory-dependent of every partial success achieved? Maybe. But a victory need not be over someone; it can be with someone. Oil barons have grandchildren who will enjoy a livable planet as much as the rest of us.
Nagler outlines obstructive and constructive actions, citing Gandhi's efforts in India and the first Intifada as examples of combining the two. The Landless Worker Movement in Brazil uses constructive nonviolence, while the Arab Spring used obstructive. Ideally, Nagler thinks, a movement should begin with constructive projects and then add obstruction. The Occupy Movement has gone in the opposite direction, developing aid for storm victims and banking victims after protests were driven out of public squares. The potential for change, Nagler believes, lies in the possibility of Occupy or another movement combining the two approaches.
Nagler's sequential steps in a nonviolent action campaign include: 1. Conflict Resolution, 2. Satyagraha, 3. The Ultimate Sacrifice.
I imagine Nagler would agree with me that what we need as much as peaceful behavior by our government is Conflict Avoidance. So much is done to generate conflicts that need not be. U.S. troops in 175 countries, and drones in some of the remaining few, are known to generate hostility; yet that hostility is used to justify the stationing of more troops. While it's important to realize we'll never rid the world of conflict, I'm sure we could come a lot closer if we tried.
But Nagler is outlining a plan for a popular campaign, not for the State Department. His three stages are a guide for how we ought to be outlining our future course of action. Step 0.5, then, is not Conflict Avoidance but Infiltration of Corporate Media or Development of Alternative Means to Communicate. Or so it occurs to me. I'll host Nagler on Talk Nation Radio soon, so send questions I should ask him to david at davidswanson dot org.
Nagler sees growing success and even greater potential for nonviolent action done wisely and strategically, and points out the extent to which violence remains the default approach of our government. And the case Nagler makes is made strong and credible by his extensive knowledge of nonviolent campaigns engaged in around the world over the past several decades. Nagler looks helpfully at successes, failures, and partial successes to draw out the lessons we need moving forward. I'm tempted to write a review of this book nearly as long as or even longer than the book itself, but believe it might be most helpful simply to say this:
Trust me. Buy this book. Carry it with you.
The author of Brazil's Dance With the Devil, Dave Zirin, must love sports, as I do, as billions of us do, or he wouldn't keep writing about where sports have gone wrong. But, wow, have they gone wrong!
Brazil is set to host the World Cup this year and the Olympics in 2016. In preparation Brazil is evicting 200,000 people from their homes, eliminating poor neighborhoods, defunding public services, investing in a militarized police and surveillance state, using slave and prison labor to build outrageous stadiums unlikely to be filled more than once, and "improving" a famous old stadium (the world's largest for 50 years) by removing over half the capacity in favor of luxury seats. Meanwhile, popular protests and graffiti carry the message: "We want 'FIFA standard' hospitals and schools!" not to mention this one:
(FIFA = Fédération Internationale de Football Association, aka Soccer Profiteers International)
Brazil is just the latest in a string of nations that have chosen the glory of hosting mega sports events like the Olympics and World Cup despite the drawbacks. And Zirin makes a case that nations' governments don't see the drawbacks as drawbacks at all, that in fact they are the actual motivation. "Countries don't want these mega-events in spite of the threats to public welfare, addled construction projects, and repression they bring, but because of them." Just as a storm or a war can be used as an excuse to strip away rights and concentrate wealth, so can the storm of sporting events that, coincidentally or not, have their origins in the preparation of nations for warmaking.
Zirin notes that the modern Olympics were launched by a group of European aristocrats and generals who favored nationalism and war -- led by Pierre de Coubertin who believed sport was "an indirect preparation for war." "In sports," he said, "all the same qualities flourish which serve for warfare: indifference toward one's well being, courage, readiness for the unforeseen." The trappings of the Olympic celebration as we know it, however -- the opening ceremonies, marching athletes, Olympic torch run, etc., -- were created by the Nazis' propaganda office for the 1936 games. The World Cup, on the other hand, began in 1934 in Mussolini's Italy with a tournament rigged to guarantee an Italian win.
More worrisome than what sports prepare athletes for is what they may prepare fans for. There are great similarities between rooting for a sports team, especially a national sports team, and rooting for a national military. "As soon as the question of prestige arises," wrote George Orwell, whom Zirin quotes, "as soon as you feel that you and some larger unit will be disgraced if you lose, the most savage combative instincts are aroused." And there is prestige not just in "your" team winning, but in "your" nation hosting the grand event. Zirin spoke with people in Brazil who were of mixed minds, opposing the injustices the Olympics bring but still glad the Olympics was coming to Brazil. Zirin also quotes Brazilian politicians who seem to share the goal of national prestige.
At some point the prestige and the profits and the corruption and the commercialism seem to take over the athletics. "[T]he Olympics aren't about sport any more than the Iraq war was about democracy," Zirin writes. "The Olympics are not about athletes. And they're definitely not about bringing together the 'community of nations.' They are a neoliberal Trojan horse aimed at bringing in business and rolling back the most basic civil liberties."
And yet ... And yet ... the damn thing still is about sports, no matter what else it's about, no matter what alternative venues for sports are possible or imaginable. The fact remains that there are great athletes engaged in great sporting activities in the Olympics and the World Cup. The attraction of the circus is still real, even when we know it's at the expense of bread, rather than accompanying bread. And dangerous as the circus may be for the patriotic and militarist minded -- just as a sip of beer might be dangerous to an alcoholic -- one has the darndest time trying to find anything wrong with one's own appreciation for sports; at least I do.
The Olympics are also decidedly less militaristic -- or at least overtly militaristic -- than U.S. sports like football, baseball, and basketball, with their endless glorification of the U.S. military. "Thank you to our service men and women watching in 175 countries and keeping us safe." The Olympics is also one of the few times that people in the U.S. see people from other countries on their televisions without wars being involved.
Zirin's portrait of Brazil leaves me with similarly mixed sentiments. His research is impressive. He describes a rich and complex history. Despite all the corruption and cruelty, I can't help being attracted to a nation that won its independence without a war, abolished slavery without a war, reduces poverty by giving poor people money, denounces U.S. drone murders at the U.N., joins with Turkey to propose an agreement between the United States and Iran, joins with Russia, India, and China to resist U.S. imperialism; and on the same day this year that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission proposed ending the open internet, Brazil created the world's first internet bill of rights. For a deeply flawed place, there's a lot to like.
It's also hard to resist a group of people that pushes back against the outrages being imposed on it. When a bunch of houses in a poor Brazilian neighborhood were slated for demolition, an artist took photos of the residents, blew them up, and pasted them on the walls of the houses, finally shaming the government into letting the houses stand. That approach to injustice, much like the Pakistani artists' recent placement of an enormous photo of a drone victim in a field for U.S. drone pilots to see, has huge potential.
Now, the question is how to display the Olympics' victims to enough Olympics fans around the world so that no new nation will be able to accept this monster on the terms it has been imposing.