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As the International Criminal Court loses any remaining credibility as a truly international and neutral body, it has finally claimed to be considering investigating certain war crimes of the world's greatest wager of war.
If the ICC hears from people all over the world, including from the United States, that we want U.S. war makers held accountable the same as any others, the ICC just might save itself and the idea of international justice along with it.
We encourage you to also prosecute war crimes by non-Africans including by U.S. war criminals. SIGN HERE.
Why is this important?
The ICC is degrading rather than enhancing the idea of international justice by giving a free pass to Western war makers. The United States has itself given a free pass to its war makers, kidnappers, torturers, and assassins. The U.S. president-elect and his advisors openly plan to violate laws against war, torture, and the targeting of civilians. The people of the United States and the world need the ICC to fulfill its mission and step in where domestic justice has failed.
> Preliminary ICC report on consideration of investigating U.S. crimes in Afghanistan and at secret sites in other countries.
> New York Times report.
> Congressman Ted Lieu on U.S. and Saudi war crimes in Yemen.
> John LaForge article.
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Watch the Iraq Tribunal Live Stream This Thursday
World Beyond War director David Swanson and many of our friends and allies will be testifying. Learn more about it now, and watch it live on both December 1st and December 2nd from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET (GMT-5) at
On Giving Tuesday support the world-wide campaign to abolish all war! World Beyond War is now interviewing some outstanding candidates for the job of fulltime organizer. And we're about to launch a global campaign to divest public money from weapons dealers. We can only do this work with your generous support, needed now more than ever!
Millennials Organize Gun Violence Prevention Intersectionality Summit to Bring People Together Post-Election to Combat Divisiveness and Hate for a Day of Education, Organizing, Solidarity, and Art
Strength in Synergy Summit to be help December 10th at American University, DC
WASHINGTON, DC – On Saturday, December 10 from 9:30am - 7:30pm, a gun violence prevention summit organized by millennials will hold workshops, panel discussions, breakout grassroots organizing sessions, and conclude with a concert featuring local DC artists such as: Shepard Kings, Terry Gibson, and WERK for Peace. Workshops will be led by April Goggans (Black Lives Matter), Rachel Graber (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence), Miriam Pembleton (Institute for Policy Studies), and other significant members of gun violence prevention actions. To find more information about workshops and presenters click here.
Leading a workshops on intersections between domestic and foreign violence and racism will be David Swanson (World Beyond War and RootsAction.org), Jamani Montague (RootsAction.org), and Leah Muskin-Pierret.
Sign up: http://strengthinsynergy.com
“My host sister was murdered in Portland in 2008 by a man who bought a gun from a gun show with no background check; she was one of the many victims that would be alive today if we had a comprehensive, inclusive response to gun violence. Preventing the type of horror that affected my family is one of the most important issues to me. I recognize that gun violence is a deeply intersectional issue with the many oppressions that people face. With Trump’s violent and hateful rhetoric being quickly normalized, now is the time to bring our communities together.”
- Martha Durkee-Neuman, 20, CODEPINK.
Co-sponsoring/co-organizing organizations include: the Brady Campaign, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Black Lives Matter DC, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, CODEPINK, WERK For Peace, Gays Against Guns, the Coalition of Concerned Mothers, the Timothy Dawkins El Project, Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, the DC Anti-Violence Project, and MomsRising.
Visit http://strengthinsynergy.com for more information,
or on Facebook: https://facebook.com/events/157950498008430
NATIONAL BIRD This incendiary new film was produced by legendary filmmakers Wim Wenders and Errol Morris. Three U.S. military veterans have recently become whistleblowers by breaking the silence surrounding America’s secret drone war. Tortured by guilt for their participation in the killing of faceless people in foreign countries, and despite the threat of being prosecuted under the Espionage Act, these three veterans offer an unprecedented look inside this secret program. Filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck follows one of the protagonists to war torn Afghanistan where she sees firsthand the human cost of America’s global drone strikes. Her journey gives some hope for peace and redemption. (92 mins)
David Swanson is the author of War Is A Lie and War Is Never Just. He is an activist, journalist, and public speaker. His previous books include When the World Outlawed War, and War No More: The Case forAbolition. Swanson serves as director of World Beyond War, and host of Talk Nation Radio. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He is based in Charlottesville, Va.
Apparently I've written "fake news" on behalf of Russia without ever receiving a dime from Russia or realizing what I was doing. It took the intrepid reporting of the Washington Post to alert me to what I have been engaged in. My "fake news" has been published in at least 18 Russian propaganda outlets included on the Washington Post-endorsed Enemies List.
They are ahtribune.com, off-guardian.org, opednews.com, antiwar.com, beforeitsnews.com, blackagendareport.com, ronpaulinstitute.org, rt.com (that one is actually Russian), consortiumnews.com, countercurrents.org, counterpunch.org, globalresearch.ca, truth-out.org, truthdig.com, informationclearinghouse.info, washingtonsblog.com, mintpressnews.com, and nakedcapitalism.com.
Since everything I write is also at davidswanson.org it's a safe bet that that's a Russian propaganda site as well, even though I hadn't realized it.
Every time the Nobel Peace Prize goes to a war monger, I feel an almost irresistible urge to imagine the Nobel Committee has just experienced a momentary fit of insanity. But when they invite notorious war mongers back to speak as peace laureates at the events surrounding the awarding of another such prize, the insanity defense loses plausibility. So I wish it were not true that Henry Kissinger is scheduled to speak in Oslo, but he is. I think I can explain why.
1. Zbigniew Brzezinski needed someone to balance him from the left.
2. Having failed to predict Donald Trump's presidency, the Nobel Committee, not wanting to wait until next year to recognize him, has come up with the next best thing: Kissinger and Brzezinski chatting about peace prize imperialism.
3. Awarding a prize to only one of the two parties to a (failed) peace agreement always seems to leave a gap in the agenda. But who can notice a gap in anything, with good old Henry waddling around proposing to nuke people?
4. With Edward Snowden having just passed up a visit to Olso to pick up the Norwegian PEN's Ossietzky Prize for outstanding achievements as a whistleblower, because the Norwegian government would not agree to protect him from U.S. extradition, that government has had a change of heart and sought out a way to shelter someone from the long arm of justice. Thus Kissinger will be guarded and protected from extradition to any nations seeking to prosecute him.
5. Having responded with sanity and wisdom to a mass killing by a homegrown fascist, Norway is eager to demonstrate to the United States that it is happy to give Washington-based fascism a chance.
6. Of the limited roster of experts who were advising both Clinton and Trump, allowing the Nobel Committee to hedge its bets, some of the other ones were truly crazy.
7. The Nobel Committee surveyed media executives and found total support for including Kissinger, except from those outlets (like the ones publishing this article) that are secretly and unbeknownst to their owners engaged in Russian propaganda services.
8. Dick Cheney told them to go f--- themselves.
9. They couldn't afford Barack Obama.
10. This makes up for never giving Gandhi a peace prize.
I could be wrong, of course. Feel free to ask email@example.com for the real explanation.
There’s a chapter in a new book by Dorothie and Martin Hellman called A New Map for Relationships that outlines seven international relationships between the United States and others in which many people in the United States have not understood their government’s abusive behavior. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book.
What would people in the United States make of the information, if they had it, that Russians are infuriated when the West doesn’t recognize their suffering in the course of their defeat of Nazi Germany? The single city where Vladimir Putin’s parents lived lost more civilian lives to Germany in WWII than all U.S. military losses in the war. Yet the U.S. boycotts Russia’s 70th anniversary victory celebration in order to protest the choice of the people of Crimea to rejoin Russia following a violent right-wing coup in Ukraine facilitated by the United States. And Russians remember Harry Truman saying that the United States should help Germany if Russia was winning and Russia if Germany was winning, so that more people would die. They remember the U.S. delay for years in launching D-Day until Russia had been bled dry. The remember Winston Churchill’s proposal to launch a war on Russia using Nazi troops within hours of the Nazi defeat. They remember the U.S.-British-French invasion of 1917. They remember the U.S. promise not to expand NATO eastward when Germany reunited. They watch every military expansion on their border. They listen to every lie and provocation. And people in the United States remain oblivious, aloof, arrogant, and abusive. If this were a marriage, one partner would be told to do a little bit better listening.
How many people in the United States know that Jimmy Carter met with North Korea’s government in 1994 and made an agreement between the United States and North Korea that North Korea upheld for years? How many know that the United States chose not to uphold its side of the agreement while at the same time labeling North Korea part of an “axis of evil,” invading Iraq, and declaring in a “National Security Strategy” the U.S. right to attack such other countries? And that only after that, North Korea pulled out of the Nonproliferation Treaty and kicked out inspectors, and four years later conducted its first nuclear test? How many have considered the North Korean perspective on Libya’s agreement to give up nuclear weapons, followed by the violent overthrow of the Libyan government and the savage torture and murder of Libya’s president? Is there any awareness in the United States that North Korea views U.S./South Korean simulations of bombing North Korea (again) as threatening? Without, needless to say, declaring any partner in any relationship to be a saint (except my wife who actually is), isn’t it possible that a good counselor for this relationship would gently invite the United States to remove its head from its posterior?
A New Map for Relationships looks at these two and five other relationships from the perspective of personal, specifically marriage, relations. While I found other sections of the book analyzing the authors’ own marriage far less valuable, that could be in part because I already largely agreed with them. I appreciate their particular insights and facts once they turn to foreign policy, but someone inclined to believe hostility and arrogance to be entirely appropriate in foreign policy might be shaken in that perspective if they read the book in its entirety. (And if you think such people don’t exist, go back and watch Senator Ron Paul booed in a presidential primary debate in South Carolina for suggesting that foreign policy utilize the Golden Rule.)
That being said, I think there are a couple of dangers that must be carefully avoided every time we do the personal-to-international analogy. One is that propagandists and propagandizees are not identical. Those concocting fraudulent justifications for war are often completely aware of what they are doing. We have Pentagon officials now openly talking about hyping the Russian threat for bureaucratic and profit motives. Those are very different problems than lack of information or empathy. And empathy and understanding may not be the tools we principally need to apply in order to alter the actions of the propagandists; sometimes massive nonviolent disruption may be more useful. The distinction between those in power and those out is muddied by the use (by these authors and virtually every human being in the United States) of the term “we” to refer to the United States military or government.
A second problem is false equivalence. In a marriage, two partners should be, and in many ways usually are, relatively equal. In a relationship between the United States and Iran, for example, one of them spends hundreds of times what the other does on militarism, has bases on the other’s borders, threatens the other with war, has invaded the other’s neighbors, possesses nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, routinely engages in wars and drone murders, spies on and assassinates members of and sabotages the other, and has attempted to frame the other and falsely accuse the other of crimes. This same “equal partner” once overthrew the other’s democracy and installed and for years propped up a brutal dictator, and then assisted the other’s neighbor in a war against it that included massive killing with chemical weapons, to which the other chose not to respond in kind. In this sort of situation, asking each equal partner to admit equal blame is not a path to resolution. Asking each partner to admit some blame may make sense, but there’s an obvious reason why one of them should go first.
With those caveats, there is much to be gained by examining the sometimes-overlapping attitudes toward international relations of the public and those in power. Doing so allows the Hellmans to reach key insights about Los Alamos scientists, presidents, and dictators. And, I think, as presidents more and more closely resemble dictators, their nations’ foreign policy more and more resembles their personal relationships. When Donald Trump is handed the power, not to execute the laws of Congress, but to make laws and launch wars and spy and kidnap and imprison and torture and murder at will, it becomes very relevant how he relates to people or nations. It begins to matter that he has personal property all over the globe, some of which will almost certainly be attacked by terrorists. It begins to matter more that he may be more insecure and paranoid than Richard Nixon. But if he swears off hostility toward other nations and tries to work with them as partners, that may be an enormous silver lining to his cloudy rise to power. If on the other hand he wants war, there may be a silver lining for our resistance: if he is more naively open about his motivations — if he blurts out “steal their oil!” and “kill their families!” — then the rest of us may have an easier time avoiding the trap of imagining that the people he wants to slaughter have deeply offended us.
By John LaForge
US armed forces and the CIA may have committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor says in a recent report, raising the possibility that US citizens could be indicted.
“Members of US armed forces appear to have subjected at least 61 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity on the territory of Afghanistan between 1 May 2003 and 31 December 2014,” according to the Nov. 14 ICC report issued by Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s office in The Hague.
The report says that CIA operatives may have subjected at least 27 detainees at its secret prisons in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania -- to “torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity” including rape, between December 2002 and March 2008. Individuals captured by US forces in Afghanistan were transferred to the secret CIA prisons, sometimes referred to as “black sites” where prisoners were chained to ceilings, “chained to walls and forgotten [one for 17 days] froze to death on concrete floors, and were waterboarded until they lost consciousness” according to the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee Report on the torture program.
On Dec. 9, 2005, the State Department’s deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said the United States would continue to deny the Red Cross access to prisoners it was holding secretly around the world, claiming they were terrorists who were not guaranteed any rights under the Geneva Conventions. The Red Cross complained that its central purpose is to protect the human rights of prisoners, all of whom deserve protection under international humanitarian law -- binding treaty laws that include the absolute, unambiguous prohibition against torture.
More than 120 countries are members of the ICC, but the US is not. Although the US refused to join the 2002 Rome Statute that created the ICC and established its authority, US military personnel and CIA agents could still face prosecution because their crimes were allegedly committed within Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania -- all members of the ICC.
The ICC’s jurisdiction can be invoked when allegations of war crimes are not investigated and prosecuted by the home governments of the accused. The Guardian reported that the “ICC is a court of last resort that takes on cases only when other countries are unable or unwilling to prosecute.” Writing in Foreign Policy magazine last October, David Bosco noted, “The prosecutor’s office has repeatedly called attention to alleged abuses of detainees by US personnel between 2003 and 2005 that it believes have not been adequately addressed by the United States.”
“Committed with particular cruelty”
Bensouda’s report says about alleged US war crimes, they “were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals. Rather, they appear to have been committed as part of approved interrogation techniques in an attempt to extract ‘actionable intelligence’ from detainees. The information available suggests that victims were deliberately subjected to physical and psychological violence, and that crimes were allegedly committed with particular cruelty and in a manner that debased the basic human dignity of the victims,” the ICC report says.
Reuters noted that the Senate committee released 500 pages of excerpts from its report and found that torture was committed. Official photographs of the abuse are evidently so incriminating that the military, as recently as February 9th this year, refused to release 1,800 pictures that the public has never seen.
The George W. Bush administration, which authorized and implemented torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and the offshore penal colony at Guantanamo Bay, was fiercely opposed to the ICC, but Afghanistan, Lithuania, Poland and Romania are all members, which gives the court jurisdiction over crimes committed within those territories. This could lead to prosecution of US citizens.
Both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have boasted in public about waterboarding which was sanctioned, “legalized,” and practiced widely under their command authority. Asked during a televised interview about what he called this “enhanced interrogation technique,” Mr. Cheney said, “I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
During a Republican primary debate Donald Trump said, “I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” a statement he repeated many times. Gen. Michael Hayden, a former director of both the CIA the NSA, reacted in a televised interview: “If he [Trump] were to order that, once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act. You are required to not follow an unlawful order. That would be in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict.” President-elect Trump also repeatedly called for targeted assassinations of family members of suspected terrorists. Both actions are prohibited by US military service manuals and by international treaty law, crimes ultimately prosecuted by the ICC.
John LaForge, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and is co-editor with Arianne Peterson of Nuclear Heartland, Revised: A Guide to the 450 Land-Based Missiles of the United States.
Greg Palast is an investigative reporter, whose news-breaking stories appear on BBC Television and in The Guardian and Rolling Stone Magazine. Palast has released a new movie: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits, based on his books. Palast says that the recent U.S. election was in fact rigged. We discuss how.
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Donald Trump says he wants to stop overthrowing governments and turn toward peace. But not only does he also say he wants to increase the military spending that produces more wars, but he’s considering for Secretary of so-called Defense someone whose entire outlook is offensive in every sense of the word.
Here’s James Mattis in his own words:
“So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.”
Of course any wars continued or launched will be packaged as “last resorts” and “necessary evils” and so forth. But this guy will be drooling for blood with the glee of a sadist. War is his drug, or what Donald Trump would call his “sneaking into women’s dressing rooms.” Here’s Mattis:
“There is nothing better than getting shot at and missed. It’s really great.”
Not only is war the force that gives Mattis’s life meaning, but it’s his ideology, his worldview, his delusion in which the counterproductive can be seen as effective. Here’s Mattis:
“I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all.”
Surely peace is at hand!
“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” That’s how Mattis states what Theodore Roosevelt and every president since have acted on.
Only, one gets the impression that Mattis added the part about politeness because he isn’t. What he is, is a true believer in the irredeemability of designated enemies. There shall be no destroying an enemy by making him your friend for Mattis. He maintains:
“It is mostly a matter of wills. Whose will is going to break first? Ours or the enemy’s?”
And that enemy is by necessity, then, not human but subhuman prey:
“Be the hunter, not the hunted: Never allow your unit to be caught with its guard down.”
Mattis explains this as a matter of simple observation:
“There are some assholes in the world that just need to be shot.”
That’s a belief of U.S. culture, of U.S. movies, of U.S. books, of U.S. games. But when you make it the belief of the Secretary of War after giving presidents the power to kill anybody they like, you’re going to see a lot of people getting shot. And no, none of them need to be.
Regarding your 29 proposals, here's a bit more than just the ranking you asked for. I'll start with the best:
7. Announce our official withdrawal from the TPP.
That's my favorite. Wonderful! We don't need any more trade agreements that empower corporations over governments and impose unpopular laws on people. Good riddance! Don't replace it with something worse, please!
8. Renegotiate NAFTA into terms that protect the American worker.
This could be a great one. I'm not clear why you wouldn't just tear up the treaty you've repeatedly called one of the worst treaties in history. You could negotiate bilateral agreements with other nations. There's no actual need for NAFTA. But if you're going to first try to renegotiate it, the U.S. worker needs the right to organize, among other rights. The workers of Canada and Mexico need to be considered. As does the natural environment that we and our kids all have to live in.
5. Introduce an infrastructure package to modernize our country.
This, too, could be terrific. Or it could be disastrous. Modernized countries have fast electric trains, solar and wind energy, pedestrian and bicycle paths, electric car chargers, sustainable agriculture, free hospitals for all human beings, and architecture that leans more toward the beautiful than the monumental. We could use more schools and parks, more farmers' markets, more urban gardens, and more places to vote. All of these dreams and much more could be easily achieved, even while radically boosting foreign aid, if the U.S. were to either cut military spending or tax billionaires or both. But you want to increase military spending and cut taxes on billionaires. Even if your idea of modernized infrastructure is coal mines and oil wells and highways, you have no way to pay for it -- thank goodness. And don't forget: the people who voted for you are obsessed with the debt, so don't even try that route.
20. Enact a five-year ban on White House and congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service.
This is good, as far as it goes. Why not 10 years both before and after? And why just lobbyists? Why not anyone profiting financially from a sector governed by the relevant government position? And why just the White House and Congress? Why not all government departments and agencies? Putting an oil profiteer in charge of the EPA is not solved by the fact that the EPA isn't in the White House.
25. Reform the Department of Veterans Affairs in order to provide proper treatment to America’s forgotten heroes.
This sounds good, if you actually mean it. But let's not call them heroes. Let's call them brave people who were abused by some of those recent wars you properly denounced during the campaign -- though you supported them when it mattered most.
Since World War I and the initiative of J. Edgar Hoover, and right up through all the no-fly and terrorist-watch lists of today, the U.S. government has kept unconstitutional lists of people, largely or in part on the basis of their national or ethnic heritage or their political activism. These lists were part of the process of interning in camps Germans and German-Americans during World Wars I and II, and Japanese-Americans and Japanese during World War II.
In 1936 President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the creation by the Office of Naval Intelligence of a list of Japanese-Americans who would be the "first to be placed in a concentration camp" once a war could be started. In 1939 FDR ordered the ONI and the FBI to create a larger "custodial detention index" of primarily Japanese-, German-, and Italian-Americans, renamed and continued as the "security index" by Hoover after Attorney General Francis Biddle ordered it shut down.
The Alien Registration Act of 1940 required all non-citizen adults to register with the government. In early 1941 FDR commissioned a study of West coast Japanese-Americans, which concluded that they were no threat at all. He commissioned another study that reached the same conclusion. Yet, on December 7, 1941, FDR issued a proclamation stripping Japanese in the United States of rights (and the very next day for Germans and Italians). On January 14, 1942, FDR proclaimed in another proclamation that enemy aliens could be put in internment camps. On February 19, 1942, he ordered the internment of citizens and non-citizens alike.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld this action, but those rulings were vacated in the 1980s when it was learned that the government had withheld relevant information from the court, and -- perhaps more importantly -- when World War II and its accompanying hysteria were long over. A 1943 government report had been altered; the original version had admitted that there had not been a lack of time to provide Japanese Americans due process; rather, it asserted, there is simply no way to determine the loyalty of such people, who must be kept away from the coats of the United States for the duration of the war.
From 1980 to 1983 a Congressional commission studied the history and concluded that Japanese-Americans and Japanese had been locked up in camps, not due to any evidence of a threat, but on the basis of racism and bigotry. The commission recommended $20,000 in reparations to each victim. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation authorizing those reparations payments, and apologizing to the victims. This law acknowledged "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership" as the factors that motivated the crime.
In 1992, President George H.W. Bush signed a law appropriating more finds for reparations payments. On the anniversary of Pearl Harbor he issued another formal apology, which included this claim: "The internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry was a great injustice, and it will never be repeated."
In 2000, a memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C., that includes, carved in stone, these words:
The lessons learned must remain as a grave reminder of what we must not allow to happen again to any group.
--attributed to Daniel K. Inouye, U.S. Congressman and Senator
In 2001, Congress passed a law making 10 of the camps historical landmarks and stating that "places like Manzanar, Tule Lake, Heart Mountain, Topaz, Amache, Jerome, and Rohwer will forever stand as reminders that this nation failed in its most sacred duty to protect its citizens against prejudice, greed, and political expediency."
This is on the memorial in DC to the Japanese internment camps. pic.twitter.com/n3Kq5QmPnf
— David Swanson (@davidcnswanson) November 18, 2016
Michael Flynn, expected to advise Donald Trump on counterproductive killing operations misleading labeled "national security," is generally depicted as a lawless torturer and assassin. But, whether for partisan reasons or otherwise, he's a lawless torturer and assassin who has blurted out some truths he shouldn't be allowed to forget.
"Lt. Gen. Flynn, who since leaving the DIA has become an outspoken critic of the Obama administration, charges that the White House relies heavily on drone strikes for reasons of expediency, rather than effectiveness. 'We’ve tended to say, drop another bomb via a drone and put out a headline that "we killed Abu Bag of Doughnuts" and it makes us all feel good for 24 hours,' Flynn said. 'And you know what? It doesn't matter. It just made them a martyr, it just created a new reason to fight us even harder.'"
Or even more clearly:
"When you drop a bomb from a drone… you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good. The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just… fuels the conflict."
President Obama waited until after the election last week to propose an unpopular idea. He asked Congress for $11.6 billion extra — outside the huge existing military budget — for wars. Here’s his letter including all the gory details. Please read it yourself when you begin to hope that I’m making up some of what follows.
This massive pile of money, equivalent to the annual spending that the United Nations says could end the lack of clean drinking water globally, adds between 1% and 2% to U.S. military spending — but is by itself more than the entire military budget of all but 14 other nations on earth, 12 of which top-spending nations are U.S. allies.
I knew John Heuer was elderly from the day I met him, years ago, and came to know him as one of the most dedicated advocates of peace on earth. Losing him is a blow. He was youthful, vibrant, recently married, and intent on ridding the world of pointless mass slaughter. John was active in every organization and independently. He advanced nonviolent action, lobbying, education, and inspiration.
John wrote this four years ago:
Dear young citizens,
First, I want to congratulate you on your many accomplishments. Second, I want to counsel you on your roles as citizens.
When I graduated 8th grade in 1960, citizens could not vote until they were 21. Boys could be drafted into the army and sent to war at age 18, but they could not fully participate as citizens, including engagement in public, democratic decisions about whether or not the nation should send our boys to war. This travesty was somewhat remedied by passage of the 26th amendment to the US Constitution in 1971, granting the right to vote to 18 year-olds.
I say “somewhat” a remedy, because the issue of the rights, responsibilities, privileges and duties of citizens under the age of 18 have not been addressed. It is these rights, responsibilities, privileges and duties about which I write today: Your citizenship.
As rising 9th graders, you are well aware that your education is, as yet, incomplete. But it will come as a surprise to many and a shock to some to learn that your education has contained deep strains of fraud, about who actually runs our government and how. Here are three examples:
OLF – The US Navy proposed construction of “Outlying Landing Fields” (OLF) in wildlife sanctuaries near North Carolina’s east coast, in order to practice landings and take-offs for military aircraft. Public outcry caused the Navy to scuttle these plans.
Sonar Training Field off the Florida—Georgia coast. The Navy has proposed designating hundreds of square miles of Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the southern US for submarine sonar training, despite opposition of environmental groups which point out that these areas are breeding grounds for whales, and that high frequency sonar is known to drive marine mammals insane. The US Supreme Court overruled the environmentalists with the judgment that, while there could be incidental injury, there was also a lack of proof that the sonar testing area would threaten any species’ extinction.
$185 Billion Dollars is what our government proposes to spend in the next 10 years to modernize our nuclear weapons arsenal. It is difficult to measure (or imagine) $185 Billion, but it would pay for a lot of school lunches, teachers’ salaries and school nurses. Besides, what business do we have maintaining a military arsenal designed to incinerate cities?
When you consider these government programs, you have to wonder if our government has gone mad, and what we, as citizens, of all ages, can do about it.
Why don’t we hear more about these grave assaults on planet earth and this terrible squander of our wealth? The fact is that the agents that propose these travesties are the same ones that often own our newspapers and write your textbooks.
So, what are we to do? One of the 1st steps, I think, is for you to understand that the wealth being squandered and the planet being desecrated belongs to you, your generation, your children, grand children and posterity.
The 2nd step is to realize, however painfully, that your parents and grandparents have failed to establish your legacy of peaceful nations living together on an abundant earth.
The 3rd is to exercise your rights, responsibilities, privileges and duties of your citizenship to carefully study your local resources in order to propose a reconfiguration of those resources to meet the needs of your community, and to engage your peers in an earnest identification of those needs. Start with identifying the military footprint in your district and discuss how much, if any, that investment enhances the security of your community, and how redirecting that investment could improve the security of your community. Use your networking capabilities not just for socializing, but for building solidarity among your peers. Use that solidarity to demand a school curriculum that addresses the needs of your community or create your own curriculum.
Finally, a word about citizenship. Many of you go to school with non-citizens of the USA. Please recognize them as guests, and afford them as much hospitality as you can. Remember, your US citizenship may be established by the Constitution and subsequent laws, but we are all world citizens by virtue of our birth.
Congressman Keith Ellison, candidate of progressive Democrats and many regressive Democrats for chair of the Democratic National Committee eagerly urged the illegal and disastrous violent overthrow of the government of Libya in 2011, which he celebrated as a success despite what it meant for the rule of law, despite all the death and suffering, despite the predictable instability and weapons proliferation to follow.
Ellison moved on to pushing, and using his perch as co-chair of the Progressive Caucus to push, for a similar war on Syria. For years now he has advocated for the illegal and murderous creation of no fly zones and "safe zones" -- what Hillary Clinton admitted only to Goldman Sachs would require that you "kill a lot of Syrians." Ellison was an early backer of bombing Syria in 2013. He met with peace activists but rejected their appeal.
Back in 2007, before Ellison's leadership, the Congressional Progressive Caucus had helped organize 90 Congress members to commit to voting against war funding. Most of them turned around and voted for war funding. That ridiculous disappointment was a high point for the CPC.
Since then, the CPC's commitments -- such as to vote against corporate healthcare -- have hardly been taken seriously, and so it's hardly been news when most members have gone back on their commitments.
But in recent years, the CPC has shifted away from even pretending to take a stand on things, and instead moved toward issuing statements full of non-committal rhetoric. Some began referring to it as the Congressional Progressive Statement Caucus.
Yet even that standard must be looked back to with nostalgia when it comes to Co-Chair Ellison's rhetoric on war. He promotes misinformation about protecting innocent people in Libya and Syria and uses those claims to justify war making. This is exactly what the war makers were looking for in funding Hillary Clinton for President. Should the Democratic National Committee now give it to them in the form of Ellison as Chair?
Of course there are differences between Clinton and Ellison. He hasn't been around long enough to do nearly as much damage, and he's legitimately better than Clinton in many ways. He introduced legislation in the Minnesota State Legislature to urge the impeachment of George W. Bush. He dropped support for that once elected to Congress but did sign onto impeaching Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales. He has voted against war funding, more than once. He has asked Obama to end the war on Afghanistan. He was against rewriting laws with signing statements, at least while Bush was president. It's conceivable that he no longer, post-Bernie, throws a fit if called a socialist. And on domestic issues there's no comparison: Ellison is excellent by Democratic standards.
But is that good enough? Does empowering someone who is a Muslim erase all concern over bombing Muslims and turning their nations into hell?
This is the best the Democrats have, we're told. But putting an active member of Congress into another fulltime job is not ideal. And the Democrats have unemployed figures like war-advocate Howard Dean crawling out into the spot lights.
Who would I propose instead? The first name that comes to mind (and I have not discussed this with him, it's possible he has no interest, and he certainly wouldn't sanction my criticizing of Ellison) is Dennis Kucinich. You want change? Hope even? Try him.
Jonathan Simon is author of CODE RED: Computerized Election Theft and The New American Century. He serves as Executive Director of Election Defense Alliance (www.ElectionDefenseAlliance.org), a nonprofit organization founded in 2006 to restore observable vote counting and electoral integrity as the basis of American democracy. In addition to CODE RED, Dr. Simon has published, both individually and in collaboration, numerous papers related to various aspects of election forensics and election integrity. We discuss the counting of votes in last week's U.S. elections.
The CODE RED website is www.CODERED2016.com.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
Here's a proposal backed by RootsAction.org, WorldBeyondWar.org, Pax Christi Charlottesville, Amnesty International Charlottesville, the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, and 257 people who have signed this petition: http://bit.ly/cvillepeacepole
Charlottesville, Virginia, has the potential to be a leader for peace at home and abroad. Our city council in recent years passed resolutions against the war on Iraq, against threatening Iran, against drones, and in favor of moving resources from wasteful and deadly military spending to human and environmental needs. Other cities and towns followed Charlottesville's lead on some of these measures. Our voices were heard in Richmond and in Washington.
We now need to be a voice for peace and nonviolence more than ever. Wearing a safety pin is a wonderful way to communicate that one is a safe person not inclined toward bigotry or violence. But we need something more visible as well.
Charlottesville's monuments to wars, including the Native American genocide, the defense of slavery, and the slaughter of 3.8 million Vietnamese, dominate public space. Charlottesville's support for peace is nowhere visible on the public landscape.
Charlottesville has four sister cities, and signs indicating them are visible in Charlottesville. But the motto of Sister Cities International, "Peace Through People," is nowhere to be found. There is no location set aside to celebrate these relationships, as there could be in combination with a peace pole.
A couple of dozen young people marched back and forth through downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday evening shouting "Love Not Hate!" and "No Human Being Is Illegal!" and "Black Lives Matter!" and similar anti-Trump inspired slogans. They didn't hand out flyers or interact with other people at all, though I cheered for them.
Meanwhile some people my age looked on and made scornful condescending comments to the effect that the election was over and these fools should get over it. And one drunk guy, restrained by his wife or girlfriend, announced that "Black lives aren't worth s---!"
My response is different, if perhaps equally cynical. I'd like all the fools not marching and rallying to recognize that the dream of self-governance is over and to get over it. I'd like everyone to have gotten over it last month or last year or last decade.
I love that people march around shouting "Love Not Hate!" And the fact that anyone would object to that statement of preference ought to deeply disturb the most apathetic voter/consumer/spectator. In fact I've just helped set up a petition that reads:
"We will not stand by as hatred and violence are promoted by our president-elect. Racism and bigotry at home have been fueled by U.S. wars abroad, but also make more such wars easier. We commit to nonviolently resisting hateful attacks on our fellow human beings wherever they live."
I also love and am practicing the new trend of wearing a safety pin to indicate that one is a safe and caring person to anyone who might be worried about any variety of bigotry.
But here's where I get a bit cynical. Hillary Clinton told a room full of Goldman Sachs bankers that creating a no fly zone in Syria would require killing lots of Syrians. And she told the public she wanted to create that no fly zone. And if she had been declared the winner of the election, I can guarantee you that nobody would have been marching up and down my street yelling "Love Not Hate."
So, I worry that even those who value kindness to others value it only for the 4% of humanity in the United States but not so much for the other 96%, or value it only as directed by the less hateful of the two big political parties.
I also worry that it's even worse than that. I worry that, as cheerleaders for one political party over the other, people have lost touch with the idea of bringing demands from the public to the government. For seven years we had protests of the war on Afghanistan, for example. Then for eight years we didn't, even as the U.S. forces there grew by over 300 percent before declining. Perhaps next year those protests will recommence, but probably only in the unlikely event that the Democratic Party raises the issue.
Where was the outrage over the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Or over the lack of single-payer healthcare? Or over the failure to restrain inequality or environmental destruction? Or over the threat of a nuclear war with Russia? Why the selective outrage on-command as directed by televised coverage of the model or template protest in New York City?
But, really, what choice do people have? If they want others to join in, if they want the local media to cover them, they have to go where the momentum is. And when the momentum is for love against hate, everybody should be cheering and joining.
But we should also be directing our energy toward strategic areas for systemic change.
Is it a problem that the winner of the popular vote can be denied the U.S. presidency? Then let's compel our state legislatures to change the law to distribute electors in proportion to actual votes.
Is it a problem that a small cartel of major media corporations can choose to give someone like Donald Trump wall-to-wall free airtime, effectively handing him a nomination for president? Then let's channel widespread (including Trump's) disdain for the media into breaking up that cartel.
Is it a problem that the Democratic Party can slant the playing field of its primary to guarantee a win to a weak candidate? We should disempower and democratize parties, including by ending the corruption of privately financed elections, and by creating ranked-choice voting in the other 49 states as Maine's voters just did there.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead for the moment, and the president-elect made at least 1,000 speeches condemning NAFTA. Let's put an end to NAFTA, and not replace it with something worse.
It took President Obama two days after the election to put in his request for more billions for more war. Trump has already said he wants to end the arming of fighters in Syria. Let's end that supplemental spending bill along with that policy. And let's make clear that we won't stand for another form of escalation in Syria or Iraq.
Is it too early to impeach Trump? Then let's focus on blocking his horrendous cabinet nominations.
Much of recent Trump-driven hatred took the form of voter suppression. Let's demand investigations and prosecutions.
And what about loving future generations? Let's work to advance a wiser environmental policy at the local, state, and international levels, and to make clear to Congress and the president-elect that we will not stand for the destruction of the earth's climate.
Let's energize and strategize with everyone marching against the recent election. Let's take these protests where their leaders think they need to go. Even if we're just telling each other and the world that we're not among those accepting hatred and violence, that's all to the good.
But let's not start to believe that activism is principally for displaying our identities. Let's make sure we're transforming major structures that impact millions and billions of those whom we need to love and not hate.
I'll be speaking at the upcoming Iraq Tribunal about war lies of 2002-2003 vintage. I'm nostalgic for the days when presidents had to lie to Congress and the public and obtain some modicum of support before bombing a foreign country.
Already by the day after this week's election we saw the return of street protests, of big plans for mass mobilizations, and of preparations to urge a presidential impeachment as soon as Trump commits the first obviously impeachable offense not routinely committed by Barack Obama.
But we are not going to see the return of the office of the presidency as it was inherited by George W. Bush or even as it was passed along to Barack Obama. When Bush became president, spying on everything everybody did was deemed unacceptable. Imprisoning people without charge or trial was an outrage. Torture was illicit. Going through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays to pick whom to murder with a drone would have filled the streets with protest. When Congress passed laws, presidents were supposed to veto them, sign and obey them, or quietly ignore them in secret until caught, not sign them and publicly announce which parts they would violate.
John Feffer argued on Wednesday that Demagogue Donald, whose very existence will lead me to pretend I'm not from the U.S. the next time I'm in Europe, is part of a wider trend that's already hit Europe hard:
"The ugliness has been percolating in Europe for some time now. It wasn’t just Brexit, Britain’s unexpected rejection of the European Union. It was the election of militant populists throughout Eastern Europe — Viktor Orban in Hungary, Robert Fico in Slovakia, the party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland. It was the electoral surge of the National Front in France and the Alternative fur Deutschland in Germany. It was the backlash against immigrants, social welfare programs, and 'lazy Mediterraneans' — but also against bankers and Brussels bureaucrats."
Are you finding yourselves suddenly a bit doubtful of the wisdom of drone wars? Presidential wars without Congress? Massive investment in new, smaller, "more usable" nuclear weapons? The expansion of bases across Africa and Asia? Are you disturbed by the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen? Can total surveillance and the persecution of whistleblowers hit a point where they've gone too far? Is the new Cold War with Russia looking less than ideal now? How about the militarization of U.S. police: is it time to consider alternatives to that?
I hear you. I'm with you. Let's build a movement together to end the madness of constantly overthrowing governments with bombs. Let's propose nonviolent alternatives to a culture gone mad with war. Let's end the mindset that creates war in the first place.
We have opportunities as well as dangers. A President Trump is unpredictable. He wants to proliferate nuclear weapons, bomb people, kill people, stir up hatred of people, and increase yet further military spending. But he also said the new Cold War was a bad idea. He said he wanted to end NATO, not to mention NAFTA, as well as breaking the habit of overthrowing countries left and right. Trump seems to immediately back off such positions under the slightest pressure. Will he adhere to them under massive pressure from across the political spectrum? It's worth a try.
We have an opportunity to build a movement that includes a focus on and participation from refugees/immigrants. We have a chance to create opposition to racist wars and racism at home. We may just discover that what's left of the U.S. labor movement is suddenly more open to opposing wars. Environmental groups may find a willingness to oppose the world's top destroyer of the environment: the U.S. military. Civil liberties groups may at long last be willing to take on the militarism that creates the atrocities they oppose. We have to work for such a broader movement. We have to build on the trend of protesting the national anthem and make it a trend of actively resisting the greatest purveyor of violence on earth.
I know you're feeling a little beat down at the moment. You shouldn't. You had a winning candidate in Bernie Sanders. Your party cheated him out of the nomination. All that stuff you tell yourselves about encouraging demographic trends and the better positions of young people is all true. You just looked for love in all the wrong places. Running an unpopular candidate in a broken election system is not the way to change the world. Even a working election system would not be the central means by which to improve anything. There's no getting back the mountains of money and energy invested in this election. But activism is an unlimited resource. Directing your energies now in more strategic directions can inspire others who in turn can re-inspire you.
Your outsider is threatening insiderness. He's got the same tribe of DC corporate lobbyists planning his nominations that Hillary Clinton had lined up for hers. Can we resist that trend? Can we insist that the wars be ended? Can those moments of off-the-cuff honesty about dinosaurs like NATO be turned into actual action? Donald Trump took a lot of heat for proposing to be fair to Palestinians as well as Israelis, and he backed off fast. Can we encourage him to stand behind that initial inclination?
Can we stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership and end NAFTA as well? We heard a million speeches about how bad NAFTA is. How about actually ending it? Can we stop the looming war supplemental spending bill? Can we put a swift halt to efforts in Congress to repeal the right to sue Saudi Arabia and other nations for their wars and lesser acts of terrorism?
How about all that well deserved disgust with the corporate media? Can we actually break up that cartel and allow opportunities for media entrepreneurs?
Dear United States,
Donald Trump admitted we had a broken election system and for a while pretended that he would operate outside of it by funding his own campaign. It's time to actually fix it. It's time to end the system of legalized bribery, fund elections, make registration automatic, make election day a holiday, end gerrymandering, eliminate the electoral college, create the right to vote, create the public hand-counting of paper ballots at every polling place, and create ranked choice voting as Maine just did.
Voter suppression efforts in this year's elections should be prosecuted in each state. And any indications of fraud in vote counting by machines should be investigated. We should take the opportunity created by all the McCarthyist nonsense allegations of Russian interference to get rid of unverifiable voting.
There are also areas in which localities and states, as well as international organizations and alliances, must now step up to take the lead. First and foremost is investing in a serious effort to avoid climate catastrophe. Second is addressing inequality that has surpassed the Middle Ages: both taxing the overclass and upholding the underclass must be pursued creatively. Mass incarceration and militarized police are problems that states can solve.
But we can advance a positive agenda across the board by understanding this election in the way that much of the world will understand it: as a vote against endless war. Let's end the wars, end the weapons dealing, close the bases, and cut the $1 trillion a year going into the military. Hell, why not demand that a businessman president for the first time ever audit the Pentagon and find out what it's spending money on?
We apologize for having elected President Trump as well as for nearly electing President Clinton. Many of you believe we defeated the representative of the enlightenment in favor of the sexist racist buffoon. This may be a good thing. Or at least it may be preferable to your eight-year-long delusion that President Obama was a man of peace and justice.
I hate to break it to you, but the United States government has been intent on dominating the rest of you since the day it was formed. If electing an obnoxious president helps you understand that, so much the better. Stop joining in U.S. "humanitarian wars" please. They never were humanitarian, and if you can recognize that now, so much the better. The new guy openly wants to "steal their oil." So did the last several presidents, although none of them said so. Are we awake now?
Shut down the U.S. bases in your country. They represent your subservience to Donald Trump. Close them.
Want to save the earth's climate? Build a nonviolent movement that resists destructive agendas coming out of the United States.
Want to uphold the rule of law, diplomacy, aid, decency, and humanitarianism? Stop making exceptions for U.S. crimes. Tell the International Criminal Court to indict a non-African. Prosecute the crime and crimes of war in your own courts. Stop cooperating in the surrounding and threatening of Russia, China, and Iran. Clinton wanted to send weapons to Ukraine and bomb Syria. Make sure Trump doesn't. Make peace in Ukraine and Syria before January.
It's time that we all began treating the institution of war as the unacceptable vestige of barbarism that it can appear when given an openly racist, sexist, bigoted face. We have the ability to use nonviolent tools to direct the world where we want it to go. We have to stop believing the two big lies: that we are generally powerless, and that our only power lies in elections. Let's finally get active. Let's start by ending war making.
Sonia Kennebeck is director and producwer of National Bird, an amazing new documentary about drones. Kennebeck is an independent documentary filmmaker and investigative journalist with more than 15 years of directing and producing experience. She has directed eight television documentaries and more than 50 investigative reports. She lives in New York where she runs her own production company (Ten Forward Films) that makes films about international politics and human rights. Filmmaker Magazine recently selected her as one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film 2016.” Sonia Kennebeck received a Master’s degree in International Affairs from American University in Washington, D.C. and was born in Malacca, Malaysia. National Bird is her first feature-length documentary film.
Learn more: http://nationalbirdfilm.com
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
1. Stop the efforts to ram through the Trans-Pacific Partnership during the lame duck.
2. Stop the efforts to ram through a supplemental war spending bill for assorted future wars during the lame duck.
3. Stop the efforts to repeal the right to sue Saudi Arabia and other nations for their wars and lesser acts of terrorism during the lame duck.
4. Build a nonpartisan movement to effect real change.
5. Ban bribery, fund elections, make registration automatic, make election day a holiday, end gerrymandering, eliminate the electoral college, create the right to vote, create public hand counting of paper ballots at every polling place, create ranked choice voting.
6. End the wars, end the weapons dealing, close the bases, and shift military spending to human and environmental needs.
7. Tax billionaires.
8. End mass incarceration and the death penalty and the militarization of police.
9. Create single-payer healthcare.
10. Support the rule of law, diplomacy, and aid.
11. Invest in serious effort to avoid climate catastrophe.
12. Apologize to the world for having elected President Clinton or Trump.
IF TRUMP WON
1. Build a movement that includes all the Democrats eager to get active.
2. Build a movement that includes a focus on rights of refugees / immigrants
3. Build a movement that resists racist violence at home.
4. Demand a swift end to NAFTA and NATO.
5. Oppose all the horrible nominations for high offices.
6. Break up the media cartel.
7. If win came through voter suppression, seek prosecution immediately.
8. If win came through fraudulent counting, launch massive campaign to compel Democrats to admit it and protest it.
IF CLINTON WON
1. Build a movement that includes all the Republicans and Libertarians eager to get active.
2. Build a movement that includes a focus on rights of refugees / immigrants
3. Build a movement that resists racist violence directed at nations abroad.
4. Demand serious action on climate change.
5. Oppose all the horrible nominations for high offices.
6. Break up the media cartel.
7. If win came through fraudulent counting, support Trump's noisy denunciation, and if it did not, then reject Trump's noisy denunciation.
IF STEIN WON
1. Support the independent media that made this possible.
2. Support all the wonderful nominees for higher office.
3. Help people in other countries turn their disastrous political systems around too.
4. Volunteer for public service.
For the past eight years millions of people have expended billions of words speculating about exactly how the United States kills people with missiles from drones (and missiles from other sources, such as manned aircraft, targeting people identified with drones). There is good reason to believe that for each such attack there exists a video and audio record of what the drone pilots saw and what they and their colleagues said to each other as they decided to launch a missile and as they observed its results.
This is a level of documentation we rarely have with killings by domestic police officers, who are typically filmed by observers with phones, a method of documentation that excludes the leadup and the aftermath.
It's also a level of documentation that is almost entirely denied to the public, meaning that it doesn't actually do us much good. As far as I know we have not seen a single video or heard a single audio recording of a drone murder. The "Collateral Murder" video is a powerful record of a non-drone attack.
With drones, however, we do have one (incomplete) transcript of what was said during the hours leading up and the minutes following one particular attack. This was an attack in Afghanistan in February 2010 that killed zero fighters but numerous innocent civilians. According to survivors, 23 men, women, and children were killed. According to the U.S. military 15 or 16 were killed and 12 wounded. The U.S. military apologized and paid some $4000 to the family of each acknowledged victim.
Judge Disregards Testimony of First Amendment Activists Arrested at Pentagon, Accepts Flawed Observations of Police Officer
WHO: Activists associated with the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) gathered at the Pentagon on September 26, 2016, following the three–day World Beyond War conference at American University entitled “No War 2016: Real Security Without Terrorism.” Some of the participants protested the ongoing US wars, the use of armed drones, and the increasing Pentagon budget. Twenty-one others attempted to deliver a petition listing the above grievances with a request for a meeting with a representative of Secretary of War Ashton Carter. The Pentagon police would not accept the petition or act on the request. Instead these First Amendment activists were arrested and charged with Failure to Obey a Lawful Order.
WHAT: For years, antiwar activists seeking a meeting have been sending their grievances to various branches of the government. However, government officials rarely respond to the communication or agreed to meet with activists who state, for example, that killer drone strikes violate the law. So on September 26, a group went to the Pentagon with a petition to seek a meeting. Some had their cases dismissed, and some paid a citation processing fee.
In a time of division and disagreement, when people who all agree on something important sometimes spend more time bickering with each other than working on their collective cause, is it possible to craft an agenda that brings them together and adds to their numbers?
It turns out, somewhat to my surprise, the answer is yes.
I discovered this by creating a petition that has very quickly been endorsed by RootsAction, the Future of Freedom Foundation, World Beyond War, the Libertarian Institute, DailyKos, Black Vietnam Veterans of Atlanta, Progressive Democrats of America, Veterans For Peace Chicago Chapter, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Code Pink, Massachusetts Peace Action, Maryland United for Peace & Justice, Upstate Ground the Drones and End the Wars, Pax Christi Seed Planters, The War and Law League, Environmentalists Against War, the PDA Reno Chapter, Voters Occupy, Bryn Mawr Peace Coalition, Vietnam Echos, Spokane Veterans for Peace, Benedictines for Peace of Erie PA, Tyneside East Timor Solidarity, Palouse Peace Coalition, Helfenstein Soup Council, Timothy Dawkins El Project, Green Party of Collin County, Brian Boortz Public Relations, A Green Road, We The People for Democracy, Peaceworkers of San Francisco CA, Green Party of Spokane County, Montrose Peace Vigil, Ecumenical Peace Institute, Pax Christi Southern California, Veteran for Peace 72, Peaceful Skies, Granny Peace Brigade Philadelphia, The Clueit Foundation, Office of the Americas, Veterans For Peace of Western Pennsylvania, Presentation Sisters Justice Commission, Women Against War, Farmington Maine Friends Meeting, Secular Student Alliance at LaGuardia Community College, Faith & Social Justice Alliance Dayton Ohio, The Oracle Institute & Peace Pentagon HUB, Peace Action Maine, Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center, Northeast Philly for Peace & Justice, Citizens International, National Department of Peacebuilding Committee through the Peace, White Rabbit Grove RDNA, North American Climate Conservation and Environment, The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, Colonie des Pionniers de Developpement, Malu 'Aina Center for Nonviolent Education & Action, the Carpe Diem Voice, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Corvallis, Mindfulness in Education, Brandywine Peace Community, Article V Convention for Our Children's Future, and the Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution.
Yes, some of those groups I've never heard of. A few of them may consist of three guys with misspelled signs who've been standing on a lonely street corner so long their town has planted bushes around them. But that's sort of the point. A unifying effort should revive old organizations and give birth to new ones. It should also be uncomfortably large, bringing together people who want completely different policies on other issues but agree on this one.
So, what is it that the above organizations and 17,241 individuals thus far agree on? This:
Tell the next president: No more war!
Please sign this petition to the 45th President of the United States:
We call on you to end perpetual war by the United States Government. As signers of this petition, we commit ourselves to building nonviolent pressure to end continual U.S. warfare. We also reject our country's bloated military spending and massive arms sales that make the USA the world’s leading arms trafficker by a huge margin.
Importantly, this is a statement to whoever becomes U.S. president next year. It might be someone you considered a lesser evil or a wonderful national leader. It might be someone you believed would adopt a peaceful policy without any public pressure required. Or it might be someone you recognized would require a massive movement to restrain them from destroying the earth. It doesn't matter. You believe that representative government requires that people communicate how they want to be represented. You believe that peace is possible and preferable. You are in that strong majority of the U.S. public that believes the wars of the past 15 years have made us less safe, and you want to end them.
Also importantly -- for both better and worse -- this petition avoids the details of any particular war. Once a particular war is mentioned, many people expect a petition to be fairly lengthy, to list all the causes of the war, to mention all the criminals and profiteers on every side of the war, to stipulate exact relative levels of blame for each party involved, and to advocate for particular policies aimed at establishing justice. Yes, some of that will be necessary work. But it is also critical that we confront the problem illustrated by the sheer number of U.S. wars now raging and by the evil industry of weapons dealing that fuels so many sides of so many wars around the world.
If the U.S. and lesser arms dealers can be brought to abandon their deadly trade, if the wars can be ended and resisted, each in its turn, opportunities and resources will open up for positive approaches. But clearly the first two steps are (1) recognizing we have a problem, and (2) ceasing to make it worse. The panicked cries of two years ago to "Do something!" about ISIS (where "something" meant: bomb people) has predictably (and many of us did predict it) made everything worse. And the general public, not just the full-time activists, knows it.
There will be new opportunities to expand this coalition post-election and post-inauguration. But we should not miss the opportunity to spread it and expand it and make it known now as a movement of nonpartisan principled advocacy for peace.
Some of the most misguided questions ever conceived by the human brain take the form of "But how do you use nonviolence against . . . ?"
For example, fill in the blank with ISIS. How do you use nonviolence against ISIS?
Now you're supposed to picture yourself with a knife at your throat trying to resist it nonviolently. Then you're supposed to burst into a fit of laughter.
But how would you resist that knife violently? A superhuman feat of martial arts seems at least as unlikely to work as speaking.
But actually possible before the knife arrives at your throat at all are such nonviolent actions as: ceasing to arm ISIS allies, ceasing to allow U.S. allies to fund ISIS, ceasing to inspire ISIS recruiting by bombing people and propping up brutal governments, ceasing to destabilize countries by overthrowing governments, negotiating an arms embargo, negotiating a cease fire, providing actual humanitarian aid on an appropriate scale, opening borders to refugees, investing in efforts to halt climate chaos, strengthening the rule of law by example, kick starting a reverse arms race, abolishing weapons of mass destruction, and -- of course -- using all the tools of nonviolence as an individual to create these policies.
Or fill in the blank with Vladimir Putin. Now you're supposed to imagine some mash up of Vladimir coming at you in a wrestling match, Russian jets flying along the border of Russia thousands of miles away from the United States, and a nuclear bomb landing on your roof. Then you're supposed to burst into a fit of patriotic singing.
But how would you resist Vladimir Putin violently? He's not really wrestling you. Attacking Russian planes might provoke an actual attack by the Russian military, and shooting at the nuke as it comes through the ceiling isn't likely to de-activate it. But actually possible steps that would help include: abolishing NATO, negotiating disarmament agreements, ending foreign wars, closing foreign bases, strengthening the rule of law by example, etc.
My favorite, however, is: "But How Do You Use Nonviolence Against a Nuke?" For this one, we don't need to invent or speculate. We can simply reply: Learn the actions of Michael Walli, Megan Rice, and Greg Boertje-Obed, and go forth and do likewise. There are thousands of other answers as well. You can lobby for the 2017 treaty to ban nuclear weapons. You can push for divestment from nuclear weapons. You can teach history. You can write articles like this one. But a central answer should be: Do something like Walli, Rice, and Boertje-Obed are doing.
The actions of those three are the main focus of a new book by Dan Zak called Almighty: Courage, Resistance, and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age. The book reviews useful history of the development of the bomb and of resistance to it including the Catholic Worker movement, of nuclear testing and human experimentation, and of recent developments in disarmament, armament, and activism. But the book takes as its starting point the nonviolent plowshares action that Michael, Megan (pronounced MEE-gan), and Greg took part in on July 28, 2012, at the Y-12 nuclear weapons facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Their action clearly has already inspired this book, as well as much other reporting, and much other activism -- with, I hope, a lot more to come.
These three activists made their way through the surrounding woods and a number of fences into the heart of the Y-12 facility undetected. They painted graffiti peace messages, spilled blood, and protested the creation of nuclear weapons. That they were elderly and one of them a nun was the overwhelming focus of the resulting media coverage. That the United States has nuclear facilities being run by utterly incompetent private companies living high off the tax dollar hog but endangering the globe was a secondary but important focus as well. The sensible guard who avoided escalating the situation was scapegoated and fired. Supposedly changes have been made now so that giant piles of bomb-ready uranium are guarded with at least some fraction of the care devoted to harassing you before you board an airplane.
Michael, Megan, and Greg were put on trial for sabotage or what the judge called a "federal crime of terrorism." They were convicted, imprisoned, and released when that verdict was later overturned. They have promised to continue their activism.
Meanwhile, the book they inspired offers a rich history of which we should all be aware.
Did you know that high school girls preparing the infernos for Hiroshima and Nagasaki were told and presumably believed that they were manufacturing ice cream?
Did you know that Oak Ridge employed over 22,000 people when FDR died and Germany surrendered, and that sheer bureaucratic momentum blocked any consideration of halting the creation of a nuclear bomb?
Zak's book includes gems from the Berrigans' and allies' poetry: "We wish also to challenge the lethal lie spun by G.E. through its motto, 'We bring good things to life.' As manufacturers of the Mark 12A re-entry vehicle, G.E. actually prepares to bring good things to death."
Only occasionally does the author's background as a Washington Post reporter (as opposed to a member of the peace movement he writes about) come through. For example, he recounts a moment when "opposition to the Vietnam war was reaching its ugly peak." He repeatedly suggests that Vladimir Putin has single-handedly restarted the Cold War without any contribution from the U.S. government or NATO. He claims that North Korea has been "led by a succession of madmen." And his reporting in six different places on the views of others as to whether the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was actually needed to end the war would have benefitted from the addition of his own voice on the matter (presuming him to know that the bombing was not needed).
Still, this is a wonderful book inspired by even more wonderful activism. We should have more of both.
Thirty-seven years ago, the United States Congress commissioned and published a work of fiction, an account of what life in Charlottesville, Virginia, might be like during a nuclear war. It's contained in a longer report called The Effects of Nuclear War which came out in May of 1979. It's widely available online.
I take an interest for 15 pretty solid reasons:
- I live in Charlottesville.
- The world still has enough nuclear weapons with which to destroy itself many times over.
- We pay a lot less attention to preventing such a disaster now than we did 37 years ago.
- More nations have nukes now and many more are close to having them.
- We know more now about the numerous nuclear accidents and misunderstandings that have nearly killed us all over the decades.
- India and Pakistan are actually at war.
- The United States and Russia are as close to war as they've been in 98 years.
- The United States is investing in newer and smaller, "more usable" nukes.
- This Congressional best case scenario for a U.S. city during a nuclear war is deeply disturbing.
- We now know that even a limited nuclear war would produce a nuclear winter, preventing the production of crops depicted in this tale.
- It's not so clear to me that Charlottesville would still rank last on a list of targets for nuclear missiles. It is, after all, home to the Army JAG school, the National Ground Intelligence Center, various weapon makers, a heavily militarized university, and the CIA's underground hideout.
- The United Nations has just set up negotiations for the coming year of a global treaty to ban nuclear weapons, and it's worth trying to understand why.
- If we survive our possession of nuclear knowledge, we still have climate catastrophe to quickly and miraculously evade or prepare for.
- The Republican candidate for U.S. president.
- The Democratic candidate for U.S. president.
So, here are a few excerpts that I encourage you to consider:
If you're a fan of the Netflix show Black Mirror, go watch the episode called "Men Against Fire" before reading this. It's the one about war.
In this 60-minute science fiction show, soldiers have been (somehow) programed so that when they look at certain people they see them as freaky monsters with pointed teeth and bizarre faces. These people look frightening and non-human. They are thought of as objects, not as people at all. In reality they are themselves terrified, unarmed, ordinary looking people. And they have a tool with which to protect themselves, a stick with a green light. It doesn't kill or injure. The stick deprograms a soldier so that when he looks at someone he sees them as they really are without the monstrous distortion.
Of course a deprogramed soldier is of no use to the military. In "Men Against Fire" the military offers a deprogramed soldier two choices. He can re-experience on an endless loop a recent reality in which he murdered helpless human beings, but this time experience it while seeing them as human beings instead of as "roaches" (what the military calls the intended victims made to appear monstrous), or he can be reprogramed and get back to the untroubled work of extermination.
While this story is more fiction than science, some reality breaks into the Netflix drama. During World War I, we're told accurately, a commander beat troops with a stick to get them to shoot at enemies. Troops we're also routinely drugged for the same purpose. During World War II, we're told, also on the basis of actual studies, only 15% to 20% of U.S. troops fired at opposing troops. In other words, 80% to 85% of the Greatest Heroes of the Greatest War Ever were actually a drain on the killing campaign, whereas the conscientious objector featured in the new Mel Gibson movie or, for that matter, the guy who stayed home and grew vegetables contributed more to the effort.
Killing and facing killing are extremely difficult. They require the closest human reality to programing. They require conditioning. They require muscle memory. They require thoughtless reflex. The U.S. military had so mastered this programing by the time of the war on Vietnam that as many as 85% of troops actually fired at enemies -- though some of them also fired at their own commanders. The real trouble came when they didn't remember these acts of murder as the extermination of "roaches" but as the reality of what they were. And veterans remembered their acts of murder on an endless loop with no option to be re-programed out of it. And they killed themselves in greater numbers than the Vietnamese had killed them.
The U.S. military has advanced not an inch in the matter of reconciling its killers to what they have done. Here's an account just published of what that means for veterans and those they know and love. You can easily find another such account every day online. The top killer of members of the U.S. military is suicide. The top killer of the people who live in "liberated" nations during their liberations is members of the U.S. military. This is not coincidental. Veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (only a disorder from the perspective of those who'd like to suppress healthy inhibitions), moral injury (what a veteran friend calls "a fancy word for guilt and regret"), and neurocognitive disorder/brain injury. Often the same individual suffers all three of these types of harm, and often they are hard to distinguish from each other or to fully diagnose prior to autopsy. But the one that eats your soul, the one solved only by science fiction, is moral injury.
Of course science fiction only works when it overlaps with nonfiction. U.S. troops conditioned to kick in doors in Iraq or Syria and view every person inside as a non-human threat don't use the term "roaches," preferring "hadjis" or "camel jockeys" or "terrorists" or "combatants" or "military aged males" or "Muslims." Removing the killers physically to a drone piloting booth can create psychic "distance" aided by reference to victims as "bugsplat" and other terms in the same vein as "roaches." But this approach to producing conscience-free killers has been a spectacular failure. Watch the real suffering of the real drone killers in the current movie National Bird. There's no fiction there, but the very same horror of the roach-killing soldier re-experiencing what he's done.
Such failures and shortcomings for the military are never complete failures of course. Many kill, and kill ever more willingly. What becomes of them afterward is not the military's problem. It couldn't possibly care less. So, awareness of what becomes of those who kill won't stop the killing. What we need is the real life equivalent of a little stick with a green light on it, a magic tool for deprograming members of every military on earth, every potential recruit, every investor in weapons dealing, every profiteer, every willing tax payer, every apathetic observer, every heartless politician, every thoughtless propagandist. What can we use?
I think the closest equivalents to the stick with the green light are passports and telephones. Give every American a passport automatically and free. Make the right to travel inviolable, including for felons. Make the duty to travel and to speak multiple languages part of every education. And give every family in every nation on the Pentagon's potential enemies list a phone with a camera and internet access. Ask them to tell us their stories, including the stories of their encounters with the rarest of species: the newly appearing Unarmed American.