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If a Genocide Falls in the Forest

There's a wide and mysterious chasm between the stated intentions of the Israeli government as depicted by the U.S. media and what the Israeli government has been doing in Gaza, even as recounted in the U.S. media.

With the morgues full, Gazans are packing freezers with their dead children. Meanwhile, the worst images to be found in Israel depict fear, not death and suffering. Why the contrast? If the Israeli intent is defensive, why are 97% of the deaths Gazan, not Israeli? If the targets are fighters, why are whole families being slaughtered and their houses leveled? Why are schools and hospitals and children playing on the beach targeted? Why target water and electricity if the goal is not to attack an entire population?

The mystery melts away if you look at the stated intentions of the Israeli government as not depicted by the U.S. media but readily available in Israeli media and online. 

On August 1st, the Deputy Speaker of Israel's Parliament posted on his FaceBook page a plan for the complete destruction of the people of Gaza using concentration camps.  He had laid out a somewhat similar plan in a July 15th column.

Another member of the Israeli Parliament, Ayelet Shaked, called for genocide in Gaza at the start of the current war, writing: "Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there."

Taking a slightly different approach, Middle East scholar Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University has been widely quoted in Israeli media saying, "The only thing that can deter [Gazans] is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."

The Times of Israel published a column on August 1st, and later unpublished it, with the headline "When Genocide Is Permissible." The answer turned out to be: now.

On August 5th, Giora Eiland, former head of Israel's National Security Council, published a column with the headline "In Gaza, There Is No Such Thing as 'Innocent Civilians'."  Eiland wrote: "We should have declared war against the state of Gaza (rather than against the Hamas organization). . . . [T]he right thing to do is to shut down the crossings, prevent the entry of any goods, including food, and definitely prevent the supply of gas and electricity."

It's all part of putting Gaza "on a diet," in the grotesque wording of an advisor to a former Israeli Prime Minister. 

If it were common among members of the Iranian or Russian government to speak in favor of genocide, you'd better believe the U.S. media would notice. Why does this phenomenon go unremarked in the case of Israel? Noticing it is bound to get you called an anti-Semite, but that's hardly a concern worthy of notice while children are being killed by the hundreds.

Another explanation is U.S. complicity. The weapons Israel is using are given to it, free-of-charge, by the U.S. government, which also leads efforts to provide Israel immunity for its crimes.  Check out this revealing map of which nations recognize the nation of Palestine. 

A third explanation is that looking too closely at what Israel's doing could lead to someone looking closely at what the U.S. has done and is doing. Roughly 97% of the deaths in the 2003-2011 war on Iraq were Iraqi.  Things U.S. soldiers and military leaders said about Iraqis were shameful and genocidal.

War is the biggest U.S. investment, and contemporary war is almost always a one-sided slaughter of civilians.  If seeing the horror of it in Israeli actions allow us to begin seeing the same in U.S. actions, an important step will have been taken toward war's elimination.

Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Come to the Fonda, N.Y., Peace Conference and Cruise, August 15 - 16

The 16th Annual Kateri Peace Conference will be held with Fonda, NY, as its base on August 15th and 16th.

Extensive information on the nature of this event (I've been before and highly, highly recommend it. --David Swanson) is available here: http://kateripeaceconference.org

On Friday, August 15, from 10 a.m. to 4:40 p.m., the third annual day of reflection associated with this conference will be held at the bucolic National Kateri Tekawitha Shrine in Fonda. The day of reflection will be led by Thomas Gumbleton, a Roman Catholic Bishop from Detroit who for many decades has raised his voice, with great personal consequence, against war, militarism and social injustice.

On Friday evening, the Conference will officially open at 7 p.m. with the first ever "Rocking the Boat for Peace" cruise on the Erie Canal, leaving from Herkimer, NY. On board will be conference keynoters:

  • DR. JILL STEIN, former Green Party Presidential candidate;
  • DAVID SWANSON, author, journalist, radio host, organizer, blogger, World Beyond War director;
  • KRISTIN CHRISTMAN, local writer and peace philosopher;
  • BISHOP THOMAS GUMBLETON;
  • HOWIE HAWKINS, Green Party candidate for Governor of New York;

and many others eager to consider the conference theme of transformation in a transformationally beautiful and peaceful setting. The evening promises to be a fun filled one and a lovely chance to have a great time with some powerful voices for peace and justice.

On Saturday from 9 a.m. until 3:45 p.m. we'll have the opportunity to engage in a day long "conversation" with our speakers ( see above and including DR. STEVE BREYMAN) and fellow conference attendees through a series of questions designed to move us from a consideration of issues confronting us as concerned global citizens to a contemplation of strategies and solutions . The day's structure is designed to promote reflection, solidarity, and action.

Saturday's discussion promises to be extremely informative, enlightening, and energizing.  Hope to see you there!

Finally, Fake News Done Right

John Oliver is what I always wished Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert would be.  In fact, he's what I always wished Ted Koppel or Jim Lehrer would be.

With so many people getting their news from comedians, the distinction between fake news and real news doesn't seem very useful.  There's news that pushes corporate propaganda with a straight face and endless respect for those in power.  And there's news that cracks jokes and mocks and ridicules those most deserving of scorn.

But most comedy news up until now, as far as I have seen, has mocked everyone from the powerful and corrupt to the sincere and righteous.  Jon Stewart has had his brilliant moments, but -- even setting aside his weak, fawning interviews -- his attitude is one of mockery for all and contempt for any serious engagement with the world.  He held a rally for people too smart to attend any other rallies -- and too dumb to realize they were volunteer participants in an advertisement.

Solemn news and humorous news thus far have both tended to be reactions to events.  Both have told us what a horrible bill was passed by Congress yesterday, never what we might want to actively demand or resist with an eye on tomorrow.  Both have been disempowering.  Both have told us to stay home.  And both have focused on the agenda of the status quo, as the serious news covers the day's disasters, and the funny news covers how absurdly the serious news covered the day's disasters.  Neither has contributed much historical perspective or background; neither has been especially educational.

Now, watch John Oliver on nukes:

If you knew and were outraged by what he said, you're probably thrilled that he's said it.  If you didn't know, you're importantly better informed.  Here's news that's intended for a government of, by, and for the people, encouraging people to get active around an issue of the greatest importance and about which most people have lost interest.

Watch John Oliver on prisons: (Yes, there's singing.)

Watch John Oliver on income inequality:

Watch John Oliver on net neutrality:

Watch John Oliver on climate change:

That is five more times than I have ever before told anyone to watch television.  Don't overdo it.

Guess Who Cheers When Cease-Fires Collapse

Among those who cheer when a cease-fire ends and killing resumes are those who want more Palestinians slaughtered as a form of mass punishment for fictional offenses.  Also among those cheering are certain mainstream U.S. newspaper columnists.  In fact, at least one person is clearly in both of the above categories.

My local newspaper in Charlottesville, Va., printed a column on Friday from Thomas Sowell, distributed by Creators Syndicate but actually written for the right-wing Jewish World Review. Sowell writes:

"It is understandable that today many people in many lands just want the fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians to stop. Calls for a cease-fire are ringing out from the United Nations and from Washington, as well as from ordinary people in many places around the world. According to the New York Times, Secretary of State John Kerry is hoping for a cease-fire to 'open the door to Israeli and Palestinian negotiations for a long-term solution.' President Obama has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to have an 'immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire' -- again, with the idea of pursuing some long-lasting agreement."

Here is where Sowell might logically object to Washington shipping Israel more weaponry in the midst of proposing cease-fires and mumbling quietly about the inappropriateness of particular bits of the mass-murder underway.  John Kerry doesn't hope for a long-term solution any more than he knew Syria used chemical weapons or Putin shot down a plane or Iraq deserved to be destroyed before it didn't but after it did.  John Kerry knows the U.S. provides the weaponry and the criminal immunity to a nation intent on completing the process of eliminating its native peoples, as Kerry's own nation effectively did long ago.  There's no solution possible in that context other than a Final Solution for Palestinians. But this is not what Sowell goes on to say.

"If this was the first outbreak of violence between the Palestinians and the Israelis, such hopes might make sense. But where have the U.N., Kerry and Obama been during all these decades of endlessly repeated Middle East carnage?"

Well, the same place all of their Republican and Democratic predecessors have been, supporting endless armaments for Israel and most of its neighbors, and vetoing any U.N. resolutions that would impose any consequences for Israel's occupation, blockade, and Apartheid repression on the basis of religion and race.

"The Middle East must lead the world in cease-fires. If cease-fires were the road to peace, the Middle East would easily be the most peaceful place on the planet."

Stop for a moment and appreciate the unfathomable stupidity of that remark.  One might as well say the Middle East must lead the world in U.S. weapons imports or the Middle East must lead the world in wars.  If these were paths to peace, the Middle East would easily be the most peaceful place on the planet.  One might also just as easily say the Middle East must lead the world in the brevity of its cease-fires, with cease-fires elsewhere lasting longer, and with as many broken agreements lying in the sand of the Middle East as anywhere since the last big batch of promises made to Native Americans.  One might even just as easily say the Middle East must lead the world in resumptions of fighting, rather than in halts to fighting. But that's not where Sowell is headed.  He's out to reverse Benjamin Franklin's notion that there has never been a good war or a bad peace.

"'Cease-fire' and 'negotiations' are magic words to 'the international community.' But just what do cease-fires actually accomplish? In the short run, they save some lives. But in the long run they cost far more lives, by lowering the cost of aggression."

Here it comes.  Just as the Jewish World Review wants to make poor people "self-sufficient" by denying them any assistance, Sowell wants to teach the people of Palestine a lesson for their own good.  Of course people dispossessed of their land, made refugees, entrapped and blockaded, and targeted with missiles that level their homes and explode in their schools and hospitals and shelters are unusual suspects to accuse of aggression.  And for those who shoot rockets, so ineffectively and counter-productively, into Israel, the lesson Sowell wants to teach through mass slaughter is demonstrably not taught.  Everyone in Gaza will tell you that Israeli violence increases support for Palestinian violence.  Not every Palestinian understands that the reverse is also true, that the rockets fuel Israeli attacks, but that hardly justifies their murder or creates a lesson where Sowell imagines Israeli missiles teaching one.

"At one time, launching a military attack on another nation risked not only retaliation but annihilation. When Carthage attacked Rome, that was the end of Carthage."

Ah, the good old days, when any colony or challenger that stepped out of line could be wiped out, starved out, and cleansed from the earth.

"But when Hamas or some other terrorist group launches an attack on Israel, they know in advance that whatever Israel does in response will be limited by calls for a cease-fire, backed by political and economic pressures from the United States."

The political pressure of Kerry groveling before Netanyahu? Of Susan Rice explaining to the world that Kerry never meant to negotiate and has always been 100% in Israel's camp? Of Obama joining Sowell in blaming the victims? The economic pressure of the free weapons continuing to flow from the U.S. to Israel?  What sort of fantasy is this?

One possibility is that it's a fantasy of racism or culturalism.  Americans are rational beings in this fantasy.  It would only make sense to apply obvious points of pressure for a cease-fire once you've proposed one.  Arming the Middle East for peace would be insanity.  So, Sowell perhaps fantasizes that sanity and rationality prevail.  Except in places like Palestine or Iran:

"Those who say that we can contain a nuclear Iran, as we contained a nuclear Soviet Union, are acting as if they are discussing abstract people in an abstract world. Whatever the Soviets were, they were not suicidal fanatics, ready to see their own cities destroyed in order to destroy ours. . . .  Even if the Israelis were all saints -- and sainthood is not common in any branch of the human race -- the cold fact is that they are far more advanced than their neighbors, and groups that cannot tolerate even subordinate Christian minorities can hardly be expected to tolerate an independent, and more advanced, Jewish state that is a daily rebuke to their egos."

Since when does Iran not tolerate minorities? Since when is it populated by 76 million suicidal fanatics?

You see, not only do the Gazans want to die, in the view of Sowell and so many others we've been hearing from via our so-called public airwaves, because it makes good footage, because they have a culture of martyrdom -- you've heard all the explanations for Gazans stubbornly remaining in their homes and hospitals rather than swimming to Cyprus as normal people would do -- but the source of Gazans' irrational aggression against the benevolent power that stole their land and starves their children and bans the importation of books is -- wait for it -- jealousy. It's wounded egos.  Just as poor Americans are jealous of the success of those with the wisdom and fortitude to be born into the families of billionaires, so Palestinians resent the superiority, the Ubermenschness of the people who have been clever enough to get born into Pentagon subsidies.

As a contrasting view of the world to Sowell's allow me to offer this new Willie Nelson video (http://youtu.be/MezGqmMCrwo):

Stop the Wars, Stop the Warming!


Stop the Wars, Stop the Warming!

http://peoplesclimate.org/peace/appeal

We are at a crossroads, faced with a climate crisis that threatens to end our world as we know it.

The signs of climate change are all around us.  They include—increasingly severe weather everywhere (floods, heat waves, droughts, cyclones and wildfires), as well as melting polar ice and glaciers, rising acidic oceans, and thawing of Siberian permafrost, which threatens release of huge, devastating, methane gas emissions.

If we pursue business as usual we face a world of food shortages caused by drought,  increasing disease and deaths, and displacement from vast areas of flooded and uninhabitable terrain. We must do all in our power to stop greenhouse gas emissions, counteract the effects, and prevent the increase of global warming.

Stop the War on Mother EarthBut the developing climate emergency does not exist in isolation. And we must understand and confront the social and economic context that produced and accompanies it: war and unlimited military expenditures, corporate globalization, vast social inequality and racism.

  • The US military is the single greatest institutional producer of greenhouse gases in the world.
  • Wars by their very nature destroy the environment and burn and release massive amounts of greenhouse gases. Recent military mobilizations are pouring huge amounts of new carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
  • The vast expenditures now consumed by military machines are the very resources needed for a crash program to rapidly create a renewable energy infrastructure and put millions of people to work in green jobs.
  • Wars and military buildup are in large part dedicated to controlling the fossil fuel energy sources on which our present model of global economic development and endless growth depend. Resort to armed conflict is increasing as fossil fuels become more expensive and difficult to extract, transport and produce.
  • Nuclear weapons, like climate change, threaten to destroy the world. There are nine nuclear-armed nations and 17,000 nuclear weapons in the world. With ten wars and 34 limited conflicts now occurring, the chance of any one of them escalating to nuclear war and its unthinkable human and environmental impact is an ever-present specter.  The nuclear powers are bound, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to disarm all nuclear weapons everywhere, but after 44 years, they have not begun comprehensive negotiations.  In the words of President Kennedy, we must “end these weapons of mass destruction, before they end us.”
  • Corporate dominance and extreme social inequality are intrinsic to our expansionist global economic model.
  • The UN Millennium Development Goals in conjunction with other forces have helped lift the poorest billion of humanity out of extreme poverty. The damage now coming as a result of climate change threatens to erase that progress.
  • The people most affected by climate change are those with the fewest resources to deal with it.  With increasing environmental destruction, droughts, floods, and famine, there will be massive displacement of impoverished and desperate people leading to forced migration and regional hostilities.  Within the U.S., the people most affected include those in prison or nursing homes and others who lack resources to leave their homes or institutions in storms like Katrina and Sandy.
  • Two examples of long-term-drought-induced Climate Wars are the tragedies in Somalia and Syria. In the latter case, a five-year drought was one of the contributors to an ongoing civil war.  Somalia has been at war for twenty years, and that conflict has also embroiled neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.
  • Rather than taking emergency measures to address climate change and the needs of those impacted now, our military is preparing to control these displacements to protect “US interests”.

We who have opposed the toxic, polluting, life- and earth-destroying wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the existential threat of nuclear weapons are in total support of the People’s Climate March and its vision of a world without fossil fuels and the fires of war. We will march, we will demand divestment and fight denial, we will battle the pollution of Big Money, and we will join in demanding that the Obama administration step forward to achieve a 2015 global treaty to phase out greenhouse gas emissions.

We call on all who want to preserve our planet to form a Stop the Wars, Stop the Warming Contingent on September 21.  We organize under the following principles:

  • We can’t effectively address climate change without ending war and militarism;
  • We can’t end war without ending the fossil fuel energy system;
  • We can’t address social injustice unless we stop using war to safeguard an economic infrastructure (based on fossil fuels) that produces and requires vast social inequality.
  • We can’t end war unless we address the systemic inequality and corporate domination that requires it.
  • We must insist that the transition to a sustainable economy and green jobs not be accomplished at the expense of those now employed in the fossil fuel and military sectors and the communities in which they work and live.  Energy and armament corporations should bear the lion’s share of the social cost to make that transition a just one.

We call on our government

  • To undertake an emergency program to make all our cities energy efficient and to create a new energy grid based on renewable energy sources.
  • To end federal subsidies for the fossil fuel industries—coal, gas, oil and industrial biomass
  • THOUSANDS OF PROTESTORS GATHER IN LONDON'S HYDE PARK TO DEMONSTRATEAGAINST POSSIBLE MILITARY STRIKE ON IRAQ.To end the 2005 “Cheney exemption” to the Clean Water Act for gas hydraulic fracking, which threatens clean water supplies to our people in some 23 states. Strictly enforce the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts of 1970, in all energy production.
  • To stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure, including the Keystone pipeline project, and to rapidly end fracking projects and the awarding of any new offshore drilling contracts.
  • To build a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy future and end subsidies for nuclear power. Nuclear power is not a green alternative energy, results in large amounts of radioactive nuclear waste, and contributes to the global proliferation of nuclear weapons.
  • To implement a financial transaction tax to fund the new solar, wind, hydro, and efficiency programs we need globally and to help clean up the toxic mess of fossil and nuclear destruction.
  • To join with all nuclear powers to abide by their treaty commitments and to move quickly toward mutual abolition of all nuclear weapons as required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • To re-direct military spending to the creation of millions of green jobs and to research and develop a rapid but just transition from fossil fuels to non-polluting energy sources.
  • To stop the military protection of fossil fuel interests in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.
  • To bring all our troops home now from Afghanistan and Iraq, reject military attacks in Iraq, Syria and Iran, and use the billions saved to invest in energy efficient mass transit, schools, affordable housing and sustainable union-standard jobs.
  • To redefine the mission of U.S. military forces as defense of the United States instead of achieving “Full Spectrum Dominance” in the service of global corporations, the fossil fuel industry, and the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned against, thereby also allowing closure of most of our 1,000 or more foreign military bases.
  • To stop blocking the proposals for effective international action on climate change being put forward by the Group of 77 and other developing countries, starting at the UN on September 23, 2014.  All countries must do something, but the countries which are most responsible for carbon emissions have the larger responsibility to commit resources, resulting in an 85% cut in greenhouse gases by 2050.   The wealthier developed countries should provide $100 billion to an international fund for green industrial development in less developed countries.

We can’t afford the greenhouse gas emissions arising from the way we live and from war and preparation for war. And we can’t afford the climate of mistrust and non-cooperation that military threats and intervention foster.

To successfully avert worst-case climate disaster we will need international agreements and cooperation on a scale not seen in the past; we need new approaches in order to demilitarize US foreign policy and humanize domestic policy.

We believe that most Americans will welcome these positive changes. Working together, peace, climate and social justice activists can help make this happen.

We see September 21st as the coming together of the peace, climate and social justice movements and the beginning of a groundswell of public involvement in the creation of a more peaceful, sustainable and just world.

Ed Aguilar, Coalition for Peace Action
Rosalie Anders, Massachusetts Peace Action & 350 Massachusetts
Jim Barton, North Carolina Peace Action
Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies
Leslie Cagan, People’s Climate March
Michael Eisenscher, U.S. Labor Against the War
Julie Enslow, Wisconsin Peace Action
Joseph Gerson, American Friends Service Committee
Cole Harrison, Massachusetts Peace Action
Tom Hayden, Peace and Justice Resource Center
Patricia Hynes, Traprock Center for Peace & Justice
Rosemary Kean, Dorchester People for Peace
Judith LeBlanc, Peace Action
Duncan McFarland, United for Justice with Peace (Greater Boston)
Siri Margerin, UnIted for Peace and Justice & Civilian Soldier Alliance
Marty Nathan, Climate Action NOW!
Paul Shannon, American Friends Service Committee
Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
David Swanson, World Beyond War
Susan Theberge, Climate Action NOW!

(organizations for identification only)

The "War on the Environment" Turns Out to Actually Be War


War and preparations for war are -- although you'll never hear it from well-funded environmental groups -- huge causes of environmental destruction (not to mention wasters of resources that could be used for environmental protection beyond our wildest dreams).  That case is made at http://worldbeyondwar.org/environment

Embedded below is a great new summary by Pat Hynes of what we know on this matter, including this interesting tidbit:

"The projected full costs of the Iraq War (estimated $3 trillion) would cover 'all of the global investments in renewable power generation' needed between now and 2030 to reverse global warming trends."

Of course war preparations are far more costly than wars.  The United States spends about $1 trillion per year, and the rest of the world combined another $1 trillion.  The world could halt military spending for a year and a half and instead fund the actual defense of the world against the actual danger of global warming. 
 

The “Invisible Casualty of War”: The Environmental Destruction of U.S. Militarism

Should Israel Teach the Holocaust Less?

Humans almost invariably imagine humans to be far more imaginative and original than they are. But most of our ideas come from (often imperfect and improvised) imitation. And even more powerful than our tendency to imitate is our inability to refrain from imitating, to shake an idea out of our heads once it's there, to "not think of an elephant."

Anthropologists have found cultures whose members cannot conceive of killing. "Why won't you shoot an arrow at those slave raiders?" "Because it would kill them." 

In Western culture, children hear of killing in fairy tales, cartoons, Harry Potter books, video games, the TV news, the newspaper, the games played in the park.  It's everywhere.  Usually it's frowned upon, although often a distinction is made between bad killing by bad guys and good killing by good guys, or inexplicable random killing and killing justified and sanctified by bitter revenge.

But even when a behavior is frowned upon, the listener or viewer has now heard of that behavior.  There have been studies of children's responses to stories and television dramas in which fictional children misbehave for three-quarters of the episode and then learn an important moral lesson at the end.  Guess what?  Kids don't retroactively view the whole story as a package and wipe the bad behavior out of their minds.  Instead they display a tendency to try out the behavior demonstrated to them in so many of the isolated moments that they lived while watching or listening to the story.

Humans also almost invariably imagine humans to be far kinder and far more selfless than they are. Most of us very much want others to be kind to us, and we try our best to be kind to others. So, when we see behaviors and institutions that cause horrendous suffering, we like to imagine there is a rational cause, a greater good, or that the explanation is incompetence or stupidity -- anything other than the most obvious explanation: vicious, evil sadism.

We are often encouraged to picture vicious cruelty and irrational evil in certain foreign groups of humans. But usually this perspective is intended to help us avoid seeing cruelty in those who are supposedly like ourselves.

These thoughts arise as I'm confronted by the polling showing that 95% of Israelis deem the slaughter of Gazans to be just, and the realization that for many in Israel "just" is a rather disgusting euphemism for "satisfyingly sadistic."  People are sitting on hills watching the missiles hit the homes, some of them telling cameras they want everyone killed, and then explaining that their thoughts are "a little bit fascist." 

This week we'll be remembering Harry Truman's bombing of Japan with nuclear weapons, and we'll be told that he must have believed those acts of mass murder would help end the war, even though the evidence shows he knew otherwise. Truman had earlier advocated aiding the Russians or the Germans, whoever was losing, so that as many people as possible would die, he said.  Top U.S. military officials wanted Japan cleansed of all human life.  The most likely explanation for the nukes, namely that Truman viewed killing lots of Japanese as an advantage to be weighed along with impressing the Russians and so forth, is too ugly, so we turn away.  We even have to turn away from his own statement on the occasion, which justified the bombing in terms of revenge, not in terms of ending the war.

Also this week we'll mark 50 years since the Gulf of Tonkin fraud.  We like to imagine such incidents, even when they result in the deaths of 4 million foreigners, as misunderstandings.  But during the course of the savagery that followed, how was progress gauged?  That's right: by body counts. 

Examples of evil policies, in one's own or other parts of the world, flood in the moment you begin to look for them.  The evidence is clear that locking kids up in juvenile prisons makes them more likely, not less likely, to grow into criminals. But we just go on locking them up for other motives we don't care to examine too closely.  We've learned what it's impolite to mention.  Support for wars in Afghanistan or Iraq is discussed on television in terms of "strategic interests" and other such blather, but the counter-demonstrators across the street from a peace rally sometimes have different desires, including the death of foreigners -- and of the peace activists with them.

Courageous peace activists in Israel have been facing hostile counter-demonstrations from those in their society who have moved in a different direction

There are many reasons why I shouldn't make any observation on Israeli society, beginning with the fact that I know very little about it.  But when a nation is continually engaging in the most horrific and massive crimes, using weapons and criminal immunity provided by my nation, and protests are raging around the earth, when the news is packed with information, analysis, propaganda, and poisonous pontificating, when the peace meetings I go to discuss the matter at great length, when the guests on my radio show and the books I read and Israelis I meet begin to inform me a little, and when the problem appears enormous and glaring but guarded by a protection of intimidation and obedience, then I think tossing an idea into the mix may be justified, despite being dramatically more impolite by U.S. standards than criticizing Harry Truman or LBJ.

Israel is a nation where children grow up learning about the holocaust, marking the holocaust with holidays, planning trips to Germany to visit the camps.  U.S. children dress up as Pilgrims and Indians, but nobody tells them that the Pilgrims ended up murdering the Indians, or what it was like to be an Indian child preparing to be murdered or watching your loved ones murdered.  The U.S. origin story is, appropriately enough, one of feasting, not one of genocide.  I'm speaking of how it is told, of course, rather than what actually happened. 

To criticize the Israeli government for its wars, even though I also criticize every other government for their wars, generates inevitable and truly stupid accusations of anti-Semitism.  But criticizing the teaching of the holocaust, which I've never done before, seems likely to go beyond that into an area of accusations of holocaust denial.  I have, of course, been there.  I've been accused of denying the holocaust for opposing bombing Iran because someone in Iran supposedly denied the holocaust.  I've been accused of denying the holocaust for criticizing World War II, even though the actions I express a wish had been taken include opposing fascism in its early years instead of waiting, defunding the Nazis rather than supporting them as preferable to Communists, and finding homes for Jewish refugees when they needed them, rather than turning them away.  But this is all ridiculously dumb: denying the holocaust and flooding society with its ubiquitous presence are not the only two choices, any more than leveling people's homes in Gaza and "doing nothing" are the only two choices.

To say that people are behaving like Nazis is not to say that they are exactly identical to Nazis, any more than to say that your child's piano playing is exactly like Mozart.  Without question, Nazism is a source of imitation for rightwingers around the world, including in Israel.  Might a lesser focus on its significance be helpful?  Would a greater emphasis on peace studies do any harm?

When Irving Berlin Called Warmakers Worse Than the Devil, and Everybody Sang

From this wonderful song book:

By Irving Berlin in 1914 (100 years ago):
 

Stay Down Here Where You Belong

Down below
Down below
Sat the Devil talking to his son
Who wanted to go
Up above
Up above
He cried, "It's getting too warm for me down here and so
I'm going up on Earth where I can have a little fun”.
The Devil simply shook his head and answered his son:
Stay down here where you belong
The folks who live above you don't know right from wrong.
To please their kings they've all gone out to war
And not a one of them knows what he's fighting for.
Way up above they say that I'm a Devil and I'm bad
Kings up there are bigger devils than your dad.
They're breaking the hearts of mothers
Making butchers out of brothers
You'll find more hell up there than there is
down below.
Kings up there
They don't care
For the mothers who must stay at home
Their sorrows to bear
Stay at home
Don't you roam
Although it's warm down below,
you'll find it's warmer up there
If e'er you went up there, my son,
I know you'd be surprised
You'd find a lot of people are not civilized.

Another one:

The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Updated

Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;
He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger's wealth is stored;
He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;
His lust is marching on.
I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the Eastern dews and damps;
I have read his doomful mission by the dim and flaring lamps—
His night is marching on.
I have read his bandit gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my pretensions, so with you my wrath shall deal;
Let the faithless son of Freedom crush the patriot with his heel;
Lo, Greed is marching on!"
We have legalized the strumpet and are guarding her retreat;
Greed is seeking out commercial souls before his judgement seat;
O, be swift, ye clods, to answer him! be jubilant my feet!
Our god is marching on!
In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,
With a longing in his bosom—and for others' goods an itch.
As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich—
Our god is marching on.

And one more:

Bring Back My Daddy To Me

A sweet little girl, with bright golden curls,
Sat playing with toys on the floor,
Her dad went away, to enter the fray,
At the start of this long bitter war;
Her mother said, "Dear your birthday is near,
Tomorrow your presents I'll buy."
The dear little child, quickly looked up and smiled,
And said with a tear in her eye:
"I don't want a dress or a do-ly,
'Cause dollies get broken 'round here,
I don't want the skates, the books or the slates,
You bought for my birthday last year;
If you'll bring the present I ask for,
Dear Mother, how happy I'll be;
You can give all my toys To some poor girls and boys,
But bring back my Daddy to me!"

Talk Nation Radio: Sarah Ali: Under the Missiles in Gaza, Palestine

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-sarah-ali-under-the-missiles-in-gaza-palestine

Sarah Ali is a Palestinian living in the Gaza Strip. She has lost friends and neighbors in the current war on Gaza. She speaks to us about conditions under the bombing.  Sarah Ali studied English and literature and currently is working as a teacher in Gaza City. She contributed a short story called "The Story of the Land" to the book Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine. We close the show by reading that story.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

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!

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

4 Great DC Events Not to Miss

Civil Disobedience at Israeli Embassy with CodePink
July 30 at 11am at Israeli Embassy, 3514 International Drive, N.W., Washington DC

Update: July 30: ADC has vigil for Gaza at the White House at 7pm.

August 1 Briefing on Gaza on Capitol Hill
http://endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=4120

Peace Witnesses for Hiroshima and Nagasaki
with Jonah House Community, Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and other friends from the Atlantic Life Community.
August 6 Nonviolent witness at the Pentagon. Meet on corner of Army-Navy Drive and Fern St. @ 11:45 a.m. Witness from Noon - 1:00 p.m.
August 9 Meet at 16th and H St. NW at 11:45 a.m. and process to White House for a Noon - 1:00 p.m. witness.

August 9, An Evening for a World Beyond War
http://warisacrime.org/content/august-9-dc-evening-world-beyond-war

If We Dislike War Like We Dislike Cancer

War and cancer are among our leading causes of human death around the world.  They can't be strictly separated and compared since war is a major cause of cancer, as is war preparation.  (And a small fraction of the U.S. budget for war preparations could fund cancer research well beyond all the money raised by public and private funding and by all the 5-K races for a cure and other activities we've become familiar with.)  War and cancer, by their nature, also can't be addressed with the same sort of responses. 

Cancer prevention, including possibly radical changes in industrial and energy policies, is fairly off-limits, whereas cancer treatment and the search for a cure is almost certainly our most widespread and publicly visible form of altruistic charity and advocacy.  When you see athletes or celebrities marked with bright pink, or a public event packed with pink shirts or ribbons, or -- alongside a road -- a giant pink inflatable anything, you are now less likely to think "WTF is that?" than "We need to help cure breast cancer."

War prevention, including radical redirection of our resources and economy away from war, re-education away from the propaganda of beneficial violence, support for nonviolent conflict resolution, and promotion of international law and the prosecution of war makers, is likewise fairly off-limits.  But war treatment and the search for a cure for war once begun, seems significantly less useful than the search for a cure for cancer. War is indisputably and entirely human-made.  Most of its fatal victims die immediately.  Halting a war once begun is immensely more difficult than refraining from starting it, as no one party can control a war's path, and support-the-troops propaganda convinces people that ending a war is more evil than continuing it.  Once a war ends, undoing the resentment and hatred and habits of violence, and the environmental destruction (and the cancer epidemics), and the destruction to liberties and democracy, all adds up to an immense -- if not impossible -- task compared to that of avoiding wars before they're started.

So, when we compare a public demand to abolish cancer with one to abolish war, the latter seems to require halting our biggest public program, whereas the former allows us to go on driving our SUVs to Wal-Mart as long as we stick a pink ribbon on the back to indicate that doctors and scientists should continue the great march of progress.  And of course they should.  We should be investing vastly more in curing cancer, not to mention Alzheimer's which is as big a killer as cancer but opposed by far less funding (and not a particular threat to that favorite of all body parts: the breast). 

But abolishing war may be the more pressing demand.  Nuclear weapons could be used intentionally or accidentally and destroy us all.  The resources dumped into war are badly needed for the work of averting environmental catastrophe (not to mention curing cancer).  What if a campaign to abolish war were to learn a few tricks from the campaign to abolish breast cancer?

Following the lead of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, Campaign Nonviolence, World Beyond War, and other peace groups are encouraging everyone to use sky blue scarves and bracelets as symbols of peace and support for ending all wars.  What if sky blue symbols became as widespread as pink ones?  What would that look like?

War in Our Collective Imagination

arabwomenresistance300Remarks at Veterans For Peace Convention, Asheville, NC, July 27, 2014.

I started seeing graphics pop up on social media sites this past week that said about Gaza: "It's not war. It's murder."  So I started asking people what exactly they think war is if it's distinct from murder.  Well, war, some of them told me, takes place between armies.  So I asked for anyone to name a war during the past century (that is, after World War I) where all or even most or even a majority of the dying was done by members of armies.  There may have been such a war.  There are enough scholars here today that somebody probably knows of one.  But if so, it isn't the norm, and these people I was chatting with through social media couldn't think of any such war and yet insisted that that's just what war is.  So, is war then over and nobody told us?

For whatever reasons, I then very soon began seeing a graphic sent around that said about Gaza: "It's not war. It's genocide."  And the typical explanation I got when I questioned this one was that the wagers of war and the wagers of genocide have different attitudes.  Are we sure about that? I've spoken to advocates for recent U.S. wars who wanted all or part of a population wiped out.  Plenty of supporters of the latest attacks on Gaza see them as counter-terrorism.  In wars between advanced militaries and poor peoples most of the death and injury is on one side and most of it -- by anyone's definition -- civilian.  This is as true in Afghanistan, where war rolls on largely unchallenged, as in Gaza, about which we are newly outraged.

Well, what's wrong with outrage? Who cares what people call it? Why not criticize the war advocates rather than nitpicking the war opponents' choice of words?  When people are outraged they will reach for whatever word their culture tells them is most powerful, be it murder or genocide or whatever.  Why not encourage that and worry a little more about the lunatics who are calling it defense or policing or terrorist removal?  (Eight-year-old terrorists!)

Yes, of course.  I've been going after CNN news readers for claiming Palestinians want to die and NBC for yanking its best reporter and ABC for claiming scenes of destruction in Gaza that just don't exist in Israel are in fact in Israel -- and the U.S. government for providing the weapons and the criminal immunity.  I've been promoting rallies and events aimed at swaying public opinion against what Israel has been doing, and against the sadistic bloodthirsty culture of those standing on hills cheering for the death and destruction below, quite regardless of what they call it.  But, as you're probably aware, only the very most open-minded war advocates attend conventions of Veterans For Peace.  So, I'm speaking here backstage, as it were, at the peace movement.  Among those of us who want to stop the killing, are there better and worse ways to talk about it?  And is anything revealed by the ways in which we tend to talk about it when we aren't hyper-focused on our language?

I think so.  I think it's telling that the worst word anyone can think of isn't war.  I think it's even more telling that we condemn things by contrasting them with war, framing war as relatively acceptable.  I think this fact ought to be unsettling because a very good case can be made that war, in fact, is the worst thing we do, and that the distinctions between war and such evils as murder or genocide can require squinting very hard to discern. 

We've all heard that guns don't kill people, people kill people.  There is a parallel belief that wars don't kill people, people who misuse wars, who fight bad wars, who fight wars improperly, kill people.  This is a big contrast with many other evil institutions.  We don't oppose child abuse selectively, holding out the possibility of just and good incidents of child abuse while opposing the bad or dumb or non-strategic or excessive cases of child abuse. We don't have Geneva Conventions for proper conduct while abusing children.  We don't have human rights groups writing reports on atrocities and possible law violations committed in the course of abusing children.  We don't distinguish UN-sanctioned child abuse.  The same goes for numerous behaviors generally understood as always evil: slavery or rape or blood feuds or duelling or dog fighting or sexual harassment or bullying or human experimentation or -- I don't know -- producing piles of I'm-Ready-for-Hillary posters.  We don't imagine there are good, just, and defensible cases of such actions. 

And this is the core problem: not support for bombing Gaza or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or anywhere else that actually gets bombed, but support for an imaginary war in the near future between two armies with different colored jerseys and sponsors, competing on an isolated battlefield apart from any villages or towns, and suffering bravely and heroically for their non-murderous non-genocidal cause while complying with the whistles blown by the referees in the human rights organizations whenever any of the proper killing drifts into lawless imprisonment or torture or the use of improper weaponry.  Support for specific possible wars in the United States right now is generally under 10 percent.  More people believe in ghosts, angels, and the integrity of our electoral system than want a new U.S. war in Ukraine, Syria, Iran, or Iraq. The Washington Post found a little over 10 percent want a war in Ukraine but that the people who held that view were the people who placed Ukraine on the world map the furthest from its actual location, including people who placed it in the United States.  These are the idiots who favor specific wars.  Even Congress, speaking of idiots, on Friday told Obama no new war on Iraq.

The problem is the people, ranging across the population from morons right up to geniuses, who favor imaginary wars.  Millions of people will tell you we need to be prepared for more wars in case there's another Adolf Hitler, failing to understand that the wars and militarism and weapons sales and weapons gifts -- the whole U.S. role as the arsenal of democracies and dictatorships alike -- increase rather than decrease dangers, that other wealthy countries spend less than 10 percent what the U.S. does on their militaries, and that 10 percent of what the U.S. spends on its military could end global starvation, provide the globe with clean water, and fund sustainable energy and agriculture programs that would go further toward preventing mass violence than any stockpiles of weaponry.  Millions will tell you that the world needs a global policeman, even though polls of the world find the widespread belief that the United States is currently the greatest threat to peace on earth.  In fact if you start asking people who have opposed every war in our lifetimes or in the past decade to work on opposing the entire institution of war, you'll be surprised by many of the people who say no.

I'm a big fan of a book called Addicted to War.  I think it will probably be a powerful tool for war abolition right up until war is abolished.  But its author told me this week that he can't work to oppose all wars because he favors some of them.  Specifically, he said, he doesn't want to ask Palestinians to not defend themselves.  Now, there's a really vicious cycle.  If we can't shut down the institution of war because Palestinians need to use it, then it's harder to go after U.S. military spending, which is of course what funds much of the weaponry being used against Palestinians.  I think we should get a little clarity about what a war abolition movement does and does not do.  It does not tell people what they must do when attacked.  It is not focused on advising, much less instructing, the victims of war, but on preventing their victimization.  It does not advise the individual victim of a mugging to turn the other cheek.  But it also does not accept the disproven notion that violence is a defensive strategy for a population.  Nonviolence has proven far more effective and its victories longer lasting.  If people in Gaza have done anything at all to assist in their own destruction, it is not the supposed offenses of staying in their homes or visiting hospitals or playing on beaches; it is the ridiculously counterproductive firing of rockets that only encourages and provides political cover for war/ genocide/ mass murder. 

I'm a huge fan of Chris Hedges and find him one of the most useful and inspiring writers we have.  But he thought attacking Libya was a good idea up until it quite predictably and obviously turned out not to be.  He still thinks Bosnia was a just war.  I could go on through dozens of names of people who contribute mightily to an anti-war movement who oppose abolishing war.  The point is not that anyone who believes in 1 good war out of 100 is to blame for the trillion dollar U.S. military budget and all the destruction it brings.  The point is that they are wrong about that 1 war out of 100, and that even if they were right, the side-effects of maintaining a culture accepting of war preparations would outweigh the benefits of getting 1 war right.  The lives lost by not spending $1 trillion a year in the U.S. and another $1 trillion in the rest of the world on useful projects like environmental protection, sustainable agriculture, medicine and hygiene absolutely dwarf the number of lives that would be saved by halting our routine level of war making. 

If you talk about abolishing war entirely, as many of us have begun focusing on through a new project called World Beyond War, you'll also find people who want to abolish war but believe it's impossible. War is natural, they say, inevitable, in our genes, decreed by our economy, the unavoidable result of racism or consumerism or capitalism or exceptionalism or carnivorism or nationalism.  And of course many cultural patterns interact with and facilitate war, but the idea that it's in our genes is absurd, given how many cultures in our species have done and do without it.  I don't know what -- if anything -- people usually mean when they call something "natural" but presumably it's not the provocation of suicide, which is such a common result of participating in war, while the first case of PTSD due to war deprivation has yet to be discovered.  Most of our species' existence, as hunter-gatherers, did not know war, and only the last century -- a split-second in evolutionary terms -- has known war that at all resembles war today.  War didn't used to kill like this.  Soldiers weren't conditioned to kill.  Most guns picked up at Gettysburg had been loaded more than once.  The big killers were diseases, even in the U.S. Civil War, the war that the U.S. media calls the most deadly because Filipinos and Koreans and Vietnamese and Iraqis don't count.  Now the big killer is a disease in our thinking, a combination of what Dr. King called self-guided missiles and misguided men.

Another hurdle for abolishing war is that the idea rose to popularity in the West in the 1920s and 1930s and then sank into a category of thought that is vaguely treasonous.  War abolition was tried and failed, the thinking goes, like communism or labor unions and now we know better.  While abolishing war is popular in much of the world, that fact is easily ignored by the 1% who misrepresent the 10% or 15% who live in the places that constitute the so-called International Community.  Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come or weaker than an idea whose time has come and gone.  Or so we think.  But the Renaissance was, as its name suggests, an idea whose time came again, new and improved and victorious.  The 1920s and 1930s are a resource for us.  We have stockpiles of wisdom to draw upon.  We have example of where things were headed and how they went of track.

Andrew Carnegie took war profits and set up an endowment with the mandate to eliminate war and then to hold a board meeting, determine the second worst thing in the world, and begin eliminating that.  This sounds unique or eccentric, but is I believe a basic understanding of ethics that ought to be understood and acted upon by all of us.  When someone asks me why I'm a peace activist I ask them why in the hell anyone isn't.  So, reminding the Carnegie Endowment for Peace what it's legally obligated to do, and dozens of other organizations along with it, may be part of the process of drawing inspiration from the past.  And of course insisting that the Nobel Committee not bestow another peace prize on a war-thirsty presidential candidate or any other advocate of war is part of that. 

The case against war that is laid out at WorldBeyondWar.orgincludes these topics:

War is immoral.

War endangers us.

War threatens our environment.

War erodes our liberties.

War impoverishes us.

We need $2 trillion/year for other things.

I find the case to be overwhelming and suspect many of you would agree.  In fact Veterans For Peace and numerous chapters and members of Veterans For Peace have been among the first to sign on and participate.  And we've begun finding that thousands of people and organizations from around the world agree as people and groups from 68 countries and rising have added their names on the website in support of ending all war.  And many of these people and organizations are not peace groups.  These are environmental and civic groups of all sorts and people never involved in a peace movement before.  Our hope is of course to greatly enlarge the peace movement by making war abolition as mainstream as cancer abolition.  But we think enlargement is not the only alteration that could benefit the peace movement.  We think a focus on each antiwar project as part of a broader campaign to end the whole institution of war will significantly change how specific wars and weapons and tactics are opposed. 

How many of you have heard appeals to oppose Pentagon waste? I'm in favor of Pentagon waste and opposed to Pentagon efficiency.  How can we not be, when what the Pentagon does is evil?  How many of you have heard of opposition to unnecessary wars that leave the military ill-prepared?  I'm in favor of leaving the military ill-prepared, but not of distinguishing unnecessary from supposedly necessary wars. Which are the necessary ones?  When sending missiles into Syria is stopped, in large part by public pressure, war as last resort is replaced by all sorts of other options that were always available.  That would be the case anytime any war is stopped.  War is never a last resort any more than rape or child abuse is a last resort.  How many of you have seen opposition to U.S. wars that focuses almost exclusively on the financial cost and the suffering endured by Americans?  Did you know polls find Americans believing that Iraq benefitted and the United States suffered from the war that destroyed Iraq?  What if the financial costs and the costs to the aggressor nation were in addition to moral objections to mass-slaughter rather than instead of?  How many of you have seen antiwar organizations trumpet their love for troops and veterans and war holidays, or groups like the AARP that advocate for benefits for the elderly by focusing on elderly veterans, as though veterans are the most deserving?  Is that good activism?

I want to celebrate those who resist and oppose war, not those who engage in it.  I love Veterans For Peace because it's for peace.  It's for peace in a certain powerful way, but it's the being for peace that I value.  And being for peace in the straightforward meaning of being against war.  Most organizations are afraid of being for peace; it always has to be peace and justice or peace and something else.  Or it's peace in our hearts and peace in our homes and the world will take care of itself.  Well, as Veterans For Peace know, the world doesn't take care of itself.  The world is driving itself off a cliff.  As Woody Allen said, I don't want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen, I want to live on in my apartment.  Well, I don't want to find peace in my heart or my garden, I want to find peace in the elimination of war.  At WorldBeyondWar.org is a list of projects we think may help advance that, including, among others:

  • Creating an easily recognizable and joinable mainstream international movement to end all war.
  • Education about war, peace, and nonviolent action — including all that is to be gained by ending war.
  • Improving access to accurate information about wars. Exposing falsehoods.
  • Improving access to information about successful steps away from war in other parts of the world.
  • Increased understanding of partial steps as movement in the direction of eliminating, not reforming, war.
  • Partial and full disarmament.
  • Conversion or transition to peaceful industries.
  • Closing, converting or donating foreign military bases.
  • Democratizing militaries while they exist and making them truly volunteer.
  • Banning foreign weapons sales and gifts.
  • Outlawing profiteering from war.
  • Banning the use of mercenaries and private contractors.
  • Abolishing the CIA and other secret agencies.
  • Promoting diplomacy and international law, and consistent enforcement of laws against war, including prosecution of violators. 
  • Reforming or replacing the U.N. and the ICC.
  • Expansion of peace teams and human shields.
  • Promotion of nonmilitary foreign aid and crisis prevention.
  • Placing restrictions on military recruitment and providing potential soldiers with alternatives.
  • Thanking resisters for their service.
  • Encouraging cultural exchange.
  • Discouraging racism and nationalism.
  • Developing less destructive and exploitative lifestyles.
  • Expanding the use of public demonstrations and nonviolent civil resistance to enact all of these changes.

I would add learning from and working with organizations that have been, like Veterans For Peace, working toward war abolition for years now and inspiring others to do the same.  And I would invite you all to work with WorldBeyondWartoward our common goal.

 

David Swanson is Director of World Beyond War, host of Talk Nation Radio, author of books including War No More: The Case for Abolition, War Is A Lie, and When the World Outlawed War.

The Palestinian Right and the American Left

Chris Hedges says that Palestinians have the right to self-defense in the form of rockets, without including any consideration of whether the rockets make the Palestinians more or less defended.  There is, after all, a reasonable argument that the rockets are counter-productive and endangering, rather than protecting, Palestine.

Legally, if we ignore the Kellogg-Briand Pact and stick to the U.N. Charter, much less its frequent abuse by the powerful nations of the world, there is no doubt that Hedges is correct.  If demolishing Iraqi or Afghan or Libyan or Pakistani or Yemeni homes is "defense" of the United States, then surely the people of Gaza, under actual attack, have the legal right to shoot rockets at Israel.  That's just basic Western consensus with the hypocrisy removed.

"[M]any Palestinians, especially young men trapped in overcrowded hovels where they have no work and little dignity," writes Hedges, "will risk immediate death to defy the slow, humiliating death of occupation. I cannot blame them."

Here are the false choices framed: either we blame the victims of Israel's vicious and massive assault on a trapped population, blame them for reacting as virtually anyone else in the so-called developed world would, or we advocate for the right to fight defensive wars -- regardless of whether it helps or hurts the situation.  Those are not the only options.

I'm not sure I can prove that the rockets hurt the situation, but to render the question inadmissible seems fatally flawed.  The justification that the U.S. Congress and White House use for arming Israel and seeking to shelter Israel from legal consequences is always and exclusively the rockets.  The justification that Israeli spokespeople use on television is likewise almost entirely the rockets.  In a world without the rockets, would other excuses prove successful? It's hard to say for sure.  But the rockets provide the public packaging for Israeli war-making, accomplish virtually nothing in military terms, and almost certainly do more to frighten and enrage the people of Israel than to bring Israelis around to sympathizing with the plight of their government's victims.

I've just spoken by phone with a smart writer in Gaza named Sarah Ali for an upcoming edition of Talk Nation Radio.  She explained to me quite eloquently how Israeli attacks on Gaza were generating support for Hamas and violence against Israel.  She described the emotional need to fight back.  So, I asked her if rocket attacks on Israel weren't likewise counterproductive. No, she said, she imagined that Israelis saw the rockets and began to understand the point of view of Palestinians.  In the absence of any evidence of that phenomenon, I can only say that I'll believe it when I see it.  In every case I'm aware of in which one nation has militarily attacked another, it has done far more to enrage than to stimulate sympathy in the people coming under attack.

Of course, I have no right to tell the people of Gaza what to do or not do from the comfort of my home in the heart of the imperial monster that is funding their apocalypse.  Of course I cannot know the situation as they know it.  But it's not clear to me that every Gazan has as deep a familiarity with Israelis or every Israeli with Gazans as one might imagine from their geographic vicinity.  The division between these two societies is extreme.  How else could Israelis imagine children as their enemies?  And how else could those children's parents imagine that firing rockets would win over hearts and minds?

This is the Israeli Military Calling: Civilizing War Has Failed

http://www.worldbeyondwar.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/voltaire.jpgProbably the biggest news story of 1928 was the war-making nations of the world coming together on August 27th and legally outlawing war.  It's a story that's not told in our history books, but it's not secret CIA history.  There was no CIA.  There was virtually no weapons industry as we know it.  There weren't two political parties in the United States uniting in support of war after war.  In fact, the four biggest political parties in the United States all backed abolishing war.

Cue whining, polysyllabic screech: "But it didn't wooooooooork!"

I wouldn't be bothering with it if it had.  In its defense, the Kellogg-Briand Pact (look it up or read my book) was used to prosecute the makers of war on the losing sides following World War II (an historic first), and -- for whatever combination of reasons (nukes? enlightenment? luck?) -- the armed nations of the world have not waged war on each other since, preferring to slaughter the world's poor instead. Significant compliance following the very first prosecution is a record that almost no other law can claim.

The Kellogg-Briand Pact has two chief values, as I see it.  First, it's the law of the land in 85 nations including the United States, and it bans all war-making.  For those who claim that the U.S. Constitution sanctions or requires wars regardless of treaty obligations, the Peace Pact is no more relevant than the U.N. Charter or the Geneva Conventions or the Anti-Torture Convention or any other treaty.  But for those who read the laws as they are written, beginning to comply with the Kellogg-Briand Pact makes far more sense than legalizing drone murders or torture or bribery or corporate personhood or imprisonment without trial or any of the other lovely practices we've been "legalizing" on the flimsiest of legal arguments.  I'm not against new national or international laws against war; ban it 1,000 times, by all means, if there's the slightest chance that one of them will stick. But there is, for what it's worth, already a law on the books if we care to acknowledge it.

Second, the movement that created the Pact of Paris grew out of a widespread mainstream international understanding that war must be abolished, as slavery and blood feuds and duelling and other institutions were being abolished.  While advocates of outlawing war believed other steps would be required: a change in the culture, demilitarization, the establishment of international authorities and nonviolent forms of conflict resolution, prosecutions and targeted sanctions against war-makers; while most believed this would be the work of generations; while the forces leading toward World War II were understood and protested against for decades; the explicit and successful intention was to make a start of it by outlawing and formally renouncing and rendering illegitimate all war, not aggressive war or unsanctioned war or inappropriate war, but war.

In the never-ending aftermath of World War II, the U.N. Charter has formalized and popularized a very different conception of war's legality.  I've just interviewed Ben Ferencz, aged 94, the last living Nuremberg prosecutor, for an upcoming edition of Talk Nation Radio.  He describes the Nuremberg prosecutions as happening under the framework of the U.N. Charter, or something identical to it, despite the chronological problem.  He believes that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was illegal.  But he claims not to know whether the U.S. invasion and ongoing over-12-year war on Afghanistan is legal or not.  Why? Not because it fits either of the two gaping loopholes opened up by the U.N. Charter, that is: not because it is U.N.-authorized or defensive, but -- as far as I can make out -- just because those loopholes exist and therefore wars might be legal and it's unpleasant to acknowledge that the wars waged by one's own nation are not.

Of course, plenty of people thought more or less like that in the 1920s and 1930s, but plenty of people also did not.  In the era of the United Nations, NATO, the CIA, and Lockheed Martin we have seen steady progress in the doomed attempt, not to eliminate war, but to civilize it.  The United States leads the way in arming the rest of the world, maintaining a military presence in most of the world, and launching wars.  Western allies and nations armed, free-of-charge, by the United States, including Israel, advance war-making and war-civilizing, not war-abolition.  The notion that war can be eliminated using the tool of war, making war on war-makers in order to teach them not to make war, has had a far longer run than the Kellogg-Briand Pact had prior to its supposed failure and the Truman Administration's remaking of the U.S. government into a permanent war machine in the cause of progress. 

Civilizing war for the benefit of the world has been an abysmal failure.  We now have wars launched on unarmed defenseless people thousands of miles away in the name of "defense."  We now have wars depicted as U.N.-authorized because the U.N. once passed a resolution related to the nation being destroyed.  And just seconds before the Israeli military blows up your house in Gaza, they ring you up on the telephone to give you a proper warning. 

I remember a comedy sketch from Steve Martin mocking the phony politeness of Los Angeles: a line of people waited their turn to withdraw cash from a bank machine, while a line of armed robbers waited their turn in a separate line to politely ask for and steal each person's money.  War is past the point of such parody.  There is no space left for satire.  Governments are phoning families to tell them they're about to be slaughtered, and then bombing the shelters they flee to if they manage to flee. 

Is mass-murder acceptable if done without rape or torture or excessive targeting of children or the use of particular types of chemical weapons, as long as the victims are telephoned first or the murderers are associated with a group of people harmed by war several decades back?

Here's a new initiative that says No, the abolition of the greatest evil needs a renaissance and completion: WorldBeyondWar.org.

Eight Activists Blockade Entrance Gate at Hancock Air Base, Syracuse, NY

Syed Wali Shah 7 years old, killed by an American Drone strike. Momina Bibi, mother and midwife, killed by an American drone strike. Tairk Aziz, 16, killed by an American drone strike…  This Must Stop!

We, members of the Atlantic Life Community, come to Hancock Air Force Base, the national maintenance and control center of the MQ9 Reaper Drone, to protest these lethal drones, the latest weapon being used in endless war.  We are a community of peacemakers who resist war, racism and greed. We stand here today in solidarity with the men, women and children being terrorized by US military aggression. Our witness mourns the senseless deaths of our brothers and sisters, victims of drone strikes from this base and adds our voice to all people of the world who cry for peace.

Today we deliver to the base two important documents central to our witness: a war crimes indictment addressed to President Obama, Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel, the full military chain of command, and the local police and Sheriffs Department of the Town of De Witt, NY. By continuing to protect the war crimes of drone warfare, these public officials perpetuate a legacy of violence and racism first imposed upon indigenous people on this land. The second document is a People’s Order of Protection, which asks the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard to stay away from the Children of the World and their families, including their homes, schools, places of play and work.

The terror and bloodshed caused by the Reaper drones lies on all of our shoulders. As Thomas Merton once wrote, “if you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things in yourself, not in another.”  Therefore, we come to the gates today in atonement for our complicity in these crimes and to resist the atrocities of drones, to resist our nation’s endless wars and to cultivate a culture of love and not fear. 

Bill Ofenloch  NYC Catholic Worker 

Liz McAlister  Jonah House, MD

Felton Davis   NYC Catholic Worker 

Martha Hennessy   NYC Catholic Worker

Clare Grady   Ithaca Catholic Worker

Joan Pleune Granny Peace Brigade  

Erica Brock   NYC Catholic Worker

Talk Nation Radio: A Year in Prison for Protesting Drone Murders

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-a-year-in-prison-for-protesting-drone-murders

Mary Anne Grady Flores (pictured, far right) and Judy Bello have long been among those protesting drone murders in Afghanistan conducted at Hancock Air Base in Upstate New York.  Grady Flores is out on bail and facing a year behind bars for allegedly violating an Order of Protection, a legal order normally used to protect someone from domestic violence but currently used to "protect" the commanders of an Air Force base from some 50 nonviolent demonstrators.  Learn more:

http://upstatedroneaction.org

http://deconstructedglobe.com

Read this background:

Harassing the Drones, by Kathy Kelly.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

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!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
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DRONES: Free Online Screening on July 30th -- You'll Want to See This

There's a chance to watch DRONES, the movie, online on July 30th and then to join a discussion with filmmakers and experts.  There's a preview video below. The movie's website is at http://dronesthefilm.com and the free screening is at http://demandprogress.tv/drones

I saw a screening of this film back in November at the drone summit in DC. It's wonderful. I was a bit put-off and staggered, to be frank, at the time, because someone involved with the film bragged about how inexpensively it had been made, and yet the budget was so unfathomably huge that I knew that if an anti-war organization had that kind of money we could hire organizers all over the world and quite possibly make the abolition of war a major mainstream force. 

And, of course, you can't simply ask if the money was well spent, because no one will say that it was spent to end the practice of drone murder.  The director and the cast, of course, say they wanted to make a socially important film about a serious issue, but not what they wanted to accomplish, beyond raising questions and being entertaining.  Everyone's always happy to say that a film opposes racism or cruelty to animals or bullying, but not war. 

But, you hundreds of millions of odd-balls who, like me, happen to give a damn whether your government is murdering people in your name with your money will, in fact, want to make this film a huge viral success.  I'm telling you, right now, it's a good one.  It is indeed entertaining.  It's not simple, predictable, pedantic, or preaching.  But neither is the film itself reluctant to face head-on the banal, evil, arrogant mass-murder engaged in by these young people who dress up in pilots suits to sit at desks in trailers taking orders from military bureaucrats and private contractors, and ultimately from a president who reviews a list of potential men, women, and children to murder on Tuesdays. 

Drones look like a golden opportunity to war makers who don't want to ask Congress or the U.N. or the public, don't want to send in armies, just want to target people and groups for death anywhere in the world and obliterate them with the push of a button from an air-conditioned -- or, sometimes not so air-conditioned -- office.

But drones also look like a golden opportunity to those of us who have been trying to point out that murder and war are distinguished only by scale.  I suspect that many who cannot see the bombing of a city as murder will see the drone-targeting of an individual as nothing else -- particularly if they watch this film.

If you can watch the film and not want to Ban Weaponized Drones, watch it again.

Planning for a Day of Peace

A few years back, prior to the International Day of Peace on September 21st, a school board member here in Virginia said that he would back a resolution marking that day as long as everyone understood that in doing so he was not opposing any wars.

Wars for peace, like sex for virginity, appear contradictory to some. But what about militarism for peace? What about war preparations and peace? A so-called "defense" department that arms the world; can that be compatible with peace? 

We need our governments to begin planning for a day of peace. Instead of investing everything in planning for war, preparing for war, and proliferating enough weapons to fuel plenty of wars, governments could invest in alternatives to war, nonviolent means of conflict resolution, moves toward justice that reduce conflict, international standards of law that make negotiations and diplomacy effective.

One of the tools that we can use to move our cultures and our governments toward planning for a day of peace is to ourselves plan for a day celebrating peace -- peace understood precisely as the elimination of war.  September 21st, the International Day of Peace, is one such day.  WorldBeyondWar.org is organizing events here.  And here is a list of events in the U.S. arranged on a map by Campaign Nonviolence. 

Groups and individuals interested in planning events this September can work with Campaign Nonviolence and Global Movement for the Culture of Peace and Peace One Day and A Year Without War.  Advocates of peace and environmental sanity who grasp the connections between the two may want to participate in a People's Climate March in New York City, September 20-21, and bring this flyer: PDF.

Some resources that can be used to create events of various types are here:

Screen and discuss the World Beyond War video.

Bring speakers from this Speakers Bureau.

Use this Prezi (similar to a Power Point) to present at a public forum. (Here's the same presentation as a PDF. Here's all the info to help you in a PDF.)

Here's a Power Point created by Russ Faure-Brac. (Also in older version of Power Point.)

And a Power Point by Coleen Rowley. (Also in older version of Power Point.)

Wear sky blue scarves and bracelets.

Use these flyers, sign-up cards, sign-up sheets.

Wear the message on shirts, stickers, cups, etc.

Listen to this music.

Videos, Articles, Books, etc.

At some events already planned for September 21, 2014, people will begin marking 100 years since the Christmas Truces of World War I.  You can find great information on World War I at 100 on NoGlory.org

You may want to screen Joyeux Noel: a film about the 1914 Christmas truce.  Or use this script for reenactment of a Christmas Truce: PDF. Here's more Christmas Truce information and videos. And if you're in the Northeast U.S. or the U.K. you might be able to attend or even set up a production of The Great War Theatre Project: Messengers of a Bitter Truth: Info in PDF.

Peace deserves more than empty platitudes compatible with the preservation of war as our largest public project.  Sometimes bringing truth back from propaganda is so jarring as to be humorous. "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work," said Woody Allen.  "I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don't want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment." We should not want peace only in our hearts or in the press releases of the Pentagon; we should want peace through the ending of war and the abolition of the institutions that continue to plan and create more wars even while they pretend to a sight degree of outrage that each new war has been successfully created.

The End of War

Worth Fighting For?

I was not sure I would like a book called Worth Fighting For by a former soldier who walked across the United States to raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation.  The website of that foundation celebrates military "service" and the "higher calling" for which Tillman left professional football, namely participation in the U.S. war on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.  Rather than funding efforts to put an end to war, as Tillman actually might have wished by the end of his life, the foundation hypes war participation, funds veterans, and to this day presents Tillman's death thusly:

"On the evening of April 22, 2004, Pat's unit was ambushed as it traveled through the rugged, canyon terrain of eastern Afghanistan. His heroic efforts to provide cover for fellow soldiers as they escaped from the canyon led to his untimely and tragic death via fratricide."

Those heroic efforts happened, if they happened, in the context of an illegal and immoral operation that had Tillman defending foreign invaders from Afghans defending their homes.  And the last two words above ("via fratricide") tell a different story from the rest of the paragraph, page, and entire website of the Pat Tillman Foundation.  Tillman was shot by U.S. troops.  And he may not have died a thorough-going supporter of what he was engaged in.  On September 25, 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Tillman had become critical of the Iraq war and had scheduled a meeting with the prominent war critic Noam Chomsky to take place when he returned from Afghanistan, all information that Tillman's mother and Chomsky later confirmed. Tillman couldn't confirm it because he had died in Afghanistan in 2004 from three bullets to the forehead.

Rory Fanning's book -- Worth Fighting For -- relates, however, that Tillman looked forward to getting out of the military and sympathized with the actions of Fanning, a member of his battalion who became a conscientious objector and refused to fight.  According to Fanning, Tillman "knew his very public circumstances forced him to stick it out." 

That's obviously a different use of the word "forced" from "gravity forced the weight to drop" or "the missile striking the house forced the people inside to split apart into fragments of flesh and gore." Imagine the benefits to the cause of peace if the one troop who had a name, face, and voice had shattered the bullshit choruses of "Support the Troops!" by doing what Fanning did, and thus living to tell the tale?  Instead Tillman stuck it out and left many believing that military propagandists had either become quite fortunate or something worse, when Tillman did not live to quite possibly oppose -- better late than never -- what he had been doing.

When I worked with a number of talented people to draft articles of impeachment for George W. Bush that were introduced by Congressman Dennis Kucinich, they included this:

"The White House and the Department of Defense (DOD) in 2004 promoted a false account of the death of Specialist Pat Tillman, reporting that he had died in a hostile exchange, delaying release of the information that he had died from friendly fire, shot in the forehead three times in a manner that led investigating doctors to believe he had been shot at close range.

"A 2005 report by Brig. Gen. Gary M. Jones reported that in the days immediately following Specialist Tillman's death, U.S. Army investigators were aware that Specialist Tillman was killed by friendly fire, shot three times to the head, and that senior Army commanders, including Gen. John Abizaid, knew of this fact within days of the shooting but nevertheless approved the awarding of the Silver Star, Purple Heart, and a posthumous promotion.

"On April 24, 2007, Spc. Bryan O'Neal, the last soldier to see Specialist Pat Tillman alive, testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he was warned by superiors not to divulge information that a fellow soldier killed Specialist Tillman, especially to the Tillman family. The White House refused to provide requested documents to the committee, citing 'executive branch confidentiality interests.'"

What made Pat Tillman a particular hero to many in the United States was that he had given up huge amounts of money to go to war.  That he had passed up the evil of hoarding wealth in order to engage in something even more evil does not register with supporters of war.  And had the U.S. Army not killed him, and had he not subsequently killed himself (the leading cause of U.S. military deaths now being suicide), Tillman might have lengthened his life by leaving the NFL, which abandons its players to an average lifespan in their 50s and in some cases dementia in their 40s -- an issue that arises in Fanning's book as he meets with former NFL greats to raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation.

Tillman was, by all accounts, kind, humble, intelligent, courageous, and well-intentioned.  He clearly inspired many, many people whom he met, and whom he never met, to be better people.  Fanning would, I think, include himself in that list.  But when Fanning decided to walk across the country raising funds, and finding support and shelter for himself along the way, in the name of Pat Tillman, he was playing on the beliefs of a propagandized public, beliefs that he himself had ceased to fully share.  A sheriff, in a typical example, takes Fanning's empty water bottles, drives 12 miles to refill them, and hands them back to Fanning with tears in his eyes, saying, "What Pat did for our country is one of the bravest, most admirable things I can remember anyone doing. Take this for your cause." And he handed Fanning $100. 

Was generating hatred and resentment in Afghanistan by killing helpless people a service to the United States? Was the environmental destruction and economic cost and eroded civil liberties a benefit to us all?  In the minds of the people whom the Pat Tillman Foundation is still trying to milk for funding, perhaps so.  Such a foundation not only saves the government from providing for veterans (or anyone else) while investing more in weaponry, but it also generates public support for and identification with supposed military heroism.  It's a double-victory for the makers of war in Washington, most of whom are far more misguided than Pat Tillman ever was, but most of whom are more remarkable for cowardice than bravery.

As I say, I wasn't 100% sure I would like Fanning's book. I believe things are worth working for, struggling for, suffering for, and dying for, but not fighting for.  What could he mean?  I was very pleasantly surprised, and recommend the book enthusiastically.  It recounts an adventure worth having that contained no fighting at all.  It's a tale told with wisdom, erudition, kindness, humor, humility, and generosity of which I think Tillman might have been proud. 

Like the guy in that Craig's List movie, Fanning finds people going out of their way to help him as he very publicly walks across the country, doing interviews along the way, speaking at events, and chronicling his progress on a website (now gone).  This does not, of course, prove that anyone without a public cause or celebrity label, or anyone of any race or sex or appearance, could safely and successfully find the same sort of selfless support from so many Americans.  It is heartening and encouraging, nonetheless, to read.  And these accounts come interspersed with descriptions and historical background on the places Fanning walks through that suggest he has a future as a travel writer if he wants it. Intermingled as well quite seamlessly is an account of how Fanning himself moved from being "a devout Christian to an atheist and from a conservative Republican to a socialist." He later adds that he ceased opposing environmentalists and became one.  As this world needs such transformations on a large scale, a smart account by someone who's been through one has great value.

One aspect of Fanning's own drama that sheds light on the notion that Tillman was "forced" to "support the troops" even while being one (that is, support a war he may have disagreed with), is the description of how hard it was for Fanning to turn against the military (a process that may perhaps remain incomplete for him even now).  Fanning had joined after 9-11 for similar reasons to Tillman, believing it his duty.  He then found he "did not have it in him" to kill.  And he saw the injustice and absurdity of capturing people falsely ratted out by rivals to an ignorant foreign occupier eager to punish (and torture) anyone it could.  He came to see himself as an imperialist pawn rather than a rescuer on a mission for humanity.  When he refused to go along to get along, he was ostracized and abused by everyone around him except Pat Tillman and his brother Kevin Tillman.  Despite his refusal to fight, Fanning was sent to Afghanistan again, made to do chores, labeled "bitch" by his commander, and forced to sleep outside alone in the snow.  And Fanning supported his own abuse, attempting to make himself ill, afraid of the shame of his own behavior rather than wishing to expose the shame of the evil behavior of those around him.

Fanning recounts a conversation with a military chaplain.  Fanning made the case that the whole war was unjust.  The chaplain made the case that God wanted him to do it anyway.  The loser in that contest was apparently Fanning's use for the concept of "God." 

But Fanning's struggle continued within himself even after getting home and getting out.  "After I left the military," he writes, "the hardest thing I had to do was look someone in the eyes. I was afraid I would be exposed for breaking my oath."  Not for having been part of an operation of mass-murder, but for having abandoned it.  That's how Fanning thought even after getting out, so one can imagine how Tillman thought while still in -- and while in with a world telling him he was a god himself for being there.  Fanning sees the contradiction. "I knew U.S. imperialism was destroying the planet," he writes, "but I still felt guilty for leaving."

Through Fanning's walk he gives talks that avoid mentioning what he (and perhaps Tillman) actually thought, until -- three-quarters of the way along -- a boy asks him which branch of the military to join, and he answers "I don't think you should join any of them."  He then gives the $100 from the sheriff to a homeless man under an overpass.

The Oxymoron of Peace

By Robert C. Koehler

“At the same time, values and ideas which were considered universal, such as cooperation, mutual aid, international social justice and peace as an encompassing paradigm are also becoming irrelevant.”

Maybe this piercing observation by Roberto Savio, founder of the news agency Inter Press Service, is the cruelest cut of all. Geopolitically speaking, hope — the official kind, represented, say, by the United Nations in 1945 — feels fainter than I can remember. “We the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war . . .”

I mean, it was never real. Five centuries of European colonialism and global culture-trashing, and the remaking of the world in the economic interests of competing empires, cannot be undone by a single institution and a cluster of lofty ideals.

As Savio notes in an essay called “Ever Wondered Why the World Is a Mess?,”: “The world, as it now exists, was largely shaped by the colonial powers, which divided the world among themselves, carving out states without any consideration for existing ethnic, religious or cultural realities.”

And after the colonial era collapsed, these carved-out political entities, defining swatches of territory without any history of national identity, suddenly became the Third World and floundered in disarray. “. . . it was inevitable that to keep these artificial countries alive, and avoid their disintegration, strongmen would be needed to cover the void left by the colonial powers. The rules of democracy were used only to reach power, with very few exceptions.”

Whatever noble attempts at eliminating war the powers that be made in the wake of World War II — Europe’s near self-annihilation — didn’t cut nearly deep enough. These attempts didn’t set about undoing five centuries of colonial conquest and genocide. They didn’t cut deeper than national interest.

And global peace built on a foundation of nation-states is an oxymoron. As historian Michael Howard noted in his book The Lessons of History (quoted by Barbara Ehrenreich in Blood Rites): “From the very beginning, the principle of nationalism was almost indissolubly linked, both in theory and practice, with the idea of war.”

All of which leads me to the $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive warplane ever built, or not quite built. The aircraft, designed by Lockheed, is now seven years behind schedule, but the Pentagon had planned to display its new baby this week at the Royal International Air Tattoo and the Farnborough International Airshow in the U.K. This debut has now been called off because the engine of one of the planes caught fire on a runway in Florida in June, and officials feared the problem was systemic.

In other words, it could happen again. It could happen at the airshow, with the jet’s prospective customers — Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan and eight other U.S. allies — in attendance. Grounding it was a business decision. Indeed, it was a decision made at the delicate intersection of business and war.

“The setbacks follow a series of technical problems and development delays that have affected the F-35, one of the world’s most ambitious weapons programs, with estimated development costs of around $400 billion,” Nicola Clark and Christopher Drew wrote this week in the New YorkTimes. “Analysts said the timing of the problems, just as Lockheed Martin was hoping to demonstrate the plane to prospective export buyers here, could not have been worse.”

What I found interesting — well, overwhelmingly depressing, actually — was the fact that this story ran in the Times’ International Business section. When Savio writes, “Attempts to create regional or international alliances to bring stability have always been stymied by national interests,” this may be what he’s talking about. National interests are business interests. In the mainstream media, this is simply a given.

And the ongoing setbacks and escalating cost don’t matter. The F-35 project is still going forward, even though, as Kate Brannen wrote recently in Foreign Policy, “over the course of the aircrafts’ lifetimes, operating costs are expected to exceed $1 trillion.”

The warplane’s supply of funding is inexhaustible, apparently. Congress is behind it all the way. And it’s hardly news. “Lockheed has carefully hired suppliers and subcontractors in almost every state to ensure that virtually all senators and members of Congress have a stake in keeping the program — and the jobs it has created — in place,” Brannen wrote.

Austerity is for losers. There’s always money to wage war and build weapons, indeed, to continue developing weapons, generation after generation after generation. The contractors are adept at playing the game. Jobs link arms with fear and patriotism and the next war is always inevitable. And it’s always necessary, because we’ve created a world of perpetual — and well-armed — instability.

The problem with the United Nations is that it’s a unity of entities defined by their hatred of one another and committed to the perpetuation of “the scourge of war.” We won’t begin creating global peace until we learn how to bypass nationalism and the single, unacknowledged agreement binding nation-states to each other: the inevitability of war.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

© 2014 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.

Talk Nation Radio: Keane Bhatt: Human Rights Watch Must Close Revolving Door to U.S. Government

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-keane-bhatt-human-rights-watch-must-close-revolving-door-to-us-government

Keane Bhatt is an activist and writer who has organized a campaign to close Human Rights Watch's revolving door with the U.S. government. Sign this petition.

Read this background:
Nobel Peace Laureates to HRW: Close Your Revolving Door to U.S. Government
Keane Bhatt: The Hypocrisy of Human Rights Watch
Chase Madar: Hawks for Humanity
More Than 100 Latin America Experts Question HRW's Venezuela Report
Nobel Peace Laureates Slam Human Rights Watch's Refusal to Cut Ties to U.S. Government

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

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!

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

If Iraq Were in Central America

Just as in discussions of bombing nations for women's rights it's hard to bring up the subject of the right not to be bombed, in discussions of shipping so-called illegal children away from the border where you've been terrorizing them in reenactments of Freedom Ride buses it's hard to bring up the subject of not having your government overthrown and your nation turned into a living hell.

Imagine, however, if Iraq were in Central America.  Most people in the United States don't realize how convenient it has been to have millions of Iraqis made homeless so far away from the United States, fleeing to places like Syria, and then fleeing Syria when it's Syria's turn to be destroyed. 

If, during the past decades of war and sanctions and war on Iraq, Iraq had been located closer to Miami and San Antonio than New York or Seattle is, wouldn't it have been a bit harder for people to tell pollsters that Iraq was benefitting from the war?  Wouldn't it have been a bit harder to continue pretending immigrants are something different from refugees?  Wouldn't immigrants rights groups have been compelled to notice the military and the wars that create the justification for abuses in the United States but also the motivations for fleeing homes where the wars happen?

If Gaza were in Maryland, would the United States still provide the weapons for bombing the homes there? Would CNN still blame Gazans who remain in their homes? Or would it, rather, scream at them to get back home where they belong?

Well, Honduras is closer to Florida and Texas than much of the United States is.  The U.S. government facilitated the overthrow of the government of Honduras with a military coup in 2009 and has supported, funded, armed, and trained the military and the police that have turned Honduras into the most violent and dangerous place on earth, beating out Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, and other top contenders in the World Cup of Hell Holes.  The President of Honduras was yanked out of bed and flown to a U.S. military base and out of the country.  The military that replaced him has been trained in torture and assassination at the School of the Americas in Georgia.

And now President Obama is ordering Honduran toddlers flown home from the United States where they are disturbing good democratic citizens of the land of liberty.  Perhaps this is a moment, after all, in which to unite the movement for the rights of immigrants with the movement for peace and the rule of law in foreign relations. 

Imagine the strength of those two movements combined.  Words like Hope and Change might actually mean something.

Until then, forgive me if I'm simply disgusted with the level of evil imposed on the world by those in power and the failure of those abused to unite against it.

Counting the Presidents' Bodies

"If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged," said Noam Chomsky prior to the last few presidencies, none of which is likely to have changed his analysis.

But what if you applied such principles retroactively back to George Washington and every U.S. president since?  What if you graded presidents, not on personality or style or popularity, but on how many deaths they caused or prevented?

Al Carroll's new book is called Presidents' Body Counts: The Twelve Worst and Four Best American Presidents: Based on How Many Lived or Died Because of Their Actions.

I think this is a model for how history ought to be examined, despite serious flaws.  Carroll's project may ultimately be impossible.  How do you score presidents on the areas of criminal enterprise they opened up for their successors?  Could you have really had a Nixon without a Truman?  Carroll is aware of these difficulties, and also of the overarching lesson that giving single individuals such royal powers as presidents have been given inevitably leads to disaster.  But I think he still falls short.

Carroll attempts to step outside his own biases and look at the facts.  But how does one include sins of omission? How does one score numbers of deaths across centuries, given dramatic growth in populations?  And what about the deaths that Carroll happens to approve of?  He gives Lincoln and FDR credit for the Civil War and World War II while marking all other presidents down for their wars (although marking FDR down for certain atrocities during his war); he has swallowed the humanitarian war advocates' mythology about Bosnia; and he omits dozens of smaller military operations from any mention at all.  And Carroll's current day partisanship seems to be showing as he credits Obama with ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the fact that the war in Afghanistan has not been ended and the war in Iraq, which Obama was forced to end, he has now found a way of restarting.

I said this book was a model, not the ultimate achievement of the genre.  Carroll is of course right to denounce historians who examine "leadership" and "presidential caliber" as little better than celebrity tabloid writers.  And his book, whether one agrees with his selections and rankings, makes illuminating reading that would benefit any classroom.  Simplistic, it is not.  Much of each section is devoted to who else gets the blame for particular horrors.  To pretend that in blaming a president for something Carroll has asserted that nobody else is to blame for it would require cutting out a large percentage of the book.  Carroll also devotes space to what plausibly could have been done by each president rather than what that president did.

Our airports, cities, and states are named for butchers, Carroll writes, and correcting that does not require that we get the butchers into the perfect ranking.  Yet, for what it's worth, here is Carroll's ranking of the worst of the worst, beginning with the very worst of them all: Nixon, Reagan, Jackson, Buchanan, Polk, Filmore, Clinton, Ford, Truman, McKinley, Bush II, Andrew Johnson.  And here's his ranking of the best, beginning with number 1: Lincoln, Van Buren, Carter, Grant.  Carroll includes positive deeds by Nixon, and negative deeds by Carter, etc.  But this is where he comes out..

In fact, Carroll includes enough information on these and other presidents, that he may end up reinforcing your disagreement with him on the rankings.  I've always considered Truman the worst of the worst, and when Carroll lays the Cold War -- and all the actual wars it included -- at Truman's feet, he seems to make the case (although U.S. policy did not exactly transform when the Cold War ended). 

The book, I think, works best if read straight through and then re-arranged or collated in your head.  Carroll treats presidential horrors in terms of categories that don't make the most sense.  First come genocides, then the allowance of or provocation of genocides, then slavery as a subcategory of genocide, then atrocities during wars, then something called "mass death by incompetence or ideological blindness" (which ends up including, in order from greatest to fewest deaths: "deregulation," the Cold War, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, the U.S. Civil War [blaming Buchanan for it, while giving Lincoln credit for it], the "war" on drugs, the War of 1812, the Panama Canal, Hurricane Katrina, and the Branch Davidians), then "Other American Wars of Aggression," etc.  Wars of nonaggression (or something?) never make the lists.  I'd have preferred one list that combined all the sections and included all the wars, as well as all other acts of commission and omission causing or alleviating mass suffering.

Carroll also includes good deeds by presidents, including instances of war avoidance, and including disarmament successes.  I think this section could be significantly expanded and truly is a model for the sort of history books we need.  And we need them with something else in precisely this section: heroism.  Gore Vidal recounted JFK saying "What would Lincoln have been without a war? Just a railroad lawyer." Indeed, without his "good war," Lincoln might have been as thoroughly ignored as Coolidge by Carroll, despite the creation by the latter's administration of a treaty banning war, and the avoidance by his administration of any major war making.  But what if future Kennedys saw the later JFK who turned against wars, and paid a price for it, as a model of greatness, as well as viewing the rogues gallery of past butchers as just what they were?

The Kill Team Movie: Show It in Schools

Kill Team is not just a video game anymore, not just the inevitable pairing of two of the most popular words in American English.  "Kill Team" is now a movie, and against the odds it's not a celebration of killing, but a particular take on an actual series of events made widely known by Rolling Stone.


U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan developed the practice of killing civilians for sport, placing weapons beside the bodies or otherwise pretending to have been attacked, keeping body parts as trophies, and celebrating their "kills" in photographs with the corpses.

For months, according to Rolling Stone, the whole platoon knew what was going on.  Officers dismissed complaints from the relatives of victims, accepted completely implausible accounts, and failed to help victims who might still be alive (instead ordering a soldier to "Make sure he's dead.")

A key instigator, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, arrived in Afghanistan recounting a successful murder of a family in Iraq and bearing tattoos recording his kills.  "Get me a kill" soldiers asked who wanted to participate in the kill team.  Killers were treated as heroes, and the widespread understanding that they were killing civilians who'd never threatened them didn't seem to damage that treatment.

"Drop-weapon" has been a common term among vets returning to the United States from Afghanistan and Iraq for over a decade, referring to a weapon used to frame a victim.  "We're just the ones who got caught," says Pfc. Justin Stoner in the film.  He also raises an important question that the film does not seriously pursue, remarking: "We're training you from the day you join to the day you're out to kill. Your job is to kill. You're infantry. Your job is to kill everything that gets in your way. Well, then why the hell are you pissed off when we do it?"

Eleven soldiers have been convicted of crimes as part of the kill team, including Gibbs who has been sentenced to life in prison.  Why were these kills crimes and others not, wonders Stoner.  It's a question worthy of consideration.  The cover stories for the kills, including claims that people made some threatening movement, don't seem enough to justify these murders even if they had been true.  What were the soldiers doing in these people's villages to begin with?

That's the question the movie opens with the soldiers asking themselves.  They'd been trained for exciting combat and then sent to Afghanistan to be bored, hungry for action, eager to test out their training.  This is a point often missed by those who advocate turning the U.S. military into a force for good, an emergency rescue squad for natural disasters, or a humanitarian aid operation.  You would have to train and equip people for those jobs first.  These young men were trained to kill, armed to kill, prepped to kill, and left to kick sand around.

They began premeditating the worst sort of premeditated murder.  They openly recount their conversations in the film.  They had weapons to drop, grenades that weren't "tracked," they'd pretend someone had a grenade and kill him. Who? Anyone. They saw everyone as fair game. 

And they did as planned.  And they were welcomed back to the "FOB" as heroes.  And they did it again.  And again.

The film does not tell the whole story. It focuses on Spc. Adam Winfield, his parents, and his court proceedings back in the United States.  Winfield told his father on a Facebook chat, early on, what was happening.  Winfield was afraid to talk to anyone in his chain of command, and in fact the mere possibility that he might resulted in death threats to him.  His father, however, tried every way he could to get anyone in the U.S. Army to listen.  No one would.

And then Winfield was present for another set-up and murder.  He says he fired his gun away from the victim.  He says that if he had shot the two U.S. soldiers, Gibbs and Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, the Army would have shown him "no mercy." 

Then Stoner (was it his name that tipped the balance?) turned in Gibbs and others for smoking hash in his room. So they beat him and threatened to kill him.  Then he told about the body parts being passed around.  The Army locked up Gibbs and Morlock.  Stoner was labeled a whistleblower, which he says is worse than a murderer.  If he had the chance again, he says, he would say nothing.

Winfield found he could breathe, after months of fearing murder from his own "side." 

And then Winfield was, himself, charged with first-degree murder.  We see his horror.  We see his parents' heartbreak.  We go back to see his childhood.  He read history books about American war heroes, his dad says.  The possibility of changing those books is not explicitly raised. He ends up with a plea bargain and a sentence of three years in prison, for supposedly having done nothing to stop a murder.  At one point he's offered the option of pleading guilty to "cowardice," despite every other member of his unit and chain of command right up to the President having outdone him in that regard.

"War is dirty," says Winfield. "It's not how they portray it in movies." It is, however, more or less, from a certain angle, how they've portrayed it in this movie, which ought to be shown in U.S. schools as a warning. 

But not by itself.  This movie does not give us the stories of the murder victims and their families.  Imagine the power of a movie that included what this one does plus that!  The opportunity is repeatedly and intentionally lost by Western film makers over and over again.  Nor does the film give us the stories of the victims and families of supposedly legitimate murders.  Imagine the drama of trying to distinguish the suffering of those killed fighting a foreign occupation from the suffering of those killed not fighting a foreign occupation, and the power of the inevitable failure of that effort!  Imagine a movie that accurately conveyed the immense scale of the killing in these one-sided slaughters of the poor by the most technologically advanced killing machine ever devised!

From the angle that this film takes, however, critical questions are thrust upon us, including: Why imprison the killers?  Will it deter others?  Will atrocity-free-war finally be created before we've destroyed the earth as a habitable place?  Would it not be easier to shut down the military and end the wars?  The deterrence I'm most interested in is that of people like Winfield's parents who allowed him to join the military before he was 18, to demonstrate their confidence in him.  I think this movie might deter some parents from making that same choice.

Drones 101

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