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A 40-year reunion is being planned for the end of this month in Gainesville, Fla., of the Gainesville 8. Sadly, Richard Nixon won't be able to join them, although his presidential library has just released more audio recordings of his descent into madness -- or what we like to call today: standard government practice.
The Gainesville 8 were eight men, seven of them members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), who planned to nonviolently demonstrate at the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami. They were wrongfully prosecuted for planning violence, and they were all acquitted by a jury on August 31, 1973, in a highly publicized trial.
Under the shadow of the chaos that surrounded the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, VVAW took extra steps to avoid violence at the '72 RNC, meeting with the Miami police and with right-wing groups in an effort to prevent conflicts. And yet, prior to the convention, President Nixon's FBI began preemptively arresting VVAW leaders, accusing them of plotting murder and mayhem, and attempting to prevent them from taking part in what they were really plotting: a nonviolent march to the convention, where they would request to meet with the president.
Many VVAW members managed to pull off the march, during the course of which they came upon an activist carrying weapons; they turned him in to the police. Three vets, including Ron Kovic, made it into the convention to pose some uncomfortable questions to some long-distance, stay-at-home war supporters.
Just prior to the arrests of the VVAW members in Florida, burglars working for Nixon had been arrested breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate. When the Watergate burglars were captured, one of them, James McCord, explained that they were investigating a link between the Democrats and the VVAW which they believed was planning trouble at the upcoming Republican National Convention. McCord submitted an affidavit to the Gainesville 8 defense team restating this. The Gainesville 8 defense argued that their prosecution was aimed at strengthening Nixon's thugs' phony case for the Watergate break-in.
One of several infiltrators and would-be provocateurs who made up the fabricated case against the Gainesville 8 was Vincent Hanard. He said that Nixonian henchmen Howard Hunt, Bernard Barker, and Frank Sturgis had asked him to infiltrate VVAW and cause trouble. Another hired trouble-maker, Alfred Baldwin, was employed both monitoring a bug at the Watergate and infiltrating VVAW with a goal of embarrassing Democrats if VVAW demonstrated at the RNC.
Another professional provocateur named Pablo Fernandez was summoned to a grand jury investigating Nixonian henchman Donald Segretti. Fernandez said he'd tried to sell the VVAW guns and been turned down (something the Miami police confirmed), and that he'd spied on the veterans using electronic devices. In fact, he'd tried to record a conversation with VVAW leader Scott Camil, but Fernandez' hidden microphone had failed.
Other of the government's many infiltrators in the VVAW included William Koehler, Karl Becker, Emerson Poe, and William Lemmer. Poe had become best friends with Camil (or so Camil thought). Poe sat in meetings with the defendants right up until he was called as a prosecution witness, thus blowing his cover -- about which the government had previously lied under oath. Lemmer was the star witness, however, alleging wild tales of violent plans. He was himself violent and unstable. Lemmer had already set up a 17 year old to vandalize a building in Arkansas and arranged to have the FBI waiting for him. Lemmer had helped bust six people for marijuana. His specialty was talking people into considering the use of violence. He just wasn't very convincing as a witness.
Scott Camil was the southeast regional coordinator of VVAW. His lawyer's office was broken into during these proceedings, and his file taken. Also, FBI agents with electronic gear were found hiding in a closet of the room that the defendants and lawyers were meeting in during the trial.
"It's not really 11 years till 1984," Camil said in his closing statement (PDF) in court. "It's a lot closer than that."
This sounds odd to us, living in 2013. Technology, if not morality, has made great leaps forward. There's no more need for bungling idiots with brief cases full of spy gear hiding in closets. The government can spy on us without making its presence known. But provocateurs are still employed to manufacture crimes, and much of what was considered illicit under Nixon is treated as acceptable established practice under Obama.
A careful study of the FBI's own data on terrorism in the United States, reported in Trevor Aaronson's book The Terror Factory, finds one organization leading all others in creating terrorist plots in the United States today: the FBI. Peace groups today, including chapters of Veterans For Peace, have been redefined as "security threats" and "potential terrorists." The police have been militarized. Free speech cages are established at great distance from political conventions. Preemptive detentions before demonstrations don't always bother with charges or prosecutions at all. And the corporate-state media has internalized these practices as normal. In 1973, CBS sued for the right to cover the Gainesville 8 trial. Today I think it would be easier to find a media outlet willing to pay money to avoid having to cover something. Chelsea Manning's trial was covered by bloggers.
Camil represented himself in court, and included no apologies, as observers of Chelsea Manning's trial might have expected. Camil's opening statement should be read in full (PDF). He put the government and the war and President Nixon on trial. Here's an excerpt:
"The evidence will show that the seven of us who went to Vietnam spent a total of 111 months over there, received 57 medals and citations, and were all honorably discharged. The evidence will also show that we threw our medals away out of shame, because we knew that what they stood for was wrong. For myself, the throwing away of the medals I once cherished was the cutting of the umbilical cord between myself and the government lies, such as, 'We are helping the people of Vietnam,' 'Our purpose is honorable,' the covering up, such as, 'We are not bombing Cambodia,' 'We are not murdering unarmed civilians,' 'We are not bombing hospitals,' the immorality, such as 'free fire zones,' where all life was fair game, to show the American people back home that we were winning the war by giving them a tool of measurement to judge, and that tool of measurement was the use of dead human beings -- it was called 'body count.'"
On August 31st the jury quickly acquitted all of the defendants. VVAW said at the time:
"The government needed, first of all, to defuse the anti-war issue in the 1972 presidential campaign. What better way to do this was there than by portraying a leading anti-war group as a bunch of vicious killers? With the public outcry caused by the Watergate scandal, a secondary purpose for the trial can be found: an attempt to partially divert attention away from the Watergate affair by fabricating a phony 'threat to national security.' James McCord specifically named VVAW/WSO as the chief villain in this 'threat to national security' and as a justification for their actions."
The Gainesville 8 were John Briggs, Scott Camil, Alton Foss, John Kniffin, Peter Mahoney, Stanley Michelson, William Patterson, and Don Perdue. All but Briggs were Vietnam veterans. Kniffin and Patterson are now deceased.
Four of the eight are gathering for a reunion in Gainesville this month: Peter Mahoney, Don Perdue, Alton Foss, and Scott Camil. Joining them are three of the lawyers who worked on the defense: Larry Turner, Nancy Stearns (Center for Constitutional Rights), and Brady Coleman (Texas National Lawyers Guild). Also coming are jurors from the trial: Donna Ing, and the husband of Jury Foreperson Lois Hensel who is now deceased. Plus members of the defense committee: Nancy Miller Saunders, Nancy Burnap, and Carol Gordon. And John Chambers who spent 40 days in jail for refusing to answer questions from the grand jury. And Richard Hudgens who was subpoenaed to the grand jury. The Oral History Department at the University of Florida will be doing interviews.
I went ahead and did my own interview of Scott Camil. "We came home from Vietnam," he said, "and saw that the government was not telling the truth about the war. We exercised the Constitutional rights that we fought to protect and tried to educate the public to the truth. The government came after us with a vengeance, trampling on our rights in an effort to silence and intimidate us. We stood up to the government and prevailed."
And what has happened since?
"Things have gotten much worse since then -- the illegal activities that brought down President Nixon are now legal. Then the press accepted its role as the 4th estate. Today the press has become a propaganda arm of the National Security State. Today the National Security State wipes its boots on the Constitution. And the public, rather than standing up for the Constitution, cowers and hides its head in the sand.
"Today's whistleblowers trying to educate the public to what is being done in our name with our tax money are under attack as we once were. I hope that they are able to prevail as we once did."
Tim Shorrock, who writes for The Nation and blogs at TimShorrock.com, is recently returned from Korea where he participated in marking the 60th anniversary of the armistice and in the movement for demilitarization and peace. He disagrees with President Obama's assessment of the Korean War, and also with the approach that many activists in the United States have taken toward Korea. Shorrock is a Washington-based investigative journalist who grew up in Japan and South Korea. He is the author of SPIES FOR HIRE: The Secret World of Outsourced Intelligence. His work has appeared in The Nation, Salon, Daily Beast, Mother Jones, The Progressive, Foreign Policy in Focus and Asia Times.
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Secession first he would put down
Wholly and forever,
And afterwards from Britain's crown
He Canada would sever.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy.
Mind the music and the step
and with the girls be handy!
I don't speak for the United States or harbor any affection for nationalism. I'd break this country into several manageable pieces if I could. But I think someone owes you an apology, Canada -- and, much as our political leaders are accused of making apologies (as if that were a bad thing) I don't expect any of them to get it remotely right any time soon. So, here goes.
As a Virginian, let me begin by apologizing for the fact that, six-years after the British landing at Jamestown, with the settlers struggling to survive and hardly managing to get their own local genocide underway, these new Virginians hired mercenaries to attack Acadia and drive the French out of what they considered their continent (even if they failed). I'm sorry, also, that this idea never went away, that the Virginia-based U.S. military still thinks as the Jamestown settlers thought, centuries of cultural progress having passed it by.
I'm sorry that the colonies that would become the United States decided to take over Canada in 1690 (and failed, again). I'm sorry that they got the British to help them in 1711 (and failed, yet again). I'm sorry that General Braddock and Colonel Washington tried again in 1755 (and still failed). I'm sorry for the ethnic cleansing perpetrated and the driving out of the Acadians and the Native Americans.
I'm sorry for the British and U.S. attacks of 1758 that took away your fort, renamed it Pittsburgh, and eventually built a giant stadium across the river dedicated to the glorification of ketchup. It wasn't your land any more than it was U.S. land, but I'm sorry for the aggression against you by the future-U.S. and by Britain. I'm sorry that in 1760 you were conquered by Britain. I'm more sorry for everything that came next.
I'm sorry that George Washington sent troops led by Benedict Arnold to attack Canada yet again in 1775, and that -- unlike his future desertion -- this action by Arnold was considered righteous and admirable. I'm sorry that these imbeciles talked of liberation and expected to be welcomed with gratitude. I'm sorry their descendants have suffered from the same delusions with regard to every new country invaded for centuries. I'm sorry that the 13 colonies sought to impose the status of "14th colony" on you by force. I'm sorry that an early draft of the U.S. Constitution provided for the inclusion of Canada, despite Canada's lack of interest in being included.
I'm sorry that Benjamin Franklin asked the British to hand you over during negotiations for the Treaty of Paris in 1783. I'm sorry that Britain, in fact, handed a large chunk of you over: Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana. If it makes you feel any better, 60 years later Mexico would catch it even worse. I'm sorry to the Native American residents of the land handed over from Canada to the United States, as if land were ownable, and as if that land were uninhabited.
I'm sorry for the Louisiana Purchase. I'm sorry for the War of 1812, and for the idiots who've been celebrating its bicentennial. I'm sorry that Thomas Jefferson, whose house I see out my window, declared that you would be conquered purely by marching in and being welcomed. I'm sorry that when Tecumseh tricked a U.S. general into believing he had many more troops than he had, the U.S. "intelligence" "community" was effectively born. I'm sorry that, at the end of the war, the British agreed to betray you again, handing over territory. I'm sorry that the drive to annex more never vanished. I'm sorry that the U.S. got Oregon and Washington by the same means -- negotiating with Britain, not you.
I'm sorry that, by the 1840s, with the take-over of half of Mexico underway, the strategy for the take-over of Canada began to focus more on the imposition of "free" trade agreements. I'm sorry for the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854. I'm sorry for the U.S. bribery of your politicians that put it through.
I'm sorry for the U.S. support for an Irish attack on you in 1866. I'm sorry for the 1867 U.S. purchase of Alaska from Russia, which was aimed at reducing you and weakening you. I'm sorry that the U.S. Congress condemned your formation as a nation. I'm sorry that the drive to annex you continued. I'm sorry for the trade agreement of 1935, and the ever-growing push for "freer" trade agreements ever since, right up through the FTA, NAFTA, and the TPP. I'm sorry that despite its greater wealth, the United States keeps dragging your social standards downward.
I'm sorry for all the assaults on your nation by the U.S. military, U.S. industry, U.S. labor unions, and the CIA. I'm sorry that your military has been made a subsidiary of the U.S. military. I'm sorry for so much U.S. interference in your elections. I'm grateful for the refuge you've offered deserting U.S. soldiers. I'm sorry that when your prime minister ever so slightly questioned U.S. genocide in Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson picked him up by the neck, screaming "You pissed on my rug," and that your prime minister then wrote to Johnson thanking him for speaking so frankly. I'm sorry you've progressed from there to greater subservience.
I applaud you for pushing through the land mine ban despite U.S. interference.
I know you always had your own major problems. I know the United States has given you good as well as bad. But you resisted destructive domination mightily for many years. Other nations curious about the U.S. and its spreading array of military bases should ask its nearest neighbors for references. Your successful resistance, for so long, is an example to the world, and to your current self. You overcame internal divisions to unite and survive. Perhaps the rest of the world can follow suit.
You've heard people say they want to be spied on, as long as it means that other people will be spied on too. I know you've heard people say this, and which people it was, and how your face looked when you heard it, and what your next telephone call was. Or, rather, I could know all of that if I were one of the thousands and thousands of low-level snoops it will take for our government to accomplish its surveillance goals.
The logic is completely flawed, however. As FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley remarks, if you're looking for a needle in a haystack, adding more hay doesn't help. It makes you less likely to find the needle. A government that sucks up ever vaster quantities of useless information on innocent people actually hurts its own ability to investigate crimes. And the imagined intimidating effect of things like surveillance cameras in public spaces doesn't actually reduce crime; it merely makes us think of each other as potential criminals.
On top of that, the over-investigation leads to all sorts of harm to innocent people that was completely avoidable: wrongful prosecutions and imprisonments, deaths and injuries during unnecessary confrontations, and disastrous cultural and legal changes. Once everyone has become a suspect, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant. Once activists are targeted for surveillance and suspicion, many become reluctant to engage in activism -- which, believe it or not, leads to corruption and tyranny.
It's also possible to be wrong about one's innocence. There are over 5,000 federal crimes on the books, plus 300,000 regulatory crimes, plus regulations, plus state crimes. Almost everyone is certainly guilty of something or easily made to appear guilty of something.
All of these points become clearer, I think, when one learns, not just what could happen in the near future, but what is happening right now in the nature of abuses often considered futuristic or dystopian. A great place -- maybe the best place -- to start is John Whitehead's new book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State.
This book captures the stories of slowly growing abuse and suppression, and collects them in sufficient mass to shock readers out of their complacency. Have police pulled you over and done cavity searches yet? They have to others. Have they forcibly drawn your blood to check for alcohol? Have they stopped you on a sidewalk and patted you down? Some things you simply don't know whether they've done: have they scanned your pockets, bags, and clothing as you passed? Have they filmed you with a drone and stored the information, allowing a retroactive search of where you were when, should the need arise? Have they tracked you via your cell phone or your license plate? Do they know your web browsing history and the content of your emails? Have they entered your home and searched it while you were out? These actions are all "legal," even if unconstitutional.
Some abuses you can't help being aware of when they happen to you or someone you know. Tens of thousands have been arrested and committed to mental institutions. Local police have been militarized. Uniquely in the world, the U.S. military "donates" its weapons to local police forces. With the weaponry comes a militarization of uniforms, language, training, tactics, and thought. Over 50,000 no-knock SWAT-team-style police raids are carried out annually in the United States. Noticing this doesn't make us paranoid. It exposes the paranoia of the police, who see an enemy in every member of the public.
"There was a time," Whitehead notes, "when communities would have been up in arms over a botched SWAT team raid resulting in the loss of innocent lives. Unfortunately, today, we are increasingly being conditioned by both the media and the government to accept the use of SWAT teams by law enforcement agencies for routine drug policing and the high incidence of error-related casualties that accompanies these raids." Whitehead details some of the specific tragedies.
Combine police that have been militarized with a public that has been armed, and you get stories like this one: "[A]n 88-year-old African-American woman was shot and killed in 2006 when policemen barged unannounced into her home, reportedly in search of cocaine. Police officers broke down Kathryn Johnstone's door while serving a 'no-knock' warrant to search her home on a run-down Atlanta street known for drugs and crime, prompting the woman to fire at what she believed to be the 'intruders' in self-defense. The officers returned fire, killing the octogenarian. No cocaine was found."
If only someone had had a gun!
According to Amnesty International, 90% of those killed by police tasers were unarmed when tasered. But when people are armed, they aren't just tasered; instead they have dozens of bullets pumped into them.
Drones, in Whitehead's view, open up a whole new level of militarization. As tear gas, tasers, sound cannons, assault vehicles, and other military weapons were passed on to police, so too are drones being domesticated. The reckless killing and blanket spying that will follow pale in relation to some of the suicidal stupidities the military has planned, such as nuclear-powered drones and drones carrying nuclear weapons.
It's not too late to push back, assuming we come to understand the desirability and necessity of doing so.
When I wrote When the World Outlawed War, I was struck by the significance of a forgotten day, a day matching the description in the 1950 folk song that begins "Last night I had the strangest dream . . . " On this day, August 27, 1928, the major nations of the world sent representatives to a room in Paris, France, in which they signed a treaty banning war and committing to the peaceful settlement of all disputes.
The treaty they signed, which is still on the books, has been used over the decades to prevent wars, end wars, and prosecute war makers. The Peace Pact is listed as in force on the U.S. State Department website (open the document, scroll to page 454). But, unlike a corporate trade agreement, the Kellogg-Briand Pact is, shall we say, less than strictly adhered to -- or even remembered.
Few people strolling down Kellogg Boulevard in St. Paul, Minnesota, have any idea that it's named for Frank Kellogg or who he was.
They're about to find out.
At 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 21, a resolution will be introduced and voted on by the St. Paul City Council. This resolution is being brought forward by Council member David Thune for the purpose of proclaiming August 27, 2013, to be "Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact Day" in celebration of the 85th anniversary of the signing.
Council member Dave Thune's ward includes Kellogg's former house. Thune will be introducing the proclamation at the request of St. Paul residents, including members of the Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter of Veterans For Peace. The Kellogg-Briand Pact "renounces war as an instrument of National Policy" which is the exact wording found in the (more recently created) Statement of Purpose of Veterans For Peace.
Here is the resolution that is being introduced:
Whereas Frank Billings Kellogg has rightly been honored around the world, including with a Nobel Peace Prize presented to him in 1930,
Whereas Frank Kellogg is honored in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where his ashes lie, and where the Kellogg window in the Kellogg Bay bears these words: "In grateful memory of Frank Billings Kellogg, LL.D., 1856-1937, Senator of the United States from Minnesota, Ambassador to the Court of St. James, Secretary of State, a Judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice, Joint Author of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, in Fidelity to American Ideals he served his nation with conspicuous ability and sought equity and peace among the nations of the world, his body rests in this cathedral,"
Whereas Frank Kellogg's family moved to Minnesota in 1865 and Kellogg moved to St. Paul in 1886, and Kellogg's home from 1899 to 1937 was the house at 633 Fairmont Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota, which is now a National Historic Landmark,
Whereas Frank Kellogg's name is remembered in St. Paul as the name of Kellogg Boulevard, but memory of what Kellogg did to merit such honors is fading,
Whereas Frank Kellogg as U.S. Secretary of State heeded the passionate and almost universal desire of the people of this and other nations for peace, and in particular the proposal of the Outlawry Movement to legally ban war,
Whereas Frank Kellogg surprised his State Department staff and many others in 1927 by working carefully and diligently to bring many of the world's nations together to ban war,
Whereas war had not previously been a crime, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact made it one, resulting in a nearly complete end to the legal recognition of territorial gains made through war, and resulting in the prosecution following World War II of the new crime of making war,
Whereas the wealthy well-armed nations of the world have not gone to war with each other since those prosecutions -- the elimination of war upon and among the world's poorer nations remaining an important goal toward which greater recognition of the Kellogg-Briand Pact might contribute,
Whereas the Kellogg-Briand Pact is recognized as in force by the U.S. State Department with 84 nations currently parties to it, and the pact open to any other nations that choose to join,
Whereas the Pact, excluding formalities and procedural matters, reads in full, "The High Contracting Parties solemly [sic] declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another. The High Contracting Parties agree that settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means,"
Whereas compliance with the law is more likely to occur if we remember what the law is,
Whereas then French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand remarked at the signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact on August 27, 1928: "For the first time, on a scale as absolute as it is vast, a treaty has been truly devoted to the very establishment of peace, and has laid down laws that are new and free from all political considerations. Such a treaty means a beginning and not an end. . . . [S]elfish and willful war which has been regarded from of old as springing from divine right, and has remained in international ethics as an attribute of sovereignty, has been at last deprived by law of what constituted its most serious danger, its legitimacy. For the future, branded with illegality, it is by mutual accord truly and regularly outlawed so that a culprit must indur the unconditional condemnation and probably the hostility of all his co-signatories,"
Therefore, in hopes of encouraging awareness of the work of Frank Kellogg and of the peace movement of the 1920s that moved him to action, the City of St. Paul, Minnesota, proclaims August 27th to be Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact Day.
On August 27th a celebration is planned at the Kellogg house. Meanwhile, in Illinois, an award ceremony is planned for the winners of the first annual essay contest dedicated to the question "How Can We Obey the Law Against War?" But why shouldn't there be celebrations everywhere? Why not recognition for Salmon Oliver Levinson of Chicago, whose movement persuaded Kellogg to act? Why not remembrance of Kellogg in Washington, D.C., where he's buried? Why not celebration of the activists of the 1920s who made up the Outlawry Movement, and who were from every part of the United States and many other nations? Why not a day of celebrating peace and advancing the cause of the abolition of war, including by collectively urging new nations to sign onto the Peace Pact?
Here's a petition that can be signed, and the signatures from any town or state printed out to be used in local lobbying. St. Paul is leading the way, but it need not do so alone. The petition reads:
"We support local, state, national, and international legislation that would make August 27th a holiday in honor of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, also known as the Peace Pact, that was signed on this date in 1928. The International Pact which renounced war as an instrument of national policy and committed nations to settling disputes exclusively by peaceful means was passed into U.S. law in 1929 with only one Senator in opposition. The co-authors were Republican Secretary of State Frank Kellogg from Minnesota and French foreign minister Aristide Briand. Kellogg won the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Pact is still U.S. and International Law."
I sat in the courtroom all day on Wednesday as Bradley Manning's trial wound its way to a tragic and demoralizing conclusion. I wanted to hear Eugene Debs, and instead I was trapped there, watching Socrates reach for the hemlock and gulp it down. Just a few minutes in and I wanted to scream or shout.
I don't blame Bradley Manning for apologizing for his actions and effectively begging for the court's mercy. He's on trial in a system rigged against him. The commander in chief declared him guilty long ago. He's been convicted. The judge has been offered a promotion. The prosecution has been given a playing field slanted steeply in its favor. Why should Manning not follow the only advice anyone's ever given him and seek to minimize his sentence? Maybe he actually believes that what he did was wrong. But -- wow -- does it make for some perverse palaver in the courtroom.
This was the sentencing phase of the trial, but there was no discussion of what good or harm might come of a greater or lesser sentence, in terms of deterrence or restitution or prevention or any other goal. That's one thing I wanted to scream at various points in the proceedings.
This was the trial of the most significant whistleblower in U.S. history, but there was no mention of anything he'd blown the whistle on, any of the crimes exposed or prevented, wars ended, nonviolent democratic movements catalyzed. Nothing on why he's a four-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Nothing. Every time that the wars went unmentioned, I wanted to scream. War was like air in this courtroom, everybody on all sides militarized -- and it went unnoticed and unmentioned.
What was discussed on Wednesday was as disturbing as what wasn't. Psycho-therapists, and relatives, and Bradley Manning himself -- defense witnesses all -- testified that he had been wrong to do what he'd done, that he'd not been in his right mind, and that he is a likable person to whom the judge should be kind.
Should likable people get lesser sentences?
The prosecution focused, with much less success I think, on depicting Manning as an unlikable person. Should unlikable people get heavier sentences?
What, I wanted to scream, about the likability of blowing the whistle on major crimes? Shouldn't that be rewarded, rather than being less severely punished?
There were some 30 of us observing the trial on Wednesday in the courtroom, many with "TRUTH" on our t-shirts, plus six members of the news media. Another 40 some people were watching a video feed in a trailer outside, and another 40 media folks were watching a video in a separate room. The defense and prosecution lawyers sat a few feet apart from each other, and I suppose the politeness of the operation was preferable to the violence that had led to it. But the gravity of threatening Manning with 90 years in prison seemed belied by the occasional joking with witnesses.
Before he'd become a criminal suspect, Manning had written in an online chat:
"If you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time… say, 8-9 months… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do? . . . or Guantanamo, Bagram, Bucca, Taji, VBC for that matter . . . things that would have an impact on 6.7 billion people . . . say… a database of half a million events during the iraq war… from 2004 to 2009… with reports, date time groups, lat-lon locations, casualty figures… ? or 260,000 state department cables from embassies and consulates all over the world, explaining how the first world exploits the third, in detail, from an internal perspective?"
Manning made clear what his concern and motivation were:
"i think the thing that got me the most… that made me rethink the world more than anything . . . was watching 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police… for printing 'anti-Iraqi literature'… the iraqi federal police wouldn't cooperate with US forces, so i was instructed to investigate the matter, find out who the 'bad guys' were, and how significant this was for the FPs… it turned out, they had printed a scholarly critique against PM Maliki… i had an interpreter read it for me… and when i found out that it was a benign political critique titled 'Where did the money go?' and following the corruption trail within the PM's cabinet… i immediately took that information and *ran* to the officer to explain what was going on… he didn't want to hear any of it… he told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs in finding *MORE* detainees…"
Manning wanted the public informed:
"its important that it gets out… i feel, for some bizarre reason . . . it might actually change something . . . i just… dont wish to be a part of it… at least not now… im not ready…"
In other words, Manning didn't want his name to be known, but he wanted the information to be known. This was, again, what Manning said during a pre-trial hearing:
" [W]e became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan. I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday."
Manning wanted to end wars that the majority of Americans think were wrong ever to have begun, and he helped to end them -- at least in the case of Iraq. He'd had clearly thought out intentions, and they led to the sort of success he'd hoped for, at least to some degree. A full-blown public debate on abolishing the institution of war is yet to come.
The first witness on Wednesday was a therapist who had consulted with Manning while he was in the Army and in Iraq. This man noted that Manning had problems with his occupation, but gave no indication of what that occupation was. Manning was under stress, but the moral crisis discussed in the chat logs was never mentioned. Instead, Manning's lawyer directed the witness to discuss "gender issues." The witness said that Manning had informed him that he was gay, that being openly gay in the military was a violation of the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice), and that such violations were an exception to doctor-patient confidentiality. Neither defense nor prosecution followed up on that. Nor did they ask whether Manning had mentioned any concerns over other violations of the UCMJ of which he had become aware in the course of his duties. Perhaps not turning Manning in for being gay was simply the decent thing to do. But, then, wasn't Manning's effectively turning others in for their more serious abuses also the decent thing to do?
While I might have liked to see Manning choose a jury rather than a judge, hire a different lawyer, and argue for protection as a whistleblower, the defense's case -- on its own terms -- was well done. The prosecution did not manage to respond effectively or even competently. A prosecutor, referring to comments in a chat log, asked the therapist what it would mean if a soldier called other soldiers ignorant rednecks. The witness replied that he couldn't say that he'd never said such a thing himself. The whole room laughed. I clapped. I forgot for a moment about wanting to scream.
The next witness was a therapist hired to work for the defense. He said that Manning suffered fits of rage in the military. Shouldn't he have? If you'd been dropped into the war on Iraq and seen what it was, how would you have most healthily reacted? This therapist believed Manning suffered from gender dysphoria, or gender identity disorder. The whole room seemed to suffer from basic human decency dysphoria. Manning also suffered, the therapist believed, from fetal alcohol syndrome and Asperger's. Manning also, we were told, suffered from narcissism and obsessive-compulsive disorder. These were related, apparently, to his post-adolescent idealism, a state this therapist considered wide-spread and normal, yet not quite acceptable, as it explained Manning's so-called misdeeds. Manning, we heard, had been stressed out over his boyfriend, and as a result of his alcoholic parents. The notion that war could cause stress didn't enter the courtroom.
Was Manning too stressed to appreciate the wrongness of his actions, his own lawyer asked.
The witness took that question and actually turned the discussion toward Manning's whistleblowing in his answer, suggesting that Manning had found injustices and believed he had an oath to uphold by exposing them. This therapist, however, believed that if Manning had had a friend to talk to, he might not have blown the whistle on anything.
How did stress impact his thought process, asked Manning's lawyer. It impaired it, the therapist explained. Manning suffered from Post-Adolescent Idealism (if only that were contagious! I wanted to scream). Manning underestimated how much trouble he'd be in. The worst he believed could happen to him would be separation from the Army, this expert informed us.
Back in the real world in which Manning had written the messages in the published chat logs that exposed him, Manning had had this to say:
"i wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me… plastered all over the world press… as boy . . . i think im in more potential heat than you ever were [speaking to the snitch who turned him in] . . . Hilary Clinton, and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and finds an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format to the public."
What other impressions did the therapist have of Bradley Manning? Well, Manning had a very consistent system of beliefs.
I wonder if the witness knew what Bradley was going to say on the stand in just a few hours.
The prosecution's cross-examination of the first therapist had been so incompetent that even the judge grew fed-up. This second one was no better. The prosecutor managed to get the witness to talk about Manning's supposed narcissism, grandiosity, arrogance, and haughtiness, but the witness described Post-Adolescent Idealism as so widespread as to be considered normal. (Wouldn't that be nice!)
Did Manning know that what he was doing was illegal, the prosecutor asked. Yes, the therapist said. There was no objection from the defense, of course.
Was personal recognition a motive? No.
Would Manning commit the misconduct again? (This was the only moment that bordered on President Obama's much-beloved looking forward.) I don't know, was the answer.
If in the future he saw something that violated his sense of morality would he take action again? Well, he's been pretty consistent with his principles.
Before Manning reversed his principles on the stand, there was one other witness to testify: Manning's older sister. Her testimony was stunning. I nearly cried. A number of people did openly cry. She described a family in which both parents were alcoholics. Her and Bradley's mother was drunk every day, and a mean drunk at that. Their father was nearly as bad. Manning's sister, 11 years older than he, raised him more than anyone else. Their mother drank through her pregnancy with Bradley. He was tiny and underfed. And things got worse as the parents split up, the mother became suicidal, the sister fled. If this testimony were aired on television, people would discuss it -- in tears -- for many months. There would be endless discussions of each tangential topic, including alcohol, fetal alcohol syndrome, child abuse, rural isolation, divorce, older sisters, and -- of course -- whether traitors can be excused because they had bad childhoods.
And yet, I wanted to scream out: Why aren't we analyzing the people who had better or worse childhoods than Manning and all failed to do what he did? What about their mental health? What about their Blind Obedience Disorder?
Manning's sister said that he had calmed down and matured during the past three years. No mention of his naked isolation cell. No mention of the existential threat hanging over him. No mention of how clear-minded and principled he appears to have been back when he was supposedly immature.
Then, Manning made his sworn statement. He said he was sorry his actions had hurt people, despite no evidence having shown that they did. He said he was sorry his actions hurt the United States, whereas clearly his actions benefitted the United States, allowing us much greater access into what our secretive government is doing in our name. Manning questioned how he could have possibly believed he knew better than his superiors.
It's an interesting question. Manning went into the Army in hopes of receiving money for college. He was entering a hostile world. Loyalty to buddies did not overpower loyalty to humanity, in Manning's case, because the Army wasn't his buddies. So, Manning looked at the horrors of war and said to himself: I can shine a light, and that light can fix this. We can, Bradley Manning believed, have a peaceful government of, by, and for the people.
The next and last witness was Bradley's aunt, who told a very sympathetic tale paralleling Bradley's sister's. She concluded by asking the judge to consider Manning's difficult start in life, and the fact that Bradley thought he was doing the right thing when he was not thinking clearly at all.
I never screamed.
I took off my "TRUTH" shirt.
Steve Horn discusses lies, fracking lies, tar-sands lies, and the EPA. Horn is a Madison, WI-based Research Fellow for DeSmogBlog. Steve previously was a reporter and researcher at the Center for Media and Democracy. His writing has appeared on The Guardian, The Nation, AlterNet, PR Watch, Truth-Out, FireDogLake, Common Dreams, CounterPunch, Wisconsin Watch, EcoWatch, PolicyMic, WhoWhatWhy.com, Z Magazine, Climate Connections, Business Insider, The Real News Network, Uganda's Daily Monitor, Modern Ghana, the London Evening Post, and elsewhere.
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Wars exist because lies are told about past wars.
When President Obama escalated the war on Afghanistan, he revived virtually every known lie about the war on Iraq, from the initial WMD BS to the "surge." While Americans remain unfathomably ignorant about the destruction of Iraq, a majority says the war shouldn't have been fought. A majority says the same about the war on Afghanistan. This is, pretty wonderfully, impeding efforts toward a U.S. war on Syria or Iran.
The new wars were supposed to cure the Vietnam Syndrome -- that public reluctance to support mass murder for no good reason. The Pentagon is now turning to the source of the disease. The war in most need of beautification for Americans, the military has decided, is the war the Vietnamese call the American War.
Jody Williams' new book is called My Name Is Jody Williams: A Vermont Girl's Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize, and it's a remarkable story by a remarkable person. It's also a very well-told autobiography, including in the early childhood chapters in which there are few hints of the activism to come.
One could read this book and come away thinking "Anyone really could win the Nobel Peace Prize," if people in fact told their children they could do that instead of telling them they could be president, and if one was thinking of Nobel peace laureates as saintly beings. In a certain sense, of course, anyone can win the Nobel Peace Prize, as it's often given to good people who have nothing to do with peace, and at other times it's given to warmongers. To win the Nobel Peace Prize and deserve it, as Williams did -- that's another story. That requires, not saintliness, but activism.
Activism is usually 99% perspiration and the dedication that drives it, just like genius. But in the case of the Nobel Peace Prize, and of the sort of rapid success it honors when applied in accordance with Alfred Nobel's will, the perspiration is 49%. The other 50% is timing. The activists who recruited Williams to lead the campaign to ban landmines had the timing perfect. Williams tapped into something powerful. She orchestrated some initial successes, communicated the viability and importance of the project, worked night and day, and watched many other people, in many countries, throw themselves into the campaign in a manner that people only do when they believe something will dramatically and rapidly improve the world.
How does one pick the right issue at the right time? Following the example of the land mine campaign, one must pick a topic on which the rest of the world can do some good without the participation of the U.S. government, and in fact succeed despite fierce opposition from the U.S. government, and then drag the U.S. government along, kicking and screaming, once the rest of the world has moved forward.
What strikes me most about the first half or so of Williams' book is how hard we always make it for anyone who wants to work for a better world to find appropriate employment. We dump billions into recruiting young people into the military or into business careers. Imagine if young people had to find those paths on their own. Imagine if television ads and video games and movies and spectacles at big sporting events were all used to recruit young people into nonviolent activism for peace or justice. Williams and many others could have found their way more quickly.
Williams argued with her father over the U.S. war on Vietnam. He began to come around with the exposure of the Gulf of Tonkin incident as fictional, and with the looming threat of a son being drafted -- and no doubt also as a result of Williams' persuasiveness.
What got Williams into full-time paid activism, years later, was a flyer handed to her at a Washington, D.C., metro stop. The headline read: "El Salvador: Another Vietnam?" Eventually, Williams found herself engaged in activist work that "didn't feel like work." I take this to mean that for something to "feel like work" it needed to be a waste of time. Activism, of course, is not. Think about what sort of society we have constructed in which the norm is uselessness.
Finding activism does not, of course, mean finding an easy life. It means sacrifice and risk, but fulfilling sacrifice and risk. Williams risked death and injury in Central America and suffered, among other things, rape. Years later she publicly told that story before an audience of 2,000 as part of The Vagina Monologues. "I felt it was time to use the example to tell women they didn't have to let horrible experiences ruin their lives. I didn't let it ruin mine." She didn't let all sorts of other horrible experiences stop her either.
Once Williams had begun organizing the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), success began coming much more rapidly than she expected. Resistance grew right along with it. Landmines don't kill people, governments said, people kill people. The United States was the worst, proposing to use "smart landmines" that would switch off when wars ended, thus killing the right people but not the wrong ones, killing soldiers but not farmers and children. Williams recounts the way she cursed at and denounced a U.S. diplomat who was trying to persuade her of the merits of "smart landmines." Williams didn't find peace "in her heart" or in her personal interactions in order to advance peace in the world. She advanced peace in the world through passion, and through smart strategy. The people of the world were not prepared to get passionate about working for a ban on dumb landmines. A campaign to ban dumb landmines would have resulted in nothing at all.
Williams gave not an inch in response to then-President Bill Clinton's speeches against landmines, which accompanied his policy in fierce defense of landmines. "Soaring rhetoric does nothing to save lives," she remarked -- a piece of advice of potentially endless value to supporters of President Obama's speeches against his own policies.
Campaigns against landmines developed, with Williams' help, in many countries. In Italy, activists forced the issue into the media and moved the minister of defense to support a ban. They also convinced the trade unions whose members produced landmines for a living to support a ban. Williams participated in a long march to a factory town, where four women workers held up a banner that said "We will not feed our children by making landmines that kill other people's children." Imagine creating a culture in the United States in which people took that step in significant numbers! Maybe it's starting.
The ICBL combined diplomacy with activist pressure. At a meeting with government officials in Geneva, campaigners arranged to have the sound of a landmine explosion projected every 20 minutes, and a counter display the rising count of victims around the world (one every 20 minutes). Photos of victims were displayed. Ads and stickers were everywhere. In France and Austria, campaigners delivered piles of empty shoes to prominent locations. In some African nations, the ICBL helped develop an activist civil society where there hadn't been one.
Williams had to deal with all the usual divisions that arise in a movement. Some objected to the cost of meetings when money was needed for the "real work" of removing landmines. "They somehow managed to avoid understanding that, without the pressure generated by meetings, there would have been little interest in putting up money for mine clearance at all."
In 1996, Canada took the lead in proposing to sign a treaty banning landmines in 1997. Nation after nation committed. But the United States went to incredible lengths to try to sabotage the process. At a meeting in Oslo, activists arranged for diplomats to enter the building through a simulated mine field, and to confront landmine victims when they'd made it in. Pressure was building in the right direction, but "the degree and crudeness of U.S. bullying was hard to fathom."
Williams built momentum for a very clear demand: "no loopholes, no exceptions, and no reservations." But the United States strong-armed nations and just about turned Canada against its own initiative. The ICBL began calling Canada the 51st state. Props mocked Canada even as pro-ban Canadian diplomats passed by. "What the fuck is your government doing?" Williams demanded of a Canadian official. "You started all this! If Canada caves, we will publicly fry your foreign minister."
Then came the Nobel Peace Prize, and Williams famously calling President Clinton a weenie for refusing to support the ban. It was a peace prize that actually helped a movement, and a peace prize whose recipient responded appropriately, rededicating herself to peace.
Then came the treaty to ban landmines. Then came virtually complete compliance with it, including by the United States which has still not signed on.
In her Nobel speech, Williams said this was the first time the leaders of governments had heeded a public demand. That is, of course, not true. Exceptions include August 27, 1928, when the nations of the world banned war. But such an occurrence is very rare, and the question is how to make it happen again. Blinding laser weapons were banned in 1996, and cluster bombs in 2008.
There is a movement now forming to try to ban autonomous drones. There's a parallel there to landmines, if one thinks of both as killing without human discretion. Yet, the family visited by hellfire missiles simply will not care whether a human pressed the button. And the revulsion those living under the drones feel in particular toward unmanned airplanes hardly has room to expand should those drones become autonomous. Drone murders already look like murders, even to many Americans, in a way in which much killing in war does not. Why, I wonder, shouldn't the movement be to ban weaponized drones?
Or should the movement perhaps be to enforce the ban on war? Perhaps somehow partial movements against elements of war should begin advancing an understanding of total abolition along the way. A movement to ban military bases in foreign nations, for example, could be pursued with a fundamentally anti-war philosophy. In any case, we can certainly learn about the best way forward by picking up Williams' book and engaging in a little of that practice that President Obama so despises: looking backwards.
Hammer in hand, one sees nails everywhere. Successful unpunished genocide at home in hand, the Pentagon sees Indian Country on six continents. But don't imagine the U.S. military is finished with the original Indian Country yet, including Native American reservations and territories, and including the places where the rest of us now live.
Compare and contrast:
Exhibit 1 from the New York Times:
"Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent."
Exhibit 2 from a U.S. Army dispatch in 1864:
"All Apache . . . large enough to bear arms who may be encountered in Arizona will be slain whenever met unless they give themselves up as prisoners."
Donald Rumsfeld gave a speech at Fort Carson with cavalry troops on horseback dressed in Indian-killing outfits behind him, as he praised troops in Iraq for living up to the legend of Kit Carson -- a man who marched hundreds of human beings to a camp later used as a model for the Nazis'.
Osama bin Laden was renamed by the U.S. military, Geronimo.
Winona LaDuke's The Militarization of Indian Country tells a history that isn't over, and describes a scene that cannot escape from its past. Like Coleman Smith's and Clare Hanrahan's survey of the militarization of the Southeast, LaDuke's survey of militarized Indian Country piles up numerous outrages to convey a picture of purposeful devastation on a stunning scale.
Many Native Americans live in places called Fort This or Fort That, keeping ever present the concentration camps these places were. They remain among the poorest and most environmentally devastated sacrifice zones in the United States.
"The modern U.S. military," LaDuke writes, "has taken our lands for bombing exercises and military bases, and for the experimentation and storage of the deadliest chemical agents and toxins known to mankind. Today the military continues to bomb Native Hawaiian lands, from Makua to the Big Island, destroying life."
Later, LaDuke summarizes: "From the more than a thousand nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific and the Nevada desert that started in the 1940s, obliterating atolls and spreading radioactive contamination throughout the ocean and across large areas in the American West, to the Vietnam War-era use of napalm and Agent Orange to defoliate and poison vast swaths of Vietnam, to the widespread use of depleted uranium and chemical weaponry since that time, the role of the U.S. military in contaminating the planet cannot be overstated."
In Alaska, 700 active and abandoned military sites include 1,900 toxic hot spots. People forget the seriousness of a failed plan to create a harbor in Alaska by dropping a series of nuclear bombs. Some of the actions that have in fact been taken have been only moderately less destructive than that proposal.
Uranium mines, depleted uranium testing, and nuclear waste storage have done as much or more damage to Indian Country as nuclear bomb testing. U.S. nuclear weapons are largely located in Native American territories, as well. If the Great Sioux Nation were in control of its 1851 treaty areas, LaDuke writes, "it would be the third greatest nuclear weapons power on the face of the earth."
Many Native Americans recognize in current U.S. foreign wars echoes of wars against the Indian nations. And yet, American Indians have the highest military enlistment rate of any ethnic group and the largest number of living veterans (about 22 percent of Native Americans aged 18 or over). "How," LaDuke asks, "did we move from being the target of the U.S. military to being the U.S. military itself?" Native Americans also suffer from PTSD at higher rates than other groups -- supposedly due to higher rates of combat, but just conceivably also because of greater cognitive dissonance.
I admit to finding a little of the latter even in LaDuke's wonderful book. She claims that sometimes there are "righteous reasons to fight." She opposes militarism but wants veterans to be honored. I'm writing this from a national convention of Veterans For Peace where I know numerous veterans would reject the idea that veterans should be honored. What veterans should do is organize more Native Americans and other Americans together into a movement for the abolition of militarism as well as the righting of past wrongs so that they will not any longer be repeated.
If the U.S. public began to raise a fuss about U.S. missile strikes that blow up large numbers of civilians at wedding parties abroad, it's not beyond the realm of the imaginable that the U.S. government would begin blaming the explosions on faulty candles in the wedding cakes. A similarly implausible excuse was used to explain the 1996 explosion of TWA flight 800 off Long Island, New York, and the U.S. public has thus far either swallowed the story whole or ignored the matter.
If you watch Kristina Borjesson's new film, TWA Flight 800, you'll see a highly persuasive case that this passenger jet full of passengers was brought down by missiles, killing all on board.
A CIA propaganda video aired by U.S. television networks fits with none of the known facts, makes the claim that there were no missiles, and offers no theory as to what then did cause the explosion(s) and crash into the sea.
A coverup by the FBI and the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) was blatant and extensive, involving intimidation of witnesses and investigators, tampering with evidence, false testimony before Congress, censoring reports, and numerous violations of normal protocols. Some of the government's own official investigators concluded that the explosion(s) occurred outside the airplane. They were not permitted to write analyses in their reports, as in every other investigation. Their reports were censored. They were forbidden to testify. Some 200 eyewitnesses -- people on the ground and in other planes, at least many of whom described seeing one or more missiles rising from the ground to the airplane -- were censored as well. Not a single witness was permitted to testify at the public hearing.
The military staged a test firing of missiles with witnesses, in an attempt to prove that the witnesses would either not see the missiles or testify inaccurately about what they saw. However, the witnesses all reported seeing the missiles well. The report on this test came to the opposite conclusion of what had been hoped for, but the government fed the original, hoped-for line to the media, which dutifully reported it.
Investigators thought and still think a missile or missiles brought down the plane. Eye-witnesses thought and still think the same. Explosives residue in the plane wreckage and other physical evidence in the wreckage suggests missile(s). Data from several different radars at the time of the disaster show pieces of the plane being blown off at speeds that could only have been generated by high explosives, not by a fuel tank exploding. Radar data also show the plane falling, not rising. (The CIA claimed, without offering any evidence, that the plane rose into the sky as it was exploding, thus accounting for witnesses' reports of seeing objects rising.) The damage to the seats and passengers in the plane was random, not greater closer to a fuel tank.
No more evidence was ever offered for a fuel tank exploding than could be offered in the theoretical fiction of a wedding cake exploding, or -- for that matter -- was ever offered for the Maine having been attacked by the Spanish in Havana harbor or for the Gulf of Tonkin incident having occurred or for the WMDs piling up in Iraq, or than has been offered thus far for the dreaded Iranian nuclear bomb program. There was no wiring near the fuel tank that could have caused it to explode and no other explanation than faulty wiring even hypothesized.
The film concludes that likely three missiles were shot from near the Long Island coast, including at least one from a ship at sea. The film does not address the question of who did this or why. But it presents the evidence that it happened, and that the coverup began immediately, with the disaster site being quickly closed off and guarded by roughly 1,000 police officers, roughly half of them FBI -- not the normal procedure for a plane crash. The likely speculation is, of course, that the U.S. military committed this crime. Was someone on the plane targeted for murder, and everyone else killed in the process? Was this a test of technology? Was it a mistake? Was it part of some larger plot that failed to develop? I don't know.
But I do know that the nation didn't go into a collective state of vicious rabid insanity, demanding vengeance against evildoers who hate us for our freedoms. No nations were destroyed in a sick parody of justice following the destruction of TWA flight 800. But neither were those responsible held publicly accountable in any way.
The New York Times seems impressed by the film and favors a new investigation but laments the supposed lack of any entity that could credibly perform an investigation. Think about that. The U.S. government comes off as so untrustworthy in the film that it can't be trusted to re-investigate itself. And a leading newspaper, whose job it ought to be to investigate the government, feels at a loss for what to do without a government that can credibly and voluntarily perform the media's own job for it and hold itself accountable.
The New York Post, too, takes the film quite seriously, and simply recounts its arguments without adding any commentary other than agreement. But the Daily News offers instead a textbook example of how self-censorship and obedience to authoritarianism work. Here's the complete Daily News review with my comments inserted:
"If you need to get a person's attention fast, just whisper, 'There's something the government isn't telling you.'
"Works every time."
Like the time the NSA claimed to be complying with the Fourth Amendment? Like the time nobody was being tortured in Iraq? Like the time the fracking studies showed no damage to ground water? Like the time drones weren't killing any civilians with their missile strikes?
Sure, there are bound to be times when the government is honest with us. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but it stands to reason that there are. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And it's certainly possible to invent all sorts of fantasies to allege the government to be lying about. I'm not convinced Obama was born in Africa, aliens visited New Mexico, the World Trade Center was blown up from within, or every person who emails me to complain about it is really being zapped with invisible mind-control weapons (for all I know they just watch television and come away feeling like that). But shouldn't we take claims of government deception as possibly right and possibly wrong and follow the evidence where it leads? I'm not willing to swear any of the things I list here isn't true unless evidence establishes that.
"In this case, filmmakers Kristina Borjesson and Tom Stalcup are convinced that ill-fated TWA Flight 800, which exploded over Great South Bay on July 17, 1996, was shot down by a missile."
And does the evidence suggest that they are right or wrong? Should we just pretend to know that they're wrong because the government says so? Yep:
"The original government investigation and later a second probe by the National Transportation Safety Board disagreed. Both concluded the explosion was caused by a spark in the center fuel tank."
Yet they offered no explanation for where such a spark might have come from, or why so many airplanes have been permitted to fly since, in danger of falling victim to such a spark.
"So someone is wrong. But 'TWA Flight 800' says it's more insidious than that. The government also knows it was a missile, the film strongly suggests, and simply chooses to lie. Charges of conspiratorial coverups are as common as jaywalking, of course, but 'TWA Flight 800' has more evidence than most. The advocates here include several original investigators as well as aircraft engineers, transportation and safety experts. There also are a half dozen people, civilians with no agendas, who all say they saw something streaking across the sky toward the plane before it exploded."
Why is that insidious? You don't know whether all these people are right, but the suggestion that they might be is insidious? The film in fact doesn't say the government "simply" chooses to lie. In fact, many in the government choose to speak out, forming much of the basis for the film. Others choose to cover up what happened. Most of them are clearly just following orders. Others must have motivations, but whether those motivations are simple or complex is not touched on in the film -- as this review goes on to acknowledge:
"The film doesn't really address two of the biggest questions raised by most conspiracy charges. First, why would someone cover up the truth, and second, given the number of people involved in this investigation, could they all keep a secret this big for 17 years?"
In fact, they aren't all keeping it secret. Many have been shouting the truth, as they see it, from the rooftops. Others recount why they've kept quiet. One woman explains that she was applying for U.S. citizenship and was threatened that her application would be rejected if she spoke out. The film does not address motivations for the coverup, but let me take a wild stab at doing so: If the U.S. military blew up a passenger jet full of passengers, including U.S. citizens, for no damn good reason, wouldn't we need an explanation for its wanting to go public with that? Doesn't the military's wanting to keep that quiet require no explanation at all? When the Joint Special Operations Command murders Afghan women in a night raid and then digs bullets out of their bodies with knives and claims that they were killed by their families, and then later admits the truth, are we shocked by the routine lies or by the vicious crime? Wouldn't we be more seriously shocked if the U.S. military gratuitously blurted out something true? Wouldn't taking responsibility for TWA 800 be a remarkable act of civic virtue worthy of the record books?
"But the film isn't after 'why.' It just wants to say that a lot of physical and circumstantial evidence points to a missile.
"Toward that goal, it's on target."
It is indeed, though one wouldn't have guessed that from the beginning of this newspaper's review, from media coverage in general, from history books, or from how most people have been conditioned to react to the next suspicious disaster yet to come.
Rooj Alwazir is a Yemeni American peace activist and an organizer and cofounder of the Support Yemen Media Collective: http://supportyemen.org She describes the horror and the disaster that is the U.S. drone war on Yemen.
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Maryland may soon join Oregon in exploring solutions to the crisis of student debt and unaffordable education.
Education is supposed to be a human right. But the United States puts people into deep debt to pay for it. Short of taxing billionaires or dismantling bombers (both of which we're all, I hope, working on), what's the solution?
The state of Oregon has passed a law creating a commission to study a plan called "Pay it forward. Pay it back." See Katrina vanden Heuvel: An Oregon Trail to End Student Debt.
This is not a plan to make education truly free, and that would probably be ideal. But this is not, I think, a step that would move us away from that goal -- in the way that strengthening but tweaking the private health insurance system arguably moves us away from a single-payer solution.
This is, however, a plan that makes college tuition at state universities initially free. Students would pay nothing up-front and borrow nothing from loan sharks. Then they would pay the state back 3% of their income for some number of years, possibly 20. The graduate who brings in $100 million per year would hand over $3 million. The graduate who brings in $10,000 would pay $300. While the purpose of an education for many students may not be related to money, in terms of money one is paying for what one gets. If you buy an unmarketable skill, you pay nothing for it. Some have responded by calling this perfect capitalism, while others have noted its correspondence with the ideal of "from each according to his/her means." This system also seems fair to those not interested in college: they pay nothing.
There are shortcomings, of course. Wealthy users of private universities contribute nothing to public universities under this scheme. Pursuers of high-paying careers might drift in greater numbers toward private universities, if they can afford to. A big investment is need to start this up, and then long-term trust in the public system is needed to keep it going in the face of inevitable pretenses that it's collapsing like Social Security (which -- breaking news! -- is not collapsing). Most importantly, perhaps, the Oregon model covers only tuition. Room and board and books should be included as well, or the problem of student debt won't be solved.
But this is a creative possible step forward that could someday spread to every state and to private institutions as well, which might discover it is needed for them to compete.
RootsAction.org members in every state and Washington, D.C., recently emailed their state legislators by the thousands asking them to set up commissions similar to Oregon's and to seriously pursue solutions to unaffordable education. You can do the same.
Here's the email that's being sent (you can edit it):
"As a constituent, I urge you to consider:
"The state of Oregon has passed a law creating a commission to study a plan called "Pay it forward. Pay it back." Under this plan, tuition at state universities will not be paid upfront or borrowed from loan sharks. Graduates will pay the state back by handing over 3% of their income for some number of years.
"The Oregon model could be improved. As proposed it covers only tuition. Room and board and books should be included as well, or the problem of student debt won't be solved.
"Getting such a program started will take serious investment and political will.
"For our children and our grandchildren, please exercise the sort of leadership needed and move our state toward treating education as a right, not a privilege."
Almost immediately, RootsAction heard from Maryland State Delegate Kirill Reznik who said he had been considering this idea and wanted to move on it now. He sent out this announcement:
"DELEGATE KIRILL REZNIK TO INTRODUCE “PAY IT FORWARD, PAY IT BACK” INITIATIVE IN 2014 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
"(ANNAPOLIS, MD) August 2, 2013 – Following the recent passage of the 'Pay It Forward, Pay It Back' bill that overwhelmingly passed the Oregon State Legislature in July, Delegate Kirill Reznik (D- Germantown) plans to introduce a similar bill in Maryland. If passed, Maryland would become the second state to explore alternative options to the mounting student loan debt epidemic.
"'Pay It Forward, Pay It Back,' is an idea that originated out of a Capstone Seminar on student debt out of Portland State University, generating an innovative solution to student loan debt. Whereby students would go to college tuition free and then give back a small percentage of their gross annual income over the next 20-25 years until their tuition was paid in full. Ironically, Oregon passed the “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back” bill on the same day that Congress voted to double student loan rates.
"Delegate Reznik will be introducing legislation to authorize a study to determine whether or not such an idea will work and how best to roll it out.
"'Receiving a higher education is the most effective way to promote economic mobility. Unfortunately, the cost of education shuts out those opportunities for too many Marylanders. As the State with the best public education system in the country, we should also be on the forefront of expanding higher education. The economic opportunities that will come along with this innovative approach will make Maryland a top destination for business and industry,' said Delegate Reznik.
"Delegate Kirill Reznik is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing the 39th District in Montgomery County. His district includes the areas of Gaithersburg, Germantown, Montgomery Village, Washington Grove, North Potomac and segments of Darnestown, and Derwood. He began serving in the House of Delegates in October 2007, and sits on the Health Government Operations committee. He was currently appointed to serve as the Chair of the County Affairs Committee within the Montgomery County House Delegation."
Now, the question arises: What about your state?!
Harry Truman spoke in the U.S. Senate on June 23, 1941: "If we see that Germany is winning," he said, "we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible."
Did Truman value Japanese lives above Russian and German? There is nothing anywhere to suggest that he did. Yet we debate, every August 6th or so, whether Truman was willing to unnecessarily sacrifice Japanese lives in order to scare Russians with his nuclear bombs. He was willing; he was not willing; he was willing. Left out of this debate is the obvious possibility that killing as many Japanese as possible was among Truman's goals.
A U.S. Army poll in 1943 found that roughly half of all GIs believed it would be necessary to kill every Japanese person on earth. William Halsey, who commanded the United States' naval forces in the South Pacific during World War II, thought of his mission as "Kill Japs, kill Japs, kill more Japs," and had vowed that when the war was over, the Japanese language would be spoken only in hell. War correspondent Edgar L. Jones wrote in the February 1946 Atlantic Monthly, "What kind of war do civilians suppose we fought anyway? We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed lifeboats, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off the enemy wounded, tossed the dying into a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter openers."
On August 6, 1945, President Truman announced: "Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of T.N.T. It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British 'Grand Slam' which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare."Hiroshima was, of course, a city full of people, not an Army base. But those people were merely Japanese. Australian General Sir Thomas Blamey had told the New York Times: "Fighting Japs is not like fighting normal human beings. The Jap is a little barbarian…. We are not dealing with humans as we know them. We are dealing with something primitive. Our troops have the right view of the Japs. They regard them as vermin."
Some try to imagine that the bombs shortened the war and saved more lives than the some 200,000 they took away. And yet, weeks before the first bomb was dropped, on July 13, 1945, Japan sent a telegram to the Soviet Union expressing its desire to surrender and end the war. The United States had broken Japan's codes and read the telegram. Truman referred in his diary to "the telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace." Truman had been informed through Swiss and Portuguese channels of Japanese peace overtures as early as three months before Hiroshima. Japan objected only to surrendering unconditionally and giving up its emperor, but the United States insisted on those terms until after the bombs fell, at which point it allowed Japan to keep its emperor.
Presidential advisor James Byrnes had told Truman that dropping the bombs would allow the United States to "dictate the terms of ending the war." Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal wrote in his diary that Byrnes was "most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in." Truman wrote in his diary that the Soviets were preparing to march against Japan and "Fini Japs when that comes about." Truman ordered the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6thand another type of bomb, a plutonium bomb, which the military also wanted to test and demonstrate, on Nagasaki on August 9th. Also on August 9th, the Soviets attacked the Japanese. During the next two weeks, the Soviets killed 84,000 Japanese while losing 12,000 of their own soldiers, and the United States continued bombing Japan with non-nuclear weapons. Then the Japanese surrendered.
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that,"… certainly prior to 31 December, 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November, 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated." One dissenter who had expressed this same view to the Secretary of War prior to the bombings was General Dwight Eisenhower. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William D. Leahy agreed: "The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender."
Whatever dropping the bombs might possibly have contributed to ending the war, it is curious that the approach of threatening to drop them, the approach used during a half-century of Cold War to follow, was never tried. An explanation may perhaps be found in Truman's comments suggesting the motive of revenge:
"Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, and against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international law of warfare."
Truman doesn't say he used the bomb to shorten the war or save lives. He says he used the bomb because he could. "Having found the bomb we have used it." And he provides as reasons for having used it three characteristics of the people murdered: they (or their government) attacked U.S. troops, they (or their government) brutalized U.S. prisoners, and they (or their government) -- and this is without any irony intended -- oppose international law.
Truman could not, incidentally, have chosen Tokyo as a target -- not because it was a city, but because we (or our government) had already reduced it to rubble.
The nuclear catastrophes may have been, not the ending of a World War, but the theatrical opening of the Cold War, aimed at sending a message to the Soviets. Many low and high ranking officials in the U.S. military, including commanders in chief, have been tempted to nuke more cities ever since, beginning with Truman threatening to nuke China in 1950. The myth developed, in fact, that Eisenhower's enthusiasm for nuking China led to the rapid conclusion of the Korean War. Belief in that myth led President Richard Nixon, decades later, to imagine he could end the Vietnam War by pretending to be crazy enough to use nuclear bombs. Even more disturbingly, he actually was crazy enough. "The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? … I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes," Nixon said to Henry Kissinger in discussing options for Vietnam.
I just want you to think, instead, about this poem:
by Sherwood Ross
I am the Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto
A graduate of Emory College, Atlanta,
Pastor of the Methodist Church of Hiroshima
I was in a western suburb when the bomb struck
Like a sheet of sunlight.
Fearing for my wife and family
I ran back into the city
Where I saw hundreds and hundreds fleeing
Every one of them hurt in some way.
The eyebrows of some were burned off
Skin hung from their faces and hands
Some were vomiting as they walked
On some naked bodies the burns had made patterns
Of the shapes of flowers transferred
From their kimonos to human skin.
Almost all had their heads bowed
Looked straight ahead, were silent
And showed no expression whatever.
Under many houses I heard trapped people screaming
Crying for help but there were none to help
And the fire was coming.
I came to a young woman holding her dead baby
Who pleaded with me to find her husband
So he could see the baby one last time.
There was nothing I could do but humor her.
By accident I ran into my own wife
Both she and our child were alive and well.
For days I carried water and food to the wounded and the dying.
I apologized to them: "Forgive me," I said, "for not sharing your burden."
I am the Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto
Pastor of the Methodist Church of Hiroshima
I was in a western suburb when the bomb struck
Like a sheet of sunlight.
I'm on my way to Madison, Wisconsin, and I hope you are too, and not just for the beer and (veggie) bratwursts. Here are seven other good reasons:
· The Student Power Convergence, Aug. 1-5 (ending now, but folks sticking around).
· The Democracy Convention, Aug. 7-11.
· The Veterans For Peace Convention, Aug. 7-11.
· Marking the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki together with opponents of war.
· The opening of Dirty Wars with after-screening talks with Jeremy Scahill.
· The daily singing and protesting in the state capitol!
· And the big town hall meeting, Aug. 7, on "Illegal Wars, Torture & Spying: Millions Demanded Bush's Impeachment; Should Obama be Impeached for Continuing Bush's Crimes?"
Activists are converging on Madison, allowing for cross-fertilization and creative planning of future actions for peace and justice in the United States. I recently invited Roshan Bliss of the Student Power Convergence, Ben Manski of Democracy Convention, and Doug Rawlings of Veterans For Peace to discuss these events on my radio show, Talk Nation Radio. Click and take a listen.
The town hall on impeachment is, I think, the first of its kind I will speak at since Obama moved into the White House and began continuing the crimes for which a majority of Americans in various polls favored Bush's impeachment. It's not that I've turned down other invitations. It's not that I haven't been invited. This is the first Impeach Obama (for sane reasons) meeting I've heard of. Check it out. Also speaking: Coleen Rowley, Debra Sweet, Buzz Davis, Don McKeating, Joe Elder -- and you if you can make it.
The VFP Convention is the 28th such event. Veterans For Peace, a leading antiwar organization with members in every U.S. state and several other countries, will hold its 28th national convention at the Concourse Hotel at 1 Dayton Street. The convention, open to veterans and non-veterans, will feature speakers, entertainers, and workshops on a wide variety of topics related to the advancement of peace and the abolition of war.
Free public events include:
Lanterns for Peace,commemorating Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Aug. 6, 7-9:30 p.m. Tenney Park Shelter
Poetry Night, Aug. 7, 8-10:30 p.m. Room of One's Own Bookstore, 315 W Gorham Street
Activist Night with national and local speakers, open mic, music, Aug. 8, 7-10 p.m., Concourse Hotel Ballroom
Rally and Peace Parade, families invited, bring peace banners, Aug. 10, 4 p.m., State Street and Capitol Square
Tribute to Lincoln Grahlfs, Aug. 11, 9-11 a.m., Capitol Lakes Retirement Center, 333 West Main Street
Iraq Veterans Against the War Art Exhibit, Aug 7-11, Rainbow Bookstore, 426 W. Gilman Street
Speakers at the VFP convention include:
Elliott Adams, former VFP president, hungerstriker to close U.S. prison at Guantanamo.
Carlos Arredondo, Costa Rican-American peace activist and American Red Cross volunteer.
Leah Bolger,former VFP president, Drones Quilt Project.
Paul Chappell, Iraq War veteran, author, peace leadership director at Nuclear Age Peace Fdtn.
Ben Griffin, UK war resister.
Tarak Kauff, Vietnam War veteran, VFP board member, hungerstriker to close U.S. prison at Guantanamo.
Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
John Kinsman, president of Family Farm Defenders.
Sister Maureen McDonnell, OP, Dominican sister of Sinsinawa and a spiritual guide.
Michael McPhearson, Gulf War veteran, national coordinator of United for Peace and Justice.
Patrick McCann, Vietnam War resister, president of Veterans For Peace.
David Newby, founder of U.S. Labor Against the War and former President of WI AFL-CIO.
Scott Olsen, Iraq War veteran, shot in the head at Occupy Oakland.
John Peck, executive director of Family Farm Defenders.
Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine.
Paul Soglin, mayor of Madison.
Margaret Stevens, VFP board member and Director of the Urban Issues Institute at Essex County College.
Nick Turse, journalist, historian, and author.
Mike Wiggins Jr., tribal chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe.
S. Brian Willson, Vietnam veteran, author, activist, hungerstriker to close U.S. prison at Guantanamo.
Diane Wilson, Vietnam veteran, author, activist, fisherwoman, hungerstriker to close U.S. prison at Guantanamo.
Col. Ann Wright (ret.), recently returned from meeting with families of drone victims in Pakistan.
James Yee, former U.S. Army chaplain at Guantanamo, falsely accused of "aiding the enemy."
Entertainers at the convention will include Lem Genovese, Ryan Harvey, Solidarity singalong, Forward Marching Band, Madison Raging Grannies, Watermelon Slim, Honor Among Thieves, Jim Walktendonk. Also Regis Tremblay will be screening his new film The Ghosts of Jeju. A drones quilt will be displayed during the convention.
Workshops at the VFP convention will include such topics as: Veterans farming, Creating a culture of peace, Educating the community, Agent Orange, Nonviolent bioregional revolutionary strategies, Debt and death: making clear the costs of war, Labor's role, Environmental disaster, the United Nations, Helping homeless veterans, Palestine, Veteran suicide, Military sexual trauma and suicides, Voices of Iraq: resolution, reconciliation, reparation, The written word for peace and reconciliation, Bradley Manning and G.I. resisters, The perversion of just war reasoning, U.S. policy in the Middle East, The long war for central Asia, Building peace in Vietnam, and Abolishing war as an instrument of national policy. The full program is available at http://VFPNationalConvention.org
Gar Alperovitz who authored an important book on the decision to drop the nuclear bombs on Japan will be in town, but he'll be speaking at the Democracy Convention on the topic of worker ownership and how people can create enough power to fix our broken democracy. He recently discussed his new book on Talk Nation Radio. Take a listen. Peter Kuznick, another great writer on the nuclear decision, currently in Japan with Oliver Stone, was also a recent guest. Listen here.
The Democracy Convention is a real movement and coalition building project pulling together activists from a wide variety of sectors to find strength and inspiration in numbers. Several conferences will overlap and interact, including:
Think for a minute about who you'd most like to see leading conferences on those topics. Then click the links, and in most cases I think you'll find that they are doing so! We hope you can join us!
The Democracy Convention website describes Madison thus:
"You've seen the images and reports of the mass protests in Madison. The Wisconsin uprising was the first wave of the global anti-austerity protests to arrive in the United States. But it should be no surprise that Madison, Wisconsin, is at the center of the national movement against corporate power and economic austerity.
"Since Wisconsin statehood, in the revolutionary year of 1848, Madisonians have led the way, co-founding and leading the National Organization for Women (NOW), United States Student Association (USSA), United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), Sierra Club, American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and four national political parties: the early, radical Republican Party, and then later, the Progressive Party of the 1920-30s, and the New Party and Green Party. Madison, Wisconsin, has long served as the capital city of the heartland of the progressive movement.
"Today, the Madison Common Council and Dane County Board are populated with progressive alders and supervisors, and a newly returned mayor, Paul Soglin, famous for his progressive leadership as mayor in the 1970s. Madison is a labor city with a very high density of union membership, as well as a center of the cooperative and credit union movements; nearly half the population of Madison belongs to some form of cooperatively owned and operated economic enterprise.
"If you've ever visited Madison in late August, you know you're in for great weather in a wonderful city. Join us this August 7-11 in downtown Madison, near the now world-famous Wisconsin State Capitol, easily one of the most stunning buildings in North America. In visiting, you will have the opportunity to take part in our downtown farmers market, one the world's largest, and the nation's oldest. You can also take some time off on the shores of one of Madison's four (or five, depending on how you count them) major lakes. If you've been wanting to return to Madison and Wisconsin, or to visit for the first time, August 7-11 will be the time to do that."
If John Kerry was beating his children and promising to stop "very very soon" and then explaining that he meant "very very soon" in a geological sense, he'd be forced to resign his office.
If we even discovered that John Kerry had once beaten one of his children, even many years ago, perhaps shortly after he returned from killing people in Vietnam, he'd be forced to resign.
Imagine if we were to discover that John Kerry was actually murdering children, and women, and men, using missiles shot out of flying robots and promising to stop "very very soon" and explaining that what he meant by that was "I'd like to see you try to stop me you goddamn primitive Pashtun peons."
Would we respond?
We didn't respond when he claimed Bush won Ohio. How'd that work out?
What if we were about to consider possibly responding, and maybe even growing indignant, and John Kerry stood up on a pile of corpses and screamed "Wolf! Giant ass wolf right behind you! Arabic speaking wolf! Wolf! Wolf!"
And what if he added, "The safest thing for you to do now is to go shopping. But try not to get blown up. What? You don't believe me? Look, here are all the details of what the terrorists are planning. If Bradley Manning gave you this kind of information, I'd hang him by his ears and get a red hot poker with one of those . . . . I mean, the point is very very soon I'm going to stop killing people. Not very soon, but very very soon."
Would we react with the outrage we'd achieve if John Kerry drove drunk? if John Kerry smoked pot? if John Kerry had sex with someone not his wife? if John Kerry promised never to nuke Iran?
Are we sure we've got our priorities straight?
It's been months since Obama gave a speech on prison victims and drone victims. Since then no prisoners have been freed, Obama's drones have kept killing, and people who cheered for Obama's speech are ready to cheer for John Kerry's.
As our global Zimmermen stand their ground, we need to step in. Addicts who oppose their own addictions -- be they to caffeine or hellfire missiles -- are ready to take the next step in shaking the habit.
John Kerry needs an intervention.
If he were beating his wife, we'd advise her to leave. So, we must advise the world's governments. Stop putting makeup over your bruises and covering up for your abuser. The time has come to walk away. You don't need any more drone strikes. John Kerry does not love you and he never will.
There was once a time, from the birth of the nation to the birth of the internet, when the U.S. government could tell the Native Americans or the Mexicans or the Filipinos one thing, and the good citizens back home something else.
The Washington Post can compare innocent prisoners in Guantanamo with Nazis, but not without the world recognizing the extent of the sickness from which the U.S. establishment is suffering.
A 16 year old American boy murdered by presidential drone has a grandfather who is suing in court to find out why his grandson was killed.
I am confident he'll receive an answer very very soon.
Remarks at the War Resisters League's 90th Year Convention at Georgetown University, August 2, 2013.
Congratulations on 90 years! The War Resisters League is almost as old as the Espionage Act and may outlast it yet.
So I sat down yesterday to think about what connects global hot spots, and the first obvious answer I thought of for a great many of them was the United States military. By some strange coincidence numerous war-torn places on the globe have been given or sold weapons or sent troops or been visited by airplanes or drones courtesy of the same nation that spends the most on its military, keeps the most troops stationed in the most countries, engages in the most conflicts, sells the most weaponry to others, and thumbs its nose most blatantly at the use of courts to restrain its warmaking or even, any more, to put individuals on trial who can just as easily be hit with a hellfire missile. When I heard that our government had set up an atrocities prevention board, I immediately pictured a 2x4 being stuck through the door handles at the Pentagon to keep the place closed. That would truly be an atrocities prevention board.
(Is that espionage to say that, or have people heard of 2x4s before?)
I've been working on a book about abolishing war, and most of those writing on the subject who think it can't be done, and those who think it can, and those who think war is already abolishing itself so there's really nothing to worry about, all tend to treat war as arising out of poor nations of dark skinned people. So the debates over whether this factor or that factor makes war inevitable focus on things like resource scarcity or population density. The evidence is overwhelming, by the way, that no such factor makes war inevitable. Missing from the debate are the factors contributing most significantly to war-making right now: the power of the military industrial complex, the skill of propagandists, the open bribery and corruption of our politics, and the perversion and impoverishment of our educational and entertainment and civic engagement systems that lead so many people in the United States to support and so many others to tolerate a permanent state of war in search of enemies and profits despite decades-long demonstrations that the war machine makes us less safe, drains our economy, strips away our rights, degrades our environment, distributes our income ever upward, debases our morality, and bestows on the wealthiest nation on earth miserably low rankings in life-expectancy, liberty, and the ability to pursue happiness.
None of these factors are insurmountable, but we won't surmount them if we imagine the path to peace is to impose our superior will on backward foreigners by means of cluster bombs and napalm meant to prevent atrocities.
According to the standards of a White House fact sheet posted on April 23, 2012, and addressing nations guilty of atrocities, if the standards were consistently applied, then actions taken by the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and other countries should compel the U.S. government to sanction itself, deny itself entry into itself, surge civilians from the State Department and USAID into itself, write reports about itself, block the flow of money to itself, prosecute itself for its crimes, seek to have itself prosecuted internationally, and unleash its military against itself as needed. The same standards seem to require action against Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and numerous other nations where the United States chooses to support atrocities rather than dropping new atrocities from the sky to prevent the existing ones. In fact, it seems the United States has a moral responsibility to join in on both sides of the war in Syria, given the horrors each side has by now committed, and the responsibility the war machine believes it has to wage war against anyone waging war.
We are a nation of misconceptions. A majority of people in the United States believes Iraq benefitted from the war that destroyed Iraq. And a plurality believes the Iraqis are grateful. Those who admit that the weapons of mass destruction were fictional claim the U.S. still needed to overthrow Saddam Hussein, even though Bush reportedly told the Prime Minister of Spain that Hussein had offered to leave if he could keep $1 billion. He'd also offered to withdraw from Kuwait before the previous war. And even further back in the mists of time, the U.S. government had supported and armed him.
Not only did the U.S. government not need to overthrow Hussein, not only could it have refrained from supporting him in the first place, but overthrowing a government is a crime, war is a crime, and these wars are one-sided slaughters. Iraq lost 1.4 million men, women, and children at best estimate. U.S. deaths were 0.3% of the deaths, yet people in the U.S. think they suffered while Iraq benefitted. As important as it is for Americans to hear about financial costs and costs to U.S. troops, which are certainly horrendous, we're going to have to do a better job of spreading the news about the costs to the wars' victims. Those reluctant to invade Syria because the Syrians aren't worth it will be ready to support the next war if a case is made that it's in U.S. interests.
What ended the war in Iraq, after eight years of efforts by Iraqis and five years or so by a significant U.S. peace movement, wasn't the Nobel laureate in the White House pushing Iraq to allow U.S. personnel to stay in Iraq with immunity from prosecution for the crimes they would commit. What helped the Iraqi government to reject those demands was the evidence of past murder and torture made public by a heroic young man named Bradley Manning.
If you want Manning to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, go to ManningNobel.org.
You know, we could be far better off ourselves in this country and make ourselves the most beloved people in the world at the same time. We could do it by practicing democracy rather than preaching it. We could end starvation around the globe for a year, for a third of what we just spent for year #13 of the supposedly winding down war in Afghanistan still scheduled to go on for longer than most wars used to take from beginning to end. We could give the world clean drinking water for a third of what it cost us to keep kids from starving. Al Qaeda is gaining popularity in places like Yemen where it was barely heard of before by opposing U.S. drone strikes and by providing basic services to people. The United States has the resources, if it could find the humility to distribute them respectfully, to make itself remarkably popular by coating the globe with schools and hospitals and solar panels.
I'm tired of hearing that such things would cost money. We're building the world's largest building in Utah dedicated purely to violating the Fourth Amendment. We're putting drone blimps in the skies above Washington. If anybody has a War Resisters League pie chart on them, I can point out exactly where the money would come from, and the billions extra that we could set aside for the things we'll become capable of imagining only after war is gone.
Down in Charlottesville VA we passed a city resolution against drones as at least three other cities have done since, and we quickly formed a coalition that included people who don't want to be spied on and people who don't want to murder foreigners. I think some of the peace activists came to value the need to avoid getting spied on. And I think some of the libertarians, civil and otherwise, came to understand the need to stop the president from picking men, women, and children to murder at meetings every Tuesday. We didn't tone anything down. We welcomed everything in.
That's what I think abolition movements should do. That's where the passion is. We don't need to civilize war into a process that will supposedly someday exclude every crime but murder. We need to put an end to murder along with all of the other abuses it inevitably drags along in its wake.
A weapons profiteer on National Pentagon Radio was asked what he would do if the occupation of Afghanistan were to end, and he replied that he hoped there could be an occupation of Libya. He was clearly joking. But had he joked about molesting children or practicing racism his comments would not have aired. Joking about a new war has not yet been made offensive. It is not yet understood as joking about mass murder.
I don't think it need take 90 more years. I think we're closer than ever. But I think we're going to have to resist harder the closer we get.
We've managed to outgrow or to come within sight of outgrowing cannibalism, slavery, blood feuds, duels, capital punishment, child labor, tar and feathering, the stocks and pillory, wives as chattel, the punishment of homosexuality, and listening to Rush Limbaugh. To various degrees, these practices -- and many others -- have been eliminated or reduced and stigmatized.
While the stupidest practice ever created -- the mass killing known as war -- remains, we've seen most of the world ban poison gas, land mines, cluster bombs, biological weapons, depleted uranium, napalm, white phosphorous, and other disgusting weaponry. But the worst weapon of all remains, and the treaty requiring its reduction and elimination is completely ignored.
We've begun learning to avoid long-lasting environmental damage. We try not to poison our fruit trees or our grass or our rivers. But when it comes to damage that lasts longer than humanity has existed, we go right on producing it. And in so doing, we contribute to a slowly building crisis that could soon slip out of humanity's control and eventually remove humanity from existence. Meanwhile, Pandora's Propaganda tells us that nuclear energy -- the same stuff that proliferates the weaponry -- will help the earth's climate rather than hurting it.
Uh huh. And blood-letting and lobotomy will heal what ails you.
Except that they won't. And we've come to admit and accept that and to move on. We don't fund lobotomies. Why must we fund nuclear energy? And don't say: because television can replace lobotomies but will never reproduce Fukushima.
Here's something you can do to help: Set up a screening of this new film: The Ultimate Wish: Ending the Nuclear Age.
The Ultimate Wish is the wish for a world without nukes. This is a film that connects Fukushima to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Here we watch a survivor of Nagasaki meet a survivor of Auschwitz. And it strikes us with crystalline clarity that they are both victims of incredible stupidity and cruelty. We completely set aside the fact that the holocaust was created by bad German lies about a master race while the dropping of the bombs was created by good U.S. lies about ending World War II and starting the Cold War. The politics fades, and we're left with the human species treating itself as even ants would never treat their fellow ants.
In The Ultimate Wish, produced by Robert Richter and Kathleen Sullivan, we see nuclear survivors in classrooms speaking with young people. One teacher asks the students to close their eyes. She drops a single ball bearing into a metal pan, the noise meant to represent all the bombs of World War II, all the bullets, all the grenades, even the two nuclear bombs. Then, to represent the nuclear weapons now in existence, she dumps a whole noisy bag of ball bearings.
A large coalition has issued the following appeal:
Do you want to reach thousands on August 9 with our message on the need for the Obama administration to engage in multilateral negotiations now for a nuclear free future?
Thousands will see the message below on all of our Facebook pages and Twitter accounts on August 9 at 11:02 a.m., the time the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki:
Aug 9 1945 US A-bombed Nagasaki. Pres #Obama: Speak out at Sept 26 UN Nuclear Disarmament Summit! #NoMoreNagasakis http://nuclearfreefuture.org
How do you join the Thunderclap? Click on this link http://thndr.it/13ioRhC and sign up.
And on August 9 the message will automatically be sent to all your friends and supporters.
Not a bad idea, huh? Try to reach some of your non-friends and non-supporters too.
UPDATE: Link for the film: http://www.newday.com/films/
I've been working, on behalf of the producers, with peace groups around the country to spread the word about this film, and the feedback has been incredibly encouraging. I've led discussions at the conclusion of the film in DC and Norfolk and Charlottesville.
I'll be leading a Q&A following the 7:10 p.m. screening on Friday July 26 in Baltimore at the Charles Theater, 1711 North Charles Street, 410-727-FILM.
Dirty Wars may be one of the best educational outreach opportunities the peace movement has had in a long time. The film is about secretive aspects of U.S. wars: imprisonment, torture, night raids, drone kills.
Dirty Wars won the Cinematography Award for U.S. Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival 2013 and the Grand Jury Prize at the Boston Independent Film Festival. Variety calls it "jaw-dropping ... [with] the power to pry open government lockboxes." The Sundance jury said it is "one of the most stunning looking documentaries [we've] ever seen."
Dirty Wars makes a powerful case that U.S. wars, aside from all of their known drawbacks, actually make the United States less safe. Dirty Wars also makes real the humanity of our wars' victims. A great deal of activism has been generated by this film.
Please bring people to see the movie who have not been actively engaged in trying to end warmaking. The discussion afterwards will be open to questions and comments from any and all points of view.
As I head off to a rally for Trayvon Martin, I notice a column by Bob Koehler in which he says the unpaid work of slaves in the United States is now estimated at $1.4 trillion. Oddly, that's not terribly far from the $1.2 trillion or so, possibly more now, that we spend each year preparing for and fighting wars. If we abolished war we could perhaps afford to compensate descendants of those victimized by slavery. If we abolished prisons, we'd have at least another $100 billion. And, of course, we'd have all those savings again the next year and the next year and the next year.
Diana Zuniga is statewide coordinator for CURB, Californians United for a Responsible Budget: CurbPrisonSpending.org She discusses the hunger strike in California prisons and the ongoing struggle to resist further expansion of mass incarceration, and to move our society in a healthier direction.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
After nearly 12 years, the House is on the verge of a historic vote that would put a nail in the coffin of George W. Bush's War on Terror. The legal foundation for what has become a global, endless war is the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). Later today the House will vote on an amendment by Congressman Adam Schiff that would bar any funds from being spent on the 2001 AUMF after December 31, 2014, when the war in Afghanistan is scheduled to conclude. This vote is the first time Congress will vote on repealing the 2001 AUMF and it is going to happen this afternoon! Your Member of Congress needs to hear from you!
Take 30 seconds and call your Member of Congress now!
Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Member of Congress. Then tell them:
"I'm calling today to ask you to support the Schiff amendment #73 to the Defense Appropriations Act. After more than 12 years of war, it is time to repeal the AUMF. Thank you."
More than a decade ago, Congress responded to the attacks of 9/11 by passing the 2001 AUMF. No one could have imagined what would be done over the next 12 years allegedly under that authority. From drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen to special forces operations in the Phillipines, the AUMF has been interpreted to allow for a global, endless war against not just Al Qaeda but countless other groups, many of whom have no intention of attacking America. Congressman Schiff's amendment would simply say that after the war in Afghanistan ends in 2014, the AUMF will come to an end. America would still have ample ability to defend ourselves and protect our interests, but there would no longer be a sweeping legal authority to go to war anywhere, at anytime, against nearly anyone in the world.
Tell your Member of Congress you support ending the AUMF. Call at (202) 224-3121 now!
Thank you for working for peace,
-Stephen, Tom, and the Win Without War Team