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Written for the forthcoming collection, "Why Peace?"
More than any other description, except for perhaps husband and father, I have been for the past six years a peace activist. Yet, I hesitate on the question of how to tell my personal story of experience with war. I recently visited Afghanistan briefly, in order to speak with people who have experienced war. I've spoken with many U.S. soldiers and non-U.S. victims of war. But I have no experience of war. Being in Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, doesn't change that; by the time a crime had been transformed into a war, the war had been moved elsewhere.
Tuesday marks 150 years since the start of the U.S. Civil War. Newspapers everywhere are proclaiming it the deadliest war in U.S. history, the costliest U.S. war in terms of the loss of human life. That claim, like most things we say about the Civil War, is false.
Most humans, it will surprise our newspapers to learn, are not U.S. citizens. World War II killed 100 times as many people as the U.S. Civil War, with World War I not far behind. U.S. wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq are among those that have killed far more human beings than the Civil War killed.
The South, we're told, merely wanted to be independent; slavery had nothing to do with it. Of course, this is nonsense. The South wanted to be independent in order to maintain slavery.
In an electoral system corrupted by money, media, and parties, the U.S. people are offered a choice every four years between two hideously awful candidates for an office that increasingly resembles an imperial throne. And increasingly the primary motivation of voters is to oppose the candidate they believe is the greater evil.
By David Swanson, Truthout
Kabul, Afghanistan - The United States, on the verge of shutting down its own government for lack of funds, just forked over another $50 million for a peace jirga (or council) to negotiate peace in Afghanistan or at least sponsor an upcoming conference in the United Arab Emirates and - perhaps more so - bribe Taliban fighters to temporarily stop fighting.
In the good old days of Bybee and Yoo, before we let them get away with it, thereby guaranteeing worse things to come, Justice Department memos "legalizing" the crime of aggressive war were secret. Now they're published quickly, and there's a new one out on Libya (PDF). It begins:
"The President had the constitutional authority to direct the use of military force in Libya because
he could reasonably determine that such use of force was in the national interest. Prior congressional approval was not constitutionally required to use military force in the limited operations under consideration. April 1, 2011."
April Fools! Ha Ha! They had me going.
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- I joined a delegation of Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers for a meeting with interested professors at a private university in Kabul on Wednesday.
After a presentation from our side, the professors each spoke in turn. Unlike some previous meetings, there were no real denunciations of the very idea of peace. But the first professor to speak, the ony woman in the group, explained how horrible the wars of the past 40 years had been, all of which she blamed -- reasonably enough -- on the United States. During the civil war, she said, nine groups divided up and fought over Kabul. Not a living thing could be seen in the streets. So, people welcomed the Taliban for security even if they had to give up schools. They were focused on living through the night. She wanted peace, but would simply not stand for any negotiating with the Taliban.
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- I've been fortunate to meet some very talented photographers and film-makers here in Afghanistan. We're planning an Afghan Film Festival for the United States this fall.
One film director Sahraa Karimi has produced an engaging and illuminating documentary called "Afghan Women Behind the Wheel." When she told me the title with a bit of an accent, I thought the last word was "Veil." It could almost as well have been. The film is about the limited rights and options of women in a country that is not just poor and war-ravaged, but in which many men passionately believe women to be inferior.
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- Afghanistan is full of wonderful people and could be a really terrific place to live. But first my government back home in the United States would have to stop murdering civilians over here.
I can't join in antiwar rallies over here, where I would be happy to speak against the crimes of my own government, because it's not considered safe for foreigners, especially Americans, to go near such scenes. Why? Well, imagine if this were happening in the United States and a citizen of the nation responsible were to come visiting:
A definite pattern has been established of killing civilians from the air and on the ground.
The United States has made clear its intention to continue and escalate this behavior.
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- In honor of April 4, 1967, and April 4, 1968, when Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke out against war and when he was killed, I spent my first full day in Afghanistan on April 4, 2011, avoiding violence and discussing nonviolent activism with those practicing it here.
The previous night I had spoken with a number of foreign aid and development workers here in Kabul, all of whom were upset, both at Afghans who in recent days had killed workers like themselves and at a preacher in Florida whose burning of a Koran had enraged Taliban types from a safe distance. Attacks in multiple cities on April 1st and 2nd looked planned and coordinated. April 3rd saw a nonviolent protest in Jalalabad, where Badshah Khan, the great nonviolence leader of the past century, is buried.
DUBAI, UAE -- I was on my way to Afghanistan and have delayed the final leg of the trip a day to see whether being American is compatible with not getting blown up. The problem seems to be that, in addition to the U.S. military occupying the country for almost a decade and routinely murdering random innocent people, some bigoted jerk in Florida is creating a big stink about how much he hates Islam and enjoys burning copies of the Koran.
The Koran-burning preacher claims that he's just burned a book, not killed anyone. Of course, nothing excuses those who actually engage in killing, no matter what inspired their rage. But the preacher hasn't just burned a book. He's preached hatred. He's added deep insult to injury. The results were predictable, or at the very least are predictable now, while he shows no sign of relenting.
So President Obama has been quoted calling his war in Libya a turd sandwich, while Juan Cole calls it philanthropy, and Ed Schultz praises it as vengeance against this month's Adolph Hitler. The last time we bombed this particular Hitler we took out his daughter, among other people.
How is Schultz's spitting mad hatred as war justification squared with Cole's humanitarian generosity? The answer is easy. They prefer different condiments on their turd sandwiches. Which is why wars are always packaged in multiple and mutually contradictory propaganda campaigns.
From Black Agenda Radio
Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, at Champaign, says the U.S. is involved in an “all-out war” of “plunder and aggression” in Libya. “This is the first major outright power grab by the United States and the major colonial, imperial powers against Africa in the 21st century," says Boyle.
“Humanitarian” Bombing Bogus
David Swanson, peace activist and publisher of the we site “War Is A Crime,” says President Obama’s claims that “humanitarian” motivation is nonsense. “If there were an Obama doctrine that said: Where there is a humanitarian crisis, we’re going to go bomb people, we’d be bombing our own puppet dictators.”
Western Military Occupation Likely
“When the U.S. invades another country, which happens frequently, we generally leave U.S. military bases there,” says Marjorie Cohn, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, in San Diego. “The countries who are bombing Libya don’t really know who the opposition is,” says Cohn. “It could be al Qaida.”
Whose Interests Are Served?
Ali Ahmida, an historian of Libya and chairman of the political science department at the University of New England, is generally sympathetic to the rebels. But, he worries that the revolt could be “hijacked for other people’s agendas.”
Obama’s Haiti Policy is “Deeply Cynical”
Haiti’s recent presidential elections, which offered a choice of only two rightwing candidates and for which only about a quarter of the population turned out, will produce a government that has “absolutely no constitutional or popular credibility.” Brian Concannon, Jr., of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, calls President Obama’s claim that the U.S. is bringing democracy to Haiti is “deeply cynical.”
Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network is hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey. A new edition of the program airs every Monday at 4:00pm ET on PRN. Length: One hour.
President Obama on Monday said he would "never hesitate" to use the U.S. military "unilaterally" to defend "interests" and "values," including "maintaining the flow of commerce." Fear of exactly that led the founders of this republic to give Congress the exclusive power to declare war. James Madison did not believe any single individual could be trusted with such power:
"The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast, ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venal love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace."
War Is A Lie on David Feldman Comedy Radio
David Swanson, author of War Is A Lie, talks about Libya. Along with Robert Smigel, Mark Thompson, Andy Caploe, Jackie Kashian, Chris Pina and Jane Edith Wilson.Written by Steve Rosenfield, Ben Zelevansky, Mark Thompson, Kevin Rooney, Robert Smigel and Andy Caploe. War Is A Lie can be purchased by going to WarIsALie.org
Lawrence Kaplan of TNR just explained why we have to bomb Libya
I'm about to be on to correct him
- Saturday, March 26th at 1pm (ET)
- Sunday, March 27th at 1am (ET)
2011 Virginia Festival of the Book Panel: "The Imperial Presidency"
Bruce Fein; David Swanson
About the Program
David Swanson, author of "War Is A Lie," and Bruce Fein, author of "American Empire Before the Fall," take a critical look at the U.S.'s role and actions around the world. This event was part of the 2011 Virginia Festival of the Book, held annually in Charlottesville, Virginia.
About the Authors
David Swanson is the co-founder of AfterDowningStreet..org and Washington director of Democrats.com. He is the author of "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." For more, visit: davidswanson.org.
Bruce Fein was Associate Deputy Attorney General and general counsel to the Federal Communications Commission under President Reagan. He is the author of "Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy."
From Jason Linkins
QUESTIONER: "I have a great fear that say you're elected as the nominee of the party. Next August sometime during the summer, Dick Cheney and George are going to bomb Iran."
BIDEN: "Legitimate concern."
QUESTIONER: "What can you do about it?"
BIDEN: "I am not one, who if you've observed me for some time, I am not one who's engaged in excessive populist rhetoric. I'm not one that pits the rich against the poor. I'm not one who's gone out there and made false threats against presidents about, and god love him he's a great guy, I'm not Dennis Kucinich saying impeach everybody now. But let me tell you, I have written an extensive legal memorandum with the help of a group of legal scholars who are sort of a stable of people, the best-known constitutional scholars in America, because for 17 years I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
"I asked them to put together [for] me a draft, which I'm now literally riding between towns editing, that I want to make clear and submit to the Untied States Senate pointing out the president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran. And I want to make it clear, I want it on the record, and I want to make it clear, if he does, as chairman of the foreign relations committee and former chair of the judiciary committee, I will move to impeach him."
I may soon have an opportunity to meet with nonviolent activists in Afghanistan, an area of the world we falsely imagine has earned the name "graveyard of empires" purely through violent resistance. I was educated in the United States and learned in some detail about the lives of several morally repulsive halfwits who happened to have "served" in various U.S. wars, assaults, and genocides. But I was never even taught the name Badshah Khan. Were you?
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, 1890-1988, was given the honorary title Badshah by the people of what was then the northwest frontier of India, much as his friend and ally further south, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was given the title Mahatma. Khan was a Pashtun, or Pathan, as are many members of the Taliban today.
Congress held an emergency meeting to defund NPR, and then did nothing as the President spent vastly more money on bombing Libya. President Obama didn't have to ask for the funding, because the Pentagon had enough lying around for just such an occasion.
A fundamental lie that keeps war going is the idea that we avoid war by preparing for it. "Speak softly and carry a big stick," said Theodore Roosevelt, who favored building a big military just in case, but of course not actually using it unless forced to.
This worked out excellently, with the few minor exceptions of Roosevelt's mobilization of forces to Panama in 1901, Colombia in 1902, Honduras in 1903, the Dominican Republic in 1903, Syria in 1903, Abyssinia in 1903, Panama in 1903, the Dominican Republic in 1904, Morocco in 1904, Panama in 1904, Korea in 1904, Cuba in 1906, Honduras in 1907, and the Philippines throughout Roosevelt's presidency.
This speech was given in Wilmington, Delaware, on March 20, 2011. Dahlia Wasfi and Dave Lindorff spoke as well and then the three speakers took questions together. (See additional videos.) The event was organized by June Eisley and sponsored by Pacem in Terris.
By Patrick Kennelly
Three years ago in Bamiyan, a western province of Afghanistan, a multiethnic group of university students gathered for a three month workshop on peacemaking. The group of young leaders met weekly ultimately concluding that peace is impossible in Afghanistan. Undeterred by their conclusion these young people asked: “What do we do to change this reality?”
In answering this question the students decided two critical issues needed to be addressed. First, how do you calm the enflamed ethnic tensions that plague the country? Second, how do you create a culture of peace in a society where the pursuit of peace is associated with wide scale violence and killing?
The university students realized that the decades of war and subsequent exodus of different ethnic groups fleeing conflict upset the power balance and ignited ethnic tensions. In order to tackle this issue the students brought together other students from the over twenty ethnic groups that comprise Afghanistan’s population. They divided into small groups to experiment with communal living. They hoped that by forming community they could restore some of the trust that has been destroyed by the conflict and help each other overcome their fear of others. This project lasted several weeks but then broke down into accusations and conflicts ending with death threats. The project was disbanded and some of the students left the region.
Speaking and singing on March 18, 2011, on need to protest war at the White House at noon on March 19 and at Quantico Marine Base where Bradley Manning is tortured at 2 pm on March 20.
Washington, D.C., Busboys and Poets Restaurant.
Video by Kevin Zeese.
Note: Great speeches by Elaine Brower, Chris Hedges, Eduardo Vargas, Michael Otterman, Andy Shallal, et alia, not picked up by video camera.
Usually "power couple" describes two plutocrats, but here is a young engaged (to be married) (and in the struggle for justice) couple with the power to move people against war, that leaves the audience asking them to speak in their schools. Wasfi is an Iraqi American who speaks of war from the point of view of its victims. Caputi is a US veteran of the current war on Iraq who describes the crimes he engaged in and the thinking that allows such acts, including what he describes as "reconnaissance by fire" (shooting up houses as a means of determining whether anyone is in them) and the ability of the human mind to rationalize killing people on behalf of the people being killed.
Random Row Bookstore
March 17, 2011
Video by David Swanson