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After years of mismanagement, the Tribune Company newspapers -- including the Chicago Tribune and L.A. Times -- are up for sale. And one of the potential buyers? The Koch brothers. And wow are people outraged!
Yes, it's those Koch brothers:the billionaire businessmen who run Koch Industries, a sprawling multinational corporation involved in everything from oil to fertilizer to paper towels. But you probably know the Koch brothers for how they spend their considerable wealth: bankrolling right-wing political causes like the Tea Party movement, and funneling millions of dollars to front groups and politicians devoted to their anti-regulatory, anti-labor, and pro-corporate ideology. The Kochs have spent millions propping up climate-change deniers, and have been instrumental in funding ALEC, the powerful business lobby that pushes corporate-friendly policies at the state level.
What would the Kochs do with a few major newspapers? They would push public opinion and public despair further to the right and further into the depths. This is why taxing billionaires is not a policy driven by greed or jealousy or even the desire to put vast sums of riches to good use. Taxing billionaires is necessary if we are going to have representative government. We talk about "freedom of the press." Never mind government surveillance of reporters' phone records. Never mind the prosecutions of whistleblowers and journalists. If billionaires can dominate our communications system with what to them amounts to pocket change, while we blog dissent to people who believe nothing that doesn't appear on Tee-Vee or in a corporate paper, whose freedom of the press is it?
Some recent reports indicate that many L.A. Times staffers would consider leaving the paper if it were purchased by the Kochs -- which is probably music to their cost-cutting ears. Better than staff promising to quit is subscribers promising to unsubscribe:
"I will cancel my subscription and so will family members. We have no need for propaganda dictated by far right-wing spoiled billionaires with an anti-citizenry, pro 1% agenda. This will be the death of your struggling paper in a town that once had a proud history of journalism. It's a disgrace."
That comment was posted with a signature on this petition. Here are some more:
"If you want to increase the circulation of the New York TIMES in Los Angeles, let the Koch brothers buy the Los Angeles TIMES."
"No Koch news!!!"
"If the Koch brothers get their hands on your paper, it will only be useful as tp."
"Don't give up the integrity of your company for a measley few bucks."
"I refuse to continue my newspaper subscription if the Koch Brothers buy the Tribune. I boycott their other products so I will do the same if they buy the Tribune."
"If you sell to the Koch brothers, you can remove us from your subscription list!!"
"Don't let your long tradition of fair reporting be purchased away."
"Koch purchase is a bad deal for our nation!!!!!!!!!!!!"
"Keep the corporate greed off of our free press!"
"Selling out to the Koch's will pretty much put the kabosh on the 4th Estate's duty to afflict the comfortable."
"If the Koch Brothers take over, you'll lose this loyal reader of the Chicago Tribune forever."
"What an ignoble end to two fine papers known for excellence it would be if the Koch Bros. became the new owner. Forget about fairness and accuracy; the papers would simply become the latest bullhorn from which Charles and David would spew their propaganda. Has it come to this? Please don't sell."
"I am producer/director of Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press. Seldes worked 10 years for the Chi Tribune as a foreign correspondent when their foreign press corps was one of the best in the world! Remember with pride that high-quality journalism of the early Twentieth Century and don't sell out!"
"This country is going in the wrong direction, don't help it."
"As a Chicago Tribune subscriber, I can say we will no longer subscribe to either the print or online version of the Trib if this sale goes through. The reputation and standing of the Tribune organization is on the line, and it will suffer irreparable harm if the sale occurs."
"I have subscribed for 36 years and will cancel."
"As the son of a former Editor on the Chicago Tribune I urge you to remember the Colonel and stand for something. Don't turn the Trib over to men that care only for this country for what they can dredge out of it for their own personal wealth."
"I am an LA Times reader, my parents are Chicago Tribune readers. We will do everything we can to make sure everyone we know never reads another edition of these papers if sold to the Kochs."
Add your own comments for the Tribune Company to read.
Our elected and unelected officials tell us that drone strikes target top level enemies of the United States who are imminent threats to us, and that killing innocent people is avoided altogether or minimized.
But drone pilots have begun talking to the media. And they describe policies that bear a lot closer resemblance to reporting from the areas where the missiles strike. These pilots should be brought before Congress.
Here is a stunning new interview with one of them:
"So the pilot is not only flying the airplane, he or she is using all those sensors to watch a potential target, circling over it for hours or days at a time. What can you really see?
"Okay, so in a village in, say, country X, where the houses are built together, there are adults who live in this house, and these children belong to those adults because we see them out in the fields together or we see them eating dinner. So you can start figuring out who is associated with who. Who is a stranger, who is it that's visiting this house? There's a dog and it barks at strangers, so if we needed to go in and free a hostage or conduct a raid, you'd want to tell the land forces there's a dog there and either it's an attack dog or it alerts the village that somebody's coming.
"You must develop an emotional tie with the people on the ground that makes it hard if there is going to be a strike or a raid, people are going to be killed.
"I would couch it not in terms of an emotional connection, but a … seriousness. I have watched this individual, and regardless of how many children he has, no matter how close his wife is, no matter what they do, that individual fired at Americans or coalition forces, or planted an IED -- did something that met the rules of engagement and the laws of armed conflict, and I am tasked to strike that individual. The seriousness of it is that I am going to do this and it will affect his family. But that individual is the one that brought it on himself. He became a combatant the minute he took up arms."
This pilot, in fact this director of the Air Force Remotely Piloted Aircraft Capabilities Division, has not said that a high level operation leader of terrorists who is imminently threatening the United States is targeted. He has said that some ordinary guy who has chosen to violently resist the hostile foreign occupation of his country by shooting at the occupiers is targeted.
He has also not said anything to satisfy those who support the notion of just wars but want them conducted in compliance with the Geneva Conventions and other such legally binding limitations. This director of a U.S. drone kill program openly says that our public employees target a family for death if needed in order to blow up a foreign soldier from thousands of miles away. Every effort is made to avoid killing innocent family members, he says in the interview, but if it can't be avoided, well, the target "brought it on himself."
War is murder, and this type of war ought to look to most people like the murder that it is. But even if you accept war, this is not how ANYBODY claims it is to be legally done. This is beyond what Congressional witnesses or even Congress members would say is acceptable or legal. Yet this pilot blurts it out to the media with apparently no concern that his life will be inconvenienced by further questioning.
Enough is enough is enough. End this madness now.
Arun Gupta, whose writings can be found at occupyusatoday.com, discusses the lives of refugees from the U.S. war on Iraq now living in California, and the crimes of David Petraeus who has now been made a professor by the City University of New York and the University of Southern California.
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!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
The CIA has been so busy consulting on Zero Dark Thirty, not to mention funding Hamid Karzai, bribing Russians, lying about weapons, and conducting humanitarian drone murders, that it didn't have any time at all to help out with Hit and Stay, and yet arguably the latter turned out to be the better film despite such a severe handicap. You can check it out at http://hitandstay.com
This is a film about people taking risks to prevent killing rather than to engage in it. The focus is on the Catonsville Nine action on May 17, 1968, 45 years ago this Friday. That action, in which activists burned draft cards and apologized for burning papers rather than children, was preceded by the Baltimore Four action of October 27, 1967, in which four activists poured their blood on draft papers. It was followed by countless other actions, leading right up to the Transform Plowshares action in Tennessee for which three are currently awaiting sentencing.
The Catonsville action received so much publicity that it had something of an Occupy effect. That is, others who felt the same way about the slaughter of the Vietnamese people but didn't believe they could do anything, suddenly began doing something. Some did very similar actions. Others tried their own approaches to the same problem. Catonsville Nine inspired other tactics, enlarged marches and rallies, and generally moved the peace movement forward. The creativity and novelty of the action even made people think about the war who hadn't before.
Draft records were destroyed, preventing the drafting of those people. So, this was substantive resistance that couldn't be undone. At the same time it was educational and inspirational. It didn't inspire sadistic shouts of "Bin Laden's dead!" It inspired people to act on their moral outrage. There were over 100 actions taken at draft boards over the next few years. Many thousands of people's draft records were destroyed, saving them from the draft and saving those they would have killed from that fate. Some of the draft offices were shut down permanently. In the end the Selective Service declared it was under assault, and Nixon declared that the military would now be volunteer.
Some of the actions went after FBI offices and U.S. attorneys offices. Activists never yet apprehended stole COINTELPRO documents and sent them to the media, exposing the FBI's abuses and creating a major news story that lasted until it was overshadowed by the Pentagon Papers -- released by Dan Ellsberg, himself inspired by the activism shown in Hit and Stay. The people shown engaging in these actions are, in many cases, still active today -- although they look a bit older. In other cases, their sons and daughters are still involved.
The name "Hit and Stay" comes from the method of engaging in civil disobedience (or civil resistance for those who prefer to point to laws being upheld through the violation of other laws deemed less important) and then staying at the scene of the crime to take responsibility. This was a communications strategy, not a masochistic drive toward suffering. Some of the Catonsville Nine went into hiding to avoid their trial and remain active, even after having stood still long enough to be arrested and charged.
The film shows us the Milwaukee 14, the DC 9 who went after the Dow Chemical Company, and the New York 8. The New York activists hit more than one location and chose not to stay. Instead, they held a press conference to claim responsibility without identifying who was at which location or agreeing to answer questions. They were not prosecuted.
We see the Boston 2, the Rhode Island Political Offensive For Freedom (RIPOFF) -- modeled after the New York 8. We see the Rochester Flower City Conspiracy, the Buffalo, the Camden 28. That last one was encouraged, assisted, and then busted by an informant, but in the trial the judge allowed defense witnesses including people like Howard Zinn. The jury nullified the law by acquitting defendants who openly admitted to their actions. The jury joined in singing "Amazing Grace," and the foreman threw a party for the defendants.
Activists have not entirely figured out how to counter the brilliant move of creating a "volunteer" poverty draft, but neither has it shut down resistance in quite the way as is generally imagined. The stories of these long-ago actions and so many thousands of actions since still inspire. And resistance is in many ways greater now. Wars are protested before they even start, and sometimes prevented from starting. There is much to inspire us in independent media reports of nonviolent actions today, but I suspect this movie has the power to inspire us further.
Jack Gilory has written a short 2-act play called The Predator. The script is available here.
The characters include a college student, a drone pilot, a senator, and a peace activist. The drone pilot supports war. The senator supports herself. The peace activist opposes murder. And the student is almost in agreement with the peace activist. All four of them turn toward the audience at the end of the play and ask "What do you think?"
What a great way to start a discussion! The play has been performed or read at Georgetown, Syracuse, and Wittenberg Universities, among other venues. It would make a great event in YOUR town and requires no expenses, just four people who can read lines. Try it out.
Local resolutions have helped advance many issues, including war opposition, when they've been passed in large numbers. When we passed a resolution in Charlottesville, Va., last year opposing any attack on Iran, I heard from numerous cities that wanted to do the same. As far as I know, none did. I heard back from some that they'd been told it was anti-Semitic to oppose a U.S. attack on Iran. I didn't have an answer to that -- not a printable one anyway.
When Charlottesville passed a resolution against drones in February of this year, I heard from people all over the country again. Since that time, to my knowledge, one little town in Minnesota called St. Bonifacius has passed something, while dozens and dozens have tried and failed. The problem seems to be that drones can have good uses as well as bad. Of course, that's grounds for halting the lawless and reckless spread of drones until we can figure out any ways in which their good use can be compatible with our Constitutional rights. But that would make too much sense. When there's money to be made, technology to be played with, and terrorists to destroy our freedoms if we don't hurry up and destroy them first, the American way is full steam ahead. But I actually think I might have at least a partial answer this time.
There are two separable issues to be addresses in anti-drone resolutions and ordinances and laws and treaties. One is weaponization. The other is surveillance. I'm not aware of anyone yet having any difficulty getting their local officials to oppose weaponized drones. Most are unaware that some U.S. localities already have drones armed with rubber bullets and tear gas. Most consider it a crazy idea -- as they should. But it is an idea that should be addressed, because it is not science fiction; it is a dystopia that is already upon us. Getting localities in the United States to oppose the use of weaponized drones in their skies should be easy. Having thus established that our towns can address the problem of drones, we could come back and deal with the complex matter of surveillance.
The best solution on surveillance may be the one produced by the Rutherford Institute and embodied in the Charlottesville resolution. There is nothing in that resolution that prevents a drone from delivering your coffee or checking out a forest fire. I wish there were, but there actually isn't. While I'd like stronger resolutions, I think at this point the movement would benefit from passing any resolutions at all. And I think the way to make it simpler, clearer, and extremely easy would be to ask our local representatives to simply oppose weaponized drones.
Ideally, of course, I'd like to see cities and counties join the movement to ban weaponized drones from the world. Such a resolution might read:
Weaponized drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles) -- including those carrying lethal weapons such as hellfire missiles, and those carrying non-lethal weapons such as tear gas or rubber bullets -- are no more acceptable than chemical weapons or land mines. Whether these drones are controlled by pilots or act autonomously, whether they are publicly or privately owned, they can have no place in a civilized world and should be banned. The City of ________ urges the State of _________, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. State Department to pursue state, national, and international prohibitions on the development, ownership, or use of weaponized drones.
The trouble with this, of course, is that most of your city council members approve of murdering foreigners with drones. Thus it becomes a harder measure to pass. What we want, therefore, is something that does not conflict with the resolution above but addresses itself to local, state, or U.S. skies. To ease passage most swiftly, we want local resolutions that don't commit localities to anything, but simply make recommendations to states and the federal government. However, I suspect that -- as in Charlottesville -- a statement of local policy will not be a deal breaker. Here's a version of the Charlottesville resolution stripped down to the weaponized drone issue alone (just delete the last 14 words to commit your city to nothing):
NOW, THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the City Council of ________ calls on the United States Congress and the State of ________ to adopt legislation precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being; and pledges to abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones.
Opponents of this resolution will be, and should be denounced for being, supporters of putting weaponized drones in our skies. Supporters can remain technology lovers. They can continue to believe every move we make should be videotaped by Big Brother. They can plow right ahead with their brilliant idea for replacing the pizza guy with a drone. But they will be taking a stand on a popular issue that has no opposition. There is no organized popular movement in your town in support of putting weaponized drones in the sky. There's not even a concerted effort by police, or even by the drone profiteers. They can make big bucks off surveillance. They can fill the skies with drones first. The weapons can largely come later. They are not prepared for us to build a movement against weaponized drones and then turn our focus toward the lesser offense of spying. And by us I mean essentially everyone. Libertarians and leftists are in agreement on this, and so is everybody else.
So, you can build public pressure. It's not hard. In Charlottesville, we brought a crowd of people to two consecutive city council meetings and dominated the public speaking period. You should watch the videos of the January 22nd and February 4th meetings here. We published a column in the newspaper making the case, including the case that it is proper for cities to speak up on national issues. We organized an event in front of City Hall on the day before the vote. We displayed a giant model drone produced by New York anti-drone activist Nick Mottern. Our little stunt produced coverage on the two television channels and in the newspaper. I asked people to commit to attending the meeting on a FaceBook page. And when I spoke in the packed meeting, I asked those in agreement to stand. Most of the room stood.
We presented a weak resolution at the first meeting, which put the issue on the agenda. We then proposed a stronger one, which one of the best city council members put into the official agenda for the second meeting. At the second meeting, the council members negotiated a compromise. You might want to try that approach, which we stumbled into unplanned.
You can also lay the groundwork. We invited Ann Wright and Medea Benjamin and Nick Mottern and Kathy Kelly and other great speakers to Charlottesville in the months leading up to this resolution effort. This was not part of a plan, but we knew that it never hurts to educate people about their government's crimes. If you sign the international petition to ban weaponized drones from the world, you'll see a list of organizations at the bottom. Those are the places to go for resources, speakers, props, reports, flyers, and books that can help you in this effort. You can also print out a mammoth list of signatures on the petition to impress your elected officials. Or you can gather signatures locally and add them.
It's time we made things nice and simple. Are we in favor of killer flying robots over our homes and schools, or are we not?
Once we've given the obvious answer, maybe we'll start asking each other whether we really think Pakistanis disagree.
Mark Zuckerberg's complaint box is filling up. The billionaire founder of FaceBook is behaving as destructively as other sociopaths who hoard vast riches while others starve and die for lack of medical care. And people are letting him know how they feel about it.
Zuckerberg's new advocacy group FWD.us is running TV ads in support of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A petition asks him to stop. The comments that people are leaving on the petition ask him to do a number of other things I won't repeat. You'll never guess what they've found that rhymes with Zuck.
FWD.us is a group of plutocrats who, instead of advocating for education funding, are advocating for the immigration of educated workers. And in order to win over certain members of Congress on immigration policy, FWD.us has funded two front groups, one for Republicans and one for Democrats. Both are buying TV ads supporting Congress members who support tar sands and drilling in ANWR.
"Integrity goes a long way -- longer then any pipelines."
"How can you live with your billions and support something like this?"
"If you think this pipeline is a good idea, you need to visit the Arkansas spill, see the damage done, & maybe buy everyone affected a new house in a clean environment.
"What? REALLY?? May I suggest that you visit Arkansas...."
"Yes, what is this about - are you kidding me? This is the earth where we live that is going to be damaged."
"Are you out of your mind, supporting tar sands? Get a grip and a clue or we'll start a mass exodus from FB and bring you down! This is unacceptable and boycott-able."
"Stop talking about subjects you don't understand."
"Back to MySpace -- or whatever is next -- GOODBYE FACEBOOK! Shame on you, Zuckerberg!!"
"Only greedy creeps push the tar sands."
"F--- THE ZUCK!
"You did a great thing with creating Facebook, however, that doesn't qualify you to be making big decisions for the rest of us."
"After reading about this, I'm seriously considering divesting my 1500 shares of stock in Facebook."
"So after we get all that nasty sludge you think we should burn it up and put more crap in the atmosphere? Are you insane or suicidal? Maybe just greedy."
"Please don't share the destruction of our climate! Unlike."
"I'll be avoiding facebook until I hear that you've had a change of heart."
"Zuck, your billions don't make you God!
"Mark Zuckerberg, your young voice should not be speaking for our common destruction; has your wealth turned you plumb crazy? Has cash power corrupted you utterly? Wake up young man!"
"I have an 11 year old daughter. I put her, and the planet ahead of my business and personal profits. Wish you had the same concerns. I'm about to cancel my Facebook page."
"Go back to school and learn how to respect the earth and life!"
It's not enough to point out that our political system is completely corrupted by money, including money from coal and oil and nukes and gas. Of course it is. And if we had direct democracy, polls suggest we would be investing in green energy. But saying the right thing to a pollster on a phone or in a focus group is hardly the extent of what one ought sensibly to do when the fate of the world is at stake.
Nor do we get a complete explanation by recognizing that our communications system is in bed with our political system, cooperatively pushing lies about our climate and our budget (defunding wars and billionaires is not an option, so there's just no money for new ideas, sorry). Of course. But when the planet's climate is being destroyed for all future generations, most of which will therefore not exist, the only sensible course of action is to drop everything and nonviolently overthrow any system of corruption that is carrying out the destruction.
Why don't we?
Misinformation is a surface-level explanation. Why do people choose to accept obvious misinformation?
Here's one reason: They've already chosen to accept other obvious misinformation to which they are deeply and passionately attached and which requires this additional self-deception. The beliefs involved correlate with poor education, so government choices to fund fossil fuels and highways and prisons and Hamid Karzai rather than schools certainly contribute. But perhaps we should confront the misinformation directly, even while pursuing the creation of an education system worthy of a civilized country.
According to a Newsweek poll, 40 percent of people in the United States believe the world will end with a battle between Jesus Christ and the Antichrist. And overwhelmingly those who believe that, also believe that natural disaster and violence are signs of the approach of the glorious battle -- so much so that 22 percent in the U.S. believe the world will end in their lifetime. This would logically mean that concern for the world of their great great grandchildren makes no sense at all and should be dismissed from their minds. In fact, a recent study found that belief in the "second coming" reduces support for strong governmental action on climate change by 20 percent.
Apart from the corruption of money, whenever you have 40 percent of Americans believing something stupid, the forces of gerrymandering in the House, disproportionate representation of small states in the Senate, the Senate filibuster, the winner-take-all two-party system that shuts many voices out of the media and debates and ballots while allowing Democrats to get elected purely on the qualification of not being Republicans, and a communications system that mainstreams Republican beliefs almost guarantees that the 40-percent view will control the government.
Congressman John Shimkus, a Republican from a gerrymandered monstrosity in southeastern Illinois says the planet is in fine shape and guaranteed to stay that way because God promised that to Noah.
Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma (a state whose citizens get 10 times the representation in the Senate that Californians do -- if one can accuse Diane Feinstein of representing anyone), says that only God could possibly change the climate, and we should stop being so arrogant -- as if taking $1.4 million in campaign "contributions" from fossil-fuel profiteers and imagining that your positions are purely determined by your access to an all-powerful being who runs the universe on behalf of the 30 percent of the world raised on the same fairy tales as you isn't an arrogant belief.
Another senator who claims to be a theist but not of the Inhofe-Shimkus variety, publicly denounced an unnamed colleague this week for pushing the don't-worry-God-is-on-the-job line in a recent meeting.
When a large portion of the population believes that catastrophe is a good thing, rather than a bad thing, and wars are celebrated and crises bring excitement and solidarity to our lives, the influence is toxic. Of the 40 percent who believe Jesus is on his way, some no doubt believe it more than others, allow it to shape more of their other beliefs and actions. Of the other 60 percent, some are no doubt influenced to varying degrees by the armageddonists.
Belief in theism itself reaches as much as 80 percent in the United States and includes strong activists for sustainable policies, including some who passionately proselytize using the argument that only theism can save us from our apathy in the face of global warming. And there is no question that our most dedicated peace and justice activists include some strong religious believers. But theism is essentially the belief that some more powerful being is running the show. Perhaps the armageddonists haven't really found a solution to the problem of evil ("If there is a God, he'll have to beg forgiveness from me," said a prisoner in a Nazi camp), but the non-armageddonist theists have never found a logical solution to the problem of free will, either. Theists can go either way and all make as little sense as each other. But they must all of necessity promote the notion that a more powerful being is in charge.
And where does that belief show up to damaging effect? In our politics it shows up primarily as an attitude toward presidents. While President Obama has spent five years working diligently to destroy our natural environment for all time to come, the largest block of those concerned about global warming have spent their time telling each other to trust in Him, that he works in mysterious ways, that he is up against the Evil One and must be allowed time to succeed in his battle. You see, the problem with theism is not that some of its spin-off beliefs succeed in an undemocratic system. The problem is that theism is anti-democratic at its core. It moves us away from relying on ourselves. It teaches us to rely on someone supposedly better than we. And the same 80 percent or so also believe in something called heaven, which renders real life far less significant even for those generations that get to experience it.
This, in turn, fuels a belief in optimism. We are all told to be optimists regardless of the facts, as if it were a personal lifestyle choice. Combine that with a belief that everything is part of a secret master plan, and you've got a recipe for submissive acceptance. I've had great activists tell me that everything will work out for the best, either because that keeps them going, or because they've learned that saying anything else earns them fewer speaking invitations. Hardcore optimism is compatible with active engagement. But the net effect is almost certainly a contribution to apathy.
I wish it were needless to say that I am not advocating the equally dumb position of willful pessimism. I'm proposing the unpopular position of taking the facts as they come, acting accordingly, and acting cautiously when it comes to the fate of generations as yet unborn -- even if that caution requires huge sacrifices.
There are other powerful forces weighing against action as well. There is our love of technology, including our fantasies about inventing our way out of catastrophe, colonizing other planets, re-creating species. Maybe our senator friend is onto something after all when he points to arrogance. There is also greed, including our fear that living sustainably would involve living with less of the materialistic crap that currently clutters our lives and fuels our obesity. There is also the con job continuously played on us by our government that persuades so many of us that we are powerless to effect change. It's not enough to believe that the world is being destroyed and that we humans are on our own with the plants and the other animals, if we've fallen for the biggest scam governments pull on their people, the lie that says they pay no attention to us. History teaches the opposite. People's influence on their governments is much more powerful than we usually imagine. It's weakened primarily by people's failure to do anything. Impotence is a self-fulfilling loop. Those longing for the end of the world are far from alone in imagining that we don't have the power to make the world over ourselves. Nonetheless, among the things we should be doing right now is explaining to our neighbors that Jesus isn't coming back.
Randy "Salz" Salzman is a transportation writer and researcher and the author of Fatal Attraction: Curbing Our Love Affair With the Automobile Before it Kills Us. He discusses how highway construction boondoggles that are bad for health, heritage, the environment, and even the flow of traffic, have survived in these times of cramped public budgets. In particular, Salzman looks at the example of a proposed highway in Charlottesville, Va., opposed by the public but rolling ahead toward unsafe, destructive, and ridiculously expensive construction.
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!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
Most of the world's governments no longer use the death penalty. Among wealthy nations there is one exception remaining. The United States is among the top five killers in the world. Also in the top five: the recently "liberated" Iraq.
But most of the United States' 50 states no longer use the death penalty. There are 18 states that have abolished it, including 6 in this new millennium, including Maryland this week. Thirty-one states haven't used the death penalty in the past 5 years, 26 in the past 10 years, 17 in the past 40 years or more. A handful of Southern states -- with Texas in the lead -- do most of the killing.
The progress is slow and painful. Mississippi is right now having trouble deciding whether to spare a man just because he might be innocent. Maryland has perversely left five people waiting to be killed while banning the death penalty for any future cases. Next-door in Virginia we hold second place behind Texas and continue to kill.
Virginia electrocuted a man named Robert Gleason in January. Since then, Texas has killed four men, Ohio two, and Florida, Oklahoma, and Georgia one each -- all by lethal injection. Since 1973, there have been 141 exonerations from death row nationwide, including an innocent Virginian who came within days of being killed.
If you're convicted of killing a white person in Virginia, you're over three times as likely to receive the death penalty as you would be if the victim had been black. The injustice and backwardness is staggering, but so is the lack of democracy. Only a third of Virginians tell pollsters they favor the death penalty.
The evil of the death penalty is not limited to the instances in which it is used -- or to the corrosive influence it has on our culture. The death penalty primarily serves as a valuable chip in plea bargaining. Want someone to plead guilty, whether or not they actually are guilty? Threaten them with the death penalty. Who needs trials by jury (now used in under 2% of cases) when you have that kind of tool? And who has time for them when you've overloaded the system by treating drug use as a crime?
Remarkably, a former commonwealth's attorney here in Charlottesville, Va., named Steve Deaton is campaigning for his old job with a commitment to never use or threaten to use the death penalty.
"I believe the death penalty is barbaric and has no place in modern Charlottesville courts," Deaton says, reversing the electoral wisdom of many decades, which firmly holds that candidates must pretend to believe the death penalty is just and righteous and a deterrent to crime, even if the public thinks that's nonsense.
"I am calling for a moratorium on death penalty prosecutions," says Deaton. "During the past 20 years -- that is, the term of the incumbent Commonwealth's Attorney -- a number of capital murder charges have been brought against some people, almost all of them poor. Then the charge is often used as a bargaining chip to get the defendant to plead guilty to murder and accept a life sentence. This practice of using the threat of death to plea bargain is legal, and under current ethical standards, considered ethical. However, I find such a practice appalling. By engaging in this practice the prosecutor is tempting fate: what if their threat doesn't work and the case goes to a jury?"
Many in Charlottesville oppose the death penalty. Deaton explains the very real possibility that it will nonetheless be employed here: "The notion that no Charlottesville jury will return a death sentence is misleading. In a capital murder case the jury has to be 'death qualified,' meaning that the jurors must believe in the death penalty. Such a jury is not representative of the community! Studies have shown that a 'death qualified jury' is also much more likely to convict."
Deaton points out that prosecutors have a great deal of discretion: "A prosecutor does not have to bring a capital murder charge. They have the option of bringing a regular murder charge instead."
If elected, Deaton intends to use the enormous discretion given to prosecutors to try to make punishments more reasonably fit crimes, including so-called drug crimes. While Charlottesville City Council failed by a vote of 3-2 in February to end jail time for possession of marijuana, Deaton intends to charge those possessing marijuana with a different charge: disorderly conduct. It's technically a higher level charge -- a Class 1 misdemeanor -- but it does not carry the draconian punishments of loss of driver's license, subjection to drug testing, ruined college acceptance and student loan prospects, immigration status, etc. "If a person makes a mistake, they should be punished. They shouldn't have their lives ruined," Deaton says.
Deaton aims to counter mass-incarceration, not add to it. "The state has built a new $100 million prison in Grayson County and there is talk of expanding our local jail," he says. "All of this in spite of declining crime rates. It is time to stop feeding the prison-industrial complex. I believe the goal of the justice system should be to empty out spaces in the jails and prisons -- not to fill every available space!"
Of course, the system of mass incarceration creates a caste system by stamping the scarlet F of "Felon" on those released, no matter how many years of their lives are wasted in cages. Deaton favors restoring rights, including voting rights, for people convicted of nonviolent felonies.
Charlottesville has a chance to give the death penalty in Virginia a big push toward the door, which would help the United States and the world along that path. As Charlottesville only elects Democrats (and packs the full range of great to awful candidates into that one party) the election for Deaton is effectively the June 11th primary. Anyone in Charlottesville can vote in that primary, without swearing any loyalty to any party. And anyone else can help to spread the word or donate to the campaign.
Some human rights groups, especially Amnesty International, seem to have forgotten an important human right: peace. A petition has been launched to remind them.
These organizations are not the warmongers. They do tremendously great work addressing some of the symptoms of warmaking, including imprisonment and torture. But, because they avoid taking any position on war, and because of an apparent bias in favor of U.S. military intervention, they sometimes find themselves effectively promoting war and all the horrors that come with it. At Nuremberg to initiate a war of aggression was called the supreme international crime "encompassing the evil of the whole." Yet human rights groups are often on the wrong side of the fundamental question of war.
Amnesty International (AI) promoted the babies-taken-from-incubators hoax that helped launch the 1991 war on Iraq. AI has upheld the pretense that the US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan is about women's rights. And now Amnesty International is highlighting warmaking in Syria's civil war by one side only:
"Our team of researchers on the ground found evidence that government forces bombed entire neighborhoods and targeted residential areas with long-range surface-to-surface missiles," said an AI fundraising email on April 29th that made no mention of abuses committed by Syrian rebels supported by the U.S. and its allies.
This one-sided treatment by a group supposedly dedicated to all humans fuels the fires of a wider war from which the people of Syria can only suffer.
The email continued: "Amnesty has a strong track record of using our on-the-ground findings to pressure governments and the United Nations Security Council to hold those responsible for the slaughter of civilians accountable."
Does it? When the United States kills civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya, AI's silence has often been deafening. Shouldn't a human rights group press for an end to the killing of all humans by all parties?
While many good individuals who work for human rights groups like AI oppose wars, these organizations officially ignore President Eisenhower's warning and a half-century of evidence regarding the power of the military industrial complex -- and they ignore the criminality of war under the U.S. Constitution, the U.N. Charter, the Kellogg-Briand Pact and other laws.
These groups accept the existence of war (when not encouraging it) and then focus on specific crimes and abuses within the larger war-making enterprise. They promote the idea that human rights are governed by two sets of laws, one in peace and another weaker set in war. Voices for the human right to peace are missing and badly needed, as "humanitarianism" and "the right to protect" are used as excuses for war and intervention.
Amnesty International opposes imprisonment without trial and other abuses unless they adhere to the "laws of war," which is why AI is not opposing the outrageous charges leveled against Bradley Manning. Killing is opposed unless it adheres to the "laws of war." Under this standard, we pretend not to know whether blowing families up with drones is legal or not as long as the memos purporting to legalize it are kept hidden.
Groups like Amnesty oppose particular weapons, including the development of fully autonomous weapons (drones that fly themselves). No one in their right mind would oppose that step. But surely the human right not to be blown up does not vanish if the button is pushed by a person instead of an autonomous robot. Other organizations are pushing to ban all weaponized drones from the world.
Human rights groups should join the peace movement in targeting war and militarism itself, rather than just some of its symptoms. Amnesty International and all groups favoring human rights should be asked to oppose a U.S. escalation of war on Syria.
An NPR story on Monday carried this headline: "Expansion Plans At Arlington National Cemetery Cause Environmental Concerns." Only environmental concerns? Are there any other concerns that anyone can think of? I mean if, for example, "All Things" were going to be "Considered," would there be any other things worth considering?
U.S. troop deaths were 0.3 percent of the deaths in the most recent attack on Iraq. Most of those U.S. dead (and all of the non-U.S. dead) do not end up in Arlington. Most end up in other cemeteries. Some are never recovered. Some are unceremoniously dumped in land fills. And yet the cemetery is running out of room even for cremated corpses.
Advocates of military spending often push for increases to keep pace with gross domestic product. Should Arlington be the same? Should we kill off our young in proportion to how much money our bankers have? Should we expand cemeteries to keep pace with weapons budgets, prisons, highways, and fracking subsidies? Or should we take this opportunity to consider altering our priorities?
President Kennedy, whose eternal flame burns atop the hill at Arlington, wrote that we would have wars until the conscientious objector was given the prestige and respect now given to soldiers. Why is there no cemetery to honor those who resist massive crimes based on the sort of lies told about Iraq 10 years ago and told about Syria today? Why do we have to educators or doctors or diplomats or firefighters or historians or poets honored with the ceremonial wasting of fertile soil? Why only those who participate in state-sanctioned murder?
As Eisenhower warned on his way out of office, we get the society we prepare for. Expanding Arlington Cemetery is preparing us for a horrible future, one that we and the rest of humanity may not survive. The environmental concerns raised by this vision should be much more encompassing that a particular creek and stand of trees. The destructive arrogance of our war economy will either be replaced by a sustainable peaceful system or destroy us.
Pass that along to National Pentagon Radio when you get a chance.
The Obama administration has seemingly painted itself into yet another military corner by announcing that use of chemical weapons by Syria would constitute a red line that would mandate military action on the part of the United States. Now we are hearing reports that the red line may have been crossed, and some prominent officials are calling for the U.S. to step up its aid to the rebels and/or impose a no-fly zone. Proponents of military action such as Secretary of State John Kerry and hawkish Senator John McCain seem to think that the U.S. can sort out the “good guys” in the Syrian civil war, and use U.S. military assets to help the rebels take down the Assad government.
U.S. military involvement in Syria could only make things worse. Syria does not need a "no fly" zone. It needs a "no weaponizing" zone. The White House and its allies need to stop arming one side of a civil war, and to persuade Russia to stop arming the other. Further escalating the violence will result in nothing that could outweigh the damage of that violence.
The Netanyahu government in Israel has just raised the ante in this precarious situation by conducting air-to-ground missile attacks against Syria, undoubtedly with the tacit approval of the United States. Allowing Israel to attack Syria without consequences is not only the sanctioning of a crime; it also allows momentum to develop for greater violence and pushes peaceful resolution further out of reach. Diplomacy must be actively pursued before it is too late.
Further military interference in Syria would be a disastrous decision in important ways. For one thing, it is not at all clear if chemical weapons have been used, and if so, by which side. U.S. media has a tendency to turn conjecture into accepted fact merely by repeating it. Furthermore, the U.S. military has itself used and continues to use chemical and nuclear weapons — Agent Orange and napalm in Vietnam and white phosphorus and depleted uranium weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ongoing hypocrisy of U.S. policy and practice in this regard undermines our nation’s international moral and legal position.
Secondly, there are few if any “good guys” among the combatants in Syria. Because the White House has decided that regime change in Syria is our business, Americans are now squarely allied with extremist anti-democratic insurgents—the same people the administration has deemed our enemy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As it has time after the time, the theory that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” will come back to bite the U.S. once Assad is out of office.
Those who hold Libya up as an example of the kind of military action that should be taken in Syria don’t understand some very basic concepts. Syria’s air defense batteries are located in urban centers, not like Libya’s, which could be attacked without causing a high number of civilian casualties. If the U.S. targets urban centers in Syria, global opinion will quickly turn against us. Furthermore, the Assad government’s close relationship with major powers Russia and Iran could mean that a U.S. attack would lead to widespread war. An escalated U.S. war in Syria would not be waged simply on American terms. Those who advocate for military action don’t seem to understand the global response to our actions.
But the most basic reason that the U.S. should not interfere militarily in Syria is because we should support self-determination. It should be left to the Syrian people to decide who will run their government. Overthrowing foreign governments is not legal, moral, or practical. It is not a safe practice to encourage. In fact, in nearly a century of warmaking, there is still no example of the United States or NATO having “liberated” a country to beneficial effect. Libya's violence is spilling into neighboring nations. Iraq is arguably in worse shape post-intervention than Syria is pre-intervention.
In the immediate term, the Green Shadow Cabinet calls on the United States government and the international community to provide humanitarian aid—food and shelter for those displaced, and assistance to countries that are providing safe haven for Syrian refugees. And the administration should invest in multilateral diplomatic efforts involving both Russia and Iran, as well as others, to push for a cease fire and an end to weapons shipments.
In the long term, we must win an international ban on weapons and war profiteering, which is a major factor in feeding the cycle of violence.
LEAH BOLGER is Secretary of Defense in the Green Shadow Cabinet. She is a former Commander in the United States Navy, retired.
DAVID SWANSON is Secretary of Peace in the Green Shadow Cabinet. He is author of War is a Lie, When the World Outlawed War, and The Military Industrial Complex at 50.
So, wait. It wasn't the Syrian regime, but rather the Syrian rebels who used sarin nerve gas recently? That's the story being reported tonight by Reuters, from actually named sources among U.N. investigators. But will anybody notice? Or, with Israeli airstrikes already under way, and the neo-cons already demanding another new war, is the news too little, too late...again?
The week before last, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, reading from a letter sent by the White House to Congress, announced that the Administration believes that the Syrian government recently used chemical weapons against its own people. If true, it would be a move which President Obama had previously described as a "red line" and a "game changer" in the Administration's policy on the two-year old civil war still raging in that country.
This past Saturday morning felt like mid-winter in Asheville, North Carolina, but was actually some weeks past tax day, and dozens of people were gathered in front of a federal building to say something about what federal income taxes are used for -- something much more unusual than one would expect.
Posters carried messages including: "War steals from the poor" and "Defund Militerrorism." This in itself was not so unusual. Opponents of war often use tax season to inform their friends and neighbors that roughly half of income tax dollars go to war preparation. We could have the educations and health and happiness that other nations have if we didn't waste our money on the military, we say. We'd have more and better jobs, and jobs we could feel better about, we tell people.
If only our taxes weren't put to such bad ends.
But the people gathered from across the country in Asheville on Saturday were in town for a meeting of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. They had gathered on Saturday morning to announce the awarding of grants of thousands of dollars to a long list of great humanitarian causes -- all the things we wish our taxes were going to. For these people, this is in fact what their taxes are going to. Many of them have put the dollars they owe in taxes into one of a number of funds set up for this purpose. They can take their money back if they choose, but meanwhile the interest it earns goes to worthy causes of their choosing in the form of these grants announced in something more like a celebration than the usual tax-day lamentation that war opponents are all familiar with.
Following the announcements in front of the federal building, the small crowd stretched out in a long single-file line walking through Asheville, posters held high, making a tour of locations in the lives of the homeless and destitute, locations in need of the money that went to buy the bombs Israel was just then dropping on Syria.
And you thought corporate personhood was bad enough! Lacey Kohlmoos, Senior Field Organizer, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, tells us that the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) will create corporate nationhood by empowering corporations to sue and overrule real nations, as well as incentivizing the offshoring of jobs, hurting food safety, damaging environmental protections, enriching drug companies at the expense of human health, banning some generic drugs, further deregulating banks, forbidding the breaking up of too-big-to-fail financial firms, and creating SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) despite its failure in Congress as a result of strong public opposition.
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Hundreds gathered in Dallas to reject the Bush Lie Bury, and three went to jail. I flew from Dallas to Syracuse, where hundreds protested Obama's drone-murder program, and 32 went to jail and are still there (and will stay until trial unless bail can be raised) -- some of them risk major jail time because they violated a protective order that the commander of a U.S. military base gained to protect himself from nonviolent peace activists. Another drone protester in Missouri, Brian Terrell, is just finishing a six-month sentence. Climate activist Tim DeChristopher just got out. The people locked in Guantanamo are refusing to eat, and groups around the world are making plans to fast with them. The people of Vieques are rallying on May 1st to demand that the U.S. military truly depart their island. Big plans are being made to rally for Bradley Manning on June 1st. This week I'm heading to the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee's meeting in North Carolina, after which -- just over in Tennessee -- three courageous activists go on trial, facing major time in prison, for having entered and protested a nuclear weapons facility.
The revolution will not be televised.
Oak Ridge, Tenn., was created during World War II as a secret city (actually two, it was segregated by race) for producing nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons have a history that marches hand-in-hand with U.S. human experimentation programs. I just had a chance to read Susan Griffin's A Chorus of Stones, and she recounts a nuclear test in 1957, when the U.S. government was still marching Marines to various distances from nuclear explosions in Nevada to find out what would become of them. Marines with their eyes closed saw the bones in their hands. They died of leukemia years later, but not before speaking about what else they saw: 10 or 12 people in a stockade formed by chain link fence and barbed wire, their faces and hands deformed, their hair falling out, their skin peeling off. Or this: men on the ground in agony, the smell of burning flesh, blood running from mouth, ears, and nose, a man trying to tear away wires that had been attached to his head.
In the late 1960s, Oak Ridge Associated Universities did radiation experiments on cancer patients, children of military personnel. NASA provided the funding, wanting to know how much radiation would produce nausea, in preparation for sending astronauts to the moon. And, boy, having sent astronauts to the moon has sure allowed us to take care of poverty and illness and environmental destruction. I don't know how we'd survive at all if we hadn't killed those children to send astronauts to the moon.
On July 28, 2012, Michael R. Walli (63), Megan Rice (82), and Greg Boertje-Obed (57) entered the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge undetected. You can't walk down the street without being filmed, but these three senior citizens were able to walk at night right up to a nuclear weapons facility. They hung up banners that read "Transform Now Plowshares" and "Swords into Plowshares Spears into Pruning Hooks–Isaiah." They strung up red crime tape. They hammered on the cornerstone of the newly built Highly-Enriched Uranium Manufacturing Facility (HEUMF), splashed human blood and left four spray-painted tags on the recent construction which read: "Woe to the empire of blood," "The fruit of justice is peace," "Work for peace not for war," and "Plowshares please Isaiah." When finally confronted by guards, they offered the guards bread and roses. They sang while forced to kneel for a long period of time.
"We come to the Y-12 facility because our very humanity rejects the designs of nuclearism, empire and war," the activists said in a statement. "Our faith in love and nonviolence encourages us to believe that our activity here is necessary; that we come to invite transformation, undo the past and present work of Y-12; disarm and end any further efforts to increase the Y-12 capacity for an economy and social structure based upon war-making and empire-building."
Vigils and other events are planned in Knoxville as the trial begins.
While the revolution is not televised, there is a calendar of events: http://warisacrime.org/content/upcoming-events
"Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin."
I do assess with varying degrees of horror (some of the varying degrees rather high even) that a lot of people are going to die. And how dare they die from chemical weapons when they should be dying from hellfire missiles and cluster bombs and napalm and depleted uranium and white phosphorous. We have a responsibility to protect these people from dying of the wrong type of weapon and in too small numbers.
I'm in Dallas protesting the rehabilitation of our last criminal president because of the precedents he set for our current criminal president. So, precedents are on my mind. One precedent for an illegal humanitarian NATO war on Syria is, of course, the illegal humanitarian war on Libya two years ago. And the pair of precedents (Libya and Syria) will put the target of the neocon/neoliberal cooperative war project squarely on Iran.
Syria will suffer, of course. There will be no more an example of a humanitarian war that actually benefitted humanity after Syria than before. The precedent will not be one of having accomplished something, but of having gotten away with something.
For some truly illuminating background on what was done to Libya, and some relevant discussion of what awaits Syria (if we don't prevent it), I recommend Francis Boyle's new book, Destroying Libya and World Order.
Boyle served as a lawyer for the government of Libya repeatedly, over a period of decades, more than once successfully preventing a military assault by the United States and the United Kingdom. Boyle details the aggression toward Libya of the Reagan administration: the lies and false accusations, the sanctions, the provocations, the assassination attempts, the infiltration, the blatant disregard for international law.
Boyle's history brings us up to and through the 2011 assault, and traces its precedents to a very similar war over a decade earlier in Bosnia. Boyle finds the unconstitutional and illegal assault on Libya a clear impeachable offense for President Obama. And why would we think otherwise? Only because we let Clinton and Bush get away with everything they got away with. It would seem unfair now to impeach Obama for a crime his predecessors committed as well.
But past, as well as current, presidents can be impeached, censured, prosecuted, and/or publicly shamed. Five of them came to Dallas today; there shouldn't be any trouble finding them. And the criminal attack on Libya can be treated as the crime it was. The excuse of protection was used to quite openly pursue the overthrow of a nation's government, bombing large numbers of civilians in the process, while arming brutal thugs and creating predictable blowback in neighboring nations as well.
In contrast, in Bahrain, nonviolent pro-democracy activists are left to their own devices as a U.S.-backed dictatorship jails, tortures, and murders them.
In Syria, the United States has worked against peace and for violence. That violence is not a justification for further and heightened violence. And every member of an intelligence "community" that announces that Syria might possibly have used a chemical weapon should be doing community service for the people of Fallujah and Basra and Baghdad, not prodding the world's only stupor power into another genocide.
Talk Nation Radio: Pentagon Professor Says the U.S. Military Overpowers Civilian Rule and Should Be Demilitarized
Gregory D. Foster is Professor of Political Science at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University, Washington, D.C., where he previously has served as George C. Marshall Professor and J. Carlton Ward Distinguished Professor and Director of Research. Foster says the United States no longer has civilian control of the military, and that the military should be "demilitarized."
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Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee hearing on drones was not your usual droning and yammering. Well, mostly it was, but not entirely. Of course, the White House refused to send any witnesses. Of course, most of the witnesses were your usual professorial fare.
But there was also a witness with something to say. Farea Al-Muslimi came from Yemen. His village had just been hit by a drone strike last week. He described the effects -- all bad for the people of the village, for the people of Yemen, and for the United States and its mission to eliminate all the bad people in the world without turning any of the good people against it.
The usual droning and yammering that preceded and followed this testimony seemed more offensive than usual. One witness summarized the general position of pointless witnesses who accept all common wisdom and have no information or insights to contribute:
If the drone strikes are part of war, that's fine, she said. But if they're not part of war, then they're murder. But since the memos that "legalize" the drone strikes are secret, we don't know whether they're perfectly fine or murder.
That's the common view of things. But to say it in front of someone who knows something about the killing from the perspective of the victims seems particularly tasteless.
The basic facts are barely in dispute. A single individual, President Barack Obama, is choosing to send missiles from drones into particular houses and buildings. Most of the people being killed are innocent and not targeted. Some of those targeted are not even identified. Most of the others are identified as run-of-the-mill resisters to hostile foreign occupations of their or neighboring countries. A handful are alleged to be imminent (meaning eventual theoretical) threats to the United States. Many could easily have been arrested and put on trial, but were instead killed along with whoever was too close to them.
If this is not part of a war, apparently, then it's murder.
But if it's part of a war, supposedly, it's fine.
It's funny that murder is the only crime war erases. Believers in civilized warfare maintain that, even in war, you cannot kidnap or rape or torture or steal or lie under oath or cheat on your taxes. But if you want to murder, that'll be just fine.
Believers in uncivilized war find this hard to grasp. If you can murder, which is the worst thing possible, then why in the world -- they ask -- can you not torture a little bit too?
What is the substantive difference between being at war and not being at war, such that in one case an action is honorable and in the other it's murder? By definition, there is nothing substantive about it. If a secret memo can legalize drone kills by explaining that they are part of a war, then the difference is not substantive or observable. We cannot see it here in the heart of the empire, and Al-Muslimi cannot see it in his drone-struck village in Yemen. The difference is something that can be contained in a secret memo.
This is apparently the case no matter whom a drone strike kills and no matter where it kills them. The world is the battlefield, and the enemies are Muslims. Young men in predominantly Muslim countries are posthumously declared enemies once a drone has killed them. They must be enemies. After all, they're dead.
I wonder how this sounds to a young Muslim man who's taken to heart the lesson that violence is righteous and that war is everywhere at all times.
Do people who blow up bombs at public sporting events think all together differently from people who blow up peaceful villages in Yemen?
Don't tell me we can't know because their memos are secret too. Those who engage in murder believe that murder is justified. The reasons they have (secret or known) are unacceptable. Murder is not made into something else by declaring it to be part of a war.
War is, rather, made criminal by our recognition of it as mass murder.
Watch my 10-year-old neice give an earth day speech that -- unlike Obama's -- mentions climate change
George W. Bush should be given an indictment, not a library. An online email action is letting the Department of Justice know the facts about the former president. And the People's Response to the George W. Bush Library and Policy Institute is filling the streets of Dallas with protesters this week as five current or former presidents join in a celebration of Dubya's national service. I'll certainly be there.
I wish I were kidding about the following. The Dallas Morning News is refusing to take good money to publish the ad below because it suggests former president Bush lied about Iraq.
Of course it would be shocking to suggest that Bush might have lied. Who ever heard of such a thing?
Campaign promises don't count, of course. Bush discarded those by the dozen, but who doesn't? And when he said he'd fire whoever leaked Valerie Plame's name and then didn't, that's more of a technicality than a lie. And when he claimed in his 2007 State of the Union to have prevented four terrorist plots and none of them were real, that was more of a poetic license than a lie. Also when he said he hadn't been warned about Hurricane Katrina and then we saw that video of him being warned, there was no proof he actually understood what was being said to him. Oh, and when he promised never to spy without a warrant and then got caught, that was sort of a willful falsehood for our own good, not a lie at all. And when he said he didn't torture and then confessed to torturing, that was the fault of pesky journalists; Bush himself never intended to admit to torturing if he hadn't been pestered about it!
But if we can remember all of these near-lies these several years later, it does seem possible that Bush had a little trouble with the truth. Let's look at Iraq, just to be sure.
On January 31, 2003, Bush met with Tony Blair in the White House and proposed all sorts of harebrained schemes to try to start a war in Iraq. They understood that Iraq was no threat. Bush promised an all-out effort to get U.N. approval for an attack. Then the two of them walked right out to the White House Press Corpse (sic) and proclaimed their intention to avoid war if at all possible, warned of the threat from Iraq, and claimed to already have U.N. approval for war if needed. I'll grant you that looks like a lie, but if none of the reporters there that day are bothered by it (not a one of them has ever complained), why should we be? Maybe Bush meant that he'd try to avoid war for 60 more seconds. That could have been true. Later that day when he had the NSA start spying on other nations' U.N. delegations, maybe he was trying to determine the best Christmas presents to send them. Hey, it's possible.
In 1999 Bush told his biographer Mickey Herskowitz that he wanted to start a war with Iraq. But that could have been just a random fleeting whimsy. Maybe you had to be there to catch the humor. Also in 1999 at a primary debate in New Hampshire, Bush said he'd "take out" Saddam Hussein. "I'm surprised he's still there," he said. But Bush did get the nomination, so we're probably misunderstanding him somehow.
When Bush moved to the White House he must have learned what was what. In 1995 Saddam Hussein's son-in-law had informed the U.S. and the British that all biological, chemical, missile, and nuclear weapons had been destroyed under his direct supervision. After U.N. inspectors left Iraq in 1998, the lead inspector said they'd come to the same conclusion. In 2002 the Defense Intelligence Agency agreed. Also in 2002 CIA Director George Tenet told Bush that Iraq's Foreign Minister Naji Sabri -- a CIA informer -- agreed with the U.N. and the D.I.A., as did Iraq's intelligence chief. So, still in 2002, the CIA sent 30 Iraqi-Americans to visit Iraqi weapons scientists, but the mission was a failure: they came back with the same definitive conclusion as the U.N., the D.I.A., and Sabri.
In 2001, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and others in the Bush Administration were telling the media that Saddam Hussein had no weapons. The closest connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden was that they had both worked with the United States. Everything changed in 2002, and not because of any evidence. In October 2002, the CIA told Bush that Hussein was unlikely to attack unless attacked first. The CIA had told Bush this four times in morning briefings since that spring. Bush immediately gave a speech in Cincinnati warning of a dire threat from Iraq. Bush's subordinates took an October 1st National Intelligence Estimate that said Hussein was unlikely to attack unless attacked and "summarized" it to say nearly the opposite in a "white paper" released to the public.
By the time Bush and Blair stood before the White House Press Corpse, they had decided on war and begun it. Troops were being deployed. Escalated bombing missions were preparing the ground. Assorted attempts to initiate all-out war had already failed or been abandoned. That Bush was interested in provoking Iraq is confirmed by extensive covert operations called DB/Anabasis reported by Michael Isikoff and David Corn in their book Hubris:
"Over an intense forty-five day period beginning in late 2001, [two CIA operatives] cooked up an audacious plan. . . . It called for installing a small army of paramilitary CIA officers on the ground inside Iraq; for elaborate schemes to penetrate Saddam's regime; recruiting disgruntled military officers with buckets of cash; for feeding the regime disinformation . . . for disrupting the regime’s finances . . . for sabotage that included blowing up railroad lines. . . . It also envisioned staging a phony incident that could be used to start a war. A small group of Iraqi exiles would be flown into Iraq by helicopter to seize an isolated military base near the Saudi border. They then would take to the airwaves and announce a coup was under way. If Saddam responded by flying troops south, his aircraft would be shot down by US fighter planes patrolling the no-fly zones established by U.N. edict after the first Persian Gulf War. A clash of this sort could be used to initiate a full-scale war. On February 16, 2002, President Bush signed covert findings authorizing the various elements of Anabasis. The leaders of the congressional intelligence committees -- including Porter Goss, a Republican, and Senator Bob Graham, a Democrat -- were briefed. 'The idea was to create an incident in which Saddam lashes out' [said CIA operative John McGuire]. If all went as planned, 'you'd have a premise for war: we've been invited in.'"
A White House staffer was instructed in 2003 to forge a letter that could be used to tie Hussein to al Qaeda as well as to forge letters smearing vocal opponents of invasion. Other information tying Hussein to al Qaeda consisted largely of claims fed to a torture victim. Evidence of biological weapons came from a German informant identified as a heavy drinker with mental breakdowns, not psychologically stable, "crazy," and "probably a fabricator." Evidence for nuclear weapons rested heavily on a forged letter, rejected as a forged letter by the CIA. There was also a claim re aluminum tubes that was rejected by the Energy Department and the State Department and even by the military until it contracted out to a couple of hacks in Central Virginia who were willing to say what was needed.
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller concluded that "In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even nonexistent."
Clearly Rockefeller is jumping to a conclusion, and the more responsible people over at the Dallas Morning News know better.
Still, if you think there might be something to all of this, I recommend reading The 35 Articles of Impeachment and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush.
Laws clearly violated by George W. Bush include, among many others: The U.S. Constitution Article I, Sections 8, 9, Article II, Sections 1, 3, Article VI, and the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, the prohibition on covert propaganda, Title 2 U.S. Code Section 194, Title 18 U.S. Code Sections 4, 371, 1341, 1346, 1385, 2340A, 2441, The War Powers Act, the United Nations Charter Chapter 1 Article 2 Section 3, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the Hague Convention of 1899, Joint Resolution 114 Section 3, Additional Protocol I to Geneva Conventions, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2008 Section 1222, the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Third Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Human Rights Articles 7, 10, the Convention Against Torture, the Optional Protocol to the Fourth Geneva Convention on Rights of the Child, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Stored Communications Act.
But who's counting?
By David Swanson
I'm honored to have accepted the position of Secretary of Peace in the newly formed Green Shadow Cabinet. Of course, I cannot contrast my positions with those of the actual Secretary of Peace, as the United States has no such position.
There is a Secretary of War, although that title was changed to Secretary of Defense 66 years ago. It was changed the same year George Orwell wrote his masterpiece, 1984, in which he suggested that language is sometimes used as a disguise. In fact, ever since the War Department became the Defense Department, its business has had less than ever to do with defense and more than ever to do with promoting the use of war-making as an instrument of national policy. President Dwight Eisenhower observed and warned of this worsening situation 52 years ago in one of the most prescient but least heeded (even by Eisenhower) warnings since Cassandra told the Trojans to be wary of giant horses.
There is a Secretary of State, but the State Department has come to work arm-in-arm with the Defense Department, marketing weaponry to foreign governments, building coalitions for wars, imposing deadly sanctions as preludes to wars, presenting bogus arguments for wars at the United Nations, and holding the world's governments accountable for human rights abuses based less on the extent of the abuses than on the governments' relationships with the Pentagon. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and Israel don't have greater civil liberties and popular democratic rule than Iran; the State Department just acts as if they do.
Our entire government claims to be for peace, but it has become common to state one's support for peace, and then qualify it with the assurance that one is not against any wars. This is usually meant to convey understanding or affection for members of the U.S. military. But you can respect people while condemning what they do. If our understanding and affection are broadened to include Afghans and Pakistanis and Yemenis, then we are obliged to oppose what the War Department is doing to them. Supporting "peace on earth" in December, or peace in our hearts, or peace through war is not enough. We need to be working for peace -- the absence of war -- year round.
We invest roughly a trillion dollars in war preparations every year, roughly half of federal discretionary spending, roughly half of world military spending. With no credible enemy in sight, and with no beneficial war observable in our history, great quantities of fear-mongering and much beautification of history are required to get us to tolerate this. The Pentagon is investing $65 million of our money in a Vietnam Commemoration Project aimed at making that war look less horrible than it was.
A University of Massachusetts study found that investment in education or infrastructure or green energy or even in tax cuts for working people produces significantly more jobs than does the same investment in the military. As tiny and much-exaggerated cuts to the military may soon actually materialize, we should take the opportunity to begin a conversion process. We can retool and retrain and convert from a war industry to a peace industry without anyone having to suffer in the process, and with money to spare.
And if we take away the idea of justifiable killing in war, and if we continue to eliminate the death penalty from additional states, we may begin to move our culture in a direction that helps bring our epidemic of violence at home under control as well. That could be a project for a Department of Peace. It's not that some other department couldn't do it. But thus far, none is.
David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org andhttp://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter:@davidcnswanson and FaceBook.
|David Swanson||Secretary of Peace||Foreign Affairs|
|Leah Bolger||Secretary of Defense||Foreign Affairs|
|Ann Wright||Secretary of State||Foreign Affairs|
|Harvey Wasserman||Secretary of Energy||Ecology|
|Bruce Gagnon||Secretary of Space||Ecology|
|George Paz Martin||Peace Ambassador||Foreign Affairs|
|David McReynolds||Peace Advisor to the President||Foreign Affairs|
|Daniel Shea||Veteran's Affairs: Chemical Exposure||General Welfare|
Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, has a new book that should be required reading for Congress members, journalists, war supporters, war opponents, Americans, non-Americans -- really, pretty much everybody. The new book is called Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield.
Of course, Scahill is not suggesting that the world should be a battlefield. He's reporting on how the Bush and Obama White Houses have defined and treated it as such.
The phrase "dirty wars" is a little less clear in meaning. Scahill is a reporter whose chronological narrative is gripping and revealing but virtually commentary-free. Any observations on the facts related tend to come in the form of quotations from experts and those involved. So, there isn't anywhere in the book that explicitly explains what a dirty war is.
The focus of the book is on operations that were once more secretive than they are today: kidnapping, rendition, secret-imprisonment, torture, and assassination. "This is a story," reads the first sentence of the book, "about how the United States came to embrace assassination as a central part of its national security policy." It's a story about special, elite, and mercenary forces operating under even less Congressional or public oversight than the rest of the U.S. military, a story about the Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA, and not about the "shock and awe" bombing of Baghdad or the activities of tens of thousands of soldiers occupying Iraq or Afghanistan.
The type of war recounted is variously identified in the book as dirty, dark, black, dark-side, small, covert, black-ops, asymmetric, secret, twilight, and -- in quotation marks -- "smart." At one point, Scahill describes the White House, along with General Stanley McChrystal, as beginning to "apply its emerging global kill list doctrine inside Afghanistan, buried within the larger, public war involving conventional U.S. forces." But part of Scahill's story is how, in recent years, something that had been considered special, secretive, and relatively unimportant has come to occupy the focus of the U.S. military. In the process, it has lost some of its stigma as well as its secretiveness. Scahill refers to some operations as "not so covert." It's hard to hide a drone war that is killing people by the thousands. Secret death squad night raids that are bragged about in front of the White House Press Corps are not so secret.