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Contempt on Both Their Houses

Among those who refused to comply with Congressional subpoenas, never mind requests, while George W. Bush was president were: the Department of Justice, the Secretary of State ("not inclined" was Condi's explanation), the Vice President (who preemptively announced he would probably not comply with such silliness and didn't), the White House Counsel, the White House Chief of Staff, the White House Political Director, the White House Deputy Chief of Staff, the White House Deputy Political Director, the White House Office of Management and Budget, and so on.  There's a collection of these subpoenas (the targets being Republicans) over at http://democrats.com/subpoenas

You Mean Muslims Make Art?

When Jesus used a good Samaritan to explain the need to appreciate foreigners, he can be forgiven for not having known that so many Samaritans would later convert to Islam.  It's not as if he was omniscient or something!  And think of how much he's forgiven us.  Nonetheless, since we can't reasonably be expected to appreciate Muslims -- at least not while we're teaching young people that Muslims deserve genocide --  that whole parable falls apart.

I doubt one film can solve this problem, but I did just get a chance to preview a beautiful documentary that will be airing on PBS on July 6th, called "Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World."  Susan Sarandon narrates, and the voices are all in English -- no dubbing or subtitles.  They're the voices of professors, art scholars, and artists.  The subtitle could be a reference to cultures of the distant past, as an early comment in the film suggests, or perhaps it carries some sort of religious meaning.

The art in the film is largely but not exclusively religious.  It's all art and architecture of "the Muslim world," taken to mean geographic areas dominated by Muslim culture now or in the past.  We learn about the heavy use of Arabic writing in Islamic art, in calligraphy, and in architectural inscriptions.  We tour great works of architecture in Palestine, Syria, Spain, Turkey, Mali, and India.  In the secular world, apart from the mosques, we see plates, bowls, pitchers, sculptures, and paintings depicting animals and people. 

In Isfahan, in the middle of Iran, so easily bombed, we find the origin of the blue and white ceramics we associate with a nation they spread to: China -- as well as stunning images of a beautiful blue mosque.  During the course of the movie we are told how various Muslim art forms were influenced by Christian or Hindu art.  And of course, the opposite has been just as common.  The interlocking histories of these cultures make it very difficult to speak of one as if it were separate from the others. 

I have to assume that someone who identified with a religion other than Islam could have as easy a time appreciating Islamic art as I do, being an atheist who would prefer to see the world leave religion behind. Some of the experts heard in the film instruct us that various art objects refer to prayer or heaven, or that the art provides the viewer with a religious experience.  And yet if I ignore the commentary what I see are incredible designs and colors developed around natural and mathematical beauty. 

God said: to know me, know my creations, we're told, and yet the flower designs woven into wonderful tapestries in Western Asia inspire even if I'm not trying to know something else that I can know by knowing them, if you know what I mean.

Talk Nation Radio: Bruce Gagnon on U.S. Aggression Toward Russia and China

Bruce Gagnon describes U.S. and NATO plans in the works to militarily surround and threaten both Russia and China.  Gagnon is co-founder and coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space at http://space4peace.org.  He blogs at http://space4peace.blogspot.com He's the author of Come Together Right Now, and of a chapter in The Military Industrial Complex at 50.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Engineer: Christiane Brown.
Music by Duke Ellington.

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Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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Ask the President of Ecuador to Protect Julian Assange from Lawless Detention or Death Penalty

RT @davidcnswanson We in the United States beg you @MashiRafael to save #Assange from our government. RT if you oppose jailing/killing journalists.

Klepetromilitatorship

Which came first, the oil business or the war machine that protects it? Who started this madness, the military that consumes so much of the oil or the corporations that distribute and profit from the filthy stuff?

An answer of sorts can be found in Timothy Mitchell's book, "Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil."

Western oil corporations were never strong enough, Mitchell finds, to monopolize the flow or stoppage of Middle Eastern oil without major military and financial assistance. So, they began talking about their control of Middle Eastern oil as being an imperial interest. When "imperial" went out of fashion, the phrase shifted to "strategic interest."

Dude, That Is So Killer

Are you aware, I asked a friend, that the guy you're registering new voters to vote for keeps a list of people he intends to kill? Oh well, he replied, you know.

Do I, now?

Weaponized drones should be banned, I tell a group of progressives. What? Oh no, drones are better than armies, because with drones nobody gets killed.

Is that so? Just how far do progressives have left to progress exactly?

How can we shake people out of their acceptance of murder, I ask peace activists. Easy. We'll trumpet the news of the 2,000th U.S. death in Afghanistan.

We will?

Talk Nation Radio: Sandy Davies on War, Weapons, and Obama

Nicolas "Sandy" Davies discusses Iraq, Afghanistan, war profiteering, and the militarism of President Barack Obama.  Davies is the author of "Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq."  Davies is a writer for Z Magazine and a blogger at WarIsACrime.org.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Engineer: Christiane Brown.

Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy or RadioProject.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Embed on your own site with this code:

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The State of the Anti-War Movement

A magazine asked me this morning for my thoughts on Iraq and the peace movement.  What did this war produce?  I replied:

·      Over a million human beings killed plus extensive structural and cultural damage amounting to sociocide, which we could have prevented and didn't, which we could regret and make reparations for but instead are largely uninformed about.

·      A lesson taught to other nations that nuclear weapons are needed to prevent a U.S. invasion, a lesson also taught by the assault on Libya.

·      A lesson taught to other nations that might makes right and aggressive killing and torture are to be used when one can get away with it.

·      Entrenchment of a fossil fuel / war industry, environmental damage, economic damage, damage to international relations, and a huge rollback in civil liberties and the right to assemble and protest.

·      Enormous enlargement of the war industry, privatization of the military, and a strengthened ability to legally bribe politicians and control them.

 

In the peace movement, there's good and bad:

·      We exposed the lies on which the war was based and educated everyone else, but most still don't grasp that the lies are common to all wars; they think this one was unique.

·      We played a role in ending the war.  But it was a larger role than we are aware of, so people don't take enough encouragement from it. 

·      We built international relations among peace activists in numerous nations, building an anti-bases movement and an anti-NATO movement, and building relations with activists in the nations attacked by ours as well.

·      We exposed the financial cost and the cost in U.S. military lives.  But -- again -- few know about the far greater cost in Iraqi lives.  And very few understand that the base military budget dwarfs the war budget and is equally misspent.

·      Coming out of that, we have a nation strongly opposed to massive ground wars.  But we have a nation willing to accept air and drone wars.  And why not?  They don't hurt anybody!

·      We should have been much stronger.  And we should have pushed harder when the Democrats took power by pretending to listen to us.  Instead, 3/4 of the U.S. peace movement went to sleep.  So, we have to have Republicans in power to have a peace movement -- a severe weakness.

 

What, I was asked, should be done to mark the 10-year anniversary of the invasion next March?

We should apologize, I said.  We should make reparations to Iraq and much of the region, including Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen, etc., all of which our troops should immediately leave.  We should launch cultural and student exchange programs instead.  We should open prosecutions of those responsible, from Bush and Obama on down.  We should move funding from the military to green energy.  We should shut down all foreign bases.  We should announce the dismantling of all nuclear weapons.  We should end NATO.  We should reaffirm the Kellogg-Briand Pact.  We should reform and democratize the UN and the ICC.  Or at least those of us willing to have a peace movement, either because Romney is president or because we're willing to confront Obama now that he's a lame duck and really really doesn't give a damn, should move things as far as we can in that direction.

In the meantime, we should build on what was built in Chicago protesting NATO.  We should assist in opposing what look like false prosecutions of activists coming out of that event.  We should learn the approach being developed by militarized police forces around the country, which includes huge numbers of undercover police and infiltrators, attempts at entrapment and provocation, and public relations scare tactics used to demonize activists and reduce participation.  We should learn from what worked in terms of coalition building and turnout, and what arguably could have been done better -- such as a public commitment to nonviolence by the organizers. 

We cannot reduce public organizing, education, and pressure to elections.  We've just seen how that works in Wisconsin.  I had the misfortune to catch a bit of Bill Maher last night, and he was denouncing Occupy Wall Street for not being as smart as the Tea Party, not being as serious, not devoting itself to electing people.  As if the tea partiers who opposed bank bailouts have elected representatives.  As if the tea partiers who opposed restrictions on civil liberties have elected people.  As if tea partiers outraged by the concentration of power and wealth in a corrupt two-tiered system have had their concerns remotely answered.  To the extent that the Tea Party has actually changed anything, it has done so primarily by pressuring the government from the outside, including by demanding that the Republicans become even worse than they were or be abandoned.  This has produced walking-disasters of officials independent enough to sometimes get things right, as when Senator Rand Paul has blocked pro-war legislation.

Occupy Wall Street has the Net Roots Obamanation and the Take Back the American Dried Up Raisin in the Sun conferences, with their support for war and anything else if its Democratic.  It's to the credit of every activist who has avoided falling into that trap.  We should be lobbying Congress for good bills and for better bills that don't exist yet.  There are bills to end the Authorization to Use Military Force, to ban the sale of weapons to abusive countries (does that include our own?), and to require diplomacy with Iran.  There should be bills to begin a process of conversion from a military to a civilian economy.  But primarily we should be educating, organizing, and building a movement to resist the bipartisan pro-war consensus.  We should not be dumping our energies into lesser-evil electioneering.  Here are some upcoming events:

June 17, 2012, New York, N.Y., Protest NYPD Abuse and Targeting of Muslims

June 24, 2012, Washington, D.C., March Against Torture

June 22-26, 2012, everywhere, Actions Against Torture

July 14, 2012, Wisconsin, Peacestock

August 8-12, 2012, Miami, Fla., Veterans for Peace Convention

August 27-30, Tampa, Fla., Protest the RNC

Sept. 1-6. 2012, Charlotte, N.C., Protest the DNC

On Afghanistan, I think we need to insist that staying is not the best way of leaving.  We have three-quarters of the United States with us on wanting to end the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.  There is no need to worry about being too radical.  There is no need to frame our position so as to appeal to patriotic entrepreneurs, and so forth.  Three-quarters of the country agrees with us.  Can we get them active?  Can we get them talking, writing letters, calling shows, blogging, marching, attending events, pushing their organizations and the media and Congress?  Obama wants to keep a large number of troops in Afghanistan for another two and a half years, reducing them at an unspecified rate to an unspecified number, and then keeping them there 10 more years, after which it will be time to step back and consider the situation.  The House, but apparently not the Senate, wants to require a minimum of 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but Obama already wants the funding at that level and is committed to considering after the election whether to take the Pentagon's advice and keep 68,000 or defy the Pentagon.  Betting on what that actually means largely comes down to whether you imagine that, contrary to all established trends, a politician gets better by becoming a lame duck rather than worse.  We need to demand all troops home now, to expose the horror of the war, to amplify the voices of Afghans opposing the occupation, to encourage resistance in the military, to escalate our protests, and to build understanding of the numerous tradeoffs, financial and otherwise.

We need to resist the cries for U.S. war in Syria.  There are remarkably few stories in our corporate media about the healthy state of democracy in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else the United States has built a nation by destroying one.  There is little outrage over killing and torture by U.S. allies in Bahrain.  Many supporters of war in Syria are open about their motivation of overthrowing a government that is friendlier to Iran than Israel.  But Tunisia and Egypt have brighter futures because of the tools of nonviolence.  Violence is not quick.  When the U.S. armed fighters in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the damage was not easily contained.  Pouring gasoline on a fire in Syria could be worse.

We need to expose the lies about Iran and to remind people constantly of the lies that they knew were lies about Iraq.  Possessing weapons is not grounds for war.  Iran is not working on any nuclear weapons.  An Israeli war will be understood by Iran and the world as U.S.-authorized, as of course it will be.  Iran has not violated the non-proliferation treaty, while the United States has.  War and threats of war are crimes.  Sanctions that starve people, not to mention "cyber-war," are properly considered acts of war.  Iran has threatened no one and has sought to agree to inspections and control of uranium not required by any law or treaty.  But the U.S. President and most Congress members are pretending that the onus is on Iran to cease doing what we know it is not doing.

Meanwhile, Obama, not content with having enlarged the military, its global presence, its budget, its privatization, its power to operate within the United States as a police force, and its capacity to act in secrecy, has given himself the power to murder anyone, anywhere, picking the names of the nominees from his secret kill list.  RootsAction.org is launching a petition aimed at banning weaponized drones and undoing the kill-list program.  Numerous organizations are taking part, and the petition will be sent to every possible national and international authority.  Your organization is invited to sign on.

Part of what drives all of this madness is the money poured into it.  The military budget has grown every year that Bush or Obama has been president thus far -- and even more so if one looks at all the departments that get military spending.  Obama is proposing to cut Iraq and Afghanistan war spending in the military budget from $88 billion to $44 billion.  Quite a halfway measure for wars he claims are over or ending.  And the budget control act requires, unless Congress undoes it, that $55 billion more be cut.  But it could be cut from veterans care, from non-military diplomacy, or from other non-military areas.  Even if it is cut from the military, we're talking about $55 billion out of a budget that is well over $1 trillion.  We ought to be insisting on much larger cuts and building a major coalition of groups that want the spending for useful purposes, want their civil liberties, want our natural environment, and want to stop killing people.

Peace Demonstration on Flag Day

Charlottesville has planned a pro-war Flag Day event featuring a Brigadier General from the JAG school and new recruits for ongoing U.S. wars that make little pretense of legality. We've planned a pro-peace demonstration. Please bring signs and posters in support of peace and nonviolence. We'll have large signs reading "'There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for a purpose which is unattainable.' --Howard Zinn"

Thursday, 6 p.m.
Free Speech Wall, Downtown Mall, 605 East Main Street, Charlottesville, Va

SIGN UP HERE.

Israel Upside Down

Miko Peled has written a perfect book for people, including Israelis, who have always heard that the Israeli government can do no wrong.  The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine is partly an account of the author's father's life.  His father, Matti Peled, was an Israeli general, war hero, military governor of the Gaza strip, member of Parliament, professor, and columnist who turned against the occupation of Palestine. 

Largely, however, the book is an account of Miko Peled's own life, and the evolution of his thinking about Israel. This autobiographical narrative, by a very likable and moral author, takes us step by step from unquestioning Zionism to condemnation of Israeli war crimes.  For those who would condemn the morality of this intellectual journey, there are two obvious responses.  First, read it. 

Second, the false accusations of hating Israel that often result from any sensible proposal to protect Israel from its government cannot easily apply here, by the accusers' own logic, because the author dutifully performed his Israeli military service, and his father killed a huge number of people in the name of Israel.

Such shallow prejudices have no place in this book, which respectfully and non-confrontationally persuades the reader gradually, through the course of a self-questioning life's story, that much of what is commonly assumed about Israel is in fact the reverse of reality.  The Peled family's military history is of less interest as superficial immunity from false accusations, than as a starting place for an argument that runs its course from the necessity of brutalizing Palestinians all the way through to the necessity of Israelis and Palestinians living together as friends and family.

Miko Peled grew up in Jerusalem believing that Israel had always been a little David struggling honorably against an Arab Goliath.  His grandfather, Avraham Katznelson, had been an important figure in the founding of Israel.  His father, Matti Peled, had in 1948 fought in either the War of Independence or the Catastrophe, depending on which label one prefers.   Matti Peled was also a leader of the Six-Day War of 1967, when Miko -- born in 1961 -- was a child.

The Spread of Sacrifice Zones

Chris Hedges' and Joe Sacco's new book, "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt," is a treasure. Hedges wrote the plain text. Sacco produced the text-heavy cartoon sections and other illustrations, which even I -- not a big fan of cartoon books -- found to enrich this book enormously.

Can We Get Along Without Authorities?

Some years ago, I watched a screening of a film about Daniel Ellsberg and the release of the Pentagon Papers.  The film was shown in the U.S. Capitol, and Ellsberg was present, along with others, to discuss the movie and take questions afterwards. 

I've just read Chris Hayes' new book "Twilight of the Elites," and am reminded of the question that progressive blogger and then-Congressman Alan Grayson staffer Matt Stoller asked Ellsberg.

What, Stoller wanted to know, should one do when (following the 2003 invasion of Iraq) one has come to the realization that the New York Times cannot be trusted? 

The first thing I thought to myself upon hearing this was, of course, "Holy f---, why would anyone have ever trusted the New York Times?"  In fact I had already asked a question about the distance we'd traveled from 1971, when the New York Times had worried about the potential shame of having failed to publish a story, to 2005 when the New York Times publicly explained that it had sat on a major story (about warrantless spying) out of fear of the shame of publishing it.

But the reality is that millions of people have trusted and do trust, in various ways and to various degrees, the New York Times and worse.  Ellsberg's response to Stoller was that his was an extremely important question and one that he, Ellsberg, had never been asked before. 

It's a question that Hayes asks in his book, which can be read well together with Chris Hedges' "Death of the Liberal Class."  Hedges' book goes back further in U.S. history to chart the demise of liberal institutions from academia to media to labor.  Hayes stays more current and also more conceptual, perhaps more thought-provoking. 

Hayes charts a growing disillusionment with authorities of all variety: government, media, doctors, lawyers, bankers.  We've learned that no group can be blindly trusted. "The cascade of elite failure," writes Hayes, "has discredited not only elites and our central institutions, but the very mental habits we use to form our beliefs about the world.  At the same time, the Internet has produced an unprecedented amount of information to sort through and radically expanded the arduous task of figuring out just whom to trust."  Hayes calls this "disorienting."

While I have benefitted from Hayes' brilliant analysis, I just can't bring myself to feel disoriented.  I can, however, testify to the presence of this feeling in others.  When I speak publicly, I'm often asked questions about how to avoid this disorientation.  I spoke recently about the need to correct much of what the corporate media was saying about Iran, and a woman asked me how I could choose which sources of news reporting to trust.  I replied that it is best to watch for verifiable specifics reported by multiple sources, to begin by questioning the unstated assumptions in a story, to study history so that facts don't appear in a vacuum, and to not blindly trust or reject any sources -- the same reporter or outlet or article could have valuable information mixed in with trash.  Such critical media consumption may not be easy to do after a full day's work, I'll grant you.  But it's not any harder to do than reading the New York Times and performing the mental gymnastics required to get what you've read to match up with the world you live in.

Talk Nation Radio: Chase Madar on the Passion of Bradley Manning

Chase Madar discusses his new book "The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story of the Suspect Behind the Largest Security Breach in U.S. History."  Madar is a civil rights attorney.  He writes for the London Review of Books, Le Monde diplomatique, the American Conservative, CounterPunch, and TomDispatch.  He discusses with host David Swanson the voluminous information that Manning is accused of providing to Wikileaks and to us, and some of the startling insights it gives us into what our supposedly representative government has been up to. The show also looks at the official and public responses to Manning, his mistreatment, his legal status, and the fate of whistleblowers under the Obama administration.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Engineer: Christiane Brown.

Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive.org or AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy or RadioProject.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Embed on your own site with this code:

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Charlottesville Passes Resolution Against Citizens United

As of Monday evening, Charlottesville City Council has joined the list of over 250 localities, several state legislatures, 22 state attorneys general, the Supreme Court of Montana, four Supreme Court justices, dozens of Congress members, countless clubs and organizations and political parties, and -- in poll after poll -- the vast majority of the people of the United States -- all of whom want the U.S. Constitution amended or by other means wish to undo the Citizens United ruling that opened the flood gates on corporate election spending.

A group of local citizens met, one at a time, with four of the five City Council members ahead of time to win their support.  Several of us spoke at Monday's meeting.  When I spoke I asked people to stand up if they believed that Congress and states and cities should be allowed to limit or ban corporate and private spending on elections.

A delegation of over a dozen Afghans, mostly women, was attending the meeting.  I encouraged them to stand up if they thought the model for Afghanistan's future should be democracy rather than corruption.

I didn't spot a single person left seated.

But there probably was one, because a woman had spoken against the resolution.  She'd falsely accused those of us speaking in support of not being from Charlottesville and not caring about local people or local issues.  We of course had explained the importance of local governments representing their constituents to higher governments on matters of great importance.

The local newspaper, the Daily Progress, had devoted a big front-page story a few days beforehand to the point of view of the one city council member who opposed the resolution on the grounds that it was not a local matter.  Following a 4-0 vote in favor of the resolution, the Daily Progress quickly produced a new article about the point of view of that same city council member who had abstained, not the four who had voted yes, not the crowd that supported them, not what it does to Charlottesville to have a Congress that ignores majority opinion and obeys its funders, not the people who had drafted and promoted the resolution, not the impact it might have, not the national trend, not the pending U.S. Supreme Court case, but the one councilwoman who abstained from voting and who -- during the course of Monday's meeting baselessly accused her four colleagues of being "manipulated" -- presumably by us.

City Councilman Dave Norris pointed out that every single locality in Virginia petitions the state goverment every year, and many petititon Congress every year.  Councilwoman Kristin Szakos noted that when she and her colleagues devote 30 minutes to an important issue, they don't neglect others but simply extend the meeting 30 minutes.

Also covering the story, and in fact grasping a bit better what the story was, were NBC 29 and this Newsplex Video.

 

The resolution text, or very close to it, follows.  For exact wording check with Charlottesville City Council.

WHEREAS, We the people adopted and ratified the United States Constitution to protect the free speech and other rights of people, not corporations; and

WHEREAS, Corporations are not people but instead are entities created by the law of states and nations; and

WHEREAS, for the past three decades, a divided United States Supreme Court has transformed the First Amendment into a powerful tool for corporations seeking to evade and invalidate the people’s laws; and

WHEREAS, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, relying on prior decisions, interpreted the First Amendment of the Constitution to afford corporations the same free speech protections as natural persons; and

 WHEREAS, Citizens United overturned longstanding precedent prohibiting corporations from spending corporate general treasury funds in our elections; and

WHEREAS, Citizens United unleashed a torrent of corporate money in our political process unmatched by any campaign expenditure totals in United States history; and

WHEREAS, Citizens United  purports to invalidate state laws and even state Constitutional provisions separating corporate money from elections; and

WHEREAS, Citizens United presents a serious and direct threat to our republican democracy; and

WHEREAS, hundreds of municipalities across the nation are joining together to call for an Amendment to the United States Constitution to establish that political speech and spending by corporate entities to influence the political process must be regulated and made subservient to the people’s interest in authentic democracy and self-governance; and

WHEREAS, the people of the United States previously have used the constitutional amendment process to correct decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that are deemed to be egregious and wrongly decided and which go to the heart of our democracy and self-government. 

 NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT WE CALL UPON THE VIRGINIA STATE LEGISLATURE AND THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS TO SUPPORT A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO REVERSE CITIZENS UNITED V. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION AND TO RESTORE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AND FAIR ELECTIONS TO THE PEOPLE.  By the People of Charlottesville, Va.

[signed]

Add your voice at RootsAction.org.

David Swanson: A Voice For Never-Ending Activism

By Joanne Boyer of Wisdom Voices

For activist, author, and blogger David Swanson, it really is about the never-ending struggle for social and economic justice; the same battle that has been fought since time began.  And for him, “success” or “defeat” cannot be defined by one election or one Supreme Court ruling.  For Swanson, “victory” may be generations away, but that does not deter him from keeping the activism fires burning via every avenue he can find.


David Swanson: "We're in a place in history that we've never been before in terms of our democracy."

“I don’t necessarily tell people not to lose hope,” Swanson said in a recent interview with Wisdom Voices.  “I think there’s a problem with having a dependency on hope. I don’t go through these cycles of being hopeful and then being despondent. I actually enjoy activism. I don’t think activism is something temporary that we do it once and then everything will be fixed and then we stop.  I think it’s permanent and it should be permanent.  Activism is more enjoyable than sitting home and griping.  It provides me a way to enjoy living every day.”

Based in Charlottesville, Virginia, Swanson is a prolific writer and author of several books, the most recent being:

  • The Military Industrial Complex at 50 (2012)
  • When the World Outlawed War (2011)
  • War Is A Lie (2010)
  • Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union (2009)

Information on his books and other articles can be found at his web site:  www.davidswanson.org.

Activism has been rooted in almost all of Swanson’s adult life.  He holds a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including press secretary for Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign, media coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as communications coordinator for ACORN.  John Nichols of The Nation magazine once said:  “David Swanson will be remembered and well recognized as the citizen who held up a lamp in the darkness and cried, as did good Tom Paine: ‘We have it in our power to begin the world over again.’ ”

“The most important work I think is educational,” Swanson said.  “By that I mean activism has to take a kind of broad term organizational effort.  It’s not in passing a particular bill or electing a particular person.  Setbacks shouldn’t get us down.  If all of our hopes lie in (President) Obama turning out to be better than he claimed to be or all of our hopes are in un-electing (Wisconsin Governor Scott) Walker, we’re setting ourselves up for defeat because we can lose a particular battle and because elections can be the wrong place to be putting our emphasis to begin with. I think we should be putting about 95 percent of our efforts into educating and organizing and mobilizing non-violent struggle and maybe 5 percent into elections.

“But that doesn’t mean I’m not disturbed about what’s going on in our country today.  I’m extremely disturbed that the primary business of our government has been mass murder and the preparation for mass murder. And we’ve given presidents powers that kings never had, and most of us will be completely oblivious to that fact as we grill out and shoot off fireworks on another 4th of July.

“And I find it extremely disturbing that we are ruining our earth’s atmosphere for our children and grandchildren. I think we either go down fighting or we win by reversing these trends.  But to sit back and watch TV, and say we can’t do anything or we lost an election seems to me immoral. Maybe that’s because I really do enjoy activism.


Activism is a way of life for David Swanson

“We are in a struggle for our lives…a struggle that will not see victory come for generations. And we don’t have to be martyrs about it or somehow make ourselves victims about it, but it is something we have to understand will just go on. But even for people who have demanding day jobs, they are doing a ton of work for peace and justice. People do it in different ways; mine happens to be writing.”

And although the struggle for economic and social just has been a continuing and historic struggle, Swanson does sense something “different” about what’s happening today.

“Historically everyone has thought that their age was the crisis or turning point in history,” he said. “I think in a certain sense we are in a more dangerous time globally than we’ve seen before.  I say that in terms of the environmental devastation that is ruining our atmosphere and our ecosystem as well as in terms of our proliferation of weapons that can destroy life on earth.

“Those twin dangers are unprecedented in the military empire of the United States in terms of military spending and production and the number of bases and our presence in occupations around the world. No one has ever had an empire remotely resembling this. It is something we haven’t seen before and it’s incredibly dangerous and destructive environmentally as well as other terms.  For example, the U.S. military is our biggest consumer of oil and uses the highest percentage of oil that it fights wars for.  It’s an incredibly dangerous cycle.

“And, we are in a place in history that we’ve never been before in terms of our democracy. We’ve done away with more civil liberties, more checks and balances.  We have formally legalized a form of campaign bribery.  We have less control over our so called representatives in Washington.

“Granted, you can go back in history and find whole chunks of the populace who were forbidden from voting or were slaves or were shut out of the process, but there’s always been popular activism and popular media.  And that’s missing today. We are now in a place in which majority opinion is just ignored in Washington by both parties. We’ve never so empowered a set of parties and we’ve never so shut out popular opinion even as we continue to wage wars in the name of democracy.

Swanson points to some positive developments such as the rise of the Internet to counter the corporate controlled main stream media. “If you poll the American people on what we actually want, if majority opinion really ruled, we’d be in a much better place than we’ve been in the past. But we have less activism today and much greater belief in the futile inability of activism. We have people believing they are a minority when they are a majority on positions such as taxing the rich, green energy, etc. We have people believing activism doesn’t work and so we should sit home and be miserable, and that’s a very dangerous trend.

“People want to understand how what they are doing can do some good. They’ve been taught that only elections matter or that the things we see daily are the only things that matter.  And then we give up. That’s the wrong frame of mind to be in. We have to tell people the good their work is doing…even if that good doesn’t show up for a long time and even with the fact that the government is trying to hide from us the way we influence it.

“There’s value in election campaigns if they build a movement, if they organize, if they educate, whether they elect an official or not.  It’s an added plus if they do.  But fundamentally we’re currently electing people in a pair of parties that have sold out and are doing the work of their funders.”

Swanson specifically pointed to the recent New York Times article that described the drone killings by President Obama.  “If somehow it had been revealed that Obama was really George W. Bush in disguise, we would have had millions of people surrounding and protesting at the White House.  Somehow, we’ve imagined that when Obama does this, he somehow is wringing his hands with guilt or that everyone tells themselves that secretly Obama means well.  Or that it’s our job to denounce Mitt Romney because some how he would be even worse.  And that’s fatal for us as a country.

“If you can’t object to giving someone arbitrary power to kill, if you can’t object to that because you can imagine someone else coming up will be even worse, then we’ve really tied both hands behind our back.”

The son of a man who studied to be a preacher, Swanson carries that fiery vocal force in his talks and conferences he leads or supports.  He was part of the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) at 50 conference in September 2011 and is one of the featured speakers at Peacestock 2012 at the Windbeam Farm in Hager City, Wisconsin.

“I’ve never understood there to be an alternative (to activism),” Swanson said. I would be miserable if I weren’t working a job to help save the world…if I were just working to make a buck.”

See below to hear David Swanson in his own words:

This week's Sprouts: BRADLEY MANNING AND WHISTLE BLOWERS

Produced by David Swanson, Christiane Brown of Talk Nation Radio

Left KU Channel
Thursday, May 30th, 2012 3:00 PM EST
TRT: 29:00

Download as broadcast quality .mp3:
http://audioport.org/index.php?op=program-info&program_id=50450&nav=&

This week's Sprouts is a discussion with Chase Madar, author of the new book "The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story of the Suspect Behind the Largest Security Breach in U.S. History." Speaking with Madar is David Swanson, host of the weekly program Talk Nation Radio, produced in Charllottesville, Va. Madar discusses the voluminous information that Manning is accused of providing to Wikileaks and to us, and some of the startling insights it gives us into what our supposedly representative government has been up to. The show also looks at the official and public responses to Manning, his mistreatment, his legal status, and the fate of whistleblowers under the Obama administration.

Sprouts is a weekly program that features local radio production and stories from many radio stations and local media groups around the world.It is produced in collaboration with community radio stations and independent producers across the country.

The program is coordinated and distributed by Pacifica Radio and offered free of charge to all radio stations.

Chris Hayes, Heroes, and Morons

Chris Hayes was driving me crazy, because I was beginning to think I'd need to start watching television. Luckily I've been saved from that fate, it seems. Hayes' comments on MSNBC, for which he has now absurdly apologized, were the type of basic honesty -- or, better, truth telling as revolutionary act -- that was tempting me.

MSNBC is part of a larger corporation that makes more money from war than from infotainment. Phil Donahue learned his lesson, along with Jeff Cohen. Cenk Uygur did too -- or perhaps he taught them one. Keith Olbermann didn't last. Rachel Maddow wants war "reformed" but would never be caught blurting out the sort of honesty that got Hayes into trouble.

Hayes questioned the appropriateness of calling warriors heroes, and of doing so in order to promote more war-making. He was right to do that. This practice has been grotesquely inappropriate for a very long time.

Pericles honored those who had died in war on the side of Athens:

Mitt's Military and Misleading Media

According to Mitt Romney, the world is not safe.  Presumably someone somewhere says the world is perfectly safe, and to that person we can all bellow: "Ha! Mitt's right, and you are wrong!"  Except that what Mitt seems to mean is all wrong.  He declares in the next breath that Iran is rushing to become a nuclear nation and share nuclear weapons with terrorist groups.  According to the Secretary of "Defense" and the rest of the gang with access to the government's secrets, or at least the list of whom Obama plans to murder, Iran has no nuclear weapons program. 


Next Romney lumps together as U.S. enemies Pakistan, China, Russia, and Venezuela.  Does that make us more or less safe?  Or does it just help sell weaponry?  According to Mitt the U.S. should have the world's biggest military.  According to reality, the United States could cut its military by two-thirds and have the world's biggest military.  Military spending has increased every year that Bush or Obama has been president.


Romney says a bigger military means fewer wars.  Eisenhower's prediction of 51 years ago, and the past 51 years worth of evidence, says the opposite: the military creates momentum for wars, planning for wars, and neglect of alternatives to war. 


According to Mother Jones, "Mitt Romney Wants the Biggest Military Ever, Regardless of Cost."  What can we say but "Mission Accomplished"?  We've got the biggest military ever, and the financial cost has damaged our economy while requiring tragic trade-offs from human needs spending, not to mention devastating the environment, slashing our civil liberties, and making us less safe.


Mother Jones cheers for Obama's murder program and his illegal war on Libya.  Less "liberal" groups and outlets love Obama's militarism even more, promoting it as politically advantageous.  Yet, veterans, white males, and warmongers in general will vote heavily for Romney even if Obama commits to savaging Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect weapons spending and untaxed wealth.  Why?  The same reason poor deluded well-meaning people will vote for Obama: Because Romney will always promise worse.

Talk Nation Radio: Marcy Winograd on Leaving the Democratic Party and Opposing War

Marcy Winograd was a leading Democratic Party activist in Los Angeles, nearly elected to Congress as a Democrat herself.  She has renounced that party and become a Green.  Her positions on public policy have not changed.  She is still a leading peace activist in Southern California.  Winograd discusses her change of party and approaches to activism in an election year. Winograd is a teacher with much to say about counter-recruitment in a time of ubiquitous militarism.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Engineer: Christiane Brown.

Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive.org or AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy or RadioProject.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Embed on your own site with this code:

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Obama's Principles and Will Create Kill List as Test for New York Times

The New York Times chose this "terror Tuesday" to publish an article called "Secret 'Kill List' Proves a Test of Obama's Principles and Will," a bizarre article that never explains what Obama's principles or will are or even offers any evidence that Obama has any principles or will.

There is one section in which the authors point out that Obama went out of his way to sneak the despicable John Brennan into his White House despite Congressional opposition, and that none other than Harold "these bombs are not hostilities" Koh swears Brennan is a moral man. Perhaps we should assume that Brennan's morality oozes upward from his "cave-like office in the White House basement" since his support for Bush's crimes is redeemed by Koh who only supports Obama's crimes.

Elizabeth Warren vs. the Establishment

U.S. Senate candidate from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren is taking on the establishment.  Her campaign website declares:

"Iran is a significant threat to the United States and our allies.  Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, it is an active state sponsor of terrorism, and its leaders have consistently challenged Israel’s right to exist. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is unacceptable because a nuclear Iran would be a threat to the United States, our allies, the region, and the world. The United States must take the necessary steps to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. I support strong sanctions against Iran and believe that the United States must also continue to take a leadership role in pushing other countries to implement strong sanctions as well. Iran must not have an escape hatch."

Warren has been asked by local and national activists for months to take this down or correct it.  Instead, she is standing by principle and against a corrupt ill-informed establishment.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons.  He's joined in that outrageous claim by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, and their Israeli counterparts.  Elizabeth Warren knows better, and she knows enough not to cite her sources.  We are better off just trusting her, and we feel better just trusting her.

The idea of Iran as a significant threat to the United States and our allies is mocked and laughed at by a motley crew made up of just about everyone who knows anything about the world whatsoever.  Iran spends a half a percent of what the United States spends on its military, and a much smaller fraction of what all NATO nations spend together.  Iran has never threatened the United States or any of its allies.  Iran is literally surrounded by U.S. bases and ships.  Iran is seeking to avoid conflict by agreeing to inspections and restrictions on civilian nuclear power not required by any treaty or law.  But don't let the established facts fool you.  They're a trick of the establishment, and Elizabeth Warren knows better.

Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor admitted that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never said Iran wanted to "wipe Israel off the face of the map" in an interview with Al Jazeera in April, agreeing somewhat anticlimactically with the known facts as understood by such irresponsible commentators as anybody reading reliable news sources or accurately translating the original speech. 

When Madeline Albright said that strong sanctions on Iraq did more good than the harm done by killing over a half a million children, the uninformed imagined they were witnessing a burst of courageous feminism.  Ha!  They ain't seen nothing yet.  If what you want is strong female leadership, and the facts and human lives be damned, get ready for the one, the only, the lying scheming warmongering candidate who will make the bankers pay for part of the killing so it's all OK, Elizabeth Warren! 

Elizabeth Warren will stand alone against a mountain of evidence when need be, but if Palestine tries to join the United Nations with the support of the other nations of the world, Warren will denounce any such move as "unilateralism" and support a unilateral veto of it.

Elizabeth Warren says, "We need to continue our aggressive efforts against Al Qaeda, and we need to continue to support the efforts of our intelligence, law enforcement, homeland security, and military professionals."  And if that means dumping over half of discretionary spending into war preparations every year, well so be it -- we'll be responsible by not borrowing the money.  We'll get a bit of it from the banksters.  We'll be bad-ass killers and populists, even if the killing isn't especially popular.

You don't need to understand.  You need to trust in Elizabeth.

For more of this profile in courage read:
 http://elizabethwarren.com/issues/national-security-foreign-policy


Lies and Consequences in Our Past 15 Wars

"Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their peoples in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was their object.  This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us."--Abraham Lincoln

AFGHANISTAN

Prior to 2001, the Taliban was willing to turn Osama bin Laden over to a third country if he was promised a fair trial and no death penalty, and if some evidence of his guilt of crimes were offered.  In 2001, the Taliban warned the United States that bin Laden was planning an attack on American soil.  In July 2001 the United States was known to have plans to take military action against the Taliban by mid-October. 

When the United States attacked Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, the Taliban again offered to negotiate for the handing over of bin Laden. When President George W. Bush refused, the Taliban dropped its demand for evidence of guilt and offered simply to turn bin Laden over to a third country.  Bush rejected this offer and continued bombing.  At a March 13, 2002, press conference, Bush said of bin Laden "I truly am not that concerned about him."[i] When President Barack Obama announced, in May 2011, that he had killed bin Laden, the war didn't even slow down.

The Special Loophole in Hell for War Lawyers

The strict rule of law is an ideal and a fantasy.  Conflicting and archaic words must be interpreted, and doing so is an art, not a science.

But there is an enormous chasm between honest attempts to approach the ideal of compliance with written law, and open disregard for it.

It is becoming standard practice for our government to enforce laws selectively or not at all, to openly defy laws, to enact laws in violation of the higher law called the Constitution or in violation of the treaties which that Constitution defines as the Supreme Law of the Land. 

At the same time, charades of legality degrade it as an ideal: the International Criminal Court is not international, military justice makes a mockery of justice, etc.  And anti-legal measures, like secret sections of the PATRIOT act that can be enforced against us but which we cannot be permitted to read in order to comply with, muddle for many people the very idea of lawfulness.

Video: Peace Perspectives on Iran with Majid Amini, Michael Fischbach, and David Swanson

Dr. Majid Amini is Professor of Philosophy at Virginia State University. He was born in Iran and comes from a family that has had extensive public and political participation in Iranian affairs since the turn of the 19th century. Currently he is working on two projects: one on the limits of religion in the public square and another on divine regret.

Dr. Michael Fischbach is Professor of History at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. He received his doctorate in modern Middle Eastern history from Georgetown University. He researches issues relating to land and property ownership in the modern Middle East. Fischbach frequently addresses international conferences and the media, and has been a consultant for Middle Eastern negotiators as well as the Library of Congress, the United Nations Development Programme, and the International Development Research Center.

David Swanson is a nationally recognized author and peace activist. He currently works with Veterans for Peace and hosts Talk Nation Radio. His most recent books include The Military Industrial Complex at 50 and When the World Outlawed War. Swanson helped to plan the nonviolent occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., in 2011, and blogs at http://davidswanson.org.

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videos by David Martin

Iran: War Is Not Even the Question

(Remarks prepared for Richmond Peace Education Center Event in Richmond, Va., May 24, 2012)

I have a friend who's a compulsive liar.

OK it's not a friend. It's my television. And my newspaper.

According to them, the United States, as one among equals, in coalition with most of the world's good countries, is asking the evil nation of Iran for some very reasonable requests, Iran is refusing, and the result, very regrettably and reluctantly -- as an absolute last resort, albeit one we will celebrate with flags and music -- will be war.

An op-ed in the Washington Post last Friday (and you know you can trust the Washington Post, because its fervent push for war on Iraq worked out so well) said:

Why Even Failed Activism Succeeds

I enjoy reading histories of past activism, including memoirs by long-time activists, such as Lawrence Wittner's new book, Working for Peace and Justice.

Almost every such account includes belated discoveries of the extent to which a government has been spying on and infiltrating activist groups.

And almost every such account includes belated discoveries of the extent to which government officials were influenced by activist groups even while pretending to ignore popular pressure.

These revelations can be found in the memoirs of the government officials as well, such as in George W. Bush's recollection of how seriously the Republican Senate Majority Leader was taking public pressure against the war on Iraq in 2006.

Chicago: Peace Town

A huge crowd gathered for several hours and marched for over two miles in the hot sun to oppose NATO and U.S. wars on Sunday in Chicago.  Finishing the march outside the NATO meeting, numerous U.S. veterans of current wars denounced their previous "service" and threw their medals over the fence, a scene not witnessed since the U.S. war on Vietnam.

This event, with massive turnout and tremendous energy, saw the participation of numerous groups from Chicago and the surrounding area, including students, teachers, and activists on a variety of issues, as well as anti-war activists and Occupiers from around the country and the world.  No one can have been disappointed with the turnout, but it might have been bigger if not for the fear that was spread prior to Sunday.  In the face of that fear, Sunday's action was remarkable.

Ending the Mindset That Gets Us into War

 

MAY 20, 2012, MILITARIZED CHICAGO -- Next month in Baltimore they're going to celebrate the War of 1812.  That's what we do with wars.  We say they're the last resort.  We say they're hell.  We say they're for the purpose of eliminating themselves: we fight wars for peace.  Although we never keep peace for wars.  We claim to wage only wars we have been forced into despite all possible effort to find a better way.  And then we celebrate the wars.  We keep the wars going for their own sake after all the excuses we used to get them started have expired.  The WMDs have not been found.  Osama bin Laden's been killed.  Al Qaeda is gone from the country where we're fighting it.  Nobody's threatening Benghazi anymore.  But the wars must go on!  And then we'll celebrate them.  And we'll celebrate the old ones too, the ones that were fought here, the ones that were in their day not quite so heavily painted as last resorts or humanitarian missions. 

 

Last year Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee persuaded Congress to create an Iraq-Afghanistan Wars holiday.  It's on our calendars now along with Loyalty Day (formerly May Day), Veterans Day (formerly Armistice Day), Memorial Day, Yellow Ribbon Day, Patriots Day, Independence Day, Flag Day, Pearl Harbor Day, and of course September 11th, among many others.  Last week there was an Armed Forces Spouses Appreciation Day.  The military holiday calendar is like the Catholic saints' days now: there's something every day of the year. 

 

But there's no celebration of the times we avoided war. We claim to prefer peace to war, but we don't make heroes of those presidents or Congresses who most avoided war.  In fact, we erase them.  Our history books jump from war to war as if nothing happened in between.  Nobody celebrates 1811, only 1812.  Even the peace movement doesn't celebrate the past decade's prevention, thus far, of a war on Iran.

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