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Italy 1, CIA Torturers 0

Forza Italia! After years of appeals, Italy's highest court has upheld the conviction of 23 Americans involved in a CIA kidnapping of a man off the street in Milan, whom the CIA shipped to Egypt to be brutally tortured.  This ruling could result in Italy demanding their extradition.  For, you see, the 23 are living comfortably in the United States.  They look just like decent people.  They blend in.  I don't advise Italy to kidnap (or "rendition") these Americans just because President Obama says that's legal.  But I do encourage Italy to demand extradition.  And I hope that one or another of them will be so good as to seek sanctuary in an Ecuadorean Embassy, just to see how many heads explode in Washington as people try to determine what they're supposed to think of that.

For background on this case, sadly still relevant, here's something I wrote on November 6, 2010:

One Place to Cut Spending: Kidnapping and Torture

By David Swanson

I know it seems like more of a noble sacrifice to cut spending on things people less fortunate than ourselves need, but can somebody explain to me why it wouldn't be at least that noble to eliminate the budget of the CIA, which serves no one?

The Washington Post and the Obama administration have been busy telling us that it's legal to kidnap people and send them to countries that torture. They may call it "renditioning" to nations that use "enhanced interrogation techniques," but a new book details what this means in English.

A man was walking near his home in Milano, Italy, and was stopped and questioned by a policeman. When they had been engaged in conversation for some minutes, the side door of a van parked behind the man crashed open with a thunderous sound, two extremely large and strong men grabbed the civilian and hauled him inside, and the door slammed shut three seconds after it had opened, as the van accelerated and the two men hit and kicked their victim repeatedly in the dark of the van's interior, pounding his head, chest, stomach, and legs. They stopped. They stuffed a gag in his mouth and put a hood over his head, as they cinched cords tight around his wrists and ankles. Hours later they threw him into another vehicle. An hour later they took him out, stood him up, cut his clothes off, shoved something hard up his anus, stuck a diaper and pajamas on him, wrapped his head almost entirely with duct tape, and tossed him in an airplane.

The torture he received when he got where he was going left him nearly dead, prematurely aged, and barely able to walk. It was US-sponsored and Egyptian administered. And it is described in all of its almost unbearable detail in Steve Hendricks' "A Kidnapping in Milan: The CIA on Trial."

Believe it or not, most of this book is enjoyable. Hendricks knows the United States and Italy and how to write about one for readers in the other. His remarks on Italian culture are outdone only by his background on Muslim terrorism, his account of who this kidnapping victim was, and the inclusion of dialogue picked up by Italian wiretaps of terrorism suspects' private conversations. But just as terrific reading are Hendricks' histories of the practice of rendition, of the use of torture, of U.S.-Italian relations, of domestic Italian terrorism, and of modern Egypt.

Not to ruin the punch line -- and this has long been public knowledge -- the kidnapping, transporting, imprisoning, and torturing of this man and many others is paid for with U.S. tax dollars. I'm sure it all sounds very important and rational given how demonically evil Muslims are supposed to be. But how do you justify the dozens of CIA agents living it up in Italy's most luxurious hotels while plotting this operation? And how do you rationalize the damage done to U.S. relations with Italy? Of course, Italians quickly discovered that the CIA was behind this crime. It would have been harder to track them if they'd worn neon signs on their chests. They used cell phones and frequent flyer accounts that were easily identified, not to mention names and addresses similar to their real ones. Hendricks describes their methods as Keystone Kommandoism.

No doubt some of these CIA bunglers and butchers were outsourced and untrained, but they also believed they were above the law. They thought they had immunity. Italian law enforcement thought otherwise. For decades during the Cold War, the CIA kept an army and caches of weapons in Italy to be used if communists were ever able to gain significant political power. A long list of abuses has come to light and no one ever been held accountable. Magistrate Armando Spataro, like many Italians, adored the United States. When reporters asked him why he had indicted two dozen CIA agents, Spataro said he was opposing lawlessness, not his beloved United States. He warned of following the path of Mussolini. He pointed out that Italy had defeated domestic terrorists with the rule of law. He showed that the new U.S. lawlessness was just encouraging terror. His record of prosecuting leftist terrorists and his indictment for terrorism of the victim himself of the U.S. kidnapping made claims of bias difficult to pin on Spataro. The approach resorted to by the U.S. media was -- to the extent possible -- to ignore the whole thing, especially when Spataro won convictions of the agents tried in absentia.

The Italian legal system is one thing, its government in Rome quite another. The latter will never ask the United States to extradite the convicts unless the U.S. president requests it first, just as the United States would never kidnap a man in Italy without telling the Italian president and the Italian spy service first. So, none of the culprits are behind bars, but they are unable to live in or travel to Europe. And a strong signal has been sent about the likelihood of Italy tolerating more such crimes. This is the sort of message Nancy Pelosi would have sent by impeaching Bush even if the Senate had not convicted him.

Hendricks tracked down most of the scofflaws. They're spread around the United States engaged in a variety of work, most of them completely unknown to the public. The man chiefly responsible, on the other hand, is undergoing a public rehabilitation and it about to open a presidential library, while the man responsible for the continued practice and for the freedom of his predecessor has two more years in the White House.

Hearts and Mines

Russell Snyder's new book is called "Hearts and Mines: With the Marines in Al-Anbar: A Story of Psychological Warfare in Iraq." It's a beautiful book and one that may move you to outraged action, but not in the way you might expect.

I got the book from its author at a Veterans For Peace convention.  I assumed it was an anti-war book.  I was startled first by the literary skill of the author, who paints a powerful picture of his time in Iraq.  I was startled second, slowly, gradually, as I waited for the author to turn against the war.  I've read many other accounts by soldiers who came to regret their actions.  They suffer from the actions they have taken.  They deeply regret having killed innocent people.  They find it almost too much to bear.  They lay down their guns.  They resist.  They go AWOL. They file for conscientious objector status. Or they receive their discharge and then denounce the institution of war, committing never to be a part of it again.

That never quite happens with Snyder.

Here's an intelligent, sensitive young man capable of describing a wide array of conflicting emotions that soldiers experience in wartime.  He enjoys the camaraderie of the military.  He respects the professionalism.  He honors the self-sacrifice.  And he resents the stupidity, fears for his life, and questions the wisdom of the entire enterprise.  Just questions.  He doesn't reject.  This is not a book aimed at moving you to demand an end to military spending.  This is a book aimed -- intentionally or not -- at moving you to seek out and struggle against the cultural habits that allow people to accept war so completely that they can recognize it as an unnecessary piece of barbarism and nonetheless take part in it with pride.

"It's a worrisome flaw humanity has yet to overcome that in our modern age we still accept the butchery of our human brothers and sisters as a means of settling our politicians' and religious leaders' disagreements," writes Snyder in the introduction.  He writes that his viewpoint evolved there.  But the narrative of the book doesn't display evolution so much as complexity and contradiction. 

Snyder's job was to blast loud messages in Arabic at Iraqi villages, in order to win their hearts and minds.  He notes that in shooting practice "two in the heart, one in the mind" meant two bullets to the chest and one to the head -- mocking the futility of "psy-ops."  When, in Chapter 2, Snyder puts bullets into live humans, he describes the success of the conditioning that allowed him to do so without thought.  That thoughtlessness largely remains, at least on the surface, for the rest of the book. 

Snyder describes the difficulties of "winning" an occupation of a country, the inability to trust anyone, the cycles of revenge, the brutality, the lack of understanding, the torture, the sadism, and the tricking of Iraqi children into cursing their country in English or drinking urine.  Snyder describes a remarkable number of incidents in which he could easily have died, as well as learning that someone was offering $5,000 to whoever destroyed his loudspeaker truck or killed his Iraqi translator.  This is a book with more "action" in it than most such accounts I've read -- even as it still manages to convey the deadly boredom these incidents interspersed, and the adrenaline high that drove soldiers and Marines to seek out more activity, even at the risk of death.  Snyder describes the fear of death, the resort to religion, and ultimately his attempt to believe that God saved him (while, of course, not saving thousands of others). 

Snyder disapproves of the worst attitudes and actions he recounts.  "It felt hypocritical," he writes, "that we should attempt to convince [Iraqis] security was improving and they shouldn't be worried while we Americans swaddled ourselves head to toe in armor and protective gear.  Our hosts must have sometimes regarded our argument as condescending. Since we didn't allow them to have armor or weapons, it seemed to imply their lives were not deserving of the same level of protection as our own."  At various other times, Snyder writes that his actions had the merit of possibly saving Marines' lives.  Not lives, Marines' lives. 

Snyder describes himself as torn. "My soul ached, torn between feeling a sense of contractual obligation, a desire to fulfill my duties as a soldier and to commiserate with my brothers in uniform while mourning the seemingly pointless extinction of so much innocent life.  Not only the little girls whose stiffening corpses were now rotting like refuse in the backyard, or the baby chicks that had survived two tank rounds only to succumb to the sadistic whims of bored Marines, but the countless thousands of other human lives destroyed by war and remembered only as collateral damage. . . .  Prolonging the war seemed akin to setting fire to a neighbor's house and then attempting to extinguish the flames with more fire.  I felt at once very weary, exhausted by the heavy knowledge of so much violence and needless death.  But I remained quiet as I crawled into the turret, resigned to accept my own sinful role."  In fact, the possibility of acting otherwise is never mentioned in the book -- except for others.  Snyder writes that he "lamented the state of what I imagined to be my countrymen's lack of awareness that permitted their collective conscience to embrace a war . . . ."  In reality, there is no collective in such matters.  We each have to act alone.  We each bear a different share of guilt.  But most of us at least were not taking part in what we were lamenting.  Snyder ends the book feeling more guilt over his decision not to reenlist than anything else.

It's possible that some of what Snyder has experienced and taken part in lies buried within him, threatening to erupt years or decades from now.  "I might never live," he writes, "long enough to atone for everything that troubled me, but maybe I didn't have to if I made a sincere effort to live a life that benefitted others."  In my view, what's needed is not further suffering by Russell Snyder.  More suffering benefits no one.  If he is able to move on to a productive nonviolent life, I only hope that it includes more writing.  What's needed, I think, is for the rest of us to appreciate how a book like this one already benefits others. 

Start with Snyder's condemnation of the effort underway during his time in Iraq to recruit Iraqis to take over the killing of Iraqis.  A similar effort is failing miserably in Afghanistan right now, without any alternative entering the minds of our public policy decision makers. 

Look at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's bewilderment at the Libyans' lack of appreciation for all that our bombs have done to their country.  Here's a book that could ease our national case of bewilderment as to why the recipients of our "aid" tend to show so little gratitude. 

The importance of this book is that it takes someone who largely believes (or used to believe) in U.S. propaganda and puts him into face-to-face exchanges with its victims.  These exchanges are riveting:

After Snyder's team blasts an area with an instruction to leave, they find an old man in a house with two young boys.  The old man asks where in the world he was supposed to go, the desert? 

"A tear formed in a wrinkled corner of the man's eye and sparkled down his cheek.

"'I have my son's family here too.  You shot him driving his tractor home.  He was a good man, an innocent man.'

"He pointed up the street to the burnt-out remnant of a vehicle.  The Marines had destroyed several vehicles with tank rounds during the push into the city, which they identified as potential suicide car bombs. It was pointless to wonder whose version of events was true.  The son was dead, or at the very least his father was a good actor.

"'I'm sorry to hear of your loss, but sometimes there are accidents in war.  You fought against Iran, did you not?  You know things like this happen.  There are bad people here, people who want to kill us.  We have to protect ourselves.  It is our job to make Iraq safer, and sometimes that means making hard decisions.  Maybe sometimes the wrong people do get caught in the middle.  We try to be careful, believe me.  The terrorists will stop at nothing, even killing children, but we Americans do our best to avoid unnecessary violence.  We follow the Geneva Conventions.  We want to help you.  That doesn't bring your son back, I know, but we are only trying to do our job.'

"The man rebutted my statement, morosely shaking his head in disbelief that I could be so wrong.

"'Iraq was safe before you came.  My town was quiet before you bombed it.  Now I cannot even go outside.  We don't have water.' He sighed. 'If you can just let me go to the water valve down the street, I can maybe turn the water back on.'

"'I can't make that decision.  Our commander wants everyone to stay home.  It's better if you stay inside, safer.  We can bring you water later.'

"I turned to Sonny. 'Ask him if he has ever seen strangers here.'

"I looked back in the old man's eyes. 'Has he seen foreign fighters here.'

"Sonny paused.  'He says, "Just you."'

"I squeezed my eyes shut at the old man's audacity and pinched the bridge of my nose.  It was a true statement, from his perspective, that I was a foreign fighter, but not the answer I looked for.

"'There are dead Africans in the street up there.  He never saw anyone like that?'

"The man shook his head.

"'He didn't know there was a torture dungeon just down the road, where they kept captured border guards?  He never heard a scream? They didn't think it was safe here.'

"I carefully watched the man's reaction to the news there had been such crimes committed so close to his home.  He showed no surprise.

"'If you say so,' the old man replied. 'I don't know anything.'"

Talk Nation Radio: War Tax Resistance

Ruth Benn explains the why and how of not paying taxes for war and war preparation.  Benn is the Coordinator of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC), a position she has held since 2003. She co-edited with Ed Hedemann the fourth and fifth editions of the book War Tax Resistance: A Guide to Withholding Your Support from the Military, published by the War Resisters League.  Benn has a Masters in Education with a concentration in Peace Studies from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She began refusing 100% of federal income taxes owed in 1989 and has filed and refused to send a check to the IRS each year since then. Ruth redirects taxes not paid to the federal government to organizations that feed the hungry, care for victims of war, house the homeless, and work for peace and justice. Ruth regularly counsels people who are considering refusing to pay for war or who have run into problems with the IRS. She attended the International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns in the Netherlands (1989), Washington, DC (2000), and Manchester, England (2008).  Learn more:

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Veterans to Stand Firm as Afghan War Enters Year 12

Dedicated and disciplined nonviolent activists, and in particular military veterans, are being openly invited to join members of Veterans For Peace in a peaceful vigil in New York City that will as likely as not result in their wrongful arrest and prosecution.

The time will be 6 p.m. on October 7, 2012, as the United States and NATO complete the eleventh year of the current occupation of Afghanistan and launch the twelfth.  The crowd at the Republican National Convention cheered for complete immediate withdrawal, but the nominee's plans don't include it.  The crowds at rallies for President Obama's reelection cheer for both the continuation of the war and its supposed status as "ending," even though the timetable for that "ending" is longer than most past wars, and a massive occupation is supposed to remain after the occupation "ends."  Veterans For Peace, an organization dedicated to the abolition of war, is hoping to inject a discordant note into this happy discourse -- something that the ongoing reports of deaths just don't seem to manage.

The place will be Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza, 55 Water Street, New York City.  It was there that some of the same veterans gathering this October were arrested last May First.  The memorial is normally open around the clock, but on that day the New York Police Department decided to close it at 10 p.m. in order to evict the Occupy Movement's nonviolent general assembly.  Eight members of the Veterans Peace Team and two members of Occupy Faith were arrested for refusing to leave.  Since that day, a small metal sign has been posted at the park stating that it closes at 10 p.m.  This October 7th, the veterans have a permit for sound equipment lasting until 10 p.m., but they intend to remain overnight.

Vietnam vet Paul Appell says, "War veterans, loved ones of the fallen, and certainly those living in war zones do not have the option of closing down their memories at 10 p.m. There is a good reason why suicide is an attractive option for many. It is truly the only sure way of ending the memories. For a memorial to shut down at some convenient time for the city is an insult to all those who do not have the luxury of shutting down their war memories at a specific time. I know that many want us war vets to go out of sight and not bother them, except when we are needed for some parade. Some of us are not going away at 10 p.m. or any other time. If they do not like it, maybe they should have thought of that before they sent us to war.

Tarak Kauff, U.S. Army, 1959-1962, and one of the organizers of VFP's Veterans Peace Team, says, "We will be there standing together and getting arrested again if necessary for our right to remember the fallen, to oppose and 'abolish war as an instrument of national policy' and to affirm our right to do so in a public place of remembrance that has great meaning for all veterans."

The plan is not for a mass demonstration.  In fact, many are explicitly not invited.  Non-veterans are enthusiastically welcome, including associate members of Veterans For Peace and anyone else dedicated to ending violence in the world.  But "diversity of tactics" is unapologetically rejected.  Anyone inclined toward violence, provocation, or threats, including violence to inanimate objects, is kindly asked on this day, to respect the Memorial, the veterans, and the commitment to nonviolence.  This event will involve hundreds of activists who intend to peacefully vigil all night, and who will not respond to police violence with any violence of their own.

Speakers at the vigil will oppose a single additional day of U.S. warmaking in Afghanistan.  Speakers will include Leah Bolger, Margaret Flowers, Glen Ford, Mike Hastie, Chris Hedges, George Packard, Donna Schaper, Kevin Zeese, and Michael Zweig. Dr. Cornel West has also been invited.  At 9:30 p.m. participants will lay flowers for the fallen.

The purpose of this action, which will succeed whether the police interfere or not, is well expressed by several vets planning to take part.  Mike Ferner, Navy Corpsman 1969-1973, and past president of Veterans For Peace, says, "I'm coming to NYC October 7th because I need to do more for myself and the world than just get angry at the misery and suffering.  Being with my comrades again and standing up for peace uplifts my spirit."

Rev. George E. Packard, Retired, Bishop for the Armed Forces of the Episcopal Church, asks, "How can we, as Americans and compassionate human beings, tolerate even one more day creating a toxic battle environment in that southwest Asian country? We increase the lethality of our weaponry -- more drones, more firepower -- so we can protect our troops and not face the bad news of casualties at home. But it is a useless scheme and one that sacrifices the lives primarily of Afghan women and children, the real collateral damage.  Also, this destruction becomes latent in our culture as the postponed agony of PTSD in thousands of troops extends to their immediate families in the United States. Entire segments of our population are sentenced to living addicted or arrested lives because we weren't wise enough to figure out a more humane and effective foreign policy."

Ellen Barfield, Heavy Equipment Mechanic Sergeant, U.S. Army, 1977-1981, adds, "I will mourn the New York U.S. soldiers dead from Vietnam whose names are there on that wall, and the thousands of U.S. and other soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in these more recent wars, and the millions of civilians who were killed in Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan. But I will also express our right to visit memorials and speak out against wars at any time of the day or night. Sadly, war trauma does not sleep, so setting arbitrary curfews at war memorials is cruel and unjust. We will object with our bodies to the repression of mourning and dissent."

Erik Lobo, Navy veteran, remarks, "I will be at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial because the oath I took -- both in the Navy and during 28 years in law enforcement -- to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, does not have an expiration date."

David Ross, Vietnam veteran, explains, "Once again I will be honored to stand with my sisters and brothers and our friends regardless of the inconvenience. I owe this and, looking back over 40 years of veteran organizing, the need to take a stand has never been greater."

William P. Homans, a.k.a. Watermelon Slim, Vietnam veteran, says, "I will be returning to the New York Vietnam Memorial to play Taps. . . .  I will also be there because the American right to dissent from 'business as usual' is at risk. I was in the anti-Vietnam War movement back in the early '70s when I returned from Vietnam, and I never considered the absolute right to speak and dissent to be threatened. . . . But mostly I will be there to mourn."

John Spitzberg of Ashville VFP, puts it this way: "I speak for those who have died and for those who are so infirm that they are unable to come to New York on October 7th. We are the living and able who rally for you so that your voices are heard and are not in vain. We come to say 'Enough of this travesty of mindless war, mindless mayhem and devastation.'"

Finally, Kauff, who is doing a lot to organize this event, says, "I have a fury inside me against war and those rich fat cats who perpetrate wars and militarism. Yes, I take it personally.  These wars are not about defending freedom or democracy. They have nothing to do with that -- just the opposite. The top-down leaders, the corporate warlords, the politicians, the Masters of War don't give a damn about freedom and democracy, about the lives and money going from the poor and middle class to fight and pay for these wars. They and their kids don't fight, die and come home wounded in body and soul. No, they make fortunes selling weapons while destroying the world. It pains and angers me deeply, and I want to stop it.  On October 7th, while grieving for, remembering and respecting the fallen, I will take a stand for my and others' right to peacefully and nonviolently affirm this whenever and wherever we want to, especially at this hallowed place, where memories and reminders of the futility of war never cease, not at 10 p.m., not at any time."

The website is  There you can register to participate, whether you wish to stand with the vets after 10 p.m. or to serve in a supporting role.

Will the 2012 Presidential Election Be Stolen?

Why would I even ask that question?  I've been trying (with virtually no success) to get everyone to drop the election obsession and focus on activism designed around policy changes, not personality changes.  I want those policy changes to include stripping presidents of imperial powers.  I don't see as much difference between the two available choices as most people; I see each as a different shade of disaster.  I don't get distressed by the thought of people "spoiling" an election by voting for a legitimately good candidate like Jill Stein.  Besides, won't Romney lose by a landslide if he doesn't tape his mouth shut during the coming weeks?  And yet . . .

It matters to me whether our elections are stolen in any number of ways in which they can be stolen, some of which would simply mean Romney robbing Obama, but others of which are related to the barriers facing non-corporate candidates.  Most of these dangers face congressional candidates as well; election theft is not exclusively a presidential problem. Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have just published "Will the GOP Steal America's 2012 Election? Corporate Vote Theft & the Future of American Democracy," with an introduction by Greg Palast.  I recommend it especially for the history of election fraud back through the centuries, but also for the collection of Fitrakis-Wasserman articles that make up the vast bulk of the book.  The book opens, however, with a systematic survey of the ways in which your vote can be disappeared.  Here's a taste:

"The Republican Party could steal the 2012 US Presidential election with relative ease.The purpose of this book is to show how, and to dissect the larger -- potentially fatal -- warning signs for American democracy, no matter which corporate party is doing the stealing.Six basic factors make this year's theft a possibility:

"1.The power of corporate money, now vastly enhanced by the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens' United decisions;

"2.The Electoral College, which narrows the number of votes needed to be moved to swing a presidential election;

"3.The systematic disenfranchisement of -- according to the Brennan Center -- ten million or more citizens (a million in Ohio alone), most of whom would otherwise be likely to vote Democratic;

"4.The accelerating use of electronic voting machines, which make election theft a relatively simple task for those who control them, including their owners and operators, who are predominantly Republican;

"5.The GOP control of nine of the governorships in the dozen swing states that will decide the outcome of the 2012 campaign; and,

"6.The likelihood that the core of the activist 'election protection' community that turned out in droves to monitor the vote for Barack Obama in 2008 has not been energized by his presidency and is thus unlikely to work for him again in 2012."

Each of these points is explained and elaborated in the book.  Why, you might ask, does it matter which party a governor belongs to?  Well . . .

"Without his brother Jeb as governor of Florida 2000, and Kathleen Harris as secretary of state, George W. Bush could not have become president of the United States.  As we have seen, Governor Bush purged Florida's voter rolls of tens of thousands of likely Democrats.  Various ballot 'problems' emerged, including the electronic 'glitch' in Volusia County.  Then Secretary of State Harris stalled a statewide recount and opened the door for the Supreme Court's Bush v Gore decision.  Without Governor Robert Taft and Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell in Ohio 2004, Bush could not have gotten a second term.  Taft facilitated another purge of voter rolls, removing some 300,000 names from the lists.  Then Blackwell ran an astonishing range of dirty tricks aimed at Democratic voters, culminating in his now-infamous late-night manipulation of the electronic vote count that moved the victory from Kerry to Bush.  The personal, private election day visit the President and Karl Rove paid to Blackwell in his Columbus office may have been their most important stop of the campaign."

Fitrakis and Wasserman also don't skimp on proposals for actual change of the sort you won't hear discussed much, if at all, in the Romnobama Debates in October:

"1.Money must come out of politics.  No nation can allow a tiny handful of million/billionaire corporatists to pour unlimited cash into our elections and expect to emerge with even a semblance of democracy.  If elections can be bought, so can our government, to the detriment of us all.  Citizens United must be reversed, corporations must be stripped of legal personhood, and money must be banned from the electoral process.  This will take an unprecedented nation-wide grassroots campaign resulting in at least one Constitutional amendment.  The odds may seem daunting.  But George III was not Divine, and corporations are not people. 

"2.Elections cannot be administered by partisans.  All local, state and federal election officials must be banned from playing any role in any campaign relating to the election they are administering.  A strict non-partisanship must apply to establishing congressional districts and all other aspects of our democratic process.

"3.All American citizens must be automatically registered to vote upon turning 18.  The arduous, unfair practice of forcing pro-democracy organizations to go out and register voters is nonsensical.  Voting is an inherent natural right and responsibility.  Citizens should be removed from voter rolls only upon death or renunciation of citizenship.

"4.All places of voting must be convenient, stable, well-known and easily accessible. 

"5.Voting should be available over a period of weeks by mail, and at polling stations through the Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday around Armistice Day, November 11.  The polls should be largely worked by high school and college students who will get school credit for the day, and who will get a holiday that Tuesday to count the ballots.

"6.All electronic voting and counting machines should be banned (as Ireland has just done, and as has long been the case in Canada, Japan, Germany and elsewhere) with all ballots cast on recycled paper, to be hand-counted."

Not a bad list.  Too bad you can't vote it into being.  But we probably won't get it at all if we lose every last pretense of legitimate elections.  Reforming our elections must be integral to our agenda, even once we've figured out that the Messiah hasn't been nominated.  After all, that realization is tightly connected to the realization that our elections need major repairs.  The Messiah will never be nominated, even after all of these reforms, but we might manage to nominate a junior assistant disciple -- which is actually preferable, and which will be far superior to the current crop of moneychangers.

The Military Spending Cut Scare

The fearmongering is on.  Here's a typical article, this one from the only daily newspaper in my hometown:

"Defense spending could face large loss from federal cuts

"Charlottesville and Albemarle County could see a potential loss of $46.5 million in defense-related spending if federally mandated cuts, which are slated to start next year, come to fruition."

There are several ways in which this is misleading.  First, "defense" here means military, whether or not defensive.  Second, "cuts" in Washington-talk includes reductions in a budget from one year to the next, OR reductions from a desired dream-budget to a less-desired budget, even one that is an increase over last year's.  For the past 13 years, military spending has grown to levels not seen since World War II. It's over half of federal discretionary spending, and as much as the rest of the world combined.  The Pentagon's budget grew each year George W. Bush was president and the first three years that Barack Obama was president.  It is being cut by 2.6% this year, not the 9% used to calculate a portion of that $46.5 million figure.  If the mandated cuts mentioned above go through, the Pentagon will still be spending next year more than it did in 2006 at the height of the war on Iraq.

In addition, military contractors have been bringing in more federal dollars while cutting jobs.  They employed fewer people in 2011 with bigger contracts than in 2006 with smaller ones.  So the logic of bigger contracts = more jobs is essentially a bucket of hope and change.

And the Pentagon's base budget is less than half of total military spending. It's necessary to add in war spending (over $80 billion nationally this year), nuclear weapons spending through the Department of Energy, military operations through the State Department, USAID, and the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, etc., to get the real total. The Pentagon also has $83 billion in unobligated balances it can draw on.

The war industries in the United States are also by no means limited to the U.S. government.  U.S. weapons makers brought in $66.3 billion last year from foreign governments.  Many of those governments, like our own, are engaged in horrendous human rights abuses, but as long as we're being sociopathic about job creation, there's no reason to leave this out.

The article continues:

"The figures - compiled by the Center for Security Policy and the Coalition for the Common Defense, conservative-leaning Washington, D.C.-based think tanks - are based on publicly available information on Department of Defense contracts compiled and made available online through the Federal Procurement Data System website.

"The coalition describes itself as a group of individuals and local and national organizations 'committed to the Constitutional imperative to provide for the common defense and returning the United States to sensible fiscal principles without sacrificing its national security.'"

Never mind that the Constitution was written to include the creation of armies in times of war, not the permanent maintenance of a military industrial complex as a jobs program.  The above is how the two groups pushing the "news" in this article describe themselves.  How would a journalist describe them?  Well, as long as they're promoting military spending, it seems most relevant and significant to describe the ways in which they benefit from that spending.

The Center for Security Policy has a board of advisors packed with weapons makers executives and lobbyists from such disinterested parties as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, TRW, Raytheon, Ball Aerospace & Technologies, and Hewlett-Packard.  The Coalition for the Common Defense has been maneuvering the anti-spending Tea Party behind massive military spending. Hence the Constitution-talk.  But the "Coalition" isn't run by Constitutional scholars.  It's dominated by weapons company lobbyists, including the Aerospace Industry Association, which represents Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell, L-3 Communications, and other military industry corporations.  The Aerospace Industry Association spends over $2 million a year lobbying our government in Washignton.  Much of that money ends up being spent on luxurious lobbyist lifestyles in the great Commonwealth of Virginia.  Never forget the danger of the loss of that source of job creation should Congress simply and unquestioningly take direction from the weapons makers.

The article goes on:

"The data is reported by fiscal year and does not include grants or loans.

"From 2000-2011, more than 14,000 Virginia businesses provided defense-related goods and services, according to a state level report prepared by for Common Defense.

"Based on fiscal year 2011 defense contract date, the estimated reduction in Albemarle County in 2013 would be $43.25 million; in the city, the reduction would be an estimated $3.25 million.

"Earlier this year, defense budgets were cut by about $487 billion, an average of a 9 percent cut over a decade. In addition, the reports reflect the impact of sequestration, a 2011 mandate for about $500 billion more in defense spending reductions from 2013-2021, which averages to about an overall 18 percent cut in defense spending."

Here it's worth pausing to note that the $487 billion figure has been multiplied by 10.  It's a figure "over a decade."  Divided by 10 it would be $48.7 billion "over a year."  Or, it could be multiplied by 100 to give us $4,870 billion "over a century."  The reasons to talk about the decade are two.  First, it sounds bigger that way.  Second, by loading the later years heavily, politicians can claim to be making big cuts while actually passing those cuts on to future politicians who may not make them.  While all the news articles deal with cuts "over a decade," Congress actually only passes budgets for a year at a time.

"Published earlier this year, the reports indicate the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads regions would see the most severe losses if the cuts are fully implemented, while the state overall could lose $7.24 billion in earnings and more than 122,000 jobs.

“'There’s no question that Virginia will be the most impacted,' Christine Brim, chief operating officer of the Center for Security Policy told The Daily Progress. 'Virginia has the largest amount of defense spending. This is, without a doubt, the state that is the most impacted.'

"Furthermore, Brim said the effects go beyond just the financial to the core of Virginia’s identity, history and culture as a state important to America’s defense, character traits that still hold true today."

Here's Democratic Virginia Senate candidate Tim Kaine claiming that one in three Virginians depends directly on military spending.  These claims are almost certainly exaggerated. They are for Albemarle County.  The county's website says: "The economy of Albemarle County is vital and growing. The predominant economic sectors are services, manufacturing, education, retail, tourism, trade,  care & social assistance, technical & professional services and agriculture. The County of Albemarle's labor force is roughly 53,000 and its unemployment rate of 2.6% is consistently lower than the state and national averages." 

"However, Jeff Caldwell, a spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell, said the state does not yet have any estimates for the effect of sequestration in Virginia.

“'With so many variables involved, there is no firm number to delineate that impact on the commonwealth or any particular area,' Caldwell said by email.

"Rep. Robert Hurt, R-5th, called the looming cuts 'devastating' for his district, which encompasses most of the Charlottesville region.

“'The White House and the Senate must join with the House [of Representatives] in addressing this impending crisis so we can keep our military men and women adequately equipped, protect jobs across the 5th District and the Commonwealth, and reduce our national debt in a responsible manner,” Hurt said in a statement."

A few points missed in the above: First, refusing to cut military spending does the opposite of reducing the national debt.  Second, military spending is the least cost-efficient way to produce jobs.  It produces fewer jobs than spending on infrastructure, green energy, education, or even tax cuts for working people.  So, if the goal is to save money while producing jobs, military spending is exactly the place to cut.  Third, there is absolutely no evidence that "adequate equipment" is what's on the chopping block here.  Hurt makes it sound like putting the U.S. navy on Jeju Island, South Korea, against the passionate will of the people there, is being done not to threaten China but as an act of philanthropy for U.S. sailors.

"House Minority Leader Eric Cantor, whose 7th District encompasses portions of the Charlottesville region, issued an even more sharply worded statement on his website, calling the planned cuts a 'dangerous threat' and urging President Obama and Senate Democrats 'to take serious action to prevent these arbitrary, devastating cuts from taking place.'"

Did he offer any evidence for those sharp words?

"While Brim acknowledged the need and desire to cut federal spending, she said gutting the defense budget would derail America’s recovery from the recession.

"That’s because conflict would interrupt trade and commerce and 'there would be nothing more costly than having our trade routes disrupted,' she said."

Now this is a new one.  Unless we continue to borrow money from China with which to build up our military presence all over the globe, including in every location strategically helpful in cutting off China's trade routes, our trade routes will be disrupted.  What trade routes?!  Can she name one?  Conflict, indeed, dirupts peaceful activity.  But conflict comes from war spending.  War spending and war preparation spending does not reduce conflict.

"Local leaders, however, were more measured in their assessment of the effect of the cuts on the local economy.

“'While our area would be affected by any change in federal spending, the overall impact would be minimal given that defense spending constitutes a small percentage of our overall economy,' Chris Engel, Charlottesville’s economic development director said by email.

"Albemarle County spokeswoman Lee Catlin said recent reaffirmations of the county’s AAA bond rating in spite of potential defense-related reductions is an indicator of confidence and stability in the local economy.

“'However, we are home to several major federal installations and associated defense contractors who are valued and important partners in our economy, so we are concerned about funding uncertainty,' Catlin said by email.

"And if the spending cuts do come to pass, Engel expressed confidence that the region’s economy would persevere. 'I think our business community has proven itself to be very adaptable in the past and this could be another instance where that trait will be needed,' Engel said."

If these last paragraphs had come first, this would not have been a bad article at all.

Nuclear Roulette

As the Coalition Against Nukes prepares for a series of events in Washington, D.C., September 20-22, including a Capitol Hill rally, a Congressional briefing, a fundraiser at Busboys and Poets, a ceremony at the Museum of the American Indian, a rally at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), a film screening, and a strategy session, the time seems ideal to take in the wisdom of Gar Smith's new book, Nuclear Roulette: The Truth About the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth.

Most dangerous indeed, and most useless, most inefficient, most destructive, and dumbest.  How does nuclear energy make the human species look like the stupidest concoction since the platypus? Let me count the ways:

1. After the mining, processing, and shipping of uranium, and the plant construction, maintenance, and deconstruction, a nuclear plant only produces about as much energy as went into it -- not counting the need to store the only thing it actually produces (radioactive waste) for hundreds of thousands of years -- and not counting the sacrifice of areas of the earth, including those poisoned with uranium, which has a half life of 4.5 billion years and causes lung cancer, bone cancer, and kidney failure.

2. Wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal have far better net energy ratios.

3. If nuclear power actually worked against climate change, that fact would not be useful, because there is no way enough nuclear power plants to significantly contribute to the required difference could be built quickly enough.

4. If nuclear power plants could be built quickly enough, that wouldn't matter, because the financial cost is prohibitive.  Only with multi-billion-dollar bailouts from the government can a tiny number of nuclear plants be considered for construction at all.  The sainted Private Marketplace of Freedom will never touch nuclear construction on its own -- or insure it.  And the small number of jobs created by the "Job Creator" lobbyists who push for the generous public loan guarantees mostly show up in Japanese and French nuclear companies, thus depriving the whole enterprise of its anti-foreign-oil xenophobic appeal.  (Not to mention, most of the uranium used in U.S. nuclear plants comes from abroad just like oil.)  Deconstructing the plants when they grow too old to operate costs so much that the job is routinely and recklessly put off -- and that doesn't count the fairly common expense of compensating the victims of accidents.

5.  The nuclear industry is in debt up to its ears already, without our feeding its habit any longer.  For example, Washington State's Hanford Nuclear Reservation has dumped 1.7 trillion gallons of contaminated waste into unlined trenches.  The latest plan to try to deal with the mess comes with a $12.3 billion price tag.

6. Even if nuclear power worked when it worked, it's remarkably unreliable.  Between 2003 and 2007, U.S. nuclear plants were shut down 10.6 percent of the time, compared to 1 or 2 percent for solar stations and wind farms. 

7. Nuclear power produces greenhouse gases in the mining, production, deconstruction, shipping, and waste storage processes.  It also discharges 1000 degree Fahrenheit steam directly into the atmosphere. Considering the entire fuel cycle, a nuclear reactor burning high-grade uranium produces about a third as much carbon dioxide as a gas-fired power plant.  As high-grade uranium runs out, low-grade ore will result in a nuclear plant producing just as much carbon dioxide as a gas plant.

8. Climate change may have reached a tipping point.  Radioactivity could as well.  Birds and insects near Chernobyl are adapting.  Humans, too, may be beginning to evolve within the Radiocene era to which the earth has been condemned.

9. Climate change limits nuclear energy, as the heat forces plants to shut down for lack of cool water.

10.  The Three Mile Island disaster killed birds, bees, and livestock.  Pets were born dead or deformed.  In humans, cancer, leukemia, and birth defects spread.  Chernobyl gave cancer to about a million people.  Fukushima looks to be far worse.  Meltdowns and other major malfunctions are common, in the United States and abroad.  Gar Smith documents dozens.  The worst nuclear disaster in the United States was in Simi Valley, California, and no one was told about it.  The rates of disease and death led residents to investigate.  I shouldn't use the past tense; the disaster is still there and not going anywhere in the span of human attention.

11. The rate of break downs and failures thus far is very likely to grow as nuclear plants age.  Meanwhile, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), subservient to the nuclear profiteers, is drastically reducing safety standards.

12. In the normal course of proper nuclear power production, the water, air, and earth are poisoned.

13. The NRC publicly dismisses concerns about earthquakes, but privately panics.  Earthquakes are on the rise.  Fracking may cause even more of them.  Fukushima should scare us all; but closer to home, a plant at Lake Anna, in Virginia, was shut down by an earthquake last year, possibly caused by fracking, and the first response was the publication of lies about the damage. 

14.  If anticipated solar flares (or anything else) collapse power grids, nuclear plants could overheat, melt down, or explode. 

15.  An average nuclear plant produces 20-30 tons of high-level waste and 70 tons of low-level waste per year.  No proven long-term storage site exists.  If one ever does, we won't know what language to post the warning signs in, as no human language has lasted a fraction of the time the nuclear waste will remain deadly. 

16. When a country develops nuclear energy, as the United States encouraged Iran to do in my lifetime, it brings that country very close to developing nuclear weapons, which has become a leading excuse for launching and threatening wars.  It doesn't help for the CIA to give Iran plans for building a bomb, but ridding the world of that sort of stupidity is just not within our reach.  Ridding the world of nukes needs to take priority.

17.  There is no purpose in a nation developing nuclear weapons if it wants to target an enemy that possesses nuclear power plants.  Sitting duck nuclear catastrophes waiting to happen -- by accident or malice -- exist in the form of nuclear power plants within 50 miles of 108 million people in the United States.  Nuclear reactors could have been somewhat protected by being built underground, but that would have cost more.  Haruki Murakami, a Japanese novelist, commented on Fukushima: "This time no one dropped a bomb on us. . . . We set the stage, we committed the crime with our own hands, we are destroying our own lands, and we are destroying our own lives."

18. The latest designs in nuclear reactors don't change points 1-17.

19.  The Associated Press in 2011 found that, "Federal regulators [at the NRC] have been working closely with the nuclear power industry to keep the nation's aging reactors operating within safety standards by repeatedly weakening those standards, or simply failing to enforce them."

20. Helping to shake the nuke habit would take 30 seconds and be ridiculously easy, and yet many won't do it.

It's Us or the Nukes

President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor was about to wake him up in the middle of the night to inform the President that 220 Soviet nuclear missiles were headed our way, when he learned that someone had stuck a game tape into the computer by mistake.

Three years later a Soviet Lieutenant Colonel acted out the same scene, with the computer glitch on his side this time.  Then in 1984 another U.S. computer glitch led to the quick decision to park an armored car on top of a missile silo to prevent the start of the apocalypse.  And again in 1995, the Soviet Union almost responded to a U.S. nuclear attack that proved to be a real missile, but one with a weather satellite rather than a nuke.  One Pentagon report documents 563 nuclear mistakes, malfunctions, and false alarms over the years  -- so far.

Then there are the accidents, of all variety.  Nuclear submarines of the sort now looking for trouble in the Persian Gulf have been known to collide with other ships.  At least eight nuclear submarines (one French, two American, and five Russian) are known to be rotting at the bottom of the sea, leaking uranium and plutonium.  In 2003 the U.S.S. Hartford, a nuclear powered submarine, hit a rock on a tiny island north of Sardinia.  The area is now highly radioactive.

In 1961 a U.S. B-52 with two nukes on board blew up over Faro, North Carolina.  One of the bombs, with a parachute to slow it down, was found.  Five of the six fuses designed to prevent full nuclear detonation had failed.  The other nuclear bomb buried itself 20 feet deep in the ground, lighting up the sky like daylight.  The military deemed that one hard to dig out, and left it there.  And there it sits. This little mishap involved bombs that were each 250 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb.  The commander of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, Lt. Jack B. ReVelle, remarked, "How close was it to exploding? My opinion is damn close. You might now have a very large Bay of North Carolina if that thing had gone off."

In 1956, a B-47 carried two nuclear capsules from MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, headed to a refueling over the Mediterranean, but never arrived and was never found.  In 1958, a B-47 crashed into an F-86 during a combat simulation off the coast of Georgia, near Savannah.  A nuclear weapon was jettisoned over water and never found.

On January 17, 1966, a U.S. B-52 carrying four live hydrogen bombs smashed into a tanker during midair refueling over Spain. Two of the bombs were blown apart like dirty bombs scattering radioactive particles all over Palomares, Spain.  The United States dug up 1,400 tons of radioactive Spanish dirt and took it to Aiken, South Carolina., where the Savannah River Site has been producing nuclear weapons material, trying to dispose of the waste, and radiating people for over half a century, and where radiation was even recently detected coming all the way from the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. 

This was just after the U.S.S. Ticonderoga sailed from Vietnam to Japan with a nuclear-armed airplane on board and accidentally dropped the plane, complete with nuclear bomb and pilot, to the bottom of the ocean, where they remain.

Then, in 1968, another U.S. B-52 with four nukes on it crashed in Greenland.  Three of the bombs exploded, while the fourth has yet to be found.  It's among 11 nuclear bombs the United States admits to having lost over the years.  That's not counting the ones it's temporarily lost and recovered.  In August 2007, a U.S. crew accidentally (or as part of a secret plan; and I'm not sure which is worse) flew six live nuclear bombs from North Dakota to Louisiana and left them sitting there unguarded until the ground crew noticed. 

Oh, and if you doubt that these people will arm unmanned drones with nukes just because the drones tend to crash and malfunction, you haven't yet begun to grasp the sort of madness we're dealing with.

The really good news is that more and more nations have nuclear weapons, and even more have nuclear power, which puts them close to having nuclear weapons.  The thing to remember about every one of these nations, is that they screw up too, through bad luck, stupidity, rage, or madness.  Baharul Haq was an Air Vice Marshall in Pakistan involved in security for Kahuta, Pakistan's main nuclear weapons facility.  Later, his son, Faisal Shahzad, claiming the motivation of outrage at U.S. drone killings, tried to blow up a bomb in Times Square, New York.  What if Faisal and his father had been on closer terms?  Should the fate of New Yorkers really have to depend on such luck?

Nuclear weapons testing on the Marshall Islands produced babies born looking like jelly fish.  Nuclear weapons use on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed like nothing had ever killed before. On October 22, 1964, and again two years later, the U.S. government exploded nuclear bombs underground in Mississippi, and then put up a sign asking people not to dig in the area.  Uranium mining of the sort the profiteers now want to reopen in Virginia has spread cancer through every community it's touched.  And the use of depleted uranium weapons has likely contributed to thousands of deaths and birth-defects in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and among members of the U.S. military and their families, not to mention the weapons' producers in places like Jonesborough, Tennessee.  The United States has also sold DU weapons to 29 other countries.

What Are You Going to Do About It?

There are three barriers to ridding the world of nuclear weapons.  First, our governments don't represent us and will have to be compelled to act when and if we get our act together. 

Second, people imagine we're safer spreading nukes around the globe by the thousands than we would be eliminating them while a few rogue non-state terrorists hang onto some.  This is crazy, of course.  An arsenal of nukes doesn't discourage a terrorist.  Nor can it discourage a state any more than can the non-nuclear weapons capable of complete devastation. 

Third, people fantasize that there are advantages to nuclear energy that outweigh the problem of its technological vicinity to nuclear weaponry.  There are not.  Nuclear energy barely reproduces the amount of energy it takes to build and operate the plants; the waste materials cannot be put anywhere safe for 250,000 years; and the inevitable accidents pose such a risk that no private "free-market" insurance company will take it on -- only taxpayers' misrepresentatives in government are willing to pick up the tab.  Nuclear energy is how India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea got nuclear weapons.  It's also Israel's and the United States' excuse for threatening Iran.  Uranium radioactive waste is among the horrible things being dumped by the West off the lawless coast of Somalia.  The results of such dumping include attacks on Western ships by angry "pirates."  The pirates are generally explained to be hating us for our freedom.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich is hosting a Congressional briefing, Thursday, September 20, 2012, on the medical effects of radiation exposure, and the health threats presented by our nation's nuclear power plants, nuclear fleet, and the on-going tragedy in Fukushima, Japan. There will be expert testimony from Physicians for Social Responsibility and others.  Ask your senators and representative to attend.

The ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan has displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Prior to this disaster, the regulators in Japan said they had all possible safety measures in place. Our Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has said the same thing about our 104 aging nuclear power plants, 23 of which have the same flawed design as in Fukushima.

Nuclear disasters are not unique to Japan. Chernobyl killed and sickened many, as did Three Mile Island on a smaller scale. A nuclear plant in Virginia was damaged by an earthquake last year.

If you're in the Washington, D.C., area, the Coalition Against Nukes invites you to a series of events September 20-22, including a Capitol Hill rally, the Congressional briefing, a fundraiser at Busboys and Poets, a ceremony at the Museum of the American Indian, a rally at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a film screening, and a strategy session.

The nukes have got to go, or we do.  This planet's not big enough for both.

If You're in New Hampshire

On October 5, 2012, don't miss NH Peace Action's 30th Anniversary Event and Fall Fundraiser, at The Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 South Main Street, Concord, NH. 

Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Featuring Author/Activist and Campaign Coordinator David Swanson.

And featuring Singer/Songwriter David Rovics

$30 for tickets in advance, $35 at the door, $10 for students or limited income.

Please be in touch about sponsorship opportunities, silent and live auctions, and ads in our program book!

NH Peace Action
4 Park Street, Suite 210
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 228-0559

Funding Teachers Doesn't Get Embassies Attacked

We're not out of money. We've stopped taxing billionaires and corporations, and we're funding war-preparation so generously that we're sparking a global arms race that will eventually generate some enemies with which to justify the war preparation . . .  which will make sense to students who were never taught to put events into chronological order.  They couldn't be taught that because their teachers had to be laid off so that greedy billionaires could stuff a little more cash into their fat "Job Creator" tote bags.

Talk Nation Radio: The Risks and Benefits of Political Theater in the West Bank

The Freedom Theater in the Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank produces politically engaged theater and is under assault by both the Israeli military and the Palestinian Authority.  We speak about theater as therapy and theater as an alternative to violence with Gary English and Laura Wilson. 

Gary English is a Stage Director and Designer with credits that include over 100 productions at many of America’s major repertory theaters.  He is a Distinguished Professor of Drama at the University of Connecticut and a member of the Human Rights Institute Faculty at Connecticut.  He has been to the Middle East five times in the last two years and will spend the next year on leave from Connecticut when he will serve as Artistic Manager of The Freedom Theatre in the Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank. 

Laura Wilson is a professional Stage and Event Manager based in New York City with credits on Broadway and regional theatres who has been involved with active research and development for Freedom Theatre activities in the United States for the past year and a half.  She is working with Gary English as Editor on a book project entitled Theatre and Human Rights: The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.

Read: "The Freedom Theatre Under Assault; Building a Cultural Institution Under Military Occupation" by Gary M. English and Laura L. Wilson -- PDF.

Total run time: 29:00

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

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The Environmental Antiwar Movement

Events in South Korea are putting U.S. and international environmental groups into coalition with antiwar groups, and in rare opposition to one of the most environmentally destructive forces on earth: the military industrial complex. 

Normally, this doesn't happen.  Typically, civil liberties groups oppose the detention and torture and assassination that come with military spending, but not the spending and not the wars.  Typically, anti-poverty and pro-education groups lament the supposed lack of funding, but avoid all mention of our dumping 57% of federal discretionary funds into war preparation and war.  Typically, for environmental groups, our top consumer of oil, producer of superfund sites, and poisoner of the earth is off-limits.  We oppose pollution, but not pollution in the cause of killing people more quickly.

Jeju Island, South Korea, is changing this.  A coordinated international campaign is trying to save this beautiful island from destruction.  The World Conservation Congress 2012 is being held on Jeju Island -- while just four miles away, in the island's Gangjeong Village, construction is beginning on a massive new naval base to be used by the United States.  Dredging of the seabed and coral has already begun.  94% of the residents of Gangjeong Village have voted against construction of the base.

The extraordinary biological diversity, unique volcanic topography, and the culture of Jeju Island attract many tourists. The Sea of Gangjeong is a national cultural treasure adjacent to a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Only 114 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins remain in Korea, and they live here -- one of many species threatened by base construction. The damage will be devastating.

If the base is constructed, it will host nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers, as well as Aegis missile-carrying warships. U.S. taxpayers will pay the cost of the Obama administration "pivot" into the Asia-Pacific, while Jeju Islanders pay with a damaged home. Ultimately, the cost to the earth and the risk of war will belong to all of us.

Villagers have been arrested during nonviolent protests. Police and construction workers have assaulted elderly members of the community, who represent a large portion of the activists.  Raising our voices in solidarity is the least we can do.  But Samsung, the primary contractor for base construction, is sponsoring the World Conservation Congress (WCC), which opened pretending all was well.  That pretense is crumbling.

From afar, we are flooding the WCC and Samsung with emails.  You can help" Let them know we aren't fooled. Demand that Samsung halt construction and the WCC oppose the base.

On location, activists have made every single participant in the World Conservation Congress aware of the destruction underway on the island where the WCC is meeting. And a resolution is being introduced by 34 organizations from around the world calling for a halt to the military base construction.

Please take the time to read this resolution, and check out the list of signers.  This is how the military industrial complex will eventually do itself in.

World Appeal to Protect the People, Nature, Culture and Heritage of Gangjeong Village

UNDERSTANDING that Gangjeong Village, also known as the Village of Water, on the island of Jeju, also known as Peace Island, is a coastal area home to thousands of species of plants and animals, lava rock freshwater tide pools (“Gureombi”), endangered soft coral reefs, freshwater springs, sacred natural sites, historic burial grounds, and nearly 2,000 indigenous villagers, including farmers, fishermen, and Haenyo women divers, that have lived sustainably with the surrounding marine and terrestrial environment for nearly 4000 years;
NOTING that Gangjeong Village is an Ecological Excellent Village (Ministry of Environment, ROK) of global, regional, national and local significance, sharing the island with a UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve and Global Geological Park, and is in close proximity to three World Heritage Sites and numerous other protected areas;

NOTING that numerous endangered species live in and around Gangjeong Village, including the Boreal Digging Frog (Kaloula borealis) listed on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species; the red-footed crab (Sesarma intermedium); the endemic Jeju fresh water shrimp (Caridina denticulate keunbaei); and the nearly extinct Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins;

NOTING the global uniqueness of the Jeju Soft Coral habitats, designated as Natural Monument 422 of Korea: the only location in the world known to have temperate octocoral species forming a flourishing ecosystem on a substrate of andesite, providing ecological balance to the Jeju marine environment and the development of the human culture of Gangjeong Village for thousands of years;

UNDERSCORING that of the 50 coral species found in the Soft Coral habitats near Gangjeong, 27 are indigenous species, and at least 16 are endangered species and protected according to national and international law, including Dendronephthya suensoni, D. putteri, Tubastraea coccinea, Myriopathes japonica, and M. lata;

THEREFORE CONCERNED of the Civilian-Military Complex Tour Beauty project, a 50-hectare naval installation, being constructed within and adjacent to Gangjeong Village, estimated to house more than 8,000 marines, up to 20 warships, several submarines, and cruise liners;

NOTING the referendum of Gangjeong Village on August 20, 2007, in which 725 villagers participated and 94% opposed the construction;

ACKNOWLEDGING that the construction of the military installation is directly and irreparably harming not only the biodiversity, but the culture, economy and general welfare of Gangjeong Village, one of the last living remnants of traditional Jeju culture;

NOTING the Absolute Preservation Act, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province (1991) and that Gangjeong Village was named an Absolute Preservation Area on October 27, 2004: a permanent designation to conserve the original characteristics of an environment from the surge in development, therefore prohibiting construction, the alteration of form and quality of land, and the reclamation of public water areas;

CONCERNED that this title was removed in 2010 to allow for the Naval installation, and that this step backwards in environmental protection violates the Principle of Non-Regression;

RECALLING the numerous IUCN Resolutions and Recommendations that note, recognize, promote and call for the appropriate implementation of conservation policies and practices that respect the human rights, roles, cultural diversity, and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples in accordance with international agreements;

CONCERNED of reports that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for the naval construction was inaccurate and incomplete and may have violated well-known principles of international law concerning EIAs, transparency, public and indigenous participation, right to know, and free, prior and informed consent;

CONCERNED of the destruction of sacred natural sites in and near Gangjeong Village, noting that the protection of sacred natural sites is one of the oldest forms of culture based conservation (Res. 4.038 recognition and conservation of sacred natural sites in Protected Areas);

ACKNOWLEDGING that IUCN’s Mission is “To influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable;” and that “equity cannot be achieved without the promotion, protection and guarantee of human rights.”;

NOTING Resolution 3.022 Endorsement of the Earth Charter (Bangkok, 2004) that endorsed the Earth Charter as “the ethical guide for IUCN policy and programme,” and that the military installation is contrary to every principle of the Earth Charter;

NOTING the U.N. World Charter for Nature (1982), and that the military installation is contrary to each of its five principles of conservation by which all human conduct affecting nature is to be guided and judged;

AND ALARMED by reports of political prisoners, deportations, and restrictions on freedom of assembly and speech, including the arrests of religious leaders, for speaking against the naval installation and for speaking in promotion of local, national, regional and world conservation and human rights protections;

NOTING Res. 2.37 Support for environmental defenders, “UNDERSTANDING that the participation of non-governmental organizations and individual advocates is essential to the fundamentals of civil society to assure the accountability of governments and multinational corporations; and AWARE that a nation’s environment is only truly protected when concerned citizens are involved in the process;”

NOTING principles enshrined in the Draft International Covenant on Environment and Development such as those concerning military and hostile activities (Art. 36), culture and natural heritage (Art. 26), and the collective rights of indigenous peoples (Art. 15);

FURTHER ACKNOWLEDGING that militarization does not justify the destruction of a community, a culture, endangered species or fragile ecosystems;

AND UNDERSCORING that IUCN’s aim is to promote a just world that values and conserves nature, and the organization sees itself as nature’s representative and patrons of nature;

The IUCN World Conservation Congress at its 5th session in Jeju, Republic of Korea, 6-15 September 2012:

1. REAFFIRMS its commitment to the UN World Charter for Nature and the Earth Charter;
2. CALLS ON the Republic of Korea to:
(a) immediately stop the construction of the Civilian-Military Complex Tour Beauty;
(b) invite an independent body, to prepare a fully transparent scientific, cultural, and legal assessment of the biodiversity and cultural heritage of the area and make it available to the public; and
(c) fully restore the damaged areas.

Sponsor – Center for Humans and Nature
-Chicago Zoological Society (USA)
-International Council of Environmental Law (Germany)
-El Centro Ecuatoriano de Derecho Ambiental, CEDA (Ecuador)
-Sierra Club (USA)
-Fundacion Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Argentina)
-Center for Sustainable Development CENESTA (Iran)
-Asociación Preserve Planet (Costa Rica)
-The Christensen Fund (USA)
-Terra Lingua (Canada)
-Ecological Society of the Philippines (Philippines)
-Citizen’s Institute Environmental Studies (Korea)
-Departamento de Ambiente, Paz y Seguridad, Universidad para la Paz (Costa Rica)
-Coastal Area Resource Development and Management Association (Bangladesh)
-Fundação Vitória Amazônica (Brazil)
-Fundación para el Desarrollo de Alternativas Comunitarias de Conservación del Trópico, ALTROPICO Foundation (Ecuador)
-Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano (Ecuador)
-EcoCiencia (Ecuador)
-Fundación Hábitat y Desarrollo de Argentina (Argentina)
-Instituto de Montaña (Peru)
-Asociación Peruana para la Conservación de la Naturaleza, APECO (Peru)
-Coordinadora de Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica, COICA (Ecuador)
-Fundación Biodiversidad (Argentina)
-Fundacao Vitoria Amazonica (Brazil)
-Fundación Urundei (Brazil)
-Dipartimento Interateneo Territorio Politecnico e Università di Torino (Italy)
-Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas (Costa Rica)
-Corporación Grupo Randi Randi (Ecuador)
-Living Oceans Society (Canada)
-Instituto de Derecho y Economía Ambiental (Paraguay)
-Korean Society of Restoration Ecology (Korea)
-Ramsar Network Japan (Japan)
-The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (Isreal)
-Chimbo Foundation (Netherlands)
-Endangered Wildlife Trust (South Africa)

Add your voice.

WBAI on 9-11 Audio

David Swanson presents a 2012 analysis of how US policy made the military "cure" of "9/11" worse than the original crime, even more under Barack Obama; Steve Ben-Israel contemplates the memory; and Amy Goodman, Dennis Bernstein and Robert Knight provide live details from the scene of the crime at the World Trade Center.

Program details below...

-Robert Knight
Senior National Correspondent

"Five  O'Clock  Shadow"
WBAI . 99.5FM . 

We Are the 99.5!

 "Five O'Clock Shadow" with Robert Knight
 Daily Program
 David Swanson, Steve Ben-Israel, Amy Goodman, Dennis Bernstein, Ryme Kathuda, Robert Knight


DAVID SWANSON [ , ], author of "War Is a Lie," discusses the 2012 aftermath of 9/11, drone escalation, and political compromise in the progressive-paralytic "Age of Obama"; and

Pacifica's live special coverage of the World Trade Center attacks, with Amy Goodman, Robert Knight, Dennis Bernstein and Ryme Kathuda, combining the on-scene resources of Democracy Now, Flashpoints, Free Speech Radio News, and The Knight Report.

Anchor: Robert Knight
Producer: Thiago Barrozo
Engineer: Michael G. Haskins
Origin: WBAI/Pacifica

Support the "Shadow" -

The Method to the Post 9/11 Madness

To your average educated careful consumer of U.S. news media, our militarism looks like ad hoc reactionary responses. A crisis flairs up here. We "intervene" there. An irrational foreign dictator threatens the peace over yonder. We get into wars because we have no choice, and then continue them because ending them would be somehow even worse than continuing them.

Actvists and Obama Supporters Can Make a Deal

For every Obama supporter who posts as a comment below that they will protest his wars on October 5-7, I promise to try to find someone in the swing state of Virginia to vote for him.

If you'd like to propose your own swap of election campaigning for serious activism, please do so as a comment below.

How Do You Ask a Thing to Be the Last Mistake in a John Kerry Speech?

"How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" The answer is, of course: heartlessly, callously, sociopathically, from a state of denial and chosen blindness. The answer is fundamentally the same as what would allow John Kerry to give the speech he gave at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Kerry is, of course, the same loser who eight years ago wanted to be elected on the strength of not being George W. Bush but who said he would have voted for the war on Iraq even if he had mustered up the few brain cells necessary to realize there were no weapons of mass destruction there. Kerry just would have fought the war "effectively," he said.

Now Kerry says this:

CNN Finally Embarassed into Asking Obama About His Murders

Not the right questions. No real answers.  Obama claims you can both have "due process" and be murdered.  But the subject raised.

Talk Nation Radio: Sanctions on Iran -- March Toward War

Kate Gould is the lead lobbyist on Middle East Policy issues at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, focusing on preventing war with Iran and Israeli-Palestinian peace. She says the sanctions now imposed on Iran are cruel collective punishment and a step toward war. Kate represents FCNL on the board of Churches for Middle East Peace. Her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, PBS Frontline’s Tehran Bureau, Foreign Policy in Focus, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Mondoweiss, Common Dreams, Truthout, and other national media outlets.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from or AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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Organizing Against War Within a War Party

Remarks prepared for Progressive Central in Charlotte NC, Sept. 4, 2012

Last week in Tampa, Clint Eastwood proposed immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Republican crowd applauded.  This week here in Charlotte, I wouldn't hold my breath for any speaker at the convention to dare to suggest such a thing.  But they would be applauded if they did.  President Obama will pretend to be ending the war, albeit through a process that will take much longer than the entire length of most wars the world has seen, and he'll be applauded for that.  And if the convention resembles the Obama campaign event I attended last week in Charlottesville (a completely different town from this one, by the way, but like this one named for the wife of a king whom these colonies fought a war against because he abused powers in no way approaching the powers now bestowed on our presidents) -- if, I say, the convention resembles that event, then at least one speaker will glorify the murder of Osama bin Laden and win applause for that, while at least one speaker will praise the continuation of the war on Afghanistan and encourage military recruitment for that purpose and win applause for that.  To get people at a convention of their party to reject something, to boo something, or even to stop and consider something would be the rarest of phenomena.

Some nice police officers asked me and my friends to leave the Obama rally in Charlottesville, because we were asking the president to get out of Afghanistan and to end the sanctions on Iran.  We would have asked him several other things if we had thought anyone in the crowd would have the slightest notion what we were talking about.  Why did the United States triple weapons sales to foreign dictatorships last year?  What's the State Department's commission on those sales?  How do they spread freedom, hope, and change?  Why does the president keep a list of people to be murdered?  Why are there children on the list?  Why do opponents of the electric chair and the poison needle not oppose this?  Why did the president triple the occupation of Afghanistan in the first place?  Why has he enlarged the military?  Who authorized him to bomb Libya and supply Syrian terrorists?  Why has he given war making powers to the CIA?  Why is he blowing people up in numerous nations our country was not at war with?  Why does he compound the domestic damage with an unprecedented assault on whistleblowers, the establishment of warrentless spying and trial-less imprisonment, the continuation of tax cuts for billionaires, corporate trade pacts that make NAFTA look like a student exchange program, threats to Social Security, and endless support for fossil fuel extraction and consumption?  We couldn't ask Obama about these things, because his followers tend not to know about them.  That ignorance is not a step up from supporting such policies.  Rather it is a conscious choice to avoid hearing, to flip past those stories, to stay off the sites and lists that might mention them, and to forget quickly any such news that has the indecency to be seen.

Imagine if the record of the past four years were the record of a Republican president.  We'd know a lot more about it.  We'd be a lot more outraged by it.  And we'd be opposing it without a hint of self-censorship.  Imagine if the record and platform of the Democratic nominee were noticeably less warlike.  Our own positions might be better still, but that Democratic platform would be the measure by which we condemned the Republican record of assassinations, privatization, secrecy, unconstitutional wars, drone wars, immunity for torturers, and so on, the record of the past four years -- if it were a Republican record.

Now imagine if the record of the past four years were the record of a Democratic president, but imagine it a far better record, a record of legitimate work for peace.  Imagine that bases had been closed rather than opened, wars ended rather than escalated (and not ended by a predecessor's treaty against which the president fought tooth and nail, but ended by choice), the military shrunken instead of enlarged, etc.  Not only would we applaud that record, but we might go so far as to identify ourselves with that president's political party.

Now imagine if the record of the past four years were that of a Democratic president but a record far worse than what it's actually been, involving more wars and more war preparation, more assassinations, more criminality, perhaps the dropping of a nuclear bomb or two.  Surely there would be some point prior to complete immediate genocide of our species at which we would begin to question the notion of working against war within a war party.  Surely at some point we would decide that we couldn't vote for such a party at all, much less name ourselves for it.  And surely at some earlier point we would decide that we could vote for members of that party (since another party was even worse), but we couldn't identify with them, collaborate with them, censor our views for them, apologize for them, or otherwise treat them fundamentally differently from how we treat the more catastrophic of the two catastrophe generating clubs.  The question is how we know when we've reached that point.

Maybe we can spot it coming from the other direction.  Imagine we've been acting as nonpartisan activists pressuring both halves of a rotten corrupt plutocracy, but one half is so dramatically reformed that we now want to associate ourselves with it and treat it differently.  For example, we don't want to ask for the impeachment of its members just because they do the same things as the other team.  A full 10% of the party perhaps has begun to uphold decent public policies, to the point where we deem it strategic to dismiss 90% of the party as not being the Real members of it.  How do we know when we've reached that point?

My contention is that there is no such point, whichever way you come at it.  If we improve our culture and activate our population, all the politicians will improve -- one party perhaps ahead of another, but all of them.  If, instead, we continue to suffer under the widespread delusion that independent activism can't work, then making excuses for the less evil half of a government will guarantee that both halves are more evil the next time we're asked for our input.  When peace movements, justice movements, the civil rights movement, the suffragette movement succeeded, they did so with independent activism.  The task of organizing, educating, and mobilizing nonviolent action needs everything we have. 

When we pushed for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, people said "Oh, you just don't like Republicans," and we said: No, no, no, we wish them no ill.  We need their successors deterred.  If Bush gets away with these things, the next president of either party and of either sex will assume the same powers and expand upon them.  And it will be too late to wait for the third post-habeas-corpus presidency to begin our resistance.  When Nancy Pelosi gave John Conyers permission to hold an impeachment hearing as long as he didn't try to impeach anyone no matter what he heard at the hearing, we said: you are dooming us to more of these crimes.  And when Congressman Conyers said if the president attacks Iran then he'll finally pursue impeachment, Conyers meant if a Republican president attacks Iran.

And that seems utterly inevitable in its naturalness to us.  Who could question that?  I'm afraid we've turned the responsibility to vote into the pretense that voting changes things.  I'm afraid we've changed the rational casting of a lesser evil vote into a mindset to guide our actions throughout the year.  The threat to Iran is a more dangerous, more immoral threat than what put us in the streets in February 2003.  Murdering people with flying robots is a more dangerous, more immoral abuse than torturing them.  The inequality of wealth is advancing more rapidly.  The collapse of the natural environment is progressing more rapidly.  The proliferation of weapons is advancing more rapidly.  Our activism doesn't seem to be keeping pace.  One reason is that we don't maintain a steady campaign to pressure the government toward sustainability and peace.  That may be asking too much right now.  But come the middle of November, we'll have a choice between obsessing over which schmuck we want voted on or off our national island in 2016, or building a campaign to rid our culture of its addiction to violence and exploitation.  I hope we make the right choice.

Writing Down Rants

In an age when the "conservative" political party cracks jokes about the destruction of the only planet we have to live on, and the other party -- which actually holds that 90% of governing power that now resides in the White House -- gets a free pass on its record of destroying that planet because the other party cracks jokes about it, cool dispassionate political science textbookese is out of place.  I'll care what Rational Man would do under each of the various systems of oppression when you find me somebody rational.  And then I'll just ask him or her what they are doing, so you won't have to tell me.

Global Peace Radio

Here's audio of David Swanson and Jason Liosatos: mp3.


Virginia Senate candidate Tim Kaine spoke prior to Obama's speech on Wednesday in Charlottesville, Va.  He had praise for anyone signing up to go to war in Afghanistan.  "We can still put our positive thumbprint on that nation," he said, to wild cheers.  Imagine the competition among the world's nations to get our thumbprint next!  Imagine what it costs to get our assprint.

"So, who are you voting for?" an Obama follower asked me prior to the event.  I was holding posters with 12 friends and handing out hundreds of flyers that looked like Obama material until you read them. (PDF).

The posters objected to the tripling of weapons sales to foreign dictators last year, Obama's willingness to cut Social Security and Medicare, the kill list, imprisonment without trial, warrantless spying, corporate trade agreements, the continued so-called "Bush" tax cuts, the war on Afghanistan, the drone wars, the increased military budget, the murder of Tariq Aziz and of Abdulrahman al Awlaki, the weak auto efficiency standards in the news that day, the refusal to prosecute torturers, Obama's sabotaging of agreements to counter global warming, etc.

"So, who are you going to vote for?"

"Well," I said, "you know, you can vote for someone good like Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson, or you can vote for Obama, but today is not election day.  If you vote for the lesser evil candidate on election day, that's great.  Knock yourself out.  But that does not begin to produce an argument for being his apologist and cheerleader throughout the year.  If you push the culture and the government in a better direction, both evil candidates will get a little less evil.  One guy wants to trash Social Security, and the other guy brags about his willingness to make huge compromises with that agenda -- that is, to partially trash Social Security.  So, is your job to demand that not a dime be cut (regardless of how you vote), or is your job to cheer for the partially trash it guy, thereby guaranteeing that he and the other guy both get even worse?"

"Yeah, I see, but I'm trying to understand who you think we should vote for."

"Let me try again.  Take Obama's kill list for . . . "

"His what?"

"President Obama keeps a list of the people he wants to kill.  It was a frontpage New York Times story three months ago that made a lot of news but was carefully avoided by Democrats even more assiduously than you would have sought it out and trumpeted your outrage were the president a Republican.  Anyway, take the kill list, which includes Americans and non-Americans, adults and children.  Is it your job to ignore it, to celebrate it, or to protest it?  I don't mean your job as a voter, but your job as a citizen.  What are you supposed to do in such a case?"

"Well what's the alternative?"

"The alternative to murdering people?  Well, I don't know how to put this.  The alternative is essentially not murdering people."

"No, what's the alternative to Obama? Isn't the other guy worse?"

"Let me try again.  You'll grant me that women didn't vote themselves the right to vote.  Will you go along with that?  They didn't get the right to vote by voting for it?"


"And the civil rights movement didn't end the sit ins and marches and endorse Democrats and pack events like this one to cheer loudly?  That wouldn't have worked as well and wouldn't have been required in order for those activists to be serious activists, right?  We don't accuse Martin Luther King of not being a serious activist because he didn't endorse candidates, right?  And if you'd asked him what the alternative was to your candidate, would you be shocked if he had replied that the alternative was educating, organizing, mobilizing, and engaging in nonviolent resistance to evil?"

"So, you're not going to vote for anybody?"

"I'm not sure I'm being very clear here.  70% of the country wants the war in Afghanistan ended.  Neither candidate is willing to end it.  Obama pretends he's ending it.  Romney doesn't mention it.  Should 70% of the country keep quiet while large numbers of people are killed?  Or should we approach both branches of our government, the two parties, with our just and moral demand until we're satisfied -- regardless of who we're going to vote for?"

"Well, you can have your opinion about Afghanistan, but that's no reason to character assassinate the President."

"Seventy percent of the country is character assassinating the president by wanting to get out of Afghanistan?  Or only if you mention it out loud?  How do you character assassinate someone?  Did you catch the part where I pointed out that Obama actually assassinates people?"

Three of us went into the event.  I had tickets, which were free and which the campaign could barely give away, while back in 2007 Obama had sold out the same venue.  We didn't go in so as to spend hours in the hot sun just to hear an Obama speech like the one he'd given the day before in another town which we could have watched on Youtube.  Thousands of people did that.  We went in to disturb the war.

We wanted to shout.  But what could we shout?  We were only three.  We were not near the front.  (I recommend taking 10 to the front of one of these events if you can. You'll own the place.)  We would have to be loud and clear.  We couldn't mention the kill list which would be like mentioning UFOs to these people.  We couldn't mention Social Security because they pretend Obama's not threatening it.  We couldn't mention peace because people would think it was a pro-Obama chant.  We decided to say this: Get out of Afghanistan! End the sanctions on Iran!

Here's how the Washington Post's blog reported on that:

"Protesters drown out Obama

"Posted by Amy Gardner on August 29, 2012 at 3:58 pm
"CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — An outdoor political rally erupted into a moment of chaos as protesters drowned out President Obama’s speech at a downtown amphitheater here — and then the rest of the crowd drowned out the protesters. It was unclear what the protesters were saying, but several members of the crowd said a few minutes later that they heard 'Get out of Afghanistan!' The shouts prompted a flurry of Secret Service activity, and they also prompted an enthusiastic crowd of more than 7,000 to shut down the protesters with two cacophonous chants: 'Four more years!' and 'O-ba-ma!' Obama couldn't continue for a long moment, but when the noise finally died down, he said: 'I couldn’t hear what those young people had to say, but that's good that they got involved.' To the rest of the crowd, he said: 'Don't just chant! Vote!'"

Obama was pretending the crowd was all young people.  He'd tried to speak at the University of Virginia which had turned him down, but he gave his speech as if he were there.  The crowd didn't shout us down till we'd run out of breath.  They were not nearly as fast as Republicans are with their "U-S-A! U-S-A!"  In fact, they seemed tremendously proud of themselves when they managed to discover that they could yell "O-BA-MA! O-BA-MA!"  Voting, in the pretense of those in power, constitutes more activism than chanting or any other activity.  Don't just hold teach-ins, vote! Don't just occupy the square, vote! Don't just risk your life to expose injustice, vote! If Bradley Manning had just voted, that would have been the last full measure of devotion.

As to the flurry of Secret Service activity, an Obama campaign guy started standing next to us, and a mean possibly drunk guy started shoving and threatening us.  After various additional disruptions of the war (not the peace) by us, the Obama guy called the local police over who asked us to leave, and asked for our names, etc., to tell them to the Secret Service.  The police had earlier refused numerous requests by the Obama staff and volunteers to evict our poster demonstration.  The police had mentioned freedom of speech.  The local media, as well as the police, were surprisingly decent.  The Obama campaigners, on the other hand, would have exiled us all to Gitmo if they'd been able, and if they weren't suffering under the misconception that it's been closed.

Talk Nation Radio: How Young People Shut Down a Strip Mine in West Virginia and Why

Eva Westheimer was recently arrested for shutting down a strip mine in West Virginia, along with Radical Action for Mountain People's Survival ( ). Westheimer is a junior at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.  She describes the recent action she took, the ongoing campaign, and what motivates her.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from or AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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About Face, Bloody Hell

"About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War," is a book that should be stacked up on a table in every high school cafeteria, next to the vultures.  Sorry, I mean the war pushers. Sorry, I mean the good recruiters for the services of the profiteers of death. Sorry, you know the people I mean.  That is, unless useful books can make it into classrooms, which would be even better.

Most G.I. resistance in Vietnam, this book points out, came from those who had willingly signed up, not from draftees.  It is often those who believe the hype, who are trying to benefit the world by going to war, who find the will try to benefit the world when their blinders have been removed and they've seen what war is and what war is used for. 

"About Face" collects stories of recent resistance within the "volunteer" U.S. military.  These are young people with few job options who choose military "service" but discover it isn't a service.  They all have stories, many of them highlighting particular moments of conversion.  The reality is usually more complex and gradual, but the stories make the point.

Benji Lewis was a Marine in Iraq.  After two "tours" he gave some thought to things that had happened on his first tour, including this:

"They were shooting at this lady who was walking up to our posts waving her arms and asking for help in Arabic.  So I came up close and talked to her, and her face looked like death itself.  She had salt crusted all over her face.  It was obvious that she had been crying for quite a bit.  I kind of got the story that she had a family.  We were like, 'Go back home, go to your family.'  And then it came out that she was asking for help.  Three days ago, her entire family, her children, had been pretty much buried in the rubble of their house, and she was asking for help.  I asked my staff sergeant, 'Can we help her?'  He said to tell her to walk to the Red Cross aid station, which was a few miles away.  We couldn't leave our posts to help her, so we gave her a couple of bottles of water and wished her luck, you know.  It downed on me later on that me being the adjusting gunner for the mortar section, there was a good probability that I was the one that put those rounds on her house." 

Lewis refused orders for his Individual Ready Reserve recall and was discharged with no penalties.  While some resisters are punished, that does not seem to be the norm.  Often the resistance takes the form of going AWOL, and in some cases later turning oneself in.  Andre Shepherd sought refugee status in Germany:

"I made a decision during [a] two-week period that I would have to walk away from the service rather than either get myself killed or get somebody else killed in a war that was based on a pack of lies."

Some resisters don't believe they should request conscientious objector status, because that requires opposing all wars.  Having come to see through the lies and horror of one war, they still fantasize that some other war might be a good idea.  Those who do apply for conscientious objector status don't always receive it, but many do.  Hart Viges joined up in 2001, gung ho for the war on terra.  He was honorably discharged as a conscientious objector three years later.  "I am opposed to all wars," he says.  "When anybody picks up a tool to violently fight their brother or sister, I am opposed to it and do not support it.  I finally found my fight, my good fight.  It's the path that I am most comfortable with, more comfortable with myself than I have ever been in the rest of my life."  Telling the truth about war turns out to be great therapy for veterans and for our whole society.

But the stories should perhaps be taken in small doses.  Reading through these books without pause can make you understand why it is sometimes the counselors who hear all the soldiers' stories who end up losing their own minds.  "About Face" informs potential recruits and those already recruited that they have options, as well as informing aging peace activists where the young ones are: they're among the veterans.  Many other books and videos can add to the reality that needs to be communicated to a culture increasingly viewing war as a harmless sport.  Probably the most powerful collection of veterans' stories I've read is "Bloody Hell" by Dan Hallock.  This is essentially an uncensored view of what can become of you if you don't resist.

"Bloody Hell" shows us homeless men, men mad with nightmares, in prison, on death row, drunk, weeping, drugged, screaming, suicidal, and unable to prevent themselves from harming those they love.  A Vietnam veteran identified as Lee married and had a little girl with a Vietnamese woman while stationed in Vietnam during the war.  That wife and daughter, plus drug use, were what carried him through the hell he was a part of, the killing and the dying all around him.  But the Army denied the legitimacy of his marriage and made clear he would have to leave his wife and daughter behind or desert:

"Chi and I met one last time before I was supposed to leave.  We both cried our eyes out.  It was so bad, so much pain.  We trembled in each other's arms.  I left her and went back to my unit.  Then she sent me a note saying to meet her at a cliff above the South China Sea, a very beautiful place where we had gone a lot.  I went.  I was leaving tomorrow, so I had to see her today.  I took an officer's jeep and drove to the cliff.  There they were, waiting, crying.  We didn't talk, we just held each other, with Le in between us.  We cried so much.  I reached into my pocket and took out my pistol, put it to Chi's head and pulled the trigger.  There was a splatter -- then her blood gushed out -- all over me.  I held her tightly -- with Le screaming still between us.  I held her as long as I could -- then let her go -- over the cliff and into the sea they both fell.  I pounded the earth as hard as I could -- I screamed till I had no voice.  I had nothing left inside me when I drove back.  I should have died in Vietnam instead of living the thousands of deaths that I have.  Back at the hooch no one said a word to me.  I had walked in covered with blood and looked pretty bad -- no one said a word."

Lee recounts his life back in the United States as a veteran, with a new wife, and a new child.  You can imagine.  But you should read it.  Everyone should.  Especially everyone who's 17 and not the child of a billionaire.

Shooting Your Own Side

Veterans' stories often depict war differently from what the television told us.  Drones won't talk, of course, but human warriors tell us how early the 2003 invasion of Iraq began, how the Gulf of Tonkin incident didn't happen, and how countless families have been murdered rather than liberated.  "Bloody Hell" includes an account from a veteran named Doug of the 1989 U.S. attack on Panama.  I had known that the war plans had been in place months before an incident that was used to justify this "intervention" against long-time U.S.-backed dictator Manuel Noriega.  Some drunk Panamanian soldiers had beaten up a U.S. navy officer and threatened his wife.  But listen to this account from Doug:

"At Fort Bragg I was ordered to go on a mission against a group of people I had never dreamed of -- our own soldiers.  I was assembled along with Michael and four other men whom I never had met before.  We were among the few soldiers in the U.S. Army at the time with combat experience, with confirmed sniper kills; we were also the best of the best.  The thinking at the Pentagon was that to get the soldiers stationed in Panama to fight, they had to have very good reasons.  We're talking here about soldiers who have never experienced combat before.  And the best way to get them riled up was to attack them.  When Michael asked what the other four men in our mission were doing, we were told it was none of our business.  You see, American soldiers, especially infantry soldiers, stick together.  If one of them gets into a predicament in a bar -- I mean a fight -- the others don't walk away, they join in.  You don't fight one of them, you fight all of them.  Their training has taught them to be a team; they depend on each other, and it doesn't matter if it's a barroom brawl or not.  They depend on each other to get home.  So what better way to get them all worked up than to take pot shots at them?  We were told that we would be saving lives by doing this.  For weeks leading up to the invasion of Panama, Michael and I took pot shots at soldiers during the night." 

There's wrong.

And then there's Army wrong.

Boiling Frogs: Activist and Author David Swanson on the Thinning Ranks of Peace Activists and the Expanding War Machinery


by Peter B. Collins on August 27, 2012

Preview Clip


David Swanson, author and tireless, inspiring activist, joins us for this Boiling Frogs interview, co-hosted with Sibel Edmonds.Author and peace activist David Swanson joins us to discuss our nation’s perpetual war status, the latest in the peace activists’ movement, and the disappearance of Anti-Republicans from the peace movement since Barack Obama’s presidency. He talks about the need to overcome Americans’ understanding of the war machine as a jobs engine and militarism as a normal way of life, and for broader understanding of the Military Industrial Complex as the top opponent of all that is good and just, broader-based opposition to not only domestic surveillance drones but also our killer drones abroad, and more!

David Swanson is an activist, blogger and author, and a founder of WarIsACrime.Org. He was press secretary for Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign, is co-founder of, and a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, the Backbone Campaign, and Voters for Peace. Mr. Swanson has authored several books including Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, War Is A Lie , When the World Outlawed War, and The Military Industrial Complex at 50. To learn more about David Swanson visit

WBAI on When the Republican Convention Favored Peace

Believe it or not, once upon a time in America, there was a close-enough-to "pacificist" Republican President:  Calvin Coolidge.'s David Swanson reviews the forgotten 1924 campaign of "Outlawry" against war, versus contemporary Republican policy; RNC Opening with a "Voter Suppression" counterpoint; and Independent Institute's Ivan Eland on Ron Paul's prospects of "libertarianating" the RNC; and Ron Paul himself, rallying in Tampa, and not endorsing Mitt Romney.

 Program details below...

-Robert Knight
Senior National Correspondent

"Five  O'Clock  Shadow"
WBAI . 99.5FM . 

We Are the 99.5!
 "Five O'Clock Shadow" with Robert Knight 
 Daily Program
 Calvin Coolige; David Swanson; RNC; Ivan Eland; Ron Paul; Robert Knight



CALVIN COOLIDGE - 1924 Campaign Statement of contemporaneous Republican Party principles;

DAVID SWANSON [ , ], author of "War Is a Lie," discusses his latest essay, "A Forgotten RNC," and the counterintuitive peace-asserting Republican (and Socialist and Progressive) party philosophy of 1924's "outlawry" movement leading to the Kellog-Briand Treaty that nominally refutes war as an instrument of statecraft;

RNC (2012) - Opening Statement and immediate "adjournment";

Daniel R. Queen [ ] - "Voter Suppression"; 

IVAN ELAND [ ], senior fellow at the Independent Institute, and author of "Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity and Liberty," discusses the Ron Paul populist/libertarian impulse within the Republican party, and the prospects of his international anti-war philosophy being subverted by domestic conservative interests; and

RON PAUL addresses supporters at a "Sun Dome" rally in Tampa.

Anchor: Robert Knight
Producer: Thiago Barrozo
Engineer: Michael G. Haskins
Origin: WBAI/Pacifica

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Audio: David Swanson on Protesting Obama's War Making

Charlottesville Right Now: 8-27-12 David Swanson
David Swanson, renowned activist and author joins the show to discuss the President's upcoming visit in Charlottesville.

Go here.

Speaking Events


War Is A Lie: Second Edition
Published April 5, 2016
Tour begins here:

(Invite David Swanson to your town!)


April 11, Washington, DC, 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Busboys and Poets at 5th and K Streets.
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April 12, Baltimore, MD, 7:30 p.m. at Red Emma's.
Sign up on FB.



April 14, Bellingham, WA, Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, evening

April 15, Seattle, WA

April 16 Portland, OR




Other Events Here.


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