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Worth Fighting For?

I was not sure I would like a book called Worth Fighting For by a former soldier who walked across the United States to raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation.  The website of that foundation celebrates military "service" and the "higher calling" for which Tillman left professional football, namely participation in the U.S. war on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.  Rather than funding efforts to put an end to war, as Tillman actually might have wished by the end of his life, the foundation hypes war participation, funds veterans, and to this day presents Tillman's death thusly:

"On the evening of April 22, 2004, Pat's unit was ambushed as it traveled through the rugged, canyon terrain of eastern Afghanistan. His heroic efforts to provide cover for fellow soldiers as they escaped from the canyon led to his untimely and tragic death via fratricide."

Those heroic efforts happened, if they happened, in the context of an illegal and immoral operation that had Tillman defending foreign invaders from Afghans defending their homes.  And the last two words above ("via fratricide") tell a different story from the rest of the paragraph, page, and entire website of the Pat Tillman Foundation.  Tillman was shot by U.S. troops.  And he may not have died a thorough-going supporter of what he was engaged in.  On September 25, 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Tillman had become critical of the Iraq war and had scheduled a meeting with the prominent war critic Noam Chomsky to take place when he returned from Afghanistan, all information that Tillman's mother and Chomsky later confirmed. Tillman couldn't confirm it because he had died in Afghanistan in 2004 from three bullets to the forehead.

Rory Fanning's book -- Worth Fighting For -- relates, however, that Tillman looked forward to getting out of the military and sympathized with the actions of Fanning, a member of his battalion who became a conscientious objector and refused to fight.  According to Fanning, Tillman "knew his very public circumstances forced him to stick it out." 

That's obviously a different use of the word "forced" from "gravity forced the weight to drop" or "the missile striking the house forced the people inside to split apart into fragments of flesh and gore." Imagine the benefits to the cause of peace if the one troop who had a name, face, and voice had shattered the bullshit choruses of "Support the Troops!" by doing what Fanning did, and thus living to tell the tale?  Instead Tillman stuck it out and left many believing that military propagandists had either become quite fortunate or something worse, when Tillman did not live to quite possibly oppose -- better late than never -- what he had been doing.

When I worked with a number of talented people to draft articles of impeachment for George W. Bush that were introduced by Congressman Dennis Kucinich, they included this:

"The White House and the Department of Defense (DOD) in 2004 promoted a false account of the death of Specialist Pat Tillman, reporting that he had died in a hostile exchange, delaying release of the information that he had died from friendly fire, shot in the forehead three times in a manner that led investigating doctors to believe he had been shot at close range.

"A 2005 report by Brig. Gen. Gary M. Jones reported that in the days immediately following Specialist Tillman's death, U.S. Army investigators were aware that Specialist Tillman was killed by friendly fire, shot three times to the head, and that senior Army commanders, including Gen. John Abizaid, knew of this fact within days of the shooting but nevertheless approved the awarding of the Silver Star, Purple Heart, and a posthumous promotion.

"On April 24, 2007, Spc. Bryan O'Neal, the last soldier to see Specialist Pat Tillman alive, testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he was warned by superiors not to divulge information that a fellow soldier killed Specialist Tillman, especially to the Tillman family. The White House refused to provide requested documents to the committee, citing 'executive branch confidentiality interests.'"

What made Pat Tillman a particular hero to many in the United States was that he had given up huge amounts of money to go to war.  That he had passed up the evil of hoarding wealth in order to engage in something even more evil does not register with supporters of war.  And had the U.S. Army not killed him, and had he not subsequently killed himself (the leading cause of U.S. military deaths now being suicide), Tillman might have lengthened his life by leaving the NFL, which abandons its players to an average lifespan in their 50s and in some cases dementia in their 40s -- an issue that arises in Fanning's book as he meets with former NFL greats to raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation.

Tillman was, by all accounts, kind, humble, intelligent, courageous, and well-intentioned.  He clearly inspired many, many people whom he met, and whom he never met, to be better people.  Fanning would, I think, include himself in that list.  But when Fanning decided to walk across the country raising funds, and finding support and shelter for himself along the way, in the name of Pat Tillman, he was playing on the beliefs of a propagandized public, beliefs that he himself had ceased to fully share.  A sheriff, in a typical example, takes Fanning's empty water bottles, drives 12 miles to refill them, and hands them back to Fanning with tears in his eyes, saying, "What Pat did for our country is one of the bravest, most admirable things I can remember anyone doing. Take this for your cause." And he handed Fanning $100. 

Was generating hatred and resentment in Afghanistan by killing helpless people a service to the United States? Was the environmental destruction and economic cost and eroded civil liberties a benefit to us all?  In the minds of the people whom the Pat Tillman Foundation is still trying to milk for funding, perhaps so.  Such a foundation not only saves the government from providing for veterans (or anyone else) while investing more in weaponry, but it also generates public support for and identification with supposed military heroism.  It's a double-victory for the makers of war in Washington, most of whom are far more misguided than Pat Tillman ever was, but most of whom are more remarkable for cowardice than bravery.

As I say, I wasn't 100% sure I would like Fanning's book. I believe things are worth working for, struggling for, suffering for, and dying for, but not fighting for.  What could he mean?  I was very pleasantly surprised, and recommend the book enthusiastically.  It recounts an adventure worth having that contained no fighting at all.  It's a tale told with wisdom, erudition, kindness, humor, humility, and generosity of which I think Tillman might have been proud. 

Like the guy in that Craig's List movie, Fanning finds people going out of their way to help him as he very publicly walks across the country, doing interviews along the way, speaking at events, and chronicling his progress on a website (now gone).  This does not, of course, prove that anyone without a public cause or celebrity label, or anyone of any race or sex or appearance, could safely and successfully find the same sort of selfless support from so many Americans.  It is heartening and encouraging, nonetheless, to read.  And these accounts come interspersed with descriptions and historical background on the places Fanning walks through that suggest he has a future as a travel writer if he wants it. Intermingled as well quite seamlessly is an account of how Fanning himself moved from being "a devout Christian to an atheist and from a conservative Republican to a socialist." He later adds that he ceased opposing environmentalists and became one.  As this world needs such transformations on a large scale, a smart account by someone who's been through one has great value.

One aspect of Fanning's own drama that sheds light on the notion that Tillman was "forced" to "support the troops" even while being one (that is, support a war he may have disagreed with), is the description of how hard it was for Fanning to turn against the military (a process that may perhaps remain incomplete for him even now).  Fanning had joined after 9-11 for similar reasons to Tillman, believing it his duty.  He then found he "did not have it in him" to kill.  And he saw the injustice and absurdity of capturing people falsely ratted out by rivals to an ignorant foreign occupier eager to punish (and torture) anyone it could.  He came to see himself as an imperialist pawn rather than a rescuer on a mission for humanity.  When he refused to go along to get along, he was ostracized and abused by everyone around him except Pat Tillman and his brother Kevin Tillman.  Despite his refusal to fight, Fanning was sent to Afghanistan again, made to do chores, labeled "bitch" by his commander, and forced to sleep outside alone in the snow.  And Fanning supported his own abuse, attempting to make himself ill, afraid of the shame of his own behavior rather than wishing to expose the shame of the evil behavior of those around him.

Fanning recounts a conversation with a military chaplain.  Fanning made the case that the whole war was unjust.  The chaplain made the case that God wanted him to do it anyway.  The loser in that contest was apparently Fanning's use for the concept of "God." 

But Fanning's struggle continued within himself even after getting home and getting out.  "After I left the military," he writes, "the hardest thing I had to do was look someone in the eyes. I was afraid I would be exposed for breaking my oath."  Not for having been part of an operation of mass-murder, but for having abandoned it.  That's how Fanning thought even after getting out, so one can imagine how Tillman thought while still in -- and while in with a world telling him he was a god himself for being there.  Fanning sees the contradiction. "I knew U.S. imperialism was destroying the planet," he writes, "but I still felt guilty for leaving."

Through Fanning's walk he gives talks that avoid mentioning what he (and perhaps Tillman) actually thought, until -- three-quarters of the way along -- a boy asks him which branch of the military to join, and he answers "I don't think you should join any of them."  He then gives the $100 from the sheriff to a homeless man under an overpass.

The Oxymoron of Peace

By Robert C. Koehler

“At the same time, values and ideas which were considered universal, such as cooperation, mutual aid, international social justice and peace as an encompassing paradigm are also becoming irrelevant.”

Maybe this piercing observation by Roberto Savio, founder of the news agency Inter Press Service, is the cruelest cut of all. Geopolitically speaking, hope — the official kind, represented, say, by the United Nations in 1945 — feels fainter than I can remember. “We the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war . . .”

I mean, it was never real. Five centuries of European colonialism and global culture-trashing, and the remaking of the world in the economic interests of competing empires, cannot be undone by a single institution and a cluster of lofty ideals.

As Savio notes in an essay called “Ever Wondered Why the World Is a Mess?,”: “The world, as it now exists, was largely shaped by the colonial powers, which divided the world among themselves, carving out states without any consideration for existing ethnic, religious or cultural realities.”

And after the colonial era collapsed, these carved-out political entities, defining swatches of territory without any history of national identity, suddenly became the Third World and floundered in disarray. “. . . it was inevitable that to keep these artificial countries alive, and avoid their disintegration, strongmen would be needed to cover the void left by the colonial powers. The rules of democracy were used only to reach power, with very few exceptions.”

Whatever noble attempts at eliminating war the powers that be made in the wake of World War II — Europe’s near self-annihilation — didn’t cut nearly deep enough. These attempts didn’t set about undoing five centuries of colonial conquest and genocide. They didn’t cut deeper than national interest.

And global peace built on a foundation of nation-states is an oxymoron. As historian Michael Howard noted in his book The Lessons of History (quoted by Barbara Ehrenreich in Blood Rites): “From the very beginning, the principle of nationalism was almost indissolubly linked, both in theory and practice, with the idea of war.”

All of which leads me to the $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive warplane ever built, or not quite built. The aircraft, designed by Lockheed, is now seven years behind schedule, but the Pentagon had planned to display its new baby this week at the Royal International Air Tattoo and the Farnborough International Airshow in the U.K. This debut has now been called off because the engine of one of the planes caught fire on a runway in Florida in June, and officials feared the problem was systemic.

In other words, it could happen again. It could happen at the airshow, with the jet’s prospective customers — Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan and eight other U.S. allies — in attendance. Grounding it was a business decision. Indeed, it was a decision made at the delicate intersection of business and war.

“The setbacks follow a series of technical problems and development delays that have affected the F-35, one of the world’s most ambitious weapons programs, with estimated development costs of around $400 billion,” Nicola Clark and Christopher Drew wrote this week in the New YorkTimes. “Analysts said the timing of the problems, just as Lockheed Martin was hoping to demonstrate the plane to prospective export buyers here, could not have been worse.”

What I found interesting — well, overwhelmingly depressing, actually — was the fact that this story ran in the Times’ International Business section. When Savio writes, “Attempts to create regional or international alliances to bring stability have always been stymied by national interests,” this may be what he’s talking about. National interests are business interests. In the mainstream media, this is simply a given.

And the ongoing setbacks and escalating cost don’t matter. The F-35 project is still going forward, even though, as Kate Brannen wrote recently in Foreign Policy, “over the course of the aircrafts’ lifetimes, operating costs are expected to exceed $1 trillion.”

The warplane’s supply of funding is inexhaustible, apparently. Congress is behind it all the way. And it’s hardly news. “Lockheed has carefully hired suppliers and subcontractors in almost every state to ensure that virtually all senators and members of Congress have a stake in keeping the program — and the jobs it has created — in place,” Brannen wrote.

Austerity is for losers. There’s always money to wage war and build weapons, indeed, to continue developing weapons, generation after generation after generation. The contractors are adept at playing the game. Jobs link arms with fear and patriotism and the next war is always inevitable. And it’s always necessary, because we’ve created a world of perpetual — and well-armed — instability.

The problem with the United Nations is that it’s a unity of entities defined by their hatred of one another and committed to the perpetuation of “the scourge of war.” We won’t begin creating global peace until we learn how to bypass nationalism and the single, unacknowledged agreement binding nation-states to each other: the inevitability of war.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

© 2014 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.

Talk Nation Radio: Keane Bhatt: Human Rights Watch Must Close Revolving Door to U.S. Government

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-keane-bhatt-human-rights-watch-must-close-revolving-door-to-us-government

Keane Bhatt is an activist and writer who has organized a campaign to close Human Rights Watch's revolving door with the U.S. government. Sign this petition.

Read this background:
Nobel Peace Laureates to HRW: Close Your Revolving Door to U.S. Government
Keane Bhatt: The Hypocrisy of Human Rights Watch
Chase Madar: Hawks for Humanity
More Than 100 Latin America Experts Question HRW's Venezuela Report
Nobel Peace Laureates Slam Human Rights Watch's Refusal to Cut Ties to U.S. Government

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

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Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
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If Iraq Were in Central America

Just as in discussions of bombing nations for women's rights it's hard to bring up the subject of the right not to be bombed, in discussions of shipping so-called illegal children away from the border where you've been terrorizing them in reenactments of Freedom Ride buses it's hard to bring up the subject of not having your government overthrown and your nation turned into a living hell.

Imagine, however, if Iraq were in Central America.  Most people in the United States don't realize how convenient it has been to have millions of Iraqis made homeless so far away from the United States, fleeing to places like Syria, and then fleeing Syria when it's Syria's turn to be destroyed. 

If, during the past decades of war and sanctions and war on Iraq, Iraq had been located closer to Miami and San Antonio than New York or Seattle is, wouldn't it have been a bit harder for people to tell pollsters that Iraq was benefitting from the war?  Wouldn't it have been a bit harder to continue pretending immigrants are something different from refugees?  Wouldn't immigrants rights groups have been compelled to notice the military and the wars that create the justification for abuses in the United States but also the motivations for fleeing homes where the wars happen?

If Gaza were in Maryland, would the United States still provide the weapons for bombing the homes there? Would CNN still blame Gazans who remain in their homes? Or would it, rather, scream at them to get back home where they belong?

Well, Honduras is closer to Florida and Texas than much of the United States is.  The U.S. government facilitated the overthrow of the government of Honduras with a military coup in 2009 and has supported, funded, armed, and trained the military and the police that have turned Honduras into the most violent and dangerous place on earth, beating out Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, and other top contenders in the World Cup of Hell Holes.  The President of Honduras was yanked out of bed and flown to a U.S. military base and out of the country.  The military that replaced him has been trained in torture and assassination at the School of the Americas in Georgia.

And now President Obama is ordering Honduran toddlers flown home from the United States where they are disturbing good democratic citizens of the land of liberty.  Perhaps this is a moment, after all, in which to unite the movement for the rights of immigrants with the movement for peace and the rule of law in foreign relations. 

Imagine the strength of those two movements combined.  Words like Hope and Change might actually mean something.

Until then, forgive me if I'm simply disgusted with the level of evil imposed on the world by those in power and the failure of those abused to unite against it.

Counting the Presidents' Bodies

"If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged," said Noam Chomsky prior to the last few presidencies, none of which is likely to have changed his analysis.

But what if you applied such principles retroactively back to George Washington and every U.S. president since?  What if you graded presidents, not on personality or style or popularity, but on how many deaths they caused or prevented?

Al Carroll's new book is called Presidents' Body Counts: The Twelve Worst and Four Best American Presidents: Based on How Many Lived or Died Because of Their Actions.

I think this is a model for how history ought to be examined, despite serious flaws.  Carroll's project may ultimately be impossible.  How do you score presidents on the areas of criminal enterprise they opened up for their successors?  Could you have really had a Nixon without a Truman?  Carroll is aware of these difficulties, and also of the overarching lesson that giving single individuals such royal powers as presidents have been given inevitably leads to disaster.  But I think he still falls short.

Carroll attempts to step outside his own biases and look at the facts.  But how does one include sins of omission? How does one score numbers of deaths across centuries, given dramatic growth in populations?  And what about the deaths that Carroll happens to approve of?  He gives Lincoln and FDR credit for the Civil War and World War II while marking all other presidents down for their wars (although marking FDR down for certain atrocities during his war); he has swallowed the humanitarian war advocates' mythology about Bosnia; and he omits dozens of smaller military operations from any mention at all.  And Carroll's current day partisanship seems to be showing as he credits Obama with ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the fact that the war in Afghanistan has not been ended and the war in Iraq, which Obama was forced to end, he has now found a way of restarting.

I said this book was a model, not the ultimate achievement of the genre.  Carroll is of course right to denounce historians who examine "leadership" and "presidential caliber" as little better than celebrity tabloid writers.  And his book, whether one agrees with his selections and rankings, makes illuminating reading that would benefit any classroom.  Simplistic, it is not.  Much of each section is devoted to who else gets the blame for particular horrors.  To pretend that in blaming a president for something Carroll has asserted that nobody else is to blame for it would require cutting out a large percentage of the book.  Carroll also devotes space to what plausibly could have been done by each president rather than what that president did.

Our airports, cities, and states are named for butchers, Carroll writes, and correcting that does not require that we get the butchers into the perfect ranking.  Yet, for what it's worth, here is Carroll's ranking of the worst of the worst, beginning with the very worst of them all: Nixon, Reagan, Jackson, Buchanan, Polk, Filmore, Clinton, Ford, Truman, McKinley, Bush II, Andrew Johnson.  And here's his ranking of the best, beginning with number 1: Lincoln, Van Buren, Carter, Grant.  Carroll includes positive deeds by Nixon, and negative deeds by Carter, etc.  But this is where he comes out..

In fact, Carroll includes enough information on these and other presidents, that he may end up reinforcing your disagreement with him on the rankings.  I've always considered Truman the worst of the worst, and when Carroll lays the Cold War -- and all the actual wars it included -- at Truman's feet, he seems to make the case (although U.S. policy did not exactly transform when the Cold War ended). 

The book, I think, works best if read straight through and then re-arranged or collated in your head.  Carroll treats presidential horrors in terms of categories that don't make the most sense.  First come genocides, then the allowance of or provocation of genocides, then slavery as a subcategory of genocide, then atrocities during wars, then something called "mass death by incompetence or ideological blindness" (which ends up including, in order from greatest to fewest deaths: "deregulation," the Cold War, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, the U.S. Civil War [blaming Buchanan for it, while giving Lincoln credit for it], the "war" on drugs, the War of 1812, the Panama Canal, Hurricane Katrina, and the Branch Davidians), then "Other American Wars of Aggression," etc.  Wars of nonaggression (or something?) never make the lists.  I'd have preferred one list that combined all the sections and included all the wars, as well as all other acts of commission and omission causing or alleviating mass suffering.

Carroll also includes good deeds by presidents, including instances of war avoidance, and including disarmament successes.  I think this section could be significantly expanded and truly is a model for the sort of history books we need.  And we need them with something else in precisely this section: heroism.  Gore Vidal recounted JFK saying "What would Lincoln have been without a war? Just a railroad lawyer." Indeed, without his "good war," Lincoln might have been as thoroughly ignored as Coolidge by Carroll, despite the creation by the latter's administration of a treaty banning war, and the avoidance by his administration of any major war making.  But what if future Kennedys saw the later JFK who turned against wars, and paid a price for it, as a model of greatness, as well as viewing the rogues gallery of past butchers as just what they were?

The Kill Team Movie: Show It in Schools

Kill Team is not just a video game anymore, not just the inevitable pairing of two of the most popular words in American English.  "Kill Team" is now a movie, and against the odds it's not a celebration of killing, but a particular take on an actual series of events made widely known by Rolling Stone.


U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan developed the practice of killing civilians for sport, placing weapons beside the bodies or otherwise pretending to have been attacked, keeping body parts as trophies, and celebrating their "kills" in photographs with the corpses.

For months, according to Rolling Stone, the whole platoon knew what was going on.  Officers dismissed complaints from the relatives of victims, accepted completely implausible accounts, and failed to help victims who might still be alive (instead ordering a soldier to "Make sure he's dead.")

A key instigator, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, arrived in Afghanistan recounting a successful murder of a family in Iraq and bearing tattoos recording his kills.  "Get me a kill" soldiers asked who wanted to participate in the kill team.  Killers were treated as heroes, and the widespread understanding that they were killing civilians who'd never threatened them didn't seem to damage that treatment.

"Drop-weapon" has been a common term among vets returning to the United States from Afghanistan and Iraq for over a decade, referring to a weapon used to frame a victim.  "We're just the ones who got caught," says Pfc. Justin Stoner in the film.  He also raises an important question that the film does not seriously pursue, remarking: "We're training you from the day you join to the day you're out to kill. Your job is to kill. You're infantry. Your job is to kill everything that gets in your way. Well, then why the hell are you pissed off when we do it?"

Eleven soldiers have been convicted of crimes as part of the kill team, including Gibbs who has been sentenced to life in prison.  Why were these kills crimes and others not, wonders Stoner.  It's a question worthy of consideration.  The cover stories for the kills, including claims that people made some threatening movement, don't seem enough to justify these murders even if they had been true.  What were the soldiers doing in these people's villages to begin with?

That's the question the movie opens with the soldiers asking themselves.  They'd been trained for exciting combat and then sent to Afghanistan to be bored, hungry for action, eager to test out their training.  This is a point often missed by those who advocate turning the U.S. military into a force for good, an emergency rescue squad for natural disasters, or a humanitarian aid operation.  You would have to train and equip people for those jobs first.  These young men were trained to kill, armed to kill, prepped to kill, and left to kick sand around.

They began premeditating the worst sort of premeditated murder.  They openly recount their conversations in the film.  They had weapons to drop, grenades that weren't "tracked," they'd pretend someone had a grenade and kill him. Who? Anyone. They saw everyone as fair game. 

And they did as planned.  And they were welcomed back to the "FOB" as heroes.  And they did it again.  And again.

The film does not tell the whole story. It focuses on Spc. Adam Winfield, his parents, and his court proceedings back in the United States.  Winfield told his father on a Facebook chat, early on, what was happening.  Winfield was afraid to talk to anyone in his chain of command, and in fact the mere possibility that he might resulted in death threats to him.  His father, however, tried every way he could to get anyone in the U.S. Army to listen.  No one would.

And then Winfield was present for another set-up and murder.  He says he fired his gun away from the victim.  He says that if he had shot the two U.S. soldiers, Gibbs and Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, the Army would have shown him "no mercy." 

Then Stoner (was it his name that tipped the balance?) turned in Gibbs and others for smoking hash in his room. So they beat him and threatened to kill him.  Then he told about the body parts being passed around.  The Army locked up Gibbs and Morlock.  Stoner was labeled a whistleblower, which he says is worse than a murderer.  If he had the chance again, he says, he would say nothing.

Winfield found he could breathe, after months of fearing murder from his own "side." 

And then Winfield was, himself, charged with first-degree murder.  We see his horror.  We see his parents' heartbreak.  We go back to see his childhood.  He read history books about American war heroes, his dad says.  The possibility of changing those books is not explicitly raised. He ends up with a plea bargain and a sentence of three years in prison, for supposedly having done nothing to stop a murder.  At one point he's offered the option of pleading guilty to "cowardice," despite every other member of his unit and chain of command right up to the President having outdone him in that regard.

"War is dirty," says Winfield. "It's not how they portray it in movies." It is, however, more or less, from a certain angle, how they've portrayed it in this movie, which ought to be shown in U.S. schools as a warning. 

But not by itself.  This movie does not give us the stories of the murder victims and their families.  Imagine the power of a movie that included what this one does plus that!  The opportunity is repeatedly and intentionally lost by Western film makers over and over again.  Nor does the film give us the stories of the victims and families of supposedly legitimate murders.  Imagine the drama of trying to distinguish the suffering of those killed fighting a foreign occupation from the suffering of those killed not fighting a foreign occupation, and the power of the inevitable failure of that effort!  Imagine a movie that accurately conveyed the immense scale of the killing in these one-sided slaughters of the poor by the most technologically advanced killing machine ever devised!

From the angle that this film takes, however, critical questions are thrust upon us, including: Why imprison the killers?  Will it deter others?  Will atrocity-free-war finally be created before we've destroyed the earth as a habitable place?  Would it not be easier to shut down the military and end the wars?  The deterrence I'm most interested in is that of people like Winfield's parents who allowed him to join the military before he was 18, to demonstrate their confidence in him.  I think this movie might deter some parents from making that same choice.

Drones 101

A Finger in My Soup

I'd heard of such horror stories and assumed they were mostly fictional or concocted as the bases for lawsuits, and then I was actually served a bowl of soup that had a finger in it. 

I'm not going to name the well-known chain restaurant where I was dining, but I am going to tell you how its staff reacted when I complained.  I mean, once I'd determined that there really was a fucking finger in my bowl of soup, and once I'd fished it out with a fork and a spoon, and splattered it on the table so that Joseph, my dining companion, could see it, and once the people at the surrounding tables were staring and remarking rather loudly, and in one case I think beginning to vomit, well, it wasn't hard to get the waiter's attention.

He came rushing over when I waived.  "There's a finger in my soup," I said.

"There's one on your table, too," he pointed out.

"That's the one," I said.

"And it's not your finger?"

"No, it's not my fucking finger. Let me talk to your manager."

He smiled. He actually smiled and pointed to a little tag on his uniform that read "Manager."

Joseph spoke up: "How did the finger get in his soup?"

"The cooks must have put it there," said the manager.

"And are you going to do anything about it?" I yelled.

"Well," he replied, calmly, but a bit as if I were the one who'd done something wrong, "if the cooks put it there, they had a reason. I support the cooks, don't you?"

"Support the cooks?" I gasped.  "I'll tell you what I will do is I'll take down your name and each of their names, and the names of each of the witnesses in this room, and you'll be hearing from me."

From the waiter's reaction to that statement, I at first imagined I was beginning to get through to him. He looked shocked. But he turned from side to side and addressed the whole room.  "He's against the cooks!" he said with great outrage. "He doesn't support the cooks!"

And I swear to god the people in this place seemed to be with him.  The rather menacing reaction of several people led Joseph to grab my arm and pull me out of my seat and toward the door.

Thirty seconds later we were sitting in Joseph's cheap used car, which he was trying in vain to start, turning the key, pumping the gas, and cursing. 

"Where did you get this piece of junk?" I asked.

"I bought it," he said, as he punched the dashboard and tried again. "I bought it yesterday at Victory Vehicles."

"I wonder who's declaring victory," I remarked.

"What's that supposed to mean? Ugh! Damn this thing!"

"Did you give them more than $10?" I asked.

Joseph gave me a look eerily similar to the look the waiter had just given me in the restaurant.  "Are you doubting the salesmen?" he asked.

"Doubting them?" I said. "I'm not fucking doubting them. I'm doubting you. They ripped you off, and . . . "

"Don't you SUPPORT the salesmen?" Joseph screamed at me.  He seemed possessed.

I opened my door and got out of the car.  It wasn't going anywhere anyway.  People were inching their way cautiously out of the restaurant, but they weren't looking at me.  They were looking past me.

I turned and saw the flashing lights of countless police cars, plus all kinds of vans, trucks, ambulances, and other emergency vehicles.  They appeared to be surrounding the restaurant and its parking lot and to be erecting almost permanent looking barriers.  In fact there was an effort underway to construct a wall around the area.

I looked back, and Joseph had gotten out of the car as well and was staring, horror-struck at a pair of people in something resembling astronaut suits walking swiftly and directly toward us. 

They halted a few feet away, and one of them spoke, her voice amplified by something in her space suit.  "This area is quarantined," she said.  "Some or all of you have been infected by a curable but highly contagious and highly destructive virus.  We'll need to determine the state of the infection and administer a remedy.  Please speak with one of our emergency personnel."

Tables were being set up in neat rows through the parking lot, with pairs of chairs at each table, and a person in an astronaut suit in one of each pair of chairs.

"Where have you been during the last 48 hours?" asked a quite polite and friendly gentleman across a metal table from me, as we both sat in folding chairs in the parking lot of a restaurant that I will still leave unnamed.  I was not feeling as friendly as he.

"Why?" I demanded, rather aggressively.

"Hmm." He studied me. "Have you been near any military bases?"

"No."

"Hmm."

"I mean, not that I know of."

"What about a television? Have you been near a television?"

"Definitely not."

"Hmm." He thought for a while, and then asked, "Have you noticed anyone demanding that you support people?"

That question just about knocked my chair over backwards.  When I recovered, I told him everything I've just told you.

"Come with me," he said, getting up. 

A half-hour later, my interviewer had persuaded his colleagues that I was not infected, and had set me up with a chair and some actually edible food, in a position to watch what he called the administering of remedies.

One of the astronaut-suited workers was seated at a table across from a young woman wearing an American flag dress.  The astronaut was asking questions:

"If someone's dog bit you, would you be upset?"

"Of course."

"And what if I questioned your loyalty and willingness to support the dog trainers?"

The woman's reaction was so swift and violent that I suspect it even surprised her questioner: "How dare you?" she hissed.  "I support the dog trainers and would never question a dog killing and devouring me. Maybe you don't support the dog trainers! Eh? How could you suggest such a thing to me?"

The questioner moved on.  "And what if someone proposed that the government of your nation destroy a poor nation, kill a million people, create millions of refugees, poison the natural environment, waste several trillion dollars, leave behind a violent hell of traumatized resentment, and take away a lot of your rights and liberties in the name of prosecuting this horrendous war that will endanger you by making your nation hated?"

The woman seemed unsure what to say.

"Would you favor that policy?"

She snorted in indignation. "Of course, not! Why would anyone . . . "

"Don't you support the troops?"

"How dare you . . . " And she was off on a rant about her love for the troops and her absolute support for anything they might be ordered to do.

"Drink this."

"Why?"

"The troops want you to."

"Give it to me."

The woman took the large bottle of greenish liquid and downed it in about 10 seconds.

Her questioner tried some of the same questions again, making notes all the time.

"Would you support slaughtering hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, to enrich a few corporations and give some politicians a thrill of power?"

"Of course, not."

"Do you favor ending current wars?"

"Yes, of course."

"But don't you support the troops?"

She paused and stared, and then blurted out: "Support the. . . . what? What does that even mean? If I oppose a policy I oppose people enacting that policy. That says nothing about whether I like those people or not, most of whom I've never met of course. What the hell?"

Moments later, the questioner was leading the woman in the American flag dress over to join me in the viewing section.  "Wait," she said, addressing the space-suited emergency worker, "why am I wearing this dress?"

"He'll explain," the worker said, gesturing toward me.

CNN: Palestinians Want to Die

In this latest assault on Gaza, Israel had by Thursday already killed 69 Palestinians including 22 children and 13 women, plus 469 wounded including 166 children and 85 women, and 70 houses destroyed. These numbers have since increased significantly.

In this video from Thursday on CNN, Jake Tapper interviews Diana Buttu, a former advisor to the PLO.  After failing to persuade her of Israel's complete innocence, he tells her that Hamas is instructing women and children to remain in their homes to die as Israel bombs them. She responds by expressing doubt that people want to die.  Oh no, says Tapper, Palestinians live in a culture of martyrdom; they want to die.

William Westmoreland once remarked on Vietnam, where the United States killed 4 million men, women, children, and infants: "The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient."

Banastre Tarleton stood up in Parliament and defended the slave trade on the grounds that Africans did not object to being slaves.

President William McKinley said little brown Filipinos appreciated being conquered and dominated.

The view that the people you are abusing don't mind it has a long history of being employed to distract from the evil being done.

Just as powerful, if not more so, is the view that no evil is being done at all. 

ABC News' Diane Sawyer told her viewers that scenes of destruction in Gaza were actually in Israel, and was later forced to apologize, but did not note that scenes like those she'd shown do not exist in Israel, rather leaving the impression that a simple mistake had swapped out similar scenes from one country for the other.

Polls have found that people in the United States believe Iraq benefitted from the war that destroyed it and that Iraqis are grateful, while the United States itself suffered.

If people cannot be depicted as evil, because we see images of them, and they are 3 years old and have their limbs ripped off, and if our cruelty cannot be depicted as for their own good, then the cruelty must itself be denied.  We must completely avert our eyes or invert the facts.  Or we must blame someone else for it.  Blame Israel for getting a bit carried away after so many years of innocent suffering.

But it is with billions of dollars of weaponry provided free of cost courtesy of U.S. taxpayers that the Israeli military is bombing civilian neighborhoods in occupied Gaza. The ongoing occupation is at the root of the crisis, but this new turn to large-scale violence was produced by fraud. The Israeli government learned that three Israelis had been killed, falsely blamed Hamas, and falsely claimed to believe the young men might still be alive. This fraud was used to justify a search-and-rescue operation that left numerous dead and hundreds under arrest.

Small-scale violence by Palestinians is not justified by Israel's ongoing brutality. It is deeply immoral as well as absurdly counterproductive.  But if individual murders justified the mass killing of war, the United States would have to launch a full-scale war on itself every day of the year. And it is the United States' weaponry, provided under the euphemism of "aid," that is pounding the homes of the people of Gaza.

Jewish Voice for Peace says, in an open letter that you too can sign:

"In this time of tremendous suffering and fear, from Jerusalem to Gaza, and from Hebron to Be’er Sheva, we reaffirm that all Israelis and Palestinians deserve security, justice, and equality, and we mourn all those who have died.

"Our unshakeable commitment to freedom and justice for all compels us to acknowledge that this violence has fallen overwhelmingly on Palestinians. And it compels us to affirm that this violence has a root cause: Israel's illegal occupation.

"We are united in our belief that:

"The denial of Palestinian human rights must end.
Illegal settlements must end.
Bombing civilians must end.
Killing children must end.
Valuing Jewish lives at the expense of others must end.

"Only by embracing equality for all peoples can this terrible bloodshed end."

U.S. Out of Germany

If Germany hasn't had enough, we in the United States sure have. 

Despite the supposed ending of World War II, the U.S. still keeps over 40,000 armed soldiers permanently in Germany.

Despite the ending of the Cold War, the U.S. still spies on the German government with relentless malevolence and incompetence, building on the fine tradition in which the CIA was created.

Germany has kicked out the latest CIA "station chief" -- a job title that seems to give one's career the longevity and utility of a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts.

Does Germany need a better CIA station chief? A reformed NSA? A properly reviewed and vetted U.S. occupation?

What does Germany get out of this deal? 

Protection from Russia?  If the Russian government weren't demonstrating a level of restraint that dwarfs even that of the Brazilian soccer team's defense there would be full-scale war in Ukraine right now.  Russia is no more threatening Germany than Iran is preparing to nuke Washington or the U.N. is confiscating guns in Montana.

Germany must gain something, surely?  Perhaps protection from evil Muslims dehumanized in the manner that U.S. war marketers first developed for the dehumanization of Germans 100 years ago?  Surely Germans are smart enough to have noticed that violent resistance to foreign aggression targets the nations responsible, not those declining to take part.  Hosting bases of the military that gives Israel the weapons with which it slaughters the people of Gaza, whatever else it may be, is decidedly not a security strategy.

So what does Germany gain? The warm feeling that comes with knowing that all those acres and facilities with which so much good could be accomplished are being donated to the wealthiest nation on earth which refuses to care for its own people, chip in its share for the poor of the world, or slow its push for the destruction of the globe's climate even as Germany leads in the other direction?

Come on. Germany is a battered wife, a victim of Stockholm syndrome, a schizophrenic accomplice unwilling to relinquish its gang membership.  Germany should know better.  Germany should throw out the rest of the CIA and 40,000 members of the U.S. military and their families.

What does the United States get out of this codependent criminality?

A launching area closer to numerous nations it wishes to attack?  That's a desire of the Pentagon, and of Chuck Hagel who claims that ISIS is a threat to the United States because he no doubt conceives of the United States as existing wherever it maintains troops (which is just about everywhere).  That is not a desire of the U.S. public.

An unaccountable recklessly funded institution that makes enemies of allies, prevents cooperation across borders, destroys the rule of law and diplomatic initiatives, and erodes the rights of people at home and abroad in order to spy on governments, corporations, and those first to beginning murmuring their displeasure (and for all we know, soccer coaches as well)? Many of us are willing to forego this benefit.

The U.S. war machine does not, in fact, benefit the nations it occupies or the nation in whose name it occupies.  It endangers both, strips away the rights of both, damages the natural environment of both, impoverishes both, and devotes the energies of both to destructive enterprises or mutual disagreements that distract from the necessary work of actual defense from actual dangers, such as the industrial destruction of our air, land, and oceans.

Pulling U.S. troops out of Germany would be the clearest signal that the United States, which has engaged in 200 military actions during the "post-war period," is ready at long last to actually end the war.

Talk Nation Radio: Paul Findley, 93, Key Author of the War Powers Resolution on How It Might Be Complied With

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-paul-findley-93-key-author-of-the-war-powers-resolution

Paul Findley served as a Republican member of United States House of Representatives from Illinois for 22 years. He was a key author of the War Powers Resolution and a leader in securing its enactment by overriding the veto of President Richard Nixon. The federal building in Springfield, Ill. is named for him. He discusses the legality, or lack thereof, of recent wars and proposals for wars, including in Syria and Iraq.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

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Bowe Bergdahl and the Voice of War

By Kathy Kelly

During my recent visit to Gangjeong, on Jeju Island, South Korea, where a protest community has struggled for years to block construction of a U.S. military base, conversations over delicious meals in the community kitchen were a delightful daily event.  At lunchtime on my first day there I met Emily and Dongwon, a young and recently married couple, both protesters, who had met each other in Gangjeong. Emily recalled that when her parents finally travelled from Taiwan to meet her partner, they had to visit him in prison. 

Dongwon, who is from a rural area of South Korea, had visited Gangjeong and gotten to know the small protest community living on the Gureombi Rock.  Drawn by their tenacity and commitment, he had decided to join them.  When a barge crane was dredgingthe sea in front of Gureombi Rock, Dongwon had climbed up to its tip and declined to come down. On February 18, 2013, a judge had sentenced him to one year in prison for the nonviolent action. 

Emily laughs happily as she recalls how muscular she became while she was learning to become a sailor.  She had wanted to be able to transport herself and others to and around the islands that in this region tend disproportionately to be affected by militarization, such as Taiwan, Okinawa, and Jeju Island.  Boats have factored significantly into civil disobedience against the construction of Jeju’s naval base.   Emily had recently returned from an international meeting with Okinawan islanders.  Participants were eager to develop  flotilla actions, defending peace  in Asian seas, where the U.S. military, as part of its “Asia Pivot,” plans to create a ring of militarized islands in order to contain (even at the cost of provoking) emerging superpower rival China and other nations of concern.   

Meanwhile, Dongwon was arranging a conference at Jeju University to explore conscientious objection to war.  He and his friend Mark do not want to be conscripted into military service, but failure to comply with the Republic of Korea’s mandatory service could result in extremely severe punishments.  Worldwide fully 90 per cent of those presently incarcerated for conscientious objection to military service are to be found in South Korean prisons.   

It’s a privilege and a challenge to confer with new, young friends in places like Jeju Island and Kabul, Afghanistan. 

Today, as I write these thoughts, Bowe Bergdahl is adjusting to life in the United States.   While serving with the U.S. military in Afghanistan he experienced a crisis of conscience.  His experiences in Afghanistan suggested that his platoon was as ready to massacre the local population as to serve it.  His youth had been filled with an aspiration to courageous and fierce independence in the pursuit of integrity, and in response to a letter home his father had instructed: “follow your conscience.”  Unarmed, he had walked away from his base with the apparent intention to continue walking in the mountains.  Picked up by a militant group, he was held as a prisoner of war for half a decade before his release in exchange for five of the 149 prisoners of war held by the U.S. government at its Guantanamo base.  While some of these prisoners are military fighters, others are acknowledged civilians suffering their second decade of detention without trial or promise of eventual release.

This exchange, and seemingly the very prospect of Bowe Bergdahl’s release under any conditions, enraged some U.S. critics who blamed Bergdahl for daring to place the dictates of conscience before those of the United States Government.

Some also blamed Bergdahl for casualties among the troops which the U.S. had sent into battle.  These soldiers were required to defend the prestige of a U.S. government that takes prisoners of war by the hundreds, shackling them for decades with no prospect of release, even when it’s proven that they are civilians who never took up arms, who were uninvolved in any militia, and who were caught “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Meanwhile, speaking of the five prisoners of war exchanged for Bergdahl (as one of a series of halting but desperately needed steps towards a peace treaty and withdrawal from Afghanistan) Senator John McCain, himself a former prisoner of war, raged, “"They're the five biggest murderers in world history! … They killed Americans!" (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/americas-last-prisoner-of-war-20120607)

Bergdahl listened to conscience; listened to the best he knew of the United States; and, heedless of the danger to himself, walked away from war.  His military superiors knew that he was troubled, that his platoon was barely functional, and that he needed to find a way out, but they weren’t listening to the voice of compassion.  They were listening to the voice of war.  

War – this war and the many others like it – has changed us.  It demands that a young man brutalized in captivity, that over a hundred of his counterparts brutalized daily in Guantanamo, never meet with any compassion from us ever again.   And from Iraq to Syria, Afghanistan to the Ukraine, U.S. war makers will demand newer wars of us, more rage, and more fear cloaked in expressions of our exceptional humanitarian concern for others. We are absolutely forbidden ever to walk away from war.  

That is the voice of war.  South Korea’s own ongoing war is screaming at it to destroy young conscientious objectors with punitive jail sentences.  Dissenting island communities face ever-increasing militarization in service of future U.S. superpower clashes.   Worldwide the rage screaming in our ears wherever our power is blocked and our instructions defied drives us further and further into destructive madness in the clutches of which we should be pitied almost as much as feared.  But we each do have a choice: We can choose not to listen to war, and act on this choice.  For me, it was a saving grace to be able to listen to young people exchanging stories of hope, humor, dedication, and courage over lunches in the Gangjeong community kitchen.


Kathy Kelly (kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (vcnv.org

This article will appear on its source site, the new Telesur English, in the third week of July, when that new site goes online.

Celebrating Independence from America in England

By David Swanson
Remarks at Independence from America event outside Menwith Hill "RFA" (NSA) base in Yorkshire.

First of all, thank you to Lindis Percy and everyone else involved in bringing me here, and letting me bring my son Wesley along.

And thank you to the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases. I know you share my view that accountability of American bases would lead to elimination of American bases.

And thank you to Lindis for sending me her accounts of refusing to be arrested unless the police disarmed themselves.  In the United States, refusing any sort of direction from a police officer will get you charged with the crime of refusing a lawful order, even when the order is unlawful. In fact, that's often the only charge levied against people ordered to cease protests and demonstrations that in theory are completely legal.  And, of course, telling a U.S. police officer to disarm could quite easily get you locked up for insanity if it didn't get you shot.

Can I just say how wonderful it is to be outside of the United States on the Fourth of July?  There are many wonderful and beautiful things in the United States, including my family and friends, including thousands of truly dedicated peace activists, including people bravely going to prison to protest the murders by drone of others they've never met in distant lands whose loved ones will probably never hear about the sacrifices protesters are making.  (Did you know the commander of a military base in New York State has court orders of protection to keep specific nonviolent peace activists away from his base to ensure his physical safety -- or is it his peace of mind?)  And, of course, millions of Americans who tolerate or celebrate wars or climate destruction are wonderful and even heroic in their families and neighborhoods and towns -- and that's valuable too.

I've been cheering during U.S. World Cup games.  But I cheer for neighborhood, city, and regional teams too.  And I don't talk about the teams as if I'm them.  I don't say "We scored!" as I sit in a chair opening a beer.  And I don't say "We won!" when the U.S. military destroys a nation, kills huge numbers of people, poisons the earth, water, and air, creates new enemies, wastes trillions of dollars, and passes its old weapons to the local police who restrict our rights in the name of wars fought in the name of freedom.  I don't say "We lost!" either. We who resist have a responsibility to resist harder, but not to identify with the killers, and certainly not to imagine that the men, women, children, and infants being murdered by the hundreds of thousands constitute an opposing team wearing a different uniform, a team whose defeat by hellfire missile I should cheer for. 

Identifying with my street or my town or my continent doesn't lead the same places that identifying with the military-plus-some-minor-side-services that calls itself my national government leads.  And it's very hard to identify with my street; I have such little control over what my neighbors do.  And I can't manage to identify with my state because I've never even seen most of it.  So, once I start identifying abstractly with people I don't know, I see no sensible argument for stopping anywhere short of identifying with everybody, rather than leaving out 95% and identifying with the United States, or leaving out 90% and identifying with the so-called "International Community" that cooperates with U.S. wars.  Why not just identify with all humans everywhere? On those rare occasions when we learn the personal stories of distant or disparaged people, we're supposed to remark, "Wow, that really humanizes them!" Well, I'd like to know, what were they before those details made them humanized?  

In the U.S. there are U.S. flags everywhere all the time now, and there's a military holiday for every day of the year.  But the Fourth of July is the highest holiday of holy nationalism.  More than any other day, you're likely to see children being taught to pledge allegiance to a flag, regurgitating a psalm to obedience like little fascist robots.  You're more likely to hear the U.S. national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner.  Who knows which war the words of that song come from? 

That's right, the War of Canadian Liberation, in which the United States tried to liberate Canadians (not for the first or last time) who welcomed them much as the Iraqis would later do, and the British burned Washington.  Also known as the War of 1812, the bicentennial was celebrated in the U.S. two years ago.  During that war, which killed thousands of Americans and Brits, mostly through disease, during one pointless bloody battle among others, plenty of people died, but a flag survived.  And so we celebrate the survival of that flag by singing about the land of the free that imprisons more people than anywhere else on earth and the home of the brave that strip-searches airplane passengers and launches wars if three Muslims shout "boo!"

Did you know the U.S. flag was recalled? You know how a car will be recalled by the manufacturer if the brakes don't work? A satirical paper called the Onion reported that the U.S. flag had been recalled after resulting in 143 million deaths.  Better late than never.

There are many wonderful and rapidly improving elements in U.S. culture.  It has become widely and increasingly unacceptable to be bigoted or prejudiced against people, at least nearby people, because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, and other factors.  It still goes on, of course, but it's frowned upon.  I had a conversation last year with a man sitting in the shadow of a carving of confederate generals on a spot that used to be sacred to the Ku Klux Klan, and I realized that he would never, even if he thought it, say something racist about blacks in the United States to a stranger he'd just met.  And then he told me he'd like to see the entire Middle East wiped out with nuclear bombs. 

We've had comedians' and columnists' careers ended over racist or sexist remarks, but weapons CEOs joke on the radio about wanting big new occupations of certain countries, and nobody blinks.  We have antiwar groups that push for celebration of the military on  Memorial Day and other days like this one.  We have so-called progressive politicians who describe the military as a jobs program, even though it actually produces fewer jobs per dollar than education or energy or infrastructure or never taxing those dollars at all.  We have peace groups that argue against wars on the grounds that the military needs to be kept ready for other, possibly more important wars.  We have peace groups that oppose military waste, when the alternative of military efficiency is not what's needed.  We have libertarians who oppose wars because they cost money, exactly as they oppose schools or parks.  We have humanitarian warriors who argue for wars because of their compassion for the people they want bombed.  We have peace groups that side with the libertarians and urge selfishness, arguing for schools at home instead of bombs for Syrians, without explaining that we could give actual aid to Syrians and ourselves for a fraction of the cost of the bombs. 

We have liberal lawyers who say they can't tell whether blowing children up with drones is legal or not, because President Obama has a secret memo (now only partially secret) in which he legalizes it by making it part of a war, and they haven't seen the memo, and as a matter of principle they, like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, ignore the U.N. Charter, the Kellogg Briand Pact, and the illegality of war.  We have people arguing that bombing Iraq is now a good thing because it finally gets the U.S. and Iran talking to each other.  We have steadfast refusals to mention a half-million to a million-and-a-half Iraqis based on the belief that Americans can only possibly care about 4,000 Americans killed in Iraq.  We have earnest crusades to turn the U.S. military into a force for good, and the inevitable demand of those who begin to turn against war, that the United States must lead the way to peace -- when of course the world would be thrilled if it just brought up the rear.

And yet, we also have tremendous progress.  A hundred years ago Americans were listening to snappy tunes about how hunting Huns was a fun game to play, and professors were teaching that war builds national character.  Now war has to be sold as necessary and humanitarian because nobody believes it's fun or good for you anymore.  Polls in the United States put support for possible new wars below 20 percent and sometimes below 10 percent.  After the House of Commons over here said No to missile strikes on Syria, Congress listened to an enormous public uproar in the U.S. and said No as well.  In February, public pressure led to Congress backing off a new sanctions bill on Iran that became widely understood as a step toward war rather than away from it.  A new war on Iraq is having to be sold and developed slowly in the face of huge public resistance that has even resulted in some prominent advocates of war in 2003 recently recanting. 

This shift in attitude toward wars is largely the result of the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq and the exposure of the lies and horrors involved.  We shouldn't underestimate this trend or imagine that it's unique to the question of Syria or Ukraine.  People are turning against war.  For some it may be all about the money.  For others it may be a question of which political party owns the White House.  The Washington Post has a poll showing that almost nobody in the U.S. can find Ukraine on a map, and those who place it furthest from where it really lies are most likely to want a U.S. war there, including those who place it in the United States.  One doesn't know whether to laugh or cry.  Yet the larger trend is this: from geniuses right down to morons, we are, most of us, turning against war.  The Americans who want Ukraine attacked are fewer than those believing in ghosts, U.F.O.s, or the benefits of climate change.

Now, the question is whether we can shake off the idea that after hundreds of bad wars there just might be a good one around the corner.  To do that we have to recognize that wars and militaries make us less safe, not safer.  We have to understand that Iraqis aren't ungrateful because they're stupid but because the U.S. and allies destroyed their home. 

We can pile even more weight on the argument for ending the institution of war.  These U.S. spy bases are used for targeting missiles but also for spying on governments and companies and activists.  And what justifies the secrecy?  What allows treating everyone as an enemy?  Well, one necessary component is the concept of an enemy.  Without wars nations lose enemies.  Without enemies, nations lose excuses to abuse people.  Britain was the first enemy manufactured by the would-be rulers of the United States on July 4, 1776.  And yet King George's abuses don't measure up to the abuses our governments now engage in, justified by their traditions of war making and enabled by the sort of technologies housed here.

War is our worst destroyer of the natural environment, the worst generator of human rights abuses, a leading cause of death and creator of refugee crises.  It swallows some $2 trillion a year globally, while tens of billions could alleviate incredible suffering, and hundreds of billions could pay for a massive shift to renewable energies that might help protect us from an actual danger. 

What we need now is a movement of education and lobbying and nonviolent resistance that doesn't try to civilize war but to take steps in the direction of abolishing it -- which begins by realizing that we can abolish it.  If we can stop missiles into Syria, there's no magical force that prevents our stopping missiles into every other country.  War is not a primal urge of nations that must burst out a little later if once suppressed.  Nations aren't real like that.  War is a decision made by people, and one that we can make utterly unacceptable.

People in dozens of countries are now working on a campaign for the elimination of all war called World Beyond War.  Please check out WorldBeyondWar.org or talk to me about getting involved.  Our goal is to bring many more people and organizations into a movement not aimed at a specific war proposal from a specific government, but at the entire institution of war everywhere.  We'll have to work globally to do this.  We'll have to throw our support behind the work being done by groups like the Campaign for Accountability of American Bases and the Movement for the Abolition of War and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Veterans For Peace and so many more.

Some friends of ours in Afghanistan, the Afghan Peace Volunteers, have proposed that everyone living under the same blue sky who wants to move the world beyond war wear a sky blue scarf.  You can make your own or find them at TheBlueScarf.org.  I hope by wearing this to communicate my sense of connection to those back in the United States working for actual freedom and bravery, and my same sense of connection to those in the rest of the world who have had enough of war. Happy Fourth of July!

Pay No Attention to the Apocalypse Behind the Curtain

By David Swanson, Remarks in London, England, July 2, 2014.

Thank you to Bruce Kent and the Movement for the Abolition of War and to Veterans For Peace and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Thank you to the Stop the War Coalition and everyone else for helping spread the word.

In 8 days, on July 10th Mary Ann Grady-Flores, a grandmother from Ithaca, NY, is scheduled to be sentenced to up to one year in prison.  Her crime is violating an order of protection, which is a legal tool to protect a particular person from the violence of another particular person.  In this case, the commander of Hancock Air Base has been legally protected from dedicated nonviolent protesters, despite the protection of commanding his own military base, and despite the protesters having no idea who the guy is.  That's how badly the people in charge of the flying killer robots we call drones want to avoid any questioning of their activity entering the minds of the drone pilots.

Last Thursday a place in the U.S. called the Stimson Center released a report on the new U.S. habit of murdering people with missiles from drones.  The Stimson Center is named for Henry Stimson, the U.S. Secretary of War who, prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor wrote in his diary, following a meeting with President Roosevelt: "The question was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves. It was a difficult proposition." (Four months earlier, Churchill had told his cabinet at 10 Downing Street that U.S. policy toward Japan consisted of this: "Everything was to be done to force an incident.")  This was the same Henry Stimson who later forbid dropping the first nuclear bomb on Kyoto, because he'd once been to Kyoto. He'd never visited Hiroshima, much to the misfortune of the people of Hiroshima.

I know there's a big celebration of World War I going on over here (as well as big resistance to it), but in the United States there's been an ongoing celebration of World War II for 70 years. In fact, one might even suggest that World War II has continued in a certain way and on a lesser scale for 70 years (and on a greater scale in particular times and places like Korea and Vietnam and Iraq).  The United States has never returned to pre-World War II levels of taxes or military spending, never left Japan or Germany, has engaged in some 200 military actions abroad during the so-called post-war era, has never stopped expanding its military presence abroad, and now has troops permanently stationed in almost every country on earth.  Two exceptions, Iran and Syria, are regularly threatened.

So it is altogether appropriate, I think, that it was the Stimson Center that released this report, by former military officials and military-friendly lawyers, a report that included this rather significant statement: "The increasing use of lethal UAVs may create a slippery slope leading to continual or wider wars." 

At least that sounds significant to me. Continual wars? That's a pretty bad thing, right?

Also last week, the U.S. government made public a memo in which it claims the right to legally murder a U.S. citizen (never mind anybody else) as part of a war that has no limit in time or space.  Call me crazy, but this seems serious.  What if this war goes on long enough to generate significant enemies? 

Last year the United Nations released a report that stated that drones were making war the norm rather than the exception.  Wow.  That could be a problem for a species of creatures who prefer not being bombed, don't you think?  The United Nations, created to rid the world of war, mentions in passing that war is becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Surely the response to such a grave development should be equally significant. 

We've grown habituated, I think, to reading reports that say things like "If we don't leave 80% of known fossil fuels in the ground we're all going to die, and lots of other species with us," and then experts recommend that we use more efficient light bulbs and grow our own tomatoes.  I mean we've become used to the response not remotely fitting the crisis at hand.

Such is the case with the UN, the Stimson Center, and a good crowd of humanitarian law experts, as far as I can tell.

The Stimson Center says of murders by drone, they should be "neither glorified not demonized."  Nor, apparently, should they be stopped.  Instead, the Stimson Center recommends reviews and transparency and robust studies.  I'm willing to bet that if you or I threatened massive continual or widening death and destruction we'd be demonized.  I'm willing to bet the idea of our being glorified wouldn't even come up for consideration.

The United Nations, too, thinks transparency is the answer.  Just let us know whom you're murdering and why. We'll get you the forms to do a monthly report.  As other nations get in on this game we'll compile their reports and create some real international transparency. 

That's some people's idea of progress.

Drones are, of course, not the only way or -- thus far -- the most deadly way the U.S. and its allies wage wars.  But there is this minimal pretense of ethical discussion about drones because drone murders look like murders to a lot of people.  The U.S. president goes through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays, picks whom to murder, and has them and anyone standing too close to them murdered -- although he also often targets people without knowing their name.  Bombing Libya or anywhere else looks less like murder to many people, especially if -- like Stimson in Hiroshima -- they've never been to Libya, and if numerous bombs are all supposedly aimed at one evil person whom the U.S. government has turned against.  So, the United States goes through something like the 2011 war on Libya that has left that nation in such a fine state without it occurring to any military-friendly think tanks that there's an ethical question to be pondered.

How, I wonder, would we talk about drones or bombs or so-called non-combat advisors if we were trying to eliminate war rather than ameliorate it?  Well, I think that if we saw the complete abolition of war as even our very distant goal, we'd talk very differently about every type of war today.  I think we'd stop encouraging the idea that any memo could possibly legalize murder, whether or not we'd seen the memo.  I think we'd reject the human rights groups' position that the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact should be ignored.  Rather than considering the illegality of tactics during a war, we'd object to the illegality of the war itself.  We wouldn't speak positively of the United States and Iran possibly joining hands in friendship if the basis for such a proposed alliance was to be a joint effort to kill Iraqis. 

In the U.S. it's not unusual for peace groups to focus on 4,000 dead Americans and the financial costs of the war on Iraq, and to steadfastly refuse to mention a half-million to a million and a half Iraqis killed, which silence has contributed to most Americans not knowing what happened.  But that's the strategy of opponents of some wars, not opponents of all wars.  Depicting a particular war as costly to the aggressor doesn't move people against war preparations or rid them of the fantasy that there could be a good and just war in the days ahead.

It's common in Washington to argue against military waste, such as weapons that don't work or that the Pentagon didn't even ask Congress for, or to argue against bad wars that leave the military less prepared for other possible wars.  If our project was aimed ultimately at war's elimination, we'd be against military efficiency more than military waste and in favor of an ill-prepared military unable to launch more wars.  We'd also be as focused on keeping young people out of the military and militarism out of school books as we are on preventing a particular batch of missiles from flying.  It's routine to profess loyalty to soldiers while opposing their commanders' policies, but once you've praised soldiers for their supposed service, you've accepted that they must have provided one.  Celebrating World War I resisters, as I know some of you have been doing recently, is the sort of thing that ought to replace honoring war participants.

We may need to not just change our conversation from opposing specific war after specific war to discussing the ending of the whole institution.  We may also need to alter at least subtly every part of the conversation along the way. 

Instead of proposing that veterans in particular have earned our gratitude and should receive healthcare and retirement (which one hears all the time in the U.S.), we may want to propose that all people -- including veterans -- have human rights, and that one of our chief duties is to cease creating any more veterans.

Instead of objecting to troops urinating on corpses, we may want to object to the creation of the corpses.  Instead of trying to eliminate torture and rape and lawless imprisonment from an operation of mass-murder, we may want to focus on the cause. We can't go on putting $2 trillion a year globally, and half of that just in the United States, into getting ready for wars and not expect wars to result. 

With other addictions we're told to go after the biggest dealers of the drug or to go after the demand by the users.  The dealers of the drug of war are those funding the military with our grandchildren's unearned pay and dumping buckets of money into propaganda about Vietnam and World War I.  They know the lies about past wars are even more important than the lies about new wars.  And we know that the institution of war could not survive people learning the truth about it to such an extent that some people begin to act on that knowledge.

U.S. public opinion has moved against wars.  When Parliament and Congress said no to missiles into Syria, public pressure of the past decade played a big role.  The same is true of stopping a horrible bill on Iran in Congress earlier this year, and of resistance to a new war on Iraq.  Congress members are worried about voting for another war like Iraq, whether in Iraq or elsewhere.  Her vote to attack Iraq 12 years ago is the only thing that has kept us thus far from seeing Hillary Clinton in the White House.  People don't want to vote for someone who voted for that.  And, let's get this said early to our dear friends at the Nobel Committee: another peace prize will not help things.  The United States doesn't need another peace prize for a war maker, it needs what Bruce and so many of you have been working on over here: a popular movement for the abolition of war!

A number of peace activists have started up a new effort called World Beyond War at http://WorldBeyondWar.org aimed at bringing more people into peace activism. People and organizations in at least 58 countries so far have signed the Declaration of Peace at WorldBeyondWar.org.  Our hope is that, by bringing more people and groups into the movement, we can strengthen and enlarge, rather than compete against, existing peace organizations.  We hope that we can support the work of groups like the Movement for the Abolition of War, and that we can, as groups and individuals, work globally.

The website at WorldBeyondWar.org is intended to provide educational tools: videos, maps, reports, talking points.  We make the case against the idea that war protects us -- an outrageous idea, given that the nations that engage in the most war face the most hostility as a result.  A poll at the start of this year of people in 65 nations found the U.S. in a huge lead as the nation considered the greatest threat to peace in the world.  U.S. veterans are killing themselves in record numbers, in part over what they've done to Iraq and Afghanistan. Our humanitarian wars are a leading cause of suffering and death for humanity. And so we also refute the idea that war can benefit the people where it is waged.

We also lay out the arguments that war is deeply immoral, a first-cousin of and frequent cause of, not alternative to, genocide; that war destroys our natural environment, that war erodes our civil liberties, and that just transferring a bit of what we spend on war to something useful would make us beloved rather than feared around the world.  One and a half percent of what the world spends on war could be spent to end starvation on earth.  War has taken 200 million lives over the past century, but the good that could be done with the resources dumped into war far outstrips the evil that could be avoided by ending war.  For one thing, if we quickly redirected war's resources we'd have our best shot at doing something to protect the climate of the planet.  That our concept of "defense" doesn't include that illustrates how far we've gone toward accepting the inevitability of what is after all the perfectly avoidable and perfectly horrible and completely indefensible institution of war.

Having accepted war, we try for cheaper wars, better wars, even more one-sided wars, and what do we get?  We get warnings from respectable war supporters that we're beginning to make war the norm and risking continual warfare. 

On the one hand this is a case of unintended consequences to rival those who sought the truth about god's creation and ended up with the guy who's on the money around here, Charles Darwin.  On the other hand it's not unintended at all.  A professor at Stanford University has just put out a book arguing that war is so good for us that we must always keep it going.  That strain of thought courses through the veins of our military funded academia and activism. 

But that kind of thinking is increasingly unpopular, and this may be the moment in which to expose it, denounce it, and crystallize into action the growing popular sentiment against war, and the realization into which we've stumbled that particular wars can be prevented, and if particular wars can be prevented then each and every one of them can be prevented.  I look forward to working on that project, with the urgency it demands, and together with all of you.

I'm Speaking in England This Week and You're Invited

David Swanson from the Coordinating Committee of WorldBeyondWar.org will be visiting London from the United States on July 2nd before heading up to speak in Northern England with CAAB.org.uk on the Fourth of July.  Swanson is an author whose books include: War No More: The Case for Abolition (2013), War Is A Lie (2010), When the World Outlawed War (2011), and The Military Industrial Complex at 50 (2012). See http://davidswanson.org

LONDON:
July 2, 2014, 8:00 p.m., Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Holburn.
David Swanson from WorldBeyondWar.org
Also speaking: Ben Griffin of Veterans For Peace UK (http://veteransforpeace.org.uk) Ben is a former SAS soldier who refused to return to Iraq in 2005. He is now the coordinator of Veterans For Peace UK.
Hosted by London Region Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (http://cnduk.org) Chair: Jim Brann
Organized by Movement for the Abolition of War (http://abolishwar.org.uk)
RSVP to Bruce Kent brucek@uk2.net

NSA MENWITH HILL BASE:
July 4, 2014, from 5 to 9 p.m.
Annual Independence FROM America Demonstration at the main entrance to NSA Menwith Hill HG1 4QZ.

Speakers: Caroline Hughes, David Swanson, Annie Machon
Learn more: http://caab.org.uk

Moderate Syrian Rebel Application Form

As a Syrian rebel, I think the word or phrase that best describes me is:
A) Moderate
B) Very moderate
C) Crazy moderate
D) Other

Complete the form for your $500,000,000 in weapons here.

Talk Nation Radio: Ted Glick: We Must Block Exports of Fracked Gas

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-ted-glick-we-must-block-exports-of-fracked-gas

On July 13th a rally in Washington D.C. will seek to prevent the opening of a first U.S. facility to export gas from fracking.  See http://StopGasExports.org  We speak with one of the organizers of the rally, Ted Glick.

Ted Glick has devoted 46 years of his life to the progressive social change movement. He was active in the peace movement against the Vietnam war, was a founder and national coordinator of the National Campaign to Impeach Nixon and has been actively involved in progressive coalition-building and independent politics efforts since 1975. Since 2003 he has played a leadership role in the effort to stabilize our climate and for a clean energy revolution. He was a founder in early 2004 of the Climate Crisis Coalition, and he is currently  the National Campaign Coordinator of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. For three and a half months in the fall of 2007 he ate no solid food as part of a climate emergency fast focused on getting Congress to pass strong climate legislation. Over the course of his activist career, he has been arrested 17 times for acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, including five times between October, 2006 and  May 2010 on climate issues. Since 2000, he has been writing Future Hope, a nationally-circulated column of political and social commentary , accessible at http://tedglick.com

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

Audio on Afghanistan and Iraq on the Coy Barefoot Show

GUEST: David Swanson, author, activist, and blogger. His books includes Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union and War is a Lie and When the World Outlawed War. Follow him on Twitter.

TOPIC: David reacts to the news that Bowe Bergdahl has been released— and that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue.

ORIGINAL BROADCAST DATE: Friday, June 6, 2014.

Listen.

Mapping Militarism

World Beyond War has created a set of online interactive maps to help us all see where and how war and preparations for war exist in the world today.  You can find the maps we’ve created thus far at http://bit.ly/mappingmilitarism and send us your ideas for more maps here.  We’ll be updating some of these maps with new data every year and displaying animation of the progress away from war or the regress toward more war as the case may be.

The following are still screen-shots of some of the maps available in interactive form at the link above.

spending

This map displays annual spending on war and war preparations. When you view the interactive version, the key at the bottom left is adjustable. Here the darkest color is set to $200 billion. You can raise or lower it. Or you can click on one of the colored squares and change the colors if you don’t like blue.  When you run the cursor over one of the countries on the interactive version it will give you details. You can also choose to see the same data as a graph without the map by clicking the full-screen symbol on the graph at the top of the page. Then you’ll see this:

spendinggraph

At the moment, the nation “United States” has been clicked on. The bar for the United States is noticably larger than for the other nations. It would be about twice as high if all U.S. military spending were included. But then at least some of the other nations’ would be higher as well. The data used here for the comparison across nations comes from a report called “The Military Balance” by IISS. By comparing, as well as possible, absolute spending dollars, it becomes clear that the U.S. military dwarfs all others. Maps and charts that show military spending as a percentage of GDP (of a nation’s economy) have their own use, but they seem to imply that if a government has more money if can buy more weapons without becoming more militaristic, that in fact it will become less militaristic if it does not buy more weapons.

Another way to look at spending on war and war preparations by national governments is as a per-capita figure. Perhaps nations with more people can make an argument in defense of more spending. Here’s a screenshot of that map:

percapita

The above map of military spending per capita has something in common with the basic spending map: The United States is still the darkest color. But China’s not a (very) distant second-place anymore. And the U.S. isn’t in first place anymore. It’s been edged out by Israel and Oman. And trailing right behind it are Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Kuwait, and the land of the Nobel Peace Prize: Norway, followed by Australia and the United (for the moment anyway) Kingdom.

Countries don’t just spend money on their own militaries. They also sell and give weapons to other countries. We’ve included a couple of maps displaying those nations that make the most weapons transfers to others. Here’s one, using data from the Congressional Research Service:

transfers

This just seems to be the United States’ night at the Oscars. But here the distant runners up are Russia, France, Germany, Italy, China, and the U.K. This gives us a different view of the weapons industries in these countries. They aren’t just arming their own governments. And they aren’t just arming wealthy allies either. Here’s a look at who’s arming poor nations:

poor

We decided it was worth a particular look at where all the U.S.-made weapons are being shipped to. Here’s that map (all nations colored the same if they received any major weapons systems from the United States in 2012). Click it to go to the interactive versions:

received

We’ve also included at http://bit.ly/mappingmilitarism maps showing who has how many nuclear weapons and who has biological and chemical weapons. They might surprise you.

There are also maps of which nations have troops right now in Afghanistan, which nations are experiencing wars at the moment, and which nations have recently been hit with missiles (most of them from drones).

Because the United States does things that other nations do not, there are a number of U.S.-specific maps. For example: Here are nations with U.S. troops permanently stationed in them. The interactive version will give you the details. The data is from the U.S. military:

ustroops

The above does not include special forces or the CIA or drone strikes. The few gray nations without U.S. troops permanently in them stand out, including Iran and Syria. Should Greenland be worried?

We’ve also included a map of U.S. military actions since 1945. It has quite a bit of color on it.

And we’ve included a series of maps indicating some level of national interest in replacing war with the rule of law. While the International Criminal Court is seriously flawed, it might be improved by greater membership, particularly by major war makers. Here is which countries are now members:

iccAlso available is a map of which nations are party to the long-forgotten treaty that bans war, known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact. That membership ought to be very surprising. There’s also a map of which nations have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions banning the horrendously awful and murderous cluster bombs, a.k.a. flying landmines.

See if you find these maps useful, and let us know what you think is missing.

If you find projects like this one useful, please support them here.

Talk Nation Radio: Nell Bernstein: Close All Juvenile Prisons

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-nell-bernstein-close-all-juvenile-prisons

Most kids commit crimes. Those locked up in juvenile prisons are more likely to commit crimes as adults than are those left alone.  So, why do we lock them up? What drives such counterproductive programs that create such misery despite demonstratd failure to achieve their purported ends? And how can we alter our approach?  We speak with Nell Bernstein.

Nell Bernstein is the author of Burning Down the House (forthcoming from The New Press) and All Alone in the World (The New Press), a Newsweek "Book of the Week." She is a former Soros Justice Media Fellow and a winner of a White House Champion of Change award. Her articles have appeared in Newsday, Salon, Mother Jones, and the Washington Post, among other publications. She lives in Albany, California.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

Audio: Connect the Dots on Iraq

Listen to Lila Garrett's Connect the Dots on KPFK: AUDIO.

Guests include:

David Swanson organizer of WORLD BEYOND WAR does an in depth analysis of our intervention in this civil war in Iraq including its connection to those interests in the US determined to feed and maintain our permanent war economy.

Former Congressman Bob Filner served as Chair of the Congressional Com. On Veteran Affairs from 2006-2010.   As chairman, Filner increased spending on veterans healthcare, and a new GI bill for veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.  Filner describes the serious cut backs by this Congress on those benefits. This includes the 50,000 vets on medical lists waiting to see a doctor for months…even years.

Senate Candidate  Shenna Bellows, Democrat from Maine, whom journalist John Nichols has called “possibly the future of progressive politics in America”, describes Maine’s extreme rightwing leadership.  About Bellows' opposition, Republican Susan Collins,  author Stephen King writes: “Senator Susan Collins is considered a moderate who compromises a lot. Sounds good, but when it comes down to casting votes that serve Mainers, she always seems to end up with her Republican colleagues, led by Mitch McConnell.”

Lila Garrett (Host of CONNECT THE DOTS)

KPFK 90.7 FM in LA; 98.7 Santa Barbara; 93.7 San Diego;

99.5 China Lake

Airs Mondays from 7AM to 8AM.

So That's Why They Kept the Drone Kill Memo Secret

Now that the U.S. government has released parts of its We-Can-Kill-People-With-Drones memo, it's hard to miss why it was kept secret until now.

Liberal professors and human rights groups and the United Nations were claiming an inability to know whether drone murders were legal or not because they hadn't seen the memo that the White House said legalized them. Some may continue to claim that the redactions in the memo make judgment impossible.

I expect most, however, will now be willing to drop the pretense that ANY memo could possibly legalize murder. 

Oh, and yall can stop telling me not to use the impolite term "murder" to describe the, you know, murders -- since "murder" is precisely the term used by the no-longer secret memo.

The memo considers a section of the U.S. code dealing with the murder of a U.S. citizen by another U.S. citizen abroad, drawing on another section that defines murder as "the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought."

David Barron, the memo's author, needed a loophole to make murder-by-missile a lawful killing rather than an unlawful killing, so he pulls out the "public authority justification" under which the government gets to use force to enforce a law.  It's a novel twist, though, for the government to get to use force to violate the law, claiming the violation is legal on the Nixonian basis that it is the government doing it.

Alternatively, Barron suggests, a government gets to use force if doing so is part of a war. This, of course, ignores the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact and the illegality of wars, as well as the novelty of claiming that a war exists everywhere on earth forever and ever. (None of Barron's arguments justify governmental murder on U.S. soil any less than off U.S. soil.)

In essence, Barron seems to argue, the people who wrote the laws were thinking about private citizens and terrorists, not the government (which, somehow, cannot be a terrorist), and therefore it's OK for the government to violate the laws.

Then there's the problem of Congressional authorization of war, or lack thereof, which Barron gets around by pretending that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was as broad as the White House pretends rather than worded to allow targeting only those responsible for the 911 attacks. 

Then there are the facts of the matter in the case of Anwar al Awlaki, who was targeted for murder prior in time to the actions that President Obama has claimed justified that targeting.

Then there are the facts in the other cases of U.S. killings of U.S. citizens, which aren't even redacted, as they're never considered.

Then there are the vastly more numerous killings of non-U.S. citizens, which the memo does not even attempt to excuse.

In the end, the memo admits that calling something a war isn't good enough; the targeted victim has to have been an imminent threat to the United States.  But who gets to decide whether he or she was that?  Why, whoever does the killing of course.  And what happens if nobody ever even makes an unsupported assertion to that effect? Nothing, of course.

This is not the rule of law.  This is savage brute force in minimal disguise.  I don't want to see any more of these memos.  I want to see the video footage of the drone murders on a television.  I want to see law professors and revolving-door State Department / human rights group hacks argue that dead children fall under the public authority justification.

Fund billboards and ads to organize for abolition of war, an idea whose time has come

We need funds for billboards and ads around the world to bring together those ready to work for an end to war. Please contribute at http://igg.me/at/worldbeyondwar

Strongest Antiwar Statement Yet from a Congressional Candidate

In this local TV news interview (video), we see Virginia Fifth District Democratic nominee for Congress Lawrence Gaughan say, "We need to get back to the Constitution on the issue of war, and I will never authorize the executive to use force when there is no direct or imminent threat to our national security here on our soil."

I'm not aware of a stronger statement from any candidate for Congress. 

Virginia's Fifth District is currently misrepresented by Republican Robert Hurt who on Thursday voted against blocking funds for a new war on Iraq:

Lee (D-CA)- Amendment No. 31 - Prohibits funds from being used to conduct combat operations in Iraq. – REJECTED 165 – 250

Twice:

Lee (D-CA)- Amendment No. 33 - Prohibits funds from being used pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq Resolution of 2002. – REJECTED 182 – 231

Prior to Hurt, VA-05 was misrepresented by Democrat Tom Perriello, an enthusiastic warmonger who recently moved to the State Department from the Center for American Progress, which is advocating for missile strikes on Iraq.

Prior to Perriello, this district was embarrassed and disgraced by Democrat turned Republican Virgil Goode.

When people voted for Perriello (and Obama) in 2008, many blindly followed a party line, and many fantasized that they were electing an anti-war representative. 

Many imagined Hurt was hopeless in this regard, although he did prove willing in the end to oppose missile strikes into Syria.

Now, as it happens, there appears to be an opportunity to vote for someone who is actually running on an antiwar platform, not just a platform of being from a different party than Bush and Cheney.  And what a platform!

It's quite common to say you'll only back wars when "U.S. national interests are at stake" or when the U.S. is threatened, but those phrases can usually be defined to mean anything at all, including U.S. troops halfway around the globe getting into a shoot out.  That's not what Gaughan has said.  He has said there must be a threat to the United States in the United States.  That's a rejection of at least the past 70 years of U.S. war making.

It's also common to claim that one will take a decent position against wars if asked by the President.  That's not what Gaughan has said.  He has said that he will abide by the Constitution, which does not allow presidents to make wars, and that he will not permit the executive to wage wars except under the narrow circumstances described.

We're not going to find better than this around here for a long, long time to come, and I doubt anybody can find better elsewhere in the country. 

I therefore suggest that wherever you live, you consider supporting putting this man in Congress.

The Democratic Push to Bomb Iraq Again

People forget the extent to which Democrats, who controlled the U.S. Senate at the time, pushed for and supported the 2003 attack on Iraq.  Remember them or not, theeeeeeeeeey're back!

The Center for American Progress, the head of whose "action fund," former Democratic Congressman from Virginia's Fifth District Tom Perriello, slipped through the revolving door into a State Department job in February, is now pushing for "principled" bombings of Iraq.

Principled or not, the Center for American Progress is funded by Lockheed Martin and other huge war profiteers. C.A.P. has just put out a report recommending that air strikes be considered.

For that to happen, many other things need to not be considered:

1. The views of the U.S. public, which opposes more wars and some of whom here in the fifth district of Virginia fantasized they'd elected an antiwar candidate in Periello several years back.

2. The views of the Iraqi public, who have been nonviolently and violently protesting an illegitimate government installed by the U.S.-led occupation.

3. The rule of law, which bans wars (under both the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact) even in places where the U.S. has recently fought wars in blatant violation of the law without any legal consequences.

4. The U.S. Constitution, which required that wars be authorized by Congress even before Article VI came to encompass the aforementioned treaties.

5. The 100-year history of foreign military interference consistently making things worse in Iraq.

6. The 11-year history of foreign military interference making things dramatically worse in Iraq to the point where it is no exaggeration to say that the nation has been destroyed.

7. The record suicide rate among U.S. war veterans, many of whom are realizing the role they played in destroying Iraq.

8. The liberties we keep losing as long as the wars for "freedom" role on.

9. The environmental destruction of our largest consumer of petroleum and greatest poisoner of land masses, the U.S. military.

10. The financial cost of trillion-dollar wars when tens of billions in reparations and actual aid could make a world of difference.

11. The history of small numbers of "advisors" in Vietnam and many other wars mushrooming into devastating occupations and millions of murders.

12. The need people have to imagine that Democrats are fundamentally different from Republicans. Think of the damage being done to that already tenuous pretense.  Spare those tender souls any troubled thoughts if you can't spare the lives of Iraqis for their own sake.

A Brief History of Iraq for Westerners

Iraq was saved from ignorant subhuman barbarism by a gentlewoman named Gertrude at the time that the civilized nations of the world were, in a quite advanced and sophisticated manner, slaughtering their young men in a project now called the First World War. 

Because the Arabs were too backward to be allowed to govern themselves, or even to contemplate creating a world war, and because tribes and ethnicities and religions never really garner much loyalty or support that can't be wiped away with a good cup of tea or a few clouds of poison gas, and because the French were too dumb to know where the oil was, it became necessary for the British to install an Iraqi leader who wasn't Iraqi, through a democratic election with one candidate running.

The great Winston Churchill explained the governance of Iraq and the new civilizing technique of bombing civilians thusly: "I am strongly in favor of using poison gas against uncivilized tribes." Others failed to see the wisdom, and the Royal Air Force used non-chemical "terror bombing, night bombing, heavy bombers, [and] delayed action bombs (particularly lethal against children)" to police disobedient Iraqis. Only by developing these techniques on Iraqis were the world's civilizers prepared to use them on Nazis when the time came to level German cities in the name of defeating Nazis, which of course also places the rest of this paper beyond the reach of moral criticism.

Iraqis, from the formation of Iraq by Gertrude to this day, were never quite able to create a democracy for the CIA to overthrow as in neighboring Iran.  But the idea that Iraqis have been violent or resistant to control because of lack of representation misses the central fact that people in the Middle East enjoy killing each other over sectarian differences.  Of course it's hard to find evidence of significant sectarian fighting in Iraq prior to 2003 and some say there wasn't any.  There was violent looting of Jewish neighborhoods in 1941, but the British government keeps all information on that event secret.  There was bombing of synagogues in Baghdad in 1950-51 but that turned out to have been done by Zionists trying to convince Jews to come to Israel.  And "until the 1970s nearly all Iraq's political organisations were secular, attracting people from all religions and none."  But what was simmering just below the surface waiting to burst out at the slightest scratching?

Think how little it took.  Supporting and arming a brutal dictator in Saddam Hussein and his catastrophic war against Iran, then bombing Iraq and imposing the most murderous sanctions in history, and then newly bombing Iraq and occupying it for 8 years while arming and training death squads and torturers and imposing sectarian segregation, creating 5 million refugees, and killing a half-million to a million-and-a-half people, while devastating the nation's infrastructure, and then imposing a puppet government loyal to one sect and one neighboring nation.  That, plus arming the new government for vicious attacks on its own people, while arming mad killers in neighboring Syria, some of whom want to combine parts of Syria and Iraq: that was all it took, and suddenly, out of nowhere, ignorant Arabs are killing each other, just out of pure irrationality, just like in Palestine.

During the 8 years of U.S.-led occupation people mistook purely irrational violence that had been bubbling under the surface for centuries for resistance to the occupiers, and now some imagine that part of the violence against the puppet government is motivated by grievances against that government. But this misses the fundamental truths here, which are:

1. Shock and Awe was meant to put people at ease and make them comfortable.

2. The plan to rid Iraq of weapons it was about to use against those of us who matter was successful beyond the wildest expectations, working retroactively by a decade.

3. Our great leaders, Bush and Cheney, meant well in giving Iraqis freedom even if they weren't ready for it.

4. The election of Maliki was even more legitimate than the election of Faisal.

5. When the Bush-Maliki treaty ended the U.S. military presence in Iraq, that was thanks to President Obama who is way smarter than Bush but couldn't get Iraq to let U.S. troops stay with immunity for crimes -- crimes of course being necessary for policing, just ask Winnie.

6. When Iraq remained a disaster, that was President Obama's fault for focusing too much on murdering people in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen, and never Iraq -- as if we just don't care about Iraq any more.

7. The U.S. weapons being seized and used against the U.S. puppet government in Iraq are no match for the vast stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction that we can and must ship into Iraq now to be seized and redirected later on down the road.

8. The few people getting rich from all of this misery mean well.

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