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We now know this. A young man who had successfully killed on a large scale went to his religious leader with doubts and was told that mass killing was part of God's plan. The young man continued killing until he had participated in killing sprees that took 1,626 lives -- men, women, and children.
I repeat: his death count was not the 16 or 9 or 22 lives that make top news stories, but 1,626 dead and mutilated bodies.
Do such things bother you?
What if you learned that this young man's name was Brandon Bryant, and that he killed as a drone pilot for the U.S. Air Force, and that he was presented with a certificate for his 1,626 kills and congratulated on a job well done by the United States of America? What if you learned that his religious leader was a Christian chaplain?
Do such things still bother you?
What if you learned that most of the people killed by U.S. drones are civilians? That the pilots "double-tap," meaning that they send a missile into a wedding party or a house and then wait for people to try to help the injured and send a second missile into them? That as a result one hears the injured screaming for hours until they die, as no one comes to help? That a drone pilot sent a missile into a group of children from which three children survived who recognized their dead brothers but had no idea that various pieces of flesh were what was left of their Mom and Dad and consequently cried out for those now gone-forever individuals?
Is this troubling?
What if President Obama's claim of few or no civilian deaths was proven false by well-documented reporting? And by the fact that most victims are targeted without even knowing their names?
What if a leading candidate for president in the past week were to both declare that the way to win a war is to start killing whole families, and stage a public Christian prayer session in order to win over a certain demographic of voters?
Is that bothering?
What if it became clear that police officers in the United States have been murdering people at a higher rate than drone pilots? Would you want to see police videos of their killings? Would you want to see drone videos of their killings? We have thus far gained limited access to the former and none to the latter.
What if it were discovered that gun murders in San Bernardino are almost routine. Would they all be equally tragic?
My point is not to cease caring about the tragedy that the television stations tell you to care about. I wish everyone would care 1,000 times more, and even better do something to take away the guns and the hatred and the culture of violence and the economic injustice and the alienation.
My point is that there are other tragedies that go unmentioned, including larger ones. And exploiting one tragedy to fuel hatred toward a large segment of the human population of earth is madness.
According to the Nation magazine and many others, there are two options available to the U.S. government. One is increased hostility perhaps leading to nuclear war with Russia. The other is a joint U.S.-Russia-and-others war on ISIS.
Many in the United States who generally oppose war and who look for information outside the U.S. corporate media manage to recognize the U.S. focus on overthrowing the Syrian government, with Iran next on the list. They notice the lack of U.S. concern over Saudi and Turkish assistance to ISIS. And at least in the backs of their minds they remember that the destruction of Iraq was the critical ingredient in the creation of ISIS. But they've been as frightened by the beheading videos as any Donald Trump fanatic screaming for the eradication of Muslims -- all right, maybe a bit less frightened, but still very frightened. So they find refuge in the idea that Russia really wants to destroy ISIS, and they urge the United States to help. The alternative of war with Russia is unthinkable. But why in the world should that be the only alternative?
A Russian media outlet, no doubt hoping I would advocate a unified war on ISIS, sent me these questions on Thursday. First they wanted me to comment on this remark by President Vladimir Putin: "Today we are again facing the destructive barbaric ideology and we do not have the right to allow that the newly found obscurantists reach their goals. We need to throw away all arguments and differences to create one powerful fist, a united antiterrorist front which would act on the basis of international law and under the UN auspices."
Second, they wanted me to comment on these statements by Putin: "Russia has many old, reliable friends in Turkey, who should know we don't put them on level with ruling top officials." and "Russia knows who in Turkey [is] making money on stolen oil, recruiting fighters."
I sent back these answers, asking them to use all or nothing, which I suspected meant they would use nothing:
1. What President Putin proposes and many even on the left in the United States support, a united front against terrorism sounds right until you examine the details. He means a united war, a united bombing of people's homes, a united counterproductive effort to make things better that will make things worse, using large scale terrorism to produce more small scale terrorism. This may be better than a disunited front. It's certainly better than a nuclear confrontation between Russia and the maniacs so respectably running Washington D.C. straight toward armageddon, but it's not a solution to the problem, it's not an alternative to destructive cycles of violence, it's just a different spin on the same wheel.
2. Washington would rather be wrong than agree with Russia. NATO would rather die than agree with Russia, for if it agrees with Russia it loses its reason to exist and dies anyway. What does bringing the world down with it matter? Yes, of course, the United States is less interested in destroying ISIS than in destroying Syria, but a big strong united focus on destroying ISIS will never destroy ISIS. It will only spread it across the globe. Imagine the a united front kills everyone in half of Syria and Iraq, as would have to be done to destroy ISIS. Muslim hatred of the United States would sweep the globe and Muslim hatred of Russia, and bombs in Russian airplanes, right along with it. Is that what Putin wants? Is that what Russians want? A united attempt to actually seriously reduce, rather than increase, terrorism would establish a ceasefire, an arms embargo, humanitarian aid, assistance to refugees, and the sort of intense investment in green energy that right now only goes into killing people.
To these comments I received the reply:
"I would use all, personally. Some of the things you wrote here, I’m afraid, are controversial for our editorial board as the main idea here in Russia is that it is 'better to fight IS in Syria and Iraq than on Russian territory.' Many Islamist volunteers from Northern Caucasus promise to come back to Russia and kill innocent people in terrorist acts. We have lost a full plane of civilians flying from Cairo and many people here are afraid. However, I promise to send your message (which I think was your main point) that 'a big strong united focus on destroying ISIS will never destroy ISIS.' This quote I will necessarily include. Thank you for your understanding!"
Sound familiar? Fight em there, not here. Use blowback to justify escalation. Where have we seen this movie before?
I failed to be understanding and asked them to use nothing of my quote rather than part of it. They agreed to use nothing, no hard feelings. I encouraged them to think about this:
Generating more terrorism is not a solution to terrorism, and the excuse of being scared and unable to think straight still leaves mistaken thinking. The United States has demonstrated these mistakes for years now. I remember when Russians pointed out that the United States had made all of Russia's earlier mistakes in Afghanistan and moved on to new ones; that was right, and the United States refused to listen. Don't, Russia, make all of the U.S. mistakes in Iraq and start inventing your own. This path leads to hell.
I sent that to my Russian journalist friend who was sounding identical to a war-supporting American of exactly the sort that peace activists usually disagree with. The next response I received only heightened the similarity with U.S. war advocates and U.S. media:
"I personally agree however I do not understand how could we stop Islamic State. What is your recipe?"
I sent back this:
I've been answering this for well over a year many dozens of times at http://davidswanson.org
Here's my latest.
Here's Johan Galtung's answer.
I got back: "Thanks, I'll read that."
I believe that was sincere. But I wonder what the "editorial board" will read. I suspect Russian and U.S. editorial boards could swap their reading lists and hardly notice, just like ISIS and anti-ISIS fighters swapping the U.S. bullets in their U.S. guns.
Back in 2010 I wrote a book called War Is A Lie. Five years later, after having just prepared the second edition of that book to come out next spring, I came across another book published on a very similar theme in 2010 called Reasons to Kill: Why Americans Choose War, by Richard E. Rubenstein.
Rubenstein, as you can tell already, is much more polite than I. His book is very well done and I'd recommend it to anyone, but perhaps especially to the crowd that finds sarcasm more offensive than bombs. (I'm trying to get everyone except that crowd to read my book!)
Pick up Rubenstein's book if you want to read his elaboration on this list of reasons why people are brought around to supporting wars: 1. It's self-defense; 2. The enemy is evil; 3. Not fighting will make us weak, humiliated, dishonored; 4. Patriotism; 5. Humanitarian duty; 6. Exceptionalism; 7. It's a last resort.
Well done. But I think Rubenstein's respect for war advocates (and I don't mean that in a derogatory sense, as I think we must respect everyone if we are to understand them) leads him toward a focus on how much they believe their own propaganda. The answer to whether they do believe their own propaganda is, of course -- and I assume Rubenstein would agree -- yes and no. They believe some of it, somewhat, some of the time, and they try hard to believe a bit more of it. But how much? Where do you put the emphasis?
Rubenstein begins by defending, not the chief war marketers in Washington, but their supporters around the United States. "We agree to put ourselves in harm's way," he writes, "because we are convinced that the sacrifice is justified, not just because we have been stampeded into okaying war by devious leaders, scaremongering propagandists, or our own blood lust."
Now, of course, most war supporters never put themselves within 10,000 miles of harm's way, but certainly they believe a war is noble and just, either because the evil Muslims must be eradicated, or because the poor oppressed peoples must be liberated and rescued, or some combination. It is to the credit of war supporters that increasingly they have to believe wars are acts of philanthropy before they'll support them. But why do they believe such bunk? They're sold it by the propagandists, of course. Yes, scaremongering propagandists. In 2014 many people supported a war they had opposed in 2013, as a direct result of watching and hearing about beheading videos, not as a result of hearing a more coherent moral justification. In fact the story made even less sense in 2014 and involved either switching sides or taking both sides in the same war that had been pitched unsuccessfully the year before.
Rubenstein argues, rightly I think, that support for war arises not just out of a proximate incident (the Gulf of Tonkin fraud, the babies out of incubators fraud, the Spanish sinking the Maine fraud, etc.) but also out of a broader narrative that depicts an enemy as evil and threatening or an ally as in need. The famous WMD of 2003 really did exist in many countries, including the United States, but belief in the evil of Iraq meant not only that WMD were unacceptable there but also that Iraq itself was unacceptable whether or not the WMD existed. Bush was asked after the invasion why he'd made the claims he'd made about weapons, and he replied, "What's the difference?" Saddam Hussein was evil, he said. End of story. Rubenstein is right, I think, that we should look at the underlying motivations, such as the belief in Iraq's evil rather than in the WMDs. But the underlying motivation is even uglier than the surface justification, especially when the belief is that the whole nation is evil. And recognizing the underlying motivation allows us to understand, for example, Colin Powell's use of fabricated dialogue and false information in his UN presentation as dishonest. He didn't believe his own propaganda; he wanted to keep his job.
According to Rubenstein, Bush and Cheney "clearly believed their own public statements." Bush, remember, proposed to Tony Blair that they paint a U.S. plane with UN colors, fly it low, and try to get it shot. He then walked out to the press, with Blair, and said he was trying to avoid war. But he no doubt did partially believe some of his statements, and he shared with much of the U.S. public the idea that war is an acceptable tool of foreign policy. He shared in widespread xenophobia, bigotry, and belief in the redemptive power of mass murder. He shared faith in war technology. He shared the desire to disbelieve in the causation of anti-U.S. sentiment by past U.S. actions. In those senses, we cannot say that a propagandist reversed the public's beliefs. People were manipulated by the multiplication of the terror of 9/11 into months of terrorizing in the media. They were deprived of basic facts by their schools and newspapers. But to suggest actual honesty on the part of war makers is going too far.
Rubenstein maintains that President William McKinley was persuaded to annex the Philippines by "the same humanitarian ideology that convinced ordinary Americans to support the war." Really? Because McKinley not only said the poor little brown Filipinos couldn't govern themselves, but also said that it would be bad "business" to let Germany or France have the Philippines. Rubenstein himself notes that "if the acerbic Mr. Twain were still with us, he would very likely suggest that the reason we did not intervene in Rwanda in 1994 was because there was no profit in it." Setting aside the damaging U.S. intervention of the previous three years in Uganda and its backing of the assassin that it saw profit in allowing to take power through its "inaction" in Rwanda, this is exactly right. Humanitarian motivations are found where profit lies (Syria) and not where it doesn't, or where it lies on the side of mass killing (Yemen). That doesn't mean the humanitarian beliefs aren't somewhat believed, and more so by the public than by the propagandists, but it does call their purity into question.
Rubenstein describes the Cold War thus: "While fulminating against Communist dictatorships, American leaders supported brutal pro-Western dictatorships in scores of Third World nations. This is sometimes considered hypocrisy, but it really represented a misguided form of sincerity. Backing anti-democratic elites reflected the conviction that if the enemy is wholly evil, one must use 'all means necessary' to defeat him." Of course a lot of people believed that. They also believed that if the Soviet Union ever collapsed, U.S. imperialism and backing for nasty anti-communist dictators would come to a screeching halt. They were proved 100% wrong in their analysis. The Soviet threat was replaced by the terrorism threat, and the behavior remained virtually unchanged. And it remained virtually unchanged even before the terrorism threat could be properly developed -- although it of course has never been developed into anything resembling the Soviet Union. In addition, if you accept Rubenstein's notion of sincere belief in the greater good of doing evil in the Cold War, you still have to acknowledge that the evil done included massive piles of lies, dishonesty, misrepresentations, secrecy, deception, and completely disingenuous horseshit, all in the name of stopping the commies. Calling lying (about the Gulf of Tonkin or the missile gap or the Contras or whatever) "really ... sincerity" leaves one wondering what insincerity would look like and what an example would be of someone lying without any belief that something justified it.
Rubenstein himself doesn't seem to be lying about anything, even when he seems to have the facts wildly wrong, as when he says the most of America's wars have been victorious (huh?). And his analysis of how wars start and how peace activism can end them is very useful. He includes on his to-do list at #5 "Demand that war advocates declare their interests." That is absolutely crucial only because those war advocates do not believe their own propaganda. They believe in their own greed and their own careers.
Peter Werbe is a radio host in Detroit. He discusses his long involvement with The Fifth Estate, which has been publishing radical ideas for 50 years now. See:
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Imagine an alcoholic who managed every night to get ahold of and consume huge quantities of whiskey and who every morning swore that drinking whiskey had been his very last resort, he’d had no choice at all.
Easy to imagine, no doubt. An addict will always justify himself, how ever nonsensically it has to be done.
But imagine a world in which everyone believed him and solemnly said to each other “He really had no other choice. He truly had tried everything else.”
Not so plausible, is it? Almost unimaginable, in fact. And yet:
Everyone says the United States is at war in Syria as a last resort, even though:
- The United States spent years sabotaging UN attempts at peace in Syria.
- The United States dismissed out of hand a Russian peace proposal for Syria in 2012.
- And when the United States claimed a bombing campaign was needed immediately as a “last resort” in 2013 but the U.S. public was wildly opposed, other options were pursued.
Numerous U.S. Congress Members said this year that the nuclear deal with Iran needed to be rejected and Iran attacked as a last resort, until the deal wasn’t rejected. No mention was made in 2015 of Iran’s 2003 offer to negotiate away its nuclear program, an offer that had been quickly scorned by the United States.
Everyone says the United States is killing people with drones as a last resort, even though in that minority of cases in which the United States knows the names of the people it is aiming for, many (if not all) of them indisputably could have been easily arrested.
Everyone said the United States killed Osama bin Laden as a last resort, until those involved admitted that the “kill or capture” policy didn’t actually include any capture option and that bin Laden had been unarmed when he was killed.
Everyone says the United States attacked Libya in 2011, overthrew its government, and fueled regional violence as a last resort, even though in March 2011 the African Union had a plan for peace in Libya but was prevented by NATO, through the creation of a “no fly zone” and the initiation of bombing, to travel to Libya to discuss it. In April, the African Union was able to discuss its plan with Ghadafi, and he expressed his agreement. NATO, which had obtained UN authorization to protect Libyans alleged to be in danger but no authorization to continue bombing the country or to overthrow the government, continued bombing the country and overthrowing the government.
Everyone who works for, and wishes to continue working for, a major U.S. media outlet says the United States attacked Iraq in 2003 as a last resort or sort of meant to, or something, even though:
- The U.S. president had been concocting cockamamie schemes to get a war started.
- The Iraqi government had approached the CIA’s Vincent Cannistrato to offer to let U.S. troops search the entire country.
- The Iraqi government had offered to hold internationally monitored elections within two years.
- The Iraqi government offered Bush official Richard Perle to open the whole country to inspections, to turn over a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, to help fight terrorism, and to favor U.S. oil companies.
- The Iraqi president offered, in the account that the president of Spain was given by the U.S. president, to simply leave Iraq if he could keep $1 billion.
Everyone supposes that the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and has stayed there ever since as a series of “last resorts,” even though the Taliban repeatedly offered to turn bin Laden over to a third country to stand trial, al Qaeda has had no significant presence in Afghanistan for most of the duration of the war, and withdrawal has been an option at any time.
Everyone maintains that the United States went to war with Iraq in 1990-1991 as a “last resort,” even though the Iraqi government was willing to negotiate withdrawal from Kuwait without war and ultimately offered to simply withdraw from Kuwait within three weeks without conditions. The King of Jordan, the Pope, the President of France, the President of the Soviet Union, and many others urged such a peaceful settlement, but the White House insisted upon its “last resort.”
Even setting aside general practices that increase hostility, provide weaponry, and empower militaristic governments, as well as fake negotiations intended to facilitate rather than avoid war, the history of U.S. war-making can be traced back through the centuries as a story of an endless series of opportunities for peace carefully avoided at all costs.
Mexico was willing to negotiate the sale of its northern half, but the United States wanted to take it through an act of mass killing. Spain wanted the matter of the Maine to go to international arbitration, but the U.S. wanted war and empire. The Soviet Union proposed peace negotiations before the Korean War. The United States sabotaged peace proposals for Vietnam from the Vietnamese, the Soviets, and the French, relentlessly insisting on its “last resort” over any other option, from the day the Gulf of Tonkin incident mandated war despite never having occurred.
Hidden in the mystery of the ludicrous “last resort” claims, taken oh so seriously by commentators on war, may lie an explanation of current bigotry toward Muslims in the United States. Should Muslims in your neighborhood turn out to be decent people, perhaps Muslims far away are decent people with whom one might speak instead of dropping bombs on their children. Muslims must be hated here so as to justify killing them there as an unavoidable “last resort.”
Robert Reich's website is full of proposals for how to oppose plutocracy, raise the minimum wage, reverse the trend toward greater inequality of wealth, etc. His focus on domestic economic policy is done in the traditional bizarre manner of U.S. liberals in which virtually no mention is ever made of the 54% of the federal discretionary budget that gets dumped into militarism.
When such a commentator notices the problem of war, it's worth paying attention to exactly how far they're willing to go. Of course, they'll object to the financial cost of a potential war, while continuing to ignore the ten-times-greater cost of routine military spending. But where else does their rare war opposition fall short?
Well, here, to begin with: Reich's new post begins thus: "We appear to be moving ever closer toward a world war against the Islamic State." That helpless fatalism doesn't show up in his other commentary. We're not doomed to plutocracy, poverty, or corporate trade. But we're doomed to war. It's coming upon us like the weather, and we'll need to handle it as well as we can. And it will be a "world" affair even if it's principally the 4% of humanity in the United States with a military engaged in it.
"No sane person welcomes war," says Reich. "Yet if we do go to war against ISIS we must keep a watchful eye on 5 things." Nobody, inlcuding Reich as far as I know, ever says this about plutocracy, fascism, slavery, child abuse, rape, de-unionization. Imagine reading this: "No sane person welcomes massive gun violence and school shootings, yet if we're going to let all these children die for the gun makers' profits we must keep a watchful eye on 5 things." Who would say that? What could the 5 things possibly be? The only people who talk this way about climate destruction are those who believe it's already past the point of no return, beyond any possible human control. Why do U.S. liberals "oppose" war by pretending it's inevitable and then keeping an eye on certain aspects of its damage?
Reich must be aware that most of Europe is very reluctant to engage in another U.S. war, that proxies in the Middle East are almost impossible to come by, and that President Obama still insists on a limited war slowly worsening the situation. But I suspect that Reich, like many people, has seen so much "election" coverage that he thinks the United States is about to have a new president, and that it will be either a war-mad Republican or a war-mad Hillary Clinton. Yet, such a development is over a year away, making Reich's fatalism all the more outrageous.
Let's look at the five things we're suppose to keep an eye on.
"1. The burden of fighting the war must be widely shared among Americans. America’s current 'all-volunteer' army is comprised largely of lower-income men and women for whom army pay is the best option. 'We’re staring at the painful story of young people with fewer options bearing the greatest burden,' says Greg Speeter, executive director of the National Priorities Project, whose study found low- and middle-income families supply far more Army recruits than families with incomes greater than $60,000 a year. That’s not fair. Moreover, when the vast majority of Americans depend on a small number of people to fight wars for us, the public stops feeling the toll such wars take. From World War II until the final days of the Vietnam War, in July 1973, nearly every young man in America faced the prospect of being drafted into the Army. Sure, many children of the rich found means to stay out of harm’s way. But the draft at least spread responsibility and heightened the public’s sensitivity to the human costs of war. If we go into a ground war against ISIS, we should seriously consider reinstating the draft."
This is madness. As a bank shot aimed at indirectly preventing war it's incredibly risky and uncertain. As a means of ameliorating war by making it more "fair," it grotesquely ignores the vast majority of victims, who will of course be the people living in the areas where the war is fought.
"2. We must not sacrifice our civil liberties. U.S. spy agencies no longer have authority they had in the post-9/11 USA Patriot Act to collect Americans’ phone and other records. The NSA must now gain court approval for such access. But in light of the Paris attacks, the FBI director and other leading U.S. law enforcement officials now say they need access to encrypted information on smartphones, personal and business records of suspected terrorists, and 'roving wiretaps' of suspects using multiple disposable cell phones. War can also lead to internment of suspects and suspensions of constitutional rights, as we’ve painfully witnessed. Donald Trump says he’d require American Muslims to register in a federal data base, and he refuses to rule out requiring all Muslims to carry special religious identification. "We’re going to have to do things that we never did before….we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago,” he adds. We must be vigilant that we maintain the freedoms we are fighting for."
This is delusional. The FBI needs to break through encryption but is kindly refraining from spying on anything unencrypted? The wars strip away civil liberties but are fought "for" them? There has not in fact been a war fought that did not remove liberties, and it seems highly unlikely that there could be. This has been clearly and accurately understood for centuries now.
"3. We must minimize the deaths of innocent civilians abroad. The bombing raids have already claimed a terrible civilian toll, contributing to a mass exodus of refugees. Last month the independent monitoring group Airwars said at least 459 civilians have died from coalition airstrikes in Syria over the past year. Other monitoring groups, including the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also claim significant civilian deaths. Some civilian casualties are unavoidable. But we must ensure they are minimized – and not just out of humanitarian concern. Every civilian death creates more enemies. And we must do our part to take in a fair portion of Syrian refugees."
Minimize inevitable murders? Assist inevitably displaced families turned into refugees by the destruction of their homes? This is kinder gentler imperialism.
"4. We must not tolerate anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States. Already, leading Republican candidates are fanning the flames. Ben Carson says no Muslim should be president. Trump says 'thousands' of Arab-Americans cheered when the Twin Towers went down on 9/11 – a boldface lie. Ted Cruz wants to accept Christians refugees from Syrian [sic] but not Muslims. Jeb Bush says American assistance for refugees should focus on Christians. Marco Rubio wants to close down 'any place where radicals are being inspired,' including American mosques. It's outrageous that leading Republican candidates for president of the United States are fueling such hate. Such bigotry is not only morally odious. It also plays into the hands of ISIS."
Hmm. Can you name the last war that did not include the promotion of bigotry or xenophobia? By now xenophobia is so engrained that no U.S. columnist would propose a project that would kill U.S. citizens while "minimizing" such deaths, yet proposing such a fate for foreigners is deemed liberal and progressive.
"5. The war must be paid for with higher taxes on the rich. A week before the terrorist attacks in Paris, the Senate passed a $607 billion defense spending bill, with 93 senators in favor and 3 opposed (including Bernie Sanders). The House has already passed it, 370 to 58. Obama has said he’ll sign it. That defense appropriation is larded with pork for military contractors – including Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive weapons system in history. Now Republicans are pushing for even more military spending. We cannot let them use the war as a pretext to cut Social Security and Medicare, or programs for the poor. The war should be paid for the way we used to pay for wars – with higher taxes, especially on the wealthy. As we move toward war against ISIS, we must be vigilant – to fairly allocate the burdens of who’s called on to fight the war, to protect civil liberties, to protect innocent civilians abroad, to avoid hate and bigotry, and to fairly distribute the cost of paying for war. These aren’t just worthy aims. They are also the foundations of our nation’s strength."
Of course the wealthy should pay more taxes and everyone else less. That's true for taxes for parks or taxes for schools. It would also be true for taxes to pay for a project of blowing up coral reefs or a new initiative to drown kittens, but who would justify such things by properly funding them?
War, in fact, is worse than virtually anything else imaginable, including many things we absolutely reject in moral horror. War is mass murder, it brings with it brutality and a total degradation of morality, it is our top destroyer of the environment including the climate, it endangers rather than protecting -- just as bigotry plays into ISIS's hands, so does bombing ISIS. War -- and much more so, routine military spending -- kills primarily through the diversion of resources. A fraction of what is wasted could end starvation. I mean 3% of U.S. military spending could end starvation worldwide. Diseases could be wiped out. Energy systems could be made sustainable. The resources are that massive. Housing, education, and other rights could be guaranteed, in the United States and abroad.
Sure it's good for liberal commentators to point out some of war's downsides. But depicting them as acceptable and inevitable doesn't help.
So what should be done? Do I love ISIS, then? Is it my wish for us to all die? Et cetera.
Johan Galtung is the founder of the discipline of peace studies. He founded the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo in 1959 and the Journal of Peace Research in 1964, and has helped found dozens of peace centers. He has taught peace studies at universities all over the world, and mediated hundreds of conflicts. He is author or coauthor of over 160 books, and is cited and discussed in many thousands. He is the founder of Transcend Peace University and Transcend International. See http://transcend.org
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Host: David Swanson.
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Irish Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and 14 delegates from Australia, Belgium, Canada, India, Ireland, Poland, The Russian Federation, The United Kingdom and the United States, will begin a 6-day visit to Syria to promote peace and to express support for all Syrians who have been victims of war and terror since 20ll.
This will be Mairead Maguire’s third visit to Syria as head of a peace delegation. Maguire said: ‘People across the world are rightly expressing solidarity with the people of France after the recent terror attack. However, while there is talk of a war on terror and the focus of that war will be Syria, there is little awareness of how a war will impact on the lives of millions of people in Syria”.
In Syria, Christmas, Easter and the Eid festivals are all national holidays. So the group will acknowledge the unity of Syrians by taking part in an ecumenical service in the Grand Mosque in Damascus.
It will meet displaced Syrians and orphans, and will investigate the reconciliation initiative in Syria.
The group hopes to travel to Homs, a city that has been ravaged by fighting. It will report on how people are rebuilding their lives.
Ms. Maguire said, ‘Syrians are custodians of the two oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The members of the International peace group come from different political and religious backgrounds, but what unites us is a belief that the people of Syria have to be acknowledged and supported, and this is not just for their survival and their country’s survival, but for humankind’s’.
Ms.Maguire noted that when there is talk of war in the world, it seems appropriate that the international peace delegation will travel to Damascus, to listen to the voices of countless Syrians who call for peace, and to bear witness to the true reality of conflict in that country.
Chicago media outlets are reporting that drones have been banned from most of Chicago's skies and cannot fly over you or your property without your permission. The text of the ordinance, however, makes exceptions for police that will require eternal vigilance.
Local legislative action around drones began in U.S. cities in early 2013 with the public demand for resolutions opposing foreign drone murders by the military and CIA (and related training in U.S. skies), combined with public concern about domestic U.S. police departments that had begun acquiring weaponized and surveillance drones. This quickly expanded to include concerns about private drones -- among other reasons, because surveillance footage from private drones could be acquired by governments. As near misses between drones and passenger aircraft began piling up, those issues of safety were added to the mix.
Chicago has now passed a modified version of an ordinance that forbids any drone "that is equipped with a firearm or other weapon" and any drone flown "with intent to use such small unmanned aircraft or anything attached to it to cause harm to persons or property." The new law also bans any drone flight "for the purpose of conducting surveillance, unless expressly permitted by law."
Then come the exceptions: "nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit any person who is authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration . . . ." And: "nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of a drone by a law enforcement agency in accordance with Section 15 of the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act, codified at 725 ILCS 167/1 et seq., or its successor provision."
That Illinois law allows police to use drones whenever they claim there is "a high risk of a terrorist attack" or they obtain a 45-day warrant from a court, or they decide they don't have time to bother obtaining a warrant and must act swiftly "to prevent imminent harm to life or to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect or the destruction of evidence," or they're attempting to locate a missing person but not undertaking a criminal investigation, or they're solely doing crime scene or traffic crash scene photography (with a warrant if on private property), or there is a disaster or public health emergency (which need not have been formally declared).
None of that explicitly allows weaponized drones for police, except in so far as the word "terrorist" is generally taken to allow just about anything. So, does Chicago's ban on weaponized drones remain intact for police? I'm pessimistic. I don't think the ban on entering the sky over private property or flying at night or flying drunk or any of the other bans survive for police. The law says "nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of a drone by a law enforcement agency. . . ."
How police drone use works out, I think, depends entirely on how the state law is interpreted and enforced. Who will monitor police drone use? Who will punish violations? The new Chicago ordinance includes penalties: "Any person who violates this section or any rule promulgated thereunder shall be fined not less than $500.00 nor more than $5,000.00 for each offense, or may be incarcerated for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both. Each day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense." But that sounds like a penalty for an individual, not a government agency.
I'm afraid what has been created is a policy of restricting drone use by individuals in Chicago, without effectively restricting it by the entities most likely to violate rights, intimidate, restrict ability to exercise free speech or assemble or petition the government for redress of grievances, and to use unjustifiable force.
This question is far from settled. Chicago is only one city. Other cities and states could choose to clearly ban weaponized drones, and to ban police surveillance drones under a clear system of supervision, oversight, and accountability.
Toward the end of altering our idea of what counts as "doing something," I offer this composite representation of numerous media interviews I've done.
Interviewer: So you'd stop the planes and the drones and the bombs and the special forces. You've said lots about what you wouldn't do, but can you say what you would do?
Me: Sure, I believe the United States government should propose and attempt to negotiate and at the same time unilaterally begin a ceasefire. When President Kennedy asked the Soviet Union to agree to a ban on nuclear tests, he announced that the United States was itself going ahead and halting them. Negotiating is helped through leadership by example. For the United States to stop engaging or assisting in live fire would give huge momentum to a ceasefire negotiation.
Interviewer: So, again, you would stop firing, but what would you do instead?
Me: The United States ought to propose and work to negotiate and unilaterally begin an arms embargo. I say the United States because I live there and because the majority of the weapons in the Middle East originate in the United States. U.S. participation alone in an arms embargo would end the majority of arms provision to Western Asia. Ceasing to rush Saudi Arabia more weapons would do more good than writing a report on that kingdom's atrocities, for example. An arms embargo should be developed to include every nation in the region and be expanded into disarmament -- first and foremost of all nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons (yes, including Israel's). The United States has the leverage to accomplish this, but not while working against it -- as it now vigorously does.
Interviewer: Yet again, here's something you don't want to do: provide arms. But is there something that you do want to do?
Me: Other than creating peace and a WMD-free Middle East? Yes, I'm glad you asked. I'd like to see the U.S. government launch a massive program of reparations and aid to the people of Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Palestine, Pakistan, Bahrain, Syria, Egypt, and the entire rest of the region. (Please, please, please take my word for it that I am not listing every single nation purely in order to save time, and not because I hate some of them or any such insanity.) This no-strings-attached program should include food aid, medical aid, infrastructure, green energy, peace workers, human shields, communications technology for popular use of social media, environmental cleanup, and cultural and educational exchanges. And it should be paid for (note that it does have to be paid for and therefore should count as the very essence of a capitalist "doing something") through a modest reduction in U.S. militarism -- in fact, converting U.S. military facilities in the Middle East into green energy and cultural institutions, and handing them over to the residents.
Interviewer: I hate to have to keep asking the same question, but, again, what is it that you would do about ISIS? If you oppose war, do you support police action? What is something, anything at all for goodness sake, that you would dooooooooo?
Me: Well, in addition to halting violence, negotiating disarmament, and investing on a scale and with a level of respectful generosity to bump the Marshall Plan right out of the history books, I would begin efforts to deprive ISIS of funding and weaponry. A general halt to arms shipments would, of course, already help. Ending the air strikes that are ISIS's biggest recruitment tool would help. But Saudi Arabia and other regional powers have to be brought around to cutting off the funding to ISIS. That would not be nearly as difficult to do if the U.S. government ceased thinking of Saudi Arabia as a valued weapons customer and stopped bowing down to its every demand.
Interviewer: Stop the funding. Stop the arming. This all sounds nice. And you keep saying it over and over again. But I'm going to ask you one last time to say what you would do instead, and what weaponry you would use exactly to do it.
Me: I would use the weapon that eliminates enemies by turning them into something other than enemies. I would embrace the ideology that ISIS works against. It doesn't oppose U.S. militarism. It feeds off it. ISIS opposes humanism. I would welcome refugees without limit. I would make the United States a part of the global community on an equal and cooperative basis, joining without reservations the International Criminal Court, and existing treaties on the rights of the child, land mines, cluster bombs, racial discrimination, discrimination against women, weapons in space, rights of migrant workers, arms trade, protection from disappearances, rights of people with disabilities, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I would work to reform the United Nations beginning by unilaterally foreswearing use of the veto. I would announce a policy of ceasing to prop up or to overthrow foreign dictators. I would announce plans to support nonviolence, democracy, and sustainability at home and abroad, leading by example -- including in the area of disarmament. Reforming U.S. democracy by removing the system of legalized bribery and the whole list of needed reforms would set an example and also allow more democratic policies. I would shift our officially propogated sympathies from We Are All France to We Are All the World. To imagine that any of these steps is unrelated to ISIS is to misunderstand the power of propaganda, image, and the communication of respectful goodwill or arrogant disdain.
Interviewer: Well, we've run out of time, and yet you still won't tell me anything you would do. Sadly, that leaves us obliged to support an assault on ISIS, as much as we dislike war.
Husain Abdulla, originally from Bahrain, is the founder and Executive Director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain. As Executive Director, Husain leads the organization’s efforts to ensure that U.S. policies support the democracy and human rights movement in Bahrain. Husain also works closely with members of the Bahraini-American community to ensure that their voices are heard by U.S. government officials and the broader American public. In 2012, the Government of Bahrain revoked Husain's Bahraini citizenship in retaliation for his peaceful advocacy for the respect for human rights in his home country. Husain holds a Master’s degree in Political Science and International Relations from the University of West Florida and a BA in Political Science and Mathematics from the University of South Alabama. See http://adhrb.org
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If U.S. President were not a mythical position but a serious job, the job interview would include asking the candidates their basic plans of action. This would start with, "What will you encourage Congress to spend a couple of trillion dollars on each year?"
At the moment, about half of federal discretionary spending is spent on one thing, militarism. A basic budget proposal from each candidate would tell us whether they think military spending should go up or down. Some of the Republicans have blurted out that they want it increased. Marco Rubio has lamented a failure to spend $100 billion more, suggesting that he would push for that increase. Rand Paul has denounced that idea, suggesting that he'd maintain or reduce military spending. But none of them has actually laid out a proposed budget in even the roughest terms.
The Democrats have avoided the subject even more. When forced to talk about the military, Senator Bernie Sanders has talked about waste and audits but left us completely in the dark as to what level he thinks spending should be. This is odd, because he talks about creating significant new spending all the time, for things like free college. But he never proposes to pay for such projects by pinching a bit from the military; he always proposes to tax billionaires -- which is always criticized by the media as severely and nonsensically as a proposal to cut the military would be.
CBS hosted a debate this weekend, and I thank them for actually posting a full transcript and a full video that can be fast-forwarded. This allows an interested person to not actually watch the god-awful thing, but to read it and watch the bits that the transcriber marked "unintelligible" or the bits that require particular attention.
Here are a few segments worth paying attention to:
SANDERS: "I think we have a disagreement. And-- the disagreement is that not only did I vote against the war in Iraq, if you look at history, John, you will find that regime change-- whether it was in the early '50s in Iran, whether it was toppling Salvador Allende in Chile or whether it was overthrowing the government [of] Guatemala way back when-- these invasions, these-- these toppling of governments, regime changes have unintended consequences. I would say that on this issue I'm a little bit more conservative than the secretary."
That's new and useful. If the U.S. were to stop overthrowing governments, most of the U.S. military could be dismantled. Here's where Sanders finally mentions the military budget:
SANDERS: "Let me pick up an issue that-- a very important issue that we have not yet discussed. This nation is the most powerful military in the world. We're spending over $600 billion a year on the military. [He means just in the Department of so-called Defense alone, not counting Homeland Security, State, Energy, etc.] And yet significantly less than 10% of that money is used to be fighting international terrorism. We are spending hundreds of billions of dollars maintaining 5,000 nuclear weapons. I think we need major reform in the military making it more cost effective but also focusing on the real crisis that faces us. The Cold War is over and our focus has got to be on intelligence, increased manpower, fighting international terrorism."
The upside here is that Sanders pointed out the military price-tag -- and perhaps the idea of reducing or eliminating the nukes. The downside is that he didn't suggest cutting militarism. He didn't suggest moving money away from militarism. He only proposed to move money, from place to place, within the field of militarism. When asked later about taxing people to pay for college, Sanders failed to mention cutting military spending.
Wanting "cost-effective" military spending, of course, means getting good killing power for your buck. Sanders wants to kill; he just wants to spend as little on it as possible. Whether he ultimately wants military spending reduced, increased, or kept at its current level we just don't know. He talks up foreign evils and the need to fight them enough that one could as reasonably guess he wants an increase as a decrease. But one way in which Sanders wants to be "cost-effective" is by getting other nations to fight wars. Since most of these other nations are armed largely with U.S. weapons, he may also think this is good for business:
"The-- the secretary's obviously right. It is enormously complicated. But here's something that I believe we have to do is we put together an international coalition. And that is we have to understand that the Muslim nations in the region, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, all of these nations, they're gonna just have to get their hands dirty, their boots on the ground. They are gonna have to take on ISIS. This is a war for the soul of Islam. And those countries who are opposed to Islam, they are gonna have to get deeply involved in a way that is not the case today. We should be supportive of that effort. So should the UK, so should France. But those Muslim countries are gonna have to lead the efforts. They are not doing it now."
Elsewhere in the debate he said the U.S. should "lead." Here he wants the "Muslim nations" that "are opposed to Islam" to "get their hands dirty." Saudi Arabia is slaughtering children in Yemen with U.S. weapons, beheading children at home, funding the terrorists Bernie wants it to take the lead in destroying, and shipping poison to the world in the form of oil that will render Saudi Arabia uninhabitable this century. That's not "dirty" enough?
The potential plus side of Sanders always saying he wants someone else to fight wars, even if he doesn't understand who would fight on which side, is that it suggests he might not want the U.S. to fight as many wars. If you contrast that with Hillary Clinton's eagerness to be the toughest militarist on the planet, Bernie wins. If you contrast it with a sane sustainable foreign policy, he loses. If you try to figure out what he actually wants to do in any sort of detail, you clearly have not understood what the point of these horrible debates is.
We are all France. Apparently. Though we are never all Lebanon or Syria or Iraq for some reason. Or a long, long list of additional places.
We are led to believe that U.S. wars are not tolerated and cheered because of the color or culture of the people being bombed and occupied. But let a relatively tiny number of people be murdered in a white, Christian, Western-European land, with a pro-war government, and suddenly sympathy is the order of the day.
"This is not just an attack on the French people, it is an attack on human decency and all things that we hold dear," says U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham. I'm not sure I hold ALL the same things dear as the senator, but for the most part I think he's exactly right and that sympathy damn well ought to be the order of the day following a horrific mass killing in France.
I just think the same should apply to everywhere else on earth as well. The majority of deaths in all recent wars are civilian. The majority of civilians are not hard to sympathize with once superficial barriers are overcome. Yet, the U.S. media never seems to declare deaths in Yemen or Pakistan or Palestine to be attacks on our common humanity.
I included "pro-war government" as a qualification above, because I can recall a time, way back in 2003, when I was the one shouting "We are all France," and pro-war advocates in the United States were demonizing France for its refusal to support a looming and guaranteed to be catastrophic and counterproductive U.S. war. France sympathized with U.S. deaths on 911, but counseled sanity, decency, and honesty in response. The U.S. told France to go to hell and renamed french fries in Congressional office buildings.
Now, 14 years into a global war on terror that reliably produces more terror, France is an enthusiastic invader, plunderer, bomber, and propagator of hateful bigotry. France also sells billions of dollars of weaponry to lovely little bastions of equality and liberty like Saudi Arabia, carefully ignoring Saudis' funding of anti-Western terrorist groups.
When U.S. militarism failed to prevent 911, I actually thought that would mean reduced militarism. When a Russian plane was recently blown up, I think I imagined for a split second that Russia would learn its lesson and stop repeating U.S. mistakes. When people were just killed in France, I didn't have any time to fantasize about France coming to its senses, because a "socialist" president was already doing his Dubya-on-the-rubble imitation:
"To all those who have seen these awful things," said François Hollande, "I want to say we are going to lead a war which will be pitiless. Because when terrorists are capable of committing such atrocities they must be certain that they are facing a determined France, a united France, a France that is together and does not let itself be moved, even if today we express infinite sorrow."
The video doesn't look like Bush, and the French word combat does not necessarily mean war just because the Washington Post says it does. It can mean fight in some other sense. But what other sense exactly, I'm not sure. Prosecuting anyone responsible would of course make perfect sense, but a criminal justice system ought not to be pitiless. It's a war that ought to be pitiless. And it's a war that will guarantee more attacks. And it's a war that France has begun.
"It is the job of thinking people, not to be on the side of the executioners," said Albert Camus.
Please go back to thinking, France.
We do love you and wish you well and are deeply sorry for U.S. influence against your better tendencies.
By now there's not nearly as much disagreement regarding what happened to John and Robert Kennedy as major communications corporations would have you believe. While every researcher and author highlights different details, there isn't any serious disagreement among, say, Jim Douglass' JFK and the Unspeakable, Howard Hunt's deathbed confession, and David Talbot's new The Devil's Chessboard.
Jon Schwarz says The Devil's Chessboard confirms that "your darkest suspicions about how the world operates are likely an underestimate. Yes, there is an amorphous group of unelected corporate lawyers, bankers, and intelligence and military officials who form an American 'deep state,' setting real limits on the rare politicians who ever try to get out of line."
For those of us who were already convinced of that up to our eyeballs, Talbot's book is still one of the best I've seen on the Dulles brothers and one of the best I've seen on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Where it differs from Douglass' book, I think, is not so much in the evidence it relates or the conclusions it draws, but in providing an additional motivation for the crime.
JFK and the Unspeakable depicts Kennedy as getting in the way of the violence that Allen Dulles and gang wished to engage in abroad. He wouldn't fight Cuba or the Soviet Union or Vietnam or East Germany or independence movements in Africa. He wanted disarmament and peace. He was talking cooperatively with Khrushchev, as Eisenhower had tried prior to the U2-shootdown sabotage. The CIA was overthrowing governments in Iran, Guatemala, the Congo, Vietnam, and around the world. Kennedy was getting in the way.
The Devil's Chessboard depicts Kennedy, in addition, as himself being the sort of leader the CIA was in the habit of overthrowing in those foreign capitals. Kennedy had made enemies of bankers and industrialists. He was working to shrink oil profits by closing tax loopholes, including the "oil depletion allowance." He was permitting the political left in Italy to participate in power, outraging the extreme right in Italy, the U.S., and the CIA. He aggressively went after steel corporations and prevented their price hikes. This was the sort of behavior that could get you overthrown if you lived in one of those countries with a U.S. embassy in it.
Yes, Kennedy wanted to eliminate or drastically weaken and rename the CIA. Yes he threw Dulles and some of his gang out the door. Yes he refused to launch World War III over Cuba or Berlin or anything else. Yes he had the generals and warmongers against him, but he also had Wall Street against him.
Of course "politicians who ever try to get out of line" are now, as then, but more effectively now, handled first by the media. If the media can stop them or some other maneuver can stop them (character assassination, blackmail, distraction, removal from power) then violence isn't required.
The fact that Kennedy resembled a coup target, not just a protector of other targets, would be bad news for someone like Senator Bernie Sanders if he ever got past the media, the "super delegates," and the sell-out organizations to seriously threaten to take the White House. A candidate who accepts the war machine to a great extent and resembles Kennedy not at all on questions of peace, but who takes on Wall Street with the passion it deserves, could place himself as much in the cross-hairs of the deep state as a Jeremy Corbyn who takes on both capital and killing.
Accounts of the escapades of Allen Dulles, and the dozen or more partners in crime whose names crop up beside his decade after decade, illustrate the power of a permanent plutocracy, but also the power of particular individuals to shape it. What if Allen Dulles and Winston Churchill and others like them hadn't worked to start the Cold War even before World War II was over? What if Dulles hadn't collaborated with Nazis and the U.S. military hadn't recruited and imported so many of them into its ranks? What if Dulles hadn't worked to hide information about the holocaust while it was underway? What if Dulles hadn't betrayed Roosevelt and Russia to make a separate U.S. peace with Germany in Italy? What if Dulles hadn't begun sabotaging democracy in Europe immediately and empowering former Nazis in Germany? What if Dulles hadn't turned the CIA into a secret lawless army and death squad? What if Dulles hadn't worked to end Iran's democracy, or Guatemala's? What if Dulles' CIA hadn't developed torture, rendition, human experimentation, and murder as routine policies? What if Eisenhower had been permitted to talk with Khrushchev? What if Dulles hadn't tried to overthrow the President of France? What if Dulles had been "checked" or "balanced" ever so slightly by the media or Congress or the courts along the way?
These are tougher questions than "What if there had been no Lee Harvey Oswald?" The answer to that is, "There would have been another guy very similar to serve the same purpose, just as there had been in the earlier attempt on JFK in Chicago. But "What if there had been no Allen Dulles?" looms large enough to suggest the possible answer that we would all be better off, less militarized, less secretive, less xenophobic. And that suggests that the deep state is not uniform and not unstoppable. Talbot's powerful history is a contribution to the effort to stop it.
I hope Talbot speaks about his book in Virginia, after which he might stop saying that Williamsburg and the CIA's "farm" are in "Northern Virginia." Hasn't Northern Virginia got enough to be ashamed of without that?
By David Swanson, for teleSUR
John Ketwig was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966 and sent to Vietnam for a year. I sat down with him this week to talk about it.
"My read on the whole thing," he said, "if you talk to guys who've been to Iraq and Afghanistan and look at what really happened in Vietnam, you run into what I call the American way of waging war. A young guy goes into the service with the idea you're going to help the Vietnamese or Afghan or Iraqi people. You get off the plane and the bus, and the first thing you notice is wire mesh in the windows so grenades can't come in. You immediately run into the MGR (mere gook rule). The people don't count. Kill em all, let the dogs sort em out.* You're not there to help the poor people in any way. You're not sure what you are there for, but it's not for that."
Ketwig talked about veterans returning from Iraq having run children over with a truck, following orders not to stop for fear of IEDs (improvised explosive devices). "Sooner or later," he said, "you're going to have down time, and you're going to begin to question what you're doing there."
Ketwig didn't focus on speaking out or protesting when he returned from Vietnam. He kept fairly quiet for about a decade. Then the time came, and among other things, he published a powerful account of his experience called And a Hard Rain Fell: A GI's True Story of the War in Vietnam. "I had seen body bags," he wrote, "and coffins stacked like cordwood, had seen American boys hanging lifeless on barbed wire, spilling over the sides of dump trucks, dragging behind an APC like tin cans behind a wedding party bumper. I had seen a legless man's blood drip off a stretcher to the hospital floor and a napalmed child's haunting eyes."
Ketwig's fellow soldiers, living in rat-infested tents surrounded by mud and explosions, almost universally saw no possible excuse for what they were doing and wanted to return home as soon as possible. "FTA" (f--- the Army) was scrawled on equipment everywhere, and fragging (troops killing officers) was spreading.
Air-conditioned policy makers back in Washington, D.C., found the war less traumatic or objectionable, yet in a way far more exciting. According to Pentagon historians, by June 26, 1966, "the strategy was finished," for Vietnam, "and the debate from then on centered on how much force and to what end." To what end? An excellent question. This was an internal debate that assumed the war would go forward and that sought to settle on a reason why. Picking a reason to tell the public was a separate step beyond that one. In March, 1965, a memo by Assistant Secretary of "Defense" John McNaughton had already concluded that 70% of the U.S. motivation behind the war was "to avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat."
It's hard to say which is more irrational, the world of those actually fighting a war, or the thinking of those creating and prolonging the war. President Bush Senior says he was so bored after ending the Gulf War that he considered quitting. President Franklin Roosevelt was described by the prime minister of Australia as jealous of Winston Churchill until Pearl Harbor. President Kennedy told Gore Vidal that without the U.S. Civil War, President Lincoln would have been just another railroad lawyer. George W. Bush's biographer, and Bush's own public comments in a primary debate, make clear that he wanted a war, not just before 9/11, but before he was selected for the White House by the Supreme Court. Teddy Roosevelt summed up the presidential spirit, the spirit of those whom Veterans Day truly serves, when he remarked, "I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one."
Following the Korean War, the U.S. government changed Armistice Day, still known as Remembrance Day in some countries, into Veterans Day, and it morphed from a day to encourage the end of war into a day to glorify war participation. "It was originally a day to celebrate peace," says Ketwig. "That doesn't exist anymore. The militarization of America is why I'm angry and bitter." Ketwig says his anger is growing, not diminishing.
In his book, Ketwig rehearsed how a job interview might go once he was out of the Army: "Yes, sir, we can win the war. The people of Vietnam are not fighting for ideologies or political ideas; they are fighting for food, for survival. If we load all those bombers with rice, and bread, and seed, and planting tools, and paint 'From your friends in the United States' on each one, they will turn to us. The Viet Cong cannot match that."
Neither can ISIS.
But President Barack Obama has other priorities. He has bragged that he, from his well-appointed office, is "really good at killing people." He's also just sent 50 "advisors" to Syria, exactly as President Eisenhower did to Vietnam.
Assistant Secretary of State Anne Patterson was asked this week by Congresswoman Karen Bass: "What is the mission of the 50 special forces members being deployed to Syria? And will this mission lead to greater U.S. engagement?"
Patterson replied: "The exact answer is classified."
*Note: While I heard Ketwig say "dogs" and assumed he meant that, he tells me he said and meant the traditional "God."
On the morning of Armistice Day, November 11, 2015, longtime peace activist Turi Vaccaro climbed to where you see him in the photo above. He brought a hammer and made this a Plowshares action by hammering on the enormous satellite dish, an instrument of U.S. warfare communications.
Here's a video:
There's a popular movement in Sicily called No MUOS. MUOS means Mobile User Objective System. It's a satellite communications system created by the U.S. Navy. It has equipment in Australia, Hawaii, Chesapeake Virginia, and Sicily.
The primary contractor and profiteer building the satellite equipment at the U.S. Navy base in the desert in Sicily is Lockheed Martin Space Systems. Each of the four MUOS ground stations is intended to include three swivelling very-high-frequency satellite dishes with a diameter of 18.4 meters and two Ultra High Frequency (UHF) helical antennas.
Protests have been growing in the nearby town of Niscemi since 2012. In October 2012, construction was suspended for a few weeks. In early 2013 the President of the Region of Sicily revoked the authorization for the MUOS construction. The Italian government conducted a dubious study of health impacts and concluded the project was safe. Work recommenced. The town of Niscemi appealed, and in April 2014 the Regional Administrative Tribunal requested a new study. Construction goes on, as does resistance.
In April 2015 I spoke with Fabio D'Alessandro, a giornalist and law school graduate living in Niscemi. "I'm part of the No MUOS movement," he told me, "a movement that works to prevent the installation of the U.S. satellite system called MUOS. To be specific, I'm part of the No MUOS committee of Niscemi, which is part of the coalition of No MUOS committees, a network of committees spread around Sicily and in the major Italian cities."
"It is very sad," said D'Alessandro,"to realize that in the United States people know little about MUOS. MUOS is a system for high-frequency and narrowband satellite communications, composed of five satellites and four stations on earth, one of which is planned for Niscemi. MUOS was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. The purpose of the program is the creation of a global communications network that allows communication in real time with any soldier in any part of the world. In addition it will be possible to send encrypted messages. One of the principal functions of MUOS, apart from the speed of communications, is the ability to remotely pilot drones. Recent tests have demonstrated how MUOS can be used at the North Pole. In short, MUOS will serve to support any U.S. conflict in the Mediterranean or the Middle East or Asia. It's all part of the effort to automate war, entrusting the choice of targets to machines."
"There are many reasons to oppose MUOS," D'Alessandro told me, "first of all the local community has not been advised of the installation. The MUOS satellite dishes and antennas are built within a non-NATO U.S. military base that has existed in Niscemi since 1991. The base was constructed within a nature preserve, destroying thousands of cork oaks and devestating the landscape by means of bulldozers that leveled a hill. The base is larger than the town of Niscemi itself. The presence of the satellite dishes and antennas puts at serious risk a fragile habitat including flora and fauna that exist only in this place. And no study has been conducted of the dangers of the electromagnetic waves emitted, neither for the animal population nor for the human inhabitants and the civilian flights from the Comiso Airport approximately 20 kilometers away.
"Within the base there are already present 46 satellite dishes, surpassing the limit set by Italian law. Moreover, as determined anti-militarists, we oppose further militarizing this area, which already has the base at Sigonella and other U.S. bases in Sicily. We don't want to be complicit in the next wars. And we don't want to become a target for whoever attempts to attack the U.S. military."
What have you done thus far, I asked.
"We've engaged in lots of different actions against the base: more than once we've cut through the fences; three times we've invaded the base en masse; twice we've entered the base with thousands demonstrating. We've blocked the roads to prevent access for the workers and the American military personnel. There has been sabotage of the optical communication wires, and many other actions."
The No Dal Molin movement against the new base at Vicenza, Italy, has not stopped that base. Have you learned anything from their efforts? Are you in touch with them?
"We are in constant contact with No Dal Molin, and we know their history well. The company that is building MUOS, Gemmo SPA, is the same that did the work on Dal Molin and is currently under investigation subsequent to the seizure of the MUOS building site by the courts in Caltagirone. Anyone attempting to bring into doubt the legitimacy of U.S. military bases in Italy is obliged to work with political groups on the right and left that have always been pro-NATO. And in this case the first supporters of MUOS were the politicians just as happened at Dal Molin. We often meet with delegations of activists from Vicenza and three times have been their guests."
I went with representatives of No Dal Molin to meet with Congress Members and Senators and their staffs in Washington, and they simply asked us where the base should go if not Vicenza. We replied "Nowhere." Have you met with anyone in the U.S. government or communicated with them in any way?
"Many times the U.S. consuls have come to Niscemi but we have never been permitted to speak with them. We have never in any way communicated with U.S. senators/representatives, and none have ever asked to meet with us."
Where are the other three MOUS sites? Are you in touch with resisters there? Or with the resistance to bases on Jeju Island or Okinawa or the Philippines or elsewhere around the world? The Chagossians seeking to return might make good allies, right? What about the groups studying the military damage to Sardinia? Environmental groups are concerned about Jeju and about Pagan Island Are they helpful in Sicily?
"We are in direct contact with the No Radar group in Sardinia. One of the planners of that struggle has worked (for free) for us. We know the other anti-U.S.-base movements around the world, and thanks to No Dal Molin and to David Vine, we have been able to hold some virtual meetings. Also thanks to the support of Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space we are trying to get in touch with those in Hawaii and Okinawa."
What would you most like people in the United States to know?
"The imperialism that the United States is imposing on the countries that lost the Second World War is shameful. We are tired of having to be slaves to a foreign politics that to us is crazy and that obliges us to make enormous sacrifices and that makes Sicily and Italy no longer lands of welcome and peace, but lands of war, deserts in use by the U.S. Navy."
Read also "The Tiny Italian Town Killing the U.S. Navy’s Surveillance Plans" by Daily Beast.
And watch this:
Which world power can damage its own interests with the dumbest move? The contest will have you on the edge of your seats.
Here's the latest U.S. entry:
Last month, a raid by Kurdish forces supposedly freed ISIS prisoners, and those Kurdish forces posted a video of prisoners rushing out of a prison while gunfire sounded in the background. One U.S. troop was killed in the raid. U.S. media rushed to cover the story as a heroic act of benevolence. Non-U.S. media rushed to cover the fact that the "non-combat" troops, the so-called "advisors" whom the U.S. has in Iraq by the thousands were in fact engaged in combat.
It escaped my attention and perhaps most people's that the "advisors" may also have been providing extraordinarily bad advice. NPR -- which often functions no differently than an official Pentagon news service -- reported an interesting contradiction to the central claim of the prisoner-rescue story.
NPRer Kelly McEvers said, "The province of Kirkuk is the crossroads of Iraq. To the north are the majority of the country's Kurds, to the south - Arabs. And now Kirkuk is on the frontlines of the battle with ISIS. Last month, Kirkuk province was the site of a prison raid by U.S. and Kurdish forces. One American soldier was killed. Earlier today, I spoke with the governor of Kirkuk, Najmaldin Karim, from our studios in Washington. And he said the raid was meant to rescue Kurds who'd been captured by ISIS. And instead, it freed ISIS fighters who'd been imprisoned by their own leaders."
Instead of freeing Kurds captured by ISIS, the U.S.-advised Kurds (together with U.S. "non-combat" troops doing their "advising") actually freed ISIS fighters?
The governor of Kirkuk, Najmaldin Karim, replied, "Among these were two who are considered somewhat senior locally in the region. One of them was the prison administrator, and the other one was some guy who used the last name of Shishani. And Shishani is a village in that area, so he's probably from - they were local."
Senior ISIS fighters were freed? Including a prison administrator who was locked up in prison? This is very unclear and may be nonsense or only part of the story, but this is an account via a U.S.-military friendly outlet from a U.S.-educated, U.S.-citizen colonial governor visiting Washington, D.C., to ask for more weapons and "trainers" and "advisors" on behalf of multicultural Kurdish heroes who he says are willing to do U.S. dirty work. The interviewer is blatantly and openly on his side, asking oh-so-"objective" questions like this one: "You make a very compelling case, and it sounds like it's a case you've made many times. Give me your honest answer. Are you getting a sense in Washington that more help is on the way?"
Freeing ISIS prisoners would be in line with other steps the U.S. has taken in support of ISIS, from overthrowing secular governments and arming Muslim radicals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and much of Syria, to brutalizing prisoners, to throwing Iraq into utter chaos, to providing arms to the Iraqi government that are used on civilians and taken by ISIS, providing arms to "moderates" in Syria that are given to ISIS, and providing arms directly to ISIS. But the biggest boost for ISIS has come from what it asked the U.S. to do in its propaganda films: attack it. By becoming the leading opponent of the distant foreign nation that has made itself so hated for so many years, ISIS was able to make its recruitment soar. The U.S. response is always the same: declare that there is no military solution, and attempt another larger military solution.
Don't look now, but here comes Russia:
The December 2013 Gallup poll in which most of the 65 nations surveyed named the United States as the greatest threat to peace on earth, the flourishing of anti-U.S. terrorist groups around the world, the bitter hatred of the flyers of killer drones, the resentment of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib -- all of this seems to have infected the Russian government with the seeds of jealousy.
How can Russia make itself properly hated, put its people in proper jeopardy, show itself a vicious world power worthy of equal or greater scorn?
Brilliant 12-dimensional chessman Vladimir Putin found an answer, beloved even on the left in the United States as a means of finally more-efficiently murdering just the right terrorists and only the right terrorists, so help me Tolstoy. Russia began bombing Syria.
Before long, Russia had generated its very own anti-Russian terrorist attack, with a plane blown up over Egypt and 224 people killed. Vladimir couldn't have been prouder. According to the New York Times,
"analysts and other experts expect that it will only strengthen Mr. Putin's resolve to become more deeply involved in the Middle East. . . . and might cause Russia to begin targeting the Islamic State more aggressively. . . . 'The Kremlin will have to reverse cause and effect here so that its strategy is not seen as leading to civilian deaths,' said Maxim Trudolyubov, an editor at large for the newspaper Vedomosti. . . . 'A terrorist attack against Russian citizens means a declaration of war against all Russians,' wrote Tatiana Stanovaya, an analyst, on Slon.ru, a current events website. 'The Syria campaign will thus become not a matter of Putin's ambitions, but of national revenge.'
Despite the Russian quotes, this could be just the New York Times reflexively promoting more violence as what anyone would do because it's what friends of the New York Times would do. If Russia were truly following the U.S. course, it would have occupied Egypt by now. But the Russian TV network RT has posted speculation that "the West" was behind the bomb on the plane and that supposedly the West, in a departure from its every past understanding of how a government responds to violence, intends to thereby drive Russia out of Syria rather than sucking it further in, as was done so many years ago in Afghanistan. Meanwhile Sputnik News warns that the United States has launched a proxy war on Russia in Syria, and celebrates the increased sales abroad of Russian weapons that it says has resulted from the Russian bombing of Syria.
These don't sound like the noises of a society coming to its senses. They sound like hunger pangs of a political class in the chase for a Darwin award.
Thanks to Evan Knappenberger for pointing the NPR story out to me.
Dave Chaddock is the author of This Must Be the Place: How the U.S. Waged Germ Warfare in the Korean War and Denied It Ever Since.
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Tác giả: CHUCK SEARCY và LADY BORTON
HANOI – Now that the United States, Vietnam, and ten other nations have signed the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) – and the text, finally, has been released to the public – the U.S. Congress and the other countries' legislative bodies must decide whether to ratify the agreement. Negotiations were secret, until the document was signed. Before the release of the text a few days ago, even members of Congress were not allowed to see the agreement, except for certain members who were shown only a few pages of certain sections, alone, in a locked room.
HÀ NỘI – Nay Hoa Kỳ, Việt Nam và 9 quốc gia khác vừa ký TPP (Hiệp định đối tác xuyên Thái Bình Dương) và nội dung của văn kiện này cuối cùng cũng được công bố trước dư luận – Quốc hội Mỹ và các cơ quan lập pháp của các nước thành viên khác của TPP sẽ phải quyết định có thông qua Hiệp định này. Các cuộc hội đàm tiến hành trong vòng kín, cho tới khi văn kiện Hiệp định được ký kết. Trước khi toàn văn của Hiệp định được công bố vài ngảy trước, ngay cả các nghị viên Mỹ cũng không được xem nội dung của nó, chỉ có có vài nghị sĩ được cho xem vài tờ của một số chương nhất định, xem một mình, trong một phòng đóng kín.
Now that the text has been released, the early reviews are in. It seems quite certain that ordinary Americans will not benefit from the TPP. Most will lose.
Nay khi văn bản đã được công bố, những chỉnh sửa trước đó đã nằm trong nội dung. Nó cho thấy rằng người dân Mỹ bình thường không được lợi từ TPP. Đa số họ sẽ thất thiệt.
That also appears to be the case for the people of Vietnam. Người dân Việt cũng rơi vào tình thế tương tự.
Why should citizens of both countries be concerned?
Vì sao người dân của hai đất nước chúng ta phải lo lắng?
This year is the 20th anniversary of the diplomatic normalization of relations between the U.S. and Vietnamese governments. The anniversary is being touted by both sides as a sort of milestone, and for good reason. Forty years since the end of the war that devastated Vietnam, a legacy of unexploded ordnance and Agent Orange remains, along with poverty and other reminders of the costs and consequences of the war. People of good will on both sides of course
are looking for opportunities to cooperate and ways to work together that will benefit the people of both our countries.
Năm nay là dịp kỷ niệm lần thứ 20 ngày bình thường hóa quan hệ ngoại giao giữa hai chính phủ Hoa Kỳ và Việt Nam. Ngày kỷ niệm này được tưng bừng quảng bá bởi cả hai bên như một cột mốc, do những nguyên cớ tốt đẹp. Bốn mươi năm kể từ khi kết thúc cuộc chiến tranh đã tàn phá Việt Nam, di sản của bom mìn chưa nổ và của chất độc da cam vẫn còn đó, cùng với nghèo khổ và những ký ức về cái giá phải trả và những hậu quả của cuộc chiến tranh. Người dân của cả hai bên dĩ nhiên tìm kiếm cơ hội để hợp tác và các cách thức làm việc với nhau sao cho đem lại lợi ích cho nhân dân cả hai nước.
But the TPP will not bring cooperation or benefits to American or Vietnamese citizens. It is a carefully contrived and very complicated expansion of corporate power over both governments. In the case of Vietnam, this corporate influence may actually threaten the country's sovereign rights as an independent nation with its own laws and regulations.
Nhưng TPP sẽ không mang lại cả sự hợp tác lẫn lợi ích cho các công dân Việt Nam và Mỹ. Đó là một sự khuyếch trương quyền lực của các Tập đoàn thương mại phủ bóng lên hai chính phủ, được tính toán kỹ càng. Trong trường hợp của Việt Nam, ảnh hưởng này của các tập đoàn thương mại có thể là mối đe dọa chủ quyền của đất nước, chủ quyền của một quốc gia độc lập, với những luật lệ và quy tắc của mình.
During this ratification period – which may take up to two years in the case of Vietnam, according to Mr. Tran Quoc Khanh, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade – representatives of the National Assembly will certainly seek to understand the costs and benefits to Vietnam. Members of the U.S. Congress will do the same, although Congress will only be allowed a yes or no vote. The U.S. Congress will not be allowed to alter or improve any of the text of the agreement.
Trong quá trình thông qua Hiệp định TPP – được dự kiến tiến hành trong hai năm cho trường hợp Việt Nam, theo ông Trần Quốc Khánh, thứ trưởng Bộ Công thương Việt Nam – đại diện của Quốc hội sẽ tìm hiểu giá phải trả và lợi ích mà Việt Nam sẽ có được. Các thành viên của Quốc hội Mỹ sẽ làm đúng như vậy, cho dù tại Nghị viện Mỹ, chỉ cho phép trả lời Có hay Không. Quốc hội Mỹ sẽ không cho phép sửa đổi hay cải thiện bất cứ điều gì trong nội dung của Hiệp định,
Nonetheless, this will be a critical time. Now that the full text of the agreement has becomes public, Americans and Vietnamese should engage in dialogue and carefully scrutinize the entire TTP Agreement. Key, substantive questions have already been identified in recent months by the experts who assembled the pieces of the TPP puzzle that were leaked. That process is now going forward apace, as new details have emerged with release of the text. Some concerns include:
Tuy nhiên, đây sẽ là một thời kỳ hệ trọng. Nay khi nội dung đấy đủ của Hiệp định đã được công bố, người Mỹ và người Việt Nam cần phải tham dự vào các cuộc đối thoại và soát xét kỹ lưỡng toàn văn của bản hiệp định TTP. Các câu hỏi then chốt, thiết yếu đã được xác lập trong những tháng vừa qua bới các chuyên gia, những người đã tập hợp những đoạn của những chỗ rắc rối của TPP từng rò rỉ (trong quá trình đàm phán). Quá trình này hiện đang tiến triển mau lẹ, và những chi tiết mới sẽ còn nhô lên một khi nội dung của TPP được công bố. Dưới đây là một số quan ngại:
Vietnam will begin to lose important elements of national sovereignty, most within a five-year deadline, if the TPP goes into effect.
Việt Nam sẽ bắt đầu mất đi những thành tố quan trọng của chủ quyền, chủ yếu là trong 5 năm trước hạn chót, nếu TPP bắt đầu đi vào thực hiện.
public-interest policies and any laws that threaten a U.S. corporation's profits. U.S. corporations will be above the government of Vietnam and above Vietnamese law.
Những văn bản được công bố gần đây đề xuất TPP sẽ mở rộng1 quyền hợp pháp của các tập đoàn thương mại và các nhà đầu tư, và cho phép các tập đoàn thương mại được kiện các nước (thành viên) ra tòa án quốc tế để bồi thường những tốn hại gây bởi các chính sách vì lợi ích cộng đồng và bất kỳ luật nào (chẳng hạn như các quy chế về tài chính và bảo hộ cho công nhân và cho môi trường) đe dọa lợi nhuận của các tập đoàn thương mại Mỹ. Các tập đoàn thương mại Mỹ sẽ đứng trên chính phủ Việt Nam và đứng trên cả luật pháp Việt Nam.
Disagreements would not be settled in Vietnamese courts or international courts, but by a panel of lawyers picked by corporations.
Những bất hòa sẽ không được dàn xếp ở Việt Nam hay tòa án quốc tế, mà bởi một ban gồm các luật sư mà tập đoàn thương mại sẽ triệu tập.
The agreement includes ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) provisions, by which a panel of lawyers picked by the corporations – not judges in Vietnamese or international courts – will rule on the lawsuits. Section 28.9(2)(a) of the Agreement says that one panel member each is chosen by each party, and under (2)(d), the chair (and third panel member) is chosen together by the parties, or, if necessary, chosen randomly from a list of qualified people on a roster. It seems likely that the drafters of the agreement sought a legal procedure that would fit all signatory nations, but now there are unintended consequences. Only a small number of lawyers are deemed qualified to serve on these panels. That group is potentially incestuous, since the corporations will have a strong say in suggesting names for the roster.
Hiệp định bao gồm các điều khoản ISDS (Dàn xếp bất hòa giữa Nhà đầu tư – Nhà nước), theo đó một ban gồm các luật sư sẽ được các tập đoàn triệu tập – chứ không phải các quan tòa Việt Nam hay quốc tế - sẽ phán quyết các vụ kiện. Mục 28.9(2)(a) của Hiệp định nói rằng mỗi bên sẽ chọn một thành viên của ban luật sư, và theo khoản (2)(d), người đứng đầu ban (cũng là thành viên thứ ba của ban) được các bên chọn ra, hoặc, nều thấy cần sẽ chọn ngẫu nhiên từ một danh sách
1 http://www.ibtimes.com/trade-pact-how-trans-pacific-partnership-gives-corporations-special-legal-rights-1975817. Accessed November 7, 2015.
Recently published texts suggest the TPP agreement will expand1 and investors and allow the corporations to sue countries in international tribunals for damages the legal rights of corporations caused by such as financial regulations and protections for workers and the environment)
những ứng viên đủ năng lực để đưa vào ban. Có vẻ như những người soạn thào hiệp định đã tìm kiếm một trình tự pháp lý sẽ hợp ý những quốc gia sẽ ký, nhưng đang xuất hiện những hệ quả không dự kiến trước. Chỉ một số nhỏ luật sư có thể đáp ứng được về mặt năng lực để tham gia vào các ban như thế. Một ban như thế dễ có thể xuất hiện những “tay trong”, vì các tập đoàn thương mại có một tiếng nói mạnh trong việc nêu tên những luật sư nào được đưa vào ban.
These secretive2 tribunals – three lawyers – would likely have a vested interest in the corporations that suggested or picked them. They are apt to impose huge, punitive fines against Vietnam. ISDS will constrain the scope of legitimate regulation, making it harder for Vietnam and other nations to achieve improved labor and environmental standards. In short, ISDS will constrain Vietnam's policy space to manage its own economic development. The government of Vietnam will no longer be beholden to its citizens but, instead, will be beholden to foreign corporations.
Những tòa án2 kiểu giấu diếm như thế - gồm ba luật sư – hẳn sẽ có quyền có được lợi tức trong các tập đoàn nào đề xuất hoặc chọn họ. Họ sẽ có khuynh hướng áp đặt những khoản phạt nặng cho Việt Nam. ISDS sẽ thu hẹp phạm vi của các quy chế hợp pháp, làm cho Việt Nam và các quốc gia khác khó đạt được sự cải thiện các tiêu chuẩn về người lao động và về môi trường. Nói tóm lại ISDS sẽ khắc chế không gian chính sách của Việt Nam, mà Việt Nam đang dùng để quản trị sự phát triển kinh tế của mình. Chính phủ Việt Nam sẽ không còn đóng vai trò thực thi nghĩa vụ trước các công dân của mình, mà lại đóng vai trò thực thi nghĩa vụ trước các tập đoàn kinh tế nước ngoài.
Ngay cả khả năng trả được khoản phạt nặng theo phán quyết của tòa án cộng với phí tố tụng cũng có thể đẩy các chính phủ (thành viên TPP) phải nhượng bộ các chủ quyền của họ: phải giảm bớt hiệu lực của các quy chế về người lao động, về môi trường, và các quy định khác; phải tránh không thông qua các quy chế, nghị định như thế. Tổ chức phi lợi nhuận Public Citizen của Mỹ đã dẫn những ví dụ3 ở Canada, nơi mà mối đe dọa của tố quyền ISDS có thể dẫn những nhà hoạch định chính sách phải cân nhắc kỹ về việc ban hành các quy chế bảo hộ liệu có đẩy chính phủ lâm vào một bất đồng đắt giả giữa nhà đầu tư và nhà nước.
This is not speculation. Similar cases have already been filed.
Đây không phải là sự suy diễn (cực đoan). Các trường hợp tương tự đã xảy ra.
2 http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21623756-governments-are-souring-treaties-protect- foreign-investors-arbitration. November 7, 2015.
3 http://www.citizen.org/documents/ISDS-and-TAFTA.pdf. Accessed November 7, 2015.
Even the possibility of paying a tribunal's huge fines plus legal costs can push governments to surrender their rights of sovereignty; dilute labor, environmental, or other regulations; and avoid passing such regulations altogether. The U.S. non-profit, Public Citizen, cited examples3 in Canada, where just the threat of ISDS action may have led policymakers "to think twice about enacting protections that could expose the government to a costly investor-state dispute."
Philip Morris, a U.S. cigarette company, has filed suits against Australia4
and Uruguay,5 arguing
those nations' laws mandating health warnings on tobacco products are an expropriation of the company's property and have cut into profits for Philip Morris. A Swedish energy firm has sued the government of Germany for restrictions on coal-fired6 and nuclear7 power plants. Veolia, a French waste-management company, is suing Egypt to overturn that nation's minimum-wage law. Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company is fighting8 Canada's efforts to reduce the price of medicine through limited drug patents in order to protect its citizens. Eli Lilly is accusing Canada of not letting the company make the profit the corporation wants.
Philip Morris, một hãng thuốc lá của Mỹ, đã khởi kiện chống lại Australia4 và Uruguay5, cáo buộc các quốc gia này ra luật buộc phải đề những cảnh báo sức khỏe trên các sản phẩm thuốc lá – là xâm phạm tải sản của công ty này, và đã làm co hẹp lợi nhuận của Philip Morris. Một hãng của Thụy Điển kiện chính phủ Đức là đã hạn chế các nhà máy điện chạy bằng than và bằng hạt nhân. Veolia, một công ty xử lý chất thải của Pháp đang kiện Ai Cập, buộc nước này phải hủy bỏ đạo luật về lương tối thiểu. Hãng dược Eli Lilly đang chống lại Canada về việc nước này đang nỗ lực làm giảm giá thuộc thông qua (việc cấp) các giấy phép kinh doanh thuốc hạn chế, để bảo hộ cho các công dân của mình. Eli Lily cáo buộc Canada đang không cho hãng này kiếm lời như nó muốn.
The number of companies that could sue Vietnam is growing. Số lượng những công ty có thể kiện Việt Nam đang tăng
As of the end of May 2015, U.S. companies in Vietnam had 742 projects worth over $11 billion. Major American firms – including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, IBM, Cargill, Microsoft, Citigroup, Chevron, Ford, General Electric, AES (formerly, Applied Energy Services), and UPS – have moved into the Vietnamese market. Some Americans who established these companies in Vietnam did so out of empathy and the wish to address post-war poverty; they may not realize that, under the TPP, the company they introduced could impinge on Vietnam's sovereignty.
Tính đến cuối tháng 5/2015, các doanh nghiệp Hoa Kỳ ở Việt Nam thực hiện 742 dự án, có tổng giá trị lên tới 11 tỉ USD. Các hãng chính của Mỹ ở đây, bao gồm Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, IBM, Cargill, Microsoft, Citigroup, Chevron, Ford, General Electric, AES (trước đây gọi là Applied Energy Services), và UPS – đã thâm nhập vào thị trường Việt Nam. Một số người Mỹ lập những công ty ở Việt Nam đã làm ăn mà không đếm xỉa đến sự thông cảm và mong muốn (các công ty này) lưu tâm đến sự nghèo khó sau chiến tranh; họ đã không nhận thấy, khi TPP được áp vào, các công ty mà họ đại diện cho có thể làm phương hại đến chủ quyền của Việt Nam.
4 http://www.ag.gov.au/tobaccoplainpackaging. Accessed November 7, 2015.
5 http://www.iisd.org/itn/2011/07/12/philip-morris-v-uruguay-will-investor-state-arbitration-send-restrictions-on- tobacco-marketing-up-in-smoke/. Accessed November 7, 2015.
6 http://www.iisd.org/pdf/2009/background_vattenfall_vs_germany.pdf. Accessed November 7, 2015.
7 http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/vattenfall-vs-germany-nuclear-phase-out-faces-billion-euro-lawsuit- a-795466.html Accessed, November 7, 2015.
8 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/us-business/lilly-ramps-up-nafta-fight- over-loss-of-patents/article13223813/. Accessed November 7, 2015.
Sectors important to Vietnam's economic security would fall under the TPP.
Những lĩnh vực quan trọng đối với an ninh kinh tế ở Việt Nam có thể bị suy sụp dưới tác động của TPP.
Some in the government of Vietnam may already be worried about such legal suits, which could dismantle its laws and regulations protecting the environment, citizens' health, children's education, and national sovereignty. Vietnam's 2005 Investment Law lists four sectors:
Một số người trong chính phủ Việt Nam có thể đã quan ngại về những vụ kiện tụng như vậy, điều sẽ làm yếu những luật lệ và quy chế bảo hộ môi trường, sức khỏe công dân, giáo dục thanh thiếu nhi, và chủ quyền quốc gia của Việt Nam. Luật đầu tư năm 2005 của Việt Nam đưa ra năm loại lĩnh vực:
prohibited sectors – lĩnh vực cấm
encouraged sectors – lĩnh vực khuyến khích
conditional sectors applicable to both foreign and domestic investors – những ngành nghề
kinh doanh có điều kiện áp dụng cho các nhà đầu tư nước ngoài và trong nước
conditional sectors applicable only to foreign investors. - những ngành nghề kinh doanh
có điều kiện áp dụng cho các nhà đầu tư nước ngoài
If a U.S. company claims Vietnam is prohibiting the company from investing in Sector 1 (activities seen as "detrimental to national defense, security and public interest, health, or historical and cultural values"), under the TPP, can that foreign company sue Vietnam? The leaked texts of the TPP make it very doubtful that Vietnam's negotiators secured any written guarantees that Vietnam's sovereignty will be respected. If sued under the TPP, Vietnam's national sovereignty would not be protected.
Nếu một doanh nghiệp Mỹ tuyên bố rằng Việt Nam đang cấm công ty này được đầu tư vào lĩnh vực 1 nói trên (các ngành nghề được xem là “bất lợi đối với quốc phòng, an ninh và lợi ích công cộng, sức khỏe, hoặc các giá trị lịch sử và văn hóa) khi TPP đã có hiệu lực, liệu công ty này có khởi kiện Việt Nam? Nội dung thẩm thấu ra ngoài của TPP gây một nghi ngại liệu các nhà đàm phán Việt Nam đã có quán triệt rằng chủ quyền của Việt Nam sẽ được tôn trọng. Nếu bị kiện khi TPP có hiệu lực, chủ quyền của Việt Nam sẽ không được bảo toàn.
The same question applies to Sector 3, (activities "having an impact on national defense, security, social order and safety; culture, information, press and publishing; finance and banking; public health; entertainment services; real estate; survey, prospecting, exploration and exploitation of natural resources; ecology and the environment; and education and training.") Under the TPP, can foreign companies sue Vietnam for restricting their involvement in that sector? Can foreign-owned banks licensed to operate in Vietnam demand the same high-profit incentives they enjoy in the United States or in other countries? Must Vietnam stop its anti- smoking campaign?
Một câu hỏi nữa dành cho Lĩnh vực 3 (các hoạt động “có ảnh hưởng tới quốc phòng, an ninh, trật tự và an toàn xã hội; văn hóa, thông tin, báo chí và xuất bản, tài chính và ngân hàng, sức khỏe cộng đồng, dịch vụ giải trí, bất động sản, thăm dò, tìm kiếm, thăm dò và khai thác các tài nguyên thiên nhiên, sinh thái môi trường, giáo dục và đào tạo”). Khi TPP có hiệu lực, liệu các công ty nước ngoài có kiện Việt Nam đã hạn chế sự dính líu của họ vào các lĩnh vực này? Liệu các nhà băng do người nước ngoài là chủ sở hữu có giấy phép hoạt động ở Việt Nam đòi họ phải có được mức lợi nhuận cao mà họ được hưởng ở Mỹ hoặc ở các nước khác? Liệu Việt Nam có phải dừng chiến dịch chống hút thuốc là lại?
In June 2015, the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council said the TPP will make Vietnam increasingly attractive to U.S. investors. Why? Because the TPP will allow companies to operate with impunity, overriding Vietnam's national sovereignty.
Vào tháng 6/2015, Hội đồng kinh doanh Hoa Kỳ - ASEAN cho rằng TPP sẽ làm cho Việt Nam trở nên đặc biệt hấp dẫn với nhà đầu tư Mỹ. Vì sao? Vì TPP sẽ cho phép các doanh nghiệp được hoạt động không sợ bị trừng phạt khi không coi trọng chủ quyền của Việt Nam.
The U.S. Business Coalition for TPP spent $118 million in the fourth quarter of 2014, $126 million in the first quarter of 2015, and $135 million in the second quarter of 2015, for a total of $379 million in three quarters.
The TPP could skew regulations worldwide in favor of the banks, manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies that aggressively lobbied9 for the TPP. Further, with the Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowing U.S. corporations to engage in unlimited campaign expenditures to support or oppose candidates, we can be sure U.S. corporations will engage in heavy, financial lobbying to pressure for TPP passage during the upcoming election.
Liên minh Doanh nghiệp Mỹ ủng hộ TPP đã bỏ ra 118 triệu USD trong quý bốn của năm 2014, 216 triệu USD trong quý một năm 2015, và 135 triệu vào quý 2 năm 2015, tổng cộng là 379 triệu USD.
Questions ordinary citizens should be asking:
Những câu hỏi mà các công dân bình thường nên đặt ra:
The TPP includes patents on new pharmaceutical products. These patents prevent development of the cheaper generic drugs that have made medicines affordable for Vietnamese. The people of Vietnam should be asking, "Will our families be forced to replace cheaper generic medicines with multi-national brand names protected by the TPP?" Americans should be asking, "Do we want to force the people of Vietnam to pay the same high prices that we pay for drugs?"
Hiệp định TPP bao gồm giấy phép kinh doah các dược phẩm mới. Những giấy phép này ngăn sự phát triển của các dược phẩm rẻ hơn đang làm cho giá thuốc men là phải chăng đối với người Việt Nam. Người Việt Nam nên đặt ra câu hỏi: ‘Liệu gia đình của chúng ta có buộc phải thay những dược phẩm rẻ hơn với các chế phẩm thuốc có thương hiệu đa quốc gia được TPP bảo hộ?”
9 http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/23/us-trade-tpp-lobbying-idUSKCN0PX2JO20150723. Accessed November 7, 2015.
Những người Mỹ cần đặt câu hỏi: “Liệu chúng ta có nên buộc người Việt phải mua thuốc men với giá đắt như người Mỹ vẫn đang trả không?
Vietnam is the world's second largest rice exporter, yet the TPP will lead to a decrease in
agricultural sales in domestic and export markets. Unfortunately, Vietnam is one of the top five nations most threatened by rising seas due to climate change. The nation's two large deltas – the "Red River and Mekong Rice Baskets" – are already in danger, yet the TPP will allow U.S. corporations to sue Vietnam because of the environmental policies and regulations designed to protect those fragile deltas, the citizens, and Vietnam's food sovereignty. In particular, U.S. pesticide companies are apt to sue Vietnam for implementing so successfully the FAO-initiated IPM (Integrated Pest Management) program, which protects the environment and improves yields by teaching pest-control techniques other than pesticides and uses chemical pesticides only when absolutely needed.
Việt Nam là nước xuất khẩu gạo lớn thứ hai của thé giới, nhưng TPP đang đưa đến một sự giảm giá nông phẩm trên cả thị trường nội địa lẫn xuất khẩu. Không may là Việt Nam là một trong năm nước đứng hàng đầu danh sách bị đe dọa bởi mực nước biển dâng cao do biến đổi khí hậu. Hai đồng bằng lớn của Việt Nam là Vựa lúa châu thổ sông Mekong và đồng bằng sông Hồng đang bị đe dọa, tuy nhiên TPP cho phép các công ty Mỹ được kiện Việt Nam về các chính sách và quy chế bảo vệ một trường được lập ra để bảo vệ hai vùng đồng bằng dễ bị tổn thương này, dân cư ở đó, và chủ quyền về lương thực của Việt Nam. Đặc biệt, các công ty kinh doanh thuốc trừ sâu của Mỹ đang có xu hướng muốn kiện Việt Nam vì đã áp dụng có kết quả chương trình Quản trị dịch hại tổng hợp do FAO đề xướng, một chương trình bảo vệ môi trường và cải thiện lợi tức từ hoa màu nhờ các kỹ thuật kiểm soát sinh vật gây hại, chứ không dùng thuốc trừ sâu, và chỉ dùng các hóa chất trừ sâu bọ ở nơi nào tuyệt đối cần thiết.
Decisions about controversial introduction of GMO seeds and crops will be made outside of Vietnam. The Vietnamese government will no longer have sovereignty in such matters.
Quyết định về việc đưa hạt giống biến đổi gen và thu hoạch loại sản phẩm này sẽ được quyết định ở ngoài Việt Nam. Chính phủ Việt Nam sẽ không có chủ quyền trong những việc này nữa.
Vietnamese farmers and agricultural producers should be asking, "How will TPP affect our ability to compete in world markets, against huge corporations?"
Những người nông dân và các nhà sản xuất nông phẩm nên đặt câu hỏi, “Liệu TPP có ảnh hưởng đến năng lực cạnh tranh của chúng tôi trên trường quốc tế, chống lại những doanh nghiệp lớn?”
A major effort has gone into lobbying in Vietnam for the TTP, with highly paid American consultants, an orchestrated international and domestic press, and the U.S. Embassy's year-long, 20-year-anniversary celebration pushing the TTP while the contents of the agreement were cloaked in secrecy. As noted above, corporations have undertaken an even bigger lobbying effort in the United States.
Một nỗ lực chủ yếu đã được bỏ ra để vận động hành lang ở Việt Nam cho TTP, với những nhà tư vấn được trả lương cao, một dàn đồng ca trên báo chí trong ngoài nước, và cuộc kỷ niệm 20 năm thiết lập quan hệ ngoại giao kéo tới một năm ròng của sứ quán Mỹ cũng nhằm thúc đẩy TPP khi
nội dung của Hiệp định này còn đang được gói trong bức màn bí mật. Như đã nói trên, các tập đoàn thương mại cũng dấy lên một nỗ lực lobby còn lớn hơn ở Mỹ.
Some of the very rich in Vietnam will probably benefit. A small percent of wealthy Americans and major corporate shareholders will make more money. Ordinary people and the poor will lose. That is always the case when agreements are written in secret.
Một số người rất giàu ở Việt Nam chắc sẽ được lợi. Một phần trăm nhỏ của những người Mỹ giàu có và các cổ đông chính của các tập đoàn thương mại sẽ kiếm ra nhiều tiền hơn. Những người dân thường và người nghèo sẽ chịu tổn thất. Điều này thường xảy ra khi các hiệp định được viết trong vòng bí mật.
The ratification period is critical. The "people's representatives" – legislative bodies in the United States, Vietnam and other signatory nations – will be debating the full text of the TPP recently disclosed. During this time of legislative approval or disapproval of such a sweeping agreement, ordinary citizens in Vietnam, the United States, and other nations must raise their voices.
Giai đoạn thông qua (TPP) sẽ là then chốt. Những dân biểu – các nhà lập pháp ở Mỹ và Việt Nam và ở các quốc gia đã ký hiệp định này – sẽ thảo luận nội dung đầy đủ của TPP vừa được công bố. Trong khoảng thời gian cần để thông qua hay bác bỏ một hiệp định có ảnh hưởng rộng lớn như thế, công dân bình thường ở Việt Nam, Mỹ và các nước khác cần cất cao tiếng nói của mình.
Chuck Searcy is a Vietnam veteran; Lady Borton worked with all sides during the war. Both have worked in Vietnam since before normalization of US-Vietnam diplomatic relations 20 years ago.
Chuck Searcy là một cựu chiến binh chiến tranh Việt Nam. Lady Borton từng làm việc với tất cả các phía của cuộc chiến tranh đó. Cả hai đã sang Việt Nam làm việc trước khi bình thường hóa quan hệ ngoại giao Mỹ - Việt, 20 năm về trước.
This episode of the Global Research News Hour takes a dissenting look at the Remembrance and Veterans' Day ceremonies,and similar memorializing and valourization of the soldier as an instrument by which anti-war sentiments and organizing are subverted. The episode looks at what it will take to dismantle the mythology of militarism in our society. We speak with an outspoken anti-war activist and blogger, who is also the author of several books including 'War is a Lie' and 'When the World Outlawed War'. We also air a previously broadcast interview with Stan Goff and Joshua Key. Stan Goff is a Retired Master Sergeant from the U.S. Army. He is now a pacifist and author of a number of books including his most recent, Borderline – Reflections on War, Sex, and Church from Wipf and Stock (Cascade Books).
Joshua Key deserted the Iraq War in 2003,and crossed the border into Canada in 2005. He is the author along with Lawrence (Book of Negroes) Hill of The Deserter’s Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier who Walked Away from the War in Iraq. Having failed to secure refugee status, he is concerned he could soon be deported from Canada and sent to a military prison.
I have always been enthusiastic in my support for peace negotiations, which have been neglected all too often in internal and international conflicts. But it is clear that the international conference on Syria that held its first meeting in Vienna on October 30 is a sham conference that is not capable of delivering any peace negotiations, and that the Obama administration knew that perfectly well from the start.
According to a new analysis by Vice News, the University of Virginia is the 19th most militarized university in the United States. Vice News lists the top 100 in order, based on "the greatest number of students who are employed by the Intelligence Community (IC), have the closest relationships with the national security state, and profit the most from American war-waging." Vice provides a detailed account of its data sources and methodology, which itself reads like a damning critique of academia in a society maintaining an alleged preference for peace over war. An additional report looks at trends and patterns in the results.
According to William M. Arkin and Alexa O’Brien of Vice News:
"The prestigious University of Virginia is a lawyer's paradise, feeding counsels to government agencies from the military to the CIA. The school has a National Criminal Justice Command College program, and graduates a fair share of Top Secret special agents, half of them working for the FBI. The largest portion of its graduates with Top Secret clearances, however, come from its school of continuing and professional studies, which teaches cybersecurity, human resources, "procurement," and project management. If UVA's Top Secret graduates aren't working in the federal government, then they're working for a large [military] contractor. UVA faculty have also participated in the IARPA STONESOUP program to develop a technology that securely executes software of uncertain provenance."
UVA makes rank #17, in fact, for "Top Secret Employment," while it's only #30 for "National Security Funding." It receives a whopping $27,426,000 in "DOD Research and Development Funding." UVA conducts classified research inside its campus with its Jefferson quotes about free speech and flow of information.
"This institution [University of Virginia] will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."
Hard to tolerate or reason your way out of plans and justifications for killing that are kept secret.
UVA works with "National Intelligence," the NSA, and the Homeland "Security" Department. It also has a military ROTC program, as one can observe by visiting the campus around which killers-in-training jog chanting military chants.
UVA finds itself in the area of the country whose academia (and many other things) are most militarized. Nearby schools on the list include:
#1 University of Maryland
#2 American Military University
#4 George Washington University
#5 George Mason University
#7 Johns Hopkins University
#8 Strayer University
#10 Georgetown University
#16 Northern Virginia Community College
#17 Virginia Tech
#19 University of Virginia
#20 American University
In third place is the online "University of Phoenix." That may change. This came out last month:
"The Department of Defense said today that it would suspend the University of Phoenix from its tuition assistance programs and bar school officials from recruiting at military facilities, including job fairs, after revelations of improper recruiting and marketing practices by the for-profit school."
The above list of shame should trouble every UVA alumnus and every resident of Charlottesville, Virginia.
Rarely does this atheist quote the Pope, but here's one from his speech to Congress in September:
"Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade."
In two recent articles in the Los Angeles Times and the academic studies that inspired them, the authors investigate the question of which war veterans are most likely to commit suicide or violent crimes. Remarkably, the subject of war, their role in war, their thoughts about the supposed justifications (or lack thereof) of a war, never come up.
The factors that take the blame are -- apart from the unbearably obvious "prior suicidality," "prior crime," "weapons possession," and "mental disorder treatment" -- the following breakthrough discoveries: maleness, poverty, and "late age of enlistment." In other words, the very same factors that would be found in the (less-suicidal and less-murderous) population at large. That is, men are more violent than women, both among veterans and non-veterans; the poor are more violent (or at least more likely to get busted for it) among veterans and non-veterans; and the same goes for "unemployed" or "dissatisfied with career" or other near-equivalents of "joined the military at a relatively old age."
In other words, these reports tell us virtually nothing. Perhaps their goal isn't to tell us something factual so much as to shift the conversation away from why war causes murder and suicide, to the question of what was wrong with these soldiers before they enlisted.
The reason for studying the violence of veterans, after all, is that violence, as well as PTSD, are higher than among non-veterans, and the two (PTSD and violence) are linked. They are higher (or at least most studies over many years have said so; there are exceptions) for those who've been in combat than for those who've been in the military without combat. They are even higher for those who've been in even more combat. They are higher for ground troops than for pilots. There are mixed reports on whether they are higher for drone pilots or traditional pilots.
The fact that war participation, which itself consists of committing murder in a manner sanctioned by authorities, increases criminal violence afterwards, in a setting where it is no longer sanctioned, ought of course to direct our attention to the problem of war, not the problem of which fraction of returning warriors to offer some modicum of reorientation into nonviolent life. But if you accept that war is necessary, and that most of the funding for it must go into profitable weaponry, then you're going to want to both identify which troops to help and shift the blame to those troops.
The same reporter of the above linked articles also wrote one that documents what war participation does to suicide. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says that out of 100,000 male veterans 32.1 commit suicide in a year, compared to 28.7 female veterans. But out of 100,000 male non-veterans, 20.9 commit suicide, compared to only 5.2 female non-veterans. And "for women ages 18 to 29, veterans kill themselves at nearly 12 times the rate of nonveterans." Here's how the article begins:
"New government research shows that female military veterans commit suicide at nearly six times the rate of other women, a startling finding that experts say poses disturbing questions about the backgrounds and experiences of women who serve in the armed forces."
Does it really? Is their background really the problem? It's not a totally crazy idea. It could be that men and women inclined toward violence are more likely to join the military as well as more likely to engage in violence afterward, and more likely to be armed when they do so. But these reports don't focus primarily on that question. They try to distinguish which of the men and women are the (unacceptable, back home-) violence-prone ones. Yet something causes the figure for male suicides to jump from 20.9 to 32.1. Whatever it is gets absolutely disregarded, as differences between male and female military experiences are examined (specifically, the increased frequency of female troops being raped).
Suppose for a moment that what is at work in the leap in the male statistic has something to do with war. Sexism and sexual violence may indeed be an enormous factor for female (and some male) troops, and it may be far more widespread than the military says or knows. But those women who do not suffer it, probably have experiences much more like men's in the military, than the two groups' experiences out of the military are alike. And the word for their shared experience is war.
Looking at the youngest age group, "among men 18 to 29 years old, the annual number of suicides per 100,000 people were 83.3 for veterans and 17.6 for nonveterans. The numbers for women in that age group: 39.6 and 3.4." Women who've been in the military are, in that age group, 12 times more likely to kill themselves, while men are five times more likely. But that can also be looked at this way: among non-veterans, men are 5 times as likely to kill themselves as women, while among veterans men are only 2 times as likely to kill themselves as women. When their experience is the same one -- organized approved violence -- men's and women's rates of suicide are more similar.
The same LA Times reporter also has an article simply on the fact that veteran suicides are higher than non-veteran. But he manages to brush aside the idea that war has anything to do with this:
"'People's natural instinct is to explain military suicide by the war-is-hell theory of the world,' said Michael Schoenbaum, an epidemiologist and military suicide expert at the National Institute of Mental Health who was not involved in the study. 'But it's more complicated.'"
Judging by that article it's not more complicated, it's entirely something else. The impact of war on mental state is never discussed. Instead, we get this sort of enlightening finding:
"Veterans who had been enlisted in the rank-and-file committed suicide at nearly twice the rate of former officers. Keeping with patterns in the general population, being white, unmarried and male were also risk factors."
Yes, but among veterans the rates are higher than in the general population. Why?
The answer is, I think, the same as the answer to the question of why the topic is so studiously avoided. The answer is summed up in the recent term: moral injury. You can't kill and face death and return unchanged to a world in which you are expected to refrain from all violence and relax.
And returning to a world kept carefully oblivious to what you're going through, and eager to blame your demographic characteristics, must make it all the more difficult.
"Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?" the Pope asked the United States Congress during his speech there in September. "Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade."
At least a large section of the U.S. House and Senate rose and cheered, giving the above words a standing ovation.
Thousands of people, I among them, emailed their misrepresentatives to urge follow through.
In November, one of my senators finally replied. And this is what he had to say:
"Dear Mr. Swanson:
"Thank you for contacting me about the call by Pope Francis to end the arms trade. I appreciate hearing from you.
"As a Catholic, I was delighted to have Pope Francis address a joint meeting of Congress in September. The Pope spoke eloquently about great American leaders in our history, setting high expectations for what we can do when we work together. He challenged us to heal divisions and unite against the global challenges that we face.
"During his address, Pope Francis called for an end to the international arms trade, highlighting the untold suffering that deadly weapons often have on individuals and society. While I agree that that the United States has a responsibility to ensure arms exports do not exacerbate violence, I believe that security assistance plays an important role in our national security interests and international stability. As the world's primary superpower, the United States should support the security of friends and allies and ensure that they have the means to overcome threats from violent belligerents.
"The Arms Export Control Act, International Traffic in Arms Regulations, Export Administration Act, and other legal vehicles authorize the export of arms but also place significant restrictions to keep such items from falling into the wrong hands. These restrictions include serious scrutiny of American arms exports to prevent their use in human rights violations, as well as efforts to ensure against the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weaponry. We use those restrictions often to block or delay sales of arms.
"As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, I will continue to support efforts that advance our national interests and global security. Thank you again for contacting me.
I have never received a single such reply letter from any Congress member that didn't offend me and annoy me. But this one is a doozy. Let's start with "a responsibility to ensure arms exports do not exacerbate violence." I'm sorry, Senator, I may be even more fallible than your Pope, but if you'll forgive my Latin, what the fuck do you think arms are? They are tools of violence, purely and by definition and beyond dispute. If they aren't going to exacerbate violence, what are they going to do?
What about this: "security assistance plays an important role in our national security interests and international stability." Does it, now? Some 80% of the weapons imported to the Middle East, not counting the weapons of the U.S. military or the weapons bestowed on "moderate" killers, are imported from the United States. The stability this has been bringing to that region is staggering. A bit more such stability, and the whole population will move to Europe.
"As the world's primary superpower, the United States should support the security of friends and allies." Yeah? Who asked it to be a superpower? I'm asking it to cease and desist. As for friends and allies, I imagine you mean Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Iraq, "moderates" in Syria, Al Qaeda in Syria, etc. With friends and allies like these in the cause of peace, who needs enemies?
"These restrictions include serious scrutiny of American arms exports to prevent their use in human rights violations, as well as efforts to ensure against the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weaponry." How'd that work out during Hillary Clinton's stewardship of the Department of State during which she waived legal restrictions to send weapons, including chemical and biological, to numerous nations of exactly the sort that you claim, accurately enough, U.S. law forbids supplying.
If I had to choose which was crazier, your humanitarian pretensions on behalf of the world's greatest purveyor of violence, or your Catholicism (with its infallible Leader in the funny hat, life after death, etc.), I'd have to go with the former. And I'm not feeling very religious.