"How many PRT [Provincial Reconstruction Team] staff members does it take to screw in a light bulb? One to hire a contractor who fails to complete the job and two to write the press release in the dark."
A FOB is a Forward Operating Base, and the Fobbits who live in them have their own brand of sad SNAFU humor, enough to fill many volumes and constituting, in my opinion, the silver lining of our wars. The above bit is taken from Peter Van Buren's new book "We Meant Well." The author has been in the U.S. Foreign Service for 23 years, working in Taiwan, Japan, Korea, the U.K., Hong Kong, and -- from 2009 to 2010 -- in Iraq. The book is about Iraq.
Wednesday evening, when the news was mistakenly announced that Troy Davis would not be killed, the crowd that I was with erupted with joy and with the enthusiastic realization that we all were capable of believing that something good had been done by our government. I was at the dedication of the Howard Zinn room in the new Busboys and Poets restaurant in Hyattsville, Maryland.
Some of us had been assigned to read selections from the late Zinn's "Voices of a People's History of the United States." I was asked to read John Brown's courtroom speech in which he said, "Now if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children, and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit: so let it be done!"
And we heard all of them from two dozen brilliant speakers during a three-day conference this past weekend. If you missed it, the video is all online. So is the text of many of the papers presented. Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite:
So, here we are 50 years and 8 months tomorrow from the day on which President Dwight Eisenhower, on his way out of office, warned: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." I don't think we're here to propose Eisenhower or anyone else as a perfect model of all virtues. But what he said that day 50 years ago, in a very flawed and imperfect speech, was one of the most prescient predictions and potentially valuable warnings ever offered on the face of this earth. I say potentially because we have yet to heed it.
We will be nonviolently shutting down buildings and offices and hallways and streets. – David Swanson
Oct. 6 marks the end of the first decade of the U.S. war in Afghanistan and the beginning of a nonviolent action that may make D.C.’s Freedom Plaza feel a bit like Egypt’s Tahrir Square. “Thousands and thousands of people have pledged to be there, and not for one day,” said author and activist David Swanson, who is helping organize the event as part of October 2011.
As he stood outside the White House on Sept. 3, the final day of the two-week mass civil disobedience against the Keystone XL pipeline, Swanson discussed the upcoming action, which will see protesters camping out day and night at Freedom Plaza.
We’ll make the same persuasive arguments that we always make about the agenda that everybody has: taxing the wealthy, ending the wars, cutting the military, saving the environment, creating jobs. But we’ll do so with actions that take inspiration from the Arab Spring and countries around the world where people try to interfere with what their government is doing, not just speak to it. We will be nonviolently shutting down buildings and offices and hallways and streets.
While the action has been organized by individuals, there are more than 100 organizations supporting it. October 2011 lists “Fifteen Core Issues the Country Must Face,” including: corporatism; wars and militarism; worker rights and jobs; criminal justice and prisons; healthcare; education and housing.
Swanson noted a paradox plaguing the U.S. political process: Americans are quick to criticize their government, but reluctant to take constructive steps to make it better.
[There are] millions of Americans who are able to say: “The system is broken.” “The government is not working for us.” “The government is completely corrupted.” But [then they also say], “How dare you shut it down?” Somehow, too many Americans think that’s an approach you take toward evil, non-American governments, [but not] the American government [which] is sacred, even though it’s “completely broken” and “corrupt” and “working for Wall Street” and “screwing us all.”
Somehow, if we can get over that hump of loyalty to the government, of loyalty to a party, and have people say, “We are the sovereigns of this nation [and] it’s We The People in whose name the Constitution was written,” then we’ll have a movement. It won’t accomplish everything this year, but it will be started.
Ladies and gentlemen, citizens and guests, welcome. Recent polls show that two out of three Americans think that our government is going in the wrong direction. Many of us feel confused and conflicted, not knowing what or who to believe. Surrounded by a fog of deceit we long for some beacon of clarity. We feel the storms of war thundering before us, blowing away our rights with the gale winds of fear, and burning down the edifice of our morality with the lightening fires of hate. Yet this human tragedy is as old as war itself; but fought now with weapons newly spawned in the laboratories of devastation.
America must come to realize that the fog of lies and the storms of war are our own creation - our creation of our own destruction. And they have a history. They have a direction. They have a conclusion. To find the clarity to guide us in a different direction we recall the past so as not to repeat its deadly conclusion. We evoke the past to foresee the future; ever mindful that it is we who choose the direction and bring it into being and nurture it.
Tonight we evoke three leaders who have shaped our history.
I've admired David Swanson for a number of years. He's one of the most active progressive activists I know — indeed, both astonishingly productive and absolutely on message. Since he gets out and about all the time, and I don't, it was a real treat to hear his sense of where things stand politically, and his advice regarding what people should be doing. (Think getting arrested.) Thanks, David!! Total runtime thirty six minutes. Āctum est dē rēpūblicā.
Here's a way to make this work within a Democratic Primary or in the general election of 2012.
Nobody can just announce that they are running in the general election as a candidate of the people, of peace, of justice, of decency, because all the corporate media would want to talk about was Spoilerdom.
And running instead in only non-swing-states, or asking voters in swing states to swap their votes with people in non-swing-states, would lead to only that same conversation about Spoilers and the mechanics of theatrical electioneering.
If I told you I would support women's rights as long as I didn't have to oppose rape, you’d think I needed lessons in both logic and basic human decency. If I said I would favor freedom as long as I didn't have to be against slavery, you might start backing away slowly.
Yet on September 1st, in a statement that's anything but out of the ordinary, the Daily Progress reported Charlottesville School Board Member Ned Michie's objection to a resolution in support of events celebrating the International Day of Peace:
"I'm all in favor of peace and non-violence," Michie said, "but, for instance… to the extent that any of the events are really sort of anti-war events, I'm not necessarily comfortable with supporting that."
It's a funny thing about peace and war: you really do have to choose between them. They don't mix any better than freedom and slavery. You can't favor peace without opposing war. In fact, you can't support peace without opposing the machinery that makes wars likely. And that machinery is all over Charlottesville, where it provides many local residents with jobs.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee, like Jeanette Rankin before her, bravely stood alone in Congress against a vote for war, the vote in 2001 for the so-called Authorization to Use Military Force, a Constitutionally dubious passing of the war decision buck to President Bush and his successors. A majority of Americans now believes that the Afghanistan War that followed that authorization never should have been begun and should, in fact, be ended. So, the Congresswoman, along with initial cosponsors Jones, Woolsey, Grijalva, Conyers, and Honda, is offering us a second chance, a chance to get our response to 9-11 right, to restore war powers to the Congress, and to impose the will of the people on that body.
Congresswoman Lee has sent her colleagues this letter, which we should each send them ourselves by email, fax, phone, carrier pigeon, and by nailing it to their cathedral doors:
"Please join me as an original cosponsor of the 'Repeal of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Act of 2011.' This legislation repeals the joint resolution providing overly-broad authorization to the President to use all necessary and appropriate force against those involved in attacking our nation and to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.
"This broad authorization of force has had far-reaching implications which shake the very foundations of our great nation and democracy. It has been used to justify warrantless surveillance and wiretapping activities, indefinite detention practices that fly in the face of our constitutional values, extrajudicial targeted-killing operations, and an ever-growing and indefinite pursuit of an ill-defined enemy abroad.
"We must repeal this authorization for use of military force, end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and re-focus our energy and efforts into those actions which truly improve our national security, including developing emerging economies and diplomatic efforts. Please join me as an original cosponsor of this legislation to remove this overly-broad blank check for war anytime, anywhere.
The legislation itself is shorter than the above letter, powerful in its simplicity, approaching in fact the populist wisdom of the long-forgotten Kellogg-Briand Pact, and offering far more than a technical readjustment within a government rotten to its core. At the risk of revitalizing the utterly discredited and poisonous notions of hope and change, I would suggest that this bill offers the nearest possible approximation of the time-altering repeal, not of a law, but of the past decade of collective insanity and self-righteous mass-murder. Read this carefully:
To repeal Public Law 107–40. IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES Ms. LEE of California introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on _______ A BILL To repeal Public Law 107–40. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE. This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Repeal of the Authorization for Use of Military Force’’.
SEC. 2. CONGRESSIONAL FINDING. Congress finds that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note), signed into law on September 18, 2001, has been used to justify a broad and open-ended authorization for the use of military force and such an interpretation is inconsistent with the authority of Congress to declare war and make all laws for executing powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States.
SEC. 3. REPEAL OF PUBLIC LAW 107–40. Effective 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) is hereby repealed.
The AUMF is to be repealed here for two reasons: because Congress is Constitutionally bound to decide matters of war and cannot legally hand off that responsibility to its executive, and because Congresswoman Lee's tearful predictions when she stood alone against this madness a decade ago, and was subsequently obliged to hire security protection, have been proved right; the Authorization has been used and abused to an ever greater extent as an aggrandizement of executive power and a justification for the erosion of our civil liberties. This proposal comes on the heels of a successful public push by RootsAction.org, the ACLU, and others to strip out of the 2012 Defense Authorization Act language that would have radically expanded, rather than repealed, the 2001 AUMF.
Of course, the sponsorship of this proposal by a handful of Congress Members, any number of them capable of losing their spine at the command of their parties' leaders, does not suggest the likelihood of quick passage. But it does give a somewhat floundering peace movement a point around which to rally, educate, organize, and pressure. Rather than joining Congressional progressives in lobbying the 12-member Super Congress, even for top priorities like ending the wars and moving the money to human needs, rather than focusing purely on appealing to an all-powerful president to end particular wars (important as that is), we have an opportunity here to shift the country away from both the idea of presidential war making and the idea, recognized now even by the Washington Post, of war without end, war as normality, with peace having become the state of affairs requiring particular justification.
As popular movements begin to bring nonviolent resistance to Washington, D.C., including this October ( http://october2011.org ) perhaps one appropriate measure would be the shutting down of the congressional offices of each member who has not yet joined the good Congresswoman from Oakland on this bill -- a step I'm sure she would never recommend to us and which it is not her role to recommend to us, but a step which morality requires of us as clearly as the blood of our innocent victims is crying out from continents day after day.
STOP THE WAR COALITION
6 September 2011
Tel: 020 7801 2768
IN THIS NEWSLETTER:
1) 9/11 ANNIVERSARY: STATEMENT BY STOP THE WAR COALITION
2) TONY BENN: WHY I'LL BE IN TRAFALGAR SQUARE ON 8 OCTOBER
3) LIBYA, NATO AND THE ARAB SPRING: PUBLIC MEETING
4) BREAKING THE SILENCE AGAINST 10 YEARS OF WAR
5) LONDON ACTIVISTS MEETING: 8 SEPTEMBER
6) EUROPEAN CONFERENCE ON AUSTERITY AND CUTS: 1 OCTOBER
Did you know that redirecting a fraction of our military spending to education, green energy, healthcare, and tax cuts would create a job for every unemployed or underemployed person in the country (including those losing war industry jobs during this conversion)? It's true.
Did you know we're fighting drone wars that create enemies by killing innocents, in large part because the CIA created a bureaucracy for drone wars and wants to use it? Now you do.
We've got a choice to make between the military industrial complex and our future. Experts from around the country will help us make it at this conference: http://MIC50.org
Why Register Now:
1. Only if you register ahead of time can you get food at the conference.
2. Only if you register ahead can you pay a discounted rate.
Everyone should pay only what they can afford, even if it's nothing! But you need to register!
3. Only if you register ahead can we best plan the conference and let you know how to get involved.
Here's a simple proposal. I'm sure it's too much to ask for, but I'm asking anyway. Let's set aside a single month, say the month of April, following each federal election, and for that single month behave like the citizens and elected officials of a normal representative republic.
Two Years Ago Obama Decided Not to Prosecute Torturers Now We Get An Account of Why By David Swanson
If you can think back all the way to January 2009, back when wars were ending, Guantanamo was closing, the Pentagon was getting oversight, employees were going to have free choice, the rich would start paying taxes, the air would be getting cleaner, and so forth, you'll recall that the Obama transition team was acting super populist and high-tech.
They had questions from ordinary people for the President Elect submitted on their website and voted up or down. The top question at the end of the voting had come from Bob Fertik of Democrats.com and it was this:
"Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor - ideally Patrick Fitzgerald - to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?" -Bob Fertik, New York City
No, not 29 million job offers. I'm no better at applying for jobs than you are, and my town offers nothing but dead-end McJobs or positions in the military industrial complex, just like yours. I mean I just spotted an easy way to create 29 million jobs, one for every unemployed or underemployed U.S. worker.
No, I'm not about to say "Just raise taxes on gazillionaires and hire people to build stuff." I'm all in favor of that, for lots of reasons, including the political corruption created by a concentration of wealth. We might have to disempower gazillionaires before we can enact any sensible policies, including the one I'm about to propose, but it can itself be done without raising a dime in revenue. This means that the President, who has broad, albeit unconstitutional, powers to move funding around from one program to another could do this himself. Or Congress could.
Last year I reviewed a book called "Apocalypse Never" that made a powerful case for our options being limited to two: either we get rid of nuclear weapons or humanity will be destroyed. I noted then a deep flaw in the case: the author accepted nuclear energy as something we could survive, focusing his opposition purely on nuclear weaponry.
A new film makes the additional case I was looking for. "Knocking on the Devil's Door: Our Deadly Nuclear Legacy" by Gary Null could not come at a better time. Not far from where I write this, a nuclear plant at Lake Anna was damaged in a recent earthquake. Whether the damage was severe or not -- this time -- is unclear.
Sigmund Freud once mentioned the defense offered by a man who was accused by his neighbor of having returned a kettle in a damaged condition. In the first place, he had returned the kettle undamaged; in the second place it already had holes in it when he borrowed it; and in the third place, he had never borrowed it at all.
That man's name?
On "Morning Joe" on MSNBC on Thursday, the former Vice President claimed that the intelligence used to invade Iraq had been sound and accurate; the faulty intelligence was all Bill Clinton's fault; the invasion didn't do any damage but rather it was the Iraqis who damaged Iraq; and any invasion causes horrific things to happen, that just comes with the territory.
It is difficult to watch this video without both crying and being inspired. Ashley Joppa-Hagemann recounts her husband's struggles before he killed himself to avoid an eighth or ninth tour in the Iraq-Afghanistan Wars. Ashley confronted Donald Rumsfeld last week over the lies that led her husband to enlist. This led to her appearing on Democracy Now on Tuesday and being featured in Amy Goodman's column:
"One person convinced by Rumsfeld’s rhetoric was Jared August Hagemann.
YOU MAY have heard something about a budget crisis in Washington this summer. Were you aware that in the midst of it the House of Representatives passed a military spending bill larger than ever before?
U.S. military spending across numerous departments has increased dramatically during the past decade and now makes up about half of federal discretionary spending. Yet the Defense Department has not been fully audited in 20 years, and as of 2001 it could not account for $2.3 trillion out of the $10 trillion or so it had been given during that time. More recently, President Obama has been waging his “days, not weeks” war in Libya for months without a dime appropriated by Congress, relying instead on the loose change lying around at the Pentagon.
The United States could reduce its military spending by at least 80 percent and still be the world’s top military spender. If the purpose of all this profligacy were truly defensive, wouldn’t a military merely as large as any other country’s do the job? When little cuts around the edges were forced into the discussion, wouldn’t the top priorities for elimination be unpopular wars, foreign bases, nuclear weapons and space weapons rather than health care for veterans? If something shameful were not motivating our self-destructive imperial overreach, wouldn’t the wonders of market competition be given a chance, instead of the current practice of handing out cost-plus contracts to cronies for jobs they are never expected to complete?
Alan Grayson says "This is a textbook for a college-level course on what it means to be a thinking, feeling American. I recommend it to everyone with a head and heart."
He's talking about this book: http://planamerica.org It's called "Fix America! How Each of Us Can Help All of Us."
I'm proud to have contributed two chapters to it, but even gladder to have read it. What a wealth of information and inspiration. This is a collection of the best recent blogging from the perspective of some truly progressive editors looking for guidance in how we should be thinking, talking, strategizing, and organizing. Contributors include friends of mine, authors I knew I'd benefit from, and others relatively new to me.
They include: Robert Abston, Linda Beale, Beth Becker, Denis Campbell, Cory Doctorow, Barry Eisler, Al Franken, Joshua Holland, Karoli Kuns, George Lakoff, Jon Nichols, Matt Osborne, Ralph Paine, Lee Papa, Robert Pollin, Kenneth Quinnell, Jennie Rigg, Coleen Rowley, Linda Salter, Richard Spisak Jr., The Punk Patriot, Joan Walsh, and Cassandra Vert.
Cassandra Vert edited the book along with Abston and Spisak, and Vert contributed the greatest number of chapters, each of them extremely informative and inspiring. True to the name Cassandra, Vert predicts the future. But she predicts multiple possible futures, depending on what actions we choose to take. I'm hoping that this Cassandra is listened to.
A coalition of community organizers, peace activists, left, liberal, progressive groupsand supporting organizations are calling on volunteers to join them October 6, 2011, for an "occupation" of Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C.
U.S.author, blogger, and activist David Swanson says the event is being organized to take over Freedom Plaza to "nonviolently resist what our government is doing."
Swanson told Press TV's U.S. Desk on Monday that "we are going to occupy Freedom Plaza in the middle of Washington D.C., the name of which is very similar of course to Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, and from there we are going to expand to shut down offices, buildings, streets, hallways, to nonviolently, strictly nonviolently resist what our government is doing."
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