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How the Supreme Court Could Legalize Direct Bribery: An Innocent Behind Bars, A Guilty Man Free

By David Swanson, Telesur

A recent bribery conviction may lead to the U.S. Supreme Court further corrupting the U.S. political system.

How does one even get convicted of bribery in a system that has legalized it to the extent that ours has? Look at Congress members' and other federal office holders' actions and their sources of funding. There is debate only over whether they are bribed to act or rewarded for having acted, but the correlation between action and funding is undisputed, and the sources of funding unrestricted. A headline like "Clinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton's State Department" raises a few eyebrows but no indictments.

The correlation is even more strongly documented between funding and gaining access to Congress members, and the general trend so clear that an academic study has identified the U.S. form of government as an oligarchy. Many political observers now think of elections as a corrupting influence, which no doubt fuels a taste for pseudo-solutions like term limits and billionaire politicians who don't have to sell out.

And yet, two U.S. state governors have recently been convicted of taking bribes: Alabama's Don Siegelman and Virginia's Bob McDonnell. Siegelman has been in prison for over four years though he was targeted by politically motivated prosecutors and was never accused of any personal gain. McDonnell was bribed with a Rolex watch, plane tickets, dinners, trips, loans, catering, golf bags, and i-phones, and, according to his successful prosecutors took official actions in his capacity as governor to benefit the person bribing him within minutes of receiving various loot. The U.S. Supreme Court has kept McDonnell and his wife (also convicted) out of prison as it considers his case. A bipartisan collection of 113 current and former state Attorneys General urged the Supreme Court to correct the injustice to Siegelman, and it declined to consider it.

The U.S. Supreme Court was uninterested in a bribery case like Siegelman's that involved no bribery. What's frightening is its interest in a case like McDonnell's. His lawyers will argue that while he and his wife clearly benefitted, he didn't know everything his wife had promised in return for the bribes, nor did he agree to it, nor did he deliver on it. There is clearly the potential that the new standard in U.S. politics going forward will be that you can give luxury toys and personal bribes directly to an office holder, as long as he or she fails to deliver the public policy you asked for, or as long as he or she doesn't try very hard to deliver it.

Such a standard would open the door to direct bribery of politicians in a new way not achieved by Citizens United and related rulings that facilitate bribery through campaigns and PACs and foundations. As long as the two parties are discreet, who will be able to prove that the favor your politician did your corporation was actually in response to the Mercedes you gave him?

If you imagine the Supreme Court's interest is in correcting injustice, as opposed to expanding the legalization of bribery, have another look at the Don Siegelman case. Siegelman was by far the most successful Democratic politician in an overwhelmingly Republican government in Alabama. When he won reelection as governor in 2002, the election result was reversed after Republican officials in a single county waited until the Democratic officials had gone home, then recounted the votes and determined that there had been an error. Despite Democrats' objections of impropriety and pointing out that the voters whose votes were switched away from Siegelman didn't -- as one would have expected -- have their votes similarly "corrected" in other races, the Republican Attorney General of Alabama upheld the result and forbid any manual recount to verify it.

Republican lawyer Jill Simpson describes "a five-year secret campaign to ruin the governor," during which Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's senior political advisor, asked her to "try to catch Siegelman cheating on his wife." Rove associate Bill Canary, she says, told her that his wife Leura and friend Alice Martin, both federal prosecutors, would "take care of" Siegelman. When Siegelman began running to win his office back two years after losing it, the U.S. Justice Department took him to trial alleging a Medicaid scam, but the judge listened to the opening argument and then threw out the case as worthless.

The "Justice" Department kept trying, and finally got Siegelman on bribery. His offense? He was not alleged to have pocketed a dime or to have received any support through any foundation or committee. Rather, he re-appointed a man to a board who had been appointed to the same position by the previous three governors, a man who made contributions to a state lottery to pay for college scholarships for poor kids. Yes, Siegelman's idea to help poor people with a lottery seems to have missed the fact that lotteries are taxes on poor people. But does that make him guilty of bribery or justify prosecutors targeting him?

The star witness in the Siegelman case claimed that Siegelman met with this man and emerged from the meeting with a check in hand talking openly about the quid pro quo. In reality, the check was written days after that meeting, and the star witness was facing 10 years in prison and had cut a deal with the prosecutors to reduce his sentence.

A U.S. House Committee investigated the Siegelman case and asked Karl Rove to testify. He declined. And the committee declined to hold him in contempt or to use inherent contempt. He was simply allowed to refuse. Now Siegelman's son, attorney Joseph Siegelman, has filed suit seeking documents from the U.S. government. I asked him what he hopes to find.

"Every stone that gets overturned ends up showing something negative," he said. As an example he pointed to the Justice Department's description of an email from a prosecutor of Siegelman to the campaign manager of his main Republican opponent, a description of an email that didn't become public until years after Siegelman's trial. "We don't know what else they have to hide," said Joseph Siegelman.

I asked Joseph Siegelman about the Supreme Court's decision to hear McDonnell's case and not his father's, and he exclaimed, "How can our system of justice be so skewed?"

The worst of it may be that a ruling in favor of McDonnell and the inherent right to accept Rolexes from lobbyists could leave Siegelman sitting in prison. He never accepted any Rolex. And he did re-appoint that healthcare professional to that healthcare board.

Should the Supreme Court further legalize bribery, the people of the United States should send Benjamin Franklin a note informing him that we were not able to keep a republic after all. Or they should rise up and compel the Congress, or compel the states to go around the Congress in amending the Constitution, to end all forms of bribery, ban all private election spending, create free and equal media air time on our air waves for all qualified candidates, provide public financing for campaigns, and for godsake free Don Siegelman.

Bernie v. Media

Originally published by American Herald Tribune

Bernie Sanders 14b15

Major corporate media outlets in the United States are reporting on a new viability for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, based on his rise in the polls nationally and in Iowa and New Hampshire -- and possibly, though this goes largely unmentioned, based on his big new advertising purchases from major corporate media outlets. In independent progressive media as well, there's a small flood of maybe-he-can-really-win articles.

Whether this goes any further or not, something remarkable has happened. The Donald Trump campaign (in many ways outlandish and uniquely dangerous) more or less fits the usual mold in terms of media success; the data are very clear that the media gave Trump vastly disproportionate media coverage, following which he rose in the polls -- the same polls later used anachronistically to justify the coverage. This was the story of how the media created Howard Dean's success before tearing him down in 2004, and it has been the story of most candidates, successful and otherwise: the polling closely follows the coverage, not the other way around.

Bernie is something new. The major media has given him ridiculously little coverage, and belittled him in most of that coverage. Yet he has surged in the polls, in volunteers, in small-donor fundraising, and in real world events. While television news has shunted aside actual events, crises, social movements, the state of the natural environment, any number of wars, countless injustices, and most legislative activities in order to focus more than ever on the next election, and has done so ever since it was nearly two years away, the media has also given wildly disparate attention to certain candidates, in a way that bears no correlation to polling or internet searching or donors or any such factor. As of last fall, Bernie Sanders had received a total of 8 minutes of coverage from broadcast evening news, less than Mitt Romney or Joe Biden got for deciding not to enter the race.

And yet, Bernie polls better against Donald Trump (now that a pollster finally asked that question and released the results) than does Hillary Clinton. And Bernie is gradually catching up to Clinton in polls of Democrats. If he wins New Hampshire (very likely) and Iowa (pretty likely), all sorts of bandwagon jumpers could switch their support to him, and uninspired voters become inspired to vote in the next several primary states, snowballing the magical force of "momentum" into an upset victory with great media ratings, even if horrifying political implications from the point of view of major media outlets' corporate owners.

According to Ted Rall, we are seeing the failure of propaganda: "Everyone in a position to block Sanders' campaign did everything they could to sabotage him. ... Marginalization always used to work. Remember John Edwards? His 2008 primary campaign was doomed because TV networks refused to cover him. But the media's cold shoulder isn't hurting Bernie."

As Glenn Greenwald sees it, Sanders is riding the same wave of backlash against the establishment that Jeremy Corbyn has surfed in Britain. Part of that tidal wave may also motivate Trump supporters who, in some cases, admit that they don't like his views but simply love that he says whatever he feels like saying. Sharp policical observer Sam Husseini pointed out to me that the more the media demanded Bill Clinton's impeachment, the more the public opposed it. Sometimes what the media wants backfires. As the media shifts from ignoring Sanders to attacking him, that could benefit him, or it could hurt him. As Dave Lindorff and others have pointed out, "socialist" is actually a popular word now. Pundits in whose world "socialist" is equated with traitor, could actually hurt the cause of derailing the Bern inferno if they keep labeling him a socialist.

Some observers are far less sanguine about the defeat of propaganda. "If Bernie wins the nomination," media critic Jeff Cohen told me, "I suspect we'll see a barrage of mainstream news media bias and smear and distortion against Bernie and his platform on healthcare and Wall Street and taxes and government-funded jobs that will be at a level rarely witnessed in history. Not to mention a new level of attack ads bought by dozens of GOP and corporate SuperPACs. And all this will have impact, partly mitigated thanks to social media and indy media."

Cohen draws on history, which he clearly believes has not ended: "The anti-Bernie barrage will be reminiscent of 1934 when former Socialist Party leader Upton Sinclair left that party and stunned the nation by winning the Dem nomination for governor of California on a totally progressive platform; Sinclair was defeated in the general election by new innovations in smear politics from business interests, especially the Hollywood studios. If Bernie somehow gains the nomination, we'll see whether, aided by new media, the public is any smarter 80 years later in seeing through and fighting back against the distortions."

For the better part of a year I have shared Cohen's expectations for what the media might try to do to Sanders in early 2016. I assumed it would wait this long because a contest makes for better ratings than a coronation. But I did not predict this level of success for Sanders. I think we will see media support for all kinds of lies coming from the Clinton campaign, like those issued recently around healthcare. We'll see smears about sexism, and all variety of molehills turned into mountains. We'll also see Sanders denounced as a cowardly pacifist endangering us all by refusing to bomb enough people.

The tragic and ironic flaw in Sanders' strategy may be this. He'll take criticism as a socialist because he is one. And he'll take criticism as a pacifist although he's become a dedicated militarist at heart, intent on continuing drone kills and "destroying" ISIS, and unwilling to say he'll cut military spending. Not only is cutting military spending incredibly popular, not only would proposing to cut it lead to people like me knocking on doors for Bernie, but if Bernie were willing to cut a small fraction of the military that he routinely says is loaded with fraud and waste, he wouldn't have to fund healthcare or college or anything else with any sort of tax increases.

The U.S. government does not need more money in order to provide world-class social services. It needs to tax multi-billionaires in order to reign in their power. But it can fund our wildest dream by shifting money out of the military. And Bernie knows this. Yet he has opened himself up wide to what will likely be the most common criticism: "He wants to raise taxes!" He can explain that you'll save more by ending private health insurance than you'll pay in higher taxes, but how will he fit that in 4 seconds? How will he repeat it as often as the accusation? How can we be sure people are both mad at the establishment and intelligent enough to see through its deceptions?

Incidentally, peace groups have tried everything short of interrupting a Sanders event on the Black Lives Matter model. The Black Lives Matter activists who did that may have looked ill-informed, but they improved Bernie's campaign and benefited his campaign and thereby the country. Peace activists should consider that.

Most media deceptions are somewhat subtle. Look at this Time magazine video and text. The video at the top of the page is remarkably fair. The text below it, including an error-plagued transcript apparently produced by a robot, is less fair. Time says of Bernie: "[H]e's so far been unable to convince most Democrats he'd make a better candidate against a Republican than Clinton." By no stretch of the English language is the 48% or 52% backing Clinton in polls "most Democrats." The polling story should be that Sanders has climbed from 3% to 37% or 41% without any help.

Here's Time's summary of Sanders' platform: "He talked taxes (he'd raise them), turning points (he thinks he's at one) and tuxedos (he's never owned one)." Notice that two of the three items are sheer fluff and the only serious one is that he'll raise your taxes. Time follows that by linking to an article making the case that Sanders cannot win. Time of course has no "balancing" argument that he can win.

Time then links to an article on "The Philosophical Fight Underlying the Democratic Debate," which presents this very serious, well-researched reporting: "If Sanders and Clinton were in business together, he'd be the dreamy one pitching the next big thing while she'd be the hard-nosed one arguing that they need to stay within their budget. The decision voters will have to make is: do they want big dreams or clear-eyed realism?" Gosh, I want clear eyes and a hard nose, doesn't everyone?

What weighs against this steady stream of bias on the Time website is the transcript of Sanders' own comments, and his willingness to push back against the media. Pushing back against the media is even more popular than taxing billionaires or cutting the military. Here's Sanders replying to a cheap shot from Time: "Someone says oh you're raising taxes by $5,000. No, I am lowering your healthcare costs by $5000. So you can take a cheap shot, say I'm just trying to raise taxes. That's a distortion of reality. We are substantially lowering healthcare costs." Fewer people will hear his reply than hear the accusation, but they'll hear it in the context of media criticism, and that could inspire them. Check out this exchange:

Time: "So as president you're calling rallies—"

Bernie: "It's not just rallies, don't be sarcastic here."

The media mocks popular assembly, free speech, and petitioning the government for a redress of grievances, and Sanders instructs the media not to be sarcastic. That's a plus for Bernie.

Will it get him past the onslaught? If it does, will the super delegates outvote the people? Will the DNC outmaneuver him? Is the voting process itself rigged? If he gets elected will anything get through Congress? Let's Bern those bridges when we come to them.

If a Social Movement Falls Outside of the Media, Are Any Lives Improved?

When We Fight We Win! is the overly violent and overly optimistic title of a very good new book about recent nonviolent social struggles in the United States for LGBTQ rights, immigrants rights, economic justice, public education, a sustainable environment, and an end to mass incarceration.

My initial response to this book was very different from my considered response.

My initial response to a table of contents like the one in this book is always: Where the hell is war? Don't they know that war eats up all the money that could solve all these problems with ease? Haven't they considered that immigrants are refugees from war? That discrimination and hate feed off war? That the top destroyer of the environment is the military -- which destroys the environment in the process of killing people for oil with which to destroy the environment?! Goddamn it, when did acceptance of mass murder become progressive?!

Then I calm down a bit, wipe the blood off my forehead, pick up the broken dishes, apologize to the owner of the coffee shop, and read the book.

By the end of this book, I was wondering why a completely different topic was missing, or rather, why it wasn't in the headline since its shadow so dominates almost every page. That topic is media reform / media production.

The chapter on LGBTQ rights reminds us of the length and complexity of the struggle, and of how much it has been a struggle of communication. The chapter itself, like the rest of the book, is in fact not so much devoted to analyzing activist strategies as to actually engaging in the strategy of communicating the stories of the relevant people. The book is an act of communication, and such acts are the heart of the activism described.

Accounts of successes are inspiring, even if we harbor doubts that the oligarchy really objects to LGBTQ rights. But the point of the chapter is largely to do what a truly democratic television channel or newspaper or online journal could do: show us what is unfair, make us feel suffering, bring us in on people's struggles for justice, convert us to the cause.

When it comes to the defense of public education, we're dealing with a struggle against vast wealth, and it is mostly a losing struggle, but this book focuses on successes, including in Chicago where Rahm Emanuel got a little too greedy. The lessons learned include the need to organize and build personal relationships, but also the need to communicate through the media and through artwork and by aligning teachers with parents and community in a major struggle for huge goals, not technical details.

With mass incarceration and the environment we see potential in divestment campaigns and, again, the need to build large coalitions. But a big focus is media reform in the piecemeal sense of forcing the worst programing, such as Cops, off the air via public pressure. ColorofChange.org targets prisons by targeting ugly and racist portrayals of black men on television. (Peace groups have done the same with war shows.) Immigrants rights groups have persuaded the Associated Press to stop calling people "illegal."

They've also moved President Obama by standing up to him -- and meeting with him but refusing to shake his hand, refusing to censor outrage -- and by threatening to make news advancing their cause with one of his party's Republican rivals. Longtime organizer Marshall Ganz "advised the activists that their story could be their most potent tool for social change." The media attention given to the Occupy movement is also recorded as a successful tool for social change, and for state-level reforms that have been achieved in housing and lending.

It's not that everything is communications, or the media is all that matters, but the media is hugely important. You can watch Bernie Sanders in 1988 propose that labor unions and progressives pool their money and create media outlets. Apart from some small but significant steps on the internet, that's never really happened. I used to work for the AFL-CIO and lobby it to create media outlets, and it chose to put everything into pitching stories to the corporate media.

Seen any good stories about the struggles of working people in the corporate media lately?

And yet somehow Bernie Sanders, who's had the right positions on media reform for decades, has found his way into what amounts to a massive amount of media attention for someone saying something decent -- a significant percentage even of the media coverage Joe Biden received for not entering the presidential race; Sanders may even reach double figures in time spent belittling him as a percentage of the time spent hyping Donald Trump in the media. That could be worth many millions of dollars.

Bernie Sanders' platform is, of course, the same as the table of contents of When We Fight We Win. He's not communicating much, if anything, about peace as an alternative to war. But he's communicating a similar message to Occupy's about wealth and economic justice. If people actually don't know what Scandinavian countries do, or if people literally can't imagine funding education and retirement rather than billionaires, Bernie could be a single-handed movement for change. At the moment, I think he is.

But to the extent that what people learn is that a movement should be a presidential candidate, and should live or die with that candidate, then they are learning a deeply flawed lesson with great potential for debilitating disappointment and despair.

On all of the topics in When We Fight We Win, Bernie advances the discussion beyond where the usual candidates take it. If the media does to him what I've long assumed it will do, or if -- as I certainly hope -- it doesn't, the question will be the same: how can we seize opportunities to accomplish larger and more lasting steps forward, building on anything that anyone learned from his campaign?

A good place to start is with When We Fight We Win.

Talk Nation Radio: Colin Beavan on How to Be Alive

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-colin-beavan-on-how-to-be-alive

Colin Beavan attracted international attention for his year-long lifestyle redesign project and popular book and documentary film, No Impact Man. He has appeared on Nightline, Good Morning America, The Colbert Report, The Montel Williams Show, and NPR, and his story has been featured in news outlets from Time magazine to The New York Times. A sought after speaker by wide-ranging audiences, he also consults with businesses on improving eco-friendly and human-centered practices. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. And his new book is called How to Be Alive: A Guide to the Kind of Happiness That Helps the World.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

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

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

The Actual State of the Union, or FDR's Four Freedoms Become Obama's Four Questions

Originally published by Telesur

President Barack Obama used his final State of the Union speech to claim that "America is leading the fight against climate change," while in reality the United States is far and away the worst offender, per capita, in the ongoing mad race to render the earth's climate uninhabitable. We "cut our imports of foreign oil," Obama brags, as if earth cares what flag its pollution belches into the air under. "Gas under two bucks a gallon ain't bad," said the President, wildly missing the mark. Yes, it is bad, if you're trying to preserve a livable planet, not just win cheap applause.

"I'm going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources," said the president. He made no mention of changing the way the U.S. government hands out subsidies to those industries.

The state of U.S. militarism also took a leap into an alternate reality. The President openly (if understatedly) bragged: "We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined." He was open about the global chess board he's playing on: "Russia is pouring resources to prop up Ukraine and Syria — states they see slipping away from their orbit." And, somehow, "surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead — they call us." They do? All people of the world? It's just two years since a Gallup poll found the United States widely viewed around the world as the greatest threat to peace. When Russia and China vetoed war on Syria, much of the world wondered why they couldn't have tried to save Libya.

The President claimed that U.S.-created Middle Eastern disasters he helped to exacerbate are "conflicts that date back millennia." He also proposed -- no joke -- "winning" in "destroying" ISIS this year. Hmm. About closing that prison in Guantanamo and ending those wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ... ? After years of taking credit for "ending" the war on Afghanistan, Obama has switched to not mentioning it.

Also gone missing: the U.S. Constitution. "With or without Congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons," said this former "Constitutional law professor," promising presidential war regardless of Congressional action. On Syria, Obama euphemized, "we’re partnering with local forces." Is that what you call them now? He also opposed "calls to carpet bomb civilians" after he led the dropping of over 20,000 bombs on mostly Muslim countries just in the past year.

The supreme value in this speech, as in the presidential debates it mocked, was revenge: "When you come after Americans, we go after you. ... [W]e have long memories, and our reach has no limit."

Remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Four Freedoms? Speech, worship, want, and fear? Obama has now proposed Four Questions. I'm paraphrasing:

1. How do you make a fair economy? (well not by bailing out the bankers and then coming out against them in a speech 7 years too late).

2. How do you make technology work, including on climate change? (what if the solution to climate change involves less technology? what if blaming technology and globalism for a bad economy overlooks the long-forgotten promises of the Employee Free Choice Act and the prize-winning marketing campaign of Obama 2008?)

3. How do you keep America safe and lead the world but not be the world's policeman? (Has the world asked for a leader? Why isn't cooperation an option?)

4. Can our politics reflect what's best in us? (Whatever.)

After seven years of worsening climate, ocean, plutocracy, wars, blowback, surveillance, retribution for whistleblowers, secrecy, presidential power abuses, and drone murders, this is what you've got for us, Mr. President?

The lesson I take away is this: Pay little attention to 2016 campaign promises. Pay great attention to mobilizing the public pressure that has been missing for seven years.

A Homeland Is a Country That Allows Domestic Use of Military

Have you seen Dahr Jamail's report on U.S. military plans for war games in Washington state? I'm sure some observers imagine that the military is simply looking for a place to engage in safe and responsible and needed practice in hand-to-hand combat against incoming North Korean nuclear missiles, or perhaps to rehearse a humanitarian invasion of Russia to uphold the fundamental international law against Vladimir Putin's existence.

But if you look over the history of domestic use of the U.S. military -- such as by reading the new book Soldiers on the Home Front: The Domestic Role of the American Military -- it's hard not to wonder whether, from the U.S. military's point of view, at least a side benefit of the coming war game isn't rehearsing for the next time citizens in kayaks interfere with a corporation intent on poisoning the earth's climate with fossil fuels.

Soldiers on the Home Front is almost rah-rah enthusiastic in its support for the U.S. military: "Our task here is to celebrate the U.S. military's profound historical and continuing contribution to domestic tranquility, while at the same time ... ." Yet it tells a story of two centuries of the U.S. military and state militias and the National Guard being used to suppress dissent, eliminate labor rights, deny civil liberties, attack Native Americans, and abuse African Americans. Even the well-known restrictions on military use put into law and often ignored -- such as the Posse Comitatus Act -- were aimed at allowing, not preventing, the abuse of African Americans. The story is one of gradually expanding presidential power, both in written law and in practice, with the latter far outpacing the former.

Some of us are grateful to see restraint in the approach to the men occupying a federal facility in Oregon. But we are horrified by the lack of similar restraint in using the military or militarized police against peaceful protesters in U.S. cities. Police departments as we know them simply did not exist when the U.S. Constitution -- virtually unaltered since -- was cobbled together in an age of muskets, slavery, and genocide. Among the developments that concern me far more than the authors of Soldiers on the Home Front:

Numerous drills and practices, and the locking down of Boston, desensitizing people to the presence of the U.S. military on our streets.

Congress members threatened with martial law if they vote against their oligarchs.

The legalization of lawless military imprisonment without charge or trial for U.S. citizens or anyone else.

The legalization of murder by drone or any other technology of U.S. citizens or anyone else, with arguments that apply within the Homeland just as anywhere else, though we've been told all the murders have been abroad.

Nuclear weapons illegally flown across the country and left unguarded.

Mercenaries on the streets of New Orleans after a hurricane.

Northcom given legal power to illegally act within the United States against the people of the United States.

Fusion centers blurring all lines between military and domestic government violence.

Secret and not-so-secret continuity of government plans that could put martial law in place at the decision of a president or in the absence of a president.

The militarization of the Mexican border.

The gruesome history and future of the attack on the Bonus Army, the bombing of West Virginia, Operation Northwoods, tin soldiers and Nixon coming, and Franklin Roosevelt's actual and Donald Trump's possible internment camps.

The authors of Soldiers on the Home Front claim that we must balance all such dangers with the supposed need for a military to address "storms, earthquakes, cyber attacks ..., bioterrorism." Why must we? None of these threats can be best addressed by people trained and armed to kill and destroy. When only such people have funding and numbers and equipment, they can look preferable to nothing. But what if we had an unarmed, nonviolent green energy brigade taking on the protection of the climate, and non-military police ready to enforce laws in crises, a major new Civilian Conservation Corps trained and equipped and funded to provide emergency services, a computer whiz team dedicated to fending off cyber attacks and preventing their ongoing provocation by U.S. government cyber attackers, a publicly funded healthcare system prepared for health emergencies, and a State Department redirected away from weapons marketing and into a new project of building respectful and cooperative relations with the world?

If the United States were to move from militarism to all of the above, the main problem would be what to do with all of the remaining money.

Talk Nation Radio: Cynthia McKinney's Real State of the Union

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-cynthia-mckinneys-real-state-of-the-union

Cynthia McKinney has served in the Georgia State Legislature and the United States Congress where she voted against NAFTA, opposed the war on Iraq, and introduced the first resolution for the impeachment of George W. Bush.

She didn't leave Congress until Diebold voting machines flipped votes away from her right in front of voters' eyes.

She has been a Green Party candidate for U.S. President.

She recently completed a PhD in Leadership and Change.

Read her dissertation: “El No Murio, El Se Multiplico!” Hugo Chávez : The Leadership and the Legacy on Race

And her books:

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

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

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Guess Where Huge Funds for Fighting Climate Change Are Being Wasted


In the United States it's not actually difficult to find significant funding with which to research new and innovative -- not to say bizarre and absurd -- pursuits, as long as they form part of an overall project of mass murder.

The United States has hundreds of programs at universities, think tanks, and research institutes that claim to devote their attention to “security” and “defense” studies. Yet in almost all of these programs that receive many millions of dollars in Federal funding, the vast majority of research, advocacy and instruction have nothing to do with climate change, the most serious threat to security of our age.

Hence the need for this petition to the U.S. Congress: End federal funding for security and defense programs at universities and think tanks that do not take climate change as their primary subject for research and for instruction. All universities, think tanks and research institutes that claim to be concerned with “security” or “defense” research must devote at least 70% of their resources to work on the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change, or lose their eligibility for Federal funding.

This excellent proposal originated with Emanuel Yi Pastreich, Director of The Asia Institute. Other signers, including myself: David Swanson, Director, World Beyond War; John Kiriakou, Associate fellow, Institute for Policy Studies; John Feffer, Director, Foreign Policy in Focus; Norman Solomon, Cofounder, RootsAction.org; Coleen Rowley, Retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis Division legal counsel.

Why do we think this is important? Why do we plan to deliver the petition to the Senate Committee on Armed Services and the House Armed Services Committee? Here's why:

In an act of profound intellectual irresponsibility, so-called scholars of "security studies" spend their hours imagining fantastic military scenarios, rather than responding to the incontrovertible threat of climate change which scientists have unanimously identified as a reality.

We cannot waste any more of our tax dollars on security and defense studies that fail to address the primary threat to the well-being of the United States, and of the world.

The time has come to put an end to this insanity. We demand that all programs of defense and security studies in the United States identify in their statement of purpose climate change as the primary security threat to the United States and that they dedicate at least 70% of their budgets to research, teaching and advocacy to the critical topics of mitigation of (primarily) and adaptation to (secondarily) climate change.

Any program that fails to focus on climate change in this manner should lose its status for Federal funding.

Mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change should be the primary concerns for all in security and defense field studies. Obviously other security issues deserve study, but granted the fact that the cost of climate change will run in the trillions of dollars over the next decade, and even more beyond then, we do not have the funds to support programs that are not dedicated to addressing this immediate threat.

Berning Down Wall Street

I don't know where this will end but every time I write about a book on Bernie Sanders, somebody sends me a larger one. At least my arms are getting stronger from lifting the things. One point is clear to me: if the media ever wanted to catch up on all the coverage of Bernie's campaign that it has foregone, it could do it with a minimum-wage staffer reading aloud from books -- reducing the need to find corporations opposed to oligarchy to buy the advertisements. The reporting is in books, it's just not in newspapers or boob tubes.

The latest is Bernie: A Lifelong Crusade Against Wall Street & Wealth by Darcy G. Richardson. Like the last one was, it is now the most substantial reporting I've seen on Bernie's political career. It also does the most to include the voices of Bernie's critics from the left (see Chapter 1). In addition it, by far, includes the most information on Bernie's foreign policy actions, good and bad, over the decades. The book is a bit too heavy on horse-race coverage of each of Sanders' past elections for my taste, but people who like that stuff will eat it up.

Having written elsewhere today about public diplomacy by towns and cities, I was particularly struck by Richardson's chapter titled "International Diplomacy," which covers, not Bernie's career in Washington, but his time as mayor of Burlington, Vt. It is safe to say that when it comes to foreign policy Bernie was better then than he is now, was better then than any current mayor in the United States, and was better then than possibly any other mayor ever. I say that while continuing to condemn the horrible things he did, including arresting peace activists for demanding conversion of weapons jobs to peaceful ones.

Mayor Bernie denounced the Pentagon budget, explained its local relevance, demanded nuclear disarmament, opposed apartheid in South Africa, and sought to improve U.S.-Soviet relations. "We're spending billions on military," he said, touching on a theme that today he wouldn't prod with a $10 billion screw out of an F-35. "Why can't we take some of that money to pay for thousands of U.S. children to go to the Soviet Union? And, why can't the Soviets take money they're spending on arms and use it to send thousands of Russian children to America?"

Mayor Bernie backed a successful ballot initiative telling the U.S. military to get out of El Salvador. He denounced the U.S. attack on Grenada. The Burlington Board of Alderman voted to encourage trade between Burlington and Nicaragua, in defiance of President Ronald Reagan's embargo. Mayor Bernie accepted an invitation from the Nicaraguan government to visit Nicaragua, where he spoke out against U.S. war mongering, and from which he returned to a speaking tour letting Vermonters know what he's seen and learned. He had also set up a sister city relationship for Burlington with a city in Nicaragua. He led an effort that provided $100,000 in aid to that city.

Again, articulating basic common sense wisdom that he wouldn't come near today for love or the presidency, Mayor Bernie Sanders said, "Instead of invading Nicaragua and spending tremendous amounts of tax dollars on a war there, money which could be much better used at home, it seems to me that it would be worthwhile for us to get to know the people of Nicaragua, understand their problems and concerns, and see how we can transform the present tension-filled relationship into a positive one based on mutual respect." Just try to imagine Senator Sanders saying that about the people of Syria or Iraq.

Richardson's book is of course largely devoted to the topic of taking on Wall Street greed, on which Sanders has been stellar and consistent for years and years. But we do also catch glimpses of Sanders' evolving foreign policy from his opposition to the war on Vietnam (which was more serious than other books have suggested) through to his proposal that Saudi Arabia "get its hands dirty" and kill more people. At the time of the Gulf War, Sanders was far more hawkish than a simple look at his No vote on invasion suggests. He supported the troop build up and the deadly embargo. He backed the NATO bombing in Kosovo. He opposed until very late any efforts to impeach Bush or Cheney.

But on the matter of Wall Street, Sanders has been as good in the past as he was in this week's speech. He warned of the danger of a crash years before it came, and questioned people like Alan Greenspan who brushed all worries aside. He opposed repealing Glass-Steagall. He opposed credit default swap scams. He opposed the appointments of Timothy Geithner and Jack Lew. His "big short" was perhaps to stay in politics until it became clear to all sane people that he'd been right on these matters, as on NAFTA and so much else. His favorite book in college, we learn, was Looking Backward. He found the root of most problems in capitalism. He developed a consistent ideology that makes his growing acceptance of militarism stand out as uniquely opportunistic and false.

By that I most certainly do not mean that he is a candidate for peace strategically pretending to be for war, as many voters told themselves about Barack Obama on even less basis. When Bernie was good on foreign policy he campaigned promising to be good on foreign policy. As his performance worsened, so did his campaign promises. Any elected official can be moved by public pressure, of course, but first he'd have to be elected and then we'd have to move him -- something millions of people have taken a principled stand against even trying with President Obama.

One note in Sanders' defense: Richardson cites a rightwing newspaper article claiming that Bernie and his wife together are in the top 2 percent of income earners. It's worth noting that were that true it would not put them anywhere at all near the top 2 percent in accumulated wealth. It also seems to be an extreme estimate on behalf of the author of a sloppy article. Another source places the Sanders in the top 5 percent in income, while noting how extremely impoverished that leaves them by the standards of the U.S. Senate.

Cities of the World, Unite Against Nations' Wars

What if the very worst result of George W. Bush's war lies is that people stop taking seriously the danger of actual nuclear weapons actually falling into the hands of actual lunatics? Arguably the very worst result of Woodrow Wilson's lies about German atrocities in World War I was excessive skepticism about reports of Nazi atrocities leading up to and during World War II. The fact is that nuclear weapons are being recklessly maintained, built, developed, tested, and proliferated. The fact is that governments make mistakes, fail, collapse, and engage in evil actions.

By Dick Cheney's calculation, if there was a 1% chance that a pile of ridiculous lies was true, it justified all out war on the world, destabilizing a region, killing and making homeless millions, and birthing radical new terrorist forces. By my calculation, there is a 100% chance that if we continue current nuclear policies, sooner or later, a huge number of people -- quite possibly all people -- will die, many of them with melted skin, eyes hanging out of their sockets, noses burnt off, and screams of bitter envy for those already dead. Surely this justifies some slight action of some sort, apart from more fracking or building internment camps for Muslims.

I say that's my calculation, but the idea actually arises -- one of many -- from my reading of an excellent book called City, Save Thyself! Nuclear Terror and the Urban Ballot. It was written by David Wylie, a former Cambridge, Mass., city councilor who helped initiate the first municipal Commission on Peace and Disarmament, the twenty U.S.-Soviet Sister City alliances, and an urban referendum effort against nuclear weapons.

What if we were to confront real dangers of nuclear apocalypse and climate apocalypse without the fear that produces stupidity, but with smart strategic action aimed at substantive change? That brings me to a second favorite idea from Wylie's book, and what I take to be his central proposal. Democratic people power is the force that can put a halt to the war profiteers and weapons proliferators. Democratic people power can best be created at the level of towns and cities. Towns and cities of the world can together form a federalist structure of global power of the sort that nations will never produce and which the United Nations has fervently resisted since its creation.

Do you live in a town or city in the United States? When you organize, are you able in some small way to influence your local government? Would people in your town be willing to communicate with people in a foreign town, perhaps a largely Muslim foreign town? Would people in your town be interested in a world that reduced and eliminated weapons of mass destruction? Would people in your town appreciate major new resources for education, infrastructure, green energy, and jobs -- resources that would become available with reductions in military spending? Would the people of your city like to tell the people of a foreign nation that, despite many differences and mutual ignorance of each other, you'd prefer not to see the U.S. military bomb them, and you'd in fact like to get to know them better through cultural exchanges and joint action as members of a global security committee?

None of this is far fetched. Cities and towns are in fact where it is entirely possible to get things done. While activist groups focus their efforts on doomed bills in Congress, U.S. cities are taking huge strides on election reform, green energy, education, voting rights, etc. We need to shift our worldviews to properly pursue this course. We need to stop identifying ourselves by the name of a nation, and instead think of ourselves in terms of our towns and the world. There is overwhelming evidence that redirecting political engagement from national advocacy that almost always fails into local advocacy that often works would be less a redirection of a finite amount of civic action and more a generation of vast new quantities of popular democratic work.

Sister and twin cities, Mayors for Peace, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, the League of Historical Cities, and other such organizations point to the potential for giving local political strength a broader grip on the world. Communication across distances and languages is growing easier by the minute. Agreement that our communities would be better off not burned to the ground by either bombs or climate chaos is among the easiest and least controversial notions available to be proposed to a diverse group of democratic-spirited representatives from planet earth.

Here in Charlottesville, Virginia, I, as a Charlottesvillian and World Citizen, am pleased to report that our local city council has in recent years passed resolutions against possible wars on various countries, including Iraq and Iran, in favor of conversion to peaceful industries, and against the use of drones. Our city council, like most, routinely informs its state general assembly of its wishes. And the influence of the city's official voice does not end there. Cville's past resolutions on Iraq, military spending, uranium, and other matters have inspired other localities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to raise their voices as well. Some of these resolutions have been directed to the federal government, to which the residents of Charlottesville pay taxes and whose laws the residents of Charlottesville are subject to.

This is how our federalist republic is supposed to work. City council members in Virginia take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Cities and towns routinely send petitions to Congress for all kinds of requests. This is allowed under Clause 3, Rule XII, Section 819, of the Rules of the House of Representatives. This clause is routinely used to accept petitions from cities, and memorials from states, all across the United States. The same is established in the Jefferson Manual, the rule book for the House originally written by Thomas Jefferson for the Senate.

In 1967 a court in California ruled (Farley v. Healey , 67 Cal.2d 325) that "one of the purposes of local government is to represent its citizens before the Congress, the Legislature, and administrative agencies in matters over which the local government has no power. Even in matters of foreign policy it is not uncommon for local legislative bodies to make their positions known."

Abolitionists passed local resolutions against U.S. policies on slavery. The anti-apartheid movement did the same, as did the nuclear freeze movement, the movement against the PATRIOT Act, the movement in favor of the Kyoto Protocol, etc. We are not an island. If we become environmentally sustainable, others will ruin our climate. If we ban assault weapons, they'll arrive at our borders. And if the skies of the United States are filled with drones, it will become ever more difficult for Charlottesville to keep them out.

Wylie's proposal would further empower my city and thousands of other cities, each of which would appoint a representative to a global body. If nations won't protect the climate, cities of the world can nonetheless agree to do so. If nations won't resolve disputes by peaceful means, cities can nonetheless make that happen. If nations won't invest in peaceful industries, cities and towns can nonetheless create programs of economic conversion to industries that provide greater economic benefit while also reducing the chances of violent death by nuclear hell fire.

Wylie's proposal should be read in its entirety in his book, which outlines numerous ways for cities to advance this process, including ways to encourage and recognize world citizens, and to encourage and recognize world cities. Cities can also use referenda, rather than council votes, to give democratic weight and wisdom to their actions. And national politicians who denounce the broken system they are part of can take actions to strengthen the local-level system that still has life in it.

The proposal here is not to risk federal prosecution by secretly negotiating with foreign national governments. Rather the idea is to risk an outbreak of peace and mutual understanding by publicly interacting with local governments from one's own and other parts of the world. This public diplomacy could be truly public in the sense of publishing full video of all of its interactions on the public internet. (An outline for such transparency can be found in the remnants of broken campaign promises from a certain national U.S. political candidate of 2008.)

Wylie's book is a guide to action and includes in it a model letter to your local mayor or city council, a model resolution, a model agenda for a first meeting of a municipal security assembly, and a rich bibliography for deeper understanding of how to make this work. I highly recommend it.

Iniquity, the 0.000006%, and Who Pays $300k to Hear Hillary

The United States' 20 wealthiest people (The 0.000006 Percent) now own more wealth than the bottom half of the U.S. population combined, a total of 152 million people in 57 million households. The Forbes 400 now own about as much wealth as the nation's entire African-American population — plus more than a third of the Latino population — combined; more wealth combined than the bottom 61 percent of the U.S. population, an estimated 194 million people or 70 million households.

These stats are from the Middle Ages and also from the Institute for Policy Studies which acknowledges that much wealth is hidden offshore and the reality is likely even worse.

What did those 20 wealthiest, most meritorious people do to deserve such disgusting riches? The group includes four Wal-Mart heirs, three Mars candy heirs, and two Koch brother heirs. They earned their wealth by being born to wealthy parents, just like some who want to work for them, such as Donald Trump. One politician is actually one of them: Michael Bloomberg.

These individuals could fund a total shift to clean energy or end starvation on earth or eradicate diseases. That they choose not to is murderous and shameful. It's not their sacred right. It's not cute. And it's not funny when one of them pretends to give his money away by giving it to himself.

The 0.000006 Percent has a tight grip on the media as well, with Jeff Bezos owning the Washington Post and Amazon, Sheldon Adelson buying newspapers, Mark Zuckerberg owning Facebook, Larry Page and Sergey Brin with Google, Warren Buffet owning whole chains of newspapers, and again Bloomberg with Bloomberg News.

In the first phase of the 2016 Presidential election cycle, according to the New York Times, 158 wealthy donors provided half of all campaign contributions, 138 of them backing Republicans, 20 backing Democrats. No candidate can easily compete without huge amounts of money. And if you get it from small donors, as Bernie Sanders has done the most of, you'll be largely shut out of free media coverage, and belittled in the bit of coverage you're granted. The media coverage, the debate questions, and the topics discussed are determined by the interests of the wealthy in this national oligarchy.

Then there's the corrupt foundation money and speaking fees flowing into the Clinton family from wealthy sources in the U.S. and abroad. While most Americans are unable to sit through a full presidential debate, Wall Street, Big Pharma, and corporate technology interests have shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars supposedly just to hear Hillary or Bill Clinton speak.

According to a new report by Consortium News, Hillary Clinton took in $11.8 million in 51 speaking fees between January 2014 to May 2015. Bill Clinton delivered 53 paid speeches to bring in $13.3 million during that same period. That's over $25 million total, largely if not entirely from wealthy parties with a strong interest in influencing U.S. government policy.

This system of rewarding former politicians is one of the great corrupting forces in Washington, DC, but the revolving door that brings such politicians back into power makes it many times worse.

According to the Washington Post, since 1974 the Clintons have raised at least $3 billion, including at least $69 million just from the employees and PACs of banks, insurance companies, and securities and investment firms.

According to the International Business Times, the Clintons' foundation took in money from foreign nations while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, nations such as Saudi Arabia for which she then waived restrictions on U.S. weapons sales. (Also on that list: Algeria, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar.) I brought this up on a recent television program, and one of the other guests protested that I was not, at that moment, criticizing Donald Trump. But, even if we assume Trump is the worst person on earth, what has he done that is worse than taking a bribe to supply Saudi Arabia with the weapons that have since been used to slaughter children in Yemen? And what does Trump have to do with bribery? He's self-corrupted. He's in the race because of the financial barrier keeping decent people out. But he hasn't been bribed to act like a fascist.

The Wall Street Journal reports that during the same period, Bill Clinton was bringing in big speaking fees from companies, groups, and a foreign government with interests in influencing the U.S. State Department. Eight-digit donors to the Clintons' foundations include Saudi Arabia and Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk. Seven digit donors include: Kuwait, Exxon Mobil, Friends of Saudi Arabia, James Murdoch (son of Rupert), Qatar, Boeing, Dow, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart and the United Arab Emirates. Those chipping in at least half a million include Bank of America, Chevron, Monsanto, Citigroup, and the Soros Foundation. And they don't even get a speech!

Sign this petition:
We urge the Clintons to clear their corrupted image by donating their $25 million in recent lecture fees to organizations legitimately working for campaign finance reform, Wall Street reform, environmental protection, and peace.

Watch this video.

Should Criminalizing War Start by Pretending It’s Legal?

cover_18_Abolishing_WarThere’s a terrific new book on abolishing war called Abolishing War: Criminalizing War, Removing War Causes, Removing War as Institution. The authors are Johan Galtung, Erika Degortes, Irene Galtung, Malvin Gattinger, and Naakow Grant-Hayford. Johan Galtung, who was recently on my radio show, is brilliant as always, drawing on vast knowledge and wisdom.

As the book’s subtitle suggests, it proposes three types of approaches to eliminating war: “three approaches to have war join slavery and colonization in the dust-bin of history. No question of picking and choosing, they belong together and the more seamlessly, the better.” I couldn’t agree more, and will be drawing on the ideas in this book in the work we do at World Beyond War.

The book’s longest section is on criminalizing war, and it offers an argument I haven’t seen before. I think there’s great value in the argument, and that it can augment others. Nonetheless, I’m going to quibble with it.

Here is a book that practically quotes the arguments of the Outlawrists of the 1920s without mentioning them. It recommends, as its first recommended course of action right on the inside of the front cover, recreating Japan’s Article 9 for all states. And yet it largely ignores and bizarrely dismisses the existence of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, from which Article 9 derives (and which it practically quotes) and which already applies to most large nations.

The book’s second recommendation is to somehow build on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ “implicit” criminalization of war. Nowhere is it explained how an implicit criminalization of war is more useful than an explicit one. In fact, Irene Galtung rather wistfully imagines how nice it would be to have an explicit one. Nowhere is the problem mentioned that the United Nations, as “implicit” criminalizer of war, legalizes defensive and otherwise UN-authorized wars — two loopholes that have been stretched and abused to effectively allow any Western war whatsoever. This is, of course, in contrast to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which bans all war and requires that nations settle all of their disputes entirely peacefully.

In the one instance where the book refers to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, it claims that, “this opens two huge loop-holes: use of force by non-members, and by and on non-states.” There are a number of errors in this claim. One of them is chronological. There were no laws banning war prior to Kellogg-Briand. In forbidding war between nations, the pact took war away in many cases from many major wagers of war. The pact was open to and remains open to all nations. Any nation that is not a member can simply send a letter to the U.S. State Department and instantly become a member. So, the so-called loophole for non-members is one that has been closing and could close further, but it wasn’t opened by the pact. War was legal for all states against all states prior to 1928.

What about non-states? The states that made the pact considered, and still to this day consider, war by non-states to be illegal. In fact, they consider illegal almost any action, if not the very existence, of most entities that might wage war without being a state. Within states, killing by anyone other than the state, is forbidden by national laws and by customary standards of law — as outlined, in fact, by the strategy pursued in the book by Galtung et alia — on which, more in a second. The bigger shortcoming is the failure to outlaw war by a member state against a non-state, but most such wars are also wars on the populations of states and often against the will of the governments of those states, often — indeed — against yet other states using proxies to wage war for them. A shortcoming, moreover, is not a condemnation of a useful step as counterproductive; it’s just a shortcoming requiring an additional step forward.

Clearly Galtung does not really think that criminalizing war between nations is an unhelpful step. He wants to do it singly, nation by nation, modeled on Japan’s Article 9 (which arguably has the very same shortcomings as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, plus the shortcoming of only applying to a single nation). Of course, Article 9 is under threat, and somewhat similar statements in the Constitutions of Italy and Germany and other nations are even less adhered to. But Galtung is right: bans on war in national constitutions should be strengthened, defended, and complied with. Doing so, however, presents a problem of logic in dismissing the Kellogg-Briand Pact as unhelpful. Never mind the purity of heart of its creators (its creators in fact were masses of people who brought legislators to it kicking and screaming) or the perfection of compliance by its members heretofore. If Japan launches a major war next year, Galtung will still want Article 9 upheld — or he should; I will. The Kellogg-Briand Pact is a law clearly banning all war for most major nations, including the least likely nations to agree to newly creating such a law today. Other nations could sign onto it and urge their fellow members to comply with it. Malaysia, for example, could choose to become a member of the pact and suddenly find itself a leader among its members by advocating for compliance — and for accountability and reparations and reconciliation — exactly as it would have to do with eternal vigilance if it instead used its own version of Article 9, only in this case with the major war makers of the world formally committed in clear language to compliance as well.

Because war is, in a major way, already illegal, calls to criminalize it ring in my ear a bit hollow, a bit like the rhetoric of the U.S. Congress proposing over and over again, year after year, to re-criminalize torture, rather than prosecuting torturers under long-standing laws. But the approach to criminalizing war proposed by Irene Galtung certainly has some merit. It doesn’t exactly claim that war is now legal, but it does claim that in written law it is legal, and this strikes me as dangerous.

The argument that Irene Galtung makes is not unrelated to the argument I have long made about drone murders, namely that murder is illegal under national law and customary international law. And it is nearly identical to the argument that Marjorie Cohn and other lawyers make for the illegality of torture under customary international law — only applied to war rather than torture.

Irene Galtung’s idea is that customary international law is higher than written international law or written national law. The problem, as she readily admits, is that — being unwritten — it is highly controversial. Still, what’s needed is an act of interpretation not entirely unlike the interpretation of a written law. Galtung claims that all national constitutions provide a right to life, and that the right to use deadly force in self-defense exists only when such use is necessary for self-defense. War is deadly force, simply on a larger scale, and it is never necessary, as there are always alternatives. Therefore, logically, even if you’d be hard-pressed to get many well-paid lawyers or human rights organizations or governments or judges to admit it, war is a crime.

This argument (which I have, of course, only sketched very roughly) is smart, logical, and educationally useful. I plan to repeat it often. But what appeals to “customary law” come down to are attempts to radically change legal custom on the authority of current legal custom (reinterpreted). That this couldn’t be helped by also pointing to existing laws like the Kellogg-Briand Pact is difficult for me to imagine. In fact, later in the book the authors cite the UN’s Declaration of the Right of the Peoples to Peace. That we have a right to peace means that we have a right to the absence of war. The Declaration states that it:

“Emphasizes that ensuring the exercise of the right of peoples to peace demands that the policies of States be directed towards the elimination of the threat of war, particularly nuclear war, the renunciation of the use of force in international relations and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means on the basis of the Charter of the United Nations.”

The weakness is in those last few words, as the Charter contradicts itself and permits war. The Kellogg-Briand Pact lacks that particular weakness. I would love someday to hear a clear statement from Johan Galtung on what weaknesses he thinks its carries that justify its dismissal from public awareness and use.

Talk Nation Radio: Cian Westmoreland, former U.S. Air Force technician in Afghanistan, speaks against war

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-cian-westmoreland-former-us-air-force-technician-in-afghanistan-speaks-against-war 

Cian Westmoreland is a former Air Force technician who served in Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan at the 73rd Expeditionary Air Control Squadron. He assisted in building a signal relay station that was used for transmitting and receiving data, radio, and radar picture for unmanned and manned missions for approximately 250,000 square miles over Afghanistan. In a report provided to him after his tour, he was credited with assisting in 2,400 close air support missions and 200+ kills of supposed enemies. The UNAMA report for that year, 2009, claimed however that this number also included 359 civilians killed in airstrikes. Westmoreland discusses his experience.

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Identity Berned

Every time I write about a book about Bernie Sanders, somebody sends me a better one. If this keeps up, by the time his campaign is over I should be reading the best book ever written and be completely out of touch with reality. The latest is The Bern Identity by Will Bunch.

These books don't make me like Bernie Sanders any more or less, or for that matter take seriously any more or less the idea that a likable personality is particularly relevant. But they do inform me about Sanders and about his supporters. Bunch's is the most substantive, best researched, and most coherent book of the bunch so far.

Bunch admires Bernie for learning the lessons of the 1960s and, for the most part, never selling out. Bunch finds this remarkable, almost unique. And, of course, it is that among U.S. Senators, and among the gang of misfits occupying the two stages at the freak shows we call presidential primary debates. But there are many thousands of people who woke up during the 1960s and never went to sleep. Many of them have worked for peace and justice ever since with hardly a burnout. One could pick any number of them and stack their accomplishments up quite impressively against those of Bernie Sanders.

Yes, I agree that Bernie's injecting of a little bit of sense into corporate television is important and very hard to measure. Yes, I have no doubt that there's a bit more integrity and relevance in Bernie's background than there was in the legend of the African-American community-organizing author come to save us while shrewdly pretending not to. But Bernie holding the biggest political rallies in some big cities since Eugene McCarthy may not be an unmixed blessing.

I've written before about Bernie volunteers professing to be motivated by policies that their candidate explicitly opposes. Yet I cannot stay untouched by the excitement Bunch depicts at massive Bernie rallies he's attended. It's wonderful for people to suddenly discover that something might be possible, to suddenly give a damn, to suddenly do a tiny something about it. But it's also miserable to consider that they have been so well trained to do this only as cheerleaders for a candidate.

Surely that's not the lesson of the 1960s in which the civil rights and antiwar and other movements organized around issues and imposed change on the entire bipartisan political structure -- just as major change has usually been brought about. Yes, elections were hugely important in the Sixties, but they were secondary. Now they are Everything. The peace movement shut down in 2007 because there was to be an election in 2008, and it won't start up again until a Republican moves into the White House. Elections are terrific -- I'd love to see a fair and open one in the United States some day -- but there is a danger in the new myth that they are all that there is.

Bunch's book celebrates Bernie Sanders as having stayed true to his Sixties politics all these years, while the public moved away and has finally returned to him. I think there's something to that, but would offer a few caveats. First, there have always been millions of people wanting progressive policies, and they have been effectively shut out by the media, by the Democratic Party, and by an increasingly corrupted political system. Second, the other candidates have moved so far right that Bernie is closer to where a middle of the roader sits. Third, Bernie is fundamentally rightwing on militarism, and nobody wants to analyze that problem in any depth.

On the first point, I recommend Ted Rall's book on Bernie, the first half of which is a history of the Democratic Party's flight to the right.

On the second point, let's be honest, there are many people who could be doing more or less what Bernie is doing right now in the Democratic Primary. Most potential candidates sat this one out, either because Hillary Clinton claimed such a lock on the nomination or because committing to support her should she win was too revolting a decision to make in order to run as a Democrat. The media completely whites out third-party candidates like Jill Stein, and the public has been convinced they're useless. And yet, even as the Republicans ape Hitler and Mussolini, Hillary Clinton tries to position herself to their right. Bernie is a brilliant, dedicated, relatively honest candidate who has been given an opening by a combination of circumstances, not least of them perhaps the media's notion that an undecided primary is better for ratings as long as there's no risk of someone like Sanders actually winning.

On the third point, Bunch's history of Sanders' life suggests that it's not entirely new for him to give far less interest to peace than to domestic matters. There's no account of Sanders growing outraged over the war on Vietnam, rather over President John Kennedy's opposition to the Cuban revolution. Sanders registered as a conscientious objector, but he organized against racial discrimination and against restrictions on having sex on campus. Bunch seems not to notice the elephant that's not in the room. He says a Sanders speech is a laundry list of liberal issues in which everyone will hear whatever they're waiting for. Not if you're waiting to hear about peace.

Bunch doesn't hide the shortcomings. He notes that the Sanders campaign staff forced the removal of a banner advocating rights for Palestinians, that in 1983 peace activists protested a GE weapons plant in Burlington demanding conversion to peaceful manufacturing and Mayor Sanders had them arrested in the name of preserving 3,000 weapons-making jobs, and that in recent years Sanders has supported the production of the F-35 also in the name of jobs for Vermonters.

In 1972 Sanders wrote, as Bunch quotes him, that the daily U.S. military budget was greater than the annual state budget of Vermont. At $4 billion today, the state of Vermont is slightly over one day's military spending (taking annual military spending to be $1.2 trillion) but it has been a long time since Sanders has demanded conversion to peaceful spending. Instead, he has accepted the truly sociopathic notion that jobs (and jobs of a particular sort, as if a good socialist doesn't know that the same dollars could produce more jobs if spent on peace) justify militarism. Imagine how that sounds to the 96% of humanity never mentioned by Sanders, except when citing the successes of European nations whose radically lower military spending he seems not to have noticed.

Dear parent of dead children in Yemen just blown up by U.S. weapons, let me assure you that the money Saudi Arabia paid for those weapons -- if not the "contributions" to the Clinton family -- produced a lot of jobs. And while we could have had even more jobs by investing in something useful like green energy that would keep you from baking to death in the years to come, the fact is that I don't really give a damn.

Militarism is at least half of what Congress spends money on each year. It's not my personal quirky interest. Is it OK that Bernie excuses Israel's crimes because he's Jewish? Should we overlook his support for guns because he's from Vermont? These are debatable, because he's so wonderful on so many other things. But continuing down the path of sociopathic militarism is not an option if we are to maintain a livable planet. Bernie voted against the 2003 attack on Iraq, but then worked against those in Congess trying to block funding for it. Was that the right compromise? Was that authenticity?

Of course, the military spending debate is usually about the wars that add 10% or so to the standard military spending. When it comes to those, Sanders wants Saudi Arabia to start paying for them. But there are problems with that scheme. First, Saudi Arabia gets its money by selling the world the poisonous fossil fuels that will destroy it. Second, Saudi Arabia buys the biggest pile of its weapons from the United States, which thereby contributes to the mass slaughter -- and everyone knows it. Third, Saudi Arabia is one of the largest sources of funding and support for the people that Bernie imagines it funding a war against. Fourth, continuing these insane wars in the Middle East will continue to spread violence around and outside of that region, including to the United States, regardless of what share of the bill the United States is asking Saudi Arabia to pick up. That cycle of violence will only end by taking a different approach, not by continuing down the same road with a different billing scheme.

The great hope that comes to the smarter people at rallies for good candidates under corrupt electoral systems is that they are building a movement that will outlast the campaign. But when has that actually happened? And how can such a candidate-focused movement not bow before the candidate's own compromises?

The election book we really need is the one that explains the minor role elections play in social change. The next-best election book that we need, the one I keep looking for, is the one that outlines what each candidate proposes to do if elected. What would their proposed budgets look like? Which nations would they bomb first? Does Bernie think military spending is too high or too low? Who knows! I expect the question not to come up in the next dozen Bernie books, but I'll keep looking.

Bern the Feel

If you have to obsess over a political candidate who's ocassionally allowed on television, please do so with Ted Rall's book on Bernie. This is not John Nichols' interview of Bernie in which he forgets that foreign policy even exists. This is not Jonathan Tasini's almost worshipful book in which he selectively includes the best and omits the worst of Bernie Sanders' record.

And this is not even just an honest look at the facts about Bernie (which Rall sees as far more positive than negative). What sets this book apart is not that it's a cartoon, but that it's an argument for placing Bernie Sanders in a particular position in U.S. history, namely as the restoration of liberalism to a Democratic Party that hasn't seen it since the McGovern campaign.

In fact, a huge chunk of the book is not about Bernie at all, but is a history of the rightward drifting of the Democratic Party over the decades. Another big chunk is a history of Bernie's childhood and career. Both of these sections are well done. Then comes the "Return of the Democratic Left," the supposed rebirth of leftism within the Democratic Party.

Rall suggests this as a possibility, but I'm pretty sure he finds it quite a bit more likely than I do. Rall says that in order to win, Bernie has to create the impression that he can win. Well, of course, in a certain sense he could. Polls show him defeating Trump, for whatever polls are worth, and defeating him by more than Hillary Clinton would.

But is that what Bernie has to do to win? I should think he would have to convince the media gatekeepers that he favors corporate power, that he would have to win over the corrupt super-delegates, that he or a team of lawyers or a movement of activists would have to clean out the bureaucracy of the corrupt Democratic National Committee.

I remain convinced that the media is keeping Sanders and Trump around for ratings and will destroy them as soon as it chooses, and never chooses to do such a thing as early as the December of the year before the election. In part, I attribute a lot more power to the media in general than Rall may. He tells the story of the rise and fall of Occupy without mentioning the media that fundamentally created it and largely destroyed it. I also am of course aware that history is not quite as simple as a fairy tale.

"Here for the first time in 40 years was a candidate running for the Democratic nomination who was talking about bread and butter issues," writes Rall of Sanders. But such candidates have of course existed. The year 2004 doesn't make it into Rall's history, or the name John Kerry, but in that year I worked for the campaign of Dennis Kucinich who also ran in 2008. His campaigns failed badly, but Jesse Jackson's campaign of 1984 won more states than Sanders has yet won.

Sanders is doing remarkably well, but when people's televisions tell them they must vote against him, will they disobey? The U.S. public has become intensely obedient. I think it's worth keeping a few things in mind:

1. The U.S. government mostly produces weapons and wars. Militarism is at least half of discretionary spending every year. Rall honestly notes various wars that Bernie has supported. But neither Rall nor anyone else has the slightest idea whether Sanders thinks military spending should stay at 50% of the budget, drop to 5%, or rise to 90%. Such basic policy questions are not asked.

2. Most serious political change has never come through elections, it has come through popular movements that influence or overwhelm whoever happens to hold power.

3. If Bernie is tossed under the bus by the caucus and primary voters, in predictable obedience to their televisions, the cause of saving the earth will not be lost. You will not be required to go into deep mourning. An interesting distraction will have been set aside, nothing more.

4. Understanding all of that, it'd certainly be better for Bernie to win than any of the other Democrats and Republicans. And it would mean the sort of Rooseveltian transformation of the Democratic Party that Rall sees coming.



Talk Nation Radio: William Arkin on the Most Militarized Universities in the United States

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-william-arkin-on-the-most-militarized-universities-in-the-united-states 

William M. Arkin is a scholar, analyst, author and journalist who has been working on the subject of militarism for over 40 years. He is author, most recently of Unmanned: Drones, Data and the Illusion of Perfect Warfare (Little Brown, 2015).  He is a national security consultant at Vice News and to NBC News Investigates, the investigative arms of NBC News. His website is at https://williamaarkin.wordpress.com Arkin is the author with Alexa O'Brien of a report on Vice News called "The Most Militarized Universities in America."

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

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

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Talk Nation Radio: Chris Williams on How Paris Set the Earth on a Course to Burn

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-chris-williams-on-how-paris-set-the-earth-on-a-course-to-burn 

Chris Williams wrote the book Ecology & Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis. He is a long-time environmental activist with a scientific background and has authored numerous articles on the science and politics of climate change and energy for various media outlets. He's a writer-in-residence at Truthout, and an educator and professor at Pace University in the dept of chemical and physical sciences. He discusses climate change after Paris.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

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

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

A Quiz to See if U.S. Schools Taught You State Propaganda

U.S. schools provide a great deal of useful information, but also leave out a great deal. Please see whether you can answer the following questions before scrolling down and clicking a link at the bottom for the answers. How many can your kids answer? Can your kids' teachers answer them? Can your parents answer them? Can your uncle who tells you whom to vote for and what to think answer them?

These questions are not intended to comprise an ideal comprehensive course in U.S. or world history. They are intended as a quick sampling of the sort of material that would be included, along with other material, in a basic education that wasn't twisted by the interests of the U.S. government. There might be many questions I would have chosen to include in the place of some of these if I knew more. I was educated in public schools in Fairfax Country, Va., where the schools were ranked among the best in the country. I have a Master's in philosophy from the University of Virginia. I didn't learn the answer to a single one of these questions in any school.

If you can give a generally accurate response to most of these questions, you have almost certainly gone out of your way to learn things not taught in U.S. schools. If you find most of them difficult to answer, I would urge you not to quickly conclude that this is because the topics asked about are of minor importance. Please consider with an open mind whether these questions are not in fact central and vital to the education of a citizen of the United States. And please consider how they relate to what you would expect people in other countries to learn about their own histories.  

1.     Should German schools teach how many people Germany killed in World War II?

2.     How many was it?

3.     Should U.S. schools teach how many people the United States killed in wars on Native Americans, in the Philippines, in Vietnam, or in Iraq?

4.     How many was it?

5.     How many Africans were put on ships to the United States in chains?

6.     How many made it there alive?

7.     How many people lived enslaved in the United States before slavery was officially ended?

8.     How many after that?

9.     Who was Olaudah Equiano?

10.What percentage of deaths in wars of the past half-century have been civilian?

11.How many people has the United States killed in wars, large and small, since 1950?

12.How many democratic governments has the U.S. government overthrown?

13.If you persistently asked for money for a trip, finally got some, went on the trip to a foreign country, and then murdered anyone you met there who failed to give you lots of gold, would a good teacher praise your persistence in asking for the money for the trip?

14.Would they praise Christopher Columbus' persistence?

15.Can you name some Virginians who chose to free everyone they had enslaved while Thomas Jefferson was enslaving more people?

16.What is the appropriate justification for Jefferson enslaving people?

17.What percentage of people in the world are in the United States?

18.What percentage of prisoners in the world are in the United States?

19.What percentage of military spending in the world is by the U.S. government?

20.What percentage is by the U.S. government and its close allies?

21.What percentage of foreign military troops stationed in nations around the world are U.S. troops?

22.What percentage of the world's nations have U.S. troops in them?

23.In what nations of the world do people have the longest life expectancy? Name 3 of the top 10.

24.What nations of the world poll highest for happiness? Name 3 of the top 10.

25.What nations of the world have the highest inequality of wealth? Name 3 of the top 10.

26.What nations of the world have the greatest economic opportunity and mobility? Name 3 of the top 10.

27.What nations' students score highest in academic tests? Name 3 of the top 10.

28.How many of the world's 50 wealthiest nations provide free and universal health coverage?

29.Which countries provide the best retirement security? Name 3 of the top 10.

30.How much does it cost to attend college in Brazil, Germany, Finland, France, Norway, Slovenia, and Sweden?

31.In which nations do people average the shortest working hours? Name 3 of the top 10.

32.How many wealthy nations guarantee no paid parental leave?

33.Which nations have the highest labor union representation? Name 3 of the top 10.

34.In which nations of the world does one face the lowest risk of violent crime? Name 3 of the top 10.

35.Approximately how much money does the U.S. government spend every year?

36.Where does that money come from?

37.How much of that money is in dedicated permanent funds separate from the rest of the budget or otherwise mandatory, and how much is subject to the discretion of the Congress?

38.What percentage of discretionary spending is for war preparations?

39.What percentage is for foreign aid, education, or environmental protection?

40.What is the correlation between Congress members' actions and their sources of funding?

41.What is the correlation between greatest campaign funding and electoral victory?

42.What is the success rate in Congressional reelection campaigns by incumbents?

43.Does the U.S. government subsidize fossil fuels?

44.Does the U.S. government subsidize nuclear energy?

45.How many private insurance companies insure nuclear power plants?

46.Is the United States a democracy, republic, communist collective, dictatorship, or oligarchy?

47.Which nations are the world's top weapons exporters?

48.Name at least three recent wars in which weapons from the same nation were used on both sides.

49.Explain, by comparison to Canada, how the United States benefitted from its revolution against England.

50.How did the U.S. revolution benefit Native Americans, farmers, enslaved people, and women?

51.Were there more or fewer popular rebellions in the United States after the revolution?

52.What nation did Congress members predict would welcome invaders as liberators in 1812?

53.Did it?

54.What nation did the United States steal the northern half of in the 1840s through a bloody war despite that nation's willingness to negotiate a nonviolent sale of the land?

55.What was the one condition the United States insisted on in acquiring that land?

56.What President lied to start that war?

57.What Congressman denounced his lies?

58.What hero of that war and future president denounced the war as an immoral outrage?

59.What percentage of nations that abolished slavery fought civil wars before doing so?

60.Why did Mississippi say it was seceding from the United States?

61.How was slavery ended in Washington DC?

62.How many years since 1776 has the United States gone without any wars?

63.What evidence was there that Spain blew up theMaine?

64.What did Spain propose instead of the Spanish-American war?

65.Name three reasons President McKinley gave for occupying the Philippines.

66.Name three good reasons for World War I.

67.What was the general theme of the most common lies of the Four-Minute Men?

68.What was the Lusitania carrying on its fateful voyage, and what advertisement had Germany placed in U.S. newspapers prior to its sailing?

69.What U.S. Secretary of State resigned over President Woodrow Wilson's position regarding the Lusitania?

70.What were the Greer and the Kerney and which U.S. President lied about them?

71.Is the Monroe Doctrine popular in Latin America?

72.What U.S. President encouraged Japanese imperialism, promising them a Monroe Doctrine for Asia?

73.Name one or more observers who predicted at the time of the Treaty of Versailles that it would lead to World War II. Why did they say that?

74.Would a stalemate in World War I, rather than a lopsided victory, have led to the same future?

75.How many right-wing coups were seriously planned against President Franklin Roosevelt?

76.Who was Smedley Butler and what did he conclude about the institution of war?

77.Why was Butler locked up in Quantico?

78.What U.S. whistleblower was later locked up in Quantico and kept naked in a tiny cell?

79.What had she exposed?

80.During the 1930s and early 1940s U.S. peace activists held demonstrations against growing U.S. hostility and war preparations against what nation?

81.Prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, what did Winston Churchill tell his cabinet that President Franklin Roosevelt had promised to do in order to bring the United States into the war in Europe?

82.What did FDR use a forged Nazi map to lie to the U.S. public about, and who forged the map?

83.What was the Ludlow Amendment?

84.Prior to Pearl Harbor, in the diary of the U.S. Secretary of War, when did he say FDR expected a Japanese attack?

85.Did the United States begin supporting China in its war against Japanese aggression before or after Pearl Harbor?

86.What was President Roosevelt's approach to Jewish refugees?

87.What percentage of World War II propaganda posters in the United States included mention of the need to rescue Jews?

88.Why did the New York Times downplay the story of the holocaust?

89.Why did Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin say she voted against U.S. entry into World War II?

90.During the rise of Nazism, did Wall Street investment in Germany decrease, stay the same, or increase?

91.How many people died in World War II?

92.What percentage of them died in German concentration camps?

93.Who said "If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don't want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances. Neither of them thinks anything of their pledged word"?

94.What future director of the CIA rescued numerous top Nazis from prosecution and employed some of them for the United States?

95.How many former Nazis were employed by the U.S. military in Operation Paperclip?

96.What U.S. space agency's first director was a former Nazi who had employed slave labor?

97.Who remarked in 1937, "I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place"?

98.Within hours of Germany's surrender in World War II, Winston Churchill proposed a new war using what troops against what nation?

99.When did Japan first express willingness to surrender on the terms that actually ended World War II, before or after the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

100.       When President Truman announced the bombing of Hiroshima what did he lie that Hiroshima was?

101.       What nations of the world have nuclear weapons, and how many do they have?

102.       What nations have official policies of potentially using nuclear weapons first?

103.       What does the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty require nations with nuclear weapons to do?

104.       How has Iran violated that treaty?

105.       What do the Gulf of Tonkin Incident and a virgin birth have in common?

106.       What was Operation Northwoods?

107.       Who was Mohammad Mossadegh?

108.       What nation proposed to abandon its nuclear energy program in 2003 until the U.S. dismissed the proposal?

109.       What nation proposed peace negotiations before the Korean War?

110.       What nation tried to spread bubonic plague in North Korea?

111.       What U.S. presidential candidate secretly sabotaged peace talks for Vietnam?

112.       Did the United States begin arming Islamic radicals in Afghanistan, who would develop into al Qaeda, before or after the Soviet invasion?

113.       During the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan that began in 2001, what were the primary sources of funding for the other, or Taliban, side of the war?

114.       Prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, whom did the Taliban offer to turn over to a neutral country to have put on trial?

115.       How large has the al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan been during the war that began in 2001?

116.       How large was the al Qaeda presence in Iraq prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion?

117.       Has international terrorism decreased, stayed the same, or increased during the Global War on Terrorism?

118.       The U.S. government originally announced that a mission to kill or capture Osama bin Laden had succeeded despite his armed resistance. What did numerous people involved in that mission later change about that story?

119.       When Germany reunited and the Cold War ended, what promise did the United States make to Russia regarding NATO expansion?

120.       Was the promise kept?

121.       What nation's army in 1990 took babies out of incubators and left them on the floor to die?

122.       Prior to the Persian Gulf War, what nation offered to peacefully withdraw from Kuwait?

123.       Prior to September 11, 2001, what did a CIA memo warn President George W. Bush might happen?

124.       What nation was behind anthrax attacks in 2001 in the United States?

125.       Who in January 2003 proposed that a means of starting a war on Iraq would be to paint an airplane with United Nations colors and fly it low over Iraq until it was shot at?

126.       What portion of the nation of Iraq did the Iraqi government offer to let U.S. troops search prior to the 2003 U.S. attack?

127.       In 2003, how quickly did Iraq promise to hold internationally monitored elections if it were not attacked?

128.       Who offered to leave Iraq in 2003 if he could keep $1 billion and if Iraq would not be attacked?

129.       Whose 2003 testimony at the United Nations in favor of attacking Iraq included fabricated dialogue from supposedly wiretapped conversations and numerous claims that his own staff had warned him would not even seem plausible?

130.       What war's aftermath gave birth to a new al Qaeda spin-off called ISIS or ISIL or Islamic State or Daesh?

131.       Where did ISIS get most of its weapons?

132.       What have been top sources of ISIS funding?

133.       What did ISIS ask the U.S. to do in order to boost its recruiting?

134.       Did the U.S. do it?

135.       Did it boost ISIS recruiting?

136.       Did the U.S. drone war on Yemen replace a worse form of war or help create one?

137.       Who supplied Saudi Arabia with its weapons for its 2015 war on Yemen?

138.       Does the U.S. know the names of most of the people it targets with missiles from drones?

139.       Does the U.S. target with drones only people it cannot arrest and put on trial?

140.       Name three former top U.S. officials who have warned that drone wars produce more enemies than they kill.

141.       Name three current or former top U.S. officials who maintain that every nation must have equal and identical rights in the use of drones.

142.       Which nations did former NATO commander Wesley Clark say the Pentagon wanted to overthrow in 2003, and which nations did former Prime Minister of the U.K. Tony Blair say that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney wanted to overthrow at the same time? What has happened to those nations?

143.       In which nations of the world do the highest percentages of people say they would go to war for their nation?

144.       In which nations of the world are the highest percentages of the people religious?

145.       What percentage of human beings who have ever lived, and of human societies that have ever existed, have experienced or participated in war?

146.       In which nations of the world are children regularly told to pledge allegiance to a flag?

147.       If you read that peace activists many years before your birth helped to end a war or halt the production of a weapon, would a good teacher expect you to write about that activism in the first person, using the word "we"?

148.       If you read about the United States invading a Central American nation before your birth, would a good teacher allow you to write about it in the first person, using the word "we"?

149.       Which nations of the world have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child? Why haven't they?

150.       Which major military nations have not joined the International Criminal Court, or the treaties banning land mines, cluster bombs, racial discrimination, discrimination against women, or weapons in space, or those establishing rights of migrant workers, regulating the arms trade, providing protection from disappearances, defending the rights of people with disabilities, or the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, or the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?

151.       Which nation has used the power of its veto at the United Nations most frequently and for what purpose?

152.       How many people were killed or driven out of their homes during the 1948 creation of Israel?

153.       Who was the last president to propose abolishing the CIA?

154.       What president created the CIA and came to regret it?

155.       What was the Safari Club?

156.       Which article of the U.S. Constitution sanctions secret agencies?

157.       How does war preparation and weapons testing benefit human and environmental health?

158.       Have more U.S. citizens been killed by working on nuclear weapons, fighting in wars, being victimized by foreign terrorists, or by domestic gun violence, or smoking cigarettes? What are the numbers?

159.       How many U.S. wars has the U.S. Institute for Peace opposed since its creation?

160.       What do the people of Diego Garcia, Koho'alawe, the Aleutian Islands, Bikini Atoll, Kwajalein Atoll, Culebra, Vieques, Okinawa, Thule, the Aetas, the Cherokee, and most native peoples of the United States have in common?

161.       What percentage of U.S. wars are marketed as promoting freedom?

162.       During what percentage of U.S. wars are civil liberties in the United States curtailed?

163.       How many average Europeans, Asians, Africans, or Latin Americans would it take to damage the natural environment as much as the average person in the United States?

164.       What single institution creates the most environmental destruction?

165.       How did women in the United States and around the world vote themselves the right to vote?

166.       What did it take to win children's rights in the United States?

167.       What is the Vietnam Syndrome?

168.       What were the most successful tactics of the Civil Rights movement?

169.       How many corporations control most major U.S. media outlets?

170.       How was Apartheid officially ended in South Africa?

171.       What happened on Rosenstrasse?

172.       Which have succeeded more often and with longer lasting successes in struggles against tyranny during the past 100 years, violent or nonviolent revolutions?

173.       Who were the Wobblies?

174.       What was the Prague Spring?

175.       Who was A.J. Muste?

176.       What percentage of prisoners ever kept in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo had been convicted of terrorism?

177.       What three interlocking evils did Martin Luther King Jr. say needed to be ended?

178.       When did the people of Hawaii vote to join the United States?

179.       Why did the United States bomb West Virginia?

180.       Why did the United States drop nuclear bombs on North Carolina?

181.       Why did the British end the occupation of India?

182.       Who was Abdul Ghaffar Khan?

183.       When was the damage from Agent Orange finally cleaned up in Vietnam?

184.       How did Norwegian teachers have to teach under Nazi occupation?

185.       Which nations resisted Nazi orders to kill Jews most successfully?

186.       Why did duelling end?

187.       Why did Marcos' rule of the Philippines end?

188.       Who kidnapped the President of Haiti in 2004?

189.       Who was Claudette Colvin?

190.       What was the income tax created to pay for?

191.       How did the United States prevent the Three Mile Island accident from killing anyone?

192.       Did more U.S. troops die in Vietnam or from suicide after returning home?

193.       What is the leading cause of death for U.S. troops sent to U.S. wars in recent years?

194.       Why did Congresswoman Barbara Lee say she was voting against the Global War on Terrorism in 2001?

195.       Who did the U.S. attack with chemical weapons in 1932?

196.       How did a ban on war get into the Japanese Constitution and who has been trying to remove it ever since?

197.       Who assassinated the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi in 1994?

198.       Who killed Paul Robeson, Ernest Hemingway, and John Wayne?

199.       How do U.S. gun laws reduce gun violence better than Australia's?

200.       Who overthrew the government of Honduras in 2009?

201.       How many people were killed in the recent Russian military invasion of Ukraine?

202.       Why do the people of Okinawa so strongly support the presence of U.S. military bases on their island?

203.       What was the anti-imperialist league?

204.       What was the outlawry movement?

205.       What law was General Custer enforcing when he died?

206.       Who urged all scientists to refuse any military work in 1931?

207.       Who was Garry Davis?

208.       Who was Jane Addams?

209.       What was the New England Non-Resistance Society?

210.       What ended friendly relations between Eisenhower and Khrushchev?

211.       When did Armistice Day become Veterans Day and why?

212.       What was the Iran-Contra scandal?

213.       What is the Kellogg-Briand Pact?

214.       Which recent wars have complied with the Kellogg-Briand Pact?

215.       Which recent wars have complied with the United Nations Charter?

216.       Which recent wars have complied with the separation of powers stipulated in the U.S. Constitution?

217.       If the U.S. Supreme Court had allowed the state of Florida to count all its votes in 2000, who would have become president of the United States in 2001?

218.       What thwarted efforts by the African Union to negotiate peace in Libya in 2011?

219.       Who proposed a peace process for Syria in 2012 that would have included a change of government?

220.       Who dismissed it out of hand?

221.       What did the U.S. military / White House plan for Syria in 2013 before being blocked by public, international, and Congressional pressure?

222.       When the CIA produced a report in 2013 on past successes of arming local proxy armies, what was missing from the report?

223.       Which nations still use the death penalty?

224.       In how many nations in history have the majority of rape victims been male?

225.       How many unarmed people do U.S. police kill each year?

226.       Which stages of the criminal justice process in the United States are racially biased?

227.       How much wealth do the average white, black, and Latino households have in the U.S.?

228.       What percentage of U.S. military spending could end starvation on earth?

229.       What percentage could provide the world with clean drinking water?

230.       What percentage could double U.S. investment in clean energy?

231.       Is clean coal clean?

232.       Is natural gas natural?

233.       Is safe nuclear power safe?

234.       Which nations are getting the highest percentage of their energy from sustainable sources?

235.       Which nation did people in the most countries around the world view as the greatest threat to peace on earth in a 2013 Gallup poll?

236.       Is terrorism among the top 100 causes of death in the United States?

237.       What are 10 of them?

238.       Does domestic terrorism in the United States kill more or fewer people than foreign terrorism?

239.       What percentage of foreign terrorists in the United States provide a clear explanation of their motives?

240.       What do they say?

 

Click here for the answers only after trying to answer the questions to the best of your ability.

Talk Nation Radio: Jon Schwarz on Secret Unaccountable Government

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-jon-schwarz-on-secret-unaccountable-government 

Jon Schwarz's new job is with The Intercept. He previously worked for Michael Moore's Dog Eat Dog Films and was Research Producer for Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story. He's contributed to many publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones and Slate, as well as NPR and “Saturday Night Live.” In 2003 he collected on a $1,000 bet that Iraq would have no weapons of mass destruction. See:
https://theintercept.com/staff/jonschwarz

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

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

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Trump Didn't Vote to Kill 1 Million Muslims in Iraq, Hillary Did

Thanks to Glenn Greenwald for pointing out that the U.S. media is acting as though Donald Trump just invented bigotry this week (one of those ugly details I'm happy to miss by never watching television). But not only is explicit bigotry toward Muslims not new, implicit bigotry toward Muslims has been the foundation of the largest public project in the United States for the past quarter century.

The driving forces behind war planning in Washington are power, domination, profit, politics, and the inertia of war planning as a path toward career success. These sociopaths are happy to bomb Germans or Yugoslavians. The value they place on sailors in Pearl Harbor or contemplated victims of Operation Northwoods, or U.S. troops stop-lossed into insanity is negligible. They don't think twice about overthrowing a democracy in Iran and laying the groundwork for Islamic power. They have no qualms about arming Muslim radicals in Afghanistan or Iraq, and toppling secular governments in Iraq or Libya or Syria. That most ISIS weaponry is U.S. weaponry seized from Iraq can only please the profiteers who will sell the weapons to combat ISIS. Their best friends are the killer Muslims running Saudi Arabia and nearby kingdoms. Their Christian hatred for Islam is as real as Karl Rove's integrity or Donald Trump's hair.

But you can't keep dumping $1 trillion a year into U.S. militarism without an enemy as frightening as -- actually it has to be more frightening than -- the Soviet Union and nuclear holocaust. In the irrational world of fear, a throat slitting is as frightening as a nuclear bomb, in fact more so. Many, many people in the United States, when they stop to think about it, recognize that the wars of recent decades have been counterproductive, creating enemies rather than eliminating them, endangering rather than protecting, costing a mountain of lives and of dollars, savagely destroying the natural environment, eroding civil liberties in the name of wars for "freedom," and brutalizing morality, justifying murder, torture, kidnapping, etc. But with fear and hatred of Muslims thrown into the mix, all of that clear understanding is erased by the need to kill Muslims. Suddenly a rich stew of World War II myths and Hollywood entertainment reminds everyone that only war works and nothing else is acceptable.

Donald Trump didn't vote for the war on Iraq that killed a million Muslims. He didn't vote to fund it and escalate it over and over again. Hillary Clinton did that. Which is not to say that Trump wouldn't have done so too, or worse, if he thought it would get him on TV more. The point is that the hatred is not new. Without it, basic U.S. policy would be understood as irrational.

There are now news stories from around the United States and the world about people shunning Trump businesses and expressing fear about living in Trump-branded buildings. They're concerned that there may be an attack. No doubt among those expressing this worry are some of that majority of Americans who tell pollsters they want more war. So, they recognize blowback. It's not a difficult concept. Hostility toward others produces hostility back toward you or someone taken to represent you. Pretty basic. But in advocating more war, millions of people are willing and able to hide their understanding of blowback in some fascist vault in a back corner of their brains. Sure, more war will produce more blowback, they may think, but hopefully it will hit somebody else -- especially if I unload my Trump condo and live somewhere else, perhaps a liberal gated community with an African-American guard whose name I even know.

I walked by a wall recently and took a photo of it. Someone had written "Anything war can do, peace can do better." Wisest thing I've ever seen on that wall. But someone else had scrawled underneath a poetic piece of pure ignorance from deep within the terrified soul of U.S. paranoia: "(Except stopping Hitler!)" I don't think the rest of the world finds it easy to get inside this type of U.S. thinking, in which the outside world is full of a menacing evil constantly analogized to Hitler, the "new Hitler," the "modern Hitler," -- and Hitler is understood as having arisen with no help from the Treaty of Versailles, no help from Wall Street, no assistance from the militarism of Western culture, and no possibility of being halted short of global domination except by massive violence.

Kids, dear world, in the United States, you should know are compelled to pledge allegiance to a U.S. flag every morning, and then to pray in what they call a "moment of silence." They are then taught a mythologized U.S. history year after year with hardly any mention of the other 96% of humanity. Then they're told that Muslims want to slit their throats. Why? What did they do? Nothing. They'd just been shopping and watching football and minding their own business. They had a flag out front and plenty of support-the-troops shit stuck to the SUV. Why? Must just be the barbarity of the Muslims. Why not kill them off? It worked with the Native Americans. Kill them off, but don't talk about it like that out loud.

Only, if there's a war on al Qaeda support it, and if there's a war with al Qaeda against Syria oppose it, and if it's repackaged as a war on al Qaeda under a new and even scarier name, support it with a passion. And if killing them is OK, what in the hell is all the fuss about over torturing them? And if torturing them is OK, what in the world could be wrong with denying them entry into the United States? This is the logic of war propaganda. Trump agrees with the Washington establishment, he just has some sort of media-driven Tourette syndrome that leads him to blurt things out. If he's made president, the second most dangerous place in this country will be a mosque. The first will remain anywhere between Trump and a television camera.

In Fantasyland Your Neighbors Live in, More War Is a Smart Idea

By David Swanson

People in the United States want tighter gun laws within the United States. They probably can't be, and certainly aren't being, polled on the U.S. role as top weapons supplier to the world. You can't poll people on something they've never heard of.

People in the United States want more done to protect the environment. They have no clue that their government is politely destroying all hope for future human life at a nice conference in Paris. They've never heard that the U.S. military is the single biggest destroyer of the environment. These are topics you can't poll on.

People in the United States believe that ISIS is present within the United States trying to kill them. You can't poll them on what to do in the actual universe, because they're living in that one. In their la-la land they say the United States should wage more war on ISIS.

Even in an alternative universe in which ISIS members from Honduras have snuck Ebola into Planned Parenthood clinics, waging war on ISIS makes no sense. The war and the accompanying bigotry and hatred are the greatest gift ISIS could ask for. And it did ask for them. And the United States has obliged, helping ISIS's recruitment soar. Blowback isn't reduced by escalating. You can't use terrorism to eliminate terrorism.

But here's where the important delusions come in. More than a matter of immediate facts, good Americans suffer from a twisted worldview in which blowback is spontaneously generated by irrational subhuman urges in lesser races and religious groups, wars waged abroad by the United States don't hurt anyone -- other than evil beasts, the war on Iraq benefited Iraq, and wars can be made even better than normal by making them multicultural feminist environmentalist Geneva-Conventionized local efforts with dark-skinned inhabitants doing the dying but the United States doing the deciding.

Let's try a little context.

It is no more "defensive" now than it was in 2003 or any other year to bomb people's homes thousands of miles from your shores.

It is not an act of generosity -- except to the weapons makers -- to kill huge numbers of people for no good reason.

War is not a last resort, and imagining it is while cheering and pushing for it, is self-delusional in a very basic way, no matter how poorly informed you are.

As your World War II myths can probably be removed only with invasive surgery, just look at the past 70 years and find a war that worked on its own terms, that didn't produce more harm than it halted.

The politicians who lie to you about everything other than war, and the media that tries to bias you in disastrous directions on everything other than war, both do the exact same thing when it comes to war.

Two years ago you didn't want to join a war on Syria on the side of al Qaeda, but you didn't want to be bothered to really stop it, end the provision of arms and trainers, pull the CIA out, permit the world to negotiate peace. Now you want to join a war on Syria on the side of al Qaeda while simultaneously joining it on the side against al Qaeda under the new name ISIS.

Why? Because ISIS is evil, so evil you can't talk to them.

ISIS is a large and growing number of people. Do you intend to murder them all? Do you have any idea of the global storm of hatred and vengeance that doing so would unleash on the United States including from people within the United States who can't be kept out by some idiotic walls? Because if you don't intend to murder them all, but only some of them (generating more of them than you kill), then you're going to have to talk with those who survive.

I'm not even asking you to talk to them. I'm asking you to stop making matters worse. Stop bombing. Stop shooting. Stop flooding the region with weapons. Stop supporting governments that fund ISIS. Protect people at risk with actual defensive protection if needed, but don't use them as excuses for escalated war. Send in aid and peaceworkers. Let professionals at conflict resolution speak to ISIS. Go back to television and shopping. Just stop telling pollsters you want more war.

Talk Nation Radio: Eric Bonds on War and the Environment

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-eric-bonds-on-war-and-the-environment 

Eric Bonds is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He studies and writes about the often times overlapping fields of human rights, war/militarism, and the environment. His work has appeared in Z Magazine, Foreign Policy in Focus, and numerous academic venues. See:
http://fpif.org/pentagon-comes-short-climate

and

https://zcomm.org/zmagazine/the-wastes-of-war-in-afghanistan

and

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09644016.2015.1090369#abstract

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

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

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Pearl Harbor Day and the Fantasy of US Victimhood

By David Swanson, for teleSUR
http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Pearl-Harbor-Day-and-the-Fantasy-of-US-Victimhood-20151206-0041.html#comsup

David Swanson unmasks the propaganda logic behind Amazon.com's "Man in the High Castle" and U.S. celebrations of failure

The USS Nevada is aground and burning off Waipio Point, after the end of the Japanese air raid in Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

The United States is indisputably the world's most frequent and extensive wager of aggressive war, largest occupier of foreign lands, and biggest weapons dealer to the world. But when the United States peeps out from under the blankets where it lies shivering with fear, it sees itself as an innocent victim. It has no holiday to keep any victorious battle in everyone's mind. It has a holiday to remember the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor -- and now also one, perhaps holier still, to recall, not the "shock and awe" destruction of Baghdad, but the crimes of September 11, 2001, the "new Pearl Harbor."

Similar to Israel, but with a variation, the United States is deeply obsessed with World War II, overlaid of course on a Southern obsession with the U.S. Civil War. The Southern U.S. love for the Civil War is love for a war lost, but also for victimhood and the righteousness of the vengeance wreaked on the world year after year by the U.S. military.

The U.S. love for World War II is also, fundamentally, love for a war lost. That may seem odd to say, because it is simultaneously very much love for a war won. World War II remains the U.S. model for potentially some day winning a war again, as it's been losing them all over the world for the 70 years since World War II. But the U.S. view of WWII is also strangely similar to the Russian view. Russia was brutally attacked by the Nazis, but persevered and won the war. The United States believes itself to have been "imminently" attacked by the Nazis. That, after all, was the propaganda that took the United States to war. There was not one word about rescuing Jews or anything half that noble. Rather, President Franklin Roosevelt claimed to have a map of the Nazis' plans for carving up the Americas, a map that was an amateurish forgery provided by British "intelligence."

Hollywood has made very few movies and television shows about all other wars combined, in comparison with dramas about World War II, which may in fact be its most popular topic ever. We're really not drowning in movies glorifying the theft or northern Mexico or the occupation of the Philippines. The Korean War gets little play. Even the Vietnam War and all the more recent wars fail to inspire U.S. storytellers like World War II, and some 90% of those stories relate to the war in Europe, not Asia.

The European story is much preferred because of the particular evils of the German enemy. That the U.S. prevented a peace without victor in World War I by crushing Germany, and then punished it viciously, and then aided the Nazis -- all of that is far more easily forgotten than the nuclear bombs that the United States dropped on Japan. But it is the Japanese attack of December 7, 1941, together with the fantasized Nazi invasion, that persuades the U.S. public that waging war in Europe was defensive. So the history of the United States training Japan in imperialism and then antagonizing and provoking Japan must be forgotten as well.

Amazon.com, a corporation with a huge CIA contract, and whose owner also owns the Washington Post, has launched a television series called the Man in the High Castle. The story is set in the 1960s with the Nazis occupying three-quarters of the United States and the Japanese the rest. In this alternative universe, the ultimate redemption is found in Germany being the nation to have dropped nuclear bombs. The Axis victors, and their aging leaders, have created and maintained an old-fashioned empire -- not like U.S. bases in proxy states, but a full-blown occupation, like the United States in Iraq. It doesn't really matter how implausible this sounds. It is the most plausible scenario that can embody the U.S. fantasy of someone else doing to it what it does to others. Thus U.S. crimes here in the real 2015 become "defensive," as it is doing unto others before they can do unto it.

Nonviolent resistance does not exist in Season One Episode One of this soothing victim adventure, and apparently hasn't for years at that point in the tale. But how could it? A force stoppable through nonviolence -- even an imaginary one -- cannot serve to justify the violence of the actual U.S. military. The German and Japanese occupiers have to be confrontable only through violence, even anachronistically in an age in which nonviolent techniques were known, in which the civil rights movement was resisting U.S. fascism to great effect.

"Before the war ... every man was free," says one of the attractive young white people who constitute all the heroes and some of the villains in this drama. Instead of race riots, McCarthyism, Vietnam, and the sterilizing and experimenting on the powerless that actually happened, this alternative United States includes the burning of Jews, the disabled, and the terminally ill. The contrast to the imagined pre-Nazi past in which "every man [but not woman?] was free" is stark.

Amazon also shows us Nazis behaving much like the actual United States behaves: torturing and murdering enemies. Rikers Island is a brutal prison in this TV show and in reality. In this fantasy, the symbols of U.S. and Nazi patriotism have been merged seamlessly. In reality, the U.S. military incorporated much Nazi thinking along with the many Nazis it recruited through Operation Paperclip -- another way in which the U.S. actually lost WWII if we imagine victory as democracy defeating the sort of society in which someone like Donald Trump could thrive.

The United States today manages to view refugees from the wars it wages in distant lands as dangerous enemies, as new Nazis, just as leading U.S. politicians refer to foreign leaders as new Hitlers. With U.S. citizens shooting up public places on an almost daily basis, when one such killing is alleged to have been done by a Muslim, especially a Muslim with any sympathy for foreign fighters, well, then that's not just a shooting. That means that the United States has been invaded. And that means that anything it does is "defensive."

Does Venezuela elect leaders the U.S. disapproves of? That's a threat to "national security" -- a somewhat magical threat to invade and occupy the United States and compel it to torture and kill wearing a different flag. This paranoia doesn't come from nowhere. It comes from programs like The Man from the High Castle, which -- the world should be warned -- is only at Season 1, Episode 1 so far.

Do Mass Killings Bother You?

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.

War with Russia or with ISIS: What ever happened to peace?

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?"

Sigh.

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.

Here's an organizational answer from last October.

Here's an answer this week from a former ISIS prisoner.

Here are former U.S. officials explaining how what they did until the moment they retired was counterproductive.

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.

Do War Makers Believe Their Own Propaganda?

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.

Speaking Events

David Swanson at St. Michael’s College, Colchester, VT, October 5, 2016.

David Swanson in Fairbanks, Alaska, October 22, 2016.

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