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In the United States it's hard to imagine admiring an attorney general. The words call to mind people like Eric Holder, Michael Mukasey, Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft, Janet Reno, and Edwin Meese. There were those who fantasized that Barack Obama would not prevent an attorney general from prosecuting top officials for torture, but the idea of a U.S. attorney general prosecuting a U.S. president for war/genocide doesn't even enter the realm of fantasy (in part, because Americans don't even think of what the U.S. military does in the Middle East in those terms).
For a lesson in daring to imagine equality before the law, we can turn our eyes toward Guatemala. Here's a country suffering under the Monroe Doctrine since the dawn of time, a place where the United States engaged in human experimentation giving syphilis to unwitting victims during the time that U.S. lawyers were prosecuting Nazis in Nuremberg. Guatemala had a relatively decent government in 1954 when the CIA overthrew it. U.S. destruction has been unremitting in Guatemala, with the U.S. government backing dictators, killers, and torturers, including during the 1980s and 1990s, a period from which Guatemala is still trying to recover.
A new film called Burden of Peace tells the story of Claudia Paz y Paz, Attorney General of Guatemala from December 9, 2010 to May 17, 2014. Paz y Paz had a poster of Robert Kennedy on her wall during her time as attorney general, herself finding something admirable in a U.S. holder of that same office. Kennedy's actual record was quite mixed, of course. Paz y Paz became attorney general following a long period of unaccountable crime, understood impunity, and rampant corruption.
"Where there were massacres there are now power plants," says one voice in the film. "Where there were massacres there are now mines." People had been killed in large numbers for money, and those responsible would be protected from prosecution as well.
A 1996 peace agreement did not end violence in Guatemala. The government remained corrupt, with killers still holding positions of power.
It's interesting to imagine what would happen if a true reformer were made president or attorney general in the United States, while their staff and colleagues and Congress and the courts and the system of bribery and lobbying remained unchanged. It will be fun to watch Jeremy Corbyn try to take on the British Parliament. We have an example of how this works from Guatemala.
In Burden of Peace we see Claudia Paz y Paz meeting with an office of attorneys in a northen province that had solved zero murder cases and prosecuted almost no one. She insists on change. And she gets it. For over three years she achieves big increases in prosecutions and convictions, including of gang members, including of police officers.
This law-and-order heroism should appeal to Americans if they can overlook the fact that the United States helped cause the problem. I have a mixed reaction. I can't be totally thrilled watching a SWAT team arrest gang members. This is not truth and reconciliation, but force and degradation. And yet I recognize that in a state of lawless violence it will be difficult to address other problems and solutions unless the violence is addressed first. Paz y Paz, in fact, reduced crime rates as solved murdered cases increased from 5% to 30%.
She had previously worked on the first big investigation of crimes committed during the civil war in Guatemala, which accused top military and political leaders, inlcuding the head of state, of genocide. Bishop Juan José Gerardi presented the report to the public and was murdered the next day. You see a big crowd taking part in his funeral in footage included in the film.
In her second year as AG, Paz y Paz reopened the investigation of war crimes. Soon she would issue warrants for the arrest of Oscar Mejia Victores, former Secretary of "Defense," for genocide. But because of his age and health, he was not tried.
Paz y Paz continued to increase law enforcement, as Otto Perez Molina, a former military official, was elected president. Business elites wanted Paz y Paz not to prosecute military members. In fact they wanted her removed from office. But she held a four-year term and refused to leave early.
During the dictatorship of Rios Montt, Mayans had been murdered in large numbers. He was not held accountable. He enjoyed immunity as president of Congress until 2012. Then Paz y Paz prosecuted him for genocide. In Burden of Peace we see the trial, including survivors recounting the horrors of soldiers killing and raping, as the accused sits and listens.
His lawyers declare the trial illegal and rise and leave, leaving him sitting there alone. The trial is suspended, then reconvened with new lawyers. The elderly Montt is convicted and sentenced to decades in prison. We see the people of Guatemala celebrating.
And then a higher court overturns the sentence, and people protest to no avail. But Montt spends only one day in prison, and the rightwingers acquire a taste for blood. They pursue Paz y Paz. Seeking to block her from completing her fourth year in office, they charge her with abuse of power (although they publicly focus on accusing her of being a Marxist). The same court that overturned the sentence for Montt removes Paz y Paz from office.
She appeals, and we see a crowd cheering her at the appeal. She tries to run for reelection, and a court denies her that right. It's over. She is out of office, and we see her staff as well as the public cheer for her, tearfully, as she departs, fleeing the country with her husband and son because she will no longer have security guards.
This is a true story that ends in May of 2014, crying out for a sequel. But earlier this month, Molina was forced to resign as president, after prosecutors accused him of running a scheme to defraud the customs service of millions of dollars, and Congress stripped him of immunity from prosecution. This was a first in Central America, as was much of what Claudia Paz y Paz did. It begins to appear that she was part of a change in the culture of Guatemalan governance, that the idea of holding the powerful to account has actually caught on.
Perhaps she will return to Guatemala one day. Perhaps peace will return to Guatemala one day.
Imagine if the United States were to leave Guatemala alone and try following its example in the U.S. Justice Department.
In the United States it is considered fashionable to maintain a steadfast ignorance of rejected peace offers, and to believe that all the wars launched by the U.S. government are matters of "last resort." Our schools still don't teach that Spain wanted the matter of the Maine to go to international arbitration, that Japan wanted peace before Hiroshima, that the Soviet Union proposed peace negotiations before the Korean War, or that the U.S. sabotaged peace proposals for Vietnam from the Vietnamese, the Soviets, and the French. When a Spanish newspaper reported that Saddam Hussein had offered to leave Iraq before the 2003 invasion, U.S. media took little interest. When British media reported that the Taliban was willing to have Osama bin Laden put on trial before the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, U.S. journalists yawned. Iran's 2003 offer to negotiate ending its nuclear energy program wasn't mentioned much during this year's debate over an agreement with Iran -- which was itself nearly rejected as an impediment to war.
The Guardian reported on Tuesday that the former Finnish president and Nobel peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari, who had been involved in negotiations in 2012, said that in 2012 Russia had proposed a process of peace settlement between the Syrian government and its opponents that would have included President Bashar al-Assad stepping down. But, according to Ahtisaari, the United States was so confident that Assad would soon be violently overthrown that it rejected the proposal.
The catastrophic Syrian civil war since 2012 has followed U.S. adherence to actual U.S. policy in which peaceful compromise is usually the last resort. Does the U.S. government believe violence tends to produce better results? The record shows otherwise. More likely it believes that violence will lead to greater U.S.-control, while satisfying the war industry. The record on the first part of that is mixed at best.
Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO from 1997 to 2000 Wesley Clark claims that in 2001, Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld put out a memo proposing to take over seven countries in five years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran. The basic outline of this plan was confirmed by none other than former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who in 2010 pinned it on former Vice President Dick Cheney:
"Cheney wanted forcible 'regime change' in all Middle Eastern countries that he considered hostile to U.S. interests, according to Blair. 'He would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates in the course of it — Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.,' Blair wrote. 'In other words, he [Cheney] thought the world had to be made anew, and that after 11 September, it had to be done by force and with urgency. So he was for hard, hard power. No ifs, no buts, no maybes.'"
U.S. State Department cables released by WikiLeaks trace U.S. efforts in Syria to undermine the government back to at least 2006. In 2013, the White House went public with plans to lob some unspecified number of missiles into Syria, which was in the midst of a horrible civil war already fueled in part by U.S. arms and training camps, as well as by wealthy U.S. allies in the region and fighters emerging from other U.S.-created disasters in the region.
The excuse for the missiles was an alleged killing of civilians, including children, with chemical weapons -- a crime that President Barack Obama claimed to have certain proof had been committed by the Syrian government. Watch the videos of the dead children, the President said, and support that horror or support my missile strikes. Those were the only choices, supposedly. It wasn't a soft sell, but it wasn't a powerful or successful one either.
The "proof" of responsibility for that use of chemical weapons fell apart, and public opposition to what we later learned would have been a massive bombing campaign succeeded. Public opposition succeeded without knowing about the rejected proposal for peace of 2012. But it succeeded without follow-through. No new effort was made for peace, and the U.S. went right ahead inching its way into the war with trainers and weapons and drones.
In January 2015, a scholarly study found that the U.S. public believes that whenever the U.S. government proposes a war, it has already exhausted all other possibilities. When a sample group was asked if they supported a particular war, and a second group was asked if they supported that particular war after being told that all alternatives were no good, and a third group was asked if they supported that war even though there were good alternatives, the first two groups registered the same level of support, while support for war dropped off significantly in the third group. This led the researchers to the conclusion that if alternatives are not mentioned, people don't assume they exist — rather, people assume they've already been tried. So, if you mention that there is a serious alternative, the game is up. You'll have to get your war on later.
Based on the record of past wars, engaged in and avoided, as it dribbles out in the years that follow, the general assumption should always be that peace has been carefully avoided at every turn.
I wonder if people in the United States understand what it means that the Labour Party in London now has a peace activist in charge of it. Jeremy Corbyn does not resemble any U.S. politicians. He doesn't favor "only the smart wars" or prefer drone murders to massive invasions. Corbyn opposes wars, and he works to end militarism. He was over here in Washington recently trying to get a Brit freed from Guantanamo. He chairs the Stop the War Coalition, one of the biggest peace organizations in Britain. He meets with foreign peace activists, like me, who can't even enter the same worldview, much less the same room, with any U.S. leaders.
When Corbyn and I both spoke at a peace event in London four years ago, he was introduced by Andrew Murray as working in Parliament with "a pack of war lords." Corbyn agreed: Parliament is made up of war lords and war criminals, he remarked.
Corbyn at that point credited the Stop the War Coalition with having helped to prevent an attack on Iran in recent years, just as I believed the US peace movement deserved credit, and does so again this year.
Corbyn called the idea that more time was needed to finish a job in Afghanistan a "load of tosh." He also pointed out that the two sides fighting in Libya could exchange parts for their rifles, because they both had rifles provided by Britain.
Corbyn doesn't just call war criminals "war criminals." He intends to see them prosecuted, including Tony Blair, whom Corbyn wants to see face charges for the 2003 attack on Iraq, which Corbyn of course opposed.
Corbyn doesn't just oppose militarism rhetorically. He wants to shut it down. He opposes the Trident nuclear boondoggle and intends to withdraw the UK from NATO. What other NATO members might follow the UK's lead?
Corbyn doesn't just express nice sentiments about a distant future without nuclear weapons. He advocates unilateral disarmament by the UK, in compliance with the non-proliferation treaty.
Corbyn doesn't just muse about non-military solutions in Syria but seeks to find them and to prevent military action that makes crises worse. He plans to halt British airstrikes from planes or drones in Syria. He also mentions the uncomfortable topic of "some of our supposed allies in the region" providing weapons and funding to ISIS -- and proposes to cut that off rather than fueling the fire with more weapons and attacks.
Corbyn is even opposed to the steady buildup of hostility toward Russia, and faults NATO for expanding and the West for creating the crisis in Ukraine. He doesn't excuse actual misdeeds by Russia, but faults U.S. and European aggression and hypocrisy.
And, though this may be difficult for Americans to imagine, Corbyn opposes the mass slaughter of Palestinians by Israel.
Hours after being elected leader of the Labour Party, Corbyn spoke on Saturday at a huge pro-refugee rally in Parliament Square, and blamed the refugee crisis on its cause, declaring that he would not support the past policy of rushing about the world launching wars.
Americans have come to believe that politicians who support, promote, tolerate, or fund wars can be "war critics" by proposing various tweaks to the war machine.
Bernie Sanders focuses on money issues, taxing the rich, spending on the poor, but has thus far been permitted to engage in the general practice of speaking only about the 46% of federal discretionary spending that it not military. Nobody has asked him about the 54% that by the calculation of National Priorities Project is military. Nobody has asked him if Eisenhower was right that military spending produces wars. Here are 25,000 people who want to know whether and how much Sanders would want to cut military spending.
Sanders is silent on the public support for two, not one, great sources of revenue: taxing the rich (which he's all over) and cutting the military (which he avoids). When he is asked about wars and says Saudi Arabia should pay for and lead them, nobody has followed up by asking whether the wars are themselves good or not or how the theocratic murderous regime in Saudi Arabia which openly seeks to overthrow other governments and is dropping US cluster bombs on Yemen will transform the wars into forces for good. Since when is THAT "socialism"?
If you go to Bernie's website and click on ISSUES and search for foreign policy it's just not there. In the United States, candidates for high office are permitted to just be silent on how much they'd cut the military, even within a range of $100 billion. Does Sanders, or do any of the other candidates, favor $45 billion in more free weapons for Israel paid for by the U.S. public whom Sanders usually wants to spare lesser expenses than that? Who knows.
Jeremy Corbyn just won leadership of the Labour Party by promoting socialism at home and abroad. What are we yanks afraid of?
I thought the cause of climate destruction was political corruption, but I thought the cause of so little popular resistance was ignorance and denial. Naomi Klein's new film This Changes Everything seems to assume that everyone is aware of the problem. The enemy that the film takes on is the belief that "human nature" is simply greedy and destructive and destined to behave in the way that Western culture behaves toward the natural world.
I think that is an increasingly common frame of mind among those paying attention. But if it ever becomes truly widespread, I expect it to be followed by epidemics of despair.
Of course, the idea that "human nature" destroys the earth is as ridiculous as the idea that "human nature" creates war, or the idea that human nature combined with climate change must produce war. Human societies are destroying the climate at vastly different rates, as are individuals within them. Which are we to suppose are "human nature" and which acting in violation of the same?
I think it's safe to assume that those not recognizing the climate crisis are going to be brought to recognize it along an exponentially rising curve, and it's possible that treating an audience as if they all already know the problem is a helpful way to get them there.
The problem, this film tells us, is a story that humans have been telling each other for 400 years, a story in which people are the masters of the earth rather than its children. The fact that a story is the problem, Klein says, should give us hope, because we can change it. In fact, we largely need to change it to what it was before and what it has remained in some of the communities featured in the film.
Whether that should give us hope is, I think, a whole different question. Either we're past the point of being able to maintain a livable climate or we're not. Either the conference in Copenhagen was the last chance or it wasn't. Either the upcoming conference in Paris will be the last chance or it won't be. Either there's a grassroots way around the failure of such conferences, or there isn't. Either Obama's drill-baby-Arctic drilling is the final nail or it isn't. Same for the tar sands featured in the movie.
But if we are going to act, we need to act as Klein urges: not by intensifying our efforts to control nature, and not by seeking out a different planet to ruin, but by re-learning to live as part of the planet earth rather than its controllers. This film shows us horrific images of the wasteland created in Alberta to get at the tar sands. Canada is dumping some $150 to $200 billion into extracting this poison. And those involved speak in the film as if it were simply inevitable, thus allowing themselves no blame. In their view, humans may be masters of the earth, but they clearly are not masters of themselves.
In contrast, This Changes Everything shows us indigenous cultures where the belief that the land owns us rather than the reverse leads toward sustainable and also more enjoyable life. The film seems to focus on the immediate local destruction of projects like the tar sands and others, rather than the climate of the whole planet. But the point of featuring acts of local resistance is clearly to show us not only the joy and solidarity that comes in acting for a better world, but also to model what that world could look like and how it could be experienced.
We're usually told that it is a weakness of solar energy that it must function when the sun shines, a weakness of wind energy that it must wait for the wind to blow -- whereas it is a strength of coal or oil or nuclear that it can render your home uninhabitable 24-7. This Changes Everything suggests that renewable energy's dependence on nature is a strength because it is part of how we must live and think if we are to cease attacking our natural home.
Hurricane Sandy is featured as a hint of how nature will eventually let humans know who is really in charge. Not in charge because we haven't developed good enough technology yet to truly master it. Not in charge because we need to alter our energy consumption a little as soon as Wall Street approves. Not in charge because of a quirk of corruption in our government that fails to help people in danger while bombing other distant people to control more fossil fuels with which to bring on more danger. No. In charge now and forever, whether you like it or not -- but perfectly happy to work with us, to live in harmony with us, if we live in harmony with the rest of the earth.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.
Hillary Clinton's favorite "Hitler" these days is Putin, with Assad in close second. Her days of giggling triumphantly over the murder of Gadaffi may be behind her. And one of her favorite ways of demonizing Putin has been denouncing his opposition to gay rights. Yet Hillary, along with Rick Santorum, was a supporter of proposed legislation that might have legalized the recently hyped refusal of a government employee in Kentucky to allow a gay couple to marry. Hillary has long favored bombing places that lack civil liberties, and sponsored legislation to criminalize the burning of a U.S. flag.
Some contradictions in U.S. politics (President Obama allowing Arctic drilling and then visiting the Arctic to lament his own destruction of the earth's climate, for example) appear easily explained by sheer soulless corruption via the simple transfer of dollars. Other contradictions (the eagerness of Hillary and her then-president husband Bill) to launch a war over fictional atrocities in Yugoslavia but not over real ones in Rwanda) require at least a bit more analysis.
Diana Johnstone's forthcoming book, Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton, succeeds in providing an understanding of Hillary Clinton's own worldview like nothing else I've read -- and it does so despite being largely not about Hillary Clinton. Johnstone's book is culture and political criticism at its finest. It's a study of the American neo-liberal, with a particular focus here-and-there on Clinton. I strongly recommend reading it, whatever your level of interest in the "Queen of Chaos" herself, for its illumination of the ideologies underlying U.S. adventurism, exceptionalism, and "responsibility to protect" obsession with identifying believable threats of "genocide" in nations disloyal to Washington or Wall Street.
Johnstone has little interest in "proving" that a woman can be president, a point that she takes to be obvious. "Avoiding World War III is somewhat more urgent," she maintains. Why World War III? Isn't everything well with the world, other than a few evil Muslims trying to kill us all? And wouldn't a woman president help ease tensions?
Johnstone's account of Clinton's record moves from her support of a right-wing military coup in Honduras to her active engagement in facilitating a right-wing military coup in Ukraine. In between, Johnstone looks in-depth at Clinton's backing of her husband's illegal war on Yugoslavia, and the lies she's told about it, which go much deeper than her false claim to have braved sniper fire at an airport. Johnstone also examines the 2011 war on Libya for which she gives Clinton significant blame. (And lest we forget, here's video of Clinton promoting the 2002 authorization for an invasion of Iraq.)
Then there's Clinton's allegiance to the right-wing Israeli government agenda, on exhibit in her speech this week and in Queen of Chaos:
"In July 2014, billionaire Haim Saban declared in a Bloomberg TV interview that he would contribute 'as much as needed' to elect Hillary Clinton in 2016. This is significant because both Saban's fortune and his zeal seem to be inexhaustible. Saban declares proudly that his greatest concern is to protect Israel through strengthening the United States-Israel relationship. 'I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.' . . . Saban showered seven million dollars on the Democratic National Committee, donated five million dollars to Bill Clinton's Presidential Library, and above all, founded his very own think tank, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy within the Brookings Institution, previously considered the most politically neutral of major Washington think tanks. This was accomplished by a record donation to Brookings of thirteen million dollars. . . . As things look now, the 2016 presidential race could be a contest between Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson. In either case, the winner would be Israel."
Johnstone does a good job of bringing out Clinton's belief in the rightness of all U.S. wars, past and possible. In 2012 Clinton gave a speech in which she claimed that a "small group" was preventing the U.S. from going in and saving Syria from Hitler/Assad, a small group consisting of Iran, Russia, and China:
"She went on to say that: 'we are also increasing our efforts to assist the opposition,' before adding that if we are successful, 'Assad will increase the level of violent response.' At a moment like this, one must ask whether she realizes what she is saying. She is admitting that U.S. military aid to the opposition intended to prevent violence will provoke more violence. If there is indeed a possibility of 'genocide,' which is doubtful, this possibility will be increased by that very assistance to the opposition Hillary is calling for, since it will increase the overall violence."
When asked about bombing Libya on Meet the Press, Clinton said, "Let's be fair here. They didn't attack us, but what they were doing and Gaddafi's history and the potential for the disruption and instability was very much in our interests ... and seen by our European friends and our Arab partners as very vital to their interests.' In short, bombing the hell out of a sovereign country that did us no harm is perfectly okay if we consider it to be in our 'interests,' or in the 'interests' of our 'European friends' and our 'Arab partners.' Not only that, but bombing a country, arming rebels and overthrowing its government is the way to prevent 'disruption' and 'instability.'"
Clinton is open about her view of the world, but would prefer the details remained unknown. She has condemned Edward Snowden's whistleblowing as criminal and even suggested that he should face prosecution under the Espionage Act.
One way of grasping where Clinton is coming from is to examine, in her case, what she herself admits is the major corrupting factor in U.S. elections: money. Who funds her? Here's Johnstone:
"Take a look at the list of Clinton Foundation donors who have contributed millions of dollars, supposedly for charity – the sort of charity that begins at home. These are philanthropists who give in order to get. Eight digit donors include: Saudi Arabia, the pro-Israel Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk, and the Saban family. Pinchuk has pledged millions to a branch of the Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, for a program to train future Ukrainian leaders according to 'European values.' Seven digit donors include: Kuwait, Exxon Mobil, 'Friends of Saudi Arabia,' James Murdoch, Qatar, Boeing, Dow, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart and the United Arab Emirates. Cheapskates paying their dues to the Clintons with contributions above only half a million include: the Bank of America, Chevron, Monsanto, Citigroup and the inevitable Soros Foundation."
For an example of how Clinton does the bidding of her funders, look at the case of Boeing, examined by the Washington Post.
Does this help explain why Republicans on Wall Street are backing her?
Here's a list of horrible governments to which Hillary supported transferring weaponry once they had donated to her foundations.
Can you get more corrupt that that? Hillary Clinton can. Here's a collection of examples how.
For a deeper understanding of where candidates like Hillary Clinton, her husband, the three Bushes, Obama, and others come from, I also strongly recommend another forthcoming book called Wall Street's Think Tank: The Council on Foreign Relations and the Empire of Neoliberal Geopolitics, 1976-2014, by Laurence Shoup, who co-authored the 1977 book, Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations and United States Foreign Policy.
The CFR, according to Shoup, is the world's most powerful private organization. It has about 5,000 individual members and 170 corporate members, a staff of 330, a budget of $60 million, and assets of $492 million. It began at the end of World War I and included both wings of the wealth-and-war party, dedicated to spreading U.S. dominance and influence around the globe for the good of the heathen.
Madeleine Albright brought Bill Clinton into the CFR in the 1980s, and the contacts he made there, in Shoup's view, brought him the media, funding, and insider advisers that made him president, not to mention his post-presidential fortune. Co-Chair of CFR Robert Rubin led Clinton's National Economic Council and his push for NAFTA before being made Secretary of the Treasury and pushing the repeal of Glass-Steagall before moving on to the board of Citigroup -- listed as a major Clinton-foundation funder above. Fifteen of Bill Clinton's top 17 foreign policy officials were, like him, CFR members, five of whom had been or would soon be directors. Daughter Chelsea Clinton became a CFR member in 2013.
What's wrong with CFR broadcasting its views on National Public Radio and holding its elitist meetings with movers and shakers? You might as well ask what's wrong with U.S. foreign policy, because the policy of the past decades has in fact been largely the policy desired, proposed, and enacted by the CFR and its members. And it is not what the U.S. public has wanted.
In 2013, a Pew-CFR effort polled CFR members and the general public. Among the public, 81% wanted protecting U.S. jobs to be a priority, but only 29% of CFR members did. Among CFR members, 93% favored corporate trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and a much higher percentage than among the general public believed that drone murders make the United States safer. These results line up with the 2014 peer-reviewed study done at Princeton and Northwestern Universities, which found that the United States is not a democracy, but an "oligarchy," that the demands of the wealthy are met by the government, whereas the desires of everyone else are ignored.
Changing that will require a nonviolent revolution, not a particular outcome from an almost completely corrupted electoral (and communications) system. But with the current corporate media behaving as if we need to know something more about Hillary Clinton before rejecting her, let me just say this to the infinitely annoying plague-like medium known as the email: My Dear emails, you little maggots eating away the minutes of my day, if your scandal rids us of the risk of installing Hillary Clinton in the White House, all shall be forgiven.
David Rothauser is a playwrite, filmmaker, teacher, and peace activist. We discuss his new film, Article 9 Comes to America.
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We done somethin' we both know it
We don't talk too much about it
Yeah it ain't no real big secret all the same
Somehow we get around it
Iraq wasn't really hiding WMD baby
We believed what we want to believe
You see the wars are what make all the refugees
... the wars are what make all the refugees
Somewhere, somehow somebody
Liberated you from your home
Now you're on the move to survive
Far from the graves of your loved ones
Libya's hell since we killed Gadaffi baby
Everybody's dead or hurt, not free
You see the wars are what make all the refugees
... the wars are what make all the refugees
Baby this ain't the first
Bombs fixed a million lands by making em worse
The latest lie seems real to you
But it's one of those things
You gotta die to make true
Somewhere, somehow somebody
Liberated you from your home
Who knows, maybe you were kidnapped
Tied up, taken away and held for ransom
It won't make it on the BBC baby
But everybody's dead or hurt, not free
You see the wars are what make all the refugees
... the wars are what make all the refugees
(apologies to Tom Petty who actually had nothing to do with this)
By David Swanson, teleSUR
The World may be shocked to learn United States government has an Institute of Peace; Orwell would not have been.
Gallup polling finds that much of the world believes the U.S. government to be the greatest threat to peace on earth. It comes as a surprise to many that the U.S. government maintains and funds something called the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) which operates out of a shiny new building near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., a building with a curved roof clearly meant to resemble a dove and yet somehow more closely resembling a giant brassiere.
George Orwell, had he lived to see USIP, might have been less surprised than most. In fact, USIP was created by a law signed by President Ronald Reagan in the year 1984, the year for which Orwell had named his dystopian novel back in 1948, when the U.S. Department of War had just been renamed the Department of Defense, and its mission of offensive war-making had been clearly announced to observers fluent in doublespeak. ”The Orwellian U.S. Institute for Peace is staffed and steered by some of our most committed proponents for war and mayhem, many of whom are in the revolving door between government and military contractors,” Alice Slater tells me. Slater is New York Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War.
“Instead of supporting efforts for diplomacy and peaceful settlement of disputes,” she continues, “the ill-named Peace Institute advises Congress and the press on how [the United States] can bomb and arm nations around the world. We need to replace the warmakers with peacemakers and have an Institute that really serves the cause of peace in the 21st century when war is so obviously unworkable.”
“...the Institute is designed to further U.S. empire and create a unipolar world where the United States dominates economically, militarily and politically.”
While the Institute of Peace was created in response to pressure from the peace movement, some peace advocates, in the end, opposed its creation, as they saw the writing on the wall. These included Noam Chomsky who, like Francis Boyle and others I very much respect, tell me that they view any effort to reform USIP as hopeless. Meanwhile, many peace activists, even in the United States, have no idea that USIP exists, as it has virtually no interaction with the peace movement. A movement in recent years to create a Department of Peace offers, to my knowledge, no evidence that the fate of such a Department wouldn't resemble that of the Institute.
And yet I believe that envisioning a radically reformed government in which a Department or Institute of Peace could actually work for peace is critical. And I believe there is hope for reforming USIP to the point where it does more good than harm. Kevin Zeese, co-director of Popular Resistance, tells me that “like the National Endowment for Democracy, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other U.S. agencies, the Institute is designed to further U.S. empire and create a unipolar world where the United States dominates economically, militarily and politically. While people in the U.S. are trying to change this foreign policy, governments around the world should take steps to prevent these agencies from operating within their borders, as they will do all they can to foment dissent and create regime change to ensure governments cooperate fully with the United States and its trans-national corporations.”
Zeese's words are true, and yet USIP does do some work aimed at peace, including hosting speakers and producing publications aimed at peace, sending skilled mediators into conflict zones, making research grants, holding essay contests, and conducting conflict-resolution trainings whenever they do not overly conflict with the goals of U.S. imperialism. The trick is how to expand the good work done by USIP while exposing and opposing the bad.
Toward that end, a group of prominent peace activists has just launched a petition that it plans to deliver to USIP in late September. As the petition makes clear, while USIP claims that it is forbidden to oppose U.S. wars or to lobby against them or to promote peaceful alternatives to contemplated military actions, a careful reading of the 1984 law that created USIP reveals that this just isn't so. In fact, USIP regularly lobbies the rest of the U.S. government and the U.S. public in favor of wars, including the overthrow of the Syrian government -- and occasionally against wars, as in the case of USIP's support for the nuclear agreement with Iran.
“The agreement with Iran provides an excellent opening for USIP to promote the success of negotiations and diplomacy in achieving peace and international understanding,” says Elizabeth Murray, who served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government. “The U.S. Institute of Peace,” she explains, “could lead the way in resolving dangerous international crises by countering corporate media spin on Iran, Russia, Ukraine, and Syria, and by promoting peaceful alternatives to military 'solutions' that benefit few but the corporate-military industry. The world is awash in endless wars, floods of refugees and PTSD-afflicted military veterans. USIP can break this tragic cycle by working actively for peace.”
So it can, at least legally and logically and theoretically. And yet few believe that it will. Preventing USIP from extending the model of diplomacy rather than war to numerous nations other than Iran is, primarily, the inclination of those individuals who make up USIP, including USIP board member and chairman Stephen Hadley, who urges the bombing of Syria and the militarization of Ukraine, while encouraging European nations to double their military spending, and himself profiting from war as a board member of Raytheon. Then there's USIP board member Eric Edelman, a former undersecretary at the Pentagon, who promotes higher military spending, an attack on Iran, and deployment of nuclear weapons to nations on Russia's border. USIP board member Major General Frederick M. Padilla, USMC, is career military as well. The new petition calls for the replacement of these three board members with peace activists, of whom USIP has none on its board.
It will be very interesting to see how USIP engages with those urging it to live up to the straightforward, non-Orwellian meaning of its name.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He is a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.
This happened some 63 years ago, but as the U.S. government has never stopped lying about it, and it's generally known only outside the United States, I'm going to treat it as news.
Here in our little U.S. bubble we've heard of a couple versions of a film called The Manchurian Candidate. We've heard of the general concept of "brainwashing" and may even associate it with something evil that the Chinese supposedly did to U.S. prisoners during the Korean War. And I'd be willing to bet that the majority of people who've heard of these things have at least a vague sense that they're bullshit.
If you didn't know, I'll break it to you right now: people cannot actually be programed like the Manchurian candidate, which was a work of fiction. There was never the slightest evidence that China or North Korea had done any such thing. And the CIA spent decades trying to do such a thing, and finally gave up.
I'd also be willing to bet that very few people know what it was that the U.S. government promoted the myth of "brainwashing" to cover up. During the Korean War, the United States bombed virtually all of North Korea and a good bit of the South, killing millions of people. It dropped massive quantities of Napalm. It bombed dams, bridges, villages, houses. This was all-out mass-slaughter. But there was something the U.S. government didn't want known, something deemed unethical in this genocidal madness.
It is well documented that the United States dropped on China and North Korea insects and feathers carrying anthrax, cholera, encephalitis, and bubonic plague. This was supposed to be a secret at the time, and the Chinese response of mass vaccinations and insect eradication probably contributed to the project's general failure (hundreds were killed, but not millions). But members of the U.S. military taken prisoner by the Chinese confessed to what they had been a part of, and confessed publicly when they got back to the United States.
Some of them had felt guilty to begin with. Some had been shocked at China's decent treatment of prisoners after U.S. depictions of the Chinese as savages. For whatever reasons, they confessed, and their confessions were highly credible, were borne out by independent scientific reviews, and have stood the test of time.
How to counter reports of the confessions? The answer for the CIA and the U.S. military and their allies in the corporate media was "brainwashing," which conveniently explained away whatever former prisoners said as false narratives implanted in their brains by brainwashers.
And 300 million of so Americans more or less sort of believe that craziest-ever dog-ate-my-homework concoction to this day!
The propaganda struggle was intense. The support of the Guatemalan government for the reports of U.S. germ warfare in China were part of the U.S. motivation for overthrowing the Guatemalan government; and the same cover-up was likely part of the motivation for the CIA's murder of Frank Olson.
There isn't any debate that the United States had been working on bio-weapons for years, at Fort Detrick -- then Camp Detrick -- and numerous other locations. Nor is there any question that the United States employed the top bio-weapons killers from among both the Japanese and the Nazis from the end of World War II onward. Nor is there any question that the U.S. tested such weapons on the city of San Francisco and numerous other locations around the United States, and on U.S. soldiers. There's a museum in Havana featuring evidence of years of U.S. bio-warfare against Cuba. We know that Plum Island, off the tip of Long Island, was used to test the weaponization of insects, including the ticks that created the ongoing outbreak of Lyme Disease.
Dave Chaddock's book This Must Be the Place, which I found via Jeff Kaye's review, collects the evidence that the United States indeed tried to wipe out millions of Chinese and North Koreans with deadly diseases.
"What does it matter now?" I can imagine people from only one corner of the earth asking.
I reply that it matters that we know the evils of war and try to stop the new ones. U.S. cluster bombs in Yemen, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, U.S. guns in Syria, U.S. white phosphorus and Napalm and depleted uranium used in recent years, U.S. torture in prison camps, U.S. nuclear arsenals being expanded, U.S. coups empowering monsters in Ukraine and Honduras, U.S. lies about Iranian nukes, and indeed U.S. antagonization of North Korea as part of that never-yet-ended war -- all of these things can be best confronted by people aware of a centuries-long pattern of lying.
And I reply, also, that it is not yet too late to apologize.
The United States and its European allies have launched wars on the Middle East that have created an enormous refugee crisis. The same nations are threatening Russia. The question of maintaining peace with Iran is on the tip of everyone's tongue. Even in Asia and the Pacific, not to mention Africa, the biggest military buildup is by the United States.
So why does Japan, of all places, have streets full of antiwar demonstrations for the first time since the U.S. war on Vietnam? I don't mean the usual protests in Okinawa of U.S. bases. I mean Japanese protests of the Japanese government. Why? Who did Japan bomb? And why do I say the future of war and peace in the world is at stake in Japan?
Let's back up a little. Japan went through a period of relative peace and prosperity between 1614 and 1853. The U.S. military forced Japan open to trade and trained Japan as a junior partner in imperialism, a story told well in James Bradley's The Imperial Cruise. The junior partner chose not to stay a junior partner, challenging U.S. dominance in World War II.
At the end of World War II, the war's losers in Japan and Germany were put on trial for an act that had been perfectly legal until 1928, the act of making war. In 1928, the global peace movement, led by the U.S. movement for the Outlawry of War, created the Kellogg-Briand Pact, a treaty that prohibits all war, a treaty to which most nations of the world are party today. This is a story I tell in my book When the World Outlawed War. President Franklin Roosevelt used the Kellogg-Briand Pact to create prosecutions of war.
Now, the general success thus far and in the future of the Kellogg-Briand Pact can be debated. It has prevented wars, it has stigmatized war, it has made war a crime that can be prosecuted in court (at least against losers), and World War III hasn't happened yet. But wars by wealthy nations against poor ones roll right along. The pact itself was of course never expected to abolish war on its own, a standard to which nobody ever holds any other law.
The Japanese success of the Kellogg-Briand Pact is a different matter. At the end of World War II, long-time Japanese diplomat and peace activist and new prime minister Kijuro Shidehara asked General Douglas MacArthur to outlaw war in a new Japanese constitution. The result was Article Nine of the Japanese Constitution, the wording of which is nearly identical to that of the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
Japan, which had gone centuries without war, would go another 70 years. The U.S. Outlawrists of the 1920s never imagined their work being imposed on a conquered nation by a ruling general. But they might have imagined it being taken up by the Japanese people. If Article Nine was not clearly owned by the Japanese people themselves in 1947, it was in 1950. In that year, the United States asked Japan to throw out Article Nine and join a new war against North Korea. Japan refused.
When the American War (in Vietnam) came along, the United States made the same request of Japan to abandon Article Nine, and Japan again refused. Japan did, however, allow the U.S. to use bases in Japan, despite huge protest by the Japanese people.
Japan refused to join in the First Gulf War, but provided token support, refueling ships, for the war on Afghanistan (which the Japanese prime minister openly said was a matter of conditioning the people of Japan for future war-making). Japan repaired U.S. ships and planes in Japan during the 2003 war on Iraq, although why a ship or plane that could make it from Iraq to Japan and back needed repairs was never explained.
Now, at U.S. urging, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is attempting to formally throw out Article Nine, or to "reinterpret" it to mean its opposite. And the Japanese people, to their everlasting credit, are in the streets defending their constitution and their culture of peace.
Meanwhile, the people of the United States, with some 50% of their popular movie entertainment (by my unscientific estimate) based around a good-and-evil drama of World War II, are not only not in the streets. They're not even in touch with the world. They have no idea this is going on. And if, 50 years from now, a heavily militarized Japan attacks Hawaii, the people of the United States will continue to have no idea how that happened.
There are peace activists around the world struggling to uphold the idea that a modern nation can live without war. Japan is a leading example, with certain obvious shortcomings, of how that can be done. We cannot afford to lose Japan as a model of peace. We cannot afford to hear from war mongers five years from now that war is proven inevitable by the return of the Japanese to war. We cannot afford to hear the United Nations, ten years from now, credit Japan with the humanitarian service of protecting people by bombing them. We cannot afford, twenty years from now, to hear that the Pentagon must be built up to guard against the evil Japanese.
Now, in fact, not later, but right now, would be a good moment in which to wake up and value what Japan has achieved. Now would be an ideal moment in which to remember that Japan's Article Nine was already and remains the law of the land in our other nations through the text of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Let's start obeying the law.
* Much credit to David Rothauser for his film Article 9 Comes to America, and for being my guest next week on Talk Nation Radio.
* Photo from http://damoncoulter.photoshelter.com
Well, here's definitive proof that a large organization can have a mind: NATO has clearly lost one.
NATO was supposed to "defend" Europe against the Soviet Union. A whole lot of people believed that, at least until the Soviet Union ended.
Then NATO was supposed to "defend" Europe against Iran. I think about 8 people believed that, not counting U.S. senators. But then Iran made a deal for the toughest inspections of its non-existent nuclear weapons program in the history of the world.
And NATO rushed to expand before anyone had the logical next thought, namely, Now what do we supposedly need NATO for?
NATO is now going to open headquarters in Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Estonia -- all nations between Western Europe and Russia, all nations where the United States promised Russia NATO would never go, and all moves seen as threats by the Russian government. In fact, Russia is now putting (possibly nuclear) missiles into Kaliningrad and talking frequently about the growing likelihood of war with the United States.
The United States, for its part, is putting more nuclear weapons into Europe, arming its coup government in Ukraine, posturing over claims to the arctic (where it hopes to dig out more of the filthy fuels with which it has melted the arctic), and churning out anti-Russian propaganda by the boatload.
By the latest count, the nuclear agreement with Iran has enough support in the U.S. Senate to survive. This, even more than stopping the missile strikes on Syria in 2013, may be as close as we come to public recognition of the prevention of a war (something that happens quite a bit but generally goes unrecognized and for which there are no national holidays). Here, for what they’re worth, are 10 teachings for this teachable moment.
- There is never an urgent need for war. Wars are often begun with great urgency, not because there’s no other option, but because delay might allow another option to emerge. The next time someone tells you a particular country must be attacked as a “last resort,” ask them politely to please explain why diplomacy was possible with Iran and not in this other case. If the U.S. government is held to that standard, war may quickly become a thing of the past.
- A popular demand for peace over war can succeed, at least when those in power are divided. When much of one of the two big political parties takes the side of peace, the advocates of peace have a chance. And of course now we know which senators and Congress members will shift their positions with partisan winds. My Republican Congressman opposed war on Syria in 2013 when President Obama supported it, but supported greater hostility toward Iran in 2015 when Obama opposed it. One of my two Democratic Senators backed peace for a change, when Obama did. The other remained undecided, as if the choice were too complex.
- The government of Israel can make a demand of the government of the United States and be told No. This is a remarkable breakthrough. None of the actual 50 states expects to always get its way in Washington, but Israel does — or did until now. This opens up the possibility of ceasing to give Israel billions of dollars worth of free weapons one of these years, or even of ceasing to protect Israel from legal consequences for what it does with those weapons
- Money can make a demand of the U.S. government and be told No. Multibillionaires funded huge advertising campaigns and dangled major campaign “contributions.” The big money was all on the side opposing the agreement, and yet the agreement prevailed — or at least now looks like it will. This doesn’t prove we have a corruption-free government. But it does suggest that the corruption is not yet 100 percent.
- Counterproductive tactics employed in this victorious antiwar effort may end up making this a Pyrrhic victory. Both sides in the debate over the agreement advanced baseless claims about Iranian aggression and Iranian attempts to create nuclear weapons. Both sides depicted Iranians as completely untrustworthy and menacing. If the agreement is undone or some other incident arises, the mental state of the U.S. public regarding Iran is in a worse position than it was before, as regards restraining the dogs of war.
- The deal is a concrete step to be built on. It is a powerful argument for the use of diplomacy — perhaps even less hostile diplomacy — in other areas of the globe. It is also a verifiable refutation to future assertions of an Iranian nuclear threat. This means that U.S. weaponry stationed in Europe on the basis of that alleged threat can and must be withdrawn rather than remain as an open act of aggression toward Russia.
- When given the choice, the nations of the world will leap at an opening for peace. And they will not easily be brought back again. U.S. allies are now opening embassies in Iran. If the United States backs away from Iran again, it will isolate itself. This lesson should be borne in mind when considering violent and non-violent options for other countries.
- The longer a war with Iran is avoided, the stronger an argument we have for continuing to avoid it. When a U.S. push for war on Iran has been stopped before, including in 2007, this has not only put off a possible catastrophe; it has also made it more difficult to create. If a future U.S. government wants war with Iran, it will have to go up against public awareness that peace with Iran is possible.
- The nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) works. Inspections work. Just as inspections worked in Iraq, they work in Iran. Other nations, such as Israel, North Korea, India, and Pakistan, should be encouraged to join the NPT. Proposals for a nuclear-free Middle East should be pursued.
- The United States should itself cease violating the NPT and lead by example, ceasing to share nuclear weapons with other nations, ceasing to create new nuclear weapons, and working to disarm itself of an arsenal that serves no purpose but threatens apocalypse.
Eve Spangler is a sociologist and a human and civil rights activist. For the last decade, her work has focused on the Israel/Palestine conflict. We discuss her new book, Understanding Israel/Palestine: Race, Nation, and Human Rights in the Conflict.
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The U.S. Institute of Peace has a great name, our tax dollars, and a terrible record. Let’s move it in a better direction.
If you’ve never heard of the U.S. Institute of Peace, please keep reading. It works everyday with your money in a fancy new building next to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. It just doesn’t work for peace.
If you know the USIP’s record and consider it a lost cause, please keep reading. This institute can be made to do some good. A number of us will be meeting with USIP in late September and bringing along this petition. Please click here to sign it.
The petition to USIP reads: “We urge you to oppose U.S. militarism and begin working for an end to U.S. war-making by providing to Congress and the public information on the disastrous results of recent U.S. wars and the superior results of nonviolence and diplomacy. We ask that you recommend to the President of the United States the removal from your board of Stephen Hadley, Eric Edelman, and Frederick M. Padilla, and their replacement by three seasoned peace activists, along with a recommendation to maintain at least three seasoned peace activists on your board at all times — right now there are none.”
The U.S. Institute of Peace is a federal government institute created by a bill signed into law in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan and funded annually by Congress as well as sometimes receiving funding from the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the military. The law states that the “Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the Director of Central Intelligence each may assign officers and employees of his respective department or agency, on a rotating basis to be determined by the Board, to the Institute.”
The Institute has never opposed a U.S. war and claims that it can only support things, not oppose them. But in fact, the law only forbids it from seeking “to influence the passage or defeat of legislation … except that the personnel of the Institute may testify or make other appropriate communication when formally requested to do so by a legislative body, a committee, or a member thereof.” Most U.S. wars, including the war on Libya, the newly revived war on Iraq (and Syria), and the drone wars on Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, have been launched without legislation. And, even if there were legislation involved, it would not be at all difficult for USIP to ask a single member of Congress to request its opinion, thereby freeing it to provide its views and its research. USIP makes no claim that it cannot provide the public with information on the negative results of U.S. wars; it simply fails to do so.
The Institute in fact makes recommendations to Congress, including in formally presented testimony, it just recommends things like supporting the Syrian opposition, training and arming troops to fight both ISIS and the Syrian government, and creating a “no fly zone” in Syria, rather than working toward an arms embargo or aid or diplomacy. The Institute has recommended diplomacy with Iran, and could do so in a dozen other cases, although its notion that weapons sales is part of diplomacy may be less than helpful.
The law requires that the USIP Board include 15 voting members, including the Secretaries of State and “Defense,” the President of the National “Defense” University, and 12 members appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, and each having “practical or academic experience in peace and conflict resolution.” The law also states that “No member of the Board may participate in any decision, action, or recommendation with respect to any matter which directly and financially benefits the member or pertains specifically to any public body or any private or nonprofit firm or organization with which the member is then formally associated or has been formally associated within a period of two years.” There are a number of mechanisms for removing a board member, including 8 or more board members making that recommendation to the President.
The USIP does do some work aimed at peace, including hosting speakers and producing publications aimed at peace, sending skilled mediators into conflict zones, making research grants, holding essay contests, and conducting conflict-resolution trainings, but such efforts are deeply compromised by the following concerns:
USIP board member and chairman, Stephen Hadley, urges the bombing of Syria and the militarization of Ukraine, while encouraging European nations to double their military spending, and himself profiting from war as a board member of Raytheon.
USIP board member Eric Edelman, a former undersecretary at the Pentagon, promotes higher military spending, an attack on Iran, and deployment of nuclear weapons to nations on Russia’s border.
USIP board member Major General Frederick M. Padilla, USMC, is career military.
USIP promotes the overthrow of the Syrian government.
USIP is not known to have ever opposed a U.S. war, U.S. weapons exports, U.S. foreign bases, or U.S. military spending.
USIP promotes trade embargoes, economic austerity programs, and electoral interventions as tools of aggression, not peace building.
USIP funds many more supporters than opponents of militarism.
USIP hosts pro-war talks by leading war advocates.
Appropriate board members for USIP exist in large numbers, and many of them would no doubt be happy to serve. Here are a few examples of the many possible names: Kathy Kelly, Michael McPhearson, Ann Wright, Paul Chappell, Noura Erekat, Dennis Kucinich, David Vine, Matt Daloisio, John Dear, Bruce Gagnon, Phil Donahue, Mel Duncan, David Hartsough, Mubarak Awad, Leslie Cagan, Roy Bourgeois, Cornell West, Lennox Yearwood, Osagyefo Sekou, Phyllis Bennis, Andy Shallal, Helena Cobban, Noam Chomsky, Elliott Adams.
Appropriate events that USIP could host might include:
How to Finally End the Korean War,
Abolition of Armed Drones,
A Plan to Close Overseas Bases,
Why Does NATO Still Exist?,
How Can the Kellogg-Briand Pact Be Complied With?,
What Could $2 Trillion a Year Buy Instead of War?,
Military Abolition and the Costa Rican Model,
Pondering Polling: How Did the U.S. Become Seen as the Greatest Threat to World Peace?,
Pinkerism and the Myth that War Is Vanishing,
WMD Tales From Iraq to Iran,
Vietnam Syndrome: Illness or Health?,
Benefits of Joining the International Criminal Court,
If War Makes Us Less Safe Why Can’t We Stop?,
The Economic and Moral Benefits of Transition to Peaceful Industries,
The ICCPR Ban on War Propaganda,
Diplomacy in Iran: Why Not in Eight Other Places?,
Why Arm Dictatorships?,
Whose Land Is Guantanamo?,
The Convention on the Rights of the Child – Why Not?,
What Is Preventing Spacefaring Powers from Banning Weapons in Space?,
Why Not Reinstate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty?,
Should Palestinians Have Human Rights?,
Remembering the Maine, the Lusitania, Tonkin Gulf . . . What Would Accurate History Change?,
What Would Compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Look Like?
Reports USIP could usefully write include:
U.S. arms sales to each foreign nation, as compared to the sales of other nations — a report the Congressional Research Service has ceased producing.
U.S. military spending, as compared to non-military government spending — a report the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency has ceased producing.
Initial Signers of the Petition Are:
This headline in the Guardian is completely accurate: West Point professor calls on US military to target legal critics of war on terror.
But it hardly covers to content of the 95-page paper being reported on: see the PDF.
The author makes clear that his motivation is hatred of Islam. He includes the false myth of origins of Western Asian violence toward the United States lying in antiquity rather than in blowback. He includes the lie, now popular on all sides, of Iran pursuing nuclear weapons.
He announces, after the recent U.S. losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, that U.S. armies always win. Then he admits that the U.S. is losing but says this is because of insufficient support for the wars and for making the wars about an "economic system, culture, values, morals, and laws."
The key weapon in this war, he says, is information. U.S. crimes are not the problem; the problem, he writes, is any information distributed about U.S. crimes -- which information is only damaging because the United States is the pinnacle of support for the rule of law. It wouldn't matter if you spread news about crimes by some more lawless nation. But when you share news about crimes by the United States it hurts the U.S. cause which is upholding the rule of law and leading the world to lawfulness. The United States is the all-time world champion of the rule of law, we're told, in a 95-page screed that never mentions the Kellogg-Briand Pact and only belatedly brings up the United Nations Charter in order to pretend that it permits all U.S. wars.
You can pack a lot of existing lies about U.S. wars and some new ones into 95 pages. So, for example, Walter Cronkite lost the Tet Offensive (and by the logic of the rest of this article, should have been immediately murdered on air). The mythical liberal media is busy reporting on the U.S. killing of civilians, and the worst voices in public discourse are those of treasonous U.S. lawyers. They are the most damaging, again, because the United States is the preeminent leader of lawibidingness.
The treasonous antiwar lawyers number 40, and the author hints that he has them on a list. Though whether this is a real list like Obama's kill list or something more like McCarthy's is not clear. I lean toward the latter, primarily because the list of offenses run through to fill up 95 pages includes such an array that few if any lawyers have been engaged in all of them. The offenses range from the most modest questioning of particular atrocities to prosecuting Bush and Cheney in court. Nobody doing the latter has any voice in U.S. corporate media, and a blacklist for Congress or for the U.S. Institute of "Peace" would hardly be needed if created.
The 40 unnamed treasonous scholars are, in this treatise, given the acronym CLOACA, which in good fascist form of course means a sewer or an orifice for excreting feces or urine. Their supposed crimes include:
- failing to concede that violations of the Laws of Armed Conflict by Muslims permit the waiving of those laws for the U.S. government;
- interpreting the supposed standards of "distinction" and "proportionality," which the author admits are totally open to interpretation, to mean something the author doesn't like;
- opposing lawless imprisonment and torture;
- opposing murder by drone;
- supporting the supposed duty to warn people before you kill them;
- counting dead bodies (which is too "macabre" even though the U.S. is supposedly devoted to "minimizing civilian casualties" not to mention Western scientific superiority);
- upholding laws; pointing out facts, laws, or counterproductive results;
- filing suits in court;
- or criticizing war advocates.
The heart of the matter seems to be this: opposing war amounts to supporting war by an enemy. And, nonetheless, among the reasons offered to explain CLOACA joining the enemy are "anti-militarism," and "pernicious pacifism." So actual opposition to war drives people to oppose war, which amounts to supporting war for the enemy. I think I've got it.
The prescriptions to heal this illness center on waging total war. The author proposes both dropping nuclear bombs and capturing hearts and minds. No doubt as part of his leading support for lawfulness, he demands that there be no restraint on U.S. warmaking against Muslims. That means no limit in time or place, a rewriting of any laws of war by the U.S. military, and no trust in the "marketplace of ideas." The U.S. must use PSYOPS, must impose loyalty oaths, must fire disloyal scholars from their jobs, must prosecute them for "material support of terrorism" and for treason, and must proceed to murder them in any time and place.
I suppose that when I point out that this illustrates the madness of militarism I should breathe a deep sigh of relief that I have no law degree.
Airing on PBS on September 12 will be an interview I watched taped at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia on August 28 with Wendy Sherman, the U.S. Under Secretary of State who played the key role in negotiating the Iran agreement.
The Miller Center has cut public questions and answers out of the portion of its events that are broadcast, so what will air will only include questions from the host, Doug Blackmon, but he asked I think most of the questions, some reasonable, some absurd, that have been asked by CNN, Fox, and the Associated Press. The elderly, wealthy, white audience asked questions at the end too, and the first one was about supposedly secret side agreements that would allow Iran to build nuclear weapons. My impression was that the audience was won over by Sherman's answers to everything she was asked.
In fact, Blackmon was about to call on me to ask a question when I had to leave to go meet with a staffer of Senator Mark Warner to urge him to oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and the first thing I did was give the staffer Sherman's information and ask him to ask the Senator to call her. Warner is, of course, undecided on whether the Iran deal is preferable to the course toward war that so many of his colleagues openly prefer.
My concern, which I had most hoped to ask about, would not have been a concern for Warner, I suspect. My concern was this: the White House Press Secretary has suggested, and Politico has reported that the White House has been telling Congress, that the agreement will allow the U.S. to learn useful information about Iranian facilities that will make it easier to launch an effective war against Iran in the future if "necessary." Sherman on Friday repeatedly violated the U.N. Charter by stating that the United States could launch a war on Iran, and that she had no doubt President Obama would do so, if "necessary" to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. How is that sort of talk heard in Iran?
Sherman should know. She spent two years getting to know and negotiating with Iranians. She describes friendly moments. Both she and her Iranian counterpart became grandparents during the course of this negotiation. She also describes yelling and walking out. How does she think the Iranians she knows hear threats of war? For that matter, how does she think they hear accusations of having had and desiring to have a nuclear weapons program -- accusations repeated by Sherman on Friday but for which she was not asked for any evidence. For that matter, she accused Iran of wishing death to the United States and Israel -- again, without being asked for any evidence.
Sherman was quite articulate and to-the-point and convincing in arguing every detail of the inspections. Those who want a "better deal" had better avoid listening to her at all costs if they want to maintain their belief system. But pushing for peace while threatening war is a weak sort of advocacy, even if its advocates view it as being tough. Sherman, like her former colleague Madeline Albright, brags about how much damage sanctions have done to people -- in this case Iranians. She wants to be tough. But is she being strategic? What happens when the U.S. changes presidents or Congresses or some sort of incident occurs or is alleged to have occurred? The U.S. public will have been taught to think about Iran in the least helpful manner possible.
Asked if she trusts Iran, Sherman says no way. She goes on at length about how trust is not even part of her profession, doesn't enter into it at all, that these negotiations were aimed at and achieved a regime of verification based on total mistrust. A moment later, asked if she trusts in the good faith of Benjamin Netanyahu, Sherman does not hesitate to exclaim "Oh, of course!" What does that example tell people to think about Iranians? Compared to an openly racist militarist who orders the slaughter of civilians, the Iranians are untrustworthy? If that were so, I'd oppose the agreement myself!
Sherman also says that Iran knows how to make a nuclear weapon. I'd have liked to ask her whether she learned this before or after the CIA gave Iran nuclear weapons blueprints -- for which Jeffrey Sterling sits in prison as the alleged and convicted whistleblower. And how did she learn it?
Sherman says the United States is the one indispensible nation that must lead the global fight against "terrorism." She declares that if needed the U.S. can re-impose not only its own sanctions on Iran but also those of its partners and the EU. I wouldn't be so sure. A stronger, reality-based case for this agreement would recognize that the threat is not from Iran but from the United States, that the world understands that to a huge extent, and that other nations are not going to easily re-impose sanctions on Iran. In fact they're already opening embassies there. For the United States to go back on this agreement, now or later, would indeed isolate one nation from the rest of the world. I wonder, however, if Sherman is able to allow herself to realize which nation that will be.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power wrote this week: "if the United States rejects this deal, we would instantly isolate ourselves from the countries that spent nearly two years working with American negotiators to hammer out its toughest provisions." Power goes on to explain that such isolation would be undesirable because it would prevent the United States from getting other governments to join in new sanctions to harm any other country or new wars against any other countries.
Hey, now that I think about it, I have to wonder whether U.S. isolation would be such a bad thing after all.
Remarks in Chicago on the 87th anniversary of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, August 27, 2015.
Thank you very much for inviting me here and thank you to Kathy Kelly for everything she does and thank you to Frank Goetz and everyone involved in creating this essay contest and keeping it going. This contest is far and away the best thing that has come out of my book When the World Outlawed War.
I proposed making August 27th a holiday everywhere, and that hasn't yet happened, but it's begun. The city of St. Paul, Minnesota, has done it. Frank Kellogg, for whom the Kellogg-Briand Pact is named, was from there. A group in Albuquerque is holding an event today, as are groups in other cities today and in recent years. A Congress member has recognized the occasion in the Congressional Record.
But the responses offered to some of the essays from various readers and included in the booklet are typical, and their failings should not reflect poorly on the essays. Virtually everyone has no idea that there is a law on the books banning all war. And when a person finds out, he or she typically takes no more than a few minutes to dismiss the fact as meaningless. Read the responses to the essays. None of the responders who were dismissive considered the essays carefully or read additional sources; clearly none of them read a word of my book.
Why sail food from Maine to Boston, and what do salt and the British colonies in North America have in common with Gandhi's India?
Rivera Sun is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, Billionaire Buddha, and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, the cohost of Occupy Radio, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network. She tours nationally speaking and educating in nonviolent civil resistance. Her essays on social justice movements appear in Truthout and Popular Resistance. See http://riverasun.com
Marada Cook is a food entrepreneur who can be found at Crown O'Maine Organic Cooperative, Northern Girl, and Fiddler's Green Farm.
Read Rivera Sun's article "Maine Sail Freight Revives: A Salty History of Revolution, Independence."
Find the Maine Sail Freight at http://thegreenhorns.net
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If someone has had the good fortune not to encounter the world of U.S. police and prisons, and the misfortune to learn about the world from U.S. schools, entertainment, and "news" media, a great place to start understanding one of the worst self-inflicted tragedies of our era would be with James Kilgore's short new book, Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People's Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time, followed up by Radley Balko's longer Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces.
Both books tell a story of gradual change over the past half-century that has resulted in the police going to war against people they were supposed to serve (call it a war on crime, a war on drugs, a war on terror, it's always in fact a war on people). And what do you do with people captured alive during a war? You lock them away as prisoners of war until the war ends. And if the war never ends? Well, then you bring back the death penalty, create life sentences for lots of crimes including for kids, impose mandatory minimums and three-strikes, and transform parole and probation from rehabilitation to reincarceration services.
The story of this gradual change is one of legal changes (court rulings and legislation), behavior, and popular belief -- with each of these influencing the other two in a vicious cycle. You can't quadruple a prison population in 40 years without instituting a different belief system. You can't ship black prisoners to be guarded by rural whites employed by for-profit companies, or lock up immigrants indefinitely while they await hearings, and not alter the belief system further. You can't run several successive election campaigns as contests in meanness and not see changes in policy and behavior. You can't give police military weapons and not expect them to adopt military attitudes, or give them military training and expect them not to want military weapons. You can't give crime 10 times the coverage on the "news" and not expect people to imagine crime is increasing. You can't start smashing in doors without alienating the police and the people from each other.
Kilgore reminds us that the popular movements of the 1960s had an impact on popular thought. Opposition to the death penalty peaked in 1965 and was over 50% from 1957 to 1972, dropping to 20% in 1990. In 1977 only 37% of people polled rated police officers' ethics as high, a number that rose to 78% in 2001 for no apparent substantive reason. As late as 1981 most Americans thought unemployment was the main cause of crime. We've since learned of course that crime is caused by evil demonic forces that possess the bad people of the earth.
The creation of the world's largest ever collection of permanent prisoners of war -- a trend that would translate perfectly to the war "on terror" abroad -- developed through cycles, including partisan cycles. That is to say, Nixon had a horrible impact, Carter briefly slowed the mad rush to prisonville, and Reagan and Bush built on Nixon's policies. The war on drugs was created as a means to militarize the police and involve the federal government in more local law enforcement, not the other war around. Reagan's attorney general announced early on that, "the Justice Department is not a domestic agency. It is the internal arm of the national defense." The end of the Cold War saw the military looking for new excuses to exist, and one of them would be the war on drugs.
When Clinton came along it again made a difference to have a Democrat in the White House, only this time for the worse. Bill Clinton and his would-be president wife and allies such as would-be president Joe Biden accelerated the march to suburban Siberia rather than slowing it. Under Clinton it became possible to throw people out of public housing for a single drug offense of any kind by anyone in the house. And yet Clinton was never evicted from his public housing despite the near certainty that someone in the White House used some kind of drug. Clinton brought us huge increases in incarceration, war weapons for police, and the shredding of social supports.
When the War on Terra began in 2001 whole new pathways to profit and police militarization opened up, including the beloved Fatherland's Department of Homeland Security, which has handed out tens of billions of dollars in "terror grants" that fund the terrorizing of the U.S. public. In 2006 the Buffalo, NY, police staged a series of drug raids they called "Operation Shock and Awe." Adding truly military grade incompetence to meanness, the New York Police Department raided an elderly couple's home over 50 times between 2002 and 2010 because their address had randomly been used as a placeholder in a computer system and remained in any report that had failed to include an address.
The arrival of Captain Peace Prize at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue continued the trends and added an escalation of the war on immigrants, as well as of the war weapons for the police programs.
But the partisan cycles are more subtle as well. As Balko recounts, Congress members and others opposed police militarization when the president was of the other party and supported it when he was from theirs, or opposed it when the discussion focused on drugs but supported it in matters of gun-control (or vice versa). Yet, each acceptance was two steps forward and each resistance one step back, so that what was outrageous one decade became the norm in the next.
National partisan tides and vicious cycles of ever increasing militarization interacted over the years with local advances. Los Angeles, and the leadership of Darryl Gates, brought SWAT teams to U.S. policing. The name originally stood for Special Weapons Attack Teams and the tactics were literally a bringing of the war on Vietnam home as Gates consulted with the military to learn what was supposedly working in Vietnam.
Let me close with the question with which Balko begins his book: Are police constitutional? The police, prisons, parole, and probation did not exist when the U.S. Constitution was created any more than did drones or the internet. The first thing in the United States like police was the slave patrol. The first modern police force in the United States was begun in New York City in 1845. I've argued at length elsewhere that drones are incompatible with the Bill of Rights. What about police?
The Third Amendment grew out of resistance to allowing soldiers to engage in any of the abuses that constitute the work of police. Need we accept those abuses? I think we can at the very least radically reduce them. To do so we will have to declare an end to the wars abroad and the wars at home. Balko quotes former Maryland police officer Neill Franklin on what changing police attitudes will require:
"Number one, you've signed on to a dangerous job. That means that you've agreed to a certain amount of risk. You don't get to start stepping on others' rights to minimize that risk you agreed to take on. And number two, your first priority is not to protect yourself, it's to protect those you've sworn to protect." But that would mean not being at war with people.
Stabenow Yes takes potential No list down to 14. But Blumenthal is still undecided, so it's 15.
This is an update to "Which U.S. Senators Want War on Iran." But Blumenthal is still undecided, so it's 15.
I've found there isn't really any way to touch on this topic without misunderstanding, but here's a try. Iran has never had a nuclear weapons program or threatened to launch a war against the U.S. or Israel. Many opponents of the Iran deal in the U.S. Congress and nearly every, if not every single, proponent of the agreement in the U.S. Congress has proposed war as the alternative. Some examples are here. The White House is even telling Congress that the agreement will make a future war easier -- as a selling point in favor of the deal.
Of course, war is NOT the only alternative to the agreement. The threat of war comes from the U.S. An alternative to that would be to simply stop threatening it. No deal is actually needed. The purpose it serves is to slow down a U.S. push for war.
Of course, many ordinary supporters and opponents of the agreement do not want a war. But with Washington offering two courses of action toward Iran: a deal that imposes tougher inspections than anyone else has to deal with, or bombs, one has to choose the inspections.
That is, a moral person does. The "I want a better deal" argument is cynically put forward by people who want no deal at all, even if supported by well-meaning people who have the misfortune to own televisions or read newspapers.
Of course, the Iranian government can be criticized in many areas, none of which are subject to improvement by bombing.
Here are people who have said they oppose the agreement or can't make up their mind about it yet:
Every Republican in the U.S. Senate plus these Democrats (the first two have said No, the rest Undecided):
This is a much shorter list than what it was when I previously wrote on this topic. In fact, it's at 15, which is almost down to the 13 needed to kill the agreement. Get it down to 12 and the agreement survives. That means two more Democratic senators can come around to the Yes position on the Iran deal and the deal still die. Almost certainly at least those two will. Whether a third does, or more do, is the real question.
When measures voted on are popular with funders but unpopular with the public, they very often pass with no more than exactly the votes needed. Sometimes word leaks out about the deals that have been cut. Senators and House members take their turns giving the unpopular votes demanded by funders and "leadership." The trick here is that the "leadership" is split between Obama's and Biden's YES and (would be Senate leader) Schumer's NO.
The fifteen people named above have had PLENTY of time to conclude that many of their colleagues want to risk a war and to understand that the agreement is preferable to that. It's time for us to let them know we will not stand for them getting this wrong and will never forget it if they do. Here's what I'm asking about my senator, Mark Warner:
Here's what World Beyond War is doing to try to correct the myth that Iran is the origin of the threat of war in this affair:
We must uphold the Iran agreement, but upholding it while pretending that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, or is threatening anyone, will not create a stable and lasting foundation for peace. Upholding an agreement with both proponents and opponents threatening war as an alternative is perilous as well as immoral, illegal, and — given the outcome of similar recent wars based on similar recent propaganda — insane.
More events all over the world, and tools for creating your own are here.
Outside the U.S., people can contact the nearest U.S. Embassy.
Jeremy Deaton seems to be a fine writer on the subject of climate change right up until he stumbles across the propaganda of the U.S. military. I highlight this as the latest example of something that is so typical as to be nearly universal. This is a pattern across major environmental groups, environmental books, and environmentalists by the thousands. In fact, it's in no way limited to environmentalists, it's just that in the case of environmentalism, blindness to the damage done by the U.S. military is particularly dramatic in its impact.
Three cheers for Reuters pointing out that the Pentagon can't explain what it did with $8.5 trillion that taxpayers gave it between 1996 and 2013.
Three trillion cheers for a blogger who is pointing out that this fact renders many other concerns ludicrous, and recommending that people bring it up at every opportunity:
"What's that? Body cameras for all cops will be too expensive? How about we find 1/10,000th of the money we sent to the Pentagon."
"Oh really? There's 500 million in provable food stamp fraud going to poor people how about the $8.5 TRILLION the pentagon can't account for?"
"Oh really? You think Obamacare is going to cost us almost a trillion dollars over 15 years? How about the 8.5 Trillion that just disappeared into the ether at the Pentagon? What's your take on that?"
"Oh really, you're concerned about deficit spending and the debt? Fully 1/3 of the national debt is money we sent the Pentagon and they can't tell us where it went. It's just gone."
"College for everyone will cost too much? You must be really pissed at the 8.5 Trillion, with a 't', dollars the pentagon's spent and can't tell us where it went."
This is all very good as far as it goes, whether you like the body cameras or corporate health insurance or other items or not. We could add an unlimited number of items including some expressing our concern for the other 96% of humanity:
"You can end starvation and unclean water for tens of billions of dollars; what about that $8.5 trillion?"
But here's my real concern. The $8.5 trillion is just the bit that the Pentagon can't account for. That's far from all the money it was given. U.S. military spending, spread across several departments with the biggest chunk of it to the Department of so-called Defense, is upwards of $1 trillion every year. Over 17 years at the current rate, which rose sharply after 2001, that's upwards of $17 trillion.
Imagine that the Pentagon accounted for every dime of that missing $8.5 trillion, named every profiteer, documented the life history of every man, woman, and child killed, and passed the strictest audit by an independent team of 1,000 accountants reporting to 35 Nobel Laureates -- if that happened, I ask you, exactly what difference would it make?
Why is the $8.5 trillion that went to unknown purposes worse than the other trillions that went to known and named weapons and dictators and militants and recruitment campaigns? The documented and accounted for spending all went to evil purposes. Presumably the unaccounted for "waste" did the same. What's the difference between the two?
As World Beyond War points out, war has a huge direct financial cost, the vast majority of which is in funds spent on the preparation for war — or what's thought of as ordinary, non-war military spending. Very roughly, the world spends $2 trillion every year on militarism, of which the United States spends about half, or $1 trillion. This U.S. spending also accounts for roughly half of the U.S. government's discretionary budget each year and is distributed through several departments and agencies. Much of the rest of world spending is by members of NATO and other allies of the United States, although China ranks second in the world.
Wars can cost even an aggressor nation that fights wars far from its shores twice as much in indirect expenses as in direct expenditures. The costs to the aggressor, enormous as they are, can be small in comparison to those of the nation attacked.
It is common to think that, because many people have jobs in the war industry, spending on war and preparations for war benefits an economy. In reality, spending those same dollars on peaceful industries, on education, on infrastructure, or even on tax cuts for working people would produce more jobs and in most cases better paying jobs — with enough savings to help everyone make the transition from war work to peace work.
Military spending diverts public funds into increasingly privatized industries through the least accountable public enterprise and one that is hugely profitable for the owners and directors of the corporations involved -- thus concentrating wealth.
While war impoverishes the war making nation, can it nonetheless enrich that nation more substantially by facilitating the exploitation of other nations? Not in a manner that can be sustained.
Green energy and infrastructure would surpass their advocates’ wildest fantasies if the funds now invested in war were transferred there.
No, I’m not referring to the U.S. election. I’m referring to “Bycatch.” The name refers not to fish accidentally caught and killed while trying to catch and kill other fish, but to humans murdered in a game in which the player hopes to murder certain other humans but knows that he or she stands a good chance of murdering some bycatch.
The Nazis never reached this height of banality in the general German public, but had they done so it would be a sinister feature of tens of thousands of Hollywood movies. If Russians sat around playing a board game that involved blowing up Ukrainian children, the Washington Post would have already published several front-page articles.
This is a game that puts you in the shoes of one particular human being, thus far, but imagines several engaging in the same activity in competition. In Bycatch you become Barack Obama going through his Tuesday murder list. But Bycatch imagines as many nations as people playing the game, each engaging in a drone murder spree against the others. Here’s an excerpt from the rules:
“How to strike
“Suspects hiding in other nations can be eliminated by means of a strike. You choose the opponent you wish to target and go through these steps:
“Discard two identical citizens who are not suspects from your hand.
“Remove three consecutive citizens from your chosen opponent’s hand.
“Show these cards to the other players.
“Place them face down in front of you.
“Failed Strike: If none of the eliminated citizens are suspects, they are all collateral damage.
“Successful Strike: If at least one eliminated citizen is a suspect, do the following:
- Place the current intelligence card face down on top of the eliminated citizens.
- Reveal a new intelligence card.
“The remaining citizens are collateral damage.”
“Add 100 points for each suspect eliminated by a strike. Use the intelligence cards to identify eliminated suspects.
“Collateral Damage: Detract 10 points for each citizen in a strike who was not a suspect.”
So, if you casually murder three “wrong” people, you lose 30 points. But if you only murder two “wrong” people and murder one “right” person, you gain 80 points. I wonder what people will do?
This is a game to be played by well-off people who can afford to purchase such crap and to sit around playing with it. And it’s being marketed to them with a wink by people who know better. The game’s would-be profiteers have this to say about it:
“Appealing artwork helps you empathize with your citizens and the horrors of drone strikes and collateral damage.”
Right. Because tossing lives around on playing cards and making more points the more you murder is a well-established path to empathy.
I thought I couldn’t grow any more disgusted with the human race. I was wrong.
It is possible for people to behave well in a crisis. It is possible for people to maintain their dedication to good and kindness in the face of fear and horrific loss. The loved one of a murder victim can love and comfort the murderer. This fact is going to become ever more crucial to understand and demonstrate as the crises of a collapsing climate engulf us.
In 1943 six residents of Coventry, England, bombed by Germany, wrote a public letter condemning the bombing of German cities. Imagine if they — and what they asserted was the general view of their neighbors — had been listened to. We’ve had seven decades of endless revenge, including a particular new burst of it that began around September 12, 2001. But some have pushed back.
A new film called In Our Son’s Name provides a powerful example. Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez, whose story the film tells, published a letter shortly after September 11, 2001, that read:
“Our son Greg is among the many missing from the World Trade Center attack. Since we first heard the news, we have shared moments of grief, comfort, hope, despair, fond memories with his wife, the two families, our friends and neighbors, his loving colleagues at Cantor Fitzgerald/ESpeed, and all the grieving families that daily meet at the Pierre Hotel.
“We see our hurt and anger reflected among everybody we meet. We cannot pay attention to the daily flow of news about this disaster. But we read enough of the news to sense that our government is heading in the direction of violent revenge, with the prospect of sons, daughters, parents, friends in distant lands, dying, suffering, and nursing further grievances against us. It is not the way to go. It will not avenge our son’s death. Not in our son’s name.
“Our son died a victim of an inhuman ideology. Our actions should not serve the same purpose. Let us grieve. Let us reflect and pray. Let us think about a rational response that brings real peace and justice to our world. But let us not as a nation add to the inhumanity of our times.”
That was their immediate response when it mattered, and of course it ought to have been heeded. Orlando Rodriguez taught a course on terrorism at Fordham University after the death of his son, trying to reach at least a small number of people drowning in the sea of patriotism and militarism.
Phyllis Rodriguez wanted to meet Aicha el-Wafi, the suffering mother of the indicted Zacarias Moussaoui; and when they met they helped each other through their grief. Phyllis comforted Aicha during her son’s trial, at which Orlando and a dozen others testified for the defense.
“Our son’s life is not worth more than her son’s life,” said Phyllis, articulating both an obvious truth and an idea that millions of people would find incomprehensible, due to the power of nationalism and hatred.
The Rodriguezes began speaking publicly. Phyllis and Aicha spoke at events together.
Zacarias Moussaoui was reportedly amazed that any American would speak up for him. If he were to meet with and get to know people like Orlando and Phyllis he might come to oppose the ideology he had embraced. But that might not happen any time soon. He’s locked away for life, and the judge reportedly told him as he left court that he would “die with a whimper” and “never get a chance to speak again.”
As a substitute for meeting with people responsible for their son’s death, the Rodriguezes met at Sing Sing prison with five men convicted of kidnapping and murder. The men expressed their desire to meet with their victims and apologize, something they are denied the right to do. They also expressed the need to tell their stories and have someone listen. Phyllis and Orlando understood this perfectly, going into the meeting with the belief that while they had had ample opportunity to tell their story, these men hadn’t.
Orlando said the meeting with prisoners helped release some of his anger. He began teaching in prison, wishing he could teach the people who killed his son, wishing he could teach them not to do it. Of course that’s not really possible, but we can collectively compel the U.S. government to end policies that “create further grievances against us.”
What if every dead child were, in some sense, our son or daughter? Can we allow ourselves to think like that? Can we understand the grief and pain? Can we respond collectively with the wisdom and magnanimity that we long to see and occasionally do see in individuals.
Here’s a way to start. Buy a giant popcorn to share and show In Our Son’s Name to everyone you can.