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Peace Advocate Climbs U.S. Navy Satellite Dish in Sicily

Credit to Fabio d'Alessandro for the photo and alerting me to the story, reported in Italian at Vice and Meridionews.

On the morning of Armistice Day, November 11, 2015, longtime peace activist Turi Vaccaro climbed to where you see him in the photo above. He brought a hammer and made this a Plowshares action by hammering on the enormous satellite dish, an instrument of U.S. warfare communications.

Here's a video:

There's a popular movement in Sicily called No MUOS. MUOS means Mobile User Objective System. It's a satellite communications system created by the U.S. Navy. It has equipment in Australia, Hawaii, Chesapeake Virginia, and Sicily.

The primary contractor and profiteer building the satellite equipment at the U.S. Navy base in the desert in Sicily is Lockheed Martin Space Systems. Each of the four MUOS ground stations is intended to include three swivelling very-high-frequency satellite dishes with a diameter of 18.4 meters and two Ultra High Frequency (UHF) helical antennas.

Protests have been growing in the nearby town of Niscemi since 2012. In October 2012, construction was suspended for a few weeks. In early 2013 the President of the Region of Sicily revoked the authorization for the MUOS construction. The Italian government conducted a dubious study of health impacts and concluded the project was safe. Work recommenced. The town of Niscemi appealed, and in April 2014 the Regional Administrative Tribunal requested a new study. Construction goes on, as does resistance.

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In April 2015 I spoke with Fabio D'Alessandro, a giornalist and law school graduate living in Niscemi. "I'm part of the No MUOS movement," he told me, "a movement that works to prevent the installation of the U.S. satellite system called MUOS. To be specific, I'm part of the No MUOS committee of Niscemi, which is part of the coalition of No MUOS committees, a network of committees spread around Sicily and in the major Italian cities."

"It is very sad," said D'Alessandro,"to realize that in the United States people know little about MUOS. MUOS is a system for high-frequency and narrowband satellite communications, composed of five satellites and four stations on earth, one of which is planned for Niscemi. MUOS was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. The purpose of the program is the creation of a global communications network that allows communication in real time with any soldier in any part of the world. In addition it will be possible to send encrypted messages. One of the principal functions of MUOS, apart from the speed of communications, is the ability to remotely pilot drones. Recent tests have demonstrated how MUOS can be used at the North Pole. In short, MUOS will serve to support any U.S. conflict in the Mediterranean or the Middle East or Asia. It's all part of the effort to automate war, entrusting the choice of targets to machines."

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"There are many reasons to oppose MUOS," D'Alessandro told me, "first of all the local community has not been advised of the installation. The MUOS satellite dishes and antennas are built within a non-NATO U.S. military base that has existed in Niscemi since 1991. The base was constructed within a nature preserve, destroying thousands of cork oaks and devestating the landscape by means of bulldozers that leveled a hill. The base is larger than the town of Niscemi itself. The presence of the satellite dishes and antennas puts at serious risk a fragile habitat including flora and fauna that exist only in this place. And no study has been conducted of the dangers of the electromagnetic waves emitted, neither for the animal population nor for the human inhabitants and the civilian flights from the Comiso Airport approximately 20 kilometers away.

"Within the base there are already present 46 satellite dishes, surpassing the limit set by Italian law. Moreover, as determined anti-militarists, we oppose further militarizing this area, which already has the base at Sigonella and other U.S. bases in Sicily. We don't want to be complicit in the next wars. And we don't want to become a target for whoever attempts to attack the U.S. military."

What have you done thus far, I asked.

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"We've engaged in lots of different actions against the base: more than once we've cut through the fences; three times we've invaded the base en masse; twice we've entered the base with thousands demonstrating. We've blocked the roads to prevent access for the workers and the American military personnel. There has been sabotage of the optical communication wires, and many other actions."

The No Dal Molin movement against the new base at Vicenza, Italy, has not stopped that base. Have you learned anything from their efforts? Are you in touch with them?

"We are in constant contact with No Dal Molin, and we know their history well. The company that is building MUOS, Gemmo SPA, is the same that did the work on Dal Molin and is currently under investigation subsequent to the seizure of the MUOS building site by the courts in Caltagirone. Anyone attempting to bring into doubt the legitimacy of U.S. military bases in Italy is obliged to work with political groups on the right and left that have always been pro-NATO. And in this case the first supporters of MUOS were the politicians just as happened at Dal Molin. We often meet with delegations of activists from Vicenza and three times have been their guests."

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I went with representatives of No Dal Molin to meet with Congress Members and Senators and their staffs in Washington, and they simply asked us where the base should go if not Vicenza. We replied "Nowhere." Have you met with anyone in the U.S. government or communicated with them in any way?

"Many times the U.S. consuls have come to Niscemi but we have never been permitted to speak with them. We have never in any way communicated with U.S. senators/representatives, and none have ever asked to meet with us."

Where are the other three MOUS sites? Are you in touch with resisters there? Or with the resistance to bases on Jeju Island or Okinawa or the Philippines or elsewhere around the world? The Chagossians seeking to return might make good allies, right? What about the groups studying the military damage to Sardinia? Environmental groups are concerned about Jeju and about Pagan Island Are they helpful in Sicily?

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"We are in direct contact with the No Radar group in Sardinia. One of the planners of that struggle has worked (for free) for us. We know the other anti-U.S.-base movements around the world, and thanks to No Dal Molin and to David Vine, we have been able to hold some virtual meetings. Also thanks to the support of Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space we are trying to get in touch with those in Hawaii and Okinawa."

What would you most like people in the United States to know?

"The imperialism that the United States is imposing on the countries that lost the Second World War is shameful. We are tired of having to be slaves to a foreign politics that to us is crazy and that obliges us to make enormous sacrifices and that makes Sicily and Italy no longer lands of welcome and peace, but lands of war, deserts in use by the U.S. Navy."

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Read also "The Tiny Italian Town Killing the U.S. Navy’s Surveillance Plans" by Daily Beast.

And watch this:

U.S. and Russian Militaries Compete for Darwin Award

Which world power can damage its own interests with the dumbest move? The contest will have you on the edge of your seats.

Here's the latest U.S. entry:

Last month, a raid by Kurdish forces supposedly freed ISIS prisoners, and those Kurdish forces posted a video of prisoners rushing out of a prison while gunfire sounded in the background. One U.S. troop was killed in the raid. U.S. media rushed to cover the story as a heroic act of benevolence. Non-U.S. media rushed to cover the fact that the "non-combat" troops, the so-called "advisors" whom the U.S. has in Iraq by the thousands were in fact engaged in combat.

It escaped my attention and perhaps most people's that the "advisors" may also have been providing extraordinarily bad advice. NPR -- which often functions no differently than an official Pentagon news service -- reported an interesting contradiction to the central claim of the prisoner-rescue story.

NPRer Kelly McEvers said, "The province of Kirkuk is the crossroads of Iraq. To the north are the majority of the country's Kurds, to the south - Arabs. And now Kirkuk is on the frontlines of the battle with ISIS. Last month, Kirkuk province was the site of a prison raid by U.S. and Kurdish forces. One American soldier was killed. Earlier today, I spoke with the governor of Kirkuk, Najmaldin Karim, from our studios in Washington. And he said the raid was meant to rescue Kurds who'd been captured by ISIS. And instead, it freed ISIS fighters who'd been imprisoned by their own leaders."

Instead of freeing Kurds captured by ISIS, the U.S.-advised Kurds (together with U.S. "non-combat" troops doing their "advising") actually freed ISIS fighters?

The governor of Kirkuk, Najmaldin Karim, replied, "Among these were two who are considered somewhat senior locally in the region. One of them was the prison administrator, and the other one was some guy who used the last name of Shishani. And Shishani is a village in that area, so he's probably from - they were local."

Senior ISIS fighters were freed? Including a prison administrator who was locked up in prison? This is very unclear and may be nonsense or only part of the story, but this is an account via a U.S.-military friendly outlet from a U.S.-educated, U.S.-citizen colonial governor visiting Washington, D.C., to ask for more weapons and "trainers" and "advisors" on behalf of multicultural Kurdish heroes who he says are willing to do U.S. dirty work. The interviewer is blatantly and openly on his side, asking oh-so-"objective" questions like this one: "You make a very compelling case, and it sounds like it's a case you've made many times. Give me your honest answer. Are you getting a sense in Washington that more help is on the way?"

Freeing ISIS prisoners would be in line with other steps the U.S. has taken in support of ISIS, from overthrowing secular governments and arming Muslim radicals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and much of Syria, to brutalizing prisoners, to throwing Iraq into utter chaos, to providing arms to the Iraqi government that are used on civilians and taken by ISIS, providing arms to "moderates" in Syria that are given to ISIS, and providing arms directly to ISIS. But the biggest boost for ISIS has come from what it asked the U.S. to do in its propaganda films: attack it. By becoming the leading opponent of the distant foreign nation that has made itself so hated for so many years, ISIS was able to make its recruitment soar. The U.S. response is always the same: declare that there is no military solution, and attempt another larger military solution.

Don't look now, but here comes Russia:

The December 2013 Gallup poll in which most of the 65 nations surveyed named the United States as the greatest threat to peace on earth, the flourishing of anti-U.S. terrorist groups around the world, the bitter hatred of the flyers of killer drones, the resentment of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib -- all of this seems to have infected the Russian government with the seeds of jealousy.

How can Russia make itself properly hated, put its people in proper jeopardy, show itself a vicious world power worthy of equal or greater scorn?

Brilliant 12-dimensional chessman Vladimir Putin found an answer, beloved even on the left in the United States as a means of finally more-efficiently murdering just the right terrorists and only the right terrorists, so help me Tolstoy. Russia began bombing Syria.

Before long, Russia had generated its very own anti-Russian terrorist attack, with a plane blown up over Egypt and 224 people killed. Vladimir couldn't have been prouder. According to the New York Times,

"analysts and other experts expect that it will only strengthen Mr. Putin's resolve to become more deeply involved in the Middle East. . . . and might cause Russia to begin targeting the Islamic State more aggressively. . . . 'The Kremlin will have to reverse cause and effect here so that its strategy is not seen as leading to civilian deaths,' said Maxim Trudolyubov, an editor at large for the newspaper Vedomosti. . . . 'A terrorist attack against Russian citizens means a declaration of war against all Russians,' wrote Tatiana Stanovaya, an analyst, on Slon.ru, a current events website. 'The Syria campaign will thus become not a matter of Putin's ambitions, but of national revenge.'

Despite the Russian quotes, this could be just the New York Times reflexively promoting more violence as what anyone would do because it's what friends of the New York Times would do. If Russia were truly following the U.S. course, it would have occupied Egypt by now. But the Russian TV network RT has posted speculation that "the West" was behind the bomb on the plane and that supposedly the West, in a departure from its every past understanding of how a government responds to violence, intends to thereby drive Russia out of Syria rather than sucking it further in, as was done so many years ago in Afghanistan. Meanwhile Sputnik News warns that the United States has launched a proxy war on Russia in Syria, and celebrates the increased sales abroad of Russian weapons that it says has resulted from the Russian bombing of Syria.

These don't sound like the noises of a society coming to its senses. They sound like hunger pangs of a political class in the chase for a Darwin award.

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Thanks to Evan Knappenberger for pointing the NPR story out to me.

Talk Nation Radio: Dave Chaddock on U.S. Germ Warfare in North Korea

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-dave-chaddock-on-us-germ-warfare-in-north-korea 

Dave Chaddock is the author of This Must Be the Place: How the U.S. Waged Germ Warfare in the Korean War and Denied It Ever Since.

Total run time: 29:00

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Producer: David Swanson.
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TPP: Americans and Vietnamese lose. Big corporations win.

By CHUCK SEARCY and LADY BORTON
Tác giả: CHUCK SEARCY và LADY BORTON

HANOI – Now that the United States, Vietnam, and ten other nations have signed the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) – and the text, finally, has been released to the public – the U.S. Congress and the other countries' legislative bodies must decide whether to ratify the agreement. Negotiations were secret, until the document was signed. Before the release of the text a few days ago, even members of Congress were not allowed to see the agreement, except for certain members who were shown only a few pages of certain sections, alone, in a locked room.

HÀ NỘI – Nay Hoa Kỳ, Việt Nam và 9 quốc gia khác vừa ký TPP (Hiệp định đối tác xuyên Thái Bình Dương) và nội dung của văn kiện này cuối cùng cũng được công bố trước dư luận – Quốc hội Mỹ và các cơ quan lập pháp của các nước thành viên khác của TPP sẽ phải quyết định có thông qua Hiệp định này. Các cuộc hội đàm tiến hành trong vòng kín, cho tới khi văn kiện Hiệp định được ký kết. Trước khi toàn văn của Hiệp định được công bố vài ngảy trước, ngay cả các nghị viên Mỹ cũng không được xem nội dung của nó, chỉ có có vài nghị sĩ được cho xem vài tờ của một số chương nhất định, xem một mình, trong một phòng đóng kín.

Now that the text has been released, the early reviews are in. It seems quite certain that ordinary Americans will not benefit from the TPP. Most will lose.

Nay khi văn bản đã được công bố, những chỉnh sửa trước đó đã nằm trong nội dung. Nó cho thấy rằng người dân Mỹ bình thường không được lợi từ TPP. Đa số họ sẽ thất thiệt.

That also appears to be the case for the people of Vietnam. Người dân Việt cũng rơi vào tình thế tương tự.
Why should citizens of both countries be concerned?
Vì sao người dân của hai đất nước chúng ta phải lo lắng?

This year is the 20th anniversary of the diplomatic normalization of relations between the U.S. and Vietnamese governments. The anniversary is being touted by both sides as a sort of milestone, and for good reason. Forty years since the end of the war that devastated Vietnam, a legacy of unexploded ordnance and Agent Orange remains, along with poverty and other reminders of the costs and consequences of the war. People of good will on both sides of course

are looking for opportunities to cooperate and ways to work together that will benefit the people of both our countries.

Năm nay là dịp kỷ niệm lần thứ 20 ngày bình thường hóa quan hệ ngoại giao giữa hai chính phủ Hoa Kỳ và Việt Nam. Ngày kỷ niệm này được tưng bừng quảng bá bởi cả hai bên như một cột mốc, do những nguyên cớ tốt đẹp. Bốn mươi năm kể từ khi kết thúc cuộc chiến tranh đã tàn phá Việt Nam, di sản của bom mìn chưa nổ và của chất độc da cam vẫn còn đó, cùng với nghèo khổ và những ký ức về cái giá phải trả và những hậu quả của cuộc chiến tranh. Người dân của cả hai bên dĩ nhiên tìm kiếm cơ hội để hợp tác và các cách thức làm việc với nhau sao cho đem lại lợi ích cho nhân dân cả hai nước.

But the TPP will not bring cooperation or benefits to American or Vietnamese citizens. It is a carefully contrived and very complicated expansion of corporate power over both governments. In the case of Vietnam, this corporate influence may actually threaten the country's sovereign rights as an independent nation with its own laws and regulations.

Nhưng TPP sẽ không mang lại cả sự hợp tác lẫn lợi ích cho các công dân Việt Nam và Mỹ. Đó là một sự khuyếch trương quyền lực của các Tập đoàn thương mại phủ bóng lên hai chính phủ, được tính toán kỹ càng. Trong trường hợp của Việt Nam, ảnh hưởng này của các tập đoàn thương mại có thể là mối đe dọa chủ quyền của đất nước, chủ quyền của một quốc gia độc lập, với những luật lệ và quy tắc của mình.

During this ratification period – which may take up to two years in the case of Vietnam, according to Mr. Tran Quoc Khanh, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade – representatives of the National Assembly will certainly seek to understand the costs and benefits to Vietnam. Members of the U.S. Congress will do the same, although Congress will only be allowed a yes or no vote. The U.S. Congress will not be allowed to alter or improve any of the text of the agreement.

Trong quá trình thông qua Hiệp định TPP – được dự kiến tiến hành trong hai năm cho trường hợp Việt Nam, theo ông Trần Quốc Khánh, thứ trưởng Bộ Công thương Việt Nam – đại diện của Quốc hội sẽ tìm hiểu giá phải trả và lợi ích mà Việt Nam sẽ có được. Các thành viên của Quốc hội Mỹ sẽ làm đúng như vậy, cho dù tại Nghị viện Mỹ, chỉ cho phép trả lời Có hay Không. Quốc hội Mỹ sẽ không cho phép sửa đổi hay cải thiện bất cứ điều gì trong nội dung của Hiệp định,

Nonetheless, this will be a critical time. Now that the full text of the agreement has becomes public, Americans and Vietnamese should engage in dialogue and carefully scrutinize the entire TTP Agreement. Key, substantive questions have already been identified in recent months by the experts who assembled the pieces of the TPP puzzle that were leaked. That process is now going forward apace, as new details have emerged with release of the text. Some concerns include:

Tuy nhiên, đây sẽ là một thời kỳ hệ trọng. Nay khi nội dung đấy đủ của Hiệp định đã được công bố, người Mỹ và người Việt Nam cần phải tham dự vào các cuộc đối thoại và soát xét kỹ lưỡng toàn văn của bản hiệp định TTP. Các câu hỏi then chốt, thiết yếu đã được xác lập trong những tháng vừa qua bới các chuyên gia, những người đã tập hợp những đoạn của những chỗ rắc rối của TPP từng rò rỉ (trong quá trình đàm phán). Quá trình này hiện đang tiến triển mau lẹ, và những chi tiết mới sẽ còn nhô lên một khi nội dung của TPP được công bố. Dưới đây là một số quan ngại:

Vietnam will begin to lose important elements of national sovereignty, most within a five-year deadline, if the TPP goes into effect.

Việt Nam sẽ bắt đầu mất đi những thành tố quan trọng của chủ quyền, chủ yếu là trong 5 năm trước hạn chót, nếu TPP bắt đầu đi vào thực hiện.

public-interest policies and any laws that threaten a U.S. corporation's profits. U.S. corporations will be above the government of Vietnam and above Vietnamese law.

Những văn bản được công bố gần đây đề xuất TPP sẽ mở rộng1 quyền hợp pháp của các tập đoàn thương mại và các nhà đầu tư, và cho phép các tập đoàn thương mại được kiện các nước (thành viên) ra tòa án quốc tế để bồi thường những tốn hại gây bởi các chính sách vì lợi ích cộng đồng và bất kỳ luật nào (chẳng hạn như các quy chế về tài chính và bảo hộ cho công nhân và cho môi trường) đe dọa lợi nhuận của các tập đoàn thương mại Mỹ. Các tập đoàn thương mại Mỹ sẽ đứng trên chính phủ Việt Nam và đứng trên cả luật pháp Việt Nam.

Disagreements would not be settled in Vietnamese courts or international courts, but by a panel of lawyers picked by corporations.

Những bất hòa sẽ không được dàn xếp ở Việt Nam hay tòa án quốc tế, mà bởi một ban gồm các luật sư mà tập đoàn thương mại sẽ triệu tập.

The agreement includes ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) provisions, by which a panel of lawyers picked by the corporations – not judges in Vietnamese or international courts – will rule on the lawsuits. Section 28.9(2)(a) of the Agreement says that one panel member each is chosen by each party, and under (2)(d), the chair (and third panel member) is chosen together by the parties, or, if necessary, chosen randomly from a list of qualified people on a roster. It seems likely that the drafters of the agreement sought a legal procedure that would fit all signatory nations, but now there are unintended consequences. Only a small number of lawyers are deemed qualified to serve on these panels. That group is potentially incestuous, since the corporations will have a strong say in suggesting names for the roster.

Hiệp định bao gồm các điều khoản ISDS (Dàn xếp bất hòa giữa Nhà đầu tư – Nhà nước), theo đó một ban gồm các luật sư sẽ được các tập đoàn triệu tập – chứ không phải các quan tòa Việt Nam hay quốc tế - sẽ phán quyết các vụ kiện. Mục 28.9(2)(a) của Hiệp định nói rằng mỗi bên sẽ chọn một thành viên của ban luật sư, và theo khoản (2)(d), người đứng đầu ban (cũng là thành viên thứ ba của ban) được các bên chọn ra, hoặc, nều thấy cần sẽ chọn ngẫu nhiên từ một danh sách

1 http://www.ibtimes.com/trade-pact-how-trans-pacific-partnership-gives-corporations-special-legal-rights-1975817. Accessed November 7, 2015.

 

Recently published texts suggest the TPP agreement will expand1 and investors and allow the corporations to sue countries in international tribunals for damages the legal rights of corporations caused by such as financial regulations and protections for workers and the environment)

những ứng viên đủ năng lực để đưa vào ban. Có vẻ như những người soạn thào hiệp định đã tìm kiếm một trình tự pháp lý sẽ hợp ý những quốc gia sẽ ký, nhưng đang xuất hiện những hệ quả không dự kiến trước. Chỉ một số nhỏ luật sư có thể đáp ứng được về mặt năng lực để tham gia vào các ban như thế. Một ban như thế dễ có thể xuất hiện những “tay trong”, vì các tập đoàn thương mại có một tiếng nói mạnh trong việc nêu tên những luật sư nào được đưa vào ban.

These secretive2 tribunals – three lawyers – would likely have a vested interest in the corporations that suggested or picked them. They are apt to impose huge, punitive fines against Vietnam. ISDS will constrain the scope of legitimate regulation, making it harder for Vietnam and other nations to achieve improved labor and environmental standards. In short, ISDS will constrain Vietnam's policy space to manage its own economic development. The government of Vietnam will no longer be beholden to its citizens but, instead, will be beholden to foreign corporations.

Những tòa án2 kiểu giấu diếm như thế - gồm ba luật sư – hẳn sẽ có quyền có được lợi tức trong các tập đoàn nào đề xuất hoặc chọn họ. Họ sẽ có khuynh hướng áp đặt những khoản phạt nặng cho Việt Nam. ISDS sẽ thu hẹp phạm vi của các quy chế hợp pháp, làm cho Việt Nam và các quốc gia khác khó đạt được sự cải thiện các tiêu chuẩn về người lao động và về môi trường. Nói tóm lại ISDS sẽ khắc chế không gian chính sách của Việt Nam, mà Việt Nam đang dùng để quản trị sự phát triển kinh tế của mình. Chính phủ Việt Nam sẽ không còn đóng vai trò thực thi nghĩa vụ trước các công dân của mình, mà lại đóng vai trò thực thi nghĩa vụ trước các tập đoàn kinh tế nước ngoài.

Ngay cả khả năng trả được khoản phạt nặng theo phán quyết của tòa án cộng với phí tố tụng cũng có thể đẩy các chính phủ (thành viên TPP) phải nhượng bộ các chủ quyền của họ: phải giảm bớt hiệu lực của các quy chế về người lao động, về môi trường, và các quy định khác; phải tránh không thông qua các quy chế, nghị định như thế. Tổ chức phi lợi nhuận Public Citizen của Mỹ đã dẫn những ví dụ3 ở Canada, nơi mà mối đe dọa của tố quyền ISDS có thể dẫn những nhà hoạch định chính sách phải cân nhắc kỹ về việc ban hành các quy chế bảo hộ liệu có đẩy chính phủ lâm vào một bất đồng đắt giả giữa nhà đầu tư và nhà nước.

This is not speculation. Similar cases have already been filed.
Đây không phải là sự suy diễn (cực đoan). Các trường hợp tương tự đã xảy ra.

2 http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21623756-governments-are-souring-treaties-protect- foreign-investors-arbitration. November 7, 2015.
3 http://www.citizen.org/documents/ISDS-and-TAFTA.pdf. Accessed November 7, 2015.

 

Even the possibility of paying a tribunal's huge fines plus legal costs can push governments to surrender their rights of sovereignty; dilute labor, environmental, or other regulations; and avoid passing such regulations altogether. The U.S. non-profit, Public Citizen, cited examples3 in Canada, where just the threat of ISDS action may have led policymakers "to think twice about enacting protections that could expose the government to a costly investor-state dispute."

Philip Morris, a U.S. cigarette company, has filed suits against Australia4

and Uruguay,5 arguing

those nations' laws mandating health warnings on tobacco products are an expropriation of the company's property and have cut into profits for Philip Morris. A Swedish energy firm has sued the government of Germany for restrictions on coal-fired6 and nuclear7 power plants. Veolia, a French waste-management company, is suing Egypt to overturn that nation's minimum-wage law. Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company is fighting8 Canada's efforts to reduce the price of medicine through limited drug patents in order to protect its citizens. Eli Lilly is accusing Canada of not letting the company make the profit the corporation wants.

Philip Morris, một hãng thuốc lá của Mỹ, đã khởi kiện chống lại Australia4 và Uruguay5, cáo buộc các quốc gia này ra luật buộc phải đề những cảnh báo sức khỏe trên các sản phẩm thuốc lá – là xâm phạm tải sản của công ty này, và đã làm co hẹp lợi nhuận của Philip Morris. Một hãng của Thụy Điển kiện chính phủ Đức là đã hạn chế các nhà máy điện chạy bằng than và bằng hạt nhân. Veolia, một công ty xử lý chất thải của Pháp đang kiện Ai Cập, buộc nước này phải hủy bỏ đạo luật về lương tối thiểu. Hãng dược Eli Lilly đang chống lại Canada về việc nước này đang nỗ lực làm giảm giá thuộc thông qua (việc cấp) các giấy phép kinh doanh thuốc hạn chế, để bảo hộ cho các công dân của mình. Eli Lily cáo buộc Canada đang không cho hãng này kiếm lời như nó muốn.

The number of companies that could sue Vietnam is growing. Số lượng những công ty có thể kiện Việt Nam đang tăng

As of the end of May 2015, U.S. companies in Vietnam had 742 projects worth over $11 billion. Major American firms – including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, IBM, Cargill, Microsoft, Citigroup, Chevron, Ford, General Electric, AES (formerly, Applied Energy Services), and UPS – have moved into the Vietnamese market. Some Americans who established these companies in Vietnam did so out of empathy and the wish to address post-war poverty; they may not realize that, under the TPP, the company they introduced could impinge on Vietnam's sovereignty.

Tính đến cuối tháng 5/2015, các doanh nghiệp Hoa Kỳ ở Việt Nam thực hiện 742 dự án, có tổng giá trị lên tới 11 tỉ USD. Các hãng chính của Mỹ ở đây, bao gồm Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, IBM, Cargill, Microsoft, Citigroup, Chevron, Ford, General Electric, AES (trước đây gọi là Applied Energy Services), và UPS – đã thâm nhập vào thị trường Việt Nam. Một số người Mỹ lập những công ty ở Việt Nam đã làm ăn mà không đếm xỉa đến sự thông cảm và mong muốn (các công ty này) lưu tâm đến sự nghèo khó sau chiến tranh; họ đã không nhận thấy, khi TPP được áp vào, các công ty mà họ đại diện cho có thể làm phương hại đến chủ quyền của Việt Nam.

4 http://www.ag.gov.au/tobaccoplainpackaging. Accessed November 7, 2015.
5 http://www.iisd.org/itn/2011/07/12/philip-morris-v-uruguay-will-investor-state-arbitration-send-restrictions-on- tobacco-marketing-up-in-smoke/. Accessed November 7, 2015.
6 http://www.iisd.org/pdf/2009/background_vattenfall_vs_germany.pdf. Accessed November 7, 2015.
7 http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/vattenfall-vs-germany-nuclear-phase-out-faces-billion-euro-lawsuit- a-795466.html Accessed, November 7, 2015.
8 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/us-business/lilly-ramps-up-nafta-fight- over-loss-of-patents/article13223813/. Accessed November 7, 2015.

 

Sectors important to Vietnam's economic security would fall under the TPP.

Những lĩnh vực quan trọng đối với an ninh kinh tế ở Việt Nam có thể bị suy sụp dưới tác động của TPP.

Some in the government of Vietnam may already be worried about such legal suits, which could dismantle its laws and regulations protecting the environment, citizens' health, children's education, and national sovereignty. Vietnam's 2005 Investment Law lists four sectors:

Một số người trong chính phủ Việt Nam có thể đã quan ngại về những vụ kiện tụng như vậy, điều sẽ làm yếu những luật lệ và quy chế bảo hộ môi trường, sức khỏe công dân, giáo dục thanh thiếu nhi, và chủ quyền quốc gia của Việt Nam. Luật đầu tư năm 2005 của Việt Nam đưa ra năm loại lĩnh vực:

  1. prohibited sectors – lĩnh vực cấm

  2. encouraged sectors – lĩnh vực khuyến khích

  3. conditional sectors applicable to both foreign and domestic investors – những ngành nghề

    kinh doanh có điều kiện áp dụng cho các nhà đầu tư nước ngoài và trong nước

  4. conditional sectors applicable only to foreign investors. - những ngành nghề kinh doanh

    có điều kiện áp dụng cho các nhà đầu tư nước ngoài

If a U.S. company claims Vietnam is prohibiting the company from investing in Sector 1 (activities seen as "detrimental to national defense, security and public interest, health, or historical and cultural values"), under the TPP, can that foreign company sue Vietnam? The leaked texts of the TPP make it very doubtful that Vietnam's negotiators secured any written guarantees that Vietnam's sovereignty will be respected. If sued under the TPP, Vietnam's national sovereignty would not be protected.

Nếu một doanh nghiệp Mỹ tuyên bố rằng Việt Nam đang cấm công ty này được đầu tư vào lĩnh vực 1 nói trên (các ngành nghề được xem là “bất lợi đối với quốc phòng, an ninh và lợi ích công cộng, sức khỏe, hoặc các giá trị lịch sử và văn hóa) khi TPP đã có hiệu lực, liệu công ty này có khởi kiện Việt Nam? Nội dung thẩm thấu ra ngoài của TPP gây một nghi ngại liệu các nhà đàm phán Việt Nam đã có quán triệt rằng chủ quyền của Việt Nam sẽ được tôn trọng. Nếu bị kiện khi TPP có hiệu lực, chủ quyền của Việt Nam sẽ không được bảo toàn.

The same question applies to Sector 3, (activities "having an impact on national defense, security, social order and safety; culture, information, press and publishing; finance and banking; public health; entertainment services; real estate; survey, prospecting, exploration and exploitation of natural resources; ecology and the environment; and education and training.") Under the TPP, can foreign companies sue Vietnam for restricting their involvement in that sector? Can foreign-owned banks licensed to operate in Vietnam demand the same high-profit incentives they enjoy in the United States or in other countries? Must Vietnam stop its anti- smoking campaign?

Một câu hỏi nữa dành cho Lĩnh vực 3 (các hoạt động “có ảnh hưởng tới quốc phòng, an ninh, trật tự và an toàn xã hội; văn hóa, thông tin, báo chí và xuất bản, tài chính và ngân hàng, sức khỏe cộng đồng, dịch vụ giải trí, bất động sản, thăm dò, tìm kiếm, thăm dò và khai thác các tài nguyên thiên nhiên, sinh thái môi trường, giáo dục và đào tạo”). Khi TPP có hiệu lực, liệu các công ty nước ngoài có kiện Việt Nam đã hạn chế sự dính líu của họ vào các lĩnh vực này? Liệu các nhà băng do người nước ngoài là chủ sở hữu có giấy phép hoạt động ở Việt Nam đòi họ phải có được mức lợi nhuận cao mà họ được hưởng ở Mỹ hoặc ở các nước khác? Liệu Việt Nam có phải dừng chiến dịch chống hút thuốc là lại?

In June 2015, the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council said the TPP will make Vietnam increasingly attractive to U.S. investors. Why? Because the TPP will allow companies to operate with impunity, overriding Vietnam's national sovereignty.

Vào tháng 6/2015, Hội đồng kinh doanh Hoa Kỳ - ASEAN cho rằng TPP sẽ làm cho Việt Nam trở nên đặc biệt hấp dẫn với nhà đầu tư Mỹ. Vì sao? Vì TPP sẽ cho phép các doanh nghiệp được hoạt động không sợ bị trừng phạt khi không coi trọng chủ quyền của Việt Nam.

The U.S. Business Coalition for TPP spent $118 million in the fourth quarter of 2014, $126 million in the first quarter of 2015, and $135 million in the second quarter of 2015, for a total of $379 million in three quarters.

The TPP could skew regulations worldwide in favor of the banks, manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies that aggressively lobbiedfor the TPP. Further, with the Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowing U.S. corporations to engage in unlimited campaign expenditures to support or oppose candidates, we can be sure U.S. corporations will engage in heavy, financial lobbying to pressure for TPP passage during the upcoming election.

Liên minh Doanh nghiệp Mỹ ủng hộ TPP đã bỏ ra 118 triệu USD trong quý bốn của năm 2014, 216 triệu USD trong quý một năm 2015, và 135 triệu vào quý 2 năm 2015, tổng cộng là 379 triệu USD.

Questions ordinary citizens should be asking:

Những câu hỏi mà các công dân bình thường nên đặt ra:

The TPP includes patents on new pharmaceutical products. These patents prevent development of the cheaper generic drugs that have made medicines affordable for Vietnamese. The people of Vietnam should be asking, "Will our families be forced to replace cheaper generic medicines with multi-national brand names protected by the TPP?" Americans should be asking, "Do we want to force the people of Vietnam to pay the same high prices that we pay for drugs?"

Hiệp định TPP bao gồm giấy phép kinh doah các dược phẩm mới. Những giấy phép này ngăn sự phát triển của các dược phẩm rẻ hơn đang làm cho giá thuốc men là phải chăng đối với người Việt Nam. Người Việt Nam nên đặt ra câu hỏi: ‘Liệu gia đình của chúng ta có buộc phải thay những dược phẩm rẻ hơn với các chế phẩm thuốc có thương hiệu đa quốc gia được TPP bảo hộ?”

9 http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/23/us-trade-tpp-lobbying-idUSKCN0PX2JO20150723. Accessed November 7, 2015.

 

Những người Mỹ cần đặt câu hỏi: “Liệu chúng ta có nên buộc người Việt phải mua thuốc men với giá đắt như người Mỹ vẫn đang trả không?

Vietnam is the world's second largest rice exporter, yet the TPP will lead to a decrease in

agricultural sales in domestic and export markets. Unfortunately, Vietnam is one of the top five nations most threatened by rising seas due to climate change. The nation's two large deltas – the "Red River and Mekong Rice Baskets" – are already in danger, yet the TPP will allow U.S. corporations to sue Vietnam because of the environmental policies and regulations designed to protect those fragile deltas, the citizens, and Vietnam's food sovereignty. In particular, U.S. pesticide companies are apt to sue Vietnam for implementing so successfully the FAO-initiated IPM (Integrated Pest Management) program, which protects the environment and improves yields by teaching pest-control techniques other than pesticides and uses chemical pesticides only when absolutely needed.

Việt Nam là nước xuất khẩu gạo lớn thứ hai của thé giới, nhưng TPP đang đưa đến một sự giảm giá nông phẩm trên cả thị trường nội địa lẫn xuất khẩu. Không may là Việt Nam là một trong năm nước đứng hàng đầu danh sách bị đe dọa bởi mực nước biển dâng cao do biến đổi khí hậu. Hai đồng bằng lớn của Việt Nam là Vựa lúa châu thổ sông Mekong và đồng bằng sông Hồng đang bị đe dọa, tuy nhiên TPP cho phép các công ty Mỹ được kiện Việt Nam về các chính sách và quy chế bảo vệ một trường được lập ra để bảo vệ hai vùng đồng bằng dễ bị tổn thương này, dân cư ở đó, và chủ quyền về lương thực của Việt Nam. Đặc biệt, các công ty kinh doanh thuốc trừ sâu của Mỹ đang có xu hướng muốn kiện Việt Nam vì đã áp dụng có kết quả chương trình Quản trị dịch hại tổng hợp do FAO đề xướng, một chương trình bảo vệ môi trường và cải thiện lợi tức từ hoa màu nhờ các kỹ thuật kiểm soát sinh vật gây hại, chứ không dùng thuốc trừ sâu, và chỉ dùng các hóa chất trừ sâu bọ ở nơi nào tuyệt đối cần thiết.

Decisions about controversial introduction of GMO seeds and crops will be made outside of Vietnam. The Vietnamese government will no longer have sovereignty in such matters.

Quyết định về việc đưa hạt giống biến đổi gen và thu hoạch loại sản phẩm này sẽ được quyết định ở ngoài Việt Nam. Chính phủ Việt Nam sẽ không có chủ quyền trong những việc này nữa.

Vietnamese farmers and agricultural producers should be asking, "How will TPP affect our ability to compete in world markets, against huge corporations?"

Những người nông dân và các nhà sản xuất nông phẩm nên đặt câu hỏi, “Liệu TPP có ảnh hưởng đến năng lực cạnh tranh của chúng tôi trên trường quốc tế, chống lại những doanh nghiệp lớn?”

A major effort has gone into lobbying in Vietnam for the TTP, with highly paid American consultants, an orchestrated international and domestic press, and the U.S. Embassy's year-long, 20-year-anniversary celebration pushing the TTP while the contents of the agreement were cloaked in secrecy. As noted above, corporations have undertaken an even bigger lobbying effort in the United States.

Một nỗ lực chủ yếu đã được bỏ ra để vận động hành lang ở Việt Nam cho TTP, với những nhà tư vấn được trả lương cao, một dàn đồng ca trên báo chí trong ngoài nước, và cuộc kỷ niệm 20 năm thiết lập quan hệ ngoại giao kéo tới một năm ròng của sứ quán Mỹ cũng nhằm thúc đẩy TPP khi

nội dung của Hiệp định này còn đang được gói trong bức màn bí mật. Như đã nói trên, các tập đoàn thương mại cũng dấy lên một nỗ lực lobby còn lớn hơn ở Mỹ.

Some of the very rich in Vietnam will probably benefit. A small percent of wealthy Americans and major corporate shareholders will make more money. Ordinary people and the poor will lose. That is always the case when agreements are written in secret.

Một số người rất giàu ở Việt Nam chắc sẽ được lợi. Một phần trăm nhỏ của những người Mỹ giàu có và các cổ đông chính của các tập đoàn thương mại sẽ kiếm ra nhiều tiền hơn. Những người dân thường và người nghèo sẽ chịu tổn thất. Điều này thường xảy ra khi các hiệp định được viết trong vòng bí mật.

The ratification period is critical. The "people's representatives" – legislative bodies in the United States, Vietnam and other signatory nations – will be debating the full text of the TPP recently disclosed. During this time of legislative approval or disapproval of such a sweeping agreement, ordinary citizens in Vietnam, the United States, and other nations must raise their voices.

Giai đoạn thông qua (TPP) sẽ là then chốt. Những dân biểu – các nhà lập pháp ở Mỹ và Việt Nam và ở các quốc gia đã ký hiệp định này – sẽ thảo luận nội dung đầy đủ của TPP vừa được công bố. Trong khoảng thời gian cần để thông qua hay bác bỏ một hiệp định có ảnh hưởng rộng lớn như thế, công dân bình thường ở Việt Nam, Mỹ và các nước khác cần cất cao tiếng nói của mình.

Chuck Searcy is a Vietnam veteran; Lady Borton worked with all sides during the war. Both have worked in Vietnam since before normalization of US-Vietnam diplomatic relations 20 years ago.

Chuck Searcy là một cựu chiến binh chiến tranh Việt Nam. Lady Borton từng làm việc với tất cả các phía của cuộc chiến tranh đó. Cả hai đã sang Việt Nam làm việc trước khi bình thường hóa quan hệ ngoại giao Mỹ - Việt, 20 năm về trước.


Audio: Global Research News Hour Takes on Veterans/Remembrance Day

This episode of the Global Research News Hour takes a dissenting look at the Remembrance and Veterans' Day ceremonies,and similar memorializing and valourization of the soldier as an instrument by which anti-war sentiments and organizing are subverted. The episode looks at what it will take to dismantle the mythology of militarism in our society. We speak with an outspoken anti-war activist and blogger, who is also the author of several books including 'War is a Lie' and 'When the World Outlawed War'. We also air a previously broadcast interview with Stan Goff and Joshua Key. Stan Goff is a Retired Master Sergeant from the U.S. Army. He is now a pacifist and author of a number of books including his most recent, Borderline – Reflections on War, Sex, and Church from Wipf and Stock (Cascade Books).

Joshua Key deserted the Iraq War in 2003,and crossed the border into Canada in 2005. He is the author along with Lawrence (Book of Negroes) Hill of The Deserter’s Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier who Walked Away from the War in Iraq. Having failed to secure refugee status, he is concerned he could soon be deported from Canada and sent to a military prison.

LISTEN HERE.

The sham Syrian peace conference



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I have always been enthusiastic in my support for peace negotiations, which have been neglected all too often in internal and international conflicts. But it is clear that the international conference on Syria that held its first meeting in Vienna on October 30 is a sham conference that is not capable of delivering any peace negotiations, and that the Obama administration knew that perfectly well from the start.

UVA is 19th Most Militarized University in the U.S.

According to a new analysis by Vice News, the University of Virginia is the 19th most militarized university in the United States. Vice News lists the top 100 in order, based on "the greatest number of students who are employed by the Intelligence Community (IC), have the closest relationships with the national security state, and profit the most from American war-waging." Vice provides a detailed account of its data sources and methodology, which itself reads like a damning critique of academia in a society maintaining an alleged preference for peace over war. An additional report looks at trends and patterns in the results.

According to William M. Arkin and Alexa O’Brien of Vice News:

"The prestigious University of Virginia is a lawyer's paradise, feeding counsels to government agencies from the military to the CIA. The school has a National Criminal Justice Command College program, and graduates a fair share of Top Secret special agents, half of them working for the FBI. The largest portion of its graduates with Top Secret clearances, however, come from its school of continuing and professional studies, which teaches cybersecurity, human resources, "procurement," and project management. If UVA's Top Secret graduates aren't working in the federal government, then they're working for a large [military] contractor. UVA faculty have also participated in the IARPA STONESOUP program to develop a technology that securely executes software of uncertain provenance."

UVA makes rank #17, in fact, for "Top Secret Employment," while it's only #30 for "National Security Funding." It receives a whopping $27,426,000 in "DOD Research and Development Funding." UVA conducts classified research inside its campus with its Jefferson quotes about free speech and flow of information.

"This institution [University of Virginia] will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."

Hard to tolerate or reason your way out of plans and justifications for killing that are kept secret.

UVA works with "National Intelligence," the NSA, and the Homeland "Security" Department. It also has a military ROTC program, as one can observe by visiting the campus around which killers-in-training jog chanting military chants.

UVA finds itself in the area of the country whose academia (and many other things) are most militarized. Nearby schools on the list include:

#1 University of Maryland
#2 American Military University
#4 George Washington University
#5 George Mason University
#7 Johns Hopkins University
#8 Strayer University
#10 Georgetown University
#16 Northern Virginia Community College
#17 Virginia Tech
#19 University of Virginia
#20 American University

In third place is the online "University of Phoenix." That may change. This came out last month:

"The Department of Defense said today that it would suspend the University of Phoenix from its tuition assistance programs and bar school officials from recruiting at military facilities, including job fairs, after revelations of improper recruiting and marketing practices by the for-profit school."

The above list of shame should trouble every UVA alumnus and every resident of Charlottesville, Virginia.

Rarely does this atheist quote the Pope, but here's one from his speech to Congress in September:

"Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade."

Why do War Veterans Commit Suicide or Murder?

In two recent articles in the Los Angeles Times and the academic studies that inspired them, the authors investigate the question of which war veterans are most likely to commit suicide or violent crimes. Remarkably, the subject of war, their role in war, their thoughts about the supposed justifications (or lack thereof) of a war, never come up.

The factors that take the blame are -- apart from the unbearably obvious "prior suicidality," "prior crime," "weapons possession," and "mental disorder treatment" -- the following breakthrough discoveries: maleness, poverty, and "late age of enlistment." In other words, the very same factors that would be found in the (less-suicidal and less-murderous) population at large. That is, men are more violent than women, both among veterans and non-veterans; the poor are more violent (or at least more likely to get busted for it) among veterans and non-veterans; and the same goes for "unemployed" or "dissatisfied with career" or other near-equivalents of "joined the military at a relatively old age."

In other words, these reports tell us virtually nothing. Perhaps their goal isn't to tell us something factual so much as to shift the conversation away from why war causes murder and suicide, to the question of what was wrong with these soldiers before they enlisted.

The reason for studying the violence of veterans, after all, is that violence, as well as PTSD, are higher than among non-veterans, and the two (PTSD and violence) are linked. They are higher (or at least most studies over many years have said so; there are exceptions) for those who've been in combat than for those who've been in the military without combat. They are even higher for those who've been in even more combat. They are higher for ground troops than for pilots. There are mixed reports on whether they are higher for drone pilots or traditional pilots.

The fact that war participation, which itself consists of committing murder in a manner sanctioned by authorities, increases criminal violence afterwards, in a setting where it is no longer sanctioned, ought of course to direct our attention to the problem of war, not the problem of which fraction of returning warriors to offer some modicum of reorientation into nonviolent life. But if you accept that war is necessary, and that most of the funding for it must go into profitable weaponry, then you're going to want to both identify which troops to help and shift the blame to those troops.

The same reporter of the above linked articles also wrote one that documents what war participation does to suicide. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says that out of 100,000 male veterans 32.1 commit suicide in a year, compared to 28.7 female veterans. But out of 100,000 male non-veterans, 20.9 commit suicide, compared to only 5.2 female non-veterans. And "for women ages 18 to 29, veterans kill themselves at nearly 12 times the rate of nonveterans." Here's how the article begins:

"New government research shows that female military veterans commit suicide at nearly six times the rate of other women, a startling finding that experts say poses disturbing questions about the backgrounds and experiences of women who serve in the armed forces."

Does it really? Is their background really the problem? It's not a totally crazy idea. It could be that men and women inclined toward violence are more likely to join the military as well as more likely to engage in violence afterward, and more likely to be armed when they do so. But these reports don't focus primarily on that question. They try to distinguish which of the men and women are the (unacceptable, back home-) violence-prone ones. Yet something causes the figure for male suicides to jump from 20.9 to 32.1. Whatever it is gets absolutely disregarded, as differences between male and female military experiences are examined (specifically, the increased frequency of female troops being raped).

Suppose for a moment that what is at work in the leap in the male statistic has something to do with war. Sexism and sexual violence may indeed be an enormous factor for female (and some male) troops, and it may be far more widespread than the military says or knows. But those women who do not suffer it, probably have experiences much more like men's in the military, than the two groups' experiences out of the military are alike. And the word for their shared experience is war.

Looking at the youngest age group, "among men 18 to 29 years old, the annual number of suicides per 100,000 people were 83.3 for veterans and 17.6 for nonveterans. The numbers for women in that age group: 39.6 and 3.4." Women who've been in the military are, in that age group, 12 times more likely to kill themselves, while men are five times more likely. But that can also be looked at this way: among non-veterans, men are 5 times as likely to kill themselves as women, while among veterans men are only 2 times as likely to kill themselves as women. When their experience is the same one -- organized approved violence -- men's and women's rates of suicide are more similar.

The same LA Times reporter also has an article simply on the fact that veteran suicides are higher than non-veteran. But he manages to brush aside the idea that war has anything to do with this:

"'People's natural instinct is to explain military suicide by the war-is-hell theory of the world,' said Michael Schoenbaum, an epidemiologist and military suicide expert at the National Institute of Mental Health who was not involved in the study. 'But it's more complicated.'"

Judging by that article it's not more complicated, it's entirely something else. The impact of war on mental state is never discussed. Instead, we get this sort of enlightening finding:

"Veterans who had been enlisted in the rank-and-file committed suicide at nearly twice the rate of former officers. Keeping with patterns in the general population, being white, unmarried and male were also risk factors."

Yes, but among veterans the rates are higher than in the general population. Why?

The answer is, I think, the same as the answer to the question of why the topic is so studiously avoided. The answer is summed up in the recent term: moral injury. You can't kill and face death and return unchanged to a world in which you are expected to refrain from all violence and relax.

And returning to a world kept carefully oblivious to what you're going through, and eager to blame your demographic characteristics, must make it all the more difficult.

Catholic Senator Says Pope Dead Wrong on Arms Trade

"Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?" the Pope asked the United States Congress during his speech there in September. "Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade."

At least a large section of the U.S. House and Senate rose and cheered, giving the above words a standing ovation.

Thousands of people, I among them, emailed their misrepresentatives to urge follow through.

In November, one of my senators finally replied. And this is what he had to say:

"Dear Mr. Swanson:

"Thank you for contacting me about the call by Pope Francis to end the arms trade.  I appreciate hearing from you.

"As a Catholic, I was delighted to have Pope Francis address a joint meeting of Congress in September. The Pope spoke eloquently about great American leaders in our history, setting high expectations for what we can do when we work together. He challenged us to heal divisions and unite against the global challenges that we face.

"During his address, Pope Francis called for an end to the international arms trade, highlighting the untold suffering that deadly weapons often have on individuals and society. While I agree that that the United States has a responsibility to ensure arms exports do not exacerbate violence, I believe that security assistance plays an important role in our national security interests and international stability. As the world's primary superpower, the United States should support the security of friends and allies and ensure that they have the means to overcome threats from violent belligerents.

"The Arms Export Control Act, International Traffic in Arms Regulations, Export Administration Act, and other legal vehicles authorize the export of arms but also place significant restrictions to keep such items from falling into the wrong hands. These restrictions include serious scrutiny of American arms exports to prevent their use in human rights violations, as well as efforts to ensure against the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weaponry. We use those restrictions often to block or delay sales of arms.

"As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, I will continue to support efforts that advance our national interests and global security. Thank you again for contacting me.

"Sincerely,

"Tim Kaine"

I have never received a single such reply letter from any Congress member that didn't offend me and annoy me. But this one is a doozy. Let's start with "a responsibility to ensure arms exports do not exacerbate violence." I'm sorry, Senator, I may be even more fallible than your Pope, but if you'll forgive my Latin, what the fuck do you think arms are? They are tools of violence, purely and by definition and beyond dispute. If they aren't going to exacerbate violence, what are they going to do?

What about this: "security assistance plays an important role in our national security interests and international stability." Does it, now? Some 80% of the weapons imported to the Middle East, not counting the weapons of the U.S. military or the weapons bestowed on "moderate" killers, are imported from the United States. The stability this has been bringing to that region is staggering. A bit more such stability, and the whole population will move to Europe.

"As the world's primary superpower, the United States should support the security of friends and allies." Yeah? Who asked it to be a superpower? I'm asking it to cease and desist. As for friends and allies, I imagine you mean Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Iraq, "moderates" in Syria, Al Qaeda in Syria, etc. With friends and allies like these in the cause of peace, who needs enemies?

"These restrictions include serious scrutiny of American arms exports to prevent their use in human rights violations, as well as efforts to ensure against the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weaponry." How'd that work out during Hillary Clinton's stewardship of the Department of State during which she waived legal restrictions to send weapons, including chemical and biological, to numerous nations of exactly the sort that you claim, accurately enough, U.S. law forbids supplying.

If I had to choose which was crazier, your humanitarian pretensions on behalf of the world's greatest purveyor of violence, or your Catholicism (with its infallible Leader in the funny hat, life after death, etc.), I'd have to go with the former. And I'm not feeling very religious.

Talk Nation Radio: Celine Nahory on Keeping Peace in Japan's Constitution and the World

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-celine-nahory-on-keeping-peace-in-japans-constitution-and-the-world 

Céline Nahory is International Coordinator for Peace Boat and the Global Article 9 Campaign. She also serves as Regional/International Representative in the International Peace Bureau's Council. She has worked for fifteen years with NGOs in the US, Japan and India, carrying out research and running advocacy campaigns on issues of peace, security, disarmament, economic justice and sustainable development.
See:
http://peaceboat.org/english
https://facebook.com/peaceboat
http://article-9.org/en/index.html
https://facebook.com/article9

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

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

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

Armistice Day 97 Years On

By David Swanson

November 11 is Armistice Day / Remembrance Day. Events are being organized everywhere by Veterans For Peace, World Beyond War, Campaign Nonviolence, Stop the War Coalition, and others.

Ninety-seven years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, fighting ceased in the “war to end all wars.” People went on killing and dying right up until the pre-designated moment, impacting nothing other than our understanding of the stupidity of war.

Thirty million soldiers had been killed or wounded and another seven million had been taken captive during World War I. Never before had people witnessed such industrialized slaughter, with tens of thousands falling in a day to machine guns and poison gas. After the war, more and more truth began to overtake the lies, but whether people still believed or now resented the pro-war propaganda, virtually every person in the United States wanted to see no more of war ever again. Posters of Jesus shooting at Germans were left behind as the churches along with everyone else now said that war was wrong. Al Jolson wrote in 1920 to President Harding:

“The weary world is waiting for
Peace forevermore
So take away the gun
From every mother’s son
And put an end to war.”

Believe it or not, November 11th was not made a holiday in order to celebrate war, support troops, or cheer the 15th year of occupying Afghanistan. This day was made a holiday in order to celebrate an armistice that ended what was up until that point, in 1918, one of the worst things our species had thus far done to itself, namely World War I.

World War I, then known simply as the world war or the great war, had been marketed as a war to end war. Celebrating its end was also understood as celebrating the end of all wars. A ten-year campaign was launched in 1918 that in 1928 created the Kellogg-Briand Pact, legally banning all wars. That treaty is still on the books, which is why war making is a criminal act and how Nazis came to be prosecuted for it.

“[O]n November 11, 1918, there ended the most unnecessary, the most financially exhausting, and the most terribly fatal of all the wars that the world has ever known. Twenty millions of men and women, in that war, were killed outright, or died later from wounds. The Spanish influenza, admittedly caused by the War and nothing else, killed, in various lands, one hundred million persons more.” — Thomas Hall Shastid, 1927.

According to pre-Bernie U.S. Socialist Victor Berger, all the United States had gained from participation in World War I was the flu and prohibition. It was not an uncommon view. Millions of Americans who had supported World War I came, during the years following its completion on November 11, 1918, to reject the idea that anything could ever be gained through warfare.

Don't Put Killers on Cereal Boxes

Online petition campaigns were launched this week to stop Wal-Mart from selling Israeli soldier Halloween costumes and to get Wheaties cereal to start putting U.S. soldiers on its cereal boxes -- boxes known for featuring photos of outstanding athletes.

The two campaigns have no relation to each other. Wheaties has not, to my knowledge, indicated the slightest interest in doing what the petition asks it to do.

I'd like Wal-Mart and every other store to stop selling all (not just Israeli) military and every other sort of armed, killer costume, including science-fiction futuristic Star Wars and any other. Sure, it's a particular problem that the U.S. government gives Israel billions of dollars in free weapons every year with which to attack civilians, and that presidential candidates in the United States behave as if they're campaigning to represent Israel. But if you oppose celebrating murder, including organized state-sanctioned uniformed murder, then you oppose everything that normalizes and encourages it.

So, of course, I also oppose glorifying "our troops" on cereal boxes. For one thing, it conflates the idea of an athlete with the idea of a soldier (which I use here as shorthand for sailor, Marine, airman, drone pilot, mercenary, special force, etc., etc.). An athlete doesn't kill anyone, maim anyone, turn anyone's house to rubble, traumatize any children, overthrow anyone's government, throw any regions of the world into chaos, produce radical violent groups that hate my country, drain the public treasury of $1,000,000,000,000 a year, justify the stripping away of civil liberties in the name of wars for freedom, devastate the natural environment, drop napalm or white phosphorus, use DU, imprison people without charge, torture, or send missiles into weddings and hospitals killing one vaguely-identified victim for every 10 people murdered. An athlete plays sports.

Note that I'm also not proposing that we put troops on cereal boxes with devil horns inked onto their heads, blaming them for the faults of the whole society into which they were born. Sure, I blame them. Sure, I'd rather celebrate conscientious objectors. But there is an almost universal delusion in our culture which holds that when you blame someone for something, you exonerate everyone else. So, although it makes not the slightest sense, people interpret blaming a soldier for participating in a war as un-blaming the presidents, Congress members, propagandists, profiteers, and everyone else who helped make that war happen. In reality, blame is a limitless quantity, and everyone gets some, including me. But in the fantasyland we live in, you can't go around blaming anyone for something done by many people, unless you are allowed a paragraph of explanation. And, besides, I'd start with all the presidents, Congress members, etc., as war criminals before reaching any rank-and-file in the list of candidates for cereal box condemnation.

Also, "our troops," are simply not our troops, not collectively. Many of us vote against, petition against, demonstrate against, write against, and organize against the use and the expansion and the existence of the military. One wishes it were needless to say, but this does not suggest some sort of hatred for the individuals who are soldiers, the majority of whom say that economic option limitations was one big factor in their joining up, and many of whom believe what they are told about doing good for the places they invade. Nor of course does opposition to militarism imply some sort of twisted support for the militarism of some other nation or group. Imagine disliking soccer and consequently being denounced for supporting some other soccer team. Opposing war is the same way -- it actually means opposing war, not routing for the "team" opposed by someone else.

"Team" is a horrible metaphor for a military. The military can involve lots of teamwork, but it has been a century now since a war involved two teams competing on a battlefield. In World War II and ever since, wars have been fought in people's towns, and the majority of the victims have been civilians not signed up on any team. When groups like Veterans For Peace speak out against further participation in war, on the grounds that war is the unjustifiable, counter-productive slaughter of men, women, and children, they do so out of love for soldiers and potential future soldiers. Of course, many other veterans do not share that belief, or do not voice it aloud or publicly if they do. Perhaps not unrelated is the fact that the leading cause of death of U.S. soldiers sent into recent and current wars is suicide. What more profound statement that something is amiss could be made than that? What could I possibly say to even approach it?

Here's the text of the petition in favor of putting troops on cereal boxes:

"The Wheaties Box is an iconic image in America. It celebrates our best, our brightest, and those achieving high honors on the athletic field. Isn't it time to honor another set of American heroes? Our troops who served their country and gave their all, deserve the same honor as our great athletes."

In fact our brightest and most creative intellects are not honored at all on Wheaties. Neither are our firemen and women, our emergency crews, our environmentalists, our teachers, our children, our poets, our diplomats, our farmers, our artists, our actors and actresses. No. It's just athletes. If you think troops deserve an honor, clearly it is not, in fact, the same as athletes. And what of those of us who agree with President Kennedy ("War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today") -- Should we get our heroes on cereal boxes, too?

"Imagine the national pride of seeing a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor on the Wheaties box. General Mills, proud maker of Wheaties, can make this a new tradition. Next to the sacrifice these heroes and their families have made, it's a small honor. But in our celebrity-obsessed culture, it can be a new tradition we all can be proud to share."

It's just not true that we would all be proud. Some of us would deem it fascistic. Of course, we could just choose not to buy that cereal, while Anderson Cooper and anyone else who despises conscientious objectors could just not buy any cereal box honoring that tradition. But this petition is not proposing to force Wheaties to honor soldiers, just recommending it. Well, I'm just recommending against it.

"General Mills, we are asking you to please add servicemembers [sic] who have been honored for their distinct service and heroism, to your rotation of those recognized on the Wheaties Box. We don't do enough to honor those who served, especially those people who gave the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield. And while an image on a box of cereal may not seem like much, it's a gesture that says so much about what we value. It's the type of gesture we need to see happen more often. We hope General Mills will show us that these men and women are worth recognizing on their iconic brand. Please sign and share the petition telling General Mills to place our honored heroes from the military on their Wheaties box."

The U.S. military spends a fortune in public tax dollars advertising itself on race cars and in ceremonies at football games, and so on. Were Wheaties to pick up on this idea and profit from it by making the military pay, that would be bad enough. Doing it for free would be worse. But I don't think the military would pay for it. The military advertises the generic faceless troop, not an actual specific soldier. Many veterans are essentially abandoned by the military, denied healthcare, left homeless, and -- again -- in many cases doomed to suicide.

During the war on Vietnam, recipients of medals of honor, angrily threw them back, rejecting what they had been part of. Any actual specific war hero could do that. And then where would Wheaties be?

Once in recent years the military tried to honor a particular flesh-and-blood soldier, and at the same time to merge its image with that of athletes. The soldier's name was Pat Tillman. He had been a football star and had famously given up a multi-million dollar football contract in order to join the military and do his patriotic duty to protect the country from evil terrorists. He was the most famous actual troop in the U.S. military, and television pundit Ann Coulter called him "an American original virtuous, pure, and masculine like only an American male can be."

Except that he came to no longer believe the stories that had led him to enlist, and Ann Coulter stopped praising him. On September 25, 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Tillman had become critical of the Iraq war and had scheduled a meeting with the prominent war critic Noam Chomsky to take place when he returned from Afghanistan, all information that Tillman's mother and Chomsky later confirmed. Tillman couldn't confirm it because he had died in Afghanistan in 2004 from three bullets to the forehead at short range, bullets shot by an American.

The White House and the military knew Tillman had died from so-called friendly fire, but they falsely told the media he'd died in a hostile exchange. Senior Army commanders knew the facts and yet approved awarding Tillman a Silver Star, a Purple Heart, and a posthumous promotion, all based on his having died fighting the enemy. They would no doubt have also approved his photo for a Wheaties box.

And then where would the Wheaties thank-a-warrior campaign have been when the truth about Tillman's death and the truth about Tillman's views came out? I say: Wheaties, do not risk it. The Pentagon has not risked it since Tillman. Its generals (McChrystal, Petraeus) inevitably attract the spotlights and inevitably disgrace themselves. No rank-and-file troops are put forward as "icons." They're just used to justify massive spending "for the troops" that goes to weapons profiteers and not to one single troop.

The thought of blood just doesn't go with breakfast cereal, Wheaties, and even the thought that this proposal came from somewhere in this country is enough to make me slightly nauseated.

* Thanks to D Nunns for calling the Wheaties thing to my attention.


Is War Beautiful?

"War Is Beautiful" is the ironic title of a beautiful new book of photographs. The subtitle is "The New York Times Pictorial Guide to the Glamour of Armed Conflict." There's an asterisk after those words, and it leads to these: "(In which the author explains why he no longer reads The New York Times)." The author never explains why he read the New York Times to begin with.


The author of this remarkable book, David Shields, has selected color war photographs published on the front page of the New York Times over the last 14 years. He's organized them by themes, included epigrams with each section, and added a short introduction, plus an afterword by Dave Hickey.

Some of us have long opposed subscribing to or advertising in the New York Times, as even peace groups do. We read occasional articles without paying for them or accepting their worldview. We know that the impact of the Times lies primarily in how it influences television "news" reports.

But what about Times readers? The biggest impact that the paper has on them may not be in the words it chooses and omits, but rather in the images that the words frame. The photographs that Shields has selected and published in a large format, one on each page, are powerful and fantastic, straight out of a thrilling and mythical epic. One could no doubt insert them into the new Star Wars movie without too many people noticing.

The photos are also serene: a sunset on a beach lined with palm trees -- actually the Euphrates river; a soldier's face just visible amid a field of poppies.

We see soldiers policing a swimming pool -- perhaps a sight that will someday arrive in the Homeland, as other sights first seen in images from foreign wars already have. We see collective military exercises and training, as at a desert summer camp, full of camaraderie in crises. There's adventure, sports, and games. A soldier looks pleased by his trick as he holds a dummy head with a helmet on the end of a stick in front of a window to get it shot at.

War seems both a fun summer camp and a serious, solemn, and honorable tradition, as we see photos of elderly veterans, militaristic children, and U.S. flags back Home. Part of the seriousness is the caring and philanthropic work exhibited by photos of soldiers comforting the children they may have just orphaned. We see sacred U.S. troops protecting the people whose land they have been bombing and throwing into turmoil. We see our heroes' love for their visiting Commander, George W. Bush.

Sometimes war can be awkward or difficult. There's a bit of regrettable suffering. Occasionally it is tragically intense. But for the most part a rather boring and undignified death about which no one really cares comes to foreigners (outside the United States there are foreigners everywhere) who are left in the gutter as people walk away.

The war itself, centrally, is a technological wonder bravely brought out of the goodness of our superior hearts to a backward region in which the locals have allowed their very homes to turn to rubble. An empty settlement is illustrated by a photo of a chair in a street. There are water bottles upright on the ground. It looks as though a board meeting just ended.

Still, for all war's drawbacks, people are mostly happy. They give birth and get married. Troops return home from camp after a good job done. Handsome Marines innocently mingle with civilians. Spouses embrace their camouflaged demigods returned from the struggle. A little American boy, held by his smiling mother, grins gleefully at the grave of his Daddy who died (happily, one must imagine) in Afghanistan.

At least in this selection of powerful images, we do not see people born with gruesome birth defects caused by the poisons of U.S. weapons. We do not see people married at weddings struck by U.S. missiles. We do not see U.S. corpses lying in the gutter. We do not see nonviolent protests of the U.S. occupations. We do not see the torture and death camps. We do not see the trauma of those who live under the bombs. We do not see the terror when the doors are kicked in, the way we would if soldiers -- like police -- were asked to wear body cameras. We do not see the "MADE IN THE USA" label on the weapons on both sides of a war. We do not see the opportunities for peace that have been studiously avoided. We do not see the U.S. troops participating in their number one cause of death: suicide.

A few of those things may show up now and then in the New York Times, more likely on a page other than the front one. Some of those things you may not want to see with your breakfast cereal. But there can be no question that Shields has captured a portrait of a day in the life of a war propagandist, and that the photographers, editors, and designers involved have done as much to cause the past 14 years of mass dying, suffering, and horror in the Middle East as has any single New York Times reporter or text editor.

 

Talk Nation Radio: Diana Johnstone on Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-diana-johnstone-on-queen-of-chaos-the-misadventures-of-hillary-clinton 

Diana Johnstone is a writer based in Paris, France. Her past books include Fools' Crusade: Yugoslavia, Nato, and Western Delusions. Her new book, which we discuss, is Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

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

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

Tony Blair Is Sorry, A Little

While George W. Bush is apparently proud of everything he's ever done, Tony Blair came dangerously close to facing reality this weekend when he admitted there were "elements of truth" in the view that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was the principal cause of the rise of ISIS (among other catastrophic results of that invasion).

At the same time, Blair lied that the war was an honest mistake based on bad "intelligence," and claimed there was no clearly superior alternative anyway:

"We have tried intervention and putting down troops in Iraq; we've tried intervention without putting in troops in Libya; and we've tried no intervention at all but demanding regime change in Syria," he said. "It's not clear to me that, even if our policy did not work, subsequent policies have worked better."

Now, your average unindoctrinated 10-year-old might conclude that overthrowing foreign governments has been a disaster any which way it's done, and therefore ought not to be done at all. Not our friend Tony. In the end he's offered a non-apology on the grounds that anything else he might conceivably have done -- including refraining from overthrowing the Iraqi government at all -- would have been just as bad:

"I find it hard to apologize for removing Saddam. I think, even from today in 2015, it is better that he's not there than that he is there," Blair said. You have to hand it to Blair, for a global spreader of democracy through death, he boldly ignores any question of whether the people of Iraq agree with him. They do not. Back in 2004, the BBC bragged that it could get 49% of Iraqis ("almost half"!) to say that the invasion had been "right." In 2007, an Iraqi poll found that 90% of Iraqis believed they'd been better off before the invasion. In 2011, a U.S. poll found that many more Iraqis thought they were worse off, than thought they were better off, because of the invasion.

Perhaps those ignorant Iraqis just can't see how much better off they are. That would explain why they had to be invaded and occupied in the first place. But a careful examination of the death, injury, trauma, environmental damage, infrastructure loss, and societal devastation brought to Iraq by Bush, Blair, and company establishes the war on Iraq from 2003 forward as one of the world's worst events.

Clearly the hell created in Libya in 2011 does not rival the damage done to Iraq. The hell being created in Syria does begin to rival Iraq, but it has been steadily worsened by Western efforts to overthrow the government, not by Western restraint. For that matter, it has been seriously worsened by the previous invasions of Iraq and Libya, as well as by the steady arming of the region with U.S. weapons over the past several years.

Tunisia just brought home a Nobel Peace Prize in large part due to having a couple of lucky breaks, possibly related to each other. First, Tunisia sits on less oil and gas and in the way of fewer oil and gas pipelines. Second, it has received far less "help" from U.S. and European militaries. For the most part, the Pentagon and U.K. have done to Tunisia what Tony Blair literally cannot conceive of doing in Iraq, Libya, or Syria, namely, left it the heck alone, as it found its own way to better government.

But, one might ask, how can the West just stand by as brutal governments abuse their people?

Well, the West never does just stand by. Occasionally it overthrows those governments, making everyone even worse off. Far more often it arms, funds, and supports those governments -- as in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, the new Iraq, etc. -- keeping everyone in their current state of suffering.

In Blair's 2010 memoir, he wrote that former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney had "wanted forcible 'regime change' in all Middle Eastern countries that he considered hostile to U.S. interests. . . . He would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran." But, of course, that's not a list of the nations doing the most damage to the world or their own people. That's a list of the nations refusing to pledge their obedience to Washington, nations "hostile to U.S. interests."

And there we see why Tony Blair doesn't consider the views of Iraqi people before declaring that "it is better that he's not there than that he is there." From the point of view of Western weapons companies, Western oil companies, Western friends and associates of Tony Blair, he's perfectly right. It is better that all those people were killed and the region thrown into chaos for many years to come.

One must adopt a radically different perspective to hear the meaning when I say, It is better that Jeremy Corbyn leads the Labour Party, and that even CNN now tries to ask Tony Blair to answer for his crimes.

When the War Machine Was Young

If you're into quaint, you can visit a historic village, restore some antique furniture, or for far less trouble pick up a mainstream analysis of the U.S. military from 40 years ago or so.

I just happened to read a 1973 book called Military Force and American Society, edited by Bruce M. Russett and Alfred Stepan -- both of whom have presumably updated their views somewhat, or -- more likely -- veered off into other interests. The problems and trends described in their book have been worsening ever since, while interest in them has been lessening. You could write a similar book now, with the numbers all larger and the analysis more definitive, but who would buy it?

The only point of re-writing it now would be to scream at the end ". . . AND THIS IS ACTUALLY A MAJOR PROBLEM TO DEAL WITH URGENTLY!" Who wants to read that? Much more pleasant to read this 1973 book as it was written, with its attitude of "Welp, it looks like we're all going to hell. Carry on." Here is an actual quote from near the end of the book: "To understand military expansion is not necessarily to arrest it. America's ideology could involve beliefs which are quite true and values which are quite genuine." This was from Douglas Rosenberg, who led up to that statement with 50 pages on the dangerously delusional myths driving U.S. military policy.

An earlier chapter by Clarence Abercrombie and Raoul Alcalá ended thus: "None of this should be taken as an indictment . . . . What we do suggest is that . . . social and political effects . . . must be carefully evaluated." Another chapter by James Dickey concluded: "This article has not been a call for relieving the army entirely of roles with a political context." Of course, it had been just that. Didn't these people realize that humanity just might survive for additional decades, and that copies of this book might survive as well, and that someone might read one? You can't just document a problem and then waive it off -- unless you're Exxon.

The heart of the book is data on the rise of the permanent war economy and global U.S. empire and arms sales with World War II, and the failure to ever return to anything like what preceded World War II. The authors worry, rather quaintly, that the military might begin influencing public policy or conducting foreign policy, that -- for example -- some officers' training was going to include studying politics with a possible eye toward engaging with politicians.

The warnings, quaint or not, are quite serious matters: the military's new domestic uses to handle "civil disturbances," the military's spying, the possibility that an all-volunteer military might separate the military from the rest of society, etc. Careful empirical studies documented in the book found that higher military spending produced more wars, rather than foreign dangers producing higher spending, that the higher spending was economically damaging, not beneficial, and that higher military spending usually if not always produced lower spending on social needs. These findings have by now of course been reproduced enough times to persuade a climate change denier, if a climate change denier were to hear about them.

The real quaintness, however, comes when this group of authors in 1973 tries to explain militaristic votes by Congress members. Possible explanations they study include constituent pressure, race and sex of the Congress member, ideology of the Congress member, and the "Military Industrial Complex," by which author Wayne Moyer seems to mean the Congress member's affiliation with the military and the level of military spending in the member's district or state. That any of these factors would better explain or predict a Congress member's vote on something militaristic, than a glance at the war profiteering funding used to legally bribe the member in recent election "contributions" seems absurd in 2015.

Yet, there is of course a great deal of truth to the idea that Congress members, to one degree or another, adopt an ideology that fits with, and allows self-respect to coexist with, what they've been paid to do. Campaign "contributors" do not just buy votes; they buy minds -- or they select the minds that have already been bought and help them stay that way.

To understand all of this is not necessarily to arrest it, but it damn well should be.

Veto Corleone Already in White House

President Barack Obama has vetoed a military authorization bill. Why would he do such a thing?

Was it because dumping $612 billion into a criminal enterprise just finally struck him as too grotesque?

Nope.

Was it because he grew ashamed of holding the record for highest average annual military spending since World War II, not even counting Der Homeland Security Department or military spending by the State Department, the Energy Department, the Veterans Administration, interest on debt, etc.?

Nope. That would be crazy in a world where pretense is everything and the media has got everyone believing that military spending has gone down.

Was it because the disastrous war on Afghanistan gets more funding?

Nope.

The disastrous war on Iraq and Syria?

Nope.

The monstrous drone wars murdering 1 vaguely identified person for every 9 innocents slaughtered?

You kidding?

Oh, I've got it. Was it because building newer, bigger, and smaller more "usable" nuclear weapons is just too insane?

Um, nope. Nice guess, though.

Well what was it?

One reason that the President provided in his veto statement was that the bill doesn't allow him to "close" Guantanamo by moving it -- remember that prison still full of people whom he, the President, chooses to keep there despite their having been cleared for release?

Another reason: Obama wants more money in the standard budget and less in his slush fund for the War on the Middle East, which he renamed Overseas Contingency Operations. Obama's language suggests that he wants the base budget increased by more than he wants the slush fund reduced by. The slush fund got a piddley little $38 billion in the vetoed bill. Yet the standard budget is deemed so deficient by Obama that, according to him, it "threatens the readiness and capabilities of our military and fails to provide the support our men and women in uniform deserve." For real? Can you name a man or woman in uniform who would receive a dime if you jumped the funding of the most expensive military in the history of the known universe by another $100 billion? The President also complains that the bill he's vetoed did not allow him to "slow growth in compensation."

Another reason: Obama is worried that if you leave limits in place on military spending in the "Defense" Department, that will mean too little military spending in other departments as well: "The decision reflected in this bill to circumvent rather than reverse sequestration further harms our national security by locking in unacceptable funding cuts for crucial national security activities carried out by non-defense agencies."

Hope and Change, people! Here's a full list of the areas in which Senator Bernie Sanders has expressed disagreement with President Obama's preferences on military spending:

 

 

 

 

 

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Living With Racism in the USA

I thought Deepa Iyer's new book, We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future, would be about positive and jarring cultural contributions from immigrants, how their literature, music, myths, cooking, clothing, and cultural practices are merging with and influencing wider U.S. culture. I think that would be a good book. Maybe someone's written it.

This, too, is a good book, and I recommend it. But it is mostly about the all-too-familiar story of post-911 prejudice, racism, violence, and police profiling and abuse, with a particular focus on South Asians. As an opponent of murder in any form, my first response to this topic is usually: Take the guns away! Hatred doesn't kill people -- hatred in people with guns kills people! But of course I'd love to take the hatred away as well and get the gun deaths down to accidents, suicides, and non-hate crimes.

I admit some uncertainty as to how we can identify a gun murder as free of hate. Here's how Iyer describes hate crimes:

"Hate violence affects everyone in America. A hate crime affects not only the person being targeted but the entire community to which that person belongs. Acts of hate violence can disrupt and affect even those who do not belong [to] the community being directly targeted, as we witnessed in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where non-Sikhs also experienced fear and anxiety in the wake of the massacre."

Of course, that sounds almost identical to the effects of a non-hate school shooting. A value to be found in distinguishing crimes motivated by, for example, hatred of Muslims, lies in the consequent ability to report on and know how widespread that phenomenon is. Does badmouthing Muslims encourage shooting them? Does shooting them encourage discriminating against them? We cannot study and address these matters if we don't identify them. And of course, fearing being shot for living in a country whose government has been purchased by the NRA, is not exactly the same as fearing being shot for being a Muslim and living in a country whose government has been purchased by the NRA. Hatred of part of your identity can make you want to hide that identity and/or resent the suggestion that you should do so and/or internalize the idea of inferiority, etc.

On the other hand, hate crimes laws don't just produce data. Neither do they do anything to reduce racism or other bigotry or to address underlying insecurities and grievances. What they do, as Iyer points out, is increase long sentences in the U.S. mass incarceration system.

Much of the work that Iyer describes being undertaken by community groups in support of abused minorities and crime victims involves attempting to tweak the flood of sewage spewing forth from the corporate media. She urges reporters not to talk about non-Muslim people having been mistaken for Muslims when they've been attacked. Her reason is that this could be taken to imply that it's all right to attack Muslims. That sounds crazy, but of course she is right that that could happen. Why, then, does locking people up for additional years or decades because they killed while racist not risk implying that it's OK to kill while not racist? It seems no more crazy.

The permanent U.S. war on the Middle East has fed the streams of both private and police hate crimes, and that war has trained many to believe that, in fact, it is OK to kill only while believing in racism and bigotry. Members of the military cannot avoid thinking that, while killing was wrong all through their childhood, something has suddenly made it acceptable when they are ordered to engage in it. For many the dehumanizing tactic that allows them to obey their orders is racism. Such racism at home, Iyer argues, enables the United States to keep going to war.

And what about the endless FBI frame-ups, the profiling, the deportations, and all the racist abuse by "law enforcement" -- why aren't these hate crimes? Don't they set examples and influence the broader culture? If someone in Germany proposes immigration policies resembling those of the United States they are immediately denounced for racism and hatred.

Iyer's book is full of heart-wrenching stories of raging racist hatred and violence, and the suffering it creates. She also proposes some good ideas rarely heard about in the corporate media, including reparations for the victims of post-911 state bigotry, on the model of reparations for the victims of the Japanese-American internment camps.

What really breaks my heart in reading so many accounts of the sort of nastiness that has just helped lead that young man whose school clock project was labeled a bomb to leave the United States for someplace less hostile, is the focus of the corrective work on trying to influence the corporate media. We all know how awful the corporate media is, how little it is turned into a force for good, and what minor partial tweaks are proclaimed as victories by activists.

We need a communications system that ceases to condone hatred or violence, that includes all voices in its communications, and that condemns cruelty -- whether public or private -- without exception.

Are Republicans Evil?

Andrew Bard Schmookler's new book is called What We're Up Against: The Destructive Force at Work in Our World -- And How We Can Defeat It. I'll spare you some suspense; the evil force he has in mind is the Republican Party. Here's a video of a speech the author gave when he was running for Congress as a Democrat in a district gerrymandered Republican. As in the book, Schmookler calls out Republicans in the speech as promoting an unprecedented evil force in U.S. culture.

He has in mind wars, torture, environmental destruction, racism, sexism, promotion of plutocracy, defense of gun proliferation, widespread dishonesty, and the valuing of partisanship above all else. Republican cap-and-trade is denounced by Republicans as socialism. Corporate healthcare schemes developed by Republicans are attacked as death panels, once they're advanced by a Democrat.

Schmookler traces the problem to the joining of racism and corporatism in a single political party since the civil rights movement, to the growth of corporatism, and to the ability of affluent people working short hours to get into trouble. I find the last point unconvincing, as so many countries have greater economic security, shorter working hours, and less crazed rightwing politics than the United States.

In fact, I'm unconvinced by much of the book, including the conflation of general cultural trends with a political party. I don't accept the author's contention that the United States is more important than the rest of the world. I'm not persuaded by his demand for a "war" against the evil Republican force (even as his complaints with Republicans include their having turned politics into a "war" and their having waged actual wars). I find little value in all the mythologizing of the "founding fathers" and past actual wars. As for the endless Good-versus-Evil talk, if it gets some people off their butts I'm fine with it, but I'm more interested in the case for the evil of the Republicans that motivated this book than in the 90% of the book that consists of pondering the nature of "good" and "evil."

Are U.S. politics, culture, and the Republican party more evil than ever before? Or just more passionately partisan? Well, I don't know about ever before. This is a country built on slavery and genocide as mainstream acceptable institutions. But certainly the Republican Party has moved rightward in the past 40 years, and many have said, like Lincoln Chafee in the recent debate, that they didn't leave the party, it left them. Others have stuck with the party and left behind basic standards of decency, integrity, fairness, and toleration.

I give a lot more blame to major media outlets, which get the barest mention by Schmookler. I don't think blaming propagandized people is exactly blaming the victims, and Schmookler does point out that people choose to consume the worst media. But the Republican Party would be nothing without the media, the educational institutions, and the wider cultural trends that overlap with its agenda. Neither would the Democratic Party.

I also think Schmookler misses some major trends that have very little to do with partisanship. One is the planet's destruction as a process that has advanced over the decades and centuries. We haven't become more destructive so much as we have become more numerous and -- even more so -- we're simply living in a time that must face up to many years of past destructive behavior. Similarly, many white Americans have not exactly become more racist, they're simply living in an age in which the demographics of the United States are turning them into a minority -- something their pre-existing racism views as a problem.

Then there's war, which has so permeated our culture that Schmookler praises real and metaphorical wars even while lamenting both real and metaphorical wars. He dislikes torture, not murder. He's upset by Republican wars, but Obama's drone murders don't cause any concern. The toxic impact of war on U.S. culture, including in a rise of mass-shootings, is not considered. We have a country very well trained in despising other groups, through its collective disvaluing of 96% of humanity (something Schmookler promotes in his Introduction). We have racism and violence and the erosion of civil liberties imported from distant U.S. wars, and we're not supposed to see that trend as contributing to current evil?

I think part of the trouble in seeing the evil of militarism is that it's bipartisan. It brings peace and harmony to the halls of Congress. When we imagine that bickering in Washington is a more serious problem than, say, the death of the oceans or the slaughter of Yemeni children, that little item known as military spending that eats up over half of Congressional spending every year, has to be set aside as an exception to the important trend of partisan conflict.

Are Schmookler and the millions who agree with him right that the Republicans are evil, while the Democrats are good but weak? Up to a point perhaps. I think the author's desire for the United States to "lead" the world is part of the problem. I think it's just dumb to claim that U.S. torture programs are unprecedented or a political party in the United States opposing science is unprecedented. I think it's simplistic to claim the Republicans are always wrong and the Democrats always right. What about when partisanship overcomes even militarism and Republicans oppose President Obama's proposed bombing of Syria (in 2013)? I think it's a straw man to argue that the two parties aren't working together in a pretense of opposing each other. Democrats don't pretend to more populist and progressive positions as part of a Republican plot, but in order to please voters (and themselves) while actually serving funders and insiders.

I think the danger, although Schmookler does not intend this, in literally urging us to think like Star Wars movies in terms of good and evil forces, and in claiming that an evil force started the war on Iraq, is that we miss individual agency. Bush started that war. Many helped. Chafee, for example, didn't. If we blame a force we may end up blaming millions of people who call themselves Republicans, many of whom could be talked out of supporting the next war in 30-minutes of television-free conversation.

I think the value in screaming at the top of one's voice for 250 pages that there is a serious goddamned threat, and it isn't coming from Iran or Russia but from the rightwing madness of Washington, D.C., can hardly be overstated. If calls to metaphorical arms to rise up and denounce Good Americanism before it's too late might move you to become active in working for peace, justice, and moral decency, then please read this book.

What Congress Should Ask Hillary Clinton

There are dozens of Hillary Clinton scandals that I have no wish to minimize. But how is it that her habits of secrecy themselves attract more interest than the secrets already exposed?

Here is someone who has allowed shipments of weapons to countries that effectively paid her bribes. Last May the International Business Times published an article by David Sirota and Andrew Perez with the headline "Clinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton's State Department."

As the article recounts, Clinton approved a massive weapons sale to Saudi Arabia, almost certainly involving weapons since used to bomb innocent families in Yemen, despite official State Department positions on Saudi Arabia and, I might add, in apparent violation of the Arms Export Control Act.

"In the years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation, the philanthropic enterprise she has overseen with her husband, former president Bill Clinton. Just two months before the deal was finalized, Boeing -- the defense contractor that manufactures one of the fighter jets the Saudis were especially keen to acquire, the F-15 -- contributed $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to a company press release.

"The Saudi deal was one of dozens of arms sales approved by Hillary Clinton's State Department that placed weapons in the hands of governments that had also donated money to the Clinton family philanthropic empire, an International Business Times investigation has found.

". . . American [military] contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements."

Among the nations that the State Department itself criticized for abusive actions (and most of which Clinton herself criticized for funding terrorism) but which donated to the Clinton Foundation and gained clearance for U.S. weapons purchases from Clinton's State Department were: Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain. In 2010 the State Department criticized Algeria, Algeria donated to the Clinton Foundation, and . . .

"Clinton's State Department the next year approved a one-year 70 percent increase in military export authorizations to the country. The increase included authorizations of almost 50,000 items classified as 'toxicological agents, including chemical agents, biological agents and associated equipment' after the State Department did not authorize the export of any of such items to Algeria in the prior year."

Also, "The Clinton Foundation did not disclose Algeria's donation until this year -- a violation of the ethics agreement it entered into with the Obama administration."

Companies whose weapons sales Clinton's State Department approved to nations it had previously refused included these donors to the Clinton Foundation: Boeing, General Electric, Goldman Sachs (Hawker Beechcraft), Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, and United Technologies.

Clinton's State Department, we can observe in the WikiLeaks cables, spent a great deal of time pushing foreign nations of all sorts to buy weapons from the above companies. Here's Fortune magazine in 2011:

"Perhaps the most striking account of arms advocacy . . . is a December 2008 cable from Oslo that recaps the embassy's push to persuade Norway to buy Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) instead of the Gripen, a fighter jet made by Sweden's Saab. The cable reads like a Lockheed sales manual. 'The country team has been living and breathing JSF for over a year, following a road to success that was full of heart-stopping ups and downs,' wrote the American official. He lists helpful suggestions for other diplomats looking to promote weapons: work 'with Lockheed Martin to determine which aspects of the purchase to highlight'; 'jointly develop a press strategy with Lockheed Martin'; 'create opportunities to talk about the aircraft.' 'Promoting economic security and prosperity at home and abroad is critical to America's national security, and thus central to the Department of State's mission,' the department spokesman wrote in an e-mail."

The Washington Post reported in April of last year:

"On a trip to Moscow early in her tenure as secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton played the role of international saleswoman, pressing Russian government officials to sign a multibillion-dollar deal to buy dozens of aircraft from Boeing. A month later, Clinton was in China, where she jubilantly announced that the aerospace giant would be writing a generous check to help resuscitate floundering U.S. efforts to host a pavilion at the upcoming World's Fair. Boeing, she said, 'has just agreed to double its contribution to $2 million.' Clinton did not point out that, to secure the donation, the State Department had set aside ethics guidelines that first prohibited solicitations of Boeing and then later permitted only a $1 million gift from the company. Boeing had been included on a list of firms to be avoided because of its frequent reliance on the government for help negotiating overseas business and concern that a donation could be seen as an attempt to curry favor with U.S. officials."

Secretary of State Clinton dramatically increased U.S. weapons sales to the Middle East. Between 2008 and 2011, according to the Congressional Research Service, 79% of weapons shipments to the Middle East were from the United States.

Fun as it might be to watch long hours of Congress members asking Clinton why she destroyed emails or how an ambassador bringing peace, love, and happiness to Libya (and Syria) ended up dead, wouldn't it make more sense to ask her something like this:

Secretary Clinton, the Pope recently asked a joint session of this Congress to end the arms trade, and we gave him a standing ovation. Granted, we're a bunch of hypocritical creeps, but my God woman, look at your record! Is there any amount of human life you wouldn't sacrifice for a buck? Can you think of anything that could be found in anyone's secret emails that would be worse than what we already know about you? There is a precedent for impeaching high officials after retirement. They can be stripped of the Secret Service and of the right to run for any federal office. If an intern were to crawl under that table we'd impeach you by Friday. What in the world are we waiting for?

All right. All right! We're a bunch of partisan jack asses who will just get you elected if we try any such thing, and we'd gum it all up anyway. But we're going to keep you here until you answer us this question: how did you get THAT kind of money out of these nasty foreign dictatorships? I mean, seriously, can your people sit down with my staff one day next week? Also, what about drinks, just you, me, and a few of the top people at Boeing? Is that too much to ask?

U.S. Wants More "Usable" Nuclear Weapons in Europe

The United States keeps nuclear weapons in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Turkey, in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which bans the transfer of nuclear weapons from a nuclear weapon state to a non-nuclear weapon state. Now, the U.S. wants to upgrade its nukes in Europe, to make them "precision" and "guided," and therefore more likely to be used, even as tensions build between the United States and Russia.

The U.S. plans to deploy newly designed type B 61-12 nuclear bombs. Instead it should remove existing nuclear bombs. The NATO strategy of so-called "nuclear sharing" is a violation of Articles 1 and 2 of the NPT. Those provisions state that every party to the treaty promises "not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly" and also promises that every "non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons."

The policy of placing U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe also violates local laws. For example, the German Parliament (the Bundestag) voted in March 2010, by a large majority, that the German Government should "press for the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany."

People in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Turkey, the United States, and elsewhere have signed this petition:

To: The Governments of Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Turkey

Do not upgrade the U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. Remove them. People in the United States and around the world would support you in this.

INITIAL SIGNERS:
David Swanson
Norman Solomon
Alice Slater
Lindsey German
Hugo Lueders
Fabio D'Alessandro
Robert Fantina
Agneta Norberg
Toby Blome
Ann Suellentrop
Heinrich Buecker
David Krieger
Cynthia Cockburn
Helen Caldicott
Coleen Rowley
Ellen Thomas
Megan Rice

The petition will be delivered in each country. Before it is, please add your name.

The same petition in German is here.

Why I Oppose the Genocide Prevention Act

Only a non-patriot or someone with a bit of respect for the Bill of Rights would have opposed the Patriot Act.

Only a child-hater or someone with a bit of respect for public education would have opposed the No Child Left Behind Act.

And only a genocide-supporter or someone who's fed up with endless aggressive foreign wars would oppose the forthcoming Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act from Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD).

Names can be deceiving, even when supporters of bills and of those bills' names have the best of intentions. Who wouldn't like to prevent genocide and atrocities, after all? I'm of the opinion that I support many measures that would help to do just that.

When the Pope told Congress to end the arms trade, and they gave him a standing ovation, I didn't begin holding my breath for them to actually act on those words. But I've long advocated it. The United States supplies more weapons to the world than anyone else, including three-quarters of the weapons to the Middle East and three-quarters of the weapons to poor countries (actually 79% in both cases in the most recent reports from the Congressional Research Service; it may be higher now). I'm in favor of cutting off the arms trade globally, and the United States could lead that effort by example and by treaty agreement.

Most genocides are the products of wars. The Rwandan genocide followed years of U.S.-supported war-making, and was permitted by President Bill Clinton because he favored the rise to power of Paul Kagame. Policies aimed at preventing that genocide would have included refraining from backing the Ugandan war, refraining from supporting the assassin of the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, providing actual humanitarian aid, and -- in a crisis -- providing peaceworkers. Never was there a need for the bombs that have fallen in Libya, Iraq, and elsewhere on the grounds that we must not again fail to bomb Rwanda.

Genocidal actions, and similarly murderous actions that don't fit the genocide definition, occur around the world and are recognized by the United States as genocide or unacceptable, or not, based on the standing of the guilty party with the U.S. government. Saudi Arabia is, of course, not committing genocide in Yemen where it is bombing children with U.S. bombs. But the slightest pretext is sufficient to suggest that Gadaffi or Putin is threatening genocide. And, of course, the United States' own decades-long slaughter of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere cannot be genocide because the United States is doing it.

Global standards should be maintained by global bodies, but even I would not complain about the U.S. government appointing itself genocide preventer if it (1) ceased engaging in genocide, (2) ceased providing weapons of mass murder, and (3) engaged in only non-violent attempts to prevent genocide -- that is to say, genocide-free genocide prevention. What we know about Senator Cardin's bill, in addition to its sponsorship by a reliable war-supporter like Cardin, suggests that one of the tools to be used against "genocide" would be the tool that dominates the U.S. government's budget and bureaucracy whenever it is included, namely the military.

"The Act will make it national policy:

"1. to prevent mass atrocities and genocide as both a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility;"

Why both? Why isn't a moral responsibility good enough? Why did the Department of Justice argue for the legality of bombing Libya on the ridiculous grounds that the safety of the United States was endangered by not doing so? Why throw "national security" into a list of reasons to try to prevent mass-murder in some distant land? Why? Because it becomes an excuse, even a quasi-legal justification, for war.

"2. to mitigate the threats to United States security by preventing the root causes of insecurity, including masses of civilians being slaughtered, refugees flowing across borders, and violence wreaking havoc on regional stability and livelihood;"

But to do this, the United States would have to stop slaughtering masses of civilians and overthrowing governments, rather than use the disasters created by its own or others' war-making as a justification for more war-making. And what the hell happened to "moral responsibility"? By point #2 it's already so long forgotten that we're supposed to object to masses of civilians being slaughtered purely because that is somehow a "threat to United States security." Of course, in reality mass slaughter tends to generate anti-U.S. violence when the U.S. does the slaughtering, not otherwise.

"3. to enhance its capacity to prevent and address mass atrocities and violent conflict as part of its humanitarian and strategic interests;"

Terms begin to blur, edges fade. Now it's not just "genocide" that justifies more war-making, but even "violent conflict." And it's not just preventing it, but "addressing" it. And how does the world's greatest purveyor of violence tend to "address" "violent conflict"? If you don't know that one yet, Senator Cardin would like to invite you to move to Maryland and vote for him.

Something else snuck in here as well. In addition to "humanitarian interests," the United States can act on its "strategic interests," which are of course not the interests of the U.S. public but the interests of, for example, the oil companies that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was so concerned for when she pushed for bombing Libya, as seen in the emails that we're supposed to be upset about for something other than their content.

"4. to work to create a government-wide strategy to prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities:
A. by strengthening diplomatic, early warning, and conflict prevention and mitigation capacities;
B. by improving the use of foreign assistance to respond early and effectively to address the root causes and drivers of violence;
C. by supporting international atrocities prevention, conflict prevention, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding mechanisms; and
D. by supporting local civil society, including peacebuilders, human rights defenders, and others who are working to help prevent and respond to atrocities; and"

"Government-wide"? Let's recall which bit of the government sucks down 54% of federal discretionary spending. Sub-points A through D look excellent, of course, or would were this not the U.S. government and all of the U.S. government we're talking about.

"5. to employ a variety of unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral means to respond to international conflicts and mass atrocities, by placing a high priority on timely, preventive diplomatic efforts and exercising a leadership role in promoting international efforts to end crises peacefully."

If that sort of language were sincere, Cardin could demonstrate it and win me over by simply adding:

6. This will all be done nonviolently.

or

6. Nothing in this act is intended to suggest the privilege to violate either the United Nations Charter or the Kellogg-Briand Pact as these treaties are part of the Supreme Law of the Land under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.

A harmless little addition like that would win me right over.

Talk Nation Radio: Laurence Shoup on the Power of the Council on Foreign Relations

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-laurence-shoup-on-the-power-of-the-council-on-foreign-relations 

Laurence H. Shoup has taught U.S. history at the university level and has been a historical consultant on California history for over 30 years, authoring or co-authoring over 200 reports for a variety of clients. His new book which we discuss is Wall Street's Think Tank: The Council on Foreign Relations and the Empire of Neoliberal Geopolitics, 1976-2014. Among his past books is Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations and United States Foreign Policy. Find Shoup at http://rulersandrebels.com

Total run time: 29:00

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

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A Giant Raptor Fueled by Oil Circles the Earth

hastingsbookBy David Swanson

To the genre of war abolition treatises that everyone should read add A New Era of Nonviolence: The Power of Civil Society Over War by Tom Hastings. This is a peace studies book that truly crosses over into the perspective of peace activism. The author addresses positive trends with neither rose- nor red-white-and-blue-colored glasses. Hastings isn’t just after peace in his heart or peace in his neighborhood or bringing the good word of peace to the Africans. He actually wants to end war, and thus includes an appropriate — by no means exclusive — emphasis on the United States and its unprecedented militarism. For example:

“In a positive feedback loop of negative consequence, the race for the world’s remaining fossil fuels will produce more conflict and require ever more fuel to win the race . . . ‘[T]he U.S. Air Force, the world’s single largest consumer of petroleum, recently announced a plan to substitute 50 percent of its fuel use with alternative fuels, with particular emphasis on biofuels. Yet, biofuels will be able to supply no more than roughly 25 percent of motor fuel [and that’s with stealing land needed for food crops –DS] . . . so other regions where oil supplies are available will likely see greater military investment and intervention.’ . . . With the growing scarcity of oil reserves the U.S. military has entered an Orwellian era of permanent war, with hot conflict in multiple countries constantly. It may be thought of as a giant raptor, fueled by oil, constantly circling the Earth, seeking its next meal.”

A lot of people in favor of “peace,” just like a lot of people in favor of protecting the environment, do not want to hear that. The U.S. Institute of Peace, for example, may be thought of as a wart on the beak of the giant raptor, and would — I think — see itself sufficiently in those terms to object to the preceding paragraph. Hastings, in fact, illustrates well how Washington, D.C., thinks of itself by quoting a fairly typical comment, but one already proven flawed by well-known events. This was Michael Barone of US News and World Report in 2003 before the attack on Iraq:

“Few in Washington doubt that we can occupy Iraq within a few weeks’ time. Then comes the difficult task of moving Iraq toward a government that is democratic, peaceful, and respectful of the rule of law. Fortunately, smart officials in both the Defense and State departments have been doing serious work planning for that eventuality for over a year now.”

So, not to worry! This was an open public statement in 2003, like many others, yet the fact that the U.S. government was planning to attack Iraq for over a year before that continues to be “breaking news!” right up through this week.

That wars can be prevented even in the United States is clear to Hastings who would agree with Robert Naiman’s recent objection when CNN suggested that having opposed the Contra war on the government of Nicaragua should disqualify someone from running for U.S. president (particularly someone standing next to a shameless warmonger who voted for the war on Iraq). In fact, Hastings points out, huge efforts by the peace movement in the United States at the time very likely prevented a U.S. invasion of Nicaragua. “[H]igh ranking U.S. officials with access to [President Ronald] Reagan and his cabinet were speculating that invading Nicaragua was almost inevitable — and . . . it never occurred.”

Hastings examines causes of war outside of the Pentagon as well, tracing, for example, infectious disease back to the common cause of poverty, and noting that infectious disease can lead to xenophobic and ethnocentric hostility that leads to war. Working to eliminate disease can therefore help to eliminate war. And of course a small fraction of the cost of war could go a long way toward eliminating diseases.

That war need not be the result of conflict is clear to Hastings who recounts excellent models such as the popular resistance in the Philippines from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s. In February 1986 a civil war began. “The people interposed between two armies of tanks in a remarkable four-day nonviolent mass action. They stopped an emerging civil war, rescued their democracy, and did all this with zero mortalities.”

A danger lurks in the growing recognition of the power of nonviolence that I think is illustrated by a quote from Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall that I’m afraid Hastings might have included without any sense of irony. Ackerman and Duvall, I should mention, are not Iraqi and at the time of making this statement had not been deputized by the people of Iraq to decide their fate:

“Saddam Hussein has brutalized and repressed the Iraqi people for more than 20 years and more recently has sought to acquire weapons of mass destruction that would never be useful to him inside Iraq. So President Bush is right to call him an international threat. Given these realities, anyone who opposes U.S. military action to dethrone him has a responsibility to suggest how he might otherwise be ushered out the back door of Baghdad. Fortunately there is an answer: Civilian-based, nonviolent resistance by the Iraqi people, developed and applied with a strategy to undermine Saddam’s basis of power.”

By this standard, any nation possessing weaponry of use only for foreign wars should by default be attacked by the United States as an international threat, or anyone opposing such action must demonstrate an alternative means of overthrowing that government. This thinking brings us CIA-NED-USAID “democracy promotion” and “color revolutions” and the general acceptance of provoking coups and uprisings “nonviolently” from Washington. But are Washington’s nuclear weapons useful to President Obama inside the United States? Would he be right then in calling himself an international threat and attacking himself unless we could show an alternative means of overthrowing himself?

If the United States were to stop arming and funding some of the worst governments on earth, its “regime change” operations elsewhere would lose that hypocrisy. They would remain hopelessly flawed as undemocratic, foreign-influenced democracy-creation. A truly nonviolent foreign policy, in contrast, would neither collaborate with Bashar al Assad on torturing people nor later arm Syrians to attack him nor organize protesters to resist him nonviolently. Rather, it would lead the world be example toward disarmament, civil liberties, environmental sustainability, international justice, fair distribution of resources, and acts of humility. A world dominated by a peace maker rather than a war maker would be far less welcoming for the crimes of the Assads of the world.

Past Decade in Syria in 5 Minutes

The accepted story in the United States of what's happened in Syria is just that, a story told to make narrative sense of something completely un-understood.

In Southern Sweden a giant round rock lies on flat farmland, and the lovely story my ancestors used to tell to explain how it got there came down to this: a troll threw it there. As evidence, in a nearby castle, one can find a horn and a pipe that come into the story. The horn contained what today would be called chemical weapons, which burned the back of a horse when the hero of the story was smart enough to dump it over his shoulder rather than drinking it. Man and horse got away by riding across the furrows of a field, because everyone knows that trolls must run back and forth the full length of each furrow, which slows them down tremendously. The facts all fit. Some fringe conspiracy theorists may question the very existence of trolls, but such arguments need not be taken seriously.

A peace activist recently sent this video link to a listserve with a note stating that this video got the Syria story pretty much right. I had a number of objections:

That the United States got involved in Syria in 2006 is revealed in WikiLeaks. That the Pentagon was intent on overthrowing the Syrian government in 2001 is revealed by the Donald Rumsfeld memo shown to Wesley Clark, and by Tony Blair in 2010. So the story in this video of the U.S. taking an interest -- purely humanitarian of course -- only in 2013 is highly misleading.

That misdirection also facilitates leaving out of the story the U.S. brushing aside of a peace process proposed by Russia in 2012.

The statement, presented in the video as fact, that Assad used chemical weapons in that attack in 2013 is outrageous, as that has never been established. What ought to have been said was that someone used chemical weapons and Obama claimed falsely to have incontrovertible evidence that it was Assad.

Quoting Obama on a 2013 proposal for a "targeted military strike" blatantly avoids Seymour Hersh's report on the massive bombing campaign Obama had planned.

The video's conclusion that because the war is complicated there is therefore "just no end in sight" is reckless, as an end could be achieved if some effort were put into it, beginning with an honest assessment of the facts, and a retelling of 2013 as something other than "the United States backing down."

 

What would an honest account about the same length as this video look like? Perhaps like this:

Sad to say, the global policeman of humanitarian intent is no more real than a troll or a "Khorasan Group."

At least as early as 2001, the United States had the Syrian government on a list of governments targeted for overthrow.

In 2003, the United States threw the Middle East into a whole new sort of turmoil with its invasion of Iraq. It created sectarian divisions, and fueled and armed and facilitated the organization of violent groups.

At least as early as 2006, the United States had people in Syria working for the overthrow of the government.

The U.S. response to the Arab Spring, and the U.S.-led overthrow of the Libyan government made matters worse. ISIS was developing long before it burst into the news, its leaders organizing in U.S. prison camps in Iraq. The region was heavily armed with weapons from outside the region, primarily from the United States. Three-quarters of weapons shipped to Middle-Eastern governments were and are from the U.S. The weapons of the U.S. military itself and of its allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq, were intentionally and accidentally supplied to new violent groups.

The Arab Spring in Syria was made violent almost immediately, with support for violence from one side coming from the United States and its Gulf dictatorship allies, and from the other side from Iran and Hezbollah and Russia. The Free Syrian Army became one player in a civil and proxy and regional war, recruiting fighters from around the region of "liberated" disaster states. Al Qaeda became another player, as did the Kurds. The U.S. government, however, remained focused on overthrowing the Syrian government, and took no serious steps to halt support for al Qaeda and other groups from U.S. Gulf allies or Turkey or Jordan (steps such as cutting off the flow of weapons from the United States, imposing sanctions, negotiating a cease-fire or arms embargo).

In 2012, Russia proposed a peace-process that would have included President Bashar al-Assad stepping down, but the U.S. brushed the idea aside without any serious consideration, suffering under the delusion that Assad would be violently overthrown very soon, and preferring a violent solution as more likely to remove the Russian influence and military -- and perhaps also due to the general U.S. preference for violence driven by its weapons industry corruption. Meanwhile the Iraqi government was bombing its own citizens with weapons rushed to it by the U.S., violently fueling the coming ISIS assault. And the U.S. had "ended" its military occupation of Iraq without ending it.

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. He never produced so much as a horn or a pipe or a pleasant story as evidence.

Seymour Hersh would later reveal that the U.S. plan had been for a massive bombing campaign. And Robert Parry, among others, would report on the debunking of White House lies about the chemical weapons attack. While Syria might have been guilty, the White House almost certainly did not know that, and the U.S. public seemed to recognize that even such guilt would not justify entering the war. A Russian proposal to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons had already been known to the White House and been rejected. What compelled Obama to accept diplomacy as the last resort in 2013 was the public's and Congress's refusal to allow war. But Obama went right on arming and training fighters in the Syrian war, and sending more troops back into Iraq.

When ISIS burst onto the scene it openly begged the United States to attack it, viewing this as a huge recruitment opportunity. The United States obliged, attacking ISIS from the air in Iraq and Syria (and getting numerous allies to do so as well), in addition to continuing its arming and training operations -- now supposedly aimed at both ISIS and Assad. ISIS thrived, as did various anti-Asad groups. Turkey joined in by attacking Kurds rather than ISIS or Assad. Russia joined in by bombing ISIS and anti-government groups in Syria. This dangerously increased already high tension between Russia and the United States, as Russia intends to keep the Syrian government from being overthrown, and the United States intends to overthrow it -- and to bring in more allies, with the UK planning a vote on adding their bombs to the mix.

Of course, a ceasefire, an arms embargo, actual aid and reparations, regional disarmament and diplomacy, and the departure from the region of foreign powers all remain possible if pursued.

Reject Plan to Continue War on Afghanistan

Signers of this statement are listed below.

The U.S. and NATO occupy my country under the name of all the beautiful banners of democracy, women’s rights, human rights. And for this long time, they shed the blood of our people under the name of the war on terror…” —Malalai Joya

President Obama’s decision to leave actually ending, as opposed to officially “ending,” the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan to his successor (barring Congress developing the nerve and the decency to act) illustrates our collective and his personal failure to overcome what candidate Obama once called the mindset that gets us into wars. The idea that year 15 or year 16 is going to go better in Afghanistan than the first 14 years have gone is based on no evidence whatsoever, but merely the hope that something will change combined with a misguided and arrogant sense of responsibility to control someone else’s country. As numerous Afghans have been saying for nearly 14 years, Afghanistan will be a disaster when the U.S. occupation ends, but it will be a larger disaster the longer it takes to do so.

This longest-ever U.S. war since the destruction of the Native American nations is, when measured in deaths, dollars, destruction, and numbers of troops and weapons, far more President Obama’s war than President Bush’s. Yet President Obama has been given credit for “ending” it, without actually ending it, for nearly seven years, including while he was more than tripling the U.S. troop presence. The idea that escalating a war helps to end it, built on myths and distortions about past wars (Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Iraq “surge”), has to be set aside after these many years of failure. The pretense that a military can both end and not end the occupation of another people’s country by shifting to “non-combat” troops (even while bombing a hospital) must be abandoned.

The view that further war, in particular with drones, is counterproductive on its own terms is shared with us by
U.S. Lt. General Michael Flynn, who quit as head of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in August 2014: “The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just… fuels the conflict.”
Former CIA Bin Laden Unit Chief Michael Scheuer, who says the more the United States fights terrorism the more it creates terrorism.
The CIA, which finds its own drone program “counterproductive.”
Admiral Dennis Blair, the former director of National Intelligence: While “drone attacks did help reduce the Qaeda leadership in Pakistan,” he wrote, “they also increased hatred of America.”
Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “We’re seeing that blowback. If you’re trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you’re going to upset people even if they’re not targeted.”
Sherard Cowper-Coles, Former U.K. Special Representative To Afghanistan: “For every dead Pashtun warrior, there will be 10 pledged to revenge.”
Matthew Hoh, Former Marine Officer (Iraq), Former US Embassy Officer (Iraq and Afghanistan): “I believe it’s [the escalation of the war/military action] only going to fuel the insurgency. It’s only going to reinforce claims by our enemies that we are an occupying power, because we are an occupying power. And that will only fuel the insurgency. And that will only cause more people to fight us or those fighting us already to continue to fight us.” — Interview with PBS on Oct 29, 2009
General Stanley McChrystal: “For every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies.”

Afghanistan need not be “abandoned.” The United States owes Afghanistan reparations in the form of significant actual aid, the cost of which would of course be less than that of continuing the war.

The U.S. air strikes on the Kunduz hospital have generated more attention than many other U.S. atrocities committed in Afghanistan. Yet horrific attacks have been the mainstay of this war which was begun illegally and without U.N. authorization. The motivation of revenge for 9-11 is not a legal justification for war, and also ignores the Taliban’s offer to have bin Laden face trial in a third country. This war has killed many thousands of Afghans, tortured and imprisoned, wounded and traumatized many more. The top cause of death among members of the U.S. military who have gone to Afghanistan is suicide. We shouldn’t allow continuation of this madness to be depicted as reasonable and cautious. It is criminal and murderous. A third U.S. president should be given no opportunity to continue “ending” this war for additional years.

End it now.

SIGNED BY:

David Swanson, director of World Beyond War
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate
Medea Benjamin, Co-founder, Code Pink
Ret. Col. AnnWright, former U.S. diplomat, including in Afghanistan
Mike Ferner, former Navy Hospital Corpsman and president of Veterans For Peace
Matthew Hoh, Former Marine Officer (Iraq), Former US Embassy Officer (Iraq and Afghanistan)
Elliott Adams, former National President, Veterans for Peace, FRO
Brian Terrell, co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Ed Kinane, Steering committee, Syracuse Peace Council
Victoria Ross, Interim Director, Western New York Peace Council
Brian Willson, Esq., Veterans for Peace
Imam Abdulmalik Mujahid, Chairperson, World Parliament of Religions
David Smith-Ferri, Co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Dayne Goodwin, secretary Wasatch Coalition for Peace and Justice, Salt Lake City
Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Randolph Shannon, Progressive Democrats of America – PA Coordinator
David Hartsough, Peaceworkers
Jan Hartsough, San Francisco Friends Meeting
Judith Sandoval, Veterans for Peace, San Francisco
Jim Dorenkott, Veterans for Peace
Thea Paneth, Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Arlington United for Justice With Peace
Rivera Sun, author
Michael Wong, Veterans for Peace
Sherri Maurin, Global Days of Listening co-coordinator
Mary Dean, Witness Against Torture
Dahlia Wasfi MD, Iraqi-American activist
Jodie Evans, Co-Founder, Code Pink

Why Peace Activists Should Stop Cheering for Russian Bombs in Syria

By David Swanson, originally published at teleSUR

There's a view of Syria, common even among peace activists in the United States, that holds that because the United States has been making everything worse in Syria and the entire Middle East for years, Russian bombs will make things better. While the actions of the United States and its allies will lead to victory for ISIS, horror for millions of people, and chronic chaos in Syria along the lines of post-liberation Iraq and Libya, Russian bombs -- this view maintains -- will destroy ISIS, restore order, uphold the rule of law, and establish peace.

I've been informed repeatedly that because I'm opposed to Russian bombing I'm opposed to peace, I'm in favor of war, I want ISIS to win, I lack any concern for the suffering Syrian people, and my mind is either overly simplistic or somehow diseased. This line of thinking is a mirror image of the many self-identified peace activists in the United States who for years now have been insisting that the United States must violently overthrow the government of Syria. That crowd has even found itself alligned with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry who in 2013 told the U.S. public that if we didn't support bombing Syria we were in favor of Syria murdering children with chemical weapons. To our credit, we rejected that logic.

Advocates for U.S. bombs and advocates for Russian bombs each see a particular evil and wish to remedy it. The evil of the Syrian government, while often exaggerated and embellished, is real enough. The evil of the U.S. government, and what it has done to Iraq and Libya and Syria, can hardly be overstated. Both groups, however, place their faith in violence as the tool for remedying violence, revealing deep beliefs in the power of force, clearly at odds with professed commitments to peace.

Dropping bombs kills and injures civilians, traumatizes children who survive, harms infrastructure, destroys housing, poisons the environment, creates refugees, fuels bitter commitments to violence, and wastes massive resources that could have gone into aid and rebuilding. These are all well documented facts about every past bombing campaign in the history of the earth. In theory, peace activists agree with these facts. In practice, they are not outweighed by other concerns of realpolitik; rather, they are avoided entirely.

When the U.S. bombs a hospital in Afghanistan we're outraged. When Russia is accused of bombing a hospital in Syria, we avoid knowing about it. (Or, if we're from another camp, we put on our outrage for Syrian bombs but imagine U.S. bombs planting little flowers of democracy.) In wars that we oppose, we debunk claims to precision from the bombers. But good bombs are imagined has hitting just the right spots. After so many endlessly drawn-out U.S. wars that were advertised as quick and easy, we've begun to recognize the unpredictability of campaigns of mass murder -- and yet awareness of war's unpredictability doesn't seem to play at all into praise for Russian bombers joining in an already chaotic civil/proxy war.

The United States is accusing Russia of murdering people it armed and trained to murder different people. Some of those people are now asking for missiles with which to shoot down Russian planes. Russian planes have nearly come into conflict with Israeli and U.S. planes. A major figure in the Ukrainian government wants to help ISIS attack Russians. Congress members and pundits in the United States are urging conflict directly with Russia. Warmongers in Washington have been working hard to stir up conflict with Russia in Ukraine; now their hope lies in Syria. Russian bombs only heighten U.S.-Russian tensions.

When you unscramble the chaos of forces, and questionable claims about those forces, on the ground in Syria, some facts stand out. The United States wants to overthrow the government of Syria. Russia wants to maintain the government of Syria, or at least protect it from violent overthrow. (Russia in 2012 was open to a peace process that would have removed President Bashar al Assad from power, and the United States dismissed it out of hand in favor of his imminent violent overthrow.) The United States and Russia are the world's major nuclear powers. Their relations have been deteriorating rapidly, as NATO has expanded and the U.S. has orchestrated a coup in Ukraine.

A war with Russia and the United States on different sides, and all sorts of opportunities for incidents, accidents, and misunderstandings, risks everything. Russian bombs solve nothing. When the dust clears, how will the war be ended? Will Russian bombs leave behind generous good-willed people eager to negotiate, unlike U.S. bombs which leave behind anger and hostility? We've learned to ask the U.S. government to spell out its "exit strategy" as it dives into each new war. What is Russia's?

Here's my position. Murder is not moderate. You cannot find "moderate" murderers and engage them to kill extremist murderers. You cannot bomb the extremist murderers without producing more murderers than you kill. What's needed now, as in 2012 when the United States brushed it aside, is a peace process. First a cease fire. Then an arms embargo. And a halt to training and providing fighters and funding by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United States, and all other parties. Then major aid and restitution, and a negotiated settlement in which, in fact, Russia should be included as it is located in that region of the world, and the United States should not as it has no legitimate business being there.

This is what has been needed for years and will continue to be needed as long as it is avoided. More bombs make this more difficult, no matter who's dropping them.

Do Individual Politicians Matter?

It is entirely possible that President Al Gore would not have attacked Afghanistan or Iraq. President Henry Wallace might very well not have nuked Hiroshima or Nagasaki. President William Jennings Bryan almost certainly would not have attacked the Philippines.

Presidents are pushed into war and held back from war all the time, but they also do some pushing and pulling of their own. Within days of Germany's surrender in World War II, Winston Churchill proposed recruiting German troops into a new UK/US war on the Soviet Union. The idea went nowhere with his own government or allies, except to become the Cold War. But every crazed idea he'd had for years prior to that moment had been deemed acceptable and acted upon, and someone else might not have had the same ideas.

Do the sorts of powerful insiders epitomized by the Council on Foreign Relations usually get their way? Is the United States an oligarchy? Are small differences between electoral candidates magnified and exaggerated? Do both major political parties in the United States back essentially the same sort of militarism? Does a quasi-permanent shadow government within the Pentagon, CIA, State Department, etc., sometimes circumvent and overrule presidents? Yes, of course, all of those things are true. But individuals also matter.

They would matter less in a democracy. If Congress decided on war as the U.S. Constitution requires, or if the public voted on war as the Ludlow Amendment would have required, or if the United States gave up war as the Kellogg-Briand Pact mandates, then the militarism in the mind of one individual would not decide the fate of so many lives and deaths. But that's not reality now.

A President Lincoln Chafee or a President Bernie Sanders or a President Jill Stein, rather than a President Hillary Clinton or a President Donald Trump, would be one factor among many weighing to some degree against the likelihood of more and larger and more dangerous wars. Whether the chance and possible benefit of electing a better president is worth diverting resources from other anti-war work into the national circus of election obsession is a separate and much more complex question.

This point, that individuals matter, is made in the new book Why Leaders Fight by Michael Horowitz, Allan Stam, and Cali Ellis. They go up against the academic tradition of attempting to explain war decisions through whatever process can most resemble the physical sciences. That tradition has steered far clear of anything as messy as a human being, preferring to ponder game theory or to hunt for non-existent correlations between war and population density, resource scarcity, or anything else that can be quantified.

Having brought the individual back into consideration, the authors of Why Leaders Fight immediately attempt to make that resemble as closely as possible a mathematical equation. Was this national ruler someone who had been in the military, and was he or she in combat? What was their first experience with war? What is their education level? What is their age? What previous job did they hold? Were they raised by good parents? Were they raised wealthy or poor? What was their birth order? Et cetera.

Will all such data ever allow a calculation to reliably predict war mongering or peacefulness? Of course not.  Will examinations of enough past leaders along these lines open our eyes to some areas for concern or reassurance? Perhaps. But can such scientistic studies reach the level of being a better guide to what a political candidate might do than is an examination of what that candidate has done and said? I doubt it.

A careful reading of candidates' platforms, speeches, and casual remarks, including what is given prominence and what is omitted, and weighed against what they've actually done in the past, takes one quite far. Add in who's funding them, what party they've sworn allegiance to, how they relate to government and media insiders, how they relate to foreign leaders, how they handle mistakes, how they deal with crises, and one can -- I think -- predict fairly accurately which candidate is going to be a minor or major weight against a war that powerful interests demand, and which candidate is going to be easily pushed into war or, in fact, rush to create one at the earliest opportunity. It's not as though George W. Bush and Harry Truman and William McKinley hadn't advertised what sort of things they planned to do.

Academics bent on making the social sciences into real by-god sciences left out more than the individual politician after all. They left out the wider culture. An older politician eager to make his or her mark before their time is up won't create wars in a culture that honors making peace. An official whose childhood and background statistics suggest they will take great risks would have to take none at all to go along with the routine militarism of the current U.S. government, but would challenge the whole military industry and the whole communications industry by attempting nonviolent solutions to crises. Disarmament is considered risky in U.S. culture, making questionable the expectation that risk-taking personalities will promote militarism. In other words, the interpretation and weighting of the data has to change so drastically with the culture that one is better off just looking at the culture.

President Obama would have heavily bombed Syria in 2013 if not for the weight of U.S. culture against it. President John McCain would not have been free to develop a kill list and a drone murder program without the sort of intense public opposition that meets Republicans who do such things. There can be no question that individuals matter, especially large numbers of individuals actively demanding something. Nor can there be any question that one of those individuals who matter is you.

What Became of the Vikings?

When the United States is identified as an empire, albeit of a different sort than some others, it's common to point to the fate of ancient Rome or the empires of Britain, Spain, Holland, etc., as a warning to the Pentagon or even to CNN debate moderators.

But a closer analogy to the current United States than ancient Rome, in a certain regard, might be the Vikings. The United States doesn't create colonies in the places it wages war or wields influence. It raids. It pillages. It plunders resources. It manufactures smart phones. It fracks. It sets up isolated settlements, heavily fortified, also known as military bases, embassies, green zones, safe zones, and moderate rebel training camps. It sails for home.

What ever happened to the Vikings anyway?

I'd like to see a survey done on that question. I'm afraid many people would answer that the Vikings died out or got themselves slaughtered or slaughtered each other. That would certainly be an anti-imperial moral for the Viking story. It would also fit with the idea that violence controls people rather than the other way around.

Others might respond that the Vikings mysteriously disappeared, but they actually did nothing of the sort.

Much of what we know about the Vikings comes from literate people in other cultures attacked and raided by the Vikings. Just as people around the world told Gallup in a recent poll that the United States is the greatest threat to peace on earth, people impacted by Viking raids viewed Vikings as warrior beasts. No doubt this produced exaggerations, but there can be no question that the Vikings routinely practiced what we today would call aggressive war or targeted humanitarian regime change, depending on who was paying us to label the acts.

There can also be no question that the Vikings never died out. Current understanding of DNA suggests that a significant percentage of people in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden are descendants of Vikings, as are many people in other parts of Europe and Britain (including over half the older families in Liverpool, for example -- Viking Beatles?!).

Well, if they didn't die out, what happened? Surely, common U.S. wisdom holds that if an evil violent people like, say, the Iranians were to continue to exist, they would continue to launch all the wars they keep launching all over the world. Surely, somewhat better informed opinion holds that the United States wages all the wars it wages because of tragic but unavoidable tendencies buried in our genes. In fact, I'm pretty sure that "Our Genes May Be Violent, But We Can Make a Buck Off That" was once the slogan of Lockheed Martin, or it may have been Raytheon. Surely, if the Vikings were warriors, their descendants must still be warriors.

Annoyingly, the facts are otherwise. The Vikings kept right on living and radically reduced their killing. "The transformation of the Northmen, the 'scourge of Europe,' into the architects of the most peaceful region of Europe, Scandinavia, and the designers of strategies and institutions to replace war is an intriguing story," wrote Elise Boulding. As she tells that story, the Vikings gradually found consensus more useful than conquering, and negotiated trade more profitable than pillaging. They shifted from raiding to building settlements. They adopted some of the more peaceful ideas of Christianity. They began to farm more and sail less.

Other sources expand on this theme. The Vikings had profited by enslaving people where they raided. As the Christian church was established in Scandinavia, it insisted on enslaving only non-Christians, which badly damaged the profitability of European raiding. Viking (or former Viking) violence was redirected into the Crusades against Muslims and Jews. But, make no mistake, the quantity of violence was on a steep downward slope. The peaceful separation of Norway and Sweden in 1905 was a model for other nations that have a hard time accomplishing such feats without wars. The relative resistance of Scandinavia to militarism in recent times, including Sweden's choice not to fully join NATO -- as well as its choice to stay out of the two world wars -- is a model as well.

But the real lesson is that the Vikings stopped being Vikings. And so can we.

Speaking Events

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

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

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