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To prosecute Tony Blair or George W. Bush or others responsible for the criminal attack on Iraq, or other top officials for other recent wars, does not require the International Criminal Court (ICC).
It is commonplace to insist that the ICC cannot handle the supreme crime of aggression, although it might at some point in the future. The United States is also believed to be immune from prosecution as a non-ICC member.
But this focus on the ICC is a sign of weakness in a global movement for justice that has other tools readily available. When the losers of World War II were prosecuted, there was no ICC. The ICC's existence does not impede anything that was done in Nuremberg or Tokyo, where the crime of making war was prosecuted by the victors of World War II under the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
Nor does the existence of the UN Charter throw up any obstacles. The invasion of Iraq (and every other recent Western war) was just as illegal under the UN Charter as under Kellogg-Briand.
Nor does one have to go back to Nuremberg for a precedent. The special tribunals set up for Yugoslavia and Rwanda prosecuted the waging of war under the name of "genocide." The notion that the West cannot commit genocide (anymore) is pure prejudice. The scale and type of killing unleashed on Iraqis by the 2003 coalition perfectly fits the definition of genocide as routinely applied to non-Westerners.
The special tribunal on Rwanda is also a model for addressing the lies and propaganda that are such a focus of the Chilcot Report. As at Nuremberg, the propagandists were prosecuted in Rwanda. While Fox News executives should certainly be prosecuted for sexual harassment where merited, in a fair world in which the rule of law were applied equally, they would face additional charges as well. War propaganda is as illegal under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as war was under Kellogg-Briand.
What we are lacking is not the legal ability to prosecute, but the will power and the democratic control of institutions. In war or genocide, as with torture and other atrocities constituting "the evil of the whole," we are dealing with crimes that can be prosecuted in any court under universal jurisdiction. The possibility that U.S. or UK courts are going to handle this matter themselves has long since been ruled out, freeing the courts of any other nation to act.
Now, I'm not against prosecuting Blair before Bush. And I'm not against prosecuting Blair for minor components of his crime before the entirety. But if we wanted to end war, we would pursue those lesser measures with an openly expressed understanding of what is actually possible if only we had the will.
When France, Russia, China, Germany, Chile, and so many others stood against the crime of attacking Iraq, they acknowledged the responsibility they have shunned ever since of seeking prosecution. Do they fear the precedent? Do they prefer that war not be prosecutable because of their own wars? Imagine how shortsighted that would be, and how ignorant of the damage they do to the world by allowing the truly monstrous warmakers to walk free.
My headline above is a plain English translation of this Pentagonspeak found in a Reuters headline today: "Demand for U.S. arms exports set to keep growing, official says."
As the United States and NATO antagonize Russia, and pressure NATO members to buy more weapons, and showcase U.S. weapons in numerous wars, and use every carrot and stick in the State Department to market U.S. weapons, an "official" who happens to have been located at a giant weapons trade show predicts that of its own accord "demand" for weaponry is going to grow. Here's Reuters' first sentence:
"International demand for U.S. weapons systems is expected to continue growing in coming years, a senior U.S. Air Force official said on Sunday, citing strong interest in unmanned systems, munitions and fighter jets."
Thus is the proliferation of drones around the world spun as something positive, along with bombs and jets. And thus is it spun as something that simply results from the quality and desirability of the products.
Quick, which five nations do you most want murdering their enemies with missiles from drones over the United States?
The Chilcot report's "findings" have virtually all been part of the public record for a decade, and it avoids key pieces of evidence. Its recommendations are essentially to continue using war as a threat and a tool of foreign policy, but to please try not to lie so much, make sure to win over a bit more of the public, and don't promise any positive outcomes given the likelihood of catastrophe.
The report is a confused jumble, given that it records evidence of the supreme crime but tries to excuse it. The closer you get to the beginning of the executive summary, the more the report reads as if written by the very criminals it's reporting on. Yet the report makes clear, as we always knew, that even in 2001-2003 there were honest people working in the British, as also in the U.S., government -- some of whom became whistleblowers, others of whom accurately identified the planned war as a crime that would endanger rather than protect, but stayed in their jobs when the war was launched.
Chilcot makes clear that the attack on Iraq was illegal, against the British public, against the international community and the UN Charter, expected to increase terrorism, based on lies about terrorism and weapons, and -- like every other war ever launched -- not a last resort. Chilcot records, as reality-based reporting always has, that Iraq claimed honestly to have no nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. Chilcot fails to explain with any clarity that one cannot legally or morally attack another nation even when it does have such things.
Chilcot does make clear the extent to which France was pushing back against war, along with Russia and Germany and Chile and China. The key supporter of U.S. war plans was the UK, and there is some possibility that a UK refusal to join in this crime might really have done some good.
But Chilcot steers away from criminal responsibility, and from the damage done by the crime. It avoids the Downing Street Memo, the White House Memo, Hussein Kamel, the spying and threatening and bribing involved in the failed effort to win UN authorization, Aznar's account of Bush's admission that Saddam Hussein was willing to leave, etc. This is a report that aims for politeness and tranquility.
Not to worry, Chilcot tells us, as nothing like this will happen again even if we just let the criminals walk. Chilcot claims bizarrely that every other war before and since has been defensive and in response to some attack, rather than an act of aggression like this one. Of course, no list of those other wars is provided.
Even more bizarrely, Chilcot claims that Blair and gang literally never considered the possibility that Iraq had no "weapons of mass destruction." How you make all kinds of assertions, contrary to your evidence, that Iraq has weapons without considering the question is beyond me. But Chilcot credits with great significance the supposedly excusing grace of groupthink and the passion with which people like Blair supposedly believed their own lies. Chilcot even feeds into the disgusting lie that Blair pushes to this day that Iraqis chose to destroy their own country while their occupiers nobly attempted "reconstruction."
Despite itself, however, Chilcot may do some good. In the United States, when James Comey describes crimes by Hillary Clinton and assures us they should not be prosecuted, most people can be counted on to lie back and accept that blindly or even fervently. Yet our friends in Britain appear less than eager to accept the attitude with which Chilcot has reported on the supreme international crime.
Tony Blair may now be impeached as he needs to be. Yes -- sigh -- one can and should impeach people no longer in office, as has been usefully done in both British and U.S. history. Removal from office is one penalty that sometimes follows a conviction at a trial following an impeachment; it is not itself the definition of impeachment. Blair should be tried and convicted by Parliament. He should also be put on trial by the International Criminal Court or, better, by a special tribunal established for Iraq as for World War II or Yugoslavia.
The victors in World War II used the Kellogg-Briand Pact to prosecute the losers for the new crime of launching a war. Blair violated both the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the newer, yet never used, United Nations Charter, which also bans war. While Kellogg-Briand allows no exceptions, the exceptions in the UN Charter were famously not met in the case of the war on Iraq or, for that matter, any other recent western wars.
You can sign a petition urging Blair's impeachment and prosecution here. Of course the goal must be to build momentum for holding the chief (U.S.) war criminals accountable, pursuing truth and reconciliation, and making massive reparations to the people of Iraq and their region. What the U.S. needs is action, not a 7-year "investigation." Our own Chilcot report, better in fact, was written long ago.
The Chilcot report could, against its own wishes, move us in that direction.
Clare Hanrahan's memoir The Half Life of a Free Radical: Growing Up Irish Catholic in Jim Crow Memphis is a remarkable feat: part Jack Kerouac, part Dorothy Day, part Howard Zinn, and a bit of Forest Gump.
First and foremost this is an entertaining and irreverent tale of childhood and adolescence told with great humor, honesty, and empathy. But it's also told by someone who became a peace and justice and environmentalist activist in later life, someone able to look back on the poverty, racism, consumerism, militarism, sexism, and Catholicism of her youth with passion and perspective -- even appreciation for all the good that was mixed in with the bad. Hanrahan writes what in outline form would read like an endless tale of misfortune, and yet leaves you with the thought of how much riotous fun she and her eight siblings and other acquaintances had.
I know Clare, though I learned much more about her from this book, and I wouldn't risk changing her if I had a time machine and magical powers. But I still found myself wondering, as with most stories of most people in the United States and much of the world, how different Hanrahan's life would have been in a society with the decency to provide free college and free job training as needed, or a society that integrated civic activism into everyone's life, or a society in which peace activist careers were marketed on the level of military recruitment ads or even marketed at all so that they weren't so frequently found so late, or a society in which some of the best people didn't live below a taxable salary level so as not to pay taxes for wars.
Hanrahan gives us her family genealogy first, and by doing so teaches some U.S. history that echoes through the book and the years. So, she shows us the cruelty of Jim Crow, for example, through personal experiences as a white girl, but illuminates it with an understanding of its origins, and -- even more importantly -- an awareness of its latest incarnations today. She also contrasts what she knows of the history of Memphis with what she was taught in school in Memphis growing up.
Hanrahan tells her story largely in chronological order, with no lengthy flashbacks, but with numerous quick bits of foreshadowing. For example:
"Brother Tommy gouged his initials, TPH, with a pocket knife on that same bannister long before the American war in Viet Nam maimed his hand, stole his youth, poisoned him with Agent Orange, and eventually took his life and that of his twin brother Danny. The bannister was later knocked down by a speeding car that careened into the porch stopping just short of the front bedroom."
Tommy returned from Vietnam to a hospital. "In my naiveté," Hanrahan writes,
"I rushed to my brother's bedside to embrace him. I may even have called him 'my hero' as I approached, expecting a hug. Lightning fast his good arm flailed out knocking me across the room and onto the floor. 'Wake up!' he said. 'Wake up you stupid bitch.' I can still hear those harsh words. Dazed and confused, I picked myself up and backed away. This was not the brother I had sent away with a patriotic poem, proudly recited before my senior class."
Hanrahan's two veteran brothers suffered in many ways, and failed to fit back into society in many ways, but it was the cruelty toward women that they came back from the war with that their sister Clare eventually found intolerable.
When Hanrahan left Memphis she saw a lot of the country and a bit of the world, including living off the grid on land and water, joining intentional communities and finding her way to a job writing for peace. She also protested for peace and spent six months behind bars. During the course of her ramblings, Hanrahan managed to be present at or part of an extraordinary number of crucial events and developments in recent U.S. history. Hanrahan became editor of Rural Southern Voice for Peace just in time for the first Gulf War and the awful wars that have followed.
Hanrahan found her way back to Memphis on numerous occasions, sometimes for funerals, but also to be part of activist efforts such as the successful campaign to preserve the band shell in Overton Park launched by one of her brothers. Hanrahan intersperses her memories with her dreams and poetry, adding emotional depth to an account of an extraordinary family in a struggling city that I've enjoyed visiting but would like to visit again with this book as a guide.
Mel Duncan is a co-founder and current Director of Advocacy and Outreach for Nonviolent Peaceforce, an international non-governmental organization that provides direct protection to civilians caught in violent conflict and works with local civil society groups on violence deterrence throughout the world. He has received numerous awards. The Utne Reader named Duncan one of “50 Visionaries Who are Changing Our World.” The American Friends Service Committee nominated Nonviolent Peaceforce for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
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If you haven't been hiding under a partisan rock for the past several years, you're aware that President Barack Obama has given himself the sort-of legalish right to murder anyone anywhere with missiles from drones.
He's not the only one who wants that power.
Yes, President Obama has claimed to have put restrictions on whom he'll murder, but in no known case has he followed any of his self-imposed non-legal restrictions. Nowhere has someone been arrested instead of killed, while in many known cases people have been killed who could have easily been arrested. In no known case has someone been killed who was an "imminent and continuing threat to the United States," or for that matter just plain imminent or just plain continuing. It's not even clear how someone could be both an imminent and a continuing threat until you study up on how the Obama administration has redefined imminent to mean theoretically imaginable someday. And, of course, in numerous cases civilians have been killed in large numbers and people have been targeted without identifying who they are. Lying dead from U.S. drone strikes are men, women, children, non-Americans, and Americans, not a single one of them charged with a crime or their extradition sought.
Who else would like to be able to do this?
One answer is most nations on earth. We now read news stories from Syria of people dying from a drone strike, with the reporter unable to determine if the missile came from a U.S., U.K., Russian, or Iranian drone. Just wait. The skies will be filled if the trend is not reversed.
Another answer is Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, but not Jill Stein. Yes, those first three candidates have said they want this power.
Another answer, however, should be just as disturbing as those already mentioned. Military commanders around the world want the authority to murder people with drones without bothering to get approval from civilian officials back home. Here's a fun quiz:
How many zones has the United States divided the globe into for purposes of complete military domination, and what are their names?
Answer: Six. They are Northcom, Southcom, Eucom, Pacom, Centcom, and Africom. (Jack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and Quack were already taken.) In normal English they are: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Western Asia, and Africa.
Now here comes the hard question. Which of those zones has a new would-be commander who was just encouraged by a prominent Senator in an open Congressional hearing to acquire the authority to murder people in his zone without getting approval from the U.S. president?
Clue #1. It's a zone with the empire's headquarters not even located in the zone, so that this new commander speaks of killing people there as playing "an away game."
Clue #2. It's a poor zone that does not manufacture weapons but it saturated with weapons made in the United States plus France, Germany, the U.K., Russia, and China.
Clue #3. Many of the people in this zone have skin resembling people who are disproportionately targets of U.S. police department killings.
Did you get it right? That's correct: Africom is being encouraged by Senator Lindsay Graham, who a short time back wanted to be president, to blow people up with missiles from flying robots without presidential approval.
Now here's where the morality of war can wreak havoc with humanitarian imperialism. If a drone killing is not part of a war, then it looks like murder. And handing out licenses to murder to additional people looks like a worsening of the state of affairs in which just one person claims to hold such a license. But if drone killing is part of a war, and Captain Africom claims to be at war with Somalia, or with a group in Somalia, for example, well then, he wouldn't need special permission to blow up a bunch of people with manned aircraft; so why should he need it when using robotic unmanned bombers?
The trouble is that saying the word "war" doesn't have the moral or legal powers often imagined. No current U.S. war is legal under either the U.N. Charter or the Kellogg-Briand Pact. And the intuition that murdering people with a drone is wrong can't be a useful one if murdering people with a piloted plane is right, and vice versa. We actually have to choose. We actually have to set aside the scale of the killing, the type of technology, the role of robots, and all other extraneous factors, and choose whether it's acceptable, moral, legal, smart, or strategic to murder people or not.
If that seems too much of a mental strain, here's an easier guide. Just imagine what your response would be if the ruler of Europe Command asked for the authority to murder at will people of his choosing along with anybody too close to them at the time.
Harvey Wasserman is a life-long activist who speaks, writes and organizes widely on energy, the environment, history, the drug war, election protection, and grassroots politics. He teaches (since 2004) history and cultural & ethnic diversity at two central Ohio colleges. He works for the permanent shutdown of the nuclear power industry and the birth of Solartopia, a democratic and socially just green-powered Earth free of all fossil and nuclear fuels. He writes for Ecowatch, solartopia.org, freepress.org and nukefree.org, which he edits. He helped found the anti-war Liberation News Service. In 1972 his History of the U.S., introduced by Howard Zinn, helped pave the way for a new generation of people’s histories. In 1973 Harvey coined the phrase “No Nukes” and helped found the global grassroots movement against atomic energy. In 1990 he became Senior Advisor to Greenpeace USA. Harvey’s America at the Brink of Rebirth: The Organic Spiral of U.S. History, which dissects our national story in terms of six cycles, will be published soon at www.solartopia.org
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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
This Fourth of July, U.S. war makers will be drinking fermented grain, grilling dead flesh, traumatizing veterans with colorful explosions, and thanking their lucky stars and campaign contributors that they don't live in rotten old England. And I don't mean because of King George III. I'm talking about the Chilcot Inquiry.
According to a British newspaper: "The long-awaited Chilcot report into the Iraq war is reportedly set to savage Tony Blair and other former government officials in an 'absolutely brutal' verdict on the failings of the occupation."
Let's be clear, the "brutal" "savaging" is metaphorical, not of the sort actually done to Iraq. By the most scientifically respected measures available, the war killed 1.4 million Iraqis, saw 4.2 million injured, and 4.5 million people become refugees. The 1.4 million dead was 5% of the population. The invasion included 29,200 air strikes, followed by 3,900 over the next eight years. The U.S. military targeted civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances. It used cluster bombs, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new kind of napalm in urban areas. Birth defects, cancer rates, and infant mortality have soared. Water supplies, sewage treatment plants, hospitals, bridges, and electricity supplies were devastated, and not repaired.
For years, the occupying forces encouraged ethnic and sectarian division and violence, resulting in a segregated country and the repression of rights that Iraqis had enjoyed even under Saddam Hussein's brutal police state. Terrorist groups, including one that took the name ISIS, arose and flourished.
This enormous crime was not a well-intended project that experienced a few "failings of the occupation." It was not something that could have been done properly, or legally, or morally. The only decent thing that could have been done with this war, as with any war, was not to start it.
There was no need for yet another investigation. The crime has been out in the open from the start. All the obvious lies about weapons and ties to terrorists could have been true and still wouldn't have justified or legalized the war. What's needed is accountability, which is why Tony Blair may now find himself impeached.
Holding UK accomplices to the crime accountable is not a step toward getting them to squeal on their U.S. bosses, because the secrets are all in the open. But perhaps it can set an example. Perhaps even a UK-free European Union will someday take steps to hold U.S. criminals to account.
It's too late, of course, to dissuade President Obama from expanding on Bush's abuses by holding Bush accountable. But there is the problem of the next president (with both major parties nominating people who supported the 2003 invasion), and the problem of a subservient Congress. There is also the screaming need, ever more urgent, for massive reparations to the people of Iraq. That step, required by justice and humanity, would of course cost less financially than continuing the never-ending wars in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. It would also make the United States safer.
These articles of impeachment were introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Dennis Kucinich on June 9, 2008, as H. Res. 1258
Falsely, Systematically, and with Criminal Intent Conflating the Attacks of September 11, 2001, With Misrepresentation of Iraq as a Security Threat as Part of Fraudulent Justification for a War of Aggression.
Invading Iraq Absent a Declaration of War.
Misprision of a Felony, Misuse and Exposure of Classified Information And Obstruction of Justice in the Matter of Valerie Plame Wilson, Clandestine Agent of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Creating Secret Laws.
Violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.
Conspiracy to Violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Endangering the Health of 911 First Responders.
Well meaning people just spent a quarter billion dollars on the Bernie Sanders campaign which continues operations while its candidate says he will vote for Hillary Clinton for president.
Let's put that in a little perspective. Iraqis fleeing Fallujah yet again, as wars that Hillary Clinton pushed for roll on, are in need, according to the United Nations, of $17.5 million for survival.
I work for an organization opposing war, called World Beyond War, which runs on less than $50,000 a year. Many good organizations pursuing just what this world needs run on less than that, but you could fund 5,000 organizations at the level of World Beyond War's current funding for what's been spent on Bernie.
Has Sanders for President been a wise investment or not?
Certainly Bernie's campaign inspired people. But I see no reason not to expect most of them to become despondent and despairing now that it's over. If past experience with failed and successful campaigns alike is any guide, that's where we're headed.
Certainly Bernie's campaign educated people. But it's reasonable to assume that establishing or expanding major new media outlets to the tune of $250,000,000 would have educated people too, and that they might have gone on providing the same funding next year and the year after, if their interest were in education rather than election. (First Look Media, publisher of The Intercept, was created with just that amount, but not to all be spent in one year.)
Certainly Bernie should go on trying to somehow make the Democrats' Platform (which, if the past is any guide, they will ignore anyway) slightly less rightwing and disastrous.
It's unclear that investing in Bernie was a reasonable gamble toward winning something more. The rigged nature of the election was clear from the start. Bernie's commitment to promote Hillary Clinton in the end was clear from the start. And her commitment to warmongering, environment destroying, oligarchy enhancing policies was clear from the start.
What else could have been done or could be done now or could be done next time? No, of course you should not vote for the fascist golfer clown. Yes, of course you should vote for Jill Stein. But the system is as rigged against her as it was against Sanders.
Let me ask the question a different way. Why is it that corporations will now take a public stand for LGBTQ rights? Why will even a conscience-free corporate hack like Hillary Clinton defend LGBTQ rights she used to oppose? The primary answer is that activists changed the culture. The role of voting in their work was minimal. As Emma Goldman said, if voting ever changed anything they'd ban it. As Howard Zinn said, it matters less who's sitting in the White House than who's doing the sit ins.
Why so down on elections? I'm in favor of them! I think we should have one some day! That will require some of these changes that cannot be voted in under the broken system that lacks them: public funding of elections, no bribery, free air time for candidates, automatic voter registration, open debates and ballots, no gerrymandering, hand-counted paper ballots, international monitors, no electoral college, no delegates, no superdelegates, and a three-month election season with a bit of actual governing before the next one.
If I were drafting a party platform, it would add to those the following: take military spending back to 2001 levels, tax corporations and billionaires at 1960 levels, restore the minimum wage to its 1968 level, and guarantee everyone top-quality free education preschool through college, healthcare, job training as needed, vacation, family leave, retirement, transportation, childcare, clean energy, public parks, sustainable agriculture, and significant aid to the rest of the world. Yes, that's Bernie's platform, or could have been if he'd been willing to mention cutting military spending or investing in foreign aid. It's also Scandinavia's reality. But a party platform is not the most important place for these commitments.
The place for our passion and even our "unity" is not in a political party that destroys everything we hold dear and calls our continued subservience "unity." We have 60% of the U.S. public that simply cannot stand Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. That may increase as we're forced to endure more and more of the pair of them. If all of those people, or even half of them, backed Jill Stein she might win. But that requires imagining a fair system of elections and of communications that does not exist.
And what if she were elected president? Or what if Bernie Sanders were elected president? We'd still be up against a corrupt communications system, an ill-informed public, a reactionary Congress, a medieval Supreme Court, and the absence of a major independent movement for change. It's good to see Congress Members staging a sit-in to demand that other Congress Members back some ridiculously weak if not counterproductive gun control measures, but what we need is a massive movement of independent people sitting in and surrounding the Capitol until both parties act on the basic lessons learned around the world: ban the guns and stop bombing people.
Does that sound dreamy and utopian? The point is not to expect it to succeed entirely and immediately. The point is that the most strategic way to achieve a partial, compromised solution is to build momentum for a real fix. When your best Congress Members are openly bragging that their opening negotiating demand is for the very least that could possibly be done, the predictable result is less than that. When people fall in behind those so-called public servants, failure is guaranteed.
So what should we do? Even if you believe in dumping most of your energy and money into a broken election system, please consider saving a little for independent activism. We should organize, educate, march, rally, protest, sit-in, disrupt, create alternatives, create media, and find local, state, regional, and international solutions.
Here's one example of what I'm working on. World Beyond War is planning an event called No War 2016 that will happen in Washington, D.C., in September and involve panels, workshops, and nonviolent civil resistance. Speakers will include Dennis Kucinich, Kathy Kelly, Miriam Pemberton, David Vine, Kozue Akibayashi, Harvey Wasserman, Jeff Bachman, Peter Kuznick, Medea Benjamin, Maurice Carney, David Swanson, Leah Bolger, David Hartsough, Pat Elder, John Dear, Mel Duncan, Kimberley Phillips, Ira Helfand, Darakshan Raja, Bill Fletcher Jr., Lindsey German, Maria Santelli, Mark Engler, Maja Groff, Robert Fantina, Barbara Wien, Jodie Evans, Odile Hugonot Haber, Gar Alperovitz, Sam Husseini, Christopher Simpson, Brenna Gautam, Kent Shifferd, Patrick Hiller, Mubarak Awad, Michelle Kwak, John Washburn, Bruce Gagnon, David Cortright, Michael McPhearson, and Sharon Tennison (none of whom necessarily agrees with me on anything in this essay, and some of whom certainly disagree passionately).
We can help you plan a conference or a nonviolent action or both in your part of the world, and you can find lots of events here. I particularly recommend sit-ins in Congressional offices now, pointing to Congress's willingness to use the same tactic itself, and pointing the media to your own live video feed of your own teach-in on the floor of the plush office of your senator or misrepresentative.
The truth is that we have far more power than we're told, we just don't have it where we're told to look for it.
Dan Ireland's The Ultimate Arena: The Sacrifice of an American Gladiator is a fictionalized account, speculative in some of the details, but true in all the major facts, to the story of Pat Tillman. Any Good American who "supports the troops" has a duty to read this book, as it recounts the life and death of just about the only troop in recent years to be given a face and a name, if not a voice, by the U.S. media.
The most disturbing question raised for me by this story, as by news reports of the actual events, is unrelated to the killing of Tillman or the lying about it. My question is this: How could this larger-than-life, super-inquisitive, amateur ethicist and philosopher, raised in a uniquely intellectually stimulating and morally instructive family have come to the conclusion that it was a good idea to sign up for participation in mass murder? And secondarily: How, after concluding that he'd been duped and was engaged in purely destructive mass killing, could the same independent rebel have decided it was his moral duty to continue with it, even though he had the ability to easily stop?
This is not a question wholly unique to the case of Tillman. Many of the best veteran advocates for ending war were once among the most passionate believers in the goodness of what they'd signed up to do. But at least in some cases they had grown up in rightwing households. Tillman apparently had not.
Of course, I don't know in detail what Tillman's real childhood and adolescence were. In Ireland's account Tillman had a veteran uncle whose story ought to have turned Tillman against war but in fact -- as is very often the case -- did not completely do so. In Ireland's account Tillman was taught to use violence in personal relations and did so almost routinely.
What we can accept as established fact, however, is that one can grow up in the United States, succeed in school all the way through college, participate in a well-rounded range of activities, and never once encounter a history of war resistance, an argument for war abolition, an ethics class addressing the question of war, a consideration of the illegality of war, or the existence of a peace movement. Tillman, like many veterans I've met, very likely discovered all of these things only after joining the military. For him, in a unique way, but as for many others, that was too late.
In Ireland's account, the financial corruption and opportunism of U.S. wars turned Tillman against them. There's no similar account in the book of the human suffering of mass murder turning him against what he was doing. We are supposed to understand, and as far as we know this is true, that Tillman was prepared to speak against the wars, that he did speak to his fellow troops against the wars, but that he never threatened to set down his weapon or even considered the possibility of doing so.
This fits with the normalization of war that allows people to admire a man for giving up a big football contract to participate in war, and to accept that he became -- like a congressman who votes over and over to fund a war while criticizing it -- an opponent of a war he was participating in.
The most intriguing question raised by Ireland's book is: What could have been? Would Tillman have campaigned for public office, winning votes from war supporters while laying out an antiwar platform? Or would it have been more of an "antiwar" platform, tweaking the imperial machine around the edges?
The power of such an account lies not in these questions, however, but in the fact that hits you like a pro defensive back: each of the millions of deaths brought about by recent wars has been an immense loss, a tragedy, a horror that no words could ever justify.
Peter Kuznick is Professor of History at American University, and author of Beyond the Laboratory: Scientists As Political Activists in 1930s America, co-author with Akira Kimura of Rethinking the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Japanese and American Perspectives, co-author with Yuki Tanaka of Nuclear Power and Hiroshima: The Truth Behind the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Power, and co-editor with James Gilbert of Rethinking Cold War Culture. In 1995, he founded American University’s Nuclear Studies Institute, which he directs. In 2003, Kuznick organized a group of scholars, writers, artists, clergy, and activists to protest the Smithsonian’s celebratory display of the Enola Gay. He and filmmaker Oliver Stone co-authored the 12 part Showtime documentary film series and book both titled The Untold History of the United States. Kunick will be screening an episode of that program and speaking at the No War 2016 conference in Washington, D.C.: http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2016
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
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Mikhail Gorbachev and Barack Obama have radically different views on what is involved in doing away with nuclear weapons.
Reading Gorbachev's new book, The New Russia, is a bit disappointing, but it contains some key insights. It may also be a cure for insomnia; it's no page turner. It's part decades-long diary and travelogue, part petty self-aggrandizement (by someone in no need), and part ill-informed conservatism.
Gorby claims that Obama "honoured his promise to withdraw from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan." In fact, both are still raging, the never completed withdrawal from Iraq fell wildly short of the campaign-promise schedule, and Obama actually promised to escalate in Afghanistan, which he did, tripling the U.S. presence and making that war primarily his own in terms of deaths, days, and dollars. The fact that smart well-informed people abroad, like Gorbachev, fall for common U.S. myths is an indication of how very difficult foreign relations can be.
In what's being called the worst mass killing by the United States in the past six months, numerous mentally disturbed individuals, with the extensive backing of a well-financed terrorist organization, and support from a growing circle of allied gang members, have gruesomely slaughtered 1,110 to 1,558 innocent men, women, and children.
This incident, which has left shocked and speechless a handful of people who've heard and thought about it, took place between December 1, 2015, and May 31, 2016, during which interval the killers got off 4,087 airstrikes, including 3,010 over Iraq and 1,077 over Syria.
Aiding and abetting the slaughter, and now also being sought by law enforcement, are France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, Denmark, and Canada. In what is widely understood as an appeal for judicial mercy, Canada has expressed remorse. None of the other alleged perpetrators has done so. Several have openly acknowledged their participation, including by displaying the gang symbol of a U.S. flag tattooed on their glutei maximi.
An offshoot terrorist group said to have been inspired by the United States and going by the name of "Russia," during the same period has brutally murdered 2,792 to 3,451 innocents using similar techniques apparently copied from those of the U.S. gang.
Despite being well documented, these murders have gone largely unreported in U.S. media outlets working overtime to focus on a smaller slaughter in Orlando, Florida. The death counts are imprecise but highly selective, as they intentionally exclude all casualties deemed to be those of combatants.
In a coincidental connection, the Orlando killer blamed the U.S. bombings in Iraq and Syria for his own murderous rampage.
Adding to the bizarre connections, members of the U.S. public have been heard blaming the Orlando slaughter for additional airstrikes to come.
Commented an alien in a ship approaching the planet earth: "Reverse engines! Get us out of here! Let's try back in 10 years and see if anyone is left."
On Thursday, in a political move more typical of the United States than Europe, a member of the British Parliament was murdered. She was an opponent of Brexit (Britain exiting the European Union), and her murderer reportedly shouted "Britain First!"
There is a case to be made, on the one hand, that exiting the EU is actually the move away from violence. There are many areas, from banking to farming to militarism, that motivate Norway and Iceland to stay out, for all the right reasons, including resistance to war making -- as with Sweden's and Switzerland's staying out of NATO. I was rooting for Scotland's departure from the UK in the name of peace and disarmament, and looked forward to U.S. nukes and NATO being kicked out of that beautiful country.
The European Union has become the civilian arm of NATO, expanding ever nearer Russia at the insistence of the United States, which -- believe it or not -- is not actually a European nation at all. Were Norway to join the EU, that could mean trouble for Norway's fair and humane economy. But Britain? Britain is a drag on the EU, there at the insistence of the United States which needs puppet-veto power over any European moves toward independence, peace, environmental sustainability, or economic fairness. The EU's influence on Britain is largely to the benefit of the Brits.
There is perhaps a stronger case to be made that exiting the EU would be a move toward violence. This is the case for the EU as a model of peacemaking. For this argument I refer you to a new book by Vijay Mehta called Peace Beyond Borders: How the EU Brought Peace to Europe and How Exporting It Would End Conflicts Around the World. Let me make very clear that I think Mehta wildly exaggerates his case. Far more important to ending war in the world, I believe, are a number of other factors, the top two being: (1) Get the rich countries, led by the U.S. and Europe, to stop selling weapons to the world, and (2) Get the rich countries, led by the U.S. and Europe, to stop bombing, invading, and occupying poor countries.
The EU's supposed 70 years of peace leaves out massive warmaking abroad, as well as wars in Yugoslavia. The case for the EU's bringing of peace and prosperity has to explain Norwegian and Icelandic peace and prosperity as tangential effects of the EU's orbit. Bestowing a Nobel Prize on a leading warmaking region of the world, a prize meant to fund disarmament activists given to the EU which could fund itself by buying a bit less weaponry -- that was an insult to the world and to Alfred Nobel's will.
But, within its proper scope, there is nonetheless a major point to be made. Europe was for centuries the leading hotspot for war as well as its leading exporter. For an unprecedented 71 years Europe has been almost exclusively an exporter of war. The idea of a war within Europe is now almost unthinkable. Mehta argues that we ought to try thinking it, because a few slips could quickly bring it back again. Mehta credits the EU with having made peace normal through 10 mechanisms. I would add to these, of course, fear of nuclear holocaust, and cultural trends away from war acceptance. But here are the mechanisms:
As with becoming a whistleblower or an activist or an artist there must be numerous reasons why any individual becomes a terrorist -- whether military, contract, or independent. Various irrational hatreds and fears (and promises of paradise after death) and the ready availability of weaponry certainly play roles.
But did you know that every single foreign terrorist in the United States in recent decades, plus domestic terrorists claiming foreign motivations, plus numerous poor suckers set up and stung by the FBI, plus every foreign terrorist organization that has claimed or been blamed for attempted or successful anti-U.S. terrorism have all claimed the same motivation? I'm not aware of a single exception.
If one of them claimed to be motivated by the needs of Martians, we might set that aside as crazy. If every single one of them claimed to be acting on behalf of Martians, we would at least get curious about why they said that, even if we doubted Martians' existence. But every single one of them says something much more believable. And yet what they say seems to be a secret despite being readily available information.
When someone commits mass murder in the United States and is tied, however significantly, to a foreign terrorist group, there remains a section of the U.S. population willing to recognize and point out that no ideology, fit of hatred, or mental derangement can do the same damage without high-tech weaponry that it does with it. Why does this understanding vanish into the ether of ignorance and apathy at the water's edge?
ISIS videos display U.S. guns, U.S. Humvees, U.S. weaponry of all sorts. The profits and political corruption that bring those weapons into existence are the same as those that litter the United States with guns. Shouldn't we be bothered by both?
The same politicians who claim they'd like to restrict U.S. gun sales have flooded the world markets with the weaponry of mass slaughter. President Obama's administration has approved more weapons sales abroad than any other administration since World War II. Over 60 percent of those weapons have been sold to the Middle East. Add to that total huge quantities of U.S. weapons in the hands of the United States or its proxies in the Middle East -- or formerly in their hands but seized by ISIS.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waived restrictions at the State Department on selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar, all states that had donated to the Clinton Foundation. Saudi Arabia had chipped in at least $10 million, and Boeing added another $900,000 as Secretary Clinton made it her mission to get Saudi Arabia the planes with which it would attack Yemen.
In the past five years, the United States has sold weapons to at least 96 countries. As of 2011 the United States accounted for 79% of the value of transfer agreements to ship weapons to governments in the Middle East, 79% also to poor nations around the world, and 77% of the value of total agreements to ship weapons to other countries, according to the Congressional Research Service. By 2014, those percentages had dropped a bit but remained over 50%.
In 2013, the big war profiteers spent $65 million lobbying Congress. There's a big headline when the National Rifle Association spends $3 million. We ask if black lives matter. In addition, do foreign lives matter?
Toddlers with guns kill more people in the United States than do foreign terrorists -- even adding in domestic terrorists somehow tied to foreign ideas. But we don't hate toddlers. We don't bomb toddlers and whoever's near them. We don't think of toddlers as inherently evil or backward or belonging to the wrong religion. We forgive them instantly, without struggle. It's not their fault the guns were left lying around.
But is it the fault of ISIS that Iraq was destroyed? That Libya was thrown into chaos? That the region was flooded with U.S.-made weapons? That future ISIS leaders were tortured in U.S. camps? That life was made into a nightmare? Maybe not, but it is their fault they murder people. They are adults. They know what they are doing.
True enough. But could they do it without the weapons?
On the domestic scene, we are able to recognize that other nations have conflict, hatred, and crime, but that -- in the absence of all the guns -- the crimes do less damage. Australia got rid of its guns following a killing less deadly than Orlando. Now a gun in Australia costs more than anyone would be likely to get out of an armed robbery. Now Australia has no mass killings, apart from its participation in U.S. wars.
On the foreign scene, can we recognize that regions armed to the teeth with U.S. weapons, wars with U.S. weapons on both sides, and CIA and Pentagon proxies fighting each other in Syria are not the inevitable result of backwardness in Arab culture, but rather the result of giving free rein to merchants of death?
By David Swanson
An atheist's sermon on Luke 7: 36-50 delivered at Saint Joan of Arc in Minneapolis, Minn., on June 12, 2016.
Forgiveness is a universal need, among those of us who are not religious and among believers in every religion on earth. We must forgive each other our differences, and we must forgive much more difficult occurrences.
Some things we can forgive easily -- by which, of course, I mean eliminating resentment from our hearts, not granting an eternal reward. If someone kissed my feet and poured oil on them and begged me to forgive her, frankly, I would have a harder time forgiving the kisses and oil than forgiving her a life of prostitution -- which is, after all, not an act of cruelty toward me but the violation of a taboo into which she was likely compelled by hardship.
But to forgive men who were torturing and killing me on a cross? That I would be very unlikely to succeed at, especially as my nearing end -- in the absence of a crowd to influence -- might convince me of the pointlessness of making my last thought a magnanimous one. As long as I live, however, I intend to work on forgiveness.
If our culture truly developed the habit of forgiveness, it would dramatically improve our personal lives. It would also make wars impossible, which would further dramatically improve our personal lives. I think we have to forgive both those who we think have wronged us personally, and those whom our government has told us to hate, both at home and abroad.
I suspect I could find well over 100 million Christians in the United States who do not hate the men who crucified Jesus, but who do hate and would be highly offended at the idea of forgiving Adolf Hitler.
When John Kerry says that Bashar al Assad is Hitler, does that help you feel forgiving toward Assad? When Hillary Clinton says that Vladimir Putin is Hitler, does that help you relate to Putin as a human being? When ISIS cuts a man's throat with a knife, does your culture expect of you forgiveness or vengeance?
Forgiveness is not the only approach one can take to curing war fever, and not the one I usually try.
Usually the case that's made for a war involves specific lies that can be exposed, such as lies about who used chemical weapons in Syria or who shot down an airplane in Ukraine.
Usually there is a great deal of hypocrisy one can point to. Was Assad already Hitler when he was torturing people for the CIA, or did he become Hitler by defying the U.S. government? Was Putin already Hitler before he refused to join in the 2003 attack on Iraq? If a particular ruler who has fallen out of favor is Hitler, what about all the brutal dictators whom the United States is arming and supporting? Are they all Hitler too?
Usually there is aggression by the United States that can be pointed to. The U.S. has aimed to overthrow the Syrian government for years and avoided negotiations for the nonviolent removal of Assad in favor of a violent overthrow believed to be imminent year after year. The U.S. has pulled out of arms reduction treaties with Russia, expanded NATO to its border, facilitated a coup in Ukraine, launched war games along the Russian border, put ships in the Black and Baltic Seas, moved more nukes into Europe, begun talking about smaller, more "usable" nukes, and set up missile bases in Romania and (under construction) in Poland. Imagine if Russia had done these things in North America.
Usually one can point out that no matter how evil a foreign ruler is, a war will kill large numbers of people unfortunate enough to be ruled by him -- people who are innocent of his crimes.
But what if we tried the approach of forgiveness? Can one forgive ISIS its horrors? And would doing so result in free reign for more such horrors, or in their reduction or elimination?
The first question is easy. Yes, you can forgive ISIS its horrors. At least some people can. I feel no hatred toward ISIS. There are people who lost loved ones on 9/11 who quickly began advocating against any vengeful war. There are people who've lost loved ones to small-scale murder and opposed cruel punishment of the guilty party, even coming to know and care for the murderer. There are cultures that treat injustice as something in need of reconciliation rather than retribution.
Of course, the fact that others can do it doesn't mean that you can or should do it. But it's worth recognizing how right were those family members of 9/11 victims who opposed war. Now several hundred times as many people have been killed, and the hatred toward the United States that contributed to 9/11 has been multiplied accordingly. A global war on terrorism has predictably and indisputably increased terrorism.
If we take a deep breath and think seriously, we can also recognize that the resentment that calls out for forgiveness is not rational. Toddlers with guns kill more people in the United States than do foreign terrorists. But we don't hate toddlers. We don't bomb toddlers and whoever's near them. We don't think of toddlers as inherently evil or backward or belonging to the wrong religion. We forgive them instantly, without struggle. It's not their fault the guns were left lying around.
But is it the fault of ISIS that Iraq was destroyed? That Libya was thrown into chaos? That the region was flooded with U.S.-made weapons? That future ISIS leaders were tortured in U.S. camps? That life was made into a nightmare? Maybe not, but it was their fault they murdered people. They are adults. They know what they are doing.
Do they? Remember, Jesus said they did not. He said, forgive them for they know not what they do. How could they possibly know what they are doing when they do things like what they have done?
When U.S. officials retire and quickly blurt out that U.S. efforts are creating more enemies than they are killing, it becomes clear that attacking ISIS is counterproductive. It also becomes clear that at least some people engaged in it know that. But they also know what advances their careers, what provides for their families, what pleases their associates, and what benefits a certain sector of the U.S. economy. And they can always hold out hope that perhaps the next war will be the one that finally works. Do they really know what they do? How could they?
When President Obama sent a missile from a drone to blow up an American boy from Colorado named Abdulrahman al Awlaki, one should not imagine that his head or the heads of those seated too close to him remained on their bodies. That this boy wasn't killed with a knife shouldn't make his killing any more or less forgivable. We should desire no revenge against Barack Obama or John Brennan. But we should not limit our outraged demand for truth, restorative justice, and the replacement of murderous with peaceful public policies.
A U.S. Air Force officer recently said that a tool that would allow dropping food accurately to starving people in Syria would not be used for such a purely humanitarian operation because it costs $60,000. Yet the U.S. military is blowing through tens of billions of dollars on killing people there, and hundreds of billions of dollars every year on maintaining the ability to do the same all over the world. We've got CIA-trained troops in Syria fighting Pentagon-trained troops in Syria, and -- as a matter of principle -- we can't spend money on preventing starvation.
Imagine living in Iraq or Syria and reading that. Imagine reading the comments of Congress members who support militarism because it supposedly provides jobs. Imagine living under a constantly buzzing drone in Yemen, no longer allowing your children to go to school or to go outside the house at all.
Now imagine forgiving the United States government. Imagine bringing yourself to see what looks like massive evil as in fact bureaucratic mishaps, systemic momentum, partisan blindness, and manufactured unawareness. Could you, as an Iraqi, forgive? I've seen Iraqis do it.
We in the United States can forgive the Pentagon. Can we forgive ISIS? And if not, why not? Can we forgive Saudis who look and sound like, and who support, ISIS, but who our televisions tell us are good loyal allies? If so, is it because we haven't seen Saudi victims of beheading or because of what those victims look like? If not, is it because of what Saudis look like?
If forgiveness came naturally to us, if we could do it immediately for ISIS, and therefore instantly for the neighbor who makes too much noise or votes for the wrong candidate, then marketing campaigns for wars would not work. Neither would campaigns to pack more Americans into prisons.
Forgiveness would not eliminate conflict, but it would render conflicts civil and nonviolent -- exactly what the peace movement of the 1920s had in mind when it moved Frank Kellogg of St. Paul, Minnesota, to create the treaty that bans all war.
This afternoon at 2 p.m. we are going to be dedicating a peace pole here on the grounds of this church. With permanent war ever present in our culture, we badly need such physical reminders of peace. We need peace in ourselves and in our families. But we need to be wary of the attitude taken by a school board member in Virginia who said he'd support a celebration of peace as long as everyone understood he wasn't opposing any wars. We need reminders that peace begins with the abolition of war. I hope you'll join us.
The most likely way to die in a U.S. war, by far, is to live in the country that the United States is attacking. But the most likely way in which a U.S. participant in a war will die is by suicide.
There are a couple of widely observed top causes of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops returning from recent wars deeply disturbed in their minds. One is having been near an explosion. Another, which has been around longer than explosions have, is having killed, having nearly died, having seen blood and gore and suffering, having imposed death and suffering on innocents, having seen comrades die in agony, exacerbated in many cases by having lost faith in the sales pitch that launched the war -- in other words, the horror of war making.
The first of those two causes might be called traumatic brain injury, the other mental anguish or moral injury. But, in fact, both are physical events in a brain. And, in fact, both impact thoughts and emotions. That scientists have a hard time observing moral injury in brains is a shortcoming of scientists that ought not to start us imagining that mental activity isn't physical or that physical brain activity isn't mental (and therefore that one is serious, while the other is sort of silly).
Here's a New York Times headline from Friday: "What if PTSD Is More Physical Than Psychological?" The article that follows the headline seems to mean by this question two things:
1) What if by focusing on troops having been near explosions we are able to distract attention away from the suffering induced by conditioning thinking human beings to mindlessly commit horrific acts?
2) What if having been near explosions impacts brains in a way that scientists happen to have figured out how to observe in a brain?
The answer to number 1 should be: We are not going to limit our brains to the New York Times as a source of information. Based on recent experience, including acts the Times has apologized for or retracted, that would be a sure way to create more modern warfare, thereby destroying more brains, risking a vicious cycle of war and destruction.
The answer to number 2 should be: Did you think the damage wasn't real because scientists hadn't found it in their microscopes yet? Did you think it was literally in soldiers' hearts? Did you think it was floating in the non-physical ether somewhere? Here's the New York Times:
"Perl's findings, published in the scientific journal The Lancet Neurology, may represent the key to a medical mystery first glimpsed a century ago in the trenches of World War I. It was first known as shell shock, then combat fatigue and finally PTSD, and in each case, it was almost universally understood as a psychic rather than a physical affliction. Only in the past decade or so did an elite group of neurologists, physicists and senior officers begin pushing back at a military leadership that had long told recruits with these wounds to 'deal with it,' fed them pills and sent them back into battle."
So, if the combination of afflictions that soldiers suffered from could not be observed by a neurologist, then they were all faking? They were suffering depression and panic attacks and nightmares in order to trick us? Or the wounds were real but necessarily minor, something to be "dealt with"? And -- importantly, there is a second implication here -- if the injury arose not from an explosion but from having stabbed to death a poor kid drafted into a different army, then it was not worthy of any concern important enough to outweigh the desirability of ignoring such matters.
Here's the New York Times in its own words: "Much of what has passed for emotional trauma may be reinterpreted, and many veterans may step forward to demand recognition of an injury that cannot be definitively diagnosed until after death. There will be calls for more research, for drug trials, for better helmets and for expanded veteran care. But these palliatives are unlikely to erase the crude message that lurks, unavoidable, behind Perl's discovery: Modern warfare destroys your brain."
Apparently the collective brain power of those of us who haven't joined the military suffers as well. Here we are faced with the understanding -- slanted and constrained though it may be -- that warfare destroys your brain; and yet we are meant to suppose that the only possible consequences of that realization are outcries for better medical care, better helmets, etc.
Allow me to suggest one other proposal: ending all warfare.
If that headline sounds a bit like "God Is Dead" to you, you just might be from the United States. Only what the people who live in this one country of the American hemisphere call "an American" carries that variety of flag passion. If, on the other hand, you find watching paint dry more engaging than the suspense of waiting for the next Flag Day, you just might be a candidate for citizen of the world.
In fact, I think Flag Day needs to be canceled. It's not a holiday that the government, much less the military, much less the rest of the United States, actually takes off work. It's rumored, in fact, that any socialistic interruption in work schedules would be offensive to the flag herself.
So we can indeed cancel Flag Day just by totally ignoring it, along with the overlapping Flag Week, the simultaneous U.S. Army's Birthday, the mythological tales about Betsy Ross, and the celebration of a war in 1812 that failed to take over Canada, got Washington D.C. burned, and pointlessly killed lots of human beings in a battle we celebrate with bad singing auditions before every sporting event because a colored piece of cloth survived it.
This Flag Day, instead of trying to add, if possible, yet more publicly displayed U.S. flags to those already flying, take down a flag instead. Don't burn it, though. There's no sense in giving flag worshipers martyrs. Instead, I recommend Betsy Rossing it. Cut and stitch that flag into clothing you can donate to those in need of clothing -- a significant section of the public in fact in this incredibly over-wealthy country in which the wealth is concentrated beyond medieval levels -- a situation from which we are distracted in part by all the darn flags.
Here in Charlottesville, Virginia, we have a lovely city with tons of natural beauty, history, landmarks, available imagery, talented artists, an engaged citizenry capable of civil debate, and yet no Charlottesville flag. We do have a huge debate over whether to remove from their prominent positions all the statues of Confederate fighters. Less controversial, costly, and time-consuming would be to add to the local scene a Charlottesville flag that did not celebrate slavery, racism, war, or environmental destruction.
What? Now I'm in favor of flags? Of course, I'm in favor of pretty pieces of cloth waving around when they're not icons of war and separation. In the United States, local and state flags don't create any sense of superiority or hostility toward the rest of humanity. But the flag of war, the flag that the U.S. military has now planted in 175 countries, does just that.
UVA alumnus Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Flag Day the year before pushing the United States into World War I, as part of that propaganda campaign. Congress joined in the year before the war in Korea. Five years later "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, an oath originally written by a fascist preacher, originally administered with the pledgers holding their right arms straight, outward and up. This was changed to the hand-over-heart routine during World War II because the Nazis had adopted the original salute as their own. Nowadays, visitors from abroad are often shocked to see U.S. children instructed to stand and robotically chant an oath of obedience to a piece of colored cloth.
To many "Americans" it comes naturally. The flag has always been here and always will be, just like the wars under which it is fought, for which lives are taken and risked, for which lives are even exchanged. Families that lose a loved one in war are presented with a flag instead. A majority of Americans supports freedom of speech in many outrageous instances, including the right of massive media corporations to present us with false justifications for wars. But a majority supports banning the burning of flags -- or rather, of the U.S. flag. You can burn the flags of 96% of humanity. You can burn your state or local flag. You can burn a world flag. But burning a U.S. flag would be a sacrilege. Sacrificing young lives to that flag in yet another war is, however, a sacrament.
But the U.S. military now has robotic drones it can send to war. Robots are also perfectly capable of swearing the pledge of allegiance, although they have no hearts to put their hands over.
Perhaps we should reserve our actual human hearts for things robots cannot do. Perhaps we should liberate our landscape from both Confederate statues and the ubiquitous flag of the still crusading union empire.
Even within what Dr. King called the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, there used to be one constituency you could count on to speak up for world peace: beauty contestants.
No more. And the switch has produced no scandal. Last year, when Miss Italy said she wished she could live during World War II, survivors of that worst ever horror that humanity has inflicted on itself, and other people of normal intelligence in Italy, were scandalized.
But when a soon-to-be Miss USA recently praised the U.S. military as a member of it, as a participant in it, despite the world's view that the U.S. military is the greatest threat to peace in the world, the U.S. media adored this new development.
This is a 180 degree reversal of the traditional stance of beauty contestants, who had endlessly said they favored world peace. But of course it's framed as something else entirely. With war totally and amorally normalized, a female (and African-American) member of the military, even a beauty contestant, is interpreted as a symbol of enlightened progress, along the lines of the current neoliberal push to force every young woman to register for the draft.
Miss USA joined the military at age 17, the Washington Post tells us in passing, something illegal under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty ratified by every single nation on earth except the United States.
For those interested in the draft question, I refer you to my handy guide on "How to Oppose the Draft for Women and Not Be Sexist."
You think this is all tongue-in-cheek and war's not been normalized? Go ahead and name the seven nations where the United States is at war right now, the seven that the current U.S. president has bragged about having bombed.
Can't do it? O.K., well, surely you can explain which of the seven wars are justified and legal and which are not?
No? Or perchance you were outraged and raised objections and organized protests when a presidential debate moderator asked a candidate if he would be willing to kill thousands of innocent children as part of his basic duties if elected?
What? You didn't? Well, maybe you grew concerned when announcers of a televised sporting event (any major U.S. sporting event) thanked U.S. troops for watching from 175 countries? Surely, you got out the list of 175 and asked someone to explain what U.S. troops were doing there.
No? You didn't? Did you read about kindergarten teachers pushing militarism? Did you know that Starbucks says choosing not to have a store at Guantanamo would constitute a political statement, while having one there is just normal? Did you know that the United Nations now says war is the norm rather than the exception? The United Nations!
The University of Virginia's magazine has an article in its summer 2016 issue praising and interviewing an alumnus named Robert Neller who is commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. The big focus? The super progressive step of recruiting women into greater participation in wars. But did UVA ask about any of the numerous disastrous wars the United States has been waging? About the troops now fighting on the ground in five nations?
Actually, toward the end of the interview, the interviewer Dianna Cahn (who, like the interviewee, also works for the U.S. military, at its propaganda magazine Stars and Stripes) asked something about the U.S. troops dying in Iraq and Afghanistan (nothing about the 95-plus percent of the deaths in those wars/genocides that are Iraqi and Afghan). She asked something (she doesn't print the questions) about the futility of fighting over and repeatedly winning and losing the same bits of ground in someone else's country. Neller said this in response:
"Somebody asked me that when I left Iraq nine years ago . . . 'What would you tell the families?' I was really tired. I got all emotional and I said. 'I'd tell them they did their duty.' I hated that answer because it sounded just so inadequate."
Inadequate? I was going to say fascistic. Never mind, Neller has a new answer:
"What I really wish I'd said was, 'Imagine we lived in a country where if people were called to go do something like this nobody would stand up. Imagine if there were not men and women who would pick up the challenge and go to a faraway land to help somebody live a better life. That would be terrible.'"
Terrible? Imagining and working to achieve such a thing is what keeps me going every day. And not just me. The majority of people in the United States have told pollsters that the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq should never have been started. (And of course they didn't help people "live a better life" and were not even ever marketed on that basis.) Well, here's one way we could have kept those wars from being started: everyone asked to go could have refused.
Of course, a majority of those who join the U.S. military say a major reason was the lack of other educational or career prospects. But the majority of those who like the idea of the United States being able to attack faraway people at will have no interest in actually being in the U.S. military themselves; yet they have their whole identity wrapped up in the fantasy of going to war from the comfort of their own couch. Watch this video from the National Rifle Association urging people to buy lots of guns and shoot lots of stuff while fantasizing about attacking Iran.
In a Gallup poll, 44 percent of people in the United States say they "would" fight in a war. What's stopping them? Fortunately, they do not mean it. Now, try imagining a country in which most people said "Hell no, I would never fight in a war." Or don't imagine it; look at that same poll: In Italy, where even beauty queens are held to a certain standard, 68 percent of Italians polled said they would NOT fight for their country. In Germany 62 percent said they would not. In the Czech Republic, 64 percent would not fight for their country. In the Netherlands, 64 percent would not. In Japan only 10 percent would fight in a war for their country.
Let's work toward emulating those nations.
And let's restore, in this season of lesser evils, inane speeches in bikinis about wishing for peace on earth.
In the early 1980s almost nobody from the United States traveled to the Soviet Union or vice versa. The Soviets wouldn't let anybody out, and good Americans were disinclined to visit the Evil Empire. But a woman in California named Sharon Tennison took the threat of nuclear war with the seriousness it deserved and still deserves. She got a group of friends together and asked the Russian consulate for permission to visit Russia, make friends, and learn.
Russia said fine. The U.S. government, in the form of the FBI and USAID, told them not to go, warned that they would not be permitted to move freely once there, and generally communicated that they, the U.S. government employees, had internalized their own propaganda. Tennison and company went anyway, had a wonderful experience, and spoke at events with slide shows upon their return, thus attracting many more people for the next trip.
Now it was Tennison's turn to brief the flabbergasted and ignorant U.S. government staff who had virtually no actual knowledge of Russia beyond what she gave them. This was back in the day when President Ronald "Is this a film or reality?" Reagan said that 20 million dead Americans would be acceptable in a war. Yet the so-called intelligence so-called community didn't know its assets from its elbows. War as a "last resort" was being considered without having considered literally any other resorts. Someone had to step in, and Sharon Tennison decided she'd try.
Those first trips took courage, to defy the U.S. government, and to operate in a Soviet Union still monitored by a nasty KGB. But the Americans went with friendship, were generally permitted to go wherever they wanted, and encountered friendship in return. They also encountered knowledge of cultural differences, the influences of history, political and social habits both admirable and lamentable. They became, in fact, a bridge between two worlds, experts on each for the other.
They expanded their work as Gorbachev came to power and the USSR opened up. They hired staff and opened offices in both countries. They sponsored and facilitated all variety of exchanges from art schools to Rotary clubs to police officers to environmentalists. They began bringing Russians to the United States as well as the reverse. They spoke all over the United States, even -- in some examples Tennison gives in her book The Power of Impossible Ideas -- converting gung-ho members of the U.S. weapons industry into volunteers and staff (in one case a man lost his job at General Dynamics as penalty for associating with them, but this freed him to more closely associate).
Most Hillary Clinton supporters, including Hillary, mostly spend their time talking about Trump, not Clinton, not Sanders, not what should be done in the U.S. government. But they don't try to articulate a defense for this practice. A couple of obvious reasons (which they would not want to articulate) come to mind: (1) Hillary is incredibly unpopular, (2) Talking about Trump fuels the pretense that the primary is over.
Thomas "suck on this" Friedman, as FAIR points out, has blurted out his reasons for not talking about Hillary. It turns out that she lies. But we should ignore those lies because they're no big deal. Here's Suckon in his own words:
"Hillary’s fibs or lack of candor are all about bad judgments she made on issues that will not impact the future of either my family or my country. Private email servers? Cattle futures? Goldman Sachs lectures? All really stupid, but my kids will not be harmed by those poor calls. Debate where she came out on Iraq and Libya, if you will, but those were considered judgment calls, and if you disagree don't vote for her."
You heard him, kids. If you disagree with any of the Bush/Cheney lies that destroyed Iraq, killed a million people, created ISIS, and wasted trillions of dollars, then don't vote for her. To refresh any lagging memories, here is a video of Hillary parroting each of those lies as she proudly votes for the war. Oddly, although this crime has no impact on Suckon's family or country, Hillary claims in this video that it impacts the "security" of the United States. Indeed, it did just that, fueling anti-U.S. sentiment and violence ever since.
Remember 2006, when the U.S. public elected Democrats to end that war? The Democrats escalated it instead, with Rahm Emanuel explaining that this was so they could run "against" it again in 2008. But Hillary, who pushed for escalation before Bush did, lied that escalating the war was the way to end it. In fact, it was just a way to escalate the suffering. But Obama used the same lies about the Iraq surge to later triple the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, with Hillary pushing for even more.
Remember Hillary's push to overthrow Qadaffi in 2011? The lies about a planned massacre? The lies about Viagra-fueled mass rapes? The lie that a UN authorization to rescue unthreatened people also authorized an overthrow? The giggling lie that sodomizing and murdering Qadaffi with a knife was a delight? The lie that the CIA was not funneling weapons from Libya to terrorists in Syria? How's Suckon's family and country doing? Because many families have suffered and many more will, and the United States has made itself still more hated.
What about Hillary's lies about coups in Honduras and Ukraine? Her lies about Russian aggression? Her labeling of Putin as "Hitler"? What about the lies about who shot down an airplane in Ukraine? The lies about who used chemical weapons in Syria? The lies about a mountaintop rescue of people not wanting to be rescued? The lies about Iran's nonexistent nuclear weapons program (and accompanying threat to "obliterate" Iran)? What about Hillary's claim that Obama should have bombed Syria (and put ISIS in control?) in 2013? What about her plan for a "no fly" or "safe"(!) zone on the theory that someday ISIS might develop the airplane? What about her consistent support for every racist lie coming out of Netanyahu's mouth? Or how about her waiving restrictions at the State Department on selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar, all states wise enough to donate to the Clinton Foundation, but in each case a waiver based on the lie that said nation was not abusing human rights?
Hillary has backed the lie that presidents can legally wage war without Congress since she was First Lady, if not earlier. Does Suckon really think putting such a person into the White House will do no damage to our families or countries? Of course not. He favors the damage. He believes destroying Iraq was a good thing to do. Don't believe me? Watch him say so.
"If you disagree don't vote for her."
Thanks to Mark Binder, Programmer, “Yesterday’s Dead Today”, Mondays 7-9 p.m. Eastern, WSLR Sarasota Low-Power FM Community Radio 96.5, www.wslr.org