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A Nuclear Free World

We've managed to outgrow or to come within sight of outgrowing cannibalism, slavery, blood feuds, duels, capital punishment, child labor, tar and feathering, the stocks and pillory, wives as chattel, the punishment of homosexuality, and listening to Rush Limbaugh.  To various degrees, these practices -- and many others -- have been eliminated or reduced and stigmatized. 

While the stupidest practice ever created -- the mass killing known as war -- remains, we've seen most of the world ban poison gas, land mines, cluster bombs, biological weapons, depleted uranium, napalm, white phosphorous, and other disgusting weaponry.  But the worst weapon of all remains, and the treaty requiring its reduction and elimination is completely ignored.

We've begun learning to avoid long-lasting environmental damage.  We try not to poison our fruit trees or our grass or our rivers.  But when it comes to damage that lasts longer than humanity has existed, we go right on producing it.  And in so doing, we contribute to a slowly building crisis that could soon slip out of humanity's control and eventually remove humanity from existence.  Meanwhile, Pandora's Propaganda tells us that nuclear energy -- the same stuff that proliferates the weaponry -- will help the earth's climate rather than hurting it.

Uh huh.  And blood-letting and lobotomy will heal what ails you. 

Except that they won't.  And we've come to admit and accept that and to move on.  We don't fund lobotomies.  Why must we fund nuclear energy?  And don't say: because television can replace lobotomies but will never reproduce Fukushima.

August is Nuclear Free Future Month.  Take a look at what Fukushima is like two years after.  Here's a hint: its former residents have to visit it by Youtube too. 

Here's something you can do to help: Set up a screening of this new film: The Ultimate Wish: Ending the Nuclear Age.

The Ultimate Wish is the wish for a world without nukes.  This is a film that connects Fukushima to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Here we watch a survivor of Nagasaki meet a survivor of Auschwitz.  And it strikes us with crystalline clarity that they are both victims of incredible stupidity and cruelty.  We completely set aside the fact that the holocaust was created by bad German lies about a master race while the dropping of the bombs was created by good U.S. lies about ending World War II and starting the Cold War.  The politics fades, and we're left with the human species treating itself as even ants would never treat their fellow ants.

In The Ultimate Wish, produced by Robert Richter and Kathleen Sullivan, we see nuclear survivors in classrooms speaking with young people.  One teacher asks the students to close their eyes.  She drops a single ball bearing into a metal pan, the noise meant to represent all the bombs of World War II, all the bullets, all the grenades, even the two nuclear bombs.  Then, to represent the nuclear weapons now in existence, she dumps a whole noisy bag of ball bearings.

A large coalition has issued the following appeal:

Do you want to reach thousands on August 9 with our message on the need for the Obama administration to engage in multilateral negotiations now for a nuclear free future?

Then join our Thunderclap. Watch a brief video and learn about how a Thunderclap works.

Thousands will see the message below on all of our Facebook pages and Twitter accounts on August 9 at 11:02 a.m., the time the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki:

Aug 9 1945 US A-bombed Nagasaki. Pres #Obama: Speak out at Sept 26 UN Nuclear Disarmament Summit! #NoMoreNagasakis http://nuclearfreefuture.org

How do you join the Thunderclap? Click on this link http://thndr.it/13ioRhC and sign up.

And on August 9 the message will automatically be sent to all your friends and supporters.

Not a bad idea, huh?  Try to reach some of your non-friends and non-supporters too.

UPDATE: Link for the film: http://www.newday.com/films/The_Ultimate_Wish.html

Dirty Wars Comes to Baltimore on July 26

The amazing anti-war film Dirty Wars is coming to the Charles Theater in Baltimore this Friday.

I've been working, on behalf of the producers, with peace groups around the country to spread the word about this film, and the feedback has been incredibly encouraging.  I've led discussions at the conclusion of the film in DC and Norfolk and Charlottesville.

I'll be leading a Q&A following the 7:10 p.m. screening on Friday July 26 in Baltimore at the Charles Theater, 1711 North Charles Street, 410-727-FILM.

Dirty Wars may be one of the best educational outreach opportunities the peace movement has had in a long time.  The film is about secretive aspects of U.S. wars: imprisonment, torture, night raids, drone kills.

Dirty Wars won the Cinematography Award for U.S. Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival 2013 and the Grand Jury Prize at the Boston Independent Film Festival. Variety calls it "jaw-dropping ... [with] the power to pry open government lockboxes." The Sundance jury said it is "one of the most stunning looking documentaries [we've] ever seen."

Dirty Wars makes a powerful case that U.S. wars, aside from all of their known drawbacks, actually make the United States less safeDirty Wars also makes real the humanity of our wars' victims.  A great deal of activism has been generated by this film. 

Please bring people to see the movie who have not been actively engaged in trying to end warmaking.  The discussion afterwards will be open to questions and comments from any and all points of view.  

What Slavery Cost

As I head off to a rally for Trayvon Martin, I notice a column by Bob Koehler in which he says the unpaid work of slaves in the United States is now estimated at $1.4 trillion.  Oddly, that's not terribly far from the $1.2 trillion or so, possibly more now, that we spend each year preparing for and fighting wars.  If we abolished war we could perhaps afford to compensate descendants of those victimized by slavery.  If we abolished prisons, we'd have at least another $100 billion.  And, of course, we'd have all those savings again the next year and the next year and the next year.

Talk Nation Radio: Hunger Strikers and the Law vs. the Prison Industry

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-hunger

Diana Zuniga is statewide coordinator for CURB, Californians United for a Responsible Budget: CurbPrisonSpending.org  She discusses the hunger strike in California prisons and the ongoing struggle to resist further expansion of mass incarceration, and to move our society in a healthier direction.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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

Congress to Vote on Ending Endless War Today

Win Without War

After nearly 12 years, the House is on the verge of a historic vote that would put a nail in the coffin of George W. Bush's War on Terror. The legal foundation for what has become a global, endless war is the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). Later today the House will vote on an amendment by Congressman Adam Schiff that would bar any funds from being spent on the 2001 AUMF after December 31, 2014, when the war in Afghanistan is scheduled to conclude.  This vote is the first time Congress will vote on repealing the 2001 AUMF and it is going to happen this afternoon! Your Member of Congress needs to hear from you! 

Take 30 seconds and call your Member of Congress now!

Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Member of Congress. Then tell them:

"I'm calling today to ask you to support the Schiff amendment #73 to the Defense Appropriations Act. After more than 12 years of war, it is time to repeal the AUMF. Thank you."

More than a decade ago, Congress responded to the attacks of 9/11 by passing the 2001 AUMF. No one could have imagined what would be done over the next 12 years allegedly under that authority. From drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen to special forces operations in the Phillipines, the AUMF has been interpreted to allow for a global, endless war against not just Al Qaeda but countless other groups, many of whom have no intention of attacking America. Congressman Schiff's amendment would simply say that after the war in Afghanistan ends in 2014, the AUMF will come to an end. America would still have ample ability to defend ourselves and protect our interests, but there would no longer be a sweeping legal authority to go to war anywhere, at anytime, against nearly anyone in the world. 

Tell your Member of Congress you support ending the AUMF.  Call at (202) 224-3121 now!

Thank you for working for peace,

-Stephen, Tom, and the Win Without War Team

 

Copperhead

Copperhead was a name for Northern Democrats opposed to the Civil War.  Now it's also the name of a remarkable new film: CopperheadTheMovie.com.  This is not the first film about a family opposed to the Civil War.  Many will probably recall the 1965 film Shenandoah starring Jimmy Stewart.  But Copperhead is the one to see.

This is a war movie that neither sanitizes war nor pornographies it.  This is a war movie set far away from the war, in upstate New York to be precise -- just as all of our wars today are far away from all 50 states.  It's an unpredictable movie, an engaging movie, a personal drama that makes the Civil War and the politics surrounding it more comprehensible than a gazillion tours of battlefields or hours of PBS specials.

We come, through this film, to understand the viewpoint of a man, and others like him, who opposed slavery but believed the cure of war to be worse than the disease.  Here was a man of principle and courage who saw better than others what war would mean, and who opposed it.  Here was someone opposing President Lincoln's assault on the Bill of Rights as he was engaged in it, not just centuries later as Lincoln's example is used to justify similar abuses.

Copperhead does a remarkable job of bringing us to understand the mindset of the copperheads, these opponents of mass-killing who found themselves accused of "aiding the enemy."  And yet I wish this film went one step further.  I wish it addressed directly the inevitable audience response that -- reasonable as the copperheads may have seemed at the time -- the war proponents were eventually proved right by the ending of slavery.

But the copperheads never claimed the war couldn't end slavery, only that slavery should be ended without war, as it had been in other countries and would go on to be in still more.  Today we have more African Americans in prisons, jails, and under the supervision of the U.S. justice system than were enslaved in the United States in 1850.  If we were to wake up tomorrow and discover that everybody was suddenly appropriately outraged by this horror, would a helpful proposal be for us to gather in some large fields and kill each other off by the hundreds of thousands?  Of course not!  What would that have to do with prison reform or with prison abolition?  And what did it have to do with slavery abolition?

Anti-slavery activists in the U.K. had already been somewhat disappointed when Parliament had chosen to compensate slave owners for the liberation of their slaves.  The slaves themselves were, of course, not compensated.  They had little but hard times ahead.  But the compensation of slave owners offered a model that might have served the United States better than bloody civil war.

During the American revolutionary war, the British had recruited slaves to fight on their side by promising them freedom.  After the war, slave owners, including George Washington, demanded their slaves back.  A British commander, General Sir Guy Carleton, refused.  Thousands of freed slaves were transported from New York to Nova Scotia to avoid their re-enslavement.  But Carleton did promise to compensate the slaves' owners, and Washington settled for that.  So, it was good enough for George Washington!

The original British abolitionists, including Thomas Clarkson, greatly influenced Americans like William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass. But few picked up on the idea of compensated emancipation, which had not originated with the abolitionists.  Elihu Burritt was an exception.  From 1856 to 1860 he promoted a plan to prevent a U.S. civil war through compensated emancipation, or the purchase and liberation of slaves by the government, following the example that the English had set in the West Indies.  Burritt traveled constantly, all over the country, speaking.  He organized a mass convention that was held in Cleveland.  He lined up prominent supporters.  He edited newsletters.  He behaved, in other words, like Clarkson and many an activist since.

And Burritt was right.  Britain had freed its slaves without a civil war or a slave rebellion on the scale that was possible.  Russia had freed its serfs without a war.  Slave owners in the U.S. South would almost certainly have preferred a pile of money to five years of hell, the deaths of loved ones, the burning and destruction of their property, and the uncompensated emancipation that followed, not to mention the century and a half of bitter resentment that followed that.  And not only the slave owners would have preferred the way of peace; it's not as if they did the killing and dying.

Veterans For Peace to Hold 28th National Convention

Veterans For Peace, a leading antiwar organization with chapters in every U.S. state and several other countries, will hold its 28th national convention in Madison, Wisconsin, August 7-11, 2013, at the Concourse Hotel at 1 Dayton Street.

The convention, open to veterans and non-veterans, will feature speakers, entertainers, and workshops on a wide variety of topics related to the advancement of peace and the abolition of war.

Free public events include:

Lanterns for Peace,
commemorating Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Aug. 6, 7-9:30 p.m. Tenney Park Shelter
Poetry Night, Aug. 7, 8-10:30 p.m. Room of One's Own Bookstore, 315 W Gorham Street
Activist Night with national and local speakers, open mic, music, Aug. 8, 7-10 p.m., Concourse Hotel Ballroom
Rally and Peace Parade, families invited, bring peace banners, Aug. 10, 4 p.m., State Street and Capitol Square
Tribute to Lincoln Grahlfs, Aug. 11, 9-11 a.m., Capitol Lakes Retirement Center, 333 West Main Street
Iraq Veterans Against the War Art Exhibit, Aug 7-11, Rainbow Bookstore, 426 W. Gilman Street

Speakers at the convention (and available for interviews) include:

Nick Turse,
journalist, historian, and author.
Diane Wilson, Vietnam veteran, author, activist, fisherwoman, hungerstriker for Gitmo.
James Yee, former U.S. Army chaplain, falsely accused of "aiding the enemy."
Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
John Peck, executive director of Family Farm Defenders.
Paul Chappell, Iraq War veteran, author, peace leadership director at Nuclear Age Peace Fdtn.
Ben Griffin, UK war resister.
S. Brian Willson, Vietnam veteran, author, activist, hungerstriker for Gitmo.
John Kinsman, president of Family Farm Defenders.
Paul Soglin, mayor of Madison.
Mike Wiggins Jr., tribal chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe.
Carlos Arredondo, Costa Rican-American peace activist and American Red Cross volunteer.
David Newby, founder of U.S. Labor Against the War and former President of WI AFL-CIO.
Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine.
Scott Olsen, Iraq War veteran, shot in the head at Occupy Oakland.

Entertainers at the convention:

Lem Genovese, Ryan Harvey, Solidarity singalong, Forward Marching Band, Madison Raging Grannies, Watermelon Slim, Honor Among Thieves, Jim Walktendonk.

Workshops:

Some of the topics will be: Veterans farming, Creating a culture of peace, Educating the community, Agent Orange, Nonviolent bioregional revolutionary strategies, Debt and death: making clear the costs of war, Labor's role, Environmental disaster, the United Nations, Helping homeless veterans, Palestine, Veteran suicide, Military sexual trauma and suicides, Voices of Iraq: resolution, reconciliation, reparation, The written word for peace and reconciliation, Bradley Manning and G.I. resisters, The perversion of just war reasoning, U.S. policy in the Middle East, The long war for central Asia, Building peace in Vietnam, and Abolishing war as an instrument of national policy.

The full program is available at http://VFPNationalConvention.org

Veterans For Peace is a national organization, founded in 1985 with approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries.  It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.

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TPP: The Terrible Plutocratic Plan

By David Swanson

Remarks July 21, 2013 at an Occupy Harrisonburg (Va.) Event. 
Make your voice heard here.

Thanks to Michael Feikema and Doug Hendren for inviting me.  Like most of you I do not spend my life studying trade agreements, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is disturbing enough to make me devote a little time to it, and I hope you will do the same and get your neighbors to do the same and get them to get their friends to do the same -- as soon as possible.

I spend most of my time reading and writing about war and peace.  I'm in the middle of writing a book about the possibility and need to abolish war and militarism.  I hate to take a break from that.  But if we think trade and militarism are separate topics we're fooling ourselves.

Manning Wins Peace Prize

U.S. whistleblower and international hero Bradley Manning has just been awarded the 2013 Sean MacBride Peace Award by the International Peace Bureau, itself a former recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, for which Manning is a nominee this year.

A petition supporting Manning for the Nobel Peace Prize has gathered 88,000 signatures, many of them with comments, and is aiming for 100,000 before delivering it to the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo.  Anyone can sign and add their comments at ManningNobel.org

The International Peace Bureau (IPB) represents 320 organizations in 70 countries.  It was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1910.  Over the years, 13 of IPB's officers have been Nobel Peace laureates. See ipb.org

The Sean MacBride prize has been awarded each year since 1992 by the International Peace Bureau, founded in 1892. Previous winners include: Lina Ben Mhenni (Tunisian blogger) and Nawal El-Sadaawi (Egyptian author) - 2012, Jackie Cabasso (USA, 2008), Jayantha Dhanapala (Sri Lanka, 2007) and the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (2006). It is named after Sean MacBride, a distinguished Irish statesman who shared the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize, and is given to individuals or organisations for their outstanding work for peace, disarmament and human rights.

The medal is made of "peace bronze," a material created out of disarmed and recycled nuclear weapons systems, by fromwartopeace.com  The prize will be formally awarded on Sept. 14 in Stockholm, at a special evening on whistleblowing, which forms part of the triennial gathering of the International Peace Bureau. See brochure at: PDF.

IPB's Co-President Tomas Magnusson said, “IPB believes that among the very highest moral duties of a citizen is to make known war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is within the broad meaning of the Nuremberg Principles enunciated at the end of the Second World War. When Manning revealed to the world the crimes being committed by the U.S. military he did so as an act of obedience to this high moral duty. It is for this reason too that Manning has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In more general terms it is well known that war operations, and especially illegal ones, are frequently conducted under the cover of secrecy. To penetrate this wall of secrecy by revealing information that should be accessible to all is an important contribution to the struggle against war, and acts as a challenge to the military system which dominates both the economy and society in today’s world. IPB believes that whistleblowers are vital in upholding democracies - especially in the area of defense and security. A heavy sentence for Manning would not only be unjust but would also have very negative effects on the right to freedom of expression which the U.S. claims to uphold."

Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire recently wrote: "I have chosen to nominate U.S. Army Pfc Bradley Manning, for I can think of no one more deserving. His incredible disclosure of secret documents to Wikileaks helped end the Iraq War, and may have helped prevent further conflicts elsewhere."

Maguire explains how far-reaching Manning's impact has been: "While there is a legitimate and long-overdue movement for peace and non-violent reform in Syria, the worst acts of violence are being perpetrated by outside groups. Extremist groups from around the world have converged upon Syria, bent on turning this conflict into one of ideological hatred. In recent years this would have spelled an undeniable formula for United States intervention. However, the world has changed in the years since Manning's whistleblowing -- the Middle East especially. In Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt, and now Turkey, advocates of democracy have joined together to fight against their own governments' control of information, and used the free-flowing data of social media to help build enormously successful non-violent movements. Some activists of what has come to be known as the Arab Spring have even directly credited Bradley Manning, and the information he disclosed, as an inspiration for their struggles.

". . . If not for whistleblower Bradley Manning, the world still might not know of how U.S. forces committed covert crimes in the name of spreading democracy in Iraq . . . Now, those who would support foreign intervention in the Middle East know that every action would be scrutinized under international human rights law. Clearly, this is for the best. International peacekeepers, as well as experts and civilians inside Syria, are nearly unanimous in their view that United States involvement would only worsen this conflict."


Won't you add your name to the petition now?

Mairead Maguire adds: "Around the world, Manning is hailed as a peacemaker and a hero. His nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize is a reflection of this. Yet at his home in America, Manning stands trial for charges of espionage and 'aiding the enemy'. This should not be considered a refutation of his candidacy -- rather, he is in good company. Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi and Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo were each awarded the prize in recent years while imprisoned by their home countries."

Talk Nation Radio: John Whitehead on Our Government of Wolves

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-john

John Whitehead discusses a recent attack by Alcohol Beverage Control agents on college students purchasing water and the larger trends toward a police state in the United States.  Learn more at http://Rutherford.org Whitehead's latest book is A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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

Madison Wisconsin Forum August 7 With Buzz Davis, David Swanson, Coleen Rowley, Debra Sweet, Don McKeating

Free Town Hall Meeting August 7, 2013 Madison, WI 5:30-9PM

Location: Ingraham Hall, Rm. B10, 1155 Observatory Dr., top of Bascom Hill, W-Mad. Campus

 

Illegal Wars, Torture & Spying:

Millions Demanded Bush's Impeachment

Should Obama be Impeached for Continuing Bush's Crimes?

SIGN UP HERE TO ATTEND.

 Speaker Buzz Davis, "America Needs a Revolution: Shall It be Bloody or Peaceful?  Impeachment Process, Review of U.S. House Resolution to Impeach Bush & Why Not Obama?"  Davis,from Stoughton, WI, is a member of Veterans for Peace & led the WI Impeachment/Bring Our Troops Home Coalition.  He's aformer VISTA Volunteer ('65-66), 1st Lt.US Army (trained in infantry & signal corps '67-70 (S. Korea '69-70) &has a masters in urban affairs UW-Milw.('72) & a masters in public administration Syracuse Univ. ('73).  He's a retired planner with the state of WI, former elected official (city council & county board), union organizer & official, Democratic Party leader and is a senior activist & member of various boards.  608-239-5354 (cell), dbuzzdavis@aol.com

http://www.davidswanson.org/sites/davidswanson.org/files/images/davidsmiling.preview.jpg Speaker David Swanson, "The Imperial Presidency That Won't Go Away: Bush's Wars, Torture & Spying Become Obama's Accepted Policies."  Swanson's books include: War Is A Lie (2010), When the World Outlawed War (2011), and The Military Industrial Complex at 50 (2012).  He is the host of  Talk Nation Radio, has been a journalist, activist, organizer, educator, and agitator & helped plan the nonviolent occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington DC in 2011.  He holds a master's degree in philosophy from the University of VA, has worked as a newspaper reporter & as a communications director, with jobs including press secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, media coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association & for three years as communications coordinator for ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.) He blogs at http://davidswanson.org & http://warisacrime.org & works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org  Swanson also works on the communications committee of Veterans For Peace, of which he is an associate (non-veteran) member & is Sec. of Peace in the Green Shadow Cabinet.

 Speaker:  Coleen Rowley, "Decreasing Personal Privacy and Civil Rights Coupled with Increasing Governmental Secrecy and Control is Unethical, Illegal and Counter-productive" Rowley is a former FBI special agent and division legal counsel whose May 2002 memo described some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, leading to her testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee as well as a two year long Department of Justice Inspector General investigation.  She was named one of Time Magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002 which honored “whistleblowers.”

 

 Speaker:  Debra Sweet.  Sweet is the Director of World Can’t Wait which began in 2005 to “drive out the Bush regime.” Based in New York City, she leads the organization’s work during the Obama administration’s repression of whistle-blowers and underlying war crimes, including the expansion of the unjust occupation of Afghanistan, the spreading secret drone wars, use of indefinite detention in Guantanamo and elsewhere, and vast surveillance on whole populations.

Speaker Don McKeating, "Economic, Social & Political Consequences of Our Double Standards."  McKeating was in an Army artillery unit in Vietnam '68-69, a police officer in IL for 27 years, a police union organizer & representative, a founding member of the Madison Area Peace Coalition, drafted the Madison city council resolution to defend the Bill of Rights & civil liberties after passage of the Patriot Act, organized & was the first president of VFP Ch. 25 Madison, WI, is president of VFP Ch. 119 St. Petersburg, FL & was a contributing author to the book Long Shadows:Veterans' Paths to Peaceaward winner in France.

High-resolution photo of Joseph (Joe) W. ElderModerator, Prof. Joe Elder.  Elder is a University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor in the Departments of Sociology, Languages and Cultures of Asia, and Integrated Liberal Studies. In addition to producing a lifetime of scholarly books, articles, and documentary films, Elder has helped organize campus "teach-ins" against US military activities in Vietnam and southwest Asia. In  2009 the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice awarded Elder its "Lifetime Peacemaker Award" for his reconciliation activities in My Lai (site of the 1968 massacre in Vietnam) and for serving as a Quaker message-carrier between opposing sides in India, Pakistan, Vietnam, the USA, Korea, and Sri Lanka.

Fourth U.S. City Says No to Drones

Following Charlottesville VA in February, St. Bonifacius MN in April, and Evanston IL on May 28th, Northampton MA on July 11th passed a resolution against drones.

WGGB reports:

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB) – The city council in Northampton has voted to accept a resolution on drone aircrafts Thursday night.

The resolution calls for the end of unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance and violent purposes, as well as putting the airspace above the homes of residents under local control.

That would not only prevent the government or large companies from using that airspace, but it would also allow people to fly their own drones in that space.

“If farmers do not maintain ownership of their airspace above their property, they cannot use aircrafts to monitor their crops. And we’re talking about small low cost aircrafts and historically what has been done, or used, are larger aircrafts that are manned and that’s very costly,” says resident Aaron Cantrell who supported the council’s vote.

The resolution is the first of its kind in New England.

Dirty Wars Comes to Charlottesville VA on July 19

The amazing anti-war film Dirty Wars is coming to Vinegar Hill Theater in Charlottesville, Va.

I've been working, on behalf of the producers, with peace groups around the country to spread the word about this film, and the feedback has been incredibly encouraging.  I've led discussions at the conclusion of the film in DC and Norfolk and will do so in Charlottesville following the 7:30 p.m. screening on Friday July 19.

Get your tickets from Vinegar Hill or another ticket seller, but sign up here so I know you're coming and so you can invite your friends and ask them to invite their friends and so on.

Dirty Wars may be one of the best educational outreach opportunities the peace movement has had in a long time.  The film is about secretive aspects of U.S. wars: imprisonment, torture, night raids, drone kills.

Dirty Wars won the Cinematography Award for U.S. Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival 2013 and the Grand Jury Prize at the Boston Independent Film Festival. Variety calls it "jaw-dropping ... [with] the power to pry open government lockboxes." The Sundance jury said it is "one of the most stunning looking documentaries [we've] ever seen."

Dirty Wars makes a powerful case that U.S. wars, aside from all of their known drawbacks, actually make the United States less safeDirty Wars also makes real the humanity of our wars' victims.  A great deal of activism has been generated by this film.  To learn about and take action on one outrage the film depicts, go here

More importantly, bring people to see the movie who have not been actively engaged in trying to end warmaking.  The discussion afterwards will be open to questions and comments from any and all points of view.  You can post questions or comments ahead of time here.

--David Swanson

SPONSORS:
WarIsACrime.org
Amnesty International - Charlottesville
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Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice

Talk Nation Radio: Gar Alperovitz Points to Worker Ownership as Fix for Broken Democracy

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-gar

Gar Alperovitz discusses his new book, What Then Must We Do: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution.  Alperovitz points to long-term trends in wealth and income inequality, environmental destruction, civil liberties loss, incarceration rates, and others, to argue that ordinary political change is not enough, that systemic changes in the distribution of power are badly needed.  See http://www.garalperovitz.com

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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

Wartime U.S. Travelogue

In Washington Dulles airport I noticed a large advertisement.  I'd seen it before and not paid attention.  (No doubt that's why they saturate public space with the things.)  It showed a woman's face with the words: "A car crash in California almost took her leg.  A bomb blast in Iraq helped save it."  It directed one to a website: orthoinfo.org/dominique

I'm against car crashes in California.  I'm in favor of saving Dominique's leg.  But at the website what we find is a claim that her leg was saved because her orthopaedic surgeon had experience in Iraq.  And I don't mean in the Iraqi hospitals that existed before we destroyed that country.  I mean he had experience in the destruction process. 

"Thank you, Dr. Paul Girard. How lucky was I to have an orthopaedic surgeon with wartime experience and special insights on how to treat an injury like mine?"  Thus writes Dominique, whose partner James comments on the doctor: "His experience as a wartime orthopaedic surgeon in Iraq gave him a special familiarity with traumatic limb injuries."  How would James know this?  Presumably the doctor, whose own comments don't mention the war, told him.  Or someone ghost wrote the website.

The orthoinfo.org website was created by three societies of orthopaedic surgeons that clearly know which side of the mutilated troop their bread is buttered on.  (Orthopaedic comes through French from the Greek for boneheaded.)

Surely a few people walk through U.S. airports while simultaneously living in reality, the reality in which the United States destroyed the nation of Iraq, slaughtered 1.4 million people, created 4.5 million refugees, destroyed the health and education and energy infrastructures, created epidemics of disease and birth defects, traumatized millions of children, and left behind a ruined violent anarchic state cursed with deep divisions previously unknown.

Surely some of those reality-based people are aware that a majority of Americans believes the war benefitted Iraq, and a plurality believes Iraqis are grateful.  To read, on top of that perversity, the claim that a bomb blast in Iraq saved Dominique's leg is sickening.  A doctor saved her leg.  He found a silver lining in a genocide.  The bomb blasts didn't fucking save people.  The bomb blasts killed people.  And very few of the killers or their funders or their voters seem to care.

In St. Paul, Minnesota, the state capitol is surrounded by war memorials.  No evidence of opposition to war is apparent to the casual visitor.  Militarism, as anywhere else in the United States, is everywhere visible.  The sports arena flashes a giant electronic ad for the National Guard.  But the ad flashes on Kellogg Boulevard.  Almost no one knows what Kellogg Boulevard was named for.  But local son Frank Kellogg won the Nobel Peace Prize for organizing the major nations of the world to ban war, and did so prior to all the wars honored on the grounds of the state capitol.  This of course proves that Kellogg's war opposition should be forgotten since the wars so stupidly and barbarically fought in violation of the law since his day have brought us such a wealth of benefits.  For example . . . medical miracle jackasses capable of surgery but not moral reflection. 

Local activists plan to revive memory of Kellogg's Peace Pact this August.  Stay tuned. 

Wisconsin: I remember when it was alive with protest, as North Carolina is now, when the activists joined with the Democrats and therefore labor.  I remember the pizzas ordered for Wisconsin from Cairo and vice versa.  Egypt's fate is far from clear.  But this we know.  Egypt has set an example of independent, partisan-free, uncompromising populism that shows no signs of fading away.  Egypt threw out a corrupt leader and then threw out his corrupt replacement.  We let a corrupt leader rule the United States for 8 years and then bowed down before his corrupt successor.

This country is far far too big, and the population of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area far too uncomprehending for us to walk like an Egyptian.  Clearly the people of any state you care to visit could run a respectable country if it weren't for the other 49. 

I know you don't want to hear the word secession.  But what about the word shame?  Would that be too much to ask for?

Dirty Wars Comes to Norfolk July 10

On Wednesday, July 10, at 7:15 p.m. the great Naro Cinema in Norfolk Va will be screening the great film Dirty Wars, and I'll be leading a discussion at the conclusion of the screening of the issues covered by the film and actions that can be taken.  (The film itself is about 90 minutes.)

http://narocinema.com

http://dirtywars.org

http://davidswanson.org

--David Swanson

Talk Nation Radio: Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire Says Syrians Oppose Intervention

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-nobel-peace

Mairead Maguire, recipient of the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize, speaks about here recent trip to Lebanon and Syria, where she met with refugees, combatants, members of the opposition, and members of the government.  She found that supporters and opponents of the government, including those working for political changes, overwhelming oppose foreign interference and violence.  Maguire is a founder of Peace People and of the Nobel Women's Initiative.  Maguire has nominated Bradley Manning for the Nobel Peace Prize and credits his work with helping to discourage the West from intervening in Syria.

Add your name to the petition to get Manning the Peace Prize at ManningNobel.org

Also read "Ten Problems With the Latest Excuse for War" by David Swanson.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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

Sequester Optionally Applied Only to Good Things

Spending cuts have been applied by Congress to both military and non-military spending. 

In my view, the military cuts are much too small and the non-military cuts should not exist at all.  In the view of most liberal organizations, the military cuts -- like the military spending and the military itself -- are to be ignored, while the non-military cuts are to be opposed by opposing all cuts in general. 

But, guess what? 

The spending limits on the military are being blatantly violated.  Both houses of Congress have now passed military budgets larger than last year and larger than is allowed under the sequester. 

Meanwhile the sequester is being used to cut away at all that is good and decent in public policy.

In fact, the House Appropriations Committee proposes to make up for its violation of the law on military spending levels by imposing yet bigger cuts to non-military spending.  And what's the harm in that if all cuts are equally bad?

The sequester, like the anti-torture statute, the war crimes statute, the Fourth Amendment, the First Amendment, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, or the U.N. Charter, turns out to be one of those optional laws. 

Laws are for certain people.  The top general now being investigated as a whistleblower does not have a nude isolation cell at Quantico in his future, even though Bradley Manning was treated that way.

Laws are for certain things.  Shooting children in a U.S. school is a crime.  Dropping a missile on a foreign school is something more like law enforcement.  Mothers in Yemen now teach their neighbors' children at home so that they can avoid going out to school while the drones are overhead.  That's called freedom, the spread of democracy.

And this is called propaganda: "Sequester Putting Military at Risk of Becoming 'Hollow Force'."  That's a real headline, and there are dozens more like it.  Only in the U.S. military can increases be widely reported as disastrous cuts.  The half-truth is entirely unintended.  The military spending will, in fact, be disastrous.  It's just not cuts.

We have 11 percent in the United States in favor of arming Syrians, or rather "Syrians" as so many of them are recently arrived in Syria for the purpose of killing.  Eleven percent!  That's nothing.  That's less than believe in ghosts (48% of Americans according to CBS believe in ghosts).  But the U.S. military and its commander in chief do what they want to do.  Democracy be damned.  And consequences be damned.  And the people of Syria be damned.

The silver lining in the sequester's storm of misinformation is that states and localities are expecting cuts to the military.  Connecticut has set up a commission to plan a process of conversion from military to non-military industries.  I hope it will serve as a model for the other 49 states and D.C. 

But there ought to be another silver lining, and I'm not seeing it yet.   Most liberal activist groups have still not grasped that some cuts are good and others bad, that we should be campaigning for cuts to the war machine that swallows 57% of discretionary spending while campaigning for dramatic increases in spending on green energy, education, and other human needs.

Now is the moment for that realization.  Now is the time to stop saying "No Cuts!" and start saying "Move the money from evil spending to good!"

 

Extreme Whether

PLAY REVIEW

Extreme Whether


by: Karen Malpede
Featuring George Bartenieff, Zach Grenier, Kathleen Purcell, Di Zhu, and Alex Tavis

Reading: September 10, 2013
The Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce St., New York, NY

Script available at: http://theaterthreecollaborative.org

Review by: David Swanson

Published in the July / August 2013 Humanist

Extreme WhetherWhen my dad, Neil Swanson, goes to rallies against the tar sands pipeline, people rush up to him and thank him for everything he’s doing. They don’t actually have any idea what a great guy my dad is. It’s just that his Scandinavian face looks a lot like James Hansen’s.

So, I already had a weird sort of family relationship to Hansen, whom I’ve never met, before I read Extreme Whether, a new play by the brilliant Karen Malpede that tells a personal story of Hansen in which everything is also political.

Hansen, of course, is the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and an outspoken advocate for putting a halt to global warming. Hansen warned Congress in the 1980s, revealed government deception in the 2000s, and has been speaking the truth, even more bluntly, if possible—and getting arrested for it—in recent years.

“Several times in Earth’s long history,” Hansen says, “rapid global warming of several degrees occurred. … In each case more than half of plant and animal species went extinct. New species came into being over tens and hundreds of thousands of years. But these are time scales and generations that we cannot imagine. If we drive our fellow species to extinction we will leave a far more desolate planet for our descendants than the world that we inherited from our elders. … And if you melt all the ice, sea levels will go up two hundred and fifty feet … producing a different planet.”

Hansen does not describe global warming as a mysterious ineluctable force, but as a policy choice made by certain powerful criminals (his word). This does not endear him to many in power, and the attacks on him are relentless, with New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera repeatedly denouncing him for hurting his own cause by being an activist, getting arrested, opposing the tar sands pipeline, and making “apocalyptic pronouncements”—never mind if they’re accurate.

Truth is not always stranger than fiction. Hansen’s story involves some pretty strange truths, but Malpede’s play adds emotional drama and strangeness aplenty. Hansen writes and speaks about his grandchildren and the fate we’re condemning all of our grandchildren to. Malpede imagines the life of a family in which Grandpa has figured out that the world is being destroyed but the world’s communications system works for the destroyers.

James HansenThe fictional family includes a climate scientist, his lover (also a climate scientist), his teenage daughter, his twin sister and her husband (denouncers of climate science), an uncle, a frog, and a piece of land. The uncle is dying, like the earth. The scientist’s wife has died from an illness diagnosed and acted upon too late. His lover has received a death threat. He has received death threats. The frog has grown six legs. The land has been polluted. The sister and her husband declare the earth in perfect health, while the scientist struggles with his situation.

Like a descendant of Cassandra, the Hansen character has spoken and has not been heard. Would better language have helped? Better charts? Was there a different way to say “the world is being destroyed” so as to make it understood before the world was destroyed? He has given up and ceased speaking publicly, but is mulling over the possibility of trying again, while his sister tries to silence him—or perhaps to entrap and belittle him. At the same time, the frog, a male, has been “feminized” by poisons in the environment, a process described as happening to young male humans as well.

And then eight years flash by, global warming gets hotter, the evidence begins to become apparent to non-scientists. But the denouncers of reality double down on their hostility toward recognizing that the earth has a problem. The struggle to speak truth to power continues through Act II, by the end of which we all have a strange family relationship with James Hansen, and each other, and all of our grandchildren. The trillions of future people whose future lives are being ruined by our coal and oil consumption are a statistic until we understand one of those trillions as a grandchild and a friend and a lover and a cousin and an aunt. Then the multiplication of that intensity of suffering by a trillion becomes almost impossible to comprehend, except perhaps with the aid of Malpede’s art.

 


David Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie and When the World Outlawed War, as well as Tube World, a children’s book that addresses global warming.

Terminal Snowden

AFP reports that "Snowden's extended stay at the Russian airport has raised comparisons to the Tom Hanks movie "The Terminal" about a man stranded in a New York airport, and [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro suggested that a film should be made about the US fugitive titled "Terminal Snowden."

Support Edward Snowden

Talk Nation Radio: Peter Kuznick Tells the Untold History of the United States

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-peter

Peter Kuznick is an associate professor of history at American University.  Together with Oliver Stone he has authored The Untold History of the United States, and the series by the same name airing on Showtime.  As director of American University’s award winning Nuclear Studies Institute, Kuznick takes students on an annual study abroad trip to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Oliver Stone will be on the trip this August, and you can go too.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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

The U.S. Has a Representative Government: The Conference of Mayors

Congress can't break 10 percent approval.  Obama's arms shipments to Syria just crack 10 percent, with 11 percent approval.  Over 80 percent of Americans in more polls than I can count say over and over again that the government is broken and does not represent us.  But when the mayors of the cities of the United States get together nationally one begins to see positions taken, at least rhetorically, that resemble government of, by, or for the people.

On Monday the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously adopted a resolution "CALLING FOR U.S. LEADERSHIP IN GLOBAL ELIMINATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND REDIRECTION OF MILITARY SPENDING TO DOMESTIC NEEDS."

Cities can follow the leads of their mayors and pass similar resolutions.  A bill in Congress (HR 1650) at least partially meets the proposals in the resolution, and cities could ask their representatives in the U.S. House to sign onto it.  The state of Connecticut this month created a commission to work for the conversion of Connecticut's economy away from militarism and toward peaceful manufacturing jobs.  Cities could create such commissions or urge their states to do so.  It would be good to see such steps follow from Monday's admirable rhetoric.  The resolution, as passed, included this:

"BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the President and Congress to reduce funding for modernization of nuclear weapons systems, to reduce nuclear weapons spending to the minimum necessary to assure the safety and security of the existing weapons as they await disablement and dismantlement, and redirect those funds to meet the urgent needs of cities; and

"BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the President and Congress to reduce military spending and to reinvest those funds in programs to address the dramatic increase in poverty and inequality in our country; take emergency measures to repair the social safety net and protect Social Security and Medicare; create jobs, retrain displaced workers, including military contractors, rebuild deteriorating physical infrastructure, invest in new technologies for a sustainable energy future, and aid local government to restore and maintain vital public services, reemploying teachers, police, firefighters and other workers."

The bill passed this month by the Connecticut legislature and signed by the Governor creates a commission to develop a plan for, among other things:

"the diversification or conversion of defense-related industries with an emphasis on encouraging environmentally-sustainable and civilian product manufacturing. On or before December 1, 2014, the commission shall submit such report to the Governor and, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a, to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to commerce."

The commission "shall Advise the General Assembly and the Department of Economic and Community Development on issues relating to the diversification or conversion of defense-related industries" among other things.

Read the full text, inlcuding the make-up of the commission, which is to include labor union and peace movement representatives.  Imagine Congress creating something like that!

But Congress has, at least created this: a bill with a non-voting sponsor and no cosponsors, H.R.1650, the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act of 2013, a bill introduced over and over again by Washington D.C.'s representative in Congress, following action by the city council of D.C.  The key part of the bill reads:

 

(a) In General- The United States Government shall--

(1) provide leadership to negotiate and enter into a multilateral treaty or other international agreement by the date that is three years after the date of the enactment of this Act that provides for--

(A) the dismantlement and elimination of all nuclear weapons in every country by not later than 2020; and

(B) strict and effective international control of such dismantlement and elimination;

(2) redirect resources that are being used for nuclear weapons programs to use--

(A) in converting all nuclear weapons industry employees, processes, plants, and programs smoothly to constructive, ecologically beneficial peacetime activities, including strict control of all fissile material and radioactive waste, during the period in which nuclear weapons must be dismantled and eliminated pursuant to the treaty or other international agreement described in paragraph (1); and

(B) in addressing human and infrastructure needs, including development and deployment of sustainable carbon-free and nuclear-free energy sources, health care, housing, education, agriculture, and environmental restoration, including long-term radioactive waste monitoring;

(3) undertake vigorous, good-faith efforts to eliminate war, armed conflict, and all military operations; and

(4) actively promote policies to induce all other countries to join in the commitments described in this subsection to create a more peaceful and secure world.

(b) Effective Date- Subsection (a)(2) shall take effect on the date on which the President certifies to Congress that all countries possessing nuclear weapons have--

(1) eliminated such weapons; or

(2) begun such elimination under established legal requirements comparable to those described in subsection (a).

#

Not a bad bill to pass, if we had anyone representing us.

Global Rescue Plan

When the wealthy nations of the world meet as the G8 or in any other gathering, it's interesting to imagine what they would do if they followed the golden rule, valued grandchildren, disliked unnecessary suffering, or wished to outgrow ancient forms of barbarism, or any combination of those.

The United States alone is perfectly capable, if it chooses, of enacting a global marshall plan, or -- better -- a global rescue plan.  Every year the United States spends, through various governmental departments, roughly $1.2 trillion on war and war preparations.  Every year the United States foregoes well over $1 trillion in taxes that billionaires and centimillionaires and corporations should be paying. 

If we understand that out-of-control military spending is making us less safe, rather than more -- just as Eisenhower warned and so many current experts agree -- it is clear that reducing military spending is a critical end in itself.  If we add to that the understanding that military spending hurts, rather than helping, economic well-being, the imperative to reduce it is that much clearer.

If we understand that wealth in the United States is concentrated at medieval levels and that this concentration is destroying representative government, social cohesion, morality in our culture, and the pursuit of happiness for millions of people, it is clear that taxing extreme wealth and income are critical ends in themselves.

Still missing from our calculation is the unimaginably huge consideration of what we are not now doing but easily could do.  It would cost us $30 billion per year to end hunger around the world.  We just spent nearly $90 billion for another year of the "winding down" war on Afghanistan.  Which would you rather have: three years of children not dying of hunger all over the earth, or year #13 of killing people in the mountains of central Asia?  Which do you think would make the United States better liked around the world?

It would cost us $11 billion per year to provide the world with clean water.  We're spending $20 billion per year on just one of the well-known useless weapons systems that the military doesn't really want but which serves to make someone rich who controls Congress members and the White House with legalized campaign bribery and the threat of job elimination in key districts.  Of course, such weapons begin to look justified once their manufacturers begin selling them to other countries too.  Raise your hand if you think giving the world clean water would make us better liked abroad and safer at home.

For similar affordable amounts, the United States, with or without its wealthy allies, could provide the earth with education, programs of environmental sustainability, encouragement to empower women with rights and responsibilities, the elimination of major diseases, etc.  For those who recognize the environmental crisis as another critical demand as urgent in its own right as the war-making crisis, the plutocracy crisis, or the unmet human needs crisis, a global rescue plan that invests in green energy and sustainable practices appears even more powerfully to be the moral demand of our time.

War-ending, earth-saving projects could be made profitable, just as prisons and coal mines and predatory lending are made profitable now by public policy.  War-profiteering could be banned or rendered impractical.  We have the resources, knowledge, and ability.  We don't have the political will.  The chicken-and-egg problem traps us.  We can't take steps to advance democracy in the absence of democracy.  A female face on an elite ruling class won't solve this.  We can't compel our nation's government to treat other nations with respect when it has no respect even for us.  A program of foreign aid imposed by imperial-minded arrogance won't work.  Spreading subservience under the banner of "democracy" won't save us.  Imposing peace through armed "peace-keepers" prepared to kill won't work.  Disarming only so-much, while continuing to suppose that a "good war" might be needed, won't get us far.  We need a better view of the world and a way to impose it on officials who can be made to actually represent us.

Such a project is possible, and understanding how easy it would be for powerful officials to enact a global rescue plan is part of how we can motivate ourselves to demand it.  The money is available several times over.  The globe we have to rescue will include our own country as well.  We don't have to suffer more than we are suffering now in order to greatly benefit others.  We can invest in health and education and green infrastructure in our own towns as well as others' for less than we now dump into bombs and billionaires.

Such a project would do well to consider programs of public service that involve us directly in the work to be done, and in the decisions to be made.  Priority could be given to worker-owned and worker-run businesses.  Such projects could avoid an unnecessary nationalistic focus.  Public service, whether mandatory or voluntary, could include options to work for foreign and internationally run programs as well as those based in the United States.  The service, after all, is to the world, not just one corner of it.  Such service could include peace work, human shield work, and citizen diplomacy.  Student exchange and public-servant exchange programs could add travel, adventure, and cross-cultural understanding.  Nationalism, a phenomenon younger than and just as eliminable as war, would not be missed.

You may say I'm a dreamer.  We number in the hundreds of millions.

Prisons Full of Innocents

There are probably more innocent men and women in prison in the United States now than there were people in prison here total -- innocent and guilty -- 30 years ago, or than there are total people in prison (proportionately or as an absolute number) in most nations on earth.

I don't mean that people are locked up for actions that shouldn't be considered crimes, although they are.  I don't mean that people are policed and indicted and prosecuted by a racist system that makes some people far more likely to end up in prison than other people guilty of the same actions, although that is true, just as it's also true that the justice system works better for the wealthy than for the poor.  I am referring rather to men (it's mostly men) who have been wrongly convicted of crimes they simply did not commit.  I'm not even counting Guantanamo or Bagram or immigrants' prisons.  I'm talking about the prisons just up the road, full of people from just down the road.

I don't know whether wrongful convictions have increased as a percentage of convictions.  What has indisputably increased is the number of convictions and the lengths of sentences.  The prison population has skyrocketed.  It's multiplied several fold.  And it's done so during a political climate that has rewarded legislators, judges, prosecutors, and police for locking people up -- and not for preventing the conviction of innocents.  This growth does not correlate in any way with an underlying growth in crime.

At the same time, evidence has emerged of a pattern of wrongful convictions.  This emerging evidence is largely the result of prosecutions during the 1980s, primarily for rape but also for murder, before DNA testing had come into its own, but when evidence (including semen and blood) was sometimes preserved.  Other factors have contributed: messy murderers, rapists who didn't use condoms, advances in DNA science that helps to convict the guilty as well as to free the innocent, avenues for appeal that were in some ways wider before the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, and the heroic work of a relative handful of people. 

An examination of the plea bargains and trials that put people behind bars ought to make clear to anyone that many of those convicted are innocent.  But DNA exonerations have opened a lot of eyes to that fact.  The trouble is that most convicts do not have anything that can be tested for DNA to prove their guilt or innocence.  Here are 1,138 documented exonerations out of that tiny fraction of the overall prison population for which there was evidence to test.  One study found that 6% of these prisoners are innocent.  If you could extrapolate that to the whole population you'd be talking about 136,000 innocent people in U.S. prisons today.  In the 1990s, a federal inquiry found that DNA testing, then new, was clearing 25% of primary suspects.  You do the math. 

Of course you can't simply do the math, because wrongful convictions could be higher or lower for the available sample than for all prisoners.  What we can be sure of is that we are talking about a large number of people whose lives (and the lives of their loved ones) have been ruined -- not to mention the lives of additional victims of actual criminals left free. 

One way to be fairly sure that the rate of wrongful conviction carries over, at least very roughly, to a variety of criminal prosecutions is to examine how those convictions came about.  Brandon Garrett's Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong examines the prosecutions of the first 250 people exonerated by DNA testing.  Garrett finds broad systemic problems that could be remedied but largely have not been. 

Of the 250, 76% were misidentified by an eyewitness -- most of the witnesses having been led to that act by police and/or prosecutor, some of them badgered and threatened, others merely manipulated.  Invalid forensic science expertise contributed to 61% of the convictions, much of it willfully manipulated, some fraction perhaps attributable to well-intentioned but negligent incompetence.  Informants, mostly jailhouse informants, and most of them manipulated and bribed by police or prosecutor, helped out in 21% of the trials.  In 16% of the cases, the accused supposedly confessed to the crime, but these "confessions" tended to be the result of police intimidation, manipulation, brutality, and simple lying.  Garrett fears that similar problems infect the U.S. justice system as a whole.

Garrett focuses on problems in policy and perspective.  People who believe all eyewitnesses are correct and truthful can mean well and nonetheless get an important point wrong.  People who aren't aware that false confessions exist won't look for them.  But people unaware of such things are not typically part of the criminal justice system, where awareness of these problems is built in but steamrolled over.  Judges ask whether witnesses were improperly led to misidentify a witness, but care little for the answers they receive.  While Garrett begins and ends his book by claiming that pretty much everyone means well, the intervening pages grown under the weight of endless malevolence.  In reading the book, I found myself over and over again scribbling "Did this guy mean well?" in the margin.

Do police feeding a false confession to their victim mean well?  When they falsely report on that procedure to a court do they mean well?  When they use tape recorders but shut them off each time they feed the prisoner new facts, do they mean well?  When they hide evidence?  When they destroy evidence?  When they stack lineups and pressure witnesses to make identifications?  When they hypnotize witnesses?  When the prosecutor employs junk science and knowingly makes false claims about it?  When simple procedures to avoid bias are known but avoided?  When expert witnesses lie for a living?  When crime labs alter reports to coverup exculpatory evidence?  When police or prosecutors bribe other convicts or codefendants to testify and tell them what to say, but lie about that procedure?  When the defense is denied competent counsel or the ability to call witnesses?  When the judge effectively acts as part of the prosecution?  When jurors pressure and threaten a fellow juror to vote "guilty"? 

"It is almost unheard of for prosecutors to be disciplined or sanctioned for misconduct," writes Garrett, who is no doubt also familiar with this saying: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  Garrett believes that serious reforms are needed, and points to North Carolina where a commission has been set up to aid in freeing and not convicting the innocent.  If you imagine that that's what appeals courts are for, read how they handled these 250 cases.  In 23 cases, the victim was tried more than once for the same crime.  One in a blue moon the system works and frees an innocent -- just often enough to keep hope floating out there like a lottery ticket in the distance.  Even when DNA clears a prisoner, a prosecutor may propose to try him again, and then do nothing for years while he rots in prison waiting.  North Carolina has passed legislation reforming procedures for eyewitnesses, requiring the recording of interrogations, enhancing the preservation of evidence and access to DNA testing, etc.

But one of the major reforms needed is clearly a reform of attitude.  And that probably will come more quickly if we recognize what current attitudes are.  Jurors and judges should be aware of how often many prosecutors and police officers pursue conviction at the expense of the truth.  They should not prejudge in that direction any more than in the other, but they should be aware of what they are up against.  If, as a society, we valued the freedom of innocents as much as the punishment of the guilty, we would treat judges and prosecutors and defense attorneys and police differently.  We would reward protection of the innocent as much as convictions.  A "successful" prosecution would be redefined as one that, first, did no harm.  The police officer who found an alibi for a suspect would be praised and promoted just like the officer who found evidence of his guilt.  A defendant might even someday find it possible to gain representation from an attorney who at least pretended to believe in at least the possibility of his innocence, and who behaved accordingly.

In the meantime, we are generating and compounding tragedies by the thousands.  When James O'Donnell was wrongly convicted, he exploded with anger and cursed the judge and jury.  Then he composed himself and said, "I am really sorry for my outburst.  I tried to be as civil as possible.  I would never do a crime like this.  And my life is over now as I know it, my wife and kids' life.  I don't understand how the jury did this to me.  It's really not right, what they did.  I was home in bed.  I was sleeping.  I would never hit a woman.  I have a wife.  I never hit my kids, ever.  I never forced a woman to do anything in my whole life.  That's the God's honest truth . . . It's just -- I'm very sorry for my outburst.  Don't take my life away, please."

10 Problems with the Latest Excuse for War

If you own a television or read a newspaper you've probably heard that we need another war because the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

If you own a computer and know where to look you've probably heard that there isn't actually any evidence for that claim.

Below are 10 reasons why this latest excuse for war is no good EVEN IF TRUE.

1. War is not made legal by such an excuse.  It can't be found in the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the United Nations Charter, or the U.S. Constitution.  It can, however, be found in U.S. war propaganda of the 2002 vintage.  (Who says our government doesn't promote recycling?)

2. The United States itself possesses and uses internationally condemned weapons, including white phosphorus, napalm, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium.  Whether you praise these actions, avoid thinking about them, or join me in condemning them, they are not a legal or moral justification for any foreign nation to bomb us, or to bomb some other nation where the U.S. military is operating.  Killing people to prevent their being killed with the wrong kind of weapons is a policy that must come out of some sort of sickness.  Call it Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

3. An expanded war in Syria could become regional or global with uncontrollable consequences.  Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Russia, China, the United States, the Gulf states, the NATO states . . . does this sound like the sort of conflict we want?  Does it sound like a conflict anyone will survive?  Why in the world risk such a thing? 

4. Just creating a "no fly zone" would involve bombing urban areas and unavoidably killing large numbers of people.  This happened in Libya and we looked away.  But it would happen on a much larger scale in Syria, given the locations of the sites to be bombed.  Creating a "no fly zone" is not a matter of making an announcement, but of dropping bombs.

5. Both sides in Syria have used horrible weapons and committed horrible atrocities.  Surely even those who imagine people should be killed to prevent their being killed with different weapons can see the insanity of arming both sides to protect each other side.  Why is it not, then, just as insane to arm one side in a conflict that involves similar abuses by both?

6. With the United States on the side of the opposition in Syria, the United States will be blamed for the opposition's crimes.  Most people in Western Asia hate al Qaeda and other terrorists.  They are also coming to hate the United States and its drones, missiles, bases, night raids, lies, and hypocrisy.  Imagine the levels of hatred that will be reached when al Qaeda and the United States team up to overthrow the government of Syria and create an Iraq-like hell in its place.

7. An unpopular rebellion put into power by outside force does not usually result in a stable government.  In fact there is not yet on record a case of U.S. humanitarian war benefitting humanity or of nation-building actually building a nation.  Why would Syria, which looks even less auspicious than most potential targets, be the exception to the rule?

8. This opposition is not interested in creating a democracy, or -- for that matter -- in taking instructions from the U.S. government.  On the contrary, blowback from these allies is likely.  Just as we should have learned the lesson of lies about weapons by now, our government should have learned the lesson of arming the enemy of the enemy long before this moment.

9. The precedent of another lawless act by the United States, whether arming proxies or engaging directly, sets a dangerous example to the world and to those in Washington for whom Iran is next on the list.

10. A strong majority of Americans, despite all the media's efforts thus far, opposes arming the rebels or engaging directly.  Instead, a plurality supports providing humanitarian aid.

We might better spread democracy by example than by bomb. 

There are nonviolent pro-democracy movements in Bahrain and Turkey and elsewhere, and our government doesn't lift a finger in support.

But if you remember all those years of protesting wars and wishing millions of foolish partisan Republicans would join us in protesting blatant mass-murder even though the president was a Republican, I have good news for you.  The Republicans are leading the way in pretending to oppose war this time.  So, if you Democrats, who I'm sure were 100% sincere in opposing wars some years back are still ready to act, maybe -- just maybe -- we can build right now the sort of broad movement we've wanted.

If you're not too busy.

Talk Nation Radio: U.S. Peace and Justice Activists to Gather in Madison, Wisc.

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-u-s-peace

This summer three national gatherings of activists will converge on Madison, Wisconsin, allowing for cross-fertilization and creative planning of future actions for peace and justice in the United States.  YOU are invited.

The Student Power Convergence, Aug. 1-5
The Democracy Convention, Aug. 7-11
The Veterans For Peace Convention, Aug. 7-11

Talk Nation Radio speaks with Roshan Bliss of the Student Power Convergence, Ben Manski of Democracy Convention, and Doug Rawlings of Veterans For Peace.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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

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