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Misusing a quote about peace: Obama Calls for Peace and Comity at Home, But Favors Wars and Killer Drones Abroad
By Dave Lindorff
President Barack Obama made an eloquent plea for sanity and peace following the latest deadly assault on police officers -- this time a gunman with an assault rifle shooting and killing three cops in Baton Rouge and wounding another three, one critically injured.
If asked to identify the world’s superpowers today, most people would name the United States, Russia, and China. Although many citizens of these countries maintain that this status is based on the superiority of their national way of life, the reality is that it rests upon their nations’ enormous capacity for violence.
Certainly none has a peaceful past. The United States, Russia, and China have a long history of expansion at the expense of neighboring countries and territories, often through military conquest. Those nations on their borders today, including some that have wrenched themselves free from their imperial control, continue to fear and distrust them. Just ask Latin Americans, East Europeans, or Asians what they think of their powerful neighbors.
In planning an upcoming conference and nonviolent action aimed at challenging the institution of war, with the conference to be held at American University, I can't help but be drawn to the speech a U.S. president gave at American University a little more than 50 years ago. Whether or not you agree with me that this is the best speech ever given by a U.S. president, there should be little dispute that it is the speech most out of step with what anyone will say at either the Republican or the Democratic national convention this year. Here's a video of the best portion of the speech:
President John F. Kennedy was speaking at a time when, like now, Russia and the United States had enough nuclear weapons ready to fire at each other on a moment's notice to destroy the earth for human life many times over. At that time, however, in 1963, there were only three nations, not the current nine, with nuclear weapons, and many fewer than now with nuclear energy. NATO was far removed from Russia's borders. The United States had not just facilitated a coup in Ukraine. The United States wasn't organizing military exercises in Poland or placing missiles in Poland and Romania. Nor was it manufacturing smaller nukes that it described as "more usable." The work of managing U.S. nuclear weapons was then deemed prestigious in the U.S. military, not the dumping ground for drunks and misfits that it has become. Hostility between Russia and the United States was high in 1963, but the problem was widely known about in the United States, in contrast to the current vast ignorance. Some voices of sanity and restraint were permitted in the U.S. media and even in the White House. Kennedy was using peace activist Norman Cousins as a messenger to Nikita Khrushchev, whom he never described, as Hillary Clinton has described Vladimir Putin, as "Hitler."
Kennedy framed his speech as a remedy for ignorance, specifically the ignorant view that war is inevitable. This is the opposite of what President Barack Obama said recently in Hiroshima and earlier in Prague and Oslo. Kennedy called peace "the most important topic on earth." It is a topic not touched on in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. I fully expect this year's Republican national convention to celebrate ignorance.
Kennedy renounced the idea of a "Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war," precisely what both big political parties now and most speeches on war by most past U.S. presidents ever have favored. Kennedy went so far as to profess to care about 100% rather than 4% of humanity:
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
By John Grant
Someone's crying, Lord, kumbaya
- From the Gullah song meaning, Lord, come by here and help us
One of the many interesting details to be learned by understanding human psychology is how a person's unconscious fear works in a myriad of ways to make them believe that they bear no responsibility for a particular problem.
If there's any debate right now in the major U.S. media regarding blowing people up with missiles from drones, it's about "transparency" (official reporting on who's killed) or death counts of those people somehow identified as civilians. But unless drones are just a means of vicariously venting rage, or of profiting drone manufacturers, they are -- like the wider wars they are part of -- supposed to serve some purpose.
Although terrorism keeps increasing during the Overseas Contingency Operations Formerly Known as the Global War on Terrorism, in theory the war making is supposed to (1) not be terrorism itself, and (2) reduce terrorism or end it. While I think a strong case can be made that neither of those conditions has been or ever could be met, and that even as mass therapy or economic catalyst the whole thing is doomed to failure, the drones are the piece of it that has begun to be recognized as counterproductive.
In a master's thesis from a student at Georgetown University, summarized in a recent article, Emily Manna took data on terrorism in Pakistan between 2006 and 2012 from the Global Terrorism Database and data on drone strikes where it was corroborated by both the New America Foundation and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Manna found that after the United States begins attacking a province with drones, terrorism increases there.
Three years ago, a young man from Yemen whose village had been attacked by a U.S. drone the week before, testified before Congress. Farea Al-muslimi said that, as with many known drone strikes, the supposed target was a well-known man who could very easily have been arrested. Al-muslimi said that when his neighbors think of America, they think of "the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads ready to fire missiles at any time. What violent militants had previously failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant. There is now an intense anger against America."
President Barack Obama used to hold up Yemen as the example of a successful drone war. That was before the drone strikes contributed to creating a wider war, and before the wider war waged by Saudi Arabia and the United States further strengthened al Qaeda in Yemen.
The Chicot report recently highlighted the fact that Prime Minister Tony Blair was warned before the attack on Iraq that it would increase terrorism and could result, as it did, in something like ISIS. The U.S. government had the same understanding as well, and also had the same expectation of likely chaos for Syria if its government were overthrown, before beginning to work for that overthrow. Later Obama asked the CIA for a report on whether arming proxies had ever worked. The closest the CIA could come to a successful case was 1980s Afghanistan. Need I spell out what that created? (Yes, Obama proceeded to arm proxies in Syria anyway.)
A CIA report warns that drone strikes can increase terrorism:
"The potential negative effects . . . include increasing the level of insurgent support […], strengthening an armed group's bonds with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group's remaining leaders, creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter."
Former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Paterson's cables published by WikiLeaks stated that drone strikes "risk destabilizing the Pakistani state, alienating both the civilian government and military leadership, and provoking a broader governance crisis in Pakistan without finally achieving the goal."
According to Mark Mazzetti, "The CIA station chief in Islamabad thought the drone strikes in 2005 and 2006 — which, while infrequent at that time, were often based on bad intelligence and had resulted in many civilian casualties — had done little except fuel hatred for the United States inside Pakistan and put Pakistani officials in the uncomfortable position of having to lie about the strikes."
Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said that while "drone attacks did help reduce the Qaeda leadership in Pakistan, they also increased hatred of America."
Another Obama advisor, Michael Boyle, said drone strikes have "adverse strategic effects that have not been properly weighed against the tactical gains associated with killing terrorists … The vast increase in the number of deaths of low-ranking operatives has deepened political resistance to the U.S. program in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries."
Yet another, Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, according to the New York Times, that "America's aggressive campaign of drone strikes could be undermining long-term efforts to battle extremism. 'We're seeing that blowback. If you're trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you're going to upset people even if they're not targeted.'"
Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations has found that "There appears to be a strong correlation in Yemen between increased targeted killings since December 2009 and heightened anger toward the United States and sympathy with or allegiance to AQAP ... One former senior military official closely involved in U.S. targeted killings argued that 'drone strikes are just a signal of arrogance that will boomerang against America ... A world characterized by the proliferation of armed drones ... would undermine core U.S. interests, such as preventing armed conflict, promoting human rights, and strengthening international legal regimes.' Because of drones' inherent advantages over other weapons platforms, states and nonstate actors would be much more likely to use lethal force against the United States and its allies."
Robert Grenier, who was Director of the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center from 2004 to 2006, has asked: "How many Yemenis may be moved in future to violent extremism in reaction to carelessly targeted missile strikes, and how many Yemeni militants with strictly local agendas will become dedicated enemies of the West in response to U.S. military actions against them?"
Here's an answer. Former U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission in Yemen, Nabeel Khoury, has warned that "the U.S. generates roughly forty to sixty new enemies for every AQAP operative killed by drones."
You wouldn't know this from most New York Times reports, but a New York Times editorial blurts it out as obvious: "Of course, we already know that torture and drone strikes pose a profound threat to America's national security and the safety of its citizens abroad."
But if it's so "of course" that drones endanger us rather than protect us, and they cost a fortune, and they damage the environment, and they kill thousands of people, and they erode basic civil liberties, and they make small wars that develop into large wars so much easier to start, and their proliferation to numerous other nations is going to be a disaster, then why do it?
Of course, more research will be done, most of it likely funded by the drone profiteers. But did we actually need any? Just imagine for a moment that the bomb the police used to blow a man up in Dallas, Texas, this month was a matter of routine, that these bombs were going off in all U.S. cities, that they were targeting people who looked suspicious or who had the cell phone of someone who had looked suspicious, that they were targeting those who rushed to the assistance of victims of an earlier strike, that the drones to deliver the bombs were buzzing constantly overhead as an ever-present threat so that parents were refusing to allow their kids out the door to go to school. Imagine that, and ask yourself if anyone would get angry.
We need to ban weaponized drones: http://banweaponizeddrones.org
President Barack Obama's lawyers, working on our dime, have just laid out a 46-page explanation of why current wars are legal. They've done so in response to a lawsuit, which has limited the argument in some significant ways.
First, while Obama has bragged about bombing seven nations, this lawsuit deals only with whichever parts of the world ISIS is in. But there is every reason to believe that Obama would make similar arguments for the legality of his other wars.
Second, while Tony Blair may be in hot water for violating the UN Charter's ban on threatening or using war, and while Germans and Japanese were once prosecuted for violating the Kellogg-Briand Pact's ban on waging war, this lawsuit takes no notice of such laws whatsoever, and thus neither does Obama's response. In fact, the "Most Progressive Democratic Party Platform in History" itself violates the UN Charter by threatening war on Iran and, a bit less explicitly, on Syria.
The lawsuit accuses Obama of waging war against ISIS in violation of the War Powers Resolution. Obama's lawyers (or, if you prefer the idiom of "our troops," we can say "our lawyers") try four different arguments for why that isn't so.
In the dialect of Gaza, where drones buzzed and blew things up for 51 days two years ago, there's an onomatopoetic word for drones: zanana. When Atef Abu Saif's kids would ask him, during that war, to take them out of doors somewhere, and he would refuse, they would then ask: "But you'll take us when the zanana stops?"
Saif has published his diary from that time, with 51 entries, called The Drone Eats With Me. I recommend reading one chapter a day. You're not too late to read most of them on the two-year anniversary of their happening. Reading the book straight through may not properly convey the length of the experience. On the other hand, you may want to finish before the next war on Gaza begins, and I really can't say when that will be.
The 2014 war was the third that Saif's family had been part of in five years. It's not that he or his wife or his little children joined the military. They didn't head off to that mythical land that U.S. journalism calls the "battlefield." No, the wars come right to them. From their point of view beneath the planes and drones, the killing is entirely random. Tonight it's the building next door destroyed, tomorrow some houses just out of sight. Roads are blown up, and orchards, even a cemetery so as not to deny the dead a share in the hell of the living. Long dead bones fly out of the soil in the explosions with as much logical purpose as your cousin's kids are decapitated or your grandmother's home flattened.
When you venture outside during a war in Gaza, the impression is apparently of being toyed with by giants, ferocious and enormous creatures able to pick apart large buildings as if they were made with Legos. And the giants have eyes in the form of ever-watching and ever-buzzing drones:
"A young man who sold kids' food -- sweets, chocolates, crisps -- became, in the eye of the drone operator, a valid target, a danger to Israel."
". . . The operator looks at Gaza the way an unruly boy looks at the screen of a video game. He presses a button that might destroy an entire street. He might decide to terminate the life of someone walking along the pavement, or he might uproot a tree in an orchard that hasn't yet borne fruit."
Saif and his family hide indoors, with mattresses in the hallway, away from windows, day after day. He ventures out against his own better judgment. "I feel more and more stupid each night," he writes,
"walking between the camp and Saftawi with drones whirring above me. Last night, I even saw one: it was glinting in the night sky like a star. If you don't know what to look for, you wouldn't be able to distinguish it from a star. I scanned the sky for about ten minutes as I walked, looking for anything that moved. There are stars and planes up there of course. But a drone is different, the only light it gives off is reflected so it's harder to see than a star or a plane. It's like a satellite, only it's much closer to the ground and therefore moves faster. I spotted one as I turned onto al-Bahar Street, then kept my eyes firmly fixed on it. The missiles are easy to see once they're launched -- they blaze through the sky blindingly -- but keeping my eye on the drone meant I had a second or two more notice than anyone else, should it decide to fire."
Living under the drones, Gazans learn not to make heat, which could be interpreted as a weapon. But they grow accustomed to the ever-present threat, and the explicit threats delivered to their cell phones. When the Israeli army texts everyone in a refugee camp to get out, nobody moves. Where are they to flee to, with their houses destroyed, and having already fled?
If you allow yourself to listen to the drones at night, you'll never sleep, Saif wrote. "So I did my best to ignore them, which was hard. In the dark, you can almost believe they're in your bedroom with you, behind the curtains, above the wardrobe. You imagine that, if you wave your hand above your face, you might catch it in your hand or even swat it as you would a mosquito."
I'm reminded of a line of poetry from, I think, Pakistan, but it could be from any of the drone-warred nations: "My love for you is as constant as a drone." But it isn't love that the drone nations are bestowing on their distant victims, is it?
At the present time, an increase in U.S. military spending seems as superfluous as a third leg. The United States, armed with the latest in advanced weaponry, has more military might than any other nation in world history. Moreover, it has begun a $1 trillion program to refurbish its entire nuclear weapons complex. America’s major military rivals, China and Russia, spend only a small fraction of what the United States does on its armed forces―in China’s case about a third and in Russia’s case about a ninth. Furthermore, the economic outlay necessary to maintain this vast U.S. military force constitutes a very significant burden. In fiscal 2015, U.S.
Dead end in New Hampshire: Bernie Sanders Endorses Hillary Clinton, Candidate of Wall Street and Corporate Power
Initiative-873 gives small flicker of hope: Seattle’s ‘Liberals’ Get Chance to Finally Start Addressing Police Brutality
By Jess Guh, MD
Seattle, WA -- Ever since moving to Seattle it’s become clear to me that though most of its inhabitants identify as liberals, the dominant white culture enables a culture of armchair liberals. When it comes to LGBT rights, Seattle will stand up, but when it comes to addressing issues that actually threaten the comfortable, largely white and privileged population of the Seattle, it’s another story.
For decades, people have tried to fix the Democratic Party. They've imagined that their failings in this regard could be overcome by a greater effort. But it is hard to imagine anyone in the future mounting as significant an effort as did Bernie Sanders and his supporters.
We're cynically told to just wait, because younger people hold better views. But the holding of views, by anyone, has nothing to do with it. And younger people have a pretty consistent record of becoming older people.
Why does the holding of views have nothing to do with it? Because the Democratic Party is bought and paid for and directed from the top down.
Here is a party that pretends to have solved the healthcare crisis with such self-deluding intensity that it refuses to express support for providing universal healthcare.
Here is a party that criminally pushes for more militarism and war including the overthrow of the Syrian government, and that will not admit the existence of occupied Palestine.
Here is a party that continues to refuse to oppose fracking, that won't put opposition to the TPP in its platform even while its candidate pretends to hold that position, and that won't put free college in its platform even while its candidate pretends to hold that position.
This is where the Democratic Party is after -- just as before -- a challenge from within and without that, if not for systemic corruption, probably would have made a decent candidate the party's nominee and did make that candidate the winner of nearly 50% in its primaries and caucuses. A greater challenge than this is highly unlikely in the coming days, months, years, or decades.
Let's pause a moment and listen to the breeze. There it is. Wait for it.
All together now and con brio: So I want Donald Trump to transform the country into fascism because I hate women, right?
I want you to vote for a woman named Jill Stein, with or without Bernie Sanders on her ticket.
I also want you to recognize that the system is totally corrupted. Cleaning the money out, fixing the communications system, opening up the ballots and debates, abolishing or democratizing the Senate, undoing gerrymandering, creating hand-counted paper ballots at each polling place and an election holiday, banning bribery, publicly funding elections, ending the electoral college and delegates and superdelegates, creating direct democracy through referenda, redistributing power to states and localities, and other necessary reforms are not going to be achieved because of whom we elect within the broken system so much as by what we do to bring pressure to bear on everyone working within it.
The reason to break free of both election obsession and lesser evilism is not that one evil candidate is or isn't worse than another evil candidate. The reason is to make ourselves independent minded throughout the year and to direct our focus toward policy-based popular campaigns for radical change rather than dissipating a movement into cheerleading for a particular set of Misrepresentatives.
The majority of the United States cannot stand either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. That majority needs to take a clear stand for a system of government that does not impose such people on us. Don't fund them. Don't work for them. Don't allow them to go outdoors without protest. Don't allow them to go indoors without protest. #NoTrumpNoClinton should be our position. And our agenda should be investing unprecedented, undreamed of quantities of energy and funding and time and creativity into building a movement to overwhelm whoever claims to be our public servants with our legitimate majority demands to try to save this planet, stop killing, share the wealth, and improve rather than degrade peoples lives with public resources.
Dr. Joseph Gerson has just attended an anti-NATO summit in Poland and has just authored an article called Imperial NATO: Before and After Brexit. Gerson is Director of Programs for the American Friends Service Committee’s Northeast Region and Director of AFSC’s Peace & Economic Security Program. He focuses on preventing nuclear war and achieving nuclear weapons abolition, education and organizing for peaceful and just alternatives to U.S.-led militarization of the Asia-Pacific, and prevention of U.S. wars, focusing most recently on NATO, Ukraine and Iraq. His books include Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World and The Sun Never Sets…Confronting the Network of U.S. Foreign Military Bases.
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Imagine a secret government facility buried deep in the bowels of a mountain; a deluxe bomb shelter -- encased within dense, almost fissure-less rock -- for top government officials to ride out doomsday.
I did. A lot.
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?
By John Grant
Kill one person, it’s called murder.
Kill 100,000, it’s called foreign policy.
- A popular bumper sticker
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
As Police Killings of Minorities Mount, Attacks on Police Like the One in Dallas, While Awful, Are Also Sadly Predictable
By Dave Lindorff
The tragedy that is America has deepened with the news that several people on Thursday organized a military-style sniper attack targeting police in Dallas during a protest march and rally against police brutality and killings of black people in that city.
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.
Editor Note: U.S. intelligence veterans are calling on German Chancellor Merkel to bring a needed dose of realism and restraint to the upcoming NATO conference, which risks escalating the dangerous new Cold War with Russia.
MEMORANDUM FOR: Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: NATO Summit in Warsaw
REFERENCE: Our Memorandum to You, August 30, 2014
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.