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By Jackie Smith and Alfredo Lopez
(The following article was co-written by Dr. Jackie Smith -- of the International Network of Scholar Activsts -- and TCBH member Alfredo Lopez. It is being published here and in other places.)
Thanks to Mark Binder, Programmer, “Yesterday’s Dead Today”, Mondays 7-9 p.m. Eastern, WSLR Sarasota Low-Power FM Community Radio 96.5, www.wslr.org
Learning From Egyptian Revolution
What if people in the United States came to understand "revolution" as something more than a campaign slogan in a presidential election campaign?
Ahmed Salah's new book, You Are Under Arrest for Master Minding the Egyptian Revolution (a Memoir), early on characterizes its own title as an exaggeration, but over the course of the book works to substantiate it. Salah was indeed as involved as anyone in building public momentum in Egypt over a period of years, culminating in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, though all of his accounts of in-fighting among various activist groups necessarily have other accounts from each individual involved.
Of course, master minding a revolution is not like master minding a construction project. It's much more of a gamble, working to prepare people to act effectively when and if a moment arises in which people are willing to act -- and then working to build on that action so that the next round is still more effective. Being able to create those moments is itself more like trying to control the weather, and I think must remain so until new democratic forms of media become truly mass media.
Salah starts his story of movement building with the enormous criminal action that for the first time in many years inspired people in Cairo to risk taking to the streets in protest: the U.S. attack on Iraq in 2003. By protesting a U.S. crime, people could also protest their own corrupt government's complicity in it. They could inspire each other to believe something could be done about a government that had held Egyptians in fear and shame for decades.
In 2004, Egyptian activists, including Salah, created the Kefaya! (Enough!) movement. But they struggled to exercise the right to publicly demonstrate (without being beaten or imprisoned). Again, George W. Bush came to the rescue. His lies about Iraqi weapons had collapsed, and he'd begun spouting a bunch of nonsense about war bringing democracy to the Middle East. That rhetoric, and communications from the U.S. State Department, actually influenced the Egyptian government to exercise a bit of restraint in its oppressive brutality. Also riding to the rescue were new means of communicating, in particular satellite television channels like Al Jazeera, and blogs that could be read by foreign journalists.
Kefaya and another group called Youth for Change that Salah led used humor and theatrical performance to begin to make it acceptable to speak ill of Mubarak. They created fast, small, and unannounced public demonstrations in poor neighborhoods of Cairo, moving on before police could arrive. They did not betray their secret plans by announcing them on the internet, to which most Egyptians did not have access. Salah believes foreign reporters have overstated the importance of the internet for years because it was easier for them to access than street activism.
These activists stayed out of electoral politics in what they saw as a hopelessly corrupt system, though they studied the Otpor movement in Serbia that brought down Slobodan Milosevic. They organized despite serious risks, including government spies and infiltrators, and Salah, like many others, was in and out of prison, in one case using a hunger strike until he was released. "Although the general public tends to doubt," Salah writes, "that placard wielding activists can change anything, Egypt's security apparatus treated us like barbarian invaders. . . . State Security had over 100,000 employees devoted to monitoring and eradicating any group that challenged Mubarak's rule."
Momentum for greater public resistance ebbed and flowed over the the years. In 2007 it was given a boost by workers going on strike and people rioting over the lack of bread. The first independent labor union in Egypt was formed in 2009. Various groups worked to organize a public demonstration on April 6, 2008, during which work Salah recognized a new and important role played by Facebook. Still, struggling to notify the public of a general strike on April 6, activists got a boost from the government which announced in state media that nobody should participate in the planned general strike on April 6 -- thereby informing everyone of its existence and importance.
Salah describes many difficult decisions over the years, including choosing to work with the U.S. government and to travel to the United States to urge the U.S. government to put pressure on Egypt. This risked ruining or did ruin Salah's reputation with people who quite correctly doubted U.S. good intentions. But Salah notes important instances when phone calls from Washington may have allowed protests to happen.
At one point in late 2008 Salah speaks with a U.S. National Security Council official who tells him that the war on Iraq "tarnished the idea of 'democracy promotion'" so therefore Bush wasn't going to do much to promote democracy. At least two questions leap to mind: Should murderous bombing give a bad name to actual nonviolent democracy promotion? and When in the hell did Bush ever before do much for democracy promotion?
Salah and allies tried to convert huge lists of Facebook friends into real world activists without success. They fought with each other and grew frustrated. Then, in 2011, Tunisia happened. In less than a month, the people of Tunisia (with neither U.S. help nor U.S. resistance, one might note) overthrew their dictator. They inspired the Egyptians. This was the weather getting ready to blow a storm through Cairo if someone could figure out how to surf it.
The online call for a day of revolution on January 25th was posted by a former Egyptian police whistleblower living in Virginia (which is also, as I recall, where leaders of the Egyptian military were meeting at the Pentagon at the time -- so perhaps my home state was on both sides). Salah knew and spoke with the whistleblower. Salah was against such quick action, but believing it inevitable due to online promotion, he strategized how to make it as strong as possible.
Whether the action was inevitable or not is unclear, because Salah also went out and questioned people in the streets and couldn't find anyone who'd heard about the plans. He also discovered that people in poor neighborhoods were more likely to believe the government propaganda that came over the only news media they had access to, whereas the middle class was spitting mad at Mubarak. An incident in which police had murdered a middle class young man showed people that they were at risk.
Salah also found that most people who said they would take part in a protest said they would only do it if everyone else went first. They were afraid to be the first to step into a large public square. So, Salah and his allies went to work organizing numerous small groups to begin protests in unannounced locations in middle-class neighborhoods and small streets where the police would be afraid to come after them. The hope, which was realized, was that small marches would grow as they moved toward Tahrir Square, and that upon reaching the square they would collectively be large enough to take it over. Salah stresses that, despite the existence of Twitter and Facebook, it was word of mouth that did the job.
But how would one duplicate that sort of organizing in a place as large as the United States, with the middle class spread across the soul-numbing sprawl? And how would it compete against the highly skillful propaganda of U.S. media outlets? Salah may be right that activists in other countries who have heard about the "Facebook Revolution" and tried to duplicate it have failed because it wasn't real. But a form of communication that can drive a revolution remains greatly to be desired -- with hints at it, I think, visible, not so much in social media, as in independent reporting, or perhaps in the combination of the two.
Salah looks at how the Mubarak government hurt itself by cutting off phones and internet. He discusses the uses of violence within the generally nonviolent revolution, and the use of people's committees to maintain order when the police fled the city. He touches briefly on the incredible mistake of handing a people's revolution over to the military. He doesn't say much about the U.S. role in supporting the counter-revolution. Salah does note that in mid-March 2011 he and other activists met with Hillary Clinton who declined to help them.
Salah now lives in the United States. We should be inviting him to speak in every school and public square. Egypt is a work in progress, of course. The United States is a work not yet begun.
Sam Husseini is the Communications director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, whom I have to thank for having found and promoted many of my previous guests on this show. Husseini wrote an article titled "Katharine Gun’s Risky Truth-telling" about a British official who crucially leaked evidence of NSA spying against UN officials during the buildup to the Iraq invasion. The Intercept has now published copies of the NSA's internal newsletter that fit into that story. See:
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By David Swanson
NBC's Dateline program aired pro-drone propaganda this week and has posted the video online. Their so-called report purports to be "balanced" and "even-handed." In fact it misleadingly promotes an extremely destructive government program that millions of people would protest if they knew the actual facts of the matter.
Dateline introduces us to drones with the claim that drones have saved lives by "hitting terrorist targets." Unlike any negative statement about drones made in the course of this Dateline video, such positive statements are never immediately countered by somebody authoritative saying the opposite in a different vocabulary (such as "murdering human beings never convicted or even indicted for any crime" rather than "hitting terrorist targets"). Much less is any positive statement countered with actual facts. At the very end of the program we'll hear that during this "war on terrorism" terrorism has increased, but the causal connection recognized by numerous experts is brushed over. In fact numerous top officials involved in the U.S. drone program blurt out, the moment they retire, that it is generating more enemies than it is killing. Numerous such statements are publicly available, and such voices could have been included in this program.
Next Dateline shows us a drone pilot in Nevada in his car and "on his way to fight ISIS." In fact, U.S. drone pilots (who dress up as pilots and sit at a desk) blow people up in numerous countries, have (like their commanders) no idea who most of the people are whom they blow up, and have seen ISIS recruitment soar since the U.S. began bombing that organization which its earlier bombings and occupations and prison camps and torture and weapons sales were absolutely central to creating.
Dateline shows us footage of drones, but none of what they do -- only fuzzy videos selected by the Air Force in which we see no humans, no bodies, no body parts, and are just told that the people murdered were ISIS, which is supposed to make it moral and legal. Endless footage exists and is available, including of course from the Air Force, of the people blown to pieces by drones. Plenty of reporting explains that this type of warfare kills more innocent people than even other horrific types of warfare. But Dateline will instead eventually get around to focusing on phony critiques like "Is this too much like playing a video game?"
Peace Fresno event in Fresno, CA
Video by Richard Iyall, board member of Peace Fresno, also with Community Alliance newspaper of Fresno at fresnoalliance.com and of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe
Poll: The frustrated public: Reservations about the two-party system and the fairness of the nominating process - June 1, 2016
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.
President Obama went to Hiroshima, did not apologize, did not state the facts of the matter (that there was no justification for the bombings there and in Nagasaki), and did not announce any steps to reverse his pro-nuke policies (building more nukes, putting more nukes in Europe, defying the nonproliferation treaty, opposing a ban treaty, upholding a first-strike policy, spreading nuclear energy far and wide, demonizing Iran and North Korea, antagonizing Russia, etc.).
Where Obama is usually credited -- and the reason he's usually given a pass on his actual actions -- is in the area of rhetoric. But in Hiroshima, as in Prague, his rhetoric did more harm than good. He claimed to want to eliminate nukes, but he declared that such a thing could not happen for decades (probably not in his lifetime) and he announced that humanity has always waged war (before later quietly claiming that this need not continue).
"Artifacts tell us that violent conflict appeared with the very first man. Our early ancestors having learned to make blades from flint and spears from wood used these tools not just for hunting but against their own kind," said Obama.
"We may not be able to eliminate man’s capacity to do evil, so nations and the alliances that we form must possess the means to defend ourselves," he added, leaping from a false claim about the past to a necessity to continue dumping our resources into the weapons that produce rather than avoid more wars.
After much in this higly damaging vein, Obama added: "But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them. We may not realize this goal in my lifetime, but persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe." He even said: "We’re not bound by genetic code to repeat the mistakes of the past. We can learn. We can choose. We can tell our children a different story. ..." That's right, but the U.S. President had already told a really bad one.
If war were inevitable, as Obama has repeatedly suggested, including in the first ever pro-war Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, there would be little point in trying to end it. If war were inevitable, a moral case might be made for trying to lessen its damage while it continued. And numerous parochial cases could be made for being prepared to win inevitable wars for this side or that side. That's the case Obama makes, without seeming to realize that it applies to other countries too, including countries that feel threatened by the U.S. military.
War has only been around for the most recent fraction of the existence of our species. We did not evolve with it. During this most recent 10,000 years, war has been sporadic. Some societies have not known war. Some have known it and then abandoned it. Just as some of us find it hard to imagine a world without war or murder, some human societies have found it hard to imagine a world with those things. A man in Malaysia, asked why he wouldn’t shoot an arrow at slave raiders, replied “Because it would kill them.” He was unable to comprehend that anyone could choose to kill. It’s easy to suspect him of lacking imagination, but how easy is it for us to imagine a culture in which virtually nobody would ever choose to kill and war would be unknown? Whether easy or hard to imagine, or to create, this is decidedly a matter of culture and not of DNA.
According to myth, war is “natural.” Yet a great deal of conditioning is needed to prepare most people to take part in war, and a great deal of mental suffering is common among those who have taken part. In contrast, not a single person is known to have suffered deep moral regret or post-traumatic stress disorder from war deprivation.
In some societies women have been virtually excluded from war making for centuries and then included. Clearly, this is a question of culture, not of genetic makeup. War is optional, not inevitable, for women and men alike.
Some nations invest much more heavily in militarism than most and take part in many more wars. Some nations, under coercion, play minor parts in the wars of others. Some nations have completely abandoned war. Some have not attacked another country for centuries. Some have put their military in a museum. And even in the United States, 44% of the people tell pollsters that they "would" participate if there were a war, yet with the U.S. currently in 7 wars, less than 1% of the people are in the military.
War long predates capitalism, and surely Switzerland is a type of capitalist nation just as the United States is. But there is a widespread belief that a culture of capitalism — or of a particular type and degree of greed and destruction and short-sightedness — necessitates war. One answer to this concern is the following: any feature of a society that necessitates war can be changed and is not itself inevitable. The military-industrial complex is not an eternal and invincible force. Environmental destructiveness and economic structures based on greed are not immutable.
There is a sense in which this is unimportant; namely, we need to halt environmental destruction and reform corrupt government just as we need to end war, regardless of whether any of these changes depends on the others to succeed. Moreover, by uniting such campaigns into a comprehensive movement for change, strength in numbers will make each more likely to succeed.
But there is another sense in which this is important; namely, we need to understand war as the cultural creation that it is and stop imagining it as something imposed on us by forces beyond our control. In that sense it is important to recognize that no law of physics or sociology requires us to have war because we have some other institution. In fact, war is not required by a particular lifestyle or standard of living because any lifestyle can be changed, because unsustainable practices must end by definition with or without war, and because war actually impoverishes societies that use it.
War in human history up to this point has not correlated with population density or resource scarcity. The idea that climate change and the resulting catastrophes will inevitably generate wars could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is not a prediction based on facts.
The growing and looming climate crisis is a good reason for us to outgrow our culture of war, so that we are prepared to handle crises by other, less destructive means. And redirecting some or all of the vast sums of money and energy that go into war and war preparation to the urgent work of protecting the climate could make a significant difference, both by ending one of our mostenvironmentally destructive activities and by funding a transition to sustainable practices.
In contrast, the mistaken belief that wars must follow climate chaos will encourage investment in military preparedness, thus exacerbating the climate crisis and making more likely the compounding of one type of catastrophe with another.
Human societies have been known to abolish institutions that were widely considered permanent. These have included human sacrifice, blood feuds, duelling, slavery, the death penalty, and many others. In some societies some of these practices have been largely eradicated, but remain illicitly in the shadows and on the margins. Those exceptions don’t tend to convince most people that complete eradication is impossible, only that it hasn’t yet been achieved in that society. The idea of eliminating hunger from the globe was once considered ludicrous. Now it is widely understood that hunger could be abolished — and for a tiny fraction of what is spent on war. While nuclear weapons have not all been dismantled and eliminated, there exists a popular movement working to do just that.
Ending all war is an idea that has found great acceptance in various times and places. It was more popular in the United States, for example, in the 1920s and 1930s. In recent decades, the notion has been propogated that war is permanent. That notion is new, radical, and without basis in fact.
Polling is not often done on support for the abolition of war. Here’s one case when it was done.
And here's a movement to accomplish now what Obama discourages the world by claiming it can't be done anytime soon. Those who say that such things cannot be done have always had and still have the responsibility to get out of the way of the people doing them.
This video addresses the myth that humans are naturally violent: Book Discussion with Paul Chappell on The Art of Waging Peace.
This 1939 antiwar cartoon from MGM gives some indication of how mainstream opposition to war was at the time.
An example of humans’ inclination away from war: the 1914 Christmas truce.
Fry, Douglas P. & Souillac, Geneviéve (2013). The Relevance of Nomadic Forager Studies to Moral Foundations Theory: Moral Education and Global Ethics in the Twenty-First Century. Journal of Moral Education, (July) vol:xx-xx.
Henri Parens (2013) War Is Not Inevitable, Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice, 25:2, 187-194.
Main arguments: Human civilization is at its best with universal education, affordable communication, and international travel as human connectors. War prevention is possible through support and fostering of human rights, securing of governments and institutions against abuses and exploitations by others, internationalization of children’s education, compulsory parenting education, and countering extremism of all kinds.
Brooks, Allan Laurence. “Must war be inevitable? A general semantics essay.” ETC.: A Review of General Semantics 63.1 (2006): 86+. Academic OneFile. Web. 26 Dec. 2013.
Main arguments: Warns against two-valued positions: we are not either aggressive or non-aggressive. Points to the predominant mode of human cooperation throughout history. Arguments in line with many social and behavioral scientists who state that we have the potential to be aggressive and fight wars, but we also have the potential to be non-aggressive and peaceful.
Zur, Ofer. (1989). War Myths: Exploration of the Dominant Collective Beliefs about Warfare. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 29(3), 297-327. doi: 10.1177/0022167889293002.
Main arguments: Author critically examines three myths about war: (1) war is part of human nature; (2) decent people are peaceful and seek to avoid war; (3) war is a male institution. Good point made: Disqualifying myths scientifically does not reduce their importance to the people and cultures subscribing to them. “Exposing the erroneous nature of these beliefs can be the first step out of the vicious cycle of destructive, unconscious self-fulfilling prophecies”.
Zur, Ofer. (1987). The Psychohistory of Warfare: The Co-Evolution of Culture, Psyche and Enemy. Journal of Peace Research, 24(2), 125-134. doi: 10.1177/002234338702400203.
Main arguments: Humans have had the technical and physical ability to create and use weapons against each other for the last 200,000 years, but only created and used weapons against each other in the last 13,000 years. Wars have been waged only one percent of human evolutionary time.
The Seville Statement on Violence: PDF.
World’s leading behavior scientists refute the notion that organized human violence [e.g. war] is biologically determined. The statement was adopted by the UNESCO.
Beyond War: The Human Potential for Peace by Doug Fry
On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman
Peaceful Revolution by Paul K. Chappell
The End of War by John Horgan
A Future Without War: The Strategy of a Warfare Transition by Judith Hand
American Wars: Illusions and Realities by Paul Buchheit
The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War by James Bradley
Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves by Adam Hochschild
Fry, Douglas. P. (2013). War, peace, and human nature : the convergence of evolutionary and cultural views. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kemp, Graham, & Fry, Douglas P. (2004). Keeping the peace : conflict resolution and peaceful societies around the world. New York: Routledge.
If there will be a debate between Trump and Sanders, I hope it will be conducted in a civil, respectful manner. Trump has been viciously attacked by the media, politicians and pundits calling him names such as fascist, racist, bigot, misogynist, etc. In truth Trump and Sanders are the best presidential candidates compared to their opponents which are the relics of a past of wars, economic recession, inequality, corruption. They both reflect a popular desire to clean up this mess. They both try to address the root societal problems but with different solutions. They may even find a common ground on some issues. A debate between them should highlights their differences without resorting to personal insults and disparaging remarks.
I am a Sanders supporter and I disagree with some Trump statements but I recognize the beneficial effects of his campaign. Trump defeated his opponents who were backed by powerful, moneyed interest groups and the Republican establishment and certainly this was not a small feat! He spelled out his thoughts frankly, clearly, in a non professional style. And he found an audience tired of old policies and lies by consummate politicians and looking for someone who 'tells it like it is'. Whoever become the next U.S. president, either Sanders or Trump, after the elections they will need each other’s supporters to enact their programs.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Never mind an apology, Obama should admit the truth
By David Swanson, TeleSUR
Since before he entered the White House, Barack Obama has proposed handling past crimes by powerful people and entities through a policy called "looking forward" -- in other words, by ignoring them. While President Obama has targeted whistleblowers with retribution and more prosecutions than his predecessors, deported more immigrants, and kept the lights on in Guantanamo, anyone responsible for war or assassination or torture or lawless imprisonment or most major Wall Street scams (or sharing military secrets with one's mistress) has been given a total pass. Why shouldn't Harry Truman receive the same privilege?
This policy, now being brought to Hiroshima, has been a miserable failure. Wars based on lies to Congress have been displaced by wars without Congress at all. Assassinations and support for coups are open public policy, with Tuesday kill list selections and State Department support for regimes in Honduras, Ukraine, and Brazil. Torture, in the new Washington consensus, is a policy choice with at least one presidential candidate campaigning on making greater use of it. Lawless imprisonment is likewise respectable in the hoped-and-changed world, and Wall Street is doing what it did before.
Obama has carried this policy of "looking forward" backward into the past, prior to his upcoming visit to Hiroshima. "Looking forward" requires only ignoring criminality and responsibility; it permits acknowledging occurrences in the past if one does so with a face that appears regretful and eager to move on. While Obama disagreed with President George W. Bush on Iraq, Bush meant well, or so Obama now says. As did U.S. forces in Vietnam, Obama says. The Korean War was actually a victory, Obama has rather surprisingly announced. "The risk-takers, the doers . . . [who] settled the West" prove "the greatness of our nation." That was how Obama euphemized the North American genocide in his first inaugural address. What might one expect him to say of the romanticized acts of mass-murder in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the Truman regime squeezed in before World War II could end?
Many peace activists whom I greatly respect have been, along with survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (called Hibakusha), urging Obama to apologize for the nuclear bombings and/or to meet briefly with survivors. I am not opposed to such steps, but rhetoric and photo ops are not what's really needed and can often work against what's really needed. By virtue of his rhetoric and party membership, Obama has been given a pass on his warmaking for over seven years. I'd have preferred he said nothing, made no speeches at all. By virtue of a speech in Prague in which Obama persuaded people that eliminating nukes must take decades, he has been given a pass on massive investment in new nukes, continued first-strike policy, more nukes in Europe, escalated hostility toward Russia, continued noncompliance with the nonproliferation treaty, and dangerous fear mongering around Iran's scary (though nonexistent) nuclear weapons program.
What's needed is not an apology so much as an admission of the facts. When people learn the facts around claims of mountaintop rescues in Iraq, or where ISIS came from, whether Gadaffi was really threatening to massacre and handing out Viagra for rape, whether Iraq really had WMDs or took babies out of incubators, what actually happened in the Gulf of Tonkin, why the USS Maine blew up in Havana harbor, and so forth, then people turn against war. Then they all come to believe that an apology is needed. And they offer apologies on behalf of their government. And they demand a formal apology. This is what should happen for Hiroshima.
I've joined over 50 U.S. signers on a letter drafted by historian Peter Kuznick to be published on May 23rd that asks President Obama to make good use of his visit to Hiroshima by:
- "Meeting with all Hibakusha who are able to attend
- Announcing the end of U.S. plans to spend $1 trillion for the new generation of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems
- Reinvigorating nuclear disarmament negotiations to go beyond New START by announcing the unilateral reduction of the deployed U.S. arsenal to 1,000 nuclear weapons or fewer
- Calling on Russia to join with the United States in convening the 'good faith negotiations' required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty for the complete elimination of the world's nuclear arsenals.
- Reconsidering your refusal to apologize or discuss the history surrounding the A-bombings, which even President Eisenhower, Generals MacArthur, King, Arnold, and LeMay and Admirals Leahy and Nimitz stated were not necessary to end the war."
If President Obama just apologizes, without explaining the facts of the matter, then he'll simply get himself denounced as a traitor without making the U.S. public any less likely to back wars. The need to "discuss the history" is therefore critical.
When asked if Obama would himself have done what Truman did, Obama's spokesman Josh Earnest said: "I think what the president would say is that it's hard to put yourself in that position from the outside. I think what the president does appreciate is that president Truman made this decision for the right reasons. President Truman was focused on the national security interests of the United States, . . . on bringing an end to a terrible war. And president Truman made this decision fully mindful of the likely human toll. I think it's hard to look back and second-guess it too much."
This is quintessential "looking forward." One must not look back and second-guess that someone powerful did something wrong. One should look back and conclude that he had good intentions, thus rendering whatever damage he caused "collateral damage" of those all-absolving good intentions.
This wouldn't matter so much if people in the United States knew the actual history of what happened to Hiroshima. Here's a recent Reuters article tactfully distinguishing between what people in the United States imagine and what historians understand:
"A majority of Americans see the bombings as having been necessary to end the war and save U.S. and Japanese lives, although many historians question that view. Most Japanese believe they were unjustified."
Reuters goes on to advocate for looking forward:
"Officials in both countries have made clear they want to stress the present and future, not dig into the past, even as the two leaders honor all victims of the war."
Honoring victims by avoiding looking at what happened to them? Almost humorously, Reuters turns immediately to asking the Japanese government to look backward:
"Even without an apology, some hope that Obama's visit will highlight the huge human cost of the bombings and pressure Japan to own up more forthrightly to its responsibilities and atrocities."
As it should. But how will Obama visiting the site of a massive and unprecedented crime, and blatantly failing to acknowledge the criminality and responsibility encourage Japan to take the opposite approach?
I have previously drafted what I'd like to hear Obama say in Hiroshima. Here's an excerpt:
"There has for many years no longer been any serious dispute. Weeks before the first bomb was dropped, on July 13, 1945, Japan sent a telegram to the Soviet Union expressing its desire to surrender and end the war. The United States had broken Japan's codes and read the telegram. Truman referred in his diary to 'the telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace.' President Truman had been informed through Swiss and Portuguese channels of Japanese peace overtures as early as three months before Hiroshima. Japan objected only to surrendering unconditionally and giving up its emperor, but the United States insisted on those terms until after the bombs fell, at which point it allowed Japan to keep its emperor.
"Presidential advisor James Byrnes had told Truman that dropping the bombs would allow the United States to 'dictate the terms of ending the war.' Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal wrote in his diary that Byrnes was 'most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in.' Truman wrote in his diary that the Soviets were preparing to march against Japan and 'Fini Japs when that comes about.' Truman ordered the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th and another type of bomb, a plutonium bomb, which the military also wanted to test and demonstrate, on Nagasaki on August 9th. Also on August 9th, the Soviets attacked the Japanese. During the next two weeks, the Soviets killed 84,000 Japanese while losing 12,000 of their own soldiers, and the United States continued bombing Japan with non-nuclear weapons. Then the Japanese surrendered.
"The United States Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that, '… certainly prior to 31 December, 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November, 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.' One dissenter who had expressed this same view to the Secretary of War prior to the bombings was General Dwight Eisenhower. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William D. Leahy agreed: 'The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender,' he said."
Fortunately for the world, the non-nuclear nations are moving to ban nuclear weapons. Bringing nuclear nations on board and effecting disarmament will require beginning to tell the truth.
Key issue left unraised is secret financial deals: With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
By Dave Lindorff
When it comes to Hillary Clinton’s State Department email scandal, reporters -- and even her right-wing critics in the Republican Party -- are asking the wrong question.
Editor Note: The State Department’s Inspector General issued a blunt report criticizing Hillary Clinton’s imperious refusal to follow email rules as Secretary of State, adding to Clinton’s credibility problem.
By Ray McGovern
State Department functionaries faced a hopeless task as they tried to spin their own Inspector General’s matter-of-fact critique of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s imperial attitude toward basic security measures everyone else is required by law to follow.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
On May 4, several environmental organizations filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling for an end to the regulatory exemption it carved out in the late 1980s for the oil and gas industry with regards to how it handles industrial waste.
Photo Credit: United States Geological Survey
I'm committing to not vote for Clinton or Trump, and you can do the same.
The Democratic Party's undemocratic primaries are not over, and nobody has won them. It is entirely possible that Hillary Clinton will not be nominated for any office. That doesn't prevent us from going ahead and committing to never vote for either her or Donald Trump for president of the United States.
Making this commitment could send a badly needed message to the world: There are people in the United States with some minimal level of decency. It could also kickstart the movement that will be needed to resist the regime of whichever of them wins. It could also alert Californian Democrats to the need to vote for Bernie Sanders in the primary.
There's a cartoon floating around at which a Muslim U.S. voter tries to choose between "Ban my relatives from entering country" and "Bomb the s--- out of my relatives." Not much of a choice, is it? Especially when the bomber is following the model of our current president with his record deportations, and the banner is a loose cannon who's proposed to kill the families of designated enemies in the Middle East.
This is the essence of the problem. Whichever of these two you were to vote for, you'd get wars, nasty policies toward immigrants, plutocratic policies toward wealth, and destructive policies toward the natural environment -- barring the arising of a powerful popular movement to bring the government under control.
Sure, one candidate is a comically ill-informed jackass who hates women, while the other is a woman whose comically jackassy policies will come with great scholarly volumns of ill information. But where does either of those really get us?
Lesser evilism predictably produces a pair of candidates each cycle who are both worse than was the more evil candidate last time. This cannot go on forever, and has already gone too far. We need a nonviolent movement to reform our election system -- something not done through elections. But there are plenty of good candidates, such as Jill Stein, to check or write in. We should vote for those good candidates and get right back to work on improving the world.
Here are a few reminders of who the "progressive" candidate of the "Democratic" Party is:
"For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be." —Robert Kagan
"I have a sense that she's one of the more competent members of the current administration and it would be interesting to speculate about how she might perform were she to be president." —Dick Cheney
"I've known her for many years now, and I respect her intellect. And she ran the State Department in the most effective way that I've ever seen." —Henry Kissinger
Nobody Beats This Record
- She says President Obama was wrong not to launch missile strikes on Syria in 2013.
- She pushed hard for the overthrow of Qadaffi in 2011.
- She supported the coup government in Honduras in 2009.
- She has backed escalation and prolongation of war in Afghanistan.
- She voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
- She skillfully promoted the White House justification for the war on Iraq.
- She does not hesitate to back the use of drones for targeted killing.
- She has consistently backed the military initiatives of Israel.
- She was not ashamed to laugh at the killing of Qadaffi.
- She has not hesitated to warn that she could obliterate Iran.
- She is not afraid to antagonize Russia.
- She helped facilitate a military coup in Ukraine.
- She has the financial support of the arms makers and many of their foreign customers.
- She waived restrictions at the State Department on selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar, all states wise enough to donate to the Clinton Foundation.
- She supported President Bill Clinton's wars and the power of the president to make war without Congress.
- She has advocated for arming fighters in Syria.
- She supported a surge in Iraq even before President Bush did.
By David Swanson, American Herald Tribune
Consider this a friendly reminder to President Obama on his way to Hiroshima.
No matter how many years one writes books, does interviews, publishes columns, and speaks at events, it remains virtually impossible to make it out the door of an event in the United States at which you've advocated abolishing war without somebody hitting you with the what-about-the-good-war question.
Of course this belief that there was a good war 75 years ago is what moves the U.S. public to tolerate dumping a trillion dollars a year into preparing in case there's a good war next year, even in the face of so many dozens of wars during the past 70 years on which there's general consensus that they were not good. Without rich, well-established myths about World War II, current propaganda about Russia or Syria or Iraq would sound as crazy to most people as it sounds to me.
And of course the funding generated by the Good War legend leads to more bad wars, rather than preventing them.
I've written on this topic at great length in many articles and books, especially this one. But perhaps it would be helpful to provide a column-length list of the top reasons that the good war was not good.
1. World War II could not have happened without World War I, without the stupid manner of starting World War I and the even stupider manner of ending World War I which led numerous wise people to predict World War II on the spot, without Wall Street's funding of Nazi Germany for decades (as preferable to commies), and without the arms race and numerous bad decisions that do not need to be repeated in the future.
2. The U.S. government was not hit with a surprise attack. President Franklin Roosevelt had committed to Churchill to provoking Japan and worked hard to provoke Japan, and knew the attack was coming, and initially drafted a declaration of war against both Germany and Japan on the evening of Pearl Harbor -- before which time, FDR had built up bases in the U.S. and multiple oceans, traded weapons to the Brits for bases, started the draft, created a list of every Japanese American person in the country, provided planes, trainers, and pilots to China, imposed harsh sanctions on Japan, and advised the U.S. military that a war with Japan was beginning.
3. The war was not humanitarian and was not even marketed as such until after it was over. There was no poster asking you to help Uncle Sam save the Jews. A ship of Jewish refugees was chased away from Miami by the Coast Guard. The U.S. and other nations would not allow Jewish refugees in, and the majority of the U.S. public supported that position. Peace groups that questioned Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his foreign secretary about shipping Jews out of Germany to save them were told that Hitler might very well agree to that but it would be too much trouble and require too many ships. The U.S. engaged in no diplomatic or military effort to save the victims in the camps. Anne Frank was denied a U.S. visa.
4. The war was not defensive. FDR lied that he had a map of Nazi plans to carve up South America, that he had a Nazi plan to eliminate religion, that U.S. ships actually assisting British war planes were innocently attacked by Nazis, that Germany was in fact a threat to the United States. A case can be made that the U.S. needed to enter the war in Europe to defend other nations, which had entered to defend yet other nations, but a case could also be made that the U.S. escalated the targeting of civilians, extended the war, and created more damage than might have been, had it done nothing, attempted diplomacy, or invested in nonviolence. To claim that a Nazi empire could have grown to someday include an occupation of the United States is wildly far fetched and not borne out by any earlier or later examples of other wars.
5. We now know much more widely and with much more data that nonviolent resistance to occupation and injustice is more likely to succeed, and that success more likely to last, than violent resistance. With this knowledge, we can look back at the stunning successes of nonviolent actions against the Nazis that were not well organized or built on beyond their initial successes.
6. The good war was not for supporting the troops. In fact, lacking intense modern conditioning to prepare soldiers to engage in the unnatural act of murder, some 80 percent of U.S. and other troops in World War II did not fire their weapons at the enemies. That those soldiers were treated better after the war than soldiers in other wars had been, or have been since, was the result of the pressure created by the Bonus Army after the previous war. That veterans were given free college was not due to the merits of the war or in some way a result of the war. Without the war, everyone could have been given free college for many years. If we provided free college to everyone today, it would take way more than World War II stories to get people into military recruiting stations.
7. Several times the number of people killed in German camps were killed outside of them in the war. The majority of those people were civilians. The scale of the killing, wounding, and destroying made this war the single worst thing humanity has ever done to itself in a short space of time. That it was somehow "opposed" to the far lesser killing in the camps -- although, again, it actually wasn't -- can't justify the cure that was worse than the disease.
8. Escalating the war to include the all-out destruction of civilian cities, culminating in the completely indefensible nuking of cities took this war out of the realm of defensible projects for many who had defended its initiation -- and rightly so. Demanding unconditional surrender and seeking to maximize death and suffering did immense damage and left a legacy that has continued.
9. Killing huge numbers of people is supposedly defensible for the "good" side in a war, but not the "bad." The distinction between the two is never as stark as fantasized. The United States had an apartheid state for African Americans, camps for Japanese Americans, a tradition of genocide against Native Americans that inspired Nazis, programs of eugenics and human experimentation before, during, and after the war (including giving syphilis to people in Guatemala during the Nuremberg trials). The U.S. military hired hundreds of top Nazis at the end of the war. They fit right in. The U.S. aimed for a wider world empire, before the war, during it, and ever since.
10. The "good" side of the "good war," the party that did most of the killing and dying for the winning side, was the communist Soviet Union. That doesn't make the war a triumph for communism, but it does tarnish the tales of triumph for "democracy."
11. World War II still hasn't ended. Ordinary people in the United States didn't have their incomes taxed until World War II and that's never stopped. It was supposed to be temporary. The bases have never closed. The troops have never left Germany or Japan. There are over 100,000 U.S. and British bombs still in the ground in Germany, still killing.
12. Going back 75 years to a nuclear-free, colonial, world of completely different structures, laws, and habits to justify what has been the greatest expense of the United States in each of the years since is a bizarre feat of self-deception that isn't attempted in the justification of any lesser enterprise. Assume I've got numbers 1 through 11 totally wrong, and you've still got to explain how the world of the early 1940s justifies dumping into 2017 wars funding that could have fed, clothed, cured, and environmentally protected the earth.
May 23, 2016
President Barack Obama
The White House
Dear Mr. President,
We were happy to learn of your plans to be the first sitting president of the United States to visit Hiroshima this week, after the G-7 economic summit in Japan. Many of us have been to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and found it a profound, life-changing experience, as did Secretary of State John Kerry on his recent visit.
In particular, meeting and hearing the personal stories of A-bomb survivors, Hibakusha, has made a unique impact on our work for global peace and disarmament. Learning of the suffering of the Hibakusha, but also their wisdom, their awe-inspiring sense of humanity, and steadfast advocacy of nuclear abolition so the horror they experienced can never happen again to other human beings, is a precious gift that cannot help but strengthen anyone’s resolve to dispose of the nuclear menace.
Your 2009 Prague speech calling for a world free of nuclear weapons inspired hope around the world, and the New START pact with Russia, historic nuclear agreement with Iran and securing and reducing stocks of nuclear weapons-grade material globally have been significant achievements.
Yet, with more than 15,000 nuclear weapons (93% held by the U.S. and Russia) still threatening all the peoples of the planet, much more needs to be done. We believe you can still offer crucial leadership in your remaining time in office to move more boldly toward a world without nuclear weapons.
In this light, we strongly urge you to honor your promise in Prague to work for a nuclear weapons-free world by:
- Meeting with all Hibakusha who are able to attend;
- Announcing the end of U.S. plans to spend $1 trillion for the new generation of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems;
- Reinvigorating nuclear disarmament negotiations to go beyond New START by announcing the unilateral reduction of the deployed U.S. arsenal to 1,000 nuclear weapons or fewer;
- Calling on Russia to join with the United States in convening the “good faith negotiations” required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty for the complete elimination of the world’s nuclear arsenals;
- Reconsidering your refusal to apologize or discuss the history surrounding the A-bombings, which even President Eisenhower, Generals MacArthur, King, Arnold, and LeMay and Admirals Leahy and Nimitz stated were not necessary to end the war.
Gar Alperowitz, University of Maryland
Christian Appy, Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts,
Amherst, author of American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity
Colin Archer, Secretary-General, International Peace Bureau
Charles K. Armstrong, Professor of History, Columbia University
Medea Benjamin, Co-founder, CODE PINK, Women for Peace and Global Exchange
Phyllis Bennis, Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies
Herbert Bix, Professor of History, State University of New York, Binghamton
Norman Birnbaum, University Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University Law Center
Reiner Braun, Co-President, International Peace Bureau
Philip Brenner, Professor of International Relations and Director of the Graduate Program in US Foreign Policy and National Security, American University
Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation; National Co-convener, United for Peace and Justice
James Carroll, Author of An American Requiem
Noam Chomsky, Professor (emeritus), Massachusetts Institute of Technology
David Cortright, Director of Policy Studies, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame and former Executive Director, SANE
Frank Costigliola, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, niversity of Connecticut
Bruce Cumings, Professor of History, University of Chicago
Alexis Dudden, Professor of History, University of Connecticut
Daniel Ellsberg, Former State and Defense Department official
John Feffer, Director, Foreign Policy In Focus, Institute for Policy Studies
Gordon Fellman, Professor of Sociology and Peace Studies, Brandeis University.
Bill Fletcher, Jr., Talk Show Host, Writer & Activist.
Norma Field, professor emerita, University of Chicago
Carolyn Forché, University Professor, Georgetown University
Max Paul Friedman, Professor of History, American University.
Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.
Lloyd Gardner, Professor of History Emeritus, Rutgers University, author Architects of Illusion and The Road to Baghdad.
Irene Gendzier Prof. Emeritus, Department of of History, Boston University
Joseph Gerson, Director, American Friends Service Committee Peace & Economic Security Program, author of With Hiroshima Eyes and Empire and the Bomb
Todd Gitlin, Professor of Sociology, Columbia University
John Hallam, Human Survival Project, People for Nuclear Disarmament, Australia
Melvin Hardy, Heiwa Peace Committee, Washington, DC
Laura Hein, Professor of History, Northwestern University
Martin Hellman, Member, US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University
Kate Hudson, General Secretary, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (UK)
Paul Joseph, Professor of Sociology, Tufts University
Louis Kampf, Professor of Humanities Emeritus MIT
Michael Kazin, Professor of History, Georgetown University
Asaf Kfoury, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, Boston University
Peter King, Honorary Associate, Government & International Relations School of Social and Political Sciences, The University of Sydney, NSW
David Krieger, President Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Peter Kuznick, Professor of History and Director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University, is author of Beyond the Laboratory
John W. Lamperti, Professor of Mathematics Emeritus, Dartmouth College
Steven Leeper, Co-founder PEACE Institute, Former Chairman, Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation
Robert Jay Lifton, MD, Lecturer in Psychiatry Columbia University, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, The City University of New York
Elaine Tyler May, Regents Professor, University of Minnesota, Author of Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era
Kevin Martin, President, Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund
Ray McGovern, Veterans For Peace, Former Head of CIA Soviet Desk and Presidential Daily Briefer
David McReynolds, Former Chair, War Resister International
Zia Mian, Professor, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
Tetsuo Najita, Professor of Japanese History, Emeritus, University of Chicago, former president of Association of Asian Studies
Sophie Quinn-Judge, Retired Professor, Center for Vietnamese Philosophy, Culture and Society, Temple University
Steve Rabson, Professor Emeritus of East Asian Studies, Brown University, Veteran, United States Army
Betty Reardon, Founding Director Emeritus of the International Institute on Peace Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
Terry Rockefeller, Founding Member, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows,
David Rothauser Filmmaker, Memory Productions, producer of “Hibakusha, Our Life to Live” and “Article 9 Comes to America
James C. Scott, Professor of Political Science and Anthropology, Yale University, ex-President of the Association of Asian Studies
Peter Dale Scott, Professor of English Emeritus, University of California, Berkleley and author of American War Machine
Mark Selden, Senior Research Associate Cornell University, editor, Asia-Pacific Journal, coauthor, The Atomic Bomb: Voices From Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Martin Sherwin, Professor of History, George Mason University, Pulitzer Prize for American Prometheus
John Steinbach, Hiroshima Nagasaki Committee
Oliver Stone, Academy Award-winning writer and director
David Swanson, director of World Beyond War
Max Tegmark, Professor of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Founder, Future of Life Institute
Ellen Thomas, Proposition One Campaign Executive Director, Co-Chair, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (US) Disarm/End Wars Issue Committee
Michael True, Emeritus Professor, Assumption College, is co-founder of the Center for Nonviolent Solutions
David Vine, Professor, Department of Sociology, American University
Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament 2009 Laureate, Right Livelihood Award
Jon Weiner, Professor Emeritus of History, University of California Irvine
Lawrence Wittner, Professor of History emeritus, SUNY/Albany
Col. Ann Wright, US Army Reserved (Ret.) & former US diplomat
Marilyn Young, Professor of History, New York University
Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics & Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies, University of San Francisco
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Democratic socialism used to be a vibrant force in American life. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, the Socialist Party of America, headed by the charismatic union leader, Eugene V. Debs, grew rapidly, much like its sister parties in Europe and elsewhere: the British Labour Party, the French Socialist Party, the Swedish Social Democratic Party, the Australian Labor Party, and dozens of similar parties that voters chose to govern their countries.
A group of U.S. intelligence veterans is calling on President Obama to expedite the FBI review of former Secretary of State Clinton’s alleged email security violations so the public can assess this issue in a timely fashion.
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
SUBJECT: Those “Damn Emails” – “Really a Concern”
No one should be forced to register to represent our country in combat
By Kristin Christman
Published in the Albany Times Union May 22, 2016
Josef Beno didn't want to go to war. A Czech, he didn't want to kill his fellow Slavs, the Russians. A father, he didn't want to leave his starving family unprotected.
But the year was 1915 and Austria-Hungary was rounding up men and boys to serve in the war. Those who resisted were shot. After hiding for a year, Josef was captured for conscription. He escaped, only to be captured by Russians and marched to Siberia.
As the story goes, troops received injections by needle to make them aggressive. Perhaps it was merely a tale to explain a father's changed temper, for upon returning home, Josef physically abused his wife and children, including his daughter, my grandmother.
A lesson here for Sanders?: 72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
By Dave Lindorff
A 72-year-old college professor named Alexander van der Bellen, running for president as the candidate of the leftist Austrian Green Party, a fringe party that had never been considered a serious contender in post-war Austrian politics, just won a narrow victory over Norbert Hofer, a right-wing candidate of the neo-fascist Freedom Party who had been favored to win.
I've come around in favor of backing all moderates. The question appeared to me for a long time as a difficult one. Should one give anti-aircraft weaponry, for example, to al Qaeda fighters in Syria in order to better combat ISIS (which could some day develop the airplane)?
The answer is yes, if, and only if, those fighters are moderates.
Now, who's a moderate? Some people get confused on this part, but it's not really that difficult to get straight. Fighters who want to blow up buildings and airplanes and cars and pedestrians and playgrounds can be either moderates or extremists, since war has nothing to do with their categorization. After all, we're picking which people to arm in the war.
Also, the question of whom a fighter is fighting for or against is completely irrelevant. The CIA and the Department of Defense have armed and trained forces that are fighting against each other in Syria. Obviously, both are moderate.
The answer to "Who is a moderate?" actually comes down to this: What sort of an ideal world would they like to see in the future, and is there anyone else who would like to see some sort of world that sucks worse than theirs? That's it. Simple. And you have to keep it simple. Don't go looking into whether they're actually creating that ideal world. That's not relevant. Both the moderates and the extremists are obviously creating a world of death, injury, trauma, bitterness, vengeance, rubble, starvation, and toxic pollution. The moderates, again, are the ones who are doing this while envisioning a utopia that's not as grotesque as someone else's.
This is also why I'm routing for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA playoffs. All the teams dribble and pass (well, except Oklahoma City) and shoot. But if you survey the players as to what sort of society they'd like to live in, the Cleveland players have the best answers -- or at least that's what my 18 intelligence agencies guess without actually, you know, asking them.
I believe we should be applying this policy to rapists as well. Just as fighters in a war all murder people, rapists all rape. But some of them must be moderates, and those are the ones we should support. We just need to determine their political ideologies. The same goes, I think, for sweatshop owners, and ought to be a guide to ethical investment and shopping. One need only keep up on the political views of the new owners after every sale.
The U.S. government has been distributing military weapons to local police forces in a rather haphazard manner heretofore. Some have asked that police departments that murder too many unarmed citizens not receive free military weapons any longer. This misses the point entirely. The departments that should be cut off are those whose members envision the worst future society.
You see the universality of this? All things in moderation, as the saying goes.
I'm personally delighted to have discovered this guide to life's difficult decisions. I plan to use it in voting come November, and to abandon all active thought processes immediately.
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz has taught in the Native American Studies Program at California State University, Hayward, and helped found the Departments of Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies. Her 1977 book The Great Sioux Nation was the fundamental document at the first international conference on Indigenous peoples of the Americas, held at the United Nations’ headquarters in Geneva. Dunbar-Ortiz is the author or editor of seven other books, including Roots of Resistance: A History of Land Tenure in New Mexico, and including An Indigenous People's History of the United States.
She discusses the idea that President Obama is the longest serving war president.
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The New York Times recently claimed, and peace advocates repeated, that President Barack Obama will be the first U.S. president to have been at war for two complete four-year terms. It's also become common to refer to the current U.S. war on Afghanistan as the longest U.S. war ever. These ideas fit well with the universal activist demand that we return to the time of peace or the age of justice or the wisdom of the Founding Fathers or the era before superdelegates.
This is all based on a fundamental misunderstanding of history, and of its uses and abuses for life. You cannot "take back our country!" because you never had it. There is no age of peace or justice to be returned to. The United States has been at war since before it was a United States, and formed itself as such in part in order to expand its western wars.
One value of history is in fact to recognize how much better or worse or simply different things have been in other times and places. But the purpose of that is not to restore some better time. All past times thus far, each taken as a whole, have been horrendously awful. The purpose is to facilitate the rejection of the silly idea that we're stuck with whatever we happen to have in the way of a lifestyle at the moment.
One can always find specific ways in which things were once better. Bush used to lie to Congress and get authorizations for wars. Obama just goes to war. But both are awful. The desire to end war was common in the 1920s. Now it's unthinkable for millions of U.S. citizens. But both frames of mind lacked an effective path to peace.
One can always find specific ways in which things were once worse. The war on Vietnam and neighboring nations killed some 6 million people. The latest U.S. wars may have killed less than half of that. Teddy Roosevelt marketed wars as desirable means of building character and slaughtering lesser races. Barack Obama markets wars as philanthropic assistance to the places being bombed. But both kill just the same.
In the perspective of the recent past, we should not be looking at Obama as the longest war president, but rather as a president who has added his bit to the normalization of war, to the restoration of permanent war as routine and unquestionable. It's not the length of his wars that stands out, but the number of them: seven significant wars that we know of, the 2001 AUMF used and misused for military actions in 14 countries, "special" forces active in 75 countries, troops permanently stationed in 175 countries -- and all of this with very little public or Congressional involvement or even awareness.
Targeted and not-so-targeted assassinations, coups, and counter-insurgency operations stretch through the entire history of the United States, as do decades-long wars. To understand this, we have to begin thinking of Native Americans as real people, so that wars against them count as real wars. A good way to do this is by listening to Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Read her book, An Indigenous People's History of the United States, or catch her interview on this week's Talk Nation Radio.
Dunbar-Ortiz tells a story of endless genocidal war that employed settlers and their militias against the native people of North America in a manner not unlike Israel's use of settlers against the Palestinians. The first law created by the United States was the Northwest Ordinance, a "blueprint for gobbling up the British-protected Indian Territory." According to Dunbar-Ortiz, "documented policies of genocide on the part of U.S. administrations can be identified in at least four distinct periods: the Jacksonian era of forced removal; the California gold rush in Northern California; the Post-Civil War era of the so-called Indian wars in the Great Plains; and the 1950s termination period."
Some of the settlers of the United States had previously settled Ireland, where the British had paid rewards for Irish heads and body parts, just as they would for Indian scalps. The United States for many years sought out immigrants who could settle on native land. The war on Mexico was not the first foreign war of the United States. The U.S. had attacked numerous Indian nations. Mexico was just one more in that string. With the land now filled, attitudes toward immigrants and toward the rest of the globe have shifted. "Indian Country," in the dialect of the U.S. military, refers to distant lands to be attacked with dozens of weapons named for Native American nations.
John Yoo justified lawless imprisonment, now evolved into lawless murder by drone, with the ancient Roman concept of homo sacer, a person who must obey the government but whom the government or anyone else may kill. Yoo referred to past U.S. Supreme Court opinions upholding this category for Native Americans. The Indian was the original "terrorist."
The United States did not go to war after reaching California. Rather it simply continued the war it had been in from the start. The United States didn't wage war for decades because of a communist threat and then for additional decades because of a terrorist threat. Rather, lies about Crazy Horse on the warpath (while he was in a reservation) evolved into lies about missile gaps which evolved into lies about incubators, WMDs, and Libyan Viagra.
None of this makes war unendable. We can end it tomorrow if we choose. The unimaginative can check the history of other parts of the world that have engaged in war far less or not at all. But we will not bring the U.S. corner of the world under control until after we recognize what the problem is.