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(Prefacing remarks: My dealer writes to thank me
for letting them fix the airbag on my Suby Outback.
Apparently I was driving my car for many years with
a defective airbag that was a potentially lethal weapon.
There is a long history of social critics and progressive thinkers offering critiques of human society.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
By Dave Lindorff
A few years ago, I contacted my local police department asking them to send an officer over to put down a doe that had been hit by a car on the street in front of my house. She had suffered a left front and right rear leg break but had somehow flopped herself well into the yard and was on the ground suffering. When a cop arrived, and began to approach her with his pistol I warned him off, saying the deer would hurt herself more trying to get away.
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Mikhail Gorbachev and Barack Obama have radically different views on what is involved in doing away with nuclear weapons.
Reading Gorbachev's new book, The New Russia, is a bit disappointing, but it contains some key insights. It may also be a cure for insomnia; it's no page turner. It's part decades-long diary and travelogue, part petty self-aggrandizement (by someone in no need), and part ill-informed conservatism.
Gorby claims that Obama "honoured his promise to withdraw from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan." In fact, both are still raging, the never completed withdrawal from Iraq fell wildly short of the campaign-promise schedule, and Obama actually promised to escalate in Afghanistan, which he did, tripling the U.S. presence and making that war primarily his own in terms of deaths, days, and dollars. The fact that smart well-informed people abroad, like Gorbachev, fall for common U.S. myths is an indication of how very difficult foreign relations can be.
In what's being called the worst mass killing by the United States in the past six months, numerous mentally disturbed individuals, with the extensive backing of a well-financed terrorist organization, and support from a growing circle of allied gang members, have gruesomely slaughtered 1,110 to 1,558 innocent men, women, and children.
This incident, which has left shocked and speechless a handful of people who've heard and thought about it, took place between December 1, 2015, and May 31, 2016, during which interval the killers got off 4,087 airstrikes, including 3,010 over Iraq and 1,077 over Syria.
Aiding and abetting the slaughter, and now also being sought by law enforcement, are France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, Denmark, and Canada. In what is widely understood as an appeal for judicial mercy, Canada has expressed remorse. None of the other alleged perpetrators has done so. Several have openly acknowledged their participation, including by displaying the gang symbol of a U.S. flag tattooed on their glutei maximi.
An offshoot terrorist group said to have been inspired by the United States and going by the name of "Russia," during the same period has brutally murdered 2,792 to 3,451 innocents using similar techniques apparently copied from those of the U.S. gang.
Despite being well documented, these murders have gone largely unreported in U.S. media outlets working overtime to focus on a smaller slaughter in Orlando, Florida. The death counts are imprecise but highly selective, as they intentionally exclude all casualties deemed to be those of combatants.
In a coincidental connection, the Orlando killer blamed the U.S. bombings in Iraq and Syria for his own murderous rampage.
Adding to the bizarre connections, members of the U.S. public have been heard blaming the Orlando slaughter for additional airstrikes to come.
Commented an alien in a ship approaching the planet earth: "Reverse engines! Get us out of here! Let's try back in 10 years and see if anyone is left."
Supreme Hypocrisy in Pennsylvania: US High Court Opens Door to New Appeal by Mumia Abu-Jamal of His 1982 Conviction
By Linn Washington, Jr.
One unintended consequence of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a death penalty case that rebuked actions of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice and prosecutors in Philadelphia for conflict of interest was to open a new avenue for activist-journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal to appeal his own 1982 murder conviction in a trial that was tainted by the same exact type of conflict of interest.
On Thursday, in a political move more typical of the United States than Europe, a member of the British Parliament was murdered. She was an opponent of Brexit (Britain exiting the European Union), and her murderer reportedly shouted "Britain First!"
There is a case to be made, on the one hand, that exiting the EU is actually the move away from violence. There are many areas, from banking to farming to militarism, that motivate Norway and Iceland to stay out, for all the right reasons, including resistance to war making -- as with Sweden's and Switzerland's staying out of NATO. I was rooting for Scotland's departure from the UK in the name of peace and disarmament, and looked forward to U.S. nukes and NATO being kicked out of that beautiful country.
The European Union has become the civilian arm of NATO, expanding ever nearer Russia at the insistence of the United States, which -- believe it or not -- is not actually a European nation at all. Were Norway to join the EU, that could mean trouble for Norway's fair and humane economy. But Britain? Britain is a drag on the EU, there at the insistence of the United States which needs puppet-veto power over any European moves toward independence, peace, environmental sustainability, or economic fairness. The EU's influence on Britain is largely to the benefit of the Brits.
There is perhaps a stronger case to be made that exiting the EU would be a move toward violence. This is the case for the EU as a model of peacemaking. For this argument I refer you to a new book by Vijay Mehta called Peace Beyond Borders: How the EU Brought Peace to Europe and How Exporting It Would End Conflicts Around the World. Let me make very clear that I think Mehta wildly exaggerates his case. Far more important to ending war in the world, I believe, are a number of other factors, the top two being: (1) Get the rich countries, led by the U.S. and Europe, to stop selling weapons to the world, and (2) Get the rich countries, led by the U.S. and Europe, to stop bombing, invading, and occupying poor countries.
The EU's supposed 70 years of peace leaves out massive warmaking abroad, as well as wars in Yugoslavia. The case for the EU's bringing of peace and prosperity has to explain Norwegian and Icelandic peace and prosperity as tangential effects of the EU's orbit. Bestowing a Nobel Prize on a leading warmaking region of the world, a prize meant to fund disarmament activists given to the EU which could fund itself by buying a bit less weaponry -- that was an insult to the world and to Alfred Nobel's will.
But, within its proper scope, there is nonetheless a major point to be made. Europe was for centuries the leading hotspot for war as well as its leading exporter. For an unprecedented 71 years Europe has been almost exclusively an exporter of war. The idea of a war within Europe is now almost unthinkable. Mehta argues that we ought to try thinking it, because a few slips could quickly bring it back again. Mehta credits the EU with having made peace normal through 10 mechanisms. I would add to these, of course, fear of nuclear holocaust, and cultural trends away from war acceptance. But here are the mechanisms:
A campaign death march? State Dept. IG Report on Private Server has Clinton Resembling Gen. MacArthur on Luzon
By Robert Nelson
As with becoming a whistleblower or an activist or an artist there must be numerous reasons why any individual becomes a terrorist -- whether military, contract, or independent. Various irrational hatreds and fears (and promises of paradise after death) and the ready availability of weaponry certainly play roles.
But did you know that every single foreign terrorist in the United States in recent decades, plus domestic terrorists claiming foreign motivations, plus numerous poor suckers set up and stung by the FBI, plus every foreign terrorist organization that has claimed or been blamed for attempted or successful anti-U.S. terrorism have all claimed the same motivation? I'm not aware of a single exception.
If one of them claimed to be motivated by the needs of Martians, we might set that aside as crazy. If every single one of them claimed to be acting on behalf of Martians, we would at least get curious about why they said that, even if we doubted Martians' existence. But every single one of them says something much more believable. And yet what they say seems to be a secret despite being readily available information.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
When someone commits mass murder in the United States and is tied, however significantly, to a foreign terrorist group, there remains a section of the U.S. population willing to recognize and point out that no ideology, fit of hatred, or mental derangement can do the same damage without high-tech weaponry that it does with it. Why does this understanding vanish into the ether of ignorance and apathy at the water's edge?
ISIS videos display U.S. guns, U.S. Humvees, U.S. weaponry of all sorts. The profits and political corruption that bring those weapons into existence are the same as those that litter the United States with guns. Shouldn't we be bothered by both?
The same politicians who claim they'd like to restrict U.S. gun sales have flooded the world markets with the weaponry of mass slaughter. President Obama's administration has approved more weapons sales abroad than any other administration since World War II. Over 60 percent of those weapons have been sold to the Middle East. Add to that total huge quantities of U.S. weapons in the hands of the United States or its proxies in the Middle East -- or formerly in their hands but seized by ISIS.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waived restrictions at the State Department on selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar, all states that had donated to the Clinton Foundation. Saudi Arabia had chipped in at least $10 million, and Boeing added another $900,000 as Secretary Clinton made it her mission to get Saudi Arabia the planes with which it would attack Yemen.
In the past five years, the United States has sold weapons to at least 96 countries. As of 2011 the United States accounted for 79% of the value of transfer agreements to ship weapons to governments in the Middle East, 79% also to poor nations around the world, and 77% of the value of total agreements to ship weapons to other countries, according to the Congressional Research Service. By 2014, those percentages had dropped a bit but remained over 50%.
In 2013, the big war profiteers spent $65 million lobbying Congress. There's a big headline when the National Rifle Association spends $3 million. We ask if black lives matter. In addition, do foreign lives matter?
Toddlers with guns kill more people in the United States than do foreign terrorists -- even adding in domestic terrorists somehow tied to foreign ideas. But we don't hate toddlers. We don't bomb toddlers and whoever's near them. We don't think of toddlers as inherently evil or backward or belonging to the wrong religion. We forgive them instantly, without struggle. It's not their fault the guns were left lying around.
But is it the fault of ISIS that Iraq was destroyed? That Libya was thrown into chaos? That the region was flooded with U.S.-made weapons? That future ISIS leaders were tortured in U.S. camps? That life was made into a nightmare? Maybe not, but it is their fault they murder people. They are adults. They know what they are doing.
True enough. But could they do it without the weapons?
On the domestic scene, we are able to recognize that other nations have conflict, hatred, and crime, but that -- in the absence of all the guns -- the crimes do less damage. Australia got rid of its guns following a killing less deadly than Orlando. Now a gun in Australia costs more than anyone would be likely to get out of an armed robbery. Now Australia has no mass killings, apart from its participation in U.S. wars.
On the foreign scene, can we recognize that regions armed to the teeth with U.S. weapons, wars with U.S. weapons on both sides, and CIA and Pentagon proxies fighting each other in Syria are not the inevitable result of backwardness in Arab culture, but rather the result of giving free rein to merchants of death?
To contact Bartolo email peaceloverblog[at]yahoo[dot]com (replacing [at] with @, [dot] with .)
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Cable TV network MSNBC has made headlines in recent days for apparently moving away from its "Lean Foward" progressive brand, catering instead to a more center-to-right-leaning crowd.
"People might start accusing us of leaning too far to the right," the station says in a new advertisement featuring MSNBC's conservative personalities — an array of Republican identities such as Michael Steele, Steve Schmidt and Ben Ginsberg.
By David Swanson
An atheist's sermon on Luke 7: 36-50 delivered at Saint Joan of Arc in Minneapolis, Minn., on June 12, 2016.
Forgiveness is a universal need, among those of us who are not religious and among believers in every religion on earth. We must forgive each other our differences, and we must forgive much more difficult occurrences.
Some things we can forgive easily -- by which, of course, I mean eliminating resentment from our hearts, not granting an eternal reward. If someone kissed my feet and poured oil on them and begged me to forgive her, frankly, I would have a harder time forgiving the kisses and oil than forgiving her a life of prostitution -- which is, after all, not an act of cruelty toward me but the violation of a taboo into which she was likely compelled by hardship.
But to forgive men who were torturing and killing me on a cross? That I would be very unlikely to succeed at, especially as my nearing end -- in the absence of a crowd to influence -- might convince me of the pointlessness of making my last thought a magnanimous one. As long as I live, however, I intend to work on forgiveness.
If our culture truly developed the habit of forgiveness, it would dramatically improve our personal lives. It would also make wars impossible, which would further dramatically improve our personal lives. I think we have to forgive both those who we think have wronged us personally, and those whom our government has told us to hate, both at home and abroad.
I suspect I could find well over 100 million Christians in the United States who do not hate the men who crucified Jesus, but who do hate and would be highly offended at the idea of forgiving Adolf Hitler.
When John Kerry says that Bashar al Assad is Hitler, does that help you feel forgiving toward Assad? When Hillary Clinton says that Vladimir Putin is Hitler, does that help you relate to Putin as a human being? When ISIS cuts a man's throat with a knife, does your culture expect of you forgiveness or vengeance?
Forgiveness is not the only approach one can take to curing war fever, and not the one I usually try.
Usually the case that's made for a war involves specific lies that can be exposed, such as lies about who used chemical weapons in Syria or who shot down an airplane in Ukraine.
Usually there is a great deal of hypocrisy one can point to. Was Assad already Hitler when he was torturing people for the CIA, or did he become Hitler by defying the U.S. government? Was Putin already Hitler before he refused to join in the 2003 attack on Iraq? If a particular ruler who has fallen out of favor is Hitler, what about all the brutal dictators whom the United States is arming and supporting? Are they all Hitler too?
Usually there is aggression by the United States that can be pointed to. The U.S. has aimed to overthrow the Syrian government for years and avoided negotiations for the nonviolent removal of Assad in favor of a violent overthrow believed to be imminent year after year. The U.S. has pulled out of arms reduction treaties with Russia, expanded NATO to its border, facilitated a coup in Ukraine, launched war games along the Russian border, put ships in the Black and Baltic Seas, moved more nukes into Europe, begun talking about smaller, more "usable" nukes, and set up missile bases in Romania and (under construction) in Poland. Imagine if Russia had done these things in North America.
Usually one can point out that no matter how evil a foreign ruler is, a war will kill large numbers of people unfortunate enough to be ruled by him -- people who are innocent of his crimes.
But what if we tried the approach of forgiveness? Can one forgive ISIS its horrors? And would doing so result in free reign for more such horrors, or in their reduction or elimination?
The first question is easy. Yes, you can forgive ISIS its horrors. At least some people can. I feel no hatred toward ISIS. There are people who lost loved ones on 9/11 who quickly began advocating against any vengeful war. There are people who've lost loved ones to small-scale murder and opposed cruel punishment of the guilty party, even coming to know and care for the murderer. There are cultures that treat injustice as something in need of reconciliation rather than retribution.
Of course, the fact that others can do it doesn't mean that you can or should do it. But it's worth recognizing how right were those family members of 9/11 victims who opposed war. Now several hundred times as many people have been killed, and the hatred toward the United States that contributed to 9/11 has been multiplied accordingly. A global war on terrorism has predictably and indisputably increased terrorism.
If we take a deep breath and think seriously, we can also recognize that the resentment that calls out for forgiveness is not rational. Toddlers with guns kill more people in the United States than do foreign terrorists. But we don't hate toddlers. We don't bomb toddlers and whoever's near them. We don't think of toddlers as inherently evil or backward or belonging to the wrong religion. We forgive them instantly, without struggle. It's not their fault the guns were left lying around.
But is it the fault of ISIS that Iraq was destroyed? That Libya was thrown into chaos? That the region was flooded with U.S.-made weapons? That future ISIS leaders were tortured in U.S. camps? That life was made into a nightmare? Maybe not, but it was their fault they murdered people. They are adults. They know what they are doing.
Do they? Remember, Jesus said they did not. He said, forgive them for they know not what they do. How could they possibly know what they are doing when they do things like what they have done?
When U.S. officials retire and quickly blurt out that U.S. efforts are creating more enemies than they are killing, it becomes clear that attacking ISIS is counterproductive. It also becomes clear that at least some people engaged in it know that. But they also know what advances their careers, what provides for their families, what pleases their associates, and what benefits a certain sector of the U.S. economy. And they can always hold out hope that perhaps the next war will be the one that finally works. Do they really know what they do? How could they?
When President Obama sent a missile from a drone to blow up an American boy from Colorado named Abdulrahman al Awlaki, one should not imagine that his head or the heads of those seated too close to him remained on their bodies. That this boy wasn't killed with a knife shouldn't make his killing any more or less forgivable. We should desire no revenge against Barack Obama or John Brennan. But we should not limit our outraged demand for truth, restorative justice, and the replacement of murderous with peaceful public policies.
A U.S. Air Force officer recently said that a tool that would allow dropping food accurately to starving people in Syria would not be used for such a purely humanitarian operation because it costs $60,000. Yet the U.S. military is blowing through tens of billions of dollars on killing people there, and hundreds of billions of dollars every year on maintaining the ability to do the same all over the world. We've got CIA-trained troops in Syria fighting Pentagon-trained troops in Syria, and -- as a matter of principle -- we can't spend money on preventing starvation.
Imagine living in Iraq or Syria and reading that. Imagine reading the comments of Congress members who support militarism because it supposedly provides jobs. Imagine living under a constantly buzzing drone in Yemen, no longer allowing your children to go to school or to go outside the house at all.
Now imagine forgiving the United States government. Imagine bringing yourself to see what looks like massive evil as in fact bureaucratic mishaps, systemic momentum, partisan blindness, and manufactured unawareness. Could you, as an Iraqi, forgive? I've seen Iraqis do it.
We in the United States can forgive the Pentagon. Can we forgive ISIS? And if not, why not? Can we forgive Saudis who look and sound like, and who support, ISIS, but who our televisions tell us are good loyal allies? If so, is it because we haven't seen Saudi victims of beheading or because of what those victims look like? If not, is it because of what Saudis look like?
If forgiveness came naturally to us, if we could do it immediately for ISIS, and therefore instantly for the neighbor who makes too much noise or votes for the wrong candidate, then marketing campaigns for wars would not work. Neither would campaigns to pack more Americans into prisons.
Forgiveness would not eliminate conflict, but it would render conflicts civil and nonviolent -- exactly what the peace movement of the 1920s had in mind when it moved Frank Kellogg of St. Paul, Minnesota, to create the treaty that bans all war.
This afternoon at 2 p.m. we are going to be dedicating a peace pole here on the grounds of this church. With permanent war ever present in our culture, we badly need such physical reminders of peace. We need peace in ourselves and in our families. But we need to be wary of the attitude taken by a school board member in Virginia who said he'd support a celebration of peace as long as everyone understood he wasn't opposing any wars. We need reminders that peace begins with the abolition of war. I hope you'll join us.
NEWS FLASH!: With 5 Million Votes Still Uncounted in the Democratic Primary, Sanders Could Still Win California!
By Dave Lindorff
FLASH! The Los Angeles Times, actually a Hillary Clinton backer, reports that not 3.6 million votes, as reported on election night, but 8 million votes were actually cast in the California Democratic primary -- a turnout of 47%. According to the Times article, the Secretary of State of California, Alex Padilla, concedes that 2.5 million of those votes, mostly mail-in ballots from young people and hispanic voters, both backers of Sanders, have been counted, and another 2 million have yet to be counted by local county officials.
The most likely way to die in a U.S. war, by far, is to live in the country that the United States is attacking. But the most likely way in which a U.S. participant in a war will die is by suicide.
There are a couple of widely observed top causes of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops returning from recent wars deeply disturbed in their minds. One is having been near an explosion. Another, which has been around longer than explosions have, is having killed, having nearly died, having seen blood and gore and suffering, having imposed death and suffering on innocents, having seen comrades die in agony, exacerbated in many cases by having lost faith in the sales pitch that launched the war -- in other words, the horror of war making.
The first of those two causes might be called traumatic brain injury, the other mental anguish or moral injury. But, in fact, both are physical events in a brain. And, in fact, both impact thoughts and emotions. That scientists have a hard time observing moral injury in brains is a shortcoming of scientists that ought not to start us imagining that mental activity isn't physical or that physical brain activity isn't mental (and therefore that one is serious, while the other is sort of silly).
Here's a New York Times headline from Friday: "What if PTSD Is More Physical Than Psychological?" The article that follows the headline seems to mean by this question two things:
1) What if by focusing on troops having been near explosions we are able to distract attention away from the suffering induced by conditioning thinking human beings to mindlessly commit horrific acts?
2) What if having been near explosions impacts brains in a way that scientists happen to have figured out how to observe in a brain?
The answer to number 1 should be: We are not going to limit our brains to the New York Times as a source of information. Based on recent experience, including acts the Times has apologized for or retracted, that would be a sure way to create more modern warfare, thereby destroying more brains, risking a vicious cycle of war and destruction.
The answer to number 2 should be: Did you think the damage wasn't real because scientists hadn't found it in their microscopes yet? Did you think it was literally in soldiers' hearts? Did you think it was floating in the non-physical ether somewhere? Here's the New York Times:
"Perl's findings, published in the scientific journal The Lancet Neurology, may represent the key to a medical mystery first glimpsed a century ago in the trenches of World War I. It was first known as shell shock, then combat fatigue and finally PTSD, and in each case, it was almost universally understood as a psychic rather than a physical affliction. Only in the past decade or so did an elite group of neurologists, physicists and senior officers begin pushing back at a military leadership that had long told recruits with these wounds to 'deal with it,' fed them pills and sent them back into battle."
So, if the combination of afflictions that soldiers suffered from could not be observed by a neurologist, then they were all faking? They were suffering depression and panic attacks and nightmares in order to trick us? Or the wounds were real but necessarily minor, something to be "dealt with"? And -- importantly, there is a second implication here -- if the injury arose not from an explosion but from having stabbed to death a poor kid drafted into a different army, then it was not worthy of any concern important enough to outweigh the desirability of ignoring such matters.
Here's the New York Times in its own words: "Much of what has passed for emotional trauma may be reinterpreted, and many veterans may step forward to demand recognition of an injury that cannot be definitively diagnosed until after death. There will be calls for more research, for drug trials, for better helmets and for expanded veteran care. But these palliatives are unlikely to erase the crude message that lurks, unavoidable, behind Perl's discovery: Modern warfare destroys your brain."
Apparently the collective brain power of those of us who haven't joined the military suffers as well. Here we are faced with the understanding -- slanted and constrained though it may be -- that warfare destroys your brain; and yet we are meant to suppose that the only possible consequences of that realization are outcries for better medical care, better helmets, etc.
Allow me to suggest one other proposal: ending all warfare.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Though President Barack Obama and his State Department nixed the northern leg of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in November, the Canadian pipeline company giant has continued the fight in a federal lawsuit in Houston, claiming the Obama Administration does not have the authority to deny a presidential pipeline permit on the basis claimed that he did.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Emails and documents obtained from Oklahoma State University (OSU) under the state's open records law depict an arrangement in which former U.S. Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) donated his U.S. Senate papers to OSU, a public university, but still maintains full control of the papers and who gets permission to view them.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
If the recent past serves as prologue, then online leasing of oil and gas on U.S. federal lands may resemble the proverbial fox guarding the hen house, with one eBay-like company in particular standing to profiteer from the industry's proposed e-bidding scheme.
Image Credit: Willis Nowell | Flickr
If that headline sounds a bit like "God Is Dead" to you, you just might be from the United States. Only what the people who live in this one country of the American hemisphere call "an American" carries that variety of flag passion. If, on the other hand, you find watching paint dry more engaging than the suspense of waiting for the next Flag Day, you just might be a candidate for citizen of the world.
In fact, I think Flag Day needs to be canceled. It's not a holiday that the government, much less the military, much less the rest of the United States, actually takes off work. It's rumored, in fact, that any socialistic interruption in work schedules would be offensive to the flag herself.
So we can indeed cancel Flag Day just by totally ignoring it, along with the overlapping Flag Week, the simultaneous U.S. Army's Birthday, the mythological tales about Betsy Ross, and the celebration of a war in 1812 that failed to take over Canada, got Washington D.C. burned, and pointlessly killed lots of human beings in a battle we celebrate with bad singing auditions before every sporting event because a colored piece of cloth survived it.
This Flag Day, instead of trying to add, if possible, yet more publicly displayed U.S. flags to those already flying, take down a flag instead. Don't burn it, though. There's no sense in giving flag worshipers martyrs. Instead, I recommend Betsy Rossing it. Cut and stitch that flag into clothing you can donate to those in need of clothing -- a significant section of the public in fact in this incredibly over-wealthy country in which the wealth is concentrated beyond medieval levels -- a situation from which we are distracted in part by all the darn flags.
Here in Charlottesville, Virginia, we have a lovely city with tons of natural beauty, history, landmarks, available imagery, talented artists, an engaged citizenry capable of civil debate, and yet no Charlottesville flag. We do have a huge debate over whether to remove from their prominent positions all the statues of Confederate fighters. Less controversial, costly, and time-consuming would be to add to the local scene a Charlottesville flag that did not celebrate slavery, racism, war, or environmental destruction.
What? Now I'm in favor of flags? Of course, I'm in favor of pretty pieces of cloth waving around when they're not icons of war and separation. In the United States, local and state flags don't create any sense of superiority or hostility toward the rest of humanity. But the flag of war, the flag that the U.S. military has now planted in 175 countries, does just that.
UVA alumnus Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Flag Day the year before pushing the United States into World War I, as part of that propaganda campaign. Congress joined in the year before the war in Korea. Five years later "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, an oath originally written by a fascist preacher, originally administered with the pledgers holding their right arms straight, outward and up. This was changed to the hand-over-heart routine during World War II because the Nazis had adopted the original salute as their own. Nowadays, visitors from abroad are often shocked to see U.S. children instructed to stand and robotically chant an oath of obedience to a piece of colored cloth.
To many "Americans" it comes naturally. The flag has always been here and always will be, just like the wars under which it is fought, for which lives are taken and risked, for which lives are even exchanged. Families that lose a loved one in war are presented with a flag instead. A majority of Americans supports freedom of speech in many outrageous instances, including the right of massive media corporations to present us with false justifications for wars. But a majority supports banning the burning of flags -- or rather, of the U.S. flag. You can burn the flags of 96% of humanity. You can burn your state or local flag. You can burn a world flag. But burning a U.S. flag would be a sacrilege. Sacrificing young lives to that flag in yet another war is, however, a sacrament.
But the U.S. military now has robotic drones it can send to war. Robots are also perfectly capable of swearing the pledge of allegiance, although they have no hearts to put their hands over.
Perhaps we should reserve our actual human hearts for things robots cannot do. Perhaps we should liberate our landscape from both Confederate statues and the ubiquitous flag of the still crusading union empire.
By Dave Lindorff
By Linn Washington, Jr.
When Donald Trump announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in June 2015 he unleashed a tirade against illegal immigrants from Mexico, libeling most of those immigrants as criminals and “rapists.”
Even within what Dr. King called the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, there used to be one constituency you could count on to speak up for world peace: beauty contestants.
No more. And the switch has produced no scandal. Last year, when Miss Italy said she wished she could live during World War II, survivors of that worst ever horror that humanity has inflicted on itself, and other people of normal intelligence in Italy, were scandalized.
But when a soon-to-be Miss USA recently praised the U.S. military as a member of it, as a participant in it, despite the world's view that the U.S. military is the greatest threat to peace in the world, the U.S. media adored this new development.
This is a 180 degree reversal of the traditional stance of beauty contestants, who had endlessly said they favored world peace. But of course it's framed as something else entirely. With war totally and amorally normalized, a female (and African-American) member of the military, even a beauty contestant, is interpreted as a symbol of enlightened progress, along the lines of the current neoliberal push to force every young woman to register for the draft.
Miss USA joined the military at age 17, the Washington Post tells us in passing, something illegal under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty ratified by every single nation on earth except the United States.
For those interested in the draft question, I refer you to my handy guide on "How to Oppose the Draft for Women and Not Be Sexist."
You think this is all tongue-in-cheek and war's not been normalized? Go ahead and name the seven nations where the United States is at war right now, the seven that the current U.S. president has bragged about having bombed.
Can't do it? O.K., well, surely you can explain which of the seven wars are justified and legal and which are not?
No? Or perchance you were outraged and raised objections and organized protests when a presidential debate moderator asked a candidate if he would be willing to kill thousands of innocent children as part of his basic duties if elected?
What? You didn't? Well, maybe you grew concerned when announcers of a televised sporting event (any major U.S. sporting event) thanked U.S. troops for watching from 175 countries? Surely, you got out the list of 175 and asked someone to explain what U.S. troops were doing there.
No? You didn't? Did you read about kindergarten teachers pushing militarism? Did you know that Starbucks says choosing not to have a store at Guantanamo would constitute a political statement, while having one there is just normal? Did you know that the United Nations now says war is the norm rather than the exception? The United Nations!
The University of Virginia's magazine has an article in its summer 2016 issue praising and interviewing an alumnus named Robert Neller who is commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. The big focus? The super progressive step of recruiting women into greater participation in wars. But did UVA ask about any of the numerous disastrous wars the United States has been waging? About the troops now fighting on the ground in five nations?
Actually, toward the end of the interview, the interviewer Dianna Cahn (who, like the interviewee, also works for the U.S. military, at its propaganda magazine Stars and Stripes) asked something about the U.S. troops dying in Iraq and Afghanistan (nothing about the 95-plus percent of the deaths in those wars/genocides that are Iraqi and Afghan). She asked something (she doesn't print the questions) about the futility of fighting over and repeatedly winning and losing the same bits of ground in someone else's country. Neller said this in response:
"Somebody asked me that when I left Iraq nine years ago . . . 'What would you tell the families?' I was really tired. I got all emotional and I said. 'I'd tell them they did their duty.' I hated that answer because it sounded just so inadequate."
Inadequate? I was going to say fascistic. Never mind, Neller has a new answer:
"What I really wish I'd said was, 'Imagine we lived in a country where if people were called to go do something like this nobody would stand up. Imagine if there were not men and women who would pick up the challenge and go to a faraway land to help somebody live a better life. That would be terrible.'"
Terrible? Imagining and working to achieve such a thing is what keeps me going every day. And not just me. The majority of people in the United States have told pollsters that the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq should never have been started. (And of course they didn't help people "live a better life" and were not even ever marketed on that basis.) Well, here's one way we could have kept those wars from being started: everyone asked to go could have refused.
Of course, a majority of those who join the U.S. military say a major reason was the lack of other educational or career prospects. But the majority of those who like the idea of the United States being able to attack faraway people at will have no interest in actually being in the U.S. military themselves; yet they have their whole identity wrapped up in the fantasy of going to war from the comfort of their own couch. Watch this video from the National Rifle Association urging people to buy lots of guns and shoot lots of stuff while fantasizing about attacking Iran.
In a Gallup poll, 44 percent of people in the United States say they "would" fight in a war. What's stopping them? Fortunately, they do not mean it. Now, try imagining a country in which most people said "Hell no, I would never fight in a war." Or don't imagine it; look at that same poll: In Italy, where even beauty queens are held to a certain standard, 68 percent of Italians polled said they would NOT fight for their country. In Germany 62 percent said they would not. In the Czech Republic, 64 percent would not fight for their country. In the Netherlands, 64 percent would not. In Japan only 10 percent would fight in a war for their country.
Let's work toward emulating those nations.
And let's restore, in this season of lesser evils, inane speeches in bikinis about wishing for peace on earth.