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Ending All War

On Aggression as a First Choice: Is There Another Way?

By Herbert J. Hoffman, Ph.D., Member VFP National, Maine and New Mexico 

     It was my senior year in high school -- many years ago -- and I was seated, along with many of my football teammates, on the auditorium stage.  It was a pre-game rally before 1500 classmates and teachers.  The auditorium was filled with energy.  The main speaker was a much revered former outstanding athlete at Central High School.  A man in his 50’s, he spoke with passion about the upcoming football game.  It was exciting!  However, I found myself feeling revulsion as he concluded his speech by saying, “Go out there and Kill, Kill, Kill!”, repeating the last three words numerous times as the audience joined in.

     Granted that the speaker did not mean his exhortation to be literal, it was emblematic of an attitude that has prevailed in this Nation since its inception -- and even before.  Aggression is the path to solving differences and the use of aggressive and demeaning language is one of the means employed to facilitate the use of aggression.  No, I have not lost sight of the vignette being about a football game -- however, I am concerned that it is illustrative of a much more serious game -- WAR!

     The prevalent ethos in the United States is that differences in opinion, behavior, faith, gender orientation are to be resolved by aggressive actions -- not by discussion, negotiation, understanding or compassion.  We have a long history of addressing differences by means of aggression -- beginning with the conquest of the Native Americans to the present day wars with, and occupations of, sovereign nations.  Domestically, we have seen the rapid response of police officers to fire their weapons to resolve a situation -- often involving racial differences -- and this follows the examples set by our foreign policy actions.  It is no happenstance that, since its inception, the United States has initiated wars of aggression -- with the exceptions of the Civil War and WWI -- against enemies who are non-caucasian.  In these instances, as in many of the police shootings, the imminent threat to security is either highly suspect or completely absent. 

     Have we, primarily European Americans, not advanced beyond our more primitive instincts to annihilate those who are different from us, who are not members of our tribe, whom we perceive as “enemies?”  These “primitive instincts” are not sufficient to explain -- or justify -- our aggressive and often violent response to those who are “different.”  Yes, as I noted, that since before its birth the United States has demonstrated a significant aggressive streak in its approach to the resolution of conflict which is reflected in our foreign policy. 

     In February of 2015 Glenn Greenwald wrote, “What we see here is what we’ve seen over and over: the West’s wars creating and empowering an endless supply of enemies, which in turn justify endless war by the West.”  He continued, “It’s also a reminder that the military-industrial-congressional-complex that President Dwight Eisenhower first warned us about in 1961 remains in expansion mode more than half a century later, with its taste for business as usual (meaning, among other things, wildly expensive weapons systems). Above all, though, it’s an illustration of something far more disturbing: the failure of democratic America to seize the possibility of a less militarized world.”

     The ethos and the soul of the our country is at a potential “tipping point” as we move closer to the 2016 elections.  Do we continue on our course of militarized conquest -- employing the most powerful military the world has ever witnessed -- or do we begin moving towards a national stance of diplomacy, relationship and non-violence in our approach to the resolution of differences?  Spearheaded by the diplomacy of President Obama and Secretary Kerry, the negotiations involved in the development of a non-nuclear agreement by the members of the Security Council and Germany with Iran can stand as a model for future negotiations.  

     It will require strong leadership for such a beginning movement in international relations to prevail.  It is clear that if this approach is to have any chance at success, the United States would have to be involved -- involved to the point of taking very strong leadership by the President, the Congress and the people.  It would be a clear message that the “exceptionalism” marking this Nation would no longer be that of the mightiest military, the strongest aggressor, the purveyor of terrorism (drones are one example, the manufacture and sale of cluster bombs another). But, instead, exceptionalism would be that of the accomplished negotiator, the preference for non-violent approaches to resolving differences and the respecter of all peoples and their cultures. 

     In a sense President Obama took a step in this direction when he stated, following the massacre in Charleston, SC, “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency — and it is in our power to do something about it.”  However, his failure to mention the role of our military abroad, the violence it spreads, and the model it conveys leaves a broad void.

     Some are willing to express outrage with respect to domestic violence, but what gets in the way of our leaders taking a stand to denounce the violence which we and other nations disseminate?   In 2015 the Stockholm Peace Research Institute noted that the United States accounted for 31% of world military expenditures and from 2010 to 2014 which earned the distinction of being the world’s number 1 exporter of weapons.  Bill Gilson, a member of Veterans for Peace in New York City, further elaborated in his 2015 Memorial Day address, “The US cannot be the largest arms supplier in the world and hold itself innocent of the violence raging throughout the world and in our cities.”

     As far back as 97 years ago on June 16, 1918, in Canton, Ohio, Eugene Debs, a five time candidate for President, “got it” when he declared:  “Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder…. And that is war, in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles.”

     The military/industrial complex does well under the conditions of forever war.  “Orwell highlights how this operates in his novel, “1984.”  He writes about Nations A, B, and C always at war in some combination of two against one, resulting in a high price paid domestically as resources are drained from underwriting quality of life projects such as support for infrastructure, health care, and education and facilitated a class-based society.  It is notable that in 2014 the United States spent more on defense than the next seven countries combined.  

     The expenditures on war-making act as a curb on the domestic economy and function as a damper on the stability and growth of the middle-class.  A 2011 University of Massachusetts study concluded that jobs in infrastructure, health and education create “significantly greater opportunities for decent employment” than a similar amount spent on defense. “There is a common perception that war is good for the economy.  But in a paper for the Costs of War Project based at Brown University, PERI Assistant Research Professor Heidi Garrett-Peltier finds that war spending creates significantly fewer jobs than other kinds of government spending.”  The end result of lower levels of employment and the diminution of quality of life enhancements breeds aggression and violence domestically as impoverished citizens attempt to survive by engaging in criminal activity. 

     What then can be done to change what has been a national emphasis since the end of WWII, to have the strongest military war machine ever?  What can be done to change the prominent role violence has in this country?  How do we move from choosing violence and aggression to negotiation and compromise as the preferred method for resolving differences?  How do we approach what constitutes a major cultural shift?  Is it even possible?  

     As the saying goes, “You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.”  Therefore, we must make the effort to participate and change as a people or succumb by default.

     In this election season which candidate, which party will come forward with a platform that addresses the concerns expressed above?  The Green Party’s 2012 platform spoke directly to these concerns:  "Establish a foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law, and human rights. End the wars and drone attacks, cut military spending by at least 50% and close the 700+ foreign military bases that are turning our republic into a bankrupt empire. Stop U.S. support and arms sales to human rights abusers, and lead on global nuclear disarmament."  Will we see such a strong and moral statement appear in the platforms of the major parties in 2016; will the party standard bearers speak out forcefully, convincingly, leading the way to a significant culture change in this country?  At best the answer is, “Unlikely.”

     Perhaps Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic candidate for President, comes closest as he calls for a “revolution,” a political revolution.  “I believe that the power of corporate America, the power of Wall Street, the power of the drug companies, the power of the corporate media is so great that the only way we really transform America and do the things that the middle class and working class desperately need is through a political revolution when millions of people begin to come together and stand up and say: Our government is going to work for all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.”  In response to Anderson Cooper’s request for elaboration, Sanders responded:  “What I mean is that we need to have one of the larger voter turnouts in the world, not one of the lowest. We need to raise public consciousness....when people come together in a way that does not exist now and are prepared to take on the big money interest, then we could bring the kind of change we need.”

     Robert Kennedy was prescient when he held, "A revolution is coming -- a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough -- But a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability."

     Sanders, echoing the Kennedy theme, is advocating a major cultural change powered by the people.  It means that citizens have to realize that their own interests are being made subservient to the interests of the moneyed class, the oligarchy, a class that profits from the manufacture and sale of weapons of aggression.  The citizens have to realize that we have the power to change this equation by massive expression, non-violent actions and monumental voter turnout.  These actions would constitute “cultural change!”

     David Swanson, director of World Without War, has authored a Peace Pledge which speaks to the issues I have identified.  

I understand that wars and militarism make us less safe rather than protect us, that they kill, injure and traumatize adults, children and infants, severely damage the natural environment, erode civil liberties, and drain our economies, siphoning resources from life-affirming activities. I commit to engage in and support nonviolent efforts to end all war and preparations for war and to create a sustainable and just peace.” 

     Imagine the majority in Congress pledging, the President pledging and the millions upon millions of United States citizens pledging -- and you pledging.  That would be a revolution!  The time is NOW!

     Perhaps in the future, football rallies will not call for “killing” the opponent, but prevailing over the opponent by playing the best game we can -- to actualize the  potential in each of us.


Don’t Thank Me Anymore: Take Care of Us When We Return Home and Work to End All War

By Michael T. McPhearson

This past Saturday morning in Saint Louis, MO I was walking home when I saw a people gathering and portions of the street being blocked.  I live downtown, so it could have been another run, walk or festival. I asked someone who looked like a participant and he told me it was for the Veterans Day Parade. I was a bit surprised because Veterans Day is Wednesday. He went on to say the parade was being done on Saturday because planners were not sure if they could get enough parade spectators on Wednesday. I’m not sure if he was right about why it was decided to have the parade on Saturday, but it makes sense and is an example of our society celebrating veterans but not really caring that much about us.

Many years ago I became fed up with the hollow thank yous and stopped celebrating Veterans Day. Today I join with Veterans For Peace in a call to Reclaim November 11th as Armistice Day -- a day to think about peace and thank those who served by working to end war. I’m tired of us vets being used for war and then many of us being pretty much discarded. Instead of thanking us, change how we are treated and work to end war.  That is a real tribute.

Do you know that an average of 22 veterans die by suicide every day? That means 22 died Saturday and through November 11th, 88 more veterans will die. Saturday’s parade and November 11th means nothing to these 110 veterans. To illustrate the severity of this epidemic, by November 11th next year, 8,030 veterans will have died by suicide.

Suicide is the direst challenge facing veterans, but there are many others. Recently, after years of higher unemployment rates for veterans who joined the military after September 11, 2001 than their civilian counterparts, veterans’ rates are lower at 4.6% — than the national average of 5%, as reported in USA Today, November 10, 2015. Yet, veterans between the age of 18 and 24 continue to face high unemployment at 10.4%, nearly identical to the 10.1% unemployment figure for civilians in the same bracket. However, these numbers do not tell the full story. Due to the slow economic recovery, many discouraged people have dropped out of the job market. Good paying jobs are hard to find. Well-paying low skilled jobs nearly don’t exist. Veterans negotiate these same obstacles while at the same time facing other challenges.

Homelessness continues to be a major problem for veterans. According to information from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, we veterans face homelessness because of “mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. About 12% of the adult homeless population are veterans.”

The site goes on to say that, “Roughly 40% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4% and 3.4% of the U.S. veteran population, respectively….Nearly half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era. Two-thirds served our country for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone.”

Added to this shameful reality, 1.4 million veterans are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.

Rates of post-traumatic stress are, of course, higher for veterans than civilians, no surprise there. To that we add what some call the new signature wound for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, traumatic brain injury or TBI, primarily caused by improved explosive devices. A December 2014 Washington Post article reported that, “Of the more than 50,000 American troops wounded in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, 2.6 percent have suffered a major limb amputation, the majority due to an improvised explosive device.”

After we are injured in war, what happens when we come back home? Today we have veterans from WWII through the current conflicts trying to access Veteran Affairs healthcare. That is 74 years of veterans from too many conflicts, wars and military actions to list. We have all heard about veterans waiting for months and sometimes years for care. Perhaps you have heard the horror stories of veterans receiving negligent care like at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center as reported in February of 2007 by the Washington Post.

We keep hearing claims that services will get better and we support our veterans and troops. But an October, 2015 Military Times article reports, “  Eighteen months after a scandal broke over waiting periods for Veterans Affairs health care, the department is still struggling to manage patients' schedules, at least in the mental health care arena where some veterans have waited nine months for evaluations, a new government report says.” Could this have anything to do with the suicide rate?

This neglect is nothing new. It has been the case since Shays Rebellion in 1786 led by veterans treated poorly after the Revolutionary War to the Bonus Army of World War I when veterans and their families gathered in Washington in the spring and summer of 1932 to demand pay promised that they needed in the middle of the Depression. For decades Vietnam Veterans were denied recognition of illnesses caused by the extremely deadly chemical dioxin in Agent Orange. Gulf War veterans are struggling with Gulf War Syndrome.  And now the challenges faced by returning troops today. The madness and suffering will not end until civilians demand a different way. Maybe because you don’t have to fight the wars, you don’t care. I don’t know. But with all the above I outlined, I repeat, don’t thank us anymore. Change the above and work to end war.  That’s real thanks.

Michael McPhearson is the executive director of Veterans For Peace and veteran of the Persian Gulf War also known as the First Iraq War.  Michael’s military career includes 6 years of reserve and 5 years active duty service. He separated from active duty in 1992 as a Captain. He is a member of Military Families Speak out and Co-Chair of the Saint Louis Don’t Shoot Coalition formed in the aftermath of the police killing of Michael Brown Jr.

U.S. and Russian Militaries Compete for Darwin Award

Which world power can damage its own interests with the dumbest move? The contest will have you on the edge of your seats.

Here's the latest U.S. entry:

Last month, a raid by Kurdish forces supposedly freed ISIS prisoners, and those Kurdish forces posted a video of prisoners rushing out of a prison while gunfire sounded in the background. One U.S. troop was killed in the raid. U.S. media rushed to cover the story as a heroic act of benevolence. Non-U.S. media rushed to cover the fact that the "non-combat" troops, the so-called "advisors" whom the U.S. has in Iraq by the thousands were in fact engaged in combat.

It escaped my attention and perhaps most people's that the "advisors" may also have been providing extraordinarily bad advice. NPR -- which often functions no differently than an official Pentagon news service -- reported an interesting contradiction to the central claim of the prisoner-rescue story.

NPRer Kelly McEvers said, "The province of Kirkuk is the crossroads of Iraq. To the north are the majority of the country's Kurds, to the south - Arabs. And now Kirkuk is on the frontlines of the battle with ISIS. Last month, Kirkuk province was the site of a prison raid by U.S. and Kurdish forces. One American soldier was killed. Earlier today, I spoke with the governor of Kirkuk, Najmaldin Karim, from our studios in Washington. And he said the raid was meant to rescue Kurds who'd been captured by ISIS. And instead, it freed ISIS fighters who'd been imprisoned by their own leaders."

Instead of freeing Kurds captured by ISIS, the U.S.-advised Kurds (together with U.S. "non-combat" troops doing their "advising") actually freed ISIS fighters?

The governor of Kirkuk, Najmaldin Karim, replied, "Among these were two who are considered somewhat senior locally in the region. One of them was the prison administrator, and the other one was some guy who used the last name of Shishani. And Shishani is a village in that area, so he's probably from - they were local."

Senior ISIS fighters were freed? Including a prison administrator who was locked up in prison? This is very unclear and may be nonsense or only part of the story, but this is an account via a U.S.-military friendly outlet from a U.S.-educated, U.S.-citizen colonial governor visiting Washington, D.C., to ask for more weapons and "trainers" and "advisors" on behalf of multicultural Kurdish heroes who he says are willing to do U.S. dirty work. The interviewer is blatantly and openly on his side, asking oh-so-"objective" questions like this one: "You make a very compelling case, and it sounds like it's a case you've made many times. Give me your honest answer. Are you getting a sense in Washington that more help is on the way?"

Freeing ISIS prisoners would be in line with other steps the U.S. has taken in support of ISIS, from overthrowing secular governments and arming Muslim radicals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and much of Syria, to brutalizing prisoners, to throwing Iraq into utter chaos, to providing arms to the Iraqi government that are used on civilians and taken by ISIS, providing arms to "moderates" in Syria that are given to ISIS, and providing arms directly to ISIS. But the biggest boost for ISIS has come from what it asked the U.S. to do in its propaganda films: attack it. By becoming the leading opponent of the distant foreign nation that has made itself so hated for so many years, ISIS was able to make its recruitment soar. The U.S. response is always the same: declare that there is no military solution, and attempt another larger military solution.

Don't look now, but here comes Russia:

The December 2013 Gallup poll in which most of the 65 nations surveyed named the United States as the greatest threat to peace on earth, the flourishing of anti-U.S. terrorist groups around the world, the bitter hatred of the flyers of killer drones, the resentment of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib -- all of this seems to have infected the Russian government with the seeds of jealousy.

How can Russia make itself properly hated, put its people in proper jeopardy, show itself a vicious world power worthy of equal or greater scorn?

Brilliant 12-dimensional chessman Vladimir Putin found an answer, beloved even on the left in the United States as a means of finally more-efficiently murdering just the right terrorists and only the right terrorists, so help me Tolstoy. Russia began bombing Syria.

Before long, Russia had generated its very own anti-Russian terrorist attack, with a plane blown up over Egypt and 224 people killed. Vladimir couldn't have been prouder. According to the New York Times,

"analysts and other experts expect that it will only strengthen Mr. Putin's resolve to become more deeply involved in the Middle East. . . . and might cause Russia to begin targeting the Islamic State more aggressively. . . . 'The Kremlin will have to reverse cause and effect here so that its strategy is not seen as leading to civilian deaths,' said Maxim Trudolyubov, an editor at large for the newspaper Vedomosti. . . . 'A terrorist attack against Russian citizens means a declaration of war against all Russians,' wrote Tatiana Stanovaya, an analyst, on, a current events website. 'The Syria campaign will thus become not a matter of Putin's ambitions, but of national revenge.'

Despite the Russian quotes, this could be just the New York Times reflexively promoting more violence as what anyone would do because it's what friends of the New York Times would do. If Russia were truly following the U.S. course, it would have occupied Egypt by now. But the Russian TV network RT has posted speculation that "the West" was behind the bomb on the plane and that supposedly the West, in a departure from its every past understanding of how a government responds to violence, intends to thereby drive Russia out of Syria rather than sucking it further in, as was done so many years ago in Afghanistan. Meanwhile Sputnik News warns that the United States has launched a proxy war on Russia in Syria, and celebrates the increased sales abroad of Russian weapons that it says has resulted from the Russian bombing of Syria.

These don't sound like the noises of a society coming to its senses. They sound like hunger pangs of a political class in the chase for a Darwin award.


Thanks to Evan Knappenberger for pointing the NPR story out to me.

Catholic Senator Says Pope Dead Wrong on Arms Trade

"Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?" the Pope asked the United States Congress during his speech there in September. "Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade."

At least a large section of the U.S. House and Senate rose and cheered, giving the above words a standing ovation.

Thousands of people, I among them, emailed their misrepresentatives to urge follow through.

In November, one of my senators finally replied. And this is what he had to say:

"Dear Mr. Swanson:

"Thank you for contacting me about the call by Pope Francis to end the arms trade.  I appreciate hearing from you.

"As a Catholic, I was delighted to have Pope Francis address a joint meeting of Congress in September. The Pope spoke eloquently about great American leaders in our history, setting high expectations for what we can do when we work together. He challenged us to heal divisions and unite against the global challenges that we face.

"During his address, Pope Francis called for an end to the international arms trade, highlighting the untold suffering that deadly weapons often have on individuals and society. While I agree that that the United States has a responsibility to ensure arms exports do not exacerbate violence, I believe that security assistance plays an important role in our national security interests and international stability. As the world's primary superpower, the United States should support the security of friends and allies and ensure that they have the means to overcome threats from violent belligerents.

"The Arms Export Control Act, International Traffic in Arms Regulations, Export Administration Act, and other legal vehicles authorize the export of arms but also place significant restrictions to keep such items from falling into the wrong hands. These restrictions include serious scrutiny of American arms exports to prevent their use in human rights violations, as well as efforts to ensure against the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weaponry. We use those restrictions often to block or delay sales of arms.

"As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, I will continue to support efforts that advance our national interests and global security. Thank you again for contacting me.


"Tim Kaine"

I have never received a single such reply letter from any Congress member that didn't offend me and annoy me. But this one is a doozy. Let's start with "a responsibility to ensure arms exports do not exacerbate violence." I'm sorry, Senator, I may be even more fallible than your Pope, but if you'll forgive my Latin, what the fuck do you think arms are? They are tools of violence, purely and by definition and beyond dispute. If they aren't going to exacerbate violence, what are they going to do?

What about this: "security assistance plays an important role in our national security interests and international stability." Does it, now? Some 80% of the weapons imported to the Middle East, not counting the weapons of the U.S. military or the weapons bestowed on "moderate" killers, are imported from the United States. The stability this has been bringing to that region is staggering. A bit more such stability, and the whole population will move to Europe.

"As the world's primary superpower, the United States should support the security of friends and allies." Yeah? Who asked it to be a superpower? I'm asking it to cease and desist. As for friends and allies, I imagine you mean Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Iraq, "moderates" in Syria, Al Qaeda in Syria, etc. With friends and allies like these in the cause of peace, who needs enemies?

"These restrictions include serious scrutiny of American arms exports to prevent their use in human rights violations, as well as efforts to ensure against the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weaponry." How'd that work out during Hillary Clinton's stewardship of the Department of State during which she waived legal restrictions to send weapons, including chemical and biological, to numerous nations of exactly the sort that you claim, accurately enough, U.S. law forbids supplying.

If I had to choose which was crazier, your humanitarian pretensions on behalf of the world's greatest purveyor of violence, or your Catholicism (with its infallible Leader in the funny hat, life after death, etc.), I'd have to go with the former. And I'm not feeling very religious.

A Giant Raptor Fueled by Oil Circles the Earth

hastingsbookBy David Swanson

To the genre of war abolition treatises that everyone should read add A New Era of Nonviolence: The Power of Civil Society Over War by Tom Hastings. This is a peace studies book that truly crosses over into the perspective of peace activism. The author addresses positive trends with neither rose- nor red-white-and-blue-colored glasses. Hastings isn’t just after peace in his heart or peace in his neighborhood or bringing the good word of peace to the Africans. He actually wants to end war, and thus includes an appropriate — by no means exclusive — emphasis on the United States and its unprecedented militarism. For example:

“In a positive feedback loop of negative consequence, the race for the world’s remaining fossil fuels will produce more conflict and require ever more fuel to win the race . . . ‘[T]he U.S. Air Force, the world’s single largest consumer of petroleum, recently announced a plan to substitute 50 percent of its fuel use with alternative fuels, with particular emphasis on biofuels. Yet, biofuels will be able to supply no more than roughly 25 percent of motor fuel [and that’s with stealing land needed for food crops –DS] . . . so other regions where oil supplies are available will likely see greater military investment and intervention.’ . . . With the growing scarcity of oil reserves the U.S. military has entered an Orwellian era of permanent war, with hot conflict in multiple countries constantly. It may be thought of as a giant raptor, fueled by oil, constantly circling the Earth, seeking its next meal.”

A lot of people in favor of “peace,” just like a lot of people in favor of protecting the environment, do not want to hear that. The U.S. Institute of Peace, for example, may be thought of as a wart on the beak of the giant raptor, and would — I think — see itself sufficiently in those terms to object to the preceding paragraph. Hastings, in fact, illustrates well how Washington, D.C., thinks of itself by quoting a fairly typical comment, but one already proven flawed by well-known events. This was Michael Barone of US News and World Report in 2003 before the attack on Iraq:

“Few in Washington doubt that we can occupy Iraq within a few weeks’ time. Then comes the difficult task of moving Iraq toward a government that is democratic, peaceful, and respectful of the rule of law. Fortunately, smart officials in both the Defense and State departments have been doing serious work planning for that eventuality for over a year now.”

So, not to worry! This was an open public statement in 2003, like many others, yet the fact that the U.S. government was planning to attack Iraq for over a year before that continues to be “breaking news!” right up through this week.

That wars can be prevented even in the United States is clear to Hastings who would agree with Robert Naiman’s recent objection when CNN suggested that having opposed the Contra war on the government of Nicaragua should disqualify someone from running for U.S. president (particularly someone standing next to a shameless warmonger who voted for the war on Iraq). In fact, Hastings points out, huge efforts by the peace movement in the United States at the time very likely prevented a U.S. invasion of Nicaragua. “[H]igh ranking U.S. officials with access to [President Ronald] Reagan and his cabinet were speculating that invading Nicaragua was almost inevitable — and . . . it never occurred.”

Hastings examines causes of war outside of the Pentagon as well, tracing, for example, infectious disease back to the common cause of poverty, and noting that infectious disease can lead to xenophobic and ethnocentric hostility that leads to war. Working to eliminate disease can therefore help to eliminate war. And of course a small fraction of the cost of war could go a long way toward eliminating diseases.

That war need not be the result of conflict is clear to Hastings who recounts excellent models such as the popular resistance in the Philippines from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s. In February 1986 a civil war began. “The people interposed between two armies of tanks in a remarkable four-day nonviolent mass action. They stopped an emerging civil war, rescued their democracy, and did all this with zero mortalities.”

A danger lurks in the growing recognition of the power of nonviolence that I think is illustrated by a quote from Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall that I’m afraid Hastings might have included without any sense of irony. Ackerman and Duvall, I should mention, are not Iraqi and at the time of making this statement had not been deputized by the people of Iraq to decide their fate:

“Saddam Hussein has brutalized and repressed the Iraqi people for more than 20 years and more recently has sought to acquire weapons of mass destruction that would never be useful to him inside Iraq. So President Bush is right to call him an international threat. Given these realities, anyone who opposes U.S. military action to dethrone him has a responsibility to suggest how he might otherwise be ushered out the back door of Baghdad. Fortunately there is an answer: Civilian-based, nonviolent resistance by the Iraqi people, developed and applied with a strategy to undermine Saddam’s basis of power.”

By this standard, any nation possessing weaponry of use only for foreign wars should by default be attacked by the United States as an international threat, or anyone opposing such action must demonstrate an alternative means of overthrowing that government. This thinking brings us CIA-NED-USAID “democracy promotion” and “color revolutions” and the general acceptance of provoking coups and uprisings “nonviolently” from Washington. But are Washington’s nuclear weapons useful to President Obama inside the United States? Would he be right then in calling himself an international threat and attacking himself unless we could show an alternative means of overthrowing himself?

If the United States were to stop arming and funding some of the worst governments on earth, its “regime change” operations elsewhere would lose that hypocrisy. They would remain hopelessly flawed as undemocratic, foreign-influenced democracy-creation. A truly nonviolent foreign policy, in contrast, would neither collaborate with Bashar al Assad on torturing people nor later arm Syrians to attack him nor organize protesters to resist him nonviolently. Rather, it would lead the world be example toward disarmament, civil liberties, environmental sustainability, international justice, fair distribution of resources, and acts of humility. A world dominated by a peace maker rather than a war maker would be far less welcoming for the crimes of the Assads of the world.

New TCBH! poem by resident poet Gary Lindorff: 'Bombs of Love'

Let us bomb your neighborhood

Guided by our intelligence.

Let us erase your neighbor

Out of love.


Kunduz hospital attack was no mistake: US Dispatched a Murderous AC-130 Airborne Gunship to Attack a Hospital

By Dave Lindorff


Evidence continues to mount that the US committed a monstrous war crime in attacking and destroying a fully operational hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on the night of Oct. 3, killing at least 22 people including at least 12 members of the volunteer medical staff of Medicine Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), the French based international aid organization that operated the hospital.

Columbus Lives

Columbus was not a particularly evil person. He was a murderer, a robber, an enslaver, and a torturer, whose crimes led to possibly the most massive conglomeration of crimes and horrific accidents on record. But Columbus was a product of his time, a time that has not exactly ended. If Columbus spoke today's English he'd say he was "just following orders." Those orders, stemming from the Catholic "doctrine of discovery," find parallels through Western history right down to today's "responsibility to protect," decreed by the high priests of the United Nations.

A sense of where Columbus was coming from can be found in a series of, aptly named, papal bull(s). These decrees make clear that the church owns the earth, bestows privileges on Christians, hopes to plunder riches, hopes to convert non-Christians, and considers non-Christians devoid of any rights worthy of any respect -- including any non-Christians yet to be encountered in lands completely unknown to the church. Native Americans were literally pre-judged before the church (and its kings and captains) knew they existed.

The Dum Diversas Bull of 1452 gives the King of Portugal permission to attack Muslims in North Africa and begins by declaring them to be full of "the rage of the enemies of the name of Christ, always aggressive in contempt of the orthodox faith," and hopes that they can "be restrained by the faithful of Christ and be subjugated to the Christian religion." Attacking North Africa was "defensive" even then, as the king would "eagerly defend the faith itself and with powerful arm fight its enemies. We also look attentively to labor at the defense and growing of the said Religion."

The Pope adds other unnamed people can be attacked too: "[W]e grant to you full and free power, through the Apostolic authority by this edict, to invade, conquer, fight, subjugate the Saracens and pagans, and other infidels and other enemies of Christ, . . . and to lead their persons in perpetual servitude."

In 2011, the U.S Department of Justice submitted to Congress a written defense of attacking North Africa claiming the war on Libya served the U.S. national interest in regional stability and in maintaining the credibility of the United Nations. But are Libya and the United States in the same region? What region is that, earth? And isn’t a revolution the opposite of stability? And does the United Nations gain credibility when wars are waged in its name?

The Romanus Pontifex Bull of 1455 was, if anything, even more full of bull, as it pontificated on places as yet unknown but fully worthy of judgment and condemnation. The church's goal was "to cause the most glorious name of the said Creator to be published, extolled, and revered throughout the whole world, even in the most remote and undiscovered places, and also to bring into the bosom of his faith the perfidious enemies of him and of the life-giving Cross by which we have been redeemed, namely the Saracens and all other infidels whatsoever." How could someone unknown be an enemy? Easy! People unknown by the church were, by definition, people who did not know the church. They were, therefore, perfidious enemies of the life-giving Cross.

When Columbus sailed, he knew beforehand that he could not possibly enounter any people worthy of any respect. The Inter Caetera Bull of 1493 tells us that Columbus "discovered certain very remote islands and even mainlands that hitherto had not been discovered by others; wherein dwell very many peoples living in peace, and, as reported, going unclothed, and not eating flesh." Those very many peoples had not discovered the place they were living, because they did not count as being anyone able to discover anything for Christianity. "You purpose also," wrote the pope, "as is your duty, to lead the peoples dwelling in those islands and countries to embrace the Christian religion."

Or else.

Or else what? The Requerimiento of 1514 that conquistadores read to the people they "discovered" told them to "accept the Church and Superior Organization of the whole world and recognize the Supreme Pontiff, called the Pope, and that in his name, you acknowledge the King and Queen, as the lords and superior authorities of these islands and Mainlands by virtue of the said donation. If you do not do this, however, or resort maliciously to delay, we warn you that, with the aid of God, we will enter your land against you with force and will make war in every place and by every means we can and are able, and we will then subject you to the yoke and authority of the Church and Their Highnesses. We will take you and your wives and children and make them slaves, and as such we will sell them, and will dispose of you and them as Their Highnesses order. And we will take your property and will do to you all the harm and evil we can, as is done to vassals who will not obey their lord or who do not wish to accept him, or who resist and defy him. We avow that the deaths and harm which you will receive thereby will be your own blame, and not that of Their Highnesses, nor ours, nor of the gentlemen who come with us."

But otherwise it's great to see you, beautiful land you have here, and we hope not to be too much inconvenience!

All people have to do to save themselves is bow down, obey, and allow the destruction of the natural world around them. If they won't do that, why, then a war on them is their own fault. Not ours. We're pre-absolved, we've got an Authorization for the Use of Military Force, we're packing U.N. resolutions.

In 1823 Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall cited the "doctrine of discovery" to justify stealing land from Native Americans in the case Johnson v. M'Intosh that has ever since been seen as the foundation of land ownership and property law in the United States. Marshall ruled for a unanimous court, uncontroversially, that Native Americans could not own or sell land, except when selling it to the federal government which had taken over the role of conqueror from the British. Natives could not possess sovereignty.

"The Responsibility to Protect (R2P or RtoP) is a proposed norm that sovereignty is not an absolute right," according to Wikipedia, which is as authoritative a source as any, since R2P is not a law at all, more of a bull. It continues: ". . . and that states forfeit aspects of their sovereignty when they fail to protect their populations from mass atrocity crimes and human rights violations (namely genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing). . . . [T]he international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as economic sanctions. Military intervention is considered the last resort."

If we understand "sovereignty" to mean the right not to be attacked by foreigners, the high church on the East River does not recognize it among the pagans. Saudi Arabia may murder many innocents, but the church chooses to bestow grace and weapons shipments. The same for Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, etc. The church, under the influence of Cardinal Obama, does not recognize sovereignty but bestows mercy. In Iraq, Libya, Iran, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Ukraine, Honduras, and other troubled lands of Saracens and infidels, they bring righteous rape and pillage on themselves. It's not the fault of the armies performing their duty to attack and enlighten.

Back in the 1980s I lived in Italy and there was a funny movie called Non resta che piangere (Nothing left to do but cry) about a couple of buffoons who were magically transported back to 1492. They immediately decided to try to stop Columbus in order to save the Native Americans (and avoid U.S. culture). As I recall, they were too slow and failed to stop Columbus' departure. There was nothing left to do but cry. They might, however, have worked on altering the people who would welcome Columbus back with collectively sociopathic ideas. For that matter, they might have returned to the 1980s and worked on the same educational mission.

It's not too late for us to stop celebrating Columbus Day and every other war holiday, and focus instead on including among the human rights we care about, the right not to be bombed or conquered.

The Incomprehensible Idea: What Opposing All Wars Means

The world’s two big nuclear militaries are in the same war now in Syria and, if not on opposite sides exactly, certainly not on the same side. A primary, if not the primary, goal of the United States in Syria is overthrowing the Syrian government. A primary, if not the primary, goal of Russia is maintaining the Syrian government. Hostilities are building in each nation toward the other. Republican candidates for president are trying to outdo a certain Democratic candidate for president in bellicosity toward Russia. Forces armed by the U.S. in Syria are eager to shoot down Russian planes. Russia and the U.S. and its allies are clearly unhappy about each other’s flights. Hillary Clinton wants a no-fly zone. Israeli and Russian planes have already come close to fighting. Israel has attacked the base Russia is using, or at least Russia says it has.

To my mind this is more dangerous that the Cuban missile crisis. This is the Cuban missile crisis with way more nukes, way crazier elected officials, numerous state and non-state actors in the mix, an unpredictable civil war underway, a propaganda machine of higher sophistication and extreme corruption, and the public too confused and deluded to impose any sort of positive influence at all.

And when I mock the public I include myself in that. Let me give you an idea of how out of touch I am. I would have thought that every peace activist in the United States would oppose the new development of Russia bombing Syria. We’ve always said, and some of us have even believed, that war was immoral and illegal and unacceptable no matter who did it. We’ve opposed primarily U.S. wars because the U.S. is the primary wager of wars and because we live in the U.S. We’ve always said that if some other nation were to begin adventuring around the world bombing countries we would oppose that too. And some of us meant it. We’ve always argued that bombs kill civilians along with ordinary soldiers stuck on the wrong side. We’ve always pointed to all the evidence that bombs generate more hatred, more violence, more enemies. U.S. bombs, we’ve said, don’t plant flowers of democracy; they plant seeds of violent blowback. Are we now to suppose that Russian bombs are different? Because I couldn’t have been more wrong about how people were going to react.

Many, it turns out, see Russian bombs as imposing law and order, bombing the proper people which the U.S. was failing to do, and resisting the evil warmaking efforts of the United States.

Of course, Russia is supporting a legal government, not a bunch of rebel groups. Of course the United States and every other party involved was on a years-long course of disaster and horror before Russia reached this stage of involvement. But how does supporting a legal government give you a blank check for dropping bombs on people? If Russia had supported the legal government of Egypt by bombing Tahrir Square in 2011 would all the same observers have cheered? Russia has been arming and supporting a brutal murderous government in Syria for years, fueling a proxy war. The United States and its gulf allies have been arming and training and assisting various sides in the war for years now. The constant flow of weapons has been worsening the situation for years. The steady escalation of the violence has been worsening the situation for years. Why wouldn’t it? It always does.

Of course those many “peace” activists who have supported U.S. efforts to overthrow the Syrian government for years might be expected to possibly denounce Russian bombing. But what about those of us who’ve opposed U.S. imperialism and rejected with indignation all the accusations of being big fans of Bashar al Assad?

I’ve been on Russia TV dozens of times in recent years to denounce U.S. actions in Iraq and Syria. Often RT creates a Youtube video and a text story about the interview afterwards. Last week I was on and they apparently expected me to cheer for the Russian bombs, but I denounced them as well, and the Syrian government as well, along with the United States and its many allies. The interviewer seemed shocked, but it was live — what could they do? I haven’t seen any Youtube. I haven’t had another call from RT yet. (In fairness, I opposed U.S. warmaking on MSNBC over a year ago and have yet to hear from them.)

I was so out of touch on Friday that, even though I expected that line of questioning and that response to my answers from RT, I assumed peace activists all agreed with me. It turns out that many clearly do not, and many others assume the same thing about me that RT did, namely that I must be thrilled that Russia is dropping bombs on Syrians.

When you engage in online activism, and you send out emails to hundreds of thousands of people, you get back quite a variety of responses. One type of response that often gets on my nerves is the why-didn’t-you-mention-my-cause-in-your-email response. It’s just not fun to receive outraged messages that your petition against a corporate trade agreement failed to mention the Citizens United decision, or your campaign to end the war on Afghanistan failed to mention the war on Yemen. These complaints are usually accompanied by accusations of evil intent and corrupt complicity. This phenomenon has been increasing as the wars have been proliferating. And it’s merged with the ages-old tradition of assuming that opposition to one side in a war equals support for the other side. If you don’t want Israelis killing Palestinians then you must want Palestinians killing Israelis. This line of thinking is ubiquitous. So, now I receive angry emails attacking me for supporting Russian bombs in Syria or Syrian bombs in Syria when I send out an email opposing a fracked gas pipeline or denouncing the bombing of a hospital in Afghanistan.

Some wise souls began, immediately upon the commencement of the Russian bombing of Syria, to declare that we must oppose bombing by all sides. I stupidly assumed this went without saying. I ignored constructive criticism that I shouldn’t say anything about anything without opposing the Russian bombing or everyone would conclude I favored it. Huh? Why in the world would they think that? I’ve been working on a set of arguments for the complete abolition of war. Why would I favor war all of a sudden — and the most dangerous development in war in the history of the planet? That’s crazy, I thought. But I was way out of touch.

The idea of opposing all war, though many thousands sign their names onto it, is really not understood by very many, I’m afraid. I think it’s taken as meaningless rhetoric, harmless simplification. Of course they don’t mean all war, they just mean the bad wars, I’ll go ahead and sign that. Deep in the minds of even some of the most dedicated and courageous and principled peace activists lies faith in the power of brute force, reliance on the strategy of a balance of powers, hope that war waged properly by the right parties in the right places can end the improper wars and bring about war’s absence.

I believe I am going to make a list of all active wars, and all parties in them, with the words “I oppose these:” at the top. Of course I oppose secret actions by “special” forces too. I oppose drone murders I’m never told about. And of course I’m holding out hope that drone war opponents will be saddened rather than encouraged when nations other than the United States begin to get caught committing drone murders. Come to think of it, there is no way to create a comprehensive list. You’re just going to have to believe I oppose all war, and I’m just going to have to keep saying so over and over and over. After all, I may not have long left to say it if U.S.-Russian relations continue on the course they’ve charted.

War Abolition Books Proliferate

When I wrote War Is A Lie in 2010 (second edition coming April 5th!) it was a condemnation of war, but not exactly a manifesto for abolishing it. I wrote that in War No More: The Case for Abolition in 2013. But John Horgan wrote The End of War in 2012. Douglas Fry wrote Beyond War: The Human Potential for Peace in 2009. Russell Faure-Brac wrote Transition to Peace in 2012. Winslow Myers wrote Living Beyond War in 2009. Judith Hand wrote Shift: The Beginning of War, the Ending of War in 2013. Colleagues of mine at and I wrote A Global Security System: An Alternative to War in 2015. And I’ve just picked up a copy of Roberto Vivo’s War: A Crime Against Humanity (2014). There are others out there, and others in the works. Some readers may point to Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature (2012), although it’s not so much a rallying cry to end war as a misleading claim that war is ending itself. There are other books as well that are more straightforwardly responses to the growth of war abolitionism, such as War: What Is It Good For? by Ian Morris in 2015, which, yes, argues that wars are good for us and shouldn’t be abolished.

There were a lot more war abolition books in the 1920s and 1930s, and of course there was a much bigger peace movement in the 1960s than now, but I think it can safely be argued that a new trend is emerging in opposition to the institution of war, a trend possibly brought on in part by the end of the Cold War and by the 8-year reign of a Republican U.S. President (or was it Vice President?) who engaged in aggressive war with unapologetic rhetoric and extremely careless propaganda. Certainly the end of the (Bill) Clinton years was not greeted by the publication of a pile of books seeking to rid the world of war. Some of the books above are quite explicitly reactions to the George W. Bush wars, some include misguided apologies for the Barack Obama wars, some claim weapons companies can coexist with peace, some suggest that women must end the male scourge of war, some condemn capitalism as a root problem, some are religious, some focus on scientific studies. No two agree with each other on every point. They all — certainly including mine — have flaws.

But the cumulative effect of these books is bound to be more persuasive than any one of them. They all or virtually all point to the current understanding of pre-history as a time free of war, slavery, major agriculture, cities, and other accouterments of “civilization,” although not, of course, free of violence or anger. All of these books recognize war and these other developments as relatively new in human existence and argue that if some can be ended (such as slavery, which few now dispute can be ended) then war can be ended too. All make the case that war since World War II has killed primarily civilians and cannot be morally defended. All make the case that war while nuclear weapons exist risks human annihilation. All argue that developments in peace studies and nonviolent action render war obsolete as a tool for political change. All point to examples of “primitive” and “civilized” cultures choosing to live without war for centuries on end. All point to examples of particular wars being prevented, and ask “If that war could be stopped, why not every war?” All strive to identify some of the factors facilitating war (cultural attitudes, profiteering, corruption, propaganda, etc.) and to propose courses of action that will move us toward abolition.

Roberto Vivo’s book is no exception. Its initial sections are among the best I’ve read on the evitability of war, the evil of war, and the unjustness of war. The whole book is full of intriguing nuggets for further exploration of other authors, ancient Chinese philosophers, and anecdotes from centuries gone by. The third of the four sections of Vivo’s book seemed rather irrelevant to me. We read about George Soros’ late-in-life discovery that self-identified “democracies” use propaganda; yet we read page after page about the development and politics of democracy — always credited ultimately to the ancient Greeks, never the Iroquois. And I think the short section in which Vivo claims that weapons industries can coexist with peace while generating economic benefits ought to address the serious arguments that the weapons industries are actually an economic drain, that restraining them is not easy, that they want their weapons tested and demonstrated, and that they want their weapons eliminated and replaced.

Vivo’s final chapter looks at slavery, torture, and racism as practices that are being ended — or at least we hope so, and I think the arguments used are good ones despite the significant comeback for torture in recent years. Vivo sees part of the solution to war as resting in criminalizing it. He’d like to transform the International Criminal Court into an independent and effective institution with the ability to prosecute what he calls “aggressive war” and what I would call “war.” Vivo accurately identifies the United States government as the major force working against such application of the rule of law. But he writes about the idea of criminalizing war as if it’s never been done, and claims that the effort to prosecute the crime of starting World War I failed because it has always been believed that no single individual could be held accountable for something so enormous.

But in fact roughly half the world is represented by governments that are parties to a treaty banning all war, and it was the existence of this treaty that allowed the United States to claim that war was a crime when it was committed by Germany and Japan (though, for some reason, not when it was committed by the victors of World War II). This treaty, which did not exist when World War I was launched, is called the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and I wrote about it in When the World Outlawed War. Vivo’s nation of Uruguay is not a party to the Pact, but its current president seems just the person to change that. Were Uruguay to send a letter to the U.S. State Department joining the Kellogg-Briand Pact, it would then be a party to it. That’s all that is required. Uruguay might then send a note the following week respectfully urging the United States to comply with the treaty.

Of course, bringing the nations of the world together to create something like the Kellogg-Briand Pact from scratch would work just as well, but no single country could do that alone, and no group of countries could do it in this day and age without some sort of magical powers. The victors of World War II, also known as the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, think they have got a good thing going. Why would they choose to put themselves on an equal level with others and ban all war when they can maintain impunity and choose which wars are “defensive” and which are “authorized”?

The secret of Kellogg-Briand is that four of the big five are already on board with banning all war and just need to be reminded of it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Uruguay were to play that role?

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if war abolition literature were read, studied, discussed, refined, and acted on?

Mainstreaming the Preferential Option For the Poor: Pope Francis Drops a Bomb on Washington

By John Grant

A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.
                                                             -- Pope Francis speaking to the US Congress

The UN: Pretending to Oppose War for 70 Years

The United Nation's 17 Sustainable Development Goals don't just ignore the fact that development isn't sustainable; they revel in it. One of the goals is spreading energy use. Another is economic growth. Another is preparation for climate chaos (not preventing it, but dealing with it). And how does the United Nations deal with problems? Generally through wars and sanctions.

This institution was set up 70 years ago to keep nations, rather than a global body, in charge, and to keep the victors of World War II in a permanent position of dominating the rest of the globe. The UN legalized "defensive" wars and any wars it "authorizes" for whatever reason. It now says drones have made war "the norm," but addressing that problem is not among the 17 goals now being considered. Ending war is not among the goals. Disarmament isn't mentioned. The Arms Trade Treaty put through last year still lacks the United States, China, and Russia, but that's not among the 17 concerns of "sustainable development."

Saudi Arabia's "responsibility to protect" Yemen by murdering its people with U.S. weapons isn't at issue. Saudi Arabia is busy crucifying children and heading up the UN's Human Rights Council. Meanwhile U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the Foreign Minister of Turkey have declared that they will start addressing the full "lifecycle" of young people who become "terrorists." Of course, they'll do so without mentioning the U.S.-led wars that have traumatized the region or the by now long established record of the global war on terrorism producing terrorism.

I'm happy to have signed this letter, which you, too, can sign below:

To: U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon

The U.N. Charter was ratified on October 24, 1945. Its potential is still unfulfilled. It has been used to advance and misused to impede the cause of peace. We urge a rededication to its original goal of saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war.

Whereas the Kellogg-Briand Pact forbids all war, the U.N. Charter opens up the possibility of a "legal war." While most wars do not meet the narrow qualifications of being defensive or U.N.-authorized, many wars are marketed as if they meet those qualifications, and many people are fooled. After 70 years isn't it time for the United Nations to cease authorizing wars and to make clear to the world that attacks on distant nations are not defensive?

The danger lurking in the "responsibility to protect" doctrine must be addressed. Acceptance of murder by armed drone as either non-war or legal war must be decisively rejected. To fulfill its promise, the United Nations must rededicate itself to these words from the U.N. Charter: "All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered."

To advance, the United Nations must be democratized so that all people of the world have an equal voice, and no single or small number of wealthy, war-oriented nations dominate the UN's decisions. We urge you to pursue this path.

World Beyond War has outlined specific reforms that would democratize the United Nations, and make nonviolent actions the primary activity engaged in. Please read them here.

David Swanson
Coleen Rowley
David Hartsough
Patrick Hiller
Alice Slater
Kevin Zeese
Heinrich Buecker
Norman Solomon
Sandra Osei Twumasi
Jeff Cohen
Leah Bolger

Add your name.

A question from Afghanistan, “Can we abolish war?”

By Dr Hakim

Hadisa, a bright 18 year old Afghan girl, ranks as the top student in her 12th grade class. “The question is,” she wondered, “are human beings capable of abolishing war?”

Like Hadisa, I had my doubts about whether human nature could have the capacity to abolish war. For years, I had presumed that war is sometimes necessary to control ‘terrorists’, and based on that presumption, it didn’t make sense to abolish it. Yet my heart went out to Hadisa when I imagined her in a future riddled with intractable violence.

Hadisa tilted her head slightly in deep thought. She listened attentively to different opinions voiced by fellow Afghan Peace Volunteers. She struggles to find answers.

But when Hadisa turns up at the Borderfree Afghan Street Kids School every Friday to teach the child breadwinners, now numbering 100 in morning and afternoon classes, she lays aside her doubts.

I can see her apply her inner compassion which rises way above the war that is still raging in Afghanistan.

Hadisa, like 99% of human beings, and the more than 60 million refugees fleeing from military and economic wars, usually chooses peaceful, constructive action rather than violence.

“Dear students,“ Hadisa says, “In this school, we wish to build a world without war for you.”

Hadisa says #Enough! War
Hadisa, now convinced of the possibility of abolishing war, says #Enough!

Her street kid students enjoy Hadisa’s teaching. What’s more, away from the rough and unpredictable streets of Kabul, they find the space at the school affirming, safe and different.

Fatima, one of Hadisa’s students, participated in the very first street kids’ demonstration in Kabul demanding a school for 100 street kids. In subsequent actions, she helped plant trees and bury toy weapons. In another two days, on the 21st of September, the International day of Peace, she will be one of 100 street kids who will serve a lunch meal to 100 Afghan labourers.

“In place of war,” Fatima learnt, “we will do acts of kindness.”

This action will launch #Enough!, a long-term campaign and movement initiated by the Afghan Peace Volunteers to abolish war.

Wow! What practical learning!

If the street kids were taught erroneous ways, and became ‘terrorists’, would the solution be to eventually ‘target and kill’ them?

I couldn’t bear to think of it, and am more and more convinced, like Hadisa and the Afghan Peace Volunteers, that killing those labelled ‘terrorists’ by waging war against them doesn’t work.

War and weapons don’t heal the root causes of ‘terrorism’. If our brother or sister was violent, we wouldn’t think of killing them to reform them.

I was in the class when the question was first posed to the street kids: “To whom would you wish to serve a meal?” Hands went up like love and hope blooming for the new Afghan generation, and Habib, an older street kid who was Hadisa’s student last year, echoed along with many others, “The labourers!”

I felt immensely moved, having seen a definite glimmer of our human capacity to care for others, rather than exercise hate, discrimination, indifference or apathy.

Habib makes a lunch invitation list for labourers
Habib, with pen and paper, making an invitation list of 100 Afghan labourers with whom he and other Afghan street kids will share a meal

Yesterday, Habib helped his volunteer teacher, Ali, to invite labourers to the meal on the 21st. As I filmed and photographed Habib taking down the names of Afghan men much older than him, I felt renewed faith in our human ability to do good, and a warm, tender feeling overwhelmed me.

With people like Hadisa, Fatima, Habib and the many wonderful young Afghans I’ve met, I know that we can abolish war.

For their sake and the sake of human kind, we should work together with much patience, and all of our love.

In 1955, after two world wars and the loss of at least 96 million people, Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein wrote a Manifesto, saying, “Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?”

After finishing the invitations, as we were walking along the very streets where Habib used to take the weight of pedestrians to earn some income for his family, I asked him, “Why do you want to end war?’

He replied, “Ten persons killed here, ten persons killed there. What’s the point? Soon, there’s a massacre, and gradually a world war.”

Habib says #Enough War!
Habib says #Enough!

Dr Hakim, ( Dr. Teck Young, Wee ) is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 10 years, including being a mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.

Dear friends who have had #Enough!

Today, every day, we wake up, and we want to live differently, because the status quo stinks! :) Join the Afghan Peace Volunteers and street kids, Zarghuna, Muheb, Barath, Mursal, Inam, Deeba and Zahra, to say #Enough!  

From Afghanistan, #Enough!


100 Afghan street kids, including Muqadisa in the photo, will cook and serve a meal for 100 Afghan labourers to launch #Enough! on 21st Sept, the International Day of Peace. Beautiful! Why do the elite know only ugly violence and ugly war? #Enough!


We want to abolish war, and we need you! So, we hope that you and your friends can:

  1. Sign ‘The People’s Agreement to Abolish War’ at You’ll be generating the critical mass of friends needed to build a world without war.
  2. Get together with one or more friends to serve a vulnerable person/persons in your vicinity. Energies and resources invested in wars will instead be redirected toward meeting human needs. Register your local solidarity action at
  3. Give one another hope and be in solidarity by writing a letter to, or send a selfie, a photo of friends with ‘#Enough!’ written on the palms of your hands, or a captioned photo of your solidarity action.


Love and thanks,

Hakim with the Afghan Peace Volunteers

New poem by TCBH resident poet Gary Lindorff -- 'Evil'

Dad, you believed in evil

To your dying day.

You weren’t a Christian

But it was just your way

Of forgiving human beings for

Worst president ever?: History Should and Probably Will Judge President Obama Harshly

By Dave Lindorff

President Barack Obama is on track to go down in history as one of the, or perhaps as the worst and most criminal presidents in US history. 

Open Letter to the War-Politicians of the World – by Juergen Todenhoefer, a German journalist, former media manager and politician


Juergen Todenhoefer is a German journalist, former media manager and politician. From 1972 to 1990 he was a member of parliament for the Christian Democrats (CDU). He was one of Germany's most ardous supporters of the US-sponsored Mujahideen and their guerrilla war against the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. Several times he traveled to combat zones with Afghan Mujahideen groups. From 1987 to 2008 he served on the board of the media group Burda. After 2001 Todenhöfer becames a outspoken critic of the US intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has published several books about visits he made to war zones. In recent years he did two interviews with Syria's President Assad and in 2015 he was the first german journalist to visit the 'Islamic State'.

Here his latest post on his Facebook page, a post that during the last two days alone has been liked by 22.000 people and shared on Facebook by 15.000 people.
Juergen Todenhoefers Facebook Page is the most visited political page on Facebook with 443,135 Likes

"Dear Presidents and Heads of Governments!

Through decades of a policy of war and exploitation you have pushed millions people in the Middle East and Africa into misery. Because of your policies refugees have to flee all over the world. One out every three refugees in Germany comes from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. From Africa comes one out of five refugees.

Your wars are also the cause of global terrorism. Instead some 100 international terrorists like 15 years ago, we now are faced with more than 100,000 terrorists. Your cynical ruthlessness now strikes back at us like a boomerang.

As usual, you do not even consider, to really change your policy. You cure only the symptoms. The security situation gets more dangerous and chaotic by the day. More and more wars, waves of terror and refugee crises will determine the future of our planet.

Even in Europe, the war will one day knock again at Europe's door. Any businessman that would act like you would be fired or be in prison by now. You are total failures.

The peoples of the Middle East and Africa, whose countries you have destroyed and plundered her and the people of Europe, who now accommodate the countless desperate refugees have to pay a  high price for your policies. But wash your hands of responsibility. You should stand trial in front of the International Criminal Court. And each of your political followers should actually take care of at least 100 refugee families.

Basically, the people of the world should raise and resist you as the warmongers and exploiters. As once Gandhi did it - in nonviolence, in 'civil disobedience'. We should create new movements and parties. Movements for justice and humanity. Make wars in other countries just as punishable as murder and manslaughter one's own country. And you who are responsible for war and exploitation, you should go to hell forever. It is enough! Get lost! The world would be much nicer without you. Jürgen Todenhöfer "

Dear friends, I know you should never write letters in anger. But life is way too short to always beat about the bush. Is your anger not so great that you want to cry about so much irresponsibility? About the infinite suffering that has been caused by these politicians? About the millions of dead people? Did the warmongering politicians really believe they could go on for decades with impunity beating up other peoples making a killing at the same time? We should no longer accept this! In the name of humanity, I call upon to: Defend yourselves!
Your JT



World Beyond War Supports Japan Protesters: "Preserve Peace Constitution"

World Beyond War Supports Japan Protesters
Calls for Preservation of Peace Constitution

Thursday, August 20, 2015

World Beyond War endorses the efforts of peace groups throughout Japan to protect Japan’s “peace constitution,” and to oppose pending legislation currently being promoted by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that would re-militarize Japan. Peace groups will mobilize throughout Japan (at last count, 32 locations) on Sunday, August 23, and other days in the coming week.

Article 9 of Japan’s constitution states:

“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. (2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

World Beyond War Director David Swanson said on Thursday: “World Beyond War advocates for abolishing war, including through constitutional and legal means. We point to the post-WWII Japanese constitution, in particular its Article 9, as a model of legislation to outlaw war.”

“It is a little known fact,” Swanson added, “that nearly identical language to Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution is in a treaty to which most nations of the world are party but which some of them routinely violate: the Kellogg-Briand Pact of August 27, 1928. Rather than following the path of militarism, Japan should be leading the rest of us toward compliance with the law.”

Added World Beyond War Executive Committee Member Joe Scarry, “World Beyond War colleagues in Japan tell us that the protests which are taking place across Japan oppose Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s security bills. The Japanese people believe the bills are unconstitutional, and are afraid that if these bills pass, the Japanese government and Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) will join American wars, which have killed many innocent people.”

Scarry also said, “The bills pending in Japan are particularly undesirable because of the threat they pose to the peace work of Japanese non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Japanese NGOs have worked for decades to assist and provide humanitarian aid in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places. Japanese NGOs have been able to conduct their work in relative safety, in part because local people have known that Japan js a pacifist country and Japanese workers don’t carry guns. Japanese NGOs formed trust and cooperation in the areas they served, and that trust and cooperation encouraged locals and NGOs to work together. There is great concern that once Prime Minister Abe’s security bills pass, this trust will be jeopardized.”

For details of protests in Japan against re-militarization, see

World Beyond War is a global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace.

Make deal not war!: Obama’s, and Washington’s, Absurd Choice of a Nuclear Deal or War on Iran

By Dave Lindorff

I don’t know which is worse: President Obama asserting, in defense of the nuclear deal he and his Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated with Iran, that “The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some form of war, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon,” or the fact that most Americans, and most American pundits, seem to accept that limited choice of options as a given.

Imagine there’s no army

By CJ Hinke
Excerpted from Free Radicals: War Resisters in Prison by CJ Hinke, forthcoming from Trine-Day in 2016.

Acting Costa Rican President José “Don Pepe”Figueres Ferrer takes a sledgehammer to the Cuartel Bellavista military barracks, 1948

The 22 countries which have abolished their militaries or were founded without one are uniformly tiny, isolated, and often island nations. In many cases, these states maintain national police or paramilitary forces for internal protection (some might say from their own citizens in the event of a popular uprising to effect regime change), maritime defence patrols, or are defended by their former colonial masters. Some might say they are at little risk of invasion because there’s nothing more to take and few to fight back!

Although countries with armies may be more complex and have extensive economic and foreign policy agendas, there is no reason why they, too, could not take the first step in abolishing their large and costly militaries. One country’s standing army can only be an implied threat against other nations. When a country has an army, there is every incentive to put it to aggressive use.

Bluntly stated, war is illegal under international law. All member states of the United Nations signed its Charter in 1945: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” The ‘purposes’ in Chapter I of the Charter are focused on the need “to maintain international peace.” The Preamble to the Charter emphasise its purpose: “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.”

It's not terrorism if it's retaliation: Chattanooga Shooting, If Linked to ISIS, is a Legitimate Act of War

By Dave Lindorff


I'm not a fan of war or of killing of any kind, but the labeling of the deadly attack by Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez on two US military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee as an act of terror is absurd.

Is War Ever an Answer?

Presidential candidates would do well to consider criteria in potential conflict
KRISTIN CHRISTMAN, originally published by Albany Times Union

It's swell that presidential candidates assert they wouldn't have invaded Iraq had they been president in 2003 with the information they have now.

But candidates should display not only hindsight but foresight: How will they react to future unverified information about foreign threats? Why would war even be an option?

It's hard to imagine, much less recall, a war that satisfies traditional or updated requirements of a "Just War". Many consider the phrase an oxymoron. Yet if war is not just, how can it advance humankind?

One traditional Just War requirement is noble intention. But it's easy to hide behind one noble goal as a cloaking pretense for war. To remove loopholes from Just War criteria, let's also require the absence of ignoble intentions. After all, while ignoble intentions may require war, noble goals likely may not.

Which presidential candidates -- and not just Democrats and Republicans but Greens and others -- could ensure that weapons, oil, and construction corporations will not profit from war? That war will not be pushed to secure pipelines, military bases, and private military contracts? That Holy War will not be successfully peddled by Christian and Jewish extremists eager to jump-start Armageddon?

A second ignored requirement of Just War is that non-combatants be spared from harm.

How do candidates plan to meet this standard? Doesn't the massive killing power of modern weapons render them unable to discriminate between combatants, non-combatants, innocent, and guilty?

On what basis do candidates believe guilt should be determined? Is an Iraqi guilty if he raises a gun when fearful of an American soldier invading his home? Or is the American guilty? If American serial killers receive trials, why are foreigners obliterated?

A third requirement is likelihood of success in achieving noble goals, including peace, love, joy, trust, health, and justice. But how can war nurture any of these when communities are pulverized, violence is role-modeled, and underlying causes of conflict are ignored?

Consider 9/11. Terrorists are not homogeneous, and their motivations range from aggressive to defensive. Motivations include sadism, low empathy, domination preoccupations, black-and-white thinking, underdog biases, hostile interpretations of Islam, boredom, and beliefs in killing's usefulness.

They include resentment over Western hatred, anti-Muslim prejudice, anti-Islamist repression, foreign political interference, Westernization, secularism, urbanization, social alienation, unemployment, and capitalism's callousness towards poverty.
And they include compassionate rage over suffering from Israeli cruelty towards Palestinians, the Persian Gulf War and sanctions, U.S. invasions, U.S. military bases abroad, genuine fear of Western-Zionist crusading domination, and baseless arrests, torture, and execution of thousands under dictators, often financed and armed by the U.S.

Candidates: Which motivations were remedied by U.S. violence in the Mideast? Which were aggravated?

A fourth criterion is that benefits from war outweigh costs. Will candidates include the costs to the troops for suicide, homicide, injury, PTSD, drugs, and domestic abuse? The costs for their long-term care? The costs to fund a war and forego bridge and railroad repair, food and water inspection, hiring nurses and teachers, subsidizing solar energy, natural disaster preparation, and tax reduction? The costs suffered by enemies, or don't they matter?

Updated Just War criteria should require that war's benefit/cost ratio is not only positive, but is greater than the ratio of any other combination of alternatives, including dialogue, cooperative problem-solving, negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. Which candidates will make these calculations?

Updated criteria should require war to adhere to a Clean Air, Water, and Land Act in War and to protect non-human species' lives and habitats. Does war have some divine right to contaminate Earth and unleash all that is negative?

And energy criteria? If civilians can't use traditional light bulbs because they waste energy by emitting more heat than light, why can presidents squander energy on weapons that emit only destruction?

Which candidates will place caps on fuel usage in war? Who will ensure war isn't fought for wealth and oil to fund and fuel future wars for wealth and oil?

A final neglected Just War criterion: War can be used only as a last resort. 21st century candidates must describe the spectrum of non-violent solutions they'll pursue. Will options surpass the hostile mantra of sanctions, asset freezes, political isolation, and weapons sales? Will candidates actually match roots of violence with practical solutions? Will they seek advice from experts on peace rather than war?

ISIS atrocities are not a problem to ISIS, nuclear weapon ownership isn't a problem to North Korea and Israel, and terrorism isn't a problem for terrorists. For them, these are solutions to other problems. For the U.S., revitalizing nuclear arsenals, invading nations, torturing prisoners, and collecting phone data aren't problems: They're solutions to other problems.

Who will ask: What are these problems? How can we resolve them kindly and cooperatively?

Problems provoking violence are not excuses for violence, but they are solid topics for cooperative, problem-solving dialogue. So where's the dialogue? Where's that precious freedom of speech when we need it? Or is it reserved for insulting prophets?

Compare American reactions to the Mideast and to Ferguson, Mo. Are police and communities requesting weapons for Ferguson? Or are they calling for better relations based upon understanding and caring? For body cameras, de-militarized police, restraint in the use of force, improved training, fair trials, economic and social help, prejudice reduction, friendship, and dialogue?

Is that approach too good for the international community?

Kristin Christman is author of The Taxonomy of Peace and "Mother's Day."

We’re the heroin business!: US Lost in Afghanistan, But Did Make Afghanistan World’s Top Heroin Exporter

By Jack Balkwill

...The US government pretends to care about eradicating opium production in Afghanistan, while production soars to record levels.  Can this be an accident? 

The largest marketplace for illegal drugs continues to be the United States, despite a decades-long so-called "war on drugs."  Can this be an accident? 

How Can This Still Be Happening in Our World?

How does war impact people who believe in it?

What does it do to people who live through it?

How does it feel to begin to doubt it?

This play is a flood of sensations streaming out of the madness of militarism half-aware of itself.

"I'm going to create a Sanctuary, a place inside myself first where I tell the truth," says a character toward the end, as if telling the truth to others openly would be a difficult, second step to someday follow telling the truth to oneself.

For how many people is that true?

How many of them might it help to hear someone else tell the truth in a room of someone elses listening and appreciating?

Watch this:

We don’t do body counts: Have Millions of Deaths from America's 'War on Terror' been Concealed?

By Jack Balkwill


How many days has it been
Since I was born?
How many days
'Til I die?

Do I know any ways
I can make you laugh?
Or do I only know how
To make you cry?

― Leon Russell, Stranger in a Strange Land

The case for ‘courageous restraint’: The Killer Elite, at Home and Abroad

By John Grant

We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.

                                                      - George Orwell

Speaking Events


War Is A Lie: Second Edition
Published April 5, 2016
Tour begins here:

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