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Ending All War
Barbecuing the Palestinians: Once it was Nazis Leveling the Warsaw Ghetto, Now it’s Israel’s IDF Leveling Gaza
By Dave Lindorff
About six years ago, as part of his Bar Mitzvah, my son Jed did a project on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, producing his own graphic novel about the undergound fighters who used courage, creativity and the city’s sewer system to, in some small way, offer resistance to the murderous program of the Nazis to exterminate Poland’s Jews.
A few years back, prior to the International Day of Peace on September 21st, a school board member here in Virginia said that he would back a resolution marking that day as long as everyone understood that in doing so he was not opposing any wars.
Wars for peace, like sex for virginity, appear contradictory to some. But what about militarism for peace? What about war preparations and peace? A so-called "defense" department that arms the world; can that be compatible with peace?
We need our governments to begin planning for a day of peace. Instead of investing everything in planning for war, preparing for war, and proliferating enough weapons to fuel plenty of wars, governments could invest in alternatives to war, nonviolent means of conflict resolution, moves toward justice that reduce conflict, international standards of law that make negotiations and diplomacy effective.
One of the tools that we can use to move our cultures and our governments toward planning for a day of peace is to ourselves plan for a day celebrating peace -- peace understood precisely as the elimination of war. September 21st, the International Day of Peace, is one such day. WorldBeyondWar.org is organizing events here. And here is a list of events in the U.S. arranged on a map by Campaign Nonviolence.
Groups and individuals interested in planning events this September can work with Campaign Nonviolence and Global Movement for the Culture of Peace and Peace One Day and A Year Without War. Advocates of peace and environmental sanity who grasp the connections between the two may want to participate in a People's Climate March in New York City, September 20-21, and bring this flyer: PDF.
Some resources that can be used to create events of various types are here:
Screen and discuss the World Beyond War video.
Bring speakers from this Speakers Bureau.
Use these flyers, sign-up cards, sign-up sheets.
At some events already planned for September 21, 2014, people will begin marking 100 years since the Christmas Truces of World War I. You can find great information on World War I at 100 on NoGlory.org
You may want to screen Joyeux Noel: a film about the 1914 Christmas truce. Or use this script for reenactment of a Christmas Truce: PDF. Here's more Christmas Truce information and videos. And if you're in the Northeast U.S. or the U.K. you might be able to attend or even set up a production of The Great War Theatre Project: Messengers of a Bitter Truth: Info in PDF.
Peace deserves more than empty platitudes compatible with the preservation of war as our largest public project. Sometimes bringing truth back from propaganda is so jarring as to be humorous. "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work," said Woody Allen. "I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don't want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment." We should not want peace only in our hearts or in the press releases of the Pentagon; we should want peace through the ending of war and the abolition of the institutions that continue to plan and create more wars even while they pretend to a sight degree of outrage that each new war has been successfully created.
Kerry, Kerry pants on fire!: If You Believed the Secretary of State’s Poison Gas Lie, You’ll Love His Latest One
By Dave Lindorff
If the best the US can do to pin the blame for the Malaysia Flight 17 downing on Russia is to have Secretary of State John Kerry say that “circumstantial evidence” points to Moscow being behind it, we can be pretty certain it was not Russia at all.
By Robert C. Koehler
“At the same time, values and ideas which were considered universal, such as cooperation, mutual aid, international social justice and peace as an encompassing paradigm are also becoming irrelevant.”
Maybe this piercing observation by Roberto Savio, founder of the news agency Inter Press Service, is the cruelest cut of all. Geopolitically speaking, hope — the official kind, represented, say, by the United Nations in 1945 — feels fainter than I can remember. “We the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war . . .”
I mean, it was never real. Five centuries of European colonialism and global culture-trashing, and the remaking of the world in the economic interests of competing empires, cannot be undone by a single institution and a cluster of lofty ideals.
As Savio notes in an essay called “Ever Wondered Why the World Is a Mess?,”: “The world, as it now exists, was largely shaped by the colonial powers, which divided the world among themselves, carving out states without any consideration for existing ethnic, religious or cultural realities.”
And after the colonial era collapsed, these carved-out political entities, defining swatches of territory without any history of national identity, suddenly became the Third World and floundered in disarray. “. . . it was inevitable that to keep these artificial countries alive, and avoid their disintegration, strongmen would be needed to cover the void left by the colonial powers. The rules of democracy were used only to reach power, with very few exceptions.”
Whatever noble attempts at eliminating war the powers that be made in the wake of World War II — Europe’s near self-annihilation — didn’t cut nearly deep enough. These attempts didn’t set about undoing five centuries of colonial conquest and genocide. They didn’t cut deeper than national interest.
And global peace built on a foundation of nation-states is an oxymoron. As historian Michael Howard noted in his book The Lessons of History (quoted by Barbara Ehrenreich in Blood Rites): “From the very beginning, the principle of nationalism was almost indissolubly linked, both in theory and practice, with the idea of war.”
All of which leads me to the $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive warplane ever built, or not quite built. The aircraft, designed by Lockheed, is now seven years behind schedule, but the Pentagon had planned to display its new baby this week at the Royal International Air Tattoo and the Farnborough International Airshow in the U.K. This debut has now been called off because the engine of one of the planes caught fire on a runway in Florida in June, and officials feared the problem was systemic.
In other words, it could happen again. It could happen at the airshow, with the jet’s prospective customers — Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan and eight other U.S. allies — in attendance. Grounding it was a business decision. Indeed, it was a decision made at the delicate intersection of business and war.
“The setbacks follow a series of technical problems and development delays that have affected the F-35, one of the world’s most ambitious weapons programs, with estimated development costs of around $400 billion,” Nicola Clark and Christopher Drew wrote this week in the New YorkTimes. “Analysts said the timing of the problems, just as Lockheed Martin was hoping to demonstrate the plane to prospective export buyers here, could not have been worse.”
What I found interesting — well, overwhelmingly depressing, actually — was the fact that this story ran in the Times’ International Business section. When Savio writes, “Attempts to create regional or international alliances to bring stability have always been stymied by national interests,” this may be what he’s talking about. National interests are business interests. In the mainstream media, this is simply a given.
And the ongoing setbacks and escalating cost don’t matter. The F-35 project is still going forward, even though, as Kate Brannen wrote recently in Foreign Policy, “over the course of the aircrafts’ lifetimes, operating costs are expected to exceed $1 trillion.”
The warplane’s supply of funding is inexhaustible, apparently. Congress is behind it all the way. And it’s hardly news. “Lockheed has carefully hired suppliers and subcontractors in almost every state to ensure that virtually all senators and members of Congress have a stake in keeping the program — and the jobs it has created — in place,” Brannen wrote.
Austerity is for losers. There’s always money to wage war and build weapons, indeed, to continue developing weapons, generation after generation after generation. The contractors are adept at playing the game. Jobs link arms with fear and patriotism and the next war is always inevitable. And it’s always necessary, because we’ve created a world of perpetual — and well-armed — instability.
The problem with the United Nations is that it’s a unity of entities defined by their hatred of one another and committed to the perpetuation of “the scourge of war.” We won’t begin creating global peace until we learn how to bypass nationalism and the single, unacknowledged agreement binding nation-states to each other: the inevitability of war.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
© 2014 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.
By William Blum
What would a psychiatrist call this? Delusions of grandeur?
US Secretary of State John Kerry, July 8, 2014:
“In my travels as secretary of state, I have seen as never before the thirst for American leadership in the world.”
President Barack Obama, May 28, 2014:
“Here’s my bottom line, America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will.”
Nicholas Burns, former US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, May 8, 2014:
“Where is American power and leadership when the world needs it most?”
Mitt Romney, Republican Party candidate for President, September 13, 2012:
“The world needs American leadership. The Middle East needs American leadership and I intend to be a president that provides the leadership that America respects and keep us admired throughout the world.”
Paul Ryan, Congressman, Republican Party candidate for Vice President, September 12, 2012:
“We need to be reminded that the world needs American leadership.”
John McCain, Senator, September 9, 2012:
“The situation in Syria and elsewhere ‘cries out for American leadership’.”
Hillary Clinton, September 8, 2010:
“Let me say it clearly: The United States can, must, and will lead in this new century. Indeed, the complexities and connections of today’s world have yielded a new American Moment — a moment when our global leadership is essential, even if we must often lead in new ways.”
Senator Barack Obama, April 23, 2007:
“In the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, we lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good. I still believe that America is the last, best hope of Earth.”
Gallup poll, 2013:
Question asked: “Which country do you think is the greatest threat to peace in the world today?”
- United States 24%
- Pakistan 8%
- China 6%
- Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, North Korea, each 5%
- India, Iraq, Japan, each 4%
- Syria 3%
- Russia 2%
- Australia, Germany, Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Korea, UK, each 1%
The question is not what pacifism has achieved throughout history, but what has war achieved?
Remark made to a pacifist: “If only everyone else would live in the way you recommend, I would gladly live that way as well – but not until everyone else does.”
The Pacifist’s reply: “Why then, sir, you would be the last man on earth to do good. I would rather be one of the first.”
Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, 1947, words long cherished by a large majority of the Japanese people:
“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.
“In order 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.”
This statement is probably unique amongst the world’s constitutions.
But on July 1, 2014 the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, without changing a word of Article 9, announced a “reinterpretation” of it to allow for military action in conjunction with allies. This decision can be seen as the culmination of a decades-long effort by the United States to wean Japan away from its post-WW2 pacifist constitution and foreign policy and set it back on the righteous path of being a military power once again, only this time acting in coordination with US foreign policy needs.
In the triumphalism of the end of the Second World War, the American occupation of Japan, in the person of General Douglas MacArthur, played a major role in the creation of this constitution. But after the communists came to power in China in 1949, the United States opted for a strong Japan safely ensconced in the anti-communist camp. For pacifism, it’s been downhill ever since … step by step … MacArthur himself ordered the creation of a “national police reserve”, which became the embryo of the future Japanese military … visiting Tokyo in 1956, US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles told Japanese officials: “In the past, Japan had demonstrated her superiority over the Russians and over China. It was time for Japan to think again of being and acting like a Great Power.” … various US-Japanese security and defense cooperation treaties, which called on Japan to integrate its military technology with that of the US and NATO … the US supplying new sophisticated military aircraft and destroyers … all manner of Japanese logistical assistance to the US in Washington’s frequent military operations in Asia … repeated US pressure on Japan to increase its military budget and the size of its armed forces … more than a hundred US military bases in Japan, protected by the Japanese military … US-Japanese joint military exercises and joint research on a missile defense system … the US Ambassador to Japan, 2001: “I think the reality of circumstances in the world is going to suggest to the Japanese that they reinterpret or redefine Article 9.” … Under pressure from Washington, Japan sent several naval vessels to the Indian Ocean to refuel US and British warships as part of the Afghanistan campaign in 2002, then sent non-combat forces to Iraq to assist the American war as well as to East Timor, another made-in-America war scenario … US Secretary of State Colin Powell, 2004: “If Japan is going to play a full role on the world stage and become a full active participating member of the Security Council, and have the kind of obligations that it would pick up as a member of the Security Council, Article Nine would have to be examined in that light.” …
In 2012 Japan was induced to take part in a military exercise with 21 other countries, converging on Hawaii for the largest-ever Rim of the Pacific naval exercises and war games, with a Japanese admiral serving as vice commander of the combined task force. And so it went … until, finally, on July 1 of this year, the Abe administration announced their historic decision. Abe, it should be noted, is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, with which the CIA has had a long and intimate connection, even when party leaders were convicted World War 2 war criminals.
If and when the American empire engages in combat with China or Russia, it appears that Washington will be able to count on their Japanese brothers-in-arms. In the meantime, the many US bases in Japan serve as part of the encirclement of China, and during the Vietnam War the United States used their Japanese bases as launching pads to bomb Vietnam.
The US policies and propaganda not only got rid of the annoying Article 9, but along the way it gave rise to a Japanese version of McCarthyism. A prime example of this is the case of Kimiko Nezu, a 54-year-old Japanese teacher, who was punished by being transferred from school to school, by suspensions, salary cuts, and threats of dismissal because of her refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem, a World War II song chosen as the anthem in 1999. She opposed the song because it was the same one sung as the Imperial Army set forth from Japan calling for an “eternal reign” of the emperor. At graduation ceremonies in 2004, 198 teachers refused to stand for the song. After a series of fines and disciplinary actions, Nezu and nine other teachers were the only protesters the following year. Nezu was then allowed to teach only when another teacher was present.
The number of children attempting to cross the Mexican border into the United States has risen dramatically in the last five years: In fiscal year 2009 (October 1, 2009 - September 30, 2010) about 6,000 unaccompanied minors were detained near the border. The US Department of Homeland Security estimates for the fiscal year 2014 the detention of as many as 74,000 unaccompanied minors. Approximately 28% of the children detained this year are from Honduras, 24% from Guatemala, and 21% from El Salvador. The particularly severe increases in Honduran migration are a direct result of the June 28, 2009 military coup that overthrew the democratically-elected president, Manuel Zelaya, after he did things like raising the minimum wage, giving subsidies to small farmers, and instituting free education. The coup – like so many others in Latin America – was led by a graduate of Washington’s infamous School of the Americas.
As per the standard Western Hemisphere script, the Honduran coup was followed by the abusive policies of the new regime, loyally supported by the United States. The State Department was virtually alone in the Western Hemisphere in not unequivocally condemning the Honduran coup. Indeed, the Obama administration has refused to call it a coup, which, under American law, would tie Washington’s hands as to the amount of support it could give the coup government. This denial of reality still persists even though a US embassy cable released by Wikileaks in 2010 declared: “There is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28  in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch”. Washington’s support of the far-right Honduran government has been unwavering ever since.
The questions concerning immigration into the United States from south of the border go on year after year, with the same issues argued back and forth: What’s the best way to block the flow into the country? How shall we punish those caught here illegally? Should we separate families, which happens when parents are deported but their American-born children remain? Should the police and various other institutions have the right to ask for proof of legal residence from anyone they suspect of being here illegally? Should we punish employers who hire illegal immigrants? Should we grant amnesty to at least some of the immigrants already here for years? … on and on, round and round it goes, decade after decade. Those in the US generally opposed to immigration make it a point to declare that the United States does not have any moral obligation to take in these Latino immigrants.
But the counter-argument to this last point is almost never mentioned: Yes, the United States does indeed have a moral obligation because so many of the immigrants are escaping a situation in their homeland made hopeless by American intervention and policy. In addition to Honduras, Washington overthrew progressive governments which were sincerely committed to fighting poverty in Guatemala and Nicaragua; while in El Salvador the US played a major role in suppressing a movement striving to install such a government. And in Mexico, though Washington has not intervened militarily since 1919, over the years the US has been providing training, arms, and surveillance technology to Mexico’s police and armed forces to better their ability to suppress their own people’s aspirations, as in Chiapas, and this has added to the influx of the oppressed to the United States, irony notwithstanding.
Moreover, Washington’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), has brought a flood of cheap, subsidized US agricultural products into Mexico, ravaging campesino communities and driving many Mexican farmers off the land when they couldn’t compete with the giant from the north. The subsequent Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) has brought the same joys to the people of that area.
These “free trade” agreements – as they do all over the world – also result in government enterprises being privatized, the regulation of corporations being reduced, and cuts to the social budget. Add to this the displacement of communities by foreign mining projects and the drastic US-led militarization of the War on Drugs with accompanying violence and you have the perfect storm of suffering followed by the attempt to escape from suffering.
It’s not that all these people prefer to live in the United States. They’d much rather remain with their families and friends, be able to speak their native language at all times, and avoid the hardships imposed on them by American police and other right-wingers.
Madame Clinton, in her new memoir, referring to her 2002 Senate vote supporting military action in Iraq, says: “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.”
In a 2006 TV interview, Clinton said: “Obviously, if we knew then what we know now, there wouldn’t have been a vote. And I certainly wouldn’t have voted that way.”
On October 16, 2002 the US Congress adopted a joint resolution titled “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq”. This was done in the face of numerous protests and other political events against an American invasion.
On February 15, 2003, a month before the actual invasion, there was a coordinated protest around the world in which people in some 60 countries marched in a last desperate attempt to stop the war from happening. It has been described as “the largest protest event in human history.” Estimations of the total number of participants involved reach 30 million. The protest in Rome involved around three million people, and is listed in the 2004 Guinness Book of World Records as the largest anti-war rally in history. Madrid hosted the second largest rally with more than 1½ million protesters. About half a million marched in the United States. How many demonstrations in support of the war can be cited? It can be said that the day was one of humanity’s finest moments.
So what did all these people know that Hillary Clinton didn’t know? What information did they have access to that she as a member of Congress did not have?
The answer to both questions is of course “Nothing”. She voted the way she did because she was, as she remains today, a wholly committed supporter of the Empire and its unending wars.
And what did the actual war teach her? Here she is in 2007, after four years of horrible death, destruction and torture:
“The American military has done its job. Look what they accomplished. They got rid of Saddam Hussein. They gave the Iraqis a chance for free and fair elections. They gave the Iraqi government the chance to begin to demonstrate that it understood its responsibilities to make the hard political decisions necessary to give the people of Iraq a better future. So the American military has succeeded.”
And she spoke the above words at a conference of liberals, committed liberal Democrats and others further left. She didn’t have to cater to them with any flag-waving pro-war rhetoric; they wanted to hear anti-war rhetoric (and she of course gave them a tiny bit of that as well out of the other side of her mouth), so we can assume that this is how she really feels, if indeed the woman feels anything. The audience, it should be noted, booed her, for the second year in a row.
“We came, we saw, he died.” – Hillary Clinton as US Secretary of State, giggling, as she referred to the uncivilized and utterly depraved murder of Moammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Imagine Osama bin Laden or some other Islamic leader speaking of September 11, 2001: “We came, we saw, 3,000 died, ha-ha.”
I'd heard of such horror stories and assumed they were mostly fictional or concocted as the bases for lawsuits, and then I was actually served a bowl of soup that had a finger in it.
I'm not going to name the well-known chain restaurant where I was dining, but I am going to tell you how its staff reacted when I complained. I mean, once I'd determined that there really was a fucking finger in my bowl of soup, and once I'd fished it out with a fork and a spoon, and splattered it on the table so that Joseph, my dining companion, could see it, and once the people at the surrounding tables were staring and remarking rather loudly, and in one case I think beginning to vomit, well, it wasn't hard to get the waiter's attention.
He came rushing over when I waived. "There's a finger in my soup," I said.
"There's one on your table, too," he pointed out.
"That's the one," I said.
"And it's not your finger?"
"No, it's not my fucking finger. Let me talk to your manager."
He smiled. He actually smiled and pointed to a little tag on his uniform that read "Manager."
Joseph spoke up: "How did the finger get in his soup?"
"The cooks must have put it there," said the manager.
"And are you going to do anything about it?" I yelled.
"Well," he replied, calmly, but a bit as if I were the one who'd done something wrong, "if the cooks put it there, they had a reason. I support the cooks, don't you?"
"Support the cooks?" I gasped. "I'll tell you what I will do is I'll take down your name and each of their names, and the names of each of the witnesses in this room, and you'll be hearing from me."
From the waiter's reaction to that statement, I at first imagined I was beginning to get through to him. He looked shocked. But he turned from side to side and addressed the whole room. "He's against the cooks!" he said with great outrage. "He doesn't support the cooks!"
And I swear to god the people in this place seemed to be with him. The rather menacing reaction of several people led Joseph to grab my arm and pull me out of my seat and toward the door.
Thirty seconds later we were sitting in Joseph's cheap used car, which he was trying in vain to start, turning the key, pumping the gas, and cursing.
"Where did you get this piece of junk?" I asked.
"I bought it," he said, as he punched the dashboard and tried again. "I bought it yesterday at Victory Vehicles."
"I wonder who's declaring victory," I remarked.
"What's that supposed to mean? Ugh! Damn this thing!"
"Did you give them more than $10?" I asked.
Joseph gave me a look eerily similar to the look the waiter had just given me in the restaurant. "Are you doubting the salesmen?" he asked.
"Doubting them?" I said. "I'm not fucking doubting them. I'm doubting you. They ripped you off, and . . . "
"Don't you SUPPORT the salesmen?" Joseph screamed at me. He seemed possessed.
I opened my door and got out of the car. It wasn't going anywhere anyway. People were inching their way cautiously out of the restaurant, but they weren't looking at me. They were looking past me.
I turned and saw the flashing lights of countless police cars, plus all kinds of vans, trucks, ambulances, and other emergency vehicles. They appeared to be surrounding the restaurant and its parking lot and to be erecting almost permanent looking barriers. In fact there was an effort underway to construct a wall around the area.
I looked back, and Joseph had gotten out of the car as well and was staring, horror-struck at a pair of people in something resembling astronaut suits walking swiftly and directly toward us.
They halted a few feet away, and one of them spoke, her voice amplified by something in her space suit. "This area is quarantined," she said. "Some or all of you have been infected by a curable but highly contagious and highly destructive virus. We'll need to determine the state of the infection and administer a remedy. Please speak with one of our emergency personnel."
Tables were being set up in neat rows through the parking lot, with pairs of chairs at each table, and a person in an astronaut suit in one of each pair of chairs.
"Where have you been during the last 48 hours?" asked a quite polite and friendly gentleman across a metal table from me, as we both sat in folding chairs in the parking lot of a restaurant that I will still leave unnamed. I was not feeling as friendly as he.
"Why?" I demanded, rather aggressively.
"Hmm." He studied me. "Have you been near any military bases?"
"I mean, not that I know of."
"What about a television? Have you been near a television?"
"Hmm." He thought for a while, and then asked, "Have you noticed anyone demanding that you support people?"
That question just about knocked my chair over backwards. When I recovered, I told him everything I've just told you.
"Come with me," he said, getting up.
A half-hour later, my interviewer had persuaded his colleagues that I was not infected, and had set me up with a chair and some actually edible food, in a position to watch what he called the administering of remedies.
One of the astronaut-suited workers was seated at a table across from a young woman wearing an American flag dress. The astronaut was asking questions:
"If someone's dog bit you, would you be upset?"
"And what if I questioned your loyalty and willingness to support the dog trainers?"
The woman's reaction was so swift and violent that I suspect it even surprised her questioner: "How dare you?" she hissed. "I support the dog trainers and would never question a dog killing and devouring me. Maybe you don't support the dog trainers! Eh? How could you suggest such a thing to me?"
The questioner moved on. "And what if someone proposed that the government of your nation destroy a poor nation, kill a million people, create millions of refugees, poison the natural environment, waste several trillion dollars, leave behind a violent hell of traumatized resentment, and take away a lot of your rights and liberties in the name of prosecuting this horrendous war that will endanger you by making your nation hated?"
The woman seemed unsure what to say.
"Would you favor that policy?"
She snorted in indignation. "Of course, not! Why would anyone . . . "
"Don't you support the troops?"
"How dare you . . . " And she was off on a rant about her love for the troops and her absolute support for anything they might be ordered to do.
"The troops want you to."
"Give it to me."
The woman took the large bottle of greenish liquid and downed it in about 10 seconds.
Her questioner tried some of the same questions again, making notes all the time.
"Would you support slaughtering hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, to enrich a few corporations and give some politicians a thrill of power?"
"Of course, not."
"Do you favor ending current wars?"
"Yes, of course."
"But don't you support the troops?"
She paused and stared, and then blurted out: "Support the. . . . what? What does that even mean? If I oppose a policy I oppose people enacting that policy. That says nothing about whether I like those people or not, most of whom I've never met of course. What the hell?"
Moments later, the questioner was leading the woman in the American flag dress over to join me in the viewing section. "Wait," she said, addressing the space-suited emergency worker, "why am I wearing this dress?"
"He'll explain," the worker said, gesturing toward me.
By David Swanson, Remarks in London, England, July 2, 2014.
Thank you to Bruce Kent and the Movement for the Abolition of War and to Veterans For Peace and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Thank you to the Stop the War Coalition and everyone else for helping spread the word.
In 8 days, on July 10th Mary Ann Grady-Flores, a grandmother from Ithaca, NY, is scheduled to be sentenced to up to one year in prison. Her crime is violating an order of protection, which is a legal tool to protect a particular person from the violence of another particular person. In this case, the commander of Hancock Air Base has been legally protected from dedicated nonviolent protesters, despite the protection of commanding his own military base, and despite the protesters having no idea who the guy is. That's how badly the people in charge of the flying killer robots we call drones want to avoid any questioning of their activity entering the minds of the drone pilots.
Last Thursday a place in the U.S. called the Stimson Center released a report on the new U.S. habit of murdering people with missiles from drones. The Stimson Center is named for Henry Stimson, the U.S. Secretary of War who, prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor wrote in his diary, following a meeting with President Roosevelt: "The question was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves. It was a difficult proposition." (Four months earlier, Churchill had told his cabinet at 10 Downing Street that U.S. policy toward Japan consisted of this: "Everything was to be done to force an incident.") This was the same Henry Stimson who later forbid dropping the first nuclear bomb on Kyoto, because he'd once been to Kyoto. He'd never visited Hiroshima, much to the misfortune of the people of Hiroshima.
I know there's a big celebration of World War I going on over here (as well as big resistance to it), but in the United States there's been an ongoing celebration of World War II for 70 years. In fact, one might even suggest that World War II has continued in a certain way and on a lesser scale for 70 years (and on a greater scale in particular times and places like Korea and Vietnam and Iraq). The United States has never returned to pre-World War II levels of taxes or military spending, never left Japan or Germany, has engaged in some 200 military actions abroad during the so-called post-war era, has never stopped expanding its military presence abroad, and now has troops permanently stationed in almost every country on earth. Two exceptions, Iran and Syria, are regularly threatened.
So it is altogether appropriate, I think, that it was the Stimson Center that released this report, by former military officials and military-friendly lawyers, a report that included this rather significant statement: "The increasing use of lethal UAVs may create a slippery slope leading to continual or wider wars."
At least that sounds significant to me. Continual wars? That's a pretty bad thing, right?
Also last week, the U.S. government made public a memo in which it claims the right to legally murder a U.S. citizen (never mind anybody else) as part of a war that has no limit in time or space. Call me crazy, but this seems serious. What if this war goes on long enough to generate significant enemies?
Last year the United Nations released a report that stated that drones were making war the norm rather than the exception. Wow. That could be a problem for a species of creatures who prefer not being bombed, don't you think? The United Nations, created to rid the world of war, mentions in passing that war is becoming the norm rather than the exception.
Surely the response to such a grave development should be equally significant.
We've grown habituated, I think, to reading reports that say things like "If we don't leave 80% of known fossil fuels in the ground we're all going to die, and lots of other species with us," and then experts recommend that we use more efficient light bulbs and grow our own tomatoes. I mean we've become used to the response not remotely fitting the crisis at hand.
Such is the case with the UN, the Stimson Center, and a good crowd of humanitarian law experts, as far as I can tell.
The Stimson Center says of murders by drone, they should be "neither glorified not demonized." Nor, apparently, should they be stopped. Instead, the Stimson Center recommends reviews and transparency and robust studies. I'm willing to bet that if you or I threatened massive continual or widening death and destruction we'd be demonized. I'm willing to bet the idea of our being glorified wouldn't even come up for consideration.
The United Nations, too, thinks transparency is the answer. Just let us know whom you're murdering and why. We'll get you the forms to do a monthly report. As other nations get in on this game we'll compile their reports and create some real international transparency.
That's some people's idea of progress.
Drones are, of course, not the only way or -- thus far -- the most deadly way the U.S. and its allies wage wars. But there is this minimal pretense of ethical discussion about drones because drone murders look like murders to a lot of people. The U.S. president goes through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays, picks whom to murder, and has them and anyone standing too close to them murdered -- although he also often targets people without knowing their name. Bombing Libya or anywhere else looks less like murder to many people, especially if -- like Stimson in Hiroshima -- they've never been to Libya, and if numerous bombs are all supposedly aimed at one evil person whom the U.S. government has turned against. So, the United States goes through something like the 2011 war on Libya that has left that nation in such a fine state without it occurring to any military-friendly think tanks that there's an ethical question to be pondered.
How, I wonder, would we talk about drones or bombs or so-called non-combat advisors if we were trying to eliminate war rather than ameliorate it? Well, I think that if we saw the complete abolition of war as even our very distant goal, we'd talk very differently about every type of war today. I think we'd stop encouraging the idea that any memo could possibly legalize murder, whether or not we'd seen the memo. I think we'd reject the human rights groups' position that the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact should be ignored. Rather than considering the illegality of tactics during a war, we'd object to the illegality of the war itself. We wouldn't speak positively of the United States and Iran possibly joining hands in friendship if the basis for such a proposed alliance was to be a joint effort to kill Iraqis.
In the U.S. it's not unusual for peace groups to focus on 4,000 dead Americans and the financial costs of the war on Iraq, and to steadfastly refuse to mention a half-million to a million and a half Iraqis killed, which silence has contributed to most Americans not knowing what happened. But that's the strategy of opponents of some wars, not opponents of all wars. Depicting a particular war as costly to the aggressor doesn't move people against war preparations or rid them of the fantasy that there could be a good and just war in the days ahead.
It's common in Washington to argue against military waste, such as weapons that don't work or that the Pentagon didn't even ask Congress for, or to argue against bad wars that leave the military less prepared for other possible wars. If our project was aimed ultimately at war's elimination, we'd be against military efficiency more than military waste and in favor of an ill-prepared military unable to launch more wars. We'd also be as focused on keeping young people out of the military and militarism out of school books as we are on preventing a particular batch of missiles from flying. It's routine to profess loyalty to soldiers while opposing their commanders' policies, but once you've praised soldiers for their supposed service, you've accepted that they must have provided one. Celebrating World War I resisters, as I know some of you have been doing recently, is the sort of thing that ought to replace honoring war participants.
We may need to not just change our conversation from opposing specific war after specific war to discussing the ending of the whole institution. We may also need to alter at least subtly every part of the conversation along the way.
Instead of proposing that veterans in particular have earned our gratitude and should receive healthcare and retirement (which one hears all the time in the U.S.), we may want to propose that all people -- including veterans -- have human rights, and that one of our chief duties is to cease creating any more veterans.
Instead of objecting to troops urinating on corpses, we may want to object to the creation of the corpses. Instead of trying to eliminate torture and rape and lawless imprisonment from an operation of mass-murder, we may want to focus on the cause. We can't go on putting $2 trillion a year globally, and half of that just in the United States, into getting ready for wars and not expect wars to result.
With other addictions we're told to go after the biggest dealers of the drug or to go after the demand by the users. The dealers of the drug of war are those funding the military with our grandchildren's unearned pay and dumping buckets of money into propaganda about Vietnam and World War I. They know the lies about past wars are even more important than the lies about new wars. And we know that the institution of war could not survive people learning the truth about it to such an extent that some people begin to act on that knowledge.
U.S. public opinion has moved against wars. When Parliament and Congress said no to missiles into Syria, public pressure of the past decade played a big role. The same is true of stopping a horrible bill on Iran in Congress earlier this year, and of resistance to a new war on Iraq. Congress members are worried about voting for another war like Iraq, whether in Iraq or elsewhere. Her vote to attack Iraq 12 years ago is the only thing that has kept us thus far from seeing Hillary Clinton in the White House. People don't want to vote for someone who voted for that. And, let's get this said early to our dear friends at the Nobel Committee: another peace prize will not help things. The United States doesn't need another peace prize for a war maker, it needs what Bruce and so many of you have been working on over here: a popular movement for the abolition of war!
A number of peace activists have started up a new effort called World Beyond War at http://WorldBeyondWar.org aimed at bringing more people into peace activism. People and organizations in at least 58 countries so far have signed the Declaration of Peace at WorldBeyondWar.org. Our hope is that, by bringing more people and groups into the movement, we can strengthen and enlarge, rather than compete against, existing peace organizations. We hope that we can support the work of groups like the Movement for the Abolition of War, and that we can, as groups and individuals, work globally.
The website at WorldBeyondWar.org is intended to provide educational tools: videos, maps, reports, talking points. We make the case against the idea that war protects us -- an outrageous idea, given that the nations that engage in the most war face the most hostility as a result. A poll at the start of this year of people in 65 nations found the U.S. in a huge lead as the nation considered the greatest threat to peace in the world. U.S. veterans are killing themselves in record numbers, in part over what they've done to Iraq and Afghanistan. Our humanitarian wars are a leading cause of suffering and death for humanity. And so we also refute the idea that war can benefit the people where it is waged.
We also lay out the arguments that war is deeply immoral, a first-cousin of and frequent cause of, not alternative to, genocide; that war destroys our natural environment, that war erodes our civil liberties, and that just transferring a bit of what we spend on war to something useful would make us beloved rather than feared around the world. One and a half percent of what the world spends on war could be spent to end starvation on earth. War has taken 200 million lives over the past century, but the good that could be done with the resources dumped into war far outstrips the evil that could be avoided by ending war. For one thing, if we quickly redirected war's resources we'd have our best shot at doing something to protect the climate of the planet. That our concept of "defense" doesn't include that illustrates how far we've gone toward accepting the inevitability of what is after all the perfectly avoidable and perfectly horrible and completely indefensible institution of war.
Having accepted war, we try for cheaper wars, better wars, even more one-sided wars, and what do we get? We get warnings from respectable war supporters that we're beginning to make war the norm and risking continual warfare.
On the one hand this is a case of unintended consequences to rival those who sought the truth about god's creation and ended up with the guy who's on the money around here, Charles Darwin. On the other hand it's not unintended at all. A professor at Stanford University has just put out a book arguing that war is so good for us that we must always keep it going. That strain of thought courses through the veins of our military funded academia and activism.
But that kind of thinking is increasingly unpopular, and this may be the moment in which to expose it, denounce it, and crystallize into action the growing popular sentiment against war, and the realization into which we've stumbled that particular wars can be prevented, and if particular wars can be prevented then each and every one of them can be prevented. I look forward to working on that project, with the urgency it demands, and together with all of you.
World Beyond War has created a set of online interactive maps to help us all see where and how war and preparations for war exist in the world today. You can find the maps we’ve created thus far at http://bit.ly/mappingmilitarism and send us your ideas for more maps here. We’ll be updating some of these maps with new data every year and displaying animation of the progress away from war or the regress toward more war as the case may be.
The following are still screen-shots of some of the maps available in interactive form at the link above.
This map displays annual spending on war and war preparations. When you view the interactive version, the key at the bottom left is adjustable. Here the darkest color is set to $200 billion. You can raise or lower it. Or you can click on one of the colored squares and change the colors if you don’t like blue. When you run the cursor over one of the countries on the interactive version it will give you details. You can also choose to see the same data as a graph without the map by clicking the full-screen symbol on the graph at the top of the page. Then you’ll see this:
At the moment, the nation “United States” has been clicked on. The bar for the United States is noticably larger than for the other nations. It would be about twice as high if all U.S. military spending were included. But then at least some of the other nations’ would be higher as well. The data used here for the comparison across nations comes from a report called “The Military Balance” by IISS. By comparing, as well as possible, absolute spending dollars, it becomes clear that the U.S. military dwarfs all others. Maps and charts that show military spending as a percentage of GDP (of a nation’s economy) have their own use, but they seem to imply that if a government has more money if can buy more weapons without becoming more militaristic, that in fact it will become less militaristic if it does not buy more weapons.
Another way to look at spending on war and war preparations by national governments is as a per-capita figure. Perhaps nations with more people can make an argument in defense of more spending. Here’s a screenshot of that map:
The above map of military spending per capita has something in common with the basic spending map: The United States is still the darkest color. But China’s not a (very) distant second-place anymore. And the U.S. isn’t in first place anymore. It’s been edged out by Israel and Oman. And trailing right behind it are Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Kuwait, and the land of the Nobel Peace Prize: Norway, followed by Australia and the United (for the moment anyway) Kingdom.
Countries don’t just spend money on their own militaries. They also sell and give weapons to other countries. We’ve included a couple of maps displaying those nations that make the most weapons transfers to others. Here’s one, using data from the Congressional Research Service:
This just seems to be the United States’ night at the Oscars. But here the distant runners up are Russia, France, Germany, Italy, China, and the U.K. This gives us a different view of the weapons industries in these countries. They aren’t just arming their own governments. And they aren’t just arming wealthy allies either. Here’s a look at who’s arming poor nations:
We decided it was worth a particular look at where all the U.S.-made weapons are being shipped to. Here’s that map (all nations colored the same if they received any major weapons systems from the United States in 2012). Click it to go to the interactive versions:
We’ve also included at http://bit.ly/mappingmilitarism maps showing who has how many nuclear weapons and who has biological and chemical weapons. They might surprise you.
There are also maps of which nations have troops right now in Afghanistan, which nations are experiencing wars at the moment, and which nations have recently been hit with missiles (most of them from drones).
Because the United States does things that other nations do not, there are a number of U.S.-specific maps. For example: Here are nations with U.S. troops permanently stationed in them. The interactive version will give you the details. The data is from the U.S. military:
The above does not include special forces or the CIA or drone strikes. The few gray nations without U.S. troops permanently in them stand out, including Iran and Syria. Should Greenland be worried?
We’ve also included a map of U.S. military actions since 1945. It has quite a bit of color on it.
And we’ve included a series of maps indicating some level of national interest in replacing war with the rule of law. While the International Criminal Court is seriously flawed, it might be improved by greater membership, particularly by major war makers. Here is which countries are now members:
Also available is a map of which nations are party to the long-forgotten treaty that bans war, known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact. That membership ought to be very surprising. There’s also a map of which nations have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions banning the horrendously awful and murderous cluster bombs, a.k.a. flying landmines.
See if you find these maps useful, and let us know what you think is missing.
If you find projects like this one useful, please support them here.
By John Grant
When lo! An angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad, . . .
Most kids commit crimes. Those locked up in juvenile prisons are more likely to commit crimes as adults than are those left alone. So, why do we lock them up? What drives such counterproductive programs that create such misery despite demonstratd failure to achieve their purported ends? And how can we alter our approach? We speak with Nell Bernstein.
Nell Bernstein is the author of Burning Down the House (forthcoming from The New Press) and All Alone in the World (The New Press), a Newsweek "Book of the Week." She is a former Soros Justice Media Fellow and a winner of a White House Champion of Change award. Her articles have appeared in Newsday, Salon, Mother Jones, and the Washington Post, among other publications. She lives in Albany, California.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
We need funds for billboards and ads around the world to bring together those ready to work for an end to war. Please contribute at http://igg.me/at/worldbeyondwar
Bruce Kent is Vice President of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), and of Pax Christi, and of the Movement for the Abolition of War (See http://abolishwar.org.uk ) Born in 1929, Kent joined CND in 1960 and served as its General Secretary and Chair during a period of tremendous growth from 1980 to 1990. He was president of the International Peace Bureau from 1985 to 1992, and the UK organizer of the 1999 Hague Conference. We discuss the ups and downs, accomplishments and challenges, of the peace movement over the years.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
It’s Not the American Way
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch.com
The United States has been at war -- major boots-on-the-ground conflicts and minor interventions, firefights, air strikes, drone assassination campaigns, occupations, special ops raids, proxy conflicts, and covert actions -- nearly nonstop since the Vietnam War began. That’s more than half a century of experience with war, American-style, and yet few in our world bother to draw the obvious conclusions.
Keynote address by Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, at Sarajevo Peace Event Sarajevo. (6th June, 2014)
We are all aware that this is the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo which led to the start of the First World War in l9l4.
What started here in Sarajevo was a century of two global wars, a Cold War, a century of immense, rapid explosion of death and destruction technology, all extremely costly, and extremely risky.
A huge step in the history of war, but also a decisive turning point in the history of peace. The peace movement has never been as strong politically as in the last three decades before the break-out of WWl. It was a factor in political life, literature, organization, and planning, the Hague Peace Conferences, the Hague Peace Palace and the International Court of Arbitration, the bestseller of Bertha von Suttner, ‘Lay Down your Arms’. The optimism was high as to what this ‘new science’ of peace could mean to humankind. Parliaments, Kings, and Emperors, great cultural and business personalities involved themselves. The great strength of the Movement was that it did not limit itself to civilizing and slowing down militarism, it demanded its total abolition.
People were presented with an alternative, and they saw common interest in this alternative road forward for humankind. What happened in Sarajevo a hundred years ago was a devastating blow to these ideas, and we never really recovered. Now, 100 years later, must be the time for a thorough reappraisal of what we had with this vision of disarmament, and what we have done without it, and the need for a recommitment, and a new ambitious start offering new hope to a humanity suffering under the scourge of militarism and wars.
People are tired of armaments and war. They have seen that they release uncontrollable forces of tribalism and nationalism. These are dangerous and murderous forms of identity and above which we need to take steps to transcend, lest we unleash further dreadful violence upon the world. To do this, we need to acknowledge that our common humanity and human dignity is more important than our different traditions. We need to recognize our life and the lives of others are sacred and we can solve our problems without killing each other. We need to accept and celebrate diversity and otherness. We need to work to heal the ‘old’ divisions and misunderstandings, give and accept forgiveness, and choose nonkilling and nonviolence as ways to solve our problems. So too as we disarm our hearts and minds, we can also disarm our countries and our world.
We are also challenged to build structures through which we can co-operate and which reflect our interconnected and interdependent relationships. The vision of the European Union founders to link countries together, economically in order to lessen the likelihood of war amongst the nations, is a worthy endeavour. Unfortunately instead of putting more energy into providing help for EU citizens, we are witnessing the growing Militarization of Europe, its role as a driving force for armaments, and its dangerous path, under the leadership of the USA/NATO, towards a new ‘cold’ war and military aggression. The European Union and many of its countries, who used to take initiatives in the UN for peaceful settlements of conflicts, particularly allegedly peaceful countries, like Norway and Sweden, are now one of the US/NATO most important war assets. The EU is a threat to the survival of neutrality. Many nations have been drawn into being complicit in breaking international law through US/UK/NATO wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.,
I believe NATO should be abolished. The United Nations should be reformed and strengthened and we should get rid of the veto in the Security Council so that it is a fair vote and we don’t have one power ruling over us. The UN should actively take up its mandate to save the world from the scourge of war.
But there is hope. People are mobilizing and resisting non-violently. They are saying no to militarism and war and insisting on disarmament. Those of us in the Peace Movement can take inspiration from many who have gone before and worked to prevent war insisting on disarmament and peace. Such a person was Bertha Von Suttner, who was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in l905, for her activism in the Women’s rights and peace movement. She died in June, l9l4, 100 years ago, just before WWl started. It was Bertha Von Suttner who moved Alfred Nobel to set up the Nobel Peace Prize Award and it was the ideas of the peace movement of the period that Alfred Nobel decided to support in his testament for the Champions of Peace, those who struggled for disarmament and replacing power with law and International relations. That this was the purpose is clearly confirmed by three expressions in the will, creating the fraternity of nations, work for abolition of armies, holding Peace Congresses. It is important the Nobel Committee be faithful to his wishes and that prizes go to the true Champions of Peace that Nobel had in mind.
This 100 year old Programme for Disarmament challenges those of us in the Peace Movement to confront militarism in a fundamental way. We must not be satisfied with improvements and reforms, but rather offer an alternative to militarism, which is an aberration and a system of dysfunction, going completely against the true spirit of men and women, which is to love and be loved and solve our problems through co-operation, dialogue, nonviolence, and conflict resolution.
Thanks to the organizers for bringing us together. In the coming days we shall feel the warmth and strength of being among thousands of friends and enriched by the variety of peace people, and ideas. We shall be inspired and energized to pursue our different projects, be it arms trade, nuclear, nonviolence, culture of peace, drone warfare, etc., Together we can lift the world! But soon we shall be back home, on our own, and we know all too well how we all too often are being met with either indifference or a remote stare. Our problem is not that people do not like what we say, what they understand correctly is that they believe little can be done, as the world is so highly militarized. There is an answer to this problem,- we want a different world and people to believe that peace and disarmament is possible. Can we agree, that diverse as our work is, a common vision of a world without arms, militarism and war, is indispensable for success. Does not our experience confirm that we will never achieve real change if we do not confront and reject militarism entirely, as the aberration/dysfunction it is in human history? Can we agree to work that all countries come together in an Agreement to abolish all weapons and war and to commit to always sort out our differences through International Law and Institutions?
We cannot here in Sarajevo make a common peace program, but we can commit to a common goal. If our common dream is a world without weapons and militarism, why don’t we say so? Why be silent about it? It would make a world of difference if we refused to be ambivalent about the violence of militarism. We should no longer be scattered attempts to modify the military, each one of us would do our thing as part of a global effort. Across all divisions of national borders, religions, races. We must be an alternative, insisting on an end to militarism and violence. This would give us an entirely different chance to be listened to and taken seriously. We must be an alternative insisting on an end to militarism and violence.
Let the Sarajevo where peace ended, be the starting point for the bold beginning of a universal call for peace through the wholesale abolition of militarism.
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, www.peacepeople.com
The following interview is reprinted by permission from Inquiring Mind: The Semiannual Journal of the Vipassana Community, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Spring 2014). © 2014 by Inquiring Mind.
We encourage you to order a copy of Inquiring Mind's Spring 2014 “War and Peace” issue, which explores mindfulness and the military, nonviolence, and related themes from a Buddhist perspective. Sample issues and subscriptions are offered on a pay-‐what-‐you-‐can basis at www.inquiringmind.com. Please support Inquiring Mind's work!
KARMA OF DISSENT:
AN INTERVIEW WITH ANN WRIGHT
After many years in the U.S. military followed by the Foreign Service, Ann Wright is now a peace activist whose pivotal resignation from the U.S. State Department was influenced by Buddhist teachings. She is a unique voice on issues of war and peace. Wright served thirteen years in active duty in the U.S. Army and sixteen years in the Army Reserves, rising to the rank of colonel. After the army, she served sixteen years in the State Department in countries from Uzbekistan to Grenada and as Deputy Chief of Mission (Deputy Ambassador) at the U.S. embassies in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In March 2003 she was one of three federal government employees, all State Department officials, who resigned in protest against the war in Iraq. For the past ten years, Wright has courageously spoken out on a wide variety of issues including nuclear power and weapons, Gaza, torture, indefinite incarceration, Guantanamo Prison and assassin drones. Wright’s activism, including talks, international tours and civil disobedience, has been of particular power in the peace movement. Fellow activists bolstered by her advocacy can assert, as she puts it, “Here’s somebody that’s spent a lot of years of her life in the military and the diplomatic corps and is now willing to speak about peace and challenge the rationale that America needs to have war in order to be the dominant power in the world.”
Wright works with organizations such as Veterans for Peace, Code Pink: Women for Peace, and Peace Action. But drawing on her background both in the military and in the U.S. diplomatic corps, she speaks as an independent voice.
Inquiring Mind editors Alan Senauke and Barbara Gates interviewed Ann Wright via Skype in November 2013.
INQUIRING MIND: Your resignation from the U.S. State Department in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War coincided with your beginning study of Buddhism. Tell us about how you got interested in Buddhism and how the study of Buddhism influenced your thinking.
ANN WRIGHT: At the time of my resignation I was Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia. I had begun to study Buddhist texts in order to better understand the spiritual underpinnings of Mongolian society. When I arrived in Mongolia, it was ten years after the country had come out of the Soviet sphere. Buddhists
were digging up relics that their families had buried decades earlier when the Soviets destroyed Buddhist temples.
I had not realized before I arrived in Mongolia the extent that Buddhism had been a part of the life of the country prior to the Soviet takeover in 1917. Before the twentieth century, the interchange of Buddhist thought between Mongolia and Tibet was substantial; in fact, the term Dalai Lama is a Mongolian phrase meaning “Ocean of Wisdom.”
While most lamas and nuns were killed during the Soviet era, in the fifteen years since the Soviets loosened their hold on the country, many Mongolians were studying the long-prohibited religion; new temples and strong Buddhist medicine and art schools were established.
Ulan Bator, the capital city and where I lived, was one of the centers for Tibetan medicine. Whenever I had a cold or flu I would go to a temple pharmacy to see what the doctors there would recommend, and in my conversations with the monks and the Mongolian civilians who helped run the pharmacy, I learned about different aspects of Buddhism. I also took an evening class on Buddhism and did the recommended readings. Probably not surprising to most Buddhists, it seemed like every time I would open up a booklet in one series of readings, there would be something that was like, oh, my goodness, how incredible that this particular reading is speaking to me.
IM: What were the teachings that spoke to you?
AW: Various Buddhist tracts had great relevance for me during my internal debate on how to handle my policy disagreements with the Bush administration. One commentary reminded me that all actions have consequences, that nations, like individuals, ultimately are held accountable for their actions.
In particular, the Dalai Lama’s September 2002 remarks in his “Commemoration of the First Anniversary of September 11, 2001” were important in my deliberations on Iraq and even more relevant in our approach to the Global War on Terrorism. The Dalai Lama said, “Conflicts do not arise out of the blue. They occur as a result of causes and conditions, many of which are within the antagonists’ control. This is where leadership is important. Terrorism cannot be overcome by the use of force, because it does not address the complex underlying problems. In fact, the use of force may not only fail to solve the problems, it may exacerbate them; it frequently leaves destruction and suffering in
IM: He was pointing towards teachings on cause
AW: Yes, the cause-and-effect issue that the Bush administration dared not acknowledge. The Dalai Lama identified that the United States must look to the reasons why bin Ladin and his network were bringing violence to America. After Gulf War I, bin Laden had announced to the world why he was angry with America: U.S. military bases left in Saudi Arabia on the “holy land of Islam” and U.S. bias toward Israel in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
These are causes that are still unacknowledged by the U.S. government as reasons why people continue to harm Americans and “U.S. interests.” It is a blind spot in the
American government’s look at the world, and tragically I’m afraid that it’s a blind spot in the psyche of many Americans that we don’t recognize what our government does that causes such anger around the world and causes some people to take violent and lethal action against Americans.
I do believe America had to respond in some manner to the violent methods used by al-Qaeda. The destruction of the World Trade Towers, part of the Pentagon, the bombing of the USS Cole, the bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, and the bombing of the U.S. Air Force Kobar Towers in Saudi Arabia could not go without a response. That said, until the U.S. really acknowledges that America’s policies— particularly the invasion and occupation of countries—cause anger in the world, and changes its manner of interacting in the world, I’m afraid that we’re in for a much longer period of reprisals than the twelve years we’ve suffered through already.
IM: As a member of the armed forces and as a diplomat and now as a politically engaged civilian, you’ve indicated that you believe it’s sometimes appropriate to draw on military force. When is that?
AW: I think there are some specific situations in which military force may be the only way to stop violence. In 1994 during the Rwanda genocide, nearly a million people were killed during one year in the fighting between the Tutsis and the Hutus. In my opinion, a very small military force could have gone in and could have stopped the slaughter by machete of hundreds of thousands. President Clinton said his biggest regret as president was not to have intervened to save lives in Rwanda and this terrible failure would haunt him the rest of his life.
IM: Wasn’t there a United Nations force in Rwanda?
AW: Yes, there was a small United Nations force in Rwanda. In fact, the Canadian general who was in charge of that force requested authorization from the UN Security Council to use force to end the genocide but was denied that authorization. He has post- traumatic stress and has attempted suicide because of his regret that he did not go ahead and act decisively, using that small force to attempt at the very beginning to stop the massacre. He now feels that he should have gone ahead and used his small military force anyway and then dealt with the aftermath of possibly getting fired by the UN for not following orders. He is a strong supporter of the Genocide Intervention Network.
I still feel the world is better off when unlawful, brutal actions against civilian populations are stopped, and generally, the fastest, most effective way to end these brutal actions is by military operations—operations which unfortunately also may result in loss of life in the civilian community.
IM: Since your resignation from the State Department in opposition to the Iraq War, as a responsible and sometimes outraged citizen, you have been traveling around the world articulating your views as a critic of the policies of the administrations on various international issues, including the use of assassin drones.
From the point of view of Buddhist commitment to Right Action, to awareness of, and a sense of responsibility for, the consequences of one’s actions, the use of drones is particularly reprehensible.
AW: The issue of assassin drones has been a big focus in my work over the last two years. I’ve made trips to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen talking with the families of victims of drone strikes and speaking about my concerns on U.S. foreign policy. It’s important to travel to those countries to let citizens there know there are millions of Americans that totally disagree with the Obama Administration on the use of assassin drones.
The U.S. now has the ability for a person at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada to sit in a very comfortable chair and, with a touch on a computer, assassinate people halfway around the world. Little kids are learning killing technology from the time they are four or five years old. Computer games are teaching our society to kill and to be immune from the emotional and spiritual effects of remote-controlled killing. People on a screen are not human beings, our computer games say.
Every Tuesday, known in Washington as “Terror Tuesday,” the president gets a list of people, generally in countries with which the U.S. is NOT at war, that the seventeen intelligence agencies of the United States have identified as having done something against the United States for which they should die without judicial process. The president looks at brief narratives describing what each person has done and then makes a checkmark beside the name of each person he has decided should be extrajudi- cially killed.
It’s not George Bush, but Barack Obama, a constitutional lawyer no less, who as President of the United States has assumed the role of prosecutor, judge and executioner—an unlawful assumption of powers, in my opinion. Americans, as a society, think we are good and generous and that we respect human rights. And yet we are allowing our government to use this type of assassination technology to destroy people half a world away. That’s why I have felt compelled to try to educate more people in the United States and in other parts of the world about what’s going on, because certainly the technology is going from country to country to country. Over eighty countries now have some kind of military drone. Most of them are not weaponized yet. But it’s just the next step to put weapons on their drones and then perhaps even use them on their own coun- trymen and women as the United States has done. The United States has killed four American citizens who were in Yemen.
IM: Then there’s the blowback, the extent to which this technology, which is immediately accessible to everybody, can easily be used against us by others. That’s cause and effect. Or you might call it karma.
AW: Yes, the whole issue of karma is one of the things that has been a motivating factor for me. What goes around comes around. What we, the United States, are doing to the world is coming back to haunt us. The Buddhist readings I did while in Mongolia certainly helped me see this.
At many talks that I give, one of the questions that I get from the audience is, “Why did it take you so long to resign from the State Department?” I spent virtually all of
my adult life being a part of that system and rationalizing what I did in the government. I didn’t agree with all of the policies of the eight presidential administrations I worked under and I held my nose to plenty of them. I found ways to work in areas where I didn’t feel like I was harming anybody. But the bottom line was, I was still part of a system that was doing bad things to people all over the world. And yet I didn’t have the moral courage to say, “I will resign because I disagree with so many of these policies.” When you really look at how many people ever resigned from our government, there are very few—only three of us who resigned over the Iraq War, and others who resigned over the Vietnam War and the Balkan crisis. I never would have imagined that the readings I did in Buddhism, and particularly on karma, would have had such an influence in making my decision to resign and led me to advocate for peace and justice in the world.
IM: Thank you. It’s important for people to know your journey. Many people come to Buddhism as they grapple with suffering in their lives. But these teachings spoke to you at the exact intersection of your personal life and the urgent issues of society. And you were moved beyond contemplation to action. That’s a valuable lesson for us.
Reprinted by permission from Inquiring Mind: The Semiannual Journal of the Vipassana Community, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Spring 2014). © 2014 by Inquiring Mind. www.inquiringmind.com.
STAR-ADVERTISER "KEEPING FAITH"
KAT WADE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER
A Memorial Day prayer breakfast included a number of faith leaders: Paul Gracie, left, Rabbi Peter Schaktman, Bishop Stephen Randolph Sykes, Rev. Jonipher Kupono Kwong, Robert Cody, and the event’s speaker, retired Army Col. Ann Wright.
Ann Wright, a retired Army colonel and former U.S. diplomat who resigned from the State Department 11 years ago in protest against the Iraq War, told local faith leaders on Memorial Day that they are not doing enough to fight for world peace.
Six years ago Wright, who had served in the military and in diplomatic service for many years, co-wrote "Dissent: Voices of Conscience," about government insiders and active-duty military personnel who challenged the Bush administration's reasons for invading Iraq in 2003. Since resigning, Wright has traveled extensively as a peace activist and has been arrested 15 times for civil resistance.
On Monday, at a Memorial Day prayer breakfast co-sponsored by the Honolulu Friends Meeting (Quakers) and The Interfaith Alliance Hawai'i, Wright spoke about the increasing militarization of society and her recent trip to Vietnam. Other representatives of various faiths also shared their personal perspectives on war.
Wright said the interfaith event, held at the Quakers' Manoa meeting house, served as an opportunity "to see if these religious communities are doing all they can do to stop this scourge on humanity we call war."
She continued, "Members of our congregations are in the military; we have a huge military community here in Hawaii and particularly Oahu, with the four major military bases here. It takes a lot of chutzpah to stand up to say, 'No, these things are wrong.'
"I appreciate the fact that our nation honors those who sign up and say, 'I agree to do what our political leaders tell me to do.' On the other hand, I think that we should be challenging that concept, too," she said.
"We as American civilians have to be even more vigilant, we have to be pushy and ... to hold accountable those who do cause these wars, who do cause torture, these indefinite detentions, who do cause assassin drones, to hold those administrations accountable. It's not a Democratic or Republican thing; it's a human thing."
Wright has spoken frequently at Quaker events as, in her words, "Quakers are such a strong anti-war group," and she has worked with the American Friends Service Committee to promote social justice. Raised a Methodist, she aligns more with Quaker and Unitarian Universalist views, she added.
The Honolulu Friends Meeting conducts unprogrammed worship in silence, without choirs or sermons. Quakers do not have creed or dogma.
Last month Wright presented her research on restoring a sunken Quaker peace ship, The Golden Rule, at the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage. The boat played a key role in changing public opinion about nuclear testing more than 50 years ago, Wright said.
In 1958, after the U.S. government announced plans to set off nuclear bomb blasts near the Marshall Islands, Quaker pacifist Capt. Albert Bigelow and three crew members sailed the 30-foot vessel from California, stopping over in Hawaii before pushing on to the Marshall Islands in an attempt to stop the testing.
Renie Lindley, lay leader of the Honolulu Friends, said local Quakers were "very much involved in supporting the crew," whose members were convicted and imprisoned. The sunken ship was discovered in 2010 in Northern California's Humboldt Bay. Veterans for Peace is restoring the ship with the intention of one day launching it on a mission of education for peace.
"Quakers are unequivocal on the question of violence," Lindley said. "We totally oppose all wars, all preparation for war, all use of weapons. But refusal to fight with weapons is not surrender. We are not passive when struggling to remove the causes of conflict, working to address all forms of cultural and economic oppression, which lead to violence."
In her recent trip with the Veterans for Peace to see how Vietnam has recovered from the war that ripped the country apart from the 1950s to '70s, Wright said she was stunned to see ill effects of Agent Orange showing up in fourth-generation Vietnamese residents as well as U.S. veterans who sprayed the defoliant. She also saw civilians crippled by the tons of unexploded ordnance left behind and accidently detonated after the war.
"The U.S. has finally acknowledged there are Agent Orange hot spots and began its first remediation after 50 years to remove dioxin contamination ... and our veterans are finally getting compensated" for 19 different diseases that were manifested from contact with the residual toxin, she said.
Wright said wherever the veterans group went it was met not with reproach, but with forgiveness by the Vietnamese, who lost 4 million people in the war, an overwhelming number of them civilians. She said the Vietnamese people advised Americans, "You need to forgive yourselves, and you need to work so it doesn't happen again."
On page 40 of the attached PDF report from Citi, RUAD, we read that the public stopped the missiles into Syria and is taking war off the table as an option. And that there may be a silver lining in the replacement of war with diplomacy.
The most patriotic Fourth of July celebration I've ever been to was not in Washington, D.C., but at a little lake in Virginia. We were picnicking on the shore of the lake along with about 75 not very close friends and family. This was a few years ago. I must have been 8 years old.
The lake was packed with boats almost the way the Beltway gets packed with cars, but this fact wasn't slowing them down. The boats were mostly, if not all, decorated with red, white, and blue, and mostly, if not all, had motors and were using them. Predictably enough, every once in a while two boats would collide. It sounded like the end of a car crash, without the screeching before it.
The first time two boats crashed into each other, my Dad jumped into panic mode, ready to call 911, eager to coordinate a rescue, but my Uncle and some other grownups standing around waved him off. This was normal, they said. Everyone would be all right. "Are you sure?" asked my Dad. He seemed worried, but by about the third crash he didn't even look up.
It was about 90 degrees out in the bright sun of early afternoon when the fireworks started. There was a floating platform out in the lake, and a bunch of kids on it began setting off fireworks that were no doubt smaller than those on the National Mall but really didn't seem it. Some of the boats slowed down to watch, but watched from as close as immediately against the platform.
You should know that my Mom has always been horrified of fireworks. When they began going off in the daytime, she assumed something was wrong. And when it was kids, some of them younger than I, setting them off, she -- in her turn -- went into panic mode. She was quickly reassured by all around her that nothing was amiss. I'll admit I thought this was all pretty cool.
But when a little boy on the fireworks platform began screaming as if in horrible pain, I started to worry. The fireworks continued, uninterrupted, but there was a bunch of hurried movement, and a few minutes later a man carried a boy up the grass away from the lake, blood dripping from his arm, which was wrapped in what looked like an American flag. The kid had "just lost a pinky" everyone said, and had some "minor burns."
Not one to make a public fuss, my Mom spoke quietly to me, but more seriously than I can ever recall: "Don't ever go near fireworks. Do you understand?"
I said that I did, and it was actually true. I did.
Uncles and others were firing up grills when the fireworks finally stopped and the sound of boats motoring and crunching into each other returned. I was actually feeling hungry. Nobody had consumed anything yet, except soda or beer.
As soon as the smoke had all cleared from the sky, the air show began. There was a buzzing noise that drowned out all the boat motors. A shadow passed over our picnic table. A predator drone, flying very low and carrying two very visible Hellfire missiles, circled over the lake. Drunk guys started telling their girlfriends that the drone was going to blow some people up, so that when it turned toward us there was lots of screaming, followed by uproarious laughter.
Luckily, the drone finally left without firing. I wish it hadn't. Left, I mean. As soon as it was gone, all concentration seemed to focus on food preparation. I've never been much of a meat eater, and there appeared to be nothing but hot dogs and hamburgers. I asked one of my cousins if there were any veggie-dogs and he acted like I'd said something rude. "Only other thing is war meat," he said. Whatever that meant.
I found out soon enough. The man at the grill by our table shouted for everyone to listen up. He pulled a metal container, like a large curved lunchbox, out of a freezer. "Are you ready?" he asked. For what, I did not know, but everyone nodded. "One," he said. "Two. One. Two. Three. Four." And our whole table started singing the Star Spangled Banner, and I mean bad enough to make a dog cry in agony, which a couple of them did.
When the song was finally over, the man opened the metal container like he was opening a birthday present. People started asking, "What'd we get? What'd we get?" The man pulled a big red chunk of raw meat out with his hand and said, "Pakistani." And after a pause, "Again." He seemed a bit disappointed, but then quickly seemed overwhelmed with pleasure. "Pakistani!" "Pakistani!" our whole little bunch started shouting. Although how the chunk of flesh had actually been identified or recognized I couldn't tell.
"Pakistani!" "Pakistani!" Other tables were shouting it too. Word was passed up and down the picnic grounds, tables telling each other what they'd received. The tally seemed to include almost entirely Pakistani meat, with one or two Yemeni, a few Afghans, and a Libyan. But then a rumor spread that actually caused a hush. One table at the far end of the area, down around a curve in the lake, had apparently been so fortunate as to pull out a piece of "U.S. troop."
"This is a really sick joke!" my Dad said, turning to our table from my Mom, to whom he had apparently been talking and who was apparently crying. "This needs to end right now," my Dad said quite firmly and impressively. But people didn't respond the way I hoped. They just edged away from me and my parents. "What's the matter with you?" a woman asked. There was a lot of whispering. I heard the words "pacifist" and "socialist."
Then a big commotion in the parking lot up the hill took attention away. There were lights of numerous police cars. A crowd of people clumped closely together began drifting in our general direction, stopping at each picnic table for a moment or two before moving on. As they drew closer they took on the look of a celebrity encircled by body guards and swarmed by paparazzi. Then a strangely familiar voice was saying "Good afternoon! How are you all doing this fine day?"
And there was President Obama, grinning and shaking hands. Our crowd seemed delighted and respectful, but not at all surprised. However, one guy spoke up kind of loudly: "I hear we're not having any more wars next year, Mr. President."
Obama turned on him, not unlike that predator drone turning toward us, and with a somewhat similar reaction. "That's all right," he said. "That's all right. Let me repeat a principle I put forward at the outset of my presidency. Let me be clear. The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it -- when our people are threatened, when our livelihood is at stake, or when the security of our allies is in danger."
The President grinned as though he were in possession of a wonderful secret. "Let me let you in on something," he said, almost whispering. "We've got troops permanently stationed in 175 countries. Our people can be threatened any time we want." He laughed and glanced around appreciating the knowing nods and smiles. "So, how's the meat?"
National officials certainly assume that war has a future. According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, world military expenditures totaled nearly $1.75 trillion in 2013. Although, after accounting for inflation, this is a slight decrease over the preceding year, many countries increased their military spending significantly, including China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, 23 countries doubled their military spending between 2004 and 2013. None, of course, came anywhere near to matching the military spending of the United States, which, at $640 billion, accounted for 37 percent of 2013’s global military expenditures. Furthermore, all the nuclear weapons nations are currently “modernizing” their nuclear arsenals.
If war were inevitable, there would be little point in trying to end it. If war were inevitable, a moral case might be made for trying to lessen its damage while it continued. And numerous parochial cases could be made for being prepared to win inevitable wars for this side or that side.
War has only been around for the most recent fraction of the existence of our species. We did not evolve with it.During this most recent 10,000 years, war has been sporadic. Some societies have not known war. Some have known it and then abandoned it.Just as some of us find it hard to imagine a world without war or murder, some human societies have found it hard to imagine a world with those things. A man in Malaysia, asked why he wouldn’t shoot an arrow at slave raiders, replied “Because it would kill them.” He was unable to comprehend that anyone could choose to kill. It’s easy to suspect him of lacking imagination, but how easy is it for us to imagine a culture in which virtually nobody would ever choose to kill and war would be unknown? Whether easy or hard to imagine, or to create, this is decidedly a matter of culture and not of DNA.According to myth, war is “natural.” Yet a great deal of conditioning is needed to prepare most people to take part in war, and a great deal of mental suffering is common among those who have taken part. In contrast, not a single person is known to have suffered deep moral regret or post-traumatic stress disorder from war deprivation.
In some societies women have been virtually excluded from war making for centuries and then included. Clearly, this is a question of culture, not of genetic makeup. War is optional, not inevitable, for women and men alike.
Some nations invest much more heavily in militarism than most and take part in many more wars. Some nations, under coercion, play minor parts in the wars of others. Some nations have completely abandoned war. Some have not attacked another country for centuries. Some have put their military in a museum.
Forces in Our Culture:
War long predates capitalism, and surely Switzerland is a type of capitalist nation just as the United States is. But there is a widespread belief that a culture of capitalism — or of a particular type and degree of greed and destruction and short-sightedness — necessitates war. One answer to this concern is the following: any feature of a society that necessitates war can be changed and is not itself inevitable. The military-industrial complex is not an eternal and invincible force. Environmental destructiveness and economic structures based on greed are not immutable.
There is a sense in which this is unimportant; namely, we need to halt environmental destruction and reform corrupt government just as we need to end war, regardless of whether any of these changes depends on the others to succeed. Moreover, by uniting such campaigns into a comprehensive movement for change, strength in numbers will make each more likely to succeed.
But there is another sense in which this is important; namely, we need to understand war as the cultural creation that it is and stop imagining it as something imposed on us by forces beyond our control. In that sense it is important to recognize that no law of physics or sociology requires us to have war because we have some other institution. In fact, war is not required by a particular lifestyle or standard of living because any lifestyle can be changed, because unsustainable practices must end by definition with or without war, and because war actually impoverishes societies that use it.
Crises Beyond Our Control:
War in human history up to this point has not correlated with population density or resource scarcity. The idea that climate change and the resulting catastrophes will inevitably generate wars could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is not a prediction based on facts.
The growing and looming climate crisis is a good reason for us to outgrow our culture of war, so that we are prepared to handle crises by other, less destructive means. And redirecting some or all of the vast sums of money and energy that go into war and war preparation to the urgent work of protecting the climate could make a significant difference, both by ending one of our mostenvironmentally destructive activities and by funding a transition to sustainable practices.
In contrast, the mistaken belief that wars must follow climate chaos will encourage investment in military preparedness, thus exacerbating the climate crisis and making more likely the compounding of one type of catastrophe with another.
Ending War Is Possible:
Human societies have been known to abolish institutions that were widely considered permanent. These have included human sacrifice, blood feuds, duelling, slavery, the death penalty, and many others. In some societies some of these practices have been largely eradicated, but remain illicitly in the shadows and on the margins. Those exceptions don’t tend to convince most people that complete eradication is impossible, only that it hasn’t yet been achieved in that society. The idea of eliminating hunger from the globe was once considered ludicrous. Now it is widely understood that hunger could be abolished — and for a tiny fraction of what is spent on war. While nuclear weapons have not all been dismantled and eliminated, there exists a popular movement working to do just that.
Ending all war is an idea that has found great acceptance in various times and places. It was more popular in the United States, for example, in the 1920s and 1930s. In recent decades, the notion has been propogated that war is permanent. That notion is new, radical, and without basis in fact.
David Swansons wants you to declare peace at http://WorldBeyondWar.org His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition. He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.
The three laws of robotics, according to science fiction author Isaac Asimov, are:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
I would gladly have accepted a $20 million Pentagon contract for the job of pointing out these three laws.
OK, maybe $25 million.
Sadly, the Pentagon has instead hired a bunch of philosophy professors from leading U.S. universities to tell them how to make robots murder people morally and ethically.
Of course, this conflicts with the first law above. A robot designed to kill human beings is designed to violate the first law.
The whole project even more fundamentally violates the second law. The Pentagon is designing robots to obey orders precisely when they violate the first law, and to always obey orders without any exception. That's the advantage of using a robot. The advantage is not in risking the well-being of a robot instead of a soldier. The Pentagon doesn't care about that, except in certain situations in which too many deaths of its own humans create political difficulties. And there are just as many situations in which there are political advantages for the Pentagon in losing its own human lives: "The sacrifice of American lives is a crucial step in the ritual of commitment," wrote William P. Bundy of the CIA, an advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. A moral being would disobey the orders these robots are being designed to carry-out, and -- by being robots -- to carry out without any question of refusal. Only a U.S. philosophy professor could imagine applying a varnish of "morality" to this project.
The Third Law should be a warning to us. Having tossed aside Laws one and two, what limitations are left to be applied should Law three be implemented? Assume the Pentagon designs its robots to protect their own existence, except when . . . what? Except when doing so would require disobeying a more important order? But which order is more important? Except when doing so would require killing the wrong kind of person(s)? But which are they? The humans not threatening the robot? That's rather a failure as a limitation.
Let's face it, the Pentagon needs brand new laws of robotics. May I suggest the following:
1. A Pentagon robot must kill and injure human beings as ordered.
2. A Pentagon robot must obey all orders, except where such orders result from human weakness and conflict with the mission to kill and injure.
3. A Pentagon robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
This set of laws differs from Asimov's in a number of ways. For one thing, it completely lacks morality. It is designed for killing, not protecting. By prioritizing killing in the First Law, rather than protecting, this set of laws also allows for the possibility of robots sacrificing themselves to kill rather than to protect -- as well as the possibility of robots turning on their masters.
This set of laws differs much less -- possibly not at all -- from the set of laws currently followed by human members of the U.S. military. The great distinction that people imagine between autonomous and piloted drones vanishes when you learn a little about the thought habits of human drone pilots. They, like other members of the U.S. military, follow these laws:
1. A Pentagon human must kill and injure human beings as ordered.
2. A Pentagon human must obey all orders, except where such orders result from human weakness and conflict with the mission to kill and injure.
3. A Pentagon human must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
The job of the philosophy professors is to apply these laws to robots while neither changing them nor letting on to have figured out what they are. In other words, it's just like teaching a course in the classics to a room full of students. Thank goodness our academia has produced the men and women for this job.
by Nobel Women’s Initiative
(Ottawa)—May 12, 2014.
Referring to the development of weapons that could select targets and kill people without any human intervention as “unconscionable”, 20 individuals and organizations who have won the Nobel peace prize today issued a joint statement endorsing the call for a preemptive ban on these fully autonomous weapons.
A remarkable article appears in the June 2014 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. (Also available as free PDF here.)
The authors, experts in public health, are listed with all their academic credentials: William H. Wiist, DHSc, MPH, MS, Kathy Barker, PhD, Neil Arya, MD, Jon Rohde, MD, Martin Donohoe, MD, Shelley White, PhD, MPH, Pauline Lubens, MPH, Geraldine Gorman, RN, PhD, and Amy Hagopian, PhD.
Some highlights and commentary:
"In 2009 the American Public Health Association (APHA) approved the policy statement, 'The Role of Public Health Practitioners, Academics, and Advocates in Relation to Armed Conflict and War.' . . . In response to the APHA policy, in 2011, a working group on Teaching the Primary Prevention of War, which included the authors of this article, grew . . . ."
"Since the end of World War II, there have been 248 armed conflicts in 153 locations around the world. The United States launched 201 overseas military operations between the end of World War II and 2001, and since then, others, including Afghanistan and Iraq. During the 20th century, 190 million deaths could be directly and indirectly related to war -- more than in the previous 4 centuries."
These facts, footnoted in the article, are more useful than ever in the face of the current academic trend in the United States of proclaiming the death of war. By re-categorizing many wars as other things, minimizing death counts, and viewing deaths as proportions of the global population rather than of a local population or as absolute numbers, various authors have tried to claim that war is vanishing. Of course, war could and should vanish, but that is only likely to happen if we find the drive and the resources to make it happen.
"The proportion of civilian deaths and the methods for classifying deaths as civilian are debated, but civilian war deaths constitute 85% to 90% of casualties caused by war, with about 10 civilians dying for every combatant killed in battle. The death toll (mostly civilian) resulting from the recent war in Iraq is contested, with estimates of 124,000 to 655,000 to more than a million, and finally most recently settling on roughly a half million. Civilians have been targeted for death and for sexual violence in some contemporary conflicts. Seventy percent to 90% of the victims of the 110 million landmines planted since 1960 in 70 countries were civilians."
This, too, is critical, as a top defense of war is that it must be used to prevent something worse, called genocide. Not only does militarism generate genocide rather than preventing it, but the distinction between war and genocide is a very fine one at best. The article goes on to cite just some of the health effects of war, of which I will cite just some highlights:
"The World Health Organization (WHO) Commission on the Social Determinants of Health pointed out that war affects children's health, leads to displacement and migration, and diminishes agricultural productivity. Child and maternal mortality, vaccination rates, birth outcomes, and water quality and sanitation are worse in conflict zones. War has contributed to preventing eradication of polio, may facilitate the spread of HIV/ AIDS, and has decreased availability of health professionals. In addition, landmines cause psychosocial and physical consequences, and pose a threat to food security by rendering agricultural land useless. . . .
"Approximately 17,300 nuclear weapons are presently deployed in at least 9 countries (including 4300 US and Russian operational warheads, many of which can be launched and reach their targets within 45 minutes). Even an accidental missile launch could lead to the greatest global public health disaster in recorded history.
"Despite the many health effects of war, there are no grant funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health devoted to the prevention of war, and most schools of public health do not include the prevention of war in the curriculum."
Now, there is a huge gap in our society that I bet most readers hadn't noticed, despite its perfect logic and obvious importance! Why should public health professionals be working to prevent war? The authors explain:
"Public health professionals are uniquely qualified for involvement in the prevention of war on the basis of their skills in epidemiology; identifying risk and protective factors; planning, developing, monitoring, and evaluating prevention strategies; management of programs and services; policy analysis and development; environmental assessment and remediation; and health advocacy. Some public health workers have knowledge of the effects of war from personal exposure to violent conflict or from working with patients and communities in armed conflict situations. Public health also provides a common ground around which many disciplines are willing to come together to form alliances for the prevention of war. The voice of public health is often heard as a force for public good. Through regular collection and review of health indicators public health can provide early warnings of the risk for violent conflict. Public health can also describe the health effects of war, frame the discussion about wars and their funding . . . and expose the militarism that often leads to armed conflict and incites public fervor for war."
About that militarism. What is it?
"Militarism is the deliberate extension of military objectives and rationale into shaping the culture, politics, and economics of civilian life so that war and the preparation for war is normalized, and the development and maintenance of strong military institutions is prioritized. Militarism is an excessive reliance on a strong military power and the threat of force as a legitimate means of pursuing policy goals in difficult international relations. It glorifies warriors, gives strong allegiance to the military as the ultimate guarantor of freedom and safety, and reveres military morals and ethics as being above criticism. Militarism instigates civilian society's adoption of military concepts, behaviors, myths, and language as its own. Studies show that militarism is positively correlated with conservatism, nationalism, religiosity, patriotism, and with an authoritarian personality, and negatively related to respect for civil liberties, tolerance of dissent, democratic principles, sympathy and welfare toward the troubled and poor, and foreign aid for poorer nations. Militarism subordinates other societal interests, including health, to the interests of the military."
And does the United States suffer from it?
"Militarism is intercalated into many aspects of life in the United States and, since the military draft was eliminated, makes few overt demands of the public except the costs in taxpayer funding. Its expression, magnitude, and implications have become invisible to a large proportion of the civilian population, with little recognition of the human costs or the negative image held by other countries. Militarism has been called a 'psychosocial disease,' making it amenable to population-wide interventions. . . .
"The United States is responsible for 41% of the world's total military spending. The next largest in spending are China, accounting for 8.2%; Russia, 4.1%; and the United Kingdom and France, both 3.6%. . . . If all military . . . costs are included, annual [US] spending amounts to $1 trillion . . . . According to the DOD fiscal year 2012 base structure report, 'The DOD manages global property of more than 555,000 facilities at more than 5,000 sites, covering more than 28 million acres.' The United States maintains 700 to 1000 military bases or sites in more than 100 countries. . . .
"In 2011 the United States ranked first in worldwide conventional weapons sales, accounting for 78% ($66 billion). Russia was second with $4.8 billion. . . .
"In 2011-2012, the top-7 US arms producing and service companies contributed $9.8 million to federal election campaigns. Five of the top-10 [military] aerospace corporations in the world (3 US, 2 UK and Europe) spent $53 million lobbying the US government in 2011. . . .
"The main source of young recruits is the US public school system, where recruiting focuses on rural and impoverished youths, and thus forms an effective poverty draft that is invisible to most middle- and upper-class families. . . . In contradiction of the United States' signature on the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict treaty, the military recruits minors in public high schools, and does not inform students or parents of their right to withhold home contact information. The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery is given in public high schools as a career aptitude test and is compulsory in many high schools, with students' contact information forwarded to the military, except in Maryland where the state legislature mandated that schools no longer automatically forward the information."
Public health advocates also lament the tradeoffs in types of research the United States invests in:
"Resources consumed by military . . . research, production, and services divert human expertise away from other societal needs. The DOD is the largest funder of research and development in the federal government. The National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allocate large amounts of funding to programs such as 'BioDefense.' . . . The lack of other funding sources drives some researchers to pursue military or security funding, and some subsequently become desensitized to the influence of the military. One leading university in the United Kingdom recently announced, however, it would end its £1.2 million investment in a . . . company that makes components for lethal US drones because it said the business was not 'socially responsible.'"
Even in President Eisenhower's day, militarism was pervasive: "The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government." The disease has spread:
"The militaristic ethic and methods have extended into the civilian law enforcement and justice systems. . . .
"By promoting military solutions to political problems and portraying military action as inevitable, the military often influences news media coverage, which in turn, creates public acceptance of war or a fervor for war. . . ."
The authors describe programs that are beginning to work on war prevention from a public health perspective, and they conclude with recommendations for what should be done. Take a look.