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Abolition


Ending All War

Civilization and barbarism: It Takes a Life Cult to Beat a Death Cult

By John Grant


We have to address the political grievances terrorists exploit.
                                                                          -- Barack Obama
 

Breaking Our Addiction to War: A Five-Step Program

By Curt Torrell, Quaker House, Fayetteville, North Carolina

Despite the fact that our nation is war weary after thirteen years of post-9/11 wars, we are embroiled in yet another war, this time on the so-called Islamic State (IS). And despite the fact that our bombs produced neither peace nor stability in Iraq and Afghanistan, but rather unleashed a firestorm of tribal and sectarian violence and a flood of arms circulating in that region, we are being led into doing it all over again.

Our homeland was not pillaged or bombed, nor did we lose hundreds of thousands of our citizens to the ensuing violence, hunger, and lack of water and healthcare that inevitably follows warfare. Large segments of our population were not forced into refugee camps. Even so, Americans are beginning to understand that thirteen years of war have cost us dearly. But those most addicted to war, and those who profit from it, refuse to recognize the effects of their addiction upon others.

Here at home, military personnel bear the brunt of the physical and psychological effects of these “Wars on Terror.” Of the 2.5 million combat troops deployed, over 50% suffer chronic pain, 20% wrestle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or depression, and another 20% suffer from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) sustained in battle. These signature injuries translate to a suicide rate of one active service member and 22 veterans each and every day. Since our Wars on Terror began, 6,800+ American troops and 6,780 private contractors have died, and 970,000 new disability claims are pending before the VA.

Economically, the effects of these wars are staggering. While Congress trims programs for basic human needs, our costs of post-9/11 wars—including future veteran care—stand at $4.4 trillion. In the same period, we spent $7.6 trillion on defense and homeland security. Our Pentagon, Homeland Security, and other military spending now exceeds almost all other nations combined. We are the world’s largest exporter of weapons, supplying 80% of the weapons in the Middle East and ready to sell high tech warships to Saudi Arabia. Yet, research shows that spending those same dollars on peaceful industry—education, healthcare, infrastructure, and renewable energy—produces more and, in most cases, better paying jobs.

War does not make us safer. It creates more enemies and extends the battlefield worldwide. IS uses our bombing to recruit new members, while our use of torture and weaponized drones tarnishes our moral image. Having spent four years being brutalized and humiliated at the Camp Bucca U.S. prison in Iraq, Ali al-Badri al Samarrai, the leader of IS, will not forget about our torture nor will any of his recruits or their families who suffered from it.

War is destroying our planet. Our Pentagon is the largest institutional consumer of oil and biggest producer of toxic waste, dumping more pesticides, defoliants, solvents, petroleum, lead, mercury, and depleted uranium than the five biggest American chemical corporations combined. According to Oil Change International, 60% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions between 2003 and 2007 originated in U.S.-occupied Iraq.

Continuing to ignore the negative consequences of war points to an addiction over which we seem to have no control. As with any addiction, breaking free is neither simple nor cost-free. War profiteers will see their profits dwindle and will need to transition to new industry. Young people will need to find other ways to challenge themselves to “be all that they can be.” Politicians will need to find other ways to look strong and win votes. So, what is proposed below will likely be met with skepticism and resistance within the larger public until more Americans are sufficiently disenchanted with wars to “break clean.”

  1. Acknowledge our addiction and limitations. Admit we are addicted to war and that war makes us less—not more—safe and secure. As powerful as we are, we cannot bend others to our will by bombing and occupying their homelands.
  1. Recognize the higher power of our theological and moral leaders, and call upon them to form a “coalition of the willing,” condemning war and promoting human rights for all.
  1. Examine past errors in using war as a tool of foreign policy, errors that have brought grave harm to millions of people including our own citizens, and make amends to those who have suffered.
  1. Learn new ways of dealing with nations that abuse human rights, or that harbor the resources we desire, using a new code of international conduct. Work through the United Nations and the International Court, rather than acting unilaterally to advance our own interests.
  1. Help others suffering from the same addiction by halting the sale and stockpiling of weapons while finding new avenues for economic growth that will not destroy our planet.

As with any addiction, kicking a habit requires a fundamental transformation, but this Five-Step Program might be a good start. As a friend of Quaker House, help break this nation’s addiction to war.

No more AUMFs! No more ‘unitary executives’!: We’re Already Losing Our Democracy and All Our Freedoms to the 2001 AUMF

By Dave Lindorff

 

            Critics of President Obama’s proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force AUMF) against ISIS have been focused upon its deliberately obfuscatory and ambiguous language, which they rightly note would make it essentially a carte blanche from Congress allowing the president to go to war almost anywhere some would-be terrorist or terrorist copycat could be found who claims affinity with ISIS.

Obama the war president -- War: Where 69¢ of Each Tax Dollar Goes

By Dave Lindorff

 

         The Nobel Peace Laureate President Barack Obama, the guy who once campaigned claiming one US war -- the one against Iraq -- was a “bad” one, and the other -- against Afghanistan -- was a “good” one, turns out to be a man who, once anointed commander-in-chief, can’t seem to find a war he doesn’t consider to be a “good” idea.

Born at War

Foreword to America's Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying (available in Kindle version free this week.)

One of the ways in which we commonly handicap our own struggles to reform the bad practices of the U.S. government is by imagining those practices to be degenerative developments taking us away from a purer and nobler past. As Gary Brumback shows in this book, the United States grew out of the idea that (in Thomas Paine's phrase) it was "common sense" to launch a war to settle political differences, a war that in turn set the new nation free to launch a series of wars against the indigenous people of the continent, followed quickly by a ceaseless string of wars waged in near and far-flung corners of the globe.

This deeply moral, highly readable, and urgently necessary book, which provides a wealth of new information even to a reader like myself who writes on similar topics, takes us from the birth of the United States to the Barack Obama presidency. Brumback documents George Washington's role as first warrior in chief and first chief spy, and traces that legacy through some 13,000 to 14,000 U.S. military wars/interventions since, operations that have killed some 20 million to 30 million foreign civilians just in the years after World War II, and that have killed more than two and a half million U.S. soldiers over nearly two and a half centuries.

Brumback's argument is not for "just wars" or more competent spying but for a shift away from these practices. War destroys the natural environment, wastes trillions of dollars, and has no upside. All militarism and spying cost the U.S. government well over $1 trillion a year and rising. In exchange for this investment, which at least matches if it does not exceed the rest of the world combined, the United States leads wealthy nations in inequality, unemployment, food insecurity, life expectancy, prison population, homelessness, and other measures of what all the militarism is supposedly protecting: a way of life.

We've been trained to think of war preparations -- and the wars that result from being so incredibly prepared for wars -- as necessary if regrettable. What if, however, in the long view that this book allows us, war turns out to be counterproductive on its own terms? What if war endangers those who wage it rather than protecting them? Imagine, for a moment, how many countries Canada would have to invade and occupy before it could successfully generate anti-Canadian terrorist networks to rival the hatred and resentment currently organized against the United States.

Brumback goes further, documenting that spying is as useless and counterproductive on its own terms as war is. Most secrets sought and maintained by the U.S. government have literally no strategic value even in terms of the militarist thinking that drives the spying. The CIA straddles the space between keystone cop performances of handing nuclear plans to Iran or grounding flights because a con artist claims to see secret terrorist messages in television broadcasts, and the deadly anti-democratic destruction of overthrowing governments and murdering innocent people with drone strikes. In a "free market" competition, the CIA or the Pentagon would lose out to an agency that did literally nothing, much less to a department that worked toward peace, justice, and stability through nonviolent means.

So, what drives what has come to look like war for the sake of war and spying for the sake of spying? Brumback proposes the useful term "badvantages" to categorize features of U.S. society that are not necessarily "roots" or "causes" of war but which facilitate war when found in combination. This section of the book provides an excellent outline of the military industrial spying congressional complex and analysis of how it functions. Greed, obedience, and banal immorality play central roles. As I write these words, the U.S. Congress is missing in action, having fled Washington in order to allow a new war to begin without holding a vote on whether or not to authorize it. Weapons stocks are at record heights on Wall Street, and a financial advisor on National Public Radio was just heard recommending investing in weaponry.

Banksters come in for a healthy dose of criticism as a badvantage, as do the think tanks that just can't stop thinking about tanks. Also exposed to the light in these pages are front groups for war interests, war supporters in religion and especially in education, patriotic festivals, news media, Hollywood, war toys, the domestic U.S. gun industry, academia, and -- last but not least -- people who do nothing, or "accessories after the fact." That's a lot of badvantages to be overcome.

Often, of course, it is after the fact -- after the launching of a new war -- that people come around to opposing it. For 70 years somewhere upwards of 90 percent of Americans who argue that war can be just or necessary have gone primarily to World War II as evidence for their claim. Never mind that World War II is unimaginable without World War I which nobody thinks was necessary. Never mind the support that Wall Street and the U.S. State Department gave to the Nazis for years leading up to the crisis. For 70 years people have imagined that, like World War II, some new war might be a good one. This hope has lasted for weeks or months and then faded. For most of the duration of the 2003-2011 U.S.-led war on Iraq, a U.S. majority said it should never have been started. In this sense, it is "accessories before the fact" who are hurting us the most.

Brumback envisions another way of addressing ourselves to the world, in which we would lose the idea that War #14,001 might finally be the good one that fulfills the promises of World War I and trails peace and prosperity behind its bombs and poisons. He also recommends a comprehensive series of steps to move us in that direction. This book is worth whatever you paid for it for its concluding sections alone. The creation of a Citizens Assembly is, I think, exactly the way to go, although I'm not so sure it should be national. An assembly composed of citizens of the world has potential, I believe. In either case, building such a structure is project number one. We do not need a better Obama, a change of face in a position that corrupts absolutely. We need a better Occupy, a bigger broader bolder movement that finally resorts to the most powerful tool in our arsenal: nonviolence.

 

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.

Militarism in the Air We Breathe

If there is a group of Americans to whom Iraqis struggling with the health effects of depleted uranium, cluster bombs, white phosphorous, and all the various poisons of war can relate, it might be the mostly black and largely poor residents of Gibsland, in northern Louisiana.

Here's how an op-ed in the New York Times from one resident describes their situation:

"For years, one of the largest employers in that area was the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant, about four miles from Minden. The Environmental Protection Agency eventually listed the plant as a Superfund site because for more than 40 years 'untreated explosives-laden wastewater from industrial operations was collected in concrete sumps at each of the various load line areas,' and emptied into '16 one-acre pink water lagoons.'"

And now (from Truthout.org):

“After months of bureaucratic disputes between the Army and state and federal agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) recently announced an emergency plan to burn 15 million pounds of M6 — up to 80,000 pounds a day over the course of a year — on open ‘burn trays’ at Camp Minden, a disposal process that environmental advocates say is outdated and has been outlawed in other countries. The operation would be one of the largest open munitions burn in U.S. history.”

Every once in a while -- around Vieques or Jeju Island or Pagan Island -- environmental organizations find themselves confronting one little corner of the environment's greatest destroyer. While the big environmental groups seem unlikely to confront the institution of war itself until it's too late, we should take these opportunities to encourage them. Because they are taking on the military over this burn. There are plenty of former members of the U.S. military who can tell them about the health impacts of burns abroad, which veterans refer to as "the new Agent Orange." The EPA can fill activists in on who creates the most environmental disasters within the United States. Hint: It starts with mil and rhymes with solitary.

oiljets

A major motivation behind some wars is the desire to control resources that poison the earth, especially oil and gas. That fact, often disguised, should be faced by those of us concerned over the earth's future. The wars are not to protect us but to endanger us, by the generation of animosity and by the destruction of our planet. The production of the world's largest, most wasteful military ever is not a safety measure in case a good war comes along, but exactly what Eisenhower warned it would be, a generator of wars. The $1 trillion the United States dumps into the war machine each year is needed for urgent environmental protection. And the war preparations spending does not enrich us; it impoverishes us while concentrating wealth away from places like Gibsland. That's a lot of downsides for an institution whose main function is to kill lots of innocent people while stripping away our civil liberties.

But, back to the environmental downside. And oil. Oil can be leaked or burned off, as in the Gulf War, but primarily it is put to use in all kinds of machines polluting the earth’s atmosphere, placing us all at risk. Some associate the consumption of oil with the supposed glory and heroism of war, so that renewable energies that do not risk global catastrophe are viewed as cowardly and unpatriotic ways to fuel our machines. The interplay of war with oil goes beyond that, however. The wars themselves, whether or not fought for oil, consume huge quantities of it. One of the world’s top consumer of oil, in fact, is the U.S. military.

The U.S. military burns through about 340,000 barrels of oil each day. If the Pentagon were a country, it would rank 38th out of 196 in oil consumption. There's just no other institution that comes remotely close to the military in this or other types of environmental destruction. (But try to discover that fact at an anti-pipeline march.)

The environment as we know it will not survive nuclear war. It also may not survive “conventional” war, understood to mean the sorts of wars now waged. Intense damage has already been done by wars and by the research, testing, and production done in preparation for wars. Wars in recent years have rendered large areas uninhabitable and generated tens of millions of refugees. War “rivals infectious disease as a global cause of morbidity and mortality,” according to Jennifer Leaning of Harvard Medical School.

Perhaps the most deadly weapons left behind by wars are land mines and cluster bombs. Tens of millions of them are estimated to be lying around on the earth, oblivious to any announcements that peace has been declared. Most of their victims are civilians, a large percentage of them children.

It is wonderful to have organizations now and again challenging particular aspects of the destruction war causes. Below is a letter that every peace and environmental and peace-environmental organization in the world should sign onto:

 

Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator
Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
William Jefferson Clinton Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W.
Mail Code: 2201A
Washington, DC 20460
Giles-Aa.cynthia@Epa.gov

SENT BY ELECTRONIC MAIL

RE: Proposed Open Burning of M6 Propellants at Camp Minden, Louisiana

Dear Assistant Administrator Giles,

We, the undersigned organizations, join Louisiana residents, workers and families in their call for a safer alternative to open burning of hazardous wastes at Camp Minden.

We oppose the plan by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to OPEN BURN 15 million pounds of abandoned M6 propellants at Camp Minden, Louisiana. By definition, open burning has no emissions controls and will result in the uncontrolled release of toxic emissions and respirable particulates to the environment. M6 contains approximately 10 percent dinitrotoluene (DNT) which is classified as a probable human carcinogen.1

Concerns for the potential human health risk created by open burning/open detonation as well as for environmental impacts on the air, soil, and water have required the military to identify and develop alternatives to open burning/open detonation treatment.2 Moreover, as the EPA’s plan provides for the safe handling and transport to an open burning area, these wastes could be similarly moved to an alternative treatment facility or system.

While we support the EPA’s initiative to require the U.S. Army to clean up and dispose of these improperly stored explosive wastes, we do not support open burning as a remedy given the inherent and avoidable risks to human health and the environment.

1U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Technical Fact Sheet, Dinitrotoluene (DNT), January 2014.
2 US Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratories USACERL Technical Report 98/104, Alternatives to Open Burning/Open Detonation of Energetic Materials, A Summary of Current Technologies, August 1998.

 

Laura Olah, Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger, Wisconsin Dolores Blalock, ArkLaTex Clean Air Network, LLC, Louisiana
Marylee M. Orr, Executive Director, Louisiana Environmental Action Network/Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, Louisiana
Devawn Palmer-Oberlender, Environmental Patriots of the New River Valley, Virginia Pamela Miller, Executive Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Alaska
Craig Williams, Chemical Weapons Working Group, Kentucky
Erin Brockovich & Bob Bowcock, California
United Tribe of Shawnee Indians, Principal Chief, Jim Oyler, Kansas
Tim Lopez, Director, Voluntary Cleanup Advisory Board, Colorado
Greg Wingard, Executive Director, Waste Action Project, Washington
Mable Mallard, Philadelphia Community Right To Know Committee, Pennsylvania Doris Bradshaw, Defense Depot Memphis Tennessee - Concerned Citizens Committee Isis Bradshaw, Youth Terminating Pollution, Tennessee
Kaye Kiker, Community Organizer, Citizens Task Force, Alabama
Wilbur Slockish, Columbia River Education and Economic Development, Oregon
Al Gedicks, Executive Secretary, Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, Wisconsin
Doris Bradshaw, Military Toxics Project, Tennessee
Peter Galvin, Center for Biological Diversity, California
LeVonne Stone, Fort Ord Environmental Justice Network, California
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment), California
Josh Fast, Educator, PermanentGardens.com, Louisiana
Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association, Minnesota
Paul Orr, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, Louisiana
Marcia Halligan, Kickapoo Peace Circle, Wisconsin
Kathy Sanchez, EJ RJ, Tewa women United org., New Mexico
J. Gilbert Sanchez, CEO, Tribal Environmental Watch Alliance, New Mexico
David Keith, Valley Citizens for a Safe Environment, Massachusetts
Forest Jahnke, Crawford Stewardship Project, Wisconsin
Maria Powell, President, Midwest Environmental Justice Organization, Wisconsin
Evelyn Yates, Pine Bluff for Safe Disposal, Arkansas
Cheryl Slavant, Ouachita Riverkeeper, Louisiana
Jean E. Mannhaupt, President, Park Ridge @ Country Manors Home Owners Assoc., New York
Stephen Brittle, President, Don’t Waste Arizona
Alison Jones Chaim, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility Wisconsin
Jill Johnston, Southwest Workers Union, Texas
Robert Alvarado, Committee for Environmental Justice Action, Texas
Phyllis Hasbrouck, Chair, West Waubesa Preservation Coalition, Wisconsin
John LaForge, Nukewatch, Wisconsin
Guy Wolf, Co-Director, DownRiver Alliance, Wisconsin
Don Timmerman & Roberta Thurstin, Casa Maria Catholic Worker, Wisconsin
LT General Russel Honore (Ret), GreenARMY, Louisiana
John LaForge, The Progressive Foundation, Wisconsin
Paul F. Walker, Ph.D., Director, Environmental Security and Sustainability, Green Cross International, Washington, DC
Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director, Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana
Lenny Siegel, Executive Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight, California
John E. Peck, Executive Director, Family Farm Defenders, Wisconsin
Lois Marie Gibbs, Executive Director, Center for Health, Environment and Justice, Virginia
Willie Fontenot, Conservation Chair, Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club, Louisiana
Kimberlee Wright, Executive Director, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Inc., Wisconsin
Elizabeth O'Nan, Director, Protect All Children's Environment, North Carolina
Frances Kelley, Louisiana Progress Action, Louisiana
Patrick Seymour, ISIS institute MilWaste Project, Massachusetts
Christina Walsh, Executive Director, cleanuprocketdyne.org, California
Glen Hooks, Chapter Director, Arkansas Sierra Club, Arkansas
Laura Ward, President, Wanda Washington, Vice President, FOCUS, Inc (Family Oriented Community United Strong, Inc.), Florida
Ed Dlugosz, President, NJ Friends of Clearwater, New Jersey
Anne Rolfes, Founding Director, LA Bucket Brigade, Louisiana
Monica Wilson, GAIA: Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, California
Dean A. Wilson, Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, Louisiana
Robin Schneider, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Texas
Lara Norkus-Crampton, Coordinator, Minneapolis Neighbors for Clean Air, Minnesota Haywood Martin, Chair, Sierra Club Delta Chapter, Louisiana
Mitzi Shpak, Executive Director, Action Now, California
Jane Williams, Executive Director, California Communities Against Toxics, California Robina Suwol, Executive Director, California Safe Schools, California
Renee Nelson, President, Clean Water and Air Matter (CWAM), California
Lisa Riggiola, Citizens For A Clean Pompton Lakes, New Jersey
Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, Executive Director, GreenLaw
James Little, member, Western Broome Environmental Stakeholder Coalition, New York Sparky Rodrigues, Malama Makua, Hawaii
Barry Kissin, Fort Detrick Restoration Advisory Board, Maryland

Submitted by:

Laura Olah, Executive Director
Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB)
E12629 Weigand’s Bay South
Merrimac, WI 53561
(608)643-3124
info@cswab.org
www.cswab.org
www.facebook.com/cswab.org


New TCBH! poem by Gary Lindorff: 'Grinding my Ax'

By Gary Lindorff

 

My ax is grinding
All by itself!
I can hear it giving itself to the grinding wheel
Every day when I wake up,
Most nights when I go to bed.
 
I am just grinding it.
 
What would I use it for?
To cut down my enemies to size?
To swing against the foundations of the NSA?
To destroy the diabolical machinery
That is excavating the tarsands in Alberta?
To obliterate all the missiles and missile silos...


Marketing Madness: Americans See Selves as Freedom’s Heroes as They Flock to Watch a Lousy Comedy

By Dave Lindorff


Is it just me or does anyone else think like me that this whole uproar over the supposed foreign “threat” to Americans’ freedom in the form of warnings against showing a low-brow Hollywood comedy, “The Interview” is a pathetic farce?


The US Must Prosecute Torturers and their Enablers, or Forever Be a Labeled a Rogue Nation

By Dave Lindorff

            In all the media debate about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s release, finally, of a heavily redacted report on officially sanctioned torture by the CIA and the US military during the Bush/Cheney administration and the so-called War on Terror, there has been little said about the reality that torture, as clearly defined in the Geneva Convention against Torture which went into effect in 1987, is flat-out illegal in the US as a signatory of that Convention.

I’ve had it!: Eleven Reasons I’m Ashamed to be an American Citizen

By Dave Lindorff

 

I’m going to say it: I am ashamed to be a US citizen. This doesn’t come easily, because having lived abroad and seen some pretty nasty places in my time, I know there are a lot of great things about this country, and a lot of great people who live here, but lately, I’ve reached the conclusion that the US is a sick and twisted country, in which the bad far outweighs the good. 

 

I’ve had it!: Eleven Reasons I’m Ashamed to be an American Citizen

By Dave Lindorff

 

I’m going to say it: I am ashamed to be a US citizen. This doesn’t come easily, because having lived abroad and seen some pretty nasty places in my time, I know there are a lot of great things about this country, and a lot of great people who live here, but lately, I’ve reached the conclusion that the US is a sick and twisted country, in which the bad far outweighs the good. 

 

Audio of Katherine Gun on What People Can Do About War

Here is audio (mp3) of Katherine Gun answering a question at a forum in London. She was asked what people should do. Of course, we love her answer. We also recommend listening to the entire forum which included some great friends and heroes:

  • Matthew Hoh, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and former US embassy representative in Afghanistan who became the highest-ranking U.S. official to publicly renounce policy in Afghanistan in 2009.
  • Coleen Rowley, an attorney and former FBI special agent who was among the first to expose some of the agency’s pre-9/11 failures, and was one of three whistleblowers named as Time Magazine’s persons of the year in 2002.
  • Norman Solomon is the coordinator of ExposeFacts.org and the author of a dozen books on media and public policy including *War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death*.
  • J. Kirk Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for 36 years until October 2001. Since then, he has made several key public disclosures regarding the NSA’s massive surveillance programmes.
  • Katharine Gun is a former translator for the GCHQ who leaked a top secret memo in 2003 revealing NSA spying operations at the UN. Gun was subsequently charged under the Official Secrets Act but the case was dropped after the prosecution offered no evidence. Given the backdrop of impending war with Iraq at the time, Daniel Ellsberg called Gun’s leak “the most important and courageous” he had ever seen.

Listen to the whole thing here.

Are there 100 people on Planet Earth who believe all of these 10 truths?

  1. World Peace is highly desirable.
  2. World Peace is possible.
  3. There’s a law against war.
  4. Everyone should know the law against war.
  5. The public is almost totally ignorant of the law against war.
  6. Ignorance of the law is unacceptable.
  7. I can do my part in educating the public.
  8. The pen is mightier than the sword.
  9. An informed public can demand accountability.
  10. I can write a peace essay.

If you are one of these 100 people please join the WSFPC Peace Essay Contest before the end of 2014.  The Rules are attached.  Winners will be given cash awards up to $1,000 and will be announced on August 27, 2015.

Also. PLEASE NOTE OUR NEW WEB ADDRESS: www.faithpeace.mennonite.net

Frank Goetz
WSFPC Peace Essay Coordinator
frankgoetz@comcast.net
630-653-0597

West Suburban Faith-Based Peace Coalition

$1,000 for First Place Peace Essay

The West Suburban Faith-Based Peace Coalition is once again sponsoring a Peace Essay Contest with a $1,000.00 award to the winner, $300 for the runner-up, and $100 for third place. As in the previous year’s contest, essays will have to be directed to a person who can help promote knowledge of the Kellogg-Briand Pact (KBP) and, from whom a response is expected. Essays will be judged not only on the quality of the essay but on the impact of the response. Everyone is eligible to participate; there are no restrictions regarding age or country of residence. Participants are required to take the following 3 steps:

1. To enter the contest send a Peace
Essay Request email to coordinator Frank
Goetz at frankgoetz@comcast.net. Provide your Name, Mailing Address, Email Address, Phone Number, and, if under 19, Age. Also, provide the Name and Position of the person or persons to whom the Essay will be directed. Your application acceptance as a contest participant will be acknowledged in an email containing your assigned 4-digit Essay Number. [If information is missing or confusing you will be contacted by email or phone.]

2. In 800 words or less write your essay on: How Can We Obey the Law Against War? As soon as possible but at least by April 15, 2015 send the essay to the person named in your application and a copy to frankgoetz@comcast.net with your Essay Number in the Subject line.

3. By May 15, 2015 send Essay Response documentation to frankgoetz@comcast.net with your Essay Number in the Subject line.

Some examples of impact:

  1. The President agrees to explain the limitations placed on the government by KBP.
  2. A member of congress supports a resolution to make August 27 a Day of Reflection.
  3. The ACT or SAT administration agrees to include questions regarding KBP.
  4. A newspaper includes a KBP story.
  5. A school board revises its curriculum to expand KBP studies.
  6. A religious leader calls for nonviolent actions.

Act now: We may have to limit the number of contestants and it takes time to get responses. We will announce the Winners at a festive event honoring the 87th Anniversary of the Kellogg-Briand Pact on August 27, 2015.

faithpeace.mennonite.net

David Swanson to Speak in Michigan


PCM_logo
 Coming Events!
Announcing our 2015 Annual State Conference
WAR NO MORE,
 
WAR NEVER AGAIN!:

PEACE AS POLICY
featuring

DAVID SWANSON

 Author and activist

 

David Swanson has written several books, including War Is a Lie (2010), When the World Outlawed War (2011) and War No More: The Case for Abolition (2013).  He serves as the director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org

 

                                      

Saturday April 11, 2015 

St. John Fisher in Auburn Hills

 
Don't Miss It!!!

SAVE THE DATE!
 
 

Watchers of the Sky Falls in a Pit

The United States is a society incapable of producing a major documentary film opposing the institution of war and explicitly advocating its abolition. If it did so, the major corporate media outlets would not sing such a film's praises.

Yet Watchers of the Sky is beloved by the U.S. corporate media because it opposes genocide, not war.  I'm not aware of any opponents of war who don't also oppose genocide. In fact, many oppose the two as a single evil without the stark distinction between them. But the anti-genocide academic nonprofit industrial complex has become dominated by leading advocates for war.

As we watch people lament Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur while supporting mass killing in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, we seem to be witnessing a sort of extended victors' justice running 70 years from the hypocritical "justice" that followed World War II right through the establishment of the International Criminal Court (for Africans).

Right-wing war supporters oppose "terrorism" which means small-scale killing my government disapproves of. Liberal war supporters oppose "genocide" which means killing my government disapproves of and which is motivated by backward drives like race or religion rather than enlightened projects like control of fossil fuels, profiteering off weapons, or maintaining global hegemony.

Selective outrage over killing within a country has become a common justification for killing across borders (and oceans).

Ben Ferencz, featured in Watchers of the Sky, was recently on my radio show pushing his idea of criminalizing war while refusing to consider recent U.S. wars to fit the category of wars worth criminalizing.

Samantha Power, star of Watchers of the Sky, supports mass killing. I don't think she's pretending to be outraged by genocide any more than Madeline Albright who said killing a half million children had been a good policy is pretending when she claims to be outraged by genocide. I think such people are outraged by evils they have permitted themselves to see as evil, while blinding themselves to horrors they prefer not to recognize.

I recently gave a talk at a college and happened to mention Hillary Clinton's comment about obliterating Iran. A professor interrupted me to state that such a thing never happened. A student pulled up the video of Clinton on several websites on a phone, but the professor still denied it stating that it made no sense. That is to say, it didn't fit into his worldview. I later happened to criticize Israel's treatment of Gaza, and the same professor got up and stormed out of the room. He could only deny what was done to Gaza by avoiding hearing it altogether. I have no doubt that he would have expressed sincere outrage over Rwanda if asked.

The problem with the focus on Yugoslavia and Rwanda is the pretense that there is something worse than, discrete from, and preventable by war. The myths about the origins and outcomes of those horrors play down the role that Western militarism had in creating them while playing up the role it had or could have had in preventing them. War is depicted as an under-utilized tool, while the effects of both war and genocide (such as refugee crises) are blamed entirely on genocide.

The odd thing is that people being slaughtered from the sky are almost always being slaughtered by the U.S. military and its allies. Those who can only see killing when it's done by people resisting U.S. domination can usually keep their eyes comfortably downward.

The World Gets the Wars Americans Deserve

Having been on the road, I have two brilliant insights to report.

1. No matter what sort of fascist state were ever established in this part of the world, Amtrak would never get the trains to run on time.

2. Respecting people and giving them credit for being smarter than the television depicts them is vastly easier when you stay home.

The well-known line is that people get the governments they deserve.  Of course nobody should be abused the way the U.S. and many other governments abuse them, no matter what their intellectual deficiencies.  If anything, stupid people should have better, kinder governments. But my common response to that well-known line is to point out the bribery and gerrymandering and limited choices and relentless propaganda. Surely the clown show in Washington is not the people's fault. Some of my best friends are people and they often display signs of intelligence.

But the primary thing the U.S. government does is wage wars, and it wages them against other people who had no say in the matter. Of course I don't want wars waged against Americans either, but the general impression one gets from traveling around and speaking and answering questions at public events in the United States is not so much that people are indifferent to the destruction of the globe as long as they don't miss their favorite television show, as that people are unclear on what destruction means and can't identify a globe when it's placed in a lineup with six watermelons.

War and peace are concepts people have heard of, but ask them which they favor and you'll get blank stares. "Do you support all wars, some wars, or no wars?" I ask to get a sense of the crowd, but a fourth answer takes the majority: "Uhhh, I dunno." 

A few people want to end war by having a bunch of anti-war wars, but they all work in the State Department and I haven't been invited to speak there. 

A few elderly people believe we simply must have wars, and every last one of them has the identical reason: Pearl Harbor. You can explain to them the stupid vindictive conclusion of World War I, the decades of militarization, of antagonization of Japan (protested for many years by U.S. peace activists), of Wall Street funding the Nazis. You can point out the madness of a rogue nation waging hundreds of disastrous wars all over the world for 70 years and getting people to support this project by finding a single example of a supposedly justifiable war 70 years ago. You can challenge them to find any other major public project that has to go back that far to justify itself. You can quote them the wisdom of peace activists from the 1920s and 1930s and 1940s. They'll simply say that Pearl Harbor justified saving the Jews. You can show them how Pearl Harbor was intentionally provoked, how actions that might have saved the Jews were avoided, how the Jews became a justification for the war only long after it was over, and they'll just grunt at you. You can recount successful nonviolent resistance to the Nazis and the growth and development of nonviolent resistance in the decades since, and they'll drool, scratch their heads, or ask if you're going to vote for Hillary.

A few young people believe we simply must have wars, and every last one of them has the identical reason: ISIS. Because ISIS is something evil, there must be war. "Should we attack ISIS or do nothing?" they all ask.

I imagine I'd laugh if I weren't trembling for our future. Iraq III: The Return of the Decider is becoming the worst parody of a humanitarian war in history. First George W. Obama gave himself a waiver from his own dumb rules against killing unlimited civilians. Then he asked for a special waiver in order to arm lots of really good people who happen to torture some folks and murder some folks and rape some folks and genocide some folks. This after he asked the CIA if arming rebels has ever worked out, and the CIA said "No, but we do it as a matter of principle," and he said "Let's roll!"

Just as nobody supposes World War II the Just and Noble could have arisen without World War I the Futile and Pointless, no serious analysis of ISIS can explain its birth without Iraq II: The Liberation. ISIS is made up of people tortured in U.S. prison camps and thrown out of the Iraqi Army by U.S. occupiers and driven into desperation by the hell the U.S. and its allies created. ISIS brutally murders just like, but on a smaller scale than, the U.S. and its new allies in fighting ISIS. The helpless-people-on-a-mountaintop story remains permanently present outside of time for Americans, even though the U.S. is now killing so many civilians that it needs laws changed (or simply ignored; anyone remember the UN Charter?), even though the story was a gross distortion at the time, and even though the bombing protected the oil contractors in Erbil, not the mountain.

People nod their heads and ask, "So, should we attack ISIS or do nothing?"

You can explain to them that ISIS explicitly said it wanted to be attacked. You can show them how ISIS is growing as a result. You can explain to them how hated the United States is now in that region. You can read them a RAND Corporation report showing that most terrorist organizations are ended through negotiations, virtually none through war. You can fill them in on how 80 percent of the weapons shipped into the Middle-East, not counting U.S. weapons or weapons the U.S. gives to groups like ISIS and its allies, come from the United States. You can describe how the region could be demilitarized rather than further armed. You can discuss diplomatic possibilities, local cease-fires, aid and restitution. You can graphically make clear how a fraction of what's spent on bombing Iraq to fix the disaster created by bombing Iraq could pay for transforming the whole region into a healthier happier place to live with food, water, agriculture, clean energy, etc. You can detail emergency measures that are available, including peaceworkers, aid workers, doctors, journalists -- measures that risk fewer lives than war.

And they'll blink their eyes and ask "So, should we attack ISIS or do nothing?"

Do you recall, you can say, that last year the White House wanted you to support attacking Syria, and wanted to attack the opposite side in that war? And people said no, remember? And now they want to attack the opposite side, while arming it, and this makes sense to you? They have no goal in mind, no plan, no estimated end-date or price-tag or body-count, and this makes sense to you?

Well, they'll say, it's that or do nothing.

But do you recall the year 2006 in which everybody said they'd elected Democrats in order to end the war, and the Democrats said they'd keep it going in order to run against it again in 2008? At that time, in 2006, as the big marches were just ending, having begun with the biggest marches ever on February 15, 2003, if you'd told anyone that in 2014 the war would be over and a new president would propose starting it up again, and nobody would protest, you'd have been laughed at. The America of 2006 would never have stood for this for a minute, at least not if the President were a Republican.

"Oh," they'll say, "I've heard of Republicans. They're the ones who like war, right? Do you think the military is letting women participate enough?"

It happened that while I was touring and talking, NATO claimed for something like the 89th time this year that Russia had invaded Ukraine. If it were ever true, I asked, would anyone believe it? The answer I got: Nobody cares.

Nobody with the easy ability to do something about it cares. The people under the bombs care. The world gets the wars Americans deserve.

How Is a Prison Like a War?

The similarities between mass incarceration and mass murder have been haunting me for a while, and I now find myself inspired by Maya Schenwar's excellent new book Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better. This is one of three books everyone should read right away. The others are The New Jim Crow and Burning Down the House, the former with a focus on racism in incarceration, the latter with a focus on the incarceration of youth. Schenwar's is an overview of incarceration in all its absurd and unfathomable evil -- as well as being a spotlight leading away from this brutal institution.

Locked Down, Locked Out is both an incomparably put together report incorporating statistics and studies with individual quotations and anecdotes, and a personal story of how incarceration has impacted the author's own family and how the author has thought through the complex issues.

Yes, I did recently write an article specifically criticizing the widespread habit of calling everything a "war," and I do still want to see that practice ended -- but not because the linguistic quirk offends me, rather because we make so many things, to one degree or another, actually be like wars. As far as I have seen, no other practice bears remotely as much similarity to war as does prison. How so? Let me count the ways.

1. Both are distinctly American. No other nation spends as much on its military or its prisons, engages in as many wars or locks up as many people.

2. Both are seemingly simple and easy solutions that don't solve anything, but seek to hide it away at a distance. Wars are waged thousands of miles from home. Prisoners are stored out-of-sight hundreds or thousands of miles from home.

3. Both are fundamentally violent and dependent upon the notion that a state "monopoly" on violence prevents violence by others, even while the evidence suggests that it actually encourages violence by others.

4. Both rely on the same process of dehumanizing and demonizing people, either enemies in a war or criminals in a prison. Never mind that most of the people killed by bombs had nothing to do with the squabble used as motivation for the war. Never mind that most of the prisoners had nothing to do with the sort of behavior used to demonize them. Both populations must be labeled as non-human or both institutions collapse.

5. Both are hugely profitable and promoted by the profiteers, who constitute a small clique, the broader society actually being drained economically by both enterprises. Weapons factories and prisons produce jobs, but they produce fewer and lower-paying jobs than other investments, and they do so with less economic benefit and more destructive side-effects.

6. Both are driven by fear. Without the fear-induced irrational urge to lash out at the source of our troubles, we'd be able to think through, calmly and clearly, far superior answers to foreign and domestic relations.

7. Both peculiar institutions are themselves worse than anything they claim to address. War is a leading cause of death, injury, trauma, loss of home, environmental destruction, instability, and lasting cycles of violence. It's not a solution to genocide, but its wellspring and its big brother. U.S. prisons lock up over 2 million, control and monitor some 7 million, and ruin the lives of many millions more in the form of family members impacted. From there the damage spreads and the numbers skyrocket as communities are weakened. No damage that incarcerated people could have done if left alone, much less handled with a more humane system, could rival the damage done by the prison industry itself.

8. Both are default practices despite being demonstrably counter-productive by anybody's measure, including on their own terms. Wars are not won, do not build nations, do not halt cruelty, do not spread democracy, do not benefit humanity, do not protect or expand freedom. Rather, freedoms are consistently stripped away in the name of wars that predictably endanger those in whose name they are waged. The nation waging the most wars generates the most enemies, thus requiring more wars, just as the nation with the most prisoners also has the most recidivists. Almost all prisoners are eventually released, and over 40% of them return to prison. Kids who commit crimes and are left alone are -- as many studies have clearly and uncontroversially documented -- less likely to commit more crimes than kids who are put in juvenile prison.

9. Both are classist and racist enterprises. A poverty draft has replaced ordinary conscription, while wars are waged only on poor nations rich in natural resources and darkish in skin tone. Meanwhile African Americans are, for reasons of racism and accounting for all other factors, far more likely than whites to be reported to the police, charged by the police, charged with higher offenses, sentenced to longer imprisonment, refused parole, and held to be violating probation. The poor are at the mercy of the police and the courts. The wealthy have lawyers.

10. The majority of the casualties, in both cases, are not those directly and most severely harmed. Injuries outnumber deaths in war, refugees outnumber the injured, and traumatized and orphaned children outnumber the refugees. Prisoners' lives are ruined, but so are the greater number of lives from which theirs have been viciously removed. A humane person might imagine some leniency for the convict who has children. On the contrary, the majority of U.S. prisoners have children.

11. Both institutions seem logical until one imagines alternatives. Both seem inevitable and are upheld by well-meaning people who haven't imagined their way around them. Both appear justifiable as defensive measures against inscrutable evil until one thinks through how much of that evil is generated by optional policies and how extremely rare to nonexistent is the sort of evil dominating the thinking behind massive industries designed for a whole different scale of combat.

12. Both war and prisons begin with shock and awe. A SWAT team invades a home to arrest a suspect, leaving an entire family afraid to go to sleep for years afterward. An air force flattens whole sections of a city, leaving huge numbers of people traumatized for life. Another word for these practices is terrorism.

13. Both institutions include extreme measures that are as counterproductive as the whole. Suicidal prisoners put into solitary confinement as punishment for being suicidal are rendered more suicidal, not less. Burning villages or murdering households with gunfire exacerbate the process of making the aggressor more hated, more resented, and less likely to know peace.

14. Both institutions hurt the aggressor. An attacking nation suffers morally, economically, civilly, environmentally; and its soldiers and their families suffer very much as prisoners and prison guards suffer. Even crime victims suffer the lack of apology or restitution or reconciliation that comes with an adversarial justice system that treats the courtroom as a civilized war.

15. Both horrors create alternative realities to which people sometimes long to return. Prisoners unable to find work or support or friendship or family sometimes return to prison on purpose. Soldiers unable to adapt to life back home have been known to choose a return to war despite suffering horrifically from a previous combat experience. The top killer of U.S. soldiers is suicide. Suicide is not uncommon among prisoners who have recently been released. Neither members of the military nor prisoners are provided serious preparation for reintegrating into a society in which everything that has been helping them survive will tend to harm them.

16. Both war and prisons generate vicious cycles. Crime victims are more likely to become criminals. Those imprisoned are more likely to commit crimes. Children effectively orphaned by incarceration are more likely to become criminals and be incarcerated. Nations that have been at war are more likely to be at war again. Solving Libya's problems three years ago by bombing it predictably created violent chaos that even spilled into other nations. Launching wars on Iraq to address the violence created by previous wars on Iraq has become routine.

17. Both institutions are sometimes supported by their victims. An endangered family can prefer incarceration of a violent or drug-addicted loved one to nothing, in the absence of alternatives. Members of the military and their families can believe it is their duty to support wars and proposals for new wars. Prisoners themselves can see prison as preferable to starving under a bridge.

18. Both institutions are disproportionately male in terms of guards and soldiers. But the victims of war are not. And, when families are considered, as Schenwar's book considers them so well, the victims of incarceration are not.

19. Both institutions have buried within them rare stories of success, soldiers who matured and grew wise and heroic, prisoners who reformed and learned their lessons. No doubt the same is true of slavery or the holocaust or teaching math by the method of applying a stick to a child's hands.

20. Both institutions are often partially questioned without the possibility of questioning the whole ever arising. When Maya Schenwar's sister gives birth in prison and then remains in prison, separated from her baby, people ask Schenwar "What's the point? How is Kayla being in prison helping anyone?" But Schenwar thinks to herself: "How isanyone being in prison helping anyone?" Candidate Barack Obama opposed dumb wars, while supporting massive war preparations, eventually finding himself in several wars, all of them dumb, and one of them the very same war (or at least a new war in the very same nation) he had earlier described in those terms.

21. Both institutions churn along with the help of thousands of well-meaning people who try to mitigate the damage but who are incapable of redeeming fundamentally flawed systems. Reforms that strengthen the system as a whole tend not to help, while actions that shrink, limit, or weaken support for the whole machinery of injustice deserve encouragement.

22. Both are 19th century inventions.  Some form of war and of slavery may go back 10,000 years, but only in the 19th century did it begin to resemble current war and incarceration. Changes through the 20th and early 21st centuries expanded on the damage without fundamentally altering the thinking involved.

23. Both include state-approved murder (the death penalty and the killing in war) and both include state-sanctioned torture. In fact much of the torture that has made the news in war prisons began in domestic prisons. A current war enemy, ISIS, had its leadership developed in the cauldron of brutal U.S. war prisons. Again, the aggressors, the torturers, and their whole society are not unharmed.

24. Crime victims are used to justify an institution that results in more people being victimized by crime. Victims of warlike abuse by others are used to justify wars likely to harm them and others further.

25. Prisoners and veterans often leave those worlds without the sort of education valued in the other world, the "free world" the prisoners dream of and soldiers fantasize that they are defending. A criminal record is usually a bar to employment. A military record can be an advantage but in other cases is a disadvantage as well in seeking employment.

26. Beyond all the damage done by war and prisons, by far the greatest damage is done through the trade-off in resources. The money invested in war could pay for the elimination of poverty and various diseases worldwide. A war-making nation could make itself loved for far less expense than what it takes to make itself hated. It could hang onto a much smaller, more legitimately defensive military like those of other nations while attempting such an experiment. The money spent on prisons could pay for drug treatment, childcare, education, and restorative justice programs. A nation could go on locking up violent recidivists while attempting such a change.

27. Restorative justice is the essence of the solution to both war and prison. Diplomacy and moderated reconciliation are answers to the common problem of writing an enemy off as unreachable through words.

I might go on, but I imagine you get the idea. Huge numbers of Americans are being made seriously worse citizens, and almost all of them will be back out of prison trying to survive. And, if that doesn't do it for you, consider this: when incarceration is this widespread, there's every possibility that it will someday include you. What if you're falsely accused of a crime? What if somebody puts a link on a website to illegal pornography and you -- or someone using your computer -- clicks it? Or you urinate in public? Or you use marijuana in a state that legalized it, but the feds disagree? Or you blow the whistle on some abuse in some branch of the government that you work for? Or you witness something and don't report it? Or you work so hard that you fall asleep driving your car? An injustice to one is an injustice to all, and injustice on this scale is potentially injustice to every one.

What to do?

Californians just voted on their ballots to reduce prison sentences. Get that on your ballot.  For the first time ever, this week, a prosecutor was sent to prison for falsely convicting an innocent person. We need a whole reworking of the rewards and incentives for prosecutors who have long believed that locking people up was the path to success. We need activist resistance to prison expansion, divestment from for-profit prison companies, and educational efforts to begin changing our culture as well as our laws. Locked Down, Locked Out provides a terrific list of organizations to support, including those that can help you become a prisoner's pen-pal. Schenwar explains that there is nothing prisoners need more, as long as they are locked up. Those not receiving mail are seen as the easiest targets for abuse by guards and other prisoners. And our receiving their letters may be the best way for us to learn about the hidden world in our midst.

A Veterans Day Story: Iraq Veterans' Emily Yates vs. the Federal Military Machine

By John Grant


When you tuck your children in at night
Don’t tell ‘em it’s for freedom that we fight
                                                                                   - Emily Yates

 

War Is Not for Soldiers

The following is excerpted and adapted from War Is A Lie.

We learn a lot about the real motives for wars when whistleblowers leak the minutes of secret meetings, or when congressional committees publish the records of hearings decades later.War planners write books.They make movies.They face investigations.Eventually the beans tend to get spilled.But I have never ever, not even once, heard of a private meeting in which top war makers discussed the need to keep a war going in order to benefit the soldiers fighting in it.

The reason this is remarkable is that you almost never hear a war planner speak in public about the reasons for keeping a war going without claiming that it must be done for the troops, to support the troops, in order not to let the troops down, or so that those troops already dead will not have died in vain. Of course, if they died in an illegal, immoral, destructive action, or simply a hopeless war that must be lost sooner or later and the majority of them die from suicide its unclear how piling on more corpses will honor their memories. But this is not about logic.

The idea is that the men and women risking their lives, supposedly on our behalf, should always have our support even if we view what theyre doing as mass murder. Peace activists, in contrast to war planners, say the very same thing about this in private that they say in public: we want to support those troops by not giving them illegal orders, not coercing them to commit atrocities, not sending them away from their families to risk their lives and bodies and mental well-being.

War makers private discussions about whether and why to keep a war going deal with all the motives that tend to be discussed in private.They only touch on the topic of troops when considering how many of them there are or how long their contracts can be extended before they start killing their commanders. In public, its a very different story, one often told with smartly uniformed troops positioned as a backdrop. The wars are all about the troops and in fact must be extended for the benefit of the troops. Anything else would offend and disappoint the troops who have devoted themselves to the war.

Our wars employ more contractors and mercenaries now than troops. When mercenaries are killed and their bodies publicly displayed, the U.S. military will gladly destroy a city in retaliation, as in Fallujah, Iraq. But war propagandists never mention the contractors or the mercenaries. Its always the troops, the ones doing the killing, and the ones drawn from the general population of just plain folks, even though the troops are being paid, just like the mercenaries only less.

WHY ALL THE TROOP TALK?

The purpose of making a war be about the people (or some of the people) fighting it is to maneuver the public into believing that the only way to oppose the war would be to sign on as an enemy of the young men and women fighting in it on our nations side. Of course, this makes no sense at all. The war has some purpose or purposes other than indulging (or, more accurately, abusing) the troops. When people oppose a war, they do not do so by taking the position of the opposite side. They oppose the war in its entirety. But illogic never slowed down a war maker.There will be some nervous Nellies, said Lyndon Johnson on May 17, 1966, and some who will become frustrated and bothered and break ranks under the strain. And some will turn on their leaders and on their country and on our fighting men.[i]

Try to follow the logic: Troops are brave.Troops are the war.Therefore the war is brave.Therefore anyone opposing the war is cowardly and weak, a nervous Nelly. Anyone opposing a war is a bad troop who has turned against his or her Commander in Chief, country, and the other troops — the good troops. Never mind if the war is destroying the country, bankrupting the economy, endangering us all, and eating out the nations soul. The war is the country, the whole country has a wartime leader, and the whole country must obey rather than think. After all, this is a war to spread democracy.

On August 31, 2010, President Obama said in an Oval Office speech:

 

This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. Its well known that he and I disagreed about the war [on Iraq] from its outset. Yet no one can doubt President Bushs support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security.

 

What can this mean? Never mind that Obama voted repeatedly to fund the war as a senator and insisted on keeping it going as president. Never mind that, in this same speech, he embraced a whole series of lies that had launched and prolonged the war, and then pivoted to use those same lies to support an escalated war in Afghanistan. Lets suppose that Obama really did disagree about the war with Bush. He must have thought the war was bad for our country and our security and the troops. If hed thought the war was good for those things, hed have had to agree with Bush. So, at best, Obama is saying that despite his love (never respect or concern; with troops its always love) for the troops and so forth, Bush did them and the rest of us wrong unintentionally. The war was the biggest accidental blunder of the century. But no big deal. These things happen.

Because Obamas speech was about war, he spent a big chunk of it, as is required, praising the troops:

 

[O]ur troops fought block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future.They shifted tactics to protect the Iraqi people, etc.

 

True humanitarians. And it will no doubt be for their benefit that the War on Afghanistan and other wars drag on in the future, if we dont put an end to the madness of militarism.

 

YOURE FOR THE WAR OR AGAINST THE TROOPS

The media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) noticed in March, 2003, as the War on Iraq began, that media outlets were doing something peculiar to the English language. The Associated Press and other outlets were using pro-war and pro-troops interchangeably. We were being offered the choices of being pro-troop or anti-war, with the latter apparently necessitating that we also be anti-troop:

 

For example, the day after bombing of Baghdad began, the AP ran a story (3/20/03) under the headline Anti-War, Pro-Troops Rallies Take to Streets as War Rages. Another story (3/22/03), about pro- and anti-war activities, was labeled Weekend Brings More Demonstrations — Opposing War, Supporting Troops. The clear implication is that those who call for an end to the invasion of Iraq are opposed to U.S. troops, as in the story Protesters Rally Against War; Others Support Troops (3/24/03).[ii]

 

This media practice does not outright call one side of a debate anti-troop, but neither does it call one side pro-war, despite that sides clear purpose of promoting war. Just as those defending the right to abortion dont want to be called pro-abortion, war supporters dont want to be called pro-war. War is an unavoidable necessity, they think, and a means toward achieving peace; our role in it is to cheer for the troops. But war proponents are not defending their nations right to wage war if needed, which would be a better analogy with abortion rights. Theyre cheering for a specific war, and that specific war is always a fraudulent and criminal enterprise. Those two facts should disqualify war proponents from hiding behind the label pro-troops and using it to slander war opponents, although if theyd like to start using the label anti-peace I wouldnt protest.

One of the most inconvenient pieces of information for campaigns to prolong war to support the troops is anything telling us what the troops currently engaged in the war actually think of it. What if we were to support the troops by doing what the troops wanted? Thats a very dangerous idea to start floating around. Troops are not supposed to have thoughts. Theyre supposed to obey orders. So supporting what theyre doing actually means supporting what the president or the generals have ordered them to do. Taking too much interest in what the troops themselves actually think could be very risky for the future stability of this rhetorical house of cards.

A U.S. pollster was able to poll U.S. troops in Iraq in 2006, and found that 72 percent of those polled wanted the war to be ended in 2006. For those in the Army, 70 percent wanted that 2006 ending date, but in the Marines only 58 percent did. In the reserves and National Guard, however, the numbers were 89 and 82 percent respectively.[iii] Since wars are fought to support the troops shouldnt the war have ended?And shouldnt the troops, revealed in the poll to be badly misinformed, have been told the available facts about what the war was and was not for?

Of course not.Their role was to obey orders, and if lying to them helped get them to obey orders, then that was best for all of us. We never said we trusted or respected them, only that we loved them. Perhaps it would be more accurate for people to say that they love the fact that it is the troops out there willing to stupidly kill and die for someone elses greed or power mania, and not the rest of us. Better you than me. Love ya! Ciao!

The funny thing about our love for the troops is how little the troops get out of it. They dont get their wishes regarding military policy. They dont even get armor that would protect them in war as long as there are war-profiteering CEOs that need the money more desperately. And they dont even sign meaningful contracts with the government that have terms the troops can enforce. When a troops time in war is done, if the military wants him or her to stay longer, it stop losses them and sends them right back into a war, regardless of the terms in the contract. And this will come as a surprise to anyone who watches congressional debates over war funding whenever our representatives vote another hundred billion dollars to fund the troops, the troops dont get the money. Usually the money is about a million dollars per troop. If the government actually offered the troops their share of that supportive funding and gave them the option of contributing their shares to the war effort and staying in the fight, if they so chose, do you think the armed forces might experience a wee little reduction in numbers?

 

JUST SEND MORE OF THEM

The fact is that the last thing war makers care about albeit the first thing they talk about is the troops. Theres not a politician alive in the United States who hasnt uttered the phrase support the troops.Some push the idea to the point of requiring the slaughter of more troops, and the use of troops in the slaughter of more non-Americans. When the parents and loved-ones of those troops already dead denounce the war that has harmed them and call for its termination, war supporters accuse them of failing to honor the memory of their dead. If those already dead died for a good cause, then it ought to be more persuasive to simply mention that good cause. Yet, when Cindy Sheehan asked George W. Bush what good cause her son had died for, neither Bush nor anyone else was ever able to provide an answer. Instead, all we heard was the need for more to die because some already had.

Even more frequently were told that a war must be continued simply because there are troops currently fighting in it. This sounds sadistic at first. We know that war damages many of its participants horribly. Does it really make sense to continue a war because there are soldiers in the war? Shouldnt there be some other reason? And yet thats what happens. Wars are continued when Congress funds them. And even many professed opponents of wars in Congress fund them to support the troops, thus prolonging what they claim to oppose. In 1968, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, George Mahon (D., Texas) said voting to fund the War on Vietnam was no measure of whether or not one supported the War on Vietnam. Such a vote, he said,

 

. . . does not involve a test as to ones basic views with respect to the war in Vietnam. The question here is that they are there, regardless of our views otherwise.[iv]

 

Now, the they are there, regardless argument, which seems to never grow stale is an odd one, to say the least, since if the war were not funded the troops would have to be brought home, and then they would not be there. To get out of this logical cul-de-sac, war supporters invent scenarios in which Congress stops funding wars, but the wars continue, only this time without ammunition or other supplies. Or, in another variation, by defunding a war Congress denies the Pentagon the funding to withdraw the troops, and they are simply left behind in whatever little country theyve been terrorizing.

Nothing resembling these scenarios has happened in the real world. The cost of shipping troops and equipment home or to the nearest imperial outpost is negligible to the Pentagon, which routinely misplaces greater sums of cash. But, purely to get around this nonsense, anti-war congress members including Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), during the Wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, began introducing bills to defund the war and to provide new funds purely for the withdrawal. War supporters nonetheless denounced such proposals as . . . guess what? . . . failures to support the troops.

The Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee from 2007 through 2010 was David Obey (D., Wisc.). When the mother of a soldier being sent to Iraq for the third time and being denied needed medical care asked him to stop funding the war in 2007 with a supplemental spending bill, Congressman Obey screamed at her, saying among other things:

 

Were trying to use the supplemental to end the war, but you cant end the war by going against the supplemental. Its time these idiot liberals understand that. Theres a big difference between funding the troops and ending the war. Im not gonna deny body armor. Im not gonna deny funding for veterans hospitals, defense hospitals, so you can help people with medical problems, thats what youre gonna do if youre going against the bill.[v]

 

Congress had funded the War on Iraq for years without providing troops with adequate body armor. But funding for body armor was now in a bill to prolong the war. And funding for veterans care, which could have been provided in a separate bill, was packaged into this one. Why? Precisely so that people like Obey could more easily claim that the war funding was for the benefit of the troops. Of course its still a transparent reversal of the facts to say that you cant end the war by ceasing to fund it. And if the troops came home, they wouldnt need body armor. But Obey had completely internalized the crazy propaganda of war promotion. He seemed to actually believe that the only way to end a war was to pass a bill to fund it but to include in the bill some minor and rhetorical anti-war gestures.

On July 27, 2010, having failed for another three and a half years to end the wars by funding them, Obey brought to the House floor a bill to fund an escalation of the War on Afghanistan, specifically to send 30,000 more troops plus corresponding contractors into that hell. Obey announced that his conscience was telling him to vote No on the bill because it was a bill that would just help recruit people who want to attack Americans. On the other hand, Obey said, it was his duty as committee chair (apparently a higher duty than the one to his conscience) to bring the bill to the floor. Even though it would encourage attacks on Americans? Isn’t that treason?

Obey proceeded to speak against the bill he was bringing to the floor. Knowing it would safely pass, he voted against it. One could imagine, with a few more years of awakening, David Obey reaching the point of actually trying to stop funding a war he opposes, except that Obey had already announced his plan to retire at the end of 2010. He ended his career in Congress on that high note of hypocrisy because war propaganda, most of it about troops, has persuaded legislators that they can be critics and opponents of a war while funding it.

 

YOU CAN CHECK OUT ANYTIME YOU LIKE, BUT YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE

You might imagine from the efforts Congress goes to in avoiding and recklessly rushing through debates on whether to initially launch wars that such decisions are of minor importance, that a war can be easily ended at any point once it has begun. But the logic of continuing wars as long as there are soldiers involved in them means that wars can never be ended, at least not until the Commander in Chief sees fit. This is not brand new, and goes back as many war lies do, at least as far as the first U.S. invasion of the Philippines. The editors of Harpers Weekly opposed that invasion.

 

Echoing the president, however, they concluded that once the country was at war, everyone must pull together to support the troops.[vi]

 

This truly bizarre idea has penetrated U.S. thinking so deeply, in fact, that even liberal commentators have fantasized that theyve seen it enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Heres Ralph Stavins, speaking of the War on Vietnam:

 

Once the blood of a single American soldier had been spilled, the President would assume the role of Commander in Chief and would be obliged to discharge his constitutional duty to protect the troops in the field. This obligation made it unlikely that troops would be removed and far more likely that additional troops would be sent over.[vii]

 

The trouble with this is not just that the clearest way to protect troops is to bring them home, but also that the presidents constitutional obligation to protect the troops in the field doesnt exist in the Constitution.

Supporting the troops is often expanded from meaning that we need to keep troops in a war longer to meaning that we also need to communicate to them our appreciation for the war, even if we oppose it. This could mean anything from not prosecuting atrocities, pretending the atrocities are extreme exceptions, pretending the war has succeeded or met some of its goals or that it had different goals more easily met, or sending letters and gifts to troops and thanking them for their service.

When the war begins, if the war begins, said John Kerry (D., Mass.) just before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, I support the troops and I support the United States of America winning as rapidly as possible.When the troops are in the field and fighting if theyre in the field and fighting remembering what its like to be those troops I think they need a unified America that is prepared to win.Kerrys fellow presidential candidate Howard Dean called Bushs foreign policy ghastly and appalling and loudly, if inconsistently, opposed attacking Iraq, but he stressed that if Bush started a war, Of course Ill support the troops.[viii] Im sure troops would like to believe everyone back home supports what theyre doing, but dont they have other things to worry about during a war? And wouldnt some of them like to know that some of us are checking up on whether theyve been sent to risk their lives for a good reason or not? Wouldnt they feel more secure in their mission, knowing that a check on recklessly turning them into cannon fodder was alive and active?

In August 2010, I compiled a list of about 100 congressional challengers, from every political party, who swore to me that they would not vote a dime for the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.One Independent Green Party candidate in Virginia refused to sign on, pointing out to me that if he did, his Republican opponent would accuse him of not supporting the troops. I pointed out to him that a majority of the voters in his district wanted the war ended and that he could accuse war supporters of subjecting troops to illegal orders and endangering their lives for no good reason, in fact for a bad reason. While this candidate still did not sign on, preferring to represent his opponent rather than the people of his district, he expressed surprise and approval for what I told him, which was apparently new to him.

Thats typical. Atypical are congress members like Alan Grayson (D., Fla.). In 2010 he was perhaps the most vocal opponent of the War on Afghanistan, urging the public to lobby his colleagues to vote against funding bills. This led to predictable attacks from his opponents in the next election — as well as more corporate spending against him than any other candidate. On August 17, 2010, Grayson sent out this Email:

 

Ive been introducing you to my opponents. On Friday, it was Dan Fanelli, the racist. Yesterday, it was Bruce ODonoghue, the tax cheat. And today, its Kurt Kelly, the warmonger.

In Congress, I am one of the most outspoken opponents of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Before I was elected, I spent years prosecuting war profiteers. So I know what Im talking about.

Unlike chickenhawk Kurt Kelly. On Fox News (where else?) Kelly said this about me: He put our soldiers, and our men and women in the military in harms way, and maybe he wants them to die.

Yes, Kurt. I do want them to die: of old age, at home in bed, surrounded by their loved ones, after enjoying many Thanksgiving turkeys between now and then. And you want them to die: in a scorching desert, 8000 miles from home, alone, screaming for help, with a leg blown off and their guts hanging out of their stomachs, bleeding to death.

 

Grayson has a point. Those who fail to support the troops cant very well be accused of putting the troops at risk, since supporting the troops consists precisely of leaving the troops at risk. But warmongers like to believe that opposing a war is the equivalent of siding with an enemy.

 

ONLY THE ENEMY OPPOSES A WAR

Imagine an atheists position on a debate over whether God is a holy trinity or just a single being. If the atheist opposes the holy trinity position, hes quickly accused of backing the single being, and vice versa, by those who cant wrap their minds around the possibility of honestly not wanting to take one side or the other. To those for whom opposition to a wars existence is incomprehensible, failure to cheer for the red, white, and blue must equate with cheering for some other flag. And to those marketing the war to these people, waving an American flag is enough to nudge them to this conclusion.

In 1990, Chris Wallace of ABC News asked the former commander of the War on Vietnam William Westmoreland the following question:

 

Its become almost a truism by now that you didnt lose the Vietnam War so much in the jungles there as you did in the streets in the United States. How worried should the president and the Pentagon be now about this new peace movement?[ix]

 

With that kind of question, who needs answers? The war has already been sold before you open your mouth.

When Congressmen Jim McDermott (D., Wa.) and David Bonior (D., Mich.) questioned the Iraq war lies in 2002, Washington Post columnist George Will wrote Saddam Hussein finds American collaborators among senior congressional Democrats.[x] These war pitchers were equating criticizing a war with fighting a war on the side of the enemy! Thus ending a war because we the people are against it is the same thing as losing a war to the enemy. Wars can neither be lost nor ended. They must simply be continued indefinitely for the good of the troops.

And when the war makers want to escalate a war, they pitch that idea as a means toward ending the war. But when it comes time to demand the funding and force Congressman Obey to reject his conscience, then the escalation is disguised as a mere continuation. Its easier to fund a war on behalf of the troops out there in harms way if nobody knows that what youre funding is actually the shipping of another 30,000 troops to join the ones already deployed, in which case rejecting the funding couldnt conceivably strand any troops without bullets; it would just mean not sending more troops to join them.

At the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010, we had a good democratic debate over whether to escalate the war in Afghanistan, a debate in the corporate media between the Commander in Chief and his generals. Congress and the public were largely left out. In 2009 President Obama had already launched a similar escalation with no debate at all. For this second round, once the President had caved in to the generals, one of whom he would later fire for a seemingly much more minor act of insubordination, the media ended the story, conducted no more polls, and considered the escalation done. In fact, the President went ahead and started sending the troops. And congress members who had sworn they opposed the escalation began talking about the need to fund the troops in the field.By the time six months had gone by, it was possible to make the vote on the funding a big story without mentioning that it was for an escalation at all.

Just as escalations can be described as support-the-troop continuations, war continuations can be disguised as withdrawals. On May 1, 2003, and August 31, 2010, presidents Bush and Obama declared the War on Iraq, or the combat mission, over. In each case, the war went on. But the war became ever more purely about the troops as it shed any pretences of having some purpose other than prolonging its own existence.

 

SUPPORT THE VETERANS?

No matter how much government officials talk about the troops as their motivation for action, they fail to take action to care for veterans whove already been deployed. War veterans are abandoned rather than supported. They need to be treated with respect and to be respectfully told that we disagree with what they did, and they need to be provided healthcare and education. Until we can do that for every living veteran, what business do we have creating more of them? Our goal, in fact, should be to put the Veterans Administration out of operation by ceasing to manufacture veterans.

Until that time, young men and women should be told that war is not a smart career move.Yellow ribbons and speeches wont pay your bills or make your life fulfilling. War is not a good way to be heroic. Why not serve as a member of an emergency rescue crew, a firefighter, a labor organizer, a nonviolent activist? There are many ways to be heroic and take risks without murdering families. Think of the Iraqi oil workers who blocked privatization and formed a labor union in the face of U.S. attacks in 2003. Picture them ripping off their shirts and saying, Go ahead and shoot.”  They were taking risks for their nations independence. Isnt that heroic?

I understand the desire to support those making sacrifices supposedly for us, and those who already have made the ultimate sacrifice, but our alternatives are not cheering for more war or joining the enemy, creating more veterans or abusing the ones we have. There are other options. That we dont think so is purely the result of our televisions spouting nonsense with great frequency for so long it begins to smell sensible. Comedian Bill Maher (whom I mention without condoning his islamophobia which really took off after this was written) expressed his frustration this way:

 

For the longest time, every Republican election has been based on some sentimental bullshit: the flag, or the flag pin, or the Pledge, or the, Its morning in America.’  Bill Clinton got a blowjob in the Oval Office.  And the Dixie Chicks insulted President Bush on foreign soil. And when that happens, it hurts the feelings of our troops. And then Tinkerbells light goes out and she dies. Yes, yes, the love of our troops, the ultimate in fake patriotism. Are you kidding? The troops, we pay them like shit, we fuck them and trick them on deployment, we nickel and dime them on medical care when they get home, not to mention the stupid wars that we send them to. Yeah, we love the troops the way Michael Vick loves dogs. You know how I would feel supported if I was a troop overseas? If the people back home were clamoring to get me out of these pointless errands. Thats how I would feel supported. But, you know, dont hold your breath on that one fellas because, you know, when America invades a country, we love you long time. Seriously, we never leave, we leave like Irish relatives: not at all.

 

If we all purged ourselves, as Maher has, of the support-the-troops propaganda, we wouldnt have to say Support the Troops, Bring Them Home.”  We could skip half of that and jump ahead to Bring them home and prosecute the criminals who sent them.”  It should go without saying that we wish the troops well. Thats one of the main reasons we dont want them pointlessly killing and dying!

But we do not actually approve of what they are doing. Our praise is reserved for those soldiers who refuse illegal orders and nonviolently resist. And we approve of the work being done courageously and with great dedication by Americans in hundreds of professions other than war. We ought to say we support them once in a while. We all fail to do that, and fortunately we dont accuse each other of wanting all those people dead, the way we do if someone fails to say I support the troops.

 

SUPPORT THE MASS MURDER?

Blogger John Caruso collected a list of news items reporting things he especially did not support, things that get brushed aside as too inconvenient when we delude ourselves into believing that wars are fought on behalf of the soldiers fighting them. Here’s part of the list:[xi]

 

From the New York Times :

We had a great day, Sergeant Schrumpf said. We killed a lot of people.

But more than once, Sergeant Schrumpf said, he faced a different choice: one Iraqi soldier standing among two or three civilians. He recalled one such incident, in which he and other men in his unit opened fire. He recalled watching one of the women standing near the Iraqi soldier go down.

Im sorry, the sergeant said. But the chick was in the way.

 

From Newsday:

 “Raghead, raghead, cant you see? This old war aint to me, sang Lance Cpl. Christopher Akins, 21, of Louisville, Ky., sweat running down his face in rivulets as he dug a fighting trench one recent afternoon under a blazing sun.

Asked whom he considered a raghead, Akins said: Anybody who actively opposes the United States of Americas way . . . If a little kid actively opposes my way of life, Id call him a raghead, too.

 

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

The 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps said he found the soldier after dark inside a nearby home with the grenade launcher next to him. Covarrubias said he ordered the man to stop and turn around.

I went behind him and shot him in the back of the head, Covarrubias said. Twice.

Did he feel any remorse for executing a man whod surrendered to him? No; in fact, hed taken the mans ID card off of his dead body to keep as a souvenir.

 

From the Los Angeles Times:

I enjoy killing Iraqis, says Staff Sgt. William Deaton, 30, who killed a hostile fighter the night before. Deaton has lost a good friend in Iraq. I just feel rage, hate when Im out there. I feel like I carry it all the time. We talk about it. We all feel the same way.




[i]Solomon, War Made Easy, p. 155.

[ii]Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Using Pro-Troops To Mean Pro-War Is Anti-Journalistic, by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), March 26, 2003,Accessed October 7, 2010, http://www.fair.org/activism/pro-troops.html.

[iii]Zogby, Press Release:U.S. Troops in Iraq.

[iv]Stavins et alia, Washington Plans an Aggressive War, p. 273.

[v]David Swanson, Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2009), p. 158.

[vi]Brewer, Why America Fights.

[vii]Stavins et alia, Washington Plans an Aggressive War, p. 42.

[viii]Ted Rall, Dont Support Our Troops: Win or Lose, War on Iraq Is Wrong, Common Dreams, March 13, 2003.Accessed October 7, 2010, http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0313-01.htm.

[ix]Solomon, War Made Easy, p. 157.

[x]Ibid., 160.

[xi]John Caruso, Support the Troops? A Tiny Revolution, April 7, 2010.AccessedOctober 7, 2010, http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/003243.html.

We Must Always Have War Because Magic

This advertisement for permanent war appeared in my local newspaper today.

By pointing out this fact I am neither opposing working with religious groups that favor peace nor asserting that Martin Luther King Jr. was a warmonger.

But religious peace activists could, as far as anyone can tell, be peace activists without the religion.

This advertisement could NOT promote war without religion. Its entire basis for promoting war is religion, for which no substitute is imaginable.

Exactly like an argument for abolition of war, the ad begins by asking why we should engage in so much killing and destruction at such great expense, while other crises cry out for our attention.

Why? Because magic.

An ancient book says there must be war. And that settles it.

The same book says there must be mass murder of innocents and babies, slavery, death by stoning, cannibalism, and all sorts of other horrors.

Clearly one can attribute magical powers to that book and choose to ignore selected parts that our culture has outgrown.

Why not the part about war?

Because we have a culture of war, and religious support for it is only one part. But it's a part we can set aside if we choose to, in a process of learning to think more critically. And that could have far-reaching results.

Imagine all the people living life in peace.

Over 20 Peace Groups Unite to Push U.S. Congress to End War

From World Beyond War:

Open this PDF for a joint statement from over 20 peace organizations and what you can do: Alternatives-to-War100yearswbwgraphic400

Here’s a more in-depth answer to “What About ISIS?” from World Beyond War.

November 11 is Armistice Day. Here’s a tool kit from Veterans For Peace that you can use in celebrating and educating. And here’s an article describing how Armistice Day or Remembrance Day has been changed from a day of peace to a day of war — a history we have to know if we are going to change it.

If you can be in London this weekend, go here Saturday and here Sunday.

Here’s a tool kit for all kinds of events developed by World Beyond War.

The first thing we can all do is sign the peace pledge if you haven’t, and ask others to do so if you have.

Are you keeping up with war abolition news on our blog?

Have you made use of our maps of militarism? or our calendar of peace events? or any of our other resources?

Are you working on anything we can help with? Let us know!

Our Strategy Committee is putting the finishing touches on an educational booklet making the case to newcomers for why and how to end all war on earth.

If you’d like to join the Strategy Committee or the Media or Outreach or Events or Fundraising or Nonviolence or Research or Speakers Committees, please let us know.

If you don’t have the time to be that involved, do you have the ability to chip in a small donation to help fund our work?

Here’s how to make a tax-deductible, one-time or recurring, donation online or by mail, and information on what the funding will help us do.

Thank you!

Peace!

Peace as a Human Right

By Robert C. Koehler

“Individuals and peoples have a right to peace.”

In the beginning was the word. OK. This is the beginning, and these are the words, but they haven’t arrived yet — at least not officially, with full force of meaning.

It’s our job, not God’s, to create the new story of who we are, and millions — billions — of people fervently wish we could do so. The problem is that the worst of our nature is better organized than the best of it.

The words constitute Article 1 of the U.N.’s draft declaration on peace. What alerts me that they matter is the fact that they’re controversial, that “there is a lack of consensus” among the member states, according to the president of the Human Rights Council, “about the concept of the right to peace as a right in itself.”

David Adams, former UNESCO senior program specialist, describes the controversy with a little more candor in his 2009 book, World Peace through the Town Hall:

“At the United Nations in 1999, there was a remarkable moment when the draft culture of peace resolution that we had prepared at UNESCO was considered during informal sessions. The original draft had mentioned a ‘human right to peace.’ According to the notes taken by the UNESCO observer, ‘the U.S. delegate said that peace should not be elevated to the category of human right, otherwise it will be very difficult to start a war.’ The observer was so astonished that she asked the U.S. delegate to repeat his remark. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘peace should not be elevated to the category of human right, otherwise it will be very difficult to start a war.’”

And a remarkable truth emerges, one it’s not polite to talk about or allude to in the context of national business: In one way or another, war rules. Elections come and go, even our enemies come and go, but war rules. This fact is not subject to debate or, good Lord, democratic tinkering. Nor is the need for and value of war — or its endless, self-perpetuating mutation — ever pondered with clear-eyed astonishment in the mass media. We never ask ourselves, in a national context: What would it mean if living in peace were a human right?

“The real story of the rise of ISIS shows that US interventions in Iraq and Syria were central in creating the chaos in which the group has thrived,” writes Steve Rendall in Extra! (“Addicted to Intervention”). “But that story doesn’t get told in US corporate media. . . . The informed input of actual experts on the region, who don’t march in lockstep with Washington elites, might put a crimp in the public’s support for the war, support largely informed by pro-war pundits and reporters, and the familiar retired military brass — often with ties to the military/industrial complex.

“With pundits reflexively calling for more attacks,” Rendall adds, “there’s virtually no one to note that US wars have been catastrophic for the people in the targeted countries — from Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya.”

It’s a remarkable system that makes no sense from the point of view of compassion and planetary solidarity, and would surely be dismantled in an honest democracy, in which who we are and how we live is always on the table. But that’s not how nation-states work.

“The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form,” Gandhi said, as quoted by Adams. “The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence.”

And those who speak for the nation-state embody the addiction to violence and fear, and always see threats that require forceful reaction, never, of course, considering either the horror that force will inflict on those in its way or the long-term (and often enough short-term) blowback it will bring about.

Thus, as Rendall notes, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News that “if ISIS wasn’t stopped with a full-spectrum war in Syria, we were all going to die: ‘This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.’”

“Rise to the occasion” is how we talk about inflicting concentrated violence on random, faceless people we’ll never know in their full humanity, except for the occasional picture of their suffering that shows up in the war coverage.

Regarding the accumulation of enemies, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently announced that the military has begun preparing to defend the United States against . . . climate change.

Kate Aronoff, writing at Waging Nonviolence, notes the extraordinary irony of this in view of the fact that the Pentagon is the biggest polluter on the planet. In the name of national defense, no environmental regulation is so important that it can’t be utterly ignored and no piece of Earth is so pristine that it can’t be trashed for eternity.

But that’s what we do, as long as national identity defines the limits of our imagination. We go to war against every problem we face, from terrorism to drugs to cancer. And every war creates collateral damage and new enemies.

The beginning of change may simply be acknowledging that peace is a human right. The U.N.’s member states — at least the major ones, with standing armies and stockpiles of nuclear weapons — object. But how could you trust such a declaration if they didn’t?

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 koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

© 2014 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.

Valor, Remembrance, and Complicity

November 11th in the United States is marked and marred by a holiday that relatively recently had its name changed to "Veterans Day" and its purpose converted and perverted into celebrating war. This year a "Concert for Valor" will be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

In the box at right is a blurb from the concert website. "Thank you for your service" and "Support the troops" are phrases used to get people to support wars without thinking about whether they should be supporting wars. Notice that you're supposed to thank veterans first and ask them which war they were in and what they did in it afterwards. What if you oppose war? Or what if you oppose some wars and some tactics?

Here's the disgusted response to the Concert for Valor from a veteran who's sick of being thanked for his so-called service:

"There is no question that we should honor people who fight for justice and liberty. Many veterans enlisted in the military thinking that they were indeed serving a noble cause, and it’s no lie to say that they fought with valor for their brothers and sisters to their left and right. Unfortunately, good intentions at this stage are no substitute for good politics. The war on terror is going into its 14th year.  If you really want to talk about “awareness raising,” it’s years past the time when anyone here should be able to pretend that our 18-year-olds are going off to kill and die for good reason. How about a couple of concerts to make that point?"

I'm going to repeat here something I said in War Is A Lie:

Random House defines a hero as follows (and defines heroine the same way, substituting “woman” for “man”):

“1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

“2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child. . . .

“4. Classical Mythology.

“a. a being of godlike prowess and beneficence who often came to be honored as a divinity.”

Courage or ability. Brave deeds and noble qualities. There is something more here than merely courage and bravery, merely facing up to fear and danger. But what? A hero is regarded as a model or ideal. Clearly someone who bravely jumped out a 20-story window would not meet that definition, even if their bravery was as brave as brave could be. Clearly heroism must require bravery of a sort that people regard as a model for themselves and others. It must include prowess and beneficence. That is, the bravery can’t just be bravery; it must also be good and kind. Jumping out a window does not qualify. The question, then, is whether killing and dying in wars should qualify as good and kind. Nobody doubts that it’s courageous and brave. But is it as good a model as that of the man arrested this week for the crime of giving food to the hungry?

If you look up “bravery” in the dictionary, by the way, you’ll find “courage” and “valor.” Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary defines “valor” as

“a soldierly compound of vanity, duty, and the gambler’s hope.

‘Why have you halted?’ roared the commander of a division at Chickamauga, who had ordered a charge: ‘move forward, sir, at once.’

‘General,’ said the commander of the delinquent brigade, ‘I am persuaded that any further display of valor by my troops will bring them into collision with the enemy.’”

But would such valor be good and kind or destructive and foolhardy? Bierce had himself been a Union soldier at Chickamauga and had come away disgusted. Many years later, when it had become possible to publish stories about the Civil War that didn’t glow with the holy glory of militarism, Bierce published a story called “Chickamauga” in 1889 in the San Francisco Examiner that makes participating in such a battle appear the most grotesquely evil and horrifying deed one could ever do. Many soldiers have since told similar tales.

It’s curious that war, something consistently recounted as ugly and horrible, should qualify its participants for glory. Of course, the glory doesn’t last. Mentally disturbed veterans are kicked aside in our society. In fact, in dozens of cases documented between 2007 and 2010, soldiers who had been deemed physically and psychologically fit and welcomed into the military, performed “honorably,” and had no recorded history of psychological problems. Then, upon being wounded, the same formerly healthy soldiers were diagnosed with a pre-existing personality disorder, discharged, and denied treatment for their wounds. One soldier was locked in a closet until he agreed to sign a statement that he had a pre-existing disorder — a procedure the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee called “torture.”

Active duty troops, the real ones, are not treated by the military or society with particular reverence or respect. But the mythical, generic “troop” is a secular saint purely because of his or her willingness to rush off and die in the very same sort of mindless murderous orgy that ants regularly engage in. Yes, ants. Those teeny little pests with brains the size of . . . well, the size of something smaller than an ant: they wage war. And they’re better at it than we are.

Ants wage long and complex wars with extensive organization and unmatched determination, or what we might call “valor.” They are absolutely loyal to the cause in a way that no patriotic humans can match: “It’d be like having an American flag tattooed to you at birth,” ecologist and photojournalist Mark Moffett told Wired magazine. Ants will kill other ants without flinching. Ants will make the “ultimate sacrifice” with no hesitation. Ants will proceed with their mission rather than stop to help a wounded warrior.

The ants who go to the front, where they kill and die first, are the smallest and weakest ones. They are sacrificed as part of a winning strategy. “In some ant armies, there can be millions of expendable troops sweeping forward in a dense swarm that’s up to 100 feet wide.” In one of Moffett’s photos, which shows “the marauder ant in Malaysia, several of the weak ants are being sliced in half by a larger enemy termite with black, scissor-like jaws.” What would Pericles say at their funeral?

“According to Moffett, we might actually learn a thing or two from how ants wage war. For one, ant armies operate with precise organization despite a lack of central command.” And no wars would be complete without some lying: “Like humans, ants can try to outwit foes with cheats and lies.” In another photo, “two ants face off in an effort to prove their superiority — which, in this ant species, is designated by physical height. But the wily ant on the right is standing on a pebble to gain a solid inch over his nemesis.”  Would honest Abe approve?

In fact, ants are such dedicated warriors that they can even fight civil wars that make that little skirmish between the North and South look like touch football. A parasitic wasp, Ichneumon eumerus, can dose an ant nest with a chemical secretion that causes the ants to fight a civil war, half the nest against the other half.  Imagine if we had such a drug for humans, a sort of a prescription-strength Fox News. If we dosed the nation, would all the resulting warriors be heroes or just half of them? Are the ants heroes? And if they are not, is it because of what they are doing or purely because of what they are thinking about what they are doing? And what if the drug makes them think they are risking their lives for the benefit of future life on earth or to keep the anthill safe for democracy?

Here ends the War Is A Lie excerpt. Are ants too hard to relate to? What about children. What if a teacher persuaded a bunch of 8 years olds, rather than 18 year olds to fight and kill and risk dying for a supposedly great and noble cause? Wouldn't the teacher be a criminal guilty of mass-murder? And what about everyone else complicit in a process of preparing the children for war -- including perhaps uniformed and be-medalled officers coming into Kindergartens, as in fact happens in reality? Isn't the difference with 18 year olds that we have a tendency to hold them responsible, at least in part, as well as whoever instigates the killing spree? Whether we should or not need not be decided, for us to decide to treat veterans with humanity while utterly rejecting any celebration of what they've done.

Here's CODEPINK planning a protest of the Concert for Valor. I urge you to join in.

I also encourage you to keep in mind and spread understanding of the history of November 11th. Again, I'm going to repeat, and modify, something I've said in a previous November:

Ninety-six years ago on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, fighting ceased in the "war to end all wars." The war brought a new scale of death, the flu, prohibition, the Espionage Act, the foundations of World War II, the crushing of progressive political movements, the institution of flag worship, the beginning of pledges of allegiance in schools and the national anthem at sporting events. It brought everything but peace.

Thirty million soldiers had been killed or wounded and another seven million had been taken captive during World War I.  Never before had people witnessed such industrialized slaughter, with tens of thousands falling in a day to machine guns and poison gas.  After the war, more and more truth began to overtake the lies, but whether people still believed or now resented the pro-war propaganda, virtually every person in the United States wanted to see no more of war ever again.  Posters of Jesus shooting at Germans were left behind as the churches along with everyone else now said that war was wrong.  Al Jolson wrote in 1920 to President Harding:

"The weary world is waiting for
Peace forevermore
So take away the gun
From every mother's son
And put an end to war."

Congress passed an Armistice Day resolution calling for "exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding … inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples." Later, Congress added that November 11th was to be "a day dedicated to the cause of world peace."

While the ending of warfare was celebrated every November 11th, veterans were treated no better than they are today.  When 17,000 veterans plus their families and friends marched on Washington in 1932 to demand their bonuses, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower, and other heroes of the next big war to come attacked the veterans, including by engaging in that greatest of evils with which Saddam Hussein would be endlessly charged: "using chemical weapons on their own people."  The weapons they used, just like Hussein's, originated in the U.S. of A.

It was only after another war, an even worse war, a war that has in many ways never ended to this day, that Congress, following still another now forgotten war -- this one on Korea -- changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day on June 1, 1954.  And it was six-and-a-half years later that Eisenhower warned us that the military industrial complex would completely corrupt our society. 

Veterans Day is no longer, for most people, a day to cheer the elimination of war or even to aspire to its abolition.  Veterans Day is not even a day on which to mourn or to question why suicide is the top killer of U.S. troops or why so many veterans have no houses at all in a nation in which one high-tech robber baron monopolist is hoarding $66 billion, and 400 of his closest friends have more money than half the country.  It's not even a day to honestly, if sadistically, celebrate the fact that virtually all the victims of U.S. wars are non-Americans, that our so-called wars have become one-sided slaughters.  Instead, it is a day on which to believe that war is beautiful and good.  Towns and cities and corporations and sports leagues call it "military appreciation day" or "troop appreciation week" or "genocide glorification month."  OK, I made up that last one.  Just checking if you're paying attention.

Veterans For Peace has created a new tradition in recent years of returning to the celebration of Armistice Day. They even offer a tool kit so you can do the same.

In the UK, Veterans For Peace are marking what is still called Remembrance Day, and Remembrance Sunday on November 9th, with white poppies and peace banners in opposition to the British government's pro-war slant on remembering World War I.

In North Carolina, a veteran has come up with his own way of making every day Remembrance Day. But it's the celebrators of war that seem to be guiding the cultural trends. Here's the frequency of use of the word "valor" according to Google:

Bruce Springsteen will be performing at the Concert for Valor. He once wrote this lyric: "Two faces have I." Here's one that I'm willing to bet won't be on display: "Blind faith in your leaders or in anything will get you killed," Springsteen warns in the video below before declaring war good for absolutely nothing.

You'll need lots of information, Springsteen advises potential draftees or recruits. If you don't find lots of information at the Concert for Valor, you might try this teach in that evening at the Washington Peace Center.

Free College or Another New War?

Noting that U.S. college costs have gone up 500% since 1985, the Washington Post recommends seven countries where U.S. students can go to college for free without bothering to learn the language of the natives or anything so primitive.

These are nations with less wealth than the United States has, but which make college free or nearly free, both for citizens and for dangerous illegals visiting their Homelands.

How do they do it?

Three of them have a higher top tax rate than the United States has, but four of them don't.

What does the United States spend its money on that these other countries do not? What is the largest public program in the United States? What makes up over 50% of federal discretionary spending in the United States?

If you said "war," it's possible you were educated in a fine foreign country.

A comprehensive calculation of U.S. military spending puts it at over $1 trillion a year. The International Institute for Strategic Studies puts it at $645.7 billion in 2012. Using that smaller number, let's compare the seven nations where Americans can find their human right to an education respected:

France $48.1 billion or 7.4% of U.S.
Germany $40.4 billion or 6.3% of U.S.
Brazil $35.3 billion or 5.5% of U.S.
Norway $6.9 billion or 1.1% of U.S.
Sweden $5.8 billion or 0.9% of U.S.
Finland $3.6 billion or 0.6% of U.S.
Slovenia $0.6 billion or 0.1% of U.S.

Oh, but those are smaller countries. Well, let's compare military spending per capita:

United States $2,057
Norway $1,455 or 71% of U.S.
France $733 or 35% of U.S.
Finland $683 or 33% of U.S.
Sweden $636 or 31% of U.S.
Germany $496 or 24% of U.S.
Slovenia $284 or 14% of U.S.
Brazil $177 or 9% of U.S.

It's worth noting that in wealth per capita, Norway is wealthier than the United States. It still spends significantly less per capita on war preparations. The others all spend between 9% and 35%.

Now, you may be a believer in militarism, and you may be shouting right about now: "The United States provides these other nations' warmaking needs for them. When Germany or France has to destroy Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya, who does the heavy lifting?"

Or you may be an opponent of militarism, and you may be thinking about its many additional costs. Not only does the United States pay the most in dollars, but it generates the most hatred, kills the most people, does the most damage to the natural environment, and loses the most freedoms in the process.

Either way, the point is that these other countries have chosen education, while the United States has chosen a project that perhaps a well-educated populace would support, but we don't have any way to test that theory, and it doesn't look like we're going to any time soon.

We have a choice before us: free college or more war?

No More Wars on Anything

By David Swanson

Searching new articles on ye olde internets the past couple of days for the word "war," I turned up roughly equal uses of "war" to refer to wars and to refer to other things entirely. Apparently there is a war on graft, a propaganda war, a number of price wars, a war of words, a Republican war on women, and a woman who has been breast-feeding and is now suffering from "war-torn nipples."

While a war on women or a war on the poor can involve as much cruelty and suffering as an actual war, it isn't an actual war. It's a different phenomenon, requiring a different set of solutions.

While a war on terror or a war on drugs can include actual war, it is not just actual war, and it is better understood if its components are split apart.

While a cyber war can cause damage, it is a very different creature from a, you know, war war -- different physically, visually, legally, morally, and in terms of measures of prevention.

A war on poverty or racism or any bad thing that we want eliminated is quite different from a war on a nation or a population which, typically, only a certain section of a war's supporters actually wants eliminated.

I don't just mean that other wars fail to compare to war in terms of investment ("If the war on poverty were a real war we'd actually be putting money into it!"). I mean that war is entirely the wrong way, metaphorically or literally, to think about ending poverty.

And I don't just mean that war always fails, although it does. ("The war on terror has brought more terror and the war on drugs has brought more drugs; maybe we should have a war on happiness!") I mean that war is a violent, reckless, irrational lashing out at a problem in order to very noisily make seen than one is "doing something." This is entirely different from trying to develop a world without poverty or without racism or -- for that matter -- without war. You cannot have a war upon the makers of war and expect to get peace out of it.

It is certainly important to recognize who is causing a problem. The 1% is hoarding wealth and imposing poverty. Promoters of sexism are driving sexism. Et cetera. But treating them as war enemies makes no more sense, and will work no better, than your local police treating your public demonstration as an act of terrorism. We don't have to kill the 1% or win them over. We have to win over and engage in strategic nonviolent action with enough people to control our world.

War language in non-war discourse in our culture is not limited to the word "war" but includes the full range of barbaric, counter-productive, advocacy of violence -- serious, metaphorical, and joking. The "war on crime" includes state-sanctioned murder and worse. Wars on abortion doctors and sex offenders and political opponents include state-modeled murder. The state uses murder to relate to other states, as individuals use it to relate to other individuals.

Acceptance of war, of course, makes it easier to use war language in other settings. If war were thought of as something as evil as slavery or rape or child abuse, we wouldn't be so eager to launch a war on cancer (or send soldiers to kill Ebola). But acceptance of the war metaphor throughout our lives must also make it easier to accept actual war. If we have a war on cancer, why in the world not have a war on beheaders? If there's a war on women, why not launch a war to defend every right of women except the right not to be bombed?

I'm proposing that we try thinking differently as well as talking differently, that our foreign policy make use of diplomacy, aid, and the rule of law, rather than mass-murder -- or what might in strategic terms be called terrorism generation; and that our domestic policies follow suit, that we don't just madly attack social ills, but transform the systems that generate them. A war on climate change doesn't sound like it includes a radical reduction in consumerism and capitalism, as it must. It sounds more like a big but token investment in solar panels and perhaps a very shiny train. And a war on climate change is already something the Pentagon is beginning to use to mean actual war on human beings.

So, how should we talk differently? Here's one idea for certain contexts: Instead of engaging in a war on poverty, lets work on the movement to abolish poverty, to end poverty, or to eliminate or overcome poverty, to make poverty a thing of the past. Instead of lamenting a war on women, let's work to expose and put a stop to cruelty, abuse, violence, unfairness, brutality, and discrimination against women. In doing so, we can be more specific about what the problems and solutions are. Instead of a war on graft, let's end political corruption. Instead of a propaganda war, let's expose propaganda and counter it with accurate information and calm, wise understanding. Instead of price wars, market competition. Instead of a war of words, rudeness. I imagine most people can rewrite "war-torn nipples" without much assistance.

A logical place to start, I think, is on a campaign to abolish (not wage war on) war.

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