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Ending All War
The United States government recently gave more than a million dollars to the family of one victim it had killed in one of its wars. The victim happened to be Italian. If you were to find all the Iraqi families with any surviving members who had loved ones killed by the United States it might be a million families. A million times a million dollars would be enough to treat those Iraqis in this respect as if they were Europeans. Who can tell me — raise your hand — how much is a million times a million?
That’s right, a trillion.
Now, can you count to a trillion starting from one. Go ahead. We’ll wait.
Actually we won’t wait, because if you counted one number per second you would get to a trillion in 31,709 years. And we have other speakers to get to here.
A trillion is a number we can’t comprehend. For most purposes it’s useless. The greediest oligarch doesn’t dream of ever seeing a fraction of that many dollars. Teeny fractions of that many dollars would transform the world. Three percent of it per year would end starvation on earth. One percent per year would end the lack of clean drinking water. Ten percent per year would transform green energy or agriculture or education. Three percent per year for four years, in current dollars, was the Marshall Plan.
Bill Ayers' short new book, Demand the Impossible: A Radical Manifesto, is different from the typical liberal view of a better world in two ways. First, its goals are a bit grander, more inspiring. Second, it adds as the first and most important goal one that others don't include at all.
A typical proposal that a lesser evilist might give for "voting against Donald Trump" might include minor economic or police or prison reforms, a bit of environmentalism, healthcare, or education. Ayers wants to abolish prisons, end capitalism, disarm the police, redesign schools, create universal healthcare, and nationalize energy companies. And he's right. The radical vision is the better one, not just because it leads to a better place but also because the incrementalist approach will get us all killed -- only a bit more slowly than doing nothing.
The more important, because rarer, difference in Ayers' manifesto is the addition of the missing topic. Most U.S. "progressives" imagine a world of greater economic equality and opportunity, environmental sustainability, fewer police killings, shorter prison sentences, investment in human needs, and the withering away of all sorts of bigotries, prejudices, sexisms, racisms, and other sorts of unfairness and cruelty -- resulting in a multicultural community all united in our support for dumping a trillion dollars a year into preparing for battle with our collectively loathed foreign enemies, and supporting the weapons trade as a supposed economic program.
Ayers takes a different approach. "What," he asks, "if we broke from the dogma of militarism -- rejecting the anemic and seemingly endless debates about whether the United States should bomb this country or instead boycott some other country . . . -- and organized an irresistible social upheaval strong enough to stop U.S. invasions and conquest[?] What if we occupied bases, blocked munitions shipments and private militias, boycotted arms dealers, sabotaged surveillance operations and drone manufacturers -- and forced the U.S. government to disarm and close all foreign military bases within a year? . . . Or what if we built a colossal transnational movement that organized shadow elections (initially), inviting any resident of a country with a U.S. military presence within its borders to vote in U.S. national elections?"
Ayers proposes that we take on the culture of militarism, not just the industrial structure of it. "[I]magine," he writes, "any bit of the war culture transformed into a peace-and-love culture: the Super Bowl opening with thousands of local school kids rushing through the stands distributing their poetry, and then everyone singing 'This Land Is Your Land,' or 'Give Peace a Chance,' or 'We Shall Overcome'; an airlines or bus terminal clerk saying, 'We want to invite any teachers or nurses in the gate area to board first, and we thank you for your service'; urban high schools eliminating ROTC and banning military recruiters in favor of school-wide assemblies for peace recruiters featuring Code Pink, and after-school programs led by Black Youth Project 100 and the American Friends Service Committee."
Some of us like this idea so much we've organized an event this weekend to try to advance it. The event is called #NoWar2016. This Friday and Saturday, you can watch the live stream at TheRealNews.com. Videos of Friday through Sunday will be quickly posted online. Sunday will include activism workshops and a planning session for a protest at the Pentagon at 9 a.m. Monday morning. The details are all at http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2016.
Several weeks back I was invited to speak this coming October at a U.S. university on ending war and making peace. As I often do, I asked whether the organizers couldn't try to find a supporter of war with whom I could debate or discuss the topic, thus (I hoped) bringing in a larger audience of people not yet persuaded of the need to abolish the institution of warfare.
As had never happened before, the event organizers not only said yes but actually found a war supporter willing to take part in a public debate. Great! I thought, this will make for a more persuasive event. I read my future interlocutor's books and papers, and I drafted my position, arguing that his "Just War" theory could not hold up to scrutiny, that in fact no war could be "just."
Rather than planning to surprise my "just war" debate opponent with my arguments, I sent him what I had written so that he could plan his responses and perhaps contribute them to a published, written exchange. But, rather than respond on topic, he suddenly announced that he had "professional and personal obligations" that would prevent his taking part in the event in October. Sigh!
But the best event organizers ever have already found a replacement. So the debate will go forward at St. Michael's College, Colchester, VT, on October 5th. Meanwhile, I have just published as a book my argument that war is never just. You can be the first to buy it, read it, or review it here.
Part of the reason for advancing this debate now is that back on April 11-13th the Vatican held a meeting on whether the Catholic Church, the originator of Just War theory, should finally reject it. Here's a petition you can sign, whether or not you are Catholic, urging the church to do just that.
An outline of my argument can be found in my book's table of contents:
What Is A Just War?
Just War Theory Facilitates Unjust Wars
Preparing for a Just War Is a Greater Injustice Than Any War
Just War Culture Just Means More War
The Ad Bellum / In Bello Distinction Does Harm
Some Just War Criteria Are Not Measurable
Some Just War Criteria Are Not Possible
Reasonable Prospect Of Success
Noncombatants Immune From Attack
Enemy Soldiers Respected As Human Beings
Prisoners Of War Treated As Noncombatants
Some Just War Criteria Are Not Moral Factors At All
Waged By Legitimate And Competent Authority
The Criteria For Just Drone Murders Are
Immoral, Incoherent, And Ignored
Why Do Ethics Classes Fantasize About Murder So Much?
If All Just War Criteria Were Met War Still Wouldn't Be Just
Just War Theorists Do Not Spot New Unjust Wars Any Faster an Anyone Else
A Just-War Occupation Of A Conquered Country Is Not Just
Just War Theory Opens the Door To Pro-War Theory
We Can End War Without Waiting For Jesus
Who Would The Good Samaritan Carpet Bomb?
World War Two Was Not Just
The U.S. Revolution Was Not Just
The U.S. Civil War Was Not Just
War On Yugoslavia Was Not Just
War On Libya Is Not Just
War On Rwanda Would Not Have Been Just
War On Sudan Would Not Have Been Just
War On ISIS Is Not Just
Our Ancestors Lived In A Different Cultural World
We Can Agree On Just Peace Making
Here's the first section:
WHAT IS A "JUST WAR"?
Just War theory holds that a war is morally justified under certain circumstances. Just War theorists lay out and elaborate upon their criteria for the just beginning of a war, the just conduct of a war, and—in some cases, including Mark Allman's—the just occupation of conquered territories after some official announcement that a war is "over." Some Just War theorists also write about just pre-war conduct, which is helpful if it promotes behaviors that make war less likely. But no just pre-war conduct, in the view I lay out below, can justify the decision to launch a war.
Examples of Just War criteria (to be discussed below) are: right intention, proportionality, a just cause, the last resort, a reasonable prospect of success, noncombatants' immunity from attack, enemy soldiers respected as human beings, prisoners of war treated as noncombatants, war publicly declared, and war waged by a legitimate and competent authority. There are others, and not all Just War theorists agree on all of them.
Just War theory or the "Just War tradition" has been around since the Catholic Church joined up with the Roman Empire in the time of Saints Ambrose and Augustine in the fourth century CE. Ambrose opposed intermarriage with pagans, heretics, or Jews, and defended the burning of synagogues. Augustine defended both war and slavery based on his ideas of "original sin," and the idea that "this" life is of little importance in comparison with the afterlife. He believed that killing people actually helped them get to a better place and that you should never be so foolish as to engage in self-defense against someone trying to kill you.
Just War theory was further developed by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century. Aquinas was a supporter of slavery and of monarchy as the ideal form of government. Aquinas believed the central motive of war makers should be peace, an idea very much alive to this day, and not just in the works of George Orwell. Aquinas also thought that heretics deserved to be killed, though he believed the church should be merciful, and so preferred that the state do the killing.
Of course there was also much highly admirable about these ancient and medieval figures. But their Just War ideas fit better with their worldviews than with ours. Out of an entire perspective (including their views of women, sex, animals, the environment, education, human rights, etc., etc.) that makes little sense to most of us today, this one piece called "Just War theory" has been kept alive well beyond its expiration date.
Many advocates of Just War theory no doubt believe that by promoting criteria for a "just war" they are taking the inevitable horror of war and mitigating the damage, that they are making unjust wars a little bit less unjust or maybe even a lot less unjust, while making sure that just wars are begun and are properly executed. "Necessary" is a word that Just War theorists should not object to. They cannot be accused of calling war good or pleasant or cheerful or desirable. Rather, they claim that some wars can be necessary—not physically necessary but morally justified although regrettable. If I shared that belief, I would find courageous risk-taking in such wars to be noble and heroic, yet still unpleasant and undesirable—and thus in only a very particular sense of the word: "good."
The majority of the supporters in the United States of particular wars are not strict Just War theorists. They may believe a war is in some manner defensive, but have typically not thought through whether it's a "necessary" step, a "last resort." Often they are very open about seeking revenge, and often about targeting for revenge ordinary non-combatants, all of which is rejected by Just War theory. In some wars, but not others, some fraction of supporters also believe the war is intended to rescue the innocent or bestow democracy and human rights on the afflicted. In 2003 there were Americans who wanted Iraq bombed in order to kill a lot of Iraqis, and Americans who wanted Iraq bombed in order to liberate Iraqis from a tyrannical government. In 2013 the U.S. public rejected its government's pitch to bomb Syria for the supposed benefit of Syrians. In 2014 the U.S. public supported bombing Iraq and Syria to supposedly protect themselves from ISIS. According to much of recent Just War theory it shouldn't matter who is being protected. To most of the U.S. public, it matters very much.
While there are not enough Just War theorists to launch a war without lots of help from unjust war advocates, elements of Just War theory are found in the thinking of just about every war supporter. Those thrilled by a new war will still call it "necessary." Those eager to abuse all standards and conventions in the conduct of the war will still condemn the same by the other side. Those cheering for attacks on non-threatening nations thousands of miles away will never call it aggression, always "defense" or "prevention" or "preemption" or punishment of misdeeds. Those explicitly denouncing or evading the United Nations will still claim that their government's wars uphold rather than drag down the rule of law. While Just War theorists are far from agreeing with each other on all points, there are some common themes, and they work to facilitate the waging of war in general—even though most or all of the wars are unjust by the standards of Just War theory.
A call to action from the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR):
As people of conscience and nonviolence we go to the Pentagon, the seat of the United States military might, to call for an end to the ongoing wars and occupations waged and supported by the US. War is directly linked to poverty and the destruction of the Earth’s habitat. The preparations for more war and a new US nuclear arsenal are a threat to all life on the planet.
This September as we observe the United Nations International Day of Peace, the great many actions around the country for Campaign Nonviolence, and the “No War 2016” conference in Washington, DC we call upon our political leaders, and those at the Pentagon to stop the planning and waging of war.
September 11, 2016 marked 15 years since the Bush regime used the criminal terrorist attacks as an excuse to wage a series of unending wars and occupations continuing still under President Obama. These wars and occupations waged by the US are in fact illegal and immoral and must end.
We demand that the planning and production for a new nuclear arsenal stop. As the first and only country to use nuclear weapons on civilians, we call upon the US to take the lead in real and meaningful nuclear disarmament initiatives so that one day all nuclear weapons will be abolished.
We demand an end to NATO and other military war-games around the world. NATO must be disbanded as it is clearly hostile to Russia thus threatening world peace. Military plans commonly referred to as the US’ “Asian Pivot” are provoking and creating ill will with China. Instead we call for real diplomatic efforts to address conflict with both China and Russia.
We demand that the US immediately start closing its military bases abroad. The US has hundreds of military bases and installations around the world. There is no need for the US to continue to have bases and military installations in Europe, Asia, and Africa while expanding its military alliances with India and the Philippines. All of this does nothing to create a secure and peaceful world.
We demand an end to environmental ecocide resulting from war. The Pentagon is the largest single polluter of fossil fuels in the world. Our dependence on fossil fuels is destroying Mother Earth. Resource wars are a reality we must avoid. An end to war and occupation will lead us on a path to saving our planet.
We demand an end to US military and foreign aid and support for proxy wars. Saudi Arabia is waging an illegal war against the people of Yemen. The US is supplying weapons and military intelligence to this corrupt undemocratic country ruled by a despotic and extremist royal family which oppresses women, LGBT people, other minorities, and dissidents within Saudi Arabia. The US gives billions of dollars in military aid to Israel where the Palestinian people have faced decades of oppression and dispossession. Israel has continuously used its military might on the unarmed Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank. It imposes an Apartheid state and prison camp conditions on the Palestinian people. We call on the US to cut off all foreign and military aid to these countries violating international law and human rights.
We demand the US government renounce regime change as a policy against the Assad government of Syria. It must cease funding Islamic extremists and other groups attempting to overthrow the Syrian government. Supporting groups fighting to overthrow Assad does nothing for peace and even justice for the people of Syria.
We demand the US government support refugees fleeing from war-torn countries. The unending wars and occupations have created the largest refugee crisis since the last world war. Our wars and occupations are causing human misery by forcing people to leave their homes. If the US cannot bring about peace in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and the Middle East then it must withdraw, end military funding for proxy wars and occupations, and allow others to work towards stability and peace.
Since September 11, 2001 US society has seen its local police forces become militarized, civil liberties attacked, mass surveillance by the government, the rise in Islamophobia, all while our children are still recruited in the schools by the military. The path to war since that day has not made us safer or the world more secure. The path to war has been an utter failure for almost all on the planet except for those who profit from war and the economic system which impoverishes us all in so many ways. We don’t have to live in a world like this. This is not sustainable.
Therefore, we go to the Pentagon where the empire’s wars are planned and waged. We demand an end to this madness. We call for a new beginning where Mother Earth is protected and where poverty will be eradicated because we will all share our resources and redirect our economy towards a world without war.
To join us, sign up at http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2016
We will also be delivering to the Pentagon a petition to close Ramstein Air Base in Germany, as U.S. whistleblowers and Germans together deliver it to the German government in Berlin. Sign that petition at http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12254
The event at the Pentagon at 9 a.m. Monday, September 26, follows a three day conference, with a planning and training session at 2 p.m. on Sunday, September 25. See the full agenda:
A major conference presenting alternatives to permanent war has been planned for September 23-25 at American University in Washington, D.C.
Events on the first two days and the third morning will be in the Founders Room of the School of International Service. Closing events will be at the Kay Center nearby on the campus of American University. Media cameras and journalists are welcome throughout. But RSVP. Rooms are expected to be at full capacity.
Speakers will include: Dennis Kucinich, Kathy Kelly, Miriam Pemberton, David Vine, Kozue Akibayashi, Harvey Wasserman, Jeff Bachman, Peter Kuznick, Medea Benjamin, Maurice Carney, David Swanson, Leah Bolger, David Hartsough, Pat Elder, John Dear, Mel Duncan, Kimberley Phillips, Ira Helfand, Darakshan Raja, Bill Fletcher Jr., Lindsey German, Maria Santelli, Mark Engler, Maja Groff, Robert Fantina, Barbara Wien, Jodie Evans, Odile Hugonot Haber, Gar Alperovitz, Sam Husseini, Christopher Simpson, Brenna Gautam, Patrick Hiller, Mubarak Awad, Michelle Kwak, John Washburn, Bruce Gagnon, David Cortright, Michael McPhearson, Sharon Tennison, Gareth Porter, John Reuwer, Pat Alviso, Larry Wilkerson, Thomas Drake, Larry Johnson, John Kiriakou, Craig Murray, Raed Jarrar, Alli McCracken, Lilly Daigle, and Alice Slater.
Speakers' bios and photos:
World Beyond War is a global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace.
Partners Include: Jubitz Family Foundation, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, RootsAction.org, Code Pink, International Peace Bureau, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Jane Addams Peace Association, Veterans For Peace, Delaware Peace Club, United for Peace and Justice.
Co-Sponsors Include: Washington Peace Center, Pace e Bene/Campaign Nonviolence, Liberty Tree Foundation, TheRealNews.com, Nonviolence International, Peace Action Montgomery, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Military Families Speak Out, Peace Action, WILPF-DC, International Movement for a Just World (JUST), Center for Bangladesh Studies, Society for Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University, Nuke Watch, Friends of Franz Jagerstatter, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR), WILPF-DC, International Society for Inter Cultural Study and Research (ISISAR), Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, On Earth Peace, The Virginia Defenders, UNAC, Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore, Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund/Peace Tax Foundation.
Not just toilet lids Pentagon Money Pit: Unaccountable Army Spending of $6.5 Trillion and No DOD Audit for the Past Two Decades
By Dave Lindorff
What if the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services were to report that $6.5 billion in spending by that federal agency was unaccounted for and untraceable? You can imagine the headlines, right? What if it was $65 billion? The headlines would be as big as for the first moon landing or for troops landing on Omaha Beach in World War II.
By David Swanson
The demise of the antiwar movement has been greatly exaggerated. Working on planning a series of events in Washington, D.C., next month, and related events around the world, I'm finding tons of enthusiasm for organizing and mobilizing to end war. In fact all kinds of events are being organized all the time, from conferences to marches to protests, a peace fleet taking on a military fleet in Seattle, a crowd demanding the closure of a U.S. base in Germany or Korea, counter recruiters keeping military tests out of schools, solidarity actions and support actions with victims and refugees around the world, and many other stories that flood in under the corporate radar.
But it’s not just the world that has lost peace.
I lost my peace.
750 Sanders Delegates in Convention Walk-Out as Green Party’s Jill Stein Joins Anti-Hillary Protests Outside
Misusing a quote about peace: Obama Calls for Peace and Comity at Home, But Favors Wars and Killer Drones Abroad
By Dave Lindorff
President Barack Obama made an eloquent plea for sanity and peace following the latest deadly assault on police officers -- this time a gunman with an assault rifle shooting and killing three cops in Baton Rouge and wounding another three, one critically injured.
In planning an upcoming conference and nonviolent action aimed at challenging the institution of war, with the conference to be held at American University, I can't help but be drawn to the speech a U.S. president gave at American University a little more than 50 years ago. Whether or not you agree with me that this is the best speech ever given by a U.S. president, there should be little dispute that it is the speech most out of step with what anyone will say at either the Republican or the Democratic national convention this year. Here's a video of the best portion of the speech:
President John F. Kennedy was speaking at a time when, like now, Russia and the United States had enough nuclear weapons ready to fire at each other on a moment's notice to destroy the earth for human life many times over. At that time, however, in 1963, there were only three nations, not the current nine, with nuclear weapons, and many fewer than now with nuclear energy. NATO was far removed from Russia's borders. The United States had not just facilitated a coup in Ukraine. The United States wasn't organizing military exercises in Poland or placing missiles in Poland and Romania. Nor was it manufacturing smaller nukes that it described as "more usable." The work of managing U.S. nuclear weapons was then deemed prestigious in the U.S. military, not the dumping ground for drunks and misfits that it has become. Hostility between Russia and the United States was high in 1963, but the problem was widely known about in the United States, in contrast to the current vast ignorance. Some voices of sanity and restraint were permitted in the U.S. media and even in the White House. Kennedy was using peace activist Norman Cousins as a messenger to Nikita Khrushchev, whom he never described, as Hillary Clinton has described Vladimir Putin, as "Hitler."
Kennedy framed his speech as a remedy for ignorance, specifically the ignorant view that war is inevitable. This is the opposite of what President Barack Obama said recently in Hiroshima and earlier in Prague and Oslo. Kennedy called peace "the most important topic on earth." It is a topic not touched on in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. I fully expect this year's Republican national convention to celebrate ignorance.
Kennedy renounced the idea of a "Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war," precisely what both big political parties now and most speeches on war by most past U.S. presidents ever have favored. Kennedy went so far as to profess to care about 100% rather than 4% of humanity:
By John Grant
Kill one person, it’s called murder.
Kill 100,000, it’s called foreign policy.
- A popular bumper sticker
As Police Killings of Minorities Mount, Attacks on Police Like the One in Dallas, While Awful, Are Also Sadly Predictable
By Dave Lindorff
The tragedy that is America has deepened with the news that several people on Thursday organized a military-style sniper attack targeting police in Dallas during a protest march and rally against police brutality and killings of black people in that city.
By John Grant
If our wars were to make killers of all combat soldiers, rather than men who have killed, civilian life would be endangered for generations or, in fact, made impossible.
If that headline sounds a bit like "God Is Dead" to you, you just might be from the United States. Only what the people who live in this one country of the American hemisphere call "an American" carries that variety of flag passion. If, on the other hand, you find watching paint dry more engaging than the suspense of waiting for the next Flag Day, you just might be a candidate for citizen of the world.
In fact, I think Flag Day needs to be canceled. It's not a holiday that the government, much less the military, much less the rest of the United States, actually takes off work. It's rumored, in fact, that any socialistic interruption in work schedules would be offensive to the flag herself.
So we can indeed cancel Flag Day just by totally ignoring it, along with the overlapping Flag Week, the simultaneous U.S. Army's Birthday, the mythological tales about Betsy Ross, and the celebration of a war in 1812 that failed to take over Canada, got Washington D.C. burned, and pointlessly killed lots of human beings in a battle we celebrate with bad singing auditions before every sporting event because a colored piece of cloth survived it.
This Flag Day, instead of trying to add, if possible, yet more publicly displayed U.S. flags to those already flying, take down a flag instead. Don't burn it, though. There's no sense in giving flag worshipers martyrs. Instead, I recommend Betsy Rossing it. Cut and stitch that flag into clothing you can donate to those in need of clothing -- a significant section of the public in fact in this incredibly over-wealthy country in which the wealth is concentrated beyond medieval levels -- a situation from which we are distracted in part by all the darn flags.
Here in Charlottesville, Virginia, we have a lovely city with tons of natural beauty, history, landmarks, available imagery, talented artists, an engaged citizenry capable of civil debate, and yet no Charlottesville flag. We do have a huge debate over whether to remove from their prominent positions all the statues of Confederate fighters. Less controversial, costly, and time-consuming would be to add to the local scene a Charlottesville flag that did not celebrate slavery, racism, war, or environmental destruction.
What? Now I'm in favor of flags? Of course, I'm in favor of pretty pieces of cloth waving around when they're not icons of war and separation. In the United States, local and state flags don't create any sense of superiority or hostility toward the rest of humanity. But the flag of war, the flag that the U.S. military has now planted in 175 countries, does just that.
UVA alumnus Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Flag Day the year before pushing the United States into World War I, as part of that propaganda campaign. Congress joined in the year before the war in Korea. Five years later "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, an oath originally written by a fascist preacher, originally administered with the pledgers holding their right arms straight, outward and up. This was changed to the hand-over-heart routine during World War II because the Nazis had adopted the original salute as their own. Nowadays, visitors from abroad are often shocked to see U.S. children instructed to stand and robotically chant an oath of obedience to a piece of colored cloth.
To many "Americans" it comes naturally. The flag has always been here and always will be, just like the wars under which it is fought, for which lives are taken and risked, for which lives are even exchanged. Families that lose a loved one in war are presented with a flag instead. A majority of Americans supports freedom of speech in many outrageous instances, including the right of massive media corporations to present us with false justifications for wars. But a majority supports banning the burning of flags -- or rather, of the U.S. flag. You can burn the flags of 96% of humanity. You can burn your state or local flag. You can burn a world flag. But burning a U.S. flag would be a sacrilege. Sacrificing young lives to that flag in yet another war is, however, a sacrament.
But the U.S. military now has robotic drones it can send to war. Robots are also perfectly capable of swearing the pledge of allegiance, although they have no hearts to put their hands over.
Perhaps we should reserve our actual human hearts for things robots cannot do. Perhaps we should liberate our landscape from both Confederate statues and the ubiquitous flag of the still crusading union empire.
Even within what Dr. King called the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, there used to be one constituency you could count on to speak up for world peace: beauty contestants.
No more. And the switch has produced no scandal. Last year, when Miss Italy said she wished she could live during World War II, survivors of that worst ever horror that humanity has inflicted on itself, and other people of normal intelligence in Italy, were scandalized.
But when a soon-to-be Miss USA recently praised the U.S. military as a member of it, as a participant in it, despite the world's view that the U.S. military is the greatest threat to peace in the world, the U.S. media adored this new development.
This is a 180 degree reversal of the traditional stance of beauty contestants, who had endlessly said they favored world peace. But of course it's framed as something else entirely. With war totally and amorally normalized, a female (and African-American) member of the military, even a beauty contestant, is interpreted as a symbol of enlightened progress, along the lines of the current neoliberal push to force every young woman to register for the draft.
Miss USA joined the military at age 17, the Washington Post tells us in passing, something illegal under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty ratified by every single nation on earth except the United States.
For those interested in the draft question, I refer you to my handy guide on "How to Oppose the Draft for Women and Not Be Sexist."
You think this is all tongue-in-cheek and war's not been normalized? Go ahead and name the seven nations where the United States is at war right now, the seven that the current U.S. president has bragged about having bombed.
Can't do it? O.K., well, surely you can explain which of the seven wars are justified and legal and which are not?
No? Or perchance you were outraged and raised objections and organized protests when a presidential debate moderator asked a candidate if he would be willing to kill thousands of innocent children as part of his basic duties if elected?
What? You didn't? Well, maybe you grew concerned when announcers of a televised sporting event (any major U.S. sporting event) thanked U.S. troops for watching from 175 countries? Surely, you got out the list of 175 and asked someone to explain what U.S. troops were doing there.
No? You didn't? Did you read about kindergarten teachers pushing militarism? Did you know that Starbucks says choosing not to have a store at Guantanamo would constitute a political statement, while having one there is just normal? Did you know that the United Nations now says war is the norm rather than the exception? The United Nations!
The University of Virginia's magazine has an article in its summer 2016 issue praising and interviewing an alumnus named Robert Neller who is commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. The big focus? The super progressive step of recruiting women into greater participation in wars. But did UVA ask about any of the numerous disastrous wars the United States has been waging? About the troops now fighting on the ground in five nations?
Actually, toward the end of the interview, the interviewer Dianna Cahn (who, like the interviewee, also works for the U.S. military, at its propaganda magazine Stars and Stripes) asked something about the U.S. troops dying in Iraq and Afghanistan (nothing about the 95-plus percent of the deaths in those wars/genocides that are Iraqi and Afghan). She asked something (she doesn't print the questions) about the futility of fighting over and repeatedly winning and losing the same bits of ground in someone else's country. Neller said this in response:
"Somebody asked me that when I left Iraq nine years ago . . . 'What would you tell the families?' I was really tired. I got all emotional and I said. 'I'd tell them they did their duty.' I hated that answer because it sounded just so inadequate."
Inadequate? I was going to say fascistic. Never mind, Neller has a new answer:
"What I really wish I'd said was, 'Imagine we lived in a country where if people were called to go do something like this nobody would stand up. Imagine if there were not men and women who would pick up the challenge and go to a faraway land to help somebody live a better life. That would be terrible.'"
Terrible? Imagining and working to achieve such a thing is what keeps me going every day. And not just me. The majority of people in the United States have told pollsters that the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq should never have been started. (And of course they didn't help people "live a better life" and were not even ever marketed on that basis.) Well, here's one way we could have kept those wars from being started: everyone asked to go could have refused.
Of course, a majority of those who join the U.S. military say a major reason was the lack of other educational or career prospects. But the majority of those who like the idea of the United States being able to attack faraway people at will have no interest in actually being in the U.S. military themselves; yet they have their whole identity wrapped up in the fantasy of going to war from the comfort of their own couch. Watch this video from the National Rifle Association urging people to buy lots of guns and shoot lots of stuff while fantasizing about attacking Iran.
In a Gallup poll, 44 percent of people in the United States say they "would" fight in a war. What's stopping them? Fortunately, they do not mean it. Now, try imagining a country in which most people said "Hell no, I would never fight in a war." Or don't imagine it; look at that same poll: In Italy, where even beauty queens are held to a certain standard, 68 percent of Italians polled said they would NOT fight for their country. In Germany 62 percent said they would not. In the Czech Republic, 64 percent would not fight for their country. In the Netherlands, 64 percent would not. In Japan only 10 percent would fight in a war for their country.
Let's work toward emulating those nations.
And let's restore, in this season of lesser evils, inane speeches in bikinis about wishing for peace on earth.
No one should be forced to register to represent our country in combat
By Kristin Christman
Published in the Albany Times Union May 22, 2016
Josef Beno didn't want to go to war. A Czech, he didn't want to kill his fellow Slavs, the Russians. A father, he didn't want to leave his starving family unprotected.
But the year was 1915 and Austria-Hungary was rounding up men and boys to serve in the war. Those who resisted were shot. After hiding for a year, Josef was captured for conscription. He escaped, only to be captured by Russians and marched to Siberia.
As the story goes, troops received injections by needle to make them aggressive. Perhaps it was merely a tale to explain a father's changed temper, for upon returning home, Josef physically abused his wife and children, including his daughter, my grandmother.
With the Catholic Church, of all things, turning against the doctrine that maintains there can be a "just war," it's worth taking a serious look at the thinking behind this medieval doctrine, originally based in the divine powers of kings, concocted by a saint who actually opposed self-defense but supported slavery and believed killing pagans was good for the pagans -- an anachronistic doctrine that to this day still outlines its key terms in Latin.
Laurie Calhoun's book, War and Delusion: A Critical Examination, casts an honest philosopher's eye on the arguments of the "just war" defenders, taking seriously their every bizarre claim, and carefully explaining how they fall short. Having just found this book, here is my updated list of required reading on war abolition:
A Global Security System: An Alternative to War by World Beyond War, 2015.
War: A Crime Against Humanity by Roberto Vivo, 2014.
War and Delusion: A Critical Examination by Laurie Calhoun, 2013.
Shift: The Beginning of War, the Ending of War by Judith Hand, 2013.
The End of War by John Horgan, 2012.
Transition to Peace by Russell Faure-Brac, 2012.
Beyond War: The Human Potential for Peace by Douglas Fry, 2009.
Living Beyond War by Winslow Myers, 2009.
These are the criteria Calhoun lists for jus ad bellum:
- be publicly declared
- have a reasonable prospect for success
- be waged only as a last resort
- be waged by a legitimate authority with right intention, and
- have a cause both just and proportional (sufficiently grave to warrant the extreme measure of war)
I would add one more as a logical necessity:
- have a reasonable prospect of being conducted with jus in bello.
These are the criteria Calhoun lists for jus in bello:
- only proportional means to sound military objectives may be deployed
- noncombatants are immune from attack
- enemy soldiers must be respected as human beings, and
- prisoners of war are to be treated as noncombatants.
There are two problems with these lists. The first is that even if every item were actually met, which has never happened and can never happen, that would not make the mass killing of human beings moral or legal. Imagine if someone created criteria for just slavery or just lynching and then met the criteria; would that satisfy you? The second problem is that the criteria are, as I've mentioned -- just as with President Obama's similar, extra-legal, self-imposed criteria for drone murders -- never actually met.
"Publicly declared" seems like the one item that might actually be met by current and recent wars, but is it? Wars used to be announced before they began, even to be scheduled by mutual agreement of the parties in some cases. Now wars are, at best, announced after the bombs have begun falling and the news become known. Other times, wars are never announced. Enough foreign reporting piles up for diligent news consumers in the United States to discover that their nation is at war, via unmanned drones, with yet another nation. Or a humanitarian rescue operation, such as in Libya, is described as something other than a war, but in a manner that makes clear to the critical observer that yet another governmental overthrow is underway with chaos and human tragedy and ground troops to follow. Or the serious citizen researcher may discover that the U.S. military is helping Saudi Arabia bomb Yemen, and later discover that the U.S. has introduced ground troops -- but no war is publicly declared. I've asked crowds of peace activists if even they can name the seven nations that the current U.S. president has bombed, and usually nobody can do it. (But ask them if some unspecified wars are just, and lots of hands will shoot upward.)
Every student of peace, sanity, or survival, every person interested in the possibility of the United States making its current wars its last seven wars, every believer in the value of wisdom and the written word should pick up a copy of Lawrence Rosendwald's 768-page collection, War No More: Three Centuries of American Antiwar and Peace Writing.
Looking for ways to improve the Pentagon that $600 billion a year just can't buy? Did you know that Benjamin Rush not only signed the Declaration of Independence but also proposed that these words be hung over the door of the U.S. Department of War:
"1. An office for butchering the human species.
"2. A Widow and Orphan making office.
"3. A broken bone making office.
"4. A Wooden leg making office.
"5. An office for creating public and private vices.
"6. An office for creating a public debt.
"7. An office for creating speculators, stock Jobbers, and Bankrupts.
"8. An office for creating famine.
"9. An office for creating pestilential diseases.
"10. An office for creating poverty, and the destruction of liberty, and national happiness."
Did you know there was collective nonviolent resistance to war in the Book of Mormon? Or that Henry David Thoreau long ago offered a more accurate depiction of a U.S. marine than has yet appeared in any television ad or Hollywood/CIA movie?
"A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? Visit the Navy-Yard, and behold a marine, such a man as an American government can make, or such as it can make a man with its black arts, -- a mere shadow and reminiscence of humanity, a man laid out alive and standing, and already, as one may say, buried under arms with funeral accompaniments. . . ."
Looking for inspiring poetry? Check out Obadiah Ethelbert Baker, Herman Melville, Edna St. Vincent Millay, June Jordan, and many others. Wrote Melville:
"Of dying foemen mingled there --
"Foemen at morn, but friends at eve --
"Fame or country least their care:
"(What like a bullet can undeceive!)"
Do you know the history of conscientious objection, from the earliest days to these? Here's the diary of Cyrus Pringle, refusing to kill for Union in the 1860s:
"Two sergeants soon called for me, and taking me a little aside, bid me lie down on my back, and stretching my limbs apart tied cords to my wrists and ankles and these to four stakes driven in the ground somewhat in the form of an X. I was very quiet in my mind as I lay there on the ground [soaked] with the rain of the previous day, exposed to the heat of the sun, and suffering keenly from the cords binding my wrists and straining my muscles."
Do you know the real story of Mother's Day?
"Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly: We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience."
It is writings that made it into War No More, not words as representations for the lives of authors. Included are numerous authors who did far more warmongering than peace making in their lives. We should learn from their wiser words nonetheless.
Paul Goodman's speech to the National Security Industrial Association is a model for any global security advisor:
". . . the best service that you people could perform is rather rapidly to phase yourselves out. . . ."
Looking for ideas whose time had not yet come but perhaps now has? How about that for a treaty among all nations banning military drafts?
The worst war in history, commonly known as "the good war," receives a fair amount of attention in this collection, including Robert Lowell's refusal to be drafted into the middle of it, following the mining of dams, and the "razing of Hamburg, where 200,000 non-combatants are reported dead, after an almost apocalyptic series of all-out air raids." Also included is Jeanette Rankin's statement on why she voted against war on Japan, and Nicholson Baker's reflections on the wisdom of pacifists who tried to end World War II and rescue the victims of Nazi camps.
"Nobody in authority in Britain and the United States paid heed to these promptings. Anthony Eden, Britain's foreign secretary, who'd been tasked by Churchill with handling queries about refugees, dealt coldly with one of many important delegations, saying that any diplomatic effort to obtain the release of the Jews from Hitler was 'fantastically impossible.' On a trip to the United States, Eden candidly told Cordell Hull, the secretary of state, that the real difficulty with asking Hitler for the Jews was that 'Hitler might well take us up on any such offer, and there simply are not enough ships and means of transportation in the world to handle them.' Churchill agreed. 'Even were we to obtain permission to withdraw all the Jews,' he wrote in reply to one pleading letter, 'transport alone presents a problem which will be difficult of solution.' Not enough shipping and transport? Two years earlier, the British had evacuated nearly 340,000 men from the beaches of Dunkirk in just nine days. The U.S. Air Force had many thousands of new planes. During even a brief armistice, the Allies could have airlifted and transported refugees in very large numbers out of the German sphere."
Looking for the ideal hilarious response to pro-violence hypothetical questions re ticking time bombs, imminent and continuous threat drone victims, and what you would do if someone attacks your grandmother? Read "What Would You Do If?" by Joan Baez.
Wondering why the deep reaction to the death of Daniel Berrigan? Read his writings.
This collection includes very thoughtful writing on the powers and limitations of nonviolent activism. It includes a rich literature from and about prison -- too much in my opinion. It may also go too far in stretching to include commentary from pro-war writers who have quibbles with particular wars. It includes a rather lengthy dialogue debating the use of violence in which you'll find yourself waiting forever for the anti-violent debater to start making a case. It includes a speech by Barack Obama, for godsake, in which he argues, based on patent falsehoods, for war, for the U.S. civil war, for World War II, for war on Afghanistan, and for Iraqi WMDs, though opposing what would come to be the hallmark of his presidency: "dumb wars."
Recent wars don't come into the book. The book doesn't look into the matter of falsehoods we're told about wars, and the actual motivations and results of those wars. Focusing on going to prison, it offers much less on education and other forms of protest, and virtually nothing on envisioning a world beyond war, a world of diplomacy, aid, and the rule of law. Only a short excerpt from Barbara Ehrenreich touches on creating a new movement for the total abolition of war.
Still, it is because of the wealth that was included in this book that I wish a bit more had made it in. We need to create a broader movement, but we do not need to do it alone. We would be foolish not to draw on this collected wisdom.
Anti-War Advocate: Is there a case that can be made for war?
Pro-War Advocate: Well, yes. In a word: Hitler!
Anti-War Advocate: Is "Hitler!" a case for future wars? Let me suggest some reasons why I think it isn't. First, the world of the 1940s is gone, its colonialism and imperialism replaced by other varieties, its absence of nuclear weapons replaced by their ever-present threat. No matter how many people you call "Hitler," none of them is Hitler, none of them is seeking to roll tanks into wealthy nations. And, no, Russia did not invade Ukraine any of the numerous times you heard that reported in recent years. In fact, the U.S. government facilitated a coup that empowered Nazis in Ukraine. And even those Nazis are not "Hitler!"
When you go back 75 years to find a justification for the institution of war, the biggest public project of the United States for each of the past 75 years, you're going back to a different world -- something we wouldn't do with any other project. If schools had made people dumber for 75 years but educated someone 75 years ago, would that justify next year's spending on schools? If the last time a hospital saved a life was 75 years ago, would that justify next year's spending on hospitals? If wars have caused nothing but suffering for 75 years, what is the value of claiming that there was a good one 75 years ago?
Also, World War II was decades in the making, and there is no need to spend decades creating any new war. By avoiding World War I -- a war that virtually nobody even tries to justify -- earth would have avoided World War II. The Treaty of Versailles ended World War I in a stupid manner that many predicted on the spot would lead to World War II. Then Wall Street spent decades investing in the Nazis. While reckless behavior that makes wars more likely remains common, we are perfectly capable of recognizing it and ceasing it.
Pro-War Advocate: But what makes you think we will? The fact that we could in theory prevent a new Hitler doesn't exactly put the mind at ease.
Anti-War Advocate: Not a new "Hitler!" Even Hitler wasn't "Hitler!" The idea that Hitler intended to conquer the world including the Americas was ginned up with fraudulent documents by FDR and Churchill including a phony map carving up South America and a phony plan to end all religion. There was no German threat to the United States, and ships that FDR claimed were innocently attacked were actually helping British war planes. Hitler might have enjoyed conquering the world, but lacked any plan or ability to do so, as those places he did conquer continued to resist.
Pro-War Advocate: So just let the Jews die? Is that what you're saying?
Anti-War Advocate: The war had nothing to do with saving the Jews or any other victims. The United States and other nations refused Jewish refugees. The U.S. Coast Guard chased a ship of Jewish refugees away from Miami. The blockade of Germany and then the all-out war on German cities led to deaths that a negotiated settlement might have spared, as peace advocates argued. The United States did negotiate with Germany about prisoners of war, just not about prisoners of death camps and not about peace. World War II in total killed roughly ten times the number of people killed in the German camps. Alternatives might have been horrible but could hardly have been worse. The war, not its supposed, after-the-fact justification, was the very worst thing humans have ever done to themselves.
The U.S. President wanted into the war, promised Churchill as much, did everything possible to provoke Japan, knew an attack was coming, and that same night drafted a declaration of war against both Japan and Germany. The victory over Germany was very largely a Soviet victory, with the United States playing a relatively bit role. So, to the extent that a war can be a victory for an ideology (probably not at all) it would make more sense to call WWII a victory for "communism" than for "democracy."
Pro-War Advocate: What about protecting England and France?
Anti-War Advocate: And China, and the rest of Europe and Asia? Again, if you're going to go back 75 years, you can go back a dozen more and avoid creating the problem. If you're going to use the knowledge we have 75 years later, you can apply organized nonviolent resistance techniques to great effect. We are sitting on 75 years of additional knowledge of how powerful nonviolent action can be, including how powerful it was when employed against the Nazis. Because nonviolent non-cooperation is more likely to succeed, and that success more likely to last, there is no need for war. And even if you could justify joining in World War II, you would still have to justify continuing it for years and expanding it into total war on civilians and infrastructure aimed at maximum death and unconditional surrender, an approach which of course cost millions of lives rather than saving them -- and which bestowed on us a legacy of all-out war that has killed tens of millions more since.
Pro-War Advocate: There's a difference between fighting on the right side and the wrong side.
Anti-War Advocate: Is it a difference you can see from under the bombs? While the human rights failures of a foreign culture do not justify bombing people (the worst such failure possible!), and the goodness of one's own culture likewise doesn't justify killing anybody (thereby erasing any supposed goodness). But it is worth remembering or learning, that leading up to, during, and after World War II, the United States engaged in eugenics, human experimentation, apartheid for African Americans, camps for Japanese Americans, and the widespread promotion of racism, anti-Semitism, and imperialism. Upon the end of World War II, after the United States had, with no justification, dropped nuclear bombs on two cities, the U.S. military quietly hired hundreds of former Nazis, including some of the worst criminals, who found a home quite comfortably in the U.S. war industry.
Pro-War Advocate: That's all well and good, but, Hitler . . .
Anti-War Advocate: You said that.
Pro-War Advocate: Well, then, forget Hitler. Do you support slavery or the U.S. Civil War?
Anti-War Advocate: Yes, well, let's imagine that we wanted to end mass-incarceration or fossil-fuel consumption or the slaughter of animals. Would it make the most sense to first find some big fields in which to kill each other in large numbers and to then make the desired policy change, or would it make the most sense to skip the killing and simply jump ahead to doing the thing we want done? This was what other countries and Washington D.C. (the District of Columbia) did with ending slavery. Fighting a war contributed nothing, and in fact failed to end slavery, which continued under other names for nearly a century in the U.S. South, while the bitterness and violence of the war have yet to recede. The dispute between the North and South was over the slavery or freedom of new territories to be stolen and killed for in the west. When the South left over that dispute, the North's demand was to retain its empire.
Pro-War Advocate: What was the North supposed to do?
Anti-War Advocate: Instead of war? The answer to that is always the same: not wage war. If the South left, let it leave. Be happier with a smaller, more self-governable nation. Cease returning anyone escaping from slavery. Cease economically supporting slavery. Put every nonviolent tool to use in forwarding the cause of abolition in the South. Just don't kill three-quarters of a million people and burn cities and generate everlasting hatred.
Pro-War Advocate: I imagine you'd say the same of the American Revolution?
Anti-War Advocate: I'd say you have to squint pretty hard to see what Canada lost by not having one, other than the dead and destroyed, the tradition of war glorification, and the same history of violent westward expansion that the war unleashed.
Pro-War Advocate: Easy for you to say looking back. How do you know what it looked like then and there, if you're so much wiser than George Washington?
Anti-War Advocate: I think it would be easy for anyone to say looking back. We've had leading war makers looking back and regretting their wars from their rocking chairs for centuries. We've had a majority of the public say each war it supported was wrong to begin, a year or two too late, for quite a while now. My interest is in rejecting the idea that there could be a good war in the future, never mind the past.
Pro-War Advocate: As everyone realizes at this point, there have even been good wars, such as in Rwanda, that have been missed, that should have been.
Anti-War Advocate: Why do you use the word "even"? Isn't it only the wars that didn't happen that are held up as good these days? Aren't all the humanitarian wars that actually happen universally recognized as catastrophes? I remember being told to support bombing Libya because "Rwanda!" but now nobody ever tells me to bomb Syria because "Libya!" -- it's still always because "Rwanda!" But the slaughter in Rwanda was preceded by years of U.S.-backed militarism in Uganda, and assassinations by the U.S.-designated future ruler of Rwanda, for whom the United States stood out of the way, including in subsequent years as the war in Congo took millions of lives. But never was there a crisis that would have been alleviated by bombing Rwanda. There was a completely avoidable moment, created by war making, during which peaceworkers and aid workers and armed police might have helped, but not bombs.
Pro-War Advocate: So you don't support humanitarian wars?
Anti-War Advocate: No more than humanitarian slavery. U.S. wars kill almost entirely on one side and almost entirely locals, civilians. These wars are genocides. Meanwhile the atrocities we're told to call genocides because foreign are produced by and consist of war. War is not a tool for preventing something worse. There is nothing worse. War kills first and foremost through the massive diversion of funds to the war industries, funds that could have saved lives. War is the top destroyer of the natural environment. Nuclear war or accident is, along with environmental destruction, a top threat to human life. War is the top eroder of civil liberties. There's nothing humanitarian about it.
Pro-War Advocate: So we should just let ISIS get away with it?
Anti-War Advocate: That would be wiser than continuing to make matters worse through a war on terrorism that generates more terrorism. Why not try disarmament, aid, diplomacy, and clean energy?
Pro-War Advocate: You know, no mater what you say, war maintains our way of life, and we're not going to just end it.
Anti-War Advocate: The arms trade, in which the United States leads the world, is a way of death, not a way of life. It enriches a few at the expense of the many economically and of the many who die as a result. The war industry itself is an economic drain, not a job creator. We could have more jobs than exist in the death industries from a smaller investment in life industries. And other industries are not able to cruelly exploit the poor of the world because of war -- but if they were, I'd be glad to see that ended as war ended.
Pro-War Advocate: You can dream, but war is inevitable and natural; it's part of human nature.
Anti-War Advocate: In fact at least 90% of humanity's governments invest dramatically less in war than does the U.S. government, and at least 99% of people in the United States do not participate in the military. Meanwhile there are 0 cases of PTSD from war deprivation, and the top killer of U.S. troops is suicide. Natural, you say?!
Pro-War Advocate: You can't hold up foreigners as examples when we're talking about human nature. Besides, we've now developed drone wars which eliminate concerns with other wars, since in drone wars nobody gets killed.
Anti-War Advocate: Truly you are a real humanitarian.
Pro-War Advocate: Um, thank you. It just takes being serious enough to face the tough decisions.
Hysterical Cold-War Style US Reporting as 2 Unarmed Russian Jets Buzz US Destroyer Sailing Near Russian Port
By Dave Lindorff
US news reports on an incident Tuesday in which two Russian jet fighters buzzed very close to a US destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, in the Baltic Sea, make it sound like a serious threat in which the US might have been justified in defending itself against a simulated attack on the high seas.
Nowhere in the reports in the US was it mentioned that the Cook was itself engaging in provocative behavior.
By John Grant
We were having a bad day in the asylum,
A bad 8 years, a bad sixteen years,
Oh, heck, a bad era,
Well, let’s face it, a bad history.
But we had a good leader for a change,
David Carroll Cochran is the author of Catholic Realism and the Abolition of War. He teaches politics and directs the Archbishop Kucera Center for Catholic Intellectual and Spiritual Life at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. He discusses how war might be abolished and what sorts of institutions have been abolished already.
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Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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DNC defection: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s Surprise Endorsement Gives Sanders a Chance to Change the Whole Primary Game
By Dave Lindorff
Just as the media, in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s landslide win in South Carolina’s Democratic primary Saturday, are predictably writing the obituary for Bernie Sanders’ upstart and uphill campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has handed him an opportunity to jolt the American people awake.
The United States has launched over 100,000 air strikes during its war on (or is it of) terror. It's blown up houses, apartments, weddings, dinners, town hall meetings, religious gatherings. It's killed senior citizens, children, men, women. It's tapped them, double tapped them, bugsplatted them, targeted them, kill-sported them, and collateral damaged them by the hundreds of thousands. It's killed civilians, journalists, mercenaries, opportunists, those trying to get by through support of the dominant force in their village, and those opposing the foreign occupation of their countries. It's killed kind people, smart people, dumb people, and nasty sadistic people who -- purely because of where they were born and raised -- had no opportunity to become U.S. presidential candidates.
Of course I would like all militaries to refrain from bombing hospitals, but I want to say a word in support of the not-yet-injured. Don't people of sound body have rights too? If there is a problem with bombing hospitals, why is there not a problem with bombing everywhere else? If there's not a problem with bombing everywhere else, why isn't it OK to bomb hospitals too?
I suppose in a certain fantasy of honorable war, brave soldiers only kill those on the battlefield trying to kill them, so that both sides can claim self-defense in a mutual moral scam. But then shouldn't the planes fight planes, the drones fight drones, the napalm do battle with other loads of napalm, the white phosphrous take on other launchers of white phosphorous, and the soldiers kicking in doors set up some houses so that other soldiers can kick their doors in? What in the name of all Hell does blowing up buildings with missiles have to do with honor? What does any of this have to do with honor? How do you explain to a war supporter who openly admits it's mass murder that there's something wrong with using torture, but that the mass murder is OK, as long as it stays away from hospitals?
Even operating under the delusion that everybody being intentionally blown up is a "combatant," while everyone nearby is a deeply regretted statistic, why are so many combatants blown up while retreating en masse or while eating dinner with their family or sipping tea at a cafe? What kind of slacker combatants is it only possible to find at weddings? Are they doing combat singing?
The United States has young people sitting in boxes, staring at computer screens, and blowing other human beings (and whoever's near them) to little bugsplatted bits thousands of miles away. Their victims are not alleged to be in the act of waging war. They're alleged to be on the side of waging war, to have previously done something to wage war and/or to be planning to possibly participate in war, or to appear likely to do so given their insolent choice to live where they were born.
Well, if you're murdering people at the command of the U.S. president because of who they are, not what they are doing, then it doesn't much matter if they are retreating or resting or registering for a self-help class, and it's hard to see why it matters if they're in a hospital. Clearly the Pentagon can't see the distinction and chooses not to pretend to, offering only the insult of a halfhearted lie that the hospital attacks are accidental.
The wars as a whole cannot be accidental, and if you pick them apart, bit by bit, eliminating each moral outrage, you'll be left with nothing. There's no legitimate core left standing. There's no "legitimate enemy." There's no battlefield. These are wars fought where people live. They are in these wars by force. You want to "support" the U.S. troops even when you oppose the policy, cheer as for a sports team even when the sport is murder? Well, what about the non-U.S. troops? Do they not get the same understanding?
Gun tales of a pacifist
My brother and I learned to shoot
At summer camp.
That is where gunpowder
I’m afraid that one of the best books I’ve read on war abolition may be overlooked by non-Catholics, because its title is Catholic Realism and the Abolition of War (by David Carroll Cochran). The book does draw on Catholic arguments against war and work to rebut Catholic arguments in favor of war, but in my view this enriches the debate and detracts not at all from Cochran’s universal argument for the elimination of all war — much of which has little or nothing to do with Catholicism. I’ve added this book to my war abolition shelf along with these books of my own and others:
- Beyond War: The Human Potential for Peace by Douglas Fry (2009)
- Living Beyond War by Winslow Myers (2009)
- War Is A Lie by David Swanson (2010)
- The End of War by John Horgan (2012)
- Transition to Peace by Russell Faure-Brac (2012)
- War No More: The Case for Abolition by David Swanson (2013)
- Shift: The Beginning of War, the Ending of War by Judith Hand (2013)
- War: A Crime Against Humanity by Roberto Vivo (2014)
- Catholic Realism and the Abolition of War by David Carroll Cochran (2014)
- A Global Security System: An Alternative to War by World Beyond War (2015)
- War Is A Lie: Second Edition by David Swanson (April 5, 2016)
“War’s two great lies are its righteousness and its inevitability.” Thus begins Cochran’s book, and he demonstrates the truth of his statement beyond any reasonable doubt. He examines the lies that are told to start wars and the lies that are told about how wars are conducted. We might call these two kinds of lies mendacia ad bellum and mendacia in bello. Cochran puts a major emphasis on the latter, pointing out that war kills a large number of innocents — and always has, even in earlier epochs armed by very different weaponry. There never was any just ad bellum or jus in bello.
Cochran includes among the innocent both civilians and soldiers. Including only civilians is enough to make his point, as wars have always killed large numbers of civilians (though the percentage of dead who are civilian has increased in recent decades to the point where it is the vast majority of those killed). Cochran does not consider soldiers innocent because their side of a war is defensive. He considers them innocent on the side of the aggressor as well — and not only those soldiers who quietly regret what they are doing or those who honestly believe the propaganda that would justify their actions. No, even combatants who fully support the war are innocent, in a certain sense, in Cochran’s view.
This seems at odds with some Catholic tradition. I remember Erasmus urging that clergy refuse to bury in consecrated ground anyone slain in battle: “The unfeeling mercenary soldier, hired by a few pieces of paltry coin, to do the work of man-butcher, carries before him the standard of the cross; and that very figure becomes the symbol of war, which alone ought to teach every one that looks at it, that war ought to be utterly abolished. What hast thou to do with the cross of Christ on thy banners, thou blood-stained soldier? With such a disposition as thine; with deeds like thine, of robbery and murder, thy proper standard would be a dragon, a tiger, or wolf!”
I find Cochran’s case for soldiers’ innocence convincing, although I have really very little interest in whether his position is more properly Catholic than someone else’s. He points out that it is generally viewed as wrong to kill soldiers who are wounded or surrendering. This, Cochran writes, is because they have done nothing to deserve being slaughtered, although slaughtered they are in the general course of a war. One idea put forward by war supporters is that in the normal course of war, soldiers are mutually engaged in self-defense against each other, but Cochran points out that the justification of self-defense for individuals outside of war only works when an aggressor has attacked a victim. War is conducted on a very different scale and with very different norms. Soldiers during a war are not expected to try all nonviolent approaches first before resorting to violence, and in fact routinely kill other soldiers who do not pose any imminent threat. Most killing in historical battles has happened after one side has begun retreating. Remember how the United States killed 30,000 retreating Iraqi soldiers during the 1991 Gulf War.
The ultimate fallback justification for the mass-murder of war is that innocents can be slaughtered if the harm done is outweighed by the goals of the war. But such goals are often secret or lied about, and it is the war makers who get to decide whose deaths are outweighed by what goals. U.S. terrorist Timothy McVeigh blew up a government building in 1995 and claimed that the deaths that resulted were merely “collateral damage” because killing those people had not been his purpose. The U.S. military plays the same game, the only difference being that it is allowed to get away with it.
Partly the military gets away with it by constantly claiming to have found technological solutions to collateral damage. But, in fact, the latest such ploy — weaponized drones — kills more civilians than it kills people for whom anyone asserts any (always unsubstantiated) right to murder.
To call combatants innocent in analyzing the morality of war is not, in my view, to diminish the moral superiority of refusing to fight. Nor is it to suggest some sort of moral perfection in the individual lives of soldiers. Nor is it to set aside the Nuremberg standard that requires disobeying illegal orders. Rather, it is to understand that no justification exists for killing soldiers. There might be a justification for otherwise sanctioning their behavior, and — more so — the behavior of those who sent them into war, but not for killing them.
Not only is war dramatically different from normal individual relations in which one might speak of self-defense, but, Cochran shows, it is also radically different from police work. Legitimate, praiseworthy police work seeks to reduce and avoid violence. It targets people based on suspicion of wrongdoing unique to the individual targeted. It seeks to facilitate the work of courts of law. War, on the contrary, seeks to maximize violence, targets entire armies and populations, and pauses not for any court rulings but sees two sides each declare the other guilty en masse. Calling a war a “police action” or giving soldiers actual policing duties does not change the fact that war is not policing. While good policing creates “order,” war creates violence, chaos, and instability.
Opposing war because it is immoral, and opposing war because nonviolent tools work better, are not separate approaches at odds with each other. War is immoral in large part because it does not work, because it generates enemies and violence rather than reducing them.
The moral arguments of the first part of Catholic Realism and the Abolition of War are excellent, but the real high point of the book may be its review of past institutions of mass violence that were considered moral, natural, inevitable, and permanent, but which are now gone. You’ll find this case sketched out in most of the books listed at the top of this article, but Cochran does the best job of it I’ve seen. He includes discussions of dueling and slavery, but also the less commonly used examples of trial by ordeal and combat, and lynching.
In some ways, trial by ordeal and combat is the best example because the most dependent, as is much of war, on the actions of a government, albeit local level governments in many trial-by-ordeal-and-combat cases. While rulers understood that trial by ordeal and combat did not actually produce the truth it claimed, they went on using it for many years as they found doing so convenient. Catholics produced complex justifications for it, similar to those produced by “just war” theory. Trial by ordeal and combat was deemed moral and necessary for self-defense, protecting the innocent, and creating peace and stability. Gradually cultural and political changes ended the supposedly un-endable.
Dueling’s supporters also believed it necessary, and eliminating it naive and dreamy. They claimed that dueling maintained peace and order. Cultural and political change brought majorities to consider dueling laughable, barbaric, ignorant, shameful, and a threat to peace and order.
Slavery, in the form that has virtually vanished, rested on fundamental lies and contradictions, including recognizing and not recognizing the humanity of those enslaved. It also rested on “just war” theory which maintained that slavery was a generous alternative to the mass-murder of conquered peoples. As humanitarian warriors claim that wars are for the benefit of their victims, defenders of slavery claimed that it benefitted the people held captive. As war supporters today claim that it maintains a way of life that is by definition greedy and unfair, supporters of slavery contended that it was essential to the existing way of life of the slave owners.
Interestingly, Cochran stresses that the evidence shows the demise of chattel slavery not to have been driven by any economic forces but rather by a moral revolution. Just before slavery was ended, it was extremely profitable. But, writes Cochran, “globally minded political and economic elites came to see slavery as an embarrassing deviation from international norms.”
Lynching may not have been exactly legal, but it was an established institution, and the arguments used to maintain it closely resemble the fallacious claims made about other institutions of violence. Lynching, its supporters said, was defensive, defending the white race through an inevitable “racial instinct.” They believed, however, that it should be used as a “last resort.” That is, they believed that, until they gradually didn’t any longer believe it, until lynching gradually became seen, not as a defense of but as a threat to law and order.
If one section of the book is slightly weaker than the others, I think it is the concluding section on what to do to end war. I believe Cochran indulges in a bit too much Pinkerism in his claim that war has been reduced. I don’t place the value he does on spreading democracy in order to spread peace, in part because the leading war maker is a “democracy,” and in part because it has attacked numerous other “democracies.” I think there’s too much focus on blaming poor countries for war. As great a correlate with war as poverty is the presence of oil. And wars in poor countries that do not involve troops from wealthy ones, do involve weapons from wealthy ones.
“End the arms trade,” the Pope told the U.S. Congress, which cheered and escalated the arms trade.
“I was sleeping peacefully late one night when I felt someone grab my leg and drag me from my bed onto the floor. My leg was pulled so hard I heard my pajama pants rip down the middle. Looking up and seeing my father, I began to panic as he pulled my hair and told me he was going to kill me.”
Paul Chappell is recounting an incident from when he was four years old. The terror of such unpredictable attacks in the years that followed traumatized him. Chappell’s father had been traumatized by war, and Chappell would also end up joining the military. But over the years, Paul managed to turn his childhood trauma, not into a continued cycle of violence but rather into a means of gaining insight into how the institution of mass violence might be ended.
Chappell’s latest book, The Cosmic Ocean: New Answers to Big Questions, is the fifth in a projected seven-part series. Like a sculptor pounding out variations on a theme, Chappell each year produces a newer, thicker, wiser, and more illuminating take on the questions that tear at his heart: How can we be so kind and cause such suffering? How can we fail to care about others just like ourselves? What sort of change is possible and how can it be brought about?
I’m usually wary of anything that could be repetitive or pedantic, as life is just too short and I just too rebellious. But Chappell is repetitive because he is a teacher, and he is becoming a better teacher every year. He wants us to understand important truths in a variety of contexts, to remember them, and to act on them. As with his previous books, I once again recommend the latest one as the best, but encourage reading them all. Skip a presidential debate or two if you have to.
I’m always wary of efforts to solve war by finding inner peace. “Does the Pentagon give a flying f— if you’ve got inner peace?!” I’ve been known to scream, very unpeacefully. “Will your forgiving of your obnoxious neighbor and your spreading of harmony through your neighborhood stop Raytheon and Boeing and Lockheed from profiting off another war on Libya?” But, in fact, Chappell is examining the reasons people become violent and accepting of violence at least in part in order to understand what it would take to create a society in which Donald Trump would speak to entirely empty coliseums, and any Congress member who failed to end a war would be confronted by a unanimous constituency insisting on peace. Chappell’s point is not to shut out the world, but to understand better how to change it.
I generally object to investigations into “human nature” as I believe the concept primarily serves as an excuse for nasty behavior, and I’m unaware of any empirical means of determining what actions do and do not qualify as “human nature.” But Chappell is not trying to identify a mystically correct moral behavior in order to insist that we imitate it. He’s trying to accurately grasp the motivations of even the most damaging actions, in part in order to enlarge our capacity for empathy — and in part in order to re-classify certain types of behavior as illness. He’s also exposing the use of “human nature” as an excuse.
“When someone gets malaria, cancer, or HIV,” writes Chappell, “I have never heard anyone say, ‘Oh, that’s just human nature,’ because people realize something has gone wrong with the human body. But if someone becomes violent, people often say, ‘Oh that’s just human nature,’ which assumes that violence is an essential part of being human (like eating and sleeping), rather than the result of something that has gone wrong. But what if violence, like an illness, has a cause that we can understand and prevent?” Chappell includes among such causes, “poverty, desperation, injustice, dehumanization, ignorance, bullying, and trauma.”
Of course it’s a choice we make to categorize something as an illness, not an eternal discovery about “human nature,” but it is a wise choice when we’re talking about violence and war.
A traumatized person, Chappell writes, wants others to understand the trauma and sympathize with their suffering. But how can they communicate the trauma? They can try ordinary speech or art, but often another medium appears superior: violence. By making others feel the same pain, a traumatized person can finally make himself understood. As a sophomore in college, Chappell happened to mention to his classmates that when he’d been bored in high school he’d fantasized about killing all of his fellow students. Chappell assumed that this was universal, but his college friends reacted with horror.
Chappell came to understand that a desire for violence can arise out of trauma, and that it was not typical. “Cruel actions, if we define them as inflicting, watching, and enjoying the suffering of a living creature (without that creature’s consent), are relatively rare in the world,” he writes. A member of an ancient culture who believed that a child sacrifice would appease the god or gods and save a society might, and in various accounts did, deeply regret having to kill a child, but acted on the basis of a false belief.
I might add that most religious believers these days don’t act on their beliefs in ways that conflict with broader society. Exceptions include, on the plus side, those who protest at drone bases in the name of Jesus, and on the negative side, those who sacrifice chickens, deny their kids medicine, or disregard climate change on the grounds that it’s not in the Bible. Willful ignorance can muddy up the question of feeling empathy for someone acting from within a particular worldview, but only slightly. As we develop a habit of empathizing, it should reach more and more people and behaviors. Empathizing is, of course, a different thing than supporting, justifying, or excusing.
Chappell suggests, however, that building empathy depends on building accuracy: “When we search for the underlying causes of problems and arrive at inaccurate answers, it can silence our empathy. For example, if you believe a baby girl is born with a disability because she is cursed by the gods or paying back bad karma from a past life, it can reduce your empathy not only for her, but also her family.”
Empathizing with more individuals, Chappell argues, can also result in greater feelings of empathy for humanity as a whole, and as a result greater confidence in the ability of great masses of humanity to improve our ways: “[W]hen we believe that humanity is born evil, naturally violent, and destined to forever wage war, it can silence our empathy, but the scientific understanding that violence is instead caused by trauma and other preventable factors offers us a more accurate (and empathetic) understanding of human beings.”
Another route toward empathizing with humanity all over the earth today (and perhaps even losing the need to “humanize” each new person before we can care about them) is learning to empathize with human generations long past: “The reason I am discussing the enormous challenges our ancestors overcame is because we must strengthen our respect, empathy, and appreciation for human beings and stop viewing ourselves as a cancer or virus upon the earth.”
But aren’t we a virus upon the earth? Haven’t we launched a mass extinction of millions of beautiful species, possibly including our own? Perhaps we have. But we won’t avoid it, assuming we can avoid it, by viewing ourselves as cancer. That’s a recipe for hopelessness, and also for cruelty and war — which can only make matters dramatically worse. If we are to save ourselves we have to understand that we are worth saving, and that even our virus-like activities are generally well-intended.
That we mean well does not suggest that our government in Washington, D.C., means well — although many members of that government often do, in some ways at least, have much better intentions than the results convey. It also does not mean that humans aren’t engaged in horrible activities, first among them being war: “Many people today have a condescending attitude toward those who practiced human sacrifice thousands of years ago, but what if we are not so different from them? What if people in the modern world continue to die in massive ceremonies of human sacrifice? What if you supported the ritual of human sacrifice at some point in your life, without even realizing it?” Chappell is referring to war, that institution to which U.S. parents continue to send their offspring.
War, in fact, has become a U.S. religion, Chappell writes. War has heretics and behaviors that are seen as sacrilegious. Many people display more reverence for Veterans’ Day than for Christmas. One might add that war has holy objects, such as flags, that must never be desecrated, although human beings can be desecrated in large numbers for the good of the flag.
How does empathy get us out of this fix? Chappell turns, late in the book, to the topic of beauty, arguing not just against the often criticized standards of the beauty products industry, but for truly seeing all humans as beautiful, regardless of their age, health, race, or culture. We should have a reverence for life, he writes, using language that has, I’m afraid, been damagingly taken over by the abortion debate.
Chappell has a vision of people someday seeing, not just that little black boys and black girls in Alabama are able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers, but seeing every person on the whole earth as part of their own family: “When a baby is born anywhere on earth, even to people whose skin color differs from yours, about 99.9 percent of your DNA is passed on.” You want biological descendants? There’s no need to have eight kids. There’s a need to protect your human family.
The term “racism,” Chappell writes, dates only to the 1930s, and “sexism” to the 1960s. Here’s one more we might add: “American exceptionalism.” I’ve read somewhere that it dates to 1929. Perhaps it will be a thing of the past by 2029. Perhaps if it isn’t we all will be.