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Ending All War
This April 4th will be 100 years since the U.S. Senate voted to declare war on Germany and 50 since Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out against the war on Vietnam (49 since he was killed on that speech’s first anniversary). Events are being planned to help us try to finally learn some lessons, to move beyond, not just Vietnam, but war.
That declaration of war on Germany was not for the war that makes up the single most common theme of U.S. entertainment and history. It was for the war that came before that one. This was the Great War, the war to end all wars, the war without which the conditions for the next war would not have existed.
As well recounted in Michael Kazin’s War Against War: The American Fight for Peace 1914-1918, a major peace movement had the support of a great deal of the United States. When the war finally ended (after the U.S. had actually been in it for about 5% the length of the war on Afghanistan thus far) just about everybody regretted it. The losses in life, limb, sanity, property, civil liberties, democracy, and health were incredible. Death, devastation, a flu epidemic, prohibition, a permanent military and the taxes to go with it, plus predictions of World War II: these were the results, and a lot of people remembered that they had been warned, as well as that the ending of all war had been promised.
The peace activists had warned the U.S. government to stay out of the war (not out of foreign relations, just out of mass-murdering foreign relations). And they had been right. The regret was intense and lasting. It lasted right up until the worst result of World War I came along in the form of World War II. At that point, regret was replaced with forgetting. World War I was erased from popular history, and its child on steroids was celebrated rather than mourned, and has been celebrated with growing reverence ever since.
The massive peace movement that outlawed war in 1928, had been widespread, mainstream, and aggressive before 1917 as well. Antiwar Congress members had entered into the Congressional Record a sample of the flood of letters and petitions they had received urging that the U.S. stay out of war. Peace groups had held marches and rallies, sent delegations to Europe, met with the president, and pushed to require a popular vote before the launching of any war, believing that the public would vote war down. We’ll never know, because the vote was never taken. Instead, the United States jumped into the war, thereby preventing a negotiated settlement and creating a total victory followed by vicious punishment of the losing side — the very fuel for Nazism, as well as for Italian fascism, Japanese imperialism, and the Sykes-Picot carving up of the Middle East so beloved by that region’s residents to this day.
An antiwar exhibit that toured the U.S. in 1916 included a life-sized model stegosaurus that represented the fatal consequences of having heavy armor but no brains. The idea of preparing for war in order to achieve peace, which today is simple commonsense, was widely found to be a great source of humor, as Washington cynically pursued “preparedness.” Morris Hillquit, an eloquent socialist — something of a Bernie Sanders without the 21st-century militarism — asked why European nations, having fully armed themselves to avoid war, hadn’t avoided it. “Their antiwar insurance turned out to be a bad case of over-insurance,” he said. You prepare for war, and you get war — remarkably enough.
Woodrow Wilson won reelection on an antiwar platform, and could not have won it otherwise. After he opted for war, he was unable to raise an army to fight his war without a draft. And he was unable to sustain a draft without imprisoning people who spoke against it. He saw to it that conscientious objectors were brutally tortured (or, as we would say today, interrogated). Yet people refused, deserted, evaded, and violently fought recruiters by the thousands. The wisdom to reject war was not lacking. It just wasn’t followed by those in power.
The understanding that war should be ended, which reached its peak perhaps in the 1920s and 1930s, saw something of a comeback during what the Vietnamese call the American War. Martin Luther King did not propose a different war or a better war, but leaving behind the entire war system. That awareness has grown even as the Vietnam Syndrome has faded and war been normalized. Now, the U.S. popular mind is a mass of contradictions.
In a recent poll, 66% of people in the United States are worried that the U.S. will become engaged in a major war in the next four years. However, the U.S. is engaged in a number of wars right now that must seem pretty major to the people living through them, wars that have created the greatest refugee crisis so far on the planet and threatened to break similar records for starvation. In addition, 80% of the U.S. public in the very same poll say they support NATO. There’s a 50/50 split on whether to build yet more nukes. A slim majority favors banning refugees who are fleeing the wars. And over three-quarters of Democrats believe, for partisan rather than empirical reasons, that Russia is unfriendly or an enemy. Despite the warnings of the wise for over a century, people are still imagining they can use war preparations to avoid war.
One thing that could help keep us out of more wars is the Trump face now placed on the wars. People who will hate Russia because they hate Trump may at some point oppose Trump’s wars because they hate Trump. And those getting active to support refugees may also want to help end the crimes that create the refugees.
Meanwhile, German tanks are again rolling toward the Russian border, and instead of soliciting denunciations from groups like the Anne Frank Center, as recently done to combat Donald Trump’s anti-Semitism, U.S. liberals are generally applauding or avoiding any awareness.
One thing is certain: we will not survive another 100 years of this. Long before then, we will have to try something else. We will have to move beyond war to nonviolent conflict resolution, aid, diplomacy, disarmament, cooperation, and the rule of law.
World Beyond War is planning events everywhere, including these:
Remembering Past Wars . . . and Preventing the Next
April 3rd at NYU, New York, NY. (details TBA)
Speakers: Joanne Sheehan, Glen Ford, Alice Slater, Maria Santelli, David Swanson.
April 4, 6-8 p.m. Busboys and Poets, 5th and K Streets NW, Washington, D.C.
Speakers: Michael Kazin, Eugene Puryear, Medea Benjamin, David Swanson, Maria Santelli.
May 25, 6-8 p.m., Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA.
Speakers: Jackie Cabasso, Daniel Ellsberg, David Hartsough, Adam Hochschild.
Republished from a multipage article at http://worldbeyondwar.org/mapwar
When it comes to understanding wars, for some people, a picture of the dead or of the injured or of the traumatized or of those made refugees can be worth ten million words. And, for at least some of us, a picture of where war is in the world can be worth at least a thousand.
What follows are two dozen pictures mapping war and militarism and the struggle for peace overlaid on a global image of nations. These are drawn from — and you can create your own with — an online tool for mapping militarism published by World Beyond War at bit.ly/mappingmilitarism. This tool has just been updated with new data. On many of the maps at that link, unlike with the static images that follow, you can scroll back in time to see changes over recent years.
By laying some important facts about war on the map, we’re able to recognize some ideas that rarely make it into prose. Here are a few examples:
- The war in Afghanistan and the foreign occupation of Afghanistan have officially ended, but a map of the nations with troops still occupying Afghanistan still looks like NATO colonialism.
- The list of locations of severe wars changes from year to year but sticks to a certain region of the world — a region in which none of the major producers of the weapons of war and few of the big spenders on war can be found — but from which the bulk of refugees flee and in which the biggest concentration of that violence labeled “terrorism” germinates, these being two of war’s many tragic consequences.
- The United States dominates the war business, the sale of weapons to other nations, the sale of weapons to poor nations, the sale of weapons to the Middle East, the deployment of troops abroad, spending on its own military, and the number of wars engaged in.
- Only Russia is anywhere close to the U.S. in weapons dealing, and this pair of countries nearly splits the vast majority of the nuclear weapons possessed on earth.
- Efforts toward peace and disarmament are widespread and coming largely from the less-armed, less bellicose parts of the world, but not entirely.
- And those governments that are otherwise doing well by the world tend to be those not engaged in warfare (“humanitarian” warfare or otherwise).
The presentation that follows can also be found as a “prezi” (a variation on what’s more commonly called a powerpoint and used to be called a slide show). You can grab the prezi for your own use at the World Beyond War events resources page.
WHICH NATIONS HAVE TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN?
As noted in a petition to end the war in Afghanistan, which you are welcome to sign, the U.S. military now has approximately 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, plus 6,000 other NATO troops, 1,000 mercenaries, and another 26,000 contractors (of whom about 8,000 are from the United States). That’s 41,000 people engaged in a foreign occupation of a country, 15 years after the accomplishment of their stated mission to overthrow the Taliban government.
The sources for all the data in all the maps are noted on the map tool at bit.ly/mappingmilitarism. In this case, the source in NATO, which claims 6,941 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The slightly higher 8,000 figure comes from the U.S. commander in December expressing a hope to reduce the troop number to 8,400 by January 20.
Take a look at where the troops occupying Afghanistan all come from. It’s NATO plus the U.S.’s kangaroo sidekick down under plus 120 Mongolians. It’s the world’s self-appointed but generally resented policemen and a few hired security guards. Here’s an argument that they are doing more harm than good.
Remarks in Arlington, Va., January 29, 2017
Happy Year of the Rooster!
Thank you for inviting me. Thank you to Archer Heinzen for setting this up. Of course I wouldn't have come had I known UVA's basketball team would be playing Villanova at 1 o'clock. I'm kidding, but I'll catch it on the radio or watch the replay without the commercials. And when I do I can guarantee only this: the announcer will thank U.S. troops for watching from 175 countries, and nobody will wonder whether 174 wouldn't be just about enough.
I wish I could also guarantee that UVA will win, but this is where sports monkeys around with rational thinking. I don't actually have any say over whether UVA wins. So I can turn my wish into a prediction "We will win" and then declare that "we" won as if I'd been involved. Or let's say that UVA blows it. Then I can remark that "we" decided to keep London Perrantes in the game even though he had a sprained wrist and the flu and had just lost one leg in a car accident, even though the obvious fact is that were I really the coach I would never have done that, just as -- if I fully controlled the U.S. government -- I wouldn't actually spend a trillion dollars a year on war preparations.
The idea has been floated and endlessly reintroduced in legislation since the founding of the United States of creating a Department of Peace. These efforts even resulted in 1986 in the creation of the USI”P” — the U.S. Institute of “Peace” which this week held events with Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton, Madeleine Albright, Chuck Hagel, William Perry, Stephen Hadley, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Susan Rice, John Kerry, and Michael Flynn, and which in 2015 rejected proposals from the peace movement to have anything to do with advocating for peace. So the push to create a Department of Peace rolls on, generally ignoring the existence of the USI”P.”
I try to imagine what a senate confirmation hearing would look like for a nominee for Secretary of Peace. I picture the nominee being rolled in by his attendants and the questioning beginning something like this:
From all around the globe, nearly 50,000 people have signed this statement:
I understand that wars and militarism make us less safe rather than protect us, that they kill, injure and traumatize adults, children and infants, severely damage the natural environment, erode civil liberties, and drain our economies, siphoning resources from life-affirming activities. I commit to engage in and support nonviolent efforts to end all war and preparations for war and to create a sustainable and just peace.
Anyone inclined to can sign it here: http://worldbeyondwar.org/individual
In each of 143 countries, somewhere between 1 and several thousand people have signed. The purpose of the statement is to begin organizing a truly global movement. But certain countries are missing. Let’s resolve to add them to the map in 2017.
Obviously there exists at least one person in Venezuela and in Cuba and in Honduras and in Haiti and the Dominican Republic who wants to end all war. As in most countries, it is likely that most people in those countries want to do so. But who will be the first to put their name down?
Organizations can sign too, and several hundred have done so at: http://worldbeyondwar.org/organization
Can we find signers who will sign online or on hardcopy in Algeria, Libya, Western Sahara, Mali, Eritrea, Mauritania, Liberia, Chad, Angola?
What about in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, North Korea, or Papua New Guinea?
Beyond adding a single signer in each of these places, we want to add volunteer leaders who will join the global coordination of educational and activist efforts to rid our species of the disease of militarism before it rids the planet of us.
In 143 countries people have already signed and in a growing list have become active. World Beyond War now has country coordinators all over the world and is hiring paid staff to begin in January and work with them to accelerate our growth and intensify our activities.
Do you know anyone in any of the missing countries? Can you ask them to sign?
Do you know anyone who might know anyone who might know anyone in any of the missing countries? Can you ask them to sign?
Can you bring sign up sheets to any events you organize or attend in 2017 and ask everyone to sign, then mail them in (or photograph and email them in)? This is how we’ll grow. And this growth combined with the power of our message will change the world.
It was late,
In the middle of the second half of the night.
We were asleep.
By Johhn Grant
The War I Survived Was Vietnam: Collected Writings of a Veteran and Antiwar Activist
By Rev. John Dear
Today, Pope Francis released the annual World Day of Peace Message for January 1, 2017, called “Nonviolence—A Style of Politics for Peace.” This is the Vatican’s fiftieth World Day of Peace message, but it’s the first statement on nonviolence, in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—in history.
We need to make “active nonviolence our way of life,” Francis writes at the start, and suggests nonviolence become our new style of politics. “I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values,” Francis writes. “May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.”
In his historic statement, Pope Francis discusses the violence of the world, Jesus’ way of nonviolence, and the viable alternative of nonviolence for today. His message is a breath of fresh air for all of us, and offers a framework for all of us to envision our lives and our world.
By David Swanson, World Beyond War
I recently debated a pro-war professor on the topic “Is war ever necessary?” (video). I argued for abolishing war. And because people like to see successes before doing something, no matter how indisputably possible that thing is, I gave examples of other institutions that have been abolished in the past. One might include such practices as human sacrifice, polygamy, cannibalism, trial by ordeal, blood feuds, dueling, or the death penalty in a list of human institutions that have been largely abolished in some parts of the earth or which people have at least come to understand could be abolished.
Of course, an important example is slavery. But when I claimed that slavery had been abolished, my debate opponent quickly announced that there are more slaves in the world today than there were before foolish activists imagined they were abolishing slavery. This stunning factoid was meant as a lesson to me: Do not try to improve the world. It cannot be done. In fact, it may be counter-productive.
But let’s examine this claim for the 2 minutes necessary to reject it. Let’s look at it globally and then with the inevitable U.S. focus.
This post is also available in: Italian
In your website http://worldbeyondwar.org/ you say: “We strive to replace a culture of war with one of peace, in which nonviolent means of conflict resolution take the place of bloodshed”. So which role and value can nonviolence have in building such a culture?
Nonviolent action can play at least three roles here.
- It can demonstrate a superior means of resisting tyranny that causes less suffering, is more likely to succeed, and is likely to have a longer lasting success. While most of the examples, such as Tunisia 2011, are of overcoming domestic tyranny, there is a growing list of successful nonviolent resistance actions against foreign invasion and occupation as well — and a growing understanding of how to apply the lessons of domestic nonviolence to resistance to foreign attack.
- It can model a world that has outgrown war. Nations can lead by example, by joining international bodies and treaties, abiding by the rule of law and enforcing it. The International Criminal Court could indict a non-African. The United States which has stopped manufacturing cluster bombs could join the ban on them. Truth and reconciliation commissions could be expanded. Disarmament talks, humanitarian aid on a new scale, and the closure of foreign bases could be the change we want to see.
- Nonviolent protest and resistance tools can be used by activists to resist bases, weapons manufacture, military recruitment, and new wars. We didn’t stop Dal Molin in Vicenza, but we don’t have to accept it. The U.S. military should not be permitted to use facilities in Sicily to murder with drones in Asia and Africa. A year’s service to one’s country should not involve participating in a military. Public and private funds must be divested from weapons companies. Et cetera.
Before people had an easy way to see video footage of police murders, headlines crediting the police with just and noble actions couldn’t be effectively questioned.
We’re still back there in the dark ages when it comes to war murders, but we can overcome the lack of quickly shared videos if we choose to. When the headlines celebrate some sort of “victory” in Mosul or anywhere else, we can point out that the videos of people being blown up in their houses would be truly horrific if we had them. This is not, after all, a point on which there can actually be any question.
The police who murder innocents say they serve a grander purpose of maintaining law and order. Watching the videos of what they do eliminates all possibility of taking that seriously.
The war makers say they serve a grander purpose of . . . well, it depends; sometimes it’s also law and order, other times spreading democracy, other times weapons elimination, other times simply revenge. Imagining the videos we aren’t seeing should help us understand why these justifications do not hold up.
The U.S. has, in recent years, bombed Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. None of them is safer, less armed, more democratic, more peaceful, more prosperous, or less of a threat to others. Quite the contrary. “Defeating” ISIS by bombing people will fuel more suffering and violence, just as “defeating” the government of Saddam Hussein fueled ISIS.
Picture a woman in Mosul who lacks permission to go outside without a male guardian. Now picture that woman’s roof collapsing on her and her children with a thunderous crash and a cloud of dust. Is she better off? Do those who love her appreciate her “liberation”? Would the video be allowed on U.S. media outlets unless we shared it on social media as many times as we do a police video?
“One unfortunate incident.” “Collateral damage.” “A few bad apples.”
No. Police murder routinely and with immunity. Wars murder extensively, immorally, counterproductively, and illegally with immunity. There can be good policing. But there cannot be good war making. It’s all illegal under the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact. The war on terrorism has been increasing terrorism for years. The U.S. government itself admits it has no idea who most of the people are that it murders with drones.
“So you’re on the side of the criminals.” “You must love ISIS.” “Putin LOVER!”
In fact, this childish retort is more common on the question of war and, tragically, is sometimes fueled by a grain of truth. Even so-called peace groups have fallen for the “pick a side” routine on Syria for years. I know people opposed to U.S. war-making in Syria but not to the U.S. providing weapons to others. I know people opposed to both of those things but not to Syrian government war-making with help from Russia and others. I know people opposed to Syrian and Russian war-making but not to anything directed at overthrowing the Syrian government. I know people in favor of war against ISIS but not against Syria. I know people in favor of any war making armed and funded by Saudi Arabia or Qatar or Turkey but not by the United States or Russia. I could list 18 more variations, all from people claiming — as does the Pentagon — to favor peace.
I oppose war in the way I oppose dueling or blood feuds, not by supporting one side. I oppose the U.S.-led arming of Western Asia the way I oppose pushing heroin in poor neighborhoods, not by wanting particular people to get it all. I oppose murder by police or soldiers in the way that I oppose capital punishment — that is: not because videos make my social media browsing unpleasant, but because people’s lives are being taken.
It’s time we put an end to war as if we could see it.
The forthcoming book from creative activist and kayaktivist extraordinaire Bill Moyer and his Backbone Campaign colleagues should remake the United States and limit the oncoming onslaught of climate suffering. It's called Solutionary Rail: A People Powered Campaign to Electrify America's Railroads and Open Corridors to a Clean Energy Future.
Here's the idea. There is huge potential for solar and wind energy in vast open spaces of the United States. There is a need for pathways through which to transmit renewable-produced electricity to where it's needed in big cities and small towns. Meanwhile, under-used railroad lines crisscross the country. As coal and oil use drop, those lines will be even more under-used, unless we change something. Yet, trains are more efficient than trucks even now, and would be much more so if electrified. So, we should run electricity lines along newly-improved railroad lines, and use some of the electricity to cleanly power a lot more trains.
By electrifying rail, you make rail less expensive as well as cleaner. With improvements to tracks you also make it faster. More freight and passengers find their way to rail. More jobs are produced in renewable energy. People living near trains get a cleaner and quieter environment. Traffic is lessened on highways, reducing accidents, deaths, injuries, and wear and tear on the roads. Electric trains cost less, take less maintenance, and last longer. Regenerative braking can produce still more power.
This is a solution to air pollution, but its benefits just keep piling up. Electric rail is like the hemp of infrastructure. Faster, more efficient trains would take freight from trucks and planes, and people from planes and cars. Electric trains start and stop more quickly and can run more closely together than diesel trains. They run better on grades. They can run much faster than current U.S. trains on existing upgraded tracks. Restoring or adding double tracks provides three to four times the capacity of a single track.
Unless you're going all the way across the United States, for any shorter distance trip, a fast train from downtown to downtown is going to look mighty appealing when the alternative is a plane ride that involves: traveling to an exurban airport, being treated like a terrorism suspect, waiting hours, flying to an out-of-the-way city to wait additional hours switching planes, never being sure you'll be on time, buying much more expensive tickets, squeezing into a tiny seat with no chance to walk around, airplane food instead of a dining car, lousy internet, obnoxious announcements, and the knowledge that you're contributing mightily to the destruction of the earth's climate.
Is War Necessary?
David Swanson (War Is A Lie) vs. Roger Bergman ("There are just wars.")
Oct. 5, 7:00 p.m., McCarthy Arts Center, St. Michael's College.
Campus Road, Colchester, Vermont 05439 (just outside of Burlington).
Sponsored by the Peace and Justice Club and the Edmundite Center for Peace and Justice.
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Samantha Nutt has spent decades working on humanitarian aid in war zones. Her book, Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies, and Aid, is rich in wisdom drawn from experience. But more powerful and pointed, and worth beginning and ending with, is her talk titled "The Real Harm of the Global Arms Trade."
Nutt describes child armies across the global south including eight-year-olds who have never been to school but have fought and killed using automatic weapons. Yet, she says, war can be ended despite its being "as old as existence." (I think part of the path to ending it may involve rejecting myths like the one that war is as old as existence, but never mind that.)
Nutt describes a root cause of war that the wealthy of the world could easily eliminate, because it's not found in the "human nature" of Africans but in the financial records of educated, well-off, comfortable people typically not involved in war directly.
There are 800,000,000 small arms and light weapons in use in the world, Nutt says. There are places where you can get an AK47 for $10, and where you can get an automatic weapon more easily than a glass of clean water. (Of course it would cost a tiny fraction of military spending to provide the world with clean water -- $11.3 billion per year, says the U.N.)
Nutt shows two maps of the world, one highlighting the locations of wars, the other the locations of the big weapons exporters. There's no overlap. Like alcohol for Native Americans and opium for Chinese, weapons of war are products that the United States and Europe (and Russia and China) push on targeted populations. Eighty percent of all war weapons, Nutt says, come from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.
Nutt shows two other statistics. One is that small arms sales are up three-fold in the past 15 years. The other is that deaths caused by them are up over three-fold in the same time. Arms shipped to Iraq and Syria are in the hands of ISIS, she notes. Arms shipped to Libya are in the hands of Boko Haram. Weapons' first stop is rarely their last.
So, Nutt concludes, what we need is "transparency" in arms sales. Ignore that bit. I know that even transparency is too much to ask of the U.S. government, but that doesn't make it an appropriate demand. What we need is an end to weapons gifts and weapons sales. Everybody knows the U.S. is selling Saudi Arabia weapons with which to blow people up in Yemen, boost terrorism, and destabilize the region. Knowing it doesn't help anything. And stopping it wouldn't make a single other weapons sale or gift to a single other nation, or to Saudi Arabia next month, morally defensible. There's no proper way to deal arms.
So, if you live in the United Kingdom, make Jeremy Corbin your prime minister. And if you live in any other wealthy northern country, bring nonviolent pressure to bear on your society and your rotten government to end the arms trade. If we can divest from Israeli war crimes and nukes, we can divest from the overarching evil, which is war. Nutt also suggests weapons divestment in her book, along with numerous suggestions for improving and expanding humanitarian aid.
Antiwar and pro-aid activists need to work more closely together. Antiwar groups need Nutt's wisdom on where to best direct aid. Nutt, in my humble opinion, could use a bit more understanding of what's wrong with war. That sounds ridiculous for me to say from the safety of my home as she travels from war zone to war zone, but citing six million Jews as the greatest killing ever done by war misses the problem. And I don't mean by omitting the three million non-Jews killed in the camps (though why omit them?). I mean the 50 million or more killed in the war outside the camps, a war justified in U.S. mythology by the deaths of the Jews, despite the U.S. and U.K. governments' refusals to evacuate them or accept them as refugees.
Perpetuating World War II myths in an antiwar book for Americans is as ill advised as any of the counterproductive amateur attempts at aid that Nutt critiques. (Never mind the reduction by ten fold of the number of Iraqis killed since 2003 in the statistic Nutt uses, or her repetition of the "erase the state of Israel from the map" line/lie, or her claim that arming Paul Kagame is an example of good weapons proliferation, or her claim that we couldn't know Iraq had no nukes or chemical or biological weapons until years after 2003.)
Nutt's focus is not on debunking propaganda for war but on providing aid. She claims that "the single greatest impediment to peace [is] the marginalization of women and girls." Really? I don't deny its significance. But the single greatest impediment? Just a few pages later, Nutt is recognizing NATO's interest in pretending to have a reason to exist as a cause of the violence she's discussing in Somalia -- a place that does not manufacture the weapons used in it and still wouldn't if it stopped marginalizing women. A few lines later, Nutt is describing how using militaries trained and armed for war to provide aid tends to produce, on the contrary, war. Not only does the U.S. invest many times more in war than in aid, but it ruins prospects for private aid organizations by destroying, as Nutt recounts in Somalia, the ability of aid groups to claim neutrality, and the ability of suffering people to trust the advice of foreign doctors.
Nutt writes as well as anyone on the topic of Western society's deep financial investment in war:
"The New York State Teachers' Retirement System, for example, has nearly $2 billion invested in weapons manufacture. When teachers start betting on a boom in weapons sales to see them through their golden years, it's time to load the trunk of the car with flashlights and soup cans."
Later, Nutt writes:
"Peace, development, and security will remain stubbornly out of reach for any civilian population choking on weapons fed to them by countries with eighty times their GDP."
That strikes me as right, and as grounds for putting our efforts into ending arms dealing.
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.
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