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By Dan DeWalt
‘If the President Does It, It Isn’t Illegal’
-- Richard M. Nixon
Dear Senator Hagel,
Congratulations on your recent nomination to the office of Secretary of Defense. As you await the Senate’s decision on your confirmation, I would like to express to you some ideas about the office of Secretary of Defense, and what I would like to see from this office. I am the member of an organization called Veterans For Peace (VFP), which has been around since 1985. VFP was formed by a Viet Nam veteran with the intention of creating a bridge between the peace movement and veterans. VFP members believe that our collective experience as veterans allows us to speak about the true costs and consequences of war and militarism with a voice of credibility and true standing. We feel a responsibility to speak out against war and militarism, particularly when it is manifested in illegal and immoral wars of choice and aggression. I appreciate very much that President Obama has chosen you--someone who has seen first-hand the horrors of combat--to fill the position of Secretary of Defense. Like the members of VFP, your voice will carry an extraordinary credibility, because you understand war in a way that a civilian cannot. It will not be easy to dismiss your words when you caution against military force, or speak in favor of abiding by the Geneva Conventions. I hope that you will become a force for reshaping the Department of Defense, by consideration of the following:
1. Refuse to put troops into harm’s way as part of an illegal, immoral war of aggression. The 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), signed as a knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 has been used, first by the Bush administration, and now by the Obama administration, as a blank check for perpetual war. As the Secretary of Defense, you should refuse to deploy any combat troops until Congress provides a legally binding authorization to do so. As a combat veteran, you truly understand that no one should be asked to kill or be killed for a war of choice, particularly one that has not even been legally authorized. Demand adherence to the War Powers Act.
2. Take responsibility for the deaths, damage and harm done by the U.S. The “Collateral Murder” video leaked to Wikileaks showed the world just one instance of war crimes conducted by U.S. forces. For the United States to have any moral credibility whatsoever, we must take responsibility for our actions.
3. State unequivocally that the U.S. will abide by the Geneva Conventions and will not torture, or participate in the extraordinary rendition of prisoners.
4. Stop the illegal use of combat drones that are responsible the extrajudicial assassinations of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
5. Call for the closure of all U.S. military bases in foreign countries. The U.S. currently has military troops stationed in more than 150 countries around the world. Bringing U.S. troops back to the U.S. will send a strong message to the international community that the U.S. is not interested in hegemony, or in being the world’s policeman.
6. Call for the dismantlement of all nuclear weapons, and immediately take nuclear weapons off of naval vessels. There can never be a justified use of a nuclear weapon and if the U.S. is going to demand that other countries refrain from obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities, then it needs to lead the way in disarmament.
7. Stop the use of Depleted Uranium weapons. “DU” weapons violate the Geneva Conventions. Once exploded, DU particulates enter ground water, travel on air currents, and are inhaled by innocent civilians. DU weapons are responsible for a huge spike in deformities, birth defects and other ailments in Iraq where they were widely used.
8. End foreign military sales to countries who violate international laws and basic human rights, and who have child soldiers.
9. Push to become a signatory to the Land Mine treaty. The international community recognizes land mines and cluster bombs as weapons that kill a high number of civilians, often long after the “official” conflict is over.
10.Slash the Pentagon budget. The U.S. spends more on the military and war than the rest of the world combined. Bring our war dollars home.
In summary, I hope that you will use your unique qualifications and experience to push this administration into adherence with international law. I urge you, as a fellow veteran, to use your voice, your influence, and your power to guide and inform this administration towards a new type of Department of “Defense…” one that uses military force only for its actual defense.
By Dave Lindorff
By Dave Lindorff
All the sturm and drang in Washington over the March 1 deadline for a budget deal is an act. Two acts really.
Class War Films, the brainchild of three filmmakers, Lanny Cotler, and Paul and Jason Edwards, have offered to provide ThisCantBeHappening! with occasional short videos on topics like this, military spending, political fraud, financial crime, etc. They are working on creating a website, which will be called ClassWarriors.org, which should be functioning "soon" we are informed.
We're happy here at TCBH! to be able to help get their films out to a wider public.
By Alfredo Lopez
In the madness of our media-fed consciousness, the greatest threat to an informative news story is time. Given enough time, and the dysfunctional and disinformative way the mainstream media cover news, even the most important and revealing story quickly dies out.
That is, unless we who use alternative media keep that story alive.
By Norman Solomon
The words in President Obama’s “State of the Union” speech were often lofty, spinning through the air with the greatest of ease and emitting dog whistles as they flew.
Let’s decode the president’s smooth oratory in the realms of climate change, war and civil liberties.
“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.”
We’ve done so little to combat climate change -- we must do more.
“I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change…”
Climate change is an issue that can be very good for Wall Street. Folks who got the hang of “derivatives” and “credit default swaps” can learn how to handle “cap and trade.” The corporate environmental groups are on board, and maybe we can offer enough goodies to big corporations to make it worth their while to bring enough of Congress along.
A mountain of bad, in fact deadly, ideas that Congress will eagerly support, and a handful of good proposals that no one will work for and Congress will strive to bury: the SOTU is SNAFU, ICYMI.
Obama's hiring Romney campaign staff, pushing for a massive corporate trade deal with Europe as well as the Pacific nations, militarizing the Mexican border, and promising not to spend a dime before listing all the good things he'll spend it on. He'll defend human rights in Egypt (but not mention billions of dollars' worth of weapons he'll give the Egyptian government). "Sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness," he said. Readiness for what, Mr. President?
"We have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts," Obama lied about his drone kill program, and Congress cheered. He said he'd end the war on Afghanistan, and they cheered. They sat silently through the next few sentences as he promised NOT to end that war, and then they picked up the cheering again. He hyped the military as a jobs program. He committed to cutting Medicare. Cheers, cheers, cheers.
"We produce more oil at home," he bragged. "We produce more natural gas than ever." We need "a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on." Inspiring!
I recently read the script of a new play by Karen Malpede called "Extreme Whether." The title picks up on the crisis of global warming and the choice it presents to our species. The play will be performed in New York as part of a Festival of Conscience along with Malpede's brilliant antiwar play "Another Life."
"Extreme Whether" is a riff on the story of James Hansen, the NASA scientist who has been trying to tell Congress that the environment is collapsing since 1988. Malpede invents a family story for a character like Hansen. At least in reading (much different from watching) the story at first seems insufficiently tragic. But as the play advances, so does its vision of the damage being done. Yet the closer the play gets to communicating the apocalypse that may be to come, the more it appears to have fallen short, although it is of course the play itself that is waking one up to the horror. Some things defy description even as they're told to you. In the end, the play is sufficiently tragic, but it presents an image of people as irrational, hedonistic, and therefore hopeless -- an image we should be constantly correcting if possible, except that it, too, seems pretty accurate.
The real Hansen will be speaking at the Festival of Conscience, as will I. See the schedule below.
First, this Sunday is a day to rally in Washington, D.C., for serious action on climate change. Be there. And make sure anyone who's not on board with this movement watches a performance of "Extreme Whether."
And that evening, help mark 10 Years of D.C. Poets Against the War.
Ann B. Knox, read a poem called "This Moment" in front of the White House on February 12, 2003:
We meet in this wind-harsh square
with some expectation,
some hope our presence will count,
our voices be heard.
We speak from what we know
and we know no poem
stirs from a closed mind.
Has the mailed fist
so closed on its own purpose
we speak to stone?
Pay attention, our words matter,
these bare trees matter,
the Potomac flowing black
under white ice matters,
kids, woods, a leashed dog,
All our lives converge
on this moment
and what follows tonight,
tomorrow, next week
will change our whole
"Sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness," he said.
Readiness for what, Mr. President?
Written by KAREN MALPEDE
Performances Thursday - Sunday, March 28 - April 21
Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8:00pm
Sunday at 3:00pm
starring George Bartenieff with Abbas Noori Abbood, Christen Gifford, Abraham Makany, Alex Tavis & Di Zhu.
Another Life is a surreal romp through the post-9/11 decade; an out-sized mogul (George Bartenieff) controls, cashes-in, and is undone in the only American play about the U.S. torture program. Another Life has been excerpted in The Kenyon Review, given a staged reading at the National Theater of Kosovo, was a centerpiece of the Art of Justice: 9/11 Performance Project at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater, and was further acclaimed during a workshop run at the Irondale Center last March. The play, written in a fast-paced lyric language, is based on research, interviews, testimonies, the words of torturers and tortured, and has been widely praised by experts in the field of human rights, for its inventiveness, power and ability to create empathy. George Bartenieff gives a tour de force performance as the Cheneyesque mogul Handel. Christin Clifford is his wife Tess and Abbas Noori Abood his prisoner Abdul. Di Zhu is his wounded physician daughter who becomes a whistle-blower; Alex Tavis a disgraced F.B.I. officer becomes head of Handel’s private contracting interrogation business. Abraham Makany is Geoff, Lucia’s fiancé who died in the Twin Towers, and retains the innocence of a previous age. With lighting by Tony Giovennetti, video design by Luba Lukova, costumes by Sally Ann Parsons and Carissa Kelly, set by Robert Eggers and music by Arthur Rosen, and written and directed by Karen Malpede, Another Life is a challenge to the legacy of torture. March 28-April 21, Thurs-Sat. at 8pm, Sun at 3pm; special Saturday, April 13 matinee at 3 pm.
Please Note: On Saturday, April 13, there will be a 3pm Matinee performance of ANOTHER LIFE. There will be no 8pm performance on April 13.
Play reading Monday, April 8 at 7pm
Saturday, April 13 at 8pm
Extreme Whether, a new play, will be given two premiere readings; itdraws inspiration from two earlier eco-conscious writers, Ibsen and Chekhov. It is a family drama set on an endangered wilderness estate in an endangered world; as immediate and startling as today’s extreme weather news. With fierce commitment to truth-telling and heroic persistence against the censorship of science a famous climate scientist and his younger colleague and lover battle industry climate change deniers to alert the wider public to the need for action. An old environmentalist, a wise child and a frog complete the cast. An original musical score by Arthur Rosen creates the cosmic dance. George Bartenieff, Kathleen Chalfant, Zack Grenier lead the cast alongside Soraya Broukhim, Kathleen Purcell and Alex Tavis in the two readings of this new play by Karen Malpede. April 8 at 7pm and April 13 at 8 pm, only.
FESTIVAL OF CONSCIENCE
Both plays are presented in conjunction with A Festival of Conscience, a series of post-show dialogues with major voices. These post-show talks are free to all.
March 28: Noor Elashi, writer, daughter of Ghassan Elashi, currently serving 65 years in a CMU prison in Colorado, for having led a Muslim charity that sent donations to Gaza, Pardiss Kabriaei, CCR lawyer representing Muslim’s in the U.S.
Thursday, April 4, David Swanson, author War Is A Lie, blogger, radio host
Sunday, April 7 (post-matinee): Elizabeth Holtzman, Cheating Justice & Karen J. Greenberg, Director, Center on National Security, Fordham Law.
Monday, April 8: 8 pm Reading Extreme Whether, post-show talk by Dr. James Hansen, NASA, America’s foremost climate scientist
Thursday, April 11, 8pm Another Life, tba post-show discussion
Friday, April 12, 8 pm Another Life, post-show Victoria Brittan, journalist, co-author, Guantanamo: Honour Bound to Defend Duty; Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror
Saturday, April 13: 2 pm matinee of Another Life. 4:30-6 Post-show panel, Ramzi Kassem, lawyer for Gitmo detainees, Jesselyn Radack, Government Accountability Project, lawyer for many of the whistle blowers, including John Kiriakou; and Tom Drake, whistle blower and former intelligence officer.
Sunday, April 14: 2 pm matinee of Another Life. 4:30-6 post-show panel, Michael Ratner, Exec. Director of CCR and lawyer for Julian Assange; and Christian Parenti, author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, and other books, and contributing editor to The Nation.
By Dave Lindorff
The US government doesn't like Iran. I get that. It claims, on pretty dubious grounds, that Iran might be planning, at some point down the road, to take some of the uranium it is processing into nuclear fuel to a higher level of purity and make it into an atomic bomb.
by Debra Sweet Tuesday on Democracy Now, Daniel Ellsberg pointed out that President Obama is "thinking like John Yoo." The White Paper leaked just as the drone-in-chief/assassination czar John Brennan begins hearings to become the new head of the C.I.A. doesn't rise to level of the more sophisticated memo like the one Yoo wrote to justify torture (download PDF) but it's just as chilling. Apparently the Obama administration is giving the memo which this White Paper is based on to Congress today.
By Dave Lindorff
For a masterpiece in cognitive dissonance, just look to the foreign editors and the managing editor of the New York Times, who ran two stories in Saturday’s paper without referencing each other at all.
By John Grant
By Dave Lindorff
I personally found the president’s inaugural speech not just insipid, but disgusting. It reached its gut-churning nadir near the end where he said:
Meet the new boss who, upon his inauguration, declared that the right to life is unalienable. Let me be clear, that doesn't mean he can't take yours.
In fact, he runs through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays, hung over from inaugurations or not, and picks whom to murder and murders them.
We're not supposed to call it murder, of course, because it's properly assassination. Except that no public figures are being assassinated; 98% of those killed are not targeted at all; some are targeted for suspicious behavior without knowing their names; one type of suspicious behavior is the act of retrieving the dead and wounded from a previous strike; and those targeted are not targeted for politics but for resisting illegal occupations. Moreover, an assassination is a type of murder.
We're not supposed to call it murder, nonetheless, because it sounds more Objective to call it killing. But murder is a type of killing, specifically unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought. Killing by accident is not murder and not what the president is doing. Killing legally is not murder and not what the president is doing -- at least not as far as anyone knows or according to any interpretation of law put forward. Killing indirectly by encouraging poverty or environmental destruction or denial of healthcare may be things the president is doing, but they are not murder and not drone wars.
Imagine if a non-president went through a list of everyone in your local elementary school, picked out whom to kill, and ordered them killed. You would call it murder. You would call it mass-murder. You would call it conspiracy to commit mass murder. Why would electing that mass murderer president change anything? Why would moving the victims abroad change anything?
KILL ANYTHING THAT MOVES
"Kill Anything That Moves" is the title of an important new book from Nick Turse, covering the mass-murdering enterprise known in Vietnam as the American War, and in the United States as the Vietnam War. Turse documents that policy decisions handed down from the top led consistently, over a period of years, to the ongoing slaughter of millions of civilians in Vietnam. Much of the killing was done by hand or with guns or artillery, but the lion's share came in the form of 3.4 million combat sorties flown by U.S. and South Vietnamese aircraft between 1965 and 1972. Air strikes are President Obama's primary instrument of foreign relations as well; he ordered 20,000 air strikes in his first term.
The well-known Mylai massacre in Vietnam was not an aberration, but an almost typical incident and by no means the worst of them. Turse documents a pattern of ongoing atrocities so pervasive that one is compelled to begin viewing the war itself as one large atrocity. Something similar could be done for the endless war on everywhere that we are currently living through. Scattered atrocities and scandals in Afghanistan and Iraq are interpreted as freak occurrences having nothing to do with the general thrust of the war. And yet they are its essence.
"Kill anything that moves," was an order given to U.S. troops in Vietnam indoctrinated with racist hatred for the Vietnamese. "360 degree rotational fire" was a command on the streets of Iraq given to U.S. troops similarly conditioned to hate, and similarly worn down with physical exhaustion.
Dead children in Vietnam resulted in comments like "Tough shit, they grow up to be VC." One of the U.S. helicopter killers in Iraq heard in the Collateral Murder video says of dead children, "Well it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle."
In Vietnam anyone dead was the enemy, and sometimes weapons would be planted on them. In drone wars, any dead males are militants, and in Iraq and Afghanistan weapons have often been planted on victims.
The U.S. military during the Vietnam War shifted from keeping prisoners toward murdering prisoners, just as the Endless War on Everywhere has shifted from incarceration toward murder with the change in president from Bush to Obama.
In Vietnam, as in Iraq, rules of engagement were broadened until the rules allowed shooting at anything that moved. In Vietnam, as in Iraq, the U.S. military sought to win people over by terrorizing them. In Vietnam, as in Afghanistan, whole villages were eliminated.
In Vietnam, refugees suffered in horrible camps, while in Afghanistan children are rapidly freezing to death in a refugee camp near Kabul.
Torture was common in Vietnam, including water-boarding. But it wasn't at that time yet depicted in a Hollywood movie as a positive occurrence.
Napalm, white phosphorus, cluster bombs, and other widely despised and banned weapons were used in Vietnam as in the current war.
Vast environmental destruction was part of both wars.
Gang rape was a part of both wars.
The mutilation of corpses was common in both wars.
Bulldozers flattened people's villages in Vietnam, not unlike what U.S.-made bulldozers do now to Palestine.
Mass murders of civilians in Vietnam, as in Afghanistan, tended to be driven by a desire for revenge.
New weaponry allowed U.S. troops in Vietnam to shoot long distances, resulting in a habit of shooting first and investigating later, a habit now developed for drone strikes.
Self-appointed teams on the ground and in helicopters went "hunting" for natives to kill in Vietnam as in Afghanistan.
And of course, Vietnamese leaders were targeted for assassination.
Then, as now, the atrocities and "war crimes" were committed with impunity as part of the crime that was the war itself. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say: because there was impunity then, it remains today.
Turse discovered that the military investigated numerous accusations, documented incidents, and then buried the reports. So did others in the government. So did the media, includingNewsweek which buried a major investigation. Those who engaged in that coverup don't have on their hands the blood that had already been spilled, but do have on their hands the blood that has been spilled since in similar wars that might have been prevented.
Vietnamese victims who saw their loved ones tortured, murdered, and mutilated are -- in some cases -- still furious with rage decades later. It's not hard to calculate how long such rage will last in the nations now being "liberated."
The crowd that turns out and shuts down Washington, D.C., for Obama inaugurations imagines that it is advancing peace and justice. But it does so by cheering for one of two teams regardless of that team's performance. Were that size crowd to turn out just once for a substantive demand, for peace or justice or any of the good causes favored by the people involved, a real victory would be obtainable.
If the crowd learned this week that Obama is murdering people, and returned next week to demand an end to the murders, the resulting movement would indeed end them. Not only am I sure of that, but I hold it to be self-evident.
By Dave Lindorff
There were no memorable lines in President Obama’s second inaugural address. Certainly nothing like Franklin Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” which was in his first inaugural, or like John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country.”
But there was plenty he said that was troubling.
The problem mostly wasn’t what he said. It was how he said it, and what he left unsaid.
Bomber in Chief: 20,000 Airstrikes in the President's First Term Cause Death and Destruction from Iraq to Somalia
Many people around the world are disturbed by U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. The illusion that American drones can strike without warning anywhere in the world without placing Americans in harm's way makes drones dangerously attractive to U.S. officials, even as they fuel the cycle of violence that the "war on terror" falsely promised to end but has instead escalated and sought to normalize. But drone strikes are only the tip of an iceberg, making up less than 10 percent of at least 20,130 air strikes the U.S. has conducted in other countries since President Obama's inauguration in 2009.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
America’s corporate news media love highlighting David-besting-Goliath stories…except apparently, when the fallen Goliath is major media mogul Rupert Murdoch – the billionaire owner of America’s caustic FOX News and other entities.
What you can do to stop drone wars and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s opposition to militarism, racism, and extreme materialism.
1. Take 30 seconds to join 60,000 others in pushing for a ban on weaponized drones.
2. Take 30 seconds to demand that the millions being wasted on inaugural balls go to those who have lost their jobs, healthcare, and homes.
3. Be in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to say: No Blank Check for Israel!
Condition U.S. aid to Israel on compliance with U.S. and international law!
4-6 p.m. in Farragut Square
4. Join a meeting of anti-drone activists in Washington, D.C., on Sunday at 4 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church located at 400 I (Eye) Street, SW Washington, DC (near Arena Stage); Metro: 1 block from Waterfront Metro (GREEN LINE). Contact 571-501-3729.
5. Attend a rally and march in Washington, D.C., on Monday morning.
9-10 a.m. Rally with prominent speakers and music at Meridian Hill Park (lower level) at Florida Avenue and 16th Street NW, Washington DC, 20008. At 10 a.m. parade forms and marches down 16th Street NW to K Street NW. Contact 202-422-6275.
6. Do a die-in Monday in Washington, D.C., organized by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR). At the U.S. Capitol sometime after noon. Those dying-in will be risking arrest, and as we lie on the ground we will cover our bodies with a red-painted sheet to represent a bloody shroud, and with a large picture of a drone victim. We invite you to participate in this action -- either risking arrest, or to be there in solidarity and witness. We call on all participating to commit to nonviolence. There are a number of people who would like to participate in both the Arc of Justice Rally and Parade, and then participate in the die-in. We have organized our action so that people will be able to do both. If you are planning or thinking about risking arrest, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org – especially if you will be joining us at 11:45 am after the Arc of Justice Parade.
January 21, Inauguration Day. Meet at 8 a.m. at the food court at Union Station near King BBQ and Vittorio's Gelato. OR: Rendezvous point for people hooking up after Arc of Justice Parade will be at 11:45 a.m. in the same location. We will leave Union Station as a group at 12:15 p.m. and move towards the Capitol for the die-in. Photos of drone victims and shrouds will be provided for people risking arrest. We will need people to hand out flyers during the die-in. It is suggested that those dying-in bring a piece of plastic to put underneath them on the sidewalk. Temperatures are supposed to be in the upper 30s or low 40s and we may be lying on the ground for up to an hour. If you can play a support role for the action, please contact email@example.com or 608 239-4327.
7. Attend the launching of a new book: We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in The 21st Century. Reading, signing and discussion of new book in honor of MLK Day. 7-9 p.m. on Monday at 1525 Newton Street NW, Washington, DC 20010
By Dave Lindorff
What is wrong with America?
By Kourosh Zaibari
By Dave Lindorff
The all-out assault on Social Security has begun.
The set-up for the big battle was the Fiscal Cliff charade. That hyped drama in the last days of December was a moment of truth for the Democratic Party and for President Barack Obama to make it clear whether they were still defenders of the New Deal legacy, or whether they were ready to toss Social Security overboard on behalf of the party’s new constituency: the Wall Street gang.
By John Grant
Those that respect the law and love sausage should watch neither being made.
-- Mark Twain