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In Obamaland, ‘Rule of Law’ is for the Other Suckers: US (and French) Courts Have Ruled Head-of-State Immunity is Absolute
By Dave Lindorff
It is clear that the entrapment and forced landing in Austria of the official airplane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was the work of the US, which was obviously behind the decision by France and Portugal to deny air rights to the flight, and which also was obviously behind the Austrian government’s demand to be allowed to search the jet after it landed. After all, those countries have no interest themselves in capturing US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is only Obama’s and the NSA’s quarry.
By John Grant
We're all aware of the reputed Chinese curse about living in interesting times. Upheaval seems to be in the air. According to Wikipedia, the interesting times curse was linked with a second, more worrisome curse: "May you come to the attention of those in authority."
In Washington Dulles airport I noticed a large advertisement. I'd seen it before and not paid attention. (No doubt that's why they saturate public space with the things.) It showed a woman's face with the words: "A car crash in California almost took her leg. A bomb blast in Iraq helped save it." It directed one to a website: orthoinfo.org/dominique
I'm against car crashes in California. I'm in favor of saving Dominique's leg. But at the website what we find is a claim that her leg was saved because her orthopaedic surgeon had experience in Iraq. And I don't mean in the Iraqi hospitals that existed before we destroyed that country. I mean he had experience in the destruction process.
"Thank you, Dr. Paul Girard. How lucky was I to have an orthopaedic surgeon with wartime experience and special insights on how to treat an injury like mine?" Thus writes Dominique, whose partner James comments on the doctor: "His experience as a wartime orthopaedic surgeon in Iraq gave him a special familiarity with traumatic limb injuries." How would James know this? Presumably the doctor, whose own comments don't mention the war, told him. Or someone ghost wrote the website.
The orthoinfo.org website was created by three societies of orthopaedic surgeons that clearly know which side of the mutilated troop their bread is buttered on. (Orthopaedic comes through French from the Greek for boneheaded.)
Surely a few people walk through U.S. airports while simultaneously living in reality, the reality in which the United States destroyed the nation of Iraq, slaughtered 1.4 million people, created 4.5 million refugees, destroyed the health and education and energy infrastructures, created epidemics of disease and birth defects, traumatized millions of children, and left behind a ruined violent anarchic state cursed with deep divisions previously unknown.
Surely some of those reality-based people are aware that a majority of Americans believes the war benefitted Iraq, and a plurality believes Iraqis are grateful. To read, on top of that perversity, the claim that a bomb blast in Iraq saved Dominique's leg is sickening. A doctor saved her leg. He found a silver lining in a genocide. The bomb blasts didn't fucking save people. The bomb blasts killed people. And very few of the killers or their funders or their voters seem to care.
In St. Paul, Minnesota, the state capitol is surrounded by war memorials. No evidence of opposition to war is apparent to the casual visitor. Militarism, as anywhere else in the United States, is everywhere visible. The sports arena flashes a giant electronic ad for the National Guard. But the ad flashes on Kellogg Boulevard. Almost no one knows what Kellogg Boulevard was named for. But local son Frank Kellogg won the Nobel Peace Prize for organizing the major nations of the world to ban war, and did so prior to all the wars honored on the grounds of the state capitol. This of course proves that Kellogg's war opposition should be forgotten since the wars so stupidly and barbarically fought in violation of the law since his day have brought us such a wealth of benefits. For example . . . medical miracle jackasses capable of surgery but not moral reflection.
Local activists plan to revive memory of Kellogg's Peace Pact this August. Stay tuned.
Wisconsin: I remember when it was alive with protest, as North Carolina is now, when the activists joined with the Democrats and therefore labor. I remember the pizzas ordered for Wisconsin from Cairo and vice versa. Egypt's fate is far from clear. But this we know. Egypt has set an example of independent, partisan-free, uncompromising populism that shows no signs of fading away. Egypt threw out a corrupt leader and then threw out his corrupt replacement. We let a corrupt leader rule the United States for 8 years and then bowed down before his corrupt successor.
This country is far far too big, and the population of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area far too uncomprehending for us to walk like an Egyptian. Clearly the people of any state you care to visit could run a respectable country if it weren't for the other 49.
I know you don't want to hear the word secession. But what about the word shame? Would that be too much to ask for?
Public Support Grows for Snowden in Europe: Germany and France Should offer NSA Whistleblower Asylum
By Dave Lindorff
Europeans are pissed off at the US, in the wake of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden’s latest revelation that the US was aggressively spying on its European allies, both at their and the European Union’s embassies in Washington, and in Europe itself, gleaning not information about terrorism, but inside-track knowledge about trade negotiation positions and other areas of disagreement or negotiation.
Spending cuts have been applied by Congress to both military and non-military spending.
In my view, the military cuts are much too small and the non-military cuts should not exist at all. In the view of most liberal organizations, the military cuts -- like the military spending and the military itself -- are to be ignored, while the non-military cuts are to be opposed by opposing all cuts in general.
But, guess what?
The spending limits on the military are being blatantly violated. Both houses of Congress have now passed military budgets larger than last year and larger than is allowed under the sequester.
Meanwhile the sequester is being used to cut away at all that is good and decent in public policy.
In fact, the House Appropriations Committee proposes to make up for its violation of the law on military spending levels by imposing yet bigger cuts to non-military spending. And what's the harm in that if all cuts are equally bad?
The sequester, like the anti-torture statute, the war crimes statute, the Fourth Amendment, the First Amendment, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, or the U.N. Charter, turns out to be one of those optional laws.
Laws are for certain people. The top general now being investigated as a whistleblower does not have a nude isolation cell at Quantico in his future, even though Bradley Manning was treated that way.
Laws are for certain things. Shooting children in a U.S. school is a crime. Dropping a missile on a foreign school is something more like law enforcement. Mothers in Yemen now teach their neighbors' children at home so that they can avoid going out to school while the drones are overhead. That's called freedom, the spread of democracy.
And this is called propaganda: "Sequester Putting Military at Risk of Becoming 'Hollow Force'." That's a real headline, and there are dozens more like it. Only in the U.S. military can increases be widely reported as disastrous cuts. The half-truth is entirely unintended. The military spending will, in fact, be disastrous. It's just not cuts.
We have 11 percent in the United States in favor of arming Syrians, or rather "Syrians" as so many of them are recently arrived in Syria for the purpose of killing. Eleven percent! That's nothing. That's less than believe in ghosts (48% of Americans according to CBS believe in ghosts). But the U.S. military and its commander in chief do what they want to do. Democracy be damned. And consequences be damned. And the people of Syria be damned.
The silver lining in the sequester's storm of misinformation is that states and localities are expecting cuts to the military. Connecticut has set up a commission to plan a process of conversion from military to non-military industries. I hope it will serve as a model for the other 49 states and D.C.
But there ought to be another silver lining, and I'm not seeing it yet. Most liberal activist groups have still not grasped that some cuts are good and others bad, that we should be campaigning for cuts to the war machine that swallows 57% of discretionary spending while campaigning for dramatic increases in spending on green energy, education, and other human needs.
Now is the moment for that realization. Now is the time to stop saying "No Cuts!" and start saying "Move the money from evil spending to good!"
By Dave Lindorff
The spectacle of the US threatening Hong Kong, China, Russia and now little Ecuador with all manner of reprisals if they don’t respect the “rule of law” and hand over whistleblower Edward Snowden to the US, is delicious to watch.
Congress can't break 10 percent approval. Obama's arms shipments to Syria just crack 10 percent, with 11 percent approval. Over 80 percent of Americans in more polls than I can count say over and over again that the government is broken and does not represent us. But when the mayors of the cities of the United States get together nationally one begins to see positions taken, at least rhetorically, that resemble government of, by, or for the people.
On Monday the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously adopted a resolution "CALLING FOR U.S. LEADERSHIP IN GLOBAL ELIMINATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND REDIRECTION OF MILITARY SPENDING TO DOMESTIC NEEDS."
Cities can follow the leads of their mayors and pass similar resolutions. A bill in Congress (HR 1650) at least partially meets the proposals in the resolution, and cities could ask their representatives in the U.S. House to sign onto it. The state of Connecticut this month created a commission to work for the conversion of Connecticut's economy away from militarism and toward peaceful manufacturing jobs. Cities could create such commissions or urge their states to do so. It would be good to see such steps follow from Monday's admirable rhetoric. The resolution, as passed, included this:
"BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the President and Congress to reduce funding for modernization of nuclear weapons systems, to reduce nuclear weapons spending to the minimum necessary to assure the safety and security of the existing weapons as they await disablement and dismantlement, and redirect those funds to meet the urgent needs of cities; and
"BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the President and Congress to reduce military spending and to reinvest those funds in programs to address the dramatic increase in poverty and inequality in our country; take emergency measures to repair the social safety net and protect Social Security and Medicare; create jobs, retrain displaced workers, including military contractors, rebuild deteriorating physical infrastructure, invest in new technologies for a sustainable energy future, and aid local government to restore and maintain vital public services, reemploying teachers, police, firefighters and other workers."
The bill passed this month by the Connecticut legislature and signed by the Governor creates a commission to develop a plan for, among other things:
"the diversification or conversion of defense-related industries with an emphasis on encouraging environmentally-sustainable and civilian product manufacturing. On or before December 1, 2014, the commission shall submit such report to the Governor and, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a, to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to commerce."
The commission "shall Advise the General Assembly and the Department of Economic and Community Development on issues relating to the diversification or conversion of defense-related industries" among other things.
Read the full text, inlcuding the make-up of the commission, which is to include labor union and peace movement representatives. Imagine Congress creating something like that!
But Congress has, at least created this: a bill with a non-voting sponsor and no cosponsors, H.R.1650, the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act of 2013, a bill introduced over and over again by Washington D.C.'s representative in Congress, following action by the city council of D.C. The key part of the bill reads:
(a) In General- The United States Government shall--
(1) provide leadership to negotiate and enter into a multilateral treaty or other international agreement by the date that is three years after the date of the enactment of this Act that provides for--
(A) the dismantlement and elimination of all nuclear weapons in every country by not later than 2020; and
(B) strict and effective international control of such dismantlement and elimination;
(2) redirect resources that are being used for nuclear weapons programs to use--
(A) in converting all nuclear weapons industry employees, processes, plants, and programs smoothly to constructive, ecologically beneficial peacetime activities, including strict control of all fissile material and radioactive waste, during the period in which nuclear weapons must be dismantled and eliminated pursuant to the treaty or other international agreement described in paragraph (1); and
(B) in addressing human and infrastructure needs, including development and deployment of sustainable carbon-free and nuclear-free energy sources, health care, housing, education, agriculture, and environmental restoration, including long-term radioactive waste monitoring;
(3) undertake vigorous, good-faith efforts to eliminate war, armed conflict, and all military operations; and
(4) actively promote policies to induce all other countries to join in the commitments described in this subsection to create a more peaceful and secure world.
(b) Effective Date- Subsection (a)(2) shall take effect on the date on which the President certifies to Congress that all countries possessing nuclear weapons have--
(1) eliminated such weapons; or
(2) begun such elimination under established legal requirements comparable to those described in subsection (a).
Not a bad bill to pass, if we had anyone representing us.
By Dave Lindorff
Now that Edward Snowden is safely away out of the clutches of the US police state, at least for now, let’s take a moment to contemplate how this one brave man’s principled confrontation with the Orwellian US government has damaged our national security state.
By Dave Lindorff
Just for the sake of argument, let's suspend our disbelief for a moment and pretend (I know it's a stretch) that the Obama administration and the apologists for the nation's spy apparatus in Congress, Democratic and Republican, are telling us the gods' honest truth.
“Our primary long range interest in Geneva, however, is general and complete disarmament, designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms. . . .
“While we proceed to safeguard our national interests, let us also safeguard human interests. And the elimination of war and arms is clearly in the interest of both.”
That was President John F. Kennedy speaking to the 1963 graduating class of American University —announcing that the human race was ready to move beyond war. This was the speech in which he revealed that talks on a Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union had begun, and that the U.S. was unilaterally suspending atmospheric nuclear testing.
Fifty years later, the words seem like an archaeological find — quaint, strange, shocking. Look, common sense! Perfectly preserved. Once upon a time, such a goal — disarmament, the end (good God!) of war itself —had political cred at the highest levels.
Kennedy even had the audacity to proclaim that peace wasn’t totally a matter of our enemy du jour, the Soviets, changing their behavior. “I also believe,” he said, “that we must reexamine our own attitudes, as individuals and as a nation, for our attitude is as essential as theirs.”
Politics that makes room for self-reflection? While he proceeds to bash the Communists for bad-mouthing the U.S., he calls their rhetoric “a warning to the American people not to fall into the same trap as the Soviets, not to see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats.”
This is politics outside the simple zone of winning and losing. Kennedy dared to suggest that that peace was complex, that it was not a mere matter of military strength and the power to dominate, and that “our enemy” was not subhuman. The American public was ready to hear this half a century ago. What happened? And more to the point, how do we return to this cutting edge of political sanity?
As I listened to Kennedy’s speech, which a number of people have pointed out to me recently, what struck me even more, perhaps, than the words themselves, was that the president seemed to be speaking from a position independent of the American and global military-industrial consensus. That this should stand out as unusual — that my inner political child should feel moved to ask, “Is a president allowed to do that?” — is truly unnerving.
Once upon a time, not all that long ago, the highest levels of American government were capable of representing more than just the status quo, and were not irrelevant to real social change. Once upon a time, principles stood independent of politics. It was always shaky, of course. The Kennedy presidency was flawed; the Vietnam War was set at simmer. But once upon a time, one could look for real values in the political arena . . . and find them.
What has happened in the intervening years has been a hollowing out of those principles and of democracy itself — a moral bottoming out, you might say. What has happened is that the military-industrial consensus has taken control. No more nonsense. War wins. We’re addicted to it.
“But any awake American can see that PRISM is only one sock on a long line of dirty laundry,” Erin Niemela wrote recently at Common Dreams. “The list of U.S. government abuses and failures to protect stretches far and wide. . . .
“While PRISM and the rest of the gang are individually sordid, when combined they are the track marks of a far more pervasive, widespread, life-wasting problem. One that has systematically attacked not just the Fourth Amendment, but also the First, Second, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and 10th. No matter how hard we advocate for the Fourth Amendment now, others will fall so long as this substance burns through the veins of the Republic.
“This is your government on war.”
Whatever the threats that emanate from beyond or within the national borders, the overwhelming condition that concerned citizens — the ones, for instance, in sync with Kennedy’s 1963 speech — must address is that the government itself is the problem, and its abuses both at home and abroad are only going escalate until its addiction to war is curbed. And the first step in this process is to declare: no future wars. The seductive rhetoric pushing “the next war” is a lie. It’s always a lie, concealing the addiction. The game stops here. No future wars!
Niemela proposes a constitutional amendment: “The American people, in accordance with the promotion of international justice, peace, human rights and dignity, hereby renounce the use of organized, armed force to resolve intra- and inter-state conflict; neither war nor war-making processes shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
David Swanson, in response, proposed enforcing the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact, which the United States along with more than 80 other nations signed, agreeing that the settlement of all disputes between signatory nations “shall never be sought except by pacific means.”
The precedent is there. I don’t doubt that the moral passion, in the U.S. and around the globe, is there as well. The idea of ending war can no longer be compromised. Can it regain the political presence it had 50 years ago? That part is up to us.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press) is now available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit his website at commonwonders.com or listen to him at Voices of Peace radio.
© 2013 TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
A Cure for War – With Limitations.
by Erin Niemela
Earlier this week I wrote an editorial proposing a 28th constitutional amendment to abolish war. The NSA scandal, I argue, is tied to the more pervasive problem of violent foreign (and domestic) policy, and we’ll continue to see government abuses so long as war and inter-state military violence are the acceptable choices for conflict management. David Swanson, author of the brilliant history, “When the World Outlawed War,” thoughtfully responded to my plea by urging us to recall and reignite the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, an existing international pact renouncing war signed and ratified by the US president and Senate.
I agree with Mr. Swanson that any efforts to end war should point to existing law, and we agree that abolishing war is possible and necessary. However, the Kellogg-Briand Pact is not without its limitations, and a fresh, people-driven constitutional amendment could both address those limitations and offer current, culturally relevant and legally dispositive reinforcement.
By Dave Lindorff
It’s a pretty sad spectacle watching the US Congress toading up to the National Security Agency. With the exception of a few stalwarts like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and to a lesser extent Ron Wyden (D-OR), most of the talk in the halls of Congress is about how to keep the army of Washington private contractors from accessing too many of the government’s secrets (which need to be protected by government employees!), and about whether to try NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden for treason.
A report on June 11, 2013 from Reuters calls Richard Falk, the United Nations human rights investigator for Palestine, ‘embattled’, apparently because he has once again refused to dance to the U.S.-Israel tune. At a forum of the U.N. Human Rights Council, he called for an inquiry into what he sees as the torture of Palestinians in Israeli custody. The U.S., of course, with its own shocking record of torturing its political prisoners in Guantanamo, Iraq, and who knows where else, boycotted the debate. Israel did the same, accusing the forum of anti-Israel bias.
By Dave Lindorff
A lot of people in the US media are asking why America's most famous whistleblower, 29-year old Edward Snowden, hied himself off to the city state of Hong Kong, a wholly owned subsidiary of the People's Republic of China, to seek at least temporary refuge.
Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the US, they say. And as for China, which controls the international affairs of its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, while granting it local autonomy to govern its domestic affairs, its leaders "may not want to irritate the US" at a time when the Chinese economy is stumbling.
These people don't have much understanding of either Hong Kong or of China.
Another Truth-Teller Steps Forward
June 10, 2013
Editor Note: Edward Snowden, who disclosed top-secret documents on the U.S. government’s massive surveillance programs, is reportedly seeking asylum from countries that value openness and freedom, conditions seen as slipping away at home, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern notes.
Before the U.S. government and the mainstream media engage in the customary character assassination of truth-teller Edward Snowden – a fate endured by Pfc. Bradley Manning and others – let’s get on the record the motives he gave for releasing the trove of information on intrusive eavesdropping by the National Security Agency.
Why would someone like Snowden, a 29-year-old employee of national-security contractor Booz Allen & Hamilton, jeopardize what he calls “a very comfortable life” in order to blow the whistle on the U.S. government’s abuse of power?
By Kathy Gilberd
This Op-Ed was written for the Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild and is reprinted with permission.
The military is once again in crisis over sexual assaults. In recent weeks, it has become more apparent than ever that the military’s sexual assault policy is a failure, and that sexual assault in the services has become epidemic.
Obama, Clapper and most of Congress are full of s**t: Where’s the Bullshit Repellent When We Need It?
By Dave Lindorff
By Dan DeWalt
This week, the government began their assault against private Bradley Manning. Even though he has already plead guilty to misusing classified documents and faces twenty years in prison, prosecutors want him branded as having aided the enemy, with a life sentence to go along.
By Alfredo Lopez
This past Thursday (June 6), The Guardian (the British newspaper) and the Washington Post simultaneously reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting staggering amounts of user data and files from seven of the world's most powerful technology companies.
By John Grant
Watching the US Senate Armed Forces Committee wrestle with the issue of rape and sexual abuse in the military opens a whole range of related issues concerning sex and war that will likely not be addressed in the Senate.
If we think at all about our government's military depopulating territory that it desires, we usually think of the long-ago replacement of native Americans with new settlements during the continental expansion of the United States westward.
Here in Virginia some of us are vaguely aware that back during the Great Depression poor people were evicted from their homes and their land where national parks were desired. But we distract and comfort ourselves with the notion that such matters are deep in the past.
Occasionally we notice that environmental disasters are displacing people, often poor people or marginalized people, from their homes. But these incidents seem like collateral damage rather than intentional ethnic cleansing.
If we're aware of the 1,000 or so U.S. military bases standing today in some 175 foreign countries, we must realize that the land they occupy could serve some other purpose in the lives of those countries' peoples. But surely those countries' peoples are still there, still living -- if perhaps slightly inconvenienced -- in their countries.
Yet the fact is that the U.S. military has displaced and continues to displace for the construction of its bases the entire populations of villages and islands, in blatant violation of international law, basic human decency, and principles we like to tell each other we stand for. The United States also continues to deny displaced populations the right to return to their homelands.
At issue here are not the bombings or burnings of entire villages, which of course the United States engages in during its wars and its non-wars. Nor are we dealing here with the millions of refugees created by wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan or by drone wars like the one in Pakistan. Rather, the following are cases of the intentional displacement of particular populations moved out of the way of base construction and left alive to struggle as refugees in exile.
In the Philippines, the United States built bases on land belonging to the indigenous Aetas people, who "ended up combing military trash to survive."
During World War II the U.S. Navy seized the small Hawaiian island of Koho'alawe for a weapons testing range and ordered its inhabitants to leave. The island has been devastated.
In 1942, the Navy displaced Aleutian Islanders.
President Harry Truman made up his mind that the 170 native inhabitants of Bikini Atoll had no right to their island. He had them evicted in February and March of 1946, and dumped as refugees on other islands without means of support or a social structure in place. In the coming years, the United States would remove 147 people from Enewetak Atoll and all the people on Lib Island. U.S. atomic and hydrogen bomb testing rendered various depopulated and still-populated islands uninhabitable, leading to further displacements. Up through the 1960s, the U.S. military displaced hundreds of people from Kwajalein Atoll. A super-densely populated ghetto was created on Ebeye.
On Vieques, off Puerto Rico, the Navy displaced thousands of inhabitants between 1941 and 1947, announced plans to evict the remaining 8,000 in 1961, but was forced to back off and -- in 2003 -- to stop bombing the island.
On nearby Culebra, the Navy displaced thousands between 1948 and 1950 and attempted to remove those remaining up through the 1970s.
The Navy is right now looking at the island of Pagan as a possible replacement for Vieques, the population already having been removed by a volcanic eruption. Of course, any possibility of return would be greatly diminished.
Beginning during World War II and continuing through the 1950s, the U.S. military displaced a quarter million Okinawans, or half the population, from their land, forcing people into refugee camps and shipping thousands of them off to Bolivia -- where land and money were promised but not delivered.
In 1953, the United States made a deal with Denmark to remove 150 Inughuit people from Thule, Greenland, giving them four days to get out or face bulldozers. They are being denied the right to return.
The story of Diego Garcia is superbly told in David Vine's book, Island of Shame. Between 1968 and 1973, the United States and Great Britain exiled all 1,500 to 2,000 inhabitants from this island in the Indian Ocean. On orders from, and with funding from, the United States, the British forced the people onto overcrowded ships and dumped them on docks in Mauritius and the Seychelles -- foreign and distant and unwelcoming lands for this indigenous population that had been part of Diego Garcia for centuries. U.S. documents described this as "sweeping" and "sanitizing" the island.
Those responsible for the displacement of the people of Diego Garcia knew that what they were doing was widely considered barbaric and illegal. They devised ways of creating "logical cover" for the process. They persuaded the ever-compliant Washington Post to bury the story. The Queen of England and her Privy Council bypassed Parliament. The Pentagon lied to Congress and hid its payments to the British from Congress. The planners even lied to themselves. Having originally envisioned a communications station, they concluded that advances in technology had rendered that unhelpful. So, Navy schemers decided that a fueling station for ships might offer a "suitable justification" for building a base that was actually a purposeless end in itself. But the Pentagon ended up telling a reluctant Congress that the base would be a communications station, because that was something Congress would approve.
Those plotting the eviction of the island's people created the fiction that the inhabitants were migrant workers not actually native to Diego Garcia. Sir Paul Gore-Booth, Permanent Under Secretary in the Foreign Office of the U.K., dismissed the island's people as "some few Tarzans or Men Fridays whose origins are obscure." This stood in contrast to the respect and protection given to some other islands not chosen for bases because of the rare plants, birds, and animals resident there.
On January 24, 1971, remaining inhabitants of Diego Garcia were told they'd need to leave or be shot. They were allowed to take a small box of possessions, but had to leave their homes, their gardens, their animals, their land, and their society. Their dogs were rounded up and killed in a gas chamber as they watched, waiting to themselves be loaded on ships for departure. Arriving in Mauritius, they were housed in a prison. Their fate has not much improved in the decades since. David Vine describes them as very forgiving, wishing nothing but to be permitted to return.
Diego Garcia is purely a military base and in some ways more of a lawless zone than Guantanamo. The United States has kept and may be keeping prisoners there, on the island or on ships in the harbor. The Red Cross and journalists do not visit. The United States has de facto control of Diego Garcia, while the U.K. has technical ownership. The Pentagon is not interested in allowing the island's people to return.
The South Korean government, at the behest of the U.S. Navy, is in the process of devastating a village, its coast, and 130 acres of farmland on Jeju Island with a massive military base. This story is best told in Regis Tremblay's new film The Ghosts of Jeju. This is not a tragedy from the past to be remedied but a tragedy of this moment to be halted in its tracks. You can help. Tremblay's film examines the history of decades of abuse of the people of Jeju, and the resistance movement that is currently inspiring other anti-base efforts around the globe. The film begins somber and ends joyful. I highly recommend creating an event around a screening of it.
We should not neglect to note here that the United States funds and arms and protects the Israeli government's ongoing displacement of Palestinians and denial of the right to return.
"The past is never dead. It's not even past," wrote William Faulkner.
By William Blum, WarIsAcCrime, Anti-Empire Report
In this season of college graduations, let us pause to remember the stirring words of America’s beloved scholar, George W. Bush, speaking in Florida in 2007 at the commencement exercises of Miami Dade College: “In Havana and other Cuban cities, there are people just like you who are attending school, and dreaming of a better life. Unfortunately those dreams are stifled by a cruel dictatorship that denies all freedom in the name of a dark and discredited ideology.” 1
How I wish I had been in the audience. I would have stood up and shouted: “In Cuba all education is completely free. But most of the young people sitting here today will be chained to a large, crippling debt for much of the rest of their life!”
- Advocacy groups here are stepping up a campaign to pressure President Barack Obama to quickly sign on to a new United Nations treaty aimed at regulating, for the first time, the international small-arms trade.
The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), adopted by the U.N. in April following on years of preparation, opens for country signature on Monday. It passed with just three “no” votes, coming from Iran, North Korea and Syria, and will require the ratification of 50 countries to come into effect.
“The U.S. has said that it feels its export control system is one of the best in the world, and that it would like to see those standards replicated in the ATT,” Clare Da Silva, legal advisor on the ATT with Amnesty International, told IPS.
She says she is confident that the United States will sign on, though it most likely will not be on Monday.
“There is nothing in this treaty that requires the U.S. to do anything differently,” Rachel Stohl, a senior associate at the Stimson Center, a think tank here, said at a panel discussion Friday. “Rather, the issue here is simply the symbolism of saying that [the U.S.] is committed to this on an international level – that’s really important.”
For the first time, the ATT states that if a country knows its weapons will be used to commit genocide or violate a U.N. arms embargo, they cannot be transferred. Stohl believes the ATT has the potential to address some U.S. national security and foreign policy concerns, including terrorism.
A significant majority of U.S. allies, human rights and religious groups have supported the treaty, the passage of which was seen as a key victory for the United States. And while many groups are now calling on President Obama to sign on to the ATT immediately, others are saying he will need to do so no later than the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September.
“If he doesn’t do that, the momentum behind the force will be undermined,” Daryll Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a bipartisan advocacy group here, said Friday.
“U.S. credibility will be questioned, we are going to be pulling the rug out from under our allies, and the president is going to have a lot of explaining to do.”
According to both Kimball and Stohl, other countries will be looking to the U.S. to sign on before they make their final decisions. Neither Russia nor China, for instance, has announced whether they will sign the ATT, and analysts suggest that these decisions will hinge on the U.S.’s own moves.
“The U.S. is the largest weapons exporter in the world,” Stohl says. “So people will look and say, well if its okay with the United States, then [signing the ATT] must not be too damaging to legitimate trade.”
The Obama administration has formally supported the ATT, a turnaround from previous U.S. policy under George W. Bush.
Nonetheless, it appears unlikely that the United States will sign the treaty on Jun. 3. Observers say this is due simply to typographical errors in translations from the original English text, however, which are currently being corrected following which countries will have three months to lodge comments.
Even once the Obama administration does sign on, the U.S. Congress will still need to approve the ratification before it can be signed into law. According to Amnesty International’s Da Silva, many international treaties never get ratified, and she does not expect to see the ATT made into law anytime soon.
Indeed, Republican politicians have already moved to pass legislation specifically barring the United States’ ratification of the ATT, while gun-rights advocates here continue to see opposition of the treaty as a primary rallying point. The majority of this opposition has come from the National Rifle Association (NRA), a lobby group.
“The text of the approved treaty is deeply problematic and threatens the rights of privacy of American gun owners,” the NRA says on its website.
In fact, the ATT deals solely with the international arms trade between governments. Nonetheless, this opposition has been so strong that U.S. delegation specifically wrote into the ATT text language that no infringement will occur for recreational, cultural, historical and lawful ownership.
Still, the Stimson Center’s Stohl notes that there remains an important opportunity for the United States to set an example.
“The symbolism is not that there has to be any change to U.S. law,” she told IPS. “Rather, it would be sending a signal to the rest of the world that the United States, which is responsible for 75 percent of the arms trade, is taking on this obligation as the world’s largest [arms] exporter.”
Following a recent legislative defeat of President Obama’s attempts to strengthen domestic gun laws – unrelated to the ATT – Stohl notes that the treaty could be an opportunity for the administration, as well.
“Here’s an opportunity to say, the NRA didn’t like this and we did it anyway,” she says.
Paul O’Brien, an advocate with Oxfam America, a humanitarian group, agrees.
“Do they sign it in a moment when the world is paying attention? We hope so,” he said at Friday’s panel discussion.
“Do they wait until Congress isn’t paying attention and the NRA has probably gone to bed for a couple of weeks? We hope not. We hope they use the moment to continue to build political momentum”.
By Dave Lindorff
Some on the left are writing hopefully these days that perhaps President Obama has finally realized he needs to back off on his warlike posture on drones and the War on Terror. They are seeing his talk about scaling back the use of drone killing machines and of reconsidering or “investigating” recent Justice Department attacks on the press and its use of leaks by government whistle-blowers, as a sign that he is perhaps regaining his constitutional senses and perhaps even “moving” to the left to rebuild support he has been losing in droves.
David Vine is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at American University, author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia, and of the new article "Where Has All the Money Gone?" He discusses an overseas U.S. military base presence that maintains a million troops in other countries on a permanent basis at a cost of $170 billion per year, and which has funnelled $385 billion to private contractors (most of it to a handful of cronies) since 2001. Learn more at http://davidvine.net
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By Peace Blog
We need a movement that is global and grassroots, that will take action, educate and generate an alternative vision for global economic security for all.
By Judith Le Blanc – Field Director, Peace Action
US Tax Day was different than Tax Days of the past. It was also the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS.) Events were organized around the world to make the release of the annual report on military spending by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
In the US and around the world, tens of thousands of leaflets were distributed, street theater, flash mobs, vigils, educational events, visits to parliaments, and marches were organized to draw attention to the impact of militarism on governments’ ability to respond to global problems of equity, justice and a secure future.
In South Korea, a group made an entertaining video using well-known children’s characters, Teletubbies, to make their point.
In the UK, a forum was conducted in the House of Parliament on why military spending should be redirected to meet human needs.
In Chile, actions were organized in nine cities.
See reports on other international actions on the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) website.
In 33 states and 86 cities and towns, peace, economic justice, faith based groups used Tax Day and GDAMS to continue grassroots pressure on Congress to change national spending priorities and end the austerity drive to cut jobs and human needs to balance the federal budget. The 86 events were not the total number of Tax Day actions. Other groups like Americans for Tax Fairness held events nationwide as well.
This year, the federal budget struggles gave new impetus to a coalition of groups and networks who traditionally organize Tax Day events to join with economic and racial justice groups to be a part of the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS.) Find the full list and contact info at the end of this blog.
In some cities, local affiliates of national groups supporting GDAMS worked together. In other towns or cities, new coalitions came together or individuals took action all with the goal of joingan international day of grassroots education on the distorted priorities reflected in 57% of annual US federal discretionary spending going to the Pentagon along side of tax loop holes for the rich and corporations while community services are cut and jobs lost.
Creative use of social media and online materials
The National Priorities Project, AFSC, Coalition on Human Needs, USAction, War Resisters League & Toolbox for Action and Social Action and Peace Action created background materials and online interactive educational tools and leaflets. Sample Tweets were shared for use on Twitter and memes were created for Facebook.
A Thunderclap was organized and reached 233,071 people on Facebook and Twitter with the message, “ “Our Tax $ should go to the programs we need, not to Pentagon waste.”
Tax Day: a day of action, education and reflection.
We were present at countless post offices and town squares to engage our neighbors in conversation and reflect on why we must end the militarization of the federal budget. We used creative efforts to stir up awareness and engage our communities in changing national spending priorities from wars and ever-newer weapons to life!
Below are a few of the creative actions organized across the country. Go to the GDAMS Facebook page to see more pictures and reports.
Some groups focused on the most expensive, wasteful Pentagon budget item, the F35 military aircraft. For example, USAction reported “affiliates from coast to coast reminded America that twenty-six cents of every dollar we pay in taxes goes to the Pentagon – including colossal albatrosses like the F-35 fighter jet, nicknamed the “Fiasco-35.” They mobilized 34,000 calls to Congress to stop the funding in order to provide urgently needed social services.
Others drew attention to what we need for a secure future. The third annual “If I Had a Trillion Dollars” Youth Film Festival sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and The National Priorities Project culminated in Washington, DC on April 13-15. Watch the winning video, “Dear Congress Invest in US.” It was nominated for People’s Choice Award, keep your fingers crossed!
At the conclusion of the festival, 65 young people made 24 Congressional visits on Capitol Hill delivering the summary of the GDAMS report and then did an action on the National Mall. A delegation went to meet with the Department of Education. Money for books, not bombs!
In Milwaukee, WI, Tax Day was the first time for lobbying for young people in Peace Action Wisconsin’s Teen Peace Council. They created moving testimonies with photos on the impact of prioritizing the Pentagon over human needs for their families and community. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s staff warmly received them.
In Maryland, just before Tax Day, Montgomery County Peace Action partnered with Progressive Maryland for a Maryland Coalition to Fund Our Communities six-stop “Prosperity Not Austerity” bus tour that began in Baltimore, visited Annapolis, took in the Maryland suburbs and ended up at the US Capitol. Tour stops included a school in Baltimore, a church that helps feed those in need, a community college in Prince George’s County and a public library in Silver Spring. Speakers included the state director of the AFL-CIO, the President of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994, a Memorial AME church minister and USAction Executive Director, Jeff Blum.
In Binghamton, NY, 45 students participated in Peace Action Binghamton University chapter’s Have a Cup of Peace Song competition with cash prizes. After the performance a video created by the students called the Cost of War was shown followed by a discussion.
In Royal Oak, MI, Michigan Citizen Action and Peace Action MI partnered for a “Pull the Pork from the Pentagon” rally. 750 leaflets were handed out calling on US Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, chair of the Armed Services Committee, to keep a focus on reining in wasteful Pentagon spending. The Macomb Daily Tribune, Detroit Free Press and Detroit News covered the event.
In Charleston, WVA, West Virginia Citizen Action Group joined West Virginia Patriots for Peace in distributing 500 leaflets at the downtown post office, with the message, ‘Call US Senator Manchin to cut Pentagon Pork.” The event was covered in the state’s largest newspaper, the Charleston Gazette.
In Des Moines, Iowa, a rally was held in front of the Iowa Economic Development Authority organized by American Friends Service Committee and the Catholic Peace Ministry. Speakers included an AFSCME Retiree, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, American Friends Service Committee, Iowa Citizen Action Network, Alliance for Retired Americans, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, South Central Iowa Federation of Labor, Progress Iowa and small business owners.
In Kansas City, MO, a Tax Day demonstration with the theme,” The U.S. Deficit Debate is a Crime” was organized by the American Friends Service Committee and cosponsored by Jobs Now!, Kansas City Federation of Teachers, Occupy KC, PeaceWorks/KC, and Physicians for Social Responsibility/KC. Representatives from endorsing groups testified before the Jackson County Legislature’s Finance and Audit Committee on the Move the Money Campaign that is focused on changing the federal budget priorities.
In MA, due to the bombing of the Boston Marathon, the Tax Day/GDAMS actions were postponed in Boston, Northampton and Fall River. In Boston, American Friends Service Committee and Mass Peace Action working with the Budget for All Coalition are organizing a May 16 the march and rally endorsed by a cross section of labor and community groups: Mass. AFL-CIO, Mass. Jobs with Justice, Mass. Alliance of HUD Tenants, Disability Policy Consortium, Sierra Club/Boston, Boston Workers Alliance, ACTUP/Boston, Human Rights City Boston & Beyond, Survivors Inc, SEIU Local 509 Lavender Caucus, American Federation of Government Employees Local 3258 and Local 1164 and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
Rallies in Northampton and Fall River will also be held on May 16 & 17. For more information: http://masspeaceaction.org/
For more US reports go to the GDAMS website.
We need a movement that is global and grassroots, that will take action, educate and generate an alternative vision for global economic security for all.
Acting together with our sisters and brothers around the world to highlight the impact of military spending on meeting global human needs is an important step towards a national dialogue on US foreign policy.
To succeed in reordering government priorities and compelling changes for an economy that guarantees decent, union, good paying jobs, requires that we move towards multi-lateral action and stronger, more equitable , diplomatic relationships with countries around the world to solve the urgent political, economic and security issues.
Peace Action was proud to be the Global Day of Action on Military Spending US convener this year. Peace Action affiliates worked with our allies on events in 15 states.
On a national level, it was yet another wonderful opportunity to work closely with organizers who went the extra mile for a successful US GDAMS events: American Friends Service Committee, Coalition for Human Needs, Fellowship of Reconciliation National Priorities Project, New Priorities Network and USAction! Big thanks to Mary Zerkel (AFSC), Angela Evans (CHN) and Barabara Helmick (UASAction) for helping to collect local reports and photos…and OSPG (On the Spot Political Guidance!)
And a hearty thank you to the GDAMS staff: Colin Archer, Secretary General of the International Peace Bureau and Mylene Soto, Program Coordinator, International Peace Bureau and GDAMS 2013.
The US groups supporting Tax Day and the Global Day of Action on MIlitary Spending events:
Foreign Policy in Focus, project of Institute for Policy Studies
By Dave Lindorff
(This article was originally written on assignment forwww.counterpunch.org)