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Recent Revelations are Worse Than Our Worst Nightmare: Privacy Disappears in a Prism

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.

War and Rape go Hand in Hand

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.

How the Pentagon Removes Entire Peoples

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.

 

DIEGO GARCIA

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.

 

JEJU ISLAND

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.

 

PALESTINE

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.

What our presidents tell our young people

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!”

Obama Urged to Sign Arms Trade Treaty Immediately

 
 
The Control Arms Coalition demonstrated in front of the United Nations in July 2012 to remind delegates of the price paid every day by armed violence. Credit: Coralie Tripier/IPS

The Control Arms Coalition demonstrated in front of the United Nations in July 2012 to remind delegates of the price paid every day by armed violence. Credit: Coralie Tripier/IPS

WASHINGTON, May 31 2013 (IPS) - 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 issue here is simply the symbolism of saying that [the U.S.] is committed to this on an international level." -- Rachel Stohl of the Stimson Center

“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.”

Political momentum

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”.

Forget droning on about changed policies: President Obama will have to Prove He’s a Changed Man

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.

Talk Nation Radio: David Vine on U.S. Bases All Over the World

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-david-vine

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

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

2013 Tax Day and the Global Day of Action on Military Spending

By Peace Blog

April 15, 2013 Japanese Peace Boat

April 15, 2013 Japanese Peace Boat

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.

United States

Foreign Policy In Focus (project of Institute for Policy Studies) staff and interns. April 15, 2013

Foreign Policy In Focus staff and interns at the White House on April 15, 2013.

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.  

VA Organizing at teh Richmond, VA post office on April 15, 2013

VA Organizing at the Richmond, VA post office on April 15, 2013

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!

American Friends Service Committee youth delegation to the US Department of Education on April 15, 2013.

American Friends Service Committee youth delegation to the US Department of Education on April 15, 2013.

 

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.

Peace Action Binghamton University (NY) April 15, 2013 Cup of Peace Song event.

Peace Action Binghamton University (NY) April 15, 2013 Cup of Peace Song event.

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.

Demonstration and leafleting in downtown Cleveland, OH on April 15, 2013.

Demonstration and leafleting in downtown Cleveland, OH on April 15, 2013.

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: 

Alliance for Global Justice 

American Friends Service Committee 

Coalition on Human Needs 

Fellowship Of Reconciliation 

Foreign Policy in Focus, project of Institute for Policy Studies 

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance 

Jobs Not War Campaign

National Priorities Project 

National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee 

New Priorities Network 

Peace Action 

Pentagon Budget Campaign 

Progressive Democrats of America 

School of the Americas Watch 

United for Peace and Justice 

USAction 

US Labor Against the War 

Veterans for Peace 

War Resisters League 

Women’s International League for Peace And Freedom

IMBY: The Afghanistan War Comes Home to Philadelphia

By Dave Lindorff


(This article was originally written on assignment forwww.counterpunch.org)


Connecticut Advances Conversion from War to Peace Economy

The Connecticut legislature has sent to the governor to sign a bill that would create 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.

Official Story has Odd Wrinkles: A Pack of Questions about the Boston Bombing

 

By Dave Lindorff


           (This article was originally written forWhoWhatWhy News)


CIA: An Idea Whose Time Has Gone

There's a contradiction built into every campaign promise about transparent government beyond the failure to keep the promises.  Our government is, in significant portion, made up of secret operations, operations that include warmaking, kidnapping, torture, assassination, and infiltrating and overthrowing governments.  A growing movement is ready to see that end.

The Central Intelligence Agency is central to our foreign policy, but there is nothing intelligent about it, and there is no good news to be found regarding it.  Its drone wars are humanitarian and strategic disasters.  The piles of cash it keeps delivering to Hamid Karzai fuel corruption, not democracy.  Whose idea was it that secret piles of cash could create democracy? (Nobody's, of course, democracy being the furthest thing from U.S. goals.)  Lavishing money on potential Russian spies and getting caught helps no one, and not getting caught would have helped no one.  Even scandals that avoid mentioning the CIA, like Benghazigate, are CIA blowback and worse than we're being told.

We've moved from the war on Iraq, about which the CIA lied, and its accompanying atrocities serving as the primary recruiting tool for anti-U.S. terrorists, to the drone wars filling that role.  We've moved from kidnapping and torture to kidnapping and torture under a president who, we like to fantasize, doesn't really mean it.  But the slave-owners who founded this country knew very well what virtually anyone would do if you gave them power, and framed the Constitution so as not to give presidents powers like these.

There are shelves full in your local bookstore of books pointing out the CIA's outrageous incompetence.  The brilliant idea to give Iran plans for a nuclear bomb in order to prevent Iran from ever developing a nuclear bomb is one of my favorites. 

But books that examine the illegality, immorality, and anti-democratic nature of even what the CIA so ham-handedly intends to do are rarer.  A new book called Dirty Wars, also coming out as a film in June, does a superb job.  I wrote a review a while back.  Another book, decades old now, might be re-titled "Dirty Wars The Prequel."  I'm thinking of Douglas Valentine's The Phoenix Program

It you read The Phoenix Program about our (the CIA's and "special" forces') secret crimes in Eastern Asia and Dirty Wars about our secret crimes in Western Asia, and remember that similar efforts were focused on making life hell for millions of people in Latin America in between these twin catastrophes, and that some of those running Phoenix were brought away from similar sadistic pursuits in the Philippines, it becomes hard to play along with the continual pretense that each uncovered outrage is an aberration, that the ongoing focus of our government's foreign policy "isn't who we are." 

Targeted murders with knives in Vietnam were justified with the same rhetoric that now justifies drone murders.  The similarities include the failure of primary goals, the counterproductive blowback results, the breeding of corruption abroad and at home, the moral and political degradation, the erosion of democratic ways of thinking, and -- of course -- the racist arrogance and cultural ignorance that shape the programs and blind their participants to what they are engaged in.  The primary difference between Phoenix and drone kills is that the drones don't suffer PTSD.  The same, however, cannot be said for the drone pilots

"The problem," wrote Valentine, "was one of using means which were antithetical to the desired end, of denying due process in order to create a democracy, of using terror and repression to foster freedom.  When put into practice by soldiers taught to think in conventional military and moral terms, Contre Coup engendered transgressions on a massive scale.  However, for those pressing the attack on VCI, the bloodbath was constructive, for indiscriminate air raids and artillery barrages obscured the shadow war being fought in urban back alleys and anonymous rural hamlets.  The military shield allowed a CIA officer to sit behind a steel door in a room in the U.S. Embassy, insulated from human concern, skimming the Phoenix blacklist, selecting targets for assassination, distilling power from tragedy."

At some point, enough of us will recognize that government conducted behind a steel door can lead only to ever greater tragedy. 

In an email that Valentine wrote for RootsAction.org on Monday, he wrote: "Through its bottomless black bag of unaccounted-for money, much of it generated by off-the-books proprietary companies and illegal activities like drug smuggling, the CIA spreads corruption around the world.  This corruption undermines our own government and public officials.  And the drone killings of innocent men, women, and children generate fierce resentment.. . .Tell your representative and senators right now that the CIA is the antithesis of democracy and needs to be abolished."

Efrain Rios Montt Sent to Jail: Guatemala's Mayan People Win One For a Change

 

By John Grant


I saw the masked men
throwing truth into a well.
When I began to weep for it
I found it everywhere.

                 - Claudia Lars (El Salvador)
 

Where Has All the Money Gone?


How Contractors Raked in $385 Billion to Build and Support Bases Abroad since 2001 
By David Vine

Outside the United States, the Pentagon controls a collection of military bases unprecedented in history. With U.S. troops gone from Iraq and the withdrawal from Afghanistan underway, it’s easy to forget that we probably still have about 1,000 military bases in other peoples' lands. This giant collection of bases receives remarkably little media attention, costs a fortune, and even when cost cutting is the subject du jour, it still seems to get a free ride.

With so much money pouring into the Pentagon’s base world, the question is: Who’s benefiting?

URGENT: Connecticut Could Lead the Way in Conversion to a Peace Economy

On May 1, the CT State Senate passed State Bill  619 (SB619) sponsored by State Senator Toni N. Harp (D-New Haven) creating a "Futures Commission" to find ways to keep manufacturing jobs in CT as the Pentagon budget begins to be reduced. 

State Senator Harp said. “The proposed Futures Commission will set up a framework that allows us to convert many of our military related jobs and infrastructure into non-military industries. If we want to take advantage of the green economy that the Obama Administration is pushing, we need to have the infrastructure and trained workers in our state to do so.”

The bill will now will come up for a vote in the CT House this week. Please call your legislator to support the bill. You can find your legislator here.

Peace Action and our allies in the peace and justice movement continue to organize to change national spending priorities by moving the money spent on the Pentagon budget to fund jobs, human needs and diplomacy. We also must organize to insure that workers, their families and communities who have depended on Pentagon contracts for good paying jobs are supported in the transition to producing what we need in our communities.

Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) “Connecticut has some of the best high-skilled manufacturing workers in the world,” Senator Looney said. “As needs of the national and world economy evolve, we must ensure that Connecticut’s economy is ready to adapt and our workers are well trained for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Please take a few minutes to call your state rep and ask to support SB619. You can find your legislator here. 

According to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Research, ‘This bill reactivates a dormant economic development advisory commission… and broadens its charge to include policies encouraging defense contractors and subcontractors to engage in environmentally sustainable and civilian product manufacturing.’

With your support, CT can be the first state to pass a bill to convert military production to civilian use!


Power to the peaceful,

Judith LeBlanc
Field Director
Peace Action

Background:

In November 2012, a ballot referendum passed in New Haven that called for moving the money from war to jobs rebuilding our infrastructure and human needs. This referendum won support nearly 6 to 1! This winter in Connecticut, the US Peace Council, No Nukes No War, the City of New Haven Peace Commission with the support of the state AFL-CIO and International Association of Machinists worked to get  SB619 introduced in the state legislature calling for a Futures Commission whose goals is to investigate how to convert the weapons manufacturing industries to producing civilian, green products and retain and develop manufacturing in the state. The Commission that this bill creates will include representatives of labor, peace and environmental organizations.

Threatened with Censorship and Ouster by PEN’s Henchmen

By John V. Walsh, Antiwar.com

In the vast and ever expanding firmament of Western Human Rights NGO’s, PEN, America Center, the writers’ organization, is far from the most luminous and ordinarily barely visible. But a dark side of PEN came clearly into view with the hiring of Suzanne Nossel as its executive director. And the same dark side is becoming all too apparent in organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, both of which have also employed Nossel in the past.

Ducking the Full Costs of War: The Ongoing Scandal Called the Veterans Administration

 

By Dave Lindorff


 

My mother died last Thursday at the age of 89. Her death, fortunately coming peacefully after she suffered a stroke during her sleep, followed a long mental decline caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

Heading towards a police state: Destroying Ourselves

 

By Dan DeWalt


Has the "land of the free and home of the brave" decided to roll over in fear and concede defeat to terrorism?


Craft International Services hired guns at the Boston Marathon: Why Such Secrecy about Private Military Contractor’s Men Working

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

Speaking as an investigative reporter with almost 40 years’s experience, I can say that when government officials won’t talk, they’re generally hiding something embarrassing or worse.

Hunting for the Boogie-Man: 4-19, the Day It All Came Together

 

By John Grant


 “In order to get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression, we’ve had to kill people.”

         --Ted Kaczynski, The Unabomber Manifesto, 1995

 

Who Really Left the Knapsacks with those Bombs in Boston?


By Dave LIndorff

 

I have written a lengthy piece about all the bizarre aspects of the Tsarnaev brothers’ alleged bombing of the Boston Marathon, including questions about where the elder Tsarnaev brother, Tarmelan, who was delivering pizzas, and whose wife was slaving away at a low-paid home health aid job, got the money to buy his fancy clothes and Mercedes Benz, why the Marathon finish line area was crawling with black-jacketed mercenaries from the Craft International Security rent-a-soldier agency, and how the police and federal agencies and National Guard managed to lock down a city of a million in a few hours’ time without any advance planning. 

 

Something's Rotten in Boston: Who'se investigating the FBI investigators?

 

By Dave Lindorff


I’m not a conspiracy-minded person, but something definitely stinks about this whole Boston Marathon bombing story.


Boston offers grim preview of coming attractions: Police State on Display

 

By Dave Lindorff


The Boston Marathon bombing has already demonstrated the best and the worst of America for all the world to see.


Getting involved versus Calls For Vengeance Citizen First-Responders: Models For Responsible Democracy

 

By John Grant


I write a lot of critical things about militarism, our unnecessary wars and our growing surveillance/police state. So it was heartwarming to watch the videos and listen to the stories from the Boston Marathon bombing about civilian “first-responders” who chose not to flee but to wade into a very messy situation.

That's Where the Money Goes

By Lawrence S. Wittner

According to a report just released by the highly-respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), world military expenditures in 2012 totaled $1.75 trillion.

The report revealed that, as in recent decades, the world’s biggest military spender by far was the U.S. government, whose expenditures for war and preparations for war amounted to $682 billion -- 39 percent of the global total.  The United States spent more than four times as much on the military as China (the number two big spender) and more than seven times as much as Russia (which ranked third).  Although the military expenditures of the United States dipped a bit in 2012, largely thanks to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, they remained 69 percent higher than in 2001.

U.S. military supremacy is even more evident when the U.S. military alliance system is brought into the picture, for the United States and its allies accounted for the vast bulk of world military spending in 2012.  NATO members alone spent a trillion dollars on the military.

Thus, although studies have found that the United States ranks 17th among nations in education, 26th in infant mortality, and 37th in life expectancy and overall health, there is no doubt that it ranks first when it comes to war.

This Number 1 status might not carry much weight among Americans scavenging for food in garbage dumpsters, among Americans unable to afford medical care, or among Americans shivering in poorly heated homes.  Even many Americans in the more comfortable middle class might be more concerned with how they are going to afford the skyrocketing costs of a college education, how they can get by with fewer teachers, firefighters, and police in their communities, and how their hospitals, parks, roads, bridges, and other public facilities can be maintained.

Need to transition from war jobs in Oshkosh WI

Vieques Vive La Lucha Continua 10 years after the bombing stopped

By Helen Jaccard and David Swanson, http://warisacrime.org/vieques

Ten years ago May 1, the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico and their supporters from around the world defeated the most powerful military machine ever, through mass civil disobedience and without firing a single shot.   On May 1, 2003 the bombing stopped and the bases were officially closed.  People from all over the world supported the struggle on Vieques, and the activists and residents have an incredible victory to celebrate.

There were decades of resistance, civil disobedience and arrests.  But those hoping and laying the groundwork for greater resistance were given an opportunity on April 19, 1999, when a U.S. Marines pilot missed his target and killed civilian security guard David Sanes Rodriguez.  That spark lit a fire of nonviolent resistance that brought together Viequenses, Puerto Ricans, and supporters from the United States and around the world.  A campaign of non-violent civil resistance that began in 1999 lasted four years, including a year-long occupation of the bombing range, and saw over 1,500 people arrested.  The Navy was forced to close the bombing range on May 1, 2003.  Peace loving people had won most of the first of their demands for the island: demilitarization.

A huge commemoration is planned in Vieques for the anniversary from May 1 – 4, 2013.

Beautiful Vieques island is only 21 miles across and 5 miles wide, and 7 miles from the main island of Puerto Rico.  It is home to about 9,300 people, as well as endangered turtle species, rare Caribbean plants and animals, bio-luminescent bays, and miles of what look like unspoiled beaches.

But crabs with three claws, grossly deformed fish laden with heavy metals, once-beautiful coral reefs, and beaches and seas that have been decimated by military activity tell a story of environmental disaster with huge health impacts on people, plants, and animals.

An incredible three-quarters of the island was appropriated in the 1940s and used by the U.S. Navy for bombing practice, war games, and dumping or burning old munitions.  This was a terrible attack on an island municipality, one the United States was not at war with. 

Now, Vieques Island, a paradise in trouble, is one of the largest superfund sites in the United States, together with its little sister island of Culebra, which took the brunt of the bombing until 1973, when the Culebra bombing range closed (also due to protests) and the bombing practice was transferred to Vieques.

In 2003, the Navy did not return the land to the people, but transferred its Vieques land to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates beaches that were never used for military activities. 

Viequenses fear that keeping the U.S. Government in control of their lands could result in future re-militarization of the island.  Residents aren't happy that their land has not been returned to them and that they are fined for staying on their land past sunset or collecting crabs -- a mainstay of their historic diet.  There are also two military occupations of lands -- a ROTHR radar system and a communications area, and the people want these closed as well.  You can add your name to Viequenses' demand for peace here.

For over 2,000 years people known as Taino inhabited Vieques, which they called Bieque.  The Taino found and left behind them a paradise of fertile soil, fresh water, and trees.  In 1493, the conquistadors arrived.  In 1524, the Spanish killed every remaining resident.  Vieques was then left uninhabited by humanity for 300 years, interrupted by a few British, French, and Spanish attempts to set up forts or destroy each other's efforts.

From 1823 into the 1900s, Vieques was used by the Spanish and French to grow sugar.  English-speaking people of African origin, from nearby islands, were kept in slavery or the nearest thing to it, and forced to grow the sugar cane.  They revolted in 1864 and 1874, and in the 1915 Sugar Strike.  The United States took Puerto Rico from the Spanish in 1898 and made residents U.S. citizens in 1917.  The depression of the 1930s, together with two hurricanes in 1932, brought on harder times than ever.

In 1939 the United States bought 26,000 of the 30,000 acres of land on Vieques from big sugar plantation owners.  Living on that land were 10,000 to 12,000 workers who also raised crops to feed themselves.  The U.S. Navy gave families $30 and one day's notice before bulldozing houses.  Most people were left without means of subsistence, but many stubbornly refused to leave the island.

Carlos Prieta Ventura, a 51-year-old Viequense fisherman, says his father was 8-years-old in 1941 when the Navy told his family their house would be bulldozed whether or not they accepted the $30.  Ventura says he has always resisted the Navy's efforts to force people off the island.

From 1941 to 2003, the U.S. military flew planes from aircraft carriers based on the main island of Puerto Rico dropping bombs over Vieques.  Bombs "rained down," and you could feel the ground shake within the base, as one U.S. veteran told CNN.  Bombs fell at all hours, all day, all week, all year, amounting to approximately a trillion tons of ordnance, much of which (some 100,000 items) lies unexploded on land and in the sea.  Vieques was systematically poisoned by heavy metals, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium, and who knows what all else that the Navy has not announced publicly -- having falsely denied using depleted uranium before finally admitting to it, and having dumped barrels of unknown toxic substances into the clear blue Caribbean.

The arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, and aluminum in the bombs are also found in hair samples of 80% of the people living on Vieques, who suffer at far higher rates than on the main island (and possibly anywhere else on earth) from cancer (30% higher than Puerto Rico), cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, hypertension (381%), diabetes (41%), birth defects, stillbirths, and miscarriages.

The impact of the U.S. occupation that began in 1941 was felt far more swiftly than cancer.  According to Ventura, some 15,000 troops were routinely set loose on Vieques looking for booze and women.  Women were dragged out of their homes and gang raped.  A boy was killed by gang rape.  Ventura says people had only a machete and a hole in the wall by the door where they could try to stab the Marines who would come to take women.  A dozen people were killed over the years directly by the U.S. weapons testing.  And the Navy banned fishermen from various areas, advising them to try food stamps instead.  Fishermen attempted civil resistance actions, and many were arrested during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.

Lydia Ortiz, a Viequense who grew up in the small town of Esperanza, recalls the bombing:  "A lot of houses had their roofs falling in and everything as a result of the vibrations from the bombs for many years.  It was pretty nerve wracking because you never knew what was going to crash down in your house.  We lived quite close to where the bombing was happening.  When I was a child they were dropping bombs near me.  In the school, you could hear the bombing.  You couldn't even hear the teacher because of the noise.  People were afraid to go anywhere near the base or the beach so it was very difficult for many years.  It seems like just yesterday or only 5 or 6 years ago that the bombing stopped, even though it is really almost 10 years ago."

A celebration of the 10-year anniversary is indeed in order.  We must remember victories as they have remarkable power to motivate others around the world.

But the Navy's presence and the environmental disaster it created continue to afflict Vieques today.  The U.S. government has not cleaned up the poisons and bombs and continues to use practices that further endanger the people.  There is no bomb explosion chamber on the island.  The United States has disposed of what unexploded bombs it has disposed of by blowing them up, further spreading the contaminants that are killing the people of the island.

There is also no hospital on the island, few ferries to the island, few and overpriced airplanes, a handful of taxis and public vans, and very limited tourist facilities.  There is no college or university, and very few jobs of any kind.  Business licenses are issued in San Juan and require bribes.  Viequenses' families are ravaged by cancer, but also by illiteracy, unemployment, violent crime, and teen pregnancy.  All of the water -- like all electricity -- comes in a pipe from the main island.  Two of the residents said that the one resort on Vieques sometimes uses all the water.  Seven thousand Viequenses sued the U.S. government over their health problems, but the U.S. Supreme court refused to hear the case.

With very little land available for farming, Vieques, like all of Puerto Rico, imports almost all of its food.  Some people have become so desperate that they gather old munitions to sell for a little money to someone who will melt the metal for aluminum cans.  But heavy metals and depleted uranium endanger the metal gatherers and whoever later drinks from the cans.

Presidential candidate Obama wrote to the Governor of Puerto Rico in 2008: "We will closely monitor the health of the people of Vieques and promote appropriate remedies to health conditions caused by military activities conducted by the U.S. Navy on Vieques."  But that promise remains unfulfilled.

Robert Rabin Siegal of the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques writes in a letter to President Barack Obama,

"Although I cannot claim the Navy and military toxics caused my cancer, you don't have to be a quantum physicist to understand how decades of exposure to heavy metals in the food chain, air, water and land, combined with the socio-economic pressures from the loss of two thirds of the island’s lands, would clearly contribute to high cancer rates.  The Navy dropped radioactive uranium projectiles here, we believe, in large quantities, in preparation for military actions in the Balkans and the Middle East.  The list of dangerous chemical components from munitions dropped on Vieques is extensive, as is the number of illnesses they cause.

"Mr. President: you received the Nobel Peace Prize; we demand peace for Vieques.  An island and people used to protect U.S. interests since WWII, forced to sacrifice its land, economic prosperity, tranquility and health, deserves at least the hope of peace for this and future generations."

". . . A handful of powerful US based corporations have pocketed most of the more than 200 million dollars spent on clean-up over the past decade.  We urge you to order technology transference to promote the creation of Puerto Rican and Viequense companies to carry out the clean-up of Vieques, thereby transforming that process into part of the economic reconstruction of the island as well as assuring community confidence in this crucial element in the healing of Vieques."

People anywhere in the world can take one minute to sign a petition to the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House in support of justice, at long last, for Vieques:

"I join the people of Vieques in demanding:

"Health Care -- Provide a modern hospital with cancer treatment facilities, early screening and timely treatment for all diseases.  Create a research facility to determine the relationship between military toxins and health.  Provide just compensation to people suffering poor health as a result of the Navy's activities.

"Cleanup -- Fund a complete, rapid cleanup of the land and surrounding waters, still littered by thousands of bombs, grenades, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium and other explosives left by the Navy.  Cease the ongoing open detonation of unexploded ordnance.  Guarantee community participation in the cleanup; train Viequenses as managers, administrators, and scientists, and foster Viequense companies to do the work.

"Sustainable Development -- Support the Master Plan for Sustainable Development of Vieques which promotes agriculture, fishing, eco-tourism, small guest houses, housing, collective transportation, archaeology, and historic and environmental research, among other things.

"Demilitarization and Return of the Land -- Close the remaining military installations still occupying 200 acres of Vieques.  Return to the people of Vieques all land still under the control of the U.S. Navy and the federal government."

For extensive documentation, see the attachments below and others at this link.

Helen Jaccard is Chair of the Veterans For Peace -- Environmental Cost of War and Militarism Working Group.  She spent October, 2012 in Vieques doing research about the environmental and health effects of the military activities.  Her previous article about Sardinia, Italy can be found at http://www.warisacrime.org/sardinia .

David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.

Reaping the Whirlwind: A Violent Act Again in a Violent Nation

 

By Dave Lindorff


I ran the Boston Marathon back in 1968, and, my feet covered with blisters inside my Keds sneakers, dragged across the finish line to meet my waiting uncle at a time of about 3 hours and 40 minutes. It was close enough to the time that the current bombing happened in this year’s race -- about four hours from the starting gun -- that had I been running it this year, I might still been near enough to the finish line to have heard the blasts.

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