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By Linn Washington, Jr.
The report released in early March by a panel President Obama appointed to examine serious shortcomings in police practices across America, including the shooting of unarmed people, mostly non-white, listed problems and proposed solutions that are hauntingly similar to those found in a report on police abuses released 47 years ago by another presidential panel.
By Alfredo Lopez
For many people reading this, there are at least two concepts that will offend.
By Dave Lindorff
Potomac Reichstag or ‘Planet of the Apes’?: Hooting American Yahoos on the Benches and Racist Israeli Demagogue on the Podium
By Dave Lindorff
This advertisement does a number of things in 15 seconds that U.S. television has not done before. It presents a moral case against drone murders (the U.S. government's terminology, and strictly accurate). It opposes drone murders as illegal. It shows victims. It provides the name and website of an organization opposing drone murders. And it directly asks drone "pilots" to refuse to continue. It also makes the Nuremberg argument that an illegal order need not (in fact must not) be obeyed.
This is, as far as I know, and as far as its producers know, the first anti-drone-war commercial on U.S. television, as well as -- I believe -- the first content of any sort on U.S. corporate television to do the things listed above.
This ad is airing from February 28 to March 6 on CNN, MSNBC and other networks in the Las Vegas area, just a few miles from Creech Air Force Base, a major drone operating and training facility where a major protest is underway. It will begin airing in other cities soon.
"We produced this spot to make the point as powerfully as possible that drone killing is horrifying, illegal and immoral," said Nick Mottern, coordinator of KnowDrones.com which sponsored the ad.
In case the pilots viewing the ad fail to grasp the sincerety of its producers, they might consider reading this letter:
To: James Cluff, Commander, Creech AFB
Dear Commander Cluff,
It is our intention to reach out to you and appeal to your humanity to stop the drone killing. Your first responsibility is to uphold laws, regardless of your orders. Aerial bombardment of innocent civilians is in violation of the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Conventions and the principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal. Drones are not making us any safer. More and more young men in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are joining groups that are retaliating against the US for the murder of their loved ones.
I'm sure you can see at the base that there is low morale among the drone pilots, because it is impossible to sustain any level of enthusiasm for intelligence, surveillance and reconaissance. Although the Airforce throws incentive dollars to your pilots they are still resigning in great numbers, and those that stay turn to drugs and alcohol to numb and detach emotionally to perform this dehumanizing work. While sitting in a cockpit, gazing at their screens, don't your pilots see mothers and fathers with children, kids playing soccer? Consider the effect of drone strikes on these mothers and children. Children suffer intense trauma when they witness the death of their parents or are themselves victims of airstrikes. How can you justify fighting a telewar? Do the pilots really reap joy with their joysticks from killing unarmed civilians?
Do you really believe that you're protecting Americans from terrorists? You can see that dropping missiles on suspected terrorists isn't working, isn't reducing the number of terrorist cells, instead it is taking precious resources and diverting them from the very programs that could truly keep Americans safe. Can't you see that you are caught up in a system of domination that maintains that our survival depends on our threat and domination of others? And that it is this system that objectifies and separates you from people of other nations.
Commander Cluff, you have sadly forgotten who you are and are living in denial of your humanity. You can try but never succeed at legitimizing the violence of drone airstrikes. This job has dehumanized you and caused your indifference to the suffering of the people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
It is still possible to stop the killing, to change and take the risk of another way of life.
STOP THE KILLING, END DRONE WARFARE!
Women for Peace
By Alfredo Lopez
When Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma was arrested last week, charged with organizing and leading a coup, the U.S. State Department's spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "The allegations made by the Venezuelan government that the United States is involved in coup plotting and destabilization are baseless and false. The United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means."
Republicans and Many Democrats are on the attack: If We’re Going to Defend Social Security We Need to Understand It
By Dave Lindorff
The Republican-dominated Congress, with the help of a cadre of sell-out conservative Democrats in both chambers, are gearing up to attack Social Security again, under the guise of “saving” the program.
By John Grant
We have to address the political grievances terrorists exploit.
-- Barack Obama
Blocking executions was long overdue: Pennsylvania’s New Governor Wolf Issues Surprise Execution Moratorium
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Although Pennsylvania's new Governor Tom Wolf, who last November unseated Republican incumbent Tom Corbett, cited more than 315 million solid reasons to back his surprise order putting an immediate moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania, law enforcement organizations in the state still castigated his action, calling it an outrageous assault on a criminal justice system that they contend works well.
By Dave Lindorff
If you want to get a good understanding of how thoroughly corrupted and sold-out our government in Washington is, you need only look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the latest in a series of trade “deals” that is heading towards passage right now, and that, like its predecessors, NAFTA and CAFTA, as well as the World Trade Organization, will be sucking jobs out of the US for years.
By Dave Lindorff
The Nobel Peace Laureate President Barack Obama, the guy who once campaigned claiming one US war -- the one against Iraq -- was a “bad” one, and the other -- against Afghanistan -- was a “good” one, turns out to be a man who, once anointed commander-in-chief, can’t seem to find a war he doesn’t consider to be a “good” idea.
By John Reuwer, MD, Adjunct Professor, Conflict Resolution, Saint Michael’s College
As a student and teacher of nonviolent action, I was disheartened last week to wake up and read of the box office success of what I thought was yet another shoot-em-up action film, the American Sniper, while the same day noting that a film about my field, Selma, though successful, was not even in the same ballpark with the money. It made me wonder why, so I went to see them.
These movies tell the story of two American heroes, the most lethal sniper in American military history, Christopher Kyle, and the most remembered name in the US civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. We are presented with two very different kinds of heroes, by many accounts both played accurately by their actors.
What makes these men heroes? They both loved their country, and both saw their country in trouble. King saw people of color being shut out from the American dream, and brutalized when they stepped up to claim it. Kyle saw a threat from the Middle East as he heard news of terrorist attacks and watched as the World Trade Centers fell. Both men were willing to risk their lives in dramatic ways, fighting battle after battle over many years to make things right.
Beyond these things, these men were very different in the way they saw what was wrong in the world and how they should make it better.
The movie depiction of Kyle’s formative years relevant to his heroism, besides establishing him as a hunter with good aim, is a lesson from his father about the three kinds of people in the world: the sheep, the wolves, and the sheep dogs whose job it is to protect the sheep. He clearly sees himself as the sheep dog through the movie, and everyone else becomes a sheep or a wolf, mostly devoid of humanity or personality. His world is black and white, and his mission is clear – kill anyone who appears to be threatening his buddies, regardless of age, gender, or the impossible situation in which they find themselves.
In Selma, we don’t get King’s background, but his mission is clear – overturn the obstacles to blacks’ voting in Alabama. The difference in his view of the world is that it is not so black and white. He knows that each human being is capable of good and evil ( a point ironically made in Sniper by one of Kyle’s soldiers who had become disgusted with the war). King’s mission is to change wrong behavior, not the people doing it.
In Kyle’s world, there is a clear line between “us” and “them”, repeatedly referring to “them” as “savages”. “Our” killing is justified and good, “theirs” is bad. Evil can be banished by killing those doing it. In King’s world, “we” and “they” are all children of God, no matter how abhorrent the behavior. Killing is out of the question; his genius is in finding more humane ways of changing evil behavior.
So which hero has the more accurate view of life? That is something that each of us must decide. I look at the aftermath for evidence. Immediately I am saddened that both men were killed in their prime by presumably unstable men with guns. Beyond that, the contrast is stark.
King won the battle for Selma, among other victories that made life for blacks in America more tolerable, and led to 50 years of painfully slow and not even close to complete, but mostly peaceful progress toward equality. I cannot help but think that had he been of Kyle’s mindset, we might have had another civil war, or perhaps even a second American genocide. Instead he called for unity and equality among Americans, and for love to be the nation’s guiding principle. Most importantly, he demonstrated the power of extremely active nonviolence to confront and defeat some of the most entrenched hatred in our history.
On the other hand, the mess in Iraq is worse than ever. Many of the places Kyle and his buddies fought so hard for in the film, are now in the hands of ISIS, despite a trillion dollars spent, hundreds of thousand Iraqis and 4500 American soldiers dead, and our VA system left to care for tens of thousands of maimed and many more psychologically traumatized veterans. Never mind that no one in Iraq had anything to do with the attacks on New York on 9/11.
Unlike Kyle’s apparent black and white picture of good and evil, American Sniper is anything but black and white. It shows the horror of war, the difficulty of deciding who dies in their own country at the hands of foreigners, the physical wounds and PTSD of the combatants, the suffering of their families, and the contradictions between saving and destroying that are inherent to war.
Having seen these two excellent films, I am hopeful that Sniper’s popularity shows not a love of simplistic killing, but Americans’ willingness to wrestle with the tough issues of our time. My wish is that nonviolent action would attract the same attention, so that more folks could better understand the powerful alternatives to the misery of endless war.
Sen. John McCain is ‘low-life scum’: And NPR Is Not Reporting the News on Cuba Much Differently than the Corporate Media
By Dave Lindorff
By John Grant
People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.
Back in 1979, reviewers liked to point out that Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now was so plagued with difficulty and confusion (the star suffered a heart attack during shooting and a devastating typhoon destroyed all the sets) that the making of the film paralleled the reality of the Vietnam War itself.
By William Blum
After Paris, condemnation of religious fanaticism is at its height. I’d guess that even many progressives fantasize about wringing the necks of jihadists, bashing into their heads some thoughts about the intellect, about satire, humor, freedom of speech. We’re talking here, after all, about young men raised in France, not Saudi Arabia.
Where has all this Islamic fundamentalism come from in this modern age? Most of it comes – trained, armed, financed, indoctrinated – from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. During various periods from the 1970s to the present, these four countries had been the most secular, modern, educated, welfare states in the Middle East region. And what had happened to these secular, modern, educated, welfare states?
In the 1980s, the United States overthrew the Afghan government that was progressive, with full rights for women, believe it or not , leading to the creation of the Taliban and their taking power.
In the 2000s, the United States overthrew the Iraqi government, destroying not only the secular state, but the civilized state as well, leaving a failed state.
In 2011, the United States and its NATO military machine overthrew the secular Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi, leaving behind a lawless state and unleashing many hundreds of jihadists and tons of weaponry across the Middle East.
And for the past few years the United States has been engaged in overthrowing the secular Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. This, along with the US occupation of Iraq having triggered widespread Sunni-Shia warfare, led to the creation of The Islamic State with all its beheadings and other charming practices.
However, despite it all, the world was made safe for capitalism, imperialism, anti-communism, oil, Israel, and jihadists. God is Great!
Starting with the Cold War, and with the above interventions building upon that, we have 70 years of American foreign policy, without which – as Russian/American writer Andre Vltchek has observed – “almost all Muslim countries, including Iran, Egypt and Indonesia, would now most likely be socialist, under a group of very moderate and mostly secular leaders”. Even the ultra-oppressive Saudi Arabia – without Washington’s protection – would probably be a very different place.
On January 11, Paris was the site of a March of National Unity in honor of the magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose journalists had been assassinated by terrorists. The march was rather touching, but it was also an orgy of Western hypocrisy, with the French TV broadcasters and the assembled crowd extolling without end the NATO world’s reverence for journalists and freedom of speech; an ocean of signs declaring Je suis Charlie … Nous Sommes Tous Charlie; and flaunting giant pencils, as if pencils – not bombs, invasions, overthrows, torture, and drone attacks – have been the West’s weapons of choice in the Middle East during the past century.
No reference was made to the fact that the American military, in the course of its wars in recent decades in the Middle East and elsewhere, had been responsible for the deliberate deaths of dozens of journalists. In Iraq, among other incidents, see Wikileaks’ 2007 video of the cold-blooded murder of two Reuters journalists; the 2003 US air-to-surface missile attack on the offices of Al Jazeera in Baghdad that left three journalists dead and four wounded; and the American firing on Baghdad’s Hotel Palestine the same year that killed two foreign cameramen.
Moreover, on October 8, 2001, the second day of the US bombing of Afghanistan, the transmitters for the Taliban government’s Radio Shari were bombed and shortly after this the US bombed some 20 regional radio sites. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the targeting of these facilities, saying: “Naturally, they cannot be considered to be free media outlets. They are mouthpieces of the Taliban and those harboring terrorists.”
And in Yugoslavia, in 1999, during the infamous 78-day bombing of a country which posed no threat at all to the United States or any other country, state-owned Radio Television Serbia (RTS) was targeted because it was broadcasting things which the United States and NATO did not like (like how much horror the bombing was causing). The bombs took the lives of many of the station’s staff, and both legs of one of the survivors, which had to be amputated to free him from the wreckage.
I present here some views on Charlie Hebdo sent to me by a friend in Paris who has long had a close familiarity with the publication and its staff:
“On international politics Charlie Hebdo was neoconservative. It supported every single NATO intervention from Yugoslavia to the present. They were anti-Muslim, anti-Hamas (or any Palestinian organization), anti-Russian, anti-Cuban (with the exception of one cartoonist), anti-Hugo Chávez, anti-Iran, anti-Syria, pro-Pussy Riot, pro-Kiev … Do I need to continue?
“Strangely enough, the magazine was considered to be ‘leftist’. It’s difficult for me to criticize them now because they weren’t ‘bad people’, just a bunch of funny cartoonists, yes, but intellectual freewheelers without any particular agenda and who actually didn’t give a fuck about any form of ‘correctness’ – political, religious, or whatever; just having fun and trying to sell a ‘subversive’ magazine (with the notable exception of the former editor, Philippe Val, who is, I think, a true-blooded neocon).”
Dumb and Dumber
Remember Arseniy Yatsenuk? The Ukrainian whom US State Department officials adopted as one of their own in early 2014 and guided into the position of Prime Minister so he could lead the Ukrainian Forces of Good against Russia in the new Cold War?
In an interview on German television on January 7, 2015 Yatsenuk allowed the following words to cross his lips: “We all remember well the Soviet invasion of Ukraine and Germany. We will not allow that, and nobody has the right to rewrite the results of World War Two”.
The Ukrainian Forces of Good, it should be kept in mind, also include several neo-Nazis in high government positions and many more partaking in the fight against Ukrainian pro-Russians in the south-east of the country. Last June, Yatsenuk referred to these pro-Russians as “sub-humans” , directly equivalent to the Nazi term “untermenschen”.
So the next time you shake your head at some stupid remark made by a member of the US government, try to find some consolation in the thought that high American officials are not necessarily the dumbest, except of course in their choice of who is worthy of being one of the empire’s partners.
The type of rally held in Paris this month to condemn an act of terror by jihadists could as well have been held for the victims of Odessa in Ukraine last May. The same neo-Nazi types referred to above took time off from parading around with their swastika-like symbols and calling for the death of Russians, Communists and Jews, and burned down a trade-union building in Odessa, killing scores of people and sending hundreds to hospital; many of the victims were beaten or shot when they tried to flee the flames and smoke; ambulances were blocked from reaching the wounded … Try and find a single American mainstream media entity that has made even a slightly serious attempt to capture the horror. You would have to go to the Russian station in Washington, DC, RT.com, search “Odessa fire” for many stories, images and videos. Also see the Wikipedia entry on the 2 May 2014 Odessa clashes.
If the American people were forced to watch, listen, and read all the stories of neo-Nazi behavior in Ukraine the past few years, I think they – yes, even the American people and their less-than-intellectual Congressional representatives – would start to wonder why their government was so closely allied with such people. The United States may even go to war with Russia on the side of such people.
L’Occident n’est pas Charlie pour Odessa. Il n’y a pas de défilé à Paris pour Odessa.
Some thoughts about this thing called ideology
Norman Finkelstein, the fiery American critic of Israel, was interviewed recently by Paul Jay on The Real News Network. Finkelstein related how he had been a Maoist in his youth and had been devastated by the exposure and downfall of the Gang of Four in 1976 in China. “It came out there was just an awful lot of corruption. The people who we thought were absolutely selfless were very self-absorbed. And it was clear. The overthrow of the Gang of Four had huge popular support.”
Many other Maoists were torn apart by the event. “Everything was overthrown overnight, the whole Maoist system, which we thought [were] new socialist men, they all believed in putting self second, fighting self. And then overnight the whole thing was reversed.”
“You know, many people think it was McCarthy that destroyed the Communist Party,” Finkelstein continued. “That’s absolutely not true. You know, when you were a communist back then, you had the inner strength to withstand McCarthyism, because it was the cause. What destroyed the Communist Party was Khrushchev’s speech,” a reference to Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s 1956 exposure of the crimes of Joseph Stalin and his dictatorial rule.
Although I was old enough, and interested enough, to be influenced by the Chinese and Russian revolutions, I was not. I remained an admirer of capitalism and a good loyal anti-communist. It was the war in Vietnam that was my Gang of Four and my Nikita Khrushchev. Day after day during 1964 and early 1965 I followed the news carefully, catching up on the day’s statistics of American firepower, bombing sorties, and body counts. I was filled with patriotic pride at our massive power to shape history. Words like those of Winston Churchill, upon America’s entry into the Second World War, came easily to mind again – “England would live; Britain would live; the Commonwealth of Nations would live.” Then, one day – a day like any other day – it suddenly and inexplicably hit me. In those villages with the strange names there were people under those falling bombs, people running in total desperation from that god-awful machine-gun strafing.
This pattern took hold. The news reports would stir in me a self-righteous satisfaction that we were teaching those damn commies that they couldn’t get away with whatever it was they were trying to get away with. The very next moment I would be struck by a wave of repulsion at the horror of it all. Eventually, the repulsion won out over the patriotic pride, never to go back to where I had been; but dooming me to experience the despair of American foreign policy again and again, decade after decade.
The human brain is an amazing organ. It keeps working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 52 weeks a year, from before you leave the womb, right up until the day you find nationalism. And that day can come very early. Here’s a recent headline from the Washington Post: “In the United States the brainwashing starts in kindergarten.”
Oh, my mistake. It actually said “In N. Korea the brainwashing starts in kindergarten.”
Let Cuba Live! The Devil’s List of what the United States has done to Cuba
On May 31, 1999, a lawsuit for $181 billion in wrongful death, personal injury, and economic damages was filed in a Havana court against the government of the United States. It was subsequently filed with the United Nations. Since that time its fate is somewhat of a mystery.
The lawsuit covered the 40 years since the country’s 1959 revolution and described, in considerable detail taken from personal testimony of victims, US acts of aggression against Cuba; specifying, often by name, date, and particular circumstances, each person known to have been killed or seriously wounded. In all, 3,478 people were killed and an additional 2,099 seriously injured. (These figures do not include the many indirect victims of Washington’s economic pressures and blockade, which caused difficulties in obtaining medicine and food, in addition to creating other hardships.)
The case was, in legal terms, very narrowly drawn. It was for the wrongful death of individuals, on behalf of their survivors, and for personal injuries to those who survived serious wounds, on their own behalf. No unsuccessful American attacks were deemed relevant, and consequently there was no testimony regarding the many hundreds of unsuccessful assassination attempts against Cuban President Fidel Castro and other high officials, or even of bombings in which no one was killed or injured. Damages to crops, livestock, or the Cuban economy in general were also excluded, so there was no testimony about the introduction into the island of swine fever or tobacco mold.
However, those aspects of Washington’s chemical and biological warfare waged against Cuba that involved human victims were described in detail, most significantly the creation of an epidemic of hemorrhagic dengue fever in 1981, during which some 340,000 people were infected and 116,000 hospitalized; this in a country which had never before experienced a single case of the disease. In the end, 158 people, including 101 children, died. That only 158 people died, out of some 116,000 who were hospitalized, was an eloquent testimony to the remarkable Cuban public health sector.
The complaint describes the campaign of air and naval attacks against Cuba that commenced in October 1959, when US president Dwight Eisenhower approved a program that included bombings of sugar mills, the burning of sugar fields, machine-gun attacks on Havana, even on passenger trains.
Another section of the complaint described the armed terrorist groups, los banditos, who ravaged the island for five years, from 1960 to 1965, when the last group was located and defeated. These bands terrorized small farmers, torturing and killing those considered (often erroneously) active supporters of the Revolution; men, women, and children. Several young volunteer literacy-campaign teachers were among the victims of the bandits.
There was also of course the notorious Bay of Pigs invasion, in April 1961. Although the entire incident lasted less than 72 hours, 176 Cubans were killed and 300 more wounded, 50 of them permanently disabled.
The complaint also described the unending campaign of major acts of sabotage and terrorism that included the bombing of ships and planes as well as stores and offices. The most horrific example of sabotage was of course the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner off Barbados in which all 73 people on board were killed. There were as well as the murder of Cuban diplomats and officials around the world, including one such murder on the streets of New York City in 1980. This campaign continued to the 1990s, with the murders of Cuban policemen, soldiers, and sailors in 1992 and 1994, and the 1997 hotel bombing campaign, which took the life of a foreigner; the bombing campaign was aimed at discouraging tourism and led to the sending of Cuban intelligence officers to the US in an attempt to put an end to the bombings; from their ranks rose the Cuban Five.
To the above can be added the many acts of financial extortion, violence and sabotage carried out by the United States and its agents in the 16 years since the lawsuit was filed. In sum total, the deep-seated injury and trauma inflicted upon on the Cuban people can be regarded as the island’s own 9-11.
- US Department of the Army, Afghanistan, A Country Study (1986), pp.121, 128, 130, 223, 232
- Counterpunch, January 10, 2015
- Index on Censorship, the UK’s leading organization promoting freedom of expression, October 18, 2001
- The Independent (London), April 24, 1999
- “Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk talking to Pinar Atalay”, Tagesschau (Germany), January 7, 2015 (in Ukrainian with German voice-over)
- CNN, June 15, 2014
- See William Blum, West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir, chapter 3
- Washington Post, January 17, 2015, page A6
- William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, chapter 30, for a capsule summary of Washington’s chemical and biological warfare against Havana.
- For further information, see William Schaap, Covert Action Quarterly magazine (Washington, DC), Fall/Winter 1999, pp.26-29
Ray McGovern has been attending the Jeffrey Sterling trial. (Jeffrey who?)
Here's a report from him on Thursday's appearance by Condoleezza Rice:
It was surreal in court earlier today; stiletto-heeled Rice prancing in within 2 feet of me, as if on the modeling runway, with a Paula Broadwell-type look on her face -- and, at the same time, Bill Harlow sitting down next to me after his testimony explaining how hard he had tried to get Jim Risen to listen to reason and not pursue/publish the story about the botched CIA "Merlin" operation.....and how listening to Rice's request at the White House meeting, NY Times Washington Bureau Chief Jill Abramson felt "out of her pay-grade range," and how her NYT masters (surprise, surprise) bowed to the White House/CIA hyperbole re the dangers of publishing, and agreed to the urgent demand/request of Rice and her boss. (Pls see my piece yesterday on pitfalls of letting covert action eager beavers loose on the basis of a false major premise i. e., that Iran was working on a nuclear weapon.)
(As for Abramson, for being a good girl, she made it to the very top of NYT as Executive Editor, for services performed -- she was also Washington Bureau Chief when Judith Miller was plying her wares with the likes of Ahmed Chalabi. But then Jill forgot her place; got too uppity and was unceremoniously dumped by the top men of that "all-the-news-that's-allowed-
Back to the courtroom: All at once I find myself wondering what might be the appropriate reaction when an amateur Goebbels (Harlow) sits down next to you; so I wrote a little note to him. (It did not seem to phase him one bit, so I'm sure he would not mind me sharing it with you):
"Newsweek, Feb 2003, quote from Hussein Kamel's debrief 1995: 'I ordered the destruction of all weapons — biological, chemical, missile, nuclear.' Harlow: Newsweek story 'incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue.' 4,500 U.S. troops dead. A consequential lie."
All stand; judge and jury leave; and I'm not sure he has read the note. I give it to him; he reads it, smiles, "Good to see you Ray!"
A scholarly study has found that the U.S. public believes that whenever the U.S. government proposes a war, it has already exhausted all other possibilities. When a sample group was asked if they supported a particular war, and a second group was asked if they supported that particular war after being told that all alternatives were no good, and a third group was asked if they supported that war even though there were good alternatives, the first two groups registered the same level of support, while support for war dropped off significantly in the third group. This led the researchers to the conclusion that if alternatives are not mentioned, people don’t assume they exist — rather, people assume they’ve already been tried.
The evidence is, of course, extensive that the U.S. government, among others, often uses war as a first, second, or third resort, not a last resort. Congress is busily sabotaging diplomacy with Iran, while James Sterling is on trial in Alexandria for exposing a CIA scheme to gin up supposed grounds for a war with Iran. Then-Vice President Dick Cheney once pondered the option of having U.S. troops shoot at U.S. troops dressed up as Iranians. Moments before a White House press conference at which then-President George W. Bush and then-Prime Minister Tony Blair claimed they were trying to avoid war in Iraq, Bush had proposed to Blair that they paint planes with UN colors and fly them low trying to get them shot at. Hussein was willing to walk away with $1 billion. The Taliban was willing to put bin Laden on trial in a third country. Gadaffi didn’t really threaten a slaughter, but Libya’s seen one now. The stories of chemical weapons attacks by Syria, invasions by Russia into Ukraine, and so forth, that fade away when a war fails to begin — these are not efforts to avoid war, to hold war off as a last resort. These are what Eisenhower warned would happen, and what he had already seen happen, when huge financial interests are stacked up behind the need for more wars.
But try telling the U.S. public. The Journal of Conflict Resolution has just published an article titled “Norms, Diplomatic Alternatives, and the Social Psychology of War Support,” by Aaron M. Hoffman, Christopher R. Agnew, Laura E. VanderDrift, and Robert Kulzick. The authors discuss various factors in public support for or opposition to wars, including the prominent place held by the question of “success” — now generally believed to matter more than body counts (meaning U.S. body counts, the massively larger foreign body counts never even coming into consideration in any study I’ve heard of). “Success” is a bizarre factor because of its lack of a hard definition and because by any definition the United States military just doesn’t have successes once it moves beyond destroying things to attempts at occupation, control, and long-term exploitation — er, excuse me, democracy promotion.
The authors’ own research finds that even when “success” is believed likely, even the muddle-headed people holding that belief tend to prefer diplomatic options (unless, of course, they are members of the United States Congress). The journal article offers some recent examples beyond the new research to back up its idea: “In 2002–2003, for instance, 60 percent of Americans believed that a US military victory in Iraq was likely (CNN/Time poll, November 13–14, 2002). Nevertheless, 63 percent of the public said they preferred a diplomatic solution to the crisis over a military one (CBS News poll, January 4–6, 2003).”
But if nobody mentions nonviolent alternatives, people aren’t uninterested in them or dismissive of them or opposed to them. No, in large numbers people actually believe that all diplomatic solutions have already been attempted. What a fantastic fact! Of course, it’s not that shocking given that war supporters habitually claim to be pursuing war as a last resort and to be fighting war reluctantly in the name of peace. But it’s an insane belief to hold if you’re living in the real world in which the State Department has become a minor unpaid intern to the Pentagon master. Diplomacy with some countries, like Iran, has actually been forbidden during periods in in which the U.S. public apparently thought it was being thoroughly pursued. And what in the world would it mean for ALL nonviolent solutions to have been tried? Could one not always think of another? Or try the same one again? Unless a looming emergency like the fictional threat to Benghazi can impose a deadline, the mad rush to war is unjustified by anything rational at all.
The role that the researchers attribute to a belief that diplomacy has already been tried could also be played by a belief that diplomacy is impossible with irrational subhuman monsters like ________ (fill in the government or residents of a targeted nation or region). The difference made by informing someone that alternatives exist would then include in it the transformation of monsters into people capable of speech.
The same transformation might be played by the revelation that, for example, people accused of building nuclear weapons aren’t actually doing so. The authors note that: “average support for the use of force by the U.S. military against Iran between 2003 and 2012 appears to be sensitive to information about the quality of available alternative courses of action. Although the use of force was never sup- ported by a majority of Americans during George W. Bush’s presidency (2001– 2009), it is notable that a significant drop in support for military action against Iran occurs in 2007. At that time, the Bush administration was seen as committed to war with Iran and pursuing diplomatic action half-heartedly. Seymour M. Hersh’s article in The New Yorker (2006) reporting that the administration was devising an aerial bombing campaign of suspected nuclear sites in Iran helped confirm this sense. Yet, a release of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which concluded that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 because of international pressure, undercut the argument for war. As an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney told The Wall Street Journal, the authors of the NIE ‘knew how to pull the rug out from under us’.”
But the lesson learned never seems to be that the government wants war and will lie to get it. “While public support for military operations against Iran declined during the Bush administration, it generally increased during President Barack Obama’s first term (2009–2012). Obama came to office more optimistic than his predecessor about the ability of diplomacy to get Iran to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. [You notice that even these scholars simply assume such pursuit was underway, despite their inclusion of the above NIE in the article.] Obama, for example, opened the door to direct talks with Iran over its nuclear program ‘without preconditions,’ a position George Bush rejected. Nevertheless, the inefficacy of diplomacy during Obama’s first term appears to be associated with gradual acceptance that military action might be the last viable option capable of getting Iran to change course. Paraphrasing former CIA director Michael Hayden, military action against Iran is an increasingly attractive option because ‘no matter what the U.S. does diplomatically, Tehran keeps pushing ahead with its suspected nuclear program’ (Haaretz, July 25, 2010).”
Now how does one keep pushing ahead with something that a foreign government persists in wrongly suspecting or pretending that one is doing? That’s never made clear. The point is that if you declare, Bushlike, that you have no use for diplomacy, people will oppose your war initiative. If, on the other hand, you claim, Obamalike, to be pursuing diplomacy, yet you persist, also Obamalike, in promoting the lies about what the targeted nation is up to, then people will apparently feel that they can support mass murder with a clear conscience.
The lesson for opponents of war seems to be this: point out the alternatives. Name the 86 good ideas you have for what to do about ISIS. Hammer away at what should be done. And some people, though generally accepting of war, will withhold their approval.
*Thanks to Patrick Hiller for letting me know about this article.
Video of David Swanson, Brian Becker, and Patrick Henningsen on Crosstalk on RT: here.
Some killings are reported on in a slightly different manner from how the Charlie Hebdo killings have been. Rewriting a drone killing as a gun killing (changing just a few words) would produce something like this:
Freedom Fighters Gun Strike in Europe Is Said to Have Killed 12 Militants
PARIS, France — At least 12 foreign militants were believed to have been killed in a freedom fighter gun strike in the North Paris tribal region on Wednesday morning, a Liberation security official said.
The Liberation official said guns fired 128 precision bullets into a compound in the Cafe Au Lait subdistrict at 6:40 a.m. The area is close to the headquarters of numerous French businesses.
“The guns targeted a base of a French commander known as Francoise, killing 12 French militants. Two militants are wounded,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media.
It was unclear whether Francoise was there at the time of the attack. The local news media has reported that he is allied with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and engaged in plans to ship troops and weaponry to Western Asia.
Gun strikes in France, often attributed to Muslims, prompt regular diplomatic protests from the entire Western world.
Separately, the Liberation military said four terrorist hide-outs and a training center for bombers were damaged by gun strikes late Saturday in a remote suburb of the nearby South Paris tribal region.
In a brief statement, the military said that “6 terrorists, including some bomber pilots, were killed in precise gun strikes.” There was no independent confirmation of the military’s claim.
Last summer, the Liberation military launched a long-awaited offensive against French and foreign militants holed up in the Western Europe region. The military claims that it now controls 0.4 percent of the region.
NATO attacks in recent years have left hundreds of thousands dead.
In contrast, rewriting a Charlie Hebdo report as a drone report might produce something like this:
Drone attack on Pakistani house kills 12
Drone pilots have shot dead 12 people at the home of their grandmother in an apparent militant Imperialist attack.
Four of the family's youngest generation, including its new-born infant were among those killed, as well as two friends visiting at the time.
A major police operation is under way to find three drone pilots believed to be hiding out in Langley, Virginia.
President Mamnoon Hussain said there was no doubt it had been a terrorist attack "of exceptional barbarity".
It is believed to be the deadliest attack in Pakistan since last Tuesday, when another drone -- or possibly the same one -- sent a missile into a picnic killing 18.
The distant faceless attackers opened fire with hellfire missiles in the sky above the family's home and faced no opposition. They later flew the drone higher in the sky, presumably recording video footage, the buzzing of their deadly machine still audible below as rescuers waited for it to leave before daring to search for survivors.
People had been "murdered in a cowardly manner", presidents and leaders around the globe remarked in unison. U.S. President Barack Obama has condemned the "horrific shooting", offering to provide any assistance needed "to help bring these terrorists to justice".
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: "It was a horrendous, unjustifiable and cold-blooded crime. It was also a direct assault on a cornerstone of democracy, on the safety of a family in its home."
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said in a tweet: "The murders in Pakistan are sickening. We stand with the Pakistani people in the fight against terror."
Eurocentric clubs and Christian churches around the world rushed to condemn the killing.
Footage shot by an eyewitness outside the house shows scattered rubble and what appears to be bits of flesh and clothing hanging from a nearby tree.
By John Grant
By all means let’s mourn together; but let’s not be stupid together.
The costly debacle known as the Iraq War put the US government in a tough spot that's now exacerbated by the rise of the Islamic State in Anbar Province and western Syria.
A former Governor of Virginia is expected to be sentenced to a long stay in prison. The same fate has befallen governors in states across the United States, including in nearby Maryland, Tennessee, and West Virginia. A former governor of Illinois is in prison. Governors have been convicted of corruption in Rhode Island, Louisiana, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Connecticut, and (in a trumped-up partisan scam) in Alabama. The statewide trauma suffered by the people of states that have locked up their governors has been . . . well, nonexistent and unimaginable.
Locking U.S. presidents up for their crimes is a different story. Former President Richard Nixon's understanding that whatever a president does is legal has not been challenged since he made that comment. The Washington Post -- not exactly a Nixon supporter -- has the same understanding now. The Post recently justified the latest proposal to re-ban torture by explaining that even though torture was already banned, President George W. Bush tortured and therefore had found a legal way around the law. In other words, because he hasn't been prosecuted, what he did was legal.
The New York Times, which urged prosecuting former President George W. Bush for torture six years ago, recently wrote this:
"Who should be held accountable? That will depend on what an investigation finds, and as hard as it is to imagine Mr. Obama having the political courage to order a new investigation, it is harder to imagine a criminal probe of the actions of a former president. But any credible investigation should include . . . "
The editorial goes on to list the people who should be prosecuted, up to and including the former vice president. But the president gets a pass, not on the basis of some reasoned argument, but because the authors cannot imagine a president being held accountable for crimes. They or their colleagues could imagine it several years ago but have progressed to the point where it has become unthinkable.
The state flag of Virginia, or any other of the 50 states, can be turned into a table cloth or a picnic blanket. It can be used to keep the rain off your firewood. Or it can be burned to get your fire started. Nobody cares what you do with it. Children aren't forced to pray to it every morning in school. It's just a flag. And because it's just a flag, nobody has any interest in abusing it, and virtually nobody would recognize what it was if they saw it burned or trampled or turned into a bathrobe or a bikini. The flag of Virginia, although we don't actually imagine it as having feelings, is treated just fine. So are state songs, even though nobody is required to stand and sing them with a fascistic pose as troops march by.
The same is true of state governors. They're treated with civility and respect. They're honored when they perform well and held accountable when they abuse power. Understood as human beings, they aren't abused as anything less. But they are not gods. And they are not gods because they are not makers of war.
Presidents make wars. And they now do so without any formal checks on their power. They can destroy the earth with the push of a button. They can destroy a hut or a village or a city at their discretion. Their killer flying robots rain hell from the skies worldwide, and neither Congress nor the Washington Post nor the people who lock up governors for taking bribes can even imagine questioning that power, that privilege, that divine right.
Congress may, it is true, "authorize" one of the current wars for three more years after allowing it to proceed illegally for several months. Or it may not. Nobody cares. The pretense that it matters is a vestige of a time in which we saw presidents differently.
But if murdering large numbers of people doesn't disturb us, if we've all concluded that murder is morally superior to imprisonment and torture and that there is no third option, are we perhaps capable of spotting a problem in what presidents have become in relation to the rule of law? Should it not disturb us that we've given single individuals for 4- or 8-year runs more power than King George III ever dreamed of, and that we've collectively declared any declaration of independence unimaginable?
By Dave Lindorff
When I was starting out as a reporter back in 1972, working for a little family-owned daily, the Middletown Press in central Connecticut, I had editors and a publisher who demanded the best from us. If I was covering a story -- whether it was a police blotter report, a town meeting, or a controversial decision by a local zoning board -- and I failed to ask an important question, I inevitably got a call from the editor telling me to get it answered and inserted into my article.
By Dave Lindorff
As shameful a propagandist for Washington’s war machine as the New York Times has been over the years, sometimes I still cannot believe the brazenness of its abandonment of even a pretext of dispassionate journalistic standards. One of those moments came today, when I read the left-column page-one article by Jim Yardley and Jo Becker headlined “How Putin Forged a Pipeline Deal that Derailed.”
Jonathan Landay is a reporter for McClatchy. His reporting at Knight Ridder during the marketing of the 2003 invasion of Iraq was virtually the only skeptical reporting in the corporate press. He discusses current wars and politics.
Total run time: 29:00
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Producer: David Swanson.
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By Linn Washington Jr.
Tinduf, Algeria -- News about the historic change of relations between the United States and Cuba triggered cheers across the five Sahrawi refugee camps located near this Sahara Desert city located 1,100-miles southwest of Algeria’s capital of Algiers on the Mediterranean Sea.
By Dave Lindorff
Is it just me or does anyone else think like me that this whole uproar over the supposed foreign “threat” to Americans’ freedom in the form of warnings against showing a low-brow Hollywood comedy, “The Interview” is a pathetic farce?
I couldn't tell you about it and couldn't tell you why: ‘Gagged’ by the Government: a Police State Story
By Alfredo Lopez
For the past three months, I and other leaders of the organization May First/People Link have been under a federal subpoena to provide information we don't have. During that time, we have also been forbidden by a federal court "gag order" to tell anyone about that subpoena, although we had already announced it and commented on it before the order was sent. Finally, we were forbidden from telling anyone about the gag order itself.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Last fall an apparently unbalanced survivalist steeped in anti-government paranoia murdered a Pennsylvania State Trooper and seriously wounded another Trooper during a sniper attack. Recently an apparently unbalanced man with a criminal past murdered two New York City policemen as they sat in their patrol car hours after he allegedly shot a former girl friend.