Posts by DavidSwanson:
- Yet, that seems to be the Hobson’s choice behind the Afghan presidential election, which is into its run-off between Dr. Abdullah / Mohaqiq’s team and Dr. Ashraf Ghani / General Dostum’s team, neither team having won more than 50% of balloted votes in the first round.
Interview conducted by Ann Garrison
She is an independent journalist who also contributes to the San Francisco Bay View, Global Research, the Black Agenda Report and the Black Star News, and produces radio for KPFA-Berkeley and WBAI-New York City.
On November 21st, California secessionists calling themselves “Yes California” filed papers with the California Secretary of State proposing a November 2018 ballot measure that would ask registered voters whether California should secede from the US and become its own nation. If passed, the measure would strike language from California’s constitution that says the state is “an inseparable part of the United States of America, and the United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land.” It would also require a special election in March 2019 for the sole purpose of asking voters whether they’re really sure they want to secede. The measure has been dubbed Calexit after Brexit, which is shorthand for Britain’s vote to withdraw from the European Union. Its author answers a long list of questions about how California’s institutions might adapt on their website yescalifornia.org. I spoke to David Swanson, Executive Director of World Beyond War and one of the first writer-activists to come out in favor of Calexit.
Ann Garrison: David, you saw the Calexit coming back on March 17th when you wrote the essay “Secession, Trump[, and the Avoidability of Civil War” after California Governor Jerry Brown joked about building a wall around California if Trump were elected. Similar movements emerged, most visibly in California and Vermont, after George Bush’s second election, but both quickly faded from media attention. Do you think this is a historical moment in which they might have more staying power?
David Swanson: Well, I hope so and that’s all this is – a desire and a hope and advocacy on my part. I wasn’t making any accurate or inaccurate prediction that a secession movement would happen. I’m just encouraging that there be one and that it grow and that it be supported by those of us in the rest of the United States. It need not be a step toward chaos and balkanization; it could instead be a step toward actual integration with the rest of the world. As it is, the United States is a rogue state violating international law in many, many ways that California wouldn’t have to if it seceded and became a nation.
AG: Yes California, the campaign, needs 600,000 signatures or a two-thirds vote by the state legislature to put its California constitutional amendment on the ballot. The two-thirds vote in the state legislature is all but unimaginable, so that means it needs an almost equally unimaginable volunteer effort or somewhere between 5 and 10 million dollars to pay signature gatherers. Then, if it did get on the ballot and pass, two-thirds of Congress would have to vote to let California go. None of this is taking clear shape on the horizon yet, so why do you think it’s worth talking about?
DS: Well, I think almost everything important that’s ever happened was unimaginable shortly before it happened. Good things and bad things: ending slavery, ending child labor, women voting, etc. I think the election of Donald Trump, if you want to call it an election, was unimaginable to most people, which is part of how it happened. I think the current state of US foreign policy with seven simultaneous wars, and the President going through a list of men, women, and children every Tuesday and picking who to murder with drones, was unimaginable. It still is unimaginable to most people even as it happens.
Climate change is so unimaginable that most Americans deny it’s happening, so I think we have to work for the unimaginable and push for a referendum, an initiative, and passage of it. California, like anywhere else on Earth, should have the right to secede whether the United States likes it or not. The preferences of the other 49 states and Washington DC is not relevant. That was the position of the United States government on Yugoslavia and other places around the world but not on Ukraine. However, morality and the law as I understand it are that any people should have the right to leave, just as explained in the initial words of the US Declaration of Independence.
AG: You’re an out-of-state supporter doing your writing and organizing work in Charlottesville, Virginia. If California were to secede, do you imagine that the rest of the United States might then break up into smaller, less violent, and more democratic states?
DG: I’m not that good at predictions, but I think that the status quo is not acceptable. It’s absolute, guaranteed disaster for the climate and for war and peace. This, however, has a decent chance of succeeding and is therefore worth trying. It has to be done carefully, but breaking the United States up into a number of pieces could be very good for the integration of those new nations with the rest of the world and the international law whose primary enemy is now the United States government. I think that it would be very good for democracy, for people to be within some hundreds of miles of their nation’s capital, as they are in many other countries, so that they didn’t have to travel thousands of miles to protest, to exercise their First Amendment rights, but that is the current state of affairs in this overly large, imperial nation.
AG: Do you think the Pentagon would be particularly resistant to secession, which would, of course, reduce the tax base and recruiting pool for its seven aerial bombing wars, its 800 military bases, and all its covert operations?
DG: Well, I think the Pentagon would love to fight a war over it, just as the United States government fought a war over it in the 1860s, but the Pentagon is supposed to be under civilian control and it ought to be up to the people of the United States, not the profiteers. However, many militarists would like to see California’s votes vanish from the national electoral system, which would then become more Republican, so I can’t predict.
AG: Okay, let’s talk about the downsides. In this essay you published on November 11th, ‘Calexit Yes,’ you note that the arguments against secession are Jim Crow and Arizona apartheid. Black citizens in a reborn confederacy, which would be about 55% of Black citizens of the USA as it is now, might face a President Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, not just an Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. Citizens of Arizona might face a President Joe Arpaio, and both would have lost the protection of the US Constitution. What’s your answer to that?
DG: Well, anything can become worse. The United States has been becoming worse year after year after year for decades, and it’s guaranteed to continue down that path if we don’t change something. I’m not convinced that the people of Arizona as a nation couldn’t do better to protect equal rights for all than the people of Arizona as part of the United States, which is actually not helping them much.
California as a nation or part of a larger West Coast nation, should other states join with California, would be a good influence on the rest of the United States. It could be a model, especially if it chose to go the route that I’m proposing which is to actually become a signer of the convention on the rights of the child, a member of the International Criminal Court, and on and on through the dozens of treaties and international standards that I go through in the article. I think that would be a good influence on the rest of the United States, and I think we would see immigration from one of these new nations to others based on which was more enlightened and progressive than the others.
AG: Okay, one of the most controversial aspects of your first essay is your argument that slavery might have ended sooner if the north had simply let the south go without the devastating Civil War. Wouldn’t that have simply created two competing powers on the frontier, one slave and one free, probably leading to war just as inevitably?
DG: Well, that’s essentially what did happen. There was no argument over the existing states before the Civil War was over. There was universal agreement to expand westward and disagreement over which new states to make slave and which to make free. The southern states, in fact, insisted that the Constitution required the return of so-called fugitive slaves, and they wanted to deny the states’ rights to the northern states that had chosen not to return people escaped from slavery. Over that issue, the government of the northern states, the federal government, chose to say, “We will not let you leave, we will fight a war for the Union.” That later became a war for freedom of those enslaved, but it didn’t succeed. Slavery remained in the Deep South by other names – in prison programs with charges over nothing and eternal debt that threatened every African-American in the South right up through World War II. And that was after killing three-quarters of a million people, destroying cities, and creating hostility that exists to this day over the the Confederate flag and the racism it symbolizes, all brewing out of bitterness over a war that didn’t have to happen.
I can’t say with certainty that slavery would have ended more quickly and more completely if the South had been allowed to leave and escaped former slaves had been allowed to remain free, and the North and the rest of the world had been a positive influence on the South. However, it’s certainly a possibility that it would have ended sooner if the southern slave owners had agreed to a system of compensated emancipation and freed the slaves without a war and without secession, as most nations that ended slavery did. That absolutely would have been preferable to the Civil War as it happened. No other nation killed people the way the United States did to end slavery.
AG: Isn’t there at least one exception – Haiti – which killed people to end slavery?
DG: Well, there was an uprising of primarily enslaved people on Haiti and that happened in Jamaica and numerous other places, but nations didn’t split and have a civil war and kill three-quarters of a million people and then pass the legislation that they should have passed on day one to end slavery. That was not the norm. Most nations continued to exist as the same nation that had slavery and abolished it without a war.
AG: Okay, in both of your two essays on this, you say that it’s anything but an easy moral question whether four million people should be left enslaved another moment, or whether a nation should launch a war that might benefit them. However, with the US military might and its greenhouse gasses threatening the future of life on Earth, is secession still a difficult moral choice?
DG: Well, we have to do something. If we think that we can somehow gain control of the US government, bring it under popular, enlightened progressive control, preserve a habitable climate, and rein in the dangers of nuclear and other warfare, then we should. However, if we think it’s more likely that we can achieve those goals by secession, then we should go down that path. There’s no question. It’s an absolute moral imperative.
I think it’s more likely that we can make positive changes happen on environment and military issues if states begin to secede. I don’t think it’s question of personal lifestyle preference or some sort of parochial identification with your state. I think it’s an absolute moral demand that something be done to create a government with some power that can be controlled by the residents of its territory. That was supposedly the idea in creating the United States, but it doesn’t exist now and we have to make it exist even if it’s piece by piece, part of the United States at a time.
More articles by:Ann Garrison
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By David Swanson.
Virginia’s Constitution is three times as long as the U.S. Constitution (which is notably lacking any serious sections on oyster beds). Virginia’s Constitution has also been updated at least three times as much as the U.S. Constitution. But it is now long overdue.
The U.S. Constitution has been updated with 27 amendments and 0 serious revisions through conventions. Virginia’s Constitution has been amended many times including through five Constitutional conventions, held in 1830, 1851, 1864, 1870, and 1902. From 1776 to 1902 that’s one convention every 25 years. Now there hasn’t been one for 114 years.
I don’t want to revise the Virginia Constitution just for the heck of it, but because it is badly needed. There is much in the Virginia Constitution that needn’t be there at all, but that can be to our advantage if it facilitates opening the whole thing to desirable improvements. Some improvements are desirable because of the failure of the federal government to make them.
I wrote to my state legislators and governor asking that Virginia make voter registration automatic, the way some states have done. I was told that in Virginia this would require amending the Constitution. Unlike many other states, Virginia details voter registration processes in its Constitution. (One hopes it’s unnecessary to recall the ugly reasons why.) I’d amend the Constitution to make voter registration automatic, to delete the disenfranchisement of felons, and to delete the language permitting the creation of literacy tests for voting.
I’d delete a lot else that need not be enshrined in a Constitution, but I’d also add a lot that’s missing on the topic of voting rights and in many other areas.
Some general updates are obvious and easy: Add several missing categories to the forbidden reasons for discrimination (or take out the existing list and ban all discrimination). Change “men” to “people.” Delete the section creating marriage bigotry. Delete all promotion of religion from various sections including the section supposedly banning the establishment of religion.
But major revisions are in order as well. Look at this list of protected rights: “enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”
Virginia executes people. One in 46 adults in Virginia is in prison, jail, parole, or probation. So much for life and liberty. Many Virginians have little or no means of acquiring and possessing property. And it’s hard to say we can obtain happiness and safety with environmental damage and danger as well as gun violence escalating. These existing elements of the Constitution need enactment and enforcement. Or they need stricter commitment in a revised Constitution. Similarly, the ban on standing armies isn’t sufficient to prevent the existence of the Virginia National Guard, and the ban on taking private property without compensation isn’t protecting anyone from oil pipelines or climate destruction or rising sea level.
But mostly the problem is the rights that are missing entirely or vaguely stated later in the Constitution. The U.S. approach of providing a safety net to the least well off simply is not working. The least well off don’t have political power. What works in other countries is to provide benefits to everyone, which almost everyone then supports. We need the right to a free top-quality education free of for-profit corruption and ridiculous tests from preschool through college. We need the right to free, bureaucracy-free, insurance-company-free, preventive universal single-payer healthcare. We need the right to a basic income for all. We need the right to a healthy and sustainable environment. The environment needs the right to health and sustainability. (Yes, giving rights to the environment makes at least as much sense as giving them to corporations — which should be explicitly barred — and is being done in modern Constitutions.)
The Virginia Constitution now reads: “Further, it shall be the Commonwealth’s policy to protect its atmosphere, lands, and waters from pollution, impairment, or destruction, for the benefit, enjoyment, and general welfare of the people of the Commonwealth.” But, of course, it is not the Commonwealth’s policy to do any such thing. This has to be made enforceable. Or it has to be enforced.
While the United States is the one nation on earth that has not joined the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Virginia should include the content of that treaty in its Constitution. It should do the same with the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It should also join the world in banning land mines, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, and nuclear weapons, and in establishing rights of migrant workers.
The section of the Virginia Constitution on the rights of the accused needs updating. There should be a right to videotape of all interrogations. There should be a right to competent legal representation. There should be a right not to be killed. There should be a ban on militarizing police and on the use of weaponized drones, as well as on the use in court of any evidence obtained by surveillance drones.
When it comes to election reforms, I would propose something like this:
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be protected free speech.
All elections for Governor and members of the Senate and General Assembly shall be entirely publicly financed. No political contributions shall be permitted to any federal candidate, from any other source, including the candidate. No political expenditures shall be permitted in support of any candidate, or in opposition to any candidate, from any other source, including the candidate. The legislature shall, by statute, provide limitations on the amounts and timing of the expenditures of such public funds and provide criminal penalties for any violation of this section.
State and local governments shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for state or local public office or any state or local ballot measure.
Citizens will be automatically registered to vote upon reaching the age of 18 or upon becoming citizens at an age above 18, and the right to vote shall not be taken away from them.
Votes shall be recorded on paper ballots, which shall be publicly counted at the polling place and reported to a central counting location, with the process repeated as many times as required to allow voters to make use of ranked-choice (instant runoff) voting.
Election day shall be a state holiday.
During a designated campaign period of no longer than six months, free air time shall be provided in equal measure to all candidates for state office on state or local television and radio stations, provided that each candidate has, during the previous year, received the supporting signatures of at least five percent of their potential voting-age constituents.
The same supporting signatures shall also place the candidate’s name on the ballot and require their invitation to participate in any public debate among the candidates for the same office.
The Virginia Constitution now states: “That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people, that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.”
I would give this concrete form in a right to create and vote on public initiatives to determine state policy, including the creation of Constitutional conventions and amendments.
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TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A senior American peace activist and author said the killing of African American people by US police has its origins in the country’s foreign policy.
In an interview with Tasnim, David Swanson, who is the director of the “World Beyond War” website, said that the institutionalized “culture of immunity “for police officers in the United States has led to fatal shootings against African Americans, who are in most cases “unarmed, non-threatening and non-law-violating people.”
Highlighting the role the Israeli military plays in the training of US law enforcement forces, Swanson related the shooting culture to US foreign policy.
“What people in the United States and around the world don’t connect enough is that the lessons, the model for this comes from US foreign policy, and the weapons, the training comes from US foreign policy. And we have police departments in the United States being trained by US military and the department of so-called Homeland Security, and by the Israeli military- US police departments are going to Israel for training,” Swanson said.
Elsewhere in his comments, the Virginia-based activist pointed to endless efforts by the US media to demonize countries such as Iran, Russia and China in order to justify US foreign policy worldwide and said, “The nation of Iran -I’m sorry to say- is along with Russia and China, endlessly demonized in the US media so that when there is fear-mongering about foreign threats and the need for military spending and the need to violate laws and the need to strongly enforce justice- meaning US power- Iran is more often than not the enemy. That’s put into people’s minds”.
As an example of the influence of the anti-Iran media hype on the minds of the public in the United States, Swanson referred to the arguments for and against the nuclear agreement with Iran in US political circles. According to Swanson, both advocates and the opponents of the agreement based their arguments on the “non-existent” threat fabricated by the US media and US officials together.
“And we had a debate a couple of years ago – a year and a half ago- on whether to have a nuclear agreement with Iran over Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons program. And the debate from both sides in this town, in Washington D.C. was ‘we must have the agreement, because the Iranians are so devious and evil and working on nuclear weapons or, ‘we must not have the agreement, we must bomb them, because the Iranians are so devious and evil and working on nuclear weapons’,” he said.
“We got the agreement which was the better alternative, but now we have the US public in a worse place and we have one presidential candidate talking about the need to go after Iranians because they captured a US ship that was in Iranian waters, as if the United States wouldn’t do the same if there was an Iranian ship in US waters. And the other candidate who has threatened to literally obliterate Iran if it steps out of line. These are your two choices of presidential candidates from the major parties in the United States,” Swanson noted.
Iran and the Group 5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany) reached a deal on Iran’s nuclear program on 14 July 2015. The deal, commonly known as the JCPOA, would settle a decade-old controversy over Iran’s nuclear development.
The United States has spearheaded propaganda campaign during the previous years to depict Iran’s nuclear program as one aimed at producing nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the charges, saying its program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.
As part of the anti-Iran propaganda, CIA launched a cover operation, codenamed “Operation Merlin” in 2000 aimed at sabotaging Iran’s nuclear program and branding it a weapons program. Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer who leaked the covert operation to a New York Times reporter has been imprisoned and convicted of espionage charges in the US.
Swanson touched on Sterling’s case in the Tasnim interview, noting he had been treated unfairly for doing what he was supposed to do. He also pointed out how Sterling, who is an African American, had been the victim of a selective, biased prosecution process because of his race.
Sterling’s wife told Russia Today in September 2016 that his husband’s incarceration is due to politics within the CIA that may be race-related. Jeffrey filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the CIA in 2000, but the issue was squashed in 2005 when, the government invoked state secrecy privilege stating that he could not have his day in court because it would be too detrimental and they would have to expose state secrets for Jeffrey to prove he had been discriminated against.
Swanson said, “And we have Jeffery Sterling – an African American man who was discriminated against at the CIA and became angry, as an employee of CIA who revealed to congress, as he was supposed to do, that the CIA was stupidly giving nuclear plans and nuclear parts to Iran trying to anyway dropping stuff through a mail slot in Vienna, Austria, and then accused based on nothing of giving that information to a New York Times reporter.”
“He’s now in prison, and he’s just had a heart attack, and they are not giving him proper medical care. And he’s in prison for upholding the rule of law, for saying here’s outrageous, dangerous behavior giving nuclear plans to other countries under the pretense that that’s going to slow down their non-existent nuclear weapons program, clearly in order to fine them for having one, just as they did with Iraq. And he’s in prison rather than being honored and thanked,” he continued.
Swanson also described the reasons behind efforts in US to demonize countries, including Iran.
“This is the US agenda to get troops and bases and weapons everywhere. Since the Second World War, since the permanent militarization of the United States, since the troops never coming home from Germany and Japan, there has been just this addition of more countries, more countries, and more countries”
“And the countries that do not yet have US troops are depicted in US media as threats, as destabilizing forces, as enemies of truth and justice,” according to Swanson.
“There was a poll by a US polling company, at about a year and a half ago, a Gallup polling of 65 countries around the world and they asked what country is the greatest threat to peace on earth? And in most countries the Unites States is easily one, but in the United States Iran is one- Iran which spends less than 1 percent of what the Unites States spends on wars. Iran which hasn’t started wars in centuries, Iran which isn’t threatening to nuke anybody, is seen by the people of the United States, a fairly educated group of people in some ways, as the greatest threat to peace on earth. Why? Because there are no US bases in Iran. Even though, the US bases, where they are, instigate wars, provoke wars, create instability. The US public has been trained, taught over and over and over again that there must be US troops everywhere,” he said.
Arguing that “the US considers itself above justice”, Swanson said that “the United States cannot be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, by the International Court of Justice, by any foreign nation.”
The American activist noted that the US is now involved in “illegal wars” in seven countries in defiance of international laws and treaties.
“The United States is now in war in seven countries. Most people in the United States cannot name them. They can’t keep track of the wars. They can’t say Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.
“Every single one of them is illegal; not a single one of them is legal under the United Nations Charter or Kellogg–Briand Pact; they are all violating the numerous parts of the Geneva Conventions. They are all, including the drone strikes – whether you call them war or non-war- violating the laws of the nations where they occur.”
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By David Swanson.
Charlottesville is a diverse, enlightened, and progressive college town in Virginia with its public spaces dominated by war memorials, in particular memorials to Confederate soldiers not from Charlottesville who represent a five-year moment in the centuries of this place’s history, as viewed by one wealthy white male racist donor at another moment in the 1920s. As the Black Lives Matter movement took off nationally this year, many Charlottesville residents demanded that imposing monuments to Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson be removed from their places of prominence.
The city of Charlottesville has set up a commission on race, memorials, and public spaces. I’ve attended portions of two meetings and am genuinely impressed by the open, civil, and democratic process underway to find solutions and possibly consensus. The process has already been educational for me and for other members of the public and of the commission. Some white residents have mentioned realizing for the first time that African Americans do not see their history in Charlottesville’s public memorials.
I am not African American, but I certainly feel the same way. I’m disgusted by the monuments to those who participated in land theft and genocide against Native Americans, by the monument to the war on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia that killed some six million people who go unmentioned on the monument, and by the Lee, Jackson, and generic Confederate soldier statues. The possibility of seeing people and movements and causes I actually care about memorialized in public space is exhilarating and not previously hoped for.
Missing from Charlottesville’s public spaces now is pretty much the entire rest of its history. Needed are educational signs, memorials, and art works that tell a million missing stories. I don’t think a year should go by in which the city does not introduce a new public creation downtown as well as one in a particular neighborhood. Great public art would improve the community and even perhaps its tourism. The ideas percolating in the commission’s meetings are numerous and wonderful. Participants have produced lists of hundreds of ideas.
I’d love to see the story of Native American life here pre-Charlottesville recognized, and some mention somewhere perhaps of who Charlottesville’s namesake Queen Charlotte was and what role her African ancestry may have played in her absence heretofore. I think there is a place for the stories of injustice: slavery, segregation, eugenics, war, and the misguided destruction of neighborhoods. But I think we also need the stories of struggle, the civil rights work, the women’s rights movement, environmentalism, worker’s rights, integration, education, arts, sports, and peace as a counterpoint to all the glorifying of war.
There are countless individuals to be remembered and taught about. A memorial to Julian Bond who taught for years at the University of Virginia is a popular idea that I support — his work for both civil rights and peace should be recognized. And as long as we’re going to have a tree named for Banastre Tarleton who led efforts in Parliament to keep the slave trade going, we should have Virginia’s first monument to Olaudah Equiano who was probably once a slave in Virginia and whose work in England was critical to ending the slave trade and slavery in the British empire. I also think many public markings of past events need not focus on a single individual.
There is a contingent in Charlottesville for removing Confederate war monuments, and a contingent for keeping them. There appears to be consensus around adding at least a few of the many things that are missing. Personally I’ve been proposing and organizing support for a peace memorial and a memorial to Charlottesville’s sister cities. The two could be combined in a peace pole bearing the words “May peace prevail on earth” on each side in the languages of each sister city, as well as English and other languages most spoken in Charlottesville. Charlottesville’s city council has repeatedly taken stands for peace, but nothing in public space makes note of that.
I also think Charlottesville’s public space could be improved if instead of its next purchase of dozens of U.S. flags it invests in a Charlottesville flag of a design that the public supports.
The public meetings of the commission thus far have taught me things about segregation in Charlottesville that I did not know. I hope this process can somehow be continued indefinitely. But a crucial question is what the commission will end up proposing to the city council next month, and what the city council will do with that proposal.
My recommendation is that the public nature of the brainstorming process be continued and expanded in the decision-making process, that the commission create a proposal with the idea that it will receive strong support in a public referendum, and that it in fact go to a public referendum.
Whether the city council or the public decides, however, a major question will be funding. If the question goes to the public, I think the public ought to be given the option of, say, creating 50 new memorials and opting out of one new highway interchange in order to cover the cost. The public ought not to be presented with a costly proposal and no say over the rest of a budget that I suspect in great measure lacks public support.
Of course if unwanted monuments are removed, one option would be to sell them to the highest bidder willing to remove them from public space and to display them in a private space accessible in some manner to the public. A museum of Confederate statues to which one can buy a ticket would be a far different public statement from Confederate statues dominating downtown parks.
It’s tempting to look for private funding for new public creations, rather than foregoing an intersection or taxing the wealthiest residents, but such funding will inevitably corrupt the decision making process, and that’s where the giant old racist soldiers on horses came from in the first place.
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By David Swanson.
U.S. District Judge George Daniels of New York has struck again, ruling that Iran must pay $10 billion to compensate for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. If you have read this story in the United States, it probably came from Bloomberg News, which uniquely failed to note that in fact nobody has ever produced the slightest evidence that Iran had anything to do with the September 11 attacks.
If you read the story in Russian or British or Venezuelan or Iranian media or on sites that used the Bloomberg story but added a tiny bit of context, then you learned that Iran had, as far as anyone knows, nothing at all to do with 9/11 (a point on which the 9/11 Commission, President Obama, and pretty much everyone else are in agreement), that none of the al Qaeda hijackers were Iranian, that most of them were Saudi, that the same judge has exonerated Saudi Arabia and declared that nation to have sovereign immunity, that the ideology of al Qaeda puts it at odds with the Iranian government, that the $10 billion is very unlikely to ever change hands, and that — in short — this is a story about a crackpot judge operating within a crackpot culture, not a story about criminal justice.
Criminal justice is actually a much better response to 9/11 than endless war, but first you have to properly identify the criminals!
The same judge has done this before, and has based his decisions each time on the claims of ludicrous “experts” that go unanswered by any defense, as Iran declines to dignify such proceedings by showing up to defend itself. Five years ago, Gareth Porter, preeminent debunker of war lies about Iran, noted that in that year’s proceedings, “at least two of the Iranian defectors [appearing as witnesses, had] long been dismissed by U.S. intelligence as ‘fabricators’ and … the two ‘expert witnesses’ who were supposed to determine the credibility of those defectors’ claims [were] both avowed advocates of crackpot conspiracy theories about Muslims and Shariah law who believe the United States is at war with Islam.”
The power of U.S. judges has packed U.S. prisons with innocents, come down far more heavily on dark-skinned defendants, made money into speech, made corporations people, disenfranchised voters, and made George W. Bush president. It’s a bit too generous to suggest that Judge George Daniels’ actions are simply a matter of proper procedure. That he has other options than making a laughingstock of his country is illustrated by his very different treatment of Saudi Arabia. Daniels operates within a system that gives judges the powers of gods, and within a culture that demonizes Iran at every level.
The United States government has been promoting anti-Iranian propaganda for decades. This poison takes multiple and contradictory forms. Opponents of the recent nuclear agreement falsely claimed that Iran was building nuclear weapons. And many defenders of the agreement also falsely claimed that Iran was building nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, numerous false claims have in recent years been made about alleged Iranian terrorism, while the United States has in fact been sponsoring terrorism in Iran and openly committing the crime of threatening war on Iran. The recent elections in Iran show positive results of the agreement. The U.S. public, on the other hand, is in a worse place in terms of the credence it gives to anti-Iranian lies than it was prior to the nuclear negotiations. This is a grave danger, because many in Washington have not ceased pushing for war.
We’re going to see efforts in Congress to tear up the nuclear agreement, to impose new sanctions, and conceivably even to steal the billions of dollars to pay off this court settlement by “freezing” Iranian assets. Reports Bloomberg:
“While it is difficult to collect damages from an unwilling foreign nation, the plaintiffs may try to collect part of the judgments using a law that permits parties to tap terrorists’ assets frozen by the government.”
Who is a “terrorist” of course is defined in the eye of the government official. The history of U.S. trouble with Iran dates significantly to the 1953 overthrow by the CIA of Iran’s democratic president, and the U.S. installation of a brutal dictator. The popular revolution overthrew that dictator. Iran has spent decades opposing the use of weapons of mass destruction. When Iraq attacked Iran with U.S.-supplied chemical weapons, Iran refused on principle to respond in kind. Iran has not pursued nuclear weapons, and has repeatedly, prior to this agreement, including in 2003, offered to give up its nuclear energy program. It now subjects its energy program to greater inspections than any other country ever has or the United States ever would, going above and beyond compliance with the nonproliferation treaty that the United States flagrantly violates.
In 2000, as revealed by Jeffrey Sterling, the CIA tried to plant nuclear weapons evidence on Iran. Even as Iran offered to assist the United States, post 9/11, the United States labeled Iran part of an “axis of evil,” despite its lack of ties with the other two nations in the “axis” and its lack of “evil.” The United States then designated part of Iran’s military a terrorist organization, very likely murdered Iranian scientists, certainly funded opposition groups in Iran (including some the U.S. also designated as terrorist), flew drones over Iran, launched major cyber attacks on Iranian computers, and built up military forces all around Iran’s borders, while imposing cruel sanctions on the country. Washington neocons have also spoken openly about their intentions to overthrow the government of Syria as a step toward overthrowing the government of Iran. It may be worth reminding U.S. audiences that it is illegal to overthrow governments.
The roots of a Washington push for a new war on Iran can be found in the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance, the 1996 paper called A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, the 2000 Rebuilding America’s Defenses, and in a 2001 Pentagon memo described by Wesley Clark as listing these nations for attack: Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. In 2010, Tony Blair included Iran on a similar list of countries that he said Dick Cheney had aimed to overthrow.
One common type of war lie about Iran that has helped move the U.S. to the brink of war a number of times in the past 15 years is the lie about Iranian terrorism abroad. These tales have grown more and more outlandish. For the record, Iran did not try to blow up a Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., an action which President Obama would consider perfectly praiseworthy if the roles were reversed, but a lie that even Fox News had a hard time stomaching. And that’s saying something.
Why do some in the U.S. government think the rest of us will find outlandish war plots believable? Because they in fact engage in them. Here is Seymour Hersh describing a meeting held in then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s office:
“There was a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build — we in our shipyard — build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives. And it was rejected because you can’t have Americans killing Americans. That’s the kind of — that’s the level of stuff we’re talking about. Provocation. But that was rejected.”
Years later, a U.S. ship was apprehended by Iran in Iranian waters. Iran did not retaliate or escalate, but simply let the ship depart. The U.S. media treated the incident as an act of Iranian aggression.
Let all of this be a lesson — not of course to reject war lies — but to make proper accusations. If you’re caught robbing a house, accuse the homeowner of attacking your territory. Hope your case if brought before Judge Daniels. And send your legal bills to the Iranian government — they owe you!
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By David Swanson.
Scholars have documented the consistent pattern. What makes a country far more likely to be invaded, attacked, “intervened in,” or in other words, bombed, is not its lack of democracy or its government’s crimes and abuses, or the crimes and abuses of some non-governmental group, but its possession of oil. Yet, with each new war, we are told to imagine that this one is different.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., is to be applauded for publishing an article headlined “Syria: Another Pipeline War.” The very idea that “doing something” about ISIS (which, let’s face it, at this point in the imperialization of the U.S. republic means bombing) could be driven by oil might strike many as outrageous. I’m not suggesting that it’s rational. U.S. corporations could buy Middle Eastern oil for about the same price without all the wars. The United States would save trillions of dollars and millions of lives that way. It could also avoid some destruction of the earth’s climate by, instead, leaving that oil in the ground. I’m also not suggesting that because the real driver of U.S. militarism is an insane passion for oil, the crimes and abuses of ISIS or of Assad or Russia or Iran or Saudi Arabia or Israel or Turkey or anyone else are not real, or are of less concern or more concern than they actually merit, or that well-justified nonviolent opposition to Assad in Syria has never existed, or any similar inanity. Nor am I denying that there are employees of the U.S. government who are actually driven by humanitarian concerns, only that they aren’t the employees who have risen to such heights that anyone’s ever heard of them.
Senator Bernie Sanders is to be applauded for repeatedly bringing up the CIA’s disastrous 1953 overthrow of democracy in Iran, 1954 in Guatemala, etc. But why is that the beginning? What about 1949 Syria? Does that not count because the U.S. president was a Democrat? Like Iran and Vietnam and so many other nations that the United States has attacked, Syria had worked to establish a democracy in line with U.S. rhetoric. But its democracy wasn’t supporting a U.S.-proposed oil pipeline between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. So, the CIA overthrew the president of Syria and installed a dictator.
One explanation for the silence surrounding this incident is how quickly it failed. The Syrian people tossed out their U.S. puppet in 14 weeks. The U.S. government then spent 65 years learning absolutely nothing from the experience. It has spent those years arming and supporting Middle Eastern dictators and religious fighters, while rejecting out of hand all Soviet proposals to leave the region free to govern itself. In 1956, the CIA tried another coup in Syria, arming and funding Islamic militants, but without success. For years, the CIA kept trying — perhaps less comically than with its efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro, but certainly with greater consequences.
This history is relevant not only as a guide to what not to do, but also because the people of Syria and the region know this history, so it illuminates how they view current events.
Wesley Clark says Syria was on a Pentagon list of governments to overthrow in 2001. Tony Blair says it was on Dick Cheney’s list around that time. But Syria had already been on that list for decades. WikiLeaks has let us know that in 2006, the U.S. government was working to create a civil war in Syria. And we hardly need WikiLeaks when people like Senator John McCain have been openly and repeatedly saying on television that Syria must be overthrown to weaken Iran which must be overthrown. But WikiLeaks does confirm that the U.S. strategy was to incite Assad into a brutal crackdown that would inflame opposition to his rule, and that the U.S. has been arming Islamists in Syria since 2009 when Assad rejected a pipeline from Qatar that would have supplied Europe with Middle Eastern rather than Russian climate-destroying poisons.
At the root of the new U.S. priority for overthrowing Syria is then, once again, the desire to run an oil pipeline through Syria. The heart of the U.S. plan has been, again, arming and training Islamic militants. Two years before any of us heard about ISIS, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) noted that “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI (now ISIS), are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria. . . . If the situation continues unravelling, there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor) and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want in order to isolate the Syrian regime.” This is why the United States spent years thwarting U.N. efforts for peace in Syria, and dismissed out of hand a 2012 proposal from Russia for peace in Syria. The U.S. government had dreams of a violent overthrow of the Syrian government, and viewed the rise of ISIS as a price worth paying.
There were glitches in the plan. First the British, and U.S., and world populations said no to bombing Syria in 2013 on the same side as al Qaeda. Then al Qaeda (ISIS) released beheading videos that, as intended, motivated U.S. Americans to back war — against them rather than with them. ISIS saw its potential for growth in appearing to be the leading enemy of the United States, not a U.S. tool for another overthrow. It produced videos imploring the United States to attack it. But in so doing, it didn’t isolate the Syrian government; rather it united the world with the Syrian government. The U.S. government began denying it had ever met ISIS, or blaming Saudi Arabia and Turkey for supporting ISIS (while doing little to cut off that support).
But the origins of ISIS are not really in dispute. “ISI[S] is a direct outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion,” admitted President Obama. The U.S. military destroyed Iraq and disbanded without disarming its military. Then it divided Iraq along sectrarian lines and brutalized people for years in prison camps where they were able to organize and plot vengeance. The U.S. armed Iraq, and al Qaeda/ISIS seized those weapons. The U.S. overthrew the government of Libya, and its weapons spread all over the region. And the U.S. armed and trained fighters for Syria, playing into Saudi Arabia’s desire for overthrow and now its newfound desire to fight more wars, as well as Turkey’s desire to attack Kurds. Secretary of State John Kerry admitted to Congress on September 3, 2013, that Saudi Arabia had offered to foot the bill for a U.S. invasion of Syria — which sounds a lot like the foreign policy vision of candidate Bernie Sanders when he’s compelled to present one. In fact, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar financed the U.S. arming of Syrian fighters including ISIS (Sanders dreams of Saudi Arabia financing a war against ISIS). The Pentagon dumped a half billion dollars into arming and training fighters, something the CIA had long been doing at a cost of billions. “Four or five” loyal fighters were the Pentagon’s result. The rest had apparently ceased to be “moderate” murderers and become “extremist” murderers. How many got themselves armed and “trained” more than once, as Afghans have had a habit of doing, we don’t know.
Why was the U.S. public willing to tolerate new U.S. war-making in Iraq and Syria in 2014–2015, after having opposed it in 2013? This time the advertised enemy was not the Syrian government, but terrorists scarier than al Qaeda, and supposedly unrelated to al Qaeda, called ISIS. And ISIS was shown to be cutting the throats of Americans on videos. And something switched off in people’s brains and they stopped thinking—with a few exceptions. A few journalists pointed out that the Iraqi government bombing Iraqi Sunnis was in fact driving the latter to support ISIS. Even Newsweek published a clear-eyed warning that ISIS would not last long unless the United States saved it by bombing it. Matthew Hoh warned that the beheadings were bait not to be taken.
The public and the media swallowed it whole, and the U.S. government almost choked. It had wanted to enter the war on the same side as ISIS. Now it had an opportunity to enter against ISIS. It viewed this as a means of entering on both sides by making a case for arming fighters who would oppose both ISIS and Assad, even if such fighters didn’t exist.
To make the new war more respectable, along came the supposed need to rescue civilians trapped on a mountaintop and awaiting death at the hands of ISIS. The story wasn’t completely false, but its details were murky. Many of the people left the mountain or refused to leave the mountain where they preferred to stay, before a U.S. rescue mission could actually be created. And the U.S. seemed to drop bombs more with a goal of protecting oil than protecting people (four air strikes near the mountain, many more near oil-rich Erbil). But, whether it helped those people or not, a U.S. war was created, and the war planners never looked back.
The world, as represented at the United Nations, didn’t completely fall for it and didn’t authorize this war any more than the proposed attack a year earlier, in large part because the UN had authorized a supposed humanitarian rescue in Libya in 2011 and seen that authorization predictably and swiftly misused to justify a wider war and the overthrow of a government.
In addition to the dubious claims about people needing to be rescued on a mountain, the United States also pulled out that old standby of saving U.S. lives, namely the lives of Americans in the oil-rush town of Erbil, all of whom could have been put onto a single airplane and flown out of there had there been a real need to rescue them.
Completely false, on the other hand, was another story about evil. Just in case people were not sufficiently scared, the White House and Pentagon actually invented a non-existent terrorist organization, which they named the Khorasan Group, and which CBS News called “a more immediate threat to the U.S. Homeland.” While ISIS was worse than al Qaeda and al Qaeda worse than the Taliban, this new monster was depicted as worse than ISIS and plotting the immediate blowing up of U.S. airplanes. No evidence of this was offered, or apparently required by “journalists.” One U.S. war makers were safely into a new war, all mention of the Khorosan Group ended.
If you weren’t frightened enough, and if you didn’t care enough about people on a mountain to drop bombs on people in a valley, there was also your patriotic duty to overcome “intervention fatigue,” of which U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power began writing and speaking, actually warning that if we paid too much attention to what bombing places like Libya had done to them we’d fail in our obligation to support the bombing of new places like Syria. Soon enough, the U.S. corporate media was hosting debates that ranged from advocacy for launching one type of war all the way to advocacy for launching a little bit different type of war. A study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found that inclusion of antiwar guests in the major U.S. media was even more lacking in the 2014 buildup to war than it had been in the 2003 run-up to the Iraq invasion.
U.S. interest in war in Syria and Iraq since 2014 has taken on this new guise of unavoidable opposition to Evil. But U.S. interest in overthrowing the government of Syria has remained front and center, despite the disasters created in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other “liberated” nations. As in each of those other wars, this one has U.S. weapons on both sides, and U.S. interests on both sides. As in the “war on terror” as a whole, this war is creating more terrorism and fueling more anti-U.S. hatred, not protecting the United States, to which ISIS is not a serious threat. More people have been hurt at Donald Trump rallies and far more killed by cigarettes or automobiles than by ISIS in the United States. What attracts disturbed people in the United States and the world to ISIS is, in large part the counterproductive U.S. attacks on ISIS.
If U.S. motives were humanitarian, it would cease fueling the violence, and it would not be arming wars and crackdowns by vicious governments around the globe including in the Middle East, perhaps most prominently right now Saudi Arabia, the leading purchaser of U.S. weapons which bombs civilians in Yemen using those weapons, murders far more individuals at home than ISIS has, and which has actually sponsored significant terrorism in the United States.
Tim Clemente told Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that he saw a major difference between the 2003- war on Iraq and the more recent war on Syria: “the millions of military aged men who are fleeing the battlefield for Europe rather than staying to fight for their communities. ‘You have this formidable fighting force and they are all running away. I don’t understand how you can have millions of military aged men running away from the battlefield. In Iraq, the bravery was heartbreaking—I had friends who refused to leave the country even though they knew they would die. They’d just tell you it’s my country, I need to stay and fight,’ Clemente said. The obvious explanation is that the nation’s moderates are fleeing a war that is not their war. They simply want to escape being crushed between the anvil of Assad’s Russian backed tyranny and the vicious Jihadi Sunni hammer that [the U.S. government] had a hand in wielding in a global battle over competing pipelines. You can’t blame the Syrian people for not widely embracing a blueprint for their nation minted in either Washington or Moscow. The super powers have left no options for an idealistic future that moderate Syrians might consider fighting for. And no one wants to die for a pipeline.”
Kennedy proposes as a first U.S. step to resolve the crisis: cease consuming oil from the Middle East. I would simplify that to: cease consuming oil. Putting Europe onto Middle Eastern oil instead of Russian oil is not just about U.S. energy use. It’s about rivalry with Russia. The United States needs to go renewable and sustainable in its energy use and its thinking. It owes the Middle East reparations and aid on a massive scale. It owes the world assistance in the greening of energy on a massive scale. Such projects would, of course, cost less financially and in every other way than continued counterproductive militarism.
This will not happen unless people learn history, including the history of the leadup to World War II, the myths about which sustain every U.S. loyalty to the institution of war. That means taking huge leaps beyond the discussions of this past Sunday’s presidential debate regarding schools with mold and rats and mass shootings. It means a system of communication in which there is just no place for something like CNN. We will remake our media and our schools, or we will destroy ourselves and have no idea how we did it.
David Swanson is the author of War Is A Lie: Second Edition, to be published by Just World Books on April 5, 2016.
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By David Swanson.
Major corporate media outlets in the United States are reporting on a new viability for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, based on his rise in the polls nationally and in Iowa and New Hampshire — and possibly, though this goes largely unmentioned, based on his big new advertising purchases from major corporate media outlets. In independent progressive media as well, there’s a small flood of maybe-he-can-really-win articles.
Whether this goes any further or not, something remarkable has happened. The Donald Trump campaign (in many ways outlandish and uniquely dangerous) more or less fits the usual mold in terms of media success; the data are very clear that the media gave Trump vastly disproportionate media coverage, following which he rose in the polls — the same polls later used anachronistically to justify the coverage. This was the story of how the media created Howard Dean’s success before tearing him down in 2004, and it has been the story of most candidates, successful and otherwise: the polling closely follows the coverage, not the other way around.
Bernie is something new. The major media has given him ridiculously little coverage, and belittled him in most of that coverage. Yet he has surged in the polls, in volunteers, in small-donor fundraising, and in real world events. While television news has shunted aside actual events, crises, social movements, the state of the natural environment, any number of wars, countless injustices, and most legislative activities in order to focus more than ever on the next election, and has done so ever since it was nearly two years away, the media has also given wildly disparate attention to certain candidates, in a way that bears no correlation to polling or internet searching or donors or any such factor. As of last fall, Bernie Sanders had received a total of 8 minutes of coverage from broadcast evening news, less than Mitt Romney or Joe Biden got for deciding not to enter the race.
And yet, Bernie polls better against Donald Trump (now that a pollster finally asked that question and released the results) than does Hillary Clinton. And Bernie is gradually catching up to Clinton in polls of Democrats. If he wins New Hampshire (very likely) and Iowa (pretty likely), all sorts of bandwagon jumpers could switch their support to him, and uninspired voters become inspired to vote in the next several primary states, snowballing the magical force of “momentum” into an upset victory with great media ratings, even if horrifying political implications from the point of view of major media outlets’ corporate owners.
According to Ted Rall, we are seeing the failure of propaganda: “Everyone in a position to block Sanders’ campaign did everything they could to sabotage him. … Marginalization always used to work. Remember John Edwards? His 2008 primary campaign was doomed because TV networksrefused to cover him. But the media’s cold shoulder isn’t hurting Bernie.”
As Glenn Greenwald sees it, Sanders is riding the same wave of backlash against the establishment that Jeremy Corbyn has surfed in Britain. Part of that tidal wave may also motivate Trump supporters who, in some cases, admit that they don’t like his views but simply love that he says whatever he feels like saying. Sharp policical observer Sam Husseini pointed out to me that the more the media demanded Bill Clinton’s impeachment, the more the public opposed it. Sometimes what the media wants backfires. As the media shifts from ignoring Sanders to attacking him, that could benefit him, or it could hurt him. As Dave Lindorff and others have pointed out, “socialist” is actually a popular word now. Pundits in whose world “socialist” is equated with traitor, could actually hurt the cause of derailing the Bern inferno if they keep labeling him a socialist.
Some observers are far less sanguine about the defeat of propaganda. “If Bernie wins the nomination,” media critic Jeff Cohen told me, “I suspect we’ll see a barrage of mainstream news media bias and smear and distortion against Bernie and his platform on healthcare and Wall Street and taxes and government-funded jobs that will be at a level rarely witnessed in history. Not to mention a new level of attack ads bought by dozens of GOP and corporate SuperPACs. And all thiswill have impact, partly mitigated thanks to social media and indy media.”
Cohen draws on history, which he clearly believes has not ended: “The anti-Bernie barrage will be reminiscent of 1934 when former Socialist Party leader Upton Sinclair left that party and stunned the nation by winning the Dem nomination for governor of California on a totally progressive platform; Sinclair was defeated in the general election by new innovations in smear politics from business interests, especially the Hollywood studios. If Bernie somehow gains the nomination, we’ll see whether, aided by new media, the public is any smarter 80 years later in seeing through and fighting back against the distortions.”
For the better part of a year I have shared Cohen’s expectations for what the media might try to do to Sanders in early 2016. I assumed it would wait this long because a contest makes for better ratings than a coronation. But I did not predict this level of success for Sanders. I think we will see media support for all kinds of lies coming from the Clinton campaign, like those issued recently aroundhealthcare. We’ll see smears about sexism, and all variety of molehills turned into mountains. We’ll also see Sanders denounced as a cowardly pacifist endangering us all by refusing to bomb enough people.
The tragic and ironic flaw in Sanders’ strategy may be this. He’ll take criticism as a socialist because he is one. And he’ll take criticism as a pacifist although he’s become a dedicated militarist at heart, intent on continuing drone kills and “destroying” ISIS, and unwilling to say he’ll cut military spending. Not only is cutting military spending incredibly popular, not only would proposing to cut it lead to people like me knocking on doors for Bernie, but if Bernie were willing to cut a small fraction of the military that he routinely says is loaded with fraud and waste, he wouldn’t have to fund healthcare or college or anything else with any sort of tax increases.
The U.S. government does not need more money in order to provide world-class social services. It needs to tax multi-billionaires in order to reign in their power. But it can fund our wildest dream by shifting money out of the military. And Bernie knows this. Yet he has opened himself up wide to what will likely be the most common criticism: “He wants to raise taxes!” He can explain that you’ll save more by ending private health insurance than you’ll pay in higher taxes, but how will he fit that in 4 seconds? How will he repeat it as often as the accusation? How can we be sure people are both mad at the establishment and intelligent enough to see through its deceptions?
Incidentally, peace groups have tried everything short of interrupting a Sanders event on the Black Lives Matter model. The Black Lives Matter activists who did that may have looked ill-informed, but they improved Bernie’s campaign and benefited his campaign and thereby the country. Peace activists should consider that.
Most media deceptions are somewhat subtle. Look at this Time magazine video and text. The video at the top of the page is remarkably fair. The text below it, including an error-plagued transcript apparently produced by a robot, is less fair. Time says of Bernie: “[H]e’s so far been unable to convince most Democrats he’d make a better candidate against a Republican than Clinton.” By no stretch of the English language is the 48% or 52% backing Clinton in polls “most Democrats.” The polling story should be that Sanders has climbed from 3% to 37% or 41% without any help.
Here’s Time‘s summary of Sanders’ platform: “He talked taxes (he’d raise them), turning points (he thinks he’s at one) and tuxedos (he’s never owned one).” Notice that two of the three items are sheer fluff and the only serious one is that he’ll raise your taxes. Time follows that by linking to an article making the case that Sanders cannot win. Time of course has no “balancing” argument that he can win.
Time then links to an article on “The Philosophical Fight Underlying the Democratic Debate,” which presents this very serious, well-researched reporting: “If Sanders and Clinton were in business together, he’d be the dreamy one pitching the next big thing while she’d be the hard-nosed one arguing that they need to stay within their budget. The decision voters will have to make is: do they want big dreams or clear-eyed realism?” Gosh, I want clear eyes and a hard nose, doesn’t everyone?
What weighs against this steady stream of bias on the Time website is the transcript of Sanders’ own comments, and his willingness to push back against the media. Pushing back against the media is even more popular than taxing billionaires or cutting the military. Here’s Sanders replying to a cheap shot from Time: “Someone says oh you’re raising taxes by $5,000. No, I am lowering your healthcare costs by $5000. So you can take a cheap shot, say I’m just trying to raise taxes. That’s a distortion of reality. We are substantially lowering healthcare costs.” Fewer people will hear his reply than hear the accusation, but they’ll hear it in the context of media criticism, and that could inspire them. Check out this exchange:
Time: “So as president you’re calling rallies—”
Bernie: “It’s not just rallies, don’t be sarcastic here.”
The media mocks popular assembly, free speech, and petitioning the government for a redress of grievances, and Sanders instructs the media not to be sarcastic. That’s a plus for Bernie.
Will it get him past the onslaught? If it does, will the super delegates outvote the people? Will the DNC outmaneuver him? Is the voting process itself rigged? If he gets elected will anything get through Congress? Let’s Bern those bridges when we come to them.
Also published in American Herald Tribune
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By David Swanson.
After marking the destruction of Nagasaki and the police-murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson on August 9th, Americans have options for what to commemorate on August 10th. I’m inclined to think that August 10th should be formally recognized as Gulf of Tonkin War Fraud Day. But I’m not sure, because another event is in even more need of remembrance.
It was the day after the death blow to Nagasaki, 70 years ago, that the victors of the most awesomest war ever chose to create a division of Korea along the 38th parallel — a line that would be revered as a holy thing when North Korean troops later came across it, but dismissed as “imaginary” when U.S. troops crossed it heading north.
The Korean war was to World War II what the anthrax letters were to 9-11 — without it sanity had a real chance; militarism was being scaled back drastically until the Korean war created the excuse for the permanent imperial war economy; but almost nobody even recalls what happened. Even Dean Acheson, who had imposed sanctions on Japan that led to Pearl Harbor and whose decision it was to fight a horrible war in Korea, is almost unknown. In part this is because the war coincided with McCarthyism, and few dared speak the truth about it at the time. In part it is because remembering it brings predominantly shame and disgust.
Before the war came the U.S. occupation of the South, the repression of leftists, the massacres of the people by the U.S. and South Koreans, including the slaughter of 30,000 to 60,000 on Jeju Island where South Korea is now building a huge new base for the U.S. Navy. Then came aggression from the South, including a year of raids across the sacred 38th parallel, and the South’s announced intention to invade the North.
When the North invaded the South, the United States falsely blamed the Soviet Union and lied itself together a coalition of the willing at the United Nations by claiming to have captured Russian troops. As soon as U.S. General Douglas MacArthur got the chance, he proceeded, with President Truman‘s approval, right across the 38th and up to the border of China. MacArthur had been drooling for a war with China and threatening it, and asked for permission to attack, which the Joint Chiefs of Staff refused. Eventually, Truman fired MacArthur. Attacking a power plant in North Korea that supplied China, and bombing a border city, was the closest MacArthur got to what he wanted. But the U.S. threat to China, or at least the U.S. threat to defeat North Korea, brought the Chinese and Russians into the war.
During the course of the war, the U.S. bombed flat virtually every city and town in the North and many in the South — three years of carpet bombing with no serious concern for civilian casualties, and the bombing of dams to flood and starve the population. Villages were fire-bombed and napalmed. A New York Times reporter described a village with everyone frozen in place as they had been going about their lives, as in Pompei, but burned to death by napalm. We think of Vietnam as the napalm war, but that was much more so Korea. U.S. and South Korean troops also massacred civilians on the ground. The North committed numerous atrocities as well, but the really big ones, as far as we know, were all on the U.S. side. The U.N. convention on genocide was created while the United States was engaged in that crime against people whom American troops almost universally called “gooks.” Back home the public knew little about the war yet still managed to despise it. Truman’s approval rating set a record low not to be undercut until George W. Bush’s presidency.
The never known “forgotten” war cost Korea two million civilian lives and the United States 37,000 soldiers, while turning Seoul and Pyongyang both into piles of rubble. Many of the dead had been killed at close range, slaughtered unarmed and in cold-blood by both sides. And the border was right back where it had been, but the hatred directed across that border greatly increased. When the war ended, having accomplished no good for anyone but weapons makers, “people emerged from a mole-like existence in caves and tunnels to find a nightmare in the bright of day.”
And no peace was ever formally made. The war officially continues to this day. The U.S. never left the South, never left off keeping the country divided just as prior to the war, never gave up command of the South Korean military, never ceased threatening and provoking the North. The Pentagon’s latest statement of its reason to exist includes North Korea as one of four countries that it admits have no interest in fighting the United States but which nonetheless present “security concerns.”
The people of Korea don’t need any more “help.” Enough is enough. After 70 years, leave them be.
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By David Swanson.
Some weeks back I got a call from Al Jazeera wanting me to be on a show, but insisting that I couldn’t do it from a local studio via satellite or from my computer via Skype. No, I would have to fly to New York and back, and they would pay for the flight and pay a “per diem” as well (they didn’t specify how much). I was not eager to take a whole day out of my life to fly to New York and back, but they sold me on it. This, they told me, would be the premier edition of a new Sunday morning news program to compete with the existing ones. And it would include different perspectives.
“This week, we are producing a debate on whether or not the ‘American empire is on decline’, and I would love to have you on the show to share your thoughts on the issue on this very exciting debate,” wrote a woman who turned out to be one of many producers, in an initial email. We exchanged emails and spoke by phone. I provided brief responses on several subtopics. I even wrote and published a column on the topic and sent it to them. Various Al Jazeera staff got in on the email thread. I also spoke by phone with executive producer Robert Lilly.
At the studio in New York, I found out just before the taping who I would be debating. She had apparently known about me as her debate opponent for some time. Her name was Tara Maller and she worked at the Aspen Institute with General Stanley McChrystal. She and some of the producers sitting in the waiting room seemed to compete with each other in dropping the names of horribly blood-soaked and ridiculously over-wealthy people they knew. It reminded me of waiting to go on Fox News more than, say, theRealNews.com.
The debate turned out to be something like 15 minutes. Host Imran Garda veered away from the declining empire topic to focus on the question of war. I found that shift welcome. I was delighted to explain my views on war in general and various specific wars, to the extent that one can do so in a few teeny sound bytes. Garda seemed surprised, however, that someone could actually oppose all wars. There may have been a memo he missed on that. Maller, for her part, did fine, but told me afterwards that I talked faster than she did, and remarked to one of the gaggle of producers how absurd it was for her to have played the role of war supporter. Of course, her views were her own and I would have welcomed it had she chosen to oppose war, but she was clearly more comfortable debating someone to her right who wanted more war than she did.
I thought the taping went well, such as it was. There were no glaring problems, and all sorts of executives and bigwigs shook our hands and thanked us. I thanked one of them for airing (I thought that the show would in fact be airing) something that the other networks would never air, and the look I got back disturbed me. I wondered whether they actually found that idea unpleasant. I flew back home on their dime. I started telling people that Al Jazeera was going to air something different from the norm of Sunday political TV.
I heard little from the Al Jazeera folks for some weeks. They’d been eager to know when I’d be back in New York, but when I told them they didn’t seem so interested anymore. I asked them about paying my “per diem” and they weaseled out of it with a claim that they would only pay for food and cabs with receipts. I’d given them a receipt for a cab when their car hadn’t shown up at La Guardia. They’d never hinted that I needed to get receipts for food or that that was what they meant by “per diem.” In the same email that included that weaseling, the out-of-the-loop producer who’d first contacted me said “I hope you got to watch the premier this past Sunday!”
That was odd. Nobody had told me it was going to be on or that they’d seen it. What good was this show if nobody saw it? I asked where the clip was online and got no response. Some days later I found a website for the show. Here it is:http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/third-rail.html The show is called The Third Rail, but it’s not exactly electrifying. It’s the same old, same old, with Judith Miller and Alan Dershowitz and such types. The guests fit with the attitude I picked up on in the studio of wanting to be CNN. These videos don’t make for something worth announcing to the world as new and different from the usual gang of corporate hacks regurgitating talking points. The show I taped is not there.
I emailed the original producer who had been my main contact and CC’d a colleague she had been CCing. “I see you now have the show here http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/third-rail.html with no sign of any debate that might question war,” I emailed. “On the contrary Judith Miller’s smiling face front and center. What’s up? I took an entire day out of my life to debate a war-proponent in teeny little sound bites and then you killed it? Your plan is to compete with Meet the Depressed and such shows by imitating them?”
The CC’d colleague, Senior Interview Producer Katy Ramirez Karp, wrote back saying let’s talk tomorrow.
“Sure,” I replied. “Why did you kill a program supposedly aimed at being different and including an anti-war point of view in order to air the same old slop from Alan Dershowitz and Judith Miller and all your typical Meet The Depressed style warmongering hacks? Was the other guest happy or upset to have the show killed? Did you tell her? Were you planning on telling me? Do you intend to ape the lousy existing shows but just have fewer viewers, or are you hoping to create something different?”
Wait sixty seconds.
The phone rang. It was Katy. “If you have something to say . . . !” She quickly accused me of “badgering” and “threatening.” Whom was I threatening with what, how, and when? I asked her four or five times before she said “I’m not accusing you of threatening. I’m objecting to your tone.” (Picture someone screaming “I’m objecting to your screaming!”). Ignoring her tone, I asked her why they had killed the program and if they had intended to tell me. Her response: “It was a practice run, my dear. We thought we might use part of it.” She went on to say something about how they fully planned to include points of view from “your kind of advocates and causes.” You got the sense she was holding something at arm’s length with her nose pinched.
When I pointed out that I never would have come to New York for a practice run and had, needless to say, never been fed that line prior to this moment, she said she would have to speak with her colleagues about that. She ranted for a while about how she was a professional, and when I tried to say something she hung up.
Now, I don’t seriously think they flew people in for a practice run and lied to them about it. I think quite obviously they decided after filming the program, for whatever reason, that they preferred to air the stuff you’ll see on their website.
Was my performance or Muller’s unsatisfactory in some sort of technical way? I doubt it. I was just like I was in the clips of me they’d seen before inviting me on.
Did I say the wrong things about Syria or the weapons industry or something else in particular? I doubt it.
My best guess is they didn’t want to be the show that premiers by doing something as laughable as opposing mass murder — you can’t touch such a third rail when you’ve already got the name Third Rail! But of course I’m just guessing. They won’t tell me. They would rather claim that they lied to me for weeks and couldn’t find anyone in the entire city of New York who could sit in for a “practice run.”
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By David Swanson
In this latest assault on Gaza, Israel had by Thursday already killed 69 Palestinians including 22 children and 13 women, plus 469 wounded including 166 children and 85 women, and 70 houses destroyed. These numbers have since increased significantly.
In this video from Thursday on CNN, Jake Tapper interviews Diana Buttu, a former advisor to the PLO. After failing to persuade her of Israel’s complete innocence, he tells her that Hamas is instructing women and children to remain in their homes to die as Israel bombs them. She responds by expressing doubt that people want to die. Oh no, says Tapper, Palestinians live in a culture of martyrdom; they want to die.
William Westmoreland once remarked on Vietnam, where the United States killed 4 million men, women, children, and infants: “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient.”
Banastre Tarleton stood up in Parliament and defended the slave trade on the grounds that Africans did not object to being slaves.
President William McKinley said little brown Filipinos appreciated being conquered and dominated.
The view that the people you are abusing don’t mind it has a long history of being employed to distract from the evil being done.
Just as powerful, if not more so, is the view that no evil is being done at all.
ABC News’ Diane Sawyer told her viewers that scenes of destruction in Gaza were actually in Israel, and was later forced to apologize, but did not note that scenes like those she’d shown do not exist in Israel, rather leaving the impression that a simple mistake had swapped out similar scenes from one country for the other.
Polls have found that people in the United States believe Iraq benefitted from the war that destroyed it and that Iraqis are grateful, while the United States itself suffered.
If people cannot be depicted as evil, because we see images of them, and they are 3 years old and have their limbs ripped off, and if our cruelty cannot be depicted as for their own good, then the cruelty must itself be denied. We must completely avert our eyes or invert the facts. Or we must blame someone else for it. Blame Israel for getting a bit carried away after so many years of innocent suffering.
But it is with billions of dollars of weaponry provided free of cost courtesy of U.S. taxpayers that the Israeli military is bombing civilian neighborhoods in occupied Gaza. The ongoing occupation is at the root of the crisis, but this new turn to large-scale violence was produced by fraud. The Israeli government learned that three Israelis had been killed, falsely blamed Hamas, and falsely claimed to believe the young men might still be alive. This fraud was used to justify a search-and-rescue operation that left numerous dead and hundreds under arrest.
Small-scale violence by Palestinians is not justified by Israel’s ongoing brutality. It is deeply immoral as well as absurdly counterproductive. But if individual murders justified the mass killing of war, the United States would have to launch a full-scale war on itself every day of the year. And it is the United States’ weaponry, provided under the euphemism of “aid,” that is pounding the homes of the people of Gaza.
Jewish Voice for Peace says, in an open letter that you too can sign:
“In this time of tremendous suffering and fear, from Jerusalem to Gaza, and from Hebron to Be’er Sheva, we reaffirm that all Israelis and Palestinians deserve security, justice, and equality, and we mourn all those who have died.
“Our unshakeable commitment to freedom and justice for all compels us to acknowledge that this violence has fallen overwhelmingly on Palestinians. And it compels us to affirm that this violence has a root cause: Israel’s illegal occupation.
“We are united in our belief that:
“The denial of Palestinian human rights must end.
Illegal settlements must end.
Bombing civilians must end.
Killing children must end.
Valuing Jewish lives at the expense of others must end.
“Only by embracing equality for all peoples can this terrible bloodshed end.”
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By David Swanson.
World Beyond War has created a set of online interactive maps to help us all see where and how war and preparations for war exist in the world today. You can find the maps we’ve created thus far at http://bit.ly/mappingmilitarism and send us your ideas for more maps here. We’ll be updating some of these maps with new data every year and displaying animation of the progress away from war or the regress toward more war as the case may be.
The following are still screen-shots of some of the maps available in interactive form at the link above.
This map displays annual spending on war and war preparations. When you view the interactive version, the key at the bottom left is adjustable. Here the darkest color is set to $200 billion. You can raise or lower it. Or you can click on one of the colored squares and change the colors if you don’t like blue. When you run the cursor over one of the countries on the interactive version it will give you details. You can also choose to see the same data as a graph without the map by clicking the full-screen symbol on the graph at the top of the page. Then you’ll see this:
At the moment, the nation “United States” has been clicked on. The bar for the United States is noticably larger than for the other nations. It would be about twice as high if all U.S. military spending were included. But then at least some of the other nations’ would be higher as well. The data used here for the comparison across nations comes from a report called “The Military Balance” by IISS. By comparing, as well as possible, absolute spending dollars, it becomes clear that the U.S. military dwarfs all others. Maps and charts that show military spending as a percentage of GDP (of a nation’s economy) have their own use, but they seem to imply that if a government has more money if can buy more weapons without becoming more militaristic, that in fact it will become less militaristic if it does not buy more weapons.
Another way to look at spending on war and war preparations by national governments is as a per-capita figure. Perhaps nations with more people can make an argument in defense of more spending. Here’s a screenshot of that map:
The above map of military spending per capita has something in common with the basic spending map: The United States is still the darkest color. But China’s not a (very) distant second-place anymore. And the U.S. isn’t in first place anymore. It’s been edged out by Israel and Oman. And trailing right behind it are Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Kuwait, and the land of the Nobel Peace Prize: Norway, followed by Australia and the United (for the moment anyway) Kingdom.
Countries don’t just spend money on their own militaries. They also sell and give weapons to other countries. We’ve included a couple of maps displaying those nations that make the most weapons transfers to others. Here’s one, using data from the Congressional Research Service:
This just seems to be the United States’ night at the Oscars. But here the distant runners up are Russia, France, Germany, Italy, China, and the U.K. This gives us a different view of the weapons industries in these countries. They aren’t just arming their own governments. And they aren’t just arming wealthy allies either. Here’s a look at who’s arming poor nations:
We decided it was worth a particular look at where all the U.S.-made weapons are being shipped to. Here’s that map (all nations colored the same if they received any major weapons systems from the United States in 2012). Click it to go to the interactive versions:
We’ve also included at http://bit.ly/mappingmilitarism maps showing who has how many nuclear weapons and who has biological and chemical weapons. They might surprise you.
There are also maps of which nations have troops right now in Afghanistan, which nations are experiencing wars at the moment, and which nations have recently been hit with missiles (most of them from drones).
Because the United States does things that other nations do not, there are a number of U.S.-specific maps. For example: Here are nations with U.S. troops permanently stationed in them. The interactive version will give you the details. The data is from the U.S. military:
The above does not include special forces or the CIA or drone strikes. The few gray nations without U.S. troops permanently in them stand out, including Iran and Syria. Should Greenland be worried?
We’ve also included a map of U.S. military actions since 1945. It has quite a bit of color on it.
And we’ve included a series of maps indicating some level of national interest in replacing war with the rule of law. While the International Criminal Court is seriously flawed, it might be improved by greater membership, particularly by major war makers. Here is which countries are now members:
Also available is a map of which nations are party to the long-forgotten treaty that bans war, known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact. That membership ought to be very surprising. There’s also a map of which nations have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions banning the horrendously awful and murderous cluster bombs, a.k.a. flying landmines.
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June 6th came once more. D-day was a long time ago and I didn’t intend to make anything of it. I was surprised by the emotional turmoil I felt, by how I felt about that day in my gut. I realized that while I was born after the war was over, D-day and World War II were a real and tangible part of my childhood. It was part of my family’s life, my teachers lives, my friends parent’s lives. It wasn’t just old men who remembered it, every adult in my youth had stories from that war. It was amputees on street corners selling pencils and people all around me still dealing with it. It was part of my life and it played a role in my enlistment for Vietnam. Of course I felt this day in my guts. Why did I think it would be otherwise?
The stories were part of the world I grew up in; stories of D-day, of every counter-espionage agent for a year saying the first attack will be a feint, of the phantom 1st Army with decoy tanks, fake radio chatter and empty tents looking like an army poised for an imminent invasion, of Omaha Beach, of Utah Beach. The death, the military blunders, the maimed, the successes, the “discovery” of the concentration camps, the Battle of the Bulge, these stories were tangible and a part of my childhood. Many of the stories were told after I was in bed, at breakfast they were alluded to quietly by my parents, and we children were told never to ask the adults about them.
So what is the legacy of WWII? For the people around me in my youth it was not D-day or even VE day or VJ day. Those were just markers of relief, of joy, that the war would come to an end. The war was not fought just to win the war. No, the adults of my youth knew there was a bigger issue – how do we keep this from ever happening again? In their experience, the world could not live through another world war, and it could not afford another war at all. The legacy of World War II was the question of how we assure that the next crazy, the next despot, the next aggressor nation does not start another war.
The Allies discussed this. Stalin believed that we should take the top 50,000 living Nazi leaders and execute them. That would send a clear message to not only the heads of state, but to the people who did the work to implement their aggression. Churchill, who incidentally had not personally been touched by the 30 million deaths on the Eastern Front, thought that Stalin was being excessive. Churchill proposed that executing the top 5,000 Nazi leaders would be enough death to make those who might support an aggressive nation’s acts of war think twice. Truman thought we needed the rule of law, that we needed to establish that these acts of war were crimes and that people could expect to be prosecuted for them. Thus the Nuremberg Tribunals were formed. The Tokyo Tribunals followed, but it was Nuremberg that set the standard and established the law.
Robert H. Jackson, a US Supreme Court Justice who took a leave from the court to become a main architect of the Nuremberg Tribunals, said on August 12, 1945 “We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify a resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.” This, not D-day, is what the people of my youth talked about. This was the legacy the war, this was the high ideal that made the whole war effort worth while.
I was recently talking with some US Airmen and found that they did not know what the Nuremberg Tribunals were, even when I prompted them with leads like WWII and trials. Is it possible that after all that blood and gore, the lasting legacy, the summation of what WWII was fought for has been lost? Lost even to our people in uniform.
In preparation for the tribunals the Allied powers passed the Nuremberg Charter. This set out the process of the trials and the crimes that would be prosecuted. There would be no revenge summary executions. The process established was for fair and open trials in which each defendant was presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, with right to present evidence of defense. The Nuremberg Charter went on to establish the crimes that would be prosecuted, thus we have words familiar to us today, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace.
It was the intent of the Nuremberg Tribunals to make starting a war illegal and prosecutable, even planning a war of aggression was a crime. The new laws established by Nuremberg were summed up in the seven Nuremberg Principles, among them that the sovereign or the head of a sovereign state is not above the law, and could be tried for war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace. Up until then they were generally considered above the law, or more accurately were considered to be the law, thus could not be prosecuted. Principle IV says if you participate in a war crime, you can not be absolved of guilt by claiming you had just followed orders; if you were part of the war crime you can be prosecuted. These two principles alone radically changed the prospect for the officials and functionaries of an aggressor state and hopefully would would keep rogue leaders from starting wars and their subordinates from going along with them.
At the opening of the Nuremberg Tribunals on November 10, 1945, Robert H. Jackson, US Chief Prosecutor at the Tribunals, on leave from the US Supreme Court, said ”The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.”
Returning to June 6th and what it means, the veterans and people I grew up among in the shadow of World War II did not talk about winning another war, they believed the world could not even survive another war – they talked about Nuremberg, what it meant and the hope that Nuremberg brought.
As we remember that day, D-day, let us not loose sight of what all those lives were lost for, of what the people who lived through that war did to keep the scourge of war from ever consuming our world again. Make June 6th your day to study the Nuremberg Tribunals. Look up the Nuremberg Charter (also called the London Charter), the Nuremberg Tribunals and perhaps most importantly, the Nuremberg Principles. It would be wrong, no it would worse than just wrong, for us to let the loss of 72 million lives, the pain, and the destruction wrought by World War II to be for naught by our forgetting about Nuremberg.
Elliot Adams is a Veterans For Peace (VFP) member from New York State and past president of VFP’s National Board.
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By David Swanson.
M. Reyes, Jr. (pictured at right) is secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan). He has been with the organization since 2001. He was also the founding chair of the youth group Anakbayan in 1998. He blogs here and was involved in protests when U.S. President Barack Obama recently visited the Philippines. I asked him about it.
Was Obama unwelcomed in the Philippines?
The PH government rolled out the red carpet for Obama. In the streets however, thousands marched to protest Obama’s PH visit. The protests were aimed at the unequal relations between the US and the Philippines, in particular, US military intervention and economic impositions such as the TPPA. The visit also coincided with the signing of a new agreement called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement which would bring back US military facilities in the Philippines.
We had a two day protest, the first was a march near the Presidential Palace where we burned a giant effigy of Obama on a chariot and Aquino as his running dog. There were protests in different parts of the country as well. On the second day, we marched near the US embassy where we were met by a phalanx of policemen. The police used their shields and water cannons to disperse the protesters but we stood our ground. It was our indignation regarding the signing of the EDCA.
What agreement have the governments signed?
The EDCA is an agreement that allows US forces to use our PH facilities, to build their own facilities within these facilities and to preposition their equipment in PH territory. These facilities will function as bases where US forces can station troops as well as deploy troops and weapons systems such as armed drones. The EDCA is consistent with the US strategic rebalancing towards Asia, and is in furtherance of US economic and security interests in the region.
What do people of the Philippines think about it?
There are different opinions. Some welcome the EDCA thinking that it would help the Philippines against China’s incursions. They wrongly believe that the EDCA will result in the modernization of the PH armed forces. Those in the mass movement are very critical of the EDCA. Lawmakers from the Senate and Lower House have also raised serious objections. Two petitions have been filed before the PH supreme court questioning the EDCA. Lawyers, academicians, lawmakers, church people and activists have united to oppose the EDCA.
How is a dispute with China over some islands being used here?
The dispute with China is being exploited by the US to justify its permanent military presence in the Philippines. The US gives the false assurance that it would support the Philippines in the event of an armed attack by China. When Obama was confronted with this question during his PH visit, he avoided answering it and instead claimed that the US was interested in cooperating with China. The US is not likely going to war with the US due to the disputed areas in the West PH Sea. The US uses the Philippines as a footstool in Asia but would not come to the aid of the Philippines. The PH government meanwhile shows utter mendicancy and puppetry when it thinks that its sovereignty can be upheld through a foreign power.
I like to think of the Philippines, along with Ecuador, as a success story, a place that told the U.S. military to get out (in 1991) — how did that happen and what has happened since? How is this connected to U.S. military presence back to 1898?
The Filipino people have a long history of resistance to US colonial occupation and neo-colonial domination. The resistance includes armed struggle against US colonialism and currently, neo-colonialism.
The Filipino people struggled for decades against the presence of US bases and were finally successful in 1991 when the PH senate rejected a new basing treaty. The US basing agreement was so lopsided in favor of the US and constituted an affront to our sovereignty. The treaty rejection was possible only because there was a strong mass movement that campaigned for several decades.
Are you working with people opposed to bases in Okinawa, Jeju Island, elsewhere?
We are in solidarity with the anti-bases groups in Okinawa, Jeju, Australia and Korea. We have joined actions in opposition to the construction of new bases as well as the abuses of the US troops. We are part of the Ban the Bases global network which shares information and conducts campaigns on bases issues.
I’m speaking with the Mayor of Nago City, Okinawaw, who was elected to stop a base and is coming to the United States to try to stop it. What would you like me to say to him?
To the people of Okinawa, we are in solidarity with you. Never give up the struggle to boot out foreign bases. A nation cannot be truly free if foreign troops continue to be stationed on its shores.
What would you like to say to the people of the United States?
To the American people, do not let your taxes be spent for war and occupation, for US bases and intervention. Please support the campaign to shut down these bases and to get the US troops out of Asia and other continents.
Philippines climate chief Naderev Yeb Sano made a plea to the world? Is that effort connected with the effort against bases? Do these movements work together?
I met Yeb Sano when we were in the university during the 90’s. His plea may not be directly related to the bases movement. However, there are many environmental groups campaigning against the bases, including for compensation for the environmental damage wrought by US forces in their former bases in Subic and Clark as well as the recent destruction of a part of the Tubbataha Reef.
You are a musician: How does that fit into your activism?
I’ve been playing music since I was seven. I play the piano, guitar, blues harp or harmonica and the ukulele. Music is another outlet where we can express ourselves and help amplify the message to a broader audience. We did a series of recording two years ago when a friend got arrested in a remote province. We called it Prison Sessions, and we did videos of our sessions. We used the recordings to raise awareness of the plight of political prisoners and imprisoned artists. My friend was eventually released after two years of detention. We now play during events…outside the jail of course.
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Posted by David Swanson, written by Brian Terrell.
On April 15, 2014, when the story broke on the world that the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert program of assassination by remotely controlled drones is not distinct from the drone program of the U.S. Air Force as we had been told, I was on the “Sacred Peace Walk,” an event sponsored each spring by the Nevada Desert Experience, a 70 mile trek from Las Vegas to the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. Creech Air Force Base is along the way and we had already made plans for a protest there the next morning. While the CIA’s drone program is shrouded in secrecy, the Air Force supposedly has been using drones strictly as a weapon for waging war against combatants in recognized areas of conflict such as Afghanistan and formerly in Iraq, under a chain of command that is accountable to elected officials. Some who condemn the CIA’s assassinations by drones as illegal give a pass to or even laud the Air Force use of drones as a more restrained way to fight war.
This distinction has now been exposed as a lie. In a new documentary film released in Europe, “Drone,” former Air Force drone operators, veterans of a super-secret Squadron 17 at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, reveal that “it’s always been the Air Force that flies” the CIA’s missions, “the CIA might be the customer, but the Air Force has always flown it.”
The fact that airmen at Creech are carrying out assassination missions and extrajudicial executions far from declared zones of conflict on orders from unknown and unnamable bureaucrats did not come as a surprise. Neither was the news a “game changer” in regard to the actions we had planned, although we quickly revised the indictment listing the war crimes committed at Creech that some of us would attempt to deliver to the base commander.
My arrest at Creech along with eight others on April 16 was a “return to the scene of the crime” (the Air Force’s crime, not mine) for me, as I was among the “Creech 14” in April 2009, the first nonviolent direct action against drones in the U.S. Creech was then one of only a few sites from which drones were controlled by the U.S. and by the United Kingdom, which has a wing of the Royal Air Force stationed there to fly their own drones. Since then the use of armed drones has been proliferating around the world and so has the number of drone operation bases in communities around the U.S. My work with Voices for Creative Nonviolence has brought me to the scenes of the crime in Afghanistan, the CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia and at the gates of drone bases in New York, Iowa, Missouri and in England as well.
The latest revelation is but the exposure of one more lie, one more layer of criminality and venality of this corrupt and dangerous program. Over the years since April 2009, the promises of a new era of better war through drone technology have been steadily unravelling, each of them proving false. It is increasingly clear that rather than limiting the scope of war, drones are expanding and proliferating it, killing more civilians both on battlefields and far from them, endangering our soldiers and the safety of our communities. Instead of keeping the horrors of war at a safe distance, drones bring the war home in unprecedented ways.
President Obama, in an address before the National Defense University May 23, 2013, described this new technology as more precise and by implication more humane than other weaponry: “By narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.” There is an understandable appeal to the idea of a weapon that can discriminate between the good and the bad people and limit regrettable “collateral damage.” It is understandable too, that a nation weary of sending its sons and daughters to fight on battlefields far away, risking injury, death or the debilitating effects of posttraumatic stress, might look to embrace a new method of war whereby the warriors fights battles from safe distances. Thousands of miles beyond the reach of the enemy, drone combatants often do not even have to leave their hometowns and are able to return to homes and families at the end of a shift.
In his National Defense University speech, the president contended that “conventional airpower and missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to cause more civilian casualties and local outrage.” A few weeks later a study published by the same National Defense University refuted his claim. Drone strikes in Afghanistan, the study found, were “an order of magnitude more likely to result in civilian casualties per engagement.” Despite the president’s assurances to the contrary, drone strikes cause immense “local outrage” in the countries where they happen, turning America’s allies into enemies. “What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world,” said former commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal. “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes … is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”
Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates also warns of the seductive power and precision of armed drones that leads many to perceive war as a “bloodless, painless and odorless” affair. “Remarkable advances in precision munitions, sensors, information and satellite technology and more can make us overly enamored with the ability of technology to transform the traditional laws and limits of war. A button is pushed in Nevada and seconds later a pickup truck explodes in Kandahar.” Defense experts and policy makers, Gates warns, have come to view drone warfare as a “kind of video game or action movie. . . . In reality, war is inevitably tragic, inefficient and uncertain.” General Mike Hostage, chief of the US Air Combat Command, claims that while weaponized drones are useful in assassinations of terror suspects, they are impractical in combat. “Predators and Reapers are useless in a contested environment,” Hostage said.
Some enlisted personnel are also questioning the use of drones. Heather Linebaugh, a drone operator for the US Air Force for three years says: “Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I’d start with: ‘How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?’ And: ‘How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?’ Or even more pointedly: ‘How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?’”
Distance from the battlefield does not isolate soldiers from posttraumatic stress or the moral injury of war. Heather Linebaugh speaks of two friends and colleagues who committed suicide and another former drone operator, Brandon Bryant, said that his work had made him into a “heartless sociopath.” While drone pilots are at a greater distance from their victims than other soldiers, he says, the video feed they watch brings them closer: “Artillery doesn’t see the results of their actions. It’s really more intimate for us, because we see everything.”
The Air Force is relegating much of its drone operations to Air National Guard units in various states, creating virtual war zones in local communities. “In an F-16, your whole mission was to train to go to war,” said a pilot of an Ohio Air Guard wing that made a conversion from fighters to drones. “In this mission, we go to war every day.” Foreign postings of state National Guard units are usually made public, but where in the world these citizen soldiers will be fighting from now on will be shrouded in secrecy, hidden even from their families. Reason and the rules of war both suggest that assassinations and acts of war on sovereign nations carried on by local National Guard units will make their communities into legitimate targets of war.
Drone warfare is based on the lie that war can be made more exact, limited and humane through technology. Our civilian and military authorities, proliferating drone attacks around the globe from more and more American bases, are acting recklessly and in defiance of domestic and international law. They are acting without regard for the safety and wellbeing of our troops, of American civilians or of people in faraway places who otherwise would mean us no harm. Rather than limiting war, being an answer, drones perpetuate and multiply the horrors of war and bring them home into our communities.
As our band of walkers approached Creech Air Force Base on the morning of April 16, we were greeted by a large sign at the gate that read “Force Protection Alpha in Effect,” announcing that the base was in its highest security alert. We were also met by an impressive contingent of military police and sheriff’s officers, heavily armed and some on horseback, which easily exceeded in number our little band that left Las Vegas on foot four days earlier. These public servants were clearly responding to a perceived threat to public safety and so were we. Our purposes were disjointed, though, in that we were at Creech in response to a clear and present danger presented by the murderous crimes of Squadron 17 somewhere in the depth of this desert outpost. The official and ostensible law enforcement squad, on the other hand, was there in response to the threat that a few unarmed citizens might step across an arbitrary and ever shifting line on the pavement.
I write this on my way to Kansas City, where, this weekend, good and faithful friends will go to nearby Whiteman Air Force Base to confront the predator drones based there. A few days later, Voices for Creative Nonviolence and friends will start walking from Boeing corporate headquarters in Chicago (a major drone contractor) 160 miles to Battle Creek, Michigan, where a National Guard unit is poised to begin operating predator drones over far away skies. “Force Protection Alpha” is truly “in Effect” and people in Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan as well as communities in the U.S. and Europe are responding to the emergency.
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By David Swanson.
Michael Arria’s new book Medium Blue: The Politics of MSNBC is a nice summary of how a liberal corporate or liberal partisan television network falls short — something of an update from Jeff Cohen’s Cable News Confidential and the bad old days when MSNBC dumped Cohen and Phil Donahue for being anti-war. It turns out the good new days of MSNBC-gone-liberal are seriously flawed as well.
The flaws do a disservice to a large section of the population, many majority perspectives, and large numbers of people whose opinions would improve if their information did.
Yes, of course, it’s nice to have a 24/7 channel that everybody receives making fun of Republicans. But the Comedy Channel (Comedy Central) does that too. The comedy fake news shows also make fun of Democrats and anyone else they can identify; they build cynicism and disgust without offering any better course of action than a mass Rally-for-Nothing to give people too smart to attend other rallies a chance to rally ironically.
But what does MSNBC offer? Beyond its mocking of Republicans, it gives a significant pass to Democrats, resulting in dishonest presentations of facts and a proposed course of action that’s doomed to fail. There are many exceptions, of course, and MSNBC easily soars over the low bar of producing more honest and useful commentary than CNN or Fox. In fact, a book that collected the highlights of MSNBC would be quite interesting as well. It would feature a good bit of Chris Hayes, of honesty about climate, even a bit of reckoning with Israel. (In fact, I make no claim to know what all it would include, which is why I’d find it useful.) Such a collection might encourage networks, including MSNBC, to realize what can be done without the sky falling. But the lowlights, and the lines of limitation that are not crossed without corporate penalty are crucial and are the focus of Arria’s book.
MSNBC gives voice to one side in a series of narrow debates, the side previously represented by the likes of Alan Colmes. But the change is basically one to a larger microphone, rather than to a wider range of opinion. The debate remains framed within the same limitations. A prime example is war and militarism. MSNBC is in favor of wars with a different wrapper, rather than of eliminating wars from U.S. foreign policy.
Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, Chris Hayes (not at first, but he came around), and other MSNBC voices were all in favor of bombing Libya, and as far as I know are not particularly focused on the horrendous results.
Maddow declares Iran a dictatorship, and dates that dictatorship to 1979, never 1953. She’s lied that Ahmadinejad was known for publicly defending Iran’s “pursuit of nuclear weapons.” And she grotesquely distorts the history of Palestine and Israel, claiming that Israel innocently declared independence and was attacked the next day by five nations. As Obama pushed for missile strikes on Syria, Maddow did a story on how many nations she believed a President John McCain would have attacked.
Ezra Klein finally turned against the war on Iraq, years too late, because “the odds were high we couldn’t do it right” — using “we” in the usual way for a media outlet that identifies with the government, and maintaining the important pretense that attacking foreign nations can be done correctly or incorrectly.
Touré defended the drone murder of Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki. Martin Bashir insisted that a guest not doubt the integrity of “a senior military officer.” Adam Serwer demanded that “service members” all be “supported” “unconditionally.”
Are these unfairly handpicked examples of military-worship on MSNBC? I doubt it. When Chris Hayes questioned whether every dead U.S. soldier is necessarily a hero, he was then apparently faced with the choice of taking a stand and losing his job or doing what he did instead: apologize for the outburst of honesty. Cenk Uygur, in contrast, took a stand for critical coverage of the Obama administration and was fired by MSNBC President Phil Griffin, who told him, “We’re insiders. We’re the establishment.”
Was Hayes right to apologize in order to maintain his voice on the air, a voice that’s better than some of the other ones? I don’t have a strong opinion on that question. My interest here is in pointing out, along with Arria, that a voice willing to question whether every hired killer in every popular and unpopular and illegal war is without question a hero is not permitted on MSNBC.
When I say that the best of MSNBC is its coverage of Republicans, I don’t mean to give a blanket endorsement to all such coverage. The over-obsession with the right wing gives prominence to much that would better be treated with silence — silence that instead is reserved for the left.
MSNBC follows the lead of the party and politicians it has given its loyalty to. And it doesn’t just follow their lead. MSNBC has hired Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod, among others who can bring the Obama line straight to the viewers of a network that has more than once debated whether Obama should be added to Mount Rushmore. “My President Obama? Is he your President too?” Ed Schultz demanded of a guest while insisting that Libya be bombed as Obama desired.
Schultz even ignorantly claimed that Obama couldn’t have been elected if he’d campaigned on increasing troops in Afghanistan — as of course Obama had very prominently done. But think about Schultz’s defense of Obama, rather than his ignorance of basic facts. Schultz is claiming that Obama lied about ending a war in order to get elected, and then escalated the war once in office. That’s the good Obama of Schultz’s imagination. That’s Obama on the model of Wilson and Roosevelt. There’s a reason Bill Clinton calls MSNBC “our version of Fox.”
I said MSNBC promotes a program of action that Comedy Central does not. But its program of action is not principled issue-based nonviolent engagement; it’s voting for one political party as a path to progress. Anything else is unrealistic, MSNBC ridiculously maintains. Melissa Harris-Perry claims that supporting Obama despite any failings is “realist.” She says that critics of Obama from the left are, in fact, not just unrealistic but racist. She dismissed the Chicago teachers’ strike and proposed that they solve their problems by voting in public elections. She also insisted that Edward Snowden should have worked within the system. How realistic is that, exactly?
The MSNBC worldview generally pretends that everything was good in 1999 and easily can be again. Says Rachel Maddow: “I’m in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-Era Republican Party platform.” So, maybe a bit earlier than 1999.
The perspective that MSNBC believes its viewers hold, and which it relentlessly instructs them to hold was exemplified by a recent comment that Chris Hayes made to Glenn Greenwald: “People feel they have to choose between Barack Obama and Glenn Greenwald and there are millions of people in this country who are like if that is a choice I choose Barack Obama.” Hayes then gave reasons to choose Obama. No doubt Hayes believes he was simply articulating the spontaneously generated view of the masses, of which a good organizer must be aware for better or worse. But he never suggested the slightest critique of the way of thinking that he was in fact modeling on national TV. He demanded that Greenwald alter his “tone” to accommodate such a idiotic perspective, but he never hinted at the possibility that people might alter their idiocy, that they might stop choosing between personalities and deal with facts, that they might vote for politicians and simultaneously critique their failings, that they might view elected officials as representatives rather than deities.
Of course, Hayes wasn’t just referring to the unknown unwashed masses when he claimed that millions of people place loyalty to a president above their duty to know what their government is doing and hold it accountable for its abuses; he was referring to his colleagues and the official policy of his employer. And that is the limit of a partisan, corporate, insider media outlet of any flavor.
Now, we have alternatives, including Democracy Now, Free Speech TV, Dennis Trainor, the RealNews.com, RT, Youtube, etc., and the written word. We may manage to replace MSNBC or circumvent it. We may manage to come up with media outlet(s) that will produce an Occupy movement and sustain it. But I think it’s an open question whether improving MSNBC would actually be bad for its profitability. For years, TV executives seemed to believe that creating a Democratic Fox would not succeed as well as creating a second lesser Fox. They eventually proved themselves wrong. Now, they are clearly convinced that creating an independent populist challenge to a government that 80% of the country believes is broken wouldn’t succeed outside of Comedy Central.
It’s possible they’re wrong. It’s possible that going where the majority is on corporate trade pacts and single-payer healthcare and wars would increase viewership. It’s possible that access to such viewers would attract politicians and advertisers as well or nearly as well as softball interviews and corporate friendly views. We’ll never know unless someone gives it a try.
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By David Swanson.
No human being wants to be ruled by their people’s murderers. Forgiveness through restorative justice may be possible, but being ruled by murderers is asking for too much.
Both teams have members who are warlords accused of human rights abuses, as reported by the New York Times, including Dr. Abdullah Abdullah’s running mate, Mohammed Mohaqiq, and General Dostum, who is Dr. Ashraf Ghani’s vice-presidential candidate.
General Dostum, allegedly on the CIA’s payroll in the past, apologized for his past war crimes when he registered as Dr. Ashraf Ghani’s vice-presidential candidate. One of those crimes is theDasht-e-Leili massacre which occurred in the fall of 2001. New York Times and Newsweekinvestigations alleged that hundreds or even thousands of surrendering pro-Taliban prisoners died of thirst, hunger and gunshots when they were stuffed into shipping containers for transport to an Afghan prison.
Both presidential hopefuls in the run-off elections on June 14th have already vowed to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement, which President Obama mentioned in his surprise visit to Bagram Air Base in Kabul, not even bothering to visit President Karzai who declined to visit him at Bagram.
Article 7 of the Bilateral Security Agreement, states that, “Afghanistan hereby authorizes United States forces to control entry to agreed facilities and areas that have been provided for United States forces’ exclusive use…” and also that “Afghanistan shall provide all agreed facilities and areas without charge to United States forces.”
Article 13 includes this: “Afghanistan … agrees that the United States shall have the exclusive right to exercise jurisdiction over such persons in respect of any criminal or civil offenses committed in the territory of Afghanistan.”
It is understandable that President Karzai isn’t willing to sign the agreement. It may leave a disastrous legacy.
I asked an activist who has been working in Afghanistan for ten years what he thought about the run-off in Afghanistan’s elections. “Many Afghans, and people all over the world, are getting more and more cynical about elections,” he told me. “And they should be, because how did our psyche become conditioned to accept that by electing corrupt, selfish, proud, wealthy and violent elites every four or five years, our ordinary lives will be changed? Our planet is exasperatingly unequal and militarized. To place in power the ones who continue this status quo is bizarre.”
Bizarre, yet disturbingly familiar.
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By David Swanson.
The three laws of robotics, according to science fiction author Isaac Asimov, are:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
I would gladly have accepted a $20 million Pentagon contract for the job of pointing out these three laws.
OK, maybe $25 million.
Sadly, the Pentagon has instead hired a bunch of philosophy professors from leading U.S. universities to tell them how to make robots murder people morally and ethically.
Of course, this conflicts with the first law above. A robot designed to kill human beings is designed to violate the first law.
The whole project even more fundamentally violates the second law. The Pentagon is designing robots to obey orders precisely when they violate the first law, and to always obey orders without any exception. That’s the advantage of using a robot. The advantage is not in risking the well-being of a robot instead of a soldier. The Pentagon doesn’t care about that, except in certain situations in which too many deaths of its own humans create political difficulties. And there are just as many situations in which there are political advantages for the Pentagon in losing its own human lives: “The sacrifice of American lives is a crucial step in the ritual of commitment,” wrote William P. Bundy of the CIA, an advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. A moral being would disobey the orders these robots are being designed to carry-out, and — by being robots — to carry out without any question of refusal. Only a U.S. philosophy professor could imagine applying a varnish of “morality” to this project.
The Third Law should be a warning to us. Having tossed aside Laws one and two, what limitations are left to be applied should Law three be implemented? Assume the Pentagon designs its robots to protect their own existence, except when . . . what? Except when doing so would require disobeying a more important order? But which order is more important? Except when doing so would require killing the wrong kind of person(s)? But which are they? The humans not threatening the robot? That’s rather a failure as a limitation.
Let’s face it, the Pentagon needs brand new laws of robotics. May I suggest the following:
1. A Pentagon robot must kill and injure human beings as ordered.
2. A Pentagon robot must obey all orders, except where such orders result from human weakness and conflict with the mission to kill and injure.
3. A Pentagon robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
This set of laws differs from Asimov’s in a number of ways. For one thing, it completely lacks morality. It is designed for killing, not protecting. By prioritizing killing in the First Law, rather than protecting, this set of laws also allows for the possibility of robots sacrificing themselves to kill rather than to protect — as well as the possibility of robots turning on their masters.
This set of laws differs much less — possibly not at all — from the set of laws currently followed by human members of the U.S. military. The great distinction that people imagine between autonomous and piloted drones vanishes when you learn a little about the thought habits of human drone pilots. They, like other members of the U.S. military, follow these laws:
1. A Pentagon human must kill and injure human beings as ordered.
2. A Pentagon human must obey all orders, except where such orders result from human weakness and conflict with the mission to kill and injure.
3. A Pentagon human must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
The job of the philosophy professors is to apply these laws to robots while neither changing them nor letting on to have figured out what they are. In other words, it’s just like teaching a course in the classics to a room full of students. Thank goodness our academia has produced the men and women for this job.
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By David Swanson.
I have lived in Odessa since my early childhood and adore this sunny south city with its hospitable and witty people. Odessa is a multinational city which is reflected in the names of its streets: French and Italian Boulevards, Greek and Bulgarian Streets, Moldavian district, etc. Odessa was built according to a decree issued by the Russian empress Catherine the Great over 200 years ago as a Russian port city on the Black Sea. And it was constructed by French and Italian architects and engineers invited by Catherine. That is why it is said to resemble Paris …
During the Soviet period Odessa was a part of the Ukrainian SSR – one of the 15 republics comprising the USSR at the time, though it was Russian, both by its population and the language it spoke. But it was not of principal importance for the numerous nations and nationalities living there, as all of them had equal rights and comprised one and the same Soviet people. When I studied at school there were Russians, Ukrainians, Jews and Bulgarians in my class, and it didn’t matter – we were the citizens of one and the same country.
After the USSR collapsed, the Ukrainian Republic became Ukraine and started building its own independent state seeking to prove its self-sufficiency and ability to become a powerful and prosperous state. But it failed. Instead the state succeeded in splitting and embroiling the two people inhabiting it – Ukrainians and Russians. Being a teacher I can definitely state that in 23 years of independence there appeared a generation of young people brought up in a Russophobic spirit. It was made possible due to the anti-Russian policy of the state which tried to shift the discontent of its citizens from itself onto its external neighbour-state – Russia (the so-called “younger-brother syndrome”). But to make hatred to one’s fraternal people a country’s national idea is, to my mind, absurd and a crime against its own people.
Ukraine could be called “an artificial state”. If one takes interest in its history, it will turn out that the state has existed in its present form not so long ago, and consists of heterogeneous parts. One of the major reasons of the present crisis in Ukraine is that the neo-nazi and Russophobic ideology of one of these parts, Galicia, is imposed upon the entire Ukraine. The slogans of the Kiev “Maidan” like “Glory to Ukraine! – Glory to heroes!”, “Nation is above all!”, “Death to enemies!” are the slogan of the nationalists and Bandera-followers from the west of Ukraine. Their enemies are Russians, and their heroes are Bandera, Shukhevich and the like, who were fascists’ henchmen during the last war, and who became notorious for their flagrant atrocities against peaceful population in the west of Ukraine.
And for Odessa, which heroically fought with [against Hitler] the fascist invaders, for Crimea (which “returned back home to Russia”), as well as for the whole southern and eastern Ukraine, such an ideology is unacceptable and arouses rebuff. There are lots of ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking people here who are traditionally strongly attached by Russia. So in many cities, Odessa inclusive, people startedparticipating in peaceful protest marches demanding, in particular, a referendum as to the future state structure arrangement.
They do not want to be second-rate people, they want to stay on the land where they belong, to speak their native tongue, and to live in peace with their Russian neighbours-brothers, as well as with the whole world. But the Western-backed (US first and foremost) unelected fascist regime in Kiev does not want to take into account their inalienable right to their culture and national identity, so confrontation and repressions started. The propaganda of the Ukrainian media is stirring up the information war, the journalists trying to tell the truth have to leave the country. The Russian TV channels are cut off. A parliamentary deputy, Oleg Tsaryov, the only presidential candidate who tried to inform the government and the world public about the opinion of the people living in the south-east, is now subject to criminal prosecution and is being relieved from inviolability of a deputy.
On the Internet there has recently been promulgated the telephone talk between Tsaryov and the second-richest Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoysky (the latter is said to stay behind and pay for organizing the flagrant provocation and massacre in Odessa, as well as for organizing punitive squads for fighting the people’s volunteer corps in the eastern regions of Ukraine), in which Kolomoysky was threatening Tsaryov and his family.(ref) As a result, millions of people in the south-east do not feel themselves protected, fear about their future and seek protection and salvation from their brothers-Slavs living in Russia. That’s why the slogans “Russia!”, “No to junta”, “No to fascism!” and “Putin!” were sounding during their peaceful protest marches. These thousands of people are neither “separatists”, nor “terrorists” as they are often called by the pro-Kiev media, they are just peaceful citizens wishing to be heard.
Now the split in Ukraine has turned into a real war against its own people, with a great number of victims. The horrible massacre and the succeeding burning of dozens of people in Odessa is, to my mind, a peak in the fratricidal war. I am neither a politician, an expert, nor an investigator, so I am not to judge exactly what forces are behind these events. But having read lots of information and opinions on the Internet I understand that it is definitely a provocation in the dirty game of big politicians and oligarchs in their struggle for redivision of the world, power and money. Now only children do not understand that the West does not want to see the truth about the events in Ukraine because the stakes in this game are geopolitical. The fight is for hegemony in the world between Russia and the USA, and Ukraine just happens to be the battlefield between these two “great powers”. It is quite natural that Russia does not want to have NATO “at its door”, and a US naval base deployed in Odessa. Neither do the Russians living here.
Whether the crime in Odessa will be investigated or not, is a big question. I personally am not at all sure of it. But it is impossible to put up with the fact that 48 Odessites (and, by the grapevine, much more) have been burned alive, as in Byelorussian village of Khatyn. We have been seeing their charred bodies while sleeping and have cried our eyes out imagining their sufferings. There has never been such a horrible crime against humanity in Odessa since the war of 1941-1945. My parents were fighting then against Hitler invaders, my father was awarded to many orders and medals, my mother had two medals too – one “For the Defense of Stalingrad”, and another one “For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War”. So I cannot accept the fact that neo-nazism and fascism as represented by the current junta (and there is no other name for this unlawful and criminal government) is established in Ukraine. After the Odessa Khatyn there will never be a single and united Ukraine. Fascism/nazism is a terrible evil, and if it is not immediately stopped, it will keep growing and sprawling like cancer.
I was so glad when, thanks to Olga, I got an opportunity to contact you: now we have some hope to bring the truth about Odessa and Ukraine to the people all over the world. I would be happy if my letter could at least a little helpful for you in your noble and important activity, that of struggle for peace.
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By David Swanson.
Korea — North and South are caught in the tragic cold war mentality with a divided country imposed on them by the United States (and not opposed by the Soviet Union) back in 1945 and solidified in 1948. Ten million families were separated by the division of North and South. People in South Korea cannot phone, write or visit relatives or friends in North Korea and vice versa. One Catholic Priest from South Korea I met spent three and a half years in prison in South Korea for visiting North Korea on a peace mission. The border between North and South Korea is a battle zone where hot war could break out at any moment.
The US and South Korean military regularly do full scale live fire war games invoking up to 300,000 troops simulating both defensive and offensive war including armed war planes right up to the border of North Korea. North Korea regularly makes threats of war as well. The Soviet Union is no more and it is time for the United States to ask forgiveness of the people of South and North Korea for imposing this state of war on the two countries, sign a peace agreement with North Korea to officially end the Korean war, recognize the government of North Korea and agree to negotiate all differences at the conference table, not on the battlefield.
I spent most of my time in Korea on Jeju Island, a beautiful island 50 miles south of the South Korean mainland where between 30,000 and 80,000 people were assassinated back in 1948 under orders from US military command. The people of Jeju island had strongly resisted the Japanese occupation during World War II and along with most people in Korea, were looking forward to a free and independent nation. However, instead of a unified country, the US imposed a strongly anti-communist government on South Korea and especially on Jeju Island. All who resisted a militarized and anti-communist South Korea were assassinated (more than 1/3 of the population at that time). Because of the anti-communist dictatorships for decades after 1948, the people of Jeju Island were not allowed to even talk about this past or they would be suspected of being communist sympathizers and severely punished. Only in 2003 President Roh Moo-hyun apologized on behalf of the Korean government for the massacre of the people on Jeju island in 1948. Jeju Island was then declared an “Island of Peace” and was also declared a “World Heritage Site” because of its coral reefs and natural beauty.
But now the US government has decided on the “pivot to Asia” and plans to move the focus of US military operations to Asia – presumably to encircle China with military bases and prepare for the next war. The village of Gangjeong has been chosen as the port for a massive military base which officially will be a Korean military base, but in reality is seen as a place for US military ships to help “contain” China. Thus, the fear is that Jeju Island could become a focal point for a new war – even a nuclear war between the US and China.
Since plans for the base were first announced seven years ago, the people of Gangjeong have been resisting the construction of the base and for the past four years have been nonviolently blocking bulldozers and cement trucks coming onto the base. Activists from South Korea (many in the Catholic church) have joined in this nonviolent resistance. Every day there is a Catholic Mass in which priests and nuns block the main entrance to the base and each day are carried off by the police when many cement trucks are lined up trying to get onto the base. When the police step aside after the trucks have entered the base, the priests and nuns carry their chairs back to continue blocking the entrance to the base – all the time in deep prayer.
I joined them for the last two days I was on Jeju Island. After the mass each day which lasts about two hours, the activists come and do a dance blocking the main gate for another hour or so. Some of the people acting on their conscience blocking the entrance have spent over one year in prison. Others have had heavy fines imposed on them for their acts of conscience. But still the nonviolent resistance continues.
Some Koreans are working hard for reconciliation and peace between North and South Korea. But the governments of the US, South Korea and North Korea continue their military confrontation and now if this base is built, there will be another very large military base in South Korea. Concerned Americans need to support the nonviolent movement of the people on Jeju Island to stop the construction of the military base there.
I believe that the American people need to demand that our government stop the Pax Americana way of relating to the rest of the world. We need to settle our differences with China, North Korea and all nations by negotiations at the conference table, not through projecting our military power through threats and the building of more military bases.
And now on to Vietnam.
In April I spent two weeks in Vietnam as part of a Veterans for Peace delegation hosted by a group of American Vietnam Veterans living in Vietnam. The focus of our visit was to learn about how the people of Vietnam continue to suffer from the American war in Vietnam which ended 39 years ago.
Some of the impressions/highlights of my visit to Vietnam included:
· The friendliness of the Vietnamese people who welcomed us, invited us into their homes and have forgiven us for all the suffering, pain and death our country inflicted on them in the American war in Vietnam, with a hope that they and we can live in peace with one another.
· The horrendous suffering, pain and death caused by the war in Vietnam. If the United States had abided by the Geneva accords which ended the French war with Vietnam in 1954 and had allowed free elections in all of Vietnam in 1956, three million Vietnamese (two million of them, Vietnamese civilians) would not have had to die in the American war in Vietnam. The US military dropped over eight million tons of bombs (more bombs than were dropped by all sides in World War II) killing, maiming and forcing people to flee their homes and many of them to live in tunnels. In Quang Tri province four tons of bombs were dropped for every person in that province (the equivalent of eight Hiroshima –sized Atomic bombs).
· The people of Vietnam are still suffering and dying from the unexploded ordinance and Agent Orange dropped on Vietnam by the US during the war. Ten percent of the bombs dropped on Vietnam did not explode on impact and are still exploding in people’s back yards, in their fields and in their communities, causing people of all ages including many children to lose their limbs, eyesight or be killed or otherwise maimed. Eight hundred thousand tons of unexploded ordinance is still in the ground in Vietnam. Since the end of the war, at least 42,000 people have lost their lives and another 62,000 have been injured or permanently disabled due to unexploded ordinance. We witnessed one unexploded anti-personnel bomb found being safely detonated after being found about ten feet behind a home in a village when they were cutting weeds the day before we got there.
· Over 20 million gallons of herbicides were sprayed on the people and country of Vietnam, including fifteen million gallons of Agent Orange to defoliate the trees and crops. There are three million Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange with deformed bodies and minds three generations later who are still suffering from this very toxic chemical which gets into the genes and is passed from generation to generation so children are still being born deformed in mind and body. We visited orphanages of children tragically affected by Agent Orange who will never be able to live a normal life. We visited homes where children were lying on the bed or floor not able to control their bodies or even recognize there were people nearby. A Mother or Grandmother spends 24 hours a day with the child loving and comforting them. It was almost more than our hearts could bear.
· The (American) Veterans for Peace Chapter 160 in Vietnam is helping support projects like Project Renew in which Vietnamese are trained to safely remove or detonate bombs or ordinance which are found in the communities. They are also supporting the orphanages and families where one or more family members cannot work by buying them a cow or putting a roof on their home or helping start enterprises like growing mushrooms which can be sold on the market for income for the family. Or projects where blind people can make incense and toothpicks which can be sold and help support their families. Our delegation contributed $21,000 toward the orphanages and in support of families suffering from Agent Orange and unexploded ordinance- a drop in the bucket compared with the need, but it was deeply appreciated.
· The US government should take responsibility for alleviating the suffering and pain our war is still causing the people of Vietnam and contribute the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to clean up both the Agent Orange and unexploded ordinance and support the families and victims still suffering from the war. The Vietnamese are ready to do the work, but need financial assistance. We Americans have caused this tragedy. We have the moral responsibility to clean it up.
· It was powerful to experience Vietnam with US veterans, who had been part of the killing and destruction in Vietnam and who were now finding healing from the pain of their war experience 40 or more years ago, through reaching out to the people of Vietnam who are still suffering from the war. One US veteran told us that after the war he could not live with himself or with anyone else and lived as far away as he could from other people – about a hundred miles north of Anchorage, Alaska working on an oil pipeline by day and was drunk or high on drugs the rest of the time to escape from the pain of his war experience. He said there were hundreds of other Veterans also in the back woods of Alaska who were going through the same experience. Only after thirty years of hell did he finally decide to go back to Vietnam where he has gotten to know the people of Vietnam and has found profound healing from his experience in the war – trying to bring healing for the people of Vietnam as well as for himself. He said the worst decision of his life was to go to Vietnam as a soldier and the best decision was to come back to Vietnam as a friend of the people of Vietnam.
· There is a bill which has passed Congress allocating 66 million dollars for commemorating the war in Vietnam in 2015, the fortieth anniversary of the end of the war. Many in Washington hope to clean up the image of the war in Vietnam – that it was a “good war” and something for which Americans should be proud. After my recent trip to Vietnam I feel very strongly that we must NOT allow our government to clean up the image of the Vietnam war. The Vietnam war was a horrible war as are all wars. Hopefully we will learn from history as well as from our religious teachings that War is Not the Answer, that war does not solve conflicts, but instead sows the seeds of future wars. War is a moral disaster for everyone including those who do the killing. (There is a very high number of suicides by both active duty soldiers and veterans, and the souls of all the rest of us are also wounded.)
· The United States could be the most loved nation in the world if we moved from our Pax Americana way of relating to the world to a worldview of a global human family. We need to work for “Shared Security” for all people on earth and act on that belief by spending the hundreds of billions we currently spend on wars and preparations of wars for human and environmental needs in the United States and worldwide. We could help end world hunger, help build schools and medical clinics in communities around the world – help build a decent life for every person on the planet. That would be a much more effective means of fighting terrorism than our present effort to find security through ever more armaments, nuclear weapons and military bases circling our planet.
I invite you to join many of us who are building a Global Movement to End All War – www.worldbeyondwar.org , to sign the Declaration of Peace, look at the ten minute video – The Two Trillion dollar question – and become active in this movement to end the insanity and addiction to violence and war which is so endemic in this country and around the world. I believe that 99% of the world’s people could benefit and feel much safer and have a much better quality of life if we were to end our addiction to war as a means of resolving conflict and devote those funds to promoting a better life for all people on the planet.
My experiences in Korea and Vietnam have only strengthened my belief that this is the path we must take if we are to survive as a species and build a world of peace and justice for our children and grandchildren and for all generations to come.
For more information about the struggle on Jeju Island, Korea, see the www.savejejunow.org website and the film, Ghosts of Jeju.
For more information about the situation in Vietnam and what the Veterans for Peace are doing to help support those suffering from Agent Orange and unexploded ordinance, see http://vfp-vn.ning.com
To find out more about the Movement to End All War, see www.worldbeyondwar.org.
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