Monty Python State Department

Scene:  A cafe.  One table is occupied by a group of Vikings wearing horned helmets. 

Whenever the word "war" is repeated, they begin singing and/or chanting. 

A man and woman enter.  The man is played by Eric Idle, the woman is played by Graham Chapman (in drag), and the Secretary of State is played by Terry Jones, also in drag.

Man:   You sit here, dear.    

Woman:          All right.

Man:   Morning!

Secretary of State:     Morning!

Man:   Well, what've you got?

Secretary of State:     Well, there's sanctions and prosecutions; sanctions drone strikes and prosecutions; sanctions and war; sanctions prosecutions and war; sanctions prosecutions drone strikes and war; war prosecutions drone strikes and war; war sanctions war war prosecutions and war; war drone strikes war war prosecutions war cyber war and war;

Vikings:           War war war war...

Secretary of State:     ...war war war sanctions and war; war war war war war war targeted assassinations war war war...

Vikings:           War! Lovely war! Lovely war!

Secretary of State:     ...or a United Nations resolution combined with infiltration, a USAID fake Twitter application, a CIA overthrow, trained enhanced interrogators and with crippling sanctions on top and war.

Woman:          Have you got anything without war?

Secretary of State:     Well, there's war sanctions drone strikes and war, that's not got much war in it.

Woman:          I don't want ANY war!

Man:   Why can't she have sanctions prosecutions war and drone strikes?

Woman:          THAT'S got war in it!

Man:   Hasn't got as much war in it as war sanctions drone strikes and war, has it?

Vikings:           War war war war... (Crescendo through next few lines...)

Woman:          Could you do the sanctions prosecutions war and drone strikes without the war then?

Secretary of State:     Urgghh!

Woman:          What do you mean 'Urgghh'? I don't like war!

Vikings:           Lovely war! Wonderful war!

Secretary of State:     Shut up!

Vikings:           Lovely war! Wonderful war!

Secretary of State:     Shut up! (Vikings stop) Bloody Vikings! You can't have sanctions prosecutions war and drone strikes without the war.

Woman:          I don't like war!

Man:   Sshh, dear, don't cause a fuss. I'll have your war. I love it. I'm having war war war war war war war targeted assassinations war war war and war!

Vikings:           War war war war. Lovely war! Wonderful war!

Secretary of State:     Shut up!! Targeted assassinations are off.

Man:   Well could I have her war instead of the targeted assassinations then?

Secretary of State:     You mean war war war war war war... (but it is too late and the Vikings drown her words)

Vikings:           (Singing elaborately...) War war war war. Lovely war! Wonderful war! War w-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-r war w-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-r war. Lovely war! Lovely war! Lovely war! Lovely war! Lovely war! War war war war!

 

 

No actual diplomats were harmed in the making of this production.

Dave Lindorff and David Swanson Try to Count the Current Wars

Host Dave Lindorff interviews David Swanson, labor and peace activist, author of the book “War No More: The Case for Abolition” and the website warisacrime.org, about the rapidly expanding crises that the US has been promoting in RUSSIA-HISTORY-WWII-PARADE-REHEARSALUkraine, Syria, Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and the many countries where the US is using attack drones. Swanson argues that the US has been working hard to make Russia into an enemy again, that after portraying Syrian leader Bushar al Assad as a “Hitler” and arming and training his islamic rebel enemies, now a year later, Washington sees Assad as the “good guy” and is gearing up to bomb and kill the rebels, both in Syria and in Iraq, where they have expanded their rebellion. At least two of the crises, in Ukraine and the Persian Gulf, where a Coast Guard vessel has fired at an Iranian vessel, there is a real risk of war, either against Russia or Iran, Swanson warns.

From THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING

What to Do About ISIS

John Horgan asked me for a paragraph on what to do about ISIS. I sent him this:

I'd say start by recognizing where ISIS came from. The U.S. and its junior partners destroyed Iraq, left a sectarian division, poverty, desperation, and an illegitimate government in Baghdad that did not represent Sunnis or other groups. Then the U.S. armed and trained ISIS and allied groups in Syria, while continuing to prop up the Baghdad government, providing Hellfire missiles with which to attack Iraqis in Fallujah and elsewhere. ISIS has religious adherents but also opportunistic supporters who see it as the force resisting an unwanted rule from Baghdad and who increasingly see it as resisting the United States. It is in possession of U.S. weaponry provided directly to it in Syria and siezed from the Iraqi government. At last count by the U.S. government, 79% of weapons transfered to Middle Eastern governments come from the United States, not counting transfers to groups like ISIS, and not counting weapons in the possession of the United States. So, the first thing to do differently going forward: stop bombing nations into ruins, and stop shipping weapons into the area you've left in chaos.  Libya is of course another example of the disasters that U.S. wars leave behind them -- a war, by the way, with U.S. weapons used on boith sides, and a war launched on the pretext of a claim well documented to have been false that Gadaffi was threatening to massacre civilians.  So, here's the next thing to do: be very sceptical of humanitarian claims.  The U.S. bombing around Erbil to protect Kurdish and U.S. oil interests was initially justified as bombing to protect people on a mountain.  But most of those people on the mountain were in no need of rescue, and that justification has now been set aside, just as Benghazi was.  Recall also that Obama was forced to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq when he couldn't get the Iraqi government to give them immunity for crimes they commit.  He has now obtained that immunity and back in they go, the crimes preceding them in the form of 500 pound bombs.  While trying to rescue hostages and discovering an empty house, and racing to a mountain to save 30,000 people but finding 3,000 and most of those not wanting to leave, the U.S. claims to know exactly whom the 500-pound bombs are killing.  But whoever they are killing, they are generating more enemies, and they are building support for ISIS, not diminishing it.  So, now the U.S. finds itself on the opposite side of the war in Syria, so what does it do? Flip sides!  Now the great moral imperative is not to bomb Assad but to bomb in defense of Assad, the only consistent point being that "something must be done" and the only conceivable something is to pick some party and bomb it. But why is that the only conceivable thing to be done? I can think of some others:

1. Apologize for brutalizing the leader of ISIS in Abu Ghraib and to every other prisoner victimized under U.S. occupation

2. Apologize for destroying the nation of Iraq and to every family there

3. Begin making restitution by delivering aid (not "military aid" but actual aid, food, medicine) to the entire nation of Iraq

4. Apologize for role in war in Syria

5. Begin making restitution by delivering actual aid to Syria

6. Announce a commitment not to provide weapons to Iraq or Syria or Israel or Jordan or Egypt or Bahrain or any other nation anywhere on earth and to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from foreign territories and seas, including Afghanistan. (The U.S. Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf has clearly forgotten where the coast of the U.S. is!)

7. Announce a commitment to invest heavily in solar, wind, and other green energy and to provide the same to democratic representative governments.

8. Begin providing Iran with free wind and solar technologies -- at much lower cost of course than what it is costing the U.S. and Israel to threaten Iran over a nonexistent nuclear weapons program.

9. End economic sanctions.

10. Send diplomats to Baghdad and Damascus to negotiate aid and to encourage serious reforms.

11. Send journalists, aid workers, peaceworkers, human shields, and negotiators into crisis zones, understanding that this means risking lives, but fewer lives than further militarization risks.

12. Empower people with agricultural assistance, education, cameras, and internet access.

13. Launch a communications campaign in the United States to replace military recruitment campaigns, focused on building sympathy and desire to serve as critical aid workers, persuading doctors and engineers to volunteer their time to travel to and visit these areas of crisis.

14. Work through the United Nations on all of this.

15. Sign the United States on to the International Criminal Court and voluntarily propose the prosecution of top U.S. officials of this and the preceding regimes for their crimes.

Obama and ISIS in Dance of Death

Listen to Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network, with Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey – Week of 8/25/14

Obama and ISIS in Dance of Death

The growing U.S. bombing campaign against the self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria serves no one but war profiteers, said veteran anti-war activist David Swanson. “I know that ISIS had to be aware that slitting throats on camera would result in more bombing, just as President Obama had to be aware that blowing men, women and children up with 500-pound bombs would result in slitting throats,” said Swanson, publisher of the influential web site WarIsACrime.Org. “The beneficiaries of escalation, which is entirely predictable, are the weapons makers.”

Black Strategies Must Include Self-Defense

“First and foremost, it is right for our people to rebel,” said Kali Akuno, an organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and co-author of the groundbreaking report “Operation Ghetto Storm,” which documented extrajudicial killings of Black Americans under color of law. “I think it boiled over in Ferguson as a result of a transformation in our people’s consciousness, especially our young folks,” said Akuno. “They’ve had enough of the brutality, of being systematically excluded.” Black community self-defense must be part of any organizing strategy. “This has been part and parcel of what we know we have to do in the face of white supremacy and in the face of the brutality that the capitalist system has reserved for us, in particular.”

Black Passivity is Mentally Unhealthy

Political protest is therapeutic for Black Americans, said Dr. Vernellia Randall, professor emeritus of law at the University of Dayton and author Dying While Black. “I want us to be less passive, I want us to engage in civil disobedience” – and not the kind of protest-like activities sanctioned by the authorities. “If they’re telling us, Here’s how you can protest, then that, to me, is not civil disobedience,” said Randall. “If you are coloring within the lines that the establishment establishes, then you are putting no pressure on the establishment.”

Cuba Should Join in Fight for Slavery Reparations

The young United States was a horrible example of democracy, but it did lead the way in the business of human trafficking. “After the establishment of the United States, it quickly became the leader in the African slave trade to Cuba,” said Dr. Gerald Horne, professor of history and African American Studies at the University of Houston and author of Race to Revolution: The United States and Cuba During Slavery and Jim Crow. “They also became the leader of the African slave trade to Brazil, helping to account for the fact that Brazil has more people of African descent than any other nation outside Nigeria,” said Horne, who hopes to enlist Cuba in “our journey to claim reparations for the enslavement of Africans in the Americas.”

Click here to download the show.

Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network is hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey. A new edition of the program airs every Monday at 11:00am ET on PRN. Length: One hour.

John Kerry Makes a Deal

Barry! Barr -er Mr. President, I got Congress out in the parking lot looking at the new SUVs. I'm pushing the missile strikes on the Syrian government hard, but just a few little ones, and then ka-blam we get em with the whole package deal, 800 vehicles plus fuel and maintenance, a little shock, a little awe, a little razzmatazz, and we reel em right in.

Ataboy, John, go get em.

Tick.

Tock.

Tick.

Oh, damn it all.  Barry, it's not my fault. They were on recess and listening to people at town hall meetings. And AIPAC is totally AWOL. And the lousy stinking pacifist Brits voted it down when I never even asked them.  Apparently the entire House of Representatives is going to ride bicycles from now on.

That's all right, John. That's all right. They can't hold out long. You'll get em next time.

It makes no sense, Mr. President. We rolled right over them on Afghanistan and Libya and all the drone strikes and all the bases, and here they go saying No to bombing Syria. And I told them Assad was Hitler. And you told them it was this or support poisoning children. But nothing. What are we missing? What if we throw in free GPS and hands-free telephoning. Plus, that way we can keep a close eye on them while they pay us for the favor. Huh? Huh?

You see, there's the old spirit. Now, listen, what we don't want is for them to go rogue and get desperate and pick up an old wreck from down in the back lot.  You steer them away from that broken down Iranian convertible, OK?

Yes, Sir! John Kerry reporting for duty, Sir!

Oh, cut the shit, John, I've told you 18 times I'm not taping everything like Nixon.

Nixon didn't have the technology to . . .

LET ME BE CLEAR, the problem with the missile strikes on Syria last time wasn't the human cost or the financial cost or any of that crap.  People didn't want to join a war on the side of al Qaeda rebels and terrorists.  We'd told them those were the Enemy for over a decade.  So here's what we're going to do.  We're going to find a war where we can jump in on the side of the government, against the Islamic Extremists.  Congress loves governments.  The media loves governments.  Everybody hates extremists.  And guess where we're going to find this war?

Israel?

Good guess. Try again.

Iraq?

Getting warmer. Try again.

Well, I don't . . .

Try again, that's a direct order.

Ukraine?

Now I'll tell you: Syria.

Syria?

Think about it, John. It's genius, if I do say so myself.  Look, people forget that Syria was our ally a few years back, but Congress remembers.  We just flip back.  We have to, or we're fighting both sides of a war in Iraq and Syria.  The key on Syria is to do something.  Well what counts as doing something?  Blowing shit up, that's what.  And nobody wants us blowing up the government.  Well, we'll blow up the rebels.  Either way, we're destroying U.S. weaponry on the ground, which is much smarter than giving it to local police as a means of creating demand for more.  You think they won't go for it because we're flip-flopping, right?  You're always so damn terrified of flip-flopping.

You don't know. You didn't go through what . . .

Oh hell, they stole the votes in Ohio, John, and you bent over and said "Thank you sir, may I have another?" We're not flip-flopping.  We're blowing up evil, evil people, lots of them.  That's the story.  We've been funding and arming all sides in all of these wars for some time now, payments to the Taliban, weapons to ISIS. You know, the troops on the ground in Libya three years ago could have exchanged parts -- they had the same U.S. guns. 

Mr. President, there are hundreds of Americans who listened to us last year and have gone off and joined the rebels in Syria. 

They can provide information, switch sides, or pay the price, John. Now, are you ready to go out there and make the pitch? I see the leadership on the curb there.

Mr. President, in all good faith, we've sold humanitarians on the need to bomb Assad, not bomb in defense of Assad.

Mr. Secretary, I'm giving you an order.

Mr. President, with all due respect, you keep saying there's no military solution, there's a million other approaches that don't create this sort of SNAFU, that just . . .

Mr. Secretary, Hillary would not hesitate.

I'm on it.

The U.S. Public Smarter (But Lazier) Than It Looks

A BBC audio podcast from the show "Four Thought" (go here and click on the date "13 8 14") includes a talk by Italian journalist Mara Oliva. She grew up in the same Italy infatuated with the U.S. that I lived in as an exchange student -- an Italy that has largely fallen out of love with the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.

Oliva makes a case that the U.S. public is not nearly as pro-war as its government.

As early as 1954 the U.S. public opposed a U.S. war in Vietnam, and favored diplomacy with China, according to polls commissioned by President Eisenhower.  Nixon finally went to China decades after the public had begun favoring that move.

In January 2003, two-thirds of the U.S. public wanted U.N. inspections to be allowed to continue in Iraq. In February 2003, a majority still wanted to see more evidence and wanted U.N. inspections to continue.

In September 2013, 80% in the U.S. were against attacking Syria. (Let's hope that holds now that Obomber wants to attack the other side in that war.)

So, it remains possible to be fond of the United States if one looks away from what we allow our government to do and focuses instead on what we tell pollsters we'd like.

But our expressing good opinions and then sitting on our hands is perhaps not the height of good world citizenship.

So, I Asked the Russian Ambassador What He Thinks of NATO

The Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, spoke at the University of Virginia on Tuesday evening, in an event organized by the Center for Politics, which no doubt has video of the proceedings. Kislyak was once ambassador to Belgium and to NATO.

Kislyak spoke to a packed auditorium and took, I think, well over an hour of questions. He spoke frankly, and the questions he was asked by students, professors, and other participants were polite and for the most part far more intelligent than he would have been asked on, for example, Meet the Press.

He told the audience that Russia had known there were no WMDs in Iraq, and had known that attacking Iraq would bring "great difficulties" to that country. "And look what is happening today," he said.  He made the same comment about Libya. He spoke of the U.S. and Russia working together to successfully remove chemical weapons from the Syrian government. But he warned against attacking Syria now.

There will be no new Cold War, Kislyak said, but there is now a greater divide in some ways than during the Cold War.  Back then, he said, the U.S. Congress sent delegations over to meet with legislators, and the Supreme Court likewise. Now there is no contact.  It's easy in the U.S. to be anti-Russian, he said, and hard to defend Russia.  He complained about U.S. economic sanctions against Russia intended to "suffocate" Russian agriculture.

Asked about "annexing" Crimea, Kislyak rejected that characterization, pointed to the armed overthrow of the Ukrainian government, and insisted that Kiev must stop bombing its own people and instead talk about federalism within Ukraine.

There were remarkably few questions put to the ambassador that seemed informed by U.S. television "news." One was from a politics professor who insisted that Kislyak assign blame to Russia over Ukraine.  Kislyak didn't.

I always sit in the back, thinking I might leave, but Kislyak was only taking questions from the front. So I moved up and was finally called on for the last question of the evening.  For an hour and a half, Kislyak had addressed war and peace and Russian-U.S. relations, but he'd never blamed the U.S. for anything in Ukraine any more than Russia.  No one had uttered the word "NATO."

So I pointed out the upcoming NATO protests. I recalled the history of Russia being told that NATO would not expand eastward. I asked Kislyak whether NATO ought to be disbanded.

The ambassador said that he had been the first Russian to "present his credentials" to NATO, and that he had "overestimated" NATO's ability to work with Russia. He'd been disappointed by NATO actions in Serbia, he said, and Libya, by the expansion eastward, by NATO pressure on Ukraine and Poland, and by the pretense that Russia might be about to attack Poland.

"We were promised," Kislyak said, that NATO would not expand eastward at all upon the reunification of Germany. "And now look." NATO has declared that Ukraine and Georgia will join NATO, Kislyak pointed out, and NATO says this even while a majority of the people in Ukraine say they're opposed. 

The ambassador used the word "disappointed" a few times.

"We'll have to take measures to assure our defense," he said, "but we would have preferred to build on a situation with decreased presence and decreased readiness."

Wouldn't we all.

Join the campaign to shut down NATO.

Sign a petition for an independent investigation into the airplane crash in Ukraine.

Send a note to the Russian Embassy to let them know you're against a new Cold War too.

Talk Nation Radio: Matthew Hoh Refutes Arguments for Bombing Iraq

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-matthew-hoh-refutes-arguments-for-bombing-iraq

Matthew Hoh is a Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy and is the former Director of the Afghanistan Study Group, a network of foreign and public policy experts and professionals advocating for a change in US strategy in Afghanistan. A former State Department official, Matthew resigned in protest from his post in Afghanistan over US strategic policy and goals in Afghanistan in September 2009. Prior to his assignment in Afghanistan, Matthew was in Iraq; first in 2004-5 in Salah ad Din Province with a State Department reconstruction and governance team and then in 2006-7 in Anbar Province as a Marine Corps company commander. When not deployed, Matthew worked on Afghanistan and Iraq policy and operations issues at the Pentagon and State Department from 2002-8. Matthew’s writings have appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Defense News, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. The Council on Foreign Relations has cited Matthew’s resignation letter from his post in Afghanistan as an Essential Document. In 2010, Matthew was named the Ridenhour Prize Recipient for Truth Telling. Matthew is a member of the Board of Directors for Council for a Livable World and is an Advisory Board Member for Expose Facts (ExposeFacts.org). He writes on issues of war, peace and post-traumatic stress disorder recovery at MatthewHoh.com.

Total run time: 29:00

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

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Losing Losers and the Pentagon That Hires Them

At the 200th anniversary of the jackasses of 1812 getting the U.S. capital burned by the British in 1814, I found myself watching a new film by Rory Kennedy called Last Days in Vietnam. This film covers the moment of loss, of defeat, of the U.S. military at long last receiving its final ass kicking by the Vietnamese, for whom these were not the last days of Vietnam but the last days of the American War and of Western military occupation.

As in the Middle East these days, where the United States has been busy losing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and wrecking Libya and Pakistan and Yemen and Palestine on the side, Vietnam was a disaster by the time the movie begins. As the U.S. news media blames ISIS for the state of Iraq, Last Days in Vietnam blames the North Vietnamese. This is the story of the loss in Vietnam, but it is told primarily by the losers.

A Pentagon-funded online celebration of the U.S. war on Vietnam describes the incidents shown in this film thus:

"The American evacuation ends. Saigon falls to the North Vietnamese troops, and organized South Vietnamese resistance to the communist forces ends. President Duong Van Minh announces the unconditional surrender of the Republic of Vietnam."

I recommend Veterans For Peace for a counter to the Pentagon's current $65 million campaign to glorify the U.S. war on Vietnam.  And I recommend watching Last Days in Vietnam for an understanding of how wars end. In particular, this film should be watched by anyone who has managed to continue after all these decades to falsely associate war with victory or winning or success or accomplishment. 

The final months of U.S. presence in Vietnam were a time of denial, by the U.S. ambassador and others, that the North Vietnamese were coming to kick them out.  Every American and every one of their Vietnamese allies and collaborators, and all of the family members of both groups, could have been safely evacuated.  Instead, there was a last-minute mad rush with helicopters dumped into the ocean after they unloaded passengers onto ships, and many left behind to be killed.

The film blames Congress for rejecting President Ford's request to fund an evacuation.  But the Pentagon could quite easily have simply done it, and President Ford apparently never instructed the ambassador to do so.  So, the spooky music plays, and the color of blood flows down the map from North to South as the barbaric communist aggressors who go so far as to use violence, something Americans would never do, approach Saigon.  And they only come because President Nixon was driven out by the peaceniks.  Never mind that that was several months earlier, they never would have come had Nixon been in the White House.

Of course, the views of the losers tend to obscure as much as to reveal. The war had to end. The people fighting for their homes had to prevail, sooner or later, over the people fighting for the fact that they'd already been fighting and couldn't face the shame of stopping.  But Last Days in Vietnam shows the Americans watching the rushed evacuation from home, the Americans who had earlier "served" in Vietnam. And they believed all their efforts had "come to nothing." 

Nothing? Nothing? Four million men, women, and children slaughtered. The U.S. society calls that nothing.  The Germans are expected to know how many millions their government killed.  The Japanese are required to study the past sins of Japan. But the United States is supposed to gaze at its navel, glorify its sinners, and pretend that its defeats are neutral, indifferent, nothingness.  Try telling that story about Afghanistan or Iraq or Gaza, I dare you.