Jul
17

Best Speech a U.S. President Ever Gave

Tag: Peace and War

In planning an upcoming conference and nonviolent action aimed at challenging the institution of war, with the conference to be held at American University, I can't help but be drawn to the speech a U.S. president gave at American University a little more than 50 years ago. Whether or not you agree with me that this is the best speech ever given by a U.S. president, there should be little dispute that it is the speech most out of step with what anyone will say at either the Republican or the Democratic national convention this year. Here's a video of the best portion of the speech:

President John F. Kennedy was speaking at a time when, like now, Russia and the United States had enough nuclear weapons ready to fire at each other on a moment's notice to destroy the earth for human life many times over. At that time, however, in 1963, there were only three nations, not the current nine, with nuclear weapons, and many fewer than now with nuclear energy. NATO was far removed from Russia's borders. The United States had not just facilitated a coup in Ukraine. The United States wasn't organizing military exercises in Poland or placing missiles in Poland and Romania. Nor was it manufacturing smaller nukes that it described as "more usable." The work of managing U.S. nuclear weapons was then deemed prestigious in the U.S. military, not the dumping ground for drunks and misfits that it has become. Hostility between Russia and the United States was high in 1963, but the problem was widely known about in the United States, in contrast to the current vast ignorance. Some voices of sanity and restraint were permitted in the U.S. media and even in the White House. Kennedy was using peace activist Norman Cousins as a messenger to Nikita Khrushchev, whom he never described, as Hillary Clinton has described Vladimir Putin, as "Hitler."  

Kennedy framed his speech as a remedy for ignorance, specifically the ignorant view that war is inevitable. This is the opposite of what President Barack Obama said recently in Hiroshima and earlier in Prague and Oslo. Kennedy called peace "the most important topic on earth." It is a topic not touched on in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. I fully expect this year's Republican national convention to celebrate ignorance.

Kennedy renounced the idea of a "Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war," precisely what both big political parties now and most speeches on war by most past U.S. presidents ever have favored. Kennedy went so far as to profess to care about 100% rather than 4% of humanity:

Jul
14

U.S. Drone Program Proves Counterproductive on Own Terms

Tag: Peace and War

If there's any debate right now in the major U.S. media regarding blowing people up with missiles from drones, it's about "transparency" (official reporting on who's killed) or death counts of those people somehow identified as civilians. But unless drones are just a means of vicariously venting rage, or of profiting drone manufacturers, they are -- like the wider wars they are part of -- supposed to serve some purpose.

Although terrorism keeps increasing during the Overseas Contingency Operations Formerly Known as the Global War on Terrorism, in theory the war making is supposed to (1) not be terrorism itself, and (2) reduce terrorism or end it. While I think a strong case can be made that neither of those conditions has been or ever could be met, and that even as mass therapy or economic catalyst the whole thing is doomed to failure, the drones are the piece of it that has begun to be recognized as counterproductive.

In a master's thesis from a student at Georgetown University, summarized in a recent article, Emily Manna took data on terrorism in Pakistan between 2006 and 2012 from the Global Terrorism Database and data on drone strikes where it was corroborated by both the New America Foundation and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Manna found that after the United States begins attacking a province with drones, terrorism increases there.

Jul
13

What Makes Obama Think His Wars Are Legal?

Tag: Peace and War

President Barack Obama's lawyers, working on our dime, have just laid out a 46-page explanation of why current wars are legal. They've done so in response to a lawsuit, which has limited the argument in some significant ways.

First, while Obama has bragged about bombing seven nations, this lawsuit deals only with whichever parts of the world ISIS is in. But there is every reason to believe that Obama would make similar arguments for the legality of his other wars.

Second, while Tony Blair may be in hot water for violating the UN Charter's ban on threatening or using war, and while Germans and Japanese were once prosecuted for violating the Kellogg-Briand Pact's ban on waging war, this lawsuit takes no notice of such laws whatsoever, and thus neither does Obama's response. In fact, the "Most Progressive Democratic Party Platform in History" itself violates the UN Charter by threatening war on Iran and, a bit less explicitly, on Syria.

The lawsuit accuses Obama of waging war against ISIS in violation of the War Powers Resolution. Obama's lawyers (or, if you prefer the idiom of "our troops," we can say "our lawyers") try four different arguments for why that isn't so.

Jul
13

Will the Zanana Ever Stop?

Tag: Peace and War

In the dialect of Gaza, where drones buzzed and blew things up for 51 days two years ago, there's an onomatopoetic word for drones: zanana. When Atef Abu Saif's kids would ask him, during that war, to take them out of doors somewhere, and he would refuse, they would then ask: "But you'll take us when the zanana stops?"

Saif has published his diary from that time, with 51 entries, called The Drone Eats With Me. I recommend reading one chapter a day. You're not too late to read most of them on the two-year anniversary of their happening. Reading the book straight through may not properly convey the length of the experience. On the other hand, you may want to finish before the next war on Gaza begins, and I really can't say when that will be.

The 2014 war was the third that Saif's family had been part of in five years. It's not that he or his wife or his little children joined the military. They didn't head off to that mythical land that U.S. journalism calls the "battlefield." No, the wars come right to them. From their point of view beneath the planes and drones, the killing is entirely random. Tonight it's the building next door destroyed, tomorrow some houses just out of sight. Roads are blown up, and orchards, even a cemetery so as not to deny the dead a share in the hell of the living. Long dead bones fly out of the soil in the explosions with as much logical purpose as your cousin's kids are decapitated or your grandmother's home flattened.

Jul
12

Talk Nation Radio: Joseph Gerson on NATO's Drive Toward War with Russia

Tag: Peace and War, Talk Nation Radio

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-joseph-gerson-on-natos-drive-toward-war-with-russia

Dr. Joseph Gerson has just attended an anti-NATO summit in Poland and has just authored an article called Imperial NATO: Before and After Brexit. Gerson is Director of Programs for the American Friends Service Committee’s Northeast Region and Director of AFSC’s Peace & Economic Security Program. He focuses on preventing nuclear war and achieving nuclear weapons abolition, education and organizing for peaceful and just alternatives to U.S.-led militarization of the Asia-Pacific, and prevention of U.S. wars, focusing most recently on NATO, Ukraine and Iraq. His books include Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World and The Sun Never Sets…Confronting the Network of U.S. Foreign Military Bases.

Total run time: 29:00

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

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Jul
11

The Democratic Party Is Dead

Tag: Elections

For decades, people have tried to fix the Democratic Party. They've imagined that their failings in this regard could be overcome by a greater effort. But it is hard to imagine anyone in the future mounting as significant an effort as did Bernie Sanders and his supporters.

We're cynically told to just wait, because younger people hold better views. But the holding of views, by anyone, has nothing to do with it. And younger people have a pretty consistent record of becoming older people.

Why does the holding of views have nothing to do with it? Because the Democratic Party is bought and paid for and directed from the top down.

Here is a party that pretends to have solved the healthcare crisis with such self-deluding intensity that it refuses to express support for providing universal healthcare.

Here is a party that criminally pushes for more militarism and war including the overthrow of the Syrian government, and that will not admit the existence of occupied Palestine.

Here is a party that continues to refuse to oppose fracking, that won't put opposition to the TPP in its platform even while its candidate pretends to hold that position, and that won't put free college in its platform even while its candidate pretends to hold that position.

This is where the Democratic Party is after -- just as before -- a challenge from within and without that, if not for systemic corruption, probably would have made a decent candidate the party's nominee and did make that candidate the winner of nearly 50% in its primaries and caucuses. A greater challenge than this is highly unlikely in the coming days, months, years, or decades.

Let's pause a moment and listen to the breeze. There it is. Wait for it.

All together now and con brio: So I want Donald Trump to transform the country into fascism because I hate women, right?

I want you to vote for a woman named Jill Stein, with or without Bernie Sanders on her ticket.

I also want you to recognize that the system is totally corrupted. Cleaning the money out, fixing the communications system, opening up the ballots and debates, abolishing or democratizing the Senate, undoing gerrymandering, creating hand-counted paper ballots at each polling place and an election holiday, banning bribery, publicly funding elections, ending the electoral college and delegates and superdelegates, creating direct democracy through referenda, redistributing power to states and localities, and other necessary reforms are not going to be achieved because of whom we elect within the broken system so much as by what we do to bring pressure to bear on everyone working within it.

The reason to break free of both election obsession and lesser evilism is not that one evil candidate is or isn't worse than another evil candidate. The reason is to make ourselves independent minded throughout the year and to direct our focus toward policy-based popular campaigns for radical change rather than dissipating a movement into cheerleading for a particular set of Misrepresentatives.

The majority of the United States cannot stand either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. That majority needs to take a clear stand for a system of government that does not impose such people on us. Don't fund them. Don't work for them. Don't allow them to go outdoors without protest. Don't allow them to go indoors without protest. #NoTrumpNoClinton should be our position. And our agenda should be investing unprecedented, undreamed of quantities of energy and funding and time and creativity into building a movement to overwhelm whoever claims to be our public servants with our legitimate majority demands to try to save this planet, stop killing, share the wealth, and improve rather than degrade peoples lives with public resources.

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