Study Finds People Assume War Is Only Last Resort

A scholarly study has found that the U.S. public believes that whenever the U.S. government proposes a war, it has already exhausted all other possibilities. When a sample group was asked if they supported a particular war, and a second group was asked if they supported that particular war after being told that all alternatives were no good, and a third group was asked if they supported that war even though there were good alternatives, the first two groups registered the same level of support, while support for war dropped off significantly in the third group. This led the researchers to the conclusion that if alternatives are not mentioned, people don’t assume they exist — rather, people assume they’ve already been tried.

The evidence is, of course, extensive that the U.S. government, among others, often uses war as a first, second, or third resort, not a last resort. Congress is busily sabotaging diplomacy with Iran, while James Sterling is on trial in Alexandria for exposing a CIA scheme to gin up supposed grounds for a war with Iran. Then-Vice President Dick Cheney once pondered the option of having U.S. troops shoot at U.S. troops dressed up as Iranians. Moments before a White House press conference at which then-President George W. Bush and then-Prime Minister Tony Blair claimed they were trying to avoid war in Iraq, Bush had proposed to Blair that they paint planes with UN colors and fly them low trying to get them shot at. Hussein was willing to walk away with $1 billion. The Taliban was willing to put bin Laden on trial in a third country. Gadaffi didn’t really threaten a slaughter, but Libya’s seen one now. The stories of chemical weapons attacks by Syria, invasions by Russia into Ukraine, and so forth, that fade away when a war fails to begin — these are not efforts to avoid war, to hold war off as a last resort. These are what Eisenhower warned would happen, and what he had already seen happen, when huge financial interests are stacked up behind the need for more wars.

But try telling the U.S. public. The Journal of Conflict Resolution has just published an article titled “Norms, Diplomatic Alternatives, and the Social Psychology of War Support,” by Aaron M. Hoffman, Christopher R. Agnew, Laura E. VanderDrift, and Robert Kulzick. The authors discuss various factors in public support for or opposition to wars, including the prominent place held by the question of “success” — now generally believed to matter more than body counts (meaning U.S. body counts, the massively larger foreign body counts never even coming into consideration in any study I’ve heard of). “Success” is a bizarre factor because of its lack of a hard definition and because by any definition the United States military just doesn’t have successes once it moves beyond destroying things to attempts at occupation, control, and long-term exploitation — er, excuse me, democracy promotion.

The authors’ own research finds that even when “success” is believed likely, even the muddle-headed people holding that belief tend to prefer diplomatic options (unless, of course, they are members of the United States Congress). The journal article offers some recent examples beyond the new research to back up its idea: “In 2002–2003, for instance, 60 percent of Americans believed that a US military victory in Iraq was likely (CNN/Time poll, November 13–14, 2002). Nevertheless, 63 percent of the public said they preferred a diplomatic solution to the crisis over a military one (CBS News poll, January 4–6, 2003).”

But if nobody mentions nonviolent alternatives, people aren’t uninterested in them or dismissive of them or opposed to them. No, in large numbers people actually believe that all diplomatic solutions have already been attempted. What a fantastic fact! Of course, it’s not that shocking given that war supporters habitually claim to be pursuing war as a last resort and to be fighting war reluctantly in the name of peace. But it’s an insane belief to hold if you’re living in the real world in which the State Department has become a minor unpaid intern to the Pentagon master. Diplomacy with some countries, like Iran, has actually been forbidden during periods in in which the U.S. public apparently thought it was being thoroughly pursued. And what in the world would it mean for ALL nonviolent solutions to have been tried? Could one not always think of another? Or try the same one again? Unless a looming emergency like the fictional threat to Benghazi can impose a deadline, the mad rush to war is unjustified by anything rational at all.

The role that the researchers attribute to a belief that diplomacy has already been tried could also be played by a belief that diplomacy is impossible with irrational subhuman monsters like ________ (fill in the government or residents of a targeted nation or region). The difference made by informing someone that alternatives exist would then include in it the transformation of monsters into people capable of speech.

The same transformation might be played by the revelation that, for example, people accused of building nuclear weapons aren’t actually doing so. The authors note that: “average support for the use of force by the U.S. military against Iran between 2003 and 2012 appears to be sensitive to information about the quality of available alternative courses of action. Although the use of force was never sup- ported by a majority of Americans during George W. Bush’s presidency (2001– 2009), it is notable that a significant drop in support for military action against Iran occurs in 2007. At that time, the Bush administration was seen as committed to war with Iran and pursuing diplomatic action half-heartedly. Seymour M. Hersh’s article in The New Yorker (2006) reporting that the administration was devising an aerial bombing campaign of suspected nuclear sites in Iran helped confirm this sense. Yet, a release of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which concluded that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 because of international pressure, undercut the argument for war. As an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney told The Wall Street Journal, the authors of the NIE ‘knew how to pull the rug out from under us’.”

But the lesson learned never seems to be that the government wants war and will lie to get it. “While public support for military operations against Iran declined during the Bush administration, it generally increased during President Barack Obama’s first term (2009–2012). Obama came to office more optimistic than his predecessor about the ability of diplomacy to get Iran to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. [You notice that even these scholars simply assume such pursuit was underway, despite their inclusion of the above NIE in the article.] Obama, for example, opened the door to direct talks with Iran over its nuclear program ‘without preconditions,’ a position George Bush rejected. Nevertheless, the inefficacy of diplomacy during Obama’s first term appears to be associated with gradual acceptance that military action might be the last viable option capable of getting Iran to change course. Paraphrasing former CIA director Michael Hayden, military action against Iran is an increasingly attractive option because ‘no matter what the U.S. does diplomatically, Tehran keeps pushing ahead with its suspected nuclear program’ (Haaretz, July 25, 2010).”

Now how does one keep pushing ahead with something that a foreign government persists in wrongly suspecting or pretending that one is doing? That’s never made clear. The point is that if you declare, Bushlike, that you have no use for diplomacy, people will oppose your war initiative. If, on the other hand, you claim, Obamalike, to be pursuing diplomacy, yet you persist, also Obamalike, in promoting the lies about what the targeted nation is up to, then people will apparently feel that they can support mass murder with a clear conscience.

The lesson for opponents of war seems to be this: point out the alternatives. Name the 86 good ideas you have for what to do about ISIS. Hammer away at what should be done. And some people, though generally accepting of war, will withhold their approval.

*Thanks to Patrick Hiller for letting me know about this article.

CIA on Trial in Virginia for Planting Nuke Evidence in Iran

Since Tuesday and continuing for the coming three weeks, an amazing trial is happening in U.S. District Court at 401 Courthouse Square in Alexandria, Va. The trial is open to the public, and among the upcoming witnesses is Condoleezza Rice, but -- unlike the Chelsea Manning trial -- most of the seats at this somewhat similar event are empty.

The media is mostly MIA, and during lunch break the two tables at the cafe across the street are occupied, one by the defendant and his lawyers, the other by a small group of activists, including former CIA officer Ray McGovern, blogger Marcy Wheeler (follow her report of every detail at ExposeFacts.org), and Norman Solomon who has organized a petition at DropTheCharges.org -- the name of which speaks for itself.

Why Gareth Porter (and others who are focused on the decades-long Western effort to frame Iran with having or pursuing nuclear weapons) are not here, I do not know. Why the public is not here, I do not know. Except that Jeffrey Sterling has not been even so much as demonized in the major media.

Jeffrey who?

Some people have heard of James Risen, a New York Times reporter who refused to name his source for a story. Damn right. Good for him. But what was the story and whom did the government want named as a source? Ah. Those questions might seem obvious, but the reporting on James Risen has avoided them like the plague for years and years now. And the independent media is not always as good at creating a story as it is at improving on stories in the corporate press.

Jeffrey Sterling went to Congress with his story. He was a CIA case officer. He is accused of having taken his story to James Risen. The prosecution is quite clearly establishing, against its own interest, during the course of this trial already, that numerous people were in on the story and could have taken it to Risen. If Sterling is to be proved guilty of the non-crime of blowing the whistle on a crime, the prosecution has yet to hint at how that will be done.

But what is the story? What is the crime that Sterling exposed for that tiny sliver of the population that's interested enough to have listened? (Sure, Risen's book was a "best seller" but that's a low hurdle; not a single prospective juror in Alexandria had read the book; even a witness involved in the case testified Wednesday that he'd only read the one relevant chapter.)

The story is this. The CIA drew up plans for a key part of a nuclear bomb (what a CIA officer on Wednesday described in his testimony as "the crown jewels" of a nuclear weapons program), inserted flaws in the plans, and then had a Russian give those flawed plans to Iran.

During the trial on Wednesday morning, the prosecution's witnesses made clear both that aiding Iran in developing a part of a bomb would be illegal under U.S. export control laws, and that they were aware at the time that there was the possibility of what they were doing constituting just such aid.

So, why do it?

And why is this trial going on for hours and hours without the slightest relevance to prosecuting Jeffrey Sterling, sounding for all intents and purposes like a defense of the CIA?

Well, the stated reason for this operation, known as Operation Merlin, was to slow down Iran's nuclear weapons program by causing Iranian scientists to spend time and resources on a doomed plan that would never work.

A very young, very very white jury is hearing the case made thusly. The U.S. government lacked evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program and not long after came out with an assessment that such a program did not exist and had not existed for some time. Nonetheless, years of effort and millions of dollars went into trying to slow the program down by a period of months. The CIA created a design, drawing, and parts list for a Russian nuclear fire set (the nuclear bomb component). They intentionally made it incomplete because supposedly no actual Russian scientist would credibly have complete knowledge of it. Then they told their designated Russian to tell the Iranians that it was incomplete because he wanted money, after which he would gladly produce what he couldn't credibly have.

According to one cable read aloud in court, the CIA would have liked to give Iran the actual device already constructed for them, but didn't because it wouldn't have been credible for their Russian to have it.

Before getting their Russian to spend years (anything shorter would not have been credible, they say) getting in touch with the Iranians, the U.S. scientists spent 9 months building the device from the plans and then proceeded to test it in a lab. Then they introduced multiple "flaws" into the plans and tested each flaw. Then they gave their flawed plans to their own team of scientists who weren't in on their cockamamie scheme. In five months, those scientists spotted and fixed enough of the flaws to build a fire set and get it to work in a lab. This was considered a success, we're told, because the Iranians would take a lot longer than five months, and because getting something to work outside of a lab is much harder.

To their credit, the defense lawyers' cross-examining of witnesses suggests that they find much of this ludicrous. "Have you ever seen a Russian parts list in English?" was one question asked on Wednesday. Another question: "You say you had people experienced in detecting flaws in fire set plans. Is that because there is a market in such things?" The judge sustained an objection to that last question.

The stated motivation for Operation Merlin is patent nonsense that cannot be explained by any level of incompetence or bureaucratic dysfunction or groupthink.

Here's another explanation of both Operation Merlin and of the defensiveness of the prosecution and its witnesses (in particular "Bob S.") at the prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling which is thus far failing to prosecute Jeffrey Sterling. This was an effort to plant nuke plans on Iran, part of the pattern described in Gareth Porter's latest book.

Marcy Wheeler reminds me of related efforts to plant English-language nuke plans around the same period of time or not long after. There was the laptop of death, later reprised for another war marketing effort. There were nuke plans and parts buried in a backyard as well.

Why give Iran flawed plans for a key part of a nuclear weapon? Why fantasize about giving Iran the thing already built (which wouldn't delay Iran's non-existent program much). Because then you can point out that Iran has them. And you won't even be lying, as with forged documents claiming Iraq is buying uranium or hired subcontractors pretending aluminum tubes are for nuclear weapons. With Operation Merlin you can work some real dark magic: You can tell the truth about Iran having what you so desperately want Iran to appear to have.

Why go to such efforts? Why do Operation Merlin, whatever the motivation(s) may have been?

Democracy!

Of course.

But when "Bob S." is asked who authorized this madness he doesn't say. He clearly suggests that it initiated within the CIA, but avoids specifics. When Jeffrey Sterling told Congress, Congress didn't tell the public. And when somebody told James Risen, the U.S. government -- so outraged over assaults on freedom of the press in Paris -- started hauling people into court.

And the public doesn't even show up to watch the trial.

Attend this trial, people. Report on it. Report the truth. You'll have no competition. The big media are not in the room.


Talk Nation Radio: Alice Slater on Nuclear Abolition, Nuclear Peril

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-alice-slater-on-nuclear-abolition-nuclear-peril

Alice Slater is New York director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and serves on the Coordinating Committee of Abolition 2000 and on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War. Her blog is at http://globalhousework.org She discusses the growing movement to abolish nuclear weapons, the nations that are developing nuclear energy in order to be close to having the weapons, the offer that North Korea has made to the United States, and the history of resentments -- and the ignorance of that history -- that are leading toward potential nuclear conflict and apocalypse.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

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

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

What's Wrong With the U.S. Media

Video of David Swanson, Brian Becker, and Patrick Henningsen on Crosstalk on RT: here.

Protesting Torturers

Code-Pink-CIA-Cheney-Protest-10Jan2015-Katie-Frates-Daily-Caller-64-620x413

Lots of photos here.

We protested with CodePink, Witness Against Torture, et alia, at John Brennan's house, Dick Cheney's house, and the CIA.

If Paris Killers Had Western Media on Their Side

Some killings are reported on in a slightly different manner from how the Charlie Hebdo killings have been. Rewriting a drone killing as a gun killing (changing just a few words) would produce something like this:

Freedom Fighters Gun Strike in Europe Is Said to Have Killed 12 Militants

PARIS, France — At least 12 foreign militants were believed to have been killed in a freedom fighter gun strike in the North Paris tribal region on Wednesday morning, a Liberation security official said.

The Liberation official said guns fired 128 precision bullets into a compound in the Cafe Au Lait subdistrict at 6:40 a.m. The area is close to the headquarters of numerous French businesses.

“The guns targeted a base of a French commander known as Francoise, killing 12 French militants. Two militants are wounded,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media.

It was unclear whether Francoise was there at the time of the attack. The local news media has reported that he is allied with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and engaged in plans to ship troops and weaponry to Western Asia.

Gun strikes in France, often attributed to Muslims, prompt regular diplomatic protests from the entire Western world.

Separately, the Liberation military said four terrorist hide-outs and a training center for bombers were damaged by gun strikes late Saturday in a remote suburb of the nearby South Paris tribal region.

In a brief statement, the military said that “6 terrorists, including some bomber pilots, were killed in precise gun strikes.” There was no independent confirmation of the military’s claim.

Last summer, the Liberation military launched a long-awaited offensive against French and foreign militants holed up in the Western Europe region. The military claims that it now controls 0.4 percent of the region.

NATO attacks in recent years have left hundreds of thousands dead.

*****

In contrast, rewriting a Charlie Hebdo report as a drone report might produce something like this:

Drone attack on Pakistani house kills 12

Drone pilots have shot dead 12 people at the home of their grandmother in an apparent militant Imperialist attack.

Four of the family's youngest generation, including its new-born infant were among those killed, as well as two friends visiting at the time.

A major police operation is under way to find three drone pilots believed to be hiding out in Langley, Virginia.

President Mamnoon Hussain said there was no doubt it had been a terrorist attack "of exceptional barbarity".

It is believed to be the deadliest attack in Pakistan since last Tuesday, when another drone -- or possibly the same one -- sent a missile into a picnic killing 18.

The distant faceless attackers opened fire with hellfire missiles in the sky above the family's home and faced no opposition. They later flew the drone higher in the sky, presumably recording video footage, the buzzing of their deadly machine still audible below as rescuers waited for it to leave before daring to search for survivors.

People had been "murdered in a cowardly manner", presidents and leaders around the globe remarked in unison. U.S. President Barack Obama has condemned the "horrific shooting", offering to provide any assistance needed "to help bring these terrorists to justice".

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: "It was a horrendous, unjustifiable and cold-blooded crime. It was also a direct assault on a cornerstone of democracy, on the safety of a family in its home."

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said in a tweet: "The murders in Pakistan are sickening. We stand with the Pakistani people in the fight against terror."

Eurocentric clubs and Christian churches around the world rushed to condemn the killing.

Footage shot by an eyewitness outside the house shows scattered rubble and what appears to be bits of flesh and clothing hanging from a nearby tree.

Do Americans Hate Children?

Yes, I know you love your children, as I love mine. That's not in doubt. But do you love mine and I yours? Because collectively there seems to be a problem. Ferguson may have awakened a few people to some of the ways in which our society discriminates against African Americans -- if "discriminates" is a word that can encompass murder. But when we allow the murder of young black people, is it possible that those people had two strikes against them, being both black and young?

Barry Spector's book Madness at the Gates of the City is one of the richest collections of insights and provocations I know of. It's a book that mines ancient mythology and indigenous customs for paths out of a culture of consumerism, isolation, sexual repression, fear of death, animosity and projection, and disrespect for the young and the old. One of the more disturbing habits of this book is that of identifying in current life the continuation of practices we think of as barbaric, including the sacrificing of children.

The Gulf War was launched on fictional tales of Iraqis removing babies from incubators. Children were sent off to recruiting offices to kill and die in order to put an end to imaginary killing and dying. But war is not the only area Spector looks at.

"No longer allowed to engage in literal child sacrifice," he writes -- excluding as exceptional, I suppose, cases like the man who threw his little girl off a bridge on Thursday in Florida -- "we do so through abuse, battery, negligence, rape and institutionalized helplessness. Girls eleven years old and younger make up thirty percent of rape victims, and juvenile sexual assault victims know their perpetrators ninety-three percent of the time. A quarter of American children live in poverty; over a million of them are homeless."

A major theme of Spector's book is the lack of a suitable initiation ritual for adolescent men in our culture. He calls us adults the uninitiated. "How," he asks, can we "transform those raging hormones from anti-social expression into something positive? This cannot be stated too strongly: uninitiated men cause universal suffering. Either they burn with creativity or they burn everything down. This biological issue transcends debates over gender socialization. Although patriarchal conditioning legitimates and perpetuates it, their nature drives young men to violent excess. Rites of passage provide metaphor and symbol so that boys don't have to act their inner urges out."

But later in the book, Spector seems to suggest that we've actually understood this situation too well and exaggerated the idea. "When polled, adults estimate that juveniles are responsible for forty-three percent of violent crime. Sociologist Mike Males, however, reports that teenagers commit only thirteen percent of these crimes. Yet nearly half the states prosecute children as young as ten as if they were adults, and over fifty percent of adults favor executing teenage killers."

Sometimes we exonerate children after killing them, but how much do they benefit from that?

In reality baby boomers account for most drug addiction and crime, and most are of course white. But the punishment, just as for racial minorities, is meted out disproportionately. "American youths consistently receive prison sentences sixty percent longer than adults for the same crimes. When adults are the victims of sex crimes, sentences are tougher than when the victims are children; and parents who abuse their children receive shorter sentences than strangers do."

Not only are we collectively harder on kids than adults, just as on blacks than whites, but when we do focus on crimes against kids, Spector argues, we scapegoat priests or gays or single men, at the expense of addressing "unemployment, overcrowded schools, family disintegration or institutionalized violence. It is now virtually impossible for men to work in early education; they comprise only one of eleven elementary teachers."

Why do we allow a system to continue that discrimintes against children? Are we oblivious, distracted, misguided, short-sighted, selfish? Spector suggests that we are in fact carrying on a long history. "There is considerable evidence of the literal killing of both illegitimate children (at least as late as the nineteenth century) and legitimate ones, especially girls, in Europe. As a result, there was a large imbalance of males over females well into the Middle Ages. Physical and sexual abuse was so common that most children born prior to the eighteenth century were what would today be termed 'battered children.' However, the medical syndrome itself didn't arise among doctors until 1962, when regular use of x-rays revealed widespread multiple fractures in the limbs of small children who were too young to complain verbally."

Spector also notes that of some 5,000 lynchings in the United States between 1880 and 1930, at least 40 percent were human sacrifice rituals, often carefully orchestrated, often with clergy presiding, usually on Sunday, the site chosen in advance and advertised in newspapers.

Greeks and Hebrews saw child sacrifice as part of the none-too-distant past, if not the present. Circumcision may be a remnant of this. Another may be an adult looking lovingly at a baby and remarking that they are "So cute I could eat them up." The idea of children as prey may date all the way back to an age when large predators frequently threatened humans. The fear of large predators may continue thousands of years after being relevant precisely because it is taught to children when they are very young. It might disappear from adult minds if it disappeared from children's stories. Depicting a foreign dictator as a wild beast in editorial cartoons might then just look stupid rather than frightening.

There is a popular trend in academia now of blurring the lines between types of violence, in order to claim that because child abuse or lynching is being reduced (if it is), so is war. That claim has been oversimplified and distorted. But Spector and experts he cites, and many others, believe that one way to make all varieties of violence, including war, less likely is to raise children lovingly and nonviolently. Such children do not tend to develop the thought patterns of the supporter of war.

Do we love our children? Of course we do. But why do less wealthy countries guarantee free education through college, parental leave time, vacation time, retirement, healthcare, etc., while we guarantee only war after war after war? There was, during the last cold war, a song by Sting called Russians that claimed there would be peace "if the Russians love their children too." It went without saying that the West loved its children, but apparently there was some slight doubt about the Russians.

I happened to see a video this week of young Russians dancing and singing in Moscow, in English, in a manner that I think Americans would love. I wonder if part of the answer isn't for us to love Russian children, and Russians to love American children, and all of us collectively -- in a larger sense of collectively -- to start systemically and structurally loving all children the way we personally cherish our very own.

Here's one basic place we might start. Only three nations have refused to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They are Sudan, Somalia, and the United States of America, and two of those three are moving forward with ratification.

My fellow Americans, WTF?

Talk Nation Radio: Kristin Christman on the Taxonomy of Peace

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-kristin-christman-on-the-taxonomy-of-peace

Kristin Y. Christman is author of The Taxonomy of Peace, a work that analyzes the aggressive and defensive roots of violence in the Middle East and the United States, as well as mental, legal, and physical escalators of violence, and solutions to violence.  She discusses the significance of her work to foreign policy, as well as recent op-ed writings pertaining to U.S. attitudes towards Russia, the Middle East, and police violence in Ferguson and New York City.  Her work is online at  http://sites.google.com/site/paradigmforpeace

Also read these articles by Christman:
The Religion of War
The Atom of Peace
Excessive Force With a Clean Conscience
Iceberg
Practical Problem-Solving

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

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

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Actions in DC This Week

Witness Against Torture has activities going on in Washington, D.C., January 5-13
http://www.witnesstorture.org

Saturday, January 10th: Along with CodePink: tour homes and offices of famous torturers. Meet at 8 a.m. at Frying Pan Park, 2709 West Ox Road, Herndon, VA 20171.

Saturday, January 10th at 8 p.m. at First Trinity Lutheran Church, 4th St and E St NW (Judicial Square stop on the Redline) Along with Dorothy Day Catholic Worker: A panel discussion on "From Ferguson to Guantanamo: Institutionalized Brutality and Torture." Experts will connect the dots between the police killing of unarmed African Americans in the U.S. and the brutal treatment of Muslim men imprisoned at Guantanamo. The panelists include Kathy Kelly (Voices for Creative Nonviolence), Marsha Coleman-Adebayo (DC Hands-Up Coalition), Salim Adofo (#FergusonDC) and a Center for Constitutional Rights attorney.  (Others to be announced.) The Peace Poets from New York will begin and end the evening with performances.

Monday, January 12th: Witness Against Torture’s Nonviolent Direct Action. TBD.

*****

DC Ferguson has events planned:
http://dcferguson.org

Wednesday, January 7th at 5pm we will meet at Minnesota Avenue station to flyer for our upcoming action on Thursday, January 15th.

Saturday, January 10th at 7pm we will meet at Congress Heights station to gather signatures for the jump-out petition.

Tuesday, January 13th at 5pm we will meet at Rhode Island Avenue station to flyer for our upcoming action on Thursday, January 15th.

Thursday, January 15th (MLK’s birthday) at 7am we will meet at Mt. Vernon Square Park to shutdown downtown!


Presidents Are Gods

A former Governor of Virginia is expected to be sentenced to a long stay in prison. The same fate has befallen governors in states across the United States, including in nearby Maryland, Tennessee, and West Virginia. A former governor of Illinois is in prison. Governors have been convicted of corruption in Rhode Island, Louisiana, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Connecticut, and (in a trumped-up partisan scam) in Alabama. The statewide trauma suffered by the people of states that have locked up their governors has been . . . well, nonexistent and unimaginable.

Locking U.S. presidents up for their crimes is a different story. Former President Richard Nixon's understanding that whatever a president does is legal has not been challenged since he made that comment. The Washington Post -- not exactly a Nixon supporter -- has the same understanding now. The Post recently justified the latest proposal to re-ban torture by explaining that even though torture was already banned, President George W. Bush tortured and therefore had found a legal way around the law. In other words, because he hasn't been prosecuted, what he did was legal.

The New York Times, which urged prosecuting former President George W. Bush for torture six years ago, recently wrote this:

"Who should be held accountable? That will depend on what an investigation finds, and as hard as it is to imagine Mr. Obama having the political courage to order a new investigation, it is harder to imagine a criminal probe of the actions of a former president. But any credible investigation should include . . . "

The editorial goes on to list the people who should be prosecuted, up to and including the former vice president. But the president gets a pass, not on the basis of some reasoned argument, but because the authors cannot imagine a president being held accountable for crimes. They or their colleagues could imagine it several years ago but have progressed to the point where it has become unthinkable.

The state flag of Virginia, or any other of the 50 states, can be turned into a table cloth or a picnic blanket. It can be used to keep the rain off your firewood. Or it can be burned to get your fire started. Nobody cares what you do with it. Children aren't forced to pray to it every morning in school. It's just a flag. And because it's just a flag, nobody has any interest in abusing it, and virtually nobody would recognize what it was if they saw it burned or trampled or turned into a bathrobe or a bikini. The flag of Virginia, although we don't actually imagine it as having feelings, is treated just fine. So are state songs, even though nobody is required to stand and sing them with a fascistic pose as troops march by.

The same is true of state governors. They're treated with civility and respect. They're honored when they perform well and held accountable when they abuse power. Understood as human beings, they aren't abused as anything less. But they are not gods. And they are not gods because they are not makers of war.

Presidents make wars. And they now do so without any formal checks on their power. They can destroy the earth with the push of a button. They can destroy a hut or a village or a city at their discretion. Their killer flying robots rain hell from the skies worldwide, and neither Congress nor the Washington Post nor the people who lock up governors for taking bribes can even imagine questioning that power, that privilege, that divine right.

Congress may, it is true, "authorize" one of the current wars for three more years after allowing it to proceed illegally for several months. Or it may not. Nobody cares. The pretense that it matters is a vestige of a time in which we saw presidents differently.

But if murdering large numbers of people doesn't disturb us, if we've all concluded that murder is morally superior to imprisonment and torture and that there is no third option, are we perhaps capable of spotting a problem in what presidents have become in relation to the rule of law? Should it not disturb us that we've given single individuals for 4- or 8-year runs more power than King George III ever dreamed of, and that we've collectively declared any declaration of independence unimaginable?