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Books about how World War I started, and to a lesser degree how World War II started, have tended in recent years to explain that these wars didn’t actually come as a surprise, because top government officials saw them coming for years. But these revised histories admit that the general public was pretty much clueless and shocked.
The fact is that anyone in the know or diligently seeking out the facts could see, in rough outline, the danger of World War I or World War II coming years ahead, just as one can see the threats of environmental collapse and World War III approaching now. But the general public lacked a decent understanding prior to the first two world wars and lacks it now on the looming dangers created by environmental destruction and aggressive flirtation with World War III.
What led to the first two world wars and allowed numerous wise observers to warn of them years ahead, even to warn of World War II immediately upon completion of the treaty that ended World War I? A number of factors ought to be obvious but are generally overlooked:
- Acceptance of war, leading to steady preparation for it.
- A major arms race, making instruments of death in fact our leading industry, with hope placed in a balance or domination of powers of war, rather than an overcoming of war.
- The momentum created for war by massive investment in highly profitable (and status and career advancing) weaponry and other military expenditures.
- Fear in each nation of the war intentions of the others, driven by propaganda that encourages fear and discourages understanding of the other sides.
- The belief produced by the above factors that war, unlike the tango, only takes one. On the basis of that belief, each side must prepare for war as self-protection from another war-maker, but doing so is not believed to be a choice or an action of any kind; rather, it is a law of physics, an inevitable occurrence, something to be observed and chattered about like the weather.
- The consequent, though seemingly mad, willingness by those in power to risk potentially apocalyptic war rather than to pursue survival without war.
World War I was preceded by wars in North Africa and South-Eastern Europe. Weapons spending and war planning soared. Efforts to preserve the peace were launched. Then Austria-Hungary was handed an excuse for attacking Serbia, and certain Germans saw an excuse for attacking Belgium and France, and certain Brits saw an opportunity for fighting Germany, and so forth, and the slaughter was on. It could have been prevented, but the policies of decades made it likely, regardless of the immediate trigger. The public had very little idea.
World War II followed decades of the first war’s victors causing the German people to suffer economically while building up bitter resentment, of another unprecedented arms race, of Western investment in Nazis as preferable to leftists, and of training up Japan as a junior partner in empire but turning against it when it went too far. The Nazi treatment of Jews was knowable and protested. The U.S. military’s aggression toward Japan was knowable and protested. The U.S. government drew up a list of actions that could provoke a Japanese attack, including an embargo on oil, and took each of those actions.
Much of the public never saw either world war coming. Much of the U.S. public believed the U.S. would stay out of the wars once they had begun. And U.S. voters twice elected presidents who were planning to enter world wars but campaigning on promises not to.
David Fromkin’s book on the beginning of World War I, Europe’s Last Summer, draws just the wrong conclusions. “It was no accident that Europe went to war at that time,” he writes. “It was the result of premeditated decisions by two governments. [He means Austria and Germany.] Once those two countries had invaded their neighbors, there was no way for the neighbors to keep the peace. That was true in World War II; at Pearl Harbor, Japan made the war-or-peace decision not merely for itself, but for the unwilling United States as well, by launching its attack. Nor had America any more choice in Europe in 1941; Hitler’s Germany declared war on the United States, to which America was obliged to respond.”
Fromkin is giving an accurate description of a war of rich on poor. When the United States attacks Iraq or Syria or Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia or Afghanistan or Libya or Panama or Vietnam, etc., etc., no cooperation is required from the poor nation that is bombed or invaded. There is war because the Pentagon says so, although the form that resistance takes is completely open to choice. But had the nations that Fromkin grants innocence in World Wars One and Two spent the previous decades disarming and practicing respectful diplomacy, aid, cooperation, peacemaking, and establishment of the rule of law, there could not have been the rich-on-rich wars that constitute the worst short-time-period events in human history and have been avoided since 1945. Fromkin traces, as most authors do, Germany’s WWI aggression to its fear of its neighbors. What if those neighbors had been unfearable?
Perhaps they would have been attacked anyway. Iraq and Libya disarmed, in terms of so-called WMDs, and the U.S. attacked them.
Or perhaps they would have been left alone. Most nations that do not threaten their neighbors are not threatened in return.
In any case, there would have been no world wars killing tens of millions of people if there hadn’t been willing partners on both sides. Any war there was would have been one-sided. Any nonviolent resistance would likewise have experienced one-sided suffering. But most of the death and destruction would not have happened.
The United States has pulled out of the anti-ballistic missile treaty and expanded NATO to a dozen new nations, moving right up to the border of Russia. It’s placed troops and weapons on the Russian border. It’s organized a coup in Ukraine and installed a Ukrainian government full of neo-Nazis. It’s lied to its people about Russian invasions and Russian attacks on airplanes. It’s fantasized about its missile-defense system allowing it to attack Russia, or China for that matter, without counter-attack. It’s proposed to put more nukes in Europe aimed at Russia. It’s built bases around the edges of China. It’s trying to militarize Japan again. It’s imposed sanctions on Russia. It’s threatened, mocked, ridiculed, and demonized Russia and its president — and North Korea for good measure. Informed observers warn of the heightened risk of nuclear Armageddon. And most people in the United States haven’t a clue.
While I’m not suffering under the delusion that violence is Russia’s only or wisest or most strategic response, neither am I urging Russia to turn the other cheek. Having been saddled with a U.S. identity when I’d prefer a local or global one, it’s not my place to tell Russia what to do (could I improve on Tolstoy?). But I can tell the U.S. public to wake up and put a stop to this madness before it kills us all. World War III is not inevitable, but it is clearly headed our way if we don’t change course. And changing course would give us our best shot at avoiding environmental disaster as well.
The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations deals with such an engaging topic that even this new book can't really make it boring, hard as it seems to try. When asked what historical figure I would most like to bring back to life and have a talk with I tend to think of Mossadeq, the complex, Gandhian, elected leader, denounced as both Hitler and a communist (as would become part of the standard procedure) and overthrown in an early CIA coup (1953) -- a coup that encouraged dozens more around the globe and led straight to the Iranian revolution and to today's Iranian distrust of the United States. I'm more inclined to believe that current Iranian distrust of the U.S. government is well-merited than blaming it on a long-ago coup implies, but the coup lies at the root of Iranian and worldwide skepticism about generous U.S. intentions.
It's also an interesting fact, supported by this case, that some of the best government actions, taken by any government around the world, have occurred just prior to various U.S.-backed violent coups -- and I include in that category the U.S. New Deal, followed by the unsuccessful Wall Street coup attempt rejected by Smedley Butler. Mossadegh had just done, among other things, these: Slashed the military budget 15%, launched an investigation into weapons deals, retired 135 senior officers, caused the military and police to report to the government rather than to the monarch, slashed stipends to the royal family, restricted the Shah's access to foreign diplomats, transferred the royal estates to the state, and drafted bills to give women the vote and protect the press and the independence of the Supreme Court and taxing extreme wealth by 2% and giving workers healthcare and upping peasants' share of the harvest by 15%. Facing an oil embargo, he cut state salaries, eliminated chauffeured cars for high officials, and restricted luxury imports. All of that was in addition, of course, to the cause of the coup: his insistence on nationalizing the oil from which a British company, and Britain, had been profiting enormously.
The bulk of the book is actually the lead-up to the coup, and much of the emphasis is on proving other historians wrong in their interpretations. Supposedly, historians tend to blame Mossadeq for intransigence, as well as to blame the U.S. action on its Cold War ideology. The author, Ervand Abrahamian, on the contrary, blames the British and Americans, and explains why this was centrally a question of who would control the oil lying underneath Iran. My reaction to that was the same as yours might be: No kidding!
So, reading this book is a bit like reading criticism of the corporate news after you've avoided the corporate news. It's good to see such outrageous lunacy debunked, but on the other hand you were getting along just fine not knowing it existed. Reading Richard Rorty, who gets an odd mention on the last page of the book, is somewhat similar -- it's great to see a fine critique of the stupid things philosophers think, but not knowing they thought them wasn't really so unpleasant either. Still, in all of these case, what you don't know can hurt you. What a group of bad historians thinks about the history of U.S.-Iranian relations can inform current diplomacy (or lack thereof) in ways that are easier to spot if you know exactly what these people have deluded themselves with.
Abrahamian does document numerous historians who believe the British were reasonable and ready to compromise, whereas -- as the author shows -- that actually describes Mossadeq, while the British were unwilling to do any such thing. His inclusion of Stephen Kinzer in the list of historians getting it wrong is probably the most stretched, however. I don't think Kinzer actually believes that Mossadeq was to blame. In fact, I think Kinzer not only blames the United States and Britain, but he also openly admits that what they did was a really bad thing (in contrast to Abrahamian's emotion-free recounting).
Abrahamian gives extreme importance to the economic motivation, as opposed to racism for example. But of course the two work together, and Abrahamian documents both of them. If Iranians looked like white Americans, the acceptability of stealing their oil would be less clear in all minds, then and now.
The 1953 coup became a model. The arming and training of the local military, the bribing of local officials, the use and abuse of the United Nations, the propaganda against the target, the stirring up of confusion and chaos, the kidnapping and deportation, the misinformation campaigns. Abrahamian points out that even U.S. diplomats in Iran at the time didn't know the U.S. role in the coup. The same is almost certainly true today about Honduras or Ukraine. Most Americans have no idea why Cuba fears an open internet. Just foreign backwardness and stupidity, we're supposed to think. No there's an ideology that both fueled the ongoing age of the CIA / USAID / NED coup and has been reinforced by its criminal adventures.
Congress members are often pressured in how to vote by the moneyed interests that buy their television ads, which in turn persuade the media to "cover" them nicely and dumb people to vote for them. But more often they are pressured in how to vote by the leaders of their two mega-parties who in turn answer to greater moneyed interests.
Thus three Republicans who voted against their leader's wishes in one of a package of votes intended to ram through the Trans-Pacific Partnership disaster have now been stripped of their leadership positions.
But carrots are used as often as sticks. In May 2009, 60 congress members voted against dumping another $97 billion into the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. My own misrepresentative Tom Perriello voted for it. Then, in June 2009, 202 congress members voted against that same war funding combined with a massive bailout for East European bankers. Perriello voted for both, even though both progressives AND the Tea Partiers in his district were opposed. The White House immediately rewarded him. Van Jones and Steny Hoyer came down to this district and did events, and shortly later the Secretary of Agriculture did the same. They were all rather pointless events intended as oppotrunities to pose for cameras with Perriello. Obama later did one himself.
At the end of last week, 28 Democrats voted against the interests of Obama, which happen to be identical on the TPP as on so many things with the interests of the Republican leadership. Some of those Democrats may not have needed carrots or sticks. But some clearly got them. Four in particular, we know, were given a ride in a aeroplane. Wheeeeee! Obama took them to the G7 with him on Air Force One. They are the four horses asses of the coming TPP apocalypse. They are:
Gerry Connolly D - 11 - VA 202 225 1492 @gerryconnolly
Jim Himes D - 4 - CT 202 225 5541 @jahimes
Eddie Bernice Johnson D - 30 - TX 202 225 8885 @repebj
Mike Quigley D - 5 - IL 202 225 4061 @repmikequigley
From ABC some images of Quigley and Bernice Johnson:
Here are the other Democrats who voted for corporate power on Friday. Watch how they vote today and in coming votes, and watch what rewards they're offered:
Brad Ashford D - 2 - NE 202 225 4155 @repbradashford
Ami Bera D - 7 - CA 202 225 5716 @repbera
Don Beyer D - 8 - VA 202 225 4376 @repdonbeyer
Earl Blumenauer D - 3 - OR 202 225 4811 @repblumenauer
Suzanne Bonamici D - 1 - OR 202 225 0855 @repbonamici
Jim Cooper D - 5 - TN 202 225 4311 @repjimcooper
Jim Costa D - 16 - CA 202 225 3341 @repjimcosta
Henry Cuellar D - 28 - TX 202 225 1640 @repcuellar
Susan Davis D - 53 - CA 202 225 2040 @repsusandavis
John Delaney D - 6 - MD 202 225 2721 @repjohndelaney
Suzan DelBene D - 1 - WA 202 225 6311 @repdelbene
Sam Farr D - 20 - CA 202 225 2861 @repsamfarr
Ruben Hinojosa D - 15 - TX 202 225 2531 @usrephinojosa
Derek Kilmer D - 6 - WA 202 225 5916 @repderekkilmer
Ron Kind D - 3 - WI 202 225 5506 @repronkind
Rick Larsen D - 2 - WA 202 225 2605 @repricklarsen
Greg Meeks D - 5 - NY 202 225 3461 @gregorymeeks
Beto O'Rourke D - 16 - TX 202 225 4831 @repbetoorourke
Scott Peters D - 52 - CA 202 225 0508 @repscottpeters
Jared Polis D - 2 - CO 202 225 2161 @repjaredpolis
Kathleen Rice D - 4 - NY 202 225 5516 @repkathleenrice
Kurt Schrader D - 5 - OR 202 225 5711 @repschrader
Terri Sewell D - 7 - AL 202 225 2665 @repterrisewell
Debbie Wasserman Schultz D - 23 - FL 202 225 7931 @repdwstweets
Wednesday afternoon, by a vote of 288-139 with one voting "present" and five not voting (roll call of who voted which way is here) the U.S. House of Representatives voted down a resolution (H.Con.Res.55) that would have required the President to . . .
"remove United States Armed Forces deployed to Iraq or Syria on or after August 7, 2014, other than Armed Forces required to protect United States diplomatic facilities and personnel, from Iraq and Syria. (1) by no later than the end of the period of 30 days beginning on the day on which this concurrent resolution is adopted; or (2) if the President determines that it is not safe to remove such United States Armed Forces before the end of that period, by no later than December 31, 2015, or such earlier date as the President determines that the Armed Forces can safely be removed."
While some number of the 139 yes votes were apparently cast by Congress members wanting a chance to vote yes on more war during the next 30 days or the next 6.5 months, most were presumably cast by Congress members actually favoring withdrawal or wanting to go on record as favoring withdrawal in a vote that stood little chance of succeeding. Almost two years ago now, Congress was compelled by public pressure to indicate its intention to vote no on missile strikes into Syria. Since that time it has refused to vote wars up or down, while allowing them to be launched and waged and escalated.
Of course, votes for wars have a history of pleasing campaign funders and displeasing voters. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, in Wednesday's debate, made clear that she wanted to have the war continue but maintain the right to denounce it as completely ill-conceived. That's why a vote needed to be forced, to put Congress members on record one way or the other, to not let them have it both ways. There are now 288 of them who should be removed from office at the earliest opportunity and, like Hillary Clinton in 2008 and hopefully in the future, blocked in the pursuit of higher office.
Of course, President Barack Obama has made clear that he will wage war with or without Congress, but a vote by Congress to withdraw, and (if needed) perhaps a further vote to cut off funding, and (if needed) perhaps a further vote to impeach, would at the very least be interesting.
The resolution was brought by Reps. Jim McGovern, Barbara Lee, and Walter Jones under the War Powers Resolution, which allows any Congress member to force a debate and vote on any war that a president has launched without legal authorization. Congressman McGovern chose, however, not to use the debate he had forced in the manner in which then-Congressman Dennis Kucinich used to use it, namely as a debate on ending a war. Instead, McGovern framed this as a debate on whether to have a debate.
So, for two hours on Wednesday, proponents of war advocated at length with great passion and fear mongering for more war, while proponents of having a debate advocated procedurally for the proper use of Constitutional war powers and for having a debate. But of course they knew the resolution was very likely to fail, meaning that their debate on whether to have a debate would be all there was in the way of debating.
McGovern also chose to frame the debate defensively, arguing against opponents' assertions that his resolution required withdrawal in 30 days, claiming on the contrary that the resolution gave the President until the end of the year "if he chooses." But, of course, the resolution, quoted above, didn't say "if he chooses" -- rather "if the President determines that it is not safe to remove." McGovern seemed to be admitting that that was nonsense. It's dangerous to leave troops in a war; it's always safe to remove them, but McGovern was prepared to allow Obama to pretend the opposite "if he chooses."
A number of opponents of the resolution, in fact, pretended the opposite on Wednesday, arguing for more war "to protect the troops." Meanwhile another opponent of the resolution, Brad Sherman, argued that the resolution would indeed pull troops out in 30 days because they were in no danger.
The highlights of the debate came when four Congress members spoke against war, and one in particular did so with passion and wisdom. His name was John Lewis. He said that people are "sick and tired of war" and that war only makes matters worse, "Terrorism is not stopped by weapons. Bombs don't end hate." I've asked his office to send me his written remarks and am also hoping they post them here.
The others who spoke against war were Barbara Lee, very briefly, Rick Nolan, also briefly, and Charlie Rangel who pushed myths about the inherent violence of the Middle East and the goodness of past Good Wars, but who also said there was no reason for U.S. troops to be over there, and that ISIS wasn't invading our jobless communities. Rangel was the first to bring war opposition into Wednesday's "debate."
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey had on Wednesday in a committee hearing pushed the idea that religious sectarianism had created the disaster that in fact U.S. war-making has created in Iraq. Dempsey also said that there was no military solution, so instead he would use both the U.S. military and arming and training of Iraqis. So now you know what "no military solution" means -- a phrase that has apparently maintained the same relationship to its dictionary definition as "imminent" or "combatant."
Speaking in favor of war on Wednesday were Reps. Ed Royce, Eliot Engel (a believer in well-vetted moderate rebels and possibly the tooth fairy), Vicky Hartzler, Gerald Connolly, Joe Wilson (who seems to think Congress should take orders from military), Brendan Boyle, Lee Zeldin, Ted Poe, George Holding, David Cicilline, Adam Kinzinger (who wants Assad overthrown), Brad Sherman, and Michael McCaul.
Rep. Thomas Massie spoke for Constitutional war powers, but not for or against war. So did Walter Jones and Jim McGovern for that matter. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee wants a war debate, but paints war as philanthropy for its foreign victims, and restraint as greedy self-interest. Rep. Jerrold Nadler says he doesn't know if war should go on but that he and his colleagues should decide if war should go on. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton wants a vote for DC for or against war, but speaks only in praise of war. Rep. Mark Sanford wants a war debate, mentions war's financial cost, but never quite says yes or no to more war.
Royce gave a long pro-war closing after McGovern's quick procedural wishy-washy closing that never actually opposed war.
Royce claimed there was no third option beyond war or doing nothing. Here are some of those missing options.
To email Congress your opinion, click here.
David Hartsough is the author, with Joyce Hollyday, of Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist. Hartsough is executive director of Peaceworkers, based in San Francisco, and is cofounder of the Nonviolent Peaceforce. He is a Quaker and member of the San Francisco Friends Meeting. He has a BA from Howard University and an MA in international relations from Columbia University. Hartsough has been working actively for nonviolent social change and peaceful resolution of conflicts since he met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1956. Over the last fifty years, he has led and been engaged in nonviolent peacemaking in the United States, Kosovo, the former Soviet Union, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Iran, Palestine, Israel, and many other countries. He was also a peace educator and organized nonviolent movements for peace and justice with the American Friends Service Committee for eighteen years. Hartsough has been arrested more than a hundred times for participating in demonstrations. He has worked in the movements for civil rights, against nuclear weapons, to end the Vietnam War, to end the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan and to prevent an attack on Iran. Most recently, David is helping organize World Beyond War, a global movement to end all wars: http://worldbeyondwar.org
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I'm not sure if there's been a better written book published yet this year than Ukraine: Zbig's Grand Chessboard and How the West Was Checkmated, but I'm confident there's not been a more important one. With some 17,000 nuclear bombs in the world, the United States and Russia have about 16,000 of them. The United States is aggressively flirting with World War III, the people of the United States have not the foggiest notion of how or why, and authors Natylie Baldwin and Kermit Heartsong explain it all quite clearly. Go ahead and tell me there's nothing you're now spending your time on that's less important than this.
This book may very well be the best written one I've read this year. It puts all the relevant facts -- those I knew and many I didn't -- together concisely and with perfect organization. It does it with an informed worldview. It leaves me nothing to complain about at all, which is almost unheard of in my book reviews. I find it refreshing to encounter writers so well-informed who also grasp the significance of their information.
Nearly half the book is used to set the context for recent events in Ukraine. It's useful to understand the end of the cold war, the irrational hatred of Russia that pervades elite U.S. thinking, and the patterns of behavior that are replaying themselves now at higher volume. Stirring up fanatical fighters in Afghanistan and Chechnya and Georgia, and targeting Ukraine for similar use: this is a context CNN won't provide. The partnership of the neocons (in arming and provoking violence in Libya) with the humanitarian warriors (in riding to the rescue for regime change): this is a precedent and a model that NPR won't mention. The U.S. promise not to expand NATO, the U.S. expansion of NATO to 12 new countries right up to the border of Russia, the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty and pursuit of "missile defense" -- this is background that Fox News would never deem significant. U.S. support for the rule of criminal oligarchs willing to sell off Russian resources, and Russian resistance to those schemes -- such accounts are almost incomprehensible if you've consumed too much U.S. "news," but are explained and documented well by Baldwin and Heartsong.
This book includes excellent background on the use and abuse of Gene Sharp and the color revolutions instigated by the U.S. government. A silver lining may be found, I think, in the value of nonviolent action recognized by all involved -- whether for good or ill. The same lesson can be found (for good this time) in the civilian resistance to Ukrainian troops in the spring of 2014, and the refusal of (some) troops to attack civilians.
The Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004, the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003, and Ukraine II in 2013-2014 are recounted well, including detailed chronology. It's truly remarkable how much has been publicly reported that remains buried. Western leaders met repeatedly in 2012 and 2013 to plot the fate of Ukraine. Neo-Nazis from Ukraine were sent to Poland to train for a coup. NGOs operating out of the U.S. Embassy in Kiev organized trainings for coup participants. On November 24, 2013, three days after Ukraine refused an IMF deal, including refusing to sever ties to Russia, protesters in Kiev began to clash with police. The protesters used violence, destroying buildings and monuments, and tossing Molotov cocktails, but President Obama warned the Ukrainian government not to respond with force. (Contrast that with the treatment of the Occupy movement, or the shooting on Capitol Hill of the woman who made an unacceptable U-turn in her car with her baby.)
U.S.-funded groups organized a Ukrainian opposition, funded a new TV channel, and promoted regime change. The U.S. State Department spent some $5 billion. The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State who handpicked the new leaders, openly brought cookies to protesters. When those protesters violently overthrew the government in February 2014, the United States immediately declared the coup government legitimate. That new government banned major political parties, and attacked, tortured, and murdered their members. The new government included neo-Nazis and would soon include officials imported from the United States. The new government banned the Russian language -- the first language of many Ukrainian citizens. Russian war memorials were destroyed. Russian-speaking populations were attacked and murdered.
Crimea, an autonomous region of Ukraine, had its own parliament, had been part of Russia from 1783 until 1954, had publicly voted for close ties to Russia in 1991, 1994, and 2008, and its parliament had voted to rejoin Russia in 2008. On March 16, 2014, 82% of Crimeans took part in a referendum, and 96% of them voted to rejoin Russia. This nonviolent, bloodless, democratic, and legal action, in no violation of a Ukrainian constitution that had been shredded by a violent coup, was immediately denounced in the West as a Russian "invasion" of Crimea.
Novorossiyans, too, sought independence and were attacked by the new Ukrainian military the day after John Brennan visited Kiev and ordered that crime. I know that the Fairfax County Police who have kept me and my friends away from John Brennan's house in Virginia have had no clue what hell he was unleashing on helpless people thousands of miles away. But that ignorance is at least as disturbing as informed malice would be. Civilians were attacked by jets and helicopters for months in the worst killing in Europe since World War II. Russian President Putin repeatedly pressed for peace, a ceasefire, negotiations. A ceasefire finally came on September 5, 2014.
Remarkably, contrary to what we've all been told, Russia didn't invade Ukraine any of the numerous times we were told that it had just done so. We've graduated from mythical weapons of mass destruction, through mythical threats to Libyan civilians, and false accusation of chemical weapons use in Syria, to false accusations of launching invasions that were never launched. The "evidence" of the invasion(s) was carefully left devoid of location or any verifiable detail, but has all been decidedly debunked anyway.
The downing of the MH17 airplane was blamed on Russia with no evidence. The U.S. has information on what happened but won't release it. Russia released what it had, and the evidence, in agreement with eye-witnesses on the ground, and in agreement with an air-traffic controller at the time, is that the plane was shot down by one or more other planes. "Evidence" that Russia shot the plane down with a missile has been exposed as sloppy forgeries. The vapor trail that a missile would have left was reported by not a single witness.
Baldwin and Heartsong close with the case that U.S. actions have backfired, that in fact whether the people of the United States have any idea what is going on or not, the power brokers in Washington have Second Amendmented themselves in the foot. Sanctions against Russia have made Putin as popular at home as George W. Bush was after he'd managed to exist as president while planes were flown into the World Trade Center. The same sanctions have strengthened Russia by turning it toward its own production and toward alliances with non-Western nations. Ukraine has suffered, and Europe suffers from a cut-off of Russian gas, while Russia makes deals with Turkey, Iran, and China. Evicting a Russian base from Crimea seems more hopeless now than before this madness began. Russia is leading the way as more nations abandon the U.S. dollar. Retaliatory sanctions from Russia are hurting the West. Far from isolated, Russia is working with the BRICS nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and other alliances. Far from impoverished, Russia is buying up gold while the U.S. sinks into debt and is increasingly viewed by the world as a rogue player, and resented by Europe for depriving Europe of Russian trade.
This story begins in the irrationality of collective trauma coming out of the holocaust of World War II and of blind hatred for Russia. It must end with the same irrationality. If U.S. desperation leads to war with Russia in Ukraine or elsewhere along the Russian border where NATO is engaging in various war games and exercises, there may be no more human stories ever told or heard.
The Guardian on Monday made public a CIA document allowing the agency's director to "approve, modify, or disapprove all proposals pertaining to human subject research."
At Guantanamo, the CIA gave huge doses of the terror-inducing drug mefloquine to prisoners without their consent, as well as the supposed truth serum scopolamine. Former Guantanamo guard Joseph Hickman has documented the CIA's torturing people, sometimes to death, and can find no explanation other than research:
"[Why] were men of little or no value kept under these conditions, and even repeatedly interrogated, months or years after they'd been taken into custody? Even if they'd had any intelligence when they came in, what relevance would it have years later? . . . One answer seemed to lie in the description that Major Generals [Michael] Dunlavey and [Geoffrey] Miller both applied to Gitmo. They called it 'America's battle lab.'"
Non-consensual experimentation on institutionalized children and adults was common in the United States before, during, and even more so after the U.S. and its allies prosecuted Nazis for the practice in 1947, sentencing many to prison and seven to be hanged. The tribunal created the Nuremberg Code, standards for medical practice that were immediately ignored back home. Some American doctors considered it "a good code for barbarians."
The code begins: "Required is the voluntary, well-informed, understanding consent of the human subject in a full legal capacity." A similar requirement is included in the CIA's rules, but has not been followed, even as doctors have assisted with such torture techniques as waterboarding.
Thus far, the United States has never really accepted the Nuremberg Code. While the code was being created, the U.S. was giving people syphilis in Guatemala. It did the same at Tuskegee. Also during the Nuremberg trial, children at the Pennhurst school in southeastern Pennsylvania were given hepatitis-laced feces to eat.
Other sites of experimentation scandals have included the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in Brooklyn, the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, and Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia. And, of course, the CIA's Project MKUltra (1953-1973) was a smorgasbord of human experimentation. Forced sterilizations of women in California prisons have not ended. Torture by Chicago police has for the first time just resulted in compensation for victims.
If we are, at long last, to put such contemptible behavior behind us, it will require breaking some bad habits.
Congress has busily re-banned torture a number of times in recent years. Now it must drop that charade and instead demand that the Attorney General enforce the anti-torture statute, which made torture a felony before George W. Bush ever became president.
It's good of John Oliver to denounce torture. And he's right to go after the lies told about torture in popular entertainment. But he's also spreading the false idea that it's legal. "We checked," he says, reporting that his crack team of investigators discovered that the only ban on torture is found in an executive order written by President Obama. This is dangerous nonsense. The U.S. was a party to the Anti-Torture Convention and had made torture a felony under the anti-torture statute and the war-crimes statute before George W. Bush ever became president.
Since then, Congress has repeatedly "banned" torture. But, just as the U.N. Charter's ban on war actually legalized certain wars, purporting to replace the total ban in the Kellogg-Briand Pact with a partial ban, these Congressional efforts (such as the Military Commissions Act of 2006) have actually legalized certain cases of torture, replacing (at least in everyone's mind) the total ban already existing in the U.S. Code and in a treaty to which the U.S. is party.
The latest "ban" proposal from Senator McCain and friends, would create exceptions in the form of those in the Army Field Manual, and advocates maintain that step number two would be to reform that manual. But if you skip both steps and acknowledge the existence of the anti-torture statute in the U.S. Code, you're done. The proper task is to press for its enforcement.
Oliver's mistake, like virtually everyone else's, is based on two myths. One, torture began with Bush. Two, torture ended with Bush. On the contrary, torture has been around in the United States and elsewhere for a very long time. So has the practice of banning it. Torture is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In fact, under international law, torture can never be legalized and is always banned.
Myth number two is also wrong. Torture has not ended and won't as long as it's not punished.
An attorney general can be questioned and threatened with impeachment until our laws are enforced. A new website created Monday let's you email Congress to demand that it do just that.
The Pentagon has just published 1,204 pages on how it thinks you can behave legally during a war. Looking through this "Law of War Manual" at various hot topics, one finds some atrocities excused as acceptable (cluster bombs, nuclear bombs) and others rejected as completely disallowed (torture) even when in reality they are routinely engaged in.
Beginning to wonder what the point is of writing out such a lengthy description of laws when someone could just read the laws themselves in less time, I notice that nowhere does this document strengthen any actual law, while in many places it weakens them. It picks and chooses which laws to mention and which to leave out or marginalize in footnotes. It stresses the supposed right to ignore any international law that a nation objected to while that law was being created. It incorporates into the whole scheme the idea of launching wars not only against nations, but against any other entities, and of launching wars in nations with those nations' approval. This paper is a sort of enormous signing statement appended retroactively to all existing laws, indicating which will be adhered to and which disregarded, while attempting to advertise a pattern of legal behavior by the U.S. military as a public relations correction to people's awareness of the actual pattern of lawlessness.
But I think the place to start is with the pretense that war itself is legal. This is what permits three-quarters of this document to exist, devoted as those sections are to proper legal conduct during a war. The Pentagon says that one must fight wars legally whether or not the wars are legal. That is, whether or not you have some legal justification for attacking a country, you must nonetheless meet completely vague standards of proportionality and so forth during the course of the attack -- or of the occupation. There's a large section on the legal conduct of occupations that breezes right past any question of the illegality of maintaining the occupation at all. Here's a typical passage about legal "proportionality": "Attacks using nuclear weapons must not be conducted when the expected incidental harm to civilians is excessive compared to the military advantage expected to be gained." How much "harm" to civilians from nuclear weapons would be "excessive"? The so-called law, once you accept war and then try to regulate its conduct, is in the eye of the sociopathic beholder; there's nothing empirical or enforceable about it.
The short section of this manual on what makes wars themselves legal is of particular interest, I think, because it -- in fact -- ends up admitting that they are not. It doesn't intend to make this point, however. In fact, it goes to every effort to suggest that legality is something murky, almost something aesthetic, laying out a number of "principles" to consider in deciding whether to begin a mass slaughter of human beings. Is a "competent authority" making the decision? Is the action "proportionate"? Have all peaceful alternatives been exhausted? That last one, actually, would ban every war the United States has ever launched, including all current ones, if the facts of each situation were dealt with honestly -- but when does that ever happen?
Eventually, the manual comes around to mentioning a law: the U.N. Charter. It gives this tiny part of its text the heading "Prohibition on Certain Uses of Force," but quotes the Charter: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations." The "purposes" in Chapter I of the Charter are focused on the need "to maintain international peace."
And the manual notes: "Numerous other treaties also reflect these prohibitions on the threat or use of force." There's a footnote that reads as follows:
"See, e.g. , Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, art. 1, Sept. 2, 1947, 62 STAT.1681,1700 ('The High Contracting Parties formally condemn war and undertake in their international relations not to resort to the threat or the use of force in any manner inconsistent with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations or of this Treaty.'); Treaty Providing for the Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy, art. 1, Aug. 27, 1928, 46 STAT.2343, 2345-46 ('The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.')."
This footnote is the key to unraveling the entire 1,204 pages. It fudges its contents by lumping together two treaties and including only half of the key language of the second one. The first treaty it cites has holes in it, just like the U.N. Charter, and by virtue of reference to the U.N. Charter. The second treaty, the "Treaty Providing for the Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy" -- more commonly known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact -- does not. Article I of the Peace Pact of Paris, the Pact of Kellogg and Briand, is quoted above. But Article II reads: "The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means."
This is a treaty, let us note, that remains in force, is listed as such on the U.S. State Department's website, and is acknowledged as such, as just noted, in the Pentagon's brand-new murder manual. It is a treaty that includes some very difficult-to-fudge words: "all" (disputes or conflicts), "whatever" (nature), "of whatever" (origin), "never" (be sought except by pacific means). "Pacific means" is not pacific ends. That is, one cannot claim to be pursuing peace through war and be in compliance with the Kellogg-Briand Pact. One is required to pursue whatever one is pursuing through peace. The Pentagon offers no justification for violating this treaty. None. It simply buries it in a footnote and omits half of its content. But that's an evasion, not a justification. The ban, it is worth repeating, is absolute. A war on Afghanistan is a non-pacific means. A murder by missile from a drone is a non-pacific means; one need not dive into obscurantist twaddle about how many drone strikes fit onto the head of a war.
A truly desperate debater could claim that a drone murder in Yemen is not a dispute between the United States and Yemen but between the two aligned governments and another group or individual. But this line of justification runs up against the most common line of argument produced in the White House and Justice Department, namely that drone murders are not murder because they are war. Once you claim that Kellogg-Briand allows wars on non-nations, you not only violate the entire purpose, intent, and past use of Kellogg-Briand (including at Nuremberg; it's not as if the Jews were a nation), but you legalize murder by any nation or non-nation (or local police department) that declares its murdering to be warmaking. It's worth remembering that the people of Yemen never approved U.S. drone murders in their country, and in fact were lied to for a long time by their own government that it was in fact their own government and not the U.S. doing it. The Yemeni government, in the person of a dictator, later fled to Saudi Arabia and asked Saudi Arabia to attack the people of Yemen with more U.S.-made weaponry. Can a dictator who has fled a country still legalize a war just by uttering the word "war"? I contend that an interpretation of a law that eliminates the very possibility of lawfulness is no interpretation at all.
So, understanding Kellogg-Briand as it was written, what good is it? Well, elsewhere, this same manual says, "[T]he fact that a State's domestic law does not provide for a penalty with respect to a violation of international law does not relieve a person from responsibility for that act under international law." In other words, the fact that violation of the Kellogg-Briand Pact has not been made punishable under U.S. domestic law does nothing to exonerate an American who violates it, any American, that is, who launches or participates in a war. This was the clear intent of those who created this law. Yes, some, but not all, of the U.S. senators who ratified it, expressed their belief that self-defense would still justify warfare, but they did not add that or anything else as an official reservation to the treaty upon ratification -- false rumors to that effect notwithstanding.
Having skipped past the heart of the matter -- the complete ban on war -- in footnote #208, the Pentagon's manual hurries on in this manner:
"The resort to force must have a legal basis in order not to violate these prohibitions. The legality of the use of force must be assessed in light of the particular facts and circumstances at issue."
But something that is banned cannot have a legal basis that allows it to not violate the ban. A further footnote (#209) adds that in the most egregious cases of aggressive wars, one should ignore legal standards in light of the uniqueness of the situation:
"See, e.g., William H. Taft IV, Legal Adviser, Department of State, & Todd F. Buchwald, Assistant Legal Adviser for Political-Military Affairs, Department of State, Preemption, Iraq, and International Law, 97 AJIL 557 (2003) ('In the end, each use of force must find legitimacy in the facts and circumstances that the state believes have made it necessary. Each should be judged not on abstract concepts, but on the particular events that gave rise to it.'); Daniel Webster, Letter to Mr. Fox, Apr. 24, 1841, reprinted in DANIEL WEBSTER,THE DIPLOMATIC AND OFFICIAL PAPERS OF DANIEL WEBSTER, WHILE SECRETARY OF STATE 105 (1848)('It is admitted that a just right of self-defense attaches always to nations as well as to individuals, and is equally necessary for the preservation of both. But the extent of this right is a question to be judged of by the circumstances of each particular case;')."
The manual goes on to list lots of rationales for launching wars. But the fact that legally there can be none has already been acknowledged. What we're dealing with here is a matter of culture, not of written law. The U.S. public has been so propagandized that the very idea of abolishing war is unthinkable, and so the fact that it has legally been done cannot be thought. And so it does not have to be refuted.
But what if we were to take the radical step of obeying the law as written? What, then, should be done? Well, according to this same manual,
"Each member of the armed services has a duty to: (1) comply with the law of war in good faith; and (2) refuse to comply with clearly illegal orders to commit violations of the law of war."
The manual quickly muddies up that legal clarity with this:
"[T]he obligation of individual service members to comply with the law of war in good faith is met when service members: (1) perform their duties as they have been trained and directed; and (2) apply the training on the law of war that they have received."
In other words, you can refuse to comply with unlawful orders by complying with whatever you are ordered. But the clarity of the actual law, once stated, can't really be undone. Nor can this, also from the new manual:
"State responsibility for violations of the law of war results in obligations to compensate other States for violations. . . . A State that is responsible for an internationally wrongful act is under an obligation to make full reparation for the injury caused by that act."
Compensating Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc., will not be cheap, but it is required by law and it will cost less than continuing the crime of war-making and preparations for more of the same.
Reading further in the manual, we find that, in fact, the Pentagon believes people like George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and all of their subordinates, can be prosecuted for the wars they've launched under U.S. domestic law:
"The War Crimes Act authorizes the prosecution of individuals for certain war crimes if the victim or the perpetrator is either a U.S. national or a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, whether inside or outside the United States. Under this statute, an individual may be prosecuted for conduct: . . . prohibited by Article . . . 25 . . . of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907 . . . "
Here's Article 25:
"The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited."
How many of the houses that U.S. missiles and bombs (from drones and otherwise) have been hitting have been defended? Not all, certainly. Not most, I suspect.
But this is a silly way to go after a part of the overarching crime of war, even if it is the largest part of that crime. When the U.S. prosecuted Nazis at the end of World War II, it did so on the basis of the Kellogg-Briand Pact and an understanding that each smaller component action was criminal because the whole of the war (on the losing side) was criminal. Robert Jackson and others expressed the hypocritical sentiment at the time that the U.S. should fall under the same standard in future years.
What more prevalent tradition is there in the United States than striving to live up to past hypocritical but eloquent statements on justice and equality? Perhaps we should try that in the case of the greatest evil there is.
Presidential elections should be limited to as short a time period as possible and are generally the biggest drain and distraction going. I have two excuses for looking into Jeb Bush. One is that I've been collecting the evidence that Hillary cannot be a lesser evil than any living human, and campaigning for No More Bushes or Clintons. The other is that I only read Jeb Bush: Outed because I've long liked the author, Stephen Goldstein.
People such as Molly Ivins and James Moore gave the U.S. lots of warning, from the wisdom of Texans, before the Supreme Court falsified the 2000 election results in what will always be falsely remembered as the American public electing George W. Bush president. Here comes Goldstein from Florida to warn us about Jeb. I don't see any reason why knowing about Jeb should make us take any interest in the election, as Hillary is just as bad. But I still see a problem with not knowing -- when it's all so easily known.
I'm also not sure Jeb won't end up making it all clear on his own. At the moment he's running around praising the U.S. war on Iraq (the last one, not the new one), antagonizing the president of Russia, and proposing public shaming for unwed mothers.
Yet the corporate press is complicit in the baseless idea that Jeb Bush is someone worth paying any attention to at all. It knows it was complicit in George's stolen election in which Jeb was complicit. It knows of the efforts it has gone to over the decades to uphold the acceptability of all the crimes of the brother, the father, the grandfather, and the great grandfather (Walker). The press has a lot invested in the pretense that Jeb Bush matters.
In case it matters to anyone, Goldstein lays out the record from Florida: giant giveaways to corporations and cronies, a pension fund invested in Enron, average wages plummeting, services for the elderly slashed, a drug plan that failed to reach 97.5% of the population, a high-school graduation rate that fell to the worst in the United States, anti-environmentalists appointed to boards, commissions, and judgeships, a mad power-grab rewriting of the state constitution to allow public funding of religion, welfare for Arthur Anderson while it evaded taxes, the opening of religion-run prisons ("I can't think of a better place to reflect on the awesome love of our Lord Jesus," quoth he), a crazed power grab to allow the governor to appoint all judges and the whole state university board of regents, and the repeated, undemocratic, blocking of public decisions expressed through referenda -- including killing public preschool by underfunding it.
One might think the Florida record was of limited value, as the number one thing the federal government does is make war, and Florida merely harbors terrorists who kill Cubans. But in fact Jeb Bush is not just a proven crony-crapitalist which pretty well guarantees wars (just like Hillary), but he was also a signer of the June 1997 Statement of Principles of the Project for the New American Century, along with Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Libby, Cheney, and the rest of the same crowd he still keeps with him. Jeb is not clinging to Dubya's warmongering record out of family loyalty. Jeb was pushing for those policies some 20 years ago and was only not part of his brother's disastrous regime because of the Florida gig and perhaps a bit of family disloyalty or political calculation.
But is anyone really ignorant of this? We're dealing with a Bush, and a Jeb for that matter. We're dealing with a system in which the most servile sycophants before corporate power are praised in the press as the most skilled money raisers, but nobody is entirely fooled and a majority of people ignore the single largest ad campaign of the year (and more) and refuse to vote at all.
Goldstein clearly leans Democratic Party, and his lesser-evil argument against Jeb rests primarily on speculation as to the sort of person he would appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court, combined with speculation about the sort of person a Democrat might appoint. It's a guessing game that cannot alter the fact that either Jeb or Hillary would run the war machine into apocalyptic crises and the natural environment into collapse. Still, as far as deck-chair rearranging goes it's as good a game as any.