Again the Peace Prize Not for Peace

The Nobel Peace Prize is required by Alfred Nobel's will, which created it, to go to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." The Nobel Committee insists on awarding the prize to either a leading maker of war or a person who has done some good work in an area other than peace.

The 2014 prize has been awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzay, which is not a person but two people, and they have not worked for fraternity between nations or the abolition or reduction of standing armies but for the rights of children. If the peace prize is to be a prize for random good works, then there is no reason not to give it to leading advocates for the rights of children. This is a big step up from giving it to leading makers of war. But then what of the prize for peace and the mission of ending war that Nobel included in his will in fulfillment of a promise to Bertha von Suttner?

Malala Yousafzay became a celebrity in Western media because she was a victim of designated enemies of Western empire. Had she been a victim of the governments of Saudi Arabia or Israel or any other kingdom or dictatorship being used by Western governments, we would not have heard so much about her suffering and her noble work. Were she primarily an advocate for the children being traumatized by drone strikes in Yemen or Pakistan, she'd be virtually unknown to U.S. television audiences.

But Malala recounted her meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama a year ago and said, "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education, it will make a big impact." So, she actually advocated pursuing education rather than war, and yet the Nobel Committee had not a word to say about that in announcing its selection, focusing on eliminating child labor rather than on eliminating war. The possibility exists then that either of this year's recipients might give an antiwar acceptance speech. There has, after all, only been one pro-war acceptance speech, and that was from President Obama. But many speeches have been unrelated to abolishing war.

Fredrik S. Heffermehl, who has led efforts to compel the Nobel Committee to give the peace prize for peace, said on Friday, "Malala Yousafzay is a courageous, bright and impressive person. Education for girls is important and child labor a horrible problem. Worthy causes, but the committee once again makes a false pretense of loyalty to Nobel and confuses and conceals the plan for world peace that Nobel intended to support.

"If they had wished to be loyal to Nobel they would have stressed that Malala often has spoken out against weapons and military with a fine understanding of how ordinary people suffer from militarism. Young people see this more clearly than the grown ups."

The leading contenders for this year's prize, as speculated in the media, included the Pope who has in fact spoken against all war, abandoning the "just war" idea; and some advocate or other for Japan's Article Nine which forbids war and ought to be a model for other nations but is being threatened in Japan instead. These recipients would at least have bordered on Nobel's ideal, as perhaps might be said for last year's recipient, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Also on the list was a Russian newspaper supportive of Western aggression, the President of Uruguay for legalizing marijuana, Edward Snowden for leaking evidence of U.S. spying, Denis Mukwege for helping victims of sexual violence, and Chelsea Manning for exposing U.S. war crimes. Manning would have made a certain amount of sense, and her work has probably gone some way toward discouraging war. The same might be said, to a lesser degree, of Snowden. But none of these fit the description in Nobel's will. If the peace prize were actually awarded to a leading peace activist, at this point the world would be rather scandalized and scratch its collective head in wonderment at what the significance could be in that person's work.

Look at this list of recent recipients of a prize meant for peace:
The European Union
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman
Liu Xiaobo
Barack H. Obama
Martti Ahtisaari
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr.
Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank

There you have the two leading makers of war in the world: Obama and the E.U. You have advocates for green energy and small loans and women's rights and human rights. Martti Ahtisaari's prize announcement actually quoted from Nobel's will, but he himself supported NATO and Western militarism.

While good work in other areas can in fact contribute to peace, it is unlikely to do so in the absence of recognition of the goal of peace and of work directly aimed at abolishing war. 

The National Priorities Project, a U.S. organization that actually works against militarism, was nominated this year, as no doubt were others relevant to the purpose for which the peace prize was created.

Urgent: Right-Left Alliance Needed to Stop This War!

Pick Up TruckBy David Swanson, originally published by Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity

Last year, public pressure played a big role in stopping US missile strikes on Syria. The biggest difference between then and now was that televisions weren't telling people that ISIS might be coming to their neighborhood to behead them. There were other, smaller differences as well: Britain's opposition, Russia's opposition, and the difficulty of explaining to Americans that it now made sense to join a war on the same side as al Qaeda.

But there's another big difference between last year and this year. Last year was not a Congressional election year. With elections coming this November, Congress declared an early vacation in September and fled town in order to avoid voting a new war up or down. It did this while fully aware that the President would proceed with the war illegally. Most Congress members, including House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Leader Harry Reid, believe that by allowing a war to happen without explicitly voting for or against it they can best win our votes for re-election without offending their funders.

Congress members have good reason to think that way. Numerous organizations and individuals are dumping endless energy and resources into trying to elect either Democrats or Republicans, regardless of their policies. Big groups on the left have told me that they will not have any time for opposing war until the elections are over, at which point they'll be happy to "hold accountable" any of the Democrats they've just reelected. There are organizations who do the same thing for Republicans.

When war was made the top election issue in exit polls in 2006, Democrats took power and their leader in the House, Rahm Emanuel, openly told the Washington Post that they would keep the war in Iraq going in order to campaign against it again in 2008. And so they did. Republicans elected opposing war in 2010 have been more rhetorical than substantive in their "opposition."

The current war, and the endless war it is part of, must be opposed by people across the political spectrum who put peace ahead of party. ISIS has a one-hour video asking for this war. Giving it to them, and boosting their recruitment, is insanity. Ending insane policies is not a left or right position. This is a war that involves bombing the opposite side in Syria from the side we were told we had to bomb a year ago, and simultaneously arming the same side that the U.S. government is bombing. This is madness. To allow this to continue while mumbling the obvious truth that "there is no military solution" is too great an evil to fit into any lesser-evil electoral calculation.

This war is killing civilians in such large numbers that the White House has announced that restrictions on killing civilians will not be followed. This war is being used to strip away our rights at home. It's draining our economy. It's impoverishing us -- primarily by justifying the routine annual spending of roughly $1 trillion on war preparations. It's endangering us by generating further hatred. And all of this destruction, with no up-side to be found, is driven by irrational fear that has people telling pollsters they believe this war will endanger them and they're in favor of it.

According to the Congressional Research Service 79% of weapons shipments to Middle Eastern countries are from the United States, not counting arms given to allies of ISIS or used by the US military. Rather than arming this region to the teeth and joining in wars with US weapons on both sides, the United States could arrange for and lead an arms embargo. It could also provide restitution for what it has done in recent years, including the destruction of Iraq that allowed the creation of ISIS. Making restitution in the form of actual aid (as opposed to "military aid") would cost a lot less than lobbing $2 million missiles at people who view them as recruitment posters and tickets to martyrdom. That shift would also begin to make the United States liked rather than hated.

We won't get there unless people whose souls are un-owned by political parties take over town hall meetings and let Congress members know that they must work to end this war if they want to earn our votes.

-- 
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org

Thoughts of a Beheaded Head

Dostoievski once had a character imagine what a head would think if for some seconds it were aware of having been cut off by an executioner's guillotine, or if somehow it were aware for a full minute, or even for five minutes.

I should think such a head would think thoughts entirely dependent on the circumstances and that the type of blade that committed the murder wouldn't affect the thoughts too greatly.

I loved you, it might think, thinking of its loved ones. I did well there, if might think, thinking of its accomplishments. I'm sorry, it might think, dwelling momentarily on its deepest regrets -- as likely as not relatively trivial incidents in which the head together with its body had hurt someone's feelings.

I've died in a war, the head might think, despite opposing wars. I took the risk and enjoyed the thrill, yet the injustice remains. I didn't launch the war. I didn't make millions off it. I didn't win votes from it. I tried to tell people what it was, and here I am no better than a soccer ball about to cease existing as a consciousness.

As the beheaded head's remaining seconds stretched into what seemed to it a long period of time, it might be struck by the absurdity of the situation, and it might be horrified by the barbarism. I was supposed to not be the news, the head might think, and now I am the news. After pretending not to be human, my humanity -- once ended -- will now be used as a reason to escalate the war. No one will ask me. How could they?

But no one ever asked me, did they, even when I was connected to a neck and arms and legs? I reported on this battle or that atrocity. But did anyone ever ask whether the entire enterprise made me ashamed of my species? Did anyone ever ask whether the justifications used were any better than lunacy? My country decided 100 years ago that it would dominate the Middle East for oil -- oil that will destroy the world itself if the wars don't.

In recent years my country destroyed Iraq, killing a half-million to a million-and-a-half people, leaving behind a hell on earth, including a government that both beheads people and bombs them, as well as handing over weaponry to this gang that beheaded my body -- a gang that could only have arisen in the hell on earth that Washington created and which will never match Washington's scale of killing if it keeps beheading and crucifying for decades.

So what does the government of the people who read my reports do? It sends in more weapons to the close allies of ISIS and simultaneously starts bombing ISIS just one year after screaming that it must bomb the Syrian government that ISIS is fighting. And ISIS makes a movie demanding heavier U.S. attacks, and the U.S. obliges and launches heavier attacks. And ISIS recruitment soars, the weapons companies stocks soar, and I get my body cut off.

And because my body is gone from me, and because the war is begun, and because it is guaranteed to get worse rather than better, brave drone pilots will be told that they must continue the war so as not to offend themselves, and as they commit suicide after murdering people with joysticks, still more pilots will be called on so that the first ones will not have killed themselves in vain.

Why when we're alive do we act as if the whole thing isn't insane? Is it a function of our habit of acting as if our existence isn't insane? We puff ourselves up, don't we? We talk solemnly of strategy, energetically ignoring the intentional absurdity of the whole doomed project, just as we eat and eat and eat without ever once wondering what the junk we are eating will do to the worms who will dine on our flesh.

What if the world comes to its senses next week, the head might think as the world grows blurry around it. How will I feel to have missed it by so little? Well, I'll feel nothing of course, and so I do hope that it will happen. I really do. This man who's cut off my body has a loud laugh. He was sad yesterday morning and I could not ask him why. I wonder if people back home know that he thinks Americans can only understand the language of violence, so there's no sense talking to them.

Talk Nation Radio: Mark Weisbrot: Latin America Has Gone Left, U.S Can't Stop It

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-mark-weisbrot-latin-america-has-gone-left-us-cant-stop-it

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. He writes columns for Al Jazeera and the Guardian. We discuss the leftward movement of Latin American governments, and the unsuccessful efforts of the U.S. government to overthrow those governments. Read Mark's columns at http://www.cepr.net/index.php/clips/mark-weisbrots-op-eds

Total run time: 29:00

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

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Vietnam in Virginia

Wednesday, Oct 15 at 7:15 p.m. at Naro Cinema in Norfolk, Va.



LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM 

Award-winning independent filmmaker Rory Kennedy’s new film chronicles a story few of us have heard before. During the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as South Vietnamese resistance crumbles. The prospect of an official evacuation of the remaining Americans and their South Vietnamese allies becomes hopelessly delayed by Congressional gridlock and a delusional U.S. Ambassador. With the clock ticking and the city under fire, a number of Americans take matters into their own hands, engaging in unsanctioned and often makeshift operations in a desperate effort to save as many South Vietnamese lives as possible. (98 mins)     
http://lastdaysinvietnam.com

David Swanson, RootsAction campaign coordinator and WorldBeyondWar director, will return to speak at the Naro from his home in Charlottesville. He is a nationally renowned journalist, teacher, peace activist, and author of War Is A Lie, When The World Outlawed War, and War No More: The Case For Abolition.

Visit http://narocinema.com

Operation Odysseus' Butcher Shop

The phrase "war myths" these days is generally taken to mean such nonsense as that war will make us safe, or civilians won't be killed, or surgical strikes will kill more enemies than they produce, or prosperity and freedom will follow war-making, etc. But I wonder whether "war myths" shouldn't be taken more literally, whether we don't in fact have a bunch of warmakers believing that they are Odysseus.

Remember Odysseus, the great Greek hero who went on lots of thrilling adventures on his way home from Troy and kicked a bunch of interloping suitors of his lonely wife out of his house in Ithaca when he got home?

Well, Odysseus didn't actually kick them out, did he? Do you remember what actually happened? Odysseus could have ordered them out upon his return. He could have announced his approach and had them gone before he arrived. Instead, he disguised himself and entered his house unannounced. He secretly hid all the weapons except those for himself and his son and loyal servants. He secretly blocked every door. The suitors were unarmed and trapped when Odysseus revealed who he was and started murdering them.

The suitors offered to more than repay him for what they had stolen from his house, to apologize, to try to make things right. Odysseus, who had a goddess making sure he succeeded in every detail, declined all offers and murdered every man but those his son said were loyal. He beheaded. He tortured. He dismembered. He cut off faces and cut out organs and fed bits of people to dogs. And then, seeing as how he was on such a glorious killing spree, he asked his wife's head servant whether any of the servant women had been disrespectful or misbehaved in any way. Those who had were quickly identified, and Odysseus murdered them immediately.

And there was a cute reunion scene with his wife, and everyone lived happily ever after, right?

Well, actually, there's a bit of the story we tend to overlook. Odysseus realized that the giant pile of corpses in his house had friends and relatives who would seek revenge exactly as barbarically as he had. So his goddess friend cast a spell of forgiveness on all of them, and by that means there was peace. 

Now, in the world of the myth one might well wonder why Athena didn't just cast that spell on Odysseus the day before, let the suitors repay him, and skip the blood bath. But in the world of reality, one must ask whether our masters of war believe Athena is going to help them too.

They revenge themselves with righteous brutality on various dictators who have lapsed in their loyalty or death squads that have lost their utility, and the blowback is predictable, predicted, and tragic. No goddess ever shows up to cast a spell of forgiveness on victims' friends and family.

War supporters know there's no goddess in their fight, but often they begin to imagine that the other side will find forgiveness by seeing the justness of the war against them -- although I don't believe there are any examples of this actually happening.

War propaganda maintains that the other side only speaks the language of violence, so violence will communicate to that other side our grievances, our suffering, our justifiable outrage, and our desire for peace.  But of course, violence is not a language, not even when dressed up in Homer's art. A language is a substance that can be thought in. Violence cannot embody thought, only fantasy.

The happy little war that turned Libya into hell three years ago was called Operation Odyssey Dawn.

There have been many admirable suggestions put forward to name Obama's latest war:
Operation Enduring Confusion
Operation Rolling Blunder
Operation Iraqi Liberation
Operation We're Indispensable - Guess What That Makes You
Operation Unchanging Hopelessness

But I think the appropriate tag for a mission based on the idea of special holy goodness and power, the idea that mass killing of civilians is justified by outrage at killing of civilians, and the notion that everyone will forgive it afterwards so it won't just make matters worse, is Operation Odysseus' Butcher Shop.

Beyond 935 Lies

Charles Lewis' book, 935 Lies, would make a fine introduction to reality for anyone who believes the U.S. government usually means well or corporations tend to tell the truth in the free market. And it would make an excellent introduction to the decline and fall of the corporate media. Even if these topics aren't new to you, this book has something to add and retells the familiar quite well.

The familiar topics include the Gulf of Tonkin, the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, the civil rights movement, U.S. aggression and CIA overthrows, Pinochet, Iran-Contra, lying tobacco companies, and Edward R. Murrow. Lewis brings insight to these and other topics, and if he doesn't document that things were better before the 1960s, he does establish that horrible things have been getting worse since, and are now much more poorly reported on.

The New York Times and Washington Post were afraid not to print the Pentagon Papers. Nowadays a typical decision was that of the New York Times to bury its story on warrentless spying in 2004, with the explanation that printing it might have impacted an election. TV news today would not show you the civil rights movement or the war on Vietnam as it did at the time.

Lewis has hope for new media, including the Center for Public Integrity, which he founded in 1989, and which has produced numerous excellent reports, including on war profiteering, and which Lewis says is the largest nonprofit investigative reporting organization in the world.

Points I quibble with:

1. Human Rights Watch as a model media organization? Really?

2. The New America Foundation as a model media organization? Really?

3. Think tanks as a great hope for integrity in public life? Really?

4. After making 935 of the George W. Bush gang's lies a book title, you aren't sure he "knowingly" lied? Seriously?

This is the guy who wanted an excuse to attack Iraq before he had one. He told Tony Blair they could perhaps paint a U.S. plane in U.N. colors, fly it low, and hope for it to get shot at -- after which conversation the two men spoke to the media about how they were trying to avoid war. This was January 31, 2003, and is quite well documented, but I don't think a single reporter who was lied to that day has taken any offense or asked for an apology.  This is the president who rushed the war to prevent completion of inspections. This is the president who made dozens of wild claims about weapons without evidence -- in fact with evidence to the contrary. 

Not only does overwhelming evidence show us that Bush knew his claims about WMDs to be false, but the former president has shown us that he considers the question of truth or falsehood to be laughably irrelevant. When Diane Sawyer asked Bush why he had claimed with such certainty that there were so many weapons in Iraq, he replied: "What's the difference? The possibility that [Saddam] could acquire weapons, If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger." What's the difference? It's the difference between lying and meaning well. This interview is available on video.

5. Why not bring the trend of lying about wars up to date, I wonder. Since I wrote War Is A Lie we've had all the lies about drone wars, the lies about Gadaffi threatening to slaughter civilians, the lies about Iranian nukes and Iranian terrorism, the lies about Russian invasions and attacks in Ukraine, the lies about chemical weapons use in Syria, the lies about humanitarian and barbaric justifications for attacking Iraq yet again. It's hard to even keep up with the pace of the lies.  But we ought to be able to properly identify the mother of all lies, and I don't think it was the Gulf of Tonkin.

6. Lewis's model of integrity is Edward R. Murrow. Among Murrow's independent and heroic credentials, according to Lewis, is that he met with President Roosevelt hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Now, I take nothing away from Murrow's reporting and the stand he later took for a free press. But why did Lewis bring up this meeting? And once he'd brought it up why did he not mention that Murrow told his wife that night that FDR had given him the "biggest story of my life, but I don't know if it's my duty to tell it or forget it." The Murrow depicted by Lewis would have known what his duty was. Murrow later told John Gunther that the story would put his kid through college if he told it. He never did.

That many people will not immediately know what the story was is testimony to a pattern that Lewis documents. Some lies take many, many years to fall apart. The biggest ones sometimes take the longest.

First 13 Years in Afghanistan Big Success, Next 10 Promise Joy and Prosperity

Here comes another October 7th, time once again for celebrating the International Day of Wars-Start-Easy-But-They’re-a-Bitch-to-End. That is, if we can spare a few moments away from celebrating the new wars we’re starting.

On this date 13 years ago, the United States attacked Afghanistan, which the U.S. President saw primarily as a step toward attacking Iraq, although — in fairness — God had told him to attack both countries. I asked God about that recently and he said, “You want to see regrets. Oh my God, you should talk to the Nobel Committee about that peace laureate.” I didn’t have to ask which one, and I didn’t ask who his God was, fearing an endless discussion loop.

Way back yonder in 2001 before presidents openly spied on everything, launched wars without a pretense of legality, imprisoned without charge, assassinated at will, and kept enough secrets to have outraged Richard Nixon, the general public wasn’t given quite all the information by its beloved televisions. We weren’t told the Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over to a neutral nation to stand trial. We weren’t told the Taliban was a reluctant tolerator of al Qaeda, and a completely distinct group. We weren’t told the 911 attacks had also been planned in Germany and Maryland and various other places not marked for bombing. We weren’t told that most of the people who would die in Afghanistan, many more than died on 911, not only didn’t support 911 but never heard of it. We weren’t told our government would kill large numbers of civilians, imprison people without trial, hang people by their feet and whip them until they were dead.

We weren’t told how this illegal war would advance the acceptability of illegal wars or how it would make the United States hated in much of the world. We weren’t given the background of how the U.S. interfered in Afghanistan and provoked a Soviet invasion and armed resistance to the Soviets and left the people to the tender mercies of that armed resistance once the Soviets left. We weren’t told that Tony Blair wanted Afghanistan first before he’d get the UK to help destroy Iraq. We certainly weren’t told that bin Laden had been an ally of the U.S. government, that the 911 hijackers were mostly Saudi, or that there might be anything at all amiss with the government of Saudi Arabia. And nobody mentioned the trillions of dollars we’d waste or the civil liberties we’d have to lose at home or the severe damage that would be inflicted on the natural environment. Even birds don’t go to Afghanistan anymore.

The Taliban was very swiftly destroyed in 2001 through a combination of overwhelming killing power and desertion. The U.S. then began hunting for anyone who had once been a member of the Taliban. But these included many of the people now leading the support of the U.S. regime — and many such allied leaders were killed and captured despite not having been Taliban as well, through sheer stupidity and corruption. Dangling $5,000 rewards in front of poor people produced false-accusations that landed their rivals in Bagram or Guantanamo, and the removal of these often key figures devastated communities, and turned communities against the United States that had previously been inclined to support it. Add to this the vicious and insulting abuse of whole families, including women and children captured and harassed by U.S. troops, and the revival of the Taliban under the U.S. occupation begins to become clear. The lie we’ve been told to explain it is that the U.S. became distracted by Iraq, but the Taliban revived precisely where U.S. troops were imposing a rule of violence and not where other internationals were negotiating compromises using, you know, words.

This has been a bumbling oblivious and uncomprehending foreign occupation (as they always are) torturing and murdering a lot of its own strongest allies, shipping some of them off to Gitmo — even shipping to Gitmo young boys whose only offense had been being the sexual assault victims of U.S. allies

When Barack Obama became president, there were 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He escalated to over 100,000 troops, plus contractors, and has been celebrated for ending the war ever since. Five years have been spent discussing the “drawdown.” The U.S. public has been telling pollsters we want all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan “as soon as possible” for years and years. Endless speeches have bragged about ending wars that Obama supposedly “inherited.” And yet, there are now 33,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, more than when Obama became president. Several NATO allies have wisely departed, but that’s the extent of the “drawdown.” Measured death and destruction or financial cost, Afghanistan is much more President Obama’s war than President Bush’s.

Now, Obama has managed to get a new Afghan president to agree to U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan with immunity from any criminal prosecution, until “2024 and beyond.” Obama claims he’ll reduce troop levels to 9,800 this year, 6,000 next year, and 1,000 the following year — at which point he’ll still be guarding Afghanistan’s new president better than he guards the White House.

This has been Obama’s plan from Day 1. He’s never actually said he would ever end the war; he’s just been given endless credit for doing so. But there’s a bit of rightwing nonsense in the air these days that, combined with the sheer number of U.S. wars, distracts people from the outrageousness of keeping the war on Afghanistan going for another decade “and beyond.” The bit of nonsense is the idea that Iraq has gone to hell because U.S. troops left. In fact, Iraq was a worse hell when U.S. troops were there, and it was the hard work of the U.S. troops and their allies over several years that put Iraq on the path to the hell it now is. Even Obama, who tried desperately to get criminal immunity for U.S. troops in order to leave them in Iraq three years ago, admits that having left them there would have done no good. But surely this bit of counterfactual lunacy — the idea that the troops leaving broke Iraq — helps to stifle our protests and outrage at the latest news from Vietghanistan.

Obama used to be a proud member of the Let’s Stop Killing Iraqis and Kill More Afghans Club. Now he’s back in Iraq plus Syria killing so many civilians that he’s announced that rules for minimizing civilian deaths don’t apply. I’ve got a scheme to help him bamboozle his antiwar supporters back into adoring him. It’s easy. It’s cheap. It’s an unexpected reversal. And at least half the country already thinks he’s done it anyway: Get the U.S. Military Out of Afghanistan. Now. Entirely. No Strings Attached.

The New War, the Forever War, and a World Beyond War

October 3, 2014 — A statement on the current and enduring crisis, by the coordinating committee of WorldBeyondWar.org

This statement as PDF.

 

SUMMARY

The following is an assessment of the current ISIS crisis. The statement examines: (1) the social context of the destructive violence in Syria and Iraq — where we are; (2) viable nonviolent alternatives — what should be done; and (3) opportunities for civil society to advocate and push for those alternatives — how we can make it happen. The alternatives and pathways toward achieving those are not only preferable from a perspective of humanity, but proven to be more effective.

Graphic beheadings and other quite real stories of horrors committed by a new enemy — ISIS — have led to increased support for U.S. involvement. But a war on ISIS will make things worse for all concerned, following, as it does, a pattern of counterproductive action. Through the course of the so-called global war on terrorism, terrorism has been on the rise.

Nonviolent alternatives to war are abundant, morally superior, and strategically more effective. Some but not all are: apologies for past actions; arms embargoes; a Marshall Plan of restitution for the Middle East; meaningful diplomacy; appropriate conflict resolution responses to terrorism; addressing the immediate crisis with humanitarian intervention; redirecting our energies at home; supporting peace journalism; working through the United Nations; and de-authorizing the war on terror.

No solution by itself will bring peace to the region. Many solutions together can create a strong web of peacebuilding fabric superior to continued war. We cannot expect to make all of the above happen immediately. But by working toward those ends we can achieve the best results as quickly and as lastingly as possible.

We need teach-ins, communications, and education of all sorts. People should know enough facts to give their positions context. We need demonstrations, rallies, sit-ins, town forums, disruptions, and media productions. And if we make this a part of ending the whole institution of war, rather than just a particular war, we may move closer to not having to keep opposing new wars all the time.

 

WHERE WE ARE

Public opinion on wars in the United States follows a tragic pattern, soaring — sometimes to over a majority — in support of a war when it’s new, and then predictably sinking. During most of the 2003-2011 U.S. war on Iraq, a majority in the U.S. said the war should never have been begun. In 2013, public opinion and pressure played a prominent role in preventing the launching of a new U.S. war on Syria. In February 2014, the U.S. Senate rejected legislation that would have moved the United States closer to war with Iran. On July 25, 2014, with the U.S. public against a new U.S. war in Iraq, the House of Representatives passed a resolution that would have required the President to obtain authorization before launching a war (just as the Constitution already requires) had the Senate passed the resolution too. At that distant date of a few months back, it was still possible to talk about an “antiwar mood,” to applaud the Catholic peace group Pax Christi for its historic decision to reject “just war” theory, to celebrate the state of Connecticut’s creation of a commission to transition to peaceful industries, to point to public support for taxing the rich and cutting the military as the top two solutions whenever the U.S. government and media discussed a debt crisis, and to envision a less-militarized future approaching.

mosaic3

But support for U.S. drone strikes remained relatively high, opposition to Israel’s war on Gaza with U.S. weapons remained weak (and in Congress and the White House virtually nonexistent), the CIA was arming Syrian rebels against the overwhelming preference of the U.S. public, and the proposed missile strikes into Syria had not been replaced with any significant effort to create an arms embargo, negotiate a ceasefire, provide major humanitarian aid, or otherwise reject a war-focused foreign policy and economic agenda that had merely been put on hold. Moreover, public opposition to war was weak and ill-informed. Most Americans lacked even a roughly accurate idea of the destruction their government had caused in Iraq, could not name the nations their government was striking with drones, didn’t study the evidence that their government had lied about chemical weapons attacks in Syria and threats to civilians in Libya, didn’t pay much attention to the human rights abuses or support for terrorism by U.S.-backed kings and dictators, and had been long trained to believe that violence arises out of the irrationality of foreigners and can be cured with greater violence.

Support for a new war was driven by graphic beheadings and other quite real stories of horrors committed by a new enemy: ISIS.[1] This support is as likely to be short-lived as support for other wars has been, barring some dramatic new motivation. And this support has been exaggerated. Pollsters ask whether something should be done and then simply assume that the something is violence. Or they ask whether this type of violence should be employed or that type of violence, never offering any nonviolent alternatives. So, other questions could produce other answers right now; time is likely to change the answers for the better; and education would accelerate that changing.

Opposition to the horrors of ISIS makes perfect sense, but opposition to ISIS as a motivation for war lacks context in every way. U.S. allies in that region, including the Iraqi government and the so-called Syrian rebels, behead people, as do U.S. missiles. And ISIS isn’t such a new enemy after all, including as it does Iraqis thrown out of work by the U.S. disbanding of the Iraqi military, and Iraqis brutalized for years in U.S. prison camps. The United States and its junior partners destroyed Iraq, leaving behind sectarian division, poverty, desperation, and an illegitimate government in Baghdad that did not represent Sunnis or other groups. Then the U.S. armed and trained ISIS and allied groups in Syria, while continuing to prop up the Baghdad government, providing Hellfire missiles with which to attack Iraqis in Fallujah and elsewhere. Even opponents of the Saddam Hussein government (which was also put into power by the United States) say there could have been no ISIS had the United States not attacked and destroyed Iraq.

Additional context is provided by the manner in which the U.S. occupation of Iraq temporarily ended in 2011. President Obama withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq when he couldn’t get the Iraqi government to give them immunity for any crimes they might commit. He has now obtained that immunity and sent troops back in.

ISIS has religious adherents but also opportunistic supporters who see it as the force resisting an unwanted rule from Baghdad and who increasingly see it as resisting the United States. That’s how ISIS wants to be seen. U.S. wars have made the United States so hated in that part of the world, that ISIS openly encouraged U.S. attacks in an hour-long film, provoked them with the beheading videos, and has seen huge recruitment gains since the U.S. began attacking it.[2]

ISIS is in possession of U.S. weaponry provided directly to it in Syria and seized from, and even provided by the Iraqi government. At last count by the U.S. government, 79% of weapons transferred to Middle Eastern governments come from the United States, not counting transfers to groups like ISIS, and not counting weapons in the possession of the United States.

So, the first thing to do differently going forward: stop bombing nations into ruins, and stop shipping weapons into the area you’ve left in chaos. Libya is of course another example of the disasters that U.S. wars leave behind them — a war in which U.S. weapons were used on both sides, and a war launched on the pretext of a claim well documented to have been false that Gadaffi was threatening to massacre civilians.

So, here’s the next thing to do: be very skeptical of humanitarian claims. The U.S. bombing around Erbil to protect Kurdish and U.S. oil interests was initially justified as bombing to protect people on a mountain. But most of those people on the mountain were in no need of rescue, and that justification has now been set aside, just as Benghazi was.

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A war on ISIS isn’t a bad idea because the suffering of ISIS’s victims is not our problem. Of course it’s our problem. We are human beings who care about each other. A war on ISIS is a bad idea because it is not only counterproductive, but will make things worse. Through the course of the so-called global war on terrorism, terrorism has been on the rise.[3] This was predictable and predicted. The wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, and the abuses of prisoners during them, became major recruiting tools for anti-U.S. terrorism. In 2006, U.S. intelligence agencies produced a National Intelligence Estimate that reached just that conclusion. Drone strikes have increased terrorism and anti-Americanism in places like Yemen. The new U.S. attacks on ISIS have already killed many civilians. “For every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies,” according to General Stanley McChrystal. The White House has announced that strict standards for avoiding large numbers of civilian deaths do not apply to its latest war.

ISIS is fighting against the government of Syria, the same government that President Obama wanted to bomb last year. The United States is arming close allies of ISIS in Syria, while bombing ISIS and other groups (and civilians) in Syria. But the U.S. State Department has not changed its position on the Syrian government. It is entirely possible that the United States will attack both sides of the Syrian war. Even the fact of already attacking the opposite side from a year ago, and the same side you’re arming ought to be enough to make anyone ask whether the point is largely to bomb somebody for the sake of bombing somebody. Bombing people is one of the best known methods by which the U.S. government convinces the U.S. media that it is “doing something.”

It is tearing down the rule of law, among other things. Without Congressional authorization, President Obama is violating the U.S. Constitution, and his earlier professed belief. “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,” said Senator Barack Obama quite accurately.

With a Congressional authorization, this war would still violate the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which are the supreme law of the land under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.[4] The British Parliament voted to approve assistance in attacking Iraq, but not Syria — the latter being too clearly illegal for their taste.

The White House has refused to estimate the duration or the cost of this war. There is every reason to assume that conditions on the ground will worsen. So only public pressure, not some sort of victory, will end the war. In fact, military victories are almost unheard of in this era. The RAND corporation studied how terrorist groups come to an end, and found that 83% are ended through politics or policing, only 7% through war. This may be why President Obama keeps saying, quite accurately, “There is no military solution,” while pursuing a military solution.

So what should be done and how can we make it happen?

 

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE

Adopt a new approach toward the world: Apologize for brutalizing the leader of ISIS in a prison camp and to every other prisoner victimized under U.S. occupation. Apologize for destroying the nation of Iraq and to every family there. Apologize for arming the region and its kings and dictators, for past support for the Syrian government, and for the U.S. role in the Syrian war.[5] Cease to support abusive governments in Iraq, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Pursue an arms embargo[6]: Announce a commitment not to provide weapons to Iraq or Syria or Israel or Jordan or Egypt or Bahrain or any other nation or ISIS or any other group, and to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from foreign territories and seas, including Afghanistan. (The U.S. Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf has clearly forgotten where the coast of the U.S. is!) Cut off the 79% of weapons that flow to the Middle East from the United States. Urge Russia, China, European nations, and others to cease shipping any weapons to the Middle East. Open negotiations for a nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons free region, to include the elimination of those weapons by Israel.

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Create a Marshall Plan of restitution to the entire Middle East. Deliver aid (not “military aid” but actual aid, food, medicine) to the entire nations of Iraq and Syria and their neighbors. This can generate sympathy in the population supportive of terrorists. This can be done on a massive scale for less cost than continuing to shoot $2 million missiles at the problem. Announce a commitment to invest heavily in solar, wind, and other green energy and to provide the same to democratic representative governments. Begin providing Iran with free wind and solar technologies — at much lower cost, of course, than what it is costing the U.S. and Israel to threaten Iran over a nonexistent nuclear weapons program. End economic sanctions.

Give real diplomacy a chance: Send diplomats to Baghdad and Damascus to negotiate aid and to encourage serious reforms. Open negotiations that include Iran and Russia. Use the mechanisms provided by the United Nations constructively. The political problems in the region require political solutions. Employ peaceful means to pursue representative governments respectful of human rights, regardless of the consequences for U.S. oil corporations or any other influential profiteers. Propose the creation of truth and reconciliation commissions. Allow for citizen diplomacy efforts.

Apply an appropriate conflict resolution response to terrorism by creating a multi-layered policy framework. (1) Prevention by reducing proneness to terrorism; (2) persuasion by reducing motivation and recruitment; (3) denial by reducing vulnerability and defeating hardliners; (4) coordination by maximizing international efforts.[7]

Dissolve terrorism at its roots. It is proven that civilian-based nonviolent forces can produce decisive change in societies, consequently reducing the demand for terrorism as a form of struggle, even driving a wedge between militants and their sympathizers.[8] We need engagement through strategic contact, consultation and dialog rather than military force. Sustainable peacebuilding processes require the engagement of multiple stakeholders from multiple sectors of societies affected by violent conflict. Strengthening the civil society in the conflict zone will diminish the support base for terrorist groups.[9] Responding with more violence is the victory which extremists seek. Deliberative dialogue inclusive of all views assists in understanding the sources of violence; addressing them through nonviolent strategies and creating conditions for sustainable peace will drive a wedge between militants and their sympathizers.[10]

Address the immediate crisis with a firm but caring humanitarian intervention: Send journalists, aid workers, international nonviolent peaceworkers, human shields, and negotiators into crisis zones, understanding that this means risking lives, but fewer lives than further militarization risks.[11] Empower people with agricultural assistance, education, cameras, and internet access.

Redirect our energies at home: Launch a communications campaign in the United States to replace military recruitment campaigns, focused on building sympathy and desire to serve as critical aid workers, persuading doctors and engineers to volunteer their time to travel to and visit these areas of crisis. At the same time, make economic transition from war to peace industries in the United States a collective public project of top priority.

Support peace journalism: “Peace journalism is when editors and reporters make choices — about what to report, and how to report it — that create opportunities for society at large to consider and to value non-violent responses to conflict.”

Stop going rogue: Work through the United Nations on all of the above. Adhere to international law, more specifically the UN Charter and Kellogg-Briand Pact. Sign the United States on to the International Criminal Court and voluntarily propose the prosecution of top U.S. officials of this and the preceding regimes for their crimes.

De-authorize the war on terror (Authorization For Use of Military Force) as a “forever war authorization” — The AUMF can be challenged by taking partial but important steps. Those include reining in the drone warfare program and increasing government accountability. These steps have broad support among human rights and legal rights groups.

 

HOW WE CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN

We cannot expect to make all of the above happen immediately. But we can move in that direction as quickly as possible. The government will come further toward meeting us the more persuasive and powerful our demand. So, determining Congress members’ current position and asking them for just that or a little better is unlikely to produce better results and could produce worse ones — both in the short and long term. A compromise is usually made between two sides of a debate, so it matters where the side of peace is established. And if we demand a limited war, we eliminate the opportunity to inform anyone about the advantages of avoiding war altogether. Thus, people will lack that information when the next war is proposed. We also cannot expect to organize large numbers of people to demonstrate, protest, or lobby for “a war of no more than 12 months.” It lacks the poetry and the morality of “No War.”

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Once a war is well underway and a debate is framed around how many more months it should go on, and the reality on the ground is predictably worsening, and “support the troops” propaganda is insisting that the war go on for the supposed benefit of the troops killing, dying, and committing suicide in it, the problem of how to end it is likely to loom much larger than if the popular position of “No War, Nonviolence Instead” has been well-articulated and defended.

A demand is going to be heard for “no ground troops.” This should not be the focus of a peace movement. For one thing there already are some 1,600 U.S. ground troops in Iraq. They’re labeled “advisors” as are the 26 Canadians who just joined them. But nobody actually believes 1,626 people are giving advice. Another 2,300 troops will be deployed as a Middle East Marine Corps task force. By demanding “No Ground Troops” while accepting the pretense that they aren’t there now, we can actually give our stamp of approval to any ground troop labeled something else. In addition, a war dominated by air strikes is likely to kill more people, not fewer people, than a ground war. This is an opportunity to inform our neighbors who may be unaware that these wars are one-sided slaughters killing mostly people who live where they’re fought, and killing mostly civilians. Once we’ve acknowledged that reality, how can we continue with cries of “No ground troops” rather than “No war”?

We need teach-ins, communications, and education of all sorts. People should know that beheading victim James Foley was opposed to war. People should know that ISIS gives George W. Bush credit in their film for being right about the need for war and pushes for greater warmaking against them by the United States. People should understand that ISIS promotes martyrdom as the highest goal, and that bombing ISIS strengthens it.

We need demonstrations, rallies, sit-ins, town forums, disruptions, and media productions.

Our message to people is: get active and engaged in what we’re doing; you’ll be surprised how this can be turned around. And if we make this a part of ending the whole institution of war, rather than just a particular war, we may move closer to not having to keep opposing new wars all the time.

Our message to Congress members is: publicly pressure Speaker Boehner and Senator Reid to get back to work and vote to halt this war, or do not expect our votes to keep you in office for another term.

Our message to the President is: now would be a good time to end the mind-set that gets us into wars, as you said you wanted to do. Is this really what you want to be remembered for?

Our message to the United Nations is: the U.S. government is in blatant violation of the U.N. Charter. You must hold the United States accountable.

Our message to all parties is: war has no justification and no benefit, now or ever. It is immoral, makes us less safe, threatens our environment, erodes liberties, impoverishes us, and takes $2 trillion a year away from where it could do a world of good.

World Beyond War has a bureau of speakers who can address these topics. Find them here: http://worldbeyondwar.org/speakers

 

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[1] The atrocities committed by ISIS are rightfully condemned. The threat ISIS poses is considered exaggerated.

[2] According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

[3] According to the Global Terrorism Index by the Institute for Economics and Peace, the number of terrorist incidents has increased virtually every year since 9/11.

[4] The Kellogg–Briand Pact is a 1928 international agreement in which signatory states promised not to use war to resolve “disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them.” For an in-depth exploration see David Swanson’s When the World Outlawed War (2011).

[5] Political apologies are considered part of a complex peacebuilding process in conjunction with other conflict transformation techniques. See a summary of Apologia Politica: States and their apologies by proxy.

[6] UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, for example, urged the Security Council to impose an arms embargo into Syria.

[7] The framework is explained in detail by conflict transformation scholars Ramsbotham, Woodhouse and Miall in Contemporary Conflict Resolution (2011)

[8] Outlined thoroughly by Hardy Merriman and Jack DuVall, experts from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

[9] See for example: Syrian Civil Defense

[10] As discussed by peace and conflict studies experts John Paul Lederach in Addressing terrorism: a theory of change approach (2011) and David Cortright in Gandhi and Beyond. Nonviolence for a new political age (2009)

[11] The Nonviolent Peaceforce has a proven successful track record of unarmed civilian peacekeeping to prevent, reduce and stop violence