See if you can spot the mistake in this activist email I received recently:
"In 2001, the Clinton Administration handed George Bush peace, prosperity, and record budget surpluses. Eight years later, Bush handed Barack Obama two disastrous wars and a global economic crash that destroyed over 8 million American jobs. Now that President Obama has finally brought those jobs back - in the face of vicious GOP opposition - Bush's brother Jeb is now blaming American workers for not working hard enough. If you're as outraged as we are, please click here to sign Hillary Clinton's petition telling Jeb Bush that Americans need a raise, not a lecture."
OK, it was a trick; there's more than one mistake. Let's list a few:
Here are things Bill Clinton is now apologizing for: mass incarceration, Wall Street deregulation, the drug war, and corporate trade agreements. Here are a few of the things he should also be apologizing for: destroying welfare, creating media monopolies, expanding NATO toward Russia, creating a precedent for illegal NATO wars without Congressional or UN authorizations, and 500,000 children killed by sanctions in Iraq.
Here are a few little-known facts about President Barack Obama: the war on Afghanistan is more his than Bush's by any measure, he had regularly voted to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a senator, he broke his promised schedule for ending the war on Iraq and never fully ended it and soon revived it, he's supported coups in Honduras and Egypt and Ukraine, he's claimed the power to murder anyone anywhere by drone, he's expanded the military into numerous nations laying the groundwork for future hostilities, and his war on Libya followed the Clinton model of blatant illegality rather than the Bush Jr. approach of at least bothering to lie to Congress and the United Nations.
Another activist group sent me an email this week reading, in part: "The truth is, Republicans don't want diplomacy to work. They want another costly war like the one they started in Iraq in 2003." In reality, a Republican House and a Democratic Senate voted for the war on Iraq in 2002. The same parties hold the same branches now. There's a wise saying that goes something like this: those who convince themselves of a bullshit version of history may be condemned to repeat what actually happened.
Those who study what actually happened may be less shocked to discover how grotesquely corrupt Hillary Clinton is, how murderous, how fervently she promoted that war on Iraq, how very long she has been so disastrous, how she out-hawks almost any hawk, how awful she is for feminism, how brutal she can be, how close she is to Wall Street Republicans and oil barons and Henry Kissinger, how hard it would be to actually elect her, how she used the State Department to market weapons and fracking and pushed weapons on governments she called soft on terrorism while waiving restrictions on sales to brutal governments that donated to her foundation, how she backs mass surveillance, how she believes in representing banks, and how greedy she is.
So long sad times, go long bad times
We are rid of you at last
Howdy gay times, cloudy gray times
You are now a thing of the past
Clinton days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So lets sing a song of cheer again
Clinton days are here again
Former head of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Lt. General Michael Flynn has joined the ranks of the many recently retired officials openly admitting that what the U.S. military does generates dangers rather than reducing them. (Flynn didn't explicitly apply this to every recent war and tactic, but did apply it to drone wars, proxy wars, the invasion of Iraq, the occupation of Iraq, and the new war on ISIS, which seems to cover most of the actions the Pentagon engages in. Other recently retired officials have said the same of every other recent U.S. war.)
Once you've admitted that the means of mass killing is not justified by some higher end, once you've called the wars "strategic mistakes," once you've accepted that the wars don't work on their own terms, well then there's no way left to claim that they are excusable in moral terms. Mass killing for some greater good is a tough argument to make, but possible. Mass killing for no damn good reason is totally indefensible and the equivalent of what we call it when it's done by a non-government: mass murder.
But if war is mass murder, then virtually everything that people from Donald Trump to Glenn Greenwald say about war is not quite right.
Here's Trump regarding John McCain: "He's not a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured." This is not just wrong because of your view of the good, bad, or indifference of being captured (or what you think McCain did while captured), but because there is no such thing as a war hero. That is the unavoidable consequence of recognizing war as mass murder. You cannot participate in mass murder and be a hero. You can be incredibly brave, loyal, self-sacrificing, and all kinds of other things, but not a hero, which requires that you be brave for a noble cause, that you serve as a model for others.
Not only did John McCain participate in a war that killed some 4 million Vietnamese men, women, and children for no damn good reason, but he has been among the leading advocates for numerous additional wars ever since, resulting in the additional deaths of millions of men, women, and children for, yet again, no damn good reason -- as part of wars that have mostly been defeats and always been failures even on their own terms. This senator, who sings "bomb, bomb Iran!" accuses Trump of firing up "the crazies." Kettle, meet pot.
Let's turn to what a couple of our best commentators are saying about the recent shooting in Chattanooga, Tenn.: Dave Lindorff and Glenn Greenwald. First Lindorff:
"If it turns out that Abdulazeez was in any way linked to ISIS, then his action in attacking U.S. military personnel in the U.S. and killing them has to be seen not as terrorism but as a legitimate retributive act of war. . . . Abdulazeez, if he was a combatant, deserves credit really, at least for following the rules of war. He appears to have focused his killing remarkably well on actual military personnel. There were no civilian casualties in his attacks, no children killed or even wounded. Compare that to the U.S. record."
"Under the law of war, one cannot, for instance, legally hunt down soldiers while they're sleeping in their homes, or playing with their children, or buying groceries at a supermarket. Their mere status as 'soldiers' does not mean it is legally permissible to target and kill them wherever they are found. It is only permissible to do so on the battlefield, when they are engaged in combat. That argument has a solid footing in both law and morality. But it is extremely difficult to understand how anyone who supports the military actions of the U.S. and their allies under the 'War on Terror' rubric can possibly advance that view with a straight face."
These comments are off because there is no such thing as a "legitimate retributive act of war," or an act of mass murder for which someone "deserves credit," or a "solid" legal or moral "footing" for the permissibility of killing "on the battlefield." Lindorff thinks a high standard is to target only soldiers. Greenwald thinks targeting only soldiers while they are engaged in war is a higher standard. (One could make an argument that the soldiers in Chattanooga were in fact engaged in war.) Both are right to point out U.S. hypocrisy regardless. But mass murder is neither moral nor legal.
The Kellogg-Briand Pact bans all war. The U.N. Charter bans war with narrow exceptions, none of which is retribution, and none of which is any war that takes place on a "battlefield" or in which only those engaged in fighting are fought. A legal war or component of a war, under the U.N. Charter, must be either defensive or U.N.-authorized. One could fantasize a United Nations without its Western bias accepting an ISIS attack in the United States as somehow defensive against a U.S. attack in what used to be Iraq or Syria, but it wouldn't get you around the Kellogg-Briand Pact or the basic moral problem of mass murder and of the ineffectiveness of war as a defense.
Lindorff might also consider what "in any way linked to ISIS" means for the U.S. side of the war, in terms of whom the United States claims the right to target, from those guilty of "material support" for trying to promote nonviolence in Iraq, to those guilty of assisting FBI agents pretending to be part of ISIS, to members of groups with ties to ISIS -- which includes groups that the U.S. government itself arms and trains.
Lindorff ends his article discussing actions like the Chattanooga shooting in these terms: "As long as we diminish them by calling them acts of terrorism, nobody's going to demand a halt to the War on Terror. And that 'war' is the real act of terrorism, when you come right down to it." One might exactly as well say: that "act of terrorism" is the real war, when you come right down to it, or: that governmental mass-murder is the real non-governmental mass-murder.
When you come right down to it, we have too much vocabulary for our own good: war, terrorism, collateral damage, hate crime, surgical strike, shooting spree, capital punishment, mass murder, kinetic overseas contingency operation, targeted assassination -- these are all ways of distinguishing types of unjustifiable killing that aren't actually morally distinguishable from each other.
Monday morning at 7-8AM tune in (KPFK 90.7 fm) or log on: http://archive.kpfk.org/index.php?shokey=ctd
Nobel Peace Prize nominee David Swanson on the virtues of the American-Iranian diplomatic deal. Will it pass this hawkish Congress or will they reject diplomacy for another war.
Ben Beachy Research Dir of Global Trade Watch for Public Citizen on the future of the TPP, the trade agreement that gives corporations final say over government rule. Can this assault on democracy be defeated in this right wing Congress?
Dr. Paul Song, Chair of the Courage Campaign joins us with facts & myths about Obamacare. Is it another gift to the insurance companies and big pharma or can it actually lead to Medicare for All.
Lila Garrett (Host of CONNECT THE DOTS)
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Climate change is apparently encouraging the spread of Lyme disease, and a report by NBC News dares to say so. This may seem like a fresh breath of honest sanity in a media context in which even the weather reports usually avoid the topic of human global destruction.
However, another topic is clearly still off limits: the topic of who created Lyme disease.
Who created it is not in any real doubt. The facts have been well reported and never refuted.
The relevance of the disease's creators to this and numerous other news reports about Lyme disease is indisputable. If you're going to report on what's facilitating the disease's spread, you should report on what started it, and how it was intentionally created to spread and why.
That NBC News knows the information is easily shown. In
2005 2004 Michael Christopher Carroll published a book called Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Germ Laboratory. He appeared on several television shows to discuss the book, including on MSNBC and on NBC's Today Show (where the book was made a Today Show Book Club selection). Lab 257 hit the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list soon after its publication.
And what did that book say? Well, the wonderful thing about books is that you can still go and read them. But I'll give you a brief summary of the part about Lyme disease. For a wide array of other diseases, some far worse, you'll have to read the book.
Less than 2 miles off the east end of Long Island sits Plum Island, where the U.S. government makes biological weapons, including weapons consisting of diseased insects that can be dropped from airplanes on a (presumably foreign) population. One such insect is the deer tick, pursued as a germ weapon by the Nazis, the Japanese, the Soviets, and the Americans.
Deer swim to Plum Island.
I wasn't aware that deer swam at all, but apparently they are ocean swimmers. A quick internet search finds plenty of reports and photos and videos of deer swimming, miles from shore, including in Long Island Sound. And people are often so surprised (and kind hearted) that they rescue the deer -- which may in some cases not actually be needed. Deer frequently swim between Long Island and Plum Island; there's not any dispute about that fact.
Birds fly to Plum Island. The island lies in the middle of the Atlantic migration route for numerous species. "Ticks," Carroll writes, "find baby chicks irresistible."
In July of 1975 a brand new disease appeared in Old Lyme, Connecticut, just north of Plum Island. It wasn't a disease that gradually grew and finally attracted attention. It was 12 cases of a disease that, as far as anyone knows, had never been seen before. Scientists' efforts to find it in the past haven't gotten any further than the 1940s in the areas right around Plum Island.
And what was on Plum Island? A germ warfare lab to which the U.S. government had brought former Nazi germ warfare scientists in the 1940s to work on the same evil work for a different employer. These included the head of the Nazi germ warfare program who had worked directly for Heinrich Himmler. On Plum Island was a germ warfare lab that frequently conducted its experiments out of doors. After all, it was on an island. What could go wrong? Documents record outdoor experiments with diseased ticks in the 1950s. Even the indoors, where participants admit to experiments with ticks, was not sealed tight. And test animals mingled with wild deer, test birds with wild birds.
By the 1990s, the eastern end of Long Island had by far the greatest concentration of Lyme disease. If you drew a circle around the area of the world heavily impacted by Lyme disease, which happened to be in the Northeast United States, the center of that circle was Plum Island.
Plum Island experimented with the Lone Star tick, whose habitat at the time was confined to Texas. Yet it showed up in New York and Connecticut, infecting people with Lyme disease -- and killing them. The Lone Star tick is now endemic in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
So, by all means blame ExxonMobil and all the other climate liars, and their servants in government, for the spread of Lyme disease, among other horrors. But save a little blame for the military industrial complex. Either it murdered the victims of Lyme disease, or -- if you believe in the nobility of its mission -- then perhaps we'd better say they are collateral damage.
UPDATE: People have come back to me with claim that 5,000 year old IceMan has Lyme disease, which would mean military found and weaponized it but not exactly created it from nothing. It would not however suggest any origin for the modern outbreak other than Plum Island.
AIPAC's statement on Iran inspires me to make a graphic:
Here's AIPAC's statement:
"AIPAC Statement on Proposed Iran Nuclear Agreement
"AIPAC has consistently supported diplomatic efforts to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program,"
Except when lobbying for ever greater sanctions that would have blocked the negotiations, and even for a US commitment to jump into any Israeli-Iranian war. Here's a brief history in the form of activist opposition to AIPAC.
"and we appreciate the commitment and dedication of President Obama and his administration throughout these negotiations. Unfortunately, this proposed agreement fails to halt Iran’s nuclear quest."
There is no evidence of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapon. Gareth Porter makes this clear in his book Manufactured Crisis.
"Instead, it would facilitate rather than prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and would further entrench and empower the leading state sponsor of terror."
There is no evidence re the leading state sponsor slur, but let's not get distracted by it. How do tougher inspections than ever faced by any country FACILITATE anything other than Iran's ability to refute slander and libel? The inspections worked in Iraq. Inspections work very well. The only reason anything is missing from these inspections is past US resistance to universal standards that would have required the US to face surprise inspections itself, and U.S. abuse of inspections in Iraq to spy on and seek to overthrow the Iraqi government.
"During these negotiations, we outlined criteria for a good deal that Congress itself had set in five critical areas: inspections, possible military dimensions, sanctions, duration, and dismantlement. In each of these areas, the proposed agreement has significant flaws:
"-The proposed deal does not ensure “anytime, anywhere” short-notice inspections;"
After you, sir. Let Israel and/or the United States submit. Make it standard. Make a public commitment not to overthrow the Iranian government. Again. Then tell Iran to submit to this.
"-The proposed deal does not clearly condition sanctions relief on full Iranian cooperation in satisfying International Atomic Energy Agency concerns over the possible military dimensions of Tehran’s program;
"-The proposed deal lifts sanctions as soon as the agreement commences, rather than gradually as Iran demonstrates sustained adherence to the agreement;
"-The proposed deal lifts key restrictions in as few as eight years;"
Some things take more time, but they all begin right away.
"-The proposed deal would disconnect and store centrifuges in an easily reversible manner, but it requires no dismantlement of centrifuges or any Iranian nuclear facility."
This is a problem in every state with nuclear energy.
"In return for this flawed agreement, Iran will receive over $100 billion in sanctions relief. Tehran will use these funds to fuel its hegemonic ambitions, support the killing of civilians in Syria, fund the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah, and spur deadly conflicts throughout the region."
Prove it. Never mind that Israel is murder people in Syria on a retail and wholesale basis, and the U.S. the same. These things are illegal. They haven't proven a sufficient basis to stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia or giving them to Israel. They need to be handled but shouldn't be used to wreck this deal.
"This agreement not only fails to achieve its objectives in the nuclear arena, but it releases Tehran in a matter of years—regardless of Iranian behavior—from ballistic missile sanctions and an arms embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council. This late, unexpected concession will provide additional arms for terrorism and proxy wars, while strengthening Iran’s capabilities against our regional allies."
If Israel and/or the United States were to propose a WMD-free Middle East and/or impose a region-wide arms embargo, I guarantee you Iran would go for it. In the meantime, the kettle may not listen to the pot.
"This accord threatens the future of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. By leaving Iran on the threshold of a nuclear weapon—despite its history of violating international obligations—other countries in the region will have a dangerous incentive to initiate their own nuclear programs. The resulting nuclear arms race would severely destabilize the region."
For godsake, Israel is in blatant violation of the NPT except that it's never even joined it. The US joined it and blatantly violates it. Iran is in compliance, and the inspections regime was intended to accomplish just what this deal accomplishes. Resulting nuclear arms race?! That's the work of the U.S. and Israel and of all the Gulf dictatorships now building nuclear energy.
"Proponents of the proposed agreement will argue that the only alternative to this agreement is military conflict. In fact, the reverse is true. A bad agreement such as this will invite instability and nuclear proliferation. It will embolden Iran and may encourage regional conflict.
"We strongly believe that the alternative to this bad deal is a better deal. Congress should reject this agreement, and urge the administration to work with our allies to maintain economic pressure on Iran while offering to negotiate a better deal that will truly close off all Iranian paths to a nuclear weapon.
"Congress should insist on a better deal."
Demanding a deal you'll never get is how wars have been started through history, including in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, not to mention the demand that Iraq hand over the WMD it didn't have. We're not falling for it again, guys.
A reporter asked me what to ask candidates re military. I suggested:
In the analysis of National Priorities Project military spending is 54% of U.S. federal discretionary spending. In 2001, U.S. military spending was $397 billion, from which it soared to a peak of $720 billion in 2010, and is now at $610 billion in 2015. These figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (in constant 2011 dollars) exclude debt payments, veterans costs, and civil defense, which raise the figure to over $1 trillion a year now. Is that too high, too low, or just right?
If it's too high, how much money would you move away from it and where would you move that money to?
Eisenhower said military spending would create pressure for more wars, not fewer. Does he not seem to have been right?
In the analysis of a new book by American University professor David Vine, the United States is spending at least $100 billion a year on over 800 bases in 70 nations, not counting permanent ongoing trainings and exercises, even though airplanes now allow the U.S. to get troops anywhere in the world without keeping them permanently stationed abroad. Does the United States have too many, too few, or just the right number of troops and bases abroad?
Should the United States continue to give billions of dollars in free weapons to Israel, Egypt, and other nations?
Candidate Obama said a president could not launch a war without Congress. President Obama has launched a war in Libya, a war in Iraq/Syria, and a number of drone wars without Congress. Who was right, the candidate or the president?
Does a president have the right to murder people with missiles from drones?
There has been little coverage of U.S. aggression in Ukraine: Bush's withdrawl from the ABM treaty, the past decades of NATO expansion, the $5 billion invested in the coup, and unproven accusations against Russia. What in your view has the United States done wrong? Should the United States propose the global elimination of nuclear weapons? Should NATO be disbanded?
Will your administration continue to defend Israel at the United Nations from any legal consequences for its crimes against Palestinians?
For the United States to sit and talk and come to an agreement with a nation it has been antagonizing and demonizing since the dictator it installed in 1953 was overthrown in 1979 is historic and, I hope, precedent setting. Let's seal this deal!
Four months ago the Washington Post published an op-ed headlined 'War With Iran Is Probably Our Best Option.' It wasn't. Defenders of war present war as a last resort, but when other options are tried the result is never war. We should carry this lesson over to several other parts of the world.
Talking with Iran has made the war profiteers and their servants sad and the rest of the world happy. Perhaps the novel idea of negotiating rather than killing will be carried over to several other parts of the world. Mainstream corporate voices are even raising the idea of talking with ISIS, or at least talking with the nations of the region ISIS is in about ISIS, or at least ceasing to make the ISIS Crisis worse by ignorantly doing everything wrong -- which just might include making friends with Iran in order to fight ISIS together.
"But what about ISIS?" That has been the endless zombie question encountered by all peace activists ever since the propaganda coup of the videos of two U.S. journalist beheadings. And part of the answer has always been: learn where it came from. Phyllis Bennis's new book can help with that job wonderfully. The book is called Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror: A Primer. Whether you think you understand ISIS or not, I urge you to pick up a copy, or better a box of copies. This is a small book that should be passed out like a vaccine to residents of the enormous camp of refugees from sanity and historicity that we call the United States of America.
Bennis's book is excellent on what to do, although that topic is found in a handful of pages near the end. The focus, however, is on understanding origins and context. If anything, this is overdone, though it's hard to see what the harm could be in people learning a little too much. The book covers Syria, the Arab Spring, Libya, Iran, the United Nations, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and many other tangentially related topics (I wish she's added a section on the phony reports of ISIS actions in the United States). The book is excellent on the 2013 Syria Missile Crisis and the role that popular resistance played in preventing a massive U.S. bombing campaign in Syria. That, even more so than the successful negotiation with Iran this week, should be our model for future activism.
Bennis relates an excellent history of the Mountain Rescue Excuse and places it in the context of the Imminent-Genocide-in-Benghazi Scam and other past justifications to launch wars that have predictably and immediately veered off into unrelated murderous operations.
But I think the most interesting point in this wide-ranging book may be one that Bennis makes about the Sunni Awakening. You might recall that when the United States began the 2003-2011 destruction of Iraq it quickly dissolved the Iraqi military, dismantled the civil service, and got rid of the Baath Party. Angry, trained, and armed fighters joined the popular resistance to the U.S. occupation. Among the new fighting groups that formed was Al Qaeda in Iraq. In 2006, the Bush administration gave up on the hopeless mission-never-to-be-accomplished of trying to fight these groups, and started buying them off. This was a key part of the success of the "surge" that was itself no success at all. But some of the groups, including AQI refused to be bought off or to cease fighting.
In 2008, the United States turned over to the Iraqi government the job of buying off Sunni groups. The Iraqi government ceased making the payments. And the growth of ISIS, the renamed AQI, was underway. And it was exacerbated by an Iraqi government that shut out Sunnis and attacked Sunnis, while being funded and armed by the U.S. government. People think ISIS came out of nowhere, but many of us were, in the years before ISIS hit the news, struggling to oppose the U.S. provision of weapons to the Iraqi government for use in attacking Iraqis. This is where ISIS and broad support for ISIS among Sunnis came from.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia had told Sir Richard Dearlove of MI6, "The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally 'God help the Shi'a.' More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them." ISIS funding flows from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, and Qatar, as well as from oil sales and artifact sales and kidnappings and thefts.
When 1,300 ISIS fighters overwhelmed 350,000 Iraqi soldiers and helped themselves to loads of U.S. weaponry, ISIS had the support of Sunni leaders angered by the Iraqi government, and of former Iraqi military leaders thrown out of work by Paul Bremmer -- not to mention benefitting from the chaos and flood of weaponry into Syria, and critically from the lack of enthusiasm for their cause among members of the Iraqi military.
So why do I say the Sunni Awakening is the most interesting point? Because something was working. Making small payments of cash to Sunnis -- sums far smaller than those spent on the weapons and the training (at $4 million per trainee now) to fight them -- was working. What if, instead of ending those payments, they had been continued, or been transformed into a program of nonviolent aid to everyone in the region, accompanied perhaps by a note of apology for having destroyed the place?
Bennis' first recommendation for what to do is an arms embargo. I think if Americans realized that their country was arming the region that their country constantly laments the violence in, the idea of an arms embargo would have overwhelming appeal. Beyond that, Bennis recommends: an inclusive Iraqi government, an end to airstrikes, a withdrawal of U.S. troops, and the use of diplomacy, including possibly talks with ISIS.
Bennis also suggests reversing the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project which can make teaching non-violent activism to groups abroad into the crime of "material support for terrorism." And she proposes a massive increase in U.S. aid through U.N. agencies.
Of course, aid has a tendency to make things better and a proven record of working in Iraq. So I assume every other possible approach will be tried first.
NOTE TO THOSE IN WASHINGTON DC AREA:
Come to the book launch party for this book, with its author, on July 27 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at Busboys & Poets 5th and K, 1025 5th St NW, Washington, DC.