It takes two sides, each blaming the other entirely, and each refusing to recognize its own actions, to start a war. If NATO expansion, U.S. State Department interference, Western financial pressures and weapons basing plans are erased from recent history, trouble in the Ukraine can more easily all be blamed on Russia. We must face facts and hold accountable the government over which we have some control. We stopped missiles into Syria. We stopped a push for war on Iran. We can and must stop this too.
We demand a moratorium on all NATO wargames in Europe, cancellation of the "missile defense" program along with plans for missiles in the Ukraine, and compliance with the U.N. Charter's ban on threats of war.
War activists, like peace activists, push for an agenda. We don't think of them as activists because they rotate in and out of government positions, receive huge amounts of funding, have access to big media, and get meetings with top officials just by asking -- without having to generate a protest first.
They also display great contempt for the public and openly discuss ways to manipulate people through fear and nationalism -- further shifting their image away from that of popular organizers. But war activists are not journalists, not researchers, not academics. They don't inform or educate. They advocate. They just advocate for something that most of the time, and increasingly, nobody wants.
William Kristol and Robert Kagan and their organization, the Foreign Policy Initiative, stand out as exemplary war activists. They've modified their tone slightly since the days of the Project for the New American Century, an earlier war activist organization. They talk less about oil and more about human rights. But they insist on U.S. domination of the world. They find any success by anyone else in the world a threat to the United States. And they demand an ever larger and more frequently used military, even if world domination can be achieved without it. War, for these war activists, is an end in itself. As was much more common in the 19th century, these agitators believe war brings strength and glory, builds character, and makes a nation a Super Power.
Kristol recently lamented U.S. public opposition to war. He does have cause for concern. The U.S. public is sick of wars, outraged by those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and insistent that new ones not be begun. In September, missile strikes into Syria were successfully opposed by public resistance. In February, a new bill to impose sanctions on Iran and commit the United States to joining in any Israeli-Iranian war was blocked by public pressure. The country and the world are turning against the drone wars.
The next logical step after ending wars and preventing wars would be to begin dismantling the infrastructure that generates pressure for wars. This hasn't happened yet. During every NCAA basketball game the announcers thank U.S. troops for watching from 175 nations. Weapons sales are soaring. New nukes are being developed. NATO has expanded to the edge of Russia. But the possibility of change is in the air. A new peace activist group at WorldBeyondWar.org has begun pushing for war's abolition.
Here's Kristol panicking:
"A war-weary public can be awakened and rallied. Indeed, events are right now doing the awakening. All that's needed is the rallying. And the turnaround can be fast. Only 5 years after the end of the Vietnam war, and 15 years after our involvement there began in a big way, Ronald Reagan ran against both Democratic dovishness and Republican détente. He proposed confronting the Soviet Union and rebuilding our military. It was said that the country was too war-weary, that it was too soon after Vietnam, for Reagan's stern and challenging message. Yet Reagan won the election in 1980. And by 1990 an awakened America had won the Cold War."
Here's Kagan, who has worked for Hillary Clinton and whose wife Victoria Nuland has just been stirring up trouble in the Ukraine as Assistant Secretary of State. This is from an article by Kagan much admired by President Barack Obama:
"As Yan Xuetong recently noted, 'military strength underpins hegemony.' Here the United States remains unmatched. It is far and away the most powerful nation the world has ever known, and there has been no decline in America's relative military capacity -- at least not yet."
This pair is something of a good-cop/bad-cop team. Kristol bashes Obama for being a wimp and not fighting enough wars. Kagan reassures Obama that he can be master of the universe if he'll only build up the military a bit more and maybe fight a couple more wars here and there.
The response from some Obama supporters has been to point out that their hero has been fighting lots of wars and killing lots of people, thank you very much. The response from some peace activists is to play to people's selfishness with cries to bring the war dollars home. But humanitarian warriors are right to care about the world, even if they're only pretending or badly misguided about how to help. It's OK to oppose wars both because they kill huge numbers of poor people far from our shores and because we could have used the money for schools and trains. But it's important to add that for a small fraction of U.S. military spending we could ensure that the whole world had food and clean water and medicine. We could be the most beloved nation. I know that's not the status the war activists are after. In fact, when people begin to grasp that possibility, war activism will be finished for good.
I've been hearing increasingly from multiple quarters that the root of our problems is psychopaths and sociopaths and other loosely defined but definitely different beings from ourselves. Rob Kall has produced a quite interesting series of articles and interviews on the subject.
I want to offer some words of caution if not respectful dissent. I don't think the "because chickenhawks" dissent found, for example, in John Horgan's "The End of War" is sufficient. That is to say, just because a politician doesn't want to do the killing himself or herself doesn't mean the decision to order killing in war, or in prison, or through poverty and lack of healthcare, or through climate change, isn't heartless and calculating. Psychopaths could be running our world from behind desks.
But are they?
When I look at national politicians in the United States -- presidents and Congress members -- I can't identify any meaningful place to draw a line such that sociopaths would be on one side and healthy people on the other. They all bow, to one degree or another, to corrupt influences. They all make bad compromises. There are differences in both policy positions and personal manners, but the differences are slight and spread along a continuum. They all fund the largest killing machine in history. The Progressive Caucus budget proposes slight increases in military spending, already at 57% of the discretionary budget. Some support wars on "humanitarian" and others on genocidal grounds, but the wars look the same from the receiving end either way.
The slightly better Congress members come from slightly better districts, have taken slightly less money, and begin with slightly more enlightened ideologies. Or at least that's true much of the time on many issues. Often, however, what makes the difference is personal experience. Senator Dianne Feinstein supports warrantless spying on everyone else, but objects when it's turned against her. Six years ago, Congressman Mike McNulty said he was voting against war funding because his brother had been killed in Vietnam. Weren't four million people killed there? Didn't many of them have brothers and sisters and other loved ones? Shouldn't we oppose mass murder even if nobody in our immediate family has died from mass murder? In Washington, no one is ashamed to explain their positions by their personal experiences; on the contrary, such rationales are deemed highly admirable -- and not just among a certain group who stand apart as the sociopaths.
The spectrum of morality in our elected officials ranges from those who often indicate their concern and their desire to help if their own careers won't suffer in any way, to those who take tentative stands for peace or justice if their own family is impacted, to those who talk a good line and always act against it, and all the way over to those who don't even put up a pretense. But all of this is within a culture where we routinely discuss the supposed need to "humanize" humans. That is to say, we teach each other that foreigners are made more human when we see their photos and learn their names and stories and the stories of their loved ones in some trivial detail -- as if we are supposed to imagine that people don't have names or quirks or loved ones until we get a specific account of those things.
When it was revealed that a bunch of TV news guest experts on war were actually getting their talking points from the Pentagon, there was no way to watch the videos and distinguish the corrupt pundits from the truly independent ones. They all talked the same. The mercenary fraudsters fit right in. It's the same with any sociopaths in Congress. They may be there, but how could one possibly spot the difference?
Kall raises the question of why people enjoy watching shows about sociopaths such as "House of Cards," and speculates that people admire sociopaths' ability to stay calm in crises, to express confidence, to project charisma, and to dominate and manipulate others. That's probably right. And such shows spread sociopathy by example. But there's also the function such shows serve of explaining (accurately or not) why our government is so bad. There's also the joy of hoping against hope that Vice President Underwood will land in prison where so many of his real-life colleagues belong. But watch the real-life "journalists" playing themselves on fictional TV interviews in these shows. They clearly don't imagine themselves as having any value that can be lost by such charades. Watch the advertisements for which many TV shows are filler, and you'll see politicians routinely describing their opponents as behaving sociopathically.
Some experts believe sociopaths make the best CEOs of large corporations. Everybody else recognizes that the CEOs of large corporations are given incentives to behave immorally, regardless of whether it impacts them emotionally in a typical manner or not. Also encouraged to behave immorally are presidents and Congress members.
Well-designed governments encourage good behavior and bar against the potential for evil. They treat 100% -- not 2% or 10% or 80% -- of elected officials as potential psychopaths. Elections are made open and verifiable. Bribery is forbidden. Powers are checked and balanced. Abuses are exposed and punished. Secrecy is curtailed and openness required. War powers are placed in a legislature or the public, or war abolished. Standing armies are disbanded. Profiteering and other conflicts of interest are avoided. Adversarial journalism is encouraged. Our government, in contrast, treats every elected official as a saint capable of overcoming all kinds of bribery and pressure to misbehave, while our culture encourages them and the rest of us to be anything but.
Many agree that we should reform our government, but is something else needed to handle the threat of sociopaths, in public and private life alike? Kall wants sociopaths to be identified and prevented from doing damage. He wants them treated as alleged sex offenders are, despite the horrible failings of that approach and the much greater difficulty in identifying who is and who is not a sociopath. Kall goes further, suggesting sterilization. He writes that he would have happily shot and killed Nazis; and in the next breath lists billionaire Americans he considers parasites -- later reassuring us that he doesn't want to kill them.
The identification process is not clear cut. Sociopathy seems to be something of a matter of degree, with some small degree reaching all of us. We allowed our government to destroy Iraq, killing some million people and making millions more refugees, and we talk about that war in terms of how many Americans were killed and how many dollars it cost, as if Iraq doesn't matter at all. Or we talk about the military investment that will generate more wars as if it were a jobs program. That behavior looks like sociopathy to others.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee is the quintessential non-sociopath on Capitol Hill, the one member who voted against launching the past dozen years of wars. But I was once in a room with her and other progressive members of Congress, relatively early in the Bush-Cheney rampage, proposing that impeachment be begun. Congresswoman Maxine Waters proposed opening an effort to impeach Vice President Cheney. Excitement gripped us. For an instant a few of us could imagine Congress pushing back against the lawlessness that has rolled on unimpeded to this day. And then Congresswoman Lee spoke up and said nobody had better do anything without getting approval from John Conyers. And that was that. Not sociopathy. But not pure principled morality either.
Studying the phenomenon of extreme cases at the other end of the spectrum from Rep. Lee is certainly desirable. What makes John McCain or Hillary Clinton tick? How could Dick Cheney contemplate ordering Americans to attack each other in the Straight of Hormuz in order to blame it on Iran and start a war? How could George W. Bush laugh off his lies about Iraq and claim it didn't matter? How could he proudly declare he would waterboard people again if given the chance? How could Barack Obama go to Copenhagen and intentionally and maliciously block any serious agreement to confront climate change? How could he pretend to know that Gadaffi was going to slaughter Benghazians or that Assad used chemical weapons, when evidence has emerged that he couldn't possibly have known any such things?
But if there have always been sociopaths everywhere, why are some societies doing more evil than others? Has the 95% of humanity that is currently investing dramatically less in war than the United States, identified and controlled its sociopaths? Or have they, rather, created less evil paths to power and influence? If a sociopath wants power and influence, why not give him or her a system in which good behavior is rewarded? In 1928 Secretary of State Frank Kellogg, who cared not a damn for peace, worked night and day for the peace treaty known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact because he saw rewards in that direction and told his wife he might get himself a Nobel Peace Prize. Had power lain in the direction of war-making, that's the direction Kellogg would have headed. If sociopaths make great propagandists, why not train better critical thinkers to see through the lies? Mentally healthy or not, our Congress members are holding off on bombing Syria or Iran because we've rejected the idea that doing so would improve things.
There is a danger, I think, in focusing on sociopaths' existence as the problem, of developing a cure as bad as the disease. Identifying a group of people to be targeted for discrimination, eugenics, imprisonment, or death seems like the habit of a culture that is itself more of a problem than are the genes of a small minority within it likely to be. What kind of a culture would produce such an idea? A sick one, I believe.
I agree with Kall that billionaires can be identified and their billions re-claimed. Excellent proposal! But not every immoral decider is a billionaire. Nor do I find it likely that every politician who promotes some evil practice can be diagnosed as a sociopath or psychopath. Wouldn't it be easier to identify evil politicians by their evil deeds? What would be gained by identifying them instead as the sort of people likely to do something evil, and giving that category of people a scientific name? If an elected official fails to protect the environment, fails to advance peace and justice, fails to deal honestly and fairly with the people, he or she should be held accountable. If recognizing that such a person's emotions may not be functioning like ours helps us to reach them with our demands, terrific. But if it prevents us from reaching their emotions in a way that we might have, and from communicating our views more widely in the process, then it's hurting the cause of justice.
It's not as if we can't recognize the sociopaths coming. Molly Ivins warned us about Bush. He lost his election. Twice. Many of us warned about Obama. Twice. But Bush wasn't born destined to engage in extraordinary renditions. Obama wasn't born destined to drone-kill children on Tuesdays. Our entire system moves in that direction. Bush and Obama should be prosecuted and imprisoned, along with many of their colleagues -- as a step toward fixing the system. But their bodies shouldn't be studied for clues about whom to sterilize. Only a political culture already itself sterilized would think that was the solution.
Remarkably, the U.S. Army War College has published a report (PDF) that makes an overwhelming case against enlisting in the U.S. Army. The report, called "Civilian Organizational Inhibitors to U.S. Army Recruiting and the Road Ahead," identifies counter-recruitment organizations that effectively discourage young people from joining the military.
This is the highest honor the Army could give these groups, including Quaker House, the Mennonite Central Committee, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, and Courage to Resist. Activists often disbelieve in the effectiveness of their own work until the government admits it explicitly. Well, here is that admission. And counter-recruitment activists really do seem to appreciate it.
No doubt someone quickly sent the report along to the NSA and the FBI. The report is, in fact, a few years old, and we have seen the government infiltrating at least some of the organizations named in it during the past few years.
But who really should be reading this excellent report is potential recruits. In laying out the arguments of the counter-recruitment groups and then trying to refute them, the report's author, Lieutenant Colonel Todd M. Jacobus, makes their case persuasively and his own weakly in the extreme. I'm not sure if this is intentional subterfuge, drug-induced self-parody, or just intellectual debility. Regardless, the government will have new appreciation for its standard disclaimer that says the views expressed are the author's alone.
"Hundreds of organizations throughout our Country [sic] have a negative influence on our recruiting efforts, using techniques and strategies that frequently depict professional military recruiters in an ill light, disillusion influencers and dissuade potential applicants from looking into military service as a viable option."
The typical Army reaction to any such challenge is, Jacobus says, to cut and run:
"Too often, the tactic of our recruiting force when engaged by a hostile force, is to break contact, and re-focus efforts and resources where those hostile to military recruitment are less likely to be confronted, and therefore where success is more likely."
Jacobus calls the Army "all-volunteer" before noting the absurdity of that claim:
"The manner in which the Quaker House illustrates their support for their Quaker ideals is by endeavoring to hurt our Army's recruiting and retention efforts by: 1. providing reference material to potential Soldiers and centers of influence that negatively portrays the military recruiter and the enlistment process; 2. counseling enlistees in the delayed entry program on how they can terminate their enlistment; 3. counseling Soldiers on active duty on how to adjudicate their situation when they are in an unexcused absence or absent without leave status; 4. counseling to Soldiers on how they can quickly adjudicate a conscientious objector status with the Army; 5. providing expertise to Soldiers on discharge procedures and regulations."
Surely a volunteer service would not require such elaborate assistance for someone attempting to stop volunteering.
Jacobus presents the arguments of counter-recruiters at some length and never counters most of them in any way at all:
"Quaker House publishes and widely distributes a document entitled, 'Meet Sgt. Abe, the Honest Recruiter'. This pamphlet emphasizes that the applicant needs to thoroughly read and understand the enlistment contract before signing the document. The pamphlet draws attention to the fact that the Army can at will extend an enlistment indefinitely, that 'Recruiters make "sweet promises" that the Army is not required to deliver'. The pamphlet draws attention to the fact that serving in the Army is 'not a normal job', and that 'you can be sent to war'. The final few pages give our impressionable applicant some 'things to think about', included in this list is that 'much military training is NOT useful in civilian jobs'; that 'many Vets suffer LONG-TERM physical and psychological damage: PTSD, "Gulf War Syndrome"', that 'Women in the military face a HIGH RISK of sexual harassment and rape'; that 'military life is hard on families with higher rates of domestic abuse and divorce', that 'there are long delays in getting veterans benefits'; that 'dozens of Soldiers are killed and hundreds are wounded every month'. Finally, Sgt Abe warns the potential Soldier to, 'think HARD before you sign – your life could be at stake.'"
In addition, a Mennonite Central Committee flyer
"highlights the fact that most students enlist in order for education benefits, and suggests that a student will NOT get the amount of money promised by their recruiter. The flier emphasizes that these students will be trained and expected to kill on the field of battle, and that the guidance counselor should ensure that there is an understanding of this expectation. The Mennonite Central Committee highlights on their 'ask a veteran' web site link the very negative opinions of those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. All of the individuals highlighted regret having served in the U.S. Armed Forces, and provide a variety of reasons. These reasons include the following: serving in the military is incompatible with following Jesus; basic training is de-humanizing; the military trains soldiers to hate entire groups of people; soldiers do not show sadness in removing evil, but instead rejoice in the opportunity to kill; the military makes every effort to rob what is inside a person; people for whom we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan do not want us there; I came to the determination that love is stronger than fear, hate, suffering, and death. The veteran testimonials ranged from their description of the sincere sorrow that followed the death of a comrade to the frustrations of not being able to do more for a soldier in need. In all cases they describe how they eventually came to see our presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places as illegal, and against their convictions."
A Veterans For Peace video, the report helpfully tells us, (in reality the video is the work of a number of organizations):
"begins with video from the United States Army Recruiting Command, where a recruiter comments that, 'just because you get deployed doesn't mean you will end up in the Middle East or Iraq' – followed quickly by an applicant saying, 'if I were to get mobilized, it wouldn't be a whole big ordeal'. These comments are quickly retorted by a Soldier who had been severely injured in an improvised explosive device in Iraq, his mother providing an overview of her son's injuries. Next, a Marine veteran of Vietnam addresses the invincibility of being a Marine ending as soon as one engages in combat, and that 'all of the myths and lies' that a recruit has been told are 'over'. This is followed by a stepmother talking about her stepson being killed in Fallujah, and the fact that he was only 19 years old when he enlisted, and therefore he could not know what he would face in Iraq. Next, there is an excerpt from a U.S. Army Recruiting Command video of a recruit talking about joining for the educational benefits. Several veterans then discuss the smoking mirrors [sic] associated with educational benefits. There is a claim that 'on average the Montgomery GI Bill will only cover 1⁄2 the cost of a public college and 1/5 the cost of a private college'. Further, they communicate a message that Soldiers in the Reserve Components of the U.S. Army are prevented from using education benefits due to repeated deployments. And, by the time a Soldier completes two and three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are in no shape to go to college. A former Reservist says that because he cannot use GI Bill benefits after being discharged that the government is not fulfilling their obligation to him. The video transitions to a recruit saying that he is joining the U.S. Army because, 'service will help me in civilian life'. This transitions immediately to a young man who served in Iraq who says, 'I'm a great killer; I know how to blow up bridges and buildings, and people, and how to dismantle mines'; this same young man says that the Army prepared him to be a custodian. Another veteran commenting that she was absolutely lost after leaving the service, and worked menial jobs for many years, and still does not have a direction. The video then transitions to a Vietnam veteran talking about his transition from Southeast Asia to his life here in the United States, and his homeless lifestyle of panhandling for three years. The video shows a statistic that 'the VA estimates on any given night 200,000 veterans are homeless'. The video includes an interview of a former Recruiter, who indicates that he was trained to cover up one-time drug offenses, and to do what it takes to enlist applicants into the service. The video shows a statistic that 'the Government Accounting Office reports 6,600 complaints of recruiting wrongdoing during a one year period.' Cindy Sheehan, whose son, SPC Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq, said that her son's recruiter told her that 'even if there was a war, he would not see combat'. She clearly communicates on the video that Recruiters will tell a recruit anything in order to get their signature on a contract. Further, this contract binds the recruit, but not the United States government. There is a comment that 'since the start of the Iraq War the Army has extended the enlistment of more than 50,000 troops through "stop loss"'."
Of course you could just watch the above video, rather than reading the play-by-play produced on your dime, but I want to make clear that Jacobus recounts all of these claims without ever refuting them. "Counter-recruiting organizations," he writes, "present as evidence Youtube videos, web page links, and newspaper articles highlighting sexual misconduct and criminal activity by Army Recruiters. Their messages highlight our Recruiters lying to applicants, encouraging applicants to lie on their medical and criminal history, promises of bonus money that never come, promises of education benefits that are grossly exaggerated, and promises of state-side duty with no likelihood for service overseas." Jacobus follows this summary of well-documented charges, just as he does several others, with vague platitudes and generalized assertions about the mental states of all Army recruiters: "Our Army's Recruiters are interested in people, have had positive experiences in our Army, and want to share these experiences, and present the same opportunities to our next generation of Soldiers." Golly gee, no kidding? All of them? You wouldn't insult our intelligence, would you, Sir?
To counter extensive evidence that the military does not prepare a lot of people for jobs, Jacobus just asserts that the military makes people leaders (with no evidence that this finds them jobs).
In other cases, Jacobus summarizes the charges against recruiters and the military, and then immediately admits that they are true:
"Counter-recruiter groups' messages implore potential Soldiers to consider that they will be trained to kill, they will be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, they will live and serve in austere conditions, and they will see destruction and death of both friends and innocent people. They challenge potential Soldiers to visit a hospital and see those who suffer the effects of physical and psychological damage as a result of service in America‘s Army. Counter-recruiting organizations highlight the increasing domestic abuse and divorce rate present in Army families. Many of the issues raised by these counter-recruiting organizations are based on truths, although in a quite negative manner."
The truth is notoriously biased against positive depictions of mass-murder.
Similarly, on sexual assault, Jacobus recommends admitting it happens, but then asserting that every member of the U.S. military follows a code of ethics -- which apparently allows killing people and/or sexually assaulting your fellow ethical beings. Jacobus goes on to make a serious claim, namely that a college campus is the most dangerous place for sexual assaults, not the military. But clearly there are studies finding the opposite. And a separate question is the quality of the environment for recovering from (and seeking accountability for) sexual assault in the military versus on a college campus.
After writing as if we had limited intelligence for two-dozen pages, Jacobus present the "myth" that the military requires limited intelligence, in order to debunk it. But, of course, the military does not require limited intelligence; it requires limited independence of thought, which is only one particular type of intelligence.
Jacobus spends remarkably few words putting up an argument in favor of enlistment. He suggests that recruiters should counter nasty talk of dying with reassurances about medical support. Of course, that medical support is the reason so many troops are surviving without arms and legs and other, um, appendages. The author also suggests that recruiters claim (without any provided basis or explanation) that the military is defensive and that it defends "freedom." That's not what top members of the U.S. military say. It's also not what the people of the world say.
Moving on into the realm of self-parody, Jacobus recommends talking about 9-11 a lot, and then a bit more, and then maybe a little extra. And he proposes expanding on that theme by depicting the world as a permanent source of irrational terrorists out to attack the United States for no reason. Why there are no anti-Norwegian terrorist networks or anti-Anybody-Else terrorist networks is never explained. The Iranian hostage crisis of 1979 is presented as evidence of the permanent senseless presence of anti-U.S. terrorism in the world, with no reference to the 1953 U.S. overthrow of Iran's democracy and the imposition of a vicious U.S.-backed dictator from 1953 to 1979. Jacobus offers another dozen similar examples of terrorism and alleged terrorism, all completely context free. Of course, U.S. interference in people's countries cannot justify terrorism, but it goes a great distance toward explaining it. Only by pretending that militarism does not produce terrorism, can anyone continue promoting militarism as a supposed defense against terrorism.
Delving deeply into self-parody, Jacobus holds up Colin Powell (who took a laughable case for attacking Iraq to the U.N. which rejected it) as the absolute authority on honest straight talk about why the U.S. is not aggressive or imperialistic. He quotes Powell baselessly making that claim and then skipping back over 70 years of contrary evidence to claim that after World War II the United States did not "ask for dominion over a single nation in Europe." Well, except Germany. Oh, and the need for military bases in all the other countries. And let's not forget Japan and Korea.
Jacobus claims that members of the military are not disproportionately from poor backgrounds, and indeed some studies seem to back him up. And, indeed, most members of the military, when asked if they joined to "serve their country" answer yes. But three-quarters also say they joined for education benefits, which makes one wonder what the impact on recruitment would be if the United States made education free or affordable the way other nations do. And, if that happened, what would be the further effect on susceptibility to Pentagon propaganda of a populace with a higher education level?
The following, unlike Jacobus' report, is known with certainty to be a parody. I produced it.
David Swanson from the Coordinating Committee of WorldBeyondWar.org will be visiting London from the United States on July 2nd before heading up to speak in Northern England with CAAB.org.uk on the Fourth of July. Swanson is an author whose books include: War No More: The Case for Abolition (2013), War Is A Lie (2010), When the World Outlawed War (2011), and The Military Industrial Complex at 50 (2012). See http://davidswanson.org
July 2, 2014, 8:00 p.m., Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Holburn.
David Swanson from WorldBeyondWar.org
Also speaking: Ben Griffin of Veterans For Peace UK (http://veteransforpeace.org.uk) Ben is a former SAS soldier who refused to return to Iraq in 2005. He is now the coordinator of Veterans For Peace UK.
Hosted by London Region Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (http://cnduk.org) Chair: Jim Brann
Organized by Movement for the Abolition of War (http://abolishwar.org.uk)
RSVP to Bruce Kent firstname.lastname@example.org
NSA MENWITH HILL BASE:
July 4, 2014, from 5 to 9 p.m.
Annual Independence FROM America Demonstration at the main entrance to NSA Menwith Hill HG1 4QZ.
Speakers: Caroline Hughes, David Swanson, Annie Machon
Learn more: http://caab.org.uk
Accepted wisdom in U.S. culture, despite overwhelming evidence, holds that the two nuclear bombs dropped on Japan shortened World War II and saved more lives than the some 200,000 lives they took away.
And yet, weeks before the first bomb was dropped, on July 13, 1945, Japan sent a telegram to the Soviet Union expressing its desire to surrender and end the war. The United States had broken Japan's codes and read the telegram. U.S. President Harry Truman referred in his diary to "the telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace."
Truman had been informed through Swiss and Portuguese channels of Japanese peace overtures as early as three months before Hiroshima. Japan objected only to surrendering unconditionally and giving up its emperor, but the United States insisted on those terms until after the bombs fell, at which point it allowed Japan to keep its emperor.
Presidential advisor James Byrnes had told Truman that dropping the bombs would allow the United States to "dictate the terms of ending the war." Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal wrote in his diary that Byrnes was "most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in." Truman wrote in his diary that the Soviets were preparing to march against Japan and "Fini Japs when that comes about." Truman ordered the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th and another type of bomb, a plutonium bomb, which the military also wanted to test and demonstrate, on Nagasaki on August 9th.
Also on August 9th, the Soviets attacked the Japanese. During the next two weeks, the Soviets killed 84,000 Japanese while losing 12,000 of their own soldiers, and the United States continued bombing Japan with non-nuclear weapons. Then the Japanese surrendered.
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that,"… certainly prior to 31 December, 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November, 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated." One dissenter who had expressed this same view to the Secretary of War prior to the bombings was General Dwight Eisenhower.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William D. Leahy agreed: "The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender."
It was with knowledge of these undisputed but collectively ignored facts that I recently read a review of a book called The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II. The women or girls involved did not in any way help win World War II, and the author and publisher surely know that. These women worked in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, producing the bombs that would kill, injure, traumatize, and destroy on a scale never before imagined -- leaving us decades later in serious danger of accidental or intentional apocalypse. But the idea that they helped win or end a war is a lie.
That the atomic girls didn't know exactly what they were building is no excuse any more than the Nazi's "I was just following orders" was an excuse. But these women's ignorance of what they were making would, I think, diminish their heroism had they done something at all heroic. In reality, they blindly participated in mass-murder by knowingly assisting a war effort, and were willing to do so without being given any of the details. In other words, they proved capable of doing just what millions of men have done. Should we be proud?
The point of the book and the article seems to be that young women did something. The author describes them as "brave" and compares their bravery to that of U.S. soldiers off obediently killing and dying in the war. The review describes the U.S. government's eviction of 1,000 families from their homes in Tennessee to make room for the nuclear bomb making. "Only something of the magnitude of saving the nation could possibly justify causing such heartbreak," writes the reviewer. Really? What could justify the mass-slaughter of some 200,000 people? And what exactly was the nation saved from? Shouldn't such language ("saving the nation") be made to mean something rather than being tossed around carelessly? And hadn't the U.S. government just 10 years earlier evicted 500 families to build Shenandoah National Park, neither to save the nation nor to kill lots of foreigners, but just because?
The relationship of women to war has changed dramatically in recent decades, even while remaining the same. Attractive women recruiting young men into the army can trace their lineage to Helen of Troy. Women raped and killed in war have a history as old as war. Women resisters to war are as old as war as well. But there are at least four big changes. First, women now participate in war, as well as in weapons production, in a major way. (Why the great ineluctable forces of genetics and destiny that always justify evil in weak minds will allow women to join in war but not allow men to abandon war is not clear to me.) Second, women -- to a limited extent -- participate in making the decision to wage wars. Third, women are not just secondary victims of war anymore; rather, female babies, toddlers, girls, women, and grandmothers make up about half of wars' casualties, 90% of whom are civilians. And fourth, with wars no longer solely advertised as ways to seize territory or develop manhood or bring glory to a flag, it has become common to advertise them as a way to bring women their rights and freedoms.
Not the right not to be bombed, of course. But the right, if they survive the war, to work and drive and vote and endure invasive ultrasounds, or whatever the West believes a woman's rights should be. In 2001, the United States was told that Afghanistan would be bombed for revenge. But since revenge is barbaric and vile, and since the criminals being punished were already dead, and since most of the people in Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9-11 and wished no part in any war, it was helpful to add another motivation. Afghanistan would also be bombed, we were told, for women's rights -- rights that had indeed been devastated following U.S. efforts to provoke the Soviet Union and then arm religious fanatics against it. Five weeks into the bombing, Laura Bush, the U.S. "first lady," proclaimed: "Because of our recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes. The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women."
Of course, when U.S. special forces burst into a home and shot pregnant women, and then dug the bullets out with their knives in order to blame the murders on the women's husbands, the goal was not the advancement of women's rights. But the war had nothing to do with that in reality. The U.S. empowered the warlords of the Northern Alliance, whom the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) denounced as "brethren-in-creed of the Taliban and Al-Qaida." RAWA reported: "The war in Afghanistan has removed the Taliban, which so far does appear to be an improvement for women in certain limited parts of the country. In other areas, the incidence of rape and forced marriage is on the rise again, and most women continue to wear the burqa out of fear for their safety." After over a decade of U.S./NATO liberation, Afghanistan remains one of the worst places to be a woman or to become a mother. Child marriage, rape in marriage, and prosecution of rape victims for adultery remain legal and accepted. It was in this context that Amnesty International put up big posters on bus stops in Chicago during a NATO meeting, reading -- without intended irony: "Human rights for women and girls in Afghanistan. NATO keep the progress going!"
"Progress" is rolling ahead in liberated Iraq as well, where the legal age of marriage is being lowered from 18 to 9. Similarly in liberated Libya, women are worse off. Similarly in monarchies and dictatorships that the U.S. government chooses to arm rather than overthrow because of their cooperative behavior: women are not enjoying the blessings of freedom unimpeded in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, et cetera -- although many women are struggling admirably to advance their rights by nonviolent and effective means.
Another place women's rights are suffering is in the U.S. military, where studies have found that a third of women are sexually assaulted or raped by their fellow soldiers and commanders. One expert believes that the frequency of such attacks on male recruits is just as high but less often reported. Of course, if that's true, it does nothing to mitigate the horror, but simply adds to it. So young women reading about the glories of "saving the nation" by building nukes should think hard before joining the military -- hard enough, perhaps, to oppose it on the grounds that it's mass murder.
There's another story from Oak Ridge that ought to be read more widely, the story of one woman and two men just sentenced to prison for nonviolently protesting the nuclear weapons facility still found there. Here's a story of heroism and inspiration with no falsehoods, a story of wisdom and thoughtful action requiring incredible bravery and selflessness. Why we strain so hard to find such stories outside of nonviolent activism would be a mystery to me, were the reasons not readily to be found in the massive investment that war profiteers make in selling the idea of war.
There's a broader story, as well, of heroic women advancing a movement against war and toward a culture of peace. Here's proof aplenty of that:
And here's what we're up against: the coming promotion of a woman warmonger as a token carrier of progressive liberalism. Don't fall for it.
Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, who lived from October 27, 1466, to July 12, 1536, faced censorship in his day, and has never been as popular among the rich and powerful as has his contemporary Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli. But at a distance of half a millennium, we ought to be able to judge work on its merit -- and we ought to have regular celebrations of Erasmus around the world. Some of his ideas are catching on. His name is familiar in Europe as that of the EU's student exchange program, named in his honor. We ought perhaps to wonder what oddball ideas these days might catch on in the 2500s -- if humanity is around then.
In 1517, Erasmus wrote The Complaint of Peace, in which Peace, speaking in the first-person, complains about how humanity treats her. She claims to offer "the source of all human blessings" and to be scorned by people who "go in quest of evils infinite in number."
The Complaint is not a contemporary twenty-first century piece of thinking; its outdatedness in any number of areas is immediately obvious. But that's to be expected in an essay written 500 years ago in Latin for a readership made up of what we would call creationists, astrologers, monarchists, and Eurocentric bigots.
What ought to amaze us is the extent to which the Complaint does address the same troubles we face today and the same bad arguments used today in defense of wars. The Complaint offers rebuttals to such arguments that have never been surpassed. Its text could serve as the basis for dozens of important sermons were some preacher inclined to favor peace on earth.
Peace, in her complaint to us, begins by imagining that humans must be insane to pursue war instead of her. She does not complain out of indignation, but weeps over people who actively bring so much harm on themselves and are incapable of even realizing it. The first step, Erasmus/Peace says, is recognizing that you have a problem. Or rather, "It is one great step to convalescence to know the extent and inveteracy of a disease."
War was deemed to be the supreme international crime at Nuremberg following World War II, because it includes all other evils within it. Erasmus defined war in that manner a good four-and-a-half centuries earlier, calling war an ocean "of all the united plagues and pestilences in nature."
Erasmus (in the voice of Peace) notes that many other types of animals do not wage war on their own species. And he notes the universal presence of love and cooperation among humans, animals born unarmed and obliged to find safety in numbers.
Erasmus proposes that we think of ourselves as humans, and thereby become unwilling to make war on any of our brother and sister humans anywhere. Admittedly, 500 years may be a little rushed for some people to catch on to that idea.
On a search for peacefulness, Peace hunts in vain among seemingly polite and amicable princes, among academics whom she finds as corrupted by war as we find ours today, among religious leaders whom she denounces as the hypocrites we've come to know so well, and even among secluded monks. Peace looks into family life and into the internal mental life of an individual and finds no devotion to peace.
Erasmus points Christian readers toward the words supporting peace in the New Testament. One might accuse him of hand-picking his quotes and avoiding those that don't support his goal, except that Erasmus quite openly says that that's what he's doing and advises others to do the same. The vengeful God of the Old Testament should be ignored in favor of the peaceful God of Jesus, Erasmus writes. And those who can't so ignore Him, writes Erasmus, should re-interpret him as peaceful. Let "God of vengeance" mean vengeance "on those sins which rob us of repose."
Solomon the peace-maker was more worthy than David the war-maker, Peace says, despite David's war-making being at the bidding of God. So, imagine, Peace argues, if David's divinely commanded wars rendered him unholy, "what will be the effect of wars of ambition, wars of revenge, and wars of furious anger" -- i.e. the wars of Erasmus' day and our own.
The cause of wars, Erasmus finds, is kings and their war-hungry chickenhawk advisors. The term in Latin is not exactly "chickenhawk" but the meaning comes through. Erasmus advises addressing the causes of war in greed and the pursuit of power, glory, and revenge. And he credits Jesus with having done the same, with having taught love and forgiveness as the basis for peace.
Kings, writes Erasmus, start wars to seize territory when they would be better off improving the territory they have now. Or they start wars out of a personal grudge. Or they start wars to disrupt popular opposition to themselves at home. Such kings, Erasmus writes, should be exiled for life to the remotest islands. And not just the kings but their privileged advisors. Ordinary people don't create wars, says Peace, those in power impose wars on them.
Powerful people calling themselves Christian have created such a climate, says Peace, that speaking up for Christian forgiveness is taken to be treasonous and evil, while promoting war is understood to be good and loyal and directed at a nation's happiness. Erasmus has little tolerance for Orwellian propaganda about "supporting the troops" and proposes that clergy refuse to bury in consecrated ground anyone slain in battle:
"The unfeeling mercenary soldier, hired by a few pieces of paltry coin, to do the work of man-butcher, carries before him the standard of the cross; and that very figure becomes the symbol of war, which alone ought to teach every one that looks at it, that war ought to be utterly abolished. What hast thou to do with the cross of Christ on thy banners, thou blood-stained soldier? With such a disposition as thine; with deeds like thine, of robbery and murder, thy proper standard would be a dragon, a tiger, or wolf!"
" . . . If you detest robbery and pillage, remember these are among the duties of war; and that, to learn how to commit them adroitly, is a part of military discipline. Do you shudder at the idea of murder? You cannot require to be told, that to commit it with dispatch, and by wholesale, constitutes the celebrated art of war."
Peace proposes in her complaint that kings submit their grievances to wise and impartial arbiters, and points out that even if the arbiters are unjust neither side will suffer to remotely the extent that they would from war. Perhaps peace must be purchased -- but compare the price to the cost of a war! For the price of destroying a town you could have built one, Peace says.
For arbitration to replace war, Peace says, we will need better kings and better courtiers. You can't get any more timely and relevant than that.
We discuss this article: "Ukraine: the Enemy of Your Enemy is Not Always Your Friend," with its author Zoltan Grossman. Dr. Zoltán Grossman is a political-cultural geographer who teaches at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin, focusing on topics of interethnic conflict and cooperation. He has taught courses on Central and Eastern Europe, and is a son of Hungarian immigrants. His faculty website is http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz and email is email@example.com
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People from Yemen and Pakistan and elsewhere have told me, and have testified in the U.S. Congress, that they have a hard time convincing their neighbors that everyone in the United States doesn't hate them. There are buzzing killer robots flying over their houses night and day and every now and then blowing a bunch of people up with a missile with very little rhyme or reason that anyone nearby can decipher. They don't know where to go or not go, what to do or not do, to be safe or keep their children safe. Their children have instinctively taken to crouching and covering their heads just like U.S. children in the 1950s were taught to do as supposed protection from Soviet nuclear weapons.
The good news is that, of course, we don't all hate Yemenis or Pakistanis or Somalis or Afghans or Libyans or any of the other people who might suspect us of it. The bad news -- and the news that I'm afraid would be almost incomprehensible to many millions of people around the world -- is that most of us have only the vaguest idea where any of those countries are, some of us don't know that they ARE countries at all, and we pay far greater attention to our sports and our pets than to whom exactly our government is killing this Tuesday.
This obliviousness comes into sharpest relief perhaps when we elect the officials who are legally called on to decide on our wars. The extent to which Congress has handed war making over to presidents is also brought out by observing Congressional elections. It is not at all uncommon for U.S. Congressional candidates' platforms to entirely ignore all questions of war and peace, and to win support from either Democrats or Republicans despite this omission -- despite, in particular, taking no position on the area funded by 57% of the dollars they will vote on if elected, namely wars and war preparations.
Here in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District, a man named Lawrence Gaughan recently announced as a Democratic candidate for Congress. I'd never heard of him, so I took a look at the "Issues" section of his website. Not only WAS there such a section (some candidates campaign purely on their biography without taking positions on anything), but Gaughan's site had clear forthright statements on a number of important issues. He backed labor unions despite their virtual nonexistence in his district. He admitted the existence of climate change. He backed Eisenhower era tax rates (!!). And his statements made commitments: "I will not vote for any tax cuts for those making over 250,000 dollars a year." "I support the Dream Act." "I would vote for any legislation that would bring back jobs in construction, manufacturing and production." Either this guy had real principles or he was just too new for anyone to have explained to him how to make his promises vague enough not to commit himself to any specific actions.
All too typically, however, when I scrolled through the "Issues," I noticed a gap. I sent this note off to the candidate's staff:
"Your candidate has some of the best and clearest positions on domestic issues that I've seen, and dramatically superior to Congressman Hurt's, but judging by his website as it stands today he seems to have no position on foreign policy whatsoever, or even on that 57% of discretionary spending that, according to the National Priorities Project, goes to militarism. For people who support domestic social justice AND peace in the world in this district, we are put in a bind by our history. Congressman Perriello voted for every war dollar he could, and has made a career of pushing for new wars since leaving office. Congressman Hurt is a disaster on other issues but listened to us and took a stand against missile strikes on Syria. He even listened to us on lawless imprisonment and voted against a "Defense" Authorization Act on one occasion. Helpful as it is to know what Lawrence Gaughan thinks of 43% of the budget, some of us are really going to have to know what he thinks of the larger part. Would he cut military spending? Would he oppose new wars? Does he oppose drone strikes? Would he repeal the authorization to use military force of '01 and that of '03? Would he support economic conversion to peaceful industries on the model now set up in Connecticut? Would he advance a foreign policy of diplomacy, cooperation, actual aid, and nonviolent conflict resolution? Are there any foreign bases he would close? Does he think having U.S. troops in 175 nations is too many, too few, or just right? Does he support joining the ICC? Thanks for your time!"
A couple of days later, Gaughan called me on the phone. We talked for a while about foreign policies, wars, peace, militarism, the economic advantages of converting to peaceful industries, the danger of handing war powers over to presidents. He said he opposed wars. He said he wanted to take on the influence of the military industrial complex. He didn't seem particularly well informed, but he seemed to be coming from a fairly good place or to at least be willing to get there.
He proposed allowing military veterans to never pay any taxes. That's not exactly the sort of resistance to militarism that President Kennedy had in mind when he wrote that wars would continue until the conscientious objector has the honor and prestige of the soldier. Gaughan offered no tax cuts for conscientious objectors. Still, he said he'd get some good statements on foreign policy added to his website right away. He also said he'd be willing to debate the other candidates, including the incumbent, on foreign relations, should peace groups create such a forum and invite him.
Lo and behold, the next day, this appeared on Gaughan's website:
"We have strayed from our constitution when it comes to the defense of our nation and declaration of war. I was opposed to the war in Iraq for many reasons. The enormous price paid by our brave men and women as well as the huge financial debt that we incurred was not necessary. Republicans in Congress continue to defer those costs on our military personnel and our veterans through the sequester and other austerity measures.
"Not withstanding the government shutdown, the Republican budget proposals that my opponent, Robert Hurt, has voted for over the past three years, have forced the Pentagon into reductions that have taken a tremendous toll on enlisted personnel right here in our district. These political policies are also causing reductions to TriCare, active duty health benefits, and to retired military pensions. As the greatest nation on earth, it is unacceptable that we have homeless veterans or military families who struggle to pay the bills.
"We owe so much to the men and women who serve. Instead of laying off soldiers and cutting funding for the VA, we could begin by eliminating the ongoing fraud by military contractors. Fraud committed by dozens of irresponsible military industry corporations have cost taxpayers more than $1.1 trillion. Eliminating this fraud would offset most of the estimated $1.2 trillion in policy savings required over the next decade in order to realize the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated $1.4 trillion in deficit reduction without 'gutting our military'. Furthermore, as a component of tax reform, there should be a tax exemption status for veterans written into the tax code."
His topic, all too typically -- people around the world should understand -- is not how to relate to the 95% of humanity that is not in the United States, but how to treat "The Military."
His first sentence echoes our discussion of the past three-quarters century of undeclared wars, but doesn't spell it out. Will he oppose wars that lack a Congressional declaration or not?
He picks one past war to oppose without stating his position on future wars. He describes the costs of a war that killed some million Iraqis and destroyed a nation as all being paid by the U.S. and its soldiers.
He blames the sequester agreement on only one of the two parties that agreed to it, and buys into the myth that it has resulted in cuts to the military. (True, Democrats in the Senate recently put up a token effort to fund veterans' needs and were blocked by Republicans.) Gaughan claims that we owe "so much" to members of the military who "serve." What exactly do we owe them? Can he name something that we owe them? He doesn't want soldiers to be "laid off," as if employing them is a make-work jobs program.
In my view we owe veterans housing, healthcare, education, a clean environment, and a healthy society because they are human beings -- and we owe it equally to every other human being. But we shouldn't pretend that the military's so-called "service" isn't making us hated around the world. We shouldn't try to produce more veterans as if there were something noble about murdering people.
Gaughan almost closes on an up note. He acknowledges fraud by military contractors. He even calls them "military," rather than using the misleading term "defense." But then he makes clear that he doesn't want to cut the military. He wants to create efficiency to avoid cuts while saving money.
Would he repeal authorizations to use military force? Who knows. Would he back future wars? Who can tell? Does he believe U.S. troops should be in 175 nations? Perhaps. But if they were in 182 would he then think 182 was the right number? Does he favor allowing presidents to murder people with missiles from drones or by any other means? Does he think antagonizing Russia and China and Iran should remain the focus of U.S. foreign policy? Does he want the occupation of Afghanistan ended? Who knows.
He brought up a Department of Peace on our phone call, but it didn't make the website yet. One can hope that Gaughan's website is a work in progress. There's certainly a chance he'll become a far better candidate and Congress member than this district has had in a long time.
But this, dear world, is more or less how the world's largest-ever killing machine operates. It turns its eyes away from the machine's work and, if pushed, debates the care of the machine itself -- maintaining more or less complete obliviousness to the horrors the machine produces in those far away places where you live and die.
Not being mush of a masochist, I don't usually read emails from the Democratic Whip in Congress, but I opened one Tuesday night and was mildly excited to read that the U.S. House of Representatives would spend Wednesday debating the "ENFORCE the Law Act of 2014." Wow, I thought, which law will they pick? Will it be the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act? Would I, moments from now, be phoning a bunch of people to tell them jobs are on the way? Or ... wait a minute! Oh my god, would large corporations be paying taxes now? Or will it be the Kellogg-Briand Pact or maybe the U.N. Charter -- Are we about to announce to the world that the wars are over? Perhaps, I thought, it's going to be the anti-torture statute -- hot damn!