Let's Begin Ending War Again

Recently I noticed a post on a social media site honoring Rosa Parks for her refusal to move out of her seat on a segregated bus.  Someone commented underneath, that in fact another individual deserved credit for having done the same thing first.  What happened next was entirely predictable. Post after post by various people brought out the names of all kinds of forerunners of Parks, pushing the date of the first brave resister to segregated buses back further and further -- many decades -- into the past.

What we understand as the civil rights movement was successfully started after a great many failed attempts -- by organizations as well as individuals.  The same goes for the suffragette movement or the labor movement or the abolition of slavery.  Even the Occupy movement was the umpteenth time a lot of activists had attempted such a thing, and chances are that eventually the Occupy movement will be seen as one in a long line of failed predecessors to something more successful.

I've been discussing with people whom I consider key organizers of such a project the possibility of a newly energized movement to abolish war.  One thing we're looking at, of course, is failed past attempts to do the same.  Some of those attempts have been quite recent.  Some are ongoing.  How, we must ask ourselves, can we strengthen what's already underway, learn from what's been tried before, and create the spark that this time, at long last, after over a century's preliminaries, catches fire? 

Momentum for the abolition of war began to grow in the late 19th century, and then again, much more strongly, after World War I, in a different manner after World War II, again after the Cold War, and -- just maybe -- again right now.  Arguably the 1920s and 1930s have seen the strongest popular sentiment for war abolition in the United States.  We're not at that level now.  But we do have the advantage of being able to study the past 80 years of struggle.  Of course, anti-war efforts have had great successes as well as failures, but war remains.  And it doesn't remain on the margins, like slavery.  It remains, front and center, as the United States' principal public program.  Standing armies are so well accepted that most people aren't sure what the phrase means.  Wars are so common that most Americans cannot name all the nations their own is at war with.

A proposal on "Abolishing the War System" that I've just been reading (from Marcus Raskin at the Institute for Policy Studies) takes us back to 1992 and provides much useful material to draw on.  Raskin's preface and Brian D'Agostino's introduction suggest that the moment in which they were writing was a particularly opportune moment for a campaign to abolish war.  I'm sure they honestly believed it was.  And I'm sure that it, in fact, was -- even if there's a tendency to find such a remark comical in retrospect.  Strategic-minded people want to know why 2013 is such a moment, and they can be pointed toward many indicators: opinion polls, the rejection of the proposed missile attack on Syria, increased awareness of war propaganda, the diminishment of drone attacks, the ever-so-slight reduction in military spending, the possibility of peace in Colombia, the growing success of nonviolent conflict resolution, the growing and improving use of nonviolent movements for change, the existentially urgent need for a shifting of resources from destroying the planet to protecting it, the economic need to stop wasting trillions of dollars, the arrival of technologies that allow for instant international collaboration among war resisters, etc. But just as many indicators were available in 1992, albeit different ones, and nobody has developed the means for quantifying such things.  However, here's the key question, I think: If all of those predecessors to Rosa Parks hadn't acted, would Rosa Parks have ever been Rosa Parks?  If not, then isn't the strategic time for a moral and necessary campaign always right now?

Raskin's "Abolishing the War System" is not an argument to persuade anyone against war, not a plan for organizing a mass movement, not a system for reaching out to new constituencies or creating economic or political pressure against war.  Raskin's book is primarily a draft treaty that should be, but never has been, enacted.  The treaty aims to take the United States and the world to an important part-way step, most of the way perhaps, toward war abolition.  In compliance with this treaty, nations would maintain only "nonoffensive defense," which is to say: air defense and border and coast guard forces, but not offensive weapons aimed at attacking other nations far from one's own.  Foreign bases would be gone.  Aircraft carriers would be gone.  Nuclear and chemical and biological weapons would be gone.  Drones over distant lands would have been gone before they appeared.  Cluster bombs would be done away with. 

The argument for nonoffensive defense is, I think, fairly straightforward.  Many wealthy nations spend under $100 billion each year on military defense -- some of which nations fit major offensive weapons systems into that budget.  The United States spends $1 trillion each year on military defense and (mostly) offense.  The result is a broken budget, missed opportunities, and lots of catastrophic foreign wars.  So, the case for cutting $900 billion from war spending each year in the U.S. is the case for fully funding schools, parks, green energy, and actual humanitarian aid. It is not the case for completely abolishing the military.  If the United States were to be attacked it could defend itself in any manner it chose, including militarily. 

But, someone might protest, why is it sufficient to shoot down planes when they reach our border? Isn't it better to blow them up in their own country just before they head our way?

The direct answer to that question is that we've been trying that approach for three-quarters of a century and it hasn't been working.  It's been generating enemies, not removing them.  It's been killing innocents, not imminent threats.  We've become so open about this that the White House has redefined "imminent" to mean eventual and theoretical.

The indirect answer is that, I believe, Raskin's treaty could benefit from a better vision of success, assuming such a vision can be added without losing the practical part-way step created by the treaty.  The treaty is excellent on the establishment of a structure for disarmament, inspections, verification.  It bans exports and imports of weapons.  The treaty and accompanying text are also excellent on the need to abolish the CIA, NSA, and all secret agencies of war.  "Intelligence" agencies should be internationalized and opened to the public, Raskin wrote, as if the internet already existed but with Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden hired by the government to do as ordinary labor what they in reality ended up doing as heroic acts of defiance.  The National Security Act of 1947 must go, Raskin writes.  The U.N. Charter must be upheld.

Here's where it starts to get dicey.  Raskin wants to reform the membership, structure, and veto powers of members in the U.N. Security Council.  But his treaty is written as if that reform has been accomplished.  Power all flows to the United Nations, reformed or otherwise.  A "nonlethal" (but not nonviolent) U.N. Peace Force is strengthened by the treaty.  Raskin also supports the creation of an international criminal court; of course it has since been created, but under the shadow of an unreformed United Nations.

Raskin explicitly traces the lineage of war abolition movements back to Salmon Oliver Levinson who led the organizing that created the Kellogg-Briand Pact.  Raskin faults the Pact for lacking a "collective security arrangement." Levinson, and his allies, in Congress and without, would have objected that this lack was an advantage, not a flaw.  A "collective security arrangement" along the lines of the United Nations is a sanction to use war-making as a tool with which to eliminate war-making.  This approach, as Raskin acknowledges, has been a failure.  But Raskin begins his draft treaty by recommitting nations to the U.N. Charter, not the Kellogg-Briand Pact, that is to say: to an agreement that sanctions certain wars, and not to an agreement that bans all war.

Now the Kellogg-Briand Pact is widely ignored and violated.  But then, as Raskin notes, so is the U.N. Charter.  Why ask nations to recommit to it, except because they are violating it?  Through the course of this book, Raskin happens to note various other laws that are routinely ignored: the Humphrey Hawkins Act, the Nuremberg Principles, the 1963 nuclear test ban treaty in which the U.S. committed to general and complete disarmament, etc.  Yet, Raskin wants to create a new law, hoping it will be complied with as well as being formally established. 

There's no reason the Kellogg-Briand Pact and/or the vision of its creators shouldn't be a part of our work, and there are many reasons why it should be.  When those dreaded mythical bombers approach our shores, defended purely by every possible defensive weapon known to humankind, what if bombing the land from which those planes departed was not what came to mind?  What if other actions were the focus of our thoughts in contemplating such scenarios?  The imaginary government that sent the planes (or drones or boats or whatever) could be prosecuted in a court.  Arbitration could be taken to a court.  Sanctions could be imposed on the government responsible.  International legal, trade, political, and moral pressure could be organized.  Nonviolent protesters could be sent to the nation responsible.  Nonviolent flotillas of boats and hot air balloons could interfere.  Video of any suffering created could be immediately made visible in public spaces in the nation responsible and around the world.  And, of course, if the attack planes came from no nation at all, then all the nations of the world could be pressured to cooperate in criminal apprehension and prosecution of those responsible -- an idea we might have done well to think of some 12 years ago, some 9 years after Raskin's drafting of his treaty.  But, but, but, what if all of that failed?  Well then, we could add to it in our handicapped imaginations the use of every defensive weapon available to any department of what we actually call, but don't think of as, Defense.

I find it hard to imagine that if the United States took a chunk of that $900 billion and gave the world schools and medicine there would be a lot of attacks planned against it.  Others find it hard to imagine anything could stop such attacks from inexplicably materializing.  How do we shift such a perspective?  I think it has to be by pointing to a first step in combination with outlining an image of the final goal.  That means thinking beyond the idea of using war to prevent war.  That idea leads straight to the question "Which nation(s) will dominate the United Nations?"  Waiting to transform the United Nations into a fair, democratic, and yet universally respected, institution before dramatically reducing the military and beginning a virtuous cycle of further disarmament, may be a roadblock.  The United Nations is in the process of legalizing drone wars.  The U.N. just might be a bigger hurdle than the U.S. Senate in the cause of peace -- although, admittedly, these are all chicken-and-egg dilemmas.

If we can get people understanding what a world without militaries will look like and show them a partial step in that direction -- one that makes sense to them because they see where we're headed -- it just might be that this time beginning the ending of war will have been an idea whose time had come.

What Didn't Kill Mandela Made Him Stronger

Nelson Mandela's story, if told as a novel, would not be deemed possible in real life.  Worse, we don't tell such stories in many of our novels.

A violent young rebel is imprisoned for decades but turns that imprisonment into the training he needs.  He turns to negotiation, diplomacy, reconciliation.  He negotiates free elections, and then wins them. He forestalls any counter-revolution by including former enemies in his victory.  He becomes a symbol of the possibility for the sort of radical, lasting change of which violence has proved incapable.  He credits the widespread movement in his country and around the world that changed cultures for the better while he was locked away.  But millions of people look to the example of his personal interactions and decisions as having prevented a blood bath.

Mandela was a rebel before he had a cause.  He was a fighter and a boxer.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu says that South Africa benefited greatly from the fact that Mandela did not emerge from prison earlier: "Had he come out earlier, we would have had the angry, aggressive Madiba. As a result of the experience that he had there, he mellowed. ... Suffering either embitters you or, mercifully, ennobles you.  And with Madiba, thankfully for us, the latter happened."

Mandela emerged able to propose reconciliation because he'd had the time to think it through, because he'd had the experience of overcoming the prisons' brutality, because he'd been safely locked up while others outside were killed or tortured, and also -- critically -- because he had the authority to be heard and respected by those distrustful of nonviolence. 

The CIA had Mandela prosecuted in 1963.  He might have been given the death penalty.  Alan Paton testified in court that if Mandela and other defendants were killed the government would have no one to negotiate with (this at a time when both sides would have rather died than negotiate anything). 

The U.S. government considered Mandela a terrorist until 2008, when he was a 90-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner (and most Nobel Peace Prize winners were not yet in the habit of engaging in terrorism). 

But many here in the United States and around the world brought pressure to bear on the Apartheid government of South Africa in a manner similar to what is now being developed to pressure Israel.  The times were changing.  A door was just cracking open.  And Mandela negotiated it right off its hinges, even as violence rolled on in Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia, and the Middle East.  Mandela showed another way -- or, rather, the first and only way that involved actually accomplishing positive change.

Mandela had flaws, and traits that many would consider flaws.  Either his sex life or his economic reform agenda (not that he stood by the latter) would have disqualified him from politics in the United States even had he not been on the list of terrorists.  His second wife suffered in the movement outside the prisons, turning toward anger and hatred even as her husband turned toward empathy and forgiveness. 

Mandela did not adopt an ideology or a religion that imposed nonviolence on him.  Rather, he found his way to tools that would work effectively, and to the state of mind that would give him the strength to implement them.  He found, not only empathy but great humility.  He sought fair elections but not a candidacy.  Urged to become a candidate he committed to serving only one term.  As the election results came in, reports are that he stopped the counting before his lead could grow so large as to exclude minority parties from the government. He credited the movement with the victory and invited his former jailer to his inauguration. 

Danny Schechter has produced a fantastic new book about Mandela, called Madiba A to Z: The Many Faces of Nelson Mandela.  It's based on the making of a documentary series that's based on the making of the new film, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which is in turn based primarily on Mandela's autobiography.

In the book, Schechter speculates on how the corporate media will cover Mandela's death.  "Which Mandela will be memorialized? Will it be the leader who built a movement and a military organization to fight injustice? Or a man of inspiration with a great smile whom we admire because of the long years suffered behind bars?"  It's a rhetorical question now and always was, but I wish the answer could have been something other than those two choices.  I wish the answer were Mandela the man who negotiated a peaceful change, who forgave, who apologized, who sympathized, who showed a way for nations to live up to the standards of our children, whom we routinely urge to settle their problems with words rather than aggravating their problems with violence. 

The United States needs that example when speaking with Iran.  Colombia needs it as the possibility of peace glimmers in the distance there.  Syrian builders of movements and military organizations that fight injustice need that example desperately.

When will we ever learn?

I Googled "Evil" And It Took Me to Google

Google may have been, unil now, the Obama of hip internet monopolies.  No matter how many nations the President bombs, people still put Obama peace-sign stickers on their cars.  No matter how many radical rightwing initiatives Google funds, people still think it's a "progressive corporation" -- How could it not be? It's making progress!

Google is funding Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, the Federalist Society, the American Conservative Union, and the political arm of the Heritage Foundation.

And there's more really bad news: Google is funding ALEC, the powerful, secretive, and destructive lobbying force from which many companies concerned with their public images are fleeing. ALEC is in the news this week, holding its 40th annual meeting. Together with allies, RootsAction.org is applying as much pressure as we can.  And it might just be that the tide is turning.  Google just might have to start worrying about whether its users favor plutocratic plundering or not.

ALEC targets state legislatures around the country to roll back labor rights, environmental protection, civil rights, public health measures and more. Using big money, corporate clout and smooth lobbyists, ALEC teams up with like-minded state lawmakers to draft and enact regressive legislation.

Tens of thousands of people have heeded our request to Tell Google and other huge firms to which we'll deliver this petition not to participate in ALEC's corruption of our government:
We urge you to stop funding ALEC. With ALEC's help ...
* Tobacco companies get tax cuts.
* For-profit education companies get school privatization.
* Management gets union busting.
* Oil companies get opposition to renewable energy.
* The rich and powerful get the repeal of estate taxes.
But, in the process, democracy gets hijacked -- one state at a time.

***

You should read the thousands and thousands of comments people have submitted when they have signed this petition.  And you can, they're all publicly posted at the link above.

Some people express their great affection for Google, along with disillusionment:

"I really thought that your business was a role model as  progressive, social conscious Corporation...  I was seriously mistaking... -  - It is outrageous that you are supporting these politicians that have injured out country and our people so deeply...  and ALEC???? -  - PLEASE STOP!!!" --J. Carlo Diaz, FL      

"Really, Google. Really!? I expect more sense from you!" --Marian Pickett, LA

"As much as I like Google, I'll be damned if I'll support in any way the increase in political clout of big and secret money funneled to "money is above all" unbridled capitalism Republican organizations!  There are other choices ... and I'll be switching!!" --William Whitlock, CA

"Any company that funds an organization like Alec does not have an interest in democracy. Alec is in the business of buying votes, and votes for the most un-American causes. My respect for Google has taken a huge hit because of its support of Alec." --Kathlyn McCaughna

"I used GOOGLE to research ALEC. I am surprised and greatly disappointed that your corporation would support this horror to our democracy. Greed. Cynicism. Arrogance. Downright stupidity. Or as stated in one of your listed sources--policy areas including legislation 'opposing U.S. consumers' rights to know the origin of our food,' 'undermining workers' rights,' 'stripping environmental protections,' and 'limiting patient rights and undermining safety net programs.' (MediaMatters 12/4/13) I said 'surprised.' Perhaps not, just thoroughly disgusted.  - I love GOOGLE; other venues' ads have not swayed me. However, your support of such a vicious, predatory, manipulative organization has changed the game. --JoAnn Durfee, OR

Some explain to Google what the problem is:

"Alec is for profits at any cost to society. Make your engine work for people, not for evil." --John Kozub, TN

"Google, Facebook and Yelp are people driven and should not support corporate takeover of the internet or other arenas." --Amy Whitworth, OR

"Does Google want to be seen to be supporting ALEC? If so they are also supporting this neanderthal approach to energy production: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/04/alec-freerider-homeowners-assault-clean-energy  -- An alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilising to penalise homeowners who install their own solar panels -- casting them as 'freeriders' -- in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy, the Guardian has learned." --E Healy, CA

"Funding the most regressive organizations puts your company right there with them: destroyers of democracy, dirty political actors. Think carefully whether this is where you want to be, and where you are going to be seen to be." --John Prehn, UT

"ALEC has caused so much evil and trouble in Wisconsin that I am sure most people don't understand, at this point in time. Please do NOT support the agenda of ALEC as it is not for the people but for the FEW!" --Joan Schneider, WI

Some get a bit angry:

"Alec sucks. When I found out the State Farm backed them, we DUMPED State Farm. And we had been with them for 20 years. Don't miss them a BIT!" --Audrey Lima, FL

"ALEC's prime mission is to destroy everything decent in this country!  Fascism simply ISN'T the same thing as Democracy!  STOP supporting this evil group!!!!" --Linda Christy, OK

"Stop SCROOGLING the very hard-working Americans who pay taxes that made you a household name. We don't need ALEC trying to shove their power-hungry, money-centered, and sexist/racist/homophobic agendas onto hard-working taxpayers. And we won't need GOOGLE either if they get in bed with corrupt ALEC and its members." --Deirdre McCullough, NC

"Google is EVIL SCUM pretending to be a progressively-minded company while funding organizations that systematically destroy the rights and well-being of everyday citizens everywhere, all to increase their already bloated bottom line.  Screw you--I don't need your search, your email, your phones, or anything else you can offer.  I NEED DEMOCRACY AND A COMPASSIONATE SOCIETY." --Ellen Read, NH

Or angry and pithy:

"Dicks." --Brad Thompson, IA

Some plead with Google:

"Please, Google, do not be a part of this right wing attempt to hijack democracy in your country!" --Sharon Fummerton, BC

"With your power you could (and should) do good instead of furthering ALEC's poisonous agenda." --Barbara Coulson, NC     

Some propose a course of action:

"I will boycott any company affiliated with ALEC" --Jim Knipe, VA

"Don't make me start using Bing." --Liz Neff, CA

Some are taking action already:

"I am already using DuckDuckGo for web searches. I'm pretty sure I can find an email service other than Gmail." --Dan Starr, IL

"Just changed my search engine." --Michael Keenan, IL

"I already changed my home page to Yahoo." --Nadia Daley

"I have stopped using Google completely due to it's support of these ultra conservative and regressive groups." --Kelley Dempsey, MD

"Until Google makes it clear that it no longer supports Alec and other anti-democratic, anti labour, and environmentally destructive causes I will conduct my searches through other engines." --Glenn Ashton

Some have a more serious solution in mind:

"Google is Getting too big and powerful, break it up!" --Stephen Rawlings, FL 

"When corporations get a fairer deal than the tax paying population, something needs to CHANGE!" --Debbie Boozer, IN

 

Paging Santa's Puppet Repair, Pentagon on Line 1

Vice Deputy Under Elf for Hearts and Minds: Good Afternoon, this is the Vice Deputy Under Elf for Hearts and Minds, how may I bring you joy?

Anonymous Pentagon Official: Cut the crap, Nils, you know why I'm calling.

VDUEHM: You've got me confused with the big man, Chuck. I can't see you even when you're awake.

APO: We're providing your sled with fighter jet escort in a $3 billion promotional video, Nils, and this is the 218th -- count 'em, Nils -- the 218th defective puppet you've given us, under warranty, and your people -- if I may call the little goblins "people" -- are not helping.

VDUEHM: What is the name and serial number of the puppet?

APO: The hell you think his name is? Hamid Frickin Karzai, you third-rate bureaucratic ... you can't even see over a bureau, can you? You know what, Nils, if your big man had given us a reasonably small sack of coal instead of each and every puppet we've ever picked up on Christmas morning, we'd ... we'd ... well, we'd have had to think up an entirely different reason for our wars, that's what!

VDUEHM: Please state the difficulty you are experiencing with the puppet.

APO: I don't have all damn day here, Nils. You want the full list?  Let me put it to you this way. Remember that last puppet, Maliki, who you claimed was not under warranty ... 

VDUEHM: When you intentionally, maliciously, or negligently destroy the puppet's primary or temporary nation or society, the warranty is voided in its entirety, as found in rule number ...

APO: You can imagine where I might suggest you stick that rule book, Nils. Tell me this: who is your best customer in the entire world?

VDUEHM: The innocent child who wishes good only for others and experiences a depth of gratitude ...

APO: Who's your second best customer?

VDUEHM: We give presents, Chuck. Did you think you'd dialed Saudi Arabia? I can have someone connect you. Please hold ...

APO: Hold on! Hold on! My god! Whose chestnuts do you have to roast to get some service around here?

VDUEHM: Please state the difficulty you are experiencing with the puppet.

APO: He's refusing to sign on for 10 more years and beyond.

VDUEHM: Beyond what?

APO: Beyond the next 10 years.

VDUEHM: So, why don't you just call it "indefinitely"? Why mention 10 years if you're going to add "and beyond"?

APO: You wouldn't understand marketing, Nils. You give stuff away, remember?

VDUEHM: It is my understanding that he said he would sign on if you changed a few things. Is that true?

APO: Yeah, yeah. Just a few little bitty things like turning the sky upside down. We had Kerry try to get one of Karzai's underlings to sign on, but Karzai blocked that. Talk about an aggressively defective puppet. This is asymmetric warfare, Nils!

VDUEHM: Kerry?  John Kerry? The guy who is opposed to and in favor of every war?  The guy who tried to sell missiles-on-Syria as a radical overthrow by violent pacifist fanatic moderate secular extremists that would change everything and have no effect whatsoever? That guy?  That guy? Wait, and you're the expert on MARKETING? Oh my god, wait a minute, hang on, I gotta tell Rudolph this one ...

APO: Nils?

APO: NILS!

VDUEHM: Chuck, I've got an answer for you from Rudolph. He says you'll go down in history.

APO: Really?

VDUEHM: No, not really.  Listen, this is what your puppet Karzai said to you: stop killing civilians, stop kicking people's doors in at night, engage in peace talks, free prisoners from Guantanamo, refrain from sabotaging next April's elections, and he'll sign your paper.  Now, you had this conversation on the big man's knee.  He asked you if you were sure you wanted the democratic puppet and not the monster puppet.  No, no, you said, you wanted the democratic puppet. You were all about spreading democracy, Chuck.

APO: That wasn't ME!  That was the guy before the guy before the guy before the guy before me!

VDUEHM: It's the same warranty, and your puppet is performing as required. If you'd like to submit a complaint ...

APO: I'll tell you what I'll submit, Nils, I'll submit that melting ice isn't healthy for elves.  I'll submit that the guy after the guy after the guy after me is going to get a call from you begging for a bit of terra firma, and I'll submit that he's going to remember the exact number of defective damn puppets you will by that point have provided. Do you like freezing water, Nils?

VDUEHM: I'm transferring you to my boss.

APO: I thought so.

Talk Nation Radio: Adam Hochschild on Ending Slavery and Not Ending War

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-adam

Adam Hochschild discusses his books, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves, and To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

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

David Swanson in Portland, Oregon

David Swanson at Laughing Horse Books

7 to 9 p.m. Monday, December 16, 2013

12 NE 10th Ave, Portland, OR 503-236-2893

David Swanson will discuss and sign copies of his new book, War No More: The Case for Abolition.

Sign up on FaceBook.

Swanson's books include When the World Outlawed War, named by Ralph Nader as one of the six books everyone should read; the best-selling classic War Is A Lie, and Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, of which Glenn Greenwald said, "There have now been many books written which chronicle the imperial, lawless presidency of the Bush era, but Swanson’s superb new book is one of the very few to examine how we can recover from it and reverse its pernicious trends."

Swanson is the host of  Talk Nation Radio. He helped plan the nonviolent occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington DC in 2011.  Swanson holds a master's degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including press secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org and works for RootsAction.org. Swanson is Secretary of Peace in the Green Shadow Cabinet.

Flyer to print, copy, distribute: PDF.

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What Does Latest Dead Afghan 2-Year-Old Have in Common with Paul Robeson, John Wayne, Ernest Hemingway?

This is the season of death, when we celebrate the dying of the sun with an orgiastic burst of consumption and environmental destruction.  This is the season of rebirth when we spend time with loved ones and reach out to help others we don't know.

Now would be an appropriate time to come to grips with public murder and make a public investment in peace.  If I were summoning back ghosts of governments past for a press conference at the National Press Club, my first inclination -- lasting only a split second -- would be to bring the Filipinos, the Vietnamese, the Native Americans, the Laotians, the Mexicans, the Cambodians, the Iraqis, the Guatemalans, the Japanese, the Afghans, the Germans, the Yemenis, and all the peoples of the world dead by our indifference or malevolence and by our sacred tax dollars.  Pacific Islanders killed by weapons testing would join children killed by drug testing, and prisoners both innocent and guilty killed by electric chairs and injections, standing side-by-side with the resurrected bodies of men tortured to death by the CIA, kids melted with white phosphorous, and presidents -- both foreign and domestic -- cut down by assassins spreading freedom and joy.

My second inclination would be to line up a handful of press-worthy celebrities whose celebrity might motivate a bit of our national press corpse [sic] to hop an elevator for the long commute to the press club despite the fact that these particular celebrities were murdered by our government.  First might be Paul Robeson.  Here's a wikipedia summary for those unfamiliar with this great man.  Here's a taste of Robeson's voice.  And here's audio of a discussion with Robeson's son and others of how the CIA drugged him and then electroshocked him, effectively debilitating and silencing a voice that had never before faltered, a voice that had gone so far as to denounce the House Un-American Activities Committee as un-Americans to their faces.  This article sums up this crime.  This more recent article looks back.

Next to Robeson before the cameras might stand John Wayne. In 1955, movie star John Wayne, who avoided participating in World War II by opting instead to make movies glorifying war, decided that he had to play Genghis Khan. The Conqueror was filmed in Utah, and the conqueror was conquered. Of the 220 people who worked on the film, by the early 1980s 91 of them had contracted cancer and 46 had died of it, including John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell. Statistics suggest that 30 of the 220 might ordinarily have gotten cancer, not 91. In 1953 the military had tested 11 atomic bombs nearby in Nevada, and by the 1980s half the residents of St. George, Utah, where the film was shot, had cancer. You can run from war, but you can't hide. Imagine that comment in John Wayne's voice as he stands, newly restored to life, speaking at a podium surrounded by handsome hacks who play journalists on TV.

Beside Robeson and Wayne at the best-attended-ever press conference we might line up Ernest Hemingway.  When I was first told that Hemingway had killed himself, it was explained to me that he didn't want to live as an old man incapable of hunting lions.  And yet this was the author of The Old Man and the Sea.  Make sense of that if you can.  Now we learn from Hemingway's friend and collaborator over the last 13 years of his life that the FBI's surveillance of Hemingway "substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide."  Hemingway's close friend didn't take Hemingway's complaints about the FBI seriously until his FBI file was finally released, confirming the surveillance.  "It's the worst hell," Hemingway had said. "The goddamnedest hell. They've bugged everything. That's why we're using [a friend]'s car. Mine's bugged. Everything's bugged. Can't use the phone. Mail intercepted."  I wonder how many high school English classes will mention this.

Next to Hemingway, let's bring out Bob Marley.  The CIA's files on him are being kept secret for your protection, but the death and destruction the CIA was bringing to his country is undisputed, the CIA's responsibility for the failed assassination attempt against him is very likely, and it appears that in the end the CIA got him by a manner that sounds insanely bizarre if you haven't heard about giving an entire French town LSD or targeting a single intended victim (Fidel Castro) with a poisoned diving suit, an exploding cigar, a ballpoint-pen syringe, an exploding conch shell, and dozens of other crackpot schemes that sound less comical when they work.

Some surprise guests at the press club might include John and Robert Kennedy.  Others might include, after all, the millions of nameless forgotten dead, the victims of the industrial-scale "signature strikes" that have been our biggest public investment.  Not that the reporters would all see the point of cramming so many resurrected bodies into their club, but because some of the celebrity victims might more clearly grasp and articulate the purpose of the event.  Sooner or later we are going to have to stop killing people and start loving people, or the rebirth of life after winter won't keep repeating.