Local Police and Much Else Will Be Militarized As Long As Federal Government Is

Groups on the ground in St. Louis are calling for nationwide solidarity actions in support of Justice for Mike Brown and the end of police and extrajudicial killings everywhere.”

As they should. And we should all join in.

But “nationwide” and “everywhere” are odd terms to equate when discussing police militarization. Are we against extrajudicial killings (otherwise known as murder) by U.S. government employees and U.S. weapons in Pakistan? Yemen? Iraq? Gaza? And literally everywhere they occur? The militarization of local police in the United States is related to the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, which has now reached the point that bombing and “doing nothing” are generally conceived as the only two choices available. Local police are being militarized as a result of these factors:

  • A culture glorifying militarization and justifying it as global policing.
  • A federal government that directs roughly $1 trillion every year into the U.S. military, depriving virtually everything else of needed resources.
  • A federal government that still manages to find resources to offer free military weapons to local police in the U.S. and elsewhere.
  • Weapons profiteers that eat up local subsidies as well as federal contracts while funding election campaigns, threatening job elimination in Congressional districts, and pushing for the unloading of weapons by the U.S. military on local police as one means of creating the demand for more.
  • The use of permanent wartime fears to justify the removal of citizens’ rights, gradually allowing local police to begin viewing the people they were supposed to protect as low-level threats, potential terrorists, and enemies of law and order in particular when they exercise their former rights to speech and assembly. Police “excesses” like war “excesses” are not apologized for, as one does not apologize to an enemy.
  • The further funding of abusive policing through asset forfeitures and SWAT raids.
  • The further conflation of military and police through the militarization of borders, especially the Mexican border, the combined efforts of federal and local forces in fusion centers, the military’s engagement in “exercises” in the U.S., and the growth of the drone industry with the military, among others, flying drones in U.S. skies and piloting drones abroad from U.S. land.
  • The growth of the profit-driven prison industry and mass incarceration, which dehumanize people in the minds of participants just as boot camp and the nightly news do to war targets.
  • Economically driven disproportionate participation in, and therefore identification with, the military by the very communities most suffering from its destruction of resources, rights, and lives.

But policing is not the only thing militarized by what President Eisenhower called the “total influence — economic, political, even spiritual” of the military industrial complex. Our morality is militarized, our entertainment is militarized, our natural world is militarized, and our education system is militarized. “Unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex” is not easily opposed while maintaining the military industrial complex. When Congress Members lend their support to a new war in Iraq while proposing that the U.S. Post Office and a dozen other decent things not be defunded, they are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. The United States cannot live like other wealthy nations while dumping $1 trillion a year into a killing machine.

The way out of this cycle of madness in which we spend more just on recruiting someone into the military or on locking them up behind bars than we spend on educating them is to confront in a unified and coherent manner what Martin Luther King Jr. called the evils of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the local police. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to weapons testing sites. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the people of Honduras causing them to flee to a land that then welcomes them with an attitude of militarism. Not any of these partial steps alone, but the whole package of interlocking evils of attitude and mindset.

There is a no-fly-zone over Ferguson, Missouri, because people in the U.S. government view the people of the United States increasingly as they view the people of other countries: as best controlled from the air. Notes the War Resister League,

“Vigils and protests in Ferguson – a community facing persistent racist profiling and police brutality – have been attacked by tear gas, rubber bullets, police in fully-armored SWAT gear, and tank-like personnel carriers. This underscores not only the dangers of being young, Black, and male in the US, but also the fear of mobilization and rebellion from within racialized communities facing the violence of austerity and criminalization.

“The parallels between the Israeli Defense Forces in Palestine, the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, the Indian police in Kashmir, the array of oppressive armed forces in Iraq, and the LAPD in Skid Row could not be any clearer. . . .

“This is not happening by accident. What is growing the capacity of local police agencies to exercise this force are police militarization programs explicitly designed to do so. As St. Louis writer Jamala Rogers wrote in an article on the militarization of St. Louis Police this past April, ‘It became clear that SWAT was designed as a response to the social unrest of the 1960s, particularly the anti-war and black liberation movements.’ Federal programs such as DoD 1033 and 1122, and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), in which St. Louis Police are active participants, provide weapons and training to police departments across the country, directly from the Pentagon. Commenting on the ominous growth of the phenomenon, Rogers continues: ‘and now, Police Chief [of St. Louis Police] Sam Dotson wants to add drones to his arsenal.’

“The events in Ferguson over these last few days demonstrate that the violence of policing and militarism are inextricably bound. To realize justice and freedom as a condition for peace, we must work together to end police militarization and violence.”

The War Resisters League is organizing against Urban Shield, an expo of military weapons for police and training event planned for Oakland, Calif., this September 4-8. The Week of Education and Action will take place in Oakland from August 30-September 5. Read all about it here.

 

David Swanson is a member of the National Committee of the War Resisters League and wants you to declare peace at http://WorldBeyondWar.org  His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition. He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

Top 9 Reasons to Stop Bombing Iraq

1. It's not a rescue mission.  The U.S. personnel could be evacuated without the 500-pound bombs.  The persecuted minorities could be supplied, moved, or their enemy dissuaded, or all three, without the 500-pound bombs or the hundreds of "advisors" (trained and armed to kill, and never instructed in how to give advice -- Have you ever tried taking urgent advice from 430 people?).  The boy who cried rescue mission should not be allowed to get away with it after the documented deception in Libya where a fictional threat to civilians was used to launch an all-out aggressive attack that has left that nation in ruins.  Not to mention the false claims about Syrian chemical weapons and the false claim that missiles were the only option left for Syria -- the latter claims being exposed when the former weren't believed, the missiles didn't launch, and less violent but perfectly obvious alternative courses of action were recognized.  If the U.S. government were driven by a desire to rescue the innocent, why would it be arming Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain?  The U.S. government destroyed the nation of Iraq between 2003 and 2011, with results including the near elimination of various minority groups.  If preventing genocide were a dominant U.S. interest, it could have halted its participation in and aggravation of that war at any time, a war in which 97% of the dead were on one side, just as in Gaza this month -- the distinction between war and genocide being one of perspective, not proportions.  Or, of course, the U.S. could have left well alone.  Ever since President Carter declared that the U.S. would kill for Iraqi oil, each of his successors has believed that course of action justified, and each has made matters significantly worse.

2. It's going to make things worse, again.  This bombing will aggravate the Sunni-Shia divide, increase support for ISIS, and create a lasting legacy of hostility and violence.  President Obama says there is no military solution, only reconciliation.  But bombs don't reconcile.  They harden hearts and breed murderers.  Numerous top U.S. officials admit that much of what the U.S. military does generates more enemies than it kills.  When you continue down a path that is counterproductive on its own terms, the honesty of those terms has to be doubted.  If this war is not for peace, is it perhaps -- like every other war we've seen the U.S. wage in the area -- for resources, profits, domination, and sadism?  The leader of ISIS learned his hatred in a U.S. prison in Iraq.  U.S. media report that fact as if it is just part of the standard portrait of a new Enemy #1, but the irony is not mere coincidence.  Violence is created. It doesn't arise out of irrational and inscrutable foreignness.  It is planted by those great gardeners in the sky: planes, drones, and helicopters.  A bombing campaign justified as protecting people actually endangers them, and those around them, and many others, including those of us living in the imperial Homeland.

3. Bombs kill.  Big bombs kill a lot of people.  Massive bombing campaigns slaughter huge numbers of people, including those fighting in the hell the U.S. helped to create, and including those not fighting -- men, women, children, grandparents, infants.  Defenders of the bombing know this, but ignore it, and make no effort to calculate whether more people are supposedly being saved than are being killed.  This indifference exposes the humanitarian pretensions of the operation.  If some humans are of no value to you, humanitarianism is not what's driving your decisions.  The U.S. war on Iraq '03-'11 killed a half million to a million-and-a-half Iraqis and 4,000 Americans.  A war that puts fewer Americans on the ground and uses more planes and drones is thought of as involving less death only if our concern is narrowly limited to U.S. deaths.  From the vantage point of the ground, an air war is the deadliest form of war there is. 

4. There are other options.  The choice between bombing and doing nothing is as false now as it was in September.  If you can drop food on some people, why can't you drop food on everyone?  It would cost a tiny fraction of dropping bombs on them.  It would confuse the hell out of them, too -- like Robin Williams' version of God high on pot and inventing the platypus.  Of course, I now sound crazy because I'm talking about people who've been demonized (and personified in a killer straight out of a U.S. prison).  It's not as if these are human beings with whom you can lament the death of Robin Williams.  They're not like you and me.  Etc.  Yadda.  Yadda.  But in fact ISIS fighters were sharing their appreciation of Williams on Twitter on Tuesday.  The United States could talk about other matters with ISIS as well, including a ceasefire, including a unilateral commitment to cease arming the Iraqi government even while trying to organize its ouster, including an offer to provide real humanitarian aid with no nasty strings attached, but with encouragement of civil liberties and democratic decision making. It's amazing how long minority ethnic groups in Iraq survived and thrived prior to the U.S. bringing democracy, and prior to the U.S. existing.  The U.S. could do some good but must first do no harm.

5. There are now enough weapons already there to practically justify one of Colin Powell's slides retroactively.  The U.S. accounts for 79% of foreign weapons transfers to Western Asia (the Middle East).  The war on Libya had identical U.S. weapons on both sides.  ISIS almost certainly has weapons supplied by the U.S. in Syria, and certainly has weapons taken from Iraq.  So, what is the U.S. doing?  It's rushing more weapons to Iraq as fast as possible.  Americans like to think of the Middle East as backward and violent, but the tools of the violence trade are manufactured in the United States.  Yes, the United States does still manufacture something, it's just not something that serves any useful purpose or about which most of us can manage to feel very proud.  Weapons making also wastes money rather than creating it, because unaccountable profits are the single biggest product manufactured. 

6. This is going to cost a fortune.  Bombing Iraq is depicted as a measure of great restraint and forbearance.  Meanwhile building schools and hospitals and green energy infrastructure in Iraq would be viewed as madness if anyone dared propose it.  But the latter would cost a lot less money -- a consideration that is usually a top priority in U.S. politics whenever killing large numbers of people is not involved.  The world spend $2 trillion and the U.S. $1 trillion (half the total) on war and war preparations every year.  Three percent of U.S. military spending could end starvation on earth.  The wonders that could be done with a fraction of military money are almost unimaginable and include actual defense against the actual danger of climate change.

7. Bombs are environmental disasters.  If someone photographs a big oil fire, some will give a thought to the environmental damage.  But a bombing campaign is, rather than an environmental accident, an intentional environmental catastrophe.  The poisoned ground and water, and the disease epidemics, will reach the United States primarily through moral regret, depression, and suicide.

8. There go our civil liberties.  Discussions of torture, imprisonment, assassination, surveillance, and denial of fair trials are severely damaged by wartime postures.  After all, war is for "freedom," and who wouldn't be willing to surrender all of their freedoms for that?

9. War is illegal.  It doesn't matter if the illegitimate government that you're trying to dump invited you to bomb its country.  How can anyone take that seriously, while the U.S. installed that government and has armed it for years, as it has attacked its people?  War is illegal under the Kellogg Briand Pact and the United Nations Charter, and pretending otherwise endangers the world.  Domestically, under U.S. law, the president cannot launch a war.  While the Senate has been silent, the U.S. House voted two weeks ago to ban any new presidential war on Iraq.  Offering Congress a slap in the face, Obama waited for it to go on break, and then attacked Iraq.

Talk Nation Radio: Bad Honeywell, Really Bad Honeywell

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-bad-honeywell-really-bad-honeywell

Mathias Paul Quackenbush is an organizer of http://BadHoneywell.org

What's so bad about Honeywell? Let us count the ways!

Quackenbush lives in San Francisco, where he works as a dual diagnosis Residential Counselor and spends most of his remaining time engaging in activism for peace, human rights, and campaign finance reform.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

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Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
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Obama Does Pete Seeger

If I had a Hellfire
Missile in the morning,
And another in the evening,
Oh that'd be grand!
I'd take out Iraqis,
I'd take out Ukrainians,
I'd take out folks between,
The Atlantic and Pacific,
Oh that'd be grand!

If I had a drone
I'd buzz it in the morning,
I'd buzz it in the evening,
All over your sand,
I'd take out Yemenis,
I'd take out some Syrians
I'd take out folksy folks between,
Argentina and the Arctic
Oh oh oh that'd be grand

If I had a bomb
I'd drop it in the morning
I'd drop it in the evening
Wouldya lend me a hand
We'd destroy Libya
We'd demolish Palestine
We'd take out all male folks between
age eighteen and a hundred
Oh let me be clear that'd be grand

Well, I've got a Hellfire
and I've got a drone
I've got a 500-pound bomb to drop
Come lend me a hand
It's the Hellfire of justice
It's the drone of freedom
It's a Nobel Peace Prize bomb
from a Constitutional scholar
Oh isn't it grand!

It's the Hellfire of justice
It's the drone of freedom
It's a Nobel Peace Prize bomb
from a Constitutional scholar
Oh isn't it grand!

Stop the Smart Wars

Remarks at event for WorldBeyondWar.org in Washington, D.C., on August 9, 2014.

Welcome.  I'm going to say a few words and then introduce each of our other speakers, who will each speak for 10 minutes or less, and then we'll open it up for discussion with all of us.

World Beyond War is a brand new organization, just beginning to organize volunteers, raise funds, hire staff, and post advertisements online and around the world. I'm the only paid staff thus far, and that's part-time.  But thousands of people and organizations of all kinds from 70 nations thus far have signed the pledge at WorldBeyondWar.org. It reads -- in English; we have it posted in many languages, and can use more translations from any of you who are able:

"I understand that wars and militarism make us less safe rather than protect us, that they kill, injure and traumatize adults, children and infants, severely damage the natural environment, erode civil liberties, and drain our economies, siphoning resources from life-affirming activities. I commit to engage in and support nonviolent efforts to end all war and preparations for war and to create a sustainable and just peace."

We're passing around sign-up sheets on which you can sign your name if you agree with that.  You can also indicate how you'd like to be involved, if you would.  I hope you will.  This is a global effort, but just as the movement to abolish slavery needed to begin in London, this new birth for the movement to abolish war can only get so far without strong participation in Washington, D.C., participation that works together with our allies around the world, many of whom are pushing back against militarism that is funded and directed here, as well as weapons produced in this country and marketed abroad from here.

Why now? Here we are at 100 years since World War One was launched, and people have been trying -- and pretending to be trying -- to use war to end war ever since, and -- like using capital punishment to end murder or using beer to end alcoholism -- it's been a doomed pursuit. 

Here we are at 69 years since Truman dropped the bombs on Japan, lied about the nature of the target, and justified it as revenge, not as a means of ending a war, which he knew it was not, and not as a means of threatening the Soviet Union, which he knew that it was.  And we've been stockpiling these apocalyptic weapons ever since, knowing that complete destruction due to intentional or accidental use is more likely the more time passes.  But people in power in this city believe they are better off the more Russia is antagonized.

Here we are at 50 years since the Gulf of Tonkin incident did not actually happen, the Pentagon is investing millions in commemoration and beautification of the slaughter of 4 million Vietnamese, and President Obama has taken the occasion to start bombing Iraq again, apparently believing that for the first time in history the bombs will generate friendship rather than blowback.  It's amazing how long each threatened minority group in Iraq survived before the U.S. brought democracy, and before the U.S. existed.  And now dropping food is accompanied by 500 pound bombs.  There is no military solution, says President Obama, only reconciliation can help.  Well, then why not drop food on the entire region?  It would cost a small fraction of what the missiles and bombs cost.  Would that be rewarding terrorists?  No, it would be recognizing humanity by ceasing to be terrorists.  Dropping bombs on people enrages them and binds their loyalty to those fighting back.  If the institution of war were continuing for rational reasons, that lesson would have sunk in by now and stopped it.

Meanwhile in Gaza, genocide has gone mainstream, with discussion of the complete elimination of the people of Gaza openly advocated by top Israeli officials in Israeli media, and by more than a few U.S. columnists, comedians, and crackpots as well.  And people protest the slaughter by contrasting it to war.  But 97% of the deaths in Gaza are the people of Gaza, and 97% of the deaths in the 2003-2011 war on Iraq were the people of Iraq.  One outside observer's genocide is another patriot's war.  Neither is a tool to end the other, and both are often words for the same thing.

Why choose this moment, when one speech cannot even mention all the wars, to begin an effort to fully eliminate the whole institution from our culture?  A decade back, there were marches in the streets and outrage over war lies that had proved false.  Nowadays lies about impending danger in Libya, the use of particular weapons in Syria, the construction of particular weapons in Iran, the origins of hostility in Ukraine, the expansion of the U.S. military into Africa and Asia, and the results of the doings of the deadly drones pass by so unnoticed that when Obama starts bombing Iraq, the one place everyone was supposed to know shouldn't be bombed, at least some people conclude that war is made acceptable by Obama, rather than Obama being made unacceptable by war.

But, you know what, for millions all over the world, Obama and other war makers' actions are unacceptable when they include war.  Even in the United States, opinion has swung against war quite dramatically.  Polls in recent months have found under 10 or 20 percent favoring a new U.S. war in any place that can be named: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Ukraine.  Two weeks ago the U.S. House voted to forbid any new presidential war in Iraq.  There's no spine there to enforce that measure, and it wasn't passed by the Senate, but it comes on the heels of dramatic reductions in drone strikes, the blocking of a bill in February what would have committed the United States to joining any Israeli-Iranian war, and the stopping of a proposal in September to send missiles screaming into Syria.  The point is not that we're winning or losing.  The point is that we have examples to hold up to those who claim no war can be stopped, and we have opinion dramatically moving our way, even on Israel, whenever specific real wars are named.

The trouble lies in how many people believe an unspecified good war might come along someday, because that myth keeps the military fueled and funded in a manner that makes actual very bad wars likely.  The trouble is in "looking forward" because the past has such an extreme antiwar bias.  That, and how many people protest less against smaller, less expensive, more aerial, or robotized wars, even as those wars proliferate, concentrate power, and generate new enemies.  The problem is the widespread belief that some wars or some parts of some wars can be legal, moral, and useful -- a sort of fine-toothed distinction-drawing that we just don't engage in with other evils like slavery or child abuse or rape.                                                                

So there is, in fact, anti-war momentum to be harnessed and encouraged and directed toward the entire institution rather than only each of its separate pieces.  But why a new organization?  Aren't there organizations existing that already oppose war? Of course there are.  They are not enough.  The need is not to divide our resources but to enlarge them by bringing in new people and groups, and to better use our energies by choosing the best strategies we can.  There is a job out there that isn't being done.  Much of it is an educational job.  Many people do not believe that war can be ended.  It's a ridiculous hurdle but one that has to be taken on.  Many believe that war can protect us or protect others.  The facts say otherwise, but facts require a lot of support when they're going up against emotions like fear or the desire to believe that public officials are not sociopathic.  A campaign to spread the word that war can and must be eliminated worldwide needs to be created and is something that WorldBeyondWar has just begun.

I spoke at the Veterans For Peace Convention recently, and they are completely on board with helping to advance this effort, as are many other peace organizations.  The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom supports this.  I attended the national committee meeting of the War Resisters League, of which I'm a member, recently, and they share the vision of World Beyond War but have put their resources into particular efforts, all good ones, including opposing teargas, doing counter-recruitment, etc.  WorldBeyondWar has begun supporting and will continue working on all sorts of partway steps that move us in the direction of a world beyond war.  But we will advance an understanding of war as a cultural preference, not something made inevitable by any of the factors that interact with and facilitate it.  And we will seek to reframe antiwar activism as part of the struggle toward the ultimate goal of abolition, rather than as part of a struggle to reform war or civilize war or only lessen war's damage and stop there.

We're going to try to stop using the term "we" when referring to public crimes we've opposed, stop opposing Pentagon waste more than Pentagon efficiency, stop calling an aggressive institution the defense industry, stop denouncing particular war crimes in a way that suggests a war itself is not a crime, stop opposing dumb wars as if some are smart, stop opposing wars because they leave the military ill-prepared as if we don't want the military ill-prepared, stop focusing on financial costs and costs to the aggressor in a way that blocks out the nature of a war as a one-sided slaughter, stop celebrating veterans and begin celebrating resisters, and develop a culture of peace that marks peace holidays and thanks peace activists for their service, while making visible the nonviolent alternatives to war.

World Beyond War is also developing a website that makes the strongest case we know how against every argument for war. The case against war that is laid out at WorldBeyondWar.org includes these topics:

War is immoral.

War endangers us.

War threatens our environment.

War erodes our liberties.

War impoverishes us.

We need $2 trillion/year for other things.

That last one is important, and a bit different from how many schools we could have built for the price of one war -- which is always a useful point too.  The larger point is that ordinary military spending, apart from particular wars, is easily ten times the price of a particular war.  And a small fraction of that spending could end starvation, provide clean water, and bring medicine and agriculture and green energy to the world.  We could take on real dangers, including environmental ones, rather than generating dangers through war.

We can talk about each argument, but now I want to introduce our next speaker.

 

Maria Santelli was the founder of the New Mexico GI Rights Hotline and is the Executive Director of a terrific organization here in D.C. called the Center on Conscience and War.

Jeff Bachman is a professorial lecturer in human rights and the Co-Director of the Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs program at the School of International Service at American University.

Vincent Intondi is Associate Professor of History at Montgomery College and Director of Research at the Nuclear Studies Institute of the American University here in D.C. He is also author of African Americans Against the Bomb.

Nadia Kamoona is an Iraqi-American student at the University of Virginia, a future international human rights lawyer, and this summer has been an intern for World Beyond War.

Andy Shallal is an Iraqi-American artist, activist, and entrepreneur, and a recent candidate for mayor of Washington, D.C., and the proprietor of Busboys and Poets, which makes him our host this evening.

Back in Iraq, Jack!

President Obama may want us to sympathize with patriotic torturers, he may turn on whistleblowers like a flesh-eating zombie, he may have lost all ability to think an authentic thought, but I will say this for him: He knows how to mark the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin fraud like a champion.

It's back in Iraq, Jack! Yackety yack! Obama says the United States has fired missiles and dropped food in Iraq -- enough food to feed 8,000, enough missiles to kill an unknown number (presumably 7,500 or fewer keeps this a "humanitarian" effort).  The White House told reporters on a phone call following the President's Thursday night speech that it is expediting weapons to Iraq, producing Hellfire missiles and ammunition around the clock, and shipping those off to a nation where Obama swears there is no military solution and only reconciliation can help.  Hellfire missiles are famous for helping people reconcile.

Obama went straight into laying out his excuses for this latest war, before speaking against war and in favor of everything he invests no energy in.  First, the illegitimate government of Iraq asked him to do it.  Second, ISIS is to blame for the hell that the United States created in Iraq.  Third, there are still lots of places in the world that Obama has not yet bombed.  Oh, and this is not really a war but just protection of U.S. personnel, combined with a rescue mission for victims of a possible massacre on a scale we all need to try to understand. 

Wow! We need to understand the scale of killing in Iraq?  This is the United States you're talking to, the people who paid for the slaughter of 0.5 to 1.5 million Iraqis this decade.  Either we're experts on the scale of mass killings or we're hopelessly incapable of understanding such matters. 

Completing the deja vu all over again Thursday evening, the substitute host of the Rachel Maddow Show seemed eager for a new war on Iraq, all of his colleagues approved of anything Obama said, and I heard "Will troops be sent?" asked by several "journalists," but never heard a single one ask "Will families be killed?"

Pro-war veteran Democratic congressman elected by war opponents Patrick Murphy cheered for Obama supposedly drawing a red line for war.  Murphy spoke of Congress without seeming aware that less than two weeks ago the House voted to deny the President any new war on Iraq.  There are some 199 members of the House who may be having a hard time remembering that right now. 

Pro-war veteran Paul Rieckhoff added that any new veterans created would be heroes, and -- given what a "mess" Iraq is now -- Rieckhoff advocated "looking forward." The past has such an extreme antiwar bias. 

Rounding out the reunion of predictable pro-war platitudes and prevarications, Nancy Pelosi immediately quoted the bits of Obama's speech that suggested he was against the war he was starting. Can Friedman Units and benchmarks be far behind?

Obama promises no combat troops will be sent back to Iraq.  No doubt.  Instead it'll be planes, drones, helicopters, and "non-combat" troops.  "America is coming to help" finally just sounded as evil as Reagan meant it to, but it was in Obama's voice.  The ironies exploded like Iraqi houses on Thursday.  While the United States locks Honduran refugee children in cages, it proposes to bomb Iraq for refugees.  While Gaza starves and Detroit lacks water, Obama bombs Iraq to stop people from starving.  While the U.S. ships weapons to Israel to commit genocide, and to Syria for allies of ISIS, it is rushing more weapons into Iraq to supposedly prevent genocide on a mountaintop -- also to add to the weapons supplies already looted by ISIS.

Of course, it's also for "U.S. interests," but if that means U.S. people, why not pull them out?  If it means something else, why not admit as much in the light of day and let the argument die of shame?

Let me add a word to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesman David Swanson, who is not me and whom I do not know: Please do keep pushing for actual humanitarian aid.  But if you spoke against the missiles that are coming with the food, the reporters left that bit out.  You have to fit it into the same sentence with the food and water if you want it quoted.  I hope there is an internal U.N. lobby for adoption by the U.N. of the U.N. Charter, and if there is I wish it all the luck in the world.

Nixon's Treason Now Acknowledged

A George Will column this week, reviewing a book by Ken Hughes called Chasing Shadows, mentions almost in passing that presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon secretly sabotaged peace talks that appeared likely to end the war on Vietnam until he intervened.  As a result, the war raged on and Nixon won election promising to end the war.

Will treats the matter as a technicality, citing the law against private diplomacy rather than the principle that one shouldn't undermine a government's attempts to halt an episode of mass-murder.

You'd almost have to already know what Will was referring to if you were going to pick up on the fact that Nixon secretly prevented peace while publicly pretending he had a peace plan.  And you'd have to be independently aware that once Nixon got elected, he continued the war for years, the total carnage coming to include the deaths of 4 million Vietnamese plus hundreds of thousands of Cambodians and Laotians, with the deaths from bombs not previously exploded continuing on a major scale to this day, and, of course, the 58,000 Americans killed in the war who are listed on a wall in D.C. as if somehow more worthy than all the others.

Will is not the only one to acknowledge what Nixon did.  The Smithsonian reported on Nixon's treason last year, on the occasion of new tapes of Lyndon Johnson being released.  But the Smithsonian didn't call it treason; it treated the matter more as hard-nosed election strategizing.  Ken Hughes himself published an article on the History News Network two years ago saying almost exactly what Will's column said this week. But the publication used the headline "LBJ Thought Nixon Committed Treason to Win the 1968 Election."  Of course LBJ thought all kinds of things, sane and otherwise.  The first two words of the headline ought to have been deleted.

The point is that it's now apparently become fashionable to acknowledge, but minimize, what Nixon did. 

Will's focus is on Hughes' theory that Nixon's plan to break into or even firebomb the Brookings Institution was driven by his desire to recover evidence of his own treasonous sabotaging of peace, and that Watergate grew from Nixon's desire to coverup that horrendous crime.  This differs from various theories as to what Nixon was so desperate to steal from Brookings (that he was after evidence that Kennedy murdered Diem, or evidence that LBJ halted the bombing of Vietnam just before the election to help Humphrey win, etc.) It certainly seems that Nixon had reasons for wanting files from Brookings that his staff did not share his views on the importance of. And covering up his own crimes was always a bigger motivation for Nixon than exposing someone else's.  Nixon was after Daniel Ellsberg, not because Ellsberg had exposed Nixon's predecessors' high crimes and misdemeanors, but because Nixon feared what Ellsberg might have on him.

But Nixon's sabotaging of peace in 1968 has been known for many years.  And that explanation of the Brookings incident has been written about for years, and written about in a context that doesn't bury the significance of the story.  One need only turn to writings by Robert Parry (for example here, and in the book pictured on that page).  Writes Parry:

"One of the Washington press corps' most misguided sayings – that 'the cover-up is worse than the crime' – derived from the failure to understand the full scope of Nixon’s crimes of state."

The way Parry tells the story might explain why the Washington Post prefers George Will's version:

"Rostow's 'The "X" Envelope,' which was finally opened in 1994 and is now largely declassified, reveals that Johnson had come to know a great deal about Nixon’s peace-talk sabotage from FBI wiretaps. In addition, tapes of presidential phone conversations, which were released in 2008, show Johnson complaining to key Republicans about the gambit and even confronting Nixon personally.

"In other words, the file that Nixon so desperately wanted to find was not primarily about how Johnson handled the 1968 bombing halt but rather how Nixon's campaign obstructed the peace talks by giving assurances to South Vietnamese leaders that Nixon would get them a better result.

"After becoming President, Nixon did extend and expand the conflict, much as South Vietnamese leaders had hoped. Ultimately, however, after more than 20,000 more Americans and possibly a million more Vietnamese had died, Nixon accepted a peace deal in 1972 similar to what Johnson was negotiating in 1968. After U.S. troops finally departed, the South Vietnamese government soon fell to the North and the Vietcong."

Parry even puts Nixon's action in the context of a pattern of actions that includes Ronald Reagan's election following sabotage of President Carter's hostage negotiations with Iran.  Parry has written as well about LBJ's failure to expose Nixon as part of a pattern of Democratic Party spinelessness.  There's President Clinton's failure to pursue Iran-Contra, Al Gore's failure to protest a Supreme Court coup, John Kerry's failure to protest apparent election fraud in Ohio, etc. 

A less partisan and less contemporary context might include Nixon's phony pro-peace election campaign with those of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and other presidents elected to stay out of wars that they promptly jumped into.  And that pattern might include candidate Obama's innumerable campaign-rally promises to end the war in Iraq, which as president he kept going for years, attempted to prolong further, and has begun trying to restart now that an opportunity has presented itself -- meanwhile having tripled troop levels in Afghanistan, attacked Libya, created a new kind of war with drones in multiple nations, and pushed the U.S. military into a greater and more active presence in numerous African and Asian countries.

It's almost universally maintained by those who have expressed any opinion on the matter that if the public had known about Nixon's treason while he was president, all hell would have broken loose.  Are we really such idiots that we've now slipped into routinely acknowledging the truth of the matter but raising no hell whatsoever?  Do we really care so much about personalities and vengeance that Nixon's crime means nothing if Nixon is dead?  Isn't the need to end wars and spying and government secrets, to make diplomacy public and nonviolent, a need that presses itself fiercely upon us regardless of how many decades it will take before we learn every offensive thing our current top officials are up to?

We Won't Forget Wisconsin

A new film called Wisconsin Rising is screening around the country, the subject, of course, being the activism surrounding the mass occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol in 2011.  I recommend attending a planned screening or setting up a new one, and discussing the film collectively upon its conclusion.  For all the flaws in Wisconsin's activism in 2011 and since, other states haven't even come close -- most have a great deal to learn.

The film tells a story of one state, where, long ago, many workers' rights originated or found early support, and where, many years later, threats to workers' rights, wages, and benefits, and to what those workers produce including education in public schools, were aggressively initiated by the state's right-wing governor, Scott Walker. 

The joy and inspiration created by the public resistance to that threat were intense.  The occupation, the singing, the marching, the creative props and protests, the donations for pizza from around the world, the parades, the rallies, the concerts, the firefighters and police officers spared in the legislation but choosing to join with the rest of the public anyway, the growing crowds, the growing awareness of the power of nonviolent action, the legislators bringing their desks out onto the grass to meet with constituents in the cold snow or fleeing the state to deny the governor a quorum, Fox News propaganda showing a violent rally supposedly in Wisconsin but with palm trees in the background, the Wisconsinites hauling plastic palm trees to the capitol, the high school students joining the occupation on behalf of their teachers, Governor Walker unable to step outdoors without protest -- all of this energy and activity is accurately conveyed in Wisconsin Rising.  For over three weeks, Wisconsin's capitol was occupied, and the reminders of it are still frequently visible there.

The Wisconsin legislature rammed through its horrendous legislation despite the public opposition. The film does not hide that awful defeat.  But the same would have happened had there been no opposition.  The question is whether the opposition did any good and whether it could conceivably have succeeded had wiser decisions been made -- and whether power was tapped that could be enlarged still further.  I think the answer to all of these questions is yes. 

In the film we see people withdrawing their money from a bank that funds candidates like Walker.  That can and should continue. 

We see a choice made to withdraw energy from protests and demonstrations and nonviolent resistance and camps and marches and a general strike, in order to put all of that energy into recall elections. The lessons of all of those labor songs sung at all of those rallies are not followed. Instead, an effort is made to pretend that the system works and that slightly better personalities in positions of corrupt power will solve everything.  Massive popular energy went into a contest where it could not compete with massive money.

What might have happened instead? Energy could have stayed with the occupation, drawing inspiration from and giving inspiration to activism around the United States and the world.  I remember Michael Moore pointing out at the Wisconsin occupation that 400 people in the United States had as much money as half the country, and pundits compelled to note that that was true.  An education campaign about the division and concentration of wealth would have been time better spent.  Creative means of keeping working people's wealth with working people, rather than handing it over to Wall Street, would have been wiser use of euphoric enthusiasm.

An effort might also have been made to build even wider state-level solidarity by recognizing the state of Wisconsin, like the other 49 U.S. states, as a victim of a federal budget gone off the deep end of plutocratic plunder and militarism.  The federal government does not support education or any other human need, at home or abroad, in remotely the way that it could if it curtailed spending on war preparations, giveaways to corporations and billionaires, or both.  What if Wisconsin were to convert from weapons to peaceful industries, tax major federal tax evaders at the state level instead, and call for a Constitutional Convention to recriminalize bribery?  What if the money Wisconsinites dump into elections went into setting up and supporting independent media outlets in Wisconsin instead?

What if three enjoyable, energizing, inspiring weeks of effort wasn't seen as a record long action, but as the opening preview of much longer struggles?  What if the pressure were to build back up, and a different direction were chosen this time, the direction of nonviolent resistance rather than naive compliance?  Wisconsin, at least, has done its warm ups.  Most states are still in the locker room.