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?
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.
Benjamin Ferencz was a prosecutor at Nuremberg and at age 94 is still focused on the problem of applying the rule of law to a world plagued by war. His website is http://benferencz.org
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There's a wide and mysterious chasm between the stated intentions of the Israeli government as depicted by the U.S. media and what the Israeli government has been doing in Gaza, even as recounted in the U.S. media.
With the morgues full, Gazans are packing freezers with their dead children. Meanwhile, the worst images to be found in Israel depict fear, not death and suffering. Why the contrast? If the Israeli intent is defensive, why are 97% of the deaths Gazan, not Israeli? If the targets are fighters, why are whole families being slaughtered and their houses leveled? Why are schools and hospitals and children playing on the beach targeted? Why target water and electricity if the goal is not to attack an entire population?
The mystery melts away if you look at the stated intentions of the Israeli government as not depicted by the U.S. media but readily available in Israeli media and online.
On August 1st, the Deputy Speaker of Israel's Parliament posted on his FaceBook page a plan for the complete destruction of the people of Gaza using concentration camps. He had laid out a somewhat similar plan in a July 15th column.
Another member of the Israeli Parliament, Ayelet Shaked, called for genocide in Gaza at the start of the current war, writing: "Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there."
Taking a slightly different approach, Middle East scholar Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University has been widely quoted in Israeli media saying, "The only thing that can deter [Gazans] is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
The Times of Israel published a column on August 1st, and later unpublished it, with the headline "When Genocide Is Permissible." The answer turned out to be: now.
On August 5th, Giora Eiland, former head of Israel's National Security Council, published a column with the headline "In Gaza, There Is No Such Thing as 'Innocent Civilians'." Eiland wrote: "We should have declared war against the state of Gaza (rather than against the Hamas organization). . . . [T]he right thing to do is to shut down the crossings, prevent the entry of any goods, including food, and definitely prevent the supply of gas and electricity."
It's all part of putting Gaza "on a diet," in the grotesque wording of an advisor to a former Israeli Prime Minister.
If it were common among members of the Iranian or Russian government to speak in favor of genocide, you'd better believe the U.S. media would notice. Why does this phenomenon go unremarked in the case of Israel? Noticing it is bound to get you called an anti-Semite, but that's hardly a concern worthy of notice while children are being killed by the hundreds.
Another explanation is U.S. complicity. The weapons Israel is using are given to it, free-of-charge, by the U.S. government, which also leads efforts to provide Israel immunity for its crimes. Check out this revealing map of which nations recognize the nation of Palestine.
A third explanation is that looking too closely at what Israel's doing could lead to someone looking closely at what the U.S. has done and is doing. Roughly 97% of the deaths in the 2003-2011 war on Iraq were Iraqi. Things U.S. soldiers and military leaders said about Iraqis were shameful and genocidal.
War is the biggest U.S. investment, and contemporary war is almost always a one-sided slaughter of civilians. If seeing the horror of it in Israeli actions allow us to begin seeing the same in U.S. actions, an important step will have been taken toward war's elimination.
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
The 16th Annual Kateri Peace Conference will be held with Fonda, NY, as its base on August 15th and 16th.
Extensive information on the nature of this event (I've been before and highly, highly recommend it. --David Swanson) is available here: http://kateripeaceconference.org
On Friday, August 15, from 10 a.m. to 4:40 p.m., the third annual day of reflection associated with this conference will be held at the bucolic National Kateri Tekawitha Shrine in Fonda. The day of reflection will be led by Thomas Gumbleton, a Roman Catholic Bishop from Detroit who for many decades has raised his voice, with great personal consequence, against war, militarism and social injustice.
On Friday evening, the Conference will officially open at 7 p.m. with the first ever "Rocking the Boat for Peace" cruise on the Erie Canal, leaving from Herkimer, NY. On board will be conference keynoters:
- DR. JILL STEIN, former Green Party Presidential candidate;
- DAVID SWANSON, author, journalist, radio host, organizer, blogger, World Beyond War director;
- KRISTIN CHRISTMAN, local writer and peace philosopher;
- BISHOP THOMAS GUMBLETON;
- HOWIE HAWKINS, Green Party candidate for Governor of New York;
and many others eager to consider the conference theme of transformation in a transformationally beautiful and peaceful setting. The evening promises to be a fun filled one and a lovely chance to have a great time with some powerful voices for peace and justice.
On Saturday from 9 a.m. until 3:45 p.m. we'll have the opportunity to engage in a day long "conversation" with our speakers ( see above and including DR. STEVE BREYMAN) and fellow conference attendees through a series of questions designed to move us from a consideration of issues confronting us as concerned global citizens to a contemplation of strategies and solutions . The day's structure is designed to promote reflection, solidarity, and action.
Saturday's discussion promises to be extremely informative, enlightening, and energizing. Hope to see you there!
John Oliver is what I always wished Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert would be. In fact, he's what I always wished Ted Koppel or Jim Lehrer would be.
With so many people getting their news from comedians, the distinction between fake news and real news doesn't seem very useful. There's news that pushes corporate propaganda with a straight face and endless respect for those in power. And there's news that cracks jokes and mocks and ridicules those most deserving of scorn.
But most comedy news up until now, as far as I have seen, has mocked everyone from the powerful and corrupt to the sincere and righteous. Jon Stewart has had his brilliant moments, but -- even setting aside his weak, fawning interviews -- his attitude is one of mockery for all and contempt for any serious engagement with the world. He held a rally for people too smart to attend any other rallies -- and too dumb to realize they were volunteer participants in an advertisement.
Solemn news and humorous news thus far have both tended to be reactions to events. Both have told us what a horrible bill was passed by Congress yesterday, never what we might want to actively demand or resist with an eye on tomorrow. Both have been disempowering. Both have told us to stay home. And both have focused on the agenda of the status quo, as the serious news covers the day's disasters, and the funny news covers how absurdly the serious news covered the day's disasters. Neither has contributed much historical perspective or background; neither has been especially educational.
Now, watch John Oliver on nukes:
If you knew and were outraged by what he said, you're probably thrilled that he's said it. If you didn't know, you're importantly better informed. Here's news that's intended for a government of, by, and for the people, encouraging people to get active around an issue of the greatest importance and about which most people have lost interest.
Watch John Oliver on prisons: (Yes, there's singing.)
Watch John Oliver on income inequality:
Watch John Oliver on net neutrality:
Watch John Oliver on climate change:
That is five more times than I have ever before told anyone to watch television. Don't overdo it.
Among those who cheer when a cease-fire ends and killing resumes are those who want more Palestinians slaughtered as a form of mass punishment for fictional offenses. Also among those cheering are certain mainstream U.S. newspaper columnists. In fact, at least one person is clearly in both of the above categories.
My local newspaper in Charlottesville, Va., printed a column on Friday from Thomas Sowell, distributed by Creators Syndicate but actually written for the right-wing Jewish World Review. Sowell writes:
"It is understandable that today many people in many lands just want the fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians to stop. Calls for a cease-fire are ringing out from the United Nations and from Washington, as well as from ordinary people in many places around the world. According to the New York Times, Secretary of State John Kerry is hoping for a cease-fire to 'open the door to Israeli and Palestinian negotiations for a long-term solution.' President Obama has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to have an 'immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire' -- again, with the idea of pursuing some long-lasting agreement."
Here is where Sowell might logically object to Washington shipping Israel more weaponry in the midst of proposing cease-fires and mumbling quietly about the inappropriateness of particular bits of the mass-murder underway. John Kerry doesn't hope for a long-term solution any more than he knew Syria used chemical weapons or Putin shot down a plane or Iraq deserved to be destroyed before it didn't but after it did. John Kerry knows the U.S. provides the weaponry and the criminal immunity to a nation intent on completing the process of eliminating its native peoples, as Kerry's own nation effectively did long ago. There's no solution possible in that context other than a Final Solution for Palestinians. But this is not what Sowell goes on to say.
"If this was the first outbreak of violence between the Palestinians and the Israelis, such hopes might make sense. But where have the U.N., Kerry and Obama been during all these decades of endlessly repeated Middle East carnage?"
Well, the same place all of their Republican and Democratic predecessors have been, supporting endless armaments for Israel and most of its neighbors, and vetoing any U.N. resolutions that would impose any consequences for Israel's occupation, blockade, and Apartheid repression on the basis of religion and race.
"The Middle East must lead the world in cease-fires. If cease-fires were the road to peace, the Middle East would easily be the most peaceful place on the planet."
Stop for a moment and appreciate the unfathomable stupidity of that remark. One might as well say the Middle East must lead the world in U.S. weapons imports or the Middle East must lead the world in wars. If these were paths to peace, the Middle East would easily be the most peaceful place on the planet. One might also just as easily say the Middle East must lead the world in the brevity of its cease-fires, with cease-fires elsewhere lasting longer, and with as many broken agreements lying in the sand of the Middle East as anywhere since the last big batch of promises made to Native Americans. One might even just as easily say the Middle East must lead the world in resumptions of fighting, rather than in halts to fighting. But that's not where Sowell is headed. He's out to reverse Benjamin Franklin's notion that there has never been a good war or a bad peace.
"'Cease-fire' and 'negotiations' are magic words to 'the international community.' But just what do cease-fires actually accomplish? In the short run, they save some lives. But in the long run they cost far more lives, by lowering the cost of aggression."
Here it comes. Just as the Jewish World Review wants to make poor people "self-sufficient" by denying them any assistance, Sowell wants to teach the people of Palestine a lesson for their own good. Of course people dispossessed of their land, made refugees, entrapped and blockaded, and targeted with missiles that level their homes and explode in their schools and hospitals and shelters are unusual suspects to accuse of aggression. And for those who shoot rockets, so ineffectively and counter-productively, into Israel, the lesson Sowell wants to teach through mass slaughter is demonstrably not taught. Everyone in Gaza will tell you that Israeli violence increases support for Palestinian violence. Not every Palestinian understands that the reverse is also true, that the rockets fuel Israeli attacks, but that hardly justifies their murder or creates a lesson where Sowell imagines Israeli missiles teaching one.
"At one time, launching a military attack on another nation risked not only retaliation but annihilation. When Carthage attacked Rome, that was the end of Carthage."
Ah, the good old days, when any colony or challenger that stepped out of line could be wiped out, starved out, and cleansed from the earth.
"But when Hamas or some other terrorist group launches an attack on Israel, they know in advance that whatever Israel does in response will be limited by calls for a cease-fire, backed by political and economic pressures from the United States."
The political pressure of Kerry groveling before Netanyahu? Of Susan Rice explaining to the world that Kerry never meant to negotiate and has always been 100% in Israel's camp? Of Obama joining Sowell in blaming the victims? The economic pressure of the free weapons continuing to flow from the U.S. to Israel? What sort of fantasy is this?
One possibility is that it's a fantasy of racism or culturalism. Americans are rational beings in this fantasy. It would only make sense to apply obvious points of pressure for a cease-fire once you've proposed one. Arming the Middle East for peace would be insanity. So, Sowell perhaps fantasizes that sanity and rationality prevail. Except in places like Palestine or Iran:
"Those who say that we can contain a nuclear Iran, as we contained a nuclear Soviet Union, are acting as if they are discussing abstract people in an abstract world. Whatever the Soviets were, they were not suicidal fanatics, ready to see their own cities destroyed in order to destroy ours. . . . Even if the Israelis were all saints -- and sainthood is not common in any branch of the human race -- the cold fact is that they are far more advanced than their neighbors, and groups that cannot tolerate even subordinate Christian minorities can hardly be expected to tolerate an independent, and more advanced, Jewish state that is a daily rebuke to their egos."
Since when does Iran not tolerate minorities? Since when is it populated by 76 million suicidal fanatics?
You see, not only do the Gazans want to die, in the view of Sowell and so many others we've been hearing from via our so-called public airwaves, because it makes good footage, because they have a culture of martyrdom -- you've heard all the explanations for Gazans stubbornly remaining in their homes and hospitals rather than swimming to Cyprus as normal people would do -- but the source of Gazans' irrational aggression against the benevolent power that stole their land and starves their children and bans the importation of books is -- wait for it -- jealousy. It's wounded egos. Just as poor Americans are jealous of the success of those with the wisdom and fortitude to be born into the families of billionaires, so Palestinians resent the superiority, the Ubermenschness of the people who have been clever enough to get born into Pentagon subsidies.
As a contrasting view of the world to Sowell's allow me to offer this new Willie Nelson video (http://youtu.be/MezGqmMCrwo):
God sent Noah the rainbow sign
No more water, the fire next time
Said Noah to God, you'd better toe the line
We'll have no more fire in Palestine
Said God, whoa, Noah, you've got some spine
I made you from dust, and that makes you mine
Said Noah to God, now don't you whine
Just keep your vengeance out of Palestine
Pay attention, said Noah, let me redefine
I made you out of fears that I've left behind
And I never meant to make you so asinine
So float right back across that borderline
Keep your wrath and your fury out of Palestine
And just one point, let me underline
If you ever incline to realign
On the side of love, that'll be just fine
I'll sign your name on my valentine
Saying Dear dear Palestine
This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine
My neighbors and I are intertwined
The propagandists can all opine
But they're breaking Commandment Number Nine
You want to come with me?
We're gonna redefine
Our needs and our interests
We're about to enshrine
In our hearts this one cry
Make it yours, make it mine
Free Free Palestine
Humans almost invariably imagine humans to be far more imaginative and original than they are. But most of our ideas come from (often imperfect and improvised) imitation. And even more powerful than our tendency to imitate is our inability to refrain from imitating, to shake an idea out of our heads once it's there, to "not think of an elephant."
Anthropologists have found cultures whose members cannot conceive of killing. "Why won't you shoot an arrow at those slave raiders?" "Because it would kill them."
In Western culture, children hear of killing in fairy tales, cartoons, Harry Potter books, video games, the TV news, the newspaper, the games played in the park. It's everywhere. Usually it's frowned upon, although often a distinction is made between bad killing by bad guys and good killing by good guys, or inexplicable random killing and killing justified and sanctified by bitter revenge.
But even when a behavior is frowned upon, the listener or viewer has now heard of that behavior. There have been studies of children's responses to stories and television dramas in which fictional children misbehave for three-quarters of the episode and then learn an important moral lesson at the end. Guess what? Kids don't retroactively view the whole story as a package and wipe the bad behavior out of their minds. Instead they display a tendency to try out the behavior demonstrated to them in so many of the isolated moments that they lived while watching or listening to the story.
Humans also almost invariably imagine humans to be far kinder and far more selfless than they are. Most of us very much want others to be kind to us, and we try our best to be kind to others. So, when we see behaviors and institutions that cause horrendous suffering, we like to imagine there is a rational cause, a greater good, or that the explanation is incompetence or stupidity -- anything other than the most obvious explanation: vicious, evil sadism.
We are often encouraged to picture vicious cruelty and irrational evil in certain foreign groups of humans. But usually this perspective is intended to help us avoid seeing cruelty in those who are supposedly like ourselves.
These thoughts arise as I'm confronted by the polling showing that 95% of Israelis deem the slaughter of Gazans to be just, and the realization that for many in Israel "just" is a rather disgusting euphemism for "satisfyingly sadistic." People are sitting on hills watching the missiles hit the homes, some of them telling cameras they want everyone killed, and then explaining that their thoughts are "a little bit fascist."
This week we'll be remembering Harry Truman's bombing of Japan with nuclear weapons, and we'll be told that he must have believed those acts of mass murder would help end the war, even though the evidence shows he knew otherwise. Truman had earlier advocated aiding the Russians or the Germans, whoever was losing, so that as many people as possible would die, he said. Top U.S. military officials wanted Japan cleansed of all human life. The most likely explanation for the nukes, namely that Truman viewed killing lots of Japanese as an advantage to be weighed along with impressing the Russians and so forth, is too ugly, so we turn away. We even have to turn away from his own statement on the occasion, which justified the bombing in terms of revenge, not in terms of ending the war.
Also this week we'll mark 50 years since the Gulf of Tonkin fraud. We like to imagine such incidents, even when they result in the deaths of 4 million foreigners, as misunderstandings. But during the course of the savagery that followed, how was progress gauged? That's right: by body counts.
Examples of evil policies, in one's own or other parts of the world, flood in the moment you begin to look for them. The evidence is clear that locking kids up in juvenile prisons makes them more likely, not less likely, to grow into criminals. But we just go on locking them up for other motives we don't care to examine too closely. We've learned what it's impolite to mention. Support for wars in Afghanistan or Iraq is discussed on television in terms of "strategic interests" and other such blather, but the counter-demonstrators across the street from a peace rally sometimes have different desires, including the death of foreigners -- and of the peace activists with them.
Courageous peace activists in Israel have been facing hostile counter-demonstrations from those in their society who have moved in a different direction.
There are many reasons why I shouldn't make any observation on Israeli society, beginning with the fact that I know very little about it. But when a nation is continually engaging in the most horrific and massive crimes, using weapons and criminal immunity provided by my nation, and protests are raging around the earth, when the news is packed with information, analysis, propaganda, and poisonous pontificating, when the peace meetings I go to discuss the matter at great length, when the guests on my radio show and the books I read and Israelis I meet begin to inform me a little, and when the problem appears enormous and glaring but guarded by a protection of intimidation and obedience, then I think tossing an idea into the mix may be justified, despite being dramatically more impolite by U.S. standards than criticizing Harry Truman or LBJ.
Israel is a nation where children grow up learning about the holocaust, marking the holocaust with holidays, planning trips to Germany to visit the camps. U.S. children dress up as Pilgrims and Indians, but nobody tells them that the Pilgrims ended up murdering the Indians, or what it was like to be an Indian child preparing to be murdered or watching your loved ones murdered. The U.S. origin story is, appropriately enough, one of feasting, not one of genocide. I'm speaking of how it is told, of course, rather than what actually happened.
To criticize the Israeli government for its wars, even though I also criticize every other government for their wars, generates inevitable and truly stupid accusations of anti-Semitism. But criticizing the teaching of the holocaust, which I've never done before, seems likely to go beyond that into an area of accusations of holocaust denial. I have, of course, been there. I've been accused of denying the holocaust for opposing bombing Iran because someone in Iran supposedly denied the holocaust. I've been accused of denying the holocaust for criticizing World War II, even though the actions I express a wish had been taken include opposing fascism in its early years instead of waiting, defunding the Nazis rather than supporting them as preferable to Communists, and finding homes for Jewish refugees when they needed them, rather than turning them away. But this is all ridiculously dumb: denying the holocaust and flooding society with its ubiquitous presence are not the only two choices, any more than leveling people's homes in Gaza and "doing nothing" are the only two choices.
To say that people are behaving like Nazis is not to say that they are exactly identical to Nazis, any more than to say that your child's piano playing is exactly like Mozart. Without question, Nazism is a source of imitation for rightwingers around the world, including in Israel. Might a lesser focus on its significance be helpful? Would a greater emphasis on peace studies do any harm?