Mar
17

Secession, Trump, and the Avoidability of Civil War

Tag: Culture and Society, Peace and War

The Governor of California has joked about building a wall all the way around his state if Donald Trump becomes president of the other 49. Secession would not be a joke had it not been given an undeserved bad name. It would not have that bad name but for our universal acceptance of imperialism and of an overly simplistic history of the U.S. Civil War.

Slavery in the U.S. South was widespread through World War II, Jim Crow through the 1960s, mass incarceration through the current day, and bitterness over the Civil War for the foreseeable future. Had the U.S. avoided civil war through a compromise that restricted slavery to existing slave states, or even through a compromise that allowed its possible expansion, or through simply allowing states to secede without war, the net result might have been good or bad. A few things are certain. The bitterness over the war would not exist, the 700,000 killed and many more injured and the incredible destruction of burned cities and fields would not have happened, and war would not have been glorified during the childhoods of the generation that would launch global U.S. imperialism at the dawn of the 20th century.

Very likely, in addition, slavery would have ended more quickly and more thoroughly than it did. Of course, that cannot be stated with certainty. But a nation half-slave, half-free that sought to work through problems without war would have very likely ended slavery through some form of compensated emancipation fairly quickly, bringing up the rear in a global process of liberation. Two or more smaller nations that sought to avoid war would have very likely also put an end to slavery in the one or more nations maintaining it, in part because of international and economic forces and the absence of a fugitive slave law, but also because smaller nations, all else equal, have an easier time achieving democracy. If we had smaller nations on this continent now, or if we were to choose to in the future, we would see the ability of people to bring popular pressure to bear on the governments soar.

Of course, it's anything but an easy moral question whether 4 million people should be left enslaved another moment, or whether a nation should launch a war that might benefit them, though in the end it actually brought very limited and short-lived gains along with 700,000 killed and numerous disastrous results for decades to come. Not only are the results known only after the war, but the moral question has been invented after the war. Many in the North did not want a war to free slaves. A draft had to finally be created, as in the South as well, to compel people to kill and die. And those in power in Washington, including President-elect Lincoln, did not want war to free the slaves, only to prevent the expansion of slavery westward. When the South would not agree to restricting slavery to its current boundaries, Northern decision makers chose to launch a war over "union" -- preferring slaughter to permitting the South, or some part of it, to leave.

Mark Tooley has published a book called The Peace That Almost Was: The Forgotten Story of the 1861 Washington Peace Conference and the Final Attempt to Avert the Civil War. It may remain a forgotten story for at least four reasons that leap out at me. First, Tooley adds in so much gossip-column fluff on clothes and parties and families and churches that it's almost physically impossible to make it through his book if you're looking only for what happened at the conference; this is truly a shame in a culture that already considers peace boring and war exciting. Second, Tooley concludes that the war was "inevitable" anyway, so why should you care? (And why did he give his book the title he did?) Third, Tooley almost completely overlooks the possibility that was most open to the North, namely allowing the South to leave in peace. Fourth, if you look into the details and consider how easily peace might have been chosen instead of war, you may feel a bit of discomfort in your mind. You may come up against the fact that many nations did end slavery without a civil war, and then have to start questioning whether in fact lots of other wars have also been "inevitable."

A strong case could be made that the peace conference was begun too late. Seven states had already seceded. A conference on peaceful secession before secession, or a conference on a slavery compromise before secession, would have been easier. Oh and, by the way, the entire topic of the conference was slavery, not some other vague cause of "states rights" or anything of the sort. Nonetheless, the conference had numerous chances to reach an agreement, and in the end did reach an agreement -- which Congress tossed aside in favor of war, and which Congress was assisted in tossing aside by some members of the peace conference who quickly badmouthed what they had done and opted for war. Among the latter was former U.S. President John Tyler who had chaired the peace conference before returning to Virginia and denouncing it.

Under consideration at the conference was not primarily slavery in the slave states, and certainly not ending it through compensated emancipation, as would be done in Washington, D.C., and numerous foreign countries. At issue was principally the expansion of slavery into the expanding western empire. Both sides insisted on imperial expansion to such an extent that it was truly beyond debate. If they'd been somehow made content with the current size of the country, that too could have resolved the dispute and averted war. So, in that peculiar sense, the Civil War was a war of empire. Delegates from both Northern and Southern states (quite a crowd of former senators and justices and the like) tended also to assume that their choices were either union or war, not peaceful division. A greater willingness to accept peaceful separation could also have averted war.

Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin sent no delegates. William Lloyd Garrison urged the desirability of war. Peace conference delegate Roger Baldwin of Connecticut advocated no compromise with slavery. Some Southern delegates urged no compromise with freedom, even while whining about threats to their own rights and comforts without a thought for those of the people enslaved in their states. The peace conference dragged on unpeacefully for 19 days, with Congress and the states holding their breath and holding off on actions.

Delegate Reverdy Johnson of Maryland made a case for compromise to both sides, urging the North to accept the deal of the old Missouri Compromise as preferable to the Dred Scott decision's ruling that slavery could spread north of latitude 36°30'. Southern delegates were intent on not just preserving slavery but expanding it westward. President-elect Lincoln met with the peace conference and made clear that he would never stand for that and would prefer war; he would leave slavery alone where it existed but never allow it to expand.

After all variety of proposals were heard and rejected, ultimately a compromise was reached by the peace conference that reinstated the Missouri Compromise, required a majority of slave-state senators to approve of new territory, prohibited Congressional interference with slavery, banned the importation of enslaved people from abroad, and affirmed fugitive slave laws but also allowed for compensation paid to an owner to make an escaped slave free. Arguably this final agreement and other proposals that were rejected all propped up slavery more than simply allowing secession would have. The Senate and House quickly took up the peace conference agreement and rejected it. This was a Congress now missing any representatives from eight states, another reason why acting sooner might have succeeded.

During the course of the conference, some hints at another possible course were heard. General Winfield Scott said that dividing the country into four countries would be a "lesser evil" than war. Senator Salmon Chase of Ohio said, "The thing to be done is to let the South go." Former Massachusetts Governor George Boutwell said that the union should be kept free of slavery or not kept. (But he warned ominously that the South could try to annex Mexico and other land, and block the North's expansion to the Pacific. Again, it was all about empire.) Former New York Congressman Francis Granger raised the example of letting the South go as an act too cruel to be considered (so beneficial, apparently, was union with the North). George Summers of Virginia proposed a new nation of the border states, letting the Deep South and New England do their own things.

Victory, and thereby top praise in the history books, went to those who wanted war, including those who opposed slavery, those who demanded "union," and those who insisted on expanding slavery far and wide.

But when secession is proposed in the future, we should not be rash in rejecting it. If the North had let the South go way back when, both countries might be much better off today. If, after the Civil War, someone had been able to turn the clock back four years, the North might have been very willing to let the South go. The South might also have been very willing to give up slavery, or at least its expansion westward, without the insanity and horror of a war. Secession may be an improvement on what we've got now. There are only so many immigrants Canada is going to take.

Mar
15

Talk Nation Radio: David Cochran on the Abolition of War

Tag: Peace and War, Talk Nation Radio

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-david-cochran-on-the-abolition-of-war

David Carroll Cochran is the author of Catholic Realism and the Abolition of War. He teaches politics and directs the Archbishop Kucera Center for Catholic Intellectual and Spiritual Life at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. He discusses how war might be abolished and what sorts of institutions have been abolished already.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.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 athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Mar
15

Hillary Finally Admits Her Funders Get What They Pay For

Tag: Elections, Peace and War

Hillary Clinton has finally admitted that she creates public policy, deciding life and death for thousands, based on favors that have been done for her. I know you believed that when Saudi Arabia and Boeing put millions into the Clinton Foundation that had zero impact on her crusade to put through major weapons sales by Boeing to Saudi Arabia. I know her secret speeches to Goldman Sachs can't possibly have hinted at her providing any services in return for the big checks. But Hillary herself now says otherwise.

Hillary voted for the 2003 war on Iraq, she explains, because George W. Bush gave her $20 billion to rebuild New York.

Hillary pushed hard for a war on Libya in 2011 because, she claims, the Europeans wanted it, and they had been helping out with the U.S. led project of killing people in Afghanistan.

Hillary made these comments in the midst of a bunch of eye-catching lies, but don't be distracted. Yes it's outrageous that she lies that Saddam Hussein wouldn't give inspectors free rein, and does so just moments before she excuses her promotion of the war by claiming that if Bush had let the inspectors continue their work they would have proven that no weapons existed. Sure it's outlandish that she's still pushing the lie about Qadaffi's plan to "murder his own people." Of course it's disgusting that she suggests Libya is doing all right now. It's perverse that when asked about her fondness for overthrowing governments she shouts "9/11" and "Hitler" and "Rwanda"!

But don't miss the main point. Hillary is confessing that her decisions are based on personal favors, and the world be damned.

Mar
14

Two Upcoming Events on Drones in Charlottesville

Tag: Peace and War

Marjorie Cohn will discuss her thought-provoking book, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues, about the use and impact of drone warfare in today’s world.”This book provides much-needed analysis of why America’s targeted killing program is illegal, immoral and unwise.” —Archbishop Desmond TutuTWO EVENTS:Sat. March 19, 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm, City Council Chambers, 605 E Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22902Hosted by: Amnesty International-CharlottesvilleSunday, March 20, 6:30 pm, Friends Meeting House, 1104 Forest St, Charlottesville, VA 22903,Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law (San Diego, Calif.) and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. A legal scholar, political analyst and social critic, she writes books and articles, makes media appearances and lectures throughout the world on human rights and U.S. foreign policy and the contradiction between the two.

Mar
13

Judge's Iran Ignorance Is Widespread and Dangerous

Tag: Peace and War

By David Swanson, American Herald Tribune

U.S. District Judge George Daniels of New York has struck again, ruling that Iran must pay $10 billion to compensate for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. If you have read this story in the United States, it probably came from Bloomberg News, which uniquely failed to note that in fact nobody has ever produced the slightest evidence that Iran had anything to do with the September 11 attacks.

If you read the story in Russian or British or Venezuelan or Iranian media or on sites that used the Bloomberg story but added a tiny bit of context, then you learned that Iran had, as far as anyone knows, nothing at all to do with 9/11 (a point on which the 9/11 Commission, President Obama, and pretty much everyone else are in agreement), that none of the al Qaeda hijackers were Iranian, that most of them were Saudi, that the same judge has exonerated Saudi Arabia and declared that nation to have sovereign immunity, that the ideology of al Qaeda puts it at odds with the Iranian government, that the $10 billion is very unlikely to ever change hands, and that -- in short -- this is a story about a crackpot judge operating within a crackpot culture, not a story about criminal justice.

Criminal justice is actually a much better response to 9/11 than endless war, but first you have to properly identify the criminals!

The same judge has done this before, and has based his decisions each time on the claims of ludicrous "experts" that go unanswered by any defense, as Iran declines to dignify such proceedings by showing up to defend itself. Five years ago, Gareth Porter, preeminent debunker of war lies about Iran, noted that in that year's proceedings, "at least two of the Iranian defectors [appearing as witnesses, had] long been dismissed by U.S. intelligence as 'fabricators' and ... the two 'expert witnesses' who were supposed to determine the credibility of those defectors' claims [were] both avowed advocates of crackpot conspiracy theories about Muslims and Shariah law who believe the United States is at war with Islam."

The power of U.S. judges has packed U.S. prisons with innocents, come down far more heavily on dark-skinned defendants, made money into speech, made corporations people, disenfranchised voters, and made George W. Bush president. It's a bit too generous to suggest that Judge George Daniels' actions are simply a matter of proper procedure. That he has other options than making a laughingstock of his country is illustrated by his very different treatment of Saudi Arabia. Daniels operates within a system that gives judges the powers of gods, and within a culture that demonizes Iran at every level.

The United States government has been promoting anti-Iranian propaganda for decades. This poison takes multiple and contradictory forms. Opponents of the recent nuclear agreement falsely claimed that Iran was building nuclear weapons. And many defenders of the agreement also falsely claimed that Iran was building nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, numerous false claims have in recent years been made about alleged Iranian terrorism, while the United States has in fact been sponsoring terrorism in Iran and openly committing the crime of threatening war on Iran. The recent elections in Iran show positive results of the agreement. The U.S. public, on the other hand, is in a worse place in terms of the credence it gives to anti-Iranian lies than it was prior to the nuclear negotiations. This is a grave danger, because many in Washington have not ceased pushing for war.

We're going to see efforts in Congress to tear up the nuclear agreement, to impose new sanctions, and conceivably even to steal the billions of dollars to pay off this court settlement by "freezing" Iranian assets. Reports Bloomberg: "While it is difficult to collect damages from an unwilling foreign nation, the plaintiffs may try to collect part of the judgments using a law that permits parties to tap terrorists' assets frozen by the government."

Who is a "terrorist" of course is defined in the eye of the government official. The history of U.S. trouble with Iran dates significantly to the 1953 overthrow by the CIA of Iran's democratic president, and the U.S. installation of a brutal dictator. The popular revolution that overthrew that dictator was hijacked by theocrats, and today's Iranian government can be severely criticized in many ways. But Iran has spent decades opposing the use of weapons of mass destruction. When Iraq attacked Iran with U.S.-supplied chemical weapons, Iran refused on principle to respond in kind. Iran has not pursued nuclear weapons, and has repeatedly, prior to this agreement, including in 2003, offered to give up its nuclear energy program. It now subjects its energy program to greater inspections than any other country ever has or the United States ever would, going above and beyond compliance with the nonproliferation treaty that the United States flagrantly violates.

In 2000, as revealed by Jeffrey Sterling, the CIA tried to plant nuclear weapons evidence on Iran. Even as Iran offered to assist the United States, post 9/11, the United States labeled Iran part of an "axis of evil," despite its lack of ties with the other two nations in the "axis" and its lack of "evil." The United States then designated part of Iran's military a terrorist organization, very likely murdered Iranian scientists, certainly funded opposition groups in Iran (including some the U.S. also designated as terrorist), flew drones over Iran, launched major cyber attacks on Iranian computers, and built up military forces all around Iran's borders, while imposing cruel sanctions on the country. Washington neocons have also spoken openly about their intentions to overthrow the government of Syria as a step toward overthrowing the government of Iran. It may be worth reminding U.S. audiences that it is illegal to overthrow governments.

The roots of a Washington push for a new war on Iran can be found in the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance, the 1996 paper called A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, the 2000 Rebuilding America's Defenses, and in a 2001 Pentagon memo described by Wesley Clark as listing these nations for attack: Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. In 2010, Tony Blair included Iran on a similar list of countries that he said Dick Cheney had aimed to overthrow.

One common type of war lie about Iran that has helped move the U.S. to the brink of war a number of times in the past 15 years is the lie about Iranian terrorism abroad. These tales have grown more and more outlandish. For the record, Iran did not try to blow up a Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., an action which President Obama would consider perfectly praiseworthy if the roles were reversed, but a lie that even Fox News had a hard time stomaching. And that's saying something.

Why do some in the U.S. government think the rest of us will find outlandish war plots believable? Because they in fact engage in them. Here is Seymour Hersh describing a meeting held in then-Vice President Dick Cheney's office:

"There was a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don't we build — we in our shipyard — build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives. And it was rejected because you can't have Americans killing Americans. That's the kind of — that's the level of stuff we're talking about. Provocation. But that was rejected."

Years later, a U.S. ship was apprehended by Iran in Iranian waters. Iran did not retaliate or escalate, but simply let the ship depart. The U.S. media treated the incident as an act of Iranian aggression.

Let all of this be a lesson -- not of course to reject war lies -- but to make proper accusations. If you're caught robbing a house, accuse the homeowner of attacking your territory. Hope your case if brought before Judge Daniels. And send your legal bills to the Iranian government -- they owe you!

Mar
08

Talk Nation Radio: Seth Kershner on the Campaign to Demilitarize U.S. Schools

Tag: Peace and War, Talk Nation Radio

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-seth-kershner-on-the-campaign-to-demilitarize-us-schools

Seth Kershner is a writer and researcher whose work has appeared in such outlets as In These Times, Sojourners, and Rethinking Schools. He is the co-author (with Scott Harding) of Counter-Recruitment and the Campaign to Demilitarize Public Schools (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). This is the first book to analyze the grassroots counter-recruitment movement which has been around for more than four decades. He has recently been using the Freedom of Information Act to gain a better understanding of the extent of militarism in U.S. schools, obtaining hundreds of pages of documents in the process. Last fall he and Scott Harding shared some of these findings in an op-ed for Education Week.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.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 athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

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