The Emperor Has No Sustainability

When you feel the world is going to hell

Remember hell's just a story we tell

Just a fear we release into the air

And then pretend to find it there

Like Iranian nukes, Iraq's WMDs,

Or Manuel Noriega in his evil underwear.

(It's OK. You had to be there.)

 

All right, you say, not hell but disaster,

Catastrophe here on earth.

Again, I tell you, a paranoid fantasizer

Centuries ago gave birth

To the notion that stars control our fate.

Dis-Aster. Bad-Star. I suspect

In reality, it was something they ate.

 

I'm missing the point, you scream.

There's such a thing as bad results.

There's such a thing as being too late.

And that is all that you -- quite clearly and simply -- mean.

And still, I maintain, we're all living in a dream

Refusing the possibility to see

That the emperor has no sustainability

 

We're not so powerless, after all,

AFTER ALL,

Any creatures who can uninvent hell and

Put the stars back in their places

Could -- even just a few of them could --

Even just a couple of them should --

Even just your solitary voice would

Start us on a path to save this precious little ball.

 

Afghan Elections: Pick Your Poison

No human being wants to be ruled by their people's murderers. Forgiveness through restorative justice may be possible, but being ruled by murderers is asking for too much.

Yet, that seems to be the Hobson's choice behind the Afghan presidential election, which is into its run-off between Dr. Abdullah / Mohaqiq's team and Dr. Ashraf Ghani / General Dostum's team, neither team having won more than 50% of balloted votes in the first round.

Both teams have members who are warlords accused of human rights abuses, as reported by the New York Times, including Dr. Abdullah Abdullah's running mate, Mohammed Mohaqiq, and General Dostum, who is Dr. Ashraf Ghani's vice-presidential candidate.  

General Dostum, allegedly on the CIA's payroll in the past, apologized for his past war crimes when he registered as Dr. Ashraf Ghani's vice-presidential candidate. One of those crimes is the Dasht-e-Leili massacre which occurred in the fall of 2001. New York Times and Newsweek investigations alleged that hundreds or even thousands of surrendering pro-Taliban prisoners died of thirst, hunger and gunshots when they were stuffed into shipping containers for transport to an Afghan prison.

Both presidential hopefuls in the run-off elections on June 14th have already vowed to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement, which President Obama mentioned in his surprise visit to Bagram Air Base in Kabul, not even bothering to visit President Karzai who declined to visit him at Bagram.

Article 7 of the Bilateral Security Agreement, states that, "Afghanistan hereby authorizes United States forces to control entry to agreed facilities and areas that have been provided for United States forces' exclusive use…" and also that "Afghanistan shall provide all agreed facilities and areas without charge to United States forces."

Article 13 includes this: "Afghanistan ... agrees that the United States shall have the exclusive right to exercise jurisdiction over such persons in respect of any criminal or civil offenses committed in the territory of Afghanistan."

It is understandable that President Karzai isn't willing to sign the agreement. It may leave a disastrous legacy.

I asked an activist who has been working in Afghanistan for ten years what he thought about the run-off in Afghanistan's elections. "Many Afghans, and people all over the world, are getting more and more cynical about elections," he told me. "And they should be, because how did our psyche become conditioned to accept that by electing corrupt, selfish, proud, wealthy and violent elites every four or five years, our ordinary lives will be changed? Our planet is exasperatingly unequal and militarized. To place in power the ones who continue this status quo is bizarre."

Bizarre, yet disturbingly familiar.

Talk Nation Radio: Peace Movement to Gather in Sarajevo

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-peace-movement-to-gather-in-sarajevo

From June 6 to 9, the peace movement from around the world will gather in Sarajevo. See http://PeaceEventSarajevo2014.eu We speak with one of the planners of this event, Reiner Braun.

Reiner Braun is based in Berlin, Germany. He is the Executive Director of Scientists for Peace and Sustainability and the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility. Since 2004 Reiner Braun has been working for various projects related to the Einstein year at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and for the Max Planck Society. Since 2006 he has been the Executive Director of the German branch and since 2012 of the full International Association Of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms. He is project manager of the Vereinigung Deutscher Wissenschaftler (or Federation of German Scientists), the German Pugwash group.  And since Septmber 2013 he has been Co-president of the International Peace Bureau and one of the speakers of the German peace mouvement.

Total run time: 29:00

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

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The Limits of MSNBC

Michael Arria's new book Medium Blue: The Politics of MSNBC is a nice summary of how a liberal corporate or liberal partisan television network falls short -- something of an update from Jeff Cohen's Cable News Confidential and the bad old days when MSNBC dumped Cohen and Phil Donahue for being anti-war. It turns out the good new days of MSNBC-gone-liberal are seriously flawed as well.

The flaws do a disservice to a large section of the population, many majority perspectives, and large numbers of people whose opinions would improve if their information did.

Yes, of course, it's nice to have a 24/7 channel that everybody receives making fun of Republicans. But the Comedy Channel (Comedy Central) does that too.  The comedy fake news shows also make fun of Democrats and anyone else they can identify; they build cynicism and disgust without offering any better course of action than a mass Rally-for-Nothing to give people too smart to attend other rallies a chance to rally ironically.

But what does MSNBC offer? Beyond its mocking of Republicans, it gives a significant pass to Democrats, resulting in dishonest presentations of facts and a proposed course of action that's doomed to fail. There are many exceptions, of course, and MSNBC easily soars over the low bar of producing more honest and useful commentary than CNN or Fox. In fact, a book that collected the highlights of MSNBC would be quite interesting as well.  It would feature a good bit of Chris Hayes, of honesty about climate, even a bit of reckoning with Israel.  (In fact, I make no claim to know what all it would include, which is why I'd find it useful.) Such a collection might encourage networks, including MSNBC, to realize what can be done without the sky falling. But the lowlights, and the lines of limitation that are not crossed without corporate penalty are crucial and are the focus of Arria's book.

MSNBC gives voice to one side in a series of narrow debates, the side previously represented by the likes of Alan Colmes.  But the change is basically one to a larger microphone, rather than to a wider range of opinion.  The debate remains framed within the same limitations.  A prime example is war and militarism.  MSNBC is in favor of wars with a different wrapper, rather than of eliminating wars from U.S. foreign policy. 

Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, Chris Hayes (not at first, but he came around), and other MSNBC voices were all in favor of bombing Libya, and as far as I know are not particularly focused on the horrendous results.

Maddow declares Iran a dictatorship, and dates that dictatorship to 1979, never 1953. She's lied that Ahmadinejad was known for publicly defending Iran's "pursuit of nuclear weapons." And she grotesquely distorts the history of Palestine and Israel, claiming that Israel innocently declared independence and was attacked the next day by five nations. As Obama pushed for missile strikes on Syria, Maddow did a story on how many nations she believed a President John McCain would have attacked.

Ezra Klein finally turned against the war on Iraq, years too late, because "the odds were high we couldn't do it right" -- using "we" in the usual way for a media outlet that identifies with the government, and maintaining the important pretense that attacking foreign nations can be done correctly or incorrectly.

Touré defended the drone murder of Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki. Martin Bashir insisted that a guest not doubt the integrity of "a senior military officer." Adam Serwer demanded that "service members" all be "supported" "unconditionally."

Are these unfairly handpicked examples of military-worship on MSNBC? I doubt it. When Chris Hayes questioned whether every dead U.S. soldier is necessarily a hero, he was then apparently faced with the choice of taking a stand and losing his job or doing what he did instead: apologize for the outburst of honesty. Cenk Uygur, in contrast, took a stand for critical coverage of the Obama administration and was fired by MSNBC President Phil Griffin, who told him, "We're insiders. We're the establishment."

Was Hayes right to apologize in order to maintain his voice on the air, a voice that's better than some of the other ones? I don't have a strong opinion on that question. My interest here is in pointing out, along with Arria, that a voice willing to question whether every hired killer in every popular and unpopular and illegal war is without question a hero is not permitted on MSNBC.

When I say that the best of MSNBC is its coverage of Republicans, I don't mean to give a blanket endorsement to all such coverage.  The over-obsession with the right wing gives prominence to much that would better be treated with silence -- silence that instead is reserved for the left.

MSNBC follows the lead of the party and politicians it has given its loyalty to.  And it doesn't just follow their lead.  MSNBC has hired Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod, among others who can bring the Obama line straight to the viewers of a network that has more than once debated whether Obama should be added to Mount Rushmore. "My President Obama? Is he your President too?" Ed Schultz demanded of a guest while insisting that Libya be bombed as Obama desired.

Schultz even ignorantly claimed that Obama couldn't have been elected if he'd campaigned on increasing troops in Afghanistan -- as of course Obama had very prominently done. But think about Schultz's defense of Obama, rather than his ignorance of basic facts. Schultz is claiming that Obama lied about ending a war in order to get elected, and then escalated the war once in office.  That's the good Obama of Schultz's imagination.  That's Obama on the model of Wilson and Roosevelt.  There's a reason Bill Clinton calls MSNBC "our version of Fox."

I said MSNBC promotes a program of action that Comedy Central does not.  But its program of action is not principled issue-based nonviolent engagement; it's voting for one political party as a path to progress.  Anything else is unrealistic, MSNBC ridiculously maintains. Melissa Harris-Perry claims that supporting Obama despite any failings is "realist." She says that critics of Obama from the left are, in fact, not just unrealistic but racist.  She dismissed the Chicago teachers' strike and proposed that they solve their problems by voting in public elections.  She also insisted that Edward Snowden should have worked within the system. How realistic is that, exactly?

The MSNBC worldview generally pretends that everything was good in 1999 and easily can be again.  Says Rachel Maddow: "I'm in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-Era Republican Party platform." So, maybe a bit earlier than 1999. 

The perspective that MSNBC believes its viewers hold, and which it relentlessly instructs them to hold was exemplified by a recent comment that Chris Hayes made to Glenn Greenwald: "People feel they have to choose between Barack Obama and Glenn Greenwald and there are millions of people in this country who are like if that is a choice I choose Barack Obama." Hayes then gave reasons to choose Obama.  No doubt Hayes believes he was simply articulating the spontaneously generated view of the masses, of which a good organizer must be aware for better or worse.  But he never suggested the slightest critique of the way of thinking that he was in fact modeling on national TV.  He demanded that Greenwald alter his "tone" to accommodate such a idiotic perspective, but he never hinted at the possibility that people might alter their idiocy, that they might stop choosing between personalities and deal with facts, that they might vote for politicians and simultaneously critique their failings, that they might view elected officials as representatives rather than deities.

Of course, Hayes wasn't just referring to the unknown unwashed masses when he claimed that millions of people place loyalty to a president above their duty to know what their government is doing and hold it accountable for its abuses; he was referring to his colleagues and the official policy of his employer.  And that is the limit of a partisan, corporate, insider media outlet of any flavor.

Now, we have alternatives, including Democracy Now, Free Speech TV, Dennis Trainor, the RealNews.com, RT, Youtube, etc., and the written word.  We may manage to replace MSNBC or circumvent it.  We may manage to come up with media outlet(s) that will produce an Occupy movement and sustain it. But I think it's an open question whether improving MSNBC would actually be bad for its profitability.  For years, TV executives seemed to believe that creating a Democratic Fox would not succeed as well as creating a second lesser Fox.  They eventually proved themselves wrong.  Now, they are clearly convinced that creating an independent populist challenge to a government that 80% of the country believes is broken wouldn't succeed outside of Comedy Central.

It's possible they're wrong.  It's possible that going where the majority is on corporate trade pacts and single-payer healthcare and wars would increase viewership.  It's possible that access to such viewers would attract politicians and advertisers as well or nearly as well as softball interviews and corporate friendly views.  We'll never know unless someone gives it a try.

The Three Laws of Pentagon Robotics

The three laws of robotics, according to science fiction author Isaac Asimov, are:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

I would gladly have accepted a $20 million Pentagon contract for the job of pointing out these three laws.

OK, maybe $25 million.

Sadly, the Pentagon has instead hired a bunch of philosophy professors from leading U.S. universities to tell them how to make robots murder people morally and ethically.

Of course, this conflicts with the first law above. A robot designed to kill human beings is designed to violate the first law.

The whole project even more fundamentally violates the second law. The Pentagon is designing robots to obey orders precisely when they violate the first law, and to always obey orders without any exception. That's the advantage of using a robot. The advantage is not in risking the well-being of a robot instead of a soldier. The Pentagon doesn't care about that, except in certain situations in which too many deaths of its own humans create political difficulties. And there are just as many situations in which there are political advantages for the Pentagon in losing its own human lives: "The sacrifice of American lives is a crucial step in the ritual of commitment," wrote William P. Bundy of the CIA, an advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. A moral being would disobey the orders these robots are being designed to carry-out, and -- by being robots -- to carry out without any question of refusal. Only a U.S. philosophy professor could imagine applying a varnish of "morality" to this project.

The Third Law should be a warning to us. Having tossed aside Laws one and two, what limitations are left to be applied should Law three be implemented? Assume the Pentagon designs its robots to protect their own existence, except when . . . what? Except when doing so would require disobeying a more important order? But which order is more important? Except when doing so would require killing the wrong kind of person(s)? But which are they? The humans not threatening the robot? That's rather a failure as a limitation.

Let's face it, the Pentagon needs brand new laws of robotics. May I suggest the following:

1. A Pentagon robot must kill and injure human beings as ordered.
2. A Pentagon robot must obey all orders, except where such orders result from human weakness and conflict with the mission to kill and injure.
3. A Pentagon robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

This set of laws differs from Asimov's in a number of ways.  For one thing, it completely lacks morality.  It is designed for killing, not protecting.  By prioritizing killing in the First Law, rather than protecting, this set of laws also allows for the possibility of robots sacrificing themselves to kill rather than to protect -- as well as the possibility of robots turning on their masters. 

This set of laws differs much less -- possibly not at all -- from the set of laws currently followed by human members of the U.S. military.  The great distinction that people imagine between autonomous and piloted drones vanishes when you learn a little about the thought habits of human drone pilots.  They, like other members of the U.S. military, follow these laws:

1. A Pentagon human must kill and injure human beings as ordered.
2. A Pentagon human must obey all orders, except where such orders result from human weakness and conflict with the mission to kill and injure.
3. A Pentagon human must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

The job of the philosophy professors is to apply these laws to robots while neither changing them nor letting on to have figured out what they are.  In other words, it's just like teaching a course in the classics to a room full of students.  Thank goodness our academia has produced the men and women for this job.

Why Risk Prison to Protest Drone Murders? An Activist Explains.

Judging from my email box in recent years -- which often differs on this question with such sources of knowledge as my television or the New York Times -- the conscience of our country lies somewhere near Syracuse, New York.  Here's an email from an activist named Judy Bello, for example:
"Breaking news: 
"MaryAnne Grady-Flores was convicted in DeWitt Town Court last night on 2nd Degree Contempt of an Order Of Protection.  Grady-Flores, who did not intend to violate the Order despite its immorality and invalidity, was taking pictures of others at the base - the Ash Wednesday Witnesses -  who engaged in nonviolent civil resistance blocking the front Gate to Hancock base for which they were subsequently acquitted.

"In a heinous abuse of an instrument meant to protect the innocent from violence, Orders of Protection are being used to protect violent transgressions of international and moral law from citizen oversight. While trying to publicize and support a movement to ground the drones and end the wars which take countless innocent lives, Grady-Flores was arrested for noncompliance with an order that does not specify particulars outside of how you might attack another human, something she would never do. She understood the Order to mean that she was forbidden to join the protest.

"The Guilty verdict was proffered by a jury 5 minutes after they had asked the judge for a legal definition of 'keep away', and he had replied that they 'are the sole triers of fact'.

"The two-day trial included testimony from Colonel Earl A. Evans who is the party protected by the OOP, Catholic Priests Father Bill Pickard and Tim Taugher, Catholic Workers Bill Frankel-Streit and Ellen Grady, sister. Grady-Flores also testified on her own behalf."
So, a woman dedicated to nonviolence was convicted of going near a military base, where a Colonel, not feeling safe enough with, you know, the military base, had a legal order of protection against her.  Of course this is a legalistic gimmick aimed at denying people their rights to speech and assembly, as at least one court has already ruled.  But it isn't working.  These people are continuing to speak and assemble.  And they're refusing to take plea bargains that would keep them out of prison.
 
 
I emailed another activist, Jack Gilroy, to ask what's going on. Here's what he sent back in response to my questions:
 
What is your background as an activist?
 
My activism began in 1964 with the Tonkin Bay lies. Later in that decade I took on the job as UpState NY Director of Committee of Responsibility, a group organized by Quaker MD’s who were treating Vietnamese war injured children. After Nixon blocked our confirmed hospital beds and plastic surgeons in upstate NY, my family and I emigrated to Australia. While there teaching high school I had my students help wake up Aussies to French Nuclear testing off the coast of Australia. Other groups (Greenpeace etc) were involved by the sight of fourth form (10th grade) Aussie kids on top of the ABC (Australian Broadcasting System) at the French Consulate in Sydney led to other actions around the country to press the French.

Back in the USA I had my senior high students watch as I climbed a fence into the largest store house of nuclear weapons in the USA. I was in a Santa Clause suit and a bag with candy and hand bills urging federal workers to find a real job….a life giving job.

Environment was major with my students and they commandeered the four corners of the original IBM setting in Endicott NY demanding that IBM pay per pound of hydroflorocarbons emitted each year…IBM the greatest polluter of the Ozone according to the EPA. Locals, with IBM the backbone of the job force, had no idea that their wonder company was doing wrong -- until students contacted media and the story was blasted. Kids can make a difference.  (Two years later, President Bush met with IBM officials in the Rose Garden to award them for their winning reduction of ozone pollutants. Students by then were in college or elsewhere and of course, not mentioned.)  My main claim to fame is my thousands of students who understood I didn’t buy the lies fed to them by the text books and media bullshit. I hope they are questioning and acting. But being a sheep has its advantages even for the committed.

So, my activism has been education. Our play, The Bench, a story about apartheid, made it to many schools around the Southern Tier of NY while Mandela was still incarcerated at Robins Island. Today, my play, The Predator, (you helped clean up a few items in it) has been done around the nation in small group settings such as the Pittsburgh Foreign Affairs Council etc. I believe education is the key -- slow, but it works if persistence is one’s forte.

I told you a bit about my activism to close the US Army School of the Americas and my southern jail, federal diesel therapy and various federal prisons for a six month ‘holiday’. It did close but opened up weeks later with a new name. C’est la vie. C’est la guerre.
 

Why do you believe protesting is a strategic tool?

It has worked historically. Need I repeat what most people of historical awareness know as fact….in the past 100 years….Gandhi, King, Chavez, Walesa, Mandela, Romero, Berrigans, etc.

Silence is the enemy of justice and we have great silence today. Silence is based in fear but is comfortable and safe. Sheepherders are our guides today rather than national leadership. Hiding in the middle of the flock is safe. Few speak out about our murderous ways. 

 

What has been accomplished?
 
It has been noted that drone action has been cut back in Afghanistan over the past year (as well as in Pakistan, but Hancock targets are in Afghanistan). Have we made a difference? Don’t know, but we’re trying.
 
So many eloquent statements have been made in so many trials at DeWitt, the Hancock Killer Drone court room. We hope that at least some local people and base personnel have to have had their consciences pricked. Since our actions, media has perked up info on drones --- we may be part of that nationwide drone talk, especially killer drones, not cutesy drone ideas like delivering packages to one’s door. Most people were ignorant several years ago and most people are still ignorant. But there is a swell of information and we think our actions have contributed to that.
 
My good friend, Ed Kinane, a long time justice activist from Syracuse, has much more experience in dealing with the media on the drone issue. Ed says that he takes from activist Dorothy Day who said: "Being faithful is more important than being effective." My own take is that Ed and the many that have put themselves on the line have been effective…even if only to their own conscience.
 

How have the approaches of the police and the courts changed?

Police are doing their job. I once witnessed Federal Marshalls at the Pentagon (back in pre 2001 days) hosing down old ladies who were doing a ‘die in’ to protest Pentagon support for a school of assassination at Ft Benning. Elizabeth McAllister (widow of Phil Berrigan) was standing next to me and she asked one of the Marshalls if he would do the same thing if it was gasoline. The Marshall turned to Liz and said: "I'd follow my orders, Lady".

So cops are doing what they are paid to do. They are not told to stop the killing going on inside of the base so they do what they are told and arrest those who say our government should not be breaking the law of country and God and natural law. But like the pilots who do the killing and the surrounding support people, it's the system that thrives on doing what they are told to do by the criminals at the top. We need to educate the police to have a conscience and see the real enemy . . .  the killers, not those who protest.

Courts are not much different. There is a sense of affinity between the Air Force personnel, smartly dressed, ramrod straight who stand or sit before judge and/or jury and make a fine presentation of patriotism . . . doing the job of heroes. It's a tough act to question. Judges and jurors have been taught to respect those who kill to keep us safe. The decisions made by the judges have been almost all in favor of the base and the killing Q9 drones and their crews. The one jury trial so far, just last week (May 17th.) rendered a decision in favor of the base. The case was a charge of a violation of an Order of Protection. An OPP is usually used to allow a spouse to keep away an abuser. Now, it is being creatively used at Hancock Air Base as an instrument to prevent First Amendment Rights to be practiced. Mary Anne Grady, a long time nonviolent peace activist, mother of four, every day hard working business woman was at a demo on Ash Wednesday at Hancock to do the media work of photos and video. She did not engage in the demonstration for she was ordered to not go on the base. She is shown in videos on the road in front of the base (cars and joggers going by right next to her) but Hancock Air Base now claims to have a lease on half of the public road that Mary Anne stood on and filmed. She faces a possible severe sentence on July 10th being found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a Syracuse jury of six. (Mary Anne was told months ago that juries may not be any better than judges -- tens of thousands stand and cheer at Syracuse Basketball games for the military and staff of the 174th Attach Wing at Hancock.)

 

What is your current legal situation?

My legal status is a jury trial at DeWitt Court starting at 8:30 a.m. on July 14th. First day mostly picking of jurors and opening statements and second day direct and cross examination, judge advise to jury and decision of guilt or innocence. I could be sentenced to one year in the Jamesville Penitentiary for my nonviolent die to remember those we have killed in Afghanistan (and God and the NSA only know where else). I think there is a chance of winning this one. If so, it could set a precedent. There are many jury trials to follow mine. Schedules go into late 2015….all for the same action. One judge said: "This has got to stop". Former President of Veterans For Peace, Elliott Adams, agreed with the judge. Elliott said, "Yes, your honor, it has to stop, we need to stop the killing and you need to be part of that stop effort."

I’ve been to most trials and have to say that there is little concern of judges to do anything to stop the assassinations. They are doing their job and following the "law". Now, we need to prove the so called law is illegal.

 

What would you recommend that people do who share your concern?
   
Here is what Ed Kinane had to say about recommending what to do. Ed walks the walk. Ed has lived in federal confinement for his peace and justice activism. Ed says:

That depends on whether they are far or near and where they are in life (in terms of dependents and responsibilities). Our campaign has a whole range of tactics they can join in or support: educate themselves; read some of the key drone books and reports; write letters to the editor...to elected officials...to base commanders; take part in our twice-monthly demos across the road from Hancock; attend the De Witt court when we defendants appear there; take part in annual conferences (usually in April); invite us to speak to their classes, community groups or congregations; contribute $$$ to our bail fund or to such anti-drone groups as codepink; work to pass local resolutions and ordinances restricting surveillance and weaponized drones over local or regional airspace; take part in fact-finding delegations to drone-plagued areas (Pakistan); risk arrest at Hancock, at other drone bases, or other relevant venues (federal buildings, drone research or production facilities, etc.); become a federal tax resister -- i.e.stop paying federal income taxes (much of which goes to the Pentagon war machine).

 

*****

I'll add a few more:

Visit Upstate Drone Action Reports at http://upstatedroneaction.org/wordpress

Spring Days of Drone Action.

Sign the petition to ban weaponized drones.

Get your city or state to oppose drones.

Get anti-drone shirts, stickers, hats, etc.

Every Tuesday: Stop the Killing.

Read about drones.

Plan for a Global Day of Action Against Drones on October 4, 2014.

Join the movement to end all war, with all weapons, at http://WorldBeyondWar.org

Why I Don't Want to See the Drone Memo

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us a secret memo that gets us out of the bit about Thou-shalt-not-kill.

And, lo, as I was driving home from the committee hearing I was pulled over for speeding, and I said unto the officer, "I've got a memo that lets me speed. Would you like to see it?" and he said, "No thank you, and not your grocery list or your diary either."

Transparency in drone murders has been a demand pushed by U.N. lawyers and pre-vetted Congressional witnesses, and not by the victims' families.  Nobody asks for transparency in child abuse or rape.  "Oh, have you got a memo that explains how aliens commanded you to kill and eat those people? Oh, well that's all right then."

Seriously, what the filibuster?

I don't want to see the memo that David Barron wrote "legalizing" the killing of U.S. citizens with drone strikes, after which (or is it beforehand?) I'll decide whether he should be a federal judge.

Laws don't work that way. A law is a public document, known to or knowable to all, and enforced equally on all.  If a president can instruct a lawyer to write a memo legalizing murder, what can a president not instruct a lawyer to legalize? What's left of legality?

Let's assume that the memo argues with great obfuscation that, in essence, killing people with drones is part of a war and therefore legal, will we better off or worse off after watching all the human rights groups and lawyers bow down before that idol?

Just because Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch don't recognize the U.N. Charter or the Kellogg Briand Pact is not a reason for us not to. Laws don't work that way. Laws remain law until they are repealed. These laws have not been.  If a memo can make a murder part of a war and therefore legal, we are obliged to ask: What makes the war legal?

The answer is not the U.S. government, not the pretense that the president can declare war, and not the pretense that Congress has declared eternal war everywhere. The U.S. government is in violation of the U.N. Charter and of the Kellogg Briand Pact.

Or let's assume the memo says something else. The point is not what it says but its purported power to say it.  The law against murder in Pakistan and the law against murder in Yemen don't cease to exist in Pakistan and Yemen because a new Jay Bybee, willing to say whatever's needed to become a judge, writes a secret memo -- or a public memo.

And, as this conversation plays out, think what it will have U.S. editorial pages all silently assuming about the legality of murdering non-U.S. citizens. If a memo is needed to kill U.S. citizens, what about the other 99% of drone victims?  That, too, is not how actual laws work.  The laws against war don't prevent war only on U.S. citizens.  The laws of Pakistan don't protect only U.S. citizens.  The amendments in the U.S. bill of rights, for that matter, don't apply only to U.S. citizens.

Now, the memo is likely to describe people who are an imminent threat to the United States. And our newspapers are likely to remind us that President Obama made a speech claiming that one of the four U.S. citizens known to have been killed under this program was such a threat.  It will be tempting to point out that Anwar al Awlaki, on the contrary, was already on the kill list prior to the incident that Obama claims justified putting him there.  It will be tempting to point out that nobody's made even a blatantly false argument to justify killing the other three U.S. citizens, much less the thousands of other human beings.

We shouldn't fall for those traps.  A president is not legally allowed to invent criteria for killing people.  Never mind that he doesn't meet his own criteria.  We should not be so indecent or so lawless as to engage in such a conversation.  We should not want to see the blood-soaked memo.

Talk Nation Radio: Rick Wayman on Taking the Nuclear Powers to Court

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-rick-wayman-on-taking-the-nuclear-powers-to-court

The Marshall Islands have sued nine nuclear nations to compel compliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty, which requires the elimination of nuclear weapons.  We speak with Rick Wayman, director of programs and operations at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Rick is a graduate of Marquette University’s College of Business Administration and has a Master’s Degree in Non-Profit Management and Political Advocacy from the School for International Training. Rick began working full-time on nuclear weapons issues with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the UK before moving to California in 2007 to join NAPF. Learn more at http://nuclearzero.org

Total run time: 29:00

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

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