Peace Advocate Climbs U.S. Navy Satellite Dish in Sicily

Credit to Fabio d'Alessandro for the photo and alerting me to the story, reported in Italian at Vice and Meridionews.

On the morning of Armistice Day, November 11, 2015, longtime peace activist Turi Vaccaro climbed to where you see him in the photo above. He brought a hammer and made this a Plowshares action by hammering on the enormous satellite dish, an instrument of U.S. warfare communications.

Here's a video:

There's a popular movement in Sicily called No MUOS. MUOS means Mobile User Objective System. It's a satellite communications system created by the U.S. Navy. It has equipment in Australia, Hawaii, Chesapeake Virginia, and Sicily.

The primary contractor and profiteer building the satellite equipment at the U.S. Navy base in the desert in Sicily is Lockheed Martin Space Systems. Each of the four MUOS ground stations is intended to include three swivelling very-high-frequency satellite dishes with a diameter of 18.4 meters and two Ultra High Frequency (UHF) helical antennas.

Protests have been growing in the nearby town of Niscemi since 2012. In October 2012, construction was suspended for a few weeks. In early 2013 the President of the Region of Sicily revoked the authorization for the MUOS construction. The Italian government conducted a dubious study of health impacts and concluded the project was safe. Work recommenced. The town of Niscemi appealed, and in April 2014 the Regional Administrative Tribunal requested a new study. Construction goes on, as does resistance.

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In April 2015 I spoke with Fabio D'Alessandro, a giornalist and law school graduate living in Niscemi. "I'm part of the No MUOS movement," he told me, "a movement that works to prevent the installation of the U.S. satellite system called MUOS. To be specific, I'm part of the No MUOS committee of Niscemi, which is part of the coalition of No MUOS committees, a network of committees spread around Sicily and in the major Italian cities."

"It is very sad," said D'Alessandro,"to realize that in the United States people know little about MUOS. MUOS is a system for high-frequency and narrowband satellite communications, composed of five satellites and four stations on earth, one of which is planned for Niscemi. MUOS was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. The purpose of the program is the creation of a global communications network that allows communication in real time with any soldier in any part of the world. In addition it will be possible to send encrypted messages. One of the principal functions of MUOS, apart from the speed of communications, is the ability to remotely pilot drones. Recent tests have demonstrated how MUOS can be used at the North Pole. In short, MUOS will serve to support any U.S. conflict in the Mediterranean or the Middle East or Asia. It's all part of the effort to automate war, entrusting the choice of targets to machines."

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"There are many reasons to oppose MUOS," D'Alessandro told me, "first of all the local community has not been advised of the installation. The MUOS satellite dishes and antennas are built within a non-NATO U.S. military base that has existed in Niscemi since 1991. The base was constructed within a nature preserve, destroying thousands of cork oaks and devestating the landscape by means of bulldozers that leveled a hill. The base is larger than the town of Niscemi itself. The presence of the satellite dishes and antennas puts at serious risk a fragile habitat including flora and fauna that exist only in this place. And no study has been conducted of the dangers of the electromagnetic waves emitted, neither for the animal population nor for the human inhabitants and the civilian flights from the Comiso Airport approximately 20 kilometers away.

"Within the base there are already present 46 satellite dishes, surpassing the limit set by Italian law. Moreover, as determined anti-militarists, we oppose further militarizing this area, which already has the base at Sigonella and other U.S. bases in Sicily. We don't want to be complicit in the next wars. And we don't want to become a target for whoever attempts to attack the U.S. military."

What have you done thus far, I asked.

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"We've engaged in lots of different actions against the base: more than once we've cut through the fences; three times we've invaded the base en masse; twice we've entered the base with thousands demonstrating. We've blocked the roads to prevent access for the workers and the American military personnel. There has been sabotage of the optical communication wires, and many other actions."

The No Dal Molin movement against the new base at Vicenza, Italy, has not stopped that base. Have you learned anything from their efforts? Are you in touch with them?

"We are in constant contact with No Dal Molin, and we know their history well. The company that is building MUOS, Gemmo SPA, is the same that did the work on Dal Molin and is currently under investigation subsequent to the seizure of the MUOS building site by the courts in Caltagirone. Anyone attempting to bring into doubt the legitimacy of U.S. military bases in Italy is obliged to work with political groups on the right and left that have always been pro-NATO. And in this case the first supporters of MUOS were the politicians just as happened at Dal Molin. We often meet with delegations of activists from Vicenza and three times have been their guests."

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I went with representatives of No Dal Molin to meet with Congress Members and Senators and their staffs in Washington, and they simply asked us where the base should go if not Vicenza. We replied "Nowhere." Have you met with anyone in the U.S. government or communicated with them in any way?

"Many times the U.S. consuls have come to Niscemi but we have never been permitted to speak with them. We have never in any way communicated with U.S. senators/representatives, and none have ever asked to meet with us."

Where are the other three MOUS sites? Are you in touch with resisters there? Or with the resistance to bases on Jeju Island or Okinawa or the Philippines or elsewhere around the world? The Chagossians seeking to return might make good allies, right? What about the groups studying the military damage to Sardinia? Environmental groups are concerned about Jeju and about Pagan Island Are they helpful in Sicily?

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"We are in direct contact with the No Radar group in Sardinia. One of the planners of that struggle has worked (for free) for us. We know the other anti-U.S.-base movements around the world, and thanks to No Dal Molin and to David Vine, we have been able to hold some virtual meetings. Also thanks to the support of Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space we are trying to get in touch with those in Hawaii and Okinawa."

What would you most like people in the United States to know?

"The imperialism that the United States is imposing on the countries that lost the Second World War is shameful. We are tired of having to be slaves to a foreign politics that to us is crazy and that obliges us to make enormous sacrifices and that makes Sicily and Italy no longer lands of welcome and peace, but lands of war, deserts in use by the U.S. Navy."

*****

Read also "The Tiny Italian Town Killing the U.S. Navy’s Surveillance Plans" by Daily Beast.

And watch this:

U.S. and Russian Militaries Compete for Darwin Award

Which world power can damage its own interests with the dumbest move? The contest will have you on the edge of your seats.

Here's the latest U.S. entry:

Last month, a raid by Kurdish forces supposedly freed ISIS prisoners, and those Kurdish forces posted a video of prisoners rushing out of a prison while gunfire sounded in the background. One U.S. troop was killed in the raid. U.S. media rushed to cover the story as a heroic act of benevolence. Non-U.S. media rushed to cover the fact that the "non-combat" troops, the so-called "advisors" whom the U.S. has in Iraq by the thousands were in fact engaged in combat.

It escaped my attention and perhaps most people's that the "advisors" may also have been providing extraordinarily bad advice. NPR -- which often functions no differently than an official Pentagon news service -- reported an interesting contradiction to the central claim of the prisoner-rescue story.

NPRer Kelly McEvers said, "The province of Kirkuk is the crossroads of Iraq. To the north are the majority of the country's Kurds, to the south - Arabs. And now Kirkuk is on the frontlines of the battle with ISIS. Last month, Kirkuk province was the site of a prison raid by U.S. and Kurdish forces. One American soldier was killed. Earlier today, I spoke with the governor of Kirkuk, Najmaldin Karim, from our studios in Washington. And he said the raid was meant to rescue Kurds who'd been captured by ISIS. And instead, it freed ISIS fighters who'd been imprisoned by their own leaders."

Instead of freeing Kurds captured by ISIS, the U.S.-advised Kurds (together with U.S. "non-combat" troops doing their "advising") actually freed ISIS fighters?

The governor of Kirkuk, Najmaldin Karim, replied, "Among these were two who are considered somewhat senior locally in the region. One of them was the prison administrator, and the other one was some guy who used the last name of Shishani. And Shishani is a village in that area, so he's probably from - they were local."

Senior ISIS fighters were freed? Including a prison administrator who was locked up in prison? This is very unclear and may be nonsense or only part of the story, but this is an account via a U.S.-military friendly outlet from a U.S.-educated, U.S.-citizen colonial governor visiting Washington, D.C., to ask for more weapons and "trainers" and "advisors" on behalf of multicultural Kurdish heroes who he says are willing to do U.S. dirty work. The interviewer is blatantly and openly on his side, asking oh-so-"objective" questions like this one: "You make a very compelling case, and it sounds like it's a case you've made many times. Give me your honest answer. Are you getting a sense in Washington that more help is on the way?"

Freeing ISIS prisoners would be in line with other steps the U.S. has taken in support of ISIS, from overthrowing secular governments and arming Muslim radicals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and much of Syria, to brutalizing prisoners, to throwing Iraq into utter chaos, to providing arms to the Iraqi government that are used on civilians and taken by ISIS, providing arms to "moderates" in Syria that are given to ISIS, and providing arms directly to ISIS. But the biggest boost for ISIS has come from what it asked the U.S. to do in its propaganda films: attack it. By becoming the leading opponent of the distant foreign nation that has made itself so hated for so many years, ISIS was able to make its recruitment soar. The U.S. response is always the same: declare that there is no military solution, and attempt another larger military solution.

Don't look now, but here comes Russia:

The December 2013 Gallup poll in which most of the 65 nations surveyed named the United States as the greatest threat to peace on earth, the flourishing of anti-U.S. terrorist groups around the world, the bitter hatred of the flyers of killer drones, the resentment of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib -- all of this seems to have infected the Russian government with the seeds of jealousy.

How can Russia make itself properly hated, put its people in proper jeopardy, show itself a vicious world power worthy of equal or greater scorn?

Brilliant 12-dimensional chessman Vladimir Putin found an answer, beloved even on the left in the United States as a means of finally more-efficiently murdering just the right terrorists and only the right terrorists, so help me Tolstoy. Russia began bombing Syria.

Before long, Russia had generated its very own anti-Russian terrorist attack, with a plane blown up over Egypt and 224 people killed. Vladimir couldn't have been prouder. According to the New York Times,

"analysts and other experts expect that it will only strengthen Mr. Putin's resolve to become more deeply involved in the Middle East. . . . and might cause Russia to begin targeting the Islamic State more aggressively. . . . 'The Kremlin will have to reverse cause and effect here so that its strategy is not seen as leading to civilian deaths,' said Maxim Trudolyubov, an editor at large for the newspaper Vedomosti. . . . 'A terrorist attack against Russian citizens means a declaration of war against all Russians,' wrote Tatiana Stanovaya, an analyst, on Slon.ru, a current events website. 'The Syria campaign will thus become not a matter of Putin's ambitions, but of national revenge.'

Despite the Russian quotes, this could be just the New York Times reflexively promoting more violence as what anyone would do because it's what friends of the New York Times would do. If Russia were truly following the U.S. course, it would have occupied Egypt by now. But the Russian TV network RT has posted speculation that "the West" was behind the bomb on the plane and that supposedly the West, in a departure from its every past understanding of how a government responds to violence, intends to thereby drive Russia out of Syria rather than sucking it further in, as was done so many years ago in Afghanistan. Meanwhile Sputnik News warns that the United States has launched a proxy war on Russia in Syria, and celebrates the increased sales abroad of Russian weapons that it says has resulted from the Russian bombing of Syria.

These don't sound like the noises of a society coming to its senses. They sound like hunger pangs of a political class in the chase for a Darwin award.

##

Thanks to Evan Knappenberger for pointing the NPR story out to me.

Talk Nation Radio: Dave Chaddock on U.S. Germ Warfare in North Korea

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-dave-chaddock-on-us-germ-warfare-in-north-korea 

Dave Chaddock is the author of This Must Be the Place: How the U.S. Waged Germ Warfare in the Korean War and Denied It Ever Since.

Total run time: 29:00

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

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The TPP: You, Me, Everyone Else, Against the Media

The proposal for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a test of whether the people of the United States can communicate something critically important to each other that the major media corporations do not want communicated.

For years I've joined with others in quoting people like former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to the effect that if the text of the TPP were shown to the public, that would be the end of it, because it's just so awful.

But now that the text has finally been made public, certain questionable assumptions loom large, such as that the public will read the text of the TPP and understand it, or that someone will read the text of the TPP and tell the public what it says, and be believed.

The role of communicating what's wrong with the TPP cannot be left to the major corporate media. You can, for example, check out NPR, or Reuters, or the Washington Post, and come away completely uninspired by the importance of stopping the TPP, and generally unenlightened about what's in it. Articles with "Here Are the Details" headlines provide very few details, drop a few hints, and focus on "he said - she said" coverage of who likes the TPP and who doesn't rather than any credible communication of who is right and what the TPP actually has in it.

The full text was made available here, but the site is sometimes down for "maintenance" including outside the hours that it says it will be (and at least the main text of it can be searched here - the page states that the annexes cannot be searched but they show up in the results anyway). The text is also posted here in sections with lots of U.S. flags. The text is here or here in PDFs. Very helpful analysis by Public Citizen is here and here.

The trouble is that the TPP is longer and more boring than a presidential debate, with each section prefaced by pages of definitions, acronyms, unenforceable rhetoric, references to other sections, etc. -- much of it apparently put there purely for obfuscation. So, here's an attempt to communicate what appear, based on trying to read the darn thing and reading the analyses of experts, to be some of the key points:

Under the TPP, corporations will be able to appeal the laws of nations to 3-member panels of arbitrators, with one arbitrator chosen by them and a second agreed to by both them and the nation whose laws they are seeking to overturn. See the chapter on "investment," for how this works. It means that a foreign oil or mining corporation, for example, could overrule a U.S. environmental law by appealing to 2 out of 3 corporate lawyers on a secret panel.

The TPP puts a large number of disastrous policies in place without waiting for corporate arbitration. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy would be required to approve any applications to export liquefied "natural" gas -- meaning more fracking, more destruction of the earth's climate, more profits for those who've been writing this treaty in secret for years, but not more sustainability, environmental protection, or even U.S. energy "independence."

The TPP would lower U.S. tariffs to zero while keeping Vietnam's, for example, in place, which -- along with no meaningful or enforceable labor standards -- will encourage U.S. corporations to move even more jobs abroad to low-wage and even slave labor. The Obama Administration reported on slavery in Malaysia, then altered Malaysia's ranking in order to allow its participation in the TPP. This race to the bottom would lower U.S. wages without encouraging better practices abroad.

"According to an initial analysis published in the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. market access concessions alone will increase the U.S. trade deficit in manufactured goods and autos and auto parts by more than $55 billion dollars resulting in the loss of more than 330,000 jobs." --Public Citizen

The TPP could require the United States to import food that doesn't meet U.S. safety standards. Any U.S. food safety rule on pesticides, labeling, or additives that is higher than international standards could be challenged as an "illegal trade barrier."

The TPP would threaten provisions included in Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans' health programs to make medicines more affordable, as well as domestic patent and drug-pricing laws.

The TPP is broader and more encompassing than NAFTA, and weakens rather than strengthening NAFTA's weak protections for labor and the environment. Barack Obama campaigned on substantially reforming NAFTA in those regards. Instead, he's now proposing the worst of NAFTA on steroids.

What can be done?

Share this article.

Read a section of the TPP and consider whether it ought to be law, exactly as written in secret with hundreds of corporate consultants.

Sign this petition to the U.S. Congress:

"If you don't oppose and vote against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, I will not vote for you in any future primary or general election in which you are a candidate."

Sign this petition to the Speaker of the House, Democratic Party Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Democratic Party Leader Harry Reid:

"We are writing to urge the Congress to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This agreement would destroy jobs, degrade the environment, undermine the Internet and weaken U.S. democracy and sovereignty."

Get involved here.

Take part in this event and reproduce it elsewhere.

Write to, phone, protest, disrupt, criticize, consume critically, divest from, avoid, and help replace the corporate media.

Audio: Global Research News Hour Takes on Veterans/Remembrance Day

This episode of the Global Research News Hour takes a dissenting look at the Remembrance and Veterans' Day ceremonies,and similar memorializing and valourization of the soldier as an instrument by which anti-war sentiments and organizing are subverted. The episode looks at what it will take to dismantle the mythology of militarism in our society. We speak with an outspoken anti-war activist and blogger, who is also the author of several books including 'War is a Lie' and 'When the World Outlawed War'. We also air a previously broadcast interview with Stan Goff and Joshua Key. Stan Goff is a Retired Master Sergeant from the U.S. Army. He is now a pacifist and author of a number of books including his most recent, Borderline – Reflections on War, Sex, and Church from Wipf and Stock (Cascade Books).

Joshua Key deserted the Iraq War in 2003,and crossed the border into Canada in 2005. He is the author along with Lawrence (Book of Negroes) Hill of The Deserter’s Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier who Walked Away from the War in Iraq. Having failed to secure refugee status, he is concerned he could soon be deported from Canada and sent to a military prison.

LISTEN HERE.

UVA is 19th Most Militarized University in the U.S.

According to a new analysis by Vice News, the University of Virginia is the 19th most militarized university in the United States. Vice News lists the top 100 in order, based on "the greatest number of students who are employed by the Intelligence Community (IC), have the closest relationships with the national security state, and profit the most from American war-waging." Vice provides a detailed account of its data sources and methodology, which itself reads like a damning critique of academia in a society maintaining an alleged preference for peace over war. An additional report looks at trends and patterns in the results.

According to William M. Arkin and Alexa O’Brien of Vice News:

"The prestigious University of Virginia is a lawyer's paradise, feeding counsels to government agencies from the military to the CIA. The school has a National Criminal Justice Command College program, and graduates a fair share of Top Secret special agents, half of them working for the FBI. The largest portion of its graduates with Top Secret clearances, however, come from its school of continuing and professional studies, which teaches cybersecurity, human resources, "procurement," and project management. If UVA's Top Secret graduates aren't working in the federal government, then they're working for a large [military] contractor. UVA faculty have also participated in the IARPA STONESOUP program to develop a technology that securely executes software of uncertain provenance."

UVA makes rank #17, in fact, for "Top Secret Employment," while it's only #30 for "National Security Funding." It receives a whopping $27,426,000 in "DOD Research and Development Funding." UVA conducts classified research inside its campus with its Jefferson quotes about free speech and flow of information.

"This institution [University of Virginia] will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."

Hard to tolerate or reason your way out of plans and justifications for killing that are kept secret.

UVA works with "National Intelligence," the NSA, and the Homeland "Security" Department. It also has a military ROTC program, as one can observe by visiting the campus around which killers-in-training jog chanting military chants.

UVA finds itself in the area of the country whose academia (and many other things) are most militarized. Nearby schools on the list include:

#1 University of Maryland
#2 American Military University
#4 George Washington University
#5 George Mason University
#7 Johns Hopkins University
#8 Strayer University
#10 Georgetown University
#16 Northern Virginia Community College
#17 Virginia Tech
#19 University of Virginia
#20 American University

In third place is the online "University of Phoenix." That may change. This came out last month:

"The Department of Defense said today that it would suspend the University of Phoenix from its tuition assistance programs and bar school officials from recruiting at military facilities, including job fairs, after revelations of improper recruiting and marketing practices by the for-profit school."

The above list of shame should trouble every UVA alumnus and every resident of Charlottesville, Virginia.

Rarely does this atheist quote the Pope, but here's one from his speech to Congress in September:

"Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade."

Why do War Veterans Commit Suicide or Murder?

In two recent articles in the Los Angeles Times and the academic studies that inspired them, the authors investigate the question of which war veterans are most likely to commit suicide or violent crimes. Remarkably, the subject of war, their role in war, their thoughts about the supposed justifications (or lack thereof) of a war, never come up.

The factors that take the blame are -- apart from the unbearably obvious "prior suicidality," "prior crime," "weapons possession," and "mental disorder treatment" -- the following breakthrough discoveries: maleness, poverty, and "late age of enlistment." In other words, the very same factors that would be found in the (less-suicidal and less-murderous) population at large. That is, men are more violent than women, both among veterans and non-veterans; the poor are more violent (or at least more likely to get busted for it) among veterans and non-veterans; and the same goes for "unemployed" or "dissatisfied with career" or other near-equivalents of "joined the military at a relatively old age."

In other words, these reports tell us virtually nothing. Perhaps their goal isn't to tell us something factual so much as to shift the conversation away from why war causes murder and suicide, to the question of what was wrong with these soldiers before they enlisted.

The reason for studying the violence of veterans, after all, is that violence, as well as PTSD, are higher than among non-veterans, and the two (PTSD and violence) are linked. They are higher (or at least most studies over many years have said so; there are exceptions) for those who've been in combat than for those who've been in the military without combat. They are even higher for those who've been in even more combat. They are higher for ground troops than for pilots. There are mixed reports on whether they are higher for drone pilots or traditional pilots.

The fact that war participation, which itself consists of committing murder in a manner sanctioned by authorities, increases criminal violence afterwards, in a setting where it is no longer sanctioned, ought of course to direct our attention to the problem of war, not the problem of which fraction of returning warriors to offer some modicum of reorientation into nonviolent life. But if you accept that war is necessary, and that most of the funding for it must go into profitable weaponry, then you're going to want to both identify which troops to help and shift the blame to those troops.

The same reporter of the above linked articles also wrote one that documents what war participation does to suicide. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says that out of 100,000 male veterans 32.1 commit suicide in a year, compared to 28.7 female veterans. But out of 100,000 male non-veterans, 20.9 commit suicide, compared to only 5.2 female non-veterans. And "for women ages 18 to 29, veterans kill themselves at nearly 12 times the rate of nonveterans." Here's how the article begins:

"New government research shows that female military veterans commit suicide at nearly six times the rate of other women, a startling finding that experts say poses disturbing questions about the backgrounds and experiences of women who serve in the armed forces."

Does it really? Is their background really the problem? It's not a totally crazy idea. It could be that men and women inclined toward violence are more likely to join the military as well as more likely to engage in violence afterward, and more likely to be armed when they do so. But these reports don't focus primarily on that question. They try to distinguish which of the men and women are the (unacceptable, back home-) violence-prone ones. Yet something causes the figure for male suicides to jump from 20.9 to 32.1. Whatever it is gets absolutely disregarded, as differences between male and female military experiences are examined (specifically, the increased frequency of female troops being raped).

Suppose for a moment that what is at work in the leap in the male statistic has something to do with war. Sexism and sexual violence may indeed be an enormous factor for female (and some male) troops, and it may be far more widespread than the military says or knows. But those women who do not suffer it, probably have experiences much more like men's in the military, than the two groups' experiences out of the military are alike. And the word for their shared experience is war.

Looking at the youngest age group, "among men 18 to 29 years old, the annual number of suicides per 100,000 people were 83.3 for veterans and 17.6 for nonveterans. The numbers for women in that age group: 39.6 and 3.4." Women who've been in the military are, in that age group, 12 times more likely to kill themselves, while men are five times more likely. But that can also be looked at this way: among non-veterans, men are 5 times as likely to kill themselves as women, while among veterans men are only 2 times as likely to kill themselves as women. When their experience is the same one -- organized approved violence -- men's and women's rates of suicide are more similar.

The same LA Times reporter also has an article simply on the fact that veteran suicides are higher than non-veteran. But he manages to brush aside the idea that war has anything to do with this:

"'People's natural instinct is to explain military suicide by the war-is-hell theory of the world,' said Michael Schoenbaum, an epidemiologist and military suicide expert at the National Institute of Mental Health who was not involved in the study. 'But it's more complicated.'"

Judging by that article it's not more complicated, it's entirely something else. The impact of war on mental state is never discussed. Instead, we get this sort of enlightening finding:

"Veterans who had been enlisted in the rank-and-file committed suicide at nearly twice the rate of former officers. Keeping with patterns in the general population, being white, unmarried and male were also risk factors."

Yes, but among veterans the rates are higher than in the general population. Why?

The answer is, I think, the same as the answer to the question of why the topic is so studiously avoided. The answer is summed up in the recent term: moral injury. You can't kill and face death and return unchanged to a world in which you are expected to refrain from all violence and relax.

And returning to a world kept carefully oblivious to what you're going through, and eager to blame your demographic characteristics, must make it all the more difficult.

Catholic Senator Says Pope Dead Wrong on Arms Trade

"Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?" the Pope asked the United States Congress during his speech there in September. "Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade."

At least a large section of the U.S. House and Senate rose and cheered, giving the above words a standing ovation.

Thousands of people, I among them, emailed their misrepresentatives to urge follow through.

In November, one of my senators finally replied. And this is what he had to say:

"Dear Mr. Swanson:

"Thank you for contacting me about the call by Pope Francis to end the arms trade.  I appreciate hearing from you.

"As a Catholic, I was delighted to have Pope Francis address a joint meeting of Congress in September. The Pope spoke eloquently about great American leaders in our history, setting high expectations for what we can do when we work together. He challenged us to heal divisions and unite against the global challenges that we face.

"During his address, Pope Francis called for an end to the international arms trade, highlighting the untold suffering that deadly weapons often have on individuals and society. While I agree that that the United States has a responsibility to ensure arms exports do not exacerbate violence, I believe that security assistance plays an important role in our national security interests and international stability. As the world's primary superpower, the United States should support the security of friends and allies and ensure that they have the means to overcome threats from violent belligerents.

"The Arms Export Control Act, International Traffic in Arms Regulations, Export Administration Act, and other legal vehicles authorize the export of arms but also place significant restrictions to keep such items from falling into the wrong hands. These restrictions include serious scrutiny of American arms exports to prevent their use in human rights violations, as well as efforts to ensure against the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weaponry. We use those restrictions often to block or delay sales of arms.

"As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, I will continue to support efforts that advance our national interests and global security. Thank you again for contacting me.

"Sincerely,

"Tim Kaine"

I have never received a single such reply letter from any Congress member that didn't offend me and annoy me. But this one is a doozy. Let's start with "a responsibility to ensure arms exports do not exacerbate violence." I'm sorry, Senator, I may be even more fallible than your Pope, but if you'll forgive my Latin, what the fuck do you think arms are? They are tools of violence, purely and by definition and beyond dispute. If they aren't going to exacerbate violence, what are they going to do?

What about this: "security assistance plays an important role in our national security interests and international stability." Does it, now? Some 80% of the weapons imported to the Middle East, not counting the weapons of the U.S. military or the weapons bestowed on "moderate" killers, are imported from the United States. The stability this has been bringing to that region is staggering. A bit more such stability, and the whole population will move to Europe.

"As the world's primary superpower, the United States should support the security of friends and allies." Yeah? Who asked it to be a superpower? I'm asking it to cease and desist. As for friends and allies, I imagine you mean Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Iraq, "moderates" in Syria, Al Qaeda in Syria, etc. With friends and allies like these in the cause of peace, who needs enemies?

"These restrictions include serious scrutiny of American arms exports to prevent their use in human rights violations, as well as efforts to ensure against the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weaponry." How'd that work out during Hillary Clinton's stewardship of the Department of State during which she waived legal restrictions to send weapons, including chemical and biological, to numerous nations of exactly the sort that you claim, accurately enough, U.S. law forbids supplying.

If I had to choose which was crazier, your humanitarian pretensions on behalf of the world's greatest purveyor of violence, or your Catholicism (with its infallible Leader in the funny hat, life after death, etc.), I'd have to go with the former. And I'm not feeling very religious.

Talk Nation Radio: Celine Nahory on Keeping Peace in Japan's Constitution and the World

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-celine-nahory-on-keeping-peace-in-japans-constitution-and-the-world 

Céline Nahory is International Coordinator for Peace Boat and the Global Article 9 Campaign. She also serves as Regional/International Representative in the International Peace Bureau's Council. She has worked for fifteen years with NGOs in the US, Japan and India, carrying out research and running advocacy campaigns on issues of peace, security, disarmament, economic justice and sustainable development.
See:
http://peaceboat.org/english
https://facebook.com/peaceboat
http://article-9.org/en/index.html
https://facebook.com/article9

Total run time: 29:00

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

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Climate Blindness Could Afflict Millions

The poor frog has of course been slandered. A frog will die in boiling water, but jump out of a slowly warming pot.

The homo not-so-sapiens is another story. You can sit a human down in front of a graveyard, and he'll tell you about eternal life. You can sit a human down in front of a blunder in her own handwriting, and she'll tell you and believe that someone else did it. And you can put a Marylander in a rising Chesapeake Bay, show him islands sinking beneath the water, and he'll swear to you that nothing's changed.

This is from Newsweek:

"Smith Island comprises . . . a stretch of islands . . . where roughly 280 residents live in three small villages about 5 feet above sea level. But erosion nips away at Smith Island's banks at a rate of roughly 2 feet each year, and a 2008 report predicted that by 2100 Smith Island will be 'almost completely under water as the Bay's average level goes up nearly one-foot.' Which is why, even though Smith Island emerged relatively unscathed after Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, the state's Department of Housing and Community Development offered Smith Island residents a buyout to move. Most rejected the offer. Some, like Marshall, don't believe there's any risk to living on the island. 'The whole sea-level rise—it's BS,' he says, talking loudly over the boat's motor. 'I've lived here my whole life and haven't seen a difference,' he continues, then shakes his head at excavators on barges piling gray stone in front of the refuge's outer bank. . . . The Army Corps of Engineers estimates that some 3,300 acres of Smith Island land have eroded over the last 150 years. Currently, only 900 acres of the island chain are habitable. . . . 'The island is going to be just fine. Our problem is we're running out of people,' Marshall says to me on his boat in early August. As we head for Ewell, he makes it clear how he feels about media reports claiming Smith Island is falling into the Chesapeake Bay. He asks me if I'm familiar with Public Enemy. Sure, I tell him. He quotes: 'Don’t believe the hype.' But, in truth, Smith Island's story seems to have been written many times over on other Chesapeake Bay islands: . . . Holland Island today is best known nationally for the photograph taken in 2010 of its final house falling into the Chesapeake, another victim of rising seas."

On the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, and in the Hampton Roads-Norfolk area of Virginia, flooding has already become routine. The sea level will rise, if current trends continue, between 3 and 18 feet by 2100. Already it has risen an inch every 7 or 8 years -- 12 inches in the last century. Some 628,000 Virginians live within 6.5 feet of sea level. Paul Fraim, Mayor of Norfolk since 1994, says the city may need to soon establish "retreat zones" and abandon sections of the city as too costly to protect. Real estate agents are discussing the need to require disclosure of sea level as well as lead paint and other defects when selling property. The famous ponies of Chincoteague live among trees killed and grasses weakened by risen saltwater, and will not live there much longer.

Yet, people living on sinking islands in the Bay tell you they see no problem. How could they? They're humans, and they've got climate blindness.

The U.S. military, headquartered largely in Virginia, the world's largest Navy base in Norfolk, and the swamp-built Capital of the United States in Washington, D.C., face potential devastation directly contributed to by the endless wars for oil, and the consumption of that oil, despite the widespread belief that the results of the wars are distant. Just as ice melting in Greenland lifts water onto the streets of Norfolk, the investment of trillions of dollars in pointless death and destruction not only diverts resources from addressing climate damage but heavily contributes to that damage. The U.S. military would rank 38th in oil consumption if it were a nation.

Try to find an appropriate response to the rising water in Washington, D.C., and it quickly becomes clear that climate blindness afflicts government officials as readily as anyone else, if not more so. The malady can be exacerbated by even a mild case of partisan blindness, to the point where -- if President Barack Obama sabotages climate control efforts in Paris as he did in Copenhagen -- blame will be placed entirely on others, and then forgotten about. Until we drown.