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

Fight War Not Wars ddf9e
Mar
08

How Would Knowing the Truth Change U.S. Policy on ISIS?

Tag: Peace and War

By David Swanson, American Herald Tribune

Scholars have documented the consistent pattern. What makes a country far more likely to be invaded, attacked, "intervened in," or in other words, bombed, is not its lack of democracy or its government's crimes and abuses, or the crimes and abuses of some non-governmental group, but its possession of oil. Yet, with each new war, we are told to imagine that this one is different.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., is to be applauded for publishing an article headlined "Syria: Another Pipeline War." The very idea that "doing something" about ISIS (which, let's face it, at this point in the imperialization of the U.S. republic means bombing) could be driven by oil might strike many as outrageous. I'm not suggesting that it's rational. U.S. corporations could buy Middle Eastern oil for about the same price without all the wars. The United States would save trillions of dollars and millions of lives that way. It could also avoid some destruction of the earth's climate by, instead, leaving that oil in the ground. I'm also not suggesting that because the real driver of U.S. militarism is an insane passion for oil, the crimes and abuses of ISIS or of Assad or Russia or Iran or Saudi Arabia or Israel or Turkey or anyone else are not real, or are of less concern or more concern than they actually merit, or that well-justified nonviolent opposition to Assad in Syria has never existed, or any similar inanity. Nor am I denying that there are employees of the U.S. government who are actually driven by humanitarian concerns, only that they aren't the employees who have risen to such heights that anyone's ever heard of them.

Senator Bernie Sanders is to be applauded for repeatedly bringing up the CIA's disastrous 1953 overthrow of democracy in Iran, 1954 in Guatemala, etc. But why is that the beginning? What about 1949 Syria? Does that not count because the U.S. president was a Democrat? Like Iran and Vietnam and so many other nations that the United States has attacked, Syria had worked to establish a democracy in line with U.S. rhetoric. But its democracy wasn't supporting a U.S.-proposed oil pipeline between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. So, the CIA overthrew the president of Syria and installed a dictator.

One explanation for the silence surrounding this incident is how quickly it failed. The Syrian people tossed out their U.S. puppet in 14 weeks. The U.S. government then spent 65 years learning absolutely nothing from the experience. It has spent those years arming and supporting Middle Eastern dictators and religious fighters, while rejecting out of hand all Soviet proposals to leave the region free to govern itself. In 1956, the CIA tried another coup in Syria, arming and funding Islamic militants, but without success. For years, the CIA kept trying -- perhaps less comically than with its efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro, but certainly with greater consequences.

This history is relevant not only as a guide to what not to do, but also because the people of Syria and the region know this history, so it illuminates how they view current events.

Wesley Clark says Syria was on a Pentagon list of governments to overthrow in 2001. Tony Blair says it was on Dick Cheney's list around that time. But Syria had already been on that list for decades.  WikiLeaks has let us know that in 2006, the U.S. government was working to create a civil war in Syria. And we hardly need WikiLeaks when people like Senator John McCain have been openly and repeatedly saying on television that Syria must be overthrown to weaken Iran which must be overthrown. But WikiLeaks does confirm that the U.S. strategy was to incite Assad into a brutal crackdown that would inflame opposition to his rule, and that the U.S. has been arming Islamists in Syria since 2009 when Assad rejected a pipeline from Qatar that would have supplied Europe with Middle Eastern rather than Russian climate-destroying poisons.

At the root of the new U.S. priority for overthrowing Syria is then, once again, the desire to run an oil pipeline through Syria. The heart of the U.S. plan has been, again, arming and training Islamic militants. Two years before any of us heard about ISIS, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) noted that "the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI (now ISIS), are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria. . . . If the situation continues unravelling, there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor) and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want in order to isolate the Syrian regime." This is why the United States spent years thwarting U.N. efforts for peace in Syria, and dismissed out of hand a 2012 proposal from Russia for peace in Syria. The U.S. government had dreams of a violent overthrow of the Syrian government, and viewed the rise of ISIS as a price worth paying.

There were glitches in the plan. First the British, and U.S., and world populations said no to bombing Syria in 2013 on the same side as al Qaeda. Then al Qaeda (ISIS) released beheading videos that, as intended, motivated U.S. Americans to back war -- against them rather than with them. ISIS saw its potential for growth in appearing to be the leading enemy of the United States, not a U.S. tool for another overthrow. It produced videos imploring the United States to attack it. But in so doing, it didn't isolate the Syrian government; rather it united the world with the Syrian government. The U.S. government began denying it had ever met ISIS, or blaming Saudi Arabia and Turkey for supporting ISIS (while doing little to cut off that support).

But the origins of ISIS are not really in dispute. "ISI[S] is a direct outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion," admitted President Obama. The U.S. military destroyed Iraq and disbanded without disarming its military. Then it divided Iraq along sectrarian lines and brutalized people for years in prison camps where they were able to organize and plot vengeance. The U.S. armed Iraq, and al Qaeda/ISIS seized those weapons. The U.S. overthrew the government of Libya, and its weapons spread all over the region. And the U.S. armed and trained fighters for Syria, playing into Saudi Arabia's desire for overthrow and now its newfound desire to fight more wars, as well as Turkey's desire to attack Kurds. Secretary of State John Kerry admitted to Congress on September 3, 2013, that Saudi Arabia had offered to foot the bill for a U.S. invasion of Syria -- which sounds a lot like the foreign policy vision of candidate Bernie Sanders when he's compelled to present one. In fact, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar financed the U.S. arming of Syrian fighters including ISIS (Sanders dreams of Saudi Arabia financing a war against ISIS). The Pentagon dumped a half billion dollars into arming and training fighters, something the CIA had long been doing at a cost of billions. "Four or five" loyal fighters were the Pentagon's result. The rest had apparently ceased to be "moderate" murderers and become "extremist" murderers. How many got themselves armed and "trained" more than once, as Afghans have had a habit of doing, we don't know.

Why was the U.S. public willing to tolerate new U.S. war-making in Iraq and Syria in 2014–2015, after having opposed it in 2013? This time the advertised enemy was not the Syrian government, but terrorists scarier than al Qaeda, and supposedly unrelated to al Qaeda, called ISIS. And ISIS was shown to be cutting the throats of Americans on videos. And something switched off in people's brains and they stopped thinking—with a few exceptions. A few journalists pointed out that the Iraqi government bombing Iraqi Sunnis was in fact driving the latter to support ISIS. Even Newsweek published a clear-eyed warning that ISIS would not last long unless the United States saved it by bombing it. Matthew Hoh warned that the beheadings were bait not to be taken.

The public and the media swallowed it whole, and the U.S. government almost choked. It had wanted to enter the war on the same side as ISIS. Now it had an opportunity to enter against ISIS. It viewed this as a means of entering on both sides by making a case for arming fighters who would oppose both ISIS and Assad, even if such fighters didn't exist.

To make the new war more respectable, along came the supposed need to rescue civilians trapped on a mountaintop and awaiting death at the hands of ISIS. The story wasn't completely false, but its details were murky. Many of the people left the mountain or refused to leave the mountain where they preferred to stay, before a U.S. rescue mission could actually be created. And the U.S. seemed to drop bombs more with a goal of protecting oil than protecting people (four air strikes near the mountain, many more near oil-rich Erbil). But, whether it helped those people or not, a U.S. war was created, and the war planners never looked back.

The world, as represented at the United Nations, didn't completely fall for it and didn't authorize this war any more than the proposed attack a year earlier, in large part because the UN had authorized a supposed humanitarian rescue in Libya in 2011 and seen that authorization predictably and swiftly misused to justify a wider war and the overthrow of a government.

In addition to the dubious claims about people needing to be rescued on a mountain, the United States also pulled out that old standby of saving U.S. lives, namely the lives of Americans in the oil-rush town of Erbil, all of whom could have been put onto a single airplane and flown out of there had there been a real need to rescue them.

Completely false, on the other hand, was another story about evil. Just in case people were not sufficiently scared, the White House and Pentagon actually invented a non-existent terrorist organization, which they named the Khorasan Group, and which CBS News called "a more immediate threat to the U.S. Homeland." While ISIS was worse than al Qaeda and al Qaeda worse than the Taliban, this new monster was depicted as worse than ISIS and plotting the immediate blowing up of U.S. airplanes. No evidence of this was offered, or apparently required by "journalists." One U.S. war makers were safely into a new war, all mention of the Khorosan Group ended.

If you weren't frightened enough, and if you didn't care enough about people on a mountain to drop bombs on people in a valley, there was also your patriotic duty to overcome "intervention fatigue," of which U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power began writing and speaking, actually warning that if we paid too much attention to what bombing places like Libya had done to them we'd fail in our obligation to support the bombing of new places like Syria. Soon enough, the U.S. corporate media was hosting debates that ranged from advocacy for launching one type of war all the way to advocacy for launching a little bit different type of war. A study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found that inclusion of antiwar guests in the major U.S. media was even more lacking in the 2014 buildup to war than it had been in the 2003 run-up to the Iraq invasion.

U.S. interest in war in Syria and Iraq since 2014 has taken on this new guise of unavoidable opposition to Evil. But U.S. interest in overthrowing the government of Syria has remained front and center, despite the disasters created in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other "liberated" nations. As in each of those other wars, this one has U.S. weapons on both sides, and U.S. interests on both sides. As in the "war on terror" as a whole, this war is creating more terrorism and fueling more anti-U.S. hatred, not protecting the United States, to which ISIS is not a serious threat. More people have been hurt at Donald Trump rallies and far more killed by cigarettes or automobiles than by ISIS in the United States. What attracts disturbed people in the United States and the world to ISIS is, in large part the counterproductive U.S. attacks on ISIS.

If U.S. motives were humanitarian, it would cease fueling the violence, and it would not be arming wars and crackdowns by vicious governments around the globe including in the Middle East, perhaps most prominently right now Saudi Arabia, the leading purchaser of U.S. weapons which bombs civilians in Yemen using those weapons, murders far more individuals at home than ISIS has, and which has actually sponsored significant terrorism in the United States.

Tim Clemente told Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that he saw a major difference between the 2003- war on Iraq and the more recent war on Syria: "the millions of military aged men who are fleeing the battlefield for Europe rather than staying to fight for their communities. 'You have this formidable fighting force and they are all running away. I don't understand how you can have millions of military aged men running away from the battlefield. In Iraq, the bravery was heartbreaking—I had friends who refused to leave the country even though they knew they would die. They'd just tell you it's my country, I need to stay and fight,' Clemente said. The obvious explanation is that the nation's moderates are fleeing a war that is not their war. They simply want to escape being crushed between the anvil of Assad's Russian backed tyranny and the vicious Jihadi Sunni hammer that [the U.S. government] had a hand in wielding in a global battle over competing pipelines. You can't blame the Syrian people for not widely embracing a blueprint for their nation minted in either Washington or Moscow. The super powers have left no options for an idealistic future that moderate Syrians might consider fighting for. And no one wants to die for a pipeline."

Kennedy proposes as a first U.S. step to resolve the crisis: cease consuming oil from the Middle East. I would simplify that to: cease consuming oil. Putting Europe onto Middle Eastern oil instead of Russian oil is not just about U.S. energy use. It's about rivalry with Russia. The United States needs to go renewable and sustainable in its energy use and its thinking. It owes the Middle East reparations and aid on a massive scale. It owes the world assistance in the greening of energy on a massive scale. Such projects would, of course, cost less financially and in every other way than continued counterproductive militarism.

This will not happen unless people learn history, including the history of the leadup to World War II, the myths about which sustain every U.S. loyalty to the institution of war. That means taking huge leaps beyond the discussions of this past Sunday's presidential debate regarding schools with mold and rats and mass shootings. It means a system of communication in which there is just no place for something like CNN. We will remake our media and our schools, or we will destroy ourselves and have no idea how we did it.

David Swanson is the author of War Is A Lie: Second Edition, to be published by Just World Books on April 5, 2016.

Mar
08

The Killer Drone Lovers Have Their Movie

Tag: Book and Movie Reviews, Media, Peace and War

If the recent spate of anti-drone movies and plays was making you feel warm thoughts about U.S. culture, you'll want to avoid seeing "Eye in the Sky," starring Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Aaron Paul. This is what "Zero Dark Thirty" was for torture lies. This is what "The Interview" was for hatred of North Korea. The Director of "Eye in the Sky," Gavin Hood, openly brags about having had military advisors on this film, just as those films had their government advisors. And it shows.

"I'll bet the military loves this film," I told Hood after a screening in Washington, D.C., on Monday. He claimed that some loved it, some liked it, both in the military and in some human rights groups that I won't name because I doubt very much Hood's implication that at least one of them didn't condemn this piece of propaganda.

Let's be clear, this film is the best quality drone film yet made and has the coolest technology in it, including drones the size and shape of birds and beetles. But it is the furthest presentation of drone use from reality. Following the film screening, the director and General Eaton (no last name, like Cher) and Patrick Tucker, a technology writer from Defense One, gave a little presentation that included flying a tiny drone in the theater. Said Tucker, as if he had proved this: "So everything you saw in this movie is very close to reality."

I asked the director roughly this: We know of actual cases where the target was not identified, where the target could have been captured, and where the target was not actually about to commit mass murder. In fact the Justice Department has redefined "imminent threat" to be virtually meaningless, and I don't know of a single case in reality that matches this fictional fantasy. Do you?

Gavin Hood hemmed and hawed but said that No, he was unaware of a single case in reality that matched what he had produced in his slick propaganda. Then it was his turn to question me: Do I oppose the whole drone program?

I replied that it is counterproductive and that every time a top official retires they point that out, that it creates more enemies than it kills. Remarkably, Hood said that he agreed entirely and that in fact this point (which showed up nowhere at all in his movie) was the very point of his movie.

Then Hood strayed back into his own fantasy, recounting as if we hadn't just seen it that in the film one politician comments that it might be better politically to allow foreign terrorists to kill lots of people than for the politician's own government to be exposed as having killed one person.

Well, yes, this proves that in a fantastic scenario that hasn't ever happened a fictional politician could cynically discard human lives. It proves nothing else. But it creates the sick pretense that murdering is wise and not murdering is a form of propaganda. And, for the record, the "one person" was actually one unknown innocent plus several other people understood to be complicit in planning mass murder.

The cherry on top of this movie's feat of manipulation is Hood's making one of the drone victims white. Thus the drone program is not racist, is not killing people who haven't been identified, is not killing people who could have been captured, and is only killing people who are literally in the act of arming themselves to kills lots of other people momentarily.

The killer drone has its movie and it also has its argument. This piece of fiction is what the ticking time bomb nonsense is for torture. This is what every reincarnation of Hitler is for war as a whole. This is Obama's dream eulogy when the first drone warrior king is finally laid to rest.

All sins have been absolved.

Relax. Get some popcorn.

Or wake up, get outraged and join the next protest at Creech Air Base. Please. We're better than this.

Mar
04

Everybody Turn Out for a Day of Peace and Solidarity in New York

Tag: Peace and War

What happens when there are endless wars accompanied by militarized policing, spreading racism, erosion of civil rights, and concentration of wealth, but the only news is election news, and none of the candidates wants to talk about shrinking the world's largest military?

We happen. That's what. We turn out for a Day of Solidarity and Peace in New York City on Sunday, March 13th. We start by signing up at http://peaceandsolidarity.org and inviting all of our friends to do so. If we can't come, we invite all of our friends anywhere near New York to sign up and be there. We sit down and think of every person we remember hearing ask "But what can we do?" and we tell them: You can do this.

We stopped the war mongers who wanted to rip up the agreement with Iran last year, and the political progress in Iran reflects the wisdom of diplomacy as an alternative to yet more war. We stopped a massive bombing campaign of Syria in 2013. Our brothers and sisters just this month stopped the construction of a U.S. military base in Okinawa.

But U.S. weapons and bases are spreading across the globe, ships are sailing provocatively toward China, drones are murdering in numerous nations with a new base just opened in Cameroon. The U.S. military is assisting Saudi Arabia in bombing Yemeni families with U.S. weapons. The U.S. war in Afghanistan is being accepted as permanent. And the U.S. wars in Iraq and Libya left behind such hell that the U.S. government is hoping to use more war to "fix" it -- and to add another overthrow in Syria.

Why will no candidate (in the two-party system) propose a serious reduction in military spending and war making, foreswear the use of killer drones, commit to making reparations to the nations recently attacked, or agree to join the International Criminal Court and to sign onto the many treaties limiting warfare on which the United States is a holdout? Because not enough of us have turned out and made noise, and brought new people into the movement.

Will you join us in New York City on March 13th to say "Money for Jobs and People's Needs, not War! Rebuild Flint! Rebuild our Cities! End the wars! Defend the Black Lives Matter movement! Aid the world, stop bombing it!"

Peace Poets, Raymond Nat Turner, Lynne Stewart, Ramsey Clark, and other speakers will be there.

Will your organization help spread the word? Please let us know and get listed as part of this effort by emailing UNACpeace [at] gmail.com. Can you help in other ways? Have ideas for how to make this stronger? Please write to that same address.

In a presidential debate in December a moderator asked one of the candidates: "Could you order air strikes that would kill innocent children by not the scores, but the hundreds and the thousands? Could you wage war as a commander-in-chief? . . . You are OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilians?"

The candidate mumbled something in response instead of shouting Hell No, as any decent person was obliged to do and as we will do on the Day of Peace and Solidarity. How are your lungs? Ready to make some noise? Join us!

 
BrianPointing3
Mar
03

Are We Willing to Pay the Price for Peace?

Tag: Peace and War

Premiering around the end of March will be one of the best films I’ve ever seen on peace activism: Paying the Price for Peace produced by Bo Boudart and others. The film focuses on S. Brian Willson while also informing the viewer on the state of U.S. warmaking and what can be done about it.

This is a story of courageous sacrifice, dedication, excitement, adventure, solidarity, and a service truly worthy of thanking the story’s hero for. If you’re imagining that war will give your life meaning, take a look at this film and see what trying to end war could do for you.

If you dislike war or poverty or environmental destruction, take a look at this film for examples of how we can all do more to make the world better. The film inspires, rather than shaming. But it inspires with examples that many find difficult to emulate.

“You have to be willing to risk life, limb, and prison,” Willson says in the film. “Then you’re free.”

There are things I myself don’t risk because I have a family to take care of. There are things I don’t risk because I believe I can do more good writing. And then there are things I don’t risk for really no good reason at all.

I recently read a comment from someone urging others not to protest at Trump rallies, for fear someone would be killed. History does not repeat, and comparisons are always strained, but would it have been good advice not to protest Adolf Hitler’s first rally? Because someone might get killed? Doesn’t that now sound ridiculous? Don’t we have a moral duty to protest all of these candidates who support the bombing of human beings in distant lands?

If that sounds outrageous, you should really, really see Paying the Price for Peace.

Brian Willson “served” in the U.S. military in Vietnam. His job was to assess the success or failure of bombing missions. He was literally sent to examine the damage. Frequently, what he found were undefended fishing villages that had been bombed with 500 lb. bombs from not very high up, and then napalmed. He found burned bodies, sometimes in such heaps he couldn’t get over them.

Here was a good kid, star athlete, high school eighth-grade valedictorian, doing what he’d been told, thinking as he’d been carefully taught to think. And he concluded that war and a great many other things were fundamentally lies. He came back to the United States ready to search for and promote other ways of living. He’s been doing so ever since and will likely keep doing so for years to come, much to our benefit.

In the movie, we see Willson’s decades of travels, protests, talks, demonstrations, fastings, and bicycling tours. We see him leading by example in his personal life, living peacefully and in an environmentally sustainable manner. We also see how passionately he and others have risked everything.

During protests of the war on Vietnam shown in the film, a veteran says, “If the American people sit down and just hold their fingers up and say ‘peace,’ they don’t deserve any better than Agnew or Nixon or the rest of the people they’ve got here, because they’re doing nothing and they’re as guilty as anyone who pulled the trigger in Vietnam.”

Well, what should we do? The film is packed with ideas, and shows them to us in action. When Ronald Reagan’s Contras were massacring civilians, Brian Willson and many others from the United States, at serious risk to themselves, went to Nicaragua and walked through the war zone observing and recording — and speaking against U.S. policy.

Most famously, Willson and others sat on train tracks in California to prevent the shipment of weapons bound for Latin America. The military train intentionally sped up and ran Willson over. It was a risk he’d been aware of and been willing to take. He lost the lower portion of both of his legs. Others, during the protests of those weapons shipments, had limbs broken by police or were locked up for months. Willson’s injury didn’t slow him down.

When he traveled abroad after that horrific crime, people in places like Nicaragua saw him as a Yankee who had paid the price that they pay when they challenge abusive powers. Willson’s actions were actions of solidarity as well as resistance, and were understood as such.

The film shows us others who have risked or paid similar prices, and others who have done small bits in the same direction (I’m in the film briefly). Included are Occupy activists facing (militarized) police violence, and whistleblowers facing prison. Daniel Ellsberg says in the film that we also need people who will risk their reelections. Indeed.

And we need more Brian Willsons. But we are quite fortunate to have the one we have. Here’s a veteran who cares about veterans but keeps matters in proper perspective, caring also about the vast majority of victims of U.S. wars. If the victims of the Vietnam War were all listed on the memorial in Washington, D.C., Willson says, it would stretch at least as far as from its current location to the base of the Washington Monument.

“If we were willing to risk our lives for a war,” says veteran Leah Bolger in the movie, “surely we can risk some discomfort for peace.”

Here’s a service that would lead me to sincerely thank you for your service: spread the word about Paying the Price for Peace.

Mar
03

The Congressional Progressive Caucus Believes in War

Tag: Peace and War

Each year the Congressional Progressive Caucus releases a weaker and weaker budget proposal. This year they asked for input first. I sent them this and communicated with them about it, so I know they read it. An excerpt:

"Last year's Congressional Progressive Caucus budget proposed to cut military spending by, in my calculation, 1%. In fact, no statement from the Progressive Caucus even mentioned the existence of military spending; you had to hunt through the numbers to find the 1% cut. This was not the case in other recent years, when the CPC prominently proposed to end wars and cut particular weapons. With all due respect, how is this censoring of any mention of the military evidence of progressing, rather than regressing?"

I should clarify that when the Progressive Caucus prominently proposed serious cuts to militarism, George W. Bush was president, and that the CPC will no doubt discover a distaste for mass murder if Trump is inaugurated.

But what about now?

This year's initial press release and email from the CPC again pretends that the majority of the budget (which goes to militarism) just doesn't exist. Its slightly longer summary includes, near the bottom:

"Sustainable Defense: Promoting peace And Security

Modernizes our defense system to create sustainable Pentagon spending Ends funding for unsustainable wars Increases funding for diplomacy and strategic humanitarian aid Adds robust funding for refugee resettlement programs"

That's (relative) progress. But what does it mean exactly? What does a budget pie chart look like? Does 50 to 60 percent still go into war preparations? The "full budget" tells us this:

"SUSTAINABLE DEFENSE: PROMOTING PEACE AND SECURITY

"Pentagon spending has doubled over the last decade at the expense of investments in working families. But as the war in Afghanistan draws to a close, we need a leaner, more agile force to combat realistic twenty-first century threats."

[Note that the latest plan is to keep the war on Afghanistan going for decades, and that the CPC has not lifted a finger to end it. So, if that war doesn't "draw to a close," do we still get the "leaner force"? And what does "agile" mean? And who gets killed in the "realistic" "agile" wars? The same war in Afghanistan was "drawing to a close" in identical language in last year's CPC budget.]

"The People's Budget responsibly [is there some other way?] ends operations in Afghanistan, brings our troops home, focuses Pentagon spending on modern security threats instead of Cold War - era weapons and contracts, and invests in a massive job creation program that will help workers transition into civilian jobs."

[In fact, Congress has to actually end that war, but it's right for a decent budget proposal to assume it's ended. However, what about the war in Iraq and Syria? The drone wars in several nations? The bases spreading like a virus across the globe? The U.S. role in the Saudi slaughter in Yemen? The new war in Libya? Why only end the one war that people are already pretending has "ended"? That said, transition to a peace economy is exactly the right idea, which is why it's a shame that, despite there supposedly being a progressive caucus, only three Congress members have signed onto this bill. And where are the numbers in this budget? How much is "massive"?]

"The People's Budget also increases investments in diplomacy, sustainable development, and humanitarian assistance to address the ongoing crises in Syria and Iraq. The Congressional Progressive Caucus does not support Pentagon cuts mandated by sequestration and believes there are more responsible savings achievable that will not harm service members and veterans."

[Whoa. If you have actually thought through the advantages to the so-called "service members" of the "massive" job creation program, what can you possibly mean by suggesting that cutting the military would "harm" them? Clearly, the CPC has not actually thought that through or given any moral reflection at all to its proposal to fund the most expensive military in the history of the earth in order to benefit its troops. This comes naturally to Congress members, of course, as they've been conditioned to think of military spending as justified by the jobs it provides in their districts. They should pause for a moment, though, and think about how they would explain that benefit to children whose parents were killed by a missile from a U.S. drone.]

"End Emergency War Funding Beginning in FY2017 – Our budget limits Overseas Contingency (OCO) funding to redeployment out of Afghanistan in FY2017 and zeroes out OCO thereafter, saving $761 billion compared to current law."

[This is clearly following the misleading practice of multiplying everything by 10 and then hiding in some footnote that all "savings" will be "over 10 years." So let's say this is actually $76.1 billion. That's still (relative) progress and a good beginning. Now, surely we'll hear about the serious cuts....]

"It is time to swiftly and safely end the war in Afghanistan and end the policy of funding endless war. An expedited withdrawal from Afghanistan would save billions. Further, the use of emergency funding via the OCO account masks the true impact of war spending and should be discontinued."

[True enough.]

"Reduce Base Pentagon Spending – We reduce baseline military spending to ensure Pentagon spending does not continue to contribute significantly to our fiscal burden, and establishes a responsible targeted approach towards a sustainable defense budget."

[Hey, pick your favorite reasons. But where did the numbers go, all of a sudden? How much do you reduce it?]

"The People's Budget would repeal the damaging across-the-board cuts and caps proposed by the Budget Control Act, while providing significant savings through the enactment of reforms, endorsed in bipartisan fiscal reform proposals. It redirects funding to priorities such as caring for our veterans, Congressional Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), smart diplomacy, and environmental cleanup and climate change mitigation programs within the DOD Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan."

[This is where one has to start worrying. The numbers have disappeared. The cuts currently required by law are "damaging" (and too large?). The CPC wants people who are trained and armed to kill and destroy to work on programs that help us better survive climate change. Is the CPC aware that the military is our top creator of climate change, that significant military cuts would not just "mitigate" climate change but actually reduce it?]

"Adjusting to Pentagon Downsizing and Investing in Non-Defense Manufacturing – The People’s Budget increases investments in DOD's Office of Economic Adjustment to assist state and local governments to respond to major defense program shifts by helping communities adjust to defense contract losses.

"Fully funding initiatives like the DOT’s Federal Ship Financing Program and significantly increasing federal agency procurement of sustainable technology from communities impacted by Pentagon cuts will help provide a just transition for defense manufacturing workers and ensure that the U.S. manufacturing base remains vibrant."

[Great! How much is "fully"?]

"Modernizing our Defense Posture – Our budget achieves a smaller force structure with fewer personnel through attrition. A modern defense strategy must focus our armed forces on their strengths of crisis response, smart security, and deterrence. Our military needs to adapt to current threats and challenges, particularly cyberwarfare, nuclear proliferation, and combatting non-state actors. No savings are obtained by reducing military personnel wages or benefits, including TRICARE and pensions. The proportion of private contractor personnel would be significantly reduced and their work transitioned to civilian personnel, curbing needles "outsourcing" that creates excessive cost overruns. Additional reforms include the decommissioning of our Cold War-era nuclear weapons infrastructure, as outlined by the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act, and reducing procurement and research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) spending by making smarter procurement choices."

Attrition? Do they, then, defund recruitment? They don't say. Cyberwarfare? Combatting non-state actors? Aren't these jobs for police? Not reducing personnel except through attrition, in order to not "harm" the personnel? Yet an investment in a "massive" non-military jobs program that none of the military personnel will have time to find employment in? The SANE Act does not, in fact, "decommission ... nuclear weapons infrastructure." It blocks the creation of certain types of insane new additions to the "nuclear weapons infrastructure," presumably allowing the existing "infrastructure" to phase out through the "attrition" of either being shut down as too old or killing us all.

"Audit the Pentagon – As the only federal agency that cannot be audited, the Pentagon loses tens of billions of dollars annually to waste, fraud, and abuse. It is past time to check the wasteful practices with little oversight that weaken our financial outlook and ultimately, our national security."

[Get it? When the Pentagon wastes money instead of buying more weapons, our national security is weakened. So, any money saved by eliminating the waste will have to go into more weapons. Putting it into education or housing would endanger us. Or are we willing to run that risk? In that case, if we know that the Pentagon wastes tens of billions, why not back at least a cut of $20 billion now?]

"Diplomacy and Development – The People's Budget increases investment in diplomacy and development to stabilize key regions of the world through supporting the United States' leadership in the United Nations, smart security, providing vital governance, development and humanitarian assistance, and increasing the tools to combat the horrors of drug and human trafficking and nuclear proliferation. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of people forcibly displaced throughout the world has reached the highest level ever recorded at a staggering 59.5 million people. The People's Budget recognizes this and provides robust funding for refugee resettlement programs. Our plan rebalances goals and risks to achieve a more effective mix of defense, diplomacy, and development aid. By adopting this new global security posture, investing in domestic priorities and creating a cost-effective military aligned with 21st century threats, the U.S. can achieve significant deficit reduction goals while simultaneously enhancing global security."

[Never mind what created the refugees! O.K., yes, this is needed, but where are the numbers?]

At the end of the CPC budget, just like last year's, are a few pages of actual numbers, where you can find, just like last year, a $6 billion, or roughly 1%, cut to the "base" spending of the Department of so-called Defense. You also find $104 billion investment in infrastructure, and $68 billion in additional job creation, plus $94 billion to make college, not free, but "affordable." There's no single-payer healthcare here, but the godforsaken "public option." There's also $1 billion for public financing of election campaigns.

The vast difference between the modest expenditures on public goods and the tiny military cuts is made up by taxing financial transactions, carbon, capital gains, etc. All such taxes are goods in and of themselves. But the sort of investment in transition to sustainable energy that we actually need, plus the restraint in murdering large numbers of people that those large numbers of people need, can only come from serious cuts to the military. The $76.1 billion cut to the slush fund is a good start. But much more serious cuts are needed to so-called Defense, to Energy, to so-called Homeland Security, to the CIA and NSA and so on. The habit of refusing to imagine serious change didn't begin with Hillary Clinton for President. It's deeply ingrained in Washington.

War Memorial.indd
Mar
02

The War Monument to End All War Monuments

Tag: Culture and Society

“Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” –Orwell

The U.S. government has reached the bottom of the barrel. Having packed every square inch of the National Mall with monuments to every war they wanted to admit to, including the wars on Vietnam and Korea, and including the two world wars, our dear leaders have decided that another World War I monument is needed, and that it will be built in Pershing Park (named in 1981 for a World War I general by then already sufficiently forgotten).

That’s presumably not a reincarnated WWI vet on the bench above, but a young soldier inhaling the glory of past noble slaughters.

This new glorification of mass killing is supposed to be finished by Armistice Day 2018, or what we now know as the opposite of Armistice Day, namely Veterans Day. The symbolism is stark. At the century mark of the conclusion of the war to end all wars, a peace holiday that was transformed into a war holiday during the war on Korea will be celebrated by an empire intent on glorifying all past wars in order to keep having new ones.

A WWI memorial is the reductio ad absurdum of the argument for glorifying all wars. When Victor Berger pointed out that all WWI gave the United States was the flu and prohibition, it was too early to add WWII and the military industrial complex and the oppression of the Middle East that would be resented to this day to that list. But the U.S. public resoundingly agreed with him. Public disgust created the most peaceful period in U.S. history following the armistice. The U.S. government was compelled by popular action to take the lead in legally banning all war with the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which is still on the books. Public demand also almost created a requirement for a public referendum before the United States could (illegally) launch a war — a step that might have radically changed the past 100 years.

Where’s a memorial to those who went to prison for speaking against the madness of the “Great War”? Where’s even the most basic information on how the war was sold, and how it was understood once it ended? Nothing of the sort is to be found on the website of the monument makers. Woodrow Wilson’s lies about the Lusitania and German atrocities in Belgium created the modern field of war propaganda and led to widespread doubt, misplaced as it turned out, of later tales of Nazi atrocities. But the people intent on memorializing wars once the wars are old enough to not mean anything mention none of that. In fact, they simply quote Wilson’s malarkey without comment, as if it bore some relationship to what actually happened. This would be like carving Colin Powell’s U.N. Speech onto an Iraq War memorial in 2103, which I’m sure has already been planned. Quoth Wilson:

“The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them…. It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts—for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.”

This was just after Wilson had won an election falsely promising peace, and immediately after the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, Walter Hines Page, sent a cable to Wilson on March 5, 1917, reading in part:

“The pressure of this approaching crisis, I am certain, has gone beyond the ability of the Morgan financial agency for the British and French governments. The financial necessities of the Allies are too great and urgent for any private agency to handle, for every such agency has to encounter business rivalries and sectional antagonism. It is not improbable that the only way of maintaining our present preeminent trade position and averting a panic is by declaring war on Germany.”

When peace had been made with Germany ending World War I, President Wilson and his allies punished the entire population of Germany, leading numerous wise observers to accurately predict World War II. Jane Addams, E.D. Morel, John Maynard Keynes, and others predicted that the harsh vindictiveness of the treaty would lead to a new war. They seem to have been right. Combined with other factors, including Western preference for Nazism over Communism, and a growing arms race, bitter resentment in Germany did lead to a new war. Ferdinand Foch claimed the treaty was too lenient on Germany and would therefore create a new war, which is of course also true if one considers the possibility of having completely destroyed Germany or something close to that. Woodrow Wilson predicted that failure of the United States to join the League of Nations would lead to a new war, but it is far from clear that joining the League would have prevented the war.

Oblivious, and honoring Wilson as the Obama of his day, our monument makers just quote what Wilson said rather than what he did: “It must be a peace without victory…Victory would mean peace forced upon the loser, a victor’s terms imposed upon the vanquished. It would be accepted in humiliation, under duress, at an intolerable sacrifice, and would leave a sting, a resentment, a bitter memory upon which terms of peace would rest, not permanently, but only as upon quicksand. Only a peace between equals can last.” As devotees of our current president would say: at least he knew what he should have done, and that’s what matters.

When peace came, Wilson kept U.S. troops in Russia to fight the Soviets, despite earlier claims that U.S. troops were in Russia in order to defeat Germany and intercept supplies bound for Germany. Senator Hiram Johnson (P-CA) had famously said of the launching of the war: “The first casualty when war comes, is truth.” He now had something to say about the failure to end the war when the peace treaty had been signed. Johnson denounced the ongoing fighting in Russia and quoted from the Chicago Tribune when it claimed that the goal was to help Europe collect Russia’s debt.

The monument website displays a tasteful selection of WWI posters. No “mad brute” depiction of Germans as apes. No Jesus siting down his rifle for God. And the role of WWI in generating the permanent propaganda of patriotic war normalization is thoughtlessly hyped: The “Star Spangled Banner” became a national song to be played at sporting events during World War I, thus reviving, a century after the War of 1812, another pointless war that got the United States nothing but death, disease, and a burned capital.

I need to thank Sam Husseini to alerting me to the fact that the WWI monument people held a press conference, which he attended, at the National Press Club on Wednesday. Here’s audio of what they told him when he raised concerns. Rather than discuss what in the world the point of the war could have been, it seems that the monument makers predictably enough talked about the “brotherhood” of the troops. But when Sam asked whether that brotherhood extended across nationalities, as it did during the Christmas Truce, they responded by talking about the greatness of the United States. Here’s an excerpt:

“And looking at photographs from Vietnam and there’s themes that you see … from WWI of the way people support each other and the way conflict changes everybody. But this is a really interesting opportunity because it is that starting point for the United States. . . .

“Does that sense of brotherhood transcend nationality?”

“Well, yeah, I mean you ask me what’s the factor here . It’s not a glorification of war that we’re dealing with here, it’s ultimately a glorification of humanity and the coming together of all these different races for the United States. So, in the compositions there’s not a single figure that’s alienated, every single figure is interconnected with the rest. These are touching the other figures or they’re looking at each other. There’s no sense of isolationism or aloneness. That’s much more of a modern concept. So going back to the idea that there’s this sense of unity in the universe, this sense of order. And that’s what the relief was about….”

“My question was is this brotherhood constrained by nationality and you seem to be saying that it is.”

“No, I’m not saying that.”

So, apparently in the new version of World War I the military and the nation had already been integrated, and the civil rights movement wouldn’t be needed, and nobody was being lynched? I actually wouldn’t object to a historically accurate monument to racial harmony and diversity. If that’s what these guys think they’re building, I say: build it! Just leave out World War I, OK?

The winning monument design was apparently called “The Weight of Sacrifice.” It’s a temple to human sacrifice. The trick will be to get people in the 21st century to believe that the human sacrifice was for some good purpose — and that it could be again.  Never underestimate the power of propaganda.

World Beyond War

RootsAction.org

War Is A Crime

Talk Nation Radio

There Is No Way To Peace

Peace is the way.

This site is maintained by a union shop at MayFirst.org