President Obama's peace speech on Wednesday at American University quoted former President Kennedy:
"President Kennedy warned Americans not to see conflict as inevitable. It is time to apply such wisdom.” —President Obama #
Indeed it is. But President Obama's speech did not entirely convey the same message as Kennedy's famous address at American U in which Kennedy advocated disarmament and international understanding. In fact it had echoes of a far less admired former official:
The above tweet by President Obama came in the midst of a flood of tweets about Iran pursuing a nuclear bomb, including these:
"This deal shuts off the type of covert program Iran has pursued in the past.” —President Obama
"Even before taking office, I made clear that Iran would not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon on my watch." —President Obama
"The question then is not whether to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but how." —President Obama
“This deal is not just the best choice among alternatives—this is the strongest non-proliferation agreement ever.” —President Obama
Except, of course, for the Nonproliferation Treaty! if its parties were to comply with it. (I'm looking at you, President Obama.)
The President's tweets -- tweeted by someone other than the President of course -- came during a speech he gave at American University, from which a transcript will likely be posted on the White House website.
Obama, in truth, has zero evidence of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapon. Zero. None. The claim that he halted a nuclear weapons program in Iran is outrageous -- as crazy as Dick Cheney's claim that Iraq had nuclear weapons.
Obama might claim he was only suggesting he'd halted a nuclear ENERGY program, but the reader who would put that interpretation on his statement, and combine it with an understanding that Iran's program has been exclusively for energy, has got to be rare, given the propaganda being pushed by Obama, his supporters, and his opponents.
Remarkably, neither the advocates of war, nor the momentary fans of diplomacy, will point out that Iran has never threatened the United States and has no nuclear weapons program.
Obama's reference to Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons "in the past" is helpful, but still misleading, as Iran never had a serious nuclear weapons program, even in the past.
Obama is also to be praised for preferring -- for once -- to use diplomacy instead of war. And he is to be praised highly for suggesting that the alternative to diplomacy is in fact war, and for discussing war as the undesirable evil it is. But Obama ought to be pointing out that the purpose of the diplomatic deal is in fact just that: to prevent a U.S. war. Instead he claims the purpose is to prevent an Iranian threat.
In the long run, this kind of talk doesn't help prevent a war.
Let's demand that our Senators defend the deal. Let's tell them we want to prevent a war. Let's make clear we're aware who is openly threatening war: they are.
Watch Senator Kaine, who has taken the lead in speaking out for the deal. He says that if Iran fails to comply with the deal, the U.S. can still (illegally, immorally, disastrously) launch a war. That threat -- the threat itself alone -- is a violation of the UN Charter and basic human decency. And that threat comes from our elected leader now heading up the cause of peace in the U.S. Senate.
Well, he certainly doesn't get every bit right, but he gets the vote right. Now where is his colleague from Virginia, Senator Mark Warner?
The U.S. Army and Air Force public relations offices have responded to a Freedom of Information Act request by releasing huge lists of movies and television shows that they have assessed and, at least in many cases, sought to influence. Here's the Army's PDF. Here's the Air Force's PDF.
The shows and films, foreign and U.S. made, aimed at foreign and U.S. audiences, including documentaries and dramas and talk shows and "reality" TV, cross every genre from those obviously related to war to those with little discernable connection to it.
Films show up in theaters without any notice that they have been influenced by the Army or Air Force or other branch of the military. And they carry ratings like G, PG, PG-13, or R. But the Army's until-now-secret assessments of films also give them ratings. Every rating is positive and cryptic. They include:
- Supports Building Resiliency,
- Supports Restoring Balance,
- Supports Maintaining our Combat Edge,
- Supports Adapting Our Institutions,
- Supports Modernizing Our Force.
Some films have multiple ratings. Truth in advertising, I think, would include these ratings on previews and advertisements for films. I'd like to know what the Army thinks of a film. It would make my decision to avoid it much easier. Go ahead and scroll through the Army document linked above, and chances are you'll find out what a movie you're currently interested in or recently saw is rated by the folks who brought you Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and top ratings worldwide for the U.S. as the nation considered the greatest threat to peace on earth (Gallup, December 2013).
Here's a comment from Zaid Jilani at Salon: "The sheer scale of the Army and the Air Force's involvement in TV shows, particularly reality TV shows, is the most remarkable thing about these files. 'American Idol,' 'The X-Factor,' 'Masterchef,' 'Cupcake Wars,' numerous Oprah Winfrey shows, 'Ice Road Truckers,' 'Battlefield Priests,' 'America’s Got Talent,' 'Hawaii Five-O,' lots of BBC, History Channel and National Geographic documentaries, 'War Dogs,' 'Big Kitchens' — the list is almost endless. Alongside these shows are blockbuster movies like Godzilla, Transformers, Aloha and Superman: Man of Steel."
That list is a sampling, nothing more. The full list goes on and on and on. It includes many films about wars or U.S. base construction. There's an Extreme Makeover Home Edition at Fort Hood. There's The Price Is Right's Military Appreciation Episode. There's a C-Span show called "The Price of Peace" -- C-Span is of course often thought of as a neutral fly on the wall. There are, as mentioned above, lots of BBC documentaries -- the BBC is of course often thought of as British.
The documents linked above consist mostly of assessments with relatively little explicit discussion of military influence. But further research has produced that. The Mirror reports on the censoring of an Iron Man movie because the military is -- not kidding -- actually trying to create Iron Man type suits of armor/weaponry: "Directors are being forced to re-write scripts by the United States Department of Defense if the content is deemed inappropriate -- and the big screen hits affected include Iron Man, Terminator Salvation, Transformers, King Kong and Superman: Man of Steel. . . . Last year, President Barack Obama appeared to be joking when he said the U.S. military was working on its own Iron Man suit for troops. But the first prototypes of a super-strong exoskeleton being developed for chiefs by universities and technology players were delivered last June."
Shouldn't viewers of fantasy cartoonish movies know that the Army has been involved and what it rates those films in terms of their recruitment value?
"To keep Pentagon chiefs happy," reports the Mirror, "some Hollywood producers have also turned villains into heroes, cut central characters, changed politically sensitive settings -- or added military rescue scenes to movies. Having altered scripts to accommodate Pentagon requests, many have in exchange gained inexpensive access to military locations, vehicles and gear they need to make their films."
Guess who pays for that?
In fact many of the listings in the documents above originated as requests from film makers to the military. Here's an example:
"Comedy Central – OCPA-LA received a request from Comedy Central to have Jeff Ross, the Roastmaster General, spend 3 to 4 days on an Army post where he will embed himself amongst the Soldiers. This project will be a hybrid of a documentary and a stand up special/comedy roast. Ross, who has gone on several USO tours, wants to participate in various tactical drills and exercises, as well as interview soldiers and officers of all different ranks to get a fuller understanding of what a life in the military is really like, and how extraordinary those who choose to serve truly are. Then on his last day at the base, armed with the personal knowledge he has acquired, Jeff will put on a roast/standup comedy concert for all the people on the base that he has gotten to know during his tenure there. We are working with OCPA to see if this is something that can be supported and, if so, to find the best fit."
These questions as to whether something can be supported are frequent, but in skimming the documents I notice no negative ratings like
- Supports Resistance to Mass-Murder
- Supports Peace, Diplomacy, or Intelligent Foreign Relations
- Supports Disarmament and Wise Use of Peace Dividend
Apparently all news is good news. Even cancellations get good ratings:
"'BAMA BELLES' REALITY TV SHOW (U), The Bama Belles, a reality show based out of Dothan, AL is being cancelled. According to cast member and producer Amie Pollard, TLC will not continue with a second season of "Bama Belles" and is still deciding whether to air the third episode. One of the actors on the show was SGT 80th Training Command (USAR). Assessment: Cancellation of the show is in the best interest of the US Army. Supports Building Resiliency."
Propaganda aimed at foreign audiences is included right alongside that aimed at potential recruits and voters in the United States:
"(FOUO) STATE DEPARTMENT DOCUMENTARY, AFGHANISTAN (FOUO) (SAPA-CRD), OCPA-LA contacted by production company contracted by U.S. State Dept. Filmmaker requesting to film short scene on FOB in Afghanistan and involving use of five soldiers. The short scene will 'involve a female interrupter [sic] working for US forces and her family struggles.' The soldiers will be mostly background and will only have a few lines. Filmmaker requesting to film the scene in the last two weeks of JAN. ISAF/RC-E has expressed willingness to support. OCPA-LA is coordinating with OSD(PA) for approval. ASSESSMENT: Viewership UNK; video product aimed at Afghan national audiences. Supports Adapting Our Institutions."
Perhaps most disturbing are the advertisements for future war-making. There is, for example, a National Geographic series on "futuristic weapons." There's also this video game that seeks to depict a U.S. soldier in the year 2075:
"(FOUO) ACTIVISION/BLIZZARD VIDEO GAME (FOUO) (OCPA-LA), OCPA-LA was contacted by Activision/Blizzard, the largest video game publisher in the world. They are in the initial stages of a new project designed to create a realistic representation of a Soldier in 2075. They are interested in discussing the U.S. Army of the future; equipment, units, tactics, etc. Have scheduled an introductory meeting this week to discuss. While their interests will require an outside paid consultant, our interest is to correctly establish and frame the Army brand within the game while still in development. Update: and met with company president and game developers. Expressed concern that scenario being considered involves future war with China. Game developers looking at other possible conflicts to design the game around, however, developers are seeking a military power with substantial capabilities. ASSESSMENT: Anticipate game release will be very high-profile and comparable to recent ‘Call of Duty’ and ‘Medal of Honor’ releases. Will likely sell in the range of 20-30 million copies. Supports Adapting our Institutions and Maintaining Our Combat Edge."
The Joint Chiefs of Staff last month published the nonfiction "National Military Strategy of the United States of America -- 2015," which also struggled to identify a frightening enemy. It named four nations as the justification for massive U.S. military spending, while admitting that none of the four wanted war with the United States. So, after U.S. government consultation with Sony and its depiction of the fictional murder of the leader of North Korea, it's nice to see some hesitation about depicting a 2075 US-China war. But what exactly is a "correct" depiction of the U.S. Army in 2075? Who has credibly suggested that Western "civilization" can survive war and nationalism that long? And where is Hollywood's investment in depicting an alternative future with greater likelihood of actually being sustainable?
If your local city or town government spent 54% of its funds on an immoral, disastrous, and unpopular project, and your brave, populist, socialist candidate for mayor virtually never acknowledged its existence, would you think something was wrong? Would his admirable positions on numerous smaller projects, and on sources of revenue, ring a little hollow?
Bernie Sanders was asked a while back about the military budget and was essentially accused of wanting to cut it by 50%. Oh no, he replied, I wouldn't do that. He ought to have replied that doing that would leave the United States far and away the world's biggest military spender, and that doing that would take U.S. military spending back to roughly 2001 levels. He ought to have mentioned that the savings of hundreds of billions of dollars could transform the United States and the world for the better, that tens of billions could end starvation and provide clean water worldwide, and end poverty at home, and fund projects like free college, and invest in green energy beyond the wildest dreams of its advocates. He ought to have quoted Eisenhower and pointed out the record of the past 14 years of military spending generating wars rather than preventing them. In other words, he ought to have given the sort of smart response he gives to the questions he's usually asked on the topics he prefers to deal with.
But this was militarism, and militarism is different. Sanders' record is better than that of most presidential candidates, but very mixed. He's gotten into shouting matches with his constituents over his support for Israeli wars fought with billions of dollars of free U.S. weapons. He's supported incredibly wasteful military spending in his state. He opposes some wars, backs others, and glorifies militarism and the "service" that veterans have supposedly provided. While the public would like to fund useful projects and tax cuts for working people by both taxing the rich and slashing the military, Sanders only ever mentions taxing the rich. If he doesn't want to cut the largest item in the budget by 50%, how much does he want to cut it by? Or does he want to increase it? Who knows. His speeches -- at least most of them -- and certainly his campaign website, never acknowledge that wars and militarism exist at all. When people have pressed him during Q&A sections of events, he's proposed auditing the Department of so-called Defense. But what about cutting it? He's proposed addressing veteran suicides. What about creating no more veterans?
At RootsAction.org we've just launched a petition urging Sanders to speak on war and militarism. Thousands have already signed it here. The vote on the Iran deal could come down to 13 Democratic senators, and I haven't heard Sanders whipping his colleagues at all. His eloquence and energy are needed now. Having voted the right way will not look like enough when another war has started.
Thousands of eloquent comments can be read at the petition site. Here are a handful:
"The president is the nation's chief foreign policy architect and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. A presidential candidate, to be credible, must enunciate her or his approach to foreign policy and the use of military power with as much clarity and specificity as she or he devotes to domestic policy. A bird with only one wing cannot soar. Neither can a presidential candidate without a foreign policy." —Michael Eisenscher, Oakland, CA
"Bernie, Militarism is driven by both the American Empire and the military/industrial complex, the huge corporations you correctly speak against. Include militarism in your critique of capitalism. The U.S. is responsible for up to 78% of foreign arms sales; you must denounce this as you denounce banks, and other corporate power." — Joseph Gainza, VT
"Bernie, please speak out for peace. If you do, I'll send you $$." —Carol Wolman, CA
"I loved your speech and enthusiasm in Madison, and was disappointed you said nothing about foreign policy." — Dick Russo, WI
"I am thrilled you are running. I agree with you on most things, but I would like to hear something about the necessity of ending all these endless wars with oversized military budgets, which are part of the economic problem!" — Dorothy Rocklin, MA
"You will have to say something eventually. Do it sooner." — Michael Japack, OH
"He must comment upon the war on Gaza by Israel, which is connected to not only 'the madness of militarism' but also to the racism that the Palestinians and African-Americans face from these two nuclear powers." — Robert Bonazzi, TX
"This needs to be made a major issue in the coming campaign, especially given the situation re: the deal with Iran and efforts by warmongers (especially the Israeli lobby) to scuttle it. That's not the only example that comes to mind, but it's a hot-button issue and it needs to be addressed, not ignored." — James Kenny, NY
"Bernie, You know better, start talking about our endless wars and our ballooning military budget, also take a stand on the Iran deal! Domestic policy and foreign policy go hand in hand." —Eva Havas, RI
"Two wars have been economically disastrous for America. A third war (Iran) could shred the nation's social fabric, as well. Foreign aid, esp. military aid, to countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel, further destabilizes the region and ensures that liberal reforms will never take hold. So, yes, it's important that you speak up, and in no uncertain terms." —Richard Hovey, MI
"The US military is the largest single user of fossil fuels ... so continued WAR endangers the planet in more ways than one! Speak UP!" — Frank Lahorgue, CA
"Please include a denunciation of Israel's continued land grab for settlements and unconscionable treatment of Palestinians in Gaza." —Louise Chegwidden, CA
"Keep pressing Senator Sanders on these vital issues!" —James Bradford, MD
Amirah Lidasan is the leader of the Filipino activist group Suara Bangsamoro. She has been in the United States to testify at the International People's Tribunal on Crimes Against the Filipino People. See http://internationalpeoplestribunal.org We discuss the impact of the U.S. military in the Philippines.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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In its 1929 Man of the Year article, Time magazine acknowledged that many readers would believe Secretary of State Frank Kellogg the right choice, as probably the top news story of 1928 had been the signing by 57 nations of the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact in Paris, a treaty that made all war illegal, a treaty that remains on the books today.
But, noted Time, "analysts could show that Mr. Kellogg did not originate the outlawing-war idea; that a comparatively obscure lay figure named Salmon Oliver Levinson, Chicago lawyer," was the driving force behind it.
Indeed he was. S.O. Levinson was a lawyer who believed that courts handled interpersonal disputes better than dueling had done before it was banned. He wanted to outlaw war as a means of handling international disputes. Until 1928, launching a war had always been perfectly legal. Levinson wanted to outlaw all war. "Suppose," he wrote, "it had then been urged that only 'aggressive dueling' should be outlawed and that 'defensive dueling' be left intact."
Levinson and the movement of Outlawrists whom he gathered around him, including well-known Chicagoan Jane Addams, believed that making war a crime would begin to stigmatize it and facilitate demilitarization. They pursued as well the creation of international laws and systems of arbitration and alternative means of handling conflicts. Outlawing war was to be the first step in a lengthy process of actually ending that peculiar institution.
The Outlawry movement was launched with Levinson's article proposing it in The New Republic magazine on March 7, 1918, and took a decade to achieve the Kellogg-Briand Pact. The task of ending war is ongoing, and the pact is a tool that might still help. This treaty commits nations to resolving their disputes through peaceful means alone. The U.S. State Department's website lists it as still in effect, as does the Department of Defense Law of War Manual published in June 2015.
Levinson and his allies lobbied senators and key officials in the United States and Europe, including French Foreign Secretary Aristide Briand, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman William Borah, and Secretary of State Kellogg. The Outlawrists united a U.S. peace movement far more mainstream and acceptable than anything that's borne that name in the decades since. But it was a movement that had been split over the League of Nations.
The frenzy of organizing and activism that created the peace pact was massive. Find me an organization that's been around since the 1920s and I'll find you an organization on record in support of abolishing war. That includes the American Legion, the National League of Women Voters, and the National Association of Parents and Teachers.
By 1928, the demand to outlaw war was irresistible, and Kellogg who had recently mocked and cursed peace activists, began following their lead and telling his wife he might be in for a Nobel Peace Prize.
On August 27, 1928, in Paris, the flags of Germany and the Soviet Union newly flew along many others, as the scene played out that is described in the song "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream." The papers the men were signing really did say they would never fight again. The Outlawrists persuaded the U.S. Senate to ratify the treaty without any formal reservations.
None of this was without hypocrisy. U.S. troops were fighting in Nicaragua the whole time, and European nations signed on behalf of their colonies. Russia and China had to be talked out of going to war with each other just as President Coolidge was signing the treaty. But talked out of it they were. And the first major violation of the pact, World War II, was followed by the first ever (albeit one-sided) prosecutions for the crime of war -- prosecutions that rested centrally on the pact. The wealthy nations have, for a number of possible reasons, not gone to war with each other since, waging war only in poor parts of the world.
The United Nations Charter, which followed without replacing the Kellogg-Briand Pact, seeks to legalize wars that are either defensive or U.N. authorized -- loopholes more abused than used over the years. The lessons of the Outlawry movement may still have something to teach both the neocon war advocates and the "Responsibility to Protect" humanitarian warriors. It's a shame that their literature is largely forgotten.
In St. Paul, Minn., appreciation is reviving for local hero Frank Kellogg, who was indeed given the Nobel, is buried in National Cathedral, and for whom Kellogg Avenue is named.
But the man who led the movement that began to stigmatize war as evil and to make war understood as optional rather than inevitable was from Chicago, where no memorial stands and no memory exists.
David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War." He'll be speaking in Chicago on Aug. 27. For information, see http://faithpeace.org.