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If you own a computer and know where to look you've probably heard that there isn't actually any evidence for that claim.
Below are 10 reasons why this latest excuse for war is no good EVEN IF TRUE.
1. War is not made legal by such an excuse. It can't be found in the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the United Nations Charter, or the U.S. Constitution. It can, however, be found in U.S. war propaganda of the 2002 vintage. (Who says our government doesn't promote recycling?)
2. The United States itself possesses and uses internationally condemned weapons, including white phosphorus, napalm, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium. Whether you praise these actions, avoid thinking about them, or join me in condemning them, they are not a legal or moral justification for any foreign nation to bomb us, or to bomb some other nation where the U.S. military is operating. Killing people to prevent their being killed with the wrong kind of weapons is a policy that must come out of some sort of sickness. Call it Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
3. An expanded war in Syria could become regional or global with uncontrollable consequences. Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Russia, China, the United States, the Gulf states, the NATO states . . . does this sound like the sort of conflict we want? Does it sound like a conflict anyone will survive? Why in the world risk such a thing?
4. Just creating a "no fly zone" would involve bombing urban areas and unavoidably killing large numbers of people. This happened in Libya and we looked away. But it would happen on a much larger scale in Syria, given the locations of the sites to be bombed. Creating a "no fly zone" is not a matter of making an announcement, but of dropping bombs.
5. Both sides in Syria have used horrible weapons and committed horrible atrocities. Surely even those who imagine people should be killed to prevent their being killed with different weapons can see the insanity of arming both sides to protect each other side. Why is it not, then, just as insane to arm one side in a conflict that involves similar abuses by both?
6. With the United States on the side of the opposition in Syria, the United States will be blamed for the opposition's crimes. Most people in Western Asia hate al Qaeda and other terrorists. They are also coming to hate the United States and its drones, missiles, bases, night raids, lies, and hypocrisy. Imagine the levels of hatred that will be reached when al Qaeda and the United States team up to overthrow the government of Syria and create an Iraq-like hell in its place.
7. An unpopular rebellion put into power by outside force does not usually result in a stable government. In fact there is not yet on record a case of U.S. humanitarian war benefitting humanity or of nation-building actually building a nation. Why would Syria, which looks even less auspicious than most potential targets, be the exception to the rule?
8. This opposition is not interested in creating a democracy, or -- for that matter -- in taking instructions from the U.S. government. On the contrary, blowback from these allies is likely. Just as we should have learned the lesson of lies about weapons by now, our government should have learned the lesson of arming the enemy of the enemy long before this moment.
9. The precedent of another lawless act by the United States, whether arming proxies or engaging directly, sets a dangerous example to the world and to those in Washington for whom Iran is next on the list.
10. A strong majority of Americans, despite all the media's efforts thus far, opposes arming the rebels or engaging directly. Instead, a plurality supports providing humanitarian aid.
We might better spread democracy by example than by bomb.
There are nonviolent pro-democracy movements in Bahrain and Turkey and elsewhere, and our government doesn't lift a finger in support.
But if you remember all those years of protesting wars and wishing millions of foolish partisan Republicans would join us in protesting blatant mass-murder even though the president was a Republican, I have good news for you. The Republicans are leading the way in pretending to oppose war this time. So, if you Democrats, who I'm sure were 100% sincere in opposing wars some years back are still ready to act, maybe -- just maybe -- we can build right now the sort of broad movement we've wanted.
If you're not too busy.
This summer three national gatherings of activists will converge on Madison, Wisconsin, allowing for cross-fertilization and creative planning of future actions for peace and justice in the United States. YOU are invited.
Talk Nation Radio speaks with Roshan Bliss of the Student Power Convergence, Ben Manski of Democracy Convention, and Doug Rawlings of Veterans For Peace.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
If you're like me you've read several books that list inspiring examples of worker owned businesses and co-ops, suggesting that expanding on such models might begin to right the wrongs of an incredibly unequal society that is growing even more unequal by the day.
The best such collection I've found is in a new book by Gar Alperovitz called What Then Must We Do? This book also offers a powerful argument that radical change is needed, albeit an argument with some possible flaws. First the inspiring examples:
by David Swanson | July 2013
How Jerry Falwell's Liberty U.—the world's largest Christian university—became an evangelist for drone warfare.
LIBERTY UNIVERSITY in Lynchburg, Va., was founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell. Its publications carry the slogan “Training Champions for Christ since 1971.” Some of those champions are now being trained to pilot armed drones, and others to pilot more traditional aircraft, in U.S. wars. For Christ.
Liberty bills itself as “one of America’s top military-friendly schools.” It trains chaplains for the various branches of the military. And it trains pilots in its School of Aeronautics (SOA)—pilots who go up in planes and drone pilots who sit behind desks wearing pilot suits. The SOA, with more than 600 students, is not seen on campus, as it has recently moved to a building adjacent to Lynchburg Regional Airport.
Liberty’s campus looks new and attractive, large enough for some 12,000 students, swarming with blue campus buses, and heavy on sports facilities for the Liberty Flames. A campus bookstore prominently displays Resilient Warriors, a book by Associate Vice President for Military Outreach Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Robert F. Dees. There’s new construction everywhere you look: a $50 million library, a baseball stadium, new dorms, a tiny year-round artificial ski slope on the top of a hill. In fact, Liberty is sitting on more than $1 billion in net assets.
The major source of Liberty’s money is online education. There are some 60,000 Liberty students you don’t see on campus, because they study via the internet. They also make Liberty the largest university in Virginia, the fourth largest online university anywhere, and the largest Christian university in the world.
More than 23,000 online students are in the military—twice as many as students who live on campus. Liberty offers extra financial support to veterans and those on active duty, allowing them to be credited for knowledge learned in the military and to study online from a war zone.
Liberty has been turning out “Christ-centered aviators” for a decade. In fall 2011, Liberty added a concentration in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS, aka drones), making it one of the first handful of schools to do this. Now at least 14 universities and colleges in the U.S. have permits from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones, and many institutions, including community colleges, offer drone training.
If one chooses to concentrate studies on piloting drones, the load will include a half dozen courses on “intelligence.” Liberty students can also pick up a minor in strategic intelligence and take courses in terrorism and counterterrorism. (Liberty’s school of government brags that Newt Gingrich helped develop its course on “American exceptionalism.”)
An open-to-the-public pot-luck dinner will be held at 6 pm, followed by remarks from Cindy at 7, at Random Row Books in Charlottesville on June 25th.
Sign up here: https://www.facebook.com/events/170687569764624
WHAT: Gold Star Mother and "peace mom" Cindy Sheehan will lead a Tour de Peace bike ride across the United States from the grave of her son Casey in Vacaville, Calif., to Washington, D.C., following the mother road, historic Route 66 to Chicago, and other roads from there on to D.C. Bicyclers will join in for all or part of the tour, which will include public events organized by local groups along the way.
Complete route: http://tourdepeace.org/the-route.html
WHEN: The tour began on April 4, 2013, nine years after Casey Sheehan was killed in Iraq, and 45 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed in Memphis. It will conclude on July 3, 2013, with a ride from Arlington National Cemetery to the White House.
WHY: This August will mark 8 years since Cindy Sheehan began a widely reported protest at then-President George W. Bush's "ranch" in Crawford, Texas, demanding to know what the "noble cause" was for which Bush claimed Americans were dying in Iraq. Neither Bush nor President Obama has yet offered a justification for a global war now in its 12th year. The Tour de Peace will carry with it these demands:
To end wars,
To end immunity for U.S. war crimes,
To end suppression of our civil rights,
To end the use of fossil fuels,
To end persecution of whistleblowers,
To end partisan apathy and inaction.
Watch the trailer: http://youtu.be/2uBctq4dzss
In 1984 -- the year not the book, but it was fitting -- and five years before she died, Barbara Tuchman published a book called The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam. In one part of the book she looked at the destructive work of a series of a half-dozen popes, work destructive of the papacy, work that brought into being the protestant secession from the Catholic church. This was offered as an example of folly, of rulers acting against the interest of their own institution. It was also an example of what we so casually label "the imperial presidency." That is, in these popes we watched the mad and cumulative concentration of power and normalization of abuses that Tuchman almost certainly was aware she was living through again -- along with the debasement of an institution previously imagined to embody certain principles and integrity.
Does history repeat itself?
Is the Pope Catholic?
Sixtus IV, Pope from 1471 to 1484 / Richard Nixon, President 1969-1974
"Sixtus introduced the period of unabashed, unconcealed, relentless pursuit of personal gain and power politics. . . . Antagonism slowly gathered around Sixtus. . . . [H]e exhibited the worst qualities of the Renaissance prince in his feuds and machinations, conducting wars on Venice and Ferrara. . . . The most scandalous of his dealings was involvement in and possible instigation of the Pazzi plot to murder the Medici brothers. . . . The internal health of the Church did not interest Sixtus."
Innocent VII, Pope from 1484 to 1492 / Jimmy Carter, President 1977-1981
"Amiable, indecisive, subject to stronger-minded associates, Sixtus' successor was a contrast to him in every way except in equally damaging the pontificate, in this case by omission and weakness of character."
Alexander VI, Pope from 1492 to 1503 / Ronald Reagan, President 1981-1989
"[T]hough cultivated and even charming, he was thoroughly cynical and utterly amoral. . . . To celebrate the final expulsion of the Moors from Spain, in 1492, the year of his election, he staged not a Te Deum of thanksgiving but a bullfight in the Piazza of St. Peter's with five bulls killed. . . . So many had been Alexander's offenses that his contemporaries' judgments tend to be extreme, but Burchard, his Master of Ceremonies, was neither antagonist nor apologist. The impression from his toneless diary of Alexander's Papacy is of continuous violence, murders in churches, bodies in the Tiber, fighting of factions, burnings and lootings, arrests, tortures and executions, combined with scandal, frivolities and continuous ceremony. . . . Certain revisionists have taken a fancy to the Borgia Pope and worked hard to rehabilitate him by intricate arguments . . . . The revision fails to account for one thing: the hatred, disgust and fear that Alexander had engendered."
Pius III, Pope from 1503 to 1503 / Bush Sr, President 1989-1993
He also happened.
Julius II, Pope from 1503 to 1513 / Bill Clinton, President 1993-2001
"Years of belligerence, conquests, losses, and violent disputes engaged him. . . . Art and war absorbed papal interest and resources to the neglect of internal reform. . . . In reference books he can be found designated as 'true founder of the Papal State'. . . . That the cost had been to bathe his country in blood and violence and that all the temporal gains could not prevent the authority of the Church from cracking at the core within ten years are not reckoned in these estimates."
Leo X, Pope from 1513 to 1521 / George W. Bush, President 2001-2009
"'God has given us the Papacy -- Let us enjoy it.' . . . the new Pope was a hedonist . . . with as little concern for cost as if the source of funds were some self-filling magic cornucopia. The popes' wars also earned Erasmus' scorn . . . . 'As if the Church had any enemies more pestilential than impious pontiffs. . . . The monarchy of the Pope at Rome, as it is now, is a pestilence to Christendom.' . . . Machiavelli found proof of decadence in the fact that 'the nearer people are to the Church of Rome, which is the head of our religion, the less religious they are.' . . . The abuse that precipitated the ultimate break was the commercialization of indulgences. . . . [T]he Pope was unaware of the issues and incapable of understanding the protest that had been developing for the century and a half. . . . Leo hardly noticed the fracas in Germany except as a heresy to be suppressed like any other. . . . Leo left the Papacy and the Church in the 'lowest possible repute.' . . . . A lampoon suggested that if the Pope had lived longer, he would have sold Rome too, and then Christ, and then himself."
Clement VII, Pope from 1523 to 1534 / Barack Obama, President since 2009
"The new Clement's reign proved to be a pyramid of catastrophes. Protestantism continued its advance. . . . Supreme office, like sudden disaster, often reveals the man, and revealed Clement as less adequate than expected. Knowledgeable and effective as a subordinate, Guicciardini writes, he fell victim when in charge to timidity, perplexity, and habitual irresolution. . . . By 1527, hardly a part of Italy had escaped violence to life and land, plunder, destruction, misery, and famines. Clement's misjudgments having prepared the way, Rome itself was now to be engulfed by war."
"The folly of the popes was not pursuit of counter-productive policy so much as rejection of any steady or coherent policy either political or religious that would have improved their situation or arrested the rising discontent. Disregard of the movements and sentiments developing around them was the primary folly. . . . When private interest is placed before public interests, and private ambition, greed, and the bewitchment of exercising power determine policy, the public interest necessarily loses, never more conspicuously than under the continuing madness from Sixtus to Clement. The succession from Pope to Pope multiplied the harm. Each of the six handed on his conception of the Papacy unchanged. . . . St. Peter's See was the ultimate pork barrel. Their three outstanding attitudes -- obliviousness to the growing disaffection of constituents, primacy of self-aggrandizement, illusion of invulnerable status -- are persistent aspects of folly. While in the case of the Renaissance popes, these were bred in and exaggerated by the surrounding culture, all are independent of time and recurrent in governorship."
Mr. President, if I were a professional con artist paid to give you the pros and cons on engaging in a war in Syria, here's what they would be:
As you know, former president Clinton, probably understood by many to also be speaking on behalf of his wife, has called you a wuss. Virtually nobody remembers or cares that you said "I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place." The majority of Americans, exercising that mindset, want you to get us into a new war in the first place if the alternative is having a wuss in the White House. I don't have a poll on that, but trust me.
Erin Niemela's recent proposal that we amend the Constitution to ban war is provocative and persuasive. Count me in. But I have a related idea that I think should be tried first.
While banning war is just what the world ordered, it has about it something of the whole Bush-Cheney ordeal during which we spent years trying to persuade Congress to ban torture. By no means do I want to be counted among those opposed to banning torture. But it is relevant, I want to suggest, that torture had already been banned. Torture had been banned by treaty and been made a felony, under two different statutes, before George W. Bush was made president. In fact, the pre-existing ban on torture was stronger and more comprehensive than any of the loophole-ridden efforts to re-criminalize it. Had the debate over "banning torture" been entirely replaced with a stronger demand to prosecute torture, we might be better off today.
We are in that same situation with regard to war. War was banned 84 years ago, making talk of banning war problematic.
We were in that same situation, in fact, even before the U.N. Charter was drafted 68 years ago. By any reasonable interpretation of the U.N. Charter, most -- if not all -- U.S. wars are forbidden. The United Nations did not authorize the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq, the overthrow of the Libyan government, or the drone wars in Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia. And by only the wildest stretch of the imagination are these wars defensive from the U.S. side. But the two loopholes created by the U.N. Charter (for defensive and U.N.-authorized wars) are severe weaknesses. There will always be those who claim that a current war is in compliance with the U.N. Charter or that a future war might be. So, when I say that war is illegal, I don't have the U.N. Charter in mind.
Nor am I thinking that every war inevitably violates the so-called laws of war, involving countless atrocities that don't stand up under a defense of "necessity" or "distinction" or "proportionality," although this is certainly true. Banning improper war, while useful as far as it goes, actually supports the barbaric notion that one can conduct a proper war. The situation in which a war would be a "just war" is as mythical as the much-imagined situation in which torture would be justified.
Nor do I mean that U.S. Constitutional war powers are violated or fraud is perpetrated in making the case for war, although these and other violations of law are frequent companions of U.S. wars.
I also do not want to dispute the advantages of banning war in the highest law, the Constitution. There is a common misconception that holds up lesser, statutory law as more serious than the Constitution or the treaties that it makes "supreme law of the land." This is a dangerous inversion. Edward Snowden is right to expose violations of the Fourth Amendment. Senator Dianne Feinstein is wrong to insist that those violations have been legalized by statutes. Amending the Constitution to ban war would (if the Constitution were complied with) prevent any lesser law from legalizing war. But a treaty would do that too. And we already have one.
THE 84-YEAR-OLD BAN ON WAR
It is little known and even less appreciated that the United States is party to a treaty that bans all war. This treaty, known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, or the Peace Pact of Paris, or the Renunciation of War, is listed on the U.S. State Department's website (go here, open the document, scroll to page 454). The Pact reads:
"The High Contracting Parties solemly [sic] declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.
"The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means."
Pacific means only. No martial means. No war. No targeted murder. No surgical strikes.
The story of how this treaty, to which over 80 nations are party, came to be is inspiring. The peace movement of the 1920s is a model of dedication, patience, strategy, integrity, and struggle. Playing a leading role was the movement for "outlawry," for the outlawing of war, which had been legal until that point (just as people falsely imagine it to be today). Slavery had been outlawed. Blood feuds had been outlawed. Duelling had been outlawed. And outlawrists pointedly noted that not just "aggressive duelling" had been banned. Those who went before us didn't keep defensive duelling or humanitarian duelling around but set the whole barbaric practice behind them.
Eliminating war, the outlawrists believed, would not be easy. A first step would be to ban it, to stigmatize it, to render it unrespectable. A second step would be to establish accepted laws for international relations. A third would be to create courts with the power to settle international disputes. They took the first big step in 1928, with the treaty taking effect in 1929. We haven't followed through. In fact we've collectively buried what was probably the single biggest news story of 1928.
With the creation of the peace pact, wars were avoided and ended. But armament and hostility continued. The mentality that accepts war as an instrument of national policy would not vanish swiftly. World War II came. And, following World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt used the Kellogg-Briand Pact to prosecute the losers of the war, not just for "war crimes," but also for the brand new crime of war. Despite an endless plague of war on and among the poor nations of the world, the wealthy armed nations have yet to launch a third world war.
When not simply ignored or unknown, the Kellogg-Briand Pact is dismissed because World War II happened. But what other legal ban on undesired behavior have we ever tossed out following the very first violation and what appears to have been a quite effective prosecution? An argument can also be made that the U.N. Charter undoes the earlier pact simply by coming later in time. But this is by no means an easy argument, and it requires understanding the U.N. Charter as the re-legalization of war rather than the ban on war that most people imagine it to be.
In the two years since I published an account of the activism that created the Pact, I have found a great deal of interest in reviving awareness of it. People may not be as sick of war now as they were following World War I, or at least not as open to the possibility of abolition, but many are pretty far down that road. Groups and individuals have launched petitions. City councils are creating a peace holiday on August 27th, the day the treaty was signed in 1928 in a scene well described in the song Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream. A fan of the story has created an essay contest that's received thousands of entries. Drone protesters have educated judges about the Peace Pact when they've been hauled into court for making use of the First Amendment. A Congress member has put into the Congressional Record his recognition that the Kellogg-Briand Pact made war illegal. And I've been in touch with other nations not party to the treaty and not party to any wars, encouraging them to sign on to the Pact and then urge certain other parties to begin complying with it.
When someone wants to legalize torture or campaign bribery they point to court proceedings marginalia, overridden vetoes, speeches, and tangentially related ancient precedents. When we want to de-legalize war, why not point to the Kellogg-Briand Pact? It is a treaty to which the United States is party. It is the Supreme Law of the Land. It not only does what we want. It does more than most people dare to dream. I've found that some people are inspired by the Pact's existence and by the fact that our great-grandparents were able to create a public movement that brought it into existence.
This seems to me a good place to start.
David Swanson is the author of When the World Outlawed War.