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President Obama is expected to announce that the eternal war on the world will have an end.
He won't say.
I too have an announcement. I promise my drinking problem will end some day.
I'm not saying. But the celebrations of the armistice in 1918 began when plans for it were announced, and the partying continued until it actually happened. Perhaps that is the best approach here. As an aid to your festivities, let me present the . . .
Afternoon Obama Murder Rap Drinking Game
(which I promise to stop playing soon)
1. The President is going to admit that he has a murder problem and propose to correct it by murdering less in certain countries. If examples occur to you of crimes you might commit that you could not continue committing by promising to limit your criminal activities in some countries but not in others, DRINK!
2. The President is going to claim to have targeted, or to have allowed an unnamed John Brennan to have targeted, only one U.S. citizen for murder but to have killed three by mistake, on top of three killed by President Bush by mistake. If you can think of outrages you might commit that you could not go on committing by claiming that 86% of them were accidental side effects, DRINK!
3. The President is going to claim that the one U.S. citizen he or his subordinate chose to murder was an imminent (meaning eventual theoretical) threat to violently attack the United States, that capture was infeasible (meaning the target was hiding following lots of death threats, but his location was known anyway), and that said citizen was a senior operational leader of al Qaeda (or an associated group or was an adherent or a backstage groupie who had once met a guy whose cousin knew where an al Qaeda meeting was held one time). If you understand what that means, DRINK!
4. The President is going to hope that nobody notices that laws against war and murder don't include exceptions for people who invent lists of arcane criteria that they require themselves to meet before murdering. If you think you could invent and meet at least three qualifications before engaging in some immoral behavior, DRINK!
5. The President is going to hope nobody notices that he did not actually meet his own criteria before murdering Awlaki. Attorney General Eric Holder now says Awlaki was killed for actions, not words. Prior to the deed, Holder said it was the "hatred spewed" on Awlaki's blog that put him "on the same list with bin Laden." Asked if he wanted Awlaki captured or killed, Holder did not say "captured if feasible," but evaded the question. Awlaki, as far as we know, was never a member of al Qaeda. Obama's and Holder's claims about Awlaki's role in terrorist attacks are undocumented claims. No evidence has been presented and no charges were ever brought in court. If you think shouting "Whoever he is, and whatever he's charged with, he did it!" would be a nifty way to get out of jury duty, DRINK!
6. The President is going to speed past the fact that over 99% of the people he's murdered have not been U.S. citizens, and that the pretense of justification so lazily applied to U.S. citizens has not been bothered with at all in these cases. He's not going to discuss "signature strikes" targeting unknown people and whoever's near them, or the targeting of the rescuers of victims. He's not going to discuss children, women, seniors. He's not going to discuss the posthumous identification of males as "enemy combatants" -- a non-legal term that adds insult to murder. He's not going to discuss the many known cases in which the victims could quite feasibly have been captured, were clearly not involved with al Qaeda in any way, and lacked any capacity whatsoever to threaten the United States. He's going to propose applying the fraudulent, meaningless, and illegal standards he applies to murdering U.S. citizens to murdering non-U.S. citizens in the future ... in some countries. If you can think of some people who might not be satisfied with this reform, DRINK!
7. The President is going to claim to be moving some but not all drone kill operations from a secret agency technically lacking in Congressional oversight to a department Congress simply chooses not to oversee. If this falls short of what you can imagine when you hear "most transparent administration ever," DRINK!
8. The President will not be speaking about how some 75 other nations with drones should begin applying his standards to their own behavior. If you think such matters are worth discussing, DRINK!
9. The President is going to brush over the question of where and how he will be ordering the murder of people by means other than missiles. If you can think of ways this might become seen as a problem down the road, DRINK!
10. The President is going to speed past the existence of a massive ongoing U.S. war on Afghanistan, larger now than when Obama moved into the White House, and expected to continue for many years after it "ends" in another year and a half. If his ability to get away with this strikes you as perhaps what he must love most about drones and how they change the conversation, DRINK!
11. If you have concerns that go unanswered about the global expansion of U.S. bases, threats to Syria, weapons provided to Israel, threats to Iran, or the gargantuan military budget, DRINK!
12. The President will leak a great deal of information about his kill list program in this speech, as he has done on some previous "I killed bin Laden!" occasions, and yet will fail to prosecute himself for espionage at the end of the speech. If you believe laws should be applied equally to all, DRINK!
Should the U.S. government be building a list of people whom a stranger has concluded based on as little as a moment's interaction are "anti-government"? Look at this photo of a U.S. Census laptop. There's a box to check if a respondent is reluctant to participate in the census.
The next screen wants the census interviewer to explain the potential interviewee's reluctance:
Carl Gibson is currently engaged in a Green Jobs March from Philadelphia to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., as part of a campaign called ShutTheChamber.org. You can join the march virtually by uploading a photo on their website, or you can join in reality at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce across from the White House at 10 a.m. Friday, May 24th. Gibson is lead organizer of ShutTheChamber and cofounder of USUncut. He discusses the damage the U.S. Chamber does to our political system pushing environmental destruction, wars, and the plutocratic concentration of wealth. Gibson says that small businesses paying dues to local chambers that themselves have little in common with the U.S. Chamber end up funding assaults on small businesses, as the local chambers fund the state chambers which fund the U.S. Chamber -- an institution that also serves to funnel vast quantities of unaccountable corporate money into politics.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
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The Connecticut legislature has sent to the governor to sign a bill that would create a commission to develop a plan for, among other things:
"the diversification or conversion of defense-related industries with an emphasis on encouraging environmentally-sustainable and civilian product manufacturing. On or before December 1, 2014, the commission shall submit such report to the Governor and, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a, to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to commerce."
The commission "shall Advise the General Assembly and the Department of Economic and Community Development on issues relating to the diversification or conversion of defense-related industries" among other things.
According to Peace Action, sponsor State Senator Toni N. Harp from New Haven has said,
“The proposed Futures Commission will set up a framework that allows us to convert many of our military related jobs and infrastructure into non-military industries.”
This is a remarkable breakthrough that didn't just come out of nowhere:
"In November 2012, a ballot referendum passed in New Haven that called for moving the money from war to jobs rebuilding our infrastructure and human needs. This referendum won support nearly 6 to 1! This winter in Connecticut, the US Peace Council, No Nukes No War, the City of New Haven Peace Commission with the support of the state AFL-CIO and International Association of Machinists worked to get SB619 introduced in the state legislature calling for a Futures Commission whose goals is to investigate how to convert the weapons manufacturing industries to producing civilian, green products and retain and develop manufacturing in the state. The Commission that this bill creates will include representatives of labor, peace and environmental organizations."
In February, Bill Shortell, an official with the International Association of Machinists in Connecticut, explained what's needed this way:
"Diverse forces are now converging in an attempt to carve up the military budget. These are (1) those who would cut it to reduce the deficit. There is considerable logic on their side. The solvency of the nation, in many people's eyes, is threatened by the size of the debt compared with our GDP. About 30% of our government runs on borrowed cash. The same proportion can be applied to the military budget.
"Then there is growing group (2) that wants to "Move the Money" to much-needed social services, like health and education, and also to repair our crumbling infrastructure.
"There is also a powerful group (3) who would not reduce the military budget at all. This group somehow imagines the continued military usefulness of fighter jets, nuclear subs, etc, even though they rarely argue this. They instead generally justify continued military spending because of the millions of jobs and billions in profits that it creates.
"TIME FOR CONVERSION
"Finally, there is a small group (4), which sees the dismantling of the military budget as inevitable, and is making plans for alternative uses of the "procurement" part of the budget. This is about $100 billion of the $700 billion budget. We advocate re-assigning workers and switching capital to products, which have a peacetime use. This does NOT mean abandoning factories and retraining manufacturing workers to be nurses, teachers, and construction workers.
"We don't need any more construction workers right now, and most military manufacturing workers are not suited or inclined to training in the social services. In addition, folding up this significant sector of US manufacturing, with no replacement products would have a disastrous impact on the US economy.
"Economic Conversion means designing peacetime manufactured products that are in demand, and re-tooling military facilities to produce them. The growing market for green technology is most often cited.
"The two other groups who would cut the military budget seem unaware of the impact of eliminating so much value-adding industry. Nor are they focused on the plight of the military production workers or the many millions more, soldiers, administrators, security personnel, who stand to lose their job with the shrinking of the military budget. These last, however, are not represented by unions.
"Union-based organizations like USLAW and LLP have no choice but to take into account the ideas of Economic Conversion, as we set policies and phrase our peace message. Calling flatly to "cut the military budget," spurs opposition from the manufacturing unions. These, in turn, have enough influence in the AFL-CIO to considerably weaken its vital input in the struggle over the reduction of the military budget.
"Economic Conversion is a difficult, complex question. There is little precedent for using government funds to manufacture anything but weapons. But if we don't try to understand it and embrace it, the likelihood of achieving other benefits of the peace dividend fades, as the military workers and our unions cling to militarism.
"The military budget is so enormous that the goals of all three of the groups who would reduce it can be addressed. To fully achieve them, we need new taxes on people who can afford to pay."
There's a contradiction built into every campaign promise about transparent government beyond the failure to keep the promises. Our government is, in significant portion, made up of secret operations, operations that include warmaking, kidnapping, torture, assassination, and infiltrating and overthrowing governments. A growing movement is ready to see that end.
The Central Intelligence Agency is central to our foreign policy, but there is nothing intelligent about it, and there is no good news to be found regarding it. Its drone wars are humanitarian and strategic disasters. The piles of cash it keeps delivering to Hamid Karzai fuel corruption, not democracy. Whose idea was it that secret piles of cash could create democracy? (Nobody's, of course, democracy being the furthest thing from U.S. goals.) Lavishing money on potential Russian spies and getting caught helps no one, and not getting caught would have helped no one. Even scandals that avoid mentioning the CIA, like Benghazigate, are CIA blowback and worse than we're being told.
We've moved from the war on Iraq, about which the CIA lied, and its accompanying atrocities serving as the primary recruiting tool for anti-U.S. terrorists, to the drone wars filling that role. We've moved from kidnapping and torture to kidnapping and torture under a president who, we like to fantasize, doesn't really mean it. But the slave-owners who founded this country knew very well what virtually anyone would do if you gave them power, and framed the Constitution so as not to give presidents powers like these.
There are shelves full in your local bookstore of books pointing out the CIA's outrageous incompetence. The brilliant idea to give Iran plans for a nuclear bomb in order to prevent Iran from ever developing a nuclear bomb is one of my favorites.
But books that examine the illegality, immorality, and anti-democratic nature of even what the CIA so ham-handedly intends to do are rarer. A new book called Dirty Wars, also coming out as a film in June, does a superb job. I wrote a review a while back. Another book, decades old now, might be re-titled "Dirty Wars The Prequel." I'm thinking of Douglas Valentine's The Phoenix Program.
It you read The Phoenix Program about our (the CIA's and "special" forces') secret crimes in Eastern Asia and Dirty Wars about our secret crimes in Western Asia, and remember that similar efforts were focused on making life hell for millions of people in Latin America in between these twin catastrophes, and that some of those running Phoenix were brought away from similar sadistic pursuits in the Philippines, it becomes hard to play along with the continual pretense that each uncovered outrage is an aberration, that the ongoing focus of our government's foreign policy "isn't who we are."
Targeted murders with knives in Vietnam were justified with the same rhetoric that now justifies drone murders. The similarities include the failure of primary goals, the counterproductive blowback results, the breeding of corruption abroad and at home, the moral and political degradation, the erosion of democratic ways of thinking, and -- of course -- the racist arrogance and cultural ignorance that shape the programs and blind their participants to what they are engaged in. The primary difference between Phoenix and drone kills is that the drones don't suffer PTSD. The same, however, cannot be said for the drone pilots.
"The problem," wrote Valentine, "was one of using means which were antithetical to the desired end, of denying due process in order to create a democracy, of using terror and repression to foster freedom. When put into practice by soldiers taught to think in conventional military and moral terms, Contre Coup engendered transgressions on a massive scale. However, for those pressing the attack on VCI, the bloodbath was constructive, for indiscriminate air raids and artillery barrages obscured the shadow war being fought in urban back alleys and anonymous rural hamlets. The military shield allowed a CIA officer to sit behind a steel door in a room in the U.S. Embassy, insulated from human concern, skimming the Phoenix blacklist, selecting targets for assassination, distilling power from tragedy."
At some point, enough of us will recognize that government conducted behind a steel door can lead only to ever greater tragedy.
In an email that Valentine wrote for RootsAction.org on Monday, he wrote: "Through its bottomless black bag of unaccounted-for money, much of it generated by off-the-books proprietary companies and illegal activities like drug smuggling, the CIA spreads corruption around the world. This corruption undermines our own government and public officials. And the drone killings of innocent men, women, and children generate fierce resentment.. . .Tell your representative and senators right now that the CIA is the antithesis of democracy and needs to be abolished."
After years of mismanagement, the Tribune Company newspapers -- including the Chicago Tribune and L.A. Times -- are up for sale. And one of the potential buyers? The Koch brothers. And wow are people outraged!