davidswanson's blog

Feb
26

Open Guantanamo!

Tag: Peace and War

Antes des morirme quiero echar mis versos del alma.

Open Guantanamo to human rights inspectors. Open its files to the public. Subpoena the witnesses to its horrors. Open the courts to its prisoners and try them or set them free. Open the gates to the people of Cuba and give them their land back. And impeach U.S. presidents numbered 43 through 45.

Before, during, and after President Barack Obama's announcements of closing Guantanamo, it constituted an illegal prison whose guards used and still use torture, human experimentation, murder, secrecy, and lies.

By official government accounts, Guantanamo's prisons contain people desperate to attempt suicide, and so ingenious at accomplishing their goal that despite constant human and video surveillance, not to mention forced feeding, they are able to obtain forbidden materials, violate laws of physics, hang themselves by the neck with their hands tied behind their backs, and telepathically organize simultaneous multiple suicides by self-torture in their separate cells during moments when they aren't in their cells but rather have been taken down the road to be "interrogated" by that great liberal force of enlightened anti-Trumpism, the CIA.

Jeffrey Kaye's new book, Cover-up at Guantanamo, pieces together the available evidence on three particular alleged suicides at Guantanamo during Obama's presidency. Most of the records have been kept secret. Evidence has apparently been destroyed. And fundamentally, most people just do not care. Since Kaye first reported that one alleged suicide victim had died with his hands tied behind his back, no other reporter has bothered to pick up that story. Since former Guantanamo guard Joseph Hickman reported on murders disguised as suicides, the Congressional investigations have piled up to a grand total of zero.

The United Nations has condemned the U.S. government for its use of torture. Luckily, the U.S. government is not a poor oil-rich country. No sanctions, prosecutions, bombings, or overthrows have followed the condemnation. Nor has the U.S. public apparently grasped the fact that the UN condemnation is part of a process following through on a treaty to which the U.S. is a party, a treaty banning torture, a treaty long since implemented by U.S. law making torture a felony. There is no statute of limitations on torture when it's torture-to-death, also known as murder.

The delusion that holds that U.S. presidents have the power to make laws, whether closing transgender bathrooms, banning Muslim immigrants, or criminalizing torture, has reached its apex with the collective fantasy that Obama banned and Trump unbanned torture. In fact, you'll never ban torture that way, but you just might keep it de facto unbanned that way.

Trump recently announced that he was changing a law that the courts have ruled forbids discrimination against trans-gendered people. A president has no power to do any such thing. But the U.S. media all reported that he had done it, that by announcing a law, the emperor had created a law. The trouble is, of course, that the actual creation of the law is accomplished by the media's reporting on it. Once everyone believes that the law is what Trump declares it to be, the courts can go on ruling otherwise over and over until people cease to bring cases.

In recent decades we've moved from presidents issuing "executive orders" and calling them laws, to presidents rewriting laws that they are signing with "signing statements," to presidents secretly creating laws (and signing statements) in hidden memos, to presidents secretly or publicly tossing out their choice of the presidential "laws" created by their predecessors, all the way to presidents just making laws by announcing them on television or Twitter.

Someone who can do that can, by definition, torture, murder, and experiment on human beings. And someone who can do such things can do them to those who would question his powers, not just those targeted by the bigotry he uses to win the support of his primary victims.

But the deep state is running the torture centers, as presidents come and go. And unless a belated #DemExit really materializes, we may see any principled opposition to established atrocities handicapped by the support of anti-Trumpers for their newly beloved "intelligence" "community."

Feb
24

100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War

Tag: Peace and War

By David Swanson

This April 4th will be 100 years since the U.S. Senate voted to declare war on Germany and 50 since Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out against the war on Vietnam (49 since he was killed on that speech’s first anniversary). Events are being planned to help us try to finally learn some lessons, to move beyond, not just Vietnam, but war.

That declaration of war on Germany was not for the war that makes up the single most common theme of U.S. entertainment and history. It was for the war that came before that one. This was the Great War, the war to end all wars, the war without which the conditions for the next war would not have existed.

As well recounted in Michael Kazin’s War Against War: The American Fight for Peace 1914-1918, a major peace movement had the support of a great deal of the United States. When the war finally ended (after the U.S. had actually been in it for about 5% the length of the war on Afghanistan thus far) just about everybody regretted it. The losses in life, limb, sanity, property, civil liberties, democracy, and health were incredible. Death, devastation, a flu epidemic, prohibition, a permanent military and the taxes to go with it, plus predictions of World War II: these were the results, and a lot of people remembered that they had been warned, as well as that the ending of all war had been promised.

The peace activists had warned the U.S. government to stay out of the war (not out of foreign relations, just out of mass-murdering foreign relations). And they had been right. The regret was intense and lasting. It lasted right up until the worst result of World War I came along in the form of World War II. At that point, regret was replaced with forgetting. World War I was erased from popular history, and its child on steroids was celebrated rather than mourned, and has been celebrated with growing reverence ever since.

The massive peace movement that outlawed war in 1928, had been widespread, mainstream, and aggressive before 1917 as well. Antiwar Congress members had entered into the Congressional Record a sample of the flood of letters and petitions they had received urging that the U.S. stay out of war. Peace groups had held marches and rallies, sent delegations to Europe, met with the president, and pushed to require a popular vote before the launching of any war, believing that the public would vote war down. We’ll never know, because the vote was never taken. Instead, the United States jumped into the war, thereby preventing a negotiated settlement and creating a total victory followed by vicious punishment of the losing side — the very fuel for Nazism, as well as for Italian fascism, Japanese imperialism, and the Sykes-Picot carving up of the Middle East so beloved by that region’s residents to this day.

An antiwar exhibit that toured the U.S. in 1916 included a life-sized model stegosaurus that represented the fatal consequences of having heavy armor but no brains. The idea of preparing for war in order to achieve peace, which today is simple commonsense, was widely found to be a great source of humor, as Washington cynically pursued “preparedness.” Morris Hillquit, an eloquent socialist — something of a Bernie Sanders without the 21st-century militarism — asked why European nations, having fully armed themselves to avoid war, hadn’t avoided it. “Their antiwar insurance turned out to be a bad case of over-insurance,” he said. You prepare for war, and you get war — remarkably enough.

Woodrow Wilson won reelection on an antiwar platform, and could not have won it otherwise. After he opted for war, he was unable to raise an army to fight his war without a draft. And he was unable to sustain a draft without imprisoning people who spoke against it. He saw to it that conscientious objectors were brutally tortured (or, as we would say today, interrogated). Yet people refused, deserted, evaded, and violently fought recruiters by the thousands. The wisdom to reject war was not lacking. It just wasn’t followed by those in power.

The understanding that war should be ended, which reached its peak perhaps in the 1920s and 1930s, saw something of a comeback during what the Vietnamese call the American War. Martin Luther King did not propose a different war or a better war, but leaving behind the entire war system. That awareness has grown even as the Vietnam Syndrome has faded and war been normalized. Now, the U.S. popular mind is a mass of contradictions.

In a recent poll, 66% of people in the United States are worried that the U.S. will become engaged in a major war in the next four years. However, the U.S. is engaged in a number of wars right now that must seem pretty major to the people living through them, wars that have created the greatest refugee crisis so far on the planet and threatened to break similar records for starvation. In addition, 80% of the U.S. public in the very same poll say they support NATO. There’s a 50/50 split on whether to build yet more nukes. A slim majority favors banning refugees who are fleeing the wars. And over three-quarters of Democrats believe, for partisan rather than empirical reasons, that Russia is unfriendly or an enemy. Despite the warnings of the wise for over a century, people are still imagining they can use war preparations to avoid war.

One thing that could help keep us out of more wars is the Trump face now placed on the wars. People who will hate Russia because they hate Trump may at some point oppose Trump’s wars because they hate Trump. And those getting active to support refugees may also want to help end the crimes that create the refugees.

Meanwhile, German tanks are again rolling toward the Russian border, and instead of soliciting denunciations from groups like the Anne Frank Center, as recently done to combat Donald Trump’s anti-Semitism, U.S. liberals are generally applauding or avoiding any awareness.

One thing is certain: we will not survive another 100 years of this. Long before then, we will have to try something else. We will have to move beyond war to nonviolent conflict resolution, aid, diplomacy, disarmament, cooperation, and the rule of law.

World Beyond War is planning events everywhere, including these:

Remembering Past Wars . . . and Preventing the Next

April 3rd at NYU, New York, NY. (details TBA)Speakers: Joanne Sheehan, Glen Ford, Alice Slater, Maria Santelli, David Swanson.

April 4, 6-8 p.m. Busboys and Poets, 5th and K Streets NW, Washington, D.C.Speakers: Michael Kazin, Eugene Puryear, Medea Benjamin, David Swanson, Maria Santelli.

May 25, 6-8 p.m., Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA.Speakers: Jackie Cabasso, Daniel Ellsberg, David Hartsough, Adam Hochschild.

Feb
21

Talk Nation Radio: L.A. Kauffman on Direct Action

Tag: Talk Nation Radio

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-la-kauffman-on-direct-action

L.A. Kauffman is the author of Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism. She has spent more than 30 years immersed in radical movements, as a journalist, historian, organizer, and strategist. Her writings on grassroots activism and social movement history have been published in The Nation, The Progressive, Mother Jones, the Village Voice, and many other outlets. She served as executive editor for the radical theory journal Socialist Review and as an award-winning national political columnist for SF Weekly, focusing on dissent and activism. Kauffman was the mobilizing coordinator for the massive February 15, 2003 antiwar protest in New York City. She continued in this role through the years of major antiwar protests, including those that greeted the 2004 Republican National Convention.

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

Feb
20

Ukraine on Fire

Tag: Peace and War, Political Ideas

I read this article: "A Documentary You’ll Likely Never See," and watched this preview.

So, of course, I wanted to see it.

I got a hold of a copy but am not allowed to share it and have been unable to get any information on where you can learn more, how you can rent it, where it will be screened, etc.

Bit *if* you are ever able to see Ukraine on Fire you should. This is a story about recent events in Ukraine that puts them into the context of Ukraine's history, rejects propaganda, and presents the evidence clearly and concisely. It includes interviews of key figures conducted by Oliver Stone.

To summarize the key points will just sound like lunacy to U.S. media consumers, though a bit of reading or watching this film might help persuade many.

The United States promoted two color revolutions in Ukraine several years apart, taking the side of neo-Nazis, installing handpicked leaders in Kiev and even a former coup leader from Georgia in Odessa. Russia did not invade Ukraine. Just as Russia did not hack the German or U.S. elections. The evidence also suggests that Russia was probably not involved in shooting down that Malaysian airplane, that Ukrainian nationalists did that.

As Russia is being demonized in a new way every week in Washington, knowing truth from lies on Ukraine may be critically important and could just save us. I hope somebody makes a way for you to see this movie.

Feb
17

Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters

Tag: Peace and War, Race Relations

Those of us who consider it disgraceful to have a giant statue of Robert E. Lee on his horse in a park in the middle of Charlottesville, and another of Stonewall Jackson for that matter, should try to understand those who think removing one of these statues is an outrage.

I don't claim to understand them, and certainly don't suggest they all think alike. But there are certain recurring themes if you listen to or read the words of those who think Lee should stay. They're worth listening to. They're human. They mean well. They're not crazy.

First, let's set aside the arguments we're not trying to understand.

Some of the arguments being passed around are not central to this attempt at understanding the other side. For example, the argument that moving the statue costs money, is not what I'm interested in here. I don't think cost concerns are driving most of the support for the statue. If we all agreed that removing the statue was important, we would find the money. Simply donating the statue to a museum or to some city where Lee actually lived would quite possibly produce a new owner willing to pay for the transport. Heck, donate it to the Trump Winery and they'd probably pick it up by next Thursday.[1]

True, if the statue is simply moved to a different Charlottesville park, Charlottesville will have to pay, and that money could have gone to creating a new park with monuments to peace and civil rights, etc. Perhaps there are  people for whom this really is the central argument. Perhaps they are also consistent in their frugality and put up the same struggle against billion dollar highways and trillion dollar militaries. Perhaps the announcements of how much good could be done for the poor with the money that could be spent to move a statue are being made by some people with a history of caring about the poor. We'll save trying to understand them for another time.

Also tangential here is the argument that removing a statue erases history. Surely few of these history fanatics protested when the U.S. military tore down the statue of Saddam Hussein. Wasn't he part of Iraqi history? Hadn't the CIA meant well and gone to great efforts in helping to put him in power? Hadn't a company in Virginia provided him with important materials for making chemical weapons? Good or bad, history shouldn't be torn down and erased!

Actually, nobody's saying that. Nobody's valuing any and all history. Few are admitting that ugly parts of history are history at all. People are valuing a particular bit of history. The question is: why? Surely history supporters don't believe that the 99.9% of Charlottesville history not represented in monumental statuary has been erased. Why must this bit of history be monumental?

There may be those whose historical concern is simply for the past 90 years or so of the statue being there in the park. Its existence there is the history they are concerned about, perhaps. Perhaps they don't want it changed simply because that's the way it's been. I have some sympathy for that perspective, but it has to be applied selectively. Should we keep a half-built frame of a hotel on the downtown mall because my kids have never known anything else? Was history destroyed by creating the downtown mall in the first place? What I'm interested in trying to understand is not why people want nothing to change. Nobody wants nothing to change. Rather, I want to understand why they don't want this particular thing to change.

Feb
16

Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?

Tag: Environment

For the past decade, the standard procedure for big coalition rallies and marches in Washington D.C. has been to gather together organizations representing labor, the environment, women's rights, anti-racism, anti-bigotry of all sorts, and a wide array of liberal causes, including demands to fund this, that, and the other, and to halt the concentration of wealth.

At that point, some of us in the peace movement will generally begin lobbying the PEP (progressive except for peace) organizers to notice that the military is swallowing up enough money every month to fund all their wishes 100 times over for a year, that the biggest destroyer of the natural environment is the military, that war fuels and is fueled by racism while stripping our rights and militarizing our police and creating refugees.

When we give up on trying to explain the relevance of our society's biggest project to the work of reforming our society, we generally point out that peace is popular, that it adds a mere 5 characters to a thousand-word laundry list of causes, and that we can mobilize peace groups to take part if peace is included.

Feb
15

Trump vs. Spies

Tag: Impeachment

Feb
15

Which Washington Crimes Matter Most?

Tag: Elections, Peace and War, Political Ideas

Michael Flynn participated in mass murder and destruction in Afghanistan and Iraq, advocated for torture, and manufactured false cases for war against Iran. He and anyone who appointed him to office and kept him there should be removed from and disqualified for public service. (Though I still appreciate his blurting out the obvious regarding the counterproductive results of drone murders.)

Many would say that prosecuting Al Capone for tax fraud was a good move if he couldn't be prosecuted for murder. But what if Al Capone had been funding an orphanage on the side, and the state had prosecuted him for that? Or what if the state hadn't prosecuted him, but a rival gang had taken him out? Are all take-downs of major criminals good ones? Do they all deter the right activities by up-and-coming criminals?

Michael Flynn was not removed by public demand, by representative action in Congress, by public impeachment proceedings, or by criminal prosecution (though that may follow). He was removed by an unaccountable gang of spies and killers, and for the offense of seeking friendlier relations with the world's other major nuclear-armed government.

Feb
14

Love Beyond Flags: Nothing More Beautiful

Tag: Civil Rights, Peace and War

When Iran's democracy was overthrown by the CIA in 1953, many Iranians had what they still have: affection for the people of the United States, as distinct from the U.S. government.

If -- even with Michael Flynn out -- the U.S. government/military manages to stir up a war on Iran, and the Iranian government responds with less than perfect nonviolent wisdom, it will be the job of U.S. citizens to distinguish the wonderful Iranian people from their government.

This ought to help matters. Iranians, in response to Trump's travel ban, are abandoning the tradition of burning U.S. flags, choosing instead to thank all the U.S. people who have been protesting the Muslim Ban. This gratitude for protests is a good illustration of the importance of protesting injustice by the U.S. government, even when the protests don't immediately reverse the policies. It's important for the other 96% of humanity to know we disapprove.

The thank yous have become expressions of love in both directions, with the hashtag #LoveBeyondFlags.

Is this beautiful or what?

Feb
14

Talk Nation Radio: Is Amnesty International Promoting War in Syria?

Tag: Media, Peace and War, Talk Nation Radio

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-is-amnesty-international-promoting-war-in-syria

Rick Sterling is an independent investigative journalist who just wrote the article "Amnesty International Stokes Syrian War" for ConsortiumNews.com.

Find Sterling's article here:https://consortiumnews.com/2017/02/11/amnesty-international-stokes-syrian-war

Find the Amnesty International report here: http://www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/human_slaughterhouse.pdf

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

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