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After New York: Rally for Peace and Climate in DC

An interactive townhall discussion of how we get to peace

Speakers: Andy Shallal, Barbara Wien, David Swanson, and YOU

When: Monday, September 22, 11:30-1:30

Where: SIS Founders Room, American University
4400 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016

Food and drink provided!



War, Whistleblowing, and Independent Journalism
 
Join us for the powerful documentary Body of War (co-produced and co-directed by Phil Donahue), followed by a discussion with whistleblowers and journalists.
 
When: Monday, September 22
 
6:30 pm: Body of War film screening

8 pm: Q&A with Phil Donahue

8:15 pm: Panel
*  William Binney, NSA whistleblower
*  Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, EPA whistleblower
*  Phil Donahue, journalist
*  Thomas Drake, NSA whistleblower
*  Peter Kuznick, professor of history
*  Jesselyn Radack, DOJ whistleblower
*  Kirk Wiebe, NSA whistleblower
Moderator: Norman Solomon
 
Where: American University -- Butler Board Room (located on the 6th floor above the Bender arena sports complex)

Optional: You can sign up on FaceBook here.

This event is sponsored by RootsAction.org and the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University, and co-sponsored by ExposeFacts.org.

For more information on the speakers, click here
.
 
 

Nonviolent civil resistance for peace and climate at the White House

When: Tuesday, September 23, 10 a.m.

Where: Pennsylvania Ave. in front of White House.

More information.

James Foley Is Not a War Ad

To the extent that the U.S. public is newly, and probably momentarily, accepting of war -- an extent that is wildly exaggerated, but still real -- it is because of videos of beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

When 9-11 victims were used as a justification to kill hundreds of times the number of people killed on 9-11, some of the victims' relatives pushed back.

Now James Foley is pushing back from the grave.

Here is video of Foley talking about the lies that are needed to launch wars, including the manipulation of people into thinking of foreigners as less than human. Foley's killers may have thought of him as less than human. He may not have viewed them the same way.

The video shows Foley in Chicago helping Haskell Wexler with his film Four Days in Chicago -- a film about the last NATO protest before the recent one in Wales.  I was there in Chicago for the march and rally against NATO and war. And I've met Wexler who has tried unsuccessfully to find funding for a film version of my book War Is A Lie

Watch Foley in the video discussing the limitations of embedded reporting, the power of veteran resistance, veterans he met at Occupy, the absence of a good justification for the wars, the dehumanization needed before people can be killed, the shallowness of media coverage -- watch all of that and then try to imagine James Foley cheering like a weapons-maker or a Congress member for President Obama's announcement of more war. Try to imagine Foley accepting the use of his killing as propaganda for more fighting.

You can't do it. He's not an ad for war any more than the WMDs were a justification for war. His absence as a war justification has been exposed even faster than the absence of the WMDs was.

While ISIS may have purchased Sotloff, if not Foley, from another group, when Foley's mother sought to ransom him, the U.S. government repeatedly threatened her with prosecution. So, instead of Foley's mother paying a relatively small amount and possibly saving her son, ISIS goes on getting its funding from oil sales and supporters in the Gulf and free weapons from, among elsewhere, the United States and its allies. And we're going to collectively spend millions, probably billions, and likely trillions of dollars furthering the cycle of violence that Foley risked his life to expose.

The Coalition of the Willing is already crumbling. What if people in the United States were to watch the video of Foley when he was alive and speaking and laughing, not the one when he was a prop in a piece of propaganda almost certainly aimed at provoking the violence that Obama has just obligingly announced?

Foley said he believed his responsibility was to the truth. It didn't set him free. Is it perhaps not too late for the rest of us?

A Paradigm for Peace

Raise your hand if you weren't surprised when fancy films of beheadings resulted in bombings?

Keep your hand up if you weren't shocked when bombings resulted in more brutality and beheadings?

Is it possible we need a radically different way of thinking about how to solve violence?

Listen to this quote:

"Neither governments nor terrorists analyze the Defensive and Aggressive Roots of Violence within their enemies and themselves. Consequently, their policy solutions are imbalanced, hostile, and impractical. The habit of antagonistic debate further impedes the development of solutions, while threat-oriented psychological patterns and assumptions buttress a belief in war."

Please don't scream "What are we suppose to do, have a friendly discussion with the man with a knife on our throat?"

I actually know someone who did that and lived to tell the tale. But that's not the idea. We don't actually have a collective throat, and we aren't actually engaged in debates or discussions of any sort with the people our government is bombing thousands of miles from home. The point, as I take it, is to alter how we are thinking about matters of war and peace. Kristin Christman, whose quote that is, has produced a remarkable project called Paradigm For Peace.

She takes on the policy of war and the propaganda of war. She rethinks it all in her own language, very much the autodidact but very much dedicated to seeing the perspectives of others. Her writing could help war supporters begin to question their beliefs, which she sees as often noble, if often also shameful, if always misguided, in motivation. Christman applies the same generosity and insight to an analysis of war supporters on both sides. That is, she asks both why someone would support bombing Iraq and why someone would support anti-U.S. terrorism.

Another excerpt:

"Since its first foreign policies towards Native Americans, the U.S. has perceived the opponent as two-dimensional and deficient in qualities worth respecting and perspectives worth understanding. It is similar to the faulty way in which some have perceived slaves, children, animals, trees, rocks, rivers, and land itself: to be much less than they really are. Yet trying to obliterate the enemy does not resolve the threat; it does not address why the enemy became a threat. And if motivations are not discussed, solutions to motivations will be omitted. Foreign policy must be based upon a Science of Peace."

And one more, just to get a proper taste:

"We wouldn’t kick a car to make it go. If something were wrong with it, we would figure out which system wasn’t working and why: How is it not working? Does it turn on a little? Are the wheels spinning in mud? Does the battery need recharging? Are gas and air getting through? Like kicking the car, an approach to conflict that relies on military solutions does not figure things out: It does not distinguish between the causes of violence and does not address aggressive and defensive motivations."

Christman has organized her ideas into a system of categories that can be a bit intimidating, but often extremely valuable. I've sometimes struggled with the concept of the "roots of war" because I recognize factors that facilitate war, while recognizing that they are neither necessary nor sufficient to actually cause war. Christman makes use of a very helpful category that she calls "The Escalators of Violence." These are broken up into mental, legal, and physical varieties -- that is to say, mental habits that make war a first resort, legal structures that permit war, and physical facts like the presence of weapons and troops that make war the easiest option.

The "Roots of Violence" is another piece of Christman's analysis, itself divided into defensive, aggressive, and accidental roots. Christman is not using "defensive" as a legal justification for war, but rather as a category to facilitate understanding of what is motivating the actions of one's government or its declared enemies.

Continuing her mission of categorization, Christman creates a "Taxonomny of Peace" including an in-depth and specific look at roots and escalators of violence, and at solutions -- with a focus in particular on the United States and Western Asia (the "Middle East"). In fact, Christman lists 650 Solutions for Peace.

That's quite a leap from the currently common U.S. wisdom that one must choose between bombing and nothing, to a menu of 651 choices (including bombing as 1).  But the 650 are not all concrete and discrete steps.  Many are guides to better thinking.  Many are rules for what not to do. For example: "Do Not Determine Solutions Based Merely upon Snapshots of a Conflict" is the heading of one of the 650 sections.

I spoke at an event along with Christman some weeks back (video), and recognized that she was a brilliant independent thinker. It then took me weeks to get around to reading her work, which I still haven't finished. Why? Because it's too big, too disorganized, needs an editor, needs a web designer, and ought to be published in a hardcopy book for us old-fashioned types who like those. I mean all of that as constructive criticism, and I really very much do hope those steps are taken.

In the meantime, take any amount of time you have (such as time you might have wasted watching TV news) and check this out.

Warning to War Supporters

I know you mean well. I know you think you've found a bargain that nobody else noticed hidden in a back corner of the used car lot. Let me warn you: it's a clunker. Here, I'll list the defects. You can have your own mechanic check them out:

1. If you want to bomb a country every time an evil group murders people in a gruesome manner, you'll have to bomb a lot of countries including our own.  ISIS draws its strength in Iraq from resentment of the Iraqi government, which bombs its own cities using U.S. weapons, and which beheads people, albeit in grainier footage with lower production values.  Allies in the region, including allies that support ISIS, including allies armed by the United States (some of which arms end up in the hands of ISIS), themselves behead people regularly. But is that worse than other types of killing? When President Barack Obama blew up a 16 year old American boy whom nobody had ever accused of so much as jaywalking, and blew up six other kids who were too close to him at the time, do you imagine his head remained on his body?

As with most drone strikes, that boy could have been arrested and questioned. Had he been, though, gruesome death would have remained a possibility. In April, the United States injected a man with chemicals that made him writhe in excruciating pain for 43 minutes and die. Last week in the United States a man facing a similar fate on death row was proven innocent and freed. The prosecutor who had put him there 30 years earlier showed zero remorse. Now I'm not proposing that we bomb North Carolina because I'm angry at that prosecutor. I'm not even angry at that prosecutor. I am suggesting that there are evil killers all over the place, some wearing Western suits and ties, some wearing military uniforms. Bombs, which mostly kill innocent people who had nothing to do with it, won't help.

2. The bombs will mostly kill innocent people who had nothing to do with it, and will only make the crisis worse. Most people who die in wars are civilians by everyone's definition. People still use words like "battlefield" as if wars were waged in a field the way a football game is played. They couldn't play football on our streets and sidewalks because grandparents and baby strollers would end up tackled and crushed. Well, wars are waged on people's streets and sidewalks, even when one side is only present in the sky above in the form of unmanned robot death planes. The slow-moving die first: the very old and the very young. And when anyone dies, according to top U.S. officials, more enemies are created in greater numbers. Thus, the operation is counterproductive on its own terms, making us less safe rather than safer. This is why President Obama is always saying "There is no military solution" just before proposing to use the military to seek a solution. When he proposes bombing Iraq for three more years, that number has no basis in military calculation whatsoever. I challenge you to find a general who says otherwise. It is a number almost certainly based on the U.S. election schedule, aimed at convincing us to accept a war without question until a date after the next presidential election. When Obama says he's going to get a good government in place in Iraq this week and then make a speech, he's delusional or enjoying toying with your gullibility, but he's also pointing to the actual problem: a nation destroyed by 24 years of wars and sanctions and lacking a legitimate governing system.

3. Bombing is crazy, and bombing for three years is certifiable. Bombing strengthens ISIS. Three years is longer than most U.S. wars have taken from beginning to end.  The U.S. Constitution, which did not foresee a permanent standing army, much less one permanently standing in most other nations on earth, did not permit -- and does not permit -- creating and funding one for a longer period than two years at a time (Article I. Section 8.). But of course nothing guarantees that the bombing will stop after three years and not go on for thirty more. And nothing guarantees that this war will involve only bombing. Already Obama has sent over 1,100 troops, and is promising to send some number less than 100,000. Read that twice please, slowly. Obama wants Congress to debate his war plans but not vote on them. Why not? Because Congress might be compelled by you and me to vote no, if not on this war then on the next one. Obama wants himself and all future presidents free to launch wars without Congress, exactly what he campaigned for office opposing.

"The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." —Senator Barack Obama. 

The U.S. "intelligence" agencies, by the way, deem ISIS no threat to the United States. Apart from trashing the Constitution and really the one thing its framers got right, President Obama is trashing the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact, laws that forbid war.

4. The fact that it's Obama doesn't make it OK. A majority of you supported attacking Afghanistan and within a couple of years a majority of you said Afghanistan should not have been attacked. Why not? Not because there weren't evil people in Afghanistan, but because bombing the country made everything worse, not better.  You kept telling pollsters it was a bad idea for over another decade, but the war rolled on, and still rolls on.  Iraq is a similar story, although you were even faster to change your mind.  And the occupation ended when President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki signed an agreement for three more years of that war, and then the three years ran out.  At that point, President Obama tried to win approval from the Iraqi government to keep U.S. troops in Iraq longer, but with immunity for any crimes they might commit.  Failing at that, Obama withdrew the troops.  Having won that concession now, he's sending them back in.  Does the fact that it's Obama doing it, rather than Bush, make it OK? Remember the massive protests when Bush proposed a war on Iraq? Obama just put the band back together in Wales, and you're squealing with delight that he visited Stonehenge, or you're busy coloring in your "I'm Ready for Hillary" posters.

The nation of Iraq was utterly destroyed last time. The place is in total chaos: violence, hatred, poverty, illness, desperation, fanaticism.  Dumping gasoline on that fire is worse now than before, not better. And now we have NATO toying with a nuclear confrontation with Russia, drone wars generating violence and terrorism in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia, the U.S. Navy poking China in the eye with a stick, troops heading into a dozen new parts of Africa -- How is starting a war this time better than last time, which you came to view as a mistake by 2004, elected a Congress to end in 2006, thought you were voting against again in 2008, and cheered for the eventual ending of in 2011? Observers have called this the most dangerous moment since World War II. Please don't tell me you trust Obama, believed the fraudulent threat to Benghazi and are now unaware of the disaster he created in Libya, where France has just proposed yet another war to fix the damage of the last war. Please don't tell me you believed the disproven claims of evidence that Assad used chemical weapons or Russia shot down an airplane. This is a government that lies about possible grounds for war and possible outcomes of war, just like its predecessors.

5. The enemy of your enemy is your other weapons customer. Public pressure was instrumental last year in halting proposed attacks on Syria, the plans for which involved massive death and destruction. But the White House and CIA went right ahead and armed and trained one side in that war, the ISIS side. ISIS now has weapons provided directly to it and indirectly to it by the United States, including those seized from the Iraqi government. ISIS has troops trained by the United States and "radicalized" (enraged) by the United States in its brutal prisons in Iraq, as well as troops previously in the Iraqi military who were thrown out of work in 2003 by the U.S. occupation.  Last year, the evil to be confronted was Assad, at all costs. To your great credit you didn't fall for it. Why not? Not because Assad doesn't do evil things, but because you understood that more war would make things even worse.  

Now you're being told that Assad's enemies must be attacked at all cost, and you're falling for it, to your great discredit.  With supposed surgical precision the "moderate" beheaders will be spared, in order to blow up only the "extremist" beheaders. Don't believe it.  Six months ago the great Satan was Iran.  Now you're on Iran's side.  Were you aware of that? You're stirring up trouble to the ultimate benefit of only one group: the weapons makers.  You think of the Middle East as a violent place, but 80% of the weapons come from the United States. Imagine how much less violent the Middle East could be if it only had 20% of the weapons.  We're not talking about stockpiles. These weapons get used.

6. There are other options. Try telling a four-year-old he has only two choices: eat the broccoli or eat the lima beans.  He'll throw another 18 alternatives at you in less than a minute, beginning with eating ice cream. Try telling a non-American adult about the current state of disaster in Iraq, and they'll begin by opposing making it worse, and then start discussing a variety of steps to make it better, from humanitarian aid to diplomacy to disarmament to emergency U.N. police forces, etc.  But tell a U.S. adult that Iraq must be bombed or we must do nothing other than sit back and revel in our evil state of ISIS-loving, and your befuddled manipulated subject will shout "Bomb em! Bomb em!" Why?

Last year we were told that we had to bomb Syria or love the poisoning of children with chemical weapons. We did not accept that those were the only two choices. Why not? Because we were thinking straight.  We hadn't been frightened into blind stupidity by high-quality videos of beheadings and threats that we might be next.  Nobody thinks well when they're scared. That's why the government likes to scare you.  That's why your you're hearing all this nonsense about ISIS coming to your neighborhood. The more the U.S. keeps bombing people, the more some of those people will want to fight back. Did you ever wonder why nations that spend 2% what the U.S. does on its military feel so much safer than you do? Part of it is the reality that war generates enemies rather than removing them, but mostly it's a culture of cowardice that we're living in. Here are 15 things we could do about ISIS instead of bombing.

7. We don't have time for this barbaric insanity. War is sucking our resources and energy and attention away from where they are needed, namely on a massive campaign to protect the climate of the earth. Imagine a proposal to dump untold trillions of dollars and every ounce of energy into that project! Would Congress step aside and allow it? It would benefit even your short-term economic interests, but would you permit it? Would you demand it? Would you join with me in insisting that we stop the wars and save the climate?

UPDATE: Newsweek says ISIS is intentionally manipulating you into attacking it.

UPDATE 2: Matt Hoh Says the Beheadings Are Bait.

Talk Nation Radio: Lindsey German: NATO Should Be Abolished

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-lindsey-german-nato-lhould-be-abolished

Lindsey German is Convenor of the Stop the War Coalition ( http://stopwar.org.uk ) and was part of the protests and counter-summit at the just-completed NATO summit in Wales. We speak with her about NATO and the state of war and peace in the world. German's books include A People's History of London; How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women: Work, Family, and Liberation; Material Girls: Women, Men, and Work; Sex Class and Socialism; and Stop the War: The Story of Britain's Biggest Mass Movement.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

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 at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

 

Peace Ecology

With serendipitous timing, as a big march for the climate, and various related events, are planned on and around the International Day of Peace, Randall Amster has just published an important book called Peace Ecology.

This book bridges divides that very much need to be bridged between peace activism and peace academia, and between peace advocacy and environmentalism.  This is, in fact, a peace book for deep environmentalists and an environmental book for deep peace advocates.

Typically, I think, peace activists appear to the peace academic as a bit uninformed, ahistorical, reactive, and negative in the sense of being "against something rather than for something."

Peace academics, I'm afraid, often appear to the peace activist as uninterested in ending wars, uncurious about the evils of wars, unimpressed by the military industrial complex as a cause of wars, and altogether too concerned with the personal virtues of people who are in no way responsible for the scourge of war. It is the rare political studies academic who occasionally can be spotted opposing war or documenting the superiority of nonviolent struggle, whereas the peace studies scholars are essentially advocates of environmentalism and democracy who -- unlike other environmentalists and democrats -- happen to recognize the ginormous roadblock that militarism presents for their agenda. Or so it appears to the activist, who searches in vain for any large academic contingent giving war and war propaganda the full critique they so richly deserve.

The environmentalist, meanwhile, as represented by the larger environmentalist groups and their spokespeople, appears to the peace activist as a dupe or a war-monger, someone who wants to save the earth while cheering on the institution that constitutes its single biggest destroyer. 

The peace activist, when spotted by the otherwise occupied environmentalist, must appear something of a fool, a traitor, or a Vladimir-Putin-lover.

Amster is an academic for peace and the environment with a strong inclination toward activism. Parts of his book could have been written by an environmentalist enamored with war, but most of it could not have been. What Amster is after is a worldview within which we avert the dangers of both war and environmental destruction, including by recognizing their interaction.

War advocates would tell those developing organic communal gardens and gift economies and natural sanctuaries, and other projects that Amster writes about, that "our brave troops" are providing the safe space in which to pursue such luxuries.  Amster would, I think, tell the war advocates that their project is in fact rapidly reducing that space, that these "luxury" efforts are in fact necessary for survival, and that understanding them requires a state of mind that also condemns war as an unmitigated disaster.

"This may seem idealistic," Amster writes of the prospect of a society dedicated to peace, "but consider that it is no more so than continuing on our present course and hoping for a happy ending." 

Amster notes that the New York Times considers it "accepted wisdom" that advocates of protecting the climate must promote the idea that climate change threatens "national security."  The idea is that climate-induced disasters and shortages produce wars. While Amster doesn't say so, this is a view that has been expressed by Bill McKibben, prominent organizer of the upcoming march. If his organization, 350.org, would object each time President Obama sends another 350 troops to Iraq, it would begin taking on the biggest consumer of oil we have: the military. Such an act would be unprecedented for any large U.S. environmental organization.

Of course, in reality disasters lead to wars only when a society chooses to address them with wars, and resource abundance has led to wars as often as scarcity. Sustainability and egalitarianism, Amster argues, can encourage stability, whereas unsustainable exploitation and inequality mean instability and potentially war.  Should we work to limit the level of climate change or to limit its suffering by adapting to it? Amster points out that the same practices can often do both. One that can't, however, is war which exacerbates the problem while in fact failing to adapt to it.

Ian Morris recently published a remarkably stupid book arguing for the merits of war. In it he claimed Thomas Hobbes as a hero of peace who understood the path to peace to lie through imperialist wars and governmental monopoly on violence. Amster provides a healthy rebuttal, pointing out that in fact "civilized" governments oversee very violent societies that have normalized brutal competition by imagining it as inevitable and blinding themselves to the merits of other cultures. Amster leads us to reject Hobbes' most basic assumptions.

Amster does the same for Garrett Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons. If actual human beings were mathematical game pieces driven purely by sociopathic greed and calculation, population growth and prosperity must lead to tragedy. But as human beings exhibit generosity and friendship as often as limitless greed and selfishness, it turns out not to be the existence of open commons that leads to tragedy but the privatization and enclosure of the commons -- or, rather, the abandonment of the life of the commons, that leads inexorably to crisis.

What have we got left that could be treated as commons? Amster suggests air, water, parks, sidewalks, libraries, airwaves, the internet, biodiversity, transportation, Antarctica, open-source software, outer space, and much else. And he provides examples of people behaving accordingly.

Do people developing healthy ways of living necessarily learn that bombing is not a useful response to a throat-slitting by ISIS? Possibly not. But there's another way to see the connection. Control of fossil fuels is a major motivation for wars, and wars are a major consumer of fossil fuels.  In fact it was the desire to fuel the British navy that first created the Western obsession with Middle Eastern oil.  But a society dedicated to peace would not have sought to fuel a navy or to fight wars in order to fuel a navy. A society dedicated to peace would be developing green energy and green lifestyles.

An environmental movement that wanted millions of dedicated participants would want a society committed to peace.  A side benefit would be the freeing up of $2 trillion a year globally, $1 trillion in the United States, that had been used for war preparation but now could be used to quickly end all the pretense that green energy cannot work wonders.

If you live in an area not massively illuminated at night, you can -- simply by walking around after dark -- get a sense of the human built environment utterly transformed by nature. Darkness coats everything.  And in the part of the world I live in, the sound of insects completely dominates the darkness. 

If you live in an area that has proved less desirable for non-"tragic" exploitation than it used to be, you can get a sense of what the non-human world will do to human creations if humanity takes its leave. Streets and buildings will vanish as surely as the dinosaurs. Only nuclear waste will eventually remain as evidence of our species' existence.

Unless we change.

"Save the environment" might not be our best motto, Amster suggests. More to the point might be "Save the humans."

Talk Nation Radio: Rep. Barbara Lee on War Powers, Marjorie Cohn on Prosecuting Congress for War Crimes

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-rep-barbara-lee-on-war-powers-marjorie-cohn-on-prosecuting-congress-for-war-crimes

Congresswoman Barbara Lee has represented the East Bay area of California since 1998. She discusses Congressional war powers.

Marjorie Cohn is a former president of the National Lawyers Guild. She lectures throughout the world on international human rights and U.S. foreign policy. Her latest book is The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse. Her website is http://www.marjoriecohn.com She discusses a letter sent by the National Lawyers Guild, Center for Constitutional Rights, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Arab Lawyers Union, and American Association of Jurists to Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, urging her to initiate an investigation of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity committed by Israeli leaders and aided and abetted by U.S. officials in Gaza.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

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 at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks