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When Donald Rumsfeld used to hold press conferences about the Iraq war, the press corps would giggle at the clever ways in which he refused to actually say anything or answer any questions.
In a new film about Rumsfeld called The Unknown Knowns, the aging criminal is occasionally confronted with evidence that what he's just said is false. He maintains a frozen grin and acts as if nothing has happened. The film's director, interviewing Rumsfeld, never presses the truly uncomfortable points.
The closest the film comes to asking Rumsfeld about the wrongness of launching a war on Iraq is with the question "Wouldn't it have been better not to go there at all?" Not "Wasn't it illegal?" Not "Do you believe 1.4 million Iraqis were killed or only 0.5 million?" Not "When you sleep at your home at the Mt. Misery plantation where they used to beat and whip slaves like Frederick Douglass how do you rank the mass slaughter you engaged in against the crimes of past eras?" Not "Was it at least inappropriate to smirk and claim that 'freedom is untidy' while people were destroying a society?" And to the only question that was asked, Rumsfeld is allowed to get away with replying "I guess time will tell."
Then Rumsfeld effectively suggests that time has already told. He says that candidate Barack Obama opposed Bush-era tactics and yet has kept them in place, including the PATRIOT Act, lawless imprisonment, etc. He might have added that President Obama has maintained the right to torture and rendition even while largely replacing torture with murder via drone. Most crucially for himself, he might have noted that Obama has violated the Convention Against Torture by barring the prosecution of those responsible for recent violations. But Rumsfeld's point is clear when he notes that Obama's conduct "has to validate" everything the previous gang did wrong.
I've long included Rumsfeld on a list of the top 50 Bush-era war criminals, with this description:
"Donald Rumsfeld lives in Washington, D.C., and at former slave-beating plantation "Mount Misery" on Maryland's Eastern Shore near St. Michael's and a home belonging to Dick Cheney, as well as at an estate outside Taos, New Mexico. He took part in White House meetings personally overseeing and approving torture by authorizing the use of specific torture techniques including waterboarding on specific people, and was in fact a leading liar in making the false case for an illegal war of aggression, and pushed for wars of aggression for years as a participant in the Project for the New American Century."
The National Lawyers Guild noted years ago:
"It was recently revealed that Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet, and John Ashcroft met in the White House and personally oversaw and approved the torture by authorizing specific torture techniques including waterboarding. President Bush admitted he knew and approved of their actions. 'They are all liable under the War Crimes Act and the Torture Statute,' Professor [Marjorie] Cohn testified. 'Under the doctrine of command responsibility, commanders, all the way up the chain of command to the commander-in-chief, are liable for war crimes if they knew or should have known their subordinates would commit them, and they did nothing to stop or prevent it. The Bush officials ordered the torture after seeking legal cover from their lawyers.'"
This doesn't come up in the movie. Rumsfeld does shamelessly defend abusing and torturing prisoners, and maintains that torturing people protects "the American people," but he passes the buck to the Department of Justice and the CIA and is never asked about the White House meetings described above. When it comes to Abu Ghraib he says he thought "something terrible happened on my watch" as if he'd had nothing to do with it, as if his casual approval of torture and scrawled notes about how he stands up all day and so can prisoners played no part. (He also claims nobody was killed and there was just a bit of nudity and sadism, despite the fact that photos of guards smiling with corpses have been made public -- the movie doesn't mention them.) Asked about abuses migrating from Guantanamo to Iraq, Rumsfeld cites a report to claim they didn't. The director then shows Rumsfeld that the report he cited says that in fact torture techniques migrated from Guantanamo to Iraq. Rumsfeld says he thinks that's accurate, as if he'd never said anything else. Rumsfeld also says that in the future he believes public officials won't write so many memos.
The central lie in Rumsfeld's mind and our society and The Unknown Knowns is probably that irrational foreigners are out to get us. Rumsfeld recounts being asked at his confirmation hearing to become Secretary of So-Called Defense "What do you go to sleep worried about?" The answer was not disease or climate change or car accidents or environmental pollution or starvation any actually significant danger. The answer was not that the United States continues antagonizing the world and creating enemies. There was no sense of urgency to halt injustices or stop arming dictators or pull back from bases that outrage local populations. Instead, Rumsfeld feared another Pearl Harbor -- the same thing his Project for the New American Century had said would be needed in order to justify overthrowing governments in the Middle East.
Rumsfeld describes Pearl Harbor in the movie, lying that no one had imagined the possibility of a Japanese attack there. The facts refute that endlessly repeated lie. Then Rumsfeld tells the same lie about 9-11, calling it "a failure of imagination." What we're going through is a failure of memory. These words "FBI information ... indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York" appeared in an August 6, 2001, briefing of President George W. Bush titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S."
The movie does a decent job on Rumsfeld's pre-war lies. Rumsfeld tells the camera that nobody in the Bush administration ever tied Saddam Hussein to 9-11. Then the film shows old footage of Rumsfeld himself doing just that. Similar footage could have been shown of numerous officials on numerous occasions. Rumsfeld has clearly been allowed such levels of impunity that delusions have taken over. He rewrites the past in his head and expects everyone else to obediently follow along. As of course Eric Holder's Justice Department has done.
Rumsfeld, in the film, dates the certainty of the decision to invade Iraq to January 11, 2003. This of course predates months of himself and Bush and Cheney pretending no decision had been made, including the January 31, 2003, White House press conference with Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair at which they said they were working to avoid war, after Bush had just privately proposed to Blair a string of cockamamie ideas that might get a war started.
Bizarrely, the film's director Errol Morris asks Rumsfeld why they didn't just assassinate Saddam Hussein instead of attacking the nation of Iraq. He does not ask why the U.S. didn't obey the law. He does not ask about Hussein's willingness to just leave if he could keep $1 billion, as Bush told Spanish president Jose Maria Aznar that Hussein had offered. And even the question asked, Rumsfeld refuses to answer until he makes Morris complicit. Morris had used the word "they," as in "why didn't they just assassinate him?" whereas he clearly should have used the word "you," but Rumsfeld makes him repeat the question using the word "we" before providing an answer. We? We were lied to by a criminal government. We don't take the blame as servants to a flag. Are you kidding? But Morris dutifully asks "Why didn't we just assassinate ... ?"
Rumsfeld replies that "We don't assassinate" and tries hard not to grin. Morris says "but you tried" referring to an attempt to bomb Hussein's location. Rumsfeld excuses that by saying it was "an act of war." This is the same line that human rights groups take on drone murders. (We can't be sure if they're illegal, because President Obama may have written a note and hid it in his shoe that says it's all a part of a war, and war makes murder OK.)
Rumsfeld blames Iraq for not avoiding being attacked. He pretends Iraq pretended to have weapons, even while blaming Iraq for not turning over the weapons that it claimed not to have (and didn't have). The veteran liar lies that he thought he was using the best "intelligence" when he lied about Iraqi weapons, and then passes the buck to Colin Powell.
Rumsfeld and the nation that produced him didn't turn wrong only in the year 2001. Rumsfeld avoided Watergate by being off to Brussels as ambassador to NATO, a worse crime one might argue than Watergate, or at least than Nixon's recording of conversations -- which is all that this movie discusses, and which Rumsfeld describes as "a mistake." Asked if he learned anything from the U.S. war that killed 4 million Vietnamese, Rumsfeld says "Some things work out, some things don't." I think he expected applause for that line. On the topic of meeting with Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, Rumsfeld is allowed to describe his mistake as having been filmed shaking hands with the man he calls a dictator. But he's never asked about having supported Hussein and armed and assisted him, including with weapons that would later (despite having been destroyed) form the basis of the pretended cause of war.
After giving the fun-loving sociopaths of fictional dramas a bad name for two hours, this real person, Donald Rumsfeld, blames war on "human nature" and expresses pretended sadness at future U.S. war deaths, as if 95% of the victims of U.S. wars (the people who live where the wars are fought) never cross his mind at all. And why should they?
Sorry for the headline if it got you hoping for a quick 1-step guide on how to bomb a country without breaking a sweat. I didn't actually mean that I could teach a dummy to wage a war. I meant that only dummies want to wage wars.
Check out a recent Washington Post report.
Now there I go misleading you again. While it's true that the editors of the Washington Post are often dummies and often want wars to be waged, that's not what I mean right now. I think members of the U.S. government and its obedient media constitute an important but tiny exception to the rule this report points to.
The facts as reported on April 7th are these:
- 13% of us in the United States want our government to use force in Ukraine;
- 16% of us can accurately identify Ukraine's location on a map;
- the median error by Americans placing Ukraine on a map is 1,800 miles;
- some Americans, based on where they identified Ukraine on a map, believe that Ukraine is in the United States, some say it's in Canada, some Africa, some Australia, some Greenland, some Argentina, Brazil, China, or India;
- only a small number believe Ukraine is in an ocean.
And here's the interesting bit:
"[T]he further our respondents thought that Ukraine was from its actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene militarily. Even controlling for a series of demographic characteristics and participants' general foreign policy attitudes, we found that the less accurate our participants were, the more they wanted the U.S. to use force, the greater the threat they saw Russia as posing to U.S. interests, and the more they thought that using force would advance U.S. national security interests."
I take this to mean that some people believe that attacking Alaska or the continental United States (where they believe Ukraine to be located) will advance "U.S. national security interests." This suggests one of two things: either they believe the United States would be better off bombed (and perhaps suicidal tendencies account for some of the staggering stupidity reported by the Washington Post) or they believe the United States is located in Asia or Africa or somewhere other than where they've indicated that Ukraine is on the map.
I also take this report to mean the following: ignorant jackasses are the only statistically significant group that wants more wars. Virtually nobody in the United States wants a U.S. war in Iran or Syria or Ukraine. Nobody. Except for serious hardcore idiots. We're talking about people who can't place Ukraine in the correct landmass, but who believe the United States should go to war there.
People informed enough to find Ukraine on a map are also informed enough to oppose wars. People who can't find Ukraine on a map but possess an ounce of humility or a drop of decency also oppose war. You don't have to be smart to oppose wars. But you have to be an unfathomably ignorant jackass to favor them. Or -- back to that exception -- you could work for the government.
Why, I wonder, don't pollsters always poll and report sufficiently to tell us whether an opinion correlates with being informed on an issue? I recall a poll (by Rasmussen), tragic or humorous depending on your mood, that found 25% of Americans wanting their government to always spend at least three times as much on its military as any other nation spends, while 64% said their government spends the right amount on the military now or should spend more. This only gets tragic or humorous if you are aware that the United States already spends much more than three times what any other nation spends on its military. In other words, large numbers of people want military spending increased only because they don't know how high it is already.
But what I want to know is: Do the individuals who have the facts most wrong want the biggest spending increases?
And I wonder: do pollsters want us to know how much opinions follow facts? If opinions follow factual beliefs, after all, it might make sense to replace some of the bickering of pundits on our televisions with educational information, and to stop thinking of ourselves as divided by ideology or temperament when what we're divided by is largely the possession of facts and the lack thereof.
It's important to distinguish terrorism from war. Because otherwise war would look bad.
It's important to distinguish genocide from war. Because otherwise war would be indefensible.
It's important to distinguish civil war from war. Because civil war seems so gruesome and irrational.
It's important to distinguish the horrors of war from war's higher purposes. Because otherwise who would let war continue?
It's important to distinguish wars people have seen from possible future wars. Because otherwise someone might ask what the higher purposes had been and whether they were achieved.
It's important to distinguish war from inaction as if those were the only options. Because otherwise people might wake up before they die.
Betsy Leondar-Wright is the Project Director and Senior Trainer at Class Action, a non-profit that raises consciousness about class and money. Her new book is called Missing Class: How Seeing Class Cultures Can Strengthen Social Movement Groups. She describes how people's speech patterns and approaches to activism tend to vary with class background, how unawareness of this can result in misunderstandings, and how awareness of it can build stronger movements that draw on the strengths of all.
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"Secretary Kerry? It's Ukraine on the phone asking about liberation again. Have you been able to get them a reference letter yet from Libya or Iraq or Afghanistan? How about Vietnam? Panama? Grenada? Kosovo maybe? Ukraine says Syria says you have a reference letter in the works from Kosovo. No? Huh. They said they'd accept one from Korea or the Dominican Republic or Iran. No? Guatemala? The Philippines? Cuba? Congo? How about Haiti? They say you promised them a glowing reference from Haiti. Oh. They did? No, I am not laughing, Sir. What about East Timor? Oh? Oh! Sir, you're going to liberate the what out of them? Yes sir, I think you'd better tell them yourself."
Some nations the United States should probably not liberate -- except perhaps the 175 nations which could be liberated from the presence of U.S. soldiers. But one nation I would make an exception for, and that is the nation of Hawai'i.
Jon Olsen's new book, Liberate Hawai'i: Renouncing and Defying the Continuing Fraudulent U.S. Claim to the sovereignty of Hawai'i, makes a compelling case -- a legal case as well as a moral one.
Olsen's case, in very condensed summary, looks like this: Hawai'i was an independent nation, recognized as such by the United States and numerous other nations, with treaties in effect between Hawai'i and other nations, including the United States, that have never been terminated. In 1893 U.S. profiteers and U.S. Marines, in a criminal act, overthrew Hawai'i's government and queen, setting up a new government that lacked any legal standing. President Grover Cleveland investigated what had been done, admitted to the facts, and declared the new government illegitimate, insisting that the Queen retain the rule she had never abdicated. But the fraudulent foreign government remained, and in 1898 once William McKinley was U.S. president, handed over Hawaii (thought it had no legal power to do so) to the United States, as the United States also picked up the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Cuba in a bit of a global shopping spree. By 1959, these events were growing lost in the mists of time, and the demographics of Hawai'i were radically altered, as Hawai'i was offered a vote between two bad choices: statehood or continued status as a colony or "territory" (liberation wasn't on the ballot). Thus did Hawai'i seem to become a state without legally becoming any such thing. In 1993, the U.S. Congress passed and President Clinton signed U.S. Public Law 103-150, admitted to and apologizing for this history, without of course doing the one thing legally and morally required -- liberating Hawai'i.
The primary purpose of the U.S. grab for Hawai'i, even more than economic exploitation, was military expansion, as Olsen shows. The U.S. military wanted, and took, Pearl Harbor. Then it took a lot more land, occupied it, bombed it, poisoned it. Now the U.S. military holds 22% of O'ahu, 68% of Kaula, and chunks of all the major islands, with more planned, archaeological sites threatened, species threatened, air quality for telescopes threatened, and heightened tensions around the Pacific not just threatened but those heightened tensions being the actual purpose of this massive and disastrous investment by the foreign occupying nation claiming Hawai'i by force and fraud.
What can be done? And of, by, and for whom exactly? Who is a Hawaiian and who is not? Olsen does not advocate a Hawaii for the ethnically native Hawaiians alone. He recognizes that the term "Hawaiian" is used to refer to an ethnic group, and proposes the invention of the term "Hawaiian national" to refer to anyone who considers Hawaii home and supports its liberation. I think Olsen is on the right path but slipping slightly off it. Nationalism has not proved a wholly beneficial concept. Hawaii needs to be liberated from U.S. nationalism, but Hawaiians and the rest of us need to begin thinking of ourselves as citizens of the world, not of one nation over others. Nor do two wrongs, of whatever disparity, make a right (just ask Palestine). I'd like to see "Hawaiian" evolve to encompass all who consider Hawaii their home, without the addition of "national." Of course this unsolicited advice from me to Hawaiians may be unappreciated. But then, they are free to ignore it; I'm not using the Marine Corps as a delivery service, and my advice to the Marine Corps (unsolicited as well) is to disband and liberate the world from its existence.
There's an important point that I think Olsen's argument supports, although he does not develop it in his book, and it is this: If in 1941 Hawaii was not yet even purporting to be a U.S. state, but was rather an illegally and illegitimately seized territory, Pearl Harbor having been stolen from the Hawaiian people, then whatever else you might think of the second major crime committed at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese did not attack the United States. The Japanese attacked an imperial outpost in the middle of the Pacific that they viewed as a threat -- and what else was it if not that?
Were Hawaii to liberate itself from the United States (for the United States is not actually going to liberate it voluntarily), would the point be moot as the practices of the United States and China and other nations drive the world's islands underwater? Actually, projections show Hawaii surviving the flood. The question for Hawaiians may be this: Who do you want managing the influx of millions of Floridians looking for a new paradise to pave, your own manageable self-governed society or the tender mercies of the United States Congress?
Two professional sports teams in Washington, D.C., have intolerable names: the Redskins and the Nationals.
The Redskins name is disgusting racism that recalls the nation's original genocidal sin, a crime that carries over to today's naming of weapons and operations after various Native Americans and treating other groups of people as valueless.
But I for one find it easier to imagine a crowd of Redskins fans as ignorant and oblivious -- which is really the best you can hope to imagine a crowd to be. They aren't consciously advocating genocide. Most of them have never stopped to think how they would respond as a white minority to a team called The Fighting Whities, but they also aren't thinking about racial superiority. They're thinking "I want OUR team to beat the other team," and having identified themselves with the team, they just accept its name like they accept their own names regardless of how evil King David or whomever they're named for was.
The Nationals, on the other hand, are part of the promotion of the worst crimes our society is currently engaged in. A National's game is packed, inning after inning, with songs and cheers and announcements promoting war. Fans are told that the U.S. Navy is "keeping the world's oceans safe and free" -- and they stand and cheer for that, even as the U.S. Navy and Army and Air Force and Marines and assorted special forces and mercenaries and CIA kill, and kill, and kill, building hostility around the world.
"I'm proud to be an American because at least I know I'm free," they hear and sing. How do they know they're free? How does an ocean know it's free? What in the world are they talking about? This nation lacks civil liberties and human rights found elsewhere, and we lose more rights with every war. Where's our Fourth Amendment? Our First Amendment? Where are Roosevelt's freedoms from fear and want? Polluting the world's oceans with death machines that launch missiles into people's houses doesn't make us or the fish or the people murdered "free."
Can we imagine Nationals' fans as oblivious? Do they not know that the world doesn't appreciate being kept "free"? Do they suppose that wars really benefit people? Do they not know what was done to Iraq? Maybe, but I for one find it a greater strain to imagine. The uniformed killers are right there, being honored, singing songs. And the team is named for the concept that 5% of humanity should be identified with over the other 95%. There's not an enlightened way to do that, and as long as we imagine there to be we'll remain as ignorant and destructive as jackasses who paint their faces red and stick feathers on their heads to go to football games. In fact, we might be worse.
"The notion of a 'humanitarian war' would have rang in the ears of the drafters of the UN Charter as nothing short of Hitlerian, because it was precisely the justification used by Hitler himself for the invasion of Poland just six years earlier." —Michael Mandel
Fifteen years ago, NATO was bombing Yugoslavia. This may be difficult for people to grasp who believe the Noah movie is historical fiction, but: What your government told you about the bombing of Kosovo was false. And it matters.
While Rwanda is the war that many misinformed people wish they could have had (or rather, wish others could have had for them), Yugoslavia is the war they're glad happened -- at least whenever World War II really fails as a model for the new war they're after -- in Syria for instance, or in Ukraine -- the latter being, like Yugoslavia, another borderland between east and west that is being taken to pieces.
The peace movement is gathering in Sarajevo this summer. The moment seems fitting to recall how NATO's breakout war of aggression, its first post-Cold-War war to assert its power, threaten Russia, impose a corporate economy, and demonstrate that a major war can keep all the casualties on one side (apart from self-inflicted helicopter crashes) -- how this was put over on us as an act of philanthropy.
The killing hasn't stopped. NATO keeps expanding its membership and its mission, notably into places like Afghanistan and Libya. It matters how this got started, because it's going to be up to us to stop it.
Some of us had not yet been born or were too young or too busy or too Democratic partisan or too caught up still in the notion that mainstream opinion isn't radically insane. We didn't pay attention or we fell for the lies. Or we didn't fall for the lies, but we haven't yet figured out a way to get most people to look at them.
Here's my recommendation. There are two books that everyone should read. They are about the lies we were told about Yugoslavia in the 1990s but are also two of the best books about war, period, regardless of the subtopic. They are: How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage, and Crimes Against Humanity by Michael Mandel, and Fools' Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions by Diana Johnstone.
Johnstone's book provides the historical background, the context, and analysis of the role of the United States, of Germany, of the mass media, and of various players in Yugoslavia. Mandel's book provides the immediate events and a lawyer's analysis of the crimes committed. While many ordinary people in the United States and Europe supported or tolerated the war out of good intentions -- that is, because they believed the propaganda -- the motivations and actions of the U.S. government and NATO turn out to have been as cynical and immoral as usual.
The United States worked for the breakup of Yugoslavia, intentionally prevented negotiated agreements among the parties, and engaged in a massive bombing campaign that killed large numbers of people, injured many more, destroyed civilian infrastructure and hospitals and media outlets, and created a refugee crisis that did not exist until after the bombing had begun. This was accomplished through lies, fabrications, and exaggerations about atrocities, and then justified anachronistically as a response to violence that it generated.
After the bombing, the U.S. allowed the Bosnian Muslims to agree to a peace plan very similar to the plan that the U.S. had been blocking prior to the bombing spree. Here's U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali:
"In its first weeks in office, the Clinton administration has administered a death blow to the Vance-Owen plan that would have given the Serbs 43 percent of the territory of a unified state. In 1995 at Dayton, the administration took pride in an agreement that, after nearly three more years of horror and slaughter, gave the Serbs 49 percent in a state partitioned into two entities."
These many years later it should matter to us that we were told about fake atrocities that researchers were unable to ever find, any more than anyone could ever find the weapons in Iraq, or the evidence of plans to slaughter civilians in Benghazi, or the evidence of Syrian chemical weapons use. We're being told that Russian troops are massing on the border of Ukraine with genocidal intentions. But when people look for those troops they can't find them. We should be prepared to consider what that might mean.
NATO had to bomb Kosovo 15 years ago to prevent a genocide? Really? Why sabotage negotiations? Why pull out all observers? Why give five days' warning? Why then bomb away from the area of the supposed genocide? Wouldn't a real rescue operation have sent in ground forces without any warning, while continuing diplomatic efforts? Wouldn't a humanitarian effort have avoided killing so many men, women, and children with bombs, while threatening to starve whole populations through sanctions?
Mandel looks very carefully at the legality of this war, considering every defense ever offered for it, and concludes that it violated the U.N. Charter and consisted of murder on a large scale. Mandel, or perhaps his publisher, chose to begin his book with an analysis of the illegality of the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, and to leave Yugoslavia out of the book's title. But it is Yugoslavia, not Iraq or Afghanistan, that war proponents will continue pointing to for years to come as a model for future wars -- unless we stop them. This was a war that broke new ground, but did it with far more effective PR than the Bush administration ever bothered with. This war violated the UN Charter, but also -- though Mandel doesn't mention it -- Article I of the U.S. Constitution requiring Congressional approval.
Every war also violates the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Mandel, all too typically, erases the Pact from consideration even while noting its existence and significance. "The first count against the Nazis at Nuremberg," he writes, "was the 'crime against peace . . . violation of international treaties' -- international treaties just like the Charter of the United Nations." That can't be right. The U.N. Charter did not yet exist. Other treaties were not just like it. Much later in the book, Mandel cites the Kellogg-Briand Pact as the basis for the prosecutions, but he treats the Pact as if it existed then and exists no longer. He also treats it as if it banned aggressive war, rather than all war. I hate to quibble, as Mandel's book is so excellent, including his criticism of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for refusing to recognize the U.N. Charter. But what they're doing to make the U.N. Charter a treaty of the past, Mandel himself (and virtually everyone else) does to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, awareness of which would devastate all arguments for "humanitarian wars."
Of course, proving that every war thus far marketed as humanitarian has actually harmed humanity doesn't eliminate the theoretical possibility of a humanitarian war. What erases that is the damage that keeping the institution of war around does to human society and the natural environment. Even if, in theory, 1 war in 1,000 could be a good one (which I don't believe for a minute), preparing for wars is going to bring those other 999 along with it. That is why the time has come to abolish the institution.
Rick Rozoff is the manager of Stop NATO at http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com He discusses the Ukrainian crisis and the state of NATO at age 65.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
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Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
The Associated Press is denying claims by two of its writers that cost-savings was a motivation. Rather, says editor Richard Giardino, an error resulted in the accidental re-publication last week of an article on a Senate committee report on torture, an article that had originally been published in 2011.
In defense of the wire service, Giardino noted in a 2,000-word explanation, that "while the article may have been dated, it ran in dozens of newspapers without anyone noticing." In fact, wrote Giardino, were it not for a couple of bloggers, the incident "might have passed unnoticed."
I think he has a point. Over the past eight years, there have been 73 separate moments in which major news stories have reported widely across the U.S. media that it has for the first time become clear that former President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, or their subordinates ordered the commission of torture. That count does not include several interviews, and memoirs, in which Bush and Cheney have openly admitted to the crime, bragged about it, or professed the sentiment that they "would do it again."
While torture has been a violation of international law and U.S. treaty obligations, and a felony under U.S. law, since before George W. Bush moved into the White House, indictments have not been forthcoming. Instead, a series of investigations and reports, and censorship thereof, have generated stories around the possibility that individuals might have done what we've already seen them confess to on camera.
Questioned on CBS Evening News on Monday, Giardino became agitated. "Look," he said, "if we just put out the sort of fact-based news that bloggers say they want, we'd be describing top authorities in this country as routine violators of the law. We have to find a balance between straight-forward reporting and the understanding that we aren't locking up presidents and CIA directors because the investigations are ongoing. And when the investigations are ongoing for years and years and years, then breaking the same news more than once is actually more accurate than inventing new details that haven't taken place."
During the past eight years, thousands of U.S. news reports have discussed the possibility of criminalizing torture, without noting that it already is criminal. Frank Cretino, associate editor of the Washington Post, defends this record, saying, "The fact that torture is already banned does not negate the act of banning it, particularly as most people do not know it is already banned. Of course, we could so inform our readers, but that would be like noting that politicians take bribes, or indicating wherever relevant that our owner makes more money from the CIA than from our paper, or recognizing that torture is just one aspect of a collection of actions made criminal by the illegality of the wars they are part of, or pointing out to people that the date is April 1 at the beginning of a story.
Urge the ending of war these days and you'll very quickly hear two words: "Hitler" and "Rwanda." While World War II killed some 70 million people, it's the killing of some 6 to 10 million (depending on who's included) that carries the name Holocaust. Never mind that the United States and its allies refused to help those people before the war or to halt the war to save them or to prioritize helping them when the war ended -- or even to refrain from letting the Pentagon hire some of their killers. Never mind that saving the Jews didn't become a purpose for WWII until long after the war was over. Propose eliminating war from the world and your ears will ring with the name that Hillary Clinton calls Vladimir Putin and that John Kerry calls Bashar al Assad.
Get past Hitler, and shouts of "We must prevent another Rwanda!" will stop you in your tracks, unless your education has overcome a nearly universal myth that runs as follows. In 1994, a bunch of irrational Africans in Rwanda developed a plan to eliminate a tribal minority and carried out their plan to the extent of slaughtering over a million people from that tribe -- for purely irrational motivations of tribal hatred. The U.S. government had been busy doing good deeds elsewhere and not paying enough attention until it was too late. The United Nations knew what was happening but refused to act, due to its being a large bureaucracy inhabited by weak-willed non-Americans. But, thanks to U.S. efforts, the criminals were prosecuted, refugees were allowed to return, and democracy and European enlightenment were brought belatedly to the dark valleys of Rwanda.
Something like this myth is in the minds of those who shout for attacks on Libya or Syria or the Ukraine under the banner of "Not another Rwanda!" The thinking would be hopelessly sloppy even if based on facts. The idea that SOMETHING was needed in Rwanda morphs into the idea that heavy bombing was needed in Rwanda which slides effortlessly into the idea that heavy bombing is needed in Libya. The result is the destruction of Libya. But the argument is not for those who pay attention to what was happening in and around Rwanda before or since 1994. It's a momentary argument meant to apply only to a moment. Never mind why Gadaffi was transformed from a Western ally into a Western enemy, and never mind what the war left behind. Pay no attention to how World War I was ended and how many wise observers predicted World War II at that time. The point is that a Rwanda was going to happen in Libya (unless you look at the facts too closely) and it did not happen. Case closed. Next victim.
Edward Herman highly recommends a book by Robin Philpot called Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa: From Tragedy to Useful Imperial Fiction, and so do I. Philpot opens with U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's comment that "the genocide in Rwanda was one hundred percent the responsibility of the Americans!" How could that be? Americans are not to blame for how things are in backward parts of the world prior to their "interventions." Surely Mr. double Boutros has got his chronology wrong. Too much time spent in those U.N. offices with foreign bureaucrats no doubt. And yet, the facts -- not disputed claims but universally agreed upon facts that are simply deemphasized by many -- say otherwise.
The United States backed an invasion of Rwanda on October 1, 1990, by a Ugandan army led by U.S.-trained killers, and supported their attack on Rwanda for three-and-a-half years. The Rwandan government, in response, did not follow the model of the U.S. internment of Japanese during World War II, or of U.S. treatment of Muslims for the past 12 years. Nor did it fabricate the idea of traitors in its midst, as the invading army in fact had 36 active cells of collaborators in Rwanda. But the Rwandan government did arrest 8,000 people and hold them for a few days to six-months. Africa Watch (later Human Rights Watch/Africa) declared this a serious violation of human rights, but had nothing to say about the invasion and war. Alison Des Forges of Africa Watch explained that good human rights groups "do not examine the issue of who makes war. We see war as an evil and we try to prevent the existence of war from being an excuse for massive human rights violations."
The war killed many people, whether or not those killings qualified as human rights violations. People fled the invaders, creating a huge refugee crisis, ruined agriculture, wrecked economy, and shattered society. The United States and the West armed the warmakers and applied additional pressure through the World Bank, IMF, and USAID. And among the results of the war was increased hostility between Hutus and Tutsis. Eventually the government would topple. First would come the mass slaughter known as the Rwandan Genocide. And before that would come the murder of two presidents. At that point, in April 1994, Rwanda was in chaos almost on the level of post-liberation Iraq or Libya.
One way to have prevented the slaughter would have been to not support the war. Another way to have prevented the slaughter would have been to not support the assassination of the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi on April 6, 1994. The evidence points strongly to the U.S.-backed and U.S.-trained war-maker Paul Kagame -- now president of Rwanda -- as the guilty party. While there is no dispute that the presidents' plane was shot down, human rights groups and international bodies have simply referred in passing to a "plane crash" and refused to investigate.
A third way to have prevented the slaughter, which began immediately upon news of the presidents' assassinations, might have been to send in U.N. peacekeepers (not the same thing as Hellfire missiles, be it noted), but that was not what Washington wanted, and the U.S. government worked against it. What the Clinton administration was after was putting Kagame in power. Thus the resistance to calling the slaughter a "genocide" (and sending in the U.N.) until blaming that crime on the Hutu-dominated government became seen as useful. The evidence assembled by Philpot suggests that the "genocide" was not so much planned as erupted following the shooting down of the plane, was politically motivated rather than simply ethnic, and was not nearly as one-sided as generally assumed.
Moreover, the killing of civilians in Rwanda has continued ever since, although the killing has been much more heavy in neighboring Congo, where Kagame's government took the war -- with U.S. aid and weapons and troops -- and bombed refugee camps killing some million people. The excuse for going into the Congo has been the hunt for Rwandan war criminals. The real motivation has been Western control and profits. War in the Congo has continued to this day, leaving some 6 million dead -- the worst killing since the 70 million of WWII. And yet nobody ever says "We must prevent another Congo!"