Blogs

Sep
19

The African American History Missing from the Smithsonian

Tag: Culture and Society, Media, Peace and War

The new corporate-funded African-American History museum in Washington, D.C., built on the former site of Camp Democracy and all sorts of protests and festivals, is getting a great deal of purely positive press before its doors have opened.

This press and the museum's own website suggest that the museum covers slavery, Jim Crow, racism, sports, and entertainment, but doesn't step out of the mold set by the Smithsonian when it celebrated the Enola Gay or began letting war profiteers fund and shape the exhibits in the Air and Space Museum or in the American History Museum, which has gone out of its way to glorify war.

The New York Times informs us about the new museum: "Above ground, the museum departs from the chronological narrative to examine African-American achievements in fields like music, art, sports and the military. Visitors can tour these brighter third-floor and fourth-floor themed Culture and Community galleries without venturing into the harsher history sections below."

Get it? War is part of a well-rounded liberal life alongside music and sports, unlike those "harsh" bits of history. The new museum's website promotes "Military" as a category of exhibit item. Click it and you'll find 162 things including smiling portraits of soldiers in uniforms, medals, letters, hats, binoculars, propaganda posters, etc. If you search the site for "Peace" you find one photo of an unidentified man wearing a peace sign necklace and one photo of unidentified men holding up a giant peace sign.

We know that Marin Luther King Jr. is to be found in the new museum, but we don't know if he's the corporate-approved Martin Luther King Jr. who opposed racism but never noticed war. We know that Muhammad Ali shows up in the sports section along with his head-gear and gloves. We don't know if his reasons for refusing the Vietnam War draft are included.

African Americans have been a major part of resistance to war, especially from the Korean War through the nomination of Barack Obama for president. Some of this history is told by Kimberley Phillips who will be speaking in Washington, D.C., as the museum opens, but speaking at a conference at American University called No War 2016.

Does the Smithsonian touch on African-American resistance to wars on Africa or the growth of Africom? Also speaking at No War 2016 will be Maurice Carney of Friends of the Congo. Is the story his group tells in the film Crisis in the Congo told by the Smithsonian? Also speaking on a panel on racism and war at No War 2016 will be Bill Fletcher Jr. and Darakshan Raja. Where is their wisdom at the Smithsonian? Where is any history of the ties between a racist foreign policy and domestic racism? What is the relationship between racism and war propaganda? I wouldn't enter the new museum holding your breath until you find that exhibit.

What public service is being offered by a museum that celebrates the Tuskeegee Airmen but thus far has given no public indication that it will explore the significance of the Tuskeegee Syphilis Experiment? Bombing foreigners who engage in human experimentation makes a better story than just bombing foreigners while engaging in human experimentation. The story can be told with the flaws of segregation, later remedied or in the process of quickly being repaired. There is value in that story. It's not without its merits. But it is fundamentally false and may just get us all killed.

Sep
19

The Great Dismal World Outside the Swamp

Tag: Culture and Society

The Smithsonian magazine recently published an article about the Great Dismal Swamp. I picked up the book that the article is based on, but the article does a better job of telling the story; I don't recommend the book.

The Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia and North Carolina appears to have been a place where African, European, and Native Americans found refuge from slavery, indenture, and genocide -- and not just momentary refuge, but permanent settlement that lasted for centuries with little interaction with the outside world -- but also little written record or record of any kind.

Daniel O. Sayers has been digging into the ground of the Great Dismal Swamp since 2003 and bringing out tiny specks of evidence. His conclusion that "some of the most successful and transformative social radicals of the modern era have gone unnoticed and unrecognized for centuries," is based on one very brief second-hand comment that people worked together and treated each other well in the Swamp, plus a good deal of circular reasoning: Because a small group separated from modern enterprise would likely behave as most small groups do and would lack modern enterprise, or because a group of African-Americans would likely rely on some African traditions, Sayers can conclude that the Swamp dwellers lived more communally than did those on the outside.

Sep
16

War Is Never Just: The End of "Just War" Theory

Tag: Peace and War

Several weeks back I was invited to speak this coming October at a U.S. university on ending war and making peace. As I often do, I asked whether the organizers couldn't try to find a supporter of war with whom I could debate or discuss the topic, thus (I hoped) bringing in a larger audience of people not yet persuaded of the need to abolish the institution of warfare.

As had never happened before, the event organizers not only said yes but actually found a war supporter willing to take part in a public debate. Great! I thought, this will make for a more persuasive event. I read my future interlocutor's books and papers, and I drafted my position, arguing that his "Just War" theory could not hold up to scrutiny, that in fact no war could be "just."

Rather than planning to surprise my "just war" debate opponent with my arguments, I sent him what I had written so that he could plan his responses and perhaps contribute them to a published, written exchange. But, rather than respond on topic, he suddenly announced that he had "professional and personal obligations" that would prevent his taking part in the event in October. Sigh!

But the best event organizers ever have already found a replacement. So the debate will go forward at St. Michael's College, Colchester, VT, on October 5th. Meanwhile, I have just published as a book my argument that war is never just. You can be the first to buy it, read it, or review it here.

Sep
15

Who Killed the People of California? Should Kaepernick Protest His Uniform?

Tag: Civil Rights, Culture and Society, Peace and War

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been given much deserved credit for protesting racism by sitting out the Star Spangled Banner, which not only glorifies war (which everyone, including Kaepernick is totally cool with) but also includes racism in an unsung verse and was written by a racist slave owner whose earlier version had included anti-Muslim bigotry. As long as we're opening our eyes to unpleasant history hiding in plain sight, it's worth asking why the 49ers is not a team name that everyone associates with genocide. Why isn't Kaepernick protesting his uniform?

Of course, protesting one injustice is worthy of infinite thanks, and I don't actually expect anyone who speaks out on one thing to also protest everything else. But I've just read a terrific new book that I suspect unearths a history that most Californians are largely unaware of. The book is An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873, by Benjamin Madley, from Yale University Press. I doubt I've seen a better researched and documented book on anything ever. While the book maintains an engaging chronological account, and while there is plenty of uncertainty in the records used, the 198 pages of appendices listing particular killings, and the 73 pages of notes back up an overwhelming case of genocide by the UN's legal definition.

Sep
15

Paying the Price for Peace to be screened with the director at UVA on 9/29

Tag: Peace and War

WHAT: Screening of Paying the Price for Peace: The Story of S. Brian Willson, and discussion with the director Bo Boudart and with peace activist David Swanson. See http://payingthepriceforpeace.com

WHEN: 7-11 p.m., Thursday, September 29

WHERE: Commonwealth Room, Newcomb Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

HOST: Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine

COSPONSORS: World Beyond War, RootsAction.org, and the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Charlottesville Friends Meeting. (More welcome!)

COST: No one turned away. Donation appreciated: $10, or $20 to leave with a copy of the DVD. Donations pay for Bo Boudart's travel. You can also donate at http://payingthepriceforpeace.com

Please sign up on Facebook if you want to come, and please share it to spread the word: https://www.facebook.com/events/1591911061110859

Please retweet this tweet: https://twitter.com/davidcnswanson/status/776406756939399168

 

 

Sep
14

Suing Saudi: Congress Is Right, Stephen Kinzer Is Wrong

Tag: Impeachment, Peace and War, Political Ideas, Prosecution

Now there you have two things that I never expected to write. How often is Congress right about anything or Stephen Kinzer wrong? Congress wants 9/11 victims' families to be able to sue Saudi Arabia for its role in those crimes. Kinzer does not.

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Sep
13

Talk Nation Radio: Elizabeth Murray and John Kiriakou on Working in a Corrupt Government and Whistleblowing

Tag: Peace and War, Political Ideas, Talk Nation Radio

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tnr-elizabeth-murray-and-john-kiriakou-on-working-in-a-corrupt-government-and-whistleblowing

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer, who in 2007 became the first U.S. Government official to publicly confirm and describe CIA use of waterboarding on al-Qaeda prisoners, which he described as torture. In January 2013, Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison and was released after serving more than 23 months. Since then, he has become a tireless writer and speaker on whistleblowing, torture, and civil liberties. Kiriakou is the sole U.S. Government official to have been jailed for any reason relating to CIA torture – a victim of the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on government truth-tellers. When President Obama openly acknowledged at a White House press conference on August 1, 2014, “We tortured some folks,” John was in prison for having said essentially the same thing seven years earlier.

Elizabeth Murray served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government. She is a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), and of Sam Adams Associates. She writes for Consortium News.

Murray and Kiriakou will be speaking at No War 2016. See http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2016

Total run time: 29:00

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

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Sep
10

Snowden: Best Film of the Year

Tag: Art, Culture and Society, Political Ideas

Snowden is the most entertaining, informing, and important film you are likely to see this year.

It's the true story of an awakening. It traces the path of Edward Snowden's career in the U.S. military, the CIA, the NSA, and at various contractors thereof. It also traces the path of Edward Snowden's agonizingly slow awakening to the possibility that the U.S. government might sometimes be wrong, corrupt, or criminal. And of course the film takes us through Snowden's courageous and principled act of whistleblowing.

We see in the film countless colleagues of Snowden's who knew much of what he knew and did not blow the whistle. We see a few help him and others appreciate him. But they themselves do nothing. Snowden is one of the exceptions. Other exceptions who preceded him and show up in the film include William Binney, Ed Loomis, Kirk Wiebe, and Thomas Drake. Most people are not like these men. Most people obey illegal orders without ever making a peep.

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