You are hereBlogs
Have you seen Dahr Jamail's report on U.S. military plans for war games in Washington state? I'm sure some observers imagine that the military is simply looking for a place to engage in safe and responsible and needed practice in hand-to-hand combat against incoming North Korean nuclear missiles, or perhaps to rehearse a humanitarian invasion of Russia to uphold the fundamental international law against Vladimir Putin's existence.
But if you look over the history of domestic use of the U.S. military -- such as by reading the new book Soldiers on the Home Front: The Domestic Role of the American Military -- it's hard not to wonder whether, from the U.S. military's point of view, at least a side benefit of the coming war game isn't rehearsing for the next time citizens in kayaks interfere with a corporation intent on poisoning the earth's climate with fossil fuels.
Soldiers on the Home Front is almost rah-rah enthusiastic in its support for the U.S. military: "Our task here is to celebrate the U.S. military's profound historical and continuing contribution to domestic tranquility, while at the same time ... ." Yet it tells a story of two centuries of the U.S. military and state militias and the National Guard being used to suppress dissent, eliminate labor rights, deny civil liberties, attack Native Americans, and abuse African Americans. Even the well-known restrictions on military use put into law and often ignored -- such as the Posse Comitatus Act -- were aimed at allowing, not preventing, the abuse of African Americans. The story is one of gradually expanding presidential power, both in written law and in practice, with the latter far outpacing the former.
Some of us are grateful to see restraint in the approach to the men occupying a federal facility in Oregon. But we are horrified by the lack of similar restraint in using the military or militarized police against peaceful protesters in U.S. cities. Police departments as we know them simply did not exist when the U.S. Constitution -- virtually unaltered since -- was cobbled together in an age of muskets, slavery, and genocide. Among the developments that concern me far more than the authors of Soldiers on the Home Front:
Numerous drills and practices, and the locking down of Boston, desensitizing people to the presence of the U.S. military on our streets.
Congress members threatened with martial law if they vote against their oligarchs.
The legalization of lawless military imprisonment without charge or trial for U.S. citizens or anyone else.
The legalization of murder by drone or any other technology of U.S. citizens or anyone else, with arguments that apply within the Homeland just as anywhere else, though we've been told all the murders have been abroad.
Nuclear weapons illegally flown across the country and left unguarded.
Mercenaries on the streets of New Orleans after a hurricane.
Northcom given legal power to illegally act within the United States against the people of the United States.
Fusion centers blurring all lines between military and domestic government violence.
Secret and not-so-secret continuity of government plans that could put martial law in place at the decision of a president or in the absence of a president.
The militarization of the Mexican border.
The gruesome history and future of the attack on the Bonus Army, the bombing of West Virginia, Operation Northwoods, tin soldiers and Nixon coming, and Franklin Roosevelt's actual and Donald Trump's possible internment camps.
The authors of Soldiers on the Home Front claim that we must balance all such dangers with the supposed need for a military to address "storms, earthquakes, cyber attacks ..., bioterrorism." Why must we? None of these threats can be best addressed by people trained and armed to kill and destroy. When only such people have funding and numbers and equipment, they can look preferable to nothing. But what if we had an unarmed, nonviolent green energy brigade taking on the protection of the climate, and non-military police ready to enforce laws in crises, a major new Civilian Conservation Corps trained and equipped and funded to provide emergency services, a computer whiz team dedicated to fending off cyber attacks and preventing their ongoing provocation by U.S. government cyber attackers, a publicly funded healthcare system prepared for health emergencies, and a State Department redirected away from weapons marketing and into a new project of building respectful and cooperative relations with the world?
If the United States were to move from militarism to all of the above, the main problem would be what to do with all of the remaining money.
Cynthia McKinney has served in the Georgia State Legislature and the United States Congress where she voted against NAFTA, opposed the war on Iraq, and introduced the first resolution for the impeachment of George W. Bush.
She didn't leave Congress until Diebold voting machines flipped votes away from her right in front of voters' eyes.
She has been a Green Party candidate for U.S. President.
She recently completed a PhD in Leadership and Change.
Read her dissertation: “El No Murio, El Se Multiplico!” Hugo Chávez : The Leadership and the Legacy on Race
And her books:
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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
In the United States it's not actually difficult to find significant funding with which to research new and innovative -- not to say bizarre and absurd -- pursuits, as long as they form part of an overall project of mass murder.
The United States has hundreds of programs at universities, think tanks, and research institutes that claim to devote their attention to “security” and “defense” studies. Yet in almost all of these programs that receive many millions of dollars in Federal funding, the vast majority of research, advocacy and instruction have nothing to do with climate change, the most serious threat to security of our age.
Hence the need for this petition to the U.S. Congress: End federal funding for security and defense programs at universities and think tanks that do not take climate change as their primary subject for research and for instruction. All universities, think tanks and research institutes that claim to be concerned with “security” or “defense” research must devote at least 70% of their resources to work on the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change, or lose their eligibility for Federal funding.
This excellent proposal originated with Emanuel Yi Pastreich, Director of The Asia Institute. Other signers, including myself: David Swanson, Director, World Beyond War; John Kiriakou, Associate fellow, Institute for Policy Studies; John Feffer, Director, Foreign Policy in Focus; Norman Solomon, Cofounder, RootsAction.org; Coleen Rowley, Retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis Division legal counsel.
Why do we think this is important? Why do we plan to deliver the petition to the Senate Committee on Armed Services and the House Armed Services Committee? Here's why:
In an act of profound intellectual irresponsibility, so-called scholars of "security studies" spend their hours imagining fantastic military scenarios, rather than responding to the incontrovertible threat of climate change which scientists have unanimously identified as a reality.
We cannot waste any more of our tax dollars on security and defense studies that fail to address the primary threat to the well-being of the United States, and of the world.
The time has come to put an end to this insanity. We demand that all programs of defense and security studies in the United States identify in their statement of purpose climate change as the primary security threat to the United States and that they dedicate at least 70% of their budgets to research, teaching and advocacy to the critical topics of mitigation of (primarily) and adaptation to (secondarily) climate change.
Any program that fails to focus on climate change in this manner should lose its status for Federal funding.
Mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change should be the primary concerns for all in security and defense field studies. Obviously other security issues deserve study, but granted the fact that the cost of climate change will run in the trillions of dollars over the next decade, and even more beyond then, we do not have the funds to support programs that are not dedicated to addressing this immediate threat.
I don't know where this will end but every time I write about a book on Bernie Sanders, somebody sends me a larger one. At least my arms are getting stronger from lifting the things. One point is clear to me: if the media ever wanted to catch up on all the coverage of Bernie's campaign that it has foregone, it could do it with a minimum-wage staffer reading aloud from books -- reducing the need to find corporations opposed to oligarchy to buy the advertisements. The reporting is in books, it's just not in newspapers or boob tubes.
The latest is Bernie: A Lifelong Crusade Against Wall Street & Wealth by Darcy G. Richardson. Like the last one was, it is now the most substantial reporting I've seen on Bernie's political career. It also does the most to include the voices of Bernie's critics from the left (see Chapter 1). In addition it, by far, includes the most information on Bernie's foreign policy actions, good and bad, over the decades. The book is a bit too heavy on horse-race coverage of each of Sanders' past elections for my taste, but people who like that stuff will eat it up.
Having written elsewhere today about public diplomacy by towns and cities, I was particularly struck by Richardson's chapter titled "International Diplomacy," which covers, not Bernie's career in Washington, but his time as mayor of Burlington, Vt. It is safe to say that when it comes to foreign policy Bernie was better then than he is now, was better then than any current mayor in the United States, and was better then than possibly any other mayor ever. I say that while continuing to condemn the horrible things he did, including arresting peace activists for demanding conversion of weapons jobs to peaceful ones.
Mayor Bernie denounced the Pentagon budget, explained its local relevance, demanded nuclear disarmament, opposed apartheid in South Africa, and sought to improve U.S.-Soviet relations. "We're spending billions on military," he said, touching on a theme that today he wouldn't prod with a $10 billion screw out of an F-35. "Why can't we take some of that money to pay for thousands of U.S. children to go to the Soviet Union? And, why can't the Soviets take money they're spending on arms and use it to send thousands of Russian children to America?"
Mayor Bernie backed a successful ballot initiative telling the U.S. military to get out of El Salvador. He denounced the U.S. attack on Grenada. The Burlington Board of Alderman voted to encourage trade between Burlington and Nicaragua, in defiance of President Ronald Reagan's embargo. Mayor Bernie accepted an invitation from the Nicaraguan government to visit Nicaragua, where he spoke out against U.S. war mongering, and from which he returned to a speaking tour letting Vermonters know what he's seen and learned. He had also set up a sister city relationship for Burlington with a city in Nicaragua. He led an effort that provided $100,000 in aid to that city.
Again, articulating basic common sense wisdom that he wouldn't come near today for love or the presidency, Mayor Bernie Sanders said, "Instead of invading Nicaragua and spending tremendous amounts of tax dollars on a war there, money which could be much better used at home, it seems to me that it would be worthwhile for us to get to know the people of Nicaragua, understand their problems and concerns, and see how we can transform the present tension-filled relationship into a positive one based on mutual respect." Just try to imagine Senator Sanders saying that about the people of Syria or Iraq.
Richardson's book is of course largely devoted to the topic of taking on Wall Street greed, on which Sanders has been stellar and consistent for years and years. But we do also catch glimpses of Sanders' evolving foreign policy from his opposition to the war on Vietnam (which was more serious than other books have suggested) through to his proposal that Saudi Arabia "get its hands dirty" and kill more people. At the time of the Gulf War, Sanders was far more hawkish than a simple look at his No vote on invasion suggests. He supported the troop build up and the deadly embargo. He backed the NATO bombing in Kosovo. He opposed until very late any efforts to impeach Bush or Cheney.
But on the matter of Wall Street, Sanders has been as good in the past as he was in this week's speech. He warned of the danger of a crash years before it came, and questioned people like Alan Greenspan who brushed all worries aside. He opposed repealing Glass-Steagall. He opposed credit default swap scams. He opposed the appointments of Timothy Geithner and Jack Lew. His "big short" was perhaps to stay in politics until it became clear to all sane people that he'd been right on these matters, as on NAFTA and so much else. His favorite book in college, we learn, was Looking Backward. He found the root of most problems in capitalism. He developed a consistent ideology that makes his growing acceptance of militarism stand out as uniquely opportunistic and false.
By that I most certainly do not mean that he is a candidate for peace strategically pretending to be for war, as many voters told themselves about Barack Obama on even less basis. When Bernie was good on foreign policy he campaigned promising to be good on foreign policy. As his performance worsened, so did his campaign promises. Any elected official can be moved by public pressure, of course, but first he'd have to be elected and then we'd have to move him -- something millions of people have taken a principled stand against even trying with President Obama.
One note in Sanders' defense: Richardson cites a rightwing newspaper article claiming that Bernie and his wife together are in the top 2 percent of income earners. It's worth noting that were that true it would not put them anywhere at all near the top 2 percent in accumulated wealth. It also seems to be an extreme estimate on behalf of the author of a sloppy article. Another source places the Sanders in the top 5 percent in income, while noting how extremely impoverished that leaves them by the standards of the U.S. Senate.
What if the very worst result of George W. Bush's war lies is that people stop taking seriously the danger of actual nuclear weapons actually falling into the hands of actual lunatics? Arguably the very worst result of Woodrow Wilson's lies about German atrocities in World War I was excessive skepticism about reports of Nazi atrocities leading up to and during World War II. The fact is that nuclear weapons are being recklessly maintained, built, developed, tested, and proliferated. The fact is that governments make mistakes, fail, collapse, and engage in evil actions.
By Dick Cheney's calculation, if there was a 1% chance that a pile of ridiculous lies was true, it justified all out war on the world, destabilizing a region, killing and making homeless millions, and birthing radical new terrorist forces. By my calculation, there is a 100% chance that if we continue current nuclear policies, sooner or later, a huge number of people -- quite possibly all people -- will die, many of them with melted skin, eyes hanging out of their sockets, noses burnt off, and screams of bitter envy for those already dead. Surely this justifies some slight action of some sort, apart from more fracking or building internment camps for Muslims.
I say that's my calculation, but the idea actually arises -- one of many -- from my reading of an excellent book called City, Save Thyself! Nuclear Terror and the Urban Ballot. It was written by David Wylie, a former Cambridge, Mass., city councilor who helped initiate the first municipal Commission on Peace and Disarmament, the twenty U.S.-Soviet Sister City alliances, and an urban referendum effort against nuclear weapons.
What if we were to confront real dangers of nuclear apocalypse and climate apocalypse without the fear that produces stupidity, but with smart strategic action aimed at substantive change? That brings me to a second favorite idea from Wylie's book, and what I take to be his central proposal. Democratic people power is the force that can put a halt to the war profiteers and weapons proliferators. Democratic people power can best be created at the level of towns and cities. Towns and cities of the world can together form a federalist structure of global power of the sort that nations will never produce and which the United Nations has fervently resisted since its creation.
Do you live in a town or city in the United States? When you organize, are you able in some small way to influence your local government? Would people in your town be willing to communicate with people in a foreign town, perhaps a largely Muslim foreign town? Would people in your town be interested in a world that reduced and eliminated weapons of mass destruction? Would people in your town appreciate major new resources for education, infrastructure, green energy, and jobs -- resources that would become available with reductions in military spending? Would the people of your city like to tell the people of a foreign nation that, despite many differences and mutual ignorance of each other, you'd prefer not to see the U.S. military bomb them, and you'd in fact like to get to know them better through cultural exchanges and joint action as members of a global security committee?
None of this is far fetched. Cities and towns are in fact where it is entirely possible to get things done. While activist groups focus their efforts on doomed bills in Congress, U.S. cities are taking huge strides on election reform, green energy, education, voting rights, etc. We need to shift our worldviews to properly pursue this course. We need to stop identifying ourselves by the name of a nation, and instead think of ourselves in terms of our towns and the world. There is overwhelming evidence that redirecting political engagement from national advocacy that almost always fails into local advocacy that often works would be less a redirection of a finite amount of civic action and more a generation of vast new quantities of popular democratic work.
Sister and twin cities, Mayors for Peace, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, the League of Historical Cities, and other such organizations point to the potential for giving local political strength a broader grip on the world. Communication across distances and languages is growing easier by the minute. Agreement that our communities would be better off not burned to the ground by either bombs or climate chaos is among the easiest and least controversial notions available to be proposed to a diverse group of democratic-spirited representatives from planet earth.
Here in Charlottesville, Virginia, I, as a Charlottesvillian and World Citizen, am pleased to report that our local city council has in recent years passed resolutions against possible wars on various countries, including Iraq and Iran, in favor of conversion to peaceful industries, and against the use of drones. Our city council, like most, routinely informs its state general assembly of its wishes. And the influence of the city's official voice does not end there. Cville's past resolutions on Iraq, military spending, uranium, and other matters have inspired other localities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to raise their voices as well. Some of these resolutions have been directed to the federal government, to which the residents of Charlottesville pay taxes and whose laws the residents of Charlottesville are subject to.
This is how our federalist republic is supposed to work. City council members in Virginia take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Cities and towns routinely send petitions to Congress for all kinds of requests. This is allowed under Clause 3, Rule XII, Section 819, of the Rules of the House of Representatives. This clause is routinely used to accept petitions from cities, and memorials from states, all across the United States. The same is established in the Jefferson Manual, the rule book for the House originally written by Thomas Jefferson for the Senate.
In 1967 a court in California ruled (Farley v. Healey , 67 Cal.2d 325) that "one of the purposes of local government is to represent its citizens before the Congress, the Legislature, and administrative agencies in matters over which the local government has no power. Even in matters of foreign policy it is not uncommon for local legislative bodies to make their positions known."
Abolitionists passed local resolutions against U.S. policies on slavery. The anti-apartheid movement did the same, as did the nuclear freeze movement, the movement against the PATRIOT Act, the movement in favor of the Kyoto Protocol, etc. We are not an island. If we become environmentally sustainable, others will ruin our climate. If we ban assault weapons, they'll arrive at our borders. And if the skies of the United States are filled with drones, it will become ever more difficult for Charlottesville to keep them out.
Wylie's proposal would further empower my city and thousands of other cities, each of which would appoint a representative to a global body. If nations won't protect the climate, cities of the world can nonetheless agree to do so. If nations won't resolve disputes by peaceful means, cities can nonetheless make that happen. If nations won't invest in peaceful industries, cities and towns can nonetheless create programs of economic conversion to industries that provide greater economic benefit while also reducing the chances of violent death by nuclear hell fire.
Wylie's proposal should be read in its entirety in his book, which outlines numerous ways for cities to advance this process, including ways to encourage and recognize world citizens, and to encourage and recognize world cities. Cities can also use referenda, rather than council votes, to give democratic weight and wisdom to their actions. And national politicians who denounce the broken system they are part of can take actions to strengthen the local-level system that still has life in it.
The proposal here is not to risk federal prosecution by secretly negotiating with foreign national governments. Rather the idea is to risk an outbreak of peace and mutual understanding by publicly interacting with local governments from one's own and other parts of the world. This public diplomacy could be truly public in the sense of publishing full video of all of its interactions on the public internet. (An outline for such transparency can be found in the remnants of broken campaign promises from a certain national U.S. political candidate of 2008.)
Wylie's book is a guide to action and includes in it a model letter to your local mayor or city council, a model resolution, a model agenda for a first meeting of a municipal security assembly, and a rich bibliography for deeper understanding of how to make this work. I highly recommend it.
The United States' 20 wealthiest people (The 0.000006 Percent) now own more wealth than the bottom half of the U.S. population combined, a total of 152 million people in 57 million households. The Forbes 400 now own about as much wealth as the nation's entire African-American population — plus more than a third of the Latino population — combined; more wealth combined than the bottom 61 percent of the U.S. population, an estimated 194 million people or 70 million households.
These stats are from the Middle Ages and also from the Institute for Policy Studies which acknowledges that much wealth is hidden offshore and the reality is likely even worse.
What did those 20 wealthiest, most meritorious people do to deserve such disgusting riches? The group includes four Wal-Mart heirs, three Mars candy heirs, and two Koch brother heirs. They earned their wealth by being born to wealthy parents, just like some who want to work for them, such as Donald Trump. One politician is actually one of them: Michael Bloomberg.
These individuals could fund a total shift to clean energy or end starvation on earth or eradicate diseases. That they choose not to is murderous and shameful. It's not their sacred right. It's not cute. And it's not funny when one of them pretends to give his money away by giving it to himself.
The 0.000006 Percent has a tight grip on the media as well, with Jeff Bezos owning the Washington Post and Amazon, Sheldon Adelson buying newspapers, Mark Zuckerberg owning Facebook, Larry Page and Sergey Brin with Google, Warren Buffet owning whole chains of newspapers, and again Bloomberg with Bloomberg News.
In the first phase of the 2016 Presidential election cycle, according to the New York Times, 158 wealthy donors provided half of all campaign contributions, 138 of them backing Republicans, 20 backing Democrats. No candidate can easily compete without huge amounts of money. And if you get it from small donors, as Bernie Sanders has done the most of, you'll be largely shut out of free media coverage, and belittled in the bit of coverage you're granted. The media coverage, the debate questions, and the topics discussed are determined by the interests of the wealthy in this national oligarchy.
Then there's the corrupt foundation money and speaking fees flowing into the Clinton family from wealthy sources in the U.S. and abroad. While most Americans are unable to sit through a full presidential debate, Wall Street, Big Pharma, and corporate technology interests have shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars supposedly just to hear Hillary or Bill Clinton speak.
According to a new report by Consortium News, Hillary Clinton took in $11.8 million in 51 speaking fees between January 2014 to May 2015. Bill Clinton delivered 53 paid speeches to bring in $13.3 million during that same period. That's over $25 million total, largely if not entirely from wealthy parties with a strong interest in influencing U.S. government policy.
This system of rewarding former politicians is one of the great corrupting forces in Washington, DC, but the revolving door that brings such politicians back into power makes it many times worse.
According to the Washington Post, since 1974 the Clintons have raised at least $3 billion, including at least $69 million just from the employees and PACs of banks, insurance companies, and securities and investment firms.
According to the International Business Times, the Clintons' foundation took in money from foreign nations while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, nations such as Saudi Arabia for which she then waived restrictions on U.S. weapons sales. (Also on that list: Algeria, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar.) I brought this up on a recent television program, and one of the other guests protested that I was not, at that moment, criticizing Donald Trump. But, even if we assume Trump is the worst person on earth, what has he done that is worse than taking a bribe to supply Saudi Arabia with the weapons that have since been used to slaughter children in Yemen? And what does Trump have to do with bribery? He's self-corrupted. He's in the race because of the financial barrier keeping decent people out. But he hasn't been bribed to act like a fascist.
The Wall Street Journal reports that during the same period, Bill Clinton was bringing in big speaking fees from companies, groups, and a foreign government with interests in influencing the U.S. State Department. Eight-digit donors to the Clintons' foundations include Saudi Arabia and Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk. Seven digit donors include: Kuwait, Exxon Mobil, Friends of Saudi Arabia, James Murdoch (son of Rupert), Qatar, Boeing, Dow, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart and the United Arab Emirates. Those chipping in at least half a million include Bank of America, Chevron, Monsanto, Citigroup, and the Soros Foundation. And they don't even get a speech!
Sign this petition:
We urge the Clintons to clear their corrupted image by donating their $25 million in recent lecture fees to organizations legitimately working for campaign finance reform, Wall Street reform, environmental protection, and peace.
There’s a terrific new book on abolishing war called Abolishing War: Criminalizing War, Removing War Causes, Removing War as Institution. The authors are Johan Galtung, Erika Degortes, Irene Galtung, Malvin Gattinger, and Naakow Grant-Hayford. Johan Galtung, who was recently on my radio show, is brilliant as always, drawing on vast knowledge and wisdom.
As the book’s subtitle suggests, it proposes three types of approaches to eliminating war: “three approaches to have war join slavery and colonization in the dust-bin of history. No question of picking and choosing, they belong together and the more seamlessly, the better.” I couldn’t agree more, and will be drawing on the ideas in this book in the work we do at World Beyond War.
The book’s longest section is on criminalizing war, and it offers an argument I haven’t seen before. I think there’s great value in the argument, and that it can augment others. Nonetheless, I’m going to quibble with it.
Here is a book that practically quotes the arguments of the Outlawrists of the 1920s without mentioning them. It recommends, as its first recommended course of action right on the inside of the front cover, recreating Japan’s Article 9 for all states. And yet it largely ignores and bizarrely dismisses the existence of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, from which Article 9 derives (and which it practically quotes) and which already applies to most large nations.
The book’s second recommendation is to somehow build on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ “implicit” criminalization of war. Nowhere is it explained how an implicit criminalization of war is more useful than an explicit one. In fact, Irene Galtung rather wistfully imagines how nice it would be to have an explicit one. Nowhere is the problem mentioned that the United Nations, as “implicit” criminalizer of war, legalizes defensive and otherwise UN-authorized wars — two loopholes that have been stretched and abused to effectively allow any Western war whatsoever. This is, of course, in contrast to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which bans all war and requires that nations settle all of their disputes entirely peacefully.
In the one instance where the book refers to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, it claims that, “this opens two huge loop-holes: use of force by non-members, and by and on non-states.” There are a number of errors in this claim. One of them is chronological. There were no laws banning war prior to Kellogg-Briand. In forbidding war between nations, the pact took war away in many cases from many major wagers of war. The pact was open to and remains open to all nations. Any nation that is not a member can simply send a letter to the U.S. State Department and instantly become a member. So, the so-called loophole for non-members is one that has been closing and could close further, but it wasn’t opened by the pact. War was legal for all states against all states prior to 1928.
What about non-states? The states that made the pact considered, and still to this day consider, war by non-states to be illegal. In fact, they consider illegal almost any action, if not the very existence, of most entities that might wage war without being a state. Within states, killing by anyone other than the state, is forbidden by national laws and by customary standards of law — as outlined, in fact, by the strategy pursued in the book by Galtung et alia — on which, more in a second. The bigger shortcoming is the failure to outlaw war by a member state against a non-state, but most such wars are also wars on the populations of states and often against the will of the governments of those states, often — indeed — against yet other states using proxies to wage war for them. A shortcoming, moreover, is not a condemnation of a useful step as counterproductive; it’s just a shortcoming requiring an additional step forward.
Clearly Galtung does not really think that criminalizing war between nations is an unhelpful step. He wants to do it singly, nation by nation, modeled on Japan’s Article 9 (which arguably has the very same shortcomings as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, plus the shortcoming of only applying to a single nation). Of course, Article 9 is under threat, and somewhat similar statements in the Constitutions of Italy and Germany and other nations are even less adhered to. But Galtung is right: bans on war in national constitutions should be strengthened, defended, and complied with. Doing so, however, presents a problem of logic in dismissing the Kellogg-Briand Pact as unhelpful. Never mind the purity of heart of its creators (its creators in fact were masses of people who brought legislators to it kicking and screaming) or the perfection of compliance by its members heretofore. If Japan launches a major war next year, Galtung will still want Article 9 upheld — or he should; I will. The Kellogg-Briand Pact is a law clearly banning all war for most major nations, including the least likely nations to agree to newly creating such a law today. Other nations could sign onto it and urge their fellow members to comply with it. Malaysia, for example, could choose to become a member of the pact and suddenly find itself a leader among its members by advocating for compliance — and for accountability and reparations and reconciliation — exactly as it would have to do with eternal vigilance if it instead used its own version of Article 9, only in this case with the major war makers of the world formally committed in clear language to compliance as well.
Because war is, in a major way, already illegal, calls to criminalize it ring in my ear a bit hollow, a bit like the rhetoric of the U.S. Congress proposing over and over again, year after year, to re-criminalize torture, rather than prosecuting torturers under long-standing laws. But the approach to criminalizing war proposed by Irene Galtung certainly has some merit. It doesn’t exactly claim that war is now legal, but it does claim that in written law it is legal, and this strikes me as dangerous.
The argument that Irene Galtung makes is not unrelated to the argument I have long made about drone murders, namely that murder is illegal under national law and customary international law. And it is nearly identical to the argument that Marjorie Cohn and other lawyers make for the illegality of torture under customary international law — only applied to war rather than torture.
Irene Galtung’s idea is that customary international law is higher than written international law or written national law. The problem, as she readily admits, is that — being unwritten — it is highly controversial. Still, what’s needed is an act of interpretation not entirely unlike the interpretation of a written law. Galtung claims that all national constitutions provide a right to life, and that the right to use deadly force in self-defense exists only when such use is necessary for self-defense. War is deadly force, simply on a larger scale, and it is never necessary, as there are always alternatives. Therefore, logically, even if you’d be hard-pressed to get many well-paid lawyers or human rights organizations or governments or judges to admit it, war is a crime.
This argument (which I have, of course, only sketched very roughly) is smart, logical, and educationally useful. I plan to repeat it often. But what appeals to “customary law” come down to are attempts to radically change legal custom on the authority of current legal custom (reinterpreted). That this couldn’t be helped by also pointing to existing laws like the Kellogg-Briand Pact is difficult for me to imagine. In fact, later in the book the authors cite the UN’s Declaration of the Right of the Peoples to Peace. That we have a right to peace means that we have a right to the absence of war. The Declaration states that it:
“Emphasizes that ensuring the exercise of the right of peoples to peace demands that the policies of States be directed towards the elimination of the threat of war, particularly nuclear war, the renunciation of the use of force in international relations and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means on the basis of the Charter of the United Nations.”
The weakness is in those last few words, as the Charter contradicts itself and permits war. The Kellogg-Briand Pact lacks that particular weakness. I would love someday to hear a clear statement from Johan Galtung on what weaknesses he thinks its carries that justify its dismissal from public awareness and use.
Talk Nation Radio: Cian Westmoreland, former U.S. Air Force technician in Afghanistan, speaks against war
Cian Westmoreland is a former Air Force technician who served in Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan at the 73rd Expeditionary Air Control Squadron. He assisted in building a signal relay station that was used for transmitting and receiving data, radio, and radar picture for unmanned and manned missions for approximately 250,000 square miles over Afghanistan. In a report provided to him after his tour, he was credited with assisting in 2,400 close air support missions and 200+ kills of supposed enemies. The UNAMA report for that year, 2009, claimed however that this number also included 359 civilians killed in airstrikes. Westmoreland discusses his experience.
Learn more: http://projectredhand.org
See related film: http://dronethedocumentary.com
Support whistleblowers: https://whisper.networkforgood.com
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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