Blogs

Jul
08

If Afghan Lives Mattered, Dallas Lives Would Matter

Tag: Peace and War

The man who murdered police officers in Dallas, Texas, this week had earlier been employed in a massive operation, now in its 15th year, that has killed many thousands of people in Afghanistan. He was trained to kill by the U.S. military using U.S. tax dollars. He was conditioned to believe violence an appropriate response to violence by the examples everywhere to be found in U.S. public policy, history, entertainment, and language.

Murdering police officers because some other police officers committed murder is unfair, unjust, immoral, and certainly counterproductive on its own terms. The Dallas killer managed to get himself killed by means of a bomb delivered by a robot. The police could have waited him out but chose not to, and no one indoctrinated to accept violent revenge will blame them. But that technology will spread among police and non-police killers. The airwaves are reverberating with cries for a race war. Greater militarization of the police, not greater restraint, will follow this incident. More lives will be lost. More screams of agony will be heard over loved ones lost.

Murdering people in Afghanistan because some other people who had been to Afghanistan were suspected of committing murder was and is unfair, unjust, immoral, and certainly counterproductive on its own terms - and according to the White House this week it will continue for years to come. Not only did most people in Afghanistan not support the murders of September 11, 2001, but most people in Afghanistan had never heard of that crime. The global war on and of terrorism has been increasing terrorism for nearly 15 years. "When you drop a bomb from a drone… you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good," said retired U.S. Lt. General Michael Flynn, who quit as head of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in August 2014. "The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just… fuels the conflict."

The cry of "Black lives matter!" is not a proposal that white lives or police lives or soldiers' lives or any lives do not matter. It is a lament over the disproportionate targeting of blacks by police shootings. The trick is to understand the shootings as the enemy, the militarizing and weaponizing policies as the enemy, and not some group of people.

The murders on 9/11 were not rightly understood. The enemy was murder, not Saudis or foreigners or Muslims. Now hundreds of times those murders have been added in response, making murder the big victor and peace the big loser. With no end in sight.

We must not go on trying to solve a problem with the same tools that created it. We must, in fact, proclaim that "All lives matter." But if that is meant to include only the 4% of human lives contained within the United States, it will fail. We must stop training people to imagine that violence works, and hoping they will only use their violent skills abroad among the 96% of people who don't matter.

Where is our outrage and our grief when the White House admits to killing innocents with drones? Where is our indignation over the people killed by the U.S. military in foreign lands? Where is our concern over U.S. weapons sales flooding the Middle East and other regions of the globe with instruments of death? When attacking ISIS just fuels ISIS, why is the only option ever considered more of the same?

What brings in campaign funding, what earns votes, what wins media coverage, what generates movie ticket sales, and what sustains the weapons industry may just be at odds with what protects all human lives including those we're traditionally encouraged to think matter. But we can redirect our votes, our media consumption, and even our choice of industries to invest in.

Dallas lives are, whether we know it or not, going to go on not mattering, until Afghan and all other lives matter too.

Jul
07

Impeach and Prosecute Tony Blair

Tag: Impeachment, Peace and War, Prosecution

The Chilcot report's "findings" have virtually all been part of the public record for a decade, and it avoids key pieces of evidence. Its recommendations are essentially to continue using war as a threat and a tool of foreign policy, but to please try not to lie so much, make sure to win over a bit more of the public, and don't promise any positive outcomes given the likelihood of catastrophe.

The report is a confused jumble, given that it records evidence of the supreme crime but tries to excuse it. The closer you get to the beginning of the executive summary, the more the report reads as if written by the very criminals it's reporting on. Yet the report makes clear, as we always knew, that even in 2001-2003 there were honest people working in the British, as also in the U.S., government -- some of whom became whistleblowers, others of whom accurately identified the planned war as a crime that would endanger rather than protect, but stayed in their jobs when the war was launched.

Chilcot makes clear that the attack on Iraq was illegal, against the British public, against the international community and the UN Charter, expected to increase terrorism, based on lies about terrorism and weapons, and -- like every other war ever launched -- not a last resort. Chilcot records, as reality-based reporting always has, that Iraq claimed honestly to have no nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. Chilcot fails to explain with any clarity that one cannot legally or morally attack another nation even when it does have such things.

Chilcot does make clear the extent to which France was pushing back against war, along with Russia and Germany and Chile and China. The key supporter of U.S. war plans was the UK, and there is some possibility that a UK refusal to join in this crime might really have done some good.

But Chilcot steers away from criminal responsibility, and from the damage done by the crime. It avoids the Downing Street Memo, the White House Memo, Hussein Kamel, the spying and threatening and bribing involved in the failed effort to win UN authorization, Aznar's account of Bush's admission that Saddam Hussein was willing to leave, etc. This is a report that aims for politeness and tranquility.

Not to worry, Chilcot tells us, as nothing like this will happen again even if we just let the criminals walk. Chilcot claims bizarrely that every other war before and since has been defensive and in response to some attack, rather than an act of aggression like this one. Of course, no list of those other wars is provided.

Even more bizarrely, Chilcot claims that Blair and gang literally never considered the possibility that Iraq had no "weapons of mass destruction." How you make all kinds of assertions, contrary to your evidence, that Iraq has weapons without considering the question is beyond me. But Chilcot credits with great significance the supposedly excusing grace of groupthink and the passion with which people like Blair supposedly believed their own lies. Chilcot even feeds into the disgusting lie that Blair pushes to this day that Iraqis chose to destroy their own country while their occupiers nobly attempted "reconstruction."

Despite itself, however, Chilcot may do some good. In the United States, when James Comey describes crimes by Hillary Clinton and assures us they should not be prosecuted, most people can be counted on to lie back and accept that blindly or even fervently. Yet our friends in Britain appear less than eager to accept the attitude with which Chilcot has reported on the supreme international crime.

Tony Blair may now be impeached as he needs to be. Yes -- sigh -- one can and should impeach people no longer in office, as has been usefully done in both British and U.S. history. Removal from office is one penalty that sometimes follows a conviction at a trial following an impeachment; it is not itself the definition of impeachment. Blair should be tried and convicted by Parliament. He should also be put on trial by the International Criminal Court or, better, by a special tribunal established for Iraq as for World War II or Yugoslavia.

The victors in World War II used the Kellogg-Briand Pact to prosecute the losers for the new crime of launching a war. Blair violated both the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the newer, yet never used, United Nations Charter, which also bans war. While Kellogg-Briand allows no exceptions, the exceptions in the UN Charter were famously not met in the case of the war on Iraq or, for that matter, any other recent western wars.

You can sign a petition urging Blair's impeachment and prosecution here. Of course the goal must be to build momentum for holding the chief (U.S.) war criminals accountable, pursuing truth and reconciliation, and making massive reparations to the people of Iraq and their region. What the U.S. needs is action, not a 7-year "investigation." Our own Chilcot report, better in fact, was written long ago.

The Chilcot report could, against its own wishes, move us in that direction.

Jul
06

The Activist as a Young Girl

Tag: Book and Movie Reviews, Children, Culture and Society

Clare Hanrahan's memoir The Half Life of a Free Radical: Growing Up Irish Catholic in Jim Crow Memphis is a remarkable feat: part Jack Kerouac, part Dorothy Day, part Howard Zinn, and a bit of Forest Gump.

First and foremost this is an entertaining and irreverent tale of childhood and adolescence told with great humor, honesty, and empathy. But it's also told by someone who became a peace and justice and environmentalist activist in later life, someone able to look back on the poverty, racism, consumerism, militarism, sexism, and Catholicism of her youth with passion and perspective -- even appreciation for all the good that was mixed in with the bad. Hanrahan writes what in outline form would read like an endless tale of misfortune, and yet leaves you with the thought of how much riotous fun she and her eight siblings and other acquaintances had.

I know Clare, though I learned much more about her from this book, and I wouldn't risk changing her if I had a time machine and magical powers. But I still found myself wondering, as with most stories of most people in the United States and much of the world, how different Hanrahan's life would have been in a society with the decency to provide free college and free job training as needed, or a society that integrated civic activism into everyone's life, or a society in which peace activist careers were marketed on the level of military recruitment ads or even marketed at all so that they weren't so frequently found so late, or a society in which some of the best people didn't live below a taxable salary level so as not to pay taxes for wars.

Hanrahan gives us her family genealogy first, and by doing so teaches some U.S. history that echoes through the book and the years. So, she shows us the cruelty of Jim Crow, for example, through personal experiences as a white girl, but illuminates it with an understanding of its origins, and -- even more importantly -- an awareness of its latest incarnations today. She also contrasts what she knows of the history of Memphis with what she was taught in school in Memphis growing up.

Hanrahan tells her story largely in chronological order, with no lengthy flashbacks, but with numerous quick bits of foreshadowing. For example:

"Brother Tommy gouged his initials, TPH, with a pocket knife on that same bannister long before the American war in Viet Nam maimed his hand, stole his youth, poisoned him with Agent Orange, and eventually took his life and that of his twin brother Danny. The bannister was later knocked down by a speeding car that careened into the porch stopping just short of the front bedroom."

Tommy returned from Vietnam to a  hospital. "In my naiveté," Hanrahan writes,

"I rushed to my brother's bedside to embrace him. I may even have called him 'my hero' as I approached, expecting a hug. Lightning fast his good arm flailed out knocking me across the room and onto the floor. 'Wake up!' he said. 'Wake up you stupid bitch.' I can still hear those harsh words. Dazed and confused, I picked myself up and backed away. This was not the brother I had sent away with a patriotic poem, proudly recited before my senior class."

Hanrahan's two veteran brothers suffered in many ways, and failed to fit back into society in many ways, but it was the cruelty toward women that they came back from the war with that their sister Clare eventually found intolerable.

When Hanrahan left Memphis she saw a lot of the country and a bit of the world, including living off the grid on land and water, joining intentional communities and finding her way to a job writing for peace. She also protested for peace and spent six months behind bars. During the course of her ramblings, Hanrahan managed to be present at or part of an extraordinary number of crucial events and developments in recent U.S. history. Hanrahan became editor of Rural Southern Voice for Peace just in time for the first Gulf War and the awful wars that have followed.

Hanrahan found her way back to Memphis on numerous occasions, sometimes for funerals, but also to be part of activist efforts such as the successful campaign to preserve the band shell in Overton Park launched by one of her brothers. Hanrahan intersperses her memories with her dreams and poetry, adding emotional depth to an account of an extraordinary family in a struggling city that I've enjoyed visiting but would like to visit again with this book as a guide.

Jul
05

Talk Nation Radio: Mel Duncan on why unarmed civilian protection is better than war

Tag: Peace and War, Talk Nation Radio

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-mel-duncan-on-why-unarmed-civilian-protection-is-better-than-war

Mel Duncan is a co-founder and current Director of Advocacy and Outreach for Nonviolent Peaceforce, an international non-governmental organization that provides direct protection to civilians caught in violent conflict and works with local civil society groups on violence deterrence throughout the world.  He has received numerous awards. The Utne Reader named Duncan one of “50 Visionaries Who are Changing Our World.”  The American Friends Service Committee nominated Nonviolent Peaceforce for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Jul
02

The Democratic War Platform

Tag: Elections, Peace and War

The Democratic Party's draft platform takes a government that spends over half of discretionary spending on militarism, as much as the rest of the world combined, with troops in most countries and seven wars underway, and says: Keep it going, only more so!

The Platform begins with support-the-troops propaganda, demanding military spending for the sake of the people recruited into the military, many of them of course for lack of the free college that the Democrats have left out of their platform.

"Support Our Troops and Keep Faith with Our Veterans," is the opening headline on foreign policy. The words under that headline have nothing to do with what it suggests:

"Democrats believe America must continue to have the strongest military in the world."

You'd have to eliminate the vast majority of it for that not to be so.

Jul
01

Guess Who Wants Authority to Murder by Drone

Tag: Peace and War

If you haven't been hiding under a partisan rock for the past several years, you're aware that President Barack Obama has given himself the sort-of legalish right to murder anyone anywhere with missiles from drones.

He's not the only one who wants that power.

Jun
28

Talk Nation Radio: Harvey Wasserman on Environmental and Antiwar Activism

Tag: Environment, Peace and War, Talk Nation Radio

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-harvey-wasserman-on-environmental-and-antiwar-activism

Harvey Wasserman is a life-long activist who speaks, writes and organizes widely on energy, the environment, history, the drug war, election protection, and grassroots politics. He teaches (since 2004) history and cultural & ethnic diversity at two central Ohio colleges. He works for the permanent shutdown of the nuclear power industry and the birth of Solartopia, a democratic and socially just green-powered Earth free of all fossil and nuclear fuels. He writes for Ecowatch, solartopia.org, freepress.org and nukefree.org, which he edits. He helped found the anti-war Liberation News Service. In 1972 his History of the U.S., introduced by Howard Zinn, helped pave the way for a new generation of people’s histories. In 1973 Harvey coined the phrase “No Nukes” and helped found the global grassroots movement against atomic energy. In 1990 he became Senior Advisor to Greenpeace USA. Harvey’s America at the Brink of Rebirth: The Organic Spiral of U.S. History, which dissects our national story in terms of six cycles, will be published soon at www.solartopia.org

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

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