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Peace and War
At the 200th anniversary of the jackasses of 1812 getting the U.S. capital burned by the British in 1814, I found myself watching a new film by Rory Kennedy called Last Days in Vietnam. This film covers the moment of loss, of defeat, of the U.S. military at long last receiving its final ass kicking by the Vietnamese, for whom these were not the last days of Vietnam but the last days of the American War and of Western military occupation.
As in the Middle East these days, where the United States has been busy losing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and wrecking Libya and Pakistan and Yemen and Palestine on the side, Vietnam was a disaster by the time the movie begins. As the U.S. news media blames ISIS for the state of Iraq, Last Days in Vietnam blames the North Vietnamese. This is the story of the loss in Vietnam, but it is told primarily by the losers.
A Pentagon-funded online celebration of the U.S. war on Vietnam describes the incidents shown in this film thus:
"The American evacuation ends. Saigon falls to the North Vietnamese troops, and organized South Vietnamese resistance to the communist forces ends. President Duong Van Minh announces the unconditional surrender of the Republic of Vietnam."
I recommend Veterans For Peace for a counter to the Pentagon's current $65 million campaign to glorify the U.S. war on Vietnam. And I recommend watching Last Days in Vietnam for an understanding of how wars end. In particular, this film should be watched by anyone who has managed to continue after all these decades to falsely associate war with victory or winning or success or accomplishment.
The final months of U.S. presence in Vietnam were a time of denial, by the U.S. ambassador and others, that the North Vietnamese were coming to kick them out. Every American and every one of their Vietnamese allies and collaborators, and all of the family members of both groups, could have been safely evacuated. Instead, there was a last-minute mad rush with helicopters dumped into the ocean after they unloaded passengers onto ships, and many left behind to be killed.
The film blames Congress for rejecting President Ford's request to fund an evacuation. But the Pentagon could quite easily have simply done it, and President Ford apparently never instructed the ambassador to do so. So, the spooky music plays, and the color of blood flows down the map from North to South as the barbaric communist aggressors who go so far as to use violence, something Americans would never do, approach Saigon. And they only come because President Nixon was driven out by the peaceniks. Never mind that that was several months earlier, they never would have come had Nixon been in the White House.
Of course, the views of the losers tend to obscure as much as to reveal. The war had to end. The people fighting for their homes had to prevail, sooner or later, over the people fighting for the fact that they'd already been fighting and couldn't face the shame of stopping. But Last Days in Vietnam shows the Americans watching the rushed evacuation from home, the Americans who had earlier "served" in Vietnam. And they believed all their efforts had "come to nothing."
Nothing? Nothing? Four million men, women, and children slaughtered. The U.S. society calls that nothing. The Germans are expected to know how many millions their government killed. The Japanese are required to study the past sins of Japan. But the United States is supposed to gaze at its navel, glorify its sinners, and pretend that its defeats are neutral, indifferent, nothingness. Try telling that story about Afghanistan or Iraq or Gaza, I dare you.
In the 1920s and 1930s, anybody who was anybody tried to figure out how to rid the world of war. Collectively, I'd say they got three-quarters of the way to an answer. But from 1945 to 2014, they've been ignored when possible (which is most of the time), laughed at when necessary, and on the very rare occasions that require it: attacked.
What a flock of idiots the leading thinkers of a generation all must have been. World War II happened. Therefore, war is eternal. Everyone knows that.
But slavery abolitionists pushed on despite slavery happening another year, and another year. Women sought the right to vote in the next election cycle following each one they were barred from. Undoubtedly war is trickier to get rid off, because governments claim that all the other governments (and any other war makers) must go first or do it simultaneously. The possibility of someone else launching a war, combined with the false notion that war is the best way to defend against war, creates a seemingly permanent maze from which the world cannot emerge.
But difficult is far too easily distorted into impossible. War will have to be abolished through a careful and gradual practice; it will require cleaning up the corruption of government by war profiteers; it will result in a very different world in just about every way: economically, culturally, morally. But war will not be abolished at all if the meditations of the abolitionists are buried and not read.
Imagine if children, when they'd just gotten a bit too old for Winnie the Pooh and we're becoming old enough to read serious arguments, were told that A.A. Milne also wrote a book in 1933-1934 called Peace With Honour. Who wouldn't want to know what the creator of Winnie the Pooh thought of war and peace? And who wouldn't be thrilled to discover his wit and humor applied in all seriousness to the case for ending the most horrific enterprise to remain perfectly acceptable in polite society?
Now, Milne had served as a war propagandist and soldier in World War I, his 1934 view of Germany as not really wanting war looks (at least at first glance) ludicrous in retrospect, and Milne himself abandoned his opposition to war in order to cheer for World War II. So we can reject his wisdom as hypocrisy, naiveté, and as having been rejected by the author. But we'd be depriving ourselves of insight because the author was imperfect, and we'd be prioritizing the ravings of a drunk over statements made during a period of sobriety. Even the ideal diagnostician of war fever can sound like a different man once he's contracted the disease himself.
In Peace With Honour, Milne shows that he has listened to the rhetoric of the war promoters and found that the "honor" they fight for is essentially prestige (or what is more recently called in the United States, "credibility"). As Milne puts it:
"When a nation talks of its honour, it means its prestige. National prestige is a reputation for the will to war. A nation's honour, then, is measured by a nation's willingness to use force to maintain its reputation as a user of force. If one could imagine the game of tiddleywinks assuming a supreme importance in the eyes of statesmen, and if some innocent savage were to ask why tiddleywinks was so important to Europeans, the answer would be that only by skill at tiddleywinks could a country preserve its reputation as a country skilful at tiddleywinks. Which answer might cause the savage some amusement."
Milne debates popular arguments for war and comes back again and again to ridiculing it as a foolish cultural choice dressed up as necessary or inevitable. Why, he asks, do Christian churches sanction mass murder by bombing of men, women, and children? Would they sanction mass conversion to Islam if it were required to protect their country? No. Would they sanction widespread adultery if population growth were the only path to defense of their country? No. So why do they sanction mass murder?
Milne tries a thought experiment to demonstrate that wars are optional and chosen by individuals who could choose otherwise. Let us suppose, he says, that an outbreak of war would mean the certain and immediate death of Mussolini, Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Ramsay MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin, Sir John Simon, one unnamed cabinet minister chosen by lot on the day war is declared, the ministers responsible for the military, Winston Churchill, two unnamed Generals, two unnamed Admirals, two unnamed directors of armaments firms chosen by lot, Lords Beaverbrook and Rothermere, the editors of The Times and The Morning Post, and corresponding representatives of France. Would there, in this situation, ever be a war? Milne says definitely not. And therefore was is not "natural" or "inevitable" at all.
Milne makes a similar case around wartime conventions and rules:
"As soon as we begin making rules for war, as soon as we say that this is legitimate warfare and that the other is not, we are admitting that war is merely an agreed way of settling an argument."
But, Milne writes -- accurately depicting the 1945 to 2014 history of a U.N. and NATO-run world -- you cannot make a rule against aggressive war and keep defensive war. It won't work. It's self-defeating. War will roll on under such circumstances, Milne predicts -- and we know he was right. "To renounce aggression is not enough," writes Milne. "We must also renounce defence."
What do we replace it with? Milne depicts a world of nonviolent dispute resolution, arbitration, and a changed conception of honor or prestige that finds war shameful rather than honorable. And not just shameful, but mad. He quotes a war supporter remarking, "At the present moment, which may prove to be the eve of another Armageddon, we are not ready." Asks Milne: "Which of these two facts [Armageddon or unpreparedness] is of the more importance to civilization?"
Remarks at North Carolina Peace Action Event in Raleigh, N.C., August 23, 2014.
Thank you for inviting me, and thank you to North Carolina Peace Action, and to John Heuer whom I consider a tireless selfless and inspired peacemaker himself. Can we thank John?
It's an honor for me to have a role in honoring the 2014 Student Peacemaker, iMatter Youth North Carolina. I've followed what iMatter has been doing around the country for years, I've sat in on a court case they brought in Washington, D.C., I've shared a stage with them at a public event, I've organized an online petition with them at RootsAction.org, I've written about them and watched them inspire writers like Jeremy Brecher whom I recommend reading. Here is an organization acting in the interests of all future generations of all species and being led -- and led well -- by human kids. Can we give them some applause?
But, perhaps revealing the short-sightedness and self-centeredness of myself as a member of a species that didn't evolve to manage a whole planet, I'm especially happy to be recognizing iMatter Youth North Carolina because my own niece Hallie Turner and my nephew Travis Turner are part of it. They deserve LOTS of applause.
And the full iMatter planning team, I'm told, is represented tonight as well by Zack Kingery, Nora White, and Ari Nicholson. They should have even more applause.
I take complete credit for Hallie and Travis's work, because although I didn't really teach them anything, I did, before they were born, tell my sister she should go to our high school reunion, at which she met the man who became my brother in law. Without that, no Hallie and no Travis.
However, it was my parents -- who I suppose by the same logic (although in this case I of course reject it) get complete credit for anything I do -- it was they who took Hallie to her first rally, at the White House protesting a tar sands pipeline. I'm told that Hallie didn't know what it was all about at first or why the good people were being arrested, instead of the people committing the offenses against our loved ones and our earth being arrested. But by the end of the rally Hallie was right in the thick of it, wouldn't leave until the last person had gone off to jail for justice, and she pronounced the occasion the most important day of her life thus far, or words to that effect.
Perhaps, as it turns out, that was an important day, not just for Hallie but also for iMatter Youth North Carolina, and, who knows, just maybe -- like the day Gandhi was thrown off a train, or the day Bayard Rustin talked Martin Luther King Jr. into giving up his guns, or the day a teacher assigned Thomas Clarkson to write an essay on whether slavery was acceptable -- it will eventually turn out to have been an important day for more of us.
I'm a bit ashamed of two things though, despite all my pride.
One is that we adults leave kids to discover moral action and serious political engagement by accident rather than teaching it to them systematically and universally, as if we don't really think they want meaningful lives, as if we imagine comfortable lives is the complete human ideal. We are asking kids to lead the way on the environment, because we -- I'm speaking collectively of everyone over 30, the people Bob Dylan said not to trust until he was over 30 -- we are not doing it, and the kids are taking us to court, and our government is allowing its fellow leading destroyers of the environment to become voluntary co-defendants (can you imagine volunteering to be sued along with someone else who's facing a law suit? No, wait, sue me too!), and the voluntary co-defendants, including the National Association of Manufacturers, are providing teams of lawyers that probably cost more than the schools Hallie and Travis attend, and the courts are ruling that it is an individual right of non-human entities called corporations to destroy the inhabitability of the planet for everyone, despite the evident logic that says the corporations will cease to exist as well.
Should our kids do as we say or as we do? Neither! They should run in the opposite direction from anything we've touched. There are exceptions, of course. Some of us try a little. But it is an uphill effort to undo the cultural indoctrination that has us saying phrases like "throw this away" as if there really were an away, or labeling the destruction of a forest "economic growth," or worrying about so-called peak oil and how we'll live when the oil runs out, even though we've already found five times what we can safely burn and still be able to live on this beautiful rock.
But kids are different. The need to protect the earth and use clean energy even if it means a few inconveniences or even some serious personal risk, is no more unusual or strange to a kid than half the other stuff they are presented with for the first time, like algebra, or swim meets, or uncles. They haven't spent as many years being told that renewable energy doesn't work. They haven't developed the fine-tuned sense of patriotism that allows us to keep believing renewable energy cannot work even as we hear about it working in other countries. (That's German physics!)
Our young leaders have fewer years of indoctrination into what Martin Luther King Jr. called extreme materialism, militarism, and racism. Adults block the way in the courts, so kids take to the streets, they organize and agitate and educate. And so they must, but they are up against an educational system and an employment system and an entertainment system that often tells them they are powerless, that serious change is impossible, and that the most important thing you can do is vote.
Now, adults telling each other that the most important thing they can do is vote is bad enough, but saying that to kids who aren't old enough to vote is like telling them to do nothing. We need a few percent of our population doing the opposite of nothing, living and breathing dedicated activism. We need creative nonviolent resistance, re-education, redirection of our resources, boycotts, divestments, the creation of sustainable practices as models for others, and the impeding of an established order that is politely and smilingly steering us over a cliff. Rallies organized by iMatter Youth North Carolina look like moves in the right direction to me. So, let's thank them again.
The second thing I'm a little ashamed of is that it is not at all uncommon for a peace organization to arrive at an environmental activist when choosing someone to honor, whereas I have never once heard of the reverse. Hallie and Travis have an uncle who works largely on peace, but they live in a culture where the activism that receives funding and attention and mainstream acceptance, to the limited extent that any does and of course trailing far behind 5Ks against breast cancer and the sort of activism that lacks real opponents, is activism for the environment. But I think there's a problem with what I've just done and what we usually tend to do, that is, with categorizing people as peace activists or environmental activists or clean elections activists or media reform activists or anti-racism activists. As we came to realize a few years back, we all add up to 99% of the population, but those who are really active are divided, in reality as well as in people's perceptions.
Peace and environmentalism should, I think, be combined into the single word peacenvironmentalism, because neither movement is likely to succeed without the other. iMatter wants to live as if our future matters. You can't do that with militarism, with the resources it takes, with the destruction it causes, with the risk that grows greater with each passing day that nuclear weapons will be intentionally or accidentally detonated. If you could really figure out how to nuke another nation while shooting its missiles out of the sky, which of course nobody has figured out, the impact on the atmosphere and climate would severely impact your own nation as well. But that's a fantasy. In a real world scenario, a nuclear weapon is launched on purpose or by mistake, and many more are quickly launched in every direction. This has in fact nearly happened numerous times, and the fact that we pay almost no attention to it anymore makes it more rather than less likely. I imagine you know what happened 50 miles southeast of here on January 24, 1961? That's right, the U.S. military accidentally dropped two nuclear bombs and got very lucky they didn't explode. Nothing to worry about, says comedy news anchor John Oliver, that's why we have TWO Carolinas.
iMatter advocates for an economic shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy and for sustainable jobs. If only there were a couple of trillion dollars a year being wasted on something useless or destructive! And of course there is, worldwide, that unfathomable sum is being spent on preparations for war, half of it by the United States, three quarters of it by the United States and its allies -- and much of that last bit on U.S. weapons. For a fraction of it, starvation and disease could be seriously dealt with, and so could climate change. War kills primarily through taking spending away from where it's needed. For a small fraction of war preparations spending, college could be free here and provided free in some other parts of the world too. Imagine how many more environmental activists we could have if college graduates didn't owe tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for the human right of an education! How do you pay that back without going to work for the destroyers of the earth?
79% of weapons in the Middle East come from the United States, not counting those belonging to the U.S. military. U.S. weapons were on both sides in Libya three years ago and are on both sides in Syria and Iraq. Weapons making is an unsustainable job if ever I saw one. It drains the economy. The same dollars spent on clean energy or infrastructure or education or even tax cuts for non-billionaires produces more jobs than military spending. Militarism fuels more violence, rather than protecting us. The weapons have to be used up, destroyed, or given to local police who will begin to see local people as enemies, so that new weapons can be made. And this process is, by some measures, the biggest destroyer of the environment we have.
The U.S. military burned through about 340,000 barrels of oil each day, as measured in 2006. If the Pentagon were a country, it would rank 38th out of 196 in oil consumption. If you removed the Pentagon from the total oil consumption by the United States, then the United States would still rank first with nobody else anywhere close. But you would have spared the atmosphere the burning of more oil than most countries consume, and would have spared the planet all the mischief the U.S. military manages to fuel with it. No other institution in the United States consumes remotely as much oil as the military.
Each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spends $622 million trying to figure out how to produce power without oil, while the military spends hundreds of billions of dollars burning oil in wars fought and on bases maintained to control the oil supplies. The million dollars spent to keep each soldier in a foreign occupation for a year could create 20 green energy jobs at $50,000 each.
Wars in recent years have rendered large areas uninhabitable and generated tens of millions of refugees. War "rivals infectious disease as a global cause of morbidity and mortality," according to Jennifer Leaning of Harvard Medical School. Leaning divides war's environmental impact into four areas: "production and testing of nuclear weapons, aerial and naval bombardment of terrain, dispersal and persistence of land mines and buried ordnance, and use or storage of military despoliants, toxins, and waste." A 1993 U.S. State Department report called land mines "the most toxic and widespread pollution facing mankind." Millions of hectares in Europe, North Africa, and Asia are under interdiction. One-third of the land in Libya conceals land mines and unexploded World War II munitions.
The Soviet and U.S. occupations of Afghanistan have destroyed or damaged thousands of villages and sources of water. The Taliban has illegally traded timber to Pakistan, resulting in significant deforestation. U.S. bombs and refugees in need of firewood have added to the damage. Afghanistan’s forests are almost gone. Most of the migratory birds that used to pass through Afghanistan no longer do so. Its air and water have been poisoned with explosives and rocket propellants.
You may not care about politics, the saying goes, but politics cares about you. That goes for war. John Wayne avoided going off to World War II by making movies to glorify other people going. And do you know what happened to him? He made a movie in Utah near a nuclear testing area. Of the 220 people who worked on the film, 91, rather than the 30 that would have been the norm, developed cancer including John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell.
We need a different direction. In Connecticut, Peace Action and many other groups have been involved in successfully persuading the state government to set up a commission to work on converting from weapons to peaceful industries. Labor unions and management support it. Environmental and peace groups are part of it. It's very much a work in progress. It was likely stimulated by false stories that the military was being slashed. But whether we can make that a reality or not, the environmental need to shift our resources to green energy is going to grow, and there is no reason North Carolina shouldn't be the second state in the country to do this. You have moral Mondays here. Why not have moral every days of the year?
Major changes look larger before they happen than after. Environmentalism has come on very quickly. The U.S. already had nuclear submarines back when whales were still being used as a source of raw materials, lubricants, and fuels, including in nuclear submarines. Now whales are, almost suddenly, seen as marvelous intelligent creatures to be protected, and the nuclear submarines have begun to look a bit archaic, and the deadly sound pollution that the Navy imposes on the world's oceans looks a bit barbaric.
iMatter's lawsuits seek to protect the public trust for future generations. The ability to care about future generations is, in terms of the imagination required, almost identical to the ability to care about foreign people at a distance in space rather than time. If we can think of our community as including those not yet born, who of course we hope far outnumber the rest of us, we can probably think of it as including the 95% of those alive today who don't happen to be in the United States of America, and vice versa.
But even if environmentalism and peace activism were not a single movement, we'd have to join them and several others together in order to have the sort of Occupy 2.0 coalition we need to effect change. A big chance to do that is coming up around September 21st which is the International Day of Peace and the time when a rally and all sorts of events for the climate will be happening in New York City.
At WorldBeyondWar.org you'll find all sorts of resources for holding your own event for peace and the environment. You'll also find a short two-sentence statement in favor of ending all war, a statement that has been signed in the past few months by people in 81 nations and rising. You can sign it on paper here this evening. We need your help, young and old. But we should be especially glad that time and numbers are on the side of the young around the world, to whom I say along with Shelley:
Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many — they are few.
A long list of prominent individuals has signed, a number of organizations will be promoting next week, and you can be one of the first to sign right now, a petition titled "Call For Independent Inquiry of the Airplane Crash in Ukraine and its Catastrophic Aftermath."
Videos by Marlene Alvarado.
RICHARD NIXON & HENRY KISSINGER SABOTAGED THE 1968 VIETNAM PEACE TALKS and cursed us all with 7 more years of war and hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths.
This “leftist conspiracy theory” which has been dismissed by the right for so many decades has now been definitively confirmed and is 100% part of the “mainstream” American legacy.
DAVID SWANSON, one of America’s great peace writer/activists, and attorney BOB FITRAKIS, publisher of www.freepress.org, professor of political science, thoroughly document this explosive reality now being so blithely ignored by the corporate media.
Bob and David also explore, as only they can, the illegal lies that led us into the wars in Iraq and Libya, as well as George H.W. Bush’s treasonous delay of the release American hostages in Iran, guaranteeing the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan.
Proving once again that yesterday’s “conspiracy theory” is tomorrow’s proven historic reality, David and Bob plumb the depths of an imperial war machine that threatens us all while denying it all with ever-decreasing credibility.
Fred Ptucha is a U.S. Navy veteran who did four tours in Vietnam and who came across evidence that the Gulf of Tonkin incident of 50 years ago this month did not occur, and the United States was lied into a war.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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While I'm working on a campaign to abolish war, it's helpful and appreciated that a columnist for one of the most effective war promoting institutions in the world, the New York Times, on Sunday mused aloud about why in the world wars are still waged.
Paul Krugman rightly pointed to the destructive nature of wars even for their victors. He admirably presented the insights of Norman Angell who figured out that war didn't pay economically over a century ago. But Krugman didn’t get much further than that, his one proposal to explain wars fought by wealthy nations being political gain for the war makers.
Robert Parry has pointed out the falsity of Krugman's pretense that Vladimir Putin is the cause of trouble in Ukraine. One might also question Krugman's claim that George W. Bush actually "won" his reelection in 2004, considering what went on in Ohio's vote counting.
Yes, indeed, a great many fools will rally around any high official who wages war, and it's good for Krugman to point that out. But it's just plain bizarre for an economist to lament the cost (to the U.S.) of the U.S. war on Iraq as reaching possibly $1 trillion, and never notice that the United States spends roughly $1 trillion on preparations for war each and every year through basic routine military spending -- itself economically destructive, as well as morally and physically destructive.
What drives the spending that Eisenhower warned would drive the wars? Profits, legalized bribery, and a culture that searches for the causes of war primarily among the 95 percent of humanity that invests dramatically less in war-making than the United States does.
Krugman dismisses economic gain as relevant only to poor nations' internal wars, but doesn't explain why U.S. wars concentrate in oil-rich areas. "I am saddened," wrote Alan Greenspan, "that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." As Krugman is no doubt aware, rising oil prices are not lamented by everyone, and the high cost of weaponry is not a downside from the perspective of weapons makers. Wars don't economically benefit societies, but they do enrich individuals. That same principle is central to explaining the U.S. government's conduct on any area other than war; why should war be different?
No particular war, and certainly not the institution as a whole, has a single simple explanation. But it's certainly true that if Iraq's top export were broccoli there'd have been no 2003 war. It's also possible that if war profiteering were illegal and prevented there'd have been no war. It's also possible that if the U.S. culture didn't reward war-making politicians, and/or the New York Times reported on war honestly, and/or Congress had made a habit of impeaching war-makers, and/or campaigns were publicly financed, and/or U.S. culture celebrated nonviolence rather than violence there'd have been no war. It's also possible that if George W. Bush and/or Dick Cheney and a few others were healthier psychologically there'd have been no war.
We should be wary of creating the assumption that there are always rational calculations behind wars. The fact that we can never quite find them is almost certainly not a failure of imagination, but a reluctance to recognize the irrational and evil behavior of our political officials. Global domination, machismo, sadism, and lust for power contribute significantly to the discussions of war planners.
But what makes war common in certain societies and not others? Extensive research suggests that the answer has nothing to do with economic pressures or the natural environment or other impersonal forces. Rather the answer is cultural acceptance. A culture that accepts or celebrates war will have war. One that spurns war as absurd and barbaric will know peace.
If Krugman and his readers are beginning to think of war as a bit archaic, as something requiring an explanation, that can only be good news for the movement to abolish war making.
The next big leap might come sooner if we all try to see the world for a moment from the perspective of someone outside the United States. After all, the idea that the U.S. should not be bombing Iraq only sounds like a denial that there is a major crisis in Iraq requiring swift action, to people who suppose that crises require bombs to solve them -- and most of those people, by some coincidence, seem to live in the United States.
Videos: How Do We Get to Peace? With David Swanson, Jill Stein, Kristin Christman, and Steve Breyman
The 16th annual Kateri Peace Conference in Fonda, N.Y., was organized around these three quotations of Buckminster Fuller:
"In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete."
"I'm not trying to counsel any of you to do anything really special except dare to think. And to dare to go with the truth. And to dare to really love completely."
"Love is omni-inclusive, progressively exquisite, understanding and compassionately attuned to other than self."
Watch the discussions of each quotation below or here, and check out the video of Jill Stein singing and jamming on a boat on the Erie Canal!
“Groups on the ground in St. Louis are calling for nationwide solidarity actions in support of Justice for Mike Brown and the end of police and extrajudicial killings everywhere.”
As they should. And we should all join in.
But “nationwide” and “everywhere” are odd terms to equate when discussing police militarization. Are we against extrajudicial killings (otherwise known as murder) by U.S. government employees and U.S. weapons in Pakistan? Yemen? Iraq? Gaza? And literally everywhere they occur? The militarization of local police in the United States is related to the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, which has now reached the point that bombing and “doing nothing” are generally conceived as the only two choices available. Local police are being militarized as a result of these factors:
- A culture glorifying militarization and justifying it as global policing.
- A federal government that directs roughly $1 trillion every year into the U.S. military, depriving virtually everything else of needed resources.
- A federal government that still manages to find resources to offer free military weapons to local police in the U.S. and elsewhere.
- Weapons profiteers that eat up local subsidies as well as federal contracts while funding election campaigns, threatening job elimination in Congressional districts, and pushing for the unloading of weapons by the U.S. military on local police as one means of creating the demand for more.
- The use of permanent wartime fears to justify the removal of citizens’ rights, gradually allowing local police to begin viewing the people they were supposed to protect as low-level threats, potential terrorists, and enemies of law and order in particular when they exercise their former rights to speech and assembly. Police “excesses” like war “excesses” are not apologized for, as one does not apologize to an enemy.
- The further funding of abusive policing through asset forfeitures and SWAT raids.
- The further conflation of military and police through the militarization of borders, especially the Mexican border, the combined efforts of federal and local forces in fusion centers, the military’s engagement in “exercises” in the U.S., and the growth of the drone industry with the military, among others, flying drones in U.S. skies and piloting drones abroad from U.S. land.
- The growth of the profit-driven prison industry and mass incarceration, which dehumanize people in the minds of participants just as boot camp and the nightly news do to war targets.
- Economically driven disproportionate participation in, and therefore identification with, the military by the very communities most suffering from its destruction of resources, rights, and lives.
But policing is not the only thing militarized by what President Eisenhower called the “total influence — economic, political, even spiritual” of the military industrial complex. Our morality is militarized, our entertainment is militarized, our natural world is militarized, and our education system is militarized. “Unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex” is not easily opposed while maintaining the military industrial complex. When Congress Members lend their support to a new war in Iraq while proposing that the U.S. Post Office and a dozen other decent things not be defunded, they are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. The United States cannot live like other wealthy nations while dumping $1 trillion a year into a killing machine.
The way out of this cycle of madness in which we spend more just on recruiting someone into the military or on locking them up behind bars than we spend on educating them is to confront in a unified and coherent manner what Martin Luther King Jr. called the evils of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the local police. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to weapons testing sites. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the people of Honduras causing them to flee to a land that then welcomes them with an attitude of militarism. Not any of these partial steps alone, but the whole package of interlocking evils of attitude and mindset.
There is a no-fly-zone over Ferguson, Missouri, because people in the U.S. government view the people of the United States increasingly as they view the people of other countries: as best controlled from the air. Notes the War Resister League,
“Vigils and protests in Ferguson – a community facing persistent racist profiling and police brutality – have been attacked by tear gas, rubber bullets, police in fully-armored SWAT gear, and tank-like personnel carriers. This underscores not only the dangers of being young, Black, and male in the US, but also the fear of mobilization and rebellion from within racialized communities facing the violence of austerity and criminalization.
“The parallels between the Israeli Defense Forces in Palestine, the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, the Indian police in Kashmir, the array of oppressive armed forces in Iraq, and the LAPD in Skid Row could not be any clearer. . . .
“This is not happening by accident. What is growing the capacity of local police agencies to exercise this force are police militarization programs explicitly designed to do so. As St. Louis writer Jamala Rogers wrote in an article on the militarization of St. Louis Police this past April, ‘It became clear that SWAT was designed as a response to the social unrest of the 1960s, particularly the anti-war and black liberation movements.’ Federal programs such as DoD 1033 and 1122, and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), in which St. Louis Police are active participants, provide weapons and training to police departments across the country, directly from the Pentagon. Commenting on the ominous growth of the phenomenon, Rogers continues: ‘and now, Police Chief [of St. Louis Police] Sam Dotson wants to add drones to his arsenal.’
“The events in Ferguson over these last few days demonstrate that the violence of policing and militarism are inextricably bound. To realize justice and freedom as a condition for peace, we must work together to end police militarization and violence.”
The War Resisters League is organizing against Urban Shield, an expo of military weapons for police and training event planned for Oakland, Calif., this September 4-8. The Week of Education and Action will take place in Oakland from August 30-September 5. Read all about it here.
David Swanson is a member of the National Committee of the War Resisters League and wants you to declare peace at http://WorldBeyondWar.org His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition. He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.