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Peace and War


Peace Philosophy and Public Life

The following is the foreword by David Swanson to a new book called Peace Philosophy and Public Life: Commitments, Crises, and Concepts for Engaged Thinking edited by Greg Moses and Gail Presbey, available from the publisher or amazon or your local bookstore.

This book makes a compelling case that if we are to rid the world of war, we will want to employ not only the usual tools—organization, education, activism, lobbying, nonviolent resistance, art, entertainment, and the creation of alternative structures that lead away from war—but we will also want to employ a healthy dose of philosophizing. By that I do not mean attempting to arrive at extra-human, divine, pure, or objective viewpoints on anything, but rather, attempting to bring into focus how much of our view of things is optional, and to propose preferable options.

In these pages, you will likely grasp the utility, not just the curiosity, of reconsidering any number of ways in which we speak and think, including what we mean by “we” when discussing foreign affairs, what we mean by “nationalism,” by “terrorism,” or by “humanitarianism.” Why do we assume that forgiveness has no place in public policy while overlooking those cases in which we unwittingly demand and expect it? We reject arguments from authority as consumers and voters but not—this book suggests—when we listen to law enforcement. Why?

Any number of contradictions in our labeling of practices should be examined. Can the prison and war industries really be described as creating jobs? Can we have a corrections institution that corrects nothing, or a counter-terrorism policy that increases terrorism? Are there other approaches to our public life that we haven’t properly considered? Or, rather, given the endless variety of alternative approaches that we have not considered, what provocative proposals can we bring ourselves to invent for consideration?

This is why we need philosophers and books like this one.

A couple of years ago, science writer John Horgan made a lengthy argument for the possibility of eliminating war from the world. He debunked the claim that war is in our genes, the claim that war is driven by population changes, the claim that a handful of sociopaths inevitably leads a nation to war, the claim that resource scarcity or inequality or stockpiles of weaponry make war unavoidable. After mountains of research, Horgan concluded that war exists only in those societies that accept or celebrate the idea of war. Therefore, we are free to choose to reject the idea of war and with it the practice, as others have done before.

Jean Paul Sartre, of course, arrived at this same conclusion without a speck of research. I actually think it is important that we arrive at the conclusion that we can end war without the research. We should not get into the habit of imagining that we must wait for authorities to prove to us that something has been done before, before we attempt to do it. Nothing could be more limiting. If we cannot have a world government until someone has demonstrated that world governments have existed before, we will never have one, and the idea of having one will strike us as absurd. Maybe it is absurd. Maybe it’s a horrible idea. But we should not write it off as such simply because it has not yet been tried.

This is not, of course, to suggest that empirical research is of no value. We could hardly survive or thrive without it. We could not speak intelligently about the world we want to change without it. It is hardly a condemnation of facts and data to deny them the role of limiting our imagination. No research to prove that slavery could be abolished existed prior to its abolition. Yet there was willingness by some to accept what is, after all, obvious: slavery would end if people chose to stop utilizing slavery, if they envisioned and constructed a society that lacked it.

People invest great effort in creating wars. They could choose not to do so. Transforming those glaringly obvious observations into a scientific study of whether enough people have rejected war in the past to reject it in the future is both helpful and harmful to the cause. It helps those who need to see that what they want to do has been done before. It hurts the habit we need to develop of imagining innovations.

This book in your hands is full of facts, but it is not fact driven. It is imagination driven. In these pages, you will be led to imagine various conceptions of nationalism and countryism. Is there a benevolent variation on the theme? Is there one with enough good in it to outweigh the harm? Here you will find that material to ponder.

Can we imagine nations with anti-terrorism policies? To do so, we will have to stop assuming we already have them. During the Cold War, the “balance of terror” was perfectly respectable. “Shock and awe” is a terrorist argument. Drone aircraft buzzing over villages are unmanned terrorists. What would a non-terrorist anti-terrorist policy look like?

We are helped along in our thinking by examples throughout the book of how some remarkable people have proposed paths that have not yet been taken. Dorothy Day proposed a response to Pearl Harbor that included forgiveness of the Japanese. Told that hers was an outrageous expectation, Day pointed out that African Americans were regularly lynched or assaulted in the United States and that their loved ones were expected to forgive.

Following 11 September 2001, Shirin Ebadi proposed building schools in Afghanistan named for the victims of the attacks of that day. Such a proposal will still sound crazy to most people when next it is made following some future disaster. But there is little doubt looking back that it would have done far more good than the approach actually taken—the natural, normal, acceptable, mainstream approach of bombing people to punish a crime most of them had never heard of and still have not. When the clearly preferable approach still sounds crazy, that’s a good sign we need to change our perspective.

The contributors to this volume propose shifts in perspective in several interlocking areas. These include immigration, ethics in economics, problems of consumerism, and wealth and poverty. Should we be tolerant of immigrants or welcome them with gratitude? Should we engage in charity or in solidarity? And what impact would these choices have on our acceptance of so-called “humanitarian” wars?

Nick Braune encourages us to think past arguments from authority so far as to radically shift the motivation for police interrogations. Instead of aiming for confessions, interrogators could aim to protect and inform the person being interrogated. If that sounds nonsensical, come back to this foreword after reading the book and maybe it will then seem normal. It is very hard for us to see anything as other than normal, even when it seemed crazy an hour before. But seeing choices, seeing multiple “normals,” is a skill we should practice, because we need to become capable of altering our vision.

The majority of people selling illegal drugs in the United States are white, but only people of color “look like” drug dealers to some police officers. Anyone accused of a crime “looks” guilty to many people employed in the criminal justice system. A “war” on drugs that has been used to generate real wars looks justified by those wars. Surely we would not legalize something we fight wars over!

Our “corrections” industry is not educating prisoners, but it is educating the rest of us to accept mass incarceration. The prison and war industries are promoted as jobs programs, as life-giving, as pro-peace. But we are perfectly capable of a coherent worldview in which that sort of nonsense sounds like nonsense. We should strive to develop that perspective.

Nuclear weapons are sometimes imagined as keeping us safe, but Day and Sartre and Albert Camus responded with appropriate horror immediately upon their creation. It turns out that horror is an appropriate response to all sorts of developments announced as progress or not announced at all. We are filling the skies with killer drones these days and suffering a corresponding deficit of horror.

What new horrors await us? This book warns of some of what we can expect: resource crises, climate catastrophe, mass immigration, refugees, and minority societies existing within hostile larger ones. These problems have solutions and means of prevention, and we should be thinking our way through them now.

Our politicians are largely ignoring Syrian refugees at the moment in which I write, while supporting violence in Syria for the supposed benefit of Syrians. If we had a better understanding of refugee crises in the world, could they get away with this?

We cannot know what all the problems will be. The unknown unknowns await us. But we can know for certain that the unknown knowns—the products of human thought that some people in places of power choose to avoid awareness of—will dominate many a future Donald Rumsfeld.

War is not only the product of the idea of war. It is a product of irrational madness and willful ignorance. It does not hold up on its own terms. The cakewalks are never cakewalks. The liberated are never grateful. The resources slip through the fingers of the plunderers. The bombs persistently fail to generate popular democracies. The freedoms we kill for are inevitably sacrificed to support the killing.

David Swanson Charlottesville, Virginia

Oppose Force to Save Starving Syrians

I've been asked to debate Danny Postel on the question of Syria, and so have read the op-ed he co-authored with Nader Hashemi, "Use Force to Save Starving Syrians."  Excellent responses have been published by Coleen Rowley and Rob Prince and probably others.  And my basic thinking on Syria has not changed fundamentally since I wrote down my top 10 reasons not to attack Syria and lots and lots of other writing on Syria over the years. But replying to Postel's op-ed might be helpful to people who've read it and found it convincing or at least disturbing. It might also allow Postel to most efficiently find out where I'm coming from prior to our debate.

So, here's where I'm coming from. Postel's op-ed proposes the use of force as if force hadn't been tried yet, as if force were not in fact the very problem waiting to be solved. What he is proposing is increased force.  The arming and funding and training of one side in Syria by the CIA, Saudi Arabia, et al, and the other side by Russia, et al, is not enough; more is needed, Postel believes. But "force" is a very non-descriptive term, as are all the other terms Postel uses to refer to what he wants: "air cover," "coercive measures," "Mr. Assad ... [should] be left behind."

I find it hard to imagine people on the ground while NATO dropped thousands of bombs on Libya pointing to the sky and remarking "Check out the air cover!"

Or this: "What happened to your children, Ma'am?" "They experienced some coercive measures."

Or this: "What became of Gadaffi?" "Oh, him? He was left behind."

When people who experience modern wars that wealthy nations launch against poor ones talk about them, they describe detailed horror, terror, and trauma.  They recount what it's like to try to hold a loved one's guts into their mutilated body as they gasp their last. Even the accounts of recovering and regretful drone pilots in the U.S. have much more humanity and reality in them than do Postel's euphemisms.

I'm not questioning the sincerity of Postel's belief that, despite it's long record of abysmal failure, humanitarian war would find success in a nation as divided as Syria, of all unlikely places. But Postel should trust his readers to share his conclusion after being presented with the full facts of the case.  If Postel believes that the people whose lives would be ended or devastated by "air cover" are out-weighed by the people who he believes would be thereby saved from starvation, he should say so. He should at the very least acknowledge that people would be killed in the process and guesstimate how many they would be.

Postel claims Somalia as a past example of a "humanitarian intervention," without dwelling on the chaos and violence aggravated and ongoing there. This seems another shortcoming to me. If you are going to make a moral decision, not only should it include the negative side of the ledger, but it should include the likely medium-term and long-term results, good and bad.  Looking at Somalia with a broader view hurts Postel's case, but so does looking at Libya, Afghanistan, or Iraq.  Studies by Erica Chenoweth and others have documented that violent solutions to oppression and tyranny are not only less likely to succeed, but if they succeed their success is shorter lived.  Violence breeds violence. "Force," translated into the reality of killing people's loved ones, breeds resentment, not reconciliation.

So, I think Postel's case for dropping tons of deadly "coercive measures" on Syria would be a weak one even were it likely to resemble his outline. Sadly, it isn't. The war on Libya three years ago was sold as an emergency use of "force" to protect supposedly threatened people in Benghazi. It was immediately, illegally, predictably, cynically, and disastrously turned into a campaign of bombing the nation to overthrow its government -- a government that, like Syria's, had long been on a Pentagon list to be overthrown for anything but humanitarian reasons.  Postel presents a quick and antiseptic "leaving behind" operation to provide food to the starving, but surely he knows that is not what it would remain for any longer than it takes to say "R2P."  Why else does Postel refer so vaguely to leaving Assad behind?

It may be worth noting that it's not aid workers advocating for "coercion" strikes on Syria. I spoke with a U.S. government aid worker in Syria some months back who had this to say:

"Before we contemplate military strikes against the Syrian regime, we would do well to carefully consider what impact such strikes would have on our ongoing humanitarian programs, both those funded by the U.S. and by other countries and international organizations. These programs currently reach hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people throughout Syria, in areas controlled both by the regime and the opposition. We know from past military interventions, such as in Yugoslavia and Iraq, that airstrikes launched for humanitarian reasons often result in the unintended deaths of many civilians. The destruction of roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, which such airstrikes may entail, would significantly hamper the delivery of humanitarian aid in Syria.

"The provision of this assistance in regime controlled areas requires the agreement, and in many cases the cooperation, of the Asad government. Were the Asad regime, in response to U.S. military operations, to suspend this cooperation, and prohibit the UN and Nongovernmental Organizations from operating in territory under its control, hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians would be denied access to food, shelter, and medical care. In such a scenario, we would be sacrificing programs of proven effectiveness in helping the people of Syria, in favor of ill considered actions that may or may not prevent the future use of chemical weapons, or otherwise contribute to U.S. objectives in any meaningful way."

Let's grant that the crisis has continued for months and worsened. It remains the fact that it is advocates of war advocating war, not aid workers advocating war.  The option of ceasing to arm both sides, and of pursuing a negotiated settlement, is simply ignored by the war advocates.  The option of nonviolent efforts to deliver aid is avoided entirely. The failure to provide adequate aid to refugees who where that can be reached seems far less pressing than the failure to provide aid where that failure can become a justification for an escalated war. 

"Humanitarian interventions," Postel writes, "typically occur when moral principles overlap with political interests."  This seems to be an acknowledgment that political interests are something other than moral.  So, there's no cry for "humanitarian intervention" in Bahrain or Palestine or Egypt because it doesn't fit "political interests."  That seems like an accurate analysis.  And presumably some interventions that do fit political interests are not moral and humanitarian.  The question is which are which.  Postel believes there have been enough humanitarian interventions to describe something as being typical of them, but he doesn't list them. In fact, the record of U.S. military and CIA interventions is a unbroken string of anti-humanitarian horrors. And in most cases, if not every case, actual aid would have served humanity better than guns and bombs, and so would have ceasing pre-existing involvement rather than escalating it and calling that an intervention.

But once you've accepted that the tool of war should be encouraged in certain cases, even though it's misused in other cases, then something else has to be added to your moral calculation, namely the propagation of war and preparations for war.  Those of us who cannot find a single war worth supporting differ only slightly perhaps from those who find one war in a hundred worth backing.  But it's a difference that shifts opposition to support for an investment that costs the world some $2 trillion a year.  The United Nations believes that $30 billion a year could end serious starvation around the world.  Imagine what, say, $300 billion could do for food, water, medicine, education, and green energy.  Imagine if the United States were to offer that kind of aid to every nation able to peacefully and democratically accept it. Would polls continue to find the U.S. viewed as the greatest threat to peace on earth? Would the title of most beloved nation on earth begin to look plausible?

Members of the nonviolent peaceforce, Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire, and other advocates of de-escalation in Syria traveled freely around Syria some months back. How were they able to do that?  What might trainers in creative nonviolent action offer Syria that CIA and military trainers aren't offering?  The alternative is never even considered by advocates of war-or-nothing.  Postel wants to back "democratically oriented" rebel groups, but is violence clearly democratically oriented?  Turning our eyes back on ourselves suggests a rather disturbing answer. In September 2013, President Obama gave us the hard sell. Watch these videos of suffering children, he said, and support striking their nation with missiles or support their ongoing suffering.  And a huge majority in the U.S. rejected the idea that those were the only two choices.  A majority opposed the strikes. An even larger majority opposed arming the rebels. And a large majority favored humanitarian aid. There is a case to be made that democracy would be better spread by example than by defying the will of the U.S. people in order to bomb yet another nation in democracy's name.

Postel, to his credit, calls the "Responsibility to Protect" a "principle." Some have called it a "law." But it cannot undo the U.N. Charter. War being illegal, its use damages the rule of law. That result must also be factored into a full moral calculation of how to act.  Act we must, as Postel says repeatedly. The question is how.  Rob Prince presents a useful plan of action in the article linked above.

Postel's most persuasive argument is probably, for many readers, his contention that only threatening to act will save the day.  He claims that Syria has responded positively to threats of force.  But this is not true.  Syria was always willing to give up its chemical weapons and had long since proposed a WMD-free Middle East -- a proposal that ran up against the lack of "political interest" in eliminating Israel's illegal weapons.  Also false, of course, were claims by the Obama administration to know that Assad had used chemical weapons.  See Coleen Rowley's summary of how that case has collapsed in the article linked above.

Granted, there can be a good honest case for an action for which misguided, false, and fraudulent cases have been offered. But I haven't seen such a case yet for taking an action in Syria that would, to be sure, dramatically declare that action was being taken, release a lot of pent-up tension, and enrich Raytheon's owners, but almost certainly leave Syrians, Americans, and the world worse off.

The Stupidest Idea in the History of the World

This article is really better as a video.

If you search on the internet for "the stupidest idea in the history of the world" you'll come away thinking that maybe a top contestant is the invention of Youtube. Who knew so many idiots could do so much damage to themselves with so many motorbikes and diving boards and flame throwers?

If you survey the span of human history a little more seriously, some big ideas jump out, beginning with the creation of history itself. Maybe if we'd stayed unhistoric, hunted, gathered, and existed eternally as part of nature we wouldn't have gotten into such a mess. But that's too easy an answer, and way too much for people who ride surf boards off their roofs -- and film it -- to think about.

Other ideas are in the running, I think, from industrial farming, to religion, to racism, to fossil fuels, to science at any cost, to the creation of the United States Senate.  And yet, one idea stands out for its wild improbability, creativity, long-lasting destruction on an enormous scale, and insidious ability to turn even people who don't own video cameras and catapults into champion unwitting masochists.

The idea I'm talking about, and my nominee for Stupidest Idea in the History of the World, is the idea that any ordinary person should ever support a war.

While it's undoubtedly true that the war propagandist is the world's second-oldest, and least respectable, profession, he or she is a product of history who wasn't needed in prehistoric times.  Nobody needed to be sold on the idea of hunters fighting off lions and bears.  It's when they ran out of lions and bears and decided to keep their jobs by starting fights with other tribes of humans that persuasion became necessary.

Why in the world would people want to support fighting and killing other people and having those other people fight and kill you?  What's to be gained? A thrill?  If you want a serious and useful and communal thrill these days you can do nonviolent resistance to fascist governments. Or you can join a fire department. If you want a useless and pointless thrill, you can jump off a 100-foot bridge with a 100-foot (but all too stretchable) bungee cord and a video camera. Back then, you could go hunting or exploring, or try to discover gravity or surgery.  Never was the only thrill available war.

And yet, down through the ages, war has popped up again and again, here and there, around the globe.  And where it takes hold in a culture it carries with it the false belief that it's always around in every culture.  Thus people manage to find that they support the stupidest idea ever for the stupidest reason ever, because supposedly they have no choice.  Yet, choosing to support war because you have no choice in the matter remains a feat which people with developed brains find challenging.

The stupidest idea ever is a marvel of simplicity, and in its simplicity answers every challenge.  Why should people of tribe A be willing to go to war with the people of tribe B just because the tribe A chiefs want to steal some stuff from tribe B? The answer is easy if you're a certified idiot who juggles flaming torches on Youtube: Anyone in tribe A who opposes waging war on tribe B is, by magical definition, in favor of tribe B winning a war against tribe A.  Or, as modern sophisticates like to put it: Either you're with us or you're with the terrorists.

OK, so that's a nifty trick, but the stupidest idea ever must be more comprehensive. It must surprise us in its ability to destroy in new areas, to pass unseen behind the backs of its moronic supporters, and to gain partial support from the partially informed, limiting its actual opponents to the barest minority of freaks and misfits.  I offer for your consideration, once again, the idea of supporting war.

Observe: the nations that wage the most war claim that they are under attack for no good reason and are forced to wage war to defend themselves, even as their wars make them more and more hated and less and less safe.  While the nations that wage the least war have the fewest enemies threatening them in the world.  But people who've begun supporting war will readily believe that sending killer robot planes over the homes of poor people thousands of miles away is defensive, and that when it creates hatred and hostility the answer must be yet more weapons. 

In fact, the same people support manufacturing tons of weapons and selling them to other countries against whom theirs will later fight wars, and they support this as a jobs program even though it actually sucks jobs out of their society rather than creating them.  That is to say, war-related jobs cost more per job than do jobs created by spending on just about anything else, even tax cuts.  So, people support weapons-making because they have been misled into supporting war, and they support war because they have been misled into supporting the weapons industries, and then they just support both out of sheer stupid habit -- which is, of course, the single most powerful force in the universe.

But the stupidity of war doesn't end there.  People who support wars can be brought to believe that wars are good for their victims.  They think of each war as building better nations where it's fought, even though that's never actually happened.  They talk of humanitarian wars even though humanity suffers.  They imagine war is a solution to genocide, even though war kills more people and those people are just as disproportionately helpless innocents from one group in a war as in a genocide.

A recent U.S.-led war on Iraq destroyed that nation and killed some million people there, leaving behind chaos, violence, and environmental ruin; and war supporters think of Iraq as having benefitted.  Someone explain to me how that's not stupider than cleaning your loaded gun on Youtube or praying for god to make the other football team lose.  And it gets even stupider when you hear how Iraqis supposedly benefitted. They benefitted by being given freedom, because wars bring freedom, even though -- during the course of any war its supporters end up with fewer and fewer actual rights, due to restrictions justified by the war, even thought the war is justified by the cry of "freedom!"

How stupid can you get? War gets even stupider.  It is the leading destroyer of the natural environment, but environmental groups will hardly touch it because they wouldn't want their concern for the earth to interfere with their blind stupid loyalty to a tribe.  And human rights groups and civil liberties groups are the same way.  They want to have war without murder, torture, rape, or imprisonment -- but opposing war would be unacceptable.  Never mind that the atrocities increase in direct proportion to the war spending, they want to oppose only the atrocities.  The war spending that generates the wars is viewed almost universally as an insurance against wars.

In the U.S. there are those who will object to murdering a U.S. citizen with a missile from a drone -- and some will object even if the president does have a secret memo he won't show us but which he claims re-writes the law and makes murder legal.  Some will even object to murdering non-U.S. citizens with drones if they're civilians.  Some even extend their concern to militants suspected of fighting on the side in some local war opposed by the far-off and unthreatened United States.  And some, the true radicals, will object to all killing of human beings outside of a proper war zone.

But try pointing out to them that murdering people remains cruel and evil, immoral, impractical and counter-productive, and in violation of laws like the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact regardless of where you declare there to be a "war zone," and you'll run head-first into the brick wall of the Stupidest Idea in the History of the World. 

That's a powerful force to challenge, but it can be challenged, and it can be brought down, brick by brick.

You can get involved at WarIsACrime.org

Talk Nation Radio: Jennifer Gibson: Drones Terrorize Populations, Victims Seek Justice at ICC

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-jennifer

Jennifer Gibson, a U.S. lawyer, leads Reprieve’s drones work in Pakistan. Prior to joining Reprieve, Jennifer was at Stanford University, where she co-authored, Living Under Drones -- one of the most comprehensive accounts of the impact of drones in Pakistan to date.  She has brought drone victims to testify in Congress and to meet with members of various European parliaments, and recently to the International Criminal Court to file a complaint against the U.K., Germany, and Australia for their complicity in U.S drone murders. Learn more: http://Reprieve.org.uk

Total run time: 29:00

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

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Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

If the Defense Department's Not Defensive, What Would Be?

Militarism has made us less safe, and continues to do so.  It is not a useful tool for protection. So, what is?

Studies over the past century have found that nonviolent tools are more effective in resisting tyranny and oppression and resolving conflicts and achieving security than violence is.

Wealthy militarist nations like the United States think of their militaries as global police, protecting the world. The world disagrees. By a large margin people all over the world consider the United States the greatest threat to peace.

The United States could easily make itself the most beloved nation on earth with much less expense and effort, by ceasing its "military aid" and providing a bit of non-military aid instead.

The momentum of the military-industrial complex works through the hammer-nail effect (if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail).  What’s needed is a combination of disarmament and investment in alternatives -- alternatives like diplomacy, arbitration, international law enforcement, cultural exchange, and cooperation with other countries and people.

The most heavily armed nations can help disarmament in three ways. First, disarm — partially or fully. Second, stop selling weapons to so many other countries that don’t manufacture them themselves. During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, at least 50 corporations supplied weapons, at least 20 of them to both sides. Third, negotiate disarmament agreements with other countries and arrange for inspections that will verify disarmament by all parties.

The first step in handling crises is to stop creating them in the first place. Threats and sanctions and false accusations over a period of years can build momentum for war that is triggered by a relatively small act, even an accident.  By taking steps to avoid provoking crises, much effort can be saved.

When conflicts inevitably do arise, they can be better addressed if investments have been made in diplomacy and arbitration.

A fair and democratic international system of law is needed.  The United Nations needs to be reformed or replaced with an international body that forbids war and allows equal representation to every nation.  The same goes for the International Criminal Court.  The idea behind it is exactly right. But if it only prosecutes tactics, not the launching, of wars. And if it only prosecutes Africans, and only Africans not cooperating with the United States, then it weakens the rule of law rather than expanding it. 

Pakistani victims and family members who have charged the CIA with murder in their courts, and whose courts have declared U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan illegal, are charging the U.K., Germany, and Australia through the ICC with the crime of assisting in U.S. drone murders. But if the U.S. cannot be charged because it's not an ICC member, and if U.S. allies will end up walking free because the U.S. has a U.N. veto, justice is not being done -- the alternative of the rule of law to the rule of force is not really being tried.  Reform or replacement of our international bodies, not abandonment, is needed.

Here's a list of approaches that could move us in the right direction, from a movement working to advance them.

And here are a few specific projects:

Set up conversion commissions.

Get free money for transition.

Participate in the Global Day of Action on Military Spending.

Spring Days of Drone Action.

Support peace in Syria.

Oppose push for war on Iran.

I recently had the opportunity to speak about this movement at an event in Portland, Maine, where people turned out in the middle of a snow storm to discuss ending all war forever:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AevhD6JFDB0

You might find the next video more interesting, as it includes both me and Shenna Bellows answering questions about militarism and peace making.  Bellows is the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate challenging Republican incumbent Susan Collins:
 


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfhMOGk-KMY#t=1072

Operation Nazification

Annie Jacobsen's new book is called Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America.  It isn't terribly secret anymore, of course, and it was never very intelligent.  Jacobsen has added some details, and the U.S. government is still hiding many more.  But the basic facts have been available; they're just left out of most U.S. history books, movies, and television programs.

After World War II, the U.S. military hired sixteen hundred former Nazi scientists and doctors, including some of Adolf Hitler's closest collaborators, including men responsible for murder, slavery, and human experimentation, including men convicted of war crimes, men acquitted of war crimes, and men who never stood trial.  Some of the Nazis tried at Nuremberg had already been working for the U.S. in either Germany or the U.S. prior to the trials.  Some were protected from their past by the U.S. government for years, as they lived and worked in Boston Harbor, Long Island, Maryland, Ohio, Texas, Alabama, and elsewhere, or were flown by the U.S. government to Argentina to protect them from prosecution.  Some trial transcripts were classified in their entirety to avoid exposing the pasts of important U.S. scientists. Some of the Nazis brought over were frauds who had passed themselves off as scientists, some of whom subsequently learned their fields while working for the U.S. military.

The U.S. occupiers of Germany after World War II declared that all military research in Germany was to cease, as part of the process of denazification.  Yet that research went on and expanded in secret, under U.S. authority, both in Germany and in the United States, as part of a process that it's possible to view as nazification.  Not only scientists were hired. Former Nazi spies, most of them former S.S., were hired by the U.S. in post-war Germany to spy on -- and torture -- Soviets. 

The U.S. military shifted in numerous ways when former Nazis were put into prominent positions. It was Nazi rocket scientists who proposed placing nuclear bombs on rockets and began developing the intercontinental ballistic missile.  It was Nazi engineers who had designed Hitler's bunker beneath Berlin, who now designed underground fortresses for the U.S. government in the Catoctin and Blue Ridge Mountains.  Known Nazi liars were employed by the U.S. military to draft classified intelligence briefs falsely hyping the Soviet menace. Nazi scientists developed U.S. chemical and biological weapons programs, bringing over their knowledge of tabun and sarin, not to mention thalidomide -- and their eagerness for human experimentation, which the U.S. military and the newly created CIA readily engaged in on a major scale.  Every bizarre and gruesome notion of how a person might be assassinated or an army immobilized was of interest to their research. New weapons were developed, including VX and Agent Orange.  A new drive to visit and weaponize outerspace was created, and former Nazis were put in charge of a new agency called NASA. 

Permanent war thinking, limitless war thinking, and creative war thinking in which science and technology overshadowed death and suffering, all went mainstream.  When a former Nazi spoke to a women's luncheon at the Rochester Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1953, the event's headline was "Buzz Bomb Mastermind to Address Jaycees Today."  That doesn't sound terribly odd to us, but might have shocked anyone living in the United States anytime prior to World War II.  Watch this Walt Disney television program featuring a former Nazi who worked slaves to death in a cave building rockets.  Before long, President Dwight Eisenhower would be lamenting that "the total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government." Eisenhower was not referring to Nazism but to the power of the military-industrial complex.  Yet, when asked whom he had in mind in remarking in the same speech that "public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite," Eisenhower named two scientists, one of them the former Nazi in the Disney video linked above.

The decision to inject 1,600 of Hitler's scientific-technological elite into the U.S. military was driven by fears of the USSR, both reasonable and the result of fraudulent fear mongering.  The decision evolved over time and was the product of many misguided minds. But the buck stopped with President Harry S Truman.  Henry Wallace, Truman's predecessor as vice-president who we like to imagine would have guided the world in a better direction than Truman did as president, actually pushed Truman to hire the Nazis as a jobs program.  It would be good for American industry, said our progressive hero.  Truman's subordinates debated, but Truman decided.  As bits of Operation Paperclip became known, the American Federation of Scientists, Albert Einstein, and others urged Truman to end it. Nuclear physicist Hans Bethe and his colleague Henri Sack asked Truman:

"Did the fact that the Germans might save the nation millions of dollars imply that permanent residence and citizenship could be bought? Could the United States count on [the German scientists] to work for peace when their indoctrinated hatred against the Russians might contribute to increase the divergence between the great powers? Had the war been fought to allow Nazi ideology to creep into our educational and scientific institutions by the back door? Do we want science at any price?"

In 1947 Operation Paperclip, still rather small, was in danger of being terminated. Instead, Truman transformed the U.S. military with the National Security Act, and created the best ally that Operation Paperclip could want: the CIA. Now the program took off, intentionally and willfully, with the full knowledge and understanding of the same U.S. President who had declared as a senator that if the Russians were winning the U.S. should help the Germans, and vice versa, to ensure that the most people possible died, the same president who viciously and pointlessly dropped two nuclear bombs on Japanese cities, the same president who brought us the war on Korea, the war without declaration, the secret wars, the permanent expanded empire of bases, the military secrecy in all matters, the imperial presidency, and the military-industrial complex.  The U.S. Chemical Warfare Service took up the study of German chemical weapons at the end of the war as a means to continue in existence.  George Merck both diagnosed biological weapons threats for the military and sold the military vaccines to handle them.  War was business and business was going to be good for a long time to come.

But how big a change did the United States go through after World War II, and how much of it can be credited to Operation Paperclip?  Isn't a government that would give immunity to both Nazi and Japanese war criminals in order to learn their criminal ways already in a bad place?  As one of the defendants argued in trial at Nuremberg, the U.S. had already engaged in its own experiments on humans using almost identical justifications to those offered by the Nazis.  If that defendant had been aware, he could have pointed out that the U.S. was in that very moment engaged in such experiments in Guatemala.  The Nazis had learned some of their eugenics and other nasty inclinations from Americans.  Some of the Paperclip scientists had worked in the U.S. before the war, as many Americans had worked in Germany.  These were not isolated worlds.

Looking beyond the secondary, scandalous, and sadistic crimes of war, what about the crime of war itself?  We picture the United States as less guilty because it maneuvered the Japanese into the first attack, and because it did prosecute some of the war's losers.  But an impartial trial would have prosecuted Americans too.  Bombs dropped on civilians killed and injured and destroyed more than any concentration camps -- camps that in Germany had been modeled in part after U.S. camps for native Americans.  Is it possible that Nazi scientists blended into the U.S. military so well because an institution that had already done what it had done to the Philippines was not in all that much need of nazification?

Yet, somehow, we think of the firebombing of Japanese cities and the complete leveling of German cities as less offensive that the hiring of Nazi scientists.  But what is it that offends us about Nazi scientists?  I don't think it should be that they engaged in mass-murder for the wrong side, an error balanced out in some minds but their later work for mass-murder by the right side.  And I don't think it should be entirely that they engaged in sick human experimentation and forced labor.  I do think those actions should offend us.  But so should the construction of rockets that take thousands of lives.  And it should offend us whomever it's done for.

It's curious to imagine a civilized society somewhere on earth some years from now. Would an immigrant with a past in the U.S. military be able to find a job? Would a review be needed? Had they tortured prisoners? Had they drone-struck children? Had they leveled houses or shot up civilians in any number of countries? Had they used cluster bombs? Depleted uranium? White phosphorous? Had they ever worked in the U.S. prison system? Immigrant detention system? Death row? How thorough a review would be needed? Would there be some level of just-following-orders behavior that would be deemed acceptable? Would it matter, not just what the person had done, but how they thought about the world?

Talk Nation Radio: U.S. Marine Corps Threatens Small Pacific Island

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-u-s-marine

Michael Hadfield is a Professor of Zoology and Principal Investigator at the Kewalo Marine Laboratory, University of Hawaii, and at the Pacific Biosciences Research Center. He discusses the need to save Pagan Island, its people and other species, from the U.S. military. See http://savepaganisland.org

Total run time: 29:00

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

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