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Peace and War
By the latest count, the nuclear agreement with Iran has enough support in the U.S. Senate to survive. This, even more than stopping the missile strikes on Syria in 2013, may be as close as we come to public recognition of the prevention of a war (something that happens quite a bit but generally goes unrecognized and for which there are no national holidays). Here, for what they’re worth, are 10 teachings for this teachable moment.
- There is never an urgent need for war. Wars are often begun with great urgency, not because there’s no other option, but because delay might allow another option to emerge. The next time someone tells you a particular country must be attacked as a “last resort,” ask them politely to please explain why diplomacy was possible with Iran and not in this other case. If the U.S. government is held to that standard, war may quickly become a thing of the past.
- A popular demand for peace over war can succeed, at least when those in power are divided. When much of one of the two big political parties takes the side of peace, the advocates of peace have a chance. And of course now we know which senators and Congress members will shift their positions with partisan winds. My Republican Congressman opposed war on Syria in 2013 when President Obama supported it, but supported greater hostility toward Iran in 2015 when Obama opposed it. One of my two Democratic Senators backed peace for a change, when Obama did. The other remained undecided, as if the choice were too complex.
- The government of Israel can make a demand of the government of the United States and be told No. This is a remarkable breakthrough. None of the actual 50 states expects to always get its way in Washington, but Israel does — or did until now. This opens up the possibility of ceasing to give Israel billions of dollars worth of free weapons one of these years, or even of ceasing to protect Israel from legal consequences for what it does with those weapons
- Money can make a demand of the U.S. government and be told No. Multibillionaires funded huge advertising campaigns and dangled major campaign “contributions.” The big money was all on the side opposing the agreement, and yet the agreement prevailed — or at least now looks like it will. This doesn’t prove we have a corruption-free government. But it does suggest that the corruption is not yet 100 percent.
- Counterproductive tactics employed in this victorious antiwar effort may end up making this a Pyrrhic victory. Both sides in the debate over the agreement advanced baseless claims about Iranian aggression and Iranian attempts to create nuclear weapons. Both sides depicted Iranians as completely untrustworthy and menacing. If the agreement is undone or some other incident arises, the mental state of the U.S. public regarding Iran is in a worse position than it was before, as regards restraining the dogs of war.
- The deal is a concrete step to be built on. It is a powerful argument for the use of diplomacy — perhaps even less hostile diplomacy — in other areas of the globe. It is also a verifiable refutation to future assertions of an Iranian nuclear threat. This means that U.S. weaponry stationed in Europe on the basis of that alleged threat can and must be withdrawn rather than remain as an open act of aggression toward Russia.
- When given the choice, the nations of the world will leap at an opening for peace. And they will not easily be brought back again. U.S. allies are now opening embassies in Iran. If the United States backs away from Iran again, it will isolate itself. This lesson should be borne in mind when considering violent and non-violent options for other countries.
- The longer a war with Iran is avoided, the stronger an argument we have for continuing to avoid it. When a U.S. push for war on Iran has been stopped before, including in 2007, this has not only put off a possible catastrophe; it has also made it more difficult to create. If a future U.S. government wants war with Iran, it will have to go up against public awareness that peace with Iran is possible.
- The nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) works. Inspections work. Just as inspections worked in Iraq, they work in Iran. Other nations, such as Israel, North Korea, India, and Pakistan, should be encouraged to join the NPT. Proposals for a nuclear-free Middle East should be pursued.
- The United States should itself cease violating the NPT and lead by example, ceasing to share nuclear weapons with other nations, ceasing to create new nuclear weapons, and working to disarm itself of an arsenal that serves no purpose but threatens apocalypse.
Eve Spangler is a sociologist and a human and civil rights activist. For the last decade, her work has focused on the Israel/Palestine conflict. We discuss her new book, Understanding Israel/Palestine: Race, Nation, and Human Rights in the Conflict.
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The U.S. Institute of Peace has a great name, our tax dollars, and a terrible record. Let’s move it in a better direction.
If you’ve never heard of the U.S. Institute of Peace, please keep reading. It works everyday with your money in a fancy new building next to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. It just doesn’t work for peace.
If you know the USIP’s record and consider it a lost cause, please keep reading. This institute can be made to do some good. A number of us will be meeting with USIP in late September and bringing along this petition. Please click here to sign it.
The petition to USIP reads: “We urge you to oppose U.S. militarism and begin working for an end to U.S. war-making by providing to Congress and the public information on the disastrous results of recent U.S. wars and the superior results of nonviolence and diplomacy. We ask that you recommend to the President of the United States the removal from your board of Stephen Hadley, Eric Edelman, and Frederick M. Padilla, and their replacement by three seasoned peace activists, along with a recommendation to maintain at least three seasoned peace activists on your board at all times — right now there are none.”
The U.S. Institute of Peace is a federal government institute created by a bill signed into law in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan and funded annually by Congress as well as sometimes receiving funding from the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the military. The law states that the “Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the Director of Central Intelligence each may assign officers and employees of his respective department or agency, on a rotating basis to be determined by the Board, to the Institute.”
The Institute has never opposed a U.S. war and claims that it can only support things, not oppose them. But in fact, the law only forbids it from seeking “to influence the passage or defeat of legislation … except that the personnel of the Institute may testify or make other appropriate communication when formally requested to do so by a legislative body, a committee, or a member thereof.” Most U.S. wars, including the war on Libya, the newly revived war on Iraq (and Syria), and the drone wars on Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, have been launched without legislation. And, even if there were legislation involved, it would not be at all difficult for USIP to ask a single member of Congress to request its opinion, thereby freeing it to provide its views and its research. USIP makes no claim that it cannot provide the public with information on the negative results of U.S. wars; it simply fails to do so.
The Institute in fact makes recommendations to Congress, including in formally presented testimony, it just recommends things like supporting the Syrian opposition, training and arming troops to fight both ISIS and the Syrian government, and creating a “no fly zone” in Syria, rather than working toward an arms embargo or aid or diplomacy. The Institute has recommended diplomacy with Iran, and could do so in a dozen other cases, although its notion that weapons sales is part of diplomacy may be less than helpful.
The law requires that the USIP Board include 15 voting members, including the Secretaries of State and “Defense,” the President of the National “Defense” University, and 12 members appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, and each having “practical or academic experience in peace and conflict resolution.” The law also states that “No member of the Board may participate in any decision, action, or recommendation with respect to any matter which directly and financially benefits the member or pertains specifically to any public body or any private or nonprofit firm or organization with which the member is then formally associated or has been formally associated within a period of two years.” There are a number of mechanisms for removing a board member, including 8 or more board members making that recommendation to the President.
The USIP does do some work aimed at peace, including hosting speakers and producing publications aimed at peace, sending skilled mediators into conflict zones, making research grants, holding essay contests, and conducting conflict-resolution trainings, but such efforts are deeply compromised by the following concerns:
USIP board member and chairman, Stephen Hadley, urges the bombing of Syria and the militarization of Ukraine, while encouraging European nations to double their military spending, and himself profiting from war as a board member of Raytheon.
USIP board member Eric Edelman, a former undersecretary at the Pentagon, promotes higher military spending, an attack on Iran, and deployment of nuclear weapons to nations on Russia’s border.
USIP board member Major General Frederick M. Padilla, USMC, is career military.
USIP promotes the overthrow of the Syrian government.
USIP is not known to have ever opposed a U.S. war, U.S. weapons exports, U.S. foreign bases, or U.S. military spending.
USIP promotes trade embargoes, economic austerity programs, and electoral interventions as tools of aggression, not peace building.
USIP funds many more supporters than opponents of militarism.
USIP hosts pro-war talks by leading war advocates.
Appropriate board members for USIP exist in large numbers, and many of them would no doubt be happy to serve. Here are a few examples of the many possible names: Kathy Kelly, Michael McPhearson, Ann Wright, Paul Chappell, Noura Erekat, Dennis Kucinich, David Vine, Matt Daloisio, John Dear, Bruce Gagnon, Phil Donahue, Mel Duncan, David Hartsough, Mubarak Awad, Leslie Cagan, Roy Bourgeois, Cornell West, Lennox Yearwood, Osagyefo Sekou, Phyllis Bennis, Andy Shallal, Helena Cobban, Noam Chomsky, Elliott Adams.
Appropriate events that USIP could host might include:
How to Finally End the Korean War,
Abolition of Armed Drones,
A Plan to Close Overseas Bases,
Why Does NATO Still Exist?,
How Can the Kellogg-Briand Pact Be Complied With?,
What Could $2 Trillion a Year Buy Instead of War?,
Military Abolition and the Costa Rican Model,
Pondering Polling: How Did the U.S. Become Seen as the Greatest Threat to World Peace?,
Pinkerism and the Myth that War Is Vanishing,
WMD Tales From Iraq to Iran,
Vietnam Syndrome: Illness or Health?,
Benefits of Joining the International Criminal Court,
If War Makes Us Less Safe Why Can’t We Stop?,
The Economic and Moral Benefits of Transition to Peaceful Industries,
The ICCPR Ban on War Propaganda,
Diplomacy in Iran: Why Not in Eight Other Places?,
Why Arm Dictatorships?,
Whose Land Is Guantanamo?,
The Convention on the Rights of the Child – Why Not?,
What Is Preventing Spacefaring Powers from Banning Weapons in Space?,
Why Not Reinstate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty?,
Should Palestinians Have Human Rights?,
Remembering the Maine, the Lusitania, Tonkin Gulf . . . What Would Accurate History Change?,
What Would Compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Look Like?
Reports USIP could usefully write include:
U.S. arms sales to each foreign nation, as compared to the sales of other nations — a report the Congressional Research Service has ceased producing.
U.S. military spending, as compared to non-military government spending — a report the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency has ceased producing.
Initial Signers of the Petition Are:
Now that General David Petraeus wants to arm and train al Qaeda killers, a number of questions arise that might be raised with the great leader:
1. Should people who said that anyone was a traitor who called you David Betray-Us while you were fighting al Qaeda, now call you David Betray-Us or a traitor?
2. Do you imagine that just because you can share all sorts of secrets with your girlfriend and get off easy, there are no hardcore nut cases who believe in the "material support for terrorism" law more than they believe in you?
3. Have you looked into whether this West Point professor wants you shot?
4. The U.S. armed what would become al Qaeda against the Soviet Union. Al Qaeda in Iraq developed into ISIS following U.S. war-making there. Could arming one branch of Al Qaeda against another really be the way violence at long last, for the first time, produces something other than more violence?
5. Is this part of a revival of Ronald Reagan traditional conservatism?
6. Do you foresee arming ISIS against a different, greater evil, as a possible future policy? If so, is the Pentagon justified in having gotten a head start on that?
7. Did you know that the U.S. public revolt against a proposed war on Syria in 2013 was driven in part by opposition to aligning with al Qaeda?
8. Is the problem here overly successful propaganda? Should future wars be marketed without the same level of promotion of an enemy brand?
9. When recruiting people to commit mass murder, are you seriously going to keep claiming that what you're looking for are the "moderates"?
10. While avoiding arms embargoes, disarmament, cease-fires, aid, diplomacy, or peace at all costs, and always arming new groups, you either have to continually invent new groups (like Khorasan) or eventually come around to arming some of the groups you previously armed others against. Which raises the question: which weapons maker loves you the very most?
11. Have you shifted strategy from bribing people not to fight to bribing people to fight because the success of the former turned out to be so fleeting? Why would the latter work better?
12. You have the right to remain silent. Do you understand this right? Have you ever considered exercising it?
This headline in the Guardian is completely accurate: West Point professor calls on US military to target legal critics of war on terror.
But it hardly covers to content of the 95-page paper being reported on: see the PDF.
The author makes clear that his motivation is hatred of Islam. He includes the false myth of origins of Western Asian violence toward the United States lying in antiquity rather than in blowback. He includes the lie, now popular on all sides, of Iran pursuing nuclear weapons.
He announces, after the recent U.S. losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, that U.S. armies always win. Then he admits that the U.S. is losing but says this is because of insufficient support for the wars and for making the wars about an "economic system, culture, values, morals, and laws."
The key weapon in this war, he says, is information. U.S. crimes are not the problem; the problem, he writes, is any information distributed about U.S. crimes -- which information is only damaging because the United States is the pinnacle of support for the rule of law. It wouldn't matter if you spread news about crimes by some more lawless nation. But when you share news about crimes by the United States it hurts the U.S. cause which is upholding the rule of law and leading the world to lawfulness. The United States is the all-time world champion of the rule of law, we're told, in a 95-page screed that never mentions the Kellogg-Briand Pact and only belatedly brings up the United Nations Charter in order to pretend that it permits all U.S. wars.
You can pack a lot of existing lies about U.S. wars and some new ones into 95 pages. So, for example, Walter Cronkite lost the Tet Offensive (and by the logic of the rest of this article, should have been immediately murdered on air). The mythical liberal media is busy reporting on the U.S. killing of civilians, and the worst voices in public discourse are those of treasonous U.S. lawyers. They are the most damaging, again, because the United States is the preeminent leader of lawibidingness.
The treasonous antiwar lawyers number 40, and the author hints that he has them on a list. Though whether this is a real list like Obama's kill list or something more like McCarthy's is not clear. I lean toward the latter, primarily because the list of offenses run through to fill up 95 pages includes such an array that few if any lawyers have been engaged in all of them. The offenses range from the most modest questioning of particular atrocities to prosecuting Bush and Cheney in court. Nobody doing the latter has any voice in U.S. corporate media, and a blacklist for Congress or for the U.S. Institute of "Peace" would hardly be needed if created.
The 40 unnamed treasonous scholars are, in this treatise, given the acronym CLOACA, which in good fascist form of course means a sewer or an orifice for excreting feces or urine. Their supposed crimes include:
- failing to concede that violations of the Laws of Armed Conflict by Muslims permit the waiving of those laws for the U.S. government;
- interpreting the supposed standards of "distinction" and "proportionality," which the author admits are totally open to interpretation, to mean something the author doesn't like;
- opposing lawless imprisonment and torture;
- opposing murder by drone;
- supporting the supposed duty to warn people before you kill them;
- counting dead bodies (which is too "macabre" even though the U.S. is supposedly devoted to "minimizing civilian casualties" not to mention Western scientific superiority);
- upholding laws; pointing out facts, laws, or counterproductive results;
- filing suits in court;
- or criticizing war advocates.
The heart of the matter seems to be this: opposing war amounts to supporting war by an enemy. And, nonetheless, among the reasons offered to explain CLOACA joining the enemy are "anti-militarism," and "pernicious pacifism." So actual opposition to war drives people to oppose war, which amounts to supporting war for the enemy. I think I've got it.
The prescriptions to heal this illness center on waging total war. The author proposes both dropping nuclear bombs and capturing hearts and minds. No doubt as part of his leading support for lawfulness, he demands that there be no restraint on U.S. warmaking against Muslims. That means no limit in time or place, a rewriting of any laws of war by the U.S. military, and no trust in the "marketplace of ideas." The U.S. must use PSYOPS, must impose loyalty oaths, must fire disloyal scholars from their jobs, must prosecute them for "material support of terrorism" and for treason, and must proceed to murder them in any time and place.
I suppose that when I point out that this illustrates the madness of militarism I should breathe a deep sigh of relief that I have no law degree.
Airing on PBS on September 12 will be an interview I watched taped at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia on August 28 with Wendy Sherman, the U.S. Under Secretary of State who played the key role in negotiating the Iran agreement.
The Miller Center has cut public questions and answers out of the portion of its events that are broadcast, so what will air will only include questions from the host, Doug Blackmon, but he asked I think most of the questions, some reasonable, some absurd, that have been asked by CNN, Fox, and the Associated Press. The elderly, wealthy, white audience asked questions at the end too, and the first one was about supposedly secret side agreements that would allow Iran to build nuclear weapons. My impression was that the audience was won over by Sherman's answers to everything she was asked.
In fact, Blackmon was about to call on me to ask a question when I had to leave to go meet with a staffer of Senator Mark Warner to urge him to oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and the first thing I did was give the staffer Sherman's information and ask him to ask the Senator to call her. Warner is, of course, undecided on whether the Iran deal is preferable to the course toward war that so many of his colleagues openly prefer.
My concern, which I had most hoped to ask about, would not have been a concern for Warner, I suspect. My concern was this: the White House Press Secretary has suggested, and Politico has reported that the White House has been telling Congress, that the agreement will allow the U.S. to learn useful information about Iranian facilities that will make it easier to launch an effective war against Iran in the future if "necessary." Sherman on Friday repeatedly violated the U.N. Charter by stating that the United States could launch a war on Iran, and that she had no doubt President Obama would do so, if "necessary" to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. How is that sort of talk heard in Iran?
Sherman should know. She spent two years getting to know and negotiating with Iranians. She describes friendly moments. Both she and her Iranian counterpart became grandparents during the course of this negotiation. She also describes yelling and walking out. How does she think the Iranians she knows hear threats of war? For that matter, how does she think they hear accusations of having had and desiring to have a nuclear weapons program -- accusations repeated by Sherman on Friday but for which she was not asked for any evidence. For that matter, she accused Iran of wishing death to the United States and Israel -- again, without being asked for any evidence.
Sherman was quite articulate and to-the-point and convincing in arguing every detail of the inspections. Those who want a "better deal" had better avoid listening to her at all costs if they want to maintain their belief system. But pushing for peace while threatening war is a weak sort of advocacy, even if its advocates view it as being tough. Sherman, like her former colleague Madeline Albright, brags about how much damage sanctions have done to people -- in this case Iranians. She wants to be tough. But is she being strategic? What happens when the U.S. changes presidents or Congresses or some sort of incident occurs or is alleged to have occurred? The U.S. public will have been taught to think about Iran in the least helpful manner possible.
Asked if she trusts Iran, Sherman says no way. She goes on at length about how trust is not even part of her profession, doesn't enter into it at all, that these negotiations were aimed at and achieved a regime of verification based on total mistrust. A moment later, asked if she trusts in the good faith of Benjamin Netanyahu, Sherman does not hesitate to exclaim "Oh, of course!" What does that example tell people to think about Iranians? Compared to an openly racist militarist who orders the slaughter of civilians, the Iranians are untrustworthy? If that were so, I'd oppose the agreement myself!
Sherman also says that Iran knows how to make a nuclear weapon. I'd have liked to ask her whether she learned this before or after the CIA gave Iran nuclear weapons blueprints -- for which Jeffrey Sterling sits in prison as the alleged and convicted whistleblower. And how did she learn it?
Sherman says the United States is the one indispensible nation that must lead the global fight against "terrorism." She declares that if needed the U.S. can re-impose not only its own sanctions on Iran but also those of its partners and the EU. I wouldn't be so sure. A stronger, reality-based case for this agreement would recognize that the threat is not from Iran but from the United States, that the world understands that to a huge extent, and that other nations are not going to easily re-impose sanctions on Iran. In fact they're already opening embassies there. For the United States to go back on this agreement, now or later, would indeed isolate one nation from the rest of the world. I wonder, however, if Sherman is able to allow herself to realize which nation that will be.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power wrote this week: "if the United States rejects this deal, we would instantly isolate ourselves from the countries that spent nearly two years working with American negotiators to hammer out its toughest provisions." Power goes on to explain that such isolation would be undesirable because it would prevent the United States from getting other governments to join in new sanctions to harm any other country or new wars against any other countries.
Hey, now that I think about it, I have to wonder whether U.S. isolation would be such a bad thing after all.
Remarks in Chicago on the 87th anniversary of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, August 27, 2015.
Thank you very much for inviting me here and thank you to Kathy Kelly for everything she does and thank you to Frank Goetz and everyone involved in creating this essay contest and keeping it going. This contest is far and away the best thing that has come out of my book When the World Outlawed War.
I proposed making August 27th a holiday everywhere, and that hasn't yet happened, but it's begun. The city of St. Paul, Minnesota, has done it. Frank Kellogg, for whom the Kellogg-Briand Pact is named, was from there. A group in Albuquerque is holding an event today, as are groups in other cities today and in recent years. A Congress member has recognized the occasion in the Congressional Record.
But the responses offered to some of the essays from various readers and included in the booklet are typical, and their failings should not reflect poorly on the essays. Virtually everyone has no idea that there is a law on the books banning all war. And when a person finds out, he or she typically takes no more than a few minutes to dismiss the fact as meaningless. Read the responses to the essays. None of the responders who were dismissive considered the essays carefully or read additional sources; clearly none of them read a word of my book.
Any old excuse works to dismiss the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Even combinations of contradictory excuses work fine. But some of them are readily available. The most common is that the ban on war didn't work because there have been more wars since 1928. And therefore, supposedly, a treaty banning war is a bad idea, worse in fact than nothing at all; the proper idea that should have been tried is diplomatic negotiations or disarmament or ... pick your alternative.
Can you imagine someone recognizing that torture has continued since numerous legal bans on torture were put in place, and declaring that the anti-torture statute should be thrown out and something else be used instead, perhaps body cameras or proper training or whatever? Can you imagine that? Can you imagine someone, anyone, recognizing that drunk driving has outlasted bans on it and declaring that the law failed and should be overturned in favor of trying television commercials or breathalyzers-to-access-keys or whatever? Sheer lunacy, right? So, why isn't it sheer lunacy to dismiss a law banning war?
This is not like a ban on alcohol or drugs that causes their use to go underground and expand there with added bad side effects. War is extremely difficult to do in private. Attempts are made to hide various aspects of war, to be sure, and they always were, but war is always fundamentally public, and the U.S. public is saturated with promotion of its acceptance. Try finding a U.S. movie theater that is not currently showing any movies glorifying war.
A law banning war is no more or less than what it was intended to be, part of a package of procedures aimed at reducing and eliminating warfare. The Kellogg-Briand Pact is not in competition with diplomatic negotiations. It makes no sense to say "I'm against a ban on war and in favor of using diplomacy instead." The Peace Pact itself mandates pacific, that is, diplomatic, means for the settlement of every conflict. The Pact is not in opposition to disarmament but aimed at facilitating it.
The war prosecutions at the end of World War II in Germany and Japan were one-sided victor's justice, but they were the first prosecutions of the crime of war ever and were based on the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Since then, the heavily armed nations have not yet fought each other again, waging war only on the poor nations that were never deemed worthy of fair treatment even by the hypocritical governments that signed the pact 87 years ago. That failure of World War III to arrive yet may not last, may be attributable to the creation of nuclear bombs, and/or may be a matter of sheer luck. But if nobody had ever driven drunk again after the very first arrest for that crime, tossing the law out as worse than useless would look even weirder than would tossing it out while the roads are full of drunks.
So why do people so eagerly dismiss the Peace Pact almost immediately upon learning about it? I used to suppose this was just a question of laziness and acceptance of bad memes in heavy circulation. Now I think it is more a matter of belief in the inevitability, necessity, or beneficiality of war. And in many cases I think it may be a matter of personal investment in war, or of reluctance to think that the primary project of our society might be entirely and tremendously evil and also blatantly illegal. I think it can be disturbing to some people to contemplate the idea that the central project of the U.S. government, taking in 54% of federal discretionary spending, and dominating our entertainment and self-image, is a criminal enterprise.
Look at how people go along with Congress supposedly banning torture every couple of years even though it was totally banned before the torture spree that began under George W. Bush, and the new bans actually purport to open up loopholes for torture, just as the U.N. Charter does for war. The Washington Post actually came out and said, just as its old friend Richard Nixon would have said, that because Bush tortured it must have been legal. This is a common and comforting habit of thought. Because the United States wages wars, war must be legal.
There have been times in the past in parts of this country when imagining that Native Americans had rights to land, or that enslaved people had the right to be free, or that women were as human as men, were unthinkable thoughts. If pressed, people would dismiss those ideas with any excuse that came to hand. We live in a society that invests more heavily in war than in anything else and does so as a matter of routine. A case brought by an Iraqi woman is now being appealed in the 9th Circuit seeking to hold U.S. officials responsible under the laws of Nuremberg for the war on Iraq that was launched in 2003. Legally the case is a sure win. Culturally it's unthinkable. Imagine the precedent that would be set for millions of victims in dozens of countries! Without a major change in our culture, the case doesn't stand a chance. The change needed in our culture is not a legal change, but a decision to abide by existing laws that are, in our current culture, literally unbelievable and unknowable, even if clearly and concisely written and publicly available and acknowledged.
Japan has a similar situation. The Prime Minister has reinterpreted these words based on the Kellogg-Briand Pact and found in the Japanese Constitution: "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes ... [L]and, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized." The Prime Minister has reinterpreted those words to mean "Japan shall maintain a military and wage wars anywhere on earth." Japan doesn't need to fix its Constitution but to abide by its clear language -- just as the United States could probably stop bestowing human rights on corporations by simply reading the word "people" in the U.S. Constitution to mean "people."
I don't think I would let the common dismissal of the Kellogg-Briand Pact as worthless by people who five minutes earlier never knew it existed bother me were so many people not dying of war or had I written a tweet instead of a book. If I had just written on Twitter in 140 characters or fewer that a treaty banning war is the law of the land, how could I protest when someone dismissed it on the basis of some factoid they'd picked up, such as that Monsieur Briand, for whom the treaty is named along with Kellogg, wanted a treaty with which to force the U.S. to join in French wars? Of course that's true, which is why the work of activists to persuade Kellogg to persuade Briand to expand the treaty to all nations, effectively eliminating its function as a commitment to France in particular, was a model of genius and dedication worth writing a book about instead of a tweet.
I wrote the book When the World Outlawed War not just to defend the importance of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, but primarily to celebrate the movement that brought it into being and to revive that movement, which understood that it then had, and which still has, a long way to go. This was a movement that envisioned the elimination of war as a step building on the elimination of blood feuds and dueling and slavery and torture and executions. It was going to require disarmament, and the creation of global institutions, and above all the development of new cultural norms. It was toward that latter end, toward the purpose of stigmatizing war as something illicit and undesirable, that the Outlawry movement sought to outlaw war.
The biggest news story of 1928, bigger at the time even than Charles Lindbergh's flight of 1927 which contributed to its success in a manner completely unrelated to Lindbergh's fascist beliefs, was the signing of the Peace Pact in Paris on August 27th. Was anyone naive enough to believe that the project of ending war was well on its way to success? How could they not have been? Some people are naive about everything that ever happens. Millions upon millions of Americans believe that each new war is going to finally be the one that brings peace, or that Donald Trump has all the answers, or that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will bring us freedom and prosperity. Michele Bachmann supports the Iran agreement because she says it will end the world and bring back Jesus. (That is no reason, by the way, for us not to support the Iran agreement.) The less that critical thinking is taught and developed, and the less that history is taught and understood, the wider a field of action naiveté has to work in, but naiveté is always present in every event, just as is obsessive pessimism. Moses or some of his observers may have thought he would end murder with a commandment, and how many thousands of years later is it that the United States has begun taking up the idea that police officers shouldn't kill black people? And yet nobody suggests tossing out laws against murder.
And the people who made Kellogg-Briand happen, who were not named Kellogg or Briand, were far from naive. They expected a generations-long struggle and would be amazed, bewildered, and heartbroken by our failure to continue the struggle and by our rejection of their work on the grounds that it hasn't succeeded yet.
There is also, by the way, a new and insidious rejection of peace work that pokes its way into the responses to the essays and into most events like this one these days, and I fear that it may be growing rapidly. This is the phenomenon that I call Pinkerism, the rejection of peace activism on the basis of the belief that war is going away on its own. There are two problems with this idea. One is that if war were going away, that would almost certainly be in large part because of the work of people opposing it and striving to replace it with peaceful institutions. Second, war isn't going away. U.S. academics make a case for war vanishing that rests on a foundation of fraud. They redefine U.S. wars as something other than wars. They measure casualties against global population, thus avoiding the fact that recent wars have been as bad for the populations involved as any wars of the past. They shift the topic to the decline of other types of violence.
Those declines of other types of violence, including the death penalty in U.S. states, should be celebrated and held up as models for what can be done with war. But it's not yet being done with war, and war is not going to do it by itself without a great deal of effort and sacrifice by us and by many other people.
I'm glad that people in St. Paul are remembering Frank Kellogg, but the story of late 1920s peace activism is a great model for activism precisely because Kellogg was opposed to the whole idea such a short time before he was enthusiastically working for it. He was brought around by a public campaign initiated by a Chicago lawyer and activist named Salmon Oliver Levinson, whose grave rests unnoticed in Oak Woods Cemetery, and whose 100,000 papers sit unread at the University of Chicago.
I sent an op-ed on Levinson to the Tribune which declined to print it, as did the Sun. The Daily Herald ended up printing it. The Tribune did find room a couple of weeks ago to print a column wishing that a hurricane like Katrina would hit Chicago, creating enough chaos and devastation to allow the swift destruction of Chicago's public school system. An easier method of wrecking the school system might be just to force all the students to read the Chicago Tribune.
This is part of what I wrote: S.O. Levinson was a lawyer who believed that courts handled interpersonal disputes better than dueling had done before it was banned. He wanted to outlaw war as a means of handling international disputes. Until 1928, launching a war had always been perfectly legal. Levinson wanted to outlaw all war. "Suppose," he wrote, "it had then been urged that only 'aggressive dueling' should be outlawed and that 'defensive dueling' be left intact."
I should add that the analogy may be imperfect in an important way. National governments banned dueling and handed out punishments for it. There's no global government punishing nations that make war. But dueling didn't die out until the culture rejected it. The law was not enough. And part of the cultural shift against war certainly needs to include the creation and reformation of global institutions that reward peacemaking and punish war-making, as in fact such institutions already do punish war-making by poor nations acting against the agenda of the West.
Levinson and the movement of Outlawrists whom he gathered around him, including well-known Chicagoan Jane Addams, believed that making war a crime would begin to stigmatize it and facilitate demilitarization. They pursued as well the creation of international laws and systems of arbitration and alternative means of handling conflicts. Outlawing war was to be the first step in a lengthy process of actually ending that peculiar institution.
The Outlawry movement was launched with Levinson's article proposing it in The New Republic magazine on March 7, 1918, and took a decade to achieve the Kellogg-Briand Pact. The task of ending war is ongoing, and the Pact is a tool that might still help. This treaty commits nations to resolving their disputes through peaceful means alone. The U.S. State Department's website lists it as still in effect, as does the Department of Defense Law of War Manual published in June 2015.
The frenzy of organizing and activism that created the peace pact was massive. Find me an organization that's been around since the 1920s and I'll find you an organization on record in support of abolishing war. That includes the American Legion, the National League of Women Voters, and the National Association of Parents and Teachers. By 1928 the demand to outlaw war was irresistible, and Kellogg who had recently mocked and cursed peace activists, began following their lead and telling his wife he might be in for a Nobel Peace Prize.
On August 27, 1928, in Paris, the flags of Germany and the Soviet Union newly flew along many others, as the scene played out that is described in the song "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream." The papers the men were signing really did say they would never fight again. The Outlawrists persuaded the U.S. Senate to ratify the treaty without any formal reservations.
The U.N. Charter was ratified on October 24, 1945, so its 70th anniversary is approaching. Its potential is still unfulfilled. It has been used to advance and to impede the cause of peace. We need a rededication to its goal of saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war. But we should be clear about how much weaker the U.N. Charter is than the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
Whereas the Kellogg-Briand Pact forbids all war, the U.N. Charter opens up the possibility of a legal war. While most wars do not meet the narrow qualifications of being defensive or U.N.-authorized, many wars are marketed as if they meet those qualifications, and many people are fooled. After 70 years isn't it time for the United Nations to cease authorizing wars and to make clear to the world that attacks on distant nations are not defensive?
The U.N. Charter echoes the Kellogg-Briand Pact with these words: "All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered." But the Charter also creates those loopholes for war, and we are supposed to imagine that because the Charter authorizes the use of war to prevent war it is better than a total ban on war, it is more serious, it is enforceable, it has -- in a revealing phrase -- teeth. The fact that the U.N. Charter has been failing to eliminate war for 70 years isn't held up as grounds for rejecting the U.N. Charter. Rather, the U.N. project of opposing bad wars with good wars is imagined as an eternal on-going project that only the naive would suppose might be completed some day. As long as the grass grows or water runs, as long as the Israeli Palestinian peace process holds conferences, as long as the Non-proliferation Treaty is pushed in the faces of non-nuclear nations by permanent nuclear powers that violate it, the United Nations will go on authorizing the protection of Libyans or others by the world's dominant war makers who will go on immediately creating hell on earth in Libya or elsewhere. This is how people think of the United Nations.
There are two relatively recent twists on this on-going disaster, I think. One is the looming catastrophe of climate change that sets a time limit that we may have already surpassed but that certainly isn't lengthy on our on-going waste of resources on war and its intense environmental destruction. Eliminating war has to have an end date and it has to be fairly soon, or war and the earth on which we wage it will eliminate us. We cannot go into the climate-induced crisis we are headed into with war on the shelf as an avialable option. We'll never survive it.
The second is that the logic of the United Nations as permanent maker of war to end all war has been stretched far beyond the norm by both the evolution of the doctrine of "responsibility to protect" and by the creation of the so-called global war on terror and the commission of drone wars by President Obama.
The United Nations, created to protect the world from war, is now widely thought of as having a responsibility to wage wars under the pretence that doing so protects someone from something worse. Governments, or at least the U.S. government, can now wage war by either declaring that they are protecting someone or (and numerous governments have now done this) by declaring that the group they are attacking is terrorist. A U.N. report on drone wars mentions rather casually that drones are making war the norm.
We are supposed to talk about so-called "war crimes" as a particular type, even a particularly bad type, of crimes. But they are thought of as the smaller elements of wars, not the crime of war itself. This is a pre-Kellogg-Briand mentality. War itself is widely seen as perfectly legal, but certain atrocities that typically constitute the bulk of the war are understood as illegal. In fact, war's legality is such that the worst crime possible can be legalized by declaring it to be part of a war. We've seen liberal professors testify before Congress that a drone killing is murder if it's not part of a war and just fine if it is part of a war, with the determination of whether it's part of the war being left up to the president ordering the murders. The small and personal scale of drone murders should be helping us recognize the wider killing of all wars as mass murder, not legalizing murder by associating it with war. To see where that leads, look no further than the militarized police on the streets of the United States who are far more likely to kill you than ISIS is.
I've seen a progressive activist express outrage that a judge would declare that the United States is at war in Afghanistan. Doing so apparently allows the United States to keep Afghans locked up in Guantanamo. And of course it's also a mar on the myth of Barack Obama ending wars. But the U.S. military is in Afghanistan killing people. Would we want a judge to declare that under those circumstances the U.S. is not at war in Afghanistan because the President says the war is officially over? Do we want someone who wages war to have the legal power to recategorize a war as an Overseas Contingency Genocide or whatever it's called? The United States is at war, but the war is not legal. Being illegal, it cannot legalize the additional crimes of kidnapping, imprisonment without charge, or torture. If it were legal it couldn't legalize those things either, but it's illegal, and we've been reduced to the point of wanting to pretend it isn't happening so that we can treat the so-called "war crimes" as crimes without coming up against the legal shield created by their being part of a wider operation of mass-murder.
What we need to revive from the 1920s is a moral movement against mass-murder. The illegality of the offense is a key part of the movement. But so is its immorality. Demanding equal participation in mass-murder for trans-gendered people misses the point. Insisting on a military in which female soldiers are not raped misses the point. Canceling particular fraudulent weapons contracts misses the point. We need to insist on an end to mass-state-murder. If diplomacy can be used with Iran why not with every other nation?
Instead war is now a protection for all lesser evils, an ongoing rolling shock doctrine. On September 11, 2001, I was working on trying to restore value to the minimum wage and was immediately told that nothing good could be done anymore because it was war time. When the CIA went after whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling for supposedly being the one to reveal that the CIA had given nuclear bomb plans to Iran, he appealed to civil rights groups for help. He was an African American who had accused the CIA of discrimination and now believed he was facing retaliation. None of the civil rights groups would go near. The civil liberties groups that address some of the lesser crimes of war will not oppose war itself, drone or otherwise. Environmental organizations that know the military is our single biggest polluter, will not mention its existence. A certain socialist candidate for president can't bring himself to say that the wars are wrong, rather he proposes that the benevolent democracy in Saudi Arabia take the lead in waging and footing the bill for the wars.
The Pentagon's new Law of War Manual which replaces its 1956 version, admits in a footnote that the Kellogg-Briand Pact is the law of the land, but proceeds to claim legality for war, for targeting civilians or journalists, for using nuclear weapons and napalm and herbicides and depleted uranium and cluster bombs and exploding hollow-point bullets, and of course for drone murders. A professor from not far from here, Francis Boyle, remarked that the document could have been written by Nazis.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff's new National Military Strategy is worth reading as well. It gives as its justification for militarism lies about four countries, beginning with Russia, which it accuses of "using force to achieve its goals," something the Pentagon would never do! Next it lies that Iran is "pursuing" nukes. Next it claims that North Korea's nukes will someday "threaten the U.S. homeland." Finally, it asserts that China is "adding tension to the Asia-Pacific region." The document admits that none of the four nations wants war with the United States. "Nonetheless," it says, "they each pose serious security concerns."
And serious security concerns, as we all know, are far worse than war, and spending $1 trillion a year on war is a small price to pay to handle those concerns. Eighty-seven years ago this would have seemed insanity. Luckily we have ways of bringing back the thinking of years gone by, because typically someone suffering from insanity doesn't have a way to enter into the mind of someone else who's viewing his insanity from the outside. We have that. We can go back to an era that imagined the ending of war and then carry that work forward with the goal of completing it.