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Peace and War


The Kill Team Movie: Show It in Schools

Kill Team is not just a video game anymore, not just the inevitable pairing of two of the most popular words in American English.  "Kill Team" is now a movie, and against the odds it's not a celebration of killing, but a particular take on an actual series of events made widely known by Rolling Stone.


U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan developed the practice of killing civilians for sport, placing weapons beside the bodies or otherwise pretending to have been attacked, keeping body parts as trophies, and celebrating their "kills" in photographs with the corpses.

For months, according to Rolling Stone, the whole platoon knew what was going on.  Officers dismissed complaints from the relatives of victims, accepted completely implausible accounts, and failed to help victims who might still be alive (instead ordering a soldier to "Make sure he's dead.")

A key instigator, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, arrived in Afghanistan recounting a successful murder of a family in Iraq and bearing tattoos recording his kills.  "Get me a kill" soldiers asked who wanted to participate in the kill team.  Killers were treated as heroes, and the widespread understanding that they were killing civilians who'd never threatened them didn't seem to damage that treatment.

"Drop-weapon" has been a common term among vets returning to the United States from Afghanistan and Iraq for over a decade, referring to a weapon used to frame a victim.  "We're just the ones who got caught," says Pfc. Justin Stoner in the film.  He also raises an important question that the film does not seriously pursue, remarking: "We're training you from the day you join to the day you're out to kill. Your job is to kill. You're infantry. Your job is to kill everything that gets in your way. Well, then why the hell are you pissed off when we do it?"

Eleven soldiers have been convicted of crimes as part of the kill team, including Gibbs who has been sentenced to life in prison.  Why were these kills crimes and others not, wonders Stoner.  It's a question worthy of consideration.  The cover stories for the kills, including claims that people made some threatening movement, don't seem enough to justify these murders even if they had been true.  What were the soldiers doing in these people's villages to begin with?

That's the question the movie opens with the soldiers asking themselves.  They'd been trained for exciting combat and then sent to Afghanistan to be bored, hungry for action, eager to test out their training.  This is a point often missed by those who advocate turning the U.S. military into a force for good, an emergency rescue squad for natural disasters, or a humanitarian aid operation.  You would have to train and equip people for those jobs first.  These young men were trained to kill, armed to kill, prepped to kill, and left to kick sand around.

They began premeditating the worst sort of premeditated murder.  They openly recount their conversations in the film.  They had weapons to drop, grenades that weren't "tracked," they'd pretend someone had a grenade and kill him. Who? Anyone. They saw everyone as fair game. 

And they did as planned.  And they were welcomed back to the "FOB" as heroes.  And they did it again.  And again.

The film does not tell the whole story. It focuses on Spc. Adam Winfield, his parents, and his court proceedings back in the United States.  Winfield told his father on a Facebook chat, early on, what was happening.  Winfield was afraid to talk to anyone in his chain of command, and in fact the mere possibility that he might resulted in death threats to him.  His father, however, tried every way he could to get anyone in the U.S. Army to listen.  No one would.

And then Winfield was present for another set-up and murder.  He says he fired his gun away from the victim.  He says that if he had shot the two U.S. soldiers, Gibbs and Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, the Army would have shown him "no mercy." 

Then Stoner (was it his name that tipped the balance?) turned in Gibbs and others for smoking hash in his room. So they beat him and threatened to kill him.  Then he told about the body parts being passed around.  The Army locked up Gibbs and Morlock.  Stoner was labeled a whistleblower, which he says is worse than a murderer.  If he had the chance again, he says, he would say nothing.

Winfield found he could breathe, after months of fearing murder from his own "side." 

And then Winfield was, himself, charged with first-degree murder.  We see his horror.  We see his parents' heartbreak.  We go back to see his childhood.  He read history books about American war heroes, his dad says.  The possibility of changing those books is not explicitly raised. He ends up with a plea bargain and a sentence of three years in prison, for supposedly having done nothing to stop a murder.  At one point he's offered the option of pleading guilty to "cowardice," despite every other member of his unit and chain of command right up to the President having outdone him in that regard.

"War is dirty," says Winfield. "It's not how they portray it in movies." It is, however, more or less, from a certain angle, how they've portrayed it in this movie, which ought to be shown in U.S. schools as a warning. 

But not by itself.  This movie does not give us the stories of the murder victims and their families.  Imagine the power of a movie that included what this one does plus that!  The opportunity is repeatedly and intentionally lost by Western film makers over and over again.  Nor does the film give us the stories of the victims and families of supposedly legitimate murders.  Imagine the drama of trying to distinguish the suffering of those killed fighting a foreign occupation from the suffering of those killed not fighting a foreign occupation, and the power of the inevitable failure of that effort!  Imagine a movie that accurately conveyed the immense scale of the killing in these one-sided slaughters of the poor by the most technologically advanced killing machine ever devised!

From the angle that this film takes, however, critical questions are thrust upon us, including: Why imprison the killers?  Will it deter others?  Will atrocity-free-war finally be created before we've destroyed the earth as a habitable place?  Would it not be easier to shut down the military and end the wars?  The deterrence I'm most interested in is that of people like Winfield's parents who allowed him to join the military before he was 18, to demonstrate their confidence in him.  I think this movie might deter some parents from making that same choice.

A Finger in My Soup

I'd heard of such horror stories and assumed they were mostly fictional or concocted as the bases for lawsuits, and then I was actually served a bowl of soup that had a finger in it. 

I'm not going to name the well-known chain restaurant where I was dining, but I am going to tell you how its staff reacted when I complained.  I mean, once I'd determined that there really was a fucking finger in my bowl of soup, and once I'd fished it out with a fork and a spoon, and splattered it on the table so that Joseph, my dining companion, could see it, and once the people at the surrounding tables were staring and remarking rather loudly, and in one case I think beginning to vomit, well, it wasn't hard to get the waiter's attention.

He came rushing over when I waived.  "There's a finger in my soup," I said.

"There's one on your table, too," he pointed out.

"That's the one," I said.

"And it's not your finger?"

"No, it's not my fucking finger. Let me talk to your manager."

He smiled. He actually smiled and pointed to a little tag on his uniform that read "Manager."

Joseph spoke up: "How did the finger get in his soup?"

"The cooks must have put it there," said the manager.

"And are you going to do anything about it?" I yelled.

"Well," he replied, calmly, but a bit as if I were the one who'd done something wrong, "if the cooks put it there, they had a reason. I support the cooks, don't you?"

"Support the cooks?" I gasped.  "I'll tell you what I will do is I'll take down your name and each of their names, and the names of each of the witnesses in this room, and you'll be hearing from me."

From the waiter's reaction to that statement, I at first imagined I was beginning to get through to him. He looked shocked. But he turned from side to side and addressed the whole room.  "He's against the cooks!" he said with great outrage. "He doesn't support the cooks!"

And I swear to god the people in this place seemed to be with him.  The rather menacing reaction of several people led Joseph to grab my arm and pull me out of my seat and toward the door.

Thirty seconds later we were sitting in Joseph's cheap used car, which he was trying in vain to start, turning the key, pumping the gas, and cursing. 

"Where did you get this piece of junk?" I asked.

"I bought it," he said, as he punched the dashboard and tried again. "I bought it yesterday at Victory Vehicles."

"I wonder who's declaring victory," I remarked.

"What's that supposed to mean? Ugh! Damn this thing!"

"Did you give them more than $10?" I asked.

Joseph gave me a look eerily similar to the look the waiter had just given me in the restaurant.  "Are you doubting the salesmen?" he asked.

"Doubting them?" I said. "I'm not fucking doubting them. I'm doubting you. They ripped you off, and . . . "

"Don't you SUPPORT the salesmen?" Joseph screamed at me.  He seemed possessed.

I opened my door and got out of the car.  It wasn't going anywhere anyway.  People were inching their way cautiously out of the restaurant, but they weren't looking at me.  They were looking past me.

I turned and saw the flashing lights of countless police cars, plus all kinds of vans, trucks, ambulances, and other emergency vehicles.  They appeared to be surrounding the restaurant and its parking lot and to be erecting almost permanent looking barriers.  In fact there was an effort underway to construct a wall around the area.

I looked back, and Joseph had gotten out of the car as well and was staring, horror-struck at a pair of people in something resembling astronaut suits walking swiftly and directly toward us. 

They halted a few feet away, and one of them spoke, her voice amplified by something in her space suit.  "This area is quarantined," she said.  "Some or all of you have been infected by a curable but highly contagious and highly destructive virus.  We'll need to determine the state of the infection and administer a remedy.  Please speak with one of our emergency personnel."

Tables were being set up in neat rows through the parking lot, with pairs of chairs at each table, and a person in an astronaut suit in one of each pair of chairs.

"Where have you been during the last 48 hours?" asked a quite polite and friendly gentleman across a metal table from me, as we both sat in folding chairs in the parking lot of a restaurant that I will still leave unnamed.  I was not feeling as friendly as he.

"Why?" I demanded, rather aggressively.

"Hmm." He studied me. "Have you been near any military bases?"

"No."

"Hmm."

"I mean, not that I know of."

"What about a television? Have you been near a television?"

"Definitely not."

"Hmm." He thought for a while, and then asked, "Have you noticed anyone demanding that you support people?"

That question just about knocked my chair over backwards.  When I recovered, I told him everything I've just told you.

"Come with me," he said, getting up. 

A half-hour later, my interviewer had persuaded his colleagues that I was not infected, and had set me up with a chair and some actually edible food, in a position to watch what he called the administering of remedies.

One of the astronaut-suited workers was seated at a table across from a young woman wearing an American flag dress.  The astronaut was asking questions:

"If someone's dog bit you, would you be upset?"

"Of course."

"And what if I questioned your loyalty and willingness to support the dog trainers?"

The woman's reaction was so swift and violent that I suspect it even surprised her questioner: "How dare you?" she hissed.  "I support the dog trainers and would never question a dog killing and devouring me. Maybe you don't support the dog trainers! Eh? How could you suggest such a thing to me?"

The questioner moved on.  "And what if someone proposed that the government of your nation destroy a poor nation, kill a million people, create millions of refugees, poison the natural environment, waste several trillion dollars, leave behind a violent hell of traumatized resentment, and take away a lot of your rights and liberties in the name of prosecuting this horrendous war that will endanger you by making your nation hated?"

The woman seemed unsure what to say.

"Would you favor that policy?"

She snorted in indignation. "Of course, not! Why would anyone . . . "

"Don't you support the troops?"

"How dare you . . . " And she was off on a rant about her love for the troops and her absolute support for anything they might be ordered to do.

"Drink this."

"Why?"

"The troops want you to."

"Give it to me."

The woman took the large bottle of greenish liquid and downed it in about 10 seconds.

Her questioner tried some of the same questions again, making notes all the time.

"Would you support slaughtering hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, to enrich a few corporations and give some politicians a thrill of power?"

"Of course, not."

"Do you favor ending current wars?"

"Yes, of course."

"But don't you support the troops?"

She paused and stared, and then blurted out: "Support the. . . . what? What does that even mean? If I oppose a policy I oppose people enacting that policy. That says nothing about whether I like those people or not, most of whom I've never met of course. What the hell?"

Moments later, the questioner was leading the woman in the American flag dress over to join me in the viewing section.  "Wait," she said, addressing the space-suited emergency worker, "why am I wearing this dress?"

"He'll explain," the worker said, gesturing toward me.

CNN: Palestinians Want to Die

In this latest assault on Gaza, Israel had by Thursday already killed 69 Palestinians including 22 children and 13 women, plus 469 wounded including 166 children and 85 women, and 70 houses destroyed. These numbers have since increased significantly.

In this video from Thursday on CNN, Jake Tapper interviews Diana Buttu, a former advisor to the PLO.  After failing to persuade her of Israel's complete innocence, he tells her that Hamas is instructing women and children to remain in their homes to die as Israel bombs them. She responds by expressing doubt that people want to die.  Oh no, says Tapper, Palestinians live in a culture of martyrdom; they want to die.

William Westmoreland once remarked on Vietnam, where the United States killed 4 million men, women, children, and infants: "The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient."

Banastre Tarleton stood up in Parliament and defended the slave trade on the grounds that Africans did not object to being slaves.

President William McKinley said little brown Filipinos appreciated being conquered and dominated.

The view that the people you are abusing don't mind it has a long history of being employed to distract from the evil being done.

Just as powerful, if not more so, is the view that no evil is being done at all. 

ABC News' Diane Sawyer told her viewers that scenes of destruction in Gaza were actually in Israel, and was later forced to apologize, but did not note that scenes like those she'd shown do not exist in Israel, rather leaving the impression that a simple mistake had swapped out similar scenes from one country for the other.

Polls have found that people in the United States believe Iraq benefitted from the war that destroyed it and that Iraqis are grateful, while the United States itself suffered.

If people cannot be depicted as evil, because we see images of them, and they are 3 years old and have their limbs ripped off, and if our cruelty cannot be depicted as for their own good, then the cruelty must itself be denied.  We must completely avert our eyes or invert the facts.  Or we must blame someone else for it.  Blame Israel for getting a bit carried away after so many years of innocent suffering.

But it is with billions of dollars of weaponry provided free of cost courtesy of U.S. taxpayers that the Israeli military is bombing civilian neighborhoods in occupied Gaza. The ongoing occupation is at the root of the crisis, but this new turn to large-scale violence was produced by fraud. The Israeli government learned that three Israelis had been killed, falsely blamed Hamas, and falsely claimed to believe the young men might still be alive. This fraud was used to justify a search-and-rescue operation that left numerous dead and hundreds under arrest.

Small-scale violence by Palestinians is not justified by Israel's ongoing brutality. It is deeply immoral as well as absurdly counterproductive.  But if individual murders justified the mass killing of war, the United States would have to launch a full-scale war on itself every day of the year. And it is the United States' weaponry, provided under the euphemism of "aid," that is pounding the homes of the people of Gaza.

Jewish Voice for Peace says, in an open letter that you too can sign:

"In this time of tremendous suffering and fear, from Jerusalem to Gaza, and from Hebron to Be’er Sheva, we reaffirm that all Israelis and Palestinians deserve security, justice, and equality, and we mourn all those who have died.

"Our unshakeable commitment to freedom and justice for all compels us to acknowledge that this violence has fallen overwhelmingly on Palestinians. And it compels us to affirm that this violence has a root cause: Israel's illegal occupation.

"We are united in our belief that:

"The denial of Palestinian human rights must end.
Illegal settlements must end.
Bombing civilians must end.
Killing children must end.
Valuing Jewish lives at the expense of others must end.

"Only by embracing equality for all peoples can this terrible bloodshed end."

Uncle Sam's Ode to the UK, with apologies to Hank Williams Jr

Colonizers and empires have been a real close family,
But lately some of my kinfolks have disowned a few others and me.
I guess it's because I kind of changed my direction.
Lord I guess I went and broke their family tradition.

They get on me and want to know Uncle Sam why do you kill? Why do you start wars?
Why must you live out the films sold in your convenience stores?
Over and over everybody makes my predictions.
So if I drop bombs, I'm just carrying on an old family tradition.

I am very proud of Brittania's fame
All though that kind of empire and mine ain't exactly the same.
Stop and think it over. Put yourself in my position.
If I send missiles through the sky all night long it's a family tradition.

So don't ask me, Uncle Sam why do you kill? Sam, why do you start wars?
Why must you live out the films sold in your convenience stores?
If I'm in an oil dictatorship some ole puppet's trying to give me friction.
I said leave me alone I'm killing all night long it's a family tradition.

Lord I have loved some bombings and I have loved occupations
And Congress tried to stop me in 1973.
When that doctor asked me, Sam how did you get in this condition?
I said, Ike was right, I'm just carrying on an ole family tradition.

So don't ask me, Uncle Sam why do you kill? Sam, why do you start wars?
Why must you live out the films sold in your convenience stores?
Stop and think it over, try and put yourself in my uniquely indispensible position.
If I send missiles through the sky all night long, it's a family tradition!

U.S. Out of Germany

If Germany hasn't had enough, we in the United States sure have. 

Despite the supposed ending of World War II, the U.S. still keeps over 40,000 armed soldiers permanently in Germany.

Despite the ending of the Cold War, the U.S. still spies on the German government with relentless malevolence and incompetence, building on the fine tradition in which the CIA was created.

Germany has kicked out the latest CIA "station chief" -- a job title that seems to give one's career the longevity and utility of a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts.

Does Germany need a better CIA station chief? A reformed NSA? A properly reviewed and vetted U.S. occupation?

What does Germany get out of this deal? 

Protection from Russia?  If the Russian government weren't demonstrating a level of restraint that dwarfs even that of the Brazilian soccer team's defense there would be full-scale war in Ukraine right now.  Russia is no more threatening Germany than Iran is preparing to nuke Washington or the U.N. is confiscating guns in Montana.

Germany must gain something, surely?  Perhaps protection from evil Muslims dehumanized in the manner that U.S. war marketers first developed for the dehumanization of Germans 100 years ago?  Surely Germans are smart enough to have noticed that violent resistance to foreign aggression targets the nations responsible, not those declining to take part.  Hosting bases of the military that gives Israel the weapons with which it slaughters the people of Gaza, whatever else it may be, is decidedly not a security strategy.

So what does Germany gain? The warm feeling that comes with knowing that all those acres and facilities with which so much good could be accomplished are being donated to the wealthiest nation on earth which refuses to care for its own people, chip in its share for the poor of the world, or slow its push for the destruction of the globe's climate even as Germany leads in the other direction?

Come on. Germany is a battered wife, a victim of Stockholm syndrome, a schizophrenic accomplice unwilling to relinquish its gang membership.  Germany should know better.  Germany should throw out the rest of the CIA and 40,000 members of the U.S. military and their families.

What does the United States get out of this codependent criminality?

A launching area closer to numerous nations it wishes to attack?  That's a desire of the Pentagon, and of Chuck Hagel who claims that ISIS is a threat to the United States because he no doubt conceives of the United States as existing wherever it maintains troops (which is just about everywhere).  That is not a desire of the U.S. public.

An unaccountable recklessly funded institution that makes enemies of allies, prevents cooperation across borders, destroys the rule of law and diplomatic initiatives, and erodes the rights of people at home and abroad in order to spy on governments, corporations, and those first to beginning murmuring their displeasure (and for all we know, soccer coaches as well)? Many of us are willing to forego this benefit.

The U.S. war machine does not, in fact, benefit the nations it occupies or the nation in whose name it occupies.  It endangers both, strips away the rights of both, damages the natural environment of both, impoverishes both, and devotes the energies of both to destructive enterprises or mutual disagreements that distract from the necessary work of actual defense from actual dangers, such as the industrial destruction of our air, land, and oceans.

Pulling U.S. troops out of Germany would be the clearest signal that the United States, which has engaged in 200 military actions during the "post-war period," is ready at long last to actually end the war.

Talk Nation Radio: Paul Findley, 93, Key Author of the War Powers Resolution on How It Might Be Complied With

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-paul-findley-93-key-author-of-the-war-powers-resolution

Paul Findley served as a Republican member of United States House of Representatives from Illinois for 22 years. He was a key author of the War Powers Resolution and a leader in securing its enactment by overriding the veto of President Richard Nixon. The federal building in Springfield, Ill. is named for him. He discusses the legality, or lack thereof, of recent wars and proposals for wars, including in Syria and Iraq.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

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Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Celebrating Independence from America in England

By David Swanson
Remarks at Independence from America event outside Menwith Hill "RFA" (NSA) base in Yorkshire.

First of all, thank you to Lindis Percy and everyone else involved in bringing me here, and letting me bring my son Wesley along.

And thank you to the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases. I know you share my view that accountability of American bases would lead to elimination of American bases.

And thank you to Lindis for sending me her accounts of refusing to be arrested unless the police disarmed themselves.  In the United States, refusing any sort of direction from a police officer will get you charged with the crime of refusing a lawful order, even when the order is unlawful. In fact, that's often the only charge levied against people ordered to cease protests and demonstrations that in theory are completely legal.  And, of course, telling a U.S. police officer to disarm could quite easily get you locked up for insanity if it didn't get you shot.

Can I just say how wonderful it is to be outside of the United States on the Fourth of July?  There are many wonderful and beautiful things in the United States, including my family and friends, including thousands of truly dedicated peace activists, including people bravely going to prison to protest the murders by drone of others they've never met in distant lands whose loved ones will probably never hear about the sacrifices protesters are making.  (Did you know the commander of a military base in New York State has court orders of protection to keep specific nonviolent peace activists away from his base to ensure his physical safety -- or is it his peace of mind?)  And, of course, millions of Americans who tolerate or celebrate wars or climate destruction are wonderful and even heroic in their families and neighborhoods and towns -- and that's valuable too.

I've been cheering during U.S. World Cup games.  But I cheer for neighborhood, city, and regional teams too.  And I don't talk about the teams as if I'm them.  I don't say "We scored!" as I sit in a chair opening a beer.  And I don't say "We won!" when the U.S. military destroys a nation, kills huge numbers of people, poisons the earth, water, and air, creates new enemies, wastes trillions of dollars, and passes its old weapons to the local police who restrict our rights in the name of wars fought in the name of freedom.  I don't say "We lost!" either. We who resist have a responsibility to resist harder, but not to identify with the killers, and certainly not to imagine that the men, women, children, and infants being murdered by the hundreds of thousands constitute an opposing team wearing a different uniform, a team whose defeat by hellfire missile I should cheer for. 

Identifying with my street or my town or my continent doesn't lead the same places that identifying with the military-plus-some-minor-side-services that calls itself my national government leads.  And it's very hard to identify with my street; I have such little control over what my neighbors do.  And I can't manage to identify with my state because I've never even seen most of it.  So, once I start identifying abstractly with people I don't know, I see no sensible argument for stopping anywhere short of identifying with everybody, rather than leaving out 95% and identifying with the United States, or leaving out 90% and identifying with the so-called "International Community" that cooperates with U.S. wars.  Why not just identify with all humans everywhere? On those rare occasions when we learn the personal stories of distant or disparaged people, we're supposed to remark, "Wow, that really humanizes them!" Well, I'd like to know, what were they before those details made them humanized?  

In the U.S. there are U.S. flags everywhere all the time now, and there's a military holiday for every day of the year.  But the Fourth of July is the highest holiday of holy nationalism.  More than any other day, you're likely to see children being taught to pledge allegiance to a flag, regurgitating a psalm to obedience like little fascist robots.  You're more likely to hear the U.S. national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner.  Who knows which war the words of that song come from? 

That's right, the War of Canadian Liberation, in which the United States tried to liberate Canadians (not for the first or last time) who welcomed them much as the Iraqis would later do, and the British burned Washington.  Also known as the War of 1812, the bicentennial was celebrated in the U.S. two years ago.  During that war, which killed thousands of Americans and Brits, mostly through disease, during one pointless bloody battle among others, plenty of people died, but a flag survived.  And so we celebrate the survival of that flag by singing about the land of the free that imprisons more people than anywhere else on earth and the home of the brave that strip-searches airplane passengers and launches wars if three Muslims shout "boo!"

Did you know the U.S. flag was recalled? You know how a car will be recalled by the manufacturer if the brakes don't work? A satirical paper called the Onion reported that the U.S. flag had been recalled after resulting in 143 million deaths.  Better late than never.

There are many wonderful and rapidly improving elements in U.S. culture.  It has become widely and increasingly unacceptable to be bigoted or prejudiced against people, at least nearby people, because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, and other factors.  It still goes on, of course, but it's frowned upon.  I had a conversation last year with a man sitting in the shadow of a carving of confederate generals on a spot that used to be sacred to the Ku Klux Klan, and I realized that he would never, even if he thought it, say something racist about blacks in the United States to a stranger he'd just met.  And then he told me he'd like to see the entire Middle East wiped out with nuclear bombs. 

We've had comedians' and columnists' careers ended over racist or sexist remarks, but weapons CEOs joke on the radio about wanting big new occupations of certain countries, and nobody blinks.  We have antiwar groups that push for celebration of the military on  Memorial Day and other days like this one.  We have so-called progressive politicians who describe the military as a jobs program, even though it actually produces fewer jobs per dollar than education or energy or infrastructure or never taxing those dollars at all.  We have peace groups that argue against wars on the grounds that the military needs to be kept ready for other, possibly more important wars.  We have peace groups that oppose military waste, when the alternative of military efficiency is not what's needed.  We have libertarians who oppose wars because they cost money, exactly as they oppose schools or parks.  We have humanitarian warriors who argue for wars because of their compassion for the people they want bombed.  We have peace groups that side with the libertarians and urge selfishness, arguing for schools at home instead of bombs for Syrians, without explaining that we could give actual aid to Syrians and ourselves for a fraction of the cost of the bombs. 

We have liberal lawyers who say they can't tell whether blowing children up with drones is legal or not, because President Obama has a secret memo (now only partially secret) in which he legalizes it by making it part of a war, and they haven't seen the memo, and as a matter of principle they, like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, ignore the U.N. Charter, the Kellogg Briand Pact, and the illegality of war.  We have people arguing that bombing Iraq is now a good thing because it finally gets the U.S. and Iran talking to each other.  We have steadfast refusals to mention a half-million to a million-and-a-half Iraqis based on the belief that Americans can only possibly care about 4,000 Americans killed in Iraq.  We have earnest crusades to turn the U.S. military into a force for good, and the inevitable demand of those who begin to turn against war, that the United States must lead the way to peace -- when of course the world would be thrilled if it just brought up the rear.

And yet, we also have tremendous progress.  A hundred years ago Americans were listening to snappy tunes about how hunting Huns was a fun game to play, and professors were teaching that war builds national character.  Now war has to be sold as necessary and humanitarian because nobody believes it's fun or good for you anymore.  Polls in the United States put support for possible new wars below 20 percent and sometimes below 10 percent.  After the House of Commons over here said No to missile strikes on Syria, Congress listened to an enormous public uproar in the U.S. and said No as well.  In February, public pressure led to Congress backing off a new sanctions bill on Iran that became widely understood as a step toward war rather than away from it.  A new war on Iraq is having to be sold and developed slowly in the face of huge public resistance that has even resulted in some prominent advocates of war in 2003 recently recanting. 

This shift in attitude toward wars is largely the result of the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq and the exposure of the lies and horrors involved.  We shouldn't underestimate this trend or imagine that it's unique to the question of Syria or Ukraine.  People are turning against war.  For some it may be all about the money.  For others it may be a question of which political party owns the White House.  The Washington Post has a poll showing that almost nobody in the U.S. can find Ukraine on a map, and those who place it furthest from where it really lies are most likely to want a U.S. war there, including those who place it in the United States.  One doesn't know whether to laugh or cry.  Yet the larger trend is this: from geniuses right down to morons, we are, most of us, turning against war.  The Americans who want Ukraine attacked are fewer than those believing in ghosts, U.F.O.s, or the benefits of climate change.

Now, the question is whether we can shake off the idea that after hundreds of bad wars there just might be a good one around the corner.  To do that we have to recognize that wars and militaries make us less safe, not safer.  We have to understand that Iraqis aren't ungrateful because they're stupid but because the U.S. and allies destroyed their home. 

We can pile even more weight on the argument for ending the institution of war.  These U.S. spy bases are used for targeting missiles but also for spying on governments and companies and activists.  And what justifies the secrecy?  What allows treating everyone as an enemy?  Well, one necessary component is the concept of an enemy.  Without wars nations lose enemies.  Without enemies, nations lose excuses to abuse people.  Britain was the first enemy manufactured by the would-be rulers of the United States on July 4, 1776.  And yet King George's abuses don't measure up to the abuses our governments now engage in, justified by their traditions of war making and enabled by the sort of technologies housed here.

War is our worst destroyer of the natural environment, the worst generator of human rights abuses, a leading cause of death and creator of refugee crises.  It swallows some $2 trillion a year globally, while tens of billions could alleviate incredible suffering, and hundreds of billions could pay for a massive shift to renewable energies that might help protect us from an actual danger. 

What we need now is a movement of education and lobbying and nonviolent resistance that doesn't try to civilize war but to take steps in the direction of abolishing it -- which begins by realizing that we can abolish it.  If we can stop missiles into Syria, there's no magical force that prevents our stopping missiles into every other country.  War is not a primal urge of nations that must burst out a little later if once suppressed.  Nations aren't real like that.  War is a decision made by people, and one that we can make utterly unacceptable.

People in dozens of countries are now working on a campaign for the elimination of all war called World Beyond War.  Please check out WorldBeyondWar.org or talk to me about getting involved.  Our goal is to bring many more people and organizations into a movement not aimed at a specific war proposal from a specific government, but at the entire institution of war everywhere.  We'll have to work globally to do this.  We'll have to throw our support behind the work being done by groups like the Campaign for Accountability of American Bases and the Movement for the Abolition of War and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Veterans For Peace and so many more.

Some friends of ours in Afghanistan, the Afghan Peace Volunteers, have proposed that everyone living under the same blue sky who wants to move the world beyond war wear a sky blue scarf.  You can make your own or find them at TheBlueScarf.org.  I hope by wearing this to communicate my sense of connection to those back in the United States working for actual freedom and bravery, and my same sense of connection to those in the rest of the world who have had enough of war. Happy Fourth of July!

Pay No Attention to the Apocalypse Behind the Curtain

By David Swanson, Remarks in London, England, July 2, 2014.

Thank you to Bruce Kent and the Movement for the Abolition of War and to Veterans For Peace and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Thank you to the Stop the War Coalition and everyone else for helping spread the word.

In 8 days, on July 10th Mary Ann Grady-Flores, a grandmother from Ithaca, NY, is scheduled to be sentenced to up to one year in prison.  Her crime is violating an order of protection, which is a legal tool to protect a particular person from the violence of another particular person.  In this case, the commander of Hancock Air Base has been legally protected from dedicated nonviolent protesters, despite the protection of commanding his own military base, and despite the protesters having no idea who the guy is.  That's how badly the people in charge of the flying killer robots we call drones want to avoid any questioning of their activity entering the minds of the drone pilots.

Last Thursday a place in the U.S. called the Stimson Center released a report on the new U.S. habit of murdering people with missiles from drones.  The Stimson Center is named for Henry Stimson, the U.S. Secretary of War who, prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor wrote in his diary, following a meeting with President Roosevelt: "The question was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves. It was a difficult proposition." (Four months earlier, Churchill had told his cabinet at 10 Downing Street that U.S. policy toward Japan consisted of this: "Everything was to be done to force an incident.")  This was the same Henry Stimson who later forbid dropping the first nuclear bomb on Kyoto, because he'd once been to Kyoto. He'd never visited Hiroshima, much to the misfortune of the people of Hiroshima.

I know there's a big celebration of World War I going on over here (as well as big resistance to it), but in the United States there's been an ongoing celebration of World War II for 70 years. In fact, one might even suggest that World War II has continued in a certain way and on a lesser scale for 70 years (and on a greater scale in particular times and places like Korea and Vietnam and Iraq).  The United States has never returned to pre-World War II levels of taxes or military spending, never left Japan or Germany, has engaged in some 200 military actions abroad during the so-called post-war era, has never stopped expanding its military presence abroad, and now has troops permanently stationed in almost every country on earth.  Two exceptions, Iran and Syria, are regularly threatened.

So it is altogether appropriate, I think, that it was the Stimson Center that released this report, by former military officials and military-friendly lawyers, a report that included this rather significant statement: "The increasing use of lethal UAVs may create a slippery slope leading to continual or wider wars." 

At least that sounds significant to me. Continual wars? That's a pretty bad thing, right?

Also last week, the U.S. government made public a memo in which it claims the right to legally murder a U.S. citizen (never mind anybody else) as part of a war that has no limit in time or space.  Call me crazy, but this seems serious.  What if this war goes on long enough to generate significant enemies? 

Last year the United Nations released a report that stated that drones were making war the norm rather than the exception.  Wow.  That could be a problem for a species of creatures who prefer not being bombed, don't you think?  The United Nations, created to rid the world of war, mentions in passing that war is becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Surely the response to such a grave development should be equally significant. 

We've grown habituated, I think, to reading reports that say things like "If we don't leave 80% of known fossil fuels in the ground we're all going to die, and lots of other species with us," and then experts recommend that we use more efficient light bulbs and grow our own tomatoes.  I mean we've become used to the response not remotely fitting the crisis at hand.

Such is the case with the UN, the Stimson Center, and a good crowd of humanitarian law experts, as far as I can tell.

The Stimson Center says of murders by drone, they should be "neither glorified not demonized."  Nor, apparently, should they be stopped.  Instead, the Stimson Center recommends reviews and transparency and robust studies.  I'm willing to bet that if you or I threatened massive continual or widening death and destruction we'd be demonized.  I'm willing to bet the idea of our being glorified wouldn't even come up for consideration.

The United Nations, too, thinks transparency is the answer.  Just let us know whom you're murdering and why. We'll get you the forms to do a monthly report.  As other nations get in on this game we'll compile their reports and create some real international transparency. 

That's some people's idea of progress.

Drones are, of course, not the only way or -- thus far -- the most deadly way the U.S. and its allies wage wars.  But there is this minimal pretense of ethical discussion about drones because drone murders look like murders to a lot of people.  The U.S. president goes through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays, picks whom to murder, and has them and anyone standing too close to them murdered -- although he also often targets people without knowing their name.  Bombing Libya or anywhere else looks less like murder to many people, especially if -- like Stimson in Hiroshima -- they've never been to Libya, and if numerous bombs are all supposedly aimed at one evil person whom the U.S. government has turned against.  So, the United States goes through something like the 2011 war on Libya that has left that nation in such a fine state without it occurring to any military-friendly think tanks that there's an ethical question to be pondered.

How, I wonder, would we talk about drones or bombs or so-called non-combat advisors if we were trying to eliminate war rather than ameliorate it?  Well, I think that if we saw the complete abolition of war as even our very distant goal, we'd talk very differently about every type of war today.  I think we'd stop encouraging the idea that any memo could possibly legalize murder, whether or not we'd seen the memo.  I think we'd reject the human rights groups' position that the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact should be ignored.  Rather than considering the illegality of tactics during a war, we'd object to the illegality of the war itself.  We wouldn't speak positively of the United States and Iran possibly joining hands in friendship if the basis for such a proposed alliance was to be a joint effort to kill Iraqis. 

In the U.S. it's not unusual for peace groups to focus on 4,000 dead Americans and the financial costs of the war on Iraq, and to steadfastly refuse to mention a half-million to a million and a half Iraqis killed, which silence has contributed to most Americans not knowing what happened.  But that's the strategy of opponents of some wars, not opponents of all wars.  Depicting a particular war as costly to the aggressor doesn't move people against war preparations or rid them of the fantasy that there could be a good and just war in the days ahead.

It's common in Washington to argue against military waste, such as weapons that don't work or that the Pentagon didn't even ask Congress for, or to argue against bad wars that leave the military less prepared for other possible wars.  If our project was aimed ultimately at war's elimination, we'd be against military efficiency more than military waste and in favor of an ill-prepared military unable to launch more wars.  We'd also be as focused on keeping young people out of the military and militarism out of school books as we are on preventing a particular batch of missiles from flying.  It's routine to profess loyalty to soldiers while opposing their commanders' policies, but once you've praised soldiers for their supposed service, you've accepted that they must have provided one.  Celebrating World War I resisters, as I know some of you have been doing recently, is the sort of thing that ought to replace honoring war participants.

We may need to not just change our conversation from opposing specific war after specific war to discussing the ending of the whole institution.  We may also need to alter at least subtly every part of the conversation along the way. 

Instead of proposing that veterans in particular have earned our gratitude and should receive healthcare and retirement (which one hears all the time in the U.S.), we may want to propose that all people -- including veterans -- have human rights, and that one of our chief duties is to cease creating any more veterans.

Instead of objecting to troops urinating on corpses, we may want to object to the creation of the corpses.  Instead of trying to eliminate torture and rape and lawless imprisonment from an operation of mass-murder, we may want to focus on the cause. We can't go on putting $2 trillion a year globally, and half of that just in the United States, into getting ready for wars and not expect wars to result. 

With other addictions we're told to go after the biggest dealers of the drug or to go after the demand by the users.  The dealers of the drug of war are those funding the military with our grandchildren's unearned pay and dumping buckets of money into propaganda about Vietnam and World War I.  They know the lies about past wars are even more important than the lies about new wars.  And we know that the institution of war could not survive people learning the truth about it to such an extent that some people begin to act on that knowledge.

U.S. public opinion has moved against wars.  When Parliament and Congress said no to missiles into Syria, public pressure of the past decade played a big role.  The same is true of stopping a horrible bill on Iran in Congress earlier this year, and of resistance to a new war on Iraq.  Congress members are worried about voting for another war like Iraq, whether in Iraq or elsewhere.  Her vote to attack Iraq 12 years ago is the only thing that has kept us thus far from seeing Hillary Clinton in the White House.  People don't want to vote for someone who voted for that.  And, let's get this said early to our dear friends at the Nobel Committee: another peace prize will not help things.  The United States doesn't need another peace prize for a war maker, it needs what Bruce and so many of you have been working on over here: a popular movement for the abolition of war!

A number of peace activists have started up a new effort called World Beyond War at http://WorldBeyondWar.org aimed at bringing more people into peace activism. People and organizations in at least 58 countries so far have signed the Declaration of Peace at WorldBeyondWar.org.  Our hope is that, by bringing more people and groups into the movement, we can strengthen and enlarge, rather than compete against, existing peace organizations.  We hope that we can support the work of groups like the Movement for the Abolition of War, and that we can, as groups and individuals, work globally.

The website at WorldBeyondWar.org is intended to provide educational tools: videos, maps, reports, talking points.  We make the case against the idea that war protects us -- an outrageous idea, given that the nations that engage in the most war face the most hostility as a result.  A poll at the start of this year of people in 65 nations found the U.S. in a huge lead as the nation considered the greatest threat to peace in the world.  U.S. veterans are killing themselves in record numbers, in part over what they've done to Iraq and Afghanistan. Our humanitarian wars are a leading cause of suffering and death for humanity. And so we also refute the idea that war can benefit the people where it is waged.

We also lay out the arguments that war is deeply immoral, a first-cousin of and frequent cause of, not alternative to, genocide; that war destroys our natural environment, that war erodes our civil liberties, and that just transferring a bit of what we spend on war to something useful would make us beloved rather than feared around the world.  One and a half percent of what the world spends on war could be spent to end starvation on earth.  War has taken 200 million lives over the past century, but the good that could be done with the resources dumped into war far outstrips the evil that could be avoided by ending war.  For one thing, if we quickly redirected war's resources we'd have our best shot at doing something to protect the climate of the planet.  That our concept of "defense" doesn't include that illustrates how far we've gone toward accepting the inevitability of what is after all the perfectly avoidable and perfectly horrible and completely indefensible institution of war.

Having accepted war, we try for cheaper wars, better wars, even more one-sided wars, and what do we get?  We get warnings from respectable war supporters that we're beginning to make war the norm and risking continual warfare. 

On the one hand this is a case of unintended consequences to rival those who sought the truth about god's creation and ended up with the guy who's on the money around here, Charles Darwin.  On the other hand it's not unintended at all.  A professor at Stanford University has just put out a book arguing that war is so good for us that we must always keep it going.  That strain of thought courses through the veins of our military funded academia and activism. 

But that kind of thinking is increasingly unpopular, and this may be the moment in which to expose it, denounce it, and crystallize into action the growing popular sentiment against war, and the realization into which we've stumbled that particular wars can be prevented, and if particular wars can be prevented then each and every one of them can be prevented.  I look forward to working on that project, with the urgency it demands, and together with all of you.