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Talk Nation Radio: David Vine on U.S. Bases Around the World

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-david-vine-on-us-bases-around-the-world

David Vine is Associate Professor of Anthropology at American University in Washington, DC. David is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia (Princeton University Press, 2009). His new book, Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Overseas Harm America and the World, will be published by Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt in August 2015. Many of David’s articles and information about his books and other work can be found at www.davidvine.net.

A review of Base Nation by David Swanson is here: http://davidswanson.org/node/4825

Total run time: 29:00

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What Are Foreign Military Bases For?

If you're like most people in the United States, you have a vague awareness that the U.S. military keeps lots of troops permanently stationed on foreign bases around the world. But have you ever wondered and really investigated to find out how many, and where exactly, and at what cost, and to what purpose, and in terms of what relationship with the host nations?

A wonderfully researched new book, six years in the works, answers these questions in a manner you'll find engaging whether you've ever asked them or not. It's called Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Harm America and the World, by David Vine.

Some 800 bases with hundreds of thousands of troops in some 70 nations, plus all kinds of other "trainers" and "non-permanent" exercises that last indefinitely, maintain an ongoing U.S. military presence around the world for a price tag of at least $100 billion a year.

Why they do this is a harder question to answer.

Even if you think there is some reason to be able to quickly deploy thousands of U.S. troops to any spot on earth, airplanes now make that as easily done from the United States as from Korea or Japan or Germany or Italy.

It costs dramatically more to keep troops in those other countries, and while some base defenders make a case for economic philanthropy, the evidence is that local economies actually benefit little -- and suffer little when a base leaves. Neither does the U.S. economy benefit, of course. Rather, certain privileged contractors benefit, along with those politicians whose campaigns they fund. And if you think military spending is unaccountable at home, you should check out bases abroad where it's none too rare to have security guards employed purely to guard cooks whose sole job is to feed the security guards. The military has a term for any common SNAFU, and the term for this one is "self-licking ice cream."

The bases, in many cases, generate an enormous amount of popular resentment and hatred, serving as motivations for attacks on the bases themselves or elsewhere -- famously including the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Bases around the borders of Russia and China are generating new hostility and arms races, and even proposals by Russia and China to open foreign bases of their own. Currently all non-U.S. foreign bases in the world total no more than 30, with most of those belonging to close U.S. allies, and not a single one of them being in or anywhere near the United States, which would of course be considered an outrage.

Many U.S. bases are hosted by brutal dictatorships. An academic study has identified a strong U.S. tendency to defend dictatorships where the United States has bases. A glance at a newspaper will tell you the same. Crimes in Bahrain are not equal to crimes in Iran. In fact, when brutal and undemocratic governments currently hosting U.S. bases (in, for example, Honduras, Aruba, Curaçao, Mauritania, Liberia, Niger, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Mozambique, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Yemen, Qatar, Oman, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Georgia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand, Cambodia, or Singapore) are protested, there is a pattern of increased U.S. support for the government, which makes eviction of the U.S. bases all the more likely should the government fall, which fuels a vicious cycle that increases popular resentment of the U.S. government. The U.S. began building new bases in Honduras shortly after the 2009 coup.

Vine also tells a troubling story of the U.S. military's alliance with the Camorra (the mafia) in Naples, Italy, a relationship that has lasted from World War II to the present, and which fueled the rise of the Camorra -- a group reportedly deemed reliable enough by the U.S. military to protect nuclear weapons.

The smaller bases that don't house tens of thousands of troops, but secretive death squads or drones, have a tendency to make wars more likely. The drone war on Yemen that was labeled a success by President Obama last year has helped fuel a larger war.

In fact, I want to quibble with Vine's account of the birth of Base Nation, because I think the facilitation of the worst war ever was involved. Vine gives the history of the U.S. bases in Native American lands, starting in 1785 and very much alive today in the language of U.S. troops abroad in "Indian territory." But then Vine dates the birth of the modern base empire to September 2, 1940, when President Franklin Roosevelt traded Britain old ships in exchange for various Caribbean, Bermudan, and Canadian bases to be used in or after the war he was supposedly not planning on. But I'd like to back the clock up a little.

When FDR visited Pearl Harbor (not actually part of the United States) on July 28, 1934, the Japanese military expressed apprehension. General Kunishiga Tanaka wrote in the Japan Advertiser, objecting to the build-up of the American fleet and the creation of additional bases in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands (also not part of the United States): "Such insolent behavior makes us most suspicious. It makes us think a major disturbance is purposely being encouraged in the Pacific. This is greatly regretted."

Then, in March 1935, Roosevelt bestowed Wake Island on the U.S. Navy and gave Pan Am Airways a permit to build runways on Wake Island, Midway Island, and Guam. Japanese military commanders announced that they were disturbed and viewed these runways as a threat. So did peace activists in the United States. By the next month, Roosevelt had planned war games and maneuvers near the Aleutian Islands and Midway Island. By the following month, peace activists were marching in New York advocating friendship with Japan. Norman Thomas wrote in 1935: "The Man from Mars who saw how men suffered in the last war and how frantically they are preparing for the next war, which they know will be worse, would come to the conclusion that he was looking at the denizens of a lunatic asylum." The Japanese attacked Wake Island four days after attacking Pearl Harbor.

In any case, Vine points to the uniqueness of World War II as a war that has never been ended, even after the Cold War was said to have ended. Why have the troops never come home? Why have they continued to spread their forts into "Indian Territory," until the U.S. has more foreign bases than any other empire in history, even as the era of conquering territory has ended, even as a significant segment of the population has ceased thinking of "Indians" and other foreigners as subhuman beasts without rights worthy of respecting?

One reason, well-documented by Vine, is the same reason that the huge U.S. base at Guantanamo, Cuba, is used to imprison people without trials. By preparing for wars in foreign locations, the U.S. is often able to evade all kinds of legal restrictions -- including on labor and the environment, not to mention prostitution. GIs occupying Germany referred to rape as "liberating a blonde," and the sexual disaster area surrounding U.S. bases has continued to this day, despite the decision in 1945 to start sending families to live with soldiers -- a policy that now includes shipping each soldier's entire worldly possessions including automobiles around the world with them, not to mention providing single-payer healthcare and twice the spending on schooling as the national average back home. Prostitutes serving U.S. bases in South Korea and elsewhere are often virtually slaves. The Philippines, which has had U.S. "help" as long as anyone, provides the most contractor staff for U.S. bases, cooking , cleaning, and everything else -- as well as likely the most prostitutes imported to other countries, like South Korea.

The most isolated and lawless base sites include locations from which the U.S. military evicted the local population. These include bases in Diego Garcia, Greenland, Alaska, Hawaii, Panama, Puerto Rico, the Marshall Islands, Guam, the Philippines, Okinawa, and South Korea -- with people evicted as recently as 2006 in South Korea.

In hundreds of other sites where the population was not evicted, it might wish it had been. Foreign bases have been environmentally disastrous. Open-air burns, unexploded weaponry, poisons leaked into the ground water -- these are all commonplace. A jet fuel leak at Kirkland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., started in 1953 and was discovered in 1999, and was more than twice the size of the Exxon Valdez spill. U.S. bases within the United States have been environmentally devastating, but not on the scale of those in some foreign lands. A plane taking off from Diego Garcia to bomb Afghanistan in 2001 crashed and sank to the bottom of the ocean with some 85 hundred-pound munitions. Even ordinary base life takes a toll; U.S. troops produce over three times the garbage each as local residents in, for example, Okinawa.

Disregard for people and the land and the sea is built into the very idea of foreign bases. The United States would never tolerate another nation's base within its borders, yet imposes them on Okinawans, South Koreans, Italians, Filipinos, Iraqis, and others despite huge protest. Vine took some of his students to meet with an official at the U.S. State Department, Kevin Maher, who explained to them that U.S. bases in Japan were concentrated in Okinawa because it was "the Puerto Rico of Japan" where people have "darker skin," are "shorter," and have an "accent."

Base Nation is a book that should be read -- and its maps seen -- by everyone. I wish Vine did not write "Russia's seizure of Crimea" when referring to a free and open and legal vote, especially in the context of a book about military bases. And I wish he did not only use selfish points of reference in terms of financial tradeoffs. Of course the United States could be transformed for the better with the redirection of military spending, but the United States and the world both could be. It's that much money.

But this book will be an invaluable resource for years to come. It also includes, I should note, an excellent account of some of the resistance struggles that have in some cases shut bases down or scaled them back. It's worth noting that just this week, in the first of two necessary rulings, an Italian court has ruled for the people, against the U.S. Navy's construction of communications equipment in Sicily.

Just this month, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff published "The National Military Strategy of the United States of America -- 2015." It gave as justification for militarism lies about four countries, beginning with Russia, which it accused of "using force to achieve its goals," something the Pentagon would never do! Next it lied that Iran was "pursuing" nuclear weapons, a claim for which there is no evidence. Next it claimed that North Korea's nukes would someday "threaten the U.S. homeland." Finally, it asserted that China was "adding tension to the Asia-Pacific region." This "Strategy" admitted that none of the four nations wanted war with the United States. "Nonetheless, they each pose serious security concerns," it said.

So, one might add, does each of the U.S. foreign bases. Vine's book ends with some excellent proposals for change, to which I would add only one: Smedley Butler's proposed rule that the U.S. military be forbidden to travel more than 200 miles from the United States.

David Vine is this week's guest on Talk Nation Radio.

Document Shows CIA Reaction to Finding No WMD in Iraq

By David Swanson, teleSUR

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The National Security Archive has posted several newly available documents, one of them an account by Charles Duelfer of the search he led in Iraq for weapons of mass destruction, with a staff of 1,700 and the resources of the U.S. military.

Duelfer was appointed by CIA Director George Tenet to lead a massive search after an earlier massive search led by David Kay had determined that there were no WMD stockpiles in Iraq. Duelfer went to work in January 2004, to find nothing for a second time, on behalf of people who had launched a war knowing full well that their own statements about WMDs were not true.

The fact that Duelfer states quite clearly that he found none of the alleged WMD stockpiles cannot be repeated enough, with 42% of Americans (and 51 percent of Republicans) still believing the opposite.

A New York Times story last October about the remnants of a long-abandoned chemical weapons program has been misused and abused to advance misunderstanding. A search of Iraq today would find U.S. cluster bombs that were dropped a decade back, without of course finding evidence of a current operation.

Duelfer is also clear that Saddam Hussein's government had accurately denied having WMD, contrary to a popular U.S. myth that Hussein had pretended to have what he did not.

The fact that President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and their team knowingly lied cannot be overemphasized. This group took the testimony of Hussein Kamel regarding weapons he'd said had been destroyed years ago, and used it as if he'd said they currently existed. This team used forged documents to allege a uranium purchase. They used claims about aluminum tubes that had been rejected by all of their own usual experts. They "summarized" a National Intelligence Estimate that said Iraq was unlikely to attack unless attacked to say nearly the opposite in a "white paper" released to the public. Colin Powell took claims to the U.N. that had been rejected by his own staff, and touched them up with fabricated dialogue.

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller concluded that, "In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even nonexistent."

On January 31, 2003, Bush suggested to Blair that they could paint an airplane with U.N. colors, fly it low to get it shot at, and thereby start the war. Then the two of them walked out to a press conference at which they said they would avoid war if at all possible. Troop deployments and bombing missions were already underway.

When Diane Sawyer asked Bush on television why he had made the claims he had about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction, he replied: "What's the difference? The possibility that [Saddam] could acquire weapons, if he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger."

Duelfer's newly released internal report on his hunt, and that of Kay before him, for the figments of propagandists' imagination refers to "Saddam Hussein's WMD program," which Duelfer treats as an on-again, off-again institution, as if the 2003 invasion had just caught it in one of its naturally cyclical low tides of non-existence. Duelfer also describes the nonexistent program as "an international security problem that vexed the world for three decades," -- except perhaps for the part of the world engaged in the largest public demonstrations in history, which rejected the U.S. case for war.

Duelfer openly states that his goal was to rebuild "confidence in intelligence projections of threat." Of course, having found no WMDs, he can't alter the inaccuracy of the "projections of threat." Or can he? What Duelfer did publicly at the time and does again here is to claim, without providing any evidence for it, that "Saddam was directing resources to sustain the capacity to recommence producing WMD once U.N. sanctions and international scrutiny collapsed."

Duelfer claims that former Saddam yes men, rigorously conditioned to say whatever would most please their questioner, had assured him that Saddam harbored these secret intentions to start rebuilding WMD someday. But, Duelfer admits, "there is no documentation of this objective. And analysts should not expect to find any."

So, in Duelfer's rehabilitation of the "intelligence community" that may soon be trying to sell you another "projection of threat" (a phrase that perfectly fits what a Freudian would say they were doing), the U.S. government invaded Iraq, devastated a society, killed upwards of a million people by best estimates, wounded, traumatized, and made homeless millions more, generated hatred for the United States, drained the U.S. economy, stripped away civil liberties back home, and laid the groundwork for the creation of ISIS, as a matter not of "preempting" an "imminent threat" but of preempting a secret plan to possibly begin constructing a future threat should circumstances totally change.

This conception of "preemptive defense" is identical to two other concepts. It's identical to the justifications we've been offered recently for drone strikes. And it's identical to aggression. Once "defense" has been stretched to include defense against theoretical future threats, it ceases to credibly distinguish itself from aggression. And yet Duelfer seems to believe he succeeded in his assignment.

Call for Sanity on Sixtieth Anniversary of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto



The original Einstein-Russell manifesto

It was exactly 60 years ago that Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein gathered together with a group of leading intellectuals in London to draft and sign a manifesto in which they denounced the dangerous drive toward war between the world’s Communist and anti-Communist factions. The signers of this manifesto included leading Nobel Prize winners such as Hideki Yukawa and Linus Pauling.

They were blunt, equating the drive for war and reckless talk of the use of nuclear weapons sweeping the United States and the Soviet Union at the time, as endangering all of humanity. The manifesto argued that advancements in technology, specifically the invention of the atomic bomb, had set human history on a new and likely disastrous course.

The manifesto stated in harsh terms the choice confronting humanity:

Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?

The Russell-Einstein Manifesto forced a serious reconsideration of the dangerous strategic direction in which the United States was heading at that time and was the beginning of a recalibration of the concept of security that would lead to the signing of the Nonproliferation Treaty in 1968 and the arms control talks of the 1970s.

But we take little comfort in those accomplishments today. The United States has completely forgotten about its obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty, and the words “arms control” have disappeared from the conversation on security. The last year has seen the United States confront Russia in Ukraine to such a degree that many have spoken about the risks of nuclear war.

As a result, on June 16 of this year Russia announced that it will add 40 new ICBMs in response to the investment of the United States over the last two years in upgrading its nuclear forces.

Similar tensions have emerged between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyutai Isles and between the United States and China over the South China Sea. Discussions about the possibility of war with China are showing up in the Western media with increasing frequency, and a deeply disturbing push to militarize American relations with Asia is emerging.

But this time, the dangers of nuclear war are complemented by an equal, or greater, threat: climate change. Even the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, told the Boston Globe in 2013 that climate change “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.’’

More recently, Pope Francis issued a detailed, and blunt, encyclical dedicated to the threat of climate change in which he charged:

It is remarkable how weak international political responses (to climate change) have been. Consequently the most one can expect is superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment, whereas any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented.

As the 60th anniversary of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto drew near, I became increasing disturbed by the complete inaction among the best-educated and best-connected in the face of the most dangerous moment in modern history and perhaps in human history, grimmer even than the catastrophe that Russell and Einstein contemplated. Not only are we facing the increased likelihood of nuclear war, but there are signs that climate change is advancing more rapidly than previously estimated. Science Magazine recently released a study that predicts massive marine destruction if we follow the current trends, and even the glaciers of the Southern Antarctic Peninsula, once thought to be the most stable, are observed to be melting rapidly. And yet we see not even the most superficial efforts to defend against this threat by the major powers.

I spoke informally about my worries with my friend John Feffer, director of Foreign Policy in Focus and associate of the Asia Institute. John has written extensively about the need to identify climate change as the primary security threat and also has worked closely with Miriam Pemberton of the Institute for Policy Studies on efforts to move the United States away from a military economy. Between the two of us we have put together a slightly updated version of the manifesto that highlights climate change — an issue that was not understood in 1955 — and hereby have published it in the form of a petition that we invite anyone in the world to sign. This new version of the manifesto is open to the participation of all, not restricted to that of an elite group of Nobel Prize winners.

I also spoke with David Swanson, a friend from my days working on the Dennis Kucinich campaign for the Democratic nomination back in 2004. David now serves as director of World Beyond War, a broad effort to create a consensus that war no longer has any legitimate place in human society. He offered to introduce the manifesto to a broad group of activists and we agreed that Foreign Policy in Focus, the Asia Institute and World Beyond War would co-sponsor the new manifesto.

Finally, I sent the draft to Noam Chomsky who readily offered to sign it and offered the following comment.

Last January the famous Doomsday Clock was moved two minutes closer to midnight, the closest it has been since a major war scare 30 years ago.  The accompanying declaration, which warned that the constant threat of nuclear war and “unchecked climate change” severely threaten human civilization, brings to mind the grim warning to the people of the world just 60 years ago by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, calling on them to face a choice that is “stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?” In all of human history, there has never been a choice like the one we face today.

The declaration on the 60th anniversary of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto is displayed below. We urge all people who are concerned about humanity’s future and about the health of the Earth’s biosphere to join us in signing the declaration, and to invite friends and family members to sign. The statement can be signed at the petition page on DIY RootsAction website:

Declaration on the 60th Anniversary of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto

July 9, 2015

In view of the growing risk that in future wars weapons, nuclear and otherwise, will be employed that threaten the continued existence of humanity, we urge the governments of the world to realize, and to acknowledge publicly, that their purpose cannot be furthered by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them.

We also propose that all governments of the world begin to convert those resources previously allocated to preparations for destructive conflict to a new constructive purpose: the mitigation of climate change and the creation of a new sustainable civilization on a global scale.

This effort is endorsed by Foreign Policy in Focus, the Asia Institute, and World Beyond War, and is being launched on July 9, 2015.

You can sign, and ask everyone you know to sign, this declaration here:

http://diy.rootsaction.org/p/man

Why is this declaration important?

Exactly 60 years ago today, leading intellectuals led by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein gathered in London to sign a manifesto voicing their concern that the struggle between the Communist and anti-Communist blocs in the age of the hydrogen bomb guaranteed annihilation for humanity.

Although we have so far avoided the nuclear war that those intellectuals dreaded, the danger has merely been postponed. The threat, which has reemerged recently with the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, has only grown more dire.

Moreover, the rapid acceleration of technological development threatens to put nuclear weapons, and many other weapons of similar destructiveness, into the hands of a growing circle of nations (and potentially even of “non-state actors”). At the same time, the early possessors of nuclear weapons have failed to abide by their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to destroy their stockpiles.

And now we are faced with an existential threat that may rival the destructive consequences even of a full-scale nuclear war: climate change. The rapacious exploitation of our resources and a thoughtless over-reliance upon fossil fuels have caused an unprecedented disruption of our climate. Combined with an unmitigated attack on our forests, our wetlands, our oceans, and our farmland in the pursuit of short-term gains, this unsustainable economic expansion has brought us to the edge of an abyss.

The original 1955 manifesto states: “We are speaking on this occasion, not as members of this or that nation, continent, or creed, but as human beings,” members of the human species “whose continued existence is in doubt.”

The time has come for us to break out of the distorted and misleading conception of progress and development that has so seduced us and led us towards destruction.

Intellectuals bear a particular responsibility of leadership by virtue of their specialized expertise and insight regarding the scientific, cultural, and historical forces that have led to our predicament. Between a mercenary element that pursues an agenda of narrow interests without regard to consequences and a frequently discouraged, misled, and sometimes apathetic citizenry stand the intellectuals in every field of study and sphere of activity. It falls to us that it falls to decry the reckless acceleration of armaments and the criminal destruction of the ecosystem. The time has come for us to raise our voices in a concerted effort.

Initial Signers

Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus, MIT

Last January the famous Doomsday Clock was moved two minutes closer to midnight, the closest it has been since a major war scare 30 years ago.  The accompanying declaration, which warned that the constant threat of nuclear war and “unchecked climate change” severely threaten human civilization, brings to mind the grim warning to the people of the world just 50 years ago by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, calling on them to face a choice that is “stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?” In all of human history, there has never been a choice like the one we face today.

Helen Caldicott, author

It was the Russell Einstein manifesto on the threat of nuclear war 60 years ago that started me upon my journey to try to abolish nuclear weapons. I then read and devoured the three volumes of Russell’s autobiography which had an amazing influence upon my thinking as a young girl.

The manifesto was so extraordinarily sensible written by two of the world’s greatest thinkers, and I am truly amazed that the world at that time took practically no notice of their prescient warning, and today we are orders of magnitude in greater danger than we were 60 years ago. The governments of the world still think in primitive terms of retribution and killing while the nuclear weapons in Russia and the US are presently maintained on hair trigger alert, and these two nuclear superpowers are practicing nuclear war drills during a state of heightened international tension exacerbated by the Ukrainian situation and the Middle East. It is in truth sheer luck that we are still here on this lovely planet of ours.

Larry Wilkerson, retired United States Army Colonel and former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

From central Europe to Southwest Asia, from the South China Sea to the Arctic, tensions are on the rise as the world’s sole empire is roiled in peripheral activities largely of its own doing and just as largely destructive of its power and corruptive of its leadership. This, while humanity’s most pressing challenge–planetary climate change–threatens catastrophe for all.  Stockpiles of nuclear weapons add danger to this already explosive situation.  We humans have never been so powerfully challenged–and so apparently helpless to do anything about it.

Benjamin R. Barber, president, Global Parliament of Mayors Project

Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything

David Swanson, director, World Beyond War

John Feffer, director, Foreign Policy in Focus

Emanuel Pastreich, director, The Asia Institute

Leah Bolger,  chair, coordinating committee, World Beyond War

Ben Griffin, coordinator, Veterans For Peace UK

Michael Nagler, founder and president, The Metta Center for Nonviolence

John Horgan, science journalist & author of The End of War

Kevin Zeese, co-director, Popular Resistance.

Margaret Flowers, M.D., co-director of Popular Resistance

Dahr Jamail, staff reporter, Truthout

John Kiriakou, associate fellow, Institute for Policy Studies and CIA Torture Whistleblower

Kim Hyung yul, president of the Asia Institute and professor of history, Sook Myung University

Choi Murim, professor of medicine, Seoul National University

Coleen Rowley, retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis Division legal counsel

Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army Colonel and former US diplomat

Mike Madden, vice president, Veterans For Peace, Chapter 27 (veteran of the US Air Force)

Chante Wolf, 12 year Air Force, Desert Shield/Storm veteran, member of Chapter 27, Veterans For Peace

William Binney, former NSA technical director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis and co-founder of the SIGINT Automation Research Center.

Jean Bricmont, professor, Université Catholique de Louvain

 

Emanuel Pastreich is the director of the Asia Institute in Seoul, South Korea.

Peace Lessons

I just read what may be the best introduction to peace studies I’ve ever seen. It’s called Peace Lessons, and is a new book by Timothy Braatz. It’s not too fast or too slow, neither obscure nor boring. It does not drive the reader away from activism toward meditation and “inner peace,” but begins with and maintains a focus on activism and effective strategy for revolutionary change in the world on the scale that is needed. As you may be gathering, I’ve read some similar books about which I had major complaints.

No doubt there are many more, similar books I haven’t read, and no doubt most of them cover the basic concepts of direct, structural, and cultural violence and nonviolence. No doubt many of them review the 20th century history of nonviolent overthrows of dictators. No doubt the U.S. civil rights movement is a common theme, especially among U.S. authors. Braatz’s book covers this and other familiar territory so well I was never tempted to set it down. He gives some of the best answers available to the usual questions from the dominant war-based culture, as well: “Would you shoot a crazed gunman to save your grandma?” “What about Hitler?”

Braatz introduces basic concepts with crystal clarity, and then proceeds to illuminate them with a discussion of the battle of Little Bighorn from a peace perspective. The book is worth acquiring for this alone, or for the similarly insightful discussion of John Brown’s use of nonviolent strategies in combination with his use of violence. Brown established a constructive project, a cooperative interracial non-patriarchal community. Brown had concluded that only the death of white men could awaken Northerners to the evil of slavery, prior to his failure to flee Harper’s Ferry. Read Braatz on Brown’s Quaker roots before assuming you understand his complexity.

A summary of Braatz on the “But what about Hitler?” question might go something like this. When Hitler first asphyxiated mentally ill Germans, a few prominent voices raised in opposition led to the cancellation of that program, known as T4. When most of the German population was displeased by the Crystal Night attacks on Jews, those tactics were abandoned. When non-Jewish wives of Jewish men began demonstrating in Berlin to demand their release, and others joined in the demonstrations, those men and their children were released. What might a larger, better planned nonviolent resistance campaign have accomplished? It was never attempted, but it is not hard to imagine. A general strike had reversed a rightwing coup in Germany in 1920. German nonviolence had ended a French occupation in the Ruhr region in the 1920s, and nonviolence would later remove a ruthless dictator from power in East Germany in 1989. In addition, nonviolence proved moderately successful against the Nazis in Denmark and Norway with little planning, coordination, strategy, or discipline. In Finland, Denmark, Italy, and especially Bulgaria, and to a lesser extent elsewhere, non-Jews successfully resisted German orders to kill Jews. And what if the Jews in Germany had understood the danger and nonviolently resisted, magically managing to use techniques developed and understood in the decades that followed, and the Nazis had begun to slaughter them in the public streets rather than in distant camps? Would millions have been saved by the reaction of the general public? We cannot know because it wasn’t tried.

I might add, from a complementary perspective: Six months after Pearl Harbor, in the auditorium of the Union Methodist Church in Manhattan, the executive secretary of the War Resisters League Abraham Kaufman argued that the United States needed to negotiate with Hitler. To those who argued that you couldn’t negotiate with Hitler, he explained that the Allies were already negotiating with Hitler over prisoners of war and the sending of food to Greece. For years to come, peace activists would argue that negotiating a peace without loss or victory would still save the Jews and save the world from the wars that would follow the current one. Their proposal was not tried, millions died in the Nazis’ camps, and the wars that followed that one have not ended.

But belief in the inevitability of war can end. One can easily understand, as Braatz notes, how wiser behavior in the 1920s and 1930s would have avoided World War II.

Braatz’s history of post-World War II nonviolent action is well done, including his analysis of how the end of the Cold War allowed successes in the Philippines and Poland to spark a trend that earlier successes had not. I do think that the discussion of Gene Sharp and the color revolutions could have benefitted from some critical consideration of the role played by the U.S. government — something done well in Ukraine: Zbig’s Grand Chessboard and How the West Was Checkmated. But after initially labeling several actions successes, Braatz does later get around to qualifying that label. In fact, he is very critical of most nonviolent successes as insufficiently correcting structural and cultural violence, effecting only superficial change by overthrowing leaders.

He’s also quite critical of the U.S. civil rights movement, not in a childishly arrogant sense of looking down on any participants, but as a strategist hunting for lost opportunities and lessons going forward. Lost opportunities, he thinks, include the March on Washington and a couple of different moments in the Selma campaign, including the moment when King turned the march around on the bridge.

This book would make a terrific series of discussions in a course on possibilities for peace. As such a course, however, I think it lacks — as virtually the entire academic discipline of peace studies lacks — a substantial analysis of the problem of twenty-first century U.S. wars and global militarism — where this unprecedented war machine is, what drives it, and how to undo it. Braatz does, however, offer the idea that many of us had at the time and some (such as Kathy Kelly) acted on: What if in the lead up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq a huge peace army including famous figures from the West and around the world had made its way to Baghdad as human shields?

We could use that now in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Ukraine, Iran, and various parts of Africa and Asia. Libya three four years ago was a stellar opportunity for such an action. Will the war machine present a better one, with sufficient warning? Will we be ready to act on it?

Talk Nation Radio: Aspen Baker on Abortion and Being Pro-Voice

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-aspen-baker-on-abortion-and-being-pro-voice

Aspen Baker is the author of Pro-Voice: How to Keep Listening When the World Wants a Fight, and spokesperson for Exhale. She discusses how to transform discussions of abortion. Her website is http://aspenbaker.com

Total run time: 29:00

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

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How Can This Still Be Happening in Our World?

How does war impact people who believe in it?

What does it do to people who live through it?

How does it feel to begin to doubt it?

SanctuaryThePlay.com

This play is a flood of sensations streaming out of the madness of militarism half-aware of itself.

"I'm going to create a Sanctuary, a place inside myself first where I tell the truth," says a character toward the end, as if telling the truth to others openly would be a difficult, second step to someday follow telling the truth to oneself.

For how many people is that true?

How many of them might it help to hear someone else tell the truth in a room of someone elses listening and appreciating?

Watch this:

Killing Crabs and Arabs

I lead a sheltered life. Apart from visiting Afghanistan once during a war, the closest I come to danger is in sports, and the closest I come to violence is in emailed death threats from war fanatics -- and even those pretty much dried up when the president became a Democrat.

When rats moved into the garage, I trapped them one-by-one and let them go in the woods, even as people claimed the same rats were finding their way back over and over again, like local troops getting guns and training from the U.S. Army over and over again so they could "stand up" and attack each other someday.

I've been arrested for using the First Amendment numerous times but never had anyone try to use the Second Amendment on me. I'm mostly a vegetarian, considering becoming a vegan.

My weakness is seafood. But I don't have it all the time. If I ever eat crabs, I buy them already cooked, already red instead of blue, already still instead of moving, already a product like a sausage patty or a granola bar only different.

Recently I found myself at a friend's house on the bay dropping cages into the water and pulling them out full of crabs. One should accept hospitality. They throw back the females. They throw back the babies. The crabs are plentiful, local, organic, non-processed. If I eat them from a store I'd be a hypocrite not to eat them from the bay.

But these crabs were blue, not red; rapidly moving, not still. We dumped them into a pot and poked them back into it as they tried to crawl out, noisily scraping their claws on the metal. Their intentions were quite clear, and we knowingly frustrated those intentions as we slammed the lid on the pot and set it on the stove for 45 minutes. Forty-five minutes. Long enough for an enhanced interrogation.

And then I ate the crabs.

But the crabs kept crawling around in my head. Surely there are greater evils than hypocrisy, my thoughts said to me.

Peace activist friend Paul Chappell spoke recently to a large group. If you spent the day playing with and getting to know a five-year-old girl, he said, could you take a baseball bat and kill her with it? People shuddered.

Of course you couldn't, he said. But what if you did it from 10 feet away with a gun, with her head turned, with her blindfolded, as part of a firing squad, or from 100 feet, without getting to know her, or from an airplane high above, or with the remote control for a drone, or by ordering someone to order someone to order someone else to do it, and with an understanding that the girl was part of a subhuman race out to destroy the good people of the world?

When Barack Obama reads through his list of men, women, and children on a Tuesday and picks which ones to have killed, he knows he won't be doing the killing. When he killed a 16-year-old boy from Colorado named Abdulrahman and his six cousins and friends who were too close to him at the time, was it Obama's choice or did he pass the buck? Was it John Brennan's choice? Let's suppose that one of them was presented with the argument for bestowing the royal thumbs-down.

Were they shown a photograph? Was a portrait of evil painted? Abdulrahman's father had said seditious things. Perhaps Abdulrahman had once cheated on a biology test. Maybe he hadn't meant to, but he had seen an answer and then not spoken up -- no saint, he.

Had a recording been played of Abdulrahman's voice? Could his killer, could his ultimate killer whose policy trickled down to the pushing of the button on the videogame that beheaded, burned-to-death, lynched, and drew and quartered him all at once -- could that person imagine what his voice would have been like had he been in an oversized metal pot trying to crawl out?

Seven young friends trying to scrape their way out of a pot of steaming water, as Gulliver pokes them back. Their words are articulate, followed by inarticulate screams. Could Obama cook them? And if he couldn't cook them, how can he conscionably murder them with missiles, along with dozens and hundreds and thousands of others killed with all kinds of weaponry at his order and through his proxies and through the recipients of his weaponry given and sold to other air-conditioned killers?

If forced to do the killing in person, which president or secretary or chairman or senator or congress member would do it? And would we want them to take a stand against hypocrisy out of loyalty to their former self, the distance killer? Or would we want them to awake to the evil of their ways and cease and desist forthwith?

The distancing of killing doesn't just make it easier. It also hides important considerations behind gleaming temptations. The crabs are dying. You know it. I know it. We all know that we all know it. The oysters are dying. The crabs are dying. The ecosystem is dying. And the fact that they taste good, combined with some vague fatalism about overpopulation and six-of-one-half-a-dozen-bits-of-bullshit doesn't change what the right thing to do must be.

I am going to eat no more crabs.

The wars are self-defeating, creating enemies, murdering innocents, destroying the environment, eroding civil liberties, savaging self-government, draining resources, mashing away all semblance of morality. And the rush of tasty power that comes from ordering deaths on a check list like a take-out menu doesn't change any of that.

There has to be a last time we tolerate war.

Mapping Military Madness: 2015 Update

Once again this year, the clear winner, in not just women’s soccer and incarceration, but also in militarism, is the United States of America, sweeping nearly every category of military insanity with seemingly effortless ease. Find all of last year’s and this year’s maps here: bit.ly/mappingmilitarism

In the area of money spent on militarism, there was really no competition:

MMspending

Troops in Afghanistan have declined, but there remains no question which nation still has the most.

There are more major wars in the world now than a year ago, but only one nation is involved in some significant way in all of them.

When it comes to weapons sales to the rest of the world, the United States really shines. The other nations should probably be competing in a different league.

In nuclear weapons stockpiling, Russia makes an amazing showing, nudging out the U.S. for the lead, just like last year, even as both nations’ stockpiles have slightly diminished, and both nations have announced plans to build more. No other nation even makes it on the chart.

Among nations with other WMDs, such as chemical and biological weapons, the United States is right in there.

But it’s really in the reach of its military presence that the United States makes every other nation look like amateur killers. U.S. troops and weapons are everywhere. Check out the maps.

We’ve added a map showing the nations receiving the greatest number of U.S. and allies’ air strikes, and we’ve updated the count of drone murders in each country being regularly droned.

Further maps display which nations are taking steps to facilitate peace and prosperity. The United States’ ability to fail so stunningly in these categories while excelling in the others is the mark of a true champion war monger.

A picture is worth 1,000 words. Adjust the settings to make your own maps of militarism here.

The 51-Day Genocide

Max Blumenthal's latest book, The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza, tells a powerful story powerfully well. I can think of a few other terms that accurately characterize the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza in addition to "war," among them: occupation, murder-spree, and genocide. Each serves a different valuable purpose. Each is correct.

The images people bring to mind with the term "war," universally outdated, are grotesquely outdated in a case like this one. There is no pair of armies on a battlefield. There is no battlefield. There is no aim to conquer, dispossess, or rob. The people of Gaza are already pre-defeated, conquered, imprisoned, and under siege -- permanently overseen by military drones and remote-control machine-guns atop prison-camp walls. In dropping bombs on houses, the Israeli government is not trying to defeat another army on a battlefield, is not trying to gain possession of territory, is not trying to steal resources from a foreign power, and is not trying to hold off a foreign army's attempt to conquer Israel.

Yes, of course, Israel ultimately wants Gaza's land incorporated into Israel, but not with non-Jewish people living on it. (Eighty percent of Gaza's residents are refugees from Israel, families ethnically cleansed in 1947-1948.) Yes, of course, Israel wants the fossil fuels off the Gazan coast. But it already has them. No, the immediate goal of the Israeli war on Gaza last year, like the one two years before, and like the one four years before that, would perfectly fit a name like "The 51 Day Genocide." The purpose was to kill. The end was nothing other than the means.

In 2014, as in 2012 and 2008, Israel again attacked the people of Gaza, using weapons provided for free by the U.S. government, which could be counted on, even standing completely alone, to defend Israel's crimes at the United Nations. Practicing what's been called the Dahiya Doctrine, Israel's policy was one of collective punishment.

The stories in the U.S. media focused on Israelis' fears. The deaths of Gazans were explained as intentional sacrifices by a people with a "culture of martyrdom" who sometimes choose to die because it makes good video footage. After all, Israel was phoning people's houses and giving them 5-minute warnings before blowing them up. The fact that it was also blowing up shelters and hospitals they might flee to was glossed over or explained as somehow involving military targets.

But the Israeli media and internet were full of open advocacy by top Israeli officials of genocide. On August 1, 2014, the Deputy Speaker of Israel's Parliament posted on his Facebook page a plan for the complete elimination of the Gazan people using concentration camps, to take one of dozens of examples.

And the whole thing was kicked off when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lied that three murder victims might be still alive, falsely blamed their kidnapping on Hamas, and began raiding houses and mass-arresting Gazans. Once Israel and the United States had rejected out-of-hand quite reasonable ceasefire demands from Hamas, the war/genocide was on for 51 days -- with great popular support in Israel. Some 2,200 Gazan people were killed, over 10,000 injured, and 100,000 made homeless by a very one-sided war.

Here's a taste of how Blumenthal describes what happened:

"The two Red Crescent volunteers told me they later found a man in Khuza'a with rigor mortis, holding both hands over his head in surrender, his body filled with bullets. Deeper in the town, they discovered an entire family so badly decomposed they had to be shoveled with a bulldozer into a mass grave. In a field on the other side of town, Awad and Alkusofi found a shell-shocked woman at least eighty years of age hiding in a chicken coop. She had taken shelter there for nine days during the siege, living off of nothing but chicken feed and rain water."

While every bombed school and hospital was explained with the assertion that Gazan fighters were hiding among "human shields," we meet Gazan people in Blumenthal's book who were literally held up as shields by Israeli soldiers who shot at Gazans from over their shoulders. People also had new nasty weapons tested on them, including Dense Inert Metal Explosives (DIME).

The people of Israel generally went along with this war (with many admirable exceptions), and later reelected its architects. Protests against the war were banned, and various lies (including those about the three murder victims that kicked it all off) were exposed in a matter of days or weeks. No matter, the point was to kill people, and people were killed. And no matter in Washington, either, which kept the weapons flowing, quite illegally.

Gaza launched some 4,000 rockets into Israel, to little apparent effect -- rockets whose total combined payload roughly equaled that of just 12 of the missiles Israel was sending into Gaza from its F-16s courtesy of the Land of the Free.

The "international community" gathered in Cairo on October 12, and diplomats "discussed the destruction of Gaza as though it were the result of a natural disaster -- as though the missiles that reduced the strip's border areas to rubble were meteors that descended from outer space." There was no way to discuss damage to both sides in a manner that would make Israel's actions seem legitimate, even by the standards of the "international community," so they discussed the one-sided damage as if nobody were responsible.

Is this where the United States is headed culturally and with its own wars? One reason to hope not is that opposing Israel's wars is one of the few places where U.S. youth are engaged in antiwar activism. Nonetheless, there is reason for concern. The U.S. has followed the Israeli model of domestic policing, of drone use, of assassination, and of propaganda, and the Israeli lead in relation to Iraq, Syria, and Iran. As the U.S. military moves more and more toward treating the world as Israel treats Gaza, the world's future comes more and more into doubt. And there's little to suggest that Americans will oppose actions by their own government simply because they've previously opposed those same actions by the government of Israel.