Peace and War

Mar
01

A Model City Resolution to Resist and Overcome

Tag: Peace and War, Public Budgets

Resolution Proposed for __________, ___

Whereas President Trump has proposed to move $54 billion from human and environmental spending at home and abroad to military spending[i], bringing military spending to well over 60% of federal discretionary spending[ii],

Whereas part of helping alleviate the refugee crisis should be ending, not escalating, wars that create refugees[iii],

Whereas President Trump himself admits that the enormous military spending of the past 16 years has been disastrous and made us less safe, not safer[iv],

Whereas fractions of the proposed military budget could provide free, top-quality education from pre-school through college[v], end hunger and starvation on earth[vi], convert the U.S. to clean energy[vii], provide clean drinking water everywhere it's needed on the planet[viii], build fast trains between all major U.S. cities[ix], and double non-military U.S. foreign aid rather than cutting it[x],

Whereas even 121 retired U.S. generals have written a letter opposing cutting foreign aid[xi],

Whereas a December 2014 Gallup poll of 65 nations found that the United States was far and away the country considered the largest threat to peace in the world[xii],

Whereas a United States responsible for providing clean drinking water, schools, medicine, and solar panels to others would be more secure and face far less hostility around the world,

Whereas our environmental and human needs are desperate and urgent,

Whereas the military is itself the greatest consumer of petroleum we have[xiii],

Whereas economists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have documented that military spending is an economic drain rather than a jobs program[xiv],

Be it therefore resolved that the ____________ of ___________, ________, urges the United States Congress to move our tax dollars in exactly the opposite direction proposed by the President, from militarism to human and environmental needs.

[i] "Trump to Seek $54 Billion Increase in Military Spending," The New York Times, February 27, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/27/us/politics/trump-budget-military.html?_r=0

[ii] This does not include another 6% for the discretionary portion of veterans' care. For a breakdown of discretionary spending in the 2015 budget from the National Priorities Project, see https://www.nationalpriorities.org/campaigns/military-spending-united-states

[iii] "43 Million People Kicked Out of Their Homes," World Beyond War, http://worldbeyondwar.org/43-million-people-kicked-homes / "Europe's Refugee Crisis Was Made in America," The Nation, https://www.thenation.com/article/europes-refugee-crisis-was-made-in-america

[iv] On February 27, 2017, Trump said, "Almost 17 years of fighting in the Middle East . . . $6 trillion we've spent in the Middle East . . . and we're nowhere, actually if you think about it we're less than nowhere, the Middle East is far worse than it was 16, 17 years ago, there's not even a contest . . .  we have a hornet's nest . . . ." http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2017/02/27/trump_we_spent_6_trillion_in_middle_east_and_we_are_less_than_nowhere_far_worse_than_16_years_ago.html

[v] "Free College: We Can Afford It," The Washington Post, May 1, 2012, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/free-college-we-can-afford-it/2012/05/01/gIQAeFeltT_story.html?utm_term=.9cc6fea3d693

[vi] "The World Only Needs 30 Billion Dollars a Year to Eradicate the Scourge of Hunger," Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2008/1000853/index.html

[vii] "Clean Energy Transition Is A $25 Trillion Free Lunch," Clean Technica, https://cleantechnica.com/2015/11/03/clean-energy-transition-is-a-25-trillion-free-lunch / See also: http://www.solutionaryrail.org

[viii] "Clean Water for a Healthy World," UN Environment Program, http://www.unwater.org/wwd10/downloads/WWD2010_LOWRES_BROCHURE_EN.pdf

[ix] "Cost of High Speed Rail in China One Third Lower than in Other Countries," The World Bank, http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2014/07/10/cost-of-high-speed-rail-in-china-one-third-lower-than-in-other-countries

[x] Non-military U.S. foreign aid is approximately $25 billion, meaning that President Trump would need to cut it by over 200% to find the $54 billion he proposes to add to military spending

[xi] Letter to Congressional leaders, February 27, 2017, http://www.usglc.org/downloads/2017/02/FY18_International_Affairs_Budget_House_Senate.pdf

[xii] See http://www.wingia.com/en/services/about_the_end_of_year_survey/global_results/7/33

[xiii] "Fight Climate Change, Not Wars," Naomi Klein, http://www.naomiklein.org/articles/2009/12/fight-climate-change-not-wars

[xiv] "The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities: 2011 Update," Political Economy Research Institute, https://www.peri.umass.edu/publication/item/449-the-u-s-employment-effects-of-military-and-domestic-spending-priorities-2011-update

Feb
28

Talk Nation Radio: Michael Kazin on the Peace Activists Who Warned Against World War I

Tag: Peace and War, Talk Nation Radio

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-michael-kazin-on-the-peace-activists-who-warned-against-world-war-i

Michael Kazin is a professor of history at Georgetown University and editor of Dissent, a magazine of politics and culture which has been published since 1954. His main interest is the history of politics and social movements in the United States. Kazin writes frequently for such publications and websites as The New York Times, Foreign Affairs , The Nation, and The Daily Beast.

His most recent book is War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918. We discuss World War I, World War II, and peace activism.

Kazin will be speaking on April 4, 2017, at this event:

Remembering Past Wars . . . and Preventing the Next

An event to mark 100 years since the United States entered World War I, and 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous speech against war. A new movement to end all war is growing.

April 4, 2017, 6-8 p.m. Busboys and Poets, 5th and K Streets NW, Washington, D.C.

Speakers:Michael Kazin, professor of history at Georgetown University, author of War Against War: The American Fight for Peace 1914-1918.

Eugene Puryear, journalist, activist, radio host, and author of Shackled and Chained: Mass Incarceration in Capitalist America.

Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK, author of books including Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection.

David Swanson, director of World Beyond War, author of books including War Is A Lie and When the World Outlawed War.

Maria Santelli, executive director of Center on Conscience and War, founding director of the New Mexico GI Rights Hotline.

Jarrod Grammel, conscientious objector.

Nolan Fontaine, conscientious objector.

Sponsored by World Beyond War, and Center on Conscience and War, with thanks to Busboys and Poets.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Feb
27

The Choice Trump’s Budget Creates

Tag: Peace and War, Public Budgets

Trump proposes to increase U.S. military spending by $54 billion, and to take that $54 billion out of the other portions of the above budget, including in particular, he says, foreign aid. If you can’t find foreign aid on the chart above, that’s because it is a portion of that little dark green slice called International Affairs. To take $54 billion out of foreign aid, you would have to cut foreign aid by approximately 200 percent.

Alternative math!

But let’s not focus on the $54 billion. The blue section above (in the 2015 budget) is already 54% of discretionary spending (that is, 54% of all the money that the U.S. government chooses what to do with every year). It’s already 60% if you add in Veterans’ Benefits. (We should take care of everyone, of course, but we wouldn’t have to take care of amputations and brain injuries from wars if we stopped having the wars.) Trump wants to shift another 5% to the military, boosting that total to 65%.

Now I’d like to show you a ski slope that Denmark is opening on the roof of a clean power plant — a clean power plant that cost 0.06% of Trump’s military budget.

Trump’s pretense that he’s going to just screw the no-good foreigners by taking $54 billion out of foreign aid is misleading on many levels. First, that kind of money just isn’t there. Second, foreign aid actually makes the United States safer, unlike all the “defense” spending that endangers us. Third, the $700 billion that Trump wants to borrow and blow on militarism every year would not only get us close in 8 years to wasting directly (without considering missed opportunities, interest payments, etc.) the same $6 trillion that Trump laments blowing on recent failed wars (unlike his imaginary successful wars), but that same $700 billion is more than enough to transform domestic and foreign spending alike.

Feb
27

Can Canada Get Out of the War Business?

Tag: Peace and War

Canada is becoming a major weapons dealer, a reliable accomplice in U.S. wars, and a true believer in “humanitarian” armed peacekeeping as a useful response to all the destruction fueled by the weapons dealing.

William Geimer’s Canada: The Case for Staying Out of Other People’s Wars is an excellent antiwar book, useful to anyone seeking to understand or abolish war anywhere on earth. But it happens to be written from a Canadian perspective of possibly particular value to Canadians and residents of other NATO countries, including being valuable right now as Trumpolini demands of them increased investment in the machinery of death.

By “other people’s wars” Geimer means to indicate Canada’s role as subservient to leading war-maker the United States, and historically Canada’s similar position toward Britain. But he also means that the wars Canada fights in do not involve actually defending Canada. So, it’s worth noting that they don’t involve actually defending the United States either, serving rather to endanger the nation leading them. Whose wars are they?

Geimer’s well-researched accounts of the Boer war, the world wars, Korea, and Afghanistan are as good a depiction of horror and absurdity, as good a debunking of glorification, as you’ll find.

It’s unfortunate then that Geimer holds out the possibility of a proper Canadian war, proposes that the Responsibility to Protect need merely be used properly to avoid “abuses” like Libya, recounts the usual pro-war tale about Rwanda, and depicts armed peacekeeping as something unlike war all together. “How,” Geimer asks, “did Canada in Afghanistan slip from actions consistent with one vision, to those of its opposite?” I’d suggest that one answer might be: by supposing that sending armed troops into a country to occupy it can be the opposite of sending armed troops into a country to occupy it.

But Geimer also proposes that no mission that will result in the killing of a single civilian be undertaken, a rule that would completely abolish war. In fact, spreading understanding of the history that Geimer’s book recounts would likely accomplish that same end.

World War I, which has now reached its centennial, is apparently a myth of origins in Canada in something of the way that World War II marks the birth of the United States in U.S. entertainment. Rejecting World War I can, therefore, be of particular value. Canada is also searching for world recognition for its contributions to militarism, according to Geimer’s analysis, in a way that the U.S. government could really never bring itself to give a damn what anyone else thinks. This suggests that recognizing Canada for pulling out of wars or for helping to ban landmines or for sheltering U.S. conscientious objectors (and refugees from U.S. bigotry), while shaming Canada for participating in U.S. crimes, may have an impact.

While Geimer recounts that propaganda surrounding both world wars claimed that Canadian participation would be defensive, he rightly rejects those claims as having been ludicrous. Geimer otherwise has very little to say about the propaganda of defensiveness, which I suspect is much stronger in the United States. While U.S. wars are now pitched as humanitarian, that selling point alone never garners majority U.S. public support. Every U.S. war, even attacks on unarmed nations halfway around the earth, is sold as defensive or not successfully sold at all. This difference suggests to me a couple of possibilities.

First, the U.S. thinks of itself as under threat because it has generated so much anti-U.S. sentiment around the world by means of all of its “defensive” wars. Canadians should contemplate what sort of an investment in bombings and occupations it would take for them to generate anti-Canadian terrorist groups and ideologies on the U.S. scale, and whether they would then double down in response, fueling a vicious cycle of investment in “defense” against what all the “defense” is generating.

Second, there is perhaps less risked and more to be gained in taking Canadian war history and its relationship with the U.S. military a bit further back in time. If Donald Trump’s face won’t do it, perhaps remembrance of U.S. wars gone by will help sway Canadians against their government’s role as U.S. poodle.

Six-years after the British landing at Jamestown, with the settlers struggling to survive and hardly managing to get their own local genocide underway, these new Virginians hired mercenaries to attack Acadia and (fail to) drive the French out of what they considered their continent. The colonies that would become the United States decided to take over Canada in 1690 (and failed, again). They got the British to help them in 1711 (and failed, yet again). General Braddock and Colonel Washington tried again in 1755 (and still failed, except in the ethnic cleansing perpetrated and the driving out of the Acadians and the Native Americans). The British and U.S. attacked in 1758 and took away a Canadian fort, renamed it Pittsburgh, and eventually built a giant stadium across the river dedicated to the glorification of ketchup. George Washington sent troops led by Benedict Arnold to attack Canada yet again in 1775. An early draft of the U.S. Constitution provided for the inclusion of Canada, despite Canada’s lack of interest in being included. Benjamin Franklin asked the British to hand Canada over during negotiations for the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Just imagine what that might have done for Canadian healthcare and gun laws! Or don’t imagine it. Britain did hand over Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana. In 1812 the U.S. proposed to march into Canada and be welcomed as liberators. The U.S. supported an Irish attack on Canada in 1866. Remember this song?

Secession first he would put downWholly and forever,And afterwards from Britain’s crownHe Canada would sever.Yankee Doodle, keep it up,Yankee Doodle dandy.Mind the music and the stepand with the girls be handy!

Canada, in Geimer’s account, has lacked ambition to dominate the globe through empire. This makes ending its militarism quite a different matter, I suspect, from doing the same in the United States. The problems of profit, corruption, and propaganda remain, but the ultimate defense of war that always emerges in the United States when those other motives are defeated may not be there in Canada. In fact, by going to war on a U.S. leash, Canada makes itself servile.

Canada entered the world wars before the U.S. did, and was part of the provocation of Japan that brought the U.S. into the second one. But since then, Canada has been aiding the United States openly and secretly, providing first and foremost “coalition” support from the “international community.” Officially, Canada stayed out of wars between Korea and Afghanistan, since which point it has been joining in eagerly. But to maintain that claim requires ignoring all sorts of war-participation under the banner of the United Nations or NATO, including in Vietnam, Yugoslavia, and Iraq.

Canadians must be proud that when their prime minister mildly criticized the war on Vietnam, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson reportedly grabbed him by the lapel, lifted him off the ground, and shouted “You pissed on my rug!” The Canadian prime minister, on the model of the guy Dick Cheney would later shoot in the face, apologized to Johnson for the incident.

Now the U.S. government is building up hostility toward Russia, and it was in Canada in 2014 that Prince Charles compared Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. What course will Canada take? The possibility exists of Canada offering the United States a moral and legal and practical Icelandic, Costa Rican example of a wiser way just north of the border. If the peer pressure provided by Canada’s healthcare system is any guide, a Canada that had moved beyond war would not by itself end U.S. militarism, but it would create a debate over doing so. That would be a continental step ahead of where we are now.

Feb
26

Open Guantanamo!

Tag: Peace and War

Antes des morirme quiero echar mis versos del alma.

Open Guantanamo to human rights inspectors. Open its files to the public. Subpoena the witnesses to its horrors. Open the courts to its prisoners and try them or set them free. Open the gates to the people of Cuba and give them their land back. And impeach U.S. presidents numbered 43 through 45.

Before, during, and after President Barack Obama's announcements of closing Guantanamo, it constituted an illegal prison whose guards used and still use torture, human experimentation, murder, secrecy, and lies.

By official government accounts, Guantanamo's prisons contain people desperate to attempt suicide, and so ingenious at accomplishing their goal that despite constant human and video surveillance, not to mention forced feeding, they are able to obtain forbidden materials, violate laws of physics, hang themselves by the neck with their hands tied behind their backs, and telepathically organize simultaneous multiple suicides by self-torture in their separate cells during moments when they aren't in their cells but rather have been taken down the road to be "interrogated" by that great liberal force of enlightened anti-Trumpism, the CIA.

Jeffrey Kaye's new book, Cover-up at Guantanamo, pieces together the available evidence on three particular alleged suicides at Guantanamo during Obama's presidency. Most of the records have been kept secret. Evidence has apparently been destroyed. And fundamentally, most people just do not care. Since Kaye first reported that one alleged suicide victim had died with his hands tied behind his back, no other reporter has bothered to pick up that story. Since former Guantanamo guard Joseph Hickman reported on murders disguised as suicides, the Congressional investigations have piled up to a grand total of zero.

The United Nations has condemned the U.S. government for its use of torture. Luckily, the U.S. government is not a poor oil-rich country. No sanctions, prosecutions, bombings, or overthrows have followed the condemnation. Nor has the U.S. public apparently grasped the fact that the UN condemnation is part of a process following through on a treaty to which the U.S. is a party, a treaty banning torture, a treaty long since implemented by U.S. law making torture a felony. There is no statute of limitations on torture when it's torture-to-death, also known as murder.

The delusion that holds that U.S. presidents have the power to make laws, whether closing transgender bathrooms, banning Muslim immigrants, or criminalizing torture, has reached its apex with the collective fantasy that Obama banned and Trump unbanned torture. In fact, you'll never ban torture that way, but you just might keep it de facto unbanned that way.

Trump recently announced that he was changing a law that the courts have ruled forbids discrimination against trans-gendered people. A president has no power to do any such thing. But the U.S. media all reported that he had done it, that by announcing a law, the emperor had created a law. The trouble is, of course, that the actual creation of the law is accomplished by the media's reporting on it. Once everyone believes that the law is what Trump declares it to be, the courts can go on ruling otherwise over and over until people cease to bring cases.

In recent decades we've moved from presidents issuing "executive orders" and calling them laws, to presidents rewriting laws that they are signing with "signing statements," to presidents secretly creating laws (and signing statements) in hidden memos, to presidents secretly or publicly tossing out their choice of the presidential "laws" created by their predecessors, all the way to presidents just making laws by announcing them on television or Twitter.

Someone who can do that can, by definition, torture, murder, and experiment on human beings. And someone who can do such things can do them to those who would question his powers, not just those targeted by the bigotry he uses to win the support of his primary victims.

But the deep state is running the torture centers, as presidents come and go. And unless a belated #DemExit really materializes, we may see any principled opposition to established atrocities handicapped by the support of anti-Trumpers for their newly beloved "intelligence" "community."

Feb
24

100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War

Tag: Peace and War

By David Swanson

This April 4th will be 100 years since the U.S. Senate voted to declare war on Germany and 50 since Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out against the war on Vietnam (49 since he was killed on that speech’s first anniversary). Events are being planned to help us try to finally learn some lessons, to move beyond, not just Vietnam, but war.

That declaration of war on Germany was not for the war that makes up the single most common theme of U.S. entertainment and history. It was for the war that came before that one. This was the Great War, the war to end all wars, the war without which the conditions for the next war would not have existed.

As well recounted in Michael Kazin’s War Against War: The American Fight for Peace 1914-1918, a major peace movement had the support of a great deal of the United States. When the war finally ended (after the U.S. had actually been in it for about 5% the length of the war on Afghanistan thus far) just about everybody regretted it. The losses in life, limb, sanity, property, civil liberties, democracy, and health were incredible. Death, devastation, a flu epidemic, prohibition, a permanent military and the taxes to go with it, plus predictions of World War II: these were the results, and a lot of people remembered that they had been warned, as well as that the ending of all war had been promised.

The peace activists had warned the U.S. government to stay out of the war (not out of foreign relations, just out of mass-murdering foreign relations). And they had been right. The regret was intense and lasting. It lasted right up until the worst result of World War I came along in the form of World War II. At that point, regret was replaced with forgetting. World War I was erased from popular history, and its child on steroids was celebrated rather than mourned, and has been celebrated with growing reverence ever since.

The massive peace movement that outlawed war in 1928, had been widespread, mainstream, and aggressive before 1917 as well. Antiwar Congress members had entered into the Congressional Record a sample of the flood of letters and petitions they had received urging that the U.S. stay out of war. Peace groups had held marches and rallies, sent delegations to Europe, met with the president, and pushed to require a popular vote before the launching of any war, believing that the public would vote war down. We’ll never know, because the vote was never taken. Instead, the United States jumped into the war, thereby preventing a negotiated settlement and creating a total victory followed by vicious punishment of the losing side — the very fuel for Nazism, as well as for Italian fascism, Japanese imperialism, and the Sykes-Picot carving up of the Middle East so beloved by that region’s residents to this day.

An antiwar exhibit that toured the U.S. in 1916 included a life-sized model stegosaurus that represented the fatal consequences of having heavy armor but no brains. The idea of preparing for war in order to achieve peace, which today is simple commonsense, was widely found to be a great source of humor, as Washington cynically pursued “preparedness.” Morris Hillquit, an eloquent socialist — something of a Bernie Sanders without the 21st-century militarism — asked why European nations, having fully armed themselves to avoid war, hadn’t avoided it. “Their antiwar insurance turned out to be a bad case of over-insurance,” he said. You prepare for war, and you get war — remarkably enough.

Woodrow Wilson won reelection on an antiwar platform, and could not have won it otherwise. After he opted for war, he was unable to raise an army to fight his war without a draft. And he was unable to sustain a draft without imprisoning people who spoke against it. He saw to it that conscientious objectors were brutally tortured (or, as we would say today, interrogated). Yet people refused, deserted, evaded, and violently fought recruiters by the thousands. The wisdom to reject war was not lacking. It just wasn’t followed by those in power.

The understanding that war should be ended, which reached its peak perhaps in the 1920s and 1930s, saw something of a comeback during what the Vietnamese call the American War. Martin Luther King did not propose a different war or a better war, but leaving behind the entire war system. That awareness has grown even as the Vietnam Syndrome has faded and war been normalized. Now, the U.S. popular mind is a mass of contradictions.

In a recent poll, 66% of people in the United States are worried that the U.S. will become engaged in a major war in the next four years. However, the U.S. is engaged in a number of wars right now that must seem pretty major to the people living through them, wars that have created the greatest refugee crisis so far on the planet and threatened to break similar records for starvation. In addition, 80% of the U.S. public in the very same poll say they support NATO. There’s a 50/50 split on whether to build yet more nukes. A slim majority favors banning refugees who are fleeing the wars. And over three-quarters of Democrats believe, for partisan rather than empirical reasons, that Russia is unfriendly or an enemy. Despite the warnings of the wise for over a century, people are still imagining they can use war preparations to avoid war.

One thing that could help keep us out of more wars is the Trump face now placed on the wars. People who will hate Russia because they hate Trump may at some point oppose Trump’s wars because they hate Trump. And those getting active to support refugees may also want to help end the crimes that create the refugees.

Meanwhile, German tanks are again rolling toward the Russian border, and instead of soliciting denunciations from groups like the Anne Frank Center, as recently done to combat Donald Trump’s anti-Semitism, U.S. liberals are generally applauding or avoiding any awareness.

One thing is certain: we will not survive another 100 years of this. Long before then, we will have to try something else. We will have to move beyond war to nonviolent conflict resolution, aid, diplomacy, disarmament, cooperation, and the rule of law.

World Beyond War is planning events everywhere, including these:

Remembering Past Wars . . . and Preventing the Next

April 3rd at NYU, New York, NY. (details TBA)Speakers: Joanne Sheehan, Glen Ford, Alice Slater, Maria Santelli, David Swanson.

April 4, 6-8 p.m. Busboys and Poets, 5th and K Streets NW, Washington, D.C.Speakers: Michael Kazin, Eugene Puryear, Medea Benjamin, David Swanson, Maria Santelli.

May 25, 6-8 p.m., Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA.Speakers: Jackie Cabasso, Daniel Ellsberg, David Hartsough, Adam Hochschild.

Feb
20

Ukraine on Fire

Tag: Peace and War, Political Ideas

I read this article: "A Documentary You’ll Likely Never See," and watched this preview.

So, of course, I wanted to see it.

I got a hold of a copy but am not allowed to share it and have been unable to get any information on where you can learn more, how you can rent it, where it will be screened, etc.

Bit *if* you are ever able to see Ukraine on Fire you should. This is a story about recent events in Ukraine that puts them into the context of Ukraine's history, rejects propaganda, and presents the evidence clearly and concisely. It includes interviews of key figures conducted by Oliver Stone.

To summarize the key points will just sound like lunacy to U.S. media consumers, though a bit of reading or watching this film might help persuade many.

The United States promoted two color revolutions in Ukraine several years apart, taking the side of neo-Nazis, installing handpicked leaders in Kiev and even a former coup leader from Georgia in Odessa. Russia did not invade Ukraine. Just as Russia did not hack the German or U.S. elections. The evidence also suggests that Russia was probably not involved in shooting down that Malaysian airplane, that Ukrainian nationalists did that.

As Russia is being demonized in a new way every week in Washington, knowing truth from lies on Ukraine may be critically important and could just save us. I hope somebody makes a way for you to see this movie.

Feb
17

Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters

Tag: Peace and War, Race Relations

Those of us who consider it disgraceful to have a giant statue of Robert E. Lee on his horse in a park in the middle of Charlottesville, and another of Stonewall Jackson for that matter, should try to understand those who think removing one of these statues is an outrage.

I don't claim to understand them, and certainly don't suggest they all think alike. But there are certain recurring themes if you listen to or read the words of those who think Lee should stay. They're worth listening to. They're human. They mean well. They're not crazy.

First, let's set aside the arguments we're not trying to understand.

Some of the arguments being passed around are not central to this attempt at understanding the other side. For example, the argument that moving the statue costs money, is not what I'm interested in here. I don't think cost concerns are driving most of the support for the statue. If we all agreed that removing the statue was important, we would find the money. Simply donating the statue to a museum or to some city where Lee actually lived would quite possibly produce a new owner willing to pay for the transport. Heck, donate it to the Trump Winery and they'd probably pick it up by next Thursday.[1]

True, if the statue is simply moved to a different Charlottesville park, Charlottesville will have to pay, and that money could have gone to creating a new park with monuments to peace and civil rights, etc. Perhaps there are  people for whom this really is the central argument. Perhaps they are also consistent in their frugality and put up the same struggle against billion dollar highways and trillion dollar militaries. Perhaps the announcements of how much good could be done for the poor with the money that could be spent to move a statue are being made by some people with a history of caring about the poor. We'll save trying to understand them for another time.

Also tangential here is the argument that removing a statue erases history. Surely few of these history fanatics protested when the U.S. military tore down the statue of Saddam Hussein. Wasn't he part of Iraqi history? Hadn't the CIA meant well and gone to great efforts in helping to put him in power? Hadn't a company in Virginia provided him with important materials for making chemical weapons? Good or bad, history shouldn't be torn down and erased!

Actually, nobody's saying that. Nobody's valuing any and all history. Few are admitting that ugly parts of history are history at all. People are valuing a particular bit of history. The question is: why? Surely history supporters don't believe that the 99.9% of Charlottesville history not represented in monumental statuary has been erased. Why must this bit of history be monumental?

There may be those whose historical concern is simply for the past 90 years or so of the statue being there in the park. Its existence there is the history they are concerned about, perhaps. Perhaps they don't want it changed simply because that's the way it's been. I have some sympathy for that perspective, but it has to be applied selectively. Should we keep a half-built frame of a hotel on the downtown mall because my kids have never known anything else? Was history destroyed by creating the downtown mall in the first place? What I'm interested in trying to understand is not why people want nothing to change. Nobody wants nothing to change. Rather, I want to understand why they don't want this particular thing to change.

Feb
15

Which Washington Crimes Matter Most?

Tag: Elections, Peace and War, Political Ideas

Michael Flynn participated in mass murder and destruction in Afghanistan and Iraq, advocated for torture, and manufactured false cases for war against Iran. He and anyone who appointed him to office and kept him there should be removed from and disqualified for public service. (Though I still appreciate his blurting out the obvious regarding the counterproductive results of drone murders.)

Many would say that prosecuting Al Capone for tax fraud was a good move if he couldn't be prosecuted for murder. But what if Al Capone had been funding an orphanage on the side, and the state had prosecuted him for that? Or what if the state hadn't prosecuted him, but a rival gang had taken him out? Are all take-downs of major criminals good ones? Do they all deter the right activities by up-and-coming criminals?

Michael Flynn was not removed by public demand, by representative action in Congress, by public impeachment proceedings, or by criminal prosecution (though that may follow). He was removed by an unaccountable gang of spies and killers, and for the offense of seeking friendlier relations with the world's other major nuclear-armed government.

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There Is No Way To Peace

Peace is the way.

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