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Peace and War
I wonder if people in the United States understand what it means that the Labour Party in London now has a peace activist in charge of it. Jeremy Corbyn does not resemble any U.S. politicians. He doesn't favor "only the smart wars" or prefer drone murders to massive invasions. Corbyn opposes wars, and he works to end militarism. He was over here in Washington recently trying to get a Brit freed from Guantanamo. He chairs the Stop the War Coalition, one of the biggest peace organizations in Britain. He meets with foreign peace activists, like me, who can't even enter the same worldview, much less the same room, with any U.S. leaders.
When Corbyn and I both spoke at a peace event in London four years ago, he was introduced by Andrew Murray as working in Parliament with "a pack of war lords." Corbyn agreed: Parliament is made up of war lords and war criminals, he remarked.
Corbyn at that point credited the Stop the War Coalition with having helped to prevent an attack on Iran in recent years, just as I believed the US peace movement deserved credit, and does so again this year.
Corbyn called the idea that more time was needed to finish a job in Afghanistan a "load of tosh." He also pointed out that the two sides fighting in Libya could exchange parts for their rifles, because they both had rifles provided by Britain.
Corbyn doesn't just call war criminals "war criminals." He intends to see them prosecuted, including Tony Blair, whom Corbyn wants to see face charges for the 2003 attack on Iraq, which Corbyn of course opposed.
Corbyn doesn't just oppose militarism rhetorically. He wants to shut it down. He opposes the Trident nuclear boondoggle and intends to withdraw the UK from NATO. What other NATO members might follow the UK's lead?
Corbyn doesn't just express nice sentiments about a distant future without nuclear weapons. He advocates unilateral disarmament by the UK, in compliance with the non-proliferation treaty.
Corbyn doesn't just muse about non-military solutions in Syria but seeks to find them and to prevent military action that makes crises worse. He plans to halt British airstrikes from planes or drones in Syria. He also mentions the uncomfortable topic of "some of our supposed allies in the region" providing weapons and funding to ISIS -- and proposes to cut that off rather than fueling the fire with more weapons and attacks.
Corbyn is even opposed to the steady buildup of hostility toward Russia, and faults NATO for expanding and the West for creating the crisis in Ukraine. He doesn't excuse actual misdeeds by Russia, but faults U.S. and European aggression and hypocrisy.
And, though this may be difficult for Americans to imagine, Corbyn opposes the mass slaughter of Palestinians by Israel.
Hours after being elected leader of the Labour Party, Corbyn spoke on Saturday at a huge pro-refugee rally in Parliament Square, and blamed the refugee crisis on its cause, declaring that he would not support the past policy of rushing about the world launching wars.
Americans have come to believe that politicians who support, promote, tolerate, or fund wars can be "war critics" by proposing various tweaks to the war machine.
Bernie Sanders focuses on money issues, taxing the rich, spending on the poor, but has thus far been permitted to engage in the general practice of speaking only about the 46% of federal discretionary spending that it not military. Nobody has asked him about the 54% that by the calculation of National Priorities Project is military. Nobody has asked him if Eisenhower was right that military spending produces wars. Here are 25,000 people who want to know whether and how much Sanders would want to cut military spending.
Sanders is silent on the public support for two, not one, great sources of revenue: taxing the rich (which he's all over) and cutting the military (which he avoids). When he is asked about wars and says Saudi Arabia should pay for and lead them, nobody has followed up by asking whether the wars are themselves good or not or how the theocratic murderous regime in Saudi Arabia which openly seeks to overthrow other governments and is dropping US cluster bombs on Yemen will transform the wars into forces for good. Since when is THAT "socialism"?
If you go to Bernie's website and click on ISSUES and search for foreign policy it's just not there. In the United States, candidates for high office are permitted to just be silent on how much they'd cut the military, even within a range of $100 billion. Does Sanders, or do any of the other candidates, favor $45 billion in more free weapons for Israel paid for by the U.S. public whom Sanders usually wants to spare lesser expenses than that? Who knows.
Jeremy Corbyn just won leadership of the Labour Party by promoting socialism at home and abroad. What are we yanks afraid of?
Hillary Clinton's favorite "Hitler" these days is Putin, with Assad in close second. Her days of giggling triumphantly over the murder of Gadaffi may be behind her. And one of her favorite ways of demonizing Putin has been denouncing his opposition to gay rights. Yet Hillary, along with Rick Santorum, was a supporter of proposed legislation that might have legalized the recently hyped refusal of a government employee in Kentucky to allow a gay couple to marry. Hillary has long favored bombing places that lack civil liberties, and sponsored legislation to criminalize the burning of a U.S. flag.
Some contradictions in U.S. politics (President Obama allowing Arctic drilling and then visiting the Arctic to lament his own destruction of the earth's climate, for example) appear easily explained by sheer soulless corruption via the simple transfer of dollars. Other contradictions (the eagerness of Hillary and her then-president husband Bill) to launch a war over fictional atrocities in Yugoslavia but not over real ones in Rwanda) require at least a bit more analysis.
Diana Johnstone's forthcoming book, Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton, succeeds in providing an understanding of Hillary Clinton's own worldview like nothing else I've read -- and it does so despite being largely not about Hillary Clinton. Johnstone's book is culture and political criticism at its finest. It's a study of the American neo-liberal, with a particular focus here-and-there on Clinton. I strongly recommend reading it, whatever your level of interest in the "Queen of Chaos" herself, for its illumination of the ideologies underlying U.S. adventurism, exceptionalism, and "responsibility to protect" obsession with identifying believable threats of "genocide" in nations disloyal to Washington or Wall Street.
Johnstone has little interest in "proving" that a woman can be president, a point that she takes to be obvious. "Avoiding World War III is somewhat more urgent," she maintains. Why World War III? Isn't everything well with the world, other than a few evil Muslims trying to kill us all? And wouldn't a woman president help ease tensions?
Johnstone's account of Clinton's record moves from her support of a right-wing military coup in Honduras to her active engagement in facilitating a right-wing military coup in Ukraine. In between, Johnstone looks in-depth at Clinton's backing of her husband's illegal war on Yugoslavia, and the lies she's told about it, which go much deeper than her false claim to have braved sniper fire at an airport. Johnstone also examines the 2011 war on Libya for which she gives Clinton significant blame. (And lest we forget, here's video of Clinton promoting the 2002 authorization for an invasion of Iraq.)
Then there's Clinton's allegiance to the right-wing Israeli government agenda, on exhibit in her speech this week and in Queen of Chaos:
"In July 2014, billionaire Haim Saban declared in a Bloomberg TV interview that he would contribute 'as much as needed' to elect Hillary Clinton in 2016. This is significant because both Saban's fortune and his zeal seem to be inexhaustible. Saban declares proudly that his greatest concern is to protect Israel through strengthening the United States-Israel relationship. 'I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.' . . . Saban showered seven million dollars on the Democratic National Committee, donated five million dollars to Bill Clinton's Presidential Library, and above all, founded his very own think tank, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy within the Brookings Institution, previously considered the most politically neutral of major Washington think tanks. This was accomplished by a record donation to Brookings of thirteen million dollars. . . . As things look now, the 2016 presidential race could be a contest between Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson. In either case, the winner would be Israel."
Johnstone does a good job of bringing out Clinton's belief in the rightness of all U.S. wars, past and possible. In 2012 Clinton gave a speech in which she claimed that a "small group" was preventing the U.S. from going in and saving Syria from Hitler/Assad, a small group consisting of Iran, Russia, and China:
"She went on to say that: 'we are also increasing our efforts to assist the opposition,' before adding that if we are successful, 'Assad will increase the level of violent response.' At a moment like this, one must ask whether she realizes what she is saying. She is admitting that U.S. military aid to the opposition intended to prevent violence will provoke more violence. If there is indeed a possibility of 'genocide,' which is doubtful, this possibility will be increased by that very assistance to the opposition Hillary is calling for, since it will increase the overall violence."
When asked about bombing Libya on Meet the Press, Clinton said, "Let's be fair here. They didn't attack us, but what they were doing and Gaddafi's history and the potential for the disruption and instability was very much in our interests ... and seen by our European friends and our Arab partners as very vital to their interests.' In short, bombing the hell out of a sovereign country that did us no harm is perfectly okay if we consider it to be in our 'interests,' or in the 'interests' of our 'European friends' and our 'Arab partners.' Not only that, but bombing a country, arming rebels and overthrowing its government is the way to prevent 'disruption' and 'instability.'"
Clinton is open about her view of the world, but would prefer the details remained unknown. She has condemned Edward Snowden's whistleblowing as criminal and even suggested that he should face prosecution under the Espionage Act.
One way of grasping where Clinton is coming from is to examine, in her case, what she herself admits is the major corrupting factor in U.S. elections: money. Who funds her? Here's Johnstone:
"Take a look at the list of Clinton Foundation donors who have contributed millions of dollars, supposedly for charity – the sort of charity that begins at home. These are philanthropists who give in order to get. Eight digit donors include: Saudi Arabia, the pro-Israel Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk, and the Saban family. Pinchuk has pledged millions to a branch of the Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, for a program to train future Ukrainian leaders according to 'European values.' Seven digit donors include: Kuwait, Exxon Mobil, 'Friends of Saudi Arabia,' James Murdoch, Qatar, Boeing, Dow, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart and the United Arab Emirates. Cheapskates paying their dues to the Clintons with contributions above only half a million include: the Bank of America, Chevron, Monsanto, Citigroup and the inevitable Soros Foundation."
For an example of how Clinton does the bidding of her funders, look at the case of Boeing, examined by the Washington Post.
Does this help explain why Republicans on Wall Street are backing her?
Here's a list of horrible governments to which Hillary supported transferring weaponry once they had donated to her foundations.
Can you get more corrupt that that? Hillary Clinton can. Here's a collection of examples how.
For a deeper understanding of where candidates like Hillary Clinton, her husband, the three Bushes, Obama, and others come from, I also strongly recommend another forthcoming book called Wall Street's Think Tank: The Council on Foreign Relations and the Empire of Neoliberal Geopolitics, 1976-2014, by Laurence Shoup, who co-authored the 1977 book, Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations and United States Foreign Policy.
The CFR, according to Shoup, is the world's most powerful private organization. It has about 5,000 individual members and 170 corporate members, a staff of 330, a budget of $60 million, and assets of $492 million. It began at the end of World War I and included both wings of the wealth-and-war party, dedicated to spreading U.S. dominance and influence around the globe for the good of the heathen.
Madeleine Albright brought Bill Clinton into the CFR in the 1980s, and the contacts he made there, in Shoup's view, brought him the media, funding, and insider advisers that made him president, not to mention his post-presidential fortune. Co-Chair of CFR Robert Rubin led Clinton's National Economic Council and his push for NAFTA before being made Secretary of the Treasury and pushing the repeal of Glass-Steagall before moving on to the board of Citigroup -- listed as a major Clinton-foundation funder above. Fifteen of Bill Clinton's top 17 foreign policy officials were, like him, CFR members, five of whom had been or would soon be directors. Daughter Chelsea Clinton became a CFR member in 2013.
What's wrong with CFR broadcasting its views on National Public Radio and holding its elitist meetings with movers and shakers? You might as well ask what's wrong with U.S. foreign policy, because the policy of the past decades has in fact been largely the policy desired, proposed, and enacted by the CFR and its members. And it is not what the U.S. public has wanted.
In 2013, a Pew-CFR effort polled CFR members and the general public. Among the public, 81% wanted protecting U.S. jobs to be a priority, but only 29% of CFR members did. Among CFR members, 93% favored corporate trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and a much higher percentage than among the general public believed that drone murders make the United States safer. These results line up with the 2014 peer-reviewed study done at Princeton and Northwestern Universities, which found that the United States is not a democracy, but an "oligarchy," that the demands of the wealthy are met by the government, whereas the desires of everyone else are ignored.
Changing that will require a nonviolent revolution, not a particular outcome from an almost completely corrupted electoral (and communications) system. But with the current corporate media behaving as if we need to know something more about Hillary Clinton before rejecting her, let me just say this to the infinitely annoying plague-like medium known as the email: My Dear emails, you little maggots eating away the minutes of my day, if your scandal rids us of the risk of installing Hillary Clinton in the White House, all shall be forgiven.
David Rothauser is a playwrite, filmmaker, teacher, and peace activist. We discuss his new film, Article 9 Comes to America.
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By David Swanson, teleSUR
The World may be shocked to learn United States government has an Institute of Peace; Orwell would not have been.
Gallup polling finds that much of the world believes the U.S. government to be the greatest threat to peace on earth. It comes as a surprise to many that the U.S. government maintains and funds something called the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) which operates out of a shiny new building near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., a building with a curved roof clearly meant to resemble a dove and yet somehow more closely resembling a giant brassiere.
George Orwell, had he lived to see USIP, might have been less surprised than most. In fact, USIP was created by a law signed by President Ronald Reagan in the year 1984, the year for which Orwell had named his dystopian novel back in 1948, when the U.S. Department of War had just been renamed the Department of Defense, and its mission of offensive war-making had been clearly announced to observers fluent in doublespeak. ”The Orwellian U.S. Institute for Peace is staffed and steered by some of our most committed proponents for war and mayhem, many of whom are in the revolving door between government and military contractors,” Alice Slater tells me. Slater is New York Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War.
“Instead of supporting efforts for diplomacy and peaceful settlement of disputes,” she continues, “the ill-named Peace Institute advises Congress and the press on how [the United States] can bomb and arm nations around the world. We need to replace the warmakers with peacemakers and have an Institute that really serves the cause of peace in the 21st century when war is so obviously unworkable.”
“...the Institute is designed to further U.S. empire and create a unipolar world where the United States dominates economically, militarily and politically.”
While the Institute of Peace was created in response to pressure from the peace movement, some peace advocates, in the end, opposed its creation, as they saw the writing on the wall. These included Noam Chomsky who, like Francis Boyle and others I very much respect, tell me that they view any effort to reform USIP as hopeless. Meanwhile, many peace activists, even in the United States, have no idea that USIP exists, as it has virtually no interaction with the peace movement. A movement in recent years to create a Department of Peace offers, to my knowledge, no evidence that the fate of such a Department wouldn't resemble that of the Institute.
And yet I believe that envisioning a radically reformed government in which a Department or Institute of Peace could actually work for peace is critical. And I believe there is hope for reforming USIP to the point where it does more good than harm. Kevin Zeese, co-director of Popular Resistance, tells me that “like the National Endowment for Democracy, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other U.S. agencies, the Institute is designed to further U.S. empire and create a unipolar world where the United States dominates economically, militarily and politically. While people in the U.S. are trying to change this foreign policy, governments around the world should take steps to prevent these agencies from operating within their borders, as they will do all they can to foment dissent and create regime change to ensure governments cooperate fully with the United States and its trans-national corporations.”
Zeese's words are true, and yet USIP does do some work aimed at peace, including hosting speakers and producing publications aimed at peace, sending skilled mediators into conflict zones, making research grants, holding essay contests, and conducting conflict-resolution trainings whenever they do not overly conflict with the goals of U.S. imperialism. The trick is how to expand the good work done by USIP while exposing and opposing the bad.
Toward that end, a group of prominent peace activists has just launched a petition that it plans to deliver to USIP in late September. As the petition makes clear, while USIP claims that it is forbidden to oppose U.S. wars or to lobby against them or to promote peaceful alternatives to contemplated military actions, a careful reading of the 1984 law that created USIP reveals that this just isn't so. In fact, USIP regularly lobbies the rest of the U.S. government and the U.S. public in favor of wars, including the overthrow of the Syrian government -- and occasionally against wars, as in the case of USIP's support for the nuclear agreement with Iran.
“The agreement with Iran provides an excellent opening for USIP to promote the success of negotiations and diplomacy in achieving peace and international understanding,” says Elizabeth Murray, who served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government. “The U.S. Institute of Peace,” she explains, “could lead the way in resolving dangerous international crises by countering corporate media spin on Iran, Russia, Ukraine, and Syria, and by promoting peaceful alternatives to military 'solutions' that benefit few but the corporate-military industry. The world is awash in endless wars, floods of refugees and PTSD-afflicted military veterans. USIP can break this tragic cycle by working actively for peace.”
So it can, at least legally and logically and theoretically. And yet few believe that it will. Preventing USIP from extending the model of diplomacy rather than war to numerous nations other than Iran is, primarily, the inclination of those individuals who make up USIP, including USIP board member and chairman Stephen Hadley, who urges the bombing of Syria and the militarization of Ukraine, while encouraging European nations to double their military spending, and himself profiting from war as a board member of Raytheon. Then there's USIP board member Eric Edelman, a former undersecretary at the Pentagon, who promotes higher military spending, an attack on Iran, and deployment of nuclear weapons to nations on Russia's border. USIP board member Major General Frederick M. Padilla, USMC, is career military as well. The new petition calls for the replacement of these three board members with peace activists, of whom USIP has none on its board.
It will be very interesting to see how USIP engages with those urging it to live up to the straightforward, non-Orwellian meaning of its name.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He is a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.
We done somethin' we both know it
We don't talk too much about it
Yeah it ain't no real big secret all the same
Somehow we get around it
Iraq wasn't really hiding WMD baby
We believed what we want to believe
You see the wars are what make all the refugees
... the wars are what make all the refugees
Somewhere, somehow somebody
Liberated you from your home
Now you're on the move to survive
Far from the graves of your loved ones
Libya's hell since we killed Gadaffi baby
Everybody's dead or hurt, not free
You see the wars are what make all the refugees
... the wars are what make all the refugees
Baby this ain't the first
Bombs fixed a million lands by making em worse
The latest lie seems real to you
But it's one of those things
You gotta die to make true
Somewhere, somehow somebody
Liberated you from your home
Who knows, maybe you were kidnapped
Tied up, taken away and held for ransom
It won't make it on the BBC baby
But everybody's dead or hurt, not free
You see the wars are what make all the refugees
... the wars are what make all the refugees
(apologies to Tom Petty who actually had nothing to do with this)
Initial thoughts on being asked by a journalist just now:
Moldova sits between Ukraine, where the US has helped engineer a coup, and Romania where NATO intends to open new headquarters and engage in new war games. At last year's NATO meeting in Wales a proposal was made to bring Moldova more closely into NATO operations, since which time Moldova has contributed troops to NATO operations in Kosovo, which of course allows NATO greater access to Moldova, despite its wise Constitutional commitment to neutrality. Last year NATO warned that Russia could attack Moldova -- the sort of warning that is likely to be a projection of a NATO desire to occupy Moldova -- something NATO is actually quite open about. It has wanted Moldova in the EU and in corporate trade agreements with the EU -- and Moldova signed such an agreement with the EU last year, in contrast to Ukraine's failure to do so prior to the coup. Six weeks ago the U.S. State Department expressed its support for Moldova's new government and progress toward "EU integration." When a colored revolution develops it makes sense to search for manipulation in the background by the U.S. State Department, USAID, US Institute of Peace, the National Endowment for Democracy, the CIA, etc., but there is no guarantee that it is there. In fact, such revolutions, even when promoted by the U.S. government, have always included numerous well-meaning people with legitimate grievances, and have always inspired people around the world with the power of nonviolent action to effect change. It's possible that the new movement in Moldova is to the U.S. State Department whan Frankenstein's monster was to Dr. Frankenstein -- a creation no longer under its creator's control. It's possible that the people of Moldova are in control of their fate. In any case, we ought to
insist assist them in such and agree on a policy of non-interference by all outside nations and alliances.
This happened some 63 years ago, but as the U.S. government has never stopped lying about it, and it's generally known only outside the United States, I'm going to treat it as news.
Here in our little U.S. bubble we've heard of a couple versions of a film called The Manchurian Candidate. We've heard of the general concept of "brainwashing" and may even associate it with something evil that the Chinese supposedly did to U.S. prisoners during the Korean War. And I'd be willing to bet that the majority of people who've heard of these things have at least a vague sense that they're bullshit.
If you didn't know, I'll break it to you right now: people cannot actually be programed like the Manchurian candidate, which was a work of fiction. There was never the slightest evidence that China or North Korea had done any such thing. And the CIA spent decades trying to do such a thing, and finally gave up.
I'd also be willing to bet that very few people know what it was that the U.S. government promoted the myth of "brainwashing" to cover up. During the Korean War, the United States bombed virtually all of North Korea and a good bit of the South, killing millions of people. It dropped massive quantities of Napalm. It bombed dams, bridges, villages, houses. This was all-out mass-slaughter. But there was something the U.S. government didn't want known, something deemed unethical in this genocidal madness.
It is well documented that the United States dropped on China and North Korea insects and feathers carrying anthrax, cholera, encephalitis, and bubonic plague. This was supposed to be a secret at the time, and the Chinese response of mass vaccinations and insect eradication probably contributed to the project's general failure (hundreds were killed, but not millions). But members of the U.S. military taken prisoner by the Chinese confessed to what they had been a part of, and confessed publicly when they got back to the United States.
Some of them had felt guilty to begin with. Some had been shocked at China's decent treatment of prisoners after U.S. depictions of the Chinese as savages. For whatever reasons, they confessed, and their confessions were highly credible, were borne out by independent scientific reviews, and have stood the test of time.
How to counter reports of the confessions? The answer for the CIA and the U.S. military and their allies in the corporate media was "brainwashing," which conveniently explained away whatever former prisoners said as false narratives implanted in their brains by brainwashers.
And 300 million of so Americans more or less sort of believe that craziest-ever dog-ate-my-homework concoction to this day!
The propaganda struggle was intense. The support of the Guatemalan government for the reports of U.S. germ warfare in China were part of the U.S. motivation for overthrowing the Guatemalan government; and the same cover-up was likely part of the motivation for the CIA's murder of Frank Olson.
There isn't any debate that the United States had been working on bio-weapons for years, at Fort Detrick -- then Camp Detrick -- and numerous other locations. Nor is there any question that the United States employed the top bio-weapons killers from among both the Japanese and the Nazis from the end of World War II onward. Nor is there any question that the U.S. tested such weapons on the city of San Francisco and numerous other locations around the United States, and on U.S. soldiers. There's a museum in Havana featuring evidence of years of U.S. bio-warfare against Cuba. We know that Plum Island, off the tip of Long Island, was used to test the weaponization of insects, including the ticks that created the ongoing outbreak of Lyme Disease.
Dave Chaddock's book This Must Be the Place, which I found via Jeff Kaye's review, collects the evidence that the United States indeed tried to wipe out millions of Chinese and North Koreans with deadly diseases.
"What does it matter now?" I can imagine people from only one corner of the earth asking.
I reply that it matters that we know the evils of war and try to stop the new ones. U.S. cluster bombs in Yemen, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, U.S. guns in Syria, U.S. white phosphorus and Napalm and depleted uranium used in recent years, U.S. torture in prison camps, U.S. nuclear arsenals being expanded, U.S. coups empowering monsters in Ukraine and Honduras, U.S. lies about Iranian nukes, and indeed U.S. antagonization of North Korea as part of that never-yet-ended war -- all of these things can be best confronted by people aware of a centuries-long pattern of lying.
And I reply, also, that it is not yet too late to apologize.
The United States and its European allies have launched wars on the Middle East that have created an enormous refugee crisis. The same nations are threatening Russia. The question of maintaining peace with Iran is on the tip of everyone's tongue. Even in Asia and the Pacific, not to mention Africa, the biggest military buildup is by the United States.
So why does Japan, of all places, have streets full of antiwar demonstrations for the first time since the U.S. war on Vietnam? I don't mean the usual protests in Okinawa of U.S. bases. I mean Japanese protests of the Japanese government. Why? Who did Japan bomb? And why do I say the future of war and peace in the world is at stake in Japan?
Let's back up a little. Japan went through a period of relative peace and prosperity between 1614 and 1853. The U.S. military forced Japan open to trade and trained Japan as a junior partner in imperialism, a story told well in James Bradley's The Imperial Cruise. The junior partner chose not to stay a junior partner, challenging U.S. dominance in World War II.
At the end of World War II, the war's losers in Japan and Germany were put on trial for an act that had been perfectly legal until 1928, the act of making war. In 1928, the global peace movement, led by the U.S. movement for the Outlawry of War, created the Kellogg-Briand Pact, a treaty that prohibits all war, a treaty to which most nations of the world are party today. This is a story I tell in my book When the World Outlawed War. President Franklin Roosevelt used the Kellogg-Briand Pact to create prosecutions of war.
Now, the general success thus far and in the future of the Kellogg-Briand Pact can be debated. It has prevented wars, it has stigmatized war, it has made war a crime that can be prosecuted in court (at least against losers), and World War III hasn't happened yet. But wars by wealthy nations against poor ones roll right along. The pact itself was of course never expected to abolish war on its own, a standard to which nobody ever holds any other law.
The Japanese success of the Kellogg-Briand Pact is a different matter. At the end of World War II, long-time Japanese diplomat and peace activist and new prime minister Kijuro Shidehara asked General Douglas MacArthur to outlaw war in a new Japanese constitution. The result was Article Nine of the Japanese Constitution, the wording of which is nearly identical to that of the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
Japan, which had gone centuries without war, would go another 70 years. The U.S. Outlawrists of the 1920s never imagined their work being imposed on a conquered nation by a ruling general. But they might have imagined it being taken up by the Japanese people. If Article Nine was not clearly owned by the Japanese people themselves in 1947, it was in 1950. In that year, the United States asked Japan to throw out Article Nine and join a new war against North Korea. Japan refused.
When the American War (in Vietnam) came along, the United States made the same request of Japan to abandon Article Nine, and Japan again refused. Japan did, however, allow the U.S. to use bases in Japan, despite huge protest by the Japanese people.
Japan refused to join in the First Gulf War, but provided token support, refueling ships, for the war on Afghanistan (which the Japanese prime minister openly said was a matter of conditioning the people of Japan for future war-making). Japan repaired U.S. ships and planes in Japan during the 2003 war on Iraq, although why a ship or plane that could make it from Iraq to Japan and back needed repairs was never explained.
Now, at U.S. urging, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is attempting to formally throw out Article Nine, or to "reinterpret" it to mean its opposite. And the Japanese people, to their everlasting credit, are in the streets defending their constitution and their culture of peace.
Meanwhile, the people of the United States, with some 50% of their popular movie entertainment (by my unscientific estimate) based around a good-and-evil drama of World War II, are not only not in the streets. They're not even in touch with the world. They have no idea this is going on. And if, 50 years from now, a heavily militarized Japan attacks Hawaii, the people of the United States will continue to have no idea how that happened.
There are peace activists around the world struggling to uphold the idea that a modern nation can live without war. Japan is a leading example, with certain obvious shortcomings, of how that can be done. We cannot afford to lose Japan as a model of peace. We cannot afford to hear from war mongers five years from now that war is proven inevitable by the return of the Japanese to war. We cannot afford to hear the United Nations, ten years from now, credit Japan with the humanitarian service of protecting people by bombing them. We cannot afford, twenty years from now, to hear that the Pentagon must be built up to guard against the evil Japanese.
Now, in fact, not later, but right now, would be a good moment in which to wake up and value what Japan has achieved. Now would be an ideal moment in which to remember that Japan's Article Nine was already and remains the law of the land in our other nations through the text of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Let's start obeying the law.
* Much credit to David Rothauser for his film Article 9 Comes to America, and for being my guest next week on Talk Nation Radio.
* Photo from http://damoncoulter.photoshelter.com