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Peace and War
Foreword to America's Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying (available in Kindle version free this week.)
One of the ways in which we commonly handicap our own struggles to reform the bad practices of the U.S. government is by imagining those practices to be degenerative developments taking us away from a purer and nobler past. As Gary Brumback shows in this book, the United States grew out of the idea that (in Thomas Paine's phrase) it was "common sense" to launch a war to settle political differences, a war that in turn set the new nation free to launch a series of wars against the indigenous people of the continent, followed quickly by a ceaseless string of wars waged in near and far-flung corners of the globe.
This deeply moral, highly readable, and urgently necessary book, which provides a wealth of new information even to a reader like myself who writes on similar topics, takes us from the birth of the United States to the Barack Obama presidency. Brumback documents George Washington's role as first warrior in chief and first chief spy, and traces that legacy through some 13,000 to 14,000 U.S. military wars/interventions since, operations that have killed some 20 million to 30 million foreign civilians just in the years after World War II, and that have killed more than two and a half million U.S. soldiers over nearly two and a half centuries.
Brumback's argument is not for "just wars" or more competent spying but for a shift away from these practices. War destroys the natural environment, wastes trillions of dollars, and has no upside. All militarism and spying cost the U.S. government well over $1 trillion a year and rising. In exchange for this investment, which at least matches if it does not exceed the rest of the world combined, the United States leads wealthy nations in inequality, unemployment, food insecurity, life expectancy, prison population, homelessness, and other measures of what all the militarism is supposedly protecting: a way of life.
We've been trained to think of war preparations -- and the wars that result from being so incredibly prepared for wars -- as necessary if regrettable. What if, however, in the long view that this book allows us, war turns out to be counterproductive on its own terms? What if war endangers those who wage it rather than protecting them? Imagine, for a moment, how many countries Canada would have to invade and occupy before it could successfully generate anti-Canadian terrorist networks to rival the hatred and resentment currently organized against the United States.
Brumback goes further, documenting that spying is as useless and counterproductive on its own terms as war is. Most secrets sought and maintained by the U.S. government have literally no strategic value even in terms of the militarist thinking that drives the spying. The CIA straddles the space between keystone cop performances of handing nuclear plans to Iran or grounding flights because a con artist claims to see secret terrorist messages in television broadcasts, and the deadly anti-democratic destruction of overthrowing governments and murdering innocent people with drone strikes. In a "free market" competition, the CIA or the Pentagon would lose out to an agency that did literally nothing, much less to a department that worked toward peace, justice, and stability through nonviolent means.
So, what drives what has come to look like war for the sake of war and spying for the sake of spying? Brumback proposes the useful term "badvantages" to categorize features of U.S. society that are not necessarily "roots" or "causes" of war but which facilitate war when found in combination. This section of the book provides an excellent outline of the military industrial spying congressional complex and analysis of how it functions. Greed, obedience, and banal immorality play central roles. As I write these words, the U.S. Congress is missing in action, having fled Washington in order to allow a new war to begin without holding a vote on whether or not to authorize it. Weapons stocks are at record heights on Wall Street, and a financial advisor on National Public Radio was just heard recommending investing in weaponry.
Banksters come in for a healthy dose of criticism as a badvantage, as do the think tanks that just can't stop thinking about tanks. Also exposed to the light in these pages are front groups for war interests, war supporters in religion and especially in education, patriotic festivals, news media, Hollywood, war toys, the domestic U.S. gun industry, academia, and -- last but not least -- people who do nothing, or "accessories after the fact." That's a lot of badvantages to be overcome.
Often, of course, it is after the fact -- after the launching of a new war -- that people come around to opposing it. For 70 years somewhere upwards of 90 percent of Americans who argue that war can be just or necessary have gone primarily to World War II as evidence for their claim. Never mind that World War II is unimaginable without World War I which nobody thinks was necessary. Never mind the support that Wall Street and the U.S. State Department gave to the Nazis for years leading up to the crisis. For 70 years people have imagined that, like World War II, some new war might be a good one. This hope has lasted for weeks or months and then faded. For most of the duration of the 2003-2011 U.S.-led war on Iraq, a U.S. majority said it should never have been started. In this sense, it is "accessories before the fact" who are hurting us the most.
Brumback envisions another way of addressing ourselves to the world, in which we would lose the idea that War #14,001 might finally be the good one that fulfills the promises of World War I and trails peace and prosperity behind its bombs and poisons. He also recommends a comprehensive series of steps to move us in that direction. This book is worth whatever you paid for it for its concluding sections alone. The creation of a Citizens Assembly is, I think, exactly the way to go, although I'm not so sure it should be national. An assembly composed of citizens of the world has potential, I believe. In either case, building such a structure is project number one. We do not need a better Obama, a change of face in a position that corrupts absolutely. We need a better Occupy, a bigger broader bolder movement that finally resorts to the most powerful tool in our arsenal: nonviolence.
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 blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.
Raed Jarrar is Policy Impact Coordinator at the American Friends Service Committee. He discusses President Obama's proposed budget. See http://www.afsc.org/media-kit/bios/raed-jarrar
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
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Joseph Hickman is the author of Murder at Camp Delta: A Staff Sergeant's Pursuit of the Truth About Guantanamo Bay. He details the evidence that Guantanamo has been used for deadly human experimentation.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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 at
In its tradition of sponsoring war advocates, the Miller Center is bringing Erik Prince to speak:
April 15, 11:00 AM
Television Broadcast: May 3, 2015
ANN HAGEDORN, author of The Invisible Soldiers: How America Outsourced Our Security, and ERIK PRINCE, founder of the famously controversial Blackwater private-security company, discuss and debate whether the U.S. has made a mistake in its growing reliance on private para-military operators. Prince is the author of the new book, Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror. Hagedorn is a former reporter at the Wall Street Journal and instructor at Northwestern University and Columbia University. Her book examines private military and security companies that have profited from the trend, and profiles members of Congress who see dangers in the practice but have been unable to limit it. A book signing will follow their Forum.
Making this a debate hardly excuses it, and the range of debate can be expected to be quite limited between the two extremes of: "Mercenaries murder best" and "Murdering foreigners is a public service that shouldn't be outsourced."
Prince has moved to Abu Dhabi and apparently engaged in gray mailing the U.S. government to hold off criminal charges against him. He's protested in his home town in Michigan. Surely, Charlottesville can match that.
Note that Prince is coming to town to hype hired mercenaries on tax day. Here are some relevant events:
April 15, March for the Homeless
Nan Levinson's new book is called War Is Not a Game: The New Antiwar Soldiers and the Movement They Built, but it left me wishing there were a "Where Are They Now" chapter, because it ends around 2008. The book is focused on Iraq Veterans Against the War, but includes Veterans For Peace, Military Families Speak Out, Cindy Sheehan, and others. It's a story that has been told many times during the past several years, but this version seems particularly well done; perhaps the distance helps.
Of course I've met many of the characters in person and been at many of the events, in addition to reading many of the accounts. Nonetheless, I learned new things I'd never known and saw them summarized in new ways. And yet I continue to be convinced that everyone, including Levinson, has some basic elements wrong.
She writes that the veterans "brought to the antiwar movement a moral authority no other group could equal," and that IVAW and the rest of the peace movement failed to stop any wars, something she says peace movements seldom succeed at. She also seems to overestimate what IVAW brought to the movement and to exaggerate its demise.
Let's start with the question of moral authority. I recently wrote an article comparing the movement against U.S. wars to the movement in the U.S. against Israel's war on Palestine. The latter, I realized, faces stiff opposition and charges of anti-Semitism but not charges of treason. Its setting in the United States and its distance from Israeli society perhaps combine to produce a movement that I've never heard swear its allegiance to "support" of Israeli troops. I've heard cheers for refuseniks, but not for Israeli veterans. A general's son who speaks against the occupation benefits from his pedigree, but never does he preface his remarks with a commitment to "supporting" the Israeli troops.
A movement against U.S. wars in the U.S. is of course very different in this regard, often proclaiming slogans like "Support the Troops, Bring Them Home." So any troop, and any former troop, including those opposing a war, is given a certain authority from the fact that we are all supposed to "support" them. And any veteran who has been in a war has the actual experiential authority to tell others what he or she saw there. That authority is an invaluable contribution to the peace movement. So is the youth that IVAW has brought into a movement that is disproportionately old. So is the passion that comes with youth or veteranness or some combination of factors. But moral authority?
Levinson tells the story of a former sniper who I know now to be an admirable and dedicated peace activist, and who some have cited as a "real hero" in contrast to the sadist depicted in the film American Sniper, but in telling his story of outspoken opposition to the war, which included blogging against it while on active duty, Levinson quotes him saying "I never once slacked in my duty. Even when it resulted in killing innocent civilians, I still went out of the gate every single day and did my job to the best of my ability." This leaves morality in a bit of a jumble, to say the least. And it can leave activism in the same state. Is demanding better armor for troops in war as good a strategy as demanding that they be brought home, even if it results in higher military funding? There is no reason to suppose that someone who has always opposed war has more moral authority than someone who has turned against it. But during the process of turning against it, the morality of the values in competition seems questionable and at least worthy of some explanation that Levinson does not offer.
IVAW's core demands have in fact been absolutely right on: bring the troops home, give them the benefits they were promised, and see that Iraq is rebuilt and returned to its people. Those, however, are also the goals of the wider peace movement.
What about success or failure in ending wars? There too is a topic at least worthy of debate. By the time Levinson finishes her narrative, but unmentioned by her, Presidents Bush and Maliki had signed a treaty requiring that the U.S. war on Iraq end in three years. When those three years ran out, and President Obama was unable to get Iraqi agreement to criminal immunity for U.S. troops remaining longer, the war did indeed briefly end. Iraq remained a hell on earth, of course, and at the first opportunity Obama sent troops back in. But he did so on a smaller scale, against greater skepticism, and with less expectation of being able to drag the war on or escalate it. Heightening the public resistance is the fact that in 2013, a year before Obama managed to restart the war, and two years after he'd been forced to end it, his proposal to send missiles into Syria -- a full-scale war according to the plans unearthed by Seymour Hersh -- had died stillborn. Public opposition, built up over a decade of activism, was key to rejecting a new war, as Congress members were heard expressing their fear of being "the guy who voted for another Iraq." If having voted for Iraq were a badge of honor, the Syria debate would have looked radically different. Having voted for Iraq became a badge of shame, not simply due to immutable facts, but due to intense activism and education -- which has been slacking off as retroactive support for that god-awful war has been inching back upward.
The fact is that IVAW and every other group and person named in this book has done and is doing a great deal of good. But IVAW didn't give birth to or transform the peace movement, or scale it back so dramatically just at the time that IVAW was, in Levinson's view, reaching its zenith. Blind partisanship and monarchism did those things. It was a movement against George W. Bush's wars that shriveled away as a movement against Barack Obama's wars. There was nothing IVAW could have done about either development. But it added wonderfully to the movement that was, and is adding remarkably to the movement that is today.
It's not unusual for me to direct veterans to IVAW or VFP, as most seem never to have heard of such groups. Their work is as badly needed now as ever. But of course it needs to be directed against every war, and even more so against the machinery of war. Levinson remarks on the period during which a quarter of a million dollars a minute was being dumped into the war on Iraq. But ordinary base military spending in the United States is $1.9 million / minute, and it generates wars just as Eisenhower said it would. The drone "pilots" who are coming out and speaking against what they have been part of need to be part of the peace movement. Active duty troops need to know there are groups that support their resistance in whatever nonviolent form it can take.
"The number of things activists who are basically in sympathy with each other can find to fight about is impressive," Levinson writes with even greater wisdom than I'd thought at first, as I've just finished finding points to disagree with in a valuable book. But I mean my arguments as constructive criticism and praise, and as examples of the thinking this book can stimulate. Also in the book are signs of enormous potential. Imagine if we had a communications system to consistently match that moment in which the television networks decided to cover Cindy at Bush's ranch:
"'You never knew who would show up,' said [Ann] Wright, tearing up as she talked about the encampment five years later. 'In the middle of the night, we'd see headlights coming up this long, deserted road. Here would be a car full of grandmothers coming from San Diego. You'd ask why they were there and they'd say, "We heard on the radio or on TV that Cindy's here. And we just had to be here."'" That encampment and everything else would not have been the same without Iraq and Afghan and other veterans. They bring wisdom, dedication, courage, and humor to the movement we need now more than ever. I look forward to seeing them this Spring in the heart of the empire.
Sherman statue anchors one southern corner of Central Park (with Columbus on a stick anchoring the other):
Matthew Carr's new book, Sherman's Ghosts: Soldiers, Civilians, and the American Way of War, is presented as "an antimilitarist military history" -- that is, half of it is a history of General William Tecumseh Sherman's conduct during the U.S. Civil War, and half of it is an attempt to trace echoes of Sherman through major U.S. wars up to the present, but without any romance or glorification of murder or any infatuation with technology or tactics. Just as histories of slavery are written nowadays without any particular love for slavery, histories of war ought to be written, like this one, from a perspective that has outgrown it, even if U.S. public policy is not conducted from that perspective yet.
What strikes me most about this history relies on a fact that goes unmentioned: the former South today provides the strongest popular support for U.S. wars. The South has long wanted and still wants done to foreign lands what was -- in a much lesser degree -- done to it by General Sherman.
What disturbs me most about the way this history is presented is the fact that every cruelty inflicted on the South by Sherman was inflicted ten-fold before and after on the Native Americans. Carr falsely suggests that genocidal raids were a feature of Native American wars before the Europeans came, when in fact total war with total destruction was a colonial creation. Carr traces concentration camps to Spanish Cuba, not the U.S. Southwest, and he describes the war on the Philippines as the first U.S. war after the Civil War, following the convention that wars on Native Americans just don't count (not to mention calling Antietam "the single most catastrophic day in all U.S. wars" in a book that includes Hiroshima). But it is, I think, the echo of that belief that natives don't count that leads us to the focus on Sherman's march to the sea, even as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Gaza are destroyed with weapons named for Indian tribes. Sherman not only attacked the general population of Georgia and the Carolinas on his way to Goldsboro -- a spot where the U.S. military would later drop nuclear bombs (that very fortunately didn't explode) -- but he provided articulate justifications in writing, something that had become expected of a general attacking white folks.
What intrigues me most is the possibility that the South today could come to oppose war by recognizing Sherman's victims in the victims of U.S. wars and occupations. It was in the North's occupation of the South that the U.S. military first sought to win hearts and minds, first faced IEDs in the form of mines buried in roads, first gave up on distinguishing combatants from noncombatants, first began widely and officially (in the Lieber Code) claiming that greater cruelty was actually kindness as it would end the war more quickly, and first defended itself against charges of war crimes using language that it (the North) found entirely convincing but its victims (the South) found depraved and sociopathic. Sherman employed collective punishment and the assaults on morale that we think of as "shock and awe." Sherman's assurances to the Mayor of Atlanta that he meant well and was justified in all he did convinced the North but not the South. U.S. explanations of the destruction of Iraq persuade Americans and nobody else.
Sherman believed that his nastiness would turn the South against war. "Thousands of people may perish," he said, "but they now realize that war means something else than vain glory and boasting. If Peace ever falls to their lot they will never again invite War." Some imagine this to be the impact the U.S. military is having on foreign nations today. But have Iraqis grown more peaceful? Does the U.S. South lead the way in peace activism? When Sherman raided homes and his troops employed "enhanced interrogations" -- sometimes to the point of death, sometimes stopping short -- the victims were people long gone from the earth, but people we may be able to "recognize" as people. Can that perhaps help us achieve the same mental feat with the current residents of Western Asia? The U.S. South remains full of monuments to Confederate soldiers. Is an Iraq that celebrates today's resisters 150 years from now what anyone wants?
When the U.S. military was burning Japanese cities to the ground it was an editor of the Atlanta Constitution who, quoted by Carr, wrote "If it is necessary, however, that the cities of Japan are, one by one, burned to black ashes, that we can, and will, do." Robert McNamara said that General Curtis LeMay thought about what he was doing in the same terms as Sherman. Sherman's claim that war is simply hell and cannot be civilized was then and has been ever since used to justify greater cruelty, even while hiding within it a deep truth: that the civilized decision would be to abolish war.
The United States now kills with drones, including killing U.S. citizens, including killing children, including killing U.S. citizen children. It has not perhaps attacked its own citizens in this way since the days of Sherman. Is it time perhaps for the South to rise again, not in revenge but in understanding, to join the side of the victims and say no to any more attacks on families in their homes, and no therefore to any more of what war has become?
This cable was submitted as evidence by the prosecution in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a trial in which Sterling was convicted on entirely circumstantial evidence of leaking to a reporter that the CIA had given nuclear weapons part plans (with flaws added) to Iran. The cable makes crystal clear that the CIA proposed to do the same with Iraq.
There are only two nations beginning with a vowel and containing in adjectival form five letters: IRAQI and OMANI. The United States has neither worried about slowing down a nuclear weapons program in Oman nor sought to concoct reasons for a war on Oman. Iraq is of course a different story.
The above cable is in a font with each character receiving equal space. The letters line up in vertical columns. There are in two places blanks that will hold the word "IRAQI" and in one the word "IRAQIS." There is no way that OMANI and OMANIS makes sense. No other countries fit at all. And it has to be a country. And it has to be a country that follows the word "AN" not "A."
I reported on this on Friday morning, and the reaction was complete disinterest.
If any other nation in the world were discovered to be handing out nuclear weapons plans, it'd be interesting. Maybe the U.S. just does too much of this stuff. But whether you believe the CIA was attempting through a reasonable means to impede weapons proliferation or you think they were recklessly contributing to it, the sheer irony of having worked on giving Iraq nuke plans not long before attacking Iraq over the false accusation that it was building nukes should be of interest. There should be a half dozen people alive and awake in the United States who find themselves at least vaguely curious as to how far this plan was carried out.
Now, I recognize that the corporate media obeys the CIA's wishes. If the CIA wants us to pretend we can't spell the names of countries or count the letters in words, then it is our patriotic duty to uphold that pretense. But what about people whose jobs don't depend on the good wishes of the corporate media?
I've had people tell me that the CIA would not put something out that's so obvious, and therefore it's false.
I've had people tell me it simply must be forged, as if the CIA wants to pretend it was giving nukes to Iraq, as if that helps its image.
I've had people give me all sorts of screwy reasons for not giving a shit (and a few people expressing actual interest) but in the end it seems to come down to this: We've reached saturation. If we're not among those who consider it a duty to think what we're told, we're among those who -- with growing disgust and fatigue -- see a cop choke a man on video and walk, see a government lie about Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and Ukraine and Russia and ISIS and launch wars right and left, and see Henry Kissinger treated as an honored guest in Congress (with a handful of honorable protesters).
That's not all it is, of course. There's also the combination. There's the person who knows the government lies and commits evil acts but wants the government to openly and explicitly say it was giving nuclear plans to Iraq, not let it slip in a redacted memo, before it can be deemed believable. The human experimentation at Guantanamo should be announced at a press conference, not buried in footnotes in masses of reports. What kind of a manner is that in which to present a hideous crime of such proportions. It just doesn't fit.
Well, I don't know what to do about that. But, unlike the government, I've never lied to you. And I'm not making any assertion anyway. You can trust me or not, it's completely irrelevant. Read the cable above and see what it says and what it must have said with the blanks filled in. And then see if you can bring yourself to give a damn. The rest of the world already thinks we're insane. Imagine it they knew that this is the sort of thing we just accept with our morning coffee before going about our wasteful lives.
Back in October, I reported that, "A type of airplane, the A-10, deployed this month to the Middle East by the U.S. Air National Guard's 122nd Fighter Wing, is responsible for more Depleted Uranium (DU) contamination than any other platform, according to the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW). . . . Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright told me, 'There is no prohibition against the use of Depleted Uranium rounds, and the [U.S. military] does make use of them. The use of DU in armor-piercing munitions allows enemy tanks to be more easily destroyed.'"
This week I have left an email message and a phone message for Mark Wright at the Pentagon. Here's what I emailed, after consulting with Wim Zwijnenburg of PaxForPeace.nl:
"Recent reports by CENTCOM have noted that 11% of the U.S. sorties have been flown by A-10s , and that a wide range of attacks on tanks and armored vehicles have taken place. Can you confirm that PGU-14 30mm munitions with depleted uranium in the A-10s (and any other DU weapons) have not been used during these attacks. And if not, why not? Thanks!"
I sent that email on January 28 and left a voice message January 30.
You'd think there'd be lots of reporters calling with the same question and reporting the answer. But then it's only Iraqis, I guess.
If you've followed the trials of James Risen and Jeffrey Sterling, or read Risen's book State of War, you are aware that the CIA gave Iran blueprints and a diagram and a parts list for the key component of a nuclear bomb.
The CIA then proposed to do exactly the same for Iraq, using the same former Russian scientist to make the delivery. How do I know this? Well, Marcy Wheeler has kindly put all the evidence from the Sterling trial online, including this cable. Read the following paragraph:
"M" is Merlin, code name for the former Russian used to give the nuclear plans to Iran. Here he's being asked, just following that piece of lunacy, whether he'd be willing to _______________. What? Something he agrees to without hesitation. The CIA paid him hundreds of thousands of our dollars and that money flow would continue to cover a more adventurous extension of the current operation. What could that mean? More dealings with Iran? No, because this extension is immediately distinguished from dealings with Iran.
"WE WILL WANT TO SEE HOW THE IRAN PART OF THE CASE PLAYS OUT BEFORE MAKING AN APPROACH...."
It seems that a national adjective belongs in that space. Most are too long to fit: Chinese, Zimbabwean, even Egyptian.
But notice the word "an," not "a." The word that follows has to start with a vowel. Search through the names of the world's countries. There is only one that fits and makes sense. And if you followed the Sterling trial, you know exactly how much sense it makes: Iraqi.
"MAKING AN IRAQI APPROACH."
And then further down: "THINKING ABOUT THE IRAQI OPTION."
Now, don't be thrown off by the place to meet being somewhere that M was unfamiliar with. He met the Iranians in Vienna (or rather avoided meeting them by dumping the nuke plans in their mailbox). He could be planning to meet the Iraqis anywhere on earth; that bit's not necessarily relevant to identifying the nation.
Then look at the last sentence. Again it distinguishes the Iranians from someone else. Here's what fits there:
"IF HE IS TO MEET THE IRANIANS OR APPROACH THE IRAQIS IN THE FUTURE."
North Koreans doesn't fit or make sense or start with a vowel (And Korean doesn't start with a vowel, and DPRK doesn't start with a vowel). Egyptians doesn't fit or make sense.
The closest words to fitting this document, other than IRAQI and IRAQIS, are INDIAN and INDIANS. But I've tried approximating the font and spacing as closely as possible, and I encourage typographical experts to give it a try. The latter pair of words ends up looking slightly crowded.
And then there's this: The United States knew that India had nukes and didn't mind and wasn't trying to start a war with India.
And this: the mad scheme to give slightly flawed nuke plans to Iran was admitted in court by the CIA to risk actually proliferating nukes by giving Iran help. That's not such a bad outcome if what you're really after is war with Iran.
And this: The Sterling trial, including testimony from Condoleezza "Mushroom Cloud" Rice herself, was bafflingly about defending the CIA's so-called reputation, very little about prosecuting Sterling. They doth protested too much.
What did blowing the whistle on Operation Merlin put at risk? Not the identity of Merlin or his wife. He was out there chatting with Iranians online and in-person. She was outed by the CIA itself during the trial, as Wheeler pointed out. What blowing the whistle on giving nukes to Iran put at risk was the potential for giving nukes to more countries -- and exposure of plans to do so (whether or not they were followed through on) to the nation that the United States had been attacking since the Gulf War, began to truly destroy in 2003, and is at war in still.
When Cheney swore Iraq had nuclear weapons, and at other times that it had a nuclear weapons program, and Condi and Bush warned of mushroom clouds, was there a bit more to Tenet's "slam dunk" than we knew? Was there an alley oop from the mad scientists at the CIA? There certainly would have been an attempt at one if left up to "Bob S," "Merlin," and gang.
Did Sterling and other possible whistleblowers have more reason to blow the whistle than we knew? Regardless, they upheld the law. Drop the Charges.
UPDATE: Multiple sources tell me that each letter in the font used above is given the same space, which is why they line up in vertical columns, so in fact IRAQI and IRAQIS use the right number of spaces.
In proposing that Congress Members boycott or walk out on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's planned speech to Congress, expected to push for sanctions if not war on Iran, activists are drawing on actions engaged in by college students in recent years, as they have boycotted or walked out on or disrupted speeches by Israeli soldiers and officials on U.S. campuses. Netanyahu's noodle-headed move -- oblivious, apparently, to the U.S. government's effective evolution into a term-limited monarchy -- may provide a boost to both the movement to free Palestine and the movement to prevent a war on Iran.
Peace activists sometimes marvel at how young people have taken up environmentalist activism (with very little emphasis on the environmental destruction caused by militarism). Why, antiwar activists ask, don't young people get active opposing wars?
Ah, but they do. They are increasingly active, organized, strategic, bold, courageous, and determined about opposing a particular war: the ongoing war that the government of Israel wages -- with U.S. funding and support -- on the people of Palestine.
Nora Barrows-Friedman's new book, In Our Power: U.S. Students Organize for Justice in Palestine, tells their stories, often in their own words: What motivates them? How did they get involved? How do they view themselves in their activism? How do they relate to the non-activist world? We should all pay attention.
Don't misunderstand the case. Most students, like most adults, do little or no activism. The movement to free Palestine is far from success and up against huge opposition. Movements against other wars exist, a movement against all war exists, and all of these movements overlap. But, relatively speaking, students are far more engaged, I think, in opposing the Israeli occupation than in halting drone strikes or the U.S. wars in Iraq or Afghanistan (if they're even aware that those wars haven't ended). Opposition to U.S. wars tends to come disproportionately from an older and whiter crowd -- a result of the Vietnam era, of a less informed view of Israel, and/or of dozens of other likely factors. In Our Power doesn't address this question, but it provides much food for thought.
It's not clear that most advocates of Palestinian freedom think of themselves as opposing war or demanding peace. Hoda Mitwally, a student at the City University of New York, is quoted by Barrows-Friedman as describing the movement for Palestine as "one that amazingly has sustained itself in ways that other movements have fizzled out. The antiwar movement fizzled out very quickly, for example." It seems that many demanding justice for Palestine think in terms of demanding human rights, even if prominent among those is the right not to have your home bombed. But human rights is how pro-war advocacy is framed in the U.S. media and politics. We must attack Syria because we care. We must destroy Libya to save the Libyans. Wrecking Yemen is a model of humanitarian warfare. Of course this is all a pack of lies, but it is a prominent pack of lies. Perhaps the movements for peace and for Palestinian justice, already intertwined, could still benefit from deeper exchanges of thinking, for war opposition must be a human rights demand, and unless a system of peace is created in Palestine/Israel, the human rights violations including those formerly known as war, will continue.
The peace movement has put an emphasis on the financial cost to the aggressor nation, the damage to U.S. troops, the trade offs in poor schools and parks, etc., assuming that people need a direct connection to a moral atrocity before they'll act. I don't believe that for a minute, not as an absolute law. But the stories of Palestine activists do bear it out. Many of them have a direct connection and even personal experience on the ground, witnessing the horrors of what they oppose. They are Palestinian Americans or Jewish Americans or other Americans who have visited Israel or Palestine or who have close friends who have done so. Many of them have been moved by the recent Israeli attacks on Lebanon or Gaza ("Cast Lead" and "Protective Edge") or by the relentless construction of "settlements" and accompanying ethnic cleansing. Many have experienced bigotry in the United States following 9-11 and have sought out a comforting community. As Anwar al Awlaki came to favor anti-U.S. violence after experiencing such bigotry, many young people engage in constructive nonviolent activism instead. They gather as Palestinians or Arabs, and then they take up the Palestinian cause.
Beyond direct experience lies the factor of severity, or rather I think the combination is potent. Young people who become aware of mass murder and abuse and discrimination, especially after having been taught that it didn't exist, are likely to protest. Yet I suspect -- and this is pure speculation -- that another factor weighs heavily. That is the absence of the sort of U.S. government propaganda that promotes U.S. wars. The U.S. government does not market Israel's attacks on surrounding lands in the way that it markets a U.S. attack on Iraq or Libya. U.S. wars are marketed as patriotic duties, and as mad urgent crises that cannot wait for cool consideration. Once begun, they must be continued forever or one fails to "support the troops." Colleges notoriously turnover their student population every four years or so, and a movement that opposed a particular war as not a good civilized and acceptable war like the wars we really need has a half-life of about two years. Israel's war in contrast goes on and on and on, and while opposing it gets you accused of anti-Semitism, it does not get you accused of treason -- nor does it get you accused by remotely as many people. In fact opposing U.S. support for Israeli wars allows you to attack illegal and unacceptable foreign influence. So, while opposition to Israel's war may benefit from the war not being American, awareness of the U.S. government's role may actually help build the movement -- not just because people are reflexively patriotic but because they are rightly indignant about being forced to support a crime.
In addition, Israel's war and occupation involve elements quite familiar to African Americans and other abused groups in this country -- including Latinos along the border wall -- to the extent that Freedom Rides on buses are created in Israel, and mock border walls are created in Arizona. Mock eviction notices are all too frightening in college dorms. The echoes of South African Apartheid inform the movement with technical details and inspire it with the idea of success. And the U.S. movement for Palestine is supported by a global network better organized than those against U.S. wars -- so far -- not to mention the strength of global public opinion.
The movement for Palestine has somehow avoided the plague of frustration that has peace activists announcing that they will not attend a protest because they've attended them before and we don't have peace yet. Instead, the history of Palestinian activism going back nearly a century provides inspiration, lessons, and structures to bolster a movement driven by temporarily engaged young people, further inspired by their established understanding that the "peace process" has been a fraud. Meanwhile the antiwar movement seems cursed to believe every new wild justification for every new war until it is debunked some weeks or months later.
None of this is to say that the movement for Palestine has it easy. When we passed a resolution in my town against a war on Iran, and then asked people to do the same in other towns, they came back empty-handed informing me that they'd been rejected as anti-Semites. If opposing bombing Iran is anti-Semitic, you can imagine what interrupting Israeli VIPs to denounce their crimes counts as. But BDS (boycotts, divestments, and sanctions) against the Israeli government are easier to advance than those against the U.S. government -- although some are beginning to talk about the latter idea and many weapons companies that sell to Israel sell to everywhere else as well.
In the end, I can't claim to know why activism for justice in Palestine is showing relative promise, but I can advocate giving it all the help we possibly can, respectful of the young people who are leading the way. Read their stories in In Our Power. If they succeed, it will help millions of people. It will also help the movement to end all war. Because the myth of ancient hatred between two parties will have been replaced by the reality of war as the political choice of a misguided government. Ancient hatreds can be sold as inevitable. Choices made by misguided governments cannot.
Taher Herzallah, a young activist, explains where the confidence comes from: "[Y]ou have all these organizations pouring millions of dollars into doing work to combat the work we do for free. . . . [T]he work that we're doing doesn't need people that are paid millions of dollars. . . . When a freshman comes out and yells, 'Free Palestine!' and that threatens the existence of the state of Israel, that shows you how shallow that narrative is."
Adds student activist Rahim Kurwa, "The [divestment] process enforces a debate on campus. It forces people to have to look at what's going on and what they're directly investing in. Every time you have that debate, you come out ahead."