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Peace and War
It was back in 2001.
I was a member of a good platoon.
We were on maneuvers in Bamyan one night
By the light of the moon.
The Captain told us to ford a river.
That's how it all begun.
We were knee deep in the Big Muddy,
And the big fool said to push on.
The Sergeant said, "Sir, are you sure
This is the best way back to the base?"
"Sergeant, go on, I've forded this river
About a mile above this place.
It'll be a little soggy, but just keep sloggin'.
We'll soon be on dry ground."
We were waist deep in the Big Muddy,
And the big fool said to push on.
The Sergeant said, "Sir, with all this equipment,
No man will be able to swim."
"Sergeant, don't be a Nervous Nelly,"
The Captain said to him.
"All we need is a little determination.
Men, follow me. I'll lead on."
We were neck deep in the Big Muddy,
And the big fool said to push on.
All at once the moon clouded over.
We heard a gurglin' cry.
A few seconds later the Captain's helmet
Was all that floated by.
The Sergeant said, "Turn around, men.
I'm in charge from now on."
And we just made it out of the Big Muddy
With the Captain dead and gone.
We stripped and dived and found his body
Stuck in the old quicksand.
I guess he didn't know that the water was deeper
Then the place he'd once before been.
Another stream had joined the Big Muddy
About a half mile from where we'd gone.
We were lucky to escape from the Big Muddy
When the big fool said to push on.
Now I'm not going to point any moral —
I'll leave that for yourself.
Maybe you're still walking, you're still talking,
You'd like to keep your health.
But every time I read the papers, that old feeling comes on,
We're waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep in the Big Muddy,
The big fool says to push on.
Waist deep in the Big Muddy,
The big fool says to push on.
Waist deep, neck deep,
Soon even a tall man will be over his head.
We're waist deep in the Big Muddy,
And let me be clear: the big fool says to push on.
The U.S. House of Representatives has not just left town, but prior to leaving passed a rule preventing any member from using the War Powers Resolution to force Congress to return and vote on war.
Here's a video of Congressman Jim McGovern denouncing the rule (or read the transcript here):
If you watch the video, following Rep. McGovern's remarks two of his colleagues run their mouths. The first is Congressman Pete Sessions nonsensically replying to McGovern. The second is Congresswoman Virginia Foxx on an unrelated topic. If you jump ahead to 10:25 McGovern replies to Sessions. It's well worth watching.
In addition, Congressman McGovern and five other Democrats and six Republicans have asked Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to hold a vote on war. Here's their letter: PDF.
We tend to think of war as resulting from an excess of aggression or disorderliness or rebellion. Western academics hunt in the genes of foreigners and study chimpanzees to find the root of the nastiness.
But one would be hard press to count the number of people who have lost their lives to an excess of cowardice in the halls of the United States Congress. "This chamber reeks of blood," said Senator George McGovern, who would have been shocked anew this week.
On Constitution Day, the House of Representatives -- followed the next day by the Senate -- decided to put off until after the next U.S. elections in November any possible consideration of the new U.S. war already underway in Iraq and Syria, but voted in the meantime to approve of shipping weapons over to Syria to fuel the violence.
Here's a website that tells you how your Representative and Senators voted and lets you send them an appropriate message with one click.
Said Congressman Jim McDermott, who voted No: "This amendment, which is valid only through early December, serves as nothing more than a faux authorization designed to get Congress through the election season. Moreover, it addresses only one aspect of the strategy the President outlined last week. That is not a responsible way to conduct public policy."
So, the President announced a three-year war, based on no timetable anyone has produced other than that of U.S. presidential elections. And Congress declared that it would consider looking into the matter after the next Congressional election. But it's not as if we don't all know that they are allowing the war to go on and worsen each and every day. Numerous Congress members denounce Congress for what they themselves call a shameful act of cowardice. But which of them are protesting their "leadership"? Which of them are moving a discharge petition to force a vote? Which of them are using the War Powers Resolution to compel a vote regardless of what the "leadership" wants?
Back on the 25th of July the House overwhelmingly passed the McGovern-Jones-Lee resolution which required the President to seek Congressional authorization before sending troops to Iraq. The President went ahead and ignored that. Will Congress cut off the funding? Censure? Impeach? Nope. Congress voted to approve weapons and training for Syrians who are closely allied with the forces Obama is already waging an air and ground war against in Iraq.
Senator Tim Kaine had been leading the charge to demand that Congress vote before any new war. (As noted, the House did, and the Senate did not follow suit.) Now Kaine says a discussion of that following the U.S. Congressional elections will be sufficient. Until then, the United States will fuel the violence on both sides of a complex war, while repeating incessantly "There is no military solution" and deploying the military and military weaponry in a counterproductive effort to find a solution.
Remarked Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who voted No on weapons to Syria: "The consequences of this vote will be a further expansion of a war currently taking place and our further involvement in a sectarian war. . . . What is missing from this debate is the political, economic, diplomatic and regionally-led solutions that will ultimately be the tools for security in the region and for any potential future threats to the United States."
Also missing was an organized opposition. Republicans voted yes and no, as did Democrats, as did the so-called Progressive Caucus, as did the Black Caucus. These people need to hear the message that cowardice is not a campaign strategy. They must be confronted with the demand that they stop this war, just as they were a year ago, when scary ISIS videos weren't manipulating Americans into once again doing the bidding of terrorists who gain strength from U.S. attacks. A year ago we spoke up. We confronted Congress members at town hall meetings. We stopped them.
Now they've literally cut and run. They're taking a two-month vacation in order to pretend they have nothing to do with the escalating violence. They need to hear from us in person. But we can start by sending them a note to let them know what we think.
Remember, their duty is not to vote approval for a new war, which will then somehow make everything OK. Their duty is to uphold the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the U.N. Charter, the wisdom of most of the world, the lessons of the past decade, and basic common decency by stopping the war.
LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM Award-winning independent filmmaker Rory Kennedy’s new film chronicles a story few of us have heard before. During the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as South Vietnamese resistance crumbles. The prospect of an official evacuation of the remaining Americans and their South Vietnamese allies becomes hopelessly delayed by Congressional gridlock and a delusional U.S. Ambassador. With the clock ticking and the city under fire, a number of Americans take matters into their own hands, engaging in unsanctioned and often makeshift operations in a desperate effort to save as many South Vietnamese lives as possible. (98 mins)
David Swanson will return to speak at the Naro from his home in Charlottesville. He is a nationally renowned journalist, teacher, peace activist, and author of War Is A Lie, When The World Outlawed War, and War No More: The Case For Abolition.
ISIS has created a movie preview for the coming war, a war it eagerly wants Washington to take part in. The White House and Congress would like to oblige, as long as the movie can be a short one, on the model of Libya. Here's the plot: Evil force arises out of nowhere; United States destroys it; credits roll. If Libya-The-Movie had begun with years of support for Gadaffi or ended with the disaster left behind, the critics would have hated it. Framing is everything.
Kathy Kelly published an article on Wednesday describing her visit some years back to a U.S. prison camp in Iraq where Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai spent four years under the name Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi before becoming the leader of ISIS.
Imagine a Hollywood-like movie that began in that camp. An opening scene might show Baghdadi and his fellow prisoners paraded naked in front of female soldiers and forced to say "I love George Bush" before they could get their food rations. We'd see them sleeping on the ground in the cold, cursing their captors and swearing every last drop of energy and instant of remaining life to that highest of all Hollywood values: violent revenge.
Cut to the present and a scene in a small house in Iraq with 500-pound U.S. bombs exploding just outside. Baghdadi and his gang of loveable heroes look horrified, but -- with a twinkle in his eye -- Baghdadi gathers the others to him and begins to smile. Then he begins to laugh. His comrades look bewildered. Then they start to catch on. "You wanted this, didn't you?" exclaims Sexy Female Rebel. "This was your plan, wasn't it!"
"Hand me the ultimate weapon," Baghdadi says, turning to a future nominee for best male supporting actor. BMSA grins and pulls out a video camera. Baghdadi raises the camera over his head with one hand. Turning to Sexy Female Rebel he says "Go on the roof and look north. Tell me what you see coming."
Cut to view through binoculars as music swells to high enthusiasm. Countless oceans of people on foot are making their way over the land with burning U.S. flags on sticks leading the way.
Of course, even Hollywood, which made Avatar, wouldn't make exactly THIS movie. The White House is going to have to make it. But who's directing? President Obama is hunting around for a name for this war, while ISIS has already released one in its video preview. Even the U.S. public seems increasingly interested in the full-length feature. "How does this end?" they want to know. "This was begun by Bush" they say, depending on their partisanship.
What if the script were flipped, not to portray the Iraqi as protagonist, but to abandon the religion of violent revenge? What if Washington were to say to ISIS this:
We see that you want a war with us. We understand that you would gain local support because of how deeply we are hated. We're tired of being hated. We're tired of taking direction from criminals like you. We're not going to play along. We're going to make ourselves loved rather than hated. We're going to apologize for our occupations and bombings and prisons and torture. We're going to make restitution. We're going to provide aid to the entire region. It'll cost us a lot less to do that than to keep dropping bombs on you, so you can forget the plan to bankrupt us. We're going to save trillions of dollars in fact by ceasing to arm ourselves and the rest of the world to the teeth. We're going to announce a ban on shipping weapons to the Middle East. And since we ship 80% of them, not even counting our own military's, we're already off to a huge start. We're going to prosecute any oil company or country that does business with your organization. But we're going to hold no grudges against anyone who abandons your organization and seeks peace, just as we ask you to do what you can toward overcoming grudges against our past barbarity.
What would happen? You might be surprised. Gandhi-The-Movie brought in over $50 million in 1982.
Kevin Zeese (at right in image) is an organizer at http://PopularResistance.org We discuss activist journalism, stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saving the climate, and ending the wars.
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War, our leaders tell us, is needed to make the world a better place.
Well, maybe not so much for the 43 million people who've been driven out of their homes and remain in a precarious state as internally displaced persons (24 million), refugees (12 million), and those struggling to return to their homes.
The U.N.'s figures for the end of 2013 (found here) list Syria as the origin of 9 million such exiles. The cost of escalating the war in Syria is often treated as a financial cost or -- in rare cases -- as a human cost in injury and death. There is also the human cost of ruining homes, neighborhoods, villages, and cities as places in which to live.
Just ask Colombia which comes in second place following years of war -- a place where peace talks are underway and desperately needed with -- among other catastrophes -- nearly 6 million people deprived of their homes.
The war on drugs is rivaled by the war on Africa, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo coming in third after years of the U.S.-backed deadliest war since World War II, but only because the war on "terror" has slipped. Afghanistan is in fourth place with 3.6 million desperate, suffering, dying, and in many cases understandably angry and resentful at losing a place to live. (Remember that over 90% of Afghans not only didn't participate in the events of 9-11 involving Saudis flying planes into buildings, but have never even heard of those events.) Post-liberation Iraq is at 1.5 million displaced and refugees. Other nations graced by regular U.S. missile strikes that make the top of the list include Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen -- and, of course, with Israeli help: Palestine.
Humanitarian wars have a homelessness problem.
Part of that problem finds its way to Western borders where the people involved should be greeted with restitution rather than resentment. Honduran children aren't bringing Ebola-infected Korans. They're fleeing a U.S.-backed coup and Fort Benning-trained torturers. The "immigration problem" and "immigrants rights" debate should be replaced with a serious discussion of refugee rights, human rights, and the-right-to-peace.
If members of the U.S. public were ever to wonder what the other 95% of humanity thinks about them, would it be better to break that harsh truth to them gently or just to blurt it out?
I'm going to go with the latter.
Here's Frankie Boyle explaining the advantages of Scottish independence: "Scotland would no longer have to invade places like Afghanistan for American interests. . . . I don't support America's wars. I don't even think they are wars. They're one-way traffic, mass-murder. There's never been a time when a shepherd has beaten a helicopter. You never switch on the news to see 'A shock result in Afghanistan today when a missile was destroyed by a wedding.' Because not only will America go into your country and kill all your people. But what's worse I think is they'll come back twenty years later and make a movie about how killing your people made their soldiers feel sad. Oh boo hoo hoo. Americans making a movie about what Vietnam did to the soldiers is like a serial killer telling you what stopping suddenly for hitchhikers did to his clutch."
If you don't think people find such remarks acceptable, listen to this laughter:
Living in the United States we've been trained to appreciate the fact that the wars do in fact make the soldiers feel sad. In fact they significantly increase rates of depression and violence and suicide. We tell each other not to blame the soldiers, rather to blame the top politicians. But then we don't really do that, do we? Bush is off painting himself in the bathtub and otherwise doing his imitation of the original King George III during his blue urine period. Obama is cheered by his fans because his wars make him sad and he declares them with such heartfelt reluctance. But from the point of view of people who are told about non-American deaths in their newspapers and on their televisions and radios (that is, from the point of view of 95% of humanity) U.S. wars are mass-slaughter of innocents. Ninety percent of the deaths are on one side. Ninety percent of those deaths are civilians by every definition. When the U.S. says it's going to launch another war because it opposes genocide, the rest of the world responds "We what the f%^$^! do you call your wars?"
Think the rest of the world is crazy? Think it's just bad jokes that miss the serious complicated facts of the matter. Watch how an intelligent Englishman watches an Obama speech:
Or you can watch how an American views Lindsey Graham's speeches:
Or how an American comedian views U.S. foreign policy:
When an American gets honest about U.S. warmongering it has to be a joke. It has to sneak in. We don't want to hear it. But we shouldn't keep imagining the rest of the world doesn't know what's going on.
An interactive townhall discussion of how we get to peace
Speakers: Andy Shallal, Barbara Wien, David Swanson, and YOU
When: Monday, September 22, 11:30-1:30
Where: SIS Founders Room, American University
4400 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016
Food and drink provided!
War, Whistleblowing, and Independent Journalism
8 pm: Q&A with Phil Donahue
8:15 pm: Panel
* William Binney, NSA whistleblower
* Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, EPA whistleblower
* Phil Donahue, journalist
* Thomas Drake, NSA whistleblower
* Peter Kuznick, professor of history
* Jesselyn Radack, DOJ whistleblower
* Kirk Wiebe, NSA whistleblower
Moderator: Norman Solomon
Optional: You can sign up on FaceBook here.
This event is sponsored by RootsAction.org and the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University, and co-sponsored by ExposeFacts.org.
For more information on the speakers, click here.
Nonviolent civil resistance for peace and climate at the White House
When: Tuesday, September 23, 10 a.m.
Where: Pennsylvania Ave. in front of White House.