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Talk Nation Radio: Karen Dolan on the Criminalization of Poverty

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-karen-dolan-on-the-criminalization-of-poverty

Karen Dolan is a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and directs the Criminalization of Poverty project there. She also is a member of the team at the Economic Hardship Reporting project. Her public scholarship and activism is focused on domestic poverty and local democracy/empowerment. Karen's latest publication is The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty: PDF.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from Archive or  LetsTryDemocracy.

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
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

I Just Asked Erik Prince To Stop Bribing Politicians

"It's bad enough to be creating more profit incentive for war," I told former head of Blackwater Erik Prince, "but you recycle part of the profits as bribes for more war in the form of so-called campaign contributions. You yourself have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to political parties and candidates. The three of you," I said, referring to Prince, another guest, and the host of a television show that had just finished filming and was taking questions from the audience, "you seem to agree that we need either mercenaries or a draft, ignoring the option of not having these wars, which kill so many people, make us less safe, drain the economy, destroy the natural environment, and erode our civil liberties, with no upside. But this systemic pressure has been created for more war. Will you, Erik Prince, commit to not spending war profits on elections?"

Prince had hardly been asked a serious question during the past hour of filming, but that of course did not mean he would answer one. The point was to raise the topic and put it in the minds of the people sitting and applauding him. Prince tried to answer by talking about how much the F-35 fighter jet costs, continuing the hour-long pretense that if you oppose mercenaries you favor the rest of the military. I cut him off and told him to answer the question. So he said that he was no longer working with the U.S. government but with other governments around the world. Does that mean he'll stop bribing the U.S. government? Does that mean he doesn't bribe other governments? He didn't say.

The event was held at the University of Virginia's Miller Center, which has a long, long tradition of inviting war makers and war advocates, but has never that I know of asked an opponent of the institution of war to speak. The show, minus the question and answer portion, will air on television on May 3rd. The host, Doug Blackmon, asked challenging questions like, "Do you think contractors should receive medals like other soldiers?" The day before the event he'd emailed me this comment:

"We've featured a lot of people over the past two years, with a lot of objections to the war-making of the United States—as well as a lot of objections to mass incarceration, police violence, and other terrible manifestations of our society. We also have heard from people who would disagree with you—but had nothing to do with making war. In any case, this will be a vigorous dialogue tomorrow. It may not cover everything you would cover if you were organizing the same program, but it's a completely appropriate way for us to explore these hugely important and controversial issues, and to hear two sides in a meaningful way."

At the end of the event I asked him whether Prince would have been invited to speak had most of the people Blackwater killed been Americans. Blackmon refused to answer.

The other guest was Ann Hagedorn, author of The Invisible Soldiers: How America Outsourced Our Security. Her book is not bad, but from the first moments of the event it became crystal clear why Prince had agreed to take part. The subject of drones wasn't broached, but there was a lot of droning, and ummming, and slow and deliberate prefacing of . . . nothing. I could have clicked the audio on my little electronic device to have it read sections of Hagedorn's book and made a better debate than she made in person. This was frustrating, of course, because the well-spoken Erik Prince needed somebody to reply to the outrages he was uttering. In an attempt to figure out where, if anywhere, Hagedorn was coming from, or perhaps to expose her as a commie peacenik, a member of the audience asked after the show whether, if mercenaries were eliminated, Hagedorn would move on to opposing the standard military. This was actually a good question, because most of Hagedorn's critique of mercenaries, even more so at the event than in the book, was of their differences from other soldiers. But she didn't answer the question. She said that she was a reporter who had no opinions or positions. Inspiring!

Hagedorn's book is not a bad primer for people just discovering that the U.S. military hires mercenary companies. In Iraq and Afghanistan from 2009 to 2011, she writes, the use of mercenaries and other contractors climbed -- under Obama/Clinton direction -- to the point where there were 10 for every 1 troop, 18 for every 1 state department personnel, and 100 for every 1 USAID worker. She criticizes the lack of accountability for what this huge number of people do. She admits that the majority of deaths in these wars are civilians. I say "admits" because at the show taping she claimed that if Americans knew about the deaths of U.S. mercenaries they would then have a good sense of the deaths in the wars. She points out the fear mongering done by mercenary companies as well as governments to gin up business. She writes that of 195 Blackwater shootings between 2005 and 2007 in 84% Blackwater shot first and left the scene. She even quotes someone proposing we have fewer wars and cites the example of South Africa banning mercenaries.

Hagedorn notes Obama and Clinton's flip to support mercenaries beginning in 2009, and their use of them to extend the occupation of Iraq in 2011 while "ending" it. Hillary Clinton, she writes, also pushed shipping companies to hire mercenaries to fend off pirates. The United Nations, too, is using mercenaries. The U.S. border with Mexico is being armed with mercenaries. Immigrants are being handled by mercenaries. U.S. police are being trained by mercenaries (with horrible results).

But Hagedorn is big on patriotism and the supposed democratic public institution of war (which would never survive a Ludlow Amendment creating a public vote on wars). When she called war an inherently public operation on Wednesday, Prince ignored any hint that private war creates more wars and simply pointed to the long history of mercenaries and to examples of other operations that have been privatized.

Blackmon began Wednesday's show by asking Prince about the sentencing of four of his former employees to prison on Monday. Part of Prince's defense was that "We've asked for cameras. . . . The State Department denied them." This is bizarre because he never asserted that anything other than the intentional murder of civilians would have been filmed had there been cameras. He also claimed that his killers could not get a jury of their peers among civilians 7,000 miles away. So, does he want crimes committed in Iraq to be prosecuted in Iraq then?

Hagedorn explicitly refused to discuss the details of the Nissour Square Massacre but did point out that it was the sort of thing that boosted recruitment of forces against the U.S. military/mercenaries.

Blackmon asked if mercenaries had been scapegoated for an overall disaster, but Hagedorn said no, that that made no sense if you considered the scale of the mercenary involvement. Prince said that during the war on Vietnam peace activists went after troops and now they go after mercenaries. "Nature hates a vacuum," he argued, suggesting apparently that Congressional contracts are produced by "nature." Prince also pointed to the murder of Miriam Carey by the U.S. Capitol Police as if one inexcusable killing justifies others. "There was no hue and cry," over that killing he lied, but imagine the uproar if it had been poor little old mercenaries who had done it. Of course, most killings of civilians by mercenaries in distant U.S. wars produce in fact no hue or cry at all back home.

I should note that Prince claims his mercenaries are (were) not mercenaries because they were U.S. military veterans. What that changes he never explained. Instead he calls them "volunteers" despite paying them. Asked about financial interests in keeping wars going, he said what was needed was oversight, but not from Washington, from empowering the people at the front. Whatever that meant. Prince advocated a smaller military budget, and Hagedorn said that smaller overall budgets always mean more for mercenaries.

Repeatedly Prince claimed to be fighting evil people "who want to destroy the Western world, you know, our way of life." He claimed that mercenaries could be hired to destroy ISIS, no problem! He also claimed that what's going on in the Middle East is an age-old Sunni-Shia conflict that the United States can only tweak around the edges (through such steps, I suppose, as destroying ISIS). That each war creates more problems to be addressed with more wars, that ISIS would never have existed without the 2003 invasion, didn't come up (except through my comments during the Q&A).

One questioner suggested that "if war were the path to peace we'd sure have peace by now," and Prince claimed to be for peace. So Hagedorn asked him, a-t l-e-n-g-t-h, to fund the peace movement (even though she has no opinions as a Journalist), and he declined, suggesting that the mercenary industry association should do it. That's an association, by the way, that changed its name from the International Peace Operations Association to the International Stability Operations Association in response to criticism of being "too Orwellian" -- as if war brings stability any more than it brings peace.

Prince said that rather than funding peace he would focus on "protecting Christians who are being driven out of the Holy Land." He said this during the Q&A section with the filming of the show already stopped. Someone might have asked why people of a particular religion were of more value. But then we were at an event that never would have happened if the people whom Prince's company killed had belonged to that religion.

Oh Hell, Hillary

I just did a radio show in South Africa on the topic of Hillary Clinton. Perhaps they won't air it since I told them it was a non-story about something long since underway being "launched," but a story the U.S. media likes because it's substance-free. Yet in South Africa it seems to be a story. They really didn't know she was running until now, and they wanted to know if John McCain was her opponent. And yet they had the sense to ask if she would cause more wars and if there was really any difference between Hillary and the Republicans. If even the places that don't know she's running know that, perhaps there is hope for public awareness of basic facts after all.

Of course I pointed out Hillary Clinton's role in wars in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Ukraine, etc., her profiteering off Boeing while marketing Boeing weapons as Secretary of State, her transformation of the State Department into a fully owned subsidiary of the military, her foundations taking money from Chevron and Exxon-Mobil while she persuades Eastern European countries not to ban fracking. Hillary backs Israel's crimes, opposes the UN and international law. The corruption and nastiness in her hidden emails need hardly be seen to be estimated. She was too corrupt for the Watergate Committee, for godsake, trying to keep Nixon in for Ted Kennedy to run against, just as the Democrats of 2007 kept the war on Iraq going in order to run against it again.  See http://WarIsACrime.org/Hillary

Hillary backs the NSA, wants Edward Snowden in prison, gets $2,777 per minute for speeches at which no questioning is allowed, lets her guards beat up Ray McGovern for turning his back on her, and is a candidate from a presidential dynasty in a year (next year, not this!) in which two of them are in play. See http://NoBushesOrClintons.org

And here is our opportunity. It is time for us to dedicate ourselves to fixing a broken system, not working within it. Don't try to elect someone in a system that is clearly broken. Joke about it, sure:

Ideally Hillary Clinton will run with Jeb Bush as her vice president & Bush will run with Clinton as his so they'll both win no matter what

 
We're not going to elect our way to free, open, verifiable elections.
 
We're not going to transform Hillary Clinton into a completely different person by sending her little "I'll vote for you no matter what but I'd love it if . . . " notes.
 
Let's get serious and make change happen now. The planet cannot wait. And just try looking with open eyes at what it is we'd be waiting for. If it doesn't put a bad taste in your mouth, check your pulse.

Stop Smoking the Democrack

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By Cindy Sheehan and David Swanson

 The U.S. government is toying with a war with nuclear Russia while already waging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, having done severe damage to Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Military spending is climbing ever higher. Presidential war powers are ever more extreme. The proliferation of nuclear technology is combining with the ease and secrecy of drone wars to raise the risk of a Dr. Strangelove finish to the human species. And, let's face it, you had more time to give a damn when the president was a Republican.

 The top means by which war kills is the diversion of unfathomable piles of money away from life-saving initiatives. That spending continues without pause. President Obama and most of Congress want it increased even more next year. The Congressional Progressive Caucus just put out a budget that made no mention of military spending but -- if you searched through the numbers -- was proposing to cut it by 1% ($13 billion of $1.3 trillion in spending across several departments). We're talking about the single item that takes up over half of discretionary spending. One or two percent of it could make U.S. college education free, or end starvation on earth. A bigger slice could take on climate protection. Everyone across the inch-wide chasm of the political divide in Washington prefers to see the militarism continue. Of 100 senators, 100 favor sanctions on Iran. Bipartisanship is alive and well when it comes to war promotion.

The top risk from war is nuclear holocaust. That danger continues to grow with active U.S. assistance. The second worst thing a U.S. president can do about war is grab more war powers and pass them on to all future presidents. In that regard, President Obama has outdone President Bush. Lying to Congress is now totally routine: Congress and the United Nations can simply be ignored. Secrecy has mushroomed. President Obama picks out men, women, and children to murder from a list on Tuesdays. The public, the Congress, and the courts have no say and often no knowledge. President Obama has dramatically increased U.S. weapons sales abroad -- the U.S. being far and away the top supplier of weapons to regions that the U.S. public thinks of as inherently violent. 

While Obama's body count doesn't yet begin to approach Bush's in terms of people directly and violently killed, that's not a standard that will get us to survival, much less peace and prosperity.

Why do so many people think of the political party that lied the United States into two world wars, the Korean war, the war on Vietnam, the Kosovo war, the Libya war, and the war on ISIS -- the party that dropped the nukes on Japan -- as a party for peace?

Why do longtime war advocates like Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton get a pass? What benefit from making Hillary president could outweigh shutting down the peace movement for 4 or 8 years?

Hillary was instrumental in persuading her husband to bomb the former Yugoslavia against the will of Congress. She pushed for the 2003 attack on Iraq and the 2011 attack on Libya. She tried to get a U.S. war on Syria going in 2013. She pushed for the Obama-era escalation in Afghanistan -- a war that is now more Obama's than Bush's by every measure.

Hillary has urged Iran to be aware that she could "obliterate" it. She has giggled with pleasure at having killed Muamar Gadaffi. She's hawkish on Ukraine.

What can be done?

Tell people you know what warmaking has become, because someday the president will be a Republican and they'll grow outraged.

Give up on the idea of bestowing royal tokenism on every deserving demographic before the planet's trashed. We don't have that kind of time to work with.

Oregon has just made voter registration automatic, and California is proposing the same. Devote yourself to making sure that your state does likewise, and refuse to any longer think of registering people to vote as useful activism or to waste your time doing it.

Rather than giving a blank check to war mongering for the next nearly two years and then possibly beginning to object, save us all the suffering and pretend the president right now is Dick Cheney. Protest accordingly.

Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Spc Casey Sheehan who was murdered in Iraq on 04/04/04 by the US Empire and has become a non-flinching and uncompromising peace activist and host of her own podcast: Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox and Editor in Chief of the Soapbox People's Network.

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. He is a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.

Talk Nation Radio: Margaret Flowers on Stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-margaret-flowers-on-stopping-the-trans-pacific-partnership

Margaret Flowers is a Maryland pediatrician who currently serves as co-director of PopularResistance.org and is co-host of Clearing the FOG Radio. She has been fighting to stop fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership for more than three years. We discuss upcoming efforts to block passage of the TPP.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from Archive or  LetsTryDemocracy.

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
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

The Russian Military Asked Me to Publish Its Propaganda

On Friday, March 20th, I spoke at the University of the District of Columbia Law School in Washington, D.C., as part of a series of teach-ins about peace organized by SpringRising.org. While there, a young man in a suit with a Russian accent approached me. He gave me his card, which says at the top "Embassy of the Russian Federation." It identifies him as a Major and as The Air Attaché Assistant. His name: Alexsei G. Padalko. The card includes the address of the Russian Embassy in Washington, two phone numbers, a fax number, and a gmail email address. His name appears on lists of diplomats on the websites of the Russian Embassy and the U.S. State Department.

Alexsei bought one of my books, which I signed, but he said he had another he hadn't brought with him and wanted signed, and he wanted to discuss working together for peace. I said I'd meet him the next day at a coffee shop. When we met, he began talking about having information about Ukraine. He wanted to slip me articles already written and pay me to publish them under my name. He claimed a personal interest in peace and a desire to keep this secret from his employers. It was fine to email him, he said, but he'd have to give me the articles in person. I told him that I would not post articles as by me if not by me, and I would not post them with a pseudonym for someone working for the Russian (or American or any other) military, but if he wanted to give me information to report on under my name in articles I researched with multiple sources, I would keep the confidentiality of any source entirely. I, of course, had told him I wouldn't take any money for anything. And he didn't explain where the money would have come from. He said the information was not secret. He had no interest in using secret email. Nothing was less than above board, he said. But then why the secrecy? And who would be writing the articles? (This man's English was not up to the job.) I told him what I considered proper journalistic behavior and he expressed surprise and concern that I would bring up journalism since I was a blogger. Apparently a blogger is someone you can feed propaganda to, while a journalist is someone who's out to get you. I tried to tell him I was actually interested in communicating the facts about Ukraine to the U.S. public and that I thought that doing so would benefit both Russia and peace. We parted with the understanding that I would email him a time to meet in Washington, and that he would give me information that I could use as a reporter.

I gave it some thought. I could not believe that he was acting against the wishes of his employers. Where was the money to have come from? Who was writing the articles? Why so openly give me his card and meet with me? And what would he want known in the interests of peace that his employers wouldn't? No, he was doing his job. I decided that I would avoid any of the secrecy, and if he wanted to tell me anything that I could report he could do that openly. I would, of course, seek to confirm it with other sources, give the State Department its chance to comment, and report it.

Later that same day I emailed him this:

"Alexsei,

"I'd like to write an article on Ukraine that includes Russian points of view, regarding any of the following: the history of NATO expansion, the coup, Malaysian Flight 17, Crimea, recent conflict, U.S. and NATO allegations, possible peaceful resolution.

"If you or anyone you know can provide any perspective on the matter, please just email or call."

He replied:

"No problem, deal"

Late that night, I wrote:

"Also, would Ambassador Kislyak like to explain Russia's view of Ukraine on a radio show that airs on lots of stations? See http://TalkNationRadio.org I'm the host, and the shows are pre-recorded by telephone at the guest's convenience. An interview can be anywhere from 1 to 28 minutes. I recommend 28 minutes. I would simply ask him for his view of the situation in Ukraine and let him talk. You can just let me know a day and a time and a phone number."

Alexsei has not yet replied to that offer.

Now, I'd like to call the Russian Embassy's main number and ask to be connected to Alexsei and make sure it's the same person. But a friend warns me that doing so produces "meta-data" to be used in framing people with crimes. And I don't seriously doubt the man's identity.

I write this in order to protect myself from any misunderstanding or frame-up, and in order to offer my unsolicited advice to the Russian government: My friends, independent media and small media outlets that are interested in the truth and in considering your points of view are in that position because of their honesty. When you approach them with secrecy and money you ruin the opportunity to have information shared in a credible and effective way. I and countless other bloggers and freelancers who could never bring ourselves to write the Pentagon propaganda that passes for journalism in major U.S. newspapers are not on your team. We're on the side of truth and the side of peace.

Many of us are well aware of the lie that NATO and the U.S. told Russia upon the reunification of Germany to the effect that NATO would not expand eastward. We're outraged by the expansion to your borders. We condemn the U.S.-backed violent coup in Kiev. We denounce the Nazi and foreign-imposed government of Ukraine. We oppose the U.S. arms shipments, the U.S. "National Guard" now guarding the wrong nation, the war games, the baseless characterizations of Russia's behavior, the lies about your aggression.

But you can't fix lies about your aggression by behaving aggressively. If the truth is on your side, don't imagine that it can't be reported and understood at least by some.

I'm aware that most of the military commentators in U.S. media outlets are in the pay of the U.S. military or its private contractors or their think tanks. I'm aware that matters of life and death cause rash decisions. But I encourage you to openly publish your views and to send them to me and anyone else open to them. I encourage you to place guests on my and other radio shows. Don't give those who have twisted reality beyond recognition an excuse to accuse you of the same.

Talk Nation Radio: Michael Heaney on What Partisanship Does to a Peace Movement

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-michael-heaney-on-what-partisanship-does-to-a-peace-movement/

Michael T. Heaney is co-author with Fabio Rojas of Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11. We discuss how partisanship built up and then tore down a peace movement, and what to do about it. Heaney is Assistant Professor of Organizational Studies and Political Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He has previously served as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Study of American Politics at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University, and as the William A. Steiger Fellow in the Congressional Fellowship Program at the American Political Science Association. His research has received funding from the National Science Foundation and has been published in a wide array of academic journals, such as the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of SociologySocial Networks, and Perspectives on Politics.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download from LetsTryDemocracy.

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
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Which Party Do You View Iran Through?

Most people in the United States have little contact with Iran or its culture. Iran comes up as a scary threat in the speeches of demagogues. A range of debate is offered between obliterate it and pressure it into compliance with our civilized norms, or at least the civilized norms of some other country that doesn't obliterate or pressure people.

So how do Americans view Iran? Many view it, like all governmental matters, through the lens of either the Democratic or the Republican Party. The Democratic President has come to be seen as on the side of preventing a war with Iran. The Republican Congress has come to be seen as pushing for that war. In this framework, something remarkable happens. Democrats begin recognizing all of the arguments against war that ought to be applied to every war.

Liberals and progressives are full of talk about respecting their president and their commander in chief and following his course to tame the Iranian threat, and so forth. But they are also pointing out that war is optional, that it is not a justifiable last resort because there are always other choices. They are pointing out the undesirability of war, the horrors of war, and the preferability of a diplomatic resolution, indeed the generation of friendly and cooperative relations -- albeit in some cases as a means to fighting another war with Iran as an ally. (This seems to be Obama's scheme for using war to fix the disaster left by a past war.)

Online activist organizations that identify with the Democratic Party are actually doing remarkably well at arguing against a war with Iran. They've largely dropped the President's own rhetoric that baselessly claims Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, preferring to rail against the danger of Republican warmongering. That's a reality-based position held by neither Party -- the Republicans don't claim they're starting a war and the White House doesn't generally focus on accusing them of it. Yes, these groups are still pushing the idea that Republicans disrespecting their president is an even bigger deal than starting a war, but when they turn to the topic of war they truly sound like they oppose it and understand why we always all should.

If you see Iran through that left-Democratic lens, that is if you are opposed to Republican efforts to start yet another unnecessary catastrophic war, this one with Iran, I have a few ideas I'd like to run by you.

1. What if President Obama were opposed to efforts to undermine and overthrow the government of Venezuela? What if Republicans in Congress were ridiculously claiming that Venezuela was a threat to the United States? What if the Republicans were writing letters of encouragement to the leaders of coup attempts in Venezuela to let them know that they had U.S. backing regardless of what the State Department might say? Would you oppose the overthrow of the Venezuelan government?

2. What if Congress had sent a delegation to instigate a violent coup in Kiev, behind the back of the State Department and the White House? What if pressure was building toward a war with nuclear Russia, and Republican leaders of Congress were eagerly fanning the flames while the White House pursued the alternatives of diplomacy, demilitarization, ceasefires, negotiations, aid, and the international rule of law? Would you oppose U.S. Congressional support for the rightwing coup government in Ukraine and its antagonization of Russia?

3. What if President Obama gave an eloquent speech acknowledging that not only is there "no military solution" in Iraq or Syria but that it's wrong to keep saying that while pursuing a military solution? What if he pulled U.S. troops out of that region and out of Afghanistan and asked Congress to fund a Marshall Plan of aid and restitution, at a much lower price tag than the troop presence of course? And what if Republicans introduced a bill to put all the troops back in? Would you oppose that bill?

4. What if the Congressional armed "services" committees set up panels to review kill lists and ordered men, women, and children targeted and murdered with drone strikes, along with anyone too close to them and anyone with a suspicious profile? What if President Obama accused Congress of violating national laws on murder, the U.S. Constitution, the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Kellogg Briand Pact, the Ten Commandments, and the lessons of the past that show such reckless actions to generate more enemies than they kill? Would you protest drone kills and demand the elimination of armed drones?

Here's what worries me. There are some positive signs right now and were some in late 2013 and at moments since. But the anti-Republican-war movement of 2002-2007 may not be matched again until the U.S. President is again a Republican (if that ever again happens). And by then, President George W. Bush's wars will have long passed without any penalties for those responsible. And President Obama will have increased military spending and foreign presence and privatization, given the CIA the power to wage wars, eliminated the practice of gaining UN approval for wars, ended the custom of gaining Congressional sanction for wars, established the practice of murdering people with missiles anywhere on earth (and armed half the earth's nations with similar ability), while continuing to spread violence and weaponry through Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and on and on.

One last question: If you had a chance to oppose things you dislike, even though they're the result of bipartisanship, would you?

Skipping The Speech for All the Wrong Reasons

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to hear that Congress members will skip Netanyahu's speech no matter what reason they offer. Here are some of them:

It's too close to Netanyahu's election. (That doesn't persuade me. If we had fair, open, publicly funded, un-gerrymandered, verifiably counted elections, then "politics" wouldn't be a dirty word and we would want politicians to show themselves doing things to try to please us before, during, and after elections. I want them acting that way now, even with our broken system. I don't want the U.S. interfering in Israeli elections, but allowing a speech is hardly the same as backing coups in Ukraine and Venezuela or giving Israel billions of dollars worth of weapons every year.)

The Speaker didn't ask the President. (This is likely the big reason that Democrats are promising to skip the speech. I'm actually amazed more of them haven't made that promise. Netanyahu seemed to me to miss the extent to which the United States has become a term-limited monarchy. Congress typically wants to pass the buck on wars to the President. The President typically controls one of the two parties quite tightly. But do I actually care that Congress didn't consult the President? Hell no! Imagine if, during the run-up to the 2003 attack on Iraq, Congress had offered a joint-session microphone to El Baradei or Sarkozy or Putin or, indeed, Hussein to denounce all the bogus claims about WMDs in Iraq? Would you have been outraged by the impoliteness toward President Bush or delighted that a million people might not get killed for no damn reason?)

These kinds of reasons do have a practical weakness: they lead to calls for postponing the speech, rather than canceling it. Some other reasons have more serious flaws.

The speech damages bipartisan U.S. support for Israel. (Really? A slim minority of the President's party skips the speech for a laundry list of lame excuses and suddenly the United States is going to stop providing all the free weapons and vetoing every attempt at legal accountability for the crimes of the Israeli government? And that would be a bad thing if it actually happened?)

The speech hurts the critical effort of negotiations to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. (This is the worst of the bad reasons. It pushes the false idea that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon and threatening to use it. It plays right into Netanyahu's fantasies of poor helpless nuclear Israel the victim of Iranian aggression. In reality, Iran has not attacked another nation in modern history. If only Israel or the United States could say as much!)

As I said, I'm glad anyone's skipping the speech for any reason. But I find it deeply disturbing that an enormously important and deeply moral reason to skip the speech is obvious and known to every member of Congress, and while most are acting against it, those acting in accordance with it refuse to articulate it. The reason is this: Netanyahu is coming to spread war propaganda. He told Congress lies about Iraq in 2002 and pushed for a U.S. war. He has been lying, according to leaks this week of his own spies' information and according to the understanding of the U.S. "intelligence" services, about Iran. It is illegal to spread war propaganda under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which Israel is a party. Congress is struggling to keep up with the wars President Obama is continuing, launching, and risking. Here's one war Obama seems not to want, and Congress is bringing in a foreign leader with a record of war lies to give them their marching orders. Meanwhile, an agency of that same foreign government, AIPAC, is holding its big lobby meeting in Washington.

Now, it is true that nuclear energy facilities create dangerous targets. Those drones flying around French nuclear plants scare the hell out of me. And it is true that nuclear energy places its possessor a short step away from nuclear weaponry. Which is why the U.S. should stop spreading nuclear energy to countries that have no need of it, and why the U.S. should never have given nuclear bomb plans to Iran or sentenced Jeffrey Sterling to prison for allegedly revealing that act. But you can't accomplish good by using horrific mass murder to avoid horrific mass murder -- and that's what Israeli-U.S. aggression toward Iran means. Stirring up a new cold war with Russia in Syria and Ukraine is dangerous enough without throwing Iran into the mix. But even a war that confined itself to Iran would be horrifying.

Imagine if we had one Congress member who would say, "I'm skipping the speech because I'm opposed to killing Iranians." I know we have lots of constituents who like to think that their progressive Congress member secretly thinks that. But I'll believe it when I hear it said.

Not a Bug Splat, Not Chattel

U.S. drone "pilots" refer to people they burn to death in places like Pakistan as "bug splat" because they look like bugs being squished to death on the pilots' video monitors and because it's easier to murder bugs than humans.

Hence the need for the brilliant artwork made visible to a drone (http://notabugsplat.com):

JR_KPK_full

The human brain is a funny thing. Numerous human brains know that every human is a human, yet insist that various types of humans must be "humanized" before they can be recognized as humans. That is, even though you know someone must have a name and loved ones and favorite games and certain weaknesses and a couple of quirks that friends find endearing -- because each and every Homo sapiens does have such things -- you insist on being told what the details are, and only then readily admit that in fact this particular human is a human (and millions of others remain in doubt).

A drone killer must know that children have eyes and noses and mouths, hair and fingers. But this artwork presents it to the troubled brain of the humanization dependent observer.

And what if you want to know more about the humans inhabiting Pakistan? More than just a face in a photograph?

I recommend reading The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan by Rafia Zakaria. Rafia grew up in Pakistan and moved to the United States. She can tell you intimate details about life in Pakistan from a perspective you recognize.

Central to her story of migration and cultural change and political transformation is the life of her aunt whose husband chose to marry a second wife and move his first wife to the upstairs of the house. The status of women and of religion is put into sharp relief by this sorrowful account of deep personal injury and humiliation.

Yes, this is another case of religion serving to worsen people's lives in ways that possibly used to make sense but have been dragged forward into the present only by the resistance of religion to rational change.

No, this is not a revelation that Pakistanis hate Americans because their religion tells them to. People who hate the U.S. government tend to object to the destruction and killing of the U.S. military.

And no, your religion, whatever it is, is not better than someone else's. The problem is not the flavor of the religion, but the utilization of magical rules in guiding people's lives -- that is to say, adherence to rules that on their merits would be abandoned but that are maintained because the great Whatchamacallit decreed so in the Holy Days of Whichamawhoochee.

At least that's one of many impressions I take away from the book. You may have others. It's not a sad or contemptuous story but an enjoyable and educational one. And it's complex enough to render useless any generalization about what "the Pakistanis" do or think at all. The people of Pakistan have many backgrounds and all sorts of unique outlooks and circumstances. They are, in fact, a lot like you, me, your neighbor, your uncle, and the woman who works in the grocery store -- just with a smaller military than ours killing people in their names.