Political Ideas

2016
Jun
07

Talk Nation Radio: Ahmed Salah on Masterminding the Egyptian Revolution

Tag: Peace and War, Political Ideas, Talk Nation Radio

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-ahmed-salah-on-masterminding-the-egyptian-revolution

Ahmed Salah is an Egyptian democracy activist. He was a co-leader of three of Egypt’s most prominent protest movements—Kefaya, Youth for Change, and the April 6th Movement—and a principal organizer of the Egyptian Revolution. In 2013, he re­ceived the Champion of Justice Award from the Center for Justice and Accountability. His book is called You Are Under Arrest for Masterminding the Egyptian Revolution.

Total run time: 29:00

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

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2016
Jun
03

Lessons for Peace from Back in the USSR

Tag: Culture and Society, Peace and War, Political Ideas

In the early 1980s almost nobody from the United States traveled to the Soviet Union or vice versa. The Soviets wouldn't let anybody out, and good Americans were disinclined to visit the Evil Empire. But a woman in California named Sharon Tennison took the threat of nuclear war with the seriousness it deserved and still deserves. She got a group of friends together and asked the Russian consulate for permission to visit Russia, make friends, and learn.

Russia said fine. The U.S. government, in the form of the FBI and USAID, told them not to go, warned that they would not be permitted to move freely once there, and generally communicated that they, the U.S. government employees, had internalized their own propaganda. Tennison and company went anyway, had a wonderful experience, and spoke at events with slide shows upon their return, thus attracting many more people for the next trip.

Now it was Tennison's turn to brief the flabbergasted and ignorant U.S. government staff who had virtually no actual knowledge of Russia beyond what she gave them. This was back in the day when President Ronald "Is this a film or reality?" Reagan said that 20 million dead Americans would be acceptable in a war. Yet the so-called intelligence so-called community didn't know its assets from its elbows. War as a "last resort" was being considered without having considered literally any other resorts. Someone had to step in, and Sharon Tennison decided she'd try.

Obama 2012 75a66
2016
Jun
02

Democratic Party Ignored Its 2012 Platform

Tag: Political Ideas

By David Swanson, American Herald Tribune

Bernie Sanders' accomplishment, whether he wins the most actual delegates, despite the rigged system, or not, and whether that garners him the nomination or not, has not been to persuade Hillary Clinton to pretend to support progressive policies. And it has not been to persuade the DNC to let progressive people have some say in drafting its 2016 platform. Sanders' accomplishment has been persuading millions of people to vote for whom they choose in defiance of the corporate media's dictates. The U.S. public's growing ability to tell the corporate media to go to hell is going to mean a lot more to our future than the outcome of any election.

If you look through the 2008 and 2012 Democratic Party Platforms, the idea that the next one could be improved upon appears obvious. The idea that it matters appears less so. In 2008, the Democratic Party was going to "defeat al Qaeda," and "win" a war on Afghanistan by escalating it, make America loved again while expanding its military presence all over the globe, eliminate nuclear weapons from the earth, handle climate change, enact the Employee Free Choice Act, etc., etc. It's not that times changed. It's not that the evil Republicans got in the way. The Democrats never attempted these things -- well, except for the one in Afghanistan that they're still attempting, and the hate-generating military expansion.

This is not necessarily a drawback in platform writing. If you fail to do something in four years, you get to stick it into the next platform four years later -- perhaps with even worse writing after some additional group-editing is applied. After the 2006 congressional victories, Rahm Emanuel told the Washington Post that the Democrats would actually not end the war on Iraq, because they preferred to run "against" it again in 2008. That attitude seems to be the model for how the 2012 Democratic Party Platform evolved out of the 2008 version.

2016
Jun
01

What if Revolution Were More Than a Campaign Slogan?

Tag: Political Ideas

Learning From Egyptian Revolution

By David Swanson

What if people in the United States came to understand "revolution" as something more than a campaign slogan in a presidential election campaign?

Ahmed Salah's new book, You Are Under Arrest for Master Minding the Egyptian Revolution (a Memoir), early on characterizes its own title as an exaggeration, but over the course of the book works to substantiate it. Salah was indeed as involved as anyone in building public momentum in Egypt over a period of years, culminating in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, though all of his accounts of in-fighting among various activist groups necessarily have other accounts from each individual involved.

Of course, master minding a revolution is not like master minding a construction project. It's much more of a gamble, working to prepare people to act effectively when and if a moment arises in which people are willing to act -- and then working to build on that action so that the next round is still more effective. Being able to create those moments is itself more like trying to control the weather, and I think must remain so until new democratic forms of media become truly mass media.

2016
May
23

Let's Back All Moderates in Syria and the World

Tag: Peace and War, Political Ideas

I've come around in favor of backing all moderates. The question appeared to me for a long time as a difficult one. Should one give anti-aircraft weaponry, for example, to al Qaeda fighters in Syria in order to better combat ISIS (which could some day develop the airplane)?

The answer is yes, if, and only if, those fighters are moderates.

Now, who's a moderate? Some people get confused on this part, but it's not really that difficult to get straight. Fighters who want to blow up buildings and airplanes and cars and pedestrians and playgrounds can be either moderates or extremists, since war has nothing to do with their categorization. After all, we're picking which people to arm in the war.

2016
May
23

Hey Kids! Try Collateral Damage at Home

Tag: Peace and War, Philosophy, Political Ideas

One day a couple of weeks ago I was reading Saint Augustine while driving to the local convenience store, and I accidentally drove right through the front glass wall of the store, smashing up some shelves of junk food. After I'd made my purchases, a police officer stopped me and asked if I'd intended to drive into the store. "Oh, not at all," I replied. "I intended to get here as quickly as possible while also educating myself as quickly as possible. I knew I might crash, of course, but that wasn't part of my intention."

"Well," the cop replied. "Where should we send the check for your car repair?"

"I'll let you know," I replied, a bit annoyed by the hassle.

My brother in law repaired my car for not much more than $100,000, and all it still needed was to be repainted. So, I took a giant paint sprayer with me. I parked the car in front of my neighbor's house, the one with the loud dog. When I'd finished painting the car, there was a rough shape of its profile on the front of my neighbor's house, surrounded by fresh purple paint. I pinned a note to the door letting him know that my intention had been only to paint the car and not his house.

2016
May
12

The Best and Least Known Killing Spree

Tag: Political Ideas

This week we lost one of the best lawyers and activists the United States has known, Michael Ratner, on the same day on which Bob Marley had died years before. It was Michael Ratner who told us who killed Che Guevara. This led me to make this little list:

1955 John Wayne

1960 Ernest Hemingway

1961 Paul Robeson

1963 John Kennedy

1965 Malcolm X

1967 Che Guevara

1968 Martin Luther King Jr.

1968 Robert Kennedy

1976 Bob Marley

(Never give up?) Fidel Castro

2015 Beau Biden

What does this list have in common? These are all people whom I hope some of you know of and who quite likely died of the same disease: U.S. militarism (except Fidel, but not for lack of trying).

But perhaps I don't have to try such bizarre approaches anymore to get anyone to care about mass murder. Donald "kill their families" Trump admitted this week that U.S. wars are one-sided slaughters, that the U.S. government kills millions of people, and that the U.S. government lies about it.

Perhaps someone else on television will say that again. Perhaps reporters will report on it.

Ha. Ha. Just kidding. Back in reality, click on a few of the famous names above and see if that moves you.

2016
May
11

How to Oppose the Draft for Women and Not Be Sexist

Tag: Peace and War, Political Ideas

For the majority of people in the United States who have no idea, yes, draft registration still exists, but only for males. However, the U.S. House of Representatives is interested in adding young women to the rolls. In fact the House Armed "Services" Committee passed such a measure in April, and it is now part of the National "Defense" Authorization Act pending review, amendment, debate, and passage.

An amendment proposed by Congressman Pete Sessions would undo this "progressive" development. Some rightwing groups that consult the Bible for their standards of women's rights also want to stop the extension of "selective service" to all 18 year olds. Some peace activists believe that the key to ending warmaking is actually activating the draft in as big a way as possible. And liberal humanitarian warriors want equal war rights for women. Much of the rest of the world, meanwhile, believes the United States has overdosed on military madness.

As a helpful public service, I offer this guide on how (and why) to oppose extending draft registration to women without being a sexist pig.

1. Oppose the draft extension while wearing a Hillary hat.

2. Just kidding. The goal here is to prevent wars, not launch a dozen new ones. Stay principled. This isn't actually that hard.

3. Join a growing movement backing legislation to end draft registration in the United States for everyone.

2016
May
11

Bush-Obama Powers Will Pass to Next President

Tag: Peace and War, Political Ideas

Remember when coups and assassinations were secretive, when presidents were obliged to go to Congress and tell lies and ask permission for wars, when torture, spying, and lawless imprisonment were illicit, when re-writing laws with signing statements and shutting down legal cases by yelling "state secrets!" was abusive, and when the idea of a president going through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays to pick whom to have murdered would have been deemed an outrage?

All such resistance and outrage is in the past by mutual consent of those in power in Washington, D.C. Whoever becomes the next president of the United States could only unfairly and in violation of established bipartisan precedent be denied the powers of unlimited spying, imprisoning, and killing. That this is little known is largely a symptom of partisanship. Most Democrats still haven't allowed themselves to hear of the kill list. But the widespread ignorance is also a function of media, of what's reported, what's editorialized, what's asked about in campaign debates, and what isn't.

The new book, Assassination Complex: Inside the Government's Secret Drone Warfare Program, from Jeremy Scahill and the staff of The Intercept, is terrific to see even more for what it represents than for what it actually teaches us. We've already learned the details it includes from the website of the Intercept, and they fit with similar details that have trickled out through numerous sources for years. But the fact that a media outlet is reporting on this topic and framing its concerns in a serious way around the dangerous expansion of presidential and governmental power is encouraging.

Seymour Hersh 8891d
2016
May
10

Seymour Hersh Erases Public's Role on Syria

Tag: Media, Peace and War, Political Ideas

By David Swanson, American Herald Tribune

We once again owe the great reporter Seymour Hersh a serious debt for his reporting, in this case for his London Review of Books articles on President Barack Obama's war making, now published as a book called The Killing of Osama bin Laden. Despite the title, three of the four articles are about Syria.

But there is a shortcoming in how Hersh tells history, as in how many reporters do. I've watched Hersh do interviews about the topic on Democracy Now and never once heard him mention the U.S. public. In his book, the public gets one mention: "The proposed American missile attack on Syria never won public support, and Obama turned quickly to the UN and the Russian proposal for dismantling the Syrian chemical warfare complex." Taken in isolation, that sentence suggests what I think is an important causal relationship. Taken in the context of a book that spends many pages offering other explanations for Obama's decision, that one sentence seems to be simply stating two unrelated incidents in chronological order.

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