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Culture and Society
By David Swanson, teleSUR
Super Bowl 50 will be the first National Football League championship to happen since it was reported that much of the pro-military hoopla at football games, the honoring of troops and glorifying of wars that most people had assumed was voluntary or part of a marketing scheme for the NFL, has actually been a money-making scheme for the NFL. The U.S. military has been dumping millions of our dollars, part of a recruitment and advertising budget that's in the billions, into paying the NFL to publicly display love for soldiers and weaponry.
Of course, the NFL may in fact really truly love the military, just as it may love the singers it permits to sing at the Super Bowl halftime show, but it makes them pay for the privilege too. And why shouldn't the military pay the football league to hype its heroism? It pays damn near everybody else. At $2.8 billion a year on recruiting some 240,000 "volunteers," that's roughly $11,600 per recruit. That's not, of course, the trillion with a T kind of spending it takes to run the military for a year; that's just the spending to gently persuade each "volunteer" to join up. The biggest military "service" ad buyer in the sports world is the National Guard. The ads often depict humanitarian rescue missions. Recruiters often tell tall tales of "non-deployment" positions followed by free college. But it seems to me that the $11,600 would have gone a long way toward paying for a year in college! And, in fact, people who have that money for college are far less likely to be recruited.
Despite showing zero interest in signing up for wars, and despite the permanent presence of wars to sign up for, 44 percent of U.S. Americans tell the Gallup polling company that they "would" fight in a war, yet don't. That's at least 100 million new recruits. Luckily for them and the world, telling a pollster something doesn't require follow through, but it might suggest why football fans tolerate and even celebrate military national anthems and troop-hyping hoopla at every turn. They think of themselves as willing warriors who just happen to be too busy at the moment. As they identify with their NFL team, making remarks such as "We just scored," while firmly seated on their most precious assets, football fans also identify with their team on the imagined battlefield of war.
The NFL website says: "For decades the NFL and the military have had a close relationship at the Super Bowl, the most watched program year-to-year throughout the United States. In front of more than 160 million viewers, the NFL salutes the military with a unique array of in-game celebrations including the presentation of colors, on-field guests, pre-game ceremonies and stadium flyovers. During Super Bowl XLIX week [last year], the Pat Tillman Foundation and the Wounded Warriors Project invited veterans to attend the Salute to Service: Officiating 101 Clinic at NFL Experience Engineered by GMC [double payment? ka-ching!] in Arizona. ..."
Pat Tillman, still promoted on the NFL website, and eponym of the Pat Tillman Foundation, is of course the one NFL player who gave up a giant football contract to join the military. What the Foundation won't tell you is that Tillman, as is quite common, ceased believing what the ads and recruiters had told him. On September 25, 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Tillman had become critical of the Iraq war and had scheduled a meeting with the prominent war critic Noam Chomsky to take place when he returned from Afghanistan, all information that Tillman's mother and Chomsky later confirmed. Tillman couldn't confirm it because he had died in Afghanistan in 2004 from three bullets to the forehead at short range, bullets shot by an American. The White House and the military knew Tillman had died from so-called friendly fire, but they falsely told the media he'd died in a hostile exchange. Senior Army commanders knew the facts and yet approved awarding Tillman a Silver Star, a Purple Heart, and a posthumous promotion, all based on his having died fighting the "enemy." Clearly the military wants a connection to football and is willing to lie as well as to pay for it. The Pat Tillman Foundation mis-uses a dead man's name to play on and prey on the mutual interest of football and the military in being connected to each other.
Those on whom the military's advertising succeeds will not typically die from friendly fire. Nor will they die from enemy fire. The number one killer of members of the U.S. military, reported yet again for another year this week, is suicide. And that's not even counting later suicides by veterans. Every TV pundit and presidential debate moderator, and perhaps even a Super Bowl 50 announcer or two, tends to talk about the military's answer for ISIS. What is its answer for people being stupidly ordered into such horrific hell that they won't want to live anymore?
It's in the ads
At least as big a focus of the Super Bowl as the game itself is the advertising. One particularly disturbing ad planned for Super Bowl 50 is an ad for a war video game. The U.S. military has long funded war video games and viewed them as recruiting tools. In this ad Arnold Schwarzenegger shows what fun it is to shoot people and blow up buildings on the game, while outside of the game people are tackling him more or less as in a football game. Nothing here is remotely warlike in a realistic sense. For that I recommend playing with PTSD Action Man instead. But it does advance the equation of sport with war -- something both the NFL and the military clearly desire.
An ad last year from Northrop Grumman, which has its own "Military Bowl," was no less disturbing. Two years ago an ad that appeared to be for the military until the final seconds turned out to be for Jeeps. There was another ad that year for Budweiser beer with which one commentator found legal concerns:
"First, there's a violation of the military's ethics regulations, which explicitly state that Department of Defense personnel cannot 'suggest official endorsement or preferential treatment' of any 'non-Federal entity, event, product, service, or enterprise. ... Under this regulation, the Army cannot legally endorse Budweiser, nor allow its active-duty personnel to participate in their ads (let alone wear their uniforms), any more than the Army can endorse Gatorade or Nike."
Two serious issues with this. One: the military routinely endorses and promotes the NFL. Two: despite my deep-seated opposition to the very existence of an institution of mass murder, and my clear understanding of what it wants out of advertisements (whether by itself or by a car or beer company), I can't help getting sucked into the emotion. The technique of this sort of propaganda (here's another ad) is very high level. The rising music. The facial expressions. The gestures. The build up of tension. The outpouring of simulated love. You'd have to be a monster not to fall for this poison. And it permeates the world of millions of wonderful young people who deserve better.
It's in the stadium
If you get past the commercials, there's the problem of the stadium for Super Bowl 50, unlike most stadiums for most sports events, being conspicuously "protected" by the military and militarized police, including with military helicopters and jets that will shoot down any drones and "intercept" any planes. Ruining the pretense that this is actually for the purpose of protecting anyone, military jets will show off by flying over the stadium, as in past years, when they have even done it over stadiums covered by domes.
The idea that there is anything questionable about coating a sporting event in military promotion is the furthest thing from the minds of most viewers of the Super Bowl. That the military's purpose is to kill and destroy, that it's recent major wars have eventually been opposed as bad decisions from the start by a majority of Americans, just doesn't enter into it. On the contrary, the military publicly questions whether it should be associating with a sports league whose players hit their wives and girlfriends too much.
My point is not that assault is acceptable, but that murder isn't. The progressive view of the Super Bowl in the United States will question the racism directed at a black quarterback, the concussions of a violent sport that damages the brains of too many of its players (and perhaps even the recruitment of new players from the far reaches of the empire to take their place), sexist treatment of cheerleaders or women in commercials, and perhaps even the disgusting materialism of some of the commercials. But not the militarism. The announcers will thank "the troops" for watching from "over 175 countries" and nobody will pause, set down their beer and dead animal flesh and ask whether 174 countries might not be enough to have U.S. troops in right now.
The idea that the Super Bowl promotes is that war is more or less like football, only better. I was happy to help get a TV show canceled that turned war into a reality game. There is still some resistance to that idea that can be tapped in the U.S. public. But I suspect it is eroding.
The NFL doesn't just want the military's (our) money. It wants the patriotism, the nationalism, the fervent blind loyalty, the unthinking passion, the personal identification, a love for the players to match love of troops -- and with similar willingness to throw them under a bus.
The military doesn't just want the sheer numbers of viewers attracted to the Super Bowl. It wants wars imagined as sporting events between teams, rather than horrific crimes perpetrated on people in their homes and villages. It wants us thinking of Afghanistan not as a 15-year disaster, murder-spree, and counter-productive SNAFU, but as a competition gone into double quadruple overtime despite the visiting team being down 84 points and attempting an impossible comeback. The military wants chants of "USA!" that fill a stadium. It wants role models and heroes and local connections to potential recruits. It wants kids who can't make it to the pros in football or another sport to think they've got the inside track to something even better and more meaningful.
I really wish they did.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new war in Libya, more war in Syria, permanent war in Afghanistan, climate change crashing over the cliff -- these and other immediate disasters are pursued with one hand, while the magician's other hand distracts us with caucuses, primaries, and super bowls. Remember when insiders said the TPP would die the moment it was made public? Well, what if it was made public during an election season? Bread and circuses, even in Rome, weren't designed to make the people happy but to keep them pacified while all the real energy and treasure went into destroying Carthage and filling the vomitoria of the oligarchs. And it's easier for a good team to make it into the super bowl than for a truly good candidate to make it into corporate election reporting. I deny none of that. And yet ...
The 2015-2016 presidential election has, by some measures, already accomplished more than all the previous elections in my lifetime put together. And it's scaring some of the right people.
If you had claimed in 1969 that it would be possible for presidential candidates in the United States to reject religion before they could reject permanent worldwide military empire, you'd have been laughed right out of the Age of Aquarius.
If you'd prognosticated in 1999 that an independent socialist focused like a laser beam on taxing billionaires and busting up some of their most profitable scams (not to mention taxing many of the rest of us) could grab the lead in a Democratic primary campaign against a Clinton with no intern scandals, you'd have been triangulated right out of your career as you knew it.
And if you'd predicted in 2014 that a candidate virtually ignored by the consolidated corporate media, as consolidated under the Clinton Telecom Act, would surge in the polls, you'd have garnered as much respect as those guys in The Big Short did when they claimed to know more than the high priests of Wall Street.
Bernie Sanders, for all of his dramatic shortcomings, is a phenomenon created by a perfect storm of institutional failure -- by Hillary Clinton's coronation constructed of cards just waiting for someone to suggest that millions of outraged winds breathe on it. Sanders is 6 years older and generations more advanced than his Democratic Party rival.
God Is Dead
"What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?" --Friedrich Nietzsche
Sanders' website calls him "secular" and "not particularly religious." His answers to a religion question during a CNN "town hall" this week were typical. A member of the audience asked about religion and race, and Sanders answered only about race. Then the moderator asked again about religion. And this was Sanders' answer, I swear to ... -- well, I just swear:
"It's a guiding principle in my life. Absolutely it is. You know, everybody practices religion in a different way. To me, I would not be here tonight, I would not be running for president of the United States if I did not have very strong religious and spiritual feelings. I believe that, as a human being, the pain that one person feels, if we have children that are hungry in America, if we have elderly people who can't afford their prescription drugs, you know what? That impacts you, that impacts me, and I worry very much about a society where some people spiritually say, 'It doesn't matter to me. I got it. I don't care about other people.' So, my spirituality is that we are all in this together, and that when children go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, it impacts me. That is my very strong spiritual feeling."
It's also my very strong non-spiritual feeling. But that was a typical Bernie answer, one he's given many times, typical even in its focus on only 4% of humanity and on only a particular type of homeless people. Some states, by the way, are making huge strides toward ending the shame of homelessness for veterans, so that soon all homeless people in the United States may be people who have never been part of a mass-murder operation. I point this out not to oppose it. Better more people with homes, no matter how it's done! And I point it out not to quibble with Sanders' statement of generosity and humanism, but to suggest that part of how Sanders slipped a completely irreligious answer past an audience that asked a religious question is that Sanders identified himself with the true U.S. religion, the religion that will be front and center and in the jet noise overhead at the super bowl -- the religion of war, the religion of national exceptionalism. Who can forget Ron Paul being booed in a primary debate for applying the golden rule to non-Americans?
When Sanders is asked explicitly if he "believes in God," he also answers, "What my spirituality is about is that we're all in this together." Exactly what my non-spirituality is about. I think it's safe to assume he'll never be asked if he believes in death (which television sponsors would be pleased by that topic?), so "God" is the question he'll get, and he won't be required to answer it. New Hampshire is the least religious state in the country, but the country as a whole has also moved against religion and even more so against "organized religion." Some of us always preferred the organized part (the community, the music, etc.) to the religion, but the larger trend here is a rejection of elite institutions telling us how to run our lives while demonstrably running the world into the ground. And who has more to answer for in that regard than God?
Rejecting organized religion while proclaiming an individual "spirituality" may be all that is needed, and that is tremendous news. That Sanders has done this while professing an ideology of generosity and solidarity, and winning applause for that, is even better news. Studies find that lack of religion can correlate with greater generosity, as certainly seems to be the case with the Scandinavian societies Sanders points to as models. (Seventeen percent of Swedes, as compared to 65% of U.S. Americans, say religion is "important".)
A majority in the United States say they wouldn't vote for an atheist, but for many atheism, like gender, race, sexual preference, and other identifiers is now a matter of self-identification. Someone must choose to call themselves an atheist. Just having no use for theism doesn't qualify them. The media also seems to have no direct interest in attacking candidates on religion. Nobody pays them to do that. And it doesn't show a lot of potential as a weapon. Donald Trump is seen as the least religious candidate in the field, and some of the most religious voters say they support him and just don't care. In addition, Sanders is a supporter of religious freedom, tolerance, and even tax exemptions. He doesn't fit the mold of the bigoted atheist who finds Islam dangerously more religious than Christianity. The media is also no big fan of Ted Cruz, who's on a Dubya-like mission from God. All of these factors seem to have made it possible to run for president of the United States on a platform of pure enlightenment humanism. I didn't think I'd live to see that.
Most Dangerous Man on Wall Street
Hillary Clinton friend and funder and CEO of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein seems to view Bernie Sanders as President Richard Nixon characterized Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, and as President Barack Obama seems to view WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning, as the most dangerous person in the United States. Sanders' sin, in Blankfein's view, is failure to worship the almighty dollar.
Blankfein is fully aware that his endorsing a candidate would hurt that candidate, but seems not to have thought through the possibility that opposing a candidate might help them. Reportedly, Blankfein suggested this week that "Sanders' attacks on the 'billionaire class' and bankers could be dangerous. 'It has the potential to personalize it, it has the potential to be a dangerous moment. Not just for Wall Street not just for the people who are particularly targeted but for anybody who is a little bit out of line,' Blankfein said."
It sounds like the 1% has a case of 99% envy. Misery loves company, but fear demands it. Think about what Blankfein is claiming. One of the two Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton, who has long said explicitly that the Democratic Party should represent banks, has taken $675,000 (or about $5,000 per minute) to give three speeches to Blankfein's company, in which she reportedly reassured them they had nothing to worry about (despite widely known crimes that wrecked the economy of the United States and other nations). Public demands to even see what Clinton told Goldman Sachs have thus far gone unanswered and unechoed in the media, except by Ralph Nader. On Clinton Blankfein has no comment and sees nothing unusual. This is normal, standard, and unquestionable behavior.
But Bernie Sanders proposes to enforce laws, laws against financial trickery, laws against cheating on taxes, laws against monopolization, laws against market manipulation, and new taxes on unearned wealth. Well, this is unacceptable and in fact "dangerous"! It's extreme madness is what it is, according to Blankfein, who depicts Sanders' position as fanatical: "It's a liability to say I'm going to compromise, I'm going to get one millimeter off the extreme position I have and if you do you have to back track and swear to people that you'll never compromise. It's just incredible. It's a moment in history." That it is.
Here's how Bill Clinton reportedly viewed popular resentment of bankers in 2014: "You could take Lloyd Blankfein into a dark alley and slit his throat, and it would satisfy them for about two days. Then the blood lust would rise again." Of course, nobody had proposed killing bankers. Many had proposed enforcing laws. But that's how bankers view such a proposal, through the lens of fear. They are probably not alone. Sanders is proposing to end fracking and various other disastrous industries, while investing in new ones. He promises to block the TPP, which Clinton -- long a big supporter of it -- merely claims to "oppose" without committing to actually prevent. Sanders wants to tax the very wealthiest, including the 20 individuals who own as much as half the country. He wants to break up monopolies, including on Wall Street, and perhaps in the media -- which is already clearly shaken by the fact that he's advanced in the polls without them.
Health insurance executives can't be feeling too much better than banksters, unless they're wise enough to see the bigger picture. I waited on hold for 30 minutes this week to try to fix the latest SNAFU with my Obamacare, and then a really helpful woman answered who promised she'd fix it. I asked her if she could also back Bernie Sanders to put an end to the industry she worked for. She said yes, indeed.
The wiser minds in the plutocracy should follow that example. Nobody's out to hurt you, only to help you share your hoarded loot with those who worked for it. Your life will be different, but not necessarily worse. It might even be happier.
The more hopelessly greedy minds in much of the U.S. plutocracy, right about now, will start wishing they'd been prescient enough to go into weapons making and war profiteering, that sacred realm that Sanders' spirituality dares not threaten.
U.S. schools provide a great deal of useful information, but also leave out a great deal. Please see whether you can answer the following questions before scrolling down and clicking a link at the bottom for the answers. How many can your kids answer? Can your kids' teachers answer them? Can your parents answer them? Can your uncle who tells you whom to vote for and what to think answer them?
These questions are not intended to comprise an ideal comprehensive course in U.S. or world history. They are intended as a quick sampling of the sort of material that would be included, along with other material, in a basic education that wasn't twisted by the interests of the U.S. government. There might be many questions I would have chosen to include in the place of some of these if I knew more. I was educated in public schools in Fairfax Country, Va., where the schools were ranked among the best in the country. I have a Master's in philosophy from the University of Virginia. I didn't learn the answer to a single one of these questions in any school.
If you can give a generally accurate response to most of these questions, you have almost certainly gone out of your way to learn things not taught in U.S. schools. If you find most of them difficult to answer, I would urge you not to quickly conclude that this is because the topics asked about are of minor importance. Please consider with an open mind whether these questions are not in fact central and vital to the education of a citizen of the United States. And please consider how they relate to what you would expect people in other countries to learn about their own histories.
1. Should German schools teach how many people Germany killed in World War II?
2. How many was it?
3. Should U.S. schools teach how many people the United States killed in wars on Native Americans, in the Philippines, in Vietnam, or in Iraq?
4. How many was it?
5. How many Africans were put on ships to the United States in chains?
6. How many made it there alive?
7. How many people lived enslaved in the United States before slavery was officially ended?
8. How many after that?
9. Who was Olaudah Equiano?
10. What percentage of deaths in wars of the past half-century have been civilian?
11. How many people has the United States killed in wars, large and small, since 1950?
12. How many democratic governments has the U.S. government overthrown?
13. If you persistently asked for money for a trip, finally got some, went on the trip to a foreign country, and then murdered anyone you met there who failed to give you lots of gold, would a good teacher praise your persistence in asking for the money for the trip?
14. Would they praise Christopher Columbus' persistence?
15. Can you name some Virginians who chose to free everyone they had enslaved while Thomas Jefferson was enslaving more people?
16. What is the appropriate justification for Jefferson enslaving people?
17. What percentage of people in the world are in the United States?
18. What percentage of prisoners in the world are in the United States?
19. What percentage of military spending in the world is by the U.S. government?
20. What percentage is by the U.S. government and its close allies?
21. What percentage of foreign military troops stationed in nations around the world are U.S. troops?
22. What percentage of the world's nations have U.S. troops in them?
23. In what nations of the world do people have the longest life expectancy? Name 3 of the top 10.
24. What nations of the world poll highest for happiness? Name 3 of the top 10.
25. What nations of the world have the highest inequality of wealth? Name 3 of the top 10.
26. What nations of the world have the greatest economic opportunity and mobility? Name 3 of the top 10.
27. What nations' students score highest in academic tests? Name 3 of the top 10.
28. How many of the world's 50 wealthiest nations provide free and universal health coverage?
29. Which countries provide the best retirement security? Name 3 of the top 10.
30. How much does it cost to attend college in Brazil, Germany, Finland, France, Norway, Slovenia, and Sweden?
31. In which nations do people average the shortest working hours? Name 3 of the top 10.
32. How many wealthy nations guarantee no paid parental leave?
33. Which nations have the highest labor union representation? Name 3 of the top 10.
34. In which nations of the world does one face the lowest risk of violent crime? Name 3 of the top 10.
35. Approximately how much money does the U.S. government spend every year?
36. Where does that money come from?
37. How much of that money is in dedicated permanent funds separate from the rest of the budget or otherwise mandatory, and how much is subject to the discretion of the Congress?
38. What percentage of discretionary spending is for war preparations?
39. What percentage is for foreign aid, education, or environmental protection?
40. What is the correlation between Congress members' actions and their sources of funding?
41. What is the correlation between greatest campaign funding and electoral victory?
42. What is the success rate in Congressional reelection campaigns by incumbents?
43. Does the U.S. government subsidize fossil fuels?
44. Does the U.S. government subsidize nuclear energy?
45. How many private insurance companies insure nuclear power plants?
46. Is the United States a democracy, republic, communist collective, dictatorship, or oligarchy?
47. Which nations are the world's top weapons exporters?
48. Name at least three recent wars in which weapons from the same nation were used on both sides.
49. Explain, by comparison to Canada, how the United States benefitted from its revolution against England.
50. How did the U.S. revolution benefit Native Americans, farmers, enslaved people, and women?
51. Were there more or fewer popular rebellions in the United States after the revolution?
52. What nation did Congress members predict would welcome invaders as liberators in 1812?
53. Did it?
54. What nation did the United States steal the northern half of in the 1840s through a bloody war despite that nation's willingness to negotiate a nonviolent sale of the land?
55. What was the one condition the United States insisted on in acquiring that land?
56. What President lied to start that war?
57. What Congressman denounced his lies?
58. What hero of that war and future president denounced the war as an immoral outrage?
59. What percentage of nations that abolished slavery fought civil wars before doing so?
60. Why did Mississippi say it was seceding from the United States?
61. How was slavery ended in Washington DC?
62. How many years since 1776 has the United States gone without any wars?
63. What evidence was there that Spain blew up the Maine?
64. What did Spain propose instead of the Spanish-American war?
65. Name three reasons President McKinley gave for occupying the Philippines.
66. Name three good reasons for World War I.
67. What was the general theme of the most common lies of the Four-Minute Men?
68. What was the Lusitania carrying on its fateful voyage, and what advertisement had Germany placed in U.S. newspapers prior to its sailing?
69. What U.S. Secretary of State resigned over President Woodrow Wilson's position regarding the Lusitania?
70. What were the Greer and the Kerney and which U.S. President lied about them?
71. Is the Monroe Doctrine popular in Latin America?
72. What U.S. President encouraged Japanese imperialism, promising them a Monroe Doctrine for Asia?
73. Name one or more observers who predicted at the time of the Treaty of Versailles that it would lead to World War II. Why did they say that?
74. Would a stalemate in World War I, rather than a lopsided victory, have led to the same future?
75. How many right-wing coups were seriously planned against President Franklin Roosevelt?
76. Who was Smedley Butler and what did he conclude about the institution of war?
77. Why was Butler locked up in Quantico?
78. What U.S. whistleblower was later locked up in Quantico and kept naked in a tiny cell?
79. What had she exposed?
80. During the 1930s and early 1940s U.S. peace activists held demonstrations against growing U.S. hostility and war preparations against what nation?
81. Prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, what did Winston Churchill tell his cabinet that President Franklin Roosevelt had promised to do in order to bring the United States into the war in Europe?
82. What did FDR use a forged Nazi map to lie to the U.S. public about, and who forged the map?
83. What was the Ludlow Amendment?
84. Prior to Pearl Harbor, in the diary of the U.S. Secretary of War, when did he say FDR expected a Japanese attack?
85. Did the United States begin supporting China in its war against Japanese aggression before or after Pearl Harbor?
86. What was President Roosevelt's approach to Jewish refugees?
87. What percentage of World War II propaganda posters in the United States included mention of the need to rescue Jews?
88. Why did the New York Times downplay the story of the holocaust?
89. Why did Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin say she voted against U.S. entry into World War II?
90. During the rise of Nazism, did Wall Street investment in Germany decrease, stay the same, or increase?
91. How many people died in World War II?
92. What percentage of them died in German concentration camps?
93. Who said "If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don't want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances. Neither of them thinks anything of their pledged word"?
94. What future director of the CIA rescued numerous top Nazis from prosecution and employed some of them for the United States?
95. How many former Nazis were employed by the U.S. military in Operation Paperclip?
96. What U.S. space agency's first director was a former Nazi who had employed slave labor?
97. Who remarked in 1937, "I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place"?
98. Within hours of Germany's surrender in World War II, Winston Churchill proposed a new war using what troops against what nation?
99. When did Japan first express willingness to surrender on the terms that actually ended World War II, before or after the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
100. When President Truman announced the bombing of Hiroshima what did he lie that Hiroshima was?
101. What nations of the world have nuclear weapons, and how many do they have?
102. What nations have official policies of potentially using nuclear weapons first?
103. What does the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty require nations with nuclear weapons to do?
104. How has Iran violated that treaty?
105. What do the Gulf of Tonkin Incident and a virgin birth have in common?
106. What was Operation Northwoods?
107. Who was Mohammad Mossadegh?
108. What nation proposed to abandon its nuclear energy program in 2003 until the U.S. dismissed the proposal?
109. What nation proposed peace negotiations before the Korean War?
110. What nation tried to spread bubonic plague in North Korea?
111. What U.S. presidential candidate secretly sabotaged peace talks for Vietnam?
112. Did the United States begin arming Islamic radicals in Afghanistan, who would develop into al Qaeda, before or after the Soviet invasion?
113. During the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan that began in 2001, what were the primary sources of funding for the other, or Taliban, side of the war?
114. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, whom did the Taliban offer to turn over to a neutral country to have put on trial?
115. How large has the al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan been during the war that began in 2001?
116. How large was the al Qaeda presence in Iraq prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion?
117. Has international terrorism decreased, stayed the same, or increased during the Global War on Terrorism?
118. The U.S. government originally announced that a mission to kill or capture Osama bin Laden had succeeded despite his armed resistance. What did numerous people involved in that mission later change about that story?
119. When Germany reunited and the Cold War ended, what promise did the United States make to Russia regarding NATO expansion?
120. Was the promise kept?
121. What nation's army in 1990 took babies out of incubators and left them on the floor to die?
122. Prior to the Persian Gulf War, what nation offered to peacefully withdraw from Kuwait?
123. Prior to September 11, 2001, what did a CIA memo warn President George W. Bush might happen?
124. What nation was behind anthrax attacks in 2001 in the United States?
125. Who in January 2003 proposed that a means of starting a war on Iraq would be to paint an airplane with United Nations colors and fly it low over Iraq until it was shot at?
126. What portion of the nation of Iraq did the Iraqi government offer to let U.S. troops search prior to the 2003 U.S. attack?
127. In 2003, how quickly did Iraq promise to hold internationally monitored elections if it were not attacked?
128. Who offered to leave Iraq in 2003 if he could keep $1 billion and if Iraq would not be attacked?
129. Whose 2003 testimony at the United Nations in favor of attacking Iraq included fabricated dialogue from supposedly wiretapped conversations and numerous claims that his own staff had warned him would not even seem plausible?
130. What war's aftermath gave birth to a new al Qaeda spin-off called ISIS or ISIL or Islamic State or Daesh?
131. Where did ISIS get most of its weapons?
132. What have been top sources of ISIS funding?
133. What did ISIS ask the U.S. to do in order to boost its recruiting?
134. Did the U.S. do it?
135. Did it boost ISIS recruiting?
136. Did the U.S. drone war on Yemen replace a worse form of war or help create one?
137. Who supplied Saudi Arabia with its weapons for its 2015 war on Yemen?
138. Does the U.S. know the names of most of the people it targets with missiles from drones?
139. Does the U.S. target with drones only people it cannot arrest and put on trial?
140. Name three former top U.S. officials who have warned that drone wars produce more enemies than they kill.
141. Name three current or former top U.S. officials who maintain that every nation must have equal and identical rights in the use of drones.
142. Which nations did former NATO commander Wesley Clark say the Pentagon wanted to overthrow in 2003, and which nations did former Prime Minister of the U.K. Tony Blair say that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney wanted to overthrow at the same time? What has happened to those nations?
143. In which nations of the world do the highest percentages of people say they would go to war for their nation?
144. In which nations of the world are the highest percentages of the people religious?
145. What percentage of human beings who have ever lived, and of human societies that have ever existed, have experienced or participated in war?
146. In which nations of the world are children regularly told to pledge allegiance to a flag?
147. If you read that peace activists many years before your birth helped to end a war or halt the production of a weapon, would a good teacher expect you to write about that activism in the first person, using the word "we"?
148. If you read about the United States invading a Central American nation before your birth, would a good teacher allow you to write about it in the first person, using the word "we"?
149. Which nations of the world have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child? Why haven't they?
150. Which major military nations have not joined the International Criminal Court, or the treaties banning land mines, cluster bombs, racial discrimination, discrimination against women, or weapons in space, or those establishing rights of migrant workers, regulating the arms trade, providing protection from disappearances, defending the rights of people with disabilities, or the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, or the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?
151. Which nation has used the power of its veto at the United Nations most frequently and for what purpose?
152. How many people were killed or driven out of their homes during the 1948 creation of Israel?
153. Who was the last president to propose abolishing the CIA?
154. What president created the CIA and came to regret it?
155. What was the Safari Club?
156. Which article of the U.S. Constitution sanctions secret agencies?
157. How does war preparation and weapons testing benefit human and environmental health?
158. Have more U.S. citizens been killed by working on nuclear weapons, fighting in wars, being victimized by foreign terrorists, or by domestic gun violence, or smoking cigarettes? What are the numbers?
159. How many U.S. wars has the U.S. Institute for Peace opposed since its creation?
160. What do the people of Diego Garcia, Koho'alawe, the Aleutian Islands, Bikini Atoll, Kwajalein Atoll, Culebra, Vieques, Okinawa, Thule, the Aetas, the Cherokee, and most native peoples of the United States have in common?
161. What percentage of U.S. wars are marketed as promoting freedom?
162. During what percentage of U.S. wars are civil liberties in the United States curtailed?
163. How many average Europeans, Asians, Africans, or Latin Americans would it take to damage the natural environment as much as the average person in the United States?
164. What single institution creates the most environmental destruction?
165. How did women in the United States and around the world vote themselves the right to vote?
166. What did it take to win children's rights in the United States?
167. What is the Vietnam Syndrome?
168. What were the most successful tactics of the Civil Rights movement?
169. How many corporations control most major U.S. media outlets?
170. How was Apartheid officially ended in South Africa?
171. What happened on Rosenstrasse?
172. Which have succeeded more often and with longer lasting successes in struggles against tyranny during the past 100 years, violent or nonviolent revolutions?
173. Who were the Wobblies?
174. What was the Prague Spring?
175. Who was A.J. Muste?
176. What percentage of prisoners ever kept in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo had been convicted of terrorism?
177. What three interlocking evils did Martin Luther King Jr. say needed to be ended?
178. When did the people of Hawaii vote to join the United States?
179. Why did the United States bomb West Virginia?
180. Why did the United States drop nuclear bombs on North Carolina?
181. Why did the British end the occupation of India?
182. Who was Abdul Ghaffar Khan?
183. When was the damage from Agent Orange finally cleaned up in Vietnam?
184. How did Norwegian teachers have to teach under Nazi occupation?
185. Which nations resisted Nazi orders to kill Jews most successfully?
186. Why did duelling end?
187. Why did Marcos' rule of the Philippines end?
188. Who kidnapped the President of Haiti in 2004?
189. Who was Claudette Colvin?
190. What was the income tax created to pay for?
191. How did the United States prevent the Three Mile Island accident from killing anyone?
192. Did more U.S. troops die in Vietnam or from suicide after returning home?
193. What is the leading cause of death for U.S. troops sent to U.S. wars in recent years?
194. Why did Congresswoman Barbara Lee say she was voting against the Global War on Terrorism in 2001?
195. Who did the U.S. attack with chemical weapons in 1932?
196. How did a ban on war get into the Japanese Constitution and who has been trying to remove it ever since?
197. Who assassinated the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi in 1994?
198. Who killed Paul Robeson, Ernest Hemingway, and John Wayne?
199. How do U.S. gun laws reduce gun violence better than Australia's?
200. Who overthrew the government of Honduras in 2009?
201. How many people were killed in the recent Russian military invasion of Ukraine?
202. Why do the people of Okinawa so strongly support the presence of U.S. military bases on their island?
203. What was the anti-imperialist league?
204. What was the outlawry movement?
205. What law was General Custer enforcing when he died?
206. Who urged all scientists to refuse any military work in 1931?
207. Who was Garry Davis?
208. Who was Jane Addams?
209. What was the New England Non-Resistance Society?
210. What ended friendly relations between Eisenhower and Khrushchev?
211. When did Armistice Day become Veterans Day and why?
212. What was the Iran-Contra scandal?
213. What is the Kellogg-Briand Pact?
214. Which recent wars have complied with the Kellogg-Briand Pact?
215. Which recent wars have complied with the United Nations Charter?
216. Which recent wars have complied with the separation of powers stipulated in the U.S. Constitution?
217. If the U.S. Supreme Court had allowed the state of Florida to count all its votes in 2000, who would have become president of the United States in 2001?
218. What thwarted efforts by the African Union to negotiate peace in Libya in 2011?
219. Who proposed a peace process for Syria in 2012 that would have included a change of government?
220. Who dismissed it out of hand?
221. What did the U.S. military / White House plan for Syria in 2013 before being blocked by public, international, and Congressional pressure?
222. When the CIA produced a report in 2013 on past successes of arming local proxy armies, what was missing from the report?
223. Which nations still use the death penalty?
224. In how many nations in history have the majority of rape victims been male?
225. How many unarmed people do U.S. police kill each year?
226. Which stages of the criminal justice process in the United States are racially biased?
227. How much wealth do the average white, black, and Latino households have in the U.S.?
228. What percentage of U.S. military spending could end starvation on earth?
229. What percentage could provide the world with clean drinking water?
230. What percentage could double U.S. investment in clean energy?
231. Is clean coal clean?
232. Is natural gas natural?
233. Is safe nuclear power safe?
234. Which nations are getting the highest percentage of their energy from sustainable sources?
235. Which nation did people in the most countries around the world view as the greatest threat to peace on earth in a 2013 Gallup poll?
236. Is terrorism among the top 100 causes of death in the United States?
237. What are 10 of them?
238. Does domestic terrorism in the United States kill more or fewer people than foreign terrorism?
239. What percentage of foreign terrorists in the United States provide a clear explanation of their motives?
240. What do they say?
Click here for the answers only after trying to answer the questions to the best of your ability.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for . Swanson's books include . The updated second edition of that book will be published April 5, 2016, by Just World Books. He blogs at and . He hosts . He is a .
1. Should German schools teach how many people Germany killed in World War II?
Yes, of course, they should. This is the one question that pretty much everyone should get right.
2. How many was it?
World War II, including war-related diseases and famines, killed some 80 million people. Excluding some 30 million killed in Asia brings the total down to 50 million. Excluding some 6 million Germans and Austrians and a half million Italians as having been killed by the Allies (though of course also by their own governments) brings the total down to 43-and-a-half million. Of those, some 30 million were killed as civilians or soldiers in the course of the war, including from war-related diseases and famines -- the majority of them from the Soviet Union. The other 13 million were killed in German camps, including 6 million Jews, 3 million Soviet prisoners of war, 2 million Soviet civilians, 1 million Polish civilians, 1 million Yugoslav civilians, 200,000 gypsies, and thousands of political prisoners, homosexuals, and people with mental or physical disabilities.
According to a new analysis by Vice News, the University of Virginia is the 19th most militarized university in the United States. Vice News lists the top 100 in order, based on "the greatest number of students who are employed by the Intelligence Community (IC), have the closest relationships with the national security state, and profit the most from American war-waging." Vice provides a detailed account of its data sources and methodology, which itself reads like a damning critique of academia in a society maintaining an alleged preference for peace over war. An additional report looks at trends and patterns in the results.
According to William M. Arkin and Alexa O’Brien of Vice News:
"The prestigious University of Virginia is a lawyer's paradise, feeding counsels to government agencies from the military to the CIA. The school has a National Criminal Justice Command College program, and graduates a fair share of Top Secret special agents, half of them working for the FBI. The largest portion of its graduates with Top Secret clearances, however, come from its school of continuing and professional studies, which teaches cybersecurity, human resources, "procurement," and project management. If UVA's Top Secret graduates aren't working in the federal government, then they're working for a large [military] contractor. UVA faculty have also participated in the IARPA STONESOUP program to develop a technology that securely executes software of uncertain provenance."
UVA makes rank #17, in fact, for "Top Secret Employment," while it's only #30 for "National Security Funding." It receives a whopping $27,426,000 in "DOD Research and Development Funding." UVA conducts classified research inside its campus with its Jefferson quotes about free speech and flow of information.
"This institution [University of Virginia] will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."
Hard to tolerate or reason your way out of plans and justifications for killing that are kept secret.
UVA works with "National Intelligence," the NSA, and the Homeland "Security" Department. It also has a military ROTC program, as one can observe by visiting the campus around which killers-in-training jog chanting military chants.
UVA finds itself in the area of the country whose academia (and many other things) are most militarized. Nearby schools on the list include:
#1 University of Maryland
#2 American Military University
#4 George Washington University
#5 George Mason University
#7 Johns Hopkins University
#8 Strayer University
#10 Georgetown University
#16 Northern Virginia Community College
#17 Virginia Tech
#19 University of Virginia
#20 American University
In third place is the online "University of Phoenix." That may change. This came out last month:
"The Department of Defense said today that it would suspend the University of Phoenix from its tuition assistance programs and bar school officials from recruiting at military facilities, including job fairs, after revelations of improper recruiting and marketing practices by the for-profit school."
The above list of shame should trouble every UVA alumnus and every resident of Charlottesville, Virginia.
Rarely does this atheist quote the Pope, but here's one from his speech to Congress in September:
"Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade."
Andrew Bard Schmookler's new book is called What We're Up Against: The Destructive Force at Work in Our World -- And How We Can Defeat It. I'll spare you some suspense; the evil force he has in mind is the Republican Party. Here's a video of a speech the author gave when he was running for Congress as a Democrat in a district gerrymandered Republican. As in the book, Schmookler calls out Republicans in the speech as promoting an unprecedented evil force in U.S. culture.
He has in mind wars, torture, environmental destruction, racism, sexism, promotion of plutocracy, defense of gun proliferation, widespread dishonesty, and the valuing of partisanship above all else. Republican cap-and-trade is denounced by Republicans as socialism. Corporate healthcare schemes developed by Republicans are attacked as death panels, once they're advanced by a Democrat.
Schmookler traces the problem to the joining of racism and corporatism in a single political party since the civil rights movement, to the growth of corporatism, and to the ability of affluent people working short hours to get into trouble. I find the last point unconvincing, as so many countries have greater economic security, shorter working hours, and less crazed rightwing politics than the United States.
In fact, I'm unconvinced by much of the book, including the conflation of general cultural trends with a political party. I don't accept the author's contention that the United States is more important than the rest of the world. I'm not persuaded by his demand for a "war" against the evil Republican force (even as his complaints with Republicans include their having turned politics into a "war" and their having waged actual wars). I find little value in all the mythologizing of the "founding fathers" and past actual wars. As for the endless Good-versus-Evil talk, if it gets some people off their butts I'm fine with it, but I'm more interested in the case for the evil of the Republicans that motivated this book than in the 90% of the book that consists of pondering the nature of "good" and "evil."
Are U.S. politics, culture, and the Republican party more evil than ever before? Or just more passionately partisan? Well, I don't know about ever before. This is a country built on slavery and genocide as mainstream acceptable institutions. But certainly the Republican Party has moved rightward in the past 40 years, and many have said, like Lincoln Chafee in the recent debate, that they didn't leave the party, it left them. Others have stuck with the party and left behind basic standards of decency, integrity, fairness, and toleration.
I give a lot more blame to major media outlets, which get the barest mention by Schmookler. I don't think blaming propagandized people is exactly blaming the victims, and Schmookler does point out that people choose to consume the worst media. But the Republican Party would be nothing without the media, the educational institutions, and the wider cultural trends that overlap with its agenda. Neither would the Democratic Party.
I also think Schmookler misses some major trends that have very little to do with partisanship. One is the planet's destruction as a process that has advanced over the decades and centuries. We haven't become more destructive so much as we have become more numerous and -- even more so -- we're simply living in a time that must face up to many years of past destructive behavior. Similarly, many white Americans have not exactly become more racist, they're simply living in an age in which the demographics of the United States are turning them into a minority -- something their pre-existing racism views as a problem.
Then there's war, which has so permeated our culture that Schmookler praises real and metaphorical wars even while lamenting both real and metaphorical wars. He dislikes torture, not murder. He's upset by Republican wars, but Obama's drone murders don't cause any concern. The toxic impact of war on U.S. culture, including in a rise of mass-shootings, is not considered. We have a country very well trained in despising other groups, through its collective disvaluing of 96% of humanity (something Schmookler promotes in his Introduction). We have racism and violence and the erosion of civil liberties imported from distant U.S. wars, and we're not supposed to see that trend as contributing to current evil?
I think part of the trouble in seeing the evil of militarism is that it's bipartisan. It brings peace and harmony to the halls of Congress. When we imagine that bickering in Washington is a more serious problem than, say, the death of the oceans or the slaughter of Yemeni children, that little item known as military spending that eats up over half of Congressional spending every year, has to be set aside as an exception to the important trend of partisan conflict.
Are Schmookler and the millions who agree with him right that the Republicans are evil, while the Democrats are good but weak? Up to a point perhaps. I think the author's desire for the United States to "lead" the world is part of the problem. I think it's just dumb to claim that U.S. torture programs are unprecedented or a political party in the United States opposing science is unprecedented. I think it's simplistic to claim the Republicans are always wrong and the Democrats always right. What about when partisanship overcomes even militarism and Republicans oppose President Obama's proposed bombing of Syria (in 2013)? I think it's a straw man to argue that the two parties aren't working together in a pretense of opposing each other. Democrats don't pretend to more populist and progressive positions as part of a Republican plot, but in order to please voters (and themselves) while actually serving funders and insiders.
I think the danger, although Schmookler does not intend this, in literally urging us to think like Star Wars movies in terms of good and evil forces, and in claiming that an evil force started the war on Iraq, is that we miss individual agency. Bush started that war. Many helped. Chafee, for example, didn't. If we blame a force we may end up blaming millions of people who call themselves Republicans, many of whom could be talked out of supporting the next war in 30-minutes of television-free conversation.
I think the value in screaming at the top of one's voice for 250 pages that there is a serious goddamned threat, and it isn't coming from Iran or Russia but from the rightwing madness of Washington, D.C., can hardly be overstated. If calls to metaphorical arms to rise up and denounce Good Americanism before it's too late might move you to become active in working for peace, justice, and moral decency, then please read this book.
When the United States is identified as an empire, albeit of a different sort than some others, it's common to point to the fate of ancient Rome or the empires of Britain, Spain, Holland, etc., as a warning to the Pentagon or even to CNN debate moderators.
But a closer analogy to the current United States than ancient Rome, in a certain regard, might be the Vikings. The United States doesn't create colonies in the places it wages war or wields influence. It raids. It pillages. It plunders resources. It manufactures smart phones. It fracks. It sets up isolated settlements, heavily fortified, also known as military bases, embassies, green zones, safe zones, and moderate rebel training camps. It sails for home.
What ever happened to the Vikings anyway?
I'd like to see a survey done on that question. I'm afraid many people would answer that the Vikings died out or got themselves slaughtered or slaughtered each other. That would certainly be an anti-imperial moral for the Viking story. It would also fit with the idea that violence controls people rather than the other way around.
Others might respond that the Vikings mysteriously disappeared, but they actually did nothing of the sort.
Much of what we know about the Vikings comes from literate people in other cultures attacked and raided by the Vikings. Just as people around the world told Gallup in a recent poll that the United States is the greatest threat to peace on earth, people impacted by Viking raids viewed Vikings as warrior beasts. No doubt this produced exaggerations, but there can be no question that the Vikings routinely practiced what we today would call aggressive war or targeted humanitarian regime change, depending on who was paying us to label the acts.
There can also be no question that the Vikings never died out. Current understanding of DNA suggests that a significant percentage of people in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden are descendants of Vikings, as are many people in other parts of Europe and Britain (including over half the older families in Liverpool, for example -- Viking Beatles?!).
Well, if they didn't die out, what happened? Surely, common U.S. wisdom holds that if an evil violent people like, say, the Iranians were to continue to exist, they would continue to launch all the wars they keep launching all over the world. Surely, somewhat better informed opinion holds that the United States wages all the wars it wages because of tragic but unavoidable tendencies buried in our genes. In fact, I'm pretty sure that "Our Genes May Be Violent, But We Can Make a Buck Off That" was once the slogan of Lockheed Martin, or it may have been Raytheon. Surely, if the Vikings were warriors, their descendants must still be warriors.
Annoyingly, the facts are otherwise. The Vikings kept right on living and radically reduced their killing. "The transformation of the Northmen, the 'scourge of Europe,' into the architects of the most peaceful region of Europe, Scandinavia, and the designers of strategies and institutions to replace war is an intriguing story," wrote Elise Boulding. As she tells that story, the Vikings gradually found consensus more useful than conquering, and negotiated trade more profitable than pillaging. They shifted from raiding to building settlements. They adopted some of the more peaceful ideas of Christianity. They began to farm more and sail less.
Other sources expand on this theme. The Vikings had profited by enslaving people where they raided. As the Christian church was established in Scandinavia, it insisted on enslaving only non-Christians, which badly damaged the profitability of European raiding. Viking (or former Viking) violence was redirected into the Crusades against Muslims and Jews. But, make no mistake, the quantity of violence was on a steep downward slope. The peaceful separation of Norway and Sweden in 1905 was a model for other nations that have a hard time accomplishing such feats without wars. The relative resistance of Scandinavia to militarism in recent times, including Sweden's choice not to fully join NATO -- as well as its choice to stay out of the two world wars -- is a model as well.
But the real lesson is that the Vikings stopped being Vikings. And so can we.
Columbus was not a particularly evil person. He was a murderer, a robber, an enslaver, and a torturer, whose crimes led to possibly the most massive conglomeration of crimes and horrific accidents on record. But Columbus was a product of his time, a time that has not exactly ended. If Columbus spoke today's English he'd say he was "just following orders." Those orders, stemming from the Catholic "doctrine of discovery," find parallels through Western history right down to today's "responsibility to protect," decreed by the high priests of the United Nations.
A sense of where Columbus was coming from can be found in a series of, aptly named, papal bull(s). These decrees make clear that the church owns the earth, bestows privileges on Christians, hopes to plunder riches, hopes to convert non-Christians, and considers non-Christians devoid of any rights worthy of any respect -- including any non-Christians yet to be encountered in lands completely unknown to the church. Native Americans were literally pre-judged before the church (and its kings and captains) knew they existed.
The Dum Diversas Bull of 1452 gives the King of Portugal permission to attack Muslims in North Africa and begins by declaring them to be full of "the rage of the enemies of the name of Christ, always aggressive in contempt of the orthodox faith," and hopes that they can "be restrained by the faithful of Christ and be subjugated to the Christian religion." Attacking North Africa was "defensive" even then, as the king would "eagerly defend the faith itself and with powerful arm fight its enemies. We also look attentively to labor at the defense and growing of the said Religion."
The Pope adds other unnamed people can be attacked too: "[W]e grant to you full and free power, through the Apostolic authority by this edict, to invade, conquer, fight, subjugate the Saracens and pagans, and other infidels and other enemies of Christ, . . . and to lead their persons in perpetual servitude."
In 2011, the U.S Department of Justice submitted to Congress a written defense of attacking North Africa claiming the war on Libya served the U.S. national interest in regional stability and in maintaining the credibility of the United Nations. But are Libya and the United States in the same region? What region is that, earth? And isn’t a revolution the opposite of stability? And does the United Nations gain credibility when wars are waged in its name?
The Romanus Pontifex Bull of 1455 was, if anything, even more full of bull, as it pontificated on places as yet unknown but fully worthy of judgment and condemnation. The church's goal was "to cause the most glorious name of the said Creator to be published, extolled, and revered throughout the whole world, even in the most remote and undiscovered places, and also to bring into the bosom of his faith the perfidious enemies of him and of the life-giving Cross by which we have been redeemed, namely the Saracens and all other infidels whatsoever." How could someone unknown be an enemy? Easy! People unknown by the church were, by definition, people who did not know the church. They were, therefore, perfidious enemies of the life-giving Cross.
When Columbus sailed, he knew beforehand that he could not possibly enounter any people worthy of any respect. The Inter Caetera Bull of 1493 tells us that Columbus "discovered certain very remote islands and even mainlands that hitherto had not been discovered by others; wherein dwell very many peoples living in peace, and, as reported, going unclothed, and not eating flesh." Those very many peoples had not discovered the place they were living, because they did not count as being anyone able to discover anything for Christianity. "You purpose also," wrote the pope, "as is your duty, to lead the peoples dwelling in those islands and countries to embrace the Christian religion."
Or else what? The Requerimiento of 1514 that conquistadores read to the people they "discovered" told them to "accept the Church and Superior Organization of the whole world and recognize the Supreme Pontiff, called the Pope, and that in his name, you acknowledge the King and Queen, as the lords and superior authorities of these islands and Mainlands by virtue of the said donation. If you do not do this, however, or resort maliciously to delay, we warn you that, with the aid of God, we will enter your land against you with force and will make war in every place and by every means we can and are able, and we will then subject you to the yoke and authority of the Church and Their Highnesses. We will take you and your wives and children and make them slaves, and as such we will sell them, and will dispose of you and them as Their Highnesses order. And we will take your property and will do to you all the harm and evil we can, as is done to vassals who will not obey their lord or who do not wish to accept him, or who resist and defy him. We avow that the deaths and harm which you will receive thereby will be your own blame, and not that of Their Highnesses, nor ours, nor of the gentlemen who come with us."
But otherwise it's great to see you, beautiful land you have here, and we hope not to be too much inconvenience!
All people have to do to save themselves is bow down, obey, and allow the destruction of the natural world around them. If they won't do that, why, then a war on them is their own fault. Not ours. We're pre-absolved, we've got an Authorization for the Use of Military Force, we're packing U.N. resolutions.
In 1823 Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall cited the "doctrine of discovery" to justify stealing land from Native Americans in the case Johnson v. M'Intosh that has ever since been seen as the foundation of land ownership and property law in the United States. Marshall ruled for a unanimous court, uncontroversially, that Native Americans could not own or sell land, except when selling it to the federal government which had taken over the role of conqueror from the British. Natives could not possess sovereignty.
"The Responsibility to Protect (R2P or RtoP) is a proposed norm that sovereignty is not an absolute right," according to Wikipedia, which is as authoritative a source as any, since R2P is not a law at all, more of a bull. It continues: ". . . and that states forfeit aspects of their sovereignty when they fail to protect their populations from mass atrocity crimes and human rights violations (namely genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing). . . . [T]he international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as economic sanctions. Military intervention is considered the last resort."
If we understand "sovereignty" to mean the right not to be attacked by foreigners, the high church on the East River does not recognize it among the pagans. Saudi Arabia may murder many innocents, but the church chooses to bestow grace and weapons shipments. The same for Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, etc. The church, under the influence of Cardinal Obama, does not recognize sovereignty but bestows mercy. In Iraq, Libya, Iran, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Ukraine, Honduras, and other troubled lands of Saracens and infidels, they bring righteous rape and pillage on themselves. It's not the fault of the armies performing their duty to attack and enlighten.
Back in the 1980s I lived in Italy and there was a funny movie called Non resta che piangere (Nothing left to do but cry) about a couple of buffoons who were magically transported back to 1492. They immediately decided to try to stop Columbus in order to save the Native Americans (and avoid U.S. culture). As I recall, they were too slow and failed to stop Columbus' departure. There was nothing left to do but cry. They might, however, have worked on altering the people who would welcome Columbus back with collectively sociopathic ideas. For that matter, they might have returned to the 1980s and worked on the same educational mission.
It's not too late for us to stop celebrating Columbus Day and every other war holiday, and focus instead on including among the human rights we care about, the right not to be bombed or conquered.
The University of California is seeking to ban criticism of Israel. This is a widespread phenomenon in the United States, as attested by two new reports and cases like that of Steven Salaita, author of Uncivil Rights: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom.
Salaita was fired by the University of Illinois for criticizing Israel on Twitter. Norman Finkelstein had been denied tenure by DePaul University for criticizing Israel. William Robinson was almost driven out at UC Santa Barbara for refusing to "repent" after criticizing Israel. Joseph Massad at Columbia had a similar experience.
Why, in a country that stretches "freedom of speech" to the point of covering the bribery of politicians, should it be acceptable to criticize the United States but not a tiny, distant country only just created in 1948? And why should such censorship reach even into institutions that usually pile "academic freedom" on top of "freedom of speech" as an argument against censorship?
First and foremost, I think, is the nature of Israel. It's a nation practicing apartheid and genocide in the twenty-first century using U.S. funding and weaponry. It can't persuade people of the acceptability of these policies in open debate. It can only continue its crimes by insisting that -- precisely as a government serving one ethnic group only -- any criticism amounts to the threat of apartheid and genocide known as "anti-Semitism."
Second, I think, is the subservience of the contemporary degenerate educational institution, which serves the wealthy donor, not the exploration of human intellect. When wealthy donors demand that "anti-Semitism" be stamped out, so it is. (And how can one object without being "anti-Semitic" or appearing to dispute that there actually is real anti-Semitism in the world and that it is as immoral as hatred of any other group.)
Third, the crackdown on criticizing Israel is a response to the success of such criticism and to the efforts of the BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) movement. Israeli author Manfred Gerstenfeld published openly in the Jerusalem Post a strategy for making an example of a few U.S. professors in order to "diminish the threat of boycotts."
Salaita called his book Uncivil Rights because the accusations of unacceptable speech typically take the form of proclaiming a need to protect civility. Salaita didn't tweet or otherwise communicate anything actually anti-Semitic. He tweeted and otherwise communicated many statements opposing anti-Semitism. But he criticized Israel and cursed at the same time. And to compound the sin, he used humor and sarcasm. Such practices are enough to get you convicted in a U.S. Court of Indignation without any careful examination of whether the sarcastic cursing actually expressed hatred or, on the contrary, expressed justifiable outrage. Reading Salaita's offending tweets in the context of all his other ones exonerates him of anti-Semitism while leaving him clearly guilty of "anti-Semitism," that is: criticizing the Israeli government.
This criticism can take the form of criticizing Israeli settlers. Salaita writes in his book:
"There are nearly half a million Jewish settlers on the West Bank. Their population currently grows at double the rate of other Israelis. They use 90 percent of the West Bank's water; the 3.5 million Palestinians of the territory make due with the remaining 10 percent. They travel on Jewish-only highways while Palestinians wait for hours at checkpoints (with no guarantee of passing through, even when they are injured or giving birth). They regularly assault women and children; some bury alive the natives. They vandalize homes and shops. They run over pedestrians with their cars. They restrict farmers from their land. They squat on hilltops that don't belong to them. They firebomb houses and kill babies. They bring with them a high-tech security force largely composed of conscripts to maintain this hideous apparatus."
One could read even such a longer-than-twitter criticism and imagine certain additions to it. But, reading the whole book from which I've quoted it, would eliminate the possibility of fantasizing that Salaita is, in this passage, advocating vengeance or violence or condemning settlers because of their religion or ethnicity or equating all settlers with each other except in so far as they are part of an operation of ethnic cleansing. Salaita does not excuse either side of the conflict but criticizes the idea that there is a conflict in Palestine with two equal sides:
"Since 2000, Israelis have killed 2,060 Palestinian children, while Palestinians have killed 130 Israeli children. The overall death count during this period is over 9,000 Palestinians and 1,190 Israelis. Israel has violated at least seventy-seven UN resolutions and numerous provisions of the Fourth Geneva Conventions. Israel has imposed hundreds of settlements on the West Bank, while Palestinians inside Israel increasingly are squeezed and continue to be internally displaced. Israel has demolished nearly thirty thousand Palestinian homes as a matter of policy. Palestinians have demolished zero Israeli homes. At present more than six thousand Palestinians languish in Israeli prisons, including children; no Israeli occupies a Palestinian prison."
Salaita wants Palestinian land given back to Palestinians, just as he wants at least some Native American land given back to Native Americans. Such demands, even when they amount to nothing but compliance with existing laws and treaties, seem unreasonable or vengeful to certain readers. But what people imagine education consists of if not the consideration of ideas that at first seem unreasonable is beyond me. And the notion that returning stolen land must involve violence is a notion added to the proposal by the reader.
However, there is at least one area in which Salaita is clearly and openly accepting of violence, and that is the United States military. Salaita wrote a column criticizing "support the troops" propaganda, in which he said, "My wife and I often discuss what our son might grow up to accomplish. A consistent area of disagreement is his possible career choice. She can think of few things worse than him one day joining the military (in any capacity), while I would not object to such a decision."
Think about that. Here is someone making a moral argument for opposing violence in Palestine, and a book-length defense of the importance of this stand outweighing concerns of comfort or politeness. And he wouldn't so much as object to his son joining the United States military. Elsewhere in the book, he notes that U.S. academics "can travel to, say, Tel Aviv University and pal around with racists and war criminals." Think about that. This is an American academic writing this while David Petraeus, John Yoo, Condoleezza Rice, Harold Koh, and dozens of their fellow war criminals teach in U.S. academia, and not without huge controversy about which Salaita cannot have avoided hearing. In response to outrage at his criticism of "support the troops," his then-employer, Virginia Tech, loudly proclaimed its support for the U.S. military.
The U.S. military acts on the belief, as found in the names of its operations and weapons as well as in its extended discussions, that the world is "Indian territory," and that native lives don't matter. A West Point professor recently proposed targeting critics of U.S. militarism with death, not just denial of tenure. And why is such criticism dangerous? Because nothing the U.S. military does to the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, or anywhere else is any more defensible than what the Israeli military does with its help -- and I don't think it would take much consideration of the facts for someone like Steven Salaita to realize that.
The Pope will speak to Congress on Thursday. No other institution on earth does more to destroy the habitability of the planet for future generations. Will the Pope raise his concerns with them or only when he's thousands of miles away?
No other institution sells and gives as many weapons to the world, participates in as many wars, or invests remotely as much in planning, provoking, and pursuing war after war. Will the Pope speak up for abolishing war in the U.S. Capitol or only when he's nowhere near the leading maker of war on earth?
As Nicolas Davies documents in a forthcoming article, when the U.S. has reduced military spending, the world has followed. When it has increased, the world has followed. The Pope wants nuclear weapons eliminated. Will he mention that to the leading investor in nuclear weapons?
Occasionally a particular variety of horror serves to catch people's attention. The boy in the photo at right has been sentenced to be crucified. His crime was participation in a pro-democracy rally. Now he will have done to him what the Pope's religion says was done to Jesus Christ. He won't be smiling blissfully like a Christ on a crucifix either. He will suffer immense pain and torment, and then die.
Who would do this? Why, Saudi Arabia, of course. And who is Saudi Arabia's chief ally, weapons provider, and oil customer? Why, the United States Congress.
Is it possible that this particular murder can arouse action among all of those moral leaders in the United States so desirous of being followers that they're focusing all attention on the Pope?
And if this murder can attract attention, what about all the others? During the course of a brutal civil war in Syria in which all sides have slaughtered numerous innocents with all variety of weaponry, we've been advised at certain points to be indignant over the use of chemical weapons or beheadings. But we don't seem to have managed to carry that over to the full range of murder going on.
Saudi Arabia is dropping bombs, including U.S.-made cluster bombs, on Yemen, slaughtering children by the hundreds. Saudi Arabia is brutalizing the people of Bahrain, not to mention the people of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabians are funding ISIS and other murderers in the region. Are all of these murders acceptable even if the crucifixion isn't? Or can we seize this opportunity to build opposition to all murder? Or might we if the Pope mentions it to Congress?
On Tuesday the Senate Armed Services Committee brought in David Petraeus to testify yet again on how to escalate more wars. Petraeus recently proposed arming al Qaeda. Senator John McCain gave Petraeus credit on Tuesday for extending the Iraq war from 2007 to 2011. Petraeus noted that the whole region is in horrible turmoil. Nobody made any connection between the U.S. wars on Iraq and Libya that have created that turmoil and the results. Nobody questioned the wisdom of using more war to try to repair the damage of war.
Well, a few of us did. The wonderful CodePink was there as always. I was there with a sign that said "Arm al Qaeda? Reagan tried that."
The mad men who run the U.S. government have reached the point of re-arming the enemies of enemies whose blowback first drove them to radically escalate the global murder of innocent people in the name of opposing terrorism while increasing it.
The National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance had an answer to this on Tuesday, taking a protest of endless war and environmental destruction to the gate of the White House.
The Secret Service arrested the people in the photo below rather than accept a letter from them articulating their opposition to policies of massive cruelty to the earth and its inhabitants.
The Pope has the opportunity to speak that same message to Congress and to the U.S. corporate media. Will he use it?