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In DC on August 9: An Evening to Begin to End War

5:04 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

PLEASE SIGN UP ON FACEBOOK
http://bit.ly/wbw-dc

An Evening for a World Beyond War
http://WorldBeyondWar.org
Saturday August 9, 2014
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Busboys and Poets
5th and K Streets NW
Washington, D.C.

A fundraising event for a global campaign to end all war.

Suggested donation: $15

Buttons for all, scarves and books and other tokens of gratitude for larger donations.

Speakers:
Jeff Bachman, Professorial Lecturer in Human Rights and the Co-Director of the Ethics, Peace and Global Affairs program at the School of International Service at American University.

Nadia Kamoona, Iraqi-American student at the University of Virginia, future international human rights lawyer, and current intern for World Beyond War.

Vincent J. Intondi, Associate Professor of History at Montgomery College and Director of Research at the Nuclear Studies Institute of the American University in Washington, D.C., also author of African Americans Against the Bomb.

Maria Santelli, Executive Director of Center on Conscience and War, and founder of the New Mexico GI Rights Hotline.

Anas “Andy” Shallal, Iraqi-American artist, activist, and entrepreneur, proprietor of Busboys and Poets, and recent candidate for mayor of Washington, D.C.

David Swanson, Director of World Beyond War, host of Talk Nation Radio, author of books including War No More: The Case for Abolition, War Is A Lie, and When the World Outlawed War.

Busboys and Poets 5th and K
1025 5th Street NW – Washington, DC
Details

If We Dislike War Like We Dislike Cancer

6:46 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Cupcakes with pink breast cancer ribbons

What if ending war was became as important as ending cancer?

War and cancer are among our leading causes of human death around the world. They can’t be strictly separated and compared since war is a major cause of cancer, as is war preparation. (And a small fraction of the U.S. budget for war preparations could fund cancer research well beyond all the money raised by public and private funding and by all the 5-K races for a cure and other activities we’ve become familiar with.) War and cancer, by their nature, also can’t be addressed with the same sort of responses.

Cancer prevention, including possibly radical changes in industrial and energy policies, is fairly off-limits, whereas cancer treatment and the search for a cure is almost certainly our most widespread and publicly visible form of altruistic charity and advocacy  When you see athletes or celebrities marked with bright pink, or a public event packed with pink shirts or ribbons, or — alongside a road — a giant pink inflatable anything, you are now less likely to think “WTF is that?” than “We need to help cure breast cancer.”

War prevention, including radical redirection of our resources and economy away from war, re-education away from the propaganda of beneficial violence, support for nonviolent conflict resolution, and promotion of international law and the prosecution of war makers, is likewise fairly off-limits. But war treatment and the search for a cure for war once begun, seems significantly less useful than the search for a cure for cancer. War is indisputably and entirely human-made. Most of its fatal victims die immediately. Halting a war once begun is immensely more difficult than refraining from starting it, as no one party can control a war’s path, and support-the-troops propaganda convinces people that ending a war is more evil than continuing it. Once a war ends, undoing the resentment and hatred and habits of violence, and the environmental destruction (and the cancer epidemics), and the destruction to liberties and democracy, all adds up to an immense — if not impossible — task compared to that of avoiding wars before they’re started.

So, when we compare a public demand to abolish cancer with one to abolish war, the latter seems to require halting our biggest public program, whereas the former allows us to go on driving our SUVs to Wal-Mart as long as we stick a pink ribbon on the back to indicate that doctors and scientists should continue the great march of progress. And of course they should. We should be investing vastly more in curing cancer, not to mention Alzheimer’s which is as big a killer as cancer but opposed by far less funding (and not a particular threat to that favorite of all body parts: the breast).

But abolishing war may be the more pressing demand. Nuclear weapons could be used intentionally or accidentally and destroy us all. The resources dumped into war are badly needed for the work of averting environmental catastrophe (not to mention curing cancer). What if a campaign to abolish war were to learn a few tricks from the campaign to abolish breast cancer?

Following the lead of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, Campaign Nonviolence, World Beyond War, and other peace groups are encouraging everyone to use sky blue scarves and bracelets as symbols of peace and support for ending all wars. What if sky blue symbols became as widespread as pink ones? What would that look like?

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War in Our Collective Imagination

4:40 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Remarks at Veterans For Peace Convention, Asheville, NC, July 27, 2014.

I started seeing graphics pop up on social media sites this past week that said about Gaza: “It’s not war. It’s murder.”  So I started asking people what exactly they think war is if it’s distinct from murder.  Well, war, some of them told me, takes place between armies.  So I asked for anyone to name a war during the past century (that is, after World War I) where all or even most or even a majority of the dying was done by members of armies.  There may have been such a war.  There are enough scholars here today that somebody probably knows of one.  But if so, it isn’t the norm, and these people I was chatting with through social media couldn’t think of any such war and yet insisted that that’s just what war is.  So, is war then over and nobody told us?

For whatever reasons, I then very soon began seeing a graphic sent around that said about Gaza: “It’s not war. It’s genocide.”  And the typical explanation I got when I questioned this one was that the wagers of war and the wagers of genocide have different attitudes.  Are we sure about that? I’ve spoken to advocates for recent U.S. wars who wanted all or part of a population wiped out.  Plenty of supporters of the latest attacks on Gaza see them as counter-terrorism.  In wars between advanced militaries and poor peoples most of the death and injury is on one side and most of it — by anyone’s definition — civilian.  This is as true in Afghanistan, where war rolls on largely unchallenged, as in Gaza, about which we are newly outraged.

Well, what’s wrong with outrage? Who cares what people call it? Why not criticize the war advocates rather than nitpicking the war opponents’ choice of words?  When people are outraged they will reach for whatever word their culture tells them is most powerful, be it murder or genocide or whatever.  Why not encourage that and worry a little more about the lunatics who are calling it defense or policing or terrorist removal?  (Eight-year-old terrorists!)

Yes, of course.  I’ve been going after CNN news readers for claiming Palestinians want to die and NBC for yanking its best reporter and ABC for claiming scenes of destruction in Gaza that just don’t exist in Israel are in fact in Israel — and the U.S. government for providing the weapons and the criminal immunity.  I’ve been promoting rallies and events aimed at swaying public opinion against what Israel has been doing, and against the sadistic bloodthirsty culture of those standing on hills cheering for the death and destruction below, quite regardless of what they call it.  But, as you’re probably aware, only the very most open-minded war advocates attend conventions of Veterans For Peace.  So, I’m speaking here backstage, as it were, at the peace movement.  Among those of us who want to stop the killing, are there better and worse ways to talk about it?  And is anything revealed by the ways in which we tend to talk about it when we aren’t hyper-focused on our language?

I think so.  I think it’s telling that the worst word anyone can think of isn’t war.  I think it’s even more telling that we condemn things by contrasting them with war, framing war as relatively acceptable.  I think this fact ought to be unsettling because a very good case can be made that war, in fact, is the worst thing we do, and that the distinctions between war and such evils as murder or genocide can require squinting very hard to discern.

We’ve all heard that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  There is a parallel belief that wars don’t kill people, people who misuse wars, who fight bad wars, who fight wars improperly, kill people.  This is a big contrast with many other evil institutions.  We don’t oppose child abuse selectively, holding out the possibility of just and good incidents of child abuse while opposing the bad or dumb or non-strategic or excessive cases of child abuse. We don’t have Geneva Conventions for proper conduct while abusing children.  We don’t have human rights groups writing reports on atrocities and possible law violations committed in the course of abusing children.  We don’t distinguish UN-sanctioned child abuse.  The same goes for numerous behaviors generally understood as always evil: slavery or rape or blood feuds or duelling or dog fighting or sexual harassment or bullying or human experimentation or — I don’t know — producing piles of I’m-Ready-for-Hillary posters.  We don’t imagine there are good, just, and defensible cases of such actions.

And this is the core problem: not support for bombing Gaza or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or anywhere else that actually gets bombed, but support for an imaginary war in the near future between two armies with different colored jerseys and sponsors, competing on an isolated battlefield apart from any villages or towns, and suffering bravely and heroically for their non-murderous non-genocidal cause while complying with the whistles blown by the referees in the human rights organizations whenever any of the proper killing drifts into lawless imprisonment or torture or the use of improper weaponry.  Support for specific possible wars in the United States right now is generally under 10 percent.  More people believe in ghosts, angels, and the integrity of our electoral system than want a new U.S. war in Ukraine, Syria, Iran, or Iraq. The Washington Post found a little over 10 percent want a war in Ukraine but that the people who held that view were the people who placed Ukraine on the world map the furthest from its actual location, including people who placed it in the United States.  These are the idiots who favor specific wars.  Even Congress, speaking of idiots, on Friday told Obama no new war on Iraq.

The problem is the people, ranging across the population from morons right up to geniuses, who favor imaginary wars.  Millions of people will tell you we need to be prepared for more wars in case there’s another Adolf Hitler, failing to understand that the wars and militarism and weapons sales and weapons gifts — the whole U.S. role as the arsenal of democracies and dictatorships alike — increase rather than decrease dangers, that other wealthy countries spend less than 10 percent what the U.S. does on their militaries, and that 10 percent of what the U.S. spends on its military could end global starvation, provide the globe with clean water, and fund sustainable energy and agriculture programs that would go further toward preventing mass violence than any stockpiles of weaponry.  Millions will tell you that the world needs a global policeman, even though polls of the world find the widespread belief that the United States is currently the greatest threat to peace on earth.  In fact if you start asking people who have opposed every war in our lifetimes or in the past decade to work on opposing the entire institution of war, you’ll be surprised by many of the people who say no.

I’m a big fan of a book called Addicted to War.  I think it will probably be a powerful tool for war abolition right up until war is abolished.  But its author told me this week that he can’t work to oppose all wars because he favors some of them.  Specifically, he said, he doesn’t want to ask Palestinians to not defend themselves.  Now, there’s a really vicious cycle.  If we can’t shut down the institution of war because Palestinians need to use it, then it’s harder to go after U.S. military spending, which is of course what funds much of the weaponry being used against Palestinians.  I think we should get a little clarity about what a war abolition movement does and does not do.  It does not tell people what they must do when attacked.  It is not focused on advising, much less instructing, the victims of war, but on preventing their victimization.  It does not advise the individual victim of a mugging to turn the other cheek.  But it also does not accept the disproven notion that violence is a defensive strategy for a population.  Nonviolence has proven far more effective and its victories longer lasting.  If people in Gaza have done anything at all to assist in their own destruction, it is not the supposed offenses of staying in their homes or visiting hospitals or playing on beaches; it is the ridiculously counterproductive firing of rockets that only encourages and provides political cover for war/ genocide/ mass murder.

I’m a huge fan of Chris Hedges and find him one of the most useful and inspiring writers we have.  But he thought attacking Libya was a good idea up until it quite predictably and obviously turned out not to be.  He still thinks Bosnia was a just war.  I could go on through dozens of names of people who contribute mightily to an anti-war movement who oppose abolishing war.  The point is not that anyone who believes in 1 good war out of 100 is to blame for the trillion dollar U.S. military budget and all the destruction it brings.  The point is that they are wrong about that 1 war out of 100, and that even if they were right, the side-effects of maintaining a culture accepting of war preparations would outweigh the benefits of getting 1 war right.  The lives lost by not spending $1 trillion a year in the U.S. and another $1 trillion in the rest of the world on useful projects like environmental protection, sustainable agriculture, medicine and hygiene absolutely dwarf the number of lives that would be saved by halting our routine level of war making.

If you talk about abolishing war entirely, as many of us have begun focusing on through a new project called World Beyond War, you’ll also find people who want to abolish war but believe it’s impossible. War is natural, they say, inevitable, in our genes, decreed by our economy, the unavoidable result of racism or consumerism or capitalism or exceptionalism or carnivorism or nationalism.  And of course many cultural patterns interact with and facilitate war, but the idea that it’s in our genes is absurd, given how many cultures in our species have done and do without it.  I don’t know what — if anything — people usually mean when they call something “natural” but presumably it’s not the provocation of suicide, which is such a common result of participating in war, while the first case of PTSD due to war deprivation has yet to be discovered.  Most of our species’ existence, as hunter-gatherers, did not know war, and only the last century — a split-second in evolutionary terms — has known war that at all resembles war today.  War didn’t used to kill like this.  Soldiers weren’t conditioned to kill.  Most guns picked up at Gettysburg had been loaded more than once.  The big killers were diseases, even in the U.S. Civil War, the war that the U.S. media calls the most deadly because Filipinos and Koreans and Vietnamese and Iraqis don’t count.  Now the big killer is a disease in our thinking, a combination of what Dr. King called self-guided missiles and misguided men.

Another hurdle for abolishing war is that the idea rose to popularity in the West in the 1920s and 1930s and then sank into a category of thought that is vaguely treasonous.  War abolition was tried and failed, the thinking goes, like communism or labor unions and now we know better.  While abolishing war is popular in much of the world, that fact is easily ignored by the 1% who misrepresent the 10% or 15% who live in the places that constitute the so-called International Community.  Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come or weaker than an idea whose time has come and gone.  Or so we think.  But the Renaissance was, as its name suggests, an idea whose time came again, new and improved and victorious.  The 1920s and 1930s are a resource for us.  We have stockpiles of wisdom to draw upon.  We have example of where things were headed and how they went of track.

Andrew Carnegie took war profits and set up an endowment with the mandate to eliminate war and then to hold a board meeting, determine the second worst thing in the world, and begin eliminating that.  This sounds unique or eccentric, but is I believe a basic understanding of ethics that ought to be understood and acted upon by all of us.  When someone asks me why I’m a peace activist I ask them why in the hell anyone isn’t.  So, reminding the Carnegie Endowment for Peace what it’s legally obligated to do, and dozens of other organizations along with it, may be part of the process of drawing inspiration from the past.  And of course insisting that the Nobel Committee not bestow another peace prize on a war-thirsty presidential candidate or any other advocate of war is part of that.

The case against war that is laid out at WorldBeyondWar.orgincludes these topics:

War is immoral.

War endangers us.

War threatens our environment.

War erodes our liberties.

War impoverishes us.

We need $2 trillion/year for other things.

I find the case to be overwhelming and suspect many of you would agree.  In fact Veterans For Peace and numerous chapters and members of Veterans For Peace have been among the first to sign on and participate.  And we’ve begun finding that thousands of people and organizations from around the world agree as people and groups from 68 countries and rising have added their names on the website in support of ending all war.  And many of these people and organizations are not peace groups.  These are environmental and civic groups of all sorts and people never involved in a peace movement before.  Our hope is of course to greatly enlarge the peace movement by making war abolition as mainstream as cancer abolition.  But we think enlargement is not the only alteration that could benefit the peace movement.  We think a focus on each antiwar project as part of a broader campaign to end the whole institution of war will significantly change how specific wars and weapons and tactics are opposed.

How many of you have heard appeals to oppose Pentagon waste? I’m in favor of Pentagon waste and opposed to Pentagon efficiency.  How can we not be, when what the Pentagon does is evil?  How many of you have heard of opposition to unnecessary wars that leave the military ill-prepared?  I’m in favor of leaving the military ill-prepared, but not of distinguishing unnecessary from supposedly necessary wars. Which are the necessary ones?  When sending missiles into Syria is stopped, in large part by public pressure, war as last resort is replaced by all sorts of other options that were always available.  That would be the case anytime any war is stopped.  War is never a last resort any more than rape or child abuse is a last resort.  How many of you have seen opposition to U.S. wars that focuses almost exclusively on the financial cost and the suffering endured by Americans?  Did you know polls find Americans believing that Iraq benefitted and the United States suffered from the war that destroyed Iraq?  What if the financial costs and the costs to the aggressor nation were in addition to moral objections to mass-slaughter rather than instead of?  How many of you have seen antiwar organizations trumpet their love for troops and veterans and war holidays, or groups like the AARP that advocate for benefits for the elderly by focusing on elderly veterans, as though veterans are the most deserving?  Is that good activism?

I want to celebrate those who resist and oppose war, not those who engage in it.  I love Veterans For Peace because it’s for peace.  It’s for peace in a certain powerful way, but it’s the being for peace that I value.  And being for peace in the straightforward meaning of being against war.  Most organizations are afraid of being for peace; it always has to be peace and justice or peace and something else.  Or it’s peace in our hearts and peace in our homes and the world will take care of itself.  Well, as Veterans For Peace know, the world doesn’t take care of itself.  The world is driving itself off a cliff.  As Woody Allen said, I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen, I want to live on in my apartment.  Well, I don’t want to find peace in my heart or my garden, I want to find peace in the elimination of war.  At WorldBeyondWar.org is a list of projects we think may help advance that, including, among others:

  • Creating an easily recognizable and joinable mainstream international movement to end all war.
  • Education about war, peace, and nonviolent action — including all that is to be gained by ending war.
  • Improving access to accurate information about wars. Exposing falsehoods.
  • Improving access to information about successful steps away from war in other parts of the world.
  • Increased understanding of partial steps as movement in the direction of eliminating, not reforming, war.
  • Partial and full disarmament.
  • Conversion or transition to peaceful industries.
  • Closing, converting or donating foreign military bases.
  • Democratizing militaries while they exist and making them truly volunteer.
  • Banning foreign weapons sales and gifts.
  • Outlawing profiteering from war.
  • Banning the use of mercenaries and private contractors.
  • Abolishing the CIA and other secret agencies.
  • Promoting diplomacy and international law, and consistent enforcement of laws against war, including prosecution of violators.
  • Reforming or replacing the U.N. and the ICC.
  • Expansion of peace teams and human shields.
  • Promotion of nonmilitary foreign aid and crisis prevention.
  • Placing restrictions on military recruitment and providing potential soldiers with alternatives.
  • Thanking resisters for their service.
  • Encouraging cultural exchange.
  • Discouraging racism and nationalism.
  • Developing less destructive and exploitative lifestyles.
  • Expanding the use of public demonstrations and nonviolent civil resistance to enact all of these changes.

I would add learning from and working with organizations that have been, like Veterans For Peace, working toward war abolition for years now and inspiring others to do the same.  And I would invite you all to work with WorldBeyondWartoward our common goal.

 

David Swanson is Director of World Beyond War, host of Talk Nation Radio, author of books including War No More: The Case for Abolition, War Is A Lie, and When the World Outlawed War.

On August 9 in DC: An Evening for a World Beyond War

5:35 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

dcevent
PLEASE SIGN UP ON FACEBOOK
http://bit.ly/wbw-dc

An Evening for a World Beyond War
http://WorldBeyondWar.org
Saturday August 9, 2014
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Busboys and Poets
5th and K Streets NW
Washington, D.C.

A fundraising event for a global campaign to end all war.

Suggested donation: $15

Buttons for all, scarves and books and other tokens of gratitude for larger donations.

Speakers:
Jeff Bachman, Professorial Lecturer in Human Rights and the Co-Director of the Ethics, Peace and Global Affairs program at the School of International Service at American University.

Nadia Kamoona, Iraqi-American student at the University of Virginia, future international human rights lawyer, and current intern for World Beyond War.

Vincent J. Intondi, Associate Professor of History at Montgomery College and Director of Research at the Nuclear Studies Institute of the American University in Washington, D.C., also author of African Americans Against the Bomb.

Anas “Andy” Shallal, Iraqi-American artist, activist, and entrepreneur, proprietor of Busboys and Poets, and recent candidate for mayor of Washington, D.C.

David Swanson, Director of World Beyond War, host of Talk Nation Radio, author of books including War No More: The Case for Abolition, War Is A Lie, and When the World Outlawed War.

Busboys and Poets 5th and K
1025 5th Street NW – Washington, DC
Details

The Palestinian Right and the American Left

10:12 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Only Self-Defense? ~  Gaza/Israel: Peace Needs other Weapons

Only Self-Defense? ~ Gaza/Israel: Peace Needs other Weapons

Chris Hedges says that Palestinians have the right to self-defense in the form of rockets, without including any consideration of whether the rockets make the Palestinians more or less defended.  There is, after all, a reasonable argument that the rockets are counter-productive and endangering, rather than protecting, Palestine.

Legally, if we ignore the Kellogg-Briand Pact and stick to the U.N. Charter, much less its frequent abuse by the powerful nations of the world, there is no doubt that Hedges is correct.  If demolishing Iraqi or Afghan or Libyan or Pakistani or Yemeni homes is “defense” of the United States, then surely the people of Gaza, under actual attack, have the legal right to shoot rockets at Israel.  That’s just basic Western consensus with the hypocrisy removed.

“[M]any Palestinians, especially young men trapped in overcrowded hovels where they have no work and little dignity,” writes Hedges, “will risk immediate death to defy the slow, humiliating death of occupation. I cannot blame them.”

Here are the false choices framed: either we blame the victims of Israel’s vicious and massive assault on a trapped population, blame them for reacting as virtually anyone else in the so-called developed world would, or we advocate for the right to fight defensive wars — regardless of whether it helps or hurts the situation.  Those are not the only options.

I’m not sure I can prove that the rockets hurt the situation, but to render the question inadmissible seems fatally flawed.  The justification that the U.S. Congress and White House use for arming Israel and seeking to shelter Israel from legal consequences is always and exclusively the rockets.  The justification that Israeli spokespeople use on television is likewise almost entirely the rockets.  In a world without the rockets, would other excuses prove successful? It’s hard to say for sure.  But the rockets provide the public packaging for Israeli war-making, accomplish virtually nothing in military terms, and almost certainly do more to frighten and enrage the people of Israel than to bring Israelis around to sympathizing with the plight of their government’s victims.

I’ve just spoken by phone with a smart writer in Gaza named Sarah Ali for an upcoming edition of Talk Nation Radio.  She explained to me quite eloquently how Israeli attacks on Gaza were generating support for Hamas and violence against Israel.  She described the emotional need to fight back.  So, I asked her if rocket attacks on Israel weren’t likewise counterproductive. No, she said, she imagined that Israelis saw the rockets and began to understand the point of view of Palestinians.  In the absence of any evidence of that phenomenon, I can only say that I’ll believe it when I see it.  In every case I’m aware of in which one nation has militarily attacked another, it has done far more to enrage than to stimulate sympathy in the people coming under attack.

Of course, I have no right to tell the people of Gaza what to do or not do from the comfort of my home in the heart of the imperial monster that is funding their apocalypse.  Of course I cannot know the situation as they know it.  But it’s not clear to me that every Gazan has as deep a familiarity with Israelis or every Israeli with Gazans as one might imagine from their geographic vicinity.  The division between these two societies is extreme.  How else could Israelis imagine children as their enemies?  And how else could those children’s parents imagine that firing rockets would win over hearts and minds? Read the rest of this entry →

This is the Israeli Military Calling: Civilizing War Has Failed

9:17 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

 

Probably the biggest news story of 1928 was the war-making nations of the world coming together on August 27th and legally outlawing war.  It’s a story that’s not told in our history books, but it’s not secret CIA history.  There was no CIA.  There was virtually no weapons industry as we know it.  There weren’t two political parties in the United States uniting in support of war after war.  In fact, the four biggest political parties in the United States all backed abolishing war.

Cue whining, polysyllabic screech: “But it didn’t wooooooooork!”

I wouldn’t be bothering with it if it had. In its defense, the Kellogg-Briand Pact (look it up or read my book) was used to prosecute the makers of war on the losing sides following World War II (an historic first), and — for whatever combination of reasons (nukes? enlightenment? luck?) — the armed nations of the world have not waged war on each other since, preferring to slaughter the world’s poor instead. Significant compliance following the very first prosecution is a record that almost no other law can claim.

The Kellogg-Briand Pact has two chief values, as I see it. First, it’s the law of the land in 85 nations including the United States, and it bans all war-making. For those who claim that the U.S. Constitution sanctions or requires wars regardless of treaty obligations, the Peace Pact is no more relevant than the U.N. Charter or the Geneva Conventions or the Anti-Torture Convention or any other treaty. But for those who read the laws as they are written, beginning to comply with the Kellogg-Briand Pact makes far more sense than legalizing drone murders or torture or bribery or corporate personhood or imprisonment without trial or any of the other lovely practices we’ve been “legalizing” on the flimsiest of legal arguments. I’m not against new national or international laws against war; ban it 1,000 times, by all means, if there’s the slightest chance that one of them will stick. But there is, for what it’s worth, already a law on the books if we care to acknowledge it.

Second, the movement that created the Pact of Paris grew out of a widespread mainstream international understanding that war must be abolished, as slavery and blood feuds and duelling and other institutions were being abolished. While advocates of outlawing war believed other steps would be required: a change in the culture, demilitarization, the establishment of international authorities and nonviolent forms of conflict resolution, prosecutions and targeted sanctions against war-makers; while most believed this would be the work of generations; while the forces leading toward World War II were understood and protested against for decades; the explicit and successful intention was to make a start of it by outlawing and formally renouncing and rendering illegitimate all war, not aggressive war or unsanctioned war or inappropriate war, but war.

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Why You Should Watch Drones For Free Online

6:52 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

 

There’s a chance to watch Drones, the movie, online on July 30th and then to join a discussion with filmmakers and experts.  There’s a preview video below. The movie’s website is at http://dronesthefilm.com and the free screening is at http://demandprogress.tv/drones

I saw a screening of this film back in November at the drone summit in DC. It’s wonderful. I was a bit put-off and staggered, to be frank, at the time, because someone involved with the film bragged about how inexpensively it had been made, and yet the budget was so unfathomably huge that I knew that if an anti-war organization had that kind of money we could hire organizers all over the world and quite possibly make the abolition of war a major mainstream force.

And, of course, you can’t simply ask if the money was well spent, because no one will say that it was spent to end the practice of drone murder. The director and the cast, of course, say they wanted to make a socially important film about a serious issue, but not what they wanted to accomplish, beyond raising questions and being entertaining. Everyone’s always happy to say that a film opposes racism or cruelty to animals or bullying, but not war.

But, you hundreds of millions of odd-balls who, like me, happen to give a damn whether your government is murdering people in your name with your money will, in fact, want to make this film a huge viral success.  I’m telling you, right now, it’s a good one. It is indeed entertaining. It’s not simple, predictable, pedantic, or preaching. But neither is the film itself reluctant to face head-on the banal, evil, arrogant mass-murder engaged in by these young people who dress up in pilots suits to sit at desks in trailers taking orders from military bureaucrats and private contractors, and ultimately from a president who reviews a list of potential men, women, and children to murder on Tuesdays.

Drones look like a golden opportunity to war makers who don’t want to ask Congress or the U.N. or the public, don’t want to send in armies, just want to target people and groups for death anywhere in the world and obliterate them with the push of a button from an air-conditioned — or, sometimes not so air-conditioned — office.

But drones also look like a golden opportunity to those of us who have been trying to point out that murder and war are distinguished only by scale. I suspect that many who cannot see the bombing of a city as murder will see the drone-targeting of an individual as nothing else — particularly if they watch this film.

If you can watch the film and not want to Ban Weaponized Drones, watch it again.

Planning for a Day of Peace

9:33 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

 

A few years back, prior to the International Day of Peace on September 21st, a school board member here in Virginia said that he would back a resolution marking that day as long as everyone understood that in doing so he was not opposing any wars.

Wars for peace, like sex for virginity, appear contradictory to some. But what about militarism for peace? What about war preparations and peace? A so-called “defense” department that arms the world; can that be compatible with peace?

We need our governments to begin planning for a day of peace. Instead of investing everything in planning for war, preparing for war, and proliferating enough weapons to fuel plenty of wars, governments could invest in alternatives to war, nonviolent means of conflict resolution, moves toward justice that reduce conflict, international standards of law that make negotiations and diplomacy effective.

One of the tools that we can use to move our cultures and our governments toward planning for a day of peace is to ourselves plan for a day celebrating peace — peace understood precisely as the elimination of war.  September 21st, the International Day of Peace, is one such day. WorldBeyondWar.org is organizing events here. And here is a list of events in the U.S. arranged on a map by Campaign Nonviolence.

Groups and individuals interested in planning events this September can work with Campaign Nonviolence and Global Movement for the Culture of Peace and Peace One Day and A Year Without War. Advocates of peace and environmental sanity who grasp the connections between the two may want to participate in a People’s Climate March in New York City, September 20-21, and bring this flyer: PDF.

Some resources that can be used to create events of various types are here:

At some events already planned for September 21, 2014, people will begin marking 100 years since the Christmas Truces of World War I. You can find great information on World War I at 100 on NoGlory.org

You may want to screen Joyeux Noel: a film about the 1914 Christmas truce. Or use this script for reenactment of a Christmas Truce: PDF. Here’s more Christmas Truce information and videos. And if you’re in the Northeast U.S. or the U.K. you might be able to attend or even set up a production of The Great War Theatre Project: Messengers of a Bitter Truth: Info in PDF.

Peace deserves more than empty platitudes compatible with the preservation of war as our largest public project. Sometimes bringing truth back from propaganda is so jarring as to be humorous. “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work,” said Woody Allen. “I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.” We should not want peace only in our hearts or in the press releases of the Pentagon; we should want peace through the ending of war and the abolition of the institutions that continue to plan and create more wars even while they pretend to a sight degree of outrage that each new war has been successfully created.

Worth Fighting For?

9:54 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

I was not sure I would like a book called Worth Fighting For by a former soldier who walked across the United States to raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation. The website of that foundation celebrates military “service” and the “higher calling” for which Tillman left professional football, namely participation in the U.S. war on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. Rather than funding efforts to put an end to war, as Tillman actually might have wished by the end of his life, the foundation hypes war participation, funds veterans, and to this day presents Tillman’s death thusly:

On the evening of April 22, 2004, Pat’s unit was ambushed as it traveled through the rugged, canyon terrain of eastern Afghanistan. His heroic efforts to provide cover for fellow soldiers as they escaped from the canyon led to his untimely and tragic death via fratricide.

Those heroic efforts happened, if they happened, in the context of an illegal and immoral operation that had Tillman defending foreign invaders from Afghans defending their homes. And the last two words above (“via fratricide”) tell a different story from the rest of the paragraph, page, and entire website of the Pat Tillman Foundation. Tillman was shot by U.S. troops. And he may not have died a thorough-going supporter of what he was engaged in. 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.

Rory Fanning’s book — Worth Fighting For — relates, however, that Tillman looked forward to getting out of the military and sympathized with the actions of Fanning, a member of his battalion who became a conscientious objector and refused to fight. According to Fanning, Tillman “knew his very public circumstances forced him to stick it out.”

That’s obviously a different use of the word “forced” from “gravity forced the weight to drop” or “the missile striking the house forced the people inside to split apart into fragments of flesh and gore.” Imagine the benefits to the cause of peace if the one troop who had a name, face, and voice had shattered the bullshit choruses of “Support the Troops!” by doing what Fanning did, and thus living to tell the tale? Instead Tillman stuck it out and left many believing that military propagandists had either become quite fortunate or something worse, when Tillman did not live to quite possibly oppose — better late than never — what he had been doing.

When I worked with a number of talented people to draft articles of impeachment for George W. Bush that were introduced by Congressman Dennis Kucinich, they included this:

The White House and the Department of Defense (DOD) in 2004 promoted a false account of the death of Specialist Pat Tillman, reporting that he had died in a hostile exchange, delaying release of the information that he had died from friendly fire, shot in the forehead three times in a manner that led investigating doctors to believe he had been shot at close range.

A 2005 report by Brig. Gen. Gary M. Jones reported that in the days immediately following Specialist Tillman’s death, U.S. Army investigators were aware that Specialist Tillman was killed by friendly fire, shot three times to the head, and that senior Army commanders, including Gen. John Abizaid, knew of this fact within days of the shooting but nevertheless approved the awarding of the Silver Star, Purple Heart, and a posthumous promotion.

On April 24, 2007, Spc. Bryan O’Neal, the last soldier to see Specialist Pat Tillman alive, testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he was warned by superiors not to divulge information that a fellow soldier killed Specialist Tillman, especially to the Tillman family. The White House refused to provide requested documents to the committee, citing ‘executive branch confidentiality interests.’

What made Pat Tillman a particular hero to many in the United States was that he had given up huge amounts of money to go to war. That he had passed up the evil of hoarding wealth in order to engage in something even more evil does not register with supporters of war. And had the U.S. Army not killed him, and had he not subsequently killed himself (the leading cause of U.S. military deaths now being suicide), Tillman might have lengthened his life by leaving the NFL, which abandons its players to an average lifespan in their 50s and in some cases dementia in their 40s — an issue that arises in Fanning’s book as he meets with former NFL greats to raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation.

Tillman was, by all accounts, kind, humble, intelligent, courageous, and well-intentioned. He clearly inspired many, many people whom he met, and whom he never met, to be better people. Fanning would, I think, include himself in that list. But when Fanning decided to walk across the country raising funds, and finding support and shelter for himself along the way, in the name of Pat Tillman, he was playing on the beliefs of a propagandized public, beliefs that he himself had ceased to fully share. A sheriff, in a typical example, takes Fanning’s empty water bottles, drives 12 miles to refill them, and hands them back to Fanning with tears in his eyes, saying, “What Pat did for our country is one of the bravest, most admirable things I can remember anyone doing. Take this for your cause.” And he handed Fanning $100.

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If Iraq Were in Central America

9:02 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

A young boy holding a toy stands in front of a tent in a refugee camp

What if the refugees of our Middle East wars weren’t so far away?

Just as in discussions of bombing nations for women’s rights it’s hard to bring up the subject of the right not to be bombed, in discussions of shipping so-called illegal children away from the border where you’ve been terrorizing them in reenactments of Freedom Ride buses it’s hard to bring up the subject of not having your government overthrown and your nation turned into a living hell.

Imagine, however, if Iraq were in Central America.  Most people in the United States don’t realize how convenient it has been to have millions of Iraqis made homeless so far away from the United States, fleeing to places like Syria, and then fleeing Syria when it’s Syria’s turn to be destroyed.

If, during the past decades of war and sanctions and war on Iraq, Iraq had been located closer to Miami and San Antonio than New York or Seattle is, wouldn’t it have been a bit harder for people to tell pollsters that Iraq was benefitting from the war? Wouldn’t it have been a bit harder to continue pretending immigrants are something different from refugees? Wouldn’t immigrants rights groups have been compelled to notice the military and the wars that create the justification for abuses in the United States but also the motivations for fleeing homes where the wars happen?

If Gaza were in Maryland, would the United States still provide the weapons for bombing the homes there? Would CNN still blame Gazans who remain in their homes? Or would it, rather, scream at them to get back home where they belong?

Well, Honduras is closer to Florida and Texas than much of the United States is. The U.S. government facilitated the overthrow of the government of Honduras with a military coup in 2009 and has supported, funded, armed, and trained the military and the police that have turned Honduras into the most violent and dangerous place on earth, beating out Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, and other top contenders in the World Cup of Hell Holes. The President of Honduras was yanked out of bed and flown to a U.S. military base and out of the country. The military that replaced him has been trained in torture and assassination at the School of the Americas in Georgia.

And now President Obama is ordering Honduran toddlers flown home from the United States where they are disturbing good democratic citizens of the land of liberty. Perhaps this is a moment, after all, in which to unite the movement for the rights of immigrants with the movement for peace and the rule of law in foreign relations.

Imagine the strength of those two movements combined. Words like Hope and Change might actually mean something.

Until then, forgive me if I’m simply disgusted with the level of evil imposed on the world by those in power and the failure of those abused to unite against it.

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