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Tour de Peace

9:25 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Between April 4 and July 3, the entire country (and the other 96% of humanity too) is invited to join in a bicycle ride from California to Washington, D.C.  You can join as a bicycler or as a sponsor.

This won’t be a ride to raise awareness about cruelty to animals, but it will raise awareness about war — by many measures the greatest destroyer of the natural environment we have, as well as consisting first and foremost of the mass killing of that peculiar animal we’re all rather fond of: the homo sapiens.

This won’t be a ride to raise money for cancer research, but it will raise money for the campaign to abolish war — a carcinogen if the people of Fallujah ever saw one.

This paragraph is exclusively for supporters of President Obama.  If that’s not you, please skip to the following paragraph right now.  With Republicans out of the White House and no election this year, there is no need to fund election campaigns or to work against particular wars.  This is a moment in which our time and our resources are freed up to support long-term structure building so that the plague of war never returns.  Remember all those promises to engage in policy-based activism once the most important election of our lives was over?  This is the time to get in better physical shape before phone banking season.  Pump up your tires and polish your handlebars!  Stop reading and get riding right now.

With presidential war powers expanding rapidly and war gaining widespread acceptance among liberals there is an urgent need for an educational and organizing effort that pedals under, over, and around the barricades of the corporate media.  U.S. forces are in more nations than ever before, the military budget is still rising and will still be rising even if the sequester “cuts” go through, the CIA has been handed war making powers, the president has claimed the power to spy without warrants, imprison without trial, and murder at will.  Wars are launched on nations like Libya in defiance of Congress and the United Nations, with blowback spreading rapidly.  Pentagon friendly dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are backed against their people’s nonviolent movements for democracy, while violence is encouraged in Syria and Iran.  Palestinians are left to their fate, while a new kind of war launched from flying robots slaughters men, women, and children, traumatizes populations, and generates refugee crises, engulfing nations in boiling hatred of the United States of America.

When MSNBC assigns David Axelrod (who refused to deny that President Obama maintains the power to torture anyone as he sees fit) to analyze and punditrify John Brennan’s refusal to deny that President Obama maintains the power to murder U.S. citizens within the United States (never mind anyone at all outside the United States or 96% of humanity within it), the triumph of freemarket journalism will have reached a pinnacle unsurpassed in history, putting the Soviet Union’s efforts to shame and finally concluding the Cold War, unless nobody notices.

You know who just might wake some people up to what’s staring them in the face?

Cindy Sheehan.  Cindy has proposed the Tour de Peace.  She’s been lining up events and participants along the route.  She’s ready to ride, and to me she is an inspiration.  Cindy’s appeal, both before and after the corporate media made her a story in Crawford Texas seven-and-a-half years ago, was he uncensored honesty.  She’s still got it.  I’ve seen a lot of people dump their heart and soul into the peace movement over the past decade and burn out and quit.  I appreciate their efforts.  We need sprinters, just as the Tour de Peace needs short-distance riders.

But when I see someone become even more aware of the evil that has swallowed up our government, and continually find new ways to confront it, I see a model others should follow.  Cindy’s gone at it as hard as anyone.  She’s taken nasty blows from the right and the so-called left.  She’s burned out and quit, too, but never for more than a day or so.  She just keeps coming.  Cindy has quit paying her taxes because of the wars they fund.  She’s been arrested for nonviolent resistance countless times.  She’s traveled endlessly, speaking and inspiring.  She’s written a stack of important books.  She’s hosted a radio show, blogged, and run for Congress and the Vice Presidency.  And in this age in which pundits openly say they’d oppose the president’s abuses if he were a Republican, Cindy goes ahead and opposed them anyway, with plenty of opposition left over for the Congress, the courts, the funders, the weapons makers, the lobbyists, and the White House Press Corpse.

Creating a mass of people in the streets for peace or justice usually requires money and staff, bus rentals and leg work, coalition building and compromising.  Two moments stand out in my mind when none of that was needed.  One was when Cindy went to Crawford.  The other was when Occupy went to Wall Street.  Both were moments of brilliant principled and courageous activism.  Neither would have ever been heard of by most who heard of them if not for the corporate media.  I’ve seen Cindy attempt to recreate Crawford countless times since (not to mention before), without the same success.  She does so fully aware of the forces at work.  She does so with every effort to create our own media and bypass the corporate censors.  And she does so knowing that the only way to guarantee failure is to not try.

What if we were to create a movement capable of thinking of itself as real and national or international even outside of our television sets?  One of the side effects would be its inevitable infiltration into our television sets.  But the primary effect would be the beginning of hope and change as something more than perverse slogans of star-gazing servitude.

When the Tour de Peace leaves Casey Sheehan’s grave in Vacaville, Calif., on the ninth anniversary of his death in Iraq and the 45th of Dr. King’s in Memphis, it will follow the mother road, Route 66, to Chicago, and other highways and byways from there to D.C.  The tour will conclude on July 3, 2013, with a ride from Arlington National Cemetery to the White House.

This August will mark 8 years since Sheehan began her widely reported protest at then-President George W. Bush’s “ranch”.  She was demanding to know what the “noble cause” was for which Bush claimed Americans were dying in Iraq.  Neither Bush nor Obama has yet offered a justification for a global war now in its 12th year.  The Tour de Peace will carry with it these demands:

To end wars,

To end immunity for U.S. war crimes,

To end suppression of our civil rights,

To end the use of fossil fuels,

To end persecution of whistleblowers,

To end partisan apathy and inaction.

as well as the names of everyone who signs on in support.

Watch the trailer here.

Learning From La Venezuela

7:31 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Imagine that your son, your darling little boy, was killed during the past eight years in a war that served purely to kill a whole lot of Iraqis and enrich a small number of billionaires, while causing horrible environmental damage, stripping away our civil liberties, and poisoning foreign relations elsewhere.  And imagine that, instead of avoiding this reality or lying about it, you confronted it.  Further, imagine that you became so famous confronting it, that everybody wanted to be your friend, at least for a minute. You might even get invited to Venezuela by President Hugo Chavez, and you might go with a mind open to hearing what he had to say.

Cindy Sheehan did.  And now she’s published a book about it.  If Venezuela makes it to the top of the list for the next U.S. war, this book will be a valuable tool for confronting the propaganda.  But why wait?  Our government has attempted a coup and is openly funding opposition groups.  Why wait to consider what it is we’re paying to try to undo?

Venezuela could be targeted for its oil, of course.  But Cindy proposes another reason why the government in Washington, D.C., that we all so love to hate except when it kills lots of people, might be targeting Venezuela.  In an interview included in the book, she asks Chavez: “Why do you think the Empire makes such a concerted effort to demonize you?”  His response, which has been translated from Spanish, is:

“I think for different reasons. But I’ve gotten to the conclusion there is one particular strong reason, a big reason. They are afraid, the Empire is afraid.  The Empire is afraid that the people of the United States might find out about the truth, they are afraid that something like that could erupt in their own territory — a Bolivarian movement; or a Lincoln movement — a movement of citizens, conscious citizens to transform the system. . . . So, why do they demonize us? They know — those who direct the Empire — they know the truth. But they fear the truth. They fear the contagious effect. They fear a revolution in the United States. They fear an awakening of the people in the United States. And so that’s why they do everything they can. And they achieve it, relatively, that a lot of sectors in the United States see us as devils. No one wants to copy the devil.”

But we might copy some little things even from the devil if they were worth copying.  What is it that Sheehan and Chavez think might be contagious if we found out about it?

This is why the book is a valuable resource now, threat or no threat, war or no war.  It’s a story of a people’s movement, largely nonviolent.  It’s a story of dramatic change that was slow in coming and then burst into fruition.  It’s a story of a work in progress that is moving in positive directions, investing in education, protecting the environment, raising the living standards of the majority of the people.  Can a new political party succeed?  Yes, it can.  Can an outworn Constitution be rewritten at great length and well by a popular movement?  Yes, it can. (PDF). Cindy lists some of the changes brought by this Constitution:

·      added a “people’s branch”
·      added an “election’s branch”
·      citizens are able to recall the president
·      health care is enshrined as a human right
·      education is enshrined as a human right
·      gender inclusivity in the language
·      equal rights for women under the law
·      only the people can amend the document
·      aggressive indigenous rights
·      commits the power of the state to protect the environment

The horror!  I know some USians who don’t dare HOPE for such a CHANGE. I even know some who are learning that such changes are perfectly possible, but that they don’t come about through hoping, or through voting alone.

The weakness of the Venezuelan revolution, however, is very similar to the weakness of US liberalism.  Each pins its hopes on a single messiah.  Of course, Chavez is making the poor richer, while Obama is making the rich richer.  But it appears entirely possible that positive movement in Venezuela will be thrown into reverse when Chavez dies.  Chavez ought to be teaching his nation not to depend on one man.  He ought to step down while alive and well enough to help guide his successor.  He ought to move on to a focus on uniting the nations of South America.  That he does not do this seems to me a mark against his character.  But it does not change the fact that the Venezuelan people have been empowered to rule by referendum, while in the United States the presidency has been made more powerful than that of Venezuela — and without the addition of direct democracy.  The Venezuelan Constitution has already been amended, by public referendum.  The U.S. Constitution hasn’t been touched in 40 years except through dramatic changes imposed by the Supreme Court or the President.

The question that my mind focuses on in reading Cindy’s account is not, however, what can I find wrong with Chavez.  It’s this: Can we make an Occupy movement worthy of the title Bolivarian?