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Lying About Syria, and the Lying Liars Who Lie About the Lying

8:11 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

“U.S. prepares for possible retaliatory strike against Syria,” announces a Los Angeles Times headline, even though Syria has not attacked the United States or any of its occupied territories or imperial forces and has no intention to do so.

Quoth the article:

the president made no decisions, but the high-level talks came as the Pentagon acknowledged it was moving U.S. forces into position in the region.

Rubble near a Syrian checkpoint

David Swanson continues to argue against American intervention in Syria.

Forgive me, but who the SNAFU made that decision?  Does the commander in chief have any say in this?  Does he get to make speeches explaining how wrong it would be to attack Syria, meet with top military officials who leave the meeting to prepare for attacks on Syria, and go down in history as having been uninvolved in, if not opposed to, his own policies?

Threatening to attack Syria, and moving ships into position to do it, are significant, and illegal, and immoral actions.  The president can claim not to have decided to push the button, but he can’t pretend that all the preparations to do so just happen like the weather.  Or he couldn’t if newspapers reported news.

(Yes, illegal.  Read the U.N. Charter:

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.)

“The Defense Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for all contingencies,” said the so-called Defense Secretary, but do any of the contingencies involve defending the United States?  Do any of them involve peace-making?  If not, is it really accurate to talk about “all” contingencies?

In fact, Chuck Hagel only has that “responsibility” because Obama instructed him to provide, not all options, but all military options.

Syrian rebels understand that under all possible U.S. policies, faking chemical weapons attacks can get them guns, while shifting to nonviolent resistance can only get them as ignored as Bahrain. (Ba-who?)

“Obama also called British Prime Minister David Cameron,” says the LA Times, “to talk over the developments in Syria. The two are ‘united’ in their opposition to the use of chemical weapons, the White House said in a statement issued after the call.” Well, except for white phosphorus and napalm.  Those are good chemical weapons, and the United States government is against bad chemical weapons, so really your newspaper isn’t lying to you at all.

What did Obama say to CNN on Thursday?

[T]he notion that the U.S. can somehow solve what is a sectarian, complex problem inside of Syria sometimes is overstated

Ya think?

CNN’s Chris Cuomo (son of Mario) pushed for war:

But delay can be deadly, right, Mr. President?

Obama replied that he was still verifying the latest chemical weapons horseshit. Cuomo brushed that aside:

There’s strong proof they used them already, though, in the past.

Obama didn’t reply to that lie, but spouted some vacuous rhetoric.

Cuomo, his thirst for dead Syrian flesh perhaps getting a bit frustrated, reached for the standard John McCainism.  Senator McCain, Cuomo said, thinks U.S. “credibility” is lost if Syria is not attacked. (And if the U.S. government were to suddenly claim not to be an institution of mass-murder, and to act on that — then how would its credibility be?)

Obama, undeterred, went right on preaching against what he was about to do. “Sometimes,” Obama said, “what we’ve seen is that folks will call for immediate action, jumping into stuff, that does not turn out well, gets us mired in very difficult situations, can result in us being drawn into very expensive, difficult, costly interventions that actually breed more resentment in the region.”

But you promised, whined Cuomo, that chemical weapons use would be the crossing of a Red Line!

Obama replied that international law should be complied with. (For the uninitiated, international law actually forbids attacking and overturning other nations’ governments — even Libya’s.) And, Obama pointed out, there are options other than the military.

There are?!

I’ve found that when Obama starts talking sense like this, he’s actually moving rapidly in the opposite direction. The more he explains why it would be wrong and illegal and stupid and immoral to attack Syria, the more you can be sure he’s about to do just that.

Here are my, previously published, top 10 reasons not to attack Syria, even if the latest chemical weapons lies were true:

Read the rest of this entry →

Lawrence Wilkerson and David Swanson Debate Colin Powell’s Lies at the U.N.

9:29 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

WilkersonWhen I wrote about MSNBC’s documentary on Iraq war lies this week, I linked to an earlier blog post of mine that drew heavily on a House Judiciary Committee report on the same topic, as well as to Lawrence Wilkerson’s recent debate with Norman Solomon on Democracy Now!

When Brad Friedman reposted my Hubris review, he suggested I ask Wilkerson for a response.  I did and here it is:

David,
 
Several misleading and even spurious bullets and headlines that make strong claims that are not supported in the surrounding narrative.  For example, no one ever DID warn Powell about Curveball, in fact quite the opposite. This particular source–billed as an Iraqi engineer who had defected–was George Tenet’s–the DCI’s–strongest weapon.  And incidentally, the title “Curveball” was never heard until well after the 5 Feb presentation.
 
Your use of INR’s assessment of “weak” repeatedly, is weak itself.  INR was at the time one of 15 intelligence entities in the US intelligence architecture at the federal level. (Add Israel  France, the UK, Jordan, Germany, et al, and of course you get even more).  INR’s assessments were often viewed–indeed still are–as maverick within that group (and were particularly so viewed by George Tenet and his deputy John McLaughlin.  Indeed, INR’s insistence on putting a footnote in the October 2002 NIE with regard to its doubts about Saddam’s having an active nuclear weapons program was only grudgingly acknowledged and allowed by Tenet.  And in truth, INR itself concurred in the overall NIE’s finding that chems and bios existed (and the NIE was the root document of Powell’s 5 Feb presentation). 
 
I have admitted what a hoax we perpetrated.  But it actually spoils or desecrates a fair condemnation of what is already a bad enough set of misstatements, very poor intelligence analysis, and–I am increasingly convinced, outright lies–to take the matter to absurdity with one man, in this case Powell.   
 
To see my point dramatically, one must realize that whether Powell had given his presentation or not, the President would have gone to war with Iraq. That doesn’t relieve Powell or me or any of us who participated in preparing Powell of responsibility; it simply places the bulk of that responsibility squarely where it should rest. 
 
You, Ray McGovern, and I will never reach accord on this I’m certain; but I must say that just as I may have biases from my long association with Powell, I believe both of you should examine your biases with regard to the man.  Just as it was very difficult for me to face the fact I had participated in a hoax, it probably is just as difficult that you two admit you may be too aggressively critical of Powell. Both our conditions are recognizably human and yours more forgiveable than mine to be sure.  lw
Here’s my reply:
Larry,
Thanks for this response.
I’m CCing Brad Blog which posted my commentary and might want to post your reply.
Here’s my reply to your reply (also available to publish) :-)Whether or not anyone told Powell of Curveball’s reputation, Powell’s own staff, the INR, told him the claims were weak, the claims that came from Curveball and from numerous other sources.  The INR told him the claims were weak and questionable and even implausible.
Powell used fabricated dialogue.  He used evidence from a source who had admitted all the weapons had been destroyed years ago, but failed to mention that bit.  Again, here is the catalog of bogus claims: http://www.consortiumnews.com/2011/021811a.html
You yourself in Hubris state that claims you’d rejected were put back in.  That is a moment to resign in protest, not to move forward and dismiss the INR, the State Department’s own experts, as “maverick.”
When the Pentagon and the White House build a transparently fraudulent case for war, rejected by countless experts, many nations, and much of the public, the State Department’s job is to support fact-based analysis regardless of whether it is “maverick.”
You recently accused Norman Solomon on DemocracyNow! and all other truth tellers of that time of having failed to warn you — as if we weren’t shouting into every available microphone.  If word had slipped through to you, it seems you would have rejected it as “maverick.”
This is highly discouraging.  If analysis within our government consciously engages in groupthink, where will we find the whistleblowers necessary to prevent the next war?
Please do not imagine that any of us suppose the President wasn’t intent on going to war at all costs.  It was the transparency of that intention that created the largest public protest in world history.  But to suggest that Powell and you did no harm by supporting a war that might have gone ahead even if you’d resisted is a complete breakdown in morality.
I don’t believe blame works that way.  Blaming Bush more doesn’t blame Powell or you less.  It just blames Bush more.  Blame is not a finite quantity born of a drive for vengeance and distributable to a limited number of people.  Blame is what we each deserve when we fail to take the best actions available, as explained here.

Hubris Isn’t the Half of It

8:03 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell

As our government was making a fraudulent case to attack Iraq in 2002-2003, the MSNBC television network was doing everything it could to help, including booting Phil Donahue and Jeff Cohen off the air.  The Donahue Show was deemed likely to be insufficiently war-boosting and was thus removed 10 years ago next week, and 10 days after the largest antiwar (or anything else) demonstrations in the history of the world, as a preemptive strike against the voices of honest peaceful people.

From there, MSNBC proceeded to support the war with mild critiques around the edges, and to white-out the idea of impeachment or accountability.

But now MSNBC has seen its way clear to airing a documentary about the fraudulent case it assisted in, a documentary titled Hubris.  This short film (which aired between 9 and 10 p.m. ET Monday night, but with roughly half of those minutes occupied by commercials) pointed out the role of the New York Times in defrauding the public, but not MSNBC’s role.

Yet, my primary response to that is joy rather than disgust.  It is now cool to acknowledge war lies.  Truth-tellers, including truth-tellers rarely presented with a corporate microphone, made that happen.

MSNBC host and Obama promoter Rachel Maddow even introduced Hubris by pointing to another war lie — the Gulf of Tonkin incident that wasn’t — and a war lie started by a Democrat in that case.  Similar lies can be found surrounding every war that has ever been, which is why I wrote War Is A Lie.  We have to stop imagining that “bad wars” are a subset of wars.

But, of course, using Maddow as the presenter and narrator of a film about Republican war lies during a period of unacknowledged Democratic war lies unavoidably gives the thing a partisan slant.  Watching Hubris, I was reminded of something that Michael Moore tweeted last Friday: “Senate Repubs: U started 2 illegal wars that broke the treasury & sacrificed the lives of thousands of our troops & countless civilians.”

Of course, the Senate that gave us the two wars in question was in reality controlled by Democrats, and the war lies were pushed hard by Senators Kerry, Clinton, and their comrades.  Hubris touches on this reality but not with sufficient clarity for most viewers — I suspect — to pick up on it.

The film presents a great deal of good evidence that the war on Iraq was based on lies.  Unavoidably, endless terrific bits of such evidence were not included.  Less excusably, also left out was an analysis of the evidence that only dishonesty — not incompetence — explains the propaganda that was produced.

Hubris is the wrong word for what took the United States into war with Iraq.  The forces at work were greed, lust for power, and sadistic vengeance.  The word “hubris” suggests the tragic downfall of the guilty party.  But the war on Iraq did not destroy the United States; it destroyed Iraq.  It damaged the United States, to be sure, but in a manner hardly worthy of mention in comparison to the sociocide committed against Iraq.

Hubris, the film, provides a reprehensibly ludicrous underestimation of Iraqi deaths, and only after listing U.S. casualties.

It was not pride but a disregard for human life that generated mass murder.  Congressman Walter Jones, who voted for the war, is shown in Hubris saying that he would have voted No if he had bothered to read the National Intelligence Estimate that very few of his colleagues bothered to read.

Another talking head in the film is Lawrence Wilkerson.  He is, of course, the former chief of staff of former Secretary of State Colin Powell.  Wilkerson is shown explaining that the reason not to attack Iraq was that doing so would take a focus away from attacking Afghanistan.  Clearly this was not a reason that led to Wilkerson or Powell taking any kind of stand.

Wilkerson says in this film that he and Powell knew the war was based on lies, that the claims were junk, that no WMDs were likely to be found, etc.  Yet, when confronted last week by Norman Solomon on Democracy Now! with the question of why he hadn’t resigned in protest, Wilkerson claimed that at the time he’d had no idea whatsoever that there were good arguments against the war.  In fact, he blamed opponents of the war for not having contacted him to educate him on the matter.

The Hubris version of Colin Powell’s lies at the United Nations is misleadingly undertold.  Powell was not a victim.  He “knowingly lied.”

The same goes for Bush, Cheney, and gang.  According to Hubris it may have just been incompetence or hubris.  It wasn’t.  Not only does overwhelming evidence show us that Bush knew his claims about WMDs to be false, but the former president has shown us that he considers the question of truth or falsehood to be laughably irrelevant. When Diane Sawyer asked Bush why he had claimed with such certainty that there were so many weapons in Iraq, he replied: “What’s the difference? The possibility that [Saddam] could acquire weapons, If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger.”

What’s the difference?  In a society based on the rule of law, the difference would be a criminal prosecution.  MSNBC and Hubris steer us away from any ideas of accountability.  And no connection is drawn to current war lies about Iran or other nations.

But the production of programs like this one that prolong Americans’ awareness of the lies that destroyed Iraq are the best hope Iran has right now.  MSNBC should be contacted and applauded for airing this and urged to follow up on it.

Photo Courtesy of Charles Haynes released under Creative Commons License

Evidence of War Lies Is Public Pre-War This Time

10:06 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

War for Sale (image: cheesebikini/flickr)

War for Sale (image: cheesebikini/flickr)

When President George W. Bush was pretending to want to avoid a war on Iraq while constantly pushing laughably bad propaganda to get that war going, we had a feeling he was lying.  After all, he was a Republican.  But it was after the war was raging away that we came upon things like the Downing Street Minutes and the White House Memo.

Now President Barack Obama is pretending to want to avoid a war on Iran and to want Israel not to start one, while constantly pushing laughably bad propaganda to get that war going.  We might suspect a lack of sincerity, given the insistence that Iran put an end to a program that the U.S. government simultaneously says there is no evidence exists, given the increase in free weapons for Israel to $3.1 billion next year, given the ongoing protection of Israel at the U.N. from any accountability for crimes, given the embrace of sanctions highly unlikely to lead to anything other than greater prospects of war, and given Obama’s refusal to take openly illegal war “off the table.”  We might suspect that peace was not the ultimate goal, except of course that Obama is a Democrat.

However, we now have Wikileaks cables and comments from anonymous officials that served as the basis for a report from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested the United States approve the sale of advanced refueling aircraft as well as GBU-28 bunker-piercing bombs to Israel during a recent meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a top U.S. official said on Tuesday.  The American official said that U.S. President Barack Obama instructed Panetta to work directly with Defense Minister Ehud Barak on the matter, indicating that the U.S. administration was inclined to look favorably upon the request as soon as possible. During the administration of former U.S. President George Bush, the U.S. refused to sell bunker-penetrating bombs and refueling aircrafts to Israel, as a result of American estimates that Israel would then use them to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities.  Following Obama’s entrance into the White House, however, the United States approves a string of Israeli requests to purchase advance armament.  Diplomatic cables exposed by the WikiLeaks website exposed discussion concerning advanced weapons shipments. In one cable which surveyed defense discussions between Israel and the United states that took place on November 2009 it was written that ‘both sides then discussed the upcoming delivery of GBU-28 bunker busting bombs to Israel, noting that the transfer should be handled quietly to avoid any allegations that the USG is helping Israel prepare for a strike against Iran.’”

Why supply Israel with the weapons to attack Iran more forcefully if you don’t want Israel to attack Iran?  The Israeli newspaper Maariv claims to have the answer.  Apparently people in the know are spilling the beans earlier this war cycle: Read the rest of this entry →

Panetta: Military Spending Is Going Up

1:58 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

On Thursday, Leon Panetta held a press conference announcing what he called “cuts” to military spending.  The first question following his remarks pointed out that the “cuts” are to dream budgets, while the actual spending will be increased over Panetta’s 10-year plan.  Is there any year, the reporter asked, out of the 10 years in question, other than the first one, 2013, in which spending will actually decrease at all?  Panetta replied that he was proposing really truly to cut the projected dream budgets that he had hoped for.  In other words, he did not answer the question.

Now, there are additional minor cuts “on the table” as the saying goes, cuts that Panetta has described as disastrous, cuts that would take U.S. military spending back to about 2007 levels, cuts nowhere close to what a majority of the country favors.  (How we survived 2007 and all the years preceding it has never been explained.)  Earlier this week, Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee sent President Obama a video denouncing these cuts.  They are, of course, the cuts mandated by the legislation that created the Super Committee, which failed, resulting in supposedly automatic cuts.

The video (available here) is itself packed with lies.  It falsely claims that cuts have already been made.  It uses dollar figures derived from lumping 10 years of budgets together to make cuts sound 10 times larger.  It pretends the automatic cuts would all be to the military, whereas many could be to the State Department and other subsidiary arms of the military.  These Republicans propose slashing 10% of non-military government jobs and describe this as saving jobs, even though non-military spending produces more jobs for the same dollars than military spending does.  And of course there is no mention in this video or in any official discussion of exactly how outrageously huge the U.S. military has become.  But a crazy video, and a bill to go with it, can not only pass the House and make its way into the Senate (Senator John McCain is already working on companion legislation), but the President is already in agreement with this bill’s primary purpose of undoing any actual cuts to the military.  The history of lame duck officials, by the way, is that of becoming less, not more, representative of the public will. Caveat emptor!

In 2004, three times in three debates Senator John McCain proposed cutting military spending and Obama avoided the topic. Candidate Obama proposed significantly enlarging the largest military the world had ever seen.  And he has done so.  He now proposes not to cut it while pretending to cut it.  The best bit of rhetoric in this week’s State of the Union address was this:

“Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.”

On Thursday, Panetta put that in real dollar terms.  Setting aside any possible supplemental spending bills, and ignoring increased war participation by the CIA, the State Department, etc., and apart from the much larger “non-war” military spending that continues to inch upward, not downward, Panetta claimed that, if Congress would agree, we would spend $88 billion on wars next year, instead of $115 billion this year.  That $115 billion is fairly typical of the past decade, in which we have spent between $100 billion and $200 billion on wars each year (not counting veterans care, fuel price impacts, lost opportunities, debt interest, etc.)  I suspect it also does not include Libya.  So, we’re saving $27 billion, maybe.  Take half of that for debt, and we’ve got $13.5 billion with which to do our nation-building right here at home.  Let’s be generous and round it up to $100 billion. That’s still in comparison with an overall war and “security” budget of well over $1 trillion annually.  And $13.5 billion is less than a quarter of the $60 billion Panetta now claims he will save purely through “increased efficiency.”  (Granted, that actually could be done in the Pentagon if it were not, you know, the Pentagon.)

The talk of cuts serves more than a political purpose for Panetta and Obama.  It also serves to justify actual cuts to services for troops and veterans even while increasing spending on weapons and occupying new nations.  Also announced on Thursday, Obama is working on re-occupying the Philippines.  To his credit, there has been no mention of the benefits to “our little brown brothers.”  There will be an increased Asian presence, Panetta said.  The Marines will maintain their Pacific presence, he noted in particular, horribly smashing the hopes of the entire population of Okinawa.  There will be no cuts to bombers.  We will have a “posture forward” and be able to “penetrate defenses” strengthening “the ability to project power in denied areas,” also known as other people’s countries.  But healthcare fees and deductibles for troops and veterans will have to go up, Panetta said.

The second question asked at Panetta’s press conference (how did actual reporters get in there?) was why a tiny reduction following a massive increase in troops in Afghanistan was really sufficient.  Panetta was unable to explain.  Can you?

70 Years of Lying About Pearl Harbor

9:10 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s fervent hope for years was that Japan would attack the United States. This would permit the United States (not legally, but politically) to fully enter World War II in Europe, as its president wanted to do, as opposed to merely providing weaponry and assisting in targeting of submarines as it had been doing. Of course, Germany’s declaration of war, which followed Pearl Harbor and the immediate U.S. declaration of war on Japan, helped as well, but it was Pearl Harbor that radically converted the American people from opposition to support for war.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had tried lying to the American people about U.S. ships including the Greer and the Kerny, which had been helping British planes track German submarines, but which Roosevelt pretended had been innocently attacked. Roosevelt also lied that he had in his possession a secret Nazi map planning the conquest of South America, as well as a secret Nazi plan for replacing all religions with Nazism. And yet, the people of the United States didn’t buy the idea of going into another war until Pearl Harbor, by which point Roosevelt had already instituted the draft, activated the National Guard, created a huge Navy in two oceans, traded old destroyers to England in exchange for the lease of its bases in the Caribbean and Bermuda, and — just 11 days before the “unexpected” attack — he had secretly ordered the creation of a list of every Japanese and Japanese-American person in the United States.

On April 28, 1941, Churchill wrote a secret directive to his war cabinet:

“It may be taken as almost certain that the entry of Japan into the war would be followed by the immediate entry of the United States on our side.”

On May 11, 1941, Robert Menzies, the prime minister of Australia, met with Roosevelt and found him “a little jealous” of Churchill’s place in the center of the war. While Roosevelt’s cabinet all wanted the United States to enter the war, Menzies found that Roosevelt,

” . . . trained under Woodrow Wilson in the last war, waits for an incident, which would in one blow get the USA into war and get R. out of his foolish election pledges that ‘I will keep you out of war.’”

On August 18, 1941, Churchill met with his cabinet at 10 Downing Street. The meeting had some similarity to the July 23, 2002, meeting at the same address, the minutes of which became known as the Downing Street Minutes. Both meetings revealed secret U.S. intentions to go to war. In the 1941 meeting, Churchill told his cabinet, according to the minutes: “The President had said he would wage war but not declare it.” In addition, “Everything was to be done to force an incident.”

Japan was certainly not averse to attacking others and had been busy creating an Asian empire. And the United States and Japan were certainly not living in harmonious friendship. But what could bring the Japanese to attack?

When President Franklin Roosevelt visited Pearl Harbor on July 28, 1934, seven years before the Japanese attack, the Japanese military expressed apprehension. General Kunishiga Tanaka wrote in the Japan Advertiser, objecting to the build-up of the American fleet and the creation of additional bases in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands:

“Such insolent behavior makes us most suspicious. It makes us think a major disturbance is purposely being encouraged in the Pacific. This is greatly regretted.”

Whether it was actually regretted or not is a separate question from whether this was a typical and predictable response to military expansionism, even when done in the name of “defense.” The great unembedded (as we would today call him) journalist George Seldes was suspicious as well. In October 1934 he wrote in Harper’s Magazine: “It is an axiom that nations do not arm for war but for a war.” Seldes asked an official at the Navy League:

“Do you accept the naval axiom that you prepare to fight a specific navy?”
The man replied “Yes.”
“Do you contemplate a fight with the British navy?”
“Absolutely, no.”
“Do you contemplate war with Japan?”
“Yes.”

In 1935 the most decorated U.S. Marine in history at the time, Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler, published to enormous success a short book called War Is a Racket. He saw perfectly well what was coming and warned the nation:

“At each session of Congress the question of further naval appropriations comes up. The swivel-chair admirals don’t shout that ‘We need lots of battleships to war on this nation or that nation.’ Oh, no. First of all, they let it be known that America is menaced by a great naval power. Almost any day, these admirals will tell you, the great fleet of this supposed enemy will strike suddenly and annihilate our 125,000,000 people. Just like that. Then they begin to cry for a larger navy. For what? To fight the enemy? Oh my, no. Oh, no. For defense purposes only. Then, incidentally, they announce maneuvers in the Pacific. For defense. Uh, huh.

“The Pacific is a great big ocean. We have a tremendous coastline in the Pacific. Will the maneuvers be off the coast, two or three hundred miles? Oh, no. The maneuvers will be two thousand, yes, perhaps even thirty-five hundred miles, off the coast.

“The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased beyond expression to see the United States fleet so close to Nippon’s shores. Even as pleased as would be the residents of California were they to dimly discern, through the morning mist, the Japanese fleet playing at war games off Los Angeles.”

In March 1935, Roosevelt bestowed Wake Island on the U.S. Navy and gave Pan Am Airways a permit to build runways on Wake Island, Midway Island, and Guam. Japanese military commanders announced that they were disturbed and viewed these runways as a threat. So did peace activists in the United States. By the next month, Roosevelt had planned war games and maneuvers near the Aleutian Islands and Midway Island. By the following month, peace activists were marching in New York advocating friendship with Japan. Norman Thomas wrote in 1935:

“The Man from Mars who saw how men suffered in the last war and how frantically they are preparing for the next war, which they know will be worse, would come to the conclusion that he was looking at the denizens of a lunatic asylum.”

The U.S. Navy spent the next few years working up plans for war with Japan, the March 8, 1939, version of which described “an offensive war of long duration” that would destroy the military and disrupt the economic life of Japan. In January 1941, eleven months before the attack, the Japan Advertiser expressed its outrage over Pearl Harbor in an editorial, and the U.S. ambassador to Japan wrote in his diary:

“There is a lot of talk around town to the effect that the Japanese, in case of a break with the United States, are planning to go all out in a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course I informed my government.”

On February 5, 1941, Rear Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner wrote to Secretary of War Henry Stimson to warn of the possibility of a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor.

As early as 1932 the United States had been talking with China about providing airplanes, pilots, and training for its war with Japan. In November 1940, Roosevelt loaned China one hundred million dollars for war with Japan, and after consulting with the British, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau made plans to send the Chinese bombers with U.S. crews to use in bombing Tokyo and other Japanese cities. On December 21, 1940, two weeks shy of a year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, China’s Minister of Finance T.V. Soong and Colonel Claire Chennault, a retired U.S. Army flier who was working for the Chinese and had been urging them to use American pilots to bomb Tokyo since at least 1937, met in Henry Morgenthau’s dining room to plan the firebombing of Japan. Morgenthau said he could get men released from duty in the U.S. Army Air Corps if the Chinese could pay them $1,000 per month. Soong agreed.

On May 24, 1941, the New York Times reported on U.S. training of the Chinese air force, and the provision of “numerous fighting and bombing planes” to China by the United States. “Bombing of Japanese Cities is Expected” read the subheadline. By July, the Joint Army-Navy Board had approved a plan called JB 355 to firebomb Japan. A front corporation would buy American planes to be flown by American volunteers trained by Chennault and paid by another front group. Roosevelt approved, and his China expert Lauchlin Currie, in the words of Nicholson Baker, “wired Madame Chaing Kai-Shek and Claire Chennault a letter that fairly begged for interception by Japanese spies.” Whether or not that was the entire point, this was the letter:

“I am very happy to be able to report today the President directed that sixty-six bombers be made available to China this year with twenty-four to be delivered immediately. He also approved a Chinese pilot training program here. Details through normal channels. Warm regards.”

Our ambassador had said “in case of a break with the United States” the Japanese would bomb Pearl Harbor. I wonder if this qualified!

The 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force, also known as the Flying Tigers, moved ahead with recruitment and training immediately, were provided to China prior to Pearl Harbor, and first saw combat on December 20, 1941, twelve days (local time) after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

On May 31, 1941, at the Keep America Out of War Congress, William Henry Chamberlin gave a dire warning: “A total economic boycott of Japan, the stoppage of oil shipments for instance, would push Japan into the arms of the Axis. Economic war would be a prelude to naval and military war.” The worst thing about peace advocates is how many times they turn out to be right.

On July 24, 1941, President Roosevelt remarked, “If we cut the oil off , [the Japanese] probably would have gone down to the Dutch East Indies a year ago, and you would have had a war. It was very essential from our own selfish point of view of defense to prevent a war from starting in the South Pacific. So our foreign policy was trying to stop a war from breaking out there.”

Reporters noticed that Roosevelt said “was” rather than “is.” The next day, Roosevelt issued an executive order freezing Japanese assets. The United States and Britain cut off oil and scrap metal to Japan. Radhabinod Pal, an Indian jurist who served on the war crimes tribunal after the war, called the embargoes a “clear and potent threat to Japan’s very existence,” and concluded the United States had provoked Japan.

On August 7th four months before the attack the Japan Times Advertiser wrote: “First there was the creation of a superbase at Singapore, heavily reinforced by British and Empire troops. From this hub a great wheel was built up and linked with American bases to form a great ring sweeping in a great area southwards and westwards from the Philippines through Malaya and Burma, with the link broken only in the Thailand peninsula. Now it is proposed to include the narrows in the encirclement, which proceeds to Rangoon.”

By September the Japanese press was outraged that the United States had begun shipping oil right past Japan to reach Russia. Japan, its newspapers said, was dying a slow death from “economic war.”

What might the United States have been hoping to gain by shipping oil past a nation in desperate need of it?

In late October, U.S. spy Edgar Mower was doing work for Colonel William Donovan who spied for Roosevelt. Mower spoke with a man in Manila named Ernest Johnson, a member of the Maritime Commission, who said he expected “The Japs will take Manila before I can get out.” When Mower expressed surprise, Johnson replied “Didn’t you know the Jap fleet has moved eastward, presumably to attack our fleet at Pearl Harbor?”

On November 3, 1941, our ambassador tried again to get something through his government’s thick skull, sending a lengthy telegram to the State Department warning that the economic sanctions might force Japan to commit “national hara-kiri.” He wrote: “An armed conflict with the United States may come with dangerous and dramatic suddenness.”

Why do I keep recalling the headline of the memo given to President George W. Bush prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks? “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S.”

Apparently nobody in Washington wanted to hear it in 1941 either. On November 15th, Army Chief of Staff George Marshall briefed the media on something we do not remember as “the Marshall Plan.” In fact we don’t remember it at all. “We are preparing an offensive war against Japan,” Marshall said, asking the journalists to keep it a secret, which as far as I know they dutifully did.

Ten days later Secretary of War Henry Stimson wrote in his diary that he’d met in the Oval Office with Marshall, President Roosevelt, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, Admiral Harold Stark, and Secretary of State Cordell Hull. Roosevelt had told them the Japanese were likely to attack soon, possibly next Monday. It has been well documented that the United States had broken the Japanese’ codes and that Roosevelt had access to them. It was through intercept of a so-called Purple code message that Roosevelt had discovered Germany’s plans to invade Russia. It was Hull who leaked a Japanese intercept to the press, resulting in the November 30, 1941, headline “Japanese May Strike Over Weekend.”

That next Monday would have been December 1st, six days before the attack actually came. “The question,” Stimson wrote, “was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves. It was a difficult proposition.” Was it? One obvious answer was to keep the fleet in Pearl Harbor and keep the sailors stationed there in the dark while fretting about them from comfortable offices in Washington, D.C. In fact, that was the solution our suit-and-tied heroes went with.

The day after the attack, Congress voted for war. Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin (R., Mont.), the first woman ever elected to Congress, and who had voted against World War I, stood alone in opposing World War II (just as Congresswoman Barbara Lee [D., Calif.] would stand alone against attacking Afghanistan 60 years later). One year after the vote, on December 8, 1942, Rankin put extended remarks into the Congressional Record explaining her opposition. She cited the work of a British propagandist who had argued in 1938 for using Japan to bring the United States into the war. She cited Henry Luce’s reference in Life magazine on July 20, 1942, to “the Chinese for whom the U.S. had delivered the ultimatum that brought on Pearl Harbor.” She introduced evidence that at the Atlantic Conference on August 12, 1941, Roosevelt had assured Churchill that the United States would bring economic pressure to bear on Japan. “I cited,” Rankin later wrote, ” the State Department Bulletin of December 20, 1941, which revealed that on September 3 a communication had been sent to Japan demanding that it accept the principle of ‘nondisturbance of the status quo in the Pacific,’ which amounted to demanding guarantees of the inviolateness of the white empires in the Orient.”

Rankin found that the Economic Defense Board had gotten economic sanctions under way less than a week after the Atlantic Conference. On December 2, 1941, the New York Times had reported, in fact, that Japan had been “cut off from about 75 percent of her normal trade by the Allied blockade.” Rankin also cited the statement of Lieutenant Clarence E. Dickinson, U.S.N., in the Saturday Evening Post of October 10, 1942, that on November 28, 1941, nine days before the attack, Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., (he of the catchy slogan “Kill Japs! Kill Japs!” ) had given instructions to him and others to “shoot down anything we saw in the sky and to bomb anything we saw on the sea.”

General George Marshall admitted as much to Congress in 1945: that the codes had been broken, that the United States had initiated Anglo-Dutch-American agreements for unified action against Japan and put them into effect before Pearl Harbor, and that the United States had provided officers of its military to China for combat duty before Pearl Harbor. It is hardly a secret that it takes two war powers to wage a war (unlike when one war power attacks an unarmed state) or that this case was no exception to that rule. An October 1940 memorandum by Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum was acted on by President Roosevelt and his chief subordinates. It called for eight actions that McCollum predicted would lead the Japanese to attack, including arranging for the use of British bases in Singapore and for the use of Dutch bases in what is now Indonesia, aiding the Chinese government, sending a division of long-range heavy cruisers to the Philippines or Singapore, sending two divisions of submarines to “the Orient,” keeping the main strength of the fleet in Hawaii, insisting that the Dutch refuse the Japanese oil, and embargoing all trade with Japan in collaboration with the British Empire.

The day after McCollum’s memo, the State Department told Americans to evacuate far eastern nations, and Roosevelt ordered the fleet kept in Hawaii over the strenuous objection of Admiral James O. Richardson who quoted the President as saying “Sooner or later the Japanese would commit an overt act against the United States and the nation would be willing to enter the war.” The message that Admiral Harold Stark sent to Admiral Husband Kimmel on November 28, 1941, read, “IF HOSTILITIES CANNOT REPEAT CANNOT BE AVOIDED THE UNITED STATES DESIRES THAT JAPAN COMMIT THE FIRST OVERT ACT.” Joseph Rochefort, cofounder of the Navy’s communication intelligence section, who was instrumental in failing to communicate to Pearl Harbor what was coming, would later comment: “It was a pretty cheap price to pay for unifying the country.”

The night after the attack, President Roosevelt had CBS News’s Edward R. Murrow and Roosevelt’s Coordinator of Information William Donovan over for dinner at the White House, and all the President wanted to know was whether the American people would now accept war. Donovan and Murrow assured him the people would indeed accept war now. Donovan later told his assistant that Roosevelt’s surprise was not that of others around him, and that he, Roosevelt, welcomed the attack. Murrow was unable to sleep that night and was plagued for the rest of his life by what he called “the biggest story of my life” which he never told, but which he did not need to. The next day, the President spoke of a day of infamy, the United States Congress declared the last Constitutional war in the history of the republic, and the President of the Federal Council of Churches, Dr. George A. Buttrick, became a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation committing to resist the war.

Why does it matter? Because the legend of Pearl Harbor, re-used on 9-11, is responsible not for the destructive pro-war policies of the 1920s and the 1930s that brought World War II into being, but responsible for the permanent war mentality of the past 70 years, as well as for how World War II was escalated, prolonged, and completed.

“Disturbed in 1942,” wrote Lawrence S. Wittner, “by rumors of Nazi extermination plans, Jessie Wallace Hughan worried that such a policy, which appeared ‘natural, from their pathological point of view,’ might be carried out if World War II continued. ‘It seems that the only way to save thousands and perhaps millions of European Jews from destruction,’ she wrote, ‘would be for our government to broadcast the promise’ of an ‘armistice on condition that the European minorities are not molested any further. . . . It would be very terrible if six months from now we should find that this threat has literally come to pass without our making even a gesture to prevent it.’ When her predictions were fulfilled only too well by 1943, she wrote to the State Department and the New York Times, decrying the fact that ‘two million [Jews] have already died’ and that ‘two million more will be killed by the end of the war.’ Once again she pleaded for the cessation of hostilities, arguing that German military defeats would in turn exact reprisals upon the Jewish scapegoat. ‘Victory will not save them,’ she insisted, ‘for dead men cannot be liberated.’”

Hitler killed millions of Germans, but the allies killed as many or more, Germans ordered into battle by Hitler or Germans in the wrong place when allied bombs fell. And, as Hughan pointed out at the time, the war drove the genocide, just as the vengeful settlement of the previous war a quarter century before had fueled the hostility, the scapegoating, and the rise of Hitlerism. Out of the resistance to war by U.S. conscientious objectors would come, finally, the development of civil resistance to racial segregation in U.S. prisons that later spread to the nation outside the prisons as activists sought to duplicate their victories on a larger scale. But also out of that very worst thing our species has ever done to itself, World War II, would come the permanent military industrial complex. We would extend the power to vote to more and more Americans while, in the cruelest of jokes, transforming voting into an ever more meaningless enterprise. We would paint a fresh coat of glossy pretense on our democracy while hollowing it out from the inside, replacing it with a war machine the likes of which the planet had never seen and may not be able to survive.

Cheney’s Kettle Logic

7:26 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Sigmund Freud once mentioned the defense offered by a man who was accused by his neighbor of having returned a kettle in a damaged condition. In the first place, he had returned the kettle undamaged; in the second place it already had holes in it when he borrowed it; and in the third place, he had never borrowed it at all.

That man’s name?

Dick Cheney.

On “Morning Joe” on MSNBC on Thursday, the former Vice President claimed that the intelligence used to invade Iraq had been sound and accurate; the faulty intelligence was all Bill Clinton’s fault; the invasion didn’t do any damage but rather it was the Iraqis who damaged Iraq; and any invasion causes horrific things to happen, that just comes with the territory.

This incoherence was interspersed with gossip about Cheney’s marriage and his friends and his whole lovable social self. That lie may have overshadowed the more serious ones. When in the hell did Cheney become respectable, much less lovable? But that’s a distraction. Cheney’s crimes have long been catalogued.

Joe Scarborough began his Cheney interview by asking, not why did you commit so many crimes and abuses, but how did you, dear Dick, suffer from having the image of Darth Vader imposed on you? Cheney replies that he had fun wearing a Darth Vader mask. But listen carefully for the Freudian slip: he says he wore it in the President’s office, not the VICE President’s office.

Cheney claims he didn’t transform into Darth Vader, and of course he didn’t. Cheney was an immoral power-mad neocon for decades who consistently favored presidential prerogatives and aggressive militarism. But Cheney claims that what changed was that a terrorist act became an act of war rather than a crime. Did it do that all on its own?

Cheney slips in his usual baseless defense of torture and related abuses as having served some useful purpose. Scarborough does not follow up on that claim. Instead, he asks about Colin Powell’s comments on Cheney’s book. Nice and gossipy. But Lawrence Wilkerson’s more serious comments on the same topic, including his expression of willingness to testify against Cheney in court, go unmentioned.

Cheney then claims the Iraq lies were well-intended mistakes and basically accurate at the same time. Content with this, Scarborough focuses in on DC social scene changes over the decades. That’s journalism!

Mike Barnicle, a SERIOUS journalist, then asks Cheney if he regrets the death of a U.S. soldier in a humvee that was operating in Iraq without proper armor. This is a question along the lines of “Why did the military waste $60 billion in Iraq?” These talking heads are not 60 seconds from the topic of the lies that launched an illegal and immoral war that killed hundreds of thousands of people, almost none of them Americans, and Barnicle wants to know why the humvees weren’t better armored. Wednesday’s news of U.S. troops having murdered Iraqi children gets no mention. This is breakfast table reporting for goodness sake! And yet, even with the softball question about the humvee armor, Cheney makes excuses and points out that things like that just happen in wars.

Well, exactly. But why do the wars happen?

Finally Scarborough asks Cheney why the U.S. military invaded Iraq, and Cheney says it was the right thing to do. He paints it as defensive. We attacked an unarmed impoverished nation halfway around the globe IN DEFENSE. Cheney even regurgitates a long-debunked claim about Mohamed Atta meeting with Iraqi officials. Next, Mika Brzezinski asks Cheney about the war lies, and Cheney blames Clinton. Now, I’m no fan of Clinton, and he told plenty of his own lies and engaged in plenty of power abuses tied to wars and military actions, but the fixing of the facts around the policy on Iraq was a major operation created after Clinton was gone. On this, Scarborough and Brzezinski had no follow up questions.

Instead, Barnicle helpfully turned to the topic of moving troops early out of Afghanistan and into preparation for war in Iraq. Cheney dishonestly suggested that no troops were moved to Iraq until a year and a half later. Then Cheney claims the Iraqis are the ones who did all the damage in Iraq. And on that note, Scarborough insists on chattering about Cheney’s marriage, while Brzezinski insists on hearing about Cheney’s sedated dreams of Italian villas.

Cheney admitted in this interview that his vice presidential role was unique. But that’s not actually an argument for buying his book. It’s an argument for amending our Constitution to include a ban on vice presidents exercising executive, as opposed to legislative, power.

The trouble is that there’s little point in amending our laws until we start enforcing them. Dick Cheney is a human advertisement for the absence of the rule of law in the United States. Wilkerson thinks Cheney is bluffing because he is scared of being prosecuted. I think Cheney knows that could only happen abroad. He is safe here because the Justice Department answers to Obama, and Obama is protecting Cheney because Obama is continuing similar crimes and abuses.

If Obama were to allow Attorney General Eric Holder to enforce our laws against Dick Cheney, Obama might very well save his own electoral prospects. But he would put himself at risk of future prosecution. The question of whether we will have the rule of law becomes the question of whether Obama wants to trade four years of power for decades in prison. That’s not how it is supposed to work.

The Art of Demonization

7:49 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

One of the oldest excuses for war is that the enemy is irredeemably evil. He worships the wrong god, has the wrong skin and language, commits atrocities, and cannot be reasoned with. The long-standing tradition of making war on foreigners and converting those not killed to the proper religion “for their own good” is similar to the current practice of killing hated foreigners for the stated reason that their governments ignore women’s rights. From among the rights of women encompassed by such an approach, one is missing: the right to life, as women’s groups in Afghanistan have tried to explain to those who use their plight to justify the war. The believed evil of our opponents allows us to avoid counting the non-American women or men or children killed. Western media reinforce our skewed perspective with endless images of women in burqas, but they never risk offending us with pictures of women and children killed by our troops and air strikes.

Imagine if war were really fought for strategic, principled, humanitarian goals, the “march of freedom,” and the “spread of democracy”: wouldn’t we count the foreign dead in order to make some sort of rough calculation of whether the good we were trying to do outweighed the damage? We don’t do so, for the obvious reason that we consider the enemy evil and worthy of death and believe that any other thought would constitute a betrayal of our own side. We used to count the enemy dead, in Vietnam and earlier wars, as a measure of progress. In 2010 General David Petraeus revived a bit of that in Afghanistan, without including civilian dead. For the most part now, however, the higher the number of dead is, the more criticism there is of the war. But by avoiding counting and estimating, we give the game away: we still place a negative or empty value on those lives.

But just as the supposedly irredeemable heathen were converted to the correct religion when the screaming and dying stopped, so too do our wars eventually come to an end, or at least a permanent occupation of a pacified puppet state. At that point, the irredeemably evil opponents become admirable or at least tolerable allies. Were they evil to begin with or did saying so just make it easier to take a nation to war and persuade its soldiers to aim and fire? Did the people of Germany become subhuman monsters each time we had to make war on them, and then revert to being full humans when peace came? How did our Russian allies become an evil empire the moment they stopped doing the good humanitarian work of killing Germans? Or were we only pretending they were good, when actually they were evil all along? Or were we pretending they were evil when they were only somewhat confused human beings, just like us? How did Afghans and Iraqis all become demonic when a group of mostly Saudis flew airplanes into buildings in the United States, and how did the Saudi people stay human? Don’t look for logic.

Belief in a crusade against evil remains a strong motivator of war supporters and participants. Some supporters and participants in U.S. wars are motivated, in fact, by a desire to kill and convert non-Christians. But none of this is central to the real, or at least the primary and surface-level, motivations of war planners. Their bigotry and hatred, if they have any, may ease their minds, but do not typically drive their agenda. War planners do, however, find fear, hatred, and revenge to be powerful motivators of the public and of military recruits. Our violence-saturated popular culture makes us overestimate the danger of violent attack, and our government plays on that fear with threats, warnings, color-coded danger levels, airport searches, and decks of playing cards with faces of the most evil enemies on them.

Evil vs. Harm

The worst causes of preventable death and suffering in the world include wars. But here in the United States, the leading causes of preventable death are not foreign cultures, foreign governments, or terrorist groups. They are illnesses, accidents, car crashes, and suicides. The “War on Poverty,” “War on Obesity,” and other such campaigns have been failed attempts to bring to bear on other great causes of harm and loss of life the same passion and urgency usually associated with wars against evil. Why is heart disease not evil? Why is cigarette smoking or the lack of workplace safety enforcement not evil? Among the rapidly growing unhealthy factors impacting our life chances is global warming. Why do we not launch urgent all-out efforts to combat these causes of death?

The reason is one that makes no moral sense, but makes emotional sense to us all. If someone tried to hide the danger of cigarettes, knowing this would result in much suffering and death, he would have done so to make a buck, not to hurt me personally. Even if he did act for the sadistic joy of hurting lots of people, though his acts might be counted evil, he still would not have specifically set out to hurt me in particular through a violent act. Athletes and adventurers put themselves through fear and danger just for the thrill. Civilians enduring bombing raids experience fear and danger, but not the trauma suffered by soldiers. When soldiers return from wars psychologically damaged, it is not primarily because they have been through fear and danger. The top causes of stress in war are having to kill other human beings and having to directly face other human beings who want to kill you. The latter is described by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman in his book On Killing as “the wind of hate.” Grossman explains:

“We want desperately to be liked, loved, and in control of our lives; and intentional, overt, human hostility and aggression — more than anything else in life — assaults our self-image, our sense of control, our sense of the world as a meaningful and comprehensible place, and, ultimately, our mental and physical health.…It is not fear of death and injury from disease or accident but rather acts of personal depredation and domination by our fellow human beings that strike terror and loathing in our hearts.”

This is why drill sergeants are pseudo-evil toward trainees. They are inoculating them, conditioning them to face, handle, and believe they can survive the wind of hate. Most of us, fortunately, have not been so trained. The airplanes of September 11, 2001, did not hit most of our homes, but the terrorized belief that the next ones might hit us made fear an important force in politics, one that many politicians only encouraged. We were then shown images of foreign, dark-skinned, Muslim, non-English speaking prisoners being treated like wild beasts and tortured because they could not be reasoned with. And for years we bankrupted our economy to fund the killing of “rag heads” and “hadji” long after Saddam Hussein had been driven out of power, captured, and killed. This illustrates the power of belief in opposing evil. You will not find the eradication of evil anywhere in the papers of the Project for the New American Century, the think tank that pushed hardest for a war on Iraq. Opposing evil is a way to get those who will not profit in any way from a war on board with promoting it.

Atrocities

In any war, both sides claim to be fighting for good against evil. (During the Gulf War, President George H. W. Bush mispronounced Saddam Hussein’s first name to sound like Sodom, while Hussein spoke of “Devil Bush.”) While one side could be telling the truth, clearly both parties in a war cannot be on the side of pure goodness against absolute evil. In most cases, something evil can be pointed to as evidence. The other side has committed atrocities that only evil beings would commit. And if it hasn’t really done so, then some atrocities can easily be invented. Harold Lasswell’s 1927 book Propaganda Technique in the World War includes a chapter on “Satanism,” which states:

“A handy rule for arousing hate is, if at first they do not enrage, use an atrocity. It has been employed with unvarying success in every conflict known to man. Originality, while often advantageous, is far from indispensable. In the early days of the War of 1914 [later known as World War I] a very pathetic story was told of a seven-year old youngster, who had pointed his wooden gun at a patrol of invading Uhlans, who had dispatched him on the spot. This story had done excellent duty in the Franco-Prussian war over forty years before.”

Other atrocity stories have more basis in fact. But usually similar atrocities can also be found in many other nations against which we have not chosen to make war. Sometimes we make war on behalf of dictatorships that are themselves guilty of atrocities. Other times we are guilty of the same atrocities ourselves or even played a role in the atrocities of our new enemy and former ally. Even the primary offense against which we are going to war can be one we are guilty of ourselves. It is as important, in selling a war, to deny or excuse one’s own atrocities as to highlight or invent the enemy’s. President Theodore Roosevelt alleged atrocities by the Filipinos, while dismissing those committed by U.S. troops in the Philippines as of no consequence and no worse than what had been done at the massacre of the Sioux at Wounded Knee, as if mere mass murder were the standard of acceptability. One U.S. atrocity in the Philippines involved slaughtering over 600, mostly unarmed, men, women, and children trapped in the crater of a dormant volcano. The General in command of that operation openly favored the extermination of all Filipinos.

In selling the War on Iraq, it became important to stress that Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons, and equally important to avoid the fact that he had done so with U.S. assistance. George Orwell wrote in 1948, “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labor, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral color when it is committed by ‘our’ side.…The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

At some point we have to raise the question of whether the atrocities are the real motivation of the war planners, which should lead us to also look into the question of whether war is the best tool for preventing atrocities.

A Plank in Our Own Eye

The record of the United States, sadly, is one of big lies. We are told that Mexico has attacked us, when in reality we attacked them. Spain is denying Cubans and Filipinos their liberty, when we should be the ones denying them their liberty. Germany is practicing imperialism, which is interfering with the British, French, and U.S. empire building. Howard Zinn quotes from a 1939 skit in his A People’s History of the United States:

“We, the governments of Great Britain and the United States, in the name of India, Burma, Malaya, Australia, British East Africa, British Guiana, Hongkong, Siam, Singapore, Egypt, Palestine, Canada, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, as well as Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, Alaska, and the Virgin Islands, hereby declare most emphatically, that this is not an imperialist war.”

Britain’s Royal Air Force kept busy between the two world wars dropping bombs on India, and took the prime responsibility for policing Iraq by firebombing tribes who did not or could not pay their taxes. When Britain declared war on Germany, the British imprisoned thousands of people in India for opposing World War II. Were the British fighting imperialism in World War II, or just German imperialism?

The original enemies of bands of human warriors may have been large cats, bears, and other beasts that preyed on our ancestors. Cave drawings of these animals may be some of the oldest military recruitment posters, but the new ones haven’t changed much. During World War II the Nazis used a poster depicting their enemies as gorillas, copying a poster that the American government had produced for the first world war to demonize or sub-humanize the Germans. The American version carried the words “Destroy This Mad Brute,” and had been copied from an earlier poster by the British. U.S. posters during World War II also depicted the Japanese as gorillas and bloodthirsty monsters.

The British and U.S. propaganda that persuaded Americans to fight in World War I focused on demonization of the Germans for fictional atrocities committed in Belgium. The Committee on Public Information, run by George Creel on behalf of President Woodrow Wilson, organized “Four Minute Men” who gave pro-war speeches in movie theaters during the four minutes it took to change reels. A sample speech printed in the committee’s Four Minute Men Bulletin on January 2, 1918, read:

“While we are sitting here tonight enjoying a picture show, do you realize that thousands of Belgians, people just like ourselves, are languishing in slavery under Prussian masters?…Prussian ‘Schrecklichkeit’ (the deliberate policy of terrorism) leads to almost unbelievable besotten brutality. The German soldiers…were often forced against their wills, they themselves weeping, to carry out unspeakable orders against defenseless old men, women, and children.…For instance, at Dinant the wives and children of 40 men were forced to witness the execution of their husbands and fathers.”

Those who commit or are believed to have committed such atrocities can be treated as less than human. (While Germans committed atrocities in Belgium and throughout the war, those that received the most attention are now known to have been fabricated or remain unsubstantiated and very much in doubt.)

In 1938, Japanese entertainers falsely described Chinese soldiers as failing to clear away their dead bodies after battles, leaving them to the beasts and the elements. This apparently helped justify the Japanese in making war on China. German troops invading the Ukraine during World War II could have converted surrendering Soviet troops to their side, but they were unable to accept their surrender because they were unable to see them as human. U.S. demonization of the Japanese during World War II was so effective that the U.S. military found it hard to stop U.S. troops from killing Japanese soldiers who were trying to surrender. There were also incidents of Japanese pretending to surrender and then attacking, but those do not explain away this phenomenon.

Japanese atrocities were numerous and hideous, and did not require fabrication. U.S. posters and cartoons depicted Japanese as insects and monkeys. Australian General Sir Thomas Blamey told the New York Times:

“Fighting Japs is not like fighting normal human beings. The Jap is a little barbarian…. We are not dealing with humans as we know them. We are dealing with something primitive. Our troops have the right view of the Japs. They regard them as vermin.”

A U.S. Army poll in 1943 found that roughly half of all GIs believed it would be necessary to kill every Japanese on earth. War correspondent Edgar L. Jones wrote in the February 1946 Atlantic Monthly, “What kind of war do civilians suppose we fought anyway? We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed lifeboats, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off the enemy wounded, tossed the dying into a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter openers.”

Soldiers don’t do that sort of thing to human beings. They do it to evil beasts.

In fact, enemies in war are not just less than human. They are demonic. During the U.S. Civil War, Herman Melville maintained that the North was fighting for heaven and the South for hell, referring to the South as “the helmed dilated Lucifer.” During the Vietnam War, as Susan Brewer recounts in her book Why America Fights,

“War correspondents frequently did ‘citizen soldier’ interviews with articulate young officers who would be identified by name, rank, and hometown. The soldier would talk about being ‘here to do a job’ and express confidence in eventually getting it done.…In contrast, the enemy was routinely dehumanized in news coverage. American troops referred to the enemy as ‘gooks,’ ‘slopes,’ or ‘dinks.’”

A Gulf War editorial cartoon in the Miami Herald depicted Saddam Hussein as a giant fanged spider attacking the United States. Hussein was frequently compared to Adolf Hitler. On October 9, 1990, a 15-year- old Kuwaiti girl told a U.S. congressional committee that she’d seen Iraqi soldiers take 15 babies out of an incubator in a Kuwaiti hospital and leave them on the cold floor to die. Some congress members, including the late Tom Lantos (D., Calif.), knew but did not tell the U.S. public that the girl was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, that she’d been coached by a major U.S. public relations company paid by the Kuwaiti government, and that there was no other evidence for the story. President George H. W. Bush used the dead babies story 10 times in the next 40 days, and seven senators used it in the Senate debate on whether to approve military action. The Kuwaiti disinformation campaign for the Gulf War would be successfully reprised by Iraqi groups favoring Iraqi regime change twelve years later.

Are such fibs just a necessary part of the process of stirring up weak souls’ emotions for the truly necessary and noble work of war? Are we all, each and every one of us, wise and knowing insiders who must tolerate being lied to because others just don’t understand? This line of thinking would be more persuasive if wars did any good that could not be done without them and if they did it without all the harm. Two intense wars and many years of bombing and deprivation later, the evil ruler of Iraq was gone, but we’d spent trillions of dollars; a million Iraqis were dead; four million were displaced and desperate and abandoned; violence was everywhere; sex trafficking was on the rise; the basic infrastructure of electricity, water, sewage, and healthcare was in ruins (in part because of the U.S. intention to privatize Iraq’s resources for profit); life expectancy had dropped; cancer rates in Fallujah surpassed those in Hiroshima; anti-U.S. terrorist groups were using the occupation of Iraq as a recruiting tool; there was no functioning government in Iraq; and most Iraqis said they’d been better off with Saddam Hussein in power. We have to be lied to for this? Really?

Of course, Saddam Hussein did actual evil things. He murdered and tortured. But he caused the most suffering through a war against Iran in which the United States assisted him. He could have been the pure essence of evil, without our own nation’s needing to qualify as the epitome of unstained goodness. But why did Americans, twice, somehow choose the precise moments in which our government wanted to make war to become outraged at Saddam Hussein’s evil? Why are the rulers of Saudi Arabia, just next-door, never any cause for distress in our humanitarian hearts? Are we emotional opportunists, developing hatred only for those we have a chance to unseat or kill? Or are those who are instructing us as to whom we should hate this month the real opportunists?

David Swanson is the author of “War Is A Lie” from which this is excerpted. See http://warisalie.org

Why Pentagon Says MLK Would Love War Today

7:26 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

According to the Pentagon’s lawyer, Martin Luther King Jr., if alive today, would view the US war on Afghanistan as both the act of a Good Samaritan and as necessary self-defense.

Jeh C. Johnson, the “Defense” Department’s general counsel, said, on the one hand:

“I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation’s military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack.”

On the other hand, he also said this:

“I draw the [Good Samaritan] parallel to our own servicemen and women deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, away from the comfort of conventional jobs, their families and their homes. [They] have made the conscious decision to travel a dangerous road and personally stop and administer aid to those who want peace, freedom and a better place in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in defense of the American people. Every day, our servicemen and women practice the dangerousness — the dangerous unselfishness Dr. King preached on April 3, 1968.”

Now, when President Barack Obama in 2009 gave a Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, he had the decency to admit that he was disagreeing fundamentally with King’s position:

“There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified. I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: ‘Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.’…But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by [King's and Gandhi's] examples alone.”

There has long been a segment of the U.S. population susceptible to the fear-mongering of “defensive” wars of aggression. When told that we have to go attack an impoverished nation halfway around the world and continue doing so for many years, certain people eagerly climb on board. But others need a war to be a humanitarian act of racist kindness before they’ll support it. So, by a happy coincidence, every nation in which our military wants bases and weapons or our oil companies want wells or pipelines happens to both threaten our very existence and desperately need the humanitarian aid of our military.

The humanitarian war sales pitch is made to those motivated by kindness. I call it racist kindness because we impose our “aid” on foreign nations fully aware that they don’t want it. Of course, two-thirds of Americans oppose the war on Afghanistan, so majority opinion may never matter. But Afghans overwhelmingly oppose the occupation of their country.

Now, the man aided by the Good Samaritan was half-dead, perhaps unconscious. It may be that Jeh Johnson thinks of the Afghans in the same way. They can’t possibly make the right decisions in their state, so we’ll decide for them. Dr. King rejected such logic in the case of Vietnam:

“As I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. . . . They must see Americans as strange liberators. . . . They languish under our bombs and consider us — not their fellow Vietnamese — the real enemy.”

A poll last spring found that 85% of Kandaharis consider the Taliban “our Afghan brothers.” The poll was commissioned by the Pentagon. The same poll found that 94% favored peace negotiations, not war. So, out of the goodness of our racist hearts, we brought them more war.

The parable of the Good Samaritan has been lost on the Pentagon’s lawyer. A Samaritan, to Jesus’ audience, was a foreigner of a disreputable sort. But this Samaritan was made a model of humanity for others to follow. The point was not only to help people you find half-dead on the side of the road. The revolutionary point was to see others as fully human despite superficial differences.

“I am convinced,” King said, “that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society into a person-oriented society. . . . On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. . . . The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more on military ‘defense’ than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

David Swanson is the author of the new book “War Is A Lie” http://warisalie.org

The Pentagon Papers Are Public This Time

8:44 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

If a new Daniel Ellsberg were to release a new pile of Pentagon Papers exposing the lies behind the Afghanistan War, or even the past few decades of misdeeds by our country in that one, the result would differ from what happened to Ellsberg in a number of stark ways. No newspaper would touch it. The whistleblower would go to prison. Little of substance would be added to what we already know and tolerate. Nobody would be impeached. And no war would end.

These thoughts occurred to me for the second time on Wednesday when I had occasion to watch for the second time the film "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers," when the Naro Cinema in Norfolk, Va., asked me to speak and lead a discussion following the screening.

In the movie, Ellsberg recounts his experience of trying to choose a patrol to go out with in Vietnam in order to experience the war for himself. He learns that all the maps of night patrols passed around in the Pentagon, even to high-level staff like himself, are pure fiction, that the U.S. troops stay home at night, when the entire nation is owned by the Viet Cong. Following this past month’s glorious victory over the fictional city of Marja in Afghanistan, the Taliban still controls that rural area by night, and cooperation with the occupiers is the surest way of getting yourself killed. Sounds at least similar, right? It’s not. What was happening in Vietnam was kept from the American people. What is happening in Afghanistan is in newspapers and available online.

In the film, Ellsberg tells us about flying in a plane with Secretary of So-Called Defense Robert McNamara and having a conversation in which McNamara argues that the war has gone from bad to worse. Then McNamara gets off the plane and tells the press that the war is improving and things are looking up. Our ambassador in Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry recently wrote to President Obama about the hopelessness of the war in Afghanistan, and then lied about rosy progress to the United States Congress. See the parallel? There isn’t one. Nobody knew what McNamara had said on that plane. Eikenberry’s statements are public.

In the film we see President Lyndon Johnson stubborn as a donkey in his determination to "win" in Vietnam, and we now know that the Pentagon understood there was no possible way to do that. Today we see the same approach from the White House and its servile court of congressional jesters, but it’s public knowledge that military experts believe there’s no possible way to win. The National Security Advisor says more troops will just be swallowed up. Top generals say hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed, and that civilian efforts would be needed at a level four times higher than the military effort. There is no serious dispute that the war in Afghanistan cannot possibly be "won" and that the entire "global war on terror" has produced a global increase in terror. The Pentagon acknowledges that the enemy in the war, Al Qaeda, is not in the nation where the war is happening. Let me repeat that: the enemy ISN’T THERE. This is nothing like President Johnson’s situation. When he sent troops to Vietnam, he pretended it would make a difference. When President Obama sent 21,000 troops and 5,000 mercenaries to Afghanistan last year, he did it for its own sake, saying he would later try to devise a strategy for the war.

Ellsberg is shown in footage from the time of the Pentagon Papers’ release saying that he thought the lesson to be learned was that the president must not be allowed to run the country without the Congress or the public. Yet, we now have members of congress who claim to be "opponents" or "critics" of the war who explain their votes to fund it by saying they want to obey the President. In a Senate committee hearing on Wednesday morning we watched Republican senators ask the Attorney General to violate the Constitution, and Democratic senators support allowing the president to comply with the law if he chooses, even arguing that complying with the law should be acceptable because President George W. Bush sometimes did so.

John Dean makes an appearance in the film. He came to believe that Bush’s White House was far more abusive than Nixon’s, and he predicted that Bush’s successor would be one of two things, either the best or the worst president in history. He, or she, would either undo the damage and prosecute the crimes, or protect the criminals and continue the abuses. Ellsberg was active in the campaign to impeach Bush and Cheney. He argued that the impeachment campaign against Nixon facilitated the passage of progressive legislation and helped to end the Vietnam War.

Congress let Bush walk away, and we are left with a president who claims the powers of illegal war, murder, lawless imprisonment, torture, warrantless spying, and unprecedented secrecy and legal immunity. What’s left to expose? We know the drones mostly kill innocent people, and that we are the illegal aggressor against all of those we kill. We know the night raids murder more people now than the drones. We know that the leading cause of death for U.S. troops is suicide. We know that we are going into financial debt and making ourselves less safe. Our paid assassins told the LA Times this week, in regard to moving their focus from Iraq to Afghanistan: "Hunting season is over in Iraq." If you were going to blow a whistle, where the hell would you blow it?

That’s not a rhetorical question. There is an answer. You would blow it on the internet. And if enough of them are blown, if enough people speak out, highlight atrocities, and refuse to cooperate with evil, it will make a difference. One whistleblower might not have as much impact anymore. We need deep reforms in our communications system and our election system, so we are playing with one hand tied behind our backs. But a thousand one-handed people can do anything. Until we pass a whistleblowers bill of rights and a media shield, and enforce them, we should be building a fund and a legal services organization to support and protect whistleblowers. There may not be a dangerous man left anywhere in government, given the openness of our public crimes. But there is still a dangerous group of men and women yet to be brought together, yet to grasp the superior and more enjoyable and rewarding life Ellsberg has led since he stepped out of line 39 years ago.

"Glaubt es mir – das Geheimnis, um die größte Fruchtbarkeit und den größten Genuß vom Dasein einzuernten, heisst: gefährlich leben." – Friedrich Nietzsche