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So, I Asked the Russian Ambassador What He Thinks of NATO

6:32 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Russian Ambassador Kislyak in a dark suit outdoors

Ambassador Kislyak on NATO’s broken promises.

The Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, spoke at the University of Virginia on Tuesday evening, in an event organized by the Center for Politics, which no doubt has video of the proceedings. Kislyak was once ambassador to Belgium and to NATO.

Kislyak spoke to a packed auditorium and took, I think, well over an hour of questions. He spoke frankly, and the questions he was asked by students, professors, and other participants were polite and for the most part far more intelligent than he would have been asked on, for example, Meet the Press.

He told the audience that Russia had known there were no WMDs in Iraq, and had known that attacking Iraq would bring “great difficulties” to that country. “And look what is happening today,” he said. He made the same comment about Libya. He spoke of the U.S. and Russia working together to successfully remove chemical weapons from the Syrian government. But he warned against attacking Syria now.

There will be no new Cold War, Kislyak said, but there is now a greater divide in some ways than during the Cold War. Back then, he said, the U.S. Congress sent delegations over to meet with legislators, and the Supreme Court likewise. Now there is no contact. It’s easy in the U.S. to be anti-Russian, he said, and hard to defend Russia. He complained about U.S. economic sanctions against Russia intended to “suffocate” Russian agriculture.

Asked about “annexing” Crimea, Kislyak rejected that characterization, pointed to the armed overthrow of the Ukrainian government, and insisted that Kiev must stop bombing its own people and instead talk about federalism within Ukraine.

There were remarkably few questions put to the ambassador that seemed informed by U.S. television “news.” One was from a politics professor who insisted that Kislyak assign blame to Russia over Ukraine. Kislyak didn’t.

I always sit in the back, thinking I might leave, but Kislyak was only taking questions from the front. So I moved up and was finally called on for the last question of the evening. For an hour and a half, Kislyak had addressed war and peace and Russian-U.S. relations, but he’d never blamed the U.S. for anything in Ukraine any more than Russia. No one had uttered the word “NATO.”

So I pointed out the upcoming NATO protests. I recalled the history of Russia being told that NATO would not expand eastward. I asked Kislyak whether NATO ought to be disbanded.

The ambassador said that he had been the first Russian to “present his credentials” to NATO, and that he had “overestimated” NATO’s ability to work with Russia. He’d been disappointed by NATO actions in Serbia, he said, and Libya, by the expansion eastward, by NATO pressure on Ukraine and Poland, and by the pretense that Russia might be about to attack Poland.

“We were promised,” Kislyak said, that NATO would not expand eastward at all upon the reunification of Germany. “And now look.” NATO has declared that Ukraine and Georgia will join NATO, Kislyak pointed out, and NATO says this even while a majority of the people in Ukraine say they’re opposed.

The ambassador used the word “disappointed” a few times.

“We’ll have to take measures to assure our defense,” he said, “but we would have preferred to build on a situation with decreased presence and decreased readiness.”

Wouldn’t we all.

Join the campaign to shut down NATO.

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The Method to the Post 9/11 Madness

1:25 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

To your average educated careful consumer of U.S. news media, our militarism looks like ad hoc reactionary responses. A crisis flairs up here. We “intervene” there. An irrational foreign dictator threatens the peace over yonder. We get into wars because we have no choice, and then continue them because ending them would be somehow even worse than continuing them.

The Globalization of NATO

The Globalization of NATO by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

In fact, there is a method to the madness. I don’t mean just the pressure that President Eisenhower warned us would be created by massive military spending. I mean that the war planners have planned far ahead. They have lists of upcoming wars. (In 2001, according to Wesley Clark, the Pentagon sought wars in the coming years with Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran. Tony Blair independently confirmed a similar list.) They invent the public excuses for those wars as the need arises. The actual motivations are not humanitarian, but driven by a crazed desire to dominate the world’s economies, waterways, and fossil fuels.

The papers of the 1990s pro-war think tank, the Project for the New American Century, fit with and explain what the United States and NATO and their allies have done for the past 11 years far better than President Bush’s speech given on the wreckage of the World Trade Center or anything announced by the White House right up through President Obama’s latest campaign speeches this week.

A new book called The Globalization of NATO by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya traces the development of NATO, from a supposedly defensive and North Atlantic organization, into an aggressive and global one, albeit one with some deep internal rivalries and tensions.

World War II never ended. The Nazi scientists were brought to the United States to continue developing weapons. Secret forces were left behind, within European governments (“Gladio” is the well-known name of the force in Italy), where they killed and lied in support of right-leaning governments for decades, and in support of NATO’s strength and unity.

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Chicago: Peace Town

8:05 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

A huge crowd gathered for several hours and marched for over two miles in the hot sun to oppose NATO and U.S. wars on Sunday in Chicago.  Finishing the march outside the NATO meeting, numerous U.S. veterans of current wars denounced their previous “service” and threw their medals over the fence, a scene not witnessed since the U.S. war on Vietnam.

This event, with massive turnout and tremendous energy, saw the participation of numerous groups from Chicago and the surrounding area, including students, teachers, and activists on a variety of issues, as well as anti-war activists and Occupiers from around the country and the world.  No one can have been disappointed with the turnout, but it might have been bigger if not for the fear that was spread prior to Sunday.  In the face of that fear, Sunday’s action was remarkable.

The fear was the result of a massive militarized police build up, rumors of evacuations, the boarding up of windows, brutal police assaults on activists, preemptive arrests, disappearances, and charges of terrorism.  A segment of the activist world plays into these police tactics, wearing bandanas, shouting curses, antagonizing police, and eroding credibility for claims that violence is all police-initiated.

Yet the vast majority of the crowd was disciplined, nonviolent, and effective.  It is critical that the people of Afghanistan know the people of the U.S. oppose what NATO is doing to them.  Speaking at the end of the march were members of Afghans for Peace, who read a message from Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers.

It is also vital that the people of Russia know that we do not want to make their nation our enemy; only our government and our weapons makers do.  And it is important that those who have been actively opposing NATO in Europe for years see that we in the nation that provides the bulk of NATO’s forces are waking up to what that entails.

Americans cannot help but know more about NATO this week than they did a week ago.  We’ve even received a small taste of the violence that NATO imposes on others — courtesy of the Chicago police and various imported state, city, and federal police/soldiers.  For NATO to meet in Chicago it was deemed necessary to import a few night raids and a great deal of brutality.

A massive crowd of activists was significantly outnumbered on Sunday by armed police, many in riot gear.  They lined the march route.  They swarmed off buses.  They looked a little ridiculous as we marched nonviolently, just as we’d intended to do.  The marching didn’t harm anyone or destroy any accumulated riches or smash any of the windows that were not boarded up.

Police did not allow the day to end without any use of their training and weapons.  Not long after I left, according to numerous reports, all hell broke loose.  If it hadn’t, think of how many of those people fearfully watching Sunday’s march from their high balconies would have joined in the next one and invited their friends!

Am I suggesting that government officials try to manipulate public opinion?  Well, let me just say this: there is a bipartisan effort in Congress to lift the official ban on using dishonest propaganda against U.S. citizens.  The measure passed the House on Friday as part of the latest National “Defense” Authorization Act.

On Monday, Occupy Chicago will take the protest to Boeing:

“Occupy Celebrates Victory of Non-Violent Direct Action with March to Boeing, All-Day Rally: People Power Stops the War Machine as Boeing Corporation Directs Employees to Stay Home, Shuts Down!”

My kind of town.

Ending the Mindset That Gets Us Into War

4:28 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

MAY 20, 2012, MILITARIZED CHICAGO — Next month in Baltimore they’re going to celebrate the War of 1812.  That’s what we do with wars.  We say they’re the last resort.  We say they’re hell.  We say they’re for the purpose of eliminating themselves: we fight wars for peace.  Although we never keep peace for wars.  We claim to wage only wars we have been forced into despite all possible effort to find a better way.  And then we celebrate the wars.  We keep the wars going for their own sake after all the excuses we used to get them started have expired.  The WMDs have not been found.  Osama bin Laden’s been killed.  Al Qaeda is gone from the country where we’re fighting it.  Nobody’s threatening Benghazi anymore.  But the wars must go on!  And then we’ll celebrate them.  And we’ll celebrate the old ones too, the ones that were fought here, the ones that were in their day not quite so heavily painted as last resorts or humanitarian missions.

Last year Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee persuaded Congress to create an Iraq-Afghanistan Wars holiday.  It’s on our calendars now along with Loyalty Day (formerly May Day), Veterans Day (formerly Armistice Day), Memorial Day, Yellow Ribbon Day, Patriots Day, Independence Day, Flag Day, Pearl Harbor Day, and of course September 11th, among many others.  Last week there was an Armed Forces Spouses Appreciation Day.  The military holiday calendar is like the Catholic saints’ days now: there’s something every day of the year.

But there’s no celebration of the times we avoided war. We claim to prefer peace to war, but we don’t make heroes of those presidents or Congresses who most avoided war.  In fact, we erase them.  Our history books jump from war to war as if nothing happened in between.  Nobody celebrates 1811, only 1812.  Even the peace movement doesn’t celebrate the past decade’s prevention, thus far, of a war on Iran.

Some might say that once an unavoidable war begins we have to celebrate the brave sacrifices of the soldiers and sailors.  Even if the war was a bad idea, we can’t blame those who participated in it.  They were too ignorant and obedient to do otherwise, but they were brave and loyal.  We weren’t in their shoes.  We had other means to pay for college.  So we are obliged to celebrate their moral failings.  We must value bravery and loyalty above intelligent independent thinking.  And, because they ignorantly and obediently supported the war, we must do so too — even if we honestly don’t.

As if there is not bravery, solidarity, and self-sacrifice to be celebrated in our history of nonviolent protest, labor struggles, women’s struggles, the environmentalist movement, and in resistance to war — in all the efforts that have improved and are improving our lives.  Freedom isn’t free, as the saying goes, but we don’t honor the work that actually achieves it. “War will exist,” President Kennedy privately wrote, “until the distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige as the warrior does today.”  And here’s the hard part of that: the conscientious objector will not be honored and respected as long as the warrior is.  We have to choose. Read the rest of this entry →

Why We Should Outgrow “Diversity of Tactics” Before Protesting NATO

6:33 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Ghandi (image: Luis Fernando Reis, flickr)

Ghandi (image: Luis Fernando Reis, flickr)

The Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda has nothing on its website about using nonviolence, supporting nonviolence, or opposing violence.

The G8 and NATO Protest also has nothing like that, but does have this:

“As we plan our actions and tactics, we will take care to maintain appropriate separations of time and space between divergent tactics.”

A month ago I blogged that I would not endorse Occupy the RNC or DNC because both groups were refusing to state that they opposed violence.

Occupy the RNC has now put this on its website:

We are not organizing actions, especially violent ones. That would just be stupid. We exist to provide information and facilitate logistics for people resisting the RNC.”

Not how I would have put it.  Nor would I have added:

Don’t fuck with us. We’ll sue you.”

But foreswearing violence and calling it stupid is enough for me.  I wish Occupy DNC could bring itself to do as much.  Better yet, just add “We oppose violence and will not use it.”

That would be ideal, smart, strategic, and beneficial to the movement.

When the cops start a riot in Chicago on May 20th, raise your hand if you think CNN will base its coverage on your Youtube of what really happened and ignore that statement above about “space between divergent tactics.”

Back in November, some good activists working with Occupy Wall Street wrote:

“‘Diversity of tactics’ becomes an easy way to avoid wrestling with questions of strategy and accountability. It lets us off the hook from doing the hard work of debating our positions and coming to agreements about how we want to act together. It becomes a code for ‘anything goes,’ and makes it impossible for our movements to hold anyone accountable for their actions.”

In other words, it’s not consensus.  It’s minority rule.  Most of us favor an openly nonviolent movement, publicly commited to nonviolence.  When I question organizers of these protests, they practically scream that that is indeed what they favor, but that they want to be inclusive and not allow the 1% to divide us.  Is destroying us better than dividing us?  Is scaring away the majority of the 99% a price worth paying to be inclusive of 10 people who want to smash windows and 2 guys who want to smash police officers?  What about the openness lost by embracing tactics that require secrecy? Read the rest of this entry →

Libya for Libyans

9:06 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

War is a crime.
Joining an ongoing war is a crime.
Joining on the side of a friendly lunatic dictator is an immoral tragedy.
Joining on the side of violent rebels who capture and expel British troops there to “help” is an immoral comedy.
Joining on the side of our own nation would be opposed by both of the existing sides plus our own nation.
Limited warfare is limited murder.
Limited warfare almost always traverses the limits.
The military is the worst organization to provide humanitartian relief.
The military is not needed to protect anyone, and would endanger many.
We disguise military defeats by pretending to have stumbled into civil wars.
Actually stumbling into a civil war would add to our military and moral defeats.
Pouring all of our money into our military is what makes imperial warfare possible.
Pouring all of our money into our military is what makes financial crises blamed on teachers and cops possible.
Our military uses as much oil as it will get out of Libya.
Libya will almost certainly sell us its oil without, and only without, US military involvement.
If we don’t stop burning so much oil, we’ll kill ourselves that way before blowback and weapons proliferation can do the job.
No matter how many troops Obama sends anywhere, his electoral challenger will favor more.
By embracing militarism unwanted by the people of North Africa, while staying far away from Madison, Wisconsin, Obama will dissuade all but the fiercest of lesser-evilists from voting for him.
The aid that U.S. nonviolent-activism scholars and trainers provided to Egyptians disproves the claim that our choices are warfare or nothing.
We don’t need more weapons.
We don’t need more propaganda.
We don’t need more “military aid”.
We don’t need more training of local militaries to “stand up”.
We need more training of nonviolent activists.
Violence by Libyans alone will not bring peace and justice.
Violence breeds violence.
There is no war for peace.
There is no way to peace.
Peace is the way.
U.S. influence in Libya is poisoned by its actual agenda.
Were it not, it would be poisoned by the ongoing US warmaking in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, and dozens of other countries.
The way to bring the troops home does not involve calculations of “stability.”
It involves only calculations of how many soldiers will fit on each airplane.