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John Kerry Makes a Deal

11:50 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Oh, damn it all. Barry, it’s not my fault.

Barry! Barr -er Mr. President, I got Congress out in the parking lot looking at the new SUVs. I’m pushing the missile strikes on the Syrian government hard, but just a few little ones, and then ka-blam we get em with the whole package deal, 800 vehicles plus fuel and maintenance, a little shock, a little awe, a little razzmatazz, and we reel em right in.

Ataboy, John, go get em.

Tick.

Tock.

Tick.

Oh, damn it all.  Barry, it’s not my fault. They were on recess and listening to people at town hall meetings. And AIPAC is totally AWOL. And the lousy stinking pacifist Brits voted it down when I never even asked them. Apparently the entire House of Representatives is going to ride bicycles from now on.

That’s all right, John. That’s all right. They can’t hold out long. You’ll get em next time.

It makes no sense, Mr. President. We rolled right over them on Afghanistan and Libya and all the drone strikes and all the bases, and here they go saying No to bombing Syria. And I told them Assad was Hitler. And you told them it was this or support poisoning children. But nothing. What are we missing? What if we throw in free GPS and hands-free telephoning. Plus, that way we can keep a close eye on them while they pay us for the favor. Huh? Huh?

You see, there’s the old spirit. Now, listen, what we don’t want is for them to go rogue and get desperate and pick up an old wreck from down in the back lot.  You steer them away from that broken down Iranian convertible, OK?

Yes, Sir! John Kerry reporting for duty, Sir!

Oh, cut the shit, John, I’ve told you 18 times I’m not taping everything like Nixon.

Nixon didn’t have the technology to . . .

LET ME BE CLEAR, the problem with the missile strikes on Syria last time wasn’t the human cost or the financial cost or any of that crap. People didn’t want to join a war on the side of al Qaeda rebels and terrorists. We’d told them those were the Enemy for over a decade. So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to find a war where we can jump in on the side of the government, against the Islamic Extremists. Congress loves governments. The media loves governments. Everybody hates extremists. And guess where we’re going to find this war?

Israel?

Good guess. Try again.

Iraq?

Getting warmer. Try again.

Well, I don’t . . .

Try again, that’s a direct order.

Ukraine?

Now I’ll tell you: Syria.

Syria?

Think about it, John. It’s genius, if I do say so myself. Look, people forget that Syria was our ally a few years back, but Congress remembers. We just flip back. We have to, or we’re fighting both sides of a war in Iraq and Syria. The key on Syria is to do something. Well what counts as doing something? Blowing shit up, that’s what. And nobody wants us blowing up the government. Well, we’ll blow up the rebels. Either way, we’re destroying U.S. weaponry on the ground, which is much smarter than giving it to local police as a means of creating demand for more. You think they won’t go for it because we’re flip-flopping, right? You’re always so damn terrified of flip-flopping.

You don’t know. You didn’t go through what . . .

Oh hell, they stole the votes in Ohio, John, and you bent over and said “Thank you sir, may I have another?” We’re not flip-flopping. We’re blowing up evil, evil people, lots of them. That’s the story. We’ve been funding and arming all sides in all of these wars for some time now, payments to the Taliban, weapons to ISIS. You know, the troops on the ground in Libya three years ago could have exchanged parts — they had the same U.S. guns.

Mr. President, there are hundreds of Americans who listened to us last year and have gone off and joined the rebels in Syria.

They can provide information, switch sides, or pay the price, John. Now, are you ready to go out there and make the pitch? I see the leadership on the curb there.

Mr. President, in all good faith, we’ve sold humanitarians on the need to bomb Assad, not bomb in defense of Assad.

Mr. Secretary, I’m giving you an order.

Mr. President, with all due respect, you keep saying there’s no military solution, there’s a million other approaches that don’t create this sort of SNAFU, that just . . .

Mr. Secretary, Hillary would not hesitate.

I’m on it. Read the rest of this entry →

Obama Fans Aren’t Even Pretending That Was a Good Speech

10:48 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

President Barack Obama gave a eulogy for the Fourth Amendment on Friday, and not even his fans are proclaiming victory. In this moment when Obama is actually doing one thing I agree with (talking to Iran), more and more people seem to be slowly, agonizingly slowly, finally, finally, finally, recognizing what a complete huckster he is when it comes to pretty speeches about his crimes.

Obama’s speech and new “policy directive” eliminate the Fourth Amendment. Massive bulk collection of everybody’s data will continue unconstitutionally, but Obama has expressed a certain vague desire to end it, sort of, except for the parts that are needed, but not to do so right away. The comparisons to the closure of the Guantanamo death camp began instantly.

Far from halting or apologizing for the abuses of the NSA, Obama defends them as necessitated by the danger of a new 911. While drones over Yemen and troops in Afghanistan and “special” forces in three-quarters of the world are widely understood to endanger us, and while alternatives that upheld the rule of law and made us safer would not require secrecy or human rights violations, Obama wants to continue the counterproductive and immoral militarism while holding off all blowback through the omniscience of Big Brother.

However, Obama’s own panel and every other panel that has looked into it found zero evidence that the new abusive NSA programs have prevented any violent attacks. And it is well-documented that (even given the disastrous policies that produced 911) the attacks of that day could have been stopped at the last minute by sharing existing data or responding to urgent memos to the president with any sort of serious effort.

Obama has not proposed to end abuses. He’s proposed to appoint two new bureaucrats plus John Podesta. Out of this speech we get reviews of policies, a commitment to tell the Director of National Intelligence to read court rulings that impact the crimes and abuses he’s engaged in, and a promise that the “Intelligence Community” will inspect itself. (Congress, the courts, and the people don’t come up in this list of reforms.) Usually this sort of imperial-presidential fluff wins praise from Obama’s followers. This time, I’m not hearing it.

True, after EFF created a great pre-speech scorecard, when Obama scored a big fat zero, EFF said it was encouraged that he might score a point some day. But they didn’t sound impassioned about their encoragement.

Obama’s promises not to abuse unchecked secret powers (and implied promise that none of his successors or subordinates will abuse them either) is not credible, or acceptable, while it just might be impeachable. We’re talking here about the same government that listens in on soldiers’ phone sex, Congress members’ daily lives, and everything it can get its hands on related to the actual, rather than rhetorical, promotion of liberty, justice, or peace. A report today quotes various members of the government with security clearance who want to murder Edward Snowden. We’re supposed to just trust them with the right to or persons, houses, papers, and effects without probably cause or warrant? Are we also to trust the corporations they ask to do their dirty work, should the theoretical future reform of this outrage involve paying corporations to own our info?

Obama claims the “debate” — in which no debate opponent was given a minute at the microphone — is valuable.  But the whistleblowers who create such debates “endanger” us, Obama says.  This he claims without evidence.

If the debate was so useful, why not give the man who made you hold it with yourself his passport back?

Obama began Friday’s speech with a Sarah Palinesque bit of Paul Revere history. Revere is now an honorary NSA spy. In reality, the British would have hit Revere with a hellfire missile if Obama had been their king. It all depends on which side of a war you imagine someone to be on, and on whether you imagine war itself is an acceptable form of human behavior at this late date. Without the endless war on the world, the need for secrecy would go away, and with it the powers that secrecy bestows, and with them the arrogant speeches by rulers who clearly hold us all in contempt.

Resisters of royalty came up with a cure back in Paul Revere’s day. They called it impeachment. Of course it would be highly inappropriate to use. It might get in the way of the Fight for Freedom.

Top 45 Lies in Obama’s Speech at UN

4:06 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

1. President Obama’s opening lines at the U.N. on Tuesday looked down on people who would think to settle disputes with war. Obama was disingenuously avoiding the fact that earlier this month he sought to drop missiles into a country to “send a message” but was blocked by the U.S. Congress, the U.N., the nations of the world, and popular opposition — after which Obama arrived at diplomacy as a last resort.

2. “It took the awful carnage of two world wars to shift our thinking.” Actually, it took one. The second resulted in a half-step backwards in “our thinking.” The Kellogg-Briand Pact banned all war. The U.N. Charter re-legalized wars purporting to be either defensive or U.N.-authorized.

3. “[P]eople are being lifted out of poverty,” Obama said, crediting actions by himself and others in response to the economic crash of five years ago. But downward global trends in poverty are steady and long pre-date Obama’s entry into politics. And such a trend does not exist in the U.S.

4. “Together, we have also worked to end a decade of war,” Obama said. In reality, Obama pushed Iraq hard to allow that occupation to continue, and was rejected just as Congress rejected his missiles-for-Syria proposal. Obama expanded the war on Afghanistan. Obama expanded, after essentially creating, drone wars. Obama has increased global U.S. troop presence, global U.S. weapons sales, and the size of the world’s largest military. He’s put “special” forces into many countries, waged a war on Libya, and pushed for an attack on Syria. How does all of this “end a decade of war?” And how did his predecessor get a decade in office anyway?

5. “Next year, an international coalition will end its war in Afghanistan, having achieved its mission of dismantling the core of al Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11.” In reality, Bruce Riedel, who coordinated a review of Afghanistan policy for President Obama said, “The pressure we’ve put on [jihadist forces] in the past year has also drawn them together, meaning that the network of alliances is growing stronger not weaker.” (New York Times, May 9, 2010.)

6. “We have limited the use of drones.” Bush drone strikes in Pakistan: 51. Obama drone strikes in Pakistan: 323.

7. “… so they target only those who pose a continuing, imminent threat to the United States where capture is not feasible.” On June 7, 2013, Yemeni tribal leader Saleh Bin Fareed told Democracy Now that Anwar al Awlaki could have been turned over and put on trial, but “they never asked us.” In numerous other cases it is evident that drone strike victims could have been arrested if that avenue had ever been attempted. A memorable example was the November 2011 drone killing in Pakistan of 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, days after he’d attended an anti-drone meeting in the capital, where he might easily have been arrested — had he been charged with some crime. This weeks drone victims, like all the others, had never been indicted or their arrest sought.

8. “… and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.” There are hundreds of confirmed civilian dead from U.S. drones, something the Obama administration seems inclined to keep as quiet as possible.

9. “And the potential spread of weapons of mass destruction casts a shadow over the pursuit of peace.” In reality, President Obama is not pursuing peace or the control of such weapons or their reduction and elimination in all countries, only particular countries. And the United States remains the top possessor of weapons of mass destruction and the top supplier of weapons to the world.

Read the rest of this entry →

Cruise Missile Law Enforcement

12:42 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

The White House is treating the Syrian government like a potential drone strike victim.

Syria is the next target of the American Global Police.

President Barack Obama’s preferred method for dealing with targeted individuals is not to throw them into lawless prisons.  But it’s also not to indict and prosecute them.

On June 7th, Yemeni tribal leader Saleh Bin Fareed told Democracy Now that Anwar al Awlaki could have been turned over and put on trial, but “they never asked us.” In numerous other cases it is evident that drone strike victims could have been arrested if that avenue had ever been attempted.

A memorable example was the November 2011 drone killing in Pakistan of 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, days after he’d attended an anti-drone meeting in the capital, where he might easily have been arrested — had he been charged with some crime.

Missile-strike law enforcement is now being applied to governments as well.  The Libyan government was given a death sentence.  The Syrian government is being sentenced to the loss of some citizens, buildings, and supplies.

The purpose is not to end the war, or even to speed the coming of the end of the war.  The purpose is not to overthrow the government (an action which in Libya was not yet clearly recognizable as this new form of law enforcement).  Nor, of course, is the purpose rehabilitation or restitution or reconciliation or most of the nobler motivations we sometimes assign to punishment.  The purpose of sending missiles into Syria will be “punitive,” meaning retributive.  It will “send a message,” possibly intended to include deterrence.

When the Bush-Cheney gang was accused of cruel and unusual punishment because it tortured, they replied: this isn’t punishment, it’s interrogation.  But surely dropping missiles on people is not interrogation.  It’s advertised as punishment.  And that’s putting its best foot forward.  It’s punishment so that it doesn’t have to be a crime itself.

For, of course, dropping missiles on people is normally itself a serious crime, just as kicking in your door at night with guns blazing is normally against the law.  But if a policeman — global or normal — does it, well, then it’s law enforcement, not law breaking.

This is why the U.S. government can itself use chemical weapons, while punishing others for doing so.  It’s the cop.  It uses white phosphorus and napalm to enforce laws, or at least to do something in the line of duty.  The BBC this week reported on yet another horrific incident in Syria, this one involving “napalm-like burns.”  The only way for the U.S., the land of napalm, to punish such acts with righteous indignation is through the immunity granted to the global police force.

I wrote a book three years ago called War Is A Lie in hopes of helping to build enough awareness so that some day we would have a majority against a war before it began, rather than a year and a half later.  That day has arrived.  The UK is a bit ahead of the USA, but we’ve all moved toward much greater and healthier scepticism toward war lies.

We don’t believe that the evil of Assad justifies bombing Syrians.  We laugh when Obama says Syria might theoretically attack us some day.  We don’t see the supposed generosity in dropping bombs on an already war-torn nation.  We don’t accept that a war is inevitable.  We watch Parliament say no and wonder where Congress is.

Congress members have been “urging” the president to consult with them, centuries after this country was formed by supposedly leaving royal powers behind in England.  When will Congress members call for a return to Washington for an emergency session?  When will they vote to block funding for any attack on Syria?  They should be aware that by not taking these actions they have made themselves complicit in our eyes, and in the eyes of the world.

Phil Ochs saw the Global War on Terra Part II coming when he sang:

Come, get out of the way, boys
Quick, get out of the way
You’d better watch what you say, boys
Better watch what you say
We’ve rammed in your harbor and tied to your port
And our pistols are hungry and our tempers are short
So bring your daughters around to the port
‘Cause we’re the cops of the world, boys
We’re the cops of the world
Read the rest of this entry →

Obama’s Campaign to Glorify the War on Vietnam

5:06 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Wars exist because lies are told about past wars.

When President Obama escalated the war on Afghanistan, he revived virtually every known lie about the war on Iraq, from the initial WMD BS to the “surge.”  While Americans remain unfathomably ignorant about the destruction of Iraq, a majority says the war shouldn’t have been fought.  A majority says the same about the war on Afghanistan.  This is, pretty wonderfully, impeding efforts toward a U.S. war on Syria or Iran.

The new wars were supposed to cure the Vietnam Syndrome — that public reluctance to support mass murder for no good reason.  The Pentagon is now turning to the source of the disease.  The war in most need of beautification for Americans, the military has decided, is the war the Vietnamese call the American War.

Most people in the United States have no idea that this was, like all other recent U.S. wars, a one-sided slaughter — in this case, of 3.8 million Vietnamese men, women, and children.  But most Americans know the war was awful, even on the side of the aggressor.  The Vietnam Syndrome (popular opposition to wars) still frightens war makers.

Obama is usually opposed to any “looking backwards,” as doing so might involve prosecuting criminals for their crimes.  But, making a big exception, he is dumping 65 million of our dollars into prettying up the war on Vietnam.

Please read the following statement, put together by some U.S. veterans of that war, and sign onto it here.

An Open letter to the American People about a Project to Accurately Commemorate the American War in Viet Nam

We are coming up on the 50th anniversary of key moments in the American war in Viet Nam.  As peace and justice activists, we believe it is crucial that the realities of the war be faced squarely.  President Obama has announced his plan for a 13-year-long commemoration funded by Congress at $65 million, featuring a full panoply of Orwellian forgetfulness and faux-patriotism.  On May 25, 2012, President Obama proclaimed: “As we observe the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, we reflect with solemn reverence upon the valor of a generation that served with honor. We pay tribute to the more than 3 million servicemen and women who left their families to serve bravely, a world away from everything they knew and everyone they loved … fighting heroically to protect the ideals we hold dear as Americans. Through more than a decade of combat, over air, land, and sea, these proud Americans upheld the highest traditions of our Armed Forces.”.  The purpose of the official proclamation — rather than honestly looking backward so as to glean and educate about important lessons — will be to promote an ex post facto justification of the war, lay lingering doubts to rest, and provide a stamp of approval without attending to or contending with the horrors of the war that many of us opposed.

The whole idea is a bit staggering, that this project was put into the hands of the Department of Defense (DoD) so that they can attempt – a half century later – to rewrite a tragic history which already has been distorted and manipulated by those in power in the US.  The DoD is recruiting “partner” organizations from across the country to help them distort and silence much of the real history.  Numerous events are scheduled over the next 12 years to “honor” our soldiers and extol the selfless sacrifices of Americans during an ugly period of our history.  There will likely be little mention of the Vietnamese, and what the nation and the society of Viet Nam suffered as a result of U.S. intervention, nor of the resistance to the war by courageous and committed Americans.  Almost certainly, the DoD project will not pay tribute to the voices and postwar reconciliation activities of many antiwar veterans.

Those years many of us remember, with painful acuity, as other than glorious.  We feel compelled to make sure that the history of US involvement in Viet Nam is told truthfully.

Rather than let this Madison Avenue PR campaign just roll over us, we are viewing this as an opportunity to truly examine what happened during those tragic and tumultuous Viet Nam years, and use those lessons to turn American policy and shape a better future for ourselves and other nations.  The US seems as committed as ever to military interventions heedless of the consequences for the invaded and occupied people or even for those called upon to invade and occupy.

We believe that an honest remembrance of what actually went on in Viet Nam is essential – to face the realities for the millions of Vietnamese civilians killed, maimed, poisoned, and traumatized; our soldiers propagandized, thrown into a ‘war of choice’; and subsequently largely abandoned to cope with postwar stress, our citizenry lied to and manipulated who came to recognize the war’s futility, if not its immorality.

It is incumbent on us not to cede the war’s memory to those who have little interest in an honest accounting and who want to justify further acts of military adventurism.  The experience of the war ought to be cautionary against the fantasy of world dominance that besots many of our political and military leaders.  What are the consequences of trying to control the fate of a people from afar with little understanding or interest — except for the purposes of counterinsurgency — in their history and culture, or their human desires?  What are the consequences of dehumanized ideologies used to justify wars of aggression?  To honor the Viet Nam generation and to inform current and future generations, we should make every effort to pass on a critical and honest history of the war.

As part of our counter-commemoration, we also will also pay tribute to the broad-based resistance to the war.  Taking inspiration from the civil rights movement, an unprecedented opposition movement arose not just on campuses, but in the streets, in the military, and around family dinner tables.  Millions of Americans resisted the war spontaneously, as well as in organizations ranging from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to the Chicano Moratorium, Women’s Strike for Peace, the War Resistors League, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, American Friend Service Committee, Students for a Democratic Society, Labor for Peace, Business Executives Move for Viet Nam Peace, and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, not to mention countless community groups.  The movement made the morality of the war an issue for Americans, moving beyond the cost-benefit analysis favored by the punditocracy.  The war was wrong, not just too costly; as Martin Luther King warned in his “Beyond Vietnam” speech: “the US was on the wrong side of the world revolution.”

In tandem with the civil rights, Black liberation, and women’s movements, the anti-war movement fostered a cultural and intellectual revolution which undermined Euro-centrism and traditional hierarchies while honoring the previously marginalized.  Our grasp of history, culture, and human capacity was qualitatively expanded.  We learned and demonstrated that history could be made by ordinary people; by people of color, by women, by the ignored and excluded.

The work around the quincentennial of Columbus’s voyages is a useful precedent.  Originally designed as a celebration of Eurocentrism and empire, widespread grassroots action instead turned the quincentennial into a critique of the conquest and destruction of native peoples.

We therefore are inviting you to join us in developing a strategy for an antiwar commemoration with direct relevance for today.  Here are some beginning, suggestive ideas to expose the truths of war and pose alternatives to its normalization by developing:

  1. A central storehouse of information, a web site, and digitized archives;
  2. Curriculum for schools and colleges;
  3. A speaker’s bureau;
  4. A program on the model of the Viet Nam era’s teach-ins and Winter Soldier investigations;
  5. Our own commemorations of significant war and antiwar events.

Sign here.

Syria: Pros and Cons

8:11 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Mr. President, if I were a professional con artist paid to give you the pros and cons on engaging in a war in Syria, here’s what they would be:

As you know, former president Clinton, probably understood by many to also be speaking on behalf of his wife, has called you a wuss.  Virtually nobody remembers or cares that you said “I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place.”  The majority of Americans, exercising that mindset, want you to get us into a new war in the first place if the alternative is having a wuss in the White House.  I don’t have a poll on that, but trust me.

This is not contradicted by public opposition to U.S. engagement in the war in Syria (as seen in the polls).  If U.S. casualties are minimized and if the financial cost can come out of the base DOD budget — at least at first — then the political cost is negligible while the political gain is enormous.  Unless you drag this out.  The military budget is being increased right now, and in violation of the sequester, and nobody gives a rat’s ass.  They think it means jobs and non-wussiness.  Unless you drag it out.

With regard to claims of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government, the best approach is to claim certainty, and to insist on the necessity of secrecy for the evidence.  You’ve had a great deal of success with this approach on drone kills, NSA programs, etc.  Let the conversation focus on a demand for the evidence.  This allows you to talk about the scary dangers requiring secrecy, and to question whether your opponents have the appropriate level of patriotic barbarism.

Meanwhile, everyone has completely forgotten that both sides in Syria are using hideous weaponry and committing horrible atrocities, while we’re only aiding one side rather than both.  Nobody, in this framework, will be capable of thinking about the internationally condemned weapons we deploy, or wondering whether killing Syrians to prevent Syrians from being killed by the wrong kind of weapons even makes sense in our humanitarian (wink wink) scenario.  Much less will the legality or morality of using war to prevent war be questioned or even be questionable.  Keep the focus on the extensive evidence of chemical weapons use by Assad, one of the few individuals in the world — we should say constantly — evil enough to do such a thing.  Stop mentioning Syria at all.  Always refer to Assad.

Key also is swiftness.  Get this battle started!  Get progress and movement toward victory underway immediately.  If possible get a very small number of Americans killed, and killed by Assad.  Remember that the resistance to the 2003 invasion of Iraq shriveled away once the invasion happened, and that the same sort of resistance is not even here now for you.  Your image is firmly established as a non-killer.  Your telling the New York Times about your kill list terror-Tuesday meetings did nothing to change that.  Your bin-Laden announcement did nothing to change that.  The danger for you is not Texan sadist.  The danger for you is Wuss.

The secondary danger is drawing the thing out.  You’ve been able to escalate and prolong the war on Afghanistan for five years only because you’ve labeled it your predecessor’s war.  The House just voted that you only get another year-and-a-half there unless they vote again.  I know, I know, it’s cute how they think we give a shit what they vote for.  But Syria is not Bush’s war.  If you drag it out you’ll be in trouble.  And here’s why you might: The people of Syria are largely against the rebels and will be even more strongly against the United States or NATO.  There won’t even be a momentary flowers-and-chocolate welcome.  Both sides are heavily armed already, and the more popular side is winning.  You’re proposing to fight on the less popular side in support of overthrowing a more popular government in exchange for a government that could end up opposed to Iran, but which will also be opposed to the United States, not to mention its opposition to restraint in mutilating and murdering blasphemers.  There will be a temptation to try to fix and control what is guaranteed to be broken and uncontrollable.  And that’s if the whole thing doesn’t expand internationally into a broader war involving several nations and costing you practically as much as Wussihood.

So, what you need is swiftness and overwhelming strength, devastation sufficient to shock and awe the Syrians as it were.  And then get the hell out of there and leave those people to their catastrophe.  That would be my advice.  You don’t need, and the weapons makers and contractors who will show you their gratitude don’t need, a lengthy war in order to profit.  You need an example of a successful war that can be held up as potentially needed again.  Because, of course — while you must absolutely not say this yet — this is what will get you into Iran.  And Iran is where the real men go, Mr. President.

You need to clamp down on Senator McCain and all other voices connecting Syria to Iran.  The two need to be separate and happen sequentially.  You need to control the media by continuing to beat the existing sticks of intimidation, while offering some carrots as well.  Do they want to break the story of the chemical weapons evidence? Do they? Do they? Then they need to watch what they say.  This can be a win-win for everyone involved, Mr. President.  The footage of the bombing of Syrian air defense batteries in urban centers will be stunning.  It should come before the Fourth of July.

Footage from the ground in those cities, however, should be banned under the threat of indictment for aiding the enemy.  This is important.  Syria is not Libya.  A lot more people are going to die, and we do not want those images except in one key case.  We want the death of Assad on every television.  And we want it from a bomb, not a night raid.  We want to justify the killing of tens of thousands through the killing of someone so demonized that his killing justifies all killing.  At that point, you can forget anyone caring about the fate of Syria.  Just look at Iraq.  It’s worse off right now than Syria is, and I can count on one hand the number of Americans who give a damn.

Courage, Mr. President!  Don’t be a wuss! Read the rest of this entry →

Pacifist Terms Obama “Force for Destruction”

7:55 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

By Sherwood Ross

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. — Overall, President Obama has been “a force for destruction” who has “advanced inequality, wealth concentration, deportations, imprisonments, and the de-funding of basic services in order to fund banks, billionaires, and bombers,” distinguished peace activist David Swanson says.

In an exclusive interview with this reporter, Swanson, a former staff aide to Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s presidential campaigns, said Obama has done nothing  to better the lot of the nation’s poor, including Americans in the ghettos, apart from reducing “the disparity in crack-powder cocaine sentencing.”

Noting that Obama has attempted to identify himself with the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Swanson was asked if he saw any resemblance. His reply was “Two eyes and two ears and two feet and in Obama’s case two mouths. He got a Nobel Peace Prize before he did anything for peace,” Swanson said. “So did King, and King followed through and retroactively earned it. Perhaps that led to the ludicrous bestowing of the prize on Obama, who proceeded to give a pro-war acceptance speech in which he insultingly and arrogantly denounced King’s approach to world change.”

Asked if either Obama or his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might carry out their threat to make a nuclear attack on Iran, Swanson said, “I think they are willing to and would find joy in it. Watch the video of Clinton laughing over the killing of (Libya’s ruler Muammar) Gaddafi. Watch the video of her talking about ‘obliterating’ Iran. She takes obvious pleasure in such talk, as does Obama. I don’t think it’s at the top of their to-do list, but as long as they allow Israel and Congress to roll ahead, as long as they support the propaganda against Iran, as long as they pursue sanctions as an ‘alternative’ to war that usually brings war closer, the danger will grow.”

Swanson was asked if the U.S. could defeat powerful enemies Germany and Japan in three and one half year in World War II how it has been in Afghanistan for well over a decade with no victory in sight, and whether this was not a deliberate plan to continue a high level of military funding.

“Motivations clearly include irrational machoistic power, financial profit, election campaigning, domination of territories and resources, and the inertia of the war machine,” Swanson said. “I don’t think there’s just one reason, but I think all the reasons are bad ones.”

He went on to say, “I agree that many want to keep the wars going, including those so deluded as to imagine that wars produce jobs. Connecticut’s new commission to plan economic conversion is the most encouraging step I’ve seen in a long time. Forty-nine states need to sit up and take notice.”

Asked why there is so little popular opposition to President Obama’s warlike policies compared to the public outcry during the Viet Nam war, Swanson replied: “Less of it (the opposition) is shown in corporate media, resulting in its actual diminishment. The propaganda—including the lie that people are impotent to effect change — has become much slicker. People are directed into entertainment, ignorance, and ineffective types of activism, above all electoral campaigning.”

“Our schools are worse, our news media is worse, our political system is more corrupted. Propagandists and recruiters are more skilled. The draft is a poverty draft, presented as a favor to its direct victims rather than an assault on them. And knowledge of the crimes to be protested barely exists. A majority of Americans believes Iraq benefitted from a war that destroyed Iraq. People won’t protest that which they don’t know about.”

Asked how deeply totalitarianism is ingrained in American life, Swanson said that “Americans are among the most obedient and subservient people around. We imagine just the reverse and certainly our tendency toward obedience competes with out tendency toward independence and rebellion. But the majority of politically engaged Americans radically alter their demands depending on which of two very similar political parties is in the White House, accept imperial powers for presidents without thought, ingest corporate propaganda without resistance, and believe that even popular activism is dependent on the divine appearance of an all-powerful leader.”

Swenson went on to say, “A majority of Americans oppose drone murders of Americans but support drone murders of non-Americans. A majority of Americans want different rules for their country and other, lesser countries, including accepting the launching of wars on other nations, whether for genocidal or humanitarian reasons.”

Asked what it will take to get the pacifist message through to the multitudes, Swanson replied, “It may take some combination of independent media and infiltration of corporate media. The latter will only effectively follow the former. So our priorities are backwards right now. We need a much greater emphasis on building independent journalism. And we need a movement to educate people to rely on it. If potential activists won’t take anything seriously that they don’t see on corporate media, it does us little good to get it to them by other means.”

Swanson hosts “Talk Nation Radio” and is the author of numerous anti-war books that have drawn wide attention and praise. These include “The Military Industrial Complex at 50” and “War Is A lie.”

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(Sherwood Ross formerly contributed weekly columns to United Press International and Reuters. He is now a national public relations consultant based in Miami, Florida.  Reach him at sherwood.ross@gmail.com )

An Endless “Peace Process” for Palestine

1:10 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

The United States balances its endless war of terrorism with the institution of an endless “peace process” for Palestine, a process valuable for its peaceyness and interminability.

Josh Ruebner’s new book, Shattered Hopes: The Failure of Obama’s Middle East Peace Process, could just as easily have been called “Fulfilled Expectations: The Success of Obama’s Middle East Peace Process,” depending on one’s perspective.  Its story could be summarized: Obama’s performance in this area has been of a piece with his performance in every other.  Some people became very hopeful about his rhetoric and then very dejected about his actions.

In this case, among those getting hopeful were Palestinian negotiators.  But they didn’t just grow depressed and despondent.  They felt no obligation to behave like Democratic voters.  They swore off the Hopium and went to work on an international approach through the United Nations that has begun to pay off.

Obama began his “peace process” efforts “naively unprepared for the intensity of the pushback from Israel and its supporters in the United States to its demand that Israel freeze settlements,” Ruebner writes.  But evidence of Obama’s mental state is hard to pin down, and I’m not sure of the relevance.  Whether Obama began with naive good intentions or the same cynicism that he was, by all accounts, fully immersed in by his second or third year in office, the important point remains the same.  As Ruebner explains, Obama employs an all-carrots / no-sticks approach with Israel that is doomed to failure.

In fact, suggesting that the White House cease providing Israel with ever more weaponry and/or cease providing Israel with ever more protection from justice following its crimes is liable to get Ruebner himself denounced as naive, along with the rest of us who think he’s right.  Obama’s fundamental problem is not one of naiveté, but of “seriousness,” of upholding the solemn seriousness of willful belief in a respectable but doomed approach.  If Obama was surprised that Palestinian negotiators didn’t play along with this the way U.S. “journalists” do, that would suggest he had internalized the official point of view.  Whether that is naiveté or deep cynicism may be in the eye of the beholder.

Ruebner provides the chronological play-by-play from Obama’s first happy shiny moves in office to his familiar flailing about in search of propaganda that would continue to hold up year after year.  And Ruebner includes analysis of what activists were up to along the way.

In fact, Ruebner begins with Obama’s campaign promises, which — upon close inspection — prove, as with every other issue, to have been much closer to the President’s abysmal performance than to the glowing image people recall of his early hope-and-changey self.  Obama campaigned placing all blame on Palestinians, supporting Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, backing resolutions and legislation in the Senate imposing sanctions on Palestinians as punishment for having held an open election, and supporting Israel during its wars on Lebanon and Gaza.  Obama’s speeches and his website made his position clear to those inclined to see it.  Boycott campaigns against the Israeli government were, according to him, “bigoted.”

As with every other area, on peace in Palestine, Obama’s disastrous approach could also have been read clearly from his selection of individuals to run his foreign policy team.  During the transition period prior to his inauguration, Obama took positions on many foreign policy matters, but when it came to the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza, he declared himself unable to speak prior to becoming president.

Watching the sequence of events play out post-inauguration is painful.  Obama urges an end to Israel’s expansion of settlements.  Netanyahu suggests that Obama, with all due respect, stick his proposals where the sun don’t shine.  But Netanyahu backs “statehood” (someday, with no rights or power or independence or actual — you know — statehood) for Palestinians, but proceeds to rapidly expand settlements, effectively eliminating territory on which to create any state.  Obama announces that victory has come and help is on the way!

Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave up on freezing settlements and announced that slowing the pace of the expansion would be an “unprecedented” accomplishment — a claim that was less credible to people who had lived and suffered through many such claims before.  As reward for the same lawless abuses as always, Israel received from the Obama administration more weaponry than ever, and a veto of a resolution at the United Nations opposing more Israeli settlements.

Ruebner rightly concludes:

“Obama’s failure to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace resulted not only from his unwillingness to go to the mat with the Israel lobby over the issue of fully freezing Israeli settlements, not only from the scattershot, frenetic lurching of his policy initiatives thereafter.  Obama also foundered because his approach relied solely on providing Israel with carrots.  With the trivial exceptions of denying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu photo-ops at the White House on a few occasions and reportedly forcing him to wait for several hours before a meeting, Obama never brandished the proverbial stick.  But these personal insults did nothing to create incentives for Israel to cease openly and brazenly defying U.S. policy objectives.”

Hope is so much more popular than reality.  But Ruebner is full of hope.  He holds it out there in front of us.  All that’s required is a little actually useful action:

“[I]f the United States were to pull its backing for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, then Israeli intransigence would melt away in the historical blink of an eye, as it did when President Dwight Eisenhower terminated all U.S. aid programs to Israel after it invaded and occupied the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula in 1956.”

How do we get there?  Part of the answer, Ruebner persuasively suggests is Boycott-Divestment-and-Sanctions (BDS), a movement that is making great strides, including in changing the public discourse, altering the sorts of things that even U.S. politicians can get away with claiming with a straight face. Read the rest of this entry →

Memorial Day THIS

8:14 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Imagine if at some point during the 1990s or 1980s the President of the United States had given a speech.  And this was his speech:

My fellow Americans, I’ve been regularly shooting missiles into people’s houses in several countries.  I’ve wiped out families.  I’ve killed thousands of people.  Hundreds of them have been little children.

I’ve killed grandparents, wives, daughters, neighbors.  I’ve targeted people without knowing their names but because they appeared to be resisting an occupation of their country.  I’ve killed whoever was too near them.  Then I’ve shot another missile a few minutes later to kill whoever was trying to help the victims.

I don’t charge these people with crimes.  I don’t seek their extradition.  I don’t even try to kidnap them.  And I don’t do this to defend against any imminent threat.  I don’t make you safer by doing this.  It goes without saying (although the people in the countries I target keep saying it) that I’m generating more new enemies than I’m killing.  But I urge you to remember this: All but four of the people I’ve killed have been non-U.S. citizens.

So here’s what I’m going to do for you: I’m going to start applying the same standards I use for killing U.S. citizens to my killing of non-U.S. citizens, at least in certain countries, at least after another 18 months or so goes by.  Sound good?  I know, I know: what do you care? These are not even U.S. citizens we’re talking about.

So, let me tell you about the four U.S. citizens.

One of them we didn’t actually know who we were shooting at, and he turned out to be a U.S. citizen.  Hell, for all I know a few other bodies could belong to U.S. citizens too — It’s not as if we know all the names and backgrounds.

A second one of the four we got because he was with the one and only U.S. citizen we targeted.  So, that was a two-fer.  We saved enough on missiles on that one to pay for a school or whatever it is people keep whining about wanting money for.

A third one was a 16-year-old American kid.  He was the son of the one and only U.S. citizen I targeted.  I hit him two weeks after killing his father.  Sheer coincidence.  I don’t have any good explanation for it, but you’ll just have to trust that I meant to take out a bunch of innocent non-American teenagers, and there happened tragically to be an American among them.

Fourth is the one U.S. citizen I meant to kill.  I’d like to ask you to ignore certain facts about this one for the moment.  Actually forever.  Let’s ignore the fact that we tried to kill him before any of the incidents that I now claim justified his killing.  Let’s ignore that my attorney general said back then that we were killing him for things he’d said, not for anything he’d done.  Let’s forget that we never charged him with any crime, never indicted him, never tried him, never sought his extradition, never appealed to U.S. or foreign or international courts.  Let’s forget that we’ve never made any evidence against him public, nor explained why we can’t.  Let’s forget that nobody else has produced any evidence against him.

Now, let me tell you this: I only killed him because he was responsible for planning and executing violent attacks on the United States, was an imminent threat to the United States, and could not possibly have been captured.  Got that?  Write that down.

Now, it’s true that courts and the legislature and the public are left out of this.  But you’re going to have to trust me.

There is not a single domestic or international law that permits the killing of human beings by someone who invents criteria for himself to meet and then claims on the basis of secret evidence to have met those criteria.

But, what do you care?  You’ve already forgotten that for all but one of the people I’ve killed I don’t claim to have met any criteria at all.

Now clap, you morons!

Some speech.

What would the response have been to this some decades back, as compared to last Thursday?

I think there might have been some outrage.

Instead of outrage, we’re going to have more wars.

This memorial day, see if you can remember what it was like to object to giving presidents the power to murder us. Read the rest of this entry →

Obama Promises His Speech Will End Some Day

8:31 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

President Obama is expected to announce that the eternal war on the world will have an end.

When?

He won’t say.

I too have an announcement.  I promise my drinking problem will end some day.

When?

I’m not saying.  But the celebrations of the armistice in 1918 began when plans for it were announced, and the partying continued until it actually happened.  Perhaps that is the best approach here.  As an aid to your festivities, let me present the…

Afternoon Obama Murder Rap Drinking Game
(which I promise to stop playing soon)

1. The President is going to admit that he has a murder problem and propose to correct it by murdering less in certain countries.  If examples occur to you of crimes you might commit that you could not continue committing by promising to limit your criminal activities in some countries but not in others, DRINK!

2. The President is going to claim to have targeted, or to have allowed an unnamed John Brennan to have targeted, only one U.S. citizen for murder but to have killed three by mistake, on top of three killed by President Bush by mistake.  If you can think of outrages you might commit that you could not go on committing by claiming that 86% of them were accidental side effects, DRINK!

3. The President is going to claim that the one U.S. citizen he or his subordinate chose to murder was an imminent (meaning eventual theoretical) threat to violently attack the United States, that capture was infeasible (meaning the target was hiding following lots of death threats, but his location was known anyway), and that said citizen was a senior operational leader of al Qaeda (or an associated group or was an adherent or a backstage groupie who had once met a guy whose cousin knew where an al Qaeda meeting was held one time).  If you understand what that means, DRINK!

4. The President is going to hope that nobody notices that laws against war and murder don’t include exceptions for people who invent lists of arcane criteria that they require themselves to meet before murdering.  If you think you could invent and meet at least three qualifications before engaging in some immoral behavior, DRINK!

5. The President is going to hope nobody notices that he did not actually meet his own criteria before murdering Awlaki.  Attorney General Eric Holder now says Awlaki was killed for actions, not words.  Prior to the deed, Holder said it was the “hatred spewed” on Awlaki’s blog that put him “on the same list with bin Laden.”  Asked if he wanted Awlaki captured or killed, Holder did not say “captured if feasible,” but evaded the question.  Awlaki, as far as we know, was never a member of al Qaeda.  Obama’s and Holder’s claims about Awlaki’s role in terrorist attacks are undocumented claims.  No evidence has been presented and no charges were ever brought in court.  If you think shouting “Whoever he is, and whatever he’s charged with, he did it!” would be a nifty way to get out of jury duty, DRINK!

6. The President is going to speed past the fact that over 99% of the people he’s murdered have not been U.S. citizens, and that the pretense of justification so lazily applied to U.S. citizens has not been bothered with at all in these cases.  He’s not going to discuss “signature strikes” targeting unknown people and whoever’s near them, or the targeting of the rescuers of victims.  He’s not going to discuss children, women, seniors.  He’s not going to discuss the posthumous identification of males as “enemy combatants” — a non-legal term that adds insult to murder.  He’s not going to discuss the many known cases in which the victims could quite feasibly have been captured, were clearly not involved with al Qaeda in any way, and lacked any capacity whatsoever to threaten the United States.  He’s going to propose applying the fraudulent, meaningless, and illegal standards he applies to murdering U.S. citizens to murdering non-U.S. citizens in the future … in some countries.  If you can think of some people who might not be satisfied with this reform, DRINK!

7. The President is going to claim to be moving some but not all drone kill operations from a secret agency technically lacking in Congressional oversight to a department Congress simply chooses not to oversee.  If this falls short of what you can imagine when you hear “most transparent administration ever,” DRINK!

8. The President will not be speaking about how some 75 other nations with drones should begin applying his standards to their own behavior.  If you think such matters are worth discussing, DRINK!

9. The President is going to brush over the question of where and how he will be ordering the murder of people by means other than missiles.  If you can think of ways this might become seen as a problem down the road, DRINK!

10. The President is going to speed past the existence of a massive ongoing U.S. war on Afghanistan, larger now than when Obama moved into the White House, and expected to continue for many years after it “ends” in another year and a half.  If his ability to get away with this strikes you as perhaps what he must love most about drones and how they change the conversation, DRINK!

11. If you have concerns that go unanswered about the global expansion of U.S. bases, threats to Syria, weapons provided to Israel, threats to Iran, or the gargantuan military budget, DRINK!

12. The President will leak a great deal of information about his kill list program in this speech, as he has done on some previous “I killed bin Laden!” occasions, and yet will fail to prosecute himself for espionage at the end of the speech.  If you believe laws should be applied equally to all, DRINK! Read the rest of this entry →