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Top 10 Proofs People Can Be Completely Manipulated Without Hypnosis

8:41 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

1. Any article listing the top 10 of anything will be widely read.

2. A poll of people in 65 countries, including the United States, finds that the United States is overwhelmingly considered the greatest threat to peace in the world. The consensus would have been even stronger had the United States itself not been polled, because the 5 percent of humanity living here is largely convinced that the other 95% of humanity — that group with experience being threatened or attacked by the United States — is wrong. After all, our government in the U.S. tells us it’s in favor of peace. Even when it bombs cities, it does it for peace. It’s hard for people under the bombs to see that. We in the U.S. have a better perspective.

3. Polls in the United States through the 2003-2011 war on Iraq found that a majority in the U.S. believed Iraqis were better off as the result of a war that severely damaged — even destroyed — Iraq[1]. A majority of Iraqis, in contrast, believed they were worse off.[2] A majority in the United States believed Iraqis were grateful.[3] This is a disagreement over facts, not ideology. But people often choose which facts to become aware of or to accept. Tenacious believers in tales of Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” tended to believe more, not less, firmly when shown the facts. The facts about Iraq are not pleasant, but they are important. To believe that the people who live where your nation’s government has waged a war are better off for it, despite those people’s contention that they are worse off, suggests an extreme sort of arrogance — and a misplaced arrogance because you’ve just proven that a few slick politicians can make you believe up is down.

4. According to U.S.ians the greatest threat to peace on earth is a nation that hasn’t threatened any other, and hasn’t attacked any other in centuries, a nation that suffered horrible chemical weapons attacks and refused to use chemical weapons in response, a nation that has refused to develop nuclear weapons but been falsely accused of doing so by the U.S. government for decades. That’s right: a bit of laughably bad propaganda, regurgitated in variations for 30 years, and the smart critical thinkers of the Land of the Free declare a nation with a military budget below 1% of their own — Iran — the Greatest Threat to Peace.[4] Edward Bernays is cackling wickedly in his grave.

5. Because no cartoon character has ever been named after Edward Bernays, nobody’s ever heard of him.

6. In poll after poll after poll, 75% to 85% in the United States say their system of government is broken. Yet, what remains the top piece of advice to agitators for change? That’s right: “Work within the system.” And what remains the fallback ultimate reliable justification for launching or escalating or continuing a war: That’s right: “We need to bring our system of government to others.”

7. When U.S. military spending begins to inch below $1 trillion a year, military-friendly journalists declare the weapons lobby dead.  When it begins to inch back slightly above $1 trillion a year, slightly less military-friendly journalists declare the weapons profiteers alive but struggling. In both scenarios the level of spending remains roughly $1 trillion and the difference between the high end and the low end, while greater than most other public programs will ever see, is less than the Pentagon “misplaces” in an average 12-month period.

8. On Tuesdays, President Barack Obama goes through a list of men, women, and children, picks which ones to have murdered, and has them murdered. Knowing this would conflict with hating exclusively a particular sub-group of our public sociopaths, so most people simply choose not to know it.

9. If Iraq had really had those weapons, and if Syria had demonstrably really killed a small number of its victims with the wrong type of weapons, and if Iran were really building nuclear weapons, . . . then launching wars on those countries would still be illegal, immoral, and disastrous. We all have opinions about the question the warmakers want asked, but not about the insanity that lies behind the question.

10. People have been dying since before recorded history, and yet only those who pretend to believe nobody dies can be considered serious, honest, upstanding folk. That there’s another longer life helps us not worry so much about getting screwed during this one. Perhaps it also helps us in allowing our “representatives” to routinely end the lives of so many foreign, and thus ignorant, people.

Footnotes:

1. The last such poll may have been Gallup in August 2010.
2. Zogby, Dec. 20, 2011.
3. The last such poll may have been CBS News in August 2010.
4. Check out Gareth Porter’s forthcoming book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. Read the rest of this entry →

10 Problems With the Latest Excuse for War

8:04 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

If you own a television or read a newspaper you’ve probably heard that we need another war because the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

Air Force Pilot

Delivering payloads of ‘democracy’ to Syria, soon?

If you own a computer and know where to look you’ve probably heard that there isn’t actually any evidence for that claim.

Below are 10 reasons why this latest excuse for war is no good EVEN IF TRUE.

1. War is not made legal by such an excuse.  It can’t be found in the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the United Nations Charter, or the U.S. Constitution.  It can, however, be found in U.S. war propaganda of the 2002 vintage.  (Who says our government doesn’t promote recycling?)

2. The United States itself possesses and uses internationally condemned weapons, including white phosphorus, napalm, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium.  Whether you praise these actions, avoid thinking about them, or join me in condemning them, they are not a legal or moral justification for any foreign nation to bomb us, or to bomb some other nation where the U.S. military is operating.  Killing people to prevent their being killed with the wrong kind of weapons is a policy that must come out of some sort of sickness.  Call it Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

3. An expanded war in Syria could become regional or global with uncontrollable consequences.  Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Russia, China, the United States, the Gulf states, the NATO states . . . does this sound like the sort of conflict we want?  Does it sound like a conflict anyone will survive?  Why in the world risk such a thing?

4. Just creating a “no fly zone” would involve bombing urban areas and unavoidably killing large numbers of people.  This happened in Libya and we looked away.  But it would happen on a much larger scale in Syria, given the locations of the sites to be bombed.  Creating a “no fly zone” is not a matter of making an announcement, but of dropping bombs.

5. Both sides in Syria have used horrible weapons and committed horrible atrocities.  Surely even those who imagine people should be killed to prevent their being killed with different weapons can see the insanity of arming both sides to protect each other side.  Why is it not, then, just as insane to arm one side in a conflict that involves similar abuses by both?

6. With the United States on the side of the opposition in Syria, the United States will be blamed for the opposition’s crimes.  Most people in Western Asia hate al Qaeda and other terrorists.  They are also coming to hate the United States and its drones, missiles, bases, night raids, lies, and hypocrisy.  Imagine the levels of hatred that will be reached when al Qaeda and the United States team up to overthrow the government of Syria and create an Iraq-like hell in its place.

7. An unpopular rebellion put into power by outside force does not usually result in a stable government.  In fact there is not yet on record a case of U.S. humanitarian war benefitting humanity or of nation-building actually building a nation.  Why would Syria, which looks even less auspicious than most potential targets, be the exception to the rule?

8. This opposition is not interested in creating a democracy, or — for that matter — in taking instructions from the U.S. government.  On the contrary, blowback from these allies is likely.  Just as we should have learned the lesson of lies about weapons by now, our government should have learned the lesson of arming the enemy of the enemy long before this moment.

9. The precedent of another lawless act by the United States, whether arming proxies or engaging directly, sets a dangerous example to the world and to those in Washington for whom Iran is next on the list.

10. A strong majority of Americans, despite all the media’s efforts thus far, opposes arming the rebels or engaging directly.  Instead, a plurality supports providing humanitarian aid.

We might better spread democracy by example than by bomb.

There are nonviolent pro-democracy movements in Bahrain and Turkey and elsewhere, and our government doesn’t lift a finger in support.

But if you remember all those years of protesting wars and wishing millions of foolish partisan Republicans would join us in protesting blatant mass-murder even though the president was a Republican, I have good news for you.  The Republicans are leading the way in pretending to oppose war this time.  So, if you Democrats, who I’m sure were 100% sincere in opposing wars some years back are still ready to act, maybe — just maybe — we can build right now the sort of broad movement we’ve wanted.

If you’re not too busy.

Read the rest of this entry →

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 →

Why Not Attack Iran?

11:57 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

The push to attack Iran has been on for so long that entire categories of arguments for it (such as that the Iranians are fueling the Iraqi resistance) have come and gone. At DontAttackIran.org we’ve been collecting the arguments for and against attacking Iran for years. We’ve campaigned against an attack, but never been able to claim a success, because decisions not to launch wars are never announced, because those pushing for wars never give up, and because those believing what their government tells them think the Pentagon never campaigns for wars but is forced into them defensively on short notice by attacks from evildoers.

While Iran has not attacked any other country in centuries, the United States has not done so well by Iran. Remember (or, like most U.S. citizens, learn for the first time): the United States overthrew Iran’s democracy in 1953 and installed a dictator. Then the United States aided Iraq in the 1980s in attacking Iran, providing Iraq with some of the weapons (including chemical weapons) that were used on Iranians and that would be used in 2002-2003 (when they no longer existed) as an excuse for attacking Iraq. For the past decade, the United States has labeled Iran an evil nation, attacked and destroyed the other non-nuclear nation on the list of evil nations, designated part of Iran’s military a terrorist organization, falsely accused Iran of crimes including the attacks of 9-11, murdered Iranian scientists, funded opposition groups in Iran (including some the U.S. also designates as terrorist), flown drones over Iran, openly and illegally threatened to attack Iran, and built up military forces all around Iran’s borders, while imposing cruel sanctions on the country.

The roots of a Washington push for a new war on Iran can be found in the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance, the 1996 paper called A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, the 2000 Rebuilding America’s Defenses, and in a 2001 Pentagon memo described by Wesley Clark as listing these nations for attack: Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. In 2010, Tony Blair included Iran on a similar list of countries that he said Dick Cheney had aimed to overthrow. The line among the powerful in Washington in 2003 was that Iraq would be a cakewalk but that real men go to Tehran. The arguments in these old forgotten memos were not what the war makers tell the public, but much closer to what they tell each other. The concerns here are those of dominating regions rich in resources, intimidating others, and establishing bases from which to maintain control of puppet governments.

Of course the reason why “real men go to Tehran” is that Iran is not the impoverished disarmed nation that one might find in, say, Afghanistan or Iraq, or even the disarmed nation recently found in Libya. Iran is much bigger and much better armed. Whether the United States launches a major assault on Iran or Israel does, Iran will retaliate against U.S. troops and probably Israel and possibly the United States itself as well. And the United States will without any doube re-retaliate for that. Iran cannot be unaware that the U.S. government’s pressure on the Israeli government not to attack Iran consists of reassuring the Israelis that the United States will attack when needed, and does not include even threatening to stop funding Israel’s military or to stop vetoing measures of accountability for Israeli crimes at the United Nations. In other words, any U.S. pretense of having seriously wanted to prevent an attack is not credible. Of course, many in the U.S. government and military oppose attacking Iran, although key figures like Admiral William Fallon have been moved out of the way. Much of the Israeli military is opposed as well, not to mention the Israeli and U.S. people. But war is not clean or precise. If the people we allow to run our nations attack another, we are all put at risk.

Most at risk, of course, are the people of Iran, people as peaceful as any other, or perhaps more so. As in any country, no matter what its government, the people of Iran are fundamentally good, decent, peaceful, just, and fundamentally like you and me. I’ve met people from Iran. You may have met people from Iran. They look like this. They’re not a different species. They’re not evil. A “surgical strike” against a “facility” in their country would cause a great many of them to die very painful and horrible deaths. Even if you imagine that Iran would not retaliate for such attacks, this is what the attacks would in themselves consist of: mass murder. And what would that accomplish? It would unite the people of Iran and much of the world against the United States. It would justify in the eyes of much of the world an underground Iranian program to develop nuclear weapons, a program that probably does not exist at present, except to the extent that legal nuclear energy programs move a country closer to weapons development. The environmental damage would be tremendous, the precedent set incredibly dangerous, all talk of cutting the U.S. military budget would be buried in a wave of war frenzy, civil liberties and representative government would be flushed down the Potomac, a nuclear arms race would spread to additional countries, and any momentary sadistic glee would be outweighed by accelerating home foreclosures, mounting student debt, and accumulating layers of cultural stupidity.

Strategically, legally, and morally weapons possession is not grounds for war, and neither is pursuit of weapons possession. And neither, I might add, with Iraq in mind, is theoretically possible pursuit of weapons never acted upon. Israel has nuclear weapons. The United States has more nuclear weapons than any other country. There can be no justification for attacking the United States, Israel, or any other country. The pretense that Iran has or will soon have nuclear weapons is, in any case, just a pretense, one that has been revived, debunked, and revived again like a zombie for years and years. But that’s not the really absurd part of this false claim for something that amounts to no justification for war whatsoever. The really absurd part is that it was the United States in 1976 that pushed nuclear energy on Iran. In 2000 the CIA gave the Iranian government (slightly flawed) plans to build a nuclear bomb. In 2003, Iran proposed negotiations with the United States with everything on the table, including its nuclear technology, and the United States refused. Shortly thereafter, the United States started angling for a war. Meanwhile, U.S.-led sanctions prevent Iran from developing wind energy, while the Koch brothers are allowed to trade with Iran without penalty.

Another area of ongoing lie debunking, one that almost exactly parallels the buildup to the 2003 attack on Iraq, is the relentless false claim, including by candidates for U.S. President, that Iran has not allowed inspectors into its country or given them access to its sites. Iran has, in fact, voluntarily accepted stricter standards than the IAEA requires. And of course a separate line of propaganda, albeit a contradictory one, holds that the IAEA has discovered a nuclear weapons program in Iran. Under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), Iran was not required to declare all of its installations, and early last decade it chose not to, as the United States violated that same treaty by blocking Germany, China, and others from providing nuclear energy equipment to Iran. While Iran remains in compliance with the NPT, India and Pakistan and Israel have not signed it and North Korea has withdrawn from it, while the United States and other nuclear powers continuously violate it by failing to reduce arms, by providing arms to other countries such as India, and by developing new nuclear weapons.

This is what the empire of U.S. military bases looks like to Iran. Try to imagine if you lived there, what you would think of this.

Who is threatening whom?

Here are the sizes of national militaries:

Who is the greater danger to whom? The point is not that Iran should be free to attack the United States or anyone else because its military is smaller. The point is that doing so would be national suicide. It would also be something Iran has not done for centuries. But it would be typical U.S. behavior.

Are you ready for an even more absurd twist? This is on the same scale as Bush’s comment about not really giving much thought to Osama bin Laden. Are you ready? The proponents of attacking Iran themselves admit that if Iran had nukes it would not use them. This is from the American Enterprise Institute:

“The biggest problem for the United States is not Iran getting a nuclear weapon and testing it, it’s Iran getting a nuclear weapon and not using it. Because the second that they have one and they don’t do anything bad, all of the naysayers are going to come back and say, ‘See, we told you Iran is a responsible power. We told you Iran wasn’t getting nuclear weapons in order to use them immediately.’ … And they will eventually define Iran with nuclear weapons as not a problem.”

Is that clear? Iran using a nuclear weapon would be bad: environmental damage, loss of human life, hideous pain and suffering, yada, yada, yada. But what would be really bad would be Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon and doing what every other nation with them has done since Nagasaki: nothing. That would be really bad because it would damage an argument for war and make war more difficult, thus allowing Iran to run its country as it, rather than the United States, sees fit. Of course it might run it very badly (although we’re hardly establishing a model for the world over here either), but it would run it without U.S. approval, and that would be worse than nuclear destruction.

Inspections were allowed in Iraq and they worked. They found no weapons and there were no weapons. Inspections are being allowed in Iran and they are working. However, the IAEA has come under the corrupting influence of the U.S. government. And yet, the bluster from war proponents about recent IAEA claims is not backed up by any actual claims from the IAEA. And what little material the IAEA has provided for the cause of war has been widely rejected when not being laughed at.

Another year, another lie. No longer do we hear that North Korea is helping Iran build nukes. Lies about Iranian backing of Iraqi resisters have faded. (Didn’t the United States back French resistance to Germans at one point?) The latest concoction is the “Iran did 911″ lie. Revenge, like the rest of these attempted grounds for war, is actually not a legal or moral justification for war. But this latest fiction has already been put to rest by the indespensable Gareth Porter, among others. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, which did play a role in 911 as well as in the Iraqi resistance, is being sold record quantities of that good old leading U.S. export of which we’re all so proud: weapons of mass destruction.

Oh, I almost forgot another lie that hasn’t quite entirely faded yet. Iran did not try to blow up a Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., an action which President Obama would consider perfectly praiseworthy if the roles were reversed, but a lie that even Fox News had a hard time stomaching. And that’s saying something.

And then there’s that old standby: Ahmadinejad said “Israel should be wiped off the map.” While this does not, perhaps, rise to the level of John McCain singing about bombing Iran or Bush and Obama swearing that all options including nuclear attack are on the table (I’m really starting to despise that table, by the way). Yet, it sounds extremely disturbing: “wiped off the map”! However, the translation is a bad one. A more accurate translation was “the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time”. The government of Israel, not the nation of Israel. Not even the government of Israel, but the current regime. Hell, Americans say that about their own regimes all the time, alternating every four to eight years depending on political party (some of us even say it all the time, without immunity for either party). Iran has made clear it would approve of a two-state solution if Palestinians approved of it. If we launched missile strikes every time somebody said something stupid, even if accurately translated, how safe would it be to live near Newt Gingrich’s or Joe Biden’s house?

The real danger may not actually be the lies. The Iraq experience has built up quite a mental resistance to these sorts of lies in many U.S. residents. The real danger may be the slow start of a war that gains momentum on its own without any formal announcement of its initiation. Israel and the United States have not just been talking tough or crazy. They’ve been murdering Iranians. And they seem to have no shame about it. The day after a Republican presidential primary debate at which candidates declared their desire to kill Iranians, the CIA apparently made certain the news was public that it was in fact already murdering Iranians, not to mention blowing up buildings. Some would say and have said that the war has already begun. Those who cannot see this because they do not want to see it will also miss the deadly humor in the United States asking Iran to return our brave drone to us.

Perhaps what’s needed to snap war supporters out of their stupor is a bit of slapstick. Try this on for size. From Seymour Hersh describing a meeting held in Vice President Cheney’s office:

“There was a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build — we in our shipyard — build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives. And it was rejected because you can’t have Americans killing Americans. That’s the kind of — that’s the level of stuff we’re talking about. Provocation. But that was rejected.”

Now, Dick Cheney is not your typical American. Nobody in the U.S. government is your typical American. Your typical American is struggling, disapproves of the U.S. government, wishes billionaires were taxed, favors green energy and education and jobs over military boondoggles, thinks corporations should be barred from buying elections, and would not be inclined to apologize for getting shot in the face by the Vice President. Back in the 1930s, the Ludlow Amendment nearly made it a Constitutional requirement that the public vote in a referendum before the United States could go to war. President Franklin Roosevelt blocked that proposal. Yet the Constitution already required and still requires that Congress declare war before a war is fought. That has not been done in over 70 years, while wars have raged on almost incessantly. In the past decade and right up through President Obama’s signing of the outrageous National Defense Authorization Act on New Years Eve 2011-2012, the power to make war has been handed over to presidents. Here is one more reason to oppose a presidential war on Iran: once you allow presidents to make wars, you will never stop them. Another reason, in so far as anybody any longer gives a damn, is that war is a crime. Iran and the United States are parties to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which bans war. One of those two nations is not complying.

But we won’t have a referendum. The U.S. House of Misrepresentatives won’t step in. Only through widespread public pressure and nonviolent action will we intervene in this slow-motion catastrophe. Already the United States and the United Kingdom are preparing for war with Iran. This war, if it happens, will be fought by an institution called the United States Department of Defense, but it will endanger rather than defending us. As the war progresses, we will be told that the Iranian people want to be bombed for their own good, for freedom, for democracy. But nobody wants to be bombed for that. Iran does not want U.S.-style democracy. Even the United States does not want U.S.-style democracy. We will be told that those noble goals are guiding the actions of our brave troops and our brave drones on the battlefield. Yet there will be no battlefield. There will be no front lines. There will be no trenches. There will simply be cities and towns where people live, and where people die. There will be no victory. There will be no progress accomplished through a “surge.” On January 5, 2012, Secretary of “Defense” Leon Panetta was asked at a press conference about the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he replied simply that those were successes. That is the kind of success that could be expected in Iran were Iran a destitute and disarmed state.

Now we begin to understand the importance of all the media suppression, blackouts, and lies about the damage done to Iraq and Afghanistan. Now we understand why Obama and Panetta have embraced the lies that launched the War on Iraq. The same lies must now be revived, as for every war ever fought, for a War on Iran. Here’s a video explaining how this will work, even with some new twists and lots of variations. The U.S. corporate media is part of the war machine.

Planning war and funding war creates its own momentum. Sanctions become, as with Iraq, a stepping stone to war. Cutting off diplomacy leaves few options open. Electoral pissing contests take us all where most of us did not want to be.

These are the bombs most likely to launch this ugly and quite possibly terminal chapter of human history. This animation shows clearly what they would do. For an even better presentation, pair that with this audio of a misinformed caller trying hopelessly to persuade George Galloway that we should attack Iran.

On January 2, 2012, the New York Times reported concern that cuts to the U.S. military budget raised doubts as to whether the United States would “be prepared for a grinding, lengthy ground war in Asia.” At a Pentagon press conference on January 5, 2012, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reassured the press corpse (sic) that major ground wars were very much an option and that wars of one sort or another were a certainty. President Obama’s statement of military policy released at that press conference listed the missions of the U.S. military. First was fighting terrorism, next detering “aggression,” then “projecting power despite anti-access/area denial challenges,” then the good old WMDs, then conquering space and cyberspace, then nuclear weapons, and finally — after all that — there was mention of defending the Homeland Formerly Known As The United States.

We’re in bad straights.

Click on this image:

The cases of Iraq and Iran are not identical in every detail, of course. But in both cases we are dealing with concerted efforts to get us into wars, wars based, as all wars are based, on lies.

One thing you can do is to ask U.S. and Israeli air, missile, and drone crews to refuse to attack Iran at DontAttackIran.org.

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David Swanson is the author of “When the World Outlawed War,” “War Is A Lie” and “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union.” He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org

Murdoch Has Blood on His Hands

5:36 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Nailing Rupert Murdoch for his employees’ phone tapping or bribery would be a little like bringing down Al Capone for tax fraud, or George W. Bush for torture. I’d be glad to see it happen but there’d still be something perverse about it.

I remember how outraged Americans were in 2005 learning about our government’s warrantless spying, or for that matter how furious some of my compatriots become when a census form expects them to reveal how many bathrooms are in their home.

I’m entirely supportive of outrage. I just have larger crimes in mind. Specifically this:

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
“Article 20
“1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.”

The Fox News Channel is endless propaganda for war, and various other deadly policies. As Robin Beste points out,

“Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers and TV channels have supported all the US-UK wars over the past 30 years, from Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands war in 1982, through George Bush Senior and the first Gulf War in 1990-91, Bill Clinton’s war in Yugoslavia in 1999 and his undeclared war on Iraq in 1998, George W. Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with Tony Blair on his coat tails, and up to the present, with Barack Obama continuing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and now adding Libya to his tally of seven wars.”

In this video, Murdoch confesses to having used his media outlets to support the Iraq War and to having tried to shape public opinion in favor of the war. That is the very definition of propaganda for war.

The propaganda is, also by definition, part of the public record. Although that record speaks for itself, Murdoch has not been shy about adding his commentary. The week before the world’s largest anti-war protests ever and the United Nation’s rejection of the Iraq War in mid-February 2003, Murdoch told a reporter that in launching a war Bush was acting “morally” and “correctly” while Blair was “full of guts” and “extraordinarily courageous.” Murdoch promoted the looming war as a path to cheap oil and a healthy economy. He said he had no doubt that Bush would be “reelected” if he “won” the war and the U.S. economy stayed healthy. That’s not an idle statement from the owner of the television network responsible for baselessly prompting all of the other networks to call the 2000 election in Bush’s favor during a tight race in Florida that Bush actually lost.

Murdoch’s support for the Iraq War extended to producing support for that war from every one of his editors and talking heads. It would be interesting to know what Murdoch and Blair discussed in the days leading up to the war. But knowing that would add little, if anything, to the open-and-shut case against Murdoch as war propagandist. Murdoch had known the war was coming long before February 2003, and had long since put his media machine behind it.

Murdoch has been close to Blair and has now published his book — a book that Blair has had difficulty promoting in London thanks to the protest organizing of the Stop the War Coalition. Yet Murdoch allowed Mick Smith to publish the Downing Street Memos in his Sunday Times. Murdoch’s loyalty really seems to be to his wars, not his warmakers.

John Nichols describes three of those warmakers:

“When the war in Iraq began, the three international leaders who were most ardently committed to the project were US President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard. On paper, they seemed like three very different political players: Bush was a bumbling and inexperienced son of a former president who mixed unwarranted bravado with born-again moralizing to hold together an increasingly conservative Republican Party; Blair was the urbane ‘modernizer’ who had transformed a once proudly socialist party into the centrist ‘New Labour’ project; Howard was the veteran political fixer who came up through the ranks of a coalition that mingled traditional conservatives and swashbuckling corporatists.

“But they had one thing in common. They were all favorites of Rupert Murdoch and his sprawling media empire, which began in Australia, extended to the ‘mother country’ of Britain and finally conquered the United States. Murdoch’s media outlets had helped all three secure electoral victories. And the Murdoch empire gave the Bush-Blair-Howard troika courage and coverage as preparations were made for the Iraq invasion. Murdoch-owned media outlets in the United States, Britain and Australia enthusiastically cheered on the rush to war and the news that it was a ‘Mission Accomplished.’”

Bribery is dirty stuff. So is sneaking a peak at the private messages of murder victims. But there’s something even dirtier: murder, murder on the largest scale, murder coldly calculated and played out from behind a desk, in other words: war.

Murdoch is a major crime boss being threatened with parking tickets.

I hope he’s brought down, but wish it were for the right reasons.

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee chased Richard Nixon out of town for the wrong reasons. The full House impeached Bill Clinton for the wrong reasons. And the worst thing the U.S. government has done in recent years, just like the worst thing News Corp. has done in recent years, has not been spying on us.

It’s no secret what drove public anger at Nixon or what drives public anger at Murdoch. But, for the sake of historical precedent, it would be good for us to formally get it right.

Charge the man with selling wars!

Our New Iraq-Afghanistan War National Holiday

6:31 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Memorial Day is nice, I suppose. Veterans Day is all right. Patriots Day can be fun. Yellow Ribbon Day’s not bad. But you will be pleased to hear that on Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously voted, in pure bipartisan harmony, to add the following gem to the big war-funding, war-expanding, bill that now goes to the Senate:

“The President shall designate a day entitled a National Day of Honor to celebrate members of the Armed Forces who are returning from deployment in support of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other combat areas.”

Catchy, ain’t it? I can’t wait to find out what day the President will so designate. I do hope it’s my birthday, but I’m not trying to be greedy — I know you all just had the same thought. While, oddly, not a single newspaper took notice, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (Dem., Texas) proposed this historic bit of legislation on the floor of the House on Thursday thusly:

“Today I rise with an amendment supported by my colleague and a member of the Armed Services Committee, Mr. [Hank] Johnson, to ask support for an amendment that can bring all of us together, the designation of a national day of honor to celebrate the members of the Armed Services who will be returning from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan and other combat areas. This national day of honor would recognize the enormous sacrifice and invaluable service that those phenomenal men and women have undertaken to protect our freedom and share the gift of democracy in other parts of the world.

“How many of us have stopped to say ‘thank you’ to a soldier walking alone in an airport, maybe having made a travel of millions of miles, thousands upon thousands of miles, to find himself or herself in their rural hamlet or urban center coming home. They have come home over the years, and they have come home not seeking glory or appreciation. That’s our men and women. The men and women of the United States military and intelligence community who helped bring Osama bin Laden didn’t ask for applause and appreciation.

“My amendment will give all Americans, no matter what your political views, religion, ethnicity, gender or background, the chance to be able to say ‘thank you.’ It is reminiscent of times that some of us did not live through. I am reminded of the pictures that I saw of those celebrating in the streets during World War II.”

Now, technically, the members of the armed “services” (and the roughly equal number of mercenaries and contractors who apparently will not be honored or celebrated), while enduring outrageous hardship and exhibiting courage and determination, have not actually protected anyone’s freedom or actually shared with anyone the gift of democracy. The point, however, is to be reminiscent of a time when those claims were less ludicrous. And while no one actually helped “bring” Osama bin Laden anywhere, as the armed “services” were assigned to put bullets in his head and did so, the point is to celebrate his murder without focusing on what it was. And while the armed “services” and the president and the television spokesgenerals went out of their way, and all the way to lower Manhattan, to ask for applause and appreciation, the idea is to give them a bit more, darn it.

“My uncle served in World War II. My grandmother sent her sons to war. She watched them one by one, and proudly so. As an immigrant American, she was glad to be able to send them to fight our battles. Now, as we make our decisions to bring our troops home, to be able to provide them the opportunity of economic enhancement such as jobs and education, let’s have a day where all of us will be able to be in the streets, if you will, to simply say ‘thank you;’ and job well done!”

While World War II killed more human beings than any other event in history, it has done far more damage in the 65 years since then, by serving as a justification for more killing. Got an unpopular war that a strong majority has come to see as misguided and declares never should have happened? Not a problem! Just pretend it’s World War II and celebrate accordingly. That this is unlikely to work terribly well is demonstrated by the total lack of interest in the passage of this amendment on Thursday. Of course, there were more important stories to cover in the news, and the most important ones were nearly ignored as well. While Congresswoman Jackson Lee speaks as if the troops are coming home, the House actually passed, with her vote, a mammoth bill to fund the continuation of the wars, and rejected numerous amendments that would have made it more likely some troops might come home. In addition, the House voted down an amendment that would have stripped from the bill language empowering current and future presidents to make war almost anywhere at any time, regardless of Congress or the Constitution.

“We are in the midst of ongoing conflict and warfare. We must show continued support of our troops and increase their moral. What better way to demonstrate our support than by celebrating their return from deployment with a National Day of Honor. Though we may be divided by our positions on the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and other combat areas, we stand together to support our veterans. Currently, there are close to 100,000 troops serving in Afghanistan. And even in the aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden, troops remain in Afghanistan to protect against retaliatory attacks and to help rebuild the country.

Do they, now? No bases, no weapons positioning, no gas pipeline, no profiteering, no protecting of corrupt war lords, no destruction of the country? On the contrary, this is a humanitarian mission to “rebuild” and “protect.” But protect whom? Is al Qaeda expected to retaliate against the people of Afghanistan or against the foreign occupying army? We leave the members of our military there tempting retaliation in order to protect against retaliation, as we celebrate the childish murder against which retaliation was entirely predictable — retaliation that has already caused the deaths of some of those we’re honoring and celebrating. The language says we are to celebrate those returning; it doesn’t say they have to be alive at the time.

“As of April 2011, close to 46,000 American troops are serving in Iraq. At the height of the Iraqi dispute, close to 170,000 U.S. troops were stationed in Iraq. These courageous men and women are mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, yet they have risked their lives and left their families to fight for what they believe in which is freedom, equality, and all the like principles that America stands on. The courage and sacrifice of the men and women are certainly well deserving of celebration. Their service is an extraordinary act of patriotism for which we should all be thankful.”

This is demonstrably false. Polls of U.S. military members in Iraq over the years have shown them to be persuaded they are there to exact revenge for a crime Iraq had no part in, or bewildered as to what they are doing there, resentful of having been sent there, and in favor of ending that war. Many have gone AWOL or refused the illegal order to participate in an illegal war. How about a holiday for that bravery? How about a holiday for peacemakers — as distinct from peace prize laureates — who help avoid wars? Members of the U.S. military do not need holidays that most of this country will laugh at. They need to be kept out of imperial adventures. They need to be brought home. They need job training, education, healthcare, childcare, pensions, a sustainable environment, and a democracy in Washington, D.C., none of which we can have while pretending that it is our patriotic duty to pretend the military is in Afghanistan on a humanitarian mission.

Word to the wise: you can care about the people put through the horrors of our wars, including the 95% who are not Americans (how about a holiday for them?), and including the members of the U.S. military, and the mercenaries, and the contractors, and the warmongering presidents and senators and congress members, and the weapons profiteers, all without ceasing to denounce what they are doing. The best way to honor veterans is to stop creating more of them. And the only way to do that is to call a halt to this celebratory scam. I’m not going to “say thank you” to a participant in an illegal war. I’m going to say “I’m sorry we gave you no education or job options and allowed our government to put you through that hell. What can I do to help?”

“In the words of President John F. Kennedy, ‘As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.’ It is not simply enough to sing the praises of our nation’s great veterans; I firmly believe that we must demonstrate by our actions how proud we are of our American heroes.”

Kennedy wrote but didn’t dare speak aloud, this: “War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.” Why do we keep trying to make that distant day more distant?

“We promise to leave no soldier or veteran behind.”

Oh? Will you provide them with jobs, housing, healthcare, apologies, explanations, truth about what you’ve done to them? I didn’t think so. Jackson Lee showed big photos of military members in action in our wars, none of veterans living on our streets. Her holiday is about celebrating war, not about caring for the people we imposed war on. A separate amendment introduced by Jackson Lee toothlessly expressed the sense of Congress that access to treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder should be expanded. I’d prefer Congress actually expand that treatment and, more importantly, reduce the incidence of the trauma.

The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Buck McKeon (Rep., Calif.), author of the language granting presidents war-making power, was quick to agree with Jackson-Lee:

“I thank the gentlelady for doing this. I think she is exactly right on. I think everything that we can do to honor these warriors who are out there fighting for our freedoms and freedoms of those around the world we should do.”

Congressman Adam Smith (Dem., Wash.) agreed:

“I am just in awe of how great our military is . . . and what a tremendous job they have done for us.”

Chairman McKeon emphasized that not only was celebrating troops a way to celebrate war, but passing this amendment was grounds for passing the underlying bill to fund more warmaking:

“We have a good bill, this National Defense Authorization Act of 2012. It is a very good bill. We have a lot of good things in it; but this amendment, this amendment alone is reason to vote for the bill.”

The amendment passed on a voice vote, but Jackson Lee insisted on a roll call, upon which it passed unanimously.

The same bill proposes April 9th be made Yellow Ribbon Day, honors in various ways the veterans of a wide variety of past wars, defunds the U.S. Institute of Peace (thus saving the cost of 5 hours in Afghanistan), and requires that all suspected foreign terrorists who are not killed be tried, if they are tried, by the military and not in courts. This is, I repeat, the same bill that formally gives presidents virtually unlimited power to make war. This may be the worst bill ever deemed likely to pass into law. A holiday for the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars somehow just doesn’t make up for that in my mind. I’d rather party like it was 1999, before the current madness really kicked in. I hope we all still have jobs from which to get time off for Jackson Lee’s holiday.

Lies About the U.S. Civil War 150 Years Later

11:16 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Tuesday marks 150 years since the start of the U.S. Civil War.  Newspapers everywhere are proclaiming it the deadliest war in U.S. history, the costliest U.S. war in terms of the loss of human life.  That claim, like most things we say about the Civil War, is false.

Most humans, it will surprise our newspapers to learn, are not U.S. citizens.  World War II killed 100 times as many people as the U.S. Civil War, with World War I not far behind.  U.S. wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq are among those that have killed far more human beings than the Civil War killed.

The South, we’re told, merely wanted to be independent; slavery had nothing to do with it.  Of course, this is nonsense.  The South wanted to be independent in order to maintain slavery.

The North, we’re told, merely wanted to free the slaves; power, empire, profit, and politics had nothing to do with it.  Of course, this too is nonsense.  The war was well underway before Lincoln “freed the slaves.”  Actually he did not free those slaves whom he actually could free in the border states, but only those he could not free unless the North won the war.  Freeing the slaves, like bringing democracy to Iraq or saving the Jews from Hitler, was a belated justification for a war that had other motivations.  Adding that moral mission to the war helped keep European nations from backing the South and helped keep Northerners killing and dying in sufficient numbers.

Regardless of who said what when, the war did end slavery and was therefore justifiable.  Or so we’re told.  Yet, every other nation that ended slavery did so without a civil war.  Similarly, we justify the American war for independence because it brought independence, even though Canada and countless other countries achieved independence without war.  If we had used a war to create public schools, we would denounce critics of that war as opponents of education.  To seriously justify a war, however, would require showing that anything it accomplished could not have been accomplished without all the killing, wounding, traumatizing, and destroying.  What if the North had allowed the South to secede and repealed the fugitive slave law?  What if an independent North had used trade, diplomacy, and morality to pressure the South to end slavery?  Would slavery have lasted longer than the Civil War raged?  If so, we are still talking, at best, about a war to hasten the end of slavery.

Even if the war was really launched for national power, to keep states together in a nation for the nation’s sake, we are all better off as a result.  Or so we’re taught.  But is it true?  Most Americans believe that our system of representative government is badly broken, as of course it is.  Our politicians are bought and sold, directed by corporate media outlets, and controlled by two political parties rather than the citizenry.  One reason it’s difficult to bring public pressure to bear on elected officials is that our nation is too darn big.  Most U.S. citizens can’t join a protest in their nation’s capital if they want to.  A resistance movement in Wisconsin can’t very well spread to other key cities; they’re all hundreds or thousands of miles away.  In the years that followed the “preservation of the union,” the United States completed its conquest of the continent and began building an overseas empire, driven in large part by pressure from the same interests that had profited from the Civil War.

Secession has as bad a name as socialism, but Wisconsin could secede, ban foreign (U.S.) money from its elections and create a government of, by, and for the people by next year.  A seceded California could be one of the most pleasant nations to live in on earth.  Vermont would have a civilized healthcare system already if not for Washington, D.C.  Yes, the North helped end Jim Crow in the South, but the South did most of that on its own, and we all helped end Apartheid in South Africa without being South Africa.  In the absence of viable representative government, we won’t do much else on a national scale that we can be proud of.  We now, in the United States, imprison more people of African descent than were enslaved here at the time of the Civil War, and it is national policies, completely out of the control of the American people, that produce that mass incarceration.

Those who fought in the Civil War, regardless of the politics or results, were heroes.  Or so we are told.  But most of the men who killed and died were not the generals whose names we are taught.  They were soldiers, lined up like cogs in a machine, killing and dying on command.  The vast majority of them, as with soldiers on both sides of all wars prior to late-20th century conditioning, avoided killing if at all possible.  Many simply reloaded their guns over and over again, fetched supplies for others, or lay in the dirt.  Killing human beings does not come easily to most human beings, and many will avoid it — unless properly conditioned to brainlessly kill — even at risk to their own lives.  To be sure, many killed and many who did not kill died or lost their limbs.  There was much bravery and sacrifice and even noble intention.  But it was all for a tragically pointless exercise in collective stupidity, lunacy, and horror.  Reassuring as it is to put a pretty gloss on a tragedy like this, we would be better served by facing the facts and avoiding the next one.

A century and a half after this madness burst forth, the United States has established a permanent military and permanent war time, with military bases in over 100 other countries, multiple major wars, and numerous small-scale secretive wars underway.  Our weapons industry, born out of the Civil War, is our biggest industry, the world’s biggest arms supplier, and the source for the armaments used by many of the nations we fight our modern wars against.  The civil liberties, the right to habeas corpus, everything that Lincoln temporarily stripped away for the War Between the States, also known — quite accurately — as the War of Northern Aggression, has now been stripped away for good by Justice Department lawyers and prostituted pundits pointing to Lincoln’s example.  The legacy of the Civil War has been death, destruction, the erosion of democracy, and the propaganda that produces more of the same.  Enough is enough.  Let’s get our history right.  Let’s glorify those years in our past during which we did not all try to kill each other.

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

Why Wars Really Happen

5:36 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Many discussions of lies that launch wars quickly come around to the question “Well then why did they want the war?” There is usually more than one single motive involved, but the motives are not terribly hard to find.

Unlike many soldiers who have been lied to, most of the key war deciders, the masters of war who determine whether or not wars happen, do not in any sense have noble motives for what they do. Though noble motives can be found in the reasoning of some of those involved, even in some of those at the highest levels of decision making, it is very doubtful that such noble intentions alone would ever generate wars.

Economic and imperial motives have been offered by presidents and congress members for most of our major wars, but they have not been endlessly hyped and dramatized as have other alleged motivations. War with Japan was largely about the economic value of Asia, but fending off the evil Japanese emperor made a better poster. The Project for the New American Century, a think tank pushing for war on Iraq, made its motives clear a dozen years before it got its war — motives that included U.S. military dominance of the globe with more and larger bases in key regions of “American interest.” That goal was not repeated as often or as shrilly as “WMD,” “terrorism,” “evildoer,” or “spreading democracy.”

The most important motivations for wars are the least talked about, and the least important or completely fraudulent motivations are the most discussed. The important motivations, the things the war masters mostly discuss in private, include electoral calculations, control of natural resources, intimidation of other countries, domination of geographic regions, financial profits for friends and campaign funders, the opening up of consumer markets, and prospects for testing new weapons.

If politicians were honest, electoral calculations would deserve to be openly discussed and would constitute no ground for shame or secrecy. Elected officials ought to do what will get them reelected, within the structure of laws that have been democratically established. But our conception of democracy has become so twisted that reelection as a motivation for action is hidden away alongside profiteering. This is true for all areas of government work; the election process is so corrupt that the public is viewed as yet another corrupting influence. When it comes to war, this sense is heightened by politicians’ awareness that wars are marketed with lies.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS

The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) was a think tank from 1997 to 2006 in Washington, D.C. (later revived in 2009). Seventeen members of PNAC served in high positions in the George W. Bush administration, including Vice President, Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Special Assistant to the President, Deputy Secretary of “Defense,” ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, Deputy Secretary of State, and Under Secretary of State.

One individual who was part of PNAC and later of the Bush Administration, Richard Perle, together with another Bush bureaucrat-to-be Douglas Feith, had worked for Israeli Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996 and produced a paper called A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm. The realm was Israel, and the strategy advocated was hyper-militarized nationalism and the violent removal of regional foreign leaders including Saddam Hussein.

In 1998, PNAC published an open letter to President Bill Clinton urging him to adopt the goal of regime change for Iraq, which he did. That letter included this:

“[I]f Saddam does acquire the capability to deliver weapons of mass destruction, as he is almost certain to do if we continue along the present course, the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil will all be put at hazard.”

In 2000, PNAC published a paper titled Rebuilding America’s Defenses. The goals set forth in this paper fit much more coherently with the actual behavior of the masters of war than do any notions of “spreading democracy” or “standing up to tyranny.” When Iraq attacks Iran we help out. When it attacks Kuwait we step in. When it does nothing we bomb it. This behavior makes no sense in terms of the fictional stories we’re told, but makes perfect sense in terms of these goals from PNAC:

• maintaining U.S. preeminence,
• precluding the rise of a great power rival, and
• shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests.

PNAC determined that we would need to “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars” and “perform the ‘constabulary’ duties associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions.” In the same 2000 paper, PNAC wrote:

“While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein. The placement of U.S. bases has yet to reflect these realities.…From an American perspective, the value of such bases would endure even should Saddam pass from the scene. Over the long term, Iran may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf as Iraq has. And even should U.S.-Iranian relations improve, retaining forward- based forces in the region would still be an essential element in U.S. security strategy. . . .”

These papers were published and widely available years before the invasion of Iraq, and yet to suggest that U.S. forces would try to stay and build permanent bases in Iraq even after killing Saddam Hussein was scandalous in the halls of Congress or the corporate media. To suggest that the War on Iraq had anything to do with our imperial bases or oil or Israel, much less that Hussein did not as yet have weapons, was heretical. Even worse was to suggest that those bases might be used to launch attacks on other countries, in line with PNAC’s goal of “maintaining U.S. preeminence.” And yet Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO from 1997 to 2000 Wesley Clark claims that in 2001, Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld put out a memo proposing to take over seven countries in five years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran.

The basic outline of this plan was confirmed by none other than former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who in 2010 pinned it on former Vice President Dick Cheney:

“Cheney wanted forcible ‘regime change’ in all Middle Eastern countries that he considered hostile to U.S. interests, according to Blair. ‘He would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates in the course of it — Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.,’ Blair wrote. ‘In other words, he [Cheney] thought the world had to be made anew, and that after 11 September, it had to be done by force and with urgency. So he was for hard, hard power. No ifs, no buts, no maybes.’”

Crazy? Sure! But that’s what succeeds in Washington. As each of those invasions happened, new excuses would have been made public for each. But the underlying reasons would have remained those quoted above.

CONSPIRACY THEORIES

Part of the ethos of “toughness” required of U.S. war makers has been a habit of thought that detects a major, global, and demonic enemy behind every shadow. For decades the enemy was the Soviet Union and the threat of global communism. But the Soviet Union never had the global military presence of the United States or the same interest in empire building. Its weapons and threats and aggressions were constantly exaggerated, and its presence was detected anytime a small, poor nation put up resistance to U.S. dominance. Koreans and Vietnamese, Africans and South Americans couldn’t possibly have their own sovereign interests, it was assumed. If they were refusing our unsolicited guidance, somebody had to be putting them up to it.

A commission created by President Reagan called the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy proposed more small wars in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Concerns included “U.S. access to critical regions,” “American credibility among allies and friends,” “American self-confidence,” and “America’s ability to defend its interests in the most vital regions, such as the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean, and the Western Pacific.”

But what should the public be told we and our interests were being defended against? Why, an evil empire, of course! During the so-called Cold War, the communist conspiracy justification was so common that some very intelligent people believed U.S. war making couldn’t go on without it. Here’s Richard Barnet:

“The myth of monolithic Communism — that all activities of people everywhere who call themselves Communists or whom J. Edgar Hoover calls Communists are planned and controlled in the Kremlin — is essential to the ideology of the national security bureaucracy. Without it the President and his advisers would have a harder time identifying the enemy. They certainly could not find opponents worthy of the ‘defense’ efforts of the mightiest military power in the history of the world.”

Ha! My apologies if you had any drink in your mouth and sprayed it on your clothing as you read that. As if the wars will not go on! As if the wars were not the reason for the communist threat, rather than the other way around! Writing in 1992, John Quigley could see this clearly:

“[T]he political reform that swept eastern Europe in 1989-90 left the cold war on the ash heap of history. Even so, our military interventions did not end. In 1989, we intervened to support a government in the Philippines and to overthrow one in Panama. In 1990, we sent a massive force to the Persian Gulf.

“The continuation of military interventions is not, however, surprising, because the aim all along…has been less to fight communism than to maintain our own control.”

The threat of the Soviet Union or communism was, within a dozen years replaced with the threat of al Qaeda or terrorism. Wars against an empire and an ideology would become wars against a small terrorist group and a tactic. The change had some advantages. While the Soviet Union could publicly collapse, a secretive and widely dispersed collection of terrorist cells to which we could apply the name al Qaeda could never be proven to have gone away. An ideology could fall out of favor, but anywhere we fought wars or imposed unwelcome control, people would fight back, and their fighting would be “terrorism” because it was directed against us. This was a new justification for never-ending war. But the motivation was the war, not the crusade to eliminate terrorism which crusade would, of course, produce more terrorism.

The motivation was U.S. control over areas of “vital interest,” namely profitable natural resources and markets and strategic positions for military bases from which to extend power over yet more resources and markets, and from which to deny any imaginable “rivals” anything resembling “American self-confidence.” This is, of course, aided and abetted by the motivations of those who profit financially from the war making itself.

FOR MONEY AND MARKETS

Economic motivations for wars are not exactly news. The most famous lines from Smedley Butler’s War Is A Racket are not actually in that book at all, but in a 1935 issue of the Socialist newspaper Common Sense, where he wrote:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

This explanation of motives for wars was not usually presented in Butler’s colorful language, but it wasn’t secret either. In fact, war propagandists have long argued for portraying wars as beneficial to big business whether or not they actually would be:

“For the sake of the business men the war must appear as a profitable enterprise. L.G. Chiozza, Money, M.P., published a statement in the London Daily Chronicle for August 10th, 1914, which is a pattern for this sort of thing. He wrote:

“‘Our chief competitor both in Europe and outside it will be unable to trade, and at the conclusion of the War the unmistakable antagonism which German aggression is everywhere arousing will help us to keep the trade and shipping we will win from her.’”

To Carl von Clausewitz, who died in 1831, war was “a continuation of political relations, a carrying out of the same by other means.” That sounds about right, as long as we understand that war makers often have a preference for the means of war even when other means might achieve the same results. In an August 31st, 2010, Oval Office speech praising the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama exclaimed: “New markets for our goods stretch from Asia to the Americas!” In 1963, John Quigley, not yet an analyst of war lies, was a Marine assigned to lecture his unit on world affairs. When one of his students objected to the idea of fighting in Vietnam, Quigley “explained patiently that there was oil underneath Vietnam’s continental shelf, that Vietnam’s large population was an important market for our products, and that Vietnam commanded the sea route from the Middle East to the Far East.”

But let’s start at the beginning. Before he became president, William McKinley said “We want a foreign market for our surplus products.” As president, he told Governor Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin he wanted “to attain U.S. supremacy in world markets.” When Cuba was in danger of achieving its independence from Spain without assistance, McKinley persuaded Congress not to recognize the revolutionary government. After all, his goal was not Cuban independence, or Puerto Rican or Filipino independence. When he took over the Philippines, McKinley thought he was advancing the goal of “supremacy in world markets.” When the people of the Philippines fought back, he called it an “insurrection.” He described the war as a humanitarian mission for the Filipinos’ own good. McKinley pioneered by saying first what later presidents would say as a matter of routine when engaged in wars for resources or markets.

A month before the United States entered World War I, on March 5, 1917, the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, Walter Hines Page, sent a cable to President Woodrow Wilson, reading in part:

“The pressure of this approaching crisis, I am certain, has gone beyond the ability of the Morgan financial agency for the British and French governments. The financial necessities of the Allies are too great and urgent for any private agency to handle, for every such agency has to encounter business rivalries and sectional antagonism. It is not improbable that the only way of maintaining our present preeminent trade position and averting a panic is by declaring war on Germany.”

When peace had been made with Germany ending World War I, President Wilson kept U.S. troops in Russia to fight the Soviets, despite earlier claims that our troops were in Russia in order to defeat Germany and intercept supplies bound for Germany. Senator Hiram Johnson (P., Calif.) had famously said of the launching of the war: “The first casualty when war comes, is truth.” He now had something to say about the failure to end the war when the peace treaty had been signed. Johnson denounced the ongoing fighting in Russia and quoted from the Chicago Tribune when it claimed that the goal was to help Europe collect Russia’s debt.

In 1935, considering the brewing financial interest in war with Japan, Norman Thomas pointed out that, at least from a national perspective, if not from the perspective of particular profiteers, it made no sense: “Our whole trade with Japan, China, and the Philippines in 1933 amounted to 525 million dollars or enough to have carried on the First World War for less than two and one-half days!”

Yes, he called it the “first” world war, because he saw what was coming. One year before the attack on Pearl Harbor, a State Department memo on Japanese expansionism said not a word about independence for China. But it did say:

“. . . our general diplomatic and strategic position would be considerably weakened — by our loss of Chinese, Indian, and South Seas markets (and by our loss of much of the Japanese market for our goods, as Japan would become more and more self-sufficient) as well as by insurmountable restrictions upon our access to rubber, tin, jute, and other vital materials of the Asian and Oceanic regions.”

During World War II, Secretary of State Cordell Hull chaired a “committee on political problems” which decided to handle perceived public fears that the United States would try to “feed, clothe, reconstruct, and police the world.” The fears would be calmed by convincing the public that U.S. goals were to prevent another war and to provide “free access to raw materials and [foster] international commerce.” The words of the Atlantic Charter (“equal access”) became “free access,” meaning access for the United States, but not necessarily for anybody else.

During the Cold War, the stated reasons for wars changed more than the real ones, as fighting communism gave cover for killing people to win markets, foreign labor, and resources. We said we were fighting for democracy, but we backed dictators like Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, and Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. The result was a bad name for the United States, and the empowering of leftist governments in reaction to our interference. Senator Frank Church (D., Idaho) concluded that we had “lost, or grievously impaired, the good name and reputation of the United States.”

Even if war makers did not have economic motives, it would still be impossible for corporations not to see economic gains as fortuitous byproducts of wars. As George McGovern and William Polk noted in 2006: “In 2002, just before the American invasion [of Iraq], only one of the world’s ten most profitable corporations was in the oil and gas field; in 2005 four of the ten were. They were Exxon-Mobil and Chevron Texaco (American) and Shell and BP (British). The Iraq war doubled the price of crude; it would go up another 50 percent during the first months of 2006.”

FOR THE PROFITS

Profiting from the waging of war has been a common part of U.S. wars since at least the Civil War. During the 2003 War on Iraq Vice President Cheney directed massive no-bid contracts to a company, Halliburton, from which he was still receiving compensation, and profited from the same illegal war he defrauded the American public into launching. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was a little more circumspect in his war profiteering. The Stop the War Coalition kept up with him, however, writing in 2010:

“[Blair] earns £2 million a year for one day a month’s work, from the US investment bank J P Morgan, who just happen to be making huge profits from financing ‘reconstruction’ projects in Iraq. There’s no end of gratitude for Blair’s services to the oil industry, the Iraq invasion so clearly being aimed at controlling the world’s second largest oil reserves. The Kuwaiti Royal Family paid him around a million to produce a report on Kuwait’s future, and business deals though a consultancy he has set up to advise other countries in the Middle East are projected to earn around £5 million a year. Just in case he runs short, he has signed up with the South Korean oil firm UI Energy Corporation, which has extensive interests in Iraq and which some estimates say will eventually net him £20 million.”

FOR MONEY AND CLASS

Another economic motivation for war that is often overlooked is the advantage war presents for a privileged class of people who are concerned that those denied a fair share of the nation’s wealth might rebel. In 1916 in the United States, socialism was gaining in popularity, while any sign of class struggle in Europe had been silenced by World War I. Senator James Wadsworth (R., N.Y.) proposed compulsory military training out of fear that “these people of ours shall be divided into classes.” The poverty draft may serve a similar function today. The American Revolution may have as well. World War II put a stop to depression-era radicalism that saw the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) organizing black and white workers together.

World War II soldiers took their orders from Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, and George Patton, men who in 1932 had led the military’s assault on the “Bonus Army,” World War I veterans camped out in Washington, D.C., pleading to be paid the bonuses they’d been promised. This was a struggle that looked like a failure until World War II veterans were given the GI Bill of Rights.

McCarthyism led many struggling for the rights of working people to place militarism ahead of their own struggles for the latter half of the twentieth century. Barbara Ehrenreich wrote in 1997:

“Americans credited the Gulf War with ‘bringing us together.’ Serbian and Croatian leaders solved their people’s post-communist economic discontents with an orgy of nationalist violence.”

I was working for low-income community groups on September 11, 2001, and I recall how all talk of a better minimum wage or more affordable housing went away in Washington when the war trumpets sounded.

FOR OIL

A major motivation for wars is the seizing of control over other nations’ resources. World War I made clear to war makers the importance of oil to fueling the wars themselves, as well as to fueling an industrial economy, and from that point forward a major motivation for war has been the conquest of nations that have supplies of oil. In 1940 the United States produced a majority (63 percent) of the world’s oil, but in 1943 Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes said,

“If there should be a World War III it would have to be fought with someone else’s petroleum, because the United States wouldn’t have it.”

President Jimmy Carter decreed in his last State of the Union address: “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

Whether or not the first Gulf War was fought for oil, President George H. W. Bush said it was. He warned that Iraq would control too much of the world’s oil if it invaded Saudi Arabia. The U.S. public denounced “blood for oil,” and Bush quickly changed his tune. His son, attacking the same country a dozen years later, would allow his vice president to plan the war in secret meetings with oil executives, and would work hard to impose a “hydrocarbons law” on Iraq to benefit foreign oil companies, but he would not try to publicly sell the war as a mission to steal Iraqi oil. Or at least, that was not the primary focus of the sales pitch. There was a September 15, 2002, Washington Post headline that read “In Iraqi War Scenario, Oil Is Key Issue; U.S. Drillers Eye Huge Petroleum Pool.”

Africom, the U.S. military’s command structure for that seldom discussed chunk of land larger than all of North America, the African continent, was created by President George W. Bush in 2007. It had been envisioned a few years earlier, however, by the African Oil Policy Initiative Group (including representatives of the White House, Congress, and the oil corporations) as a structure “which could produce significant dividends in the protection of U.S. investments.”169 According to General Charles Wald, deputy commander of U.S. forces in Europe,

“A key mission for U.S. forces [in Africa] would be to insure that Nigeria’s oilfields, which in the future could account for as much as 25 percent of all U.S. oil imports, are secure.”

I wonder what he means by “secure.” Somehow I doubt his concern is to boost the oilfields’ self-confidence.

U.S. involvement in Yugoslavia in the 1990s was not unrelated to lead, zinc, cadmium, gold, and silver mines, cheap labor, and a deregulated market. In 1996 U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown died in a plane crash in Croatia along with top executives for Boeing, Bechtel, AT&T, Northwest Airlines, and several other corporations that were lining up government contracts for “reconstruction.”171 Enron, the famously corrupt corporation that would implode in 2001, was a part of so many such trips that it issued a press release to state that none of its people had been on this one. Enron gave $100,000 to the Democratic National Committee in 1997, six days before accompanying new Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor to Bosnia and Croatia and signing a deal to build a $100 million power plant. The annexation of Kosovo, Sandy Davies writes in Blood on Our Hands,

“…did succeed in creating a small militarized buffer state between Yugoslavia and the projected route of the AMBO oil pipeline through Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania. This pipeline is being built, with U.S. government support, to provide the United States and Western Europe with access to oil from the Caspian Sea.…Energy Secretary Bill Richardson explained the underlying strategy in 1998. ‘This is about America’s energy security,’ he explained. ‘. . . It’s very important to us that both the pipeline map and the politics come out right.’”

Longtime master of war Zbigniew Brzezinski spoke at a RAND Corporation forum on Afghanistan in a Senate caucus room in October 2009. His first statement was that “withdrawal from Afghanistan in the near future is a No-No.” He offered no reasons why and suggested that his other statements would be more controversial.

During a subsequent question-and-answer period, I asked Brzezinski why such a statement should be considered uncontroversial when approximately half of Americans at that time opposed the occupation of Afghanistan. I asked how he would respond to the arguments of a U.S. diplomat who had just resigned in protest. Brzezinski responded that a lot of people are weak and don’t know any better, and they should be ignored. Brzezinski said one of the main goals for the War on Afghanistan was to build a north-south gas pipeline to the Indian Ocean. This didn’t noticeably shock anyone in the room.

In June 2010, a military-connected public relations firm persuaded the New York Times to run a front-page story proclaiming the discovery of vast mineral wealth in Afghanistan. Most of the claims were dubious, and those that were solid were not new. But the story had been planted at a time when senators and congress members were beginning to turn ever so slightly against the war. Apparently the White House or the Pentagon believed the possibility of stealing Afghans’ lithium would generate more war support in Congress.

FOR EMPIRE

Fighting for territory, whatever rocks may lie beneath it, is a venerable motivation for war. Up through World War I and including it, empires battled each other for various territories and colonies. In the case of World War I there were Alsace-Lorraine, the Balkans, Africa, and the Middle East. Wars are also fought to assert influence rather than ownership in regions of the globe. The U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia in the 1990s may have involved a desire to keep Europe subordinate to the United States through NATO, an organization that was in danger of losing its reason to exist.174 A war can also be fought for the purpose of weakening another nation without occupying it. National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft said one purpose of the Gulf War was to leave Iraq with “no offensive capability.” The United States’ success in this regard came in handy when it attacked Iraq again in 2003.

The Economist was concerned to keep the War on Afghanistan going in 2007: “Defeat would be a body blow not only to the Afghans, but to the NATO alliance.” The British Pakistani historian Tariq Ali commented: “As ever, geopolitics prevails over Afghan interests in the calculus of the big powers. The basing agreement signed by the U.S. with its appointee in Kabul in May 2005 gives the Pentagon the right to maintain a massive military presence in Afghanistan in perpetuity, potentially including nuclear missiles. That Washington is not seeking permanent bases in this fraught and inhospitable terrain simply for the sake of ‘democratization and good governance’ was made clear by NATO’s Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the Brookings Institution in February 2009: a permanent NATO presence in a country that borders the ex-Soviet republics, China, Iran, and Pakistan was too good to miss.”

FOR THE GUNS

Another motivation for wars is the justification they provide for maintaining a large military and producing more weapons. This may have been a key motivation for various U.S. military actions following the Cold War. Talk of a peace dividend faded as wars and interventions proliferated. Wars also appear to be fought on occasion in a manner that allows the use of particular weapons even though the strategy makes no sense as a means to victory. In 1964, for example, U.S. war makers decided to bomb North Vietnam even though their intelligence told them the resistance in the South was home grown.

Why? Possibly because bombs were what they had to work with and — for whatever other reasons — they wanted war. As we’ve seen above, nuclear bombs were dropped unnecessarily on Japan, the second one even more unnecessarily than the first. That second one was a different type of bomb, a plutonium bomb, and the Pentagon wanted to see it tested. World War II in Europe had drawn to a close with a completely unnecessary U.S. bombing of the French town of Royan — again despite the French being our allies. This bombing was an early use of napalm on human beings, and the Pentagon apparently wanted to see what it would do.

MACHISMO

But men cannot live by bread alone. Wars fought against a global menace (communism, terrorism, or another) are also wars fought to display one’s prowess to bystanders, thus preventing the toppling of dominoes — a danger that can always be precipitated by a loss of “credibility.” Remarkably, in warmongerspeak “credibility” is a synonym for “bellicosity,” not “honesty.” Thus, nonviolent approaches to the world lack not only violence but also “credibility.” There is something indecent about them. According to Richard Barnet,

“Military officers in the [Lyndon] Johnson Administration consistently argued the risks of defeat and humiliation were greater than the risks of mining Haiphong, obliterating Hanoi, or bombing ‘selected targets’ in China.”

They knew the world would be outraged by such actions, but somehow there is nothing humiliating about the prospect of being ostracized as murderous madmen. Only softness can be humiliating.

One of the most dramatic news stories that came out of Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers was the news that 70 percent of the motivation of the people behind the War on Vietnam was “to save face.” It wasn’t to keep the communists out of Peoria or to teach the Vietnamese democracy or anything so grand. It was to protect the image, or perhaps the self-image, of the war makers themselves. Assistant Secretary of “Defense” John McNaughton’s March 24, 1965, memo said U.S. goals in horrifically bombing the people of Vietnam were 70 percent “to avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat (to our reputation as guarantor),” 20 percent to keep territory out of Chinese hands, and 10 percent to permit people a “better, freer way of life.”

McNaughton was concerned that other nations, wondering whether or not the United States would have the toughness to bomb the hell out of them too, might ask questions like:

“Is the U.S. hobbled by restraints which might be relevant in future cases (fear of illegality, of U.N., of neutral reaction, of domestic pressures, of U.S. losses, of deploying U.S. ground forces in Asia, of war with China or Russia, of use of nuclear weapons, etc.)?”

That’s a lot to prove you’re not afraid of. But then we did drop a lot of bombs on Vietnam trying to prove it, over 7 million tons, as compared to the 2 million dropped in World War II. Ralph Stavins argues in Washington Plans an Aggressive War that John McNaughton and William Bundy understood that only withdrawal from Vietnam made sense, but backed escalation out of fear of seeming personally weak.

In 1975, after defeat in Vietnam, the masters of war were even touchier about their machismo than usual. When the Khmer Rouge seized a U.S.- registered merchant vessel, President Gerald Ford demanded the release of the ship and its crew. The Khmer Rouge complied. But U.S. jet fighters went ahead and bombed Cambodia as a means of showing that, as the White House put it, the United States “still stood ready to meet force with force to protect its interests.”

Such displays of toughness are understood in Washington, D.C., to not only advance careers but also to enhance reputations in perpetuity. Presidents have long believed they could not be remembered as great presidents without wars. Theodore Roosevelt wrote to a friend in 1897, “In strict confidence…I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one.”

According to novelist and author Gore Vidal, President John Kennedy told him that a president needed a war for greatness and that without the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln would have been just another railroad lawyer. According to Mickey Herskowitz, who had worked with George W. Bush in 1999 on the latter’s “autobiography,” Bush wanted a war before becoming president. One disturbing thing about all this longing for war is that, while many of the motivations seem base, greedy, foolish, and despicable, some of them seem very personal and psychological. Perhaps it’s “rational” to want world markets to buy U.S. products and to produce them more cheaply, but why must we have “supremacy in world markets?” Why do we collectively need “self-confidence?” Isn’t that something each individual person finds on their own? Why the emphasis on “preeminence”? Why is there so little talk in the back rooms about being protected from foreign threats and so much about dominating foreigners with our superiority and fearsome “credibility”? Is war about being respected?

When you combine the illogic of these motivations for war with the fact that wars so often fail on their own terms and yet are repeated time and time again, it becomes possible to doubt that the masters of war are always masters of their own consciousness. The United States did not conquer Korea or Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan. Historically, empires have not lasted. In a rational world we would skip the wars and go straight to the peace negotiations that follow them. Yet, so often, we do not.

During the War on Vietnam, the United States apparently began the air war, began the ground war, and proceeded with each step of escalation because the war planners couldn’t think of anything else to do other than ending the war, and despite their high confidence that what they were doing would not work. After a lengthy period during which these expectations were fulfilled, they did what they could have done from the start and ended the war.

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

Rumsfeld Overheard: “War Lies Are Cool Now”

8:56 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Donald Rumsfeld began his new book tour with some frank comments, including these:

“War lies? Does anybody really give a rat’s ass now? You know what? You know what? They do. They do because war lies are actually cool now. We began the invasion of Iraq in October 2001, but the invasion of Iraq paid off.”

Rumsfeld revealed the strategy behind the revelations made in his book about the illegal secret operations he helped set in motion shortly after the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001:

“Former President Bush has not admitted to torture or fraud or aggression or the rest of it, and do you know why? You do know why, but it is an unknown known, if you know what I mean. Yes, it is funny. He hasn’t admitted to any such things because he has chosen to claim them proudly instead.

“Did I say I knew where the WMDs were? Did I say I had bullet proof evidence of ties between Iraq and al Qaeda? Of course, I did. I can’t deny it. I mean, I used to deny it, but what the hell? Spain didn’t blow up the Maine. Wise up, people. The Lusitania was full of troops and guns and that was announced before it sailed. If you think FDR didn’t see Pearl Harbor coming I’ve got some yellow cake to sell you! We don’t go to war with the drooling obedient zombies we might want or wish to have at some future time. There was no Gulf of Tonkin incident. Are you stupid? You thought the Iraqis took babies out of incubators in 1991, didn’t you? Admit it. Didn’t you?

“We say what has to be said to accomplish that which in retrospect will be understood as irreparable. I won’t deny it. I cannot deny it. What I can do is reveal that when I claimed to know where the WMDs were I had within the previous 20 minutes consumed over half a bottle of gin. I’m not defending it. I’m laughing in your sad pathetic faces, and yet I cannot even bring myself to grow annoyed at your inability to grasp that fundamental fact.

“Once we’d expended hundreds of billions of dollars killing hundreds of thousands of people and completely devastated the nation of Iraq, with the only tangible result being a dramatic rise in anti-American sentiment and violence around the world, I proposed a different strategy, and do you know what that jack-ass post-turtle two-bit moron from Crawford did? He told you all that he would keep me on after the election. After the election he gave me the old snake-skin boot in the posterior and told you that he’d had to lie to you so that you wouldn’t know the truth. And you said ‘Oh OK, well that’s all right then. Thanks for explaining it to us. Thank you, sir, may we have another? Thank you, sir, may we have another?’ You dumbasses.

“You want to learn something about the way the world works? Buy my book. Do you know why Ronald Reagan was a great president? Do you want me to tell you? Because he believed his own bull. That’s what it takes. You think we lie to you for the good of the nation. That’s not how it works. We lie to ourselves for the good of our careers, and the marketplace of ideas makes that good for the nation. Or not. That’s a known unknown.

“Let me just leave you with this, you embarrassing facsimiles of sentient animals. Let me provide you, outside of your comprehension, a little demonstration of your inability to be awakened by a five alarm fire in your jock straps. Are you ready? Here it goes. We’re making progress in Afghanistan.

“You’ve been a great audience. Jesus, what a world.”

This has been a complete fabrication which you might as well attribute to Curveball.

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



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