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Dude, That Is So Killer

6:04 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Are you aware, I asked a friend, that the guy you’re registering new voters to vote for keeps a list of people he intends to kill? Oh well, he replied, you know.

Do I, now?

Weaponized drones should be banned, I tell a group of progressives. What? Oh no, drones are better than armies, because with drones nobody gets killed.

Is that so? Just how far do progressives have left to progress exactly?

How can we shake people out of their acceptance of murder, I ask peace activists. Easy. We’ll trumpet the news of the 2,000th U.S. death in Afghanistan.

We will?

Can you imagine the response of Afghans who’ve lost many, many times that number of lives, who’ve seen many, many times THAT number made refugees, who’ve watched their nation be destroyed, their people traumatized, their families ripped apart, their children’s bodies ripped apart? Hell, can you imagine the response of a human being who cared about other human beings even if they were Afghans, to the news that the war is objectionable because 2,000 people had now died?


Who gets to be people?

And what the fuck are those of us who believe this entire cultural direction is as depraved as anything yet seen on earth? Are we people too?

We, some of us, headed over on Flag Day to protest a pro-war rally with messages of peace. And what did most of our group want? Good patriotism. Benevolent nationalism. Reclaiming of the flag for what it’s never been. Privileging nation over family, neighborhood, town, county, region, or continent because we should never allow the warmongers and xenophobes to appropriate the symbols of warmongering and xenophobia. Those are OURS dammit!

Where do I hop out of this handbasket, and has anyone noticed that the frogs we keep slandering felt the heat and hopped out long ago?

Every one of those 2,000 dead Americans is a tragedy and a murder. What of the far greater number of U.S. troops dead from suicide, the far greater number alive but ruined, the 3 million Americans locked up in cages, the 136,000 of those — at a minimum — who are innocent of the crimes for which they’ve been locked up? Why in the world is the United States not bombing itself to improve its human rights record? What of the 24,000 people in the United States dying from the burning of coal every year? What of the far greater numbers dying from unsafe work conditions, from automobiles, from senseless small-scale violence, from a broken but marvelously profitable healthcare system? What of the horrors facing the other 95% of humanity, including those living under our wars and those living under our banks?

Obama’s drones are killing people in nations where the United States had no troops on the ground, contemplated no troops on the ground, declared no war, but may soon have to put troops on the ground to follow through on the logic of and confront the damage and hostility created by the drones. Drones are facilitating seemingly easy and consequence-free murder in numerous nations. They are an escalation, not a de-escalation, of violence. The choice is between law enforcement and murder, not murder that risks U.S. deaths and murder that only kills foreigners and kills fewer of them.

In fact, drones do risk U.S. deaths. They are likely to produce blowback in a major way. They have produced blowback already. The future almost certainly holds foreign strikes of retaliation for U.S. drones conducted under the same legal standard, or absence thereof, established by the U.S. but against the U.S. with foreign drones. If drone murders become the new normal, expect to see them where you don’t want them as well as where you do. Expect our militarized police to use drones at home in ways established abroad as doable without serious objection from us. And expect to see even more U.S. military suicides. Drone “pilots’” PTSD rates are shooting through the roof, because they see their victims.

U.S. wars are one-sided slaughters. They’re murder by drone or mass-murder by army. A tiny fraction of the deaths, under 5 percent, are treated by the U.S. media as the entire death count. Who wouldn’t want to eliminate those deaths with drones, other than someone who gave a rat’s ass about the killing of human beings? Or someone who’d been part of the killing, stopped and thought about it, and had a break down?

At Flag Day, a giant inflatable soldier palled around with cub scouts, while boy scouts, ROTC child-soldiers-in-waiting, fresh recruits, and veterans all the way up to the very old listened to a Brigadier General talk about the glory, honor, and legality of war. Then a Marine hacked a cake in half with a sword, exactly as if slicing through a prisoner’s neck. Cheers. Cheers. Cheers for wars.

But where are the non-murder jobs for those kids? Non-killing jobs cost less than military jobs. Military spending is hollowing out our economy to the point where we spend enough on recruitment efforts per new recruit to have given a crowd of young people jobs just with the money spent convincing one of them to take a gig as an assistant assassin. Call it something else if you want, but look at who your commander in chief is when you take that oath to perform the utterly impossible task of simultaneously obeying the Constitution, the President, and whoever gives you an order.

Senator Carl Levin says that cutting 0.05% of a military budget that has doubled this decade will endanger us all. His funders smirk. His pimp nods. And good progressives look at each other uncertainly. We wouldn’t want to endanger our non-xenophobically defined Homeland, would we? Maybe we should stick to promoting Elizabeth Warren for Senate, along with her lies pushing war with Iran, and her claims that the Pentagon and the spy agencies have it wrong, that Iran really is building nuclear weapons and threatening our sacred patria. And I say that with good patriotism.

Let the bankers pay for part of the next war. That should set things right. The important thing is to register more voters. Shifting to an election campaign focus has worked out so well in Wisconsin and Egypt that anybody would be crazy not to jump on board. And if you end up working your tail off for a sociopath with a kill list, oh well, you know?

In the words of the great John Lennon, imagine all your tiny little country treating the rest of the world as expendable.

When a Child Is Abused By a War Veteran

12:09 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

(photo: bulthuisp/flickr)

(photo: bulthuisp/flickr)

I’m torn between the pleasure of having just read a brilliant and moving first-person stream-of-consciousness account of a true story of one woman’s childhood, and the deep sadness that comes from learning about the absolutely horrific hell that this woman is extremely lucky to have survived — a hell that many others have known and will know, despite the ease with which it might be prevented.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “These novels will give way, by and by, to diaries or autobiographies — captivating books, if only a man knew how to choose among what he calls his experiences that which is really his experience, and how to record truth truly.” Set aside the old-fashioned metaphysical vocabulary and the sexism. Factor in the world-changing force now developing called self-publishing. Emerson is being proved right, and there is no better example than “This Girl’s Life: Being the Child of a War Veteran,” by Michelle Brown.

Brown begins her masterpiece thus:

“I lived a rough life with my dad. He abused us physically all the time. There were four of us who lived in our home, my brothers and sisters, along with my mom and dad. My older sister had already left home. She’d had enough. My dad took a lot of my life from me, and I still have nightmares about the things that went on in that home. We were afraid to tell anyone, afraid of what would happen to us. My dad was a war veteran and we really did not know how to treat someone like that.”

The treatment that Brown received as a girl, by her account, rivals in my estimation that meted out to prisoners of the CIA. She was starved, sleep-deprived, forced to stand endlessly, denied access to a bathroom, and beaten almost daily with all manner of objects. She was terrorized, physically damaged, cut, bruised, sight-impaired, brain injured, and of course denied medical care or pain killers. This girl grasped at every shred of possible explanation why, and the evidence pointed strongly in one direction: war.

“My dad would tell us all the time that he beat us because he thought we were the enemy. Well, if that was the case, why didn’t he beat up people outside the family?”

Brown’s primary response toward her father was and is hatred. “I hated my father — and hate is such a strong word, but I did. I really wanted to love him, but the Vietnam War ruined him and his family. … I was so afraid of my dad. I was even afraid to get the story out, thinking he would get mad at me and haunt me, even though he was dead.”

Where did such a frightening father come from? Read the rest of this entry →

Can Coffee Prevent Military Suicides?

9:35 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson


Ashley Joppa-Hagemann

It is difficult to watch this video without both crying and being inspired.  Ashley Joppa-Hagemann recounts her husband’s struggles before he killed himself to avoid an eighth or ninth tour in the Iraq-Afghanistan Wars. Ashley confronted Donald Rumsfeld last week over the lies that led her husband to enlist.  This led to her appearing on Democracy Now on Tuesday and being featured in Amy Goodman’s column:

“One person convinced by Rumsfeld’s rhetoric was Jared August Hagemann.

“Hagemann enlisted in the Army to serve his country, to confront the threats repeated by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. When the U.S. Army Ranger received the call for his most recent deployment (his wife can’t recall if it was his seventh or eighth), the pressure became too much. On June 28, 2011, 25-year-old Hagemann shot himself on the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Seattle. The Pentagon notes that Hagemann died of a ‘self-inflicted’ gunshot wound, but has not yet called it a suicide.

“Hagemann had threatened suicide several times before. He was not alone. Five soldiers reportedly committed suicide at Fort Lewis in July. It has been estimated that more than 300,000 returning troops suffer from PTSD or depression.

“Hagemann’s widow, Ashley Joppa-Hagemann, found out that Rumsfeld was doing a book signing on the base. On Friday, Aug. 26, she handed Rumsfeld a copy of the program from her late husband’s memorial service. She recounted, ‘I told him that I wanted him to see my husband, and so he would know—he could put a face with at least one of the soldiers that had lost their lives because of his lies from 9/11.’”

Joppa-Hagemann will be speaking at and participating in a conference on September 16-18 in Virginia.  She has begun speaking out because she heard someone else doing the same, and because a group of veterans in Washington State has helped her to do so.  Other bereaved military family members are already beginning to get involved as a result of hearing Hagemann.

These connections, and the Rumsfeld encounter, are the work of an anti-war GI coffee house called Coffee Strong located within 300 meters of the gates of Fort Lewis in Lakewood, WA.  I spoke on Wednesday with Joseph Carter, Co-Executive Director of Coffee Strong and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.  I recommend listening to the audio. Read the rest of this entry →