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Boylan: Is There Still Hope for Peace in Ukraine?

4:35 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

By Patrick Boylan, Pressenza

Berlin, 1961 (photomontage)

The Ukrainian government, like Israel in Gaza, relentlessly goes on bombing residential areas in the eastern regions “to kill the terrorists hiding out there” (but also the civilians living there). The separatists, called “terrorists”, are in a siege; to break it, they have launched a bloody counteroffensive to the South, with civilian casualties there, too. Tension has spiked with rumors (later debunked) of a full-scale Russian invasion underway. And yet, in spite of it all, a glimmer of hope for peace has finally appeared. Or is it just an illusion?

After denouncing for months “Putin’s covert aggression” against Ukraine, the media have at last produced the smoking gun: satellite photos of alleged Russian Army armored vehicles inside Ukraine (although no GPS coordinates have been given).

In stark contrast to this inflammatory rhetoric, five reputable authorities have invited us to stay calm and rethink the media account of what is happening in Ukraine, reminding us that, behind the scenes, NATO is active there, too. And that its goal is not just to install a few missiles on the Russian border but, more importantly, to block the recent rise of multipolarity and plunge us all back into the bipolarity (duopoly) of the Cold War. Is this what we want?

Thus the events in Ukraine go far beyond the Donets Basin in the east and touch us all. Let us try to understand them better.

Last July, Henry Kissinger, the highly-conservative former U.S. Secretary of State, shocked officialdom with an op-ed in the Washington Post . In it he called for an end to the hostilities in eastern Ukraine and between Washington and Moscow. “Showdowns” and the “demonization of Vladimir Putin” are not policies, he admonished; they are ”alibis for the absence of one.” It is time to negotiate.

Then, in August and September, three more opinion pieces on the Ukrainian crisis appeared, all of the same tone and all by authorities in the American and European establishments.

  • The West on the wrong path,“ an editorial by Gabor Steingart, publisher of Germany’s leading financial newspaper, Handelsblatt , written in English to obtain the widest audience and appearing on August 8 th , 2014;
  • Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault,” a study by John J. Mearsheimer, distinguished academic at the Council on Foreign Relations, in the September 2014 issue of Foreign Affairs , which appeared on-line beginning August 23 rd ;
  • The Way Out of the Ukraine Crisis“: U.S. leaders need to talk to the Russians, not threaten them. “, an article appearing in the September 2014 issue of The Atlantic by contributing editor Jeffrey Tayler, based in Moscow.

These authorities, and others as well (such as the award-winning investigative journalist Robert Parry in this August 10 th report ), go even further than Kissinger and debunk completely the mainstream narration of events in Ukraine, repeated over and over by our mass media. According to which it is Putin – who supposedly wants to rebuild the old Tzarist empire by grabbing country after country – the aggressor to be isolated and castigated.

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Iraq Has WMDs and Russia Has Invaded!

6:33 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

How did they imagine they’d get away with it, claiming that Iraq had vast stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and even nuclear weapons?

Defectors had made clear the chemical and biological weapons (some of them provided by the United States) had been destroyed. Inspectors had searched almost every inch of Iraq and said they’d get to the last few inches if given a few more days. Iraq was screaming that it had no such weapons. Numerous nations around the world were agreeing with Iraq. Colin Powell’s own staff warned him that his claims would not be deemed plausible.

And yet, they got away with it to such an extent that most well-intentioned people in the United States to this day maintain that nobody can possibly be sure that Bush, Cheney, et alia, knew their statements were false when they made them.

“All this was inspired by the principle — which is quite true within itself — that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.” —Adolf Hitler

The U.S. media has repeatedly been claiming that Russia has invaded Ukraine.  They claim it for a while, and there’s obviously been no invasion, so they pause.  Then they claim it again.  Or they claim that a convoy of aid trucks constitutes an invasion.  But the aid trucks look like aid trucks in all the photographs, and yet nobody has taken similar photographs of any invasion.  When Ukrainian tanks rolled into eastern Ukraine and were surrounded by civilians, we saw photographs and videos. Now there’s just a Colin-Powellesque satellite photo from NATO supposedly showing Russian artillery in Ukraine.

The major Russian invasion that apparently comes complete with some sort of muggle-and-photographer-repellant charm is said to consist of 1,000 troops — or roughly as many troops as the U.S. has now sent back into Iraq in no sort of invasion to worry about whatsoever.

But where are the 1,000 Russian troops invading Ukraine? Ukraine claims to have captured 10 of them, but the captured troops don’t seem to have agreed to the story.  And what happened to the other 990?  How did someone get close enough to capture 10 but not photograph the other 990?

Meanwhile Russia says it’s all lies and publicly urges the United States to engage with Ukraine diplomatically and urge the Ukrainian government to stop bombing its own citizens and work out a federalist system that represents everyone within its borders.

But NATO is busy announcing a counter-invasion to the invisible Russian invasion.

How do they imagine they’ll get away with it? Well, let’s see. Not a single individual responsible for the lies that launched the destruction of Iraq and the death of some million people and the predictable and predicted chaos now tormenting Iraq’s whole region has been held accountable in any way.

The lie that Gadaffi was about to slaughter innocents, the lie that facilitated the attack on Libya and the hell that has now been established there — No one has been held accountable for that lie in any way whatsoever.

The lie that the White House had proof that Assad had used chemical weapons — No one has been held accountable.  No one has even had to recant as they switch targets and propose bombing Assad’s enemies.

The lie that drone strikes don’t kill innocents and don’t kill those who could easily have been arrested instead — No one has been held accountable.

The lie that the United States had proof Russia had shot down an airplane over Ukraine — No one has been held accountable, and the United States is opposing an independent investigation.

The lie that torture makes us safe, a lie that led to the United States torturing some folks — No one at the level of air-conditioned office work has been held responsible at all.

Why do they think they can get away with it?

Because you let them. Because you don’t want to believe they commit such atrocities. Because you don’t want to believe they tell big lies.

You know, some people feel like idiots for having believed the Iraq lies. Imagine how they’re going to feel when they find out they believed a nation had been invaded when it hadn’t.

 

David Swanson is author of War Is A Lie.

Demand Swells for Straight Answers on Plane in Ukraine

11:22 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

A long list of prominent individuals has signed, a number of organizations will be promoting next week, and you can be one of the first to sign right now, a petition titled “Call For Independent Inquiry of the Airplane Crash in Ukraine and its Catastrophic Aftermath.”

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-2H6ER; 9M-MRD@CDG;09.07.2011/605gm

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-2H6ER

The petition is directed to “All the heads of states of NATO countries, and of Russia and the Ukraine, to Ban-ki Moon and the heads of states of countries on the UN Security Council.” And it will be delivered to each of them.

The petition reads:

“Set up an impartial international fact finding inquiry and a public report on the events in Ukraine to reveal the truth of what occurred.

“Why is this important?

“It’s important because there is so much misinformation and disinformation in the media that we are careening towards a new cold war with Russia over this.”

That’s not hyperbole. It’s the language of U.S. and Russian politicians and media.

Of course, there are undisputed facts that could change people’s understanding. Many Americans are unaware of NATO’s expansion or of what actions Russia views as aggressive and threatening. But when a particular incident appears to be set up as a proximate cause for war it is well worth our time to insist on an exposure of the facts.  Doing so is not to concede that any outcome of the inquiry would justify a war.  Rather it is to prevent the imposition of an unproven explanation that makes war more likely.

What if the Gulf of Tonkin had been investigated 50 years ago this month? What if the independent inquiry that Spain wanted into the USS Maine had been allowed? What if Congress hadn’t swallowed the one about the babies taken from incubators or that hilarious bit about the vast stockpiles of WMDs? Or, on the other hand, what if everyone had listened to John Kerry unskeptically on Syria last year?

When a Malaysian airplane went down in Ukraine, Kerry immediately blamed Vladimir Putin, but has yet to produce any evidence to back up the accusation. Meanwhile, we learn that the U.S. government is looking into the possibility that what happened was actually an attempt to assassinate Putin. Those two versions, the one initially announced with no apparent basis and the one reportedly now being investigated in secret, could hardly be more different.  That the second one is under consideration makes it appear very likely that any serious proof of the former claim has not been found.

Here’s a longer version of the petition: Read the rest of this entry →

In Search of a Good War

5:32 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

No other nation spends remotely comparable funds on militarism.

The U.S. public is not longing for a U.S. war in Ukraine.

Seven percent want military options considered (poll by McClatchy-Marist, April 7-10), up from six percent a bit earlier (Pew, March 20-23), or 12 percent for U.S. ground troops and 17 percent for air strikes (CNN, March 7-9).

Polling is similar on U.S. desire for a war with Iran, or for U.S. military involvement in Syria. Many more Americans believe in ghosts and UFOs, according to the polls, than believe that these would be good wars.

The U.S. public never got behind the war on Libya, and for years a majority has said that the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan never should have been launched.

The search for a good war is beginning to look as futile as the search for the mythical city of El Dorado. And yet that search remains our top public project.

The U.S. military swallows 55.2 percent of federal discretionary spending, according to the National Priorities Project. Televised U.S. sporting events thank members of the military for watching from 175 nations. U.S. aircraft carriers patrol the world’s seas. U.S. drones buzz the skies of nations thousands of miles from our shores.

No other nation spends remotely comparable funds on militarism, and much of what the United States buys has no defensive purpose — unless “defense” is understood as deterrence or preemption or, indeed, aggression. As the world’s number one supplier of weapons to other nations, ours may be said to extend its search for a good war beyond its own affairs as well.

A 2006 National Intelligence Estimate found that U.S. wars were generating anti-U.S. sentiment. Former military officials, including Stanley McChrystal, say drone strikes are producing more enemies than they are killing. A WIN/Gallup poll of 65 nations at the end of 2013 found the U.S. far ahead of any other as the nation people believed was the greatest threat to peace in the world.

It is the ethics of a coward to believe that safety justifies all, but of a fool to commit immoral acts that actually endanger oneself. And what is more immoral than modern wars, with deaths and injuries so massive, so one-sided, and so heavily civilian?

Military spending produces fewer jobs than spending on education or infrastructure, or even on tax cuts for working people, according to studies by the Political Economy Research Institute. It is the ethics of a sociopath to justify killing for economic gain, but of a fool to do so for economic loss.

The military is our top consumer of petroleum and creator of superfund sites, in addition to being the hole into which we sink the funds that could address the real danger of climate change.

War justifies secrecy and the erosion of liberties: warrantless surveillance, lawless imprisonment, torture, and assassination, even as wars are marketed as defending “freedom.”

And of course the maintenance of nuclear and other weapons for war risks intentional or accidental catastrophe.

The downsides to war, even for an aggressor nation with overwhelming fire power, are voluminous. The upside would seem to be that if we keep fighting wars, one of them might turn out to be a good one.

But ask people to name a good war, and most will go back 73 years to World War II. A few will express badly misinformed views about Yugoslavia or Rwanda, but most will focus right in on Adolf Hitler.  Think about that. Our top public project for the past three-quarters of a century has to go back that far to find a popular example of its use.

We live in a vastly changed world, and public opinion reflects that. The power of nonviolent action to resist tyranny and injustice is dramatically more realized, as is understanding of nonviolent conflict resolution and wise conflict avoidance.

Winston Churchill called World War II “the Unnecessary War” claiming that “there was never a war more easy to stop.” That war would not have happened without World War I, which nobody claims was itself unavoidable.

Just as the U.S. sells weapons to abusive nations today and prioritizes militarism over aid to refugees, Western nations helped fund the rise of the Nazis and refused to accept Jewish refugees. There are ways to prevent situations from ever reaching the point of war.

Or rather there would be if we weren’t so invested in the military industrial complex of whose “total influence” President Dwight Eisenhower warned.

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David Swanson’s books include War No More: The Case for Abolition and projects include WorldBeyondWar.org. Read the rest of this entry →

War for Dummies

7:09 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

A conical dunce cap, labelled DUNCE, sits on a stool in a corner.

A stylish hat favored by warmongers.

Sorry for the headline if it got you hoping for a quick 1-step guide on how to bomb a country without breaking a sweat. I didn’t actually mean that I could teach a dummy to wage a war. I meant that only dummies want to wage wars.

Need proof?

Check out a recent Washington Post report.

Now there I go misleading you again. While it’s true that the editors of the Washington Post are often dummies and often want wars to be waged, that’s not what I mean right now. I think members of the U.S. government and its obedient media constitute an important but tiny exception to the rule this report points to.

The facts as reported on April 7th are these:

  • 13% of us in the United States want our government to use force in Ukraine;
  • 16% of us can accurately identify Ukraine’s location on a map;
  • the median error by Americans placing Ukraine on a map is 1,800 miles;
  • some Americans, based on where they identified Ukraine on a map, believe that Ukraine is in the United States, some say it’s in Canada, some Africa, some Australia, some Greenland, some Argentina, Brazil, China, or India;
  • only a small number believe Ukraine is in an ocean.

And here’s the interesting bit:

[T]he further our respondents thought that Ukraine was from its actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene militarily. Even controlling for a series of demographic characteristics and participants’ general foreign policy attitudes, we found that the less accurate our participants were, the more they wanted the U.S. to use force, the greater the threat they saw Russia as posing to U.S. interests, and the more they thought that using force would advance U.S. national security interests.

I take this to mean that some people believe that attacking Alaska or the continental United States (where they believe Ukraine to be located) will advance “U.S. national security interests.” This suggests one of two things: either they believe the United States would be better off bombed (and perhaps suicidal tendencies account for some of the staggering stupidity reported by the Washington Post) or they believe the United States is located in Asia or Africa or somewhere other than where they’ve indicated that Ukraine is on the map.

I also take this report to mean the following: ignorant jackasses are the only statistically significant group that wants more wars. Virtually nobody in the United States wants a U.S. war in Iran or Syria or Ukraine. Nobody. Except for serious hardcore idiots. We’re talking about people who can’t place Ukraine in the correct landmass, but who believe the United States should go to war there.

People informed enough to find Ukraine on a map are also informed enough to oppose wars. People who can’t find Ukraine on a map but possess an ounce of humility or a drop of decency also oppose war. You don’t have to be smart to oppose wars. But you have to be an unfathomably ignorant jackass to favor them. Or — back to that exception — you could work for the government.

Why, I wonder, don’t pollsters always poll and report sufficiently to tell us whether an opinion correlates with being informed on an issue? I recall a poll (by Rasmussen), tragic or humorous depending on your mood, that found 25% of Americans wanting their government to always spend at least three times as much on its military as any other nation spends, while 64% said their government spends the right amount on the military now or should spend more. This only gets tragic or humorous if you are aware that the United States already spends much more than three times what any other nation spends on its military. In other words, large numbers of people want military spending increased only because they don’t know how high it is already.

But what I want to know is: Do the individuals who have the facts most wrong want the biggest spending increases?

And I wonder: do pollsters want us to know how much opinions follow facts? If opinions follow factual beliefs, after all, it might make sense to replace some of the bickering of pundits on our televisions with educational information, and to stop thinking of ourselves as divided by ideology or temperament when what we’re divided by is largely the possession of facts and the lack thereof.

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