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This War Too Is A Lie

6:31 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Some smart people thought, and perhaps some still think, that the 2003-2011 war on Iraq was unique in that it was promoted with the use of blatant lies.  When I’d researched dozens of other wars and failed to find one that wasn’t based on a foundation of similar lies, I wrote a book about the most common war lie varieties. I called it War Is A Lie.

That book has sold more than any of my others, and I like to think it’s contributed some teeny bit to the remarkable and very welcome skepticism that is greeting the U.S. government’s current claims about Syria.  The fact is that, were the White House telling the truth about the need for an attack on Syria, it would be a first in history.  Every other case for war has always been dishonest.

The United States sought out war with Mexico, not the reverse.  There was never any evidence that Spain sank the Maine.  The Philippines didn’t benefit from U.S. occupation.  The Lusitania was known to be carrying troops and arms.  The Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened.  Iraq didn’t take any babies out of incubators.  The Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over to be tried in a neutral court.  Libya wasn’t about to kill everyone in Benghazi.  Et cetera.  Even wars that people like to imagine as justified, such as World War II, were nonetheless packaged in lies; FDR’s tales about the Greer and the Kearney and supposed secret Nazi maps and plans were a step on the steady trajectory from Woodrow Wilson to Karl Rove.

The idea that Syria used chemical weapons is more plausible than the idea that Iraq had vast stockpiles of chemical, biological, and (in some versions) nuclear weapons and was working with al Qaeda.  But the evidence offered in the case of Syria is no stronger than that for Iraq.  It’s harder to disprove merely because there’s nothing to it: no documentation, no sources, no science.  Congress members who have seen the classified version say it’s no better than the declassified.  Experts within the government and reporters in Syria who have seen more than that say they don’t believe the White House’s claims.  The assertions masquerading as a case come packaged in dishonest claims about how quickly Syria gave access to inspectors, and are written in a manner to suggest far greater knowledge and certainty than they actually assert on careful examination.  The latest claims follow a series of failed claims over a period of months and stand to benefit a Syrian opposition that has been found repeatedly to be manufacturing false propaganda aimed at bringing the United States into the war.  It seems, at this point, unlikely that the Assad government used chemical weapons two weeks ago, and already certain that even if it did, President Obama and Secretary Kerry don’t know it — they’ve only guessed it at best.

The debate over chemical weapons, itself, is framed by the lie that a law against chemical weapons can be enforced by one nation attacking another.  In fact, Syria is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.  If it were, it would be subject to prosecution in court.  In any event, it is subject to the judgment and action of the world and its courts, not of one vigilante representing 4% of the world.  The bizarre idea that bombing a country can be a form of law enforcement dishonestly hides the fact that the action itself violates the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact.

Wars, a central lie maintains, are fought against evil.  But Assad is not the devil incarnate.  He’s a horrendously awful ruler, pushed in bad directions by those around him as much as they by him.  He’s someone who has proposed disarmament in the past and been rejected by the United States.  He’s someone who has done evil things in cooperation with the United States, including lawless imprisonment and torture.  He’s not going to eat American children in their sleep.  He’s never threatened the United States, and has shown remarkable restraint in the face of threats by the United States and the CIA’s efforts to undermine and attack his government.  Residents of the United States in search of dangers to get excited about shouldn’t arrive at Bashar al Assad until far, far down the list past poor diet, poor healthcare, lack of exercise, automobiles, obesity, industrial pollution, unsafe workplaces, gun accidents, chain saws, lightning strikes, and countless other causes of death.

Wars, a common lie holds, are fought in defense.  But Syria is no threat to the United States, and when President Obama suggests that theoretically it could be, the laughter you hear from most listeners is the correct response.  The White House hasn’t sought to build much of a case for “defensive war” against Syria, even on the Benghazi model, and that deficiency is a major weakness.  Most people have no tolerance for non-defensive wars.  Exceptions are sadists and believers in humanitarian bombings, or — to name a category that encompasses both of those groups — imperialists.
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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.

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Hubris Isn’t the Half of It

8:03 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell

As our government was making a fraudulent case to attack Iraq in 2002-2003, the MSNBC television network was doing everything it could to help, including booting Phil Donahue and Jeff Cohen off the air.  The Donahue Show was deemed likely to be insufficiently war-boosting and was thus removed 10 years ago next week, and 10 days after the largest antiwar (or anything else) demonstrations in the history of the world, as a preemptive strike against the voices of honest peaceful people.

From there, MSNBC proceeded to support the war with mild critiques around the edges, and to white-out the idea of impeachment or accountability.

But now MSNBC has seen its way clear to airing a documentary about the fraudulent case it assisted in, a documentary titled Hubris.  This short film (which aired between 9 and 10 p.m. ET Monday night, but with roughly half of those minutes occupied by commercials) pointed out the role of the New York Times in defrauding the public, but not MSNBC’s role.

Yet, my primary response to that is joy rather than disgust.  It is now cool to acknowledge war lies.  Truth-tellers, including truth-tellers rarely presented with a corporate microphone, made that happen.

MSNBC host and Obama promoter Rachel Maddow even introduced Hubris by pointing to another war lie — the Gulf of Tonkin incident that wasn’t — and a war lie started by a Democrat in that case.  Similar lies can be found surrounding every war that has ever been, which is why I wrote War Is A Lie.  We have to stop imagining that “bad wars” are a subset of wars.

But, of course, using Maddow as the presenter and narrator of a film about Republican war lies during a period of unacknowledged Democratic war lies unavoidably gives the thing a partisan slant.  Watching Hubris, I was reminded of something that Michael Moore tweeted last Friday: “Senate Repubs: U started 2 illegal wars that broke the treasury & sacrificed the lives of thousands of our troops & countless civilians.”

Of course, the Senate that gave us the two wars in question was in reality controlled by Democrats, and the war lies were pushed hard by Senators Kerry, Clinton, and their comrades.  Hubris touches on this reality but not with sufficient clarity for most viewers — I suspect — to pick up on it.

The film presents a great deal of good evidence that the war on Iraq was based on lies.  Unavoidably, endless terrific bits of such evidence were not included.  Less excusably, also left out was an analysis of the evidence that only dishonesty — not incompetence — explains the propaganda that was produced.

Hubris is the wrong word for what took the United States into war with Iraq.  The forces at work were greed, lust for power, and sadistic vengeance.  The word “hubris” suggests the tragic downfall of the guilty party.  But the war on Iraq did not destroy the United States; it destroyed Iraq.  It damaged the United States, to be sure, but in a manner hardly worthy of mention in comparison to the sociocide committed against Iraq.

Hubris, the film, provides a reprehensibly ludicrous underestimation of Iraqi deaths, and only after listing U.S. casualties.

It was not pride but a disregard for human life that generated mass murder.  Congressman Walter Jones, who voted for the war, is shown in Hubris saying that he would have voted No if he had bothered to read the National Intelligence Estimate that very few of his colleagues bothered to read.

Another talking head in the film is Lawrence Wilkerson.  He is, of course, the former chief of staff of former Secretary of State Colin Powell.  Wilkerson is shown explaining that the reason not to attack Iraq was that doing so would take a focus away from attacking Afghanistan.  Clearly this was not a reason that led to Wilkerson or Powell taking any kind of stand.

Wilkerson says in this film that he and Powell knew the war was based on lies, that the claims were junk, that no WMDs were likely to be found, etc.  Yet, when confronted last week by Norman Solomon on Democracy Now! with the question of why he hadn’t resigned in protest, Wilkerson claimed that at the time he’d had no idea whatsoever that there were good arguments against the war.  In fact, he blamed opponents of the war for not having contacted him to educate him on the matter.

The Hubris version of Colin Powell’s lies at the United Nations is misleadingly undertold.  Powell was not a victim.  He “knowingly lied.”

The same goes for Bush, Cheney, and gang.  According to Hubris it may have just been incompetence or hubris.  It wasn’t.  Not only does overwhelming evidence show us that Bush knew his claims about WMDs to be false, but the former president has shown us that he considers the question of truth or falsehood to be laughably irrelevant. When Diane Sawyer asked Bush why he had claimed with such certainty that there were so many weapons in Iraq, he replied: “What’s the difference? The possibility that [Saddam] could acquire weapons, If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger.”

What’s the difference?  In a society based on the rule of law, the difference would be a criminal prosecution.  MSNBC and Hubris steer us away from any ideas of accountability.  And no connection is drawn to current war lies about Iran or other nations.

But the production of programs like this one that prolong Americans’ awareness of the lies that destroyed Iraq are the best hope Iran has right now.  MSNBC should be contacted and applauded for airing this and urged to follow up on it.

Photo Courtesy of Charles Haynes released under Creative Commons License

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

Of the Radical and the Quaint

9:12 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Remarks in Boca Raton, Fla., February 26, 2011

I really want to thank Nancy Parker and everyone who helped put this event together. I would have come just to hear the other two speakers. I’ve learned a lot from Sandy Davies and consider his book required reading for all Americans. And it’s an honor to speak together with Ben Ferencz who has been advancing the rule of law since the age when — more so than not — the United States was a proponent of international justice.

Today’s Palm Beach Post’s article about Mr. Ferencz and this event begins with this sentence:

“War is such a widespread force in the world that the very idea of treating it as a crime seems both radical and quaint.”

As the proprietor of a website called War Is A Crime .org I have always strived to be radical and quaint. I don’t dispute the Post’s description, but I find it intriguing. How can an idea be both radical and quaint? One definition of quaint is “pleasingly or strikingly old-fashioned or unfamiliar.” Another is “having an old-fashioned attractiveness or charm.”

In fact the idea of treating war as a crime is, in a very real way old-fashioned. In 1928, our government made war a crime when the Senate ratified by a vote of 85 to 1 the Kellogg-Briand Pact which condemned and renounced all war. The Senate tacked on an exception for the traditional right of self-defense. But our Secretary of State Frank Kellogg had rejected a proposal from France to include that exception in the treaty. Kellogg argued that if any such exception were included the treaty’s “positive value as a guarantor of peace” would be “virtually destroyed.” And hardly a dozen years later he was proven right as a second World War took some 70 million lives with the participation of several nations that had signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and most of them acting in the name of defense. But the Pact remains the supreme law of the land under our constitution, and — even as adopted by the U.S. Senate — it treats legal war as an exception to the general rule that war is a crime.

When the second world war was over and the criminals on one side of it were prosecuted, another treaty was established called the United Nations Charter. This one too, which also remains the supreme law of the land, made war a crime — but this time with two narrow exceptions. One is the traditional right to defense. The other is in some ways a reversal of a second provision that the U.S. Senate had attached to the Kellogg-Briand Pact. The Senate had stipulated that the United States could not be required to go to war to enforce the ban on war. The UN Charter, on the contrary, stipulated that the UN could authorize particular wars as a sort of global police officer. What ever you think of these exceptions to the ban on warfare or of that ban itself, the Palm Beach Post is perfectly right in understanding that the exceptions have overtaken the rule. We fight so-called defensive wars against impoverished unarmed nations halfway around the globe. And we maintain that the UN has authorized wars even in the face of the UN maintaining it has not. Defensive and global-policing wars are not exceptions so much as loopholes large enough to sail a fleet through. The assumption is now that war is legal. The burden of proof is on the quaint radicals to prove that a particular war is a crime.

Ben Ferencz is going to tell you about the hurdles to prosecuting war. There have been some advances in prosecuting lesser war crimes. The beautiful nation of Italy has prosecuted and convicted 23 CIA agents for kidnapping a man off an Italian street and sending him off to be tortured by the guy who now runs Egypt. But those 23 convicts go about their happy lives unnoticed in the United States, albeit unable to travel abroad. George W. Bush just canceled a trip to Switzerland for fear of arrest and prosecution for torture. Spain yesterday determined to move ahead with a case against US torturers, and a separate case may indict six former top US officials. But here in the Homeland, torture has been turned into a policy choice and aggressive war into a tool that needs to be used more quickly and efficiently going forward.

Another definition of quaint is “unusual in an interesting, pleasing, or amusing way.” It’s not just old-fashioned to look back to the early days of this nation before the permanent standing army, or to Pennsylvania’s banning of war in the extremely quaint year of 1682, or to rudely recall the goal of disarmament in the Atlantic Charter that I guess was already quaint by 1947. It’s also amusingly shocking and scandalous, and thus radical, to imagine a nonviolent economy in a nation that leads the world in weapons sales, maintains a thousand military bases around the earth, slices the globe into various “commands” to be dominated, operates special forces in 75 countries, fights multiple simultaneous ground wars, murders at will and across all borders with unmanned aircraft, and devotes well over half of federal discretionary spending to the military and wars.

But we never anymore speak about good slavery or just rape. A mere 10 years ago, Americans universally denounced torture. Yet the horrors of war far outstrip, while encompassing, these other outrages, and we go on referring to good wars and just wars, or at least the theoretical possibility of them. The very worst thing humanity has ever created is culturally legal, regardless of what the actual laws say. And yet we cannot survive its continued presence, and we do not need to try. The justifications offered for each particular war — before, during, and after — and the justifications for the machinery of empire are a tissue of lies all the way through.

The money we put into the military, over half of every dollar raised through income tax or borrowing, produces fewer and lower paying jobs than could be had by investing in other sectors, including education, infrastructure, and energy, and — if done right — even in tax cuts. Military spending is worse than nothing, in economic terms, and we cannot survive it. Nor can our environment survive the destruction that wars and weapons testing bring. The blowback and weapons proliferation encouraged by our current policies may kill us all. And we will be powerless to resist these trends if we allow the so-called wartime erosion of our civil liberties and representative government to continue — unless, I guess, we all master our impersonations of David Koch when phoning our elected officials.

There was a glitch in the “We’re #1″ corporate media line last week when a New York Times column noted that among industrialized nations the United States is at or near the worst ranking in income equality, employment, democracy, wellbeing, food security, life expectancy, education, and percentage of the population in prison, but right at the top in military spending whether measured per capita or as a percentage of GDP or in absolute terms. When Dr. King said that a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on the military than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death he wasn’t warning us. He was warning our parents and grandparents. We’re the dead.

But I think we’re only in a coma. We don’t choose to fund the war economy. When pollsters tell us what the budget looks like, we demand cuts to the pentagon. But the rest of the time we don’t bother to find out what happens to our money. A recent poll found that only 25% of Americans thought we should fund the military at a rate of three times the next most militarized nation, but only 32%, not 75%, wanted to cut military spending, which would in fact have to be slashed drastically to get it down to three times what China spends.

We have two-thirds of the country opposed to a war in Afghanistan that costs over $100 billion per year, and a major debate in Washington over how to cut $100 billion from the budget — a debate that does not include mention of that war. To effect change, we need more than majority opinion. We need massive strategic Wisconsin-Egyptian public pressure. And before we can generate that pressure to bring our war dollars home and defund the even more costly base military budget, we will have to show people that not just one war is based on lies; they all are.

The Iraq War is typical of any war in terms of its dishonesty. My book attempts to lay out and refute the major categories of lies used in every war effort, so that from now on we can reject alleged reasons for war immediately upon hearing them. These include claims that only war can oppose evil, that war is needed for defense, and that wars serve humanitarian goals. Chris Matthews on MSNBC recently discovered that the Iraq WMD story was not quite kosher and demanded an investigation of Iraq War lies, which is more than anyone in Congress has done since 2006. Next week tune in as Matthews may discover that there was no Gulf of Tonkin incident or begin to doubt that Spain really sank the Maine.

Did you read the Rolling Stone article on Thursday about the U.S. military’s program in Afghanistan to lie to visiting senators and think tankers and military officials themselves about the state of the war? It looks like an official from Florida saw his career suffer when he honorably refused to take part in that. And the people who did it may come off looking about as bright as the Men Who Stare at Goats, but the Senators who fell for it come off looking as bright as the goats. Seriously, for how many years can you believe victory is right around the corner?

An anonymous US military official was quoted in the New York Times yesterday explaining, as some of us have been screaming for nearly a decade, that the military occupation is itself causing violence and instability. The Secretary of War, Robert Gates, yesterday at West Point said that we shouldn’t launch any more wars like the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the same time, in an interview just published, Gates argues for further prolonging the war in Afghanistan — an action every bit as criminal and immoral as initiating the war in the first place.

Nobody is apologizing to Barbara Lee for ostracizing her when she alone of all members of Congress voted against the war on Afghanistan. Ten years ago voting for an aggressive and doomed to be disastrous war was the right thing to do. Never mind that the Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over to a third country to be tried. Never mind that any pretense to the contrary could no more justify a war than Italy would now be justified in bombing Washington for not extraditing the CIA convicts. There was evil in the world, and only violence could get us drunk enough to believe we’d had nothing to do with it.

Now, 10 years later, ending a war because of its illegality is not an issue at all, except for quaint radicals. And ending it because the American people want it ended is just inappropriate. In wartime, leaders should not be swayed by public opinion when they are busy bombing a new democracy into place. Ending the war because it costs money or fuels terrorism or damages the earth or kills human beings doesn’t make any sense. If it did, David Koch would be phoning in about it.

The disturbing side to Gates’ desire to avoid future wars like these is that he and many in Washington think we should pursue a different kind of war: small wars, secret wars, assassinations, death squads, and unmanned drone attacks. This agenda, when combined with the ever expanding secrecy of our government, and when combined with Americans’ relative lack of concern for the deaths of non-Americans spells trouble for advocates of peace. What if we were to finally catch on to the tricks of the second oldest profession on earth, the war propagandist, just in time for wars to proceed in the shadows without marketing campaigns, public debates, or even the pretense of authorization by a legislature?

The answer to this, I think, is two-fold. We must work with whistleblowers and publishers, such as wikileaks, to find out what our government is doing. And we must organize and train and engage in relentless nonviolent activism to radically and quaintly change what it is doing.

We may be past the point of spiritual death as a nation, yet somehow we’re still kicking. And we’re not just kicking our neighbors who have unions or health coverage, as we’ve been instructed. We’re pushing back against the plutocratic plunderers of our children’s future. Some of us whom the government taxes for working will be paying a visit to Bank of America this evening, which the government pays to rip us off. Nicole Sandler, our nation’s best radio host, is here to lead that action.

There is a moment of activism in the world right now that should not be allowed to slip through our fingers. We have an absolute duty to fend off the twin dangers of collapse into apathy or degeneration into violence. Did you know that Egyptians studied the Montgomery Bus Boycott and learned from American scholars of nonviolent action? We are part of an ongoing exchange of ideas and inspiration. And while our government may not save a trillion dollars a year by hiring Egyptian activists to spread democracy instead of the Pentagon, we can take inspiration from what is happening across the Middle East and the Middle West and find our calling in the eternal nonviolent struggle for a better world.

There is no quick fix to the mess we’re in. For godsake, peace is quaint and radical. You don’t dig out of that hole in a matter of days. And this is good, not bad, news for you and me. Drug abuse, I guarantee you, has plummeted in Madison, Wisconsin. Nobody’s skydiving. Nobody’s reading their horoscopes or trying on new religions. Nobody engaged in the peace and justice movement has to look for meaning in life. Nonviolent action is what makes life worthwhile.

And we Americans can do it as well as anybody else and have done it before. Libyans are laying down their lives against brutal violence, and they are advancing the cause of peace and justice whether they win this year or decades down the road. They have no parties, no unions, no civil society, they’re divided by region and tribe, and yet they are taking action and so can we.

Most human societies have not known war and many have known it and dropped it. The current issue of Yes magazine has an article about a group of baboons that engaged in constant violence for years and then developed a culture of peace. Now I’m not claiming we’re all geniuses, but if baboons can do it we might want to try. War is not in our genes. It’s not necessitated by the small-scale violence that responds to it. It’s not needed to defend anything. It is worse than anything it can be used to remedy. And if the young people in this room live to be as old as the elderly in this room it will be because the thought of war as an acceptable human behavior has been made both radical and quaint.

David Swanson is the author of “War Is A Lie” 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