All posts by David Swanson

Long After Hiroshima

http://davidswanson.org/long-after-hiroshima/

How do we honor victims? We can remember them and appreciate who they were. But there were too many of them, and too many unknown to us. So, we can remember a sample of them, examples of them. And we can honor the living survivors, get to know and appreciate them while they are still alive.

We can remember the horrific way in which those killed were victimized, in hopes of manipulating ourselves into doing something serious about it. We can remember those who were instantly vaporized, but also those half-burnt, partially melted, those eaten out from the inside by maggots, those who died slowly in excruciating pain and in the presence of their screaming children, those who died from drinking water they knew would kill them but who were driven to it by thirst.

And then, when we are ready to take action, when we have built up a righteous anger, what is it we should do? We should not, of course, commit some new atrocity under the banner of cosmic balance. Nuking Washington D.C. or spray painting Harry Truman’s grave would not honor anyone in any way. Instead of resorting to magical means of undoing the mass killing, we have to face up to the fact that we cannot in any way whatsoever undo it. We cannot bring back those slaughtered in Japan 74 years ago. We cannot bring back any of the millions murdered in that war or any of the millions murdered in any of the wars since.

But here’s the good news. There are many things that are commonly thought of as just as impossible or more so than bringing back the dead which we most certainly can do. And they are things that I believe honor the victims in the most profound way imaginable.

The key to understanding this is that, apart from feedback loops set in motion by environmental destruction, anything — absolutely anything — created by humans can be uncreated by humans, can be replaced by something radically different by humans.

After the bombings that did not end the war, after the Soviet invasion, after the war finally did end, a system of victors’ justice was established in which war was for the first time prosecuted as a crime, but only if you’d lost it. An international system of government was created which, this time around, the United States joined, but it was a system that made the biggest war makers and weapons dealers more equal than everybody else. The veto power at the UN Security Council is not an immutable genetic or physical or mystical inheritance. It’s words on a computer screen. The International Criminal Court does not have to prosecute only Africans in the way in which an apple that detaches from a tree has to move downward, but rather in the way in which the U.S. House of Representatives had to oppose ending the Korean War until this past month when it started supporting ending the Korean War.

The same body, which I usually refer to as the House of Misrepresentatives, also this past month passed a requirement that every foreign U.S. base be justified as benefitting U.S. security. If that were to be followed through on, the U.S. would not become able to undo the injustice inflicted on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it would be compelled to cease inflicting injustice on Okinawa.

Seventy-three countries have signed and 23 ratified a new treaty banning nuclear weapons. Every country on earth except the United States has signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Most countries on earth, unlike the United States, are party to the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights optional protocols, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention Against Torture optional protocol, and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, and the International Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing, and Training of Mercenaries, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, and the Principles of International Cooperation in the Detection, Arrest, Extradition, and Punishment of Persons Guilty of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and the Land Mines Convention.

The notion that the U.S. government, misrepresenting 4% of humanity, cannot do what most of humanity’s governments do because of a nonexistent imaginary monster called “human nature” is the purest example I know — of George Orwell’s description of propaganda. He said that propaganda gives an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

Nuclear weapons are not our masters. We are their masters. We can dismantle them like duelling grounds and segregated water fountains and electric chairs and statues of Confederate generals if we choose to. But it will be difficult to do so without dismantling the institution of war. A nation like North Korea does not appear eager to give up its nukes while under threat of attack, even if that attack would use non-nuclear weapons. Yet, again, there’s good news. The institution of war can be dismantled too. And, for those who’ve been tragically misinformed that nothing new can happen, it’s worth noting that most humans who have ever lived have had nothing to do with war, and most human societies have had nothing to do with war. Those who do participate in war, even from the comfort of a joystick in a trailer in Nevada, usually suffer for it horribly. They are not driven to it by their inherent inevitable core whatchamawhootchie; they are driven to it by deprivation of a good education and prospects for a good nonviolent life.

Some countries spend $0 per year on war. The United States spends $1.25 trillion. No other country is closer to the United States than it is to $0. All other countries combined are closer to $0 than to the U.S. level of spending. We can and we must convert from militarism to environmental protection. The benefits will be economic, social, moral, environmental, and beyond our capacity to fully imagine. We can shift from hostility to generosity. One percent of the U.S. military budget could give the world clean drinking water. Three percent could end starvation worldwide. Start trying to imagine what 8% or 12% could do.

It is well documented that 95% of all suicide terrorist attacks are conducted to encourage foreign occupiers to leave the terrorist’s home country. In fact, I’m not aware of a foreign terrorist threat, attempt, or action against the United States, in which a motivation was stated, where that motivation was anything other than opposition to U.S. military imperialism. Meanwhile precisely 0% of terrorist attacks, suicide or otherwise, have been motivated by resentment of the generous giving of food, water, medicine, schools, or clean energy.

Government secrecy and suspicion and surveillance are not inevitable, and not defensible without first accepting the baseless assumptions of a culture gone mad for war. Actual democracy is possible. Governance by public vote or by representatives who have not been bought and paid for is possible. Completely altering our ridiculous beliefs in the inevitability of certain institutions is possible. Not only is it possible, but it constitutes the major events in human history. The notion that we cannot make such changes is a lie. The claim that we are powerless is a vicious lie.

Peace activist Lawrence Wittner once asked former officials from Ronald Reagan’s Administration about the Nuclear Freeze movement, and they usually claimed they’d paid no attention to it. Then one of them, Robert McFarlane spilled the beans, recounting a “massive administration campaign to counter and discredit the freeze.” When Wittner then interviewed Ed Meese, Meese claimed to know nothing, until Wittner told him what McFarlane had said. And, Wittner says, “a sheepish grin now spread across this former government official’s face, and I knew that I had caught him.” When you’re tempted to internalize the absurd notion that they aren’t paying attention to us, remember that all government is always on the verge of a sheepish grin.

We can scale back war, nuclear and otherwise, together with racism, together with extreme materialism, together with environmental destruction, together with exceptionalism, together with blind subservience to authority, together with irresponsibility toward future generations. We can create a culture of peace, a structural society of peace, a cooperative world of mutual respect and love. Whether we will do so or not is a question to be answered not by predictions but by our actions.

At World BEYOND War we are working on peace education, on mobilizing action, on divesting funds from the war machine, on closing foreign military bases — and domestic bases too. We are eager to work in partnership with anyone and everyone to advance these goals. When Joe Hill asked us to not mourn his death but to organize for the change he had worked for, he gave us advice so powerful that when we follow it, it becomes harder to think of Joe Hill as a victim. We’re almost forced to think of him as an ally. Perhaps if we imagine the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki asking us to not mourn but organize we can after all achieve the impossible, we can undo their victimization and honor them as our brothers and sisters in struggle.

Perhaps we can imagine Shelley speaking to the nuclear victims, saying Rise like Lions after slumber In unvanquishable number, Shake your chains to earth like dew Which in sleep had fallen on you – Ye are many – they are few.

Is Tulsi Gabbard Qualified?

I want Tulsi Gabbard in the Democratic Presidential debates because she speaks out against wars. She raises the topic unasked. She wants various wars ended or not launched. She wants impeachment made automatic for presidents who launch wars. What’s not to love?

I also want Mike Gravel included for the same reason. If anything, he’s even better than Gabbard. But Gravel openly says he doesn’t want to be elected; he just wants to improve the debates. I wish Gabbard would say the same thing. Here’s why.

February 15, 2003, saw the biggest public demonstration in world history. It was against the obvious lies being used to launch a war against Iraq. Whistleblower Katharine Gun risked her freedom to expose the war in March 2003. The United Nations refused to support the war, and its Secretary General joined many world governments in denouncing the war as a fraud and a crime.

By the spring of 2004, over a year later, the lies had been exposed to the satisfaction of most of those who had either believed them or pretended to. The New York Times had publicly apologized. Senators and Congress Members had been compelled to apologize or squirm like weasels. Polls had found a slim majority of the public now saying the war should never have been started. Camilo Mejia had chosen prison over a second tour.

But in April 2003, Tulsi Gabbard had joined the Hawaii Army National Guard, and in July 2004 — JULY FRICKIN TWO THOUSAND AND FOUR, she VOLUNTEERED to take part in the war on Iraq, which she did until 2005. She has, as far as I know, never expressed regret or apologized; it is certainly not part of her standard stump speech — quite the opposite. She has never left the military, and she has never stopped bragging about having performed the “service” of helping to destroy Iraq — even when opposing any similar wars in the same breath.

Now, that combination is a clear cut above your typical warmongering politician, your . . . well, to put it briefly, your Joe Biden-type. Having someone who learns and improves and takes better positions is a benefit to the debates. I’m glad Gabbard has apologized and improved her views on gay rights. I believe her and applaud her. But has she said she’s learned anything about war? Has she, in fact, learned anything about war? Has she apologized? Has she stopped promoting the military? Has she stopped posing in uniform? She’s only removed photos of herself in uniform from her website when the military has complained to her. When repeatedly asked in the first round of primary debates whether she’d ever support a war on Iran, she eventually caved and said yes, if Americans were attacked. Well, what does anyone imagine the Trump gang is putting so many Americans so close to Iran for?

Gabbard seems unable to mention war without both bragging about having participated and believing it to be insanely destructive. The public response to this seems to be schizophrenic. Those who love militarism support that part of what she says. Those who oppose it support that part. The wonderful, principled, and courageous Dennis Kucinich tweeted this during the debate: “Thank you for your strength challenging wars, @TulsiGabbard. Your record of service to America in the military and Congress is commendable.” How is participating in criminal mass-murder both a commendable service and something it’s strong to challenge?

Gabbard’s website includes among her qualifications:

  • Served two tours of duty in the Middle East (Iraq / Kuwait)
  • Currently serves as Major in Army National Guard

We can also look to her voting record. She has voted against cutting the military budget. But she has voted to keep the AUMF in place. When the U.S. House of Representatives last week passed numerous amendments to create accountability for foreign bases, repeal the AUMF, prevent a war on Iran, finally end the war on Korea, and dozens of other things we don’t usually dare dream of, producing the least awful National Defense Authorization Act in many years, Gabbard didn’t vote.

Gabbard says she wants to end the war on Afghanistan. At the same time, in the same breath in the debate, she suggests that only a member of the military should be president. Is that the kind of nation YOU want to live in?

Here’s where I think we’ve gone wrong. Some of our best peace activists are veterans. It helps that they are veterans both because they know war and because of the widespread and misplaced respect for veterans. Pro-troop propaganda has made us recognize that those making decisions for war from air-conditioned offices are more to blame than direct participants in war. But we’ve gone too far. We’ve come to imagine that participating in an evil war is actually a good thing, even while rates of suicide and depression among veterans suggest that they know better than we do.

This distortion of morality around the propaganda of troopism is compounded by our cartoonish notion of responsibility as developed in a culture of adversarial and retributive justice. We imagine that if someone is responsible for something (such as a president for a war) everyone else is absolved of all responsibility for it. After all, if you prosecuted and convicted a president, nobody could claim you hadn’t achieved vengeance. It would be time for the final credits to roll. But this is equally true: if soldiers didn’t fight, wars would not exist. If something would not exist or not be as strong without your participation, then you are responsible for it, you deserve some bit of the infinite and never-depleted substance of responsibility, as do many, many others.

Is there a value in knowing war up-close? Of course, there is. And there are aid workers and peace activists and war victims who know war up-close. Did it help to elect Eisenhower president because he said he knew war? Perhaps it helped in Egypt. Perhaps it hurt in Iran. The examples of veteran presidents are too few and too much like all the non-veteran presidents to draw any conclusions.

But what about the value of having known enough to oppose war? Why did Barack Obama claim to have opposed the war on Iraq, even while having voted to fund it as soon as he got a chance? Why does Donald Trump pretend both to have opposed the war on Iraq and to be really smart? Because it’s generally not a good idea to give unprecedented reckless imperial power to somebody who’s slow on the uptake. But Donald Trump didn’t just promise to end wars and stop launching them, he also promised a bigger military that would more boldly slaughter whole families. Tulsi Gabbard wants to avoid at least certain wars and end some of the same ones Trump promised to end and then escalated. But does she want to reduce military spending? Does she want to close any bases? Does she want to make the United States party to international law? Does she want to convert to a peaceful economy?

If not Tulsi Gabbard, then who? Well, within the Democratic field of candidates, the vast majority of them are far worse than she is on war and peace. Bernie Sanders isn’t. He’s a million miles from perfect. He also lacks the sadly crucial characteristics needed for the infantile exercise in tokenism that elections have become. But he opposes wars and military spending without feeling compelled every time he does so to also brag about having participated in what he is opposing. How is that not a leading platform for everyone who cares about peace?

Why Are These Facts So Stubbornly Forbidden?

Like you, I’ve had countless experiences of pointing out a new fact to someone, and seeing them acknowledge it and incorporate it into their thinking and their talking from that point forward. I’ve even had this experience with public petitions pushed on powerful people. But, I’ve also had a different experience. There are some facts that some people just will not accept, and for some of them I have a very hard time understanding why. Can you help me understand?

For example, today I received an appeal from the March for Our Lives people upset and outraged that teachers were going to be allowed to bring guns into their school in Florida. They do not want any guns in their school, they said. But — and this they did not say — their school already has ROTC and gun training. Their school already has lots of guns in it. Their classmate who killed many of their other classmates was trained to shoot guns in their school by the U.S. Army. So, do they want guns in their school or not? They are 100% dedicated to pretending that the ROTC does not exist, but also outraged by the idea of guns being brought into the school that they are pretending is gun-free. Why can they not incorporate into their consciousness the existence of the program whose t-shirt the murderer was wearing? What prevents it? I really want to know. Do you have an answer that’s not just a guess?

Also today I received an email from Senator Tim Kaine who remains outraged that a president might start an “unnecessary” and “unconstitutional” war. A president cannot legally attack Iran without Congressional approval, Kaine announces for the billionth time. But a president also cannot legally attack Iran WITH Congressional approval. Violating various laws, including the United Nations Charter, is a crime completely and utterly regardless of whether Congress is in on it. There’s no waiver for the U.S. Congress or any branch of any other government. I questioned Tim Kaine about this a long time ago and posted it on my Youtube page. He readily admitted that I was right, but in the next breath went right back to talking the way he has continued talking to this day — just like every single one of his colleagues and every single media outlet he ever encounters. Why is Kaine incapable of grabbing hold of a fact that he readily comprehended? I’d seriously like an answer.

Most of U.S. political discourse seems to me perverted by the stubborn universal refusal to incorporate basic acknowledged facts into general understanding. Also today I saw a report claiming that the U.S. government has been spending more on fossil fuel subsidies than on “defense.” Of course, the U.S. government spends little or nothing on anything designed to be defensive, so we have to translate that to “military.” But over half of the military budget is not counted in this or any other situation because it’s spread across numerous departments and agencies. At $1.25 trillion a year, it dwarfs fossil fuel subsidies, but the fact that those subsidies outpace the fraction of military spending that goes to the Pentagon is still staggering. Or it would be, if most people would incorporate into their worldview the fact that militarism costs anything at all. For most people, only non-military expenses cost anything, and their size determines the size of the government, even though militarism is now about two-thirds of federal discretionary spending.

What costs money and what does not really seems to be up to personal preference. For example, does the collapse of the climate — all the storms and droughts and floods to come — cost anything? On the one hand, you would think so. Young people are already suing governments for imposing enormous costs on young and future generations. There have been studies done of the cost of converting the world to sustainable green energy, and the cost is in the negative tens of trillions of dollars. In other words, it would save money, yet it is understood to be outrageously too expensive to even dream about.

In my city, we’re asking our local government to divest public dollars from weapons and fossil fuels, and city officials are concerned about their responsibility to benefit investors. But if the earth and our city with it remain habitable doesn’t that benefit even city employees? Wouldn’t the city leap at a guaranteed financial savings over a year or a month that was susceptible to temporary losses over hours or days? Why, when the same situation involves a decade rather than a year does it become incomprehensible? I really want to know.

Healthcare, too, is something we cannot afford, even though countries that have it pay less for it than we pay to not have it. This doesn’t seem to make any sense as long as we refuse to mention the parasitical insurance companies that are actually what we cannot afford, have no use for, and (in thousands of cases every year) die at the hands of.

What about all the health savings from green energy that would cost a fraction of either military spending or fossil fuel subsidies, and lower the cost of healthcare to a fraction of what we pay to not get healthcare? How can people be made to understand such incomprehensible realities as long as key facts are forbidden? I think we absolutely have to find out.

Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO

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The New York Times loves NATO, but should you?

Judging by comments in social media and the real world, millions of people in the United States have gone from having little or no opinion on NATO, or from opposing NATO as the world’s biggest military force responsible for disastrous wars in places like Afghanistan (for Democrats) or Libya (for Republicans), to believing NATO to be a tremendous force for good in the world.

I believe this notion to be propped up by a series of misconceptions that stand in dire need of correction.

1. NATO is not a war-legalizing body, quite the opposite. NATO, like the United Nations, is an international institution that has something or other to do with war, but transferring the UN’s claimed authority to legalize a war to NATO has no support whatsoever in reality. The crime of attacking another nation maintains an absolutely unaltered legal status whether or not NATO is involved. Yet NATO is used within the US and by other NATO members as cover to wage wars under the pretense that they are somehow more legal or acceptable. This misconception is not the only way in which NATO works against the rule of law. Placing a primarily-US war under the banner of NATO also helps to prevent Congressional oversight of that war. Placing nuclear weapons in “non-nuclear” nations, in violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty, is also excused with the claim that the nations are NATO members (so what?). And NATO, of course, assigns nations the responsibility to go to war if other nations go to war — a responsibility that requires them to be prepared for war, with all the damage such preparation does.

2. NATO is not a defensive institution. According to the New York Times, NATO has “deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” This is an article of faith, based on the unsubstantiated belief that Soviet and Russian aggression toward NATO members has existed for 70 years and that NATO has deterred it rather than provoked it. In violation of a promise made, NATO has expanded eastward, right up to the border of Russia, and installed missiles there. Russia has not done the reverse. The Soviet Union has, of course, ended. NATO has waged aggressive wars far from the North Atlantic, bombing Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya. NATO has added a partnership with Colombia, abandoning all pretense of its purpose being in the North Atlantic. No NATO member has been attacked or credibly threatened with attack, apart from small-scale non-state blowback from NATO’s wars of aggression.

3. Trump is not trying to destroy NATO. Donald Trump, as a candidate and as US President, has wondered aloud and even promised all kinds of things and, in many cases, the exact opposite as well. When it comes to actions, Trump has not taken any actions to limit or end or withdraw from NATO. He has demanded that NATO members buy more weapons, which is of course a horrible idea. Even in the realm of rhetoric, when European officials have discussed creating a European military, independent of the United States, Trump has replied by demanding that they instead support NATO.

4. If Trump were trying to destroy NATO, that would tell us nothing about NATO. Trump has claimed to want to destroy lots of things, good and bad. Should I support NAFTA or corporate media or the Cold War or the F35 or anything at all, simply because some negative comment about it escapes Trump’s mouth? Should I cheer for every abuse ever committed by the CIA or the FBI because they investigate Trump? Should I long for hostility between nuclear-armed governments because Democrats claim Trump is a Russian agent? When Trump defies Russia to expand NATO, or to withdraw from a disarmament treaty or from an agreement with Iran, or to ship weapons to Ukraine, or to try to block Russian energy deals in Europe, or to oppose Russian initiatives on banning cyber-war or weapons in space, should I cheer for such consistent defiance of Trump’s Russian master, and do so simply because Russia is, so implausibly, his so-inept master? Or should I form my own opinion of things, including of NATO?

5. Trump is not working for, and was not elected by, Russia. According to the New York Times, “Russia’s meddling in American elections and its efforts to prevent former satellite states from joining the alliance have aimed to weaken what it views as an enemy next door, the American officials said.” But are anonymous “American officials” really needed to acquire Russia’s openly expressed opinion that NATO is a threatening military alliance that has moved weapons and troops to states on Russia’s border? And has anyone produced the slightest documentation of the Russian government’s aims in an activity it has never admitted to, namely “meddling in American elections,” — an activity the United States has of course openly admitted to in regard to Russian elections? We have yet to see any evidence that Russia stole or otherwise acquired any of the Democratic Party emails that documented that party’s rigging of its primary elections in favor of Clinton over Sanders, or even any claim that the tiny amount of weird Facebook ads purchased by Russians could possibly have influenced the outcome of anything. Supposedly Trump is even serving Russia by demanding that Turkey not attack Kurds. But is using non-military means to discourage Turkish war-making necessarily the worst thing? Would it be if your favorite party or politician did it? If Trump encouraged a Turkish war, would that also be a bad thing because Trump did it, or would it be a bad thing for substantive reasons?

6. If Trump were elected by and working for Russia, that would tell us nothing about NATO. Imagine if Boris Yeltsin were indebted to the United States and ended the Soviet Union. Would that tell us whether ending the Soviet Union was a good thing, or whether the Soviet Union was obsolete for serious reasons? If Trump were a Russian pawn and began reversing all of his policies on Russia to match that status, including restoring his support for the INF Treaty and engaging in major disarmament negotiations, and we ended up with a world of dramatically reduced military spending and nuclear armaments, with the possibility of all dying in a nuclear apocalypse significantly lowered, would that too simply be a bad thing because Trump?

7. Russia is not a military threat to the world. That Russia would cheer NATO’s demise tells us nothing about whether we should cheer too. Numerous individuals and entities who indisputably helped to put Trump in the White House would dramatically oppose and others support NATO’s demise. We can’t go by their opinions either, since they don’t all agree. We really are obliged to think for ourselves. Russia is a heavily armed militarized nation that commits the crime of war not infrequently. Russia is a top weapons supplier to the world. All of that should be denounced for what it is, not because of who Russia is or who Trump is. But Russia spends a tiny fraction of what the United States does on militarism. Russia has been reducing its military spending each year, while the United States has been increasing its military spending. US annual increases have sometimes exceeded Russia’s entire military budget. The United States has bombed nine nations in the past year, Russia one. The United States has troops in 175 nations, Russia in 3. Gallup and Pew find populations around the world viewing the United States, not Russia, as the top threat to peace in the world. Russia has asked to join NATO and the EU and been rejected, NATO members placing more value on Russia as an enemy. Anonymous US military officials describe the current cold war as driven by weapons profits. Those profits are massive, and NATO now accounts for about three-quarters of military spending and weapons dealing on the globe.

8. Crimea has not been seized. According to the New York Times, “American national security officials believe that Russia has largely focused on undermining solidarity between the United States and Europe after it annexed Crimea in 2014. Its goal was to upend NATO, which Moscow views as a threat.” Again we have an anonymous claim as to a goal of a government in committing an action that never occurred. We can be fairly certain such things are simply made up. The vote by the people of Crimea to re-join Russia is commonly called the Seizure of Crimea. This infamous seizure is hard to grasp. It involved a grand total of zero casualties. The vote itself has never been re-done. In fact, to my knowledge, not a single believer in the Seizure of Crimea has ever advocated for re-doing the vote. Coincidentally, polling has repeatedly found the people of Crimea to be happy with their vote. I’ve not seen any written or oral statement from Russia threatening war or violence in Crimea. If the threat was implicit, there remains the problem of being unable to find Crimeans who say they felt threatened. (Although I have seen reports of discrimination against Tartars during the past 4 years.) If the vote was influenced by the implicit threat, there remains the problem that polls consistently get the same result. Of course, a US-backed coup had just occurred in Kiev, meaning that Crimea — just like a Honduran immigrant — was voting to secede from a coup government, by no means an action consistently frowned upon by the United States.

9. NATO is not an engaged alternative to isolationism. The notion that supporting NATO is a way to cooperate with the world ignores superior non-deadly ways to cooperate with the world. A nonviolent, cooperative, treaty-joining, law-enforcing alternative to the imperialism-or-isolationism trap is no more difficult to think of or to act on than treating drug addiction or crime or poverty as reason to help people rather than to punish them. The opposite of bombing people is not ignoring them. The opposite of bombing people is embracing them. By the standards of the US communications corporations Switzerland must be the most isolationist land because it doesn’t join in bombing anyone. The fact that it supports the rule of law and global cooperation, and hosts gatherings of nations seeking to work together is simply not relevant.

10. April 4 belongs to Martin Luther King, Jr., not militarism. War is a leading contributor to the growing global refugee and climate crises, the basis for the militarization of the police, a top cause of the erosion of civil liberties, and a catalyst for racism and bigotry. A growing coalition is calling for the abolition of NATO, the promotion of peace, the redirection of resources to human and environmental needs, and the demilitarization of our cultures. Instead of celebrating NATO’s 70thanniversary, we’re celebrating peace on April 4, in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech against war on April 4, 1967, as well as his assassination on April 4, 1968.

Reprinted with permission from DavidSwanson.org.

Leave Syria the Hell Alone

http://davidswanson.org/leave-syria-the-hell-alone/

Last weekend I was on Iranian TV being asked about the meeting in Tehran at which the presidents of Iran and Russia had refused to agree with the President of Turkey to stop bombing people in Syria. I said Iran and Russia were wrong.

I also said that nobody involved, least of all the United States, was right.

Not only would the United States and the world be infinitely better off if in response to 9/11 the U.S. government had done nothing at all, as Jon Schwartz tweets each year, but Syria would be dramatically better off if just about any outside force had never gotten in or now got out.

Here’s my 5-step plan for Syria:

  1. Get the bloody hell out and stay out. Why should Kosovo and Czechia and the Slovak Republic have the right to decide their fate, but Crimea and Diego Garcia and Okinawa — and Syria — not? The whim of the U.S. military should not be decisive in such matters. Stop trying to save Syria from the Syrians by killing Syrians. Enough. Do not come back.
  2. Stop the simpletonism. Opposing U.S. crimes has nothing whatsoever to do with defending the crimes of Syria or Russia or Iran or Saudi Arabia or any other national or non-state government — and vice versa. The enemy of your exaggerated party line is probably necessary to the process of ending the mass slaughter.
  3. Stop falling for propaganda. There is nothing legal, moral, or in any way practical about launching or escalating a war because someone else used a particular type of weapon, or because you pretended someone else used a particular type of weapon. The question of whether or not the weapon was used by the designated enemy is completely and utterly irrelevant to the question of whether to engage in the supreme international crime and the greatest immorality yet developed. Unproven and even ludicrous claims are very, very tempting to critique. I am almost utterly powerless to stop you, or even to get you to understand my desire to stop you. But in so doing, you are accepting a dangerous framing of the debate in which the justifiability of mass-murder supposedly hangs on disputed facts. It does not — not ever. Nor does Congress have any power to legalize a crime.
  4. Support real solutions. The U.S. government should not “do nothing,” even though that would be a dramatic improvement. It should, after completely removing every armed representative of itself from Syria and the entire region, and ceasing to export weapons, apologize, join the International Criminal Court rather than attacking it (even while trying to claim that Syrian crimes need addressing), join all the world’s major human rights treaties, spread democracy by developing one at home in the United States, and pay unprecedented but, in comparison to military expenditures, small reparations to Syria and surrounding nations with no strings attached.
  5. Remember 2013. Remember that popular pressure prevented a massive bombing campaign of Syria. Remember that this was done with non-partisan popular sentiment while the U.S. President favored bombing people for their own good as acts of philanthropy. If that could be done then, surely now during the open-barbarism of the Trump-sewer-twitter era we can block a new attack on Syria pre-announced as being based on the very same excuse as 5 years ago. Powerlessness is in the eye of the conceder.

Canada vs. the Rule of Law

I’m aware that Canada, unlike its southern neighbor in which I live, has just recently, ever so slightly, stood up to certain of the horrors of the Saudi government. I’m aware of the role Canada has played, albeit imperfectly, as refuge for people fleeing U.S. slavery and U.S. wars and general U.S. backwardness. I’m aware of how many times through history the United States has attacked Canada. I’m aware that just several yards in front of me as I sit in my outdoor office (the downtown mall of Charlottesville) a small army is gleefully creating a police state on the anniversary of a Nazi rally at which similar numbers of soldiers, similarly armed, stood by and watched fascist violence last year. I agree with Robin Williams’ characterization of Canada as a nice apartment over a meth lab.

But here’s the thing. I’m a world citizen not owned by the Pentagon. When we hold World BEYOND War’s annual global conference in Toronto next month, Canadians will, if they are like most people on earth, be eager to discuss Canada’s shortcomings, not its highpoints. I’ve been reading about some of those shortcomings, and they are not insignificant. Canada is a standout player when it comes to environmental destruction, and in the colonial brutality that still feeds that destruction.

The theme of our upcoming conference is the rule of law, its uses, its abuses, and its potential as a local and global tool. I’ve just read Tamara Starblanket’s Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations, and the Canadian State. This is a lawyer’s view of the Canadian history and present practice of forcibly removing children from families. While the U.S. removal of immigrant children from their families has been in the news of late, it’s not been newly invented. Both settler-colonist Canada and Nazi Germany learned from the U.S. practice of removing Indigenous children from their families in order to “educate” them into another culture.

A major focus for Starblanket is the legal and linguistic case for applying the term “genocide” and the crime of genocide to the forcible removal of Indigenous children in Canada and their placement in so-called residential schools. It ought to be no mystery that kidnapping is evil and criminal, just as it ought to be no mystery that murder is evil and criminal. But “genocide” is something different from those crimes — different not in quantity or grandeur, but in type. Genocide is an act “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Such an act can involve murder or kidnapping or both or neither. Such an act can “physically” harm no one. It can be any one, or more than one, of these five things:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The actions in item “e” can transfer children to a materially better condition where they are educated in a culture that views itself as dramatically superior, and yet genocide have been clearly committed. That is a clear matter of international law. It is not a claim that all acts of genocide are equally evil, that all victims are equally tragic, that all types of genocide can best be prevented in the same way, or any other such unstated claim.

But the idea of removing children to a materially better condition is a theoretical one irrelevant to the Canadian context, at least when viewed as a whole. The Indigenous children removed from their families in Canada were forced into “schools” where over 40% and likely over 50% of them quickly died, from disease, starvation, torture, rape, suicide, and physical and mental abuse. Of those forced into Dachau by the Nazis, 36% died, Buchenwald 19%, Mauthausen 58%. The Canadian “schools” employed a list of torture techniques that could make a CIA agent drool with envy.

A survivor, Emily Rice, is quoted by Starblanket:

” I clung to Rose until Father Jackson wrenched her out of my arms. I searched all over the boat for Rose. Finally I climbed up to the wheel house and opened the door and there was Father Jackson, on top of my sister. My sister’s dress was pulled up and his pants were down. I was too little to know about sex; but I now know he was raping her. He cursed and came after me, picked up his big black Bible and slapped me across the face and on top of the head. I started crying hysterically and he threw me out onto the deck. When we got to Kuper Island, my sister and I were separated. They wouldn’t let me comfort her. Even today, all my sisters are strangers to me.”

Numerous top Canadian officials over the years stated clearly that the intention of the child-removal program was to eliminated Indigenous cultures. Placing their words and Heinrich Himmler’s words about a similar Nazi program side-by-side finds them virtually interchangeable. In the words of various Canadians, the intent was to utterly remove “the Indian problem.” I suspect, though Starblanket doesn’t discuss it, that part of why U.S. as well as Canadian genocidists perceived an “Indian problem” was that it was impossible to persuade Indigenous adults to adopt the settler-colonist culture, while numerous settlers happily adopted the Indigenous culture and refused to give it up. In other words, fierce methods were needed to destroy cultures precisely because of their desirability — making the acts crimes against humanity, and not-incidentally against the rest of the natural environment.

Proving the crime of genocide does not require the statement of intent, but in this case, as in Nazi Germany, as in today’s Palestine, and as in most if not all cases, there is no shortage of expressions of genocidal intent.

There is also no shortage of genocidal results. Indigenous cultures of Canada were devastated — in no small part because the children subjected to the “schooling” who survived it lacked parenting skills, as well as cultural and linguistic knowledge — in addition to being traumatized, dehumanized, and demonized in their own eyes.

When the treaty to ban genocide was being drafted in 1947, at the same time that Nazis were still being put on trial, and while U.S. government scientists were experimenting on Guatemalans with syphilis, Canadian government “educators” were performing “nutritional experiments” on Indigenous children — that is to say: starving them to death. The original draft of the new law included the crime of cultural genocide. While this was stripped out at the urging of Canada and the United States, it remained in the form of item “e” above. Canada ratified the treaty nonetheless, and despite having threatened to add reservations to its ratification, it did no such thing. But Canada enacted into its domestic law only items “a” and “c” — simply omitting “b,” “d,” and “e” in the list above, despite the legal obligation to include them. Even the United States has included what Canada omited.

Thus, when Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008 apologized for Canada’s crimes, he didn’t indicate any awareness that they were crimes, much less that they were the crime widely understood to be the greatest of all: “genocide.” (At Nuremberg, of course, the chief prosecutor characterized something else as the greatest international crime: war.) In fact, while Harper’s apology certainly looks like a positive step in the right direction, it also reads a little like a Ken Burns Vietnam documentary where “mistakes” flow from “good intentions.” Harper says that children were tortured and killed “partly in order to meet [Canada’s] obligation to educate Aboriginal children.”

Starblanket notes that Indigenous children today are frequently forcibly removed to provincial child “welfare” systems, and that as recently as 2014 (six years after the apology) St. Anne’s School in Ontario was torturing children with electric chairs.

Of course, in the United States, Canada, and other countries, non-Indigenous children are sometimes removed from families believed to be abusive, and sometimes these families are abusive indeed. But one wonders whether the tendency to remove children rather than to aid families in caringly keeping them originated in practices directed against Indigenous peoples, just as every “security” technique I’m now watching in downtown Charlottesville was first justified for use against foreign “enemies.”

Much of the Canadian crime of genocide predates the Genocide Convention, although consisting of numerous other recognized crimes then extant. Current continuations of Canadian genocide may not in all instances any longer constitute, in isolation, genocide. But that genocide is a major element in the story of Canada, as in the story of the United States, as in the culture of Europe and most of its offshoots, there should be no doubt. Bringing ourselves to say the word is not the most important thing we can do about it. But our reluctance to say the word is indicative of the primary problem at the root of it.

I would offer Starblanket the friendly amendment of dropping her proposed use of the term “brainwashing” because of its origins in the CIA-driven propaganda used to claim that U.S. pilots engaged in biological warfare in Korea were telling lies magically implanted in their minds. And I would urge the merging of honest Indigenous understandings of genocide with honest anti-imperialist understandings of war, with the combination opposed to the academic view of genocide as something non-Westerners do, and of war as something noble Westerners use to combat genocide. The fact is that war and genocide are Siamese twins. The slaughters that coated North America with blood were both genocides and wars, and the application of either term to them meets similar resistance. The slaughter of Iraqis by Westerners in recent years has been both war and genocide, and recognizing and understanding both is part of the solution. It is helpful to the antiwar cause when Indigenous North Americans apply their understanding to global peace.

The Kellogg-Briand Pact, which first clearly banned war globally in 1928, as documented in The Internationalists, largely put an end to the acceptability of new wars of conquest. The rule of global law that may be needed for human survival will draw on the wisdom of Indigenous, not colonial, precedents, and will respect local rights in Canada as in Nicaragua, in Crimea as in Kosovo. The changes in law and culture that are most needed are those that will address root causes of suffering and prevent violence and force. But the “forward looking” lawlessness advocated by Barack Obama and even Andrés Manuel López Obrador must be replaced with non-vengeful accountability equally applied to all.

That means law for the powerful as for the weak. That means kidnapping is kidnapping even when in line with colonial views. Murder is murder even when committed by drone or when part of a war. Torture and land-theft are torture and land-theft even when committed on large scales. Prison camps are prison camps when on actual U.S. military bases as when in Hollywood movies set in Nazi Germany. Canadian horrors are horrific even when the Prime Minister is a handsome liberal bowing and scraping to the same oil companies and NATO warmongers.

Canada should seek out the best in its history. There are rich veins there too. Canada should lead by example, add restitution to apology, and make peace at home rather than exporting violence in the name of its supposed “responsibility to protect.” Protect us from such protectors!

What Mass Killers Tend to Have in Common

It may almost seem too obvious to mention, but I don’t think that’s why we so seldom mention it. I don’t mean being male, or being mentally disturbed, or having been cruel to women, or living in places like the United States where it’s easy to acquire weapons of war. These and many other factors are very significant and very often discussed, as they should be, when we consider mass killings.

There’s something else that ties a lot of mass killers together, and it’s also obvious, but seldom discussed. The man who killed with a van in Toronto had been briefly in the Canadian military and promoted his crime on Facebook beforehand as a military operation. The same day he killed in Toronto, the G7 countries were meeting at the University of Toronto and declaring their unified hostility toward Russia. The mass killing on Toronto’s streets sought to solve problems in the same way that the Canadian government and its allies seek to solve problems.

The recent mass-killing in a Florida High School was also promoted by the killer as a military operation, in the sense that he wore his JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) shirt and killed in the same school where the U.S. Army had trained him to shoot and instructed him in war-supporting views of the world and its history.

Why should anyone notice such points or generalize from them? Don’t members of militaries and veterans have it hard enough already without such gross bigotry?

There’s actually no need to generalize. Looking at a long list of mass shootings in the United States, almost all of the shooters are men, and almost all of them are between ages 18 and 59. Above age 59, the percentage of men in the general U.S. population who are veterans leaps up dramatically. Between 18 and 59 — by averaging the percentages for each age year — about 14.76 percent of U.S. men are veterans, but at least 35% of these shooters were veterans. I determined that by quickly reading available news reports online about each shooting, so the percentage is likely to be significantly higher. I found no news reports that stated that any of the shooters had not been in the military.

In U.S. mass shootings, military veterans are over twice as likely to be mass shooters, and probably much more likely than that. Needless to say, this is a statistic about a large population, not information about any particular individual. Needless to say, profiling and discrimination are counterproductive. But here’s what else might be counterproductive: Training people in the arts of mass murder, launching wars, and dropping people trained for wars and having suffered through wars into a heavily armed society taught by schools and entertainment systems that mass-killing is the way to solve problems. Mass killing in the United States gets you on the news, and if you happen to be a president bombing a distant land it gets you widely praised and labeled as “finally presidential.”

Of course it’s possible that people inclined toward mass shootings are also inclined to join the military, that the relationship is a correlation and not a cause. In fact, I would be shocked if there wasn’t some truth to that. But it’s also possible that being trained and conditioned and given a familiarity with mass shootings — and in some cases no doubt an experience of engaging in mass shooting and having it deemed acceptable — makes one more likely to mass shoot. I cannot imagine there isn’t truth in that.

The most killing Western societies do is done abroad by their militaries. In the United States, hundreds of deadly shootings every year are committed by police officers — disproportionately military veterans. Suicides, as well, are disproportionately committed by veterans. And not because we are untactful in pointing to problems, but because we generally fail to admit to and deal with problems. Veteran suicides are driven by guilt over having participated in killing. That guilt is the top factor in predicting suicide, according to the U.S. Veterans Administration.

Militarism will continue to cause extensive damage until we shift our culture to nonviolence. That shift needs to include our governments, and it needs to treat the illness, not just its symptoms. The answer to gun violence is not more guns any more than the answer to van violence is more vans. I hope that seems obvious. It should.

“Why, This Isn’t Cuba”

Back in the 1890s those who believed conquering a continent was killing enough (without taking over Hawaii, the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, etc.) included Speaker of the House Thomas Reed. He clipped an article out of a newspaper about a lynching in South Carolina. He clipped a headline about “Another Outrage in Cuba.” He pasted the two together (fake news!) and gave them to a Congressman from South Carolina who was pushing for a war on Cuba. The Congressman eagerly read the article, then stopped, looked puzzled, and remarked: “Why, this isn’t Cuba.”

I recommend trying this trick. Clip an article about Israelis murdering Palestinians, or some outrage in a U.S. prison or a Saudi square or under the rain of humanitarian bombs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Libya, or elsewhere; paste it below a headline about Iran, North Korea, Bashar al Assad, or Vladimir Putin. Show it to the person closest to your Congress member or senators with whom you are able to get into the same room or reach by email. Or just show it to someone who has the misfortune to own a television.

Outrages should be outrages because of what they are, not because of who commits them. Good luck finding that to be the case in the United States today!

Here’s an excerpt from my new book, Curing Exceptionalism:

In exceptionalist nationalism, as perhaps in all nationalism, “we” are to adopt a first-person plural identity alive for centuries, so that “we fought the British” and “we won the Cold War.” This self-identification, especially when combined with the belief in exceptional superiority, inclines the believer toward focusing on noble things “we” did, and away from shameful things “we” did, even though personally he or she deserves neither credit for the former nor blame for the latter. “The nationalist,” wrote George Orwell, “not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”[i]

On page 1 of the Cheneys’ book: “We have guaranteed freedom, security, and peace for a larger share of humanity than has any other nation in all of history.”[ii] Such claims are, as here, generally not footnoted or explained. In the context of what follows it, the claim seems based largely on an analysis of World War II as the promotion of freedom and peace, and on a history of World War II that leaves out the lion’s share of the Allies’ fighting in Europe that was done by the Soviet Union.

The claim that “we” are the leading bringers of peace and freedom may, of course, also be based on U.S. wars and weapons production since World War II. Certainly, if whoever fights the most wars and produces the most weapons brings the most peace and freedom to the earth, then the United States takes the title. But outside the United States, this logic is far from universally accepted — quite the contrary. Most countries polled in December 2013 by Gallup called the United States the greatest threat to peace in the world.[iii] A survey by Pew in 2017 found similar results.[iv]

Since World War II, during what some U.S. academics think of as a golden age of peace, the U.S. military has killed or helped kill some 20 million people, overthrown at least 36 governments, interfered in at least 84 foreign elections, attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders, and dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries.[v] The U.S. military costs nearly as much as the rest of the world’s militaries combined, while the U.S., NATO members, and their allies account for three-quarters of the world’s military spending. U.S. weapons dealing is exceptional in the sense of leading all others, but quite inclusive in terms of its clients. The United States, as noted above, as of 2017 provided weapons and in most cases training to 73 percent of the world’s dictatorships.[vi] It is certainly possible to find good results from some of this, but a clear-eyed understanding requires weighing the good against the bad. Is the globe that fails to appreciate all of this global policing made up of a bunch of ingrates? Or is the policing model seriously flawed?

Avoiding national criticism, or self-reflection on “us,” risks allowing generosity to serve as a cover for a double standard. What might Americans think if another nation were to do some of its own freedom-promoting around the world? Such would be the behavior of a “rogue nation.” Here is a count of military bases in the world that exist outside their nations’ borders:[vii]

United States — 800

Russia — 9

France — 8

United Kingdom — 8

Japan — 1

South Korea — 1

The Netherlands — 1

India — 1

Australia — 1

Chile — 1

Turkey — 1

Israel — 1

In 2007, the president of Ecuador told the United States that it could keep its base in Ecuador as long as Ecuador could have one in Miami, Florida.[viii] The idea was, of course, ridiculous and outrageous.

Of the United Nations’ 18 major human rights treaties, the United States is party to 5, fewer than any other nation on earth, except Bhutan (4), and tied with Malaya, Myanmar, and South Sudan, a country torn by warfare since its creation in 2011.[ix] Is the United States functioning as the world’s law enforcer from a location outside the world’s laws? Or is something else going on?

That the United States has done something should not weigh for or against that thing. Actions should stand or fall on their own merits. But the Cheneys tell us we must see a “moral difference between an Iranian nuclear weapon and an American one.” Must we, really? Either risks further proliferation, accidental use, use by a crazed leader, mass death and destruction, environmental disaster, retaliatory escalation, and apocalypse. One of those two nations has nuclear weapons[x], has used nuclear weapons[xi], has provided the other with plans for nuclear weapons[xii], has a policy of first-use of nuclear weapons[xiii], has leadership that sanctions the possession of nuclear weapons[xiv], and has frequently threated to use nuclear weapons[xv]. I don’t think those facts would make a nuclear weapon in the hands of the other country the least bit moral.

If you’re wondering, U.S. presidents who have made specific public or secret nuclear threats to other nations, that we know of, have included Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump, while others, including Barack Obama, have frequently said things like “All options are on the table” in relation to Iran or another country.[xvi]

Notes

[i] George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism,” http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/nationalism/english/e_nat.

[ii] Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney, Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America (Threshold Editions, 2015).

[iii] Meredith Bennett-Smith, “Womp! This Country Was Named The Greatest Threat To World Peace,” HuffPost, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/02/greatest-threat-world-peace-country_n_4531824.html (January 23, 2014).

[iv] Dorothy Manevich and Hanyu Chwe, “Globally, more people see U.S. power and influence as a major threat,” Pew Research Center,http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/08/01/u-s-power-and-influence-increasingly-seen-as-threat-in-other-countries (August 1, 2017).

[v] David Swanson, “U.S. Wars and Hostile Actions: A List,” Let’s Try Democracy, http://davidswanson.org/warlist.

[vi] David Swanson, “U.S. Wars and Hostile Actions: A List,” Let’s Try Democracy, http://davidswanson.org/warlist.

[vii] David Swanson, “What Are Foreign Military Bases for?,” Let’s Try Democracy, http://davidswanson.org/what-are-foreign-military-bases-for (July 13, 2015).

[viii] Phil Stewart, “Ecuador wants military base in Miami,” Reuters, https://uk.reuters.com/article/ecuador-base/ecuador-wants-military-base-in-miami-idUKADD25267520071022 (October 22, 2007).

[ix] “The Core International Human Rights Instruments and their monitoring bodies,” United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CoreInstruments.aspx.

[x] David Swanson, “Talk Nation Radio: Gareth Porter: Iran Has Never Had a Nuclear Weapons Program,” Let’s Try Democracy, http://davidswanson.org/talk-nation-radio-gareth-porter-iran-has-never-had-a-nuclear-weapons-program-3 (February 12, 2014).

[xi] David Swanson, “Hiroshima Haunting,” Let’s Try Democracy,” http://davidswanson.org/hiroshima-haunting (August 6, 2017).

[xii] David Swanson, “Video: RT Covers Jeffrey Sterling Trial,” Let’s Try Democracy, http://davidswanson.org/video-rt-covers-jeffrey-sterling-trial-2 (January 16, 2015).

[xiii] “Nuclear Posture Review,” U.S. Department of Defense, https://www.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/NPR.

[xiv] “Al Khamenei’s Fatwa Against Nuclear Weapons,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_Khamenei%27s_fatwa_against_nuclear_weapons.

[xv] Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (Bloomsbury USA , 2017), http://www.ellsberg.net/category/doomsday-machine.

[xvi] Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (Bloomsbury USA , 2017), http://www.ellsberg.net/category/doomsday-machine.

Take a Knee and a Stand

Remarks at Saint Mary’s Hall, San Antonio, Texas, March 1, 2018

Thank you for inviting me. What I contended in the article that got me invited here was that one of the biggest taboos in the United States, one of the behaviors treated most as a heresy, as a violation of national religion, is disrespect for the U.S. flag, the national anthem, and the patriotic militarist exceptionalism that accompany those icons.

We’ve just seen a school shooting in Florida by a young man trained to shoot by the U.S. Army in the very school where he killed his classmates, and you will find virtual silence on that fact, and the silence is self-imposed. Veterans are over twice as likely, statistically, to be mass shooters, and you will not read that in any newspaper. (And, needless to say, it is not somehow grounds for engaging in bigotry toward veterans or for foregoing obvious solutions like banning guns.)

Progressive multi-issue activist coalitions are formed constantly in this country, the Climate March, the Women’s March, etc., and although the military is the top consumer of petroleum, although it sucks down 60% of the funding that Congress votes on, although it endangers us, erodes our liberties, and militarizes our police and our schools, it goes unmentioned. Foreign policy is unquestionable. Socialism includes no internationalism today.

So, there’s something very remarkable about demonstrating against racist police violence by departing from the mandatory body position during the national anthem. It garners attention because it is so very unusual.

And this is uniquely American. Many other countries reserve flags and anthems for international competitions and major occasions, not every adult or child sporting event. In much of the world if you even see any flag, you can ignore it without being suspended from school or shut out of your sports career. Kids have been suspended from U.S. schools for taking a knee as well as for refusing to pledge allegiance, Colin Kaepernick is unemployed, the U.S. President wants those who take a knee fired for “disrespecting our flag.” And that’s a step up from the Alabama Pastor who says anyone who takes a knee should be shot. (But the U.S. Vice President feels entitled to refuse to stand for a flag of Korean unity, despite the obvious passion for it of tens of thousands of people around him.)

Flag Day was created by President Woodrow Wilson on the birthday of the U.S. Army during the propaganda campaign for World War I. To my knowledge in only two countries do children regularly recite a pledge to a flag. The original stiff-arm salute they made in the U.S. was changed to a hand on the heart after a straight arm became associated with Nazism. Nowadays, visitors from abroad are often shocked to see U.S. children instructed to stand and robotically chant an oath of obedience to a piece of colored cloth.

U.S. families who lose a loved one in war are presented with a flag instead. A majority of Americans supports criminalizing the burning of a U.S. flag. The U.S. flag appears on Catholic altars in some states, as well as in other churches and sacred arenas.

Texas, with its own national war-making history, may be an exception, but for the most part people do not treat local or state or United Nations or world flags as sacred. It is exclusively the flag that accompanies a military that must be worshiped — a military that pays the National Football League millions of public dollars to perform pro-military ceremonies.

At least some of the players taking a knee will certainly tell you they love the flag (and the troops, and the wars). I have absolutely no interest in pretending to speak for them. They speak very well for themselves. But I am appreciative, whether they like it or not, of their willingness to protest racism by challenging flag worship. I think this is a benefit to both freedom of speech and freedom of religion. After all, freedom of religion rests fundamentally on the ability to refrain from engaging in sacred rituals.

Have you listened carefully to, or read the full lyrics to the U.S. national anthem? The third verse celebrates killing people who had just escaped from slavery. An earlier version had celebrated killing Muslims. The lyricist himself, Francis Scott Key, owned people as slaves and supported lawless police killings of African Americans. Strip the song down to its first verse, and it remains a celebration of war, of the mass killing of human beings, of a war of conquest that failed to take over Canada and instead got the White House burned. And during the course of that valorous piece of blood-soaked stupidity, Key witnessed a battle in which human beings died but a flag survived. And I’m supposed to stand, like an obedient mindless robot, and worship that glorious incident, and it’s supposed to matter what I do with my hand, but not what I do with my brain?

I take that back. I’m expected to switch my brain to low-power mode in order to take seriously claims to the effect that militarism protects my freedom, and that I should therefore give up some of my freedom for it. Before the U.S. attacked Iraq in 2003, the CIA said that the only scenario in which Iraq was likely to use any of its vast new stockpiles of “weapons of mass destruction” was if Iraq was attacked. Apart from the nonexistence of the weapons, that was right. The same applies to North Korea. But if North Korea were able to and did launch a missile at the United States, that would still not constitute a threat to your freedoms in particular. It would be a threat to your life. With the age of conquest and colonization gone for three-quarters of a century, and with numbers suggesting that North Korea might need more than its entire population in order to occupy the United States, the chance that North Korea is a threat to your freedom is exactly zero.

But the bombing of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Libya, and the threats to North Korea are generating a lot more enemies than they kill. So the threat to your life is real, although the threat to your life posed by automobiles, toddlers with guns, and dozens of other dangers is greater. And the militarism strips away freedoms in the name of protecting them. Recent wars have brought us warrantless surveillance, drones in the skies, lawless imprisonment, mass deportations, expanded government secrecy, whistleblowers imprisoned, public demonstrations contained in cages, metal detectors and cameras everywhere, inauguration protesters facing felony charges, and various powers moved from Congress to the White House.

A couple of weeks ago I did a public debate with a professor of ethics from West Point on whether war is ever justifiable. The video is at davidswanson dot org. I argued that not only can no war possibly meet the criteria of just war theory, but if one war could, it would have to do so much good as to outweigh all the damage done by keeping the institution of war around, including the risk of nuclear apocalypse, and including the death and suffering far greater than in all the wars created by the diversion of resources away from human and environmental needs. Three percent of U.S. military spending, for example, could end starvation globally. While I don’t get enough minutes to make the case for war abolition here, I bring it up to make the following point.

If you view war as an outdated institution, then you want to help everyone engaged in it to transition out of it. Did you know that the U.S. is the only nation on earth that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child which forbids the military recruitment of children, and that the U.S. military describes the JROTC, as in that school in Florida, as a recruitment program?

The propaganda technique of claiming that if you oppose a war you favor the other side in the war, and that if you oppose flag worship you hate the troops who make up the U.S. military, falls apart when you oppose all war making, and when you support only those enemies in the eyes of the Pentagon that threaten rather than boost its recruitment, namely: free college, free healthcare, good schools, and the general social benefits available to countries that don’t dump their treasuries into militarism. Mine are not the positions of a traitor, an insult I’m not fond of. Nor are they the positions of a so-called true patriot, a compliment I’m also not fond of. Patriotism is a problem. We don’t need to make America great or declare it already great; we need to recognize the greatness of our own entire and many other species on this fragile little planet.

Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Of course, a country has millions of flaws and of achievements. I propose not feeling pride or shame or identifying with a country or national government at all. I propose identifying with humanity and with smaller communities.

I also propose taking notice of the fact that the United States now bombs several nations at a time, none of which contain primarily people labeled “white.” “Why should they ask me,” said Muhammed Ali, “to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

Why should they ask you even if people in Louisville were treated well? Protesting racist violence but not militarism is a million miles better than nothing. But it is still a major failure to protest racist violence.

Dr. King said we needed to take on racism, militarism, and extreme materialism together. He told the truth.

In a lyric that was sung at the Olympic opening ceremony, John Lennon advised: Imagine there are no countries. It isn’t hard to do. He lied. For most people it is very hard to do. But it is something we very badly need to work on.

Can You Give Two Days to Stop the Slaughter?

The power of mass demonstrations to mobilize activism and move those in positions of power is minimized, first and foremost, by those opposed to popular power. Do not listen to them. Make them listen to us!

Can you give two days to stop the slaughter of innocents and the shameless profiteering from their blood? If you can give more, so much the better. But by giving two days, you will guarantee that others will give more. You will be part of building the necessary momentum, the key ingredient in social change.

These are the two days to give: March 24 and November 11. If you can’t give those, or want more, pick some others. But here’s why I say those two, and why the top priority is to be in Washington, D.C., but just as important is to be visible everywhere else.

March 24

On March 24 in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere in the U.S. (and beyond?), students and teachers and everyone else who values lives over guns will marchagainst gun violence. But the strategy will be weak unless millions of us uninvited marchers show up to augment the message with what it is not permissible to say. The culture of gun violence is fueled by the culture of militarism and by the military. A hugely disproportionate share of mass-shooters have beenU.S. military veterans. Some have been JROTC students. The recent killer in Florida was trained to kill by the U.S. Army in the very school where he killed. The JROTC’s “history” classes, the Army’s video games, the military’s role in producing Hollywood movies, the Pentagon’s unloading of old weapons on police departments and the general public — this is all done with our tax dollars. The NRA understands the connections perfectly, and churns out advertisements promoting more wars. If we don’t make the connections, we won’t win. So, bring these signsAnd help us keep military recruiters out of schools.

By the way, March 24 was the day in 1999 when the United States and NATO began 78 days of bombing Yugoslavia. Here’s a discussion of exactly how destructive that was. Fittingly, March 24 is also International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims. A great day around which to create a new holiday tradition!

So, go sign up here! And (this is important!) politely encourage the organizers to acknowledge the existence of the JROTC.

November 11

Since the United States destroyed North Korea almost 70 years ago, November 11 has been called, in the United States, “Veterans Day.” This year, Donald Trump proposes to stage a giant parade of weaponry through the streets of Washington, D.C. But prior to the intense propaganda campaign around the brutal bombardment that leveled most North Korean cities, and to this day in much of the rest of the world, November 11 is known as Armistice Day, or in some places Remembrance Day.

At 11 o’clock on this 11th day of the 11th month, 100 years ago this year, World War I ended. It was a scheduled end to the war, with the killing and dying pointlessly continuing right up to that moment. The worldwide celebration after the armistice was euphoric. And those who had believed the propaganda about a “war to end all war” and those who had not were united in desiring to make it true. Armistice Day was for years promoted by the U.S. government among others as a day to work for global friendship and peace. Parading the instruments of death that suck down 60% of the budget Congress votes on each year is not a way to build friendship or peace.

But our “Armistice Day, Not Trump Day” will be weak if it includes only those who have learned to reject war propaganda and dedicated themselves to ending war and weapons dealing. We need, again, from the other direction, to make the connections. We need to include in our peace parade those who reject the militarization of schools, of police, or borders, and of entertainment. Those who care about the earth’s climate must not sit by while the single greatest contributors to climate change are paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue. Those who care about investment in human needs will metaphorically shoot themselves in the foot if they fail to oppose the glorification of wasting trillions of dollars on weaponry. Those who want safety need to earn it by demonstrating to the world that people in the United States do not agree with the policy of bombing foreign countries.

So, go sign up here, and invite people and organizations to do so too. And if we help prevent the Trumparade from happening, our celebration will go forward — even bigger and better!

Can Madness Be Cured By Marching?

“Madness in individuals is something rare; 
but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

The two marches planned for March and for November are the same march when seen from the perspective of a national psychiatrist. The racism, militarism, and extreme materialism they address are a single disease.

The U.S. has had mass shootings on military bases full of people with guns. The U.S. has filled its schools with armed guards, who have not prevented a single shooting but have criminalized children’s behavior. Proposing to put more guns into schools is not a sane proposal.

Other nations have banned guns, or banned the worst guns, and seen dramatic decreases in mass shootings. Throwing up one’s hands and exclaiming that nothing can be done is not the action of a population or sub-population that is thinking straight.

The U.S. puts almost as much money into war weaponry as the rest of the world combined, with much of the rest of the world buying U.S. weaponry pushed on it by a U.S. State Department turned into a weapons dealer. The result is anti-U.S. hostility at levels other nations can’t imagine going to such expense and effort to generate. Celebrating the weapons that endanger and impoverish is a form of sickness.

Each war kills large numbers of innocent people, disproportionately the very old and the very young. Each day, the vast majority of the people killed with U.S. weapons are outside the United States. Each war leaves a new area of the world devastated, more violent, and a greater threat to others.

When you’re in a hole, the first step is not to use explosives to dig faster.

There are some things, said Dr. King, to which we should insist on remaining maladjusted.

In a time of universal deceit, said George Orwell, telling the truth becomes an act of rebellion.

Can a large group of thoughtful, committed citizens change the world? Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.