Category Archives: Anti-war

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?

Remnants of War

Intense fighting and hideous attacks battered Afghans throughout their country last week as negotiators in Qatar weighed the benefits and costs of  a peace agreement that might stop the bloodshed.

In Kabul at least 40 people, including one child, were killed in a complex Taliban attack. Dozens of children whose school was partially collapsed by a massive car bomb were injured. Of these, 21 were hospitalized with serious injuries.

New York Times correspondent Mujib Mashal posted (on Twitter) a photo of an elementary school child being carried into the Italian Emergency Surgical Center for Victims of War in Kabul. “Blood on his face,” Mashal writes, describing the child. “Still in shock. Still clutching that pencil.”

The same attack damaged a television station, a government facility and an adjoining private war museum.

Operated by OMAR, (Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation), a group dedicated to the never-ending and often dangerous work of mine-clearance and disposal, the war museum houses ordnance and land mines used in Afghanistan during four decades of warfare. In 2012, young Afghan Peace Volunteers took me to see the museum. I recall a small exhibit showing remnants of a United States cluster bomb. The remnants are called bomblets, and each cluster bomb consists of 202 bomblets. They resemble children’s playthings, items that could be stepped on, driven over or picked up by curious children.

The U.S. dropped 1,228 cluster bombs in Afghanistan between October 2001 and March 2002 alone. The Afghan landscape is now littered by anti-personnel and anti-tank mines which OMAR is striving to remove, where permitted, before more Afghan civilians are killed. Research by the Mine Action Program of Afghanistan indicates, in the first three months of the current year, 130 Afghan boys and girls were casualties of “ERW:” “Explosive Remnants of War”.

As negotiations inched forward, two Afghan government airstrikes, possibly using United States assistance, hit civilians, killing 7 members of a family in the Baghlan province and four civilians in a clinic in Maidan Wardak province.

The Taliban, U.S. Government, and every other warring party in Afghanistan must be asked: “How many more civilians, including children, are you willing to kill and maim?”

The second time I visited the OMAR museum was with my friend Martha Hennessy. We were asked not to take photos, but Martha had already snapped a picture of a carpet carefully woven to illustrate several types of land mines Afghans should watch out for. The carpet was hung on a wall, but actual mines lie in the paths to be traversed by innocent Afghans. On the phone with me discussing the recent Kabul attack, Martha mentioned that carpet and reflected on the terrible carpeting of Afghanistan with barbarous ordnance.

Photo by Martha Hennessy

Martha now faces up to 20 years in prison for protesting the most barbarous and inhumane weaponry ever invented.

Martha, a granddaughter of the Catholic Worker Movement’s founder Dorothy Day, is one of seven Catholic activists, the “King’s Bay Plowshares Seven“, whose April 4, 2018 action was in accord with their deeply held beliefs that life is sacred, and must not be taken in war. The U.S. naval base at King’s Bay, Georgia houses nuclear-missile-armed Trident submarines. Entering without permission, they hung banners, displayed crime scene tape and poured their blood on the base grounds. They protested the U.S.’ preparations, far exceeding those of any other nation, to commit “omnicide”, to carpet the world in fire, in fallout, in the snows of a deadly “nuclear winter,” in ash. For the past fifteen months, they’ve awaited trial on charges of conspiracy, destruction of property on a naval station, depredation of government property, and trespass. They feel that U.S. readiness for war must be put on trial now, or potentially never.

Another of Martha’s co-defendants has been a guest, like us, of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. Our friend Carmen Trotta recalls a visit to the Emergency Surgical Center for Victims of War, an Italy-based hospital that treated many victims of the recent Kabul attacks. In 2014 we had visited the hospital to donate blood, and met Jamshaid and Farshaid, young teens who had survived a suicide bomb attack on the United States military base in Bagram. They had been standing outside their school outside the base when the attack happened. Farshaid’s leg had been amputated. Jamshaid had lost much of his vision. We asked Michaela Paschetto, a young Italian nurse, how they were faring.

“Today was a bad day for them,” she said. “Really, I don’t ask so many questions,” she continued. “It becomes too much.”

“I didn’t know what to say,” Carmen recalls. “I honestly couldn’t think of a word to say.”

Carmen, Martha and each of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 will have their say, however brief, in a Brunswick County federal court on August 7. Oral arguments will be heard including several motions as well as their belief they opposed the U.S. nuclear arsenal in accord with their religious faith. They have consistently opposed weapons and wars and just as steadfastly served, as members of Dorothy Day’s movement, their impoverished neighbors. They understand the wars, the omnicidal weapons awaiting their use at King’s Bay, and the suffering of the U.S. poor as, in some sense, all part of a global war on the poor.

Depending on whether we resist or acquiesce, grieve or complacently ignore, we ourselves risk becoming the tragic, perpetually dangerous remnants of war.

Venezuela in “Misery”: Lies and Deceit by the Media

To the Editor in CHIEF

New York Times — 18 May 2019

Venezuela’s Collapse Is the Worst Outside of War in Decades, Economists Say

Subtitle:

Butchers have stopped selling meat cuts in favor of offal, fat shavings and cow hooves, the only animal protein many of their customers can afford.

This introduction is accompanied by a picture of a man in rags, pushing a shopping cart through a garbage dump site. You, NYT, say it is in Maracaibo, Venezuela, the man looking for recyclables. The photo could be from anywhere, the same with a picture further down in the text – depicting a young woman nursing a baby in the dark – you say in a typical Venezuelan blackout.

This is a flagrant misrepresentation of what’s going on in Venezuela.

The New York Times is known for selecting photos from places of misery, could be slums from anywhere in the world, and placing them where it is most convenient to propagate a lie story – a story meant to demean a country in the public opinion, a country that the empire wants to subdue by bashing and insulting it – so the public – the braindead western public, notably in the US and Europe, will tolerate or even scream for a “humanitarian invasion” from the friendly US of A.

Why don’t you NYT’s shameful liars tell the full truth?

Who is responsible for the collapse, the lack of food, medicine, blackouts – actually for all of the collapses that you described in your manipulating master piece of deceit and propaganda? – And many more ‘collapses’ that you don’t even mention?

The NYT article compares Venezuela with “Zimbabwe’s collapse under Robert Mugabe, the fall of the Soviet Union, and Cuba’s disastrous unraveling in the 1990s”. The Times is completing its baseless preposterous accusation by saying, “the crumbling of Venezuela’s economy has now outpaced them all. Venezuela’s fall is the single largest economic collapse outside of war in at least 45 years, economists say.”

The economist your article quotes is none less than the former chief economist of the IMF, Harvard professor, Kenneth Rogoff, one of the most neoliberal, bordering on neofascist, economists you could have chosen. But that figures. Impressing with name calling. No matter how biased they are; no matter that they too defend the US hardline – invade Venezuela to safe the people.

Whom do you think you impress with such names? The ignorant, of course, and – yes – there are plenty of them in the great and unique US of A; and your key objective and that of most MSM is to keep them ignorant, so the exceptional nation can continue sowing misery around the globe for the benefit of a few – killing millions and millions of innocent people, for power, the theft of resources and world hegemony.

Aren’t you – the Editor in Chief – ashamed for putting up a totally false scenario? – One of lies and half-truths, all with the objective of further brainwashing the western public – into becoming warmongers, like your criminal government, and like your criminal paper. Yes, the NYT is a criminal paper, for doing what it does: Lying after lying to sway public opinion towards war, towards killing – mass-killing, mass-murder, that’s what your government has been doing for the last 70 years – all under false flags and lies, pretending fighting terrorists, yet, fomenting terrorism, while building up the base for world hegemony – and insane profits for the American war industrial complex – the oligarchs of death.

Did you know – you must! – that the US economy could not survive PEACE; that this sadistic and satanic economy depends on war, permanent war? That the war machine manufacturing complex and its associated industries and services account for more than 50% of the US GDP? And do you realize – you should! – that the US’s economic output is one of destruction – of killing, of annihilation – instead of building and developing human knowledge and wellbeing, the intrinsic thrive of human society – evolving in conscience, integrity and conscientiousness towards living well for all?

How is that for an exceptional nation? – Indeed, an exceptional nation, a nation in disrespect of all international laws and conventions – just breaching the Vienna Convention to which the US is party – by violating the diplomatic code, invading the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington and a few years ago, by seizing Russian diplomatic properties in Washington and New York.  Wonderful precedents for other unaligned and disobedient countries to prepare for – but also for other countries – if and when they wake up and take their courage into their mind and fist – to do the same to US Embassies on their soil. What would Washington do? Does Washington even consider such a possibility? I guess not. But it’s the easiest thing to do – retaliate.

It would just take a number of countries acting in solidarity, simultaneously – and Bingo! – the emperor will be standing there with his pants down.

Your paper didn’t mention this little diplomatic episode that happened a few days ago in the context of lawlessness, of breaching the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations which entered into effect in April 1964, one of the few sacrosanct UN Conventions on diplomacy of which the US is a signatory.

Back to the Venezuelan “misery” you, Mr. Editor in Chief, and the NYT are so eager to report on. Why don’t you say that the United States of America – the self-proclaimed exceptional nation, with war criminals leading it – is responsible for far most of the suffering of Venezuela, through its totally illegal (who cares in Washington about legality) sanctions, blockage of food and medical imports, theft and confiscation of some US$ 130 billion in Venezuelan assets and reserve funds in US banks and around the world, economic blackmail and strangulation that has, according to economists Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington D.C. and Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University, caused the death of some 40,000 Venezuelans.

This racist, misogynist and neofascist government, centered in and around the Swamp of Washington, is responsible for most of the suffering in the world today, by planting wars and conflicts – eternal war on terror; the same terrorists, trained, funded and armed by the very Washington, the CIA, the Pentagon, NATO and the spineless European puppets – for power, domination and theft of resources.

Does the NYT ever report on this? – Why can’t you, the NYT and YOU, the Editor in Chief, for once be honest and stand up for true journalism? – Because you would lose your job? Right, that’s it, isn’t it? – So, why don’t you pull out your card of ethics that you subscribed to in  the school of journalism – from deep-deep down in your soul – look at it, internalize it – and think how much more you will be gaining in esteem around the world, if you bring the truth to the people, rather than keep lying – and brainwashing the world into war, misery and death? – Try it. You may be surprised.

Don’t you think, Dear Editor in Chief, sooner or later this lie-propaganda, this abject non-journalism will haunt you eventually all the way into the grave?

People will wake up, the empire will fall, it’s just a matter of time. What will you do then?

Switch sides?  You truly think, you really honestly think, people will believe you? – And I mean you and your paper, the once-upon-a-time highly reputed New York Times? That the people are so dumb to forever buy your lies, your untruths? – It’s now or never that you should switch sides. You may feel the brunt for a while from those who pretend running the world, but deep down in your soul you still have a spark of ethic left. Pull it out. Bring it to light. It will reward your life forever.

Largely thanks to you, the NYT and your think-alike AngloZionist mass-media colleagues and partners in crime – which encourage people to call for wars, for invasions, conflicts and regime change, all based on your deceit, misinformation and false flags – as a disgraceful result of these lies millions and millions of people have been killed around the globe. Estimates put the figure at between 20 and 25 million since the end of WWII – all by the US, NATO, and their proxies and vassalic European minions.

By repeatedly spreading lies and deception, you are creating a false truth, indoctrinating people into consensus for wars and more wars, for invading and killing more innocent people, for the benefit of a few kleptomaniac oligarchs, stealing natural resources and, especially, of the corrupt war machine. Goebbels, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, had it right, when he said: Give me control of the media and I convert the people into a herd of pigs. Most of the western populace is already a herd of pigs.

Venezuelans are no herd of pigs. They, and Cubans, Nicaraguans, Bolivians, Iranians, Syrians, Russians, Chinese – and many other sanctioned, blackmailed and suffocated people, have been resisting and will continue to resist, no matter what it takes to bring the empire to its knees. Let’s face it, the latest amok race around the globe dishing out sanctions and more sanctions – from Venezuela, to Iran, to China, to North Korea, to Syria, to Iraq – by the ultra-dangerous, sadistic warrior-jokers, Bolton, Pompeo, Abrams, Pence – and not to forget, the Goldie-Lock of incompetence in the White House – with a fleet of the largest warplane carriers encircling the seas of Iran and the Gulf of Hormuz – these people and the scenarios they create, are a true reflection of hopelessness befalling a fading empire.

You, the New York Times, could help bringing this abject war on terror, the merciless killing of millions to an end, accelerate the downfall of the empire, by spreading the truth – the truth that you, Editor in Chief, as well as many of your colleague journalists know – by stepping out of your MSM-box, making a 180-degree U-turn, siding with the people, the 99.99% who crave PEACE. – You would earn and receive an enormous THANK-YOU.

Embassy Protection Collective: We’re Still Here And We’re Staying

The Embassy Protection Collective formed on April 10, the day after the Trump administration manipulated the Organization of American States (OAS) to change the rules so they could recognize their puppet, Juan Guaido, as president of Venezuela. The OAS could not get the required two-thirds vote to recognize a government so they changed the rules to a mere majority and barely got that. By then, the US had allowed their Guaido coup forces to take the Venezuelan military attaché building in Washington, DC and three diplomatic offices in New York City.

The Trump administration is allowing extreme violent right-wing Guaido supporters to blockade the embassy. Despite a standoff in the last week, we had a series of victories over those forces and remain steadfast protectors of the embassy.

Surround the embassy with love and resistance

We adopted a theme song for the Embassy Protection Collective, “We’re Still Here” by Holly Neer. The chorus begins with:

We’re Still Here
Choosing Love Over Fear
When the Lines Are All Drawn
We’re Still Here

Challenges and Victories

We woke up on April 30 to the news that Juan Guaido was going to attempt a coup again, which made us wonder why he needs to conduct a coup if he is the “president.” We were alerted by our Venezuelan allies that this second coup attempt would be easily defeated, which it was, but to expect coup-supporters in the US to protest at the embassy.

In fact, the extremist Venezuelan coup supporters showed up that morning and tried to take over the steps in front of the building. A team of embassy protectors took a stand on the steps and stopped them from taking over the entry. More violent extremists showed up throughout the day, causing police to erect a barricade between us in front of the embassy. We sang almost non-stop to keep ourselves from engaging with them while they blew sirens and other loud noises and insulted and threatened us shouting racist and misogynist comments and using lewd gestures. Police refused to pass food and water to us or to allow our allies into the space in front of the embassy. We held that space through the night by taking shifts.

In the courtyard behind the embassy, the pro-coup forces harassed, intimidated, threatened and assaulted our allies outside who bravely prevented them from entering the building while folks inside set up reinforcements to stop them from coming in the door. This lasted until 1:00 in the morning.

The next day, May 1, we agreed to cede the front steps if the police would protect the front porch and doors from damage. We moved inside to focus on protecting the embassy from within, thinking the police would honor their duty to protect the embassy from harm. That afternoon, Carlos Vecchio, Guaido’s fake “ambassador” showed up, with the intention of taking over the embassy.

We were ready for him to enter and be forced to remove us. As he came to the front porch to speak, we stood resolute behind him holding signs and chanting, ‘No Coup.’ When he began to speak, we cut off the power to his sound system and out-shouted him. Vecchio was forced to flee, chased by reporter Anya Parampil who asked him, “Where are you going next, the White House?”  A representative vaguely told the crowd they were “working on a process to evict us.” The coup failed in Venezuela on April 30, and failed again in Washington, DC on May 1.

Parampil

✔ @anyaparampil

Anya Parampil

✔ @anyaparampil

Watch @carlosvecchio’s staff fail to answer what they plan to do from within the Maduro government’s embassy, considering they won’t even be able to issue visas.

Also can’t answer why their colleagues attended a DC think tank meeting to plan for the invasion of Venezuela. pic.twitter.com/xHXWc7bRua

The coup supporters started setting up tents around the embassy that night and blocking our people from entering the building as police stood by and did nothing. When members of CODE PINK brought food the next day, surrounded by clergy, they were stopped from delivering it. Two allies, Ariel Gold of CODE PINK and Chris Herz tossed bread and other foods onto a patio to us. They were arrested and charged with “hurling missiles” at a building.

We pushed back at police for not allowing the food in, and they provided a blockade for our members to come down and get the groceries. Coup supporters stole hundreds of dollars worth of the food. We were also able to get some medications in that day for people who required it. Since then, we have struggled to get supplies. When we lowered a rope from a window and successfully brought up four bags of food, the coup supporters rushed a barricade and assaulted our allies. It was our people who were threatened with arrest even though they were the ones who were knocked to the ground.

An older gentleman from the neighborhood wanted to bring us toothbrushes and toothpaste. He was swarmed by the violent extremists. When he tried to pass between two people to get to the door, he was thrown to the ground violently and seriously injured. He was arrested, not the ones who threw him down. It has become common for police to arrest the victims of assault, not the people who committed the assault.

These seem to be US-trained regime change operatives who use violence, psy-ops and and intimidation against us. Some are Nicaraguans and Cubans, not Venezuelans. They have unlimited resources. They are constantly bringing in more supplies. From early in the morning, we are surrounded by them and subjected to their sirens, banging of pots and pans, loud music, taunts and threats of physical harm.

They have tried to break in numerous times. They drilled through a door to the garage and damaged the lift gate with a sledgehammer. On Friday night, they banged on the doors so hard for hours that they were damaging them. We had to fortify the old wooden doors so they would not break through. The Secret Service watched while they did it and not only let them but refused to say they would protect our safety. When we called them, they said we should ask the Venezuelan government for help. It took hundreds of calls from supporters to get them to stop.

The Secret Service is allowing them to do all they can to intimidate us very likely under orders from the White House. They want the extremists to frighten us so we leave the embassy. Their actions have had the opposite effect. They have united us in our determination to protect the embassy.

Despite being barricaded in the building and cut off from access to supplies, we are victorious. We are still here and there is little chance of eviction because we are violating no laws. We have built a powerful and united community that works together to protect the embassy and to keep the violent extremists and Trump administration out.

Surrounding the Embassy with Love and Resistance

The Trump administration realizes that entering the Venezuelan Embassy in violation of the Vienna Convention would set a precedent that could put US embassies around the world at risk. As a result, they are allowing right-wing extremists to harass and threaten us and try to starve us out. That is their only hope of taking over the embassy.

We refuse to give in no matter what they do. Our lawyers are making sure there is a record of the incidents, which we have in large part due to our embedded media, Anya Parampil of The Grayzone Project and Alex Rubinstein of Mintpress News. We also have to give a shout out to TeleSur, who was embedded with us until the pro-coup forces arrived and now is providing coverage from the outside. Allies outside are identifying the pro-coup actors. We wrote to the State Department and Secret Service about the violence and have told them we will hold decision-makers and police officers responsible for their actions.  But mostly, we have responded to these intimidation tactics in solidarity and have strengthened our resolve to protect the embassy.

A highlight of the week for us, after many difficult days, was to see hundreds of Embassy Protectors show up outside yesterday. They chanted with us and sang. We ended the night with revolutionary music blasting from the second floor embassy windows and dancing together even though they were on the sidewalk across the street and we were inside the embassy. The extremists’ banging of pots, strobe lights and blasting sirens at us only added to the festive atmosphere.

Today, more Embassy Protectors returned to show solidarity and express their love. We also started receiving many messages of solidarity and appreciation from individuals and social movements in Venezuela. This means the world to us. We are surrounded by violent, right-wing, regime change forces who are trying to wear us down. These are the same actors who held violent protests in Nicaragua and Venezuela. They are making death threats, threatening women with rape and mocking us, all in a posh Georgetown neighborhood. It is surreal.

We recall the mass mobilizations in Charlottesville, Boston and New York when right-wing, racist, misogynist hate-filled people came there and urge that mass resistance to join us now. This is a critical struggle. If the embassy is overtaken, it will set us on a path to war in Venezuela, and chaos and devastation to the region. If we can continue to protect the embassy, Venezuela and the United States will have time to negotiate with third countries to serve as protectorates for their embassies and this could begin a path to peace. Perhaps Trump will even see that the Bolton-Abrams-Pompeo team has misled him and reverse the disastrous policy course he is on. There is no reason to steal Venezuela’s resources, the US should respect Venezuelan sovereignty and negotiate agreements as has been done previously.

We are asking people to come to DC to surround this embassy with love and resistance. Let’s show that love will prevail.

If you absolutely can’t come to DC, please contact your member of Congress to make them aware of the situation. Tell them:

  1. The US is required to protect embassies under the Vienna Convention, but is allowing the Venezuelan Embassy to be damaged when the Secret Service could easily protect it.
  2. The United States’ coup in Venezuela has failed. Maduro is the legitimate elected President of Venezuela and is recognized by the United Nations and over 140 countries.
  3. The Secret Service is violating the human rights of the Embassy Protectors by failing to ensure safe passage in and out of the embassy and access to supplies. We are literally under siege.
  4. Review the Declaration of the Embassy Protection Collective and sign on to show your support.

And finally, please make a donation as we have incurred many unexpected costs for this mobilization.

Venceremos!

Tackling the “Impossible”: Ending Violence

Whenever, in ordinary circumstances, the subject of violence comes up, most people throw up their hands in horror and comment along the lines that it is ‘in our genes’, ‘nothing can be done about it’ or other words that reflect the powerlessness that most people feel around violence.

It is true that violence is virtually ubiquitous, has a near-infinite variety of manifestations and, at its most grotesque (as nuclear war or run-away climate catastrophe), even threatens human extinction in the near-term.

Nevertheless, anyone who pays attention to the subject of violence in any detail soon discovers that plenty of people are interested in tackling this problem, even if it is ‘impossible’. Moreover, of course, at least some people recognize that while we must tackle each manifestation of violence, understanding the cause of violence is imperative if we are to successfully tackle its many manifestations at their source. To do all of this effectively, however, is a team effort. And hopefully, one day, this team will include all of us.

In the meantime, let me start by telling you a little about some of the people who are already working to end violence by tackling one or more of its many manifestations. These individuals are part of a worldwide network set up to focus on ending violence – ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ – and they have signed a pledge to do so.

Concerned about US government threats to Iran and Venezuela, several Charter signatories were part of one or both recent peace delegations to Iran and Venezuela respectively. These delegations were designed to open more lines of communication and to demonstrate solidarity with those who do not submit to US hegemony.

The 28-member US peace delegation to Iran from 25 February to 6 March 2019 included long-term nonviolent activists Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese and David Hartsough. Unfortunately for David, author of Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist and director of Peaceworkers, his trip didn’t go as planned. If you would like to read a compelling account of his time in Iran with some wonderful Iranians, while learning something about what it means to be on the wrong end of US sanctions, you will find it in ‘An American Casualty of U.S. Economic Sanctions on Iran’. Glad you got the lifesaving medical treatment from our Iranian friends that you needed, David, despite the sanctions! And it is a tragedy that Iran has recently suffered even more, as a result of the devastating floods that have hit the country, with the sanctions cruelly denying them vital emergency assistance.

In relation to Venezuela, a 13-member peace and solidarity delegation from North America landed in Caracas, Venezuela on the weekend of 9-10 March 2019. The delegation included leaders of antiwar groups from the US and Canada and, once again, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers of ‘Popular Resistance’ and ‘Clearing the Fog’ podcasts. You can read an account of this delegation’s findings in Kevin and Margaret’s highly informative report.

Another initiative to support Venezuelans was outlined in the article ‘A Nonviolent Strategy to Defeat a US Military Invasion of Venezuela’.

Traveling widely to witness and demonstrate solidarity with those on the receiving end of US military violence, another long-term nonviolent activist, Kathy Kelly, recently wrote an article pointing out that ‘Every War Is a War against Children’ in which she evocatively documented examples of what this means for those children living in the war zones we call Yemen and Afghanistan. In an earlier article, Kathy questioned the morality of those corporations – such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics and Raytheon – that profit from the killing their weapons inflict.

Environmental journalist Robert Hunziker continues to fearlessly research and truthfully document the ongoing assaults that humans are inflicting on Earth’s biosphere. In his most recent article ‘The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems‘, Robert straightforwardly explains the content of a recent interview of Dr. Peter Wadhams, the world’s leading Arctic scientist. Robert notes that ‘Currently, the Arctic is heating up about 4 times faster than the rest of the planet… the temp difference between the Arctic and the tropics is dropping precipitously… thus, driving the jet streams less… creating meandering jet streams… in turn, producing extreme weather events throughout the Northern Hemisphere, especially in mid-latitudes where most of the world’s food is grown.’ Robert also notes that the study of ancient ice cores by a team from the British Antarctic Survey, University of Cambridge and University of Birmingham found ‘major reductions in sea ice in the Arctic’ which will crank up (via temperature amplification as a result of no Arctic sea ice) Greenland regional temperatures ‘by 16°C in less than a decade’ with horrific implications for life on Earth. Thank you, Robert, for reporting what the corporate media won’t touch and even many activists find too terrifying to seriously contemplate.

In Chile, Pía Figueroa continues her heavy involvement in efforts to network those committed to peace and nonviolence and to develop media channels that report the truth. Pía reports that ‘Pressenza International Press Agency’, which celebrated its tenth anniversary last November ‘in more than 40 places of the world’, continues to advance its contribution ‘with a journalism focused on peace and nonviolence, to a world in which all human beings have a place and their rights are fully respected, in a framework of disarmed and demilitarized societies, capable of re-establishing the ecological balance through governments of real and participatory democracy.’

Since attending the Media Forum organized in the city of Chongqing, China, by CCTV+ and CGTN, in October last year, Pía has been busy organizing the upcoming Latin American Humanist Forum in Santiago with the objective of ‘Building Convergences’, as its slogan points out. It will be held on 10-12 May with the participation of many grassroots and social organizations involved in more than twenty networks of nonviolent action and inspired by the European Humanist Forum that took place in Madrid, Spain, in May 2018.

Anwar A. Khan was born into ‘a liberal Muslim family in Bangladesh’. As a 16 year old college student, he participated in the ‘Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which resulted in horrendous loss of life, genocide against Bangladesh’s intelligentsia and systematic rapes.’ This experience taught him the nature of the US establishment as he was ‘on the battle field along with so many friends of mine and Indian soldiers to fight back the obnoxious nexus of the Pakistani military regime and the Whitehouse establishment’ to create Bangladesh. Khan Bhai went on to complete a post-graduate education, before embarking on a 43-year (so far) business career, involving many different levels of corporate engagement and which took him to many countries of the world, including Venezuela in 2010 where he met both Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro.

He also writes regularly in his spare time and recently wrote an article highlighting the adverse impact of the lack of infrastructure under which many impoverished countries suffer, given the way in which the global economy functions to exploit them. In the article, he describes an inferno that started on the night of 20 February 2019 in a building at Chawkbazar, a 300-year-old Dhaka neighbourhood, ‘where chemicals for making deodorants and other household uses were illegally stored’. The fire ‘quickly spread to four nearby buildings where many people were trapped. Hundreds of firefighters rushed to the scene but traffic jams in the narrow streets held them up. It took almost 12 hours to bring the fire under control….’ The horrific inferno claimed about 100 lives and more were injured.

Commenting on the current project that she is organizing with friends, Lori Lightning outlines the rationale behind ‘Bear Bones Parenting’:

There’s no course or exam to pass to become a parent, and most try to figure this out once a parent, and usually in an exhausted overwhelmed state. Bedtimes, meals, chores, and healthy open communication all become a task without a trusted framework in place.

Based on 51 years of combined wisdom as educators, counselors, health practitioners, moms, step moms and foster moms, Bear Bones Parenting offers an intuitive formula to demystify the basics of parenting and a workbook with tools for reflection and wellness practices to take you actively through day to day living no matter where you are at in your life. You dedicate 15 minutes a day and in trade stop being overwhelmed. A “do it yourself” workbook filled with tools to turn life into what you envision for yourself and your family.

Our cast of puppets help to inspire playful reflection on our children’s temperaments and our own. Eventual creation of short videos will be easily accessible for busy parents and provide some examples of how things typically play out with temperaments and inspiration of the Bear way, which is curious, intuitive, firm and loving.

We hope that BBP can help reduce parental stress and frustration so there is time to connect in joy and curiosity with our children and foster their independence.

For more information, you can contact Lori at this email address: moc.liamgnull@gnitneraPsenoBraeB

Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh is volunteer Director of The Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) and the Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH) but he is also actively engaged in the Palestinian struggle for liberation from Israeli occupation. As he evocatively noted in a recent Easter reflection:

This is the tenth Easter I celebrate after returning to Palestine in 2008. When we native Christian Palestinians have a few moments to meditate and reflect in this season, we reflect that some 2.5 billion human beings believe in a message that originated with a Palestinian baby born in a manger here and was crucified for being the first revolutionary Palestinian to push for caring for the sick and the poor.

We reflect on the real message of Jesus, a message of love and coexistence. The harsh reality on the ground reminds us of our responsibility to shape a better future.

We are hopeful because we take a long view of history. Some 150,000 years ago, humans migrated from Africa using Palestine as the passage way to Western Asia and then the rest of the world. 12,000 years ago, this area became the center of development for agriculture (the Fertile Crescent). This was where we humans first domesticated animals like goats and donkeys and plants like wheat, barley, chickpeas, and lentils. This transformation allowed our ancestors time to evolve what we now call “civilization”. Hence, the first writings, the first music, and art, and the first thoughts of deities. From our Aramaic alphabet came the Latin, Arabic, Syriac, and Hebrew alphabets. Aramaic was the language of Jesus and much of our current Palestinian Arabic is still Aramaic words.

Mazin continues to travel regularly, lecturing about initiatives of the museum but also about the political reality in Palestine. If you would like to volunteer to assist the museum’s projects, or to donate money, books, natural history items or anything else that would be useful, you are welcome to contact Mazin and his colleagues at gro.erutanenitselapnull@ofni

Finally, we are deeply saddened to report the passing of Tom Shea, a long-time stalwart in the struggle for a better world and one of the original team of individuals who launched ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ on 11 November 2011. We include below the testament of his great friend and fellow nonviolent activist, Leonard Eiger:

For Tom Shea, Peace WAS the Way

My dear friend and fellow Ground Zero member Tom Shea passed away peacefully in the early morning hours of April 3rd surrounded by his family.

Earlier in his life Tom had been a Jesuit, a high school teacher, and had started an alternative high school and Jesuit Volunteer Corp: Midwest. He had also been involved in social justice issues on the national level with the Jesuits. Ground Zero member Bernie Meyer remembers Tom with great fondness, from being a student at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland where Tom was teaching, to resisting together at Ground Zero many years later.

Tom was 47 when he left Cleveland for Traverse City, Michigan in 1977. There he met his partner Darylene, and they were inseparable from then on. Together, they participated in the Nuclear Freeze movement, and were part of the Michigan Peace Team. They traveled to New York for the second Conference on Disarmament in 1982. They protested both the first Gulf War and the war in Iraq. They also engaged in war tax resistance.

At Darylene’s suggestion, they attended a course in conflict mediation in the early ‘80s at a time when there was little written on the subject. That experience led them to a course taught by Quakers at Swarthmore College in 1986. In 1990 Tom and Darylene founded the five-county Conflict Resolution Service in Northern Michigan and trained the first group of volunteer mediators. Their mission was to promote peace and civility in the community through the use of mediator guided dialogue. In the early days of the program, volunteers met in church basements and around kitchen tables to train, role play and share experiences. They would travel to the homes of people needing mediation, focusing on resolving family and neighborhood conflicts.

Tom and Darylene moved to Snoqualmie, Washington in 2007 to spend more time with Darylene’s children. Tom got involved in community issues and continued his war tax resistance work. You could find him every April 15th, in front of the local post office, offering tax resistance information.

I was still leading a social justice ministry at the Snoqualmie United Methodist Church when one day Tom called the church office and asked who was doing social justice work in the area. We connected immediately due to common work and friends. Soon, Tom and I were making the pilgrimage together across the water to Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, and the rest (as they say) is history.

I have spent countless hours with Tom and Darylene, discussing world affairs and working together on strategies and tactics for our work with Ground Zero. Tom and Darylene have been inseparable as both life partners and co-conspirators for peace. Tom once said that Darylene is like a Jesuit herself: “Jesuits are taken as very scholarly people and she’s very scholarly.”

In addition to working on media and communications for Ground Zero, and planning vigils and nonviolent direct actions at the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base, Tom put himself on the line many times, often entering the roadway blocking traffic, both on the County and Federal sides, symbolically closing the base and risking arrest. Tom also created street theatre scripts that have been used during vigils at the submarine base to entertain and educate people.

Robert Burrowes, who cofounded ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’, said that “Tom was one of the true legends in my life. A long-standing symbol of, and nonviolent fighter for, everything that could be in our world.” When all is said and done, Tom’s life can be summed up by A.J Muste: “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”

We will be scattering some of Tom’s ashes (per his wishes) at Ground Zero Center during our August Hiroshima-Nagasaki weekend of remembrance and action.

I invite you to honor Tom’s memory by supporting the work of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. There are many ways we can engage in war tax resistance in the context of a broad range of nonviolent strategies for social change.

While diminished by the passing of Tom, the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action continues ‘to explore the meaning and practice of nonviolence from a perspective of deep spiritual reflection, providing a means for witnessing to and resisting all nuclear weapons, especially Trident. We seek to go to the root of violence and injustice in our world and experience the transforming power of love through nonviolent direct action.’ You can read about their ongoing efforts on their website, Ground Zero, which also features a ‘Current Action Alert: Stop the “Low-Yield” Trident Warhead!

Each of the individuals mentioned above is part of the ongoing and steadily expanding effort to end the violence in our world. They refuse to accept that violence cannot be ended, and each has chosen to focus on working to end one or more manifestations of violence, according to their particular interests. If you would like to join these people, you are welcome to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

If your own interest is campaigning on a peace, climate, environment or social justice issue, consider doing it strategically.

If your focus is a defense or liberation struggle being undertaken by a national group, consider enhancing its strategic impact.

If your preference is addressing the climate and environmental catastrophes systematically, consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

If you would like to tackle violence at its source, consider revising your parenting in accordance with ‘My Promise to Children‘. If you want the evidence to understand why this is so crucial, see ‘Why Violence?‘ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘.

If you are aware enough to know that you are not dealing effectively with our deepening crisis, consider doing the personal healing necessary to do so.

It may be that ending human violence is impossible, as many believe. But there are a great number of people around the world who do not accept this and who are struggling, relentlessly, to end violence before it ends us. What about you?

Denmark’s PM Admires a Killing Soldier’s Simplistic View of Good and Evil

Denmark’s PM admires a killing soldier’s simplistic view of good and evil

It’s Friday, April 5, 2019, at 9 PM. An entertaining talk show, Skavlan. A dialogue between a prime minister and a special forces soldier who has no regret having kicked in doors and “killed a lot” in Afghanistan.

He justifies himself by the most primitive and long-ago debunked theory about Good and Evil in this world. And then the listening prime minister expresses his admiration.

Something roamed around in my mind hours after the event and I had to check: Did he really say what I think I heard?

It made me think about theories and worldviews on which political decisions can be founded. About the general, normalized fascination of war and killing, and about the soldier as hero and the victim as invisible, non-existent.

It made me think about the sophisticated, almost imperceptible, media methods by which perpetrators of law violations and war crimes are turned (and turn themselves) into victims and perform smoothly as part of a Friday night’s entertainment program.

And, finally, how a similar conversation about alternatives – about nonviolent peace-making – would appear irrelevant, unthinkable. There is no peace discourse today. War is peace given our “Zeitgeist”.

As far as I know, nobody has publicly expressed the view that this conversation was disturbing. I find that highly disturbing. Too.

Setting the stage and sitting on the stage

I had seen that the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, would participate in the serious and entertaining Swedish Television talk show Skavlan.

The Norwegian journalist, Fredrik Skavlan, is the host and interviewer. He is super professional, a good listener, makes people feel good and he has obviously done his research homework before meeting his, mostly famous, guests face-to-face. He lets them talk and does not see it as his task to challenge them, at least not politically.

According to Skavlan’s Facebook page, the talk show is one of Europe’s largest with around 2 million viewers per show.

Danish Prime Minister, Løkke Rasmussen listens to Ant Middleton in the Skavlan program


The Danish prime minister, Løkke Rasmussen, is responsible for Denmark’s recent bombings in both Iraq and Syria. His party isn’t new to warfare. His party colleague, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was the Danish PM responsible for Denmark’s role as an occupying power in Iraq 2003-2007.

Fogh Rasmussen (they are not related) was then rewarded for this participation in aggression on a sovereign state without any UN mandate and became NATO’s Secretary-General.

In that role, he will be remembered for leading the Alliance’s destruction of Libya in 2011. There was a UN mandate about setting up a No-Fly Zone but not for the destruction of large parts of the country and the killing of its leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

Well, no guilt by association intended, but I had no expectations that Løkke Rasmussen that would say anything independent-minded, meaningful or critical about war as such.

Another participant in this program was Ant (Anthony) Middleton, a British Special Forces soldier who – evidently – is proud of having kicked in lots of doors in Afghanistan and killed a lot of people seemingly without the slightest remorse (see below).

Ant Middleton – who smiled a lot during the conversation


A quick search of the net tells that Anthony Middleton is a celebrity thanks to having been Chief Instructor for British Channel 4’s hit show ‘SAS : Who Dares Wins’. SAS stand for the Special Air Service of the British Army and the program slogan – Who Dares Wins – is also the slogan of SAS.

In other words, this is Channel 4’s contribution to promotes SAS whose activities around the world are basically top classified and probably not always lawful, noble or moral.

He is in the limelight thanks to just having published his autobiography and at the moment is on the “Mind Over Muscle Tour” around Britain.1

You’ll be able to see the sequence with Ant Middleton and the Danish PM (in English) here until October 2, 2019.

And with this, the stage is set.

The conversation

Now listen to the conversation which I have written down sentence by sentence from the program. Because the program is not available after October 2, I have written the essential passages here. Thus, 4:30 minutes into the clip:

“Skavlan to Middleton: How many have you killed?

Middleton: I’ve taken a lot of lives but what I do remember is not necessarily the people I have killed because – I’m the first man in, I’ve done three tours in Afghanistan and I am kicking down doors on a daily basis, we’re hunting down Taliban commanders. It’s – you know, the list goes on.

But what I do remember is not pulling the trigger. What people must remember is that my job is to conserve life, to save life. I only take life when there is a level of evil that’s been surpassed or I am in an immediate threat or my pals are in immediate danger to life. But what I do remember is being there and I could have taken a shot and every time it just wasn’t right, I took my finger off the trigger. Those are the times I do remember.

Skavlan: Do you think about the fact that you’ve killed a lot of people that is someone’s father, you’re a father of five yourself?

Middleton: No, no, not at all. Like I said, there is goodness and there is evil in this world. I’m a good man and I know that. And, as I said, if you surpass a certain threshold of evil, you do not deserve to be walking this planet, and that’s how I saw it. I never saw it – again it was never personal. I never saw it as this was someone’s… you know…Listen! If you live by the sword, you must expect to die by the sword. You know, it’s again… taking extreme ownership of yourself, holding yourself accountable.

Skavlan: But of course, there are casualties that are less guilty of being evil. Have you experienced that?

Middleton: (Pausing)…. It comes with the territory. It’s part and parcel of conflict. It’s part and parcel of being in a combat zone. And don’t get me wrong, there are bullies with weapons out there.

Skavlan then turns to the Danish PM: You’re the man behind the desk. Because the war he’s talking about is our war too, or has been. I wonder how you reflect on that, how hard a decision to send someone – you mentioned it before Ant came in.

Løkke Rasmussen (speaking to Middleton, not Skavlan): Well, first of all, I admire your attitude. And I totally agree with the way you distinguish between good and evil. But, you know, this is for real and as I mentioned earlier on, we have had 43 casualties in Afghanistan and I have been writing all those letters myself, and each time I have done so, I have felt the — (can’t seem to find the words) — it’s very personal. It’s not just for fun.

Middleton: We train our whole life to do that. I wanted that fight at the highest order. I trained my whole career to fight and when it came, it’s like you allow me to do my job. You know, there is the other side, of course there is the other side and it’s traumatic but…

Skavlan to Middleton: But you are sent by someone behind a desk that you never met?

Middleton: Yes but if they didn’t send me, they would not be allowing me to do my job and….

Løkke Rasmussen: Yes, and I realise that and without going into details, I have been in situations where our Special Forces have asked permission to do something on the ground where we have made the assessment that this would not happen…

Middleton: (smiling) I understand that…

Løkke Rasmussen: And when I have met those people later on and on a more private basis, they have actually been more or less angry with me: Why didn’t you approve? Why did you not give your permission? So…

Skavlan to Middleton: This is the situation you’ve been in…?

Middleton: Yeah, and if you did not use us, you would have just as much up war as if you didn’t. I suppose you can’t get it right?! I love my job. I prioritize it over my family and my children. I am not proud of that but I did it. I was waiting for that call. I wanted to be the first man through that door. You know, use me! You’ve spent millions on training me…

Skavlan: You were 16 when you joined the army. What was the push factor and what was the pull factor?

Middleton: I joined the army because I was a very self-sufficient young man, you know, who always wanted to stand on my own two feet. I always wanted to do my own thing and I always loved the challenge.

I’m an extreme doer. And, you know, I’m not an intellectual, I’m not a bookworm. I do, do, do… and 9 out of 10, I’ve failed and learned from that, so the military was just appealing and to get away, do my own thing, get a roof over my head, be fed, and you know the little bit of money I got I could start to build my life the way I wanted to. It wasn’t ”I’m going in and have this amazing career in the Special Forces.

It was, like you know, it was me as a youngster, let me stand on my own two feet, let me hold myself accountable for my life and see where it takes me. And the stepping stones… I’m good at what I have done and I love extreme soldiering, you know I was a para, then a Marine, then a sniper, then an (intelligence?) operator and the natural progression was into the United Kingdom’s Special Forces.”

What is actually stated here?

  1. There is good and evil in this world. The two are separated and the good people are on one side, the evil people on the other. It does not occur to Middleton, or the Danish PM, that there could be good and evil people on both sides. Or that each individual actor could have good and evil sides – that can be activated depending, for instance, on what the person experiences from the outside.
  2. Evil does not have to be defined, but it can be graduated. Over a certain level, it is right to not only try to stop the evildoer but to kill him. Over that level, the evildoer does not have a right to walk on earth.
  3. The judge that decides when that level is reached, is – he himself, the killer. So, it’s about the killer who does good and does justice by eradicating evil.
  4. Evil and good are qualities of human beings, not for example of situations, structures, or history and traumas.
  5. Although Middleton admits, indeed has no problems talking about, that he has killed a lot, he says that he knows he is a good person. And that goodness does not include any consideration for the humanity of the one he kills; it’s irrelevant to the argument and the deed whether the opponent is a father of children like Middleton himself is.
  6. Middleton mentions no particular, say ideological, reason for his participation in warfare, but emphasizes more than once during the program that he couldn’t wait to get off to Afghanistan, do what he was trained for; he doesn’t want to be stopped in carrying out his killing mission and – essentially – it is all about him doing his own thing, as he says, and loving the challenge.
  7. What is not stated is things like these: having a problem with having killed a lot; a sense of regret, guilt feeling or a wish for forgiveness or reconciliation. This assumption is backed up by the fact that, postwar, he has gone into public activities and entertainment media in which his military experiences come to good use. He has, to put it crudely, become a hero, a celebrity mass killer actor and lecturer.

Why is this really disturbing?

Probably, Middleton is only unique because of the almost charming, smiling and totally emotionless ways he is coping with his killing. Few, if any, go through such situations and kill a lot without having to cope with the fact that, in spite of all, they took life.

When returning from the killing fields, many feel alienated, feel that nobody understand what they have been through (which is true), and sooner or later, take to drugs, alcohol, or the radical way out – committing suicide. Very few become celebrity stars with huge audiences.

One may find Middleton’s witness account and his obvious denial of any wrongdoing rather disturbing. I do – but on the other hand, I have been working in war zones and met perpetrators as well as victims. Few have the moral fiber to go through years of psycho-social soul-searching and healing and ask forgiveness.

Most veterans are also hidden away, are never integrated in society and if they are received as heroes when coming home that status fades before dawn. Governments and societies usually don’t want to be reminded of such things.

No, I must admit that what disturbs me – for real, to quote him – is that PM Løkke Rasmussen’s bluntly admires Middleton’s attitude and also totally agrees with the good/evil dichotomy.

Løkke Rasmussen probably has less need for a psychological cover-up than has Middleton. But he anyhow subscribes to a theory that is as outdated and simplifying in the extreme and which has been academically debunked decades ago.

It’s also a theory which – when applied in the political realm – is sheer colonialist/racist: We (white/men/Westerners/Christians) are good people, those we kill – particularly abroad and particularly in Muslim countries – are evil: they are less white, mostly men but morally weaker, inferior, non-Westerners and Islam(ists). (Note that the word Christian-ist doesn’t exist – for a reason: Christianity shall not be connected with terrorism; Islam borders on – or is – terrorism; an evil religion. Thus Islamists.

If a prime minister knew as little about theories and concepts in fields such as economy, social welfare, or ideology – s/he would be facing a barrage of criticism. And there would be commentators and editorial writers who would shout at him: How can you say such things?!

Now it is only about war and peace, about “primitive” Afghans and those out there who threaten our ways of life. And it is about Denmark’s blindly loyal US-framed foreign and security politics and in those fields no special, scholarly competence is needed.

One thing is that such a conversation can take place in public, based on a stone-age theory, in the year 2019. Quite another is that it happens in front of tens of thousands of viewers and no one raises and eyebrow. I find that disturbing, very very disturbing.

It speaks volumes about the pervasive peace and conflict illiteracy of our culture and our times. It speaks volumes about the military and other hardline monopoly on the politically correct thinking about war and peace. And what sort of primitive thinking underlies everything called war, never challenged in the mainstream media and no longer even by the so-called Left.

It ought not be possible for educated people to speak on television the way prime minister Løkke Rasmussen and special forces soldier Middleton did and not causing an outcry.

The perpetrator as victim

In programs like Skavlan and in virtually all programs with news about events in the world, we never see simultaneously the perpetrator of violence with the victim of violence.

In this edition of Skavlan, we saw two different perpetrators of violence – the victims – those deserving to be killed – were not represented and had no voice. The conflict in Afghanistan was given no background except the implicit one: it’s filled with evil people and we have a right to find them, kick in their doors and kill them. They should not walk on this earth.

Ant Middleton did not seem to feel pity for himself. But, in the exchange with Løkke Rasmussen, he seems to see himself as a potential victim, namely if he had not been sent and had not been allowed to perform his killing job. If someone in the audience had shouted “You are not as good a man as you think you are” – he would probably have felt like a victim.

Løkke Rasmussen, the man behind the desk who gives orders and sends Danes into warzones, quickly avoids Skavlan’s questions and starts talking about how hard it is for him to personally write those letters to the families of Danish young boys who have been killed.

He may not be aware of it but his answer comes across as “Look how difficult my situation is!” – and he even states in as some kind of self-defence that war is “for real” and “not for fun.”

Their more or less explicit appeal for sympathy, for us empathising with them and their good intentions – well, does not touch me in the slightest. They could, at any moment in the past, have decided to stop being perpetrators of violence. Stopped being directly and indirectly responsible for taking lives. They made their choice.

Imagine instead: “I’ve raped a lot”

Imagine this conversation was not about war and peace. Imagine it was about rape, pedophilia, or inappropriate male behaviour vis-a-vis women – topical issues today and issues where there is a considerable political correctness and ever narrowing comfort zones.

Imagine an individual sitting in an entertainment TV program – but meaningful, serious such – and stating without flinching that he has no regrets about the boys and girls and female colleagues he had molested or raped and that he doesn’t even remember them.

Imagine that he also considered himself a good man and thought that those he had molested did somehow not deserve to walk in this planet. And you found out that, afterwards, this ‘good’ man had become a celebrity in the entertainment and lecturing world.

An intellectual counter argument to this imagined parallel example could surely be: But the teacher and his victims were not in conflict, it was not a mortally dangerous confrontation of “you or me”. And I’d say – “true, fair enough – but!”

Today’s discussions are about individuals feeling hurt, disturbed. The use of violence is limited to individuals and, as we all know, easily ends up on the front page of, say, New York Times, particularly if the involved parties are exactly that – famous, celebrities. It’s usually not about what I would call a worse offence, namely killing.

Warfare, in sharp contrast, is about a system of organised killing – mass killing of people “we” have no relations to. Strangers.

In the case of Afghanistan, it’s about the world’s militarily strongest countries that have fought a war in a small country for now 18 years. It about thousands of lives – if not in some cases and over time – millions of lives lost and whole societies destroyed.

It’s a system managed by huge state powers and profit-seeking corporations, think tanks and more – what President Eisenhower warned the Americans and the world about as far back as 1961.

And it is a cultural phenomenon: It’s about fighting those you look down upon, those who are morally or otherwise perceived as inferior, unworthy, living at a lower civilisational level than “we”.

Wars and killing in other lands are based on such assumptions – on demonization and de-humanization of entire nations and religions. And on the Middleton/Løkke Rasmussen “theory” that they are all evil out there and we have a right to be in their country, kick in thousands of poor people’s doors and kill this evil scum of the earth because we are good people.

Both types – the close personal and far anonymous, collective mass violence – deserves to be problematized. But he more people and media focus on the close personal hurt and harm, the less energy is left for addressing the larger world’s.

Or imagine this from a this thought-provoking angle…

Imagine Mr. Middleton had kicked in tons of doors in houses belonging to Jews, say in illegal settlement areas on occupied territory, and had “killed a lot” of Jews showing no regrets, just doing his job?

Imagine a Danish prime minister stating thoughtlessly that he admired such action and totally agreed with the theory that evil Jews deserved to be killed and not walk on this planet.

In lieu of a conclusion: The new militarism that we need to talk about in informed, intelligent ways

Over the last few decades, war has become so integrated into and intertwined with civil society that it has become normal, acceptable and legitimate. That’s what militarism is about.

Militarism was once about flags, parades, uniforms and song, it was about arming men (since then, weapon systems are manned and then made increasingly un-manned like drones). It was about some kind of rule-based dueling and honour. No more so!

Today’s militarism is about the melting into one the civil and the military spheres of society: the civilianization of the military and a militarization of the civil society. Civil society permeated by the ethos of killing, killing of them – the inferior – Evils in order to preserve us, the superior Goods. Killing for good.

I may be wrong. I have studied these things the last 45 years and there is, I gladly admit, a lot of books I have not read and many conflict and war zones I have not worked in. Be this as it may:

If you think I am wrong, let’s do what is still possible: Dialogue and learn from each other! Write your comments below, stimulate others to join that vitally important debate. But please…

Do not tell me that there is not something wrong deep down, that we are not far out, when such values, ethics and worldviews as those presented by two public figures in Skavlan do not raise eyebrows and provoke debates.

Do not tell me that we have kept decency and humanity intact and that we do right when we discuss individual cases of violence and remain, simultaneously, totally ignorant and illiterate about our own system of mass killing and the assumptions and theories that underpin them.

And, please, if the issue of globalised violence and war – as well as lost opportunities to make the world more peaceful and safe for all before it is too late – is not worth a wide and much more informed global conversation, tell me what is.

  1. Learn more about him on his homepage and on Wikipedia.

Reluctant Soldier, Confused Peacenik

Bowe Bergdahl captured the American imagination in 2009 when he disappeared from what had become his living hell. His battalion commander, Lt Baker, was not only an obnoxious tyrant (handing out Field-Grade Article 15s, just short of a court martial, supposedly for being out of uniform, but in fact for complaining about the mission to a Guardian photo-journalist in a video broadcast), but he had ordered them to build the OB (observation post) Mest on a cemetery, defiling, even defecating on gravestones near the FOB (forward operating base) Sharana.

He was as much a victim of the latest American COIN (counterintelligence) strategy as a deserter. Taken captive by the enemy (Taliban) under the protection of an ally (Pakistan), embodying the self-enforcing illogic of the entire war.

The FOB’s OP (army talk is littered with acronyms and abbreviations, quickly reducing any text or conversation to gobbledygook) would transfer authority to Afghan troops operate under US troops, the idea being to eventually leave the Afghans in sole charge. They would establish security, identify the Taliban, separate them from the local population, show the villagers they were better off with Karzai and the Americans in charge. Abracadabra. The Taliban would just disappear, as they very well ought to.

But it’s not the Taliban who have disappeared. Between 2006 and 2014, 20,000 soldiers have deserted from Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2001 the army pressed charges against less than 2,000, half pleaded guilty, 78 were tried and convicted. That pales in comparison to more than half a million Vietnam draft resisters/ deserters from 1966 to 1973. Desertion is as American as apple pie.

Bergdahl’s 4 weeks of hell sent him over the edge. He forgot the most important rule about the army. Don’t think. Just obey orders. Your superior is always right. It’s not clear what exactly B decided he was going to do, but he snuck away in the night, careful not to be noticed and headed for … hmmm. I guess he hadn’t really decided anything other than giving himself over to the Taliban, which was pretty easy. Hours after dawn, the word got out and Taliban equivalent of UPS picked up their load and whisked him across the border into FATA (federal administrative tribal areas) in Pakistan, just out of reach of the US army.1

Domino or butterfly effect?

His desertion (he eventually ignored his defence lawyer and pleaded guilty) set in motion a domino effect on a massive scale, but not the one the prosecution tried to pin on him: that B’s desertion led to soldiers’ deaths. The early angry accusations soon melted under examination, leaving B’s actions as a butterfly effect in a chaotic world.

Even his hated superior Baker later admitted that DUSTWUN (missing soldier alert), while difficult, had also produced some of the greatest disruptions of Taliban networks that he had seen at any point during the war. Commanders in the field used the search for Bergdahl as a justification for more aggressive tactics to achieve stability in the area.

It was a great way to motivate troops — rescuing a soldier was more ‘fun’ that just terrorizing hostile Afghans. It was a real mission, not the phony one they would be doing otherwise. “Everyone knew it was going on.”

Baker sounds like a real SOB (making all the troops shave 6 times in a row because one missed a stray hair, screaming two inches from their faces). Insisting the OB be built on a cemetery and desecrating graves set off an alarm in B’s mind. Afghan soldiers were known to turn their guns on their American comrades for less. But, what the hell, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,2 Afghanistan is FUBAR.3

In American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the US Tragedy in Afghanistan, Farwell and Ames don’t need any purple prose. Hard facts do the trick. For instance, in 2007 a soldier in B’s 2nd Platoon, Blackfoot Company, 1/501, Evan Vela, killed an unarmed captive Iraqi on orders from his superior, staff sergeant Hensley. He was court-martialed and sentenced to 10 years. Rather than murder, Henley was acquitted, charged only with a minor infraction.

It would be hard to beat Sergeant Robert Bales who slipped off base in Kandahar twice in one night in 2012 and shot 16 civilians in their homes in front of their families. At least he got life. It’s a miracle that B’s handlers didn’t string him up in response when they heard of this.

B enlists in 2008  and he is deployed in May 2009. At the end of training (Fort Richardson, Alaska), Command Sergeant Major Wolfe told them: I know you all joined because you want to rape, pillage and kill. That’s why I joined. But you need to think about COIN, winning over local farmers, merchants, drivers.

The training screams of cognitive dissonance. During training, they would chant ‘trained to kill, kill we will.’ Sex assaults and rapes were rampant at Fort Richardson.

FOB Sharana was built on a Soviet base. A/C barracks, dvd players, internet, lots of video games, hot showers, porcelain toilets, a basketball court, coffee shops, as much food as they wanted any time. But a strict dress code and shaving regime. Logistics brought in steak and lobster dinners for officers.

B’s one mission was in an MRAP (mine-resistant ambush-protected) armored vehicle, sent to retrieve an EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) team’s truck but the mountain road was too narrow, they hit an IED (improvised explosive device), another vehicle was disabled, they came under Taliban fire, and were saved by air support.

What should have been a few hours to retrieve a damaged truck had become a week-long ordeal. And to top it off, Baker glared at them when they returned. “What, you couldn’t shave?”

B’s instincts were right.  He and his only real friend, Joseph Coe ate dinner with the Afghan soldiers up the hill most evenings. Coe grew up in a missionary family in the highlands of Venezuela, and refused to be party to Bergdahl’s later vilification by his fellow soldiers. B and Coe realized befriending the Afghans was the right thing to do, and a commonsense precaution against ‘green on blue’ (Afghan soldier/ police killing Americans). The Afghan soldiers were friendly and welcomed them. The soldiers never learned their names, nicknaming them ‘ice cream’, ‘crazy eyes’. They called their translators John or Jack.

Bergdahl respected the Afghans, realized the occupiers had to respect their culture, i.e., the cemetery. Eating with the Afghans was like having a meal with his neighbours on the prairies in Idaho, Peruvian Quechua shepherds. He didn’t want to die fighting them, when he knew they were in the right. “These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live.”

What he was supposed to do for the next two years had nothing to do with helping them. So he put his fate in their hands. He knew he would survive. His rash, quixotic decision became an important symbolic gesture pointing to the way out of this latest imperial deadend.

Behind the scenes, there are human terrain teams (anthropologists), provincial reconstruction teams (a hydra of military, state department and USAID NGOs), tactical human intelligence teams (liquor and porn as bribes). The disconnect with the ‘kill we will’ foot soldiers, the face of the occupiers to most Afghan, makes their existence meaningless.

B lasted a month before he wrote a scathing email to his folks:

We don’t even care when we hear each other talk about running their children down in the dirt streets with our armored trucks… We make fun of them in front of their faces, and laugh at them for not understanding we are insulting them […] I am sorry for everything. The horror that is America is disgusting.

Then left his weapon and night vision goggles on his neatly made cot, and fled to the arms of the Taliban.

Peace on Earth

B’s captors immediately offered a deal: 25 Taliban prisoners and $9m. The offer was rejected without any attempt to negotiate. The Taliban continued to offer a deal but the mantra from Bush and Obama was ‘we don’t negotiate with terrorists.’

There were over 100 kidnappings from 2001–11, mostly journalists and missionaries. All were released with a quiet negotiations and a ransom. B was a test case for both sides, as a prisoner exchange would give the Taliban de facto recognition. It wasn’t the puppet Karzai/ Ghani but the US president negotiating with the Taliban.

The authors dismiss the possibility that Bergdahl might have converted to Islam, that his anti-imperialist lecture, delivered on Christmas day 2009  courtesy of his captors and social media, was surely just a forced confession, though it was quite articulate, not “absurd”, as Farwell and Ames state.  He mentions the indignities suffered by Muslim prisoners in Bagram, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and other secret prisons around the world, “but the Taliban treated me as human being with dignity. Aren’t our leaders simply the puppets of the lobbies that pay for their election campaigns?”

He (or rather his Taliban minders) refer to Veterans for Peace activist and ex-Marine Matthew Hoh, who resigned from his  foreign service posting in Kabul interview, and in an interview with CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer in November 2009 read from his resignation letter: American combat troops are not defeating al-qaeda by their presence in Afghanistan. All they are doing is just fighting people who are fighting us because we’re occupying them.

B’s testimony “grows more dogmatic–and more absurd.” Come on! Give the Taliban at least an A for crafting a coherent agitprop video showing MRAPs, dead ISAF soldiers, a video of an improvised IED. Ok, “We have forced them to strap large amounts of explosives to their precious bodies, to leave their homes and children to kill us.” — is a bit over the top. But it’s a lot closer to the truth than the US version of events.

A few days after B’s bombshell, CIA agent Hamam al-Balawi blew himself and his US minders up at the CIA base in nearby Khost, leaving behind his martyr video. Both Bs were under the direction of the Haqqani network,4 with the knowledge (and help) of Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-services Intelligence). For newly arrived Major General Michael Flynn, director of intelligence for NATO’s ISAF coalition, not a Christmas to remember.

B became a lightning rod for the increasing frustration over this unending war. Fox news interviewed spy novelist and  retired lt col Ralph Peters:

This private is a liar. We’re not sure if he’s a deserter. Collaborating with the enemy. The Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills.

Whew! Carte blanche to slice B’s head off. The interview was censored, but only for fear it served the Taliban. Flynn called him a jihadi. 23 veteran Congressmen published an open letter reminding McCain and others that they made statements contrary to their beliefs to stay alive.

B’s mother: the Taliban was now a part of our family

After years of stonewalling, B’s father Bob realized the government was incapable of diplomacy and he decided to go to Pakistan to give himself in exchange for his son. He used twitter, quoting from the Koran, with a message of radical peace. He travelled to visit a mosque in Washington, where the imam taught him to pray. He wore a kufi and grew his beard, knowing that the Taliban would see him on social media, trying to appeal to the Pashtun values and customs. B’s mother Jani told him, “the Taliban was now a part of our family.”

He talked with his pastor about overlaps between Calvinism and Islam. He realized peace would only come by understanding the men who held his son. Without peace, his son would never come home. The Bergdahls respected, embraced the enemy. The Christological overtones are everywhere. B’s 40 days in the wilderness, suffering for our sins, resurrection from the dead, love thine enemy …

For Bob and Jani, their prayers were answered. Obama had to wrap this up, and though he should have got Congressional approval, he just quietly released ‘the Taliban 5’ to Qatar and sent a SEAL rescue team to scoop up B, filmed by his captors for the world to see. Obama “broke the law by not informing Congress,” fumed Republican House Armed Services Committee Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon.

Obama was getting his own back. He had vowed in 2009 that he would close Guantanamo and had been shafted. Convincing him was Holbrooke’s adviser Barney Rubin who reminded Obama that of the 5 Taliban, 3 had surrendered, 2 were detained after they showed up for appointments saying they wanted to help us.

Vietnam

No doubt others who were traumatized by the war in Afghanistan will find healing as have the Bergdahls, by acknowledging the guilt of being part of this invasion and destruction of a country and its people. This happened — is still happening — after the liberation of Vietnam.

One of many Vietnam vets who have returned to Vietnam looking for closure, Chuck Searcy moved to Vietnam in 1995 as representative of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, and helped launch Project RENEW in Quang Tri Province, to clean up UXO (unexploded ordnance) and provide medical assistance, rehabilitation, and income generation for UXO victims. Like Hoh, Searcy is active in Veterans For Peace, based in Vietnam. In 2003 Searcy was awarded Vietnam’s National Friendship Medal.

Bergdahl hoped to cause an emergency, a Goliath moment which would give him the chance to bring his commanding officer Baker’s leadership failures to light, to steer the US intervention towards the truth. A DUSTWUN was the most powerful weapon B had.

The day after he shipped his things home, he sent an email from Sharana to a group of friends in Idaho quoting Atlas Shrugged‘s John Galt:

It is not the being of value who fails the system. It is the system that has failed the man. The system should be remade to fit the man who holds value as worth.

B aimed to bring the gears of system to a halt, his own personal (nonviolent) 9/11, and remake it.

It worked, sort of. When the dust finally settled, Bowe was handed a dishonorable discharge (instead of life), and a few pay deductions, but awarded two good conduct medals for service in captivity. Even Trump had stopped calling for his execution, and started negotiating with the Taliban, which is exactly what Bergdahl’s very brave, but also very risky, act was all about.

In a March 1, 2019 interview on C-Span, ex-Marine and foreign service official Matthew Hoh makes the point that the war actually began in 1973 with the overthrow of the king. He doesn’t make the point that the logical secular trajectory led to socialism, nor does he point to the US arming and supporting the Islamists as the real crime.

But Bergdahl’s trajectory is the logical one today — looking to the enemy for an answer. Whether or not Bowe took the shuhada and became a Muslim, his reaching out to the Taliban and his father and mother’s realization that “the Taliban are part of our family,” says it all.

An earlier version of B’s monkey-wrench-into-the-killer-machine, during the Vietnam war, is Christopher Boyce,  who worked for the National Reconnaissance Office in the 1970s, and discovered the CIA were deposing Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in Australia for wanting to close US military bases and withdraw Australian troops from Vietnam. Boyce saw that the CIA was undermining not just Australia but other democratic, industrialized allies. Boyce figured the press was useless. The media’s earlier disclosure of CIA involvement in the 1973 Chilean coup d’état had not changed anything for the better.

If he was going to make a splash, he’d have to turn to the ‘enemy’. Then, it was the Soviet Union. Despite his solidly conservative upbringing, he, like B, came to realize that the ‘enemy’ was almost by definition the ‘good guy’. His crossing the line and spying for the Soviet Union was much like B’s — very risky, harrowing, to say the least, life-changing.

He spent 25 years in prison as penance, and now lives quietly in Oregon, not so far from the Bergdahls. Another gripping story of defying the empire and living to tell the tale.

Now if only Boyce’s wildly idealistic expose had saved Whitlam and brought down US imperialism back in the 1970s. Or at least if we could rewind our tape to 1979, and see the Soviet Union and its attempt to shore up the faltering secular socialist government in Afghanistan, as “part of our family”, to be embraced, not vilified and destroyed. If only our present was the counterfactual history, not the peaceful, secular Afghanistan of yore.

Boyce and Bergdahl sensed who the real enemy is. They aimed for Goliath’s eye with their stone and hit it, but to no avail. Boyce’s logic pointed to socialism. Bergdahl’s saga points to Islam. The best thing in the 1970s was to make peace with the Soviet Union, not to destroy it. Now, it is for the US to embrace Islam’s message of peace. There Is No Alternative.

  1. There are at least four spying agencies all at cross-purposes. The oldest the army’s, which was supposed to close when the CIA was created but secretly kept working. Under the army was also a special unofficial service which carried out very secret things like Iran-contra. Then there’s the FBI, responsible for any American in a non-combat country. Also the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). All had their claim to Bergdahl. The search for Bergdahl was as much a war between the CIA (secretly allowed to do things in Pakistan) against the army’s spymasters, the FBI and the DEA. The army ‘won’. Sort of.
  2. Army jargon for WTF (what the f&#k)
  3. ‘Fucked Up Beyond All Repair.’
  4. Jalaluddin Haqqani, who visited the Reagan White House and was once described by Texas politician Charlie Wilson as “goodness personified.”

The British Army: Guns for Hire?

A video showing soldiers from Britain’s elite parachute regiment apparently using a photograph of Jeremy Corbyn in a shooting gallery for target practice was recently shown all over the world.

Most people who join the armed forces do so for the right reasons: they sincerely believe they will be serving their country, by which they think they will be protecting normal civilians from armed attack. So how exactly do young British people transition from that belief to using a picture of the leader of Britain’s largest political party for target practice? How exactly do young people who think they’re acting in the best interests of the majority of Britons justify shooting at a picture of someone who is not only a lifelong pacifist, but also has a lifelong track record of truly fighting for the best interests of oppressed people generally, and oppressed British people in particular?

Those of us who have been in the army know the answer to this question. It’s how you’re trained. Normal young people are turned from being normally good and caring young civilians into mindless killing machines, conditioned to obey orders, no matter what the order is. The mother of Paul Meadlo, a soldier who took part in the infamous My Lai massacre once said “I sent them a good boy, and they made him a murderer.”1 Although that was an American war crime, British forces have plenty of their own war crimes hidden away.

The superb book by Ian Cobain The History Thieves, for example, cites many verifiable accounts of grotesque criminality by British armed forces and the so-called “intelligence” services, ranging from acts of torture to creating unaccountable death squads for committing acts of terrorism against defenceless civilians. And there are many similar books — providing one looks for them, as they seldom feature in “best seller” lists.

Peterloo Massacre

In this bicentenary year of the horrendous Peterloo massacre, when British troops slaughtered defenceless civilians in Manchester, and in the light of the scandalous images of the soldiers of one of Britain’s most celebrated army regiments apparently shooting at a picture of one of the country’s most popular political figures, it’s time to take a long hard look at our armed forces.

Most young people join the army believing they will be fighting for their country. But the hard truth is that British forces haven’t been used to protect Britain since the Second World War. Today they’re used instead in support of US foreign policy, which acts mainly in the interests of US banks and billion dollar corporations. We need a total review of how British armed forces are trained, and deployed. Britain could do worse than copy Costa Rica’s example — and scrap the army altogether.

  1. The First Casualty by Phillip Knightley, p. 393.

Venezuela: US Imperialism Is Based On Lies And Threats


We are completing what became more than a week-long peace delegation to Venezuela organized by the US Peace Council and the Committee for International Solidarity in Venezuela (COSI). The trip was complicated by American Airlines cancelling all flights in and out of the country, leaving us scrambling for ways to get there and get home. We also arrived in the midst of the attack on Venezuela’s electrical system, which caused further complications.

Our delegation met with community groups, political parties and members of the government, including a private meeting with President Maduro. One theme that became obvious during the visit is that the United States’ imperialism is fundamentally weak. It relies on lies and bullying threats to get its way. So far, Venezuelans are resisting everything the US and its allies are throwing at it, but they remain vigilant and concerned about an escalation of attacks.

Rallying with the women oil workers outside the presidential palace on March 15, 2019 in Caracas.

Venezuela Unites in Response To US Attack on Electrical Grid

The attack on Venezuela’s electrical grid began on March 7 and continued for several days. The outage made life difficult for Venezuelans. Without electricity, water pumps could not bring water to people’s homes, refrigerators weren’t working and the subway couldn’t run.

People lined up to fill buckets with water. Lights were on, but not everywhere. When we talked to residents, we learned how they came to their neighbor’s aid, sharing food and water. Despite years of economic difficulties caused by US and allied countries’ sanctions, there were no reports of looting or unrest in Caracas. Venezuelans remained calm and steady while confronting the challenges of the blackout. School and work were cancelled until March 14, but some people were out anyway and a few shops were open.

Maduro explained that the attack on the electrical grid came from the United States. There is evidence it emanated from Houston, the home of the company that provided infrastructure for the grid, and Chicago. There were also attacks on power lines and substations inside Venezuela. When a section was repaired, it would be attacked again.

Maduro told us the plan had been for the attack on the electrical grid to cause chaos and confusion in order to provide an excuse for US intervention. The plan failed. Venezuelans realized this was part of the US-led coup campaign, and rather than becoming divided, they united.

Russia confirmed the Venezuela account and said it was supported by other evidence. The Grayzone reported on a 2010 memo about regime change in Venezuela, which included discussion of an attack on the electrical grid to cause a blackout and chaos. The US tried to sabotage the Iranian electrical grid and has used electricity attacks in previous coups, so this is part of the US coup playbook.

During our stay, CNN also reported that the drone assassination attempt against President Maduro last August was organized in Colombia and that the US was in close contact with the assassination plotters. It was also confirmed by the NY Times that it was the opposition who burned USAID trucks on February 23 at the border, the day of the humanitarian aid defeat. This corroborates the report by the Grayzone Project the day it occurred.

The democratically-elected government of President Maduro worked to end the electricity crisis, provide people with water and food and made sure buses were running. The self-appointed coup’s Juan Gaido worked with the United States, which caused the blackout and their hardships. Gauido is being investigated for his involvement in the electrical attack. He is allied with countries waging an economic war that is causing financial distress, and he is calling for foreign military intervention, a traitorous action.

The attack mobilized more people in the US and around the world to oppose the US coup calling for ‘Hands Off Venezuela,’ an end to the sanctions and an end to threats of war. Another mass march in support of Venezuela is scheduled in Washington, DC on March 30.

We attended an ongoing rally outside the presidential palace to defend it. On Saturday, there was a mass protest of tens of thousands of people celebrating the country coming together to confront the attack on their electrical grid. People were dancing, singing and chanting their support for President Maduro. While there were several opposition protests announced, when a member of our delegation went to cover them, they were not to be found.

Pro-Bolivarian Process rally on Saturday, March 16, 2019 in Caracas.

The US Embassy is Forced to Close

On Tuesday, the US Embassy in Venezuela was forced to close because it was being used as a center for organizing the ongoing US intervention. President Maduro told us how the US openly tried to bribe and threaten officials in his government and in the military and how they threatened his wife and family. The US told the opposition to boycott the last election and told candidates not to run against him. They knew they would lose an election to Maduro, so the plan had always been to falsely claim the election was illegitimate.

Maduro wants to have a dialogue with the US but the embassy had to close because not only was it undermining his government but it provided justification for the US to intervene on behalf of its diplomatic staff. Venezuela plans to have dialogue with the US through its UN representative.

When the embassy personnel left, we received word we were “on our own.” The State Department issued a statement describing civil unrest in Caracas saying that Americans could be arrested at any time for no reason. They warned people it was too dangerous to come to Venezuela. This was echoed by the Airline Pilots Association, who told their pilots not to fly to Venezuela because of the dangers.

The morning of these declarations, we went for a walk in Caracas to look for unrest. Families were out with their children, people were shopping and eating pizza, and ice cream. Caracas is as active and safe as any big city in the United States. Members of our delegation described in this video the calm in Caracas and how the US was falsely claiming civil unrest to manufacture an excuse for US intervention. The people of Venezuela are prepared for more struggle, building a self-sufficient resistance economy and they will fight to preserve their independence.

When we talked to Venezuelans, one thing they commonly told us was ‘thank you for coming to Venezuela, now you can tell people in the United States the truth about our country when your politicians and media lie about us.’ The Venezuelan people want a good relationship with the people of the United States. President Maduro told us of his love for the United States and how he had driven through Chinatown, Little Italy, and Harlem in New York, visited many cities in the US, was offered a contract to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and loves basketball and Jimi Hendrix.

Maduro has offered to meet with President Trump to discuss and resolve their differences. His Foreign Secretary met with John Bolton — a fruitless meeting, but an attempt by Venezuela for dialogue. Venezuela wants a positive relationship with the United States but it will not give up its sovereignty, independence, or pride, and is prepared to fight a US coup.

Hands Of Venezuela March in Washington, DC on March 16, 2019 (by Ted Majdosz)

Guaido Is the Butt of Jokes In Venezuela, Not Legitimate Under the Constitution

We were invited to be in the audience of the most widely-watched television show in Venezuela. It is a remarkable political education-entertainment show hosted by the president of the National Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello. The show, Con el Mazo Dando (loosely translated as “Hitting with a Club”), is a weekly five-hour show that combines politics with music and comedy. During the show, he covered 80 different news stories including a chronology of the electrical attack.

Cabello uses biting satire. Guaido was the punch line of many jokes and his alliance with the hated Trump administration was highlighted. Gauido does not have the respect of the people of Venezuela. He is becoming of little use to the US coup and will possibly be discarded in the near future.

While Guaido has overtly committed multiple crimes, the Maduro administration seems to have made a conscious decision to not arrest him as his actions are weakening him and exposing the coup’s connection to US and western imperialism.

One thing that was highlighted to us in Venezuela was that the self-appointment of Guaido violates the Venezuelan Constitution. The language of the Venezuelan Constitution is plain regarding when the president of the National Assembly can become president and none of those conditions have been met. The coup relies on Article 233 of the Constitution, which allows the president of the National Assembly to become president only if the president-elect

become[s] permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice [equivalent of impeachment]; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.

None of these conditions exist. And, if they did exist, the vice president would take power until there is an election. Not only is Guaido a self-appointed president, but he is illegally self-appointed. In a press briefing, Elliot Abrams admitted that Guaido is not “able to exercise the powers of the office because Maduro still is there.”

The State Department has been pressuring the media to call Guaido the “interim president” and not to call him “self-appointed” or “opposition leader” despite the fact that he has no presidential powers and no legitimacy under Venezuelan law. Any media that succumbs to this pressure is participating in a dangerous farce that is part of a US-led coup.

This contrasts with the legitimacy of President Maduro. This week, international election observers wrote the European Union telling them they were “unanimous in concluding that the elections were conducted fairly, that the election conditions were not biased.” They described EU claims as “fabrications of the most disgraceful kind.” We described in detail the legitimacy of the elections and other essential facts activists need to know about this US coup.

Singing and dancing as people arrive for “Con El Mazo Dando” (by Margaret Flowers)

Solidarity With Venezuela Is Essential

The people of Venezuela have shown their solidarity in standing together against the US and oligarch coup attempt. It is essential for those who believe in peace, justice and anti-imperialism to do the same.

We agree with Vijay Prashad, solidarity is a process, not a slogan. We plan to build on the relationships we developed with the US Peace Council, World Peace Council and COSI among others. We will provide a list of items that COSI needs for their ongoing organizing in Venezuela, but so far they told us they need computers, printers and paper. They also need donations (a little goes a long way). They don’t have a website yet. If you can donate, contact us at gro.ecnatsiserralupopnull@ofni and we’ll find a way to get it to them.

The first steps in building solidarity include demanding the end to all interference: ending US imperialism and preventing military intervention and war. It also means an end to the economic war, sanctions, blocking of finances and the embargo. On a near daily basis, it requires us to correct the record and confront the lies on which US imperialism is based. We will continue to post stories on Venezuela regularly and we urge you to re-post them to social media, email networks, and websites.

We can defeat the regime change narrative by getting out the truth. Join the national webinar on Venezuela on March 26 at 7:00 pm Eastern. Register here. And join the national webinar on NATO and Latin America on March 28 at 8:00 pm Eastern. Register here. We will have more reports from our meetings in Venezuela posted on Popular Resistance.

Join the March 30 Mobilization Against the US Coup in Venezuela and the No to NATO protests in Washington, DC.

It is evident the US coup is weak. They have a weak leader in Guaido. They depend on lies because the truth undermines their every turn. They cannot participate in elections because they have very little democratic support. This contrasts with the strength of Maduro, who has the support of the people. The popular movement is positioned to stop the Venezuela coup and prevent a military attack. Our solidarity efforts in the US may prevent them from having to suffer more.

A Match Made in Hell

The conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence of the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government.

— President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address, January 17, 1961

Why exactly does the US government go to war with so many of Israel’s enemies, starting with Iraq?  The costs have been enormous, the results horrible, the rewards imperceptible. The Iraq war was the second in a long series of US invasions, bombings and destructions of majority-Muslim states.  Despite the devastation they cause and the lack of results, the regime change wars show no sign of slowing. How does this happen?

The explanation lies in the MIC and a deeply sinister marriage that has grown between them and Israel.  Israel’s wars have become major parts of the MIC’s business plan. Every bomb Israel drops; every missile the US fires, every Muslim country the US invades makes money for the MIC. Israel receives over $3 billion in military aid from Washington every year.  Most of this money immediately returns to US military corporations to buy weapons, making Israel a major profit center for them.

By allying with the MIC, Israeli leaders and their militant supporters, who became known as the Neoconservatives set out to reshape the world. The Pentagon and military corporations already had powerful lobbying programs in place. But industry lobbying typically took the form of ‘Buy our product;’ ‘Try this weapon system.’ They didn’t lobby for new wars. Neoconservatives realized that if they could provide the enemies and promote the wars, the MIC would reap the profits, strengthening Israel in the process.

From the 70s on, the MIC and the Neoconservatives have recognized and built on their mutual interest.  Neocons provide the intellectual and public relations muscle the MIC lacked.  It is this alliance of corporations, think tanks, media organizations, and military agencies that pulls the US into war after war, specializing in destroying Israel’s enemies, but by no means limited to them.

The Armchair Warriors’ Club

The group that became the center of neoconservatism started with Jewish intellectuals, many of them followers of Leo Strauss and Albert Wohlstetter at the University of Chicago. Strauss was a philosopher who had escaped the Nazis in 1937. Wohlstetter was a New York-born researcher who became a leading light at the RAND corporation, consulting with the Pentagon on intelligence and weapons systems.  He was a constant advocate for more weaponry and a less conciliatory attitude toward the USSR.

Why were these intellectuals so committed to US military dominance in the world? It started with Israel. The thinkers sometimes called the godfathers of neoconservatism, Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz, said openly that American military strength and willingness to use it are vital to the well-being of Israel. However, neoconservatism is no longer primarily about Israel; it has become the dominant ideology of the US war machine.

Neoconservatism is not just an ideology; it is a paranoid philosophy. As philosopher Tibor Machan wrote in 2007, “The neoconservative impulse is deeply pessimistic, Hobbesian, seeking perils everywhere and turning to an ever-enlarged state apparatus to protect the clueless citizens.” In this philosophy, lying to the people is a moral necessity, and concern by the elites for ordinary people, including victims of their own actions, is a moral failing. Machan says that is not what Strauss meant when he advocated Plato’s concept of the “noble lie.” Noble lies are meant to protect unlearned people from difficult “truths” such as the nonexistence of God, not to dupe them into unnecessary wars.

However, the broader interpretation that ‘lying is good’ has definitely been adopted by Strauss’s followers. We see this philosophy at work by US warhawks every day as they roll out an endless series of  lies to justify their war aims, from Saddam’s WMDs to 9/11 to Russian “meddling” to recent claims in mainstream journals of Hezbollah’s active presence in Venezuela.

When it comes to ideology, according to former CIA officer Phil Giraldi of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), the neocons have two unshakeable beliefs:  “First is their insistence that the United States has the right or even the responsibility to use its military and economic power to reshape the world in  to terms of its own interests and values…. The second principle, inextricably tied to the first, is that Washington must uncritically support Israel no matter what its government does, which makes the defense of all things Israeli an American value.”

Their third core value has been virulent opposition to the Russians (before that, the Soviets.) According to History Commons, “[In the 1970s] Neocons saw the Soviet Union, not the Israeli-Palestine conflict, as the chief threat to US interests in the Middle East and the control of that region’s oil fields. They see a strong, powerful Israel as essential to their plans for US domination of the region.”

The neocons set out to popularize these ideas among the American people and government. Young disciples of the founders went to work for Senators Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-Wash) and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY,) both strongly pro-MIC Democrats.  Wohlstetter, with his military connections helped young neocons Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz get jobs with Jackson, known as the “Senator from Boeing” for his constant advocacy of increased military spending and opposition to nuclear weapons treaties. He was also militantly pro-Israel, sharing all the core neocon foreign policy positions. Perle and Wolfowitz were soon followed by colleagues Douglas Feith, Elliott Abrams, and Abram Shulsky.

As Senators Jackson and Moynihan’s leadership shows, neoconservatism was never just a Jewish thing. Researchers Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould wrote on Truthdig “Although clearly acting as a political front for Israel’s interests and an engine for permanent war, neoconservatism would never have succeeded as a political movement without the support and cooperation of powerful non-Jewish elites.”

Non-Jewish MIC thinkers embraced neoconservatism from the start, and their numbers grow year by year.  Secretaries of Defense, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were early adopters, as were UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and by now thousands of others. Neoconservatism has become dominant in the Department of Defense and increasingly at the State Department and CIA and has tremendous influence in Israel and the UK.

Neoconservatism gained this influence through decades of setting up think tanks and commissions and serving on them as “fellows,” “scholars,” and directors. They move between these jobs and positions in the Departments of Defense and State, or in the White House or on Senators’ staffs, or defense corporations, becoming known as “experts.”  They write position papers and op-eds; they appear on TV and testify before Congress. They lie. They work constantly to control the narrative.

Early neocon dominated formations were the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), founded in 1976 and the Committee for the Free World (CFW), founded in 1981. Both advocated strenuously for nuclear buildup aimed at the USSR. Current think tanks founded by the Neocons include:

JINSA, the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs; AEI, the American Enterprise Institute; WINEP the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; FDD. the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a dozen others. These groups collaborate with longer-standing Israel advocacy groups like AIPAC.  They share staff and funders and rent space from each other. One of the most influential, PNAC, the Project for a New American Century met in offices rented from AEI and included at least six men who later served as leaders in the Bush administration as well as Bush’s brother Jeb.

Two Neocon Documents that Exploded World Peace

Neocons created two documents crucial to the war policies of the Israeli and American governments. In 1997, neocons meeting with the Jerusalem-based think tank Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies wrote a paper for the Likud Party called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” “Clean Break” proposed that Israel no longer try to make peace with Arab neighbors such as Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, but push them back, destabilize them, and ultimately change their regimes for ones who embraced Israel.  The recommendations in Clean Break have largely been carried out using Israeli and American military force.

In 1999, PNAC wrote a similar paper for America, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources for a New Century,” advocating massive growth of the US military budget, seeking the ability to wage multiple simultaneous wars and police actions. Authors Donald Kagan, former Pentagon consultant Gary Schmitt, and Thomas (now Giselle) Donnelly, a former director at Lockheed Martin, called the paper a “blueprint for maintaining global US pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests.”

Both of these papers turned out Earth-shattering. Where there had been global consensus, at least in word, that aggressive wars and unprovoked attacks were illegal and that conflicts should be resolved diplomatically, the Neocons said that might literally makes right, and invading and occupying countries were legitimate options if no one could stop you. The US Military budget rose from $287 billion in 2001 to $722 billion in 2011. As former Vice-President Al Gore said, “We have replaced a world in which states consider themselves subject to law” with “the notion that there is no law but the discretion of the President of the United States.”

Where international stability had been considered one of the highest goals in foreign affairs, championed even by war criminals like Henry Kissinger, the Neocons promoted chaos and destruction. Neocon Michael Ledeen called for “turning the Middle East into a cauldron.” The Israeli and US governments have adopted these attitudes, and NATO countries have followed to varying degrees. International stability is a thing of the past.  This was no small accomplishment.  It took years of media manipulation, lies, false flags, and lobbying to do it, starting with the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

How to Start a War

Unlike major 20th Century American wars, the invasion of Iraq did not masquerade as defense. There was no casus belli in the Tonkin Gulf Incident, no Lusitania sinking, no Pearl Harbor. Without such an excuse, gaining support for an unprovoked war on a country that posed no threat posed a formidable challenge.  War advocates, led by neocons in and out of government, came at it from all sides.

The Bush Administration came into power in 2001 fully determined to smash Saddam Hussein.  With six PNAC members holding high administrative offices, they had still to win support of the rest of government. In 2001, both the CIA and the State Department opposed invading Iraq, as did much of the military, Congress and millions of American people. That resistance had to be overcome.

In Rebuilding America’s Defenses, PNAC had written that, because of public resistance, their plans for expansion and military expression of US hegemony would take a long time “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor”. On Sept. 11, 2001, they got (or created) their Pearl Harbor and swung into action.  On September 19, 2001, PNAC sent an open letter to President Bush that called for pushing the war on terror “beyond al Qaeda to Syria, Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Palestine Authority and Iraq.”

The neocon-sponsored Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, founded by PNAC member Bruce Jackson, a former Lockheed Martin Vice-President, promoted Ahmad Chalabi, founder of a group of exiles known as the Iraqi National Congress, as the legitimate ruler of Iraq, though he had no following in-country.  Chalabi fabricated stories of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda, which were uncritically accepted and disseminated by British and American media and government officials.

A steady drumbeat of Iraq WMD stories ran in Western media and were widely believed, though all turned out false.  Neocons were the source of many of these stories.  Donald Rumsfeld  had set up the Office of Special Plans (OSP) in the Pentagon to create “intelligence” that better served war goals than the more accurate intelligence found by the CIA.  OSP was a Neocon operation.  Michael Ledeen and Doug Feith were employed by OSP when they collaborated with Italian intelligence to pass off forged Italian documents implicating Saddam Hussein in buying uranium in Niger.

The string of WMD lies included ‘Hussein purchasing aluminum tubes’ that were said to be suitable for uranium-enrichment centrifuges.  These claims were reported as true in a UK government dossier which was cited by President Bush.  Much of the Brits’ information came unedited and unsourced from the Middle East Review of International Affairs, a publication of Barry Rubin, an American-born Israeli neocon who regularly published very questionable intelligence as true.

Older readers might remember the rest of the nonstop campaign.  Saddam discriminates against Kurds and Shi’a; Saddam is brutal and corrupt, Saddam is an abuser of women. Saddam is an ally of al-Qaeda and was responsible for 9/11. The Shi’a are rising; the people are fed up. American troops will be greeted as liberators. Nearly all these claims were lies or huge exaggerations, and the Neocons had a lot to do with creating and spreading them.

Eventually, CIA and State were overridden, Congress went along, and the millions marching against the invasion were ignored. The war went forward with the horrific results we have all seen. The Neocon/MIC alliance no longer faces much resistance from the intelligence agencies. Extreme neocon Mike Pompeo has been head of CIA and is now Secretary of State, and the even more extreme John Bolton is President Trump’s chief foreign policy advisor.

The alliance is now lying the US into attacking Syria and Iran, as well as Venezuela.  After Iran, perhaps Russia? Whatever lines there were between US and Israeli interests seem to have been erased. The corporate media present whatever pro-war forces say as facts. No matter how many times their predictions turn out absurdly wrong or their statements are exposed as lies, they keep being hired as commentators, experts, or pundits on corporate media platforms including NPR and PBS.  This is true for retired Generals as well as Zionist intellectuals. Their linked goals of American world dominance, Israeli regional dominance, and MIC profits are moving ahead. Aside from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, few prominent American voices are raised against them.

Can this powerful alliance based on constant lying be stopped? Maybe more truth will help.