Archive for the ‘No wars!’ Category

Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?

February 16, 2017

David Swanson via WarIsACrime.org david@davidswanson.org via sg.actionnetwork.org
8:16 PM (2 hours ago)

Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?

By David Swanson
http://davidswanson.org/node/5448
For the past decade, the standard procedure for big coalition rallies and marches in Washington D.C. has been to gather together organizations representing labor, the environment, women’s rights, anti-racism, anti-bigotry of all sorts, and a wide array of liberal causes, including demands to fund this, that, and the other, and to halt the concentration of wealth.

At that point, some of us in the peace movement will generally begin lobbying the PEP (progressive except for peace) organizers to notice that the military is swallowing up enough money every month to fund all their wishes 100 times over for a year, that the biggest destroyer of the natural environment is the military, that war fuels and is fueled by racism while stripping our rights and militarizing our police and creating refugees.

When we give up on trying to explain the relevance of our society’s biggest project to the work of reforming our society, we generally point out that peace is popular, that it adds a mere 5 characters to a thousand-word laundry list of causes, and that we can mobilize peace groups to take part if peace is included.

Often this works. Several big coalition efforts have eventually conceded and included peace in some token way in their platforms. This success is most likely when the coalition’s organizing is most democratic (with a small d). So, Occupy, obviously, ended up including a demand for peace despite its primary focus on a certain type of war profiteers: bankers.

Other movements include a truly well informed analysis with no help from any lobbying that I’ve had to be part of. The Black Lives Matter platform is better on war and peace than most statements from the peace movement itself. Some advocates for refugees also seem to follow logic in opposing the wars that create more refugees.

Other big coalition actions simply will not include any preference for peace over war. This seems to be most likely to happen when the organizations involved are most Democratic (with a capital D). The Women’s March backs many other causes, but uses the word peace without suggesting any preference for peace: “We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.” There is also, one might note, no justice or equity for anybody living under bombs.

Here’s a coalition currently trying to decide whether it dare say the word peace: https://peoplesclimate.org.

This group is planning a big march for the climate and many other unrelated causes, such as the right to organize unions, on April 29. Organizers claim some relationship among all the causes. But, of course, there isn’t really an obvious direct connection between protecting the climate and protecting gay rights or the rights of workers. They may all be good causes and all involve kindness and humility, but they can be won separately or together.

Peace is different. One cannot, in fact, protect the climate while allowing the military to drain away the funding needed for that task, dumping it into operations that consume more petroleum than any other and which lead the way in poisoning water, land, and air. Nor can a climate march credibly claim, as this one does, to be marching for “everything we love” and refuse to name peace, unless it loves war or is undecided between or uninterested in the benefits of mass murder versus those of nonviolent cooperation.

Here’s a petition you can sign to gently nudge the People’s Climate March in the right direction. Please do so soon, because they’re making a decision.

The struggle to save the climate faces other hurdles in addition to loyalty to militarism. I mean, beyond the mammoth greed and corruption and misinformation and laziness, there are other unnecessary handicaps put in place even by those who mean well. A big one is partisanship. When Republicans have finally proposed a carbon tax, many on the left simply won’t consider it, won’t even tackle the problem of making it actually work fairly and honestly and aggressively enough to succeed. Perhaps because some of the supporters seem untrustworthy. Or perhaps because some of the supporters likely don’t believe you need labor unions in order to tax carbon.

And which ones would you need, the ones advocating for more pipelines or the ones working in other fields?

Scientists, too, are planning to march on Washington. The scientific consensus on war has been around as long as that on climate change. But what about the popular acceptance? What about the appreciation among grant-writing foundations? What do the labor unions and big environmental groups feel about it? These are the important questions, I’m afraid, even for a scientists’ march.

But I appreciate the scientific method enough to hope my hypothesis is proven wrong.

Help support DavidSwanson.org, WarIsACrime.org, and TalkNationRadio.org by clicking here: http://davidswanson.org/donate.

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David Swanson via WarIsACrime.org david@davidswanson.org via sg.actionnetwork.org
8:16 PM (2 hours ago)

to me
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?

By David Swanson
http://davidswanson.org/node/5448
For the past decade, the standard procedure for big coalition rallies and marches in Washington D.C. has been to gather together organizations representing labor, the environment, women’s rights, anti-racism, anti-bigotry of all sorts, and a wide array of liberal causes, including demands to fund this, that, and the other, and to halt the concentration of wealth.

At that point, some of us in the peace movement will generally begin lobbying the PEP (progressive except for peace) organizers to notice that the military is swallowing up enough money every month to fund all their wishes 100 times over for a year, that the biggest destroyer of the natural environment is the military, that war fuels and is fueled by racism while stripping our rights and militarizing our police and creating refugees.

When we give up on trying to explain the relevance of our society’s biggest project to the work of reforming our society, we generally point out that peace is popular, that it adds a mere 5 characters to a thousand-word laundry list of causes, and that we can mobilize peace groups to take part if peace is included.

Often this works. Several big coalition efforts have eventually conceded and included peace in some token way in their platforms. This success is most likely when the coalition’s organizing is most democratic (with a small d). So, Occupy, obviously, ended up including a demand for peace despite its primary focus on a certain type of war profiteers: bankers.

Other movements include a truly well informed analysis with no help from any lobbying that I’ve had to be part of. The Black Lives Matter platform is better on war and peace than most statements from the peace movement itself. Some advocates for refugees also seem to follow logic in opposing the wars that create more refugees.

Other big coalition actions simply will not include any preference for peace over war. This seems to be most likely to happen when the organizations involved are most Democratic (with a capital D). The Women’s March backs many other causes, but uses the word peace without suggesting any preference for peace: “We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.” There is also, one might note, no justice or equity for anybody living under bombs.

Here’s a coalition currently trying to decide whether it dare say the word peace: https://peoplesclimate.org.

This group is planning a big march for the climate and many other unrelated causes, such as the right to organize unions, on April 29. Organizers claim some relationship among all the causes. But, of course, there isn’t really an obvious direct connection between protecting the climate and protecting gay rights or the rights of workers. They may all be good causes and all involve kindness and humility, but they can be won separately or together.

Peace is different. One cannot, in fact, protect the climate while allowing the military to drain away the funding needed for that task, dumping it into operations that consume more petroleum than any other and which lead the way in poisoning water, land, and air. Nor can a climate march credibly claim, as this one does, to be marching for “everything we love” and refuse to name peace, unless it loves war or is undecided between or uninterested in the benefits of mass murder versus those of nonviolent cooperation.

Here’s a petition you can sign to gently nudge the People’s Climate March in the right direction. Please do so soon, because they’re making a decision.

The struggle to save the climate faces other hurdles in addition to loyalty to militarism. I mean, beyond the mammoth greed and corruption and misinformation and laziness, there are other unnecessary handicaps put in place even by those who mean well. A big one is partisanship. When Republicans have finally proposed a carbon tax, many on the left simply won’t consider it, won’t even tackle the problem of making it actually work fairly and honestly and aggressively enough to succeed. Perhaps because some of the supporters seem untrustworthy. Or perhaps because some of the supporters likely don’t believe you need labor unions in order to tax carbon.

And which ones would you need, the ones advocating for more pipelines or the ones working in other fields?

Scientists, too, are planning to march on Washington. The scientific consensus on war has been around as long as that on climate change. But what about the popular acceptance? What about the appreciation among grant-writing foundations? What do the labor unions and big environmental groups feel about it? These are the important questions, I’m afraid, even for a scientists’ march.

But I appreciate the scientific method enough to hope my hypothesis is proven wrong.

Help support DavidSwanson.org, WarIsACrime.org, and TalkNationRadio.org by clicking here: http://davidswanson.org/donate.

If you were forwarded this email please sign up at https://actionnetwork.org/forms/activism-alerts-from-david-swanson.

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Comment: Of course not. Paradigm shift from ego to eco is essential.

A Nuclear Kellogg-Briand Pact Is An Even Better Idea Than Its Author Thinks

February 5, 2017

OpEdNews Op Eds 2/4/2017 at 04:21:59

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A Georgetown Law professor named David Koplow has drafted what he calls a Nuclear Kellogg-Briand Pact. In an article proposing it, Koplow does something all too rare, he recognizes some of the merits of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. But he misses others of those merits, as I described them in my 2011 book When The World Outlawed War.

Koplow acknowledges the cultural shift that the pact was central to, that shifted common understanding of war from something that just happens like the weather to something that can be controlled, should be abolished, and would henceforth be illegal. He acknowledges the role of the pact in motivating trials (albeit one-sided trials) for the crime of war following World War II.

But Koplow also does something that I imagine any U.S. law professor must be expected to do. I have yet to find one who doesn’t. He declares that the pact “silently” includes language that it does not actually include, language opening up a loophole for defensive war. While Britain and France added reservations to the treaty, other nations ratified it as it is written. The United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee produced a statement interpreting the treaty, but not actually modifying the treaty. Japan did the same. That committee statement interprets the existence of a loophole for defensive war. The pact itself does not contain it and would not have been created, signed, or ratified had it done so.

The actual text of the treaty is superior to the United Nations Charter in not containing two loopholes, one for defensive wars and the other for UN-authorized wars. And contrary to what Koplow claims, but consistent with the facts of the matter that he relates, the Kellogg-Briand Pact is still law. That this makes numerous recent wars illegal is not so significant, as most — if not all — of those wars fail to fit into the UN Charter’s loopholes. But the existence of those loopholes allows endless claims to legality that muddy what would be clear waters if we looked to the peace pact instead of to the UN Charter.

Of course intent is often taken to override actual text. If the people who created the pact intended it to silently allow defensive war, then it allows defensive war, according to this theory. But did they? That all depends on who counts as being those people. Koplow only mentions one of them, Senator William Borah. In fact, Koplow drastically understates Borah’s role. Following the lead of the Outlawry movement and intense lobbying by its leaders, Borah had publicly promoted outlawing war for years before the pact came up for a vote, and he had been instrumental in making sure that it did. On November 26, 1927, Borah had written this in the New York Times:

“I do not think peace plans which turn upon the question of an ‘aggressor nation’ are workable. An aggressor nation is a delusive and wholly impracticable proposition as a factor in any peace plan.” Borah, agreeing with the widespread understanding of the Outlawrists, believed that in any war each side would label the other the aggressor, and that through ultimatums and provocations any side could make another into the aggressor. “I would not support a peace plan,” Borah wrote, “which recognized war as legitimate at any time or under any circumstances.” Having learned from the creators of outlawry, Borah tutored Kellogg and Coolidge, even overcoming the hurdle created by the latter’s belief that outlawing war would be unconstitutional.

But in what exactly did Borah tutor them? Surely not in what appears to every living U.S. law professor in 2017 utter nonsense or a suicide pact? Yes, in fact, in just that. And I’m not sure either Kellogg or Coolidge ever understood it to any greater extent than this: the public demand for it was a hurricane. But here’s what it was, and why those who come around to praising the Kellogg Briand Pact seem more intent on burying it. Outlawry was opposed to the entire institution of war on the model of opposition to dueling — which, outlawrists pointed out, had not been replaced by defensive dueling, but by abolition of the whole barbaric institution. Once you sanction some wars, you motivate preparation for wars, and that moves you toward wars of all kinds. The Outlawrists had grasped this even before Dwight Eisenhower had been part of a chemical weapons attack on World War I veterans in the streets of D.C., much less made any farewell addresses.

But if you ban all war, the Outlawrists grasped, you end up eliminating the need for any war. You organize nonviolent systems of conflict resolution. You create the rule of law. You mobilize a reverse arms race. Peace Studies Departments have largely grasped this just in recent years. Peace activists had it down in the 1920s. And they insisted on their vision in the treaty that they wrote, that they negotiated, that they lobbied for, and that they passed — against the very will of many of the Senators ratifying it. Si vis pacem, para pacem. Koplow quotes this inscription from the pen used to sign the treaty. If you want peace, prepare for peace. That people actually meant that in 1928 is beyond common understanding in 2017. Yet it is down in writing in both the text of the treaty and the many texts of the movement that created it. Banning all war was the intention and is the law.

So why should we, as Koplow proposes, create a brand new treaty, modeled on Kellogg-Briand, but banning only nuclear war? Well, first of all, doing so would not legally or otherwise cancel the existing Kellogg-Briand Pact, which is universally ignored by that tiny number of people who’ve ever heard of it. On the contrary, creating a nuclear KBP would bring attention to the existence of the total KBP. Ending all nuclear war would be a powerful step in the direction of ending all war, would quite possibly keep our species in existence long enough to do so, and would point our thinking in just the right direction.

The treaty as Koplow has drafted it would not be in any conflict with a treaty banning nuclear weapons, but might be a treaty that nuclear nations would sign and ratify, and it would be stronger than simply a commitment not to be the first to use nukes. As drafted, the Nuclear Kellogg-Briand Pact goes beyond mirroring the language of the KBP to finesse the defensive question and many others. It’s well thought out, and I recommend reading it. Buried toward the end of the draft treaty is a requirement to accelerate efforts toward total nuclear disarmament. I think passing such a ban on only nuclear war would actually accelerate the abolition of all war, and might just do so via creating awareness that all war has been illegal for 88 years.

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David Swanson is the author of “When the World Outlawed War,” “War Is A Lie” and “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union.” He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more…)

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Resolved: To Find Peace Advocates in Every Nation

December 29, 2016

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From all around the globe, nearly 50,000 people have signed this statement:

I understand that wars and militarism make us less safe rather than protect us, that they kill, injure and traumatize adults, children and infants, severely damage the natural environment, erode civil liberties, and drain our economies, siphoning resources from life-affirming activities. I commit to engage in and support nonviolent efforts to end all war and preparations for war and to create a sustainable and just peace.

Anyone inclined to can sign it here: http://worldbeyondwar.org/individual

In each of 143 countries, somewhere between 1 and several thousand people have signed. The purpose of the statement is to begin organizing a truly global movement. But certain countries are missing. Let’s resolve to add them to the map in 2017.

Obviously there exists at least one person in Venezuela and in Cuba and in Honduras and in Haiti and the Dominican Republic who wants to end all war. As in most countries, it is likely that most people in those countries want to do so. But who will be the first to put their name down?

Organizations can sign too, and several hundred have done so at: http://worldbeyondwar.org/organization

Can we find signers who will sign online or on hardcopy in Algeria, Libya, Western Sahara, Mali, Eritrea, Mauritania, Liberia, Chad, Angola?

What about in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, North Korea, or Papua New Guinea?

Beyond adding a single signer in each of these places, we want to add volunteer leaders who will join the global coordination of educational and activist efforts to rid our species of the disease of militarism before it rids the planet of us.

In 143 countries people have already signed and in a growing list have become active. World Beyond War now has country coordinators all over the world and is hiring paid staff to begin in January and work with them to accelerate our growth and intensify our activities.

Do you know anyone in any of the missing countries? Can you ask them to sign?

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Do you know anyone who might know anyone who might know anyone in any of the missing countries? Can you ask them to sign?

Can you bring sign up sheets to any events you organize or attend in 2017 and ask everyone to sign, then mail them in (or photograph and email them in)? This is how we’ll grow. And this growth combined with the power of our message will change the world.” title=”” class=””>

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Sole Control of the Use of Our Nuclear Weapons

December 3, 2016

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A mushroom cloud. (photo: Medium)

Sole Control of the Use of Our Nuclear Weapons
By Ronnie Dugger, Reader Supported News
02 December 16

he American president decides entirely alone whether to explode our nation’s nuclear weapons on foreign targets. This has been true ever since President Truman ordered the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but not of a third Japanese city because of, he said in a cabinet meeting, “all those kids.” Strategy and targeting are worked out in advance under the president’s control. Like every president since Truman, President-elect Donald Trump will soon be our elected dictator over our atom-splitting bombs.

The other seven more-and-less democracies and one dictatorship that are nuclear-armed vary in their arrangements for who fires off their nuclear weapons. In Russia, whose chief on-media propagandist now brags that his country can reduce the United States to ashes, President Vladimir Putin, the defense minister, and the chief of the general staff share control over the nation’s nuclear codes. In Pakistan also three persons, the prime minister, the president, and a third person who is not identified, must agree on it before launching their nuclear bombs. If the British prime minister can’t do it, two of her deputies can. The heads of state in China, India, France, and Israel control their nations’ nuclear warheads, as presumably the dictator of North Korea does too.

Last March a senior fellow in foreign policy at the respected Brookings Institution, Michael E. O’Hanlon, focused on this solitary power of the American president “to kill tens or hundreds of millions” of people and proposed that the awesome fact should be focused on and changed.

On the use of nuclear weapons in war, O’Hanlon wrote, the U.S. “needs additional checks and balances” and “a model” that we should share with other nuclear-armed nations. He proposed the president should be required to consult in advance with leaders of Congress, and he provisionally suggested requiring approval of such use by a majority of six other officials, the House Speaker, the president pro tempore of the Senate, and the majority and minority leaders of both chambers.

O’Hanlon explained that the U.S. president “can, in theory, launch nuclear warfare by personal decision – without any checks or balances” and added that “a President could push the button all by himself or herself, legally- and constitutionally-speaking.” If the secretary of Defense, the chief of the Strategic Command, or lower-down military personnel, charged to carry out a president’s order to launch nuclear bombs, refused to do it, O’Hanlon wrote, that would be “open insubordination, subject to dismissal and court-martial.”

The War Powers Act of 1973 requires Congressional approval of a president’s military action within 60 days of its inception, but if that action was nuclear bombs, after two months millions, even billions, could be dead.

It is unlikely, O’Hanlon wrote, but we “could have a mentally ill President who chose to do the unthinkable,” with “the possibility of completely intentional nuclear war initiated by a psychotic, schizophrenic, or otherwise unbalanced leader. Again, for all his barbs and insults and affected anger, Trump is likely not such a person. But his candidacy is enough to at least raise the salience of the question.”

President-elect Trump, soon to have sole total authority over the use of the nation’s 4,500 nuclear weapons – many more than a thousand of them on hair-trigger launch-on-warning alert – has been thinking intensely about nuclear weapons for at least four decades and has five clearly-declared convictions concerning them.

One, Trump believes nuclear weapons and their proliferation are the most important issue in the world. “[I]t’s unthinkable, the power,” he says. “The biggest risk for this world or this country is nuclear weapons, the power of nuclear weapons.”

Two, for him the strong taboo against more nations getting nuclear weapons no longer holds: South Korea, Japan, and Saudi Arabia should probably – it would be OK with him – get national nuclear arsenals of their own. Speaking about South Korea and Japan he said, “If they do, they do. Good luck. Enjoy yourselves, folks.” Japan will do it whether we like it or not, in his opinion, and, he said this year, “I would rather have Japan have some form of defense or even offense against that maniac who runs North Korea,” the president, Kim Jong-un.

Three, campaigning for president, he said he does not want to be the one to detonate nuclear weapons first and that only as “an absolute last step” would he order the military to fire them off. But he added, “I’m never going to rule anything out,” and, as for other nations, “at a minimum I want them to think maybe we would use them.”

Four, Trump believes that deterrence theory, the mutual-assured-destruction foundation of the 20th century nuclear arms race, does not prevent nuclear war among rival lesser nuclear-armed nations as it has between the U.S. and Russia. When he was 38, in 1987, he told reporter Ron Rosenbaum, “The deterrence of mutual assured destruction that prevents the United States and the USSR from nuking each other won’t work on the level of an India-Pakistan nuclear exchange. Or a madman dictator with a briefcase-bomb team. The only answer,” he advocated passionately, “is for the Big Two [the U.S. and the Soviet Union then] to make a deal now to step in and prevent the next generation of nations about to go nuclear from doing so. By whatever means necessary.”

As I reported on Reader Supported News last July 15th, approaching his 40th year Trump seriously wanted to be the chief United States negotiator with the Soviet Union to make that deal. His plan was to sell the USSR his idea and proposal that, via trade maneuvers by the U.S. and Soviet “retaliation,” the “Big Two” should gang up on lesser nuclear nations to coerce and force them to give up their nuclear weapons. “You do whatever is necessary,” he said, “so these people will have riots in the street, so they can’t get water, so they can’t get Band-Aids, so they can’t get food. Because that’s the only thing that’s going to do it – the people, the riots.” He said his plan applied against France, too, if France would not give up its nuclear bombs.

Five, Trump, running for president, said that nuclear weapons are going to be used now in the present world. “We’re dealing with people in the world that would use [nuclear weapons], OK?” he told the board of The New York Times. “You have many people that would use it right now in this world.” Characterizing North Korea’s Kim as “like a maniac” and “a madman,” Trump said this year Kim “is sick enough” to use his nuclear weapons.

Yet Trump also has said he is willing to meet with Kim, and he declared during a policy conference he had with his now-chief strategist Steve Bannon last December that if he was elected, he would have U.S. citizens who were imprisoned in North Korea back on American shores before his swearing-in.

It would seem as a logical matter that because of Trump’s fifth conviction that nuclear weapons will be used, if as president he comes into a war-potential situation with another nuclear-armed nation other than Russia or perhaps China, he is likelier than he would be without that conviction to launch U.S. nuclear weapons first against that adversary, thinking that if he did not, the adversary nation well might launch them against us first.

Beyond that, during his campaign Trump displayed and enacted his lifelong rule to always seek revenge; his impulsiveness and quickness to anger; his apparent indifference to the pain he causes others; and his huge ego, his statement that just about meant that on foreign policy he confers most respectfully with himself. These and related considerations led some prominent citizens to exclaim that he should not get his hands on the nuclear codes.

But, Six, Trump also said in passing this year on his way to becoming the most powerful person on earth next January that bad things will happen for us with nuclear weapons “if we don’t eliminate them.” That, too, is in his mind. Let’s go bold and call this his sixth line of thought about all the nuclear warheads.

One Man With All Humanity at His Mercy

Who controls our nuclear arsenal is so important for the continuing life and existence of humanity, I suggest, for my part, that President Obama and the Congress now meeting in its final session, and if and as necessary then President Trump and the new Congress next year, take up this subject to have the launching of our nuclear arsenal not for only the president to decide, but rather for the control to belong to the collective deciding power of a small group of our national leaders.

Concerning those who defend limiting to the one person the power to kill millions of us and possibly escalate us into the end of humanity, in self-defense we citizens, as if channeling the Captain of the Good Ship Enterprise, should tell Congress and the president of this new plan, “Make it so.”

Barack Obama, the most powerful person on earth for seven more weeks, as surprised as most are who is the new president, could and I dare to say should himself simply by presidential executive order distribute his present control over nuclear weapons among a group of five or seven including himself and in a day or a few have created a communications system for them, setting a high example and precedent for his successors. He and Trump have an evidently civil relationship; Obama could handle this with him politely (as if politeness has any business here).

For an example alternative to Brookings fellow O’Hanlon’s postulation of a five-person nuclear control group, the permanent committee on the nuclear arsenal might, after reflection and debate, be composed of five, the president, the speaker of the House, the president pro tempore of the Senate, and one majority or minority leader of each chamber chosen to accomplish a balance in those two between the two main parties.

Or, a Republican Congress might want a permanent committee of the president, the vice-president, the speaker, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If, say to achieve bipartisanship adding one of the majority or minority leaders of both chambers balanced as to parties, there would be a permanent committee of seven, or if all four of those, nine. The leaders and Congress could in good faith just work this out together and make it law.

Since our detonation of our nuclear weapons on cities, nations, or “military targets” (but not ones like Truman said Hiroshima was!) for a tactical or otherwise limited purpose can readily escalate into the end of life on the earth, it seems to me the decision to launch nuclear weapons should require the unanimous agreement of the members of a permanent committee who can be consulted in time. The president and Congress might compromise, if necessary, on requiring 4 out of 5, or 5 or 6 out of 7 … on which, humanity in the cosmos might depend.

In my opinion all members of the permanent committee (what the communists used to call the presidium) governing our nuclear arsenal should justly be legally required, in fidelity to their primary human duty to humanity, to submit their personal autonomy and tranquility to being continuously connected all to each other by fail-safe-as-possible secure communication.

Something like this would also provide a practical, although ethically monstrous assistance for the president’s unbelievable ethical problem if suddenly his national security adviser told him (or, soon, her) that a nuclear attack from X direction, according to our possibly hacked messages from NORAD, is about to explode upon us: the problem of his or her 10 or 15 or so minutes to decide whether to retaliate by mass murder, slaughtering and maiming many millions of totally innocent people as ostensibly ruling deterrence-theory requires and we have cross-our-hearts promised.

The president being commander-in-chief, if all the president’s nuclear presidium members contacted have approved a launch of H-bombs to retaliate and the president is alive and able, then at that final point only the president could give that order, or, the president alone retaining the ultimate power not to commit the mass murder of millions in indefensible before-our-deaths revenge, the president could decide to not retaliate.

This is one form of the rising danger we are all in.

No attention has been given in media I have seen to O’Hanlon’s Brookings posting calling for limitations on the president’s sole control of nuclear weapons, but two years ago the subject was considered publicly to a limited extent in some reviews of W.W. Norton’s remarkable book, Thermonuclear Monarchy, Choosing Between Democracy and Doom, by Elaine Scarry, a professor of ethics and value at Harvard University.

Scarry’s basic theme is that nuclear weapons, in matters concerning them, have in reality abolished Congress and therefore American democracy. She contends that the specific and unqualified requirement in the Constitution that only Congress declare war and its Second Amendment postulating citizens’ right to take up arms in militias to defend the country mean that given the nature of nuclear weapons the only constitutional remedy against them is to abolish them.

H-bombs, “designed to be fired by a small number of persons,” are, Scarry wrote, “the literal technology for killing entire populations at will,” and “the essential feature” of the technology is that “it locates in the hands of a solitary person the power to kill millions of people,” “the capacity to annihilate all the peoples on earth.” The president has “genocidal injuring power at his personal disposal through nuclear weapons…. [T]he people of earth … can be dispatched all at a blow.”

Comprehending, somehow, the total destructive power in the U.S. nuclear arsenal directly bears on whether control over it should be held by only one person. By Scarry’s “conservative” estimates, Obama now personally controls and next January 20th President-elect Trump will personally control the more than one billion tons of equivalent TNT-blastpower that is in our nuclear warheads.

The Harvard professor writes that each one of our U.S. Trident nuclear-armed submarines carries eight times the total blastpower exploded by all the sides in World War II. Each sub has the power of 4,000 Hiroshima-power blasts in 24 missiles containing between 8 and 17 warheads. Any one of the subs can “destroy the people of an entire continent,” there are seven continents, and we have 14 Tridents.

Under the one person’s control, as Scarry writes “we own,” in the pointed-outward tubes in our Trident fleet, 3,100 nuclear warheads with a total blastpower of 273 million tons of TNT, in our land-based ICBM warheads we own another 503 million tons of TNT blast, and then in our nuclear warheads for our bombers we own another 410 million tons of TNT power; in all, we together own about 1,186 million tons of TNT blastpower.

How whimsical and how weird this God-like power is, handed over to one person just because he’s or she’s won our presidency! Since early 1963 the nuclear briefcase, the “football” containing the nuclear codes for the use of only the president, has been carried continuously by an officer in the room the president is in or an adjacent one, as Scarry reports. It is always near the president, including when he is traveling, except for some freak incidents. When President Carter, who once sent his codes to the cleaners in a suit jacket, went rafting in Idaho, another raft followed his down the river with an officer on it carrying the briefcase. When Ronald Reagan was shot, a car containing an officer carrying the codes followed him to the hospital. President Clinton, who sometimes, anyway, kept the codes attached to his credit cards with a rubber band, lost them for several months and didn’t tell the Pentagon.

Does it matter, this one-person power of launch-and-gone? If citizens realized how often since Hiroshima we have been close to again attacking other nations with our nuclear weapons they would know that it really does. Scarry reports that since 1945 our presidents have frequently considered using them, although the official admissions of this don’t reach the public for several decades.

Eisenhower left instructions to officers that if he was out of communication they were to launch nuclear weapons if we came under attack whether nuclear or conventional. Twice he considered launching them himself, over the Taiwan Straits, 1954, and the Berlin crisis, 1959. President Kennedy considered their use three times (40 years after Kennedy’s murder, Robert McNamara said the U.S. came “three times within a hair’s breadth of nuclear war with the Soviet Union”). President Johnson considered a nuclear attack on China to stop them from getting nuclear weapons. President Nixon advocated to Henry Kissinger that the U.S. should use nuclear bombs in the Vietnam War, and, he said 13 years after his presidency, he contemplated using them three other times and not about Vietnam.

As Scarry also points out, only John Kennedy brought the people in on these nuclear-weapons-and-considering-their-use close calls. From since about Reagan, but also earlier, much top-secret truth about our slick missiles of mass death is yet to be made available to the people by their government. If the people knew what they should, they might at least think about the case for pluralizing control of our nuclear arsenal.

7 Weeks, 4 Years … Perry: “Time Is Not on Our Side”

In the later sixties, having dinner for about six in a tiny White House dining room that faces onto Lafayette Square, I sitting by President Johnson, I said to him that, since he had said publicly that in the first half-hour of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear exchange 40 million people would die, what were we reporters supposed to tell the people out there (gesturing leftward to the square) about it?

After a silence, the president said he knew exactly what I was asking (which, in my guarded intent, was, would he himself actually fire off our nuclear weapons?). After telling a long story about how a little Brown & Root airplane he was on made it bouncingly through a lightning storm back down to earth, and he woke up as they landed, he grew angry that I had asked him about this – you and you liberals who don’t have all the secret facts! – and then suddenly in his rising rage he shouted at me, “I’m the one who has to mash the button!” as he mashed his stiffened thumb down in the air bending rightward almost to the floor.

Reportedly President Nixon was preoccupied with his power over the nuclear weapons. A historian has recorded that Nixon told Senator Alan Cranston, “Why, I can go into my office and pick up the telephone and in 25 minutes 70 million people will be dead.”

Reliable journalistic sources recorded that Nixon ordered a tactical nuclear strike against North Vietnam which Kissinger had the Joint Chiefs of Staff stop until Nixon sobered up overnight. During Arab nations’ war on Israel in October 1972 the Soviet Union appeared to be planning to come in on the side of the Arabs. One night the one man didn’t do. USSR premier Leonid Brezhnev sent Nixon a threatening message. Nixon was deemed by those near him too drunk asleep to awaken, and in the morning his inner circle sent Brezhnev a threatening reply signed as if by Nixon, who was in fact dead-drunk asleep. Brezhnev backed off.

In another case with Nixon at least three high officials intervened, perhaps at risk of their prosecution if Nixon had so chosen, to check him. A few weeks before Nixon resigned his secretary of Defense, James Schlesinger, ordered the chairman of the Joint Chiefs that any emergency order coming from Nixon had to be shown to Schlesinger before it was acted on.

President Reagan, after having called the USSR an evil empire, pivoted sharply by his 1984 State of the Union address in which he said, “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought…. [W]ould it not be better to do away with [nuclear weapons] entirely?” He and Mikhail Gorbachev almost did that, but failed.

Since then Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, in their 2002 and 2010 official nuclear policy documents, explicitly declared that the U.S. may make first use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances, which of course the U.S. would define. The U.S. arsenal now contains or is to contain new nuclear weapons that are smaller to make them “more usable,” including one, the B61-12, that is called “dial-a-yield” because the sender of it can adjust it to explode at any of four different levels of destruction.

Russia and the U.S. together have about 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons. Putin has declared Russia will use its stock of them if necessary to preserve the existence of the state. Showing increased interest in them for battlefield combat, Russian officials indicated they are prepared to use them, and first, whether or not it is a nuclear threat that they are under.

William J. Perry, the secretary of Defense under President Clinton, has now dedicated the rest of his life to educating and arousing the people to the rapidly rising danger of nuclear war. Perry warns in his revelatory new book, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, published by Stanford University Press, that “time is not on our side.”

Thus do we Americans, all of us but one, find ourselves concerning the 4,500 nuclear weapons we own still totally inert in the hands of our presidents, one after the other, in this new world of mass murder by codes, because one man commanding in battle and war came down to us through centuries, tribal chiefs, kings, emperors, presidents. This became the way of war because the side whose fighters were commanded by the one brave and shrewder man often won or his forces survived to fight again. Our evolved genetic instinct to follow one man in battle and war is very deep. It is now also obsolete because our nuclear weapons are not for battles or wars but for mass murders and for the first time in our history can and may kill us all.

No one person in any nation on earth should have the sole power to decide alone to launch nuclear weapons in the name and authority of the country he or she is of. Perhaps in this next seven weeks and the ensuing administration we can face down in our own nation those who, perhaps seeing this subject as a political ploy against Trump, will want to continue giving just one person among us the power to end life on earth. Changing this horror in the United States, by Obama or Trump or Congress or all of them, could become a first step to changing it in the world.

Ronnie Dugger received the George Polk career award for journalism in 2012. Founding editor of The Texas Observer, he has published biographical books about Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, other books about Hiroshima and universities, articles for The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other periodicals, and is now in Austin writing a book about nuclear war. ronniedugger@gmail.com
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

——————-

Comment: This is the most urgently solution-requiring issue by mankind – actually and eventually by everyone (deluded by ego fiction and destroying eco). Where is the equality of all men, while a man can annihilate not only men, but all life forms? We must awaken to the fiction of “sovereign state, self, etc.” in the truth/ethic of the interdependent and intertwined life-world!!!

How I Produce Fake News for Russia

November 29, 2016

David Swanson via WarIsACrime.org david@davidswanson.org via sg.actionnetwork.org
6:12 PM (4 hours ago)

Please read my response to the Washington Post’s labeling non-corporate viewpoints “Russian propaganda”:

How I Produce Fake News for Russia

While Russia has, in fact, failed to ever pay me a dime for anything, so — for the most part — have all the outlets I’ve written for that the Washington Post has smeared. I depend for my work on generous support from you. Please donate what you can.
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Jonathan Simon on How Machines May Have Counted Our Votes Wrong

Sonia Kennebeck on the Drone as National Bird
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Dear Mr. Trump, About Your 29 Ideas

Registering Japanese Americans Is Precedent Only for Crime

Born on Home Plate

Michael Flynn Should Remember Truths He Blurted Out Last Year

Another $11.6 Billion for Obama/Trump Wars? Hell No!

John Heuer Was a Tremendous Advocate of Peace

The Skeletons in Keith Ellison’s Display Case

Now More Than Ever: Stand for Peace in Charlottesville

Un-Trump the World

Calexit Yes

Top 10 Election Problems

Armistice Day 98 Years On and the Need for a Peace to End All Wars

A Good Time to Review Bush’s War Crimes

Hurricane Donald and the Storms of Changing Climate

Now We Can Finally Get to Work

The US Wars No One is Talking About and Obama’s Foreign Policy Legacy

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How Drone Pilots Talk

What Could Unite a Larger Peace Movement? Oh, This!

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Now Is the High Time to Cooperate for Peace, Not to Complain for Pandemonium

November 9, 2016

Now We Can Finally Get to Work

By David Swanson
http://davidswanson.org/node/5341

Dear Democrats,

Are you finding yourselves suddenly a bit doubtful of the wisdom of drone wars? Presidential wars without Congress? Massive investment in new, smaller, “more usable” nuclear weapons? The expansion of bases across Africa and Asia? Are you disturbed by the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen? Can total surveillance and the persecution of whistleblowers hit a point where they’ve gone too far? Is the new Cold War with Russia looking less than ideal now? How about the militarization of U.S. police: is it time to consider alternatives to that?

I hear you. I’m with you. Let’s build a movement together to end the madness of constantly overthrowing governments with bombs. Let’s propose nonviolent alternatives to a culture gone mad with war. Let’s end the mindset that creates war in the first place.

We have opportunities as well as dangers. A President Trump is unpredictable. He wants to proliferate nuclear weapons, bomb people, kill people, stir up hatred of people, and increase yet further military spending. But he also said the new Cold War was a bad idea. He said he wanted to end NATO, not to mention NAFTA, as well as breaking the habit of overthrowing countries left and right. Trump seems to immediately back off such positions under the slightest pressure. Will he adhere to them under massive pressure from across the political spectrum? It’s worth a try.

We have an opportunity to build a movement that includes a focus on and participation from refugees/immigrants. We have a chance to create opposition to racist wars and racism at home. We may just discover that what’s left of the U.S. labor movement is suddenly more open to opposing wars. Environmental groups may find a willingness to oppose the world’s top destroyer of the environment: the U.S. military. Civil liberties groups may at long last be willing to take on the militarism that creates the atrocities they oppose. We have to work for such a broader movement. We have to build on the trend of protesting the national anthem and make it a trend of actively resisting the greatest purveyor of violence on earth.

I know you’re feeling a little beat down at the moment. You shouldn’t. You had a winning candidate in Bernie Sanders. Your party cheated him out of the nomination. All that stuff you tell yourselves about encouraging demographic trends and the better positions of young people is all true. You just looked for love in all the wrong places. Running an unpopular candidate in a broken election system is not the way to change the world. Even a working election system would not be the central means by which to improve anything. There’s no getting back the mountains of money and energy invested in this election. But activism is an unlimited resource. Directing your energies now in more strategic directions can inspire others who in turn can re-inspire you.

Dear Republicans,

Your outsider is threatening insiderness. He’s got the same tribe of DC corporate lobbyists planning his nominations that Hillary Clinton had lined up for hers. Can we resist that trend? Can we insist that the wars be ended? Can those moments of off-the-cuff honesty about dinosaurs like NATO be turned into actual action? Donald Trump took a lot of heat for proposing to be fair to Palestinians as well as Israelis, and he backed off fast. Can we encourage him to stand behind that initial inclination?

Can we stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership and end NAFTA as well? We heard a million speeches about how bad NAFTA is. How about actually ending it? Can we stop the looming war supplemental spending bill? Can we put a swift halt to efforts in Congress to repeal the right to sue Saudi Arabia and other nations for their wars and lesser acts of terrorism?

How about all that well deserved disgust with the corporate media? Can we actually break up that cartel and allow opportunities for media entrepreneurs?

Dear United States,

Donald Trump admitted we had a broken election system and for a while pretended that he would operate outside of it by funding his own campaign. It’s time to actually fix it. It’s time to end the system of legalized bribery, fund elections, make registration automatic, make election day a holiday, end gerrymandering, eliminate the electoral college, create the right to vote, create the public hand-counting of paper ballots at every polling place, and create ranked choice voting as Maine just did.

Voter suppression efforts in this year’s elections should be prosecuted in each state. And any indications of fraud in vote counting by machines should be investigated. We should take the opportunity created by all the McCarthyist nonsense allegations of Russian interference to get rid of unverifiable voting.

There are also areas in which localities and states, as well as international organizations and alliances, must now step up to take the lead. First and foremost is investing in a serious effort to avoid climate catastrophe. Second is addressing inequality that has surpassed the Middle Ages: both taxing the overclass and upholding the underclass must be pursued creatively. Mass incarceration and militarized police are problems that states can solve.

But we can advance a positive agenda across the board by understanding this election in the way that much of the world will understand it: as a vote against endless war. Let’s end the wars, end the weapons dealing, close the bases, and cut the $1 trillion a year going into the military. Hell, why not demand that a businessman president for the first time ever audit the Pentagon and find out what it’s spending money on?

Dear World,

We apologize for having elected President Trump as well as for nearly electing President Clinton. Many of you believe we defeated the representative of the enlightenment in favor of the sexist racist buffoon. This may be a good thing. Or at least it may be preferable to your eight-year-long delusion that President Obama was a man of peace and justice.

I hate to break it to you, but the United States government has been intent on dominating the rest of you since the day it was formed. If electing an obnoxious president helps you understand that, so much the better. Stop joining in U.S. “humanitarian wars” please. They never were humanitarian, and if you can recognize that now, so much the better. The new guy openly wants to “steal their oil.” So did the last several presidents, although none of them said so. Are we awake now?

Shut down the U.S. bases in your country. They represent your subservience to Donald Trump. Close them.

Want to save the earth’s climate? Build a nonviolent movement that resists destructive agendas coming out of the United States.

Want to uphold the rule of law, diplomacy, aid, decency, and humanitarianism? Stop making exceptions for U.S. crimes. Tell the International Criminal Court to indict a non-African. Prosecute the crime and crimes of war in your own courts. Stop cooperating in the surrounding and threatening of Russia, China, and Iran. Clinton wanted to send weapons to Ukraine and bomb Syria. Make sure Trump doesn’t. Make peace in Ukraine and Syria before January.

It’s time that we all began treating the institution of war as the unacceptable vestige of barbarism that it can appear when given an openly racist, sexist, bigoted face. We have the ability to use nonviolent tools to direct the world where we want it to go. We have to stop believing the two big lies: that we are generally powerless, and that our only power lies in elections. Let’s finally get active. Let’s start by ending war making.

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How Drone Pilots Talk

November 5, 2016

David Swanson via WarIsACrime.org david@davidswanson.org via sg.actionnetwork.org

8:31 AM (15 minutes ago)

How Drone Pilots Talk

What Could Unite a Larger Peace Movement? Oh, This!

The Purpose of Demonizing Putin

But How Do You Use Nonviolence Against a Nuke?

When Charlottesville Was Nuked

Of Veterans and Black Mirror Roaches

What Radio Can Be: Recent Shows from Talk Nation Radio

Talk Nation Radio: James Marc Leas on Canceling the F-35

What Keeps the F-35 Alive

All Governments Lie, The Movie

Michael Moore Owes Me $4.99

Disobey or Die

Public vs. Media on War

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The Fatal Expense of American Imperialism

November 1, 2016

Published on
Monday, October 31, 2016
by The Boston Globe

byJeffrey D. Sachs
7 Comments

The scale of US military operations is remarkable. And deplorable. (Photo: AP/file)
The single most important issue in allocating national resources is war versus peace, or as macroeconomists put it, “guns versus butter.” The United States is getting this choice profoundly wrong, squandering vast sums and undermining national security. In economic and geopolitical terms, America suffers from what Yale historian Paul Kennedy calls “imperial overreach.” If our next president remains trapped in expensive Middle East wars, the budgetary costs alone could derail any hopes for solving our vast domestic problems.

It may seem tendentious to call America an empire, but the term fits certain realities of US power and how it’s used. An empire is a group of territories under a single power. Nineteenth-century Britain was obviously an empire when it ruled India, Egypt, and dozens of other colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. The United States directly rules only a handful of conquered islands (Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands), but it stations troops and has used force to influence who governs in dozens of other sovereign countries. That grip on power beyond America’s own shores is now weakening.

The scale of US military operations is remarkable. The US Department of Defense has (as of a 2010 inventory) 4,999 military facilities, of which 4,249 are in the United States; 88 are in overseas US territories; and 662 are in 36 foreign countries and foreign territories, in all regions of the world. Not counted in this list are the secret facilities of the US intelligence agencies. The cost of running these military operations and the wars they support is extraordinary, around $900 billion per year, or 5 percent of US national income, when one adds the budgets of the Pentagon, the intelligence agencies, homeland security, nuclear weapons programs in the Department of Energy, and veterans benefits. The $900 billion in annual spending is roughly one-quarter of all federal government outlays.

The United States has a long history of using covert and overt means to overthrow governments deemed to be unfriendly to US interests, following the classic imperial strategy of rule through locally imposed friendly regimes. In a powerful study of Latin America between 1898 and 1994, for example, historian John Coatsworth counts 41 cases of “successful” US-led regime change, for an average rate of one government overthrow by the United States every 28 months for a century. And note: Coatsworth’s count does not include the failed attempts, such as the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.Fall Fundraising Banner

This tradition of US-led regime change has been part and parcel of US foreign policy in other parts of the world, including Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Wars of regime change are costly to the United States, and often devastating to the countries involved. Two major studies have measured the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. One, by my Columbia colleague Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard scholar Linda Bilmes, arrived at the cost of $3 trillion as of 2008. A more recent study, by the Cost of War Project at Brown University, puts the price tag at $4.7 trillion through 2016. Over a 15-year period, the $4.7 trillion amounts to roughly $300 billion per year, and is more than the combined total outlays from 2001 to 2016 for the federal departments of education, energy, labor, interior, and transportation, and the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

It is nearly a truism that US wars of regime change have rarely served America’s security needs. Even when the wars succeed in overthrowing a government, as in the case of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Moammar Khadafy in Libya, the result is rarely a stable government, and is more often a civil war. A “successful” regime change often lights a long fuse leading to a future explosion, such as the 1953 overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected government and installation of the autocratic Shah of Iran, which was followed by the Iranian Revolution of 1979. In many other cases, such as the US attempts (with Saudi Arabia and Turkey) to overthrow Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, the result is a bloodbath and military standoff rather than an overthrow of the government.

. . .

WHAT IS THE DEEP motivation for these profligate wars and for the far-flung military bases that support them?

From 1950 to 1990, the superficial answer would have been the Cold War. Yet America’s imperial behavior overseas predates the Cold War by half a century (back to the Spanish-American War, in 1898) and has outlasted it by another quarter century. America’s overseas imperial adventures began after the Civil War and the final conquests of the Native American nations. At that point, US political and business leaders sought to join the European empires — especially Britain, France, Russia, and the newly emergent Germany — in overseas conquests. In short order, America grabbed the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Panama, and Hawaii, and joined the European imperial powers in knocking on the doors of China.

As of the 1890s, the United States was by far the world’s largest economy, but until World War II, it took a back seat to the British Empire in global naval power, imperial reach, and geopolitical dominance. The British were the unrivaled masters of regime change — for example, in carving up the corpse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Yet the exhaustion from two world wars and the Great Depression ended the British and French empires after World War II and thrust the United States and Russia into the forefront as the two main global empires. The Cold War had begun.

The economic underpinning of America’s global reach was unprecedented. As of 1950, US output constituted a remarkable 27 percent of global output, with the Soviet Union roughly a third of that, around 10 percent. The Cold War fed two fundamental ideas that would shape American foreign policy till now. The first was that the United States was in a struggle for survival against the Soviet empire. The second was that every country, no matter how remote, was a battlefield in that global war. While the United States and the Soviet Union would avoid a direct confrontation, they flexed their muscles in hot wars around the world that served as proxies for the superpower competition.

Over the course of nearly a half century, Cuba, Congo, Ghana, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Iran, Namibia, Mozambique, Chile, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and even tiny Granada, among many others, were interpreted by US strategists as battlegrounds with the Soviet empire. Often, far more prosaic interests were involved. Private companies like United Fruit International and ITT convinced friends in high places (most famously the Dulles brothers, Secretary of State John Foster and CIA director Allen) that land reforms or threatened expropriations of corporate assets were dire threats to US interests, and therefore in need of US-led regime change. Oil interests in the Middle East were another repeated cause of war, as had been the case for the British Empire from the 1920s.

These wars destabilized and impoverished the countries involved rather than settling the politics in America’s favor. The wars of regime change were, with few exceptions, a litany of foreign policy failure. They were also extraordinarily costly for the United States itself. The Vietnam War was of course the greatest of the debacles, so expensive, so bloody, and so controversial that it crowded out Lyndon Johnson’s other, far more important and promising war, the War on Poverty, in the United States.

The end of the Cold War, in 1991, should have been the occasion for a fundamental reorientation of US guns-versus-butter policies. The occasion offered the United States and the world a “peace dividend,” the opportunity to reorient the world and US economy from war footing to sustainable development. Indeed, the Rio Earth Summit, in 1992, established sustainable development as the centerpiece of global cooperation, or so it seemed.

Alas, the blinders and arrogance of American imperial thinking prevented the United States from settling down to a new era of peace. As the Cold War was ending, the United States was beginning a new era of wars, this time in the Middle East. The United States would sweep away the Soviet-backed regimes in the Middle East and establish unrivalled US political dominance. Or at least that was the plan.

. . .

THE QUARTER CENTURY since 1991 has therefore been marked by a perpetual US war in the Middle East, one that has destabilized the region, massively diverted resources away from civilian needs toward the military, and helped to create mass budget deficits and the buildup of public debt. The imperial thinking has led to wars of regime change in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Syria, across four presidencies: George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. The same thinking has induced the United States to expand NATO to Russia’s borders, despite the fact that NATO’s supposed purpose was to defend against an adversary — the Soviet Union — that no longer exists. Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev has emphasized that eastward NATO expansion “was certainly a violation of the spirit of those declarations and assurances that we were given in 1990,” regarding the future of East-West security.

There is a major economic difference, however, between now and 1991, much less 1950. At the start of the Cold War, in 1950, the United States produced around 27 percent of world output. As of 1991, when the Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz dreams of US dominance were taking shape, the United States accounted for around 22 percent of world production. By now, according to IMF estimates, the US share is 16 percent, while China has surpassed the United States, at around 18 percent. By 2021, according to projections by the International Monetary Fund, the United States will produce roughly 15 percent of global output compared with China’s 20 percent. The United States is incurring massive public debt and cutting back on urgent public investments at home in order to sustain a dysfunctional, militarized, and costly foreign policy.

Thus comes a fundamental choice. The United States can vainly continue the neoconservative project of unipolar dominance, even as the recent failures in the Middle East and America’s declining economic preeminence guarantee the ultimate failure of this imperial vision. If, as some neoconservatives support, the United States now engages in an arms race with China, we are bound to come up short in a decade or two, if not sooner. The costly wars in the Middle East — even if continued much less enlarged in a Hillary Clinton presidency — could easily end any realistic hopes for a new era of scaled-up federal investments in education, workforce training, infrastructure, science and technology, and the environment.

The far smarter approach will be to maintain America’s defensive capabilities but end its imperial pretensions. This, in practice, means cutting back on the far-flung network of military bases, ending wars of regime change, avoiding a new arms race (especially in next-generation nuclear weapons), and engaging China, India, Russia, and other regional powers in stepped-up diplomacy through the United Nations, especially through shared actions on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including climate change, disease control, and global education.

Many American conservatives will sneer at the very thought that the United States’ room for maneuver should be limited in the slightest by the UN. But think how much better off the United States would be today had it heeded the UN Security Council’s wise opposition to the wars of regime change in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Many conservatives will point to Vladimir Putin’s actions in Crimea as proof that diplomacy with Russia is useless, without recognizing that it was NATO’s expansion to the Baltics and its 2008 invitation to Ukraine to join NATO, that was a primary trigger of Putin’s response.

In the end, the Soviet Union bankrupted itself through costly foreign adventures such as the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan and its vast over-investment in the military. Today the United States has similarly over-invested in the military, and could follow a similar path to decline if it continues the wars in the Middle East and invites an arms race with China. It’s time to abandon the reveries, burdens, and self-deceptions of empire and to invest in sustainable development at home and in partnership with the rest of the world.

© 2016 Boston Globe

Jeffrey D. Sachs
Jeffrey D. Sachs is the Director of The Earth Institute, Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals, having held the same position under former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He is Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. He is co-founder and Chief Strategist of Millennium Promise Alliance, and is director of the Millennium Villages Project. A recent survey by The Economist Magazine ranked Professor Sachs as among the world’s three most influential living economists of the past decade. Sachs is the author, most recently, of “The Age of Sustainable Development,” 2015 with Ban Ki-moon.

Public vs. Media on War

October 28, 2016

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Slavery Was Abolished

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Slavery Was Abolished

October 27, 2016

OpEdNews Op Eds 10/25/2016 at 14:29:48

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I recently debated a pro-war professor on the topic “Is war ever necessary?” (video). I argued for abolishing war. And because people like to see successes before doing something, no matter how indisputably possible that thing is, I gave examples of other institutions that have been abolished in the past. One might include such practices as human sacrifice, polygamy, cannibalism, trial by ordeal, blood feuds, dueling, or the death penalty in a list of human institutions that have been largely abolished in some parts of the earth or which people have at least come to understand could be abolished.

Of course, an important example is slavery. But when I claimed that slavery had been abolished, my debate opponent quickly announced that there are more slaves in the world today than there were before foolish activists imagined they were abolishing slavery. This stunning factoid was meant as a lesson to me: Do not try to improve the world. It cannot be done. In fact, it may be counter-productive.

But let’s examine this claim for the 2 minutes necessary to reject it. Let’s look at it globally and then with the inevitable U.S. focus.

Globally, there were about 1 billion people in the world in 1800 as the abolition movement took off. Of them, at least three-quarters or 750 million people were in slavery or serfdom of some kind. I take this figure from Adam Hochschild’s excellent Bury the Chains, but you should feel free to adjust it considerably without altering the point I’m leading up to. Today’s abolitionists claim that, with 7.3 billion people in the world, instead of there being the 5.5 billion people suffering in slavery that one might expect, there are instead 21 million (or I’ve seen claims as high as 27 or 29 million). That’s a horrific fact for each of those 21 or 29 million human beings. But does it really prove the utter futility of activism? Or is a switch from 75% of the world in bondage to 0.3% significant? If moving from 750 million to 21 million people enslaved is unsatisfactory, what are we to make of moving from 250 million to 7.3 billion human beings living in freedom?

In the United States, according to the Census Bureau, there were 5.3 million people in 1800. Of them, 0.89 million were enslaved. By 1850, there were 23.2 million people in the U.S. of whom 3.2 million were enslaved, a much larger number but a noticeably smaller percentage. By 1860, there were 31.4 million people of whom 4 million were enslaved — again a higher number, but a smaller percentage. Now there are 325 million people in the United States, of whom supposedly 60,000 are enslaved (I will add 2.2 million to that figure so as to include those who are imprisoned). With 2.3 million enslaved or incarcerated in the United States out of 325 million, we are looking at a larger number than in 1800 though smaller than in 1850, and a much smaller percentage. In 1800, the United States was 16.8% enslaved. Now it is 0.7% enslaved or imprisoned.

Nameless numbers should not be thought to diminish the horror for those currently suffering slavery or incarceration. But neither should they diminish the joy of those not enslaved who might have been. And those who might have been is much higher than a number calculated for one static moment in time. In 1800, those enslaved did not live long and were rapidly replaced by new victims imported from Africa. So, while we might expect, based on the state of affairs in 1800, to see 54.6 million people in the United States enslaved today, most of them on brutal plantations, we must also give consideration to the additional billions whom we would see flowing in from Africa to replace those people as they perished — had abolitionists not resisted the naysayers of their age.

So, am I wrong to say that slavery has been abolished? It remains in a minimal degree, and we must do everything in our power to eliminate it completely — which is certainly doable. But slavery has largely been abolished and has certainly been abolished as a legal, licit, acceptable state of affairs, apart from mass incarceration.

Is my debate opponent wrong to say that there are more people in slavery now than there used to be? Yes, in fact, he is wrong, and he is even more wrong if we choose to consider the important fact that overall populations have increased dramatically.

A new book called The Slave’s Cause by Manisha Sinha is large enough to abolish various institutions if dropped on them from a significant height, but no page is wasted. This is a chronicle of the abolition movement in the United States (plus some British influences) from its origins up through the U.S. Civil War. The first thing, of many, that strikes me in reading through this valuable saga is that it was not just other nations that managed to abolish slavery without fighting bloody civil wars; it was not just the city of Washington, D.C., that figured out a different path to freedom. The U.S. North began with slavery. The North abolished slavery without a civil war.

The Northern U.S. states during the first 8 decades of this country saw all the tools of nonviolence achieve the gains of abolition and of a civil rights movement that at times eerily foreshadowed the civil rights movement that would be delayed in the South until a century after the disastrous choice to go to war. With slavery ended in 1772 in England and Wales, the independent republic of Vermont partially banned slavery in 1777. Pennsylvania passed a gradual abolition in 1780 (it took until 1847). In 1783 Massachusetts freed all people from slavery and New Hampshire began a gradual abolition, as did Connecticut and Rhode Island the next year. In 1799 New York passed gradual abolition (it took until 1827). Ohio abolished slavery in 1802. New Jersey began abolition in 1804 and was not finished in 1865. In 1843 Rhode Island completed abolition. In 1845 Illinois freed the last people there from slavery, as did Pennsylvania two years later. Connecticut completed abolition in 1848.

What lessons can we take from the history of the ongoing movement to abolish slavery? It was led, inspired, and driven by those suffering under and those who had escaped from slavery. A war abolition movement needs the leadership of those victimized by war. The slavery abolition movement used education, morality, nonviolent resistance, law suits, boycotts, and legislation. It built coalitions. It worked internationally. And its turn to violence (which came with the Fugitive Slave Law and led up to the Civil War) was unnecessary and damaging. The war did not end slavery. The abolitionists’ reluctance to compromise kept them independent of partisan politics, principled, and popular, but may have closed off some possible steps forward (such as through compensated emancipation). They accepted western expansion along with virtually everyone else, north and south. Compromises made in Congress drew lines between north and south that strengthened the divide.

Abolitionists were not popular at first or everywhere, but were willing to risk injury or death for what was right. They challenged an “inevitable” norm with a coherent moral vision that challenged slavery, capitalism, sexism, racism, war, and all variety of injustice. They foresaw a better world, not just the current world with one change. They marked victories and moved on, just as those nations that have abolished their militaries could be used today as models for the rest. They made partial demands but painted them as steps toward full abolition. They used the arts and entertainment. They created their own media. They experimented (such as with emigration to Africa) but when their experiments failed, they never ever gave up.

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David Swanson is the author of “When the World Outlawed War,” “War Is A Lie” and “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union.” He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more…)