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As Trump Sells War Ahead of Korea Visit, Groups Demand ‘Urgent Pivot Towards Peace’

November 6, 2017

Published on
Monday, November 06, 2017
byCommon Dreams

As Trump Sells War Ahead of Korea Visit, Groups Demand ‘Urgent Pivot Towards Peace’
“The people of Japan, South Korea, and United States oppose war.”
byAndrea Germanos, staff writer

South Korean protesters take part in an anti-Trump rally in front of the U.S. Embassy on November 4, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. Trump will visit South Korea on November 7 as a part of his Asian tour. (Photo: Woohae Cho/Getty Images)
South Korean protesters take part in an anti-Trump rally in front of the U.S. Embassy on November 4, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. Trump will visit South Korea on November 7 as a part of his Asian tour. (Photo: Woohae Cho/Getty Images)
As President Donald Trump continues his bellicose rhetoric towards North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during his trip to the Asia-Pacific region this week, organizations from the U.S., South Korea, and Japan on Monday demanded an “urgent pivot towards peace” and called on their leaders to rein in the militarization that could lead to “catastrophe.”

Trump is in Japan on Monday as he continues his nearly two-week “Indo-Pacific” tour, which will also include stops in South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. In Tokyo, Trump said (his “sidekick”) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would be able to ensure his country’s safety by buying “lots of” military equipment from the United States.

But according to the civil society organizations, such a move would add to the already antagonistic stew of verbal threats, sanctions, joint U.S., Japanese, and South Korean military exercises, Abe’s controversial move to re-militarize the country, and the continued nuclear weapons possession by any state. Instead, they say, Trump, Abe, and South Korea President Moon Jae-in should “take bold steps to ensure lasting peace.”

“Washington is forcing a trilateral military alliance and provocative war drills on Tokyo and Seoul that threatens North Korea and the region,” said Christine Ahn, international coordinator of global peace movement Women Cross DMZ. “The people of Japan, South Korea, and United States oppose war. Our demands are an urgent pivot towards peace.”

Many South Koreas are putting that opposition on display. Ahead of a protest that willl coincide with Trump’s visit to Seoul on Tuesday, thousands rallied in that capitol on Sunday chanting “We oppose war! Nengotiate peace!”

According to Choi Eun-a of the Korean Alliance for Progressive Movements, which is among the groups calling for a national protest on the day of the U.S. president’s visit, “The South Korean public is highly critical of Trump for making threats of war and dismissing the gravity of its consequences as something ‘over there,'” apparently referring to recent comments the president made to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

“The war-threatening, weapons salesman Trump is not welcome here, especially as he demands that South Korea pay more to host U.S. troops and set aside land for useless weapons like the THAAD missile defense system,” she added, referring to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system located at a base in Seongju, around 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Seoul.

“The war-threatening, weapons salesman Trump is not welcome here.”The groups also spoke out about a series of joint U.S.-South Korean military drills scheduled to happen during Trump’s visit.

“Peace-loving people in the United States, Japan, and South Korea reject the war-mongering policies of our governments and express our friendship and solidarity with the people of North Korea,” said Jackie Cabasso, Executive Director of the Western States Legal Foundation in California, and the National Co-Convener of United for Peace and Justice. “The U.S. government must end its policy of sanctions and military threats against North Korea, cease the deployment of more weapons of mass destruction to the Korean peninsula and the region, and halt large-scale military exercises that impede dialogue with North Korea.”

The new statements come less than two weeks after U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation to prevent Trump from launching a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, and days after the Pentagon said that only a ground invasion could secure North Korea’s nuclear weapons sites “with complete certainty.”

That assessment, said 16 U.S. lawmakers, is “deeply disturbing,” and such an action “could result in hundreds of thousands, or even millions of deaths in just the first few days of fighting.”

The lawmakers, all veterans, said, the “assessment underscores what we’ve known all along: There are no good military options for North Korea.”

* * *

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Read the civil society groups’ full statement below:

U.S., South Korean, and Japanese Civil Society Organizations Call for a Bold Shift in Policy for Peace in Korea and Northeast Asia

As U.S. President Trump travels to Asia, we civil society groups from the United States, South Korea, and Japan call for a diplomatic solution to the dangerous conflict between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). As those who would be directly impacted by the outbreak of such a conflict, we call on our leaders to take bold steps to ensure lasting peace.

Recent events have set the stage for a possible catastrophe on the Korean Peninsula and even throughout the greater Northeast Asian region. Any further escalation of tensions could rapidly degenerate into violence. In its 27 October 2017 report, the U.S. Congressional Research Service estimates that over 300,000 people would die in the opening days of a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula, even without nuclear weapons, and would ultimately claim 25 million lives.

Even as President Trump calls his predecessor’s policy of “strategic patience” on North Korea a failure, he continues the same policy, i.e., intensifying U.N. and unilateral sanctions and military threats. Meanwhile, North Korea continues to escalate the pace and scale of its nuclear and missile tests. The Abe government, seizing on the crisis in Korea, has quickened the pace of remilitarization and revision of Article 9 of its constitution. South Korean President Moon Jae-in meanwhile, despite an unambiguous mandate from the South Korean people, who ousted his hawkish predecessor in hopes of a radical transition to harmonious North-South relations, instead continues to do the bidding of the United States as he assumes a hostile posture vis-à-vis North Korea. We therefore demand that:

1. The Trump administration boldly shift to a policy of peace by:
· Ending its policy of sanctions and military threats against North Korea;
· Ceasing the deployment of more weapons of mass destruction on the Korean peninsula and in the region, and withdrawing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system from South Korea as it only exacerbates tensions in the region; and
· Halting large-scale military exercises that impede dialogue with North Korea

2. The administration of President Moon Jae-in of South Korea honor the spirit of past North-South joint declarations for peace and reconciliation by:
· Assertively pursuing inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation;
· Halting future large-scale U.S.-South Korea combined military exercises to minimize the risk of confrontation ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyongchang, South Korea; and
· No longer cooperating with investments in costly weapon systems with the United States and Japan, including spending on missile defense, which only exacerbates tensions in the region and diverts precious resources away from human needs.
3. The government of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe immediately cease all further moves toward military buildup and instead contribute to regional peace by:
· Abolishing the controversial “Conspiracy Law” and “State Secrecy Law,” as well as the 2015 “Peace and Security Legislation” or war bills which permit the use of the so-called right to collective self-defense;
· Pursuing the normalization of relations between Japan and North Korea based upon the principles of the Pyongyang Declaration and the Stockholm Agreement; and
· Ceasing moves to change Article 9, the peace clause in its constitution.

These are among the hundreds of civil society organizations who have signed on:

Japan

· Citizens Association against Constitutional Revision (許すな!憲法改悪・市民連絡会)
· Femin Women’s Democratic Club (ふぇみん婦人民主クラブ)
· Japan-Korea People’s Solidarity Network (日韓民衆連帯全国ネットワーク)
· Kyoto/Kinki Association against the U.S. X-band Radar Base (米軍Xバンドレーダー基地反対・京都/近畿連絡)
· Network of Religious Persons Making Peace
· Nonviolent Peaceforce Japan (非暴力平和隊・日本)
· Peace Boat (ピースボート)
· Veterans for Peace Japan (ベテランズ・フォー・ピース・ジャパン)

South Korea
• Federation of Korean Trade Unions (한국노동조합총연맹)
• Korean Alliance of Progressive Movements (한국진보연대)
• Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (전국민주노동조합총연맹)
• Korean Peasants League (전국농민회총연맹)
• Korean Street Vendors Confederation (전국노점상연합)
• Korean Women’s Alliance (전국여성연대)
• Korean Women Peasants Alliance (전국여성농민회총연합)
• Korean Youth Solidarity (한국청년연대)
• National Alliance of Squatters and Evictees (전국철거민연합)

United States
• Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security
• International Forum on Globalization
• Peace Action
• Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and Militarism in Asia and the Pacific
• United for Peace and Justice
• Veterans for Peace National
• Western States Legal Foundation
• Women Cross DMZ

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Eisenhower, Trump and hubris: We’ve had misguided presidents, but not like this

November 5, 2017

https://www.salon.com/2017/11/05/eisenhower-trump-and-hubris-weve-had-misguided-presidents-but-not-like-this/?source=newsletter

Is Trump Unraveling?

October 15, 2017

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Last week, Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview with the New York Times that Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

Corker said he was concerned about Trump. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation,” Corker said, adding that “the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here … the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

Corker’s interview was followed by a report from Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair, who wrote that the situation has gotten so out of control that Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis have discussed ways to stop Trump should he order a nuclear attack. Kelly has tried to keep Trump focused by intercepting outside phone calls to the White House and restricting access to the Oval Office. Many of Trump’s advisers believe he is “unstable” and “unravelling” quickly.

 
Is Trump really unraveling? Are Republican leaders ready to pull the plug? I phoned an old friend, a Republican former member of Congress who keeps up with what’s going on. I scribbled notes as he talked:

Me: So what’s up? Is Corker alone, or are others also ready to call it quits with Trump?

He: All I know is they’re simmering over there.

Me: Flake and McCain have come pretty close.

He: Yeah. Others are thinking about doing what Bob did. Sounding the alarm. They think Trump’s nuts. Unfit. Dangerous.

Me: Well, they already knew that, didn’t they?

He: But now it’s personal. It started with the Sessions stuff. Jeff was as loyal as they come. Trump’s crapping on him was like kicking your puppy. And then, you know, him beating up on Mitch for the Obamacare fiasco. And going after Flake and the others.

Me: So they’re pissed off?

He: Not just that. I mean, they have thick hides. The personal stuff got them to notice all the other things. The wild stuff, like those threats to North Korea. Tillerson would leave tomorrow if he wasn’t so worried Trump would go nuclear, literally.

 
Me: You think Trump is really thinking nuclear war?

He: Who knows what’s in his head? But I can tell you this. He’s not listening to anyone. Not a soul. He’s got the nuclear codes and, well, it scares the hell out of me. It’s starting to scare all of them. That’s really why Bob spoke up.

With Bomber Flyover, Trump Denounced for ‘Trying to Provoke War’ With North Korea

October 15, 2017

Published on
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
byCommon Dreams

Trump “is trying to provoke war to not be the aggressor,” says one observer
byAndrea Germanos, staff writer
75 Comments
B-1B Lancer bombers flanked by Japan Air Self Defense Force F-2 fighters
B-1B Lancer bombers flanked by Japan Air Self Defense Force F-2 fighters take part in a mission over the Pacific Ocean. (Photo: Japan Air Self Defense Force/flickr/cc)
Amid the latest signs of escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, President Donald Trump was blasted on Wednesday for ordering B-1 bombers to fly over the Korean peninsula—a move critics characterized as a dangerous but intentional provocation.

According to John Dean, former White House counsel to President Nixon, Trump “thinks he’ll be admired for killing millions… so he’s trying to provoke war to not be the aggressor.”

He thinks he’ll be admired for killing millions. His stupid base would approve, so he’s trying to provoke war to not be the aggressor. https://t.co/VMYaxRQzyE

— John Dean (@JohnWDean) October 11, 2017

Others on social media similarly saw it as a move “to provoke war”:

A statement from the U.S. military said the display, which included missile drills over the waters east and west of the peninsula, was the first nighttime exercise conducted between the U.S. Air Force, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, and Republic of Korea air force units.

It came hours after President Donald Trump met with his top military advisors to discuss “a range of options to respond to any form of North Korean aggression or, if necessary, to prevent North Korea from threatening the United States and its allies with nuclear weapons,” and weeks after Kim Jong Un’s regime—following ominous threats by Trump—warned of its “right to shoot down the U.S. bombers even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country.”

U.S. Air Force Maj. Patrick Applegate said of Tuesday drill: “This is a clear demonstration of our ability to conduct seamless operations with all of our allies anytime anywhere.”

The development comes as a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll shows that two-thirds of Americans believe Trump’s comments about the situation with North Korea have made it worse.

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Trump’s threats against North Korea signify real danger of war

October 10, 2017

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Donald Trump continued his campaign of incendiary statements over the weekend, threatening to launch a war with North Korea that could unleash a nuclear catastrophe.

On Saturday afternoon, the US president tweeted that past administrations “have been talking to North Korea for 25 years.” This “hasn’t worked,” he wrote, adding: “Sorry, but only one thing will work!” Asked later to elaborate on what he meant, Trump replied, “You’ll figure that out pretty soon.”

These threats came three weeks after Trump’s tirade at the United Nations General Assembly September 19, when he declared that the US was “ready, willing, and able” to “totally destroy” North Korea, a country of 25 million people. Four days later, Trump threatened to assassinate the North Korean leader. If the North Korean foreign minister’s speech at the UN “echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man [Kim Jong-Un],” Trump wrote, “they won’t be around much longer!”

On Thursday, Trump organized a White House dinner with US military leaders, which had all the hallmarks of a meeting of a war cabinet. During a photo op before the dinner, Trump, surrounded by generals in military uniform, likened the moment to “the calm before the storm.” Asked what storm he was talking about, Trump would only say, “You’ll find out soon.”

To the extent that Trump’s words are interpreted as a genuine expression of the policy and plans of the United States government, the inescapable conclusion is that the world stands on the brink of the most devastating military conflict since the outbreak of World War II. Were language and reality in correct political alignment, the present situation would be described officially as an “Imminent danger of war.”

Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, embroiled in a political conflict with Trump, warned that the president’s reckless threats were leading the United States “on the path to World War III.” But despite Corker’s statement on Sunday, there is, within the ruling elite and its media, a staggering disconnect between consciousness and reality. The public declarations emanating from the White House are being reported by the media as if they will have no consequences. The thinking seems to be that Trump doesn’t mean what he says. The consequences of a war would prove to be so catastrophic that Trump is simply bluffing.

But what if he isn’t? What if the North Korean government takes the threats of the American president, as it must, seriously? With Trump having publicly declared that he will destroy North Korea and that the doomsday hour is fast approaching, how will the Pyongyang government interpret American military actions near the borders of its country? With only minutes to make a decision, will the regime view the approach of a US bomber toward North Korean airspace as the beginning of a full-scale attack? Will it conclude that it has no choice but to assume the worst and initiate a military strike against South Korea? Will it fire missiles, as it has threatened, in the direction of Japan, Guam, Australia, or even the United States?

From a purely legal standpoint, North Korea can claim, in light of Trump’s threats, that such action on its part would be an act of self-defense, a legitimate response to an imminent military threat.

Aside from the calculations of Pyongyang, one must assume that the regimes in Beijing and Moscow are also looking at the unfolding developments with increasing alarm. While the American media, as is its wont, responds complacently and thoughtlessly to Trump’s threats, the Chinese regime cannot avoid viewing them with deadly seriousness. Trump is, after all, the commander in chief of the American military. He has the power — which Congress has shown no interest in challenging — to order military actions.

A US attack on North Korea would pose an overwhelming threat to China. As in 1950, a war against North Korea would — even if it did not rapidly escalate into a nuclear exchange — lead inexorably to an American incursion across the 38th Parallel. The last time the US military crossed the border into North Korea, the Chinese responded with a massive military counterattack. There is no reason to believe that the present-day regime in Beijing would remain passive in the face of a new US invasion of North Korea. It would view an American invasion as an unacceptable violation of a geopolitical arrangement on the Korean peninsula that has been in existence for nearly 65 years.

Beijing’s reaction would be influenced by the already tense conditions that exist in the Asia-Pacific region. For years, the US has been systematically building up its military forces in the South China Sea under the “Pivot to Asia” initiated by the Obama administration. The purpose has been to militarily encircle China, which dominant sections of the ruling class consider the major competitor to US interests. Over the weekend, China’s main regional competitor, Japan, declared that it fully backed Trump’s threats against North Korea.

Thus, the outbreak of war between North Korea and the United States would inevitably involve China, which, in turn, would draw all of Asia, as well as Australia, into the bloody maelstrom. Nor would it be possible for Europe and Latin America, which have their own interests in Asia, to stand aside.

Little has appeared in the American media about the consequences of war with North Korea. An article in Newsweek in April concluded that a war would leave one million people dead, assuming that it did not involve the use of nuclear weapons or any other outside powers. In a comment in the Los Angeles Times last month, retired Air Force Brigadier General Rob Givens calculated that 20,000 South Koreans would die every day in a war on the peninsula, even without the use of nuclear weapons.

If the war were to develop into a nuclear exchange — as the Trump administration has threatened — the consequences would be catastrophic. In addition to the millions or tens of millions killed outright, climate experts warned in August that even a regional nuclear war would cool the planet by up to 10 degrees Celsius, potentially sparking a global nuclear winter that would wipe out agricultural production.

Despite all the evidence that war could break out at any time, the American media persists in its refusal to take the events seriously.

The New York Times epitomized this media effort at chloroforming the population in its October 6 article on Trump’s remarks before the generals, which stated that Trump has a “penchant for provocative statements” and takes “an obvious delight in keeping people guessing.” Writing as if what was involved was merely a matter of White House gossip and intrigue, the Times stated that the “timing” of the “calm before the storm” statement was “particularly tantalizing.”

“But it is equally plausible,” the article concluded, “that Mr. Trump was merely being theatrical, using the backdrop of military officers to stir up some drama.”

The efforts of the media to downplay the danger are contradicted by signs of serious divisions within the Trump administration. There are rumors that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be forced out or could resign, following statements from Trump last month directly undermining Tillerson’s moves to resume negotiations with the North Korean government. Thursday’s meeting of top advisers in the White House, decked out in their uniforms, may have been an effort by Trump to ensure that he has the military on his side in advance of war.

These divisions, however, are tactical in character. In the final analysis, Trump speaks not simply for himself, but for the US ruling class. The dominant factions of the ruling oligarchy are united on the basic strategy of using its military force to maintain its hegemonic position abroad.

Trump uses exceptionally crude and brutal language to justify American foreign policy. But he is not the author of Washington’s hegemonic strategy. The United States has been at war almost continuously for more than 25 years. This weekend marked the sixteenth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. The Pentagon is conducting military actions all over the world, usually without the American people being informed of the deployment of military personnel. The death in combat this past week of four American soldiers in the African country of Niger came as a total surprise to the public.

A war with Korea could break out at any time. This is the reality of the situation. Rather than speculating idly over whether Trump is merely bluffing, the critical task is the building of a powerful movement, based on the working class, against the drive to war. The very fact that the American president smirks and laughs as he threatens millions with annihilation is itself sufficient proof that the US political system is terminally sick and capable of any crime.

Trump’s bluster at the UN shows he doesn’t understand North Korea at all

September 26, 2017

The practical reality is this: To de-escalate this situation, the United States must be prepared to swallow its hubris and sit down with North Korea.

By Tom Fowdy – September 26, 2017 | Op-Ed 0 Comments35
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The ignorance and hubris of the President of the United States knows no boundaries.

At his recent debut speech at the United Nations General Assembly – an organization built for the purposes of peace, humanitarianism, and internationalism – Donald Trump openly and apologetically threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea in response to its continued nuclear and missile testing.

Prior, at no point in history had any world leader stood before the representatives of every nation and boasted in such vain egocentrism of their intent to destroy another member state, seemingly incapable of grasping the inevitable consequences of such actions.

Although it may sound strong and tough to Trump’s religious supporters, these kinds of comments offer no practical solutions to a crisis his administration is pinning its foreign policy goals upon. Rather, they are leading the United States purposefully into a vicious cycle of escalations with which lack any serious exit strategy. This is a mistake: North Korea cannot be threatened into submission or surrendering its nuclear weapons, and the outcomes could be catastrophic.

The practical reality is this: to de-escalate this situation, the United States must be prepared to swallow their hubris and sit down with North Korea.

First of all, contrary to the hysteria generated by the U.S. administration and the mainstream media, North Korea has no intent of initiating a war against America or any of its allies. Rather, owing to the legacy of the U.S. presence in the Korean peninsula, which hosts annual military exercises on the North Korean border, including purposefully drilled “decapitation strikes,” North Korea’s nuclear weapons serve a necessity as a deterrent.

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But why? Unknown to most of the American public, the North Korean state is sociologically conditioned by the memory of Japanese colonialism, the division of their nation (which America played a large part in), and most importantly, the unapologetic U.S. carpet bombing of their country in the Korean War, which killed up to 3 million people – destroying every building and dropping more napalm than it did on Vietnam.

The result is the consolidation of a post-colonial, insecure regime which has only ever known real and perpetuating threats to its sovereignty and existence. Thus, in the Post-Cold War, American-dominated world, where U.S.-led regime changes have been abundant, the North has resorted to the nuclear bomb as its primary means of survival, pursuing this even at the expense of its own people.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration, dismissing this historical and sociological background entirely, with its hyperbole and fabled policy of “Maximum Pressure,” truly believe that an incoherent mash of military threats and tough sanctions, combined with a clueless attempt to outsource U.S. foreign policy to China, can somehow get North Korea to “submit” and surrender their nuclear program.

If the potential consequences weren’t so serious, it would be laughable – because one thing is for sure, this won’t work. But then what? The sheer chauvinism of the Trump administration makes it hard to back down, which is why remarks like this are precisely so unsettling.

Hardliners consistently claim that diplomatic efforts to resolve the North Korean crisis have failed, but what diplomatic efforts? People often cite the failure of the 1994 agreed framework negotiated by Bill Clinton, but always overlook the fact that it was the George W. Bush administration which effectively ruined it with their illegal invasion of Iraq.

And when it comes to the current administration, what evidence is there for diplomacy? The repetitive and infuriating remarks by Trump regarding “fire and fury” and “total destruction”? The blatant intention to scrap the Iran deal, a country that actually did comply with international law and scrap their nuclear program? The hysterical and ear-splitting threats of Nikki Haley at the security council?

There have been none. In the Republican Party, U.S. foreign policy toward North Korea is blinded by opaque, Cold War-tinted glasses which scorch all attempts at dialogue as a form of “appeasement,” something the president has publicly insulted his own allies for on Twitter.

The practical reality is this: to de-escalate this situation, the United States must be prepared to swallow its hubris and sit down with North Korea, immediately ceasing the threats of nuclear war which will only strengthen Kim Jong Un’s resolve to proliferate.

The first and most reasonable step is that which China and Russia have repeatedly proposed: a “freeze for freeze” agreement, in which North Korea ceases its nuclear and missile testing in exchange for the United States and South Korea suspending their military exercises on the border, ending what North Korea describes as America’s “hostile policy” towards it.

With this secured, the route for further talks without inflammatory rhetoric can be found, namely the Six-Party talks involving China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan. Although it’s unlikely that North Korea will surrender its program outright, efforts should then be put towards simply taming it, by seeking the DPRK’s return to the Non-proliferation Treaty, obtaining assurances it doesn’t share its technology, and likewise prompting it to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Although negotiations would be timely and certainly not easy, they are a better alternative than the current effort to pressure, isolate, and threaten North Korea – a foreign policy built upon a grotesque misunderstanding of that country, coated with opportunistic McCarthyism and the overshadowing greed of American strategic gains in Asia.

But unless some are hoping for the destruction of Seoul and Tokyo, remarks like Trump’s will only lead people’s lives to ruin. We cannot go on like this. It is time to talk to North Korea.

————–

Comment: “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind” (M. K. Gandhi), either barking or baking by nukes, makes miserable world. Wake up and work out!

Why China Won’t Pressure North Korea as Much as Trump Wants

September 20, 2017

News Desk

By Evan Osnos
8:54 A.M.

China’s leaders don’t trust North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un—but they trust President Trump even less.Photograph by Jim Watson / AFP / Getty
At the center of the North Korean nuclear crisis is a pivotal question: How much is China really willing to pressure and punish its longtime ally in Pyongyang? Recent conversations in Beijing and Washington suggest that Chinese leaders have decided to increase pressure substantially but are not—and probably never will be—willing to help President Trump strangle North Korea into submission. China doesn’t trust Kim Jong Un—but it trusts Trump even less.
For decades, China backed North Korea in hostilities with the United States. The fellow Communist armies had fought alongside one another in the Korean War, and North Korea still relies on China for as much as ninety per cent of its overseas trade. In Chairman Mao’s analogy, the two nations were as close as “lips and teeth.” But that is no longer true; since taking power, in 2011, Kim Jong Un, who is suspicious of China’s efforts to control North Korea or spur it to follow its model of economic reform, has openly antagonized the government in Beijing, including launching rockets that would embarrass the Chinese leadership. (Earlier this month, Kim fired a rocket just as Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, was opening an annual summit of developing countries in the Chinese city of Xiamen.)
By several measures, Chinese leaders have become more willing to get tough with Kim. Until recently, Chinese intellectuals rarely questioned China’s commitment to North Korea. But, in March, Shen Zhihua, one of China’s best-known experts on the Korean War, said, in a speech, “We must see clearly that China and North Korea are no longer brothers-in-arms, and in the short term there’s no possibility of an improvement in Chinese-North Korean relations.” The speech circulated widely, without much in the way of official censorship—a sign, to many Chinese analysts, that some of the country’s leaders agree.
When I met Shen last month, in Beijing, he told me, “I think more and more leaders share this view. At a minimum, they think that multiple views should exist.” Shen is a calm, silver-haired scholar who works in a research center at East China Normal University, in Shanghai. As a historian, he believes that long-standing tensions between Beijing and Pyongyang are becoming irreparable. “Officially, they tried to paper over the cracks, but the differences were inevitable,” he said.
Shen does not speak for the leadership or advise powerful officials. Rather, his views should be understood as a reflection of the change that is under way in the Chinese establishment. Of North Korea, he said, “I think China doesn’t care who is running the country. Xi and Kim have not met. It used to be a tradition if there is a new leader, to meet him. But not now.” Fundamentally, he said, some have come to believe what was once anathema—that North Korea could one day turn its aggression on China: “Many in China don’t want North Korea to have nuclear weapons because nuclear weapons are, first, threatening to China.”

I wondered if Shen was expressing a minority view. When I met Zhao Tong, who specializes in nuclear issues as a fellow at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, I asked him about Shen’s speech. “I think most people would broadly agree,” Zhao said. “It’s not a warm relationship of ‘brothers.’ ” Given that North Korea has continued to test nuclear weapons in the face of Chinese protests, he said, China would not feel automatically compelled to defend North Korea under their mutual-assistance treaty. “Most Chinese would laugh at the proposal that China should provide security guarantees,” he said.
Zhao ticked off examples of China’s new pressures on Pyongyang: “China has stopped coal imports. That’s a big step. It’s stopped supplying diesel and gas. That’s a big step. It has tightened regulations on companies and financial institutions, and the big ones have stopped doing business with North Korea. It’s the smaller ones that are motivated by narrow interests and are still doing business. China has enhanced inspections of goods at the border. They made efforts to help private-sector companies strengthen their export-control practices.”
But, importantly, Zhao added that it would be a mistake to misread those steps as China signing on, wholesale, to American efforts to force North Korea to the edge of collapse—a tactic, favored in Washington, known as “strategic strangulation.” “No, it’s just balancing Trump and Kim Jong Un,” Zhao said. “The reason China agreed to much tougher sanctions is to calm Trump down.” China has strategic tensions of its own with the U.S., so it is keeping both countries off balance. “It’s basically, ‘Who is the bigger evil?’ For China, the U.S. is always the top geostrategic concern, the top threat.”
Zhao notes that the U.N. sanctions against North Korea that were passed on August 5th, which China supported, stopped short of seeking to undermine trade and humanitarian activities. “They are trying to draw a line between North Korea’s military program and civilian trade. To put more pressure on North Korea, without undermining it. China has been taking the incremental approach,” he said. In Zhao’s view, even though China has agreed to limit oil exports to North Korea, it is unlikely to cut them off entirely, which the Trump Administration believes is a vital step to change Kim’s behavior. “If China remains the sole supplier, meaning Russia won’t step in, I think China would find it very hard to do that,” Zhao said.
There are hard limits to China’s willingness to advance American interests in Asia, because the two powers have deep disagreements—about trade, contested territory in the South China Sea, and Taiwan. As the North Korea crisis has escalated, China has urged the U.S. to consider offering North Korea a deal known as “freeze for freeze,” in which the North would halt further tests if the U.S. halts or reduces joint military exercises with South Korea and Japan—exercises that China resents as well. “I think some Chinese are secretly hoping the North Korean position can actually help drive the U.S. forces away from the Korean Peninsula,” Zhao said. “It is in China’s interest if, in the mid-to-long term, the North Koreans can have a deal with the United States where the U.S. reduces troops or reduces its exercises.”
In recent years, overly hopeful U.S. politicians and commentators have repeatedly misunderstood China’s views of North Korea and assumed that Beijing was, at last, turning against its irksome ally. In private meetings with President Obama, and later with President Trump, Xi has repeated a bottom-line principle about North Korea: “No war. No chaos. No nukes.” A former U.S. official, who was at several of those meetings, told me, “Every American senior official that I know hears, ‘Blah, blah, blah—no nuclear weapons.’ And thinks, ‘Oh, we agree! Excellent!’ So the Chinese ought to be willing to limbo under this bar for us. But, no, that’s third in the list of three strategic priorities. The first two are avoiding war on the Korean Peninsula, and avoiding chaos and collapse.” In that spirit, China has sought to limit the scope of U.S.-backed sanctions in the U.N. Security Council. In the latest round, earlier this month, China succeeded in forcing the U.S. to drop its pursuit of a full oil blockade, which China fears would drive North Korea to collapse.
Nothing worries Chinese officials more than the following scenario: the U.S. uses harsh sanctions and covert action—and possibly military strikes—to drive North Korea close to the point of regime collapse. In turn, Pyongyang lashes out with violence against America or its allies, sparking a full-blown war on China’s border, just as China is trying to maintain delicate economic growth and social stability. Xi, in separate sessions, has offered Obama and Trump the same Chinese adage in reference to North Korea: “When a man is barefoot, he doesn’t fear a man with shoes.” In other words, even if attacking America would be suicide for North Korea, if it sees nothing left to lose, it just might do the unthinkable. For that reason, China, above all, wants the U.S. to avoid backing Kim into a corner from which he has no exit.
Trump is fervently seeking China’s coöperation, but, ironically, his rhetoric and aggression may be putting that further out of reach. On Sunday, Trump mocked Kim as the “Rocket Man.” Members of his Administration have repeated their openness to “military options,” despite projections that air strikes, or other attempts at targeted attacks, could spark a wider war. Chinese intellectuals have taken to joking that “Telangpu”—which is one of the Chinese pronunciations of Trump’s name—sounds like “te meipu (得没譜?),” which means clueless or lacking a plan. In recent months, Trump has alternately praised China and threatened it with a trade war. “I don’t understand Trump,” Shen, the historian, told me. “One day he is saying something good about Xi Jinping and the next he is criticizing him. Trump is becoming more and more of a problem. China is becoming more and more stable.”

Evan Osnos joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2008, and covers politics and foreign affairs. He is the author of “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China.”Read more »

Trump’s Articles of Impeachment: A Greatest Hits Collection

August 23, 2017

Trump’s Articles of Impeachment: A Greatest Hits Collection

By David Swanson, FireDonaldTrump.org

Several years back, I led a team of authors drafting articles of impeachment against then-President George W. Bush for then-Congressman Dennis Kucinich. We drafted over 60 and settled on the best 35. Had Congress moved forward, it would not have passed all 35 or convicted on them. But we felt it was important to establish the record and present the options. In fact, I would have preferred to go with more than 35, including a wider range of topics. The fact that someone has abused power in 10 ways should constitute no license to abuse it in an 11th way.

Believe it or not (hint, hint: I don’t need more emails on this) I am aware of the general horror of Mike Pence, but a country that impeached and removed presidents would be a very different country in which the next president would have to behave or face impeachment and removal in turn. Fear of the next person will look ever weaker as grounds for allowing the current person to destroy things as he proceeds with his destruction.

I’m further aware that Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s team wants Trump around more than the Republicans do, so that the Democrats can “oppose” him. The task before the public is to compel members of both major parties to impeach, not to sit back and observe them doing so of their own volition.

Although several potential articles of impeachment against Trump stand very strongly on their own, and picking any one of them would be sufficient, the very strongest case for impeachment is a cumulative one. I cannot predict which articles, if any, will gain the most popular or Congressional support. I am, therefore, collecting the strongest ones available here at FireDonaldTrump.org. I will add more as the crime wave rolls on. I pushed for impeachment of Bush and of Obama for some similar offenses and some completely different ones. Many of Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors are unprecedented. None are identical to the abuses by those who have gone before him.

I. Domestic Emoluments

In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has illegally received emoluments from the United States government and from individual state governments.

The Constitutional ban on domestic emoluments is absolute, not waivable by Congress, and not subject to proving any particular corrupting influence.

President Trump’s lease of the Old Post Office Building in Washington D.C. violates the General Services Administration lease contract which states: “No … elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.” The GSA’s failure to enforce that contract constitutes an emolument.

Since 1980 Trump and his businesses have garnered, according to the New York Times, “$885 million in tax breaks, grants and other subsidies for luxury apartments, hotels and office buildings in New York.” Those subsidies from the state of New York have continued since President Trump took office and constitute emoluments.

In these and many similar actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

II. Foreign Emoluments

In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has illegally received emoluments from foreign governments. Foreign emoluments are banned by the U.S. Constitution.

Donald J. Trump’s business has licensing deals with two Trump Towers in Istanbul, Turkey. Donald J. Trump has stated: “I have a little conflict of interest, because I have a major, major building in Istanbul.”

China’s state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is the largest tenant in Trump Tower in New York City. It is also a major lender to Donald J. Trump. Its rent payments and its loans put President Trump in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Foreign diplomats, including the Embassy of Kuwait, have changed their Washington D.C. hotel and event reservations to Trump International Hotel following Donald J. Trump’s election to public office.

In these and many similar actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

III. Incitement of Violence Within the United States

In his conduct while President of the United States, and while campaigning for election to that office, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has illegally incited violence within the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brandenberg v. Ohio in 1969 that “advocacy directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action . . . likely to incite or produce such action” is not protected by the First Amendment.

An incomplete sampling of public statements by candidate Donald J. Trump:

“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them. I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.”

“Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”

“See, in the good old days this doesn’t happen, because they used to treat them very, very rough. And when they protested once, you know, they would not do it again so easily.”

“You know what I hate? There’s a guy, totally disruptive, throwing punches, we’re not allowed to punch back anymore. I love the old days—you know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.”

“See the first group, I was nice. Oh, take your time. The second group, I was pretty nice. The third group, I’ll be a little more violent. And the fourth group, I’ll say get the hell out of here!”

“I’d like to punch him in the face, I tell ya.”

“You see, in the good old days, law enforcement acted a lot quicker than this. A lot quicker. In the good old days, they’d rip him out of that seat so fast — but today, everybody’s politically correct.”

“He was swinging, he was hitting people, and the audience hit back. That’s what we need more of.”

Numerous incidents of violence followed these comments. John Franklin McGraw punched a man in the face at a Trump event, and then told Inside Edition that “The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.” Donald J. Trump said that he was considering paying McGraw’s legal bills.

Since Trump’s election and inauguration, his comments appearing to incite violence have continued, as have incidents of violence in which those participating in violence have pointed to Trump as justification.

On July 2, 2017, President Donald J. Trump tweeted a video of himself body slamming a man with an image of “CNN” superimposed on him.

In August 2017, participants in a racist rally in Charlottesville, Va., credited President Trump with boosting their cause. Their violence included actions that have led to a murder charge. President Trump publicly minimized the offense and sought to blame “many sides.”

In these and similar actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

IV. Voter Intimidation

In his conduct while President of the United States, and while campaigning for election to that office, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has engaged in acts of voter intimidation and suppression.

For months leading up to the November 2016 elections, Donald J. Trump publicly encouraged his supporters, the same ones he had encouraged to engage in violence, to patrol polling places in search of participants in the virtually nonexistent practice of voter fraud. In so doing, candidate Trump made would-be voters aware that they might face such patrols. His remarks included:

“I hope you people can sort of not just vote on the 8th, go around and look and watch other polling places, and make sure that it’s 100 percent fine.”

“We’re going to watch Pennsylvania. Go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.”

Trump urged supporters to target Philadelphia, St. Louis, and other cities with large minority populations.

He created on his campaign website a way to sign up to “volunteer to be a Trump election observer.”

When early voting began, incidents were reported of Trump supporters photographing voters and otherwise intimidating them.

Trump ally and former campaign advisor Roger Stone formed an activist group called Stop the Steal that acted in line with Trump’s public statements. The group threatened violence against delegates if the Republican Party denied Trump its nomination. It then organized intimidation efforts in the general election around the unsupported claim that Trump’s opponents would somehow “flood the polls with illegals. Liberal enclaves already let illegals vote in their local and state elections and now they want them to vote in the Presidential election.”

According to the U.S. Department of Justice in 2006, in all federal elections between 2002 and 2005, a total of 26 people out of 197 million were convicted of trying to vote illegally.

Stone’s organization created official-looking ID badges for volunteers and asked them to videotape voters, and conduct phony exit polls in nine cities with large minority populations.

One such volunteer, Steve Webb of Ohio, told the Boston Globe, “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”

Since becoming president, Donald J. Trump has continued with voter intimidation efforts. He has created a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which has sent letters to states requesting sensitive voter information. Most states have refused. But thousands of people have canceled their registrations rather than have their information turned over to Trump’s administration.

In these and similar actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

V. Muslim Bans

In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has engaged in acts of discrimination in violation of the First Amendment and other laws by seeking to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

Donald J. Trump had openly campaigned for office promising a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Once in office, he created an executive order that his advisor Rudy Giuliani, said on Fox News had been drafted after Trump had asked him for the best way to create a Muslim ban “legally.” The order targeted several majority-Muslim countries for restrictions on immigration to the United States, but made allowances for people of minority religions within those countries. Trump told the Christian Broadcasting Network that Christian refugees would be given priority. When a federal court stopped this order from taking effect, President Trump issued a new one containing, in the words of his advisor Stephen Miller “minor technical differences.”

In these actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

VI. Environmental Destruction

In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has actively sought to endanger the future existence of human life in the United States and elsewhere.

On December 6, 2009, on page 8 of the New York Times a letter to then-President Barack Obama printed as an advertisement and signed by Donald J. Trump called climate change an immediate challenge. “Please don’t postpone the earth,” it read. “If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.” An overwhelming consensus of climate scientists agreed with and still agree with that statement.

As president, Donald J. Trump has taken the opposite course, refusing to take any significant steps to protect the earth’s climate, and actively taking steps to endanger it, including by seeking to de-fund the Environmental Protection Agency and to censor its publications. President Trump has issued an executive order curbing enforcement of climate regulations. He has withdrawn the United States from the Paris climate agreement. He has disbanded the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment. He has canceled a study of the health impacts of mountain-top removal.

The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court has written than environmental crimes are crimes against humanity.

In the above and many similar actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States and the world. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

VII. Illegal Wars

In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has waged numerous wars in violation of the United Nations Charter and of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, both treaties part of the Supreme Law of the United States under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.

By these actions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States and the world. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

VIII. Illegal Threats of Wars

In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” has threatened war against additional nations, including North Korea, in violation of the United Nations Charter, a treaty that is part of the Supreme Law of the United States under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.

By these actions, President Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States and the world. Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

IX. Sexual Assault

Prior to becoming President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, stated:

“I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

By this action, Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner that makes it impossible for him to fulfill his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

Wherefore, President Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

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 Top 10 Misconceptions About Charlottesville

August 14, 2017

 
Top 10 Misconceptions About Charlottesville
By David Swanson
http://davidswanson.org/top-10-misconceptions-about-charlottesville

1. Let’s start with the obvious. Charlottesville, Virginia, and Charlotte, North Carolina, are actually two completely different places in the world. The flood of concern and good wishes for those of us here in Charlottesville is wonderful and much appreciated. That people can watch TV news about Charlottesville, remember that I live in Charlottesville, and send me their kind greetings addressed to the people of Charlotte is an indication of how common the confusion is. It’s not badly taken; I have nothing against Charlotte. It’s just a different place, seventeen times the size. Charlottesville is a small town with the University of Virginia, a pedestrian downtown street, and very few monuments. The three located right downtown are for Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the Confederacy. Neither Lee nor Jackson had anything to do with Charlottesville, and their statues were put up in whites-only parks in the 1920s.

2. The racists who have begun coming to Charlottesville to campaign for governor, garner attention, threaten violence, engage in violence, and commit murder are almost all from outside Charlottesville, and extremely unwelcome here. Charlottesville is a slightly left-of-center, Democratic Party area. Most people don’t rally for good causes or against bad ones. Most people don’t want the Lee statue taken down. (Or at least they didn’t until it became a gathering point for neo-Confederates.) Most people want other memorials added to public space to diversify. And most people don’t want white supremacists coming to town with their hatred and their violence.

3. Armed attacks are not covered by the First Amendment. I can and have argued at length for the strategic — never mind legal — need to respect odious free speech, and — more importantly — to respect and build bridges of understanding to the troubled people preaching hatred. But the human right to free speech is not found in a gun or a torch or a can of pepper spray any more than in corporate advertising. When we hold peace rallies in U.S. cities we are sometimes forbidden to bring posters on wooden poles. We have to use hollow cardboard tubes to hold up our signs, because — you know — advocates of nonviolence can be so violent. Yet racist, nationalist, white supremacist agitators are allowed to bring an arsenal with which to attack the general public and counter-demonstrators! Whatever that is, it is not free speech. I’d be willing to say it’s closer to enabling terrorism. All media habits of “balance” and “even handedness” become lies when respect for rights, and blame for deaths and injuries, are based on the notion that premeditated violence and threats of violence and the carrying of weapons are not worth noticing.

4. Charlottesville’s mayor voted against taking down the Lee statue, even if he now sounds on NBC News as if it had been his idea. Seen from a certain angle, that’s progress. I want people to get on board with the idea of taking down all racist monuments and all war monuments, and this one is both. But it is a misconception to imagine that the decision to take down General Lee came from the top or that it came without extensive public input. It’s true that City Council member Kristin Szakos publicly proposed the dominance of our public space by Confederate statues as a problem, and that City Council member Wes Bellamy pushed for that. But it was the national movement of Black Lives Matter, and local activism, that created the demand in the first place, as well as making Bellamy a member of City Council. The City held very lengthy and public and extensive hearings and gathering of facts and views. A Blue Ribbon Commission produced a report. And when the City Council voted to take down Lee (but leave up Jackson) it did so because City Council Member Bob Fenwick joined Szakos and Bellamy in a 3-2 vote, in which Mayor Mike Signer was on the losing and cowardly side. Because that is typical of him, we should be wary of fale perceptions of him as a leader, until he really becomes one. It’s possible that had he shown the leadership of the Mayor of New Orleans in taking down statues and explaining why, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

5. The military and militarized police are not here to protect you. An armed force on the streets and in the air of Charlottesville crashed a helicopter, tragically killing two people. But what else did it accomplish? It heightened tensions. It reduced turnout by those opposed to violence and racism. Its aggression toward anti-racists following the KKK rally in July contributed to fears of what it would do this time. The Charlottesville police do not need the mine-resistant vehicle they keep in their garage, because we do not have land mines. We do not need our skies filled — including on the Friday before the rally — with military helicopters. We do not need tanks on our streets for godsake. We need to disarm those seeking to exercise their First Amendment Rights, not arm someone else. The helicopter never should have crashed because it never should have flown. And every individual who assaulted and threatened people with pepper spray, torches, sticks, fists, or an automobile, should have been welcomed to nonviolently, without guns or other weaponry, speak their mind — and to meet and converse with those opposing their views.

6. The events in Charlottesville, like foreign and domestic emoluments, additional forms of financial corruption, Muslim bans, illegal wars, threats to North Korea, voter intimidation, environmental destruction, and sexual assault, make up yet another article of impeachment for Donald Trump awaiting only the awakening of a House of Representatives. Incitement of acts of violence is a crime, and it is certainly a high-crime-and-misdemeanor, the Constitutional phrase refering to an abuse of power that may or may not be criminal. Donald Trump went out of his way to persuade racists that they were free to engage in their racism openly. Numerous racists, including some of those who have been active in Charlottesville, have openly communicated their understanding of that presidential permission. Those sitting silently by in this moment are condoning racism. So are those not advocating for impeachment and removal. Yes I am aware of the general horror of Mike Pence, but a country that impeached and removed presidents would be a very different country in which the next president would have to behave or face impeachment in turn. Fear of the next person will look ever weaker as grounds for allowing the current person to destroy things as he proceeds with his destruction. I’m further aware that the D.C. Democratic leadership makes Mayor Signer’s cynicism look like child’s play, and that Nancy Pelosi wants Trump around more than the Republicans do, so that the Democrats can “oppose” him. But I’m not asking you to believe he’s going to be impeached without your doing anything. I’m asking you to compel his impeachment.

7. The answer to racist violence is not anti-racist violence or passivism, and the idea that those are the only two choices is ridiculous. Charlottesville’s and the United States’ resistance to racism would be far stronger with disciplined nonviolence. The behavior of a few anti-racists in July allowed the corporate media to depict the KKK as victims. There is nothing the alt-right crowd longs for more in this moment than some act of violence against them that would permit pundits to start trumpeting the need for liberals to be more tolerant of racists, and to proclaim that the real problem is those reckless radicals who want to tear down statues. We need nonviolent activism, and we need a thousand times more of it. We need to initiate the next rally in Charlottesville ourselves.

8. Tearing down statues is not opposing history. Charlottesville has three Confederate war statues, two (pro) genocide of the Native Americans statues, one World War I statue, one Vietnam War memorial, one statue of Thomas Jefferson (whose words and deeds, I’m sorry to say, agreed almost entirely with the latest racists), and one statue of Homer (poet of war). And that’s it. We have no memorials, whether monumental statuary or otherwise, to a single educator, artist, musician, athlete, author, or activst, nothing for Native American history, slavery, civil rights, women’s rights, or ANYTHING ELSE. Almost all of our history is missing. Putting up a giant statue for racism and war is not a step for history. Taking it down is not a blow to history. It could be a step forward, in fact. Even the renaming of Lee Park as Emancipation Park is educational. Creating a memorial to emancipation, and one to civil rights, and one to school integration, and one to peace would be more so.

9. The Lee statue is still there, not because racists rally around it, but because legislators glorify war. While neither side has any interest in opposing or even particularly in promoting war, and while the national and local media have gone through endless contortions to avoid mentioning it, the court case holding up the removal of Robert E. Lee and the horse he never rode in on is about war glorification. A state law that may or may not apply to this statue forbids taking down war memorials in Virginia. For fair and balanced free-speech advocates I should note that no similar law forbids taking down peace monuments. Also there really aren’t any to take down if you wanted to. This is a symptom of a culture that has come to accept endless war and the militarization of local police, and to report on rallies of “white nationalists” without ever considering that there may be a problem with both of those words.

10. As I’ve written in recent months, many sympathizers with the racist cause are understandable. This is a quite different thing from being acceptable or praise worthy. To say that someone is understandable is to say that you can understand them. They’re not monsters acting on inexplicable subhuman impulses any more than do the people they hate or the people against whom the United States wages wars typically behave that way. These racists live in one of the most unequal societies ever known, and they don’t live at the top of it. They hear about endless efforts to alleviate injustice toward all sorts of wronged groups that don’t include them. They notice the cultural acceptability in comedy shows and elsewhere of mocking white people. They seek a group identity. They seek others to blame. They seek others to place beneath themselves. And they hear hardly a peep out of Washington D.C. about creating universal rights and supports for everyone, as in Scandinavia. Instead they hear that hatred and violence and racism come with the Presidential seal of approval.

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Never Mind the Real Russia, It’s All about Trump

May 27, 2017

David Swanson via ActionNetwork.org david@davidswanson.org via sg.actionnetwork.org
May 24

Never Mind the Real Russia, It’s All about Trump: An Interview with David Swanson

By Ann Garrison at Black Agenda Report
Anti-war activist and author David Swanson told the author that party partisanship fuels the anti-Russian obsession among rank and file Democrats. “If the Democratic Party had made a grand cause of friendship with Russia and disarmament and ending nuclear weapons madness, then liberal supporters of the Democratic Party would be out there saying, ‘Let’s be friends with Russia.’”

Never Mind the Real Russia, It’s All about Trump: An Interview with David Swanson


by Ann Garrison



“Russians have absolutely no idea that hatred of Russia can be driven by hatred of Trump.”

In American politics, Donald Trump has been so effectively identified with Russia that hostility or friendship toward Russia is now driven by feelings about Trump. David Swanson, founder of World Beyond War and author of “War is a Lie” and “War Is Never Just,” was on a friendship tour in Russia when a Tiki torch-bearing crowd protested the removal of a Confederate monument in his hometown and chanted “Russia is our friend.” I spoke to David Swanson upon his return.

Ann Garrison: On May 13, in your hometown—Charlottesville, Virginia—a Tiki torch-bearing crowd protested the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The protesters chanted “Blood and Soil,” a well-known Nazi slogan invoking the bloodline of a people and its territory, and “Russia is our friend.” You were in Russia at that time on a friendship tour, so could you tell us how Russians perceived this?

David Swanson: At that time, few of them had heard about it, and I hope that remains the case. I did discuss it with some, and I mentioned it immediately to a Russian friend I was with. He objected, “But we didn’t have slavery; we had serfdom. It’s not the same.” He just didn’t understand connecting Russia to slavery, much less to Nazism, given that Russia is the country that defeated Nazism. 

Russians have absolutely no idea that hatred of Russia can be driven by hatred of Trump. They have no idea whatsoever that Trump is doing anything unpopular on the domestic front. They don’t know that he’s going after environmental protections, or poverty relief, or women’s rights, or that he’s going after immigrants. They do know about longstanding, deeply entrenched, decades-long hatred of Russia in Washington, D.C. They think that hatred of Russia drives hatred of Trump. Of course, the reality is both ways, but they only know about the one. So you have to explain to them who Trump is, why somebody who wants to be friends with Russia, like myself, does not like Trump. There’s a lot of explaining to do.

AG: Didn’t you lead the effort to have the Robert E. Lee statue taken down there in Charlottesville?

“The only statues we have here in Charlottesville are war statues. There are no peace statues.”

DS: No, I certainly don’t think anyone would give me credit for that. In fact, the push to get rid of these Confederate statues in Charlottesville came from directions similar to the Black Lives Matter movement and was driven, I think, purely by opposition to racism. Most of the advocates for taking down the Confederate general statues in Charlottesville probably having nothing whatsoever against war any more than any other good war-loving Americans. Their problem is with racism, with bad wars, with a war for slavery and defending the slavery side of that war. That’s why they wanted these statues gone. 

I jumped in and said, “Yes, you’re absolutely right. Get rid of these statues. There are some other reasons, too, to get rid of these statues. They’re war statues. The only statues we have here in Charlottesville are war statues. There are no peace statues. There are no anything else statues. There are no civil rights statues, no women’s rights statues, no labor movement statues. There’s nothing memorializing 99.99% of the history of this town. Only these two Confederate generals who, so far as I know, never even visited this town are memorialized by monumental statues.” 

Ironically, the issue of memorializing war, which nobody in the United States ever wants to face, was forced into the conversation because there’s a law in Virginia that says, “Thou shalt never tear down a war statue.” Even if you’re doing it purely because it’s a racist statue. Now it’s in the courts. Even though the city has said, “Take down the statue,” there’s a court case arguing that it can’t be taken down because we’re not allowed to take down any war statues. 

There is no law that says you can’t take down any peace statues or any peace memorials. For that matter, there aren’t any peace memorials to consider taking down. Yet that’s hardly scratched the surface of the ongoing conversation, which remains purely about racism and that’s of course been inflamed further by the racists at this torch-lit rally chanting Nazi slogans and “Russia is our friend.” I’m very glad that at least a few people were confused by this “Russia is our friend” slogan.

AG: I know that you always favor dialogue over confrontation, and you’ve said that despite everything, you feel some empathy for these people and understand their concerns. Could you explain that?

DS: Well, we should feel empathy for everyone. I’ve had people attack me in this debate for trying to humanize the racists. If you can’t humanize humans, who can you humanize? Some of them are cynical politicians, including a candidate for governor of Virginia who comes from Minnesota, a pro-Trump guy who wants to become a Confederate by leading the charge to defend the Confederate monuments. By the way, these monuments are coming down in New Orleans just ahead of Charlottesville, and there’s discussion of taking them down in Richmond.

Aside from the cynical politicians, a lot of these people share the obvious, legitimate grievance of living in a country that’s rolling in money and does not provide decent education, opportunity, retirement security, or health care, and leaves them on edge and ill at ease about their lives all the time.

And it must be noted that we’re a culture that’s progressed so far in certain ways that it’s just inexcusable to make sexist or racist comments about women and most minorities, but you can make jokes about white rednecks anytime you like. You can have comedy specials about rednecks. You can push any sort of stereotypes or generalizations about white people, and especially poor white people, and that’s totally acceptable. That fuels this sort of resentment among people who haven’t been taught anything about history, but know that some African-American kid got a scholarship to a school that they didn’t get. 

We haven’t found the wisdom and the political force to do things right, to do things the way Scandinavia does—to provide rights for everyone, a basic income for everyone, health care for everyone, job security, retirement, paid vacation, a clean environment, transportation, and child care for everyone. We have a system that funnels resentment into our politics by creating giant bureaucracies to weed out the deserving poor from the undeserving poor and make sure the little scraps get tossed to the right people and not the wrong people. So that’s a lot of where this movement comes from.

“We haven’t found the wisdom and the political force to do things right, to do things the way Scandinavia does—to provide rights for everyone, a basic income for everyone, health care for everyone, job security, retirement, paid vacation, a clean environment, transportation, and child care for everyone.”

These people will tell you they’re not racist. They’ll tell you they don’t want slavery. They’ll tell you they’re out there to defend the white something, and sometimes they’ll say the white race. Sometimes they’ll say the white ethnicity. They identify with the white something as their group. They ask, if it’s acceptable to identify with and celebrate being a Latino, an African American, or an African American homosexual, or this, that, or the other thing, then why isn’t it acceptable to celebrate being white? This is their cause. I don’t think it’s a kind or generous or productive cause. I don’t think it’s helpful and I wouldn’t defend it, but to suggest that they’re not human, that they’re monsters, that they just behave irrationally without any explanation is to treat them the way U.S. government propaganda treats Russia, Iran and North Korea, and that’s not helpful.

AG: When I volunteered at the Common Ground Collective in New Orleans after the flood, they let us know that the racist aspersion “cracker” was not acceptable there.

DS: I don’t think it should be acceptable anywhere. I don’t think any racial insults should be acceptable anywhere.

AG: How do you think the people at this torch lit protest understood the chant, “Russia is our friend”?

DS: I don’t know any more than you do really. I haven’t spoken with them or communicated with them about it. The other response to that protest that I heard first in Russia, then back here at home, was, “Oh, it’s the work of the deep state. The CIA has planted that.” No, I don’t think so. This is the work of a handful of racists feeding off of what has been deeply implanted in U.S. culture over the past six to eight months. That is, the idea that Trump is on one side and the people attacking Trump are on the other side, and Russia is on the Trump side. It doesn’t matter if six months ago, you would have cared nothing about Russia or been hostile toward Russia. The defenders of Trump accept without any evidence, just as the opponents of Trump accept without any evidence, that Russia had something to do with electing Trump. 

We haven’t seen a shred of proof. I’m absolutely certain that if there were any proof we would have seen it by now. The whole thing’s become a bait and switch where, instead of any evidence coming forth, we start hearing about other abuses whether it’s obstruction of a federal investigation—whether that investigation was going anywhere or not—or financial ties to Russian criminals on the part of Trump’s subordinates, or whatever. Even so, this idea that Russia somehow determined the outcome of our presidential election has been so firmly implanted in U.S. culture that both sides just accept it. The side that’s out there to cheer for Trump, they want to thank Russia and be friends with Russia.

“I’m absolutely certain that if there were any proof we would have seen it by now.”

If the right wing populists in this country had, for whatever reasons, chosen to demonize Russia, these same people would be out there demonizing Russia. If the Democratic Party had made a grand cause of friendship with Russia and disarmament and ending nuclear weapons madness, then liberal supporters of the Democratic Party would be out there saying, “Let’s be friends with Russia.” 

It’s pure partisanship, and yet it’s very dangerous because it’s stirring up hostility between two nuclear-armed governments. Much of the deep state in Washington, D.C. benefits from and openly wants hostility with Russia to increase weapons sales and bureaucratic power, and this is playing with fire. It’s playing with apocalypse. It might be funny if it weren’t for that.

AG: In this piece you recently wrote, “Leave Russia the Блядь Out of U.S. Scandals,” you address the recent uproar about Donald Trump sharing classified info about ISIS with Russian officials. Could you tell us what you had to say about that?

DS: Well, I don’t know any more about what was shared than you do. We were told it was information helpful in going after ISIS that came from Israel’s so-called intelligence so-called services and that this might therefore endanger our relationship with these so-called intelligence services. 

Trump has always maintained that he wants to work with Russia on combating terrorism. Russia has always maintained the same public approach to working with the United States, and, as far as we know, the same private approach. They want us to work together. 

Now they want to work together on something that I see as counterproductive, immoral and illegal on its own terms. That is, using warfare to stamp out terrorism, using a larger tactic of terrorism to stamp out terrorism, which of course just fuels a cycle of violence and produces more terrorism, but this is what they both want to do. This is what just about everybody agrees the United States should be doing. They’re just outraged that Trump would do it in collaboration with Russia.

“Some Russians complained to me that Stalin was never demonized in the U.S. media the way Vladimir Putin has been.”

You can go back and look at when past U.S. presidents and past presidents and premiers of Russia and the Soviet Union have shared all kinds of secrets with each other. Bush the First told Gorbachev that there was a coup coming and who the source of the information was. FDR and Stalin shared all kinds of information. And by the way, some Russians complained to me that Stalin was never demonized in the U.S. media the way Vladimir Putin has been. And Stalin killed millions of people. The bait and switch that I mentioned earlier, beginning with the story that Russia decided the U.S. presidential election, then switching to all these other crimes that have some sort of connection to Russia—any connection to Russia—is creating this atmosphere where not just the Russian government but the Russian people are identified as enemies of the United States. A people is not a government, and a government that has flaws does not typically see those flaws improve in response to threats, sanctions, attacks, or lies about it.

I met with opponents of Putin in Russia who said, “The sanctions have cut Russian incomes by about ten percent even though they’ve benefited Russian agriculture. As long as these sanctions are in place, I’m not going to oppose Putin. I’m going to align with Putin and unite behind Putin, and if the sanctions ever end, well, then I’m going to go back to criticizing Putin.” This is the predictable and consistent result of going after a country. The country unifies against the external aggressor. The approach the United States has been taking since Obama put these sanctions in place and created this new Cold War is not working, and it’s never going to work.

AG: Anything else you’d like to say?

DS: Go to Russia, if you’re going to take a vacation. Russia has the largest, most beautiful cities in Europe. Russian people speak English and love Americans. The signs are in Russian and English. You get lots of rubles for your dollar. The sun comes up in the middle of the night now and stays up nearly twenty-four hours, and it’s beautiful weather. More Americans need to meet more Russians and invite Russians to come back and meet them.

David Swanson is the founder of World Beyond War, and the author of “War is a Lie” and “War Is Never Just.” He can be reached at davidswanson.org or worldbeyondwar.org.

Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in Oakland California. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at ann@kpfa.org.

Ann Garrison’s blog