Addicted to war

Finally I want to ask how the Pentagon changed the American people. You say we’ve become a militarized, “vengeful people.” Do you really believe that?

I do. I love my country, and the American people are good people. But we are allowing the government to do things in our name that are wrong, they are criminal. If I could say something really outrageous, I think that the American people today have turned against the war in Iraq for the wrong reasons. They’ve turned against it because we’re losing. We should be against this war because it’s wrong and unnecessary. If this war had gone the way Rumsfeld and company thought it would go, Americans would have been fine with it. And that’s appalling. And of course if it had gone the way they thought it was going to go, we’d be in Iran today. That’s the tragic good news here. This war has gone so badly that the American imperial enterprise has been stalled. Thank God for that.

But, again, we the American people have not reckoned with what we did at the end of World War II. And one of the things that happened on 9/11 is that we looked at ourselves and presumed to think of ourselves as world-historic victims. What we suffered was tragic, and indeed a catastrophe, but on the scale of suffering it was very minor compared to the kind of suffering we’ve inflicted on other nations, and we’re still doing today.

Well, is it possible to change this?

To me the greatest symbol of hope is what happened at the end of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, beginning with Chernobyl. It’s a miracle of my lifetime that a nonviolent popular movement led to the demise of the Soviet system. And if that can happen, the equivalent can happen on our side. We have to break the myth of military power. We have to understand that there are many more grievous threats to our nation than those that the Pentagon can protect us from.

James Carroll, interviewed by Farhad Manjoo | Salon  (read more. . .)

Why Shouldn’t Iran Have Nuclear Weapons?

As international political powers seek Iran’s capitulation on nuclear weapons development, little notice is given to what the Americans and the British have done to create this crisis nor what steps the Israelis might eventually take to make it profoundly more complicated.

Iran’s antipathy toward the West did not spontaneously generate out of the crazed rhetoric of radical mullahs. It has been spurred by what Iranians see as hypocrisy on the part of members of the world’s nuclear community, and the bumbled meddling of the US and UK in Iranian affairs for more than a half century.

Iran is dangerous, but the British and the Americans have helped to make it that way. And the situation is even more precarious than it appears.

Shortly after the Gulf War in 1991, Germany gave Israel two of its diesel-powered Dolphin-class submarines. The Israelis agreed to purchase a third at a greatly reduced price. In November 2005, Germany announced that it was selling two more subs to Israel for $1.2bn (£660m).

Defense analysts have suggested the Dolphin-class boats are a means for Israel to have a second-strike capability from the sea if any of its land-based defence systems are hit by enemy nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war is geopolitically afoot: Israel and the American president might not be willing to wait until after the first shot is fired.

James C. Moore | Independent  (read more. . .)

Guarding Cheesecake

If the Bush people want to take credit for something brilliant they pulled off in connection with the war in Iraq, they should take a bow for the idea of embedding the press. It happened a long time ago, of course, it’s been more than three years since the war began and journalists in camouflage jackets accompanied the United States military into battle, but it was a diabolical and brilliant scheme, definitely one of the reasons why America marched off to this misguided venture as blindly and happily as it did.

Embedded — the word is so harmless, like raisins in coffeecake. At the same time it’s so clearly, unambiguously frank and literal. How much more obvious can you be about what you’re up to? Because no question that once you embed someone, they’ve curled up with you, they’ve slept with you, they’ve gotten confused about where you begin and they end, and what’s more, they don’t seem to know they’ve been screwed. There’s a reason why journalists in Vietnam were quick to see that the war wasn’t working – they weren’t embedded. Embedding gives a reporter a grunt’s eye view of the war. A grunt almost never sees the big picture.

Nora Ephron | huffingtonpost  (read more. . .)

One Excellent Reason Not to Join the Military: You May be Ordered to Kill Civilians

Every American youth who considers military enlistment needs to take a close look at military “justice.”

Not only are American Marines, reservists, and soldiers expected to follow unlawful orders, they are also expected to bear life-long burdens of shame, guilt, and legal culpability for the arrogance of their own commanders—who dispense life and death from an office computer. Even before the invasion of Iraq in April 2003, more than six hundred U.S. veterans signed a “Call to Conscience,” expressing remorse for past war crimes. “As troops,” they wrote, “in the last Gulf War we were ordered to murder from a safe distance. We remember the road to Basra where we were ordered to kill fleeing Iraqis. We bulldozed trenches, burying people alive.”

Once a student makes that fateful decision to enlist in the U.S. military today—once an individual, through basic training, is conditioned to kill without remorse, to become an occupier in a country where insurgents are indistinguishable from neighbors, friends, and family in their own homeland—it is too late to turn back. As war-historian Gwen Dyer writes: “Men will kill under compulsion—men will do almost anything if they know it is expected of them and they are under strong social pressure to comply.”

“Only exceptional people can resist atrocity,” writes psychiatrist Robert Lifton in Superpower Syndrome. Jimmy Massey, Darrell Anderson, Aidan Delgado and scores of other war-resisters are exceptional men and women. When they enlisted, they only wanted to serve their country. They hoped to make a difference. But the military transported them beyond the rule of law, turning them into occupiers of Iraq, not defenders of democracy. These war-resisters fought back and broke the military code of silence.

Americans can hold on to their humanity, to be sure. But only by recognizing the humanity, not only of Arab peoples, but of all peoples who have a right to self-determination like ourselves.

Refusing to enlist is more than a career decision. It is a moral and political act, a contribution to the burgeoning, international movement for a better, more peaceful world. It is an affirmation of the sacredness of life and the dignity of all humanity.

Paul Rockwell | CommonDreams  (read more. . .)

Bodies for Barrels: Betrayal and Energy Dependence

Here’s the essence of our energy policy. Imagine this: you pull into a gas station and tell the attendant to fill up the gas tank. It comes time to pay and the attendant asks “Which of your children do you want to sacrifice in payment.” Which child must die? Ridiculous? How is that different than what we are doing in the Middle East?

The invasion of Iraq, the stationing of our 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean, the posting of our troops at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars annually throughout the Middle East is about protecting the oil fields of Saudi Arabia – our so-called ally who has provided funding for most of the terrorist groups that stir anti-American hatred throughout the world.

America invests hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of young people’s lives and mangled bodies each year to make sure each of us can fill up our tank when we need it – bodies for barrels. But what if we had to trade our child (as so many have been called to do) for a full tank of gas?

Wouldn’t we demand an alternative solution like a responsible energy policy that is as important to us as the Manhattan Project was during World War II or putting a man on the moon was in the 60s? I believe we would – and we should.

If it is financially sustainable for our nation to spend what some estimate will be a trillion dollars in the Iraqi War before we’re finished, then why is it so outlandish to expect that we make an equal investment of national and financial resources to energy independence? If we are willing to ask our young people to sacrifice and die or get maimed so we can top off our tanks, then why are we not equally willing to commit our nation to energy independence?

Our nation’s energy vulnerability is an outrageous betrayal by both parties – Democrats and Republicans. In the coming days you will see a frenzy of proposals coming from both Democrats and Republicans in the Congress. These proposals will continue to cascade until the November election and then we’ll go back to business as usual.

These gestures are nothing more than symbolic gestures. The public needs more than symbols from our leaders; we deserve solutions. America has the ingenuity, intellectual infrastructure, spirit and knowledge to come through this crisis as we have others in our history.

Across America there are young minds teeming with ideas that deserve research funding so they can help us end our reliance on foreign energy. There are ideas that will enable us to conserve more energy, get more efficiency out of our engines and industrial enterprises and lead to alternative sources heretofore not even considered.

The missing ingredients are and always have been, leadership, vision, and will. Money follows vision. Our political leaders need to articulate a simple vision and actually mean it – energy independence.

Here’s a start. As Congress currently debates a measure that will provide increased funding for the Iraq War why not adopt a policy that says: “Not one more dollar should be spent on the Iraq War or securing the oil fields and shipping lanes of the world unless an equal dollar is spent on research to secure our energy independence?” If it is important enough to spend a dollar sending a young man or woman to war then it is important enough as a nation to spend an equal dollar eliminating the threat that causes them to lay down their life.

Michael A. Fox | t r u t h o u t  (read more. . .)

Peace Takes Courage

One particularly wicked threat was sent to me the night before I testified at Congressman Conyers’ Downing Street Memo Hearings in June, I got an email from a man who said that he hoped that my other three children would die. I think these people level pretty harsh punishments at other people who are only exercising their freedom of speech when the person who is responsible for killing American soldiers and executing innocent Iraqi children and making them orphans is touted as a fine Christian man.

God help anyone who speaks out against the anti-American Bush regime that condones torture and use of chemical weapons of mass destruction. God help anyone who refuses to be silenced in the face of our government that commits war crimes and crimes against humanity. The individuals who call 15 year old girls and Gold Star Moms vile names and threaten our lives are the lowest denominator in our society and these people are the ones who need to be marginalized and stopped. Open and honest discourse in our society is welcomed and encouraged and our differences are only eclipsed by our commonalities, but obscene and destructive assaults on fellow human beings only adds to the violence in our already all too violent society.

Ava is not calling for a violent overthrow of our government nor is she the one who is being obscene. Ava is not the one who sent our troops into harm’s way thus condemning the innocent people of Iraq to death and heartache. Ava is only showing the images that have been brought to the world by BushCo and the people who crassly try to intimidate a 15 year old girl are threatened by the truth and should be ashamed of their support of the disorganized crime mob in DC and ashamed of the way they talk to a young lady who is doing her best to make the world a better place.

How many scandals will it take for the 32 percent of the population who still support murder and mayhem dressed up in suits and ties to wake up and honor people like Ava and not trash them?

Ava is one tough and compassionate cookie and she needs our support and love, please go to her site: and drop a note of support to our little sister in peace. Her type of behavior needs to be encouraged, emulated and rewarded and I can guarantee you, she will be one of the first recipients of a Camp Casey Peace Prize for young activists.

Cindy Sheehan | CommonDreams  (read more. . .)

Iraq: Beyond the Horizon, The Storm

Between these wobbling scenarios, one thing is clear: the opposition to the US occupation among Iraqis is rising past the breaking point. This is the indisputable “secret” that the American media rarely reveals. The recently-leaked “Provisional Stability Assessment” reports “serious” or “critical” security situations in six of Iraq’s 18 provinces, including Baghdad and Basra. [NYT, April 8, 06], which means the invasion and occupation have failed to suppress the resistance in most of the country. More stunning, the percentage of all Iraqis favoring a timeline for US withdrawal has risen from thirty percent in February 2004 to 76 percent in February 2005 to 87 percent in February of this year. [NYT report of data collected by Brookings Institution, Mar. 19, 2006] This means, excluding the pro-American Kurds from the survey, virtually all other Iraqis favor a concrete timetable. There is no better measure than this data of the amoral bankruptcy of American policy. Our government has dispatched over 3,000 Americans to their death, and taken hundreds of billions from American taxpayers, for a conflict from which 87 percent of Iraqis want us to withdraw.

All of which means an opportunity for the peace movement in this year’s Congressional elections, where the most cynical of pundits acknowledge that Republicans are deeply worried, and the presidential year just around the corner. The strategy of pressuring the pillars of policy – public opinion, military recruitment, congressional funding priorities, expensive oil dependency, and the faltering “coalition of the willing” – is steadily working.

Amidst the agony, the opportunity exists for absorbing a deep public understanding that expeditionary wars like this one should never happen again. We no longer are a huddling minority, nor are we a coopted Beltway faction. We are immersed in the gradual soul-searching currents of the mainstream, where loss of direction is a constant risk.

There are some voices of despair among peace advocates. The invaluable Scott Ritter, a former weapons inspector, believes the peace movement is actually losing, and needs a more centralized warrior-like direction. Others feel that all the marches have had no effect, while others feel the growing need to take up other issues. The despair is understandable given the loss of lives, but absolutely unjustified. When in the course of a movement’s development it reaches the mainstream, the cause is adopted by millions, not by prophetic minorities. The radicals sometimes diappear in the midst of their own success.

Many activists are learning for the first time, or perhaps all over again, what it means to be winter soldiers in a long war. All the wasted lives can never be brought back, all those squandered tax dollars will never be redistributed, true enough. But if the war itself was never going to be a cakewalk, why should ending it be any different? It may still be far from over, with the simmering question of Iran on the immediate horizon. The fear of al-Qaeda continues to paralyze the American mind; one top Washington journalist even told me this week that the difference between withdrawing from Vietnam and from Iraq is that there was “no al-Qaeda threat” back in the day, as if a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq somehow would increase the chances of al-Qaeda attacking New York again. [What’s stopping them from doing it now, port security?]. It should be energizing to live on borrowed time.

At a similar point of despair during the late Sixties, few of us could see the gathering storm of public outrage over war and Watergate that would drive Nixon from the White House and terminate the funding of war. Overnight, the storm finally broke, but it had been building for years. That memory still resides as a dream for one side of the Sixties generation and as a nightmare for Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. Just when the activists turned to rage, burnout or issues dearer to their lives, the great and mysterious force of public opinion was joining the movement to throw the bastards out for going too far, for lying too much, for wasting good money after bad and, above all, for encouraging Americans to die for no reason. That was the time that gave rise, unexpectedly, to John Kerry and the “Vietnam syndrome” that the establishment Machiavellians feared so much that they went to war one more time to try to stamp it out. “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all”, declared President Bush – fifteen years ago. Now the Syndrome is back, by God, and we should spread it everywhere, for today and for the future.

The peace movement should build a community of meaning to stay the course, as long as the syndrome of Empire exists. When you think about it, we are living at a tumultuous moment in a five-hundred year history of crusades, slavery, colonialism and patriarchy. When we act with personal urgency, as we should, it still brings results only gradually. When we take strong public stands, as we should, the effects are often unseen. When we become militant, as we should, we still reach the moderates only marginally. Connecting the dots of empire is hard, but rewarding. Imagining a new story, one beyond empire, will take time and work, but the work is good. The Machiavellians will never recognize the movement’s work, or only in ways that we will not recognize. The recognition will be for historians and poets. Our reward, as Bobby Sands once wrote from prison, will be seen in the smiles of our children.

Tom Hayden | TruthDig  (read more. . .)

Iraq: A Handy Rebuttal to the “We Have to Finish the Job” Conventional Wisdom

To win in Iraq, we need to leave Iraq. To win, we need to stop being the issue. To win, we need to give our money, our brains, our support in every way — but no longer the lives of our soldiers.
Far from signaling U.S. abandonment of Iraq, removing our troops will allow us to focus on the only viable solution to the crisis in Iraq: using our power to influence diplomatic and political advancements, and using our financial might to help reconstruct the country and help build a civil society in which democracy might actually take hold.

It’s not about cutting and running, it’s about shifting our efforts — and our resources — from a reliance on hard power to soft power (check out Joe Nye for more on this).

Since his first fevered dreams of toppling Saddam and remaking the Middle East, President Bush has always tied the idea of finishing the job in Iraq to the exercise of hard power. It was a job more for Rummy than Colin or Condi. His only nod to questions of when our troops will come home: “As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.” But a positive outcome in Iraq will not be the result of our military might, even if we stop-loss our troops for the next hundred years.

If civil war in Iraq is to be averted, it will happen not because the Iraqi military is ready but because the people of Iraq have been convinced of the value of finally putting aside their ethnic and political differences.

As retired Gen. William Odom, former national security advisor to Reagan, has pointed out: the insurgents are fighting very effectively without US military training, so why aren’t the Iraqi security forces? Odom also reminds us that while we trained the Vietnamese military very well, in the end South Vietnam’s political leaders lost the war.

It’s about winning hearts and minds, not winning body count tallies. And, in their hearts and minds, the Iraqis see us as occupiers not liberators.

Arianna Huffington | huffingtonpost (read more. . .)

Removing America’s Blinders

Surely, in the history of lies told to the population, this is the biggest lie. In the history of secrets, withheld from the American people, this is the biggest secret: that there are classes with different interests in this country. To ignore that — not to know that the history of our country is a history of slaveowner against slave, landlord against tenant, corporation against worker, rich against poor — is to render us helpless before all the lesser lies told to us by people in power.

If we as citizens start out with an understanding that these people up there — the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all those institutions pretending to be “checks and balances” — do not have our interests at heart, we are on a course towards the truth. Not to know that is to make us helpless before determined liars.

The deeply ingrained belief — no, not from birth but from the educational system and from our culture in general — that the United States is an especially virtuous nation makes us especially vulnerable to government deception. It starts early, in the first grade, when we are compelled to “pledge allegiance” (before we even know what that means), forced to proclaim that we are a nation with “liberty and justice for all.”

And then come the countless ceremonies, whether at the ballpark or elsewhere, where we are expected to stand and bow our heads during the singing of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” announcing that we are “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” There is also the unofficial national anthem “God Bless America,” and you are looked on with suspicion if you ask why we would expect God to single out this one nation — just five percent of the world’s population — for his or her blessing.

If your starting point for evaluating the world around you is the firm belief that this nation is somehow endowed by Providence with unique qualities that make it morally superior to every other nation on Earth, then you are not likely to question the President when he says we are sending our troops here or there, or bombing this or that, in order to spread our values — democracy, liberty, and let’s not forget free enterprise — to some God-forsaken (literally) place in the world.

It becomes necessary then, if we are going to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens against policies that will be disastrous not only for other people but for Americans too, that we face some facts that disturb the idea of a uniquely virtuous nation.

Howard Zinn | The Progressive   (read more. . .)

Descent into Anger and Despair

Seymour Hersh, citing a ”former official,” reported that US warplanes near Iran ”have been flying simulated nuclear-weapons delivery missions — rapid ascending maneuvers known as ‘over the shoulder’ bombing — since last summer.” Such an exercise puts on display an American readiness to use tactical nuclear weapons against Iranian nuclear facilities. Whether the maneuvers have actually been carried out or not, even authoritative reports of them represent an extraordinarily irresponsible brandishing of the heretofore unthinkable weapon: To keep you from getting nukes, we will nuke you.

As if that were not irrational enough, the Bush administration chose this month, in the thick of its nuclear standoff with Tehran, to reveal plans for a new nuclear weapons manufacturing complex of its own — a major escalation of US nuclear capacity. This represents a movement away from merely maintaining our thousands of warheads to replacing them. The promise of new bombs to come, including the so-called bunker-buster under development, may be the final nail in the coffin of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which binds Washington to work for the elimination of nukes, not their enhancement.

Set the cauldron of Iraq to boiling even hotter by daring Iran to join in against us. Justify Iran’s impulse to obtain nuclear capacity by using our own nuclear capacity as a thermo-prod. How self-defeating can our actions get?

Surely, something besides intelligent strategic theory is at work here. Yes. These are the policies of deeply frustrated, angry, and psychologically wounded people. Those of us who oppose them will yield to our own versions of anger and despair at our peril, and the world’s. Fierce but reasoned opposition is more to the point than ever.

James Carroll | Boston Globe (read more. . .)