Category: Peace

“Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war” – Julius Caesar

Try this one on for size. I find it a bit too close to home for the United States over the past 15-20 years.

Roman Emperor Julius Caesar (100-44 BCE)

Roman Emperor Julius Caesar (100-44 BCE)

Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar. (Julius Caesar)

Listen to a Real Journalist on the American Political Scene Today. Chillingly Insightful

john_pilgerLong-time Australian journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger released a piece a few days ago that qualifies, in my mind at least, is one of the clearest and most insightful takes on the American political scene.

Frequent readers of this blog know that I am extremely cynical about journalism in the Western world today. Clouded as it is by sensationalism, confused as to what constitutes “news”, and wandering around a rapidly changing landscape brought about by the Digital Revolution, the state of affairs in my chosen profession is sad to say the least.

Still there are shining lights. One of those is Pilger. The producer of almost 60 documentary films and the author of a large handful of books, he has over the years maintained a steady, jaundiced eye in his role as a well-informed arbiter of what’s important in the world. His view is summed up in the heading of his blog: “It is not enough for journalists to see themselves as mere messengers without understanding the hidden agendas of true message and myths that surround it.” Amen.

His latest piece is headlined, “Silencing America As It Prepares for War.” The thrust of the article is to point out that all of the current political leadership in the United States is cut from the same neoliberal cloth. They all agree on and support the necessity of one degree or another of constant war. He is particularly harsh with president Obama. “One of the more violent presidents, Obama gave a full rein to the Pentagon war-making apparatus of his discredited predecessor.” He continues, “No American president has built more nuclear warheads than Obama.”

But his interest is less on blaming Obama then on fretting about the future of the United States in the hands of any of the three current major political party candidates for President. None of them, he points out, has mentioned any of Obama’s war-like record. Indeed, even Bernie Sanders supports Obama’s drone war. Nobody, he points out, is talking about the provocative ways in which the Administration pokes and provokes Russia and China over issues that are of little or no strategic importance to our country.

I urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to read this analysis. It is chilling, but it is more important than anything I’ve read in the last few years that wasn’t about global climate change.

Nobel Should Ask for Obama’s Peace Prize Back

One of my best friends is a retired national journalist, professional skeptic and keen observer of the political scene in this country. He has been saying for five or six years now that when the Nobel Committee awarded newly minted President Barack Obama the Peace Prize in 2009, it made a huge mistake. I was inclined to agree but only sort of mildly.

obamaI’ve come in from the cold. Obama has, during his terms in office, progressively worsened the cause of world peace. Most recently, he has authorized deliberate saber-rattling provocation of China over the latter’s admittedly shaky claims to territorial waters off its coast and tacitly approved Israel’s recalcitrant refusal to disclose whether or not it has a nuclear arsenal.

Both of these moves — only the latest in a continuing series of foreign policy initiatives and positions taken by Obama, Clinton and Kerry during the past 6+ years along similar lines — have increased global tensions, reduced the nearly non-existent notion of international cooperation and bolstered the causes of belligerents to ever-more-dangerous heights.

While he takes popular credit for ending the war in Iraq, we have seen lately that he hasn’t ended it, he’s merely transitioned it and modified its terms. In Afghanistan, he continually backs down from his commitment to bring things to a final conclusion. He eschews any talk of a political component in dealing with the Islamic State of Israel and the Levant (ISIL). He has greatly expanded the unconscionable use of unmanned drone attacks to further sanitize and isolate warmaking. And he has continued many of the previous Administration’s immoral, ineffective and illegal national espionage programs.

In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of a legitimate step toward peace this President can lay claim to.

If he is indeed a disappointment to the Nobel Prize Committee, think how much a disappointment he is to us peace-loving people in his own nation who supported him, however reluctantly, in his first bid for the White House.

Stabilizing Iraq? Are These Guys for Real?

Top Pentagon officials said Thursday that the U.S. military strategy in Iraq and Syria remains an “Iraq-first” approach aimed at stabilizing that country. (From a wire service report.)

I want some of whatever these guys are smoking.

First, Iraq hasn’t been stable in many years. The “stability” it “enjoyed” under Saddam Hussein was illusory and imposed by force.

Second, a large part of the reason for the current instability is the misguidedenss our our last attempt to stabilize the region.

Third, nobody can stabilize a country they neither understand nor appreciate and whose only value to them is economic.


“Despite Severe International Criticism”: The Dismal Failure of the UN

This morning brings news that Israel will continue to provoke the Palestinians with whom it claims to seek peace by continuing to create construction projects in “all of Jerusalem.” This, the news report from the Associated Press said, comes “despite stiff International criticism.”

When President Putin of Russia repossessed Crimea, it came “despite severe international criticism” and amid threats that by its warlike behavior Russia risked being ostracized from the global stage of leadership.

As the United States turned back and incarcerated thousands of children trying to migrate to a better, safer life in America from South and Central America, it did so while encountering “severe international criticism.”  And yet there were forces in American politics clamoring for an even more bellicose response.

There are literally hundreds of such events, small and large, undertaken by nations powerful and weak, that draw harsh criticism from around the globe every year. But the criticism tends not to have any real impact. The absence of any real tool of moral suasion seems to me to lie at the root of this ineffectiveness.

Logo of the United NationsThe United Nations Charter, similarly to the Preamble to the United States Constitution, is filled with high-minded, idealistic language outlining purposes and missions that, if actually executed, would lead to a world that is much more peaceful, egalitarian and life-supporting than we experience in the real world. But the UN suffers from some fundamental flaws that are probably never going to be resolved, in part because some of them are probably seen, as we say in the software business, as “features, not bugs.”

The very existence of a Security Council is perhaps the largest single obstacle to the UN accomplishing anything. As long as China, France, Russia, the UK and the US hold permanent seats with veto powers, you can be sure that nothing substantive will ever be done even in the face of the most egregious conduct. These memberships were granted at the formation of the UN when Russia was the Soviet Union, a legitimate world power. It clearly no longer is. The remaining 10 seats on the Security Council are term-limited and effectively powerless so long as the veto power exists.

Just as in our national Congress, meaningful reform will always be dashed against the rocks of entrenched power, so in the United Nations any attempt to eliminate or reduce the power of the veto would itself be vetoed or simply ignored.

It is worthy of national and global debate to reconsider the structure, organization and purpose of the United Nations. This has been the case for virtually my entire life. When I was in high school in 1961, the national debate topic was “Resolved, that the United Nations should be significantly strengthened.” That we are still debating this issue 53 years later is not astonishing, but it can be discouraging.

Short of a single global body through which this “severe international criticism” can be channeled and activated, enforced — not necessarily militarily but perhaps through some combination of name-and-shame and economic sanctions, or though some as-yet-undeveloped mechanism — how can we translate this legitimate concern on the part of most of the world about the conduct of one or a small group of countries? The idea of one World Government will, I suspect, remain a distant dream (or nightmare, depending on one’s politics) for the rest of humanity’s history. Unless, that is, a global catastrophe of the size and scope and power of global climate change finally decimates our population to a point where we are forced to come together to cooperate to save what remains of the race.

Perhaps in the end that will be our fate. To be reduced in size and power to a place where we no longer pose a threat to Gaia and, in so doing, to learn the lesson of Oneness, that we are all in this together, that we hang together or surely we shall hang separately. The only alternative I see is to envision and help bring about a global tipping point of more “enlightened” (however that word is understood) humans who can then bring about the transformational change that I see as humanity’s only hope of surviving the impending crisis.

Stephen Pizzo on Why We Should Stay Completely Out of the Middle East

I agree with Stephen Pizzo on this point.

Well the simple fact is that we let the metaphorical genie out of the box when we decided we could drag an entire region out of its 10th-century cocoon and into the 21st. We couldn’t. And we can’t. Only they can do that, and the process won’t be pretty to watch. All we do by interfering is further muddle matters and further confuse the issues they, and only they, must confront.

We keep thinking, in our misguided belief in American Exceptionalism, that we have all the answers, that we know what’s best for every other country politically, socially and economically. We keep believing that we can by sheer dint of military might resolve an essentially historical-political-cultural conflict.

As Pizzo says, we can’t.

This is the Islamic world’s fight. it is their problem. As we’ve learned over the years, no matter who is fighting whom, they clamor to sell us their oil, which is the only thing we ultimately desire from them.

anti-warWhile Pizzo argues that he calls “unregenerate Islam” is the sole root cause of all the issues, I am aware that there are other triggers, causes and concerns. Many Christians and other non-Muslims will be caught up in the mess they make. We should offer them strictly humanitarian aid and refuge. Israel’s interests are also at stake; we already provide them with more than enough military and economic aid. We don’t need to fight their battles for them, particularly when they never consider what’s in our best interests or in the best interest of world peace when seen from any but an Israeli perspective. That’s their right. But that also makes it their fight.

As Pizzo says at the end of his newsletter: “So, get out, stay out, stand back, watch.”

Do Not Arm Rebels

At least two Senate Democrats — Jim Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Begich of Alaska — have stood up against Administration plans to arm the rebel forces fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Manchin made the point that all too often arms we send to “moderate” or “friendly” rebel groups end up in the hands of our sworn enemies. Begich said the same thing and added that before he can support the latest first-step-to-war, “we must have greater assurance that we aren’t arming extremists who will eventually use the weapons against us.”

Nobody can give such assurances. It’s not in the nature of the combat, the conflict, or the culture. Anyone who claims to give such assurances is lying through his or her teeth and they know it.

Arming rebels is the first sound of the drumbeat of war that President Obama and his bellicose cronies and advisers would have us embark on. He should know better. We are a war-weary nation.

No arms for rebels.


Where Are America’s Interests Here?

A New York Times report today says that a high-ranking Obama Administration national security official has indicated that military action against ISIS is possible. “If you come against Americans, we are going to come after you,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, said.

anti-syria-warWhere in the world is ISIS going to “come against Americans” with the possible exception of those who have either been ordered into harm’s way by our trigger-happy President or are there in direct violation of State Department warnings not to be there? Where are America’s interests in the region? Where?

The law already requires the President to notify Congress within 60 days of starting hostilities in a foreign nation. That same law should, at the very least, be strengthened with the requirement that the President spell out, in very specific detail, what American interests are at stake. And if those interests are corporate profits rather than national security, then the corporations should be left on their own.

Too often throughout our nation’s history (see A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn) we have shed American blood to protect American greed. I don’t know if that will be Obama’s justification (real or imagined) in this case, but he’s going to have to convince me that there are legitimate American interests involved in this fight before I’ll support spending one more dime or one more soldier there.

Do you hear us, Mr. President? We are many and we are angry.

Damning Indictment of War on Terror’s Track Record

A bipartisan committee of experts has issued a report on America’s drone wars. The report is remarkable for its condemnation of the inability or refusal so far on the part of the government to take any measures to control or explain the tactic the committee sees as having our nation on a slippery slope to perpetual war. But the most remarkable paragraph in the report was perhaps one that was only partially related to their primary focus:

“There is no indication that a U.S. strategy to destroy Al Qaeda has curbed the rise of Sunni Islamic extremism, deterred the establishment of Shia Islamic extremist groups or advanced long-term U.S. security interests.”

In other words, there is “no indication” that our anti-terrorism war has done a single useful thing. Period. End of discussion. So remind me again why we keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? Oh, right. Terrorism. Peace. Oil.

Guide to Understanding the Iraq Mess: “It’s (Still) the Oil, Stupid!”

For some reason, my email inbox has been loaded with Iraq news and analysis today. I am not a student of the Middle East. I follow several journalists I consider reputable in an effort to understand what’s going on over there. Today I was pointed to a new writer whose work I didn’t know before, Michael Schwartz of TomDispatch, whose piece on the background issue in Iraq was picked up by (And while you’re focused on TomDispatch, you may also want to read that alternative-news blogger’s view of Obama on the Iraq situation; it is devastatingly accurate.)

iraq_protestSchwarz, relying heavily on the Iraq Oil Report, an apparently authoritative, subscription-only news source for Iraq developments in English, says this “new” round of “terrorist insurgency” is — and always has been — about nothing more than control of the flow of oil and cash in and through the nation.

Here’s his summary paragraph, which seems to me to pretty well sum up the situation.

The oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein was racked with insurgency, and when vicious repression failed, it delivered a portion of the vast oil revenues to the people in the form of government jobs, social services, and subsidized industries and agriculture. The oppressive United States occupation was racked with insurgency precisely because it tried to harness the country’s vast oil revenues to its imperial designs in the Middle East. The oppressive Maliki regime is now racked with insurgency, because the prime minister refused to share those same vast oil revenues with his Sunni constituents.

The catalog of woes caused by the U.S. during its ill-fated and poorly managed sojourn the last decade is appalling and astonishing. We are largely, though not entirely, to blame for today’s increased insurgence. In our failure to understand the “nation’s patrimony” (i.e., oil) we have completely misunderstood what is going on on the ground in Iraq. Against that backdrop, any new or extended U.S. engagement on the ground in Iraq seems to be clearly folly.

This is an Iraqi problem of long standing. It concerns very directly and gravely the fates of Iraq’s neighboring states. But aside from oil prices, we really have no background, no basis and no business in Iraq. We should therefore quietly shut up.