Long, Leisurely, Merciless 8/16/17

Why Does North Korea Hate Us?  – by Robert C. Koehler

“The bombing was long, leisurely and merciless . . .”

Robert Koehler

And so we return to the Korean War, when North Korea was carpet-bombed to the edge of existence. The American media doesn’t have a memory that stretches quite so far back, at least not under present circumstances. One commentator at MSNBC recently explained, for instance, that the tiny pariah nation “has been preparing for war for 63 years!”

That would be since, uh, 1954, the year after the war ended. But the war wasn’t mentioned. It never is. Doing so would disrupt the consensus attitude that Kim Jong-Un is a nuclear-armed crazy and that North Korea’s hatred of the United States is just . . . hatred, dark and bitter, the kind of rancor you’d expect from a communist dictatorship and certified member of the Axis of Evil.

And now Donald Trump is taunting the crazy guy, disrupting the U.S.-maintained normalcy of global relations and putting this country at risk. And that’s almost always the focus: not the use of nuclear weapons per se, but the possibility that a North Korean nuke could reach the United States, as though American lives and “national security” mattered more than, or were separate from, the safety of the whole planet.

Indeed, the concept of national security justifies pretty much every action, however destructive and horrifically consequential in the long term. The concept justifies armed small-mindedness, which equals militarism. Apparently protecting national security also means forgetting the Korean War, or never facing the reality of what we did to North Korea from 1950 to 1953.

But as Trump plays war in his own special way, the time to explore this media memory void is now.

I return to my opening quote, which is from a two-year-old story in the Washington Post: “The bombing was long, leisurely and merciless, even by the assessment of America’s own leaders. ‘Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,’ Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed ‘everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.’ After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops.”

Specifically, “the U.S. dropped 635,000 tons of explosives on North Korea, including 32,557 tons of napalm, an incendiary liquid that can clear forested areas and cause devastating burns to human skin,” Tom O’Connor wrote recently in Newsweek. This is more bomb tonnage than the U.S. dropped in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

He quoted historian Bruce Cumings: “Most Americans are completely unaware that we destroyed more cities in the North then we did in Japan or Germany during World War II.”

And so we start to open the wound of this war, in which possibly as many as 3 million North Koreans died, a number that would have been even higher had Gen. Douglas MacArthur gotten his way. He proposed nuclear holocaust in the name of national security, figuring he could end the war in ten days.

“Between 30 and 50 atomic bombs would have more than done the job,” he said in an interview shortly after the end of the war. “Dropped under cover of darkness, they would have destroyed the enemy’s air force on the ground, wiped out his maintenance and his airmen.”

“For the Americans, strategic bombing made perfect sense, giving advantage to American technological prowess against the enemy’s numerical superiority,” historian Charles K. Armstrong wrote for the Asia Pacific Journal. “. . . But for the North Koreans, living in fear of B-29 attacks for nearly three years, including the possibility of atomic bombs, the American air war left a deep and lasting impression. The (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) government never forgot the lesson of North Korea’s vulnerability to American air attack, and for half a century after the Armistice continued to strengthen anti-aircraft defenses, build underground installations, and eventually develop nuclear weapons to ensure that North Korea would not find itself in such a position again. The long-term psychological effect of the war on the whole of North Korean society cannot be overestimated.”

Why is this reality not part of the current news? In what way is American safety furthered by such willful ignorance?

Cumings, writing recently in The Nation, noted that he participated in a forum about North Korea in Seoul last fall with Strobe Talbott, deputy secretary of state in the Bill Clinton administration. At one point, Cumings brought up Robert McNamara’s comment in the documentary The Fog of War, regarding Vietnam, that “we never put ourselves in the shoes of the enemy and attempted to see the world as they did.” Shouldn’t this apply to our negotiations with North Korea?

“Talbott,” Cumings wrote, “then blurted, ‘It’s a grotesque regime!’ There you have it: It’s our number-one problem, but so grotesque that there’s no point trying to understand Pyongyang’s point of view (or even that it might have some valid concerns).”

And so we remain caged in military thinking and the need to win, rather than understand. But as long as we feel no need to understand North Korea, we don’t have to bother trying to understand ourselves. Or face what we have done.

–end–

Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

 

Clueless on the Edge 8/16/17

Terrorism for profit  – by Robert C. Koehler

Robert Koehler

Donald Trump stands cluelessly at the edge of history, exemplifying everything wrong with the past, oh, 10,000 years or so.

The necessity for fundamental change in humanity’s global organization is not only profound, but urgent.

Trump’s latest outburst about North Korea’s nukes — threatening that country “with fire, fury, and frankly power the likes of which the world has never seen before” — creates a comic book Armageddon scenario in the media, except, of course, his power to launch a nuclear war on impulse is real.

What this makes clear to me is that no one should have the authority — the power — to declare any war whatsoever. The fact that this is still possible, so many decades into human awareness of war’s utter insanity, reveals the paradox that civilization remains economically tied to its own destruction.

Another icon of this paradox is Erik Prince, immensely wealthy mercenary, notorious founder of the terror organization Blackwater, who had cozy ties to the Bush administration back when the 21st century’s endless wars were just getting underway and now, with another unelected Republican in the White House, has recently made a grab at the business opportunity still represented by these wars:

Let’s privatize the quagmire!

Sixteen years on, the war in Afghanistan is the longest in American history, and presently in a state of “stalemate,” according to the mainstream consensus that unquestioningly justifies this country’s ongoing militarism. For instance: “The U.S. can’t win but can’t afford to lose,” USA Today opined in a recent editorial about Afghanistan, inanely demanding that Trump “at least should decide what to do next” and setting the stage for Prince’s business plan, which is to restructure and privatize the war.

In an op-ed a few days ago in that same publication, Prince wrote: “The option to simply abandon Afghanistan is enticing but in the long run would be a foreign policy disaster. The Kabul government would collapse. Afghanistan would be a rallying cry for global jihadists.”

And suddenly there it was, the American paradox in full splendor: Oh yeah, we’re fighting terrorists. We have to keep killing people, keep pouring trillions of dollars into our wars, because bad people are out there threatening us because they hate our freedoms. And the guy reminding us of this is the founder of Blackwater, private contractor in Iraq, whose mercenaries were responsible for one of the most shocking acts of lethal aggression — a.k.a., terrorism — of the early years of that war.

Blackwater contractors were accused of “firing wildly into cars stalled in midafternoon traffic at Nisour Square on Sept. 16, 2007, pouring machine-gun bullets and grenades into crowds, including women clutching only purses and children holding their hands in the air,” as the Washington Post reminded us recently.

This act of carnage, in which 17 Iraqis were killed and 20 more injured, typifies what you might call American terrorism. It may, at some quasi-conscious level be religiously motivated. Indeed, Jeremy Scahill, reporting in 2009 for The Nation on the lawsuit filed on behalf of Iraqis harmed in the Nisour Square massacre, wrote that, according to a former Blackwater employee who testified in U.S. federal court during the trial:

“Prince ‘views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,’ and . . . Prince’s companies ‘encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.’ . . .

Furthermore, Scahill wrote,

“Mr. Prince’s executives would openly speak about going over to Iraq to ‘lay hajiis out on cardboard.’ Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game. Mr. Prince’s employees openly and consistently used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as ‘ragheads’ or ‘hajiis.’”

This all fits quite horrifically into the definition of jihadism, or terrorism, but because it’s American, it brings something extra to the table as well. This is terrorism for profit. And it’s been going on for a long time, in a realm far bigger than that occupied by Erik Prince’s business interests. You could call it colonialism, or the domination complex. The world is ours. This is the “greatness” Trump sold to enough Americans to squeeze into the Oval Office.

Not only does he have no patience with a military stalemate in Afghanistan — “we aren’t winning, we’re losing” — but he can’t stand the fact that the shattered country’s mineral wealth isn’t in our hands.

At a recent, well-publicized meeting with his generals, Trump “lamented that China is making money off of Afghanistan’s estimated $1 trillion in rare minerals while American troops are fighting the war,” according to NBC News. “Trump expressed frustration that his advisers tasked with figuring out how the U.S. can help American businesses get rights to those minerals were moving too slowly, one official said. . . .

“The focus on the minerals was reminiscent of Trump’s comments early into his presidency when he lamented that the U.S. didn’t take Iraq’s oil when the majority of forces departed the country in 2011.”

Trump leads a political system that’s still grounded in the colonial era. His reckless arrogance is its global face. He stares at the audacity of nuclear-armed North Korea and threatens to blow it to kingdom come, imagining that there will be profit to reap in the aftermath.

Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

 

Need Every Brain Cell 8/16/17

Weed     –  by Winslow Myers

Winslow Myers

Fifty years ago I was speculating with a college friend of mine about what we might do with our lives. He asserted that he wanted to spend his life bringing about the legalization of marijuana. I kidded him at the time because such an ambition seemed an absurd waste of his considerable talent and brains. He did spend a number of years working for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). And as we know the goal of comprehensive legalization may be coming within reach. More and more states have legalized marijuana, some states for recreational use, 23 others and counting for medical use. The medical benefits, including the amelioration of pain, or nausea during chemotherapy, are authentically remarkable.

Meanwhile it needs no repeating that the “war on drugs” has been an abysmal failure. We desperately need creative thinking, especially to respond appropriately to the opioid crisis in the U.S. Some enlightened police departments are leaning away from the criminalization of drug use and toward helping people obtain treatment. For adolescents, legalizing drugs may diminish their glamour as something forbidden. It has apparently worked that way in Holland.

But as a high school teacher in the U.S. for 30 years, I witnessed an almost total correlation in my students between chronic marijuana use and a falling off of the ability to come to class prepared to engage, ask questions, and grow intellectually. For the teens I worked with, marijuana was an insidious and consistent killer of ambition. After I retired, clinical studies emerged that seemed to confirm my subjective observations—heavy marijuana use has the potential to permanently damage the young adolescent brain.

Back when I was teaching high school, one of the most effective anti-cigarette propaganda tools was to remind students that nicotine narrows veins and therefore could hypothetically accelerate genital insensitivity in both sexes. Fearmongering or not, that was an argument they listened to! And the case is beginning to be proven by correlation between smoking and impotence in older men. Further research may yield more clarity about the deleterious effects of marijuana upon young minds, or even minds of all ages, that will be as effective in convincing teens not to overindulge.

My personal experience with weed was consistent with my experience of my students, though at 76 I rarely smoke anymore. I have missed, with little regret, the much more concentrated forms of the drug that are apparently available nowadays. But when I smoked it in my twenties, marijuana did act as advertised, as a radical relaxant. It was amusing to get high in a group and find every offhand remark unaccountably hilarious. It was fun to play music with friends and experience the illusion that everyone was a far better guitarist and singer than we judged ourselves to be when sober. But I always felt logy and out of sorts for a few days after, not like an acute hangover from too much alcohol but still, a price paid in “lowness” for having gotten high that was more than just my puritan heritage at work. Nowadays a few puffs just put me to sleep. Who needs it?

When I began a family, the issue became infinitely more personal. My son Chase learned to play a mean electric guitar at a precociously young age. I have to assume marijuana was a constant in his life not long after he bought his first instrument and spent more and more hours with his bandmates in various neighborhood garages. He was arrested once for possession, though it did nothing to make him more prudent. His academic record remained dismal all the way through high school and he graduated by the skin of his teeth. In his early twenties, he pulled himself together and began to study sound engineering at the Berklee College of Music, even making the dean’s list. The shadow temptation of drugs still loomed over him though, and he departed this life at the age of 23 from an overdose of methadone, imbibed at the house of an addict acquaintance. His mother, my wife of 30 years, died more or less of grief a year later.

My assent to the notion that marijuana can act as a gateway is not some retrograde right-wing cliché, but a haunting lifetime reminder of my inability to save either my son or my spouse. No doubt tragedy conditions my skepticism about blanket legalization. Those who are working for it would view me as an unnecessarily alarmist special case.

Still, I must insist that I’ve known not a few adults, let alone adolescents, whose chronic marijuana use has clearly done something to diminish their engagement with the healthy challenges of life and work. Any comprehensive dialogue about drugs in our country would have to include the quality of emptiness or helpless anxiety that permeates a shallow, over-monetized culture. We are paying a huge price for having defined success in narrowly materialistic terms (for proof we need look no further than the “I’m All Right Jack” culture of the White House). Is self-medication with drugs, legal or illegal, or with alcohol for that matter, a futile attempt to dull our fear of not measuring up to some inauthentic standard? When people argue that marijuana use has no consequences at all for mind or body, it makes me want to reconnect with my college friend from so long ago. I’d like to ask him if marijuana still stands up as his best answer to facing life’s “ordinary unhappiness.”

Bottom line for me: legalize it, fine, but let’s also figure out together how to educate kids 10 and up to forego marijuana for at least the decade when their brains are still developing resilience—and wouldn’t we all prefer it if it were outright prohibited for surgeons, train engineers, passenger jet pilots, air traffic controllers, and other professionals who need every brain cell to deal with the unexpected?

Winslow Myers, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide,” serves on the Boards of Beyond War and the War Prevention Initiative.

 

Chicken Nukes 8/16/17

Playing Nuclear “Chicken” With Our Lives  – by Lawrence S. Wittner

Lawrence Wittner

What kind of civilization have we developed when two mentally unstable national leaders, in an escalating confrontation with each other, threaten one another―and the world―with nuclear war?

That question arises as a potentially violent showdown emerges between Kim Jong Un of North Korea and Donald Trump of the United States. In recent years, the North Korean government has produced about 10 nuclear weapons and has been making them increasingly operational through improvements in its missile technology. The U.S. government first developed nuclear weapons in 1945, when it employed them to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and currently possesses 6,800 of them, mostly deployed on missiles, submarines, and bombers.

According to the North Korean government, its nuclear weapons are necessary to defend itself against the United States. Similarity, the U.S. government argues that its nuclear weapons are necessary to defend itself against countries like North Korea.

Although, in recent decades, we have grown accustomed to this government rhetoric about the necessity to possess nuclear weapons as a deterrent, what is particularly chilling about the current confrontation is that Kim and Trump do not appear deterred at all. Quite the contrary, they brazenly threaten nuclear war in an extremely provocative fashion. Responding on August 8 to North Korean threats, Trump publicly warned that North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Later that day, North Korea’s state media announced that its government was considering a strategy of striking the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam with mid- to long-range nuclear missiles―a strategy that a spokesman for the Korean People’s Army said would be “put into practice” once Kim authorized it.

This kind of reckless and potentially suicidal behavior is reminiscent of the game of “Chicken,” which achieved notoriety in the 1950s. In the film Rebel Without a Cause (1955), two rebellious, antisocial male teenagers (or juvenile delinquents, as they were known at the time) played the game before a crowd of onlookers by driving jalopies at top speed toward a cliff. Whoever jumped out of the cars first was revealed as “chicken” (a coward). A more popular variant of the game involved two teenagers driving their cars at high speed toward one another, with the first to swerve out of the way drawing the derisive label. According to some accounts, young James Dean, a star of Rebel Without a Cause, actually died much this way.

With news of the game spreading, Bertrand Russell, the great mathematician and philosopher, suggested in 1959 that the two sides in the Cold War were engaged in an even crazier version: nuclear “Chicken.” He wrote: “As played by irresponsible boys, this game is considered decadent and immoral, though only the lives of the players are risked.” But the game became “incredibly dangerous” and “absurd” when it was played by government officials “who risk not only their own lives but those of many hundreds of millions of human beings.” Russell warned that “the moment will come when neither side can face the derisive cry of `Chicken!’ from the other side.” When that moment arrived, “the statesmen of both sides will plunge the world into destruction.”

It was a fair enough warning, and only several years later, during the Cuban missile crisis, the game of nuclear “Chicken” played by Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy could have resulted in a disastrous nuclear war. However, at the last minute, both men backed off―or, perhaps we should say, swerved to avoid a head-on collision―and the crisis was resolved peacefully through a secret compromise agreement.

In the current situation, there’s plenty of room for compromise between the U.S. and North Korean governments. The Pyongyang regime has offered to negotiate and has shown particular interest in a peace treaty ending the Korean War of the 1950s and U.S. military exercises near its borders. Above all, it seems anxious to avoid regime change by the United States. The U.S. government, in turn, has long been anxious to halt the North Korean nuclear program and to defend South Korea against attack from the north. Reasonable governments should be able to settle this dispute short of nuclear war.

But are the two governments headed by reasonable men? Both Kim and Trump appear psychologically disturbed, erratic, and startlingly immature―much like the juvenile delinquents once associated with the game of “Chicken.” Let us hope, though, that with enough public resistance and some residual sanity, they will back away from the brink and begin to resolve their differences peacefully. That’s certainly possible.

Even if the current confrontation eases, though, we are left with a world in which some 15,000 nuclear weapons exist and with numerous people who, in the future, might not scruple about using them. And so the fundamental problem continues: As long as nuclear weapons exist, we teeter on the edge of catastrophe

Fortunately, this past July, in an historic development, the vast majority of the world’s nations voted at a UN conference to approve a treaty banning nuclear weapons. Nations will begin the process of signing onto the treaty this September. Although, sadly, all of the nuclear powers (including the United States and North Korea) oppose the treaty, it’s long past time for nuclear weapons to be prohibited and eliminated. Until they are, government officials will remain free to play nuclear “Chicken” with their lives . . . and with ours.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. He is the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).

 

Mock Potemkin Trial 8/16/17

The fourth branch  – by Kary Love

Kary Love

I am a lawyer. My pro bono clients are often those who offer nonviolent resistance to wrongs committed by our own government.

I read that, this week past, some nonviolent resisters entered a nuclear weapons storage facility in Germany.

Damn if it is not a list of many of my clients. These people are incorrigible. Next time at sentencing I will argue jail is a waste of time and public money for those sorts; you just cannot deter some people from a life of “crime.”

What a world, in which those acting peaceably for peace are criminals while those in power ordering the killing of people “for their own good” are not.

I still subscribe to law professor Francis Boyle’s view; nuclear weapons and related materiel are not property–property rights attach to legitimate things, not to criminal instrumentalia that have no use but criminal annihilation.

I’ve argued all this a few times with success and many other times not. As to the juries in cases of nonviolent resistance to injustice or in defense of higher laws, I trust them if they are allowed to hear all germane facts.

In one case in which I argued that the nonviolent defendants—who had used hand tools to dismantle a portion of a US nuclear Navy command facility—did not interfere with the defense of the USA because technical experts—whose published work the defendants had read—those defendants were innocent of sabotage charges.

We won this case in great part because of Captain James Bush’s (Ret.) testimony; the members of that jury were fully informed. Bush told the jury of 12 that as he commanded a United States nuclear submarine loaded with ‘city-busting’ weapons that he was also earning a graduate degree in International Relations and that he came to understand that he was in violation of the law every day. Hearing that from a retired commander made quite an impression. The jury rose to the occasion and acquitted, even with a hostile judge.

But it’s degenerating. The recent Espionage Act prosecutions have prevented defendants such Kiriakou et al. from even saying the word “whistleblower.” Reality Winner will be so shackled in her defense.

I have experienced this abuse of the law in nuke protest cases in US federal court–to the point I conclude such trials are Soviet Mock Potemkin Trials (back in the US, back in the US, back in the USSR).

In my judgment the jury is the 4th branch of government. The Founders knew power corrupts, and that sooner or later, the Congress, the President and the judges would abandon the Constitution for power and that only fully informed juries could stem the tide of corruption.

The Federal judges who issue orders in limine so jurors do not hear all the evidence (as to both the law and the facts) are complicit in destroying the check and balance the jury must be–as all others involved, i.e., Congress, President, judges, are beholden to the system.

In the case to which I referred above, the State Court Judge had some residual fidelity to the Constitution and we kind of boxed him in to allowing Bush to testify as he did–though I expect the Judge did not think a “military man” would have such a complicated mind, capable of rational thought and a moral code superior to his willingness to “just follow orders.”

Kinda tricky of me, I guess. But my oath is to the Constitution, not Congress, White House, or Judge–all of whom are creatures of the Constitution deserving of no respect nor obedience when they violate same (as is the ordinary course of all branches these days.)

Despite many disappointments, I still have faith in juries of ordinary people when fully informed to make “just” decisions even if necessitating deviation from the law. Thus, government fears the people so long as there is trial by jury.

This is as it should be. A government making unjust laws as ours does ought to fear its ability to convict when justice is not served by conviction. The three branches have become unmoored from being “bound down in the chains of the Constitution”–with the result it is a lawless beast.

Ultimately it will be up to the people: a nation of law, or a nation of beasts? Our “leaders” have no interest in curbing their own abuse of power. As victims of such abuse, the people are responsible, for the sake of their progeny and the future of liberty.

Kary Love is a Michigan attorney.

 

Love Means 8/16/18

What Did Dr. King Mean by Love?  – by Jose-Antonio Orosco

Jose-Antonio Orozco

As someone who regularly teaches about the political philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr., I often spend time discussing with students the ways in which King’s ideas are taken out of context and turned into sound bites in order to support positions he would not himself have taken. The most obvious example is how his most memorable line from the “I Have a Dream” speech about not judging people based on the color of their skin but the content of their character is used to justify attacks on affirmative action—a policy he definitely endorsed—or cited in a way to claim that the best path forward for racial justice is to somehow ignore race and become colorblind. The white supremacist violence in Charlottesville is proof that we cannot simply try to ignore the problems of racism now.

All across the country, marches and vigils are scheduled to honor the victims of racist violence and to stand against the surge of white nationalist groups in the United States. People are seeking guidance about how to think about the public and proud resurgence of this form of bigotry. Inevitably, the words and ideas of Dr. King are being invoked, especially his thoughts on the power of love in times of hate. One of his quotes, often bandied about, is this: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

But the hard question is what does it mean to love and not hate in the aftermath of Charlottesville? Does it mean it’s somehow wrong to feel angry or violated about people proudly brandishing neo-Nazi symbols on their weapons and shields? Does it mean the best response is to forgive the purveyors of violence like the young man who ran down protestors, killing Heather Heyer, in Charlottesville?

In the speeches in which King talked about love, he often spent time explaining what he meant; love has several meanings. In saying that supporters of racial justice had to have love in their hearts, he didn’t mean that they had to be continually positive and upbeat, or that they had to approach racists in friendship. That’s the kind of love we share with intimates or friends. King said the love that we ought to have in the struggle for justice is the kind that acknowledges all people, even the white supremacists, as human beings. And human beings are capable of making their own moral choices and being held responsible for their actions. We aren’t called upon to like or be friendly to those who are racist. It means we ought not to dehumanize or kill them as part of our fight for justice.

Someone asked me recently if, out of love, King wouldn’t have asked to sit down with a white supremacist and try to listen to their concerns and understand where they were coming from, in hopes of some kind of reconciliation and dialogue. I thought about this and realized that the answer was probably no. King never asked, for instance, to meet with Bull Connor, the rabidly racist police chief in Birmingham, Alabama who sent police dogs to attack protestors. He never called for public meetings with ordinary Black and white citizens to dialogue. Instead, he called for marches, boycotts, and urged legislation that would halt business as usual in that city, deplete the pocketbooks of segregationist business owners, and criminalize racist attacks and intimidation. He wrote in 1963: “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is important also.”

This is not to say that fellowship and dialogue are not important, especially when friends approach one another to talk about their fears, hopes, and biases. But in thinking about responses to white supremacy in the country today, we ought to be clear that King’s emphasis on love did not mean only sticking to individual efforts and trying to change the implicit racism of our friends and relatives.

Toward the end of his life, he called for a revolution of values that would utterly transform the United States and its commitment to materialism, racism, and militarism at institutional levels. The fight against white supremacy must be tied to issues of poverty, jobs, reducing our military and nuclear weapons, curbing police brutality, and providing decent health care and education for everyone. These were all issues of concern for King; this is what he meant by love.

José-Antonio Orosco, Ph.D, writes for PeaceVoice and is Associate Professor of Philosophy: School of History, Philosophy, and Religion Director, Oregon State University Peace Studies Program. He is the author of Toppling the Melting Pot: Immigration and Multiculturalism in American Pragmatism (2016) and other scholarly works.

Healthy Water & Air 8/9/17

Are we Egypt?  –  by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

When the world watched Egyptians bravely gather en masse in Tahrir Square in Cairo in January 2011 to Arab Spring Hosni Mubarak out of office, we were mightily impressed and most of us cheered the nonviolent resistance.

The western press lionized the Egyptian military as it seemed to support the uprising and the generals kindly offered to run the country on an interim basis. Sure enough, there was an election eventually, Mohammed Morsi won, and the military handed over power.

For a minute.

Then we saw the military not-so-kindly grab power, ousting the elected Morsi and General Sisi ordered mass arrests and torture of dissident pro-democracy Egyptian activists.

Now, a few short years since the US calmly watched democracy betrayed badly by the Egyptian military, the US press is valorizing the military officers who are starting to snap some discipline into the most chaotic, dysfunctional, investigated White House this senior citizen has ever observed, at least since the months leading up to Richard ‘I am not a crook’ Nixon’s resignation.

Be careful.

Falling all over ourselves in gratitude because a Marine general imposes some order in the executive branch may benefit the racially biased, anti-immigrant, pro-military agenda of the range of rightwing members of Congress, but that new efficiency is not going to result in the policy changes most Americans want nor those which protect the healthy water and air we all need.

From H.R. McMaster (National Security Adviser), to John Kelly (Chief of Staff) to James Mattis (Secretary of Defense) to Joseph Dunford—all generals—Trump is ceding power to those who know how to seize it. Generals now head his staff in the White House.

In short, handing over the keys to the democratic system to the military might seem like a safe path toward stability, but it failed miserably for the Egyptians and even in our disrupted state we should not seek to hitch our lines to the ones who do not practice democracy, who have a mission to control by threat of destruction, and who practice a dominating form of rule, not a democratic form of governance.

None of these generals is a Dwight Eisenhower, all are dedicated to the Trump agenda—ramping up global climate chaos, sowing race hate and violence, targeting refugees and immigrants fleeing from wars we supply arms to wage, rolling back civil rights, being cozy with the likes of autocrats Putin, Duterte, and yes, General al-Sisi, while scorning democratic humane clean energy leaders like Merkel. Be ye advised.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director.

Abolition of WMDs 8/9/17

Hope this Hiroshima Day  –  by Robert F. Dodge, M.D.

Robert Dodge

Finally, 72 years after the US dropped the first atomic bombs on Hiroshima and three days later on Nagasaki, there is hope that we will see the abolition of these most deadly weapons of mass destruction, for this year on July 7 an historic treaty banning nuclear weapons like every other weapon of mass destruction was adopted at the United Nations. Recognizing and responding to the medical and humanitarian consequences of nuclear war, the world has come together and spoken.

In drafting the treaty nations acknowledged the science that proves even a “small” regional nuclear war using less than ½ percent of the global nuclear arsenals would result in the deaths of two billion people on the planet from blasts, radiation sickness, and the “nuclear autumn” famine that would follow.

Refusing to be held hostage by the nuclear nations any longer, 122 non-nuclear nations brought forth a bold new vision with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This Treaty sets a new norm of international behavior and responsibility and when ratified, enforces that nations never develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess, stockpile, transfer, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. The treaty establishes humanitarian rights for those that have been victims of nuclear weapons or weapons testing including the right to live in an environment that has been cleared from the damage done by them. It notes that women and children are disproportionately harmed by radiation. The treaty opens for signature on September 20, and once 50 nations have signed and ratified, it becomes law 90 days later.

Nations who continue to possess and threaten the use of nuclear weapons will now be outside of international law and norms. The failed theory of nuclear deterrence will be shown for what it is, namely the greatest driver of the arms race with each step in deterrence simply setting the new benchmark which must be exceeded by adversary nations. Deterrence didn’t work during the Cold War nor does it work with North Korea or any nation. Only when the U.S. and Russia embrace the reality that individual national security isn’t possible without collective security will the rest of the world feel secure in eliminating their arsenals. Now is the time for new thinking.

The Hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombs, have waited their entire lives for this day. Setsuko Thurlow speaking at the United Nations after the treaty’s adoption said, “I have been waiting for this day for seven decades and I am overjoyed that it has finally arrived…this is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.” She concluded by saying, “Nuclear weapons have always been immoral, now they are also illegal.”

So let us give pause this day of remembrance and recognize the opportunity before us. Each of us has a role to play in demanding that our governments ratify this treaty. Let us begin the hard work in abolishing these weapons forever. The health and future of our children depend upon it.

Robert F. Dodge, M.D., is a practicing family physician, writes for PeaceVoice, was a citizen lobbyist to the UN in June for this treaty, and serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Beyond War, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions.

 

Fire & Fury 8/9/17

Trump’s Threat –  by Mel Gurtov

Mel Gurtov

The problem with Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” statement on North Korea isn’t merely that it intensifies an already tense situation. Nor is it just another example of Trump’s inappropriate, childish language when faced with a complex issue.

Most worrisome is that he seems to have no grasp of how his remarks might play out in real-world international politics. Trying to one-up the North Koreans with threats may give Trump the false sense that he is besting them, since he believes—as always, from his business experience—threats work. But he has no awareness of how threats are received in Pyongyang, not to mention in Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, and other capitals. Trump’s language does nothing to move the nuclear issue toward dialogue, but does much to further envenom relations with North Korea and to support the widespread view elsewhere that the president of the US is unstable and prone to violent actions.

In the past Trump has said of North Korea that attacking it sooner rather than later is the best way to resolve the nuclear issue. Bill Clinton disproved that in 1994 by rejecting an attack on North Korea’s nuclear facility at Yongbyon and instead entering into an Agreed Framework with Pyongyang that prevented war. Does Trump still hold to that view? Numerous specialists, and Trump’s own defense department leadership, have concluded that war would be catastrophic, with immediate one million deaths and economic costs of around $1 trillion. Needless to say, Koreans north and south, Japanese, and Chinese would pay the heaviest price for such madness.

But Trump, with his well-known ignorance about nuclear weapons, seems blissfully unaware of such matters. He would rather talk about “fake news,” attack critics, lie about his accomplishments, and keep pushing a domestic agenda that has gotten nowhere. Nuclear weapons, Korean history, North Korean motivations, and the art of diplomacy are outside his area of interest, and to say he is not a fast study is to be overly polite.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson responded to questions about Trump’s latest threat by saying “Americans should sleep well at night,” dismissing the threat as “rhetoric.” Given the drumbeat of war that the media has engaged in over North Korea’s missiles, I doubt that many informed Americans are sleeping well. I doubt that US military leaders in particular are sleeping well; they have an inexperienced, unpredictable commander-in-chief who just might issue an order to attack North Korea. And most assuredly South Koreans and Japanese are not sleeping well. Warlike rhetoric from the US president can never be dismissed.

In a word, President Trump is a loose cannon, a serious threat to national and international security.

Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.

Let’s Change Course 8/2/17

There Is Still Time, Brother – by Winslow Myers

Winslow Myers

Like many citizens for whom the daily headlines are an invitation to ponder the mental health of our political leaders, it is hard not to wonder from time to time about the risk of slipping into yet another war to end all wars—especially when the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki roll around, on August 6th and 9th, year after passing year.

In this context Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film, “On the Beach” is still worth a look. The screenplay was adapted from a novel of the same name by the English writer, Nevil Shute, who spent his later years in Australia, where both novel and film are set.

The plot provides a coolly understated take on the end of the world. Radioactivity from all-out nuclear war, both between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. and the Soviets and the Chinese, has done in anyone in the Northern Hemisphere who might have survived the initial blasts and fires. Australia is still in one piece, but it is only a matter of months before the great cycles of upper atmosphere winds bring a fatal plague of radiation southward, making it game over for our species. A laconic Gregory Peck, stoically repressing his knowledge that his wife and children had been long since annihilated in the initial nuclear exchange, plays a submarine captain whose vessel survived by being underwater. He takes his loyal crew on a futile exploratory voyage from Melbourne across to the California coast, both to test the intensity of atmospheric radiation and to confirm that no one has survived beyond the Australian continent.

In both novel and film, nobody knows who initiated the planet-ending wars and it hardly matters after the fact, just as it would not today. The only difference is we realize almost seventy years later that not only wind-born radioactive dust but also nuclear winter could hasten our planetary end. The wintry chaos of Cormac McCarthy’s apocalyptic novel “The Road” may take a more authentically grim tone, just as the film “Dr. Strangelove,” released not long after “On the Beach,” suggests that only satire could do justice to the absurdity of the “policy” of Mutually Assured Destruction.

And yet in 1959, with the Cold War intensifying and only five years beyond the red-baiting Army-McCarthy hearings, it must have taken a certain courage for Stanley Kramer to make a Hollywood film of Shute’s novel, devoid of the least sign of a happy ending to lighten the quietly enveloping darkness.

The almost antique understatement of “On the Beach,” book and film both, somehow ends up working in favor of the subject. They illustrate our frustrated awareness that we imperfect humans continue to behave stupidly and sleepily in our inability to do something about our suicidally destructive weapons. Just as it sometimes seems as if we are appendages of our smartphones and computers, we appear to be appendages of our vain approach to security by deterrence. The leaders of the nuclear powers do not dare to do anything to stop the juggernaut of technological “advance,” the “we build—they build” momentum that is taking us ever faster downriver toward the waterfall.

“On the Beach” ends with a shot of a Salvation Army banner flapping emptily in the wind with the slogan “There is still time, brother.” In fact not everyone on the planet is sticking head where the sun don’t shine. More than 120 nations recently signed a United Nations pact agreeing to outlaw the manufacture, deployment and use of nuclear weapons. None of the nine nuclear nations signed, and the U.S. refused to even attend. The historic occasion didn’t come close to making the front pages of major U.S. media outlets, saturated as they have been with the Russian attempts at subversion of our electoral processes with the willing connivance of the Trump family.

In our pig-headed refusal to face reality, the nuclear powers appear to have learned nothing in all the many years since the first halting attempts, including “On the Beach,” to use the arts to dramatize the risks with which we heedlessly flirt, and how we need to change course or die. 120 nations have changed course—why not the U.S.?

Winslow Myers, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide,” serves on the Boards of Beyond War and the War Prevention Initiative.

 

Opening Gitmo 8/2/17

Opening Gitmo to the world  – by Robert C. Koehler

Robert Koehler

To read Witnesses of the Unseen: Seven Years in Guantanamo is to run your mind along the contours of hell.

The next step, if you’re an American, is to embrace it. Claim it. This is who we are: We are the proprietors of a cluster of human cages and a Kafkaesque maze of legal insanity. This torture center is still open. Men (“forever prisoners”) are still being held there, their imprisonment purporting to keep us safe.

The book, by Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir — two Algerian men arrested in Bosnia in 2011 and wrongly accused of being terrorists — allows us to imagine ourselves at Guantanamo, this outpost of the Endless War.

“‘Take him outside,’ the interrogator told them. They led me up a flight of eight or nine concrete steps to a long gravel drive. It was pitch black out, and completely quiet. There was no one around. One of the soldiers grabbed my left arm, and another took my right. And then they started running.

“I tried to keep up, but my legs were shackled together. First, my flip-flops fell off, and after a few barefoot strides, my legs fell out from under me. The soldiers didn’t even slow down. They kept a firm grip on my arms while my legs bounced and scraped along the ground, gravel biting into them. When the run finally ended, the soldiers brought me back to the interrogation room, bloody and bedraggled.”

This is one fragment, one story of the seven years these two innocent men endured: these two fathers who were pulled away from their wives and children, yanked from their lives, stuffed into cages, interrogated endlessly and pointlessly, humiliated, force-fed (in Lakhdar’s case) . . . and finally, finally, ordered by a U.S. judge to be freed, when their case, Boumediene v. Bush, was at long last heard in a real court and the lack of evidence against them became appallingly clear.

The book is the story of the courage it takes to survive.

And it’s a story that can only be told because of the work of the Boston legal firm WilmerHale, which spent more than 17,000 pro bono hours litigating the case, “work that would have cost paying clients more than $35 million.”

Lakhdar and Mustafa were freed in 2008 and began rebuilding their lives. They eventually decided they wanted to tell their story — to an American audience. Daniel Norland, who was a lawyer at WilmerHale when the case was making its way through the court process (but was not part of the litigation team) and his sister, Kathleen List, who speaks fluent Arabic, conducted more than 100 hours of interviews with the two men, which were shaped into Witnesses of the Unseen.

In October 2011, the two men, who were living and working in Sarajevo, were among six Algerians who wound up being arrested by Bosnian authorities and charged with plotting to blow up the American embassy in Sarajevo. They were held for three months, then released. There was no evidence to back up the accusation.

But this turns out to be the beginning of their story, not the end of it. The men were released not back to their own lives but to an authority more powerful than the Bosnian judicial system: They were released to the Americans, who had begun rounding up Muslims . . . uh, terrorists. Evidence, or lack thereof, didn’t matter. These men were shipped to a new military prison, built at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba — an offshore prison, in other words, unencumbered by the U.S. Constitution. The detainees there allegedly had zero rights. That was the whole point.

Much of what Lakhdar and Mustafa describe is the efficiency of the U.S. military in dehumanizing its prisoners. The beatings and physical pain inflicted by guards, interrogators and even medical personnel were only part of it. The men also endured sexual humiliation, endless mocking of their religion — “I heard . . . that a soldier went into someone’s cell and flushed his Qur’an down the toilet” — and the cruel, teasing “misplacement” or censorship of letters from the prisoners’ loved ones.

Several years into his imprisonment, Lakhdar went on a hunger strike, which meant he was subjected to force-feeding, which the U.N. Human Rights Commission has called a form of torture:

“The soldier brought out an apparatus with a long yellow tube and started measuring out the length of tube he needed. He stopped when he got to a marking somewhere between 45 and 50 inches. That was the amount of tube he was going to insert through my nostril. . . .

“It’s almost impossible to explain what a feeding tube feels like to someone who hasn’t experienced it. I felt like I was choking, and being strangled, and yet somehow still able to breathe, all at the same time.

“The soldier taped the tube in place. I could see the Ensure trickling through the tube, one droplet at a time. It felt cold as it reached my stomach. I later learned that a full feeding normally takes fifteen to twenty minutes, but that first time they went exceptionally slowly. I sat in the clinic, chained to the chair, a tube protruding down my throat, for the rest of the afternoon and all through the night.”

It took no less than a Supreme Court ruling to start ending this nightmare.

In early 2007, a U.S. Circuit Court judge had refused to hear Boumediene v. Bush on the grounds that Guantanamo prisoners had no Constitutional rights. But the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal, and in June 2008 ruled that Guantanamo counted as part of the U.S. and, as Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, the government couldn’t “switch the Constitution on and off at will.”

Thus the case went back to the Circuit Court and a real hearing got underway, leading to one of the most appalling revelations in the book: “Our lawyers had told us, in the days leading up to our trial, about a recent bizarre development in our case: the government had dropped its allegation that we had plotted to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo. Just like in Bosnia seven years before, authorities were eager to toss around bomb-plot allegations right up until a court required them to provide evidence.

“Instead, our lawyers told us, the government now said that the reason it considered us ‘enemy combatants’ was that it had evidence — classified evidence that I wasn’t allowed to see — that we had made a plan to fly to Afghanistan and join Al Qaeda’s fight against American forces there. This was the first time I had ever heard this allegation. No one — no police officer, no Bosnian official, no American interrogator — had ever asked me a single question about it.

“And it was a ludicrous allegation. . . .”

And the judge ruled in their favor and they eventually were set free, to reclaim their lives, to see their children for the first time in seven years — and to give their story to the world.

But as long as Gitmo remains open and the Endless War continues — and no one is held accountable — there is no ending to this story, just an open wound.

Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

 

Nine Powers Showdown 8/2/17

Now  –  by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

We have been living with nuclear weapons for 72 years, so that must make them safe and sustainable, right?

Wrong.

Nuclear weapons are the only way we have of killing most humans on Earth in the space of a few hours—far more immediately than global climate chaos, which is itself a dire threat. Indeed, reliable astro-scientists assure us that they predict no giant meteor collisions nor anything else that can wreck life on Earth for at least millennia, except the ultimate self-inflicted nuclear apocalypse.

Most of humankind understands this, most of humankind is not defended in any conceivable fashion by the godawful weapons in the arsenals of just nine of the 200 nations on Earth.

That is why we are witnessing a political showdown between the overwhelming majority of the planet’s countries and the nine nuclear powers.

Oh, you hadn’t heard about this conflict? That is hardly surprising in our strange media and political atmosphere of random bellicose presidential tweets, votes on whether to slash healthcare for our most vulnerable citizens, and narcissistic speeches to the bewildered Boy Scouts. Not to mention the deranged cockfight environment we are witnessing inside the inner circle in the oddest, most dysfunctional White House in US history.

Far more meaningful in the long arc of human history and certainly in our hopes for future generations is the recently passed treaty to ban all nuclear weapons on Earth.

Yes, there have been sidelong, kick-the-warhead-down-the-timeline attempts before, including the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty, the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the stalled Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, but now comes a full frontal legal and worldwide political assault on the enemy of the generations, nukes.

And we have seen successful treaties to outlaw both biological weapons (1972) and chemical weapons (1992), neither of which have ever been capable of the immediate and long term threat to life locked and loaded in the arsenals of just nine nations.

Naturally, it is The World v Nuclear Weapons Nation-states, plus a few nations who don’t have nukes but whose economic and political arms have been twisted, primarily by the US.

The 72 years since the atomic annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is nothing more than a quick eyeblink in the long span of human history and prehistory. Nukes are a single incident away from wrecking your life, your great-grandchildren’s lives, and those of everyone else. They are now officially criminal and have always been evil.

Now is the most opportune time ever to let your federal elected officials know that we stand with the vast majority of people on planet Earth. It’s time. Sign that treaty and get it ratified. Save the world, literally.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director.

 

Not Much Time (if any) 8/2/17

Reaching Paris Without Stopping in Washington – by Mel Gurtov

Mel Gurtov

History may record that the planet’s climate crisis was avoided thanks to the efforts of three countries: China, Germany, and France. Or not. The preparedness of those three, and the other EU member-states, to follow through on commitments under the Paris Accord despite the US pull-out is key to planetary survival. Chancellor Angela Merkel has made no bones about it, announcing that the Europeans are determined, in the name of Western values, to meet the Paris goal of keeping planetary temperature rise to 1.5-2 degrees Celsius while also welcoming immigrants and upholding the global trade system.

The Discouraging News

Every expert opinion on climate change includes a dire warning: We haven’t got much time. The latest warning comes from a group of scientists and supportive others called Mission 2020. Reporting in Nature, they believe that if greenhouse gas emissions can turn downward by 2020—emissions have actually flattened out over the last three years—we have a chance to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. But if the Paris goals cannot be met, we are on the way to catastrophic decline. The group reminds us that economic growth in many countries is occurring precisely where use of non-carbon renewable sources has increased dramatically.

Mission 2020 makes a number of specific, entirely doable suggestions on land-use policy, city structures, transportation, and other subjects. But for its ideas to see the light of day, the group emphasizes that we must “use science to guide decisions and set targets. Policies and actions must be based on robust evidence… Those in power must also stand up for science.” Its closing observation is well worth heeding: “There will always be those who hide their heads in the sand and ignore the global risks of climate change. But there are many more of us committed to overcoming this inertia. Let us stay optimistic and act boldly together.”

But optimism will be hard to sustain, especially for future generations. Two other studies just published in Nature Climate Change cast doubt on reaching the 1.5°C target. In fact, these studies, using very different methodologies, conclude that a rise of 2°C or even 3°C by the end of the century is more likely. And the studies were completed before US withdrawal from the Paris Accord. Bill McKibben writes: “”These studies are part of the emerging scientific understanding that we’re in even hotter water than we’d thought. We’re a long ways down the path to disastrous global warming, and the policy response—especially in the United States—has been pathetically underwhelming.”

Indeed, under Donald Trump, the US is contributing mightily to our self-destruction. Deep cuts in the EPA budget; appointments to the environment and energy cabinet posts of dogmatic amateurs; restrictions on scientists’ professional activities, climate-change research, and the climate data base; the purely politically-motivated efforts to salvage the dying coal industry; official obliviousness to Antarctica’s breakup; unabashed promotion of oil and gas industry fracking and other dangerous ventures; systematic elimination of environmental protection regulations—it’s an extraordinary list that future historians will point to as evidence of a bizarre suicidal urge in a certain segment of American society.

It will come as no surprise that a Pew Research Center poll based on opinion in five countries (France, Britain, Spain, Poland, and Germany) finds a major shift in attitudes about the US. Whereas in 2016 favorable opinion of the US in these countries averaged 61 percent to 26 percent unfavorable, now unfavorable opinion is at 52 percent and 46 percent is favorable. Pew did international polling on the US under Trump in more than 30 other countries, and found very little confidence in his leadership—“arrogant, intolerant, and dangerous” were the decisive assessments—a sharp departure from polling when Obama was president. Trump’s Paris decision, along with his Muslim ban and his intention to build a wall on the Mexico border, clearly affected these opinions of him.

Some More Encouraging News

But if crisis breeds opportunity, the failure of US leadership on climate change may be fracturing the old international order in a positive way. While American politicians may still believe the US is destined to lead or is (in Madeleine Albright’s famous phrase) the “indispensable nation,” the rest of the world is moving on. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing that others step forward to fill the leadership gap. As Merkel has said: “The times in which we could completely rely on others are over to a certain extent. That is what I experienced in the last few days. That is why I can only say: We Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands.” Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, added that since the new US administration “has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership,” Canadians must “set our own clear and sovereign course.”

Trump’s transactional approach to international affairs, under which “the deal” must always advantage America first, will be shown to be bankrupt soon enough. The Europeans, the Chinese, and others—including major US cities, states, businesses, and institutions that will make their own deals on the environment, and will benefit as a result in terms of energy savings, cleaner air, employment opportunities, and technological advances. California’s governor Jerry Brown and New York City’s former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, lead a group called America’s Pledge that has a formidable and growing membership committed to working with the UN to reduce greenhouse emissions. The group now numbers 227 cities and counties, nine states, and more than 1600 businesses and investors.

So long as Trump is in power, however, we and the planet are going to pay a high price. US reliability will become increasingly uncertain on issues aside from climate change. After all, if the US can suddenly pull out of major international commitments such as the Paris accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and raises doubts about its participation in NATO, how credible will its word be on arms control, immigration, and humanitarian aid? Moreover, without US support, dealing with climate change will be that much more difficult. And for Americans, the evisceration of the EPA will have real consequences, starting with public health.

We were warned.

Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.

 

Dancing with Fear 8/2/17

Dancing with fear – by Robert C. Koehler

Robert Koehler

I knew there was a war on against cancer and, oh yeah, drugs, illiteracy, poverty, crime and, of course, terror, and that many arenas — sports, religion, business and politics, to name a few — are often portrayed as war without the body bags. But I was still surprised to read recently in the New York Times that we’ve opened up a fat front:

“It is a scene being repeated across the country as schools deploy the blood-pumping video game Dance Dance Revolution as the latest weapon,” the Gray Lady informed us, “in the nation’s battle against the epidemic of childhood obesity.”

Enough already! If I were an overweight kid, would I want Braveheart in my face? My impatience here reaches into the language center of the American brain, or at least the media brain. When chubby 9-year-olds are inspiring the language of Guadalcanal and 9/11, maybe as a nation it’s time to rethink our rhetorical default settings. Maybe it’s time to stop regarding every challenge, danger, obstacle, mystery and fear we encounter as a military operation, to be won or lost. We should at least be aware we have a choice in the matter.

Metaphors are the very essence of that light bulb (metaphor) we think of as understanding. When it goes off, it means — boing-g-g! — we’ve linked the unknown with the known, created order out of the tumult of love or the daily commute or those blood-test results. Metaphors do not equal reality, but good ones illuminate it. The wrong metaphor about what’s going on, however, makes us stupid. Witness George Bush’s war on terror, a flailing spasm of high-tech counterterror that seems as rational as . . . oh, calling for an air strike to take out obesity.

Ever since 9/11, I’ve been driven by an urgency to understand why we as a nation accepted Bush’s war of revenge so enthusiastically and felt so little empathy toward the innocent, sitting-duck populations we were about to carpet bomb. A big part of the reason, I believe, is that the military response — which means defining an enemy and immediately suspending all human feelings toward it — is embedded in our language. I also believe such language has outlived its usefulness in almost every way it’s applied and that a new, more complex way of thinking has begun to emerge.

Consider: A 2005 University of Florida study on doctor-patient communication, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, concluded that, “Well-meaning doctors seeking to explain treatment to cancer patients by comparing it to an all-out war might be wise to skip the military metaphors,” according to the university’s Web site.

“The life-is-a-journey comparison is a quieter metaphor and has the depth, richness and seriousness to apply to the cancer experience,” said Dr. Gary M. Reisfield, one of the researchers. “The road may not be as long as one hoped, and important destinations may be bypassed, but there’s no winning, losing or failing.”

Or how about the militarization of religion? Rev. Peter Paulsen, writing at medialit.org, noted: “We no longer accept racist references in speech, much less in worship. . . . But many Western — and some Eastern — religions still describe our relationship to God in military terms. We talk of ‘battling’ the devil, and ‘conquering’ sin. We loudly sing ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ or ‘Lord, God of Hosts, Mighty in Battle.’

“Despite the controversy that changing this language might provoke,” he wrote, “all people of faith need to reexamine whether the ‘peace that passes all understanding’ can be effectively communicated — in today’s nuclear age — by traditional metaphors of war.”

Or the militarization of business? Dennis W. Organ, in an essay on the Business Horizons Web site, lamented that classical management theory is permeated with military terms — “chain of command,” “rank and file,” “market strategy” — that serve mainly to obscure marketplace realities.

Even though he was dubious that the alternative business-model metaphors he suggested — “the organism, the computer, the jazz ensemble” — would grab people’s imaginations, I think he’s on to something. Such concepts are far more complex than the “us vs. them” reductionism of the military metaphor and challenge us to embrace a larger understanding of reality.

Similarly, David C. Smith, in an essay called “De-Militarizing Language” published at peacemagazine.org, asked: “Suppose instead of thinking about argument in terms of war, we were to think of argument as a pleasing, graceful dance. How would such a metaphor cause us to conceptualize argument in a different way?”

Those who can’t or won’t change their thinking will eye these alternatives as further intrusions of political correctness on their happiness: the smiley-face suppression of natural aggression so that everyone gets along in false harmony. I say imagine dancing with what we fear instead of trying to kill it.

Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

 

Incapable & Compromised 7/26/17

Jared Kushner and National Security  – by Mel Gurtov

Mel Gurtov

Jared Kushner’s latest revision of his financial picture reveals a very wealthy man, and couple, who continue to profit enormously from the Trump presidency. But beyond the numbers lies the fact that Kushner, like his father-in-law, seems incapable of telling the truth about either the full extent of his financial empire or the extent of his contacts with foreigners—Russians especially—whose interests are intertwined with his own.

Here’s the current picture for Kushner and Ivanka Trump:

1. He holds managerial and/or leadership positions in 266 real estate and related organizations, most of them in New York City and some in New Jersey.

2. He lists income of over $6 million from two assets—his real estate and media companies.

3. His wife, Ivanka Trump, lists 17 sources of income; and together, they list an additional 221 income sources, mostly real estate but also interest earned on bonds and other financial instruments, with values ranging from $1,000 to $25 million. Kushner failed to list more than 70 of those income sources previously.

4. Their list of financial liabilities is headed by credit lines from Valley National Bank (New Jersey) and Deutsche Bank, each in the range of $5-25 million.

5. The couple continues to earn tens of millions of dollars from their real estate and other businesses, including those they supposedly divested or resigned from. According to the Washington Post’s review of Kushner’s latest filing, he “resigned from 266 corporate positions, and [Ivanka] Trump stepped down from 292 positions… But they still control assets worth at least $139 million, along with another $66 million, at minimum, of assets that are tied to Trump’s stakes in her fashion brand, the Trump hotel in Washington and other real estate projects, according to the filings. And they both continue to draw large sums from outside interests: The couple has jointly made at least $19 million in income from business ventures and listed more than $80 million in real estate and other revenues since the start of 2016 . . .”

Nicholas Kristof makes the case for removing Jared Kushner from his White House job because he’s a security risk. Innocent until proven guilty, for sure; but the circumstantial evidence of a cozy, potentially compromising relationship with the Russians—notably, the secret meeting with Russians in the company of Donald, Jr., the plan to set up a backchannel communications link in the Russian embassy, and the failure to disclose several other meetings with officially connected Russians—is very strong.

In a word, Jared Kushner reeks of corrupt, unpatriotic behavior that may lead to indictments. He will probably be the first person pardoned by President Trump. But in the meantime, Kushner should be removed from office and his security clearance denied—as a matter of national security.

Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.

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