Committed Citizens 10/11/17

ICAN’s Nobel Peace Prize is Humanities Rx for Survival – by Robert F. Dodge, M.D.

Robert Dodge, MD

Friday’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) draws attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and the global movement to abolish these weapons as the only reliable way to guarantee that they will never be used again. The award brings the reality of these consequences front and center to the world stage. The nuclear armed states with their addiction to nuclear weapons due to their misguided false sense of security in having these weapons and their refusal to proceed further with the disarmament process will now be legally bound to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This award stigmatizes the nuclear armed states with their nuclear stockpiles and empowers the non-nuclear nations who have spoken out in the adoption of this summer’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Physicians for Social Responsibility’s international federation, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, itself a recipient of the 1985 Nobel peace prize, founded ICAN in 2007. PSR worked with ICAN presenting scientific data on the humanitarian and medical consequences of nuclear weapons at a series of three intergovernmental conferences in 2013 and 2014, the 2016 UN multilateral disarmament forum which ultimately led to the 2017 UN treaty negotiations and adoption of the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by 122 nations on July 7, 2017. The Treaty prohibits the possession, use, threat of use, development, testing, acquisition, stockpiling and transfer of these weapons and forever stigmatizes these weapons and the nations who maintain their nuclear stockpiles.

The small and mighty permanent staffing of ICAN has allowed it to be nimble and strategic in its work, engaging a diverse range of groups and working alongside the Red Cross and like-minded governments. It has built a mighty global coalition of more than 400 partners in 101 nations creating a movement that is unstoppable and along the way has reshaped the debate on nuclear weapons generating a momentum towards elimination.

ICAN typifies the often quoted words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

The prize is a tribute to the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the hibakusha, and victims of nuclear explosions and development around the world and their vision to prevent future generations from suffering the horror of nuclear detonation.

Until now, nuclear weapons were the only indiscriminate weapon of war that had not been banned. Chemical and biological weapons, as well as landmines and cluster munitions, have already been banned. Nuclear weapons are the greatest threat to our humanity and the U.N. The Treaty through the work of ICAN is now our prescription for survival.

Robert F. Dodge, M.D., is a practicing family physician, writes for PeaceVoice, and serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Beyond War, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions.

Bring Back Dirty 10/11/17

This land is your land – by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

I spent the last few days traveling across the country to North Dakota to join others in supporting a gentle man who tried to help everyone. For that he was convicted of several crimes and will be heading to a North Dakota prison.

Michael Foster was born and raised in Texas, in an oil family. His crime in North Dakota was turning off the Keystone pipeline in a symbolic but real call to all of us to do what we can to stop global climate chaos.

That North Dakota valve turn was one of five similar actions last October–two women, three men, five valves on lines in Washington state, Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota, all done in resonance with the Break Free from Fossil Fuels campaign.

We see the buck-naked consequences of paying no attention to our oil consumption; Harvey drowns Houston, fires rip through the West, every hurricane is more intense than it otherwise would be, droughts last longer, lakes are drying up, the seas are rising and surging, and with fracking even earthquakes are no longer a pure act of God. Most previously natural disasters are now unnatural disasters, made worse by our hand more than the hand of God or Mother Nature.

The Trump regime is doing worse than nothing; they are exacerbating the problem by rolling back the tepid regulations the Obama administration brought to bear. Trump yanks the US out of a world agreement to fix this, the Paris Accords. He gets Rick “Never-met-an-oil-well-I-didn’t-like” Perry as his Secretary of Energy and Scott “That-pollution-smells-like-money-to-me” Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency–into the ground. Trump promises to bring back dirty coal. It is Satanic, frankly, with zero regard for the children of the world, for the generations. He’s old without any discernible conscience. Who will confront him?

Michael Foster, Leonard Higgins, Ken Ward, Emily Johnston, and Annette Klapstein will. They have.

I attended Michael’s trial as much as possible, although I couldn’t be in the room in the beginning because I was scheduled as an expert witness and we were sequestered until we testified–or until the judge disallowed us…which she did.

Michael was facing 23 years in prison on four charges. Three of us were there to provide expert testimony in three topic areas to help the judge and jury understand why Michael should be acquitted. Two of us were there to speak to different aspects of nonviolence and one was on hand to speak about the urgency of a rapid change in our general habits but a specific exam of the dirty tar sands oil that flows through the Keystone pipeline. Climatologist James Hansen is 76 years old and is the one who announced that “global warming has arrived” in 1988 when he worked as a scientist at the Goddard Space Center. Every single prediction he made then has come to pass. He is arguably the world’s top scientist in that area–certainly the most famous. He’s Trump’s age, only with a long-view conscience and integrity.

The court could not be bothered to listen to this eminent scientist, someone who could have helped the judge and jury become at least familiar with the emergency that we see unfolding all over nowadays, made much worse by the dirtiest sort of fossil fuel–tar sands oil.

The contempt for anyone coming to North Dakota to “tell us how to live” (the prosecutor’s attack on Michael, who is now from Seattle) was palpable. The judge allowed the prosecution’s expert witness, demonstrating some spectacular inconsistency and hypocrisy. As one who woke up a few times this summer to unbreathable air and everything in my town covered in forest fire ash, I say to North Dakotans, you need to fix this. We will do our part but you need to do yours. Most of us know at least one or two people in Houston, or in the Santa Rosa area, or in Miami or Puerto Rico. Are we Americans who value all other Americans or are we not?

But the prosecutors were dismissive. Hell, Foster only faces 23 years, why give him a chance to reason with jury members? Let’s not confuse them with the facts.

The trial in tiny Cavalier, North Dakota, in remote Pembina County, was heartbreaking.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is a scholar of civil resistance and PeaceVoice Director.

Be Courageous, Tough & Strong 10/11/17

Needed: A “Men Against Gun Violence” Campaign  – by Rob Okun

Well, I won’t back down/ No, I won’t back down…

I’ll stand my ground/Won’t be turned around…

I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down,

Gonna stand my ground

—Tom Petty, “I Won’t Back Down”

Rob A. Okun

Again. Worse than ever. A horrifying mass murder by a lone killer. This time in Las Vegas.

Republicans call for improved mental health screenings. Democrats revive demands for tighter gun control. Sure, fine; have at it.

Meanwhile a clue stares us right in the face, a key to preventing this madness and mayhem: the race and gender of the shooter. White and male. Again.

Okay, guys, white guys—all guys—this is our moment to say, “Enough!” This is the moment to start a national “Men Against Gun Violence” campaign. Right after Newtown, women launched “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense” the day after the murder of 20 six and seven year-olds, and six staff at Sandy Hook elementary school. The day after!

What are we waiting for, guys? You want to show courage? You want to act tough and strong? You want to stand tall for your family, your country? Then, let’s do it! NOW.

Let’s organize legions of men to question our gender privilege and challenge men to chart a new course in the gun violence debate. And in the process, accelerate the transformation of our ideas about masculinity and manhood—including, especially, how we raise boys.

Men in their sixties, for instance—age mates of the 64 year-old shooter, Stephen Paddock—could be among the organizers of the campaign, demanding we recast US gun culture. Like me, a lot are grandfathers; many have time on their hands, as well as money and access. They could, for instance, start a project to convince 58 senators—one for each of the murder victims—to vote not only for gun control, but also for funding the CDC to study how boys are socialized. Then, since there were 520 people wounded, they could call for all 435 members of the House of Representatives to vote for sane gun legislation. Add the governors of all 50 states, plus the mayors of the 35 largest cities in the country and it totals 520. See, in a campaign like this we are limited only by our imaginations.

Fathers, single men, gay men, men of color, indigenous men, white men, male coaches, clergymen, mailmen—the list of potential men to join the campaign is long. Let’s not forget athletes and coaches in the NFL, and MLB, the NBA, the NHL. Even team owners could link arms in such an effort.

Musicians could play a part, too. Caleb Keeter, lead guitarist for the Josh Abbott Band, which performed just hours before the hail of bullets rained down on the Las Vegas music festival, could be recruited. “I’ve been a proponent of the [second] amendment my entire life,” Keeter posted on Twitter the day after the murders. “Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was.”

Guys, we’re problem solvers, so let’s figure this out. The National Rifle Association considers most men tacit supporters. Part of our speaking out must include calling out the NRA. If we stay silent, they have us right where they want us.

The common denominator in all the mass shootings—Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Orlando, the list goes on and on—is that all the shooters were men. Let’s not shy away from that sad truth.

A lot of white men today feel the diversity train has left them in the station. Instead of playing the victim, these men have a lot to offer a society undergoing a major social transformation. This is not just an invitation; it’s a call to action for men to use the power and privilege we hold to start a “Men Against Gun Violence” campaign in every state and territory—and to include boys and young men each step along the way. Too many men have been the shooters; it’s time for some to be the peacemakers. What are we waiting for?

Viva Las Vegas.

Rob Okun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is editor of Voice Male magazine and a member of the board of North American MenEngage, a gender justice organization.

 

Culture Extols Violence 10/11/17

I know why he did it – by Michael N. Nagler

Michael Nagler

Although I have been studying nonviolence – and therefore indirectly violence – for many years, what I want to share with you about this latest gun tragedy is just plain common sense. And not to keep you in suspense, here’s my answer: this man slaughtered his fellow human beings because he lives in a culture that extols violence. A culture that degrades the human image – those two go together. How do I know? Because I live in the same culture; and so do you. And that uncomfortable fact is actually going to put us on the road to a solution.

Neither this nor any shooting, indeed any particular outbreak of violence, can be traced to one particular TV show or video game or “action” film, of course, any more than any particular hurricane can be traced to global warming; but in both cases, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we have a preventable problem – not easily preventable, but preventable – and if we want these agonizing, disfiguring attacks to stop we really have to address it.

We are, and have been for decades, to quote a colleague of mine, “increasing violence by every means possible” – particularly, though not only, through our powerful mass media. The science on this is overwhelming, but that precious insight sits idle in libraries and professors’ bookshelves; neither policymakers nor the general public –nor, needless to say, the programmers of the media themselves, have felt the need to pay the slightest attention. They ignored the research so thoroughly that somewhere around the 1980s most of my colleagues working in the field simply gave up and stopped publishing. Sound familiar? Just as with the overwhelming evidence that human activity is causing climate change; we don’t like the overwhelming evidence that violent images (and, we might add, guns themselves) promote violent action, so we look away.

But we can’t look away any more. As Americans, we are twenty times more likely than the citizens of other developed nations to die by gunshot. We can no longer look away from all this and consider ourselves a civilized nation.

So I urgently recommend is when the media are throwing a barrage of details at us – how many rifles, how much ammunition, what about his girlfriend – and claim they are looking in vain for a “motive” that we back up a moment and reframe the question. The question is, not why this particular person did this particular crime in this particular way, but what is causing the epidemic of violence?

This reframing is a huge relief, because being buried in the details has two serious disadvantages: often the question can’t be answered, as in the present case, and more to the point even if it can the information is useless. There’s nothing we can do about his girlfriend or his gambling, or the fact that shooter X had just been fired or was in a depression.

There is everything we can do, with enough time and determination, about the underlying cause of all shootings, which is the culture of violence that has become so much the ‘woodwork’ of our ‘entertainment,’ our unconsciously preselected and slantingly presented ‘news,’ and yes, our foreign policy, our mass incarceration, our gross inequality and the disintegration of civil discourse.

One recent blog did start us off more usefully: “The one thing we know for certain, the one thing we always know about mass shooters: They use guns.” Here, at last, we are thinking about the universals, of this type of violence at least, and not drowning in details that are irrelevant at best and harmful at worst – i.e. when they tempt us to reenact the crime vicariously, get hooked on the excitement, and desensitized to the horror. The diagrams and photos of this shooter’s hotel room offered by one paper are definitely in this category.

So yes, we should insist, absolutely, that join the civilized world and pass real gun legislation. As mentioned, the science is clear that guns increase aggressiveness and decrease safety. But will that be enough to stop the massacres? No, I’m afraid it’s too late for that. We also have to stop the violence in our own mind. That will not only give us personally a healthier mind but put us in a good position to help others similarly. My rule of thumb: exercise extreme discrimination in the media going into our minds, write to the networks explaining why we’re not watching their programs or buying their advertisers’ products, and explain the same to all who care to listen. If it helps, take a pledge; you can find a sample on our website.

Shortly before the Las Vegas massacre I was on a train coming back from a writing session when I overheard a snatch of conversation between two Danish tourists, young men in carefully torn jeans who looked like some of the hip millennials in my favorite coffee shop, and a conductor. One of the guys said, with some pride, “We don’t need guns in Denmark.” “Oh, I don’t believe that,” the conductor answered.

Can there be anything more tragic? To have created a culture where we no longer believe in a world where life is valued and violence shunned, where we can go to a concert – or attend school – and come home. It’s time to rebuild that culture, and that world.

Professor Michael N. Nagler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the President of the Metta Center for Nonviolence and the author of The Search for a Nonviolent Future.

Best Time is Now 10/11/17

Now  – by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

Don’t you just love it when a problem occurs and the one who caused says something like, “Now is not the time to talk about it.”

Huh?

Such as when Harvey hit Houston, a hurricane made into a monster by the extra-warm Gulf of Mexico, and all that additional warmth in the ocean produced by human-caused climate change. Streets became rivers, houses and people were swept away.

Hurricane Irma leveled towns roared through the Caribbean, twisting and killing in September.

Fossil fuel burning–oil, gasoline, natural gas–warmed the air, warmed the ocean, and what did Trump’s EPA head, Scott Pruitt say? Now is not the time to talk about climate change.

Seriously. That is exactly the best time to talk about it. When cities are inundated is when folks need to know why. Floridians want to know if there is any way to prevent unprecedented storm surges and record sustained winds sometimes nearing 200 mph, ripping off roofs and flattening trees and buildings.

When conflagrations are burning down the astonishingly beautiful forests of the Pacific Northwest, when iconic parklands and treasured places are in flames and we cannot breathe, when we wake up in my town of Portland and everything is covered with the ash from these firestorms, that is precisely when we need to talk about changing course and fixing this.

Now 59 people shot dead and more than 530 wounded from automatic gunfire and what does Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House spokesperson say in response to questions about gun control? “Now is not the time to talk about it.”

Hogwash. It is precisely the time to talk about it.

Why, indeed, does Donald Trump immediately tweet about his travel ban and wall after every news item about either a terror attack anywhere on Earth or an undocumented Hispanic person getting a parking ticket (this is almost not exaggerated)?

Time to talk. Time to study. Time to act.

Seriously address anthropogenic climate chaos. Reward clean energy. Rapidly phase out Keystone pipeline dirty tar sands oil. Rapidly phase out coal-burning electric-generating plants. Radically reduce the highly fossil-fuel-consuming US foreign military presence and thus carbon footprint. Now.

Repeal the Stupid Second Amendment. That is how citizens, towns and states can regain their rights. As it is, when a city tries to ban certain weapons the NRA rolls in with their kill squad and finds plaintiffs to sue. The Supreme Court eventually says, hey, no local or state control for you–it’s in the Constitution. Gun rights trump human rights.

Ironically, those who historically clamor for states’ rights are now the ones smashing states’ rights. They wanted states’ rights to discriminate against various races, genders, sexual identities, and unions, most notably in the infamous U.S. Supreme Court in the 1857 Dred Scott decision in favor of slaveowners but many times since. Now, hypocritically, they want to do away with a state’s right to ban as many proven killer weapons as they wish.

Some of us want to live amongst others in civil society in which issues are resolved without guns, where someone with a concealed mental health issue cannot carry a concealed weapon–because no one is carrying weapons in that town.

Some want to live in states with essentially no limits to weapon ownership short of a nuclear bomb. Great. Good luck with that, Texas and Idaho. But when Chicago–formerly the murder capital of the US before it banned certain guns–tries to pass bans on some guns and they are told they cannot, that the ban is lifted, what sort of freedom is that?

Guns do not produce freedom; guns are often the direct enemy of freedom. Each locality needs its freedom back, the freedom as it defines it.

Now is the time to talk about it.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director.

 

Bristling w/ Savage Wars 10/11/17

Should Limiting North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions Be the Responsibility of the U.S. Government?  –  by Lawrence Wittner

Lawrence Wittner

In recent months, advances in the North Korean government’s nuclear weapons program have led to a sharp confrontation between the government leaders of the United States and of North Korea. This August, President Donald Trump declared that any more threats from North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” In turn, Kim Jong Un remarked that he was now contemplating firing nuclear missiles at the U.S. territory of Guam. Heightening the dispute, Trump told the United Nations in mid-September that, if the United States was forced to defend itself or its allies, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Soon thereafter, Trump embellished this with a tweet declaring that North Korea “won’t be around much longer.”

From the standpoint of heading off nuclear weapons advances by the North Korean regime, this belligerent approach by the U.S. government has shown no signs of success. Every taunt by U.S. officials has drawn a derisive reply from their North Korean counterparts. Indeed, when it comes to nuclear weapons policy, escalating U.S. threats seem to have confirmed the North Korean government’s fears of U.S. military attack and, thus, bolstered its determination to enhance its nuclear capabilities. In short, threatening North Korea with destruction has been remarkably counter-productive.

But, leaving aside the wisdom of U.S. policy, why is the U.S. government playing a leading role in this situation at all? The charter of the United Nations, signed by the United States, declares in Article 1 that the United Nations has the responsibility “to maintain international peace and security” and, to that end, is “to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace.” Not only does the UN charter not grant authority to the United States or any other nation to serve as the guardian of the world, but it declares, in Article 2, that “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” It’s pretty clear that both the U.S. and North Korean governments are violating that injunction.

Moreover, the United Nations is already involved in efforts to limit North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The UN Security Council has not only condemned the behavior of the North Korean government on numerous occasions, but has imposed stiff economic sanctions upon it.

Will further UN action have any more success in dealing with North Korea than the Trump policy has had? Perhaps not, but at least the United Nations would not begin by threatening to incinerate North Korea’s 25 million people. Instead, to ease the tense United States-North Korea standoff, the United Nations might offer to serve as a mediator in negotiations. In such negotiations, it could suggest that, in exchange for a halt to the North Korean nuclear weapons program, the United States agree to a peace treaty ending the Korean War of the 1950s and halt U.S. military exercises on North Korea’s borders. Giving way to a UN-brokered compromise rather than to U.S. nuclear blackmail might well be appealing to the North Korean government. Meanwhile, the United Nations could keep moving forward with its Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons―a measure both Kim and Trump despise (and might, in their opposition to it, even bring them closer together), but is very appealing to most other countries.

Critics, of course, say that the United Nations is too weak to deal with North Korea or other nations that ignore the will of the world community. And they are not entirely incorrect. Although UN pronouncements and decisions are almost invariably praiseworthy, they are often rendered ineffective by the absence of UN resources and power to enforce them.

But the critics do not follow the logic of their own argument for, if the United Nations is too weak to play a completely satisfactory role in maintaining international peace and security, then the solution is to strengthen it. After all, the answer to international lawlessness is not vigilante action by individual nations but, rather, the strengthening of international law and law enforcement. In the aftermath of the vast chaos and destruction of World War II, that’s what the nations of the world claimed they wanted when, in late 1945, they established the United Nations

Unfortunately, however, as the years passed, the great powers largely abandoned a United Nations-centered strategy based on collective action and world law for the old-fashioned exercise of their own military muscle. Unwilling to accept limits on their national power in world affairs, they and their imitators began engaging in arms races and wars. The current nightmarish nuclear confrontation between the North Korean and U.S. governments is only the latest example of this phenomenon.

Of course, it’s not too late to finally recognize that, in a world bristling with nuclear weapons, savage wars, accelerating climate change, rapidly-depleting resources, and growing economic inequality, we need a global entity to take the necessary actions for which no single nation has sufficient legitimacy, power, or resources. And that entity is clearly a strengthened United Nations. To leave the world’s future in the hands of nationalist blowhards or even prudent practitioners of traditional national statecraft will simply continue the drift toward catastrophe.

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

 

Liberty of Others 10/4/17

What is an American Patriot? – by Kary Love

Kary Love

The great debate over NFL Players “taking the knee” has raised this question: What is an American Patriot?

How fortunate for us Americans that there is a simple answer: America was created by the Declaration of Independence—the first “law” adopted by the first Congress of America, the first American “Constitution” was a statement of the principles of what it means to be an American Patriot. Unlike all other countries at the time which had evolved from tribes to communities to warlord governed fiefdoms to “Kingdoms” imposed by strong men on the people, America was started by a legal declaration of the principles of legitimate government in July of 1776.

There was no “Flag” of America at the time, so pledging allegiance to the flag is not American Patriotism.

There was no “National Anthem” at the time, so standing and singing a song is not American Patriotism.

No, American patriotism is fidelity to the principles of the Declaration of Independence. The first principle is, of course, the right to secede from a government that acts contrary to its declared principles—we know this because that is what the original American patriots fought and died for in the Revolution—the right to secede from their own corrupt government, England at the time, because that government had engaged in behavior contrary to the “inalienable truths” declared in the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence, which has not been repealed, states these principles which remain American law and patriotism in a nutshell:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it; and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

American patriotism derives from the idea that the people are the sovereigns and the government their servant. The people have inalienable rights. Government is only legitimate when it protects those rights, which exist in the people before government having been given to the people, not by government, but by the “Creator.” Government only has the powers to which the people consent and when government acts contrary to the consent of the people or against their inalienable rights, it is the duty of American patriots to “throw off” such government.

Government, of course, does not like these ideas, not presidents, not congresspersons, not supreme courts justices, nor any other government agent, because it limits their power and like all human beings they resent limits on their power. Just like the English government American Patriots “threw off,” our current government is jealous of its power, and they lust for more. Thus, American Patriotism necessarily results in a tension between government and the people.

The “liberty” of the people is a bastion against which governmental power constantly batters, seeking to reduce liberty and to expand government authority. The American Patriot understands that the greatest threat to their freedom is their own government, not foreign enemies, but those right here at home, in your own backyard, constantly nibbling away at and undermining your liberty to expand their power. The American Patriot understands that every law is an intrusion on liberty and must be scrutinized carefully against these great principles before liberty is eaten away. The American Patriot understands that the greatest threat is a government agent who is willing to kill or cage you for your own good, because they know what is best for you, your consent be damned.

The American Patriot “takes a knee” for the liberty of other people to speak out against government abuse, government usurpation of unjust powers, and government overreach. The Government can wrap itself in a flag, sing an anthem, hold a parade and the American Patriot recalls the principles of the Declaration of Independence and declares: “not on my watch” shall these fundamental principles, won with the blood and toil of true patriots, be lost. Take a knee! Take back the flag! Take the streets! Vote out those who intrude on liberty! Declare to the government: we are the sovereign and you are our servant! To this we pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor!

Kary Love is a Michigan attorney.

Courage to Kneel 10/4/17

The courage to kneel  –  by Robert C. Koehler

Kneel, touch the earth.

“Oh say can you see . . . ”

Robert Koehler

The anthem starts. I can feel the courage . . . of Colin Kaepernick, the (then) San Francisco 49ers quarterback who refused to stand for the national war hymn, not when one of the wars was directed at Americans of color. Occupying the public spotlight that he did, Kaepernick risked — and received — widespread condemnation. Rabid fans burned replicas of his jersey. I’m sure as he knelt that first time, as his knee touched the earth, he had a sense of what he was setting off.

This is patriotism.

A year later, his action still resonates. The president got involved (of course), ranting and tweeting that kneeling NFL players should be fired, thus, as Adam Erickson points out, joining his list of scapegoats:

“Donald Trump,” he writes at the Raven Foundation website, “attempts to push this mythical narrative on almost every minority: Muslims, Mexicans, African Americans, journalists, immigrants, the transgender community, and now we can include professional athletes in the long list of Trump’s scapegoats. The mythical narrative (i.e., the lie) he espouses is that these minorities pose a significant threat to American values.”

Patriotism is not a spectator ritual. Patriotism means participating in what Erickson calls the “struggle for the soul of the United States.”

I felt the patriotism — the courage — of the disabled men and women who were hauled out of the Senate hearing room by U.S. Capitol police a few days ago, shouting, as the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal Obamacare was about to be discussed: “No cuts to Medicaid, save our liberty!”

Fifteen people were arrested in the hearing room and another 166 were arrested in the hallway.

The pseudo-patriotism that assumes the American soul is securely enshrined in law and ritual, that we pulled it from the clutches of Great Britain 240 years ago and now we just need to wall off the bad people beyond our borders — and that nothing much is asked of citizens except obedience and applause — is part of what I would call “democracy lite.”

Fifteen years ago, when this country was on the brink of invading Iraq, I wrote: “Looks almost like the real thing, this processed governance product for the new millennium — ‘democracy lite,’ you might call it. Comes with elected representatives, a mass media, bunting, hoopla and the same soaring ideals as the Lincolnesque version.

“Caution: Democracy lite has nothing to do with the nation’s actual decision-making process; that occurs separately.”

Trump, you might say, is the logical consequence of a passive, spectator citizenry: a “leader” who tweets the unconscious impulses — the fears and hatreds — of his supporters and delivers one comforting scapegoat after another for the public to revile. Actual decision-making still occurs separately, but the president has mixed a dark unconsciousness into the process. Before the arrival of President Trump, the United States was an aggressive, highly militarized global empire, in possession of nearly 7,000 nuclear weapons. Now it still is, but much of the comportment and protocols of empire have been abandoned.

And then came the most outrageous tweet yet: “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”

North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong-ho responded; “Given the fact that this came from someone who holds the seat of the U.S. presidency, this is clearly a declaration of war.”

The game unravels. What country is this? The soul of the nation is MIA.

As The Guardian reported: “Ri’s threat came after a week in which tensions between the U.S. and North Korea escalated rapidly, with an exchange of insults between Trump and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator, and which culminated in Trump’s Sunday tweet and a sortie by U.S. B-1B heavy bombers escorted by fighter planes off the North Korean coast — the first time this century that U.S. warplanes have flown north of the demilitarized zone that has separated North and South Korea since the 1950-53 war.”

North Korea has declared it would shoot down the U.S. bombers, but the Pentagon insists it has the right to fly sorties off the country’s coast and will keep on doing so. All this, according to The Guardian, adds up to: “. . . experts and officials say the risks of all out war are now substantially greater.”

And U.N. spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said: “Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings. The only solution for this is a political solution.”

But we don’t sing anthems about “political solutions,” which are always flawed and imperfect. I fear that the shallow impulsiveness of Donald Trump aligns too easily with militarism and empire: with armed arrogance. On a dangerously complex planet, force gives pseudo-patriots the illusion of simple solutions.

Struggling for the soul of the country means unwrapping the flag from this illusion.

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

 

Insulting the Victims 10/4/17

Catalonia to Cascadia  –  by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

Since last November many of us in many places in the US have heightened dreams of secession, of new nation-states, new sovereignty. It is true that many of us have had less intense versions of that fantasy for decades, waxing and waning from regime to regime.

Now it’s approaching heart-attack serious.

Trump is a daily embarrassment; worse, he gets to use the fruits of our labor to carry out disgusting policies, drop the Mother of All Bombs on Afghanistan, likely pay for a cruel and retro-minded border wall with Mexico, and possibly even wage nuclear war with North Korea. He seeks to gain more personal wealth on the backs of poor people daily, he insults the victims of anthropogenically worsened climate disasters in the Caribbean, and is simply insufferable in his tone-deaf narcissism, adolescent braggadocio, and trailer-trash personal insults.

One of my Vermont friends sent me notice that she has joined a group there calling themselves Most Likely to Secede. Some in the Upper Great Lakes region are reviving ideas of Miniwishigan, a nation-state of the US side of the Lake Superior basin. Increasingly, Native Americans are discussing stronger sovereignty, often in broad multi-tribal coalitions.

Here in the Pacific Northwest we refer to it as Cascadia. We even have our own flag, the beautiful Douglas Fir. We envision ourselves as Washington, Oregon, and northern California. We may need to reassess if eastern Washington and eastern Oregon prove to be Trump loyalists, essentially artifacts from the racist white homeland some wished for the Pacific Northwest from time to time. Maybe we are mostly coastal. And of course there are some serious Jeffersonians in a particular part of northern California, but they may or may not be amenable to a racially, religiously, ethnically diverse and eco-friendly vision for Cascadia. Let them secede in their own way or join us with forward thinking, not backward.

So, as you may imagine, we love the serious struggle by Catalonians for their independence. They clearly want it even more than Puerto Ricans or Scots, voting to remain part of the US and the UK respectively in 2017 and 2014. Puerto Rico voted to become a state and against independence; Scotland voted to remain a junior partner in the UK. I wonder if those peoples are regretting their votes?

Gandhi once told the British (paraphrase), We would rather govern ourselves poorly than have you rule us efficiently. This is a sentiment held by many people worldwide, though when the voting chips are down, the blandishments of the hegemon often prevail. I am not suggesting that if we held a vote in Cascadia we would do as well as Catalonia, but as Trump alienates and makes us all roll our eyes and shake our heads, perhaps the potential vote is growing closer.

Of course the other North American secession movements are irredentist First Nation and Native American struggles to regain complete nation-state sovereignty, not the limited “trust relationship” sovereignty of the tribes to the US government nor the more advanced but still unsatisfactory relationship of the Anishinaabeg to the government of Canada or the provincial government of Manitoba.

The UN is a hostile environment for most secession movements since it is a composition of some 194 nation-states in a world that the anthropologists tell us used to be at least 800 distinct nations with sovereignty and their own lands, a natural world turned violently into the colonial system driven by European colonial powers for half a millennium, with new national borders crunching peoples together or splitting them apart in ways they well remember and generally regret. The UN’s members, thus, do not favor setting precedent by approving of secession when they often harbor groups who would love to rule themselves too.

Indeed, even the EU is not friendly to secession movements and said so publicly following the Catalan vote. This was a great blow and disappointment to the Catalonians who voted, some say in excess of 90 percent, for complete autonomy, independence, and separate nation-state status from Spain. Of course this picture is blotched by the Spanish police, who were ordered to prevent the independence vote, who attacked voters and injured nearly 900 of them, and who confiscated ballot boxes. How can accurate results obtain from such brutality, such a quash of indigenous democracy?

Are voters intimidated at times so severely that they simply stay away, thus compromising the results? It is hard to say with Puerto Rico, since the vote was not taken seriously by the US government and a mere 23 percent of eligible voters actually cast ballots. But in Catalonia the Spanish government was dead serious and hyper-involved, possibly deterring a hefty percentage of potential voters by beating those who showed up at the polls and by blatantly seizing ballot boxes. Still, some 42 percent of registered voters did so.

So we shall see, here and abroad. Trump’s base includes many from states that attempted to secede and became the Confederacy, and the rest of us know it. More and more, we want less and less to do with him, with them, and possibly declaring our independence, our sovereignty, is the solution.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director.

 

Ban Assault Weapons -Please – 10/4/17

by Rev. Robert Moore

Urgent: Reinstate Ban on Assault Weapons to Prevent Mass Killings

Rev. Robert Moore

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the nearly 600 victims and their families of the largest mass shooting in US history last Sunday night in Las Vegas. The mass carnage made that city into what can only be described as a war zone. But our response needs to include more than prayers and moments of silence. We need to act to prevent more mass shootings, which are now occurring at an average of more than one per day.

The weapons of choice for such mass shootings are known as assault weapons. They were designed for the battlefield, which is the only place they should be allowed. They can rapidly fire bullets as fast as the shooter can pull the trigger. They were easily adapted by the shooter to become automatic weapons in which a single pull of the trigger can spray bullets with no pause.

The hopeful news in taking on such a monumental but urgent challenge is that New Jersey has banned such weapons since 1991, and they were banned nationally from 1994-2004. Tragically, the national ban had a sunset clause after ten years, so it automatically expired when then President George W. Bush refused to seek its renewal.

New Jersey’s Assault Weapons Ban is a good basis for the feasibility of a renewed national ban. In 1993, after the NRA had helped elect an anti-assault-weapons ban majority in the NJ legislature in 1991, large majorities voted to rescind New Jersey’s Ban. Then Governor Florio vetoed the rescission, and a vote to over-ride that veto easily succeeded in the NJ Assembly.

Three weeks later, a vote was scheduled in the NJ Senate. We in Ceasefire NJ mobilized intensively in the faith community and elsewhere. Many of the 70% of New Jerseyans who wanted to keep the ban urgently contacted their NJ Senator.

What followed was the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a legislative miracle: not a single NJ Senator voted to rescind the ban! When the Senator who represented our district, who supported the NRA, was asked why he voted to keep the ban, he said it was because he got 2,000 phone calls and 90% urged keeping the ban.

The fact that we were successful in breaking the NRA’s stranglehold in New Jersey at least partly inspired the successful effort the next year to pass the National Assault Weapons Ban. Despite that fact that, unlike the New Jersey Ban, that included a grandfather clause, reputable studies showed that the National Ban resulted in a nearly 2/3 reduction in shootings with assault weapons.

We can seek to pass a National Assault Weapons Ban again. We need to press to have it introduced and voted on before the 2018 Congressional elections. In the 2006 mid-terms, the Coalition for Peace Action, of which Ceasefire NJ is a Project, helped make the Iraq War a litmus test issue, and the majority of those elected were opposed to that war.

Readers interested in learning more or getting involved in such an effort are urged to visit peacecoalition.org and click the Ceasefire NJ icon on the right.

The Rev. Robert Moore is Executive Director of the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action, of which Ceasefire NJ is a Project.

Fred’s Mother’s Words 10/4/17

Look for the Helpers; Be a Helper  – by Wim Laven

Wim Laven

“This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said North Carolina resident Samuel Wipper, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations.” –The Onion (which publishes slightly different versions of this after every mass shooting for years)

Today members of Congress send thoughts and prayers to Las Vegas. The Onion, a satire site, posts: “NRA Says Mass Shootings Just The Unfortunate Price Of Protecting People’s Freedom To Commit Mass Shootings” and “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

Guns are big business, this year they’ve looked to keep shooters’ eardrums safe, through the sale of silencers. Who cares that some students at the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 credited hearing the shots fired with keeping them at a safe distance?

Mass shootings are good for business, on the Monday following the deadliest mass shooting in American history it was quickly reported that: “Shares of Sturm Ruger (RGR) were up 4%, while American Outdoor Brands (AOBC), the company formerly known as Smith & Wesson, gained more than 3%. A company named Olin (OLN), which owns the Winchester brand of ammunition, rose 6% to an all-time high.” Guns are highly profitable and our representatives have been bought and paid for by special interests like the National Rifle Association and the businesses Congress is entrusted with regulating. A year ago the Washington Post reported, “Since 1998, the National Rifle Association has donated $3,781,803 to current members of Congress.”

There are so many headlines like the current Newsweek, “Congress Has Basically Done Nothing On Gun Control Since Sandy Hook Shooting,” and they tell stories of polarized politics and a failure to act. Even in the areas of huge public support (89%), like broad agreement on policies to ensure responsible gun ownership, nothing happens, we’re going about it wrong. What can we do with this apparently endless cycle of tragedy? The endemic problem of gun violence is real, but hope need not be lost.

Fred Rogers, famous for his role as Mr. Rogers, has shared the advice his mother gave him. As a boy, when he would see scary things on the news, “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” Conditions are grim, but they are not hopeless. With the shooting in Las Vegas, just like the others, there are always more people doing good than than the person/people doing bad. Countless people putting themselves in harm’s way, sometimes as literal shields. Never forget, the good outnumber the bad.

Oct. 2nd also serves as the 148th anniversary of the birth of Mohandas K. Gandhi and we can look to his wisdom. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world,” and “Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.” When we focus on love, like the kind Mother Teresa is credited with: “We can do no great things – only small things with great love,” we focus on what we can do.

Do not forget the strength of truth. On September 11th, 1906, Gandhi introduced the world to satyagraha, truth-force or soul-force. He opposed a law discriminating against Asians that was passed by the British colonial government of the Transvaal in South Africa. Gandhi’s campaign forced an end to that law, and Gandhi’s teaching show us how we can nonviolently change the world. We see we see many more cases of nonviolence working, from civil rights and bus boycotts in the U.S. to resisting the Nazis in WWII Europe to Gandhi’s successful campaign in Africa and his Salt Marches in India.

It’s true, citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations but it’s also true that we can change the world if we truly commit to it. Like Willy Wonka says: “If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it; want to change the world… there’s nothing to it.”

Wim Laven, syndicated by PeaceVoice, worked on reconstruction in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami, and is an instructor in International Conflict Management at Kennesaw State University.

Mindless, Heartless System 10/4/17

The Rise (and Fall?) of the Machines by Winslow Myers

Winslow Myers

When our children, one girl, one boy, were in their pre-teens, my wife instituted “ladies’ day” as a special occasion to hang out with our daughter. Periodically they would head out to the mall to shop for a bauble or a new dress and top off the expedition with an effetely gourmet lunch. It did not take long for our son to voice a wish for equivalent quality time with his father.

Thus began “men’s day.” Along with becoming a connoisseur of the subtle differences between the French fries at one or another of the fast food establishments nearest the Cineplex, we initiated ourselves into the philosophical conundrums of the Terminator films. Their formula runs thus: malevolent machines have rebelled against their human masters and begun nuclear war all on their own. Was this possible, my son naturally enough wanted to know? And I naturally enough tried to calm a 13-year-old’s fears by dismissing the possibility.

The unpleasant truth is that the process is in fact well under way, though not exactly in the manner the films suggested. Robots have not yet become conscious, autonomous, and capable of conquering humans in war, though entrepreneur Elon Musk has been sounding the alarm against A.I., called it a greater threat than North Korea.

Nuclear weapons are not robots. But they are machines whose destructive power is so enormous that they have seriously warped the thinking of the humans who supposedly control them. The distortion has long passed the point where the tail of nuclear weapons began to wag the dog of common sense. The war of the machines is here, and we have become their pawns.

Watching Ken Burns’s documentary rehashing the Vietnam War makes this clearer even on the level of conventional war. War itself is a kind of system, a machine with a life of its own. Looking back (and setting aside that North Vietnam’s cause—national liberation from the colonial oppression of the French and the Americans—was more on the side of justice), both sides are able to reflect on how the system tempted them into stereotyping each other and rationalizing the indiscriminate cruelty of napalm or carpet-bombing or mass executions of suspected sympathizers to the opposing side.

Someday a film with similar conclusions will be made about the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, because the relentless system of war is always the same: dehumanization, abandonment of truth to propaganda, escalating chaos and cruelty, futile bloodletting, and ultimate exhaustion. Even the decisive defeat of one side only plants the seeds for further war. As Robert Frost wrote, “Nature within her inmost self divides/ To trouble men with having to take sides.”

Even the stalemates in Korea and Vietnam can be interpreted as conflicts in which leaders escalated almost to the point of using nuclear weapons as a last resort to win, but finally restrained themselves because they realized that victory was only the Pyrrhic victory of mass death on all sides.

We pretend our nuclear weapons are good and theirs are bad, when the weapons are a mindless, heartless system that cares neither who occupies the moral high ground nor who “wins.”

Our diminishment in the face of these machines has become especially clear in the threats and counter-threats of Kim-Jung Un and Donald Trump. The reality that one side is a totalitarian dictatorship where the dictator answers only to himself and the other side is a democracy that freely elected its leader makes not a whit of difference when it comes to nuclear decisions. Our presidents, no matter how experienced and well-trained, are identical to Kim Jung-Un in that they find themselves in the absurd position of being able to begin a nuclear war without consulting anyone.

Ominously, both Kim and Trump show equivalent signs of instability and unpredictability. History tells us that leaders faced with domestic threats to their power often turn to foreign wars as a way of externalizing the enemy and distracting their constituency from their own shortcomings. As Mr. Mueller looms over him, will the president’s finger be tempted to edge nearer to the button to create the ultimate distraction?

The machines are rising, asserting their autonomous powers and reducing us, citizens and leaders alike, to helpless cogs in a potential war without winners. But forces of common sense opposing the malevolent nuclear system are also rising. Some 122 nations just passed a global treaty to outlaw the construction, possession, deployment or use of these weapons. The nine nuclear powers are quickly finding themselves on the wrong side of history. It is long past time for us to recognize that the greater enemy is not someone in another country shouting threats, but the weapons themselves. On the basis of this shared truth, new relationships among adversaries can flourish that will allow reciprocal reduction and elimination. Nature within her inmost self divides, and science has unleashed this process on earth as the mighty power of fission, setting before us life or death choices. It is not too late to restrain the rise of the machines we ourselves have created, and choose life.

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.

Global Citizens are We 9/27/17

World Citizenship Is More Popular Than You Might Think – by Lawrence S. Wittner

Has nationalism captured the hearts and minds of the world’s people?

Lawrence Wittner

It certainly seems to have emerged as a powerful force in recent years. Trumpeting their alleged national superiority and hatred of foreigners, political parties on the far right have made their biggest political advances since the 1930s. After the far right’s startling success, in June 2016, in getting a majority of British voters to endorse Brexit―British withdrawal from the European Union (EU)―even mainstream conservative parties began to adopt a chauvinist approach. Using her Conservative Party conference to rally support for leaving the EU, British Prime Minister Theresa May declared contemptuously: “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.”

The tilt toward an aggressive nationalism was particularly evident in the United States, where Donald Trump―amid chants of “USA, USA” from his fervent supporters―promised to “make America great again” by building a wall to block Mexicans, barring the entry of Muslims to the United States, and expanding U.S. military might. Following his surprise election victory, Trump told a rally in December 2016: “There is no global anthem. No global currency. No certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag and that flag is the American flag.” After wild cheering from the crowd, he added: “From now on it is going to be: America First. Okay? America first. We’re going to put ourselves first.”

But the nationalists suffered some major setbacks in 2017. In elections that March in the Netherlands, the xenophobic Party for Freedom, though given a chance at victory by political pundits, was soundly defeated. Much the same happened in France, where, that May, a political newcomer, Emmanuel Macron, trounced Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far right National Front, in an election for the presidency by a 2-to-1 vote. A month later, in parliamentary elections, Macron’s new party and its allies won 350 seats in the 577-member National Assembly, while the National Front won only 9. In Britain, Theresa May, confident that her new, hard line on Brexit and divisions in the opposition Labour Party would produce huge gains for her Conservative Party, called for a snap election in June. But, to the shock of observers, the Tories lost seats, as well as their parliamentary majority. Meanwhile, in the United States, Trump’s policies produced a vast wave of public resistance, his approval ratings in opinion polls sank to levels unprecedented for a new President, and he was forced to purge Steve Bannon―the top nationalist ideologue in his election campaign and in his administration―from the White House.

Although a variety of factors contributed to the nationalist defeats, widespread internationalist views certainly played a role. During Macron’s presidential campaign, he repeatedly assailed the narrow-minded nationalism of the National Front, projecting instead an internationalist vision of a united Europe with open borders. In Britain, May’s fervent support for Brexit backfired among the public, especially internationally-minded youth.

Indeed, over the centuries cosmopolitan values have become a strong current in public opinion. They are usually traced to Diogenes, a philosopher of Classical Greece, who, asked where he came from, replied: “I am a citizen of the world.” The idea gained increased currency with the spread of Enlightenment thinking. Tom Paine, considered one of America’s Founding Fathers, took up the theme of a loyalty to all humanity in his Rights of Man (1791), proclaiming: “My country is the world.” Similar sentiments were expressed in later years by William Lloyd Garrison (“My country is the world; my countrymen are all mankind”), Albert Einstein, and a host of other globalist thinkers. After the Second World War brought the nation-state system to the brink of collapse, a massive social movement developed around the idea of “One World,” with world citizenship campaigns and world federalist organizations attaining substantial popularity around the globe. Although the movement declined with the onset of the Cold War, its core assumption of the primacy of the world community persisted in the form of the United Nations and of worldwide campaigns for peace, human rights, and environmental protection.

As a result, even as a nationalist frenzy has erupted in recent years, opinion surveys have reported a very strong level of support for its antithesis: world citizenship. A poll of more than 20,000 people in 18 countries, conducted by GlobeScan for the BBC World Service from December 2015 through April 2016, found that 51 percent of respondents saw themselves more as global citizens than as citizens of their own countries. This was the first time since tracking began in 2001 that a majority felt this way.

Even in the United States, where slightly fewer than half of the respondents identified themselves as global citizens, Trump’s hyper-nationalist campaign attracted only 46 percent of the votes cast for President, thus providing him with almost three million fewer votes than secured by his Democratic opponent. Furthermore, opinion polls before and since the election revealed that most Americans opposed Trump’s best-known and most vehemently-supported “America First” program―building a border wall between the United States and Mexico. When it came to immigration issues, a Quinnipiac University survey taken in early February 2017 found that 51 percent of American voters opposed Trump’s executive order suspending travel to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries, 60 percent opposed suspending all refugee programs, and 70 percent opposed indefinitely barring Syrian refugees from emigrating to the United States.

Overall, then, most people around the world―including most people in the United States―are not zealous nationalists. In fact, they display a remarkable level of support for moving beyond the nation-state to world citizenship.

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

 

Shared Negatives 9/27/17

Trump and Kim, A Dangerous Pairing – by Mel Gurtov

Mel Gurtov

“We’re dealing with somebody that we’ll figure out. He may be smart, he may be strategic—and he may be totally crazy.” That was President Trump speaking of Kim Jong-un at his political rally in Alabama last week. But it could easily have been Kim speaking of Trump—and for all we know, Kim has said something like that in meetings with his top advisers. From the standpoint of US-North Korea relations, words like those, far from being analytical, reflect the kind of off-the-cuff remarks that can lead to trouble.

At first glance it may seem silly to compare Trump and Kim. But increasingly, it looks like these two leaders share negative behaviors of the sort that are more conducive to war than to peace. First and foremost, they may be smart and strategic, but there’s a good chance they’re also both “crazy,” in the nonclinical sense that both are given to bravado and threats when calmness and self-control are most needed. Neither seems capable of restraint; they’re both trying to win a pissing match. These two are more like street fighters than national leaders with a sense of responsibility toward their populations and the world.

Second, and most troubling of all, Kim and Trump have let the war of words become personal. We all know how much more dangerous an argument becomes when the disputants abandon the issues in favor of personal attacks and taunting. Kim and Trump are equally adept at disparaging one another, never backing down or apologizing, and always taking everything personally. Name calling at the international level never works, yet these two seem oblivious to that. Like children, they prefer escalating hurtful words to working things out.

A third similarity is that this pissing match is taking place without any kind of intervention. Kim is, of course, a dictator, surrounded—so far as we know—by military yes-men who don’t dare challenge him. Trump may head a democratic system, but within the White House there’s no democracy. Like Kim, he’s surrounded by military men who seem helpless to shut him up even though they know full well what use of force on the Korean peninsula will mean. From all reports, the military and other advisers roll their eyes at Trump’s language but dare not criticize him or take away his smart phone.

As other analysts have noted, the danger is that these exchanges of personal attacks and threats greatly limit options for a pause, let alone for diplomacy. Instead, they box leaders in, making them feel compelled not just to out-threaten the other side, but finally to back up their tough words with action. The latest US step, for instance—sending advanced fighter-bombers over international waters but within sight of North Korea—could lead to a firefight with North Korean jets. Likewise, the DPRK’s foreign minister has said that Trump’s harsh rhetoric amounts to a “declaration of war.”

Provocative words and actions risk a disastrous miscalculation. There is nothing strategic or rational about them, and we—Americans, Koreans, Japanese, Chinese—are all the likely victims. We wait in vain for influential voices that will push for negotiations and a reduction of tensions.

—————————-end—————————-

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

Hostage of Nuke Arsenals 9/27/17

Today is the day  – by Robert F. Dodge, M.D.

Robert Dodge, MD

Today, September 26, is the International Day for the Total Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. This day, first proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2013, draws attention to the international commitment to global nuclear disarmament by the majority of the world’s nations as expressed in Article 6 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It also highlights the lack of progress by the nine nuclear nations who hold the rest of the world hostage with their nuclear arsenals.

Albert Einstein said in 1946, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our mode of thinking and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” This drift has perhaps never been more perilous than at the present time. With careless rhetoric of threatened use of nuclear weapons, fire and fury, and total destruction of other nations, the world has recognized that there are no right hands to be on the nuclear button. Total abolition of nuclear weapons is the only response.

Global nuclear disarmament has been a goal of the United Nations since its inception in 1945. With the passage of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1970, the world’s nuclear nations committed to work in “good faith” eliminate all nuclear weapons. The NPT treaty which is been a cornerstone of nuclear disarmament lacked the legal framework to achieve this goal. This reality in a world with 15,000 nuclear weapons coupled with the recognition of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences if nuclear weapons are ever used again has coalesced a worldwide movement of civil society, indigenous peoples, victims of atomic attacks and testing, in a global campaign focused on the unacceptability of the existence and use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances.

This multi-year process has resulted in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which was adopted at the United Nations on July 7, 2017 and provides the legal framework necessary to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons. At the opening day of the UN General Assembly last week on September 20, the Treaty was opened for signature. There have now been 53 nations who have signed the Treaty, and three who have ratified the Treaty. When 50 nations have finally ratified or formally adopted the Treaty it will go into force 90 days thereafter thus making nuclear weapons illegal to possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use, test, develop or transfer, just as all other weapons of mass destruction have been.

The world has spoken and the momentum toward complete nuclear abolition has shifted. The process is unstoppable. Each of us and our nation has a role to play in bringing forth this reality. Each of us must ask what is our role in this effort.

Robert F. Dodge, M.D., is a practicing family physician and writes for PeaceVoice. He is co-chair of Physicians for Social Responsibility National Security Committee and the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles.

 

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