Peaceful Our Choice 1/3/18

Remaining Peaceful Was Their Choice
 – by Kathy Kelly

Kathy Kelly

People living now in Yemen’s third largest city, Ta’iz, have endured unimaginable circumstances for the past three years. Civilians fear to go outside lest they be shot by a sniper or step on a landmine. Both sides of a worsening civil war use howitzers, Katyushas, mortars and other missiles to shell the city. Residents say no neighborhood is safer than another, and human rights groups report appalling violations, including torture of captives. Two days ago, a Saudi-led coalition bomber killed 54 people in a crowded market place.

Before the civil war developed, the city was regarded as the official cultural capital of Yemen, a place where authors and academics, artists and poets chose to live. Ta’iz was home to a vibrant, creative youth movement during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Young men and women organized massive demonstrations to protest the enrichment of entrenched elites as ordinary people struggled to survive.

The young people were exposing the roots of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today.

They were sounding an alarm about the receding water tables which made wells ever harder to dig and were crippling the agricultural economy. They were similarly distressed over unemployment. When starving farmers and shepherds moved to cities, the young people could see how the increased population would overstress already inadequate systems for sewage, sanitation and health care delivery. They protested their government’s cancellation of fuel subsidies and the skyrocketing prices that resulted. They clamored for a refocus on policy away from wealthy elites and toward creation of jobs for high school and university graduates.

Despite their misery, they steadfastly opted for unarmed, nonviolent struggle.

Dr. Sheila Carapico, an historian who has closely followed Yemen’s modern history, noted the slogans adopted by demonstrators in Ta’iz and in Sana’a, in 2011: ‘Remaining Peaceful Is Our Choice,’ and ‘Peaceful, Peaceful, No to Civil War.’”

Carapico adds that some called Ta’iz the epicenter of the popular uprising. “The city’s relatively educated cosmopolitan student body entertained demonstration participants with music, skits, caricatures, graffiti, banners and other artistic embellishments. Throngs were photographed: men and women together; men and women separately, all unarmed.”

In December of 2011, 150,000 people walked nearly 200 kilometers from Ta’iz to Sana’a, promoting their call for peaceful change. Among them were tribal people who worked on ranches and farms. They seldom left home without their rifles, but had chosen to set aside their weapons and join the peaceful march.

Yet, those who ruled Yemen for more than 30 years, in collusion with Saudi Arabia’s neighboring monarchy which fiercely opposed democratic movements anywhere near its borders, negotiated a political arrangement meant to co-opt dissent while resolutely excluding a vast majority of Yemenis from influence on policy. They ignored demands for changes that might be felt by ordinary Yemenis and facilitated instead a leadership swap, replacing the dictatorial President Ali Abdullah Saleh with Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, his vice-president, as an unelected president of Yemen.

The U.S. and neighboring petro-monarchies backed the powerful elites. At a time when Yemenis desperately needed funding to meet the needs of starving millions, they ignored the pleas of peaceful youths calling for demilitarized change, and poured funding into “security spending” – a misleading notion which referred to further military buildup, including the arming of client dictators against their own populations. And then the nonviolent options were over, and civil war began.

Now the nightmare of famine and disease those peaceful youths anticipated has become a horrid reality, and their city of Ta’iz is transformed into a battlefield.

What could we wish for Ta’iz? Surely, we wouldn’t wish the terror plague of aerial bombardment to cause death, mutilation, destruction and multiple traumas. We wouldn’t wish for shifting battle lines to stretch across the city and the rubble in its blood-marked streets. I think most people in the U.S. wouldn’t wish such horror on any community and wouldn’t want people in Ta’iz to be singled out for further suffering. We could instead build massive campaigns demanding a U.S. call for a permanent ceasefire and an end of all weapon sales to any of the warring parties. But, if the U.S. continues to equip the Saudi-led coalition, selling bombs to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and refueling Saudi bombers in midair so they can continue their deadly sorties, people in Ta’iz and throughout Yemen will continue to suffer.

The beleaguered people in Ta’iz will anticipate, every day, the sickening thud, ear-splitting blast or thunderous explosion that could tear apart the body of a loved one, or a neighbor, or the neighbors’ child; or turn their homes to masses of rubble, and alter their lives forever or end their lives before the day is through.

Kathy Kelly, (kathy@vcnv.org), syndicated by PeaceVoice, co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence

Just a Peace Guy 1/3/18

You want an infowar, fine  –  by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

OK, I’m just a peace guy. I am not an Alex “no-conspiracy-too-nutty-for-me” Jones (like Trump is, for godsakes). In fact, when I edited The PeaceWorker for a few years, there were sincere attempts to have me fired for refusing to print the Dick-Cheney-did-it 9.11.01 conspiracy theories. I wanted some red meat–well, as a vegetarian, I guess I wanted some seared tofu–on my plate. Never got it. (Yes, I see the eager hands go up, I’m just saying there were no real journalists who had significant evidence published and those of us who have been activists for a few decades know from burnt finger regret not to make half-baked claims because they will damage one’s credibility.)

I also never claimed that Paul Wellstone was assassinated by the same CheneyRumsfeldBush cabal, despite enormous circumstantial evidence, including how amazingly handy it was for that flock of vultures right at that time. There were just too few real pieces of evidence.

So I am not much of a conspiracy guy (which, to real hardcore tinfoiler devotees, seals my fate and positively makes me a part of the conspiracy. I am aware.).

Now, however, I do subscribe to the notion that Russia interfered with the US election on Trump’s behalf. It passes all of my sniff tests. It does not move the BS needle on my Truthometer. Putin put Trump in office. All the meetings, the indictments, the lies from Trump and his family and so much more are overwhelming. It’s Mueller Time, as they say.

Yes, Hillary conspired, unwittingly, with her own iniquitous collusion to bump off Bernie and with her bloodstained foreign policy record. Like so many, I voted for her as a purely defensive and highly emetic act.

As expected, Trump is drastically worse in virtually every way, from health care-as-privilege domestic to oinker-in-the-China-shop foreign policy. A rhinoceros has more sensitivity and finesse. A salad roll has thicker skin.

The notion that Vladimir Putin interfered massively in our election is hardly out of character for that autocratic murderous charlatan and anyone who denies this is sadly sliding into his useful idiot bin. God, he has collected many.

Does understanding that Putin has hijacked the White House make us more likely to go to nuclear war?

Oh for Pete’s sake! Wake up, lefties. Smell the sovereignty–Trump gave it away and we need it back. Putin is hardly going to press the End-Life-On-Earth button because he has been busted for effing up our election. Name the meddlesome crime of collaboration with foreign election tampering and impeach this imposter, this embarrassment, this pimple on the hindparts of democracy. Putin will just watch Trump implode, laugh, and say it was a good tryski. We won’t go down in thermonuclear omnicide (well, we might, but not due to this), but failure to see this external interference is a failure to hitch it up to our work to take back our democracy (yes, again, I see the hands shoot up to remind us that the US has done worse than merely interfere with democracy elsewhere–it has overturned it in places like Iran, Guatemala, Congo, Chile and so forth, but that is part of the point, friends).

Do not doubt that our democracy is hovering in the balance. It needs you or it is through. In my nearly 70 years on this amazing Earth I have never witnessed a more dire, urgent, immediate threat to what we are rightly enculturated to love, the freedom of the USA, even with all its warts, its flaws, nefarious chapters, its lack of perfection.

I’m the first to resist our national terrible policy and I have the arrest record to prove it, but this is still my country and yours too, and we have a greedhead fake president who took foreign help to steal the highest office in our land. It is time to act. Impeach. And keep impeaching until we get an executive branch that hasn’t sold out democracy.

To paraphrase and tweak Malcolm X, we need to fix this “by any [nonviolent] means at our command,” and to note the quotable Winston Churchill, democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. I dare you to try to find another sentence quoting those two together, but this is a real emergency! Saddle up, Americans.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.

Greatest Regret 12/27/17

Will a war with North Korea be our political leaders’ greatest regret?- by Lisa Fuller

Lisa Fuller

President Bill Clinton’s greatest regret was his failure to respond to the Rwandan genocide. He estimated that U.S. intervention could have saved 300,000 lives.

The Vietnam War was former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s biggest regret. He wrote an entire book to explain why he was “terribly wrong.”

Former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Tom Harkin, and Sen. Walter Jones have all said that they deeply regret authorizing the war in Iraq. Jones once lamented, “I helped kill 4,000 Americans, and I will go to my grave regretting that.”

In each case, government leaders regretted their complicity in hundreds of thousands of deaths. In each case, they had chosen to prioritize politics above ethics. Today’s political leaders are about to make the same mistake.

We are now on the verge of another unnecessary war — this time with North Korea — and it is likely to wreak more havoc than Vietnam, Iraq and Rwanda combined.

Top nuclear security expert Scott Sagan warns that the risk of war is far higher than during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and predicts that one million people could die on the first day – a figure that exceeds the death toll of the entire Rwandan genocide. Even more worryingly, Russia and China are making military preparations, suggesting that a Korean war could quickly escalate into a world war.

Despite this horrific scenario, President Trump continues to ratchet up tensions by issuing bombastic threats and overseeing provocative military exercises. He is increasingly keen to launch a “preventative” strike, and there are multiple indications that he plans to do so within the next three months unless North Korea agrees to denuclearize. At the same time, he is forbidding diplomacy, blocking any possibility of a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Put simply, war could be inevitable if Trump remains in power. Government leaders therefore have an ethical obligation to remove him from office before he fulfills his dream of using nuclear weapons.

Impeachment, however, is no longer a viable solution- the impeachment process takes several months, whereas Trump is reportedly looking to drop the first bomb by March.

Congress or Trump’s Cabinet will therefore need to invoke the 25th Amendment, which would immediately suspend Trump’s presidential authority on the grounds that he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” While the amendment can be invoked on political grounds alone, Trump’s behavior suggests he has a cognitive inability to do his job: Neurologists warn that Trump is displaying symptoms of dementia, while prominent psychiatrists have argued that Trump’s particular brand of mental instability poses a grave risk to national security.

There are, however, measures short of dethroning Trump that would be helpful. Congress could pass legislation such as the Preventing Preemptive War in North Korea Act, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act or the No First Use Bill. All three bills would constrain the President — be it Trump or any of his successors — from unilaterally launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike. Congress has yet to prioritize any of these bills, and they have all remained at a standstill since they were introduced.

Finally, government officials should follow the leads of lawmakers like Sen. Chris Murphy and Rep. Ted Lieu and speak out frequently and loudly to mobilize public opposition to a potential war.

Political leaders who muster the courage to act may be taking a political risk, but they will save themselves from the prospect of spending the rest of their lives wondering if they could have prevented a historic tragedy.

Lisa Fuller is a former civilian peacekeeper who worked in war zones such as Iraq, South Sudan, and Sri Lanka. Follow her on Twitter: @gigipurple.

Filthy Tax 12/27/17

Those Tax-and-spend Republicans – by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

OK the Republicans got their tax plunder law. They win, we lose.

Some 83 percent of the $benefits will go to the top 10 percent of wealthy Americans.

A last-minute add-in will mostly benefit Trump and other wealthy real estate developers/investors. Buck-naked corruption.

The health care crumbs promised to Senator Susan Collins were mostly absent, breaking the “ironclad” promise to her from Mitch “Haha-gotcha-you-ignorant woman” McConnell.

If you are a middle class or poor person your taxes will rise either immediately or gradually over the next decade.

If you get some small tax break just know that rich people get a much larger one and the national debt will increase astronomically by $1.4-1.7 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

In other words, if you are a rich person, congratulations! You snowed us again. Or, as was noted in The New York Times by Andrew Ross Sorkin, ” If you’re a billionaire with your own company and are happy to use your private jet so you can “commute” from a low-tax state, the plan is a godsend.”

What the uber-rich count on is our apathy. Plus they believe that if you toss a bone to a dog that dog will not try to get inside your mansion where you are feasting on the choice meats. Are they correct? I mean, it’s not like we didn’t know, as noted on CNN: “While Republicans cheer the bill’s passage, however, 55% of Americans oppose the plan, according to a new CNN poll. Just 33% say they favor the GOP’s proposals to reform the nation’s tax code.”

We will see. If we the American people will put up with this we are quite sorry excuses for citizens and are acting more like subservient subjects. I long for the day when we can set aside all other differences and just take back our democracy, which, according to the most robust testing by nonpartisan Freedom House, is not as strong as that of Uruguay, San Marino, Japan, Kiribati, Ireland, Portugal, Malta, Chile, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Spain, Slovenia, all of Scandinavia, Belgium, Barbados, Bahama, Taiwan, Marshall Islands, Iceland, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Cape Verde, Canada, Lichtenstein, Australia, Austria, Andorra, St. Lucia, Tuvalu, the UK, Estonia, Dominica, New Zealand, Palau, Micronesia. We only get robust democracy by earning it and maintaining it. This tax robbery by the filthy rich is quite a test.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.

China’s Fear 12/20/17

An Unfortunate Revelation on Securing North Korean Nukes – by Mel Gurtov

Mel Gurtov

Specialists on North Korea have cited many reasons over the years for why China cannot be relied on to stop the DPRK from continuing its nuclear and missile buildup. The reasons are by now quite familiar, and have mostly to do with China’s fear that pressuring Kim Jong-un’s regime will destabilize it and produce a chaotic situation adverse to China’s security interests. Yet US administrations have consistently proposed that China is the key to resolving the standoff with North Korea—that if only Beijing would exploit its economic and political leverage with Pyongyang, Kim will be forced to knuckle under.

Today’s news that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had, perhaps unintentionally, revealed ongoing US efforts to coordinate with China on the removal of North Korea’s nuclear weapons in the event of a political collapse in Pyongyang further undermines the notion that China has usable leverage. North Korean experts read the newspapers! They have surely known for a long time—and today’s news only reinforces it—about US-China consultations on North Korean nukes. Now Tillerson has confirmed them, saying “We’ve had conversations with the Chinese about how that [removing the nukes] might be done.” US sources may say that their Chinese counterparts have resisted reaching an agreement that would avoid a clash should both armies move into North Korea in the wake of a collapse. But the North Koreans have no reason to believe that, and every reason to think this is further evidence of Chinese-American collusion to undermine their regime and occupy their country.

To be sure, if the day ever comes when the Kim dynasty implodes, securing nuclear weapons will be important, and ensuring against a clash between Chinese and US forces will be essential. But raising these matters in public could not come at a worse time, for it only confirms the North Koreans in the view that regime change is a common subject of discussion between Washington and Beijing. Their suspicions can only further undermine what little remains of Tillerson’s idea of direct US-DPRK talks without preconditions—and give North Korea’s hawks more reason to push for completing work on nuclear-tipped ICBMs.

Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University and editor-in-chief of Asian Perspective. His most recent book is Will This Be China’s Century? A Skeptic’s View (Lynne Rienner, 2013).

Keystone = Net Neutrality 12/20/17

Net Neutrality: Gandhi’s Salt For US – by Rivera Sun

It comes as a surprise.

Rivera Sun

Net Neutrality is the keystone issue in the movement of movements. It is poised to become as pivotal to our interconnected struggles as the Salt March was for Gandhi and the Indian Self-Rule Movement.

This week, the FCC repealed Net Neutrality rules in blatant disregard of the 83 percent of US citizens who declared support for Net Neutrality. Overlooked for years, often misunderstood, Net Neutrality is as ubiquitous to our lives as salt was to Gandhi’s India. And the corporate state, our version of the tyrannical British Empire, might have just blundered into their undoing.

The end of Net Neutrality is as odious to us as the British Colonial government’s monopoly on salt was to the Indians. Salt was an essential ingredient for preserving life and health in humid, pre-refrigeration India. Net Neutrality and classifying the Internet as a public utility is essential for fair, affordable, and equal access to the Internet, and thus, the life of US citizens, as well as our innovation, creativity, information, education, research, marketplace, exchange, dialogue, organizing, and so much more.

Telecom giants like Comcast and Verizon have sought the end of Net Neutrality for years. This allows them to create a two-tiered system of Internet access, charging people for “fast lanes” and relegating everything else into “slow lanes”. The chilling effect this will have on our economy, research, movements, and society is incalculable. It is a massive advance for the corporate state’s takeover and privatization of all sectors of our nation. With it, they can control everything we see (or don’t see) through their greed. Money buys society in the capitalist world. For years, the Internet has opened up arenas of public space beyond what money can buy. The sheer volume of non-commercialized creativity and information online is staggering. It matches the incredible resources of the early commons. And, like the commons, the greedy have found a way to enclose them and charge us more and more for access.

Gandhi’s Salt Campaign offers us a model of how to get out of this mess – not just from the odious injustice of the end of Net Neutrality, but also from the tyranny of corporate rule. In 1930, salt was a keystone, yet stealth issue. When the Indian National Congress tasked Mohandas K. Gandhi with planning a new campaign against the British Empire’s colonial rule, no one expected the Salt Satyagraha would unravel the empire that the sun never set upon. Even Gandhi’s buddies were skeptical about salt. As for Lord Irwin, Viceroy of India, he famously stated that he wouldn’t lose any sleep over salt.

Instead, he lost the country.

Salt was an unexpected issue, but it touched every Indian citizen’s life. And, when Gandhi announced that he was going to use civil disobedience to directly disobey the “odious salt laws” and render them unenforceable through mass noncooperation, millions of ordinary Indians cheered. In defiance of the salt laws, they made, sold, and bought salt. Even more importantly, they openly refused to obey the British Empire and thus ousted the Brits from authority. This showed the Indians what Gandhi had been saying for decades: a paltry hundred thousand British cannot rule over 320 million Indians without the Indians cooperation. Deny your support, and British rule will crumble.

Fast forward to contemporary United States, which also has 320 million people and faces a parallel of colonial rule in the corporate state. In the case of telecom giants like Verizon and Comcast, well, they’re enjoying a monopoly on our modern-day salt of Internet access. With the repeal of Net Neutrality, they’re positioned to do like the British and start charging us for something we need for everyday life and survival.

But we can pull a Gandhi and make salt.

The Salt Satyagraha combined what’s known as constructive program and an obstructive program of civil disobedience to unjust laws. The Indians made salt (constructive) and broke the law en masse (obstructive). They marched, demonstrated, protested, wrote essays and made speeches about salt, using those acts of protest and persuasion to connect the issue of the salt laws with the need to end British rule.

We can do the same with Net Neutrality. We can “make salt” by supporting and building out local community broadband. This is already being done in many poor rural and urban communities that were ignored and marginalized by telecom giants seeking bigger profits in wealthier areas. Support this effort. It is needed in both the short and long term for breaking the telecom giants’ monopolies and putting more diverse and democratic control into our Internet.

We can defy en masse the corporate state’s attempt at colonial exploitation of US citizens. Governor of Washington State Jay Inslee just announced a plan of action to uphold Net Neutrality standards in defiance of the FCC. California Senator Scott Wiener plans to introduce similar legislation in January. Support a similar effort in your state. These will be vitally important in reinstating Net Neutrality not just through the FCC, but as a long-term industry standard.

We can also pressure our Congress Members to use the Congressional Review Act to pass a “resolution of disapproval” that overturns the FCC decision in the next 60 days. We can also support the state-led lawsuits against the FCC.

Perhaps most importantly, we can connect the issue of Net Neutrality with the bigger problem of corporate control. In our protests, marches, demonstrations, online posts, articles, and discussions we need to make the connection known: we are being ruled over by a corporate state that has ended citizen democracy in the United States. If, like Gandhi and the Indians, we wish to cease being a colony (of corporations in our case) and implement democratic self-rule, we need make sure every one of our fellow citizens sees the repeal of Net Neutrality as a symbol of the greed and corruption of corporate rule.

The struggle ahead of us is challenging . . . and vitally important to our lives. Take heart from the example of salt. Use it to take action today. When we organize, we win, as Popular Resistance founders and Net Neutrality campaigners Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese say.

Net Neutrality is our salt. Let’s use it to end corporate rule.

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and has just launched the sequel, The Roots of Resistance.

Jesus or Santa – Please 12/20/17

Christmas Letter to Jesus – by Kary Love

Kary Love

I am old enough to know there is no Santa Claus, so I am writing to Jesus with my wish list. It’s only been 2017-8 years since Jesus was supposedly around, and the Church of Rome was supposedly founded by his acolytes and continued since that time, so that only about 96 generations have passed between then and now, with much history written and unwritten that suggests maybe there is some truth there. Also, I have had the good fortune of having met many people who profess to be followers of Jesus and they are really amazing people, feeding and clothing the poor, ministering to the sick, visiting the imprisoned, resisting war and struggling for peace, that I have decided having faith that Jesus will respond is a better bet than Santa.

So, here goes: Jesus all I want for Christmas is 1.6 TRILLION dollars.

That’s all. Nothing else. I can live with just the one gift, thanks.

I know, people will mock me, cause it’s not really one gift. After all a TRILLION is a thousand BILLION, and a Billion is a thousand Million, and a Million is a thousand thousand, so we are talking a big number. But still its only $1,000,000,000,000. Plus the .6 part, don’t forget that. I guess I can trust Jesus not to forget that. Everyone says you can trust Jesus.

Now, before you all get too worked up about this OUTRAGEOUS Christmas gift request, that it is contrary to the spirit of the season, which is about giving and not getting, let me be clear: I am going to GIVE IT ALL AWAY. I am going to give it to kids for school, and hospitals to pay nurses and doctors to take care of people, and for the VA to start actually caring for vets disabled by the permanent wars fought for nothing, and for homeless shelters, and food kitchens and affordable housing—I may end up a job creator. So, it’s not really my Christmas present after all. But still, it’s what I want. It’s all I want.

And to make it even better, I know where Jesus can get it! The USA already has 4,000 nuclear bombs and only needs about 1,000 to destroy the earth. But the USA is going to spend $1.6 Trillion on new nuclear bombs that are “smaller and more useable” (actually many will be “dial a dose” so they can be really BIG or somewhat smaller than Hiroshima). I just don’t see that money as well spent. I am betting Jesus agrees with me. So, Jesus, whaddya say? It is kind of like chasing the money changers out of the temple. “New and Improved Nuclear Bombs” ought to be as offensive to your father and the money changers—maybe even more so—after all the money changers were not threatening to destroy your father’s entire creation, but the nuke bombers are. Let’s chase those new fangled money changers out of your temple!

Let me use the magic word, Please Jesus, just this once, can I get the Christmas Gift I truly desire? Thanks for considering this request. And, if I got it wrong, feel free to forward it to Santa, just saying….

Kary Love is a Michigan attorney who has defended nuclear resisters, including some desperado nuns, in court for decades and will on occasion use blunt force satire to make a point.

Goal Overall is ? 12/20/17

Stop Trump movement – by Tom H. Hastings

Tom Hastings

Since the #GagMeElection of 2016 we have heard a great deal about “resistance.” Nevertheless, we’ve seen relatively little of it actually happening. Who is doing what toward what announced goal?

The War Resisters League (full disclosure: I was on its National Committee years ago and especially love its secular nonviolent philosophy) is claiming to be doing a lot but nothing much to show for it, nothing mentioned since the inauguration really, and no reference to numbers involved. Discouraging.

Moral Monday movement, led by Rev. William Barber II, is possibly the most ambitious, with designs on establishing campaigns in every state. Encouraging.

The movement in and out of Congress to impeach Trump is lurching into view, but is yet to gather enough steam or coordinated constituencies. One is reminded of both JFK and Obama telling activists, essentially, get out in the streets and give me the political cover to do what you are asking me to do. Challenging.

The climate chaos resistance has produced a small beginning in its overdue and underpopulated resistance to Trump’s slashing efforts to stymie the EPA and roll back renewables while boosting dirty tar sands, choking coal, and radioactive nuclear. Some of the resistance—the most serious of which actually happened during the last two years under Obama—has been impressive, but, again, spotty and not yet in meaningful coalition. Motivating.

Yes, the women’s movement has produced by far the most meaningful mass results, first with the astonishing Women’s March and now with the sexual harassment/attack/pedophilia charges mounting against all powerful abusive men, but only very recently has found a bit of a focus on Trump in particular. Mildly hopeful.

Immigrants’ rights groups historically come out in the streets on May Day and 2017 was no exception, with spokespeople from several national groups claiming that strikes and boycotts would ensue. If they have, few have noticed. Yearning.

What is the goal, overall? Bluntly, to end the Trump regime using nonviolent methods. Has such a thing ever happened in a democracy? Or, for that matter, in an autocracy masquerading as a democracy?

Oh yes. Serbia. The Philippines. Hungary. Poland. Ghana. Estonia. Tunisia. Chile. Czechoslovakia. Lebanon. Latvia. Zambia. Lithuania. Tanzania. Liberia. This list goes on and there are online libraries devoted to it. The research shows it succeeds twice as often as does violent insurrection but to succeed it takes numbers—that research reveals that successful civil resistance movements are normally larger than a successful guerrilla army by a factor of about 11:1.

But it’s not just the numbers; it’s the coordination and commitment. Is there the movement power to engage in sustained resistance on a massive enough level and keep its nonviolent discipline? Michael Moore launched a resistance calendar, but it is a catch-all with no idea of priority or coalitional clout. Enticing.

So far, we are not close in the US. Trump may shoot himself in the rhetorical foot daily, sometimes hourly, but until we are coordinated in an unstoppable coalition—broad base but laser-sharp focus—he will enjoy his power, privilege, and position. Many peoples, one goal. Many reasons, many constituencies, one target. Join with others to remove Trump.

Time to reach out to each other. Hello?

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

Gradations NOT 12/20/17

Are – by Tom H. Hastings

Men are dogs (sorry, dogs!).

Tom Hastings

Trump refers to his ambitions with canine instincts, e.g., he wants to spend $1.5 trillion on new nuclear weapons to make sure the USA is at the “top of the pack.” We only have a few more than 7,000 of them live, locked, and loaded, prepared to overkill humankind by a factor of seven, so it’s important to add more, right? Arf.

Moving to other phallic symbology, our fake president decided to defend his sexual assaults by impugning anyone who would suggest he was ever in the wrong (textbook God complex pathological narcissism, no matter how utterly unjustified). Implying that a US Senator–who took him to task on his ever-increasing stable of women coming forward to accuse him of illegal, immoral, hurtful, or disgusting sexual behavior—is a whore could be a new low for The Donald. Arf.

From the standpoint of my field, Conflict Transformation, Minnie Driver has it right when she describes how inappropriate it is for men to decide what the spectrum of rotten sexually inappropriate behavior is (perhaps with the exception of the law, and perhaps women should not only be the only ones to vote on such laws but should be the ones to serve as judges and juries in such cases). This is a time for men to simply apologize if they are going to say much at all. This is neither a time for men to declare gradations of what is terrible behavior nor a time to justify or even qualify our past acts and words.

In an interview with The Guardian, Driver says, “I honestly think that until we get on the same page, you can’t tell a woman about their abuse. A man cannot do that. No one can. It is so individual and so personal, it’s galling when a powerful man steps up and starts dictating the terms, whether he intends it or not.”

This quote should go down in the literature of my field as an exemplar of perspective in identity communication. It’s like white male Mississippians telling us that “Calling someone a n__ger isn’t as bad as refusing to hire one.”

No, Mr. White Mississippian (or New Yorker, or wherever), you don’t get to pronounce on that. And similarly, Minnie correctly notes, even men of goodwill should take this opportunity to listen and learn, re-evaluate and rehabilitate, not make determinative rulings on increments of impropriety and certainly not call for tossing a break to powerful men with new image issues.

To model what I think Minnie is after, I’ll acknowledge that, like most men, I have demonstrated plenty of poor behavior in my 67 years on this Earth, no excuses, many apologies, and a promise to listen and learn. You can teach an old dog new ideas. Woof.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is a scholar of conflict transformation and PeaceVoice Director.

Common Priorities 12/13/17

The Calculated Destruction of America’s Government – by Mel Gurtov

Mel Gurtov

It is truly extraordinary: the still-new Trump administration keeps appointing people whose common priority is the destruction of the agency they head. Their mission is therefore the opposite of their agency’s: priority to management over responsibility, product over people, and private interests over public service. In essence, Trump is presiding over a government that rejects governing and seems intent on creating a state within a state.

The examples are well known. Consumer protection is now in the hands of an anti-consumer, pro-business guy, someone who once called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “a sad, sick joke.” The Environmental Protection Agency is under an oil and gas industry proponent who despises environmentalists and denies human agency in climate change. He is removing environmental reporting from the EPA website and preventing government scientists from speaking to the public. Housing is under a well-known surgeon and political airhead who hasn’t the slightest idea about his department’s purposes. A millionaire who leads the department of education has no experience in public education and is busily trying to privatize it. Trump’s pick for health and human services is a drug company executive who had a hand in raising drug prices. And then there’s the justice department, run by a racist who is determined to keep non-whites out of the country, limit enforcement of civil rights laws, and disenfranchise minorities. Other government agencies, such as defense, homeland security, and immigration and customs (ICE) follow the same pattern of politically skewed missions that undermine our most cherished values, not to mention common sense.

But the best example is the state department under Rex Tillerson. He announced his purpose as being to reorganize the department and save money, not promote diplomacy or refine America’s interests abroad. Tillerson’s notion of good management has resulted in a gutting of the department and loss of considerable expertise in precisely those regional specialties—East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa—that demand constant attention. Following the lead of the president and his inner circle of inexperienced know-nothings who spout a white nationalist agenda, Tillerson is showing career staff the door in disdain for “bureaucrats.” Even when he makes a feeble mention of peacemaking, as with North Korea, Iran, and Israel-Palestine, Trump immediately pulls the rug out from under him—as he just did with recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The state of State is disheartening, to say the least, and the rumored removal of Tillerson in favor of CIA director Mike Pompeo will not make the slightest difference. Career diplomats are leaving in droves, the budget is being cut by nearly one third, and the number of new applications for the foreign service is down by one half. The new guy in charge of personnel, who would normally be a senior diplomat, has only eight years of experience. (But then, who needs an experienced personnel manager when so few people are left to manage?) Another Tillerson appointee who was supposed to manage the downsizing has resigned after only several weeks at the job.

What we are witnessing is the destruction of the government we pay for and to which we are asked to pledge allegiance. Every week some government service we took for granted is weakened or eliminated by official fiat. By my count, Trump has now severely criticized or attacked outright seven American institutions: the media and various courts; the departments of Justice and State; the FBI; and both political parties. No public official who defies presidential preference is immune from Trump’s wrath. He has played with the idea of establishing a private spy network to get around the CIA—an idea being peddled by none other than Erik Prince (of Blackwater fame) and Oliver North (cf. Iran-Contra). This president is totally committed to sustaining an oligarchy in the image of Vladimir Putin.

Those critics who point to the Trump administration’s failure to pass any legislation as evidence of the strength of the resistance are only partly right. When you put together all the Obama-era administrative regulations that have been rescinded and the legal cases in defense of the public interest abandoned, and add to that the reactionary actions of right-wing dominated state legislatures and the Supreme Court majority, you have quite a record of intentional destructiveness as prescribed by Steve Bannon.

There is no law that says weakening the federal government’s role is a crime. But deliberately subverting the US government is reason enough to seek Trump’s impeachment. He is doing to America what no foreign adversary could do. Some might call it treason.

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

Diplomatic Momentum Please 12/13/17

Momentum for Talks with North Korea?  –  by Mel Gurtov

Mel Gurtov

Possibly, just possibly, a new momentum for direct US-North Korea discussions is developing. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson provided some of it when, in a talk at the Atlantic Council December 12, he for the first time proposed talks without preconditions—a significant departure from previous remarks, echoed by other senior US officials, in which he insisted on North Korea’s cessation of weapons tests and lowering of tensions before any kind of talks might begin.

Tillerson’s proposal was almost a plea to Pyongyang to respond to an opening, perhaps in recognition that other US officials have lately suggested that time is running out before the US makes a military response to North Korea’s ongoing nuclear and missile tests. Here’s what Tillerson said:

We’ve said from the diplomatic side, we’re ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. We are ready to have the first meeting without precondition. Let’s just meet, and we can talk about the weather if you want. Talk about whether it’s going to be a square table or a round table, if that’s what you are excited about. But can we at least sit down and see each other face to face, and then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map of what we might be willing to work towards.

The other push for talks came from Jeffrey Feltman, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. Returning from a visit to the DPRK, where he talked with North Korean foreign affairs officials, Feltman pointed to the urgency of conflict prevention in view of the “most tense and dangerous” situation on the Korean peninsula (UN Web TV). Specifically, he “emphasized the importance of opening or re-opening technical channels of communications, such as the military-to-military hotline, to reduce risks, signal intentions to prevent misunderstandings, and manage any crisis. I also urged the DPRK to signal that it was prepared to consider ‘talks about talks.’ The UN or others can facilitate both of those processes, if desired. My interlocutors and I agreed that my visit was only a beginning and that we should continue our dialogue.”

In short, both Tillerson and the UN leadership are on the same page in being prepared to start talks with the DPRK without insisting on any party’s agenda.

But will President Trump agree to reaching out to the North Koreans? Or will “fire and fury” and the belief Tillerson is “wasting his time” on peacemaking remain his positions? The North Koreans, having by their own account reached the end of the first stage of their long-range missile program, might be motivated by talks without preconditions—a longstanding demand—as well as by the UN proposal for conflict prevention measures. It may require a concrete incentive, however, to move Kim Jong-un, such as suspension of military deployments and exercises that the North Koreans consider threatening and a shutdown of Trump’s hostile tweets.

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

In Stupor Lies 12/13/17

Brainwashed  –  Winslow Myers

Winslow Myers

Everyone should watch Nick Kristof and his team’s riveting 26-minute documentary, on the New York Times website, “From North Korea, with Dread.” Unlike the oft-asked post-9/11 question, there’s no ambiguity about why the North Koreans hate us. They are not allowed to forget that General Curtis LeMay’s U.S. Strategic Air Command bombed them almost to oblivion back in the mid-20th century. And now they have our juvenile president’s intemperate threats, let alone the fate of Saddam and Qaddafi, to remind them just how worthy of their ill will we remain so many years later.

Mr. Trump fits perfectly into the script of Kim Jong Un’s hatemongering propaganda. Kim distracts his Stepford-citizens from realizing that they have either completely lost the ability to think for themselves or they are terrified to say what they really think—at least the ones captured by Kristof’s cameras. Trump’s threats allow Kim to distract his people from his own venality and murderousness. The North Koreans, the privileged ones in Pyongyang and not in concentration camps, live in a dream world where the repeated motif of a ballistic missile is used as a bizarre decorative central theme in amusement parks, at concerts, at museums of technology, even in kindergartens. Almost their entire national identity seems to be bound up in their presumed capacity to destroy the United States.

Kristof asserts that we are far closer to actual war than most of us realize. That is horrifying because so many on the Korean peninsula, North and South both, would die—for nothing other than a 3rd grade pissing contest between two unpredictable leaders lost in an echo chamber of threat. Fear of the weapons themselves enlarges the mutual paranoia and willful ignorance that is a major cause of conflict. Kim assumes that he can avoid the fate of other dictators if only he can deploy enough missiles and warheads; Trump wonders how long he can afford to wait before Kim becomes too much of a threat and he himself looks like an appeaser. The result is, to use the title of an excellent new book on 21st century nuclear weapons edited by Dr. Helen Caldicott, we are “Sleepwalking to Armageddon.”

Brainwashing is not confined to North Korea. Our media culture in the U.S. has become a free-for-all, a polarized babble that is the obverse side of the coin of North Korean repression. Free (and much too quick) to speak our minds, we are losing the capacity to find common ground in proven scientific, moral and political truths. The president and Fox News form a closed feedback loop, where bloviators like Sean Hannity revel in their influence over Trump and cater to his worst instincts. The press toadies to Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ bullying in ways that recall abject subservience to Kim Jong Un.

Without sinking into false equivalence, both countries are brainwashed in their separate ways. If the North Koreans are brainwashed by a complex system of almost complete internet censorship, blanket propaganda, and “minders” listening day and night for hints of sedition, we in the U.S. are brainwashed by our splitting off into separate camps that forget we are all in this together. We live in the illusion that our nuclear “superiority” will save us—a convenience for the faceless weapons corporations who are all too happy that we are distracted by our oppositional social media posts as they vacuum more and more taxes out of our pockets and into theirs.

Skirting this close to the edge of the abyss concentrates the mind wonderfully. It reminds us that all life on this tiny blue planet came from the same stupendous process of emergence—from pure energy, matter; matter from life in all its diversity; and from life, mammalian care for offspring and a conscious capacity to wonder, question and explore. Will we allow the end point of this great evolutionary story to become the vaporization of millions? With what dreams is our childish behavior as “adults” haunting the sleep of the world’s children, many of them already traumatized by war?

The religious sages all come up with variations on the same notion of what our fulfillment as humans is meant to be: we are here to discover how to love. Just as we care for our children, we are meant to care for each other. This began as a tribal lesson—we care for the children of our tribe and protect them at all costs from yours. Now the lesson has become transnational, universal, inescapable: there is only one tribe, the human tribe, tasked with the challenge of sustaining the living system around us that makes our own lives possible. In an interdependent world, all war has become civil war. To remain stuck in brittle North Korean tribalism or decadent American tribalism is to court mass death. We can find ways to connect, even with our worst enemies, on the basis of our shared desire to survive.

Given that, in Reagan’s words “a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought,” the first task of American presidents and their generals in the nuclear age is war prevention. Toward that end, out of the 195 nations of the world, the vast majority, 122, have agreed at the United Nations that nuclear weapons must be completely outlawed. Worldwide verifiable mutual nuclear disarmament is ultimately the only way out of our present impasse with North Korea.

Meanwhile, as Kristof and others have pointed out, a reasonable first step could be that we back off our incessant military patrols up and down the borders of North Korea, lessening the threat to an impoverished, proud little country in exchange for a possible nuclear freeze. And would it not be a prudent investment on the part of our eviscerated State Department to bring some North Koreans into our country to begin to break down some dangerous stereotypes and misunderstandings?

Somewhere in a North Korean concentration camp we should have faith that more than one truth-telling Solzhenitsyn keeps difficult watch. With time and patience, change can come to North Korea without war. Auden ended his great poem about brainwashing, “September 1, 1939” on a tentatively optimistic note:

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

-end-

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

Get On Board 12/13/17

Lawrence Wittner

This October, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that its estimate of the cost for the planned “modernization” the U.S. nuclear weapons complex over the next three decades has risen to $1,200,000,000,000.00. For those of you not familiar with such lofty figures, that’s $1.2 trillion. Furthermore, when adjusted for inflation, the cost of the program―designed to provide new weapons for nuclear warfare on land, in the sea, and in the air, plus upgraded or new facilities to produce them―grows to $1.7 trillion.

That $1.7 trillion could provide an awful lot of healthcare, education, housing, parks, public transportation, roads, public radio, clean water, child nutrition, disability benefits, Social Security, and other public services to improve the lives of Americans. But, of course, it won’t. Instead, this enormous economic burden of paying for nuclear weapons will fall heavily upon (or perhaps destroy) whatever is left of such programs after the current Republican administration and Congress finish gutting them through budget cuts.

Much the same incredibly costly nuclear “modernization” is happening today in the eight other nuclear-armed nations, where the welfare of their citizens is being sacrificed on the altar of national military “strength.”

Although, in each country, proponents of this nuclear weapons buildup contend that it makes their citizens safer, the reality is that these countries are arming against one another and, therefore, that their publics will become more endangered than ever.

Take the example of what ready access to nuclear weapons is doing to the relations between the United States and North Korea. U.S. President Donald Trump certainly appears to believe that the United States is endangered by the advance of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, just as North Korea’s Kim Jong Un apparently feels that North Korea is endangered by the U.S. government’s vastly superior nuclear forces. And their fears have some validity. Naturally, the apprehension felt by both men is exacerbated by the reckless threats of nuclear war each has leveled against the other’s country.

Indeed, as the U.S.-North Korean confrontation has heightened, fears have grown that the two nations might be drifting toward a nuclear war. Speaking recently at the University of Pennsylvania, retired U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis, a former allied commander of NATO, estimated that there was at least a 10 percent chance of nuclear war between them. Discussion of a U.S.-North Korean nuclear war has also grown among U.S. government officials. Meanwhile, worried members of Congress and the public have begun to rally behind legislation (the Markey-Lieu bill) that would prevent the U.S. President from initiating a nuclear first strike.

Even when nations are led by more rational officials, there are numerous ways that nuclear weapons can be unleashed with horrific consequences. For example, nuclear weapons might be drawn upon by nuclear-armed nations when a conventional war gradually escalates into a higher level of destructiveness. Or they might be resorted to by an increasingly desperate nuclear-armed nation when it is losing a conventional war. Or they might be fired in defense of a nation when an “enemy attack” is mistakenly reported. Or they might be accidentally launched or dropped. Or terrorists might steal or purchase them from a national arsenal and employ them in their next jihad.

Any of these scenarios would result in a catastrophe. A single nuclear weapon, it is estimated, can slaughter hundreds of thousands of people through its enormous blast, fire, and radioactive fallout. A study cited by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War contends that if only 300 of the weapons in the Russian nuclear arsenal were employed to attack U.S. cities, 90 million Americans would die in the first half hour. A comparable U.S. nuclear attack on Russia would produce similar devastation. Furthermore, the destruction of the entire economic, communications, and transportation infrastructure by these attacks would soon lead to the deaths of the vast majority of survivors by disease, exposure, and starvation. And today there are about 15,000 nuclear weapons in existence, with over 90 percent of them in the arsenals of the U.S. and Russian governments.

Do we really need more? Or, conversely, wouldn’t the world be better off without them?

Actually, most countries are already moving down the road toward a nuclear weapons-free world. This past July, the official representatives of most of the world’s nations, meeting in a UN-sponsored conclave, voted 122 to 1 (with 1 abstention) for an international treaty prohibiting countries from developing, testing, manufacturing, possessing, transferring, or threatening to use nuclear weapons. However, the nine nuclear-armed nations boycotted the conference and are not among the countries backing this Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons―at least not yet.

Given the staggering economic and human costs of nuclear weapons, isn’t it time that the nuclear nations got on board?

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

In Our Hands 12/13/17

Tom Hastings

Leave it on the table again? – by Tom H. Hastings

“You can’t fight City Hall.”

Well…turns out City Hall is a minor obstacle these days. Trump and his autocratic buds loom far larger. If you can’t fight City Hall you surely are foolish to try Trump.

Indeed, we routinely tell ourselves some version of the Reinhold Niebuhr axiomatic Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

We cannot possibly affect serenity these days without occupying a state of deep denial. This is an emergency on all fronts:

· Trump groped many women, a dozen of them came forward to describe it, and yet he keeps his job while the other power players topple.

· Trump praises foreign dictators—Putin, Erdogan, Duterte—and insults the leader of Europe’s strongest, prosperous, generous, peaceful democracy—Merkel.

· Trump is doing everything possible to put industry in charge of dismantling environmental regulations.

· Trump is appointing Supreme Court “Justices” who are shifting the decisions toward jingoism, xenophobia, and unconstitutional, anti-democratic nationalistic insularity.

· Trump is targeting Muslims, Mexicans, and others with his racist tweets, presidential orders, and auto-cannibalistic appointments.

· Trump and Kim Jong Un are doing the most demonic death dance ever, like little sociopaths who simply do not care about the annihilation of millions.

· Trump’s encouragement to the most brutal police has created a new level of racial fear felt first and familiarly in the African American communities but now in a toxic spreading reciprocity.

· Trump lies pretty much every time he discusses and denies the Russian roles in getting him elected and is now squirming to avoid the law as embodied in Mueller’s investigation.

And this is only the short list. We are losing public lands, gaining the ridicule and revulsion of citizens from around the world, and watching the shreds and loose threads of a social safety net for our most vulnerable blowing in this gale of bad policy.

What can we do?

Well, what did women do to finally get the vote? What did blacks do to finally end segregation? What did migrant workers do to form a union? What did Native Americans do to finally reaffirm long-abrogated treaty rights? What did British Gold Coast Africans do to end colonial rule? What did Filipinas and Filipinos do to depose Ferdinand Marcos? What did Serbs do to knock Slobodan Milosevic out of office? What did Tunisians do to overthrow dictator Ben Ali?

In all these cases and many more, people finally decided to take that latent power that is always there—nonviolent people power—organize it, recruit mass numbers to their movement, and use it strategically to earn victory. Yes, they worked at it. Yes, they sacrificed. And they won, with far far far fewer costs than if they would have either shrunk from engagement or engaged in violence.

Our power is in our hands if we take it off the table—and if we don’t, the greedy elite will take it all again. Our power, our choice.

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

Legal Nuclear Attack? 12/6/17

What Kind of Nuclear Attack Would be Legal?  by John LaForge

John LaForge

US general says order to launch nuclear weapons can be refused if illegal  —Chicago Tribune, Nov. 18

US nuclear commander would balk at any “illegal” order —MSNBC, Nov. 18

General heading Strategic Command says illegal nuclear launch order can be refused—NBC News, Nov. 18

Top general says he would resist “illegal” nuke order from Trump—CBS News, Nov. 18

Top US general says he would resist illegal nuclear strike order from Donald Trump—The Independent, Nov. 18

All these headlines give the direct impression that a nuclear attack could be legal in some circumstances. But is this possible?

Air Force General John Hyten, commander of Strategic Command, told the Halifax International Security Forum Nov. 18, that an order from the president to launch nuclear weapons can be refused if that order is determined to be illegal. In the face of an unlawful order, Gen. Hyten said, he would tell Trump he couldn’t carry it out. “If it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen?” Hyten asked the gathering. “I’m going to say, ‘Mr. President, that’s illegal.’”

Four days earlier, retired Gen. Robert Kehler, who previously held Gen. Hyten’s top job at Strategic Command, testified likewise to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying that nuclear war commanders could “ignore any unlawful order by the president to launch a nuclear strike.”

Generals Hyten and Kehler both said in their unprecedented public comments that the legal principles of “military necessity,” “discriminate destruction,” and “proportionality” all apply to decisions about nuclear attacks. Senator Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, asked Gen. Kehler if he meant that Strategic Command could disobey a president’s ordering a nuclear attack. “Yes,” Kehler said.

That military officers “could” disobey, or “can” refuse unlawful orders are actually understatements in this context. US military service manuals explicitly require military personal to refuse illegal orders. As everyone sworn-in to the service is taught, disobeying illegal orders is mandatory; following them is a crime worthy of court martial. As CNN reported: “Under US military law, troops are obligated to not obey an unlawful order. If they received such an order, they could resign or force Trump to fire them.” The point was made during last year’s presidential campaign, when Trump promised to unlawfully torture prisoners, kill the families of suspected militants, and bomb civilians. CNN reported then that “Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook noted on [Nov. 17, 2016] that all US troops have an obligation not to follow illegal orders.”

Certain Weapons Effects Always Unlawful

But more importantly, there is a deep and startling absurdity and a shocking ignorance in these public nuclear war conversations. Any use of nuclear weapons would be indiscriminate and illegal by definition. Only the uninitiated, uninformed or willfully blind can still imagine that today’s nuclear weapons could be used “proportionately” to produce more military good than evil. The uncontrollable, unlimited, and unfathomable magnitude of nuclear weapons effects have been established as unlawful in countless text books, law journals, government studies and independent analyses.

The use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances would be illegal because international covenants, treaties, and protocols forbid indiscriminate destruction, attacks that are disproportionate to a military objective, and weapons’ effects that “treacherously wound,” harm neutral states, or do long-term damage to the environment.

In her book Thermonuclear Monarchy Professor Elaine Scarry of Harvard reminds us that as long ago as 1995, Sweden, Iran and Egypt argued before the International Court of Justice that since nuclear weapons cause disproportionate suffering, they are prohibited by the 1868 Declaration of St. Petersburg and the Geneva Protocols of 1925, 1949, and 1977. The Republic of the Marshall Islands argued that using nuclear weapons would violate the 1907 Hague Conventions prohibiting weapons with effects that cross into neutral states. Both North Korea and India, neither of which possessed nuclear weapons in 1995, wrote to the World Court insisting that it judge them unlawful. India argued that any use of nuclear weapons, including the mere possession of them, is illegal under the Charter of the United Nations and international “rules of proportionality.”

Charles Moxley, in his 813-page study Nuclear Weapons & International Law, puts this list of treaty violations in perspective: “Nuclear weapons are not illegal just because they violate these laws of war, as exhaustively proven in this volume. They are illegal because they cause widespread and indiscriminate destruction without promoting the purpose of war: resolving conflict … They are not weapons but only wanton machines of symmetric destruction.”

Physical Effects: “Complete ruin”

What the generals and the congressional bureaucrats fail to grasp in their fantasies of legal nuclear attacks, is the vastness of the difference between conventional and nuclear weapons, and that the latter cannot be used in war without slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians—that is, without committing war crimes. Some uncomfortable background information might be necessary.

Moxley’s Nuclear Weapons & International Law reports that, “A nuclear detonation generates temperatures of 100 million degrees while a dynamite explosive about 3000 degrees.” What this unimaginable heat does to cities is explained by Lynn Eden in her book Whole World on Fire. “Mass fire and extensive fire damage would occur in almost every circumstance in which nuclear weapons were detonated in a suburban or urban area. …damage from mass fire would extend two to five times farther than blast damage.”

In 1977, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 653-page book The Effects of Nuclear Weapons notes with understatement, “persons in buildings or tunnels close to ground zero may be burned by hot gases and dust entering the structure…” In its lengthy consideration of radiation effects, taken from the US Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, the FEMA study says in part, “Among them, apart from genetic effects, are the formation of cataracts, nonspecific life shortening, leukemia, other forms of malignant disease, and retarded development of children in utero at the time of the exposure.” As Ann Fagan Ginger reported in her book Nuclear Weapons are Illegal, “They continue to maim and kill long after they explode in a test or in a war.”

A mass fire or “firestorm” Eden writes, is “the simultaneous combustion of many fires over a large area, which causes a great volume of air to heat, rise, and suck in large amounts of fresh air at hurricane speeds from the periphery,” Eden notes. “Within ten minutes after the cataclysmic events associated with the detonation, a mass of buoyantly rising fire-heated air would signal the start of a second and distinctly different event—the development of a mass fire of gigantic scale and ferocity. This fire would quickly increase in intensity. In a fraction of an hour it would generate ground winds of hurricane force with average air temperatures well above the boiling point of water (212°F, 100°C). This would produce a lethal environment over a vast contiguous area.”

Eden’s research is worth quoting at length. “The first mass fire in history was created by allied incendiary raids at Hamburg on the night of July 27-28, 1943. Within 20 minutes, two of three buildings within an area of 4.5 square miles were on fire. In three to six hours, this fire so completely burned out an area of more than 5 square miles that the area was referred to by damage analysts as the ‘Dead City.’ Well-documented accounts describe wind speeds of hurricane force within the city. Air temperatures were calculated to be between four and five hundred degrees Fahrenheit, hundreds of degrees above the temperature of boiling water. [Up to] 100,000 people were killed in the attack. A mass fire resulting from a modern nuclear weapon could be expected to burn out an urban or suburban area of considerably larger size in a similarly brief time.”

Legal scholar George Delf’s Humanizing Hell! The Law V. Nuclear Weapons is concise, bold, and direct. “[A]rmed forces are committed by military, domestic and international law not to attack non-combatants. Any government which adopts a defense policy implying such an attack is therefore inciting its own forces to commit war crimes on a gigantic and suicidal scale.”

John LaForge, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and is co-editor with Arianne Peterson of Nuclear Heartland, Revised: A Guide to the 450 Land-Based Missiles of the United States.

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