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Archive for the ‘War and Peace’ Category

Honoring Mandela

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Greg Bartley:Camera Press:Redux*

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Nelson Mandela, statement from the dock at opening of his trial [aka the Rivonia trial] on charges of sabotage, Supreme Court of South Africa, Pretoria, April 20, 1964

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We wish to join with the thousands, indeed millions of admirers around the world who are paying tribute to the wise and dignified world leader who died yesterday in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the age of 95. When one considers that Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years by the apartheid government of South Africa, subjected to a life sentence of hard labor and often solitary confinement, it is a wonder he even survived to be released in 1990, much less that he lived another 23 years.

We admire Mandela not only for his courage to risk his life in opposing a cruel, oppressive regime, not only for his will to survive through a potentially never-ending imprisonment, but also for his insistence on making peace and building a “rainbow” country where many ethnicities coexist. One of Mandela’s greatest achievements, besides being the first black president of South Africa (1994–99), was his establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation commission to investigate human rights abuses carried out by the apartheid regime of the Afrikaner National Party that ruled South Africa from 1948 to 1994. (The white Afrikaners, mostly descendants of Dutch colonialists, comprised only about 20 percent of the population.)

Wikipedia summarizes his early life:

A Xhosa born to the Thembu royal family, Mandela attended the Fort Hare University and the University of Witwatersrand, where he studied law. Living in Johannesburg, he became involved in anti-colonial politics, joining the [African National Congress] and becoming a founding member of its Youth League. After the South African National Party came to power in 1948, he rose to prominence in the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign, was appointed superintendent of the organization’s Transvaal chapter and presided over the 1955 Congress of the People. Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and, with the ANC leadership, was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961. Although initially committed to non-violent protest, he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961 in association with the South African Communist Party, leading a sabotage campaign against the apartheid government. In 1962 he was arrested, convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the government, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.

Rachel Maddow opened her show last night with a concise but comprehensive overview of the apartheid (Afrikaans = “apartness”) system that Mandela and other South African activists risked their lives to oppose, including a brief account of the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960 in which the South African police opened fire on a crowd of protesters, killing 69. Rachel spoke with Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, who described how inspiring the South African struggle was to young American civil rights activists were inspired by the courage of the South African resistance movement, and later spoke with former congressman and Oakland mayor Ron Dellums about the push for divestment from South African corporations that finally cracked the De Klerk regime.

FreeMandelaIn “Six Things Nelson Mandela Believed That Most People Won’t Talk About,” Think Progress reminds us:

1. Mandela blasted the Iraq War and American imperialism.

2. Mandela called freedom from poverty a “fundamental human right.”

3. Mandela criticized the “War on Terror” and the labeling of individuals as terrorists, even Osama Bin Laden, without due process.

4. Mandela called out racism in America.

5. Mandela embraced some of America’s biggest political enemies [he is shown embracing Fidel Castro].

6. Mandela was a die-hard supporter of labor unions.

All of these stands make us admire him even more. Read the whole piece for important details.

And, demonstrating how this principled activist was an annoyance and a threat to the views of the right in the U.S. as well as in Johannesburg and London, Think Progress also details “The Right Wing’s Campaign to Discredit and Undermine Mandela, in One Timeline.”

Anti-Apartheid Activism at LSU and South Africa House in London

On a personal note, we recall attending a lecture at LSU in the mid 1980s by South African journalist Donald Woods, a close friend of Steve Biko, leader of the anti-apartheid Black Consciousness Movement who had died from beatings while in police custody. Woods was banned from editorship of his newspaper and harassed by the South African government; he fled South Africa and became a traveling spokesman against apartheid. (Peter Gabriel recorded the popular song “Biko” [1980], and director Richard Attenborough made a popular film of the story of Woods and Biko’s friendship, starring Kevin Kline and Denzel Washington, titled Cry Freedom [1987].)

We were in London in the summer of 1986 and witnessed the large anti-apartheid protests outside South Africa House, the embassy, in Trafalgar Square, where demonstrators were holding up Divest Now posters and chanting against the whites-only regime in that former British colony. Some years later, the anti-apartheid protests were going strong in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well—and that is one reason why, when Mandela toured the United States a half year after his release from prison, he came to Oakland to thank the citizens of the Bay Area for their strong push for institutions there, including the University of California, to divest from South African companies. The financial pressure took a toll, and at length the regime buckled and released Mandela and took steps to dismantle the apartheid system.

2013: Passing of African Lions

We note with sadness but enduring respect that this year has seen the death of two great men of Africa who are admired around the world. In March the renowned Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe (b. 1930), author of Things Fall Apart, died at the age of 82. Things Fall Apart (1958) has been translated into about 50 languages and has sold some 8 to 10 million copies. Guardian (U.K.) obituary of Achebe here.

VirGebruikDeurBlankesMandela Obituaries, etc.

The Guardian (U.K.)

The New York Times

BBC

The Times (Johannesburg)

Statement by President Barack Obama on the Death of Nelson Mandela

Audio recording of Mandela’s statement at the Rivonia trial, April 20, 1964 (from National Archives of South Africa)

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Photo credit: Greg Bartley / Camera Press / Redux. Free Mandela poster found at The Man in the Green Shirt (Tumblr blog).

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“And Death Shall Have No Dominion”:
A Tribute to President John F. Kennedy

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

“So Let Us Persevere . . .”

JFK 1952 by Philippe Halsman

“If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” commencement address at American University, Washington, June 10, 1963

“And death shall have no dominion” —Dylan Thomas

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Rarely has a November passed by that this blog has not paused to pay respects to the memory of President John F. Kennedy. We keep an “eternal flame” of our own lighted not only because of a feeling of personal connection to him—from an Irish Catholic family kinship, and having been taken as a toddler to a 1960 campaign stop at an airport in the South, and being just old enough to watch the post-assassination and funeral coverage on a black-and-white TV—though these would be reasons enough. We repeatedly bring President Kennedy to our readers, or vice versa, because of what he stood for, what he accomplished, and what he symbolizes.

What Does ‘John F. Kennedy’ Mean?

It may be that, despite the limitations of what he was able to accomplish during his too-brief presidency, because of the ideals he represents, because of the hope and activism he still inspires, President Kennedy is more influential postmortem than during his lifetime. And it’s possible that the murky, still nebulous circumstances of his death (by whom, really, and why?) add to the mystique of the Dead King, the Slain Prince, and all that might have been possible, and might still be possible, if we summon his spirit. He dwells now on the mythological level, in the realm of ideas and legend. (This may explain the success of Jacqueline Kennedy’s posthumous establishing of a “Camelot” myth. At least in the public mind, there was no Camelot connection with the Kennedy White House before Nov. 22, 1963: Mrs. Kennedy’s myth-making began with an interview with Theodore H. White, author of The Making of the President 1960, a week after the assassination.)

kennedy-for-president-buttonjpgNow, on the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination in Dallas (November 22, 1963, was also a Friday), many other, more learned voices are commenting on the accomplishments and significance of President Kennedy’s “Thousand Days” in office—what he did and what he failed to do. We only wish to honor his long-standing commitment to peace; his refusal to be cowed or bullied by the military chiefs or the CIA during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 (especially after he was burned by the CIA’s brilliant idea for an invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961); his reluctance to escalate U.S. involvement in Vietnam and his intention to withdraw troops; his establishment of the Peace Corps, etc.

He supported, though cautiously at first, civil rights and desegregation of public facilities, especially in the South. He had a plan for expansion of medical coverage for the poor and elderly that became what we know as Medicaid and Medicare, and he supported strengthening voting rights. Much of his desired or proposed legislation was left to his able successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, to push through Congress—thus the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 through expansion of Social Security.

Because of the historical circumstances of his time, the national priorities, and his own proclivities, Kennedy was more focused on foreign affairs than on domestic policy (the Soviet Union’s building of a wall through Berlin, supporting Fidel Castro in Cuba, and beginning to build ballistic missile silos in Cuba, etc.). But he also called the nation to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade (this too had national security components), and his vision was realized by the successful mission of Apollo 11 in 1969.

About the Assassination, and the “Conspiracy” Controversy

And, of course, on this fiftieth anniversary, many media pundits and  establishment historians are busy pouring concrete over the hardened conventional wisdom about the lone gunman, the “case closed,” the truths proved by the Warren Commission Report, etc. This is not the occasion—and perhaps not the place—to expound our views on the assassination, but we have read enough books and articles, seen enough documentaries, and attended enough panel discussions to be thoroughly convinced that the president was shot at by multiple shooters, and we doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald was one of them. (As for the plausibility of a “conspiracy theory,” remember that the attacks of 9/11, too, resulted from a conspiracy.) The most convincing explanation we have found of why Kennedy was killed is in the sober and methodical JFK and the Unspeakable by James W. Douglass, excerpted below.

405px-John_F_Kennedy_Official_Portrait

About the presidency of John F. Kennedy, among many other excellent sources, we recommend:

Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (1965), by the former special assistant to the president

Theodore C. Sorenson, Kennedy (1965), by the former special counsel to the president

Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963

Robert Dallek and Terry Golway, Let Every Nation Know: John F. Kennedy in His Own Words (2006), book and CD. “Perhaps the best of all the books on JFK.” —Senator Edward M. Kennedy

For more about the assassination:

James W. Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters (2008)

Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins: My Investigation and Prosecution of the Murder of President Kennedy (1988), by the former district attorney of New Orleans who brought the only case relating to the assassination to trial (1967)

Robert J. Groden, The Killing of a President: The Complete Photographic Record of the JFK Assassination, the Conspiracy, and the Cover-Up (1993). Groden served as a photographic consultant for the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

Mark Lane, Rush to Judgment (1966, 1992)

Films:

Thirteen Days (2000, on the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962), directed by Roger Donaldson

JFK, directed by Oliver Stone (1991)

The Men Who Killed Kennedy (1988), a comprehensive, multi-part British production, refreshingly independent of biases of mainstream U.S. media

Other sources about John F. Kennedy:

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Warren Commission Report (digitized)

And more here . . .

Unspeakable1-199x3001JFK and the Unspeakable

“John Kennedy’s story is our story, although a titanic effort has been made to keep it from us. That story, like the struggle it embodies, is as current today as it was in 1963. The theology of redemptive violence still reigns. The Cold War has been followed by its twin, the War on Terror. We are engaged in another apocalyptic struggle against an enemy seen as absolute evil. Terrorism has replaced Communism as the enemy. We are told we can be safe only through the threat of escalating violence. Once again, anything goes in a fight against evil: preemptive attacks, torture, undermining governments, assassinations, whatever it takes to gain the end of victory over an enemy portrayed as irredeemably evil. Yet the redemptive means John Kennedy turned to, in a similar struggle, was dialogue with the enemy. When the enemy is seen as human, everything changes.”

—James W. Douglass, from the Preface to JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters

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For a generous sampling of President Kennedy’s speeches, we recommend the book + CD Let Every Nation Know: John F. Kennedy in His Own Words by Robert Dallek and Terry Golway (2006). Each of 34 speeches is introduced, but transcripts are not provided. For transcripts, see the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum, under the tab “JFK.”

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Related Topics at Levees Not War:

We Cannot Fail to Try

So Let Us Persevere . . .

Marching on Washington for Economic and Social Justice

In Honor of Medgar Evers and Res Publica

Tom Hayden, SDS and SNCC Alums: Happy 50th, Port Huron Statement!

How the World Has—and Has Not—Changed in 50 Years

Nagasaki, Not Forgotten

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[ This post also appears at DailyKos ]

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Photograph of John F. Kennedy, 1952, by Philippe Halsman; official White House portrait of John F. Kennedy by Aaron Shikler (1970). Photograph on book cover by Jacques Lowe, Coos Bay, Oregon, 1959.

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Congress, Now Is the Time to Vote “Hell No”

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

NoWar

Wrong War, Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Not out of indifference to the plight of the Syrian people, and not from an automatic rejection of any and all military action, but rather out of grave concern about the uncontrollable consequences that a U.S. missile strike upon Syria could trigger—such as, quite possibly, a war between Iran and Israel—we urge the members of Congress to vote No—even “Hell No,” if you like—on President Obama’s request to authorize the use of force against the Assad regime in Syria.

Although this blog has long supported Barack Obama for president, and we are pleased that John Kerry, whom we supported (and campaigned for) for president in 2004, is secretary of state; although we generally trust their judgment in both domestic and international affairs; and even though we’ve been thankful for the judicious restraint that Obama has shown until now during the Syrian civil war, and we’re grateful that this past weekend he averted what appeared a rush to arms and decided to seek congressional authorization—

Despite the foregoing, this is one vote we want Obama to lose.

See Where Senators Stand  |  Contact Congress  |  Contact White House

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They Can’t Tell Us How This Would End

US-SYRIA-CONFLICT-CONGRESSAfter a day of testimony by Secretary of State Kerry, Defense secretary Chuck Hagel, and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey, on Tuesday night the Senate Foreign Relations committee worked out a resolution that would set a 60-day limit on military action in Syria, with one 30-day extension possible. In the House, Democratic representatives introduced a resolution that would limit any military action to no more than 60 days. The Army Times reports that the House resolution “also specifically prohibits any American forces on the ground in Syria and restricts the president from repeating the use of force beyond the initial punitive strikes unless Obama certifies to Congress that the Syrian forces have repeated their use of chemical weapons.”

[ Update: On Weds., Sept. 4, the Senate Foreign Relations committee voted 10–7, with nay votes from both parties, to authorize the use of force against the Syrian regime. The full Senate is expected to vote next week. ]

The United States is seriously considering unilateral military strikes against a nation whose chief ally and arms supplier is Russia? Against a nation that says If you fire on us, we’ll fire on Israel? (Syria has already been in wars with Israel in 1967, 1973, and 1982.)

But let’s think about this a moment.

If the U.S. fires on Syria—a deliberate escalation of a highly complicated civil war—how could the U.S. keep the conflict from escalating further?

If the U.S. attacks Syria, can we be assured that Assad will not use chemical weapons again? The U.S. claims that he flouted international law once; why not again?

And if Assad were to use chemical weapons again, what would the U.S. do then? Escalate in order to not “lose face”?

And, just supposing the U.S. were to be opening confidential, “back-channel” talks with representatives of the newly elected moderate president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, as perhaps we might be, what effect might American missiles on Damascus have on those talks?

The British parliament voted last week against participating in military action against Assad, sidelining our usual closest ally. If the U.S. Congress votes no, will Obama say, as Prime Minister David Cameron said, “I get it,” and desist from a military strike?

Does the Obama administration really think it is wise, or even sane, for the U.S. to “go it alone” if necessary and use cruise missiles against yet another Arab nation? We know that military force against Arab nations only validates anti-Western propaganda, fuels al Qaeda’s recruiting efforts, and increases the likelihood of terrorist retribution here in the U.S., in London, and elsewhere in the West.

If it is true that forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians—U.S. officials say that more than 1,400 were killed in an attack near Damascus on Aug. 21, and keep mentioning some 400 children among them—then that is indeed a sickening atrocity, but still, we do not agree that that requires unilateral action by the U.S. (The UN chemical weapons inspectors are expected to produce a report in late September.)

Syria is simply too dangerous, too interconnected with live wires and explosives—what’s called in international diplomacy a mare’s nest, a snake pit, or a death trap, among other technical terms. Look at the neighborhood: Syria borders Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and is very close to Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Too many things could go wrong. Let’s not, for God’s sake, go there.

And, as we have said over and over from the very first days of Levees Not War (in 2005), the U.S. simply cannot afford endless war and habitual reliance on military solutions to crises overseas, but instead must redirect its resources to rebuilding our own crumbling national infrastructure and to augmenting social services, including jobs programs, education, unemployment relief, and health care. National security begins at home.

 

syria.map

Work through the United Nations

A complex and dangerous situation like this, one that requires fact-finding and deliberation and negotiation by a council of nations, is what the United Nations was founded to handle. If would-be interventionists are frustrated that the UN Security Council’s member nations Russia and China would not go along with Washington’s view that “something must be done” and would use their veto in the Security Council, that does not give Washington the right to bypass the UN.

(Russian president Vladimir Putin has told the Associated Press that Russia might vote for a UN resolution on punitive force against Syria if it is proved that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people. In the same interview, he warned that the West should not take “one-sided” action against Syria, that is, without the backing of the UN Security Council.)

The Arab League has called on the UN and the international community to take “necessary measures,” though the League did not specify what those measures might be. The secretary general of the Arab League did say, however, that there should be no military action without backing from the United Nations.

Some 100,000 have died in the Syrian civil war, which began with a pro-democracy uprising in March 2011. Some two million Syrians have been forced to flee to other countries. (Click here for a BBC News timeline of the Syrian civil war.)

Yale Law School professors Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro write in a New York Times op-ed that the choice of military force or nothing at all is “a false one.”

Most of international law relies not on force for its enforcement, but on the collective power of nations to deprive states of the benefits of membership in a system of states. Mr. Obama can cut off any remaining government contracts with foreign companies that do business with Mr. Assad’s regime. He can work with Congress to do much more for Syrian rebels and refugees—including providing antidotes to nerve agents, which are in short supply. He can use his rhetorical power to shame and pressure Russia and China.

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“Real Men Go to Tehran”

It’s a matter of public record that this war with Iraq is largely the brainchild of a group of neoconservative intellectuals, who view it as a pilot project. In August a British official close to the Bush team told Newsweek: “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.” In February 2003, according to Ha’aretz, an Israeli newspaper, Under Secretary of State John Bolton told Israeli officials that after defeating Iraq the United States would “deal with” Iran, Syria and North Korea. 

—Paul Krugman, “Things to Come” (New York Times, 3/18/03)

What concerns us is not only the concerns raised above or the prospect of yet another U.S.-led war in the Middle East, but also the fact that neoconservatives and other hawks have been salivating for a war against Iran, and Syria could be an entry into just that. In early May, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, told Rachel Maddow that the same folks who brought us the Iraq war are pushing for a fight with Iran, and they see Syria as a backdoor entry into that war.

I think as Yogi Berra once said, it’s like déjà vu all over again. I see us walking down the same road with the same characters singing in the choir, the same people off the same sheet of music with a few changes trying to get us into war with Iran. The new momentum with respect to Syria is not just because of the brutal civil war there, it’s also because of people like Lindsey Graham and John McCain from my party and Bob Menendez from the Democratic party would like to use Syria as a back door to get us in a war with Iran. It’s another catastrophe brewing . . .

See “Syria Seen as a Backdoor to War with Iran” (LNW 5/2/13).

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Recommended Reading:

belle-syria-008-450x270New York Times updates on Syria

BBC News: Syrian civil war timeline and Syria profile

Jeffrey Frank at The New Yorker (9/4/13): “Eisenhower 1954, Obama 2013: Echoes of Vietnam in Syria

Amy Davidson at The New Yorker (9/4/13): “Kerry and the Senators: Unanswered Questions

Steve Coll at The New Yorker (9/9/13): “Crossing the Line: How Should Obama Respond to Syria?

On Syria, a U.N. Vote Isn’t OptionalNYT op-ed by Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro

Natasha Lennard at Salon (9/4/13): RAND study finds that to destroy Syria chemical weapons, “boots on the ground” would be needed

New York Times editorial (9/3/13): “Debating the Case for Force

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo (9/1/13): “A Skeptic’s Guide to the Syria Mess

Ed Kilgore at Political Animal (Washington Monthly): “The Road to War with Iran Runs Through Syria

Washington Post map of likely strike targets in Syria

Levees Not War (6/14/13): “Here We Go Again

Think Progress (4/29/13): “What You Need to Know About the Syrian Civil War

Steve Clemons at The Washington Note (8/20/12): “Syrian Conflict Not Just a Battle Against Assad

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Against-Next-War-T-Shirt-Northernsun

 

 



Here We Go Again

Friday, June 14th, 2013

belle syria

Once again, politicians demanding austerity for the American public are leading us—and other people’s children—into war

“Just providing arms is not enough.”John McCain

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This should be the mother of all cakewalks. The Obama administration has announced that the U.S. will begin arming certain groups of Syrian rebels because the Bashar al-Assad regime has used chemical weapons against its own people in the two-year-old civil war. The New York Times reports that the U.S. will “begin supplying the rebels for the first time with small arms and ammunition,” according to government officials. Some 90,000 civilians (likely an underestimate) have died in the fighting. Note: This is a public announcement, making official what has been in effect, covertly and surreptitiously and otherwise, for some time (see below).

Click here for the text of the White House Statement on Chemical Weapons in Syria.

Just yesterday, Politico and TalkingPointsMemo reported that former president Bill Clinton, in an appearance at the John McCain Institute for International Leadership (why?), said he now agrees with McCain that the U.S. should do more to aid the rebels. McCain has been saying the same thing for over a year, every Sunday-bloody-Sunday morning. Clinton opined that Obama risks looking like a “total fool” if he allows public opinion polls to guide U.S. policy on the matter. Our first reaction yesterday was, And who axed you? This morning we suspect that, given Clinton’s good standing among Obama’s base, he had clearance, if not encouragement, from the White House to say what he said; thus TPM’s headline, “Politico: Bill Clinton Breaks with Obama on Syria,” was perhaps not entirely accurate, unless “breaks with” means “serves as trial balloon mouthpiece for”.

And then, says Andrea Mitchell on The Rachel Maddow Show, after pointing out that in fighting Hezbollah in Syria, the West is effectively in a proxy war with Iran, McCain goes out onto the Senate floor to preempt the White House’s announcement (“In just a couple of minutes, the president of the United States will be announcing that it is now conclusive that Bashar Assad and the Syrian butchers have used chemical weapons.”). But now McCain says that the aid he’s been clamoring for is not enough; the president “had better understand that just supplying weapons is not going to change the equation . . .” The U.S. should also establish a no-fly zone. If a no-fly zone were to be established, then the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles that Russia has offered to sell—or has already delivered—to Assad could be used against the U.S. Air Force. Then what? And if one of those missiles hits an Israeli airliner? (Russia’s offer, or threat, is at least partly in response to the European Union’s allowing its arms embargo to Syria to expire effective June 1.)

It’s not as though the U.S. has not already been aiding the opposition to Assad. In a May 5 Guardian opinion piece titled “The West and Its Allies Cynically Bleed Syria to Weaken Iran” (source of the illustration above), Seumas Milne wrote:

Airlifts of arms to the Syrian rebels, co-ordinated by the CIA, have increased sharply in recent months to become what one former US official calls a “cataract of weaponry“. British and American forces are training rebel fighters in Jordan. The worth of US aid to the Syrian opposition has doubled to $250m, while the EU has now lifted its oil embargo to allow exports from rebel-held areas.

But John McCain, who assured us in 2002 and 2003 that a conflict with Iraq would be short and sweet, argues that this must be done. And the government, without offering proof, is telling us that chemical weapons were used—haven’t we heard this before?—so the United States, which is a peace-loving nation and a protector of human rights, cannot “stand idly by.” And the governments of the United Kingdom and France, who also support aid to the Syrian rebels, also have not put forth evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons. But what have these nations done to negotiate a diplomatic solution? What persuasive force have the U.S., France, or the U.K. applied upon the United Nations, upon Russia and other friends of Bashar al-Assad? France was prepared to take the lead against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya; why not now? (Because Syria is so freaking complicated and fraught with uncontrollable consequences, maybe?) And what part does Iran play in the government’s strategy? And Israel? Is this part of a deal to keep Tel Aviv from pulling the trigger on Tehran’s nuclear program (whatever that may be)?

Syria@EBDid we mention that Syria borders Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and is very close to Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia? And that the Assad regime is backed by and receiving anti-aircraft weapons from, Russia? Or did we mention that, according to recent reports from the BBC (or was it NBC’s Richard Engel?), there are some fourteen different “rebel groups” constituting the opposition in Syria? Or that, as we reported in May, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, says that Syria is viewed by the same neocons who brought us the Iraq war as “a back door to get us in a war with Iran”?

What could possibly go wrong?

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(Weren’t we saying just days ago that austerity economics is prescribed for the public but seems never to apply to the Defense department [¶8]? Who has paid for the weapons that will be supplied to the Syrian rebels? American taxpayers—individuals, mostly. But Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid benefits, they tell us, need to be curved downward—even Obama suggests so.)

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See also:

How Many Wars? After Libya . . . ? (LNW 3/26/11)



Easy Listenin’ to ‘The Eve of Destruction’

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QslV5asj_yM

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From “The Eve of Destruction”

Lyrics by P. F. Sloan / Sung by Barry McGuire (recorded July 1965)

The eastern world it is exploding
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’
You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’
You don’t believe in war but whats that gun you’re totin’?

. . . .

Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama
You may leave here for four days in space
But when you return it’s the same old place . . . 

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Eve-of-destruction



Syria Seen as a Backdoor to War with Iran

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

neocon1It’s a matter of public record that this war with Iraq is largely the brainchild of a group of neoconservative intellectuals, who view it as a pilot project. In August a British official close to the Bush team told Newsweek:Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.” In February 2003, according to Ha’aretz, an Israeli newspaper, Under Secretary of State John Bolton told Israeli officials that after defeating Iraq the United States would “deal with” Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Paul Krugman, “Things to Come” (New York Times, 3/18/03)

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Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, says on the May 1 Rachel Maddow Show that the same “characters” who brought us the Iraq War, including senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are now trying to push the U.S. into military involvement in Syria, and that this is a backdoor to the war with Iran that the neo-cons have been wanting for a long time.

Rachel shows how the new George W. Bush presidential library airbrushes history and ignores a multitude of inconvenient truths, then asks Col. Wilkerson, “When you’re looking at the debates about Syria, the debates about Iran . . . do you feel that there is a real concrete effect of propagating a whitewashed history of what we went through with the Iraq War? Does that affect the debates we’re having now in issues like Iran and Syria?”

I think as Yogi Berra once said, it’s like déjà vu all over again. I see us walking down the same road with the same characters singing in the choir, the same people off the same sheet of music with a few changes trying to get us into war with Iran. The new momentum with respect to Syria is not just because of the brutal civil war there, it’s also because of people like Lindsey Graham and John McCain from my party and Bob Menendez from the Democratic party would like to use Syria as a back door to get us in a war with Iran. It’s another catastrophe brewing, and if the American people don’t wake up and start saying something about it, they’ll find themselves in another trillion-dollar, ten-year war that’s going to produce results not unlike Iraq today. 

Let me say, Iraq is a mess today. It is an absolute mess. You’ve got the Saudis funding the Sunnis and a resurgence of the civil war. You have Maliki in the back pocket of Iran, so what we have, as George Bush doesn’t tell you in his library, is an ally of Iran in Iraq now. You have the Kurds about to establish their own state in the north, and Iraqis who know anything about their country predicting it will break up in the next four to five years. So, that’s what George Bush did for Iraq.

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Senators McCain and Graham have been pressing loudly for over a year for the U.S. to arm the Syrian rebels. There is considerable doubt and skepticism as to who exactly these Syrian “rebels” or “freedom fighters” are. Really, are they all Syrian, and what will become of whatever weaponry the U.S. might give them? (Israel is concerned about this question, too.) Would aid to the rebels be paid for by fiscal conservatives at a time of enforced national austerity? The civil war in Syria is mind-bogglingly complex, with innumerable actors, backers, invisible and subterranean connections and interests at play, both strategically and commercially. Senators McCain and Graham have not, as far as we’ve been able to ascertain, troubled themselves to educate the public or reporters on these questions. Reporters, please keep pressing them for answers.

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Recommended Reading:

ThinkProgress:What You Need to Know About the Syrian Civil War

Steve Clemons at The Washington Note:Syrian Conflict Not Just a Battle Against Assad

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The Life You Save May Be Your Own Child’s

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

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We see the efforts needed to reduce the slaughter of innocents (of all ages) as comprising three elements: gun control; expanded psychological services; and pressure on Hollywood and video game makers to dial down the ultraviolence.

Not only do the citizens of the United States have an obligation to call at least one elected official to press for reform of gun laws—the more restrictions the better, in our view—but we also have to push representatives to allocate much more generous funding for counseling and psychological services in schools, especially to troubled teenagers, as well as to veterans.

American gun owners possess one-third of all the guns on the planet.

Dave Cullen, author of a book on the Columbine, Colorado, school killing spree of 1999, appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show Friday night and outlined three psychological profiles that cover most of the shooters in mass killings such as Friday’s in Connecticut. Two studies by the FBI and by the Secret Service with the U.S. Department of Education find that there is no single profile; rather, three basic types are (1) individuals so insane they don’t realize what they are doing, as in the Virginia Tech shooting; (2) psychopaths who are rational but lack empathy; and (3) the most common of the profiles, the clinically depressed, including some 6 percent of adolescents. Gun control is not enough: psychological counseling must play a larger part. Conservatives, elected or otherwise, who rail against “Obamacare” are not helping the children—not being pro-life, if you like—because among the provisions of Affordable Care Act are programs to expand psychological counseling services.

And Hollywood! Go to any local cinema, and if not the film you’re going to see, then in the previews you’ll see enough gunfire and explosions to simulate the “shock and awe” of the opening days of the Iraq War. These “big guns” are primarily aimed at men, of course. We don’t see the attraction, but many males of the species—most of whom have never served in the military or gone to war—seem to derive an almost sexual thrill from the gunfire and explosions. Hollywood executives, producers, agents, actors—dial it down. If citizen activists want to give liberal, activist actors such as Brad Pitt or George Clooney a good, life-affirming cause to champion, one that is closer to home and where they’ll likely have considerable influence, press them to reject films that glorify shooting, torture, and general mayhem. The Aurora, Colorado, massacre (July 20, 2012) on the opening night of The Dark Knight Rises appeared to us depressingly unsurprising, given the violence enacted in that entertainment. Twelve killed, 58 injured.

Studies disagree on whether the graphic ultraviolence in video games causes their “players” to go ballistic and kill people, but we’re convinced that these “games” (Resident Evil; Left 4 Dead; Grand Theft Auto, ad nauseam) at least contribute to a culture of glorifying violence and, at the very least, not exactly encouraging reconciliation and diplomacy.

Once again proving herself one of the true adults in Congress, California senator Dianne Feinstein has announced on Meet the Press that she will introduce a bill (with a counterpart in the House) to ban assault weapons. Senator Feinstein has some experience with the damage guns can do: In 1978, when she was president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, she was the first to discover the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk, and it was Ms. Feinstein who made the first public announcement of the killings. Please phone your support by calling Senator Feinstein’s office (202-224-3841), the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (202-224-3542; e-mail <senator_reid@reid.senate.gov>), and the White House (202-456-1111 ). Click here for more on positive signs for Feinstein’s bill.

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Think of the children most precious to you—your own daughter, a nephew, a neighbor’s or church friend’s cute twins—and then imagine Wayne LaPierre, CEO, executive vice president and chief political strategist of the National Rifle Association, or conservative members of Congress telling you that their lives are worth less than Americans’ second Amendment liberties. NRA president David A. Keene wrote after President Obama’s reelection, “We have to be prepared to fight him on each front, rally friendly elected officials, persuade those in the middle and let all of them know that gun owners will not stand idly by as our constitutional rights are stripped from us.” What would you tell them? Package that indignation and aim it constructively at your mayor, the president, and members of Congress who will listen and act.

There is a long and outrageous history of Republican opposition to any gun control measures, even after massacres. Unfortunately, Democrats have not been much more helpful, at least not in substantial, concentrated numbers. “Pro-life” conservatives love to say “protect life,” “protect the innocents,” but their concern often seems limited to one issue only, which makes us suspect their true intentions. Rep. Barney Frank used to say that for Republicans, life begins at conception and ends at birth. Now is a chance for Republicans to prove him wrong, if they can, if they will.

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Further Reading

A Guide to Mass Shootings in America (Mother Jones)

A 30-year timeline of mass shootings, with photos of the killers (Mother Jones)

A Morally Serious Videogame about Guns and Violence (Political Animal @ Washington Monthly)

Facts Behind the Tragedies (Political Animal @ Washington Monthly)

New York Times coverage of the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre

Nicholas Kristof (NYT): Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?

Mass Shootings: Maybe What We Need Is a Better Mental-Health Policy (Mother Jones)

 

 



Happy Thanksgiving to You: Much to Be Grateful For

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! We hope you and your friends and family have much to be thankful for this year, and that you’re able to spend the day with people you love. We wish you a festive gathering over a Thanksgiving dinner with good food and drink, and happy memories of the day.

Among the things we’re grateful for is the massive, energetic volunteerism by hundreds of thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds all over the USA to re-elect President Obama (more about this in a post to come) and to elect liberal and progressive Democrats to Congress, including many women. This engagement by young and old shows the power of the people—“citizens united” indeed—over big-dollar corporate influence, and we trust it will result in some good legislation, and defense against bad bills.

Just weeks after Superstorm Sandy battered the East Coast, we are thankful for a president whose administration is responsive to natural disasters (and proactive in preparing, too). We know from all-too-bitter experience that it doesn’t always happen this way. Proving that government can be a force for the public good—and that taxpayers’ dollars can help here at home—FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Guard and other agencies have been helping New Jersey, New York, and other areas rebuild from Sandy. We are also grateful to the many good-hearted volunteers who have contributed money and supplies and their own muscle to help people whose homes were destroyed or damaged.

Please consider making a donation to the Red Cross today. Click here or phone 1-800-HELPNOW or text “RedCross” to 90999. Even $5 or $10 can help buy food, water, bandages, batteries, blankets, and other necessities. Thank you.

We are also grateful, and relieved, that Israel and Hamas in Gaza have agreed to a cease-fire (thanks to persuasive intervention by President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi). We pray it lasts and that peacemakers may prevail (esp. in the proximity of already-burning Syria). For more about this situation and other Middle East affairs we recommend Prof. Juan Cole’s blog Informed Comment.

Showing Thanks to Veterans

Today, and so soon after Veterans Day, we don’t want to forget the millions of active-duty troops and the veterans who have fought in the wars since 2001. We opposed the second war and the prolongation of the first, but nevertheless we believe all the servicemen and women deserve good training, equipment, and excellent health care (physical and psychological) during and after their tours of duty. They deserve lifelong care.

This morning we did what we meant to do on Veterans Day: Donated again to the Iraq Veterans Against the War and to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). These organizations do good work and deserve the support of millions of civilians on whose behalf these veterans have served, risking their lives. If each one of us gives just $25—or even 10 or 20—that money can go a long way to helping veterans in need. Among other things, the groups are pressuring the shamefully tardy Veterans Administration and the U.S. Congress that funds it to move faster on processing veterans’ applications for health care. (See IAVA statement here.) The backlog is approaching 1 million claims, and many vets have to wait a year or more just to hear if they’re going to get help or not. Many members of Congress love to vote for wars; they just never want to pay for them.

See our blogroll, bottom right, under “Anti-War,” for links to IAVA, IVAW, and other organizations that work for veterans and their families. If you can, please make a contribution today.

Thanks.

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Thanks and Homage to President John F. Kennedy

One last thing: We cannot let the convergence of 11/22 and Thanksgiving go by without paying homage to one of our most admired presidents, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was slain on this day 49 years ago in Dallas. We are not referring to the “glamour” of the “Camelot” mythology, but rather to the president’s strong insistence on working for peace, for finding diplomatic solutions to crises whenever possible—the Cuban Missile Crisis is the example par excellence—and his (admittedly cautious) support for civil rights, among other deeds to be thankful for. Did we miss something, or were there not any commemorations, in print or elsewhere, of the successful averting of nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), whose 50th anniversary passed this October?

Below are a few words from his great commencement address at American University in June 1963, perhaps his clearest evocation of America’s responsibility and opportunity to set an example toward a more peaceful coexistence with the nations of this fragile planet:

What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children—not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women—not merely peace in our time but peace for all time. . . . 

Today the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of making sure we never need to use them is essential to keeping the peace. But surely the acquisition of such idle stockpiles—which can only destroy and never create–is not the only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace. 

I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men. I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war—and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task. . . . 

So, let us not be blind to our differences—but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal. . . . 

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See last year’s tribute to President Kennedy here.

For a generous sampling of President Kennedy’s speeches, we recommend the book + CD Let Every Nation Know: John F. Kennedy in His Own Words by Robert Dallek and Terry Golway (2006). Each of 34 speeches is introduced, but transcripts are not provided. For transcripts, see the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum, under the tab “JFK.”

We highly recommend James W. Douglass’s JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters (2010), with special emphasis on his often behind-the-scenes efforts toward peace.

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