Twenty-seven psychiatrists and mental health experts have produced a book called The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, which I think, despite stating that the fate of the world is in the hands of an evil madman, understates the danger.
The case that these authors make is one that I believe would strike most readers not loyal to Trump as common sense. The evidence that they compile, and with which we’re mostly already familiar, strongly supports their diagnosis of Trump as hedonistic, narcissistic, bullying, dehumanizing, lying, misogynistic, paranoid, racist, self-aggrandizing, entitled, exploiting, empathy-impaired, unable to trust, free of guilt, manipulative, delusional, likely senile, and overtly sadistic. They also describe the tendency of some of these traits to grow ever worse through reinforcing cycles that seem to be underway. People, they suggest, who grow addicted to feeling special, and who indulge in paranoia can create circumstances for themselves that cause them to increase these tendencies.
As the Justice Department closes in on Trump, writes Gail Sheehy, “Trump’s survival instincts will propel him to a wag-the-dog war.” Of course, this builds in the assumptions that Trump stole the election and that we will all remain dogs, that we will start approving of Trump if he starts bombing more people. Certainly this has been the U.S. corporate media’s approach thus far. But need it be ours? The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists disapproves and has moved the doomsday clock closer to zero. The Council on Foreign Relations has begun listing the United States as a top threat to the United States. A Congressional committee has held a hearing on the danger of a Trumpian nuclear war (even while feigning impotence to do anything about it). It’s not beyond the realm of imagination that the U.S. public could refuse to cheer for more mass murder.
In this regard, certainly most past presidents have been more successful, not less, than Trump at what Robert J. Lifton calls the normalization of evil. He gives as an example the creation of the acceptance of torture. And certainly we’ve moved from Bush Jr. secretly torturing to Obama refusing to prosecute to Trump publicly supporting torture. But many still deem torture unacceptable. Hence this book’s assumption that the reader will agree that torture is evil. But murder by bomb or drone missile has been so normalized, including by Barack “I’m really good at killing people” Obama, that it’s passed over by this book as simply normal. Lifton does refer to the normalization of a nuclear threat during the (previous) Cold War, but seems to believe that phenomenon to be a problem of the past rather than one so successfully normalized that people don’t see it anymore.
Most of the symptoms found in Trump have existed in various degrees and combinations in past presidents and in past and current Congress members. But some of the symptoms seem to serve only as icing. That is, alone they are deemed unobjectionable, but in combination with others they point to severe sociopathy. Obama switched positions, lied, schemed, falsely marketed wars, reveled in the commission of murder, joked about using drone missiles on his daughter’s boyfriends, etc. But he spoke well, used a better vocabulary, avoided blatant racism, sexism, and personal bullying, didn’t seem to worship himself, didn’t brag about sexual assault, and so on.
My point, I very much wish it were needless to say, is not the equivalence of any president with another, but the normalization of illnesses in society as much as in individuals. This book goes after Trump for falsely claiming that Obama was spying on him. Yet the unconstitutional blanket surveillance of the NSA effectively means that Obama was indeed spying on everyone, including Trump. Sure, Trump was lying. Sure, Trump was paranoid. But if we avoid the larger reality, we’re lying too.
The symptoms from which Trump suffers may be taken as a guide to action by his followers, but they have long been understood to be an outline of the techniques of war propaganda. Dehumanization may be something Trump suffers from, but it’s also a necessary skill in persuading people to participate in war. Trump was given the presidential nomination by media outlets that asked primary candidates questions that included “Would you be willing to kill hundreds and thousands of innocent children?” Had a candidate said no, he or she would have been disqualified. The authors fault Trump for his joining the long list of presidents who have threatened to use nukes, but when Jeremy Corbyn said he wouldn’t use nukes, all hell broke loose in the UK, and his mental state was called into question there. Alzheimer’s may be a disease afflicting Trump, but when Bernie Sanders mentioned important bits of history like a coup in Iran in ’53, the television networks found something else to cover.
Is it possible that refusing to confront reality has been normalized so deeply that the authors join in it, or are required to by their agent or editor? Academic studies say the U.S. government is an oligarchy. These doctors say they want to defend the U.S. “democracy” from Trump. This book identifies Vladimir Putin as being essentially the same as Adolf Hitler, based on zero offered evidence, and treats Trump denials of colluding with Russia to steal an election as signs of dishonesty or delusion. But how do we explain most members of the Democratic Party believing in Russiagate without proof? How do we explain Iran being voted the biggest threat to peace in the world by Americans, while people in most countries, according to Gallup and Pew, give that honor to the United States? What are we to make of the vast majority of Americans claiming to “believe in” “God” and denying the existence of death? Isn’t climate denial child’s play beside that one, if we set aside the factor of normalization?
If a corporation or an empire or an athlete or a Hollywood action film were a person, it might be Donald Trump. But we all live in the world of corporations, empire, etc. We also apparently live in a world in which numerous men enjoy abusing women. That all these sexual harassers in the news, some of whom I am guessing are innocent but most of whom appear guilty, have convinced themselves that women don’t really mind the abuse can, I think, be only a small part of the explanation. The large part seems quite clearly to be that we live in a country of sadists. And shouldn’t they get a chance to elect someone who represents their point of view? Trump has been a public figure for decades, and most of his symptoms are nothing new, but he’s been protected and even rewarded throughout. Trump incites violence on Twitter, but Twitter will not disable Trump’s account. Congress is staring numerous documented impeachable offenses in the face, but chooses to look into only the one that lacks evidence but fuels war. The media, as noted, while remarkably improving on its enabling deference, still seems to give Trump the love he craves only when he brags about bombing people.
The U.S. Constitution is and has always been deeply flawed in many ways, but it did not intend to give any individual beyond-royal powers over the earth. I’ve always viewed the obsession with the emperor that this article I’m now writing feeds as part of the problem of transferring power to him. But the authors of The Dangerous Case are right that we have no choice but to focus on him now. All we’d need would be a Cuban Missile Crisis and our fate would be sealed. The Emperor Formerly Known As Executive should be given the powers of the British queen, not be replaced by an acceptable Democratic emperor. The first step should be using the Constitution.
Similar analyses of George W. Bush’s mental health, not to mention a laundry list of abuses and crimes, never resulted in any action against him. And despite this new book’s claim to defend “democracy” it does not use the word “impeachment.” Instead, it turns to the 25th Amendment which allows the president’s own subordinates to ask Congress to remove him from office. Perhaps because the likelihood of that happening is so extreme, and because further stalling and protecting of Trump is naturally a means of appearing “reasonable,” the authors propose a study be done (even though they’ve just written a book) and that it be done by Congress. But if Congress were to take up this matter, it could impeach Trump and remove him without asking permission of his cabinet or doing any investigations. In fact, it could impeach him for any of a number of the behaviors that are studied in this book.
The authors note that Trump has encouraged imitation of his outrages. We’ve seen that here in Charlottesville. They note that he’s also created the Trump Anxiety Disorder in those he frightens. I’m 100% on board with treating fear as a symptom to be cured.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
Not even a year has passed since Donald Trump’s election victory. Yet already, his over-the-top, pugnacious rhetoric and actions have exacerbated Washington’s conflict with North Korea to the point where some observers are comparing it to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.1 But how are people being educated and informed about this crisis in the mass media? We are shown bountiful coverage of North Korean problems, such as Kim Jong-un’s own over-the top rhetoric, his government’s human rights violations, rapid development of nuclear missiles, and soldiers goose stepping, but hardly any coverage of American problems, such as our history of aggression on the Korean Peninsula, the “Military-Industrial Complex” that President Eisenhower warned about in 1961, and the ways in which Washington has been intimidating Pyongyang. Below is an outline of some myths that must be dispelled if Americans are to gain some basic understanding U.S.-North Korea relations today and if they are to feel motivated to pressure their government to negotiate a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Myth Number 1: North Korea is the aggressor, not us; they are the problem
No. Most serious international relations experts would say that Washington’s past actions have been a major cause of the present crisis, if not the main cause. Yet the impression that many people are naturally left with after watching the news on TV is that North Korea is the problem; their belligerent behavior, especially their constantly conducting missile and nuclear bomb tests, has brought this crisis about. While Washington might not always be portrayed as completely innocent, North Korea is viewed as the main one doing the provoking and escalating the tensions. Let us dispel this myth first.
Undeniably the corporate mass media tend to portray the United States as a cautious and responsible member of the “international community,” and the government of North Korea as the one doing the provoking. But before and during the Korean War that ended in 1953, during the 64 years that have passed since the fighting was temporarily halted, and even during the rising tension during the last year between the United States and North Korea, the U.S. has always been the aggressor. As Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated, the U.S. is the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” That was true in his time and it is now. In the case of North Korea, the importance of its governments’ focus on violence is given recognition with the term “garrison state.” This is how Bruce Cumings, the most prominent historian of modern Korea, categorizes it. This term recognizes the fact that the people of North Korea spend a lot of their time preparing for war. That is true. And none of us wish we could live there. But no one calls North Korea the “greatest purveyor of violence.”
Guess which country has engaged in the most overseas wars and invaded the most countries since the Korean War ended: the United States. Guess how many overseas military bases North Korea has: Zero. Guess how many the United States has: Hundreds. Guess how many aircraft carriers North Korea has: Zero. Guess how many nuclear weapons the United States has: Thousands. With just a little thought and study, anyone with Internet or library access can figure out for themselves that there is no question that the U.S. is more powerful, both economically and militarily.
As we seek to understand this reclusive state, let us keep in mind that violence is a weapon of the strong against the weak. It is not a first-choice option for weak states against strong states, just as it is not for women and children trying to solve conflicts with big, strong men. This is not to say that the weaker party never resorts to violence, just that he/she/it will first attempt to solve conflicts non-violently with the stronger party before taking a huge gamble on a probably unsuccessful attempt to physically overpower them.
Let us compare the acts of aggression on the part of Pyongyang with those of Washington. First, I list 10 examples of Washington’s aggression below. Many American readers will be surprised to learn of this violence, both real and symbolic, that has been committed in our name:
1. Contrary to his image as a peace-loving politician, former president Barack Obama promoted nuclear weapons development in a way that has threatened and will continue to threaten all rivals of the U.S., including North Korea, by building America’s “first precision-guided atom bomb,” i.e., a smaller type of nuclear missile that can hit its target extra accurately. Gen. James E. Cartwright, one of Obama’s “most influential nuclear strategists,” favored this investment in American nuclear weapons technology, but even he admitted that “going smaller” makes use of the weapon “more thinkable.” (My italics).
Another investment in a new, dangerous, and geopolitically de-stabilizing nuclear weapons technology, one that few journalists have paid attention to, is a new “super-fuze” device that is being used to upgrade old W76-1/Mk4A thermonuclear warheads and is now probably deployed on all US ballistic missile submarines. It apparently greatly increases the destructive power of nuclear missiles by allowing warheads to detonate above targets at just the right moment. This is outlined in an article that came out earlier this year by the nuclear weapons policy researcher Hans M. Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council Matthew McKinzie, and the physicist and nuclear weapons systems expert at M.I.T. Theodore Postol: “The US submarine force today is much more capable than it was previously against hardened targets such as Russian ICBM silos. A decade ago, only about 20 percent of US submarine warheads had hard-target kill capability; today they all do.” The “nuclear forces modernization program” sponsored by Obama “implemented revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the US ballistic missile arsenal. This increase in capability is astonishing—boosting the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three—and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.” (My italics). This threatens Russia since all their ICBMs could be destroyed, and indirectly it threatens North Korea, since Russia is one country that could conceivably come to its aid in the event of a U.S. invasion.
This is the result of Obama’s spending American tax dollars on a “plan to ‘modernize’ our nuclear arsenal at the unfathomable cost of about $1 trillion over the next 30 years.” During a time when many Americans were tightening their belts, Obama dedicated $1 trillion to technologies that increase the likelihood of nuclear war in general and threaten North Korea and other countries instead of spending that money on relief, education, health care, and other benefits to such Americans. (This will be Obama’s legacy—committing Washington and our economy to nuclear weapons in the years to come. No wonder President Trump is jealous—that his predecessor could do that and come off as a liberal humanitarian). Of course, Russian generals will be aware of these U.S. weapons capabilities, and they will be more likely to keep their “finger on the trigger,” knowing that a U.S. first strike could be so deadly.
2. Last year during the election, even before Donald Trump became president, he made the shocking suggestion that maybe Japan and South Korea should build their own nuclear weapons. Once Donald Trump had won the election, it became more likely that a nuclear arms race would ensue, or be accelerated (unless Obama had already accelerated it). It was not the first time that North Korea would have been concerned about South Korean nuclear weapons development. Under the American-backed dictator Park Chung Hee (1917-1979), Seoul began developing them in the mid- 1970s. The project was supposedly stopped, but South Korea already has conventional long-range missiles today that can hit anywhere in North Korea’s territory, and the conventional warheads on those missiles could easily be refitted with nuclear warheads.
3. In April of this year Washington deployed the THAAD (terminal high area altitude defense) system in spite of intense opposition from South Korean citizens. It is only supposed to intercept North Korean incoming ballistic missiles on their downward descent, but Chinese officials in Beijing worry that the real purpose of THAAD is to “track missiles launched from China” since THAAD has surveillance capabilities. One can say, therefore, that THAAD threatens North Korea directly and indirectly, by threatening an ally of North Korea.
4. Also in April, Washington sent a submarine equipped with nuclear missiles close to the Korean Peninsula on the very day of the celebration of the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army.
5. North Korea is constantly under threat from the militaries of the U.S., South Korea, and increasingly Japan, through frequent military exercises such as the annual “massive sea, land and air exercises” in South Korea called “Ulchi Freedom Guardian” involving tens of thousands of troops. Not wasting an opportunity to intimidate Pyongyang, these were carried out in 21-31 August 2017 in spite of the rising tension. “Continual economic, propaganda, and psychological warfare” is also conducted against them.
6. In early September 2017 “a provocative idea at a dangerous time,” a new way to threaten North Korea was discussed with the government of South Korea: putting nukes back in South Korea, where Washington had once stockpiled them during the Cold War. Although Washington was not supposed to introduce any qualitatively new weaponry to the Korean Peninsula according to the armistice that Washington signed on 27 July 1953, in 1958 it went ahead and introduced nuclear missiles to the Peninsula. A year later it “permanently stationed a squadron of nuclear- tipped Matador cruise missiles” there. These were aimed not only at North Korea but also at China and the USSR, who were North Korean allies. These and other later-installed nuclear weapons were removed in 1991 because they were obsolete, not because they violated the agreement that Washington had signed. 70 nuclear artillery shells, large numbers of “ADMs” (atomic demolition mines, which were designed to contaminate areas of South Korea in order to stop an armored attack from North Korean forces) and 60 nuclear gravity bombs were among the obsolete weapons that were replaced with more effective, high-yield, conventional weapons.
7. On 11 September 2017 the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2375. This increase in the severity of the ongoing economic sanctions will cause many innocent civilians to freeze to death this winter, without contributing to changes in Pyongyang’s policies and without doing anything to prevent the restart of the Korean War. Washington and Tokyo have tried similar tactics before, such as tying their food aid to politics. Tokyo ended their food aid to “famine-stricken North Korea” in the late 1990s. Between 1995 and 1997 there was a famine in which 2 to 3 million people, out of a population of 23 million, died as a result of food shortages. North Korea is mainly mountainous; there is little quality farmland, so during famines it is difficult to increase food production. The U.S. basically did the same thing. As Bruce Cumings wrote in 1997, “Kim Jong Il’s failed Utopia contains 23 million innocent people who need to be fed” but even American food aid to North Korea was “much too little.” That is the kind of strategy pursued by Washington and Tokyo for helping North Koreans struggle against the dictatorship and build a democratic government. But widespread starvation is not really a common feature of effective democratic movements.
As South Korea’s chief negotiator to the Six Party Talks Chun Youngwoo wrote, “Pressure and sanctions tend to reinforce the regime rather than weaken it.” This is because under pressure and sanctions, North Korea is “besieged, squeezed, strangled and cornered by hostile powers,” and it is precisely under such conditions that militarism thrives and democracy wanes. Try normalizing Pyongyang, and what you will get is the present government being put under the spotlight, where they will be forced to respond to the “demands of their people for improved living conditions and greater freedoms.”
But if improved living conditions and freedom led to democracy in North Korea, such a change would endanger the nineteenth-century-style, imperialist, “Open Door” fantasy that guides Washington’s international relations policies in East Asia. That fantasy, according to Paul Atwood, has been to gain “untrammeled right of entry into the marketplaces of all nations and territories and access to their resources and cheaper labor power on American terms, sometimes diplomatically, often by armed violence.” He provides a very brief and useful summary of the history of American geopolitical maneuvering in East Asia as it relates to Korea. This should have been on page 1 of the “Modern Korea” section in our high school history textbooks. U.S. policy towards Korea has always been about China and, as he explains, for the last two centuries there has been an “obsession” among the American elite business class with “opening” China. Faced with two possible paths in East Asia, either continuing to pursue the Open Door fantasy, or building through diplomacy a non-nuclear future in which homo sapiens might survive, Washington is once more taking the former path. A nuclear-free Korean Peninsula would give Americans more safety and security, too, but that is also a lower priority for Washington than profits for stockholders, CEOs, and the like.
8. Washington frequently sends its bombers to fly by North Korean airspace and scare North Koreans, such as on 24 September.
The above eight types of acts of provocation are very recent developments. The final two in this list below were done long ago, but they are surely remembered in North Korea, and thus continue to have an effect today.
9. Invading the DMZ. In 1976 a group of American and South Korean soldiers entered the “DMZ” (Demilitarized Zone), the forbidden buffer zone dividing the two countries, in order to cut down one poplar tree that was blocking their view of the North. This almost got the war going again.
10. Last but not least, there was the Korean War. This civil war did not end with a peace treaty and a process of reconciliation but only an armistice in 1953. The armistice left open the possibility of the War being restarted at any time. This fact, that the war did not result in a peaceful resolution of the civil conflict, is only one of its tragedies. It must be considered one of the most brutal wars in modern times. With the armistice, Koreans both north and south have been able to enjoy some peace, but their peace has been temporary and uncertain.
America killed millions of civilians on the Korean Peninsula, north and south, largely through aerial bombing. These attacks “hardly left a modern building standing.” Many villages were “washed downstream” by dams that were bombed in Kusong and Toksan (a recognized war crime), and even the capital city of Pyongyang, 27 miles away, was badly flooded. The “barbaric air war” destroyed “huge irrigation dams that provided water for 75 percent of the North’s food production.”
This near obliteration of infrastructure in Korea and the resultant suffering must remain deeply entrenched in the memories of North Koreans. As a result of the War, Koreans in the north have had to live continuously under the military hierarchy and oppression of a “garrison state.” Cumings employs the following definition: one in which the “specialists on violence are the most powerful group in society.”
Now as to the list of Pyongyang’s provocative actions, I lied. I am not going to bother writing about those because, well, most readers will already be familiar with them. Just do a search on the term “North Korea” on the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post. We are well- informed about the wrongs done to us by other states, but have been kept in the dark about our own government’s wrongs. Such wrongs are “ours” in the sense that they have been committed in our name by Washington, even if we did not know about them.
What does Pyongyang want? Here are some of the key changes in the international relations of that government that it has demanded in the past: 1. A peace treaty with the U.S., the natural next step after the armistice that ended the Korean War 2. An end to threats from Washington 3. Recognition of its government
Myth Number 2: Beijing holds the key to resolving the present crisis
No. Washington does. Washington is the powerful aggressor on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea is a problem of Washington’s making. In fact, it should be referred to as the “American problem” rather than the “Korean problem,” as Gavan McCormack has pointed out. The term “the North Korean problem,” he writes, “commonly assumes North Korean aggression, irrationality, nuclear obsession and repression, and contrasts it with the United States’ rational, human rights based, globally responsible character. To thus shrink the framework of the problem, however, is to ignore the matrix of a century’s history—colonialism, division, ideological conflict, half a century of Korean War, Cold War as well as nuclear proliferation and intimidation, and to ignore what I have referred to as the U.S.’s aggressive, militarist hegemonism and contempt for international law.” McCormack rightly questions the way that the whole country has been “denounced in fundamentalist terms as ‘evil.’” Former president George W. Bush created the cartoonish category “the Axis of Evil,” and portrayed North Korea this way, along with Iraq and Iran. Without a critical investigation into this claim, many people who lack a basic understanding of modern Korean history readily buy into this easy simplification of the problem, as McCormack’s article demonstrates.
Anyone can see that the government based in Pyongyang violates the rights of its citizens in terrible ways, but people who sincerely seek peace on the Korean Peninsula and who wish to avoid a nuclear conflict and a possible World War III, must study a little history and acquire an adult view of the country, especially one that distinguishes between the actions of the military dictatorship that rules the country and the actions of ordinary citizens.
China certainly has a role to play but this is the “America problem” of the Korean Peninsula, and it is fair to point the finger at Washington. The American election system produced a winner and installed Donald Trump as president. He ramped up the tension with Pyongyang instead of talking to them as he said he would. And so here we are. The people of other nations have some role to play, but no matter how much we would like to ignore this crisis, it is we Americans who have to rise to the occasion, and stop this saber rattling in East Asia before it gets out of hand. As we know from Asia- Pacific War history, once the mad genie Mr. War is out of the bottle, it is very hard to put him back in.
Myth Number 3: Washington keeps its promises
No. Pyongyang has been better about keeping its promises than Washington. Making deals with Washington is frustrating for other states because it so often does not keep its promises. Just ask Native Americans. Ask their opinion of Washington’s trustworthiness when it comes to treaties. Washington violated virtually every treaty signed with Native Americans.
For a recent example of not honoring international agreements, consider the Trump’s about face on the Paris Climate Accord that was signed under the Obama administration.
Specifically, with respect to North Korea in recent decades, Washington repeatedly violated one important agreement. In line with a deal made under the Clinton administration, Pyongyang suspended its plutonium production from 1994 to 2002. Under this deal Pyongyang and Washington had also promised to not bear “hostile intent” toward each other. Pyongyang kept up its side of the bargain, but when George Bush lumped North Korea in with the “Axis of Evil” and announced a new policy of using preemptive strikes as a defense against an immediate threat to the security of the United States, the deal was off. Bush not only verbally threatened North Korea in this way, he demonstrated his resolve by invading Iraq, in violation of international law. Iraq was not an immediate threat to the U.S. Up until that point, i.e., that violation of the agreement with North Korea, a non-nuclear North Korea had been possible, if not a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. And this stands up to common sense—that the weaker state would have an interest in upholding promises than the stronger state. Why wouldn’t Pyongyang hold on to the possibility of peace with Washington for as long as possible? Again, violence is a weapon of the powerful.
Myth Number 4: War on the Korean Peninsula is thinkable
No. It is unthinkable. National security adviser H.R. McMaster said on 15 September, “For those who have said…commenting about the lack of a military option, there is a military option.” (His emphasis). McMaster may say so, and the Trump administration may be laying plans in the hopes of implementing a military solution, which is usually the U.S.’s ace card, but war on the Korean Peninsula is simply unthinkable. Many experts have emphasized that even with just the conventional weapons, an unacceptable number of South Koreans and Americans would die, and an unacceptable level of destruction would occur. If such a war spread to Japan or China or other countries, their citizens also would die in large numbers. There would be a high chance of nuclear weapons being employed. That could cause irreparable harm to our planet’s environment, causing suffering for many generations in the future, not only our generation.
Myth Number 5: The UN Security Council represents the will of the “international community”
No. They do not even represent the governments of the world, let alone the governed of the world—you and me. In other words, even if all the governments of the world were perfectly democratic, the Council would not represent the “international community.” Only states with nukes have veto power on the Council. It is obviously biased in favor of governments with nukes. The “Nuke Haves” want to hold onto theirs, and keep others from getting them. It is the “Nuke Have-nots” who want to purge the world of them, as we saw in the recent treaty banning nukes, known as the “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.” Even Tokyo, representing the only country to be attacked with nukes, did not support the Treaty. The fact that Japan enjoys the protection of Nuke Have Number One and has a military that is increasingly integrated with their military, and that Japan’s government is currently headed by an ultranationalist prime minister, are a few reasons one might imagine as to why Tokyo did not support it. The UN Security Council is the exclusive Club of imperial Nuke Haves. What it is doing is clamping crippling sanctions on North Korea, a newcomer knocking on the Club’s door. The Club does not wish to share its privileges with any other states. It is not a coincidence that none of the Nuke Haves signed on to the treaty to ban nukes, and almost all the Nuke Have-nots who also have no state sheltering them with a nuclear umbrella, did approve of it.
Myth Number 6: Americans understand how terrible a nuclear war would be
No. Americans as well as people in many other countries know little to nothing about what happens when a nuclear bomb is dropped on a city. Naturally, Japanese are much better informed about the effects of the atomic bombing of the major cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki than Americans. Many Americans who visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum speak of feeling great shock and emotional stress when they first go to the Museum and learn about the victims of the nuclear bombs that their government mercilessly dropped on civilians in August 1945. We were taught in school that these two bombings were humanitarian acts that ended the War quickly, saving the lives of both Japanese and Americans. But there is no question that the Nagasaki bombing was morally indefensible and unnecessary since it was committed only three days after the first bombing. Even the bombing of Hiroshima was arguably a war crime. One of the primary requests of the survivors is encapsulated in the anti-nuke chant, “No more Hiroshimas! No more Nagasakis!” The A-bomb victims (hibakusha in Japanese) themselves and people close to them generally express the hope that there will never be a full-blown nuclear war.
Imagine if the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians killed in the initial bombing and aftermath were able to speak to the living today. What would they say now, at a point in history when we homo sapiens are at the “brink of global catastrophe,” i.e., a tragedy of unprecedented scale in which Washington’s greed and bullying on one side and Pyongyang’s resorting to the “nuclear deterrent” on the other lead to a nuclear war? One can only imagine their shock and anger that in 2017 such a catastrophe was still in the cards. They would certainly agree wholeheartedly with the “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” and would urge us to work hard to ban nukes. They would be overjoyed to see that 122 countries, the majority of the world’s countries, just banned nukes, even if the countries with nukes did not participate and still do not show any inclination to relinquish them. They would see the Treaty as a first step towards complete abolition. They would urge us to keep pushing until all the world’s countries had signed it and it was implemented. They also would support the bold initiative of World Beyond War to ban not only nuclear weapons but war in general.
Opening debate remarks by David Swanson at the University of Pennsylvania on September 21, 2017, on the following proposition: “Are America’s wars in Syria and Afghanistan just and necessary or have we lost our way in the use of military force, including drone weaponry, in conducting US foreign policy?”
Wow, I’ve already gotten more applause than Trump got for his whole speech at the UN.
U.S. wars and bombings in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and the Philippines, and threats to North Korea are unjust, unnecessary, immoral, illegal, extremely costly in several ways, and counterproductive on their own terms.
The idea of a just war comes down to us over some 1600 years from people whose worldview we share in almost no other way. Just war criteria come in three types: non-empirical, impossible, and amoral.
The Non-Empirical Criteria: A just war is supposed to have the right intention, a just cause, and proportionality. But these are devices of rhetoric. When your government says bombing a building where ISIS stashes money justifies killing up to 50 people, there’s no agreed upon, empirical means to reply No, only 49, or only 6, or up to 4,097 people can be justly killed. Identifying a government’s intention is far from simple, and attaching a just cause like ending slavery to a war doesn’t make that cause inherent to that war. Slavery can be ended in many ways, while no war has ever been fought for a single reason. If Myanmar had more oil we’d be hearing about genocide prevention as a just cause for invading, and no doubt worsening, the crisis.
The Impossible Criteria: A just war is supposed to be a last resort, have a reasonable prospect of success, keep noncombatants immune from attack, respect enemy soldiers as human beings, and treat prisoners of war as noncombatants. None of these things are even possible. To call something a “last resort” is in reality merely to claim it is the best idea you have, not the only idea you have. There are always other ideas that anyone can think of. Every time we urgently need to bomb Iran or we’re all going to die, and we don’t, and we don’t, the urgency of the next demand to bomb Iran loses a bit of its shine and the infinite options of other things to do become a little easier to see. If war really were the only idea you had, you wouldn’t be debating ethics, you’d be running for Congress.
What about respecting a person while trying to kill her or him? There are lots of ways to respect a person, but none of them can exist simultaneously with trying to kill that person. Remember that Just War theory began with people who believed killing someone was doing them a favor. Noncombatants are the majority of casualties in modern wars, so they cannot be kept safe, but they are not locked in cages, so prisoners cannot be treated like noncombatants while imprisoned.
The Amoral Criteria: Just wars are supposed to be publicly declared and waged by legitimate and competent authorities. These are not moral concerns. Even in a world where we had legitimate and competent authorities, they wouldn’t make a war any more or less just.
Now, we can examine any number of specific wars, and with most of them in a matter of minutes arrive at the conclusion that, well, this war isn’t just but some other war could be. The Afghan government was willing to turn Osama bin Laden over to a third country to be put on trial. The U.S. preferred a war. Most people in Afghanistan not only hadn’t had anything to do with 9/11 but still haven’t heard of it to this day. If planning 9/11 in Afghanistan was grounds for 16 years of destroying Afghanistan, why not even a little bombing of Europe? Why no bombing of Florida? Or of that hotel in Maryland near the NSA? There’s a popular myth that the UN authorized attacking Afghanistan. It didn’t. After 16 years of killing and torturing and destroying, Afghanistan is poorer and more violent, and the United States more hated.
Syria was on a list of governments to be overthrown by the U.S. for many years, and the U.S. working on that for the past decade. ISIS came out of the U.S.-led war on Iraq, which (along with wars on Yemen and Syria, and with many parties to blame) has to rank high on a list of crimes this century. ISIS allowed the U.S. to escalate its role in Syria, but on both sides of the same war. We’ve had Pentagon trained and armed troops fighting those trained and armed by the CIA. We’ve read in the New York Times that the Israeli government prefers neither side win. We’ve watched the U.S. reject numerous peace efforts over the years, preferring war. And beyond killing, injury, destruction, starvation, and disease epidemics what is there to show for it?
North Korea was willing to make agreements and abide by them 20 years ago, and, contrary to some U.S. reporting, is open to negotiations now. The people of South Korea are eager for the United States to agree to talks. One man burned himself to death on Tuesday in opposition to more U.S. weapons in South Korea. But the U.S. government has declared diplomacy impossible in order to threaten its preferred “last resort.” Trump told the UN on Tuesday that if North Korea misbehaved, “We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea” — not just war but the total destruction of 25 million people. John McCain’s preferred word is “extermination.” Within 60 seconds, Trump went on to demand action against Iran on the grounds that Iran supposedly openly threatens mass murder.
Some wars won’t fit into these opening remarks. I’d like to be permitted at least 5 whole minutes on Rwanda, 10 on the American Revolution or Civil War, and 30 on World War II, which — in fairness — you have probably all consumed thousands of hours of propaganda on. Or, even better for us all, I could shut up and you could just read my books.
But once you’ve agreed that a lot of the wars are not just, once you know enough about how wars are carefully started and peace avoided at great effort so that you can laugh or perhaps cry at Ken Burns’ claim that what the Vietnamese call the American War was begun in “good faith,” it becomes harder to claim that any of the other wars are just, even the ones you start out thinking of that way. Here’s why.
War is an institution, the biggest, most costly one around. The U.S. puts about $1 trillion a year into war, roughly equal to the rest of the world combined — and most of the rest of the world is U.S. allies and weapons customers that the U.S. actively lobbies to spend more. Tens of billions could end starvation, the lack of clean water, or various diseases globally. Just the amount that Congress has just increased military spending this week could solve such global crises AND, as a bonus, make college free in the United States. Hundreds of billions could give us a fighting chance against climate change if redirected. The top way in which war kills is by diverting resources. War (and I use the term as shorthand for war and war preparations, with the latter being the most costly in many ways) is the biggest destroyer of the natural environment, the biggest cause of militarized police and eroded rights, a major generator of bigotry and justification for authoritarian and secret government. And with war spending come all the unjust wars.
So a just war, to justify the existence of the institution of war, would have to outweigh the damage of the diversion of resources away from good works, the further financial costs of lost opportunities, the trillions of dollars in property destruction resulting from wars, the unjustness of the unjust wars, the risk of nuclear apocalypse, the environmental damage, the governmental damage, and the societal damage of war culture. No war can be that just, certainly not wars fought by the war giant of the world. The United States could start a reverse arms race quite easily. By steps we could move toward a world in which people found it easier to recognize the meaning of nonviolent successes. The meaning of those successes is this: you do not need war to defend yourself. You can use the tools of nonviolent resistance, noncooperation, moral and economic and diplomatic and judicial and communication powers.
But the belief that you do need war, and that attacking oil-rich countries has something to do with protecting people goes a long way toward endangering you instead. Gallup polling finds the U.S. government believed by majorities around the world to be the top threat to peace on earth. For another country, let’s say Canada, to generate anti-Canadian terrorist networks on a U.S. scale, it would have to bomb and kill and occupy a lot of people. But once it did, the payoff would be huge, because it could point to those enemies of Canada as justification for more and bigger weapons and campaigns to generate yet more enemies, and so on. Those enemies would be real, and their actions really immoral, but keeping the vicious cycle spinning at a proper speed would depend on exaggerating their threat dramatically.
If the U.S. were to join international treaties, engage in disarmament, provide aid on a fraction of the scale at which it provides war making, and pursue diplomatic paths toward peace, the world would not be paradise tomorrow, but our speed toward the edge of the approaching cliff would slow considerably.
One of the many significant ways in which war hurts us is by hurting the rule of law. It is a carefully kept secret, but the world banned all war in 1928 in a treaty that was used to prosecute the losers of World War II and which is still on the books. The Kellogg-Briand Pact, as recently documented by Scott Shapiro and Oona Hathaway, transformed the world. War was legal in 1927. Both sides of a war were legal. Atrocities committed during wars were almost always legal. The conquest of territory was legal. Burning and looting and pillaging were legal. War was, in fact, not just legal; it was itself understood to be law enforcement. War could be used to attempt to right any perceived injustice. The seizing of other nations as colonies was legal. The motivation for colonies to try to free themselves was weak because they were likely to be seized by some other nation if they broke free from their current oppressor. The vast majority of conquests since 1928 have been undone based on 1928 boundaries. New smaller nations unafraid of conquest have multiplied. The UN Charter of 1945 re-legalized war if it was labeled defensive or UN-authorized. Current U.S. wars are not UN-authorized, and if any wars are not defensive then wars on impoverished small countries halfway around the globe must be in that category.
But, since 1945, war has generally been considered illegal unless the United States does it. Since World War II, during what many U.S. academics call an unprecedented golden age of peace, the United States military has killed some 20 million people, overthrown at least 36 governments, interfered in at least 82 foreign elections, attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders, and dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries. With U.S. troops in 175 nations according to U.S. sports announcers, the U.S. president went to the UN on Tuesday and demanded respect for sovereign nations, blamed the UN for not achieving peace, threatened war in violation of the UN Charter, and mocked the UN for putting Saudi Arabia on its human rights council while clearly quite proud of the U.S. role in helping Saudi Arabia kill huge numbers of people in Yemen. Last year a debate moderator asked U.S. presidential candidates if they’d be willing to kill hundreds and thousands of innocent children as part of their basic duties. Other countries don’t ask that question and would be demonized if they did. So, we have a problem of double-standards, exactly what Robert Jackson claimed at Nuremberg would not be so.
No Congress or president has any power to make any war legal. A single nuclear bomb could kill us all through its climate impact, completely regardless of whether Congress authorizes it. U.S. wars violate the Peace Pact of 1928, the UN Charter, and the U.S. Constitution. A vague Authorization to Use Military Force also violates the Constitution. Yet when members of the House this year tried to vote un repealing an AUMF, the so-called leadership did not allow a vote. When the Senate held such a vote, just over a third of the Senate voted to repeal, and most of them because they wanted to create a new AUMF instead.
I haven’t said a lot about drones, because I think the essential problem of sanctioning murder is not a problem of technology. But what drones, and other technologies do, is make murder easier, easier to do in secret, easier to do quickly, easier to do in more locations. The pretense of President Obama and of military-backed propaganda films like Eye in the Sky that drones are only used to kill those who cannot be captured, those who are guilty of some kind of crime, those who are immediate threats to the US of A, those who can be killed with no risk of killing anyone else in the process — that’s all a demonstrable pack of lies. Most people targeted are not even identified by name, none of them have been charged with a crime, in no known case could they demonstrably not be captured, in many cases they could simply have been arrested quite easily, innocents have been slaughtered by the thousands, even Hollywood could not concoct a fictional immediate threat to the United States, and the drone wars are the height of counterproductive blowback creation. One does not hear Obama praising his successful drone war on Yemen very much these days.
But if we’re not going to pick men, women, and children on Tuesdays to murder with missiles from drones then what should we do instead?
NOT pick men, women, and children on Tuesdays to murder with missiles from drones.
Also, join and support international conventions on human rights, children’s rights, weapons bans, the new treaty banning the possession of nukes (only one nation that has nukes voted to start that treaty process, but you wouldn’t believe me if I named it), join the International Criminal Court, stop selling weapons to future enemies, stop selling weapons to dictatorships, stop giving weapons away, stop buying weapons that have no defensive purpose, transition to a more prosperous peaceful economy.
Examples of more peaceful approaches can be found everywhere, including in Pennsylvania. A friend of mine, John Reuwer, points to Pennsylvania as a model for others. Why? Because from 1683 to 1755 Pennsylvania’s European settlers had no major wars with the native nations, in stark contrasts with other British colonies. Pennsylvania had slavery, it had capital and other horrific punishments, it had individual violence. But it chose not to use war, not to take land without what was supposed to be just compensation, and not to push alcohol on the native people in the way that opium was later pushed on China and guns and planes are now pushed on nasty despots. In 1710, the Tuscaroras from North Carolina sent messengers to Pennsylvania asking for permission to settle there. All the money that would have been used for militias, forts, and armaments was available, for better or worse, to build Philadelphia (remember what its name means) and develop the colony. The colony had 4,000 people within 3 years, and by 1776 Philadelphia surpassed Boston and New York in size. So while the superpowers of the day were battling for control of the continent, one group of people rejected the idea that war is necessary, and prospered more rapidly than any of their neighbors who insisted it was.
Now, after 230 years of almost uninterrupted war making, and the establishment of the most expensive and widespread military ever seen, Trump tells the UN that the U.S. Constitution deserves credit for the creation of peace. Maybe if they’d let the Quakers write the thing that would have actually been true.
We deserve Trump, though. God, do we deserve him. We Americans have some good qualities, too, don’t get me wrong. But we’re also a bloodthirsty Mr. Hyde nation that subsists on massacres and slave labor and leaves victims half-alive and crawling over deserts and jungles, while we sit stuffing ourselves on couches and blathering about our “American exceptionalism.” We dumped 20 million gallons of toxic herbicide on Vietnam from the air, just to make the shooting easier without all those trees, an insane plan to win “hearts and minds” that has left about a million still disabled from defects and disease – including about 100,000 children, even decades later, little kids with misshapen heads, webbed hands and fused eyelids writhing on cots, our real American legacy, well out of view, of course.
Nowadays we use flying robots and missiles to kill so many civilians and women and children in places like Mosul and Raqqa and Damadola, Pakistan, in our countless ongoing undeclared wars that the incidents scarcely make the news anymore. Our next innovation is “automation,” AI-powered drones that can identify and shoot targets, so human beings don’t have to pull triggers and feel bad anymore. If you want to look in our rearview, it’s lynchings and race war and genocide all the way back, from Hispaniola to Jolo Island in the Philippines to Mendocino County, California, where we nearly wiped out the Yuki people once upon a time.
This is who we’ve always been, a nation of madmen and sociopaths, for whom murder is a line item, kept hidden via a long list of semantic self-deceptions, from “manifest destiny” to “collateral damage.” We’re used to presidents being the soul of probity, kind Dads and struggling Atlases, humbled by the terrible responsibility, proof to ourselves of our goodness. Now, the mask of respectability is gone, and we feel sorry for ourselves, because the sickness is showing.
So much of the Trump phenomenon is about history. Fueling the divide between pro- and anti-Trump camps is exactly the fact that we’ve never had a real reckoning with either our terrible past or our similarly bloody present. The Trump movement culturally represents an absolute denial of our sins from slavery on – hence the intense reaction to the removal of Confederate statues, the bizarre paranoia about the Washington Monument being next, and so on. But #resistance is also a denial mechanism. It makes Trump the root of all evil, and is powered by an intense desire to not have to look at the ugliness, to go back to the way things were. We see this hideous clown in the White House and feel our dignity outraged, but when you really think about it, what should America’s president look like?
Trump is no malfunction. He’s a perfect representation of who, as a country, we are and always have been: an insane monster. Frankly, we’re lucky he’s not walking around using a child’s femur as a toothpick.
The following speech was given by John F. Kennedy on June 10,1963 at American University in Washington D.C.
President Anderson, members of the faculty, board of trustees, distinguished guests, my old colleague, Senator Bob Byrd, who has earned his degree through many years of attending night law school while I am earning mine in the next 30 minutes, ladies and gentlemen:It is with great pride that I participate in this ceremony of the American University, sponsored by the Methodist Church, founded by Bishop John Fletcher Hurst, and first opened by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. This is a young and growing university, but it has already fulfilled Bishop Hurst’s enlightened hope for the study of history and public affairs in a city devoted to the making of history and to the conduct of the public’s business. By sponsoring this institution of higher learning for all who wish to learn, whatever their color or their creed, the Methodists of this area and the Nation deserve the Nation’s thanks, and I commend all those who are today graduating.
Professor Woodrow Wilson once said that every man sent out from a university should be a man of his nation as well as a man of his time, and I am confident that the men and women who carry the honor of graduating from this institution will continue to give from their lives, from their talents, a high measure of public service and public support.
“There are few earthly things more beautiful than a university,” wrote John Masefield, in his tribute to English universities–and his words are equally true today. He did not refer to spires and towers, to campus greens and ivied walls. He admired the splendid beauty of the university, he said, because it was “a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see.”
I have, therefore, chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived–yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace.
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.
I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all of the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn.
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.
Some say that it is useless to speak of world peace or world law or world disarmament-and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitude–as individuals and as a Nation–for our attitude is as essential as theirs. And every graduate of this school, every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward–by examining his own attitude toward the possibilities of peace, toward the Soviet Union, toward the course of the cold war and toward freedom and peace here at home.
First: Let us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable–that mankind is doomed–that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.
We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade–therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable–and we believe they can do it again.
I am not referring to the absolute, infinite concept of universal peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the value of hopes and dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our only and immediate goal.
Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace–based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions–on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace–no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process–a way of solving problems.
With such a peace, there will still be quarrels and conflicting interests, as there are within families and nations. World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor–it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. And history teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever. However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations and neighbors.
So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all peoples to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it. Second: Let us reexamine our attitude toward the Soviet Union. It is discouraging to think that their leaders may actually believe what their propagandists write. It is discouraging to read a recent authoritative Soviet text on Military Strategy and find, on page after page, wholly baseless and incredible claims–such as the allegation that “American imperialist circles are preparing to unleash different types of wars … that there is a very real threat of a preventive war being unleashed by American imperialists against the Soviet Union … [and that] the political aims of the American imperialists are to enslave economically and politically the European and other capitalist countries… [and] to achieve world domination … by means of aggressive wars.”
Truly, as it was written long ago: “The wicked flee when no man pursueth.” Yet it is sad to read these Soviet statements–to realize the extent of the gulf between us. But it is also a warning–a warning to the American people not to fall into the same trap as the Soviets, not to see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats.
No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. As Americans, we find communism profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal freedom and dignity. But we can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements–in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture and in acts of courage.
Among the many traits the peoples of our two countries have in common, none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of war. Almost unique, among the major world powers, we have never been at war with each other. And no nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union suffered in the course of the Second World War. At least 20 million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and farms were burned or sacked. A third of the nation’s territory, including nearly two thirds of its industrial base, was turned into a wasteland–a loss equivalent to the devastation of this country east of Chicago.
Today, should total war ever break out again–no matter how–our two countries would become the primary targets. It is an ironic but accurate fact that the two strongest powers are the two in the most danger of devastation. All we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours. And even in the cold war, which brings burdens and dangers to so many countries, including this Nation’s closest allies–our two countries bear the heaviest burdens. For we are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty, and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle in which suspicion on one side breeds suspicion on the other, and new weapons beget counter-weapons.
In short, both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as ours–and even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest.
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.
Third: Let us reexamine our attitude toward the cold war, remembering that we are not engaged in a debate, seeking to pile up debating points. We are not here distributing blame or pointing the finger of judgment. We must deal with the world as it is, and not as it might have been had the history of the last 18 years been different.
We must, therefore, persevere in the search for peace in the hope that constructive changes within the Communist bloc might bring within reach solutions which now seem beyond us. We must conduct our affairs in such a way that it becomes in the Communists’ interest to agree on a genuine peace. Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy-or of a collective death-wish for the world.
To secure these ends, America’s weapons are nonprovocative, carefully controlled, designed to deter, and capable of selective use. Our military forces are committed to peace and disciplined in self-restraint. Our diplomats are instructed to avoid unnecessary irritants and purely rhetorical hostility.
For we can seek a relaxation of tensions without relaxing our guard. And, for our part, we do not need to use threats to prove that we are resolute. We do not need to jam foreign broadcasts out of fear our faith will be eroded. We are unwilling to impose our system on any unwilling people–but we are willing and able to engage in peaceful competition with any people on earth.
Meanwhile, we seek to strengthen the United Nations, to help solve its financial problems, to make it a more effective instrument for peace, to develop it into a genuine world security system–a system capable of resolving disputes on the basis of law, of insuring the security of the large and the small, and of creating conditions under which arms can finally be abolished.
At the same time we seek to keep peace inside the non-Communist world, where many nations, all of them our friends, are divided over issues which weaken Western unity, which invite Communist intervention or which threaten to erupt into war. Our efforts in West New Guinea, in the Congo, in the Middle East, and in the Indian subcontinent, have been persistent and patient despite criticism from both sides. We have also tried to set an example for others–by seeking to adjust small but significant differences with our own closest neighbors in Mexico and in Canada.
Speaking of other nations, I wish to make one point clear. We are bound to many nations by alliances. Those alliances exist because our concern and theirs substantially overlap. Our commitment to defend Western Europe and West Berlin, for example, stands undiminished because of the identity of our vital interests. The United States will make no deal with the Soviet Union at the expense of other nations and other peoples, not merely because they are our partners, but also because their interests and ours converge.
Our interests converge, however, not only in defending the frontiers of freedom, but in pursuing the paths of peace. It is our hope–and the purpose of allied policies–to convince the Soviet Union that she, too, should let each nation choose its own future, so long as that choice does not interfere with the choices of others. The Communist drive to impose their political and economic system on others is the primary cause of world tension today. For there can be no doubt that, if all nations could refrain from interfering in the self-determination of others, the peace would be much more assured.
This will require a new effort to achieve world law–a new context for world discussions. It will require increased understanding between the Soviets and ourselves. And increased understanding will require increased contact and communication. One step in this direction is the proposed arrangement for a direct line between Moscow and Washington, to avoid on each side the dangerous delays, misunderstandings, and misreadings of the other’s actions which might occur at a time of crisis.
We have also been talking in Geneva about other first-step measures of arms control, designed to limit the intensity of the arms race and to reduce the risks of accidental war. Our primary long-range interest in Geneva, however, is general and complete disarmament–designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms. The pursuit of disarmament has been an effort of this Government since the 1920’s. It has been urgently sought by the past three ado ministrations. And however dim the prospects may be today, we intend to continue this effort–to continue it in order that all countries, including our own, can better grasp what the problems and possibilities of disarmament are.
The one major area of these negotiations where the end is in sight, yet where a fresh start is badly needed, is in a treaty to outlaw nuclear tests. The conclusion of such a treaty, so near and yet so far, would check the spiraling arms race in one of its most dangerous areas. It would place the nuclear powers in a position to deal more effectively with one of the greatest hazards which man faces in 1963, the further spread of nuclear arms. It would increase our security–it would decrease the prospects of war. Surely this goal is sufficiently important to require our steady pursuit, yielding neither to the temptation to give up the whole effort nor the temptation to give up our insistence on vital and responsible safeguards.
I am taking this opportunity, therefore, to announce two important decisions in this regard.
First: Chairman Khrushchev, Prime Minister Macmillan, and I have agreed that highlevel discussions will shortly begin in Moscow looking toward early agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty. Our hopes must be tempered with the caution of history–but with our hopes go the hopes of all mankind.
Second: To make clear our good faith and solemn convictions on the matter, I now declare that the United States does not propose to conduct nuclear tests in the atmosphere so long as other states do not do so. We will not be the first to resume. Such a declaration is no substitute for a formal binding treaty, but I hope it will help us achieve one. Nor would such a treaty be a substitute for disarmament, but I hope it will help us achieve it.
Finally, my fellow Americans, let us examine our attitude toward peace and freedom here at home. The quality and spirit of our own society must justify and support our efforts abroad. We must show it in the dedication of our own lives–as many of you who are graduating today will have a unique opportunity to do, by serving without pay in the Peace Corps abroad or in the proposed National Service Corps here at home.
But wherever we are, we must all, in our daily lives, live up to the age-old faith that peace and freedom walk together. In too many of our cities today, the peace is not secure because freedom is incomplete.
It is the responsibility of the executive branch at all levels of government–local, State, and National–to provide and protect that freedom for all of our citizens by all means within their authority. It is the responsibility of the legislative branch at all levels, wherever that authority is not now adequate, to make it adequate. And it is the responsibility of all citizens in all sections of this country to respect the rights of all others and to respect the law of the land.
All this is not unrelated to world peace. “When a man’s ways please the Lord,” the Scriptures tell us, “he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights–the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation-the right to breathe air as nature provided it–the right of future generations to a healthy existence?
While we proceed to safeguard our national interests, let us also safeguard human interests. And the elimination of war and arms is clearly in the interest of both. No treaty, however much it may be to the advantage of all, however tightly it may be worded, can provide absolute security against the risks of deception and evasion. But it can–if it is sufficiently effective in its enforcement and if it is sufficiently in the interests of its signers–offer far more security and far fewer risks than an unabated, uncontrolled, unpredictable arms race.
The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. We do not want a war. We do not now expect a war. This generation of Americans has already had enough–more than enough–of war and hate and oppression. We shall be prepared if others wish it. We shall be alert to try to stop it. But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we labor on–not toward a strategy of annihilation but toward a strategy of peace.
“When it comes to how we should deal with evil doers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un. I’m heartened to see that our president — contrary to what we’ve seen with past administrations who have taken, at best, a sheepish stance toward dictators and oppressors — will not tolerate any threat against the American people. When President Trump draws a red line, he will not erase it, move it, or back away from it. Thank God for a President who is serious about protecting our country.”
— Robert Jeffress, Southern Baptist megachurch pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas
Jeffress holds typical Evangelical eschatological (end times) beliefs — that the rapture of Christians from the earth is imminent (any moment), as is the seven years of holy terror (The Great Tribulation) that God will rain down everyone left on earth after the rapture. Jeffress, a premillennial, pretribulational, dispensationalist Baptist believes the next must-see TV program will be when Jesus returns to earth a second time and wages war against Satan and his followers — Satanists, Humanists, Atheists, Agnostics, Pagans, Buddhists, Shintoists, Muslims, Roman Catholics, and anyone else who doesn’t embrace Jeffress’ soteriology (doctrine of salvation) — in the battle of Armageddon. Millions upon millions of Americans hold the same eschatological beliefs as Jeffress, and it is for this reason that Evangelical eschatology is so dangerous.
Evangelicals such as Jeffress believe that life on planet Earth will continue to spiritually and morally deteriorate until God has had enough and tells Gabriel to blow his trumpet, signaling to Jesus that it is time for him to return to earth and safely carry away all the True Christians®. For the Jeffresses of the world, the rapture will be the mother of all middle fingers, telling us God-haters that we are in for it now; that God is going to literally do to us what is recorded in the book of Revelation.
This kind of thinking should scare the shit out of rational people, not because Jesus is going to return to earth — he’s not — or that a mythical God is going to turn the earth into a dystopian novel of epic proportions — she’s not. What should scare us is that people who believe these things have the ear of the toddler-in-chief, Donald Trump. As anyone with an ounce of discernment knows, President Trump has no impulse control. He is megalomaniac who will go to any lengths — including destroying all life on our planet — to get his way. That the supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, a man who believes he is a god, is metaphorically waving his big dick in Trump’s face is sure to cause the President to throw caution to the wind and order a large-scale military strike on North Korea. Worse yet, Trump has even threatened to use nuclear weapons, answering a question he asked during the election: what good are nuclear weapons if you can’t use them? That the Evangelicals who have the President’s ear are encouraging him — using Biblical and theological justifications — to wage war against North Korea (and Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia and anyone else deemed a threat to God’s chosen nation, the United States) is truly frightening.
Atheists and other rational people dismiss Bible thumpers such as Jeffress as quaint relics from a bygone era. Silly Evangelicals. They believe the Bible is a supernatural book written by a supernatural God. Don’t they know that science has thoroughly discredited much of the Bible? However, despite scientific progress and the advancement of humanistic principles, Evangelicals still hold fast to the belief that the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible, never-been-proven-wrong religious text. Its word are true, and those who ignore the Bible, do so at their own peril. That millions of Americans think just like Robert Jeffress means that we cannot, at such a dangerous, perilous time as this, ignore the pronouncements of Evangelical false prophets — especially when they have regular sleep-overs at the Trump White House.
Like it or not, the Bible still matters, and how Evangelicals interpret it matters even more. Laugh all we want at their stone-age beliefs, but as long as Evangelicals have access to the highest levels of government, they are a threat that must be taken seriously. As long as we have a pussy-grabbing, lying “Christian” president and Evangelical congressmen, there is always a danger that theology will trump reason. Believing that God is on your side and will vindicate you is a sure recipe for disaster. No need to worry about consequences, right?God will take care of things. The most vocal climate change deniers in Congress are men and women who believe the Bible is the Word of God and worship at the feet of the Evangelical Jesus. In their minds, God is in control of e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, so there is no need to worry. God has a divine plan —just read the Bible. According to Evangelicals, everything is going exactly going according to God’s perfect, unchanging plan, and if that plan includes nuking North Korea, so be it.
Evangelicals wrongly believe that God will protect his people — as he supposedly did when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. No need to worry about nuclear fallout. God will make sure it doesn’t affect his chosen ones. And if he doesn’t? Well, that just means that God has a better plan and Evangelicals just need to “trust” him. Lost in all their “trust” of Jehovah is the fact that the overwhelming majority of earthlings do not worship the Evangelical God. We are being dragged into a murderous drama that is not of our own making — not that there is much we can do about it except doing all we can to remove Donald Trump from office and flushing from Congress anyone who puts God, the Bible, and theology over the safety and welfare of the American people.
In short, the Myth of Redemptive Violence is the story of the victory of order over chaos by means of violence. It is the ideology of conquest, the original religion of the status quo. The gods favour those who conquer. Conversely, whoever conquers must have the favour of the gods. The common people exist to perpetuate the advantage that the gods have conferred upon the king, the aristocracy, and the priesthood.
Religion exists to legitimate power and privilege. Life is combat. Any form of order is preferable to chaos, according to this myth. Ours is neither a perfect nor perfectible world; it is theatre of perpetual conflict in which the prize goes to the strong. Peace through war, security through strength: these are the core convictions that arise from this ancient historical religion, and they form the solid bedrock on which the Domination System is founded in every society.
Long before the ascension of The Donald to the throne, Evangelicals embraced the false notion that the United States is a city on a hill overlooking the earth, ever vigilant, seeking to advance God’s kingdom on earth. Believing that the United States is “special” and has some sort of manifest destiny has led Americans to commit all sorts of atrocities — beginning with the genocidal destruction of Native Americans and reaching its zenith with the firebombings of Germany and the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Our elected leaders and military have shown that they will do whatever is necessary to preserve America’s capitalistic way of life. Buying into the most horrific lie ever told — that war brings peace — the United States has shown it is willing to maim, kill, and destroy to preserve the American dream.
The sanity of Eichmann is disturbing. We equate sanity with a sense of justice, with humaneness, with prudence, with the capacity to love and understand other people. We rely on the sane people of the world to preserve it from barbarism, madness, destruction. And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous. It is the sane ones, the well-adapted ones, who can without qualms and without nausea aim the missile, and press the buttons that will initiate the great festival of destruction that they, the sane ones, have prepared… They will be obeying sane orders that have come sanely down the chain of command. And because of their sanity they will have no qualms at all. The ones who coolly estimate how many millions of victims can he considered expendable in a nuclear war, I presume they do all right with the Rorschach ink blots too.
Ponder for a moment Merton’s words:
It is the sane ones, the well-adapted ones, who can without qualms and without nausea aim the missile, and press the buttons that will initiate the great festival of destruction that they, the sane ones, have prepared… They will be obeying sane orders that have come sanely down the chain of command. And because of their sanity they will have no qualms at all. The ones who coolly estimate how many millions of victims can he considered expendable in a nuclear war…
We want to believe that the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense will, when it comes to launching nuclear weapons, stand up to President Trump, refusing to obey his orders. Wishful thinking, as Merton makes clear. Soldiers obey. When our nation’s sovereignty and Christian way of life is threatened, history shows that the U.S. military can and will use any and every means necessary to preserve our republic.
Merton, in an essay on war that was not published until after his death, wrote:
The Romans, to speak generally, rely on force in all their enterprises and think it incumbent upon them to carry out their projects in spite of all, and that nothing is impossible when they have once decided upon it.
NOTHING is impossible when they — the powers that be — have decided to wage war. Once the United States commits to turning Iran into a parking lot or wiping North Korea off the face of the earth, NOTHING is impossible. Think that the United States would never use nuclear weapons again? Think again. There are most certainly statisticians and military “geniuses” holed up somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon working on reports detailing the likely outcomes of nuking North Korea. There are supposedly sane, rational military and government leaders who really do think that nuclear war is winnable. Lunacy, to be sure, but so is believing, as Robert Jeffress does, that Jesus is coming soon. That many of our military leaders are card-carrying Evangelicals should cause rational people to fear for their lives. Just imagine for a moment, a general or two who believe that Jesus wants them to help usher in the Great Tribulation. NO worries for us, they think. We will be raptured away.
Let me conclude this post with an excerpt from Thomas Merton’s essay: War and the Crisis of Language. Written during the Vietnam War, Merton shows how reason and the meaning of words are turned on their heads during times of war. Merton writes:
A classic example of the contamination of reason and speech by the inherent ambiguity of war is that of the U.S. major who, on February 7, 1968 shelled the South Vietnamese town of Bentre “regardless of civilian casualties . . . to rout the Vietcong.” As he calmly explained, “It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.” Here we see, again, an insatiable appetite for the tautological, the definitive, the final. It is the same kind of language and logic that Hitler used for his notorious “final solution.” The symbol of this perfect finality is the circle. An argument turns upon itself, and the beginning and end get lost: it just goes round and round its own circumference. A message comes in that someone thinks there might be some Vietcong in a certain village. Planes are sent, the village is destroyed, many of the people are killed. The destruction of the village and the killing of the people earn for them a final and official identity. The burned huts become “enemy structures”; the dead men, women, and children become “Vietcong,” thus adding to a “kill ratio” that can be interpreted as “favorable.” They were thought to be Vietcong and were therefore destroyed. By being destroyed they became Vietcong for keeps; they entered “history,” definitively as our enemies, because we wanted to be on the “safe side,” and “save American lives”–as well as Vietnam.
The logic of “Red or dead” has long since urged us to identify destruction with rescue–to be “dead” is to be saved from being “Red.” In the language of melodrama, our grandparents became accustomed to the idea of a “fate worse than death.” A schematic morality concluded that if such and such is a fate worse than death, then to prefer it to death would surely be a heinous sin. The logic of war-makers has extended this not only to the preservation of one’s own moral integrity but to the fate of others, even of people on the other side of the earth, whom we do not always bother to consult personally on the subject. We weigh the arguments that they are not able to understand (perhaps they have not even heard that arguments exist!) And we decide, in their place, that it is better for them to be dead–killed by us–than Red, living under our enemies.
The Asian whose future we are about to decide is either a bad guy or a good guy. If he is a bad guy, he obviously has to be killed. If he is a good guy, he is on our side and he ought to be ready to die for freedom. We will provide an opportunity for him to do so: we will kill him to prevent him falling under the tyranny of a demonic enemy. Thus we not only defend his interests together with our own, but we protect his virtue along with our own. Think what might happen if he fell under Communist rule and liked it!
The advantages of this kind of logic are no exclusive possession of the United States. This is purely and simply the logic shared by all war-makers. It is the logic of power. Possibly American generals are naive enough to push this logic, without realizing, to absurd conclusions. But all who love power tend to think in some such way. Remember Hitler weeping over the ruins of Warsaw after it had been demolished by the Luftwaffe: “How wicked these people must have been,” he sobbed, “to make me do this to them!”
So much for the practical language of the battlefield. Let us now attend to the much more pompous and sinister jargon of the war mandarins in government offices and military think-tanks. Here we have a whole community of intellectuals, scholars who spend their time playing out “scenarios” and considering “acceptable levels” in megadeaths. Their language and their thought are as esoteric, as self-enclosed, as tautologous as the advertisement we have just discussed. But instead of being “coiffed” in a sweet smell, they are scientifically antiseptic, businesslike, uncontaminated with sentimental concern for life–other than their own. It is the same basic narcissism, but in a masculine, that is managerial, mode. One proves one’s realism along with one’s virility by toughness in playing statistically with global death. It is this playing with death, however, that brings into the players’ language itself the corruption of death: not physical but mental and moral extinction. And the corruption spreads from their talk, their thinking, to the words and minds of everybody. What happens then is that the political and moral values they claim to be defending are destroyed by the contempt that is more and more evident in the language in which they talk about such things. Technological strategy becomes an end in itself and leads the fascinated players into a maze where finally the very purpose strategy was supposed to serve is itself destroyed. The ambiguity of official war talk has one purpose above all: to mask this ultimate unreason and permit the game to go on.
Of special importance is the style of these nuclear mandarins. The technological puckishness of Herman Kahn is perhaps the classic of this genre. He excels in the sly understatement of the inhuman, the apocalyptic, enormity. His style is esoteric, allusive, yet confidential. The reader has the sense of being a privileged eavesdropper in the councils of the mighty. He knows enough to realize that things are going to happen about which he can do nothing, though perhaps he can save his skin in a properly equipped shelter where he may consider at leisure the rationality of survival in an unlivable world. Meanwhile, the cool tone of the author and the reassuring solemnity of his jargon seem to suggest that those in power, those who turn loose these instruments of destruction, have no intention of perishing themselves, that consequently survival must have a point. The point is not revealed, except that nuclear war is somehow implied to be good business. Nor are H-bombs necessarily a sign of cruel intentions. They enable one to enter into communication with the high priests in the enemy camp. They permit the decision-makers on both sides to engage in a ritual “test of nerves.” In any case, the language of escalation is the language of naked power, a language that is all the more persuasive because it is proud of being ethically illiterate and because it accepts, as realistic, the basic irrationality of its own tactics. The language of escalation, in its superb mixture of banality and apocalypse, science and unreason, is the expression of a massive death wish. We can only hope that this death wish is only that of a decaying Western civilization, and that it is not common to the entire race. Yet the language itself is given universal currency by the mass media. It can quickly contaminate the thinking of everybody.
Listen closely in the days ahead as Donald Trump, Joseph Dunford, James Mattis, and the Jim Jeffresses of the world turn language and decency on its head in their justifications of annihilating North Korea, Iran, and anyone else who dares to “threaten” the mighty US of A. There will be hell to pay, Kim Jong-Un, but just remember we are killing your people because we love you and God has a wonderful plan for your life. And when hellfire and brimstone rains down on defenseless Americans, the Evangelical warmongers among us will learn — right before they are vaporized — that the God they thought was on their side is actually Korean.
Here is a quote from Evangelical pastor Rick Joyner that came to my attention after this post was written.
When Trump said yesterday, you know about the fire and the fury that would be unleashed on North Korea, I don’t think that was an idle boast. I think he was sending a clear message in clear language that Kim Jung-Un and the North Koreans would understand, we’re not going to be pushed around any more. You are not going to threaten us any more. We are going to take you at your word, that if you threaten us you mean to do us harm and we are going to take you out before you can.
I talk to a lot to people who are close to the president and can get words to him, and he is really open to words from the Lord. I think he discerns words from the Lord better than most Christians do. I’ve been in meetings with him where I could feel the anointing on somebody speaking and I’d watch him perk up.
We have the most evangelical cabinet in U.S. history. God can get to [Trump] through all the sound Christians and godly people around him right now.
The U.S. war in Afghanistan is well into its 16th year. In 2014 President Obama declared it over, but it will remain a political, financial, security, legal, and moral problem unless you actually end it.
The U.S. military now has approximately 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan , plus 6,000 other NATO troops, 1,000 mercenaries, and another 26,000 contractors (of whom about 8,000 are from the United States). That’s 41,000 people engaged in a foreign occupation of a country 15 years after the accomplishment of their stated mission to overthrow the Taliban government.
During each of the past 15 years, our government in Washington has informed us that success was imminent. During each of the past 15 years, Afghanistan has continued its descent into poverty, violence, environmental degradation, and instability. The withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops would send a signal to the world, and to the people of Afghanistan, that the time has come to try a different approach, something other than more troops and weaponry.
The ambassador from the U.S.-brokered and funded Afghan Unity government has reportedly told you that maintaining U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is “as urgent as it was on Sept. 11, 2001.” There’s no reason to believe he won’t tell you that for the next four years, even though John Kerry tells us “Afghanistan now has a well-trained armed force …meeting the challenge posed by the Taliban and other terrorists groups.” But involvement need not take its current form.
The United States is spending $4 million an hour on planes, drones, bombs, guns, and over-priced contractors in a country that needs food and agricultural equipment, much of which could be provided by U.S. businesses. Thus far, the United States has spent an outrageous $783 billion with virtually nothing to show for it except the death of thousands of U.S. soldiers , and the death, injury and displacement of millions of Afghans. The Afghanistan War has been and will continue to be, as long as it lasts, a steady source of scandalous stories of fraud and waste. Even as an investment in the U.S. economy this war has been a bust.
But the war has had a substantial impact on our security: it has endangered us. Before Faisal Shahzad tried to blow up a car in Times Square, he had tried to join the war against the United States in Afghanistan. In numerous other incidents, terrorists targeting the United States have stated their motives as including revenge for the U.S. war in Afghanistan, along with other U.S. wars in the region. There is no reason to imagine this will change.
In addition, Afghanistan is the one nation where the United States is engaged in major warfare with a country that is a member of the International Criminal Court. That body has now announced that it is investigating possible prosecutions for U.S. crimes in Afghanistan. Over the past 15 years, we have been treated to an almost routine repetition of scandals: hunting children from helicopters, blowing up hospitals with drones, urinating on corpses — all fueling anti-U.S. propaganda, all brutalizing and shaming the United States.
Ordering young American men and women into a kill-or-die mission that was accomplished 15 years ago is a lot to ask. Expecting them to believe in that mission is too much. That fact may help explain this one: the top killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is suicide. The second highest killer of American military is green on blue, or the Afghan youth who the U.S. is training are turning their weapons on their trainers! You yourself recognized this, saying: “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghans we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.”
The withdrawal of U.S. troops would also be good for the Afghan people, as the presence of foreign soldiers has been an obstacle to peace talks. The Afghans themselves have to determine their future, and will only be able to do so once there is an end to foreign intervention.
We urge you to turn the page on this catastrophic military intervention. Bring all U.S. troops home from Afghanistan. Cease U.S. airstrikes and instead, for a fraction of the cost, help the Afghans with food, shelter, and agricultural equipment.
If you are so inclined, please add your name to the open letter here.
This is not the case. Death and dismemberment are horrific regardless of the weapon. No weapon is being used legally, morally, humanely, or practically in Syria or Iraq. U.S. bombs are no less indiscriminate, no less immoral, and no less illegal than chemical weapons — or for that matter than the depleted uranium weapons with which the United States has been poisoning the area. The fact that a weapon has not been banned does not create a legal right to go into a country and kill people with it.
2. Chemical weapons use justifies the escalated use of other weapons.
Does shoplifting justify looting? If a Hatfield poisoned a McCoy, would another McCoy be justified in shooting a bunch of Hatfields? What barbarism is this? A crime does not sanction another crime. That’s a quick trip to hell.
3. Important people we should trust know who used chemical weapons.
No, they do not. At least they do not know that the Syrian government did it. If they knew this, they would offer evidence. As on every past occasion, they have not done so.
4. The enemy is pure evil and will answer only to force.
The U.S. government and its proxies have sabotaged peace negotiations numerous times over the past several years, maintaining that Assad would have to step down or — preferably — be overthrown by violence before anything could be negotiated. This does not make the U.S. government pure inhuman evil, much less does it make the Syrian government that.
5. If you don’t want to bomb Syria with one enemy’s name on your lips, you hold the firm belief that said enemy is actually a saint.
This piece of stupidity gets people accused of loving and holding blameless the Syrian government, the Russian government, the U.S. government, ISIS, and various other parties. In fact, the reasonable thing to do is to hold all killers responsible for their killing because of the crime, not because of who commits it.
6. U.S. war-making in Syria is defensive.
This is the opposite of reality-based thinking as war-making endangers us rather than protects us. Someone should ask Donald Trump to remember the Maine. You may remember that Spain wanted the matter brought to a neutral arbiter, but the United States wanted war, regardless of any evidence. That’s been the typical move over the centuries: careful maneuvering into war, not away from it. Trump, by the way, is already up to his bloody elbows in several wars inherited from Obama — wars no less immoral and illegal slaughters because of their connection to either of those presidents. The question of who blew up the Maine is, at this point a truly dumb one. The important point is that the U.S. didn’t want to know, wanted instead to rush into a war before anyone could find out. Typically, the desire to avoid information, and not some other consideration, is the reason for the urgency in war-making.
7. Peace was tried in 2013, and it failed.
No. What happened was that Obama and his administration tried to pull off the same stunt that Trump is trying now, and the public rose up and refused to allow it. So, instead of a massive bombing campaign, Syria got more weapons, more trainers, more troops, and a medium sized bombing campaign. That’s very different from actually shifting direction and offering Syria diplomacy, aid, and disarmament.
8. The U.S. government’s goal is peace.
The long openly stated goal of powerful players in the U.S. government is to overthrow Assad.
9. Syria is as boring and unconcerning as numerous other ongoing U.S. wars.
In reality, Syria is a war that risks fighting between the United States and Russia, while each is armed with far more than enough nuclear weapons to destroy all life on earth. Creating a profitable conflict between the U.S. and Russia is a likely actual motivation of some hawks on Syria.
10. Making everything worse with yet more violence is the only option left.
That’s not an option at all. But these are: aid, reparations, negotiations, disarmament, the rule of law, truth and reconciliation.
— David Swanson, Let’s Try Democracy, Top 10 Lies, Damn Lies, and Lies About Syria, April 7, 2017
Evangelicals are fond of saying that the LORD is on their side. Culture warriors frequently invoke God being with them as proof that their causes are righteous and just. Christian politicians, when justifying their murderous, imperialistic wars, often suggest that God not only approves of their violence, but is also the mighty general that leads the troops into battle.
From February 23 to March 6, 1836, Mexican President General Antonio López de Santa Anna and his troops laid siege to the Alamo. On March 6th, Mexican troops overran the Alamo’s defenses, killing several hundred people in the process.
To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World:
Fellow citizens & compatriots—I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna—I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken—I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch—The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country—Victory or Death.
William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. comdt
P.S. The Lord is on our side—When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn—We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.
Travis, like countless Christians before and after him, believed that the LORD was on his side. Despite overwhelming forces outside the Alamo gates, Travis believed God would send reinforcements and lead them to victory over the Mexicans. No reinforcements came, and Travis, along with most of the people behind the walls of the Alamo, died.
Twenty-five years later, the United States found itself embroiled in a violent, bloody civil war that resulted in 750,000 deaths. Both the North and the South claimed that God was on their side. The 20th century would find the United States embroiled in two world wars and major conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. Fueled by theocratic and nationalistic fervor, American political leaders believed that a victory over totalitarianism and communism was a triumph for Christianity. In other words, THE LORD IS ON OUR SIDE!
In the late 20th and 21st century, the United States found itself waging a crusade in the Middle East against Islāmic terrorists. President George W. Bush framed invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan as holy wars — good vs. evil. God is on our side, President Bush told the American people, repeating a time-worn cliché that has resulted in maiming and killing millions of people.
The 2016 presidential election invigorated the religious-right, resulting in the election of the most unqualified candidate in American history — Donald Trump. Eighty-two percent of white Evangelicals voted for a man who bragged about sexual assault and grabbing pussy. Believing that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party were the personification of evil, Evangelicals stormed the throne room of heaven with their prayers and voted their “conscience.” Come January 20th, Evangelicals will cheer as God’s man becomes the forty-fifth president of the Christian United States of America. In unison they will cry, THE LORD IS ON OUR SIDE!
And when a modern-day battle of the Alamo, one fought with weapons that have the power to erase the human race, causes horrific bloodshed, will Evangelicals still cry, THE LORD IS ON OUR SIDE? When millions of people lose their health insurance, their good-paying jobs, and Social Security benefits are cut, will Evangelicals still think God is on their side?
How much suffering, death, and loss must happen before Christians are willing to admit that, when it comes to the machinations of men, God is nowhere to be found. The only gods at work in the affairs of men are those who are very much earthly. If God is indeed on their side, then Christians have no response when secularists say that their God is a violent, bloodthirsty megalomaniac. If the Lord is on the United States’ side, then he is culpable for the worldwide slaughter of millions of men, women, children. He is responsible for the savagery of those who, with great fervor and pride, say THE LORD IS ON OUR SIDE! And when the last news reports Americans hear warn of incoming “enemy” nuclear warheads, just remember, THE LORD IS ON OUR SIDE!
By now, I am sure that virtually every reader of this blog knows about and has an opinion concerning San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem. Kaepernick has been praised and brutalized in the press. I have been hesitant to give my opinion on the matter, fearing how some people might respond to my position. When it comes to the US military, law enforcement, the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, and political/social movements such as Black Lives Matter, most Americans have strong positive or negative feelings. I too have strong feelings.
First, I fully support Colin Kaepernick. He has a First Amendment right to protest, speak his mind, and refuse to swear allegiance to the flag of a country that he believes directly and indirectly supports the oppression of people of color. All Americans have the right to voice their dissent, and I applaud Kaepernick for his willingness to voice his on a national stage.
Second, while there is some debate about the legality of Kaepernick’s unwillingness to honor the American flag, whatever laws might be on the books, the US Supreme Court has made it clear in its ruling on the constitutionality of burning the American flag that acts of dissent and civil disobedience are protected First Amendment behaviors. I’m astounded by the fact that many supposedly educated people think Kaepernick should be publicly and privately punished for his dissent. The moment we stifle or outlaw dissent is the moment when we cease to be a nation that values freedom and liberty.
Now let me state very clearly how I personally view these matters. I realize that some readers will be incensed by some of the things I say in this post. That’s fine. People are free to voice disagreement or even be angry or hateful towards my viewpoint. All I can do is live according to the dictates of my conscience.
While I understand the need for a military, it troubles me deeply that the US military has been used to promote colonialism, imperialism, and American exceptionalism across the globe. I find it beyond offensive that American troops (along with the CIA and NSA) have been used to overthrow democratically elected governments, wage wars against political enemies, and expand the iron grip of American capitalism. American soldiers since 9/11 are directly responsible for the slaughter of innocent men, women, and children. This coming year I will be 60 years old. The United States has been at war somewhere in the world my entire life. We now rain unholy hell from the skies through a drone program that supposedly kills only the bad guys. We now know drone strikes do indeed kill terrorists, but they also cause what our political and military leaders like to call “collateral damage.” I wonder what we would think of the term “collateral damage” if it were our children, our wives, our parents, our grandparents, and our siblings that were being slaughtered with bombs shot from machines that are controlled by soldiers thousands of miles away?
Yesterday, President Obama authorized spending of $90 million for the use of eliminating 40-year-old bombs that were dropped in Laos during the Vietnam War. Thousands of Laotian people have been killed because they accidentally stumbled upon American bombs. These bombs are a perfect reminder of the senselessness of war and our inability to find ways to settle differences without the use of violence. The United States remains the only nation on the face of the earth to have used nuclear weapons against civilian populations. Instead of realizing the danger of nuclear weapons and working towards total disarmament, the American government is now working on improving its nuclear arsenal. Is there no end in sight to such madness? Fifty years ago a Trappist monk by the name of Thomas Merton said the world was on the precipice of a nuclear holocaust. Nothing has happened in the intervening years that has changed this fact. The doomsday clock continues to tick. Which nation will it be that pushes the red button and obliterates the human race off the face of the earth? Naïve Americans like to think it will never be the United States, but history tells us that our leaders have been quite willing to slaughter vast numbers of people for political and economic gain. It’s time we stop living the lie, the one that we were taught in school, that Americans are basically good people. We’re not, and quite frankly we never have been. Only by ignoring our history can Americans look in the mirror and see themselves as a good people. Maybe there was a time when we had good intentions, but those days are long gone. Naked ambition and a thirst for political power and economic supremacy is now the engine that drives our political class. Unwilling to die themselves, our overlords use US military power to advance their agenda.
It sickens me every time I hear someone say — usually before the playing of the national anthem — that American soldiers are dying overseas so we can enjoy the freedoms we have here. Let me be blunt. This is bullshit. Our invasions of Iraq (both times) and Afghanistan, along with our military interventions in numerous countries across the globe have become the fuel that fires the hatred terrorists have for America. While I think the teachings of the Quran play a significant part in the bloodthirsty actions of Islamic terrorists, I refuse to turn a blind eye to the fact that the country of my birth is somewhat culpable for the rise of ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations. The US military has killed countless civilians and used torture against combatants and noncombatants alike. Almost 8 years after President Barack Obama said he would close Guantánamo Bay, it remains open, an ever-present reminder of America’s use of torture and violence to advance its agenda.
I refuse to be cowed by demands that I blindly and without reservation support the US military. I do not support military interventionism, expansionism, or offensive wars. The US military should be used for defensive purposes only. So when someone tells me that US soldiers are fighting on my behalf, I say, not in my name! Not in my name! I have never asked soldiers to shed their blood or remain in some foreign land just so I can have the freedom to pursue the delusional American dream. I do not want one more person to die a meaningless, senseless death in wars that cannot be won. This does not mean that I am anti-military. It does mean, however, that I am anti-violence. When the Huns are at the gate, it’s time to fight. When Muslims are fighting against each other in the Middle East over whose religious beliefs are the right ones, the fight is theirs not ours.
I attend numerous sporting events each year, and I can’t remember the last time when the playing and singing the Star-Spangled Banner was not directly connected to American militarism. Wounded American soldiers are displayed for all to see as the national anthem is sung — supposedly as reminders of why we are singing the song. Sporting venues roll out huge flags that are manned by military personnel. Sometimes military jets fly overhead, reminding attendees that the United States is the meanest, baddest, and most powerful nation on the face of the earth. While the crowd claps and chants USA! USA! USA!, I quietly hang my head, waiting for the nationalistic masturbation to end. While I still stand, remove my hat, and even sing the Star-Spangled Banner, I do so not out of loyalty or respect, but because I am still grateful that I live in a land that affords me great liberty, freedom, and economic security.
I draw the line, however, on the Pledge of Allegiance. I refuse to pledge my allegiance to a country that plays an instrumental part in much that is wrong in the world. I am in no way saying that I want to live in some other country, but I’m also not willing to say that the United States is the single best country on the face of the earth. I refuse to pledge my allegiance to a God that does not exist or to a political and economic structure that now causes great harm not only to its citizens, but the world. As I do with public prayers and the singing of God Bless America, I refuse to participate when called on to swear my allegiance to the government bought and paid for by Wall Street. While I certainly plan to vote in November, I do so because I fear what a Donald Trump presidency might do to America. That a narcissistic psychopath could even be on the ballot tells me that our political system is broken. Bernie Sanders is right. We need a political revolution. Hillary Clinton is not the answer. She is a centrist corporate Democrat, who will have no problem continuing to use the military to advance America’s worldwide agenda and dominance. She is, sadly, more of the same.
On my more pessimistic days (this is not one of them) I think that our Republic is too far gone to be saved. We no longer have a representative form of government. An oligarchy controls the political process and the economy. Corporate influence and money has destroyed Congress’ ability to act in the best interest of the American people. Our political leaders are little more than whores and shills for whoever shoves the most money in their g-strings. Until lobbyists are run out of Washington DC, “he who has the most money” will win, thereby controlling the government. This is not a Republican/Democrat problem. It is systemic, and until we are willing to destroy the system, things will continue as they now are. What is needed most today is for tens of millions of Colin Kaepernicks to use their spheres of influence to effect lasting political change. I am willing to be one such person and I hope you are too.
What follows is a letter my mother wrote to the editor of the Bryan Times It was published May 7, 1969. I am hoping this letter will provide a glimpse of the type of home I grew up in. I was 11 years old when this letter was written. 12 days later, this letter was also published in the Toledo Blade.
In view of recent student uprisings, revolts, demonstrations, anarchy and lawlessness on college and university campuses in these United States — I, an American taxpayer and mother of three children, urge a PUBLIC Congressional Investigation into the colleges and universities that fit the above and an investigation into the SDS, its leaders, motives, and followers.
Either local authorities on campus or the government must stop this outrage or there should be a taxpayers’ revolt. I, for one, do not care to support such so-called institutions for a so-called higher education. Why don’t parents of these students cut off funds? Why doesn’t the government cut off funds to such institutions and cut off student loans to such students?
Now, summer approaches and Americans are wondering and waiting to see whether the riots in our cities will resume. Many of these same students will be taking to the streets this summer. Rioting has become a habit, a thrill. I have heard the remark, many riot all day and run home to watch themselves on the 6 o’clock news.
Many Americans are justifiably living in fear. I have heard remarked that only a dictator and a police state will be able to protect American citizens from anarchy and lawlessness. Is this what we want? I ask you to ask yourself, what can I do? What can or should our duly elected government officials do? What can or should our tax supported institutions do? Let your universities and government officials know how you feel. It is time to stand up and be counted.
I had thought that with a new administration (Richard Nixon) we might begin to enter into a period of law and justice and might once again go back to majority rule upon which this country was founded. How can a handful of 50 students completely subdue a college campus and its authorities?
I used to think a college education was an ideal goal for a youngster. Now I am very skeptical of sending my children to such an educational institution. Have you ever asked yourself why the students on the large and small campuses of Bible colleges and other religious institutions are not rioting, or are you trying not to think, period? (now that was one snarky line, Mom)
Did you ever stop to think that the students who do not like their teachers, courses, university rules and regulations have the freedom to go elsewhere? Perhaps a trip to Vietnam might give them the proper perspective. While our boys fight and die to preserve freedom, the students usurp the freedom and rights of others to an education in a tax supported institution. Teachers not going along with students are being intimidated as well as their families being threatened. Some even have had bomb threats in the name of freedom.
To all college and university authorities, to all judges and law enforcement officials and to all government officials: in regards to the students, I say Amnesty-NO, Prosecution, Expulsion-YES.