As the Democrats Press for War, the Left Must Demand Peace and Social Transformation

Source:  Black agenda Report
January 11 2017
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

“The Left’s job is to oppose the warmongers, not band with them.”

as the democrats press for war.jpg

The Democrats are whipping up war hysteria and “cynically seeking to harness people’s well-founded fears of Trump’s domestic policies in order to sabotage the possibility of a relaxation of international tensions.” Some folks have taken the bait. “Leftists that think they can exploit the split between the Trump troglodytes (fascists) and the Obama/Clinton/Old Line GOP War Party (fascists) will ultimately wind up caught in a pincer between the two.”

 

The most imminent threats to human survival

As is ordained by law, at the end of the week much of President Obama’s legacy will become Donald Trump’s powers, including the power to detain Americans indefinitely (forever) without trial or charge, an authority the First Black President secured from Congress in 2011. Obama’s wars become Trump’s wars, which, if Trump follows Obama’s example — and if he succumbs to the furious pressures of leading Democrats, old line Republicans and an openly aggressive and “politicized” national security establishment — will be expanded and multiplied. The most imminent threats to human survival under a Trump presidency flow, not from the billionaire’s own belligerent instincts and unpredictability, but from the momentum of Obama’s policies of ever-escalating confrontation with Russia and China — his deliberate “pivots” towards brinksmanship on all the geopolitical fronts of Empire.

“U.S. policy is to militarily intimidate the world into submission — a gangster’s game.”

It is the Democrats that have whipped up war hysteria and a new McCarthyism, attacking Trump from the Right to force him to keep Obama’s imperial “surge” moving forward. With western economic power fading fast, U.S. policy is to militarily intimidate the world into submission — a gangster’s game. For the Lords of Capital and their national security servants, Obama’s greatest achievement was to put the U.S. back on the offensive after George Bush’s defeat and humiliation in Iraq. From their perspective, Obama has already “Made America Great Again” with his “humanitarian” military intervention doctrine, trampling every principle of international law, including the sovereignty of nations, in Libya and Syria. Trump’s talk of “deal-making” with Russia and China threatens to slow the imperial offensive.

The ruling class realignment that congealed in the Clinton campaign’s Big Tent sees any relaxation of U.S. military pressures against Beijing and Moscow as a prelude to imperial collapse. For them, de-escalation is an existential threat. They don’t give a damn about the damage Donald Trump intends to inflict on what remains of the U.S. social safety net — and neither did Obama, who came into office scheming to forge a Grand Austerity Bargain with the Republicans. And, if his preventive detention bill were not enough, Obama’s support for creation of a “Ministry of Truth” — officially, a joint governmental commission to police the media for “foreign disinformation and manipulation” — screams out to high heaven that protection of civil liberties is not part of their agenda, either. Internet publications like Black Agenda Report, cited by the Washington Post as “fake news” and “minions” of Russia, will be punished for deviance from imperial “exceptionalism” and aggressive war policies.

“Trump’s talk of ‘deal-making’ with Russia and China threatens to slow the imperial offensive.”

This is all about war. The Democrats, massed corporate media and the fully mobilized legions of spooks and disinformation specialists are cynically seeking to harness people’s well-founded fears of Trump’s domestic policies in order to sabotage the possibility of a relaxation of international tensions. Leftists that think they can exploit the split between the Trump troglodytes (fascists) and the Obama/Clinton/Old Line GOP War Party (fascists) will ultimately wind up caught in a pincer between the two.

The ruling class is, indeed, in an acute political crisis, to match its larger, systemic crisis. The duopoly system that has served the rich so well for most of the history of the Republic has come undone, split at the seams, endangering the corporate-imposed national “consensus” on empire and war. The War Party, deploying every disinformation trick in the book, foments anti-Russian hysteria to create a mass base for its imperial agenda. They point fingers at phantom “minions” of Moscow in order to make leftists into political foot soldiers of the Pentagon, Langley and the military industrial complex. MoveOn.org moves to their beat, as does the entire Congressional Black Caucus, including Barbara Lee (D-CA), the nation’s most left-leaning congressperson. Fine; they are duty-bound to go down with the Bad Ship Hillary. But the social movement activists that allow themselves to be swept up in the Democrats’ offensive-from-the-Right against Trump are the biggest dupes of all.

“They point fingers at phantom ‘minions’ of Moscow in order to make leftists into political foot soldiers of the Pentagon, Langley and the military industrial complex.”

The Democrats are incapable of agitating for anything more than defense of Barack Obama’s “legacy” — chiefly, his doomed Affordable Care Act, which was already disintegrating from its own contradictions and whose final demise will create an acute crisis that cries out for single payer health insurance, the outcome Obamacare was designed to forestall. The Left should be making that demand right now, rather than helping Democrats join with Republicans to patch together an even worse private-based system, down the road.

The precariat economy that is emerging from Obama’s post-Meltdown restructuring, in which 94 percent of the new “jobs” are so contingent, inadequate and insecure they can hardly be called jobs at all, demands a National Minimum Income – a potentially transformative leap that the Left should be loudly championing, right now.

Five years after Occupy Wall Street, the Left should finally call for the nationalization — not fragmentation — of the big banks, and creation of a public development bank to rebuild the national infrastructure without going into debt to private capital. Anybody that doubts masses of people will join in this demand doesn’t know their fellow Americans and their deep hatred for Wall Street banks.

“The social movement activists that allow themselves to be swept up in the Democrats’ offensive-from-the-Right against Trump are the biggest dupes of all.”

Ferguson set the new Black movement on a course of confrontation with the Mass Black Incarceration State, in all its manifestations. Obama’s legacy — and that of the Black misleadership class that has collaborated with mass Black incarceration for two generations – is to intensify intelligence gathering in Black communities, while dispersing Black population concentrations through gentrification. Trump or no Trump, there is no avoiding the logic of the movement’s central grassroots demand: Black community control of the police. Non-Blacks on the Left must support that demand.

There is no such thing as a genuine Left that supports imperialism, but there are plenty of fakers that do, including phony socialists. How sad — and maddening, at the same time — that a Donald Trump can speak of “cutting down” on “regime change,” while purported leftists rally to Obama’s “humanitarian” military interventionism, the lip-stick on the imperial pig. The Democrats want war so badly, they are fouling their bourgeois institutional nest and bearing down hard from the Right to prevent any let-up in tensions with Russia and China. The Left’s job is to oppose the warmongers, not to band with them.

There is no mystery to what the moment demands. What’s needed is Left movements for social transformation, not a farcical, Democrat-led anti-Trump pseudo-movement, whose real agenda is war.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Cuba demands commitment to a culture of peace in the United Nations

Source: Granma
December 16 2016

by: Prensa Latina(PL) | internet@granma.cu

Cuba’s delegation to the UN expressed concern about the current international panorama and called for the elimination of the danger of war, in particular of nuclear war, the renunciation of the use or threat of the use of force and the peaceful settlement of disputes, in accordance with the UN  Charter

 

Ana Silvia Rodríguez.jpgUNITED NATIONS.— Cuba yesterday called for a greater commitment to a culture of peace, based on respect for the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, during a plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Interim chargé d’affaires of the island, Ana Silvia Rodríguez, noted that global peace and its preservation will not be possible without full respect for the sovereignty, self-determination and territorial integrity of all states.

Rodríguez stressed that a fundamental prerequisite is respect for international law.

She explained that there can be no talk of a culture of peace as long as humanity continues to be threatened by nuclear weapons and the deep divisions persist between rich and poor, between developed and developing countries.

“We express our concern regarding this situation and call for the elimination of the danger of war, in particular of nuclear war, the renunciation of the use or threat of the use of force and the peaceful settlement of disputes, in accordance with the UN Charter”, the diplomat emphasized.

Reggae Message: The War is Over, No More War

Oh yes it was happening but now no more, yeah, yeah

It was happening

Tribal war

We no want no more a that

Tribal war

A no that we a defen’,

yeah, yeah

I’ll give Jah praises in the morning

When I hear the people say,

yeah yeah

They start sitting up and licking cup

One by one they take a little sup

Saying that the war is over, is over

We now see ourselves in unity

Celebrating with better collie

Now that the war is over

No more war

 

Tribal war, yeah yeah

We no want no more a that

Tribal war, yeah, yeah, yeah

A no that we a defen’

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, eah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Tribal war

We no want no more a that

Yeah yeah

Tribal war

A no that we a defen’

We now see ourselves in unity

Celebrating with better collie

Now that the war is over

 

Tribal war, yeah, yeah

We no want no more a that

Tribal war, yeah, yeah, yes

A no that we a defen’

They start sitting up and licking cup

One by one they take a little sup

Saying that the war is over,

No more war

We now see ourselves in unity

Celebrating with better collie

Now that the war is over

No more war

They start sitting up and licking cup

One by one they take a little sup

Saying that the war is over, is over

No more war

Tribal war, yeah, yeah

We no want no more a that

The Real Harm of the Global Arms Trade

Source: TED
June 2016

In many places in which I have worked, it is easier to get access to an automatic rifle than it is to get access to clean drinking water

Samantha Nutt TEDWar-torn Somalia

Some of you may have noticed that my last name is Nutt. And if you did, you are forgiven for wondering how a Nutt managed to end up in a war zone. I actually was offered, right out of medical school, and accepted a volunteer contract to work with UNICEF in war-torn Somalia, that was worth one dollar. And, you see, I had to be paid this dollar in the event that the UN needed to issue an evacuation order, so that I would be covered. I was, after all, heading into one of the world’s most dangerous places. And by now, some of you may be asking yourselves, and I just want to reassure you, that I did get half the money up front.

City of Death

But you see, this is how, with 50 cents in my pocket, I ended up in Baidoa, Somalia. Journalists called it the “city of death.” And they called it the city of death because 300,000 people had lost their lives there –300,000 people, mostly as a result of war-related famine and disease.

I was part of a team that was tasked with trying to figure out how best to respond to this humanitarian catastrophe. It was right on the heels of the Rwandan genocide, and aid money to the region was drying up. Many aid organisations, unfortunately, had been forced to close their doors. And so the question that I was asked to specifically help answer, which is one that aid workers ask themselves in war zones the world over, is: What the hell do we do now? You know, the security environment in Somalia at that moment in time — and nothing has really changed too much — can best be described as “Mad Max” by way of “A Clockwork Orange.

Kids with automatic rifles

And I remember very distinctly a couple of days after my arrival, I went up to a feeding clinic. There were dozens of women who were standing in line, and they were clutching their infants very close. About 20 minutes into this conversation I was having with this one young woman, I leaned forward and tried to put my finger in the palm of her baby’s hand. And when I did this, I discovered that her baby was already in rigour. She was stiff, and her little, lifeless hand was curled into itself. She had died hours before of malnutrition and dehydration. I later learned that as her baby was dying, this young woman had been held for two days by some teenage boys who were armed with Kalashnikov rifles, and they were trying to shake her down for more money, money she very clearly did not have. And this is a scene that I have confronted in war zones the world over; places where kids, some as young as eight — they are this big –and those kids, they have never been to school. But they have fought and they have killed with automatic rifles.

Choosing options that favour peace, not war

Is this just the way the world is? Some will you tell you that war is unavoidably human. After all, it is as old as existence itself. We say never again, and yet it happens again and again and again. But I will tell you that I have seen the absolute worst of what we as human beings are capable of doing to one another, and yet I still believe a different outcome is possible. Do you want to know why? Because over 20 years of doing this work, going in and out of war zones around the world, I have come to understand that there are aspects of this problem that we, all of us, as people occupying this shared space, that we can change — not through force or coercion or invasion, but by simply looking at all of the options available to us and choosing the ones that favour peace at the expense of war, instead of war at the expense of peace.

Near-infinite supply of cheap, easy and efficient weapons

How so? Well, I want you to consider this: there are at least 800 million small arms and light weapons in circulation in the world today. The vast majority of civilians, like that young baby, who are dying in war zones around the world, are dying at the hands of various armed groups who rely on a near-infinite supply of cheap, easy and efficient weapons to rape, threaten, intimidate and brutalise those civilians at every turn. How cheap? Well, in some parts of the world, you can buy an AK-47 for as little as 10 dollars.In many places in which I have worked, it is easier to get access to an automatic rifle than it is to get access to clean drinking water.

The poor die, the rich profit

And so now the important part: Can anything be done about this? To answer that question, let’s take a look at this map of the world. And now, let’s add in all of the countries that are currently at war, and the number of people who have either died or have been displaced as a result of that violence. It is a staggering number — more than 40 million people. But you will also notice something else about this map. You will notice that most of those countries are in the Global South. Now, let’s look at the countries that are the world’s top 20 exporters of small arms in the world. And what do we notice? Well, you see them in green. You will notice that those are mostly countries in the Global North, primarily Western countries. What does this tell us? This tells us that most of the people who are dying in war are living in poor countries, and yet most of the people who are profiting from war are living in rich countries — people like you and me.

A shocking revelation 

And then what if we go beyond small arms for a second. What if we look at all weapons in circulation in the world? Who does the biggest business? Well, roughly 80 percent of those weapons come from none other than the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany. It’s shocking, isn’t it?

Now, some of you might be saying at this moment in time, “Oh yeah, but OK, hang on a second there … Nutt.”

Grade school was spectacular for me. It was, really, a wonderful experience.

But you might be saying to yourselves, You know, all of these weapons in war zones — they’re not a cause, but an effect of the violence that plagues them each and every single day. You know, places like Iraq and Afghanistan, where they need these weapons to be able to maintain law and order, promote peace and security, to combat terror groups — surely this is a good thing.

A boom in the small-arms trade since the start of the War on Terror

Let’s take a look at that assumption for just one moment, because you see there has been a boom in the small-arms trade since the start of the War on Terror. In fact, it is a business that has grown threefold over the past 15 years. And now let’s compare that to the number of people who have directly died in armed conflict around the world in that same period. What do you notice? Well, you notice that, in fact, that also goes up roughly three- to fourfold. They basically go up and end at the same point.

A relationship worth scrutinising

Now, we can have a circular argument here about whether this increase in fatalities is a response to the increase of small arms, or the other way around. But here’s what we should really take away from this.What we should take away from this is that this is a relationship worth scrutinising, especially when you consider that small arms that were shipped to Iraq for use by the Iraqi Army, or to Syria for so-called moderate opposition fighters, that those arms, many of them, are now in the hands of ISIS; or when you consider that arms that were shipped to Libya are now actively drifting across the Sahel, and ending up with groups like Boko Haram and al Qaeda and other militant groups.

And therein lies the problem. Because, you see, small arms anywhere are a menace everywhere, because their first stop is rarely their last.

Shifting the balance

Spending on war per person per year now amounts to about 249 dollars — 249 dollars per person, which is roughly 12 times what we spend on foreign aid, money that is used to educate and vaccinate children and combat malnutrition in the Global South. But we can shift that balance. How do we do this? Well, it is essentially a problem of both supply and demand, so we can tackle it from both sides.

On the supply side, we can push our governments to adopt international arms transparency mechanisms like the Arms Trade Treaty, which makes it so that rich countries have to be more accountable for where their arms are going and what their arms might be used for. Here in the United States, the largest arms-exporting country in the world by far, President Obama has rightly signed the Arms Trade Treaty, but none of it takes effect, it isn’t binding, until it is approved and ratified by the Senate. This is where we need to make our voices heard. You know, the curbing of small arms — it’s not going to solve the problem of war. Increased control mechanisms won’t solve that problem. But it’s an important step in the right direction. And it’s up to all of us who live in those rich countries to make change here.

Generations around the world who are being lost to war

What about on the demand side? You know, there are generations around the world who are being lost to war. It is possible to disrupt that cycle of violence with investments in education, in strengthening the rule of law and in economic development, especially for women. I have personally seen just how incredibly powerful those kinds of efforts can be around the world.

But here’s the thing: they take time, which means for you as individuals, if you want to give, please, by all means do it. But know that how you give is just as important as how much you give. Regular contributions like monthly contributions are a far more effective way of giving, because they allow humanitarian organizations to properly plan and be invested over the long term, and to be present in the lives of families who have been affected by war, wars that many of us, frankly, all too quickly forget.

Haunted by automatic gunfire

When I first got on that plane for Somalia as a young doctor, I had no idea what it meant to live with war.But I can tell you that I know what it means now. And I know what it means to lie in bed in the pitch-black night and listen to that haunting “pop-pop-pop-pop-pop!” of automatic gunfire, and wonder with absolute dread how many minutes I have left until it will be right on top of me. I can tell you that it is a terrifying and agonizing fear, one that millions of people around the world are forced to confront each and every single day, especially children. Over the years of doing this work, unfortunately, war has killed far too many people close to me. And on at least a couple of occasions, war has very nearly killed me as well.

We can make different choices

But I firmly believe, which is why I get up and do what I do every single day, that we can make different choices here. Because you see, war is ours, as human beings. We buy it, sell it, spread it and wage it. We are therefore not powerless to solve it. On the contrary, we are the only ones who can.

Thank you very much, and I want to wish you the greatest success.

Obama Breaks His Promises Again, Sends More Troops to Iraq

Source:  TeleSUR
July 11 2016

obama 12c

obama breaks promise again.jpg

A U.S. soldier kicks a gate during a mission in Baquba, in Diyala province, around 40 miles northeast of Baghdad, 2008. | Photo: Reuters

This new deployment would bring the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to almost 5,000 soldiers.

The U.S. government announced Monday it was sending more than 500 troops to Iraq in a bid to support the Iraqi army in its upcoming operation to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group, a development that constitutes President Barack Obama’s latest move against his own repeated promises to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq.

ANALYSIS:  First Gulf War: US First Push for Post-Soviet World Order

“With these additional U.S. forces I’m describing today, we’ll bring unique capability to the campaign and provide critical support to the Iraqi forces at a key moment in the fight,” U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a gathering of U.S. troops in Baghdad Monday.

This new deployment would bring the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to almost 5,000 soldiers and comes less than three months after Obama sent 200 soldiers to Iraq to “advise” Iraqi troops during operations against the extremist group.

The latest addition to U.S. troops in Iraq is contradictory to Obama’s promise just two years ago when he said his government’s efforts to help the Iraqi army retake territory from the Islamic State group would “not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.”

Obama’s promises in 2008 when he was running for the presidency

One of Obama’s main promises in 2008 when he was running for the presidency was that he would end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and completely withdraw forces from the two nations.

While he did manage to officially end the war in Iraq, Washington has in fact steadily increased the number of troops In Iraq since 2014. Also there are more than 5,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan who are carrying out active combat operations as part of the NATO force.

Obama also authorized late in 2015 the deployment of forces in Syria where at least 50 special forces are fighting against the Islamic State group.

It seems Obama will leave office with three wars in progress instead of ending two, Greg Jaffe argued in a column for the Washington Post last October.

OPINION:  I Helped Create ISIS

One of the most devastating consequences of the U.S.’s unjust and illegal war in Iraq in 2003

“As he nears the end of his presidency, Obama faces the prospect that he will leave office with ground forces deployed to three combat zones,” Jaffe wrote and added that in Iraq and Syria, “the president has incrementally boosted the U.S. force, beginning an initial deployment of several hundred troops to Iraq in 2014.”

Mosul is the second-largest city in Iraq and the Islamic State group’s stronghold from which its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the so-called Islamic caliphate shortly after they took over the city in summer 2014.

While the extremist group would be dealt a major blow if the city is liberated by Iraqi forces, it is noteworthy that the very existence of the group is one of the most devastating consequences of the U.S.’s unjust and illegal war in Iraq in 2003.

 

Imperialism Obama Style: 800 Military Bases Around the World

Source:  Cuba- Network in Defense of Humanity
July 4 2016

by Sarah Lazare

Sec. of State Kerry brags we are “involved” in more countries than ever, as Obama becomes first president to serve two terms always at war.

obama 12cimperialism obama style.jpeg

Turmoil and strife

Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival on June 28, Secretary of State John Kerry sought to ease anxiety over an ever-rising global “turmoil and strife” by pointing to an eyebrow-raising fact. “I state unabashedly to every single one of you: The United States of America is more engaged in more places with greater impact today than at any time in American history,” he reassured the audience. “And that is simply documentable and undeniable.”Kerry made it clear that when he talks about “engagement,” war is a key part of the equation.

Libya, Afghanistan and Ukraine

“We’ve been working with countries to support a new Government of National Accord in Libya,” he said, referencing a dubious state that the U.S. is moving to heavily arm. “I was recently in the United Arab Emirates. I think we’ve come to a common understanding of how to strengthen that government and go after Daesh in Libya. We’re supporting Afghanistan in its fight against extremists and support a sovereign and democratic Ukraine.”

The United States “probably has more foreign military bases than any other people, nation, or empire in history” … David Vine

Kerry’s observation of unprecedented engagement may, in  fact, be an understatement. As David Vine, the author of the book Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, noted in 2015, the United States “probably has more foreign military bases than any other people, nation, or empire in history.” The roughly 800 U.S. military bases around the world compare to a grand total of zero free-standing foreign bases on U.S. soil, Vine reported.

Special operations forces deployed to 135 countries

Meanwhile, Ken McGraw, a spokesman for Special Operations Command, told journalist Nick Turse that, by the 9th month of 2015, special operations forces had already deployed to 135 countries—or 70 percent of all the nations on the planet. This compares to about 60 countries under the George W. Bush years. The Government Accountability Office concluded that special operations funding has ballooned from $3 billion in 2001 to just under $10 billion in 2014.

In recent years the U.S. military has, in fact, developed a remarkably extensive network of more than 60 outposts and access points in Africa

And then there is the steady creep of AFRICOM. Journalist Nick Turse wrote in November 2015, “in recent years the U.S. military has, in fact, developed a remarkably extensive network of more than 60 outposts and access points in Africa. Some are currently being utilized, some are held in reserve, and some may be shuttered. These bases, camps, compounds, port facilities, fuel bunkers, and other sites can be found in at least 34 countries—more than 60% of the nations on the continent—many of them corrupt, repressive states with poor human rights records.”

The Pentagon even runs an estimated 170 golf courses around the world.

Tallying up the list of U.S. direct or proxy wars is no simple task. In a May 2013 article published in the journal Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy, Linda J. Bilmes and Michael D. Intriligator noted:

U.S. military operations are involved in all the five continents

Today U.S. military operations are involved in scores of countries across all the five continents. The U.S. military is the world’s largest landlord, with significant military facilities in nations around the world, and with a significant presence in Bahrain, Djibouti, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Kyrgyzstan, in addition to long-established bases in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Italy, and the UK. Some of these are vast, such as the Al Udeid Air Force Base in Qatar, the forward headquarters of the United States Central Command, which has recently been expanded to accommodate up to 10,000 troops and 120 aircraft.

Militarized intervention drives the greatest crises of human strife and displacement since World War II

The authors ultimately concluded that the U.S. was directly or indirectly involved in wars in 74 countries at the time.

As recently as May 2016, New York Times reporter Mark Landler observed that Obama is the “only president in American history to serve two complete terms with the nation at war.”

Kerry is certainly correct to point out that U.S. engagement in vaster than it ever has been before. But as militarized intervention drives the greatest crises of human strife and displacement since World War II, this observation is no comfort at all.

Veteran For Peace explains why he protested at the launch of one more US warship

Source:  Popular Resistance
June 21 2016

By Dud Hendrick, www.commondreams.org
One More Warship: Remarks At Launching Of ‘Stealth’ Destroyer

Member of Veterans for Peace arrested during an act of peaceful civil disobedience outside

protest one more warship.jpgAbove Photo: Protesters block a road in Bath, Maine on Saturday morning before the christening of the USS Michael Monsoor at Bath Iron Works. (Photo: Regis Tremblay)

(Editor’s note: The following remarks were delivered on Saturday, June 18, 2016 outside Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine during a protest against the christening of the U.S. Navy’s new Zumwalt-class destroyer battleship. The author, along with eleven other people, was subsequently arrested during an act of peaceful civil disobedience outside the shipyard’s gates.)

I proudly went off to Vietnam, having volunteered to serve there

I am a proud member of Veterans for Peace.  As a young man, really a boy, I received a Congressional nomination to attend the U.S. Naval Academy.  Totally a product, as we are all, of the era and environment in which I had spent the first 18 years of my life, I proudly went off to Annapolis; just as, seven years later, I proudly went off to Vietnam, having volunteered to serve there.  Among my Naval Academy classmates was Bill Fitzgerald.  He, too, proudly served in Vietnam.  In 1967, Bill died heroically when his base was overrun by Viet Cong.  The USS William Fitzgerald, an Arleigh Burke destroyer, was launched in January 1994.  I was here on that occasion as well, only across the street.

Our country’s heinous and bloody history

My politics have changed since the 1960’s. I credit truth-tellers like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn mostly.  But, our country’s heinous and bloody history in the intervening years has validated my change of heart.  Think of it—this history.  Low-lights might include:

  • In September of 1968, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, became Commander of Naval Forces in Vietnam. During this period he ordered the spraying of Agent Orange over the Vietnam countryside.
  • Later we bombed Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi not once, three times—each a war crime.
  • At war’s end we had killed 2-3 million Vietnamese. Unbelievably, a like number of Laotians and Cambodians were also killed. Today some 2-3 million Vietnamese exist (you can hardly call it living) in institutions, unable to take care of themselves, the second and third generations of Agent Orange exposure. A gift that keeps on giving.
  • The scholar William Blum reports we’ve bombed 28 countries since the Vietnam War.
  • Andrew Bacevich, the author and West Point graduate says we’ve bombed 14 Islamic countries in this century.
  • Over 250,000 Iraqis have been killed since 2003. A couple of million made refugees.
  • More recently, we bombed the Kunduz Hospital in Afghanistan—again a war crime. Human beings! These were all human beings!

US – the country deemed to be the greatest threat to world peace

These are only a few pieces of a history that has earned the U.S. the distinction of being that country deemed to be the greatest threat to world peace according to an international poll.  The U.S. garnered 24% of the votes, well ahead of Pakistan, a distant second with only 8% of the votes.

No doubt we can attribute this unwanted eminence, in part, to this history I’ve cited as well as to Guantanamo, to Abu Ghraib, to Bagram Detention Facility and to the continuing policy of torture in such places as well as to our targeted assassination program—extra-judicial state-sanctioned murder by drones.  According to a recent report 90% of the victims of drone attacks in Afghanistan have been innocents.  Pakistan is the site of more U.S. drone strikes than any other country. The Obama administration has carried out more than 370 drone attacks there, killing as many as 1,000 civilians, including up to 200 children, according to data collected by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

All this is well-known history around our digitally connected world.

The launching of the Zumwalt destroyer shows how misguided our leaders are

What does all this have to do with why we are here to protest the launching of the Zumwalt destroyer?  Well, because this destroyer, the Monsoor, is another piece, another symbol, albeit a small, but expensive one, of how misguided our leaders are.   How wed to imperialism and world domination they are. The price tag on this destroyer is $4 billion and rising.  Alternatively, we could enable 40,000 students to attend four years of college debt free.  Whether we call it socialism or not, that would seem to make more sense than building one more warship to better arm a country that already spends more than the next seven biggest spending countries and already has the world’s most powerful navy by far.

At the beginning of my remarks I mentioned Admiral Zumwalt, after whom this new class of warship is named.  He who authorized the Agent Orange spraying of Vietnam ensuring the agonies of millions of Vietnamese and of the descendents of those American troops similarly exposed for generations to come.   It is an extreme irony isn’t it, that Admiral Zumwalt’s son, a young lieutenant who himself served in the Mekong Delta during the spraying, who died young, and his son, the admiral’s grandson, born with congenital anomalies, were evidently among the victims of the poisoning?  They, too, were human beings.  Something about reaping what one sows.

Congress – like a pack of drunken sailors, totally out of control

Our Congress, voting again and again for increased military expenditures, is like a pack of drunken sailors, totally out of control, but comparing them with military men would be unfair—given they are almost all millionaires or better and that their pockets and campaign war chests are lined with coin from those who benefit directly from our war-making—the wealthy elite who run the behemoth corporations of the defense and security industries.

I’d like to quote President Obama.  During his recent visit to Hiroshima he said, “We must change our mindset about war itself to prevent conflict through diplomacy and strive to end conflicts after they’ve begun. We must see our growing interdependence as a cause for peaceful cooperation and not violent competition. We must define our nations not by our capacity to destroy, but by what we build. And perhaps above all, we must re-imagine our connection to one another as members of one human race.”

Wow.  Did he really say this?  Better that he really “be” this!

It’s time we the people make certain that our leaders don’t simply utter platitudes

It is past time that we the people make certain that our leaders don’t simply utter platitudes, but that we insist they deliver leadership worthy of the people we believe we are and represent values that reflect a respect for our planet and for all people.  Human beings!  All human beings!  Fellow human beings!

In closing, let us consider the people of Gangjeong village on Jeju Island, Korea.

Over the past nine years the villagers, joined by thousands of other Korean and international activists, to include several of us here today, have worked to prevent the construction of a naval base on this once tranquil coast.  The war ships built here at Bath Iron Works will be harbored at Jeju further escalating tensions in the Asia Pacific.  We stand in solidarity with our fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters of Gangjeong village.

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