The Washington Post Will Kill Us All

“War with Iran is probably our best option.” This is an actual headline from the Washington Post.

Yes it’s an op-ed, but don’t fantasize that it’s part of some sort of balanced wide-ranging array of varied opinions. The Washington Post wouldn’t print a column advocating peace to save its life — as such an act just might help to do. And you can imagine the response if the headline had been: “Racism is probably our best option,” or “Rape is probably our best option,” or “Child abuse is probably our best option.” Nobody would object: “But they’ve probably had lots of columns opposing child abuse. Surely they can have one in favor, or do you want to shut down debate?” No, some things are rightly considered beyond the range of acceptability. War, in Washington, is not one of them.

Now, war propaganda is illegal under the International Covenant on Civic and Political Rights. War itself is illegal under the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the United Nations Charter. But the Washington Post isn’t one to worry about legal niceties.

There was quite a brouhaha last week when 47 senators tried to impede negotiations between the White House / State Department and Iran. Yes, charges of violating the Logan Act were ridiculous. If that was a violation, there have been thousands.  In fact here’s one now from the Washington Post. Iran’s government reads this vicious piece of propaganda just as surely as it reads an “open letter” from 47 sexually repressed climate-denying bible-thumping nimrods with corporate funding. When my town’s government passed a resolution opposing any U.S. war on Iran I was immediately contacted by Iranian media, and our city council members were never charged with undermining the federal government’s so-called foreign policy. But the nonpartisan substance of the critique of the 47 Fools and of the Netanyahu Get-Up-Sit-Down aerobics workout was important and applies equally to the Washington Post: advocating war is immoral, illegal, and idiotic.

It is no secret what war on Iran means:

“Iranian cities — owing to geography, climate, building construction, and population densities — are particularly vulnerable to nuclear attack, according to a new study, ‘Nuclear War Between Israel and Iran: Lethality Beyond the Pale,’ published in the journal Conflict & Health by researchers from the University of Georgia and Harvard University. It is the first publicly released scientific assessment of what a nuclear attack in the Middle East might actually mean for people in the region.

“Its scenarios are staggering. An Israeli attack on the Iranian capital of Tehran using five 500-kiloton weapons would, the study estimates, kill seven million people — 86% of the population — and leave close to 800,000 wounded. A strike with five 250-kiloton weapons would kill an estimated 5.6 million and injure 1.6 million, according to predictions made using an advanced software package designed to calculate mass casualties from a nuclear detonation.

“Estimates of the civilian toll in other Iranian cities are even more horrendous. A nuclear assault on the city ofArak, the site of a heavy water plant central to Iran’s nuclear program, would potentially kill 93% of its 424,000 residents. Three 100-kiloton nuclear weapons hitting the Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas would slaughter an estimated 94% of its 468,000 citizens, leaving just 1% of the population uninjured. A multi-weapon strike on Kermanshah, a Kurdish city with a population of 752,000, would result in an almost unfathomable 99.9% casualty rate.”

 

The barbaric boneheadedness of someone who would write such murder off as acceptable because the victims are not Americans is almost unfathomable. The response would be attacks on U.S. soldiers and U.S. citizens and the United States. The potential for escalation into a global and nuclear war would be significant, particularly with the U.S. playing at war games on Russia’s western border and arming attacks on the government of Syria.

But here comes Joshua Muravchik in the Washington Post. He’s funded by corporate-funded and war-industry-funded institutes. He’s backed all the recent wars, including the war on Iraq. He has no shame, no repentance. He wants more war. And all the many wars that President Obama is happy to wage or provoke just aren’t enough. There must be a war on Iran.

Muravchik calls Iran “violent, rapacious, devious, and redolent with hatred for Israel and the United States” without offering any evidence or explanation, and then claims — contrary to some 17 U.S. and 1 Israeli spy agencies — that Iran “is bound to continue its quest for nuclear weapons.” Imagine submitting an op-ed to the Washington Post that asserted that Iran had never had and does not have a nuclear weapons program. The editors would demand proof. Imaging providing the proof. The editors would reject it out of hand. After all, “both sides” make the same baseless accusations. President Obama and Senator McCain will both tell you that Iran is trying to build a nuke and must be stopped. They’ll just disagree on how to stop it, with Obama proposing a response that fits better with reality than it does with his own rhetoric.

Muravchik objects to any deal that might be reached with Iran because it will, necessarily and by definition, have Iran’s agreement. A better option, he says, would be the above mass-murder scenario. “What if force is the only way to block Iran from gaining nuclear weapons?” Iran is abiding by its treaty obligations, unlike the United States or Israel. Its nuclear energy puts it close to nuclear weaponry, but no closer than many other nations including all the Gulf dictatorships to which the West is currently spreading nuclear energy, just as it did to Iran — not to mention the CIA’s handing nuclear bomb plans to Iran and scapegoating Jeffrey Sterling over it. Beyond a negotiated agreement, a little leading by example, the removal of Israel’s nukes, the provision of clean energy, and a coordinated elimination of nuclear energy are entirely doable.

Muravchik knows this. And he knows that anyone you can talk to can work out a deal with you that is far superior to murdering millions of human beings. In fact everyone who’s not a vicious fascist pig knows this. So, there are two solutions in the standard propaganda toolbox: 1) claim Iran cannot be talked to, 2) call Iran a bunch of Nazis:

“Ideology is the raison d’etre of Iran’s regime, legitimating its rule and inspiring its leaders and their supporters. In this sense, it is akin to communist, fascist and Nazi regimes that set out to transform the world. Iran aims to carry its Islamic revolution across the Middle East and beyond. A nuclear arsenal, even if it is only brandished, would vastly enhance Iran’s power to achieve that goal.”

He admits that nuclear arsenals tend not to be used. But he claims that the madmen of Iran, even while exhibiting such rational restraint, would nonetheless spread their imperial conquests. Never mind that the United States has troops in 175 nations while Iran has not attacked another nation in centuries. If Iran can be imagined as behaving the way the United States would, and the United States can be imagined as behaving the way civilized countries do, then violence can be made to seem justified.

But you have to catapult the propaganda: “Sanctions may have induced Iran to enter negotiations, but they have not persuaded it to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons.” There is of course no evidence for the opening claim in that sentence, nor for the concluding lie.

So, what we need, according to the Washington Post’s columnist is another knowingly self-defeating war that makes everything even worse: “Wouldn’t an attack cause ordinary Iranians to rally behind the regime? Perhaps, but military losses have also served to undermine regimes, including the Greek and Argentine juntas, the Russian czar and the Russian communists.” Our over-excited neocon may actually be at the point of imagining that Ronald Reagan invaded the USSR. The Washington Post, if questioned, will tell you that accuracy is not relevant in opinion writing.

And, if at first you kill millions of innocent people while accomplishing nothing: “Wouldn’t destroying much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure merely delay its progress? Perhaps, but we can strike as often as necessary. Of course, Iran would try to conceal and defend the elements of its nuclear program, so we might have to find new ways to discover and attack them. Surely the United States could best Iran in such a technological race.”

Surely. And if not, what’s the viability of life on planet earth in the grand scheme of things? After all, there is some “us” for whom a war on Iran is “our” best option. For this crowd, there is a more important world than this one. It is the world of sacred self-deluded megalomaniacal murderers for whom killing is a sacrament.

And never mind the uncontrollable outbreak of wider war, when you’ve already written off the planet: “And finally, wouldn’t Iran retaliate by using its own forces or proxies to attack Americans — as it has done in Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia — with new ferocity? Probably. ” But, says our sociopathic friend, it is better for the United States to suffer hard losses, while killing lots of Iranians unworthy of any notice, than to suffer the even worse losses that would surely come if an imaginary Iran that behaved like the United States attacked its neighbors and the United States were “drawn in” to those wars.

When you’re starting wars, not on the grounds that fictional weapons of mass destruction will kill you otherwise, not on the pretense of preventing an attack on civilians, but on the grounds that if you don’t start a war now someone else could theoretically start one later, you have set up a logic of Armageddon. And it may kill us all. We may die in part of overdosing on Hollywood movies with happy endings that convince us reality looks like that. But we won’t all die, I feel fairly certain, without the Washington Post cheering death through the door.

Which Party Do You View Iran Through?

Most people in the United States have little contact with Iran or its culture. Iran comes up as a scary threat in the speeches of demagogues. A range of debate is offered between obliterate it and pressure it into compliance with our civilized norms, or at least the civilized norms of some other country that doesn’t obliterate or pressure people.

So how do Americans view Iran? Many view it, like all governmental matters, through the lens of either the Democratic or the Republican Party. The Democratic President has come to be seen as on the side of preventing a war with Iran. The Republican Congress has come to be seen as pushing for that war. In this framework, something remarkable happens. Democrats begin recognizing all of the arguments against war that ought to be applied to every war.

Liberals and progressives are full of talk about respecting their president and their commander in chief and following his course to tame the Iranian threat, and so forth. But they are also pointing out that war is optional, that it is not a justifiable last resort because there are always other choices. They are pointing out the undesirability of war, the horrors of war, and the preferability of a diplomatic resolution, indeed the generation of friendly and cooperative relations — albeit in some cases as a means to fighting another war with Iran as an ally. (This seems to be Obama’s scheme for using war to fix the disaster left by a past war.)

Online activist organizations that identify with the Democratic Party are actually doing remarkably well at arguing against a war with Iran. They’ve largely dropped the President’s own rhetoric that baselessly claims Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, preferring to rail against the danger of Republican warmongering. That’s a reality-based position held by neither Party — the Republicans don’t claim they’re starting a war and the White House doesn’t generally focus on accusing them of it. Yes, these groups are still pushing the idea that Republicans disrespecting their president is an even bigger deal than starting a war, but when they turn to the topic of war they truly sound like they oppose it and understand why we always all should.

If you see Iran through that left-Democratic lens, that is if you are opposed to Republican efforts to start yet another unnecessary catastrophic war, this one with Iran, I have a few ideas I’d like to run by you.

1. What if President Obama were opposed to efforts to undermine and overthrow the government of Venezuela? What if Republicans in Congress were ridiculously claiming that Venezuela was a threat to the United States? What if the Republicans were writing letters of encouragement to the leaders of coup attempts in Venezuela to let them know that they had U.S. backing regardless of what the State Department might say? Would you oppose the overthrow of the Venezuelan government?

2. What if Congress had sent a delegation to instigate a violent coup in Kiev, behind the back of the State Department and the White House? What if pressure was building toward a war with nuclear Russia, and Republican leaders of Congress were eagerly fanning the flames while the White House pursued the alternatives of diplomacy, demilitarization, ceasefires, negotiations, aid, and the international rule of law? Would you oppose U.S. Congressional support for the rightwing coup government in Ukraine and its antagonization of Russia?

3. What if President Obama gave an eloquent speech acknowledging that not only is there “no military solution” in Iraq or Syria but that it’s wrong to keep saying that while pursuing a military solution? What if he pulled U.S. troops out of that region and out of Afghanistan and asked Congress to fund a Marshall Plan of aid and restitution, at a much lower price tag than the troop presence of course? And what if Republicans introduced a bill to put all the troops back in? Would you oppose that bill?

4. What if the Congressional armed “services” committees set up panels to review kill lists and ordered men, women, and children targeted and murdered with drone strikes, along with anyone too close to them and anyone with a suspicious profile? What if President Obama accused Congress of violating national laws on murder, the U.S. Constitution, the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Kellogg Briand Pact, the Ten Commandments, and the lessons of the past that show such reckless actions to generate more enemies than they kill? Would you protest drone kills and demand the elimination of armed drones?

Here’s what worries me. There are some positive signs right now and were some in late 2013 and at moments since. But the anti-Republican-war movement of 2002-2007 may not be matched again until the U.S. President is again a Republican (if that ever again happens). And by then, President George W. Bush’s wars will have long passed without any penalties for those responsible. And President Obama will have increased military spending and foreign presence and privatization, given the CIA the power to wage wars, eliminated the practice of gaining UN approval for wars, ended the custom of gaining Congressional sanction for wars, established the practice of murdering people with missiles anywhere on earth (and armed half the earth’s nations with similar ability), while continuing to spread violence and weaponry through Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and on and on.

One last question: If you had a chance to oppose things you dislike, even though they’re the result of bipartisanship, would you?

Which Party Do You View Iran Through?

Most people in the United States have little contact with Iran or its culture. Iran comes up as a scary threat in the speeches of demagogues. A range of debate is offered between obliterate it and pressure it into compliance with our civilized norms, or at least the civilized norms of some other country that doesn’t obliterate or pressure people.

So how do Americans view Iran? Many view it, like all governmental matters, through the lens of either the Democratic or the Republican Party. The Democratic President has come to be seen as on the side of preventing a war with Iran. The Republican Congress has come to be seen as pushing for that war. In this framework, something remarkable happens. Democrats begin recognizing all of the arguments against war that ought to be applied to every war.

Liberals and progressives are full of talk about respecting their president and their commander in chief and following his course to tame the Iranian threat, and so forth. But they are also pointing out that war is optional, that it is not a justifiable last resort because there are always other choices. They are pointing out the undesirability of war, the horrors of war, and the preferability of a diplomatic resolution, indeed the generation of friendly and cooperative relations — albeit in some cases as a means to fighting another war with Iran as an ally. (This seems to be Obama’s scheme for using war to fix the disaster left by a past war.)

Online activist organizations that identify with the Democratic Party are actually doing remarkably well at arguing against a war with Iran. They’ve largely dropped the President’s own rhetoric that baselessly claims Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, preferring to rail against the danger of Republican warmongering. That’s a reality-based position held by neither Party — the Republicans don’t claim they’re starting a war and the White House doesn’t generally focus on accusing them of it. Yes, these groups are still pushing the idea that Republicans disrespecting their president is an even bigger deal than starting a war, but when they turn to the topic of war they truly sound like they oppose it and understand why we always all should.

If you see Iran through that left-Democratic lens, that is if you are opposed to Republican efforts to start yet another unnecessary catastrophic war, this one with Iran, I have a few ideas I’d like to run by you.

1. What if President Obama were opposed to efforts to undermine and overthrow the government of Venezuela? What if Republicans in Congress were ridiculously claiming that Venezuela was a threat to the United States? What if the Republicans were writing letters of encouragement to the leaders of coup attempts in Venezuela to let them know that they had U.S. backing regardless of what the State Department might say? Would you oppose the overthrow of the Venezuelan government?

2. What if Congress had sent a delegation to instigate a violent coup in Kiev, behind the back of the State Department and the White House? What if pressure was building toward a war with nuclear Russia, and Republican leaders of Congress were eagerly fanning the flames while the White House pursued the alternatives of diplomacy, demilitarization, ceasefires, negotiations, aid, and the international rule of law? Would you oppose U.S. Congressional support for the rightwing coup government in Ukraine and its antagonization of Russia?

3. What if President Obama gave an eloquent speech acknowledging that not only is there “no military solution” in Iraq or Syria but that it’s wrong to keep saying that while pursuing a military solution? What if he pulled U.S. troops out of that region and out of Afghanistan and asked Congress to fund a Marshall Plan of aid and restitution, at a much lower price tag than the troop presence of course? And what if Republicans introduced a bill to put all the troops back in? Would you oppose that bill?

4. What if the Congressional armed “services” committees set up panels to review kill lists and ordered men, women, and children targeted and murdered with drone strikes, along with anyone too close to them and anyone with a suspicious profile? What if President Obama accused Congress of violating national laws on murder, the U.S. Constitution, the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Kellogg Briand Pact, the Ten Commandments, and the lessons of the past that show such reckless actions to generate more enemies than they kill? Would you protest drone kills and demand the elimination of armed drones?

Here’s what worries me. There are some positive signs right now and were some in late 2013 and at moments since. But the anti-Republican-war movement of 2002-2007 may not be matched again until the U.S. President is again a Republican (if that ever again happens). And by then, President George W. Bush’s wars will have long passed without any penalties for those responsible. And President Obama will have increased military spending and foreign presence and privatization, given the CIA the power to wage wars, eliminated the practice of gaining UN approval for wars, ended the custom of gaining Congressional sanction for wars, established the practice of murdering people with missiles anywhere on earth (and armed half the earth’s nations with similar ability), while continuing to spread violence and weaponry through Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and on and on.

One last question: If you had a chance to oppose things you dislike, even though they’re the result of bipartisanship, would you?

A Global Security System: An Alternative to War

World Beyond War has just published a short book titled A Global Security System: An Alternative to War.

This act constitutes an intervention into the debate over whether to create a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force. In fact, this document should help stimulate a debate over whether to continue with the war approach to global conflicts, authorized or not.

It has become routine to acknowledge that “there is no military solution” even while pursuing military actions as preferable to doing nothing. A Global Security System builds a case for alternative actions, both in a moment of crisis, and on the long-term path toward preventing conflict and developing nonviolent means of resolving conflict.

This book describes the “hardware” of creating a peace system, and the “software” — the values and concepts — necessary to operate a peace system, and the means to spread these globally. This report is based on the work of many experts in international relations and peace studies and on the experience of many activists. A quotation from the first section reads:

“In On Violence, Hannah Arendt wrote that the reason warfare is still with us is not a death wish of our species nor some instinct of aggression, ‘. . . but the simple fact that no substitute for this final arbiter in international affairs has yet appeared on the political scene.’ The Alternative Global Security System we describe here is the substitute. The goal of this document is to gather into one place, in the briefest form possible, everything one needs to know to work toward an end to war by replacing it with an Alternative Global Security System in contrast to the failed system of national security.”

The book is available free online at WorldBeyondWar.org, including the Executive Summary and full Table of Contents. Here is the full PDF version. The paperback is available at your local bookstore or any online bookseller. The distributor is Ingram. The ISBN is 978-0983083085. Buy online at Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. The audio book can be purchased here. The eBook editions (978-1495147159) are coming soon.

Comments can be posted under each section of the book on the WorldBeyondWar.org website. Some of the top experts in various fields will be engaging in conversation in these comment sections. Each book section is posted along with graphics, an audio version, and related actions that can be taken. Check it out!

A teach-in on this topic is planned for 5:00-6:30 p.m. March 20, 2015, at University of the District of Columbia Law School at 4200 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC, as part of four days of events planned by Spring Rising. Speaking will be David Swanson, author and director of World Beyond War; Matthew Hoh, a former State Department official who resigned in protest from his post in Afghanistan; and Robert Fantina, author and journalist whose most recent book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy.

 

A Global Security System: An Alternative to War

World Beyond War has just published a short book titled A Global Security System: An Alternative to War.

This act constitutes an intervention into the debate over whether to create a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force. In fact, this document should help stimulate a debate over whether to continue with the war approach to global conflicts, authorized or not.

It has become routine to acknowledge that “there is no military solution” even while pursuing military actions as preferable to doing nothing. A Global Security System builds a case for alternative actions, both in a moment of crisis, and on the long-term path toward preventing conflict and developing nonviolent means of resolving conflict.

This book describes the “hardware” of creating a peace system, and the “software” — the values and concepts — necessary to operate a peace system, and the means to spread these globally. This report is based on the work of many experts in international relations and peace studies and on the experience of many activists. A quotation from the first section reads:

“In On Violence, Hannah Arendt wrote that the reason warfare is still with us is not a death wish of our species nor some instinct of aggression, ‘. . . but the simple fact that no substitute for this final arbiter in international affairs has yet appeared on the political scene.’ The Alternative Global Security System we describe here is the substitute. The goal of this document is to gather into one place, in the briefest form possible, everything one needs to know to work toward an end to war by replacing it with an Alternative Global Security System in contrast to the failed system of national security.”

The book is available free online at WorldBeyondWar.org, including the Executive Summary and full Table of Contents. Here is the full PDF version. The paperback is available at your local bookstore or any online bookseller. The distributor is Ingram. The ISBN is 978-0983083085. Buy online at Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. The audio book can be purchased here. The eBook editions (978-1495147159) are coming soon.

Comments can be posted under each section of the book on the WorldBeyondWar.org website. Some of the top experts in various fields will be engaging in conversation in these comment sections. Each book section is posted along with graphics, an audio version, and related actions that can be taken. Check it out!

A teach-in on this topic is planned for 5:00-6:30 p.m. March 20, 2015, at University of the District of Columbia Law School at 4200 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC, as part of four days of events planned by Spring Rising. Speaking will be David Swanson, author and director of World Beyond War; Matthew Hoh, a former State Department official who resigned in protest from his post in Afghanistan; and Robert Fantina, author and journalist whose most recent book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy.

 

Putin Wants to Eat Your Children

If U.S. television and politicians started saying that Saudi Arabia should be bombed because it kills and tortures innocent people, within a week many millions of Americans would demand just that. And because those voices do say that about ISIS, many millions of Americans do favor a war on ISIS.

My point is not that bombs would be worse than the problem addressed and would make the problem itself worse as well, although that’s all true. Rather, my point is that most people who favor wars do so in order to blindly support a nation, and in blindly supporting that nation they allow it to dictate which wars they will favor. Although war supporters will give you reasons for the wars they favor, they actually favor whichever wars they are told to favor, and no others. And they’ll give you the reasons they are told to believe in as well.

More often than not, the U.S. public is advised to favor a war on a single individual of demonic nature, even though a war against an individual is completely nonsensical. According to nonsensical propaganda, you don’t bomb Iraqis; you bomb former-U.S.-ally Saddam Hussein. You don’t bomb Afghans; you bomb former-U.S.-ally Osama bin Laden. You don’t drone kill Pakistani and Yemeni and Somali children and women and men; you drone kill Al Qaeda Terrorist Number Three, over and over again. You don’t liberate Libya from what stability it had; you kill former-U.S.-ally Muammar Gadaffi. You don’t attack Panama; you attack former-U.S.-ally Manuel Noriega. Et cetera et cetera.

Well, it’s Vladimir Putin’s turn, which means Russia is at risk, which means the world is at risk, and yet the rough beast stumbling toward Bethlehem to be born is as oblivious to its conception as any unborn thing or television viewer.

The Washington Post has a criticism of the U.S. television show “House of Cards” as being unrealistic in its portrayal of a Putin character because the actor is too tall, the White House would never invite the Russian band Pussy Riot (jailed by Putin) to dinner with Putin, etc. If you actually watch the episode it gets a lot more unrealistic than that.

First the Putin character is made so obnoxious that you’re supposed to take the sociopathic (hands-on) murderer who’s the U.S. president for a nice reasonable guy. Then you’re supposed to accept the whole pretense that the United States wants to and can create “peace” between Israel and its victims despite giving Israel billions of dollars of weapons every year and blocking all global accountability for its crimes. Then you’re supposed to imagine that Russia and the United States can and should join forces and use those forces to violently bring about a state of nonviolence without ever even considering any of the grievances or injustices at the root of the problem.

Then comes a pretense that is central to the formulaic but muddy thinking that takes the U.S. into wars. When Pussy Riot protests Putin’s domestic abuses, the U.S. president declares that he will follow their example and “stand up” to Putin. This equation between protesting domestic crimes and threatening military hostility from abroad is absolutely insane but absolutely standard in war propaganda.

And why does the President feel obliged to “stand up” to Putin? Because of how the negotiations had gone earlier in the program. The U.S. asked for Putin’s help in “bringing peace” to the Middle East, and Putin said OK but I’d like you to take your missiles that are directed at Russia out of Eastern Europe. The President said he would pull out a small unspecified number but his doing so would have to be kept secret. Putin replied that such a bargain should not be secret and there would be no accountability if it were. And the U.S. President at that point freaked out, determined that Putin was an obnoxious jerk who ruined parties, imposed himself on the First Lady, and generally made everyone hate him as much as humanly possible, and therefore Russia deserved nothing and the world would be condemned to a greater likelihood of nuclear war.

You won’t find that account in the Washington Post but you will see it if you watch the program. Or if you read U.S. magazines you’ll find something similar. If you read U.S. books you’ll find the same themes. If you listen to your Congress members you’ll get the same general line. A war went from unpopular in 2013 to popular in 2014 because of some ugly videos of murders and the redirection of the war toward the murderers. Vladimir Putin is being set up as the reason for a popular war even as hostility is being provoked in Ukraine and throughout Eastern Europe.

This could be the last such set-up if we quickly learn our lesson and pull it back, or if we don’t.

Putin Wants to Eat Your Children

If U.S. television and politicians started saying that Saudi Arabia should be bombed because it kills and tortures innocent people, within a week many millions of Americans would demand just that. And because those voices do say that about ISIS, many millions of Americans do favor a war on ISIS.

My point is not that bombs would be worse than the problem addressed and would make the problem itself worse as well, although that’s all true. Rather, my point is that most people who favor wars do so in order to blindly support a nation, and in blindly supporting that nation they allow it to dictate which wars they will favor. Although war supporters will give you reasons for the wars they favor, they actually favor whichever wars they are told to favor, and no others. And they’ll give you the reasons they are told to believe in as well.

More often than not, the U.S. public is advised to favor a war on a single individual of demonic nature, even though a war against an individual is completely nonsensical. According to nonsensical propaganda, you don’t bomb Iraqis; you bomb former-U.S.-ally Saddam Hussein. You don’t bomb Afghans; you bomb former-U.S.-ally Osama bin Laden. You don’t drone kill Pakistani and Yemeni and Somali children and women and men; you drone kill Al Qaeda Terrorist Number Three, over and over again. You don’t liberate Libya from what stability it had; you kill former-U.S.-ally Muammar Gadaffi. You don’t attack Panama; you attack former-U.S.-ally Manuel Noriega. Et cetera et cetera.

Well, it’s Vladimir Putin’s turn, which means Russia is at risk, which means the world is at risk, and yet the rough beast stumbling toward Bethlehem to be born is as oblivious to its conception as any unborn thing or television viewer.

The Washington Post has a criticism of the U.S. television show “House of Cards” as being unrealistic in its portrayal of a Putin character because the actor is too tall, the White House would never invite the Russian band Pussy Riot (jailed by Putin) to dinner with Putin, etc. If you actually watch the episode it gets a lot more unrealistic than that.

First the Putin character is made so obnoxious that you’re supposed to take the sociopathic (hands-on) murderer who’s the U.S. president for a nice reasonable guy. Then you’re supposed to accept the whole pretense that the United States wants to and can create “peace” between Israel and its victims despite giving Israel billions of dollars of weapons every year and blocking all global accountability for its crimes. Then you’re supposed to imagine that Russia and the United States can and should join forces and use those forces to violently bring about a state of nonviolence without ever even considering any of the grievances or injustices at the root of the problem.

Then comes a pretense that is central to the formulaic but muddy thinking that takes the U.S. into wars. When Pussy Riot protests Putin’s domestic abuses, the U.S. president declares that he will follow their example and “stand up” to Putin. This equation between protesting domestic crimes and threatening military hostility from abroad is absolutely insane but absolutely standard in war propaganda.

And why does the President feel obliged to “stand up” to Putin? Because of how the negotiations had gone earlier in the program. The U.S. asked for Putin’s help in “bringing peace” to the Middle East, and Putin said OK but I’d like you to take your missiles that are directed at Russia out of Eastern Europe. The President said he would pull out a small unspecified number but his doing so would have to be kept secret. Putin replied that such a bargain should not be secret and there would be no accountability if it were. And the U.S. President at that point freaked out, determined that Putin was an obnoxious jerk who ruined parties, imposed himself on the First Lady, and generally made everyone hate him as much as humanly possible, and therefore Russia deserved nothing and the world would be condemned to a greater likelihood of nuclear war.

You won’t find that account in the Washington Post but you will see it if you watch the program. Or if you read U.S. magazines you’ll find something similar. If you read U.S. books you’ll find the same themes. If you listen to your Congress members you’ll get the same general line. A war went from unpopular in 2013 to popular in 2014 because of some ugly videos of murders and the redirection of the war toward the murderers. Vladimir Putin is being set up as the reason for a popular war even as hostility is being provoked in Ukraine and throughout Eastern Europe.

This could be the last such set-up if we quickly learn our lesson and pull it back, or if we don’t.

Admit that torture does not work


To: Keifer Sutherland and Kathryn Bigelow

Admit awareness of the fact that torture does not work in real life. Sign the petition.

Why is this important?

The popularity and acceptability of torture have soared in the United States and around the world. This is not simply because the United States has tortured. The U.S. government, many of its policies, its wars, and key torture supporters have not seen similar boosts in popularity.

A major contributor to torture’s improved image has been Hollywood, led by two productions that have popularized the false belief that torture can produce life-saving information. The U.S. Senate report’s summary makes clear that torture has not worked in the real world. In fact, torture has generally not been used to stop an imminent attack, and has been used in some cases to compel agreement with lies about Iraqi links to al Qaeda — lies aimed at starting a war.

The fantasy situation in which a torturer knows his victim has life-saving information that cannot be obtained elsewhere, and that his victim won’t lie, and that torture will work better than legal interrogation exists only in fiction. But belief in it creates acceptance of torture.

Experts agree on this, but people need to hear it from the fictional experts they’ve heard of for it to seem real to them. People need to hear Keifer Sutherland, star of “24,” and Kathryn Bigelow, director of “Zero Dark Thirty,” admit that torture does not work in real life.

Sutherland and Bigelow don’t need to criticize or apologize for their art. They don’t need to begin self-censoring. They just need to admit that they are aware of the facts, that torture did not help find Osama bin Laden, that torture has not prevented deaths or destruction — quite the contrary.

U.S. torture has been a recruiting bonanza for anti-U.S. terrorist groups. This fact is trumpted most loudly by defenders of torture and opponents of releasing reports, photos, or videos of what was done. The open secret that we need key public figures to acknowledge is that there’s no up-side to weigh against the harm done.

On March 1, 2015, the Independent claimed to change everything with this headline: “Revealed: How torture was used to foil al-Qaeda 2010 plot to bomb two airliners 17 minutes before explosion.” The claims in the article are not well documented and quite possibly entirely false. There is no evidence that questioning without torture wouldn’t have worked as well or better than torturing. The bomb in the story may have been planted in the first place as retaliation for torture. And the serious argument against torture is not “It’s just wrong” but that allowing it creates its widespread use and contributes to other brutal policies including war that kill and injure countless people driving forward vicious cycles of violence.

Torture creates enemies, causes horrific suffering, and dehumanizes the torturers including those who passively allow it. A torturer cannot know that someone has lifesaving information and is most likely to reveal it under torture. And once we pretend that a torturer might know that, we cannot stop the torturers from torturing large numbers of people.

Sign the petition.

Learn more with:

Gareth Porter: How the CIA Covered Up Its Lie on Torture and bin Laden

Patrick Cockburn: CIA Torture Report: It Didn’t Work Then, It Doesn’t Work Now

Donald Canestraro: Experienced Interrogator: Torture Doesn’t Work

Admit that torture does not work


To: Keifer Sutherland and Kathryn Bigelow

Admit awareness of the fact that torture does not work in real life. Sign the petition.

Why is this important?

The popularity and acceptability of torture have soared in the United States and around the world. This is not simply because the United States has tortured. The U.S. government, many of its policies, its wars, and key torture supporters have not seen similar boosts in popularity.

A major contributor to torture’s improved image has been Hollywood, led by two productions that have popularized the false belief that torture can produce life-saving information. The U.S. Senate report’s summary makes clear that torture has not worked in the real world. In fact, torture has generally not been used to stop an imminent attack, and has been used in some cases to compel agreement with lies about Iraqi links to al Qaeda — lies aimed at starting a war.

The fantasy situation in which a torturer knows his victim has life-saving information that cannot be obtained elsewhere, and that his victim won’t lie, and that torture will work better than legal interrogation exists only in fiction. But belief in it creates acceptance of torture.

Experts agree on this, but people need to hear it from the fictional experts they’ve heard of for it to seem real to them. People need to hear Keifer Sutherland, star of “24,” and Kathryn Bigelow, director of “Zero Dark Thirty,” admit that torture does not work in real life.

Sutherland and Bigelow don’t need to criticize or apologize for their art. They don’t need to begin self-censoring. They just need to admit that they are aware of the facts, that torture did not help find Osama bin Laden, that torture has not prevented deaths or destruction — quite the contrary.

U.S. torture has been a recruiting bonanza for anti-U.S. terrorist groups. This fact is trumpted most loudly by defenders of torture and opponents of releasing reports, photos, or videos of what was done. The open secret that we need key public figures to acknowledge is that there’s no up-side to weigh against the harm done.

On March 1, 2015, the Independent claimed to change everything with this headline: “Revealed: How torture was used to foil al-Qaeda 2010 plot to bomb two airliners 17 minutes before explosion.” The claims in the article are not well documented and quite possibly entirely false. There is no evidence that questioning without torture wouldn’t have worked as well or better than torturing. The bomb in the story may have been planted in the first place as retaliation for torture. And the serious argument against torture is not “It’s just wrong” but that allowing it creates its widespread use and contributes to other brutal policies including war that kill and injure countless people driving forward vicious cycles of violence.

Torture creates enemies, causes horrific suffering, and dehumanizes the torturers including those who passively allow it. A torturer cannot know that someone has lifesaving information and is most likely to reveal it under torture. And once we pretend that a torturer might know that, we cannot stop the torturers from torturing large numbers of people.

Sign the petition.

Learn more with:

Gareth Porter: How the CIA Covered Up Its Lie on Torture and bin Laden

Patrick Cockburn: CIA Torture Report: It Didn’t Work Then, It Doesn’t Work Now

Donald Canestraro: Experienced Interrogator: Torture Doesn’t Work

ISIS Derangement Syndrome

Here’s Time Magazine‘s David von Drehle: “The greatest threat that ISIS poses — even to the poor souls living under ISIS rule — is the unintended damage that might follow from the effort to eradicate the group. . . . As dangerous as it is to have a terrorist kingdom in the middle of the world’s geopolitical tinderbox, ousting ISIS will be every bit as dangerous.”

Drehle goes from there immediately into the debate over whether U.S. troops or local troops should do the job. His article is followed by Max Boot arguing for U.S. ground troops and Karl Vick arguing for U.S. bombing with local ground troops. All three writers seem to be aware that ISIS wanted U.S. bombing and wants U.S. ground troops even more, that ISIS recruitment climbs in response to U.S. military action. All three can’t help but be aware that terrorist kingdoms like Saudi Arabia already exist in the region with the blessing of the U.S. government (and of magazine writers who seek to please the U.S. government). All three are fairly condescending toward local troops, eager to (somehow) get Sunnis to attack Sunnis, and wary of allowing Iranian “death squads” to get involved in the, you know, mass killing they are proposing.

None of the three have one word to say about the great many innocents already killed in the latest U.S. bombings, but all three seem to grasp that the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was necessary for the creation of ISIS, all three seem to understand that fighting ISIS is counterproductive, and yet all three strive to place the need to attack ISIS beyond the range of any debate. The question is not whether to make the disaster worse, but exactly how to do it.

What, after all, makes the region a global tinderbox? Israel’s nukes? Certainly not, those are not supposed to be mentioned or even thought about. Well then, all the other weapons? But over 80% of those are supplied by the United States, so that can’t be it. Perhaps the violent overthrows and devastation of so many governments and countries? But it was the U.S. and friends who destroyed Iraq and made Libya what it is and who have done what they’re still doing to Afghanistan. It is the U.S. that has ruined Yemen. It is the U.S. that arms and supports Israel’s wars. It is the U.S. that props up the terrorist states in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and Egypt. Surely what makes the region a tinderbox (rather than a region rich in oil about which greedy earth-destroying interests might be concerned) is something unthinkable or nonsensical or inscrutable, something ethnic or religious or unworthy of consideration.

Because otherwise we might have to consider cease fires and arms embargoes and diplomacy and humanitarian aid as possible alternatives to the usual choices of (1) do nothing, or (2) make it all worse with more of what caused much of the problem in the first place. We might have to consider that it isn’t ISIS that’s posing the greatest threat in the form of “the effort to eradicate the group.”