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Thursday, July 13, 2017

The U.S. is Ready to ‘Fight Tonight’ but South Koreans Reject War as the Solution to North Korean Threats

Endless tension and the threat of conflict may make politicians sound tough and boost defense stocks, but many in South Korea are deeply tired of all this.

By Jon Letman
The Daily Beast

July 12, 2017 - SEOUL— Strolling the gingko tree-lined side streets of central Seoul it’s easy to see why the prospect of war with North Korea is so unappealing. Generations of hard-working South Koreans have transformed theirs into a nation nothing short of remarkable. Koreans have overcome 35 years of Japanese colonialism, the devastating Korean War, dictatorships, and episodic political violence to build a hyper-modern nation with thriving arts, education, science, and hi-tech industries that rival anywhere in East Asia.

After surviving one of democracy’s greatest tests—the peaceful but forced removal of a corrupt head of state—the Republic of Korea (ROK) emerged from its candlelight revolution with a new liberal president and a sense of hope: a shining yang to the isolated North’s yin.
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To ponder war with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is to consider the destruction of all the South has built in spite of 70 years of division. A military conflict between the two would be, even by U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ own admission, “catastrophic... the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.”

But even as Pyongyang accelerates the pace of testing increasingly deadly weapons and the means to deliver them and as Washington refuses to budge on provocative U.S.-ROK war games that include “decapitation strikes” and responds to North Korean threats with long-range heavy bomber flyovers, a significant number of South Koreans are militantly anti-military, and want their leaders to flex their diplomatic muscles, not their missiles.

Although largely under-reported in Western media, South Korea has a highly energized peace movement that continues to push back against the U.S.-ROK military alliance preparing for war.

On May 24, International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament, five South Korean NGOs organized a women’s peace symposium in Seoul that drew around 80 (mostly Korean) women and a handful of men together to discuss alternatives to war and how to shift the paradigm away from permanent war footing.

In 2015, an international peace group, Women Cross DMZ, held similar symposia in Pyongyang and in Seoul and again in Seoul in 2016. The 2017 symposium was followed by a march of around 800 people along a barbed wire-lined trail following the Imjin River which flows through the DMZ north of Seoul. “This event [was] for Korean unification—life, peace, and co-existence,” said organizer Ahn-Kim Jeong-ae.

Aiyoung Choi, a member of Women Cross DMZ, who has participated all three years, said the primary goal of the march was to raise awareness of “the increasingly urgent need for peace on the Peninsula through a genuine peace treaty.” Dressed in symbolic all white, Choi added, “Where [there] is no peace, you begin to think you are being threatened all the time.”

Saturday, June 10, 2017

‘Borderfree Scarves’ and Courage for Peace

 

Report from Kathy Kelly

Beaver County Peace Links via Z Communications
 
When activists like me return from visiting the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul, Afghanistan, young seamstresses there often entrust each of us with about fifty sky-blue scarves. The word “Borderfree” is carefully embroidered, in English, on one end of each scarf; on the opposite side, they’ve stitched the translation in Dari, the language they speak. The scarves express their yearning to end four decades of war in Afghanistan, a land dominated by ruthless warlords. 

“We are the generation who must try to put an end to all war and violence,” wrote Nematullah, an Afghan Peace Volunteers member who teaches children from internally displaced families. His students, most of them displaced by war, live in a wretched refugee camp. 

Nematullah wrote in response to my anxious inquiry following a truck bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 31, which killed more than 150 people. Pictures from Kabul’s “Emergency Surgical Center for Victims of War” showed the staff ministering to hundreds of survivors, people who suffered burns, lacerations, wounds, and amputations.
Happily, the letter brought good news. “We’re all safe,” wrote Hakim, who mentors the Afghan Peace Volunteers. “Yet we don’t want to ‘get used’ to life in a war zone. War is brutal, and begets more war, again and again.”

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Don’t Fall for the Washington War Hawks’ Iranophobia



Their demands for war and regime change should be ignored.


By Danny Sjursen
The Nation

“Everywhere you look, if there is trouble in the region,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters on a mid-April visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, “you find Iran.”

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com.

I must admit that when I stumbled across that quote it brought up uncomfortable personal memories.

East Baghdad, January 25, 2007: My patrol had missed a turn and so we swung onto the next grimy avenue instead. As platoon leader, I rode shotgun in the second of our four vehicles, yakking away on the radio. The ensuing explosion rocked the senses: the sound, the blinding dust, and the smell—a mix of burnt metal and, well… I still can’t bring myself to describe it.

Our lead HMMWV, a military utility vehicle, aimlessly swerved right and came to rest beside a telephone pole. Only then did the screams begin.

The “cost” would be two wounded and two dead: my then-unborn son’s namesakes, Spc. Michael Balsley and Sergeant Alexander Fuller. These were our first, but not last, fatalities. Nothing was ever the same again. I’m reminded of poet Dylan Thomas’s line: “After the first death, there is no other.”

The local militia had shredded our truck with an advanced type of improvised explosive device that was then just hitting the streets of Baghdad—an explosively formed projectile, or EFP. These would ultimately kill hundreds of American troops. Those EFPs and the requisite training to use them were provided to Iraqi militias by the Islamic Republic of Iran. It’s a detail I’m not likely to forget.

Still, there’s one major problem with bold, sweeping pronouncements (laced with one’s own prejudices) of the sort Secretary of Defense Mattis recently offered on Iran: They’re almost always wrong. It’s the essential flaw of “lumping”—that is, of folding countless events or ideas into one grand theory. But, boy, does it sound profound! The truth is that Iran is simply not behind most of the turmoil in the Middle East, and until Washington’s policymakers change their all-Iran-all-the-time mental model, they are doomed to failure. One thing is guaranteed: They are going to misdiagnose the patient and attack the wrong disease.

Look, I’m emotionally invested myself. After all, I fought Iranian-trained militiamen, but a serious, workable national strategy shouldn’t rely on such emotion. It demands a detached, rational calculus. With that in mind, perhaps this is the moment—before the misdiagnosis sets in further—to take a fresh look at the nature of America’s thorny relationship with Iran and the Islamic Republic’s true place in the pantheon of American problems in the Greater Middle East.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Trump’s Budget Expands Global War on the Backs of the American Poor



By Benjamin Dangl
Common Dreams

May 23, 2017 - The U.S. defense budget is already roughly the size of the next eleven largest national military budgets combined.
It is fitting that while President Trump is traveling the world, sealing a weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, he would drop his own kind of bomb on the American people: his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, titled, of course, “The New Foundation for American Greatness.”

“This Budget’s defining ambition is to unleash the dreams of the American people,” Trump writes in his 62-page plan, released today.

Trump’s dream for America is a nightmare for the working class.

The budget proposes deep cuts to government support for the poor, including slashing over $800 billion from Medicaid, $192 billion from food assistance, $272 billion from welfare programs, $72 billion from disability benefits, and ending programs that provide financial support for poor college students.

While cutting government assistance for working class Americans, the budget notably beefs up annual military spending by 10%, to the tune of $639 billion.
The US defense budget is already roughly the size of the next eleven largest national military budgets combined.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Local Peace Organizations Hold Discussion at CCBC

 

Michael McPhearson, Vets for Peace, at BCCC

By: Christina Sheleheda
Beaver County Times

April 24, 2017, MONACA -- For national peace activist Kevin Martin, the current state of our country can be best described with one word: Resolute.

Martin, along with Michael McPhearson, national executive director of Veterans for Peace; and Nancy O’Leary, president of the Beaver County Peace Links, hosted Prospects of War, the Need for Peace, Saturday at the Community College of Beaver County’s Health Sciences Center. 

Presenting to a group of about 50 people, Martin, who currently serves as the national president for Peace Action, kicked off the event, which was hosted by the Beaver County Peace Links. He asked the audience to say how they felt regarding the current administration. 

“Scared.”
“Disappointed.”
“Hopeful.” 

Having devoted over 30 years to peace activism, Martin believes the election simply drove a deeper wedge into an already divided country.

“We were divided before the election,” Martin said. “The contradictions of election are fascinating to me.” 

Martin explained that three “evils” that have been discussed for decades – racism, militarism and economic exploitation – were first cited in Dr. Martin Luther King’s April 4, 1967 speech. 

“My assertion,” Martin said, “is that militarism is the one that’s the worst of our society.”
Militarism is defined as “the belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests.” 

“Progressives often link all struggles together. They list every progressive struggle, but won’t list peace and anti-war discernment, and I have a real problem with that,” Martin said. “We are not going to win if we don’t overcome militarism. That’s where all of our money goes. Not to economic or social justice issues, and certainly not to the environment,” Martin said. 

Martin, who grew up in Lancaster, Pa., had both his father and uncle serve in the United States Air Force. He does not believe opposing militarism correlates with being anti-American. 

“If you understand militarism as a problem, weapons, nuclear bombs, etc., that is separate from members of our military. [Militarism] has nothing to do with individuals in the military; their service is incredible. I believe that forced patriotism is coercive,” Martin said.

Friday, April 21, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

PROSPECTS FOR WAR....THE NEED FOR PEACE

TWO EVENTS!

Monaca: Sat., April 22 1:00 pm

Community College of Beaver County, 1 Campus Dr.,
Health Science Center, Poplar Ave., Room 6010

Pittsburgh: Fri., April 21, 7:00 pm

at the University of Pittsburgh Law School (Barco Building),
3900 Forbes Ave., Room 109

Click here to RSVP and Get Free Tickets from Evenbrite

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fifty Years On: MLK’s Giant Triplets Still Plague Us, Including Militarism



 











By Kevin Martin and The Reverend Dr. Herbert Daughtry
Beaver County Peace Links via peacevoice

Fifty years ago this April 4, a year to the day before he was murdered, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called us to overcome the giant triplets plaguing our society – racism, militarism and extreme materialism – in his ‘Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence’ address at Riverside Church in Manhattan. In his speech, King decried our descent into a ‘thing-oriented society.’ One wonders what he would think of our current, thing-oriented president.

In the remarkable speech, co-written with the late Vincent Harding, King also exclaimed, ‘[a] nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.’ Unfortunately that is even more relevant today, as military spending consumes well over half the federal discretionary budget, and President Trump is advocating a nearly 10 percent, $54 billion increase, equivalent to the entire annual military budget of Russia, for the Pentagon and severe cuts to foreign aid, diplomacy, social and environmental programs.

King also powerfully, and accurately, linked violence in U.S. cities to our foreign policy, especially the terrible war in Vietnam (noting the Vietnamese must see Americans as ‘strange liberators,’) and acknowledged the pressure put on him by civil rights leaders to keep silent about his opposition to the war, which he of course could not do. Yet for many, the giant triplets rubric still resonates most powerfully today among all the words of wisdom King and Harding imparted in the speech.

Racism, extreme materialism and militarism are still inextricably linked, and still prevent our society’s becoming anything close to King’s ‘beloved community.’ Of the three, militarism may be the one about which Americans are most ignorant or most in denial.

No serious person could say we have overcome racism, or dealt with the extreme materialism and economic injustice and unsustainability of our ‘thing-oriented society.’ However, the pervasive equating of patriotism with support for war, charges of being soft on communism, terrorism or defense, and cynical, coercive ‘support the troops’ displays (when the best way to support them would be to stop our incessant wars) seemingly prevent any serious examination of U.S. militarism.

How many Americans know the U.S. has been at war for all but a relatively few years (fewer than 20) of our history since 1776? Or that the U.S. has more than 900 foreign military bases? (China has one and is about to build a second, near ours in Djibouti.) Or that we maintain nearly 7,000 nuclear warheads, all tens, hundreds or even thousands of times more destructive than the Hiroshima bomb that killed 140,000 people? Or that the U.S. conducted more than 1,000 nuclear ‘test’ explosions, and under President Obama, recently embarked on a 30-year, at least $1 trillion scheme to upgrade our entire nuclear weapons arsenal (unsurprisingly, every other nuclear state is now doing the same, sparking a new arms race)? Or that the U.S. military is the biggest consumer of fossil fuels on the planet?

Ignorance or denial about these facts is dangerous, to our society falling behind in nearly every indicator of social and environmental health as we continue to invest in the war machine, and to the people on the receiving end of our bombs. How many countries are we bombing right now?

At least seven we know of: Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. And as King claimed the bombs we dropped on Vietnam also exploded in American cities, the blowback to the U.S. from all the anger we sow and enemies we reap in these countries and around the world, will surely harm our country.

So what is it about the United States? Are we in the grip of what President Eisenhower warned us, the military-industrial complex (that he did a lot to empower before decrying it)? Weapons contractors make a killing, but they don’t really help the economy. Military spending is about the worst way to create jobs and stimulate the economy. Education is the best, creating 2.5 times more jobs than military spending, according to economists at the University of Massachusetts.

We doubt anyone has any satisfactory answers to why our country is so uniquely militaristic, yet seemingly oblivious to the consequences. Perhaps peace and social justice activists and political leaders have for too long failed to integrate the struggles to overcome the giant triplets.
If that is the case, Martin Luther King, Jr. still points the way toward a solution, 50 years after he first called out to us. Is it too late to hear his wisdom and change course?

As the impressive grassroots resistance to Trumpism continues to show up for racial, economic, social and environmental justice, we must also show up for peace and disarmament if we hope to one day realize King’s beloved community.
~~~~~~~~~~~
Kevin Martin, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is President of Peace Action, the country’s largest grassroots peace and disarmament organization with more than 200,000 supporters nationwide. The Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry is the National Presiding Minister of the House of the Lord Churches.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Community in Beaver gathers to discuss Islam, eat hummus and ask questions

 
 
By Kirstin Kennedy 
Beaver County Times
 
April 6, 2017 -  BEAVER -- Over bowls filled full with hummus from Salem Halal Market in the Strip District, thin slices of pita bread and sweet dates, Toni Ashfaq explained many specifics of her religion to a room full of people.
 
The Center Township resident, who hails from Wisconsin, was prepared to answer any question thrown her way about Islam, the religion she chose to follow as a student in Washington, D.C.

Most of the questions posed to her during the "Spread Hummus, Not Hate" event Wednesday evening at the Beaver Memorial Library where genuine. When do Muslims hold religious services? Why do men and women worship in separate sections of a mosque? Do your children ever feel threatened?

Not all of the questions were innocently posed, but that's why Ashfaq set out to engage with the community.

"There's a lot of misunderstandings out there about Islam, so we just want to clarify," Ashfaq said. She and friend Dr. Raniah Khairy, of Brighton Township, organized the event Wednesday, and will meet again Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the library.
"We want to tell people what we really believe so they understand that not all Muslims are what you see in the media, the negative aspect of, unfortunately, what some people are doing," Ashfaq said.

She has a unique perspective. Ashfaq converted to the faith from Catholicism. Sher later married a doctor from Pakistan, and together they have four children.

Khairy, an OB/GYN specialist at Heritage Valley Beaver hospital in Brighton Township, is from Egypt and immigrated to the United States in 2000. She is now a U.S. citizen.
"It's a way to get our community and our society together, especially with all of the madness that is happening in the media these days," Khairy said.

Julia Chaney, of Beaver Falls, is a friend of both Ashfaq and Khairy and helped to organize the event, which drew more than 50 people.

Chaney, who is a Christian, said Ashfaq has always been open to discussing the Islamic religion.

"She always encourages me to ask questions, not to worry about anything being awkward or not (to) a question I'm allowed to ask," Chaney said. "We've had some wonderful conversations."

Ashfaq has taken Chaney to her mosque "in a spirit of peace and understanding for us to enter and just see what's going on. The people are beautiful and loving and welcoming," Chaney said.

Before the predominately Christian audience, Ashfaq explained her mission was to discuss Islam and clear up misconceptions. "We are here for education purposes, to clarify, we are not here to make anybody believe what we believe," she said.

According to Ashfaq, Islam is one of the Abrahamic religions, like Christianity and Judaism. "We all view the prophet Abraham as a father figure in our faiths," she said.

The Quran, the holy book of the Islamic faith, refers to "Jews, Christians and Muslims, all three, as people of the book. We are lumped into one category, we have to respect each other, we all have a lot in common," Ashfaq said.

The word Islam means submission to god, and the Muslim is the one who submits to god.
There are five pillars of Islam: The first is faith and the second is prayer. Practicing Muslims pray five times per day. Toni said this is "stopping your day to connect to the divine." The third pillar is charity, which means giving a portion of their wealth to those in need, and the fourth is fasting. Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan, only eating and drinking before the sun comes up and after the sun goes down. The final pillar is pilgrimage.

The main difference between Christianity and Islam, Ashfaq said, is that Muslims view Jesus Christ as a prophet, not as divine.

There are many obvious cultural differences between Christians, Jews and Muslims in America. Muslims practice their day of worship on Fridays, Christians celebrate on Sundays and Jewish people recognize the Sabbath on Saturday. Practicing Muslims do not eat pork, Jews follow a kosher diet, many Catholics do not eat meat on Fridays during Lent.
However, the way Muslim people are viewed by Americans in other countries causes some misconceptions.

"It's really important to distinguish between religion and culture," Ashfaq said.
For example, people are sometimes shocked to see Ashfaq drive, she said. That’s likely because women in one Muslim-majority nation are legally forbidden from driving.
"Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive. Why? I have no idea," Ashfaq said. "It has absolutely nothing to do with Islam. It's a misogynistic culture, what can I say?"
Some people also have the impression Muslim women and girls are kept out of schools, forbidden from learning by their religion. Ashfaq said that's not true.

"The prophet Mohmmad emphasized seeking knowledge for both men and women," She said. "He did not distinguish between the two."

It is forbidden by the faith to force a woman into marriage, though it does happen, she said. "I don't think this is exclusive to Islam. I think if you go to many different places in the world you will see stuff like that happening."

Divorce is also allowed in Islam, though it's not favored. "It's understood that sometimes it's necessary," Ashfaq said. Additionally, women don't have to take their husband's name. They can, but there is no requirement in the faith.

Both Muslim men and women are encouraged by their faith to adopt a modest dress. For example, many Muslim women wear a Hijab, which is a scarf which covers the head.
"Absolutely not all Muslim women choose to wear (the Hijab)," Ashfaq said.
"Head covering really is not something new," she said. "It's not a new concept in the Abrahamic religions. Nuns cover their heads, Amish women cover their heads, Jewish women cover their heads."

Only two countries have laws that require women to cover their heads: Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Women who wear the hijab "do it by choice. We're not forced by our husbands," Ashfaq said.

"It is an act of devotion," she said. "It's the same way a Christian opts to wear a cross around the neck. Why? Because you have pride in your faith and you want to be recognized for your faith. It's the same thing."

She said she has never met a woman who was forced to cover her head.

"Women's lib is not about how much skin you show," Ashfaq said. "Women's lib is about being educated, it's about equal rights, it's about equal pay -- which we still don't even have in this country -- it's about a woman choosing the way that she wants to dress. It's about respect."

Chloe Jane Bailey, of New Brighton, attended the event with her mother.

"I learned a lot of new words that I didn't know before," she said. "I learned that there's a lot of misconceptions that other people at this gathering had and, hopefully, they were cleared up."

Khairy also spoke to the crowd and addressed some of the topics of the Muslim faith which people tend to associate with terrorism.

"The concept of Jihad has been hijacked over the years by many political and religious groups to justify various forms of violence." Many, she said, have influenced others to incite violence by making it seem like the religion supported it.

Both women told the audience they hope the decisions of extremists won't impact their views of all Muslims, for which there are more than one billion across the world.
Bailey, a student, said she has always been "very open hearted. I don't really have any judgements on anyone specifically. I did get slightly irritated when there was unrest in the gathering."

The event helped her learn and feel competent discussing the Islamic faith, even with people who may have misconceptions.

"If there does become a discussion about Islam issues, I can give some information now, which is really nice because before I just had nothing to say," she said.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Peace Action: Working for Peace Since 1957

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Dear Supporter,
Stop the President’s unilateral authority to start a nuclear war!

CONNECT TO US:

Over the last few weeks, Peace Action and a coalition of 17 organizations have been gathering petition signatures supporting legislation that would make it illegal for the president to unilaterally start a nuclear war. We’re pleased that nearly 150,000 people have signed on so far!

Next Thursday, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) will present this petition on Capitol Hill calling for support of their bill, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017 (H.R. 669/S. 200).

I want to make sure Congress hears from you too by adding your name to the petition today.

The threat of nuclear war is the highest it’s been in decades. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists recently moved their famed “doomsday clock” from 3 minutes to 2 and a half minutes to midnight. Midnight represents nuclear catastrophe. They cited President Trump’s reckless and dangerous comments on nuclear weapons as a reason for the change.

Add your name now to the petition calling on Congress to make it illegal for Trump to unilaterally launch a nuclear weapon.

U.S. words and actions matter when it comes to global nuclear proliferation.

You might remember when President Trump said “let it be an arms race.” Sadly, the president’s recent budget proposal sets that arms race in motion. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said that a key priority would be “restoring our nuclear capabilities.” He’s referring to the 11% increase in nuclear weapons spending in the proposed budget, an unprecedented increase since the end of the Cold War.

A build up of the U.S. nuclear arsenal will lead to other nations following suit.

More nuclear weapons, paired with dangerous rhetoric and posturing is a disastrous combination that pushes the chances of nuclear war, whether intentional or by accident, perilously higher.

Please, add your name with hundreds of thousands of other concerned citizens to make it illegal for Trump to start nuclear war.

No one person should have the sole authority to launch a civilization ending nuclear war. Currently, there is nothing or no one to stand in a president’s way. We need checks and balances on the president’s nuclear launch authority.

Please, sign the petition to put these needed checks on the president’s unilateral nuclear launch authority in place.


Jon Rainwater
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. Help us spread the word of this important legislation far and wide. After you sign the petition, please
share this with your family, friends and colleagues!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Donald Trump to Propose $54 Billion Increase in Military Spending



By Nick Timiraos and Michael C. Bender 
 Wall Street Journal 

Feb. 27, 2017 - President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal will seek a nearly 10% boost in military spending, with offsetting cuts from nondefense agencies, administration officials said Monday. 

The budget will call for a $54 billion increase in defense funding with offsetting funding cuts for nondefense agencies, officials said. Those cuts could be spread across nondefense agencies and are likely to hit foreign-aid funding, officials said, reflecting Mr. Trump’s call for U.S. allies to pick up a greater share in global peacekeeping efforts. “This budget will be a public-safety and national-security budget,” Mr. Trump said. “It will include a historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it.” 

He added, “This is a landmark event, a message to the world in these dangerous times, of American strength, security and resolve.” The White House will send federal agencies their proposed 2018 budget allocations at noon Monday, an official said. 


The outline, due next month, will include only targets for discretionary spending programs, which represent around one-third of total federal spending. The blueprint won’t include proposed changes on tax policy or mandatory spending. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Steve Bannon: 'We're Going to War in the South China Sea ... No Doubt'


China builds airstrip on small island it claims.
By Benjamin Haas
The Guardian  
Feb 2, 2017 - Only months ago Donald Trump’s chief strategist predicted military involvement in east Asia and the Middle East in Breitbart radio shows. 

The United States and China will fight a war within the next 10 years over islands in the South China Sea, and “there’s no doubt about that”. At the same time, the US will be in another “major” war in the Middle East. 

Those are the views – nine months ago at least – of one of the most powerful men in Donald Trump’s administration, Steve Bannon, the former head of far-right news website Breitbart who is now chief strategist at the White House. 

In the first weeks of Trump’s presidency, Bannon has emerged as a central figure. He was appointed to the “principals committee” of the National Security Council in a highly unusual move and was influential in the recent travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, overruling Department of Homeland Security officials who felt the order did not apply to green card holders.

While many in Trump’s team are outspoken critics of China, in radio shows Bannon hosted for Breitbart he makes plain the two largest threats to America: China and Islam.
“We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years,” he said in March 2016.

 “There’s no doubt about that. They’re taking their sandbars and making basically stationary aircraft carriers and putting missiles on those. They come here to the United States in front of our face – and you understand how important face is – and say it’s an ancient territorial sea.” 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Terrorism and Trump: New Challenges for Social Justice Organizations

The progressive movement must grapple with Trump and terrorism simultaneously.

By Bob Wing and Max Elbaum

Foreign Policy in Focus
Originally published in Znet.
 
Dec 23, 2016 - The wake-up call is right there in the front page headline of the Dec. 11 New York Times: “Poll Has Trump Gaining Ground on Terror Fear.”

Prior to the tragic burst of terrorist murders in Egypt, Beirut, Paris and then San Bernardino, California, significant aspects of U.S. politics were beginning to move in a positive direction. Pressure from #BlackLivesMatter and Raise the Wage campaigns was forcing issues of racism and economic inequality to the forefront of public debate. Climate change denialism was increasingly on the defensive. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign was giving voice to a broad anti-corporate agenda. And the Republicans seemed to be lurching so far to the right that they might self-isolate or split.

But in the wake of newly revived public fears about terrorism, and the right’s orgy of war mongering, Islamophobia and racist demagogy, “A plurality of the public views the threat of terrorism as the top issue facing the country,” according to a Dec. 10, 2015 NY Times/CBS poll. “Americans are more fearful about the likelihood of another terrorist attack than at any other time since the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001.”

Given the misery and strife of the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and the powerful influence of ISIS (Daesh in Arabic), repeated Daesh-inspired or Daesh-organized terrorist attacks in the U.S. seem likely. Though limited in scale compared to terrorism in other parts of the world, such attacks do what they are intended to do: attract outsized attention and alarm the public. And, in light of its timing, the San Bernardino attack was not only deadly, but also exposed a potential path to the presidency and control of all three branches of the federal government by the nakedly xenophobic, racist and militarist tendency now utterly dominating the Republican Party. Even a victory by one of the so-called mainstream Republican conservatives would be a calamity with Congress, especially the House, in the hands of far right.

The attacks are also increasing the militarist and law-and-order tendencies of Hillary Clinton and other mainstream Democrats, tendencies that once led them to endorse George W. Bush’s disastrous war in Iraq.

This essays calls attention to two crucial developments.

First, over the past six months or so the far right has taken dangerous steps even further to the right. They have legitimized the public expression of blatant racism and authoritarian policies toward Muslims and immigrants. The climate they have created has contributed to the recent shootings targeting Planned Parenthood and BlackLivesMatter protesters and led their supporters to brag about beating up opponents at campaign rallies. Their extremist policies and rhetoric have alarmed even many mainstream commentators, with some pundits even using the term “fascism.” Yet they are dominating the Republican Party to a greater degree than before and, in significant part due to playing the foreign terrorism card, are also garnering broader public support, threatening to shift the entire political spectrum another notch to the right.

And second, that first development urgently underscores, not for the first time, how crucial it is for social justice organizations to develop a strategy that integrates a sophisticated understanding of the intimate interconnections of war, terrorism, racism and inequality, and between peace and justice at home and abroad, if we are to mature as a major political force.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Monday, January 2, 2017

W PA Iraq Vet: Why I Answered the Call for Veterans to Go to Standing Rock



By Kevin Basl
Otherwoeds.org
 
Dec 30, 2016 - I lay among friends, huddled and cold in our sleeping bags. We listened to the lashing wind and the drums and prayer chants coming from the sacred fire, and we reflected on why we, four Iraq War veterans, were here. 

Police floodlights shone from the drill site of the Dakota Access Pipeline, scheduled to cross under the Missouri River, the water source for millions of people. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux, concerned not only about polluted water but also the desecration of sacred sites, began resisting the pipeline in 2014. In mid-2016, finally, these water protectors gained major support. Over 200 tribal nations pledged solidarity. Thousands of non-natives traveled to North Dakota to stand on the front lines. 

Then, as images of police violence against protectors got increasingly disturbing, some 4,000 veterans — including me — joined the resistance in early December.
Why had so many veterans taken up the cause of the Native Americans and environmentalists at Standing Rock? 

My own reasons are rooted in western Pennsylvania’s coal country, where I grew up. There, I rode my bicycle on trails crossing abandoned strip mines. Bulldozers had left precarious shale formations and streams ran orange with iron runoff. When a sanitation corporation threatened to open a landfill at a reclaimed mine near homes in our community, residents finally resisted. At age 15, I joined the fight to stop the dump, gaining a deeper appreciation for the wildlife — and water — of my region. 

Good jobs are scarce in my hometown, so military service is something nearly every boy — and now girl — considers. My grandfathers both served, along with several uncles. Back home, the military is sacrosanct. But I wasn’t especially proud of my five years in the Army, two of which were spent in Iraq. My job as a radar operator, like so many military specializations, got privatized, so I found myself tasked out for other duties. I guarded poor Iraqis while they filled thousands of sandbags for the contractor Kellogg, Brown, and Root, only to see those sandbags rot in the sun as they sat unused. 

I also loaded caskets onto cargo planes — an image often hidden from the American public. And I escorted high-ranking officers on unnecessary trouble-provoking missions (how else could one earn the Combat Infantry Badge?). Like many post-9/11 veterans, I left the military seeking redemption. Perhaps that’s why, after I saw those images of police violence against water protectors, I went to Standing Rock. 

There, instead of helping military contractors make money, I felt like I was finally serving the people. While we were there, on December 4, the Army Corps of Engineers finally denied the pipeline company its permit to drill under the river. Police pulled back, and the water protectors celebrated. 

The indigenous community had worked months for this ruling. They sacrificed the most. But I like to think the result was also influenced by the prospect of police tear-gassing and firing rubber bullets at unarmed veterans.

A ceremony followed where Wesley Clark Jr., key organizer of the Veterans Stand for Standing Rock campaign, offered an apology to Native Americans on behalf of the military, citing decades of broken treaties and violence. 

Five hundred of us went to our knees. I hope to participate in a forgiveness ceremony one day in Iraq, in the spirit of Standing Rock. 

Kevin Basl is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He’s also an instructor for Combat Paper NJ and Warrior Writers, two veteran-focused arts organizations.