Pages

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Necessity of Imagining an Unimaginable War



By Lisa Fuller 
Waging Nonviolence

Dec 9, 2017 - The prospect of nuclear war with North Korea has repeatedly been described as "unimaginable" -- and in fact, most of us have literally failed to imagine it. As the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof points out, "We're complacent -- neither the public nor the financial markets appreciate how high the risk is of a war, and how devastating one could be."

Admittedly, with biological, conventional and nuclear weapons expected to kill millions, the scenario is genuinely difficult to comprehend. We struggle to translate such high numbers into pictures of individual men, women and children suffering.

Nevertheless, we can no longer afford to be in denial. Top military and political experts warn that the risk of war is at an all-time high, the threat is imminent and the impact would be catastrophic. Even before North Korea's latest missile test, former US Army General Barry McCraffrey, Council of Foreign Relations President Richard Haass and the International Institute for Strategic Studies Executive Director Mark Fitzpatrick all estimated that the risk of war was 50 percent. General McCaffrey expects that war will breakout by summer 2018.

There is a significant risk that a war would escalate beyond a regional conflict. China has warned that it would intervene on behalf of North Korea in the case of a US preemptive strike, and international security experts Nora Bensahel and David Barno argue that China may launch attacks on "US bases in the region or possibly even the US homeland, especially since radiation would inevitably blanket some of its territory." China has been carrying out military drills near the Korean peninsula since July, and tested an ICBM capable of hitting the continental United States on November 6. Russia also recently publicly warned that it is preparing for war as well.

Even if the war was confined to the Korean peninsula, however, it has the "potential to cause mass starvation worldwide," as a result of nuclear winter, according to nuclear experts Alan Robock and Owen Toon.

In other words, World War III is no longer just the stuff of sci-fi movies -- it may be right around the corner.

With such high stakes, it is critical that we voluntarily imagine the "unimaginable," as uncomfortable as it may be. Those who do imagine war are much more likely to take action to prevent it. Journalist and author Jonathan Schell advocated for this position in his 1982 book The Fate of the Earth, writing that "Only by descending into this hell in imagination now can we hope to escape descending into it in reality … the knowledge we thus gain cannot in itself protect us from nuclear annihilation, but without it we cannot begin to take measures that can actually protect us."

It is no coincidence that members of Congress who are war veterans have been some of the most outspoken and active in raising the alarm over the crisis in North Korea.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Peace Movement And Electoral Politics



By Lawrence Wittner
Common Dreams

Dec 4, 2017 - Although the U.S. peace movement has been on the wane for about a decade, it remains a viable force in American life. Organizations like Peace Action, the American Friends Service Committee, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Jewish Voice for Peace and numerous others have significant memberships, seasoned staff and enough financial resources to sustain their agitation in communities around the country. If they currently lack the power to mobilize the mass demonstrations that characterized some of their past struggles, they continue to educate Americans about the dangers of militarism and influence a portion of Congress.

Even as the movement declined during the Obama presidential years, it managed to eke out some occasional victories, most notably a treaty (New START) reducing the number of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons, modest cutbacks in the U.S. military budget, the Iran nuclear deal, and the normalization of U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba.

But the total takeover of the U.S. government by the Republican Party, occasioned by the GOP sweep in the 2016 elections, has produced a disaster for the peace movement?and for anyone concerned about building a peaceful world. In less than a year in office, the Trump administration has escalated U.S. military intervention across the globe, secured a massive increase in U.S. military spending, issued reckless threats of war (including nuclear war) against North Korea, and forged close partnerships with some of the world’s most repressive regimes. Nor is the peace movement growing significantly in response to this disaster?probably because progressive activists, the peace movement’s major constituency, are so overwhelmed by the government’s sweeping rightwing assault that they are preoccupied with desperately defending social and economic justice, civil liberties, and environmental sustainability.

As long as this situation continues, it seems unlikely that the peace movement is going to win many victories. With hawkish, rightwing Republicans controlling the federal government, the peace movement’s educational campaigns, small-scale demonstrations, and Congressional lobbying will probably have little effect on U.S. public policy.

But there is a promising way to change the federal government. A likely outcome of the November 2018 Congressional elections is that the Republicans will retain control of the U.S. Senate, thanks to the large number of Democratic incumbents running for the 33 contested seats. Even so, the Democrats have a good chance to retake control of the House of Representatives, where every seat is up for grabs. For over 6 months, generic ballot polls about the House elections have shown Democrats with a lead ranging between 8 and 12 points over their Republican opponents. Many analysts believe that this significant a lead will produce a “wave election”?one that will sweep the Democrats into power. And with one branch of Congress in the hands of the Democrats, U.S. foreign and military policy could shift substantially.

Would it, though? After all, despite significant differences with the GOP on domestic policy, aren’t Congressional Democrats just as hawkish as the Republicans on foreign and military policy?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What If? An Alternative Strategy for Sept.12, 2001















The attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001. "Just about every Bush-era policy that followed 9/11 was an unqualified disaster," writes Sjursen. What should we have done instead? (Photo: Getty)


A generation born after 9/11 will vote in the next presidential election.  They’ve never known peace.  Will they even bother to demand it?


By Danny Sjursen
Tom Dispatch

“Of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses men most.” -- Thucydides

Nov 17, 2017 - You’ve heard the platitude that hindsight is 20/20. It’s true enough and, though I’ve been a regular skeptic about what policymakers used to call the Global War on Terror, it’s always easier to poke holes in the past than to say what you would have done. My conservative father was the first to ask me what exactly I would have suggested on September 12, 2001, and he’s pressed me to write this article for years. The supposed rub is this: under the pressure of that attack and the burden of presidential responsibility, even “liberals” -- like me, I guess -- would have made much the same decisions as George W. Bush and company.

Many readers may cringe at the thought, but former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has to be taken seriously when she suggests that anyone in the White House on 9/11 would inevitably have seen the world through the lens of the Bush administration.  I’ve long argued that just about every Bush-era policy that followed 9/11 was an unqualified disaster.  Nevertheless, it remains important to ponder the weight piled upon a president in the wake of unprecedented terror attacks.  What would you have done?  What follows is my best crack at that thorny question, 16 years after the fact, and with the accumulated experiences of combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Taking It Personally

9/11 was an intimate affront to me.  It hit home hard.  I watched those towers in my hometown burn on televisions I could glimpse from my plebe (freshman) boxing class at West Point.  My father worked across Church Street from Manhattan’s World Trade Center.  Only hours later did I learn that he’d safely escaped on the last ferryboat to Staten Island.  Two uncles -- both New York City firemen -- hopelessly dug for comrades in the rubble for weeks.  Stephen, the elder of the two, identified the body of his best friend, Captain Marty Egan, just days after the attacks. 

In blue-collar Staten Island neighborhoods like mine, everyone seemed to work for the city: cops, firemen, corrections officers, garbage men, transit workers.  I knew several of each.  My mother spent months attending wakes and funerals.  Suddenly, tons of streets on the Island were being renamed for dead police and firefighters, some of whom I knew personally.  Me, I continued to plod along through the typically trying life of a new cadet at West Point.

It’s embarrassing now to look back at my own immaturity.  I listened in as senior cadets broke the news of war to girlfriends and fiancées, enviously hanging on every word.  If only I, too, could live out the war drama I’d always longed for.  Less than two years later, I found myself drunk with another uncle -- and firefighter -- in a New York pub on St. Patrick’s Day.  This was back when an Army T-shirt or a fireman’s uniform meant a night of free drinks in that post-9/11 city.  I watched the television screen covetously as President Bush delivered a final, 48-hour ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.  I inhaled, wished for a long war, and gazed at the young, attractive lead singer of the band performing in that pub.  She was wearing a patron’s tied-up New York Fire Department uniform blouse with a matching cap cocked to the side.  It was meant to be sexy and oh-so-paramilitary.  It might seem unbelievable now, but that was still my -- and largely our -- world on March 17, 2003.

By the time I got my “chance” to join America’s war on terror, in October 2006, Baghdad was collapsing into chaos as civil war raged and U.S. deaths were topping 100 per month.  This second lieutenant still hoped for glory, even as the war’s purpose was already slipping ever further away.  I never found it (glory, that is).  Not in Iraq or, years later, in Afghanistan.  Sixteen years and two months on from 9/11, I’m a changed man, inhabiting a forever altered reality.  Two wars, two marriages, and so many experiences later, the tragedy and the mistakes seem so obvious.  Perhaps we should have known all along.  But most didn’t.

How to Lose A War (Hint: Fight It!)

From the beginning, the rhetoric, at least, was over the top.  Three days after those towers tumbled, President George W. Bush framed the incredible scope of what he’d instantly taken to calling a “war.”  As he told the crowd at a Washington national prayer service, “Our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.”  From the first, it seemed evident to the president: America’s target wasn’t anything as modest as the al-Qaeda terrorist network, but rather evil itself.  Looking back, this was undoubtedly the original sin.  Call something -- in this case, the response to the acts of a small jihadist group -- a “war” and sooner or later everyone begins acting like warriors. 

Within 24 hours of the attacks, the potential target list was already expanding beyond Osama bin Laden and his modest set of followers.  On September 12th, President Bush commanded his national counterterror coordinator, Richard Clarke, to “see if Saddam did this... look into Iraq, Saddam.”  That night, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told the president and the entire cabinet, “You know, we’ve got to do Iraq... There just aren’t enough targets in Afghanistan... We need to bomb something else to prove that we’re, you know, big and strong...” 

Nonetheless, Afghanistan -- and its Taliban rulers -- became the first military target.  Bombs were dropped and commandos infiltrated. CIA spooks distributed briefcases of cash to allied warlords and eventually city after city fell.  Sure, Osama bin Laden escaped and many of the Taliban’s foot soldiers simply faded away, but it was still one hell of a lightning campaign.  Expected to be brief, it was given the bold name Operation Enduring Freedom and, to listen to the rhetoric of the day, it revolutionized warfare.  Only it didn’t, of course.  Instead, the focus was soon lost, other priorities (Iraq!) sucked the resources away, venal warlords reigned, an insurgency developed, and... and 16 years later, American troop levels are once again increasing there.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Trump Doctrine: Making Nuclear Weapons Usable Again

















By Michael T. Klare
TomDispatch

Nov 19, 2017 - Maybe you thought America’s nuclear arsenal, with its thousands of city-busting, potentially civilization-destroying thermonuclear warheads, was plenty big enough to deter any imaginable adversary from attacking the U.S. with nukes of their own. Well, it turns out you were wrong.

The Pentagon has been fretting that the arsenal is insufficiently intimidating.  After all -- so the argument goes -- it’s filled with old (possibly unreliable) weapons of such catastrophically destructive power that maybe, just maybe, even President Trump might be reluctant to use them if an enemy employed smaller, less catastrophic nukes on some future battlefield.  Accordingly, U.S. war planners and weapons manufacturers have set out to make that arsenal more “usable” in order to give the president additional nuclear “options” on any future battlefield.  (If you’re not already feeling a little tingle of anxiety at this point, you should be.)  While it’s claimed that this will make such assaults less likely, it’s all too easy to imagine how such new armaments and launch plans could actually increase the risk of an early resort to nuclear weaponry in a moment of conflict, followed by calamitous escalation.

That President Trump would be all-in on making the American nuclear arsenal more usable should come as no surprise, given his obvious infatuation [1] with displays of overwhelming military strength.  (He was thrilled [2] when, last April, one of his generals ordered, for the first time, the most powerful nonnuclear weapon the U.S. possesses dropped [3] in Afghanistan.)  Under existing nuclear doctrine, as imagined by the Obama administration back in 2010, this country was to use nuclear weapons [4] only “in extreme circumstances” to defend the vital interests of the country or of its allies.  Prohibited was the possibility of using them as a political instrument to bludgeon weaker countries into line.  However, for Donald Trump, a man who has already threatened [5] to unleash on North Korea “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” such an approach is proving far too restrictive. He and his advisers, it seems, want nukes that can be employed at any potential level of great-power conflict or brandished as the apocalyptic equivalent of a giant club to intimidate lesser rivals.

Making the U.S. arsenal more usable requires two kinds of changes in nuclear policy: altering existing doctrine to eliminate conceptional restraints on how such weapons may be deployed in wartime and authorizing the development and production of new generations of nuclear munitions capable, among other things, of tactical battlefield strikes.  All of this is expected to be incorporated into the administration’s first nuclear posture review (NPR), to be released by the end of this year or early in 2018.

Its exact contents won’t be known until then -- and even then, the American public will only gain access to the most limited version of a largely classified document.  Still, some of the NPR’s features are already obvious from comments made by the president and his top generals.  And one thing is clear: restraints on the use of such weaponry in the face of a possible weapon of mass destruction of any sort, no matter its level of destructiveness, will be eliminated and the planet’s most powerful nuclear arsenal will be made ever more so. 

Altering the Nuclear Mindset

The strategic guidance provided by the administration’s new NPR is likely to have far-reaching consequences.  As John Wolfsthal, former National Security Council director for arms control and nonproliferation, put it [6] in a recent issue of Arms Control Today, the document will affect “how the United States, its president, and its nuclear capabilities are seen by allies and adversaries alike.  More importantly, the review establishes a guide for decisions that underpin the management, maintenance, and modernization of the nuclear arsenal and influences how Congress views and funds the nuclear forces.”

With this in mind, consider the guidance [7] provided by that Obama-era nuclear posture review.  Released at a moment when the White House was eager to restore America’s global prestige in the wake of George W. Bush’s widely condemned invasion of Iraq and just six months after the president had won [8] the Nobel Prize for his stated determination to abolish such weaponry, it made nonproliferation the top priority.  In the process, it downplayed the utility of nuclear weapons under just about any circumstances on just about any imaginable battlefield.  Its principal objective, it claimed, was to reduce “the role of U.S. nuclear weapons in U.S. national security.”

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Explained: Alt-right, Alt-light and US Militias

 














A white supremacist wearing symbols of the Traditionalist Worker Party bangs marches in Charlottesville on August 12 [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

By Al-Jazeera News

Oct 13, 2017 -With the rising prominence of groups such as the alt-right throughout US President Donald Trump's campaign and election, differentiating between the various currents that comprise the American far right has become challenging.


Media outlets and political commentators have struggled to define the parameters, often inaccurately labelling high-profile far-right figures as part of the alt-right.

Al Jazeera has broken down some of the factions of the American far right, explaining their similarities and differences. 


Alt-right


The alt-right is a loosely knit coalition of far-right groups that includes populists, white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Confederates and neo-Nazis. Many alt-rightists promote various forms of white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

The term "alt-right" was first coined by US white supremacist Richard Spencer in 2008 to provide an alternative to the neoconservative politics that dominated the Republican Party establishment in recent decades.

Shortly after Trump's November 2016 victory in the presidential elections, the movement became a household name in the US when Spencer led an audience in chants as they performed Nazi-like salutes. Spencer roared: "Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!"
Richard Spencer's appearance at Texas A&M University in December prompted counter-protests.


The movement promotes what it calls "white identitarianism", a worldview that advocates European racial and cultural hegemony. Alt-rightists often cite racial science as vindication for their views.

Researchers and experts note that sexism is as integral to the alt-right as racism, pointing out that there are few females among the cadres of the movement. One exception is Brittany Pettibone, a contributor at AltRight.com and Red Ice, a Sweden-based white nationalist video and podcast platform.

Among the groups involved in the movement are: Spencer's think tank, the National Policy Institute; the National Socialist Movement; the neo-Confederate League of the South; Identity Evropa, the white supremacist group and, among others, the neo-Nazi organisation Vanguard America.

Online organising made the alt-right's success possible.

The key websites are: AltRight.com; the Occidental Dissent blog; the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website; Radix Journal; the Counter-Currents website and the Right Stuff blog, among others.

The alt-right has many connections to groups in Europe, many of which predate the movement.

Some prominent figures within the alt-right are: Daily Stormer's Andrew Anglin; the Right Stuff's Mike Peinovich; Identity Evropa's Nathan Damigo; former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke; Traditional Worker Party's Matthew Heimbach and Swedish businessman Daniel

The alt-light is a term used to describe a comparably moderate group of far-right figures, organisations and websites.

Unlike the alt-right's call for a white ethnostate, the alt-light promotes a hardline version of American nationalism and often eschews the openly racist and white supremacist politics advocated by the alt-right. Much of the alt-light's positions are predicated on support for President Trump.

The most prominent website on the alt-light is Breitbart News, a far-right blog headed by Steve Bannon, who briefly served as Trump's top strategist. Another increasingly important alt-light publication is Rebel Media, a Canada-based website founded by right-wing media figure Ezra Levant.

Some of the most important personalities within the alt-light include: provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos; media personality Gavin McInnes; journalist and activist Lauren Southern; social media figure Mike Cernovich; media personality Alex Jones and conspiracy theorist Jack Prosobiec.

Yiannopoulous used to be the technology editor at Breitbart News, but he was fired after public uproar over comments he made defending pedophilia. Recently, he has hosted anti-Muslim rallies and "free speech" events. He often verbally attacks immigrants, trans people and feminists.

McInnes co-founded Vice Media and later left the company in 2008. Most recently, he hosted a Rebel Media online programme. He also founded the Proud Boys, a far-right group that describes itself as "Western chauvinist" and opposes feminism. The Proud Boys often brag about seeking out physical confrontations with anti-fascists, known as Antifa.

There are also several conspiracy theory websites that fall within the sphere of the alt-light. The most well-known is InfoWars, hosted by Alex Jones. In 2015, Trump, who was a presidential candidate at the time, appeared on InfoWars and was interviewed by Jones.

Many alt-light groups argue against the alt-right, while others have participated in the same rallies and events as alt-rightists.


Militia groups

Most militia organisations describe themselves as "patriot" groups. The largest and most active of the militia groups are the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters. Member of these groups often attend rallies armed with assault rifles and wearing bullet proof vests.

While it is difficult to know the exact number of people involved in these organisations, the Oath Keepers claims to have tens of thousands of members nationwide.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Military Times Poll: What You Really Think about Trump



'


By Leo Shane III
Military Times


Oct. 24, 2017 -  Trump enjoys far stronger support among members of the military than the American public at large, according to the latest scientific Military Times poll.

Yet while Trump is especially popular among enlisted troops, officers have a much lower opinion of him.

And women and minorities in the ranks share similar skepticism.
Overall, about 44 percent of all troops surveyed in the Military Times poll have a favorable view of Trump, while roughly 40 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him. That’s a stark contrast to opinion polls of the general public, which have shown Trump’s popularity at less than 40 percent and an unfavorable rating as high as 56 percent.

Yet, the poll of more than 1,100 active-duty troops, conducted in September, shows a deep divide over service members’ opinions of the commander in chief, whose first nine months in office have been marked by military policies that have drawn both praise and concern from Pentagon leaders.

While almost 48 percent of enlisted troops approve of Trump, only about 30 percent of officers say the same, the poll shows.

When asked specifically about Trump’s handling of military policies, about 55 percent of all troops surveyed rated Trump’s policies as favorable, versus 26 percent unfavorable.
The poll was conducted before the latest controversy surrounding Trump’s handling of phone calls to the families of fallen service members.

Troops’ views on Trump have changed very little since he was elected last year.

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.
Advertisement

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

FacebookTwitterBlogContact us

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.