2-27: Farewell

To all who have expressed a kind word for this blog, thank you. I have particularly enjoyed and benefitted from feedback from kith, kin, and friends I haven’t met yet.

As long as wars exist, PTSD will linger, lurk, and lunge. And it doesn’t go away. And wars aren’t going away. And the cycle never ends.

The “International” page (A4) of Friday’s New York Times bears witness to the unrelenting bellicosity of the world we inhabit … and by extension to the countless victims of those wars who will suffer all the days of their lives. The piece covers a weapons show in the heart of the Mid-East in the same manner in which a local newspaper would cover a boat show or an RV show.

At a ‘Defense’ Expo, an Antiseptic World of Weaponry

By Ben Hubbard

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates—Serbia showed off armored vehicles, rockets and rifles, and drew in passers by with a video showing soldiers shooting targets to action movie music.

Pakistan had glass cases full of bullets, mortars, grenades, and guns, including a gold-plated AK-47.

And Sudan displayed an antiaircraft missile and its launcher….

More than 1,200 military technology companies and contractors convened to hawk their wares….

[The exhibition] provided a visual layout of the global arms trade, which is at its most active since the end of the Cold War …

Never to be upstaged,

The United States had the most floor space, befitting its status as the world’s largest arms exporter. More than 100 American companies were present, with elaborate displays showing everything from handguns to armored vehicles to drones….

Many at the show noted the size of the Chinese display, where eight state-run companies advertised boats, tanks, missiles, and other items….

Many of the marketing slogans made sense only if you knew what the product did.

[For example,] “Sees without being seen,” boasted an ad for a Czech-made radar system….

No End in Sight

To state the obvious, war is big business. There is no incentive for weapons makers to retool their manufacturing lines, not while their cash cows continue to lactate lucrative lethal bile. Other headlines from Friday’s NYT include the following:

(A3) Iraqi Forces Capture Most of Mosul Airport: Bloody Fight Expected after Milestone in Effort to Drive ISIS from City

(A6) Four Are Dead in Kashmir after Ambush

(A8) For Syrian Refugees Fearing for Safety, There Is No Going Home: Those in Lebanon Wary of Return

(A10) Nerve Agent Killed North Korean Leader’s Half Brother, Police Say

(A11) Bosnian Seeks to Reopen Serbian Genocide Case

(A18) U.S. to Keep Private Prisons, Scrapping an Obama Plan

(A22) Once Home to Masses, A Standing Rock Camp Is Emptied and Razed

Quotation of the Day

The Times chose this ominous quote as emblematic of the news of the day. It is attributed to Khaled Khodor, a soldier who defected from the Syrian Army and spent four days in a Lebanese jail for sneaking across the border.

“If the Lebanese president would offer me the choice of staying in prison forever here and going back to Syria now, I would choose prison.”

End

12-19: Does the South China Sea Belong to China?

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from the Associated Press’s Christopher Bodeen, “Report: Beijing Adds Weapons to South China Sea Islands.”]

China Building Bases in South China Sea … Why?

According to AP’s Christopher Bodeen,

China appears to have installed anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons on its man-made islands in the strategically vital South China Sea … upping the stakes in what many see as a potential Asian powder keg.

Do you think? The question, of course, is why. Why does behemoth China feel it necessary to bolster their coastal defenses?

The Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a report … that the anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems designed to guard against missile attack have been placed on all seven of China’s newly created islands.

What country would be foolish enough to fire missiles at China, and for what purpose?

The outposts were built in recent years over objections by the U.S. and rival claimants by piling sand on top of coral reefs, followed by the construction of military grade 3,000-meter (10,000-foot) airstrips, barracks, lighthouses, radar stations and other infrastructure.

“… over objections by the U.S. and rival claimants …” How is the U.S. threatened by the existence of these bases? More to the point, I guess, is what U.S. interests are threatened? And, digging deeper, what are U.S. interests in and around the South China Sea?

Appropriate and Legal

In a statement, China’s Defense Ministry [said] that development on the islands was mainly for civilian purposes, but added that defensive measures were “appropriate and legal.”

“For example, were someone to be threatening you with armed force outside your front door, would you not get ready even a slingshot?” the ministry statement said.

Point taken. But who poses such a threat?

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters at a daily briefing that he had no information about the reported weaponry, but said such deployments were China’s sovereign right.

The Philippines, which has troops and villagers stationed on some reefs and islands near China’s new artificial islands, expressed concern despite recently improving relations with China.

“If true, it is a big concern for us and the international community who uses the South China Sea lanes for trade,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said. “It would mean that the Chinese are militarizing the area, which is not good.”

China’s new island armaments “show that Beijing is serious about defense of its artificial islands in case of an armed contingency in the South China Sea,” Center for Strategic and International Studies experts wrote in the report.

Now I get it.

“Among other things, they would be the last line of defense against cruise missiles launched by the United States or others against these soon-to-be-operational air bases,” the report said.

Beijing says the islands are intended to boost maritime safety in the region while downplaying their military utility. They also mark China’s claim to ownership of practically the entire South China Sea.

Dollars, Dollars, Dollars

It hardly seems plausible that America would attack such an important trade partner and debt holder as China.

Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also claim territory in the waterway through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes each year, while the U.S. Navy insists on its right to operate throughout the area, including in waters close to China’s new outposts. China has strongly criticized such missions, known as freedom of navigation operations….

Chinese President Xi Jinping said on a visit to the U.S. last year that “China does not intend to pursue militarization” of the area … Despite that, China considers it vital to equip the islands with defensive means given their distance — 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) — from the Chinese mainland, together with the nearby presence of forces from rival claimants such as Vietnam, said Yue Gang, a retired colonel and military analyst.

“As the matter of fact, these occupied islands have been armed and fortified for a long time,” Yue said. “No country in the world would only commit to providing civil services without considering its own security safety.”

Looking forward, the nature of China’s new military deployments will likely be calibrated in response to moves taken by the U.S., said the IISS’s Neill.

In or Out?

How do we Americans find ourselves so deeply involved in affairs such as this? Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the U.S. Navy’s insistence “on its right to operate throughout the area.” Since WWII, we have established and expanded our military presence in Southeast Asia. After using weapons of mass destruction (the “bomb”) on Hiroshima and Nagasake, we wrote the Japanese Constitution which forbade that nation from rebuilding its military. We, the U.S.A. would instead impose our military in Japan in perpetuity.

Then came the Korean War. More troops, more need for permanent bases in South Korea. Then Vietnam. Air and naval bases in the Philippines. War. War. More war. How appalling it is that we commit our military so liberally and interminably. When it comes to war zones, we’re in.

The question we need to demand our leaders to answer is: How do we get out?

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

7-5: Robert Reich on Patriotism

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

I believe that we Americans use the word “patriotism” too frequently during the 4th of July season. But I don’t think we think too much about what that really means. Perhaps we can agree on a simple definition: patriotism is love of country. After that it gets complicated, and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich believes “we need also to take to heart its five basic principles.” To wit:

First: True patriotism isn’t simply about waving the American flag. And it’s not mostly about securing our borders, putting up walls and keeping others out.

It’s about coming together for the common good. (In a nation of about 320 million people “common good” can be problematic. But surely we can agree on some matters that are indeed good for us all. I submit: public safety, excellence in education, all those Constitutional freedoms, racial and religious tolerance, health care, safe roads and bridges … add your own.)

Second: Real patriotism is not cheap. It requires taking on a fair share of the burdens of keeping America going – being willing to pay taxes in full rather than seeking tax loopholes and squirreling away money abroad. Not just voting but becoming politically active, volunteering time and energy to improving this country. (No one likes paying taxes, including me. But, when not being wasted, I do not mind paying for health care and social security and education. My argument against tax manipulation, excessive defense spending, and things of that nature is term limits. To paraphrase a fatuous phrase from the Gipper: politicians are not the solution; politicians are the problem. I honestly believe that “six years and out” for all public office holders would go a long way to mending our broken republic.) Continue reading 7-5: Robert Reich on Patriotism

6-24: GI Bill Welcomes Soldiers Home

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

Here is one paragraph from an article on FDR’s signing of the G.I. Bill, formally known as the  Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. The full article appeared in This Day in History [http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/fdr-signs-g-i-bill?].

The G.I. Bill became one of the major forces that drove an economic expansion in America that lasted 30 years after World War II. Only 20 percent of the money set aside for unemployment compensation under the bill was given out, as most veterans found jobs or pursued higher education. Low interest home loans enabled millions of American families to move out of urban centers and buy or build homes outside the city, changing the face of the suburbs. Over 50 years, the impact of the G.I. Bill was enormous, with 20 million veterans and dependents using the education benefits and 14 million home loans guaranteed, for a total federal investment of $67 billion. Among the millions of Americans who have taken advantage of the bill are former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford, former Vice President Al Gore and entertainers Johnny Cash, Ed McMahon, Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood.

Also among the millions who have taken advantage of the bill is me. I finished college thanks to the bill and I also took out a home loan on my first house. It was the first single-family home I ever lived in. FDR had the foresight and the guts to invest in the American people. Today many of his programs would be called socialist. They are. They worked. Through Roosevelt’s initiatives America did not fall back into a recession, or worse, after WWII. His treatment of soldiers coming home from the war, in my opinion, was the cherry on the top of his presidency.

Although the war was not fought in America, thousands upon thousands of Americans fought in the war. They interrupted their lives–and some gave their lives–in a cause that did not specifically affect them or their country. The G.I. Bill told them what they needed so badly to hear: Welcome home!

It is incomprehensible to me why our current legislators can’t do anything to help struggling Americans. If democrats propose free community college tuition for all, which they have, republicans call it socialism which we all know is akin to communism which we also know still threatens Western values and would bring about the downfall of civilization as we know it.

There is common ground, and it must be tilled. Washington and Lincoln found it, so did FDR. It may just be coincidental, but these were war presidents. Maybe the ravages of war led them to visions of better times, better times that were achievable. A key difference between the three presidents mentioned above and modern presidents is that the former were trying to end wars, while today’s leaders seem content trying out all the new toys corporations have made for them. Body count be damned.

The purpose and subsequent unprecedented success of the G.I. Bill should inspire today’s leaders. The economy does well when people have jobs, live in decent conditions, pay taxes, purchase goods and services. The time has come to put an end to endless war and say to our troops: Welcome home!

6-13: The Right to Vote

Malia Obama turns 18 on the 4th of July, which makes her eligible to vote in November. That’s a big deal for her and for all who will join her as participants in this year’s election. The question is, how many of her classmates will exercise that right; further, what percentage of voters in general will actually exercise that right? History gives a dismal “F” to the answer to that question for Americans.

There are plenty of organizations that encourage voter registration: Rock the Vote, Voto Latino, Black Girls Vote, Asian American Millenials Unite, et al. And each will achieve a level of success. But many of their target audiences–young people, Latinos, Blacks, and Asian Americans–still feel disenfranchised and will not add their voices to the political selection process. More than statistics, my heart tells me this is so.

When I was drafted into the Army at 19, I could neither drink legally nor vote. And wearing the uniform of an American soldier every day did not make me feel any more American than my former civilian self. In fact, by the time I arrived in Vietnam, my life resembled nothing like my life at home. Carrying a weapon 24 hours a day will do that to a person. Even conducting missions with Korean ROKs and Vietnamese ARVNs didn’t change the “man without a country” syndrome for me. I simply never thought I was “defending” America.

I was a good soldier. For the most part I followed orders and ventured into–and survived–precarious situations. But no matter how many American troops I was with, when I looked at Vietnamese families and their environs, I felt like an outsider. We macheted our way through their jungles where every now and then we would come upon a small clearing and a hootch and maybe a water buffalo. We sloshed through their rice paddies, destroying who knows how many grains along the way. Once, during a firefight, I laid in a paddy and, when the shooting stopped, found myself with two legs crawling with leeches. Hard to feel like an American under any of these circumstances. (I was a city boy.)

My heart tells me that many eligible voters will not do so. Having turned 21 in Vietnam, I came home with that privilege; but I did not exercise it for years. There were so many politically connected people, democrats and republicans, that I did not like or trust, I thought my voice didn’t count and that I didn’t want to support a country that perpetuated a war I felt, from personal experience, was wrong. The people? Here are a few: Johnson, Nixon, McNamara, Kissinger. Although years have passed, warmongering and chicken hawks linger on. The more current names: Bush, Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, Beebe  (sp?), Petraeus, and many others.

Given my own history, I would be hypocritical to tell others that they “must” vote. I can tell them, however, that I have changed my opinion about my singular action of pulling the lever. I now believe it matters. Even in predicted so-called landsides, I believe it is important to let our fellow citizens–and the world–know where the majority of America stands on particular issues. Issues that are important to me:

  • Closing Guantanamo Bay
  • Leaving Iraq
  • Leaving Afghanistan
  • Leaving Syria
  • Cutting the Defense Budget
  • Reducing stockpiles of weapons, especially nuclear weapons
  • Declaring that corporations are not people
  • Joining the International Court in order to curtail actions of people like and including Cheney
  • Stop bullying the United Nations so that it can become the deliberative, diplomatic body it was intended to be
  • Restructure NATO so that individual nations bear more responsibility for their own defense
  • Pursue vigorously alternative power sources

What is most important to me concerning this year’s November ritual is how the presumptive candidates, Clinton and Trump, handle themselves between now and then. I am looking for them to address “my” issues and to “act presidential.” See you at the polls, Malia.

6-03: Public Law 88-408, The Tonkin Gulf Resolution

One might think that power grabbing in a democracy–or republic, if you prefer–would be a very difficult task, what with all those balance of power branches and oversight committees and such. I think that we, the people of these great United States, have been walking around as if on Novocain for many years. Every so often a toothache flairs up, we address it, then go back to those palliative pain killers.

For early June, 1964, This Day in History reports:

Top U.S. officials concerned about the Vietnam War gather for two days of meetings in Honolulu. So that’s why we granted Hawaii statehood … great place for off-campus meetings. And it is comforting to know that America was “concerned” about the Vietnam “Civil” War as far back, at least, as 1964.

Much of the discussion focused on the projected air war against North Vietnam, including a list of 94 potential targets. We still haven’t learned the lesson that wars, if they must be fought–which I challenge–can be won in the air. That is the Rubic’s cube of military strategy. Politicians and military brass try to convince the public that bombing country X, Y, or Z will stabilize whatever the heck is going on there and U.S. troops will not be necessary to engage in ground combat and, therefore, there will be minimal, if any, loss of American life. But no one has yet discovered how to do it. (The Rubic’s cube puzzle has, of course, been solved. Bloodless war has not.) Continue reading 6-03: Public Law 88-408, The Tonkin Gulf Resolution

5-21: States Rights

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South Rising Again

Texas governor Greg Abbott (R) aims to introduce legislation to amend the US Constitution. The purpose will be to “give states the power to overrule federal law or a Supreme Court decision,” according to the Daily Kos. Gee, isn’t that what the Civil War was fought over, states rights? Slavery was just an aside that happened to be one of the issues the South wished for its states to retain. I guess the time has finally come for citizens from all regions to stop working toward a “more perfect union.”

Here is the list of Abbott’s proposed amendments (with my commentary):

  1. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State. (So, Mississippi wants to bring back slavery–that’s ok.)
  2. Require Congress to balance its budget. (… except for defense of course. The likes of Bush and Cheney would still, presumably, be able to wage war without paying for it and issue no-bid contracts to the likes of Haliburton to “reconstruct” war zones, all without fiduciary oversight … then balance the rest of the budget.)
  3. Prohibit administrative agencies, and the un-elected bureaucrats that staff them, from creating federal law. (What about all those K Street lobbyists? Are we going to put those poor souls out of work?)
  4. Prohibit administrative agencies, and the un-elected bureaucrats that staff them, from preempting state law. (… by doing what? Repealing the Affordable Health Care Act?)
  5. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision. (What does this do to the “balance of power” we pride ourselves on having at the federal level?)
  6. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law. (I need a point of reference here to understand what is being proposed. Does this mean we, the states, get to vote on whether or not to accept or reject decisions of the Court?)
  7. Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution. (Sounds reasonable. Where is that not happening now?)
  8. Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds. (I wonder if the governor would have been ok with this in the Florida Bush v. Gore debacle.)
  9. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation. (See 5 above.)

The “balance of power” argument usually comes down to an intentionally strong versus a weak executive branch. And that usually comes down to an ideological fight between liberalism and conservatism (both loosely defined here). Why bother with the Pledge of Allegiance anymore?

… of the united states … one nation … with liberty and justice for all. Continue reading 5-21: States Rights

5-18: Obama: Bull, Bear, Barracuda?

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The Political Wire ran this headline

GOP Senate Candidate Calls Obama an ‘Animal’

Carlos Beruff, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Florida, repeatedly referred to President Obama as an “animal” at a county GOP meeting, the Huffington Post reports.

Said Beruff: “Unfortunately, for seven and a half years this animal we call president, because he’s an animal, OK — seven and a half years, has surgically and with thought and very smart, intelligent manner, destroyed this country and dismantled the military under not one, not two, but three secretary of defenses. And they’ve all written books about it.”

Let’s just ignore the tortured phraseology of Beruff’s comment. Instead, let’s look at his choice of words.

Unfortunately implies there was some luck involved in Obama’s victory. Good luck it was for those of us who were sick to our stomachs over lying and cheating Bush and Cheney. Throw in Rumsfeld, too. And does anyone truly believe that having another “businessman” in the White House–Mitt Romney–would do any better than the Bushies who created financial crises for the country. Or do we simply forget the recession? It’s over. Can’t happen again.

Animal. Given the naysaying Congress he inherited, Obama has shown time after time to be the gentleman in the room. Beruff obviously intends this acclamation as a pejorative, but I don’t see it. He needs to complete the analogy. What kind of animal?

surgically destroyed this country. Pretty good for an animal, I’d say. Beyond this being simply ridiculous on its face, I can’t imagine to what he refers. Economy? He mopped up Bush’s mess. Defense? He retracted troops from Iraq on the timetable established by the Bush administration. He seems to be working on it, but the one issue I would like to see him take a surgical strike to is Guantanamo Bay. We would be applauded around the world, and the military divide in this country might actually begin to mend.

dismantled the military. Only stooges believe this. We could cut the defense budget in half and still outspend the rest of the world. When the warmongers start babbling about numbers of ships and planes being less than … whenever … they ignore the fact that we have replaced 19th and 20th century relics with more capable platforms such as aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, ICBMs. We don’t need fleets of canoes and crop dusters anymore. Does the word “superfluous” mean anything to them? Where do we need more troops? Why do we need them there?

secretaries of defense (my correction). Alexander the Great could not have managed the multilateral military mess we were in seven-and-one-half years ago–and even today–but on this I agree with Beruff. Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, and Chuck Hagel were not coming out of meetings in the situation room in agreement on military policy with the president. I think it is to their credit that they resigned, rather than stay in an untenable position. Two of their predecessors come immediately to mind as Secretaries of Defense who overstayed their useful time: McNamara under Johnson and Rumsfeld under Bush.

If you were to choose an animal to compare Obama with, what would it be?

5-4: Reflections on War Is a Lie, Chapter 6

[This blog consists of titles and one-sentence excerpts from David Swanson’s War Is a Lie, Chapter 6, “War Makers Do Not Have Noble Motives,” followed by my own comments.] 

Introduction

“The important motivations, the things the war masters mostly discuss in private, include electoral calculations, control of natural resources, intimidation of other countries, domination of geographic regions, financial profits for friends and campaign funders, the opening up of consumer markets, and prospects for testing new weapons.”  Let’s just look at the last. As much as there was no need to bomb Hiroshima, there was even less of a strategic need to destroy Nagasaki, except for one thing. The second bomb contained plutonium which the U.S. had never tested live, so to speak. Thus, with one flip of a switch, President Truman’s favorability numbers rose, America warned the world (e.g., Russia) that it had and would use this weapon of mass destruction, and field tested its newest, fiercest weapon.

In Their Own Words

“Cheney wanted forcible ‘regime change’ in all Middle Eastern countries that he considered hostile to U.S. interests …” Why, one might ask, does political change have to be “forcible”? And it seems to me that the predominant interest America has in Middle Eastern states is the existence of oil. Cheney and his neo-con gang of thugs allowed hundreds of thousands of people to lose their lives and shed blood for what he perceives as U.S. interests. The word megalomania comes to mind.

Conspiracy Theories

“The motivation for U.S control over areas of ‘vital interest’ … is aided and abetted by the motivations of those who profit from the war making itself.” Profiteers come in all sizes, ranging from Cheney-connected Haliburton, to black ops mercenaries like Xe, to the little subcontractor that makes roller bearings for landing gear on bombers.

For Money and Markets

“As George McGovern and William Polk noted in 2006: ‘In 2002, just before the invasion [of Iraq], only one of the world’s most profitable corporations was in the oil and gas field; in 2005 four of the ten were.” It was inevitable. Because of the on-going conflicts the price of oil jumped and soared. You know how smart and trustworthy those Wall Streeters are. Corporations such as Exxon-Mobil, Shell, and BP were able to employ the old supply and demand farce to argue the precarious ability of Middle Eastern countries providing enough crude to satisfy the West’s demand for black gold.

For the Profits

“During the 2003 war on Iraq, Vice President Cheney directed massive no-bid contracts to a company, Haliburton, from which he was still receiving compensation, and profited from the same illegal war he defrauded the American public into launching.” Yes, I believe Cheney is a war criminal. So does a militant lawyer in Canada who threatened to have Cheney arrested if he ever stepped foot in the country. Cheney cancelled his book tour and has not gone abroad since leaving office.

For Money and Class

“McCarthyism led many struggling for the rights of working people to place militarism ahead of their own struggles for the latter half of the twentieth century.” Labor union memberships have declined in great numbers while, ironically, the military-industrial complex just hums along. Maybe that’s not ironic at all. As the oligarchic industrialists at the top of the ladder continue to land government contracts to support unending war, they acquire greater leverage over workers struggling just to stay on the bottom rungs.

For Oil

“A major motivation for wars is the seizing of control over other nation’s resources.” There are legitimately moderate states in the Middle East–Jordan comes to mind–and there are pretenders–I nominate Saudi Arabia. By any of the standards we hold other allies to, e.g., human rights, Saudi Arabia fails dismally. But they have oil. As a leader of OPEC Saudi Arabia wields great control over the daily worldwide flow of oil and therefore its price. Saudi Arabia appeases the American beast, the beast looks away. Prior to what became known as the “Saudiization” of their country the company that pumped and poured Saudi oil was called Aramco, which stood for Arab American Company. Aramco had headquarters in Houston, Texas. How is that for being close?

For Empire

“Fighting for territory, whatever rocks may lie beneath it, is a venerable motivation for war.” … and detestable.

For the Guns

“Another motivation for wars is the justification they provide for maintaining a large military and producing more weapons.” Profiteering. When the Soviet Union collapsed thereby putting an end to the Cold War, there was all kind of happy talk about the “peace dividend.” With the ominous threat of a communist attempt at world domination gone, we wouldn’t need to spend as much of our GDP on military weapons and materiel. Right? No, don’t be silly.

Machismo

“One of the most dramatic news stories that came out of Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers was the news that 70% of the motivation of the people behind the war on Vietnam was to ‘save face.'” Imagine that. Sixty thousand Americans died in Vietnam, who knows how many Vietnamese (North and South) died, and all because arm chair generals did not want to be embarrassed. This one gets to me the most because I always feel it and take it personally. Those who are willing and anxious to send others into actual combat (see Cheney) are never willing to take up arms themselves.

Are These People Crazy?

“President George W. Bush at times suggested that the war on Iraq was revenge for Saddam Hussein’s alleged (and likely fictitious) role in an assassination attempt against Bush’s father, and at other times Bush the lesser revealed that God had told him what to do.” Yes, these people are crazy. But we let them get away with it.

Spreading Democracy and Manure

“When they think it will work, even temporarily, war makers will simply lie and tell the public that a war isn’t happening at all.” Swanson mentions places like Indonesia, Angola, Cambodia, Nicaragua, and El Salvador where the U.S. has either provided troops and/or funding and materials of war. In 1967 a mission in Vietnam took me and my squad into Cambodia. We did not meet a friendly border toll collector along the way who would remind us that the U.S. and Cambodia were officially not at war with each other. Maybe not, but I was there. To deny that would be to accept the manure.

So Many Secrets

“The masters of war fear, above all, two things: transparency and peace.” Why? For the life of me I cannot figure out who “they” are and how they got the way they did. I refuse to call “them” the best and brightest, preferring the worst and vilest. Sure, there are legitimate disputes among countries and they need to be dealt with. (Imperialism, oil, and machismo are not among them.) After wars, “we,” whoever we are, set up organizations to forestall future wars: The League of Nations, NATO, SEATO, The United Nations; but we largely ignore them. (Here “we” is the U.S.) If America were willing to accept the decisions set forth by these peace seeking organizations, there would be a precipitous drop in our shoot first, ask questions later attitude.

Make Sure Americans Die

“(When Americans die) Then a war can not only be begun but also continued indefinitely so that those already killed shall not have died in vain.” This singular thought brought tears to my eyes at “The Wall” in Washington, D.C.

Catapulting the Propaganda

“(the use of fear) We can go to war or die horrible deaths at the hands of fiendish beasts, but it’s your choice, entirely up to you, no pressure, except that our executioners will be here by next week, if you don’t hurry it up.” Acts of terror have been an unfortunate part of American life in the 21st century. And they will likely continue. But they have to be placed in perspective. And let me be clear, we have to defend ourselves from terrorist acts and we need to hold terrorists accountable to the fullest extent of our laws. But targets of terror and war zone battlefields generally have little in common. There is size alone, time span, identifiable enemies (hopefully, but not always), clear cut chains of command, government sanctions.

 

I mentioned several blogs ago that good writers get readers to think … for themselves. What I have tried to accomplish here is to illustrate that point. Although David Swanson is certainly a persuasive writer, he is also a gadfly. he raises important issues and lets the reader (me) make conclusions. It helps, of course, that we begin with basically the same point of view about war and the search for peace.

4-26: No More Nukes

[Two of the country’s leading newspapers reported on Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent trip to Hiroshima. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post also took the liberty to suggest that President Obama do the same. They also took on the elephant in the room, nuclear weapons. I have quoted heavily from both editorials in this blog, leaving them to present their own arguments with little filter. Can’t say that I disagree with them.]

State Visits Matter

Secretary of State John Kerry made a recent trip to Hiroshima, the first ever official state visit from an American administration official to that living memorial to human failure. Seventy years have passed since that horrific day when scores of thousands of mostly civilians were incinerated. Due to the significance and the success of Kerry’s visit, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have urged President Barack Obama to do the same. Visit Hiroshima.

Honduras Newspapers - La Prensa, La Tribuna, El Heraldo ...

As background, the Post stated:

“After the Soviet Union obtained nuclear weapons, the era of mutually assured destruction — MAD — began. Deterrence worked during a long, tense Cold War, but not without many errors and false alarms, frighteningly overstocked arsenals, proliferation to other nations and the threat of nuclear materials falling into terrorists’ hands.”

In its editorial, the Times stated:

“Mr. Obama created big expectations in his first term when he endorsed the ambitious goal of a world without nuclear weapons…. He has achieved some important measures, most notably the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which has significantly curbed Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, and the 2010 New Start treaty mandating cuts in the number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by the United States and Russia to 1,550 warheads each.” Continue reading 4-26: No More Nukes