Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Drones, ISIS, and Permawar

 Let's be clear: there will always be an "ISIS" out there.

The Obama administration had no sooner re-entered the Iraq War, ordering air strikes in northern Iraq against ISIS, than it announced that it "needed" to send the military into Syria.

Oh, we're not doing anything "risky" in Syria - just having a look. In other words, using spy planes and drones to get visual control over even more of the Middle East.

The U.S. narrative goes something like this:

* Somebody "bad" (e.g. ISIS) is doing bad stuff.

* The U.S. wants to "help" -- without overcommitting. We'll just start with a few advisers (to instruct, not to fight) and a few drones (to survey, not to kill).

* One thing leads to another and there's yet another fight. (Lucky we were there . . . )

Does it every occur to us that we've got the narrative (and the causality) backwards? That the truth is something like this?

* Permanent war is what suits us.

* All we need is the next excuse for more war.

* To find an excuse, we need "eyes" there. (Send in the drones.)

* Any bad actor will do as a reason for drone surveillance.

Once again, I return to the wisdom of Michel Foucault. Total surveillance is not just playing an incidental or supporting role in total state control and permanent war. Total surveillance is the infallible and essential heart of total state control and permanent war.

Related posts

In the old order of things, power places itself on display, and hopes that the population sees fit to obey. In the new order of things, power compels every member of the population to display himself or herself . . .  In the new order of things, the courts are bypassed and the instruments of discipline -- observe, classify, examine -- run rampant.

(See "Surveiller et Punir" Indeed!)

The U.S. can get more "bang for the buck" out of each pair of boots it puts on the ground, because -- through the magic of robotics -- it can back up those boots with Hellfire missiles and 500-lb. bombs. For the folks back home, it helps maintain the illusion that the U.S. isn't really intervening in a way that risks escalation. For the population of the affected areas of Iraq, it helps maintain the balance of terror -- because those armed drones are just part of a much larger fleet of drones that is patrolling the skies over Baghdad.  ("Is that drone overhead aiming . . . or just 'looking'?" From the ground, one has to assume they're all aiming . . . . )

(See Armed Drones Over Iraq: A Force Multiplier (Which Is Precisely Why They Are So Dangerous) )

The United States perpetuates a state of permanent war. The names change -- hell, sometimes they change by just a single letter -- but the result is the same. Call it "permawar."

(See #Permawar

Monday, August 25, 2014

Congregations That Worship in Glass Houses . . .

(Photo: Rev. Erik Christensen)

We busted out of our big Neo-Gothic church building on Sunday and gathered for worship on the Boulevard. (Or, to be more precise, beneath the trees on the median alongside Logan Boulevard in Chicago, during the weekend-long "Boulevard Fest" sponsored by our congregation.)

I've pulled out my guitar to play with the choir at a lot of church services at St. Luke's Lutheran Church of Logan Square, but I have to admit that it was a slightly different feeling to be outside of the familiar cocoon and out in front of the crowds of people heading to the farmer's market.

Running through the music before worship, arousing the interest of
 a passerby. Who are these cool people? (Photo: Lora Salley)

I've decided to embrace this new feeling of exposure and try to learn some lessons. I put them under the rubric "Congregations that worship in glass houses . . . (complete the sentence) . . . . "

(Thanks to Rev. Erik Christensen and Lora Salley for the accompanying photos.)

"Congregations that worship in glass houses . . . 

(Photo: Rev. Erik Christensen)
(1)  . . . get a whole new feeling for the basics.

There's nothing like celebrating communion out under the trees.

(Unless it's feeling the drops of water during the Remembrance of Baptism.)

I wonder if this isn't the way it was meant to feel.

(2)  . . . find a new kind of intimacy.

(Photo: Lora Salley)
I somehow had thought that being out in the open would make us feel very isolated as individuals.

But the feeling in that little grove was actually one of a new kind of intimacy.

St. Luke's is a place that is known for friendliness; many people remark on the way everyone hugs everyone else during the passing of the peace.

Who knew that being out in nature would help us feel even closer to each other?

(3)  . . . find out just how cool their musicians really are.

(Photo: Lora Salley)
St. Luke's is known for some amazing musical performances.

But when you're out in the open air, it's a lot harder to produce that "wall of sound."

Luckily, we have a band that was up to the task.

(Watch out for the kid playing the red guitar -- he's going places!)

(Photo: Lora Salley)
(4)  . . . get to show off their pastor.

It's always fun hearing Pastor Erik's great sermons when there are new listeners.  It kind of allows a vicarious enjoyment, as if one is hearing him preach again for the first time.

On Sunday, we had a lot of new listeners!

I'd like to know what they were thinking.

(Photo: Lora Salley)
(5)  . . . are exhibitionists (of a good kind)!

The most fun part of Sunday was the sensation of being very public about our shared faith.

Someone once said to me, "It may seem like you are doing other people -- people you don't go to church with -- a favor by keeping your own church-going behind closed doors. But if it's something that's positive for you in your life, why wouldn't you want others to have a chance to know about it?"

 So . . .
Stepping out and worshiping on the Boulevard? 

Any time. 

Sign me up!

(Photo: Rev. Erik Christensen)

Related posts

For the members of this congregation,
who will continue gathering as a people of God in a new place,
that today will mark not only the end of an era
but also the beginning of new opportunities for worship and service.

(See A Prayer for St. Luke's (Annotated and Illustrated) )

On Palm Sunday (April 13, 2014) the Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance (LSEA) hosted its 3rd annual public witness at the Logan Square monument from 12pm—1pm. As in previous years, we gathered to celebrate the very public and political nature of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and his call to people of faith to resist the values of empire and seek instead “the kingdom of heaven.”

(See What do we want? SALVATION! When do we want it? NOW! )

I believe when Jesus broke the bread and poured the wine and said "Remember me this way," he was much more interested in encouraging us to keep having conversations -- conversations that really matter -- with others . . . and finding ways to be in relationship with our neighbors  . . . all the while reminding us "never underestimate the power of food"  . . .

(See Get Outside Your Comfort Zone and Have A Conversation Today (Welcome to the Ministry))

 An important part of spreading the good news, I believe, lies in suggesting how it might be possible that this universal, un-grasp-able power that we call "God" may actually find its expression in the midst of our lives through plumb lines, flies, and prophets like Ron and Occupy Chicago.

(See Flies in the Ointment and Plumb Lines for Israel)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Boeing: Where There's Trouble . . .

I woke up this morning thinking, "There was something I was supposed to write about . . . something about another Boeing military plane in the news . . . did I dream it?"

And then I remembered: there has been an incident off the coast of China. The U.S. alleges that a Chinese fighter jet threatened a U.S. plane. Well, to be accurate, a U.S. spy plane.

And it wasn't until I was drifting off to sleep last night that it struck me: that's a Boeing plane!

"A P-8A Poseidon flying alongside a Lockheed P-3 Orion, close to
Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, 2010." (Wikipedia)

The U.S. says this occurred in international waters. This incident brought back to mind the case of the U.S. P-3 Orion surveillance plane that was damaged in an encounter with a Chinese fighter jet back in 2001. That incident resulted in the death of a Chinese pilot, and in a the U.S. plane being held by China for several months. But the big thing that came out of that story was that we learned that the U.S. runs spy missions along the coast of China day in, day out, edging back and forth over the borders of China.

It made a lot of people ask what the hell the U.S. is doing provoking China where they live.

The new incident involves a P-8 Poseidon, not a P-3 Orion. The maker of the P-8? Chicago-based Boeing Corporation.

And, echoing the earlier story, the Chinese account of this encounter emphasizes "large-scale and highly frequent close-in reconnaissance by the U.S. against China"?

Why is it that every time there's trouble, Boeing is in the middle of it?

Related posts

People in Chicago like to walk down the street and look the other way, saying, "This doesn't have anything to do with me." When you ask them to take a flyer, or to learn more about this problem, they wave it away with a bland, "I'm good . . . ."

(See This is YOUR War, Chicago! (Boeing F/A-18's Begin Strikes in Iraq) )

Now that the Israeli government's killings in Gaza are front-page news -- particularly the way military aircraft is being used to mow down innocent men, women, and children -- Boeing's involvement is in everyone's face.

(See Boeing Has an Israel Problem . . . and Chicago Has a Boeing Problem)

The problem: the U.S. "pivot to Asia."

The opportunity: asking ourselves, "What would we do differently if we revised our myths of Asia?"

(See U.S. Militarism in Asia: THINK DIFFERENT!)

"Boeing Receives $178 Million Contract for B61 Tail Kit Assembly" announces the Boeing website proudly. The Boeing "enhancement" to the B61 will help nuclear weapons obliterate entire populations more "accurately." Great.

(See Boeing and the Bomb Worshippers)

The dronification of the Navy promises to be tough for a lot of people in the aviation part of the Navy to swallow.  Apparently Navy people think in terms of manned aircraft, and want drones to stick to reconnaissance; the people in Congress who are pushing the appropriations see massive spending (and employment) from the unmanned drones, and want those drones to do have the fullest possible range of bombing capabilities.

(See Understanding Boeing's Role in the Navy's Next-Generation Drone Warfare )

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Why is "Ending the military drone program" a pillar of Campaign Nonviolence?

People around the country are participating in "Campaign Nonviolence" this September to stop war, impoverishment, and climate destruction.

Campaign Nonviolence has articulated concrete goals, one of which is:

Ending the military drone program

Why is "Ending the military drone program" a pillar of Campaign Nonviolence? Some people may feel that the military drone program is just one small corner of the massive US complex of violent militarism.

In one sense they're right: eventually we need to dismantle the whole d*#n thing.

But here's why ending the military drone program is such an essential step, and why it is a vital pillar of Campaign Nonviolence.

Reclaiming our empathy

The US drone program is high-tech, relatively cheap, and flexible. For all those reasons it is an extremely dangerous development. Moreover, it encourages proliferation like no military development in history.

But perhaps the single most significant consequence of the advent of killer drones is that they allow the state to efficiently separate war-making from the emotional involvement of the people of the country using them.

In other words, with the coming of drone warfare, we have been denied the opportunity for empathy with those affected by our (direct and indirect) actions.

In my opinion, the key psychological element of the state's drone program is that invites people to "check out" -- to say, perhaps unconsciously, "Well, at least there's none of our people at risk . . . . "

The faceless fuselage of the Reaper drone has become the perfect embodiment of this affect-less dystopia.

And that's why so much activism has been aimed at helping people reconnect to the people affected by the drone strikes -- and to encourage people to start using their emotions again.

Empathy is like a muscle: once it is allowed to atrophy, it takes real work to get it strong and functioning again.

The larger Campaign Nonviolence challenge

Once one begins to think in this way, it can be seen that there is a connection between the "ending drone warfare" goal and other CNV goals, such as "establishing a $15 minimum wage for all" and even "practicing nonviolence toward the planet."

As long as we continue to allow the instruments of modern living to put distance between ourselves and those around us -- he doesn't matter, he's just a busboy ... it doesn't matter, it will just go in the trash with all the other disposable cups -- we will refuse to acknowledge how our own actions contribute to the violence done to others.

What Campaign Nonviolence is, really, is an invitation to us to (re)experience compassion.

Dozens of Campaign Nonviolence actions will be taking place nationwide during September, 2014, many of them organized by groups with a strong history of protesting drones killings and drone surveillance.

You can help by:

  SHARE: Please share this post with others on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, so that they can learn about the importance of the "end drone warfare" aspect of Campaign Nonviolence, too!

PARTICIPATE: See the full list of actions nationwide and make a commitment to participate in one near you.

LEAD: Sign up here to help make sure a Campaign Nonviolence event happens in YOUR area.

Related posts

With drones, people become just dots. "Bugs." People who no longer count as people . . . .

(See Drone Victims: Just Dots? Just Dirt? )

In my opinion, the reason to focus on drones is this: when we focus on drones, the general public is able to "get," to an unusual extent, the degree to which popular consent has been banished from the process of carrying out state violence. (Sure, it was banished long ago, but the absence of a human in the cockpit of a drone suddenly makes a light bulb go off in people's heads.) It takes some prodding, but people can sense that drone use somehow crosses a line. And that opens up the discussion about how our consent has been eliminated from the vast range of US militarism.

(See "Why focus on drone attacks?")

As we think about and discuss issues such as distancing ... authority, collateral damage, and pre-emptive violence ... surveillance ... and technology, does theology (e.g. the Creed) help us make choices about responsibility? Does it move us effectively from the "something oughta be done" stage ... through the "I can do something" stage ... up to and including the "I am doing something" stage?

(See Drones: Am I Responsible?)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why Air Shows Are a Very Effective Place to Protest Drone Killing and Drone Surveillance

 Coming off our experience this past weekend once again protesting against drone killing, drone surveillance, and related acts of militarism at the Chicago Air and Water Show, I am more confirmed than ever in my view that air shows are a very effective place to get our message out to the public.

I should start by saying that the Chicago event is a free public event that takes place on public space along the Chicago lakefront, so it is especially suitable for public speech.  Understanding that other venues may not afford the all of the same characteristics of the Chicago event, I offer several observations:

Chicago Air and Water Show

(1) The perfect nexus

When the war planes are roaring overhead, it is very easy for people to understand why you are there talking about war and weapons of war.

This is very different than the situation we so often encounter trying to speak to people on a street corner, where people rush on by, eager to get on with their busy lives.

There's nothing like an F-22 coming in low over the reviewing stand to focus people's attention on the problem of war.

2012: Rev. Loren McGrail leads a discussion

(2) The opportunity to talk to people

People come out to air shows to spend the day, often bringing their whole family. They're curious, and they've got the time to talk.

At our protests at the Chicago Air and Water Show, we've displayed a 1/5-size replica of a Reaper drone. That's a conversation starter, if there ever was one!

And there's no shortage of people to talk to: over a million at the 2-day Chicago Air and Water Show, for instance.

To paraphrase Willy Sutton: protest at air shows . . . 'cause that's where the people are!

Guide to the protest at the 2012 Chicago Air and Water Show

(3) Every air show needs a handout

We realized that the Chicago Air and Water Show  doesn't provide a program book for attendees. So we print one and distribute it.

This year, we printed a 2-sided 17x11 sheet that folded to become a program book about the problem of drone assassinations, rendition flights, and other aspects of U.S. militarism, and distributed them to attendees.

(You can read the text of our 2014 Chicago Air and Water program book on the website of the Chicago Coalition to Shut Down Guantanamo.)

2014: "Anti-war activists slam Boeing’s sale of arms to Israel"

(4) The press shows up

We've found that the press comes to these events, and covers our activities -- especially if we do good press work in advance.

In many locations, the annual air show is a recurring story for the press, and they want to know what's new this year.

More at #GazainChicago

(5) We make our own press

We rely on a broad spectrum of media to get our message out.

It's extremely valuable to integrate our message into the social media relating to the air show.

2014: "During a demonstration against Boeing, protestors held a die-in at North Ave. beach, where
spectators came to watch the Air & Water Show." | Nader Ihmoud,

(6) Room to practice creative nonviolence

One of the great things about the Chicago Air and Water Show is that there is space and time for us to practice an array of creative nonviolence.

This year our presence featured a die-in as well as food distribution by Food Not Bombs.

Two years ago, we featured a group of Buddhists doing meditation.

And there's room for multiple peace and justice groups to come do their thing side-by-side.

2012: Members of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship invited onlookers
to join them in silent meditation.

(7) A chance to learn and improve

For better or worse, air shows come back to our cities year after year. They're like clockwork.

That gives us an opportunity to look closely at our experience each year, think about what worked well and what needs improvement, and come back and do an even better job the next year.

Major air shows - Fall 2014

Cleveland, OH
Mt. Clemens, MI
Virginia Beach, VA
Daytona Beach, FL
Memphis, TN
Jacksonville, FL
Rome, GA
Pensacola, FL
Houston, TX

Sacramento, CA
Salinas, CA
San Diego, CA
San Francisco, CA
Reno, NV
Pearl Harbor - Hickham, HI

More fall 2014 air shows

Related posts

Year after year, hundreds of thousands of people from Chicago and the surrounding area gather on the lakeshore to watch aerial displays by an array of planes. Most don't suspect that they are being subjected to an intense propaganda effort by multiple branches of the U.S. military.  The Chicago Coalition to Shut Down Guantanamo views this as a perfect opportunity to engage with the public and enlist them in the growing movement against U.S. war, torture, surveillance, and other crimes.  We will join activists from many other peace and justice groups who have had a growing presence at this event in recent years.

(See August 16-17: Protest U.S. Kidnapping, Torture, and Drone Assassinations at the 2014 Chicago Air and Water Show Protest )

July 2014 - Many organizations from across the city joined the call by Anti-War Committee – Chicago, Jews for Justice in Palestine, U.S. Palestinian Community Network and 8th Day Center for Justice: Protest Boeing Death Machines in Gaza: Demand Chicago Drop Boeing from Air and Water Show!

(See No Drones Illinois Endorses Call to Drop Boeing from Chicago Air and Water Show)

A large contingent participated in creative resistance activities at the 2012 Air and Water Show.

(See Taking the NO DRONES! Message to the Masses at Chicago's Air & Water Show for full details.)

"Overall, a great success," said David Soumis. "We had a lot of people riding by in cars, buses, trucks, and golf carts. A lot of thumbs up, a few one finger salutes, a lot of questioning glares, and tons of people that could only see the hood of their car."

(See Welcome to Oshkosh! (got drones?) )

My jaw dropped when they opened the trailer and I saw the four KnowDrones model drone fuselages resting on foam cushions, with their wings neatly strapped to the front wall of the trailer. "These are some very, very serious people," I said to myself.

(See Nationwide: Getting SERIOUS About STOPPING the Drones Menace )

Friday, August 15, 2014

What Will "Strategic" Mean in Our Children's Lifetime?

U.S. military bases (and oilfields) in the Mideast

We are likely to wake up some day and realize that we have succeeded in evolving our economy away from fossil fuels -- toward a zero carbon economy -- and that means our "interests" in the Middle East will no longer be so strategic any more.

What will be strategic then?

Despite the temptation to name some other part of the world -- to pivot to the idea that now China is where we need to be in control -- perhaps the answer is: "strategic" will no longer have to do with how much stuff we can get, but with how successful we can be at spending less.

This leads me to wonder: will the next revolution lie in reining in the out-of-control network of U.S. military bases around the world?

"High-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles pre-pared and stored
by the 2d Battalion, 401st Army Field Support Brigade, stand ready at
Camp Arifjan, Kuwait." (Photo by Galen Putnam, 402d AFSB Public Affairs)
(From "Commanding an Army Field Support Battalion" by Lieutenant Colonel
Michael T. Wright, Army Sustainment, March-April 2012)

Just like a family that has extra rooms in its house which inevitably become filled with stuff, the U.S. has thousands of bases -- here, there, and everywhere -- that inevitably create the "need" to spend.

It's a very Zen idea -- that perhaps the most impactful thing we, as a nation, could "do" is to "do" less.

But perhaps it's necessary to explore. Perhaps we have gotten caught up in the wrong argument, i.e. whether this or that military action is right or wrong, justified or misguided.  Perhaps we're fiddling while Rome burns. Perhaps we have to simply cut the discussion off at the knees and say, "What would be good would be a massive paradigm shift in what constitutes desirable activity -- economic and otherwise."

How could we possibly make this happen in our lifetime?

U.S. Military Bases
Posted 24th October 2012 by Toni Nicolle

More detail at . . . 

May 9, 2014: "Hagel Renews Push for Pay Cuts, Base Closings," by Richard Sisk, "The HASC [House Armed Services Committee] markup provided for a $552 billion base Pentagon budget and $85 billion for overseas contingency operations while rejecting Hagel's proposal for another round of BRAC. Senate leaders have also warned that any move to close bases had little chance of succeeding in an election year."

March 31, 2011: "Bring War Dollars Home by Closing Down Bases: Closing U.S. military bases overseas is a key part of moving the money to meet human needs at home and abroad," by Sukjong Hong and Christine Ahn on Foreign Policy in Focus. (Emphasis in this article is est. 70 military installations and bases in South Korea, and the new joint U.S.-South Korean naval base under development on Cheju Island.)

April 14, 2009: "US Military Bases on Guam in Global Perspective," by Catherine Lutz

Detailed guide to potential closures of overseas U.S. bases provided by Carlton Meyer

9 More Ideas You Won't Hear

at Chicago Ideas Week . . .

Related posts

What people in Asia (and others) have seen for the past century is that something is happening in the Pacific, and it's being driven in part by advances in naval (and, subsequently, aviation and electronics) technology, and in part by powerful nations (principally, but not limited to, the U.S.) proximate to the area.

(See The Imperialized Pacific: What We Need to Understand)

I'm grateful to my friend, Jim Barton, for framing the problem in a way that is adequately broad, and yet contains a measure of hope.  It's about the future, and whether we have one -- or can construct one -- he said.  Young people today are asking: Do I have an economic future? Does the planet have a future? Will (nuclear) war extinguish everybody's future?

(See A FUTURE: Can we construct one? )

People are talking about cuts to the military. It couldn't happen to a more deserving half of our national budget. HOWEVER . . . we need a lot more people jumping into this debate, because the cuts being talked about are too timid . . . AND because the most dangerous and illegitimate (and frequently illegal) forms of military force are being advocated for the "efficiency" and "cost-effectivneness."

(See Talk of the Town: Shrink the Military )

What would happen if every member of Congress "adopted" a foreign military base and demonstrated what would happen if all the money spent there were brought home to local districts? Do you think the constituents would welcome THAT initiative?

(See How About a REAL (Tea) Party? SHUT DOWN THE MILITARY BASES! )

The problem: the U.S. "pivot to Asia."

The opportunity: asking ourselves, "What would we do differently if we revised our myths of Asia?"

(See U.S. Militarism in Asia: THINK DIFFERENT!)

Right now we're "stuck" -- the portion of the public that wants to cut military spending has hovered in the high 20%s since 2004; it just can't seem to break the 30% barrier. (The percentage of people in favor of expansion is about the same.)

(See Cutting Defense: Are We STUCK? )

Other related links

October 14, 2014 - "Pentagon Signals Security Risks of Climate Change" by Coral Davenport in The New York Times. Predictably, the Secretary of Defense did NOT suggest responding to the climate crisis by burning less fossil fuel. "The Pentagon on Monday released a report asserting decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises."