Thursday, April 28, 2016

IT'S A LOCK: Why the US Can't Break Its Addiction to War

"Technicians at Poway [CA]-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems
worked on the fuselage of a Sky Warrior drone . . . . The company’s unmanned-
aerial-vehicle program includes the Sky Warrior, the Predator and the Predator B."
(2009 photo - John Gibbins / Union-Tribune)

The new film about the arms trade, Shadow World, screened last night in Berkeley.

There is much that is provocative in the film, and everybody who cares about ending war should see it and share it with others in their community.

In particular, the segment about the Pentagon whistleblower Franklin Spinney caught my attention. Spinney talked about the systemic nature of the problem -- military spending that penetrates every single Congressional district. In effect, we're stuck. To break the hold of war on the US, we need to break the hold of military spending on every Congressional district.

Let's admit it: we've got a problem.
This was reinforced in the discussion following the screening, when Andrew Feinstein -- author of the book on which the film is based -- pointed to the inseparable relationship between campaign funding for Congressional races and the military contractors.

This idea is not new to me. I moved to California last year, fully aware that much of the beautiful California lifestyle is built on weapons manufacturing. The Concise Untold History of the United States by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick tells us that, between 1951 and 1963, California benefited from $67 billion in defense contracts (p. 218-9). In my own work on the problem of drones, I've come to learn that a relatively new player in defense, General Atomics, has become a star in the San Diego area economy by building Predator and Reaper drones.

Can drone jobs be "good jobs"?
But the question of how to push back against the problem has seemed gargantuan. Four hundred and thirty-five Congressional districts: how to begin?

It occurred to me that I could start by looking into California's 53 Congressional districts. But that alone is a huge job . . . and it's still just one state.

By coincidence, yesterday I was also thinking about another question: the readership of my blog is growing very fast . . . but where is it all headed? What do I hope the outcome is?

And then I realized that what I hope for is actually quite simple: I hope to suggest to people that they can use simple tools like blogs to get important information out to a wider audience.  In effect, these blogs and other social media are our answer to the complaint that the mainstream media doesn't report the important stories, and distorts the stories they do report. We need to be our own media.

Chicago activists are taking on Boeing
None of us has to do the whole job his/her self. We're a swarm.

So here's my promise: I will knuckle down and get to work on those 53 districts in California. And if you're writing about the hold of defense contractors and the Pentagon on those or other districts around the country, share your work with me via Twitter at @scarry. I'll make sure that it gets a big audience.

Posts related to California congressional districts

13th (East Bay): 21st c. Berkeley: More Relevant Than Ever to Antiwar Movement

17th (Silicon Valley): Worldwide War and Conflict (Brought to you by Silicon Valley)

More related posts

There's been a lot of talk in recent weeks and months about the problem of gun trafficking in Illinois, and how we will never meet our goal of stopping the violence in our communities if we can't stop the flow of guns. Maybe it's time for us to eat our own dog food . . . .

(See What If Illinois Became a "War-Profiteer-Free Zone" ? )

How might an uprising against inequality and dismantling the military-industrial complex dovetail?

(See WHERE'S MINE? Inequality in the US and the Military-Industrial Complex )

I've realized that when we ask ourselves, "What is it that we hope people will do?" we must include an element of recursivity: One of the things we want people to do is to involve more people in doing it. In a way, that element of recursivity -- dare I say "evangelism"? -- defines what it means for people to really become part of a movement.

(See Invite More People into Activism! (Pass It Along!) )


More than anyone else, the beneficiaries of permawar are the politicians who thrive on the power to make and control wars. The number one prime beneficiary is the President, as well as presidential aspirants. But it doesn't end there . . . .

(See J'ACCUSE: The Beneficiaries of Permawar )

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How Is the US Implicated in Argentina's "Years of Lead"?

Carlos Alonso, from the series "Manos Anónimas"

I have been mediating on the terrifying images created by artists in Argentina, relating to the period of state repression and terror 40 years ago, known as the "Years of Lead (Años de Plomo)" or "dirty war (guerra sucia)."

The images can be viewed on the website of La Voz.

Luis Felipe “Yuyo” Noé,
La Memoria (Memory)
I have a clear memory of learning about the abuses in Argentina by reading books available in the early '80s like Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number by Jacobo Timerman (1981) and The Return of Eva Perón and the Killings in Trinidad by V. S. Naipaul (1980).

At the time, I found the situation described to be fascinating and deplorable, and scary. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't look deep enough to see the connection with my own country and society. I certainly never imagined "that kind of thing" could happen here.

Fast forward to the years after 9/11. "The dark side" -- Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, torture and police shootings and drone assassinations, mass surveillance and mass incarceration -- has come to define the US.

How did this happen?

The second half of the 20th century saw massive human rights violations in countries throughout Central America and South America, committed principally by governments and government-sanctioned paramilitaries. The United States government encouraged and enabled this through arms shipments, training, and other forms of support.

In the case of Argentina, it is said that the US government, in the person of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, "green lighted" the abuses of the '70s.

Everyone should form a picture of Argentina's "Years of Lead," and explore for themselves how the US contributed to that awful time.

Juan Delfini, En Cautiverio (In Captivity)
Drawing published in “Los Swat, el hospital y la muerte” by Víctor Lavagno (1990).
(See LA Times, "Torture Called Specialty at Argentine Hospital")

Related posts

It is perhaps the signal achievement of the film "Beneath the Blindfold" that it portrays four different survivors, each of whose experience of torture was distinct from that of any of the others, and each of whom has an otherwise unique personality, and yet each makes clear that they share a long-lasting trauma. One leaves the film with a deeply-felt sense of the lasting trauma caused by torture of any kind.

(See The Revelations of "Beneath the Blindfold" )

Can there be any doubt that Obama and his administration, who think it is their right to wage war in secret, kill anyone they want to, and destroy whole societies, took their cues from Kissinger and Nixon and their "Imperial (and criminal) Presidency"?

(See No Statute of Limitations for War Crimes (Henry Kissinger in Chicago) )

Perhaps, like me, you will read a sentence like, "In 2001, many people came to her neighbourhood looking for a new home, fleeing from the Naya River where the paramilitaries had massacred and displaced the Afro-Colombian communities," and wonder what it refers to.

(See COLOMBIA: Where did the violence come from?)

Millions of people have learned what force-feeding is really about by watching this video of Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) voluntarily undergoing force-feeding using the methods employed at Guantanamo.

(See GUANTANAMO: "Is that who we are?" )

In a composition suggestive of a yin-yang symbol, a woman in a burka (but wearing audacious red glitter platform heels) is surrounded by genie-ish tableaus of the many male obsessions/pastimes that some of us rail about frequently -- sexualized pop singers, professional sports -- as well as some that we probably should rail about more (such as patriarchy in religion and political violence).

(See VIOLENCE: " . . . and the women must live with the consequences . . . " )

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

PEACE DAY 2016: What comes first? Demilitarization? or Development?

Sustainable Development Goals

According to the official UN site, this year's #PeaceDay theme is: "Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace."

This caught my attention because of the (close but not total) overlap between the Sustainable Development Goals and the elements of the "Alternative Global Security System" proposed by World Beyond War.

Moreover, in recent weeks, I have been putting more and more effort into interacting with the Twitter streams with peace activists in countries all over the world, and I see a strong interest in the Sustainable Development Goals. 

The Sustainable Development Goals are:

(1) No Poverty
(2) No Hunger
(3) Good Health
(4) Quality Education (See Education for Peace? or "Education IS Peace"?)
(5) Gender Equality (See Gender Equity and Peace: Let's ALL have a say in conflict resolution)
(6) Clean Water and Sanitation
(7) Renewable Energy
(8) Good Jobs and Economic Growth
(9) Innovation and Infrastructure (See SOLAR PANELS: A Force for Peace in Africa?)
(10) Reduced Inequalities
(11) Sustainable Cities/Communities
(12) Responsible Consumption
(13) Climate Action (See Peace Day 2016: 3 Ways Climate Action is Vital)
(14) Life Below Water (See Pacific Fisheries' Futile Conflict: How about sharing?)
(15) Life On Land (See SDG 15 and Peace: "We are but one thread ... ")
(16) Peace and Justice (See SDGs: Does US Militarism Harm "Peace and Justice" (and Other) Efforts?)
(17) Partnerships for the Goals

My hypothesis is that it will benefit us antiwar activists in the US to attend to and reflect upon the importance of these Sustainable Development Goals to achieving the goal of ending war.

Goal #10 -- reduced inequalities -- is one I've already made some effort to think about -- but I need to go deeper.

Moreover, I plan to spend time each week between now and September looking closely at each of the specific goals, and inviting comment on how they might fit into a unified global effort to put a stop to armed conflict and move toward peaceful development for everyone.

Related posts

In 2015, the UN International Day of Peace on September 21 nudged me to think about what -- if anything -- I feel I really know about peace and the movement for peace. Here are 10 things that are true for me . . . .

(See #PeaceDay 2015 - Ten Thoughts on Peace)

How might an uprising against inequality and dismantling the military-industrial complex dovetail?

(See WHERE'S MINE? Inequality in the US and the Military-Industrial Complex )

What value might be obtained by having a really high quality "channel" on social media that people can tune in to for news and ideas about war abolition?

(See #NOwar - Permanently Trending on Twitter? YES!)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Would You Buy an Elephant from This Woman?

Svetlana Geier, translator of Dostoevsky's "elephants"* into German
*The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment,  
The Idiot, The Devils, and Raw Youth

I watched the film The Woman with the 5 Elephants again the other night.

I have recommended it to many people. I thought that my recommendation had to do with the fact that it is about the novels of Dostoevsky (the "five elephants" of the title), or because it shed new light for me on people in Ukraine caught between the Nazis and the Soviet Union during World War II.

Svetlana Geier
The Woman with the 5 Elephants is about those things, but watching the film again reminded me there is something else that I really love more about it.

The Woman with the 5 Elephants is really about the beauty of this old woman. Watch how she keeps going . . . cooking with her family . . . traveling with her granddaughter . . . working away with her editor on her translations.

And, yes, there is a tremendous beauty in her ability to boil down all that she has seen and experienced and worked on to some simply-stated truths.

We live in a society that worships youth. But it is old people that are really beautiful!

Related posts

I love to walk around North Pond here in Chicago and notice the asters as September stretches into October. They make me think of my mom . . . .

(See Asters for Eva )

Who are we? The United States, personified by its "great man" President Obama, is a kind nation that is riven by a belief that it should have the ultimate power over life and death, that every being on earth is somehow of lesser importance.

(See Reflecting on America's Split Personality (Moscow Airport Summer Reads) )

I wonder if, years from now, we will be thinking back to today and feeling surprise at how little we thought about some of the developments in our world, and in our country, and how we talked about them even less. Someday will I have to explain to my kids, or to my kids' kids, why it was that "people just weren't talking about it" . . . ?

(See Why Weren't People Talking About It? )

Sunday, April 24, 2016

CHERNOBYL: Nuclear Energy - the door to . . . what?

Abandoned classroom, Pryp’yat, Ukraine
The Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster occurred thirty years ago -- April 26, 1986.

A series of images in today's New York Times invite people to remember and think about that event. It is particularly important at a moment when we are realizing that we cannot continue to rely on fossil fuels, and some people are pushing for reliance on nuclear energy.

You only need to search "Chernobyl" on Google images to find hundreds of images of what's left of Chernobyl, like the one at left.

How bad? The memorial to Chernobyl liquidators
in Moscow hints at the degree of devastation.
Most people have no real sense of the scale of the Chernobyl disaster -- the deaths and illnesses, the degree of contamination, the size of the no-man's land left behind.

Last year, the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded for a book that provides first-hand accounts of the Chernobyl disaster.

Read this overview of Voices from Chernobyl to learn what happened, and why.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

WELCOME MAT USA: Come in! Come in! (Get out! Get out!)

Ester Hernandez, Sun Raid
Un-naturally harvested
Guaranteed Deportation
Mextecos, Zapotecos, Triques, Purepechas
by-product of NAFTA

Saturday is the anniversary of Cesar Chavez' death in 1993, and it seems like an opportune time to lift up the work of artist Ester Hernandez.  I first saw her poster Sun Raid at the "Fires Will Burn" exhibition at DePaul University in Chicago.

Sun Raid is a searing reminder that people in the US have always been happy to welcome immigrants to help make their businesses profitable and make sure they had cheap stuff and cheap labor . . . . but how dare they expect to be treated like people!

(For a book-length treatment of this subject, see Juan Gonzalez's Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America.)

We are living in a year in which we are seeing Donald Trump get away with demonizing immigrants. Maybe we need to take advantage of this moment and turn the phenomenon on its head. Who, after all, are the immigrants? Who is "entitled" to be here? What can it possibly mean anymore to say that certain people are tolerated and others are "illegals"?

I've heard people say that the problem is that Trump is a master at using the media to get attention, and the rest of us need to get with the times. Okay, here's my contribution:

Eva Longoria on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:
"We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us."
Maybe when Eva Longoria says it, people will remember???
(Please retweet this message.)

A few weeks ago, on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, super-celebrity Eva Longoria repeated the expression familiar to many of us: "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us." Maybe when she says it, people will remember???

More on "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us" here.

Related posts

It will take me multiple posts to spell out everything that I feel needs to be said about the Ayotzinapa 43.  People in the US need to work to change their own attitude about Mexico, and about the culpability or all of us here in the US in the wrongs that are being done down there. The Ayotzinapa 43 were persecuted for saying "the future can be different." It's time for us to take up their cry.

(See Ayotzinapa43: US People Need an Attitude Adjustment )

El Buen Pastor by Luis Jiménez depicts Ezekiel Hernandez -- a shepherd who was shot by U.S. marines in the area around the US-Mexico border as he was tending his sheep. The artist has said, "having [marines] patrolling the border in the 'war on drugs' is 'an accident waiting to happen.'"

(See Holy Week 2016 and "El Buen Pastor")

Part of what I loved about Du Hai was the way it used large pieces of fabric to convey the sensation of being in a boat among billowing waves, and the multiple uses to which they put the fabric - sea, clouds, sail, and more. Even a newcomer to modern dance, such as myself, could grasp what was going on.

(See Wanna Fix the U.S.A? Welcome an Immigrant Today! )

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Saving Our Planet: What's GOD got to do with it???

Poster designed for first Earth Day, 1970.
We're in a mess, and we might not get out of it.

Many religious people think God is part of the unfolding story of the climate crisis.

Some believers think it wouldn't happen unless it was being caused by God (for instance, as a punishment for people's wickedness).

Others don't believe in a God who exacts terrible punishments, but do believe God will save us. They may be inclined to believe that God is the answer to solving global warming and overcoming climate change.

If we pray fervently enough to God, will the climate crisis go away?

Devoted Hands

A few Sundays ago at First Congregational Church of Berkeley (FCCB), we had "Service as Worship" day. Sometimes people worship God in words, in music, in costume, via movement and graphic arts . . . . Sometimes (often? always?) our acts of service in the world are also ways that we worship God.

Wait: we're not supposed to just pray and go to church? We're supposed to do stuff?

I thought Pope Francis summed it up pretty well:

"You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. This is how prayer works."
(Pope Francis)

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) stresses the idea "God's work, our hands."

So part of my understanding of the problem is that action in the world happens through people.

Does God "care" about the climate crisis?
God is with us

I believe God is with us . . . and that it's up to us to do what needs to be done.  (God will be with us in our success. God will be with us in our failure.)

Specifically,  I believe the meaning of God caring about the climate crisis is that humanity gets to see the future, together with God so that humanity can choose its own future.

That's not nothin' . . . .

Diverse inspirations

Bill McKibben puts it in stark
terms: we could actually end
up breaking the Earth.
It will take real motivation to bear down on this big problem.

Sometimes I think we can be motivated by a sense of justice.

Pastor Diane Weibel pointed out to the congregation at FCCB several weeks ago that those of us who have caused the problem of global warming to happen also happen to be part of the class of people who really won't suffer the worst consequences from it;  it is the people in the Global South and those with the least wealth and privilege, the ones who have done little or nothing to bring global warming about that will suffer most from it.

Can this be the basis for a global movement of conscience?

Perhaps. Sometimes, however, I think we to be jolted to our senses. Bill McKibben puts in in stark terms: we could actually end up breaking the Earth. Maybe THAT will shock people into action.

(What motivates you?)

How are we gonna DO this???

Watch Laura Burkhauser's April 17, 2016 sermon at FCCB "Promises After the Flood" below. She raises the question of whether, when things have gonna very, very wrong, there is hope of repairing the situation.  I think the way she takes us through the problem -- including stressing that the problem is very, very bad -- gives a sense of what it is genuinely going to take for us to pursue a new direction.

What do you think? Is a New Covenant possible?

Happy Earth Day 2016!

More related posts

"Although we know the end from the very beginning," says Walker, "the story is no less compelling to watch." A man, gloriously alone (except for his own reflection) on an ice-covered lake; the soothing pastel colors of the distant sky; and what seems surely to be a circle he is digging around himself with a pick-axe. A perfect parable for our headlong rush toward climate crisis?

(See How Do You Say "Suicide Narcissus" in Chinese?)

One of the really interesting things about looking at how Rachel Carson used her writing to wake the world up -- particularly with her prophetic Silent Spring -- is that we can then go back to some of the earliest parts of the Bible and see them as living and urgent. And reading Silent Spring as well as Biblical stories like the account of The Flood points to the urgency of changes that need to be made here and now in the way we all live our lives.

(See Looking at Rachel Carson (at St. Luke's "School for Prophets") )

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? )

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Your Country Needs YOU! (to do something stupid)

Gallipoli: Anzac Cove (source:

"The country is much more difficult than I imagined . . .
and the Turkish positions . . . are natural fortresses which,
if not taken by surprise at first, could be held against very
serious attack by larger forces than have been engaged."

(Field Marshall Herbert Kitchener, reporting on his first in-person
reconnaissance of the ground at Gallipoli, November 13, 1915,
 from Rogan,The Fall of the Ottomans, p. 209.)

I've been reading The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East by Eugene Rogan.

Rogan's book is more than just a way to get context before your next viewing of Lawrence of Arabia  -- it really is required reading for anyone who cares about Turkey and its relationship with the countries that were part of that war, or which were born out of that war: Germany, Russia, France, and England; Bulgaria and the Balkans;  Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, and Israel; and others.

Moreover, the introduction it gives to the key facts surrounding the Armenian genocide are reason enough to read the book.

What I found most disturbing about the book was discovering the way, during World War I, one Western country toyed with "jihad" -- hoping to use the authority of the Ottoman caliph to call on Muslims everywhere to rise up against the other Western countries it opposed. (More on this in a future blog post . . . . )

And it tells the story of Gallipoli . . . .

"Britons (Kitchener) wants you"
UK. Alfred Leete (1882-1933). 1914
(Eybl, Plakatmuseum Wien/
Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-4.0)
Many people are familiar with the British assault on the part of Turkey guarding the route to the Bosphorus, Istanbul, and the Black Sea from the 1981 film Gallipoli.  In a way, The Fall of the Ottomans is dedicated to that part of the conflict: Rogan introduces the book by describing a visit to the old battlefields, and by acknowledging the "terrible waste of ... life," British and French as well as Turkish, that took place there.  He provides these totals at the end of Chapter 8, "The Ottoman Triumph at Gallipoli":

Of the roughly 800,000 men who fought at Gallipoli, over 500,000 were wounded, taken prisoner, or killed in the conflict. The casualty figures were neatly divided between defenders and invaders in the eight-and-a-half-month struggle for mastery of the Dardanelles: 205,000 British and dominion casualties, 47,000 French and imperial soldiers, and between 250,000 and 290,000 Ottomans. As many as 140,000 men died in Gallipoli: 86,500 Turks, 42,000 British and dominion troops, and 14,000 French and imperial soldiers. (Rogan, p. 214)

This entire book -- and especially its account of Gallipoli -- is painful to read by anyone who opposes war and the senselessness of war. But a passage on p. 209 made me stop short. It is the quote reproduced above, a quote by the commander who had ordered it all - Field Marshall Herbert Kitchener, the "great military man" familiar to people everywhere from the British recruiting poster.

Kitchener had been making the decisions about where to attack, and who to send. But he had never been to Gallipoli. By the time he finally got there, it was clear to everyone that the campaign had been a catastrophe and it was time to evacuate -- too late,of course, for the tens of thousands already dead and the hundreds of thousands wounded. Only then did Kitchener actually make an in-person visit to the battlefield he had chosen. He reported, "The country is much more difficult than I imagined . . . and the Turkish positions . . . are natural fortresses which, if not taken by surprise at first, could be held against very serious attack by larger forces than have been engaged."

What the quote tells us is that the system permitted one man to command tens of thousands to go to their deaths, and to do so out of sheer ignorance. The field marshall had neglected to visit the field. The Gallipoli assault turned out to be "much more difficult" than he had imagined.

As observations of the centenary of WWI continue -- for instance, with a performance of Britten's War Requiem in a few weeks here in Berkeley -- it's a good time to continue to point to all the reasons that young people should question the call to battle.

Question authority: so often, staggering ignorance lies beneath.

Related posts

A person may not feel that s/he is another Daniel Ellsberg ... or Paul Revere ... or Otto and Elise Hampel ... or Ai Weiwei ... or Bradley [Chelsea] Manning. But these are heroes we can aspire to emulate.

(See I am (I will become) Bradley Manning )

We need to do several things for our young people. First of all, we need to show them pictures of war and explain: "This is what real chaos looks like." And then we need to ask, "Still think this sounds appealing?"

(See The Few, the Proud ... and the Chaos)

Consider the moment in the film All Quiet On the Western Front when the young soldier returns to visit his old high school. The soldier visits the class of the teacher who had goaded him and many of his classmates to enlist in the first place. Encouraged by his teacher to tell about the "glories" of being a soldier, he delivers a damning verdict . . . .

(See Back to School (All Quiet On the Western Front))

An amazing thing that will be happening -- in fact, has already begun happening -- here in Berkeley is a performance of Britten's War Requiem.
(See WAR: Will you hear? Will you perceive? Will you think?)

It suddenly occurs to me that everyone in the US should be studying the behavior of England toward India, and asking ourselves, "What might this tell people in the US about coming to our senses?"

(See PROBLEM: How does an entire country exorcise a national delusion?)

Sometimes you can know a place without ever having been there. I feel that way about Istanbul. It came about because during a few months in 2010, when I was caring for my mother, I read all of the books of the Turkish author (and Nobel Prize in Literature winner) Orhan Pamuk.

(See TURKEY: Terra Incognita No Longer .... )