Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Establishing intent

Some years ago in Michigan a few nuns cut a hole in a fence that surrounded Williams International, the corporation making the Cruise missile engines. The Cruise, at that time, carried either nuclear or conventional warheads. They were so destabilizing in particular because they were deployed in Europe by the US and they had terrain-contour-matching guidance systems built into the missile snout, enabling very low flights, under radar. This meant that they would arrive without warning, which put the then-Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal on hair-trigger, launch-on-warning status. That, in turn, meant that the fate of the world rested on the infallibility of Soviet computers, which often times could not be trusted to operate a photocopy machine. This prompted the sane members of our species to resistance. The nuns were both sane and bold. They entered the corporate property and hung banners proclaiming the need for peace and disarmament. They kneeled in prayer. The brave police arrested them and took them to jail.

They were charged with "Malicious destruction of property," the title of the crime under Michigan law. At trial the judge listened to the weapon manufacturer, to the arresting officer, to the prosecutor, and to the defendants. He rendered his decision, saying that (paraphrase), "If this corporation making engines for weapons of mass destruction for the Pentagon wants a secure facility from the people, they are going to need federal troops. I find nothing malicious in the conduct of these defendants. Case dismissed."

Malicious implied intent. The obvious intent of these nuns--women who were always nonviolent and always in service to the most vulnerable and needy--was as pure as human intent gets. Their lives were evidence of their character and intent. The judge took that into account because he was observant and rational. He sensibly applied observable fact to the element of intent and ruled in accordance.

When people use violence, they are suspect. A track record informs our judgment. When Paul Wellstone's plane went down mysteriously and he was killed, that was in the environment of Donald Rumsfeld and others chattering on about their wish for a "single-bullet" solution to the Saddam Hussein problem. It was also when Wellstone was a strong Senate voice for peace just when the Senate was most divided over following the Bush and Cheney plan to take the US down into the war profiteer path into Iraq. At our memorial for Paul Wellstone on the Park Blocks shortly after his 25 October plane crash, I said some of this and I noted that Paul Wellstone was a key vote on many issues in the divided Senate, and that any group that advocated a "single-bullet" notion of problem-solving should be able to provide an alibi, since they were logical suspects. Michael I. Niman wrote cogently about the history of convenient small plane crashes for the war hawks.

So now we find the US and NATO bombing away in Libya, with charges that US planes have dropped illegal cluster bombs in Misrata and elsewhere. The US claims all those munitions were used by Gaddafi. In some ways, it feels like we are being asked to discern the truth about who commits more violence and illegal violence from parties who both do so routinely and who both lie about it with almost pathological involuntary reaction. No one charged the nonviolent resistance in Egypt or Tunisia with violence against civilians because those charges would be regarded with appropriate derision and disbelief by a wiser world.

And so we see one of the strongest pieces of that "force more powerful" is credibility. Those who engage in nonviolence and nonviolence only have a strategic advantage in that regard. They make claims based on character and history and intent and they are easily believed. The violent ones are always suspect and indeed are the usual suspects who should be prepared with alibis. This is part of the complex message of Gandhi when he referred to nonviolence as a search for truth. Humankind is prepared to belief in nonviolence in that regard, even though its force is counterintuitive in other aspects. Gandhi knew that truth is what people want in the end and nonviolence enables us to find it more surely.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial remembrance of friendly fire

War is costing us.

Peace is priceless.

On this Memorial Day I'd like to think about a special category of armed forces killed in war--those lost to 'friendly fire," that is, those killed by their own. It is the ultimate horror for a military member, no doubt, to think in the final instant of life that one's own forces are senselessly ending one's life.

Decades ago, just after the Vietnam War ended, I was a young father and an apprentice in the carpenters' union. I had been a conscientious objector to the war in Vietnam and was a member of the working class, which was the source of most combat troops. While America was polarized about the war, the warriors weren't. They hated it even more than we peaceniks. I met one fellow in all my young years who supported that war after fighting in it. One. Of course I lived in the Upper Great Lakes region, except for one year in Boston, so it may well have been different in the South, but hatred for that war as a stupid and meaningless waste was ubiquitous in my world.

Buck was one of my journeymen as I worked through my apprenticeship. He was short, powerful, and always led with his right foot and right arm, as he had been wounded badly on his left side in Vietnam. He was not shy about expressing his agreement with me on that war, but he went further.

"I'll move my family to Canada before I let them mucky-mucks take one of my sons," he declared with absolute conviction. "Let 'em fight their own damned wars." Eventually, he told me what happened to him in Vietnam.

His unit was forward deep into the jungle, in a firefight, and they called in air support. Buck told me, "I heard them too close and took cover and they hit us, one of our planes hit us. I woke up in the hospital and found out I was the only survivor from my unit."

Imagine the deep hurt, physically and emotionally, of lifelong loss and betrayal. No one among his closest comrades survived and none were killed by 'the enemy.' During his long healing and on into a lifetime of limping and limited use of one arm and one leg, he decided that the real enemy was the class of people who would send young people to kill and die--and even kill each other--for their own financial or political gain. I am a peace worker with conviction (many convictions, actually, including peace felonies), but Buck's conviction was literally bone-deep and stone solid. He was not a pacifist--I'd feel sorry for anyone who tried to hurt his family--but he was not going to participate nor let his sons be taken to participate in war.

In the US military, friendly fire is sometimes referred to with callous gallows humor as (excuse me but this is a direct quote) "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke." I doubt Buck ever said that, at least not after he experienced it. Now imagine the level of fatalism required to wear a uniform and use that expression. Indeed, research on deployment periods for the average soldier in combat helped lead to shorter terms, since the researchers found that past a certain number of months in combat the average soldier became completely convinced he would be killed and it was increasingly debilitating. The mental health assault of war on troops is so severe that their behavior is often simply off the charts forever, which helps foster the militarism of the culture back home and make the next war more likely. Someone like Buck is rare. A lone survivor of a fratricidal attack doesn't show up in the war box scores in a category.

We will never know how many war dead are friendly fire. We do know that we can add that to the enormous costs of war that should lead us to figure out other ways to manage our inevitable conflicts with Libyan leaders, Iraqi leaders, radical Muslims in caves and everyone else. Time to count the costs, use better methods, and stop subjecting our people, their people, our economy, our ecology and our children to friendly fire.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial for the masses of war victims

Just about 26 years ago we gathered at a thermonuclear command site in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to mark Memorial Day, but not to honor or commemorate those who picked up guns or shot off bombs. We held a Memorial Day gathering for the victims of nuclear weapons past, present and future. We had a head"stone" made of cardboard, painted to that effect. We were family friendly, lots of little children and young parents, most of us in our 20s or 30s with a few older folks, and it represented at least one component of the general opposition to this facility in the UP. Indeed, there had been referenda in all counties in the UP on this facility and approximately 80 percent of Yoopers had voted against it. The US nuclear navy went right ahead and built it. Jimmy Carter was president when he promised then-governor Warren Knowles that it "would never be built against the wishes of the people of Michigan," but Ronald Reagan ignored the votes and the promise in blatant disregard of democracy (with defenders of democracy like that, who needs enemies?).

We resisted and pulled all the survey stakes, and we delayed it, but it was finally completed and so on Memorial Day we built a symbolic peace command and hung photos of children and other beloved future victims of nuclearism on it. A number of us stayed, had a nice campfire in the state forest by the entrance to the facility, sang, told stories, and passed around the then-new Doctor Seuss Butter Battle book. We went to our tents or vehicles and slept, preparing for the confrontation in the morning.

Four of our resisters--Kurt Miron, John Sherman-Jones, Jeff Leys and Charlie Turvey--stood in symbolic blockade in the early light. The navy came, called the sheriff, our lads were arrested and driven to Ishpeming, and the rest of us went out for breakfast. I said goodbye to all and went out to the facilty to a section of it that was even more remote (it was a cabled antennae that carried a signal some 56 miles through the forest and pumped it into solid copper grounds that went deep into the granite to create a signal that would then be receivable on all nuclear subs simultaneously, globally). I took my swede saw (a three-foot lightweight sort of muscle-powered bowsaw) and cut down one of the poles supporting the antennae, cut off the top six feet, carried it out of the woods, loaded it into my raggedy old Pinto wagon, drove to Marquette to some activist friends and dropped it off. I went back to Ishpeming and visited my four buddies in jail and told them I had done it. We all felt very good, we got them bailed out, we went for pizza and beer (I subsequently quit drinking even beer, but that wouldn't be for another three years), and I turned myself in to the sheriff the next morning.

So that is part of what Memorial Day means to me. My first felony for peace. My combat buddies in the nonviolent war against nukes, ready to pay the price of incarceration rather than support the unsupportable--either Mutually Assured Destruction or Nuclear Utilization Target Selection (MAD or NUTS--great choice). Thinking of the arrogance of memorializing the warriors who would be safer in the event of a nuclear war than would the civilians. Indeed, even in our modern wars, in every one since Vietnam, civilians pay a far higher price than do armed troops. We don't understand that in the US because we wage war on other people's soil, but at least 90 percent of war deaths are civilians. The days of gallant warriors on the field of battle are long gone and instead it's war in and on the villages with "collateral damage" (six-year-old girls) safely ignored or dismissed by the occasional pronouncement of 'regret.' Right.

Time to rethink Memorial Day. Time to honor all the victims of the worst stupidity humankind has ever ignited--war. Memorial Day was originally for the poor guys who were in the trenches out literally in those fields. They were the victims of war a century ago. Now they are just a minor component of the war dead and they are the ones who cause it all. They volunteer to shoot bullets and bombs. Little children and peaceful farm families or villagers don't volunteer to host a war but they are killed in far greater numbers than the armed ones we so lovingly remember on this weekend. As long as we sacralize and venerate them, war is easier to wage. We don't count the costs and those costs keep mounting. Without a new perspective, we stay stuck on a groove that is ultimately demonstrably radically maladaptive. Time to evolve.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Poetic musical hero crosses over

Gil Scott-Heron burst into my head, heart, and into a world he would not have known but would have gotten instantly. Way back in the day I had a three-hour per week program on a tribal station in northern Wisconsin. I played his music constantly, in-between interviews with community organizers, treaty right activists, peace movement resisters (including calls from prisoners), and environmental activists. Some of his work became anthemic in our little forest and lake country. When I went to Washington to lobby and do some trainings, he was gracious enough to do a benefit for us. It was a night I'll never forget.

Upon his recent return from Europe, he fell ill and just crossed over. He was a genius with a scathing pen, brilliant wordsmith, peerless imagineer, catchy music and a deep love for all who were oppressed by our predatory war system, presaging Michael Franti by decades. What a loss for us all. He was 62.

Since he spoke rather than sang (except smaller bits, such as a chorus now and then), he was often called the Godfather of Rap and I'm sure that came to many of us independently as rap grew in popularity. I was sad when I heard most rap and reflected on his influence, since his lyrics were not misogynist nor did they call for violence (unless I missed some later work that did, which would have disappointed me). Was he nonviolent? No, but he inspired those of us who were. His poetry about Ronald Reagan was matched only by John Trudell's, as they each spoke their fiery words to music that amplified the power of their poetry. It was, for me, the perfect fusion of political cultural people power. Thank you, Gil, for your work, your powerful poetry and peerless percussive passion in defense of life.

Gil should have the last words, the first one still amazes me (click on the title to listen):

B Movie

Well, the first thing I want to say is, Mandate my ass!

Because it seems as though we've been convinced that 26% of the registered voters, not even 26% of the American people, but 26% of the registered voters form a mandate or a landslide. 21% voted for Skippy and 3, 4% voted for somebody else who might have been running.

But, oh yeah, I remember. In this year that we have now declared the year from Shogun to Reagan, I remember what I said about Reagan--meant it. Acted like an actor Hollyweird. Acted like a liberal. Acted like General Franco when he acted like governor of California, then he acted like a republican. Then he acted like somebody was going to vote for him for president. And now we act like 26% of the registered voters is actually a mandate. We're all actors in this I suppose.

What has happened is that in the last 20 years, America has changed from a producer to a consumer. And all consumers know that when the producer names the tunethe consumer has got to dance. That's the way it is. We used to be a producer very inflexible at that, and now we are consumers and, finding it difficult to understand. Natural resources and minerals will change your world. The Arabs used to be in the 3rd World. They have bought the 2nd World and put a firm down payment on the 1st one. Controlling your resources will control your world. This country has been surprised by the way the world looks now. They don't know if they want to be Matt Dillon or Bob Dylan. They don't know if they want to be diplomats or continue the same policy - of nuclear nightmare diplomacy. John Foster Dulles ain't nothing but the name of an airport now.

The idea concerns the fact that this country wants nostalgia. They want to go back as far as they can even if it's only as far as last week. Not to face now or tomorrow, but to face backwards. And yesterday was the day of our cinema heroes riding to the rescue at the last possible moment. The day of the man in the white hat or the man on the white horse - or the man who always came to save America at the last moment someone always came to save America at the last moment especially in B movies. And when America found itself having a hard time facing the future, they looked for people like John Wayne. But since John Wayne was no longer available, they settled for Ronald Reagan and it has placed us in a situation that we can only look at like a B movie.

Come with us back to those inglorious days when heroes weren't zeros. Before fair was square. When the cavalry came straight away and all-American men were like Hemingway to the days of the wondrous B movie. The producer underwritten by all the millionaires necessary will be Casper The Defensive Weinberger no more animated choice is available. The director will be Attila the Haig, running around frantically declaring himself in control and in charge. The ultimate realization of the inmates taking over at the asylum. The screenplay will be adapted from the book called Voodoo Economics by George Papa Doc Bush. Music by the Village People the very military "Macho Man."

Company!!!
Macho, macho man!
Two-three-four.
He likes to be well, you get the point.
Huuut! Your left! Your left! Your left right, left, right, left, right!

A theme song for saber-rallying and selling wars door-to-door. Remember, we're looking for the closest thing we can find to John Wayne. Cliches abound like kangaroos courtesy of some spaced out Marlin Perkins, a Reagan contemporary. Cliches like, itchy trigger finger and tall in the saddle and riding off or on into the sunset. Cliches like, Get off of my planet by sundown! More so than cliches like, he died with his boots on. Marine tough the man is. Bogart tough the man is. Cagney tough the man is. Hollywood tough the man is. Cheap stick tough. And Bonzo's substantial. The ultimate in synthetic selling: A Madison Avenue masterpiece a miracle a cotton-candy politician Presto! Macho!

Macho, macho man!

Put your orders in America. And quick as Kodak your leaders duplicate with the accent being on the nukes - cause all of a sudden we have fallen prey to selective amnesia - remembering what we want to remember and forgetting what we choose to forget. All of a sudden, the man who called for a blood bath on our college campuses is supposed to be Dudley God-damn Do-Right?

You go give them liberals hell Ronnie. That was the mandate. To the new Captain Bly on the new ship of fools. It was doubtlessly based on his chameleon performance of the past - as a liberal democrat as the head of the Studio Actor's Guild. When other celluloid saviors were cringing in terror from McCarthy Ron stood tall. It goes all the way back from Hollywood to hillbilly. From liberal to libelous, from Bonzo to Birch idol born again. Civil rights, women's rights, gay rights--it's all wrong. Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild. God damn it first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom.

Nostalgia, that's what we want the good ol' days when we gave' em hell. When the buck stopped somewhere and you could still buy something with it. To a time when movies were in black and white and so was everything else. Even if we go back to the campaign trail, before six-gun Ron shot off his face and developed hoof-in-mouth. Before the free press went down before full-court press. And were reluctant to review the menu because they knew the only thing available was Crow.

Lon Chaney, our man of a thousand faces - no match for Ron. Doug Henning does the make-up - special effects from Grecian Formula 16 and Crazy Glue. Transportation furnished by the David Rockefeller of Remote Control Company. Their slogan is, Why wait for 1984? You can panic now...and avoid the rush.

So much for the good news

As Wall Street goes, so goes the nation. And here's a look at the closing numbers racism's up, human rights are down, peace is shaky, war items are hot - the House claims all ties. Jobs are down, money is scarce and common sense is at an all-time low on heavy trading. Movies were looking better than ever and now no one is looking because, we're starring in a B movie. And we would rather had John Wayne we would rather had John Wayne.

Also, take six minutes and listen up to ReRon.
and finally:

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color tv into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the right occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally screwed
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o'clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, or Englebert Humperdink.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
bbout a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver's seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Jail Cheney along with Mladic


Well, that didn't take long. Former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, the one who ordered the genocidal slaughter of more than 7,500 (some credible reports say more than 8,000) unarmed Bosniak Muslim men and boys in Srebenica in July 1995, has finally been arrested. His son Darko--credible source, completely likely to tell the unvarnished truth--claims his father is innocent and, anyway, is "very, very fragile."

Right. Before Dick Cheney, whose hands are far more bloody than are Mladic's, was even elected to serve as de facto president, we were assured that his heart condition was terrible, insinuating he could really go at any time. Instead, he survived with impunity for eight years of rule as puppetmaster whose commands killed far more Muslims than Mladic ever could, and continues to lay about in the lap of luxury.

Yes, I remain angry about this. Mladic should be incarcerated for the rest of his life. He should have a cellie, Dick Cheney. Mladic was living in a small house with a broken down car in the front yard. Cheney owns mansions and made scores of millions of obscene war profits and oil profits (indistinguishable when the US military, under his command, provided massive free security services for his oil investments). Justice delayed is justice diminished, but it is still possible to gain at least some measure of it in these cases.

My fantasy is that the American people grow the backbone that we demanded of the Serbs. Some of them defend Mladic, but they mostly support the arrest and upcoming trial. When will Americans activate our national conscience to override our notions of exceptionalism that outrage so much of the world?

Imprisonment is not necessarily mutually exclusive from restorative justice. Conditions should be rehabilitative and therapy should be ongoing, as should required interviews with survivors and their loved ones. This would not bring anyone back in Iraq or Bosnia, but it would provide an opportunity for closure and healing for inmates and their extended mass of victims. Cheney has been above the law but it's time to elevate the law to include all the engineers and architects of mass violence. Gear up the International Criminal Court and pay for it by closing down a few military bases. I've served time for my nonviolent anti-militarism crimes and I'd like to see some parity in sacrifice for willingness to break the law. My crimes were done in the name of upholding international law and Cheney's were done in direct violation of those laws. Time for a new Nuremberg process that is open to all violators, irrespective of the size of the military of the national identity of the offenders.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You the lobbyist for nonviolence

What the heck is a lobbyist? Oh, we know--it's one of those low-profile functionaries whose job it is to ask an elected official for support for legislation favorable to them. So, some guy waits in the--yes--lobby and asks to see the Congressman for a few minutes. When he gets his audience, he gives the House member a brochure of talking points, asks him to read it when he gets a chance, and to please support H.B. 7209, which would streamline licensing of interstate trade for grain futures. After he makes his pitch, the lobbyist walks to the next office of the next elected representative to make another call.

Right. Just some quiet and boring background activity to our humming, efficient, federal government, conducted by modest guys in boring, faded suits. Well, they actually make out pretty well. The average liberal arts professor with a doctorate in the US makes less than $80,000, while the average lobbyist earns close to $100,000. That is boosted greatly once a lobbyist leaves the nonprofits and government service behind and gets an office on K Street, then commanding annual salaries starting at more than a quarter $million--or, in the case of former Congress members, often in excess of a $million.

All this raises some questions, one would hope.

When are salaries incentives to work hard and when are they straight-up bribes for votes in the revolving door between industry and government?

Why are the salaries so huge?

How does this affect our democracy?

How does this affect our taxes and services?

How does this affect our security?

How does this affect our economy?

Who benefits?

Just one brief example is the $70 billion military aid pipeline to Egypt over the years, largesse voted for annually by Congress. Was it to benefit the Egyptian people? Hardly, it kept Hosni Mubarak, loyal to US interests, in power for three decades, a dictator who jailed journalists critical of him and tortured dissidents. But that aid was not just for Mubarak. The deal was that he would spend it on enriching the war profiteers, according to a story from Inter Press Service:

Specifically, the aid money pays for U.S.-designed Abrams tanks assembled in suburban Cairo under contract with General Dynamics. Boeing sells Egypt CH-47 Chinook transport helicopters, Lockheed Martin sells F-16s fighter jets, Sikorsky Aircraft sells Black Hawk helicopters. Lockheed Martin has taken in 3.8 billion dollars from Egypt in the last few years, General Dynamics 2.5 billion dollars, Boeing 1.7 billion dollars, among many others.


To make sure it is as corrupt as possible, the man hosting Major General Mohamed Said Elassar, assistant to Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the Egyptian minister of defense, last year when the Major General came to Washington, was former US Republican Louisiana Congressman Bob Livingston, also former chair of appropriations. If we read about this chicanery in another country we would snort up our sleeves at the obvious flaunting of influence and erosion of democracy.

We need you to be a lobbyist for nonviolence, for clean government, and an end to the fleecing of the taxpayer by those who wrap themselves in the American flag to conceal sacks of riches that result in oppression and bloodshed all around the world. Voting is the first baby step of democracy. Call, petition, write and visit elected officials. Help organize citizen demonstrations at their public appearances. Show them that the citizen lobby can work too. The war system has the money and we have the potential people power, if we decide to use it. They will continue until we stop them. Just say no to all military aid to anyone.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ethnic cleansing, Israel, and Arab states

A recent blog post of mine went a bit viral and I've been getting emails attacking me, which is what happens every time I write about Israel and Palestine. Those who support one side or the other only see that bipolarity and accuse me of clearly favoring one side and omitting information or lying. Sigh. This happens with protracted identity conflict when those of us who are outsiders stick our noses in. My point was, however, to get my fellow citizens to insist we pull our noses out.

I noted, for instance, that Israel was founded using ethnic cleansing, that is, driving Palestinians out. This is not a disputed historical fact, but it is a poorly understood concept by some. Indeed, I was lectured: "The Nazis were involved in ethnic cleansing. Rwanda faced ethnic cleansing. Israel is the only nation where Arabs are permitted to vote." Gosh, how many factual errors in this accusation?

First, Nazis did not bother with ethnic cleansing, that is, driving the Jews out. Nor did Rwandan Hutus fool around with ethnic cleansing, i.e., pushing Tutsis over the border into Congo or Burundi. In both those examples, they practiced gruesome genocide, that is, killing all of that identity group they could find. For the record, I disagree with those who claim that Israel practices genocide against Palestinians or Arabs. That is a gross exaggeration and misapplication of the word.

Palestinians or Arabs? Aren't they the same? Well, perhaps to my accuser, but, as most of the sentient world knows, there are Palestinians (including even in leadership in some cases) who are Jewish. There are the so-called Arab (Sephardic) Jews. And, obviously, Palestinians are a small (c. 11 million) percent of the Arab world (c. 300 million).

Finally, yes, Arab citizens of Israel (c. 20 percent) do have voting rights. I assume that is what my accuser meant when he mistakenly claimed that "Israel is the only nation where Arabs are permitted to vote," since Arabs vote across at least some of the Middle East and North Africa, though many of the MENA nations are indeed run by corrupt leaders. They certainly vote in the US, Canada, in the EU, South America (lots of them in Chile, for example), and elsewhere. Israel is hardly unique in allowing Arabs to vote--though Arab Israelis don't seem to get too far in that democracy, as a rule. They are a minority and democracy is run by the majority, although the truest democracy is more than two cats and a mouse deciding what's for lunch. Protecting the rights of the minorities is as sacred a duty as is honoring the wishes of the majority. If the latter violates the former, that is a corrupt democracy operating at a very low ethical level. We should know--our history of segregation, rounding up Japanese, stealing Native lands and profiling Hispanics is a set of case studies in low points in American tyranny of the majority. Do we expect better of Israel?

All I was really saying was, it's time to end all military aid to Israel (our biggest recipient every year), Pakistan, Egypt, Colombia and indeed everywhere. Violence is one way to achieve goals, but it is often the highest cost. In most cases, it's like the person who has to get his boots off in a hurry and he is holding a weapon. Shooting off the boot is faster, but taking a minute to set down the weapon and unlace the boots is radically lower cost. It is time to help the world by no longer giving them the weapons with which they are choosing to shoot off feet and instead hope they can relearn the old art of unlacing conflict carefully in order to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. The side benefit is that the $billions thus saved might go a long way toward fixing our own emergencies. Ask the citizens of Joplin, Missouri, if they think Pakistan should get $billions in weaponry or if those funds might be better spent creating rebuilding jobs right at home. Ask the victims of flooding and tornadoes from Mississippi to Minnesota if they think Israeli Defense Force should get more $billions or should those funds be used to help US families wiped out by uninsurable "acts of God" rebuild their homes, businesses and towns.

Time to stop sending military aid to everyone and focus on the families who need our help right here right now. We cannot afford both.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Freedom is not free

Our data suggests that recourse to violent conflict in resisting oppression is significantly less likely to produce sustainable freedom, in contrast to nonviolent opposition, which even in the face of state repression, is far more likely to yield a democratic outcome.
--Adrian Karatnycky and Peter Ackerman (2005)


Those who support war and war budgets tell us that "Freedom is not free," claiming that freedom is correlated positively to how much we spend on war and how willing we are to wage it. These people often ask what they regard as a crucial question about a candidate: Does s/he have the stomach to do what must be done? The costs will be high in blood and resources. We may lose many lives and take many lives, and we will spend ourselves into extreme debt if necessary, even go broke for generations if we must, but we will never waver in defense of freedom.

Except that war and violence are the stupidest, costliest, most immoral, and least effective ways to seek freedom or defend it.

We had no real idea of this pre-Gandhi. Even post-Gandhi, since it took him 28 years to liberate India, we assumed nonviolence was always slow, and allowed for ongoing occupation until the occupier sailed away at his own timeline. The AK looked good to the decolonizing world. The Bomb looked best to the US.

Then came the lightning fast campaigns of the Civil Rights movement as they added the prong of civil resistance to the long, slow NAACP legal work. Suddenly, victories were coming in months or a year, not decades. And at the national level, as the study by Karatnycky and Peter Ackerman shows, speed and effectiveness ramped up, often tossing out dictators in months or just a couple of years, but sometimes even in weeks or even days.

What does freedom cost using nonviolence?

It still requires risk to life and limb by nonviolent resisters, though casualties are never as bad as when violence is used by the challengers.

It costs freedom for the nonviolent resisters who are incarcerated.

Campaigns and movements still need funding, though one Trident submarine could fund all the social movements described in all the 67 regime changes in the Freedom House study. Freedom is not free, but nonviolence is certainly the blue light special for humankind.

References
Karatnycky, Adrian; Ackerman, Peter (2005). How freedom is won: From civic resistance to durable democracy. New York: Freedom House.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Costs of war get deeper

As the wars drag on, the costs continue to erode all aspects of civilized life in the US. You cannot hollow out the economy forever, borrowing until all credit is used up, triggering collapses of portions of the economy, without also eroding civil rights, democracy, and basic human compassion. This is underway.

All of us know people who work hard and cannot find work. My oldest son worked for a large corporation and the speed up there overwhelmed a number of people, including him. This is a common response to an economic climate that disadvantages all workers and allows for exacting and extracting more and more from workers who lose power as they scuffle to keep the remaining jobs. The military loves this, of course, since recruiting is so easy in tough times.

But the speed up is everywhere, as public agencies struggle to survive on less. In higher education I can tell you that the metaphorical guns are to our heads to produce more student credit hours to offset diminishing state legislative support. A state university suffers while the Army War College doesn't know what to do with all its sloshing funds. Tuition rises, all pay is frozen, budgets are cut, class sizes grow and teacher time is stretched thinner and thinner. I tell students to pay attention to the syllabus because I have no time to handle all the special requests I used to have time for. Hand it in on time, period. With so many students, I struggle to stay afloat in the rising turbulent tide.

My friends who continue to offer nonviolent resistance to militarism experience this in shocking ways. Jail budgets are not just cut to the bone, they are amputating. I'm a geezer at 60 and yet I'm the youth compared to some of these brave old ones who put their bodies in harms way and pay a higher price every day. Jean Gump, a sweet mother of 12 and grandmother of many more, is 84. She is loved by everyone who meets her and has just entered jail again after some nonviolent resistance to a military facility in Tennessee. She did all the proper paperwork before she did her nonviolent witness and had all her medications with her. The jail will not refill any of them and Jean is not alone. Carol Gilbert, Ardeth Platte, and Jackie Hudson are three elderly nuns who all came with medications and none of them are getting refilled, despite Sr. Jackie's daily chest pain. A staffer gruffly told her, "I have 500 inmates and no budget." And that was the nice one. There is a bias for returning military as guards at every level and this means the guards are getting meaner as PTSD vets return and find work doing something where they can still be brutal and get away with it. The nuns reported that one woman had a grand mal seizure and guards just kicked her.

So, welcome to the deteriorating USA, where everyone fears us around the world and we fear each other at home. But that war profiteering elite are doing great. They are milking it all down to the end while we passively observe the process. It is getting worse by the day, with no money for human needs but all our resources to serve the greed of a few and the greedy ones own Congress and mainstream media. How do we get ourselves out of this?

Nonviolence.

To the extent we live, vote and spend serving nonviolent principles, we slow, stop and reverse these trends. Jean Gump and the nuns are just the shock troops of nonviolence and if they are alone, we continue to lose. If they are just the tip of the nonviolent iceberg, we will win. But it's up to each of us. We all matter. Gandhi said that what each of us does seems insignificant and is vitally important. As usual, he was right.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Paradise

Whether we are subjugating people to serve as a coaling station for our fleet of warships (as we did in the Philippines 111 years ago) or looking for nonexistent WMDs in a nation that happens to hold enormous proven reserves of oil or mining our own coal to fuel electricity when the sun, wind and water could give us all our power forever without pollution, we are attacking the web of life to sustain an unsustainable way of life. We do it to the Earth and we first destroy it (as John Prine sings), then pave it (as Joni Mitchell sings).

Paradise
by John Prine
When I was a child my family would travel
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
And there's a backwards old town that's often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn.


Backwards isn't always a negative, if looking backwards can help us remember how beautiful our home is and how we can practice living to preserve it instead of use it all up and turn it ugly and toxic.

Chorus:
And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away


Peabody Coal Company leveled mountains, turned creeks black and gave miners fatal lung disease. Our nuclear solution just gives cancer and birth defects. Our oil is rapidly flipping from economic engine to economic destroyer even as it undermines our ecology.

Well, sometimes we'd travel right down the Green River
To the abandoned old prison down by Adrie Hill
Where the air smelled like snakes and we'd shoot with our pistols
But empty pop bottles was all we would kill.

Repeat Chorus:

Then the coal company came with the world's largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.

Repeat Chorus:

When I die let my ashes float down the Green River
Let my soul roll on up to the Rochester dam
I'll be halfway to Heaven with Paradise waitin'
Just five miles away from wherever I am.

Repeat Chorus:


Prescient Prine, one of the most sensitive, humorous, insightful and humble bards I've ever seen, wrote many other great songs, anthems of a generation. I awoke this morning with Paradise in my head and needed to reflect with you about it. Let us all reflect and then act to save what we can of Paradise.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Stop all military aid

Israel is now dictating conditions to the US and upbraiding President Obama for having the nerve to suggest finally following UN Resolution 242, which has long called for a return to the 1967 borders of Israel. He says it should be the border of the two states of Israel and Palestine. It is long past time to end all military aid to Israel.

When I was growing up in the 1950s Israel was seen in my Minnesota community as a brave outpost of kibbutzim egalitarianism amidst a harsh Arab environment of hatred and bloodlust. Jews had traded European persecution for Arab persecution. The Cold War exacerbated this as the hatred for Jews in Russia and throughout the Soviet Union in general led to USSR sponsorship of Arab arms pointed at the head and body of the tiny Jewish state. It was the right thing to do, to support Israel.

It was not until many years later that the story of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians came to light in much of the US. The assumption had been--and this was buttressed by the ongoing image of Israel as a social experiment in justice and equality--that Israel was founded upon the most modern principles that were meant to produce justice for all. Even Nazis who went on trial there for slaughtering countless innocent Jews in Europe were let free if the cases did not meet good judicial standards of evidenciary robustness.

The late 1960s produced big cracks in that image as the antiwar movement in the US generally aligned itself with Palestinian aspirations, but the development of the peace wing of the antiwar movement questioned the left/right acceptance of violence and the Cold War frame around the struggle. This ambivalence continued until the fall of the Soviet empire in the late 1980s-early 1990s. The violence of the left and the violence of the right were alienating to peace people. Most of us put our energies into disarmament and into struggles in which one side could be identified as a nonviolent party. Asymmetry of violence is still violence.

Certainly it has been the general position of the peace movement to cut off military aid to everyone, including Israel. That is still the case. But the talking points in favor are now stronger and have more political cache. It is time to press the point, to stop the horrific enabling of apartheid in Israel and subjugation/occupation of Palestine. It is long past time to let Israel survive with some humility, to take its place as a nation state that was founded on someone else's land during a period of extreme duress. The sight of an arrogant Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu proclaiming derisively that Obama is out of touch with reality and marching into the Oval Office to dictate to the US should help Americans realize it's time to pull the military plug on Israel.

From Pakistan to Israel and moving around the world from there, the US taxpayer continues to hemorrhage vast amounts of money on governments that despise us, alienating people from us, and impoverishing the US taxpayer even as it erodes the US infrastructure. The only ones who gain in the US are the war profiteers.

End this now. As the Republicans are so fond of saying whenever a social safety net is discussed, "No. We're broke." The reason we are broke is exactly the war system and we should begin our conversion now. Save many $billions right away by ceasing all military aid to Israel and all our clients.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bell curve and the sweet spot

Louis Kriesberg (2007) writes about what we might call the bell curve of conflict, the increasing success of bold and confrontive challenges and the decreasing success once the line of violence is crossed. "Strikes involving violence are more likely to fail than are work stoppages without violence." However, "Challengers who act disruptively to gain attention and to exercise pressure against their opponents tend to be more successful than are challengers who are not unruly." (p. 302)

Of course, every situation is different. We have seen what a major effect the external actors play, from Egypt to Bahrain, from Tunisia to Syria, and how that also moves and heightens or flattens that bell curve. No single factor is dispositive. Only tendencies are noteworthy and can be claimed.

But the tendencies should inform strategic planners and help them design plans, campaigns, and the trainings to support the mass actions needed to enable a civil society victory. Educating and training masses of people to learn how to be engaging and interesting even as they are being a direct and powerful challenge is the way to both protect the people and help them gain the most. Anything else is either shirking from the structural violence of injustice in a passive hanging-back defeatism or an aggressive and unnecessarily sacrificial suicide action. Effective mass action is the sweet spot of Tahrir Square. The other end is the quietude of a beaten down populace in Gambia on the one hand or a needless bloodbath like Libya on the other.

The lines are thin but bright and the risks and rewards are large. Playing it right takes keen and sensitive antenna and profound preparation.

References
Kriesberg, L. (2007). Constructive conflicts: From escalation to resolution (3rd ed.). Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Recycle or reuse?

We think about recycling and reuse in terms of plastic bags and soda bottles, but it also applies to our conflict methods. In the case of the bags and bottles, energy and raw material consumption are increased with recycling and reduced with reuse. This would indicate that we should reuse more than recycle. My oldest reusable shopping bag, frayed and faded, dates back 20 years. If grocery stores still sold soda in reusable bottles, I'd buy.

But in our conflict management methods, recycling is transformation and and reuse is a continuation of the same trends. Using violence tends to produce less trust in an agreement and more fear from the other side, which in turn promotes the reuse of violence by both sides, neither of which wants to be the gullible one who waited too long. As long as violence is the best alternative to a negotiated agreement, this BATNA will exacerbate tendencies to employ more violence. This the problem with reuse of the destructive conflict. Kriesberg (2007) observes that "violence can be counterproductive, stiffening resolve and resistance by the opponent, inviting retaliation, and often enabling the other side to mobilize support from outsiders" (p. 301). With violence, reuse=revenge and permanent destruction.

Recycling the conflict methods and transforming them into nonviolence is how we begin to fix that problem at the root. A commitment to nonviolence strengthens trust and relaxes conditions. It is a refashioning, transformative approach if violence or the threat of violence has been used in the past, and this refusal to reuse the destructive methods, when demonstrated consistently and under duress, lowers the severity of the threat and the destructiveness of the responses from all sides.

Does this equate to unwillingness to assert, to confront, or to struggle? No, and in fact it's the opposite for those who recycle the means but keep the ends close. In nonviolent struggle the best alternative to a negotiated agreement may involve sanctions, interposition, noncooperation, blockade, boycott, withholding of all collaboration and general interference. It is a very effective retooled form of fighting. It gave us the 40 hour work week, women's vote, civil rights and voting rights, rights for folks with disabilities, an end to the Marcos regime in the Philippines, rights for migrant workers and much much. Violence is never necessary except for those who have not developed their imaginations and resources toward nonviolence. Reusing swords guarantees more bloodshed. Beating swords into smithereens is great, but beating them into plowshares is the best recycling.

References
Kriesberg, L. (2007). Constructive conflicts: From escalation to resolution. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When they suprise you

Many of those who challenge nonviolence assume that one is startled and threatened and one must either react with violence or be vulnerable. This assumption is often quite false and it is likely that those who are untrained in either violence or nonviolence will be the most vulnerable. Those trained in violence or nonviolence are most likely to prevail in the moment, and those trained in nonviolence can expect to do better in the long term.

Some claim to have a martial art that is nonviolent, and some individuals may well be quite adept at that. Some get your attention by claiming nonviolence and then you discover them tossing others to the ground, inflicting pain, and even hitting others in the face. Not exactly nonviolent.

Psychological defense is the best with humans. The closer we can come to matching the cultural make-up of the attacker, the more effective we can tailor our response. When we speak the same language in every respect, we can disarm another with relative ease--if we decide that is our goal.

In a negotiation--and that is what most attacks are, in a sense--using the same principles as those martial arts are the psychological equivalent to the principle of using the force of the attacker to de-escalate instead of escalate the conflict. Roger Fisher, Bill Ury and Bruce Patton have now given us the third edition of Getting to Yes and it polishes these ideas. They advise three tactics.

Look behind the attack to find the interests the attacker is attempting to satisfy.

Don't attack back. Invite criticism and ask advice. I accidentally used this once in an actual mugging in Roxbury, Massachusetts. I was surrounded by three young men late at night and they told me to give them money. Rather than meekly do so, and rather than risk a beating for not having any, I shot back, "Do I look like someone with money? I mean, you can have it, but you guys need to know that I have two kids and no money!" I gave them literally all I had on me, less than $2. They let me go, almost shamefaced.

Recast an attack on you as an attack on the problem. I could have said to those young men, "I know what you mean. I have a family and no money."

Asking questions helps guide attackers away from you, especially if the attack is not about resource capture but is rather about defending personal pride in some way. They may not be articulate or they may believe that you aren't listening. But if you ask and then actually prove you are listening, hearing, and able to reflect their assertions or even demands accurately, they will be less likely to be motivated to take it to the next step, the physical attack.

Nonviolence works and violence works. But when your weapons are your mind and your communicative abilities you tend to stay well armed and prepared to respond to attack at any time.

References
Fisher, Roger, & Ury, William (2011). Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in. (3rd ed.). New York: Penguin.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Just Say good-bye


After September 11, 2001, the Taliban offered to negotiate about bin Laden. George Bush said no, we don't negotiate with terrorists. We see the brilliant results of that war system response: a decade of bloodshed for Americans and Afghans. The Taliban bombed and bombed, the US war planes did the same, and the country is kinetically overrun by American war machinery and the insurgent Taliban pops up and kills a few Americans now and then, and also any Afghans they decide are collaborators. Now we are saying it's time to talk.

When we will ever learn about war?

When all the dead of World War II were counted, the victors lost more than the losers. The Vietnamese got the American interlopers to retreat, giving them the clear victory, and they lost 2.5 million to the Americans' 57,000. Now the mortalities in Afghanistan are--what? Those who call it Operation Enduring Freedom--clearly identifying with the US government--say there have been 2457 deaths. CNN says "More than 6,000 troops" have been killed. One blog site rounds up the troops, civilians, Afghan police and "militants" killed at just a bit more than 10,000 in 2010 alone.

Oh, that's right; civilians count. So do "militants," whatever that means. I'm a militant pacifist. Are you a militant? Watch out; you may be deemed enemy combatant and be hooded, cuffed and detained. You will at least be spied upon.

As Beyond War notes well, war is obsolete. It is the most dysfunctional way to manage conflict that we've discovered, but it is profitable for a manipulative, morality-free elite who gain power over others and monetary reward from that social criminal operation.

Time to Just Leave. Make reparations through the UN and keep all Americans out of Afghanistan for at least a generation. It is not our place to administer aid, teach them anything, or police their sovereign nation. Let them be and they will let us be. We wonder why they hosted bin Laden in the late 1990s and beyond and that is both understandable and a topic to look into deeply. They need to heal and we need to heal. Leave. Now.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Screwing for virginity

I'm sorry, but this is what we are doing, Mr. President, when we murder our adversary. The ultimate in oxymoronic, mutually exclusive, self-contradictory behavior is killing for peace. It is the endpoint of what we call negative peace, that is, peace due to domination, violence, and mortal threat. To the generals who say they work for peace, this is the peace of the grave. In the immortal words of the mortal Roman orator and historian, Publius Tacitus or Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (ca. 56–ca. 117):

Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.
Translation: To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace. Oxford Revised


We only teach peace by peaceable means. We only create positive peace by peaceable means. Justice cannot be achieved by violence without then creating the conditions that will produce the next act of 'justice' in reprisal. Already we see 80 dead from a bomber in Afghanistan, with the Taliban claiming it an act of revenge for killing Osama bin Laden.

Humankind can evolve past this, but only by connecting the heart to the cerebral cortex and disconnecting it from the limbic, the lizard revenge lower brainstem. This can only be done consciously. It is not intuitive nor instinctive for most of us and without reason we will continue our slide.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Public peace intellectuals and public opinion


My friend Winslow Myers doesn't consider himself an intellectual nor an academic, but he is. Since 1984 he has been writing op-ed pieces in favor of peace and disarmament, all the while teaching in both high schools and colleges. But his discipline is art and art history, so he bemoans his lack of scholarly credentials in the fields of peace and nonviolence. But his special studies of that field have given him very solid expertise and his ability to write about esoterica and arcana in ways that all of us can understand is valuable indeed. His writings have animated the peace group Beyond War and have provided the primary content studied by groups across the US for many years.

The struggle by some academics to give solid information to the public in digestible form is long and interesting, with some career casualties and reactionary institutions playing antagonistic parts along the way. One interesting strand has been the peace scientists that began their braided journeys of social science research and public peace intellectualism half a century ago in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

These pioneers in peace science include David Singer, Elise Boulding, Herbert Kelman, Paul Kimmel and others. They launched many journals, longitudinal studies, professional associations and have done enough public scholarship--that is, translating their research findings into informed opinion for public consumption--so that the war system's impact has been at least slightly blunted, from Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan to nuclear weaponry to military budgets.

If a certain amount of that scholarly activity has been brought into our public discourse with the effect of helping all of us to learn more, how can we encourage them to continue and offer more? We obviously need it.

Academic freedom is clearly crucial. A friend of mine who taught at Vassar was fired some years ago for nominally unclear reasons. It was no coincidence that he had just written an op-ed for nuclear disarmament.

Time constraints are another issue. Between mandated contractual teaching, committee work, research, grantseeking, publishing and civic engagement, the average scholar is never caught up. Many have told me this is why they don't even try to write for the public.

Counting op-eds for peace as a form of civic engagement would help, and requiring more civic engagement and less administrative work would be a step forward.

Distribution of the work of peace scholars who also write for the public is another solution to the obstacle of getting a piece published. Busy scholars need institutional backing in this regard. PeaceVoice helps but it cannot serve in the same way that an academic institution can. I've been teaching peace and writing about for many years and in the decade I've been at my school I've been contacted only twice by public affairs to participate in media, despite 10 years of war and massive public debate about some of it. Any cursory read of the courses offered would show just a tiny handful of us teaching to that very topic. I do not claim to be a great spokesperson for peace, but my challenge to all our academic institutions is to at least have a few peace people in the contact list to connect with media.

Research, of course, is dismissed by ideologues unless it matches their worldview, but most people are still not so polarized that reason cannot reach them. Time to help bring more science to the service of more peace.

References

Kimmel, P. R. (2011). SPSSI and Peace-Building: A Participant's Perspective. Journal of Social Issues, 67(1), 122-136. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2010.01687.x

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Feminism and violence

Are women more violent than men? Less violent? More nurturing or less? How do we treat the questions of war and women?

It's complicated.

Some women regard it as a victory that women are now allowed in combat. Some of us who are pacifists believe that with such victories, who needs losses?

Women and children are overwhelmingly the victims in war, even though the male mystique still holds that men are the parties who nobly volunteer to sacrifice themselves for war.

Any lawyer will tell you that numerous studies show that criminal defense lawyers prefer fewer women on juries, since women tend to convict at higher rates.

Many women have written about the social contract between men and women that developed over thousands of years so that women don't oppose violence and men provide for women. Certainly all the dire warnings from men who opposed women getting the vote in the US about our country becoming soft and easily conquered if women were allowed to vote have proven exactly backward. Women have had the right to vote across the US for 90 years and war is just as prevalent as ever.

Is there hope for peace from women? There are certainly signs.

Kriesberg (2007) writes of studies showing gender influence on polling or voting patterns and hot conflict. "Analyses of numerous surveys reveals that women are more sensitive to the risk of casualties and tend to withhold support for military action more than do men, particularly as casualties mount" (p.130).

So the next step is to convince women that other ways to wage conflict, ways that reduce bloodshed, are also effective. Then, we hope, women will provide a tipping point away from war and toward defense by other means.

This is a primary challenge to peace educators and by educators I mean all of us. Every time you write a letter to the editor or have a conversation promoting peace with anyone, you are a peace educator. Learn about nonviolence and you can energize the majority--women--toward a new world of nonviolent conflict management.

References
Kriesberg, L. (2007). Constructive conflicts: From escalation to resolution. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Conflict industry gobbles up Vermont

Lockheed Martin is part of the conflict industry. It benefits from more conflict, since that is how they make their outrageous profits, manufacturing missiles, war jets and the other instruments of death. If a policy would tend to reduce conflict in the world, that would be bad for the bottom line at Lockheed Martin.

One of the ways to reduce conflict is to help reduce demand for scarce resources, such as oil, that drive conflict. Reducing demand for oil is not in the interest of a corporation like Lockheed Martin. This is not a matter of the hearts and minds of individual employees of that firm; as with any corporate strategy that promotes its profitability, each employee from the Chair of the Board to the entry-level knows that if one does not operate toward that end, one will be replaced by someone who will. This is the extent to which corporations have ethics, with the possible exception of very tightly controlled individually or family owned corporations in rare circumstances.

With this corporate ethos and mandate toward protecting and enhancing profits, imagine Lockheed Martin getting a chance to infiltrate the movement and economic sector that is devoted to reducing conflict. Would they jump at the chance? They would have to in order to satisfy their prime directive to protect and enhance profits. Would they then subvert and delay and even preferably destroy their competition, that is, the forces trying to reduce conflict? That would be imperative. Again, it isn't a real choice, since any conflict industry employee who failed to do that would simply be replaced by someone who had a bit more "moral flexibility."

So now we don't have to imagine this. It is underway, in the East Coast motherlode of Conflict Reduction Culture, Burlington, Vermont. Lockheed Martin is moving in to co-opt their image, their efforts to showcase sustainability, and their stance toward preventing conflict by reducing consumption of the resources over which we see so much bloodshed.

The mayor of Burlington actually initiated this and local activists are rightly deeply opposed. In a classic instance of corporate public relations doublespeak and psychological redirection, Lockheed Martin assuages all fears with vague and mushy bromides. From The New York Times:

Asked about the criticism of Lockheed as a weapons manufacturer, the spokesman, Dean Acosta, said the company could in fact use its evolving clean-energy expertise to help make the world safer. “As we strategically assess future trends,” he said, “we see scarce resources — particularly energy resources — as potential sources of conflict. Through our experience in energy and expertise in complex systems engineering and 120,000 innovating minds, Lockheed Martin is well positioned to address energy security.”


Huh?

The corporadoes at Lockheed are well positioned to take out opposition, assassinate the competition, dump the body at sea and dance in the boardroom suites. Their ethos is the master narrative now and Burlington is regarded as inimical to that narrative far more than handy bad guy Osama bin Laden ever was--he was the greatest gift to Lockheed since Stalin. Burlington is the real enemy to Lockheed. I hope they can come to see that.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Punishing the peaceful

Fr. Bill Bichsel is a tall skinny priest who founded a Catholic Worker community in Tacoma, where he has been a parish priest for decades. He's in his 80s. He has extended care, comfort, hospitality, food and shelter to countless who have come to his community in need for many years. Now he's hurting.

Bix, as he is called by the thousands who know him, is in jail in Knoxville, Tennessee, on trial, at the same time he's serving a federal prison sentence for his participation in a Plowshares act in 2009 at the Trident submarine base in Poulsbo, Washington. His Tennessee trial is with some others who did a nonviolent protest at a nuclear bomb facility there in 2010.

He's in frail health when he's on the outside, but prison will ruin your health completely if anything is wrong, especially if you are a new inmate anywhere. Meds sometimes don't travel with you, jailers are unbelievably callous as a generalization that almost all inmates would verify, and those in poor health know they will be in for trial and then tribulation when they head out to commit any serous nonviolent witness. Bix knew the drill; he's been in prison for his nonviolent resistance to the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, serving various sentences over the years. But it's still unjust and inhumane to get reports like the one that came to us from a lifelong buddy of his, Joe Power-Drutis, who drove to Tennessee from our Pacific Northwest to support him. Part of what Joe sent out:

I am not sure what I expected to encounter but, what I did see was a broken and very hurting soul. Pale, frail, mildly shaky, complaining of being unable to hear because of fluid in his ears, dizziness and lightheadedness, pointing with his fingers that he is struggling to push the right numbers on the phone – eyes glassed over, flat affect, and complaining that his gait is so poor, yet he has been commanded to “keep moving”, requesting a wheelchair and being refused. (Well that was the easy part to listen to) – Then he began to talk about the week he spent in Atlanta.

Looking back we all spoke of our grave concern of his traveling via federal prisoner transport, but I sincerely believe none of us realized he was going to go through at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. He went onto tell me, with tears in his eyes, that he was placed in a cell and locked in there, with woefully inadequate bedding and clothing, for a week. He repeatedly asked guards for clothing and an extra blanket, and was laughed at and ignored. At some point after repeated requests, another inmate gave up his loan blanket to Bix.

Bix’s medical problems create a lack of blood and oxygen to his hands and feet; leaving those extremities white and ice cold when his overall body temperature falls. Following this, much like one drowning in a frozen body of water, your hands, and feet are filled with pain, like being jabbed repeatedly with needles. He then spoke of the never ending pain, leading to sleep deprivation, insomnia and ultimately disassociation and hallucinations.

Bix was certainly aware of what he was doing as he walked onto the base at Bangor and across the blue line at Y-12; and for these acts he is ready to remain in prison and pay the ultimate price. But, this in no way permits this system of criminal injustice to do what it has done to him. These unjust and unlawful acts perpetrated on him in his trip from Seattle are tantamount to torture. I have consulted with his attorneys both here and in Tacoma; legal avenues are being looked at to ensure Bix is not returned to SeaTac in the same form of prison transport that was used to bring him to Knoxville.

On a happier note: Kathy Boylan and I went to see him on Sunday evening and we could see even then that his overall frame of mind had improved. On Monday, May 9th, the trial began for Bix and 11other defendants charged with trespassing at the Department of Energy Y-12 facility in Oakridge TN on July 5, 2010.



Bix was with Anne Montgomery, a tiny nun also in her 80s, and three others in their 60s, when they had the audacity to trespass onto the nuclear base in Washington, and the severity of the charges were because they cut a fence to get in. When they were finally discovered they were hooded and made to lay on the ground for four hours. The MP said this is what they did in Iraq so he did it here.

The war and torture are coming home.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Stealing, getting caught, and rising up again

Eight years ago, Jayson Blair's career with The New York Times ended with a big splash. In a long piece, the Times confessed to printing numerous articles by the young writer which were fabricated or stolen. He plagiarized some sections and spun fiction to connect the thieved bits. The Times claimed it was one of the low points of the 150+-year life of the paper.

Jayson Blair rebranded himself as a life coach. From the "About" page on his website:
"In 2007, I joined Ashburn Psychologcail Serivces as a certified life coach." I guess we can safely say he no longer plagiarizes!

But Blair's web of lies cost no lives nor national treasure. Judith Miller, on the other hand, is a handmaiden of War, Death, and National Bankruptcy. She was a brilliant writer, also for The New York Times, and wrote the influential pieces that verified the Bush regime's claims that Saddam Hussein was assembling nuclear weapons. Her work was the influential stamp of the nation's most renowned paper of record and it was all hogwash. Eventually, under pressure, she resigned, but she, more than any American journalist, is responsible for persuading the public that we needed to invade Iraq. I think she owes a good share of the $2 trillion back to the taxpayer. Sorry about the 5,000 American lives and the 600,000 Iraqis.

Her cover blown, she jumped on the paywagon of the overtly rightwing war media. "Later she was a contributor to the Fox News Channel and a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute think-tank. On December 29, 2010, numerous media outlets reported that she had signed on as a contributing writer to the conservative magazine Newsmax," according to Wikipedia.

Crime pays. Bigger crime pays bigger. Meanwhile, I'm trying to convince students to write honestly. Thanks, Fox News and Newsmax, for the stellar moral compass you offer to young writers. I expect more Jayson Blairs.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Feeding it all to the war system

I bike almost everywhere I go in my town, Portland. Many people on the peace side of our societal equation tell me they will no longer fly. Those people and others are also committed to eating food that comes from within 50 miles of where they live. These people do these unAmerican activities for two related reasons.

One, they want peace.

Two, they want to fight global climate change.

Our personal lifestyles are immensely important--and switching to nonviolence is the single most effective thing we can do to address both of these motivators. As Kent Shifferd points out in his new book, From war to peace: A guide to the next hundred years:

In a single average year, the U.S. military uses enough fuel to run the entire mass transit system of the nation for 22 years—1.589 trillion BTUs—and that does not count the energy used to manufacture military hardware (p. 90).


There are training flights underway at all times all around the world, burning up to eight gallons of jet fuel per second. The aircraft carrier groups require millions of gallons of fuel each to navigate the seas each year. In one hour of fly time an F-14 burns more than the average inefficient American car burns in a year. The Pentagon is the largest single consumer of fossil fuel on Earth.

The corporate and governmental response to these problems has been to studiously ignore them. If the people don't end the war system, the war system will end the people. How simple is that?

References
Shifferd, Kent D. (2011). From war to peace: A guide to the next hundred years. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.