The good news is that the choice is not between dithering and unleashing US military power. There are ALWAYS alternatives.
If you support US military action, what exactly are you for? Taking out gas supplies? It’s super-dangerous and not even on the table. Degrading Assad’s air force? It will matter little. Arming Al Qaeda or the other fundamentalist fighters? I doubt it. Invasion? Occupation? How will you know when we’re done?
Why not go to the UN? Putin will block anything, you say. So what? Make the world forum a bully pulpit. Organize! This also makes sense in the long run since the next humanitarian atrocity is as predictable as rain. Why aren’t you thinking ahead to the building blocks of global order and sanity? For example, get your fucking government to join the International Criminal Court, submit to its authority, and refer violators there.
There are a thousand steps to take now—and if you fail to take them, or even try, the next set of videos will have you once more hauling out the heavy stuff.
Last week you were urgent for US violence to begin. I urged you to think of 100 action alternatives that would not be US bombs. Here’s one you or I might have thought of last week, but didn’t: Syria could put all its chemical weapons under international control. You didn’t think of it even though it was there to be thought of. It might prove useless, but OK: now think of 99 more.
The point is you imagination is being eclipsed by the war mongers and the liberal-hawks. Resist!
Your historical references actually prove my point, not yours. Take Rwanda—the UN generals on the ground begged France or GB or the US to jam Radio Rwanda. It was a non-violent partial solution to a genocide—estimates are that hundreds of thousands of lives might have been spared. I guess “we don’t do pinpricks;” the masters of war need to break bigger things.
Now, please get busy with 99 non-violent steps the US could take, and 98 steps (I already gave you 2) that will make the next crisis more actionable, the response more effective.
The good news is that the choice is not between dithering and unleashing US military power. There are ALWAYS alternatives.
The Masters of War are an easy crowd to understand because they play a single note: Invade, Strike, Bomb, Break Things Up! There’s no problem too large or too small for a laser-guided missile.
The Liberal Hawks and the Chicken Hawks are for more interesting, and even fun to watch if the consequences of their dishonest self-delusions were not so deadly–they trumpet their good intentions and their high moral standards everywhere as they tie themselves into knots pushing for war. Against all evidence they tell us they are certain that this proposed strike will stop the use of chemical weapons, send a message to Iran and Korea, and make Americans safer.
See if you can follow the twisty logic of this one—promoted by Jonathan Alter, Charles Blow, and several of the MSNBC crowd: The president was right to go to Congress for authorization to strike Syria; the Constitution requires it since only Congress can declare war; Congress must now vote yes on authorization or no future president will ever again ask permission; voting “no” on this war guarantees that the executive will brush Congress and the Constitution aside. So why exactly do we have Congress and the Constitution, Jonathan?
President Assad of Syria announced yesterday that he had authorized limited missile strikes against the United States of America. “The United States has consistently violated international law and civilized standards of behavior,” he said. “It has gathered the greatest arsenal of weapons of mass destruction ever assembled, and it is in fact the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons. It has unleashed drone strikes against at least seven other nations, murdering thousands—it has even used drones to kill its own people. And the US has routinely employed torture, a practice that has been condemned and outlawed for decades—it has even tortured its own citizens.”
He explained that Syria had no territorial ambitions, that there would be no Syrian boots on the ground, and that his goals did not include regime change.
“There comes a time when the international community must stand up and send a message that some things will not be tolerated. If we fail to send that message today we can be sure the US will be emboldened to use drones and torture in the future. We encourage our allies—anyone there? Anyone at all?—to join us, but if Syria is the only country with the moral clarity to act, we will act alone.”
When reminded that the UN Charter and international law forbade any nation from attacking any other sovereign nation without UN approval or “an imminent attack on its territory” he offered a one word response in English: “Duh!”
Rule Number Three:
Settle disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
Refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.
War and the treat of violence cannot be—but has obviously become—the default position for the US in global affairs.
Ethan and Joel Cohen’s masterful film “Miller’s Crossing” opens with the two-bit gangster Johnny Casper struggling to explain to the big crime boss, Leo, how he’s been wronged by an associate mobster, Bernie Bernbaum.
“I’m talkin’ about friendship,” Johnny says, and the camera lingers on the frothy saliva forming in the creases of his thin, menacing smile. “I’m talkin’ about character,” he continues structuring and shaping his argument. “I’m talkin’ about—hell, Leo, I ain’t embarrassed to use the word—I’m talkin’ about etics.”
Johnny is, indeed, talking about ethics: “When I fix a fight,” Johnny proceeds indignantly, “say I play a three to one favorite to throw a goddam fight. I got a right to expect the fight to go off at three to one.” Then Bernie Bernbaum, the “scheeney shmata boy,” the lying cheat, hears of the deal, manipulates the situation, and the “odds go straight to hell.”
“It’s gettin’ so a businessman can’t expect no return from a fixed fight,” complains Johnny. “Now, if you can’t trust a fix, what can you trust?” Without ethics, he concludes, “we’re back into anarchy, right back in the jungle… That’s why etics are important. It’s what separates us from the animals, from beasts of burden, beasts of prey. Etics!”
“Do you want to kill him?” asks Leo, coolly.
“For starters,” Johnny replies earnestly and without a hint of irony.
Listening to John Kerry preach about the moral obligation to kill—for starters—brings us face to face with Johnny and Leo. It’s all about ethics.
Each is ill-informed, simple-minded, catchy and entirely inaccurate. Take “quagmire:” Re-purposed during the American invasion of Viet Nam, “quagmire” was the perfect metaphor for an imperial army and enterprise in defeat. “Quagmire” rolls so easily off the lips of prime time commentators—“We don’t want to get stuck in a quagmire”—because it carries all the comfortable American assumptions that allow us to sleep the deep, deep American sleep of denial: American intentions are always good and pure, the US always comes in peace promoting democracy and human rights, American foreign policy is guided by high moral standards. When things go bad and the lies are exposed and apparent (Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq) the masters of war do a quick makeover, transforming themselves from aggressors to victims, claiming that the innocent first step into a swamp not of our making has tripped us up and trapped us.
For the past several years, I have spent virtually all my working hours writing about or speaking about the immorality, cruelty, racism, and insanity of our nation’s latest caste system: mass incarceration. On this Facebook page I have written and posted about little else. But as I pause today to reflect on the meaning and significance of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington , I realize that my focus has been too narrow. Five years after the March, Dr. King was speaking out against the Vietnam War, condemning America ’s militarism and imperialism – famously stating that our nation was the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” He saw the connections between the wars we wage abroad, and the utter indifference we have for poor people, and people of color at home. He saw the necessity of openly critiquing an economic system that will fund war and will reward greed, hand over fist, but will not pay workers a living wage. Five years after the March on Washington , Dr. King was ignoring all those who told him to just stay in his lane, just stick to talking about civil rights. Yet here I am decades later, staying in my lane. I have not been speaking publicly about the relationship between drones abroad and the War on Drugs at home. I have not been talking about the connections between the corrupt capitalism that bails out Wall Street bankers, moves jobs overseas, and forecloses on homes with zeal, all while private prisons yield high returns and expand operations into a new market: caging immigrants. I have not been connecting the dots between the NSA spying on millions of Americans, the labeling of mosques as “terrorist organizations,” and the spy programs of the 1960s and 70s – specifically the FBI and COINTELPRO programs that placed civil rights advocates under constant surveillance, infiltrated civil rights organizations, and assassinated racial justice leaders. I have been staying in my lane. But no more. In my view, the most important lesson we can learn from Dr. King is not what he said at the March on Washington , but what he said and did after. In the years that followed, he did not play politics to see what crumbs a fundamentally corrupt system might toss to the beggars of justice. Instead he connected the dots and committed himself to building a movement that would shake the foundations of our economic and social order, so that the dream he preached in 1963 might one day be a reality for all. He said that nothing less than “a radical restructuring of society” could possibly ensure justice and dignity for all. He was right. I am still committed to building a movement to end mass incarceration, but I will not do it with blinders on. If all we do is end mass incarceration, this movement will not have gone nearly far enough. A new system of racial and social control will be born again, all because we did not do what King demanded we do: connect the dots between poverty, racism, militarism and materialism. I’m getting out of my lane. I hope you’re already out of yours.
NPR has long been home base for the Chicken-Hawks and the Liberal-Hawks, featuring sweet narratives about the lives of soldiers and their families, heart-warming tales of heroism and loss, soft-ball interviews with generals and military commanders, and cloying conversations with members of the administration about war and foreign affairs. There is never a probing line of questioning for the war makers, never a pressing question or a follow-up for a military man, never an investigation of who is making the big money in this state of permanent war, never a serious report from the victims of US military action, never a series on why the US (constituting less than 5% of the world’s people) has a trillion dollar war machine—larger then all other countries on earth combined. The current moment has allowed NPR to reach a new low. For them the issue about the US bombing Syria is not human life or human rights; it’s not a serious look at the various proxy wars (the US and Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Israel/the US and Iran, etc) being fought with Syrian lives; it’s not the growing isolation and decline of US power. No for NPR the issue is framed in terms of honor and commitment and credibility: the president drew a red line, they point out again and again, and Congress must now muster the courage to break the gridlock and support the president.
Dishonest and despicable.
Rule Number Two: John McCain should be appointed official barometer regarding the use of US military force—read the McCain Barometer every morning; if he supports invasion, occupation, intervention, air strikes, or bombings in a given situation, oppose it and you will be on the right side.
Senator McCain has been wrong on every major US foreign policy initiative for half a century. Check the public record; then try to figure out why McCain is the designated Deep Thinker on foreign policy, the number one invited guest on the Sunday morning talk shows. He’s better suited to be the Official Barometer.