David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie and When the World Outlawed War. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.
Contact email: david at davidswanson dot org
The U.S. is also in the top 10 for state executions.
How’s this method of crime prevention working for us?
Well, the United States is #11 in gun deaths, behind 9 nations to our south plus Swaziland. Among those gun deaths are people killed by police at a rate hundreds of times that in some other countries. Counting those killings as crime or as crime prevention fails, in either case, to recommend the U.S. criminal justice and prison system to the world. The fact is that, compared to other wealthy nations, you are more likely in the land of the free both to be locked up and to be killed with a firearm.
Meanwhile our prison system costs a fortune and does tremendous damage to many of the prisoners who, for the most part, it hardly even pretends to rehabilitate, as well as damaging their families and communities, their future victims, and arguably degrading many of those employed by prisons and our culture as a whole.
The United States has some of the world’s leading inventors, entertainers, and academics — including those studying prisons. There are all kinds of things the U.S. could export to the world’s benefit. Instead, it is exporting its system of mass incarceration. And most people in the U.S. don’t even realize it’s happening.
Without public approval or awareness (and I’d be willing to bet few Congress members could tell you much about it), the U.S. government is marketing its criminal justice system, training prison guards, and facilitating the construction of U.S.-style prisons in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. (Listen to next week’s Talk Nation Radiowith Nasim Chatha.)
Results thus far include higher incarceration rates, overcrowding, the isolation of prisoners from each other and at a distance from their homes, greater deprivation of sunlight, and other familiar symptoms. You’re welcome, world!
A new book called Start Here: A Practical Guide to Reducing Incarceration by Greg Berman and Julian Adler provides proven methods of advancing what we ought to be doing: decarcerating this country. They recommend three general approaches.
First: Engage the public in neighborhood efforts to provide teens with a supportive community, nonviolent activities, educational support, and career opportunities, especially in the most suffering neighborhoods that generate hugely disproportionate numbers of arrests. It’s no secret that this general theme can be expanded to include shifting our priorities toward preschool, college, healthcare, and living wages, all with positive results for the crime rate.
Second: Treat criminal defendants respectfully. The evidence here may be surprising. When those charged, convicted, and punished believe they’ve been treated fairly by law enforcement, they are far more likely to respect the law in the future.
Third: Put people into community-based interventions, monitored drug-treatment, and restitution programs rather than jails. One-quarter of U.S. prisoners are drug offenders. Three-quarters of those in local jails are there for nonviolent crimes. Many are in jail for the inability to pay fines, or bail, that wealthier defendants can afford. And research suggests that even short jail terms can lead minor offenders, or those not yet convicted of anything, on toward more serious crimes.
I dissent from Berman and Adler’s advocacy for varying prison sentences based on a calculation of the risk of recidivism that factors in all sorts of things unrelated to the crime committed, and I don’t share their enthusiasm for using medications to cure addictions. But I think the evidence is piling up in support of their arguments that both nonviolent and violent criminals can be rehabilitated, and that the more that rehabilitation holistically assists in establishing a fulfilling life outside of a cage, the more successful it will be.
Top photo: Photo by DonkeyHotey | CC BY 2.0
It was convenient for the teaching moment that James Risen just recounted the New York Times’ refusal back in 2004 to report on George W. Bush’s (secret and criminal) warrantless spying prior to Bush’s “re-election” for fear of costing Bush votes, at the same time that a harmoniously bipartisan Congress was just now voting to empower Donald Trump to (openly and legally) spy on everybody without any warrants.
How did a crime become a policy? Nobody, not even the “Constitutional law professor” who committed the same crime for the 8 years before Trump, re-wrote the Fourth Amendment. So, what transformed Bush’s crimes into Trump’s respectable policies was exactly what we said would do that: the failure to impeach Bush and remove him from office. The powers of the imperial president to spy, imprison, torture, and murder increased under Bush, and under Obama, and under Trump. And if we survive Trump, that trend will continue.
Not only will presidential powers expand, but the odiousness of the individuals occupying the office will increase. Those who say that’s impossible also said it was impossible under one or the other of the previous two presidents, depending on partisanship.
Thankfully, a large and growing percentage of the public tells pollsters that Trump should be impeached and removed from office. Millions sign a petition or two. But they do little else. Most activist organizations do nothing at all. And most seasoned activists dismiss the very idea of ever impeaching anyone out of hand. Virtually none of them have ever heard anything about the frequency and potency of impeachment through U.S. history. Every last one of them imagines that a Trump impeachment is about Russia fantasies or nothing, as if the reasons that they themselves despise and fear Trump just don’t exist. And you’ll not find a single activist anywhere who believes their activism can change society in such a manner that following a successful impeachment, the next office holder will be expected to behave better or face impeachment too.
Thus, when you ask a random person if Trump should be impeached and removed from office, as often as not they will shout “Hell, yeah!” (And I strongly suspect that pattern would hold outside of the United States as well as here within it.) But if you ask an activist at a politically engaged conference or rally in the U.S., I can almost guarantee you that — at the absolute best — they will mumble that they wouldn’t mind such an impossibility.
The majority of them will then tell you the very same things they told you pre-inauguration. Nothing has changed in the anti-impeachment song list during the past year. First and foremost, if you want Trump impeached, you are working on behalf of the Evil Mike Pence who will be worse. Never mind that if you allow Trump to do anything he wants, we may all die quickly and will certainly die slowly from climate destruction. Never mind that if you apply no limits to the presidency, you will offer unprecedented power to one or the other of two candidates as bad or worse than Trump. If you think I’m kidding, go ask a Democrat what Oprah should do, and then watch Oprah in 2003 pushing for a war on Iraq. Oprah does not approach Trump in odiousness, but Democrats seem completely incapable of swooning over anyone who hasn’t pushed for major mass-murders, and they seem to be limiting their search to people hoarding billions of dollars while striving for vacuous corporate-friendly celebrity. This doesn’t end well.
Next, activists will tell you that by pursuing impeachment you’re helping the evil Democrats. Never mind that you can’t be helping both Pence and Democrats in the worldview of people who recognize and wildly exaggerate the differences between the two parties. Never mind that Nancy Pelosi has made herself the leading opponent of impeachment, just as she did under George W. Bush. Never mind that Rahm Emanuel in January 2007 said they would keep Bush around and the war going for two more years in order to run “against” them again. Never mind that the Democrats’ whole permanent election campaign strategy of simply not being Trump would collapse in the absence of Trump.
Next they’ll tell you that you’re failing to help the good Democrats who need you to focus on elections instead of silly distractions like establishing limits on dictatorial power. Never mind that you can’t be doing this along with your other sins. Never mind that the focus on elections has given the Democrats election losses and the rest of us a country trending toward shitholery.
Next they’ll tell you that impeachment is not what poor people’s organizations want. And in the end they’ll tell you that it just can’t be done. But show me a poll of poor people who oppose impeaching Trump. I’d like to see that. The problem is not poor people, or their desperate needs for food and shelter, or middle-class people. The problem is the activists who have made the flabbergasting discoveries that there are lots of people, including Mike Pence, in the U.S. government with horrific records and that whole agencies and policies are corrupt and destructive. (I know, isn’t it unbelievable? I’m shocked, I tell you.)
The answer, if there is one, is for the people who haven’t been properly trained in wise activism to simply get active, to do more than sign a petition, to organize an event, to set up a lobby meeting, to put stories into both good and large media, and to engage in nonviolent civil resistance — not to be confused with The Resistance. None of the big organizations who jumped onto Occupy when it made the corporate news had proposed creating it in the first place. If you build an impeachment movement, they will come. If you don’t, I’ve warned you what’s coming
Of course, a much smaller percentage could heat Baltimore schools, where students are attending classes in unheated rooms.
World Beyond War and several other organizations are planning a rally on January 12 and a conference January 12 to 14 in Baltimore on the subject of closing U.S. foreign military bases, a move that would save enough money to end starvation on earth and take on several other major projects as well. See: http://noforeignbases.org
The billboard is visible from major highways but also from an encampment where people are living in tents in the bitter cold.
The 3% calculation is determined as follows:
In 2008, the United Nations said that $30 billion per year could end hunger on earth, as reported in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and many other outlets. The Food and Agriculture Organization has not updated that figure since 2008, and has recently told us that such figures do not require much updating. In a separate report, most recently published in 2015, the same organization provides a figure of $265 billion as the cost per year for 15 years to permanently eliminate extreme poverty, which would eliminate starvation and malnutrition — a broader project than just preventing starvation one year at a time. The FAO’s spokesperson informed us in an email: “I think it would be incorrect to compare the two figures as the 265 billion has been calculated taking into consideration a number of initiatives including social protection cash transfers aimed at extracting people from extreme poverty and not just hunger.”
In 2017, the annual Pentagon base budget, plus war budget, plus nuclear weapons in the Department of Energy, plus Homeland Security and other military spending totaled well over $1 trillion. This was prior to Congress boosting Pentagon spending by $80 billion in the 2018 budget and passing major increases in nuclear weapons spending, Homeland Security, etc.
3% of $1 trillion = $30 billion.
So, 3% of U.S. military spending could end starvation on earth.
22% of $1.2 trillion = $265 billion.
So, 22 percent of U.S. military spending for 15 years could permanently end extreme poverty globally.
U.S. military bases in other people’s countries cost the United States at least $100 billion per year. With that kind of money, we could end starvation and the lack of clean drinking water globally, make college free in the United States, and start a major shift to clean sustainable energy.
From January 12 to 14, 2018, scholars and activists from around the United States, as well as people from countries impacted and displaced by U.S. bases abroad, will gather at the University of Baltimore for a conference on U.S. Foreign Military Bases, with a focus on how to close them. Events will be livestreamed.
The conference will be preceded by a public rally at 3 p.m. on Friday, January 12. Location: Centre and N. Charles Streets (One block south of Washington Monument).
The Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases is a brand new coalition forming in the United States and building alliances abroad. Its coordinating committee can be found here. These groups have endorsed the conference:
Alliance for Democracy • Alliance for Global Justice • Baltimore Nonviolence Center • Bangladesh Bar Council • Black Alliance for Peace • Canadian Peace Congress • CODEPINK • Environmentalists Against War • Gaza Freedom Flotilla Coalition • Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space • Greater Brunswick PeaceWorks • Greater Boston Chapter of the Green-Rainbow Party of Massachusetts • Green Party of the United States • International Action Center • Labor Fightback Network • Liberty Tree Foundation • MLK Justice Coalition • Mt. Toby Peace & Social Concerns • New York Solidarity with Vieques • Nuclear Age Peace Foundation • Pax Christi Baltimore • PCUSA • Peace and Solidarity Organization Srilanka (PASOS) • Popular Resistance • Roots Of Conflict • Traprock Center for Peace and Justice • United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ) • United National Antiwar Coalition • Upstate (NY) Drone Action • U.S. Peace Council • Veterans For Peace • War Resisters League • Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom—U.S. Section • World Beyond War • World Peace Council.
But how can war’s status as a crime effectively deter the world’s leading war-maker from threatening and launching more wars, large and small? How can laws against war actually be put to use? How can the ICC’s announcement be made into something more than a pretense?
The Kellogg-Briand Pact made war a crime in 1928, and various atrocities became criminal charges at Nuremberg and Tokyo because they were constituent parts of that larger crime. The United Nations Charter maintained war as a crime, but limited it to “aggressive” war, and gave immunity to any wars launched with U.N. approval.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) could try the United States for attacking a country if (1) that country brought a case, and (2) the United States agreed to the process, and (3) the United States chose not to block any judgment by using its veto power at the U.N. Security Council. Desirable future reforms obviously include urging all U.N. members to accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ, and eliminating the veto. But what can be done now?
The International Criminal Court (ICC) can try individuals for various “war crimes,” but has thus far tried only Africans, though for some time now it has claimed to be “investigating” U.S. crimes in Afghanistan. Although the U.S. is not a member of the ICC, Afghanistan is. Desirable future reforms obviously include urging all nations, including the United States, to join the ICC. But what can be done now?
The ICC has finally announced that it will prosecute individuals (such as the U.S. president and secretary of “defense”) for the crime of “aggression,” which is to say: war. But such wars must be launched after July 17, 2018. And those who can be prosecuted for war will be only citizens of those nations that have both joined the ICC and ratified the amendment adding jurisdiction over “aggression.” Desirable future reforms obviously include urging all nations, including the United States, to ratify the amendment on “aggression.” But what can be done now?
The only way around these restrictions, is for the U.N. Security Council to refer a case to the ICC. If that happens, then the ICC can prosecute anyone in the world for the crime of war.
This means that for the force of law to have any chance of deterring the U.S. government from threatening and launching wars, we need to persuade one or more of the fifteen nations on the U.N. Security Council to make clear that they will raise the matter for a vote. Five of those fifteen have veto power, and one of those five is the United States.
So, we also need nations of the world to proclaim that when the Security Council fails to refer the case, they will bring the matter before the U.N. General Assembly though a “Uniting for Peace” procedure in emergency session to override the veto. This is what was just done in December 2017 to overwhelmingly pass a resolution that the U.S. had vetoed, a resolution condemning the U.S. naming Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
Not only do we need to jump through each of these hoops (a commitment to a Security Council vote, and a commitment to override the veto in the General Assembly) but we need to make evident beforehand that we will be certain or likely to do so.
Therefore, World Beyond War is launching a global petition to the national governments of the world asking for their public commitment to refer any war launched by any nation to the ICC with or without the Security Council. Click here to add your name.
After all, it is not only U.S. wars that should be prosecuted as crimes, but all wars. And, in fact, it may prove necessary to prosecute junior partners of the United States in its “coalition” wars prior to prosecuting the ring leader. The problem is not one of lack of evidence, of course, but of political will. The U.K., France, Canada, Australia, or some other co-conspirator may be brought by global and internal pressure (and the ability to circumvent the U.N. Security Council) to submit to the rule of law prior to the United States doing so.
A key detail is this: how much organized murder and violent destruction constitutes a war? Is a drone strike a war? Is base expansion and a few home raids a war? How many bombs make a war? The answer should be any use of military force. But in the end, this question will be answered by public pressure. If we can inform people of it and persuade the nations of the world to refer it to trial, then it will be a war, and therefore a crime.
Here’s my New Year’s resolution: I vow to support the rule of law, that might may no longer make right.
Opinion — The case against Iraqing Iran includes the following points:
War supporters said the U.S. urgently needed to attack Iran in 2007. It did not attack. The claims turned out to be lies. Even a National Intelligence Estimate in 2007 pushed back and admitted that Iran had no nuclear weapons program.
Having a nuclear weapons program is not a justification for war, legally, morally, or practically. The United States has nuclear weapons and no one would be justified in attacking the United States.
Dick and Liz Cheney’s book, Exceptional, tell us we must see a “moral difference between an Iranian nuclear weapon and an American one.” Must we, really? Either risks further proliferation, accidental use, use by a crazed leader, mass death and destruction, environmental disaster, retaliatory escalation, and apocalypse. One of those two nations has nuclear weapons, has used nuclear weapons, has provided the other with plans for nuclear weapons, has a policy of first-use of nuclear weapons, has leadership that sanctions the possession of nuclear weapons, and has frequently threated to use nuclear weapons. I don’t think those facts would make a nuclear weapon in the hands of the other country the least bit moral, but also not the least bit more immoral. Let’s focus on seeing an empirical difference between an Iranian nuclear weapon and an American one. One exists. The other doesn’t.
If you’re wondering, U.S. presidents who have made specific public or secret nuclear threats to other nations, that we know of, as documented in Daniel Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine, have included Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump, while others, including Barack Obama, have frequently said things like “All options are on the table” in relation to Iran or another country.
War supporters said the U.S. urgently needed to attack Iran in 2015. It did not attack. The claims turned out to be lies. Even the claims of supporters of the nuclear agreement reinforced the lie that Iran had a nuclear weapons program in need of containment. There is no evidence that Iran has ever had a nuclear weapons program.
The long history of the United States lying about Iranian nuclear weapons is chronicled by Gareth Porter’s book Manufactured Crisis.
Proponents of war or steps toward war (sanctions was a step toward war on Iraq) may say we urgently need a war now, but they will have no argument for urgency, and their claims are thus far transparent lies.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations claims that Iranian weapons have been used in a war that the U.S.., Saudi Arabia, and allies are illegally and disastrously waging in Yemen. While that’s a problem that should be corrected, it is hard to find a war anywhere on the planet without U.S. weapons in it. In fact, a report that made news the same day as the ambassador’s claims, pointed to the long-known fact that many of the weapons used by ISIS had once belonged to the United States, many of them having been given by the U.S. to non-state fighters (aka terrorists) in Syria.
Fighting wars and arming others to fight wars/terrorism is a justification for indictment and prosecution, but not for war, legally, morally, or practically. The United States fights and arms wars, and no one would be justified in attacking the United States.
If Iran is guilty of a crime, and there is evidence to support that claim, the United States and the world should seek its prosecution. Instead, the United States is isolating itself by tearing down the rule of law. It is destroying its credibility by threatening to abandon an agreement. In a Gallup poll in 2013 and a Pew poll in 2017 the majority of nations polled had the United States receive the most votes as the greatest threat to peace on earth. In the Gallup poll, people within the U.S. chose Iran as the top threat to peace on earth — Iran which had not attacked another nation in centuries and spent less than 1% of what the U.S. spent on militarism. These views are clearly a function of what people are told through news media.
The history of U.S./Iranian relations matters here. The U.S. overthrew Iran’s democracy in 1953 and installed a brutal dictator/weapons customer.
The U.S. gave Iran nuclear energy technology in the 1970s.
In 2000, the CIA gave Iran nuclear bomb plans in an effort to frame it. This was reported by James Risen, and Jeffrey Sterling now sits in prison for allegedly being Risen’s source.
The Trump White House has openly expressed a desire to claim that Iran has violated the 2015 nuclear agreement, but has produced no evidence.
The push to attack Iran has been on for so long that entire categories of arguments for it (such as that the Iranians are fueling the Iraqi resistance) have come and gone.
What’s changed that gives the question more importance than ever is that the United States now has a president who seeks the approval of people who want to bring about the end of the world in the Middle East for religious reasons, and who have praised President Trump’s announcement of moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem for just those reasons.
The United States aided Iraq in the 1980s in attacking Iran, providing Iraq with some of the weapons (including chemical weapons) that were used on Iranians and that would be used in 2002-2003 (when they no longer existed) as an excuse for attacking Iraq.
For many years, the United States has labeled Iran an evil nation, attacked and destroyed the other non-nuclear nation on the list of evil nations, designated part of Iran’s military a terrorist organization, falsely accused Iran of crimes including the attacks of 9-11, murdered Iranian scientists, funded opposition groups in Iran (including some the U.S. also designates as terrorist), flown drones over Iran, openly and illegally threatened to attack Iran, and built up military forces all aroundIran’s borders, while imposing cruel sanctions on the country.
The roots of a Washington push for a new war on Iran can be found in the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance, the 1996 paper called A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, the 2000 Rebuilding America’s Defenses, and in a 2001 Pentagon memo described by Wesley Clark as listing these nations for attack: Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.
It’s worth noting that Bush Jr. overthrew Iraq, and Obama Libya, while the others remain works in progress.
In 2010, Tony Blair included Iran on a similar list of countries that he said Dick Cheney had aimed to overthrow. The line among the powerful in Washington in 2003 was that Iraq would be a cakewalk but that real men go to Tehran. The arguments in these old forgotten memos were not what the war makers tell the public, but much closer to what they tell each other. The concerns here are those of dominating regions rich in resources, intimidating others, and establishing bases from which to maintain control of puppet governments.
Of course the reason why “real men go to Tehran” is that Iran is not the impoverished disarmed nation that one might find in, say, Afghanistan or Iraq, or even the disarmed nation found in Libya in 2011. Iran is much bigger and much better armed. Whether the United States launches a major assault on Iran or Israel does, Iran will retaliate against U.S. troops and probably Israel and possibly the United States itself as well. And the United States will without any doube re-retaliate for that. Iran cannot be unaware that the U.S. government’s pressure on the Israeli government not to attack Iran consists of reassuring the Israelis that the United States will attack when needed, and does not include even threatening to stop funding Israel’s military or to stop vetoing measures of accountability for Israeli crimes at the United Nations. (President Obama’s ambassador refrained from one veto on illegal settlements, while President-Elect Trump lobbied foreign governments to block the resolution.)
In other words, any U.S. pretense of having seriously wanted to prevent an Israeli attack is not credible. Of course, many in the U.S. government and military oppose attacking Iran, although key figures like Admiral William Fallon have been moved out of the way. Much of the Israeli military is opposed as well, not to mention the Israeli and U.S. people. But war is not clean or precise. If the people we allow to run our nations attack another, we are all put at risk.
Most at risk, of course, are the people of Iran, people as peaceful as any other, or perhaps more so. As in any country, no matter what its government, the people of Iran are fundamentally good, decent, peaceful, just, and fundamentally like you and me. I’ve met people from Iran. You may have met people from Iran. They look like this. They’re not a different species. They’re not evil. A “surgical strike” against a “facility” in their country would cause a great many of them to die very painful and horrible deaths. Even if you imagine that Iran would not retaliate for such attacks, this is what the attacks would in themselves consist of: mass murder.
And what would that accomplish? It would unite the people of Iran and much of the world against the United States. It would justify in the eyes of much of the world an underground Iranian program to develop nuclear weapons, a program that probably does not exist at present, except to the extent that legal nuclear energy programs move a country closer to weapons development. The environmental damage would be tremendous, the precedent set incredibly dangerous, all talk of cutting the U.S. military budget would be buried in a wave of war frenzy, civil liberties and representative government would be flushed down the Potomac, a nuclear arms race would spread to additional countries, and any momentary sadistic glee would be outweighed by accelerating home foreclosures, mounting student debt, and accumulating layers of cultural stupidity.
Strategically, legally, and morally weapons possession is not grounds for war, and neither is pursuit of weapons possession. And neither, I might add, with Iraq in mind, is theoretically possible pursuit of weapons never acted upon. Israel has nuclear weapons. The United States has more nuclear weapons than any other country. There can be no justification for attacking the United States, Israel, or any other country. The pretense that Iran has or will soon have nuclear weapons is, in any case, just a pretense, one that has been revived, debunked, and revived again like a zombie for years and years. But that’s not the really absurd part of this false claim for something that amounts to no justification for war whatsoever. The really absurd part is that it was the United States in 1976 that pushed nuclear energy on Iran. In 2000 the CIA gave the Iranian government (slightly flawed) plans to build a nuclear bomb. In 2003, Iran proposed negotiations with the United States with everything on the table, including its nuclear technology, and the United States refused. Shortly thereafter, the United States started angling for a war. Meanwhile, U.S.-led sanctions prevent Iran from developing wind energy, while the Koch brothers are allowed to trade with Iran without penalty.
Another area of ongoing lie debunking, one that almost exactly parallels the buildup to the 2003 attack on Iraq, is the relentless false claim, including by candidates in 2012 for U.S. President, that Iran has not allowed inspectors into its country or given them access to its sites. Iran had, in fact, prior to the agreement voluntarily accepted stricter standards than the IAEA requires. And of course a separate line of propaganda, albeit a contradictory one, holds that the IAEA has discovered a nuclear weapons program in Iran. Under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), Iran was not required to declare all of its installations, and early last decade it chose not to, as the United States violated that same treaty by blocking Germany, China, and others from providing nuclear energy equipment to Iran. While Iran remains in compliance with the NPT, India and Pakistan and Israel have not signed it and North Korea has withdrawn from it, while the United States and other nuclear powers continuously violate it by failing to reduce arms, by providing arms to other countries such as India, and by developing new nuclear weapons.
This is what the empire of U.S. military bases looks like to Iran. Try to imagine if you lived there, what you would think of this. Who is threatening whom? Who is the greater danger to whom? The point is not that Iran should be free to attack the United States or anyone else because its military is smaller. The point is that doing so would be national suicide. It would also be something Iran has not done for centuries. But it would be typical U.S. behavior.
Are you ready for an even more absurd twist? This is on the same scale as Bush’s comment about not really giving much thought to Osama bin Laden. Are you ready? The proponents of attacking Iran themselves admit that if Iran had nukes it would not use them. This is from the American Enterprise Institute:
“The biggest problem for the United States is not Iran getting a nuclear weapon and testing it, it’s Iran getting a nuclear weapon and not using it. Because the second that they have one and they don’t do anything bad, all of the naysayers are going to come back and say, ‘See, we told you Iran is a responsible power. We told you Iran wasn’t getting nuclear weapons in order to use them immediately.’ … And they will eventually define Iran with nuclear weapons as not a problem.”
Is that clear? Iran using a nuclear weapon would be bad: environmental damage, loss of human life, hideous pain and suffering, yada, yada, yada. But what would be really bad would be Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon and doing what every other nation with them has done since Nagasaki: nothing. That would be really bad because it would damage an argument for war and make war more difficult, thus allowing Iran to run its country as it, rather than the United States, sees fit. Of course it might run it very badly (although we’re hardly establishing a model for the world over here either), but it would run it without U.S. approval, and that would be worse than nuclear destruction.
Inspections were allowed in Iraq and they worked. They found no weapons and there were no weapons. Inspections are being allowed in Iran and they are working. However, the IAEA has come under the corrupting influence of the U.S. government. And yet, the bluster from war proponents about IAEA claims over the years is not backed up by any actual claims from the IAEA. And what little material the IAEA has provided for the cause of war has been widely rejected when not being laughed at.
Another year, another lie. No longer do we hear that North Korea is helping Iran build nukes. Lies about Iranian backing of Iraqi resistershave faded. (Didn’t the United States back French resistance to Germans at one point?) The latest concoction is the “Iran did 911” lie. Revenge, like the rest of these attempted grounds for war, is actually not a legal or moral justification for war. But this latest fiction has already been put to rest by the indespensable Gareth Porter, among others. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, which did play a role in 911 as well as in the Iraqi resistance, is being sold record quantities of that good old leading U.S. export of which we’re all so proud: weapons of mass destruction.
Oh, I almost forgot another lie that hasn’t quite entirely faded yet. Iran did not try to blow up a Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., an action which President Obama would have considered perfectly praiseworthy if the roles were reversed, but a lie that even Fox News had a hard time stomaching. And that’s saying something.
And then there’s that old standby: Ahmadinejad said “Israel should be wiped off the map.” While this does not, perhaps, rise to the level of John McCain singing about bombing Iran or Bush and Obama swearing that all options including nuclear attack are on the table, it sounds extremely disturbing: “wiped off the map”! However, the translation is a bad one. A more accurate translation was “the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” The government of Israel, not the nation of Israel. Not even the government of Israel, but the current regime. Hell, Americans say that about their own regimes all the time, alternating every four to eight years depending on political party (some of us even say it all the time, without immunity for either party). Iran has made clear it would approve of a two-state solution if Palestinians approved of it. If the U.S. launched missile strikes every time somebody said something stupid, even if accurately translated, how safe would it be to live near Newt Gingrich’s or Joe Biden’s house?
The real danger may not actually be the lies. The Iraq experience has built up quite a mental resistance to these sorts of lies in many U.S. residents. The real danger may be the slow start of a war that gains momentum on its own without any formal announcement of its initiation. Israel and the United States have not just been talking tough or crazy. They’ve been murdering Iranians. And they seem to have no shame about it. The day after a Republican presidential primary debate at which candidates declared their desire to kill Iranians, the CIA apparently made certain the news was public that it was in fact already murdering Iranians, not to mention blowing up buildings. Some would say and have said that the war has already begun. Those who cannot see this because they do not want to see it will also miss the deadly humor in the United States asking Iran to return its brave drone.
Perhaps what’s needed to snap war supporters out of their stupor is a bit of slapstick. Try this on for size. From Seymour Hersh describing a meeting held in Vice President Cheney’s office:
“There was a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build — we in our shipyard — build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives. And it was rejected because you can’t have Americans killing Americans. That’s the kind of — that’s the level of stuff we’re talking about. Provocation. But that was rejected.”
Now, Dick Cheney is not your typical American. Nobody in the U.S. government is your typical American. Your typical American is struggling, disapproves of the U.S. government, wishes billionaires were taxed, favors green energy and education and jobs over military boondoggles, thinks corporations should be barred from buying elections, and would not be inclined to apologize for getting shot in the face by the Vice President. Back in the 1930s, the Ludlow Amendment nearly made it a Constitutional requirement that the public vote in a referendum before the United States could go to war. President Franklin Roosevelt blocked that proposal. Yet the Constitution already required and still requires that Congress declare war before a war is fought. That has not been done in over 70 years, while wars have raged on almost incessantly. In the past decade and right up through President Obama’s signing of the outrageous National Defense Authorization Act on New Years Eve 2011-2012, the power to make war has been handed over to presidents. Here is one more reason to oppose a presidential war on Iran: once you allow presidents to make wars, you will never stop them. Another reason, in so far as anybody any longer gives a damn, is that war is a crime. Iran and the United States are parties to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which bans war. One of those two nations is not complying.
But we won’t have a referendum. The U.S. House of Misrepresentatives won’t step in. Only through widespread public pressure and nonviolent action will we intervene in this slow-motion catastrophe. Already the United States and the United Kingdom are preparing for war with Iran. This war, if it happens, will be fought by an institution called the United States Department of Defense, but it will endanger rather than defending us. As the war progresses, we will be told that the Iranian people want to be bombed for their own good, for freedom, for democracy. But nobody wants to be bombed for that. Iran does not want U.S.-style democracy. Even the United States does not want U.S.-style democracy. We will be told that those noble goals are guiding the actions of our brave troops and our brave drones on the battlefield. Yet there will be no battlefield. There will be no front lines. There will be no trenches. There will simply be cities and towns where people live, and where people die. There will be no victory. There will be no progress accomplished through a “surge.” On January 5, 2012, then-Secretary of “Defense” Leon Panetta was asked at a press conference about the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he replied simply that those were successes. That is the kind of success that could be expected in Iran were Iran a destitute and disarmed state.
Now we begin to understand the importance of all the media suppression, blackouts, and lies about the damage done to Iraq and Afghanistan. Now we understand why Obama and Panetta embraced the lies that launched the War on Iraq. The same lies must now be revived, as for every war ever fought, for a War on Iran. Here’s a video explaining how this will work, even with some new twists and lots of variations. The U.S. corporate media is part of the war machine.
Planning war and funding war creates its own momentum. Sanctions become, as with Iraq, a stepping stone to war. Cutting off diplomacy leaves few options open. Electoral pissing contests take us all where most of us did not want to be.
These are the bombs most likely to launch this ugly and quite possibly terminal chapter of human history. This animation shows clearly what they would do. For an even better presentation, pair that with this audio of a misinformed caller trying hopelessly to persuade George Galloway that we should attack Iran.
On January 2, 2012, the New York Times reported concern that cuts to the U.S. military budget raised doubts as to whether the United States would “be prepared for a grinding, lengthy ground war in Asia.” At a Pentagon press conference on January 5, 2012, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reassured the press corpse (sic) that major ground wars were very much an option and that wars of one sort or another were a certainty. President Obama’s statement of military policy released at that press conference listed the missions of the U.S. military. First was fighting terrorism, next detering “aggression,” then “projecting power despite anti-access/area denial challenges,” then the good old WMDs, then conquering space and cyberspace, then nuclear weapons, and finally — after all that — there was mention of defending the Homeland Formerly Known As The United States.
The cases of Iraq and Iran are not identical in every detail, of course. But in both cases we are dealing with concerted efforts to get us into wars, wars based, as all wars are based, on lies. We may need to revive this appeal to U.S. and Israeli forces!
Additional reasons not to Iraq Iran include the numerous reasons not to maintain the institution of war at all, as laid out at WorldBeyondWar.org.
Here’s another way of looking at this:
Iran Deal Prevents Naked Muslim Ray Gun
Nukes get all the attention, but the fact is that intense inspections of Iranian facilities will also prevent Iran from developing a ray gun that causes your clothes to vanish and your brain to convert to Islam.
No, there is not the slightest scrap of evidence that Iran is trying to create such a thing, but then there’s also not the slightest scrap of evidence that Iran is trying to create a nuclear bomb.
And yet, here are a bunch of celebrities in a video that certainly cost many more dollars than the number of people who’ve watched it, urging support for the Iran deal after hyping the bogus Iranian nuclear threat, pretending that the United States gets “forced into” wars, making a bunch of sick jokes about how nuclear death can be better than other war deaths, suggesting that spies are cool, cursing, and mocking the very idea that war is a serious matter.
And here’s an otherwise intelligent guy in a video claiming that the Iran deal will prevent the “Iranian regime” (never a government, always a regime) from “gaining a nuclear weapon.”
Well, I say it also prevents Iran from gaining a Naked Muslim Ray Gun!
When you question supporters of diplomacy and peace with Iran on why they focus their rhetoric on preventing Iran from getting nukes, even though at least some of them privately admit there’s no evidence Iran is trying to, they don’t come out and say that they’re cynically playing into popular beliefs, even false ones, because they have no choice. No, they tell you that their language doesn’t actually state that Iran was trying to get nukes, only that if Iran ever did decide to try to get nukes, this deal would prevent it.
Well, the same applies to the Naked Muslim Ray Gun.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Or rather, stop being afraid. Don’t listen to the pro-war propaganda even when it’s parroted by the pro-peace advocates. It doesn’t improve your thinking, your understanding, or the prospects in the long run of avoiding war.
Top photo | A boy rides his bike past destroyed cars and houses in a neighborhood recently liberated by Iraqi security forces, on the western side of Mosul, Iraq, Sunday, March 19, 2017. (AP/Felipe Dana)