Yet they may have to talk to Afghans, and they may have to leave faster than planned, and there are events everywhere this weekend to demand it -- including in Boston.
Drones are taking war into new nations where we had no war before, killing large numbers of civilians, building hostility, creating chaos, and predictably enough resulting in ground troops being sent in as well. Did you know that drones have their own caucus in the U.S. Congress? Homeless people don't have a caucus, poor people, old people. No caucus. Why do Congress members gather together to discuss the needs of their robotic killer airplane constituents, and not the needs of the rest of us?
Thirty-two U.S. peace activists are in Pakistan right now meeting with elected officials, tribal leaders, and the family members of drone victims. Code Pink organized the trip. At a meeting with the U.S. ambassador, Veterans For Peace president Leah Bolger got him to promise not to attack their planned march, and then asked if spreading Americans across the region could get him to promise no attacks on Pakistanis at all. However there is not concern that the Taliban will attack the march. Bolger told me that there was no question the march would go ahead nonetheless.
Meanwhile the U.S. government claims there are no civilian victims, and does so without officially acknowledging that our drone wars exist at all. One reason is that it's really hard to explain how they're legal. This past May the Congressional Research Service wrote a 23 page paper in which they tried to guess at ways in which the White House might try to argue that killing people all over the world with drones could be considered legal, were the White House to bother. Think about that. The legislative branch of our government, the people created by the first and longest article of our Constitution, the men and women given most of the power in that Constitution, including exclusive power to make laws, have now been reduced to trying to concoct twisted convoluted explanations of how, as Richard Nixon might have put it, whatever a president does must be legal.
What our friends are doing in Pakistan right now, building friendship and understanding is immensely important. A number of us are hoping to travel to Iran soon to do the same. Finding ways in which Americans can come to know Iranians, and Russians, and Chinese as friends is one of the most valuable things we can do right now. Amy Goodman spoke in my town, Charlottesville, Va., last week and reminded us that Secretary of War Henry Stimson took Kyoto off the list of targets for nuclear bombs because he and his wife had been there. If only they had also visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Stimson was the same guy who four years earlier had met with President Roosevelt and top officials in the Oval Office, where Roosevelt predicted the Japanese attack might come on December 1st -- off by six days. "The question," Stimson wrote in his diary, "was how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves. It was a difficult proposition."
I'd say it was more difficult for the sailors stationed at Pearl Harbor than it was for Stimson. Which brings us to the question of how things are looking for the people of Iran. A lobbyist in D.C. who favors war on Iran blurted out a whole string of open secrets recently, and did so on video, which is always helpful.
We know that in the past so-called "defensive" wars have been intentionally launched by fraud or provocation. We know that many in our government want a war with Iran. We know that several years ago then-Vice President Dick Cheney proposed disguising U.S. ships as Iranian and attacking other U.S. ships with them. We know that then-President George W. Bush proposed disguising a plane as belonging to the United Nations, flying it low, and trying to get Iraq to shoot at it. We know that there was no Gulf of Tonkin incident, no evidence that Spain attacked the Maine, no doubt that the weapons and troops on board the Lusitania were public knowledge, no question that FDR worked hard to provoke an attack by Japan, no question that the U.S. invaded Mexico and not the reverse, and so on. And we know that Iran has not attacked another nation in centuries. So, it almost goes without saying that Washington warmongers are contemplating ways to get Iran to make the so-called "first move."
Assassinating scientists hasn't worked, blowing up buildings doesn't seem to do it, cyber-war isn't blossoming into real war, sanctions are not sanctioning armed resistance, and dubious accusations of Iranian terrorism aren't sticking. Exactly what do we have to do to get ourselves innocently attacked by the forces of evil?
The Israel Lobby to the rescue! Patrick Clawson, Director of Research at the Washington Institute Of Near East Policy, a group founded by AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said this:
"Crisis initiation is really tough. And it's very hard for me to see how the United States president can get us to war with Iran. . . . The traditional way America gets to war is what would be best for U.S. interests. Some people might think that Mr. Roosevelt wanted to get us into World War II . . . . You may recall, we had to wait for Pearl Harbor. Some people might think Mr. Wilson wanted to get us into World War I. You may recall that he had to wait for the Lusitania episode. Some people might think that Mr. Johnson wanted to send troops to Vietnam. You may recall he had to wait for the Gulf of Tonkin episode. We didn't go to war with Spain until the Maine exploded. And Mr. Lincoln did not feel he could call out the federal army until Fort Sumter was attacked, which is why he ordered the commander at Fort Sumter to do exactly that thing which the South Carolinians had said would cause an attack. So, if in fact the Iranians aren't going to compromise, it would be best if somebody else started the war. . . . I mentioned that explosion on August 17th. We could step up the pressure. I mean, look people, Iranian submarines periodically go down. Someday one of them might not come up. Who would know why? [LAUGHTER FROM AUDIENCE] . . . . We are in the game of using covert means against the Iranians. We could get nastier."
This is serious advocacy for manufacturing a "defensive" and "humanitarian" war. This is not a war critic or a Yes Men prankster. The position of most elected officials in Washington, including the President, fits well with this. That position includes the ultimatum that Iran must cease doing what U.S. National Intelligence Estimates say it is not doing, namely building nuclear weapons. The goal at the bottom of all of this is war. The purpose of the war is not related to any of the excuses for it. The purpose is profit, control, domination, image, machismo, and the irrationality that continues to allow war to control people rather than the other way around.
Most war planners are not longing for a new long-term occupation with lots of deaths among that 5 percent of humanity they know they have to pretend to care about. But war is still in charge, not its planners. When you launch small-scale wars, they don't always stay that way. Even when you fund proxy wars or impose sanctions as collective punishment or engage in major naval exercises off the coast of a nation you're threatening, the result can be war beyond all control, even if not fully intended. Current U.S. backing of terrorists in Syria is certain to have blowback if it doesn't quickly develop into wider war.
As long as we keep war as an acceptable tool, and as long as we keep nuclear weapons and power plants, our future is likely fairly short. Survival requires not proper civilized war that complies with Geneva Conventions and serves humanitarian goals. Survival requires the elimination of war. If the danger is not immediate enough to make anti-war work as thrilling as war to young adventurers, well then try nonviolent activism. Madison - Tahrir Square - Madrid - Occupy: that's the moral superior to war, outdoing William James' search for a moral equivalent. My book "When the World Outlawed War" looks at the movement to abolish war that existed in this country in the 1920s and the huge steps forward that it made, some of which we take for granted. One lesson from the 1920s is that they did not tie peace to a political party, but made it such a powerful movement that all four, yes four, political parties came running to them.
This is what we need to do, even when there's an election soon. Vote for a good candidate or vote for your lesser evil choice. But before and after election day, work for peace and justice, educate, organize, mobilize, resist, change our entire culture, rather than making yourselves cheerleaders and apologists for one war-making party over another. Too many are not just apologists, but selective collectors of information. Some friends and I recently handed out information on Obama's kill list outside an Obama event. The kill list had been a big New York Times story and would have been the source of much outrage were Obama a Republican. His supporters did not defend it. They did not know about it. They are pouring their energies into cheering for a man who has claimed the power to murder anyone, and they've avoided knowing about it. I posted online an offer to help the Obama campaign find more voters if Obama supporters would join me in protesting wars this weekend. You join me in protesting these wars, and I'll canvas for your guy. That was my offer. That's how little I think it matters who I vote for and how much I think it matters whether we are building a movement around policy changes rather than personality changes. I got no takers.
I have two other books here today. One is actually the first test copy of a children's book I'll be publishing this month. I'll sign it for whoever gives New Hampshire Peace Action the most money for it. The other is a collection from many great writers called "The Military Industrial Complex at 50" and this is where I think we should focus, because I think Eisenhower was right. If civil liberties groups would turn against the military funding that produces the abuses, if environmental groups would turn against our top polluter, if groups favoring education and healthcare and housing would turn against the black hole that we're dumping all the money into, we could turn this thing around.