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Armistice Day in the M.I.C.

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It was not a new story.  From 1856 to 1860 Elihu Burritt had promoted a plan to prevent civil war through compensated emancipation, or the purchase and liberation of slaves by the government, an example that the English had set in the West Indies.  Burritt traveled constantly, speaking all over the country.  He organized a mass convention that was held in Cleveland.  He lined up prominent supporters.  He edited newsletters.  And he was right.  England had freed its slaves in the Caribbean without a war.  Russia had freed its serfs without a war.  Slave owners in the U.S. South would almost certainly have preferred a pile of money to five years of hell, the deaths of loved ones, the burning and destruction of their property, and the uncompensated emancipation that followed, not to mention the century and a half of bitter resentment that followed that.  And not only the slave owners would have preferred the way of peace; it's not as if they did the killing and dying.  What does being right get you? Forgotten.  Who's ever heard of Elihu Burritt?

But the victories are as forgotten as the failures, and that's probably what hurts us the most.  The Outlawry Movement of the 1920s--the movement to outlaw war--sought to replace war with arbitration, by first banning war and then developing a code of international law and a court with the authority to settle disputes.  The first step was taken in 1928 with the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which banned all war.  Today 81 nations are party to that treaty, including ours, and many of them comply with it.  I'd like to see additional nations, poorer nations that were left out of the treaty, join it (which they can do simply by stating that intention) and then urge the greatest purveyor of violence in the world to comply.

I wrote a book about the movement that created that treaty, not just because we need to continue its work, but also because we can learn from its methods.  Here was a movement that united people across the political spectrum, those for and against alcohol, those for and against the League of Nations, with a proposal to criminalize war.  It was an uncomfortably large coalition.  There were negotiations and peace pacts between rival factions of the peace movement.  There was a moral case made that expected the best of people.  War wasn't opposed merely on economic grounds or because it might kill people from our own country.  It was opposed as mass murder, as no less barbaric than duelling as a means of settling individuals' disputes.  Here was a movement with a long-term vision based on educating and organizing.  There was an endless hurricane of lobbying, but no endorsing of politicians, no aligning of a movement behind a party.  On the contrary, all four -- yes, four -- major parties were compelled to line up behind the movement.  Instead of Clint Eastwood talking to a chair, the Republican National Convention of 1924 saw President Coolidge promising to outlaw war if reelected.

And on August 27, 1928, in Paris, France, that scene happened that made it into a 1950s folk song as a mighty room filled with men, and the papers they were signing said they'd never fight again.  And it was men, women were outside protesting.  And it was a pact among wealthy nations that nonetheless would continue making war on and colonizing the poor.  But it was a pact for peace that ended wars and ended the acceptance of territorial gains made through wars, except in Palestine.  It was a treaty that still required a body of law and an international court that we still do not have.  But it was a treaty that in 85 years those wealthy nations would, in relation to each other, violate only once.  Following World War II, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was used to prosecute victor's justice.  And the big armed nations never went to war with each other again, yet.  And so, the pact is generally considered to have failed.  Imagine if we banned bribery, and the next year threw Sheldon Adelson in prison, and nobody ever bribed again.  Would we declare the law a failure, throw it out, and declare bribery henceforth legal as a matter of natural inevitability?  Why should war be different?  We can and must be rid of war, and therefore incidentally we can and must be rid of bribery, or -- excuse me -- campaign contributions.

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Activists in St. Paul, where Secretary of State Kellogg was from, and Chicago, where Salmon Levinson who led the movement for Outlawry was from, are working on getting their cities to make August 27th a holiday for peace.  In the meantime, we need to reclaim Armistice Day and Mother's Day and Martin Luther King day, as well as the International Day of Peace, because we're up against Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Yellow Ribbon Day, Patriots Day, Independence Day, Flag Day, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Military Spouses Appreciation Day, the Iraq Afghanistan Wars Holiday, and dozens of others for every day of the year -- and this time I didn't make any of those up.

World War II changed everything, has never ended, and needs to be ended by us before we are ended by it.  The horror and costs of World War II make World War I look like child's play.  And yet the response of the nation has not been to radically expand the campaign to abolish war.  Instead we've allowed war to become so much our new "normalcy" that we can't distinguish between war time and peace time anymore, and abuses justified by war time are justified for all time now.

On August 14, 1941, the military brought before the Senate plans to build a permanent building that would be the largest office building in the world and would be called the Pentagon.  Senator Arthur Vandenberg asked for an explanation: "Unless the war is to be permanent, why must we have permanent accommodations for war facilities of such size?" Then he began to catch on: "Or is the war to be permanent?" he asked.

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We weren't supposed to have standing armies, much less armies standing in everyone else's countries, much less armies fighting wars over the control of fuels that destroy the planet and armies that themselves consume the greatest quantity of those fuels, even though the armies lose all the wars.  Before the Nobel Peace Prize was handed out to war makers, it was intended for those who had done the best work of removing standing armies from the world.  World War II changed everything.

We never went back to pre-WWII taxes or pre-WWII military or pre-WWII restraint in foreign empire or pre-WWII respect for civil liberties or pre-WWII notions of who deserved a Nobel Peace Prize.  We saw advances in civil rights for minorities, including the right to vote, but we saw the virtual elimination of any way to elect anti-war candidates.

We never saw another declaration of war from Congress, but we never stopped using those of 1941, never left Germany, never left Japan, never dismantled the Pentagon.  Instead, as William Blum documents in his remarkable new book, "America's Deadliest Export: Democracy," since the supposed end of WWII, the United States has tried to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of them democratically elected; interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries; attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders; dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries; and attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 nations.

Oh, but we meant well, and we mean well.  Absolutely not so.  There's no "we" involved here.  The U.S. government meant and means global domination, nothing else.  And yet, even foreigners buy the U.S. snake oil.  Gaddafi thought he could please Washington and be spared.  So did the Taliban, and Saddam Hussein.  When Hugo Chavez heard about the coup planned against him in 2002, he sent a representative to Washington to plead his case.  The coup went ahead just the same.  Subcomandante Marcos believed Washington would support the Zapatistas once it understood who they were.  Ho Chi Minh had seen behind the curtain when Woodrow Wilson was president; World War II didn't change quite everything.  Maurice Bishop of Grenada, Cheddi Jagan of British Guyana, and the foreign minister of Guatemala appealed to Washington for peace before the Pentagon overthrew their governments.  "We" don't mean well when we threaten war on Iran any more than we meant well when "we" overthrew Iran's government in 1953.  The U.S. government has the very same agenda it had in 1953 because it is still engaged in the very same war, the war without end.

At the very moment of supreme moral pretense in 1946, as the United States was leading the prosecution of Nazi war crimes including the crime of war, and killing the Nazis found guilty, at the very moment when Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson was declaring that those who sat in judgment at Nuremberg would be subject to the same standard of law, the United States was giving Guatemalans syphilis to see what would happen to them, and importing Nazi scientists by the dozen to work for the Pentagon.  The war to save 6 million Jews that in reality condemned them and 60 million others to death, the war of innocence that followed the arming of the Chinese and the British, and before that the arming of the Nazis and Japanese, the war against empire that in reality spread the largest empire the earth has known, the war against inhumanity that in reality developed and used the greatest weapons ever directed against humans: that war wasn't a triumph; it IS a triumph.  It has never ended.  We've never stopped making our children pledge allegiance like little fascists.  We've never stopped dumping our money into the complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned us would exert total influence over our society.  We've never stopped to consider whether attacks on a finite planet must end someday.  Truman showed Stalin a couple of bombs, and the flags haven't stopped waving yet.

The Marshall Plan was a plan for domination--smarter and more skillful domination than some other attempts--but still domination.  U.S. capitalist control was the highest purpose.  Sabotage of leftist political gains was the primary approach.  It's never changed.  Dictators that play along have "our" full support.  Don't go looking for "humanitarian" attacks by NATO in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia or Jordan or UAE or Qatar or Kuwait or Yemen, any more than Obama was willing to turn against Ben Ali or Mubarak or Gadaffi or Assad until doing so appeared strategic for the pursuit of global domination.  The United States does not intervene.  It never intervenes.  It is incapable of intervening.  This is because it is already intervened everywhere.  What it calls intervening is actually switching sides.

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The branches are blurring.  The military, CIA, State Department, and Drug Enforcement Agency are becoming a team that operates in secret at the behest of the President.  The Pentagon now has its own "intelligence" agency, while the State Department has its own office of proxy war making.  U.S. Special Forces are active in 70 nations on any given day, on behalf of the President, without the authorization of Congress, and in the name of the uninformed people of the United States.  The "special" forces, operating under the acronyms SOCOM and JSOC, are no longer special for being smaller.  They're special for having the power to operate in greater secrecy and without the apparent limitation of any laws whatsoever.

Remember that raid that killed Osama bin Laden?  Yay! Hurray! Whooo Hooo! Murder is sooooooo cool.  But did you know that soldiers working for you do at least a dozen such raids somewhere in the world on any given night?  Are you confident that everyone killed in a dozen raids a night deserves execution without charge or trial?  Are you certain that this practice sets a good example?  Would you support other nations adopting its use?  "Our" "special" forces are now larger than most nations' militaries, and we don't have the slightest idea what those forces are doing.  "Our access [to foreign countries]," says Eric Olson, former chief of Special Operations Command, "depends on our ability to not talk about it."

The U.S. military has set up dozens of bases all over the world from which to fly killer robots known as drones.  And there are dozens of bases all over the United States involved in the drone wars.  At Fort Benning in Georgia, where the annual protest of the School of the Americas torture school is coming up soon, they're testing drones that can shoot to kill without human input.  What could go wrong? 

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more...)
 

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