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Archive for the ‘Democracy’ Category

Nuclear War: Donald Trump Is A Threat To The World, Noam Chomsky Says

In Climate change, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on December 8, 2016 at 11:24 pm

BY GREG PRICE @GP_IBTIMES ON 12/07/16 AT 9:02 AM

Prominent scientist and philosopher Noam Chomsky said Tuesday the world faces great difficulties and possible threats from both nuclear war and climate change under President-elect Donald Trump. Chomsky, 87, stressed young people could reignite the middle class and labor movement while praising former Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders.

“The threats and dangers are very real. There are plenty of opportunities. And as we face them, again, particularly the younger people among you, we should never overlook the fact that the threats that we now face are the most severe that have ever arisen in human history,” Chomsky told a crowd at Riverside Church in New York City. “They are literal threats to survival: nuclear war, environmental catastrophe. These are very urgent concerns. They cannot be delayed. They became more urgent on Nov. 8th, for the reasons you know… They have to be faced directly, and soon, if the human experiment is not to prove to be a disastrous failure.”

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and author also touched on issues like labor and foreign policy and how the country has been walled off by South American and Asian nations at Democracy Now!’s 20th-anniversary event in New York. Chomsky said the U.S. has been isolating itself for years. He said President Barack Obama’s economic “pivot” toward Asia, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and China’s glaring absence from it, has led to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and other trade agreements excluding the U.S. while its allies sign up. By extension, Chomsky said Trump’s threat of “tearing up” a nuclear non-proliferation deal with Iran could only further isolate the U.S.
“Another step toward isolation may soon take place if the president-elect carries through his promise to terminate the nuclear weapons—the nuclear deal with Iran,” he said. “Other countries who are parties to the deal might well continue. They might even—Europe, mainly. That means ignoring U.S. sanctions. That will extend U.S. isolation, even from Europe. And in fact Europe might move, under these circumstances, toward backing off from the confrontation with Russia.”

Chomsky said Sanders’ campaign offered hopes for younger people, the middle class and laborers, who he said have “suffered” due to neo-liberal policies started in 1979, according to The Independent.

“Suppose people like you, the Sanders movement, offered an authentic, constructive program for real hope and change, it would win these people back,” Chomsky said. “I think many of the Trump voters could have voted for Sanders if there had been the right kind of activism and organization. and those are possibilities. It’s been done in the past under much harsher circumstances.”

Nuclear Danger Is Not Gone

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on December 6, 2016 at 11:25 pm

Dr. Bert Crain M.D., Guest Columnist, Citizen-Tines 9:12 a.m. EST December 5, 2016

The issue of nuclear weapons is a terrible problem shared by all humanity. The dangers we are facing do not loom large in the public consciousness as they did right after World War II when the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists voiced their first warnings that we should not elect to live in the dread of sudden annihilation and the publication The Nation felt strongly that it was now “one world or none”. We stumbled through the Cold War facing off the Soviet Union with a policy of mutually assured destruction. MAD worked but we were lucky. There were many close calls, the Cuban Missile Crisis being perhaps the best remembered.

Nearly 10 years ago four senior statesmen including two former secretaries of state offered a commentary in The Wall Street Journal that documented the tremendous danger, but also historic opportunity, that then existed. They emphasized the increasing hazard, the steps that should be taken, and the importance of U.S. leadership in a bold initiative consistent with our moral heritage. They emphasized that there was urgent need to amplify the gains that had been made in the Reagan-Gorbachev summits and subsequent détente of 1987. Barack Obama reinforced those leaders’ vision, calling for nuclear abolition in his speech in Prague in April 2009.

The danger now is greater than it was during the Cold War. Since the Russian Federation annexed the Crimea, invaded the Ukraine and began fighting for Bashar El Assad in Syria, the rhetoric has escalated with nuclear weapons once again being celebrated as symbols of national power. Some statesmen believe that Putin’s posture is more bravado from a fearful Russia encircled by NATO and trying to keep Ukraine in their domain.

In any case since the greatest threat we face is the nuclear arsenals of Russia and the U.S., the talk can be unnerving. In addition, all of the nuclear armed states are planning costly upgrades in violation of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. We are threatening to start a new arms race. Many, including the late cosmologist Carl Sagan, an eloquent advocate for science and humanity, considered nuclear proliferation as collective madness.

Those who are anchored to nuclear weapons argue that nuclear deterrence has prevented a major power conflict since 1945. The price has been millions of people held hostage to the threat of extinction. It is now critical to also realize that unlike the ideological conflict of the Cold War, when everyone wanted to live, religious extremists intent on mass murder of nonbelievers and a glorious martyrdom will not be deterred by mutually assured destruction. This chilling fact alone should push the nuclear armed states toward cooperating in verifiable reductions and securing fissile material.

Many of us have been working for decades to enable public opinion through enlightened self- interest to push governments to not do insane things, but the political-military-industrial complex is a hungry beast. The newest and most potent abolitionist movement is The Humanitarian Initiative proposed by a majority of the non-nuclear states. On Oct. 27, 123 nations at the UN General Assembly, voted in favor of adopting a resolution that sets up negotiations in 2017 to establish a legally binding instrument that abolishes nuclear weapons. Physicians for Social Responsibility urges our nation’s citizens to embrace sanity, to pressure our elected officials to support this international effort and to demand a stop to a new nuclear arms race.

Bert Crain, M.D. is a member of Western North Carolina Physicians for Social Responsibility. For more see http://www.psr.org and http://www.wncpsr.org

Trump Should Halt US Missile-Defense Plans in Europe

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on November 29, 2016 at 11:43 pm

The new president seems determined to woo Russia. Here’s one way he can serve American and NATO security goals as well.

The one constant in Donald Trump’s foreign-policy views has been his desire to improve relations with Moscow. “There’s nothing I can think of that I’d rather do than have Russia friendly, as opposed to the way they are right now,” he said in July, a theme he has since reprised in various ways.

It is no secret that Russian President Vladimir Putin favored Trump in the election. But a Putin-Trump bromance and shared business interests can only take this so far. To transform relations, Trump will have to address Russia’s deep concerns about U.S. missile defense in Europe.

Missile defenses are weapons whose purpose is to destroy enemy missiles before they reach their target. Some of the systems designed to shoot down short-range weapons, such as Scuds, work well in tests. But despite hundreds of billions of dollars spent on various long-range interceptor concepts over the past 30 years, the U.S. has little to show for the effort. The existing systems are widely considered ineffective. However, future technological development might theoretically make missile interceptors more reliable. For Russia’s leaders, this is a scary prospect. They fear effective defenses could undermine their country’s nuclear deterrent, making it vulnerable to a U.S. first strike.

Russia is particularly irked by the U.S.-NATO missile defense project in Europe. Moscow has long called for legal guarantees that the system not be directed against Russia, to no avail. Its frustration has grown in recent years. As Putin said in May, “Nobody listens to us…we do not hear anything but platitudes, and those platitudes mainly boil down to the fact that this is not directed against Russia…Let me remind you that initially there was talk about thwarting a threat from Iran…Where is the Iranian nuclear program now?”

He has a point. The original rationale for NATO’s anti-missile system was defense against long-range, nuclear-armed missiles Iran might develop. As President Obama said in 2009, “If the threat from Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile program is eliminated, the driving force for missile defense in Europe will be eliminated.” And indeed, thanks to the 2015 nuclear accord, Iran is currently unable to produce material for a nuclear bomb. Meanwhile, previous missile threat estimates have also been proven wrong: Iran’s missiles remain limited to medium-range, and there is no indication of its intention to extend their reach.

However, like Wile E. Coyote running past the end of the cliff into thin air, NATO’s missile defense project keeps going even as its grounds disappear: in May, construction of a new missile defense site began in Poland, with the purpose of extending the capacity against the nonexistent threat of intermediate-range missiles.

Although Iran could break out from the nuclear deal, it would take at least two years for it to produce one nuclear warhead, and even longer to develop long-range missiles. This would leave ample time for NATO to respond later, as the current phase in Poland is scheduled to take only two years.

NATO officials now justify the project in terms of the generic threat of missile proliferation, referring to 30 countries possessing or seeking missiles that could carry WMD. They fail to mention that the only country with intermediate-range missiles capable of reaching Europe is Israel. In short, there is no security rationale behind NATO’s current missile defense policy.

Most Europeans do not care, because it has always been the Russian bear rather than the Iran scare that drives their anti-missile enthusiasm. Countries like Poland want to host missile defense components because a U.S. military presence eases their anxieties about Russia. Unfortunately, missile defenses provide a false sense of security, as they invite more tensions with Russia – which recently placed Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad to target the Polish site.

Europeans also tend to dismiss Russian concerns. Americans, who placed Soviet missile defenses on their Cold War nuclear target lists, should know better. However, particularly after the George W. Bush administration withdrew the U.S. from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002, the White House has downplayed this problem, viewing missile defenses as inherently benign.

Trump has a unique opportunity to start correcting past mistakes by halting the construction of the unnecessary Polish missile interceptor site. Showing long-overdue restraint on this key strategic issue would improve European security and save hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars, both of which might appeal to a president-elect who believes U.S. allies are freeloaders. And there are less costly ways to reassure the Poles, such as stationing U.S. troops in Poland as a tripwire.

This could also pave the way for dramatic nuclear reductions. As Steven Pifer from the Brookings Institution recently noted, “A future U.S. administration interested in a treaty providing for further cuts in strategic nuclear forces may find that it can go no further if it is not prepared to negotiate a treaty on missile defense.” Trump might want to check in with Henry Kissinger on the interrelationship between strategic arms limitation and the ABM Treaty in the 1970s.

There are too many unknowns to predict what Trump will do in office. However, if the president-elect is serious about changing U.S. relations with Russia – and if he comes to understand the value of the Iran nuclear accord – he might be able to conclude a deal that eluded Obama and improve NATO security.

Joe Cirincione is president of Ploughshares Fund and the author of Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late. FULL BIO
Tytti Erästö is a Roger L. Hale Fellow at Ploughshares Fund with a doctorate in International Relations from the University of Tampere in Finland.

Will Donald Trump Destroy the Iran Deal?

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on November 29, 2016 at 1:33 am

By Ellie Geranmmayeh. New York Times, November 25, 2016

LONDON — There are not many issues on which Europe, Russia and China all agree, but there is one: ensuring that President-elect Donald J. Trump does not undermine the Iran nuclear deal.

There are legitimate grounds for concern that the incoming administration or Congress will sabotage the deal, which Mr. Trump has referred to as a “disaster” and vowed to “dismantle.” The president-elect has also surrounded himself with people like Rudolph W. Giuliani and John R. Bolton, both mentioned as potential secretary of state picks, who have said they want an immediate end to the deal and called for regime change in Iran. Mr. Trump’s pick to lead the C.I.A., Mike Pompeo, recently wrote on Twitter, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”

As Mr. Trump decides in what direction he will take his Iran policy, countries that have until now partnered with the United States on Iran must draw a line. They should firmly tell the president-elect that as long as Iran continues to meet its obligations under the deal, they will do so as well. They should also make clear that if either Congress or the American president unravels the deal, other world powers will go their own way with Iran.

It is no surprise that most countries overwhelmingly support the nuclear deal and that President Obama pledged to veto Republican attempts to undo the monumental diplomatic achievement. Iran has dismantled and limited key aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions. Not only has it advanced the West’s nonproliferation agenda, it has also prevented the United States from resorting to military responses.

There is a good chance that after intelligence briefings show him how United States security interests have benefited from it, Mr. Trump will come to realize the importance of keeping the nuclear deal intact. He may even be persuaded by corporate lobbying and commercial interests to preserve it, given the potential for American companies to gain access to Iran’s markets.

This would earn the support of American businesses as well as European allies, Russia and China. It would also strengthen the international credibility of the United States and its new president and open greater diplomatic space for his administration to carry out his stated goal of cooperating with Russia to counter the Islamic State.

But Mr. Trump may also be persuaded by the hawks he has surrounded himself with. He can swiftly deliver a death blow to the deal by withholding, neglecting or seeking to renegotiate American commitments on easing sanctions. This could result in the reintroduction of secondary American sanctions against international companies doing business with Iran.

The United States, like other signatories to the nuclear agreement, can also undo it by claiming that Iran has breached its terms. In this case, United Nations Security Council sanctions would “snap back.” But in reality, the rest of the world is unlikely to enforce these sanctions as they did before the deal if they believe that the United States is violating the spirit of the agreement.

Alternatively, Mr. Trump may avoid overt responsibility and allow the deal to die by signing legislation that imposes fresh sanctions on Iran or introduces oversight measures on Iran’s nuclear program beyond the terms of the deal.
In all these scenarios, the United States will be seen as undermining the deal and provoking Iran to walk away from its obligations. The sympathy of the rest of the world in this case will be with the Iranians.

It will be Mr. Trump, as president, who will have to deal with these repercussions. Because the international coalition that previously supported sanctions on Iran will not be put back together, America’s economic leverage on Iran will be much weaker, increasing the likelihood that Iran will ramp up its nuclear program, and in turn, increasing the risk of American military action.

On Nov. 14, 28 European leaders unanimously reiterated their “resolute commitment” to the deal regardless of the outcome of the American election. Heads of state from the other five countries that negotiated the agreement with Iran would undoubtedly feel personally betrayed by the American president’s withdrawal. This is likely to put the United States in a confrontation with Russia, China and Europe not just on Iran but on other issues where Mr. Trump will need their cooperation, like the Syrian war.

If the United States president or Congress is viewed as sabotaging the deal, the European Union, together with Russia and China, must attempt to salvage its key nuclear restrictions by offering meaningful sanctions relief to Iran. This will need to include the continued lifting of European banking sanctions and the oil embargo that was once imposed because of Iran’s nuclear program. It will also require bold, but not unprecedented actions to protect European companies against the enforcement of American sanctions by the Treasury Department aimed at prohibiting business with Iran.

There are steps that can be taken now to avoid the need to resort to such measures. International leaders should immediately convey to the incoming administration the importance of preserving the deal.

There is also a window before Mr. Trump’s inauguration during which world powers can cement the gains made under the agreement by resolving banking and regulatory hurdles now faced by companies seeking to execute major deals already made with Iran.

European countries, in particular, should work with Iran and the Obama administration to develop channels of communication between Tehran and Washington that will outlive President Obama’s tenure, and to send firm signals of their continued political commitment to the deal. Business leaders, too, must make clear that the nuclear deal serves both American and global security interests.

Mr. Trump’s immediate position on the Iran deal will be one of the first critical tests for his presidency. It will also test the legitimacy of the United Nations Security Council. The American public, like international leaders, should make clear to the president-elect that they do not want to become entangled in yet another military crisis in the Middle East, especially one that the world has already worked so hard to avoid.

Ellie Geranmayeh is a policy fellow in the Middle East and North Africa program of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

 

 

Emergency at Standing Rock, ND

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, Public Health, Race, Uncategorized, War on November 27, 2016 at 12:44 am

This came to me from Ina Russell.

In case you may not have known: people are likely to start dying at Standing Rock– if they aren’t already:
The Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council released this statement: “The physicians and tribal healers with the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council call for the immediate cessation of use of water cannons on people who are outdoors in 28F ambient weather with no means of active rewarming in these conditions. As medical professionals, we are concerned for the real risk of loss of life due to severe hypothermia under these conditions.”
Not to mention continuous mass tear gas, rubber bullets, as well as stinger grenades and LRAND (Long Range Acoustic Device) for 3 hours
Law enforcement also shot down three media drones and targeted journalists with less lethal rounds.
National Lawyers Guild legal observers on the frontlines have confirmed that multiple people were unconscious and bleeding after being shot in the head with rubber bullets. One elder went into cardiac arrest at the frontlines but medics administered CPR and were able to resuscitate him. The camp’s medical staff and facilities are overwhelmed and the local community of Cannonball has opened their school gymnasium for emergency relief.
PLEASE CALL THE FOLLOWING AGENCIES NOW:
ND Office of the Governor: 701-328-2200.
Morton County Sheriff’s Department:
701-328-8118 & 701-667-3330.
ND National Guard: 701-333-2000
202 224.2043 call the senator of North Dakota
202-456-1111
Call often, please.
Please copy and paste; don’t click share. Then pass it on. Thank you.

Work on a solution to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons

In Cost, Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on November 23, 2016 at 10:20 am

By William D. Hartung, Commentary, Monday, November 21, 2016

This year’s presidential election raised an issue that we don’t talk about much these days: the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. The issue has come up in a number of contexts.
There was a debate about Donald Trump’s fitness to be in charge of the nuclear arsenal at all. Hillary Clinton was said to have serious questions about the Pentagon’s plan to build a new generation of nuclear-armed bombers, missiles and submarines, at an eye-popping price tag of $1 trillion over the next three decades.
Trump has made a wide range of assertions on the nuclear issue, from claiming that he would nuke ISIS to arguing that he either would or wouldn’t be the first to use these devastating weapons in a crisis.
More Information

William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.

Hopefully this focus on the issue will spark a national conversation about whether we need nuclear weapons at all.
Why has the nuclear issue faded from public consciousness in recent years?
Denial is no doubt one part of the problem. Why think about the existence of weapons that can end life as we know it, especially if many people feel there is nothing we can do about the problem?
There are additional factors that play into the lack of focus on the nuclear issue. Other urgent issues vie for our attention, from climate change to income inequality to police violence. And many people have more than enough on their plate just dealing with the problems of everyday life, from putting food on the table to trying to improve local schools.
While all of these reasons make a certain kind of sense, they don’t justify putting the nuclear issue on the back burner. Nuclear weapons are costly, dangerous and unnecessary. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry has warned that we are on the verge of a new global nuclear arms race, and is particularly concerned with the destabilizing potential posed by the Pentagon’s plans to build a new nuclear-armed cruise missile.
The new documentary “Command and Control” discusses how frighteningly close we have come to an accidental detonation of a nuclear warhead on a number of occasions. This threat remains, albeit with a lower probability than was the case at the height of the Cold War.
The risk of a regional nuclear war may have actually increased since the end of the Cold War, with ongoing disputes between rivals like India and Pakistan increasing the prospect of a nuclear exchange.
A recent study by Physicians for Social Responsibility estimates that a nuclear war between India and Pakistan could put up to 1 billion people at risk from the initial blast itself, the impacts of radiation and the likelihood that such a conflict would provoke widespread famine.
All of these reasons combined make a compelling case for directing our attention toward the consequences of the possession of large numbers of nuclear weapons.
President Barack Obama has made important progress in his two terms in office. He negotiated a treaty with Russia that will reduce each side’s deployed nuclear weapons by one-third; helped seal a historic deal to dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program, a welcome alternative to calls in some quarters to go to war over the issue; and brought international attention to the need to secure nuclear weapons and bomb-making materials to keep them out of the hands of terrorists. But far more needs to be done.
A good start would be to reduce our own bloated nuclear arsenal. A study co-authored by an analyst at the Air War College has determined that 311 nuclear warheads would be enough to deter any nation from attacking the United States with weapons of mass destruction. We currently have nearly 5,000. Cuts by the United States could provide leverage to press other nuclear powers to follow suit.
Citizens seeking to take action on the nuclear issue need not reinvent the wheel. National organizations like Women’s Action for New Directions, the Friends Committee on National Legislation and Peace Action, which has a chapter in the Upper Hudson Valley, have long worked to reduce the nuclear danger.
It’s time that we start listening to and supporting them.

Vigilante Nation: Why the United States Loves Guns

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Peace, War on November 22, 2016 at 1:06 am

By Chris Hedges, https://thewalrus.ca/vigilante-nation/

 

My mother’s family arrived in Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1633 in the figure of John Prince, a Puritan fleeing Britain. My father’s family landed with William Hedges, also a Puritan refugee and a tanner, in East Hampton, New York, in 1650. As time passed, the huge tributaries of these two families intersected with every major event in American life. They were present for the massacre of Indians on western Long Island. Because the Indians drew their myths, mores, and values from the wilderness, they held beliefs that were antithetical to the Puritans’ rigid, controlling convictions. They were said to be in league with Satan, so the Europeans tried to annihilate them.

My forebears produced soldiers, sea captains, farmers, a few writers and scholars, and a smattering of political leaders who ascended to governorships. By the time of the Civil War, the family included a Union general on one side and a Confederate spy on the other. A couple of my ancestors took part in the brutal Indian wars. One was an scout for General Philip Sheridan on the western plains; he was murdered by Sioux warriors, a fate he appears to have deserved, given the drunken, murderous rampages against Indian encampments he describes in letters home to Maine. Others were sober, dour-looking Anglican ministers, teachers, and abolitionists. A distant relative of my father’s family became the largest landowner in Cuba after 1898, when it was seized from the Spanish; some of this family’s descendants worked with the CIA in the fight against Fidel Castro, in the waning days of the Cuban dictatorship. My maternal grandfather, who worked most of his life in a small-town post office, served as a master sergeant in the Maine Army National Guard in the 1930s. He and other guardsmen regularly waded into the crowds of striking textile and mill workers to violently break up labour unrest. He kept his army-issued truncheon in his barn; it had twenty-three small nicks he had made with his penknife. “One nick,” he told me, “for every communist I hit.” My father and most of my uncles fought in World War II; and one uncle was severely maimed, physically and psychologically, in the South Pacific. I was in Central America in the 1980s during the proxy wars waged by Washington. I accompanied a Marine Corps battalion as it battled Iraqi troops into Kuwait during the first Gulf War.

Violence, at home and abroad, has been a constant in America. The gun culture Canadians and Europeans find hard to fathom is its natural expression. There are some 310 million firearms in the United States, including 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns. There is no reliable data on the number of military-style assault weapons in private hands, but the working estimate is about 1.5 million. The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world—an average of ninety per 100 people, according to a 2007 Small Arms Survey. By comparison, Canada has thirty-one per 100 people. An estimated thirty Americans are killed with a gun every day. Canada rarely tops 200 gun-related homicides a year. The lives of my ancestors and the experiences they endured, as well as my own life, chronicle the nation’s persistent and savage addiction to firearms.

The view of ourselves as divine agents of purification, anointed by God and progress to reconfigure the world around us, is a myth that remains firmly embedded in the American psyche. Our historians, with a few exceptions, such as Eric Foner, Howard Zinn, Richard Hofstadter, and Richard Slotkin, fail to address the pattern. They examine a single foreign war. They chronicle an isolated incident, such as the bloody draft riots in New York during the Civil War. They write about the Indian wars. They detail the cruelty of Jim Crow and lynching (one of my country’s contributions to barbaric forms of murder). They do not recognize in the totality of our military adventures—including our bloody occupation of the Philippines, where General Jacob H. Smith ordered his troops to kill everyone over the age of ten and turn the island into “a howling wilderness”—a universal truth. This creates a dangerous historical amnesia. It hides from us our propensity for murder. And no wonder. As D. H. Lawrence observed, “But you have there the myth of the essential white American. All the other stuff, the love, the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play. The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.”

Violence in America is primarily vigilante violence, used most often to crush dissent, to keep a repressed minority in a state of fear, or to exact revenge on those the state has branded as traitors. It is a product of hatred, not hope. It is directed against the weak, not the strong. The slave patrols and the Ku Klux Klan that terrorized blacks; the Pinkertons and the gun thugs who shot dead hundreds of workers and wounded thousands more in the bloodiest labour wars in the industrialized world; the anti-communist Cuban exile groups that waged a reign of terror against fellow Cubans in Miami—all of these are expressions of a long history of mob-led violence that is tolerated, and often encouraged, by the ruling elite.

Citizens feel free to settle their disputes with weapons, because violence, as the black activist H. Rap Brown once said, “is as American as cherry pie.” We have always mythologized, even idolized, our killers. The Indian fighters, gunslingers, and outlaws on the frontier, as well as the mobsters and the feuding clans such as the Hatfields and McCoys, colour our popular history. Figures like Davy Crockett, as Richard Slotkin writes, “became national heroes by defining national aspiration in terms of so many bears destroyed, so much land preempted, so many trees hacked down, so many Indians and Mexicans dead in the dust.”

So it is that even after twenty first-graders and six adults are gunned down in a Connecticut elementary school in December 2012, the US Senate cannot pass legislation imposing stiffer background checks on gun purchasers, nor a ban on assault weapons. Since the Newtown massacre, over 5,000 people, including more than 100 children, have been shot dead in random acts of violence. But Newtown, like the mass shootings at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado (twelve dead), at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg (thirty-three dead), at the immigration centre in Binghamton, New York (fourteen dead), and at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado (fifteen dead), has no discernible effect on mitigating our gun culture. The state has never opposed the widespread public ownership of guns, because these weapons have rarely been deployed against it. In this, the United States is an anomaly. It has a heavily armed population and yet maintains remarkable political stability.

We are not a people with a revolutionary tradition. The War of Independence, while it borrowed the rhetoric of revolution, merely replaced a foreign oligarchy with a native, slave-holding oligarchy. The founding fathers were deeply conservative; the primacy of private property, including slaves, was paramount. To thwart popular will, the framers of the Constitution established a series of mechanisms, from the Electoral College to the appointment of senators, buttressed by the disenfranchisement of African Americans, women, American Indians, and the landless. George Washington, probably the wealthiest man in the country when the war was over, shared exclusive economic and political power with his fellow aristocrats. This distrust of popular rule among the elite runs like a straight line from the Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention to the 2000 presidential election, where the Democratic candidate Al Gore received over half a million more popular votes than the Republican George W. Bush. Revolution is not in our blood.

The few armed rebellions—the 1786 and 1787 Shays’ Rebellion, the 1921 armed uprising by 10,000 coal miners at Blair Mountain in West Virginia—were swiftly and brutally put down by a combination of armed vigilante groups and government troops. More importantly, these rebellions were always local. They were never about anything more than specific grievances. For example, the miners at Blair Mountain, who held off armed militias for five days, wanted only the right to organize unions. The universal, radical ideologies and utopian visions that sparked revolutions in Russia or Germany after World War I are foreign to our intellectual tradition. The United States has never produced a great revolutionary theorist, no Alexander Herzen, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, or Antonio Gramsci. Our greatest radicals are either anarchists—Randolph Bourne, Emma Goldman, Noam Chomsky—or advocates for oppressed minority groups: Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, W. E. B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Cornel West.

The closest America came to a genuine revolutionary was Thomas Paine, although he was British by birth. While useful to the aristocrats who wanted to supplant the British during the war, he was ruthlessly persecuted when it was over, especially after he published an open letter in 1796 to George Washington that read, “The world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any.” When Paine died, only six people—two of whom were black—attended his funeral.

There will never be serious gun control in the United States, and not only because its violence is usually vigilante violence. White people, who have enslaved, lynched, imprisoned, and impoverished black people for generations, are terrified that those they have subjugated will seek revenge. As the nation circles the drain, as the economy implodes and climate change brings with it apocalyptic weather patterns, white Americans, who are becoming a minority, cling to their assault weapons with even greater ferocity. (Guns are readily available to white people, but for African Americans, especially those in our impoverished inner cities, gun ownership is largely criminalized.) The dark ethic of right-wing militias, the Tea Party, the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, the National Rifle Association,and the survivalist cults is that the gun will keep the home and family from being overrun by the crazed black hordes who will escape from their colonies in our urban slums. The mother of Adam Lanza, who carried out the Newtown massacre, was a survivalist, stockpiling weapons in her home for impending social and economic collapse. Scratch the surface of the survivalist cult in the United States, and you expose white supremacists.

This dark, inchoate terror of black violence in retribution for white violence percolates within the culture. It is articulated in The Turner Diaries, which inspired Timothy McVeigh to bomb the federal building in Oklahoma City. It is the undercurrent in Quentin Tarantino’s film Django Unchained. And it is given brilliant expression in Robert Crumb’s savage exploration of white nightmares in his comic “When the Niggers Take Over America!” It goes all the way back to the film The Birth of a Nation, which, as James Baldwin wrote, “is really an elaborate justification of mass murder.”

“Again I say that each and every Negro, during the last 300 years, possesses from that heritage a greater burden of hate for America than they themselves know,” Richard Wright noted in his journal in 1945. “Perhaps it is well that Negroes try to be as unintellectual as possible, for if they ever started really thinking about what happened to them they’d go wild. And perhaps that is the secret of whites who want to believe that Negroes really have no memory; for if they thought that Negroes remembered they would start out to shoot them all in sheer self-defense.”

The pattern of violence, and especially vigilante violence, makes the United States a very different country from Canada and the nations of western Europe. It means that as internal stability unravels, we will respond in a different way. The breakdown of American society will trigger a popular backlash, a glimpse of which we saw in the Occupy movement, but it will also energize the armed vigilantes. The longer we remain in a state of political paralysis, dominated by a corporate elite that refuses to respond to the mounting misery of the bottom third of the population, the more the rage of the underclass will find expression through violence. If it remains true to the American tradition, this violence will not be directed at the power elite but will single out minorities and scapegoats.

Gabrielle Giffords, a member of the House of Representatives, was shot in the head in January 2011, as she held a meeting in a supermarket parking lot in Arizona. Eighteen other people were wounded, and six of them died. Sarah Palin’s political action committee had previously targeted Giffords and other Democrats with crosshairs on an electoral map. Giffords’ opponent in the House election had hosted a campaign event with the call to action “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M-16 with Jesse Kelly.” The use of violent rhetoric, a staple of the right wing, feeds the demented visions of desperate men and women who have easy access to weapons. We have avoided the genocidal rhetoric of those who call for the wholesale extermination of a race or a class, but we are not far from it.

The longer the economy stalls, the more the poor and working classes feel trapped and are unemployed or underemployed, and the longer that political paralysis makes the state unable to respond, the closer the country comes to a full-blown confrontation. Muslims, undocumented workers, homosexuals, liberals, feminists, intellectuals, and African Americans will all become targets. Disdain for traditional liberal institutions will be replaced by a call for their eradication. As the nation deteriorates economically and morally, the last refuge for self-respect will be found in the hyper-masculine values of military chauvinism, violent retribution, and a mythic past.

As Richard Rorty noted in Achieving Our Country, when our breakdown begins, “the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words ‘nigger’ and ‘kike’ will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.”

There is a disturbing attempt under way in the southern United States to rewrite the history of the South, a desperate retreat by beleaguered whites, battered by a flagging economy and few prospects, into a mythical self-glorification. I witnessed a similar retreat into self-delusion during the war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. As the country’s economy deteriorated, Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim ethnic groups built fantasies of a glorious past that became a substitute for history. The ethnic groups vomited up demagogues and murderers such as Radovan Karadzic and Slobodan Milosevic. They sought to remove, through exclusion and finally violence, competing ethnicities to restore a mythological past. The embrace of non-reality-based belief systems made communication among ethnic groups impossible. They no longer spoke the same cultural language. There was no common historical narrative built around verifiable truth.

This mythology of the past is being replicated in many parts of the United States. Flyers reading “Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Wants You to Join!” appeared in residential mailboxes in Memphis in early January. Later that month, the Klan distributed pamphlets in a suburb of Atlanta. Last year, the governor of Tennessee declared July 13 Nathan Bedford Forrest Day, to honour the birthday of the Confederate general and first leader of the KKK. There are thirty-three historical markers commemorating Forrest in Tennessee alone. Montgomery, Alabama, which I visited a few months ago, has a gigantic Confederate flag north of the city, planted there by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Confederate monuments dot the city centre. There are three Confederate holidays in the state, including Robert E. Lee/Martin Luther King Day. Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi also officially acknowledge Lee’s birthday. Jefferson Davis’s birthday is recognized in Alabama and Florida. And re-enactments of Confederate victories in the Civil War crowd Southern calendars.

“People pay for what they do, and, still more, for what they have allowed themselves to become,” Baldwin wrote of the American South. “The crucial thing, here, is that the sum of these individual abdications menaces life all over the world. For, in the generality, as social and moral and political and sexual entities, white Americans are probably the sickest and certainly the most dangerous people, of any color, to be found in the world today.” He added that he “was not struck by their wickedness, for that wickedness was but the spirit and the history of America. What struck me was the unbelievable dimension of their sorrow. I felt as though I had wandered into hell.”

The rise of ethnic nationalism over the past decade, the replacing of history with mendacious and sanitized versions of lost glory, is part of the moral decay that infects a dying culture. Myth breeds intolerance and eventually violence. Violence becomes a cleansing agent, a way to restore a lost world. Ample historical records disprove the myths espoused by the neo-Confederates, who insist the Civil War was not about slavery but about states’ rights and the protection of traditional Christianity. However, these records are useless in puncturing their fantasies, just as documentary evidence does nothing to blunt the self-delusion of Holocaust deniers. Those who retreat into fantasy cannot engage in rational discussion, for fantasy is all they have left of their tattered self-esteem. When their myths are attacked, rather than a discussion of facts and evidence, it triggers a ferocious emotional backlash. The challenge of the myth threatens what is left of hope, and as the economy unravels, as the future looks more and more bleak, myth gains in potency.

What Canadians struggle to grasp is that the language of violence is our primary form of communication. We have built within us a belief that we have a right, even a divine right, to kill others to purge the earth of evil. We do this in Iraq. We do this in Afghanistan. We do this in Pakistan. We have always done this. The many millions of corpses the American empire has left behind, from three million Vietnamese to millions of American Indians, loom like Banquo’s ghost over the declining empire. The core faith of the United States is not found in the Gospels—which have been perverted to fuse the iconography of Christianity with that of the state to sanctify the nation—but in the satanic lust of purification through violence. We have carried out bloodbaths on foreign soil and on our own land for generations, in the vain quest for a better world. The worse it gets, the deeper our empire sinks under the weight of its own decay and depravity, the more we question and deeply fear losing our identity as imperial masters, the quicker we will be to reach for the gun.

This appeared in the September 2013 issue.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize winner and co-author of Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.

World leaders anxious for Trump’s nuclear policy

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Uncategorized, War on November 21, 2016 at 11:01 pm

By Rebecca Kheel, The Hill, 11/20/16

Questions are swirling about whether President-elect Donald Trump will follow through on suggestions during the campaign that he might allow other countries to develop nuclear weapons.

His comments on the nuclear issue have created unease among world leaders, many of whom fear a new global arms race could be triggered by a change in U.S. policy.

“Nobody likes uncertainty, and the U.S. has been a champion of nonproliferation for decades,” said James Goldgeier, dean of the School of International Service at American University. “To have a candidate during the campaign suggest that it’s fine — and also suggesting with more than a hint that the U.S. didn’t necessarily view traditional alliance obligations the same way — is unprecedented. So it creates uncertainty.”

At various points during the campaign, Trump said that if Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia had nuclear weapons, he’s “not sure that would be a bad thing for us.” He said that those countries might be better off with nuclear weapons, adding that he’s “prepared to” let them become nuclear powers if they don’t pay more for U.S. protection.

But in sometimes the same breath, Trump has said he “hate[s] nuclear more than any” and that the “biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation.”

The seemingly conflicting remarks have created uncertainty about where he stands on the issue.

Allowing other countries to develop nuclear weapons would reverse decades of U.S. nonproliferation policy, which has focused on providing a so-called “nuclear umbrella” to non-nuclear allied countries.

Trump took an apparent step Thursday to reassure foreign leaders rattled by his comments with his first in-person meeting with a world leader, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Speaking after the meeting, Abe would not disclose specific subjects addressed. But he appeared reassured by what he heard.

“The talks made me feel sure that we can build a relationship of trust,” Abe said.

In general, world leaders have been calling on Trump to clarify his campaign remarks on a host of foreign policy matters, from nonproliferation to Russian aggression to the fight against terrorism to climate change agreements.

“This American election opens a period of uncertainty,” French President Francois Hollande said last week.

In South Korea, Trump’s surprise win prompted emergency meetings of the country’s National Security Council and Defense Ministry to discuss the future of the U.S.-South Korea alliance.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said she received assurances from Trump that he would maintain existing alliance agreements in a phone call after the election, according to a statement from Park’s office last week.

Trump could go a long way to alleviating global anxiety if he publicly and clearly stated he does not support other countries developing nuclear weapons, Goldgeier said.

“He needs to start saying it,” Goldgeier said. “It’d be nice if he could start reassuring, but that hasn’t really been the theme since last Tuesday.”

South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia are all parties to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and they would have to withdraw from it or violate their treaty commitments to develop nuclear weapons.

Experts say Japan is unlikely to pursue a nuclear weapon because of its history as the only country to have ever been attacked with a nuclear bomb.

But hawks in South Korea who want their country to have its own nuclear weapons have been empowered by Trump’s win.

“If such visions of Trump are actually made true, South Korea will face major changes in the security environment that cannot be ignored,” Won Yoo-chul, a senior South Korean parliamentarian, said last week, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

Won previously said in February that his country “cannot borrow an umbrella from a neighbor whenever it rains.”

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has reportedly sought to buy nuclear weapons in the past to counter Iran, though Saudi officials have denied those reports.

Nonproliferation advocates are hopeful Trump’s campaign talk was just talk.

Tom Collina, director of policy at nonproliferation group Ploughshare Fund, said the foundation’s recently released recommendations for Trump didn’t bother mentioning his campaign comments because the group doesn’t think he was sincere.

“We didn’t even address it because we don’t take it seriously,” he said. “We don’t think he’s going to go there.”

Trump’s Cabinet appointments could go a long way toward shaping his nuclear policy, Collina added. Until then, he said, people are in wait-and-see mode and “reading tea leaves.”

Trump has made two national security appointments so far: Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) as CIA director.

Pompeo made a name for himself in part as a staunch opponent of the Iran nuclear deal. Flynn also opposes that deal.

When asked in July if Trump was encouraging a nuclear arms race by saying Japan and Saudi Arabia can become nuclear powers, Flynn said he was educating Trump on world history.

“The threat of nuclear warfare is very, very low,” Flynn said in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel. “Trump is no fool, and he sees the world as a globalized world. In the conversation we’re having right now, we’re talking about historical aspects of regions of the world, so sort of world history.”

News from the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, Noverber 2016

In Climate change, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on November 21, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Terra Incognita

Who knows what a Donald Trump administration will bring? Perhaps efforts to implement the darkest elements of Trump’s campaign pronouncements. Any such moves must be resolutely resisted. We must insist on respect for the Constitution, the UN Charter, human rights and international humanitarian law, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And we must do our utmost to prevent backsliding on climate protection. In the nuclear sphere, we should be alert to any opportunities for halting and reversing nuclear arms racing presented by Trump’s stated desire to improve relations with Russia. (See June LCNP memo to presidential campaigns.) The multilateral agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear program, joined with a Security Council resolution, must be preserved.

The incoming UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, as LCNP consultant Alyn Ware writes, has no record on nuclear disarmament, but will have plenty of opportunities to facilitate dispute resolution among the nuclear powers and to carry forward Ban Ki-moon’s emphasis on the historic UN mission of accomplishing elimination of weapons of mass destruction. We recommend to Mr. Guterres, and eNews readers as well, the recent publication of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs – Rethinking General and Complete Disarmament in the 21st Century, which is available online. LCNP Executive Director John Burroughs has a chapter on legal aspects; LCNP Consultative Council member Jackie Cabasso and Andrew Lichterman have a chapter on broad-spectrum arms racing and nuclear disarmament; and Consultative Council member Randy Rydell has a chapter on creating disarmament synergies.
Negotiations in 2017 on a Ban Treaty

The UN General Assembly will soon adopt a resolution recommended by its First Committee deciding to commence negotiations in 2017 at the UN in New York on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, leading to their elimination. The resolution builds on the work of 2016 UN Open-ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament. The governments leading the initiative on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, especially Austria and Mexico, and also Thailand, the chair of the working group, have done a marvelous job in getting this far, as have our colleagues at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

While nothing is set in stone, the current direction is toward a treaty that will prohibit the development, possession, deployment and use of nuclear weapons but not contain detailed provisions relating to the verified elimination of existing nuclear arsenals. That is in large part because as things now stand, the nuclear-armed states will not participate in the negotiations. The result would be a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons applying to states that do not have such weapons and are furthermore barred by the Non-Proliferation Treaty and regional nuclear weapons free zones from acquiring them. Nonetheless, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have been vociferous (Russia especially so) in opposing the initiative.

Why? The answer must be that they fear its effects in delegitimizing reliance on nuclear weapons, aka ‘nuclear deterrence’, in entrenching the norm of non-use, and in catalyzing nuclear disarmament. This in itself is a good reason to support the ban treaty initiative. In this connection, LCNP emphasizes that a ban treaty by its terms must acknowledge and confirm the existing illegality of use of nuclear weapons under international law protecting civilians and the environment from the effects of warfare. See this paper by LCNP’s international body, IALANA, for more, as well as this paper by Burroughs for The Simons Foundation.
Dismissal of the Marshall Islands’ Nuclear Zero Cases

On October 5, by narrow margins, the International Court of Justice dismissed the three nuclear disarmament cases brought by the Marshall Islands against India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom. The Court ruled that it lacked jurisdiction because no legal dispute existed when the Marshall Islands filed applications initiating the cases in April 2014. In the UK case, the judges were divided eight to eight, with the vote of the Court’s president breaking the tie; in the India and Pakistan cases, the vote was nine to seven.

As the dissenting judges observed, the ruling ignores the fact that the Marshall Islands’ claims were rooted in longstanding opposing views of the large majority of the world’s states, on the one side, and the states possessing nuclear arsenals, on the other, regarding whether the latter states are complying with the Court’s unanimous conclusion in its 1996 Advisory Opinion that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and conclude negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects. (See John Burroughs’ assessment of the opinion in Arms Control Today on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of its release.) The ruling also gave insufficient weight to the Marshall Islands’ articulation of claims in multilateral forums prior to bringing the cases and to the opposing positions taken by the Marshall Islands and the respondent states in the proceedings after the cases began.

LCNP salutes the courage and determination, rooted in tragic experience, and the good faith as well, of the Marshall Islands and its then Foreign Minister Tony deBrum in bringing the cases. Simply doing so raised to world attention the failure of the nuclear powers to fulfill the obligation to negotiate the global elimination of nuclear weapons. LCNP also commends the hard work of the Marshall Islands’ international legal team. The Marshall Islands’ pleadings are a rich resource for the development of political and legal arguments for disarmament.

For more on the outcome, see this Arms Control Today story, this Nuclear Age Peace Foundation press release, and the case pages at http://www.icj-cij.org. See also Burroughs’ appreciation of the Marshall Islands and deBrum in remarks at an August rally at the Livermore nuclear weapons laboratory in California.

William Perry at All Souls Church

With the All Souls Nuclear Disarmament Task Force and Peace Action of New York State, LCNP organized a well-attended event featuring Bill Perry, former US Secretary of Defense, speaking on “My Journey at the Nuclear Brink,” the title of his recent book, at All Souls Unitarian Church in Manhattan on October 24. See this video for his riveting talk and Q&A, in which Perry discusses the risk of nuclear catastrophe (higher than during the Cold War), the necessity of repairing relations with Russia and halting the emerging nuclear arms race, dangerous tensions in South Asia, the proposed ban treaty (he supports it), the imperative of education (esp. of millennials) to lay the basis for action to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, and much more. There is also an excellent introduction of Perry by Peter Weiss with reflections on use of language – thus the only true ‘nuclear security’ is the global elimination of nuclear arsenals. The event was endorsed by Global Security Institute; NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security; Brooklyn For Peace; Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives; and United Religions Initiative.

The Truth about Crimea’s Return to Russia

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Peace, War on November 21, 2016 at 3:35 am
Je Suis Crimea – A First-hand Witness to the Referendum

Svetlana Miroshnichenko is a resident of Sevastopol in The Crimea. She was among the tens of thousands of Sevastopol residents who gathered every evening in what has to be described as direct Democracy, sharing their thoughts, opinions, and views about the coup in Ukraine and their fears that violence would erupt in Crimea. Thousands of residents dubbed the Citizens Defense Force protected their city and borders from possible attacks by the right wing, neo-nazis in Ukraine. Svetlana explains that the referendum came from the bottom up – the people and their local government and not from Russia.

It was only after the overwhelming results to rejoin the Russian Federation from across The Crimea that President Putin accepted the return and made it official in a public policy document. The overwhelming majority of Crimeans were ecstatic and hold President Putin in high regards. His picture appears on billboards all over The Crimea, on coffee cups, and t-shirts.

The background to this story is that Crimea had always been part of Russia, for centuries, in fact. Nikita Khrushchev, in order to gain political favor from the Ukraine during the Soviet Union, gifted Crimea to the Ukraine. Under an agreement between Russia and Ukraine, Russia could station thousands of troops in Crimea because it had always been Russia’s warm-water naval base. At the time of the referendum to return to Russia, there was NO invasion by Russian troops because they were already in Crimea. Everyone made it clear that even with the gift of The Crimea to Ukraine, Ukraine was not a separate country, but part of the Soviet Union.

After the coup in Ukraine in 2014, the vast majority of Russians who made up The Crimea, did not want to remain under the right-wing, neo-nazi government in Kiev, and hence, the referendum. This is another first-hand testimony that contradicts the US narrative that President Putin and Russia invaded The Crimea and annexed it to the Russian Federation.
Regis Tremblay
Independent Filmmaker
209 River Rd.
Woolwich, Maine 04579
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