Congresswoman Lee Introduces Bill to Repeal the Authorization to Use Military Force

By David Swanson

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, like Jeanette Rankin before her, bravely stood alone in Congress against a vote for war, the vote in 2001 for the so-called Authorization to Use Military Force, a Constitutionally dubious passing of the war decision buck to President Bush and his successors.  A majority of Americans now believes that the Afghanistan War that followed that authorization never should have been begun and should, in fact, be ended.  So, the Congresswoman, along with initial cosponsors Jones, Woolsey, Grijalva, Conyers, and Honda, is offering us a second chance, a chance to get our response to 9-11 right, to restore war powers to the Congress, and to impose the will of the people on that body. Continue reading

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I Just Found 29 Million Jobs

By David Swanson

No, not 29 million job offers. I’m no better at applying for jobs than you are, and my town offers nothing but dead-end McJobs or positions in the military industrial complex, just like yours. I mean I just spotted an easy way to create 29 million jobs, one for every unemployed or underemployed U.S. worker.

No, I’m not about to say “Just raise taxes on gazillionaires and hire people to build stuff.” I’m all in favor of that, for lots of reasons, including the political corruption created by a concentration of wealth. We might have to disempower gazillionaires before we can enact any sensible policies, including the one I’m about to propose, but it can itself be done without raising a dime in revenue. This means that the President, who has broad, albeit unconstitutional, powers to move funding around from one program to another could do this himself. Or Congress could. Continue reading

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Insider Tells Why Obama Chose Not to Prosecute Torture

By David Swanson

If you can think back all the way to January 2009, back when wars were ending, Guantanamo was closing, the Pentagon was getting oversight, employees were going to have free choice, the rich would start paying taxes, the air would be getting cleaner, and so forth, you’ll recall that the Obama transition team was acting super populist and high-tech.

They had questions from ordinary people for the President Elect submitted on their website and voted up or down. The top question at the end of the voting had come from Bob Fertik of Democrats.com and it was this: Continue reading

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Knock Knock Knocking on the Devil’s Door

By David Swanson

 

Last year I reviewed a book called “Apocalypse Never” that made a powerful case for our options being limited to two: either we get rid of nuclear weapons or humanity will be destroyed. I noted then a deep flaw in the case: the author accepted nuclear energy as something we could survive, focusing his opposition purely on nuclear weaponry.

A new film makes the additional case I was looking for. “Knocking on the Devil’s Door: Our Deadly Nuclear Legacy” by Gary Null could not come at a better time. Not far from where I write this, a nuclear plant at Lake Anna was damaged in a recent earthquake. Whether the damage was severe or not — this time — is unclear. Continue reading

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Can Coffee Prevent Military Suicides?

By David Swanson

It is difficult to watch this video without both crying and being inspired.  Ashley Joppa-Hagemann recounts her husband’s struggles before he killed himself to avoid an eighth or ninth tour in the Iraq-Afghanistan Wars. Ashley confronted Donald Rumsfeld last week over the lies that led her husband to enlist.  This led to her appearing on Democracy Now on Tuesday and being featured in Amy Goodman’s column:

“One person convinced by Rumsfeld’s rhetoric was Jared August Hagemann.

“Hagemann enlisted in the Army to serve his country, to confront the threats repeated by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. When the U.S. Army Ranger received the call for his most recent deployment (his wife can’t recall if it was his seventh or eighth), the pressure became too much. On June 28, 2011, 25-year-old Hagemann shot himself on the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Seattle. The Pentagon notes that Hagemann died of a ‘self-inflicted’ gunshot wound, but has not yet called it a suicide.

“Hagemann had threatened suicide several times before. He was not alone. Five soldiers reportedly committed suicide at Fort Lewis in July. It has been estimated that more than 300,000 returning troops suffer from PTSD or depression.

“Hagemann’s widow, Ashley Joppa-Hagemann, found out that Rumsfeld was doing a book signing on the base. On Friday, Aug. 26, she handed Rumsfeld a copy of the program from her late husband’s memorial service. She recounted, ‘I told him that I wanted him to see my husband, and so he would know—he could put a face with at least one of the soldiers that had lost their lives because of his lies from 9/11.'”

Joppa-Hagemann will be speaking at and participating in a conference on September 16-18 in Virginia.  She has begun speaking out because she heard someone else doing the same, and because a group of veterans in Washington State has helped her to do so.  Other bereaved military family members are already beginning to get involved as a result of hearing Hagemann.

These connections, and the Rumsfeld encounter, are the work of an anti-war GI coffee house called Coffee Stronglocated within 300 meters of the gates of Fort Lewis in Lakewood, WA.  I spoke on Wednesday with Joseph Carter, Co-Executive Director of Coffee Strong and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.  I recommend listening to the audio.

Can “Support the Troops” mean something more than “Continue the Wars”?

Carter described to me the difficult but critical work engaged in by coffee houses like this one, which was opened in 2008 but follows in the tradition of Vietnam War era coffee houses, as do others opened around the country in recent years.

Coffee Strong helps soldiers get counseling and learn their rights.  While the U.S. casualties in Afghanistan continue to mount, they are less than the casualties of veterans who have been returned “safely” home but who are tortured by post traumatic stress disorder.  Coffee Strong helps those unable or unwilling to remain in the military to find alternatives.

While our government continues wars opposed by the majority of us and abandons veterans to their suffering, those who try to provide support are naturally denounced as traitors.  Someone has even lit an incendiary device in front of Coffee Strong.

Joseph Carter laughs off the hostility and threats issued by rightwing war advocates.  Perhaps such threats appear slight to someone like Carter who has been through the mind-warping hell that is war.

After watching him suffer, Hagemann believes her husband is better off now, out of his pain.  If her voice prevents someone else entering that hell it will have done more good than most of us can imagine.

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Will Obama Denounce MLK as Memorial Dedicated?

By David Swanson

That sounds like a crazy question, doesn’t it?  Why would President Obama denounce Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Well, the reason I ask is that he’s done it before.

Really?  But surely he wouldn’t do it on such a solemn occasion?

Well, the time he did it before was in a Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech. Continue reading

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Richard Clarke Is Being Too Nice to George Tenet

By David Swanson

Former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-Terrorism Richard Clarke suggests that former CIA Director George Tenet blocked the sharing of information within the government on two members of al Qaeda in the United States, information that Clarke believes could have prevented 911. The CIA admits it knew about the two future hijackers but claims the Director was not informed.

“In early 2000, a number of more junior personnel (including FBI agents on detail to CIA) did see travel information on individuals who later became hijackers but the significance of the data was not adequately recognized at the time.” Continue reading

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The Military: Closer to You Than Your Family

By David Swanson

 

Two blocks from my house in a nondescript little building on the edge of our residential neighborhood is an office with a small sign reading “DVBIC of Charlottesville” which turns out to mean “Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.”

Now, I’m in favor of caring for people with brain injuries.  Heck, I wish we had universal comprehensive health coverage like other countries do.  But it disturbs me how difficult it is in this country to get any distance away from the military.  It’s almost certainly closer to you than your relatives’ homes. Continue reading

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The Divided Left

 

By David Swanson


The Satan Sandwich budget deal seems to have been left lying on the table in some television green rooms. Dylan Ratigan has begun cursing both political parties, even while still fantasizing about the President saving us. Keith Olbermann and Al Gore want a Tahrir Square in Washington, even while ignoring the actual preparations for it that are going on. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, who are part of those preparations, were permitted onto CNN momentarily — only to be informed that they should calm down about the wealth gap since poor people “even have refrigerators!” (The refrigerators are empty, but they look good in the kitchen!)

More and more people are fed up. Press releases and email alerts are reaching absurd extremes. With Congress reduced to a 12-member committee that will set our budgetary priorities for years to come, organizations are politely asking that the committee include one or two humane individuals, or that the committee’s meetings be live-streamed or its decisions be posted publicly for 72 hours prior to being rammed down our throats. These absurd proposals come out of a divided left, one side of which is not ready to admit that nonviolent resistance is required or that Democrats ought to be held to the same standards as Republicans.

The public policy agenda of the groups building an independent nonviolent movement at http://october2011.org is virtually identical to that of the groups filming professional videos and sending around emails at http://contract.rebuildthedream.com The divide between these two sets of groups is largely a divide between those wanting to engage in nonviolent resistance even if the President is a Democrat and those wanting to do PR and make statements at least as long as the President is a Democrat. It’s a divide, in other words, between independents and party loyalists, and between activists and lobbyists, to generalize very roughly.

This is a crying shame, in my opinion, because the insiders on the right fund the craziest of activist groups, while respectable organizations on the Professional Left would rather rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic so as not to be seated anywhere near the sort of people who are willing to go to jail for what they believe — the sort of people we cheer for when we see them on TV in other countries. In fact October2011 has built alliances with those engaged in the same struggle in several other countries, and coordinated actions are planned in several countries in October.

Yes, some of the groups on the left that are willing to do serious activism have bizarre, crazy, or evil beliefs. But those beliefs rarely intrude on coalition work, and those groups are in a distinct minority in any coalition, serving primarily as an excuse for other groups to stick their noses in the air and rush off to draft a new Contract. Most of the participants joining in under the banner of any given group are doing so primarily because they can’t in good conscience keep sitting still. They want to act. They want to hold a poster, so they hold the one that is stuck in their hand.

If other insider-focused leftist organizations that view their own ideologies as unsoiled were to engage in activism — real activism that doesn’t shut down when our misrepresentatives are Democrats — then lots of people would take action under their banners instead, believe me.

The trouble is that we are at the point when even Al Gore wants a Tahrir Square, when the lack of resistance is going to take us barreling into fascism, and too many people are treating coalition building as polygamy (we don’t want to marry you, just stand shoulder to shoulder in the daylight!) and nonviolent resistance as a lifestyle choice (we’d all prefer to be able to accomplish what’s needed from an air-conditioned office, but that choice is no longer available).

Meanwhile many fully engaged in independent principled action would rather fail than join forces with others whom they see as corrupted or partially corrupted or — what amounts to the same thing — Democrats! Rather than struggle to maintain discipline and avoid unnecessary compromise with a vibrant movement, these activists would rather their efforts shrivel away in glorious purity. They are also reluctant to make plans for what comes the day after “Tahrir Square,” for the actual implementation of power, for the inevitable compromises that must be made. This, too, is suicidal.

When Adolph Hitler took power in 1930, many workers wanted to resist and spontaneously protested, but the Social Democratic Party leadership and its followers decided the most appropriate thing to do would be to sit still and make comments. The Social Democrats worked to establish the “constitutionality” of the power grab and to prevent “premature” resistance from spreading. Meanwhile, the Communist Party was still avoiding any alliance with Social Democrats and even backing the Social Democrats’ removal from government, basing these actions on the delusion that Hitler couldn’t last long. Before long, however, the Communist leaders were dragged off to concentration camps. The Social Democrats and the trade union leaders still refused to oppose the Nazis. Then they were dragged off to the camps as well.

It’s a good thing that can’t happen here.

 

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Truman Lied, Hundreds of Thousands Died

By David Swanson

On August 6, 1945, President Harry S Truman announced: “Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of T.N.T.  It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British ‘Grand Slam’ which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.” Continue reading

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