The Berg questions few are asking

I am shocked and hor­ri­fied by the decap­i­ta­tion of Nicholas Berg in Iraq, but not for the chest-puffing rea­sons the folks at Fox News are. U.S. mil­i­tary prox­ies held Berg with­out charges for an extend­ed peri­od of time and there are too many ques­tions about when he was released and who he might have been released to. I’m not one for con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries but there are real ques­tions as to how Berg end­ed up in front of those anony­mous, hood­ed butch­ers. What­ev­er the answers, the U.S. mil­i­tary is involved in his deten­tion, as is the FBI (who made him miss a plane that was sup­posed to take him out of Iraq last month), as is the U.S. gov­ern­ment back home who didn’t coöper­ate with his fam­i­ly to get him out of there.
My major piece on this is over on the main Non​vi​o​lence​.org site: “US mil­i­tary prox­ies held Berg before decap­ti­a­tion; who were his executioners?”:
I’m sure to get even more hate mail than usu­al for this but I’ll also be watch­ing the main­stream media cov­er­age. I only know of many of these details because Berg was local and Chan­nel 10 News gave back­ground to Berg’s deten­tion. Here’s my pre­dic­tion from past expe­ri­ence: this sto­ry will be too hot for the main­stream media to ques­tion for a few days and then it will only be to report that there are some nut­cas­es ask­ing ques­tions. Only after a few days of this kind of second-hand ques­tion will the nation­al media drop the fas­cade and start ask­ing the ques­tions them­selves. It should be a fun week ahead.

War Resisters League’s Military Spending “Pie Chart”

The War Resisters League has issued its famous “Pie Chart” fly­er show­ing “Where Your Income Tax Mon­ey Real­ly Goes”: An annu­al tra­di­tion, this fly­er breaks down U.S. gov­ern­ment spending.
This year 49% of income-tax gen­er­at­ed fed­er­al spend­ing is going to the mil­i­tary. That’s $536 bil­lion for cur­rent mil­i­tary spend­ing, $349 bil­lion to pay for past mil­i­tary spend­ing and a pro­ject­ed $50 bil­lion that the Pres­i­dent will ask Con­gress for after the elections.
There’s just so much wrong with this amount of mil­iary spend­ing. This is mon­ey that could be going into job cre­ation, into sup­port­ing afford­able health care for Amer­i­cans, into giv­ing our kids bet­ter edu­ca­tion. The strongest defense a coun­try could ever have is invest­ing in its peo­ple, but that’s impos­si­ble if we’re spend­ing half of our tax­es on bombs. And hav­ing all these bombs around makes us itchy to use them and gives us the abil­i­ty to fight wars large­ly by ourselves.
The WRL fly­er always goes beyond mere num­ber crunch­ing, how­ev­er, to show some of the human impact of this inbal­anced spend­ing. This time we have list­ings of “lives lost in Afghanistan & iraq,” lives lost due to poor health stan­dards around the world, the lost free­dom of pris­on­ers being held by the U.S. against the Gene­va Accords, and the friends “lost and found” by the U.S.‘s uni­lat­er­al­ist war.

Who Lied About Weapons of Mass Destruction?

It’s time to state the obvi­ous: there weren’t any “weapons of mass destruc­tion” in Iraq. The stat­ed ratio­nale for this war was “sim­ply wrong” (see below). Either U.S. Intel­li­gence agen­cies made the biggest mis­take of the new cen­tu­ry or there’s been sys­tem­at­ic, pre­med­i­tat­ed lying at the high­est lev­els of the U.S. gov­ern­ment. Mid-level intel­li­gence and mil­i­tary com­man­ders are start­ing to duck and weave to avoid the fall­out: U.S. Insid­ers Say Iraq Intel Delib­er­ate­ly Skewed and Did Iraq real­ly have weapons of mass destruc­tion? and Was the Intel­li­gence Cooked?

Pres­i­dent Bush and his insid­ers will sure­ly con­tin­ue to deny the obvi­ous and bul­ly on with more lies and mis­for­ma­tion. Will the Amer­i­can pub­lic stop believ­ing? Or have we entered a phase in Amer­i­can his­to­ry in which the Big Lie can jus­ti­fy out­right impe­ri­al­ism and per­pet­u­al war? Post­ed 5/31/2003

The Real Phantom Menace is Us

Being the home to a cou­ple of dozen peace groups, the Non­vi­o­lence Web has pub­lished a lot of press releas­es call­ing for an end to bomb­ing in Koso­vo and Yugoslavia. They’re all very fine but also all very predictable.

But as we write, the U.S. gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues pur­su­ing a war that has no clear real­is­tic goals, has led to even more killing in the region, and has seri­ous­ly dis­rupt­ed post Cold-War rela­tion­ships with Rus­sia and Chi­na (See George Lakey’s “Cold War Return­ing? — A Chill­ing Russ­ian Visit”).

At home, Amer­i­cans just watch the pic­tures on TV as they go about liv­ing a glo­ri­ous Spring. We laugh, cry, work and play; we make trips to the shore for Memo­r­i­al Day week­end; and we obe­di­ent­ly flock to a movie called Phan­tom Men­ace that tells the sto­ry of the start of cinema’s most famous Evil Empire.

A new empire is being shaped here. The Unit­ed States has been able to claim the title of “empire” for at least a hun­dred years. But some­thing new is at work here ( see my own War Time Again). We’re wit­ness­ing the birth of a new Amer­i­can order which is start­ing a new wars every three months. New kinds of wars, which bare­ly touch Amer­i­can lives, even those of the bombers wag­ing them from 20,000 feet. The Pen­ta­gon and State Department’s plan­ners are build­ing on lessons learned at the start of the decade in the Gulf War. They’re refined their mis­siles for accu­ra­cy but they’ve learned how to spin the media

Now every new vil­lain is pre­sent­ed to the media as the new Hitler. Sad­dam Hus­sein. Osama bin Laden. Milosvic. Every­one call­ing for peace is paint­ed as a neo-isolationist, a con­tem­po­rary Cham­ber­lain appeas­ing a tyrant. After­wards it’s easy to see how overly-dramatic the pro­pa­gan­da was and how inef­fec­tu­al all the Amer­i­can bombs were. But still, here we are in Koso­vo, in anoth­er Nineties war and next year we’ll be in yet anoth­er. Unless we stop the zest for these Clin­ton wars now.

What do we have to do to end this war? And what do we need to do to stop the U.S.‘s new­found zest for cruise mis­siles? How can peace and anti­war activists start act­ing beyond the press releas­es and iso­lat­ed vig­ils to think cre­ative­ly about link­ing folks togeth­er to bring new peo­ple and ideas into the peace movement?

I don’t pre­tend to know what exact­ly we need. All I know is that I’m per­son­al­ly bored of the stan­dard issue peace actions we’ve been engag­ing in and want to see some­thing new. Some of it might look like clichés from the 60s and some might look like rip-offs of McDonald’s lat­est ad cam­paign. But we need to build an anti­war cul­ture that will intrude upon a sun­ny spring and remind peo­ple that a war is on. The real phan­tom men­ace this sum­mer is an Amer­i­can Empire that is retool­ing it’s mil­i­tary and re-conditioning its cit­i­zens to think of war as a nor­mal course of affairs.

Stop the Zipper War Before It Starts

Why is Pres­i­dent Clin­ton talk­ing about a reprise of the 1991 Per­sian Gulf War?

We’re told it’s because U.N. inspec­tors believe that Iraq has hid­den “weapons of mass destruc­tion.” But of course so does the Unit­ed States. And Britain, France, Rus­sia, the Ukraine, Chi­na, India and Pak­istan. Iraq doesn’t even hold a region­al monop­oly, as Israel cer­tain­ly has atom­ic weapons atop U.S.-designed rock­ets aimed this very moment at Hussein’s Bagh­dad palaces.

Insanely-destructive weapons are a fact of life in the fin-de-Millennium. There’s already plen­ty of coun­tries with atom­ic weapons and the mis­sile sys­tems to lob them into neigh­bor­ing coun­tries. Hus­sein prob­a­bly doesn’t have them, and the weapons U.N. inspec­tors are wor­ried about are chem­i­cal. This is the “poor man’s atom­ic bomb,” a way to play at the lev­el of nuclear diplo­ma­cy with­out the expens­es of a nuclear program.

Clin­ton seems obliv­i­ous to the irony of oppos­ing Iraq’s weapons of mass destruc­tion with our own. The air­craft car­ri­ers and bat­tle fleets that have been sent into the Gulf in recent weeks are loaded with tac­ti­cal nuclear missiles.

If the pos­ses­sion of weapons of mass destruc­tion is wrong for Iraq, then it is wrong for every­one. It is time to abol­ish all weapons pro­grams and to build real world peace along lines of coöperation.

He’s our Bully

Most Amer­i­cans, on hear­ing a call to let Hus­sein be, will react with dis­be­lief. Con­di­tioned to think of him as our mod­ern Hitler, any­one oppos­ing a new Gulf War must be crazy, some­one unfa­mil­iar with the his­to­ry of the appease­ment of Hitler pri­or to World War II that allowed him to build his mil­i­tary to the fright­en­ing lev­els of 1939.

But Amer­i­cans have alas not been told too much of more recent his­to­ry. Sad­dam Hus­sein is our cre­ation, he’s our bul­ly. It start­ed with Iran. Obsessed with glob­al mil­i­tary con­trol, the U.S. gov­ern­ment start­ed arm­ing region­al super­pow­ers. We gave our cho­sen coun­tries weapons and mon­ey to bul­ly around their neigh­bors and we looked the oth­er way at human rights abus­es. We cre­at­ed and strength­ened dic­ta­tors around the world, includ­ing the Shah of Iran. A rev­o­lu­tion final­ly threw him out of pow­er and ush­ered in a gov­ern­ment under­stand­able hos­tile to the Unit­ed States.

Rather than take this devel­op­ment to mean that the region­al super­pow­er con­cept was a bad idea, the U.S. just chose anoth­er region­al super­pow­er: Iraq. We looked the oth­er way when the two got into a war, and start­ed build­ing up Iraq’s mil­i­tary arse­nal, giv­ing him the planes and mil­i­tary equip­ment we had giv­en Iran. This was a bloody, crazy war, where huge casu­al­ties would be racked up only to move the front a few miles, an advance that would be nul­li­fied when the oth­er army attacked with the same lev­el of casu­al­ties. The Unit­ed States sup­port­ed that war. Inter­na­tion­al human rights activists kept pub­li­ciz­ing the abus­es with­in Iraq, and denounc­ing him for use of chem­i­cal weapons. They got lit­tle media atten­tion because it was not in U.S. polit­i­cal inter­ests to fight Hussein.

Nothing’s real­ly changed now except U.S. polit­i­cal inter­ests. Hus­sein is still a tyrant. He’s still stock­pil­ing chem­i­cal weapons. Why are U.S. polit­i­cal inter­ests dif­fer­ent now? Why does Bill Clin­ton want U.S. media atten­tion focused on Iraq? Look no fur­ther than Big Bill’s zip­per. Stop the next war before it starts. Abol­ish everyone’s weapons of mass destruc­tion and let’s get a Pres­i­dent who doesn’t need a war to clear his name.

How Come the U.S. Trains All the Terrorists?

I’ve just been read­ing today’s New York Times arti­cle about the con­vic­tion of the New York City World Trade Cen­ter bombers. With it is a com­pan­ion piece about the plot leader, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who hoped to kill 250,000 peo­ple when the tow­ers col­lapsed onto the city below. Born in Kuwait to a Pak­istani moth­er and Pales­tin­ian father, his life began as an alle­go­ry for the social dis­place­ments of the Mid­dle East, and he grew up with anger towards the Israelis-and by exten­sions the Americans-who had forced his father from his home­land. Even so, Yousef came to school in the West, to Wales, where he stud­ied engi­neer­ing. But in 1989 he left it for anoth­er edu­ca­tion, fueled by his anger and lead­ing to the death of six in the heat and smoke of the mas­sive under­ground explo­sion in down­town Manhattan.

Yousef trav­eled to Afghanistan to join the Muja­hedeen rebels in their fight against Sovi­et occu­piers, and there learned the guer­ril­la tech­niques he would lat­er employ in New York. Who sup­port­ed the Muja­hedeen and paid for Yousef’s train­ing in ter­ror­ism? The Unit­ed States Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency, who fun­neled the Afghan rebels mil­lions of U.S. tax­pay­ers dollars.

It would seem a sim­ple case of U.S. mil­i­tarism com­ing home to roost, but it is not so sim­ple and it is not uncom­mon. Fol­low most trails of ter­ror­ism and you’ll find Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment fund­ing some­where in the recent past.

Tim­o­thy McVeigh was anoth­er angry young man, one who had to drop out of col­lege, couldn’t find a steady job, and moved from trail­er park to trail­er park as an adult, won­der­ing if the Amer­i­can Dream includ­ed him. He did what a lot of economically-disadvantaged young kids do, and enlist­ed in the U.S. Army (this has been described by some as “the pover­ty draft”).

In 1988, he met Michael Forti­er and Ter­ry Nichols at the U.S. Army base at Ft. Ben­ning, Geor­gia (coin­ci­den­tal­ly home of the infa­mous School of the Amer­i­c­as). There he was taught how to turn his anger into killing and was quick­ly pro­mot­ed, get­ting good reviews and being award­ed with the Bronze Star and Com­bat Infantry Badge for his ser­vice in the Gulf War.

Lat­er he came back to the U.S. with his Ft. Ben­ning friends and turned his anger against the U.S. gov­ern­ment. He used his mil­i­tary skills to build a bomb (alleged­ly with Nichols, now at tri­al, with the knowl­edge of Forti­er, who turned state’s wit­ness). On a spring day in 1995, he drove the bomb to Okla­homa City’s fed­er­al build­ing and set it off, killing 168 peo­ple. McVeigh’s moth­er said, “It was like he trad­ed one Army for anoth­er one.” (Wash­ing­ton Post, 7/2/95)

Anoth­er ter­ror­ist trained by the Unit­ed States government.

But it doesn’t end there either. This same dynam­ic hap­pens on the nation-state lev­el as well. Today’s head­lines also include sto­ries about the stand­off between Iraq’s Sad­dam Hus­sein and Unit­ed Nations arms inspec­tors, a sit­u­a­tion which threat­ens to renew mil­i­tary fight­ing in the region. Who fund­ed Hus­sein and gave him mil­lions of dol­lars worth of weapons to fight the Ira­ni­ans dur­ing the 80s? Why, it’s the U.S. gov­ern­ment again.How come the Unit­ed States is direct­ly involved in train­ing some of the biggest ter­ror­ists of the decade? Haven’t we learned that mil­i­tarism only leads to more mil­i­tarism? Would Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and Tim­o­thy McVeigh just be polit­i­cal unknowns if the Unit­ed States hadn’t taught them to kill with their anger? Would Sad­dam Hus­sein be just anoth­er ex-dictator if the U.S. hadn’t fund­ed his mil­i­tary dur­ing the 1980s?

We can nev­er know these answers. But we can stop train­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of ter­ror­ists. Let’s stop fund­ing war, let’s stop solv­ing prob­lems with guns and explo­sives. Let today’s angry twen­ty year olds cut peo­ple off in traf­fic and do no more. Let’s stop these unde­clared wars.