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Guns Don’t Kill People: Americans with Guns Kill People

December 27th, 2015 - by admin

Michael Moore / The Hollywood Reporter – 2015-12-27 20:27:05


On New Wave of Gun Violence
“The NRA Is Actually Half Right”

Michael Moore / The Hollywood Reporter

(December 22, 2015) — When Hamlet debuted on the stage of the Globe Theater in May of 1600, a funny thing happened — no one went home and killed their uncle. In fact, in the weeks and months afterward, there was no rash of uncle killings throughout London.

The same thing had happened over two thousand years earlier — after the debut of Oedipus Rex, thousands of Greeks (as far as we can tell) did not go home and have sex with their mothers.

With the recent spate of mass shootings — at the community college in Oregon, the Planned Parenthood in Colorado and the county building in San Bernardino — the debate has begun anew, like it has ever since the tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999: do we need stricter gun laws, and do we need to decrease the violence we show in the movies and on TV, as a way to help prevent these tragedies?

There is no question that fewer guns will result in fewer gun deaths. This has been proven in every country that has decided to decrease or remove guns from civilian ownership. In the 1980s and ’90s, Australia had a series of mass shootings, including an awful one at a school in Port Arthur.

The conscience of the country was so moved by that slaughter — that’s right, “slaughter,” like the slaughter in Colorado Springs, the slaughter in San Bernardino, etc. — that Australia outlawed nearly all guns. Total number of school shootings since that law passed: zero.

Less guns also mean less successful suicides. It should be pointed out that over half of the nearly 30,000 gun deaths each year in this country are from suicide. If you want to make sure you will die by your own hand, using a gun is the tried and true way to accomplish such a task.

But many who attempt suicide don’t really want to die, and by using pills or even slashing their wrists there’s usually a greater that 50% chance that they will live, that someone will save them. There’s not much saving going on when there’s a bullethole in one’s head.

The other pertinent fact regarding gun-related homicides is that more than 60% of murders involve people who know each other — usually it’s a domestic situation between spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends or family members.

An argument breaks out and somebody “loses it” and goes and grabs the gun. If guns in these heated situations had not been so easily accessible, many deaths would have been avoided.

We will probably never be able to rid ourselves of the more than quarter-billion guns that are in our homes. But any effort to reduce this number would reduce the level of killing.

Unfortunately, even if we had stronger gun laws, we would still have a few thousand gun deaths in this country. That’s because we have a problem no law can solve. Canada has strict gun laws, but they also have an estimated five million hunting rifles and shotguns in their homes — and they don’t go and shoot each other on a daily basis like we do.

In 2013, they had a total of 131 gun murders in a nation of 35 million people. We have nine times their population, but fifty-fives times their gun killings. How can this be?

Which brings us to Hollywood. I don’t think I’m making any big revelation here when I point out that the Canadian kids (and adults) are watching the same exact violent movies, playing the same exact violent video games and watching the same exact violent TV shows as their neighbors, the Americans.

So why don’t their students — other than on the rare, rare occasion — continually walk into their high schools and colleges and start firing away? It’s not that the Canadians don’t get angry — have you even been to a hockey game?

You cannot say that violent Hollywood movies somehow magically affect only American youth, but no one else. The Japanese cannot get enough of blood and gore in movies, ours and their own. Total number of gun murders in Japan in 2012: three.

So what is it about us? It’s clear that the NRA is actually half-right in their slogan, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” We just need to modify that to: “Guns don’t kill people — Americans kill people.”

It’s not the movies or the video games or the gruesome crime scene photos on CSI that drive us Americans to kill each other. It’s fear. Why would one want to own a gun in the first place? Well, fear of being robbed or assaulted or killed. Wanting to protect yourself or your family. You know, “just in case.”

But in case of what? Remember, the statistics show that the most dangerous threat to you is sitting over there on the couch right now. We have nearly 123 million homes in the US. There are only about 600 home invasions here each year that result in a gun-related death. And in nearly half of those incidents, the deceased was killed by the gun that was in the house to protect . . . the deceased!

It’s the fear of getting killed that is getting a lot of us killed. But it’s also other fears that are winding us up and making a few of us go crazy enough to take off on a shooting rampage.

Unlike in other civilized countries where people take care of each other — with free health care, generous compensation for the unemployed, free or nearly-free college education, strict laws on credit card debt and junk mortgages, serious help and treatment for the mentally ill, aid for aging and infirm people and the list goes on and on.

From Ireland to Italy to Norway, from New Zealand to South Korea to Morocco, governments all over the world have discovered that the real way to reduce violence is to simply take care of each other.

What separates us from everyone else is the way we force the members of our society to live in a constant state of fear: fear of going broke, fear of losing your job, fear of getting sick, fear of getting old and being without. We know that there’s no safety net for us here in the USA. We are the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” nation, the “you take care of yours and I’ll take care of mine” and the “your problems are not my problems” society.

Most of us find a way to cope with all of this. We suck it up and take the ulcer for the team. But then there are the few that can’t. And with easy access to any kind of gun — and as much ammo as they want — they find a way to act out their frustration and aggression. Not because they saw Kill Bill. But because they live in the home of the brave. That is something we can change.

But first, it will require some of that “bravery.”

Michael Moore is an Oscar-winning filmmaker whose latest documentary, Where to Invade Next, is on the Academy’s shortlist and opens Dec. 23.
A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 25 issue of
The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Michael Moore Nails Every Racist, War-Mongering, Pseudo-Christian, RW Gun Extremist — In One Tweet
Leslie Salzillo / Daily Kos

(June 21, 2015) — Filmmaker, director, writer, and Liberal activist, Michael Moore took to his Twitter page last week to give his thoughts on the Charleston shooting. The acclaimed filmmaker of many award-winning documentaries, including the anti-gun violence, Bowling For Columbine. tweeted a sentence that put the full scope of Right Wing extremism into its proper place of chronic, historical hypocrisy.

He’s one of the most outspoken activists in America. Most people either love Michael Moore, or they hate him. Death threats and assaults have followed him with every ‘Don’t Go There’ issue he tackles — especially over Bush and the Iraq war. He’s brave, compassionate, intelligent, brash, poignant, and sometimes very amusing. It’s easy to see why many Republicans despise him.

Moore is also a Daily Kos contributor and has been posting on the site since 2004. His profile and articles can be found: HERE. My respect and admiration for Michael Moore was solidified the night he walked onto the 75th Academy Award ceremony stage to pick up an Oscar for, ‘Bowling For Columbine,’ and then told America what time it was.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

A Holiday Message from Chelsea Manning

December 26th, 2015 - by admin

helsea E. Manning / The Guardian & Ed Pilkington / The Guardian – 2015-12-26 20:07:28


In Prison, the Holiday Season Is Grim — But I Won’t Lose Hope
Chelsea E. Manning / The Guardian

(December 24, 2015) — Having a birthday around the holidays was never easy and, with every successive year, it felt more and more as if celebrating my birthday got thrown into the December holiday mix as an afterthought.

But now, Decembers are becoming the hardest month of the year to endure.

The most obvious reasons are physical: the temperature drops; here in Kansas, it rains and snows a lot more; the colors outside my window turn from the greens, yellows and blues of summer to the browns, grays and tans of winter, with the occasional white on the rare days that it snows. I spend more time indoors, trying to stay warm and dry. The hills and trees I can see seem still, silent and lifeless.

I feel myself becoming more distant and disconnected as the color leaches from the world outside these walls. The chasm between me and the outside world feels like it’s getting wider and wider, and all I can do is let it happen.

I realize that my friends and family are moving on with their lives even as I’m in an artificially imposed stasis. I don’t go to my friends’ graduation ceremonies, to their engagement parties, to their weddings, to their baby showers or their children’s birthday parties. I miss everything — and what I’m missing gets more routine and middle-aged with each passing year.

The changes that occur as I sit here can raise doubts about my very existence. I have no recent snapshots of myself and no current selfies, just old Facebook photos, grainy trial photos and mugshots to show for the last six years of my life. When everyone is obsessed with Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat and WhatsApp, it begins to feel like I don’t exist in some very real, important way. Living in a society that says “Pics or it didn’t happen”, I wonder if I happened.

I sometimes feel less than empty; I feel non-existent.

Still, I endure. I refuse to give up. I open the mail I receive — which spikes in December, as people send me birthday and then Christmas cards, but I get letters and well-wishing cards all year — and am happily reminded that I am real and that I do exist for people outside this prison.

And I celebrate, too, this time of year, in my own little way: I make phone calls to family, I write letters, I treat myself with the processed foods and desserts I all but gave up during my gender transition.

This holiday season is the first since I won the right to begin hormone therapy for that gender transition, which I began in February. The anti-androgen and estrogen I take is reflected in my external appearance, finally: I have softer skin, less angular facial features and a fuller figure.

Even though I’m still not allowed to grow my hair to the female standard in prison — a battle I’ll continue to fight with the ACLU in 2016 — I know that my struggles pale in comparison to those faced by many vulnerable queer and transgender people. Despite more mainstream visibility, identification and even celebration of queer and trans people, the reality for many is that they face at least as many, if not more, obstacles as I do in transitioning and living their lives with dignity.

And, however improbably, I have hope this holiday season. With my appeals attorneys, Nancy Hollander and Vince Ward, I expect to submit my first brief to the US army court of criminal appeals next year, in support of my appeal to the 2013 court-martial convictions and sentence.

Whatever happens, it will certainly be a long path. There may well be other Decembers like this one, where I feel at times so far away from everyone and everything. But when faced with bleakness, I won’t give up. And I’ll try to remember all the people who haven’t given up on me.

Chelsea Manning Spends Sixth Christmas in Prison with No End in Sight
Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »


The US Uses More Electricity on Christmas Lights Than Many Countries Use in an Entire Year

December 25th, 2015 - by admin

Elliot Hannon / Slate & Todd Moss and Priscilla Agyapong / Center for Global Development – 2015-12-25 19:36:59


The US Uses More Electricity on Christmas
Lights Than These Entire Countries Do All Year

Elliot Hannon / Slate

(Hello there, average American Christmas reveler. Things are looking good for the homestretch: You’ve got your tree all set, perhaps a few lights strung up around the yard to show the neighbors that life’s good, and you’re dealing with mild, but totally manageable anxiety about whether Amazon’s going to pull through for you today or not.

You’ve got a lot of good things on your plate. With all this #gratitude, it seems like an appropriate time for a quick reminder that beneath the veneer of holiday goodness, we’re all still horrible, gluttonous people.

Exhibit A: Your Christmas Lights. (via the Center for Global Development) [See below — EAW]

A 2008 study from the US Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that decorative seasonal lights accounted for 6.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity consumption every year in the United States. That’s just 0.2% of the country’s total electricity usage ; ; ; It’s also more than the national electricity consumption [FOR THE YEAR] of many developing countries, such as El Salvador, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nepal, or Cambodia.

For the year! Maybe you didn’t need that last $4 strand of flashing Santa-shaped lights, no?

If you’re feeling comforted by the fact that you are, like, way greener than you were in 2008 when the EIA data was collected — which is so long ago it was a pre-Instagram world — Todd Moss of the Center for Global Development tells NPR you’re probably sucking down as much now as you always have from the power grid.

Merry Christmas! Don’t ever change, America.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in New York City. Follow him on Twitter.

US Holiday Lights Use More Electricity than El Salvador Does In a Year
Todd Moss and Priscilla Agyapong / Center for Global Development

(December 18, 2015) — At this time of the year, sparkling trees and decorated lawns have taken over. A 2008 study from the US Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that decorative seasonal lights accounted for 6.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity consumption every year in the United States.

That’s just 0.2% of the country’s total electricity usage, but it could run 14 million refrigerators. It’s also more than the national electricity consumption of many developing countries, such as El Salvador, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nepal, or Cambodia.

Lights at home are probably the most visible use of electricity. For American households, lighting alone accounts for 14% of total residential electricity consumption. Yet electricity powers so much more than lights and the majority of electricity is used, often invisibly, outside of the home. But how much more?

Using data from the EIA and the UN, we calculated the aggregate electricity consumed by households as a ratio of total national electricity in all countries with available household census data for 2010-11.

The range is from Korea (where just 14% of electricity is consumed by households) to Ghana (57%). For most countries, the rate is 25-35% and the (unweighted) global average is about 30%.

Put another way, 70% of electricity is used outside homes in the industrial and commercial sectors. That may partly explain why governments aim beyond residential systems when they commit to develop their energy sectors.

Political leaders want to build modern energy systems to power a competitive economy, create jobs, and generate wealth. That’s also why solar lamps and off-grid residential systems are useful for some purposes, but will only be one component of any national energy strategy.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Bethlehem Erects ‘Resistance Tree’ Outside Nativity Church

December 24th, 2015 - by admin

Sheren Khalel and Abed Al Qaisi / Mondoweiss – 2015-12-24 18:37:31


Days before Christmas, Bethlehem Erects
‘Resistance Tree’ Outside Nativity Church

Sheren Khalel and Abed Al Qaisi / Mondoweiss

(December 22, 2015) — Tourists, political leaders, activists and residents of Bethlehem gathered right in front of the Nativity Church Thursday night with an unusual message. While December is usually a time for cheerful Christmas celebrations at the Nativity, this year the people of Bethlehem have been unable to put aside the political turmoil for the sake of the holiday.

With Christmas just days away, the city of Bethlehem erected what they call a “Resistance Tree.” The tree, an olive tree that was recently uprooted by Israeli forces from a nearby neighborhood, was placed in the center of the main square, overlooking the towering Christmas tree and historical Nativity church.

Instead of baubles and tinsel, the Resistance Tree was decorated with tear gas canisters clinking together like bells, photos of Palestinians recently killed or detained, Palestinian national scarves and sling shots.

At the “lighting ceremony,” the Mayor of Bethlehem, Vera Baboun spoke to the crowd, “This tree is our message,” Baboun said. “We plant our roots and we are rooted to this land. Olive trees are the trees of life. We see our people’s eyes and the hopes of our women and the dreams of our men reflected off this tree.”

Around the tree, activists laid tear gas canisters in the shape of a star, lighting candles from the metal cylinders which were collected after protests in the city with Israeli forces.

“Even with the Israelis speaking a language of death, we speak a language of life,” the mayor proclaimed.

Sheren Khalel is a freelance multimedia journalist who works out of Israel, Palestine and Jordan. She focuses on human rights, women’s issues and the Palestine/Israel conflict. Khalel formerly worked for Ma’an News Agency in Bethlehem, and is currently based in Ramallah and Jerusalem. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sherenk.

Abed Al Qaisi is a freelance multimedia journalist covering conflict in the Middle East and Europe. Abed has done work for Al Jazeera English, USA Today, Vice News and more

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Kenyan Muslims ‘Shielded Christians from Shabaab’

December 24th, 2015 - by admin

Lucas Barasa, Manase Otsialo and David Muchui / Nation & CNN – 2015-12-24 18:23:20


Muslims ‘Shielded Christians from Shabaab’
Lucas Barasa, Manase Otsialo and David Muchui / Nation

KENYA (December 21, 2015) — Two people were killed and three others injured when suspected Al-Shabaab militants attacked a bus and a lorry in Mandera on Monday.

Governor Ali Roba said locals protected non-Muslim passengers thereby preventing a massacre similar to last year’s when Al-Shabaab members hijacked and killed 28 people, mainly teachers, in a Nairobi-bound bus.

“They refused to separate from non Muslims and told the attackers to kill all passengers or leave. That is why some locals were injured trying to protect non Muslim passengers,” Mr. Roba told the Nation on phone from abroad.

One of the survivors, Mr. Abdirashid Adan who is admitted to Mandera County Referral Hospital said the attackers scattered when they heard the sound of an oncoming lorry.

“We were forced to stop after they shot at our bus. One of the bullets injured me in the buttocks. We alighted but one person attempted to run away and was shot dead,” Mr. Adan said.

He went on: “As the attackers started separating passengers according to their religions, we heard the sound of an oncoming lorry. They all ran back into the bush thinking it was police. After realizing it was not police, they stopped the lorry as we dashed back into the bus and sped off.”

“I am told the Al-Shabaab killed another person said to be a traffic police officer based in Elwak.” A chief who spoke to the Nation on condition of anonymity claimed many members of the terror group arrived in Mandera South on December 15. “We have reported this to the government but no action has been taken even as the militants continue to terrorise locals,” said the chief.

Last week, elders from Wargadud in Somalia were sent to Kenya to ask the militia to leave Mandera within 36 hours but the terrorists are said to have ignored the ultimatum. The chief warned that locals may be forced to arm themselves to fight the militants.

Mr. Roba said Muslims who were part of the 62 passengers shouted at the militants saying non-locals should be left alone, forcing the militants to panic and flee. “The militants left in a hurry fearing retaliation by residents from nearby villages,” he added.

The 7am attack happened between Dabacity Town and Borehole II, according to Deputy County Commissioner Julius Otieno.

“Initial reports indicate two people have died and three injured. Those injured are the driver of the bus and two passengers. The militants fled after the attack. Our team is tracking the attackers,” Mr. Otieno said.

The militants also seized a lorry that was behind the Makkah bus and the conductor killed after he failed to recite Islamic shahada, Mr. Roba said.

Mr. Otieno said the killers forced the passengers to alight from the bus and attempted to separate Muslims and non-Muslims.

“They were trying to identify who were Christians and who were not. They told the non-Christians to return to vehicle,” Mr. Otieno said.

Muslims Shield Christians When
Al-Shabaab Attacks Bus in Kenya

AnnieRose Ramos / CNN

(December 22, 2015) — A group of Muslims are being hailed for a heroic act in Kenya. After Al-Shabaab militants ambushed their bus, they shielded the Christian passengers and kept them from being singled out. CNN’s David McKenzie reports.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Silent Night Bethlehem /7 O’clock News

December 23rd, 2015 - by admin

David Morrison / Sadaka, The Ireland Palestine Alliance & Philip Weiss / Mondoweiss.net – 2015-12-23 21:11:00

Special to Environmentalists Against War

Silent Night Bethlehem /7 O’clock News
David Morrison / Sadaka, The Ireland Palestine Alliance

IRELAND (December 15, 2015) — Sadaka has produced a video, Christmas in Bethlehem 2015, in which a rendering of Silent Night is overdubbed with a newscast of recent events in Bethlehem.

It was inspired by the 1966 Simon & Garfunkel track 7 O’Clock News/Silent Night, which has a newscast of the actual events of 3 August 1966, when the Vietnam war raging [See video below].

Silent Night 2015: Christmas in Bethlehem

Sadaka, PO Box 110, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal

Former Israeli Soldier Ido Gal Razon on PTSD and Murdering in Gaza
‘I killed for you, with these hands!’ cries Israeli veteran with PTSD

Philip Weiss / Mondoweiss.net

(November 28, 2015) — All there is to say about this video posted by a friend is, Watch it. A former Israeli soldier named Ido Gal Razon who was a hero of an Israeli operation in Gaza eight years ago called “Clear as Wine” testifies before a parliamentary committee about his PTSD.

“I killed for you, with these hands. You say terrorists with blood on their hands? I killed more than 40 people for you . . .

“[At night] he comes to me and says, ‘Why did you kill me?’. . . The data you present is rubbish.”

At 3:33, a voice says, “Ido, let me speak” and his mother rises from the gallery to describe how her son’s mental injuries have torn the family apart.

This is sort of the Israeli version of American Sniper, a lot shorter. And yes, it’s about occupation. It’s about resistance. It’s about the price few are paying for war crimes.

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net

ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress: Resume Reporting on Weapons Sales

December 23rd, 2015 - by admin

World Beyond War & Roots Action & Congressional Research Service – 2015-12-23 21:07:47


ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress: Resume Reporting on Weapons Sales
World Beyond War & Roots Action

(December 16, 2015) — To: Congress
Instruct the Congressional Research Service
to resume its reporting on the arms trade.

Why Is this Important?
Since 2011, the United States has sold a great deal of weapons. But the US government has stopped reporting on its own and other nations’ arms sales. CRS has its own internal government sources of information. The report it used to produce is not duplicated by any other publication.

The United States is no longer documenting one of its biggest and most deadly businesses. In 2012, Richard Grimmett retired from the Congressional Research Service. He had been the chief author of its reports on international weapons sales and transfers.

It is thanks to those reports that we know, with some reliability, that as of 2011 the United States accounted for 79% of the value of transfer agreements to ship weapons to governments in the Middle East, 79% also to poor nations around the world, and 77% of the value of total agreements to ship weapons to other countries.

We can compare these numbers with earlier years, but not with later ones.

Even if Congress doesn’t want to know, it should not get away with denying us that right.

How it will be delivered

To Congress Members in districts and in Washington, D.C.

ACTION: Click here to sign.


CRS Report for Congress, Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress, Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2004-2011
Richard F. Grimmett (Specialist in International Security) and Paul K. Kerr (Analyst in Nonproliferation) / Congressional Research Service


(August 24, 2012) — This report is prepared annually to provide Congress with official, unclassified, quantitative data on conventional arms transfers to developing nations by the United States and foreign countries for the preceding eight calendar years for use in its policy oversight functions.

All agreement and delivery data in this report for the United States are government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) transactions. Similar data are provided on worldwide conventional arms transfers by all suppliers, but the principal focus is the level of arms transfers by major weapons suppliers to nations in the developing world.

Developing nations continue to be the primary focus of foreign arms sales activity by weapons suppliers. During the years 2004-2011, the value of arms transfer agreements with developing nations comprised 68.6% of all such agreements worldwide.

More recently, arms transfer agreements with developing nations constituted 79.2% of all such agreements globally from 2008-2011, and 83.9% of these agreements in 2011.

The value of all arms transfer agreements with developing nations in 2011 was over $71.5 billion.

This was a substantial increase from $32.7 billion in 2010. In 2011, the value of all arms Deliveries to developing nations was $28 billion, the highest total in these deliveries values since 2004.

Recently, from 2008 to 2011, the United States and Russia have dominated the arms market in the developing world, with both nations either ranking first or second for each of these four years in the value of arms transfer agreements. From 2008 to 2011, the United States made nearly $113 billion in such agreements, 54.5% of all these agreements (expressed in current dollars).

Russia made $31.1 billion, 15% of these agreements. During this same period, collectively, the United States and Russia made 69.5% of all arms transfer agreements with developing nations, ($207.3 billion in current dollars) during this four-year period.

In 2011, the United States ranked first in arms transfer agreements with developing nations with over $56.3 billion or 78.7% of these agreements, an extraordinary increase in market share from 2010, when the United States held a 43.6% market share. In second place was Russia with $4.1 billion or 5.7% of such agreements.

In 2011, the United States ranked first in the value of arms deliveries to developing nations at $10.5 billion, or 37.6% of all such deliveries. Russia ranked second in these deliveries at $7.5 billion or 26.8%.

In worldwide arms transfer agreements in 2011 — to both developed and developing nations — the United States dominated, ranking first with $66.3 billion in such agreements or 77.7% of all such agreements. This is the highest single year agreements total in the history of the US arms export program.

Russia ranked second in worldwide arms transfer agreements in 2011with $4.8 billion in such global agreements or 5.6%. The value of all arms transfer agreements worldwide in 2011 was $85.3 billion, a substantial increase over the 2010 total of $44.5 billion, and the highest worldwide arms agreements total since 2004.

In 2011, Saudi Arabia ranked first in the value of arms transfer Agreements among all developing nations weapons purchasers, concluding $33.7 billion in such agreements. The Saudis concluded $33.4 billion of these agreements with the United States (99%). India ranked second with $6.9 billion in such agreements. The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) ranked third with $4.5 billion.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Silent Night: The Christmas Truce of WWI

December 23rd, 2015 - by admin

Gar Smith / Environmentalist Against War & John McCutcheon & Ron Paul / The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity – 2015-12-23 20:35:32

Environmentalists Against War

Christmas in the Trenches — written and performed by John McCutcheon

Silent Night: The Christmas Truce of WWI
Gar Smith / Environmentalist Against War

My name is Francis Tolliver, I come from Liverpool.
Two years ago, the war was waiting for me after school.
To Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany to here,
I fought for King and country I love dear.

(December 31, 2013) — Last December, songwriter John McCutcheon (the man the Oakland Tribune calls “the Bruce Springsteen of folk music”) approached a microphone at Berkeley’s Freight and Salvage and announced a special song. Those who knew the song grew silent. Those who were hearing it for the first time were soon nodding their heads in quiet affirmation. Some were openly sobbing.

McCuthcheon’s soul-wrenching ballad, “Christmas in the Trenches,” retells a nearly forgotten incident from WW I that people in Europe still remember as the “Christmas Miracle.”

‘Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung,
The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas song was sung.

It was Christmas Eve, 1914. After only four months of fighting, more than a million men had perished in bloody conflict. The bodies of dead soldiers were scattered between the trenches of Europe, frozen in the snow. The battlefield had collapsed into a mud-mired frontline with Belgian, German, French, British and Canadian troops dug-in so close that they could easily exchange shouts.

Michael Jargs’ book, Der Kleine Frieden im Grossen Krieg (The Small Peace in the Big War), based on rediscovered battlefield diaries, recounts how Lt. Kurt Zehmisch, a schoolteacher from Leipzig, was one of the German soldiers who blew a two-fingered whistle toward the British trenches on Christmas Eve.

To the delight of Zehmisch’s Saxon regiment, the Brits whistled back. Some of the Germans who had worked in England before the war shouted greetings across the battlefield in English.

On the Allied side, the British troops watched in amazement as candle-lit Christmas trees began to appear atop German trenches. The glowing trees soon appeared along the length of the German front.

Henry Williamson, a young soldier with the London Regiment wrote in his diary: “From the German parapet, a rich baritone voice had begun to sing a song I remembered my German nurse singing to me . . . . The grave and tender voice rose out of the frozen mist. It was all so strange . . . like being in another world — to which one had come through a nightmare.”

The cannon rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more, as Christmas brought us respite from the war . . .
The next they sang was Stille Nacht, “‘Tis Silent Night!” says I.
And in two tongues one song filled up that sky.

“They finished their carol and we thought that we ought to retaliate in some way,” another British soldier wrote, “So we sang The First Noel and when we finished they all began clapping. And they struck up ‘O Tannebaum’ and on it went . . . until we started up ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ [and] the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words ‘Adeste Fideles’. And I thought, well, this was really a most extraordinary thing — two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”

“There’s someone coming towards us!” the front-line sentry cried.
All sights were fixed on one lone figure trudging from their side.
His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on that plain so bright
As he, bravely, strode unarmed into the night.

Soldiers rose from their mud-drenched trenches. They greeted each other in No Man’s Land, wished each other a merry Christmas and agreed not to fire their rifles the next day.

“Afterwards,” Zehmisch wrote, “we placed even more candles than before on our kilometer-long trench, as well as Christmas trees. It was the purest illumination — the British expressed their joy through whistles and clapping… It was a wonderful, if somewhat cold, night.”

The spontaneous cease-fire eventually embraced the entire 500-mile stretch of the Western Front, from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border. On Christmas day, more than a million soldiers put down their guns, left their trenches and celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace among the bodies of their dead.

Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man’s Land.
With neither gun nor bayonet, we met there hand to hand.
We shared some secret brandy and wished each other well.

The soldiers exchanged handshakes, salutes and gifts of food. Some cut badges and buttons from their uniforms to exchange. Others passed around prized photos of their wives and children. Many exchanged addresses and promised to write after the war ended.

On that Christmas day, no bullets flew. Rifles lay at rest as soldiers from both sides swapped cigarettes and stories. German troops rolled out barrels of dark beer and the men from Liverpool and London reciprocated with offerings of British plum pudding.

Some soldiers produced soccer balls, while others improvised with balls fashioned from lumps of bundled straw or simply booted empty jam boxes. Belgians, French, Brits and Germans kicked their way across the icy fields for hours as fellow soldiers shouted encouragement.

Officers on both sides, aghast at the spectacle of peace breaking out between the lower ranks, responded with shouts of “treason” and threats of courts martial. But their threats were ignored. (One British officer, Ian Calhoun, a Scot, was subsequently court-martialed for “consorting with the enemy.” Only the intervention of King George V saved him from the gallows.)

Along some stretches of the Western Front, the truce lasted for several weeks. But, slowly, under threats from their officers, the troops returned to the trenches and rifles once more began to bark. (But many soldiers took care that their bullets flew well above the heads of the “enemy.”)

Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more.
With sad farewells, we each prepared to settle back to war.
But the question haunted every heart that lived that wondrous night:
“Whose family have I fixed within my sight?”

WW I lasted another two years. In that time, another 4.4 million men would die — an average of 6,000 each day.

My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell.
Each Christmas come since World War I, I’ve learned its lesson well:
That the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame,
And on each end of the rifle, we’re the same.

Christmas in the Trenches

A tribute to our troops at Christmas and a memorial of the Christmas Truce of 1914. A project for Mr. Cutler’s grade 6 class.
John McCutcheon has recorded 24 albums and has received five Grammy nominations. “Christmas in the Trenches” appears on his 1984 album, “Winter Solstice.” McCutheon’s website is www.folkmusic.com.
Lyrics (c) John McCutcheon/Applesong Music. Reprinted by permission.

The Real Meaning of the 1914 Christmas Truce
Ron Paul / The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity & AntiWar.com

(December 28, 2014) — One hundred years ago last week, on Christmas Eve, 1914, German and British soldiers emerged from the horrors of World War One trench warfare to greet each other, exchange food and gifts, and to wish each other a Merry Christmas. What we remember now as the “Christmas Truce” began with soldiers singing Christmas carols together from in the trenches.

Eventually the two sides climbed out of the trenches and met in person. In the course of this two day truce, which lasted until December 26, 1914, the two sides also exchanged prisoners, buried their dead, and even played soccer with each other.

How amazing to think that the celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace could bring a brief pause in one of the most destructive wars in history. How sad that it was not to last.
The Christmas Truce showed that given the choice, people do not want to be out fighting and killing each other.

It is incredibly damaging to most participants in war to face the task of killing their fellow man. That is one reason we see today an epidemic of PTSD and suicides among US soldiers sent overseas on multiple deployments.

The Christmas Truce in 1914 was joyous for the soldiers, but it was dangerous for the political leadership on both sides. Such fraternization with the “enemy” could not be tolerated by the war-makers.

Never again was the Christmas Truce repeated on such a scale, as the governments of both sides explicitly prohibited any repeat of such a meeting. Those who had been greeting each other had to go back to killing each other on orders from those well out of harm’s way.

As much as governments would like to stamp out such humanization of the “enemy,” it is still the case today that soldiers on the ground will meet and share thoughts with those they are meant to be killing.

Earlier this month, soldiers from opposing sides of the Ukraine civil war met in eastern Ukraine to facilitate the transfer of supplies and the rotation of troops. They shook hands and wished that the war would be over.

One army battalion commander was quoted as saying at the meeting, “I think it’s a war between brothers that nobody wants. The top brass should sort things out. And us? We are soldiers, we do what we’re told.”

I am sure these same sentiments exist in many of the ongoing conflicts that are pushed by the governments involved — and in many cases by third party governments seeking to benefit from the conflict.

The encouraging message we should take from the Christmas Truce of 100 years ago is that given the opportunity, most humans do not wish to kill each other. As Nazi leader Hermann Goring said during the Nuremberg war crimes trials, “naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany.”

But, as he added, “the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

UN Condemns US-backed Saudi Bombings in Yemen

December 23rd, 2015 - by admin

Sputnik News & Abby Martin / teleSUR – 2015-12-23 20:26:01


Saudi Coalition Responsible for ‘Disproportionate’ Attacks in Yemen — UN
Sputnik News

(December 22, 2015) – The Saudi Arabian-led military campaign in Yemen has received more international condemnation after UN officials told the Security Council that the coalition was responsible for a “disproportionate amount” of attacks on civilian areas.

Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, the UN’s Commissioner for Human Rights, told the UN Security Council that he had “observed with extreme concern” incidents of heavy shelling in areas with high concentrations of civilians.

Al Hussein said that he had witnessed both air and ground attacks that had led to the destruction of a wide range of non-military buildings such as schools and hospitals.

While saying all parties were responsible for civilian suffering, he added that “a disproportionate amount appeared to be the result of air strikes carried out by coalition forces.”

The comments are the latest in the international condemnation of the Saudi-led campaign, which has the backing of nine Middle Eastern and African states, along with political support from Britain and the US, with Washington offering logistical assistance to Riyadh.

It is estimated that more than 2,600 civilians have been killed since fighting broke out in March, with a UN report in September concluding that two-thirds of civilian deaths “had allegedly been caused by coalition airstrikes, which were also responsible for almost two-thirds of damaged or destroyed civilian public buildings.”

On top of civilian deaths, the coalition has also been accused of committing war crimes in Yemen through the bombing of residential areas, while western allies such as Britain and the US have been accused of complicity and joint responsibility in the alleged crimes and civilian deaths.

NGO Human Rights Watch (HWR) accused the US of being complicit in 300 illegal civilian deaths in Yemen through its logistical support for operations, while there are calls for the UK and France to halt the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia.

Despite the pressure from the UN and non-government organizations, Saudi Arabia’s western allies have so far refused to reign in their relationship with Riyadh, arguing that the operation in Yemen is key to defeating the Houthi rebel group and returning the internationally recognized government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to power.

Saudi-Led Coalition Killed 60 Civilians
While Bombing Yemen in Fall


(December 21, 2015) — According to the Human Rights Watch, the coalition led by Saudi Arabia killed 60 civilians during at least six “unlawful” airstrikes in residential areas of Yemen’s capital.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The Saudi-led coalition killed 60 civilians in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa during the airstrikes in September and October, an international rights group said in a report published Monday.

“The Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting in Yemen carried out at least six apparently unlawful airstrikes in residential areas of the capital, Sanaa, in September and October 2015, killing 60 civilians,” Human Rights Watch’s report said.

The report added that the coalition had repeatedly used bombs in areas inhabited by non-combatants, which increased the likelihood of casualties among civilian population.

Yemen has been engulfed in a military conflict between the government headed by Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and Shiite Houthi rebels, who have been supported by army units loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Since late March, the Saudi-led coalition, comprising Arab countries, has been carrying out airstrikes against Houthi positions at Hadi’s request.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

War Is Realizing the Israelizing of the World

December 22nd, 2015 - by admin

Dan Sanchez / AntiWar.com & Medium.com – 2015-12-22 20:45:18

War Is Realizing the Israelizing of the World

Divide, Conquer, Colonize
War Is Realizing the Israelizing of the World

Dan Sanchez / AntiWar.com

(December 22, 2015) — As US-driven wars plummet the Muslim world ever deeper into jihadi-ridden failed state chaos, events seem to be careening toward a tipping point. Eventually, the region will become so profuse a font of terrorists and refugees, that Western popular resistance to “boots on the ground” will be overwhelmed by terror and rage. Then, the US-led empire will finally have the public mandate it needs to thoroughly and permanently colonize the Greater Middle East.

It is easy to see how the Military Industrial Complex and crony energy industry would profit from such an outcome. But what about America’s “best friend” in the region? How does Israel stand to benefit from being surrounded by such chaos?

Tel Aviv has long pursued a strategy of “divide and conquer”: both directly, and indirectly through the tremendous influence of the Israel lobby and neocons over US foreign policy.

A famous article from the early 1980s by Israeli diplomat and journalist Oded Yinon is most explicit in this regard. The “Yinon Plan” calls for the “dissolution” of “the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian peninsula.”

Each country was to be made to “fall apart along sectarian and ethnic lines,” after which each resulting fragment would be “hostile” to its neighbors.” Yinon incredibly claimed that:
“This state of affairs will be the guarantee for peace and security in the area in the long run.”

According to Yinon, this Balkanization should be realized by fomenting discord and war among the Arabs:
“Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon.”

Sowing discord among Arabs had already been part of Israeli policy years before Yinon’s paper.

To counter the secular-Arab nationalist Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Israel supported an Islamist movement in the Occupied Territories, beginning in the late 70s (around the same time that the US began directly supporting the Islamic fundamentalist Mujahideen in Afghanistan). The Israel-sponsored Palestinian Islamist movement eventually resulted in the creation of Hamas, which Israel also supported and helped to rise.

Also in the late 70s, Israel began fomenting inter-Arab strife in Lebanon. Beginning in 1976, Israel militarily supported Maronite Christian Arabs, aggravating the Lebanese Civil War that had recently begun. In 1978, Israel invaded Lebanon, and recruited locals to create a proxy force called the “South Lebanon Army.”

Israel invaded Lebanon again in 1982, and tried to install a Christian Fascist organization called the Phalange in power. This was foiled when the new Phalangist ruler was assassinated. In reprisal, the Phalange perpetrated, with Israeli connivance, the massacre of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of Palestinian refugees and Lebanese Shiites. (See Murray Rothbard’s moving contemporary coverage of the atrocity.)

The civil war that Israel helped foster fractured Lebanon for a decade and a half. It was Lebanon’s chaotic fragmentation that Yinon cited as the model for the rest of the Arab world.

The US has also long pit Muslim nations, sects, and ethnic groups against each other. Throughout the 80s, in addition to sponsoring the Afghan jihad and civil war, the US armed Iraq (including with chemical weapons) in its invasion of and war against Iran.

At the very same time, the US was also secretly selling arms to the Iranian side of that same conflict. It is worth noting that two officials involved in the Iran-Contra Affair were Israel-first neocons Elliot Abrams and Michael Ledeen. Abrams was convicted (though later pardoned) on criminal charges.

This theme can also be seen in “A Clean Break“: a strategy document written in 1996 for the Israeli government by a neocon “study group” led by future Bush administration officials and Iraq War architects. In that document, “divide and conquer” went under the euphemism of “a strategy based on balance of power.”

This strategy involved allying with some Muslim powers (Turkey and Jordan) to roll back and eventually overthrow others. Particularly it called for regime change in Iraq in order to destabilize Syria. And destabilizing both Syria and Iran was chiefly for the sake of countering the “challenges” those countries posed to Israel’s interests in Lebanon.

The primary author of “A Clean Break,” David Wurmser, also wrote another strategy document in 1996, this one for American audiences, called “Coping with Crumbling States.” Wurmser argued that “tribalism, sectarianism, and gang/clan-like competition” were what truly defined Arab politics.

He claimed that secular-Arab nationalist regimes like Iraq’s and Syria’s tried to defy that reality, but would ultimately fail and be torn apart by it. Wurmser therefore called for “expediting” and controlling that inevitable “chaotic collapse” through regime change in Iraq.

Especially thanks to the incredibly effective efforts of the neocon Project for a New American Century (PNAC), regime change in Iraq became official US policy in 1998. Iraq’s fate was sealed when 9/11 struck while the US Presidency was dominated by neocons (including many Clean Break signatories and PNAC members) and their close allies.

Beginning with the ensuing Iraq War, the Yinon/Wurmser “divide and conquer” strategy went into permanent overdrive.

Following the overthrow of secular-Arab nationalist ruler Saddam Hussein, the policies of the American invaders could hardly have been better designed to instigate a civil war between Iraqi Sunnis and Shias.

The “de-Baathification” of the Iraqi government sent countless secular Sunnis into unemployed desperation. This was compounded with total disenfranchisement when the US-orchestrated first election handed total power over to the Shias. And it was further compounded with persecution when the US-armed (and Iran-backed) Shiite militias began ethnically cleansing Baghdad and other cities of Sunnis.

The invasion also unleashed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a terrorist who had previously been holed up hiding from Saddam’s security forces. The Sunni extremist’s shootings and suicide bombings of Shia and Shiite shrines, and the anti-Sunni reprisals they engendered, further divided Iraq along sectarian lines. Zarqawi’s gang became Al Qaeda in Iraq.

After many of his extremist followers were thrust by the Americans into close prison quarters with ex-Baathists, many of the latter were recruited. The military expertise thus acquired was crucial for the group’s later rise to conquest as ISIS.

All this was the perfect recipe for civil war. And when that civil war did break out, the US armed forces made reconciliation impossible by completely taking the Shiite side.

Now in neighboring Syria, the US has been fueling a civil war for the past four years by sponsoring international Sunni jihadis fighting alongside ISIS and Syrian Al Qaeda in their war to overthrow the secular-Arab nationalist ruler Bashar al-Assad, and to “purify” the land of Shias, Druze, Christians, and other non-Salafist “apostates.”

Key co-sponsors of this jihad include the Muslim regimes of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. And key allies and defenders of Assad include such Muslim forces as Hezbollah, Iranian troops, and Iraqi militias. In some battles in Syria, Iraqi soldiers and Syrian rebels may each be shooting at the other with American weapons.

Many of the weapons and recruits that were poured into Syria by the US and its allies ended up going over to ISIS or Al Qaeda. So strengthened, ISIS then burst into Iraq (where it first emerged during the chaotic US occupation) and drove the Shiite Iraqi military out of the Sunni-populated northwest of the country.

Today’s “divide and conquer” seems to be the 80s “divide and conquer” in reverse. In the 80s, the US armed a Sunni-led Iraqi invasion of Iran. Now, by arming the Iran-led militias that dominate the new Iraqi military, the US has effectively armed a Shia-led Iranian invasion of Iraq.

Moreover, in the 80s, the US covertly armed the Shiite Iranian resistance to the Iraqi invasion. Now the US is covertly arming (through its conduits in the Syrian insurgency) the Sunni Iraqi resistance to the Iranian invasion.

Jihadi-ridden civil wars have also been fomented in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya, the latter following the American overthrow of yet another secular-Arab nationalist ruler.

In these catastrophes we see virtually everything Yinon and Wurmser called for. We see Yinon’s “inter-Arab confrontation,” the “dissolution” of Arab countries which are “fall[ing] apart along ethnic and sectarian lines” into warring fragments. And we see Wurmser’s “chaotic collapse” expedited by the smashing of secular-Arab nationalist regimes. It should also be noted that Wurmser gave short shrift to the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, especially as compared to that of Arab nationalism.

But, aside from Wurmser’s far-fetched fantasies of Israel-beholden Hashemite monarchies emerging from the chaos, how could being surrounded by such a hellscape possibly “secure” Israel? Sheldon Richman incisively posited that:

“Inter-Arab confrontation promoted by the United States and Israel … would suit expansionist Israelis who have no wish to deal justly with the Palestinians and the Occupied Territories. The more dangerous the Middle East appears, the more Israeli leaders can count on the United States not to push for a fair settlement with the Palestinians. The American people, moreover, are likely to be more lenient toward Israel’s brutality if chaos prevails in the neighboring states.”

Another line of strategic thinking was revealed by the New York Times in 2013:
“More quietly, Israelis have increasingly argued that the best outcome for Syria’s two-and-a-half-year-old civil war, at least for the moment, is no outcome.

For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.

‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win  — we’ll settle for a tie,’ said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York.

‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.'”

As menacing as jihadi terrorists are to civilians, and as horrific as civil war is for those directly afflicted, the Israeli regime would rather be surrounded by both than to be neighbored by even a single stable Muslim or Arab state not subject to Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s will.

This is partly due to simple imperialism, made especially aggressive by Israel’s Zionist ideology. Israel wants lebensraum, which includes both additional territory for itself and coerced access to resources and markets in foreign territories in the region.

Non-client Muslim and Arab states are simply standing in the way of that. Every state lusts for lebensraum. What makes Israel’s lust particularly dangerous is its blank-check backing by the American superpower.

But there is also the more particular issue of maintaining a particular bit of already-conquered lebensraum: the Israeli occupation of Palestine. No matter how weak (like Saddam) and meek (like Assad) Arab rulers are on the subject, the very notion of Arab nationalism is a standing threat to the Israelis as permanent occupiers and systematic dispossessors of Arabs.

Israel hates Baathism for the same reason it hated the PLO before the latter was tamed. A nationally-conscious Arab world will never fully accept the Occupation.

Israel is prejudiced against regional stability, because a stable, coherent Arab state is more likely to have both the motivation and the wherewithal to resist Israeli designs on its country, and possibly even to stand up for the Palestinians.

One might wonder how jihadis and civil war are any better in these regards. It’s not like the natural resources under Assad’s barrel bombs or ISIS’s sneakers are any more readily available to Israel. And, setting aside Mossad-related theories about ISIS and Al Qaeda, it’s not like Islamist extremists are necessarily much more forgiving of the Occupation than Arab nationalists.

But the jihadis are preferred by Israel, not as permanent neighbors, but as catalysts for military escalation. By overthrowing moderates to the benefit of extremists, the Israeli-occupied US foreign policy is accelerating further war by polarizing the world.

It is making the Israeli/Arab and Western/Muslim divides more severely black and white by eliminating the “gray zones” of co-existence. This is ISIS’s own strategy as well.

Israeli hawks prefer ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Hamas to Saddam, Assad, and Arafat, because the people of the West are less likely to be willing to co-exist with the former than the latter. Especially as terrorist attacks and refugee crises mount in the West, the rise and reign of the terrorists may finally overcome public opposition to troop commitment, and necessitate the Western invasion and permanent occupation of the Greater Middle East, followed, of course, by its perpetual exploitation by, among other Washington favorites, Israel and Israeli corporations.

The West may become a Global Israel, forever occupying, forever dispossessing, forever bombing, and forever insecure. And the Middle East may become a Global Palestine, forever occupied, forever dispossessed, forever bombed, and forever desperately violent. That is how war is realizing the Israelizing of the world.

Also published at Medium.com.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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