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Killing Two Birds with One Stone: Preventing the Sale of Venezuelan Oil to Cuba

April 19th, 2019 - by Nino Pagliccia / Global Research
Trump threatens second embargo of Cuba.

(April 17, 2019) — Recent US sanctions have been directed at the heart of Venezuela’s economy: the oil industry, an industry that has also been crippled by the continued sabotages on the electric power grid of the country.

But when you think that enough suffering has been imposed on the people of Venezuela with all sorts of warfare actions taken out from the toolbox of a full scale Hybrid War, the US government strikes again with another hit. This time by preventing the sale of Venezuelan oil to Cuba, which amounts to killing the two proverbial birds with one stone.

That is precisely the intention of the latest US sanctions against Venezuela targeting 34 oil tankers dedicated to transporting crude from Venezuela to Cuba. The measures against the Venezuelan cargo vessels owned by state-run oil company PDVSA are doubly illegal since they are also extraterritorial affecting two other firms: the Liberia-based Ballito Shipping Incorporated and the Greece-based ProPer In Management Incorporated.

Venezuela has been the main supplier of crude to the island based on a joint economic agreement that guarantees preferential prices of oil to Cuba in exchange for medical and educational services to Venezuela.

Cuba has been subjected to almost 60 years of relentless cruel economic and financial blockade by the US. At the beginning of this year, not coincidentally, the State Department issued a statement saying it would suspend Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act for 45 days only (starting on February 1) in order to conduct “a careful review”. After a further extension of 30 more days, John Bulton is expected to announce Trump’s full application of Title III with no exceptions, and no more waivers.

So far successive US presidents suspended the lawsuit provisions for up to six months. This has been done since the beginning and Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump himself have signed this provision every six months as allowed by the law.

Title III is the most insidious piece of the Helms-Burton Act, which allows US citizens who had properties nationalized by the revolutionary State of Cuba – including Cuban-Americans who were not US citizens at the time of nationalization – to file a suit in the United States against persons that may be “trafficking” in those properties.

The threat of US lawsuits that have a definite extraterritorial clout is an obvious deterrent for international companies from doing business in Cuba.

The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodriguez, has categorically rejected the US action highlighting the fact that the activation of Title III is a blatant act of extraterritoriality against other countries that may suddenly be sued by US courts.

Cuba’s Granma newspaper wrote, Cubans

would be forced to return, reimburse or pay U.S. claimants for the house in which they live, the area on which their communities are built, the arable land where they cultivate produce, the school where their children are educated, the hospital or polyclinic where they receive medical assistance.

Russia has condemned it for violating international law. All Cuban nationalizations were and are legal under international law.

The US will likely apply Title III selectively trying to hit those governments that are not friendly, and spare Canada and European countries, for instance. Implementation will be centered on antagonist countries like Russia, China, and Venezuela.

Cuba is being targeted for its socialism aside for being a friend of Venezuela. The US timing is interesting because Cuba has just had a referendum where almost 87% of Cuban voters voted “YES” on a new constitution, which represents a very strong majority.

During the popular debates from mid-August to mid-November of 2018, it was the people who decided to be closer to socialism and even to include the ideal of communism in the new constitution, which had been deleted in the draft.

However, we have to understand that this renewed attack on Cuba is really aimed at Venezuela.

The call to apply sanctions on the Venezuelan crude to Cuba came from Juan Guaidó, the unconstitutionally self-appointed president, saying that the revenues from the sale of oil is financing Cuban intelligence operations in Venezuela.

Of course he is only repeating the lines supplied by US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who said that Cuba and Venezuela are running an “oil-for-repression scheme”.

This comes from the same US government that has appointed Elliott Abrams as US special envoy to Venezuela. Abrams was convicted for his involvement in the Iran-Contras scandal in the 1980s during the Reagan administration. The scandal involved the illegal arms sale to Iran to finance the Contras rebel group to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

Elliott Abrams is now in charge of overthrowing the Bolivarian government in Venezuela. He has already made a failed attempt trying to force “humanitarian aid” into Venezuela from Colombia last February. I am sure that as we write he is devising means to introduce arms into Venezuela.

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza stated that Venezuela would continue ensuring that Cuba receives the oil that it needs.

We will always fulfill Venezuelan promises and, of course, the commitments to brothers and sisters like Cuban and Venezuelan people”, he said. He added, “We are experts at guerrilla operations …. Even when the conventional power of capitalism attacks you, you have to know how to respond by unconventional avenues, always respecting international law. We are experts.”

The attacks to force a regime change in Venezuela are numerous and illegal amounting to a hybrid war involving

  • economic boycotts
  • financial sanctions
  • illegal confiscation of billions of dollars deposited in international banks
  • cyberattacks
  • sabotage on the electric power grid carried out by mercenaries and terrorist groups.

This is a reminder of what we have seen in Cuba.

To be sure, the US is behind all of this but the Canadian government is not only complicit, it is an active participant with its own sanctions, as recently as a few days ago on 43 Venezuelan officials including Jorge Arreaza, and by inciting some Latin American countries to betray Venezuela.

Venezuela is resisting and continues its Bolivarian process to build a socialist society based on self-government with participation of all Venezuelans as protagonists.

On the face of such blatant abuses that may be considered as crimes against humanity, we ask:

Does the Trump administration know that the revenues from the sale of Venezuelan oil are used to provide food and medicines, and other life supporting services to Venezuelans?  I am not going out on a limb when I say they do, but they don’t care.

Does the Trump administration know that Cuba needs Venezuelan oil to run its industries and support the infrastructure that provide food and medicines, and other life supporting services to Cubans? Of course they know. The US has sabotaged Cuba with one of the longest and most cruel economic and financial blockades for almost 60 years.

We must conclude that the US government is not just innocently killing two birds with a stone. The US government is criminally harming millions of people in two countries in the cruelest way cutting off their livelihood with unilateral coercing measures.

Nino Pagliccia is an activist and freelance writer based in Vancouver. He is a retired researcher from the University of British Columbia, Canada. He is a Venezuelan-Canadian who follows and writes about international relations with a focus on the Americas. He is the editor of the book “Cuba Solidarity in Canada – Five Decades of People-to-People Foreign Relations” (2014). He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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

ACTION ALERT: This Is Orwellian — The Hidden Facts of Mueller Report

April 19th, 2019 - by MoveOn.org
“Oh, my God! This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m f—ked!” — Donald J. Trump, quoted in the Mueller Report

(April 18, 2019) — We learned today that when Donald Trump was first told that Robert Mueller had been appointed special counsel, he said, “This is the end of my presidency. I’m f*cked,” according to the just-released, heavily redacted Mueller report.1

Why? It’s spelled out in the 108 pages it takes Mueller to detail all of the Trump campaign’s “links to and contacts with” the Russian government, a hostile foreign government that was trying to undermine our democracy and elect Trump.

For instance, Mueller documented that Donald Trump Jr. had direct electronic communications with Wikileaks and that “by the late summer of 2016, the Trump Campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks.”2

The Mueller report then details 11 “episodes” where Trump may have obstructed justice, as he sought to hide his campaign’s connections with Russia, but noted that it was Congress’ job to investigate and determine consequences for these acts.3

Let’s be clear: Congress must do its job and immediately begin hearings on Trump’s obstruction of justice and hold Trump accountable, including possibly through impeachment.

Trump’s team, including Attorney General William Barr, have already begun an Orwellian campaign to deceive the public and spread misinformation about what is in the report. But this is not 1984, and we won’t fall for it.

MoveOn is ready to pull out all the stops to ensure that Congress investigates Trump’s lies and obstruction, but we need your help.

“Even in its incomplete form,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said today, “the Mueller report outlines disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice.”4

That evidence includes repeated and blatant efforts by Trump to get White House Counsel Don McGahn to lie about efforts to fire Robert Mueller, multiple requests made to Jeff Sessions to “un-recuse” himself and stop the investigation outright, messages sent to Michael Flynn’s lawyers asking for a “heads-up” about any information relating to Trump in his trial, direct requests from Trump’s lawyers that Michael Cohen lie to Congress about Trump’s involvement with Russia and Vladamir Putin, and more.

We have always known that the corruption and criminality of the Trump administration were unlike anything we had seen in the modern era, and the Mueller report provides detailed, painstakingly investigated evidence confirming that assertion.

Now, it is up to Congress, beginning with the Democratically controlled House, to do absolutely everything in its power to respond to Mueller’s findings, to investigate Trump for obstruction of justice, and to hold him accountable.

With your help, here’s what we’ll do:

  • Flood Congress with calls demanding Democrats begin obstruction hearings and impeachment proceedings. For months, Democrats have said that the Mueller report must be completed before Congress can act. Now that they have the report, they must respond to Mueller’s call to action and hold Trump accountable for his lies and obstruction of justice.
  • Support efforts to release the full report to the public via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Let’s be clear: What we have seen today is not the full report, and it is clear that William Barr has no plans to release the unredacted version. It is our right to see the report, and we must demand that the government abide by FOIA laws and release the full report to the public.
  • Highlight the most important segments of the report in videos, dgital ads, and other visually striking tactics. The report is over 400 pages long and contains sentence after sentence of shocking information. MoveOn’s social media team and Video Lab are already hard at work pulling out information and creating easily digestible videos and ads to ensure that the public can understand what we learned today.

Trump wants us to think that the release of the report today is the end of this story. That is why he chose William Barr to be his attorney general, why Barr released a misleading summary of the report and held a press conference once again mischaracterizing the report before its release, and why Trump’s allies are doing everything they can today to control the narrative about the content of the report.

This is a massive undertaking and will require substantial funding to do well and do quickly. But we won’t give in.

This story is far from over, and it will only be through real people-power that we ensure that Donald Trump and his cronies are held responsible for their corrupt, criminal actions.

Thanks for all you do. 

David, Brian, Karine, Stephen, and the rest of the MoveOn team

Sources:

1. “Live updates: Trump, when told of appointment of special counsel Mueller, said: ‘This is the end of my presidency,’ report says,” The Washington Post, April 18, 2019

2. “The Mueller Report: Excerpts and Analysis,” The New York Times, April 18, 2019

3. “Mueller links Trump and campaign to 11 instances of potential obstruction,” The Guardian, April 18, 2019

4. “Dems blast Barr, claim ‘disturbing’ evidence against Trump in Mueller report,” NBC News, April 18, 2019

Trump’s Supreme Court Approves Bail-out of Crumbling Nuclear Reactors

April 19th, 2019 - by Harvey Wasserman / Reader Supported News
Davis-Besse Nuclear Reactor.

America’s “Hole-in-the-Head” Nuke Suicide Pact Gets Court Approval

 (April 18, 2019) — The Supreme Court has just now certified the deadliest and most economically destructive scam of the entire Trump catastrophe.

Every downwind American is now threatened with deadly radiation while state after state bankrupts itself with soaring electric bills and ecological disaster, crippling the Solartopian green energy revolution.

It is, in short, the “hole in the head” wave of massive state-based nuke bailouts. 

All across the US, brain-dead Trumpist legislatures are scamming public billions into dying nuke reactors that pose the #1 threat to human survival on this planet. 

All the world’s 440 reactors (98 in the US) are decrepit, crumbling, ready to blow. They’re uninspected, under-maintained, filthy, falling apart. They emit massive quantities of heat and radiation that cause climate chaos. Most are huge money-losers that can’t compete with green Solartopian technologies. 

They are epitomized by Ohio’s infamous “hole in the head” Davis-Besse nuke, currently crumbling outside Toledo. In keeping with the Luddite wave now sweeping Trumpnation, the Ohio legislature may soon fork over billions to keep it running toward the ultimate failure.

The state-based nuke bailout craze actually started with New York governor Andrew Cuomo.

In 2016-2017, he began gouging the Empire State for some $7.6 billion to underwrite four dying upstate nukes. All lose mega-cash while killing countless jobs by raising electric rates and blocking renewables.

Wind, solar, batteries and LED/efficiency were set to make the Empire state both energy independent and fully employed. But Cuomo is blocking that by scamming ratepayers as far away as Long Island who get zero juice from the nukes they’re being forced to subsidize.

Cuomo originally promised the payouts would soon decline. Instead, they rose $50 million this year, even beyond the original bailout scam

The Illinois legislature is doing the same for three downstate reactors. New Jersey and Pennsylvania are contemplating a similar suicide. 

But Ohio may top them all.

Center stage is FirstEnergy’s infamous money-losing Davis-Besse “hole-in-the-head” nuke near Toledo. Its bankrupt owner’s precursor blacked out the entire Northeast in 2003. FE says without a gargantuan bailout, DB will shut by 2021. 

So the gerrymandered GOP legislature may soon gouge tax/ratepayers some $300 million/year to keep DB and the nearby Perry reactor open, dooming the state’s remnant rust belt economy.

DB dumps its waste heat into Lake Erie, between Toledo and Cleveland. A 1977 accident portended what destroyed its clone, Three Mile Island Unit Two, on March 28, 1979. TMI2’s owners later sued because lessons learned at DB that might’ve helped them avoid their own disaster were not passed on. 

In 2002, news of a hole in DB’s head astonished the industry. Dripping boric acid had eaten nearly through the reactor vessel head. Cleveland and the Great Lakes were 3/5ths of an inch from permanent irradiation. 

Rather than shut permanently, FE spent millions on a “fix” that failed. Then they cut through the containment and glued on a badly-fitted head from an unfinished Michigan reactor canceled by citizen action.

Shoddy construction and faulty maintenance have perforated the building meant to shield the public from DB’s radiation. Its operating/maintenance costs soar while it can’t compete with methane. 

But it’s wind that Ohio’s nuke-loving lawmakers most hate. “North coast” breezes blow steadily over flat agricultural land filled with transmission lines. Farmers are desperate for the steady income turbines can bring, especially when sited so close to urban consumers. More than $4 billion in private funding is pending for Ohio wind farms, guaranteeing billions in longterm revenue and thousands of secure jobs.

But in 2015, FE’s bought lawmakers concocted a setback provision meant to kill those projects. Other midwestern/Great Plains states are now filling with cheap nature-based electricity. But anti-wind Ohio may now bury its fiscal future with unsustainable electric rates.

All reactors spew carbon 14 along with huge quantities of hot water and steam that warm the planet and kill trillions of marine creatures. Their cooling towers kill countless birds. All American reactors (except Watts Bar) are more than twenty years old; some are more than forty.

Now the Trump-run Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it may simply stop inspecting these older reactors just as they most need it. They want owners to stop informing the public of mishaps just as they become more frequent and dangerous.

The terrifying escalation of reactor disasters has risen from the near-miss at Michigan’s Fermi One (1966) to the melt-down at TMI (1979) to the mega-explosion at Chernobyl (1986) to the three melt-downs/four explosions at Fukushima.

After that 2011 disaster, NRC staff compiled upgrades to guard against another one. But the Trump Commission killed them all, leaving the fleet even more dangerous than before Fukushima.

When the next big reactor blows, industry hacks like Ann Coulter will be all over Fox explaining that radiation is good and that plutonium is pixie dust that really won’t harm our kids.

But the ghastly death tolls at TMI, Chernobyl, and Fukushima say otherwise.

Based on the insane claim that nukes deserve “zero emission credits,” the Supreme Court has cleared the way for still more of these insane bailouts.

Grassroots Solartopians are fighting back. Ohio’s bailout has been held off for years, and may yet fail. They’ve petitioned California Governor Gavin Newsom to independently inspect Diablo Canyon.

They’ve also poured into the bankruptcy court, where FirstEnergy’s inabilities are on global display alongside those of California’s Pacific Gas & Electric, the money-losing behemoth that in 2010 killed eight people with badly maintained pipelines, then killed eighty more with badly maintained power lines that incinerated an entire ecosystem, including 12,000 structures.

The uncaring incompetence of this dying industry and its technology of death guarantee that unless these bailouts stop, far worse is yet to come.

Harvey Wasserman’s Green Power & Wellness Show is podcast at prn.fm; California Solartopia is broadcast at KPFK-Pacifica, 90.7 fm, Los Angeles. His Life & Death Spiral of US History: From Deganawidah to Solartopia will soon be at www.solartopia.org.

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

Defending Julian Assange and Defending the Truth

April 19th, 2019 - by Robert J. Burrowes / Scoop.co.nz
Julian Assange

(April 18, 2019) — On 11 April 2019, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange was dragged from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London by UK police and arrested for breaching a bail condition. See ‘Arrest update – SW1’. Upon arrival at a London police station, Julian was ‘further arrested’ on behalf of the United States government to satisfy an extradition warrant under Section 73 of the UK Extradition Act. See ‘UPDATE: Arrest of Julian Assange’.

Following a brief court hearing in which the extraordinary prejudice of the district judge was on clear display — see ‘Chelsea and Julian Are in Jail. History Trembles’ — Julian is now imprisoned in south London’s maximum security Belmarsh Prison. He will appear in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court for a preliminary extradition hearing on 2 May and the US must produce its case for requesting Julian’s extradition from the UK by 12 June but, as Nicholas Weaver reports, Julian could be in UK custody for years as the extradition is contested in court. See ‘The Wikileaks Case Is Just Beginning’.

Prior to his arrest, Julian had been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy since 2012, having been granted citizenship of Ecuador and asylum by that country because many people were well aware of the risk he faced if he was tried in a kangaroo court in the United States. This asylum, to which Julian was entitled under long-standing provisions of international law, had been granted by previous Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, who clearly understood this law (and the moral principles on which it is based).

As a result of his recent arrest however, Julian is under threat of extradition to the United States so that he can face criminal prosecution/persecution – see the US indictment of Julian Assange or ‘Read the Julian Assange indictment’ – for his role in exposing the truth about US war crimes in Afghanistan (the Afghan War Diary) and Iraq (the Iraq War Logs), as did The Guardian and The New York Times, by publishing leaked evidence of these crimes – including the ‘Collateral Murder’ video — as well as publishing evidence of widespread government corruption on the WikiLeaks website. It was this threat of persecution by US authorities that led Julian to seek asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the first place.

However, since the election in Ecuador on 24 May 2017 of the criminal and cowardly president Lenín Moreno, Julian’s asylum has been under threat and the conditions of his stay in the Embassy have rapidly deteriorated. This is because Moreno has been anxious to divert public attention from the spotlight of corruption currently shining directly on him — see ‘Ecuador National Assembly to Start Corruption Probe of Moreno’ — and to secure the loans offered as bribes by US officials while capitulating to US government pressure to illegally terminate Julian’s political asylum. See ‘Ecuador Bowed to US Pressure, Violated Law – Assange’s Associate’ and ‘WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Arrested, Activists Rally to Stop US Extradition’.

Of course, the criminal and cowardly nature of Moreno’s action is highlighted by the fact that the decision of the Ecuadorian government to terminate Julian’s asylum was done in violation of article 79 of Ecuador’s constitution which forbids extradition of its own citizens. See ‘Republic of Ecuador Constitution of 2008’. As Moreno’s predecessor, Rafael Correa noted simply in one Facebook post: ‘Moreno is a corrupt man’. See ‘Facebook Removes Page of Ecuador’s Former President on Same Day as Assange’s Arrest’.

Unfortunately, as further evidence of its function as an elite agent, rather than facilitating free speech, Facebook promptly ‘unpublished’ Correa’s Facebook page. Clearly, Moreno’s corruption is not a subject that Facebook wants advertised. See ‘Facebook Removes Page of Ecuador’s Former President on Same Day as Assange’s Arrest’. Still, it should be pointed out, Twitter’s function as an elite agent is no different. See ‘Twitter Restricts Account of Julian Assange’s Mother’.

Naturally enough, despite elite efforts to control the narrative, many people and organizations around the world have been outraged at the treatment of Julian (as well as other truthful journalists and whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning, who has recently been imprisoned yet again, and Edward Snowden) who act courageously on the basis that the public has a right to know about the criminality of their governments as well as to know the truth generally.

As long ago as 5 February 2016, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at the United Nations issued a statement in which they ‘called on the Swedish and British authorities to end Mr. Assange’s deprivation of liberty, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and afford him the right to compensation’ noting that its opinions are ‘legally-binding to the extent that they are based on binding international human rights law, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)’. See Julian Assange arbitrarily detained by Sweden and the UK, UN expert panel finds.

Moreover, in recent days, UN officials have spoken openly of their serious concern if Julian’s asylum was illegally revoked. See ‘UN expert on privacy plans to visit Julian Assange’ and ‘Two UN Rapporteurs Are Concerned About Julian Assanges’ Situation’.

And just recently, on 11 April 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union issued its response to Julian’s arrest, noting that ‘Criminally prosecuting a publisher for the publication of truthful information would be a first in American history, and unconstitutional.’ The report added that ‘Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for Wikileaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations. Moreover, prosecuting a foreign publisher for violating U.S. secrecy laws would set an especially dangerous precedent for U.S. journalists, who routinely violate foreign secrecy laws to deliver information vital to the public’s interest.’ SeeACLU Comment on Julian Assange Arrest’.

So once extradited, would Julian have any chance of defending himself with the truth? As US attorney Bill Simpich explains, Julian will be prevented from presenting the essential elements of his defense because ‘The [US] government doesn’t want a fair fight. In a fair fight, the government will lose.’ See ‘The Julian Assange Case: Revealing War Crimes Is Not a Crime’.

More bluntly, Jonathan Turley points out:

‘[T]he Justice Department is likely to move aggressively to strip Assange of his core defenses. Through what is called a motion in limine, the government will ask the court to declare that the disclosure of intelligence controversies is immaterial. This would leave Assange with only the ability to challenge whether he helped with passwords and little or no opportunity to present evidence of his motivations or the threat to privacy.

‘The key to prosecuting Assange has always been to punish him without again embarrassing the powerful figures made mockeries by his disclosures. That means to keep him from discussing how the U.S. government concealed attacks and huge civilian losses, the type of disclosures that were made in the famous Pentagon Papers case. He cannot discuss how Democratic and Republican members either were complicit or incompetent in their oversight. He cannot discuss how the public was lied to about the program.’ See ‘Julian Assange Will Be Punished for Embarrassing the DC Establishment’.

Hence, while the Ecuadorian, British and US governments are flagrantly violating the law in persecuting Julian, it is being left to individuals and civil society organizations to defend him and many are mobilizing to do so already.

As a result, people have signed petitions – see Don’t extradite Assange!’ and Block Extradition & Prosecution of Julian Assange for First Amendment-Protected Journalism’ – some have participated in demonstrations at UK embassies and consulates around the world – see, for example, ‘Protesters Call on UK to #FreeAssange Outside British Embassy in DC’ – and others have engaged in other acts of solidarity as suggested, for example, by Julian’s mother Christine or on the website ‘Defend WikiLeaks’ and in this article: ‘Julian Assange Arrested, Take Action Now’.

Given the importance of defending our access to accurate information about our world, rather than the propaganda marketed as ‘news’ by the corporate media, it is worth reflecting on how best we can do this and, in doing so, defend people like Julian and Chelsea (who play such a vital role in giving us access to the truth in particular contexts) at the same time.

Hence, because of my own longstanding interest in developing thoughtfully-designed nonviolent strategies in our struggle to make our world one of peace, justice and ecological sustainability, let me suggest a strategic way forward that will honor the courage of Julian and Chelsea by maximizing the impact of their truth-telling on the longer-term struggles just mentioned while also taking separate action to provide some additional pressure to assist them in the short and medium terms.

In order to design this strategy well, let us first analyze the issue of why those who tell the truth are persecuted. If we do not understand, precisely, why this happens, we cannot respond powerfully.

Accurate Strategic Analysis Depends on Knowing the Truth

If we are to understand, accurately, the context and structural dimensions of a conflict (that is, the ‘big picture’ in which it is contained) so that we can identify and analyze the underlying drivers of the conflict in order to develop a coherent strategy to address these drivers, then the very first prerequisite is that we have truthful information. Without this truthful information, activists have zero prospect of accurately understanding and analyzing what is happening in the world (such as in relation to war and the climate catastrophe, for example).

Because the global elite is highly aware of the importance of the truth, it goes to enormous effort to make it difficult, if not impossible, to access the truth, particularly in certain critical contexts. And there are some classic historical examples, among many others, where not knowing the truth has allowed elites to inflict monumental atrocities in our name while crippling efforts to strategically mobilize opposition to these atrocities.

The most obvious examples of this phenomenon include ‘false flag’ attacks such as those conducted by US authorities and their allies on 9/11 as the prelude to launching their ‘war on terror’ which has caused immeasurable damage to, if not virtually destroyed, entire countries across west Asia and north Africa.

If the truth about those behind the 9/11 attacks had been immediately available, rather than still ‘dribbling out’ nearly 20 years later, then it would have been far easier to mobilize resistance to the US-led wars on other countries and to campaign, strategically, for the profound changes needed to ensure that our world is spared the scourge of such atrocities in future.

To access the definitive account of the overwhelming evidence in relation to 9/11 as a false flag attack, see 9/11 Unmasked: An International Review Panel Investigation which is reviewed in ‘The Fakest Fake News: The U.S. Government’s 9/11 Conspiracy Theory’. For a long but incomplete list of false flag attacks, see ‘The Ever-Growing List of ADMITTED False Flag Attacks’.

So if we ask the question ‘Who played the primary role in deceiving us about 9/11 and molding the desired public response?’, the answer is that it was some key government, corporate, military and bureaucratic spokespeople and, particularly, the corporate media projecting the words of these official spokespeople far and wide. But if we ask the question ‘Who was controlling these spokespeople and the corporate media?’ the answer is ‘the global elite’.

This is because a primary function of the global elite, which it has long understood, is to create (using individuals employed within its think tanks as well as compliant academics) and maintain (through education systems, the entertainment industry and the corporate media) the dominant narrative in society so that the information available to the public is the information that the elite needs to shape public perception in favor of elite interests, such as perpetual war and chronic over-consumption, which ensure perpetuation of elite power, profit and privilege.

Hence, as you can see, people like Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning and organizations like WikiLeaks represent a fundamental threat to elite power, profit and privilege precisely because their truth-telling functionally undermines the elite narrative, for example, that our ‘enemy’ is a bunch of terrorists somewhere rather than the global elite itself.

While the false flag examples offered above highlight how suppression of the truth disempowers activists and populations thus helping to minimize any effective mobilization in response, there are also a great many examples where the truth was critical to informing and helping to mobilize activists to resist injustice, in one form or another. For example, Kevin Zeese superbly illustrates the crucial importance of WikiLeaks in facilitating awareness of the truth during the uprisings in 2011 across north Africa and west Asia. See ‘Julian Assange: At the Forefront of 21st Century Journalism’.

In essence then, it is individuals like Julian and Chelsea, rather than the sycophantic editors, reporters and journalists working for the corporate media, who give us the information we need to know so that we can better understand how our dysfunctional and violent world works and campaign effectively to change it.

And so they are enemies of the elite who must be silenced and discredited, legally or otherwise.

If you would like to read other accounts by individuals who astutely warn us of the deeper implications of what is happening to Julian, see the recent articles by Chris Hedges The Martyrdom of Julian Assange’ and John Pilger The Assange Arrest Is a Warning from History’.

So What Do We Do?

Well, I believe we honor individuals like Julian and Chelsea by using the truths they reveal to us to develop and implement thoughtfully-designed nonviolent strategies to make our world one of peace, justice and ecological sustainability. This is why they risk paying (and are now paying) such a high personal price to get us the truth that must inform these struggles. But we can also assist courageous individuals like Julian and Chelsea in the short-term too. So let me also add to the suggestions made by others mentioned above.

If we are to make the most use of the truth that Julian and Chelsea have risked (and paid) so much to get to us, then we must campaign strategically. By doing this, as I just mentioned, we truly honor their efforts and sacrifice. So, for example, if you want to campaign to end the elite’s wars and destruction of our climate from which it profits so enormously, then consider doing it strategically. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy. This site identifies, among other key elements of strategy, the two strategic aims and the basic list of strategic goals necessary to achieve these outcomes. See ‘Campaign Strategic Aims’.

Irrespective of whether or not you are keen on campaigning in this way, there is a fifteen-year strategy for tackling all elements of our environmental crisis in The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth.

If you would like to tackle the problem at its core, consider making ‘My Promise to Children’ so that your children grow up with the conscience and courage of Julian and Chelsea. Unfortunately, individuals of their conscience and courage are incredibly rare in our world: not a powerful place to start in tackling a global elite that is utterly insane.

‘Insane?’ you might ask. Remember this: the global elite and many of its political, corporate, bureaucratic, military and academic agents, spend their time planning and implementing strategies to kill people (using military violence and economic exploitation) to make a profit. Do you really believe that this is something that a sane person would spend their time doing? I know you have been inundated with propaganda throughout your life to make you accept (or ignore) the violence in our world without question but pause and ponder it now: is it really sane? Are we not capable, as a species, of organizing our world to achieve peace, justice and ecological sustainability? See ‘The Global Elite is Insane Revisited’ with a lot more detail in Why Violence?’ and Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice.

Moreover, individuals who are not incredibly psychologically damaged do not manipulate elite institutions – such as the legal system: see ‘The Rule of Law: Unjust and Violent’ – to persecute powerful individuals like Julian and Chelsea. The conscience and courage of Julian and Chelsea are readily recognized by those who are not psychologically damaged: they are qualities of exceptional individuals whom we should honor.

If you would like to join the worldwide movement to end all violence, you are welcome to sign the online pledge of The Peoples Charter to Create a Nonviolent World.

But we do not need to confine our acts of solidarity with Julian and Chelsea to those regarding strategies for profound change or the others mentioned above either. If you want to act powerfully in their support, consider the following five options as well and do as many as you can:

1. Boycott The Guardian and The New York Times (because they were two of the original outlets that published material sourced from WikiLeaks but now hypocritically engage in the persecution of Julian and Chelsea). And suggest to others that they also boycott these media outlets.

2. Boycott all media outlets (anywhere in the world) that advocate or support the arrest, trial and/or imprisonment of Julian and/or Chelsea. And suggest to others that they boycott these media outlets too. If you want the truth about our world, get it from news outlets like the one you are reading now.

3. Boycott Facebook. And suggest to others that they boycott this medium too.

4. Boycott Twitter. And suggest to others that they boycott this medium too.

5. Write letters of solidarity to Julian and Chelsea. Tell them what you are doing to make best use of the truths they have revealed.

Given elite control of all political, economic, commercial, legal, social and media institutions of any consequence in our world, it will not be easy to liberate Julian (and, perhaps, even Chelsea) in the short term. UK and US elites may even conspire to secretly put Julian on a rendition flight to the US or simply be content with a protracted legal struggle which distracts many of us from the issues that Julian and Chelsea so courageously put in the spotlight.

For that reason, while we struggle to liberate them we can also struggle to liberate the vast number of other people who suffer the elite’s military violence and economic exploitation so that the efforts of Julian and Chelsea are not in vain.

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

A New Kind of Nuclear War

April 18th, 2019 - by Mark Thompson / The Project of Government Oversight

Thinking about sending portable nuclear reactors off to war is kind of like invading a country with no plan for how to get out.

 (April 16, 2019) — Whether or not you think the United States’ post-9/11 wars were for oil, there’s no doubt that many troops died trying to get oil to the front lines. The lengthy convoys of fuel trucks required to keep the electrical generators humming 24/7 at remote U.S. outposts in Afghanistan and Iraq were targets for enemies armed with roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. In fact, U.S. troops conducting convoy operations accounted for more than half the U.S. casualties in those countries between 2001 and 2010.

That’s one reason the Pentagon wants to build flyable and truckable nuclear-power plants to generate the power U.S. troops need to wage war deep in hostile territory.

The concept of micro-nuclear power plants on the battlefield is both inspired and insane.  The idea of landing portable nuclear reactors inside a war zone is as outlandish—economically and environmentally—as it sounds.

The goal is a portable nuclear reactor that could be driven to the battlefield by small trucks.

Yet the Pentagon’s nuclear push didn’t “go critical”—achieve a self-sustaining atomic reaction—on its own. “It is the culmination of a patient, decade-long effort by nuclear lobbyists to interest Defense and its congressional overseers in a costly product—small nuclear reactors—that few in the private sector seem to want,” Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in February. “The Pentagon is precisely the savior small nuclear reactor vendors need: deep-pocketed and unbeholden to return-seeking investors.”

Beyond that, the Pentagon’s nuclear advocates argue that battlefield nuclear reactors would improve the environment and help jump-start the nuclear-reactor business, creating thousands of well-paying jobs in the process. That meshes with the U.S. nuclear industry’s push to peddle more civilian reactors abroad, including a meeting with President Trump in February.

“He really wanted to hear from us on what our views are on how we win the global nuclear energy technology race,” said J. Clay Sell, head of Maryland-based X-energy, an advanced nuclear-reactor company seeking business in Jordan. (Sell was also President George W. Bush’s deputy energy secretary from 2005 to 2008). The confab was initiated by Jack Keane, a retired Army general whose company has advocated U.S. nuclear development in the Middle East, Bloomberg reported.

Atomic power is big business. “The nuclear energy industry is a powerful engine for job creation,” the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the industry’s main trade group, says. The industry’s 98 power plants, and businesses that support them, employ nearly half a million workers, according to the NEI.

So it should come as no surprise that the nuclear industry is pulling out all the stops as it sees climate-change concerns giving it a second lease on life, even as renewable energy (wind, solar, hydroelectric) is now producing more power in the United States. The NEI spends about $2 million annually seeking favors from the federal government. Conveniently, the Trump Administration is seeking to bail out the nuclear industry.

The nuclear industry’s push isn’t only in Washington, DC. It’s gaining traction with state legislatures as well, most notably in Pennsylvania, home to Three Mile Island, the site of the most serious nuclear-power plant accident in U.S. history. In the last three years, Exelon, which operates Three Mile Island, has ramped up its lobbying efforts in Pennsylvania, in hopes of boosting taxpayer subsidies.

The Pentagon has had a long-standing romance with nuclear power, dating back to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but also is exploring renewable energy sources like wind and solar. At Fort Hood in Texas, for example, the Army is drawing about half its power from them. But they’re not ready for prime time, according to the Defense Department.

“Renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar can reduce the need for some fuel, but most renewable resources are limited by location, weather, time of year, storage capacity, and constrained by available land area and/or constructability,” the Pentagon’s influential Defense Science Board concluded in a 2016 report.

In the post-9/11 wars, the number of U.S. service members killed in action has been relatively low compared to earlier conflicts. But the Pentagon has been swapping blood for oil. “The increasing number of convoys required to transport an ever-increasing requirement for fossil fuels is itself a root cause of casualties, both wounded and killed in action,” said a 2009 study by the consulting firm Deloitte.

“The use of IEDs and roadside bombs has been an especially effective means to disable friendly fighting forces by disrupting their supply of energy.”

Backers of battlefield nuclear reactors are leveraging this fact to bolster their case that investing billions to develop and deploy reactors is worth it. And the Pentagon is trying to build support for the plan by noting that mini-nukes have heart-warming peaceful uses, too.

“A small mobile nuclear reactor would enable a more rapid response during Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations,” it said earlier this year in a “request for information” seeking outside help to develop portable atomic reactors for war zones.

But, as they say on late-night TV, “But wait, there’s more!” Think of it as atomic alchemy. “It is not just about basing, but warfighting capability enabled by the assured supply of energy,” the 2016 report by the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board said. According to the report, a battlefield polka-dotted with portable nuclear reactors could pretty much sustain itself.

“Supplying liquid fuel and water to military forces is a significant sustainment challenge, as the two commodities typically comprise the majority of mass transported to deployed locations,” the study said. “Yet both fuel and water—and potentially other supplies (e.g., munitions and spare parts)—could be produced close to where it is needed with the necessary industrial technologies that could be powered by nuclear energy.”

That makes military planners salivate. The Pentagon has been talking for decades about lasers and similar weapons that would require mass quantities of electricity. Nuclear power could be the best choice to fuel such futuristic weapons, assuming they’re ever produced.

Getting fuel to remote bases is costly—as much as $50 per gallon when delivered by truck and $400 a gallon when delivered by air—which could render battlefield lasers even less likely than physics already does. “Energy intensive capabilities are under development for which there is no parallel development for power sources,” that Defense Science Board report noted ominously. Smart taxpayers might wonder why.

Prodded to act by that 2016 Defense Science Board study, the Pentagon launched “Project Dilithium” in January. (Dilithium is a molecule made up of a pair of lithium atoms, although it is perhaps more commonly known as a key element in a fictitious Star Trek superfuel that propels spaceships via a warp drive—faster than light.)

The Pentagon wants a reactor capable of generating between 1 and 10 megawatts (enough for a base housing at least 1,000 troops for three years without refueling. Weighing no more than 40 tons, it must be “sized for transportability by truck, ship, and C-17 aircraft.” And to avoid the problems posed by water-cooled reactors, it needs to be cooled by “ambient air,” just like the original VW Beetle and its distinctive putt-putt engine.

Such reactors would “fundamentally change the logistics of forward operating bases, both by making more energy available and by drastically simplifying the complex fuel logistical lines which currently support existing power generators operating mostly on diesel fuel,” the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office said in that January request seeking outside help.

The unit will be “semiautonomous—Not requiring manned control by operators to ensure safe operation,” the Pentagon says. Starting it up should take less than three days, and shutting it down should take no more than a week.

Their basic design is as simple as nuclear power gets: as the reactor fuel decays, it generates heat that is then turned into electricity. The Pentagon plans on funding up to three designs before tapping a winner from among them. Other nations—Canada, China, and the United Kingdom—are also exploring such small reactors.

Last fall, the Army climbed aboard the Pentagon’s atomic bandwagon with a report that began with an unusual, standalone quote that sat like a hood ornament atop an M-1 tank. “Unleash us from the tether of fuel,” the study began, quoting one “Gen. James Mattis, former commander of the 1st Marine Division, during the drive to Baghdad, March 2003”—and, coincidentally, you can bet, the sitting defense secretary when the Army published its report (although that, of course, the report did not mention).

The Army report mainlined hype. “The return of nuclear power to the Army and DOD will have a significant impact on the Army, our allies, the international community, commercial power industry, and the nation,” the report said. (Added bonus: militarized nuclear power would lead to “decreasing carbon dioxide emissions.”)

Then the Army overdid it. “A movement towards increased reliance on nuclear power from MNPP [mobile nuclear power plant] development, could spur worldwide jobs in high tech, electric utility, specialized manufacturing, and uranium mining industries,” it said.

“Additionally, the academic disciplines relating to nuclear power would be revitalized and once again become a source of professionals for the rest of the world. In sum, the social aspects of nuclear technology development would be deep and wide, and would enhance the economic prosperity of the nation.” Whew!

And one more thing, the Army added: The nation needs nuclear reactors on the battlefield to wage twenty-first century wars. That’s because “fundamental change in the character of warfare” has now replaced “the obsolete peace/war binary.”

Sure, the Army conceded, nuclear power is a mixed bag. “Despite failed construction of two light water reactors (LWR) reactors in South Carolina [after spending $9 billion], and Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by Westinghouse Electric [the company building them], the current political environment for nuclear power is favorable,” the Army report said. “Nuclear power enjoys strong support from both the current administration and Congress.” (So, of course, do deficit reduction and winning wars.)

Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists says the “lobbying push” to build micro-nukes for the U.S. military comes from the U.S. Nuclear Industry Council. The Washington-based trade group says it is “composed of over 80 companies” and “represents the ‘Who’s Who’ of the nuclear energy supply chain community, including key utility movers, technology developers, fuel cycle companies, construction engineers, manufacturers and service providers.”

Portable nukes: A tempting target for opposing forces.

But nuclear insiders also are playing a critical role. Among the authors of that key Defense Science Board report were some atomic heavyweights, including co-chairman Michael Anastasio, the only person to ever run two of the nation’s nuclear labs (he is the former head of Los Alamos in New Mexico, and Lawrence Livermore in California), and William Madia, who served as director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington state. Nuclear power is the labs’ bread and butter, and continued work in the field will keep their workers (more than 10,000 at Los Alamos alone) employed. Frank Bowman, who spent eight years in charge of the Navy’s nuclear-propulsion program, where he oversaw the operation of 100 nuclear reactors aboard U.S. aircraft carriers and submarines, was also on the panel.

Other members were logistics experts, including Gerald Galloway, a long-time logistics expert at the University of Maryland following a 38-year Army career. “No one’s envisioned bringing them out in combat zones,” he said of the micro-reactors in 2010, “but they could provide energy in theater at large staging areas.” He apparently was out-voted, or had a change of heart, when it came time to draft the Defense Science Board report six years later.

The panel learned firsthand how sensitive fossil-fuel casualties are inside the Pentagon. “Although the Task Force was discouraged from referencing convoy casualty factors which have been estimated in several reports, it is well-known that a significant number of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan were associated with resupply logistics—much of which was attributed to fuel and water,” the 2016 report noted. That was a deft use of the passive voice so the panel didn’t have to say just who did the discouraging.

More than half the U.S. casualties between 2001 and 2010 in Afghanistan and Iraq happened during convoy operations (18,700 of 36,000, or 52 percent, according to a 2015 RAND Corporation report). An Army Environmental Policy Institute assessment estimated that there was nearly one U.S. casualty for every 24 fuel resupply missions. “Every 55,702 barrels of fuel burned in Afghanistan by the U.S. military forces corresponded to one casualty,” according to an Army Technology analysis of the study’s findings. 

The U.S. military, and those responsible for powering it, say it needs to stop bleeding for oil. “If a better way could be found to generate electricity at remote bases—that’s what most of the fuel is used for—it could greatly reduce the risks to our military,” Andy Erickson of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, home of the world’s first nuclear bombs, noted last fall. He argued that a new kind of “micro-nuclear reactor” under development by Los Alamos and Westinghouse could help reduce the carnage. “The reactor core itself is about the size of the garbage can that you roll down to your curb each week,” he said, offering a new vision of nuclear waste. “By working with an experienced nuclear vendor like Westinghouse to design, build, and test these units, a near-term solution to remote power for the military can be quickly realized.”

There are proliferation risks associated with deploying nuclear reactors amid wars. The 2016 Defense Science Board report suggested that portable nuclear reactors be fueled only with low-enriched uranium that couldn’t be turned into nuclear weapons, although it conceded they would represent “a lucrative target to become a dirty bomb if breached.” The Pentagon’s January 2019 solicitation said that “technology, engineering, and operations must demonstrate minimization of added proliferation risk.” Of course, the U.S. government has been through this before, dating back to President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” initiative. That led to the first nuclear reactors in Iran and Pakistan.

Harnessing nuclear power on the battlefield would require changes in U.S. military training, nuclear regulation and licensing, as well as convincing foreign governments to let them on their soil. “Since the U.S. nuclear industry and its regulators have not yet dealt with a mobile or transportable design, the Army will experience many unique first-time costs in laying the groundwork for regulatory and international approvals and acceptance,” the Army’s fall 2018 report said. “This work will be costly and time-consuming, and require much interagency coordination and support to accomplish.” Piece of yellowcake!

Training soldiers to deploy and operate portable nuclear power plants would be challenging, although the Army said in the report, “this requirement is not anticipated to be as demanding as that of a nuclear weapon.” Any Army port-a-nuke “must prevent the reactor from going critical when it should not, such as during movement/transport.” While such a reactor “is not expected to survive a direct kinetic attack,” the Army said it would be designed “for the protection of personnel who may be adversely affected by the system or threats to the system.”

Outsiders are dubious. “Even a reactor as small as 1 megawatt-electric would contain a large quantity of highly radioactive, long-lived isotopes such as cesium-137—a potential dirty bomb far bigger than the medical radiation sources that have caused much concern among security experts,” the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Lyman warned in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “At best a release of radioactivity would be a costly disruption, and at worst it would cause immediate harm to personnel, render the base unusable for years, and alienate the host country.”

Any radiation leakage would be far more vexing than the cleanup after dumping about 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides on Vietnam from 1961 to 1971. “While design simplification and damage-resistant fuel choices help, detailed planning for cleanup and removal of battle-damaged reactors or reactor components will be expensive and pose some technical challenges to resolve,” the Army report said, likely requiring changes to “existing treaties, international agreements, and policies.”

At the end of the day, of course, the big bugaboo is what to do with all that spent, but still dangerous, nuclear fuel. But not to worry: the Army has figured that out, too. “Nuclear fuel is a DOE [Department of Energy] responsibility,” the Army notes. “Issues such as recycling of nuclear fuel or long-term disposal are not DOD’s business.”

Perfect.

Of course, the Energy Department hasn’t figured out what to do with the 80,000 metric tons of spent nuclear-reactor fuel created by U.S. commercial reactors over the past half-century. Bottom line: thinking about sending portable nuclear reactors off to war is kind of like invading a country with no plan for how to get out.

Read More:

Gambling On History: President Trump’s Pentagon Says Nuclear Weapons Save Lives

There, buried deep in the Pentagon’s latest argument for spending $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years readying for nuclear war, is the U.S. military’s bottom line: atomic bombs save lives. It’s one of those head-snapping claims that has enough heft to make some sense. But in the quarter century I’ve been reading the nation’s Nuclear Posture Reviews, never has the claim that such bombs and missiles save lives—the Mother Teresa of weapons, if you will—been made so baldly.

New Documents Raise Questions About Increased Nuclear Spending

New documents obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) discussing the life expectancy of nuclear weapons components show that the uranium cores may have a longer life span than originally thought. This may undermine some justifications for an expansive—and expensive—nuclear modernization plan.

Nuclear Modernization Under Obama and Trump Costly, Mismanaged, Unnecessary

If nuclear deterrence is the goal, a $1 trillion modernization effort isn’t necessary. “[T]he thing about a deterrent capability is it does not matter how old it is,” the Commander of US Strategic Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee this past April. “It just matters whether it works…The stuff that we have today will work.”


The Military-Industrial Circus is a regular column by Pulitzer-prize winning National Security Analyst Mark Thompson for CDI at POGO.

The Center for Defense Information at POGO aims to secure far more effective and ethical military forces at significantly lower cost.

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

Children Are Being Exposed to Lead Through Military Shooting Programs

April 18th, 2019 - by Pat Elder / Buzzflash @ TruthOut
Students exposed to lead during JROTC rifle program in California schools. (Photo: LA Progressive)

(May 18, 2018) — New York Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal has introduced Assembly Bill A10428 to prohibit marksmanship programs in New York state public schools. Rosenthal frames the legislation by writing, “To create a true gun-free school zone we cannot allow students to possess and discharge firearms on school property.”

The measure has riled 2nd Amendment enthusiasts while liberals generally see it as an overdue, common-sense measure. No one, however, has addressed the potential for lead contamination associated with the military’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Program’s (JROTC) Marksmanship Program.

The air gun rifles used in 1,871 high schools with JROTC marksmanship programs across the country discharge lead at the muzzle end of the firing line. Every pellet being fired down the barrel scrapes out the deposits from the pellets that went before. Lead fragments fill the air and also settle on the floor by the target.

Let’s examine a New York school with an Army JROTC Marksmanship program that appears to be flouting lead regulations and endangering the health of its students.

Students at the Leadership Academy for Young Men in Rochester, NY use the boiler room of the High School to shoot their rifles. This video of cadets firing their weapons and checking their targets shows a general disregard for regulations designed to protect children from lead contamination.

This must-watch video depicts several violations regarding lead safety standards set by the Civilian Marksmanship Program in its 24-page pamphlet, Guide to Lead Management for Air Gun Shooting:

It is obvious there are no designated lanes on either side of the range for officials to check the targets. (CMP Guide – page 8 – “Personnel movements forward of the firing line should be reduced and restricted to marked lanes on either side of the firing points.”)

According to the CMP’s Guide to Lead Management, “If shooters do not move past the firing line to go downrange except as authorized, and if personnel who go downrange follow the guidelines.. there is no immediate health hazard to shooters or other persons who remain behind the firing line.”

This is obviously not happening in Rochester where students shoot their weapons and cross the firing line. The CMP’s lead guide calls for target changers to put on disposable shoe covers before walking over lead residues in front of the targets. The target changer is instructed to remove the shoe covers before re-entering the school building. The target changer should put on shoe covers. None of that is happening in Rochester. The kids walk through the lead deposits on the floor at the firing line on their way to the target line with heavy concentrations of lead on the floor. Then they track it through their school.

Fairfax County, Virginia had the same problem. The district tested the schools with air gun rifle ranges and found them to present a threat to public health. The schools were cleaned and lead ammunition was banned.

The CMP’s Guide to Lead Management refers to the firing line 32 times. It makes it very clear there are concentrations of dangerous lead contaminants that children can pick up and carry outside of the shooting range.

At the Leadership Academy in Rochester, students used their backpacks to balance the muzzle end of their rifles. Their backpacks were placed over the firing line, acting as mops collecting lead particulates. The poisonous material is carried home by students.

To clean up the deposits of lead at the firing line and target area the CMP advises, “a periodic wet mopping with a solution of water and tri-sodium phosphate” (TSP).

In 2012, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development advised that tri-sodium phosphate should be avoided when cleaning up the lead because it is deadly to the environment and no better than many other less harmful cleaning agents. New York has banned phosphates in detergents since 2010.

The Civilian Marksmanship Program directs students to wash their hands with soap and water after shooting. Since 2011 the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has been warning the public that washing hands with soap and water is not completely effective in removing lead from the surface of the skin.

Some states have picked up on this in their public health advisories to shooters. For instance, Illinois tells shooters, “Use an effective lead removal product; standard soap and water is not enough to remove lead residues from your skin.”

The New York State Department of Health just tells shooters to wash their face and hands after shooting.

This is a big deal because the CDC says there is no acceptable amount of lead exposure for children.

Regular maintenance of high school firing ranges is a complex undertaking that requires strict adherence to many pages of detailed procedures. We don’t know how closely the JROTC instructors or the custodial staff in the state’s schools follow the “Guidelines for Airgun Range Design, Cleaning and Maintenance,” a section of the Guide to Lead Management.

Some Science

A Swedish study in 1992 analyzed the air in an indoor firing range that was used exclusively for air guns and found the air had lead levels an average of 4.6 micrograms per cubic meter (range 1.8 – 7.2 micrograms per cubic meter) The study documents the presence of airborne lead as a result of air rifle shooting and calls for special ventilation systems. 

The CMP’s Guide to Lead Management rules out the possibility that JROTC shooting programs in the high schools create airborne lead particulates. The CMP relies on the work of a discredited Colorado firm to maintain that firing airguns do not contribute to airborne lead.  This is important because high school cafeterias and gyms do not have appropriate ventilation systems to handle minute lead particulates.

The CMP’s 2013 Guide to Lead Management relies on the findings of Health & Environmental Technology LLC (HET), an environmental testing firm in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to dispel the notion that air guns shooting lead pellets create airborne particles. The sole employee of HET was Mr. Robert Rodosevich. Rodosevich came under scrutiny in Colorado in 2012 for “gross tech­nical incompetence in technical compliance.” See the regulatory audit.

Meanwhile, HET’s work performed for the CMP is cited by high school officials across the country who are forced to defend the presence of indoor firing ranges in their schools by parents concerned about the potentially harmful effects of lead contamination.

In 2013, the California Department of Public Health recommended that the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health lower the permissible exposure limit for lead in air to 0.5 – 2.1 micrograms per cubic meter to keep BLLs below the range of 5–10 micrograms per deciliter.

Air in the Swedish study showed lead concentrations up to 7.2 micrograms per cubic meter from shooting just airguns. That’s three and a half times more than allowable in California. California is saying the air must have concentrations of lead less than 2.1 micrograms per cubic meter so that blood lead levels don’t exceed 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood.

Meanwhile, the CDC says children with blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter suffer from dangerous elevated blood lead levels.

According to research on the health effects of blood lead levels on pregnancy and fetus in utero, blood lead levels greater than  2.0 micrograms per deciliter cause gestational hypertension and reduced fetal growth and low birthrate.

There is limited evidence that this degree of lead poisoning causes pre-term birth, decreased post-natal growth, reduced cognitive function in prenatally exposed infants, ADHD & behavioral problems, and decreased auditory function.  A 2009 study of shooters who fired only airguns reported blood lead levels of 1.8 – 12.7 micrograms per deciliter.   

This is a big deal. Some historians point to lead contamination as one of the leading causes of the fall of the Roman Empire.

Although Rosenthal never mentions the military, many of the programs affected by her legislation are JROTC shooting programs in the schools that are run by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.

The military branches report the military runs a total of 61 JROTC programs in New York high schools. Of these, 19 have shooting programs. New York also has 32 junior clubs for children as young as eight. Many of these children participate with Boy Scout and 4-H clubs. See the NY data here.  

Some of these children, along with those from the high school JROTC programs, may visit commercial firing ranges throughout the region for marksmanship competitions and firing range practice. According to a 2014 Seattle Times, report, the U.S. has an estimated 6,000 commercial indoor and outdoor gun ranges, (other estimates are 2-3 times higher) but only 201 have been inspected in the past decade. 

Of those inspected, 86% violated at least one lead-related standard. In 14 states, federal and state agencies did not inspect a single commercial gun range from 2004 to 2013. 

In 2014 the Seattle Times reported on 20 children in Vancouver who were sickened by lead after visiting a shooting range. The club has a junior team and allows the JROTC, the Young Marines and Boy Scouts

The Oregonian/Oregon Live reported on lead-contaminated National Guard armories in 2016, “In a former Montana National Guard armory where more than 20 workers got sick, lead-laced dust bunnies the size of tangerines clogged the ventilation system.

In two Oregon armories where parents unwittingly let infants crawl, the neurotoxin blanketed floors at levels as high as ten times the federal safety standard. In a Wisconsin armory classroom where pregnant women and mothers with infants learned about nutrition, the poisonous powder coated a desktop.”

The problems in National Guard firing ranges stand out because armories have routinely doubled as community event centers that bring in countless young children, including JROTC marksmanship programs. Inspectors found lead in 424 armories in the past four years, or nearly 90 percent of the places for which results are available.

35 armories in New York appear on the database. Unlike many states that reported on levels of lead contamination in their armories, most of New York’s armories reported that their facility had shooting ranges but that the concentration of lead on the surfaces and in the air were unknown. See the NY data here. 

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

ACTION ALERT: Demand a Presidential Debate on the Global Climate Crisis

April 18th, 2019 - by Youth Climate Strike and MoveOn

Youth Climate Strike Petition

 (April 15, 2019) — Earth Day is just one week away, and we are writing on behalf of Youth Climate Strike because we need your signature on a brand-new petition.

One month ago, we helped to organize student climate strikes around the United States. It was so inspiring to see all of the positive responses and the media traction that we received for our kickoff strike on March 15, 2019, and therefore we are branching out and announcing our new campaign today to call upon the 2020 presidential candidates and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to commit to a debate or forum entirely around environmental issues.

With the magnitude of the oncoming climate crisis, it’s no longer sufficient to have a single token environmental question that 2020 candidates get to brush off with a soundbite. We need the 2020 candidates and DNC to commit to an entire debate on environmental policies.

Climate change is too urgent and important to continue to ignore, and because adults have been pushing it off for decades, we’re stepping up and calling upon the adults running for the presidency in 2020 to take it seriously.

With the magnitude of the oncoming climate crisis, it’s no longer sufficient to have a single token environmental question that 2020 candidates get to brush off with a soundbite. We need the 2020 candidates and DNC to commit to an entire debate on environmental policies.

You may have heard of the Youth Climate Strike on NPR or in The New York Times. Our first strike on March 15, 2019 was part of a massive global day of action where young people in 120+ countries came together to demand action on climate change.

As we approach the 2020 election, we recognize that time is running out to curb the worst effects of climate change, and therefore we believe it is the best time to ask the presidential candidates some tough but important questions about climate change and environmental policy. Furthermore, we will continue to strike to demand action from incumbent politicians and those that are running in 2019 and 2020, with our next countrywide strike on May 3, 2019.

Sign our petition calling on the DNC and 2020 candidates to commit to a debate centered on climate and environmental issues. Sign Youth Climate Strike’s petition to support a #ClimateDebate.

Let’s ensure environmental issues—climate change, access to clean water, environmental racism, and everything in between—that disproportionately impact people of color and working-class folks are given the serious attention they deserve.

Let’s be sure we hear how candidates plan to hold companies accountable for polluting our water and air, and let’s ask them what they think about opening up federal land to fracking, drilling, and trophy hunting.

Let’s have an open mind as they discuss the ways we can shift to renewable energy while stressing equity and a just transition for frontline communities, specifically communities of color, low-income communities, and communities most reliant on fossil fuels.

Background

Let’s be clear. With the magnitude of the oncoming climate crisis it’s no longer sufficient to have a single token environmental question that 2020 candidates get to brush off with a soundbite. We need an entire debate on environmental policies.

The global and US Youth Climate Strike’s success and interest in environmental policies such as the Green New Deal resolution are signs that the public wants governmental action on the issue of climate change. As we see increasing domestic and global devastation from fires, floods, and everything in between, we need to be discussing environmental policy much more, therefore we are calling for a debate or forum around concrete solutions.

We’re calling on all 2020 Democratic candidates to take part in a debate or forum around environmental issues.

The Washington Post reported that a forum will occur October of 2019 by the Human Rights Campaign and UCLA School of Public Affairs around LGBTQ issues where “Democratic presidential candidates will be invited to participate in a forum focused exclusively on LGBT policies … they will discuss topics related to hate crimes, bullying and transgender rights.”

That’s an excellent idea and an inspiration for our own organizing.

Let’s ensure environmental issues from climate change, access to clean water, environmental racism, and everything in between that are disproportionately impacting people of color and working class folks are given the serious attention they deserve.

Let’s be sure we hear how candidates plan to stop companies accountable for polluting our water and air and what they think about opening up federal land to fracking, drilling, and trophy hunting. Let’s have an open mind as they discuss the ways we can shift to renewable energy while keeping the economy and jobs secure.

Sign our petition and let’s show all the 2020 candidates, the media, and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that young people can lead as the catalyst for such important discussions that affect every single one of us. 

ACTION: Sign our petition telling the DNC and 2020 candidates that you want to see a debate or forum entirely around environmental issues.

THE LETTER
To be delivered to 2020 Candidates, Democratic National Committee (DNC)

There are many formidable candidates running for the Democratic nomination in 2020. We want all the candidates to commit to participating in a debate or forum on environmental issues and policies so we can hear detailed ideas and plans.

Thank you for your support.

Haven Coleman, Karla Stephan, Isra Hirsi, Feliquan Charlemagne, Maddy Fernands, Anya Sastry, Salomée Levy, and the rest of the US Youth Climate Strike team

Source:

1. “Extreme weather affected 62 million people last year, UN climate change report says” CBS News, March 28, 2019
https://act.moveon.org/go/64877?t=20&akid=231922%2E23936879%2ESy9IU9

Extreme Weather Affected 62 Million People Last Year, UN Climate Change Report Says

CBS Evening News

(March 28, 2019) — United Nation’s Secretary-General António Guterres told world leaders to come to September’s climate summit in New York City with plans to take action on climate change, as the U.N.’s weather agency released its flagship report about global warming. The report said extreme weather last year hit 62 million people worldwide and forced 2 million people to relocate, as man-made climate change worsened.

“I’m telling leaders, don’t come with a speech, come with a plan,” Guterres said.

Guterres said climate change is a security and health issue for the world.

“The impact on public health is escalating,” Guterres said. “The combination of extreme heat and air pollution is proving increasingly dangerous.”

The World Meteorological Organization’s annual state of global climate report says Earth is nearly 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than when the industrial age started. World leaders are trying to limit warming to 3.6 degrees.

Emissions from burning fuels such as coal, gasoline and diesel for electricity and transportation are contributing to global warming that in turn brings more intense storms, floods and droughts.

“We have seen a growing amount of disasters because of climate change,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. He said since 1998, about 4.5 billion around the world have been hurt by extreme weather.

Cyclone Idai, which just hit Mozambique, is a good example, but is too recent to be in the report, Taalas said.  

The past four years were the warmest on record, according to the report. That includes 2018, the warmest La Niña year on record, Taalas said. La Niña, a natural cooling of parts of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide, usually cools global temperature a bit.

“Last year, in the United States alone, we saw 14 weather- and climate-related disasters where the devastation cost more than $1 billion dollars each, with a total of some $49 billion,” Guterres said.

The 44-page report says:

  • Floods affected 35 million people. 
  • Drought hit another 9 million people, adding to the problem of growing enough food to feed the world.
  • Ocean heat reached a record high, and oceans are getting more acidic and losing oxygen.
  • With some exceptions, glaciers are melting and ice in the polar oceans is shrinking.
  • The level of carbon dioxide in the air hit record highs.

“Carbon dioxide is the major problem here,” Taalas said, adding that the gas stays in the air for hundreds of years. Guterres called the U.N. report “another strong wake-up call.”

“It proves what we have been saying that climate change is moving faster than our efforts to address it,” he said. “It is important that we tackle climate change with much greater ambition. I am calling on [leaders] to come to the summit with concrete, realistic plans to put us on a sustainable path, once and for all.”

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Hit by Devastating Floods, Iran Hurt by US Sanctions

April 18th, 2019 - by Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(April 17, 2019) — Speaking on Iranian state TV on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the US ought to have suspended sanctions against Iran for a year because of the humanitarian crisis that severe flooding has caused in the country.
Rouhani said it was “inhumane and filthy” for the US to block cash support to the Iranian Red Crescent. US sanctions are reported to have prevented considerable international aid to save flood victims.

Estimates are that around 80 people have been killed by the flooding, which hit the majority of Iranian provinces. The estimate is also that it did around $2.5 billion in property damage across the country.

It is highly unlikely that the US will make any changes to the sanctions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo previously denied that the sanctions would impact humanitarian aid. US sanctions are intended not to cover such remittances, but the US is so aggressive and arbitrary with enforcement that anything remotely Iran related scares banks off from financing it.

Iran FM: US Sanctions Impede Flood Relief; Amount to ‘Economic Terrorism’

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

 (April 1, 2019) —  Weeks of heavy rain have caused flooding in 23 of Iran’s 31 provinces, and have tested the ability of NGOs like the Iranian Red Crescent to ferry aid workers around the country, and get to areas only reachable by helicopter.

In most cases, a nation would be able to turn to its neighbors, or the UN, for help in such an overwhelming situation. US sanctions, however, have made even emergency aid deliveries next to impossible to pull off.
The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs initially offered some help with helicopters, but ultimately appears to have backed away, citing “challenges” caused by the perception that such aid would violate US sanctions.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was deeply critical of the US sanctions being so hostile to even humanitarian services, saying that the US had crossed the line from economic warfare to “economic terrorism.”

Iran, Iraq Forge Ahead with Collaboration Amid US Pressure

Hamidreza Azizi / Al Monitor

(April 8, 2019) — Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi visited Tehran April 6-7, his first official visit to the neighboring country since assuming office in October 2018. Accompanied by a large delegation of high-ranking Iraqi officials and representatives of the private sector, Abdul Mahdi came to Tehran at the formal invitation of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Apart from meeting with Rouhani, the Iraqi leader also met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and attended a joint meeting of the Iranian and Iraqi business sectors at the Iran Chamber of Commerce.

The visit came less than a month after Rouhani’s visit to Iraq — the first by the Iranian president since taking office in 2013 — in which the two sides reached a number of important agreements, mostly on economic issues.

The increased frequency of high-level meetings between Iranian and Iraqi officials, as well as Abdul Mahdi’s busy schedule while in Tehran, sparked fresh discussion on the growing ties between the two neighbors. In fact, taking into account Abdul Mahdi’s agenda in Iran, as well as the regional and international circumstances surrounding the visit, it could be said that the visit was important from three main aspects.

First and foremost, the visit came amid increased pressure from the United States to limit Iran’s influence in Iraq, giving the visit a symbolic aspect. Although the US administration agreed on March 20 to extend the sanctions waiver for Iraq, so it can import gas and electricity from Iran for a 90-day period, it has been pressuring Baghdad to eliminate its energy dependence on Tehran.

However, Iraq’s parliamentary speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi said March 30 that his country needs at least three years to become “economically independent.” Until then, Iraq needs to continue importing energy. Furthermore, Abdul Mahdi himself previously emphasized that his country is “not obliged” to abide by US sanctions against Iran. One of the main topics of discussion during both Rouhani’s visit to Baghdad and Abdul Mahdi’s visit to Tehran was how to bypass the sanctions in bilateral economic ties.

Apart from the sanctions, Washington has tried to dissuade Iraqi officials from expanding relations with the Islamic Republic by trying to depict Iran’s role in Iraq as negative and destructive. Following Rouhani’s visit to Iraq in March, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook claimed that Iran wants to turn Iraq into a province. Before Abdul Mahdi’s departure to Tehran, Hook said Iran was responsible for the deaths of more than 600 American troops in Iraq.

Under such circumstances, Abdul Mahdi’s visit and his expressed willingness to develop ties with the Islamic Republic were interpreted by the Iranian media as signs of Baghdad’s indifference toward US positions.

For instance, IRIB news agency, which is affiliated with Iran’s state broadcaster, wrote that Abdul Mahdi’s “visit to Iran has a special message for the United States.” Iranian First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri expressed the same view. During his meeting with Abdul Mahdi April 7, he said, “The clear message is that despite the American hostilities, Tehran and Baghdad are determined to comprehensively expand their ties.”

The diplomatic aspect of Abdul Mahdi’s visit was no less important. Two days before his trip, he hosted a high-ranking Saudi delegation, headed by Saudi Trade Minister Majid bin Abdullah al-Qasabi. The Saudi official was not only tasked with reopening the Saudi Consulate in Baghdad after nearly three decades of closure, but also with strengthening economic ties between the two countries, including providing Iraq with $1 billion in loans. The visit, a clear sign of Riyadh’s desire to initiate a rapprochement with Baghdad, was interpreted as being aimed at curbing Iran’s influence in Iraq

However, not only did the Saudi charm offensive not affect Abdul Mahdi’s bid for closer relations with the Islamic Republic, it apparently made him eager to play a mediating role between the two rivals. Upon the Iraqi leader’s arrival in Tehran, the media reported that an Iraqi mediation plan was to be presented to Tehran.

According to media reports, the plan has been in the works since Abdul Mahdi’s visit to Egypt in March, and it will be discussed with Saudi officials during his visit to Riyadh next month.

Although the two sides have not confirmed those reports, Rouhani’s reference to regional issues in his joint press conference with Abdul Mahdi could indicate that they addressed the issue during their meeting.

“The [situation of] the region was one of the issues discussed between the two sides,” Rouhani said, adding that “we have common viewpoints on many regional issues.” As such, it seems Baghdad is trying to build upon its current favorable relations with both Tehran and Riyadh to push them toward a compromise.

The third yet most important aspect of Abdul Mahdi’s visit to Tehran was the economic aspect. Economic issues dominated the visit, with both sides declaring a desire to enhance annual bilateral trade to $20 billion within the next three years.

According to Reza Rahmani, the Iranian minister of industry, mines and trade, the two sides are also working on a free trade agreement. Separately, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh announced that the two sides would start working on the development of two shared oil fields. Media also reported that Iran’s central bank head Abdolnaser Hemmati will soon travel to Baghdad to personally oversee the implementation of financial agreements.

Given the current situation, with the United States determined to pursue a policy of imposing “maximum pressure” on the Islamic Republic through economic sanctions, Iraq’s approach of not giving in to the pressure, and thereby continuing its economic interactions with Iran, is of great significance to Tehran.

Meanwhile, as both Iran and Saudi Arabia redefine their relations with Iraq, giving more weight to the economic aspect, the Iranian-Saudi rivalry could take on a geo-economic characteristic, gradually replacing the traditional geopolitical one. This, in turn, would further decrease the risk of an escalation between the two sides, while making it easier for Baghdad to pursue a balanced foreign policy toward its two powerful neighbors.

Hamidreza Azizi is an assistant professor of regional studies at Shahid Beheshti University and a member of the scientific board at the Iran and Eurasia Studies Institute (IRAS) in Tehran. On Twitter: @HamidRezaAz

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

A Lawyer Set Himself on Fire to Protest Climate Change. Did Anyone Care?

April 17th, 2019 - by J. Oliver Conroy / The Guardian UK
David Buckel

David Buckel hoped his death would catalyze action. But what is individual responsibility when confronted with the crisis of a rapidly changing planet? 

(April 15, 2019) — On a recent Saturday in Brooklyn, against the unlikely backdrop of a huge blue-and-white Ikea outlet, several dozen volunteers hand-churned compost. Decomposing food scraps emit considerable heat, and the 6ft-tall compost heaps were warm to the touch. As shovels and pitchforks pierced the compost, gusts of steam rolled off like fog.

A three-acre lot-turned-urban farm, the Red Hook Community Farms contains the largest compost site in America powered entirely by sustainable sources. During an orientation for new volunteers, one of the site managers explained that the operation was the brainchild of a lawyer-turned-environmentalist named David Buckel, who supervised it until his death last year. He designed the site’s processes so it would run like clockwork, even in his absence.

A woman asked, hesitantly: “Is he the one who … self-immolated?”

“Yes,” the manager said.

He didn’t elaborate but said he considered the site Buckel’s legacy, and that he and the other two managers felt honored to carry on its work.

As the manager talked, a small wind turbine whizzed overhead. Energy from the turbine, plus several solar panels, fed into a generator that pumped air into the compost heaps not being churned by hand. On the other side of the lot grew rows of spinach, kale, tomatoes and other crops, which the farm sells or donates to food pantries.

Terry Kaelber, Buckel’s husband and companion of 34 years, often volunteers at the compost site. When I asked him about the site, he thought carefully, then said: “There is something very simple and pure in coming together, in giving up your time, to take people’s food scraps and do the work that will enable those scraps to be turned back, over time, into food.”

The site was a microcosm, he said, of the kind of self-sustaining, harmonious society Buckel wanted to build—the kind “I think in some ways we all subconsciously long for”.

“I only wish,” he said, “that David had stuck it out.”

***

Early on the morning of 14 April 2018, Buckel—a 60-year-old retired gay rights attorney—left his cozy, garden-surrounded Brooklyn house and walked to nearby Prospect Park. He made his way to a stretch of grass, where he emailed media outlets a statement decrying humanity’s passivity in the face of pollution and global warming.

A few minutes later, he doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire.

“Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result,” his statement said. “[M]y early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”

With characteristic care, he also left a short note at the scene for emergency personnel. “I am David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide,” he wrote. “I apologize to you for the mess.”

None of Buckel’s family or friends were aware of his intent, and we will never know for certain whether pre-existing mental distress may have contributed to his decision to take his life. But his writing made it clear he viewed his death in political terms and hoped it would galvanize mass action.

His statement referred to the Buddhist monks who have burned themselves to death to protest against the occupation of Tibet. As someone who came of age during the Vietnam war, he was also surely familiar with the iconic photograph of Thich Quang Duc, a Saigon monk who self-immolated to protest against South Vietnamese persecution of Buddhists. He may have also known of Norman Morrison, a Quaker who killed himself in front of the Pentagon to protest against the Vietnam war.

Around the same period, Jan Palach, a university student in Prague, self-immolated in an attempt to rally Czechoslovaks against Soviet occupation. Before he died of his burns, Palach said his target was less the Soviet regime itself than the fatalism and despair he feared had overcome his fellow citizens.

Despite the risk of copycats, most people who have committed political self-immolation have indicated that they hoped to inspire mass mobilization, not further death.

Sometimes mobilization does come: when Mohamed Bouazizi, an impoverished fruit vendor in Tunisia, set himself on fire in 2011 to protest government corruption, it catalyzed a mass protest that toppled the country’s dictatorship and inspired similar movements across the Arab world.

It is difficult to say why some incidents of self-immolation are perceived as mental health tragedies and others as considered political acts; why some became enduring political iconography and others are relegated to obscurity; and why some catalyze change and others don’t.

Buckel had led a distinguished legal career, and worked on famous cases including the Nebraska hate crime that inspired the film Boys Don’t Cry; for that reason, as well as the shocking circumstances of his death, his death received national news coverage. But in a reactive 24-hour news cycle, the story was rapidly buried by the ongoing drama of the Mueller investigation and airstrikes on Syria.

The mass action Buckel had hoped for did not come. There was no Prague spring or Tunisian revolution for the planet. Writing in the New York Times less than a week later, the novelist Nathan Englander asked why Buckel’s death received so little attention compared with the “AR-15-level attention that we give the very worst among us”, mass killers.

The muted response was probably, in part, an understandable reluctance to glorify suicide. A profile of Buckel in the Times, investigating what might have driven a seemingly healthy man to set himself on fire, acknowledged that the question was mostly impossible to answer.

But perhaps there were even more fundamental, unresolvable questions making otherwise sympathetic people uneasy: was Buckel’s death an act of optimism, or surrender? And what is individual responsibility, when confronted by the seemingly insurmountable crisis of a rapidly changing planet?

***

Buckel grew up in upstate New York, one of five children; his father was an agricultural consultant and his mother a florist. As a child he spent some time working on his relatives’ farm, but he was troubled by the slaughter of animals and later became a pescatarian.

He met Kaelber while living in Rochester, and they later moved to New York, where they eventually settled near Prospect Park. They shared their home with a lesbian couple with whom they were co-raising a college-aged daughter.

Buckel loved the natural world and had a lifelong commitment to environmental issues. His work as a lawyer, however, focused on poverty law and LGBT rights. He spent the bulk of his career at Lambda Legal, an LGBT rights organization based in New York.

In the 1990s, when Buckel joined Lambda, LGBT rights were on shaky and sometimes non-existent legal footing. Homosexuality was banned in the military; some states still enforced sodomy laws; and most LGBT rights organizations were focused on securing basic employment and housing protections for gay people and fighting HIV/Aids discrimination. Marriage was far, far away.

The legal arm of the gay rights movement was a long-shot insurgency, and attorneys working on LGBT issues sometimes felt as if they were in a jurisprudential wild west.

“At the time it felt like, ‘There is no law here, there is no opening for this—so we’re just going to make one,’” Beatrice Dohrn, a former Lambda colleague of Buckel’s, told me. “Once gay rights had more legal footing the landscape changed. But at the time we really were kind of outlaws.”

It would be easy, and not totally incorrect, to describe Buckel—fastidious in his habits and devoted to his work—as a strait-laced but formidable lawyer who excelled at working within the system to change it. In one sense, Dohrn said, he was. But that image would obscure his anti-establishment streak. “That suit he always wore?” she said. “That wasn’t David. That was something he forced himself into.”

“David was a funny person with a wry, and sharp, wit,” Suzanne Goldberg, another former Lambda colleague, told me. In a parody of the conventions of legal correspondence, he sometimes signed his documents “DB/afq” — “David Buckel/another fucking queer”.

But he was also “a careful and deeply committed lawyer”, Goldberg said—a “meticulous” person who brought intense sense of purpose to his work. “He never lost sight of the fact that we were representing real people, often with serious difficulties in their lives as a result of discrimination or harassment.”

Although a private person, he radiated sincere interest in others. When you were in conversation with him, Dohrn said, you felt as if you were “the only person in the room”, so intense was his attention. He would ask question after question about your life and interests, listening carefully to the answers, then asking more. You could talk for ages, and only later realize that you never learned anything about him.

At the time, advocating for LGBT rights meant navigating a legal framework in which anti-gay logics were “baked in”, Dohrn said. Lawyers and activists were sometimes forced to accept homophobic premises in order to achieve tactical wins. “A lot of lawyers would look for loopholes in the law, but we were like, ‘No, I don’t want to win that way.’”

Buckel exemplified the second attitude. He believed in the righteousness of the cause, and seemed buoyed by faith in human nature. His refusal to compromise and his tendency to embrace uphill battles sometimes vexed his more pragmatic colleagues.

Evan Wolfson, a former colleague, praised Buckel’s work but said he sometimes tended to “categorical” or “rigid” thinking. He could be “very black-and-white, very un-nuanced in his initial appraisals of things, and because he was also very methodical and very serious, we would have to kind of reel him back in, or open up a gradation, or try to persuade him to see a more flexible alternative”.

His support for pursuing cases in conservative states—Utah, Iowa, Nebraska—considered poor soil for gay rights activism did, however, lead to several landmark victories. And he was also ahead of the curve in embracing issues—such as rights and protections for LGBT youth—regarded at the time as tangential or tactically risky.

At the time, “the right wing was still very fixated on this idea that we—gay people—were trying to indoctrinate young people”, Dohrn said. To avoid encouraging that trope, gay groups tended to steer clear of issues involving youth. Buckel, however, urged Lambda to take more cases defending young people.

They included Nabozny v Podlesny (1996), which determined that schools have a duty to protect students from bullying because of their sexuality; and East High Gay Straight Alliance v Board of Education of Salt Lake City (1999), which overturned the school district’s “unwritten policy” against gay-friendly student groups. He also worked on Dale v Boy Scouts of America (2000), an unsuccessful attempt to force the organization to end its then ban on gay members.

He was also an early advocate for transgender rights, which Wolfson said he views as Buckel’s signature achievement at Lambda.

In 1993, in Nebraska, two men raped Brandon Teena, a 21-year-old trans man. Teena reported the crime to the local sheriff’s department. The sheriff not only failed to take the allegation seriously, but tipped off the rapists, who murdered Teena and two witnesses.

The events inspired a 1998 documentary, The Brandon Teena Story, and the 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry, for which Hilary Swank, portraying Teena, won an Academy award for best actress.

With the support of Lambda and other organizations, Teena’s mother, JoAnn Brandon, sued the sheriff’s office and county government. In 2001, the Nebraska supreme court ruled that the sheriff had violated a duty to protect Teena.

On the Teena case and others, Buckel’s talent for listening was crucial to earning clients’ trust, Dohrn said; his most powerful weapon was often his empathy.

***

Buckel had always been a conservationist and he had “a revulsion for excess consumption”, Dohrn said. He brought his lunch to work every day in the blue plastic bag in which his morning paper was delivered. When he was looking for a home in Brooklyn, he was determined to find one near a park. He loved gardening and gave plants as gifts.

When he retired from Lambda in 2008, it seemed like a good time to devote himself to the environment. While working on grant applications, he became interested in the Red Hook Community Farms. The lot had a small compost site that he believed was underused. With the aid of a grant from the sanitation department, he began expanding the operation into one that could process several tons of compost a week.

He was determined to run the compost site, now supported by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the city government, using only human power and sustainable electricity. At the time it was generally considered difficult, if not impossible, to run a large-scale composting operation without significant help from machines. He threw himself at the challenge of proving that thinking wrong, and succeeded.

“David often said that if he hadn’t become a lawyer he would have become an engineer,” Kaelber said. “He loved puzzles. In this case the puzzle was how to create a community composting site that didn’t have rats and vermin, that didn’t smell, that didn’t have the negative things people associate with composting. He believed it could be done.”

Domingo Morales, now one of the site’s managers, considers Buckel his mentor. “He was the most intelligent person I’ve ever known,” he said. His meticulousness was key to the site’s sustainability and scalability. “Whenever David sent an email to someone it was always a page long. He would answer all these questions that you might have.”

Buckel was always upbeat when talking to volunteers, but privately he expressed more doubt. “He was realistic, in the sense that he knew we were barely scratching the surface,” Morales said.

“There were times we would get into these discussions on the environment,” Morales said, “and they would get very dark. I got the sense from David that he didn’t really blame other people, but that he kind of considered himself to blame. Any environmental injustice, anything going wrong with the world—he didn’t just get mad at other people, he was mad at himself.”

He walked a mile to work every day, to avoid using fossil fuels. He was painstakingly frugal in his habits. He tinkered with the compost processes for ever-greater efficiency. He seemed almost embarrassed of his own life on earth—the space he occupied; the resources he expended—and constantly sought new ways to offset what he viewed as his cost. But it never felt like enough.

“I think some of David’s distress was just all that was going on,” Kaelber said. “The gutting of the [Environmental Protection Agency] since the election of Trump; the complete denial of climate change and the science behind it; the fact that they want to open more and more land to oil and gas drilling, instead of focusing on sustainable solutions.”

During a conversation about two years before he died, Buckel asked Morales what he thought of the self-immolating Tibetan monks. They argued about the ethics of killing oneself as protest. Morales felt it was a foolish method of protest, especially if someone is a parent or spouse with obligations to living people, but Buckel felt it was an honorable act, maybe the most honorable act one can do.

None of his friends or family noticed anything unusual in the days leading up to his death, but Kaelber said he was upset by news that Scott Pruitt, then head of the EPA, was rolling back numerous environmental regulations.

Saturday 14 April was a mild day, good weather for composting, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Early in the morning, Morales remembers, “he texted me: ‘Hey, Domingo, I’m going to be out sick today.’ The past couple months he had been training me to run the site without him, but I thought nothing of it. So I said: ‘OK, cool, hope you’re all right, feel better.’

Then a few minutes later, he emailed me the letter he sent the news outlets, with an additional note at the top to me. He apologized for leaving the way he did, and leaving me with this responsibility. He told me he was proud of me, personally and successfully, and he ended with a little joke, saying I should hire some temps. He was basically saying ‘the site must go on.’”

***

Those who knew and loved Buckel wrestle with how to talk about his death. At his memorial service, one of the women with whom he and Kaelber were co-raising their daughter articulated the dilemma: they didn’t want to ignore the deep personal desperation they believe influenced his decision, but they also didn’t want to detract from his dedication to causes that meant a lot to him.

His statement explaining his death is not a tightly argued, lawyerly brief, peppered with dire statistics about global warming; although it mentions pollution, the actual words “climate change” or “global warming” do not appear. The letter often feels more like a statement of frustration with human nature than about climate change, and reading it buttresses the sense, expressed by some who knew him, that he might have been using his political anxieties to rationalize a decision he had already made.

“[My] privilege,” he wrote, is “feeling heavier than responsibility met.”

But his concerns about the planet are clear; and, whether or not one agrees with the decision, so was his explanation for his self-immolation.

“You know, it was a very conscious, deliberate choice he made,” Kaelber told me. “Not that I was aware of it beforehand. But he never did anything that wasn’t deliberate.”

Dohrn, his former colleague, said: “I don’t think we can treat his death like it was a valiant, valid decision unaffected by things that hopefully people will get care for.” But “if his death is going to garner attention outside the immediate circle of people who are grieving—if it is going to have a public component—then I think that public component should reflect the issue he connected his death to”.

During her eulogy, Buckel’s niece, Carrie Bryant, said: “David, I promise you—wepromise you—that we will give voice to those who have been silenced; we will give love to those who need it; we will tend to this, our beloved great Earth; and we will honor you,” through “simple, individual acts, as you so courageously did to make this world a more loving and just place”.

She added: “This much we owe to you.”

***

Buckel hoped his death would catalyze immediate action. It didn’t. By apparent coincidence, however, the anniversary of his death, however, will overlap with what could be the largest-ever direct action over climate change. Extinction Rebellion, an international activist group, is planning a global wave of civil disobedience the week of 14 April.

Extinction Rebellion, and similar groups such as the Sunrise Movement, believe mass civil disobedience is the most effective way to break through passivity and pressure governments to take concrete action on the climate.

As a dry run of sorts, members of Extinction Rebellion were recently arrested in New York for blocking Fifth Avenue. In London, members stripped partly naked in parliament. Eve Mosher, a spokewoman, told me that the group hopes for hundreds of headline-grabbing arrests this month.

The climate movement may be gaining momentum after all, even if Buckel didn’t live to see it. Yesterday, at the site where he died, Extinction Rebellion held a “funeral” for the species that have gone extinct because of climate change.

From everything we understand, climate change is a tragedy of the commons on a vast scale. Addressing it will require human beings do a lot of things they aren’t naturally inclined to do, like make short-term sacrifices for the sake of long-term common good: the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that as early as 2030 the earth may warm 1.5C (2.7F) over pre-industrial levels—and that 1.5C is the highest level the planet can sustain without entering the realm of the catastrophic. Just limiting warming to that level will require, the IPCC said, mobilization of a scale with “no documented historic precedent”.

It’s a sobering thought, and it invites the kind of fatalism that Buckel hoped to fight against.

“I don’t think you can say he was either ‘pessimistic’ or ‘optimistic’” about human nature, Kaelber said. “He was more complicated than that. He understood that humans are deeply flawed. I think what drove him was how to inspire people to be their best selves.”

He added: “If people want to honor David’s life they should look at how they can get involved, politically and in their own personal lives, in combating climate change.” His voice cracked with emotion. “In the thing that David wrote, the most meaningful part, to me, was: in the aggregated acts of millions of individuals, that is how change is going to occur.”

***

Guests of the memorial service received tree saplings. Perhaps in 10 years, Kaelber told me, he will go visit them all and see what they have become.

Buckel’s friends and family are also building a grove of trees on the space where he died. They have planted some dogwoods, staggered to bloom at different times. Kaelber hopes it will become a gathering place for contemplation, but also a place where people might hold community meetings to organize against global warming.

“He always loved trees,” Kaelber said. He hopes the site will become known as David’s Grove.

Beatrice Dohrn also told me a story about Buckel’s love of plants. “You know, in 1997 I had a breakup that I grieved very hard, and David, as if to cheer me up, gave me a jade plant. I’ve kept it for many, many years, and at some point it almost died,” she said.

“It was down to a stump. But for some reason I didn’t give up on it.”

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

The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service

April 17th, 2019 - by Submitted by David Swanson / David Swanson.org and World BEYOND War

(April 16, 2019) — I was more surprised that your commission contacted me with a kind-of, sort-of invitation to speak than that you ultimately decided not to include me. I thank you for inviting me to submit testimony.

You had read my article, “Draft Registration Will Be Either Ended or Imposed on Women.” I’ve included it below.

I understand that you had already booked these four speakers and then managed to add a fifth: Edward Hasbrouck, Diane Randall, Jude Eden, Mark Coppenger.

I agree with Hasbrouck (and presumably Diane Randall, and the then-Secretary of the Army a couple of years ago, and these 12,000 petition signers) that Selective Service should be ended. I also agree with Hasbrouck that a military draft / compulsory military service would be a failure in the sense that it would be contentious and unfair and widely resisted and evaded and denounced. I’m less confident than he may be that those who want it would regard this as a failure.

Any draft would get more people into the military than no draft. It is not uncommon for people in power to believe that unfair, contentious, polarizing policies benefit them.

Are Trump’s immigration policies a failure in his eyes because they are contentious, polarizing, cruel, criminal, impeachable, and shameful? Clearly not. But the proposals of a long thorough study can aspire to greater wisdom than the buffoonery of a fascistic unclothed emperor.

Jude Eden apparently believes that drafting weak, incompetent women into the U.S. military would reduce that military’s ability to destroy places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, or even Venezuela.

And what a loss to the world that would be! With women lowering the military’s standards, it would be unable to generate as much hatred for the United States. It would be incapable of destabilizing as much of the world, too wimpy to produce the same level of environmental and climate destruction, and just too soft to burn through over $1 trillion a year spreading hatred, eroding liberties, and militarizing society.

Think of it: we’d have equal rights but lack the capacity to kill as many human beings. That would, apparently, be a very sad case of taking one step forward and two back. If I agreed with Jude Eden that such would be the result of adding women to Selective Service, I’d have to seriously consider supporting that policy as preferable to the status quo.

But the military has been and will continue rolling right along with signing up as many men and women as it can, and training them to murder to the extent that it is able. Many members of the military may want to keep women out, just as they may want to be welcomed as liberators in Iran or Venezuela, but there is no rational basis for such beliefs.

Mark Coppenger told a Christian media outlet that it would be “absurd, even despicable, to force our nation’s mothers, daughters and sisters suit up.” He was not asked for any sort of explanation of the absurdity or despicableness, but it clearly was not because murdering large numbers of people with counterproductive and catastrophic results is a horrible thing to do. Rather, Coppenger would clearly prefer that fathers, sons, and brothers be forced to do it.

The generous view of his attitude toward women is that he cares enough about them not to put them through hell. I agree with that view. I just want it expanded to men. In fact, failure to care about boys helps to produce men who are willing to engage in senseless violence, and I would prefer to break that vicious cycle by treasuring all people.

One reason I was surprised to hear from a national commission on anything is that I have argued for the reduction, not the expansion, of nationality, of national-level activities. Service, real or sadistic, voluntary or compelled, can of course be provided at the local or regional or continental or global level.

The key reason for making it national is that nations have militaries. I told you that, given the right circumstances, I might support compulsory service. It would have to be non-military, and not tied to a military agenda.

I’d support mandatory voting in a nation or other jurisdiction with fair and open elections meeting international standards for freedom from corruption and for verifiable results, or even in the United States. I think it’s telling what a struggle it is in the United States to create automatic voter registration, as compared to the priority given to draft registration. Isn’t voting the very first “service” to begin with?

I support compulsory jury duty. I support taxation, though not how it is now done. I think a government that can’t tax the privileged should drop all pretense that it will draft them. But a legitimate service that actually served people, such as work to mitigate climate collapse, if fairly organized by a legitimate body, I might support. I’m not opposing service simply to oppose it. I’m opposing the crime of violating the United Nations Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact, the crime of war. Here’s a video of the sort of things I have to say about why.

Draft Registration Will Be Either Ended or Imposed on Women

A choice must now be made. It is officially unconstitutional to discriminate against 18-year-old women by not forcing them to sign up to be forced against their will to kill and die for Venezuela’s oil or some other noble cause.

Yes, the fine U.S. judiciary has declared for-men-only Selective Service registration to be verboten.

That’s not to say there isn’t debate on the matter. One side holds that women should be treasured as the delicate witless pieces of property they are because the Bible says so, and therefore they must be kept out of war entirely.

The other side says that good modern liberal progressive feminists should demand the right of every woman to be forced, on pain of prison or even death, to help murder a million Iraqis for the cause of creating ISIS or some similar high purpose.

Enlightened women demand not only equal pay, but equal moral injury, PTSD, brain injury, suicide risk, lost limbs, violent tendencies, and the chance to board airplanes first while everybody thanks them for their “service.”

To comply with the Constitution, the U.S. government now must either . . .

  1. Abide by the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact and stop launching wars.
  2. Undo corporate-personhood and dollar-speech, eliminating the influence of war profits and stop launching wars.
  3. Impeach and remove fascist warmongers and stop launching wars.

or . . .

Wait a minute, sorry, I saw the word “Constitution” and lost touch with normalized illegality. What I meant to say was: To comply with the Constitution, the U.S. government now must either . . .

  1. Impose draft registration on men and women alike, or
  2. Abolish draft registration.

Which brings us to an even crazier debate, that between the huge percentage of peace activists who favor not only draft registration but a draft, and those of us who want to see the draft abolished and war along with it.

Those favoring a draft as a means to peace may tend to line up with those favoring the feminist right to be forced to kill and die. You’ll have to ask them how comfortable they are in that company. Those of us favoring the abolition of draft registration, of course, find ourselves lined up beside misogynistic warmongers.

How do I like that company? Frankly, I couldn’t care less. It’s not the point. I agree, on the topic of ending wars, with libertarians who want to end wars for the same reasons they want to end schools and parks and environmental protections.

I agree on withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan with certain carefully selected and not acted upon statements made by the current occupant of the White House. “You can’t help people being right for the wrong reasons,” said Arthur Koestler. “This fear of finding oneself in bad company is not an expression of political purity. It is an expression of a lack of self confidence.”

But how can I be so confident that ending Selective Service is the right thing to do?

The military draft has not been used in the United States since 1973. Neither has the War Powers Resolution, but that could very well change this month. The draft machinery has remained in place, costing the federal government about $25 million a year.

Males over 18 have been required to register for the draft since 1940 (except between 1947 and 1948, and between 1975 and 1980) and still are today, with no option to register as conscientious objectors or to choose peaceful productive public service.

The only reason for keeping Selective Service in place is because the draft might be started up again. While most states’ governments claim that making voter registration automatic would be too much trouble, they have made draft registration automatic for men. This suggests which registration is seen as a priority.

We’re all familiar with the argument behind peace activists’ demand for the draft, the argument that Congressman Charles Rangel made when proposing to start up a draft some years back. U.S. wars, while killing almost exclusively innocent foreigners, also kill and injure and traumatize thousands of U.S. troops drawn disproportionately from among those lacking viable educational and career alternatives.

A fair draft, rather than a poverty draft, would send — if not modern-day Donald Trumps, Dick Cheneys, George W. Bushes, or Bill Clintons — at least some offspring of relatively powerful people to war. And that would create opposition, and that opposition would end the war. That’s the argument in a nutshell. Let me offer 10 reasons why I think this is sincere but misguided.

  1. History doesn’t bear it out. The drafts in the U.S. civil war (both sides), the two world wars, and the war on Korea did not end those wars, despite being much larger and in some cases fairer than the draft during the American war on Vietnam. Those drafts were despised and protested, but they took lives; they did not save lives. The very idea of a draft was widely considered an outrageous assault on basic rights and liberties even before any of these drafts. In fact, a draft proposal was successfully argued down in Congress by denouncing it as unconstitutional, despite the fact that the guy who had actually written most of the Constitution was also the president who was proposing to create the draft. Said Congressman Daniel Webster on the House floor at the time (1814): “The administration asserts the right to fill the ranks of the regular army by compulsion … Is this, sir, consistent with the character of a free government? Is this civil liberty? Is this the real character of our Constitution? No, sir, indeed it is not … Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained, that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war, in which the folly or the wickedness of government may engage it? Under what concealment has this power lain hidden, which now for the first time comes forth, with a tremendous and baleful aspect, to trample down and destroy the dearest rights of personal liberty?” When the draft came to be accepted as an emergency wartime measure during the civil and first world wars, it never would have been tolerated during peacetime. (And it’s still not anywhere to be found in the Constitution.) Only since 1940 (and under a new law in ’48), when FDR was still working on manipulating the United States into World War II, and during the subsequent 75 years of permanent wartime has “selective service” registration gone on uninterrupted for decades. The United States had an active draft from 1940 to 1973. It didn’t stop any wars. The active draft ended in ’73, but the War on Vietnam continued until ’75. The draft machine is part of a culture of war that makes kindergarteners pledge allegiance to a flag and 18-year-old males sign up to express their willingness to go off and kill people as part of some unspecified future government project. The government already knows your Social Security number, sex, and age. The purpose of draft registration is in great part war normalization.
  2. People bled for this. When voting rights are threatened, when elections are corrupted, and even when we are admonished to hold our noses and vote for one or another of the god-awful candidates regularly placed before us, what are we reminded of? People bled for this. People risked their lives and lost their lives. People faced fire hoses and dogs. People went to jail. That’s right. And that’s why we should continue the struggle for fair and open and verifiable elections. But what do you think people did for the right not to be drafted into war? They risked their lives and lost their lives. They were hung up by their wrists. They were starved and beaten and poisoned. Eugene Debs, hero of Senator Bernie Sanders, went to prison for speaking against the draft. What would Debs make of the idea of peace activists supporting a draft in order to stir up more peace activism? I doubt he’d be able to speak through his tears.
  3. Millions dead is a cure worse than the disease. I am very well convinced that the peace movement shortened and ended the war on Vietnam, not to mention removing a president from office, helping to pass other progressive legislation, educating the public, communicating to the world that there was decency hiding in the United States, and — oh, by the way — ending the draft. And I have zero doubt that the draft had helped to build the peace movement. But the draft did not contribute to ending the war before that war had done far more damage than has any war since. We can cheer for the draft ending the war, but four million Vietnamese lay dead, along with Laotians, Cambodians, and over 50,000 U.S. troops. And as the war ended, the dying continued. Many more U.S. troops came home and killed themselves than had died in the war. Children are still born deformed by Agent Orange and other poisons used. Children are still ripped apart by explosives left behind. If you add up numerous wars in numerous nations, the United States has inflicted death and suffering on the Middle East to equal or surpass that in Vietnam, but none of the wars has used anything like as many U.S. troops as were used in Vietnam. If the U.S. government had wanted a draft and believed it could get away with starting one, it would have. If anything, the lack of a draft has restrained the killing. The U.S. military would add a draft to its existing billion-dollar recruitment efforts, not replace one with the other. And the far greater concentration of wealth and power now than in 1973 pretty well assures that the children of the super-elite would not be conscripted.
  4. Don’t underestimate support for a draft. The United States has a much greater population than do most countries of people who say they are ready to support wars and even of people who say they would be willing to fight a war. Forty-four percent of U.S. Americans now tell Gallup polling that they “would” fight in a war. Why aren’t they now fighting in one? That’s an excellent question, but one answer could be: Because there’s no draft. What if millions of young men in this country, having grown up in a culture absolutely saturated in militarism, are told it’s their duty to join a war? You saw how many joined without a draft between September 12, 2001, and 2003. Is combining those misguided motivations with a direct order from the “commander in chief” (whom many civilians already refer to in those terms) really what we want to experiment with? To protect the world from war?!
  5. The supposedly non-existent peace movement is quite real. Yes, of course, all movements were bigger in the 1960s and they did a great deal of good, and I’d willingly die to bring back that level of positive engagement. But the notion that there has been no peace movement without the draft is false. The strongest peace movement the United States has seen was probably that of the 1920s and 1930s. The peace movements since 1973 have restrained the nukes, resisted the wars, and moved many in the United States further along the path toward supporting war abolition. Public pressure blocked the United Nations from supporting recent wars, including the 2003 attack on Iraq, and made supporting that war such a badge of shame that it has kept Hillary Clinton out of the White House at least twice so far. It also resulted in concern in 2013 among members of Congress that if they backed the bombing of Syria they’d been seen as having backed “another Iraq.” Public pressure was critical in upholding a nuclear agreement with Iran in 2015. There are many ways to build the movement. You can elect a Republican president and easily multiply the ranks of the peace movement 100-fold the next day. But should you? (This was tried in 2016 and failed miserably.) You can play on people’s bigotry and depict opposition to a particular war or weapons system as nationalistic and macho, part of preparation for other better wars. But should you? You can draft millions of young men off to war and probably see some new resisters materialize. But should you? Have we really given making the honest case for ending war on moral, economic, humanitarian, environmental, and civil liberties grounds a fair try?
  6. Doesn’t Joe Biden’s son count? I too would love to see a bill passed requiring that congress members and presidents deploy to the front lines of any war they support. But in a society gone mad enough for war, even steps in that direction wouldn’t end the war making. It appears the U.S. military killed the Vice President’s son through reckless disregard for its own cannon fodder. Will the Vice President even mention it, much less make a move to end the endless war-making? Don’t hold your breath. U.S. Presidents and Senators used to be proud to send their offspring off to die. If Wall Street can out-do the gilded age, so can the servants of the military industrial complex.
  7. We build a movement to end war by building a movement to end war. The surest way we have of reducing and then ending militarism, and the racism and materialism with which it is interwoven, is to work for the end of war. By seeking to make wars bloody enough for the aggressor that he stops aggressing, we would essentially be moving in the same direction as we already have by turning public opinion against wars in which U.S. troops die. I understand that there might be more concern over wealthier troops and greater numbers of troops. But if you can open people’s eyes to the lives of gays and lesbians and transgendered people, if you can open people’s hearts to the injustices facing African Americans murdered by police, if you can bring people to care about the other species dying off from human pollution, surely you can also bring them even further along than they’ve already come in caring about the lives of U.S. troops not in their families — and perhaps even about the lives of the non-Americans who make up the vast majority of those killed by U.S. warmaking. One result of the progress already made toward caring about U.S. deaths has been greater use of robotic drones. We need to be building opposition to war because it is the mass murder of beautiful human beings who are not in the United States and ould never be drafted by the United States. A war in which no Americans die is just as much a horror as one in which they do. That understanding will end war.
  8. The right movement advances us in the right direction. Pushing to end the draft will expose those who favor it and increase opposition to their war mongering. It will involve young people, including young men who do not want to register for the draft and young women who do not want to be required to start doing so. A movement is headed in the right direction if even a compromise is progress. A compromise with a movement demanding a draft would be a small draft. That would almost certainly not work any of the magic intended, but would increase the killing. A compromise with a movement to end the draft might be the ability to register for non-military service or as a conscientious objector. That would be a step forward. We might develop out of that new models of heroism and sacrifice, new nonviolent sources of solidarity and meaning, new members of a movement in favor of substituting civilized alternatives for the whole institution of war.
  9. The war mongers want the draft too. It’s not only a certain section of peace activists who want the draft. So do the true war mongers. The selective service tested its systems at the height of the occupation of Iraq, preparing for a draft if needed. Various powerful figures in D.C. have proposed that a draft would be more fair, not because they think the fairness would end the war-making but because they think the draft would be tolerated. Now, what happens if they decide they really want it? Should it be left available to them? Shouldn’t they at least have to recreate the selective service first, and to do so up against the concerted opposition of a public facing an imminent draft? Imagine if the United States joins the civilized world in making college free. Recruitment will be devastated. The poverty draft will suffer a major blow. The actual draft will look very desirable to the Pentagon. They may try more robots, more hiring of mercenaries, and more promises of citizenship to immigrants. We need to be focused on cutting off those angles, as well as on in fact making college free.
  10. Take away the poverty draft too. The unfairness of the poverty draft is not grounds for a larger unfairness. It needs to be ended too. It needs to be ended by opening up opportunities to everyone, including free quality education, job prospects, life prospects. Isn’t the proper solution to troops being stop-lossed not adding more troops but waging less war?

There’s also the danger of the path begun with expansion of draft registration to women leading next to compulsory short-term “national service” for all. This might even be done with military and non-military options, though one can imagine what the struggle would look like to try to give the non-military servitude — excuse me, service — the same compensation and benefits as the military.

I recommend that we actually find common ground to what little extent it exists with those who say that we should treasure women so much that we would never send them off to kill or die. Then we should work to expand that admirable outlook to include men too. Can’t we treasure men that much?

We should help find young women and men career prospects outside the machinery of death. Help create the universal right to free college. Repair the unfairness of the poverty draft and the stop-lossing of troops by giving young people alternatives and ending the wars.

When we end the poverty draft and the actual draft, when we actually deny the military the troops it needs to wage war, and when we create a culture that views murder as wrong even when engaged in on a large scale and even when all the deaths are foreign, and even when women are equally involved in the killing, then we’ll actually get rid of war, not just acquire the ability to stop each war four million deaths into it.

We need a movement with women and men from around the world to create a global treaty banning all military conscription for all people.

We need a movement to abolish sexism, racism, environmental destruction, mass incarceration, poverty, illiteracy, and war.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Swanson was awarded the 2018 Peace Prize by the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation. 

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

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