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30.10.2017 – Quito, Ecuador Walker Vizcarra

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6th Nonviolent Initiatives Fair in Quito, Ecuador.
Kevin Sanabria reads poetry during the 6th Nonviolent Initiatives Fair, Quito, Ecuador (Image by Walker Vizcarra)

On Saturday, 28th of October, more than 25 organisations and collectives developing projects and actions to overcome violence and discrimination, contributing to the construction of a culture of peace, took part in the 6th Nonviolent Initiatives Fair, the final act of “Nonviolent October“, in Carolina Park, Quito.

Hundreds of people converged on the central United Nations Boulevard in the city centre to browse among the stands manned by those working in different action fronts for nonviolence.

Initiatives for children, senior citizens, mental gymnastics, activities to raise awareness of the macro-impacts of micro-aggression, for people with autism, to appreciate the situation of women who suffer gender-based violence, meditation spaces and places to be “vaccinated” against violence among others were all on display for people to discover.  Everything going together for the construction of a nonviolent Ecuador!

30.10.2017 – London, UK #AcampadaSol

From Balfour to Netanyahu and Hamas: 100 years of mutual dehumanisation
Merneptah Stele known as the Israel stela (JE 31408) from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. C.1209 BCE (Image by Webscribe for Wikimedia Commons)

In spite of the British Government’s plans for an enthusiastic celebration of the Balfour Declaration’s 100th anniversary due on Nov 2, the date commemorates also the beginning of what is known as the most intractable conflict in today’s world.

“The Balfour Declaration was a public statement issued by the British government during World War I announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, then an Ottoman region with a minority Jewish population. It read:

His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

The declaration was contained in a letter dated 2 November 1917 from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. The text of the declaration was published in the press on 9 November 1917. Wikipedia

Background

Although Balfour marks an important point in the history of the conflict, it is not the beginning by any stretch of the imagination.
The drive to seek a safe haven for the Jewish people had a history of millennia of persecution and massacres (1) and the mounting antisemitism of the 19th century in Europe was seen as another wave coming, as it finally happened with the Holocaust. In this context a movement to find a way back to what was considered to be the Jewish homeland (the hills of Zion, ergo, Zionism) developed, initially as a secular group.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, are the heirs of a parallel history of invasions, wars and religious intolerance and strife (2). Under the Ottoman Empire, however, the area had achieved some stability and self determination. It had contributed to the modernisation of the Empire by the time WWI broke out (the Ottomans joined Germany, the Central Powers against Britain and France and the latter won the war). The British Empire had made some kind of promise of independence to those participating in the Arab revolt led by ”Lawrence of Arabia” but by the end of the war the winners carved the Middle East according to their own interests.

The State of Israel was created after WWII and the Holocaust, leading to the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) and near permanent conflict in the Occupied Territories

Dehumanisation

When “the other” becomes dehumanised there is a process through which all empathy or sense of solidarity disappears, because the other becomes objectified, devoid of feeling and only the target for hatred and fear. The longer this process goes on for the more entrenched dehumanisations becomes. Whether we begin to count the time of the conflict 100 or 2000 years ago one thing becomes obvious: there is absolutely no chance it may be resolved by another war or any other act of violence. All “solutions” that imagine one side succeeding over the other are simply suicidal. The mounting propaganda of fear on both sides has ended up putting in power the strangest bedfellows, Netanyahu and Hamas, the most hatred-filled governments depending on one another to remain in power. Orwell couldn’t have anticipated it any better.

Surprise! The human spirit thrives in the most unlikely places

The capacity of people submerged in conflict, brainwashed by education and media and surviving negative experiences to humanise “the other” against all odds is everywhere. It may not be widely acknowledged, it does not make headlines, it may well be so dismissed by the powerful that most people have no idea it’s happening. And yet…

The number of organisations trying to find Reconciliation and Peace in Israel/Palestine grows every day. I counted 51 today in Wikipedia
What they have in common is an intention for a future of peace and the conscious awareness that other people are also human beings. This is the core principle of nonviolence, without humanisation there cannot be long lasting solutions. Humanisation has to do partly with finding the common things that make us human, “the Russians love their children too” sang Sting during the Cold War, and when we discover intentionality we understand that freedom to have a point of view must be a universal human right. More interestingly intentionality also makes us unique, different. “We should not hide behind our similarities” is the slogan of Neve Shalom Wahat al Salaam, a village and schools where Israeli Arabs and Jews live in peaceful coexistence. Diversity is not just to be “tolerated” but also celebrated, as it offers a wealth of options necessary for the evolution of our species.

Balfour at 100 could be the perfect opportunity to stop relishing a past of violence and dehumanisation and begin constructing a path of coherence and solidarity. Vengeance is soul destroying, love and compassion, when allowed to express themselves even in the harshest of conflicts, create an unexpected and unimaginable sense of meaning and fulfilment. Support for any of the organisations working in this direction would be the first step. Another would be to make them  better known by the public, if the media controlled by the interests of those who benefit from the conflict is silent about them, there are enough outlets to speak their name loud and clear.

Nonviolence is not just a way to resolve conflicts”outside” but it is also a purpose for transformation in one’s own life, building a centre that keeps us on track even if the surrounding environment is descending into chaos, as many feel it is happening now. Historical milestones are great to ask ourselves who we are and where are we going. Even the worst moments may be opportunities to bring light into the world.

 

1. After three rebellions of the Judea population against the Romans, Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century decided to kill and/or evict most Jewish people. Those who escaped settled around the empire and beyond. The Second Temple where the Ark of Covenant in the Holy of Hollies (Tabernacle) was supposed to be housed had already been largely destroyed a century before by the Romans. Jewish massacres and banishments took place in Alexandria in 39CE, throughout the Roman Empire after its conversion to Christianity, during the Crusades, in Spain under the Inquisition, after being blamed for epidemics of the Plague in several countries, killed and expelled from France and England and later from Poland and Russia. Important and influential figures of religion like Martin Luther (whose 95 Thesis kickstarted the Reformation almost to the day of the Balfour Declaration but 400 years earlier and whose rabid antisemitism was later used by the Nazis in Germany), philosophy like Voltaire and the arts like Wagner contributed to the spread of antisemitism. Wikipedia
2. The Palestine region or parts of it have been controlled by numerous different peoples and regional powers, including the Canaanites, Amorites, Ancient Egyptians, Israelites, Moabites, Ammonites, Tjeker, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, different dynasties of the Early Muslim period (Umayads, Abbasids, Seljuqs, Fatimids), Crusaders, Late Muslim dynasties (Ayyubids, Mamluks, Ottoman Turks), the British, Jordanians (1948–1967, on the “West Bank”) and Egyptians (in Gaza), and modern Israelis and Palestinians. Wikipedia
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29.10.2017 – Birmingham, Alabama David Swanson

How Peace Studies Can Help End Wars

By David Swanson

Remarks at Peace and Justice Studies Association Conference in Birmingham, Alabama, October 28, 2017.

Thank you for inviting me. Can everyone who thinks that war is never, and can never be, justified please raise your hand. Thank you. Now if you think every war is always justified. Thank you. And finally all the moderates holding the balanced subtle middle ground: some wars are justified. Thank you. You may not be surprised to hear that this room is not typical of this country. Typical is for absolutely everyone to pile into that last group.

The relationship between peace and war is clearly not understood by the U.S. public as along the lines of that between alive and dead. Peace and war are things people imagine can coexist.

In Virginia, where I live, a school board member once said he would support recognizing the international day of peace as long as nobody misunderstood and thought he was opposed to any wars.

In Washington, D.C., two years ago I visited the U.S. Institute of Peace along with some other peace activists. We met with some of the top people there and asked them if they would join us in opposing wars. Their president told me there was more than one way to get to peace. I asked her if one of those ways was through war. She asked me to define war. I said that war was the use of the U.S. military to kill people. She said that “non-combat troops” could be the answer. I think I may have been left with only nonverbal words at that point in the conversation. A non-combat troop is a person trained for combat, armed for combat, sent to an area of likely combat, and called a “non-combat troop.”

Here’s a project on which I could use a great deal of help from Peace Studies programs. I want to persuade the general public that a choice has to be made. On one side is peace, and on the other war.

I believe we have plenty of models to work from. I believe that not only at an early childhood education conference but even in a public square virtually every person would raise their hand to say that child abuse is never justified and can never be justified. And very few would propose using child abuse as a means to arrive at a state of respectful nurturing. There are many other things that one has to work to find open defenders of, things like slavery, dueling, trial by ordeal, or Jeff Sessions. And there are nasty things that most people support or accept: mass incarceration, fossil fuel consumption, animal slaughter, nuclear weapons, hedge funds, the United States Senate — and yet, even with these, a proposal to abolish them is understood as squarely opposed to continuing them. Partial steps are good and necessary, but a plan to get to a green-energy world by burning off all the oil is not understood as actually being a green proposal — not in the way that millions of people imagine bombing North Korea or Iran is the best way to make peace with North Korea or Iran.

Of course no two things are the same, and the arguments that most people believe support wars do not support slavery or fossil fuel use or child abuse. Yet, I believe that most of what makes war unique weighs in favor of abolishing it. And I believe peace studies can go very far toward persuading people that common defenses of war don’t hold up.

I. Here’s the first point that I believe is established by the facts but badly in need of being learned: War endangers those in whose name it is threatened and waged. Obviously we don’t begin sporting events by thanking armed troops for endangering us, but we might be more in touch with reality if we did. Terrorism has predictably increased during the war on terrorism (as measured by the Global Terrorism Index). 99.5% of terrorist attacks occur in countries engaged in wars and/or engaged in abuses such as imprisonment without trial, torture, or lawless killing. The highest rates of terrorism are in “liberated” and “democratized” Iraq and Afghanistan. The terrorist groups responsible for the most terrorism (that is, non-state, politically motivated violence) around the world have grown out of U.S. wars against terrorism. Those wars themselves have left numerous just-retired top U.S. government officials and even a few U.S. government reports describing military violence as counterproductive, as creating more enemies than are killed. Every military action now seems to be launched by a chorus of cabinet secretaries, ambassadors, and senators chanting “There is no military solution. There is no military solution,” as they try to solve yet another problem militarily. The violence that the new enemies they create engage in sometimes makes it into the category of terrorism. Then there are the non-terrorism (that is, non-politically motivated) mass-murders that have become an epidemic in a United States that has militarized its police, its entertainment, its economy, and its culture. Here are some facts from a wonderful publication called the Peace Science Digest: “Deployment of troops to another country increases the chance of attacks from terror organizations from that country. Weapons exports to another country increase the chance of attacks from terror organizations from that country. 95% of all suicide terrorist attacks are conducted to encourage foreign occupiers to leave the terrorist’s home country.” In fact, I’m not aware of a foreign terrorist threat, attempt, or action against the United States, in which a motivation was stated, where that motivation was anything other than opposition to U.S. military imperialism. I think we can safely draw three conclusions.

1) Foreign terrorism in the United States can be virtually eliminated by keeping the U.S. military out of any country that is not the United States.

2) If Canada or some other country wanted the weapons sales that could only come from generating anti-Canadian terrorist networks on a U.S. scale or just wanted more threats of terrorism, it would need to radically increase its bombing, occupying, and base construction around the world.

3) On the model of the war on terrorism, the war on drugs that produces more drugs, and the war on poverty that seems to increase poverty, we would be wise to consider launching a war on sustainable prosperity and happiness.

II. Here’s the second big area where I think education is needed: We do not need wars to defend us. Given the number of people, and powerful people, and well-placed people who believe that we do need wars to defend us, and who view the renaming of the War Department as the Defense Department as essentially a question of accuracy, it’s worth taking this belief very seriously. In fact, I would like to take it so seriously as to insist that its proponents create effective definitions of defensive and offensive actions, and of defensive and offensive weaponry, and make eliminating the offensive varieties a top priority.

Is massing troops on a border thousands of miles from your own country defensive or offensive? If it’s defensive, should we demand that every country start routinely doing it? Is attacking seven countries that have not attacked yours offensive or defensive? Is an airplane designed to evade detection before dropping nuclear bombs or napalm defensive? Is installing missiles near a distant land that views them as offensive defensive if you call it “missile defense”? Is giving airplanes and pilots and trainers to China while blockading and threatening Japan until it attacks defensive or offensive? Is attacking territory where people attempt to secede from a country defensive or offensive? Is dropping white phosphorus on people because their ruler is alleged to have used chemical weapons on his own people offensive or defensive, or simply acceptable because you’re killing somebody else’s people? Is attacking first before someone else can attack you defensive, offensive, or does it depend on who is doing it — and if it depends on who is doing it, how does one obtain that special privilege?

I don’t think you can clearly define every action as defensive or offensive to everyone’s satisfaction, much less stop all parties from proclaiming their status as defensive actors. But I do think you can get broad agreement on enough to identify three quarters of U.S. military expenditures, and an enormous percentage of U.S. weapons sales, as having no defensive purpose, and serving rather to endanger than to protect. I would include on that list: U.S. troop presence in 175 countries, U.S. “Special” Forces in 135 countries, U.S./Saudi war in Yemen, U.S. warmaking in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, and Syria, all nuclear weapons, all aircraft carriers, all vehicles not designed for guarding U.S. borders, all State Department and Pentagon personnel employed marketing U.S. weaponry to foreign governments, and all U.S. weapons sales (and gifts) to foreign governments and non-state fighters. So, if someone believes in military defense, we need have no argument. Instead we can work on scaling the U.S. military back in a manner that I guarantee will create a reverse arms race around the world, make us safer, and make total abolition seem dramatically more realistic to everyone than it does now.

Of course we are not taking partial steps toward establishing a defensive Defense Department, because the distinction between “defensive” and “offensive” war is a distinction of rhetoric and justification, not of action. The U.S. prepares for and engages in so-called “defensive” wars in a manner that the earth could never survive, environmentally or militarily, if even just two nations did it, and in a manner indistinguishable from preparation for offensive wars. Thus it becomes important to recognize necessary partial steps away from militarism not as ends in themselves or steps toward better wars, but as steps toward abolition.

The idea that we don’t actually need some reasonable level of military defense is boosted by studies like Erica Chenoweth’s and Maria Stephan’s showing the superiority of nonviolent action to violent. My hope is that the more that people learn the tools of nonviolence and their power, the more they will believe in and choose to make use of that power, which will increase the power of nonviolence in a virtuous cycle. At some point I can imagine people laughing at the idea that some foreign dictatorship is going to invade and occupy a nation ten times its size, full of people dedicated to nonviolent noncooperation with occupiers. Already, I get a laugh on a frequent basis when people email me with the threat that if I do not support war I had better be prepared to start speaking North Korean or what they call “the ISIS language.” Apart from the nonexistence of these languages, the idea that anybody is going to get 300 million Americans to learn any foreign language, much less do so at gun point, almost makes me cry. I can’t help imagining how much weaker war propaganda might be if all Americans did know multiple languages.

Peace Studies, I think, has the job of replacing just war theory with just peace theory. It shouldn’t be that hard a job. Just war criteria come in three types: non-empirical, impossible, and amoral.

The Non-Empirical Criteria: A just war is supposed to have the right intention, a just cause, and proportionality. But these are devices of rhetoric. When your government says bombing a building where ISIS stashes money justifies killing up to 50 people, there’s no agreed upon, empirical means to reply No, only 49, or only 6, or up to 4,097 people can be justly killed. There’s no kilodometer or mechanical Madeleine Albright that I can plug in and use to measure the number of justifiable murders. Identifying a government’s intention is far from simple, and attaching a just cause like ending slavery to a war doesn’t make that cause inherent to that war. Slavery can be ended in many ways, while no war has ever been fought for a single reason. Slavery in Birmingham, Alabama, certainly wasn’t ended by a war. If Myanmar had more oil we’d be hearing about genocide prevention as a just cause for invading, and no doubt worsening, the crisis.

The Impossible Criteria: A just war is supposed to be a last resort, have a reasonable prospect of success, keep noncombatants immune from attack, respect enemy soldiers as human beings, and treat prisoners of war as noncombatants. None of these things is even possible. To call something a “last resort” is in reality merely to claim it is the best idea you have, not the only idea you have. There are always other ideas that anyone can think of. Every time we urgently need to bomb Iran or we’re all going to die, and we don’t, and we don’t, the urgency of the next demand to bomb Iran loses a bit of its shine and the infinite options of other things to do become a little easier to see. If war really were the only idea you had, you wouldn’t be debating ethics, you’d be running for Congress.

What about respecting a person while trying to kill her or him? There are lots of ways to respect a person, but none of them can exist simultaneously with trying to kill that person. In fact, I would rank right at the bottom of people who respect me those who were trying to kill me. Remember that just war theory began with people who believed killing someone was doing them a favor. Noncombatants are the majority of casualties in modern wars, so they cannot be kept safe, but they are not locked in cages, so prisoners cannot be treated like noncombatants while imprisoned.

The Amoral Criteria: Just wars are supposed to be publicly declared and waged by legitimate and competent authorities. These are not moral concerns. Even in a world where we had legitimate and competent authorities, they wouldn’t make a war any more or less just. Does anyone really picture a family in Yemen hiding from a constantly buzzing drone and expressing gratitude that the drone has been sent to them by a competent authority? Are there any documented cases of such attitudes?

But the biggest reason that no war can ever be just is not that no war can ever meet all the criteria of just war theory, but rather that war is not just an incident, it is an institution.

III. This is the third lesson that I think needs to be taught widely. War carries a lot of baggage, and it all has to be paid for. Some people who believe that some wars might be good can’t identify any of them beyond wars they wish had happened that didn’t, most prominently in Rwanda. Others can identify a handful of recent wars they think are justifiable. But most people in the United States are willing to concede that most wars have not been justified, often including every war of the past three-quarters of a century. Yet, most such people (generally oblivious to a half dozen wars currently underway, and having formed no conclusions about their justness) insist that there might be a necessary war any minute, or as soon as a president from their preferred party is in the White House, and that World War II, the U.S. Civil War, and the American Revolution were justified. I’ve written at great length and talked myself out of breath on why those examples do not hold up, but let’s just concede for the sake of argument that they do. Can a choice from a radically different era justify war the institution now, this year and next year and the year after that?

If a candidate for the title of just war were to materialize next week, here’s what it would have to do to be just. First, it would have to meet enough criteria to somehow count as a morally defensible action in itself. Second, it would have to outweigh all the damage done by, let’s say, 72 years of unjust wars that would not have occurred but for the maintenance of the institution of war. Third, it would have to do so much good as to outweigh 72 years of spending on a scale that has killed many more people than have 72 years of wars. The U.S. government spends about $1 trillion on war and war preparations each year, while $30 billion per year could end starvation, and $11 billion could end the lack of clean drinking water globally. Fourth, this miraculously just war would have to outweigh 72 years worth of environmental damage by the leading destroyer of the earth and its climate. (The fact that the U.S. military is that top environmental destroyer also needs to be made much better known and understood.) Fifth, for a war to actually measure up as just it would have to outweigh the damage that war does to the rule of law. War is illegal under the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and all current wars are also illegal under the U.N. Charter. Numerous atrocities within the wars are also illegal. Fraud committed to start wars is illegal. And of course we lose more legal rights as citizens, defendants, and activists through the course of each war.

A rather disgusting last-ditch effort to put something on the positive side of the balance for the institution of war is the claim that war is economically beneficial, at least to those nations waging wars far from home. The University of Massachusetts – Amherst studies showing that other spending and even tax cuts for working people are economically preferable to war have been invaluable. So have various studies informing us of how much people know about levels of military spending (very little) and what they want to do once informed, for example, of what the U.S. federal budget looks like (they want to move a great deal out of the military).

There is no significant upside to war. Thrill seekers can find them in nonviolent action. Courage can be exercised against a growing onslaught of fires and hurricanes — though the popularity of shooting guns at hurricanes is not what I have in mind, and is, I think, a symptom of war madness. Young people helped to grow up and mature by being screamed at and disciplined in the military would in most cases have been better off with loving and dedicated parents or friends. War is not needed. We can leave it to the ants, who are far better at it. We’re better off without it. We can actually stop denouncing something as “not a necessary war.” Nobody accuses anyone of a non-necessary rape or a kitten-torturing of choice or an illegal kidnapping. No qualifiers are needed for these evils, or for the greatest evil of all: war.

But what do we replace war with? I have three answers, progressively less flippant.

1) What do we replace murder or rape or arson or looting with? Nothing. We just stop committing those crimes. What should the U.S. government have done instead of attacking Afghanistan? Not attacked Afghanistan.

2) We replace war with talking. Jimmy Carter who has successfully negotiated with North Korea suggests negotiating with North Korea. Mikhail Gorbachev who has successfully negotiated with Ronald Reagan suggests that Trump and Putin give it a try. The government of Afghanistan prior to the past 16 years of war was open to discussing the handover of Osama bin Laden to a third nation to be tried on any charges against him.

3) We replace the institution of war with new and improved institutions of peace that advance cooperation, aid, diplomacy, democracy, and the rule of law. On behalf of World Beyond War, I recently submitted an entry in a competition created by a Hungarian-Swedish billionaire for a design of a better system of world government. Once we’ve failed to win a million dollars (and save the world) we’ll publish our proposal. But we have already published a book called A Global Security System that outlines a future without war systems and war economies. In all such planning we can draw on the work of Peace Studies informing us of what sorts of sanctions have been helpful and hurtful, and what forms of governments best resist war. Instead of attacking Afghanistan, the U.S. government could have presented evidence against those it accused and sought their extradition, offered aid to Afghanistan, built schools in Afghanistan — as Shirin Ebadi proposed — each named for a victim of 9/11, withdrawn its troops from the Middle East and Asia, joined the International Criminal Court, moved to eliminate the veto power at the United Nations, impeached George W. Bush, opened negotiations for a global nuclear weapons ban, abolished the CIA, returned the stolen land at Guantanamo to the nation of Cuba and ended its blockade, increased green energy rather than war spending by a half-trillion dollars a year, and pledged never ever to create any agencies with the word “Homeland” in their names.

Treating war as an institution makes it seem larger and more daunting, but it also means that it is possible to create the conditions in which wars do not happen. That’s far more difficult with individual crimes. Tomorrow a major dispute may arise between Costa Rica and Iceland, but they are almost certain to resolve it short of war, principally because they’d have to create militaries before attacking each other.

IV. The fourth big area where I think Peace Studies can help end war is through the advancement of Peace History, Peace Journalism, and Peace Training in Resistance to Propaganda. I realize that we face hurdles here other than lack of accurate and well-conceived information. I remember when believers in weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were shown evidence to the contrary and consequently believed in the weapons all the more strongly. And, by the way, you generally do not, of course, have to persuade people who believe their televisions that their facts are wrong. You can choose to start a very different conversation, such as asking whether all nations that possess weapons of mass destruction should be utterly destroyed, or asking whether the CIA was all wrong when it suggested that the best way to get Iraq to use its weapons would be to attack Iraq. I also remember when the U.S. public powerfully opposed attacking Syria in 2013 only to completely lose its mind the next year when it saw or heard about horribly frightening ISIS videos. Fear is not always conquerable by means of facts or context — such as the fact that toddlers with guns are a bigger danger in the United States than ISIS is. But, among many other things, facts do matter, useful analysis does matter, and changing the conversation to one not framed by sound bytes on subservient corporate advertising-based media matters.

I’m not sure that, in general, even without an unfair draft, one’s level of formal education makes one more likely to oppose militarism. But it does seem to be the case that in general the more one knows about a country, a situation, and the range of options the more one favors peace. Various studies have found people’s ability to accurately locate a country on a globe to be inversely proportional to their desire to see the U.S. government bomb that country. Ordinary folks and even members of Congress have, when prompted, expressed their belief in the need to bomb various countries with funny names that do not actually exist. Without a doubt people would not hold those relatively harmless beliefs if they knew the names of the world’s nations. I’d also be willing to bet, although I have no evidence for it, that an American’s willingness to declare the United States the “greatest nation on earth” is inversely proportional to the amount of time he or she has spent outside of the United States or its military bases. And then there’s a study I read about in Peace Science Digest that found that people are much more willing to oppose a war if told there are alternatives, but that if neither told that there are nor that there are not alternatives then they are just as supportive of a war as if they had been told there are no alternatives. The researchers concluded that, contrary to logic and past experience, many people simply assume that the U.S. government has already exhausted all alternatives before launching any war. This, it seems to me, can be countered in three ways. First, by creating the understanding that there are ALWAYS alternatives. Second, by pointing out specific current alternatives. And third, by reviewing a little peace history — taking peace history to include antiwar history.

I don’t think most text books in U.S. schools point out the following pattern:

  • Spain wanted the matter of the Maine to go to international arbitration, but the U.S. preferred war.
  • Mexico was willing to negotiate the sale of its northern half without war.
  • Peace activists urged the British and Americans to negotiate to transport the Jews out of Germany, but Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden replied that it would be too much bother when they needed to focus on the war.
  • The Soviet Union proposed peace negotiations before the Korean War.
  • The United States rejected peace proposals for Vietnam from the Vietnamese, the Soviets, and the French, including through Richard Nixon secretly sabotaging a peace agreement prior to his first election.
  • Prior to the First Gulf War, the Iraqi government was willing to negotiate withdrawal from Kuwait, as the King of Jordan, the Pope, the President of France, the President of the Soviet Union, and many others urged a peaceful settlement.
  • Prior to Shock and Awe, the U.S. president had been concocting cockamamie schemes to get a war started; the Iraqi government had approached the CIA’s Vincent Cannistrato to offer to let U.S. troops search the entire country; the Iraqi government had offered to hold internationally monitored elections within two years; the Iraqi government had offered Bush official Richard Perle to open the whole country to inspections, to turn over a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, to help fight terrorism, and to favor U.S. oil companies; and the Iraqi president had offered, in the account that the president of Spain was given by the U.S. president, to simply leave Iraq if he could keep $1 billion.
  • In March 2011 the African Union had a plan for peace in Libya but was prevented by NATO, through the creation of a “no fly zone” and the initiation of bombing, to travel to Libya to discuss it. In April, the African Union was able to discuss its plan with Ghadafi, and he expressed his agreement. The U.S. preferred war.
  • The U.S. government has spent years sabotaging UN attempts at peace in Syria, and dismissed out of hand a Russian peace proposal for Syria in 2012.
    The point of this handful of examples, which could be multiplied, is that, just as racism has to be carefully taught, war has to be carefully created and peace carefully avoided at all costs. War doesn’t just occur naturally of its own volition, even though threats and buildups and faulty nukes and radar systems can risk making it more likely. Most people don’t engage in war without intense conditioning, and most people suffer intensely from having done so. This point is strengthened greatly by the work of Douglas Fry and others who document the common existence of humans through history and prehistory without war. Believe it or not, despite our great admiration for innovation, many people simply refuse to be part of anything (even living without war) unless it has been done before. So, informing people that it has been done before performs a great service.

Peace Studies needs to include lessons in lie detection, in recognition of common propaganda techniques, and in smart reading of news.

Raise your hand: who can tell me the most successful step yet taken to contain Iran’s nuclear weapons program?

The U.S.-Iran nuclear deal? No. The correct answer is the 2005 decree against nuclear weapons by Iran’s religious leader, or in other words the fact that Iran did not in 2015 have any nuclear weapons program, nor did it in 2007 according to the U.S. “National Intelligence Estimate.” Nor did it ever, according to the reporting of Gareth Porter and others. Of course a deal is better than a war, but believing all the rhetoric of the deal’s supporters can be counterproductive, and assuming that one corrupt political party must be 100% right if the other corrupt political party is wrong guarantees disaster.

We need to be trained in resisting demonization of groups of people and identification of groups of people with single demonized individuals. We need practice at distinguishing people from warmongering officials, abroad and at home. We need to resist identifying ourselves with a military. Even a peace activist who has protested a war and gone to jail to try to stop it will blurt out “We just dropped bombs.” No, we didn’t. The U.S. military did. Of course non-tax-resisters will immediately proclaim their responsibility to talk about the Pentagon in the first person because they pay taxes or simply because they live in the United States. But they pay local taxes and refer to their local government as their local government, not as “we.” They pay state taxes and refer to their state government as the government of their state. And when the federal government bails out a bank or eliminates an estate tax or denies people health care it’s rarely in the first person. Nobody says “We just eliminated my health coverage.” The first person is used for what a government does to other people. The first person accompanies the military and the flag that must be worshiped, which is not a local, state, or earth flag, or a flag of peace.

Studies find that many people in the United States value U.S. lives far more highly than they value the other 96% of humanity. We need to learn to resist the immorality of that, to do what is called humanizing to most of humanity, and to learn who it is that suffers in what we call wars but could as accurately call one-sided slaughters. Ralph Peters wrote in the New York Post that it is worth killing a million North Koreans to save 1,000 U.S. lives.

We have to learn to be wise judges of claims that wars can be humanitarian, beneficial, philanthropic. There has yet to be a humanitarian war that benefited humanity. Claims that opportunities for such successes have been missed or are still ahead of us should be treated with the skepticism they deserve.

We have to learn to counter the propaganda of troopism and the silly but dangerous notion that opposing a war is the equivalent of supporting the other side of a war. I want to read here a few paragraphs from my book War Is A Lie:

“The chairman of the house appropriations committee from 2007 through 2010 was David Obey (D-WI). When the mother of a soldier being sent to Iraq for the third time and being denied needed medical care asked him to stop funding the war in 2007 with a ‘supplemental’ spending bill, Congressman Obey screamed at her (and a Youtube video of him screaming made the news for 15 minutes), saying among other things: ‘We’re trying to use the supplemental to end the war, but you can’t end the war by going against the supplemental. It’s time these idiot liberals understand that. There’s a big difference between funding the troops and ending the war. I’m not gonna deny body armor. I’m not gonna deny funding for veterans’ hospitals, defense hospitals, so you can help people with medical problems, that’s what you’re gonna do if you’re going against the bill.’ Congress had funded the war on Iraq for years without providing troops with adequate body armor. But funding for body armor was now in a bill to prolong the war. And funding for veterans’ care, which could have been provided in a separate bill, was packaged into this one. Why? Precisely so that people like Obey could more easily claim that the war funding was for the benefit of the troops. Of course it’s still a transparent reversal of the facts to say that you can’t end the war by ceasing to fund it. And if the troops came home, they wouldn’t need body armor, [at least outside of Las Vegas and Orlando and wherever’s next]. But Obey had completely internalized the crazy propaganda of war promotion. He seemed to actually believe that the only way to end a war was to pass a bill to fund it but to include in the bill some minor and rhetorical antiwar gestures. On July 27, 2010, having failed for another three-and-a-half years to end the wars by funding them, Obey brought to the House floor a bill to fund an escalation of the war on Afghanistan, specifically to send 30,000 more troops plus corresponding contractors into that hell. Obey announced that his conscience was telling him to vote no on the bill because it was a bill that would just help recruit people who want to attack Americans. On the other hand, Obey said, it was his duty as committee chair (apparently a higher duty than the one to his conscience) to bring the bill to the floor. Even though it would encourage attacks on Americans? Isn’t that treason? Obey proceeded to speak against the bill he was bringing to the floor. Knowing it would safely pass, he voted against it. One could imagine, with a few more years of awakening, David Obey reaching the point of actually trying to stop funding a war he ‘opposes,’ except that Obey had already announced his plan to retire at the end of 2010. He ended his career in Congress on that high note of hypocrisy because war propaganda, most of it about troops, has persuaded legislators that they can be ‘critics’ and ‘opponents’ of a war while funding it.”

Something else Peace Studies can help us with is figuring out the actual motivations for wars that are hiding behind all the false ones. I’ve never found a war with only one motivation, but some motivations are quite common. Pleasing what we euphemistically call election campaign donors is one, pleasing the media another, pleasing certain voters yet another, and pleasing the irrational urges of warmakers one of the biggest of all. The Pentagon Papers famously revealed that the Pentagon thought 70% of the reason to keep killing people in Vietnam was to save face. Often the reasons for wars that kill millions closely resemble the reasons for bullying in a school hallway that frightens one child (which may be why it makes sense for anti-bullying clubs to call themselves peace clubs, though I wish they’d oppose wars). But other, more solid (or sometimes liquid) reasons for wars exist. Again I quote from Peace Science Digest: “Oil importing countries are 100 times more likely to intervene in civil wars of oil exporting countries. The more oil produced or owned by a country, the higher the likelihood of third-party interventions. Oil is a motivating factor for military interventions in civil wars.”

But how do we find honest and accurate accounts of motivations or of anything else? With the internet telling us everything and its opposite, how do we find the right news? My top 10 tips are:

  • Read more books than articles.
  • Avoid allowing Facebook or Google to decide what’s news for you.
  • Diversify your sources of news, and read news about your country that comes from outside your country.
  • Consider what smart people you trust believe.
  • Read websites that collect articles on topics that interest you.
  • Don’t read about a video, watch the video; and don’t read about a statement or report or tweet, read the statement or report or tweet.
  • Read only what you believe are important topics, whether or not they are the big and popular topics.
  • Question everything, especially what is assumed without being asserted.
  • Believe what is best documented, not what is most in the middle of a range of claims.
  • Be willing to remain in doubt, and willing to believe horrible things when proven.
    V. The fifth and final area where I think Peace Studies can help end wars is in correcting a blind spot in parts of academia by pointing out that, while many countries make weapons and wars, the world’s leading warmaker and weapons dealer is the United States government.
  • There is a reason that most countries polled in December 2013 by Gallup called the United States the greatest threat to peace in the world, and why Pew found that viewpoint increased in 2017. But it is a reason that eludes that strain of U.S. academia that first defines war as something that nations and groups other than the United States do, and then concludes that war has nearly vanished from the earth.

Since World War II, during a supposed golden age of peace, the United States military has killed or helped kill some 20 million people, overthrown at least 36 governments, interfered in at least 82 foreign elections, attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders, and dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries. The U.S. government provides military aid to 73% of the world’s dictatorships. Wars often have U.S. weapons on both sides.

In conjunction with learning to outgrow nationalism, we need to outgrow what I sometimes call Pinkerism, though it’s something found in Steven Pinker, Jared Diamond, Daniel Goldhagen, Ian Morris, and many, many others.

To claim that war is vanishing is one point. To erase the warmaking of what Dr. King called the greatest purveyor of violence on earth, the U.S. government, is another.

That war is vanishing is dubious, and certainly exaggerated. Looking at pre-historic tribes only back to 14,000 BCE, as Pinker does, misses most of human existence, puts a controversial interpretation on what early tribes did, and spins the statistics by measuring casualties in relation to those in the immediate area while measuring recent war deaths against the larger population of distant imperial countries, and while excluding delayed deaths from toxic poisoning, injuries, poverty, and suicides — and, of course, excluding deaths from famines and disease epidemics created by wars, and obviously not considering the lives that could have been saved with the funding that is wasted on wars.

Pretending that the United States is not the leading war-maker on earth, that war or genocide is something that arises elsewhere and must be corrected by non-war U.S. militarism is strictly false. Wars, in Pinker’s view, originate in poor and Muslim nations. Pinker indicates no awareness that wealthy nations fund and arm dictators in poor countries, that these countries no more manufacture weapons than the Chinese grew all their own opium or Native Americans made all their own alcohol.

Pinker blames the high death rate in what the Vietnamese call the American War on the willingness of the Vietnamese to die in large numbers rather than surrender, as he thinks they should have. Somehow the Soviets’ far-greater willingness to die against the Nazis doesn’t get mentioned.

The U.S. war on Iraq ended, in Pinker’s view, when President George W. Bush declared “mission accomplished,” since which point it has been a civil war, and therefore the causes of that civil war can be analyzed in terms of the shortcomings of Iraqi society. “[I]t is so hard,” Pinker complains, “to impose liberal democracy on countries in the developing world that have not outgrown their superstitions, warlords, and feuding tribes.” Indeed it may be, but where is the evidence that the United States government has been attempting it? Or the evidence that the United States has such democracy itself? Or that the United States has the right to impose its desires on another nation?

After all the fancy footwork calculating our path to peace, we look up and see a war kill 5% of Iraq’s population just in the years after March 2003, or perhaps 9% counting previous war and sanctions, or at least 10% between 1990 and today. And far more deadly U.S.-supported wars in terms of absolute numbers in places like the Congo. And war has been normalized. Most people can’t name them all, much less tell you why they should be continued.

Peace Studies should get war noticed. The first step, addicts say, is recognizing that you have a problem. I think the value of peace studies is limitless in reaching young people, activists, and the general public, and in showing activists how to reach the general public — also in connecting young people with activists. It’s usually in speaking to students or in a debate that I get any chance to speak to people not self-selected to already agree with me.

We really need to create and fund a career path that leads peace studies students into careers in peace activism.

We really need peace activism to better connect with peace studies, and professors to have their names on every statement and their voices at every rally.

World Beyond War is working to organize a nonviolent movement to abolish war and will eagerly accept any input from anyone interested in helping.

Let’s try one more time, just for fun: Please raise your hand if you believe war is never justified.

Thank you.

28.10.2017 – Barcelona Raquel Paricio

This post is also available in: Spanish, Catalan

Declaration of the Catalan Republic: a dream fulfilled

Yesterday, October 27, 2017, the Parlament de Catalunya declared independence. We know that it is a symbolic response that has a long way to go to be translated into a Catalan Republic, but the seriousness of the political situation led to the acceleration of the process. Six hours later the Government of Rajoy dismisses the Catalan government, and called for elections for December.

It was known that the risk was clear, it would not be otherwise, because the two trains were on the same track going in opposite directions. The Plaza Sant Jaume, where the Palace of the Generalitat and the City Hall are located has been a celebration of overflowing joy. The dream of generations of Catalans has seen its awakening, and that joy, conscious or unconscious of its subsequent involvement has to be heard, because the happiness of a people is won with coherent actions, and here the coherence has been to ask to be able to express an opinion, a generational desire to respect a culture, a people, its roots and its desire to govern itself independently of imposed institutions and beyond laws not voted by the current citizens.

The statement has been made with the phrase: “The Catalan Republic is constituted as an independent and sovereign state”, with 70 votes in favor, 10 against and 2 blank from a total of 135 deputies. “These are difficult times, of tension, but we have no alternative,” said Marta Rovira, spokesperson for Junts pel Sí (coalition of independence parties). Rovira has made clear the answer: “We are here to fulfill the mandate of October 1 … the citizens guaranteed us the country and now it is our job to guarantee them the State”. Her statements have continued bluntly giving power to the citizen: “Building a state as we propose to do, means that the power of the State can never be above the power of the people.”

With these statements and the action of the Catalan people at the polls on October 1, there is nothing left but to think about a future proposal: the laws will have to be determined by the people, the citizens, renewed according to the passing of time.

 

 

26.10.2017 – Athens, Greece Pressenza Athens

Journalists on strike in Greece – Pressenza strikes in solidarity
Strikers outside the official Journalist Union’s offices (ΕΣΗΕΑ) (Image by TPP)

Greek journalists have just finished a 2 day strike; the 4th such strike within a year. Journalists and editors went into media silence on Tuesday and Wednesday this week with the idea that no news should be broadcast via the radio or TV and that no newspapers would be published either. The problems leading to the strike action include:

  • A high percentage of unemployment among journalists/editors
  • A high percentage of part time employment and underpaid
  • Long periods of waiting to be paid for even those small amounts of wages
  • Threats to their welfare system (EDOEAP)

Currently 3 journalists have been on hunger strike for over two weeks to raise awareness of the latter point. 17,000 journalists lack health coverage due to the absence of appropriate government policies.

Although Pressenza’s Greek editors work on a volunteer basis (as do all Pressenza staff worldwide) and despite some of them not even being professional journalists, the greek editorial team abstained from publishing anything during those 2 days as an act of solidarity with those on strike.

26.10.2017 ICAN France

Italy’s parliamentarians spearhead efforts to ratify ban treaty
More than 200 Members of Parliament from most Italian parties have signed the ICAN parliamentary pledge and thereby committed themselves “to work for the signature and ratification” of the nuclear ban by the Italian Government. Italy is now well-positioned to advance the conversation on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons within the NATO alliance.The largest group of signatories comes from the main governing party, the Partito Democratico (affiliated with the S&D at European level). Stella Bianchi (PD) spearheaded this effort, and actively invited parliamentarians from all parties to join the ICAN pledge. In doing so, she noted that the “inhumane nature of nuclear weapons and their devastating impact has for decades been testified by the Hibakusha, the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Recent, terrible menaces evoking the recourse to nuclear arsenals have convinced us of the absolute necessity to work for the abolition of all nuclear arms, including via the full implementation of the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and working towards a signature, also by our country, of the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.”“We welcome the strong support ICAN received from across the political spectrum. It’s particularly encouraging to see so many supporters from the government: We count on them to push Italian ratification of the ban treaty, building on the resolution adopted on 19 September” says Leo Hoffmann-Axthelm, ICAN’s Brussels representative.The resolution adopted last month had instructed the Italian Government to “explore” possibilities to ratify the ban treaty in line with alliance commitments. “This shows that Italy is willing to play a leading role within NATO in driving the conversation forward, and clarifying that there is no inherent contradiction between the North Atlantic Treaty and the prohibition of nuclear weapons”, continued Hoffmann-Axthelm.In spite of NATO’s recent positioning, the alliance has traditionally been flexible for the wishes of its members, and open to opt-outs from specific policy areas, such as nuclear planning. Similar processes unfolded when parts of the alliance joined the bans on cluster munitions in 2008 and landmines in 1997.“The broad support for ICAN’s pledge reflects Italian public opinion, which has long favoured the prohibition of these weapons. The ban treaty can be an occasion to finally make progress for nuclear disarmament”, concluded Francesco Vignarca, coordinator of ICAN-partner Rete Italiana per il Disarmo.

Donatella Duranti and Michele Piras, for the MDP said: “Stopping the nuclear threat and war is an act of love towards the whole of humanity. The mother of all causes that it is worth pursuing. It is for these reasons that we support the call of ICAN.”

Tatiana Basilio of the Movimento 5 Stelle: “Our group at the Chamber of Deputies has long supported nuclear disarmament, with concrete and real undertakings, represented also in parliamentary motions. Our hope is that all of these voices be heard by the highest levels of the political world.”

Giuseppe Civati, of Possibile: “Thanks to ICAN’s efforts, the United Nations has in July adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, open for signatures since 20 September. (…) Italy is not yet among the signatories, and has not at all distinguished itself in the process leading towards itsw adoption. This year’s Nobel Prize must lead to a renewed call for Italy to speedily ratify this treaty.”

 

The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

24.10.2017 Robert Burrowes

A Nonviolent Strategy to End Violence and Avert Human Extinction

Inserisci una didascalia

(Image by redes sociales)

Around the world activists who are strategic thinkers face a daunting challenge to effectively tackle the multitude of violent conflicts, including the threat of human extinction, confronting human society in the early 21st century.

I wrote that ‘activists who are strategic thinkers face a daunting challenge’ because there is no point deluding ourselves that the insane global elite – see ‘The Global Elite is Insane’ – with its compliant international organizations (such as the UN) and national governments following orders as directed, is going to respond appropriately and powerfully to the multifaceted crisis that it has been progressively generating since long before the industrial revolution.

For reasons that are readily explained psychologically – see Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’ and, for more detail, see Why Violence? and Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice – this insanity focuses their attention on securing control of the world’s remaining resources while marginalizing the bulk of the human population in ghettos, or just killing them outright with military violence or economic exploitation (or the climate/ecological consequences of their violence and exploitation).

If you doubt what I have written above, then consider the history of any progressive political, social, economic and environmental change in the past few centuries and you will find a long record of activist planning, organizing and action preceding any worthwhile change which was invariably required to overcome enormous elite opposition. In short, if you can identify one progressive outcome that was initiated and supported by the global elite, I would be surprised to hear about it.

Moreover, we are not going to get out of this crisis – which must include ending violence, exploitation and war, halting the destruction of Earth’s biosphere and ongoing violent assaults on indigenous peoples, ending slavery, liberating occupied countries such as Palestine, Tibet and West Papua, removing dictatorships such as those in Cambodia and Saudi Arabia, ending genocidal assaults such as those currently being directed against the people of Yemen and the Rohingya in Myanmar, and defending the rights of a people, such as those in Catalonia, to secede from one state and form another – without both understanding the deep drivers of conflict as well as the local drivers in each case, and then developing and implementing sound and comprehensive strategies, based on this dual-faceted analysis of each conflict.

In addition, if like Mohandas K. Gandhi, many others and me you accept the evidence that violence is inherently counterproductive and has no countervailing desirability in any context – expressed most simply by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. when he stated ‘the enemy is violence’ – then we must be intelligent, courageous and resourceful enough to commit ourselves to planning, developing and implementing strategies that are both exclusively nonviolent and powerfully effective against extraordinarily insane and ruthlessly violent opponents, such as the US government.

Equally importantly, however, it is not just the violence of the global elite that we must address if extinction is to be averted. We must also tackle the violence that each of us inflicts on ourselves, our children, each other and the Earth too. And, sadly, this violence takes an extraordinary variety of forms having originated no later than the Neolithic Revolution 12,000 years ago. See ‘A Critique of Human Society since the Neolithic Revolution’.

Is all of this possible?

When I first became interested in nonviolent strategy in the early 1980s, I read widely. I particularly sought out the literature on nonviolence but, as my interest deepened and I tried to apply what I was reading in the nonviolence literature to the many nonviolent action campaigns in which I was involved, I kept noticing how inadequate these so-called ‘strategies’ in the literature actually were, largely because they did not explain precisely what to do, even though they superficially purported to do so by offering ‘principles’, ‘guidelines’, sets of tactics or even ‘stages of a campaign’.

I found this shortcoming in the literature most instructive and, because I am committed to succeeding when I engage as a nonviolent activist, I started to read the work of Mohandas K. Gandhi and even the literature on military strategy. By the mid-1980s I had decided to research and write a book on nonviolent strategy because, by then, I had become aware that the individual who understood strategy, whether nonviolent or military, was rare.

Moreover, there were many conceptions of military strategy, written over more than 2,000 years, and an increasing number of conceptions of what was presented as ‘nonviolent strategy’, in one form or another, were becoming available as the 1980s progressed. But the flaws in these were increasingly and readily apparent to me as I considered their inadequate theoretical foundations or tried to apply them in nonviolent action campaigns.

The more I struggled with this problem, the more I found myself reading ‘The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi’ in a library basement. After all, Gandhi had led a successful 30 year nonviolent liberation struggle to end the British occupation of India so it made sense that he had considerable insight regarding strategy. Unfortunately, he never wrote it down simply in one place.

A complicating but related problem was that among those military authors who professed to present some version of ‘strategic theory’, in fact, most simply presented an approach to strategic planning (such as using a set of principles or a particular operational pattern) or an incomplete theory of strategy (such as ‘maritime theory’, ‘air theory’ or ‘guerrilla theory’) and (often largely unwittingly) passed these off as ‘strategic theory’, which they are not. And it was only when I read Carl von Clausewitz’s infuriatingly convoluted and tortuously lengthy book On War that I started to fully understand strategic theory. This is because Clausewitz actually presented (not in a simple form, I hasten to admit) a strategic theory and then a military strategy that worked in accordance with his strategic theory. ‘Could this strategic theory work in guiding a nonviolent strategy?’ I wondered.

Remarkably, the more I read Gandhi (and compared him with other activists and scholars in the field), the more it became apparent to me that Gandhi was the only nonviolent strategist who (intuitively) understood strategic theory. Although, to be fair, it was an incredibly rare military strategist who understood strategic theory either with Mao Zedong a standout exception and other Marxist strategists like Vladimir Lenin and Võ Nguyên Giáp understanding far more than western military strategists which is why, for example, the US and its allies were defeated in their war on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Some years later, after grappling at length with this problem of using strategic theory to guide nonviolent strategy and reading a great deal more of Gandhi, while studying many nonviolent struggles and participating in many nonviolent campaigns myself, I wrote The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach. I wrote this book by synthesizing the work of Gandhi with some modified insights of Clausewitz and learning of my own drawn from the experience and study just mentioned. I have recently simplified and summarized the presentation of this book on two websites: Nonviolent Campaign Strategy and Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy.

Let me outline, very simply, nonviolent strategy, without touching on strategic theory, as I have developed and presented it in the book and on the websites.

Nonviolent Strategy

You will see on the diagram of the Nonviolent Strategy Wheel that there are four primary components of strategy in the center of the wheel and eight components of strategy that are planned in accordance with these four central components. I will briefly describe the four primary components.

Before doing so, however, it is worth noting that, by using this Nonviolent Strategy Wheel, it is a straightforward task to analyze why so many activist movements and (nonviolent) liberation struggles fail: they simply do not understand the need to plan and implement a comprehensive strategy, entailing all twelve components, if they are to succeed.

So, to choose some examples almost at random, despite substantial (and sometimes widespread) popular support, particularly in some countries, the antiwar movement, the climate justice movement and the Palestinian and Tibetan liberation struggles are each devoid of a comprehensive strategy to deploy their resources for strategic impact and so they languish instead of precipitating the outcomes to which they aspire, which are quite possible.

Having said that a sound and comprehensive strategy must pay attention to all twelve components of strategy it is very occasionally true that campaigns succeed without doing so. This simply demonstrates that nonviolence, in itself, is extraordinarily powerful. But it is unwise to rely on the power of nonviolence alone, without planning and implementing a comprehensive strategy, especially when you are taking on a powerful and entrenched opponent who has much to lose (even if their conception of what they believe they will ‘lose’ is delusional) and may be ruthlessly violent if challenged.

For the purpose of this article, the term strategy refers to a planned series of actions (including campaigns) that are designed to achieve the two strategic aims (see below).

The Political Purpose and the Political Demands

If you are going to conduct a nonviolent struggle, whether to achieve a peace, environmental or social justice outcome, or even a defense or liberation outcome, the best place to start is to define the political purpose of your struggle. The political purpose is a statement of ‘what you want’. For example, this might be one of the following (but there are many possibilities depending on the context):

To secure a treaty acknowledging indigenous sovereignty between [name of indigenous people] and the settler population in [name of land/country] over the area known as [name of land/country].

To stop violence against [children and/or women] in [name of the town/city/state/country].

To end discrimination and violence against the racial/religious minority of [name of group] in [name of the town/city/state/country].

To end forest destruction in [your specified area/country/region].

To end climate-destroying activities in [name of the town/city/state/country].

To halt military production by [name of weapons corporation] in [name of the town/city/state/country].

To prevent/halt [name of corporation] exploiting the [name of fossil fuel resource].

To defend [name of the country] against the political/military coup by [identity of coup perpetrators].

To defend [name of the country] against the foreign military invasion by [name of invading country].

To defend the [name of targeted group] against the genocidal assault by the [identity of genocidal entity].

To establish the independent entity/state of [name of proposed entity/state] by removing the foreign occupying state of [name of occupying state].

To establish a democratic state in [name of country] by removing the dictatorship.

This political purpose ‘anchors’ your campaign: it tells people what you are concerned about so that you can clearly identify allies, opponents and third parties. Your political purpose is a statement of what you will have achieved when you have successfully completed your strategy.

In practice, your political purpose may be publicized in the form of a political program or as a list of demands. You can read the five criteria that should guide the formulation of these political demands on one of the nonviolent strategy websites cited above.

The Political and Strategic Assessment

Strategic planning requires an accurate and thorough political and strategic assessment (although ongoing evaluation will enable refinement of this assessment if new information emerges during the implementation of the strategy).

In essence, this political and strategic assessment requires four things. Notably this includes knowledge of the vital details about the issue (e.g. why has it happened? who benefits from it? how, precisely, do they benefit? who is exploited?) and a structural analysis and understanding of the causes behind it, including an awareness of the deep emotional (especially the fear) and cultural imperatives that exist in the minds of those individuals (and their organizations) who engage in the destructive behavior.

So, for example, if you do not understand, precisely, what each of your various groups of opponents is scared of losing/suffering (whether or not this fear is rational), you cannot design your strategy taking this vital knowledge into account so that you can mitigate their fear effectively and free their mind to thoughtfully consider alternatives. It is poor strategy (and contrary to the essence of Gandhian nonviolence) to reinforce your opponent’s fear and lock them into a defensive reaction.

Strategic Aims and Strategic Goals

Having defined your political purpose, it is easy to identify the two strategic aims of your struggle. This is because every campaign or liberation struggle has two strategic aims and they are always the same:

1. To increase support for your campaign by developing a network of groups who can assist you.

2. To alter the will and undermine the power of those groups who support the problem.

Now you just need to define your strategic goals for both mobilizing support for your campaign and for undermining support for the problem. From your political and strategic assessment:

1. Identify the key social groups that can be mobilized to support and participate in your strategy (and then write these groups into the ‘bubbles’ on the left side of the campaign strategy diagram that can be downloaded from the strategy websites), and

2. identify the key social groups (corporation/s, police/military, government, workers, consumers etc.) whose support for the problem (e.g. the climate catastrophe, war, the discrimination/violence against a particular group, forest destruction, resource extraction, genocide, occupation) is vital (and then write these groups into the columns on the right side of the campaign strategy diagram).

These key social groups become the primary targets in your campaign. Hence, the derivative set of specific strategic goals, which are unique to your campaign, should then be devised and each written in accordance with the formula explained in the article ‘The Political Objective and Strategic Goal of Nonviolent Actions’. That is: ‘To cause a [specified group of people] to act in the [specified way].’

As the title of this article suggests, it also explains the vital distinction between the political objective and the strategic goal of any nonviolent action. This distinction is rarely understood and applied and explains why most ‘direct actions’ have no strategic impact.

You can read appropriate sets of strategic goals for ending war, ending the climate catastrophe, ending a military occupation, removing a dictatorship and halting a genocide on one or the other of these two sites: Nonviolent Campaign Strategic Aims and Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategic Aims.

The Conception of Nonviolence

There are four primary conceptions of nonviolence which have been illustrated on the Matrix of Nonviolence. Because of this, your strategic plan should:

1. identify the particular conception of nonviolence that your campaign will utilize;

2. identify the specific ways in which your commitment to nonviolence will be conveyed to all parties so that the benefits of adopting a nonviolent strategy are maximized; and

3. identify how the level of discipline required to implement your nonviolent strategy will be developed. This includes defining the ‘action agreements’ (code of nonviolent discipline) that will guide activist behaviour.

It is important to make a deliberate strategic choice regarding the conception of nonviolence that will underpin your strategy. If your intention is to utilize the strategic framework outlined here, it is vitally important to recognize that this framework is based on the Gandhian (principled/revolutionary) conception of nonviolence.

This is because Gandhi’s nonviolence is based on certain premises, including the importance of the truth, the sanctity and unity of all life, and the unity of means and end, so his strategy is always conducted within the framework of his desired political, social, economic and ecological vision for society as a whole and not limited to the purpose of any immediate campaign. It is for this reason that Gandhi’s approach to strategy is so important. He is always taking into account the ultimate end of all nonviolent struggle – a just, peaceful and ecologically sustainable society of self-realized human beings – not just the outcome of this campaign. He wants each campaign to contribute to the ultimate aim, not undermine vital elements of the long-term and overarching struggle to create a world without violence.

This does not mean, however, that each person participating in the strategy must share this commitment; they may participate simply because it is expedient for them to do so. This is not a problem as long as they are willing to commit to the ‘code of nonviolent discipline’ while participating in the campaign.

Hopefully, however, their participation on this basis will nurture their own personal journey to embrace the sanctity and unity of all life so that, subsequently, they can more fully participate in the co-creation of a nonviolent world.

Other Components of Strategy

Once you have identified the political purpose, strategic aims and conception of nonviolence that will guide your struggle, and undertaken a thorough political and strategic assessment, you are free to consider the other components of your strategy: organization, leadership, communication, preparations, constructive program, strategic timeframe, tactics and peacekeeping, and evaluation.

For example, a vital component of any constructive program ideally includes each individual traveling their own personal journey to self-realization – see ‘Putting Feelings First’considering making ‘My Promise to Children’ to eliminate violence at its source and participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ to preserve Earth’s biosphere.

Needless to say, each of these components of strategy must also be carefully planned. They are explained in turn on the nonviolent strategy websites mentioned above.

In addition to these components, the websites also include articles, photos, videos, diagrams and case studies that discuss and illustrate many essential elements of sound nonviolent strategy. These include the value of police/military liaison, issues in relation to tactical selection, the importance of avoiding secrecy and sabotage, how to respond to arrest, how to undertake peacekeeping and the 20 points to consider when planning to minimize the risk of violent police/military repression when this is a possibility.

Conclusion

The global elite and many other people are too insane to ‘walk away’ from the enormous violence they inflict on life.

Consequently, we are not going to end violence in all of its forms – including violence against women, children, indigenous and working peoples, violence against people because of their race or religion, war, slavery, the climate catastrophe, rainforest destruction, military occupations, dictatorships and genocides – and create a world of peace, justice and ecological sustainability for all of us without sound and comprehensive nonviolent strategies that tackle each issue at its core while complementing and reinforcing gains made in parallel struggles.

If you wish to declare your participation in this worldwide effort, you are welcome to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

Given the overwhelming violence that we must tackle, can we succeed? I do not know but I intend to fight, strategically, to the last breath. I hope that you will too.

Czech Republic shifts to the right

23.10.2017 – Prague, Czech Republic DiEM25

This post is also available in: Spanish

Czech Republic shifts to the right
Charles Bridge in Prague (Image by Svein-Magne Tunli – tunliweb.no on Wikimedia Commons)

The Czech Republic held parliamentary elections last weekend. Members of our DiEM25 local group (DSC) in České Budějovice recommended a vote for the Greens and Pirates, because these parties have been broadly supportive of DiEM25’s programme and activities in the Czech Republic for a long time (the Pirates signed on to DiEM25’s manifesto soon after our inception in February 2016).

So how did they do? Well, the Pirate Party achieved significant success with almost 11% of the vote. Two DiEM25 members — Mikuláš Peksa and Ondřej Profant — were elected to Parliament! We congratulate them, as well as our friends from the Pirate Party, for their success.

Unfortunately, our friends from the Greens did not get elected — we hope that this failure does not discourage them from their vital work!

But now the bad news: despite these gains, the election brought to power the movement (ANO) of the populist billionaire Andrej Babiš (think a Czech version of Trump with some elements of Berlusconi), with almost 30% of the vote. Babiš wants to “manage the state as a business”; he claims he is pro-European, but is accused, along with others from the movement, of misusing European subsidies. His movement exploited voters’ disillusionment with politicians, and successfully portrayed itself as ‘anti-systemic’ (although it was for four years in government itself).

As members of DSC Česke Budějovice, we distance ourselves from the misuse of politics, parliamentary immunity and the influence of these people in politics and state positions. It is in the public interest that people who have been prosecuted should not be involved in politics. We call on the President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, not to name the accused Andrej Babiš as Prime Minister.

Babiš’ gains were not the only alarming result of the election. The anti-European neoliberal Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and similarly neoliberally-minded but “two-speed” party TOP-09 also made it to the Chamber. Echoing far-right gains in France and other countries, the highly anti-European, anti-Muslim and anti-refugee party SPD got almost 11% of the vote, using fear of migrants (who practically don’t exist in the Czech Republic). A big danger is the possible link-up of ANO and the fascist SPD movement, which would pave the way towards an illiberal and anti-social future for our country.

So in conclusion: the political scene in the Czech Republic has shifted strongly to the right, mainly due to the election of right-wing populist parties. The traditional left has completely failed, and the socially-oriented green politics did not gain any space.

For members and supporters of DiEM25 in the Czech Republic, this situation means there is the opportunity to continue working with the Pirates (whom we recommend remain in opposition) to try to promote the issues that are part of the DiEM25 core platform, like our Manifesto and European New Deal. And we must continue to expand our activities in all possible ways to disseminate the ideas of DiEM25 in the Czech Republic.

Written by Antonin Hořčica and other members of DSC Česke Budějovice

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The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

Austrian Elections: The Crisis of Europe Continues

22.10.2017 – Rome, Italy Human Wrongs Watch

Austrian Elections: The Crisis of Europe Continues
(Image by http://www.marcha.org.ar)

By Roberto Savio

The Austrian elections show clearly that media have given up on contextualising events. To do that, calls for a warning about Europe’s future, as a vehicle of European values is required. Europe has been weakened by all the recent elections, with the notable exception of France. Common to all, France included, were some clear trends, that we will hastily, and therefore maybe imperfectly, examine.

The decline of the traditional parties.

In every election, since the financial crisis of 2009, the parties we have known to run their country since the end of the Second World War, are on the wane (or practically disappearing, like in the last French elections).

In Austria, the far right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) secured 26 per cent of the vote, just a few votes behind the Social Democrats who took 26.9 per cent of the votes. The social democrats have been in power practically since the end of the war.

And the other traditional party, the conservative Austrian People’s Party (OVP), won the elections with 31.5 per cent. Together the two parties used to have more than 85% of the votes.

In the Dutch elections held in March, Geert Wilder’s far-right Party for Freedom PVV, came second after the ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy VVD, at the expense of all other parties.

And in September in Germany, the far right anti immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) enjoyed historical success, becoming the third party while the two traditional parties, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union of Germany CDU and the social democrat Social Democratic Party of Germany SPD, suffered the worst results in more than a half a century. According to polls, next year Italian elections will see a populist movement, with the 5 Stars taking over the government.

Austria is the best example to understand how European national politics have changed. It is important to note that no right wing party was really visible in Europe, (except Le Pen in France), before the financial crisis of 2009.

That crisis brought insecurity and fear and in the same year the Austrian far right, under the charismatic leadership of Jorg Haider, got the same percentage of votes as of today. And the conservative Prime minister of the time, Wolfgang Schlussel broke a taboo by bringing the Freedom Party into the government.

Everybody in Europe reacted with horror, practically isolating Austria. And the FPO, lost all its lustre in the government, going down to 5%, and with the death of Haider even further down. There Are no gasps of horror now in Europe over any far right wing parties getting in to govern.

What has fuelled the decline of the traditional parties

The traditional parties were facing already a loss of participation and trust by the electors at the end of the last century but in 2009 Europe imported the financial crisis which racked the US in 2006. And, 2009 saw hardship and unemployment all over Europe.

And that year Greece became the battleground of two visions in Europe. The Southern countries wanted to push out of the crisis with investments and social relief, while the bloc of Northern countries, led by Germany, saw austerity as the only response.

Germany wanted to export it’s experience: they were doing well thanks to an internal austerity reform started by Schroeder in 2003, and they did not want to take on other reforms at any cost.

Greece was just 4% of the European economy and could have been rescued without problems. But the German line won and today Greece has lost 25% of its properties; pensions went down by 17%, and there is a massive unemployment. Austerity was the response to the crisis for all of Europe and that aggravated fear and insecurity.

It is also important to remember that until the invasions of Libya, Iraq and Syria, in which Europe played a key role (2011- 2014), there were few immigrants and this was not a problem.

In 2010, immigrants numbered 215.000, in a region of 400 millions. But during the invasions, a very fragile balance between Shite and Sunni, the two main religious branches of Islam, collapsed. Civil war, and the creation of ISIS in 2015 pushed many to try to reach Europe to escape the civil wars.

So, in 2015 more than 1.2 million refugees, the majority coming from countries in conflict, arrived in Europe, which was not prepared for such a massive influx. And, if we study the elections before then, we can see that the far right parties were not as relevant as they are now.

Therefore it should be clear that austerity and immigration have been the two main factors for the rise of the right wing.

Statistics and data show that clearly. Statistics also show that immigrants, of course with exceptions, (that media and populism inflates), basically want to integrate, accept any kind of work, and are law abiding and pay their contributions, which is obviously in their interest.

Of course the level of instruction plays a crucial role. But the Syrians who come here were basically middle class. And of course it is an inconvenient truth that if Europe did not intervene in the name of democracy, the situation would be different. NATO estimates that more than 30 billion dollars have been spent on the war in Syria. There are now six million refugees, and 400.00 dead.

And Assad is still there. Of course, democracy has a different value in countries which are closed and rich in petrol. If we were serious about democracy, there are so many African countries which need intervention.

Boko Haram has killed seven times more people than ISIS; and Mugabe is considering running for re-election after dominating Zimbabwe for nearly four decades. But you will never hear much on those issues in the present political debate.

How the far right is changing Europe

Nigel Farage is the populist who led a far right party, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) which fought for leaving Europe. UKIP received the greatest number of votes (27.49%) of any British party in the 2014 European Parliament election and gained 11 extra Member of the European Parliament MEPs for a total of 24.[55]

The party won seats in every region of Great Britain, including its first in Scotland.[56] It was the first time in over a century that a party other than Labour or Conservatives won the mosti votes in a UK-wide election.

But Farage lost the elections held just before Brexit, in June 2016. His declaration to the media was: Infact, I am the real winner, because my agenda against Europe now is the basis for politics in all the traditional parties. Brexit did follow.

And this is what is happening now everywhere. The Austrian elections did not see only the FPO rise. They also saw the conservative OVP taking immigration, security, borders and others part of the far right agenda of the populist agenda in the electoral campaign. A full 58% of the voters went for the far right or the right, with the social Democrats also moving more to the center.

The new Dutch governement took a turn to the right, by reducing taxes on the rich people, and to companies. The same turn to the right can be expected by the new coalition led by Merkel, with the liberals aiming to take over the ministry of Finance.

Its leader, Christian Lindner, is a nationlist and has several times declared his aversion to Europe. In that seense, he will be worse than the inflexible Schauble, who just wanted to Germanize Europe, but was a convinced European.

And it is interesting that the main vote for the far righ party AfD came from East Germany, where immigrants are few. But in spite of investing the staggering amount of 1.3 trillions Euro in the development of East Germany, important differences in employment and revenues with West Germany remain.

No wonder that the President of South Korea has warned President Trump to avoid any conflict. They have decided a longtime ago, looking at the German reunification that they would not have the resources required by annexing with success, North Korea.

The rocketman, as Trump calls Kim, after the decertification of Iran, can claim that the only way to be sure that US will not intervene, is to show that he has a nuclear intercontinental ability, because US does not respect treaties.

Those considerations done, a pattern is clear everywhere. The agenda of the right wing has been incorporated in the traditional parties; they bring in the governing coalition, like Norway did , or they try to isolate them , as did Sweden.

This does not change the fact that everybody is moving to the right. Austria will now tilt to the Visegrad group, formed by Poland , Hungary, Czech and Slovakia, which are clearly challenging Europe and looking to Putin as a political model ( all the right wing does).

The only active European voice is Macron, who clearly is not a progressist guy either. The real progressist, Corbyn, is ambigous about Europe, because the Labour Party has a lot of eurosceptic.

The new German government has already made clear that many of it’s proposals for a stronger Europe are not on the agenda, and austerity remains the way. Unless a strong growth comes soon (and the IMF doubts that), social problems will increase. Nationalism never helped peace, development and cooperation.

Probably , we need some populist movement to be in the government to show that they have no real answers to the problems. The victory of 5 stars in Italy will probably do that. But this was the theory also for Egypt.

Let the Muslim Brotherhood take the government , and it will be a failure. Pity that the General El Sisi did not let this happen. Our hope is that we do not get any El Sisis in Europe.

If only young people went back to vote, this would change the situation in Europe…this is the real historical loss of the left in Europe.

The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

21.10.2017 – New York City Amy Goodman

This post is also available in: Spanish

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar
(Image by Chilean Graffiti)

“I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.” Helen Reddy sang those words in 1972, providing an anthem to the rising women’s movement. Forty-five years later, the song could serve as the score to a movie documenting the abusive rise and abrupt demise of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. If only it were just a movie. Fifty-five women have bravely come forward so far, accusing Weinstein of everything from sexual harassment to rape and propelling the issue of violence against women to the forefront of American life.

The flood of personal statements has gone well beyond Weinstein now, channeled on social media under the hashtag “MeToo,” posted on Sunday by actress Alyssa Milano. “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” she wrote, adding, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Over half a million women (and some men as well) have used the #MeToo hashtag, exposing in a few short days how pervasive are the crimes of sexual harassment and rape.

While Alyssa Milano propelled “MeToo” into the public forum, it was founded 10 years ago by Tarana Burke, a longtime African-American feminist who now works as program director at Girls for Gender Equity.

“As a survivor of sexual violence myself, as a person who was struggling trying to figure out what healing looked like for me, I also saw young people, and particularly young women of color, in the community I worked with, struggling with the same issues and trying to find a succinct way to show empathy,” Tarana Burke said on the “Democracy Now!” news hour. “‘Me Too’ is so powerful, because somebody had said it to me, and it changed the trajectory of my healing process.”

Celebrity perpetrators, as well as victims who also are celebrities, can quickly bring an issue to the forefront. But Burke has for decades been working with regular people: “For every R. Kelly or Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein, there’s the owner of the grocery store, the coach, the teacher, the neighbor, who are doing the same things … we don’t pay attention till it’s a big celebrity. But this work is ongoing, because this is pervasive.”

Alicia Garza, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, also spoke on “Democracy Now!,” saying: “I first have to just say a deep thank-you to Tarana for creating this space for survivors like myself. Without that space, I wouldn’t be able to tell my story, and thousands and thousands of other people that I know would not be able to tell their stories.” Garza added, “This kind of violence is as American as apple pie.”
In addition to the torrent of accusations Harvey Weinstein faces, new criminal investigations are being undertaken by both the New York City Police Department and Scotland Yard. As the floodgates have opened, Amazon Studios head Roy Price has been forced to resign after allegations surfaced that he sexually harassed a female producer.

This all comes on the first anniversary of the notorious 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape on which Donald Trump is caught bragging to TV host Billy Bush about sexually assaulting women:

Trump: “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Bush: “Whatever you want.”
Trump: “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Two years later, in 2007, Celebrity Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos alleges, Trump sexually assaulted her: “He put me in an embrace and I tried to push him away. I pushed his chest to put space between us … he began thrusting his genitals. He tried to kiss me again, with my hand still on his chest.”

Trump denied Zervos’ accusations, as well as similar allegations from at least a dozen other women who came out last year accusing him of sexual assault. Trump promised to sue them after the election. To date, he hasn’t. Zervos, however, has sued him, charging Trump with libel for using his vast bully pulpit (stress on the word “bully”) to call her a liar. As part of her lawsuit, Zervos’ lawyer has issued a subpoena to the Trump campaign for all documents relating to her and other women’s allegations of his inappropriate or unwanted contact.

After our interview, Tarana Burke took off her leopard-patterned sweater and proudly displayed her black T-shirt. On the front, in pink letters, were the words “me too.” She smiled and turned around. On the back were the words “You are not alone … It’s a movement!”

The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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