Quotable

"Individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity." - The judges at the Nuremberg trials that condemned Nazi war criminals


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Desparately Seeking Genuine Patriotism After the Fourth of July

FOR A NATION TO BE, in the truest sense, patriotic, its citizens must love their land with a knowing, intelligent, sustaining, and protective love. They must not, for any price, destroy its health, its beauty, or its productivity. And they must not allow their patriotism to be degraded to a mere loyalty to symbols or any present set of officials. (Wendell Berry: from A Citizen's Response to the National Security Strategy of the United States of America).
Friends,

I haven't checked the news today, although I' pretty sure that our mighty nation survived the Fourth of July. Based on the police presence just about everywhere I went on the 3rd, we were well protected against those pesky terrorists who (as I believe G. W. Bush once said) "hate our [disappearing] freedoms." I hunkered down and avoided the parades and fireworks displays yesterday as I get a bit twitchy when I see the flags waving everywhere in the nation that brought the world "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror" (thanks G.W. for taking it way over the top). It is not easy when one does not walk in lockstep with the patriotic crowd. Granted, declaring independence from the mother country was quite a big deal in its time, and we do, in fact, live in a nation of democratic ideals. The problem is that there are powerful interests that have undermined those very ideals.

The founding fathers understood the wisdom of avoiding foreign entanglements. As George Washington stated in his Farewell Address in 1796: "The Great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign Nations is in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible. . . . ‘Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent Alliances, with any portion of the foreign World." Thomas Jefferson elaborated, saying that the foreign policy of a free society such as ours must mean “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship, with all nations – entangling alliances with none."

John Quincy Adams, author of the Monroe Doctrine said that, "America... does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own." The founding fathers were unanimous in their opposition to forcefully exporting American values (particularly at the point of a gun). These were no country bumpkins. These were individuals who understood Lord Acton's Dictum that "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Over the next two centuries our nation has all but forgotten the words (and intent) of the founders, and the quenchless thirst for resources and power has led to the creation of a phenomenal Military Industrial Complex and its mate, the National Security State that have allowed the U.S. to impose a global hegemony of unbelievable magnitude. With well over 700 military bases in roughly 150 countries (as of 2013, courtesy of Veterans for Peace), the sun never sets on the Roman American Empire. We have already forced "democracy" on Iraq and Afghanistan, and are working on others now (and they all have oil and/or other strategic resources).

The founding fathers were likely once again rolling in their graves on this past Fourth of July, and for good reason(s). For all the patriotic fervor (and associated drunkenness) of the Fourth, our nation has slumped into an absolute stupor as our "leaders" have squandered the gifts of liberty. John Quincy Adams warned us of this while celebrating the Anniversary of Independence on July 4, 1821:

Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her [America’s] heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.

We are, indeed, no longer the ruler of our own spirit. As the corporate-military-nuclear-industrial monster swallows up the world, it also swallows up our nation's once great spirit, the spirit of independence. And so I call upon all who believe in the possibility of “peace, commerce, and honest friendship, with all nations – entangling alliances with none" (as Jefferson said) to recapture that revolutionary spirit of the founders (as imperfect as they were), and declare our independence from the powers of death that go out "in search of monsters to destroy."

It's worth citing Berry's quote one last time - "FOR A NATION TO BE, in the truest sense, patriotic, its citizens must love their land with a knowing, intelligent, sustaining, and protective love. They must not, for any price, destroy its health, its beauty, or its productivity. And they must not allow their patriotism to be degraded to a mere loyalty to symbols or any present set of officials" (from A Citizen's Response to the National Security Strategy of the United States of America).

As Berry says at the end of the same essay from which that quote comes, "If we are serious about peace, then we must work for it as ardently, seriously, continuously, carefully, and bravely as we now prepare for war." 

May it be so on this Fourth of July (and on every day).

Peace,

Leonard

Click here to read Wendell Berry's A Citizen's Response to the National Security Strategy of the United States of America (published in 2003).

Note: This post is a revision of one written in 2009.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

"Arise, then, women of this day!"

Friends,

Long before the holiday we know as Mother's Day was established, Julia Ward Howe wrote her Mother's Day Proclamation (in 1870), responding to the horrible carnage of the U.S. Civil War, in which so many women lost their sons and husbands.

Howe and so many other women of that time were committed to abolishing war, and in 1872 Howe proposed the establishment of an annual Mother's Day for Peace. Long since that time (the commercialized version of) Mother's Day has, for the most part, been sanitized to remove any trace of women's civil, political activism. And - Men (am I wrong???) continue to perpetuate the horrific trans-national violence and war that consumes our young, our treasure, our future.
Julia Ward Howe

Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation was an extraordinary statement declaring that women should not allow their children to be taken from them to learn to kill the children of the women of other nations, nor should they allow their husbands go to war. Howe's disdain for the warring actions of the men running the show was clear as she said that such "great questions" must not be "decided by irrelevant agencies."

The final paragraph of Howe's proclamation was a call to women to come together in a "general congress" for peace, which is conceptually a framework for what the United Nations might look like if the nations of the Security Council (including the United States) would honor its noble intentions.

So, "Arise, then, women of this day", just as many women did in response to Howe in 1870. Men have had their chance, and failed miserably. The world continues (paraphrasing Howe) "to reek with carnage." Women - Refuse to send your husbands, your sons and your daughters off to kill the children of others.

It is high time to create the conditions whereby (as Howe stated it), "the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God."

With great thanks to nurturing women everywhere,

Leonard

P.S. - This Saturday, May 10th, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action will hold its annual Mother's Day weekend observance with a tea party (vigil and nonviolent direct action) at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, which houses the largest operational concentration of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Learn more at gzcenter.org.  Join us for tea and cakes and much, much more.


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Mothers' Day Proclamation: Julia Ward Howe, Boston, 1870
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of fears. 
Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says "Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice." 
Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. 
Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God. 
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.
Julia Ward Howe, Boston, 1870

Saturday, April 19, 2014

(Finally) officially revising the history of the 1953 coup in Iran

Dear Friends,

One of my favorite reads is Secrecy News, published by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) Project on American Secrecy (and there is plenty of that!!!). I find it in my email inbox on a fairly frequent basis. It provides insights and resources on secrecy, intelligence and national security policy that I would not know about or find elsewhere. Among other things, FAS makes public scores of government documents (paid for with our tax dollars) that would otherwise be kept secret.  Steven Aftergood is the mastermind behind Secrecy News.

Here is one of the items from this weeks email, regarding the kind of "revision" of history I can get behind (oh, you mean the CIA was behind the 1953 overthrow of the governent of Iran?!?!?!). You can read this and more at http://blogs.fas.org/secrecy/, and sign up to receive Secrecy News. Nothing like a little light shining on those dark and dusty corners of secrecy to strengthen democracy.


Knowledge is Power,

Leonard

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HISTORY OF 1953 CIA COVERT ACTION IN IRAN TO BE PUBLISHED

By Steven Aftergood, April 16, 2014

In 1989, the Department of State published a notorious volume that purported to document U.S. foreign policy towards Iran in the early Eisenhower Administration. The volume triggered an avalanche of criticism because it omitted any mention of the CIA's role in a 1953 covert action that helped overthrow the government of Iran.

Later this year, after the passage of more than two decades, the State Department will rectify that error by publishing a supplemental volume of declassified documents in its Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series that is expected to fill in the missing pieces of the documentary record of the 1953 coup against the Mossadeq government of Iran.

The publication of the 1989 Iran volume was a milestone in the history of U.S. government secrecy that prompted widespread outrage and ridicule, but it also inspired remedial efforts that had some lasting impact.

The episode was recounted in detail in an impressive history of the FRUS series that was also published by the State Department last year (Chapter 10).

"FRUS historians could have been more assertive in their efforts to promote greater openness in the 1980s," the FRUS history candidly observed. "They should have recognized that the Iran volume was too incomplete to be published without damaging the series's reputation, consulted with stakeholders across the government and the academic community, and devised alternatives to releasing an unacceptable volume."

Ironically, the defects in the official Iran history generated more broad public attention to questions of diplomatic history than the subject had received for many years.

"The ostensibly authoritative" FRUS volume on Iran "is 'Hamlet' without the Prince of Denmark -- or the ghost," the New York Times editorialized in 1990.

"We are poisoning the wells of our historical memory," wrote Senator Daniel P. Moynihan in the New York Review of Books at the time. "The secrecy system has gone loony."

On the plus side, the scandal over the Iran history galvanized efforts by historians and others to demand a higher standard of fidelity in official history. Those efforts led directly to the enactment of a 1991 statute dictating that the Foreign Relations of the United States series shall provide "a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy decisions and significant United States diplomatic activity."

The forthcoming publication of the FRUS retrospective volume on Iran was noted in a new annual report from the State Department Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation.

It was confirmed by Historian of the State Department, Dr. Stephen Randolph, who told Secrecy News that the volume was expected to be released this summer, barring unforeseen events, along with another long-deferred collection on Chile, 1969-1973.

An initial selection of recently declassified CIA records on the 1953 coup with related background material was posted last year by the National Security Archive.

"The issue is more than academic," wrote the Archive's Malcolm Byrne. "Political partisans on all sides, including the Iranian government, regularly invoke the coup to argue whether Iran or foreign powers are primarily responsible for the country's historical trajectory, whether the United States can be trusted to respect Iran's sovereignty, or whether Washington needs to apologize for its prior interference before better relations can occur."