“War is the terrorism of the rich; Terrorism is the war of the poor.” Sir Peter Ustinov
“War is the terrorism of the rich; Terrorism is the war of the poor.” Sir Peter Ustinov
The Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War is pleased to announce that it will demonstrate against the April 13 missile attacks on the part of the USA, UK, and France on Syria. The Coalition regards those attacks as outrageous and reckless acts of war, illegal under international law.
Having lost their proxy war for regime change in Syria, the three rogue states are becoming more reckless and desperate. Their missile strikes were intended to pre-empt an investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that might exonerate the Syrian Arab Republic from the charge of using chemical weapons in the city of Douma. The strikes came a mere six hours after the OPCW announced it was deploying its fact-finding mission to Syria.
And the USA, UK, and France don’t seem to care that they run the risk of provoking Russia, Iran, and China into a wider Mideast war or even into a third world war.
Shamefully, the Trudeau government joined the western chorus – without a shred of proof – condemning the Syrian government for using chemical weapons and wholeheartedly endorsing the missile attacks.
At our demonstration this Sunday April 22, we will demand:
1. the Canadian government accept the will of the Syrian people to determine their own future without foreign interference, in accordance with the UN Charter, and formally withdraw from the US military coalition in Syria and Iraq;
2. the Canadian government end its illegal economic sanctions on Syria that punish ordinary Syrians by driving up the price of essentials and by blocking the flow of remittances to Syria. These brutal economic sanctions have turned millions of Syrians into refugees;
3. The Canadian government cut off its funding – believed to have been 12 million dollars so far – to the White Helmets organization, which is the propaganda arm of Al Qaeda in Syria and which is the group which staged the phony chemical incident in Douma;
4. the Canadian government re-establish normal diplomatic relations with the government in Damascus and commit funding to the reconstruction of that once-beautiful country which our government has helped to lay waste;
5. the US government end both its support for terrorist mercenaries in Syria and its occupation of the eastern third of Syria, east of Euphrates River, and get out of Syria now!
The demonstration will take place on Sunday, April 22, from 2 to 4 pm across from the US Consulate, 360 University Avenue, Toronto. Other sponsoring organizations include the Canadian Peace Congress and the Toronto Association for Peace and Solidarity.
When he last spoke with Reason in 1973, Daniel Ellsberg was on trial for leaking the Pentagon Papers. The Harvard-educated military analyst at the RAND Corporation had long wrestled with many of the moral quandaries of war, but was a consummate Washington insider up until the moment he decided to release a classified Department of Defense study of the Vietnam War, with its damning proof that President Lyndon Johnson had misled Congress and the public about the conflict.
While it looked like Ellsberg might spend the rest of his life behind bars, he was saved—ironically—by Richard Nixon’s paranoid dealings, which included sending goons to break into Ellsberg’s former psychiatrist’s office and allegedly plotting to have him killed.
If the original leaking plan had gone Ellsberg’s way, he suspects he might be in prison still. As he relates in his new book, Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (Bloomsbury), along with the now-familiar thousands of pages on Vietnam, he had unprecedented civilian access to nuclear planning documents in the Eisenhower and Kennedy years. He swiped and copied them as well. Unfortunately, Ellsberg gave the nuclear documents to his brother, who buried them for safekeeping until the Pentagon Papers trial was over. A hurricane collapsed the hill where they were hidden, and they were lost to history. Ellsberg has had 45 years to wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t been, and more than 60 years to be unnerved by the recklessness, poor planning, and misinformation rampant in an area of policy with the highest possible stakes.
Reason spoke with Ellsberg by phone in October about his new book, his belief that nobody needs more nuclear weapons than Kim Jong Un has, and why the Cold War’s apocalyptic threats still hang over us.
Reason: Do you still get people calling you a traitor, and do you anticipate getting more of that on Twitter, now that you have a presence there?
Daniel Ellsberg: For decades I used to say that being called “traitor” is something you never get used to. But the truth is, for humans, you get used to anything. After 40 years, it doesn’t get a big rise out of me anymore.
It did very much at first. As a person whose identification was patriotism in a very conventional way—after all, I did go into the Marines, and I volunteered to go to Vietnam—the idea of being called traitor was very, very painful. But even at the beginning, I felt that people who would use that term didn’t understand our country very well, or our Constitution.
In many other countries, you work for a führer, to use the German word: a leader. And the leader is the government. You can’t criticize the administration without being regarded as treasonous. That’s one of the reasons that a revolution was fought over here, a war of independence.
In my case, the loyalty was to the Constitution and to the country rather than to the administration. Every officer in all the armed services and every member of the Congress and every official in the executive branch all take the same oath. The president’s is a little bit different, but everybody else has the same one, and it’s not to a leader, and it’s not to secrecy. It’s to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I had been violating that oath, I would say, when I knew that a president was violating the Constitution and waging war under false pretenses. In the end, I felt that the right thing to do, definitely, was to tell the Congress and the public what was being done in their name. That certainly seemed to me like being a better patriot than I had been.
When you last spoke to Reason more than 40 years ago, you said you were a former Cold War Democrat who was “in transition” and “very influenced by the people who are radical pacifists and anarchists.” I’m curious about how you would describe your politics since then.
I was influenced really by nonviolent activists in the Gandhian tradition and the Martin Luther King tradition. Giving the Pentagon Papers was a radical action. It involved truth telling and risk to myself. I expected to go to prison for life.
I still want to live up to that tradition. But I never became a total pacifist. I don’t agree with those of my friends who are critical of all wars. The truth is, though, that there hasn’t been one since the Second World War that I could really recognize on our part as having been justified or worthwhile. So I remain very much anti-imperial and very skeptical of intervention.
I found it interesting that you use World War II as an example of a justified war. In your recent book, there’s some mention of your dislike of the tactics the Allies used.
Well, look, to say that I thought the war was just and even necessary against Hitler does not mean that I would endorse our tactics. I thought that the firebombing of Germany toward the later stages, and the entire bombing of Japan, which consisted of trying to kill as many Japanese civilians as possible, was a clear-cut war crime from beginning to end. Indeed, if you’re really to take the idea of war crimes seriously, no question, it should have been prosecuted.
I don’t think you can understand the nuclear age and how it came to be if you don’t know the history of World War II. Most people don’t know—they bought the government line that our effort was only to hit military targets in a narrow sense, and that other people were being hit only by accident, in what we now call collateral damage. That was a flat-out lie from ’42 on. They were imitating the Nazi tactics in the blitz. That departed entirely from the notion of “just practice” in war, as opposed to “just cause.” Unfortunately, that precedent worked itself out in the worst possible way. The legitimation [of using nuclear weapons] really came before Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which in turn simply reflected what our Air Force had been doing for the previous year.
By the way, are you asking these questions from the point of view of a total pacifist?
I’m OK with self-defense, but I think it’s hard to find a justified war even if you think some conflicts within that war were justified.
The occasional somewhat violent uprising is successful, but it’s very few. That’s why I’m much more committed to the idea of nonviolent resistance efforts of various kinds. But in the case of [justified tactics during] World War II, I would point to the British actions in the Battle of Britain. The dogfights in the air, but also anti-aircraft [attacks] against bombers. I not only see that as justified—or as some pacifists will say, “I don’t condemn that”—I think they were doing the right thing. They did prevent the invasion of Britain. And I don’t think that nonviolent tactics against those bomber planes would have been as effective at all.
I agree. But there are people who slide from that into “and therefore every Allied tactic was justified because they had to win, and they did win, and therefore they had to do all that in order to win.”
Yeah. But that’s based just on an assumption. It doesn’t bear up to real historical analysis of what exactly happened and whether it was necessary or not. Sure, people will say that at the time they thought the bombing of cities was not only effective but necessary. But that turned out to be untrue. There remains no justification, and that was fairly clear as the war was going on. It had to be kept from the public in both Britain and America because the leaders knew that it did not stand up morally.
“In the end, I felt that the right thing to do, definitely, was to tell the Congress and the public what was being done in their name.”
The Russians were fighting under Stalin for a terrible regime, and many of them knew it—but they were fighting against Nazi invaders. A pacifist friend of mine recently said, “Look, they lost 20 million people. What could be worse than that?” A fair question, except that if one was to look into the German plans you’d see that what they had in mind was depopulating Russia to the point of killing by starvation 30–40 million people.
So even under the terrible conditions of the Russian front, they were fighting for their lives, and I think justifiably.
Let’s talk about your new book. Could you sum up the bizarre circumstances by which you lost the other papers?
I decided in 1969 when I started copying the Pentagon Papers that, since I’m doing this, I should really put out information far more significant than the information on Vietnam, and that was the dangers for human existence that we have been building up and which the Russians have been imitating now for some years.
I copied everything in my top-secret safe, much of which dealt with nuclear matters. Not operational details, but the fact that we were contemplating first use and first strike—disarming attacks on the Soviet Union—and this resulted in a very dangerous situation, especially because the Russians were doing the same.
I was influenced by the example of draft resisters like Randy Kehler, who were on their way to prison for nonviolent resistance to the draft. I concluded that if that was the right thing for these young men to do, I could and should do that also, by telling the truth. I saw Randy Kehler just before he was due to go to prison in San Francisco, and I told him what I was doing at that very moment in the way of copying. He thought it wasn’t important to put out the Pentagon Papers, because enough about Vietnam had come out already. What was really new and important was the nuclear material. I said, “Well, I agree with him on the importance, but Vietnam is where the bombs are falling right now, and I want to do what I can to shorten that war by informing people what was being done in their name.” My plan really was to go through my trial—maybe a couple of trials, for distribution as well as copying—and then put out the nuclear papers.
That didn’t happen because I gave them to my brother who, to shorten the story, hid them in a town dump, and a hurricane actually came through and disturbed the trash field that he’d buried them in, including moving the stove that he’d used to mark the location. It’s just impossible to find the box containing the nuclear papers anymore.
With permission from
November 3, 2017
Was undeclared. Exactly where and when it began is debatable. Most would say there had been low-level conflict for millennia, but it only became a world war toward the end of the 20th century CE. Some choose the symbolic date when we ran that tanker, the Exxon Valdez, aground in Prince William Sound, because its cargo was the secret weapon that had brought the war into this new stage.
Our global forces were still divided into two antagonistic camps at that time, but both were at war with the greater enemy. The eastern camp had already killed the Aral Sea and poisoned 180,000 square kilometers of land with nuclear radiation (although this action was a Pyrrhic victory, resulting in more drastic consequences to us than the enemy). Shortly thereafter, we declared a truce of sorts between the factions, so we could make further gains in the great war, ostensibly without so much damage to ourselves. For the remainder of the last century, our forces were on the march everywhere, and the enemy fell back.
But in the early years of this century, some unseen fulcrum began to shift. Rather than the widely and randomly interspersed events we experienced in the relatively mild regime we grew up with, we saw destructive actions that escalated in their scope and frequency until they came to seem like calculated responses.
The waves of heat and cold. They caught us off-guard with their new intensity. Then the storms, to which we continued to give bland, suburban names: Mitch, Dennis, Katrina, Irene, Sandy, Iris, Maria. At first mostly a threat to the growing legions of the unprotected poor, they soon showed themselves a match for our largest cities. And beyond that: whole provinces, countries were paralyzed for days, weeks, months. And then the fires – early on they were far from where we lived and breathed, in the still-vast northern forests, but then they came closer, filling the skies of our cities apocalyptically with drifting ash and smoke, and finally, audaciously, striking at the sprawling cities themselves, taking thousands of buildings in a single attack.
Our initial casualties were so small – a few tens of thousands a year against all our billions. We published the tiny body counts for each incident, as if nothing else was of consequence. But overall, we took little notice, because we killed ourselves with friendly fire in vastly greater numbers. And against the enemy, we unleashed a holocaust. Total war. We took no prisoners. It was xenocide; we were willing to exterminate not just individuals but whole species to win our freedom. Thousands, then tens of thousands of species began to fall.
What we didn’t understand was that the enemy, who had seemed outmatched, capable only of rear guard actions, had retrenched and begun fighting a war of attrition: displacing millions, infiltrating town and countryside with hunger, sickness, despair. Leveling its aim at our infrastructure, our economy, our very desires for comfort and ease. So many were uprooted and then discovered there was no refuge elsewhere. We were under siege and didn’t realize it.
Besides the weather it controlled, the enemy bred armies of the small: ticks, mosquitoes, cancers, viral plagues. Again, we had the sense that it was using our very advances in the wider war to undermine us. For example, we decimated the great tropical forests so we could install our farms and industries in them, only to find that the enemy had begun to burn the peat under the desiccated region surreptitiously to release more of the atmospheric carbon that we had just begun to understand was its greatest weapon. Carbon: an invisible and odorless waste product, something we simply breathed out, threw away. A stroke of the enemy’s blind genius.
There were some pacifists. They marched in the streets, shouted at buildings. They performed dramatic stunts at remote battle sites, recruited rich celebrities. Stop the War! they cried, with colorful banners unfurled. Many of their actions were heroic. But they were relatively easy to marginalize. If they were well-to-do, our leaders made sure they were seen as hypocrites, trying to deny the poor their hope. If they were poor, they killed them, imprisoned them, or simply ignored them. They were expendable.
In the end, we discovered our leaders had betrayed us. Our titans of industry betrayed us. Too late we realized: they were actually on the side of the enemy; they were provoking its ever-stronger attacks on our homes, our food, our pleasures. They sacrificed us to enrich themselves. And, in time-honored fashion, the enemy was using our own strength against us…
A Personal Memory
The thing that struck me most about living for years in a country at war was how much normalcy there was. Every day the streets of the capital were jammed with traffic, the stores crowded with shoppers. We went to the mall, to birthday parties, the beach. Occasionally a car bomb would go off. A light post would be blown up. There were bored soldiers with assault rifles at the entrances to the banks, the airport and the bus stations. The television and newspapers were heavily censored. They ran the same non-sequitur crime stories every day. They said nothing about the war.
In the distant countryside, bombers screamed overhead, dropping payloads that destroyed villages, and helicopter gunships prowled, seeking out columns of fighters moving through the bush to mow them down. But when I visited the far-flung villages in the later years of the war, I never saw and scarcely heard any fighting. The doughty buses ran regularly over the rough roads and were always full of passengers, although sometimes they had to stop at checkpoints and be searched. The tropical sun shone, the farmers left for their fields before dawn, the teachers held classes in the tin-roofed sheds. It all just went on. Somewhere out of sight, thousands of troops were on the march; skirmishes were being fought daily, people were killing and being killed. A tiny place, that country at war, and yet most of the time the war was far away unless you were actually fighting in it.
The Forever War
So now, understanding at last that we are all at war, the final war, the forever war between our species and our vast complex single enemy, the planetary ecosystem that engendered us, I know how I will live, girded by the invisible armor of the middle class everywhere, but especially in the rich world. I know that I can go down the street to the coffee shop every day, and one day the sky will be thick with the smoke of wildfires incinerating a town to the north, and everybody will be wearing surgical masks, and the sun will be red as molten steel in the sky’s furnace, but in a few days the smoke will dissipate and I’ll go back to the coffee shop and joke with the waitress and get my coffee. “It’s a good day to be alive,” she’ll say, and I’ll agree.
And next winter, a mammoth storm will wreck the highway, and a few dozen unwary cars will slide into the abyss, but we will take a detour, or change our vacation plans. The crews will show up eventually, although the road will be blocked for months, and maybe one lane buried under a massive rock slide will never open again. But the traffic will keep moving regardless. We’ll get there. We’ll get to a place where the forest hasn’t burned yet, or floods destroyed the dam that held back the lake, or the hotel closed because one or the other of those things happened.
And then there will be the attack from the sea – the Dungeness crab will be poisoned with a new bacterium, or its numbers will crash for a year, and then another, or this will happen to the salmon or bass, till many of the fish markets close, but we will go on finding good things to eat; intrepid chefs in the downtown bistros will do creative things with jellyfish and squid. Thousands of seals dead of starvation will litter our beaches one year, pods of whales another, but we will step over them, in mild dismay, and wait for the authorities to clear them away. And then we’ll go back to the beach, unless another storm comes that washes it away for good. And then we’ll find another beach that hasn’t been washed away yet.
The heat waves will hit, and the pavement will melt so the planes can’t fly for a day or two, and we will grumble about the delay and wait in whatever air conditioned space we can find until the temperature drops again. We’ll still find a way to visit our distant families or get our business done. It will just be a little more time-consuming, unpleasant, and expensive each year.
The helicopters will prowl overhead more often; the sound of sirens will be a more constant backdrop. The news will be a garish pageant of non-sequitur crime stories. Most will say nothing about the war.
On the quiet days when no battle rages anywhere near us, we will stand on our doorsteps for a moment and breathe the soft air that reminds us of peacetime. As you do when you live with terminal illness, we’ll have a sudden sharp memory of what it was like before, when we were healthy, or thought we were. Our happy past will seem so vivid and real, for an instant. And then we’ll push the memory aside, and with it the hope that health or peace will return one day. We’ll just get on with it, burying our sorrow and regret deep in the urgent trivia of the day-to-day, for whatever time we have left.
With permission from
October 23, 2017
Predictably, the news media spent most of the week examining words Donald Trump may or may not have spoken to the widow of an American Ranger killed in Niger, in northwest Africa, in early October. Not only was this coverage tedious, it was largely pointless. We know Trump is a clumsy boor, and we also know that lots of people are ready to pounce on him for any sort of gaffe, real or imagined. Who cares? It’s not news. But it was useful to those who wish to distract Americans from what really needs attention: the U.S. government’s perpetual war.
The media’s efforts should have been devoted to exploring — really exploring — why Rangers (and drones) are in Niger at all. (This is typical of the establishment media’s explanation.)
That subject is apparently of little interest to media companies that see themselves merely as cheerleaders for the American Empire. For them, it’s all so simple: a U.S president (even one they despise) has put or left military forces in a foreign country — no justification required; therefore, those forces are serving their country; and that in turn means that if they die, they die as heroes who were protecting our way of life. End of story.
Thus the establishment media see no need to present a dissenting view, say, from an analyst who would question the dogma that inserting American warriors into faraway conflicts whenever a warlord proclaims his allegiance to ISIS is in the “national interest.” Patriotic media companies have no wish to expose their audiences to the idea that jihadists would be no threat to Americans who were left to mind their own business.
Apparently the American people also must be shielded from anyone who might point out that the jihadist activity in Niger and neighboring Mali is directly related to the U.S. and NATO bombing of Libya, which enabled al-Qaeda and other Muslim militants to overthrow the secular regime of Col. Muammar Qaddafi. That Obama-Clinton operation in 2011, besides producing Qaddafi’s grisly murder and turning Libya into a nightmare, facilitated the transfer of weapons and fanatical guerrillas from Libya to nearby countries in the Sahel — as well as Syria. Since then the U.S. government has been helping the French to “stabilize” its former colony Mali with surveillance drones and Rangers based in Niger. Nice work, Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. (Citizen Trump was an early advocate of U.S. intervention in Libya.) Need I remind you that the U.S./NATO regime-change operation in Libya was based on a lie? Obama later said his failure to foresee the consequences of the Libya intervention was the biggest mistake of his presidency. (For more on the unintended consequences for the Sahel, see articles here, here, and here.)
So the media, which pretends to play a role in keeping Americans informed, have decided the people need not hear the truth behind the events in Niger. Instead, “reporters” and “analysts” perform their role as cheerleaders for the American Empire by declaring the dead men “heroes” and focusing on the tragedy that has befallen their families. Public scrutiny of the military operation is discouraged because it thought to detract from the Rangers’ heroism.
What makes them heroes? They were killed by non-Americans in a foreign land while wearing military uniforms. That’s all it takes, according to the gospel of what Andrew Bacevich calls the Church of America the Redeemer and its media choir.
But are they really heroes? We can question this while feeling sorrow for the people who will never see their husbands, sons, brothers, and fathers again. Reporters and analysts who emote over alleged heroism base their claim on the dubious proposition that the men were “serving their country” and “protecting our freedom.” A brief examination, however, is enough to show this is not so, although the troops, their families, and many others believe it.
First, their “country,” if by this term we mean the American people, did not call them to “service,” which itself a question-begging word. The source of the call was a collection of politicians and bureaucrats (including generals) who wouldn’t know the public interest from a hole in the ground.
Second, U.S. intervention in the Muslim world, which predates 9/11 and the creation of al-Qaeda and ISIS, has not made Americans safe. On the contrary, it has put them at risk, as the attacks on the World Trade Center demonstrated. Is it hard to believe that people will seek vengeance against those whose government bombs them and starves their children, as the U.S. government did in Iraq all through the 1990s (to take just one example)?
Dying (and killing) for the Empire is not heroic. Allowing yourself to be ordered to intervene in distant conflicts you surely don’t understand is not worthy of admiration. What’s heroic is resisting the Empire.
Anyone who thought Trump would bring the troops back should now know better. He, of all people, is not about to give up imperial power. The Guardian quotes a former military officer saying, “Since [President] Trump took power, US forces deployed around the world have had a lot more room to manoeuvre. Decisions about when and what to engage have been devolved right down to unit level. Any soldier knows that if you give guys on the ground more independence, then they will be that much more aggressive and will take more risks.”
At this point we can’t expect the corporate media to quit propagandizing on behalf of the war state and start informing the public of the harm “their” government has inflicted abroad and at home. Fortunately, we have virtually costless access to alternative sources of information about the politicians’ and military’s mischief. The conundrum is that most people, having been fed a steady diet of pro-war propaganda, won’t turn to those sources until they become suspicious of power.
Last Friday, Veterans For Peace UK staged an important protest which has been entirely ignored by the mainstream media. Just two days before Remembrance Sunday- that time of year when the British press savagely attack anyone who doesn’t look like they are showing respect for the troops- three ex-soldiers who are now self-proclaimed pacifists threw down their medals outside the Prime Minister’s residence.
November 11, 2015
“These are my medals, these were given to me as a reward for invading other peoples countries and murdering their civilians. I’m now handing them back.”
Outside Downing Street, the veterans lined up to face the police barricades and made the following statement:
“We are members of Veterans For Peace UK, an ex-services organisation of men and women who have served this country in every conflict since the second world war. We exist in the hope of convincing you that war is not the solution to the problems of the 21st century. We have come here today to hand back things, given to us as soldiers, that we no longer require or want.”
These veterans believe that war is a senseless, brutal act of terror, and they should know. The ex-soldiers are John Boulton, Kieran Devlin and Ben Griffin. Boulton served in the Armoured Corps and was deployed on operations to Cyprus and Afghanistan. Devlin served in the Royal Engineers and was deployed on operations to the Gulf War and N Ireland. Griffin served in the Parachute Regiment and the SAS. He was deployed on operations to N Ireland, Macedonia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
He was joined by Boulton, who spoke the words: “These are the medals given to me for the sick dichotomy of keeping the peace and waging war. They are trinkets, pseudo payments. But really all they represent is the self-interest of those in there, who hold power.”
Devlin, who joined up at just 16 years old, had this to say: “These are my medals, these were given to me were given to me as a reward for invading other peoples’ countries and murdering their civilians. I’m now handing them back.”
War has left Griffin with the same bad taste in his mouth. “I was given these medals for service on operations with the British Army,” he said. “This particular medal here was given to me for my part in the occupation of Iraq. Whilst I was over there, I attacked civilians in their homes and took away their men, off to be tortured in prison. I no longer want these despicable things.”
The three veterans then walked away from Downing Street leaving the oaths, berets and medals lying scattered on the floor. The actions of these brave men has been met with venom by many on social media. They have been insulted and called ‘scum’ for rejecting war and militarism. If you support them in their campaign for a peaceful world, please visit their website and share this video in solidarity.