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       Reflections on War

                                                                An Earth Manifesto publication by Dr. Tiffany B. Twain   

                                                                                                                           June 12, 2011


1.    Defense versus Offense

2.    On American Militarism

3.    Why Are There Wars?

4.    Strategies for Peace

5.    Mark Twain and the Wanton Waste of Projectiles

6.    The Permanent War Economy

7.    The Subjectivity of Perspective

8.     Are Americans “the Good Guys”, or Ruthless Imperialists?

9.     Counterproductive Aspects of War

10.   The Fog of War

11.    Proper Priorities

12.   Considerations of Ideology

13.   Seeking True National Security

14.   Madness and Caddishness

15.   Pathetic Aspects of Militarism

16.   Political Aspects of War

17.   Let’s Make Friends with Iran!

18.   Fundamentalism: Action and Reaction

19.   The Tragedy of War

20.   The Absurdity of Deficit Financing of Wars

21.    The Titanic Struggle between Capitalism and Communism

22.    Sensible Strategies to Defuse Extremism

23.    What the Hell Do We Do Now in Iraq?

24.    The Dangers of Demagoguery

25.    Demagoguery and McCarthyism

26.    The Responsibility of Journalism

27.    Truth and Consequences

28.    True Patriotism

29.    Support Our Troops!

30.    The Corrosive Effects of Power

31.     Militarism and Madness

32.    Mercenaries in the Fray

33.    Empirical Observations about Empire

34.    Thinking Outside the Military Box

35.    The ‘Right’ Is Wrong

36.    Mission Possible?

37.    Bait and Switch Strategies

38.    Jingoism and Hopes for Peace

39.    War Propaganda

40.    Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

41.     Irony and Cynicism

42.    The “Big Lie” Phenomenon

43.    Culpabilities of Manichean Righteousness and Brazen Presumption

44.    Secrecy and Stupidity

45.    Pretexts for War and False Flag Operations

46.    The Mysteries of 9/11

47.    The Nature of Ideas

48.    Conclusions

       Reflections on War                                                                           . 

1.  Defense versus Offense

The award-winning film producer Ken Burns created an insightful seven-part series on World War II.  The first part was called The Necessary War.  Since the Second World War was thrust upon the United States by the gathering threats of world domination by fascist Germany and imperial Japan, and by the horrific Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, it is viscerally understandable that Americans regarded that war as “a necessary war”.  Yet it is easy to imagine that it was NOT exactly necessary from the standpoint of the aggressors. 

This is an important idea.  The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg after World War II enunciated the ‘Nuremberg Principles’ concerning war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The Tribunal stated that it is the “supreme international crime” to wage a war of aggression.  If international law and effective institutions and binding mediation were to prevent all nations from starting wars, the world would be safer and saner and more just. 

General Douglas MacArthur made the compelling observation:  “I believe that the entire effort of modern society should be concentrated on the endeavor to outlaw war as a method of the solution of problems between nations.”  Let us honor this important worldview!

In national security matters, a good defense is important.  An overly aggressive offense, however, is not only the supreme international crime, but it is also a reckless strategy that tends to make everyone less safe.  It creates heightened risks of expanded violence and military overstretch and social instability and blowback retaliation.  Wars also have the unintended financial repercussion of misallocating resources and creating large public debts.  This deprives a nation of options for financing other more important domestic priorities.  And wars are often used to facilitate repression of citizens and dissenters, which is socially undesirable and definitely contrary to our great national ideals.

George Bush was asked by the television journalist Tim Russert on his Meet the Press program in February 2004 whether the war in Iraq was “a war of choice, or a war of necessity”.  Mr. Bush predictably said it was a war of necessity.  But his case was not at all convincing.  The vast majority of people in the world see the Iraq war and occupation as a U.S. gambit to gain access to, and control of, the oil resources of the Middle East.  It is seen as an imperialistic, unjust, illegal and unethical state of violent aggression.  That would mean that actually, the Iraq war was quite unnecessary!

     “An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war.”      --- Mark Twain

The Statue of Liberty was once the most evocative symbol of America in the world.  It is a symbol of freedom and legal justice and opportunity.  Our leaders have now managed to alter that perception with symbols like shock-and-awe bombings, drone air attacks against people in Pakistan and other countries, the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and images of the humiliation and torture of prisoners.  These are symbols of arrogance and oppression and injustice.  It is shocking to delve into the actual details of our national activities in these regards;  I encourage people to read such books as The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals.

It is becoming obvious that our national priorities are distinctly wrong-headed.  We should devote more of our resources to domestic priorities and to improving people’s lives, NOT to trillion-dollar wars and military occupations of other nations.  It is a pathetic travesty for our leaders to confuse occupation with liberation. 

In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States should have developed a strategy to find Osama bin Laden and the criminals responsible for the terrible terrorist attacks on our nation.  The Administration of George Bush and Dick Cheney instead unwisely “shifted its sights … from counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to preparations for the war in Iraq,” according to a June 30, 2008 article in the New York Times.  The diversion of resources and attention to Iraq from Afghanistan has had costly, risky, and highly counterproductive impacts.

It is my strong belief that our country should stop acting as an aggressor nation.  We should never again fight unnecessary wars.  We should use peaceful means to resolve conflicts.  We should adopt fairer and more sustainable means of gaining economic advantages in the global competition for resources.  We should invest in peacebuilding activities rather than military occupations.  And we should stop using brute force to try to impose our ideologies, our economic system, and our form of government upon others. 

We should make it a top priority to solve our energy problems by peaceful methods.  We have been spending more than $10 billion per month for years on the occupations of Middle Eastern countries.  We would be far better off if we invested this money in programs designed to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and to fund conservation and efficiency initiatives.  We should be making an Apollo Project-like effort to find alternatives to our addiction to oil.  Wouldn’t that be a better idea?  Wouldn’t the best plan be to put our efforts into breaking our addiction to oil, and to mitigating our vulnerability to ‘Peak Oil’ depletion?  Wouldn’t it be a much better plan to commit more of our money and energies to reducing the extensive global threats posed by the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions and related climate disruptions, rather than to military occupations and lavish armaments procurement and war services? 

These reflections on war seek to explore our current military involvements and the nature of war throughout history to provide valuable insights into some of the most important conundrums we face in a world of rapidly growing population and diminishing resources.

2.  On American Militarism

Dwight Eisenhower spoke the following insightful and important words at the end of his presidency in 1961: 

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.  We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.  We should take nothing for granted.  Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Fifty years have passed since Eisenhower spoke these words, and the lobby for the military-industrial complex is more powerful than ever.  Pentagon spending has soared.  Congress and the media have become complicit with right-wing think tanks in helping to boost military spending and encourage “preemptive warfare”.  Power has been seriously abused by the Executive Branch of government.  Civil liberties and democratic processes have been eroded by an intrusive and secretive bureaucracy.  Oversight and accountability have atrophied.  We have been misguided by our leaders into tacitly supporting costly wars and occupations and reconstruction projects in the Middle East.  And, as with the Vietnam War, once we have committed our country to wars with ill-defined goals, we often stubbornly continue the wars to ‘save face’. 

It is becoming urgent that the American people become more aware and knowledgeable, so that they will act to ensure that our Constitutional republic and our civil liberties are protected.  We must act to make certain that, as Abraham Lincoln concluded in his Gettysburg Address, our nation “shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  This should NOT include an arrogant and interventionist attempt to forcibly export our democracy and the evangelical ideologies of our own religious fundamentalists to other countries. 

Margaret Mead once famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” 

My goal in this Manifesto is to help elevate the public discourse above partisan arguments and the distracting minutia of daily headlines, and to advance more important and bigger picture perspectives.  When we fail to accurately understand history, or to learn from it, we risk being doomed to repeat it.  This is true for a very simple reason:  human motives, vanities, and drives for dominance do not change, so the actions and behaviors and gambits of those in power are never new under the sun. 

Inoculations against pathogens can help prevent infectious diseases.  In a similar manner, a greater awareness and a renewed dedication to true justice and peaceful coexistence could help prevent war and provide us with greater national security.  Better insights, greater political wisdom, and clearer understandings are needed.  So are enlightened approaches to foreign policy and peace-building and mutual security.  Such things could inspire us to better sense and sensibility and greater pragmatism.  It might even provide us with valuable revelations, or a transcendent epiphany! 

    “You can't depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus.”

                                                                                                                      --- Mark Twain



My aspiration in writing this manuscript has been to create a modern-day version of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, which challenged the authority of the power-abusing monarchy of England back in the year 1776.  To readers, both men and women, I submit the same caveats as Thomas Paine did back then (paraphrased for more modern gender inclusion):

“In these pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense:  and have no other preliminaries to settle with the reader than that they will divest themselves of prejudice and prepossession, and suffer their reason and feelings to determine for themselves … and that they will generously enlarge their views beyond the present day.”

Thomas Paine (again paraphrased):  Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the important thing is the IDEAS THEMSELVES, and not the author.  Yet it may be necessary to say that the author of these words is not connected with any Party, and under no sort of influence, public or private, other than the influence of reason and principle.”


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3.  Why Are There Wars?

   “The failure to dissect the cause of war leaves us open for the next installment.”

                                                                                                               --- Chris Hedges

The underlying causes of American involvements in wars and military interventions and CIA-backed coups since World War II are similar to the causes of wars and conflicts throughout history:  we fight for control, power, competitive advantage, profiteering and economic ascendancy.  We also fight for nationalistic pride and ideological supremacy.  The underlying struggle is primarily about getting access to energy or other natural resources or foreign markets or cheap labor or acquiring or defending territory.  We also get into wars, in part, so that bankers and the defense industry and myriad contractors and war suppliers and investors in these companies can make bigger profits.  Investors and shareholders seem to love growth in revenues and profits over all other values, and they wield enormous influence in our corporate-dominated capitalist society.

Our leaders try to deceive the public about our national motives.  They mislead the public into supporting wars by using misinformation, specious ideological arguments, utopian claims, cherry-picked understandings, jingoistic huckstering, scare tactics, secrecy, economic shock treatments, and appeals to patriotic duty and nationalistic impulses.  They exploit divisiveness and mutual distrust in order to get power, and to strengthen control, and to achieve domination.  Our leaders use deceptive spin and propaganda and outright lies to effectively brainwash American citizens and our troops.  They indoctrinate our soldiers with the conviction that their sacrifices in war are justified as righteous and noble causes.  A closer introspection into the nature of the wars of today reveals that these perspectives are not exactly the truth.

Herman Goering, the early head of Adolf Hitler’s storm troopers and later of the German Air Force during World War II, told a psychologist during the time of the Nuremburg War Crime trials that a nation’s people can always be manipulated into supporting and fighting wars by their political leaders.  Goering said:

"Naturally the common people don’t want war.  But after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.  Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  This is easy.  All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger.  It works the same in every country."

This is pathetic, but true.  For all of us, our thoughts and feelings and beliefs are strongly influenced by a complex set of factors that will be explored at length in this essay, for hopefully salubrious purposes.  Please read on!

4.  Strategies for Peace

An editorial in the Cousteau Society’s Calypso Log once observed:

“If peace were waged with as much commitment and as much passion, and as many resources as those spent on war, the environment could be protected rather than squandered, and millions of people around the world could enjoy their lives rather than living in fear, hunger, and poverty.  The money that goes into weapons of destruction could go into education, arts, science, health care, clean sources of energy, affordable housing, and businesses and technologies that improve the quality of life and the health of the planet.  An ethic of respect for all life could be nourished.  It is not impossible.”

This brings up the age-old ‘guns vs. butter’ debate.  The purpose of these writings is to explore the profound underpinnings of this ideological and practical conflict from many perspectives, in the hopes that our ideas and understandings can be harnessed to achieve greater enlightenment and increased hopes for positive and peaceful change in the world. 

Edward Stettinius, the U.S. Secretary of State in 1945, made this apropos observation: 

“The battle of peace must be fought on two fronts.  The first is the security front where victory spells freedom from fear.  The second is the economic and social front where victory means freedom from want.  Only victory on both fronts can assure the world of an enduring peace.”  

Extensive evidence indicates that we are failing today on the security front because the deliberately manipulative exploitation of fears and insecurities by our leaders has created growing insecurities in the peoples of other nations.  Our aggressiveness and correlated injustices help terrorists recruit more people to their causes.  Our focus on our own security without giving adequate consideration to the security of people in other nations has created increased risks of retribution and ‘blowback’ in the form of violence against our troops and citizens abroad, and arguably even to those of us at home, in the long run. 

At the same time, we are failing on the economic and social front by allowing capitalism to operate without sensible priorities or regulation or adequate fairness.  Ever-greater economic inequalities and social conflicts are being created, both domestically and abroad.  Almost all of our foreign aid is military rather than being targeted toward the goal of improving economic and environmental conditions in other countries.  These strategies make the world an increasingly dangerous place.

Franklin D. Roosevelt made his famous “Four Freedoms” speech on January 6, 1941.  In it, he said we should base our societies on four essential human freedoms.  The fourth is freedom from fear -- which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world.”  Really?  After so many years of participating in an astonishingly costly arms race, and hyping up fears and militaristic responses, and using domineering strategies, and exacerbating international insecurities, these words shake us to attention.  Do more weapons, troops, military spending and preemptive wars make us safer?  Or do they actually make us less safe?

The trap of arrogance in superior military power is that it rationalizes aggression and the violation of the sovereignty of other nations.  It thereby creates many enemies.  I believe that true mutual respect is necessary for real peace and friendship on the international stage. 

Books have been written about the advantages of ‘soft power’ over ‘hard power’, and I find convincing perspective in arguments that hard power alone is misguided and risky.  Right-wing elements in our nation nonetheless consistently use manipulative arguments and propaganda to hijack our foreign policy into focusing on an arms race and military actions, rather than on mutual security and peace. 

Ninety percent of our foreign aid goes for guns, not butter;  in other words to military goals rather than to good neighbor assistance designed to buttress countries against poverty and desperation and radicalism and concomitant political instability.  We allow too much influence in foreign policy decision-making to forces that militate for war, like investors and corporations seeking bigger profits for arms manufacturers and companies which provide war services. 

Victor Hugo wrote long ago, “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”  Let’s truly commit our nation to trying to GIVE PEACE A CHANCE! 

5.  Mark Twain and the Wanton Waste of Projectiles

Mark Twain was an outspoken member of the Anti-Imperialist League, the first national American peace movement.  He was outraged at politicians who unethically capitalize on national tragedies to push through unrelated agendas.  The battleship USS Maine was hit by unexplained and mysterious explosions in the harbor of Havana in February 1898, killing 260 people.  Soon thereafter, the United States intervened militarily in Cuba and the Philippines.  

Mark Twain, in his anger at the U.S. occupation of the Philippines, wrote these words in the year 1900, and they still have relevance to our country today: 

“… I have seen that we do not intend to free, but rather to subject the people …

  We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem.  … It should, it seems to me, be our

   pleasure and duty to make these people free, and let them deal with their own

    domestic questions in their own way.  And so I am an anti-imperialist.  I am

     opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”

Writing for The Nation, John Nichols points out:

Mark Twain was no fan of war, which he described as ‘a wanton waste of projectiles’, and he nurtured a healthy disdain for anyone who suggested that patriotism was best displayed through enthusiastic support for military adventures abroad.  The phrase ‘our country, right or wrong’ was, he argued, ‘an insult to the nation’.

But Mark Twain’s deepest disgust was reserved for politicians who played on fear and uncertainty to promote the interests of what would come to be known as the military-industrial complex.  Describing how Americans were sometimes goaded into war by their leaders, he noted: ‘Statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them;  and thus he will by-and-by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.’

The Devil’s Dictionary defines ‘Projectile’ as follows:

Projectile, n.  The final arbiter in international disputes.  Formerly these disputes were settled by physical contact of the disputants, with such simple arguments as the rudimentary logic of the times could supply -- the sword, the spear, and so forth.  With the growth of prudence in military affairs, the projectile came more and more into favor, and is now held in high esteem by the most courageous.  Its capital defect is that it requires personal attendance at the point of propulsion.

6.  The Permanent War Economy

The stimulative economic impact of World War II helped bring the world out of the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  Since then, a stubborn ideological argument has gained outlandish influence:  it contends that a permanent war economy with profligate military spending is one of the best ways to create jobs and stimulate the economy and make us safer. 

A full-cost accounting of militarism clearly contradicts this conviction.  Lavish military spending is a waste-oriented and cost-maximizing perversion of the self-correcting mechanisms of the competitive cost-minimizing free market system.  Chalmers Johnson investigated this topic at length in the last book of his Blowback Trilogy.  Johnson indicated that what he calls “military Keynesianism” is an ideology that is erroneous.  This ideology holds that the debt financing of wars, weapons, munitions and large standing armed forces is good for the economy.  Such debt irresponsibly defers costs to the future and threatens to bankrupt our nation; it is a policy that Johnson calls “a form of slow economic suicide.”

Our permanent war economy suffers not only from wrong-headed priorities, but also from procurement improprieties, no-bid contracts, and lavish pork barrel spending.  The non-partisan group, Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, released a report in May 2006 that indicated Pentagon financial management practices are an “embarrassment”.  It said that federal spending priorities are scandalously wasteful.  It also opined that such spending priorities effectively serve to actually undermine our national security.

The federal government’s spending priorities include significant amounts of waste and hidden fraud in military procurement.  Much of this is entirely secret (‘classified!’), and hence more liable to wasteful earmarks and financial shenanigans.  These squandered funds represent a sustained non-productive use of capital and labor.  They distort American values and divert resources from more peaceful, just, and wholesome investments and goals.  They represent an outrageous cost of lost opportunities and better priorities.

War is the ultimate expression of competition.  But war gives us a compelling example of why fair and sensible regulations and rules of law are required for the social good.  War and military occupations for ignoble purposes -- like resource grabs and profiteering -- must be prevented.  They are simply too counterproductive and devastating to millions of people around the world.  Both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman considered war profiteering to be a form of ‘treason’ -- but today it seems to have become standard operating procedure as a means of allowing defense contractors and aerospace companies and war services corporations and investors to make sometimes unethical profits.

Harry Truman chaired a Senate committee during World War II that launched an investigation into shady wartime business practices.  He found "waste, inefficiency, mismanagement and profiteering."  Today’s gargantuan military spending is highly likely to be many times worse.  Truman argued that such behavior was at best unpatriotic.  Today we are so accustomed to war profiteering that we regard it as ‘business as usual.’  But this does not completely hide the fact that war is a scurrilous way to make profits, and one that we should honestly find ways of controlling more rigorously and responsibly.

We cannot allow competition to be a rogue’s economic free-for-all.  We cannot allow our system to continue to be dominated by militarism, exploitive ‘disaster capitalism’, manipulative marketing, predatory banking practices, unscrupulous profiteering, and wrong-headed supremacism and reactionary ideologies.  We also cannot let the system be subject to inadequate oversight and accountability.  Wars must not be waged that are based on an anything-goes-to-get-what-you-want morality.  And no nation can accept any and all means to accomplish the end of building an imperialistic empire.  Competition must not be allowed to devolve into a disregard for workers and the environment in favor of prerogatives for capital and investors and speculators. 

Important perspectives and considerations follow in the chapters below.  This economic analysis is provided to debunk one of the unspoken and insidious rationalizations for rapid escalations in military spending in the last ten years:  that such spending is necessary and desirable for creating jobs and economic growth, and for ensuring that we gain control of needed resources.  Arguments like this are dangerous and disingenuous because they ignore fairer and smarter ways of investing our energies and taxpayer dollars.  They conceal motives of amoral profiteering and illegal interventionism and injustice in aggression and dishonorable meddling in the sovereign affairs of other nations. 

7.  The Subjectivity of Perspective

We Americans tend to think of ourselves as generous and optimistic and fair-minded.  There are certainly many ways in which this is true, but we also have a poorly-founded “we’re the good guys” delusion about the nature of our foreign policies.  In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, shocked with surprise and an immeasurable amount of anger, many Americans bewilderedly wondered “Why do they hate us?”  Our leaders jumped in with simplistic and emotionally manipulative theories about Islamic religious extremists who envy or despise our freedoms.  But they failed to provide us with more nuanced and multi-faceted and accurate understandings.  It was as if terrorists had attacked the Statue of Liberty or a towering casino in Las Vegas, rather than some of the most distinct symbols and citadels of unjust imperialism and brutal militarism in the world -- the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

There is a surprisingly large gap between our American self-perceptions and the way other people in the world see us.  In a study by the Princeton Survey Research Associates in 2002, only 18% of Americans considered “U.S. policies and actions in the world” as a main cause of the 9/11 attacks, while 81% of those in the Middle East saw it that way.  Which of these perceptions is most logical and plausible?

In a videotape from the supposed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, sent less than a month after the hijackings, Osama bin Laden talked about the humiliation and degradation of the Islamic world, and of innocent children being killed in Iraq, and of insecurity in Palestine, and of infidel armies in the land of Muhammad.  He did not say anything about hating our culture or freedoms or democracy.

8.  Are Americans “the Good Guys”, or Ruthless Imperialists?

Americans do not readily admit that we have a global empire, or that our actions are imperialistic in any way.  But a thorough and objective evaluation of our economic influence in the world, and of the far-flung extent of our military bases, make it clear that we are operating one of the most extensive and domineering empires in the history of the world.  It may not be as ‘vulgar’ as the old forms of British colonialism and mercantilism, which were such anathema to our Founding Fathers, but the sophisticated schemes of today’s corporate globalization, institutional bribery, cronyism, speculative development, exploitive international banking, privatization, surges of interventionism and militarism, pervasive war imagery, radical social engineering, ‘vulture capitalism’ and other reckless forms of economic shock therapy are equally unjust and unsustainable.  These things represent the modern face of imperialism. 

Any astute student of the lessons of history will recognize that the Roman Empire and the British Empire demonstrated that imperialism and militarism pose grave threats to democratic governance.  This is one of the primary reasons that our Founding Fathers initiated a system of checks and balances in our government -- they wanted to prevent tyranny.

Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”  We must remain vigilant against various forms of authoritarianism that are encroaching upon American society.  Our greatest protection from tyranny is NOT in the weaponry that we amass, but rather, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “in the preservation of the spirit that prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere.” 

When our leaders are intolerant of deviation from their doctrines and when they anti-democratically suppress opposition, as the Bush Administration eagerly did, they trample upon human rights and dignity.  This contributes to the repression and exploitation of citizens, and leads us on a slippery-slope course that effectively facilitates an un-American acceptance of authoritarian rule. 

George Washington warned his countrymen against foreign entanglements.  Ever since then, empire abroad has been seen as a permanent temptation of our republic, as well as its potential downfall.  I advocate finding ways to make the world fairer and more just, and NOT to merely pursue harsh foreign policies that are oriented around economic exploitation, increases in social inequality, the export of arms, and the hubris-filled meddling in the affairs of other nations.

A detailed and extensive compilation of good ideas on ways to make our societies better, safer, and more sustainable has been set forth at www.EarthManifesto.com;  see the ‘Foreign Policy Priorities’ section of the Progressive Agenda for a More Sane Humanity.

One of the principal problems with empire-building is that great risks accompany the inevitable decline and fall of an empire.  History shows that the following characteristics generally prevail during such times:  natural resources are squandered and decimated;  a dangerous arrogance of power exists that results in a bloated and overextended military that gets involved in costly and debilitating foreign wars;  there is widespread political mismanagement and corruption;  an unfair plutocracy is established with an ever-growing disparity between the influence and fortunes of rich people and those of everyone else;  the populace grows complacent and is diverted by materialistic indulgences and lavish forms of entertainment and sports spectacles;  the public is divided and becomes effectively disenfranchised, so the populace becomes increasingly cynical and apathetic;  and a massive influx of people and their customs from abroad creates divisive tension and disruption.

Think about this.  Here are seven primary characteristics of the decay of civilization, and the United States has channeled them here in the twenty-first century as if they were some sort of virtuous Holy Grail!  

Another important consideration is this:  When our empire-building adventurism eventually encounters overwhelming hurdles and opposition, the rich and powerful will become increasingly jealous and desperate to protect their prerogatives.  To secure their advantages and increase their control, they will strive to impose ever-greater repression and authoritarianism on our society. 

    “A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.”

                --- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

It is generally not recognized that repression, power abuses, human rights violations, and other despotic actions are symptoms of an underlying agenda that emphasizes narrow political and economic ends.  These ends generally revolve around a simple and despicable goal:  giving the powerful few a maximum opportunity to accumulate power and wealth at the expense of the many.  John Perkins, who wrote the compelling memoir, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, has written another book that contains important perspectives on the inside story of the role of the U.S. in world affairs.  It is entitled The Secret History of the American Empire.  It reveals how corporate manipulations, economic opportunism, corruption, assassinations and other forms of American corporate skullduggery have severely impacted numerous nations in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.  Perkins concludes that positive and revolutionary change is possible.  He furthermore indicates that such change is increasingly necessary!

Our democracy is under assault by the Executive branch of our government.  The Bush Administration exploited the opportunity presented by 9/11 to engage in a furious assault on our values and principles and civil rights.  Extensive details of this are revealed in the book Takeover -- The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy.  Americans should strongly oppose such developments.  Ignorance and apathy allow arrogance to advance its dangerous and unjust agenda. 

Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the longest-serving chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, warned against “the arrogance of power”.  He once observed:

      “The price of empire is America’s soul, and that price is too high.”

9.  Counterproductive Aspects of War

Aside from being right or wrong in justification and motivation, offensive militarism is generally counterproductive in its outcome.  Fighting terrorism with hyper-aggressive military forces is proving to be destabilizing and so wrongful that it is harming hopes for peace and the national security of Americans and those in the Middle East.  One reason that aggression is decidedly counterproductive is that its injustice is clearly tangible to thousands of innocent civilians when they suffer physical or mental or economic harm.  Military actions also wantonly and unjustly damage the economies and infrastructure of victim countries.  While war is a divisive influence between Americans, it can help unite our “enemies”, so it is a lose-lose strategy.

Powerful anxieties exist amongst the peoples of the world today.  It is almost certain that these stresses will get worse in coming decades as competition increases for land, oil, minerals, fresh water, forests, fisheries, control, domination, and "the hearts and minds of men".  It is easy to suppose that the safest way to the future would be in minimizing economic, social and environmental stresses, and NOT by acting in ways that makes them worse.  How can we ensure that we best accomplish this?

For one, we must give higher priority to international cooperation and the goal of achieving peaceful coexistence.  Communities must be strengthened against radicalism.  Official policies should have the objective of preventing “failed states” and the destitution and alienation of communities from which terrorists are recruited.  Investing in the fight against poverty would be a more intelligent and successful undertaking than investing in military aggression and supremacy-oriented gambits. 

And instead of having fired so many military personnel who speak Arabic and Farsi because of their sexual orientation, we should long ago have abandoned the bizarre “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.  We should honor and thank such linguists for the contributions they make to improve communication, facilitate understanding and help reduce extremism.  We should eliminate all military discrimination against gay people that is encompassed in the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which has unfairly led to the discharge of more than 14,000 highly qualified male and female service members, many of them in crucially important roles, due to their sexuality.

The United States military has long demonstrated a "strong aversion to change".  President Truman made an effort to integrate the Army in 1948 by issuing an executive order to end racial segregation in the armed services.  General Omar Bradley, the Army chief of staff at the time, flatly refused, saying desegregation would ruin the Army.  Because of the military's reluctance and bureaucratic hedging, it was not until 1954 that Truman's order was implemented.  Today, one-third of people in the Army are African-Americans, though they constitute only 12% of the general population.  This over-weight representation of blacks in the military reflects the poor opportunities that are available to this segment of our society in other arenas.  Participation by blacks in this dangerous role is a reflection of the appeal of the all-volunteer army to people in the middle and low-income categories, where they have fewer opportunities than people in higher-income classes.

The strong resistance in the military today to ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is a similarly wrong-headed and discriminatory policy, and it is costly and unfair, to boot.  Let’s end it now!  The Center for American Progress proposed a smart and practical five-step solution in June 2009 that would have been a good guideline to follow to sensibly end this odd policy.

John F. Kennedy stated in his inaugural address, “Let us never negotiate from fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”  Instead of our military aggression, let us commit ourselves to making the world safer through more generous non-military foreign aid, more equitable social justice, cooperative problem-solving, better opportunities for sustainable development, and the equality-embracing empowerment of women. 

Instead of stubborn intransigence in the defense of entrenched interests and the status quo, we should be seeking a consensus to find ways of achieving farsighted goals of energy conservation, development of fossil fuel alternatives, economic stability, the creation of meaningful jobs, the mitigation of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and the establishment of global protections of fresh water and healthy ecosystems. 

Better ways to balance the needs of competing constituencies must be found.  Conflicts and antagonisms must be defused.  We must strive to prevent others from being galvanized into either terrorism or militant actions because of self-righteousness, prejudice, fear, injustice, frustration, despair, or hatred.  Simply put, if we sow justice and non-violence, then we will improve our chances of being able to harvest peace.  When we sow injustice and violence, we harvest discord and social turmoil and retaliation.   

“Shall we?  That is, shall we go on conferring our Civilization upon the peoples that sit in darkness, or shall we give these poor things a rest?  Shall we bang right ahead in our old-time, loud, pious way, and commit the new century to the game; or shall we sober up and sit down and think it over first?  Extending the Blessings of Civilization to our Brother who sits in Darkness has been a good trade and has paid well, on the whole;  and there is money in it yet, if carefully worked -- but not enough, in my judgment, to make any considerable risk advisable.” 

                                                         --- To the Person Sitting in Darkness, Mark Twain, 1901

10.  The Fog of War

Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War, admitted in the film The Fog of War that American leaders essentially committed war crimes during the Vietnam War.  More than TWO MILLION Vietnamese people were killed in that war.  It was a war that the famous Pentagon Papers revealed to have been expanded by deceptions and routine lies and the suppression of information by the federal government.  History seems to be repeating itself in the current decade with the evasions, prevarications, equivocations, propaganda and other forms of dishonesty that the Bush Administration used in its war rationalizations for attacking and occupying Iraq.

McNamara also conveyed the compelling insight that people often do not understand other cultures or foreign perspectives, and that this is the case because we do not cultivate empathetic understandings of them.  We misjudge other peoples because we have a profound ignorance of their history, culture, values, beliefs, nationalistic pride, personal dignity and deeper perspectives.  We apparently cannot put ourselves in the shoes of others, as we were clearly unable to do with the people of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.  The Vietnamese wanted sovereignty and self-determination, not Chinese communism!

Another vitally important insight of McNamara’s is that, if the United States cannot persuade other nations that share similar interests and values of the merits of proposed uses of military power, we should not proceed unilaterally.  We are not, after all, infallible or omniscient, he noted.  We are, in fact, blinded by the premises of our solipsistic and selfish and distorted worldviews, as well as by the propaganda of corporations and right-wing think tanks that rationalize war in order to profit from it. 

Ideological beliefs often manifest themselves in a form of political fanaticism that can skew our perceptions of reality.  This was shown in the ‘domino theory’, which used hyped-up fears of monolithic communism to get us to invade Vietnam.  That conflict proved to be an extremely costly quagmire.  Reckless and inflexible ideology, augmented by groupthink and technocratic decision-making, can produce horrible results.  The failure to take into account opposing points of view and the variability of local contexts can be a serious one.

Imagine the U.S. were occupied by a foreign power, for any reason whatsoever.  Do you think that any of us would find it acceptable to live under ruthless tactics of foreign military forces and police and security agents?  Would we have a stable society if war helped to cause 40% unemployment like there is in Iraq?  Isn’t it certain that our gun-loving and freedom-embracing citizens would be radicalized into a powerful insurgency that would oppose occupiers from the beginning?  As Robert McNamara noted, we do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image, so we should not act as if we do!

A gripping film has been produced that is even more provocative than The Fog of War.  It is titled The Most Dangerous Man in America:  Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.  This film makes it clear that dissent and personal conscience and freedom of the press and the courage of whistleblowers are critically important aspects of our democracy.  The inertial power of the status quo is remarkable today, as we are finding it extremely difficult to extricate our nation from costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though it is widely understood that government deceptions got us into this mess.

Jared Diamond makes the following cogent point in his brilliant book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.  He writes that the most troubled nations in the world, politically and environmentally, are ones that are overpopulated and whose peoples are undernourished and desperate.  Poverty is a national security threat not only for the people that live in failing states, but also for other nations which get embroiled in wars or are attacked by terrorists or are destinations for emigration and refugees.  Instability in poor nations often leads to impulses for authoritarian regimes to take over, which “attack neighboring nations in order to divert popular attention from internal stresses.” 

It seems apparent that the U.S. acts heavy-handedly in foreign affairs partially to divert attention from its own domestic problems and unemployment.  I highly recommend the insightful observations about political and environmental instability around the globe that are contained in the final chapter of Jared Diamond’s Collapse, which is titled “The World as a Polder:  What Does It All Mean to Us Today.”  A polder, incidentally, is land reclaimed from the sea by a system of dikes and pumping operations, like 20% of the land in the Netherlands.  By its nature, a polder requires collaboration and unity to achieve a common good goal.

A British Brigadier General in March 2007 described the American occupation of Iraq as being characterized by “cultural insensitivity” that borders on “institutional racism.”  Can we know how the Iraqi people have felt when they have been subjected to what we euphemistically call “collateral damage” during our massive air strikes and helicopter gunship attacks?  Can we understand what anathema it must be for them to have so many thousands of troops and security contractors heavy-handedly occupying their country and patrolling the streets, breaking down doors, terrorizing civilians, and shooting people with impunity on the roads and at checkpoints?  Can we empathize with how devastating our occupation must be, with air strikes taking place daily for years on end, and with millions of people having been driven from their homes as refugees?

Iraq has been torn apart by our military occupation as well as by ferocious sectarianism and rampant local corruption, a surge in religious fundamentalism, and the violent tyranny of death squads.  All of these forces were radically escalated by the U.S. occupation.  Matters have been exacerbated by poor governance, fomented violence, ineffective reconstruction efforts, missing munitions, squandered funds, fraudulent corporate profiteering, and our shortsighted lack of an exit strategy from the start.  See the film No End in Sight -- and think about it! 

We are suffering from ‘ideological blowback’ from the stupidity and incompetence of what one Iraqi engineer termed the U.S. reconstruction “joke that nobody laughs at”.  According to former Iraqi Cabinet member Ali Allawi, the United States has manifested “rank amateurism and swaggering arrogance” and “monumental ignorance” during the occupation.  Our occupation is more a part of the problem than a solution to Iraq’s problems, so we should more honestly deal with this status quo.

Bring our troops home!  A petulant George Bush charged Congress with “wasting his time” by trying to end the war in Iraq and pursuing investigations into corruption.  Really?  You don’t say!  Was it wasting the president’s time to have Congress exercise its Constitutional oversight responsibilities after so many years of fraud and corruption, and after so much gouging of taxpayers and money squandered?  Was it wasting the president’s time to strive to overcome obstructionism to enact the will of the majority of Americans to find a way to bring our troops home?  Was it wasting his time merely because opposition was fruitless, given that his militaristic foreign policies were rubber-stamped by Republican majority loyalists in Congress from 2001 to 2007?  Someone should have reminded George that we still do have a democracy!  (More or less!).

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."

                                                                                 —George W. Bush, July 27, 2001

George Bush liked to harangue Americans with his opinion that terrorists hate our freedoms.  But it is the Bush Administration that acted as if it hates the freedoms of American citizens.  It was just so danged inconvenient to our President, apparently, for Americans to use their freedoms to oppose interventionism, express dissent, criticize imperialist foreign policies, advocate peace, and demand true oversight and accountability.

11.  Proper Priorities

Our political leaders put an absurd overemphasis on security through lavish spending on war, armaments, munitions, high-tech weapons, war-service contractors, and other policies of crony capitalism and aggressive militarism.  At the same time, they disingenuously deny and fail to adequately fund the growing need to responsibly improve our national security by creating fairer economies and more just societies worldwide. 

Simultaneous with our profligate spending on militarism, we cut back on the maintenance of our society’s infrastructure and the basic needs of people here at home.  As Joel Andreas wrote in his edifying book, Addicted to War -- Why the U.S. Can’t Kick Militarism, “Cutbacks in social programs have caused far more devastation in this country than any foreign army ever has.”

The “war on terror” skews our priorities far out of balance.  It allows politicians to establish misguided and shortsighted priorities that ignore far greater existential threats.  It is undeniable, in retrospect, that Americans would be far better off to have spent $1 trillion in the past 8 years on different priorities than the war in Iraq. 

The Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates the Iraq War debacle will eventually cost our country an astounding $3 trillion.  This figure includes all of the deferred costs of veterans’ health care and disability compensation and replenishment of military equipment and the cost of borrowed money to finance this mess.  Spending that much money on this terrible misadventure is shocking and awful!

We could and should have invested in different priorities to make our societies safer, saner, fairer and more sustainable.  According to author and finance expert John Talbott, terrorism is not in the top 10 of his assessment of the potential biggest costs associated with the 25 Greatest Threats to Our Prosperity.  We should, therefore, not spend such outlandish sums on a poorly conceived ‘war on terrorism’.

Here are the Top Ten Priorities that come to mind to help us achieve prosperity:

(1) Implement energy efficiency and conservation measures and find renewable alternatives to fossil fuels in this era of Peak Oil and resource wars.

(2) Revolutionarily reform our foreign policies to focus them on making the world safer and more peaceable by supporting initiatives that emphasize diplomacy, negotiation, cooperative problem-solving and the mitigation of disparities in wealth, power and economic insecurity.

(3) Create a fiscally-sound government and balance the budget instead of indulging in the insidiously irresponsible expediency of deficit spending.  Borrow-and-spend courses of action are fiscally imprudent;  they defer costs to people in the future and increase the likelihood that our nation will suffer economic disruptions that stem from our having become the world’s largest debtor nation.  Our economy has been subjected to serious hard times partially because of fiscal irresponsibility and the imprudent tax breaks given during this time of war.  Imperial overstretch, bubble economic policies and other financial shenanigans have made this state of affairs worse.

(4) Address looming challenges caused by resource depletion, habitat destruction, and problems related to species extinctions and biodiversity losses. 

(5) Undertake intelligent and far-sighted programs to reduce the risks of the “threat multipliers” of crushing poverty and human-caused ecological disturbances.

(6) Boldly deal with preventing or minimizing climate change impacts that are being caused, and will be exacerbated as the years pass, by our spewing billions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere every year.

(7) Invest in programs that are designed to make our societies fairer, especially programs that involve Clean Money and Fair Elections, and universal health care, and good quality public education, and social and legal justice.

(8) Find ways to encourage fair trade and prevent the marginalization of the majority of people in the world, which is exacerbated by ruthless and inadequately-regulated capitalism.

(9) Shift people’s behaviors from wasteful consumerism and mindless materialism to more genuine, meaningful, wholesome, holistic, sustainable and peaceful endeavors.  And,

(10) Focus our understandings on the profound folly of international policies that interfere with family planning programs, the availability of contraceptives, the rights of women to choose to have an abortion, and sensible initiatives designed to reduce the rate of human population growth.

There is a gravely tragic irony in the fact that the horrific hijacking of four airplanes on 9/11 has so effectively facilitated the hijacking of our national priorities into costly and risky undertakings instead of ones that are intelligent, far-sighted, fair, sustainable, peaceful, and humanitarian.

The unintended consequences of our wrong-headed priorities and our actions and our omissions are likely to be dangerously destabilizing in the years to come.  What is to be done?  There are many positive initiatives that we could be undertaking, and these will be explored further below.  Also, the One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies and the Progressive Agenda for a More Sane Humanity contain many important ideas which would, if adopted, have far-reaching and salubrious impacts for the greater good.  Check these out in Part Four of the Earth Manifesto.

12.  Considerations of Ideology

The 45-year-long Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, leaving the world with a single superpower:  the United States.  An ideological movement arose that held that the greatest safety for Americans could be achieved only by making permanent a “full-spectrum dominance” of all other nations.  Thus, instead of a socially-beneficial peace dividend in the form of reduced military spending after the end of the Cold War, ideologues from the right wing of the Republican Party dramatically drove up the amount of money that we spend on the military. 

Our military supremacy ploys were facilitated by a dangerous and belligerent hubris that was disguised by disingenuous and hypocritical rhetoric.  This arrogance helped to get us to invade Iraq, an action which is proving to be one of the most critical and costly blunders in the history of American foreign policy.  After having been baited by Osama bin Laden and other extremists, we have acted with a reactive cowboy mentality and responded in a manner that is extremely damaging to our prestige, our principles of fairness, our civil liberties, our national safety, our unity, and our financial well-being. 

Pulitzer Prize-winning historians Will and Ariel Durant wrote a magnum opus in a monumental eleven-volume series entitled “The Story of Civilization”.  From the vast knowledge of history they gained during their 40-year-collaboration on these books, they created The Lessons of History, a dazzlingly insightful and almost poetic summary of historical understandings that I highly recommend.  In Chapter XI, ‘History and War’, the Durants make a curious but valuable observation: 

“When the states of Europe freed themselves from papal overlordship and protection, each state encouraged nationalism as a supplement to its army and navy.  If it foresaw conflict with any particular country, it fomented in its people hatred of that country, and formulated catchwords to bring that hatred to a lethal point;  meanwhile it stressed its love of peace.”

There are distinct similarities of these stratagems to the machinations of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and their manipulative schemes to get the U.S. involved in wars abroad.  “An evil exists that threatens every man, woman and child of this great nation.  We must take steps to ensure our domestic security and protect our homeland."  Who said this?  George Bush?  (No; it was Adolph Hitler!)

John Steinbeck wrote in his 1940 book, The Log From the Sea of Cortez:

“There is a war now which no one wants to fight, in which no one can see a gain -- a zombie war of sleep-walkers which nevertheless goes on out of all control of intelligence.  Some time ago a Congress of honest men refused an appropriation of several hundreds of millions of dollars to feed our people.  They said, and meant it, that the economic structure of the country would collapse under the pressure of such expenditure.  And now the same men, just as honestly, are devoting many billions to the manufacture, transportation, and detonation of explosives to protect the people they would not feed.”

Politicians today make similar mistakes.  It would be giving our representatives a lot more credit than they deserve to say that they are really being honest.  Our national politics are strongly affected by institutionalized bribery (corporate lobbying) and a ‘culture of corruption’ in Washington D.C.  Our decision-making is perverted by sound-byte deceptions and influence peddling and gimmicky sleight-of-hand accounting and irresponsible deficit financing.  Instead of honesty dealing with these systemic problems, our leaders prevent change and manipulate the public with slick marketing. 

An April 2008 New York Times story indicated that a secret Pentagon campaign began at the start of the wars in the Middle East.  Investigative reporter David Barstow revealed that the Pentagon has used “propaganda pundits” embedded on all major news network programs.  The purpose of this Pentagon program was to provide military spin to the news, and to cover up war failings, and to try to fool the American people into giving their support to America’s wars -- no matter how costly or misbegotten the wars may be.  One former participant in this effort calls the Pentagon program “psyops on steroids”.  Such ‘psychological operations’ spin in the media undermines the proper functioning of democracy.  

Famed war reporter Joseph Galloway writes: “This program violated the laws against covert propaganda operations mounted against the American public by their own government.  But in this administration, there's no one left to enforce that law or any of the other laws the Bush operatives have been busy violating.”

There seems to be a particular psychological profile that contributes to war.  It is found in personalities who arise at times in history to exploit a kind of insanity sparked by economic crises, anxieties, social instability or other vulnerabilities.  Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin are amongst the most famous examples of this demagogic propensity.  This type of leader demonstrates a monomaniacal drive for dominance.  They use grandiose convictions, ideological arguments, overweening hubris, inscrutable impulses, and ruthless suppression of dissent to rule with an iron fist.  How can we inoculate ourselves against such despotism, especially when it strives to institute aggressively expansionistic regimes?

Arrogant attitudes are often accompanied by contempt toward others.  Greater respect and cooperative collaboration is required today for our civilizations to evolve toward solutions to the social, demographic, geopolitical, ecological and resource-allocation challenges that are clearly intensifying year after year.  In light of the increasingly urgent need for compromise and more harmonious win/win problem-solving, it is increasingly foolish and dangerous to harbor prideful supremacism and contemptuous tough-guy attitudes, and to give support to politicians who pander to such self-centered, domineering and greedy ways of acting in the world. 

Extremism begets extremism.  Violence begets violence in response.  And exploitive economic policies that are enforced with interventionism and humiliating military oppression beget opposition and blowback retaliation and terrorism.  To secure a prosperous and safer world for rich people and middle-class people and poor people, for Christians and Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus and atheists, for people everywhere, we need fairer and more enlightened economic and foreign policies. 

13.  Seeking True National Security

There are many indicators that point to offense as the principal motivation for U.S. foreign policies, rather than defense.  Principal amongst these indicators are:

 (1) The U.S. military has a stated objective of “full-spectrum dominance”.

 (2) Our nation intervenes militarily in other countries and shows a chilling disregard for the lives of non-Americans with our bombings, harsh occupation tactics, lack of accountability, and too often ‘trigger-happy’ security contractors like the former Blackwater USA.

 (3) We support despotic and dictatorial regimes like those in Saudi Arabia when it suits our interests. 

 (4) We pursue a merciless economic agenda that imposes severe sanctions against peoples whose leaders do not kowtow to our demands. 

 (5) We arrogantly use a new variety of ‘gunboat diplomacy’ in the form of CIA covert operations and intimidation by aircraft carriers, heavy bombers, jet fighters, helicopter gunships and drones. 

 (6) We maintain a nuclear arsenal with an outlandish overkill capacity.  And,

 (7) While we occasionally close military bases within the U.S., we are adding to the more than 700 military bases that we have in over 130 countries abroad.

The U.S. military should emphasize the defense of our country, and not aggression or preemptive attacks on other countries.  No matter how persuasive the justifications are that politicians provide for attacking other countries, it must become an inviolable principle that offensive aggression is an unjust and intolerable international crime.

It is also exceedingly odd that we are not willing to target a foreign despot like Muammar Gaddafi, but we bomb the hell out of the pawns that do his bidding.

14.  Madness and Caddishness

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union both produced such an excess of devastating nuclear weapons that the strategy was called Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).  We still have 10,000 nuclear weapons -- overkill! -- and a costly and dangerous program to maintain them.  This arsenal should be reduced. 

We have also spent more than $100 billion in the last 25 years on “Star Wars initiatives”, despite the fact that this ‘Theater Missile Defense’ system raises a complex web of geopolitical issues.  It stimulates mutual insecurities around the globe;  it makes a dangerous militarization of space more likely;  and it exacerbates the international arms race.  Even one war in space could encase the Earth indefinitely in a shell of whizzing debris that would make space travel highly hazardous for peaceful space exploration launches, as well as for crucially important scientific and communications and weather satellites.

Today, our policies regarding consumerism, rampant development, unchecked population growth and militarism are contributing to accelerating ecological damage.  These activities could be described as Collectively Assured Destruction (CAD).  Both MAD and CAD have been driven by dominance ideologies, rash empire building, inadequately regulated capitalism, and abuses of corporate, political and military power, as well as by authoritarian communism.  It is becoming increasingly apparent that we must boldly restructure our societies to prevent destructive activities, and to mitigate the extent that we are all acting as reprobate ‘cads’! 

15.  Pathetic Aspects of Militarism

We must reject the hubris of our government’s crusade to aggressively dominate the world.  In the more than 700 military bases that the U.S. has abroad, our military deploys more than 500,000 soldiers, spies, technicians, teachers, dependents, and civilian contractors.  Serious conflicts result when Americans are involved abroad in traffic accidents, public intoxication, violence and rapes.  We also have 6,000 bases in the U.S. and its territories.  We do not need all of this -- and we would be better off if we were not spending so much money on maintaining this military empire.  I suggest that we reduce military spending by 25% and phase out a quarter of our military bases here and abroad in the next 5 years.

The U.S. is the world’s leading arms dealer.  We export weapons to scores of countries.  This fuels conflicts and wreaks havoc around the planet.  While our leaders boast about democracy, security and peace, we sell weapons to dictators, human rights abusers, and countries at war, or countries preparing for war, sometimes with each other.  An article in the newspaper asserted that 20 of our top 25 arms clients in the developing world in 2003 were undemocratic regimes or governments with records as major human rights abusers.  Far from serving as a force for security or stability or peace, American arms sales frequently empower undemocratic and unstable regimes.  Arms sales have increased dramatically in recent years.  This is not a healthy trend, and it is not an export of which we should be proud.  Smart people say that additional taxes on arms sales would be wise, with the proceeds to be used for purposes of peacebuilding and non-military foreign aid and improving our own country.

We should create more dynamic international institutions that are empowered to capably resolve conflicts.  Let’s start with a powerful and generously-funded U.S. Department of Peace with a mission of creating peace both domestically and internationally.  Let’s create a Cabinet-level Secretary of Peace to demonstrate a commitment to the causes of conflict-resolution and international cooperation.  This would be propitious for our true national security.  It is my conviction that we would be wisest to be open to visionary new ideas rather than continuing to heavily invest in resisting such ideas.  If we temper our feelings with confidence, rationality and philosophical equanimity, we might have a better chance of channeling our concerns and passion and moral energy into constructive actions that will help achieve necessary and desirable goals.

16.  Political Aspects of War

National security through ever-increasing military prowess carries a prohibitive price tag.  Our military adventurism is not only a wasteful and costly gamble, but it is also a very high risk game.  We have already spent over $780 billion dollars on the war in Iraq, and the costs escalated substantially every year from 2003 to 2008.  More than 4,400 Americans have been killed as of May 2011, and more than 32,000 of our troops have been wounded.  This is in addition to more than 1,400 American soldiers who have died in the war in Afghanistan. 

There are probably more contractors in Iraq than American troops, so it should be no surprise that many hundreds of them have also been killed, and many thousands have been wounded.  And hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians have died, while millions have been injured or displaced from their homes.  Civilian casualties during our occupation of Afghanistan are making the war there less tenable.  The problems facing Afghan society are economic and social and political in nature, so they require economic, social and political solutions.  The U.S. should play a more constructive role in Afghanistan by engaging civil society rather than by waging war.  Unfortunately, over 90 percent of U.S. funding in Afghanistan is directed toward military purposes, and inadequate focus is given to non-military strategic options.

President Bush assured Americans two weeks before attacking Iraq that such an invasion would “contribute greatly to the long-term safety and stability of our world.”  No one could convince a reasonable person that this, or any of the Bush Administration’s subsequent Pollyanna-ish war reassurances, has proved to be true.  A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) done in July 2007, which contained a consensus view of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, provided an unambiguous repudiation of the contention by the Bush crowd that the war in Iraq made us safer. 

Evidence with the same conclusion was provided by the Oxford Research Group.  This is an independent British non-governmental organization which reported on October 7, 2007 that the U.S.-led “war on terror” is failing because it is fueling an increase in support for extremist Islamic movements.  Military aggression has contributed to social instability in the world, and to dire debt and financial problems.  These developments are not auspicious for the security and well-being of billions of people. 

It would likely have been far better if Mr. Bush and his cronies had seen beyond their ideology and heeded Mark Twain’s wise observation: 

     “It is easier to stay out than get out.”  

Instead of making the world a safer and more just place, our actions in Iraq have resulted in an increased number of terrorist incidents worldwide and made international hostilities worse.  They dramatically increased antagonisms toward the United States government during the Bush years and made the Middle East less stable.  They have increased the risks of retaliatory actions in the future from terrorists who are driven to martyrdom or who may seek to obtain ‘loose nukes’ or other weapons of mass destruction.  This explains why polls indicated that the majority of people in the world regarded the U.S. as the worst threat to world peace during the Bush/Cheney Administration.  All of our leaders should do everything they can to genuinely change such perceptions, and NOT merely by using rhetoric, spin, propaganda, misinformation or outright lies.  The book Rogue Nation provides a valuable perspective and a more detailed understanding of these ideas.   

On November 1, 2007, Karen Hughes announced her resignation from her position as the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs for the State Department.  “Nice try” in challenging circumstances, Karen.  Attempting to improve America’s image abroad was a difficult challenge when our foreign policy was so widely perceived to be unjust and imperialistic and militaristic.  Somehow public relations just can’t overcome the negative aspects of our cultural triumphalism, arrogance, condescension and aggression.  Winning hearts and minds is hard when our rhetoric and actions are so dissonantly mismatched.  Effective diplomacy requires a lot more than we’ve given it!

I have a gut feeling that it is a singularly bad idea to pursue strategies that create enemies faster than we can imprison or kill them.  It is costly and dangerous and counterproductive and pathetic.  Let’s make friends, not enemies!

17.  Let’s Make Friends with Iran!

The United States has acted with a hawkish bellicosity toward Iran for many decades.  The stepped-up rhetoric during the Bush Administration was partially a Neoconservative ploy to stimulate nationalism and patriotism, and to rally Americans around our flag.  We must be more vigilant to guard against the ratcheting-up of rhetoric and rationalizations for war against any nation. 

Iran is a legitimate player in the Middle East.  It is arguably much more legitimate than the United States, being in the neighborhood right between Iraq and Afghanistan.  It is folly to threaten Iran as aggressively as the Bush Administration did.  Iran and its domineering religious Ayatollahs have been the beneficiaries of our invasion and occupation of Iraq and the elimination of Saddam Hussein.  This strengthening of Iran and of battle-hardened Sunni fundamentalists in Iraq has created greater danger for our ally Israel.  We should use honest negotiations to boldly integrate Iran into a more stable Middle East.  We should not exaggerate the nuclear capabilities of Iran the way George Bush and Dick Chaney did with Iraq under Saddam Hussein.  We must deal with Iran strategically and diplomatically, and not as if we are on a dominance-oriented, self-righteous, militaristic Crusade!

Our current conundrum with Iran is partially a backlash against our having helped overthrow the freely-elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran in 1953.  In a CIA-sponsored coup (code named ‘Operation Ajax’), the CIA helped install the despotic Shah.  We subsequently supported the Shah and his brutal SAVAK secret police for more than 25 years.  Many Iranians regard the U.S. as the “Great Satan” and hate us for this, and for the repression and barbarous torture that accompanied the Shah’s rule.  Our harboring of the Shah after he was deposed, and our support for Saddam Hussein in the costly war between Iraq and Iran in which there were ONE MILLION casualties between 1980 and 1988, contributes to this Iranian sense of injustice and anger.  We have been acting like an enemy to Iran since 1953, but it seems like it would be a far better plan to start acting like a good neighbor, or even as a friend!

Barack Obama’s more nuanced position, as embodied in a speech in Cairo in early June 2009, had a more conciliatory tone.  This deprived the Iranian mullahs of some of their strength, and may begin to destabilize the hardliners in Iran.  Pakistan, which has about 80 nuclear warheads, is much more dangerous than Iran, and we are goading extremists there constantly with our support of a repressive military.

Neoconservative ideologues in their hubris advocate military supremacy and preemptive war doctrines to achieve a variety of narrow ends.  They either do not realize, or will not admit, that we need to make more committed efforts to negotiate constructively with legitimate regional decision-makers in the Middle East.  It is counterproductive and blockheaded to rely so exclusively on confrontation and the imposition of harsh economic sanctions on people in other countries.  The same is true of militaristic policies that result in widespread violence and have the collateral effect of creating millions of refugees.  Furthermore, the use of clandestine covert operations to destabilize other nations can be quite imprudent. 

A key to a safer and more stable Middle East would be to create a fair and lasting peace between Israel and Palestinians.  We should seriously use our influence to make this happen.  President Bush spent eight years with the ‘road map’ to peace figuratively “tucked in the glove compartment”.  Until Barack Obama toned down this strategy, the U.S. unwisely spent much more effort ratcheting up its rhetoric and its preparedness to preemptively attack Iran over nuclear issues and Iranian involvements in the Iraq war. 

A Kyl-Lieberman amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill of 2008, passed in September 2007, could have been used as a green light for a ‘preemptive attack’ on Iran.  This amendment condemned the largest branch of Iran’s military as a ‘terrorist organization’.  The action got a strong reaction from Iran:  the Iranian parliament responded almost immediately by declaring the CIA and the U.S. Army as terrorist organizations.  Some say that there is an ironic validity for such a point of view!

An attack on Iran should not be considered for any reason.  We must also prevent any future war tactic designed to distract and divide Americans.  We cannot allow a ‘Wag-the-Dog-like’ scenario from developing in which Americans are manipulated into giving their support for new preemptive wars.  The use of such actions to divert Americans from vitally important domestic priorities would be particularly dangerous and objectionable.  (“Wag the Dog” was a 1997 movie starring Dustin Hoffman in which a war was fabricated to cover up a presidential sex scandal.) 

President Bush once spoke publicly about World War III in connection with Iran.  He did this as a part of a campaign that is suspiciously similar to the misleading tricks that were used to get us to invade Iraq.  He and Dick Cheney and others figuratively beat the drums in 2008, partially as an electioneering ploy to hype up fears and prey on our pride and use misleading intelligence to maintain power.  It is beyond imagination that we Americans are so arrogant, fearful or trigger-happy that we can even contemplate starting World War III.  World War II began in Europe when Hitler’s armies invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.  Historians might one day look back on our current adventurism in the Middle East and say that the U.S. took the initial steps into World War III by invading Afghanistan and Iraq, the two countries that neighbor Iran immediately to its east and west.    

Preemptive war does not promote peace.  Imagine how severely threatened Americans would feel if any country attacked and occupied both Mexico and Canada and caused refugees by the millions to cross into our country.  Imagine our response if such a country rattled the saber with furious accusations about our activities in abetting a resistance.  This gives us a better idea about how close we got in 2008 to being involved in a wider war. 

One consequence of our misguided support of the Shah’s repressive regime is that it gave power and impetus to a reactive and harshly fundamentalist Islamic government to come to power.  This brought more injustice and oppression to the people of Iran.  Such a belligerent and domineering religious fundamentalism would weaken if we did not provide such powerful counter-support to it by threatening Iran.  Hard-liners in Iran have been strengthened by our attacks on Iran’s neighbors, just as hard-liners in the United States have been strengthened by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Other forms of blowback retaliation are likely in the future if we do not change course.

A top foreign policy priority should be to defuse Middle Eastern tensions.  The elections in Iran in June 2009 showed that the repressive regime there is willing to take ruthless steps to continue its domination.  But that regime’s days may be numbered by its harsh suppression of civil liberties, as the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt were, and as the regimes in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and even Saudi Arabia may be.

It is a dangerous misapprehension to believe that the strength and security of the American people lies principally in full-spectrum dominance and aggressive militarism and arrogant bravado and macho dude ruthlessness and policing occupations and torturous clandestine operations.  We are neck deep in ideological, strategic and tactical blunders related to our costly invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and it seems crazy to me to continue brazen counter-supporting antagonism against Iran’s leaders. 

Our ‘beating of the drum’ for war with Iran in 2008 even included real war preparations.  A second aircraft carrier strike group was dispatched to the Persian Gulf area early in the year, ironically led by the USS Abraham Lincoln, the same aircraft carrier upon which George Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” on May 1, 2003 after the invasion of Iraq.    

The run-up to a war against Iran received a significant setback in December 2007 when the 16 Intelligence agencies of the federal government gave the Bush Administration a smackdown in the form of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) which indicated that Iran is not actively working on a program to create nuclear weapons.  Despite this consensus report of American intelligence, right-wing pundits and war hawks continued to advance the idea that a war on Iran is justified and desirable.

Senator Joe Lieberman from Connecticut was asked about Iran on national television in June 2007, and he said that “we’ve got to use our force, and to me, that would include taking military action to stop them from doing what they’re doing.”  Really?!  Are we mad?  We were thinking of stopping them from doing what they were doing?  This suggestion is not just bizarre -- it is outrageous and foolish.  Have we learned nothing about the costliness of relying so exclusively on intimidation and domineering militarism? 

Senator John McCain of Arizona hammed it up in a video taken of him on stage in April 2007, singing “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” to the tune of the Beach Boys song “Barbara Ann”.  Good God!  This is not humor;  it is a form of severely irresponsible pandering to the hard-right hawks in the United States.  No presidential candidate should be so obtuse.  Even Hillary Clinton was hawkish enough during the 2008 Presidential campaign to suggest that, if elected, she would “totally obliterate” the 70 million people in Iran if that country were to use a nuclear weapon against us.

Barack Obama, as a Senator, suggested that the U.S. might need to intervene militarily in Pakistan;  I submit that such ideas of American unilateralism and violations of the sovereignty of other nations must be abandoned.  The dangers of an Islamic extremist coalition coming to power in nuclear-armed Pakistan are great enough without our provoking such an outcome!

Pakistan’s former ‘President’ Pervez Musharraf, who had originally come to power in a military coup, declared emergency rule on November 3, 2007.  He suspended the constitution, shut down independent media outlets, removed Supreme Court judges, and jailed thousands of lawyers and civil activists.  George Bush had characterized Pervez Musharraf as someone who truly “believes in democracy”, but this authoritarian act moved nuclear-armed Pakistan a step closer to political turmoil that could have devastating consequences.  Staunch U.S. support for this military dictator was of questionable merit at the time with respect to our long-term interests in the Middle East.  We have been provoking Islamic extremists with our arrogant policies there for decades.  The assassination of the former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007 was an event that complicated the scene in this dangerously volatile country, and our hundreds of drone bombing attacks are a curious means of conducting foreign policy.

In 2008, more than 20 retired generals defied military tradition and outspokenly criticized the Bush Administration war policies in Iraq.  They recognized that the 3 pillars of our democratic system have failed to create sensible policies:  (1) the commander-in-chief ignored alarms raised by military commanders on the ground;  (2) Congress failed to properly exercise its legislative responsibilities and oversight duties;  and (3) the media abdicated its important investigative and watchdog roles.

It should give us pause for concern to consider the following quote from Chairman Mao of China in 1950, concerning General Douglas MacArthur and the foolhardy drive of American troops toward the Yalu River and the Chinese border with North Korea:

   “An arrogant enemy is easy to defeat.”  

18.  Fundamentalism: Action and Reaction

Islamic nations that were championing the ideal of secular government and religious pluralism before September 11, 2001 were driven towards right-wing fundamentalism in reaction to our wars.  A long history of Arab humiliation and resentment is boiling over into more powerful motives for opposition and retribution.  Our lack of understanding of the perspective of Palestinians toward what they regard as the 1948 ‘Catastrophe’, together with our one-sided support of Israel’s aggressive militarism in the past decades, are contributing causes for Middle Eastern instability and antagonisms.

Terrorism involves the killing of civilians for political reasons.  The U.S. is effectively indulging in state terrorism in the handling of its preemptive wars.  Our nation ironically harbors terrorists when they happen to side with American interests and ideologies.  For instance, Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles were involved in a number of terrorist activities, including being architects of a 1976 bombing of a civilian Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.  Nonetheless the federal government allows them to remain free on U.S. soil.  This is worse than hypocrisy.

 “Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich.”

                                                                   --- Sir Peter Ustinov

It seems clear to me that, as the only nation that has ever dropped nuclear bombs on people, it should be our leaders’ obligation to abide by international arms treaties and NOT to try so diligently to develop new tactical nuclear weapons.  American nuclear policy is “illegal, immoral, militarily unnecessary, and dreadfully dangerous”, according to the late Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense during the escalation of the Vietnam War.  Our enormous and expensive Cold War nuclear arsenal should be reduced, and we should more justly address national and international problems related to resources, mutual security, environmental challenges, social issues, foreign policy and peaceful coexistence.  Military solutions and bombs must yield to fair and pragmatic political solutions.

        “War is never a solution;  it is an aggravation.”

                                                                           --- Benjamin Disraeli

19.  The Tragedy of War

Modern warfare is, in many senses, a tragic failure of civilization and society.  Words cannot comprehend its terrible atrocity.  War causes incalculable pain and suffering to countless innocent victims that are killed, wounded, tortured, frightened, or scarred by violence and hate.  Horrible and indiscriminate munitions like Agent Orange, napalm, landmines and depleted uranium are barbarous and inhumane.  

Warfare is colossally wasteful of resources and lives.  It is also damaging to the environment.  It creates instability and long-lasting upheavals in both the societies of the country attacked AND in those of the aggressor.  We are seeing, just as we saw in Vietnam, that war is mentally crippling and highly negative for the troops and citizens of the aggressor, as well as those of the nation attacked.  The number of veterans that are being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder is in the hundreds of thousands, and this number is escalating.  Many more are being denied treatment to save money on veterans’ healthcare costs.  And thousands of troops and veterans of the Middle East wars have committed suicide, which points to the accumulating problems of war.  Committing suicide is often the result of mental health issues and has become a tragic “hidden epidemic”.

Dwight Eisenhower said this:  “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can;  only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

Violent conflicts are taking places in many places in the world.  Humanity simply must develop better means of resolving conflicts and mitigating antagonisms that lead to war and genocide. 

The predominant paradigm of modern life is a relentless striving for dominance.  Our federal government leaders seek to control and dominate both U.S. citizens and foreign peoples.  The human race seeks to control and dominate nature, ignoring the dangers of these drives.  And men have sought to dominate women for thousands of years by defending patriarchal religions, even taking the drastic step of burning thousands of women to death ‘at the stake’ during the centuries-long Inquisition.  “Heresy”!  (Horrible, horrible cruelty!!).

A political comedian once said that there is a ‘red state syndrome’ that provides religious support to politicians who are eager to invade other countries with other people’s children while denying healthcare to millions of kids at home.  These politicians, predictably, always say they are guided by God.  Not so funny!  We must wake up to the negative impacts of forces of domination and the ruthless ruses they employ.  We must find ways to create more enlightened approaches to peaceful coexistence.  For this reason, I call for a new form of ‘Instantaneous Lucidification’.

20.  The Absurdity of Deficit Financing of Wars

Ambrose Bierce defined the undesirable condition of IMPROVIDENCE as the “Provision for the needs of today from the revenues of tomorrow.”  Let’s stop being so improvident!

The federal government uses the insidious political expediency of borrowing enormous amounts of money from people in the future to help finance military, industrial, investor, consumer and political goals.  They do this instead of following more frugal and responsible ‘pay-as-you-go’ strategies.  This is a shrewd tactic, because it greases the wheels of war and obscures the obvious truth that our wars would be FAR LESS POPULAR if people recognized the actual costs, and had to pay for them today.  As it is, our deficit financing has led to a startling and risky increase in our national debt in the past decade.  This makes it necessary to devote an ever-bigger portion of the national budget to interest costs on the debt.  It consequently becomes even more difficult to properly address important social, healthcare, environmental and infrastructure priorities.

One honest and fair means of confronting this insidious problem would be to commit to ‘paying as we go’ by increasing gasoline taxes to cover the cost of wars in the Middle East.  This would force people to realize that a principal reason for our military occupations is our dependence on oil and our correlated powerful desire to control oil resources in the Middle East.  The cost of our wars and occupation and troops would be around $1.00 per gallon.  How eager would the American people be for the doctrine of preemptive warfare and for having our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan if they saw the direct correlation of the cost of these wars to the amount they pay at the pump for gasoline?

In general, taxpayers should be required to pay in full for government programs instead of being allowed to foist the cost on future generations through the expediency of deficit spending.  Our representatives would be forced to make difficult choices in a more responsible way.  Once they, and we, were squarely faced with the necessity of finding the money for the true and full costs of government programs, it is almost certain that there would be much less enthusiasm for such things as preemptive warfare, corporate welfare, historically low tax rates for rich people, bureaucratic waste, pork barrel spending, and costly new entitlements.

Another way to effectively encourage peacebuilding and diminish support for war, and to help finance our defense and war-making establishment, would be to enact taxes on arms sales and war profits. 

For more comprehensive understandings and deeper insights in related economic issues, check out the “Comprehensive Global Perspective: An Illuminating Worldview”.  This can be found in Part One of the Earth Manifesto.  In particular, see Chapter 44 – The Nature and Wealth of Nations;  Chapter #45 - Capitalism and Democracy;  Chapter #46 - Pathological Aspects of Capitalism;  and Chapter #47 - Particular Problems Associated with Corporatism.  And for bold ideas on how we could be intelligently, fairly and courageously addressing the serious problems facing us here in the Twenty-First Century, see the compendium of ideas found in Part Four, including “One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies” and the long list of “Progressive Ideas for a More Sane Humanity.”

21.  The Titanic Struggle between Capitalism and Communism

As a youngster I was led to believe that communism was evil, and that people in other countries that were ruled by a Communist Party were brainwashed by their governments.  It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that “brainwashing” turns out to be a nuanced and infinitely-varied phenomenon to which people in all nations are subjected, to one degree or another.  In truth, deeply ingrained biases and sympathies affect everyone, and our beliefs are subtly conditioned by parental influences, catechisms, partisan spin, subjective personal experiences, educational biases, indoctrination, assumptions, radio and television, think tank doctrines, advertising and prevailing national worldviews. 

Communism is an ideology that arose in the early years of the Industrial Revolution as a reaction to the inequality, injustices, labor abuses, dangerous workplaces, and sink-or-swim ruthlessness of the capitalist economic system.  Capitalism idealizes freedom and laissez-faire market economics at the expense of fairness and equality.  Communism, on the other hand, idealizes equality and centrally-planned economies at the expense of freedom.  In practice, neither system has proved to be tenable or fair in their ‘pure’ forms.  Both systems have, of necessity, become more egalitarian, and both have adopted varying degrees of regulation in response to market economics.  Both have also been subject to powerful corrupting influences and authoritarianism.

The business-as-usual status quo in capitalist societies is primarily concerned with profits and narrow self-interest, so it strives to keep economic and political systems the way they are -- or to change them in decidedly regressive ways.  Entrenched interests are consequently allowed to impede progress and oppose common-good reforms and prevent changes that would be beneficial to the greater good.  These vested interests lobby to privatize government functions, and they basically advocate the substitution of the bottom-line best interests of corporations for the best interests of the people.  And corporations, as is argued very persuasively in the book The Corporation - The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, act almost exclusively in ways that, in an individual, would be regarded as pathologically insane. 

The outsourcing of government activities to corporations has almost doubled in the last decade, but rather than achieving the goals that vested interests claim, like greater efficiency, better management and lower costs, we have reaped a spike in costly no-bid contracting, incompetence, excessive fees, unfair cronyism, price gouging, inadequate monitoring, less accountability and fraud. 

The ideals of economic fundamentalism are laudable:  they hold that free markets are guided by what Adam Smith called an ‘invisible hand’ to create the best conditions for the public good.  Unfortunately, our economic and political systems are corrupted by monopoly abuses, deceptive practices, unfair vested interest domination, unwise pork barrel spending, institutionalized bribery, dishonesty, financial shenanigans, imperialistic abuses of power, and distorting influences that militate for war and war profiteering.  Giant corporations often cheat the public to make bigger profits instead of improving their products and their production methods, or they gain outlandish subsidies that perpetuate inefficient, wrong-headed and polluting industries.  They also often treat workers unfairly and externalize significant environmental costs onto society and indulge in unfair tax avoidance schemes like tax shelters and offshore incorporation.

Status-quo ‘establishments’ are generally so entrenched that opportunities for societies to be radically remade are severely limited.  Yet there is a growing need to dramatically transform our societies, and I believe that radical changes will be required in response to the gathering threats of unsustainable activities, debt crises, increases in inequality, resource depletion, pollution, ecosystem damages, species extinctions, climate disruptions, and the dangerous influences of religious fundamentalism and empire building and human overpopulation. 

Powerful people often work to change society in ways that are demonstrably contrary to the common good.  Rich and powerful people tend to be in favor of radically engineering societies along lines that are most profitable to them personally.  It is curious that a coup d’etat like that inflicted on the Chilean people by General Augusto Pinochet on September 11, 1973 has certain characteristics in common with natural disasters like the December 2004 tsunami in southeast Asia and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as well as with the ‘shock and awe’ of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  All of these events created collective trauma and instability that gave corporations and politicians opportunities to institute radical economic and social ‘reforms’.  These often come in the form of economic fundamentalism as prescribed in the ideas of Milton Friedman and his ‘Chicago School’ of economics.  This ideology advocates deregulation and the use of ‘free trade’, privatized services, private property ownership rights, reductions in social spending, crony contracting, tax cuts favoring the wealthy, and the aggressive exploitation of resources and workers.  These activities serve primarily to promote prerogatives that benefit investors and small groups of privileged people, and they undesirably stimulate materialism, consumerism and concentrations of wealth to the detriment of the general good. 

It is no real surprise that capitalism capitalizes on catastrophe, but it is sad that such ‘economic shock treatments’ are accompanied, all too often, by repressive measures and the oppression and even torture of dissidents and others who oppose such measures.  When legitimate (or at least legal) strategies fail, military action to protect the interests of the powerful often ensues. 

Milton Friedman once said: “Only a crisis -- actual or perceived -- produces real change.  When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.  That, I believe, is our basic function:  to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”  I advocate keeping good ideas for the greater good around, and not just ideas that will benefit the Few!

The author Naomi Klein compellingly points out that crises tend to provide Machiavellian opportunities in victim countries for injuries to be inflicted “all at once”.  I encourage everyone to read her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism for more extensive insights into these ideas.  The circumstances that surround the banking bailout in September 2008 are frightening for the lack of oversight and for the ‘fox in the henhouse’ nature of allowing the financial industry and its facilitators in government to set the terms of the biggest government bailout in history.

Just as the nature of “economic shock therapy” is unjust, the injustice of unshackled militarism and ‘preemptive war’ is dangerous for our security.  We must strive to prevent these actions.  To the extent that they contribute to terrorism, and are facilitated by demagoguery and fear-mongering and the abdication of the traditional investigative reporting and watchdog roles of a free press, we must find ways to strengthen our society against these weaknesses.  The next five chapters deal directly with these ideas.

22.  Sensible Strategies to Defuse Extremism

One of the consequences of the United States’ willingness to engage in offensive warfare is that we are fanning the flames of Arab nationalism and Islamic religious zealotry.  Harsh and aggressive warfare being waged by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan is giving much more forceful impetus to radicalism and dangerous cultural and religious conflicts between Christians and Muslims worldwide.  It is spawning an increasing numbers of newly-inspired jihadists around the globe, as confirmed by the July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate mentioned above.

Extremism signals, countersupports, and ironically strengthens that which it opposes.  Injustice sparks injustice.  Violence fans violence.  It seems clear to me that U.S. economic and military policies have been a primary causative factor in sparking Islamic extremism and retaliatory ‘blowback’ such as that suffered on 9/11.  Not only did the U.S. support and empower both Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden in the 1980’s, but our economic sanctions, military bases, and armed interventions in the Middle East have been a significant factor in angering Muslim populations, convincing them that we are either ruthless imperialistic infidels or representatives of the devil.  This has provoked al Qaeda extremists and contributed to the highly destabilizing influence of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To effectively encourage the possibilities of peace, and to eliminate a principal cause of instability in the Middle East, we should make stronger efforts to create peace between Israel and its neighbors by helping establish a secure homeland and better opportunities for Palestinians and the people of Lebanon.  To do this, we should act more prudently and with greater diplomacy and statesmanship, and seek fair compromise by all concerned parties.  We should balance our foreign policy initiatives, and continue to give Israel billions of dollars per year in foreign aid only with the condition that they act boldly to help guarantee fairness and peace in the region.

23.  What the Hell Do We Do Now in Iraq?

Richard Clarke, counterterrorism czar under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, wrote a book entitled Against All Enemies in which he indicated it is essential that we protect our country against foreign enemies as well as “those who would use the terrorist threat to assault the liberties the Constitution enshrines.”  He makes the important point that rather than our foolhardy invasion of oil-rich Arab Muslim Iraq after 9/11, we should have followed three key policies: “First, the President would have engaged in a massive effort to eliminate our vulnerabilities to terrorism at home and strengthen homeland security.  Second, he would have launched a concerted effort globally to counter the ideology of al Qaeda and the larger radical Islamic terrorist movement with a partnership to promote the real Islam, to win support for common American and Islamic values, and to shape an alternative to the popular fundamentalist approach.  Third, he would have been active with key countries not just to round up terrorists, end the sanctuaries, dry up the money, but also to strengthen open governments and make it possible politically, economically, and socially for them to go after the roots of al Qaeda-like terrorism.”  He added, “Nowhere on the list of things that should have been done after September 11 is invading Iraq.”

The Bush Doctrine of preemptive warfare was used to justify the attack on Iraq and the subsequent U.S. occupation.  The rationalizations for the war shifted suspiciously and disingenuously from finding alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction to deposing an evil dictator to deceptive rhetoric about spreading freedom and democracy.  The real threat to the United States by Saddam Hussein was hyped up far beyond rational probability.  Actual costs of the war were ridiculously underestimated.  In the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, Republicans in the Administration told us it would be a “cakewalk war”.  Reasonable warnings and understandings about the occupation were ignored.  Unrealistic outcome scenarios were advanced, such as the expectation that the Iraqi people would accept American occupation forces as liberators.  The true reasons for the war were suppressed.  In connection with the “war on terror”, dissenters have been intimidated and collateral injustices have been intensified.  Such actions are unwise and unfair and irresponsible!

By invading Iraq, “we broke it”, and we now have assumed the obligation of fixing it.  There will, unfortunately, be no easy fix on a battleground that has become ground zero for economic, political and religious opposition to the aggressive full-spectrum dominance gambits of the United States.  The quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan are too expensive for us to be able to continue indefinitely.  The options are admittedly not good, and the potential for bad outcomes is enormous no matter what we do, whether we escalate the war, try to stubbornly ‘stay the course’, or leave altogether.  We made a bargain with the devil to get the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia to cooperate in a ceasefire in 2007, but as with all Faustian bargains, there are likely to be risky downsides.  “We’ll see”, as the Zen master says.  Muqtada al-Sadr is still working to see that U.S. troops are expelled from Iraq.

We must stop trying to impose our hegemony on the Iraqi people.  Sure there are dangers in withdrawal, but we simply will be unable to claim victory now that we have rather thoroughly devastated the country of Iraq.  We cannot afford the escalating monetary costs, and we cannot continue to goad the Iraqi people by adhering to our wrong-headed, hard-nosed, ‘trigger-happy’, humiliating and repressive military occupation. 

It seems to me that we would have been wisest to follow the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group in 2006, rather than clinging to George Bush’s war and occupation strategies in Iraq.  We must make committed efforts to achieve peace and stability using a bold surge of both regional and international diplomacy.  And we must achieve a redeployment of our military, starting with a return home of our National Guard.  We must begin to heal the wounds we have created.  “Thank God” that the militaristic McCain was not elected President!

A number of Governors of various States have expressed heightened concerns about the deployments of National Guard personnel and equipment to Iraq.  They acknowledge that Americans are more vulnerable to large-scale disasters when significant numbers of National Guard members are absent.  In the aftermath of any widespread devastation caused by a major fire, earthquake, hurricane, tornado or domestic terrorist attack, people will have less emergency assistance due to such deployments.  It is quite clear that the Bush Doctrine of preemptive warfare makes us less safe in this regard.  We should not give so much emphasis to offensive actions at the expense of maintaining good preparedness and balanced priorities.

24.  The Dangers of Demagoguery

The 1934 German film Triumph of the Will is an infamous piece of propaganda by the director Leni Riefenstahl from the early years of film-making.  It is a mind-numbing cavalcade of political theater, prideful militarism, impassioned harangue and exhortation to duty and loyalty and obedience.  The film shows an astonishingly faithful furor by the German people for their Führer, Adolf Hitler.  The film “catapults the propaganda” by hailing order, discipline, sacrifice, work and conformity.  Its indoctrination is effected through a sweeping adulation of pageantry, glory, spectacle, pride, goose-stepping soldiers, and the hailing of authority.  Sieg Heil! 

Demagogues like Hitler offer simple-minded arguments, and repeat these arguments endlessly to make them insidiously persuasive.  Accompanying the rhetoric of the demagogue, a drumbeat for war often disturbingly resounds deeply in the recesses of our brains.  Al Gore perceptively observes in The Assault on Reason that our current day demagogic leaders “don’t actually offer greater security from danger, but their simplistic and frequently vitriolic beliefs and statements can provide comfort to a fearful society.”

A demagogue is a person who obtains and abuses power by means of passionate rhetoric that appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.  At a time when we really need unity and healthy community and rational cooperation to solve problems, a number of wily demagogues have gained notoriety by nefariously exploiting people’s fears and gullibility and biases in order to advance policies that divide people and directly hinder the general good and obstruct cooperation toward achieving peaceful coexistence.  Such people pervert and corrupt fair dealings and good intentions by skewing national priorities into costly fiascos.  The obsession with getting, holding and abusing power is sometimes sedulously wrong-headed.   

The political party of Adolf Hitler and Dr. Josef Goebbels, the “Minister of People Enlightenment and Propaganda” in the so-called Third Reich, tried to advance their goal of a Thousand Years’ Empire and supremacy.  After the worst global devastation in war in all of history, things sure didn’t turn out that way.  A similar fate has befallen the quest for a permanent majority by the Republican Party, and for many of the same reasons:  gross injustices have been perpetrated, astonishing inequities have been facilitated, perverse priorities have been adopted, and financial systems have been seriously abused.  In pandering to economic fundamentalists and the right wing and narrow-minded religious fundamentalists, Republicans have acted with imperialistic aggression in a kind of ruthless, twisted, narcissistic and monomaniacal Machiavellian madness.  (“Get an afterlife, guys!”)

BEWARE when leaders effectively say, “Be afraid.  Trust us.”  It is shocking and awful that our last President acted with such demagogic contempt for rules of law and Congressional oversight.  George Bush and Dick Cheney seem to have resented constraints on their ability to use power in a triumphalist, expansionistic, overweening and narrowly partisan manner.  The truly duplicitous nature of much of President Bush’s rhetoric was revealed when he said, “See, in my line of work, you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”  Truth, George?  You played rather loosely with words!

  “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

                                                                                                                       --- Voltaire

One of the most compelling films on the Internet is Zeitgeist Movie.  I recommend that readers watch it at zeitgeistmovie.com, when you have two hours to devote to the undertaking.  The film contains cogent parallels to the film Triumph of the Will.  But it is much more sophisticated, modern, and illuminating.  Its slant is a provocative one that casts suspicion on some cherished beliefs of those who embrace certainties and dogmas.  Part I of the film discusses the power of religious myths, providing an enlightening exploration of the almost comedic absurdity of any adherence to inflexible orthodoxy and religious absolutes and convictions that it is a form of sinful blasphemy to question the truth of dominant myths.  Part II introduces the perplexing and suspicious evidence about the official story of 9/11 and the wars it spawned, and the actions of our government.  Part III makes one think about what really goes on inside international banking and the Federal Reserve and our economic institutions. 

25.  Demagoguery and McCarthyism

The film Good Night and Good Luck is about trusted broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and his eventual courage in standing up to the Communist-fear-mongering of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950’s.  Joseph McCarthy was known as “tail gunner Joe”.  He was a Republican Senator from Wisconsin in the years from 1947 to 1957 who was known for his shrewd and calculating scheme of hyping up the fear of Communism to gain power and notoriety for himself. 

McCarthyism is the legacy of blatant Republican attempts to discredit people, blacklist them, ruin their reputations, and use fear and intimidation to devastate dissent, erode political opposition and destroy liberal causes.  Demagogic McCarthyism was a factor that contributed to the promulgation of rigid hard-line American foreign policies during the Cold War.  Even the liberal “best and the brightest” of the John Kennedy Administration were swept up in the need to embrace overwhelmingly strong military stances.  This contributed to the U.S. involvement in the terribly misguided, unjust and deadly Vietnam War in which millions of people were killed.  The Vietnam War was arguably an indirect result of McCarthyism.

American politics today is still heavily influenced by the need to talk and act tough.  This may be a result of powerful psychological needs that are incited by fears and insecurities and pride of American citizens.  Politicians consequently find it advantageous or even necessary to offer a tough facade in the face of challenges to our superpower dominance in an increasingly multi-polar political world. 

President Barack Obama, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2009, contemplated our next move in the quagmire of the Middle East, and decided to follow recommendations to escalate the war in Afghanistan after 8 years of deteriorating conditions and high costs.  He, too, has been strongly influenced by political considerations like these.

Ever since the days of patriotism-questioning, liberal-baiting Joseph McCarthy and the beginning of the Cold War, shrill voices of hawkish war proponents have argued that if the U.S. shows ‘weakness’ on the international stage, our enemies will take advantage of us and harm us.  The fact of the matter is that a state of peace is an equilibrium among many forces.  Hubristic militarism and imperialistic economic exploitation exacerbate conflict and anger and humiliation, and can thus serve to encourage retaliatory opposition in the form of terrorist movements and committed insurgencies in occupied countries. 

The exploitation of American insecurities in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was undertaken in emulation of the cunning and amoral tactics of Joseph McCarthy.  George W. Bush and Dick Cheney used reckless right-wing ideologies to manipulate the public’s fears, this time of terrorists.  They skewed our foreign policy into inflexibly hard-line, costly, and dangerous undertakings, including a heightened probability of endless war. 

This new form of modern day McCarthyism eagerly belittles and suppresses political opposition and people who have differing perspectives.  It demands loyalty to ideologies and officeholders, not to fair principles.  Fear and stoked nationalism have been used to gain public support for imperialistic trade and banking interests and an aggressive military.  Radical right-leaning politicians have perversely thrown in, as a part of their ideological and behavioral package, some social engineering gambits such as regressive tax policies, wrong-headed priorities, misguided rollbacks of environmental regulations, and even religious evangelizing and moralizing and Creationism.

The megalomaniacal drive of political leaders, together with ethnocentric urges to assert superiority, may reflect people’s compensatory needs to deny insecurities and throw off the yoke of insignificance.  These were definite factors that motivated Germany to start World War II after the humiliation of heavy reparations that were exacted in the aftermath of the defeat of Germany in World War I.  There are striking similarities to these deep motivations and inscrutable psychological impulses that are being demonstrated by our leaders in their efforts to get the United States into wars here in the Twenty-First Century. 

Could it be that bizarre good-old-boys eccentricities, or a Strict Father upbringing, or feelings of inadequacy, or even a reaction to alcoholism were involved in drives that led George Bush to launch unnecessary wars?  Or is it really just about the oil?  Macho dudes and demagogues, relent!

26.  The Responsibility of Journalism

It is one of the checks and balances in our democracy for voters to be well-informed by the media.  The healthy functioning of society and our political system relies on a free press and journalistic integrity.  When Big Media becomes highly beholden to corporate powers-that-be, it undermines democracy.  Journalists simply must adhere to higher standards of conscience and objectivity and rationality.

Certain advances in technology have had astonishingly far-reaching impacts on human society.  The invention of the printing press with moveable letters by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-fifteenth century revolutionized book printing and fostered rapid development in the arts and sciences.  It also facilitated the extensive propagation of religious texts.  This stimulus of the mass transmission of ideas dramatically changed the way people learn and communicate, so it effectively “democratized” knowledge.  The last 100 years has seen further advances in communications, with radio, television, film and the Internet all increasing the flow and diversity of information. 

Television has unfortunately become a medium that can be used to sway people in deceptive and manipulative ways.  Al Gore speaks passionately about “The Assault on Reason” in his book of that name.  He explains how logic, reason and truth are under assault from forces of blind faith and narrow ideologies.  Democracy falters in the wake of this assault, due to the fact that democracy relies on citizens being well-informed rather than being duped by propaganda and shallow understandings of complex issues. 

People are subjected to a barrage of carefully-crafted spin that is piped into our brains through the medium of television.  Americans on average watch television for a brain-numbing excess of 4 hours per day.  Four hours per day!  Four hours of PROGRAMMING that consists of slanted news coverage provided by a corporate media, combined with mindless entertainment, all of it interspersed with commercial messages created by advertising agencies to convince us to buy things we don’t need.  When we watch TV, we often give our attention to idols, celebrity trivia, sporting contests, sensationalism, crime stories, shootings, steroid scandals, fake “reality shows”, political photos-ops and sound bites, and other shallow stories and shows.  As a result, we tend to be distracted from important perspectives. 

Edward R. Murrow would be horrified by the extent to which we allow television to distract, delude, entertain and insulate us today without providing adequate investigative reporting and objective insights into the realities of the world we live in.

Some television programming is valuable, of course.  PBS stations, the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and the National Geographic Channel in particular offer insightful journalism and very rich perspectives of human cultures and the natural world.  Some TV programming attains high qualities of accomplishment.  Together with the auspicious trend toward wider distribution of documentary films, there is hope that such forms of communication will make positive contributions to our social evolution.  The Internet, too, offers tremendous potential for improving our understanding, and for acting as a democratizing force in the world.

I’ve got a ‘gut feeling’, as macho dudes like to say:  We all in our innermost awareness know what is true and what is false.  Just as native speakers of a language have an innate sense of the propriety of grammatical usages (some people more than others!), each of us has the natural capacity to feel what is true.  We can intuitively detect deceptions, lies, propaganda and ‘bullshit’.  But we can also be quite gullible.  It is clear that our native ability to detect falsehoods can be circumvented by demagoguery and seductive suasion. 

If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything.

                                                                               --- Mark Twain, 1894

It turns out that confidence and depth of conviction are poorly correlated to objective truth and accuracy of understanding.  While this observation is most obvious with regard to the obtuseness of fanaticism, it is true in more subtle ways of almost any judgment that is framed in black-and-white terms.  There is a pronounced relativity of point of view, circumstance, context and subject interpretations that makes almost any ‘certainty’ contradictable or not applicable from the perspective of differing points of view.  Errors of perception can be made due to poor reasoning, as well as due to distortions caused by emotional hijackings.

27.  Truth and Consequences

An old Italian proverb says:  “Si non e vero, e ben trovato.”  Roughly translated, this means:  “Even if it’s not true, it still makes a good story.”

Jesus says to his disciples in John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  There is some valuable and profound truth in this generalization, no matter what one believes about the contention that Jesus was the virgin-born son of his Zeus-like Father, God.  President James A Garfield’s offered a contrasting and ironic perspective on truth;  he asserted that “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”  Whoa! 

Speaking truth to power is, of course, a dangerous thing to do.  Woe!  But ignorance rarely turns out to be bliss.  Our government treats us like Jack Nicholson’s character in the film, A Few Good Men, when he yells, “You can’t handle the truth!”  I say, give us a chance!

The truth is rarely to be found in sources of authority, because authorities have such narrow vested interests.  Our government owes us greater honesty.  The whole truth is extremely important in a democracy to ensure an informed citizenry that is empowered to choose better governance and wiser choices of action.  The truth is vitally important to us if we want to maintain our personal freedoms and any degree of social justice and egalitarian fairness.  We must demand the truth and attendant deeper understandings.  We must insist on responsible government, together with greater transparency and accountability.  Too much government secrecy undermines democracy.

The truth can be found by striving to see deeply and clearly, and not by embracing dogmas and doctrines and orthodox worldviews.  The truth can inoculate us against lies by revealing when ‘the emperor has no clothes’.  The truth is not often found in conventional ideas or blind acceptance or traditionalism or ideological certitudes.  I encourage readers to keep an open mind!

Idealism, realism and pragmatism are ways of dealing with facts.  For instance, in the great 1975 film, Three Days of the Condor, Robert Redford’s character has discovered a plot to invade the Middle East for its oil.  (Really!)  He disparagingly asks an operative of the CIA, “What is it with you people?  You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?”  Touché!

However, the response of the CIA operative is chilling.  He basically says that when Americans begin to run out of oil or food, they will not care how their government goes about getting it, they will just want the government to do whatever is necessary, no matter what is involved.  Injustice, violence, war … whatever!

This may be true.  But “might is not right”.  The consequences of using military might to achieve economic and political objectives at the cost of terrible injustices will eventually prove to be calamitous to the greater good, just as it did when Hitler tried to conquer the Western world.  Peak Oil and subsequent decline could become the most daunting challenge of this century, but using military might to gain greater access to dwindling fossil fuel supplies is a shortsighted plan for many reasons adduced herein.  Investing boldly in conservation and efficiency and cleaner energy alternatives is a much better plan.

If this fact were more widely understood, I believe that the American people would support wiser steps to solve this problem rather than following militant ‘geostrategic imperatives’ or drilling more aggressively and riskily for oil in our coastal waters.  Everyone must be involved in the solution, and we must make behavioral changes.  We can do this, if we develop a bigger picture perspective before we get truly desperate.  The best way to achieve this is with properly structured incentives.

I believe that there is a bigger geostrategic imperative than dominating the world to get access to oil.  The real GEO-strategic imperative is that we begin to lead sustainable lives, and that we sensibly begin to recognize the vital importance of a healthy natural world.  This is why I believe we must begin to act more fairly and peaceably and in more ecologically sane ways.

28.  True Patriotism

True patriotism consists of questioning and opposing abuses of power, not accepting them without question.  As Mark Twain once said:

“My kind of patriotism and loyalty is loyalty to one’s country, and not to one’s

   institutions or officeholders.” 

Patriotism is not an unthinking obedience to the politicians in power.  In truth, patriotism in America should be an honest commitment to the principles and ideals that this country really represents.  This includes the primary concerns of our Founding Fathers:  fairness, freedom, justice, human rights, limited government intrusiveness, honesty, and fair representation of the best interests of its people. 

The United States’ misguided “war on terror” has been rolled out with as little sacrifice for the average American as possible.  We have avoided implementing a military draft.  We have used the wondrous and ill-fated expediency of deficit spending so that the burdens and costs are more hidden.  An all-volunteer army has been recruited with an over-emphasis on minority recruitment, allowing college students and those with better opportunities to be insulated from the need to serve and suffer the terrible personal consequences of war. 

These are brilliant strategies, but they are cynically discriminatory ones.  Our nation’s young people who are sent abroad are primarily from the class of citizens that have little power and are largely disenfranchised, with few opportunities and inadequate voices and poor alternatives. 

  “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”  --- English poet Samuel Johnson

Those in power have been all too effective in controlling our attitudes toward war.  We allow military recruiters in our high schools, for God’s sake, to sell our young people on the benefits of volunteering to fight and kill in this new era of preemptive wars of choice.  The “No Child Left Behind” law even mandates that every student’s contact information must be provided to military recruiters.  In the year 2007, 29% of Army recruits did not even graduate from high school.  This is well above the Army’s goal of just 10% of recruits who do not graduate from high school.  Recruiting people who have felony convictions increased during the days of the Bush Administration, and the maximum enlistment age was increased from 35 to 42.  Also, overweight, less physically fit people were even recruited.

Military recruitment violations dishonorably increased 50% in 2007.  Sexual abuse of high school girls by authority-figure recruiters sometimes despicably occurs.  This is a mere prelude to the far-higher incidence of sexual abuse of female soldiers by men during their military service.  This should be regarded to be as scandalous as the heinous abuse of boys and girls by priests.  Military authorities must do a better job of screening those who enlist for tendencies toward brutality, white supremacism, sadism, misogyny, sexual abuse, emotional imbalances, and religious fanaticism. 

Once military recruiters convince young people to join up, recruits are indoctrinated with strict ‘boot camp’ obedience and patriotic duty and self-righteous nationalistic fervor.  Violence, prejudice and hate are subtly preached to them.  Then our troops are sent abroad, often for questionable purposes and under false pretenses.  The fact that support for war has been achieved by exploiting fears and insecurities of the American people is ethically wrong.  So is the use of propaganda and deception and disingenuous, constantly changing rationalizations for war. 

   “True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.” 

                                                                                                      --- Clarence Darrow

29.  Support Our Troops!   

In my opinion, we should support our troops by NOT sending them into harm’s way for mercenary, religious, ideological or illegal purposes.  We should not attack other nations using deceptive justifications.  We should extricate our troops from places they should not be.  How should we best support our troops?  Doonesbury author Gary Trudeau had a political cartoon with a soldier discussing this issue with his superior.  Let’s see, if we cut funding, our soldiers will be forced to be brought home to safety;  if we support funding, and continue to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan indefinitely, our troops will face ongoing mortal danger.  “Permission to think it through denied,” the commander ordered in the Doonesbury strip.

It is only a myth that Republicans strongly support our troops.  This myth is belied by the truth:  we attacked Iraq with a politically-driven war plan;  we committed resources inadequate to ensure security for the Iraqi people from the start;  we made incredibly poor plans for the occupation;  we blundered by pursuing punitive de-Baathification policies that alienated a significant segment of the Iraqi people;  and we occupied Iraq with severe shortages of body armor and equipment.  Repeated redeployments of troops have been required, and we have been pathetically unwilling to adequately fund veterans’ facilities and healthcare for the wounded and those damaged psychologically.

“War in the end is always about betrayal, betrayal of the young by the old, of soldiers

    by politicians, and of idealists by cynics.”                     --- Chris Hedges

Many men and women in the military are making great personal sacrifices for their country.  If history is any indicator, veterans who survive are highly unlikely to be fairly appreciated and supported once they return home, especially those who are injured or incapacitated or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Many returning veterans will face homelessness, domestic instability, unemployment, drug addiction, poverty, incarceration, and other social ills in the coming years.

30.  The Corrosive Effects of Power

Power corrupts, and the on-going abuse of our military power makes all Americans complicit in the worst kind of corruption, which is violence that kills and maims thousands of innocent people.  Our military strategy of relying on aerial bombardments from bombers and helicopters and drone aircraft is outrageous.  It is terribly uncaring about the “collateral damage” harm that is done to civilians and women and children.  Smart bombs?  Give me a break!  It is not exactly giving the targets of the bombing a trial by jury, or a fair shake at determining guilt! 

The United States has used its air supremacy to drop bombs on many countries in the past 50 years.  This is not intelligent or justice-oriented foreign policy.  We have already suffered deadly “blowback” in the form of retaliatory attacks related to our interference in the affairs of peoples in the Middle East, due in large part to our harsh use of economic sanctions, aggression, military occupations, and ruthless covert operations. 

The history of the Central Intelligence Agency shows that clandestine activities have been used to help overthrow democratically-elected governments, including Iran’s in 1953, Guatemala’s in 1954, Brazil’s in 1964, Greece’s in 1967, Chile’s in 1973, and many others.  We have also helped overthrow dictatorships that we didn’t like.  The CIA was created to develop long-range strategic intelligence, but it has failed in many ways, leaving a “Legacy of Ashes” along with its $40 billion annual cost.

The School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) is an infamous police and military training center in Ft. Benning, Georgia.  Many of Latin America’s most notorious dictators and killers learned the latest "counterterrorism" techniques there.  Often these tactics have been used against ‘leftists’ and people like farmers in El Salvador and auto workers in Argentina.  I submit that we should more wisely formulate our foreign policy and ensure that it is fairer and more democratic and more definitively oriented toward a just, sustainable and peaceful future!

How can we marshal a penetrating introspection into the truth when authority figures, with media collaboration, strive to persuade us to have faith in ideas that are delusional, erroneous, illusional and demonstrably dishonest?  Reason, as Al Gore notes, is generally better than fear and emotionality for making good decisions.  Reason trumps blind faith, and faith trumps fear, and fear trumps reason.  Rock, paper, scissors!  This helps to explain the tendency of shrewd demagogues to enlist fear and emotion to trump reason and embrace faith, and to then screw the hell out of everyone for power, profit and political advantage. 

      “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

                                                                                                      --- Albert Einstein

Powerful people gain and maintain advantages and special privileges at the expense of the public by tailoring the truth to accommodate their ambitions.  They betray America’s democratic processes by using deception, misinformation, secrecy, intimidation and the suppression of open and honest debate.  Our idealistic principles are betrayed by an odd-fellows coalition of rich people, corporations, Big Government, right-wing think tanks, and religious fundamentalists.

31.  Militarism and Madness

The checks and balances of our Constitution have been eroded by the increase in the power of the Executive branch since September 11, 2001.  Differing viewpoints and dissent have been under assault, as if such activities are treasonous -- rather than being more truly patriotic than blind obedience.  We must reject the villainous and tyrannical tendencies for authorities to suppress peace movements. 

During the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Cold War and the Vietnam War, public insecurities were increased and fears were heightened.  This resulted in citizens of the U.S. allowing the executive branch of government to exercise more power and to abrogate the public’s civil liberties during each of these conflicts.  The seemingly endless wars in which we are now engaged are being used to justify incursions into privacy rights and domestic civil liberties.  Our great Constitution is a ‘covenant’ that runs from our Founding Fathers to us, and then to future generations -- and it contains no exemption from applicability during times of war. 

Even though the executive branch increases its powers in times of war at the expense of the legislative branches of government and the people, it is rarely a propitious tactic for the people.  Thomas Jefferson, who was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States, was a strong believer in the ideas that the powers of the federal government should be vigilantly constrained, that human liberties should be expanded, and that representative democracy must be protected.  Noting the dangers of wartime usurpations of federal government power, he said:

 “… should we wander from (these principles) in moments of error or of alarm,

     let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads

      to peace, liberty and safety.”

Let’s bring our troops home!  After World War II, the U.S. successfully made a rapid shift from a war-focused economy to a peace-time economy.  Millions of armed forces personnel were brought home and given opportunities under the G.I. Bill.  Educational benefits and other progressive policies were used to build a large American middle class.  We must once again authorize and implement similarly farsighted programs to create a stable and fairer society as we bring troops home from foreign wars.

32.  Mercenaries in the Fray

What the hell is with all of the American mercenary contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Contractors amounted to less than 5% of the total force deployed in World War II and the Korean War, and about 10% in the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War, but the number of contractors in the occupation of Iraq has probably exceeded 100% of the number of military personnel.  This makes it easier for the Administration to fight an unpopular war, and it may be good for those who profit from war, and believers in outsourcing and privatization may love it, but this seems like an insidiously costly and foolish idea to me. 

Security contractors are extremely expensive, and they are not subject to adequate command and control structures, or transparency, or oversight, or accountability.  It is disturbing to find out that there are so many private armed security contractors in occupied nations from companies like Xe, formerly Blackwater, which was founded by a Christian fundamentalist.  Are we on Crusade?

A study of chaplains in the military reveals that there has been a distinct infiltration of the military by evangelical Christians.  The culture of authority, duty, and sacrifice in the armed forces provides fertile soil for evangelical involvement.  It offers avenues for the advancement of religious drives to conquer and convert others, as well as splendid opportunities for chaplains to take advantage of government programs that offer steady pay and generous benefits and comfortable pensions.  This religious infiltration of the military, like a similar one by white supremacists, should be more rigorously controlled.  Non-Christians in the military must not have their religious beliefs trampled by evangelicals.

33.  Empirical Observations about Empire

The United States has completed a 21-building embassy compound in the dangerous Green Zone in Baghdad.  It cost more than $700 million, which was far over budget due to poor planning and shoddy workmanship.  It is the biggest embassy on the planet, and TEN TIMES larger than any other U.S. embassy in the world.  Why have we built this compound, and the accompanying huge permanent military bases in Iraq?  Are we thinking we can occupy Iraq indefinitely, and that this embassy will serve as an Imperial Control Center, perchance? 

It is as though we are emulating the First Emperor of China, who conscripted 700,000 laborers over a 20-year period to build an enormous mausoleum for himself in Xian, China.  The Emperor had the tomb filled with thousands of ‘terracotta warriors’ to protect him after his death.  It is a bizarre delusion that the Emperor believed that this would work!  As destiny and poetic irony would have it, soon after the Emperor died in 210 B.C., the aroused Chinese citizenry raided and all but destroyed the enormous monument and its contents.  What will the fate be of our own enormous monstrosity in Baghdad?  With mortar shells flying regularly in the vicinity, even during the ephemeral period when we had a surge-level number of troops occupying the country, its long-term destiny does not appear to be propitious.  Are we mad?  

34.  Thinking Outside the Military Box

“All of us can do something, can ask questions, can speak up.  It is the American thing

    to do.  It is the patriotic thing to do.”   --- Howard Zinn     (I concur!)

Really “thinking outside the box” is sometimes valuable.  Let’s consider this:  if we were to reduce military spending by 10% each year for the next 5 years, it would save about $300 billion.  If half of this were to be applied against budget deficits, we still would have $150 billion to invest in peace building, demilitarization, infrastructure improvements, sustainable development planning, sensible expenditures for Homeland Security, robust emergency-response systems and personnel, and other important priorities.

Can we alter our foreign policy to be more intelligent, generous-minded and farsighted?  Can we soothe passions, and find common ground in policies that are more rational, sensible, and concerned with mutual security?  Can we separate religious fundamentalism from policy-making, and marginalize the dangerously anti-democratic, male authoritarian and ethnocentric aspects of dominance ideologies and established religions?  Can we find ways to emasculate dangerous zealotry and its wrongful rationalizations which assert that our side is good and right while the other side is evil and wrong?  Can we prevent religious extremists from gaining the power to provide support for politicians or terrorists in their drives to wage wars or attack innocent people? 

Fundamentalism, whether economic, political or religious, is about power, doctrine and control.  It is NOT about economic wisdom or democratic fairness or spiritual truth or the righteousness of any particular God.  We must find ways to marginalize extremism in all its forms.  We must prevent any form of fundamentalism from being enshrined at the center of power!

The Golden Rule should be an honored principle.  It should be a guideline for all foreign policy considerations.  As Will and Ariel Durant observed in their fascinating book, The Lessons of History:

“Somewhere, somehow, in the name of humanity, we must challenge a thousand evil precedents, and dare to apply the Golden Rule to nations, as the Buddhist King Ashoaka did in 262 B.C.  Magnanimity in politics may be the trust wisdom, and a great empire and little minds go ill together.”

Let’s demand positive change along the lines of the ideas contained herein.  Let us follow through to remove those from power who refuse to embrace such progress.  The staunch Strict Father “strength” of the past 50 years cannot be trusted;  it is too damaging to world peace, and it is making almost everyone in the world less safe.  

35.  The ‘Right’ is Wrong

Preemptive warfare and belligerent aggression are wrong in many ways:  wrong from the standpoint of international law, wrong from the perspective of Golden Rule fairness, and wrong in their disrespect for the sovereignty of other nations.  These are counterproductive strategies because of their tendencies to create more enemies.  They are ineffective because of their failure to create salubrious and effective interpersonal dynamics.  In a sense we are fighting rich men’s wars while spilling poor people’s blood.  This is unconscionable!

Hear this, supporters of right-wing conservatism:  We must stop ignoring the mutuality of security needs in our foreign policy determinations.  A safer, more sustainable world cannot be achieved by military actions alone.  Please give a higher priority to the need for cooperative stances toward the enactment of fair domestic policies and just, enforceable international laws.  Such laws must be well-designed to create less inequality, less collateral damage, and less poverty.  We need to staunch, rather than reinforce, frustration and resentment and disenfranchisement and humiliation and immoral forms of exploitation.

“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world,

    and moral courage so rare.

                              --- Mark Twain

There are better ways to build true justice and peace.  As Albert Einstein once said, “Peace cannot be kept by force.  It can only be achieved through understanding.”  Not only do we need a greater empathetic understanding of the perspectives of others, but we also need to better understand ourselves and our national motives.  By being honest with ourselves, and fairer to all concerned parties, we can move beyond the ‘might is right’ mindset, and truly seek peace.  Let us reject the set of ideas and convictions that has gotten us into the calamitous danger in which we find ourselves, and seek a radically different set of ideas and understandings and diplomatic efforts and progressive philosophies to reduce this danger.

Numbing routines, busy lives, unexamined motivations and obsessive pursuits can hinder our progress in this direction.  Could we possibly create more profound commitments to non-violence through finding greater peace within our selves?  Perhaps a national movement that encourages transcendental meditation might help overcome our aggressive impulses.  Repeat the mantra after me:  Om mani padme hum.

‘Understanding’ implies recognizing more than one-sided truths.  It means seeing truths that are more all-encompassing.  To achieve understanding, we must recognize the truths contained in alternate points of view.  To understand politics in the Middle East for instance, it is not enough to try to understand the mentality of Arabs and Muslims and the psychology of their inadequacy of influence or their long history of humiliation and accompanying anger.  It is important to also try to understand the mentality of Americans and the motivations that underlie our actions, together with the Strict Father psychology that drives us to support leaders who talk tough and act strong and are militarily aggressive, as if such attitudes are best able to make us secure. 

Our fear and anger in the wake of the shocking 9/11 attacks gave great impetus to belligerent and righteous voices.  Together with our addiction to fossil fuels which are so abundant in the Middle East, these influences make us desperate to do whatever it takes to protect our overweening power and to perpetuate our addiction by militarily facilitating our access to oil reserves abroad.

Right understanding is becoming ever more critically important.  Right understanding means an accurate comprehension of circumstances, and an intelligent acuity of perception, and an open-minded interpretation of the way things are which corresponds closely to a coherent, expansive, and ethical way of seeing.  It is NOT right understanding merely to agree with orthodox ideas, to conform to political correctness, to accept simplistic explanations, or to embrace self-righteous convictions of absolute certainty.

Right-wing conservatives by their very nature are averse to change.  They are obsessed with control, so they tend to favor actions and policies and attitudes that address only the symptoms of problems, not their underlying causes.  This seems to me to be true for perspectives on crime, punishment, war, terrorism, and even drug use and teenage pregnancy and other hot-button social issues.  

Perhaps conservatives think they are being farsighted by endorsing enormous increases in defense spending and advocating harshly punitive interrogation methods.  Maybe they think it is shrewdly farsighted to support harsh sentences to deter crimes and to advocate that education be privatized and to strive to implement abstinence-only sex education and to institutionalize inequities, and to enforce Draconian penalties for smoking marijuana, and to censor what they consider to be pornography, and to strive to outlaw abortions, and other such things.  So, the way they see the world, they may actually think that they favor addressing underlying causes.  I believe that a fair, honest and comprehensive evaluation of these complex issues contradicts and refutes such perspectives. 

To diffuse the potential contagion represented by this dangerous cocktail of opposing points of view and powerful conflicting motives, and indeed to prevent the increasing likelihood of expanded conflicts in the Middle East, we must take off our blinders and our one-sided ways of seeing the world.  Leaders on all sides must recognize and admit the need for fair negotiations and win/win solutions to international problems.  We need to cultivate a reasonable modicum of mutual respect and make lasting commitments to diplomatic solutions.  And we must emasculate demagoguery, cowboy rhetoric and religious fundamentalism, and instead support statesmanship and honorable efforts to promote peace and mutual security.

36.  Mission Possible?

It is essential for good foreign policy to re-evaluate the mission and the results of actions in light of changing circumstances and realistic understandings.  People are generally committed to their own self-interest without having a strong concern for the interests of others.  It is, nonetheless, quite important to understand the points-of-views of adversaries as well as allies.  Both our domestic policy and our foreign policy must intelligently assess the effects of our policies upon others, and take into account concerns for the general populace, not just investors and upper social levels.

An unclear mission can lead to catastrophic results.  Military solutions do not work without strong diplomatic and pragmatic political endeavors.  We must reduce tensions, and recognize legitimate local grievances.  We must reject military aggression as a strategy for solving problems, or for adjudicating power disputes, or for advancing an imperialist agenda.  A serious re-evaluation of our policies and the politicians who advance them is imperative.  We must avoid blundering into political and social messes abroad that we do not understand.

Unilateral militarism, and both Islamic and Christian religious fundamentalism, have been cast in the light of infamy by developments in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It has become clear what can happen when military missions are unclear, and when religious extremists try to enforce their views on all. 

37.  Bait and Switch Strategies

The Bush cabal stimulated people’s fears in the years from 2001 to 2009.  They did this partially to promote militarism and unwarranted influence for the military/industrial complex.  The role of investors and many profit-obsessed war-service industries is significant in this undertaking.  The political capital gained from the national tragedy of 9/11 was used to ram through a neoconservative agenda in unrelated realms of social, economic and environmental policies.  This opportunity was used to make regressive changes in tax policy and to implement distinctly misguided environmental and energy policies.  It was also used to advance oppressive policies toward poor people and women and gay men and lesbian women.  For crying out loud! 

Power was abused by invoking enemies to implement internal surveillance programs, and to harass people, repress dissent, control the press, and suspend rules of law.  This is a shrewd but unconscionable trick.  Terribly, terribly shrewd.  Coldly and calculatingly and arrogantly and mercilessly shrewd.  It’s far-right thinking, to be sure, but far from being right, or reasonable, or sensible, or fair, or acceptable.

It is a sad irony that the 9/11 terrorist attacks have strengthened the reactionary political right wing in the United States.  The politics of the “war on terror” have had the effect not only of facilitating war, but also of enriching the wealthy at the expense of peace and the common good.  This is a dastardly misfortune for the majority of people on earth.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the people of United States and the world became ever more effete pawns of politically influential arms merchants, war profiteers, multinational oil companies, privatization and outsourcing interests, neoconservative ideologues, nationalistic supremacists, the gun lobby, and reactionary religious extremists.  Quite costly consequences have resulted.  The amount of money that we are spending on the Pentagon, the CIA and the FBI, and on troops, munitions, warfare, reconstruction, spying and covert operations, is staggering. 

38.  Jingoism and Hopes for Peace

War hawks gained support for war in Iraq by using several unsavory strategies.  In addition to using deceptive rationalizations and exploiting people’s fears, they took advantage of desires for revenge and nationalistic drives for superiority.  They censored reports and information from the battlefield.  They distorted the truth of how the war was going.  They refused to allow news coverage of coffins coming home of soldiers that had been killed.  They even covered up the ‘friendly-fire’ killing of Pat Tillman.  What the hell really took place? 

“The U.S. military itself invariably conducts its own investigations into any charges of excessive use of force, and the investigations are normally oriented toward covering up what happened.”  (This quote is from Chalmers Johnson, in his book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic.)

Something is terribly amiss when we allow so-called “chickenhawk” leaders -- ones who avoided military service to their country and yet are staunch proponents of aggressive militarism -- to be the very people that make decisions to wage wars.  This is onerous particularly when the missions of the aggression are unclear, and when the wars are based on manipulative, jingoistic impulses and distortions of intelligence and facts.  Taunting and arrogant “bring ’em on” bravado has foolishly put our troops in greater danger. 

Dick Cheney once said he had “other priorities … than military service”.  Many other people might have had other priorities too, but they had fewer options than Dick Cheney because of economic inequities and uneven opportunities in our society.  It is obscene that Dick Cheney embraced doctrines that eagerly sent troops abroad at an enormous cost, especially because his motives were so conflicted, considering his strong ties to business interests that profit from war, like Halliburton and its affiliates.

The hubris of misguided American foreign policy is, by its failing, finally starting to have the effect of reducing support for the Christian right’s agenda.  This is a glimmer of a fortuitous trend, one that bodes well for religious moderates and progressives to put more distance between themselves and the radical elements within their faiths.  The rejection of the domineering right wing would be healthy for democracy because it would strengthen support for the separation of church and state, and at the same time reinforce the right to privacy that protects citizens from government intrusion.

Our hopes for peace arguably hinge on conquering ignorance and reining in extremist elements and rogue leaders.  We must develop a better and more practical balance between (1) the compulsions for strength and toughness and obsessions for dominance, and (2) the growing urgency of needs for better ways to be developed to achieve peaceful coexistence and prevent resource wars.

A solution to the Palestinian problem must be found in order to create peace in the Middle East.  I highly recommend that all readers watch the documentary film, I Have Never Forgotten You, which provides viewers with a compelling understanding of the horrific consequences of the Holocaust during World War II.  The film gives good insight into the extraordinary anguish and honorable integrity and deep humanity of Simon Wiesenthal, a man driven to bring awareness of the genocide that was committed against millions of Jews in Nazi concentration camps.  Simon Wiesenthal was the man who helped bring to justice many German war criminals that were responsible for the Holocaust. 

The terrible tragedy of the Holocaust gives a powerful raison d’etre, a reason for being and right to exist for the country of Israel as a haven for Jews, who have suffered not only this genocide, but also many other persecutions and pogroms in nations throughout the world over the centuries.  Of course, giving territory to the Jews was far from a perfect solution, because it was a calamity to many Palestinian people whose lands were appropriated to provide a homeland for the Jews.  To make this ‘right’ at this point in history, all nations must help make an epoch-defining effort to atone for the injustices done to the Palestinians.  Just as the world helped the Jews in 1948 by giving them a homeland, a secure homeland must be created for the Palestinians and there must be an outpouring of international support for Palestinian prosperity and economic security. 

Remember that only by sowing justice can we harvest peace.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!  Check out the Earth Manifesto essay entitled “Sow Justice, Harvest Peace!” for further insight into related ideas.  We must find ways to all get along better together.  This requires collaboration, compromise and commitments to negotiations and win/win solutions.  This can be accomplished.  All parties must try harder to move respectfully toward a lasting solution of the Israeli/Palestinian problem.  Only by doing this will we be able to defuse the tinderbox of the Middle East and truly establish secure foundations for peaceful coexistence.

39.  War Propaganda

       “Oh what a tangled web we weave

            When first we practice to deceive.”  

                                                   --- Sir Walter Scott

Aggressive foreign policy is facilitated by war propagandists who make use of hyped-up threats, misleading rhetoric and deceptions.  The media is complicit in this, because they often get caught up in supporting the Establishment’s war enthusiasms.  The majority of newspapers and television and radio stations in the U.S. actively promoted the lies and manipulations of George W. Bush and his Administration in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.  Catherine Austin Fitts, the former Assistant Secretary of Housing under former President George H. W. Bush states: "George Orwell once said that omission is the greatest form of lie.  That's the best description I know of corporate media today."

The so-called Yellow Press was created more than 100 years ago to boost newspaper sales by hyping war.  Yellow journalism consists of widespread practices within media organizations that include exaggeration, fear-mongering, sensationalism, propaganda propagation and jingoism.  I call on all journalists to be more responsible and to demonstrate greater integrity. 

The “best and the brightest” would no doubt encourage more comprehensive news coverage and better investigative reporting by the media and stronger protections for whistle-blowers.  They would also likely support increased news diversity and the prevention of further conglomeration in the media like that which has given Rupert Murdoch such outlandishly manipulative influence and Roger Ailes such a domineering stage for conservative propaganda on Fox News.

One of the dilemmas of the news business is that public ownership of newspaper and media corporations subjects them to the overriding need to make bigger profits every year.  Faced with declining classified ad revenues because of Internet competition of sites like Craig’s List, newsrooms have been forced to cut costs, so they have developed more entertaining opinion-based reporting.  As a result, hard news and public interest reporting are suffering.  In the breach, ‘faux news’ and government and corporate propaganda have expanded.  This is subversive to valid and accurate understanding. 

The struggle ensues.  Will the media act as a force for truth and enlightenment and democracy, or one of collaborative deception and indoctrination?  Will the media be controlled by power-mongering politicians and fear-mongering manipulations and shortsighted profiteering?  Will the slow demise of newspaper newsrooms and non-partisan investigative reporting accelerate the trend toward Orwellian domination of thought by right-wing front groups or Big Brother government, or will countervailing influences within the Internet contribute to revolutionarily positive change, enlightenment, reform, and fairer democratic governance and accountability?  We’ll see!

40.  Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Breathe deep and let go.  Let’s ponder for a moment the social dynamics of the typical American high school, because such settings are instructive microcosms of the world.  There are many cliques in high school.  There are the student body leaders, football players, cheerleaders, athletes, cute popular girls, effeminate guys, thespians, studious types, macho bullies, spoiled rich kids, and so on.

Consider this:  The best student leaders in high school were those who had charisma and social skills, and who reflected qualities identifiable as “emotional intelligence”.  The very last type of person that young adults should elect for student body leadership is the macho bully type.  On a national level we need to be able to filter out all of the clever manipulations that result in leaders being elected that pander to the macho bully in us all.  This is a weak point, perhaps, but I want it to be a backdrop to a continued focus on American militarism.

One of the most powerful lobbyist organizations in the U.S. is the National Rifle Association.  It strongly opposes sensible gun laws such as a ban on assault weapons and background checks for those who are in a hurry to buy guns.  The unbalanced, wrong-headed and negative influence of this aggressive right-wing industry should be reduced.  This is a very good reason to get the detrimental influence of Big Money out of our political process, as recommended by Clean Money advocates.  See Chapter #49 of the Comprehensive Global Perspective for further details on Clean Money campaigns and the salubrious effect they would likely have on politics and our lives.

Many conservative leaders staunchly defend the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights, advancing the interests of the gun lobby.  But they ironically support the efforts by some who want to erode protections of free speech that are contained in the First Amendment, and of fair trial and habeas corpus rights that are contained in the Fourth Amendment.  They also seem willing to look the other way in ignoring Geneva Convention agreements against torture, and in supporting the abrogation of international arms control treaties, and indeed in committing crimes under international law by waging wars of aggression.

Our nation’s refusal to ratify the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty is despicable because it would have helped to eliminate the terrible and indiscriminately deadly use of landmines.  Princess Diana was involved in the humanitarian project to rid the world of landmines, and in her honor we Americans should step forward and endorse the Mine Ban Treaty, which all of our closest allies have signed.

41.  Irony and Cynicism

Listen to this:  George W. Bush, speaking at a commencement address at West Point Military Academy on May 27, 2006, stated: “Like the Cold War, we are fighting the followers of a murderous ideology that despises freedom, questions all dissent, has territorial ambitions and pursues totalitarian aims.”  My eyes roll.  My mouth sags open.  Who, exactly, is the most guilty of vaulting ideological ambitions and unopposed power?  And why are Americans so gullible as to allow our leaders to follow perverse domestic and foreign policies such as those put in place by right-wing neoconservatives?

The Cold War was a struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union for economic, political and military dominance.  Ideological foundations were fundamental to such a sustained and fear-oriented conflict.  The battle of ideologies was framed as a struggle of capitalism against communism, and of Freedom (equality be damned) against Equality (freedom be damned).  It was also a fight between proponents of the rights of capital against the rights of workers, and between those who espouse unbridled competition against those who organized their economies according to authoritarian centralized planning. 

No matter what else can be said about it, the Cold War conflict was extraordinarily costly.  It was a socially and environmentally calamitous for both the Soviet Union and the United States.  The opportunity costs of these enormous expenditures are hard to fathom, but the world could have been much saner if so many resources had been devoted to better purposes.  The Cold War helped bankrupt the Soviet Union at a great cost to the people of that country, and it consumed huge amounts of energy and resources.  Hindsight tells us that, if we could have devised a better way to defuse such strife instead of exacerbating it, the vast majority of people in the world would have been much better off. 

The Western world is still mindlessly crowing about the valiant victory of capitalism over godless communism, but we are deluded in not recognizing that this was surely a Pyrrhic victory, one that has left us with a bloated and entrenched military-industrial complex that can hardly be honestly regarded as good, moral, necessary, right or best. 

Neoconservative foreign policy is a form of crackpot imperialist adventurism.  It is driven by our addiction to oil and militarism, and by our failure to prevent politically-entrenched energy, defense and war service industries from controlling Congress and the White House.  Vast and corrupt fortunes are made on fossil fuels and weapons systems and hyped-up pork barrel spending.  This state of affairs is facilitated by a type of propaganda that is known as the ‘Big Lie’ phenomenon.

42.  The “Big Lie” Phenomenon

The “Big Lie” is a term first coined by Adolf Hitler in his 1925 autobiography Mein Kampf.   This term was made famous by Josef Goebbels, the propaganda minister for the German Third Reich.  The idea was simple enough:  if you tell a ‘big lie’ often enough, most people will come to accept it as the truth.  During World War II, the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor of the CIA), described how the Germans used the Big Lie:  “Their primary rules were:  never allow the public to cool off;  never admit a fault or wrong;  never concede that there may be some good in your enemy;  never leave room for alternatives;  never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong;  people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one;  and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it."

Some say that the “war on terror” is the most pernicious modern example of the “Big Lie” phenomenon.  The “War on Terror” has been sold to us as an undertaking designed to make us safer.  Yet in truth this can be seen in the larger context to be a gambit of global hegemony, not unlike that of Adolf Hitler’s invasions of other countries.  The “war on terror” has inadvertently created a more dangerous and belligerent world.  Our national actions since September 11, 2001 have been imperialistic and wrong-headed and illegal under international law.  We have indulged in preemptive wars of aggression and military occupations of two entire nations.  The attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq were planned well before 9/11.  Many distortions and falsehoods have been exposed, but the mega-lie survives. 

The “war on terror” is a classic example of a Big Lie because it creates an exaggerated myth in order to exploit circumstances for the purpose of advancing narrow interests.  The five most significant big lie deceptions promulgated by the Bush Administration in the run up to the wars in the Middle East are these:

(1) These wars were not about Unocal oil pipelines in Afghanistan or control of the oilfields of Iraq;  (2) No one could have imagined terrorists hijacking airplanes to be used as missiles, (3) Saddam Hussein was partially responsible for the 9/11 attacks;  (4) Saddam Hussein had ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that were an imminent threat to the United States;  and (5) These wars are being fought to make Americans safer.

43.  Culpabilities of Manichean Righteousness and Brazen Presumption

American leaders tend to portray issues in terms of good guys -- us! -- and “evil-doers”, who are an amorphous and ambiguous group of demonized “others”.  Yet, the fact of the matter is that the U.S. has a sordid and ignominious past that conceals a very bloody role in international affairs.  The CIA has backed numerous military coups abroad over the years, and our government routinely interferes in the affairs of nations worldwide.  We staunchly support regimes who repress their citizens like that in theocratic Saudi Arabia, which is an extremely undemocratic country.  The U.S. has many times used the CIA and clandestine operations to foment regime change abroad.  This has not been done in the interest of democracy or justice, but in furthering the interests of corporate power or profiteering or hawkish supremacy or domination.  These drives have been accompanied by deeply amoral and unfair policies and attitudes that are thuggish, preachy, macho dude-ish, unbalanced, and swaggeringly monomaniacal.

Many regard the secret police of the old Soviet Union as merciless, but are less aware of the nefarious role that the American CIA has played in international politics.  The CIA helped to topple Mohammed Mosaddegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, and to install the despotic Shah in 1953.  The SAVAK, the notorious Iranian secret police under the Shah from 1953 to 1979, was ruthlessly repressive in its tactics, and it was created with the help of the CIA.

Take Saddam Hussein.  Evil?  He killed thousands of his own people, and waged a war against Iran from 1980 to 1988 in which ONE MILLION people died.  He invaded Kuwait in 1990, and when a coalition of forces led by the U.S. vanquished him from Kuwait in February 1991, he caused hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells to be blown up and set on fire, committing one of the most egregious environmental crimes in history.  Evil, indeed!

So how did Saddam Hussein get into power?  Oops -- he was able to take over the government of Iraq in a palace coup after years of help from the CIA.  How did he get the chemical and biological weapons that were used in the war against Iran and later against Iraqi Kurds?  Surprise! -- they were obtained from U.S. sources during the Reagan Administration, when we covertly sided with Iraq in providing arms for the Iraqi war of aggression against Iran.

Why did Saddam Hussein invade Kuwait in 1990?  Could it be related to Saddam’s meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, eight days prior to that first Gulf War in 1990?  In that meeting, Ambassador Glaspie is purported to have encouraged Hussein’s ambitions, saying, “… we have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.  James Baker (then Secretary of State) has instructed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.”

Take Osama bin Laden -- evil, right?  How did he gain the stature of arch villain?  Let’s see, here are the facts:  The U.S. government opposed the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1980.  We gave money and arms to the mujahideen, who were Muslim guerrillas that fought the Soviet interventionism in Afghanistan for a decade.  Osama bin Laden was a wealthy Saudi who supported the mujahideen, so the CIA assisted him in his efforts to rid Afghanistan of Soviet invaders, who Muslims regarded as “infidels”.

After the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in defeat in 1989, the Taliban came to power.  This vicious group of backward-looking, woman oppressing, terrorism-supporting rulers began to regard Americans as the new foreign infidels once the Soviet invaders were vanquished.  Our government has created many of its own woes, and ours -- and we must now demand that more sensible plans are undertaken.  Let’s remove our military from Iraq and Afghanistan!

44.  Secrecy and Stupidity

American economic sanctions and military interventionism in the Middle East have given credence to Islamic fundamentalists’ characterization of the United States as “the Great Satan”.  We have posed far more of a threat to the Muslim world than the Soviet Union did.  This is one reason that Osama bin Laden and other international ‘terrorists’ have apparently committed themselves to making our foreign policies in the Arab world prohibitively expensive.  In this, they have been remarkably and astonishingly successful so far.  Pathetic!

We cannot accept the deceit by our leaders that has resulted in spending well over one trillion dollars on a broad “war on terror” that ignores fairer priorities, truer justice, graver threats, and smarter courses of action.

Part of the reason that we have gotten into the dangerous foreign predicaments of today is because the Bush Administration was one of the most secretive in history.  Our nation has perpetrated many incidents of harsh interrogations and mercilessly punitive torture in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba and in an untold number of other places using CIA “prisoner renditions” where suspects are kidnapped and sent to secret prisons abroad.  The prison at Guantanamo Bay is a stain on our honor and integrity as a country, a symbol of harsh and merciless imprisonment.  We should stop using punitive Gestapo-like ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques.  Torture and ‘confessions’ that are coerced do not yield reliable information.  They also endanger the safety of our troops who may be taken prisoner, and indeed make our nation less secure due to the increased nature of blowback due to such provocations.

A Brigadier General who taught ‘prisoner of war interrogation’ for 18 years to U.S. Army soldiers indicates that torture tactics are morally wrong and they undermine our values and put our national security at greater risk.  Politicians who play loose with waterboarding and brutality in interrogations have abused their powers for repugnant ideological reasons. 

Daviel Levin, the former U.S. Acting Assistant Attorney General, had himself waterboarded to determine if he believed that the practice is torture.  Levin “knew that those doing it meant him no harm, and he knew they would rescue him at the instant of the slightest distress, and he knew he would not die;  still, with all that reassurance, he could not stop the terror screaming from inside of him, could not quell the horror, could not convince that which is at the core of each of us, the entity who exists behind all the embellishments we strap to ourselves, like purpose and name and family and love, he could not convince his being that he wasn't drowning.  Waterboarding, he said, is torture.  Legally, it is torture!  Practically, it is torture!  Ethically, it is torture!” 

Yet George Bush and Dick Cheney and Attorney General Michael Mukasey were unwilling to unequivocally declare waterboarding to be torture.  The Administration fired Daviel Levin, that courageous soul who personally tested the practice.  Levin was viewed as being ‘too independent’.  He was honorably trying to represent justice, but the Bush Administration seems to have preferred loyalty to politicians rather than honesty to the American people.  The President and the Vice President should have stopped circumventing the rule of law and the balance of powers and instead honored the Mission Statement of the Department of Justice, which indicates that the mission is “to ensure public safety” and “to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans”.  Torturing detainees did not accomplish this!   

The U.S. spends more money on munitions and “intelligence” that any country ever.  But our leaders are using this power to advance megalomaniacal tendencies of power and control.  By asserting that we must crush ‘evil enemies’, and by claiming that God is on our side, the Bush Administration deceived Americans into supporting merciless means to advance narrow ends.  But these ends are in conflict with democratic fairness and true justice and a true moral rectitude.  Altogether, these historical developments are pathetic and wrong-headed.  We must begin a new era of more intelligent, just, open and respectful foreign policies that adhere to domestic and international rules of law.  We must shift our course, and stop violating international agreements.  Many people advocate that we become respected members of the International Criminal Court and support the prosecution of individuals who cause war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

We are challenged to think about what is being done in our name by the CIA and personnel in U.S. military intelligence and by prison guards and administrators.  Some say that “a few bad apples” were responsible for the Abu Ghraib prisoner humiliation scandal.  A close investigation, like that done by Errol Morris in his documentary film, Standard Operating Procedure, reveals that the photographs taken probably show only the tip of the iceberg of abuse, humiliation and violence against prisoners.  The infamous pictures taken in Abu Ghraib by guards are deeply disturbing, but one must realize that extensive and corrosive corruption starts at the top of the chain of command.  If there are no photos, it doesn’t happen?  No waterboarding videos, ‘no harm, no foul’? 

War crimes are mainly the responsibility of policy deciders, not just the sadistic acts of stress-crazed pawns who are used as scapegoats for those higher up.  The hierarchy of the military is generally very effective in covering up the truth of the horrid crimes that occur in the conduct of war -- the beatings, the brutality, the harsh interrogation tactics, and the vile punishment procedures, all too often of innocent people.  Extensive and corrosive corruption, and fog-of-war power abuses, and rationalizations that say “shit happens”, and the sexual humiliation of prisoners and vicious dog intimidation and psychological atrocities are an incidental boots-on-the-ground expression of military supremacy gambits and the “shock and awe” arrogance of power and domination that characterizes our use of desperately ruthless tactics by our army and marines and air force and ‘intelligence’ personnel to subjugate people in foreign countries.

Men on leashes led by female guards?  What an image this presents to the world.  This is how Americans think men in the Arab world should be treated?  Think about it.  There is hardly a better reason to AVOID getting involved in wars.  We degrade not only others, but also our own troops and ourselves with our wartime involvements and behaviors. 

It is not just those caught in our oppressive operations that are degraded and harmed.  An unprecedented number of terrible injuries have happened to our troops and hundreds of thousands of American troops are coming home from the Middle East with deep psychological wounds and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  This is caused by fear, trauma, horror and helplessness associated with wartime experiences, and it is contributing to an epidemic of suicides by military personnel.  Nice going, Neocons!

Our policy deciders have not only cost us hundreds of billions of dollars and severely damaged our moral standing in the world, but they have ruined the lives of millions.  We keep trying to sweep this failure of stupidly misguided imperialistic undertakings under the carpet.  From now on, let’s try harder to PREVENT wars!  Let us commit our nation to war prevention, NOT pre-emptive aggression.  I plead this case to the successors of George W. Bush and his war perpetrators and their stubborn wrong-headedness.  Sow justice to harvest peace!

45.  Pretexts for War and False Flag Operations

A false flag operation is a type of ruse that takes many forms.  One type is a covert operation that is used to make it appear that another entity has attacked a nation in order for the leaders of that nation to use the incident to usurp power for war pretexts, control, domination, and narrow political purposes. 

For instance, the Reichstag (the German Parliament building) was set on fire on February 27, 1933 under suspicious circumstances.  Adolf Hitler had been appointed Chancellor of Germany just one month before the fire.  Hitler used this incident to invoke emergency government powers on THE VERY NEXT DAY after the fire.  By ramming through the Reichstag Fire Decree, he was able to suspend many civil liberties in Germany.  Democracy was thus effectively abolished in a more or less legal manner.  An Enabling Act soon followed which gave Hitler essentially dictatorial powers.  These acts led indirectly to the devastating German aggression of World War II.  Serious evidence points to perfidious Nazi collaboration in the setting of the fire.

Let us not make the dangerous mistake of deceiving ourselves into believing that our nation is immune from being subjected to a more repressive regime.  We could be only one Reichstag-fire-like incident away -- one day away! -- from an enabling law of our own that much more seriously erodes our civil liberties and eliminates our democratic representation in government.

The Bush/Cheney cabal used 9/11 and the threat of terrorism to undermine civil liberties of the American people.  They advanced their agenda using the Patriot Act, and domestic spying, the Military Commissions Act, the suspension of habeas corpus, the suppression of dissent, the use of harsh ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’, and the evasion of rules of law through the use of ‘signing statements’ and FBI ‘national security letters’.  Government violations of FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, are likewise unwise.  So are things such as the neglect of domestic priorities, the intimidation of artists and intellectuals, the blaming of liberalism, the assault on critical thinking in public education, and the overwhelming domination of television media by corporatist influences and talk radio by right-wing personalities. 

Think about the hallmarks of fascist dictatorships in the past century:  corporatism, deceptive propaganda, judicial manipulation, belligerent nationalism, harsh punishments, the aggressive expansion of prisons, the oppression of workers, extensive corruption, cronyism, the pandering to religious fundamentalists, role rigidity, male domination, sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-gay legislation, opposition to abortion, and the cultivation of divisiveness, fear, prejudice and hate.  Doesn’t this sound a lot like the trends that have become characteristics of our right-leaning leaders in recent years?

We Americans must remain alert to the dangers to ourselves and our children from an extremely serious usurpation of emergency powers by our government that would severely limit our civil liberties.  We must avoid provocations or miscalculations in the waters near Iran, which seemed much greater under the last Administration than the current one, but our presence there does pose serious risks.  We must prevent false flag operations that could materialize in the form of a staged terrorist act or even a dirty mushroom cloud.  There is a grave danger that we may not be able to trust that our government will someday actually be on the side of doing everything in its power to prevent this!  Some of the last actions of Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf demonstrated to us how the struggle for personal political survival can seriously harm citizen freedoms. 

Sinclair Lewis wrote the 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here, about “Buzz” Windrip, a southern politician who campaigned on family values and patriotism and defending the flag.  Windrip portrayed anyone as anti-American who was concerned with individual rights and freedoms.  He essentially advocated a form of totalitarianism.  And, yes -- it could happen here.  Lewis warned, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying the cross.”  That’s scary!

In the run-up to all American wars of the past century, war plans and preparations have always been made in advance, and war propaganda has been promulgated and propagated preparatory to launching the war.  These preparations have been followed by a pretext that is used to get the nation into war.  This pretext has generally been so suspiciously convenient, and so surrounded by mysterious circumstances, that the pretexts can be seen in retrospect as cunning calculations that fall into the categories of cultivated ignorance (‘letting it happen’), or of intentional provocation, or of outright orchestration in the form of covert false flag operations. 

The pretext for getting the U.S. into the Spanish-American War in 1898 was the mysterious bombing of the USS Maine in the harbor of Havana.  The pretext for our nation becoming involved in World War I in 1915 was the sinking of the RMS Lusitania by a German submarine.  The pretext for our entry into World War II was the ‘surprise’ Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  The pretext for getting the U.S. into the Vietnam War was the Gulf on Tonkin incident in 1964, which was either a direct American provocation of the North Vietnamese or a false flag attack that Wikipedia describes as having been “declassified as a deliberate contrivance of information to provide a pliable justification for declaring war on Vietnam”. 

This brings us to a closer consideration of the pretext for our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq:  the 9/11 attacks and the soon-thereafter declared “war on terror”. 

46.  The Mysteries of 9/11

When trying to get to the bottom of a crime and solve a ‘Who Dunnit?’ mystery, readers and investigators know that it’s important to look at motives and means and opportunities of those accused of committing a crime.  It is also significant to evaluate all available clues and forensic evidence.  The character and veracity of all suspects must be judged.  Misrepresentations and distortions and inconsistencies in the evidence must be considered. 

Have you ever served on a jury?  American citizens have a civil duty to serve on criminal juries from time to time, and it turns out to be an educational experience in collaborative decision-making and Constitutional democracy.  Jurors are given the responsibility of acting as judges of the evidence.  The process reveals how unanimous consensus can be reached among twelve people who are empowered to listen without prejudice to all of the testimony, and to evaluate it, to respectfully debate the details, to express their opinions, and to work together in deliberations designed to reach a just decision.  The prosecutor, the defense attorney, the witnesses and the experts all have their individual biases, so it is up to the jurors to evaluate, make reasonable judgments, and come up with a verdict based on all the direct and circumstantial evidence and the pertinent law.  It does not matter where individual jurors fall on a continuum of personal perspectives, ranging from law-and-order hard-liners to sympathetic empathizers, from conservatives to liberals;  all of the jurors agree to give fair consideration to the case.

All witnesses are sworn in, solemnly swearing that they will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  It is quite amazing how much conflicting ‘truth’ jurors hear.  It makes one wonder about the nature of truth, and the surprising extent to which people prevaricate, equivocate, tergiversate -- i.e. distort the truth!  But I digress.

Most Americans would probably say that the biggest crime in the past decade was the 9/11 hijackings.  These crimes resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000 people in the airplanes and the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon.  It would be logical to try to find out exactly what happened, and who perpetrated this crime, and who helped plan it, and who helped financed it.  This is important to people everywhere, because in a rush to judgment and retribution the United States invaded Afghanistan, and then followed up with a bait-and-switch attack on Iraq.  Furious bombing campaigns that devastate property and kill untold numbers of innocent civilians can hardly be regarded as a fair trial for any involved! 

Instead of looking into all the facts of 9/11, and judging them on their merits, a media circus of confusion and propaganda took place, and secrecy shrouded the details of the terrorist attacks.  Months of obstruction of an investigation took place by the officials of the federal government before an official investigation was even approved.

I urge you to think like a juror.  Give the following questions serious consideration by reading Richard Clarke’s book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror.  Clarke was the counterterrorism czar under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.  He makes it clear that the Bush Administration studiously ignored the gathering threats of an attack, and indeed was highly motivated before the attacks to find reasons to invade Iraq.  Subsequent information has also come to light about the motives for U.S. support of an attack on Afghanistan well before 9/11 (it concerns a pipeline across that country).

There is cogent evidence pointing to the culpability of the Bush Administration in letting the terrorist hijackings of 9/11 happen -- or even of having had a hand in making them happen.  I challenge readers to remain open-minded on this topic.  I know, I KNOW, I know:  this is too dastardly for serious consideration;  it is incomprehensible that anyone in our government could contemplate such treachery;  no one could be so stupid as to take such a monumental risk of being exposed as horrid traitors;  our leaders seem like they are too smart to have carried out such skullduggery, and to do so successfully in secrecy;  it could only be crazy conspiracy theorists who are able to contemplate the possibility of such preposterous perfidy. 

Our natural tendency is to deny any possibility that the premise of complicity in the 9/11 attacks by the CIA or others in the government could be true.  But consider the “Top 40 Reasons to Doubt the Official Story of September 11, 2001” (found at 911Truth.org).  Or listen to Richard Gage’s astounding Power Point presentation at “ae911truth.org”.  Richard Gage was the founder of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth;  he provides a bizarre and compelling analytical overview concerning the highly suspect official story of the 9/11 attacks.  Check out the documentary film, 9/11: Press for Truth for startling information about the timeline of terrorist threats that led up to the hijackings. 

Why did the Bush Administration put up such strong resistance to an investigation into the circumstances that led up to the 9/11 attacks?  Why?  Then, after many months opposing an investigation, the Administration was finally forced to cave in to pressure to look into the attacks by creating a 9/11 Commission.  It suspiciously appointed Philip D. Zelikow as Executive Director, a man whose impartiality was seriously compromised by his connections to the Administration and by his authorship of the September 2002 National Security Strategy that advocated pre-emptive war doctrines.  Many other conflicts of interest arose that indicate his role in the 9/11 Commission was not appropriate for finding the whole truth. 

Additionally, the inquiry by the Commission was stonewalled by the Administration for months.  Official cooperation was pathetic.  George Bush refused to testify in public or under oath.  When the report by the Commission was eventually published, it contained significant omissions and distortions.  It is a unanimous report, meaning that anything too controversial was omitted. 

The Commission did a poor job of answering a significant portion of the 400-plus questions posed by the ‘Jersey Girls’ spouses and other members of September 11 families.  The report did not even mention the inexplicable collapse of Building 7 of the World Trade Center complex.  The Commission astonishingly dismissed the question of who had financed the attacks as being “of little practical significance”.  Really, members of the jury?!  The issue of who paid for the suicide terrorists flight training and expenses has NO BEARING on who might have been responsible? 

Another compelling avenue of information can be found in the thorough book by Michael C. Ruppert entitled Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil.  If it turns out to be true that the Pakistani Secret Police (the ISI), were involved in wire-transferring money to Mohammed Atta, one of the terrorist ringleaders who crashed the first airplane into one of the World Trade Center buildings, does that have NO significance? 

The fact that the U.S. spent $40 billion last year on organizations involved in intelligence and covert operations could imply that it’s possible for clandestine operators to have been involved in the collapse of Building 7.  There is extensive forensic evidence that thermite and explosives were used to topple Building 7 in the World Trade Center complex, which was not hit by an airplane but fell nonetheless a full eight hours after the collapses of the North and South Towers.  Building 7 collapsed in a manner exactly consistent with the way a building falls into its own footprint during a controlled demolition. 

“Conspiracy theory” conclusions abound concerning the government’s role in the 9/11 attacks.  This is partially due to the simple reason that so much of the official 9/11 story is implausible.  I join those who have called for a new and truly independent investigation!  The suspicions go far beyond such minor pieces of the puzzle as the Bush Administration’s ignoring of the CIA’s ‘Presidential Daily Briefing’ a month before 9/11 -- the one that was titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”, and in which hijacking of airplanes was mentioned as a risk.  It goes far beyond the compelling questions as to why air defenses stood down while the hijacked planes were en route to their targets.  An honest and curious juror would at least give skeptical consideration to reading the synopsis found at 911Truth.org of the “Top 40 Reasons to Doubt the Official Story of September 11, 2001”. 

I again urge readers to watch the compelling and insightful Internet film, Zeitgeist Movie (find it at zeitgeistmovie.com).  The film manifests a ‘triumph of the will’ in its sheer audacity of provocative political theater, valuable skepticism of religious dogma, humor, bold analysis of 9/11 mysteries, mind-challenging suspicions, and Libertarian perspective of the bankers who control the financial markets in the world.  The film brings to mind this observation by President John F. Kennedy:

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie:  deliberate, continued, and

   dishonest;  but the myth: persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”

As an aside, make no mistake about it:  the 9/11 Commission Report is a valuable document.  The chapter “More Than a War on Terrorism” clearly indicates that bombers and troops are not enough to combat terrorism.  It says:  “Long-term success demands the uses of all elements of national power:  diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, public diplomacy, and homeland defense."  It was negligent for the Bush Administration to have chosen not to heed most of the recommendations related to national security that are contained in the report!

47.  The Nature of Ideas

A frog placed in a pot of water that is slowly brought from room temperature to a boil is reputedly unable to detect the subtle increase in temperature and will be poached to death without realizing its danger.  I don’t particularly believe this, and I like frogs too much to want to conduct an experiment to confirm it.  But in an allegorical sense, such a story is quite provocative.

Every person is conditioned to their own unique worldview by their upbringing and their education and peer exposures and cultural immersion and the powerful influence of mass communications like books, newspapers, magazines, radio, film, television, and the Internet.  Since this is the case, there are two countervailing curiosities:  (1) that so wide a variety of viewpoints can develop, ranging along generalized continuums from conservative to liberal, regressive to progressive, conforming to rebelling, selfishly uncompassionate to generously empathetic, and extremely closed-minded to rationally open-minded;  and (2) that each community/nation/culture tends to develop prevailing premises, dominant worldviews, and a Zeitgeist of the times.  These frames of reference can be powerful determinants in the aggregate expression of each society over time. 

To be less abstruse, just think of it this way:  there are subtle impacts of the propaganda and persuasive advertising and doctrinaire spin to which people in a society are exposed.  So, imagine how much different it must have been, for instance, to be a citizen of the communist Soviet Union during the Cold War than it was to have lived in the capitalist United States.  Or imagine how different it must be to live in Ayatollah-dominated Iran or today’s war-torn Iraq than to be living in the United States.  Brainwashing, anyone?

Emotions and inculcated faith have an astonishingly influential impact on people’s supposedly rational thought processes.  Fears, insecurities and drives to belong and conform are easily exploited by politicians and their puppet-string animators, i.e. the rich and the powerful.  The insiders that effectively control our economies and political processes manipulate us with surprising success by framing the debate to their narrow advantage.  They use this ideological influence to control people and maintain their dominating influence and special advantages.  Please keep these ideas in mind as you are exposed to news and arguments and war enthusiasms here in the Twenty-First Century. 

48.  Conclusions

War should be a last resort.  Resource wars must be prevented.  We must kick our addiction to fossil fuels by adopting a program like the Apollo Alliance’s “Ten-Point Plan for Good Jobs and Energy Independence”. 

Peaceful coexistence must be given a higher value and priority.  The motives for war must be limited to necessary ones, like justified self-defense, rather than offensive ones like economic domination and profiteering and the control of other countries abroad.  Foreign policy must more seriously honor mutual security, and sovereignty, and statesmanship, and constructive diplomacy.  We cannot allow our leaders to mislead us into war for partisan purposes, or for ones that are provocative, diversionary, radically unjust, mercenary, or in violation of international rules of law. 

Militarism is a poor path to peace.  U.S. foreign policy revolves around harshly penalizing peoples whose leaders do not agree with us, and rewarding leaders of countries that support us, no matter how repressively those leaders treat their own people.  The largely secret relationship between the Bush family and the dictatorial ruling family of Saudi Arabia is shocking, and some say it is treasonous to our democracy.  Read House of Bush, House of Saud for deeper perspective on this. 

We Americans have become a bit numb and complacent to the terrible injustices of wars that are wrong-headedly being fought in our names.  Our society today provides an odd contrast to the 1960’s, when America was a hotbed of protest, exploration, outrage, and political demonstration for peace and love.  Today, the outrage over war and injustice has yet to coalesce into enough momentum to get us out of our occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, even though we elected Barack Obama partially in hopes that he would be successful in this goal. 

It seems at times as if, even amongst those aware of the horrors caused by merciless ambition, militarism, fear-manipulated compulsions, and overarching greed, an Orwellian mind-control movement has wildly succeeded in overwhelming our natural senses of fair play. 

People’s engagement in public life has atrophied as we have become obedient consumers and greedy investors.  Most Americans have become worse and less engaged citizens.  Good citizenship requires that we evolve from being merely good consumers to more community-oriented participants in our democracy.  If we focus human creativity on true problem-solving, with the common good foremost in mind, we might be able to forestall dangerous states of humiliation and resignation and despair.  The bright light of rationality and reason reveal that the ‘war approach’ -- the war on terror, the war on drugs, a war for oil -- are approaches that are simply too counterproductive and risky to be continued.

Clear thinking, freedom of expression, moral courage and good conscience could help us overcome the obstruction of those who supported our nation’s war agenda.  Individual liberties can be protected and our national safety can be better ensured if we are somehow inspired to embrace the greater social good.  Let’s roll!

I conclude these observations with a poetic perspective, quoted by wonderful poet David Whyte:

I know the truth - give up all other truths!
No need for people anywhere on earth to struggle.
Look - it is evening, look, it is nearly night:
What do you speak of, poets, lovers, generals?

 The wind is level now, the earth is wet with dew,
the storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet.
And soon all of us will sleep under the earth, we
who never let each other sleep above it.     

                                                                ~ A Poem by Marina Tsvetayeva ~

In conclusion, we must find better ways to create peace and vanquish injustice and war.  We must embrace higher values and bigger picture understandings, and move toward peaceful coexistence, wiser priorities, fairer justice, and ecological sanity. 


           Dr. Tiffany B. Twain,


                   January to October, 2008   (Revised several times in 2009, and again in 2011)


          Thanks for reading, and for your consideration of these ideas!                          



If this is the first essay that you have read at www.EarthManifesto.com, please make note that an insightful Zeitgeist of thought is contained on this site in the Part One epistle entitled Comprehensive Global Perspective: An Illuminating Worldview.  The enlightened understandings therein may well be amongst the most universal and extensively elucidated bodies of thought ever expressed.  Check it out!