A Peaceable Proposition – The
Golden Rule ‘Greening’ of U.S. Foreign Policy
An Earth Manifesto publication by Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
The Japanese Air Force launched an attack on
December 7, 1941 that devastated the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl
Harbor on the beautiful Hawaiian Island of Oahu. This national trauma was
“a date that will live in infamy”, and it immediately led to the entry of the United
States into the Second World War. Americans joined the Allies, a group of
nations that had been fighting, in increasing numbers since 1939, the
aggressive and violent world domination and resource acquisition gambits of
Adolf Hitler’s Germany and Emperor Hirohito’s Japan.
Today, after the triumph of the Allies in World
War II and the long Cold War between nuclear-armed superpowers that followed
it, the United States is engaged in its own course of superpower
domination. The U.S. military has roughly
1,000 military bases in 150 other nations around the globe, and it has spent a
decade occupying two entire countries in the Middle East. The purpose of our occupations was ostensibly
to enforce police-state conditions to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan against
opposition from sectarian insurgents, religious fundamentalists, nationalists
and assorted warlords. The costs of this
aggressive course of action have been exceedingly high in terms of money spent,
sons and daughters killed or injured, injustices perpetrated, collateral
damages inflicted, and violent opposition and terrorist reactions that are
being provoked by our violations of the sovereignty of other nations.
When General Douglas MacArthur stated that he
believed “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,” these words should have been etched permanently on
our collective consciousness. The transcendent truth of this compelling
observation should become a defining principle of our foreign policies
leaders in the United States should
commit to courageously acting in ways that are consistent with this
should also begin to recognize the profound ecological folly of war. There is a heavy carbon footprint of American
military occupations and the many bases we maintain abroad. During the many years of the occupations of
Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military used more oil every year than was used
by all of the 1.2 billion people of India.
These wars add more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than over half
the countries in the world. Even the
Pentagon has admitted that global warming and the risks of abrupt climate
change pose far-reaching and exorbitantly costly national security risks, so we
should downsize this wasteful hegemony.
Bruce E. Johansen once observed: “Peacemakers
are often assumed to be naïve dreamers. However,
given the environmental circumstances, the timely end to wars is not naïve, but
necessary. The Earth can no longer
This state of affairs in the world calls for a
broad and transformative greening of all aspects of business and governmental
activities. We should stop stubbornly defending the entrenched status
quo, and mere ‘greenwashing’ will no longer suffice. Progressive change
is needed for our civilizations to survive and prosper. Bold and
wide-ranging reforms should be made that are in accord with common sense and
the clearest consensus understandings of economists, ecologists, philosophers,
psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, statespersons, biologists,
and spiritual leaders. The wisest understandings of honestly ethical
lawyers and politicians, if any, should also be taken into account.
“Ha!”, you may think! Ethical lawyers and politicians? Note that there actually have been honest
politicians, despite our generally appropriate cynicism in this regard.
Consider, for instance, the honorable progressive Senator Paul Wellstone of
Minnesota, who died in an airplane crash in 2002. He believed that politics should be about
more than power and money and winning at any cost. He noted: “Politics is about the improvement of
people’s lives. It’s about advancing the cause of peace and justice in our
country and in the world.”
The disparity between this honorable concept of
politics and the ugly pragmatic reality has gotten much worse since Barack
Obama became President, and it sure seems like some deep racism is involved,
especially with the bastion of social conservatism centered in the South. That issue is explored elsewhere in this
manifesto, but there are also other facets of this rancorous opposition:
“If you would work the multiplication table into the
platform, the Republicans will vote
it down at the
--- Mark Twain
History shows that the more money a
nation spends on its military, the more likely it is to go to war. This historical fact reinforces the value of
the idea that we should reduce the enormous amount of money we spend on our
military. The savings we achieve from
this change should be redirected to domestic investments like affordable
education, universal healthcare, better nutrition, and progress toward a more
sensibly prioritized and fiscally responsible budget.
And in the future, before we launch
any militant attempts to bring order or freedom or democracy to people in other
nations, it should be mandatory that we recognize that a violent and repressive
war zone is NOT the ideal place for such initiatives. If, per chance, our national motives are more
complex and distinctly different than the rationalizations used to convince the
public of the case for preemptive wars, our own democratic society should make
concerted efforts to honestly understand WHY we go to war. We should also collectively ponder why we
continue our military occupations, no matter how damaging, unjust, costly or
counterproductive they become. This
essay delves into these issues.
As our world becomes increasingly
crowded, war becomes ever more dangerously a “disastrous anachronism”. The need grows for us to channel our
materialistic drives, heated sensibilities, violent emotions, aggressive
impulses, religious righteousness, and conflicting conceptions of the greater
good into less adversarial and more peaceful methods of ensuring the common
The national elections of 2008 and
2012 promised hope of positive change in the domestic and foreign policies of
the United States. The American people
have been getting increasingly frustrated with the extremely costly quagmire of
our military occupations, and they want to be able to believe that the U.S. can
alter its course and bring its troops home and stop intervening militarily in
the affairs of other nations. They yearn
to have faith that our democratic republic will more honestly and prudently
honor its national ideals. At the same
time, people want our leaders to be more fair and sensible in dealing with the
compelling global challenges that face humanity.
We regrettably find ourselves in a
tight spot ‘between a rock and a hard place’.
As we cease our Middle East military occupations and bring our troops
home, we have a sense of ‘losing face’ and feeling the psychological sting of
failure, and we risk abandoning the region to those who we have been exploiting
or humiliating for years. The huge
financial, social and moral costs of this military adventurism have been
bleeding us for too long, and our hubris has yielded no definitively good results.
The organization EarthJustice is founded on a very
sensible and propitious idea. It is
dedicated “to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and
wildlife of this earth and to defending the right of all people to a healthy
environment.” Unfortunately, because of
the high costs and ecological folly of our militarism and wars, we are failing
to adequately invest in ‘green’ goals.
It would be a good idea to change this!
Let’s begin to more intelligently balance our means and our commitments,
and to weigh all foreign policy courses of action in the light of broader
We in the U.S. should extricate
ourselves from endless wars and military commitments that have so many risks
and injustices. We should stop wielding
blunt foreign policy instruments like preemptive wars and harsh economic
sanctions that really hurt the people of other nations rather than the
regimes we oppose. Read on for
Considerations of U.S. Policy in Afghanistan
Let’s be honest with ourselves, my fellow
Americans! Let’s see through the fog of
self-justifying rationalizations and propaganda that tell us we are the good
guys and that we have humble foreign policies.
We have a more extensive and far-flung military empire than any nation
in history, with millions of troops, contractors and support personnel
stationed in 150 countries abroad. We
have acted on the international stage with imperialistic aggression and
arrogance by embracing preemptive warfare and a hard-nosed offensive “you’re-either-with-us-or-against-us”
posture. A smarter course of action
would be to treat other nations with greater fairness, and focus on the mutual
security of all involved. Our military
occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq have been ruthlessly repressive, and they
have caused terrible collateral damages and widespread hardships and
injustices. This understandably has
stoked insurgent opposition.
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trace
Center and the Pentagon, it would have been far better if President Bush and
his cronies had seen beyond their ideologies and propensities for retribution
and their poorly-focused aggression, and if they had heeded Mark Twain’s wise
observation about American military adventurism:
“It is easier to stay out than get
We have been occupying Afghanistan longer than the
Soviet Union did during its terribly costly war from 1980 to 1988, and longer
than the combined amount of time that the U.S. fought in World War I and
World War II. We should have learned the
lesson from the Soviet Union’s misguided war in Afghanistan, which demonstrated
that it is dirty business to intervene militarily in that region and such
undertakings are quite likely destined to be disasters. This outcome is a probability no matter how
many troops we send there, because it is a brutally unjust occupation that
creates practical grievances, numerous civilian casualties, widespread anger,
and exacerbated instability. Insurgent
opposition is the inevitable and natural result of our heavy-handed militarism.
If the U.S. were to be occupied by a
foreign power, for any reason whatsoever, millions of freedom-embracing,
gun-loving Americans would be immediately radicalized into powerful opposition
to foreign armies, air forces, military police and security agents. This insurgency would fight occupiers from
the beginning, especially if our society was so poor and unstable that there
was a very high unemployment rate like there is in Afghanistan.
Think about it! Half the people of Afghanistan are under 20
years old. We will never win the hearts
and minds of such young people if we contribute to heightened ethnic conflicts
in their country, and to corrupt governance, widespread poverty, high levels of
unemployment, heavy civilian casualties, cultural oppression, and
violence. An arrogant attitude that
presupposes superior Western military and political power stokes resentment and
stimulates the motives for blowback retaliation. Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense
during the Vietnam War, insightfully noted in the film The Fog of War, that we do not have the God-given right to shape
every nation in our image, so we should not act as if we do!
We should find a fair and safe way to extricate our
country from what is essentially a civil struggle between warlords of the
Pashtun ethnic group and Tajiks and Uzbecs.
Our military presence in
Afghanistan is making problems worse, not better, by fueling the growth of
insurgent opposition, according to Matthew Hoh, a former Foreign Service
official in Afghanistan. When Hoh
resigned from his position in protest of our nation’s policies in late 2009, he
pointed out that it was foolish not to have had a more clearly focused mission.
We got into occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq in
a similar way that we got into the war in Vietnam. Many misconceptions and much simplistic
propaganda, and a number of outright distortions of the truth, were used to
sell these wars to the American people.
Our economic aggression and military presence in the Middle East were
probably the primary motivating causes of the blowback terrorism of the 9/11
attacks in the first place.
For one thing, we are principally fighting Afghani
insurgents, not al Qaeda, and our presence is exacerbating a more dangerous
instability in Pakistan. For another, we cannot free the Afghani people from
some monolithic ‘Taliban’ in what is a very complex cultural array of ethnic
sectarian forces that fight there.
Ronald Reagan called Afghani insurgents “freedom
fighters” in the 1980s when they were fighting the Russian occupation and its
puppet Afghan government. To regard them
now as ‘terrorists’ is not exactly accurate.
The central government we are supporting is barely legitimate, and it is
among the most corrupt in the world. It
seems like an odd conviction to believe it is feasible and a good idea to try
to train a large and costly Afghan army and police force that is adequate to
suppress warring civil factions. How can
we have expected to stabilize Afghanistan when our military presence itself
causes much of the insurgent opposition and many suicide bombings?
We should ‘Rethink Afghanistan’, and ‘Get
Afghanistan Right’! Civilian solutions
need to be found to the problems in the Middle East, rather than futilely
trying to force military solutions upon the people there. Endless wars and military occupations with
unclear missions are NOT necessary. We
have chosen them, and it is time to reconsider such strategies before they
bankrupt our nation financially, socially and morally.
We are supporting a corrupt central government in
Kabul, not a great experiment in democracy in Afghanistan. The Corruption Perceptions Index prepared
every year by Transparency International, a global civil society organization,
indicated that in 2010 the public sector in Afghanistan was tied with Myanmar
(Burma) as the second-most corrupt government in the world, out of 180
countries studied. Rampant bribery,
cronyism, fraud, and opium production exists there. The United States should put more pressure on
Afghan President Hamid Karzai to negotiate with moderate leaders of the
Taliban, whose fanatic fringe may be religious reactionaries
who favor the oppression of women, but they are more legitimate than occupying
American forces, who are ‘infidels’ that have replaced the Russians in a
continuing harsh military occupation of their country.
The U.S. should shift more of its
foreign aid to non-military assistance, and help the Afghani people to live
more secure lives. We should have
adopted a similar strategy at the end of ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ in Afghanistan
in 1988, rather than having abandoned war-ravaged Afghanistan to ruthless
Taliban warlords. The only way to
achieve enduring peace in Afghanistan is by helping create conditions in which
the Afghani people are somewhat more free from fear, insecurity and
desperation. We should recognize that
Western-style democracy and religious tolerance, and strong guarantees of
women’s rights, and the separation of church and state, are all anathema to
Afghan political and tribal culture, and that we will never be victorious in
imposing our cultural ways upon them.
The United States has spent more
than $1 trillion on the war in Afghanistan, and 95% of this cost has been for
military actions, not humanitarian assistance.
Imagine how much goodwill we could have bought for a fraction of that
amount of money! We could have helped
the Afghani people build hospitals, water systems, schools, libraries, bridges,
roads and other infrastructure.
Unfortunately, we seem to have an open checkbook for wars, but there is
strong opposition to more generous forms of foreign aid, just as there is
powerful opposition to fairer and more universal forms of healthcare at home.
Wars that have unclear missions and confused
purposes are foolish. The stated
intentions of our leaders are long on idealism, bravado and self-righteousness,
but are short on honest motivations, achievable missions and smart strategic
planning. The result is that our actions
tend to be counterproductive. Not only
do they foment insurgencies, but they also breed radical opposition, inflame
hatreds, increase the motives for global jihad, perpetuate endless conflicts,
counter-support terrorist tactics and undermine regional stability. These are highly negative outcomes, so it is
downright foolish to continue to pursue policies that have such adverse
‘Hard Power’ Versus ‘Soft Power’
History reveals that military overstretch has been a
significant factor in the decline and fall of many empires. Now is the time for the U.S. to choose more
humble, sane, fair, affordable and sustainable courses of action. We have backed ourselves into a corner of
distorted priorities and wrong-headed aggression and military overstretch, and
we are now seeing that arrogant ‘hard power’ is a poor substitute for smarter
and fairer principles of ‘soft power’.
We should endeavor to understand this distinction more clearly.
The power and prestige
of the U.S. in the world are diminished when our foreign policies are founded
on repulsive ‘hard power’ gambits like naked aggression, intimidation,
coercion, unilateral military actions, deception, heartless economic sanctions,
self-serving ideologies, ruthless covert operations, military occupations,
trigger-happy security forces, kicked-in doors, horrid prison conditions, harsh
interrogations, and extensive ‘collateral damage’ from air strikes. This is why injustice, brutality, torture,
hypocrisy, arrogance and triumphalism create insurgent opposition, and make us
more vulnerable. War should always be a last resort.
When we rely so heavily
on hard power policies, our influence is eventually eroded and our national
security interests are compromised.
Positive ‘soft power’ values are more attractive because they are
admirable, decent and just. Attributes
of ‘soft power’ include democratic fairness, adherence to rules of law, respect
for human rights, protections of individual liberties, good neighbor policies,
generous foreign aid, and policies that are multilateral and mutually
beneficial. Fair-mindedness and clear
legitimacy bolster our power because they enhance our standing and
prestige. Soft power policies are deeply
seductive to people because they are intrinsically moral, and thus encourage
cooperation. We would be wise to embrace
‘soft power’ options with greater enthusiasm, and we should develop better laws
to ensure that the forces of ruthless domination and amoral profiteering are
prevented from being so influential in determining our policies.
‘Soft power’ tends to encompass different modalities
of communication and negotiation than hawkish ‘hard power’. Soft power more readily embraces diplomacy,
mediation and compromise to meet the needs and achieve the goals of all
concerned. Even the neoconservative
Francis Fukuyama has pointed out that the U.S. is discovering it is necessary
to implement “a dramatic demilitarization of American foreign policy and a
re-emphasis on other types of policy instruments.” Please!!
The ‘war on terror’ is similar to the wide and
costly ‘war on drugs’. Both of these are
overly broad approaches based on narrow ideologies, and both of them address
symptoms instead of real causes. It is
often better to be ‘smart’ on crime rather than ‘hard’ on crime or ‘soft’ on
crime, and this lesson extends to our attitudes toward power.
We should be alert to the fact that centralized
governments throughout history have had a tendency to reinforce their power by
creating enemies and fomenting hatreds, thereby exploiting the fears and
nationalistic impulses of their citizens.
Iran’s ayatollahs, for instance, rail against the United States as ‘the
great Satan’, warning the Persian people about Western imperialism and
political interference. This use of an
external threat of American encroachment strengthens their control and ability
to repress their people.
Likewise, American leaders used similar tactics to
demonize communism during the Cold War, and now to make us fear terrorism and
Islamic peoples. Using such
manipulations, they divert our attention from domestic problems, injustices,
and workers’ grievances. Such courses of
action have the accompanying benefit for authoritarian rulers of helping stifle
dissent, suppress political opposition, and eliminate the voices of those who
oppose such ruthlessness.
It is high time that we begin to recognize the
injustices and dangers of such gambits, and to prioritize our national efforts
to create a fairer and more sustainable society. The time has come for us to forsake
preemptive wars. Let us commit to
conserve resources, prevent unnecessarily extensive environmental damages, and
mitigate the risks of trillions of dollars of costs and widespread biotic
calamities related to global warming and climate change.
Speak Truth to Power
“You measure a democracy
by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its
1960’s Political activist Abbie Hoffman
is speaking truth to power! Listen up
Ayatollahs, autocrats, authoritarians, “strict father” conservatives, tyrants,
religious reactionaries, and all political control freaks! People now recognize that self-anointed
emperors ‘have no clothes’. Their
power-mongering gambits are clear, and it is time to allow the great historical
trends toward national independence and truer democracies to progress. It is time to loosen the reins of intrusive
government, tighten the reins on amoral corporations and power usurping elites,
and act with greater fairness, humanitarian resolve, and ecological sanity.
is one of the highest values of human aspiration. In light of this fact, we should organize our
societies in ways that maximize intrinsic and ‘unalienable’ human rights and
civil liberties. These freedoms can be
assured only in the context of an adherence to Golden Rule ethics, in
which every individual agrees to abide by reasonable rules of law and a degree
of personal responsibility for the greater social good.
connection with this overarching individual responsibility, we should all
oppose efforts by our leaders to wage wars of aggression. After the terrible aggression of Germany and
Japan during World War II, the International
Military Tribunal at Nuremberg deemed such aggression to be “the supreme
international crime”. We have had too much self-serving bombastic
war-justifying propaganda, and we need to begin to understand that our national
security is bound up with the mutual security of people everywhere. Imperial ambitions and domineering militarism
is contrary to peaceable goals and truer mutual security!
human animals behave like many other mammals.
We use status displays and strategies of deceit, bluff, threat and
appeasement gestures in our sex and courtship activities and other social
interactions. We may deny the basic
zoological fact that we are animals, but it is a fundamental fact of biology.
Our motivation to avoid failure in Afghanistan is
similar to a psychological tendency in investing known as ‘loss aversion’. We do not want to admit losses and sunk
costs, so we effectively double down on bad bets. President Obama fell prey to such a strategy
with his costly escalation of the Afghan war.
But by continuing this military occupation, rather than having cut our
losses and negotiated a withdrawal and fairer conditions in Afghanistan, the
costs have multiplied.
An Aside from the Front
I was one of thousands of wanderlust-driven young
travelers who adventurously journeyed overland “across Asia on the cheap”
between Europe and Australia in the early 1970s. Most of these travelers followed a highlight
route that was described in the first Lonely Planet publication by Maureen and
Tony Wheeler, Across Asia on the Cheap. This homespun guide summarized places to see
and stay and eat in a dozen nations from Turkey to Indonesia. My travels took me to Afghanistan, where I
spent a month in November and December of 1973.
The Afghani people back then, before 30 years of
nearly continuous warfare, were largely honorable people living in an extremely
poor country. They struggled to survive
in this ruggedly mountainous and harshly arid nation where more than 2 million
of the 15 million people were nomads who migrated around the semi-desert with
tents, camels and herds of goats and sheep.
Throughout history, from time immemorial, marauding armies have
imperiously coursed across the rugged countryside of Afghanistan to cross over
the Khyber Pass seeking riches and glory in Europe or the Far East. Many invaders have come and gone, including
Arabs and Persians, and Mongols under Genghis Khan, and the British, and the
Russians. History shows that all
attempts to impose centralized control over the Afghani people have been
destined to failure. The attempt to
impose an authoritarian rule over such a disparate collection of ethnic peoples
is just too difficult to achieve.
In neighboring Iran, the U.S. conspired to help
overthrow the freely-elected government of Prime Minister Mohammed
Mossadegh in 1953, and to install the
Shah of Iran who ruled with an iron fist and a ruthless secret police -- the
notorious SAVAK. After 25 years of his
rule, the Shah was finally overthrown by religious ayatollahs in 1979.
Anyone caught using drugs in Iran was punished
severely when I traveled overland across the country in 1973. Young travelers would arrive in Afghanistan,
in dramatic contrast, and find an astonishingly more relaxed authority. Travelers would go into small restaurants for
dinner in towns in Afghanistan near the Iranian border, and the proprietor would
invariably be filling a primitive pipe known as a chillum with strong hashish
and passing it around to customers.
Dilapidated and obviously ill-paid Afghani army regulars would come in
to eat, and they would join in getting stoned as if it were as natural to share
in this activity as having a cup of coffee.
Any conceptions we Americans have about “you’re
either with us or against us” are far beyond the ken of these inadvertent
Afghani pawns in the conflict between capitalist-driven empire-protecting globalization
interests and their hubris-filled militaristic superpower enforcers, on the one
hand, and the tribal warlords, freedom-fighting insurgents and infidel-hating
religious extremists, on the other.
President Obama’s compromise solution to the dilemma
of what to do with the perplexing situation in Afghanistan and the critical
situation in neighboring Iran and Pakistan, where millions of Afghans have been
driven as war refugees, is an attempt to make the best of a bad situation. Regrettably, the efforts of Westerners to
impose their versions of stability and centralized control on a region with
such a fractured history are a costly and ultimately futile attempt at the
impossible. We will not be able to train
a strong cohesive Afghan army that will be able to control the intensely
independent tribal cultures of Afghanistan.
Because Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, it
cannot afford to support a large standing army, and high unemployment rates
will ensure instability in the region for years to come. We Americans will likely find that it is not
possible to coerce the Afghani people into some kind of peaceful coexistence in
light of the corrupt authority in Kabul.
More than 40 years have passed since I was in
Afghanistan, and that country has been involved in internecine warfare for most
of those years. Now the U.S., still deep
in the costly quagmire, is gambling that we can whip the Afghani army into a
well-trained fighting force to suppress the warlords and tribal factions, and
to defend the corrupt central government in a police-state-like establishment
of security. There is something rather
insane about this gamble!
thinking, when I was a young woman, how bizarre it would have been to be born
in “Red China”, where all the people were brainwashed by government propaganda
into believing that communism was a good thing, and that strict conformity was
a necessity. Such conceptions turn out
to have been extremely simplistic, and they ignored the extent to which people in
all nations are subtly indoctrinated with solipsistic worldviews and
self-righteously nationalistic beliefs and feelings of ethnocentric
supremacy. Nations that have a free
press have a somewhat greater degree of objectivity about their own national self-image,
but all peoples have their own acculturated biases and it is ridiculous to
fervently believe in narrowly provincial attitudes and convictions of either
the ideological elites or the less educated masses.
McNamara pointed out in the film The Fog
of War that misunderstanding our enemies, as we did in Vietnam, is
dangerous. He says that we must be able
to ‘empathize’ enough with our enemies to see their point view. Only by doing this can we formulate the most
sensible and successful foreign policies.
Today in the Middle East, Muslims despise us NOT for our freedoms,
democracy, open culture and empowerment of women, they hate us because of our
militaristic and imperialistic economic actions in their nations. This truth was consistently communicated to
us by Osama bin Laden and other extremists who oppose our aggression and
humiliating policies. Islamic people’s
primary opposition has been to our heavy-handed military occupations and our
harsh economic sanctions in the Middle East, and our interference in their
In a videotape
from the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks that was sent within a month after the
airplane 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.
It was people in the Bush administration who fostered this deceptive story
to get the American people to support wars of aggression in Afghanistan and
Again I urge Americans to be more honest with
themselves when deliberating about the proper geopolitical and humanitarian
strategies of our foreign policies.
Let’s admit that our true comprehension of the tragic travails of the
Afghani people, beyond the shallow sound-bite mentality of our national debate,
is quite limited.
“Our swollen budgets constantly have been
misrepresented to the public. Our
government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear -- kept us in a continuous
stampede of patriotic fervor -- with the cry of grave national emergency.”
--- General Douglas MacArthur, 1957
Approaches to War and Peace
Gandhi was the leader of India during its movement for independence from
British colonial rule. Gandhi was a
champion of social justice and resistance to tyranny through non-violent means
and mass civil disobedience. He inspired
other great leaders like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.
ideals are a dramatic contrast to those of terrorists like Osama bin Laden and
al Qaeda. Instead of peace, Islamic
opposition to Western military and economic hegemony over Arab nations uses
terrorist tactics like suicide bombings and attacks on innocent civilians that
stoke sectarian conflicts. Osama bin
Laden was an adherent to a strict version of the Sunni sect of Islam that
advocates austere puritanism, Arab nationalism and Islamic supremacy. Bin Laden, like all right-wing extremists,
embraced winning at any cost as the highest value, and thus he justified his
terrible guerilla warfare tactics that have harmed international peace so much
by provoking preemptive wars.
Dalai Lama is one of the most admirable spiritual leaders in the world. Seeing his native country of Tibet militarily
occupied and colonized by the Chinese, he fled Tibet in 1959. Since then the Chinese have harshly assaulted
Buddhists and their culture in Tibet, destroying thousands of monasteries,
killing many Tibetans, and driving hundreds of thousands of others into exile
in Nepal, India and other countries.
Today, the Dalai Lama supports the idea of a ‘Middle Way Approach’ to
peacefully resolving the issues related to China’s occupation of Tibet. Rather than demanding independence, which the
authoritarian rulers of China viciously oppose, those who embrace this moderate
approach pragmatically seek autonomy for Tibetans and the protection and
preservation of Tibetan culture, religion and national identity.
Another eminently honorable man was Sergio Vieira
de Mello, a charismatic Brazilian diplomat who worked for the United Nations
for more than 34 years. His
peace-promoting efforts included humanitarian stints in many countries around
the world. He was the United Nations
Transitional Administrator in East Timor from December 1999 to May 2002. During that time, he guided this former
Portuguese colony to independence from Indonesia. (East Timor had been a colony of Portugal for
centuries, and Indonesia occupied East Timor after it became independent from
Portugal in 1975.) In May 2003, Sergio
became the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Iraq to help
the Iraqi people after the U.S. invasion.
Several months later Sergio was killed by a suicide truck bomber who
targeted him presumably because of the assistance he had given East Timor in
its efforts to gain independence from Indonesia. The mastermind behind the attack was the
Iraq-based al-Qaeda terrorist Abu Mussab al-Zarkawi, who objected to East
Timor’s independence from Indonesia because Indonesia is the nation with the
biggest Muslim population in the world.
I highly recommend the compelling independent film
Sergio for greater insights into his
Why is There War?
Many motives drive a nation to war, as evaluated at
length in Reflections on War. In our American democracy, our leaders
provide us with rationalizations for war that are generally disingenuous spin
and propaganda rather than honest reasons underlying the real motives for
war. They do this to get popular support
for military activities. War throughout
history has been waged for a complex array of reasons that include drives for
power, control, competitive advantage, economic ascendancy, nationalistic pride
and ideological supremacy. The
underlying struggle is often about acquiring or defending territory, or getting
access to minerals like oil or other natural resources, or obtaining cheap
labor, or penetrating foreign markets.
Modern wars are also fought so that bankers and the defense industry and
war suppliers can have better opportunities to make bigger profits.
Violence has the undesirable tendency to beget
violence, and extremism to beget extremism.
Injustices wreaked on others beget injustices in reaction. Empire building, aggression and militarism
create enemies, and the existence of enemies strengthens authoritarian factions
that insist on ruthless responses to those who oppose them. By allowing our leaders to pursue harshly
supremacist gambits, the American people have effectively become more
vulnerable to terrorist antagonism, blowback retaliation, military overstretch
and fiscal ruin.
Recognizing these facts, we should be able to pursue more
enlightened policies. Political
realities may make it difficult for our leaders to actually be honest with the
people, but we must somehow make sure that diplomacy, peace and truer justice
have higher priorities. The powerful
need for politicians to act tough on the world stage is largely created by the
hawkish right-wing crowd, which so vociferously demands that America act in
domineering ways. Despite these
rancorous Strict Father voices, we must find ways to ensure a truer form of
national security, and better methods for succeeding economically that do not
involve military occupations of other countries. We should work with dedicated resolve to
ensure that our security and liberty
prosper together, and that the profit motive of the ‘military-industrial
complex’ does not have such an extensive and overweening influence in our
foreign policy decisions.
President James Madison once observed that
it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is often attributable
to provisions we make against danger, real or pretended, from abroad. We Americans treasure our freedoms, so we
cannot allow them to be trampled by vested interests that use our fears to
curtail our civil liberties.
Author John Steinbeck’s Perspective on War
When John Steinbeck was writing The Log from the Sea of Cortez in 1940 and 1941, he made the
following observation that strikes me as so stunning that it bears repeating:
“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.”
Today, the United States
has been hijacked by those who believe in an ideology that says we must spend
enormous amounts of money on the military to make us safe. It seems likely to me that this is a
misguided notion, as discussed throughout the Earth Manifesto. It would be much wiser and more practical to
support initiatives to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence, and to
give higher priority to international peacebuilding, social justice, the
well-being of American families, and environmental protections.
Let’s courageously demonstrate the wisdom,
diplomacy and collective discipline of striving to achieve peace, and let’s
forego the weak-willed expediency of using warfare and aggression to try to
achieve distorted national goals. Macho
impulses get boys and men into fistfights, and they tend to drive statistical
tendencies for males to commit the vast majority of violent crimes. It is not surprising, then, that in societies
where men’s authority is balanced out by a fair participation of women in
politics, there is a greater likelihood that problems will be solved without
resorting to violence and war. This
leads to an inescapable conclusion that our societies would be well advised to
pursue policies that are more enlightened and fair by giving women more power,
influence and prerogatives.
The Red Herring of “Weakness” by the Most Powerful Nation in
is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich.”
Sir Peter Ustinov
A deep gulf divides us from those we regard as enemies on the
international stage. Reactionary minds
refuse to admit that we create enemies when we indulge in anti-Golden-Rule
injustices of treating others shabbily.
The rude, arrogant, ruthlessly domineering, imperialistic and
humiliating way we treat people creates enemies. The “conservative” contention that “appearing
weak” is the biggest risk on the international stage is a costly deception.
Fear-mongering ideological stalwarts like Dick Cheney constantly warned
Americans that we must project relentless military power in order not to appear
weak. This belief, however, seems to be
diametrically opposite of the actual situation.
It is our hard-nosed, hubris-filled projection of power that engenders
insurgent opposition and blowback attacks. In the long run, our safety can best
be found in just actions, diplomacy, compromise, cooperative problem-solving,
broad multinational coalitions, and a sensible degree of empathetic respect for
the national interests, cultures and religious faiths of others.
Ethnocentricity is a natural tendency to regard
one’s own culture as superior, and more desirable, moral and worthy, and to
regard the culture of other peoples as inferior, immoral, unworthy and even
ridiculous. This is especially true of attitudes in religious
matters. Believers tend to regard their own religion as the only true,
revealed and moral faith, while all others are regarded as deluded, false and
heretical. The dangers in such attitudes are immediately apparent to
The world is becoming figuratively smaller, and the
competition for resources and dominance is heating up. This makes one thing perfectly clear: the costs of remaining parochial, ethnocentric,
ruthlessly nationalistic, and overly aggressive are unacceptable. Safety and peace can only be found in a
reasonable modicum of mutual security, NOT in our complete domination of
others and their coerced acquiescence to our economic and military supremacy.
One of the Achilles heels of our American empire
is our dependence on oil imported from corrupt nations dominated by religious
theocracies and authoritarian governments.
In order to preserve the status quo of our addiction, our government
meddles in the affairs of these reactionary countries by propping up harsh
regimes in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, and we make an ally of the
distinctly despotic rulers of Saudi Arabia.
We also effectively strengthen ‘enemies’ in Iran with our aggression in
the Middle East. Our costly hard-nosed
military occupations have arguably made us less safe.
We should instead be investing in cleaner energy
alternatives and leading the world to a fairer, more peaceful, more sustainable
and more ecologically sound future. We
should change the status quo by constraining the influence of corporate
lobbyists, and by ending subsidies to Big Oil.
We should also alter the rules of our laissez-faire casino capitalist
system to keep it from exporting economic instability to the rest of the world
when manufactured financial crises occur.
Here in the U.S. we have one of the most
remarkable Constitutionally-governed, rule-of-law oriented governments in the
history of civilization, and yet we are allowing vested interests to hijack it
and give unchecked power to multinational corporations. We are letting our politics be dominated by
motives for amoral profiteering and the overriding greed of wealthy
people. We are moving beyond the
‘Tragedy of the Commons’ phenomenon in terms of exploited resources,
externalized damages, and privatized profits and socialized costs, and we are
moving into the province of a global Tragedy of a Devastated Home Planet. We are doing this by fomenting unnecessary conflicts
and failing to check the rapid increase in the number of people alive. Our habitat-damaging and polluting activities
are causing deteriorating environmental conditions and an associated diminished
diversity of life forms on Earth.
Insights into Capitalism and War and
Let’s be honest and clear. Let’s recognize the difference between
honorable and sensible principles, on the one hand, and expediencies and
shortsightedness on the other. Our
corporate-dominated capitalist system seeks arenas in which to make profits
because profits are the primary raison
d’etre of our economic activities.
Profit-making, in fact, is one of the two primary purposes of corporate
entities. The other purpose is to shield
owners and shareholders from liability.
Neither of these purposes is generally consistent with ethics or the
common good. War games and aggression
for the control of resources, markets and profit-making are poor and unjust
means to achieve economic success.
Capitalism has a regressive
influence on human societies because it gives overweening power to rich people
and giant corporations. This power
enables 2% of the people in the world to own 50% of the wealth. Such an unjust distribution of wealth guarantees
narrowly-focused decision-making and ever-more intense strife.
country is now geared to an arms economy bred in an artificially induced
psychosis of war
hysteria and an incessant propaganda of
--- General Douglas MacArthur
At this juncture in human history,
the need is greater than ever before for bold cooperation to solve global
economic and social problems and unprecedented environmental challenges. But we
are unfortunately still stuck in our testosterone-driven paradigms of dominion
and hubristic supremacy. We should deal
with the wide range of problems facing us with a sense of proper
priorities. And we should stop focusing
on wrong-headed priorities and acting in ways that make Islamic peoples less
secure, or that threaten or humiliate them by stationing our military in and
around their countries.
The American people hope for more
sensible foreign policies, and also for more progressive domestic
policies. They want the economy to be
improved, and more jobs to be created, and the extremes of neo-Gilded Age
inequalities to be reduced. They want to
see a reduction in the rapid inflation of medical costs and the inequities in
healthcare. They want the decline in the
fortunes of the middle class and poor people to be reversed. They want a new energy regime to be created
that is less wasteful and less polluting.
They want lower taxes for the majority of people. They want less borrowing by the federal
government and less profligate government spending. They want our environmental and social
policies to be fairer and more farsighted.
They want the corrosive effects of extreme political partisanship to be
moderated by cooperative problem-solving.
And they want our economic and political system to be less dominated by
big banks, corporations, greedy CEOs, Wall Street insiders and wealthy people.
Instead of ensuring that our economic and
political policies are determined by democratic fair representation, we have
allowed them to be controlled by the military-industrial complex, right-wing
ideologues, tough love reactionaries, bullying Neoconservatives, economic
‘shock doctrine’ capitalists, and hyper-inegalitarian forces. And we are allowing highly regressive tax
policies to remain in effect that are contributing to a widening of the
dangerously large disparity in income, wealth and personal security between a
tiny minority of rich people and the growing woes of the struggling majority of
the poor and the declining middle class.
Our national priorities have
become distorted completely out of proportion to what they should be in a
representative democracy. Our Founders
pointed the way in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution
and the Bill of Rights: our society should be primarily concerned with
establishing justice, promoting the general welfare, protecting against
despotism and abuses of power, guaranteeing freedoms and civil liberties to
people today and in posterity, creating equality of opportunity for people in
their pursuit of happiness, and ensuring national security and peaceful
Our government and rules of law
were theoretically designed so that our representatives would honor the voice
of the people. Instead, however, large
corporations and wealthy people have managed to usurp power and dominate our
governmental decision-making. The proof
of this is widespread, particularly in our tax policies and the highly unequal
distribution of national income and assets.
Two percent of Americans own nearly half of all financial wealth in the
U.S., and they annually earn about 60% of all capital income, which is taxed at
low capital gains rates. Higher rates of
taxes on earnings above $250,000 per year, and on inheritances worth more than
$5 million, and on large capital gains, should be instituted that would assess
more taxes on only 2% of Americans, and yet the other 98% of people are unable
to get their representatives to enact such a system, even though it would
providentially help everyone by raising enough money to deal more effectively
with our mounting social and environmental problems. More progressive financing would prevent the
growing obscenity of our myopic debt-addicted and deficit-spending ways, and
slow down the rate at which we are mortgaging the future. It is time now to return to our ideals, and
make our nation fairer and more responsive to the common good.
capitalism preaches ideological righteousness that in effect rationalizes
abandoning the majority of people in favor of the few. It is a sink-or-swim system in which tiny
life vests are figuratively thrown to the middle class and the poor,
begrudgingly, while the rich speed recklessly in supercharged torpedo boats
through the public waters that are vital to the safety of all.
A Proposal for the Common Good
again I think of the observation made in David Kaplan’s humorous film, Today’s Special:
“Despair is the solace of fools.”
I believe in Chipper positivity, and in striving
to make the best of whatever circumstances come our way. But no matter
how sunny one’s outlook, and no matter how fortunate one’s circumstances, we do
live in somewhat desperate societies, with hunger, unemployment, medical
adversities, homelessness, crime, resource shortages, many mental health
problems, extreme injustices and growing numbers of people. As a result,
anxieties and conflicts are increasing globally. Because of the fact that
our societies are so severely afflicted and so greatly in need of effective
problem-solving, we should require those people who can afford to help finance
the remedies to these challenges to give more money to accomplish the needed
Financially-fortunate people should recognize the
truth of this characterization, and they should also understand the fickle
nature of good fortune. In doing so, they should cheerfully accept their
social responsibility during times that they are prosperous, and agree to
shoulder the light burden of paying higher rates of taxes on higher levels of
earnings and capital gains.
When rich people succeed in shifting more of the
burden of taxation from what it has been to all other people, like to workers
and the middle class and future generations, as George W. Bush did with his
enormous debt-financed tax breaks for the rich, this is called a regressive
change in taxation. It is folly to allow our leaders to use shortsighted
expediencies of deficit financing to conceal such fiscally irresponsible
intergenerational transfers of wealth.
Let Us Now Begin to Sensibly
Remake Our Nation!
Barack Obama was elected to effect
“Change we can believe in.” The American
people hoped for a new era in economics and politics, an era in which the
common good would have higher priority.
They wanted narrow vested interests to be forced to yield to popular
pressure to make our country truly fairer and more just and more secure. When Barack Obama won his first historic
election, he promised in his victory speech, “I will always be
honest with you about the challenges we face.
I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the
work of remaking this nation.”
Surely, now is the time to boldly and seriously work to remake
our nation. We should stop militarily
occupying other nations, and bring home more of our young people from military
assignments abroad. We need to be more
honest in our attempts to actually shift the emphasis of our foreign policies
to less militaristic, less imperialistic and more humble ones, and to build
peace and ensure the safety and well-being of Americans at home and abroad.
And we need to be more aware of the legacy we are leaving to
future generations. We are already using
up limited resources at nearly the fastest possible rate, and we are depleting
topsoil, causing waterways to be polluted and forests to be chopped down, and
even altering the gaseous composition of the atmosphere. We are damaging wildlife habitats, wetlands
and coral reefs, thereby diminishing biological diversity. We are accelerating the harm we are wreaking
on our descendants’ prospects by refusing to limit rapid population growth
through generous family planning programs.
And we are hyper-stimulating the consumption of resources by indulging
in unprecedented levels of deficit spending.
The Golden Rule is a common sense ethic of reciprocity that
guides us to treat others fairly, as we would like to be treated
ourselves. Ecological sanity is like a
Golden Rule attitude applied to our descendants in future generations. When we see our actions from the point of
view of others, we are more likely to act ethically, fairly and sensibly. It is not hard to imagine that people in the
future will want fresh water, clean air, some resources that have not been
severely depleted, a stable climate, and peaceful relationships with neighbors
and other countries.
While Barack Obama inspired great hope in millions of people
with his campaign rhetoric in 2008, the intense and optimistic political
courtship was followed, as usual once the electoral deal has been sealed, by a
marriage of governing that involves difficult compromises. High expectations crashed against the
Procrustean bed of political realities, and political opposition by the radical
Right has torpedoed civility in debate and subverted the principles vital to the
current and future well-being of the majority of Americans, and of our heirs.
When I was a freshman college student in 1967, many folks
believed in the desirability of the great peace slogan of the Sixties: Power
to the People! This was not just a
slogan, but a clear articulation of one of the deepest ideals embraced in the
Constitution by our Founders. If we
truly want to dedicate ourselves to the struggle to ensure that “government of
the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” as
Abraham Lincoln declared in his Gettysburg Address, we need to find ways to
limit the power that rich people and the military-industrial complex and other
giant corporations have in influencing our national policies for narrow
We have fallen into the trap of superpower imperialism and
world domination gambits, even though this course of action violates the
principles set forth by our Founders.
Remember that our Founding Fathers staunchly believed in avoiding
foreign entanglements. Similarly
aggressive gambits by Adolf Hitler ended very badly, and the effects of Russian
aggression in Afghanistan were catastrophic for the Soviet empire in the 1980s.
The shocking 9/11 attacks on the
United States generated worldwide empathy and sympathy for Americans. But George W. Bush and his Neoconservative
advisors used the attacks as a pretext to launch a broad and apparently endless
“war on terror”. They used the fears of
Americans to implement both a rash international agenda and a retrogressive
domestic agenda. The image of George W.
Bush strutting around like a cocky bantam rooster, acting with a reckless,
preachy and trigger-happy cowboy mentality, did great harm to our reputation
around the globe.
As a candidate, George W. Bush had
said he was “a uniter, not a divider”.
He told Americans he believed in a humble foreign policy, not in “nation
building” and foreign interventions. He
sure turned out to be a different character once he got into office, to the
detriment of almost everyone. He got us
into unnecessary and poorly planned wars, acted with hubris, promoted economic
inequalities, spent taxpayer funds profligately and borrowed enormous sums of
money for war and for tax breaks for the wealthy. He was dishonest, and he hyped up people’s
fears, indulged in hyper-partisanship, and pursued bubble economics policies,
bank deregulation, budgetary accounting gimmicks, corporate privileges, and
shortsighted anti-environmentalism. His
religious fundamentalism also had a divisive impact, not a uniting one.
Bush administration officials used
an evolving variety of rationalizations for the war in Iraq. They misled the American people about their
motives, denied facts, provided serious misinformation, and used scare tactics,
secrecy and outright lies, just as the Pentagon Papers revealed the government
had done to escalate the war in Vietnam.
O treachery, for spacious lies … above the fruited plain!
It should be clearly understandable
to us that most people in other nations are made justifiably angry when the
U.S. intervenes militarily in their sovereign internal affairs. I just keep thinking how much better it would
be to make genuine friends on the international stage rather than to humiliate
people. Let’s honestly treat others with
greater respect and dignity.
Instead of a wide war against the
Moslem world and a slap in the face to the sovereignty of nations in the Middle
East, the United States should have adopted a saner strategy against terrorism
after 9/11. We should have targeted the criminals
who planned the 9/11 attacks. Our
poorly-focused approach in Afghanistan and Iraq has had unintended consequences
that are highly negative. Thousands of
American troops have died, tens of thousands have been injured, and many
collateral injustices have taken place.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani civilians have been killed
and millions have been displaced. The
costs of our military actions have been enormous in terms of taxpayer’s money
and mounting debt, and this makes it much more difficult to deal effectively
and fairly with our own serious domestic problems.
If we were more honest with
ourselves, we would have a military draft, so that all citizens would be
subject to the dangers of our military adventurism. We would also require pay-as-you-go policies
for war spending, so that everyone would be required to contribute to the costs
incurred by our military decisions. Then
the national debate about our wars would shift to become decidedly more
comprehensive! Powerful new forces would
influence our decision making, and the overriding ability of rich people and
large corporations to set foreign policies would be offset, under the influence
of such a more accountable new regimen.
And concerns about the actual more widely distributed risks and costs
would gain sway.
We are now in a similar position to
where we were in the Vietnam War in 1967.
We are seeing that foreign policy failures have led to a risky and
costly quagmire. We are trying to figure
out how to ‘save face’ and get out of occupied countries before our involvement
destroys our nation and destabilizes the Middle East even further. A radicalized Pakistan poses a greater risk
to us than even Iran does, because it is already nuclear-armed, and our
aggressive sovereignty-violating drone missile attacks on Pakistani people are
causing growing unrest and instability there.
This provides powerful counter-support to jihad forces that oppose our
actions, so it is an extremely dangerous course of action.
An Aside from the Rear
occasionally observe that those who defensively accuse others of something may
in fact be more guilty of the charge than those they accuse. In May 2009, former Vice President Dick
Cheney said that the position President Obama has taken on ‘enhanced interrogation’
is “recklessness clothed in righteousness”.
He was saying, essentially, that unless the United States acts
ruthlessly, terrorists will attack us again.
He apparently staunchly believes in this hard-nosed contention, although
his extensive economic conflicts of interest tended to discredit the sincerity
of his convictions.
people feel that arrogant ruthlessness is one of the primary causes of
terrorist tactics in reaction. A large
contingent of Americans is deeply skeptical of points of view like Dick
Cheney’s, and many people see that the extremely high price we are paying to
enforce his militant worldview is causing many more hardships to Americans at
home than any foreign army or terrorists ever have.
charge makes me think about his recklessly aggressive role in encouraging
George W. Bush to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq. Since this has cost the U.S. well over a
TRILLION DOLLARS and the lives of so many American soldiers and contractors, we
should closely evaluate the merits of this aggressive stance. Dick Cheney also played a significant role in
authorizing torture-like interrogation practices and a defining role in the
creation of harsh prisons at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram. These tactics and prisons have galvanized the
recruiting efforts of terrorist organizations in reaction to Western
injustices. It seems to me that Dick
Cheney is generally responsible for having helped make the Middle East less
stable and more dangerous.
the Bush administration, I wrote these words:
“Please stop crying
wolf, Mr. Cheney! The consequences of
crying wolf in the old fable were eventually disastrous. Likewise, the consequences of the ruthlessly
arrogant and naked state-terrorism aggression of the Bush administration are
proving to be colossally costly. By
goading Islamic extremists, you have helped make our nation more feared and
hated, and you have simultaneously contributed to an increase in the power of
the military-industrial complex and a heightening of the impetus toward
national bankruptcy through the debt-financing of our U.S. military
interventions. These actions are myopic
and foolish in a world where peaceful coexistence should be accorded a much
higher value. It is time now to give
much less influence to the interests of Big Oil and the profitability of arms
manufacturers and war services industries.
In your perverse world,
Dick, it may seem obvious to you that your strategies are win/win/win ones,
with heightened fear leading to strengthened control and easier domination and
more aggressive repression of the populace, AND greater profits for certain
giant corporations. But it is apparent
to me that your strategies are lose/lose ones.
You’ve succeeded in painting a little target on every American that says
<Deserves Vengeance>, and then you’ve bombed the hell out of any
religious fanatics or resistance fighters that oppose our military. This is reminiscent of the German Army in
Greece during World War II. The Germans
would round up 50 innocent civilians and slaughter them for every German soldier
killed by resistance fighters. But this
ruthless tactic did not make Hitler right, or successful, and it did not make
the German people safer.
In an alternative world
where YOU were the one that would be waterboarded, Herr Cheney, your
confessions of the full details of your involvement in what the Nuremberg Principles enunciated as the
“supreme international crime” – the waging of a war of aggression – would be
exposed, and you would be locked up forever, or worse. Instead, you still all too often have the
pulpit of the media to defend your crimes, and to set up an “I told you so”
prediction for when the next terrorist attack comes, for which you have so
strongly provoked the motivations.”
True Power to the People
When Winston Churchill once observed that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except
for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time,” he had a
Democracy is unruly. Yet the great principles of
fairness of representation, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech and
religion, protections against tyranny, fair legal treatment for all, and the
championing of the general welfare are marvelous achievements of
self-governance in human history.
Democracy relies on a well-informed public. In The
Wisdom of Crowds, an intriguing book by James Surowiecki, the author
adduces many instances in which large groups of people prove to be smarter than
an elite few, no matter how brilliant.
Crowds are often better at solving problems, at fostering innovation, at
coming to wise decisions, and in making predictions. This is especially true when there is a
diversity of opinions and people think freely and independently. The media has a great journalistic
responsibility in this regard. Media
outlets should not act as mere mouthpieces or cheerleaders for vested interests
or conventional thinking or military aggression.
In contrast to The
Wisdom of Crowds, Charles Pierce has written a book titled Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue
in the Land of the Free. In this
book, Pierce makes incisive observations about how ideology, groupthink, vested
interest spin, corporate power, popular delusions, anti-intellectualism, and
doctrinaire tendencies toward denial of scientific understandings all threaten
to destroy the democratic fabric of our country. Are we a nation of sheep?
The Founders of our democracy
embraced the highest ideals of human aspirations, and their efforts have been
followed, in the 224 years since the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were
ratified, by a hard-fought progressive evolution of laws in which much has been
achieved in providing civil rights and the right of women to vote, and social
security and fairness doctrines and labor laws and collective bargaining, and
protections of the environment. We
should continue to support progressive goals, and make sure that our aggregate
activities are sustainable and fair-minded!
It is a grave irony of our
post-Cold-War era that in the name of national security we let our government
act in ways that make all American citizens less safe. Our policies have not only made us more
vulnerable to terrorist targeting and blowback retaliation, but also to even
more serious challenges caused by associated military overstretch, fiscal ruin,
ecological calamity, intensifying domestic discord, high unemployment, and
inadequate resources devoted to healthcare and other worsening social
adversities and inequities at home.
It is estimated that 45,000 people
die in the United States each year because they lack medical insurance, and yet
we have still been unable to reform our healthcare system for many
decades. Now that the system has gotten
so costly and unfair, and the premiums so high, why are we still unable to
eliminate health insurance monopolies in so many states? Terrorists will probably never kill 45,000
people in any one year, and yet we refuse to spend more on healthcare while we
act as if there are no limits on how much we can spend on military occupations
of other nations and wars. It is quite
astonishing that every piece of legislation passed by Congress contains so much
of what is essentially corporate welfare, like the boondoggles of the Medicare
Prescription Drug Act of 2003, while at the same time many of the laws enacted
do little to actually help the majority of people.
My personal hero, Mark Twain, had the remarkable ability to
populate his novels, short stories and public lectures with the truest of
fictional characters. He would throw in
enough tall tales and wild exaggerations in his deadpan story-telling to
uproariously entertain his readers and listeners at the same time that he
provocatively enlightened. The spin that
our leaders lay on us is almost as creative, in a corporatist bureaucratic kind
of way, but it is far less humorous – and drastically less salubrious!
In consideration of all these ideas, Americans should urge
President Obama to take the long view
of history, and to find ways to strengthen peace in the world. Let’s begin to close many of our military
bases abroad, and bring home more of the troops stationed in foreign
countries. Let’s strive harder to get
everyone with a stake in a stable Middle East to cooperate together to achieve
peaceful coexistence. Let’s make our
nation a truer example of integrity and sanity to others in the world by making
our nation fairer and more sustainable.
And let’s actually choose to pay
forward some good deeds to future generations!
Thanks for your consideration of these ideas.
Tiffany B. Twain
Many other ideas are contained in the revolutionarily
comprehensive understandings to be found in the Earth Manifesto. Check them out! See Common
Sense Revival or Part Four online for highly specific recommendations on
how we could and should be making our nation and the world a fairer and safer
Pliny the Elder was a Roman
writer and natural philosopher (AD 23 – AD 79), as well as a naval and army
commander of the early Roman empire, and a personal friend of the emperor
Vespasian. He died while attempting to
rescue a friend and his family by ship from the violent eruption of Mt.
Vesuvius on August 25, 79 CE. “Fortune
favors the brave,” he declared as he approached the unfolding disaster on the
Italian coast in a Roman fleet of galleys, where fortune dealt him a cruel blow
and he died of asphyxiation or a stroke or heart attack.
Pliny the Younger sent memorable words about his uncle to the historian
“For my part
I deem those blessed to whom, by favor of the gods, it has been granted either
to do what is worth writing of, or to write what is worth reading; above
measure blessed those on whom both gifts have been conferred. In the latter number will be my uncle, by
virtue of his own and of your compositions.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------“ROADKILL:” When the U.S. government spends money on
wildlife, we usually think its purpose is to protect it. But there is also an agency tasked with killing
wild animals — and last year it took out nearly three million of them.
Services, which operates under the US Department of Agriculture's Animal and
Plant Health Inspection Service, is given the responsibility of responding to
conflicts between humans and wildlife and to manage invasive populations. But critics say the agency's methods are
crude and not in line with the latest conservation science.
approach of just getting rid of the perceived problem by killing it is
something that this agency has been doing for well over 100 years,"
Bradley Bergstrom, a biologist at Valdosta State University, told VICE News.
Wildlife Services killed more than 2.7 million animals, 1.3 million of which
were native, noninvasive species. They included
570 black bears, 322 gray wolves, 61,702 coyotes, 2,930 foxes, 305 mountain
lions and 22,416 beavers. It
has also breached many beaver dams by hand and by using powerful
explosives. The agency also killed three bald eagles and five
golden eagles using methods like cyanide capsules, neck snares, and foot
traps. Accidental kills are a frequent
byproduct of the agency's methods. Of
the 454 river otters killed, for example, 390 were unintentional.
demands of ranchers and other interest groups, the Department of Agriculture
allows thousands of wolves, birds, foxes, beavers and other animals to be
poisoned, trapped and shot, without taking a "hard look" at the
methods are used as part of an integrated approach to manage wildlife damage in
specific areas where nonlethal methods alone would be ineffective,"
Lyndsay Cole, assistant director of public affairs for APHIS, told VICE News.
numbers are down from last year, when the agency killed 4.3 million wild
animals. Wow -- that’s progress?
Many of the
wolves and coyotes are killed to protect agricultural livestock, Atwood
said. According to USDA data, Wildlife
Services reported 37,011 incidences of agricultural losses -- which includes
everything from asparagus to alpacas -- in 2014. But culling predators may not be an effective
way of preventing those losses. A 2014
study examining livestock data from 1897 through 2012 found that lethal force
against wolves actually increased the odds of a wolf attack on sheep by 4
percent and cattle by 5 to 6 percent.
That's likely because killing wolves causes the pack structure to
collapse, which leads to solitary wolves looking for food beyond their usual
Services once again wasted taxpayer dollars killing nearly three million
animals last year," Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio, a Democrat, told
VICE News. "Their lethal predator
control program is particularly inhumane and totally unnecessary."
In 2012, DeFazio
called for a congressional investigation of Wildlife Services, alleging the
agency is obstinate, opaque, and a questionable use of public funds. In 2014, the USDA's inspector general
initiated an internal review of Wildlife Services. The result of that review is still pending.
practices also seem to clash with the millions of tax dollars spent on
ecological conservation. According to a
study Bergstrom published in 2013, Wildlife Services is budgeted $57 million,
while the Department of Interior has spent $43 million on efforts to protect
the gray wolf. Wildlife Services has
killed more than 1,500 gray wolves since 1996.
"Some of these are
incredibly important species, imperiled species," Atwood told VICE
News. "We have millions of dollars
in active policies to recover them. It's
a completely schizophrenic policy."