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                                             Reflections on War – and Peace!   

                                                                     An Earth Manifesto publication by Dr. Tiffany B. Twain

Thank you to all U.S. military personnel and veterans for your service to our country in the cause of freedom!  Sorry that our leaders have gotten carried away so frequently in the past 50 years and sent you into harms way without adequate justification.  Overly aggressive wars that cause our military people to be deployed for not wholly necessary reasons are wrong-headed.  This is especially true when the motives of our leaders who have sent them into harm’s way are deeply suspect.  The extremely high costs of maintaining a bloated military establishment threatens our freedom and makes our nation less safe and more vulnerable to economic, financial, social and environmental disasters.  When we indulge in the shortsighted expediency of debt financing of these huge military obligations, it makes this situation worse.  From this point of view, international aggression can be seen to be a dang-fool course of action!


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 Truer 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 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


My aspiration in writing this manuscript has been to create a modern-day version of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, an influential pamphlet that challenged the rule 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.”




1.  Defense versus Offense

The award-winning film producer Ken Burns created an insightful seven-part series about World War II.  The first part was called The Necessary War.  The Second World War had been 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, so it is understandable that Americans regarded that war as “a necessary war”.  Yet it is easy to imagine that it was NOT a necessary war from the standpoint of the aggressors. 

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

General Douglas MacArthur once 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 perspective!

In national security matters, it’s good to have a strong defense.  An overly aggressive offense, on the other hand, may be regarded not only as the supreme international crime, and also as a reckless strategy that tends to make everyone less safe.  It creates heightened risks of expanded violence, instability, military overstretch, and blowback retaliation.  Wars also generally have unintended economic repercussions by misallocating resources and creating large public debts.  This constricts a nation’s options for financing other vital domestic priorities. 

Political authorities often use wars to distract citizens from domestic woes, discredit people who advocate peace, and to suppress dissenters.  These are socially undesirable outcomes, and definitely contrary to our great national ideals.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2011 succinctly stated:  “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately out it.”  Mark Twain would likely have made the droll observation that, with so many “conservative” politicians and pundits having expressed the conviction that we should attack Iran to decapitate its potential nuclear capability, the line was getting curiously long at the psychiatrist’s office!

It is becoming obvious that many of our national priorities are distinctly misguided.  We should devote more of our resources to domestic priorities and to improving people’s lives rather than to spending huge sums of money on wars and bombing campaigns and war preparations and military occupations.  And it is a pathetic travesty for neoconservative ideologues to pretend that long-term military occupations are a form of liberation. 

Every future decision that would put American citizens enlisted in the military into harm’s way should give much more weight to the impact of such a decision on three specific groups of people whose interests are inadequately represented today:  (1) the current and future taxpayers who will be forced to pay for the war in direct and indirect costs, and in opportunity costs lost;  (2) those who will be required to fight, die, be injured, suffer severe psychological damages, or face the rest of their lives with the negative consequences of being inadequately appreciated veterans of violent wars;  and, (3) the civilians in nations we fight against, with special consideration given to the probable hardships and collateral damage that will be inflicted upon them.

Less weight should be given to coldly calculated geostrategic considerations of resource needs, ideological convictions, profiteering, enthusiasms for wars by entities involved in the military-industrial complex, or the hot reactive emotional nature of nationalistic fervor or religious zealotry.

The television journalist Tim Russert asked George W. Bush in February 2004 whether the war in Iraq was in fact “a war of choice or a war of necessity”.  Mr. Bush predictably said it was a war of necessity.  But his case was not convincing in the least.  The vast majority of people in the world saw the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq as a gambit to ensure access to, and control of, the oil resources of the Middle East.  Most people in the world regarded the war in Iraq as an unjust, illegal, unethical and rather imperialistic incidence of violent aggression.  That would mean that, actually, the Iraq war was unnecessary!  And the swiftly deteriorating developments in Iraq in the past two years since 2014 make the aggressive adventurism seem even crazier in retrospect.

     “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, an inspiring symbol of freedom, opportunity and justice.  The George W. Bush administration managed to alter that perception with symbols like shock-and-awe bombings, images of torture and humiliation of inmates in Abu Ghraib prison, and drone air attacks against people in Pakistan and other countries.  These are powerful symbols and images of arrogance, injustice, and rashly unleashed power.  Stories and images of the humiliation and torture of prisoners reinforce these perceptions.  It is shocking to delve into the actual chillingly sordid details of our national activities in these regards, as revealed in Jane Mayer’s highly regarded book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. should have focused a specific strategy on finding Osama bin Laden and the criminals responsible for the terrible terrorist attacks on our nation.  George W. Bush and Dick Cheney instead rashly “shifted their sights from counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to preparations for the war in Iraq,” as stated in a June 2008 article in the New York Times.  The diversion of attention and resources from Afghanistan to Iraq involved costly and highly counterproductive impacts.

It is my strong belief that our country should begin acting as a more peaceable nation on the world stage.  We should never again start unnecessary wars.  We should make an overarching commitment to the use of peaceful means to resolve conflicts.  We should adopt fairer and more sustainable means of trying to gain economic advantages in the global competition for resources.  We should invest more in peacebuilding activities and less in aggressive warfare and military occupations.  We surely should stop using brute force to try to impose our economic system, our ideologies, or our form of government upon others. 

It would be a good idea for us to make a dedicated commitment to solving our energy problems by peaceful methods.  We spent more than $10 billion per month for many years on the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.  We would be far better off if we had invested this money in programs designed to make Apollo-Project-scale efforts to find alternatives to our addiction to oil, and to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and we should have given more generous funding to programs that emphasize energy conservation and efficiency.

Wouldn’t these be better ideas?  Wouldn’t the best plan be to put our efforts into breaking our addiction to fossil fuels, and to mitigating our vulnerability to ‘Peak Oil’ depletion?  Wouldn’t it be a much better plan to commit more 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 profligate spending on armaments procurement and war services? 

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

2.  On American Militarism

Dwight Eisenhower spoke the following insightful and crucially 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.”

More than fifty-five years have passed since Dwight Eisenhower spoke these words, and the lobby for the military-industrial complex is more powerful than ever.  Pentagon spending has soared and Congress and the media have become complicit with deeply-entrenched interests and right-wing think tanks in helping boost military spending and encouraging “preemptive warfare”.  Power was seriously abused by the Executive Branch of government during G.W. Bush’s time in office.  Civil liberties and democratic processes were undermined by an intrusive and overly secretive bureaucracy.  Corporate oversight and accountability were reduced.  Our leaders misled us into tacitly supporting costly wars, occupations, and reconstruction projects in the Middle East.  And, as with the Vietnam War, once we committed our country to wars with ill-defined goals, we stubbornly continue the wars for years to perpetuate the interests that benefit from wars, and theoretically “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.”  Lincoln did not recommend that we launch hubris-driven interventions to forcibly export our democracy to other nations, or that we advance evangelical dogmas like those promoted by American religious fundamentalists. 

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, it is dangerous;  when we fail to learn from it, we risk being doomed to repeat it.  This is true for a very simple reason:  human motives, conceits, avarice, and drives for dominance do not change, so the actions, 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 better assurances of truer national security, and of more auspicious mutual security between nations. Clearer insights, wiser political strategies, and more expansive understandings are needed.  So are more enlightened approaches to our foreign policies and peace-building efforts.  Such things could inspire us to a more propitious sense and sensibility, and to 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

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, military interventions and CIA-backed coups since World War II are similar to the causes of wars and violent conflicts throughout history:  we fight for control, power, competitive advantages 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 get into wars, in part, so that bankers and the defense industry, and numerous contractors and war suppliers can make bigger profits.  Corporations, investors and shareholders wield enormous influence in our capitalist society -- and they seem to love growth in revenues and profits over all other values.

The words of the underground Mole reverberate in my mind:

     “Be an early adopter -- oppose the next war already!”

Wars generally involve a cascade of miscalculations and unintended consequences.  George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld made shrewd efforts to deceive the public about their motives and to mislead the American people into supporting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  They used misinformation, low-ball cost estimates, specious ideological arguments, implausible claims, cherry-picked understandings, fear-mongering tactics, jingoistic huckstering, excessive secrecy and appeals to patriotic duty and nationalistic impulses.  They exploited divisiveness and mutual distrust in order to strengthen their domineering control.  Too often, our leaders have used deceptive spin, propaganda and even outright lies to fool American citizens and troops.  Our soldiers are indoctrinated with the conviction that their sacrifices in war are justified as righteous and noble causes.  A closer introspection into the nature of the wars so far this century reveals that these perspectives are contrary to a reasonable assessment of reality.

"I want to thank the choir for coming, the youngsters for being here.  I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace."

                                                                                 --- George W. Bush, June 18, 2002 speech

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 after the war during 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 sad, 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 purposes that could be enlighteningly salubrious.  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.  One purpose of these writings is to explore the profound underpinnings of this ideological and practical conflict from many perspectives.  My hope is that better understandings can be harnessed to achieve 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 peoples at home and abroad.  An overly narrow 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.  It is creating dangerous instability in Pakistan and intense opposition in Iran.  Our aggressive actions and correlated injustices help terrorists recruit zealous believers to their causes.  Since our focus is too myopic, the costs of these strategies in blood and money is terribly high, and it is one of the causes of increased feelings of insecurity in the American people. 

At the same time, we are failing on the economic and social front by allowing capitalism to operate without more visionary national priorities or adequate regulation or commitments to greater good goals.  By creating ever-greater economic inequalities, both domestically and abroad, a far-reaching validity is being given to  the grievances of the 99 Percenters in the widespread unrest expressed in such anti-establishment activities as the Occupy movement.  The fact that almost all our foreign aid is military rather than being targeted toward the goal of improving economic and environmental conditions in other countries makes the world an increasingly dangerous place.

Franklin D. Roosevelt made a famous “Four Freedoms” speech in January 1941.  In it, he said we should commit our societies to 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 working to hype up Cold War fears, and now incubating increasing fears of terrorists, and engaging in military adventurism, and exacerbating insecurities on the international stage, 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?

There is a trap of arrogance in superior military power.  When we riskily rationalize aggression, we increase the probabilities of violating the sovereignty of other nations.  Such attitudes create many enemies.  I believe that true mutual respect is necessary for real peace, friendship and security. 

Entire books have been written about the advantages of ‘soft power’ over ‘hard power’, and I find persuasive perspective in arguments that an emphasis on hard power is misguided and dangerous.  Nonetheless, a wide variety of lobbyists for vested interest groups, along with stubbornly hawkish conservatives, consistently use manipulative arguments, propaganda and deception to hijack our foreign policy into spending more money on arms races and military actions, rather than on mutual security and peace. 

More than ninety percent of our foreign aid goes for guns, not butter.  In other words, we devote most of our foreign aid to military goals rather than to good neighbor efforts.  It would be smarter to strive to buttress other countries against poverty, desperation, radicalism, and accompanying political instability.  We allow too much influence in foreign policy decision-making to factions that militate for war, like companies that provide war services and investors who see opportunities in war to gain more profits from the manufacturing and sales of weapons and munitions.. 

John F. Kennedy declared in his inaugural address, “Let us never negotiate from fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”  Instead of our military aggression, let’s demand that our leaders commit our country to making the world safer through more generous non-military foreign aid and more equitable social justice.  A better idea for the greater good would be to find win/win solutions through cooperative problem solving.  We should seek better opportunities to create sustainable development, and a more collaborative equality-embracing empowerment of women. 

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 unrelated agendas.  The battleship USS Maine was hit by unexplained and mysterious explosions in Havana Harbor in early 1898, killing 260 people.  Soon thereafter, the U.S. used this as a pretext to declare war on Spain and intervene 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 made this observation:

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.’

“A wanton waste of projectiles.”  Ha!  Mark Twain’s contemporary, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, provided a poignant perspective on projectiles in his sardonic Devil’s Dictionary:

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.

Admittedly, advances in military drone technology have eliminated this particular defect in drone bombing campaigns, but this fact does not make drone assassinations any more moral, or the motives for potential blowback retaliation any less forceful.

6.  The Permanent War Economy

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

A full-cost accounting of lavish spending on the military-industrial complex contradicts this conviction.  Lavish military spending is a waste-oriented and cost-maximizing perversion of the self-correcting mechanisms of the free market system, which minimizes costs through competition.  Chalmers Johnson investigated this topic at length in the last book of his Blowback Trilogy.  Johnson indicated that what he calls “military Keynesianism” is a misguided ideology.  This dogma holds that the stimulative debt financing of wars, weapons, munitions and large standing armed forces is good for the economy.  In reality, such debt unfairly and irresponsibly defers costs to the future and reduces funds available to emphasize fairer, more far-sighted and more sensible priorities at home.  Johnson called military Keynesianism “a form of slow economic suicide.”

The U.S. permanent war economy suffers not only from wrong-headed priorities, but also from high cost no-bid contracts, procurement improprieties, and excessive spending on unnecessary military projects.  The non-partisan group Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities released a report in 2006 that indicated federal spending priorities are scandalously wasteful and Pentagon financial management practices are a big “embarrassment”.  The report also expressed the opinion that such spending priorities effectively serve to undermine our true 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 it is more susceptible 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 subverted better priorities.

War may be the ultimate expression of competition, but war gives us a compelling example of why fair and reasonable rules of law are required to achieve greater good goals.  Wars and military occupations for ignoble purposes -- like resource grabs and profiteering -- should be prevented.  They are simply too devastating to millions of people around the world. 

Both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman considered war profiteering to be a form of “treason”.  Today, however, profiting from war seems to have become standard operating procedure as a means of allowing defense contractors, aerospace companies, war services corporations, and investors in these enterprises to make profits from lavish spending on wars and war preparations.

Harry Truman chaired a Senate committee during World War II that launched an investigation into shady wartime business practices.  They discovered widespread “waste, inefficiency, mismanagement and profiteering.”  The gargantuan military spending of the last decade is likely to be significantly worse.  Truman argued that such behavior was at best unpatriotic.  We seem to be so accustomed to war profiteering today that many people regard it as desirable ‘business as usual.’  But this does not hide the fact that war is a scurrilous way to make profits, and one that we should find honest ways to control with greater rigor and responsibility.

Rachel Maddow’s book Drift expresses similar ideas with a marvelous clarity.  It is “a must read!”

We cannot allow competition to be an economic free-for-all.  We cannot allow our societies to be dominated by militarism, exploitive ‘disaster capitalism’, manipulative marketing, predatory banking practices, unscrupulous profiteering, arrogant supremacism, or narrowly reactionary demagogues.  We also cannot devote an inadequate amount of oversight to the players in our economic system;  they should be subject to better accountability.  An anything-goes-to-get-what-you-want morality should not be sufficient justification for waging a war.  And no nation should encourage the building of an overly imperialistic empire.  Competition should not be allowed to devolve into a disregard for the well-being of workers or the health of the environment, merely to advance narrow advantages for capital, investors and speculators. 

Important perspectives and considerations follow in the chapters below.  This economic analysis has been done to debunk one of the insidious, unspoken rationalizations for rapid escalations in military spending in the last fifteen years:  that such spending is necessary, desirable and the best way to create jobs and economic growth.  Arguments like this are disingenuous because they ignore fairer and smarter ways of investing our energies and taxpayer dollars.  Such simplistic dogmas conceal motives of amoral profiteering, illegal interventionism, injustice in aggression, and dishonorable meddling in the sovereign affairs of other nations. 

7.  The Subjectivity of Perspective

Americans tend to think of themselves as generous, optimistic, and fair-minded, and there are many ways 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 and deeply fearful and angry, many Americans bewilderedly wondered “Why do they hate us?”  Our leaders jumped in with simple-minded and emotionally manipulative theories about Islamic religious extremists who envy or despise our freedoms.  But these politicians and the media did not provide us with more nuanced, multi-faceted, honest, 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 World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

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 plausible?

In a videotape from the 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.  Our leaders made up that story to promote their own goals.

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

Americans do not readily admit that we have a global empire.  We do not tend to think 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, makes it clear that we are operating one of the most extensive empires in the history of the world.  It may not be as ‘vulgar’ as the old forms of British colonialism and mercantilism, which our Founding Fathers regarded as so despotic, but modern sophisticated schemes of ‘vulture capitalism’ are even more unjust and unsustainable.  These clever machinations include exploitive international banking, privatization initiatives, corporate globalization, speculative real estate development, surges of military interventionism, the exploitation of pervasive war imagery, and other reckless forms of economic shock therapy.  Some of the side effects of this new form of imperialism are institutional bribery, cronyism in the government, and reactionary social engineering.  This is the modern face of imperialism. 

Any astute student of the lessons of history will recognize that both the Roman Empire and the British Empire demonstrated that imperialism and militarism pose grave threats to fair-mindedness and democratic governance.  One of the primary reasons that our Founding Fathers instituted a system of checks and balances in our government was to prevent tyranny of any kind.

Thomas Jefferson reputedly once wrote, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”  We would be wise to remain vigilant against various forms of authoritarianism that are encroaching upon American society.  Our greatest protection from tyranny is NOT in the amount of weaponry that we can 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 rudely suppress opposition, as George W. Bush did -- they trample upon human rights and people’s dignity.  This encroaching repression of citizens leads us on a slippery-slope course toward an un-American, anti-democratic acceptance of excessively unfair rule.  Donald Trump’s belligerent and divisive new approach to politics seems even more dangerous. 

George Washington warned his countrymen against foreign entanglements.  Even way back then, an empire abroad was seen as a permanent temptation of our republic, and one of its potential downfalls.  It would be an exceedingly good idea for a safer future to seek ways to make the world fairer and more just, and to avoid the ruthless pursuit of foreign policies that are oriented toward economic exploitation, increases in social inequality, the growth in exports of weaponry, and meddling in the affairs of other nations.

A compilation of specific good ideas on ways to make our societies better, safer, and more likely sustainable has been set forth in the ‘Foreign Policy Priorities’ section of the Progressive Agenda for a More Sane Humanity.

One of the principal problems with empire building is that huge risks accompany the inevitable decline and fall of an empire.  The lessons of history show that there are seven main characteristics that generally prevail during times of decline, as summarized in Comprehensive Global Perspective:  

1.   Resources have been squandered and depleted;

2.   Political corruption and mismanagement have become widespread;

3.   An unfair plutocracy becomes established that is characterized by an ever-growing disparity between the influence and fortunes of rich people and everyone else;

4.   The populace grows complacent and is diverted by materialistic indulgences, lavish forms of entertainment, sports spectacles and wars;

5.   The military, because of a dangerous arrogance of power, becomes bloated, overextended and involved in costly and debilitating foreign wars;

6.   The public is divided by inegalitarian domestic policies and becomes effectively disempowered and disenfranchised, so the populace becomes increasingly cynical and apathetic;  and,

7.   There is a massive influx of people and their customs from abroad that creates divisive tension and disruption.

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

Here is another crucial consideration.  When empire-building adventurism eventually encounters overwhelming hurdles and opposition, the rich and powerful become increasingly jealous of all challenges to their great privileges, and increasingly desperate to protect their prerogatives.  To secure their advantages and increase their control, these people demand that our leaders resort to ever-more authoritarian and repressive measures against the populace. 

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

                        --- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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 direct expense of the many.  John Perkins, who wrote the compelling memoir, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, also wrote another book titled The Secret History of the American Empire, which contains sensational perspectives on the inside story of the U.S. role in world affairs.  The book reveals how economic opportunism, political corruption, corporate manipulations, and even assassinations are forms of American corporate skullduggery that have severely impacted many nations in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East since World War II.  Perkins concludes that positive and revolutionary change is possible, and he furthermore indicates that such change is increasingly necessary!

The Bush administration exploited the opportunity presented by the 9/11 attacks to engage in a furious assault on our values, 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.  The American people should strongly oppose such developments, for ignorance, brainwashing (“perception management”), and apathy have the undesirable effect of allowing ruthlessly ambitious people to advance a dangerous and unjust agenda. 

Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the longest-serving chairman ever 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 unjust that it is harming hopes for peace and the security of the American people, as well as the security of peoples in many other countries.  One reason that aggression is decidedly counterproductive is that its injustice is clearly tangible to millions of innocent civilians when they suffer physical, mental or economic harm.  Military actions wantonly distort and damage the economies and infrastructure of victim countries.  War can also be a highly divisive influence between Americans, and it can help unite our “enemies” abroad, so it is a lose-lose strategy.

Powerful anxieties exist among the peoples of the world today, and it is almost certain that these stresses will get worse in coming decades as competition increases for territory, minerals, crude oil, fresh water, arable farmland, 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.  Somehow we seem instead to be acting in ways that make these stresses much worse.  How can we correct this misguided state of affairs?

For one, we should give higher priority to international cooperation and the goal of achieving peaceful coexistence.  Communities should be strengthened against radicalism.  Official policies should have the objective of preventing countries from becoming “failed states” by helping ensure there is not extreme destitution and alienation in communities where terrorists have success in recruiting.  We should make smarter investments in the fight against poverty rather than spending so heavily on military aggression and supremacy-oriented gambits. 

Thousands of military personnel who speak Arabic and Farsi were fired because of their sexual orientation as a result of the bizarre “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.  We should have honored and thanked such linguists for their contributions to improving communication, facilitating mutual understanding, and helping reduce extremism.  The military discrimination against gay people that was encompassed in the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy unfairly led to the discharge of more than 14,000 highly qualified male and female service members due to their sexual orientation.  That was stupid, because many of them served in crucially important roles. 

The U.S. 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, about 25% of enlisted people in the Army are African-Americans, though they constitute only about 12% of the general population.  This overly heavy representation of blacks in the military reflects the poor opportunities available to this segment of our society in other arenas.  The participation by blacks in this dangerous military role is a reflection of the appeal of an all-volunteer army to people in middle and low-income categories, where they have fewer opportunities than people in higher-income classes.

The speed with which the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy went into effect, and the negligible negative effects of that fair-minded change, point to a rapid shifting of our culture toward less discrimination toward gays.  Established churches should stop being on the wrong side of history in their abominable opposition to such fair-mindedness!

10.  The Fog of War

Robert McNamara was the Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War.  He admitted in the film The Fog of War that American leaders basically committed war crimes during the course of the war in Vietnam.  More than TWO MILLION Vietnamese people were killed in that war.  The famous Pentagon Papers revealed that the Vietnam War was expanded by deceptions, routine lies, and the suppression of information by the federal government.  History seems to be repeating itself in the twenty-first century with the evasions, prevarications, equivocations, deceptions, exaggerations, propaganda and other forms of dishonesty that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney used in their rationalizations for attacking and occupying Iraq.

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

Ideological beliefs often manifest themselves in a kind of political fanaticism that can skew people’s 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 or the variability of local contexts can be a serious one.

Another vitally important insight provided by Robert McNamara 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 pointed out.  We are, in fact, blinded by the premises of our solipsistic, self-centered and distorted views of the world, as well as by the propaganda of corporations and right-wing think tanks that rationalize war in order to profit from it. 

Imagine that the U.S. were to be occupied by a foreign power, for any reason whatsoever.  Do you think that any Americans 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 sent millions of people into exile and caused 40% unemployment like there was in Iraq during our occupation?  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, personal conscience, freedom of the press, and the courage of whistleblowers are crucial aspects of democratic governance. 

Jared Diamond makes the cogent point in his brilliant book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed that the most troubled of all nations in the world, in political and environmental terms, are ones that are overpopulated and whose peoples are undernourished and desperate.  Poverty is a national security threat not only for people who live in failing states, but also for other nations that get embroiled in wars with failing states, or are destinations for immigrants and refugees, or are attacked by terrorists.  Instability in poor nations often leads to impulses for despotic regimes to take over, and these regimes often “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 high levels of unemployment and other domestic problems.  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: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.  This chapter is titled “The World as a Polder: What Does It All Mean to Us Today.”  A polder is land reclaimed from the sea by a system of dikes and pumping operations, as 20% of the land in the low-lying Netherlands happens to be.  By its nature, a polder requires collaboration and working together with a reasonable unity of purpose to achieve necessary common good goals.

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

Iraq was veritably torn apart by our military occupation, as well as by ferocious sectarianism and rampant local corruption.  Conflicts between Sunni and Shiite religious fundamentalists escalated, and the violent tyranny of death squads made life in Iraq terribly insecure.  The U.S. occupation exacerbated all of these outcomes. Matters were made worse by poor governance and ineffective reconstruction efforts, and it was pathetic for the U.S. to shortsighted lack of an exit strategy from the start and to experience missing munitions, squandered funds, fraudulent corporate profiteering, and incidents of violent arrogance by security contractors.  See the film No End in Sight -- and think about it! 

We have suffered from ‘ideological blowback’ due to 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 manifested “rank amateurism and swaggering arrogance” and “monumental ignorance” during the occupation.  Our occupation was more a part of the problem than a solution to Iraq’s problems.

A petulant George W. Bush once charged Congress with “wasting his time” by trying to end the war in Iraq and pursuing investigations into misuses of funds.  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 so much 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 have a democracy!  (More or less!).

 “A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there’s no question about it.”

                                                                                                        --- President Bush, July 27, 2001

George W. Bush liked to harangue Americans with his opinion that terrorists hate our freedoms.  But officials in the Bush administration occasionally acted in ways that made it seem that they were the ones who really despised the freedoms of American citizens.  It was so danged inconvenient to George, apparently, for Americans to use their freedoms to express dissent, to advocate peace, to oppose military interventions, to criticize overly aggressive foreign policies, and to demand better oversight and accountability.

The main architects of America’s war policy in Afghanistan and Iraq were Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.  In the smog of war propaganda, the pronouncements of Donald Rumsfeld always stood out in abstruse and smug self-assuredness.  Errol Morris, the producer of the stunningly revealing documentaries The Fog of War and Standard Operating Procedure, turned his sights to Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense during the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.  He wanted to find out what lessons might be learned from the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld wars in the aftermath of 9/11.  I watched the resulting documentary, The Known Unknown, in the rarified milieu of beautiful Telluride, Colorado, during the 40th annual Film Festival held in this wonderfully well-preserved old mountain mining town in 2013. 

I had high hopes that Donald Rumsfeld’s attitude and loftily intellectualized rationalizations for preemptive wars would have been tempered after the passage of some years, and that in retrospect he would offer some astute insights into the pitfalls and follies of hyper-costly U.S. aggression.  But Rumsfeld is no Smedley Butler (“War is a Racket”) or Dwight Eisenhower or even Robert McNamara, men who have seen the horrors of war and admit to feeling a degree of regret for their roles in the carnage and ruinous costs.  Rumsfeld, in brash contrast, is still an arch-Neocon who staunchly defends his rationalizations for war.  The film is a disappointing assembly of interviews by Errol Morris in which Rumsfeld more-or-less manages to defend the dishonesty of his shrewd war justifications. 

The Known Unknown ends with a final question about why Rumsfeld agreed to make the film.  Rumsfeld is nonplussed by the question and oddly declares, “That’s a cruel question.”  Then he stammers out, “I have no idea!”  This answer is even more dishonest than all the other unrepentant and contradictory statements he makes throughout the film.  From a man intimately aware of the Standard Operating Procedures involved in military occupations of disastrously destabilized countries -- the violence, the wide-ranging collateral injustices, the poorly accountable mercenaries, the kicked-in doors, the checkpoint shootings, the harsh detentions, the cruel torture, the whole litany of tragedies -- this concluding dishonesty is stunning. 

Viewers cannot be expected to believe that Rumsfeld was unaware of his ego-driven desire to spin history and ideology in the film, and to promote Neocon rationales for the “war on terror” and the unaffordably costly military fiascos of our wars in the Middle East.  The documentary film is thus a disappointment, as it provides neither enlightening perspective nor an adequate indictment of the adverse consequences of preemptive aggression.  Rumsfeld is no great American hero, no matter how he and war hawks continue to paint the story of American militarism.  The film certainly is not convincing that the U.S. is righteous in its crusade against “evil-doers” and others who oppose our superpower dominion and suppressive efforts against opposition.

Errol Morris can be an incisive interrogator, and he had once told the New York Times that he has an “endless fascination” with the extent to which “people who engage in evil believe in some real sense that they are doing good".  In retrospect, it is hard to imagine that Rumsfeld was doing the world an honorable service in his role as one of the architects of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Now that Iraq has been splintering into regional war since the summer of 2014, the true sage is proven to be Mark Twain, who was aware and courageous enough to declare that it’s easier and smarter to stay out of wars abroad than to get out of them.

Those decade-long American wars will end up costing as much as $6 trillion, according to the prestigious Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.  That is a stunning cost.  History records that when Lawrence Lindsey, the director of the National Economic Council under George W. Bush, had told The Wall Street Journal that the Iraq war would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion, he had been harshly criticized by the administration and was forced to resign.  The White House claimed that Lindsey’s estimate was a gross overestimation, and it even asserted at the outset of the war that the conflict might finance itself out of Iraqi oil revenues.  George W. Bush and his boys seem to have been very wrong on this and many other things.

11.  Proper Priorities

Our political leaders put an absurd overemphasis on security through lavish spending on war, armaments, munitions, high-tech weapons, and war-service contractors.  At the same time, they deny disingenuously (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 the military, we have neglected the maintenance of our national 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” has skewed 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 much better off to have spent its trillions of dollars in the past decade on different priorities than fighting the war in Iraq. 

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

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, risky and broadly unjust undertakings.  We should now change course, throw off the shackles of the hijackers, and champion priorities that are smarter, fairer, and more far-sighted and peace abiding and humanitarian.

We could and should have invested in different priorities to improve our societies.  According to author and finance expert John Talbott, terrorism is not in the top 10 of the 25 Greatest Threats to Our Prosperity, as he assesses the situation.  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 a truer prosperity:

(1) Implement energy efficiency and conservation measures, and find renewable alternatives to fossil fuels in this era of peaking oil production and resource wars and the need to leave a good proportion of fossil fuels in the ground to prevent catastrophic changes in Earth’s climate..

(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 more fiscally sound government instead of indulging in the irresponsible expediency of huge amounts of deficit spending.  Profligate borrowing and spending is fiscally imprudent, and since it is a shortsighted expediency that defers costs to people in the future, it increases the likelihood our nation will suffer more economic disruptions.  The U.S. has gone from being the world’s largest creditor nation to being the world’s largest debtor nation in the last few decades, and 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, regressive tax schemes and other shenanigans have made this state of affairs worse.

(4) Deal effectively with looming challenges caused by resource depletion, habitat destruction, and unfolding risks revealed in species extinctions and diminishing biological diversity. 

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

(6) Boldly reduce the billions of tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions that are being spewed into the atmosphere every year by people worldwide, and take effective steps to minimize climate change impacts that they are causing.

(7) Invest in programs designed to make our societies fairer, especially programs that involve good quality public education, more even-handed legal justice, universal health care, and fairer elections.

(8) Find ways to encourage fair trade and prevent the marginalization of billions of people in the world, a trend that is exacerbated by ruthless and poorly managed capitalism.

(9) Create effective incentives to shift people’s behaviors from wasteful consumption and mindless materialism to more genuine, meaningful, wholesome, sustainable and peaceful endeavors.  And,

(10) Focus our understandings on the profound good sense found in international policies that promote family planning programs, easy availability of contraceptives, the rights of women to choose to have an abortion in the first trimester of a pregnancy, and sensible initiatives designed to reduce the rate of human population growth.

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

12.  Considerations of Ideology

The 45-year-long Cold War ended with the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1989.  That historic collapse left 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 achieving a socially-beneficial peace dividend in the form of reduced military spending after the end of the Cold War, lobbyists for vested interest groups succeeded in significantly driving up the amount of money that we spend on the military.  They were ably assisted by Neoconservative ideologues, the right wing of the Republican Party, and conservative think tanks like the Project for a New American Century.

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

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 long collaboration on these books, they created The Lessons of History, a dazzlingly insightful and almost poetic summary of historical understandings.  In Chapter XI, ‘History and War’, the Durants make a 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 to these stratagems in 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 W. Bush?  (No; it was Adolph Hitler!)

John Steinbeck wrote in his book about a 1940 expedition, 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.”

Sensational!  Similar political dynamics are playing out today.  It would be giving our representatives a lot more credit than they deserve to say that they really have been honest in the last 15 years.  Our national politics are strongly affected by institutionalized bribery in the form of corporate campaign financing and lobbying.  A “culture of corruption” pervades Washington D.C., and our national decision-making is perverted by simplistic sound-byte deceptions, the stoking of hot emotions, influence peddling, gimmicky sleight-of-hand accounting, and irresponsible deficit financing.  Instead of honestly dealing with these systemic problems, our leaders often use cold calculation to thwart reforms and manipulate the public by using slick marketing and ideological propaganda.  Occupy these thoughts!

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 used “propaganda pundits” who were embedded on all major news networks.  This Pentagon program had the purpose of providing military spin to news outlets, and to cover up war failings, and to try to convince the American people to support wars no matter how costly or misbegotten they might be.  One former participant in this effort called this Pentagon perception-management program “psyops on steroids”.  Like excessive secrecy, such ‘psychological operations’ in the media undermine the proper functioning of a democratic republic and skew our national decision making. 

Famed war reporter Joseph Galloway once wrote, “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.”

A particular psychological profile is found in leaders that promote wars.  These personalities exploit a kind of insanity that is sparked by economic crises, intense social anxieties or other instability-provoking vulnerabilities.  Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin are among the most notorious examples of this demagogic propensity.  This type of leader seems to have a monomaniacal drive for dominance, grandiose convictions and overweening hubris, and they use ideological arguments and ruthless suppression of dissent to rule with an iron fist.  How can we inoculate ourselves against such despotism?  This question has become more visceral with the rise of Trump.

Arrogant attitudes are often accompanied by contempt toward others. Greater respect and cooperative collaboration is required today for our civilizations to evolve toward implementing good 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 foolish and dangerous to harbor prideful supremacism and contemptuous tough-guy attitudes, and to give support to politicians who pander to such self-serving, domineering and greed-driven ways of acting in the world. 

Extremism begets extremism, and violence tends to beget violence in response.  Exploitive economic policies on the international stage that are enforced with humiliating military interventions have the effect of stoking opposition and blowback retaliation and terrorist attacks.  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, fairer and more enlightened economic and foreign policies should be instituted. 

13.  Seeking Truer National Security

There are many indicators that prove that the main motivations for U.S. foreign policies are offense-oriented rather than being focused on defense.  Principal among these indicators are:

 (1) The fact that the U.S. military pursues an objective of “full-spectrum dominance”.

 (2) Our nation has preemptively intervened with its military in many countries and shown 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 those employed in Iraq by the “world’s most powerful mercenary army”, the former Blackwater USA (now named Academi).

 (3) We support despotic, dictatorial and oppressive regimes like the one in Saudi Arabia when it suits our interests. 

 (4) We pursue a merciless economic agenda that imposes severe sanctions against peoples whose leaders refuse to kowtow to our demands. 

 (5) We ruthlessly 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 missile-firing drone bombers. 

 (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 preemptive attacks on other nations.  No matter how persuasive the justifications are that politicians provide for attacking other countries, it should become an inviolable principle that offensive aggression is an unjust and unacceptable international crime.  Our reluctance to personally target foreign despots like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi was bizarre in light of the eagerness of our leaders to stoically bomb the hell out of the loyalist pawns that did their bidding.

14.  Madness and Caddishness

During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union both produced such an excess of devastating nuclear weapons that the strategy was called Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).  The U.S. still has more than 7,000 nuclear warheads -- overkill! -- and a costly and dangerous program to maintain them.  This arsenal should be reduced.

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

We have spent more than $100 billion in the last 30 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, stokes the international arms race, and also makes a risk-laden militarization of space more likely.  Even one war in space could indefinitely encase our home planet in a zone of whizzing debris that would make space travel excessively hazardous for peaceful space exploration launches as well as for important scientific, communications and weather satellites.

15.  Pathetic Aspects of Militarism

We should 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 a total of some 500,000 soldiers, spies, technicians, teachers, civilian contractors and their dependents.  Many conflicts have resulted when Americans abroad are involved in traffic accidents, public intoxication, violence and rapes.  There are also 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 at least 5% in each of the next 5 years, and phase out 10% of our military bases, here and abroad.

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 and peace and security, we sell weapons to dictators, human rights abusers, and countries at war, or countries that are preparing for war, sometimes with each other.  A newspaper article 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, stability or peace, American sales of weapons frequently empower undemocratic and unstable regimes.  Arms sales have increased dramatically in recent years.  This is not a salubrious 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, and that the proceeds should be used for purposes of peacebuilding, non-military foreign aid assistance and improving our own country.

We should create more dynamic international institutions, and empower them to capably resolve conflicts.  Let’s start with a powerful and generously-funded U.S. Department of Peace.  It would have a mission of creating peace both domestically and internationally.  Let’s create a Cabinet-level Secretary of Peace to demonstrate our national commitment to the causes of conflict-resolution and international cooperation.  This would be a positive step toward truer national security.  It is one of my convictions that we would be wisest to be open to visionary new ideas rather than continuing to invest heavily 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, passions and moral energy into constructive actions.  This would help us achieve desirable and necessary goals.

16.  Political Aspects of War

National security through ever-increasing military prowess carries a prohibitive price tag.  Our military adventurism is a wasteful and costly gamble, and it is also a high-risk game.  Not only did we spend over $1 trillion on the war in Iraq alone, but almost 4,500 American troops died there, and more than 33,000 were wounded.  The U.S. made heavy use of contractors in Iraq, so it should be no surprise that almost 1,500 of them were also killed, and many thousands were wounded.  And more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians were killed due to the war, while millions were injured or displaced from their homes. 

This is in addition to more than 2,300 American soldiers who have died in the war in Afghanistan.  Casualties of Afghani civilians during our occupation are making politics there increasingly unstable.  The problems facing Afghan society are economic, 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 has been given to non-military strategic options.

President Bush assured Americans just 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 war reassurances, 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.  As the Islamic State brutally spread across Iraq from Syria in 2014 and 2015, the contention that our military involvements in the region would make us safer seemed even more preposterous.

The Oxford Research Group had reached a similar conclusion in 2007.  This independent British non-governmental organization reported that the U.S.-led “war on terror” was failing because it was fueling an increase in support for extremist Islamic movements.  Military aggression has contributed to social instability in the world, and to risky levels of debt and daunting financial challenges.  These developments have adverse implications for the security and well-being of billions of people. 

It would likely have been much 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 Afghanistan and Iraq have resulted in an increased number of terrorist incidents worldwide.  They have increased antagonisms toward the U.S. government and helped destabilize the Middle East.  They have increased risks of retaliatory actions in the future from terrorists who are driven to mayhem and martyrdom or who seek to wreak havoc on civilians.  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 rein of the Bush administration.  All of our leaders should do everything they can to genuinely change such perceptions, and NOT merely by using public relations or misinformation, propaganda,, dishonest spin, deceit or outright lies.  The book Rogue Nation provides a valuable perspective and a more detailed understanding of these ideas.   

Karen Hughes announced her resignation in late 2007 from her position as Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the State Department.  “Nice try”, Karen, in challenging circumstances.  Attempting to improve America’s image abroad was a real difficult challenge when our foreign policy was so widely perceived to be unjust, imperialistic and militaristic.  Public relations has a difficult time overcoming the negative aspects of our cultural arrogance, military aggression, triumphalism and seeming condescension.  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, dangerous, counterproductive and pathetic.  Let’s strive to make friends, not enemies!

17.  Let’s Make Friends with Iran!

The U.S. has acted with a hawkish bellicosity toward Iran for many decades.  The stepped-up hostile rhetoric during the Bush administration was partially a Neoconservative ploy to stimulate nationalism and patriotism, and to rally Americans around our flag.  We need to be 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 more legitimate than the United States in the sense that it is located directly between Iraq and Afghanistan.  It is folly to aggressively threaten Iran as the Bush administration did.  Iran and its domineering Ayatollahs have been beneficiaries of our invasion and occupation of Iraq and the elimination of Saddam Hussein.  This strengthened Iran’s position and the stature of battle-hardened Sunni fundamentalists in Iraq, creating greater danger for our ally Israel.  We should use honest diplomacy to boldly integrate Iran into a more stable Middle East.  We should deal with Iran strategically and diplomatically, and not as if we are on a dominance-oriented, self-righteous, militaristic Crusade!

Our conundrums with Iran are partially a backlash against our having helped overthrow Iran’s freely-elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953.  In a CIA-sponsored coup code-named ‘Operation Ajax’, the CIA helped install the Shah as ruler.  The U.S. subsequently supported the Shah and his brutal SAVAK secret police for more than 25 years.  Many Iranians consequently regard the U.S. as the “Great Satan”, and they 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 ONE MILLION people died between 1980 and 1988), contributes to this Iranian sense of injustice and anger.  We have been acting like an enemy to Iran for decades, even though it would probably be a much better plan to start acting like a good neighbor, or even as a friend!

Barack Obama adopted a more nuanced position, as embodied in a speech in Cairo in June 2009.  His more conciliatory tone may have deprived the hardliner Iranian mullahs of some of their strength.  Pakistan, which has about 100 nuclear warheads, is much more dangerous than Iran, and yet we are goading extremists there with our drone bomber strikes and violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty.  The Iran deal agreed to in July 2015 should be strongly supported.

Neoconservative ideologues have advocated 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 blockheaded to rely so exclusively on the imposition of harsh economic sanctions on people in other countries, and on military interventions when widespread violence results.  There is also far-reaching risk associated with the collateral outcome of creating millions of refugees.  Furthermore, the use of clandestine covert operations to destabilize other nations can turn out to be exceedingly 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 a ‘road map’ to peace figuratively “tucked in the glove compartment”.  Until President Obama toned down this strategy, the U.S. unwisely spent much more effort ratcheting up its rhetoric and preparedness to preemptively attack Iran over nuclear issues.

A Kyl-Lieberman amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill of 2008 was passed in September 2007 that 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.  There is an ironic validity for such a point of view!

An attack on Iran should not be considered for any reason.  We should also seek ways to prevent any future war tactics that are 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 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 was suspiciously similar to the misleading ruses that were used to get us to invade Iraq.  He and Dick Cheney figuratively beat the drums in 2008, partially as an electioneering ploy to hype up fears, prey on our pride, and use misleading intelligence to maintain power.  It is beyond imagination that we Americans are so fearful or trigger-happy that we can even contemplate starting World War III. 

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 accusations about our activities in abetting a resistance.

One consequence of our misguided support of the Shah’s repressive regime was that it gave the impetus to a reactive and harshly fundamentalist Islamic government to come to power.  This brought more injustice and oppression to the people of Iran.  The belligerent and domineering religious fundamentalism in Iran would likely weaken if we did not provide such powerful counter-support to it with our threats and sanctions.  Hardliners in Iran have been strengthened by our attacks on Iran’s neighbors, just as the influence of hardliners in the U.S. has 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 destroy dissent and continue its domination.  But that regime’s days may be numbered because of its harsh suppression of civil liberties, as the regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya were, and as the regimes in 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, militaristic approaches, macho dude bravado, ruthless occupations, and torturous clandestine operations.  We have made serious strategic and tactical blunders in 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 W. Bush bizarrely declared “Mission Accomplished” on May 1, 2003 after the invasion of Iraq.   

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 was outrageously foolish.  Have we learned nothing about how costly it is to rely heavily on intimidation and a domineering military? 

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 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.  And during the Republican presidential primaries race in 2012, and in the lead-up to Election Day 2012, most of the Republican candidates expressed belligerent stances toward Iran and hyped up anti-Iran sentiment in the States for political gain.

When Barack Obama was a Senator, he 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 should 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 originally came to power in a military coup in 1999.  During a period of political turmoil there, Musharraf declared emergency rule in November 2007 and suspended the constitution, shut down independent media outlets, removed Supreme Court judges, and jailed thousands of lawyers and activists.  George W. Bush had characterized Musharraf as someone who truly “believes in democracy”, but this was an authoritarian act that moved his nuclear-armed nation closer to destabilizing political turmoil.  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 hubris-tainted policies there for decades.  When the former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in late December 2007, the event complicated the scene in this dangerously volatile country.  Our hundreds of drone bombing attacks since then are a curious and unjust 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 three pillars of our democratic system failed to create more 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 North Korea’s border with China:  “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 aggression.  A long history of Arab humiliation and resentment is boiling over into more powerful motives for opposition and discord.  Our lack of understanding of the perspective of Palestinians toward what they regard as the 1948 ‘Catastrophe’ is a contributing cause for instability and antagonisms in the Middle East.  So is the extent of our one-sided support of Israel’s aggression in the past 50 years.

Terrorism involves the killing of civilians for political reasons.  Some say that the U.S. has effectively indulged in state terrorism in the handling of its preemptive wars.  On the other hand, the U.S. has ironically harbored terrorists when they happen to side with American interests and ideologies.  For example, Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles were involved in a number of terrorist activities, including being architects of the bombing of a civilian Cuban airliner in 1976 in which 73 people died.  Nonetheless the federal government allows them to remain free on American 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.  U.S. 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 resource usages, environmental challenges, mutual security, social issues, peaceful coexistence and foreign policy.  Military solutions and bombs should yield to fairer and more 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.  Words cannot fully encompass 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, depleted uranium ammunition and landmines are barbarous and inhumane.  

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.”

Warfare is not only colossally wasteful of resources and lives, but also unnecessarily 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 many military personnel and citizens of the aggressor, as well as those of the nation attacked.  The number of American war veterans that are being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder is in the hundreds of thousands, and many are facing treatment delays and denials to save money on veterans’ healthcare costs.  And thousands of troops and veterans of the Middle East wars have committed suicide, a fact that points to another sad aspect of the accumulating problems of our recent wars.  Suicide has become a tragic “hidden epidemic”, and it is often the result of combat-related mental health issues.

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

One predominant paradigm of modern life is a relentless striving for dominance.  Many of our leaders seek to control and dominate both U.S. citizens and foreign peoples.  The human race seeks to control and dominate nature, and to ignore the dangers of these efforts.  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, using 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 need to wake up to the negative impacts of forces of domination and the ruthless ruses they employ.  We would be wise to work assiduously to create smarter 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 irresponsible 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 strategies that involve paying ‘as-you-go’.  This is a shrewd tactic that 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 increase in our national debt in the past 15 years.  This will make it increasingly necessary to devote a growing portion of the national budget to interest costs on the debt.  It consequently will become even more difficult to afford to deal with important social, public health, infrastructure, and environmental protection priorities in the future.

One honest and fair means of confronting this problem would be to commit to ‘paying as we go’ by increasing gasoline taxes to cover the cost of our military.  This would force people to realize that a main reason for our far-flung military bases and deployments is our dependence on oil and a correlated strong desire to control oil resources in the Middle East. 

The cost of our wars and military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan would have been around $1 per gallon.  How eager would the American people have been for the doctrine of preemptive warfare if they saw a direct correlation between the cost of these wars and the higher amount they would have to pay at the pump for gasoline?  How enthusiastic would they be for having our troops stationed abroad in harm’s way if they actually had to pay for it every time they went to the gas station?

In general, taxpayers should be required to pay in full for government programs instead of allowing the costs to be foisted on future generations.  This would force our representatives to make difficult choices in a more responsible way.  Once they, and we, were squarely faced with the necessity of finding the money to pay for the 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 on the highest income levels, bureaucratic waste, pork barrel spending, and costly loopholes and 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 Existence, Economics, and Ecological Intelligence in the Earth Manifesto.  Also, see Comprehensive Global Perspective: An Illuminating Worldview, 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 intelligently, fairly and courageously address the serious problems facing us here in the twenty-first century, I again urge readers to review the compendium of ideas found in One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies.

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 conditioned by genetic predispositions, parental influences, religious catechisms, partisan spin, subjective personal experiences, educational biases, indoctrination, think tank doctrines, and radio and television opinion-molding and advertising. 

Communism is an ideology that arose in the early years of the Industrial Revolution in reaction to the inequality, injustices, labor abuses, dangerous workplaces, and sink-or-swim ruthlessness that has been characteristic of capitalist economic systems.  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.  Both have adopted varying degrees of regulation in response to market economics, and both have been subject to powerful corrupting influences and authoritarian impulses.

The business-as-usual status quo in capitalist societies is primarily concerned with profits and narrow self-interest, so vested interest groups strive to keep economic and political systems the way they are -- or to change them in retrogressive ways.  Entrenched interests are consequently allowed to impede progress, oppose common-good reforms, and prevent changes that would be beneficial to the greater good.  Many of 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 and in detailed instances in the book The Corporation – The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, often act in ways that, in an individual, would be regarded as psychopathic. 

The outsourcing of government activities to corporations has almost doubled in the last decade.  Often this has resulted in achieving different goals than vested interests claim.  Instead of greater efficiency, better management and lower costs, there are often excessive fees, spikes in costly no-bid contracting, price gouging, unfair cronyism, incompetence, diminished accountability, and a significant amount of outright fraud. 

The ideals of economic fundamentalism are laudable:  they hold that free markets are guided by what Adam Smith called an ‘invisible hand’ that supposedly creates the best conditions for the public good.  Unfortunately, our economic and political systems are corrupted by monopoly abuses, banking schemes, deceptive practices, unfair vested-interest political influence, institutionalized bribery, pork barrel spending, 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 or their production methods, or they strive to gain large subsidies that perpetuate inefficient and polluting industries.  They indulge in exploitive “rent-seeking” behaviors that do not create wealth, but merely grab a bigger proportion of the national wealth for themselves.  They also generally treat workers unfairly, externalize environmental costs onto society, and indulge in unfair tax avoidance scams by using tax loopholes and offshore incorporation.

The established order is generally so entrenched that opportunities for societies to be radically remade are severely limited.  Yet there is a growing need for us to dramatically transform our societies, and I believe that radical changes will be required in response to the gathering threats of debt crises, increases in inequality, unsustainable resource depletion, unmitigated pollution, ecosystem damages, species extinctions, climate disruptions, and the dangerous influences of religious fundamentalism, human overpopulation, and empire building.  And these changes are needed to increase the common good, not to Trump it.

Powerful people often work to change society in ways that are demonstrably contrary to the common good.  Rich and powerful people tend to favor the radical engineering of societies along lines that are most profitable to them personally.  It is curious that a coup d’etat like the one 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’ air attacks involved in the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  All these events created collective trauma and instability that gave corporations and politicians expanded opportunities to impose radically undesirable economic and social changes. 

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, ‘free trade’ and the use of privatized services, strong defenses of private property ownership rights, reductions in social spending, and regressive tax cuts that favor rich people.  These goals serve primarily to promote prerogatives that benefit investors and small groups of hyper-privileged people, and they result in socially undesirable things like crony contracting and aggressive exploitation of resources and the squeezing of workers.  They also tend to stimulate materialistic consumerism and the concentration of wealth, generally to the distinct detriment of the common good.  Despite the anti-establishment rantings of D.J. Trump, these are still his goals, and working people should not be fooled into believing he would improve their lots in any way.  He believes American workers are paid too much to compete in the world.

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 suppression 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 follows. 

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 heartily agree with Friedman on this concept, but in dramatic contrast, I strongly advocate that we keep excellent ideas for the greater good around, not just shrewd and narrowly focused ideas targeted to benefit the few!

The provocative writer Naomi Klein points out that crises tend to provide opportunities in victim countries for injuries to be inflicted on the people “all at once”.  Niccolo Machiavelli, who championed unscrupulousness in his famous advice to rulers in The Prince, might have nodded enthusiastically at this idea.  After all, Machiavelli advocated that the ends justify whatever means are necessary, and he also recommended that rulers effectively act immorally when they need to, emphasizing that there is occasionally a need for the methodical exercise of deceit and even brute force.

I encourage every person to read Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism for more extensive insights into these ideas.  The circumstances that surround the banking bailout in late 2008 are frightening for the lack of oversight and the fox-in-the-henhouse nature of allowing the financial industry and its facilitators in government to help set the terms of the biggest government bailout in history.  Banks have only gotten bigger and more powerful since then, so smart action is required to deal with the challenge articulated by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in December 2009:

“I want to be very, very clear:  too big to fail is one of the biggest problems we face in this country, and we must take action to eliminate too big too fail.” 

Predictably, not nearly enough has been done to remedy this risk.

Just as the nature of “economic shock therapy” is unjust, and just as the fact that banking abuses create intolerable risks to the financial stability of our economic systems, the injustice of unshackled militarism and ‘preemptive war’ is dangerous for our security.  We should strive to better control these activities.  To the extent that they contribute to terrorism and are facilitated by demagoguery and fear mongering and the abdication of traditional investigative reporting and watchdog roles of a free press, we need to 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 U.S. willingness to engage in offensive warfare is that we are fanning the flames of Islamic religious zealotry.  Harsh warfare that has been waged by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan has given a much more forceful impetus to radicalism and dangerous cultural and religious conflicts between Christians and Muslims worldwide.  It has spawned large numbers of newly inspired jihadists around the globe, as confirmed by a July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, and is becoming ever more clearly evident in mass casualty attacks in many countries around the globe.

Extremism signals, countersupports, and ironically strengthens what it opposes.  Injustice sparks injustice, and violence fans violence.  It seems clear to me that U.S. economic and military policies have been primary causative factors in sparking Islamic extremism and retaliatory blowback, like that suffered on 9/11.  Not only did the U.S. support and empower both Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden in the 1980s, but our economic sanctions, military bases, and armed interventions in the Middle East have been a significant factor in angering Muslims and giving credence to their perceptions that we are either ruthless imperialistic infidels or representatives of the devil.  This has provoked religious extremists and contributed to the highly destabilizing influence of conflicts in Middle Eastern countries.

To effectively encourage the possibilities of peace, and to eliminate a main 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.  To do this, we should act more prudently, and with greater diplomacy and statesmanship, and seek compromises that are fairer for 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 Do We Do Now in Iraq?

Richard Clarke, counterterrorism czar under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, wrote a book titled 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 made the important point that, instead of rashly invading Afghanistan and oil-rich 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. Again, the rationalizations for war shifted disingenuously from finding alleged “weapons of mass destruction” to deposing an evil dictator to rhetoric about spreading freedom and democracy.  The real threat to the American people by Saddam Hussein was hyped up far beyond rational probability.  Not only were actual costs of the proposed war ridiculously underestimated, but also Republicans in the administration assured us, in the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, that 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 hidden.  In connection with the “war on terror”, dissenters have been intimidated and collateral injustices have been intensified.  Such actions are unwise, unfair and irresponsible!

A number of Governors of various States expressed heightened concerns about deployments of National Guard personnel to Iraq for many years.  They acknowledged that people are more vulnerable to large-scale disasters at home when large numbers of National Guard members are serving abroad. In the aftermath of any widespread devastation caused by a major hurricane, fire, earthquake or terrorist attack, people would have had less emergency assistance due to such deployments and subsequent budget cuts imposed due to big war debts incurred.  It’s clear that the Bush Doctrine of preemptive warfare made us less safe at the time in this regard.  We should not give so much emphasis to offensive actions at the expense of maintaining good preparedness and balanced priorities.

By invading Iraq, “we broke it”, and it has been extremely costly to fix it.  We should stop trying to impose our hegemony on Arab peoples.  We cannot afford the high costs.  Our adventurism in Iraq harmed millions of Iraqi people because in too many instances our military occupation was hard-nosed, ‘trigger-happy’, humiliating and repressive.  Once the deadly conflict in Syria began spilling over into northwestern Iraq in June 2014, we began to see how profoundly our ability “to fix it” is severely constrained.  

We would have been wiser to follow the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group in 2006, rather than following George Bush’s war strategies in Iraq.  Now that the U.S. military has more-or-less finally left Iraq after so many long years of oppressive occupation, we should make concerted efforts to achieve peace and stability through on-going regional and international diplomacy.

24.  The Dangers of Demagoguery

The German film Triumph of the Will is an infamous piece of propaganda directed by Leni Riefenstahl during the early years of film-making in 1934.  This film was a mind-numbing cavalcade of droning through clouds, political theater, prideful militarism, impassioned harangue and exhortations to duty, 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 obedience to authority.  “Sieg Heil!” 

Demagogues like Hitler offer simple-minded arguments, and then repeat these arguments endlessly to make them insidiously persuasive.  Accompanying the rhetoric of a demagogue, a drumbeat for war often disturbingly resounds deeply in the recesses of our brains.  Al Gore perceptively observed in The Assault on Reason that demagogic Republican 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.”  With the rise of Trumpism, risks intensify.

A demagogue is a person who uses passionate rhetoric to appeal to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.  At a time we really need greater unity, healthy communities, and rational cooperation to solve problems, a number of wily demagogues have gained notoriety by nefariously exploiting people’s fears, gullibility and biases to advance policies that divide people and hinder common good goals. Such people obstruct cooperation toward achieving peaceful coexistence and undermine 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 Josef Goebbels, the “Minister of People Enlightenment and Propaganda” in the Third Reich, tried to advance a 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 befell the Republican Party’s quest for a permanent political majority in the years from 2001 to 2006, and for many of the same reasons:  gross injustices were perpetrated, increasing inequities were facilitated, perverse priorities were adopted, and financial systems were seriously abused.  In pandering to economic fundamentalists and coldly calculating right wing partisans 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 George W. Bush acted with such demagogic contempt for rules of law and oversight by Congress.  He and Dick Cheney resented constraints on their ability to use power in a triumphalist, overweening, expansion-prepossessed 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 and provides an illuminating exploration of the almost comedic absurdity of any adherence to inflexible orthodoxy and religious absolutes.  It makes a parody of convictions that it is a sinful blasphemy to question the truth of dominant myths.  Part II introduces the perplexingly suspicious evidence about the official story of the 9/11 attacks and the wars it spawned, and the actions of the U.S. 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 1950s.  Joseph McCarthy was a Republican Senator from Wisconsin from 1947 to 1957 who was known as “tail gunner Joe” because of his shrewd and calculating scheme of hyping up fears of Communism to gain power and notoriety for himself.

McCarthyism is a legacy of blatant Republican attempts in the 1950s to discredit people, blacklist them, ruin their reputations, and use fear and intimidation to erode political opposition, devastate dissent 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 F. 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. 

American politics today is still heavily influenced by the need to talk tough and act tough.  This may be a result of powerful psychological needs incited by fears, insecurities and pride.  As a consequence, politicians find it advantageous or even necessary to appear tough in the face of challenges to our superpower dominance in an increasingly multi-polar political world.  Hillary Clinton is more hawkish than many liberals would like, and Trump is downright belligerent, although he expresses isolationist sentiments in addition to nationalistic bombast.

President Barack Obama was a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2009, but as he gave consideration to our next move in the quagmire of the Middle East, he decided to follow advisors’ recommendations to escalate the war in Afghanistan after eight years of deteriorating conditions and high costs.  He, too, has been strongly influenced by the need to act tough on the international stage.

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

Ever since the days of patriotism-questioning and 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.  Since hubristic militarism and a focus on imperialistic economic exploitation make conflicts worse and stoke anger and wreak humiliation, they can serve to encourage retaliatory opposition in the form of terrorist movements and committed insurgencies in occupied countries. 

The exploitation of people’s insecurities in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was undertaken in emulation of the cunning and amoral tactics of Joseph McCarthy.  Both George Bush and Dick Cheney used reckless right-wing spin to manipulate the public’s fears, this time of terrorists.  They skewed our foreign policy into inflexibly hard-line, costly and deadly undertakings, including the longest two wars in our country’s history. 

This new form of modern day McCarthyism belittled and suppressed political opposition and people who have differing perspectives.  It demanded loyalty to ideologies and officeholders, not to fair-minded principles.  Fear and stoked nationalism have been used to gain public support for banking and commercial interests as well as an aggressive military.  Right-leaning politicians have perversely thrown in a number of social engineering machinations, as a part of their ideological agenda, such as regressive tax policies, misguided rollbacks of environmental regulations, anti-gay and anti-women’s rights initiatives, and even religious evangelizing and absolutist moralizing and Creationist dogmas.

The megalomaniacal drive of political leaders, along with ethnocentric urges to assert superiority, may reflect compensatory needs to deny insecurities and throw off feelings of insignificance.  These were factors that motivated Germany to start World War II after the humiliation of heavy reparations that were exacted in the aftermath of Germany’s defeat in World War I.  There are striking similarities to these deep motivations and psychological impulses that have been demonstrated by radical Neoconservatives and others in their efforts to amp up militarism here in the 21st 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 W. Bush to launch unnecessary wars?  Or was it really just about the oil?  Macho dudes and demagogues, relent!

26.  The Responsibilities of Journalism and Investigative Reporting

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 beholden to dominating corporate powers-that-be, democratic fairness can be undermined.  Journalists should adhere to higher standards of conscience, objectivity, rationality, and balanced reporting.

Certain advances in technology have had astonishingly far-reaching impacts on human society.  The invention of the printing press 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 stimulated the mass transmission of ideas, and dramatically changed the way people learn and communicate, so it effectively “democratized” knowledge.  The last century has seen further extraordinary advances in public communications, with radio, television, film, the Internet and social media all increasing the flow of information. 

Television has unfortunately become a medium that can be used to sway people in manipulative ways.  Al Gore speaks passionately about this Assault on Reason in his book of that name.  He explains how logic and reason 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 to be well-informed rather than being duped by propaganda and shallow understandings of complex issues. 

People are subjected to a barrage of carefully crafted spin transmitted 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 corporate media combined with sensationalist stories and mindless entertainment, all of it interspersed with commercial messages created by advertising agencies to convince us to buy things we generally don’t need.  When we watch TV, we often give our attention to celebrity trivia, sports contests, sensationalism, crime stories, shootings, scandals, fake “reality shows”, political photos-ops and shallow sound bites.  These things distract us from vitally important perspectives. 

The highly respected 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 are especially good, as are the History Channel, Discovery Channel and National Geographic Channel, which offer insightful understandings and rich insights into human cultures and the natural world.  Some television 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, though every blessing also contains an element of curse, and there is plenty of echo chamber rancor, pornography and other pathological aspects of the Internet.

I’ve got a ‘gut feeling’, as macho dudes like to say, that all of us 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 of words (some people more than others!), each of us has a natural capacity to feel what is true.  We can intuitively detect deceptions, lies, propaganda and “BS”.  But we can also be quite gullible.  It is clear that our native ability to detect falsehoods can be overcome by seductive persuasion and demagoguery. 

 “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 valid in more subtle ways.  Almost any judgment that is framed in overly simplistic black-and-white terms reflects a pronounced relativity of point of view, of circumstantial context, and of subjective interpretations that make almost any ‘certainty’ contradictable or not applicable from the perspective of differing points of view.  Errors of perception can result, because of poor reasoning and 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 a Zeus-like father, God.  President James A. Garfield offered a contrasting and ironic perspective on truth;  he stated:  “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 sometimes treats us like Jack Nicholson’s character in the film, A Few Good Men, when he yelled, “You can’t handle the truth!”  I say, give us a chance!

The truth is rarely to be found in sources of authority, especially when authorities represent narrow vested interests.  Our political leaders owe us greater honesty.  The “whole truth” is important in a democracy to ensure us that the citizenry is well informed and empowered to choose better governance and wiser courses of action.  The truth is vitally important to us so that we are able to maintain our personal freedoms and a 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 by striving to avoid dogmatic 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 blind acceptance of conventional ideas 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 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!

The response of the CIA operative, however, 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!

Such a perspective has a ring of validity.  But might is not right.  The consequences of using military might to achieve economic and political objectives, at a cost of terrible injustices, will eventually prove to be calamitous to the greater good, just as it did when Hitler tried to conquer the world.  Peak Oil and subsequent decline could become the most daunting challenge of this century, but using military might to gain more access to dwindling fossil fuel supplies is a shortsighted plan for many reasons. 

Making smart investments in conservation, efficiency, and cleaner energy alternatives is a much better plan.  If this were more widely understood, I believe the American people would support smarter steps to solve this problem rather than following militant ‘geostrategic imperatives’ or drilling more aggressively for oil in our coastal waters, no matter what the potential environmental damages.  Everyone should be involved in the solution, and we should 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 would be to institute properly structured incentives, as advocated by the principals in the Risky Business Project -- Michael Bloomberg, Henry Paulson and Tom Steyer.

I believe that there is a bigger geostrategic imperative than dominating the world to get access to oil.  The real GEO-strategic imperative is for us to begin leading sustainable lives and to sensibly recognize the vital importance of a healthy natural world.  Here is another reason why we should begin acting more fairly, peaceably, and in more ecologically sane ways.

28.  True Patriotism

True patriotism consists of questioning and opposing abuses of power in one’s country, and not merely 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


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

The misguided “war on terror” was rolled out with as little sacrifice for the average American as possible. After the Vietnam War and the unrest caused on university campuses by the military draft, a new strategy of “all-volunteer” armed forces was implemented.  The all-volunteer army used an overly heavy emphasis on minority recruitment.  This allowed college students and those with better opportunities to be insulated from the need to serve in the armed forces and potentially suffer horrible personal consequences of war.  In addition, the ill-fated expediency of deficit spending has been used to insulate most Americans from the real burdens and costs of wars. 

These are brilliant strategies, but they are both cynically calculating and 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 good alternative opportunities and inadequate voices. 

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.  The “No Child Left Behind” law even mandates that every student’s contact information must be provided to military recruiters. 

When the economy was relatively good before the recession began in 2008, it was proving to be difficult to find enough volunteers for dangerous military service.  So 29% of the Army recruits in 2007 did not even graduate from high school.  This was significantly above the Army’s goal of 10% of recruits who have not achieved even this basic level of education.  The recruitment of people who have felony convictions increased during the Bush administration, and the maximum enlistment age increased from 35 to 42.  And increased numbers of people who were overweight and less physically fit were recruited.

    “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” 

                                                                   --- English poet Samuel Johnson

Military recruitment violations dishonorably increased by 50% in 2007.  Sexual abuse of high school girls by authority-figure recruiters despicably occurred in a number of documented instances.  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 as extremely scandalous, like the heinous abuse of boys and girls by priests -- or by coaches of high school and college sports programs.  Military authorities should do a better job of screening those who enlist for tendencies toward brutality, sadism, white supremacism, sexual abuse, misogyny, emotional imbalances, and religious fanaticism. 

Once military recruiters convince young people to sign up, the recruits are indoctrinated with strict ‘boot camp’ obedience, and patriotic duty and nationalistic fervor.  Violence, prejudice and hate are subtly preached to them.  Then our nation’s 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, and so is the use of deceptive propaganda and 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 the wrong reasons, whether mercenary, religious or ideological, or for reasons that are contrary to the sensible Nuremberg Principles.  We should not use deceptive justifications to attack other nations.  We should extricate our troops from places they should not be.  

Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau once created a political cartoon with a soldier discussing with his superior officer the issue of how we should best support our troops.  Let’s see, if we cut military funding, our soldiers would be forced to be brought home to safety; if we support funding, and continue to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan indefinitely, our troops would face ongoing mortal danger.  “Permission to think it through denied,” the commander ordered in the Doonesbury strip.

Republicans pretend to strongly support our troops, but they generally are too tepid in supporting adequate funding of veterans’ facilities and healthcare for the wounded and those who are damaged psychologically.  It sure didn’t seem like the Bush administration showed a great amount of concern for our military personnel when it decided to attack Iraq with a politically driven war plan and committed an inadequate amount of resources to ensure the security of our troops and Iraqi civilians from the start.  The occupation of Iraq was initiated with severe shortages of body armor and equipment, and the plans for the occupation were incredibly poor  Blunders were made by pursuing harsh de-Baathification policies that alienated a significant segment of the Iraqi people. Furthermore, repeated redeployments of troops were required that forced an undue amount of hardship on those who did the actual fighting.

“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 have made great personal sacrifices for their country.  If history is any indicator, veterans who survive current military duty are unlikely to be fairly appreciated and supported in the years after they return home, especially those who are injured or incapacitated, or who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Many returning veterans will face domestic instability, unemployment, homelessness, drug addiction, poverty, incarceration, heightened risks of suicide 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 bombings from warplanes, attack helicopters and drone aircraft is outrageous to the extent it inflicts “collateral damage” harm on innocent civilians and women and children.  Smart bombs?  Give us a break!  They are not smart enough, and they certainly do not give the targets of the bombings a fair trial, or a fair shake at determining guilt! 

The United States has used its air supremacy to drop bombs on many countries in the past 65 years.  This is not intelligent or justice-oriented foreign policy.  We have already suffered deadly blowback in the form of retaliatory attacks in reaction to our interference in the affairs of peoples in the Middle East, due in large part to harsh uses of economic sanctions, aggressive military occupations, and ruthless covert operations. 

The history of the CIA shows that clandestine activities have been used to help overthrow democratically elected governments, including that of Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Brazil in 1964, Greece in 1967, and Chile in 1973.  We have also helped overthrow dictatorships that our leaders 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”, and costing more than $40 billion annually.

The School of the Americas (now 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 learned the latest “counterterrorism” techniques there.  Often these tactics have been used against ‘leftists’ and people like farmers in El Salvador and autoworkers in Argentina.  I submit that we should formulate our foreign policies more wisely, and act to ensure that they are fairer, more democratic, and more definitively oriented toward justice and peace!

How can we marshal a penetrating introspection into the truth when paternalistic authority figures, with media collaboration, strive to persuade us to have faith in ideas that are delusional, erroneous, illusional or demonstrably dishonest?  Reason, as Al Gore notes, is generally better for making good decisions than fear and emotionality.  Reason can trump blind faith, and faith can trump fear, and fear can trump reason.  Rock, paper, scissors!  This circularity helps to explain the cynical tendency of shrewd demagogues to profess faith in God and enlist emotion and fear to trump reason, and then screw the hell out of everyone for power, profit or 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, influence peddling and the suppression of open and honest debate.  Our idealistic principles are often 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 contained in our Constitution have been undermined in recent years.  The power of the Executive branch was substantially strengthened after the attacks of September 11, 2001.  Dissenters and those with differing viewpoints were initially marginalized, as if advocates for peace and privacy protections are traitors, even when those people were really being more truly patriotic to our nation’s founding ideals than those who blindly obey.  We should reject authority figures who demonstrate tyrannical tendencies of suppressing peace movements and non-violent protests against injustices and inequality and clandestine surveillance. 

During the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Cold War and the Vietnam War, public fears and insecurities spiked, and the executive branch of government was allowed to exercise more power.  It responded in each of these wars by abrogating the public’s civil liberties.  In a similar manner, the seemingly endless wars of the twenty-first century are being used to justify incursions into privacy rights and domestic civil liberties.  The executive branch also increases its powers in times of war at the expense of the people’s representatives in the legislative branch of government.

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.  Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the U.S., was a strong believer in the idea that the powers of the federal government should be vigilantly constrained, and that human liberties should be expanded.  He recognized that representative democracy requires safeguards.  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.”

The U.S. successfully made a rapid shift from a war-focused economy to a peacetime economy after the end of World War II. Millions of armed forces personnel were brought home and given good opportunities under the G.I. Bill.  Educational benefits and other policies were implemented that helped strengthen a growing middle class in America.  Let’s reduce the size of our standing military, and make sure that similarly farsighted programs are put in place to ensure a fairer society.

32.  Mercenaries in the Fray

Mercenary contractors were used heavily 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 employed in the occupation of Iraq was roughly 100% of the number of military personnel.  This made it easier for the federal government to fight an unpopular war by outsourcing and privatizing many tasks.  This expensive tactic may be good for war services companies that profit from conflicts in war zones, but it seems like an insanely costly and foolish plan to me. 

Security contractors are expensive because the work is dangerous.  They are unfortunately subject to inadequate command and control structures, and their roles are not adequately accountable.  It is disturbing to find out that so many private armed security contractors in occupied nations were hired by companies like Blackwater USA (now called Academi), which was founded by Erik Prince, a conservative evangelical Christian.  It may have reinforced the impression that the U.S. was on a religious Crusade.

It is noteworthy that a study of chaplains in the military revealed 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 convert others, and splendid opportunities for chaplains to take advantage of government programs that offer steady pay, generous benefits and comfortable pensions.  This infiltration of the military by religious folk is similar to infiltrations of the military by large numbers of white supremacists.  These are negative developments.  Non-Christians in the military should not have their religious beliefs trampled by evangelicals.

33.  Empirical Observations about Empire

The U.S. has built a 21-building embassy compound in the dangerous Green Zone in Baghdad.  The construction cost more than $700 million, a price that was significantly 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 did we build this compound, and the accompanying huge military bases in Iraq?  Were we expecting to occupy Iraq indefinitely, and to have this embassy serve as an Imperial Control Center, perchance? 

It is as though we were emulating the First Emperor of China, who conscripted many thousands of laborers over many years to build a huge mausoleum for himself in Xian, China.  The Emperor had the tomb filled with thousands of terracotta warriors to protect him “in his afterlife”.  It is a bizarre delusion that the Emperor believed this would make him safer!  As destiny and poetic irony would have it, soon after the Emperor died in 210 BCE, the outraged Chinese citizenry looted and all but destroyed the large monument and its contents.  What will be the fate of our own enormous monstrosity in Baghdad?  Mortar shells flew regularly in the vicinity even during the ephemeral period when we had a surge-level number of troops occupying the country, so its long-term destiny does not appear to be propitious.  What, are our leaders 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!)

Honestly “thinking outside the box” can be valuable.  Let’s consider this:  if military spending were to be reduced by 5% in each of the next 5 years, more than $150 billion could be saved.  If half of this were to be applied against budget deficits, we still would have $75 billion to invest in peace building, demilitarization, infrastructure improvements, robust emergency-response systems and personnel, planning for sustainable development, reasonable expenditures for Homeland Security, 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 fairly 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 often assert that our side is good and right while the other side is evil and wrong?  Can we prevent religious extremists from providing support to terrorists -- or politicians -- in their drives to attack innocent people or to wage wars? 

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

Listen to President Bush in conversation with Palestinian officials in 2003:  “I’m driven with a mission from God.  God would tell me, <George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.>  And I did.  And then God would tell me, <George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq.>  And I did.”  Really?  The costs, George, of this proclaimed religious fanaticism, have been terrible.

The Golden Rule should be an honored American 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 in the Earth Manifesto.  Let’s follow through to remove those from power who refuse to support progressive ideas.  The staunch Strict Father “strength” of the past 50 years cannot be trusted;  it is too damaging to world peace and the ecological commons -- and it’s making almost everyone in the world less safe.  

35.  The ‘Right’ is Wrong

Preemptive warfare and rash military interventions are wrong in many ways:  wrong from standpoints of international law, wrong from perspectives of Golden Rule fairness, and wrong in the disrespect they show for the sovereignty of other nations.  These strategies are counterproductive and pernicious because of their tendencies to create more enemies.  In a sense we are fighting rich people’s wars while spilling poor people’s blood.  This is unconscionable!

Hear this, supporters of radical right-wing conservatism:  We must stop ignoring the mutuality of security needs in our foreign policy determinations.  A safer world cannot be achieved by overly heavy emphasis on military actions. A higher priority should be given to cooperative efforts designed to create fair domestic policies and just, enforceable international laws.  Such laws should be oriented toward greater fairness and less collateral damage, and should seek to diminish poverty and injustice everywhere.  We need to minimize frustration, resentment and humiliation, instead of stoking them.

  “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 subset of ideas and convictions that have gotten us into the danger in which we find ourselves.  Let us seek a radically different set of ideas, understandings, pragmatic 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?  Some spiritual leaders contend that a national movement that encourages transcendental meditation would help overcome our aggressive impulses.  Repeat the mantra after me:  Om mani padme hum.

‘Understanding’ implies recognizing truths that are more than one-sided.  It means seeing truths that are more all-encompassing.  To achieve better understanding, we need to recognize the valid perspectives contained in alternate points of view.  To understand politics in the Middle East for instance, it’s not enough to try to understand the mentality of the Israelis, or the psychology of Arab feelings of inadequacy of influence or their history of humiliation and accompanying anger.  It is important to also try to understand the mentality of Americans and our leaders, and the motivations that underlie our actions.  We should also be aware of the psychology of the Strict Father constellation of beliefs that drives us to support leaders who talk tough, act strong, and are militarily aggressive, as if such attitudes are the best way to make us secure. 

The Israeli documentary The Gatekeepers delivers a compelling message.  Every one of the last six heads of the Shin Bet Israeli Security Agency (the Israeli equivalent of the CIA) declares that their leaders should be willing to talk with adversaries.  They express opposition to right-wing elements in their government that advocate a unilateral military strike on Iran’s suspected nuclear development sites.  “I think, after retiring from this job, you become a bit of a leftist,” says Yaakov Peri, who ran Shin Bet from 1988 to 1994.  He and his colleagues generally favor a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the curtailment of Jewish settlements on the West Bank.  They are not doves or bleeding hearts, but according to one reviewer, “… their shared professional ethos of ruthless, unsentimental pragmatism is precisely what gives such force to their worries about the current state of Israeli politics.”

The reelection of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in March 2015 seems to have been helped by Netanyahu’s last minute appeal to right-wing extremists by promising that no Palestinian state would be established as long as he remained in office.  This brazen declaration does not bode well for peace in the Middle East.

The fear and anger of Americans in the wake of the shocking 9/11 attacks gave great impetus to belligerent, vindictive and self-righteous voices.  These influences, compounded with our reliance on fossil fuels imported from the Middle East, make us desperate to do whatever it takes to protect our overweening power and to prolong our addiction to oil through military means.

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

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

Perhaps conservatives think they are being farsighted when they endorse big increases in defense spending and advocate harsh prisoner interrogation methods.  Maybe they think it is far-sighted to support stiff sentences to deter crimes, or support privatized education, or strive to implement abstinence-only sex education.  Maybe they really believe it’s proper to continuously support policies that facilitate increases in economic inequalities.  Some of them must think it is sensible to continue to enforce costly and Draconian penalties for smoking marijuana.  Many of them love to rail against what they consider to be pornography.  And most of them are committed to striving to outlaw abortions and even to discourage the use of contraceptives.  So the way they see the world, they may actually think they favor addressing underlying causes.  I believe that a more comprehensive, honest and fair evaluation of these complex issues contradicts and refutes such perspectives. 

To diffuse the potential contagion represented by this dangerous cocktail of oppositional points of view, and indeed to prevent the increasing likelihood of expanded conflicts in the Middle East, we should take off our blinders and one-sided ways of seeing the world.  Leaders on all sides should recognize and admit the need for fair negotiations and win/win solutions to international problems.  A reasonable modicum of mutual respect should be cultivated, and lasting commitments to diplomatic solutions should be made.  And we should reject demagoguery, “cowboy rhetoric”, Trumpism and extremism, and instead support honorable efforts to promote peace and mutual security.

36.  Mission Possible?

It is essential for good foreign policy to re-evaluate our mission and the results of actions in light of changing circumstances and realistic understandings.  An unclear mission can lead to catastrophic results.  People are generally committed to their own self-interest without having a strong concern for the interests of others.  It is, nonetheless, important to understand the points-of-view of adversaries, as well as of allies.  Both our domestic policy and our foreign policy should intelligently assess the effects of our actions upon others, and take into account concerns for the general populace, not just the interests of rich people, giant corporations and investors.

Military solutions do not work without strong diplomatic and pragmatic political endeavors.  We should recognize legitimate local grievances and work to reduce tensions.  In addition to rejecting military aggression as a strategy for solving problems, the U.S. should make a serious re-evaluation of our policies and the politicians who advance them.  An emphasis on military solutions should not be used to adjudicate power disputes or advance imperialistic agendas.  We should find ways to avoid blundering into political and social quagmires abroad in countries whose cultures we do not understand.

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

37.  Bait and Switch Strategies

The Bush cabal stimulated the fears of Americans in the years from 2001 through 2008.  It did this partially to promote military dominance and powerful influence for the military/industrial complex.  The role of profit-obsessed war-service industries and investors is significant in this undertaking.  The political capital gained from the national tragedy of September 11th was used to ram through a neoconservative agenda in unrelated realms of social, economic and environmental policies.  This opportunity was exploited 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, women, and gay men and lesbian women.  For crying out loud! 

Power was abused by invoking enemies to justify surveillance programs and to harass people, repress dissent, and manipulate the press.  These are shrewd but unconscionable tricks.  Terribly, terribly shrewd.  Coldly calculating 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 strengthened the reactionary political right in the U.S.  The politics of the “war on terror” have had the effect not only of facilitating war, but also of enriching wealthy people at the expense of the common good and peaceful coexistence.  This is a dastardly misfortune for the majority of people on Earth.

In the wake of the attacks of 9/11, most people in the United States and the world became 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.  Costly consequences have resulted.  The amount of money we are spending on the Pentagon, troops, munitions, warfare, reconstruction, spying, covert operations, the CIA, and the FBI is staggering.  And there are 16 different intelligence agencies in the U.S. government.  Is all of this necessary?

38.  Jingoism and Hopes for Peace

War hawks gained support for invading Iraq by using several unsavory strategies.  In addition to using deceptive rationalizations and exploiting people’s fears and fabricating stories related to the “evil dictator” Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction, they took advantage of desires for revenge and nationalistic drives for superiority.  Having sold the war to the American people, the military then censored reports and information from the battlefield and distorted the facts of how the war was going.  The Bush administration refused to allow news coverage of coffins coming home of soldiers who had died.  The military brass even seems to have covered up the details of the ‘friendly-fire’ killing of Pat Tillman.  What the hell really took place in that case? 

“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.”       

                                         --- Chalmers Johnson, in Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic

Something is terribly amiss when we allow so-called “chickenhawk” leaders who avoided military service to their country, and yet are staunch proponents of aggressive uses of military force, 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.  George W. Bush’s taunting “bring ’em on” bravado foolishly put our troops in greater danger. 

Dick Cheney once explained that he had “other priorities than military service”.  I’m sure!  Many other people might have had other priorities too, but they had fewer options than Dick Cheney, due to the economic inequities and uneven opportunities in our society.  Dick Cheney’s ideological enthusiasm for sending troops abroad at a terribly high cost is particularly obscene in light of the substantial conflicts of interest he had in his strong ties to business interests that profit from war, like his ties to Halliburton and its affiliates.

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

A solution to the Palestinian problem needs to be found in order to achieve 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 provides valuable insight into the honorable integrity, extraordinary anguish, and deep humanity of Simon Wiesenthal, a man driven to make people aware of the genocide committed against millions of Jews in Nazi concentration camps.  Simon Wiesenthal helped track down and apprehend many German war criminals who had played roles that contributed to 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 should 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 more secure homeland should also be created for Palestinians.  A big outpouring of international support for Palestinian prosperity and economic security is needed. 

Remember that only by sowing justice can we harvest peace.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!  We need to find ways to all get along better together.  This requires collaboration and compromise and commitments to diplomatic negotiations and win/win solutions.  This can be accomplished.  All parties should try harder to move respectfully toward a lasting solution of the Israeli/Palestinian problem and the horrific conflict in Syria..  Only by doing this will the tinderbox in the Middle East be made less volatile and inflammatory.  This would help truly establish more 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 hawks that make use of hyped-up threats, misleading rhetoric and deceptive propaganda.  The media is complicit in this, because they often get caught up in supporting the Establishment’s war efforts.  The majority of newspapers and television and radio stations in the U.S. actively promoted the lies and manipulations of the Bush administration in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.  Catherine Austin Fitts, former Assistant Secretary of Housing under President George H. W. Bush wrote: “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” refers to widespread practices within media organizations that include fear mongering, sensationalism, exaggeration and hawkish 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 courageous whistle-blowers.  They would also likely support increased diversity of news sources and opinions and the prevention of further conglomeration in the media like that which has given Rupert Murdoch outlandishly manipulative influence and Roger Ailes a domineering stage for conservative propaganda on Fox News.

A big dilemma of the news business is that public ownership of newspaper and media corporations subjects them to an overriding need to try to make bigger profits every year.  Faced with declining classified ad revenues due to Internet competition by sites like Craig’s List, newsrooms have been forced to cut costs, so they have developed reporting that is based to a greater extent on opinion and entertainment value.  As a result, hard news and investigative reporting and public interest information have declined.  In the breach, ‘faux news’ and government and corporate propaganda have expanded.  This undermines valid and accurate understandings. 

As the future unfolds, will the media act as a force for truth, enlightenment and democracy, or one of collaborative deception and indoctrination?  Will the media be controlled by operatives who abuse their power and use fear to manipulate people and have goals of shortsighted profit making?  Will the slow demise of newspaper newsrooms and non-partisan reporting accelerate trends toward Orwellian domination of thought by right-wing front groups or Big Brother government or demagogues like Trump?  Or will countervailing influences contribute to awareness, revolutionarily positive change, smart reforms 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, like the student body leaders, football players and other athletes, cheerleaders, cute popular girls, effeminate guys, macho bullies, thespians, studious types, nerds, band members, spoiled rich kids, and so on.

Consider that the best student leaders in high school were those who had social skills and charisma, and who reflected qualities that could be described 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 the clever manipulations that result in leaders being elected who pander to the macho bully in us all. 

One of the most stubbornly effective lobbyist organizations in the United States is the National Rifle Association.  It strongly opposes sensible gun laws such as a ban on assault weapons and background checks for everyone who buys a gun.  The unbalanced, wrong-headed and negative influence of this aggressive right-wing industry should be reduced.  This is an excellent 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 extreme interpretations of the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights, advancing the interests of the gun lobby.  But they also ironically support efforts by some who want to erode protections of free speech contained in the First Amendment, or of fair trial and habeas corpus rights contained in the Fourth Amendment.  They also seem willing to look the other way and ignore Geneva Convention agreements against torture, and to support the abrogation of international arms control treaties, and indeed to commit crimes under international law by waging wars of aggression. 

Militant forces are the driving energy behind our nation’s refusal to ratify the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.  This is a sad state of affairs because our endorsement of this agreement would have helped eliminate the 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 most of the nations in the world have signed.

41.  Irony and Cynicism

Listen to President George W. Bush, when he gave a commencement address at West Point Military Academy in May 2006: “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.  When Bush said this, he seemed more disposed than terrorists to vaulting ideological ambitions and the unopposed power to impinge on the freedoms of American citizens.  Why are the American people so gullible as to allow such leaders to follow perverse domestic and foreign policies such as the ones put in place by right-wing conservatives?

The Cold War was a struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union for economic, political and military dominance.  Ideological foundations that sustained this fear-exacerbated conflict include a battle of ideologies that was framed as a struggle of capitalism against communism, and thus 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 whose economies are organized according to more centralized planning. 

No matter what else can be said about it, the Cold War was extraordinarily costly.  It was a social and environmental calamity for both the Soviet Union and the United States.  The opportunity costs of the enormous expenditures involved are hard to fully fathom, but the world could have been much saner if more resources had been devoted to fairer and more salubrious purposes.  The Cold War helped bankrupt the Soviet Union, at terrible 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 having so adamantly stoked it, the vast majority of people in the world would have been better off. 

The Western world is still mindlessly crowing about the valiant victory of capitalism over godless communism.  But we are deluded to fail to recognize that this was 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 was a form of crackpot imperialist adventurism.  It was driven by our addiction to oil and military domination, and by our failure to prevent entrenched energy, defense and war service industries from having overwhelming influence in Congress and the White House.  Vast fortunes are made on fossil fuels and weapons systems and profligate government spending, and this state of affairs is facilitated by a type of propaganda known as the ‘Big Lie’.

42.  The “Big Lie” Phenomenon

The “Big Lie” is a term first coined by Adolf Hitler in his 1925 autobiography Mein Kampf, and it 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 organization to 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.  This offensive has been sold to the American people as an undertaking designed to make us safer, yet this can be seen in the larger context to be a gambit of global hegemony, just as Adolf Hitler’s invasions of other countries were.  The war on terror has inadvertently created a more dangerous and less stable world.  Many of our national actions since September 11, 2001 have been misguided and illegal under international law.  We have indulged in preemptive wars of aggression and military occupations of two entire nations.  It is revealing that the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq were being evaluated as possibilities well before 9/11.

The “war on terror” is a classic example of a Big Lie because it creates fear embodied in an exaggerated myth.  The purpose of this pathetic tactic is to exploit circumstances to advance the goals of narrowly focused interest groups.  The five most significant deceptions promoted by the Bush administration in the run up to the wars in the Middle East are these:

(1) It claimed that no one could have imagined terrorists hijacking airplanes to be used as missiles;  (2) It asserted that Saddam Hussein was partially responsible for the 9/11 attacks;  (3) It implied Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that were an imminent threat to the U.S.;  (4) It denied that these wars had anything to do with control of oilfields in Iraq or a Unocal oil pipeline across Afghanistan;  and (5) It claimed these wars would be 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 includes a bloody role in international affairs.  In addition to CIA backing of numerous military coups abroad over the years, our government has routinely interfered in the affairs of nations worldwide.  We staunchly support regimes that repress their citizens, like the regime in theocratic Saudi Arabia, which is an extremely undemocratic country.  The U.S. has many times used 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, profiteering, hawkish supremacy or unalloyed ambition.  These drives have been accompanied by deeply amoral and unfair policies and attitudes that smack of being preachy, unbalanced, overly macho, hubris-filled and even swaggeringly monomaniacal.

The intelligence agencies and secret police of the old Soviet Union were often regarded as merciless, with their Gulag prisons and all.  But fewer people are aware of the nefarious role that the American CIA has played in international politics.  Recall again that the CIA helped topple Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh in 1953 and install the despotic Shah, whose notorious Iranian secret police known as the SAVAK ruthlessly repressed the people of Iran for more than 25 years.

Consider 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 all of world history.  Evil, indeed!

So, how did Saddam Hussein get into power?  Oops! -- he was able to take over the Iraqi government 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 probably obtained from U.S. sources during the Reagan administration, when the U.S. covertly sided with Iraq by providing arms for the Iraqi war of aggression against Iran.

Why did Saddam Hussein invade Kuwait in 1990?  Some have said it was related to Saddam’s meeting with April Glaspie, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, which took place 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.”

Consider Osama bin Laden -- he was the epitome of 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 mujahedeen, who were Muslim guerrillas that fought the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan for many years.  Osama bin Laden was a wealthy Saudi who supported the mujahedeen, so the CIA assisted him in his efforts to rid Afghanistan of the Soviet invaders that Muslims regarded as “infidels”.  We supported Osama bin Laden!

After the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in defeat in 1989, the ruthless Taliban came to power.  We congratulated ourselves on the covert operations of “Charlie Wilson’s War” that helped bring down the Soviet Union, and then we abandoned Afghanistan to a fate of turmoil and oppression.  The Taliban were a vicious group of backward looking, woman oppressing and terrorism-supporting rulers who regarded Americans as the new foreign infidels once the Soviet invaders had been vanquished.  So it can be seen that our government has actually created many of its own international woes, and we should now demand that smarter and fairer plans be undertaken.

44.  Secrecy and Stupidity

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

We cannot accept the deceptions of our leaders that have 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 we have gotten into the dangerous foreign predicaments we are involved in today is because the Bush administration was one of the most secretive ever.  Our nation perpetrated many incidents of punitively harsh interrogations and merciless torture in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and in an untold number of other places where CIA “prisoner renditions” were used.  This stunt involved the kidnapping of suspects -- some of them entirely innocent -- to send them to secret prisons abroad.  We should commit our nation to never again using punitive Gestapo-like ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques.  Torture and ‘confessions’ that are coerced do not yield reliable information, and they endanger the safety of our troops who could be tortured in reprisal if taken prisoner.  Indeed, they make our nation less secure by increasing the probabilities of blowback retaliation in reaction to these provocations.

Long-term incarcerations in the prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba are a symbol of harsh imprisonment, and thus an additional stain on our reputation as a country that abides by international laws and treaty agreements.

A Brigadier General who taught “prisoner of war interrogation” to soldiers in the U.S. Army for 18 years once said that torture tactics are not only morally wrong, but that 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 sometimes-repugnant ideological reasons. 

Daviel Levin, a former U.S. Acting Assistant Attorney General, agreed to be waterboarded to determine if he would find the practice to be a form of 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.  Practically, it is torture!  Legally, it is torture!  Ethically, it is torture!” 

The late journalist Christopher Hitchens also voluntarily underwent a session of waterboarding.  He noted that the technique is essentially a slow drowning.  He concluded, “… if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.”

Nonetheless, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Attorney General Michael Mukasey were unwilling to admit that waterboarding is torture.  The Bush administration fired courageous Daviel Levin who had voluntarily undergone the practice.  Levin was viewed as ‘too independent’, even though he was just honorably trying to evaluate the true impact of the procedure.  The administration seems to have preferred loyalty to its policies rather than honesty to the American people.  The President and 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 is “to ensure public safety” and “to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans”.  Torturing detainees did not accomplish these goals!   

The U.S. spends more money on munitions and “intelligence” that any country ever.  But our leaders have misused this power to crush ‘evil enemies’, claiming that God is on our side.  The ends we have pursued conflict with democratic fairness, true justice and moral rectitude.  Altogether, these developments are wrong-headed.  We should begin a new era of more intelligent, just, open and respectful foreign policies that adhere to domestic and international rules of law.  We should shift our course, and stop violating international agreements.  Many people advocate that we become 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 prison guards are deeply disturbing, but one must realize that corrosive corruption starts at the top of the chain of command.  If there are no photos, it doesn’t happen?  If the waterboarding videos have been destroyed, then it’s “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 military hierarchy is generally effective in covering up the truth of horrid crimes that occur in the conduct of war -- the beatings, brutality, harsh interrogation tactics, and vile punishment procedures, occasionally of people who are completely innocent.  Extensive corruption, and fog-of-war power abuses, and rationalizations that say “shit happens”, and sexual humiliations of prisoners, and intimidation by vicious dogs, and various other psychological atrocities are an incidental boots-on-the-ground expression of military supremacy gambits and the “shock and awe” arrogance of power and domination.

Humiliated male prisoners on leashes led by female guards?  This is a repulsive image.  Is this how some 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 with our wartime involvements and behaviors, but also our own soldiers -- and ourselves. 

It is not just those caught in our oppressive operations that are degraded and harmed.  Our troops have suffered a large number of terrible injuries.  Hundreds of thousands of American military personnel are coming home from the Middle East with deep psychological wounds and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by the fear, trauma, horror and deep sense of helplessness associated with wartime experiences. 

Our foreign policy deciders have not only cost us huge sums of money and damaged our moral standing in the world, but they have ruined the lives of millions of people.  We keep trying to sweep this failure of misguided undertakings under the carpet.  From now on, let’s try harder to PREVENT wars!  Let us commit our nation to war prevention and diplomacy, NOT pre-emptive invasions.  I plead this case to the successors of George W. Bush and his war enthusiast cohorts.  Sow justice to harvest peace!

45.  Pretexts for War and False Flag Operations

A false flag operation is a type of ruse that has taken many forms over the years.  One type is a covert operation used to make it appear that some group has attacked a nation so that the leaders of that nation are able to use the incident as a pretext to launch a war, or advance an agenda to gain more control, power, domination, or narrow political ambition. 

One famous instance of a probable false flag operation was a fire that broke out in the German Parliament building, the Reichstag, on February 27, 1933.  Adolf Hitler had been appointed as Chancellor of Germany just one month before the fire, and he used the incident to invoke emergency government powers on THE VERY NEXT DAY after the fire.  He rammed through a “Reichstag Fire Decree” that immediately suspended many civil liberties in Germany.  Democracy was thus basically abolished overnight in a more or less legal manner.  An Enabling Act soon followed that gave Hitler powers like that of a dictator.  These acts led eventually to the devastating German aggression of World War II.  Serious evidence points to perfidious Nazi collaboration in the setting of the Reichstag fire, though Communists were scapegoated for the conflagration.

Let us not make the dangerous mistake of deceiving ourselves into believing that the U.S. is immune from being subjected to a more repressive regime.  We could be only one Reichstag-fire-like incident away -- one day away! -- from a reactive enabling law of our own that would seriously erode our civil liberties and reduce democratic representation in government.  If we want to heighten that risk, Trump’s the guy!

The Bush/Cheney cabal used the threat of terrorism after 9/11 to undermine civil liberties of the American people.  They advanced their agenda using the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, the suspension of habeas corpus, the suppression of dissent, domestic spying, the use of harsh ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’, and evasions of rules of law through uses of ‘signing statements’ and FBI ‘national security letters’.  The federal government also violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  It intimidated artists and intellectuals, blamed liberals, tried to undermine critical thinking in public education, cut funding for public broadcasting, and helped facilitate an increased concentration of the media in corporate hands so that giant corporations would dominate television, and right-wing personalities like Rush Limbaugh would dominate talk radio. 

The characteristics of our right-leaning leaders in recent years ominously resemble the fascist dictatorships in the past century. The hallmarks of fascist dictatorships have been: belligerent nationalism, deceptive propaganda, judicial manipulation, harsh punishments, aggressive expansions of prisons, extensive corruption, crony favoritism, the oppression of workers, expanded corporate power, a pandering to religious fundamentalists, role rigidity, male dominion, homophobia, anti-gay legislation, racism, sexism, opposition to abortion, and the cultivation of divisiveness, fear, prejudice and hate. 

We Americans should remain alert to the dangers to us and our children from a serious usurpation of emergency powers by our government that would severely limit our civil liberties.  We should avoid provocations or miscalculations with countries like Iran and Russia.  We should act to prevent false flag operations that could materialize in the form of a staged terrorist act or even a radioactive 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 how desperate the struggle for personal political survival can become, and how inimical such developments can be to citizen liberty. 

Sinclair Lewis wrote the 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here, about “Buzz” Windrip, a southern politician who campaigned on family values, patriotism and defending the flag.  Windrip portrayed any person who was concerned with individual rights and freedoms as being anti-American.  He basically was advocating a form of totalitarianism.  And, yes -- it could happen here.  Sinclair Lewis would have agreed with the idea frequently misattributed to him:  “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying the cross.”  That’s a scary idea!

In the run-up to all American wars of the past century, war plans and preparations have 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 a type of cunning calculation that falls into a category of cultivated ignorance (‘letting it happen’), or of intentional provocation, or of outright orchestration by means of a covert false flag operation. 

The pretext for getting the U.S. into a war against Spain in 1898 was the mysterious bombing of the USS Maine in the harbor of Havana.  The pretext for the U.S. to become 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 a surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. 

Perhaps most damning, the U.S. used a pathetic pretext to get involved in the war in Vietnam.  This was the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964.  This 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 either solve a ‘Who Dunnit?’ mystery or get to the bottom of a crime, readers and investigators know that it’s important to look at all the motives, means and opportunities of those suspected of committing a crime.  It is also significant to evaluate all available clues and forensic evidence and to assess the character and veracity of all suspects.  Misrepresentations, 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 a unanimous consensus can be reached among twelve people who are empowered to listen without prejudice to all testimony, and to evaluate it, and to respectfully debate the details, express their opinions, and work together in deliberations that are designed to reach a just decision. 

Prosecutors, defense attorneys, witnesses and 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 in the context of the pertinent laws.  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!  In almost every case, the defendant pleads “not guilty”, no matter how convincing the evidence of likely actual guilt.

Most Americans would probably agree that one of the most egregious crimes so far this century was the 9/11 hijackings and attacks.  These crimes resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000 people in the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon and on the hijacked airplanes.  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 finance it.  These issues are 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 ensued that devastated property and killed untold numbers of innocent civilians.

Instead of looking into all the facts of 9/11, and judging them on their merits, a media circus of confusion and outrage unfolded.  Secrecy shrouded the details of the terrorist attacks.  Officials of the federal government obstructed an investigation for many months before an official investigation was even approved.

I urge you to think about this issue like a dispassionate juror, and to give this matter some serious consideration.  Read Richard Clarke’s book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror.  Since Richard Clarke was the counterterrorism czar under Bill Clinton and during the first year of the Bush administration, he well knew that the 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 motives for U.S. support of an attack on Afghanistan well before 9/11 (it concerns a UNOCAL pipeline across Afghanistan, “a top priority of the Bush administration from the outset”).

Keep in mind the context that the militant Neoconservative think tank, the “Project for the New American Century”, had a powerful influence on high-level government officials in the administration of George Bush.  The 1997 “Statement of Principles” of the Project for the New American Century conveyed serious enthusiasms for increasing levels of military spending and dominating projections of U.S. military power.  Section V, euphemistically titled Rebuilding America’s Defenses, included the chilling observation that the supremacist goals endorsed by this think tank would likely take a long time to achieve, “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor.” 

It would be extraordinarily cynical to suppose that any American would ever conspire to assist a group of terrorists in perpetrating a lethal attack against thousands of innocent people in our nation.  But there is cogent evidence pointing to the possible heinous culpability of officials in our government looking the other way as the 9/11 hijackings happened, or even of having had a hand in helping make them happen.  I challenge readers to remain open-minded on this topic.  I know, I KNOW, I know:  it would be too dastardly for serious consideration to imagine that any American could contemplate such treachery;  no group could be so stupid as to take such a monumental risk of being exposed as the most damnable traitors ever;  no one could have carried out such skullduggery, or been so successful in keeping it a secret;  one would have to be a completely crazy conspiracy theorist to be able to imagine any possibility whatsoever of such preposterous perfidy. 

Sadly, our leaders have not been adequately forthcoming with the people.  They definitely created suspicion that they were not telling the whole truth to the American people.  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?  After months of opposing an investigation, the administration was finally forced to cave in to pressure to look into the attacks by creating the 9/11 Commission.  Then it appointed Philip D. Zelikow as Executive Director of the Commission, despite the fact that his impartiality was seriously compromised by his intimate connections to the administration -- and by his authorship of a National Security Strategy “white paper” in 2002 that specifically advocated pre-emptive war and unilateral actions without hesitation, “if necessary”.  Many other conflicts of interest arose that indicate Zelikow’s role in the Commission was not appropriate for finding out the whole truth. 

Then the administration stonewalled the inquiry by the Commission for many weeks.  There was little official cooperation with the Commission.  The Pentagon “ordered five key witnesses not to testify” about a classified military planning effort known as Able Danger.  And George W. Bush refused to testify under oath. 

The Commission did a poor job of answering a significant portion of the more than 400 questions posed by the ‘Jersey Girls’ spouses and other members of September 11 families.  When the Commission’s report was eventually published, it contained significant omissions and distortions.  It was a unanimous report, meaning that any detail that was too controversial was required to be omitted.  The report did not even mention the inexplicable collapse of Building 7 of the World Trade Center complex!  And 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 behind the scenes and involved in the atrocious attacks? 

Again I urge people to watch the compelling Internet film, Zeitgeist Movie (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.”

It is most people’s natural tendency to deny any possibility that the CIA, the Pentagon, or others in the federal government could have been complicit in the 9/11 attacks.  But if one spends some time perusing the “Top 40 Reasons to Doubt the Official Story of September 11, 2001” (found at 911Truth.org), or listening to Richard Gage’s astounding Power Point presentation of Explosive Evidence – Experts Speak Out at “ae911truth.org”, a bizarre story emerges.  Richard Gage, the founder of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, provided compelling analytical insights into why the official story of the 9/11 attacks “can’t possibly be true”.  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. 

Another compelling avenue of information can be found in the provocative book by Michael C. Ruppert entitled Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil.  How could it have NO practical significance, if it turns out to be true, that operatives in the Pakistani Secret Police (the ISI) were involved in wire-transferring money to Mohammed Atta, the 9/11 terrorist ringleader who crashed the first airplane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center building? 

The facts that the U.S. spends $40 billion every year on 16 organizations involved in intelligence, and that there are thousands of people with top-secret clearances, could imply that it’s possible for clandestine operators to have been involved in the collapse of Building 7 in World Trade Center complex.  There is extensive forensic evidence that thermite and explosives may have been used to topple Building 7, which was not hit by an airplane but nonetheless collapsed a full eight hours after the North and South Towers fell.  Building 7 collapsed in a manner exactly consistent with the way a building falls into its own footprint during a controlled demolition, as can be seen in videos of the collapse.  There are more than 666,000 government employees who hold top-secret clearances, so a it’s not impossible that a few of them in the inner echelons could have been involved in complete secrecy.

“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 seems to be so full of holes.  Let us contemplatively join President Bush reading The Pet Goat in a Florida classroom with second-graders on 9/11, and consider the emotions that roiled him as he sat stunned for 7 full minutes after being informed by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card that “America is under attack” after a second airplane had flown into World Trade Center Buildings.  Why had the President ignored the CIA’s Presidential Daily Briefing a month before 9/11, in which hijacking of airplanes was mentioned as a danger?  (It was titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.’”)  Why had our air defenses stood down while the hijacked planes were en route to their targets?

An honest and curious juror would 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.  And then that juror might even join those who are still calling for a new and truly independent investigation.

As an aside, make no mistake about it:  the 9/11 Commission Report did contain some valuable perspectives.  The chapter “More Than a War on Terrorism” clearly indicates that bombers and troops are not enough to combat terrorism.  The authors of this chapter note:  “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.” 

Several of the Commission’s recommendations have still not been implemented, including sensible oversight of homeland security by Congress, the improvement of public safety communications, and a better integration of the vast U.S. intelligence community under a coordinated national intelligence agency.  Bureaucratic resistance to smart reforms sometimes wholly exceeds the power of common sense, even at the expense of improved national security!

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 subtly increasing temperature and will be poached to death without realizing its predicament.  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 tantalizing.

Every person is conditioned to their own unique worldviews by their upbringing, their education, their peer exposures and the culture they live in.  Mass communications like newspapers, magazines, radio, film, television, books and the Internet also have powerful influences.  Since this is the case, there are two countervailing curiosities:  (1) that so wide a variety of viewpoints can develop which range 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 and national culture tends to develop prevailing premises and dominant worldviews and a Zeitgeist of the times that reflects frames of reference that are 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 prevailing narratives, propaganda, persuasive advertising and doctrinaire spin to which people in a society are exposed.  Imagine, for instance, how much different it must have been to have lived in the bleak communist Soviet Union during the Cold War than it was to have lived in a consumer-mad capitalist American city.  Or imagine how different it must be to live in Ayatollah-dominated Iran today than to be living in the Bible belt of the United States, or in an advanced metropolitan area in more progressive states. 

Emotions and inculcated faith have an astonishingly influential impact on people’s supposedly rational thought processes.  Fears, insecurities, drives to belong, and pressures to conform are easy for our representatives and their puppet-string animators to exploit.  (I refer to powerful wealthy people, of course.)  The insiders that effectively control our economies and political processes manipulate us by framing debates to their narrow advantage.  They use their ideological influence to control people and maintain their dominion and special advantages.  They reassure us that good times will trickle down to the majority of Americans one of these days, along with some benefits from the huge tax breaks we give to rich people.  Keep these ideas in mind as you are exposed to news stories, political arguments, and war enthusiasms here in the twenty-first century. 

48.  Conclusions

War should be a last resort.  Resource wars should be prevented.  We should 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 should be given a higher value and priority.  The motives for war should be limited to absolutely necessary ones, like justified self-defense, rather than offensive ones like economic domination, resource accessing, profiteering or getting rid of foreign leaders who defy our demands.  Foreign policy should more seriously honor mutual security, sovereignty, 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 alternately rewarding leaders of countries that support us, even if they harshly repress their own people.  The largely secret relationship between the Bush family and the dictatorial ruling family of Saudi Arabia is shocking;  some say it was treasonous to our democracy.  Read House of Bush, House of Saud for more information on this. 

Americans have become a bit numb and complacent to the terrible injustices of wars that are being fought in our names.  Our society today provides an odd contrast to the 1960s, when America was a hotbed of protest, exploration, outrage, and political demonstrations for peace and love.  Today, the outrage over war and injustice has yet to coalesce into enough momentum to get us to significantly reduce our military spending, even though many people who voted for Barack Obama in the year 2008 cherished hopes that he would pursue this goal. 

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

Many Americans’ engagement in public life has atrophied as we have become obedient consumers and investors eager to gain maximized returns, and most are not deeply engaged citizens.  And with good reason, for it seems futile for the nearly 5 million Americans who contributed $200 or less to political campaigns in 2014, to support candidates they wanted to represent them, to have been outspent by the 100 biggest donors.

To be better citizens, we should evolve from being merely good consumers to more community-oriented participants in our democracy.  If we focus human creativity on bright ideas for problem solving, and keep the common good foremost in mind, we might be able to prevent dangerous states of poverty, humiliation, resignation and despair.  The shining light of rationality and reason reveal that “war approaches” -- like the war on terror, the war on drugs, and wars for oil -- are approaches that are simply too counterproductive and costly and risky to be continued.

Clear thinking, freedom of expression, moral courage and good conscience could help us overcome the obstruction of those who support our nation’s war agenda.  And let’s demand honest campaign finance reform!  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!

Listen to this poetic perspective, quoted by the wonderful poet David Whyte in his evocative voice:

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, let’s find better ways to create peace and to vanquish injustice and war.  Let’s support higher values and bigger picture understandings, and choose to seek mutually beneficial means of achieving peaceful coexistence, wiser priorities, fairer justice, and a more sane treatment of our beautiful and providential Mother Earth!

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


       Dr. Tiffany B. Twain,   

             First published online in 2008;  modified a number of times between then and August 2016.