Whole Lotta Lies

War Is A Lie
by
David Swanson

War is a LieWar is a Lie

Howard Zinn, probably the most influential American historian ever, had an amazing sense of humor when he lectured or met people in person. He could make fun of himself and the audience in a way that exploded the guilt and ambivalence that so often paralyzes liberals, progressives, greens, socialists, anarchists, communists and everyone else on the more-or-less left. Only occasionally, however, did Zinn use his sense of humor in print. His masterpiece, A People’s History of the United States, had no humor at all, as he himself pointed out, because he didn’t find anything funny about the Trail of Tears and all the other ghastly episodes he wove into a narrative that convinced millions of citizens the United States was something less than what they had believed.

What Zinn went for in his writing—always—was clarity. I’ve got most of his books, and there isn’t an obscure, academic, post-modern, high priestly syllable in them. Anyone of normal intelligence over the age of 12 could understand him. Which is not to say that Zinn wasn’t misunderstood. He was, of course. But it was always willful misunderstanding. Establishment historians always misunderstood him, because to admit the validity of the story Zinn chose to tell was to understand that the careers of establishment historians were pathetic, if well remunerated. So they never answered his arguments. They either ignored him or caricatured him and tried to demolish something that wasn’t there.

David Swanson writes in the tradition of Howard Zinn. He always goes for clarity, both in his relentless orchestration of the facts and his ethical vision. War Is A LIe is as clear as the title. Wars are all based on lies, could not be fought without lies, and would not be fought at all if people held their governments to any reasonable standard of honesty. The book is easy to understand, easy to read, if you have the will to face a vast array of facts that hold the United States government to a reasonable standard of honesty.

Also like Zinn in A People’s History, Swanson doesn’t let you off the hook with jokes. There are many passages of bitter irony, but when you consider the carnage and ruin that have have flowed from all the lies Swanson discusses, the main emotions are revulsion and anger. If you want laughs with your tragedy, read Gore Vidal.

Yahoos in Charge: Taking It Out on the Kids…and the Grandkids

One of the major talking points issued by the Republican Party to its newly elected members of Congress is that they should always say in interviews that they are worried about the impact of government deficit spending on their grandchildren.

It sounds good: “I’m worried about what continued deficits will mean for our grandchildren.”

But it’s a lie.

If these Congress members were genuinely worried about their grandchildren–and ours–they’d be doing something about putting the brakes on climate change, and that is not anywhere on the Republican agenda. In fact, most Republicans claim they don’t even believe in climate change.

Body-Scanners May Not Work, But They Do Cause Cancer

Are you one of the millions of Americans flying this Thanksgiving weekend? Are you thinking about joining the national protest to opt-out of being run through an airport X-ray scanner?

If you’re worried about the alternative–getting groped by TSA screeners at the checkpoint–you might consider this: The government insists those back-scatter X-ray machines are perfectly safe, but many scientists disagree.

It’s not just a matter of some puerile TSA screeners giggling at your naked body. In a letter to John Pistole, administrator of TSA, New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt, a physicist and the Chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, raises the possibility that the machines might be carcinogenic. He writes:

In March, the Congressional Biomedical Caucus (of which I am a co-chair) hosted a presentation on this technology by TSA, as well as a briefing by Dr. David Brenner of Columbia University on the potential health effects of “back scatter” x-ray devices. As Dr. Brenner noted in his presentation and in subsequent media interviews, the devices currently in use and proposed for wider deployment this year currently deliver to the scalp “20 times the average dose that is typically quoted by TSA and throughout the industry.”

'Presente!' – The Demonstration to Close the School of the Americas

It was the fifteenth time I’d trekked to Columbus, Georgia, to the gate of Fort Benning, for the annual November demonstration to close the School of the Americas.

Since 1989, following the murder of six Jesuit priests in San Salvador by graduates of the SOA, the effort to close it down has been led by Mary Knoll priest Father Roy Bourgeois, a Vietnam veteran and a priest who served in Bolivia during a very violent period hostile to priests sympathetic to the plight of the poor. The school is used to train foreign soldiers.

Bourgeois is a legend for a famous and clever act of civil disobedience. Dressed as an Army colonel, he went on post, climbed a tree and chained himself and a large boom box to the tree outside the barracks where Salvadoran soldiers were sleeping.

On December 7, Take Your Money and Run! Show the Banks (and Politicians) Who's Boss

Leave it to a soccer hero to kickstart some serious political action.

Eric Cantona, a French soccer star who finished his playing career at Manchester United and went into acting, has sparked a European, and perhaps a global uprising against the global banking industry by calling on people everywhere to simply take their money and run away from the big banks on December 7.

Cantona, in a television interview about his career, got political in a hurry, saying that demonstrations such as those that occurred last month across France in opposition to cuts in that country’s retirement program, were meaningless and “accomplish nothing except to further the aims of the oppressors.” He called on those same protesters, and on people everywhere, to take “effective action” by withdrawing all their savings from the banks.

His challenge has caught fire across Europe, where the action is being coordinated on Facebook and via a website called Bankrun 2010. More recently, this campaign has made its way across the Atlantic to America, where soccer’s not such a big game, and where most of the economic protest action has been focussed on the reactionary anti-tax Tea Party crowd. But even here in the US, the idea of sticking it to the big banks has begun to resonate, with a website called Stopbank USA calling for a day of action by Americans on December 7.

On December 7, make it look like this at B of A, Citibank, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan ChaseOn December 7, make it look like this at B of A, Citibank, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase

WHUS's Dori Smith Interviews Dave Lindorff on the Economic Mess, the Wars on "Talk Radio Nation"

Cleck here for the first half of a two-part interview of Dave Lindorff by Dori Smith, host of “Talk Show Nation,” a public affairs program recorded at WHUS in Storrs, Connecticut and broadcast on Nov. 17, and syndicated on Pacifica Radio. The second half of the interview will be broadcast next week.
"Talk Radio Nation" is syndicated on the Pacific Radio network"Talk Radio Nation" is syndicated on the Pacific Radio network

No News is Not Good News: If Cops Tape Protests and Journalists and No One Reports It, Is It Intimidation?

Is it news when police photograph and videotape demonstrations?

Apparently for American editors and reporters, making that news judgement depends on where the demonstration occurs and what nationality the police are.

When a hundred artists gathered outside a Beijing courtroom in mid-November to protest the jailing of artist Wu Yuren, who had earlier been beaten by police and jailed because he had gone to a police station to file a complaint against a landlord, the New York Times ran an article by reporter Andrew Jacobs which pointedly noted that police officers had videotaped the crowd, and then quoted a demonstrator, artist Dou Bu, as saying, “I was scared to come out here today, but you have to face your fears.”

But a week earlier, when several hundred backers of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a black journalist on Pennsylvania’s death row for the killing of a police officer, demonstrated in front of a Third Circuit federal court building in Philadelphia, where a three-judge panel was rehearing an argument on his sentence, and local police not only videotaped the officially sanctioned rally, but also aggressively photographed and taped a group of journalists waiting to be allowed into the courtroom early, there was no mention of their action in any media, local or national.

The Manchurian Candidate Gives Out a Medal of Honor

Sergeant Salvatore Giunta will receive a Congressional Medal of Honor this week for bravery under fire in October 2007. At great risk, he assaulted a hill and rescued a gravely wounded comrade being dragged away by an insurgent. He will be the first living soldier to receive the medal since the war in Vietnam.

The man Giunta rescued did not survive, and the US forces eventually abandoned the Korengal Valley where the fighting took place. Giunta, 25, saw his actions this way:

“I ran to the front because that is where he (the wounded comrade) was. I didn’t try to be a hero and save anyone.”

As for the ten-year-old war in Afghanistan, he said, “I have sweat more, cried more, bled more in this country than in my own. These people won’t leave this valley. They have been here far before I could fathom an Afghanistan.”

Giunta’s generous modesty and the strong bond he has with his fellow soldiers is the classic stuff of war legend. He’s an archetypal national war hero from the mold of Gary Cooper playing Sergeant York of WWI fame.

Sergeant Salvatore GiuntaSergeant Salvatore Giunta

Sergeant Giunta deserves to be honored – as do many young soldiers like him whose heroism under fire may go unknown or unrecognized beyond their unit.

Meanwhile, back “in the world” — as the home front was known to soldiers in Vietnam — politics in America continues along the tragic and absurd course it has been on for too long.

Happy Remembrance Day!

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, God must love veterans; He makes so many of them.

We just finished “celebrating” Veteran’s Day earlier this month, complete with the usual parades and the show of flags, but it’s worth remembering that Nov. 11 wasn’t always a day for blindly glorifying the military.

When November 11 was initially established as a US holiday, it was done by an Act of Congress to commemorate the cease-fire established on the Western front between the forces of Germany and those of the French, British and Americans. The name of the holiday–Remembrance Day in the UK and Commonwealth countries, Armistice Day in the US–was only changed in America to Veterans Day after the Korean War, when the US was well on the way to being transformed into a permanent war machine.

World War I dead litter a roadWorld War I dead litter a road

Round Two: Third Circuit Court Panel Re-Hears Issue of Abu-Jamal's Death Penalty on Orders of Supreme Court

The three-decades-long murder case of Philadelphia journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has sat in solitary in a cramped cell on Pennsylvania’s death row for 28 years fighting his conviction and a concerted campaign by the national police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, to execute him, was back in court Tuesday, with a three-judge federal Appeals Court panel reconsidering its 2008 decision backing the vacating of his death sentence, on orders of the US Supreme Court.