Q: You wrote the book, The Peace Dividend: the most controversial proposal in the history of the world (Lulu Publishing). What is the basic idea of this project?
John Rachel: In 1992 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the citizens of the United States and the world were promised the arrival of a new era of peace and prosperity. The Cold War was over. Much of the money spent in the military standoff with the Soviets, and the preparation for a cataclysmic war, would now be diverted to peaceful ends. This massive reordering of our priorities and the windfall which would result was called the peace dividend. It never arrived.
That same year, Paul Wolfowitz then Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, stated:
“Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”
This was the core premise of what became known as the Wolfowitz Doctrine, still functioning in defense (war) plans and spending.
The Wolfowitz Doctrine is paralleled by the geopolitical analysis of Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor under President Jimmy Carter. Brezezinski’s doctrine was codified in his landmark book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives, a comprehensive theoretical framework rationalizing U.S. supremacy and world domination.
Here is a key passage outlining where the application of American power is paramount:
“How America ‘manages’ Eurasia is critical. A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions. A mere glance at the map also suggests that control over Eurasia would almost automatically entail Africa’s subordination, rendering the Western Hemisphere and Oceania geopolitically peripheral to the world’s central continent. About 75 percent of the world’s people live in Eurasia, and most of the world’s physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for about three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources.”
These unapologetic and unambiguous behests for U.S. World Empire are now official and unchallenged policy. It presumes the U.S. will govern the entire planet, is the exceptional, indispensable nation among nations, implying all others are unexceptional and dispensable, entities to be dominated or managed. The unbridled arrogance advanced by Wolfowitz is now aggressively promoted by neoconservatives – ‘neocons’ – who at present completely control the policymaking machinery of the U.S. government, meaning the Executive Branch and Congress. [Ridenour: The liberals or neo-liberals in the Democratic Party and their allies, the alleged “progressive” cohorts, have adopted this war policy as well.]
“Cooperation”, “coexistence”, “peace”, “respect for the interests of other nations” all are intentionally absent from the operative lexicon of the neocons.
We ask: Why is the world in such turmoil? Why do we have so many enemies? Why is peace now viewed as the stuff of pipe-dreams? The answer to these and related questions is quite simple.
Almost every current policy decision is an implementation of the neocon divide-and-conquer strategy and agenda. What this means is that the creation of chaos, division, antagonism, confrontation across the globe is quite intentional and specifically engineered to keep any potential challengers to U.S. hegemony weak and ineffective.
This is not just dangerous – probably suicidal – but grotesquely wasteful. Massive federal spending — which could be put in service to a better life for U.S. citizens, could address the ongoing tragedy of grotesque wealth inequality and social injustice, as well as the catastrophe of climate change worldwide—is literally going up in smoke. It’s bombs, bombs, and more bombs. The National Defense Strategy also calls for the relentless, unquestioned, unchecked, completely unwarranted intimidation of Russia and China. Such planning raises the specter of potential annihilation of life on the planet through nuclear war.
The Peace Dividend Project seeks to engage a vast majority of the American public to reverse this disastrous course, and seeks redress for the enormous damage this aggressive imperial project has done to individuals, families, communities, the entire social and economic fabric of our nation.
Q: What are the finances in this project?
Rachel: Trillions of dollars have been collected from taxpayers over the past 26 years – since the promise of a peace dividend – under false pretenses and then squandered. The wars fought over that two-and-a-half decades – still going on in seven countries right now – were and are based on lies. The need to expand the military is a fraud. The entire War On Terror is a con. Conservatively the total cost of this (using the government’s own deflated official figures) comes to $4.82 TRILLION. That is money that should have been put to productive, humane use.
Instead the government took our hard-earned money, blew up cities, destroyed whole countries, killed millions of innocent people, including 6,796 [2015 figures] of our own soldiers, created more terrorism than ever, and made the U.S. pariah of the world.
We say this money should be refunded. In fact, WE DEMAND THIS MONEY BACK! It comes to almost $15,000 per person, nearly $60,000 for a family of four. The $4.82 trillion injected back into the economy will not only provide some immediate relief to those individuals who’ve been most devastated by the fraud, but it will give a much needed boost to our consumer driven economy, create jobs, opportunity, a new start for those who’ve been held back by the wanton deception and theft. Instead of that money continuing to blow things up and murder people, we’ll fix up our homes, buy some new shoes, get our kids into that college they’ve been dreaming of attending.
The injection of that huge sum of money into the nation’s cash stream will also mean increased tax revenues. That translates into improved communities and schools, infrastructure repair, public jobs.
There’s no downside to the Peace Dividend refund, at least not for the everyday citizen. Plus we won’t have to collect the body bags containing our kids who are sent to fight unnecessary wars.
The war industry will take a temporary hit, but it can be retooled to put all those superb engineering and manufacturing resources to work on our infrastructure, solving the problems of climate change, and creating a sustainably-functioning eco-friendly economy and society. Lots of work to be done. They’ll just have to start working on green projects instead of nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles.
This is doable. The $4.82 trillion is refundable over three years, about $1.6 trillion per year. That’s only 8.25% of our GDP. Of course, since it’s about 36.3% of our federal budget, the federal budget will have to be dramatically restructured – WHICH IS THE WHOLE POINT. The Peace Dividend plan is designed to completely change the course of the nation and how governments do business. The Peace Dividend Project includes a detailed plan for doing just that. It’s much easier than most might think. About as easy as the $16.8 trillion bailout of banks all over the world rationalized by the 2008 financial meltdown.
Q: What are the conditions necessary for this project to work?
Rachel: For there to be deep systemic change, including but not limited to what I call “regime change” in Washington DC, three determinants must be in play. The presence of these provide the necessary environment for either a non-violent (preferably) or violent revolution.
There must be . . .
- Sufficient numbers of people oppressed and exploited, producing …
- Non-negotiable demands for redressing the injustice and abuse, coupled with …
- An effective mechanism or path for removing the oppressors from power.
Two of those requirements (1,3) already exist, though at this stage somewhat beneath the surface, submerged by a lot of intense propaganda and distraction. The frustration, anger, sense of being shafted by the system exists in spades. Mechanisms are also there. The conditions are ripe. We just need to organize and act.
What has been lacking is the second item, a coherent, cogent ultimatum or set of ultimatums, which codifies the abuse and injustice endemic to US government regimes of both parties. The demand for economic justice and an end to hyper-militarization and the insanity of endless war is at the core of the Peace Dividend proposal. It is a formulation of what I call an “ultimate ultimatum”—a non-negotiable, paradigm-shifting, game-changing demand. Its fulfillment will set the U.S. on a completely different trajectory, one that would eliminate the horrible suffering of war, and the onerous price citizens now pay for military adventurism, a trajectory that embraces a whole new set of priorities which would deal with the real threats to our stability. Refusal to fulfill the demand will result in a massive insurrection in one form or another.
Q: How do you expect to reach all the pertinent candidates for national office?
The success of the Peace Dividend electoral strategy depends on creating a groundswell of public support, inaugurating a firestorm of public outrage over the theft of our tax dollars under false pretenses and used to prosecute fraudulent wars with exorbitantly expensive military junk, in order to police the whole planet simply for profit. When “We want our money back!” becomes viral, truly progressive politicians who want to work for a peaceful future will run under the Peace Dividend banner. Why? Because it is right, and it will guarantee victory for decent politicians who have been locked out by the warmongering establishment – both political parties, the media, the Deep State (Pentagon and CIA). Running as a Peace Dividend candidate opens the door for a productive political career. The key is public awareness, a public unified by the Peace Dividend concept.
Q: How can this project really be implemented?
1) Every active peace and progressive organization could make the Peace Dividend concept a centerpiece of their publications, public appearances, protests, rallies, every effort to message the public. This doesn’t mean they abandon what they now do. It means that the Peace Dividend is given equal billing. This project is completely compatible with and relevant to, for example: Black Lives Matter, Fight For 15, End Citizens United, immigration reform, even free university and college. Endless war destroys prospects for ending corruption and having a functioning, representative democracy. Peace organizations should especially get involved (such as): World Without War, Black Alliance For Peace, Code Pink, Black Agenda Report, Popular Resistance, US Labor Against The War, Veterans For Peace, War Resisters League, the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, Peace Action.
2) High-profile public figures – especially elected politicians – must be convinced that promoting the Peace Dividend concept is in their own and everyone’s best interest. It will unify efforts for a more just, humane, peaceful world under one “peace progressive” banner. Politicians who come to mind include: Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rand Paul, and Barbara Lee. Public figures who are not in elected office and who have spoken out on behalf of peace are easier to identify: Robert Scheer, Chris Hedges, Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky, Tom Engelhardt, Glen Ford, Cynthia McKinney, Amy Goodman, Dennis Kucinich, Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Medea Benjamin, Jill Stein, Ajamu Baraka, Paul Street, Abby Martin, Jimmy Dore, Oliver Stone, Ray McGovern, John Wight, Finian Cunningham, David Swanson, Gareth Porter, Henry Giroux, Paul Craig Roberts, Lee Camp, Cornell West, Richard Wolff, Ann Wright, Ron Paul, Jesse Ventura, Cindy Sheehan, Ron Kovic and more.
Q: What do you say to critics who reject the idea as “impossible” or “pie in the sky”?
Rachel: My reply is two-fold:
1) Something is impossible until it’s not. Human flight, artificial intelligence, a mentally-compromised, corrupt reality show TV celebrity as the President of the United States, come immediately to mind. All impossible. Laughable. Until they weren’t.
2) What’s truly “pie in the sky” is thinking that the people who directly and enormously profit from war will listen to our pretty please appeals for a kinder, gentler world. These folks only care about money and power. They don’t care who else has to suffer or die for their wealth and preeminence. That includes both the targets of their military aggression “over there”, and us. We’re all collateral damage to the empire builders. Peace activists say many of the right things. But the people who need to listen and act – those who make the decisions about war and peace – are not listening. So we have to replace the decision-makers—those who we elect to represent us but who do the bidding of their puppeteers—with ones who will listen to everyday citizens and then work for us. This will either occur through a massive electoral uprising, or a massive bloody revolution. One or the other is inevitable, unless we destroy ourselves in the meantime in a nuclear holocaust.
Q: What do you say to peace groups that are active in various projects and think they don’t have time or energy for another?
Rachel: Current strategies for ending war and promoting peace are not working. We are going backwards. We have more war, greater prospects for yet more war, massive militarization of our society and economy. We need different arguments.
All current “arguments” for peace are valid for those who agree with their premises and logic. Unfortunately, our moral arguments are vulnerable to being twisted. The public is misled with lies, manipulated and confused by the masters of prevarication and spin. Not only humans but truth and reason become casualties of war.
A classic example is R2P Responsibility To Protect (15). The counter-argument is bad people over there are doing bad things. So we need to bomb those countries, kill tens of thousands of innocent civilians, to stop the bad people from killing innocent civilians, or us! For an even more surreal experience, look at the religious version of this tortured logic. Thou shalt not kill. True, but we’re killing bad people to keep them from killing good people – that would be U.S. citizens, of course – and God is such a wise and perceptive God that he blesses our killing and will reward us for doing good as his chosen people. How is this different than the Muslim terrorist belief that their cause is so just that if they strap explosives to their chests and blow themselves up in a crowded street market to kill bad people that they will be rewarded with eternal salvation?
The budgetary argument about having so many problems at home that we need to cut military spending and put that money to work for us has the counter-argument: Well, that’s true, but if we don’t defend our country, there won’t be any schools, roads, and bridges. The bad guys will vaporize us in a nuclear fireball. That’s why we need to spend $1.5 trillion more on nuclear arms, and put more bases all over the world to control everybody and everything.
The logic of the Peace Dividend refund is so basic and visceral it can’t be distorted. “You’ve been conned! OUR money has been stolen to fight fraudulent wars. WE deserve a refund!” And as we struggle for that reparation, the insane war system can be stopped in its tracks.
The public is frustrated, unhappy, and many are desperate. They know the government and mass media lie. The public is ripe for our calling out the fraud. They already know about the mind-boggling waste of the military, the F-35s that can’t fly in the rain and asphyxiate the pilots. They know the system is rigged. Many voted for Trump, because he said a lot of the things on the campaign trail they wanted. Yet their trust was once again misplaced.
Whatever we do to promote peace, the big challenge is getting the public to pay attention. People are busy and distractions are many. They don’t want traditional answers. That is the beauty of the Peace Dividend idea. It’s fresh! It could start a peace “buzz” in the public! It could even make headlines, which our current peace efforts do not.
Q: Let’s say hypothetically that you get a candidate contract, that you get enough congressional votes for the peace dividend. You still have the president veto.
Rachel: 1) Think back to your high school civics class and take note of this fundamental constitutional asymmetry: Congress can impeach the President, but the President can’t impeach Congress.
2) A movement of this scale must include the election of a peace-friendly, or better yet a Peace Dividend Refund-committed president.
Q: Let’s say you get the president to sign the dividend contract, you still have a capitalist system with a military empire fortress. You say you want real reform and peace. Why do you think The Establishment is going to let you (the majority) get away with that?
Rachel: Reform is a polite, unintimidating term. The Peace Dividend Project is radical reform, a gateway for deep systemic change, even revolution peaceful or otherwise, all abhorrent to The Establishment.
To achieve the ends of the Peace Dividend Project, a clean sweep of those now in positions of political power is required. I call this ‘regime change in Washington DC’. It can be achieved via a massive electoral insurrection, or a massive violent insurrection. I have no way of predicting once we head down this course which one it will be.
Neither the ruling elite nor their corrupt pay-for-play hired guns in official governmental positions of power are going to go along with any of the proposals in the Peace Dividend plan. We, therefore, need to replace all The Establishment lapdogs now in office.
Demanding the Peace Dividend refund and reform agenda is the mechanism by which we truly drain the Washington DC swamp. Either they give us our due or we replace them. We’ll end up replacing them. Granted it will be a helluva fight. But if we can unite the public around this one powerful initiative, we can get rid of the crooks and liars in office.
The new legislators and new president will be bound by contract to put into law the Peace Dividend refund. This will require further legislation, which will completely reorient national priorities. The plan impacts taxation and tax sheltering, subsidies, DoD allocations, control of the currency, foreign policy, the wars, Wall Street, issuance of currency and bonds. The weapons industry and corporate autocrats—the ruling elite—will have to abide by these new laws unless they decide to unleash a military attack (public or private). That would be a military coup and would lead to a civil war. While certainly a possibility, that tragic turn of events is beyond the scope of this discussion.
While enacting the Peace Dividend agenda, the way government does business and our dealings with the rest of the international community would be revolutionized such that the real challenges necessary for the continuation of the human race as a viable species could begin to be solved:
1) Nuclear war and the resulting nuclear winter threatens the survival of the human species.
2) Climate change threatens civilization and human extinction.
3) Wealth inequality creates massive suffering and social instability.
4) Capitalism is an intrinsically flawed, self-destructive, oppressive economic system.
Until we replace everyone currently in power, none of these enormous challenges will be genuinely discussed much less solved. I know the Peace Dividend proposal is an outrageous, unprecedented, completely outside-the-box idea. That is entirely intentional. To achieve deep systemic reform, we cannot paint inside the lines. Those political boundaries are precisely a reason why we are in the appalling, terrifying mess we’re in. We must be audacious, relentless and uncompromising. We are confronting a ruthless enemy, the ruling elite, that confers us no dignity, no respect, literally no place of importance in a world they believe is exclusively theirs to do as they see fit. We are expendable, and if they find us too annoying they will continue to throw us into the slaughterhouse of war without hesitation or the slightest remorse, while they sit back and watch their already incomprehensible wealth accelerate. There’s no room left to be cautious and polite in this epic struggle for our rightful place in the nation we built with our blood, sweat and tears.
So the choices are clear:
1) Either it is the Peace Dividend or some equally outrageous assault on the system or . . .
2) It is a bloody revolution that will destroy the country or . . .
3) We live as slaves to suffer and die under the tyranny of perpetual war and capitalist exploitation.
We need to choose and we need to choose quickly. Time is running out.
#Ron Ridenour is an anti-war activist and author of eleven books. His latest is, “The Russian Peace Threat: Pentagon on Alert’, Punto Press, https://www.amazon.com/Russian-Peace-Threat-Pentagon-Alert/dp/0996487069 He contributed this article to ThisCantBeHappening.net