There is a dangerous condition in Washington, DC where people in positions of influence and great power are, at this very moment, pushing this nation and the world to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe.
We did not arrive at crisis overnight but be sure we are at a moment of peril. Unless an enlightened citizenry on campuses, in town halls, in community centers, in places of work, play and worship, is aroused and demands our government step back from the brink, we may find the life of our nation, our own lives, and the lives of our loved ones, irrevocably changed.
I am not an alarmist, but after a long career in politics which began when I was a student here at Cleveland State University, I can tell you, if you pay attention, it is not difficult to see that we are in jeopardy.
As a member of Congress, immediately after 9/11, I went to the floor of the House of Representatives and warned that the US should not lash out.
While we have a right to defend our nation and had a right to strike the Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, we had no right to invade and occupy that country. We had no right to invade and occupy Iraq. We had no right to attack Libya.
We have no right to attack North Korea, Syria, Iran, Russia, China or any other nation state. International law, the UN charter and numerous other conventions make aggressive war illegal.
Unilateralism, preemption, first strike are the desperate doctrines of ideologues, not the vanguard of democratic society.
On October 2, 2002, I presented Congress with an analysis of George Bush’s call for war against Iraq. I pointed out that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, with Al Qaeda’s role in 9/11.
Iraq had neither the intention nor the capability to attack the US. There was no proof Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. Iraq was not a threat to the US. My analysis was guided by my own inquiry and common sense.
We all know what followed. The US launched a “shock and awe” attack on Iraq to accomplish regime change. What resulted is the destabilization of the region.
The power vacuum created by the US invasion has been filled by Al Qaeda, and later ISIS. Over one million innocent Iraqis died as a result. The death toll continues.
The cost of the war to the country of Iraq may approach a trillion dollars. According to Linda Bilmes, a public policy professor at Harvard, the long-term cost of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for the US will approach $6 trillion.
The loss of our nation’s young, our future, those who serve in the military, during both conflicts approaches 7,500, a figure which approximates 43 percent of this student body.
I was personally riveted by the lies which took us to war. I went to Congress in 1997 to create jobs, health care for all, education for all, to stand for a clean environment. When I saw the dark clouds of unnecessary war descending upon our nation like a shroud, I understood the disaster ahead for Iraqis and Americans alike. I took to the floor of Congress, day after day, night after night, year after year, to try to avert war, to try to stop war, pouring myself into this effort. I gave over 350 speeches on the floor of the House concerning Iraq, and used every constitutional legislative and parliamentary procedure which arose to challenge it.
Just as we ousted Saddam Hussein in Iraq, so, too, we dislodged Moammar Khadaffy. He was not a threat to the US or to Europe.
Yet a false case for war was made. Khadaffy was removed. The door opened for Al Qaeda and ISIS. Thousands of innocent Libyans died.
I foresaw the Libyan disaster, the creation of a vacuum, the threat of weapons from Libya pouring into central Africa. As the US approached an attack against Libya, I personally contacted hundreds of legislators on both sides of the aisle and was able to put together a majority in Congress who understood the risks of destabilization.
For a week we held up the entire Democratic administration, NATO, the EU, and all the other forces seeking to attack.
The Republican leadership took a whip count and realized our resolution would pass, withheld the vote, offered a watered-down version and the war moved forward. I held it up for a week, the attack occurred and sure enough, the black flag of Al Qaeda ended up flying of the municipal building in Benghazi.
This same calamitous gang has its sights set upon Syria. Together with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Kuwait, the US, covertly and through the CIA, has been instrumental in causing individuals from 90 nations to swarm into Syria, joining Al Qaeda, Al Nusra, ISIS and related groups, with the intention of overthrowing the Assad government.
The Assad government did have legitimate opposition. That opposition was usurped by outside forces. I’ve met with that opposition. It does not want Syria to fall to sectarian religious extremists, because Syria is a pluralistic society, where Muslims, Christians and Jews can practice their faith, and where women have more than any Arab country in the region. People in Syria want to save Syria for Syrians.
The latest excuse for intervention was a gas attack which occurred a few weeks ago at Idlib, which the White House claimed was launched by the Syrian government.
We all know about the gas attack. We have seen the horrific pictures of dead children. What human being with a heart could ignore the apparent implications?
What many Americas do not know is that a noted MIT professor emeritus, Dr. Theodore Postol, an expert on WMDs, has analyzed the representations in the White House report and the objective evidence presented in videos and pictures and concluded that the White House account is in error.
Dr. Postol has no doubt that our intelligence has once again been politicized. Dr. Postol’s recent findings are:
The White House report does not provide any evidence to support its findings that there was a sarin release at the location.
There was no evidence of an air-dropped munition at the site the WH report claims.
The intelligence report put out by the White House could not have been reviewed by competent intelligence analysts.
There is circumstantial evidence that a rebel ammunition dump was hit, triggering secondary explosions, which released toxic gases and created fires.
There was an attempt to drag the US into a war against Syria in 2013, when a gas attack occurred at Ghouta. Several independent experts who analyzed the evidence concluded the gas attack was launched from at or near rebel territory. A 2001 gas attack drew a similar assessment from a top UN official.
Innocent lives are sacrificed. People are dying under horrific circumstances. But the provocative incidents which draw us in are not just part of wars for territory, resources or for political power.
These are ideological battles and the way ideological battles are won is through the colonization of thought, which invariably is through cultural media. So too, this emotional messaging tactic recruits, either willingly or unwittingly, the world’s strongest military superpower and commands it.
Time and time again, our media is manipulated, by one side or another, inflating and conflating stories.
The 24 hour news cycle, the drive for higher ratings, Internet click bait, and the demand for immediate reactions and responses, is not about thoughtful decision-making, it is about media satisfaction, an almost Pavlovian response, a titillation of lower limbic system, of fight or flight, which compels war. It’s not about truth. It is not about integrity. It is not about humanity.
The media’s reporting of jihadis’ words and deeds keeps us teetering in fear. It destabilizes and manipulates all of us, and therefore the nation in its policies.
Unwittingly our media is in lockstep, not questioning sources, believing in “moderates” which are anything but.
Every main center of power and influence in Washington is being colonized not because we are inviting in a foreign ideology, but because we are falling for stories. The ultimate means of colonization is control of the narrative.
Words create worlds. Stories hold power. If our media is manipulated, so is our political thought, and our public discourse.
This results in the power of the world’s strongest military to be used to ends of religious extremists, either directly assisting them or directly aiding their recruitment by playing into the scenario that says America needs to be met in battle and defeated.
We have fallen for stories in line with a deeper military ideology to overthrow the watchmen of the Middle East. Iraq was secular. Libya was secular. Egypt was secular, not any more. Women’s rights in the region have gone back decades, if not centuries, in the countries in which we have been manipulated to action.
Just as we went into Iraq based on false information, and went into Libya based on false information, so we are prepared to go into Syria, without so much as a single government official requesting to examine the publicized conclusions of Dr. Postol, whose account would mean not war, but a reassessment of our policies in Syria.
Since Syria is not and was not a threat to the United States, the subsequent missile attack was, by definition, a violation of international law and a violation of the US Constitution. It did not have the approval of Congress, nor has Congress approved the presence of US troops in Syria, nor the bombing attacks in Syria.
We are being manipulated towards war. For those of you who believe that Russia is our great enemy, and that Assad gassed his own people, and that the way to handle Kim Jong Un is to provoke him into a military action, you should look up the Downing Street Memo on the Internet. The Downing Street Memo were notes by British officials who explained in July of 2002 before the Iraq War that:
“Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
This is a key finding of the Chilcot report, the result of a public inquiry by the British government. The UK and for that matter, its prompting partner, the US, was led into war based on lies. America has had no such inquiry, except I presented the catalogue of misrepresentations in the form of a resolution of Impeachment of President Bush in a four and half hour reading in the House of Representatives.
We are about to be led into still more wars, conflicts which could kill millions of innocent people. Congress must not, once again, approve military action based on media reports, or flawed or cooked intelligence . A serious inquiry at this moment would expose the political manipulations and prevent a disaster.
We saw the pictures of children killed in the gas attack. But what of the children in the last few weeks killed by US bombs in Mosul, Iraq, or US bombs hitting various targets in Syria. In the past month over 1,000 innocent civilians in Iraq and Syria have perished at the hands of our government. We hear little about that. When the narrative becomes the captive of partisans, or ideologues, so does reality.
There is currently talk of massive number of US troops being sent to Syria to oust Assad. Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are committed to Syria’s defense. I was in a brief televised debate with a military expert just this past week on this question. He called for a massive US ground invasion of Syria. This, of course, would mean a draft.
The conditions in this region, the political crosscurrents, the US readiness to strike, has greatly increased the possibility of a war with Russia and Iran, over Syria.
The new Administration unfortunately does not have the diplomatic experience or the conflict-resolution skills to avoid a mistake, a misperception, a rash action or reaction. They do not know when or if they are being played. Instead of negotiations they engage in the rhetoric of threats and provocation which invite a dialectic of conflict.
It is stunning that barely six months ago, the Obama Administration negotiated with Russia to obtain a ceasefire in Syria, with each side sharing military and intelligence to lessen the possibilities of conflict and to wind down the war.
It was extraordinary that when the agreement was announced unnamed sources in the Pentagon and the CIA criticized such cooperation between the US and Russia.
A few days later a US bombing raid was conducted on a Syrian government army barracks. One hundred Syrian solders were killed. The attack also killed the ceasefire agreement.
This act was insubordinate and treasonous, but it was executed with impunity. Rather than challenging it, President Obama let it slide.
The Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, who with John Kerry negotiated the thwarted cease-fire has said recently that current relations Russia – US relations are worse now then during the Cold War and that the rhetoric has gone toxic. Russian intellectuals fear war.
The assertion that the Russians were responsible for determining the outcome of the 2016 election, repeated over and offer, without concrete evidence, I might add, has made it ever more difficult to rebuild trust, and to reestablish relations.
Is Russia an aggressor here? Russia was invited into Syria by the government. It has a base in Tartus.
The US has a worldwide presence that is unmatched by any nation in the history of the world. We have over 800 bases in 130 countries.
The Pentagon will spend more $600 billion this year, even though it has never passed an audit and has trillions in accounts it has never reconciled.
No nation presents a threat to the United States. But we could bring calamity to ourselves by pushing for conflict with Russia and Iran over Syria, and China over North Korea.
In an excellent article at Counterpunch.com, Paul Atwood explains why North Korea does not trust the US. He recounts the history of US relations with North Korea, since 1950, when the militarization south of the 38th parallel sparked a response from the north.
Then, China warned the US not to invade. The US did, and hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops went to defend North Korea and our troops were routed. The US conducted a devastating bombing attack against North Korea, inside the Chinese border. US Generals even talked of using nuclear weapons.
This very day, Wednesday, April 26, 2017, the US Senate is meeting at the White House to discuss rapidly escalating tensions with North Korea. The rhetoric has been red-hot on both sides. But the US has been conducting troop maneuvers on the border, with the South Korean army for some time now. Such action sends a message north.
If the Trump Administration launches a military strike against the North Korean nuclear testing site it will result in radioactive fallout which could easily spread to China, Russia and South Korea, endangering the lives and health of millions of people.
The United States cannot claim “self defense” because NK has been conducting tests, not an actual nuclear launch. If our goal is to stop the testing of nuclear weapons, then the United States must lead eight other nations in finally ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Furthermore, if the US knowingly attacks a nuclear facility and there is a release of radioactivity, the US would be liable for damages, loss of life, loss of property, and injuries. Additionally, criminal charges would be brought against US officials at the Hague.
Let’s look at the issue of nuclear testing. There have been 2,055 nuclear test explosions since the beginning of the nuclear age.
Here is a nation-by-nation chart:
Why is North Korea testing? Another reason is that the US reneged on an agreement with North Korea which caused that country to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty.
The number of warheads of the nuclear nations is instructive. According to the Federal of American Scientists here are the recent numbers:
It is time to urgently consider nuclear abolition. We should use our peace heads, not our warheads. One nuclear weapon could damage the world irreparably.
The use of such a weapon constitutes both homicide and suicide. A nuclear exchange is ecocide. In 1982, in his landmark book The Fate of the Earth, Jonathan Schell warned that nuclear war could bring the extinction of most life on earth.
We are at a crucial moment in the history where America’s overreach with our military power could place us in a war in the East and a War in the West, as well as an acceleration of attacks against our nation from within. The impulse for violence on a global level is palpable. The potential for violence cycling up is great.
The American people are told Washington’s patience is running out. Let not common sense run out with it. It is foolhardy for the United States to precipitate war through egocentric rhetoric, subterfuge or preemptive attack with any other nation state.
We are not being threatened from outside. We are threatened from within by a web of deceit that surrounds our foreign policy; the wild hyperbole about the foreign manipulation of our democracy when our greatest challenges come from within, from those policy apparatchiks in the State Department, the CIA, the Pentagon and allied think tanks, who despite the disastrous recent interventions they promoted, continue to believe that war is the first and best option. As one neocon (PNAC fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht) put it before the Iraq War:
"We have no choice but to re-instill in our foes and friends the fear that attaches to any great power…. Only a war against Saddam Hussein will decisively restore the awe that protects American interests abroad and citizens at home."
Instilling fear is a failed policy. North Korea is not afraid of the US. China is not afraid. Russia is not afraid. Iran is not afraid. Syria is not afraid.
The attempt to induce fear as a substitute for diplomacy and negotiations creates not capitulation but hatred, which is fear’s alienated cousin. The advent of 9/11 was born of Iraq sanctions. ISIS was born in the Iraqi prisons and governance failures after the war.
It is time to end this grim game of nations. It is time for the United States to lead the way in the world demonstrating the strength of our diplomatic skills instead of the strength of our weapons. It is time for the US to step up to lead the international community toward nuclear abolition. Our nation must fully participate in the biological weapons convention, the chemical weapons convention, the land mine treaty, the small arms treaty and, at last, join the International Criminal Court.
I look at this audience and as I am aware of the stumbling and the deceit in Washington, it sickens me to think that some in your generation could die because of the provocations our country undertakes today.
I bring this message to you at this time because this nation and the world urgently needs your help.
It was the campuses of America which fueled the public outrage which helped end the war in Vietnam. I know. I was on this very campus fifty years ago when the ferment for a new direction in the world spawned not war, but peace.
War is not inevitable. Peace is inevitable is we insist that our leaders guide our nation away from conflict.
The flawed doctrine of Peace through Strength has made us a global policeman, has plunged us into war after war, bringing us what Gore Vidal called Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace.
It is time for a new national security doctrine of Strength through Peace, where diplomacy is prized, where intelligence is not fixed to predetermined ends, where conflict resolution skills are key to arresting conflicts before they percolate, where the UN, acting under its charter authority “to end the scourge of war for all time,” plays a major role in addressing incipient conflict due to famine, drought, exploitation of resources, economic or political instability, and where the United States puts its sword back into its scabbard and stops roaming the world looking for dragons to slay.
We must arrive at a new place in the world, where we finally obtain a peace dividend, and, instead of sending our youth off to wars based on a March of Folly, wars based on lies, wars based in ineptitude, wars based on miscalculations, wars based on greed, we instead send our young Americans off to college, tuition free; to a master’s degree, tuition free, onto doctorates, tuition free, to medical school, tuition free, to engineering school, tuition free, to a great future where we spend our resources improving the lives of our people here at home, instead of using our power to ruin the lives of people abroad. We can use our resources building bridges here at home instead of blowing up bridges over there.
Let us begin what Joanna Macy calls the Great Turning, towards a nation built on sustainable values, towards bringing forth a civilization which affirms life on the planet.
America must recover it faith in the future, not through believe in the strength of our arms but in the strength of values and our faith in the principles imbued in our Declaration of Independence, Our Constitution, Our Bill of Rights, mindful of Lincoln at Gettysburg and his Second Inaugural.
Americans must not be asked to walk in fear. We cannot walk in fear and faith at the same time. If we use the resources of our nation courageously, we can recreate an America which becomes a beacon for the world in education, in health care, in job creation, in housing, in infrastructure, in democratic principles.
Let us insist on peaceful resolution of conflicts with other nations. Let us never ally with terror to create more terror. Let us put the destructive genie of war back into its bottle and seal it, forever. Where armed groups insist on conflict, it should ever be the job of the world community, confident in our common goals of survival, deals firmly with those who employ armed violence.
We are in a new era, where, as never before, the world is interconnected and interdependent, where the power of telecommunications, transportation and social media brings the world to our doorstep.
Let us be mindful that in such a world, as war degrades all of us, so do are we uplifted in striving to identify our common humanity, to seek human unity, to usher in a new era which war becomes extinct.
Reprinted with author’s permission. A speech delivered at Cleveland State University on Wednesday, April 26, 2017.