PUBLIC FORUM ON IRAN DEAL
To be held exactly 70 years after nuclear age opened in Hiroshima (including time zone difference).
7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Wednesday, August 5, 2015
At The Haven, 112 W. Market Street Charlottesville, VA 22902
Sponsored by World Beyond War, Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, RootsAction.org, and Amnesty International Charlottesville, (more welcome to join).
Video of event to be widely distributed.
Speaker: Gareth Porter, independent investigative journalist and historian who specialises in U.S. national security policy. He is the author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, and the winner of the Gellhorn Prize for journalism in 2012 for exposing lies and propaganda about the Afghanistan War. Porter spent two weeks in Vienna covering the final round of negotiations and is now writing the definitive account of the how U.S. and Iran finally reached agreement.
Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia campaigned on green energy (and I hear some people may have believed him, though I haven't met one) and then immediately backed the proposed construction of a giant fracked-gas pipeline through the mountains and farms of Virginia to carry fossil fuels from West Virginia to North Carolina.
Dominion Virginia Power paid $1.3 million this year in legal bribes to candidates' election campaigns, more than anyone else in Virginia except the two Parties. Every single bill Dominion opposed in the legislature died. Dominion, according to the dictionary, is "the power or right of governing and controlling; sovereign authority; rule; control; domination."
In Virginia it's easy to think of the evictions of the poor farmers 80 years ago to create Shenandoah National Park as something ancient that civilization has outgrown and would never do again. (And the old lyrics of the song Shenandoah, about giving the Native American chief liquor in order to steal his daughter, are not celebrated in this day and age.) But at least the injustice of the 1930s evictions created a park. At least there was some sort of public interest involved.
Now here comes the Virginia government as the bought-and-paid-for servants of their corporate masters at Dominion to claim a 40-yard-wide path of destruction and potential catastrophe right through the middle of numerous private properties and public properties for the sake of escalating the collapse of a livable climate on the planet, not to mention facilitating the destruction in West Virginia where the fracking frackers will do their fracking. What's the public interest to justify it? It's going to ruin parks and not create any.
A good short documentary on the growing resistance, called Won't Pipe Down, shows the owner of Silverback Distillery explaining that he supported the Keystone Pipeline but opposes this one because it impacts his own personal private property and his business. The correct response to that attitude is not "Serves you right," but "Glad you're now with us." Because NIMBYism keeps getting the proposed path of the pipeline moved, and if those who succeed in moving it stick with the struggle to keep it from getting built at all, perhaps it can be prevented entirely.
The pipeline is also proposed to cut right through a communal farm property, where an existing sense of community may aid the movement.
In fact the movement is doing well. Check out FriendsofNelson.com. There are big protests. Driving through Nelson County, or even through Charlottesville, one sees lots of "No Pipeline" signs. Some 69% of Nelson County landowners in the proposed path have refused to allow surveys on their land.
The film, Won't Pipe Down, uses a quote from local hero slave-owner, rapist, coward, sadist, and father of States Rights, Thomas Jefferson, to emphasize the supreme value of "private property." But the pipeline is not going through the private property of most of the people opposing it, or of most of the people who ought to be opposing it and who will have to start opposing it if it is to be stopped.
The U.S. government fights wars for oil and gas, for godsake. It bombs people's homes for this stuff. If we only protest when our own personal property is impacted disproportionately, we're going to see the climate severely impact each and every piece of private property on earth. This pipeline needs to be opposed by everyone in the area and everyone in the world. Help out, won't you? FriendsofNelson.com and AugustaCountyAlliance.org
Oh, and here's my idea for where to stick the thing if it can't be stopped. Governor McAuliffe is living in public housing in Richmond, Va., and I suspect that Thomas F. Farrell II is able with his personal $12 million per year from Virginians' utility bills, to afford some sort of residence in that area. McAuliffe must bow before the $2500 Farrell gave him for his campaign, even knowing that Farrell gave his opponent $5000. Why not build a pipeline from the sewer beneath each of these two gentlemen's houses, connecting them, and let the question of which produces more filth, the public or private realm, finally be answered when we see which house's plumbing backs up first?
Protest Song about proposed Dominion Gas Pipeline coming through
Image above shows the results of building a leaking pipeline in another state, what Virginians can look forward to if the ACP is built.
For the United States to sit and talk and come to an agreement with a nation it has been antagonizing and demonizing since the dictator it installed in 1953 was overthrown in 1979 is historic and, I hope, precedent setting. Let's seal this deal!
Four months ago the Washington Post published an op-ed headlined 'War With Iran Is Probably Our Best Option.' It wasn't. Defenders of war present war as a last resort, but when other options are tried the result is never war. We should carry this lesson over to several other parts of the world.
The time has come to remove the "missile defense" weaponry from Europe that was put there under the false pretense of protecting Europe from Iran. With that justification gone, U.S. aggression toward Russia will become damagingly apparent if this step is not taken. And the time has come for the nations that actually have nuclear weapons to join and/or comply with the nonproliferation treaty, which Iran was never actually in violation of.
In addition to the prevention of a massive bombing campaign in Syria that was prevented in 2013, a major recent success in war-lie-preparedness is the holding off, thus far, of a U.S. war on Iran -- about which we've been told lies for decades now. The longer this debate goes on, the more it should become clear that there is no urgent emergency that might help justify mass killing. But the longer it goes on, the more some people may accept the idea that whether or not to gratuitously bomb a foreign nation is a perfectly legitimate policy question.
And the argument may also advance in the direction of favoring war for another reason: both sides of the debate promote most of the war lies. Yes, some peace groups are talking perfect sense on this issue as on most, but the debate between Democratic and Republican party loyalists and those in power is as follows. One side argues, quite illegally and barbarically, that because Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, Iran should be bombed. The other side argues, counterproductively if in a seemingly civilized manner, that because Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, a diplomatic agreement should be reached to put a stop to it. The trouble with both arguments is that they reinforce the false idea that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon. As Gareth Porter makes clear in his book Manufactured Crisis, there is no evidence for that.
Both arguments also reinforce the idea that there is something about Iranians that makes them unqualified to have the sort of weapon that it's alright to voluntarily spread to other nations. Of course, I don't actually think it's alright for anyone to have nuclear weapons or nuclear energy, but my point is the bias implicit in these arguments. It feeds the idea that Iranians are not civilized enough to speak with, even as one-half of the debate pushes for just that: speaking with the Iranians.
On the plus side, much of the push for a war on Iran was devoted for years to demonizing Iran's president until Iran, for its own reasons, elected a different president, which threw a real monkey wrench into the gears of that old standby. Perhaps nations will learn the lesson that changing rulers can help fend off an attack as well as building weapons can. Also on the plus side, the ludicrous idea that Iran is a threat to the United States is very similar to the idea that Iraq was such a threat in 2002-2003. But on the negative side, memory of the Iraq war lies is already fading. Keeping past war lies well-remembered can be our best protection against new wars. Also on the negative side, even if people oppose a war on Iran, several billionaire funders of election campaigns favor one.
Will Congressman Robert Hurt who claims to represent me, and who got Syria right in 2013, commit to taking no funding from those warmongers? Here's what Hurt had to say on Tuesday:
The deal is an INSPECTION arrangement, not based in any way on anybody trusting anyone.
What nuclear ambitions? What terror? This from a Congressman who voted for pulling out U.S. forces on June 17th but has taken no further action and has funded the U.S. operation that is currently killing people in the Middle East?
What mindreading feat is this based on? Where's evidence? Haven't we learned to demand it yet?
Not according to any world source, but rather the U.S. government which defines terrorism to suit its ends. The world disagrees.
Then why don't you point to a single scrap of evidence?
There's nothing there about the demise of the United States or Israel or the slightest evidence of Iran pursuing or threatening to use any weapon. Expecting people to believe otherwise seems a bit -- if you'll excuse me -- arrogant.
Again, what ambitions? What history? Why the steady avoidance of documenting any claims? Iran is complying with restrictions not imposed on any other nation. How is that a refusal to compromise?
The American people, in case you hadn't noticed, favor the deal, including a majority of Democrats and a plurality of Republicans.
Is that a proposal for war?
David Swanson is the author of War Is A Lie.
Khān Abdul Ghaffār Khān (6 February 1890 – 20 January 1988) (Pashto: خان عبدالغفار خان), nicknamed as Bāchā Khān (Pashto: باچا خان, lit. "king of chiefs") or Pāchā Khān (پاچا خان), was a Pashtun independence activist against the rule of the British Raj. He was a political and spiritual leader known for his nonviolent opposition, and a lifelong pacifist and devout Muslim. A close friend of Mahatma Gandhi, Bacha Khan was nicknamed the "Frontier Gandhi" in British India. Bacha Khan founded the Khudai Khidmatgar ("Servants of God") movement in 1929, whose success triggered a harsh crackdown by the British Empire against him and his supporters, and they suffered some of the most severe repression of the Indian independence movement.
Muslim Voices Promoting Islamic Non Violent Solutions – update 7/13/14 compiled by Sheila Musaji
Recently, there have been a few important new articles on Islam and non-violence. An excellent article Islam’s Nonviolent Tradition by Michael Shank and just published in The Nation, includes the following:
Khan’s campaign, while reinforced by religious rigor, was also strategically brilliant, quickly garnering global attention. Then, as now, the international community cried foul as it watched the British respond to the Red Shirts with a Qaddafi-like retribution: bombing, killing, torturing, castrating, raping, poisoning and drowning the Khidmatgars. Unsurprisingly, then, as now, a quizzical world questioned the relationship between Islam and nonviolence, to which Khan quickly countered, “There is nothing surprising in a Muslim or a Pathan [Pashtun] like me subscribing to the creed of nonviolence. It is not a new creed. It was followed fourteen hundred years ago by the Prophet all the time he was in Mecca
Khan was intentional about sourcing his nonviolent teachings and inspiration in the Koran, a practice his grandson Asfandyar Wali Khan continues to this day as head of the Awami National Party in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier (recently renamed Khyber-Pakhtunkwa). The preamble to the party’s platform, in fact, is an unequivocal commitment to the principles of nonviolence, the teachings of Khan and the cause of the Khidmatgars.
Beyond Pakistan, the raison d’être of Khan’s red-shirted revolution still resonates, as protests of equal proportion and principle pepper many Muslim streets today. What is critical to keep in mind, as Americans pay homage to the rolling wave of democracy washing over the Muslim world, is that the nonviolent nature of some protests is not foreign to Islam, its teachings or its culture. Khan was quick to make note of this. Mohammed, Khan quipped, taught that a Muslim is one “who never hurts anyone by word or deed,” a principle the Prophet repeats in his last sermon: “Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you.”
Khan’s movement remains notable given its size and scope, but he was not alone in his mission. Fast-forward to Khan’s counterparts in more recent years, such as the nonviolent leadership of Syrian-born Sheik Jawdat Said, whose 1964 book The Doctrine of the First Son of Adam articulates for the modern Islamic movement the concept of nonviolence. Or prominent Muslim-American human rights lawyer and writer Arsalan Iftikhar, whose upcoming Islamic Pacifism: Confessions of a Muslim Gandhi highlights the legacies of Islam’s nonviolent leaders. Iftikhar’s book, due out around the tenth anniversary of 9/11, profiles numerous notables, including the “Chechen Mahatma Gandhi,” Kunta-haji Kishiev, an ideologue of nonviolence and passive resistance.
The entire article is a must read for those interested in Islam and non-violence.
Submitted by: Carroll Houle
The U.S. Senate has been very concerned not to let peace with Iran
slip into place too easily, even while a new war in Iraq and Syria
proceeds without the formal pretense of Congress "authorizing" or
Both houses of Congress are interested in
ramming through the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) on a fast track. The
fast track procedure of rushing things through Congress or creating
them without Congress seems to be reserved for the least popular ideas
our government produces.
What if, instead, a fast track were set up for those items favored by a vast majority of the public, or required for the future habitability of the planet, but which meet resistance from campaign funders, lobbyists, and the corporate media?
Of course I'd rather have clean elections and a publicly accountable Congress if we can't have public initiatives and direct democracy. But in the absence of such utopias, why not use extreme anti-democratic measures to ram through the things people want rather than the things we'd protest if we found out about them? Why not slip one past the plutocrats rather than slipping one past the people? Why not go with voice votes, no debate, and no time to read the details on measures to demilitarize and protect the planet rather than on "trade" agreements that empower corporate lawyers to overturn laws?
I recently read this in an email newsletter from peace advocate Michael Nagler: "The other day I went to test-drive an electric car. When we got through some of the technicalities and were waiting for a red light the salesperson coming with me said, 'So what do you do?' Here it comes, I thought: 'I work with a nonprofit; (gulp, and) we're promoting nonviolence.' After a reflective pause she said quietly, 'Thank you.'"
I've often had that same experience, but increasingly I eagerly reply: "I work on abolishing war." That's what I replied recently in a sandwich shop here in Charlottesville called Baggby's. I didn't get a "thank you," but I got a question as to whether I had known Jack Kidd. I had never heard of Jack Kidd, but Jack Kidd, a retired two-star Air Force general who lived in Charlottesville, had been in Baggby's in the past debating the need to abolish war with some other bigwig general who favored keeping war and militarism going.
So, I read Kidd's book, Prevent War: A New Strategy for America. Of course, I think we need a strategy for earth, not for the United States, if we are going to end war. Kidd, who died in 2013, believed in 2000, when the book was published, that only the United States could lead the way toward peace, that the United States had always meant well, that war could be used to end war, and all sorts of things I can't bring myself to take seriously. And yet, believing everything he still believed, after "waking up" in the early 1980s, as he describes it, Kidd came to recognize the insanity of failing to work for the abolition of war.
This was a man who had bombed German cities in World War II; who believed he'd survived a particularly difficult mission during which he'd shot down lots of German planes, because he'd prayed to God who'd answered his prayer; who'd flown secret nuclear attack plans from Washington to Korea during the Korean war; who'd "served" as Chief of the Joint War Plans Branch and worked on plans for World War III; who believed in the Gulf of Tonkin attack; who had obeyed orders to knowingly fly his plane through nuclear clouds moments after bomb tests -- as self-human experimentation; and yet . . . and yet! And yet Jack Kidd organized retired U.S. and Soviet generals to work for disarmament at the height of the Cold War.
Kidd's book contains numerous proposals to move us away from war. One of them is to fast track disarmament agreements. For that idea alone, his book is worth reading. It's also worth giving to the most hard-core war supporters as a sort of a gentle nudge. It's also worth asking, I think, why Charlottesville has no memorial to this former General who's layed out a plan for peace when it has so many to those whose only accomplishment was losing the U.S. Civil War.
A powerful new film on what's wrong with the U.S. media is now being screened around the country. It's called Shadows of Liberty and you can set up a screening of it as part of an upcoming international week of actions for whistleblowers called Stand Up For Truth. Or you can buy the DVD or catch it on Link TV. (Here in Charlottesville I'll be speaking at the event, May 19, 7 p.m. at The Bridge.)
Judith Miller is on a rehabilitative book tour; the Washington Post recently reported that a victim of Baltimore police murder broke his own spine; and recently leaked emails from the State Department asked Sony to entertain us into proper war support. The proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner was just blocked, for now, but the existence of those mega-monopolies in their current form is at the root of the problem, according to Shadows of Liberty.
Allowing for-profit companies to decide what we learn about the world and our government, allowing those companies to consolidate into a tiny cartel controlling the formerly public airwaves, allowing them to be owned by much larger companies that rely on the government for weapons contracts, and allowing them to determine politicians' access to the public and to bribe politicians with "campaign contributions" -- this, in the analysis of Shadows of Liberty, this subservience of public space to private profit is what creates news that misinforms, that takes no interest in the poor, that propagandizes for wars, and that shuts out any journalist who steps out of line.
The film is not primarily analysis, but example. The first example is of Roberta Baskin's reports for CBS on Nike's labor abuses in Asia. CBS killed her big story in exchange for Nike paying CBS so much money that CBS agreed to have all of its "journalists" wear Nike logos during their olympics "coverage."
Another example from CBS in the film is the shooting down of TWA flight 800 by the U.S. Navy, a case of media cowardice and government intimidation, which I wrote about here. As Shadows of Liberty points out, CBS was at the time owned by Westinghouse which had big military contracts. As a for-profit business, there was no question where it would side between one good reporter and the Pentagon. (This is exactly why the owner of the Washington Post shouldn't be someone with much larger funding flowing in from the CIA.)
The New York Timesseemed impressed by an earlier film devoted entirely to the TWA flight 800 mass-killing. The Times favored a new investigation but lamented the supposed lack of any entity that could credibly perform an investigation. The U.S. government comes off as so untrustworthy in the film that it can't be trusted to re-investigate itself. So a leading newspaper, whose job it ought to be to investigate the government, feels at a loss for what to do without a government that can credibly and voluntarily perform the media's own job for it and hold itself accountable. Pathetic. If only Nike were offering to pay the New York Times to investigate the government!
Another example in the bad media highlight reel in Shadows of Liberty is the case of Gary Webb's reporting on the CIA and crack cocaine, also the subject of a recent movie. Another is, inevitably, the propaganda that launched the 2003 attack on Iraq. I just read an analysis of Judith Miller's role that blamed her principally for not correcting her "mistakes" when the lies were exposed. I disagree. I blame her principally for publishing claims that were ludicrous at the time and which she never would have published if made by any non-governmental entity or any of 199 of the 200 national governments on earth. Only the U.S. government gets that treatment from its U.S. media partners in crime -- and in fact only certain elements within the U.S. government. While Colin Powell lied to the world and much of the world laughed, but the U.S. media bowed down, his son pushed through yet more media consolidation. I agree with the recommendation of Shadows of Liberty to blame the media owners, but that doesn't subtract any blame from the employees.
To the credit of Shadows of Liberty it includes among the stories it tells some examples of complete media silence. The story of Sibel Edmonds, for example, was totally whited out by the U.S. mega-media, although not abroad. Another example would be Operation Merlin (the CIA's giving of nuclear plans to Iran), not to mention the extension of Operation Merlin to Iraq. Dan Ellsberg says in the film that a government official will tell the big newspapers to leave a story alone, and the other outlets will "follow the lead of silence."
The U.S. public airwaves were given to private companies in 1934 with big limits on monopolies later stripped out by Reagan and Clinton and the Congresses that worked with them. The 1996 Telecom Act signed by Clinton created the mega-monopolies that have destroyed local news and already guaranteed his wife a 2016 presidential nomination on the basis of the money she'll spend on TV ads.
The bad media's greatest hits are finding a miniature progressive echo-chamber but are not, in fact, isolated cases. Rather they are extreme examples that have taught lessons to countless other "journalists" who have sought to keep their jobs by never stepping out of line in the first place.
The problem with the corporate media is not particular incidents, but how it always reports on everything including the government (which always means well) and wars (there must always be more) and the economy (it must grow and enrich investors) and people (they are helpless and powerless). The particular story lines that do the most damage are not always inherently the worst. Rather, they are those that make it into the general corporate echo-chamber.
The Washington Post sometimes admits exactly what it does wrong but counts on most people never to notice, because such articles will not be repeated and discussed in all the papers and on all the shows.
According to Shadows of Liberty, 40-70% of "news" is based on ideas that come from corporate PR departments. Another good chunk, I suspect, comes from government PR departments. A plurality in the U.S. in the last poll I saw believed Iraq had benefitted from the war on Iraq and was grateful. A Gallup poll of 65 countries at the end of 2013 found the U.S. widely believed the be the greatest threat to peace on earth, but within the U.S., as a glaring result of nothing but ludicrous propaganda, Iran was deemed worthy of that honor.
The Tonight Show regularly asks people if they can name a senator and then if they can name some cartoon character, etc., showing that people know stupid stuff. Ha ha. But that's how the corporate media shapes people, and clearly the U.S. government doesn't object enough to do anything about it. If nobody knows your name, they won't be protesting you anytime soon. And there's never any need to worry about being reelected.
Shadows of Liberty is long on problem and short on solution, but its value is in exposing people to an understanding of the problem. And the solution offered is just right, as far as it goes. The solution offered is to keep the internet open and use it. I agree. And one of the ways in which we ought to use it is to popularize foreign reporting on the United States that outdoes domestic reporting. If media tends to report well only on nations in which it is not based, and yet it's all equally accessible online, we need to start finding and reading the media about our country produced in others. In the process, perhaps we can develop some sense of caring what 95% of humanity thinks about this 5%. And in that process perhaps we can weaken nationalism just a bit.
Independent media is the solution proposed, not public media, and not a restoration of the corporate media to its earlier not-quite-so-awful form. The shrinking of newsrooms is to be lamented, of course, but perhaps the recruitment of foreign news rooms and independent bloggers can mitigate that loss in a way that imploring the monopolists to do better won't achieve. I think that part of the solution is creating better independent media, but part of it is finding, reading, appreciating, and using independent and foreign media. And part of that shift in attitude should be dropping the absurd idea of "objectivity," understood as point-of-viewlessness. Another part should be redefining our reality to exist without the blessing of the corporate media, so that we can be inspired to build activist movements whether or not they are on corporate TV. This includes, of course, persuading independent media to invest in stories that are ignored by corporations, not just focus on retelling in a better way the stories the corporations tell wrong.
Independent media has long been the most bang we could get for a buck donated to a useful cause. The next year-and-a-half is a real opportunity, because a completely broken U.S. election system expects hundreds of millions of dollars from well-meaning people to be given to candidates to give to the TV networks to whom we gave our airwaves. What if we withheld some of that money and built up our own media and activism structures? And why think of the two (media and activism) as separate? I think the jury is still out on The Intercept as new independent media, but it's already far superior to the Washington Post.
No independent media will be perfect. I wish Shadows of Liberty didn't glorify the American revolution to sounds of cannon fire. Later we hear President Reagan calling the Contras "the moral equivalent of our founding fathers" while the film shows dead bodies -- as if the American revolution produced none of those. But the point that free press, as theoretically provided by the first amendment, is critical to self-governance is right on. The first step in creating freedom of the press is publicly identifying its absence and the causes.