Detecting Deception

Violence and deception are how the few control and exploit the many. Your freedom and life depends on understanding these tools of power and privilege.

The use of force and violence throughout the world and throughout history is typically obvious. Deception, by intent, is most often not recognized. But deception is used more than violence. Deception is more economical. It costs far less to control the education, the news, and the talking heads, than to use brute force of police and military in open conflict against most of the population. We are so immersed in deceptions that it has become our normal life. Few see it.

The following are some of the techniques that I have recently developed to help me detect deception. In other articles I discuss some specific deceptions (see Deception on the Right – I’m a Son of a Birch and Deception on the Left).

Examine Motives

Motive does not prove intent to deceive but should be a warning to be very cautious, particularly if the consequences of being deceived are great.

Does the source have a motive to deceive you? The obvious motives are money, career, connections, and other benefits.

All of the mainstream media are an integral participant in the economy. They must support profits for corporations. Many uncritically accept lies or whole stories from the government or more often totally filter events or filter to the extent to provide a distorted perception. The news reporters and talking heads rarely need coercing. The deceptions are so pervasive that most job applicants are sufficiently indoctrinated before joining the news organization. A typical employee wants to please their boss and accepts their lead. Occasionally one needs to be disciplined (see Chris Hedges) but this is rarely necessary. Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky published a detailed investigation in “Manufacturing Consent.” There is also a documentary of this work.

Be suspicious if an organization has money. The truly independent organizations struggle to have sufficient funding. The U.S. government, through many organizations, distributes tax revenue toward shaping the world to benefit corporate interests.

Be suspicious if something appears free. My cell phone service in Colombia excludes data charges for Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. I wonder who is paying for this and what are they getting in return?

Examine Historic Deceptions

After identifying government lies supporting a past war, you should be skeptical the next time. It is not hard to uncover many examples of deceptions and out-right lies from government officials, even under oath.

In training for my first participation in activism, I was shocked to learn that police can and do legally lie. I had assumed that I lived in a half-way decent country and authorities would be required to set a good example.

Look Behind the Facade

Organizations that are a threat to the people in power are either targeted for destruction or co-option. A co-opted organization can be used to give credibility to deceptions. National Public Radio (NPR) was my first experience with this (read more). Sometimes the organization is not fully co-opted, just compromised by an insider who can, at critical times, slip through propaganda to be received with the established credibility of the organization. Most organizations are compromised to some extent. Many are even created as a facades.

Note how in 325 AD, Roman Emperor Constantine merged the Catholic religion with the Roman Empire. He took what had been a rebel threat to the Roman Empire for over 300 years and started using the popular and beneficial teachings of Jesus as a facade for the expansion of the Roman Empire and subsequently the expansion of the Spanish and other empires through the world for more than 1700 years. Christian missionaries are still being used to take extractive corporate operations into indigenous regions.

It can be difficult to detect this manner of deception. All must be continually watched for compromised content. It is necessary to continually search for new sources of information. In my few years I have needed to abandon several sources. Recently, some deceptions have come through a few on the list I have provided to you. This is sad, but this is reality.

Examine Labels

When I was very young, we used the label, “fag”, as a verbal attack. I had no idea what it meant, only that it worked. I apologize for my ignorance and harmful action.

It is not much different with adults. Labels get loaded with some negative connotation and slapped on targeted people. Communist, socialist, “red”, dictator, tyrant and terrorist are regularly and effectively used to damage reputations, isolate and target for physical attack.

The military indoctrination uses labels to overcome the natural human inhibition to killing another human being.

Conversely, labels like “democracy”, “defense”, and “national interest” are loaded with positive connotations and used to obscure human rights abuse and often criminal actions to accumulate wealth (see Hide the United States Empire).

In ~400 BCE China, Lau Tze taught that labels are not reality. They are at best crude approximations. Anyone who relies on labels is easily deceived. Labels are often reversed.

Understand Distraction Tactics

Distraction tactics are very common. It is also common to adjust the release timing of news events to use one to hide another. When news is dominated by one event, look for the lesser reported events that may be much more important. The United States and other countries even launch wars, in part to hide economic problems at home and divert the public.

Check Independent Sources

Find sources with the ethics and skills to investigate the validity of information. Sadly, many do no checking. Ignore these. You can also check against verified leaked document or documents obtained through FOIA requests. More reliable books and articles have references to official documents. Don’t trust government documents that are intentionally leaked.

Regularly get news from other countries not allied to the United States. They will have their own biases but you can often gain access to much valid information that has been filtered out of the Western news sources.

Nearly all of the United States journalists and authors exposing the lies and omissions are censored by Western media. You need to go outside U.S. influenced media, for example Telesur from Venezuela, RT from Russia or PressTV from Iran to get get informed by these U.S. experts. Of course, the U.S. media then uses this to further attack and isolate them as foreign stooges.

Develop Skepticism

Skepticism is always needed and is crucial if the impact of deception is great, like the climate emergency.

Censorship Internalized

If a tree falls deep in the forest, and no person is near, does it make a sound?

The First Amendment to the Unites States Constitution grants freedom of speech. It was, and is, clearly understood that democracy is not possible without informed citizens. Freedom of speech is under escalating attack and must be defended. However, in the United States we still have more freedom of speech than most other countries through much of history. Despite this freedom, we in the United States are less informed that people in other countries. Why?

If people speak, and no one listens, is anyone informed?

My limited learning through most of my life was because I both already had ‘knowledge’ and had internalized our culture of censorship. I was personally wasting the freedom of speech, hard won and defended by my ancestors.

Culture of Knowledge versus Learning

Those Who Know, Don’t Know
Those Who Don’t Know, Know

~400 BCE China by Lau Tze

In our culture we value ‘knowledge’ and ‘knowledgeable’ people. We ridicule people who do not express certainty, who change their mind, or who accept that they were wrong.

This was very obvious in my engineering career. Nearly every time managers would choose the technical option proposed by a far less experienced person, delivered expressing total confidence, over my informed and qualified recommendation. I always attempted to better explain the consequences. At first I was confused when they did not appear to even care, but eventually, I realized that the culture required this. Managers were climbing a ladder, often changing jobs before consequences were known. They were rarely held accountable for what happened in their old jobs. It functions somewhat similar to the childhood game of hot potato. This culture extended to the top so the aspirations of my bosses would be risked if they did not present everything with total confidence to their bosses. Everyone needed to project total confidence. For personal gain in this culture, you must ‘know’.

For those of us valuing the results and product over personal gains, it made our jobs difficult. Everyone has various strengths and abilities to contribute. People who understood their limitations could constructively contribute. Conversely, those who projected knowledge far beyond reality, out-running their headlights, were given visibility and promotion, sometimes leaving a trail of damage in their wake.

Think about the words of Lau Tzu. Initially they appear contradictory, nonsensical. Think about something you ‘know’. If you ‘know’ something, really think that you ‘know’, are you open to learning? Every time that a person thinks they ‘know’, they are saying to themselves that there is nothing more for them to learn about it and that others must learn what they ‘know’.

Life is mysterious and complicated, far beyond what we can learn in a lifetime. When a person starts to think they ‘know’, their learning ends. The sooner in life that they ‘know’, the less they learn. We learn only while while we remain like a curious child.

Many who are not familiar with the scientific method assume that the use of the word ‘theory’, implying doubts, indicates that it is less likely true than alternative perspectives. This is the whole point of Lau Tze. Scientists learn and gain a far greater understanding by always being open to new information. The word ‘theory’ is used to emphasis that it represents the best understanding to date but must be open to further discoveries and necessary revision. Individually, all scientists are not humble, but the process is one of humility.

In the field of science, all of our technology demonstrates the effectiveness of humility, of not ‘knowing’. This method is equally valid in all aspects of our lives. I now pay attention to detect when I think I ‘know’ something so I can remove this barrier and resume learning.

This cultural emphasis on ‘knowing’ creates fear of accepting or acknowledging that we may not ‘know’. One morning, 25 years ago, while dealing with the trauma of trying to care for my children through divorce, in a flash of a few seconds, my perspective on everything broke out and expanded. I felt a sense of expansion before any thoughts. On inspection, I had let go of ‘knowing’ anything. I was puzzled because I expected this would feel like a loss but in fact I felt that I had gained immensely. Reality is far more immense that my thoughts. My fear of not ‘knowing’ was not valid.

We still live in a culture where ‘knowing’ is required to climb the ladder. But if sufficient number of people do not stop ‘knowing’ and start learning, this career ladder of our culture will be but a historic moment of history of an extinct species, unlikely known to any future species … gone.

Culture of Censorship

External Censorship

A few weeks after Howard Zinn’s death, politicians starting banning or attempted to ban his book “A People’s History of the United State.” The Governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels sought to ban the book throughout the Indiana school system (read more). In 2011, Arizona lawmakers removed “A People’s History” from schools in Tucson as part of the ban on Mexican American studies. A March 3, 2017 Arkansas Bill would Ban Howard Zinn writings from schools (read more).

In 2012 when Mike Pence, our current Vice President, replaced Mitch Daniels as governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels went on to be President of Purdue University where previously my brother Bob studied engineering and was promoted to Marine Corps officer. Less than 2 weeks after the January 27, 2010 death of Howard Zinn, then Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels sought the removal of Zinn’s work from the schools of Indiana. As governor, he appointed eight of the ten board members of Purdue University, reappointed the other two and then this Board of Trustees unanimously elected Mitch Daniels as President of Purdue after his term as governor. Unlike previous Purdue presidents, he lacked a background in academia. Conversely, he has demonstrated record of censorship. This was a cascading attack on freedom of speech from elementary schools through university.

These are only a couple examples of intentional censorship of what the public sees.

Most of the important information is not reported by the mainstream media. This is rarely intentional censorship but rather automatic internal censorship of the people within the news organization (read more).

Internal Censorship

I knew very little about events outside the acceptable range of dialogue in the United States. Nothing inconsistent with our myth of “democracy” is acceptable. I was ignorant of even being ignorant so I had no reason to even look beyond or behind the acceptable range of dialogue.

I was effectively censoring what I was exposed to. I did not look at foreign sources of news. I did not listen to anyone labeled socialist or read any of the socialist propaganda.

I could have at any point. It was relatively easy once I was motivated to look (read more).

My internal censorship kept me ignorant. I hope that the climate emergency motivates you to turn off your internal censorship, learn, and help save our children.

Deception on the Left

I started life on the right. Today, while nearly all of my family, brothers and children are on the right, most of my friends and colleagues are on the left.

The right/left often refers to a religious spectrum but I am using these terms for the spectrum between competition and cooperation. I think this is the most critical issue. In my opinion, all of the other issues are often used and sustained to distract and divide us.

I see value both in competition and cooperation. Until the last few months of my analysis of the climate emergency, I had not formed an opinion as to which is more important. I still see value in competition but I can not see our species surviving without recovering a much greater emphasis on cooperation.

I retain all of the values that came to me from the right: honesty, thriftiness, work ethic, and compassion. Yes, for me, the right included religious values of compassion for others. I reject all of the actions on the so-called right that contradict these values, particularly the us/them divisiveness, hate and violence toward others. I also reject the grossly exaggerated perception that others are lazy, often used to justify taking more than a fair share.

So while retaining my values that I received from the right, I see no way to defend these value, other than on the left, through cooperation.

With this background, I now want to challenge the left. While I agree with concerns from the left over the cruelty that is growing on the right, the very real threat of decent into fascism, I find the typical responses both counter-productive and hypocritical. I wish we had more time and I could think of a more effective way to say this. For a chance at survival, we all need to look in the mirror.

If the Democratic Party had not abandoned its base and aligned with the Republican Party in exclusively serving the wealthy donors, we would not today be at this extreme level of inequality and suffering that created the conditions for fascism. The Clintons in particular orchestrated this shift in the Democratic Party. Both parties have always served the wealthy donors, but after Reagan seriously damaged the unions and then Bill Clinton chose to completely abandoned them, the general public was left exposed with negligible political power to temper the extremes of corporations.

It should be no surprise that in this suffering, many can be diverted to blame their neighbors and to vote for anyone who appears to be standing up to the betrayal of Washington. Those on the left allowed this abandonment and bear much responsibility for their suffering. You don’t fix it by further attacking those on the right. You start to fix it by opening your eyes and joining together to force changes to reduce the inequality and suffering.

To give some ideal how bad it is, what remains of the left engages in fierce debates over voting “The Lesser Evil.” Past years the debate was mostly do you vote for what you want or for a lesser evil. This 2020 election the experts and myself included, if the Democratic Party again succeeds in blocking Bernie, are not in agreement whether Trump or the party loyal Democrat would be the lesser evil. We all fear fascism but it is not clear who is more likely to take us there. Trump openly and directly encourages it but the Democrats have been more effective in creating the conditions that give rise to fascism.

See:

To better understand the Democratic Party, I strongly encourage you to listen or read the transcript from the following:


The Clinton Machine Will Do Anything to Stop Bernie Sanders

Robert Scheer, truthdig.com

(Podcast and full transcript)

The botched Iowa caucuses have raised many legitimate questions about the Democratic establishment, but to understand the point we’re at now, it’s necessary to think back several years. According to Grayzone journalist and editor Max Blumenthal, Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer’s guest on the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” part of the backlash Bernie Sanders is currently experiencing as he attempts to transform the Democratic Party dates back to Bill Clinton’s presidency.


(excerpt of second half)

RS: American politics. And the reason I want to do that is there’s obviously a contradiction in the Jewish experience, because Jews — as much or more so than any other group of people in the world — understand what settler colonialism does. They understand what oppression does, they’ve been under the thumb of oppressors. And so I would argue the major part of the Jewish experience was one of revolt against oppression,and recognition of the danger of unbridled power. And that represents a very important force in liberal politics in the United States: a fear of coercive power, a desire for tolerance, and so forth. And we know that Jews have, in the United States and elsewhere in the world, been a source of concern for the other, and tolerance, and criticism of power.

And the reason I’m bringing that up is it seems to me it’s a real contradiction for the Democratic Party, which you know quite a bit about. And in this Democratic Party, there’s this great loathsome feeling about Donald Trump. And many of these people don’t really like Netanyahu. You know, the polling data shows that Jews are, you know, just about as open to the concern for the Palestinians as any other group. And Bernie Sanders, the one Jewish candidate, is the one who dared to bring up the Palestinians — that they have rights also, that they’re human beings. He’s being attacked for it as, like you, a self-hating Jew. And so I want to get at that contradiction. And, you know, full confession, as a Jewish person I believe it’s an honorable tradition of dissent, and concern for the others, and respect for individual freedom. And I think it’s sullied by the identification of the Jewish experience with a colonialist experience. It is a reality that we have to deal with, but that’s not the whole tradition. And I daresay your own family, whatever your contradiction — and I should mention here your father and mother both were quite active in the Clinton administration, right.

And your father, a well-known journalist, Sidney Blumenthal, and your mother, Jacqueline Blumenthal, was I think a White House fellow or something in the Clinton administration? I forget what her job was, but has been active. And they certainly come out of a more liberal Jewish experience, as do most well-known Jewish writers and journalists in the United States. That’s the contradiction that I don’t see being dealt with here. Because after all, it’s easy to blast Putin and his interference, but as I say, Netanyahu interfered very openly, but in a really unseemly way, in the American election by attacking a sitting American president in an appearance before the Congress, and attacking his major foreign-policy initiative. And there’s hardly a word ever said about it. It doesn’t come up in the democratic debates. You know, and the — as I say, there was this incredible moment where Netanyahu, after coming over here and praising Trump for his peace deal, as did his opponent, then he goes off and meets with Putin. And so suddenly it’s OK, and yet the Democrats who want to blast Putin don’t mention Netanyahu, and they don’t mention his relation to Trump.

MB: Well, yeah, I was trying to illustrate kind of the reality of Israel, which just, it’s gotten so extreme that it repels people who even come out of the kind of Democratic Party mainstream. And the Democratic Party was the original bastion in the U.S. for supporting Israel. So my father actually held a book party for my book, “Goliath,” back in 2013. It’s the kind of thing that, you know, a parent who had been a journalist would do for a son or daughter who’s a journalist. And he was harshly attacked when word got out that he had held that party in a neoconservative publication called the Free Beacon, which is kind of part of Netanyahu’s PR operation in D.C. You know, it was like my father had supported, provided material support for terrorism by having a book party for his son.

Because they cannot stand the Israel lobby, they despise Netanyahu, and they’re disgusted with what Israel’s become.

But the interesting part about that party was who showed up. I didn’t actually know what it was going to be like, and it was absolutely packed. I mean, they live in a pretty small townhouse in D.C, and there just was nowhere to walk, there was nowhere to move. And I found myself in the corner of their dining room shouting through the house to kind of explain what my book was about and answer questions. And a lot of the people there were people who were in or around Hillary’s State Department, people who worked for kind of Democratic Party-linked organizations — just a lot of mainstream Democrat people. And they were giving me a wink and a nod, shaking my hand, giving me a pat on the back, and saying thank you, thank God you did this. Because they cannot stand the Israel lobby, they despise Netanyahu, and they’re disgusted with what Israel’s become.

You know, and the fact that they just could give me a wink and a nod shows also how cowardly a lot of people are in Washington.

And we had reached a point by 2013 where it was pretty obvious there was not going to be a two-state solution, and that whole project, the liberal Zionist project, wasn’t going to work out. You know, and the fact that they just could give me a wink and a nod shows also how cowardly a lot of people are in Washington. They weren’t even stepping up to the level my father had, where when his emails with Hillary Clinton were exposed, it became clear that he was sending her my work. And he was actually trying to move people within the State Department toward a more, maybe you could say a more humanistic view, but also a more realistic view of Israel, Palestine and the Netanyahu operation in Washington. Working through [Sheldon] Adelson, using this fraud hack of a rabbi, Shmuley Boteach, has kind of their front man. They ran like a full-page ad in the New York Times painting me and my father as Hillary Clinton’s secret Middle East advisers.

here are photos of Elie Wiesel palling around with fascists. And the kind of Netanyahu-Adelson network activated to attack me. And ultimately it led — I actually, within a matter of a few days, it led to Hillary Clinton’s campaign officially denouncing me and demanding that I cease and desist.

And then one day in the middle of the campaign, Elie Wiesel died. You know, someone who is supposed to be this patron saint of Judaism and the kind of secular theology of Auschwitz, who had spent the last years of his life as part of Sheldon Adelson’s political network. Basically, he had lost all his money to Bernie Madoff, and so he was getting paid off by Adelson. He got half a million dollars from this Christian Zionist, apocalyptic, rapture-ready fanatic, Pastor John Hagee. He was going around with Ted Cruz giving talks. And so when he died, I went on Twitter and tweeted a few photos of Elie Wiesel with these extremist characters. And I said, you know, here are photos of Elie Wiesel palling around with fascists. And the kind of Netanyahu-Adelson network activated to attack me. And ultimately it led — I actually, within a matter of a few days, it led to Hillary Clinton’s campaign officially denouncing me and demanding that I cease and desist. And so, you know, I looked at the debate on Twitter, and a lot of people were actually supporting me. And it was clear Elie Wiesel, this person who was supposed to be a saint, was actually no longer seen as stainless, that the whole debate had been opened up by 2016.

like the legislation we see in statehouses to actually outlaw people who support the Palestinian boycott of Israel. So we’re just in an amazing time where all of the contradictions are completely out in the open.

And now when we look at the Democratic Party and we look at the Democratic field, you know, Bernie Sanders — he’s better than most of the other candidates, or the other candidates, on this issue. After we put a lot of pressure on him in the left wing-grassroots — I mean, I personally protested him at a 2016 event for his position on Palestinians, and we shamed him until he took at least a slightly better position, where you acknowledge the humanity of Palestinians. But what we’re hearing, even from Bernie Sanders, doesn’t even reflect where the grassroots of the Democratic Party — particularly all those young people who are coming out and delivering him a landslide victory tonight in Iowa — are. The Democratic Party is not democratic on Israel, but it’s no longer a third-rail issue. You can talk about it, and the only way that you can be stopped is through legislation, like the legislation we see in statehouses to actually outlaw people who support the Palestinian boycott of Israel. So we’re just in an amazing time where all of the contradictions are completely out in the open.

RS: OK, let me just take a quick break so public radio stations like KCRW that make this available can stick in some advertisements for themselves, which is a good cause. And we’ll be right back with Max Blumenthal. Back with Max Blumenthal, who has written — I mean, I only mentioned one of his books. He wrote a very important book on the right wing in America that was a bestseller; he has been honored in many ways, and yet is a source of great controversy. And I must say, I respect your ability to create this controversy, because it’s controversy about issues people don’t want to deal with. You know, they want to deal with them in sort of feel- good slogans, and it doesn’t work, because people get hurt. And including Jewish people, in the case of Israel. If you develop a settler, colonialist society, and that stands for the Jewish position, and you’re oppressing large numbers of people, be they Palestinian or others, that’s hardly an advertisement for what has been really great about the Jewish experience, which I will argue until my death. It was represented by people like my mother, who were in the Jewish socialist bund, and two of her sisters were killed by the Czar’s police in Russia.And they believed in Universalist values, an idea of being Jewish as standing for the values of the oppressed, and concern for the oppressed. And most of their experience in the shtetls, and out there in the diaspora, had been being oppressed.

And so I don’t want to lose that there. But I wanted to get now to the last part of this, to what I think is the hypocrisy of the liberal wing of American politics, or so- called. And now they call themselves more progressive. And it really kind of centers around Hillary Clinton. And whatever you want to say about Bernie Sanders — you know, Hillary Clinton’s recent attack on Bernie Sanders, that no one likes him and he stands for nothing and he gets nothing done. And I think this is a, you know, a person that I thought, you know, at one point — despite her starting out as a Goldwater girl and being quite conservative — I thought was, you know, somewhat decent.

But I look back on it now — Hillary Clinton has really represented a kind of loathsome, interventionist, aggressive, America-first politics that in some ways is even more offensive than Trump. When Trump said he’s going to make America great again, Hillary Clinton said, America’s always been great. What? Slavery, segregation, killing the Native Americans — always been great?

And I’m going to make this personal now. I was brought to a more favorable view of Bill and Hillary Clinton, in considerable measure, by your father, as a journalist at the Washington Post, and then working in the administration. And I respect your father and mother, you know, and Sidney Blumenthal and Jacqueline Blumenthal, I think are intelligent people. And I once, you know, went through a White House dinner; I think I only got in because your father put me on the list, and Hillary Clinton said I was her favorite columnist in America — no, the whole world — and it was very flattering. But I look back on it now — Hillary Clinton has really represented a kind of loathsome, interventionist, aggressive, America-first politics that in some ways is even more offensive than Trump. When Trump said he’s going to make America great again, Hillary Clinton said, America’s always been great. What?

MB: Yeah.

RS: What? Slavery, segregation, killing the Native Americans — always been great? You grew up with these people, right? You were in that world. What — so yes, they can come up to you at a book party and say, yes, it’s about time somebody said that. But what are they really about? That they — you know, you mentioned Syria. You know, their great achievement, they created a mess of that society. And she’s the one who went to, said about Libya, oh, we came, we saw, and he’s dead. You know, sodomized to death. So take me into the heart of the so- called liberal experience.

MB: Well, first of all, since you invoke Sidney Blumenthal so frequently, he has a — I think his fourth book in a five- part series on Abraham Lincoln out. And you know, these books address Lincoln almost as if he were a contemporary politician. It’s a completely new contribution to the history of Lincoln, and if you invite him on, be sure —

RS: I’m familiar with it, and I’ll endorse it —

MB: If you invite him on, you can ask him, I would love to hear that debate —

RS: I certainly would, and I have — as I said, I have a lot of respect for your father and mother. I’m asking a different question. Why do good people look the other way? Or how does it work? Just, you know, to the degree you can, take me inside that Washington culture. And where there’s a certain arrogance in it, that they are always, even when they do the wrong things, they’re just always accidents. They’re always mistakes. You know, it never comes out of their ideology, their aggression. So I want to know more about that.

It’s called “The Management of Savagery,” and it deals substantially with my view of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, but particularly the Hillary State Department, the Obama foreign policy team, and the destruction they wrought in Libya and Syria.

how does it work with the Clintons? They were — they set up a machine that was really a juggernaut with all this corporate money they brought in through the DLC, the Democratic Leadership Committee. It was a very different structure than we’d seen with previous Democratic candidates who built — who relied heavily on unions and, you know, the civil rights coalition.

MB: I mean, I saw all these — so many different sides of Washington. And so — and I was always supported by my parents, no matter what view I took. So I don’t feel like I have to live in my father’s shadow or something like that. They remain really supportive of me. I have a new book out — it’s not really new, it came out last April. It’s called “The Management of Savagery,” and it deals substantially with my view of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, but particularly the Hillary State Department, the Obama foreign policy team, and the destruction they wrought in Libya and Syria. So, you know, I put everything I knew about Washington and foreign policy into that book. And so I really would recommend that as well.

And the machine grew into the Clinton Global Initiative, which was this giant influence-peddling scam that just cashed in on disasters in Haiti, brought in tons of money, tens of millions of dollars from Gulf monarchies, and big oil and the arms industry — everything that funds all the repulsive think tanks on K Street through the Clinton Foundation.

That’s why you saw at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, behind her, Ghislaine Maxwell, who was basically Jeffrey Epstein’s personal child sex trafficker, just trying to cultivate influence with people who have this gigantic political machine.

But, you know, how does it work with the Clintons? They were — they set up a machine that was really a juggernaut with all this corporate money they brought in through the DLC, the Democratic Leadership Committee. It was a very different structure than we’d seen with previous Democratic candidates who built — who relied heavily on unions and, you know, the civil rights coalition. And that machine never went away. It kept growing like this — kind of like this amoeba that began to engulf the party and politics itself. So that when Bill Clinton was out of power, the machine was passed to Hillary Clinton, and the machine followed her into the Senate. And the machine grew into the Clinton Global Initiative, which was this giant influence-peddling scam that just cashed in on disasters in Haiti, brought in tons of money, tens of millions of dollars from Gulf monarchies, and big oil and the arms industry — everything that funds all the repulsive think tanks on K Street through the Clinton Foundation. And everyone who was trying to get close to the Clinton Foundation, whether they were in Clinton’s inner circle or not, was just trying to gather influence. That’s why you saw at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, behind her, Ghislaine Maxwell, who was basically Jeffrey Epstein’s personal child sex trafficker, just trying to cultivate influence with people who have this gigantic political machine.

So that’s why so many people, I think, have stayed loyal to this odious project, and have looked the other way as entire countries were destroyed under the direct watch of Hillary Clinton. Libya today — where Hillary Clinton took personal credit for destroying this country, which was at the time before its destruction, I think the wealthiest African nation with the highest quality of life — is now in, still in civil war. We’ve seen footage of open- air slave auctions taking place, and large parts of the country for years were occupied by affiliates of Al Qaeda or ISIS, including Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte. It was immediately transformed into a haven for the Islamic State.

So that’s why so many people, I think, have stayed loyal to this odious project, and have looked the other way as entire countries were destroyed under the direct watch of Hillary Clinton. Libya today — where Hillary Clinton took personal credit for destroying this country, which was at the time before its destruction, I think the wealthiest African nation with the highest quality of life — is now in, still in civil war. We’ve seen footage of open- air slave auctions taking place, and large parts of the country for years were occupied by affiliates of Al Qaeda or ISIS, including Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte. It was immediately transformed into a haven for the Islamic State.

This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton. There would have been no Benghazi scandal if she hadn’t gone into Libya to come, see, and kill, as she bragged that she did. And in Syria, she attempted the same thing; fortunately failed, thanks to assistance from Iran and Russia. But this was, it consisted of a billion dollars, multibillion-dollar operation to arm and equip some of the most dangerous, psychotic fanatics on the face of the planet in Al Qaeda and 31 flavors of Salafi jihadi. Hillary Clinton said we can’t be negotiating with the Syrian government; the hard men with guns will solve this problem. She said that in an interview, and that’s her legacy.

Beyond that, you know, I in Washington grew up in a very complex situation. I don’t know what view people have of me, but I grew up in what was – D.C. when D.C. was known as C.C., or Chocolate City. It was a mostly black city, run by a local black power structure with a strong black middle class, and I grew up in a black neighborhood. And I kind of saw apartheid firsthand, where I saw how a small white minority actually controlled the city from behind the scenes. And then, you know, and I saw that reality, and then I went to school across town in the one white ward to a private school, and I got to know some of the children of the kind of mostly Democratic Party elite. And so I saw both sides of the city. And it was through that other side, and also my parents’ connection to the Clintons, that I — I mean, I barely interacted with the Clintons. I’ve had very minimal interaction with them ever.

But I did get to meet Chelsea Clinton once. And you know, for all my reservations about the Clintons or what they were, I thought you know, she was kind of an admirable figure at that time. She was a — she was a kid, she was an adolescent who was being mocked on “Saturday Night Live” because she was going through an awkward phase. She went to school down the street at Sidwell Friends, and I met her at a White House Christmas party; she was really friendly and personable. And you know, since then, I’ve watched her grow into adulthood and become a complete kind of replication of the monstrous political apparatus that her family has set up, without really charting her own path. She just basically inherited the reign of the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative. She does paid talks for Israel. Her husband Marc Mezvinsky, he gambled on Greece’s debt along with Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs. You know, the squid fish. I mean, there’s just — I mean, as a young person, seeing someone of my generation grow up and follow that path, do nothing to carve out her own space — it just absolutely disgusts me.

And now Hillary Clinton is still there! She won’t go away! She’s not only helped fuel this Russiagate hysteria that’s plunged us into a new Cold War, but she’s trying to destroy the hopes and dreams of millions of young people who are saddled with endless debt by destroying Bernie Sanders. And it’s because she sees her own legacy being smashed to pieces, not by any right-wing, vast conspiracy, but by the electorate, the new electorate of the Democratic Party.

And now Hillary Clinton is still there! She won’t go away! She’s not only helped fuel this Russiagate hysteria that’s plunged us into a new Cold War, but she’s trying to destroy the hopes and dreams of millions of young people who are saddled with endless debt by destroying Bernie Sanders. And it’s because she sees her own legacy being smashed to pieces, not by any right-wing, vast conspiracy, but by the electorate, the new electorate of the Democratic Party. And I absolutely welcome that. I think, you know, tonight in Iowa, a landslide Bernie victory, one of the takeaways is this will be the end of Clintonism. It’s time to move on and hand things over to a new generation. They had their chance, and they not only failed, they caused disasters across the world.

RS: So this is — we’re going to wind this up, but I think we’ve hit a really important subject. And I want to take a little bit more time on it. And I thought you expressed it quite powerfully. But the error, if you’ll permit me, is to center it on the personality, or the family. And I don’t think Clintonism is going to go away. Because what it represents — and I know you —

MB: It could be become Bloombergism, you know?

And what Clinton did is he came along, and he had a sort of variation of Nixon’s Southern Strategy, how he got the Republicans to be so important in the South. And it was this new politics, this redefinition. And it’s not going away, because it’s the cover for Wall Street. It’s the cover for exploitation.

RS: Well, that’s where I’m going. I think what Clintonism represents is this triangulation, this new Democrat. And I interviewed him when he was governor, just when he was campaigning. And I did a lot of writing on the Financial Services Modernization Act and on welfare reform, and all of these ingredients of this policy. And what it really represents — no wonder they’re rewarded by the super wealthy. But the Democratic Party lost its organizational base with the destruction of the labor movement and weakening of other sources of progressive class-based politics, concern about working people and ordinary people. And what Clinton did is he came along, and he had a sort of variation of Nixon’s Southern Strategy, how he got the Republicans to be so important in the South. And it was this new politics, this redefinition. And it’s not going away, because it’s the cover for Wall Street. It’s the cover for exploitation. And the main thing that happened from when you were young — or born, actually; you’re 42 years — it’s 42 years of, since Clinton really, and you can blame Reagan, you can blame the first President Bush, you can blame other people, and certainly blame the whole bloody Republican Party. I’m not going to give them a pass.

what the Clinton revolution did was it made class warfare for the rich fashionable, in a way that no one else was able to do it, no other movement. And it said these thieves on Wall Street, these people who are going to rip you off 20 different ways to Sunday — they’re good people, and they support good causes.

But the fact is, what the Clinton revolution did was it made class warfare for the rich fashionable, in a way that no one else was able to do it, no other movement. And it said these thieves on Wall Street, these people who are going to rip you off 20 different ways to Sunday — they’re good people, and they support good causes. And you mentioned Lloyd Blankfein, you know; “government” Goldman Sachs, you know. Robert Rubin came from Goldman Sachs; he was Clinton’s treasury secretary. And the whole thing of unleashing Wall Street and getting, destroying the New Deal — that was a serious program to basically betray the average American and betray their interest. And that’s why we’ve had this growing income inequality since that time. That’s the Clinton legacy in this world, really, is the billionaire coup, the billionaire culture.

Yep, the oligarchy was put on fast-forward by the new politics of the Clintons. What they promised wasn’t, you know, a break from Reaganism, although there was certainly a cultural difference. They promised continuity, and that’s what we saw through the Obama administration. Obama presided over the biggest decline in black home ownership in the United States since, I think, prior to World War II. You mentioned Glass- Steagall; this set the stage for the financial crisis; NAFTA, destroyed the unions, shipped American jobs first to Mexico and then to China, and destabilized northern Mexico along with the drug war that Clinton put on overdrive, creating the immigration crisis that helped fuel the rise of Donald Trump. Welfare reform — all of these policies were just, were odious to me and so many people at the time, but there was just this desire to just beat the Republicans and out-triangulate them. Now that we’ve seen the effects on them and so many people have felt the effects, you have an entire generation that sees no future, that realizes they’re living in an oligarchy, realizes that the alternative to Bernie Sanders is a literal oligarch, this miniature Scrooge McDuck in Mike Bloomberg, and they’re just not having it.

MB: Yep, the oligarchy was put on fast-forward by the new politics of the Clintons. What they promised wasn’t, you know, a break from Reaganism, although there was certainly a cultural difference. They promised continuity, and that’s what we saw through the Obama administration. Obama presided over the biggest decline in black home ownership in the United States since, I think, prior to World War II. You mentioned Glass- Steagall; this set the stage for the financial crisis; NAFTA, destroyed the unions, shipped American jobs first to Mexico and then to China, and destabilized northern Mexico along with the drug war that Clinton put on overdrive, creating the immigration crisis that helped fuel the rise of Donald Trump. Welfare reform — all of these policies were just, were odious to me and so many people at the time, but there was just this desire to just beat the Republicans and out-triangulate them. Now that we’ve seen the effects on them and so many people have felt the effects, you have an entire generation that sees no future, that realizes they’re living in an oligarchy, realizes that the alternative to Bernie Sanders is a literal oligarch, this miniature Scrooge McDuck in Mike Bloomberg, and they’re just not having it.

I don’t know if Hillary Clinton understands this history; I don’t think she sees it in context. She just blames Russian boogeyman and fake news for everything. But the rest of us who’ve lived through it really do, and it’s the continuity that is so dangerous, especially on foreign policy. I mean, the Libya proxy war and the Syria proxy war, the stage was set in Yugoslavia with NATO’s war that destroyed a socialist country and unleashed hell on a large part of its population. And we still don’t debate that war. The stage for the Iraq invasion was set in 1998 with Bill Clinton passing the Iraqi Liberation Act, which sent $90 million into the pocket of the con-man Ahmed Chalabi and made regime change the official policy of the United States.

I don’t know if Hillary Clinton understands this history; I don’t think she sees it in context. She just blames Russian boogeyman and fake news for everything. But the rest of us who’ve lived through it really do, and it’s the continuity that is so dangerous, especially on foreign policy. I mean, the Libya proxy war and the Syria proxy war, the stage was set in Yugoslavia with NATO’s war that destroyed a socialist country and unleashed hell on a large part of its population. And we still don’t debate that war. The stage for the Iraq invasion was set in 1998 with Bill Clinton passing the Iraqi Liberation Act, which sent $90 million into the pocket of the con-man Ahmed Chalabi and made regime change the official policy of the United States.

it goes well beyond the Clintons. It’s a program that markets right-wing economics and a right- wing foreign policy in a sort of progressive bottle. Now what they’re trying to do with the label on that progressive bottle, the way they’re trying to preserve it — we see it a lot through the [Elizabeth] Warren campaign — is through a kind of neoliberal identity politics that divorces class from race and gender, and attempts to basically distract people with needless arguments about Bernie Sanders saying a woman couldn’t have gotten elected in a private conversation that only Elizabeth Warren was party to.

It’s tragic that Bernie Sanders voted for that. But we have to see the cause and the effect to understand why so many people are in open revolt against that legacy. And you’re right, it goes well beyond the Clintons. It’s a program that markets right-wing economics and a right- wing foreign policy in a sort of progressive bottle. Now what they’re trying to do with the label on that progressive bottle, the way they’re trying to preserve it — we see it a lot through the [Elizabeth] Warren campaign — is through a kind of neoliberal identity politics that divorces class from race and gender, and attempts to basically distract people with needless arguments about Bernie Sanders saying a woman couldn’t have gotten elected in a private conversation that only Elizabeth Warren was party to.

But I would just remind anyone who is supporting Bernie Sanders and listening to this — he’s not just running for president. He’s running for the next target of a deep state coup, and the deep state exists, and will respond with more force and viciousness than it did to Donald Trump, who actually has much more in common with them than Bernie Sanders.

So I’m really encouraged, I guess, by the results that we’re seeing. We’re talking tonight on the eve of the Iowa caucus. I’m encouraged by those results, just because I see them as a repudiation of the politics that have just dominated my life as a 42-year-old, and just been so absolutely cynical and destructive at their core. But I would just remind anyone who is supporting Bernie Sanders and listening to this — he’s not just running for president. He’s running for the next target of a deep state coup, and the deep state exists, and will respond with more force and viciousness than it did to Donald Trump, who actually has much more in common with them than Bernie Sanders.

RS: I didn’t quite get the grammar of that last paragraph, not any fault of yours. You said he’s not just running — can you —

MB: He’s running for the next target of a deep state coup, the forces of Wall Street. You know, the —

RS: Oh, you mean he will be the target.

MB: He will be the target.

RS: Yeah, you know, it’s — you just said something really — OK, I know we have to wrap this up, but it’s actually just getting interesting for me. [Laughs]

MB: Sorry about that.

But the people that you’ve been talking about, that–you know, and I voted for all of them, and I’ve supported them — are they really the lesser evil? You know, or are they a more effective form of evil?

RS: No, no, no, come on, come on. [Laughter] What I mean is, I do these things because I learn, and I think, and you know, my selfish interests. And really the question right now, I did a wonderful interview with Chomsky on this podcast, and he took me to school for not appreciating the importance of the lesser evil. And I’ve lost sleep over it since. You know, well — and we always fall for that, you know. On the other hand, some of the things you’ve been talking about, you know — and this is going to get me in big trouble — but you know, Trump is so blatant. He’s so out there in favor of greed and corruption. He’s so obnoxious. And actually, in terms of his policy impact — not his rhetoric, but his policy impact — is he really that much worse? Well, for instance, you mentioned NAFTA. The rewrite of NAFTA, even before, you know, some progressives got involved in it, it was a substantially better trade agreement than the first NAFTA. You know, he hasn’t gotten us into Syria- type, Iraq-type wars.

He actually — so I’m not — you know, yes, I consider him a neofascist; rhetoric can be very dangerous. He’s obviously spread very evil, poisonous ideas about immigrants and what have you, you know, I can go down the list. But the people that you’ve been talking about, that–you know, and I voted for all of them, and I’ve supported them — are they really the lesser evil? You know, or are they a more effective form of evil?

I mean, to understand Trump, we just have to see him as the apotheosis of an oligarchy. In its most unsheathed, unvarnished form, he’s just lifted the mask off the corruption, the legal corruption that’s prevailed, and been completely unabashed about it. Donald Trump was targeted with this kind of Russiagate campaign, which was partly run by Clintonite dead-enders who wanted to blame Russia for her loss, and to attack Donald Trump with this kind of McCarthyite rhetoric. But it was also being influenced by the intelligence services — figures like John Brennan and James Comey, and neoconservative hardliners who could easily jump back into the Democratic Party. And they were just seeking a new Cold War, to justify the budgets of the intelligence services, and the defense budget and so on.

MB: I mean, to understand Trump, we just have to see him as the apotheosis of an oligarchy. In its most unsheathed, unvarnished form, he’s just lifted the mask off the corruption, the legal corruption that’s prevailed, and been completely unabashed about it. Donald Trump was targeted with this kind of Russiagate campaign, which was partly run by Clintonite dead-enders who wanted to blame Russia for her loss, and to attack Donald Trump with this kind of McCarthyite rhetoric. But it was also being influenced by the intelligence services — figures like John Brennan and James Comey, and neoconservative hardliners who could easily jump back into the Democratic Party. And they were just seeking a new Cold War, to justify the budgets of the intelligence services, and the defense budget and so on.

So in a lot of ways, Donald Trump does share more in common with the Democratic Party elite — with a lot of the figures who’ve been nominated to serve on the DNC platform committee, who are just from the Beltway blob and the Beltway bandits — than they do with Bernie Sanders.

But at his core, Donald Trump, what he’s actually done, especially domestically, I think outside of the immigration stuff, is he’s been kind of a traditional Republican. And he won a lot of consent from Republicans in Congress when he passed a trillion-dollar tax cut. He’s given corporate America everything he wanted after kind of campaigning with this populist, Bannonite tone. So in a lot of ways, Donald Trump does share more in common with the Democratic Party elite — with a lot of the figures who’ve been nominated to serve on the DNC platform committee, who are just from the Beltway blob and the Beltway bandits — than they do with Bernie Sanders. And I think that if Bernie Sanders gets the nomination, there will be an effort to McGovern him. To just kind of turn him — turn this whole process into McGovern ’72, hope that Bernie Sanders gets destroyed by Donald Trump, and then wag their fingers at the left for the next 20 years until they get another Bill Clinton. I think that they don’t know how to stop him at this point, but they’re willing to let him be the nominee and go down to Donald Trump, because Bernie Sanders threatens their interests, and the movement behind him particularly, more than Donald Trump does.

RS: You know, they will stop Bernie Sanders, and they will do it by the argument of lesser evilism. And you see the line developing —

MB: But who is the lesser evil, Bob? I mean, Joe Biden is like this doddering wreck. There is no other candidate who seems even remotely viable against Trump.

RS: No, no, no — I understand that. I’m telling you what — well, it seems to me there’s — you know, you want to talk about fake news, the, misreporting of Bernie Sanders — in fact, the misreporting of what democratic socialism is. I mean, he’s now branded in the mainstream media as some hopeless fanatic because he dared to defend democratic socialism. Democratic socialism has been the norm for the most successful economies in the world, even to a degree when we’ve been successful. That was the legacy of Roosevelt, after all, is to try to save capitalism from itself. That’s why you had some enlightened government programs, you know, right down the list, and that’s what saved Germany after the war, and that’s what France and England and so forth, that’s why they have health care systems.

But the mainstream media has actually taken a very moderate figure, Bernie Sanders, and demonized him as some kind of hopeless ideologue, right? And as you point out, Bernie Sanders is hardly a radical thinker on issues — particularly, as you mentioned, about the Mideast and so forth. What he is, is somebody who actually is honoring the best side of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: you can’t let these greed merchants control everything, you have to worry about some compensation for ordinary people. That’s what Bernie Sanders is all about. And it should be an argument that has great appeal to people of power, otherwise they’re going to come after you with the pitchforks. Instead the mainstream media, in its hysteria, you know, has taken this word “democratic socialist” and used it to vilify him.

But the point that I want — and we will end on this, but I’d like to get your reaction — that came up in my discussion with Chomsky, who I have great admiration for. But it is this lesser evilism. And I think while, yes, people in their vote can think about that, they can vote that way — I’ve done it much of my life; I’ve voted for all sorts of evil people because they were lesser. But as a journalist — and I want to end about your journalism — as a journalist, I think we have to get that idea out of our head. And it means being able to be objective about a Donald Trump when he comes up with his NAFTA rewrite, and say hey, there are some good things in it, including the fact that you have to pay $16 an hour to people in Mexico who are working on cars that are going to be sold in the United States, OK. And what the liberal community has been able to do in the mainstream media, MSNBC, is Trumpwash everything.

Because in fact, maybe in some ways, or in many ways, it’s a more effective evil. We know what Trump is; he stands exposed every hour of every day. But you know, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton — and I’m not trying to pick on them, but you know, they represented this embrace of the Wall Street center — they were much more effective in redistributing income to the rich.

Which brings us back to your critique. They’ve been able to say — they’ve made warmongering liberal and fashionable. They’ve taken the — they’ve made the CIA now a wonderful institution, the FBI a wonderful institution, [John] Bolton a wonderful hero. And I want to take my hat off to your journalism, because you have — and I do recommend that people go to your website, the Grayzone. Because you have had the courage to say, wait a minute, what’s called a lesser evil can’t be given a pass. Because in fact, maybe in some ways, or in many ways, it’s a more effective evil. We know what Trump is; he stands exposed every hour of every day. But you know, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton — and I’m not trying to pick on them, but you know, they represented this embrace of the Wall Street center — they were much more effective in redistributing income to the rich. You know, you can talk about Trump’s tax break, but the real redistribution came with letting Wall Street do its collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps that caused the destruction of 70% of black wealth in America, 60% of brown wealth in America, according to the Federal Reserve. So really, in this election, people have to think — you know, yes, I’ll hold my nose and I’ll vote for the lesser evil. But what’s that going to get us? Does it get us a more effective evil, a better-package devil? Last word from you?

Well, I mean, one of the things that we do at the Grayzone.com, our mission is to oppose this policy of regime change that the U.S. imposes across the world against any state that seeks some independence from the U.S. sphere of influence that wants to craft its own economic policies in a socialist way, like Venezuela, Nicaragua. We, you know, we exposed a lot of the deceptions that were trying to stimulate public support for regime change in Syria, that would have been absolutely disastrous. And in all of these situations, we don’t stand alone, but we stand among a really, really small group of alternative outlets who don’t play the lesser-evil game on regime change. Where we say, well, this leader or that leader are horrible, and they are evil dictators, but we should also be kind of suspicious of the, you know, of the war that the U.S. might wage. Or we should be critical of these brutal economic sanctions that have killed tens of thousands of Venezuelans through excess deaths. We say — we actually look at the alternative to the current government and show that there actually isn’t the lesser evil, that the alternative is far worse. In Syria it was Al Qaeda and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood; in Venezuela it’s Juan Guaidó’s right-wing, white collar mafia, which is a front for Exxon Mobil. Same thing in Nicaragua.

MB: Well, I mean, one of the things that we do at the Grayzone.com, our mission is to oppose this policy of regime change that the U.S. imposes across the world against any state that seeks some independence from the U.S. sphere of influence that wants to craft its own economic policies in a socialist way, like Venezuela, Nicaragua. We, you know, we exposed a lot of the deceptions that were trying to stimulate public support for regime change in Syria, that would have been absolutely disastrous. And in all of these situations, we don’t stand alone, but we stand among a really, really small group of alternative outlets who don’t play the lesser-evil game on regime change. Where we say, well, this leader or that leader are horrible, and they are evil dictators, but we should also be kind of suspicious of the, you know, of the war that the U.S. might wage. Or we should be critical of these brutal economic sanctions that have killed tens of thousands of Venezuelans through excess deaths. We say — we actually look at the alternative to the current government and show that there actually isn’t the lesser evil, that the alternative is far worse. In Syria it was Al Qaeda and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood; in Venezuela it’s Juan Guaidó’s right-wing, white collar mafia, which is a front for Exxon Mobil. Same thing in Nicaragua.

So it’s important to look at lesser evilism through a historical context, and then we can apply it to the United States as well. Look at who’s been sold to us as the lesser evil that we had to support. Well, we’ve been talking about them, Bob, for the last half hour, and they’ve subjected Americans to the same evil the Republican Party has, for the most part.

And you know, as much as I respect and I’ve learned from Noam Chomsky, he plays that lesser-evil game on regime change. He’s trashed all of the, all of these governments. He celebrated the collapse of the Soviet Union, and we saw what happened to Russia after that. So it’s important to look at lesser evilism through a historical context, and then we can apply it to the United States as well. Look at who’s been sold to us as the lesser evil that we had to support. Well, we’ve been talking about them, Bob, for the last half hour, and they’ve subjected Americans to the same evil the Republican Party has, for the most part. Maybe they’ve limited it to some degree. But now there’s actually an option for something that I’d say is moderate in the United States.

And you know who else is supporting Bernie Sanders besides all these debt-saddled youth? Active duty U.S. military veterans who are sick of permanent war. $160,000 in campaign contributions have been given to Bernie by active duty vets. That’s something like eight times more than have gone to Joe Biden, who is involved at the forefront of almost every American war since Gulf War I. And we’re really capitalizing on that at the Grayzone. We understand the American public and the western public are sick of being lied into war, and they’re sick of being pushed into lesser evilism, whether it’s abroad in countries that are targeted by the U.S., or at home. And so we’re just there providing balance and exposing whatever the lie is of the day.

You’re right — Bernie Sanders does nothing, and proposes nothing, outside the framework of the New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society. I don’t even think he’s a democratic socialist. I don’t know what that term really means. He’s a social democrat. And he is someone who at least offers a change from the consensus where the government actually starts to intervene to prevent people from dying excess deaths across the country, from the opioid crisis, from poverty, from homelessness. Eighty percent of new homes that have been built in the U.S. in the past two years are luxury housing. And you know who else is supporting Bernie Sanders besides all these debt-saddled youth? Active duty U.S. military veterans who are sick of permanent war. $160,000 in campaign contributions have been given to Bernie by active duty vets. That’s something like eight times more than have gone to Joe Biden, who is involved at the forefront of almost every American war since Gulf War I. And we’re really capitalizing on that at the Grayzone. We understand the American public and the western public are sick of being lied into war, and they’re sick of being pushed into lesser evilism, whether it’s abroad in countries that are targeted by the U.S., or at home. And so we’re just there providing balance and exposing whatever the lie is of the day.

RS: Let me, as an older person, end with a little editorial about what — and I agree with the thrust of what you’ve been saying — but why I think this word “democratic socialism” is important, not just social democrat. Because it acknowledges the vast harm that has been done by the left in human history. It’s not just the right, it’s not just the corporate elite, and it’s not just the oligarchs. That people got hold of a message of concern for the ordinary person. It happened in religion too, after all, you know; structures were developed, people who claimed they were following the message of Christ, and they ended up building edifices to the exploitation of ordinary people.

I think what Bernie Sanders represents — and I’ll ask your response, but what I think he represents, the reason he’s so authentic — he actually believes in the grassroots. He actually believes that an ordinary person in Vermont can make intelligent decisions about the human condition, and about justice and freedom. And I think the reason Bernie Sanders can survive the rhetorical assaults on his leftism or his socialism, is that what people of power in the capitalist world have managed to do is identify this cause of social justice, a notion of democratic socialism with totalitarianism, with elitism. And Bernie Sanders — and this is a good night to celebrate Bernie Sanders, if it’s true; I hadn’t caught up with the news, but if he’s really doing that well in Iowa. Because I thought he would get 1% of the vote four years ago when he started; I never thought this would happen.

I think what makes Bernie Sanders authentic is his respect for the ordinary person. He is the opposite of that leftist elitist–and you have them as well as rightist elitists — who thinks they have to distort history to protect the average person from reality. And Bernie Sanders is — he speaks truth about what’s going on. And at a time when people on the right and the left have nothing but contempt for most of the politicians, and journalistic leaders and everything else, for having betrayed them.

I think what makes Bernie Sanders authentic is his respect for the ordinary person. He is the opposite of that leftist elitist–and you have them as well as rightist elitists — who thinks they have to distort history to protect the average person from reality. And Bernie Sanders is — he speaks truth about what’s going on. And at a time when people on the right and the left have nothing but contempt for most of the politicians, and journalistic leaders and everything else, for having betrayed them. So I think Bernie Sanders is a ray of hope. I wish he would be around a lot longer, but then again, I wish I’d be around a lot longer. But it’s nice to run into Max Blumenthal, who’s half my age and has all of that spirit that I’d like to see in journalism. So thanks, Max, for doing this.

MB: Thank you, Bob. It’s a real honor.

RS: And by the way, I ignored that last book of yours. Could you give the title again and how people get it?

MB: It’s called “The Management of Savagery.” And let me pull it off the shelf so I can actually read the subheader. You can edit this. It’s called “The Management of Savagery: How America’s National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump.” And it’s really kind of my look at the, sort of how the politics of my lifetime and my generation has been shaped by foreign policy disasters that an unelected foreign-policy establishment has subjected us to.

Can Now Really Be The Best Time To Be Alive?

By George Lakey and Yotam Marom, Waging Nonviolence.

(Read Original at popularresistance.org)

A dialogue across generations

A worried young organizer confronts a movement elder who believes that now — in the midst of deep crisis — is our best chance to make big progressive change. Editor’s note: The following exchange is between 33-year- old organizer Yotam Marom and 82-year-old George Lakey, whose activism, organizing and training spans over 50 years.


Dear George,

I remember sitting at the small round table in your kitchen, with tea you had just made. It was Spring, and light was coming in through the window above the sink, where you were bustling around as you often do. We talked about life, work, politics. You were excited about something or other — maybe your “How We Win” book tour, or something I was up to, or a new trend of growth in the movement like the Democratic Socialists of America or Sunrise. I’m always mystified by how genuinely excited you are about things young people are doing. I think it’s part of what attracts so many of us to your kitchen table.

I think you had recently turned 82, so we were talking about your age. I like to joke that you’re now only now entering your prime. (Even as we speak, you are on a 40- city book tour, no big deal.) Between your family genes and your own stubborn goodwill, you’ve probably got another 40 years in you.

It might have been after an aside about your age that you said something like: “I’m so happy to be here now. There’s no other time in history I’d rather be alive for.”

I don’t know if I thought much of it at the time. Old people say wacky things sometimes, and young people (on a good day) smile along and humor them (though I’m sure that, in reality, most of the time you’re the one smiling along and humoring us). But then I heard you say this again, and again — I even went to one of your book events and you said it there too. In all honesty, it seemed a bit insane to me. The fact that you could feel happy to be alive in this particular historical moment was miles away from how I felt.

Whenever I muster the courage to stop and think about it, I feel pretty unlucky to be alive at this time. I wake up with the sense that we might have a chance to overcome the many political, economic and social crises we’re facing. But climate change makes the stakes completely existential, and puts a time limit on what we can do about it. I live with a quiet dread, a constant sadness at the loss people around the world are already facing, a nagging fear of what’s to come and a sort of ashamed hopelessness about what we can do to stop it.

I don’t think I’m alone in that. It seems that other folks in my peer group, people in our 30s, feel similarly. Younger generations — kids in high school now — are reportedly showing deeper signs of depression.

There’s a line in the opening episode of the Sopranos, where — panning over a hollow, grey suburban life in New Jersey — Tony says: “Lately, I’ve been getting the feeling that I came in at the end. The best is over.” It’s a bit harrowing, a guy really framing his whole existence inside the collapse of the American dream, and the bleakness of it all. That line now comes to me often. It feels like I’m standing with my three-year-old daughter on one of those flat escalators slowly churning toward the edge of a cliff, wondering how much more life she’s going to get to live before we get to the edge, what she’ll get to see, what she’ll miss, what happens to her, and after her, if anything.

So, George, your feeling that this is the best time to be alive doesn’t resonate. But it’s also confusing.

Part of what is depressing to me about this particular time in human history is that our movements are, unfortunately, not prepared for the task ahead. Our labor movement has been in collapse for decades. We have no serious political power or parties of our own to wield it at a national scale. Even our most massive demonstrations are eclipsed by the average attendance of a football game. On a good day, I can see that movements are on the rise, that we are contending for political power in a way that is actually ground-breaking, that we are building institutions, getting better and sharper. Some days, I can almost taste a Green New Deal, imagine a world in which black lives really matter, see the border wall collapse before my eyes, feel the beginnings of a social democracy. But most days I think: too little, too late.

And that’s where the confusion sets in: You’ve been around for so many of the movement moments I envy! You were one of the trainers for 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer, were part of the movement against the war in Vietnam and everything that circled it, the nuclear disarmament movement, and almost everything between then and now. You’ve witnessed entire decades in U.S. politics where millions of people regularly took the streets, where massive cultural change took place, where huge layers of the population were politicized, where it looked like there might even be a revolution. And yet, here we are, in the midst of a crisis perhaps deeper than human beings have ever faced, knowing that movements are our only hope, but living at a time in which our movements are not yet ready to organize at the scale of the crisis, and in which there’s a time limit to avert the worst of what’s before us.

What about that could possibly make us lucky to be alive at this time? What is the potential? What is the path to power in times like these? What are you seeing, George, that I’m not seeing? So I decided to ask you — and ask you again, and again. And what has emerged is this response, for which I’m grateful. May we always be lucky enough to have the vision, backwards and forwards, from mentors like you. May we have the humility to learn from that wisdom and also the arrogance to break the rules when we need to. I’m sure you wouldn’t want it any other way.

Love, Yotam Marom


Dear Yotam,

I first want to acknowledge your feelings of urgency and anguish. I see the grim picture you’re seeing. I take it personally, as you do. My housemates sometimes see me crying as I read the morning newspaper over breakfast.

Even so, I feel lucky to be alive now because this is the best chance in my lifetime to make really big progressive change. Our difference is partly that I see powerful conditions emerging, under the surface, that open new possibilities. I call them “signals of emergence.” I see evidence, right now, that these trends will give us a chance to gain victories we haven’t been able to reach before in this country.

Please notice that I said, “a chance.” No guarantees. Mine isn’t a new version of the old “scientific Marxism” — I don’t believe in the inevitability of progress. But that’s OK because I am willing to take chances. When, at age 39, I was expected to die from a very nasty cancer, my community and I committed to the chance that I would live.I’m grateful that I went for it then, and that now I’m part of your community, eager to go for it now. And because I like to argue with you, I’ll point to evidence of conditions emerging that give our progressive movements the chance this time to make decisive change.

The signals of emergence are obscured by the drama of pain, from opioids to floods to shootings to the guy who occupies the White House. In all this high-decibel confusion, the signals of emergence can get lost.

The previous high-water mark: the 1960s-’70s

Let’s compare today with “the ’60s.” The prelude to that decade was kicked off in 1955 by the Montgomery bus boycott, a mass movement of 50,000 black people in Alabama. Although neither political party wanted to touch the civil rights movement in the early ‘60s, we forced major changes.

Victories continued for Chicano and Filipino farm workers, women, LGBTQ people, elders, mental health consumers, environmentalists, and many other groups inspired to stand up and fight for their rights. The momentum of “the ‘60s” continued well into the ‘70s.

We often needed the drama of direct action in order to arouse the numbers needed for success. When I joined the tiny opposition to the Vietnam War I found it hard to draw attention to something happening in a small country few people had even heard of. Soon I found myself on a Quaker sailing ship confronting naval gunboats off the coast of Vietnam, one of the dramatic campaigns in 1967 that awakened Americans to the war. The peace movement grew massive and helped force the U.S. to give up its self-appointed mission of replacing the French Empire in running Vietnam.

Millions of Americans in that period took direct action, acting outside the box defined by high school textbooks as the proper place for civic duty: the electoral system. Inspired by the drama of nonviolent direct action, even more millions lobbied and canvassed and drove voters to the polls. It would take thousands of words to describe the progressive victories gained from 1955 to when President Ronald Reagan began the counter- offensive in 1981 by firing the air traffic controllers and breaking their union.

What’s different now?

Much of what discourages your generation is not new. During the ‘60s and ’70s we also faced a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, armed militias, and a revival of the Nazi movement. We saw militarization of police departments and police infiltration of social movements. We saw the shooting and killing of students by Mississippi State Police at Jackson State and the Ohio National Guard at Kent State. We even saw assassinations of some of our greatest political leaders, and an all-out war by the police on black organizations and communities. In other countries, the U.S. Empire — run by politicians at home in the interests of the economic elite — was killing millions of people.

In those days of rampant injustice we built mighty movements that forced progressive change. Dick Cluster mischievously titled his book about those movements and the sparking role that had been played by the student sit-ins, “They Should Have Served that Cup of Coffee.”

You and I agree that those movements didn’t change the system deeply enough. This time around, with the climate crisis at our door, we need to go farther. In this letter I’ll focus on what makes that possible, like the signs that the system itself is cracking.

Trends that open the door for a bigger leap forward

I see four new trends that open the door for bigger change than we could make in the 1960s: inequality-led polarization, economic insecurity, decline of federal governmental legitimacy and climate disasters. We also have assets we didn’t have “back in the day.”

1. The two-headed impact of polarization

While traveling on book tours I’ve heard a widespread belief that political polarization keeps us stuck. Intuitively, the claim sounds true. How can a country move forward if everyone’s shouting and no one’s listening?

Historically, however, polarization has a double impact. One is stalemated governments and divided communities. The other impact is a loosening, a setting in motion. My favorite metaphor is a blacksmith’s forge: polarization heats up society, making it malleable.

We’re frustrated and saddened by the first impact of polarization: relationships fracture, racism becomes more overt, violence more frequent.However, the volatility also makes positive change easier to get. In the polarized 1930s progressive movements got changes they could only dream of in the ‘20s, like unions, labor laws, Social Security, conservation, electricity for millions, bank regulation and better policies for family farmers.

There’s no guarantee that increased volatility will yield changes for the better. In Germany and Italy during the 1920s and ‘30s polarization made fascist outcomes possible.

During those same decades Scandinavian polarization predictably generated fascist growth. Fortunately, the left in those countries navigated the polarization brilliantly, using the volatility to grow mass democratic socialist movements. The result: more individual freedom than Americans have, accompanied by more equality, a stronger social safety net, and higher productivity.

The late black historian Vincent Harding likened history to a river. Remembering my experience on a class V river in West Virginia I think of activism during polarization as white water rafting. In the 1920s and ‘30s the river of history for Germany and Italy, the United States, and the Scandinavians all hit the turbulence of white water. The first two countries capsized. The United States navigated pretty well and made progress. The Scandinavians, with historical advantages and better strategy, made a breakthrough everyone can learn from.

Forward to my lifetime, the 1960s and ’70s: racial, gender, generational and other conflicts created turbulence. Even though we lacked then some assets we have today, we made important gains.

Different now from the 1960s is the economic inequality that’s driving polarization. Political scientists Nolan McCarty, Keith T. Poole, and Howard Rosenthal found that political polarization correlates directly with economic inequality. The more inequality, the more polarization. The United States has now become one of the most unequal societies in history.

The 2018 tax law generates even more inequality. That in turn drives more polarization. We can expect, therefore, that the resulting volatility opens more opportunity for progressive change than I’ve experienced in my lifetime.

2. Economic insecurity

In the ‘60s, the United States experienced an overall condition of stable prosperity. Young people in each generation expected to become more prosperous than their parents. Since then we’ve seen the loss of well-paid working class jobs and debt-bondage for those who try to get into the middle class through college. At the same time, a pension crisis looms.

Increasingly teachers can’t afford to live in growing cities where they teach. Commuting becomes more difficult – the national engineers’ give the United States a D- grade on infrastructure. The war on immigration makes it even harder to imagine either re-populating emptying towns or re-building the infrastructure.

A dysfunctional health care system fails to control costs, leaves tens of millions uninsured, ignores untold numbers of trauma victims, and has waiting lists for the mentally ill and drug addicted. Some life expectancies are declining. Healthcare bills drive up bankruptcies, destabilizing towns already reeling from loss of jobs.

All these trends hit people of color even harder than white people.

Compare that to the ‘60s when the American dream was still around: Upward mobility was high, especially for white men, and life expectancies were increasing. For us social movement organizers, the situation was daunting: So many people could ignore the value of collective action for change because their individual prospects looked promising.

Upward mobility has declined. The economic dream is fading.

Many express their disappointment and rage by moving away from centrism, opening to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories or, on the other hand, voting for the first time in their lives for a socialist, even an elderly Jew from Brooklyn who represents hippie Vermont in the U.S. Senate!

Falling economic security compared with the ‘60s shakes things up. The result: more openness to new ideas and bolder approaches.

3. Decline in government’s legitimacy

In the ‘60s governmental legitimacy was high. When the public was awakened to the scandal of widespread poverty in the wealthiest country on earth, President Lyndon B. Johnson responded with a “War on Poverty” that was met with widespread approval. At the time I heard civil rights leader Bayard Rustin cynically comment that the War on Poverty was “the first time the United States is going to war with a BB gun.” He was right, but an outlier. Most people had a sunny confidence that, if the federal government chose to solve a problem like poverty, it could do it.

That confidence has largely disappeared, regarding poverty (most national politicians avoid the subject) and a whole lot else. The feds have trouble simply keeping the government open to do basic functions like safety inspections and collecting taxes.

Since 2001, the Gallup organization has sought data on how proud Americans are of our country. The polls show pride has been sinking, hitting its lowest point so far in 2019. Of the various aspects measured, pride is lowest in our political system.

Many people nowadays believe there is widespread corruption, prompting presidential candidate Donald Trump to promise to “drain the swamp.” A majority even of Republicans polled believe the economic elite has too much power in governmental policy-making. One poll shows a majority of Americans now believe that ordinary people would “do a better job of solving problems” than elected officials.

Compared with earlier in my lifetime, the loss of confidence in government makes it easier now to initiate grassroots actions, and new technology makes it easier for the actions to spread.

4. Climate –the game changer

I agree with you that this is fundamental. Climate is also linked to the previous trend: government failures further undermine its own legitimacy.

Additionally, the mind-blowing nature of the climate challenge is at last impacting activists who once defined it as a single-issue effort. Now movement leadership is shifting toward those who can hold a bigger picture and design visions to fight for, like the Green New Deal.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow long ago outlined a hierarchy of human needs that prioritized security as well as physiological needs like food. From extreme weather following hurricane Katrina in 2005 to the growth of severe asthma to the epidemic of wildfires, basic human needs for safety are at risk because of government’s incapacity to respond to the climate crisis on the scale needed. The science is clear. To come even close to competency, the federal government would need to respond to the climate crisis the way it did to World War II: an all-out mobilization.

The government can’t deal with climate because the 1 percent vetoes significant action. Its veto power is not new. According to the Princeton University “oligarchy” study, the economic elite was the primary player in governmental policy even before the Supreme Court issued the Citizens United ruling released even more money into elections. That’s why leading Democrats as well as Republicans have refused until now to respond to the climate crisis.

Barack Obama discovered this early in his presidency when he asked then-Sen. John Kerry to develop a climate bill (the Dems being in control of Congress at the time) and Kerry reported back that he couldn’t create a bill his colleagues would support.

While part of the economic elite is doubling down on climate denial, another part is moderating on climate, as reflected in the activity of billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer. That split gives permission to Democrats to shift so they can play their traditional “good cop” role in U.S. politics, leaving once again the “bad cop” role to the Republicans.

In that way the Democratic leadership, constrained by loyalty to the elite, can hope to co-opt the growing climate justice movement, as it did with the labor and civil rights movements. It’s worth recalling that the civil rights movement made its greatest gains 1955-65, when it was independent, then slowed to a crawl once embraced by the Democrats.

One Democratic professional politician prominent in his state actually said to me with a cheerful grin, after I called out the Democrats for co-opting movements: “You’re right about what we do, and we’re good at it.”

The traditional U.S. political division of labor is now playing out with climate: the Republicans are deniers while Democratic leadership talks climate and rejects the only proposal before them that takes the crisis seriously: the Green New Deal.

As journalist/activist Bill McKibben says, even Congress cannot suspend the laws of physics. Growing failure on the environmental front produces what political scientists consider a recipe for rapid change and even revolution: the demonstrated inability of a government to solve the basic problems faced by society.

How does all this influence me to say we’re facing the biggest chance of my lifetime to make breakthrough change? The dynamics unleashed by climate change can promote unity in a larger, broader, and more visionary mass movement powerful enough to take on the 1 percent.

In the 1960s and ‘70s we were able to generate sufficient grassroots power to change some laws and policies backed by the 1 percent, but we could not challenge the elite’s dominance. Although the elite was put on the defensive, it was able to use lines of cleavage in our society, especially race, to regain the offensive in the 1980s.

When he was interviewed by the New York Times in 2006 billionaire Warren Buffett described the economic elite’s move as “class warfare,” and he went on to say “…it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

True enough — their counter-offensive launched in the 1980s has been winning victory after victory. The climate crisis is something new; it provides an existential basis for solidarity that did not exist previously. The third “500- year flood” that hit Houston in three years hurt everyone except the very rich, as do the wildfires and floods in the Midwest.

Each crisis impacts different groups differently, but the accumulated impact is felt by all except the class that has vetoed real action for sustainability. (The very rich are currently buying property in New Zealand for their new homes.)

While climate change itself can become a force for solidarity, it comes at a time in which Americans have already reduced the lines of division that were so deep in the 1960s. Even though we are still far from reaching Martin Luther King’s dream, and classism has hardly been touched, the United States is much less racist, sexist, homophobic and elder-intolerant than it was in the ‘60s.

To put it together: Climate disasters and the decline of some prejudices mean that divide-and-rule is less available for the establishment’s defense of its dominance. Many more people are losing confidence that the “masters of the universe” and elected officials are able to protect life and dignity. They are looking to each other for leadership, and we see that in the emergence of more grassroots activism in the last decade. Expect these powerful trends to accelerate.

How to navigate the river

Earlier I mentioned Vincent Harding’s metaphor for history as a long river. Sometimes it moves very slowly and other times quickens to white water. I’ve studied and participated in movements that handled the rapids poorly and drowned, and also movements that absorbed the energy of the white water to navigate successfully.

That’s how I can picture what our successful navigation might look like. I’m not predicting exactly how the river will run this time, or the exact moves we’ll make. I’m describing how I think our paddling might turn out, based on the right moves other movements made in other times and circumstances, and what moves are available to us as we hit the white water.

I picture American activists realizing how much they can learn from their mistakes, rather than repeating them. Organizers and leaders decide to base their moves on evidence-based knowledge, gained through wide use of study groups and training workshops. Movement cultures adopt a focus on “our learning curve.”

This makes quite a difference when it comes to the question of whether to use violence in direct actions. Organizers use the evidence produced by social scientists showing that nonviolent action is much more practical and effective than violence, even for protection. The resulting discipline frustrates our opponents, who are still sending provocateurs into the movement to try to instigate violence and make it possible to shut us down.

Training also helps us build solidarity more quickly. Prior to the 2020s some activists were unwittingly helping out the elite’s divide-and-rule strategy by activists using the “calling out” tactic to respond to oppression dynamics they found in the movement. Resorting to shame-and- blame generated a toxic activist culture in some movements and a sense of scarcity that meant any oppressed group that wasn’t in the limelight at a particular moment was somehow being left out.

However, training organizations like Momentum, Wildfire, and Training for Change grow rapidly to meet the movements’ need to drop old divisive habits.

Activists shift from one-off protests to sustained campaigns. In nonviolent direct action campaigns organizers use a series of escalating actions directed toward deciders who can yield our demand. With campaign strategy activists move beyond “protests” —really just the expression of their opinion — to the sustained series of actions that gains actual wins.

This shift is influenced by the popularity of electoral campaigns by Bernie Sanders and other outliers. Activists watching Sanders’ 2015 espousal of Medicare for All grow into a major policy proposal that occupied center stage in 2019 learned how much it matters to focus on a demand in a sustained way over time.

Even though the mass media still call the campaigners’ dramatic actions “protests,” most organizers move on to the advanced technology of direct action campaigns. The wins support morale and build the spirit of unity. The community that activists experience over time by learning how to struggle together proves an excellent antidote to despair.

In addition to re-discovering direct action campaigns, activists from various movements are learning from the civil rights struggle the “movement power grid.” Multiple local campaigns in the South networked with each other in the 1960s. When one of them needed help or seemed ready for a growth spurt, energy could flow into that one from elsewhere, in the form of organizers, money, “name” leaders.

To cite just two examples, that strength of the grid made it possible for Birmingham in 1964 and Selma in 1965 to shake the national power structure. Alabama, geographically far from Washington, D.C., twice provided the pivot to force national wins!

I see national movement leaders realizing that, instead of calling national marches at this or that place, they can become strategically organic by directing energy and mass to local campaign sites. To use military terms, movement leaders’ shift turns the entire nation into potential “battlefields” instead of relying on the tired destinations of New York City and Washington, D.C. That strategy shift accelerates our struggle.

In fact, back in 2016-17 grassroots activists anticipated the strategy shift when a mass influx showed up in South Dakota at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline; it was the largest assembly of native Americans in decades, and the solidarity stimulated other pipeline fights around the nation.

Sharpening up strategy for struggle isn’t enough

Two other developments add to the sharpened strategy for struggle: linking a network of grassroots “helper groups,” and visioning the society we want. These additional moves are accelerated by the further decline in governmental legitimacy induced by climate disruption.

What mobilizes grassroots helpers is that federal and local governments are responding to climate disasters with money taken from the already-insufficient funding for healthcare, housing, education, immigration support, welfare, and environmental upgrades. Governments prefer this method to taxing the rich (who most benefitted from conditions that led to the climate crisis).

These widening gaps in human services induce people not drawn to direct action campaigns to try to meet needs by expanding co-ops and other direct service initiatives. Their experience, in turn, awakens them to the need for larger institutions that put people ahead of profit. This encourages working class supporters of the right wing to shift their allegiance to the needs of themselves and their neighbors. They increasingly welcome a vision of a society that assures the rights of all for survival and well-being.

The vision breakthrough builds on the Movement for Black Lives’ 2016 platform and the series of initiatives like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Many centrists join the discussion, realizing that neo-liberal, incrementalist Democrats beholden to the rich for campaign cash are simply unable to fight for a viable future.

The vision work and helper networks reinforce each other, encouraging national leaders of the movement of movements to shift their style from “complainers” to “proclaimers” — of a new society.

Both vision and helper networks also help to transfer the legitimacy lost by capitalism and government to the movements for change. The positivity of the vision and helpers offsets the disruptiveness of the increasing number of direct action campaigns demanding major change.

Macro vision-work is turning out to be easier than initially thought. Countries like Scandinavia that were already setting the pace in the climate crisis are known for providing more equality, democracy, opportunity for immigrants, and individual freedom than the U.S. Americans who like to be pragmatic realize it’s sensible to borrow from the Nordic model with its half-century track record of global best practices. After all, the U.S. borrowed Social Security and Medicare from other countries, and a huge majority of Americans learned to count on those “foreign imports.”

Emerging consensus on vision within the movement of movements builds unity, since the vision shows how each of the groups fighting for progressive change can realize their goals in a new America that pushes aside the economic elite fighting to retain its dominance. This vision plays a role in generating something new: a movement of movements that senses the possibility of a power shift.

Climate disruption continues to accelerate the flow of the river. Liberal and progressive politicians continue to move to the left in their policy proposals, and more of them win elections, but the Democrats’ need to retain the party’s main source of financial support and retain the support of the economic elite reduces the centrists’ wiggle room. The really big changes remain stymied.

For the public, however, crisis sharpens the mind. As multiple coastal cities submerge in floods while wildfires rage and pollinating bees disappear, Washington is the target of bitter laughter. I remember in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis when the cover of a mainstream magazine proclaimed in bold letters that “We’re all socialists now.” That’s what’s happening: the bold alternative macro-vision proposed by the movement makes more and more sense to a majority whose belief in Washington has gone beyond cynical.

Writing this now, in 2019, I can’t picture what the endgame of our struggle in the late 2020s looks like — there are too many unknown factors, including how much violence the economic elite might unleash in their attempt to preserve their domination. Even though we know that followers of economist James M. Buchanan would likely push for dictatorship, we can’t know for sure whether the elite will try to rule through presidential decree backed by the military, using the pretext of climate emergency as its excuse.

We do know from the research of political scientists that multiple movements in other countries have gone up against military dictatorships and won through the power of mass nonviolent direct action. Compared with many of those movements, we are arguably better prepared for that struggle.

In fact, knowing now about the possibility of attempted dictatorship down the road reinforces our wide use of direct action campaigns rather than relying only on electoral means to make change. A people whose only political practice is electoral is at a disadvantage against an elite that plays the dictatorship card. Practicing direct action skills along the way makes the public battle-ready if that possibility shows up.

An optimistic view would be that electoral means can implement a power shift in which the economic elite loses its ability to dominate and democracy becomes a reality.

In the 1930s movements of movements pulled off that feat in Sweden and Norway: they used mass nonviolent direct action to make their countries ungovernable by their economic elites while using elections and parliaments to transfer power to the people. The Swedish elite did use the army to try to enforce its will, but the people’s general strike responding to a massacre signaled “game over.”

Mass noncooperation forced the resignation of the Swedish Parliament’s ruling party. The Social Democrats then re-organized the country to set a new standard of justice, equality, shared prosperity, and individual freedom. That would not be a bad goal for the American people.

The signals of emergence

And so, Yotam, this is my picture of how we can make the biggest progress in my lifetime. I’ll italicize the main features.

Four major trends are inequality-led polarization, economic insecurity, decline of federal governmental legitimacy and disasters compounded by the climate crisis. None of these existed in our country’s previous high-water mark, the 1960s-‘70s.

Together, these trends are already beginning to incentivize masses of people to act boldly for change who have not before been in the ranks of self-identified activists. Millions are bringing with them not only their talents and connections, but also their sense of urgency. They see the whitewater ahead; they will want to make it safely through.

The power these millions will generate partly depends on the strategy, skill and learning curve of organizers. We’re now in better shape in those respects than we were in the beginning of the ‘60s. Training is more effective at dealing with dynamics of division, it’s more available, and it’s more easily expanded than it was in those days.

The art of nonviolent direct action campaigning is being de-mythologized and turned into technique.

Communications technology makes networking easier and faster. The “movement power grid” becomes available even where defined leaders forget to structure it.

The increase of larger disruption caused by direct action campaigns is offset by a growing network of grassroots helper groups to meet human needs. People are also inspired by the promise that, on the other side of the white water, is a just order — the vision projected by a movement of movements.

The possibility of repressive violence can be met by a combination of new knowledge and training capacity. The dangers faced by the civil rights movement can be met with more confidence than before. Progressive shifts in electoral politics may diminish the use of violence against us but in any case the wins that accumulate through nonviolent direct action campaigns will continue to give heart to the whitewater rafters.

Whether the movement of movements forces the economic elite to give up its dominance, or simply gains major concessions, the resulting changes can be significantly larger for justice and equality than the gains of the 1960s and ‘70s.

For you, me, and everyone who hungers for a fresh start for our country, let’s make this happen.

George Lakey

Trust Lost

My dad was the 7th of 9 children. The youngest, my Aunt Carleen, was a high school classmate and best friend of my mother, years before she met my dad. My aunt’s oldest son, Dave, was my age and we were classmates in high school. Dave and I were eligible for the draft during the Vietnam war. A few who graduated a year or so ahead of us had already been drafted and one I knew had died. Recently I asked my aunt if she had ever talked to her son Dave about the Vietnam war. She had not and appeared to think it was a crazy question. My parents had not. My teachers had not. I had not even asked any of my childhood adults until now.

I see our children heading into climate catastrophe, suffering and dying, possibly to extinction, while few adults even talk about it let alone take action. This appears similar to families that do not acknowledge incest or do not learn and warn their children about the horrors of wars chosen by our leaders for the profit of a few and justified with lies.

It is clearly very difficult for us to acknowledge problems in our family or in our country. But there are consequences when we fail to look deeply and honestly; fail to acknowledge; fail to take action.

For nearly all of my life, I failed to acknowledge the problems, learn more, and stop passing on the deceptions. I failed to warn my son as he entered the Air Force.

I only changed as I started to actually see the victims. I will share some of what I have seen.

Incest

Our paths crossed on a peak. I had just descended from enjoying the view from a fire watch tower. I was on my last of 10 days of solo backpacking, only seeing people a few times. She was just starting, also solo to deeply enjoy nature. We only talked a couple of minutes before we both needed to continue in opposite directions.

Subsequently I managed to get an address and about a month later wrote her a letter. She wrote back and soon she was mailing a hand written letter every day on hand painted stationary, a craft income of an elderly neighbor. We had met early September and were writing by my 50th birthday in October. We made our first plans to meet, for Thanksgiving at a Devil’s Lake, a Wisconsin State Park. We had both grown up in Chicago and this had been a favorite vacation spot of our families. It is a deep, clear lake, beaches at the South and North ends, and rock bluffs on both sides.

We met at the North end and hiked the West bluff. After descending at the other end, she asked me if I contra-dance and held out both arms. I do, recognized the move, and accepted the invitation to a fast swing. She had worked for a church in Boston, home of Wild Asparagus, the best contra-dance band. I had enjoyed a week of dancing with them in St Croix among other places. While returning on the East bluff she said, “Have I ever kissed you here?” and explained that her father would say that to her mother when they had been hiking this lake.

It was getting dark by the time we were getting back but our way was blocked by a train on the tracks that run along the East side. It had been stalled for hours. Where the trail crossed the tracks, a young, heavy man was attempting to replace a broken coupling. He had driven up from Rockford Illinois. He was using a sledge hammer trying to beat the 80 pound coupling into place. He was sweating and explained that he had no experience. He was frequently answering the phone to give updates. Vehicles were backed up on several rural roads. Eventually I asked if I could help. He accepted and I installed the coupling through a sequence of various angles. A sledge hammer was neither necessary nor sufficient.

It was heading into winter, no one else was camping, and the only sites open were for trailer camping in an open field. That was not nature for her. She did not even want to use a tent. In the dark, on the icy rocks, we hiked back up the West bluff with only our sleeping bags to spend the night with a view of the lake. Seven inches of new snow fell during the night. At one point a pine branch bent under the load and dropped the snow directly on my head. She started laughing and I joined her. The sleeping bags were more than adequate. I do not like to break any rules, but her plan was great.

She was 47 years old but had lived alone her whole life. She was a biologist, involved in field research, teaching and protecting nature. She was clever, funny and playful. She does so much to help others, particularly youth and elderly. She was athletic, once writing that she had run 52 miles through forest that day to enjoy the fall colors. She was skilled at everything from knitting to carpentry. She cooked on her aunt’s 1939, cast iron Roper oven/range, in beautiful condition.

Late January, a few days before our plans to meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan to join my friends and enjoy a music festival, she wrote and canceled. In her letter, she told how her grandfather had raped her when she was 5 years old. A couple of years later, while swimming in the Atlantic, an undertow took her far out. It was a frightening struggle to survive. But after coming to the surface, she realized that she preferred to die. She repeatedly dove down to allow the current to take her.

She sits awake most nights. The thoughts of suicide are her comfort. Her father died a year earlier. She was trying to hold out until her mother died or she turned 50.

Our love continued to strengthen while at the same time she was realizing that having a connection to anyone interfered with her plans for suicide, the only way she could handle the pain. In March she wrote that she truly loves me. The next day she wrote that she needed to continue with her plans and could never write or see me again.

At an earlier point she wrote that she had written me a more detailed account of her trauma with some corrections to what she initially shared, but she tore it up and could not share it with anyone. I suspect that it was not her grandfather, but her father. She had intense feelings for her father and a complex mix of obligation, disdain and anger with her mother. As I write this, I realize the similarities between her and my mother. Both enjoyed camping with their dads and were a clever team which excluded their moms.

It is with great hesitation that I shared the private struggle of another person but we face a very serious crisis. The barriers to talking about problems in a family are the same as talking about problems with our country. Perhaps some of you are able to look at this example and perhaps start to look at the climate emergency, the betrayal of all of our children.

War

First read the story of Jacob George (click here). I had sent a link to his story to my niece as she was enlisting in the Marine Corps (read more).

In May 2012, at the NATO Summit in Chicago, I marched with Veterans for Peace holding a rope perimeter around more than 40 veterans of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, including Jacob George who hurled their military medals toward the NATO summit gates in an act of protest against U.S. wars.

We were given instructions to only allow Amy Goodman of Democracy Now to cross the perimeter and document the event. All of the main stream media was giving a very distorted view to the public. Watch her coverage, “No NATO, No War”: U.S. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan Return War Medals at NATO Summit.

At the protest of the NATO summit, I was a few feet from the stage when the veterans hurled their military medals toward the NATO leaders from 60 countries.


ASH WOOLSON: No NATO, no war!

VETERANS: No NATO, no war!

ASH WOOLSON: We don’t work for you no more!

VETERANS: We don’t work for you no more!

ASH WOOLSON: N-A-T-O!

VETERANS: N-A-T-O!

ASH WOOLSON: We don’t kill for you no more!

VETERANS: We don’t kill for you no more!

ALEJANDRO VILLATORO: At this time, one by one, veterans of the wars of NATO will walk up on stage. They will tell us why they chose to return their medals to NATO. I urge you to honor them by listening to their stories. Nowhere else will you hear from so many who fought these wars about their journey from fighting a war to demanding peace. Some of us killed innocents. Some of us helped in continuing these wars from home. Some of us watched our friends die. Some of us are not here, because we took our own lives. We did not get the care promised to us by our government. All of us watched failed policies turn into bloodshed. Listen to us, hear us, and think: was any of this worth it?

CROWD: No!

ALEJANDRO VILLATORO: Do these medals thank us for a job well done?

CROWD: No!

ALEJANDRO VILLATORO: Do they mask lies,corruption, and abuse of young men and women who swore to defend their country?

CROWD: Yes!

ALEJANDRO VILLATORO: We tear off this mask. Hear us.

IRIS FELICIANO: My name is Iris Feliciano. I served in the Marine Corps. And in January of 2002, I deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. And I want to tell the folks behind us, in these enclosed walls, where they build more policies based on lies and fear, that we no longer stand for them. We no longer stand for their lies, their failed policies and these unjust wars. Bring our troops home and end the war now. They can have these back.

GREG MILLER: My name is Greg Miller. I’m a veteran of the United States Army infantry with service in Iraq 2009. The military hands out cheap tokens like this to soldiers, servicemembers, in an attempt to fill the void where their conscience used to be once they indoctrinate it out of you. But that didn’t work on me, so I’m here to return my Global War on Terrorism Medal and my National Defense Medal, because they’re both lies.

SCOTT KIMBALL: My name is Scott Kimball. I’m an Iraq war vet. And I’m turning in these medals today for the people of Pakistan, Iraq, Palestine, and all victims of occupation across the world. And also, for all the servicemembers and veterans who are against these wars, you are not alone!

CHRISTOPHER MAY: My name is Christopher May. I left the Army as a conscientious objector. We were told that these medals represented, you know, democracy and justice and hope and change for the world. These medals represent a failure on behalf of the leaders of NATO to accurately represent the will of their own people. It represents a failure on the leaders of NATO to do what’s right by the disenfranchised people of this world. Instead of helping them, they take advantage of them, and they’re making things worse. I will not be a part of that anymore. These medals don’t mean anything to me, and they can have them back.

ASH WOOLSON: My name is Ash Woolson. I was a sergeant. I was in Iraq in ’03, and what I saw there crushed me. I don’t want us to suffer this again, and I don’t want our children to suffer this again, and so I’m giving these back!

MAGGIE MARTIN: My name is Maggie Martin. I was a sergeant in the Army. I did two tours in Iraq. No amount of medals, ribbons or flags can cover the amount of human suffering caused by these wars. We don’t want this garbage. We want our human rights. We want our right to heal.

JACOB CRAWFORD: I’m Jacob Crawford. I went to Iraq and Afghanistan. And when they gave me these medals, I knew they were meaningless. I only regret not starting to speak up about how silly the war is sooner. I’m giving these back. Free Bradley Manning!

JASON HURD: My name is Jason Hurd. I spent 10 years in the United States Army as a combat medic. I deployed to Baghdad in 2004. I’m here to return my Global War on Terrorism Service Medal in solidarity with the people of Iraq and the people of Afghanistan. I am deeply sorry for the destruction that we have caused in those countries and around the globe. I am proud to stand on this stage with my fellow veterans and my Afghan sisters. These were lies. I’m giving them back.

STEVEN LUNN: My name is Steven Lunn. I’m a two-time Iraq combat veteran. This medal I’m dedicating to the children of Iraq that no longer have fathers and mothers.

SHAWNA FOSTER: My name is Shawna, and I was a nuclear biological chemical specialist for a war that didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction. So I deserted. I’m one of 40,000 people that left the United States Armed Forces because this is a lie!

STEVE ACHESON: My name is Steve Acheson. I’m from Campbellsport, Wisconsin. I was a forward observer in the United States Army for just under five years. I deployed to Sadr City, Iraq, in 2005. And I’m giving back my medals for the children of Iraq and Afghanistan. May they be able to forgive us for what we’ve done to them. May we begin to heal, and may we live in peace from here until eternity.

MICHAEL THURMAN: Hello. My name is Michael Thurman. I was a conscientious objector from the United States Air Force. I’m returning my Global War on Terrorism Medal and my military coins on behalf of Private First Class Bradley Manning, who sacrificed everything to show us the truth about these wars.

MATT HOWARD: My name is Matt Howard. I served in the United States Marine Corps from 2001 to 2006 and in Iraq twice. I’m turning in my campaign service—Iraq Campaign Service Medal and Global War on Terror Service and Expeditionary Medals for all my brothers and sisters affected with traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.

ZACH LAPORTE: My name is Zach LaPorte, and I’m an Iraq war veteran from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Thank you. I’m giving back my medals today because I feel like I was duped into an illegal war that was sold to me on the guise that I was going to be liberating the Iraqi people, when instead of liberating the people, I was liberating their oil fields.

SCOTT OLSEN: My name is Scott Olsen. I have with me today—today I have with me my Global War on Terror Medal, Operation Iraqi Freedom Medal, National Defense Medal and Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal. These medals, once upon a time, made me feel good about what I was doing. They made me feel like I was doing the right thing. And I came back to reality, and I don’t want these anymore.

TODD DENNIS: My name is Todd Dennis. I served in the United States Navy. I have PTSD. I’m returning my Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal because it was given to me, according to my letter, because of hard work and dedication and setting the example. I was a hard worker because I buried my PTSD and overworked myself in the military. And I’m throwing this back and invoking my right to heal.

MICHAEL APPLEGATE: My name is Michael Applegate. I was in the United States Navy from 1998 to 2006. And I’m returning my medal today because I want to live by my conscience rather than being a prisoner of it.

NATE: My name’s Nate. I served in the U.S. Navy from ’99 to 2003 and participated in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. I was wrong to sign myself up for that. I apologize to the Iraqi and Afghani people for destroying your countries.

BROCK McINTOSH: My name is Brock McIntosh. I was in the Army National Guard and served in Afghanistan from November ’08 to August ’09. Two months ago, I visited the monument at Ground Zero for my first time with two Afghans. A tragic monument. I’m going to toss this medal today for the 33,000 civilians who have died in Afghanistan that won’t have a monument built for them. And this is for the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers.

VINCE EMANUELE: My name is Vince Emanuele, and I served with the United States Marine Corps. First and foremost, this is for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Second of all, this is for our real forefathers. I’m talking about the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. I’m talking about the Black Panthers. I’m talking about the civil rights movement. I’m talking about unions. I’m talking about our socialist brothers and sisters, our communist brothers and sisters, our anarchist brothers and sisters, and our ecology brothers and sisters. That’s who our real forefathers are. And lastly—and lastly and most importantly, our enemies are not 7,000 miles from home. They sit in boardrooms. They are CEOs. They are bankers. They are hedge fund managers. They do not live 7,000 miles from home. Our enemies are right here, and we look at them every day. They are not the men and women who are standing on this police line. They are the millionaires and billionaires who control this planet, and we’ve had enough of it. So they can take their medals back.

CHUCK WINANT: My name is Chuck Winant. I’m here on behalf of six good Americans who really wanted to be here but they couldn’t be. They couldn’t be, because when they came to the U.S. border, they’d be immediately arrested. And the crime they’d be arrested for was refusing to continue to participate in the crimes against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. And these good Americans, who are exiled now from this country, who deserve amnesty, are Private Christian Kjar of the U.S. Marine Corps; Private Kim Rivera, Army, Combat Action Badge, refused redeployment to Iraq; Corporal Jeremy Brockway, U.S. Marine Corps, Combat Action Badge, refused redeployment to Iraq; Specialist Jules Tindungan, Combat Infantry Badge, paratrooper, refused redeployment to Afghanistan; Sergeant Corey Glass, Army, refused redeployment to Iraq; and Sergeant Chris Vassey, paratrooper, CIB, refused redeployment to Afghanistan. I have their awards in my pocket, and I’m throwing them back, mad as hell!

AARON HUGHES: My name is Aaron Hughes. I served in the Illinois Army National Guard from 2000 and 2006. This medal right here is for Anthony Wagner. He died last year. This medal right here is for the one-third of the women in the military that are sexually assaulted by their peers. We talk about standing up for our sisters—we talk about standing up for our sisters in Afghanistan, and we can’t even take care of our sisters here. And this medal right here is because I’m sorry. I’m sorry to all of you. I’m sorry.


One of the veterans who hurled their medals to NATO was Scott Olsen of Wisconsin. The prior December I watched live-stream from Oakland, CA as police fired a bean bag at his head and then fired flash grenades at the people trying to help him. He had been standing at attention with another veteran, between police and the non-violent protesters. Watch Scott Olsen, U.S. Vet Wounded at Occupy Oakland, on Recovery, Protests, Iraq and Bradley Manning.

Amy Goodman of Democracy NOW interviewed Scott Olsen after he hurled his medals to NATO. Watch Scott Olsen, U.S. Vet Who Nearly Lost Life at Occupy Protest, Brings Antiwar Message to NATO Summit.

I was there and watched her interview Scott. After hurling their medals, the riot police hurried Amy Goodman and all of the veterans away from the stage to a grassy area. After we were far enough away, they entrapped the thousands of other protesters, told them to disperse while actually preventing them from leaving, and started clubbing them. The Quaker friend from Peoria who arranged the “Eyes Wide Open” and her daughter were trapped in this lesson from Obama, not to disrupt his event, in his city. When I later told my aunt Carleen about this, she made her position clear by showing me a picture of three neighbors from this Illinois farm community, in body armor, being trained to protect Chicago from us. I had baby-sat for one of them.

Tragically, as with Jacob George, the public denial of what veterans had experienced in war and had learned about the lies promoting war, are too much to bear and every day about 22 active military and veterans commit suicide.

Here are excerpts from two reports. Note that the focus of the second is attempting to downplay the significance in that the 2012 figure of 22 suicides every day included active-duty but was often reported as veterans. It also notes that the VA gets the numbers from state death certificates but only 21 states record if the deceased was military, which excluded California and Texas, which have large veteran populations. They do not say if and how they include veteran suicides from the other 29 states.


US military suicides surge to record high among active duty troops

(read full article)

The number of suicides across the military increased from 511 in 2017 to 541 in 2018. According to the Pentagon, the most at-risk population is young enlisted men, and at least 60% of the time they chose a gun as their suicide method. Army suicides went from 114 to 139, while the marines went from 43 to 58 and the navy went from 65 to 68. The air force dipped from 63 to 60. “Our numbers are not moving in the right direction,” said Elizabeth Van Winkle, director of the Pentagon’s office of force resiliency. She said that most of the military rates are comparable to civilians, but added, “that’s hardly comforting”.

The rate of suicide among active-duty troops was 24.8 per 100,000 people in 2018. In 2017, that figure was 21.9 per 100,000 troops. Five years ago, the suicide rate among troops was 18.5 per 100,000 service members.

That compares with 18.2 people per 100,000 for all Americans ages 17 to 59. The report maintains that, adjusting for age and gender, the military’s rate is roughly the same as American society.


VA reveals its veteran suicide statistic included active-duty troops

June 20, 2018

WASHINGTON – For years, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported an average of 20 veterans died by suicide every day – an often-cited statistic that raised alarm nationwide about the rate of veteran suicide.

However, the statistic has long been misunderstood, according to a report released this week.

The VA has now revealed the average daily number of veteran suicides has always included deaths of active- duty servicemembers and members of the National Guard and Reserve, not just veterans.

Craig Bryan, a psychologist and leader of the National Center for Veterans Studies, said the new information could now help advocates in the fight against military and veteran suicide.

“The key message is that suicides are elevated among those who have ever served,” Bryan said. “The benefit of separating out subgroups is that it can help us identify higher risk subgroups of the whole, which may be able to help us determine where and how to best focus resources.”

The VA released its newest National Suicide Data Report on Monday, which includes data from 2005 through 2015. Much in the report remained unchanged from two years ago, when the VA reported suicide statistics through 2014. Veteran suicide rates are still higher than the rest of the population, particularly among women.

In both reports, the VA said an average of 20 veterans succumbed to suicide every day. In its newest version, the VA was more specific.

The report shows the total is 20.6 suicides every day. Of those, 16.8 were veterans and 3.8 were active-duty servicemembers, guardsmen and reservists, the report states. That amounts to 6,132 veterans and 1,387 servicemembers who died by suicide in one year.

The VA’s 2012 report stated 22 veterans succumbed to suicide every day – a number that’s still often cited incorrectly. That number also included active-duty troops, Guard and Reserve, VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour said Wednesday.

VA officials determine the statistic by analyzing state death certificates and calculating the percentage of veterans out of all suicides. The death certificates include a field designating whether the deceased ever served in the U.S. military.

Information in the 2012 report wasn’t as complete as the newer ones. At the time, only 21 states shared information from their death certificates. California and Texas, which have large veteran populations, were two of the states that didn’t provide their data.


Susan Schnall joined the Navy in 1965 when she was going to Stanford Nursing School. Her dad was in the Marine Corps in the Second World War and was killed on the island of Guam, 1944. She went into the Navy as a nurse and felt that she would be taking care of those who were harmed and hurt in the war in Southeast Asia. At Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, California she took care of the guys who were coming back from Vietnam.

As a nurse, Susan was doing her best to care for those physically and psychologically injured by war, while working within the military system promoting the war. My family members with military experience, but not having been in combat, live in a different world than all of my colleagues in Veterans for Peace. Susan’s daily job straddled that chasm. She dedicated her life to support for the veterans and educating active-duty military. She hung meeting notices in the hospital but they were removed during the night. Using U.S. propaganda methods, she hired a plane to drop leaflets over military bases. Listen and read her story, After dropping leaflets over military bases from a plane, Susan Schnall.

Several weeks ago a very young Colombian soldier made a self video. In Colombia, as everywhere today, governments are extracting more than the people can bear, and the people are protesting in the streets. This young soldier could not participate in the harsh crackdown on university students in Bogota. He asked to be transferred but it was denied and he was harshly treated by his fellow soldiers. He killed himself. With his last words, he told the students that he is with them.

This is where the world is heading. Police and military are increasingly being ordered to attack the people of their own country, the ones they swore to protect.

Climate Emergency

The young climate activist Greta Thunberg was in deep depression from when she starting learning about the climate emergency. She was about eight years old. She barely ate and rarely spoke. She could not understand why her parents, all of the adults and her classmates were not talking about it and acting appropriately (watch interview).

Except for my new activist friends and one cousin, none of my existing friends or family are even talking about the climate emergency. Very tragically we are creating this catastrophe for our children and grandchildren. They will suffer not only the impact of the catastrophe, but that the adults are in denial, neither protecting them or even allowing them to talk about it.

I am amazed at the resilience of many people through years, sometimes centuries, of struggle. It also appears that betrayal, particularly by those we most trusted, our parents and government, is tragically more than many can live with. They take their lives.

Jacob George

Jacob David George (1982 – September 17, 2014)

In May 2012, at the NATO Summit in Chicago, I marched with Veterans for Peace holding a rope perimeter around more than 40 veterans of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, including Jacob George, who hurled their military medals toward the NATO summit gates in an act of protest against U.S. wars (read more). On September 17, 2014, one week after President Obama unveiled the new U.S. military mission against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Jacob George killed himself. In August 2015 I learned that my brother Bob’s daughter Tara would be enlisting in the Marine Corps in a week. I sent her a link to Jacob George’s IVAW Testimony (read more). Jacob’s powerful message lives on.

Jacob George did three military tours in Afghanistan before age 23, starting in 2001, about a month after September 11th, at age 19. He was a paratrooper and sergeant. In 2011, with fellow veteran Brock McIntosh, Jacob returned to Afghanistan to meet with young peace activists. He bonded with a 15-year-old Afghan boy, who, like Jacob was a farmer. They discussed “the absurdity of poor farmers being sent to kill poor farmers while people are starving.” Jacob found that the most effective way to personally heal from “moral injury”, to heal his soul, was to help other veterans and work toward changing the world so others would not be injured by war. He dedicated his life to anti-war activities, co-founding the Afghan Veterans Against the War Committee within Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and bicycling around the United States playing music for peace and sharing his story. After suffering the trauma of war and the deeper wounds of “moral injury”, and dedicating his life to peace, it was too much for him when Obama announced a new mission in Iraq. At age 32 he killed himself.

At the protest of the NATO summit, I was a few feet from the stage when Jacob George hurled his military medals toward the NATO leaders from 60 countries.

My name is Jacob George. I’m from the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas. I’m a three-tour veteran of the Afghan War, paratrooper and sergeant. And I have one word for this Global War on Terrorism decoration, and that is “shame.”

JACOB GEORGE

Jacob George told his story and played his song “Soldier’s Heart” in the Human Cost of War: IVAW Testimony, in April 2013, at the First Unitarian Church of Dallas. I strongly recommend watching the video, The Human Cost of War: IVAW Testimony ~ Jacob David George. His story is so strong that I have attempted to transcribe it for you.


Human Cost of War: IVAW Testimony ~ Jacob David George, April 2013

I’ve got to set a timer. If y’all heard me yesterday, I’m a hillbilly, from Arkansas. I get carried away sometimes when I get started talking. I can’t help but tell stories.

So I’m a three tour veteran of the war in Afghanistan. I did my first tour when I was 19, my second in 2002, my first was in 2001 about a month after September 11th. My third was 2003 and 2004, that was all before I was 23. Obviously I had some serious issues after that. [um]

I really related to a lot of the things that were shared here today in terms of brother being different when he comes home. Especially, I have a brother who is nine years younger than me and when I came home he didn’t recognize me. He even said, “you’re not my brother any more.” I didn’t really understand what that meant at the time. It has taken me a while to get to where I can grasp what that means and I thank him for saying that to me.

I also had a similar experience that was shared in the beginning of this in terms of mass wholesale slaughter in Afghanistan and digging through body parts and that was very formative for me in understanding what war is and how it works and ultimately my injuries and what they are.

So obviously I have post-traumatic stress. If I didn’t there would be a greater issue here. And [ah], it took me a long time to get to the point where I could go to the VA and start asking for help. But I did. So what I wanted to talk about was that experience … of going through it. Making myself go through that even though there are all of these hurdles that we heard about today.

So I volunteered for this program called “cognitive processing therapy”, and to the VA this is the Cadillac of treating PTSD. And, it’s basically in the title, what you do is you write like ten page narratives, hand written of this one experience that supposedly traumatized you and do it over and over and over. I did this for about three months, once a week, all through the winter.

And you also tell your story over and over. But about halfway through this therapy, Dr J, that’s what I refer to her as, I started to realize that I already do this. I’ve been riding my bicycle around the country for about three years now, playing music about the war and telling my story and I’m already processing this. I’ve done cognitive processing. So I said, “Dr Jacobs, I need to process something else, because I have already done this. Can we do that?”

I have to say, [hold on a second] she was about my age, and she really did want to help me. So she was pretty much open, to most of the things that I wanted to do. I have to say that not everyone at the VA [ahh] is a complete butt hole. There are people who want to help. The problem is the institution isn’t designed to address the depths of the wounds that we have. Like PTSD is a reference to a fancy word that the clinical community uses to categorize what we go through and it’s based largely on psychological developments, you know, reactionary behavior, lack of emotional intuition or intelligence, polarizing situations, paranoia, the list goes on.

So these are things that are used to look at mental health, but they don’t really look at the soul, and how the soul has been injured in war and what that is. So like, “Dr. Jacobs we need to stop talking about my brain. We need to start talking about my soul if you really want to help me. And I think this might help you help other people in the future if you really want to help people.”

So I talked to her about all of these things I have been doing: riding my bicycle, telling my story, all the things I have been talking on, and how something is still wrong. It doesn’t matter what I do. I have done warrior dancing, I’ve done sweat lodges, I’ve done vision quests, I’ve done a whole variety of different energy works, and I’ve tried every single thing that someone will bring to me to help with PTSD, and I think every one of them helps in its own way, and its not like there is only one way to get rid of post-traumatic stress disorder.

So I said, “Dr Jacobs there is one thing that I went through that had a very profound effect on me, and I want to share that with you. and it is politically loaded.” She said like “Okay.” She tried to steer me away from politics when I would talk to her about my injuries, and I see them as inseparable.

I said, “I marched with my brothers and sisters to the NATO summit and I threw my medals back. And the, that act of throwing released something inside of me. I don’t know what it is. I’m still trying to figure it out, but it played a role in healing my soul and it was a very transformative event and I want to talk to you about that.”

So Dr J was like, “Okay, we can talk about that.” [Ah] So I processed this event with her. And afterward we talked about how the VA could never endorse something like that because it is so politically loaded for us to throw our medals back. The VA couldn’t say, “Look, you need to organize a protest. You need to march to the pentagon with 100,000 veterans and you should just throw your medals through the windows.”

She is like, “We can’t do that.” Do you hear what you are saying? You are telling me you can’t offer me the actual healing rituals and ceremonies that I need and an entire generation of people needs in order to heal their souls. You’re trying to figure out how to heal the mind and you’re doing a good job to some extent with cognitive processing therapy. But where’s the soul processing therapy? How do we take care of that? How are you going to take care of that?

She was pretty … she was admittedly open to the idea of it but she said, “It holds too much weight politically. There is no way we could do something like that.” That is terrible and I understand. And it is very likely the VA will never be taking on that task.

So I started telling her about all of the anti-war work I am doing now and how it helps me and how that is a therapy as well, not just taking pills and all of the other things, and bio-feedback and all this great stuff that does help my brain.

So I go on and on about this for a couple weeks and then one day I come in and I’m ranting and raving and going on about it and she goes, “Aha! I’ve got it”. I’m like, “What is it?” She says, “You’re obsessed with non-violence. And with PTSD means that you polarize things so much that you can’t see from one side of the realm to the other. It’s just in this tunnel and that’s all you can see. And all you can see is non-violence.”

Praise the Lord! But that got me really thinking. I was like, wait a second, are you telling me that my trauma, the very things that radicalized me, the things that gave me PTSD and focused my energy on changing this world, is what you call disorderly? Would you call colored people, during the civil rights movement, disorderly? Because they were oppressed for generations and had to put this state on their neck and obviously, well actually this is documented, there were mental health facilities opened all over the country to incarcerated black, angry men during the civil rights movement. Why are you black, angry men only able to see it this way, “We want our rights?” Maybe its all the trauma you exposed them to.

But what she did when she told me this, she opened a doorway in me of perception in order to see some of the things that are going on inside of me, and in this country, and in this world. I started to see that my anti-war work, in a way, was me trying to heal my soul. And the anti-war work in particular is a symptom of the moral injury.

When you have thousands of veterans who are raising their voices and their fists and demanding justice and demanding that our stories are heard, you have, and in my mind, all the evidence you need to categorize moral injury. Because there is a reason we quit our jobs. There is a reason we put our asses on the line to challenge the narratives of war. There is a reason you do this work. If we weren’t morally injured, if we were not traumatized, we wouldn’t be doing it.

So we talked about this for the rest of my therapy and what moral injury is and how moral injury works and the fact that anti-war, an anti-war movement is proof that moral injury exists.

She had a hard time wrapping her mind around this but eventually what we had come to, was that trauma itself, in a way, is transformation, and that almost every single activist that I know, and the reason I do my work, experienced some level of a trauma that mobilized them into changing the world and that Western medicine likes to think that that means you’re broken.

So as the therapy was winding down, I was like, I’ve got to sing Dr Jacobs a song. So, I got really high, I got my banjo, hopped on my bicycle, road to the VA, marched straight into her office with my banjo, I was like “I’m going to sing you a song about PTSD. Its called “Soldiers Heart” and I wrote it this winter while we were working on this.

Soldiers Heart

(click to listen)

Now, I’m just a farmer from Arkansas.
There’s a lot of things I don’t understand,
Like why we send farmers to kill farmers
In Afghanistan.
Now I did what I was told
For my love of this land,
And I come home a shattered man
With blood on my hands.
And now I can’t have a relationship,
I can’t hold down a job.
Oh, while some may say I’m broken,
I call it a soldier’s heart.

Because every time I go outside,
I’ve got to look her in the eyes,
Oh, and knowing that she broke my heart,
And it turned around and lied.
Oh, I said red, white and blue,
I trusted in you,
And you never even told me why.

Now in the summer of 2002,
I just got off the Pakistan border
to get out of the heat
and my sergeant handed me some orders
and told me to read.
Well it called for the mobilization of 500,000
soldiers, sailors and marines
for a pending invasion of Iraq
the coming spring.
Well I got home a few months later
and I heard the drums,
I said I heard the drums of war
and they had y'all dancing, all around
and asking for more.
Well a soldier's heart couldn't take it any more.
I said a soldier's heart couldn't take it any more.
And now I can’t have a relationship.
I can’t hold down a job.
Oh, while some may say I’m broken,
well I call it a soldier’s heart.

Because every time I go outside,
I’ve got to look her in the eyes,
Oh, and knowing that she broke my heart,
And it turned around and lied.
Oh, I said red, white and blue,
I trusted in you,
And you never even told me why.

Because every time I go outside,
I’ve got to look her in the eyes,
Oh, and knowing that she broke my heart,
And it turned around and lied.
Oh, I said red, white and blue,
I trusted in you,
And you never even told me why.

Dr Jacobs told me to never do that again. It was too loud and the whole floor probably heard it.


Democracy Now reported Jacob’s death, “Soldier’s Heart: Remembering Jacob George, Afghan War Vet Turned Peace Activist Who Took Own Life“.

On September 21, 2014 in the massive People’s Climate March in New York City, IVAW and VFP carried a banner in memory of Jacob George. I participated in the march and the Flood Wall Street action the next day.

Since the arrest of veterans and clergy at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in New York City on May Day 2012, we have been returning every year on October 7, marking the beginning of the war in Afghanistan. We were there to protest continued war, honor those who had suffered and died, protest the closing of the memorial at 10 pm and push back against the narrowing of the definition of First Amendment rights. I traveled to New York three times in support, arrested on May 1, 2012, participating and doing jail support on October 7, 2012, and once for a court appearance. In 2014 we were also honoring Jacob George and sent a letter inviting Mayor Bill de Blasio (click to read full letter). If I recall correctly, with this letter, the new mayor eliminated the curfew at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and dropped the prosecutions from prior years.


VFP & IVAW Members Deliver Letter to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio

October 02, 2014

Dear Mayor de Blasio,

This is an invitation.

We are U.S. military veterans who organized and led the Veterans For Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War contingent in the People’s Climate March Sunday, Sept. 21. The following day a number of us joined the Flood Wall Street action.

You said something quite significant regarding the Climate March and Flood Wall Street and many of us appreciated those remarks, especially coming from the mayor of New York.

You said, “First of all, I think the First Amendment is a little more important than traffic. The right of people to make their voices heard, regardless of their views, is a fundamental American value. And we’ll protect that value.”

Grief does not keep hours. There are over 22 suicides by veterans each day. One of those deaths was Jacob George, a veteran of the Afghanistan War, a wonderful musician, poet and bicycle riding ambassador for peace and justice who, in his all too short life, inspired many to work for a war-free, more sustainable and peaceful world.

Sadly, Jacob succumbed to the moral wounds of war sustained during his three tours in Afghanistan witnessing atrocities that no human being should ever have to see and committing acts that no human should ever have to inflict on another human being.

This Oct. 7, we will gather at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to remember Jacob George and the countless veterans whose names are not on the wall. Veterans and their loved ones seek healing from nightmares and PTSD in this solemn place.

As members of Veterans For Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, we feel it is important to remind you that this Vietnam Memorial is still not open to the public 24/7.

We invite you to join us at 10 pm on Oct. 7 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to remember Jacob and all those others needlessly sacrificed to the gods of war.

Bill Gilson,
U.S. Navy, 1954-58
President, Kaufman-Pahios, Chpt.34
Veterans For Peace, NYC

Lt. Jg Susan M. Schnall, U.S Naval Reserve, 1967-69
U.S. Navy, 1954-58
President, Kaufman-Pahios, Chpt.34

Tarak Kauff, U.S. Army Airborne Inf., 1959-62
National Board of Directors, Veterans For Peace
845 679-3299 takauff@gmail.com (mailto:takauff@gmail.com)

Jay Wenk, U.S. Army Infantry, 1944-4
Veterans For Peace
Woodstock, NY, Town Board

With support from veteran and associate members of Veterans For Peace:
Paul Appell, 1st Lt., U.S. Army, 1968-71
Sgt. Ellen E. Barfield, U.S. Army 1977-81
Steve Bray, associate member
Ellen Davidson, associate member
Margaret Flowers, MD, associate member, PopularResistance.org
Nate Goldshlag, U.S. Army 1970-72,
Ken Mayers, Major, U.S. Marine Corps
Jules Orkin, U.S. Army 1958-61
Ward Reilly, U.S. Army Inf. 1971-74
Bill Perry, U.S. Army Airborne Inf.,, Tet Offensive 1967-68
Bev Rice, associate member
Will Thomas, U.S. Navy 1961-63
Mike Tork, U.S. Navy, 1965-1967, Vietnam
Ret. Col. Ann Wright, U.S. Army 1982-2003, U.S. State Dept. Foreign Service,
CODEPINK Women for Peace


The heroic anti-war work of Jacob George against the repeated trauma inflicted on him through both Republican and Democratic Presidents, continues to be a powerful message.

(read other personal transformations)

Deception on the Right – I’m a Son of a Birch

I’m thankful that my parents did not give me the middle name Oliver or another starting with an ‘O’ or I would be initialing documents ‘SOB’, son of a Birch[er].

To better understand the depth of deceptions, I am sharing the story of my grandfather, a highly intelligent, lovable man, who, like my brother Bob (see Forced Toward Extinction by Those Defending Us), was unknowingly fighting against democracy, freedom and our existence. A side note, he was Bob’s god father. After his death, Bob acquired his guns, one of which he urgently bought to defend us from a communist takeover when gun registration was enacted in the early 70’s.

Path to the John Birch Society

Feel free to skip ahead to the role of the John Birch Society. The details of my grandfather are not critical.

My mother’s father, Earl, entered adult life with a motorcycle adventure, riding a hard-tail Indian motorcycle from Illinois to the Rocky Mountains. He was a couple of years ahead of the Argentinian, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, who wrote the book “Motorcycle Diaries” of his life changing journey, before fighting for Cuban independence with Fidel Castro. Like Che, my grandfather was extreme in politics, but totally opposite, including at least one event in Cuba.

A side note, until the last few years, I had known nothing about Che and little but the name Castro, an evil, communist dictator. I had watched the movie of the same title and only thought it was an interesting youthful adventure. When I was 17 I had also taken a motorcycle journey, the summer between high school and college. I came out, intactly ignorant and uninterested in politics.

My grandfather grew up in Peru, Illinois, a rural town along the Illinois River. In his youth, he had built a raft and floated the river like Huckleberry Finn. In daring competition with friends, he sledded down the river bluff, crossing railway tracks, under a moving train.

He dated the oldest of three sisters of a Baptist minister and superintendent of the rural one-room schools. The very strict father required that his daughters marry in order of age but my grandfather secretly eloped with the youngest, traveling to the nearest city, Peoria, Illinois to spend their honeymoon at the Pere Marquette Hotel. This was 50 years before I moved to Peoria to work for Caterpillar, who frequently used the recently refurbished hotel for corporate guests.

The oldest of my grandmother’s sisters subsequently married Bill. They lost their home in Cuba during the Cuban revolution of 1953 through 1959. I was born two years into that revolution. My great uncle Bill sold high end German cameras and gave me a Voigtlander 35mm for my birth, instructing my dad to document my life and pass it on when I was old enough. They had also lived in California and said that Nixon had been their paperboy.

My parents passed the camera to me when I was 13, just before a trip to visit my great uncle Bill and his wife at their cabin near Durango, Colorado. Their resort cabin was on a ranch of a World War I veteran and pilot. There were pictures of him in uniform next to a biplane. I caught grasshoppers to fish for trout as they fly-fished in waders. My great uncle Bill kept a World War II Willie jeep there to get to his remote cabin. Like this trip for me, they had taken my mother on a trip to the Rocky Mountains when she had turned 13.

The middle of the three married Wilbur, later an engineer with weapons development. I do not recall if he was with Martin or Douglas. He also had a cabin that I visited on that trip, his near Allen’s Park, Colorado. My dad said he had the patent on synchronizing an aircraft machine gun to fire between the rotating blades of the propeller. I think this was before his time but demonstrated my family affiliation with weapons and war. My mother, in retirement bought a log home in Estes Park, Colorado, a few miles from her uncle’s. One of his two son’s was career Navy. I believe all were involved in aviation and photography.

My grandfather had been a radio broadcaster in Chicago and Bloomington, Illinois during World War II. Sometime between World War II and the Korean War, he started working for WestClock in his home town of Peru, Illinois. In addition to manufacturing mechanical watches and clocks, they manufactured bomb fusses for the military. My grandfather managed the military contracts, hosting the military visitors, and managing quality assurance from testing at bomb sites. Both of my parents had worked in manufacture of bomb fusses during the Korean War, mom for WestClock and dad for Sundstrand.

In 2012, after telling my aunt Carleen that I had protested NATO in Chicago, she told me that my mother’s father had been active in the John Birch Society. She was my dad’s sister but had been my mom’s best friend in high school. I had never heard of it and this did not mean anything to me. A year or two later, I read Claire Conner’s book “Wrapped in the Flag: A Personal History of America’s Radical Right (see below)”.

Now I have many questions. In 1955, the year I was born, Claire’s parents met and connected with Robert Welch in Boston, who, in 1958 founded the John Birch Society. Her parents were initial members, founding a Midwest chapter in Glen View, Illinois. My family moved to Glen View in 1960, shortly after my dad finished his time in the Air Force. Claire’s parents often held John Birch meetings at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, where we likely attended mass. The Catholic church spans the extremes of political activities.

I had assumed that my mom converted to Catholicism to marry my Catholic dad, but when I asked her, she said her parents initiated the religious conversion shortly before she met my dad, roughly 1953, but she never explained why. My grandfather never appeared very religious. His family was Lutheran and his wife’s father was a Baptist minister, who in his last years lived with them. My grandmother was cremated on death and this was my grandfather’s wish, not very consistent with the Catholic faith.

I had no idea why we lived in this Northern suburb of Chicago for about a year. It was far from where dad was finishing pharmacy school at Chicago Circle and far from his subsequent pharmacy work in Chicago. When dad first returned from the Air Force and resumed college, we lived in an apartment in a mixed neighborhood, possibly the South side. Now knowing my grandfather’s connection to the John Birch Society, he probably insisted on the move, both being racist and likely wanting us to be close to the John Birch activities.

I know that by grandfather was close to his two brother-in-laws. I now suspect they shared this John Birch activism. I do not know which of them initiated this radical activism. It is even possible that my great uncle Bill was in an intelligence service behind his camera salesman job in Cuba during the revolution.

Unfortunately all of my contacts on my mother’s side have passed away, including, last May, her best friend, my aunt Carleen. My grandfather had kept meticulous records but on his death my mother had urgently destroyed most. My brother Tom destroyed all of her records after both of my parents had passed away. Now all I have are questions.

Role of the John Birch Society

In the opening home page of Voices of the Water, I noted how the Heartland Institute is one of the organizations receiving corporate funding to deceive the public on the climate emergency (read more). The Cato Institute, the Heartland Institute, the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and others are favorite political causes of David and Charles Koch. Their multimillionaire father, Fred Koch was one of the original Birch founding members, along with Stillwell Conner, father of Claire Conner, author of “Wrapped in the Flag: A Personal History of America’s Radical Right.” My grandfather and possibly my mother were likely colleagues of Stillwell. I wonder if they ever met Fred Koch or his sons David and Charles.

Shortly after Obama was elected, the Tea Party was launched, bankrolled by the Koch brothers and Americans for Prosperity. The Tea Party is a new version of the John Birth Society. Both mobilize people with libertarian ideology.

Note that American libertarian ideology is a perversion of European libertarian or anarchist ideology. It retains the distrust of, and the desire to destroy the state, but puts nothing in its place to defend the people. This is exactly what the corporations want, total political power for them and none for the people.

This slight of hand fooled my grandfather and is even more effective today at deceiving the public. These corporate think tanks took a valid nugget of anarchist ideology, that giving someone else power over your life, is nearly always abused and a loss of freedom, but cleverly omit telling the libertarian Birchers or Tea Party members that nearly all power lies in wealth (see Power Lies in Private Control of the Economy). People have no voice and limited power in the economy. Corporations are not democratic institutions. The U.S. Federal government, for all of its abuse, is slightly democratic, and, until we create more direct political power, it is our only protection from corporate greed.

I, like Noam Chomsky, agree with these Birchers and Tea Party members that hierarchies of power are nearly always abusive and rarely justified against an objective of freedom. But, before trimming back the hierarchy of centralized government, people must become politically active and create local political power that is connected through federation to manage scale and defense against external threats, corporations being one.

I have read a detailed analysis of compatibility of the Tea Party with the libertarian, corporate funded organizations of the Koch brothers. The clear objective was to gain corporate funding and support of the Tea Party toward achieving corporate objectives through what appears to be grass roots mobilization.

The 2015 article, Snobs Versus Slobs: National Review’s War With Its Audience analyzes how the conservative party gatekeepers were attempting to retain the Trump supporters while distancing themselves from Trump. It relates this to the historical challenge that William F. Buckley and the National Review had with the John Birch Society.

It is not clearly stated, but both of these articles are analyzing how to use people to achieve corporate goals. The libertarians, Tea Party members and Birchers are being deceived. From my experience, the same is true of supporters of the Democratic Party, but that is beyond the scope of this post.

There are many contentious, divisive issues used to mobilize people, like anti-communism, that I am intentionally not discussing here because they are distractions. The important message is that the corporations are investing money to deceive us into supporting politicians who are enacting the legislative agenda of the corporations and the wealthy to remove all restrictions on them. The climate emergency is only the most extreme result of their assault.

Below are excerpts of initial text from “Snobs Versus Slobs: National Review’s War With Its Audience” and Claire Conner’s book, “Wrapped in the Flag: A Personal History of America’s Radical Right.”


Snobs Versus Slobs: National Review’s War With Its Audience

September 14, 2015

(read full article)

The American conservative movement, which first coalesced in its modern form after World War II, has long been an uneasy coalition of snobs and slobs, of wannabe aristocrats and intellectuals like the late William F. Buckley and Norman Podhoretz joining forces with such avatars of plebeian rage as Joseph McCarthy and Sarah Palin, respectively. Yet this fusion of pretend- gentry with pseudo-populism has always been a shaky one, with the more respectable faces of the right occasionally having to distance themselves from their uncouth cousins. Buckley’s magazine, National Review, has constantly tried to define a respectable conservatism that excludes lurid conspiracy theorists as well as the more overt manifestations of anti-Semitism and racism. It has assumed the role of gatekeeper—the gate of an exclusive country club, that is—deciding who counts as worthy of entry and who has to be locked out.

But National Review’s undeniable influence on conservatism has been waning, and its latest attempt to act as the right wing’s bouncer has backfired. The controversy, as it always seems to be on the right today, concerns Donald Trump’s role in the GOP. On the magazine’s website, Jonah Goldberg published an epistolary article whose title says it all: “No Movement That Embraces Trump Can Call Itself Conservative.” “Dear Reader (if there are any of you left),” Goldberg begins, rather forlornly, “Well, if this is the conservative movement now, I guess you’re going to have to count me out.”

In response to Goldberg’s attack, Trump’s right-wing fans, some of whom are avowed white nationalists, pushed the hashtag #NRORevolt, which became a hub for those rejecting National Review’s status as the arbiter of who counts as respectable right-winger. Just a few tweets are sufficient to see the level of intellectual argument involved:

These poor people thinking the jewish neocohen is on their side. Hope they wake up #NRORevolt http://www.nationalreview.com/article/423607 /donald-trump-conservative-movement-jonah- goldberg#comment-2237525121 … pic.twitter.com/DzMVCD4E1M — ricky_vaughn99

@NRO I guess he didn’t suck Israel’s cock hard enough for you NRO fags. Why didn’t he cup the balls? #NRORevolt #Cuckservative — tharightstuff

Between adopting niglets, loving mestizos and securing Israel’s borders, the #cuckservative has no time for his own white race. #NRORevolt — darklyenlighten

Those pushing the #NRORevolt hashtag are clearly a gruesome lot, and if National Review has helped keep a lid on such unwholesome cretins, we can be grateful to the magazine. Yet the Review’s role in serving as a rightwing gatekeeper too frequently gets celebrated in uncritical terms. The oft-told story about how National Review expelled anti-Semites and Birchers from the right is much more complicated than the way it is usually rendered. If National Review has purged extremists, it is often after a period of working with them. The magazine has long played a delicate balancing act of gathering together as many on the right as possible and then trying to shake off those who go too far.


Wrapped in the Flag: A Personal History of America’s Radical Right

July 2, 2013 by Claire Conner

About the Author

Claire Conner’s father was a national spokesperson for the John Birch Society for more than thirty years; her mother was also a staunch follower. Conner holds a degree in English with honors from the University of Dallas and a graduate degree from the University of Wisconsin. She lives in Tampa, Florida.

Preface

I Know What Extremism Looks Like

Five years ago, I was sure I’d heard the last of conspiracies, secret Communists, and America’s imminent collapse. After all, the Cold War had been over for twenty years, my parents and most of their fanatic friends were dead, and the Bush administration was killing America’s appetite for right-wing Republicans.

“There’s no one left to hoist the extremist flag,” I told myself. I was wrong. By 2008, political discourse sounded eerily similar to that of 1958, when a brand-new right-wing, populist movement—the John Birch Society—burst onto the American scene. All across the country, newly awakened Birchers rallied to “take our county back.” Two dedicated Birch leaders mobilized the Midwest: Stillwell and Laurene Conner—my parents.

Dad and Mother had been primed for their lurch to the right for many years. They loved Joseph McCarthy and hated the Communists. They’d decided that government assistance made people weak and lazy, and that the New Deal was really a bad deal. They loathed Franklin Roosevelt and blamed Democrats for destroying our free-enterprise system. So in 1955, when Mother and Dad were introduced to Robert Welch, a candy-company executive turned conspiracy hunter, they immediately recognized a kindred soul. My father said Welch was “a brilliant mind and the finest patriot I’ve ever had the privilege to know.” Three years later, when Welch founded his John Birch Society, Mother and Dad didn’t hesitate— they signed up and immediately handed over $2,000 for lifetime memberships, the equivalent of about $15,000 today.

The John Birch Society became my parents’ lifelong obsession; nothing was allowed to interfere with the next meeting, the next project, the next mailing. At fourteen and thirteen, respectively, my older brother and I were deemed old enough to take up the cause as full-fledged adult members. During Birch activities, the other Conner children were banished upstairs, where my ten-year-old sister was put in charge of the baby (eighteen months) and my six-year-old brother fended for himself. In only a few months, the entire Conner family lived and breathed Birch.

Night after night, Birch activists and new recruits filled our living room.
They received hours of instruction about the secret conspiracy, the New World Order, hidden codes on the dollar bill, and Communist spies inside our government. Birchers were schooled in the evils of creeping socialism, Communism, and Marxism. Good Birchers understood the sins of welfare and Social Security. It was time to rise up against the unholy alliance of the Left—Communists, socialists, liberals, union bosses, and the liberal press. Robert Welch identified Communists as one enemy in this epic struggle to save the country. Of course, in the 1950s the march of the Communists across Eastern Europe and Asia was scary to Americans, but Welch was more worried about the Communists lurking inside our country, often holding positions of influence. These home-grown American Communists were ready to spring into action to take down our Constitution and replace it with a socialist manifesto.

Birchers believed that those American Communists were all over the place. They served on school boards, advocated putting fluoride in drinking water, and taught subversive university classes. Others organized labor unions, led the civil rights movement and served in the Congress. The Birch message resonated. Membership exploded and revenue spiked. My father was rewarded for his dedication with a promotion to the Birch National Council, where he served for thirty-two years.

From the outset, the GOP applauded the Birchers for their patriotic zeal and embraced them as good Republicans. But after a scandal rocked the society in 1961, the GOP worried that its closeness to the Birchers would taint the Republican brand. It could not afford to be painted by the Democrats as the political arm of the radical right. Republican leaders decided to label the Birchers as crackpots and push them out of the party. Problem solved. The effort worked. Before long, the Birchers had joined the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, and other kooks as the most extreme reactionaries in American politics. The Republican Party took credit for saving the United States from fringe-of-the-fringe crusaders who imagined that even the president was a Commie. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, while the politicians and pundits declared the Birchers dead and buried, the moneyed Birch leadership went to plan B, redirecting their cash and their influence into think tanks and foundations. My parents joined in that diversifying effort. They founded a right-wing Catholic organization, the Wanderer Foundation, in St. Paul, Minnesota and donated to every right-wing organization and political-action committee they could. My parents never had big money, but other Birch families spent huge sums to bankroll Birch ideas. Fred Koch, one of the original Birch founding members and a National Council member with my father, invested a small fortune on his pet projects, including the so-called right-to-work laws, designed to hamper union organizing. His sons, David and Charles Koch, inherited their father’s multimillions, turned them into multibillions, and invested liberally in their favorite political causes: the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, and others. Those organizations incorporated many John Birch Society ideas and effectively increased both their reach and their impact on American politics. Since Citizens United, the 2011 Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates to unlimited and unregulated corporate political donations, the Kochs have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to individual candidates and political-action committees. The Kochs and their allies envision the same framework for American government that I heard from my father and his John Birch Society allies: the New Deal dismantled, the federal government reduced to a quarter of its current size, and most federal programs gutted. In this right-wing, libertarian utopia, businesses and individuals would be free to do anything, unrestrained by rules or taxes. In 2008, when the economy tanked and Barack Obama emerged as the Democratic nominee for president, the radical right went on the offense. The Democrat was labeled a Marxist, a Socialist, and a friend of terrorists. Folks unfurled the yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and shouted about trees of liberty being watered with the blood of tyrants. When I heard frenzied voters at a Republican rally shouting, “Treason,” and “Kill him,” in response to one of Sarah Palin’s anti-Obama rants, I worried. “My parents are back,” I told anyone who’d listen. People looked at me like I’d lost my mind. I realized that the Birch Society had faded out of America’s memory. It had been confined to a footnote for political wonks. Six months after President Obama was inaugurated, a new right-wing, populist movement arose. The Tea Party—bankrolled by the Koch brothers and Americans for Prosperity—staged rallies and protests across the country. Self-appointed zealots suggested “Second Amendment remedies” if they didn’t achieve their goals at the ballot box. I shuddered when I heard my father’s favorite rally cry: “We’ve come to take our country back.”

These newly minted right-wingers were rattling off old Birch slogans:
• Immigrants are the enemy. Protect our borders and deport all illegal aliens.
• Gays are ungodly. Pray the gay away from children and teens.
• Unemployed people don’t want to work, and poor people keep themselves poor, on purpose. If we cut the minimum wage and eliminate unemployment compensation, everyone will have a job.
• Unions caused the economic collapse by shielding lazy, incompetent public employees.
• Rich folks are “job creators,” and we need to protect their wealth.
• Social Security is unsustainable, and Medicare and Medicaid have to be restricted so that corporations and “job creators” have lower tax rates.
• Abortion is murder and must be outlawed even in cases of rape and incest. No exception means no exceptions; even in cases where the mother’s life is in danger.
• The economic meltdown of 2008 came from high taxes on corporations, too many regulations, and poor people taking out mortgages they couldn’t afford.
• The government can’t create jobs, so stimulus programs don’t work. Cutting taxes creates jobs.
• The government can’t limit the right to own or carry guns. If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.
• America is God’s chosen nation, but our president can’t understand our exceptionalism. After all, he’s not a “real” American; he’s a Marxist, Socialist, Muslim racist who hates America.

I know that this new radical Right is a rewrite of the old John Birch Society. This time, however, the movement has enormous political muscle, unlimited dollars, and right-wing media support. This reality hit me after studying my parents’ files and personal writing, combing historical archives, and reading contemporary accounts and documents produced by the Birch Society itself.

My notes credit published works and archival documents, but much of this narrative comes from my experience. This book chronicles the history of the John Birch Society and its impact on America, past and present. But above all, Wrapped in the Flag is my story

Personal Transformations

Here I share stories of people who went through a major transformation of their perspectives. All grew up aligned with the near universal versions of history and beliefs that are taught in the United States and reinforced in all aspects of life. But, later in adult life, sometimes very late, they could not reconcile some event, started asking questions, seeking answers, eventually coming out with a very different and broader perspective.

After awakening, there is no going back or desire to go back. In full disclosure, I warn you that your family and friends will not be changing with you, at least not at the same time, if ever. As some consolation, there are many amazing people who have already made this transformation, some a generation or so back in their families. Making this transformation, you join the people creating the only chance for our survival and perhaps a society with more justice, liberty and joy.

The first two, Major General Smedley Butler and Howard Zinn were veterans and authors that I have quoted throughout this website. All of the others are personal friends and colleagues, most of whom I met within months of my transformation and I list them in order of meeting them.

I have many other friends and colleagues with equally beneficial and inspirational actions but here I only include examples of personal transformations that I know about.

This transformation is possible with most people. Perilous for us, there are a few people, often in leadership, sometimes with nuclear weapons, who have little chance of changing or even having empathy or awareness of others. They can and often are very charismatic, fooling nearly everyone. I have been fooled by three people in my life (read more).

Before sharing the stories of these people, I wish to share a song by David Rovics who was at several events where I met the following people. This song is about an event that Howard Zinn talks about in his personal transformation. This song fed my chest pains and feelings that burst out of me a year ago after looking at the “Fat Man” in the Oshkosh Air Museum with my brother Bob. This song, when I first heard it in 2012, opened my feelings to finally cry for the death of my mother 9 years earlier. As a stoic man of German ancestry I can plow through life toughing it out. I have never maintained dry eyes listening to this song. I now use it to soften myself or to return to a greater perspective of others and get out of petty thoughts about me.


Hiroshima

(play song)

Ten thousand children played in the playground
Swinging on the swings, didn’t hear the sound
Of the single plane that flew overhead
The third shift workers were just going to bed
There was a flash of light and a rumbling noise
And gone in an instant — parents, girls and boys

Ten thousand mothers were boiling rice
A thousand POW’s were rolling dice
Hoping they’d survive this terrible storm
When each young man in his uniform
Vanished in the air in the blink of an eye
One moment they lived, the next they all die
Hiroshima, Hiroshima

Ten thousand chickens were sitting on eggs
Heads in their wings, resting their legs
Ten thousand farmers were looking at their fields
Planning the harvest, guessing at yields
Dreaming of life after the war
The next second they weren’t living no more
Hiroshima, Hiroshima

Ten thousand lovers made lover to each other
Each one of them thinking they might not get another
Living so long with death everywhere
Much more than one person alone can bear
But there wasn’t time for a final kiss
Who could’ve known it would end like this
Hiroshima, Hiroshima

A hundred thousand people were living their lives
Grandparents, children, fathers and wives
Now they’re just shadows on the street
In such a quick burst of incredible heat
Now listen to them talk about doing it again
From whence came the souls of these terrible men
Hiroshima, Hiroshima

Major General Smedley Butler (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940)

Excerpt from “The True Flag – Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire”, 2017 by Stephen Kinzer

Major General Smedley Butler had spent decades leading invasions of other countries. He commanded troops in Cuba and the Philippines, fought the Boxers in China, helped overthrow the governments of Nicaragua and Honduras, directed occupations of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, secured the Panamanian regime that gave Americans the right to build their canal, and won a Medal of Honor—the first of two—for valor in suppressing Mexican resistance at Veracruz. By the 1920s he was a living legend, a personification of “the large policy.” The Marine Corps decided to use his popularity as a recruiting tool and sent him on a speaking tour. It did not unfold as planned. Butler strayed far from his script. He not only failed to defend the policies for which he had fought, he denounced them. Marine commanders called him back to Washington and, by mutual agreement, he resigned from active duty. Freed from constraint, he began barnstorming the country on his own. In passionate speeches and articles, he said that serving as a marine commander had made him “a high-class muscle man for big business” and “a gangster for capitalism.”

(read more)

Howard Zinn (August 24, 1922 – January 27, 2010)

Howard Zinn was a friend to many of my colleagues in Veterans for Peace. I was in Madison WI in 2009 when he gave one of his last talks but sadly I missed it “Three Holy Wars”, 5-2-09, Howard Zinn at Monona Terrace, Madison, WI . I did not go through my transition and learn about him until two years later and a year after his death.

Howard Zinn was a veteran of WWII, chair of the history and social sciences department at Spelman College and a political science professor at Boston University. He wrote over 20 books, including “A People’s History of the United State”. I have quoted from it on this website. A person in another country once asked me if I had read Howard Zinn and showed me their copy in their language.

In World War II, Howard Zinn was more than eager to fight fascism but one bombing mission would, years later, transform his view of war. He was the bombardier on one of twelve hundred Flying Fortresses that dropped something new, “jellied gasoline”, on a little French resort town on the Atlantic named Royan. There were a few thousand German troops in the town, but the war had long advanced into Germany, ending three weeks later. These German troops were waiting for the end, isolated, not fighting, and no threat. More troubling, this was a town of our allies. After the war, Howard read a dispatch by the New York Times correspondent in the area: “About 350 civilians, dazed or bruised … crawled from the ruins and said the air attacks had been ‘such hell as we never believed possible.’”

(read more)

Steven Bray (born October 18, 1955)

This is the story of my transformation. My contributions are far more modest than the others but I should tell you a little about myself. I wish to also acknowledge that the risks are far greater for those in government, particularly military or intelligence agencies. Unlike me, most of them also lost their pensions. Other events in my life are sprinkled throughout the website and not repeated here.

In October of 2011 I ended my engineering career the day I read an email from the CEO requesting that employees support the US free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. At the same time, Father Jose Restrepo had just been murdered after posting a video showing the imminent displacement of his community at Marmato in Colombia by a Canadian mining corporation. My employer, Caterpillar is the world’s leading manufacturer of mining machines. I saw blood on my paycheck. I had global responsibility for software technology across the entire product line of Caterpillar machines and engines when I ended my career.

(read more)

Jack Ryan

In March of 2003, a few days before the US launched the Iraq War, I joined a group of about 8 people standing in the rain at the corner of the Federal Courthouse in Peoria, Illinois. Jack Ryan spoke. It was the first time I met him but did not know him or his story. Subsequent to my transformation in 2011 we have met many times, he a native of Peoria Illinois and I living there between 1980 and 2012, he a long time member of Veterans for Peace and me joining in 2012.

Jack is a former police officer and was an FBI agent between 1966 and 1987. He told me that he was right to voice his dissent but it cost him not just his pension but he was on a likely path to a higher paying job in Caterpillar after retiring from the FBI. In my last few weeks at Caterpillar I participated in a high level meeting on securing intellectual assets from China and the man siting next to me was from the FBI and had just joined Caterpillar.

On December 4, 1986, Jack sent a memo to his superiors stating that the acts performed by the Plowshares group and Veterans Fast for Life (see S. Brian Willson) were “totally nonviolent”, that none of the actions under investigation “fit within the Domestic Security Guidelines.” and he was “not willing to conduct this lead or be involved in this case.” The FBI fired him in September 1987, ten months short of retirement. He took the FBI to court, going all the way to the Supreme Court which refused to overturn the lower court decision affirming his dismissal for disobeying a lawful order.

(read more)

Paul Appell

I met Paul Appell in March 2012, both of us volunteering for the majority of time at the “Eyes Wide Open” exhibit of boots representing US military from Illinois who died in Iraq or Afghanistan. Paul encouraged me to join Veterans for Peace and their Action Team and together we traveled to many events. He introduced me to most of people who’s transformations I share here.

Paul is a hog and grain farmer, not too far from Peoria, Illinois. He served as an officer in Vietnam.

Unfortunately I know little of his transformation but he often shared a very painful event. As an officer, he was asked to knock on the doors and personally inform a wife that her husband had died in Vietnam. One woman, while pounding her fists on his chest demanded to know why he had to die. Paul had already lost all illusion that there were valid reasons for the US war in Vietnam. He could not reply and every blow from this recent widow drove it home for him.

Judge Arthur Brennan (born December 25, 1946)

I first met Judge Arthur Brennan in April 2012 at the Friends Meeting House on Florida Avenue near Dupont Circle in Washington D.C. He was the speaker at one event of the NOW DC Social Forum. NOW stands for National Occupy Washington. Art told us he had been in the 82nd Airborne Division, and would have parachuted into Beirut Lebanon on a hostage rescue mission but it was canceled at the last moment. In January 2007, while serving as a Superior Court Judge in New Hampshire, a State Department official contacted him about taking a job as director of Office of Accountability and Transparency at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad Iraq. In this job, a day after sending a response exposing massive corruption, the State Department gave him an alternate response drafted outside of his office, hiding the corruption, and insisting that he sign it. Art held up an old leather briefcase saying that he had copies of the original and the alternate with him. He described details, some of which are shown below in his testimony to a Senate Hearing.

This was my first week after escaping my corporate cubicle. I was in a Friends Meeting House in Washington,with about 6 other people in the audience, with an ex-State Department official talking about massive corruption at the top of the US and Iraqi governments, many people assassinated trying to expose it, our government burying it, and the meeting was being live-streamed on the internet. I was expecting a raid.

I believe that Art was arrested with me with Veterans for Peace on May Day 2012 at the Vietnam Memorial in New York City. We were standing with clergy between the police and a non-violent, legal, assembly. Paul and I used Art and Nancy’s room reservations at the protest of the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago. They canceled last minute to care for their dying dog. Art and his wife Nancy are the nicest people.

(read more)

Ray McGovern (born August 25, 1939)

I first met Ray in April 2012 in Washington D.C., I believe at an event at his church and later at Veterans for Peace Conferences.

Ray came to Washington in the early Sixties as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and subsequently served 27 years as a CIA analyst from the administrations of John F. Kennedy through George H. W. Bush. From 1981 to 1985 he prepared the President’s Daily Brief, which he briefed one-on-one to President Ronald Reagan’s five most senior national security advisers. On July 20, 2002, CIA Director George Tenet had told his British counterpart that the “intelligence and facts were being ‘fixed’ around the policy of ‘regime change’ in Iraq.” In January 2003, Ray co-created Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) to expose how intelligence was being falsified to “justify” war on Iraq.

(read more)

Ann Wright (born 1947)

I have very rarely participated in any events where Ann Wright was not also participating or leading and she participates in another 100 events for each of the ones with me. I joined her 2012 delegation to Gaza when Israel attacked.

Ann Wright spent thirteen years in the U.S. Army and sixteen additional years in the Army Reserves, retiring as a Colonel. She is airborne-qualified. In 1987, Col.Wright joined the Foreign Service and served as U.S. Deputy Ambassador in Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan, and Mongolia. On March 19, 2003, the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Ann Wright cabled a letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin Powell, stating that without the authorization of the UN Security Council, the invasion and occupation of a Muslim, Arab, oil-rich country would be a violation of international law.

(read more)

Christopher Lynn Hedges (born September 18, 1956)

Like Ann Wright, Chris Hedges is at nearly every event that I attend and 100 times more. I first met Chris in April 2012 in Washington D.C. where he co-hosted a speaking event with Ralph Nader. A year or two later I joined Paul Appell to hike Mt. Washington with Chris, his son Thomas, Zuade Kaufman (Truthdig publisher) and several others. We discussed three of his recent books in the evenings. I have ten of Chris’s books and regularly read his online articles.

Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries during his work for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Hedges was an early critic of the Iraq War. In May 2003, Hedges delivered a commencement address at Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois, saying: “We are embarking on an occupation that, if history is any guide, will be as damaging to our souls as it will be to our prestige and power and security.” His speech was received with boos and his microphone was shut off three minutes after he began speaking. He left the Times after receiving a formal reprimand from the newspaper for publicly denouncing the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq.

(read more)

S Brian Willson (July 4, 1941)

I first met Brian Willson at the 2013 Veterans for Peace Conference in Madison Wisconsin. Our local chapter hosted the annual conference that year.

My friend and colleague Jack Ryan of Peoria, Illinois was fired by the FBI for sending a memo to his supervisor stating he was “not willing to conduct this lead or be involved in this case” against Brian Willson’s group because they were “totally nonviolent”. The FBI fired Jack in September, 1987, the same month that our government gave secret orders that the munitions train should not stop for protesters on the tracks, running over Brian Willson.

Excerpt from Introduction by Daniel Ellsberg to Brian’s book, “Blood on the Tracks”

This is the story of one man’s evolution from being a normal, ordinary, patriotic American—capable of acquiescing, even participating in a war of horrendous destruction against people in Indochina (“enemies,” along with their families and other “collateral damage”)—to becoming a human who risked and sacrificed his legs to try to stop our carnage in Central America: one who ever since has devoted his life to warning fellow humans about the harm they are inflicting and the dangers they are posing to all others and to most forms of life on the planet.

In the era of nuclear threats and of manmade, consumption-driven climate change, nothing less than that same change in consciousness and in compassionate action—exemplified in Brian Willson’s life and present life style—on a mass basis can save this species from decimating itself and extinguishing most others in the relatively short run.

(read more)

Jacob David George (1982 – September 17, 2014)

In May 2012, at the NATO Summit in Chicago, I marched with Veterans for Peace holding a rope perimeter around more than 40 veterans of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, including Jacob George, who hurled their military medals toward the NATO summit gates in an act of protest against U.S. wars (read more). On September 17, 2014, one week after President Obama unveiled the new U.S. military mission against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Jacob George killed himself. In August 2015 I learned that my brother Bob’s daughter Tara would be enlisting in the Marine Corps in a week. I sent her a link to Jacob George’s IVAW Testimony (read more). Jacob’s powerful message lives on.

Jacob George did three military tours in Afghanistan before age 23, starting in 2001, about a month after September 11th, at age 19. He was a paratrooper and sergeant. In 2011, with fellow veteran Brock McIntosh, Jacob returned to Afghanistan to meet with young peace activists. He bonded with a 15-year-old Afghan boy, who, like Jacob was a farmer. They discussed “the absurdity of poor farmers being sent to kill poor farmers while people are starving.” Jacob found that the most effective way to personally heal from “moral injury”, to heal his soul, was to help other veterans and work toward changing the world so others would not be injured by war. He dedicated his life to anti-war activities, co-founding the Afghan Veterans Against the War Committee within Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and bicycling around the United States playing music for peace and sharing his story. After suffering the trauma of war and the deeper wounds of “moral injury”, and dedicating his life to peace, it was too much for him when Obama announced a new mission in Iraq. At age 32 he killed himself.

(read more)

S Brian Willson

S Brian Willson (July 4, 1941)

I first met Brian Willson at the 2013 Veterans for Peace Conference in Madison Wisconsin. Our local chapter hosted the annual conference that year.

My friend and colleague Jack Ryan of Peoria, Illinois was fired by the FBI for sending a memo to his supervisor stating he was “not willing to conduct this lead or be involved in this case” against Brian Wilson’s group because they were “totally nonviolent”. The FBI fired Jack in September, 1987, the same month that our government gave secret orders that the munitions train should not stop for protesters on the tracks, running over Brian Wilson.


Excerpt from Introduction by Daniel Ellsberg to Brian’s book, “Blood on the Tracks”

This is the story of one man’s evolution from being a normal, ordinary, patriotic American—capable of acquiescing, even participating in a war of horrendous destruction against people in Indochina (“enemies,” along with their families and other “collateral damage”)—to becoming a human who risked and sacrificed his legs to try to stop our carnage in Central America: one who ever since has devoted his life to warning fellow humans about the harm they are inflicting and the dangers they are posing to all others and to most forms of life on the planet.

In the era of nuclear threats and of manmade, consumption-driven climate change, nothing less than that same change in consciousness and in compassionate action—exemplified in Brian Willson’s life and present life style—on a mass basis can save this species from decimating itself and extinguishing most others in the relatively short run.


Blood on the Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson

2011 by S. Brian Willson

INTRODUCTION

by Daniel Ellsberg

The people sitting on the tracks at the Concord Naval Weapons Station on September 1, 1987, were expecting to be arrested. Either that or they would succeed in arresting the train, slowing the delivery of munitions to maim and kill people in Central America.

Having been in that position myself—on the tracks at the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Production Facility in Colorado, nine years earlier—I can hear the skeptical reaction such actions evoke: “But you won’t really stop the transport; the train will always get through.”

To which the answer of those on the tracks is: “Not without arrests. Not invisibly, anymore; not smoothly, on time, without effort or reflection from within the bureaucratic system; not without public question, comment, controversy, challenge. Not, anymore, with the presumed consent of all American citizens.”

As my son Robert put it, as we drove handcuffed in a police van past the tracks at Rocky Flats where we had just been arrested: “There should have been people sitting on the tracks at Auschwitz.”

An overstated analogy? Not for Rocky Flats, where the plutonium triggers for all U.S. thermonuclear weapons were produced: each one of those thousands of warheads, a portable Auschwitz. But not for Concord Naval Weapons Station, either. As described in a manifesto by Brian Willson, July 4, 1987, “Concord, possessing both conventional and nuclear munitions [‘bombs, white phosphorus rockets, missiles, grenades, ammunition’], shipping arms to military operations in Central America, the Pacific theater, the Philippines and South Korea, and the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf, is the largest munitions storage shipping depot on the West Coast.”

The manifesto continued, “The vision for the Nuremberg Actions includes the daily upholding the law of nations and our own Constitution by placing ourselves—our bodies—in front of the trains and trucks carrying munitions of death from their bunkers to the piers for placement on ships, some destined for Central America where we can predict a specified number of human beings who will be killed and maimed once transported past our vulnerable bodies.”

Why “Nuremberg Actions”? The statement asserted rightly that “the use and manner of use of our munitions in Central America is illegal under international and Constitutional law” and that the Nuremberg Principles obliged citizens to oppose aggressive war and to uphold international law by disobeying “commands furthering the illegal conduct and to refrain from participating any further” in it.

Willson wrote, on July 4, “Violence is our business to stop—non-violently. None of this is possible as long as we are unable or unwilling to pay the price or endure the risks of living and working for justice and peace.” On September 1, Willson and other citizens were saying, in effect: “We withdraw our consent to this death-dealing transport. To carry it on, you will have to move us off the tracks by arresting us . . . or else, you will have to do it over our bodies.”

Faced with these alternatives, the authorities at the base made unannounced choices: not to make arrests that day; and not to obey regulations requiring the train to stop if there was anything in front of it on the tracks. They gave secret orders to the train crew not to stop if there were human bodies ahead. Those orders the crew obeyed. They may or may not have been ordered to speed up, to three times their regulated speed at the base; in any case, that is what they did.

That day S. Brian Willson proved that the risk he was willing to run and the price he was willing to pay to live and work for justice and peace was as great as the price the State was willing to inflict on those who challenged its illegitimate actions and authority. There was no real limit on the latter price: as Brian—and I—had witnessed in Vietnam in ways that changed our lives, and as I had recognized earlier in reading secret nuclear war plans.

Such unbounded violence can be contained and transcended only by the unlimited civil courage that Brian exhibited that day, and by large-scale resistance, as he had put it on July 4, “that stems from an affirmation of life—equally—for all people of the earth.”

“All people.” “Equally.” Those thoughts were spelled out two months later, on the morning of the train assault, in his notes for that occasion (supplied to me by Brian). They raise themes of profound import if they were to be taken seriously and acted on: as it turned out that they were, by Brian and his companions on the tracks.

“The authorities will be notified of the resistance action on the tracks so that they will have the choice of suspending movement of munitions, removing our bodies, or running over us. One truth seems clear: Once the train carrying the munitions moves past our human blockade, if it does, other human beings in other parts of the world will be killed and maimed. We are not worth more. They are not worth less. [emphasis added] Let us commit to ourselves and the world that we will claim our dignity, self-respect and honor by resisting with our lives and dollars, no matter what it takes, any further policies designed to kill others in our name, in each of our names ultimately.”

“We are not worth more. They are not worth less.” Meaning, if it means anything at all: “It is worth giving our lives to save theirs. It is worth risking our lives to reduce the risk to theirs.”

Who really thinks that way, or acts that way? Well, often, members of a family; or a combat team, about each other (not about “the enemy” or their families); perhaps, to some extent, a community, a nation; “us.” But how many feel that way about the lives of strangers, “others,” “them”? Not very many, yet. Not Brian himself, much earlier in his life, before a path of experiences that awakened him to the moral reality of a family hood that encompasses all humanity, indeed all life on earth.

The open eyes of a dead woman in Vietnam, killed, with her infant, by American bombs, the missing limbs of amputees in Nicaragua maimed by American mines, brought him, by a kind of terrible grace, to a greatly expanded sense of the “we” with rights and needs like his and our own, with just demands on our consideration, concern, compassion, and if necessary self-sacrifice.

This is the story of one man’s evolution from being a normal, ordinary, patriotic American—capable of acquiescing, even participating in a war of horrendous destruction against people in Indochina (“enemies,” along with their families and other “collateral damage”)—to becoming a human who risked and sacrificed his legs to try to stop our carnage in Central America: one who ever since has devoted his life to warning fellow humans about the harm they are inflicting and the dangers they are posing to all others and to most forms of life on the planet.

In the era of nuclear threats and of manmade, consumption-driven climate change, nothing less than that same change in consciousness and in compassionate action—exemplified in Brian Willson’s life and present life style—on a mass basis can save this species from decimating itself and extinguishing most others in the relatively short run.

Is that at all possible? For humanity, as it is, in time?

The inspiration that this particular life-story presents is that it answers “yes” to that challenge. If one person (and of course, there have been many others, though not often so dramatically) can change their own awareness and their lives this way, then others of us can. It can’t be ruled out, it can’t be proven to be impossible, that enough humans can change themselves and history to stop the train that is heading now . . . to hell on earth.

That might seem a dishearteningly cautious way to put our prospects. In truth, the odds are not good. There is no guarantee that the train will stop, no matter how many bodies are on the tracks. But the stakes could not be higher, and it is inspiration enough for many of us to keep in sight, as this story helps us do in unsurpassed fashion, that despite all obstacles we do have a chance.

No reader, I believe, will finish this book without a sense of awe at the human spirit that is revealed in it and of gratitude for the map that Brian Willson has provided, in his life and this account of it, of the way out.

[page 26]

Foreword

It is the week of March 13, 2008. I sit for hours at my computer, watching video footage of young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans talking, slowly and carefully, about what it feels like to fight a war. These are the Winter Soldier Iraq/Afghanistan Hearings, based on similar hearings conducted thirty-seven years earlier by Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

On April 18, 2006, I had my first confirmed kill. This man was innocent. I don’t know his name. He was walking back to his house and I shot him in front of his friend and his father. The first round didn’t kill him. He started screaming and looked right into my eyes. I looked at my friend and I said, “Well, I can’t let that happen,” so I shot him again. It took seven people to carry his body away. We were all congratulated when we made our first kill. I was congratulated on mine.

I just want to say that I’m sorry for the hate and destruction that I’ve inflicted on innocent people. . . . I’m sorry for the things that I did. I am no longer the monster I once was.

[ Jon Turner, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, www.ivaw.org.]

As I look at the faces of these soldiers and hear their stories, I cry nearly uncontrollably, my chest heaving, as I did during my first flashback in 1981. Politicians say that every war is different and necessary, but those of us who have fought in wars know all wars are the same.

Later, we were going house to house in a village. Two guys were pointed out to us as troublemakers. We tossed the hut. There was nothing there. We took the guys anyway. Their mother was kissing my feet, crying. I don’t speak Arabic, but I speak human. She was saying, “Why are you taking my sons, my boys? They haven’t done anything.” I was powerless to help her. . . . We never went on a raid where we got the right house, much less the right person. Not once!

[Hart Viges, 82nd Airborne, www.ivaw.org.]

I would probably not let myself cry so much if my partner, Becky, was home. Ironically, she is in Viet Nam on a humanitarian project that addresses some of the damage we caused in that war forty years ago. If she heard me, she would want to soothe me, but I don’t need or want to be soothed. Though the words of these soldiers shake me, their testimony indicates the power of transformation. It reveals the presence of soul, that indispensable characteristic of the human condition that is so often submerged under the pressure to conform and obey authority.

I joined the military after September 11, 2001, out of a desire to protect our country. I believed the President and members of his cabinet when they claimed that Saddam Hussein posed a serious threat to the United States, and then was shocked to learn that Congress, the American public, and the international community had to one degree or another been deceived or frightened into supporting the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

[Thomas J. Buonomo, 2nd Lieutenant, U.S. Army, www.ivaw.org.]

I was once a young man, very much like the young men and women who have gone to Iraq. I grew up believing in the red, white, and blue. I believed that the United States had a sacred mission to spread democracy around the world. Viet Nam was my generation’s war. I did not volunteer, but when I was drafted, I answered the call. It was in Viet Nam that my journey toward a different kind of knowledge began.

I did not become a full-fledged activist after I returned from Viet Nam. Instead, I resumed law school. I believed, like most people, that Viet Nam had just been a terrible mistake. Like many vets, my brain could not process the horrors I had seen there, and so for many years I had no visceral recollection of the worst of the atrocities I witnessed. I believed, as so many people now believe, that if we just had better politicians, or better laws, we would never have to fight a war like Viet Nam again.

I spent a decade after Viet Nam struggling against a prison system that locked up impoverished Black men for long years while it gave shorter sentences to White men. I spent years lobbying Congress for prison reforms, only to see that our legal system almost always worked in favor of those protected by privilege even at the expense of human rights. Finally one day, when I was working in one of those prisons, I experienced a flashback that revealed the true horror of the war I had been a participant in. Everything clicked into place.

Viet Nam was not a mistake any more than the Iraq War is a mistake. There neither was nor is anything different about these wars. They are part of a pattern of brutality written into our country’s DNA. Since the first European settlers raped, pillaged, and massacred the local Indian populations in order to claim the land for themselves, we in the United States have felt it our manifest destiny as exceptional people to gain ever more material goods, even at the expense of anyone and everyone else, and the earth. We continue to treat others as inferiors.

I was dismayed at the way we were treating the Iraqis that we were there to liberate. Though our rhetoric spoke of freedom and liberation, our actions spoke only of self-preservation.

[Ronn Cantu, Sergeant, U.S. Army, www.ivaw.org.]

For over four hundred years, the United States has expanded, first filling this continent, and then taking its empire overseas to the Philippines, Cuba, Haiti, Korea, Viet Nam, Nicaragua, Iraq, ad nauseum. As I tried to understand why I had gone to war in Viet Nam, I began to journey around the world, witnessing the impact of both overt and covert U.S. intervention in nations such as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Palestine, Iraq, Korea, and elsewhere.

After spending significant time in Nicaragua, I realized that a whole different way of life was possible than the one into which I had been born. We didn’t have to spend all of our time getting more and more. Life was actually fuller and richer when lived simpler and slower. The campesinos (farmers) in Nicaragua were poor—unfairly poor—but their goal in life was not to become rich. Though there were always exceptions, for most campesinos, community and extended family were more important than individual wealth. Preserving their dignity was more important to them than living a long life.

I believed, during these years, that if I could explain how the United States was forcing its way of life on people who didn’t want it, if I could prove the harm that U.S. bombs and economic policies were doing to people who didn’t want our “help,” that I could convince the people of the United States to change government policy. I used all my legal training in this project: on these trips, I took detailed notes, wrote reports for a variety of non-governmental agencies, and checked my facts.

After each trip, I brought that information home, marched in protests, lobbied Congress, and spoke out at churches and universities. When those approaches didn’t work, I helped organize the Veterans Fast for Life on the steps of the Capitol. Nothing, however, seemed to stop the behemoth of U.S. intervention as it sought continued prosperity through domination. Finally, we decided to go directly to the source of Nicaraguan suffering—the Concord Naval Weapons Station that shipped U.S. arms to the Contras of Nicaragua by way of El Salvador.

On September 1, 1987, at a well-planned and -publicized nonviolent action conducted on railroad tracks crossing public land between two sections of the naval base, I was run over by a munitions train. In one instant, I experienced, in my own body, the brute force of U.S. power that so many poverty-stricken villagers feel every day around the world. I survived, but my legs were taken from me. Since then, I’ve been walking on Third World Legs.

My body healed long ago, but that does not mean my healing has ended. My journey continues. I realize now that the U.S. engine of prosperity cannot be stopped until we change our very way of life. Each one of us must choose between an American Way Of Life that values selfish material prosperity and a way of life that values our collective humanity.

We don’t have much time to choose wisely. Today, our national addiction to material comfort is so grotesque that, though we comprise only 4.6 percent of the world’s population, we consume anywhere from 25 percent to nearly half of the world’s resources. Our sky is filled with pollutants, our seas with plastics, our lands covered with pools of toxic waste. In our desperate desire for more, we are now waging war on our own home, the earth itself. The drive to consume, consume, consume is literally consuming our hospitable planet.

I no longer travel the world. I don’t want to use the fuel or pollute the skies. But my journey continues. This book is my witness to the wars we have fought against others, and that we are now inflicting upon ourselves. There is no escaping the consequences:

See, you can’t wash your hands when they’re covered in blood. The wounds carry on. This is what war does to your soul, to your humanity, to your family.

[Iraq veteran Hart Viges, The Independent UK, September 24, 2005.]

All of us are covered in the blood of war through our complicity with the American Way Of Life. The deep understanding we must find is that this blood is our own, not just that of others. This book chronicles my journey toward that understanding. I walk with the millions of people around the world who are on similar journeys.

(read other personal transformations)

Chris Hedges

Christopher Lynn Hedges (born September 18, 1956)

Like Ann Wright, Chris Hedges is at nearly every event that I attend and 100 times more. I first met Chris in April 2012 in Washington D.C. where he co-hosted a speaking event with Ralph Nader. A year or two later I joined Paul Appell to hike Mt. Washington with Chris, his son Thomas, Zuade Kaufman (Truthdig publisher) and several others. We discussed three of his recent books in the evenings. I have ten of Chris’s books and regularly read his online articles.

Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries during his work for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Chris was an early critic of the Iraq War. In May 2003, Chris delivered a commencement address at Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois, saying: “We are embarking on an occupation that, if history is any guide, will be as damaging to our souls as it will be to our prestige and power and security.” His speech was received with boos and his microphone was shut off three minutes after he began speaking. He left the Times after receiving a formal reprimand from the newspaper for publicly denouncing the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq.


Bio from Truthdig

Chris Hedges is a Truthdig columnist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a New York Times best-selling author, a professor in the college degree program offered to New Jersey state prisoners by Rutgers University, and an ordained Presbyterian minister. He has written 12 books, including the New York Times best-seller “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” (2012), which he co-authored with the cartoonist Joe Sacco. His other books include “Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt,” (2015) “Death of the Liberal Class” (2010), “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009), “I Don’t Believe in Atheists” (2008) and the best-selling “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” (2008). His latest book is “America: The Farewell Tour” (2018). His book “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and has sold over 400,000 copies. He writes a weekly column for the website Truthdig and hosts a show, “On Contact,” on RT America.

Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries during his work for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Hedges was part of a New York Times team of reporters awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for coverage of global terrorism. He also received the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism in 2002.

Hedges speaks Arabic, French and Spanish and studied classics, including ancient Greek and Latin, at Harvard University.

Hedges has taught at Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University and the University of Toronto. He currently teaches a class through Princeton University at a state prison in New Jersey in which half of the students are Princeton undergraduates and half are prisoners.

Hedges began his career reporting on the Falklands War from Argentina for National Public Radio. He went on to cover the wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua for five years, first for The Christian Science Monitor and National Public Radio and later The Dallas Morning News. After six years in Latin America, he took time off to study Arabic. He spent seven years in the Middle East, most of them as the bureau chief for The New York Times. He left the Middle East in 1995 for Sarajevo to cover the war in Bosnia and later reported the war in Kosovo. Afterward, he was based in Paris as part of the team covering al-Qaida and global terrorism. He left the Times after receiving a formal reprimand from the newspaper for publicly denouncing the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq.

In 2012, Hedges successfully sued President Barack Obama over Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which overturned the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act along with its prohibitions against the military acting as a domestic police force. (Section 1021 gives the military the authority to indefinitely detain and deny due process to U.S. citizens who are branded as terrorists by the state.) The decision was overturned on appeal by the Obama administration. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the ruling, known as Hedges v. Obama, in 2014.

Hedges holds a B.A. in English literature from Colgate University and a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University. He spent a year studying classics at Harvard as a Nieman Fellow. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, Calif. In 2014 he was ordained as a minister for social witness in a ceremony at the Second Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth, N.J. The theologian James Cone, the father of Black Liberation Theology, preached the sermon along with Cornel West. The ordination was approved for his work in New Jersey prisons, where Hedges has taught college credit courses for nearly a decade.

Hedges, who was born in St. Johnsbury, Vt., and grew up in a small farm town in upstate New York where his father served as a Presbyterian minister, lives in Princeton, N.J. He is married to the Canadian actress Eunice Wong, with whom he has two children. He has two children from a previous marriage

(read other personal transformations)