Saturday, December 31, 2011

Iraq War Debacle

A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction of 2011 title

From a State Department insider, the first account of our blundering efforts to rebuild Iraq—a shocking and rollicking true-life tale of Americans abroad
Charged with rebuilding Iraq, would you spend taxpayer money on a sports mural in Baghdad's most dangerous neighborhood to promote reconciliation through art? How about an isolated milk factory that cannot get its milk to market? Or a pastry class training women to open cafés on bombed-out streets without water or electricity?
According to Peter Van Buren, we bought all these projects and more in the most expensive hearts-and-minds campaign since the Marshall Plan. We Meant Well is his eyewitness account of the civilian side of the surge—that surreal and bollixed attempt to defeat terrorism and win over Iraqis by reconstructing the world we had just destroyed. Leading a State Department Provincial Reconstruction Team on its quixotic mission, Van Buren details, with laser-like irony, his yearlong encounter with pointless projects, bureaucratic fumbling, overwhelmed soldiers, and oblivious administrators secluded in the world's largest embassy, who fail to realize that you can't rebuild a country without first picking up the trash.
Darkly funny while deadly serious, We Meant Well is a tragicomic voyage of ineptitude and corruption that leaves its writer—and readers—appalled and disillusioned but wiser.

We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People by Peter Van Buren
Visit the American Empire Project website

Friday, December 30, 2011

US Wars Kill Women and Chidren

Whatever Happened to Women and Children First?November 4, 2011 at 7:06 pm by

Absence, by Jane Norling, from Windows and Mirrors of Afghanistan
By Johnny Barber
“All wars, whether just or unjust, disastrous or victorious, are waged against the child.” Eglantyne Jebb, founder of Save the Children, 1919.
In Kabul, the children are everywhere. You see them scrounging through trash. You see them doing manual labor in the auto body shops, the butchers, and the construction sites. They carry teapots and glasses from shop to shop. You see them moving through the snarled traffic swirling small pots of pungent incense, warding off evil spirits and trying to collect small change. They can be found sleeping in doorways or in the rubble of destroyed buildings. It is estimated that 70,000 children live on the streets of Kabul.
The big news story on CNN this morning [October 16, 2011] is the excitement generated as hundreds of people line up to buy the newest iphone. I can’t stop thinking of the children sitting in the dirt of the refugee camp, or running down the path pushing old bicycle tires, or the young boy sitting next to his overflowing sacks of collected detritus. He has a deep infection on the corner of his mouth that looks terribly infected. These images contrast with an image of an old grandfather, dressed in a spotless all white shalwar kameez squatting on the sidewalk outside a huge iron gate, embracing his beautiful young grand daughter in a huge hug, each smiling broadly, one of the few moments of joy I have witnessed on the streets of Kabul.
In Afghanistan, one in five children die before their 5th birthday, (41% of the deaths occur in the first month of life). For the children who make it past the first month, many perish due to preventable and highly treatable conditions including diarrhea and pneumonia. Malnourishment affects 39% of the children, compared to 25% at the start of the U.S. invasion. 52% don’t have access to clean water. 94% of births are not registered. The children are afforded very little legal protection, especially girls, who are stilled banned from schools in many regions, used as collateral to settle debts, and married through arranged marriages as young as 10 years old. Though not currently an issue, HIV/AIDS looms as a catastrophic possibility as drug addiction increases significantly, even among women and children. Only 16% of women use modern contraception, and children on the streets are vulnerable to sexual exploitation. This is why the “State of the World’s Mothers” report issued in May 2011 by Save the Children ranked Afghanistan last, with only Somalia providing worse outcomes for their children.
Retired Army Col. John Agoglia said, “A key to America’s long-term national security and one of the best ways for our nation to make friends around the world is by promoting the health of women and children in fragile and emerging nations”–in Afghanistan, this strategy is failing. Not a single public hospital has been built since the invasion. It is not an impossibility; it is a matter of will. Emergency, an Italian NGO, runs 3 hospitals and 30 clinics throughout Afghanistan on a budget of 7 million dollars per year. This is ISAF’s (NATO’s International Security Assistance Force) monthly budget for air-conditioning.
Polls have consistently shown that over 90 percent of Americans believe saving children should be a national priority. Children comprise 65% of the Afghan population. Afghanistan was named the worst place on earth to be a child. In Afghanistan children have been sacrificed by the United States, collateral damage in our “war on terror”.
The mothers of these at risk children are not faring any better. Most are illiterate. Most are chronically malnourished. 1 woman in 11 dies in pregnancy or childbirth, this compares to 1 in 2,100 in the US (the highest of any industrialized nation). In Italy and Ireland, the risk of maternal death is less than 1 in 15,000 and in Greece it’s 1 in 31,800. Skilled health professionals attend only 14% of childbirths. A woman’s life expectancy is barely 45 years of age.
Women are still viewed as property. A law has been passed by the Karzai regime that legalizes marital rape, and requires a woman to get the permission of her husband to leave the house. Domestic violence is a chronic problem. A women who runs away from home (even if escaping violence) is imprisoned. Upon completion of her sentence she is returned to the husband. Self-immolation is still common as desperate women try to get out of impossible situations.
Shortly after the U.S. invasion, Laura Bush said, “The plight of women and children in Afghanistan is a matter of deliberate human cruelty, carried out by those who seek to intimidate and control.” President Bush said, “Our coalition has liberated Afghanistan and restored fundamental human rights and freedoms to Afghan women, and all the people of Afghanistan.” Actually, the former warlords responsible for the destruction, pillage, and rape of Afghanistan were ushered back into power  by the United States. In 2007, these very same warlords, now Parliamentarians, passed a bill that granted amnesty for any killings during the civil war. A local journalist said, “The killers are the ones holding the pens, writing the law and continuing their crimes.”
When Malalai Joya addressed the Peace Loya Jirga convened in December, 2003, she boldly asked, “Why are we allowing criminals to be present here?” She was thrown out of the assembly. Undeterred, she ran for Parliament, winning in a landslide. She began her maiden speech in Parliament by saying, “My condolences to the people of Afghanistan…” As she continued speaking, the warlord sitting behind her threatened to rape and kill her. The MP’s voted her out of Parliament and Karzai upheld her ouster. In hiding, she continues to champion women’s rights. She has stated that the only people who can liberate Afghan women are the women themselves. When we spoke briefly to her by phone, she stated that she was surprised to still be alive, and needed to cancel our meeting, as it was too dangerous in the current security situation. The Red Cross states that the security situation is the worst it has been in 30 years.
In America, as our total defense budget balloons to 667 billion dollars per year, women and children are faring worse as well. In the “State of the World’s Mothers” report, America has dropped from 11th in 2003 to 31st of the developed countries today. We currently rank behind such luminaries as Estonia, Croatia, and Slovakia. We fall even farther in regards to our children, going from the 4th ranked country to the 34th. Poverty is on the increase with an estimated 1 child in 5 living in poverty. More than 20 million children rely on school lunch programs to keep from going hungry. The number of people living in poverty in America has grown by 2.6 million in just the last 12 months.
Dear reader, I hesitate to bother you with so many statistics, I eliminated the pie charts and graphs, and this report is still dull. After all, the new iphone has Siri, a personal assistant that understands you when you speak. You can verbally instruct it to send a text message, and it does! Now that’s excitement! CNN states there is no need to panic; the Atlanta store has plenty of phones to fill the demand.
Looking only at numbers it is easy to avoid the truth of the enormous amount of human suffering they envelop. Drive through the streets of any American city and these statistics come alive in the swollen ranks of the homeless. Drive through the streets of Kabul and these statistics come alive in the forms of hungry children begging for change.
It is difficult to ascertain what benefit America is deriving from our continued military presence in Afghanistan, though exploitation of natural resources certainly plays a role. Hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent in a military strategy that is failing by all indicators. Yet the politicians in this country continue to back this strategy. Arms dealers and contractors, like G.E. and Boeing, all with lobbyists on Capitol Hill, continue to reap big financial rewards and in turn reward politicians with financial support. Our politicians claim to be “tough on terror” and profess we are “winning”. But by what measure do they ascertain this? The only Afghan people benefiting from our presence are the people supporting the occupation forces, the warlords, and the drug lords. As the poppy fields produce record yields “poppy palaces” are springing up all over Kabul, ostentatious signs that someone is benefiting from our interference.
One measure to judge the success of a nation is its ability to protect its most vulnerable populations. America is not succeeding. The plight of women and children in Afghanistan is still a matter of deliberate human cruelty, carried out by those who seek to intimidate and control. When will our politicians hear the desperate cry of the street children of Afghanistan, who, with all the incense in the world, simply can’t ward off the evil of our occupation?
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Posted in Afghan Peace negotiations, Afghan women, Afghanistan, Cost of war, Women's issues, children's issues, human rights, maternal health and reproductive rights | 3 Comments

We Have Outlawed War

comments_image 32 COMMENTS

When the World Outlawed War: An Interview with David Swanson

For those who know war only through television, criminalizing it sounds like proposing to criminalize government. But there was a time when the masses made war illegal.
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 David Swanson’s recently released book, When the World Outlawed War, tells the story of how the highly energized peace movement in the 1920s, supported by an overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens from every level of society, was able to push politicians into something quite remarkable—the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy. The 1920s “War Outlawry” movement in the United States was so popular that most politicians could not afford to oppose it.  
David Swanson, since serving as press secretary in Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign, has emerged as one of the leading anti-war activists in the United States. While Swanson has fought against the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and tried to alert Americans to the fact that U.S. military spending is the source of most of our economic problems, his anti-war activism goes much deeper. He wants to stigmatize militarist politicians as criminals. In his previous book War is a Lie, Swanson made the case for the abolition of war as an instrument of national policy, and When the World Outlawed War provides an historical example of just how powerful war abolitionism can be. 
Bruce Levine: At a college lecture that you recently gave, you asked the students and professors if they believed war was illegal or if they had ever heard of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and only about 2 or 3 percent of a large group raised their hands. But what really seems to have disturbed you is when you asked if war should be illegal, and only 5 percent thought that it should be.  
David Swanson: Well, both responses bothered me somewhat, but only one surprised me at all, and only one offended me. I knew people in the United States did not believe war was illegal. I knew that only the most serious peace activists had heard of the Kellogg-Briand Pact and that even they didn’t recognize its value, including the degree to which it is stronger than the U.N. Charter in its prohibition of all wars, not just certain kinds of wars. 
But why wouldn’t people want war to be made illegal? To my ear that sounds like not wanting slavery or rape or torture to be illegal. And I’m still in the camp that considers torture irredeemably evil, by the way. At the end of the 19th century, when the United States snatched up Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam, Panama, etc., there was a popular love for war in the air. At the end of World War I, war was widely viewed as an evil disease to be eradicated. From World War II forward to today there has been an ever increasing tendency to view war as ordinary, necessary, and patriotic—if not a war in Vietnam or Iraq, then certainly some other war. 
For war’s victims and most of its participants it always turns out to be the horror it appeared in 1918. But for those who know war only through U.S. television, the idea of criminalizing it sounds almost like proposing to criminalize government. That state of affairs is what I find disturbing, the realization of how normal it is to think of government as essentially responsible for large-scale killing. This is miles away from Warren Harding’s return to “normalcy” after World War I. Since World War II we have never returned to normalcy. 
BL: People have a difficult enough time today believing that they have enough power to stop a single senseless war. Did the peace movement in the 1920s really believe they could abolish war? 
DS: The thinking of the peace movement of the 1920s comes out of a different world, and getting back into it may be difficult for a lot of people. One doorway in, I am hoping, is through realization that a law still on the books outlaws war. While banning war may be unimaginable, war is in fact already banned. Every war since 1929 has been illegal. Every act of war has been illegal. 

Ending Poverty, Hunger, and Wars

How you can help end poverty and war with Food Not Bombs

Our new book about Food Not Bombs written, designed and illustrated by Food Not Bombs cofounder Keith McHenry

Food Not Bombs has proven to be an effective project for social change. Hungry For Peace passionately makes the case that we should take action to end hunger, poverty and war providing shocking evidence that our future is in peril if we sit by and do nothing. This book will motivate you to take acting and provides hope. This new 180 page Food Not Bombs handbook with 120 photos and illustrations, vegan recipes to provide meals for groups of 100 and families of 6 people with metric and U.S. measurements, the 30 year history of the movement and logistics on how to start a local Food Not Bombs group, how to prepare meals for hundreds, how to organize meetings, tours, gatherings and successful campaigns of nonviolent direct action. This 8 1/2 by 11 inch book also provides flyers you can reprint, the time line of major events in the history of the movement and many other useful details to help change society. This book will help you and your friends do your part to participate in the global uprising.


"I wanted to write and express my sincere thanks for sending me the new Food Not Bombs book. It 's beautifully written and was a great inspiration to me. There aren't many books that made me cry and be encouraged at the same time. Ironically, as I was reading I was also watching the police tear down the kitchen at Occupy Denver."
Hillary, Boulder Colorado

"Sharing food is a basic human function, and peace is humankind's highest aspiration. Food Not Bombs brings both of these together in a powerful way, providing a recipe not only for great vegan meals but for creating a better world right here and now. This book will serve you well! "
Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D. Graduate Chair of Humanities Prescott College Executive Director, Peace & Justice Studies Association

Please consider helping build the Food Not Bombs Movement by placing a display ad in your newsletter, zine or on your website or blog. (Email us if you need help.)

PAPER BACK out this Fall - ISBN 978-1-937276-06-5 - Price $18.95 per copy.


Our first book helped hundreds of people start local Food Not Bombs groups and introduced thousands of others to the movement for to social change. With the addition information in our new book we expect to encourage another wave of interest. We sold 10,000 copies of "Food Not Bombs, How to Feed The Hungry and Build Community " and we were down to the last 100 books realized we need to write a new edition to make it current. So many things have changed since 1992 when the first editon of "Food Not Bombs, How to Feed The Hungry and Build Community "was published. This new book includes over 100 diagrams and photos, outlines how you can recover, prepare and share vegan meals with the hungry. Our details on how to start a local group now include the use of the web, email and other technologies not available in 1992. We also added recipes for 6 people along with our tasty recipes for 100 and also include metric measurements to make the book universal. Instead of a focus on American law as we did in the 1992 book we are including information about possible legal issues in countries all over world based on Keith's experience cooking and sharing meals with Food Not Bombs groups during his travels. We also include a history of the first 30 years of Food Not Bombs. There are many flyers and forms you can reprint to help your Food Not Bombs group be as effective as possible.

" Food Not Bombs is a glistening, beautiful arrow pointing us toward another way, rooted in belief that we are all part of one another and that we actually can feed a hungry world while helping our planet survivee. Simplicity, service, sharing and sturdy nonviolent resistance to war and weapons are among the ingredients that guide adherents to one of the finest movements of our time. I 'm delighted that Keith McHenry 's book, Hungry for Peace, will help usher us toward sanity and real security."
Kathy Kelly co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence

"Over and over, we hear the refrain: 'The problems are so big. How can I make a difference?' Keith McHenry and Food Not Bombs answer this question every single day, in words and actions. Face to face with those in need and in the face of those who oppress, McHenry and FNB have blazed a path for 21st century direct action. Their work is based on a truly holistic activist perspective - linking and defying all forms of violence and subjugation. The next time someone asks you what they can do, you might wanna give them a copy of Keith's book 'Hungry For Peace' and start taking action yourself."
Mickey Z., author of "Darker Shade of Green" (Raw Dog Screaming Press)

"The beauty and power of Food Not Bombs is that while serving food is meeting a community need, it is also building community. It is no coincidence that Food Not Bombs has become a mainstay within countless social movements around the world. From street corners to punk houses to mass protests, the humility and compassion shown by giving free food, and helping one another, is inspirational. In 'Hungry for Peace,' Keith McHenry charts the history and vision of Food Not Bombs while also providing the tools needed to get out and--without bosses, leaders or approval - do it yourself."
Will Potter, author of Green Is the New Red: An Insider's Account of a Social Movement Under Siege

"I have worked with Keith and the wonderful people of Food Not Bombs all over the country - the organization is a courageous model for grassroots organizing for effective and positive change. I honor the work and recommend this book!"
Cindy Sheehan - Gold Star Families for Peace and Founder of Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas


The first book, "Food Not Bombs, How to Feed The Hungry and Build Community " is out of print. Please make a contribution to help us distribute our new book to people interested in starting a local Food Not Bombs group. We will be publishing the first edition of "HUNGRY FOR PEACE- How you can help end poverty and war with Food Not Bombs." soon.


Occupy Wall Street Library Reportedly Thrown Away By NYPD

The idea of occupations are explained on Page 86 of Hungry for Peace and included in a number of places in the history section starting on page 103 about the 1989 Tent City Protests in San Francisco and New York City. Copies of Keith McHenry's first book "Food Not Bombs, How to Feed The Hungry and Build Community " were also among the books destroyed.

Taos author"s new book focuses on feeding the hungry - By Ariana Kramer of the Taos News December 10, 2011

"it will be a great day when our schools get the money they need & the air force
has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber."

The poster that inspired the founding of Food Not Bombs.

Food Not Bombs
P.O. Box 424, Arroyo Seco, NM 87514 USA

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Guantanamo Newsletter #3: Protest on Anniversary January 11

OMNI GUANTANAMO NEWSLETTER #3, Compiled by Dick Bennett, for a Culture of Peace.   Guantanamo: A Disaster of the War on Terror and the US Culture of War.  (#1 March 3, 2011; #2 Dec. 11, 2011)
Here is the link to all OMNI newsletters:

Contents of #1 March 3, 2011
Film: Worthington, Stories from Guantanamo
Books: Kurnaz; Mayer; Worthington
Transferring Prisoners for Trial
CCR Close Guantanamo Statement
Return Guantanamo to Cuba
No End Soon
Investigative Reporters: Andy Worthington, Carol Rosenberg
Chinese Torture Techniques
Violation of Due Process
Wendell Griffin on Habeas Corpus

Contents of #2 Dec. 11, 2011
WikiLeaks on Guantanamo
NYT Criticism
False Imprisonment
Awal Gul, 7th to Die
Close Guantanamo Statement
Witness Against Torture
What Obama Should Have Said and Done
Books: Hansen, Guantanamo; Smith, Eight O’Clock Ferry

Contents of #3


Witness Against Torture and Catholic Worker:   January 11, 2012

Witness Against Torture and War Resisters League

US Terrorism Prison Complex

JANUARY 11 IS THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ESTABLISHMENT OF GUANTANAMO BAY PRISON for U.S. ILLEGALLY IMPRISONED AND TORTURED “DETAINEES” FROM AROUND THE WORLD.  A coalition of groups including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the Catholic Worker, and War Resisters League are planning events.  Contact;;

The Oct.-Nov. 2011 no. of THE CATHOLIC WORKER announced:
TEN YEARS TOO MANY: NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION TO SHUT DOWN GUANTANAMO AND END TORTURE.   In D. C. a human chain representing the people still detained without charge or fair trial at Guantanamo and Bagram to stretch from the White House to the Capitol.    For more info. read the article in the above no. of CW or visit the website or write to Witness Against Torture care of Catholic Worker,
55 E. 3rd St.
, NY, N 10003.


10 Years of detention and torture: Witness Against Torture January actions .    January 2-12 Witness Against Torture will spend two weeks in Washington D.C. leading up to the 10 year commemoration of the Guantanamo prison and along with it a system of indefinite detention and torture that  targets Arab, South Asian, and Muslim men and necessitates the spread of  rampant Islamophobia that we have seen escalating over the last decade. January 3rd marks the beginning of a jury trial of 14 WAT activists who disrupted a session of Congress to demand that they stop permanent funding for Guantanamo prison. On January 11th, the date that marks 10 years of detention and torture at Guantanamo Bay, activists will gather for a demonstration against U.S. detention policies and form a human chain from the White House to Congress. Sign-up to join the protests and/or the fast that begins on January 2nd at

 Beyond Guantanamo, a Web of US Prisons for Terrorism Inmates “

 Scott Shane, The New York Times, Dec. 1, 2011, RSN

The report begins: "It is the other Guantanamo, an archipelago of federal prisons that stretches across the country, hidden away on back roads. Today, it houses far more men convicted in terrorism cases than the shrunken population of the prison in Cuba that has generated so much debate. An aggressive prosecution strategy, aimed at prevention as much as punishment, has sent away scores of people. They serve long sentences, often in restrictive, Muslim-majority units, under intensive monitoring by prison officers. Their world is spare."



Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Killing in US Wars Newsletter #2

OMNI NEWSLETTER ON KILLING #2, December 28, 2011.  For a Culture of Peace, Compiled by Dick Bennett

Here is the link to all OMNI newsletters:

See related newsletters: Vietnam War, Iraq War, Afghanistan/Pakistan, War on Terror, Wars’ Consequences, and more.

Those who do not make human beings the center of their concern soon lose the capacity to make any ethical choices, for they willingly sacrifice others in the name of the politically expedient and practical. Dwight Macdonald wrote in “The Root Is Man,”

Contents of #1
Trained to Kill
Dick on New Book Against Killing
Misc. Books on Killing in War
Killing Animals
Myths Justifying US Wars : Wood, Buccheit, Swanson

Contents of #2 Killing in Wars
Dick Bennett: Reporting Deaths of Civilians
NATO Planes Strike Civilians
David Smith, Ethnocentricism and Dehumanization
John Tirman, Mass Murder by US Empire and Public Indifference
Hedges and al Arian, Killing Civilians in Iraq
Rubenstein, Choosing and Ending War USA
Ending Killing, Show It: Friedrich’s Photographs WWI
Greg Harton, Graphic Images Stop Smoking


Northwest Arkansas Times
Dear Editor:

     We can thank the Northwest Arkansas Times and its sister newspapers for printing the names of our soldiers killed in our present wars.  Many have been killed, inevitably: the Afghan and Iraq wars are longer than WWI and WWII.  The dead deserve remembrance, even those who enlisted to fight; and disclosure is the business of a newspaper.
      But their number is small compared to the number of civilians killed.   During the twentieth century, wars killed more and more civilians, from the one-to-nine ratio of civilian-to-soldier mortality in WWI to nine-to-one in many of the conflicts occurring after the Cold War.  For its toll on civilians in war, it’s called the gruesome century, or the century of slaughter.
       This reality makes me reflect on the immense disproportion of our newspapers’ reporting of combatant and civilian deaths:   every US soldier identified; zero civilians.   Even the pressures of patriotism and ethnocentrism combined seem inadequate to explain such extremely distorted reporting. 
         Do the editors believe their readers so undiscerning they cannot perceive the disparity, or so unfeeling they do not care?   Do they think we have abandoned to xenophobia our lifetime commitment to protecting women, children, the elderly, or that we think only our vulnerable deserve sympathy?   Do they think we have no concern for the blood spilled by the populations in our wars, or we are indifferent to the human costs of wars?
         If they do, they blunder, for many of us can imagine the deaths of other nations’ innocents, and each attempt to erase them only diminishes for us the credibility and authority of the newspapers.

New York Times: Errant NATO Airstrikes in Libya: 13 Cases
A multimedia presentation of the New York Times' investigation into civilian casualties in Libya caused by NATO airstrikes.


Book by David L. Smith, Less Than Human

“A Philosophy of Genocide’s Roots”

Review By DAVID BERREBY,    The New York Times, : March 4, 2011
Consider, as Americans are so wont to do these days, the zombie. Once, he was a person, just like you or me, but then he changed. Now, despite his outward resemblance to a human being, he is a different thing altogether. He cannot disguise himself. He cannot change back. Another minus: He yearns to sink his zombie-plague-spreading teeth into your brain.
Illustration by Jennifer Daniel
Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
By David Livingstone Smith  326 pp. St. Martin’s Press. $24.99.
Excerpt: ‘Less Than Human’ (
But no cloud lacks a silver lining: He is a convenient image for people you despise — as in the Tucson gunman Jared Loughner’s “zombie grin,” as in the “zombie children” whom Amy Chua’s “Tiger Mother” philosophy supposedly produces, as in the “climate zombies,” right-wingers who question the science of global warming. In “Less Than Human,” the philosopher David Livingstone Smith explains why this sort of talk is not superficial metaphor-slinging. Dehumanization — representing people to be lesser, non­human creatures, as when police officers label crimes against criminals as “N.H.I.” (“No Humans Involved”), or when Muammar el-Qaddafi calls his critics “stray dogs” — isn’t just shabby rhetoric. Dehumanization is a mind-set, as Smith writes, that “decommissions” our “moral inhibitions” about mistreating fellow human beings. Encased in law and custom, this psychological process has often licensed slavery, genocide and countless other cruelties.
And it is, Smith writes in this stalwart attempt to tame the mystery with philosophy, a moral and cognitive problem as old as history. He quotes Amenemhet, a pharaoh who ruled nearly 4,000 years ago, describing his conquests: “I subdued lions, I captured crocodiles. . . . I made the Asiatics do the dog walk.” Slave­holders from ancient Greece to 19th-century America spoke of their human property as livestock, Smith reminds us. George Washington wrote in a letter that both wolves and Indians were “beasts of prey, tho’ they differ in shape.” Nazis described the Jews as germs, rats and leeches, and Stalin’s murderers called kulaks (affluent peasant farmers) snakes and vermin. The Tutsis during Rwanda’s genocide were referred to as cockroaches and rats, and the janjaweed of Sudan called the victims of their massacres dogs, donkeys and monkeys.
From that record, Smith reasonably argues that dehumanization is rooted in human nature, not culture. He offers a rigorous philosophical theory to explain it, informed by his discipline’s precision, and by certain well-founded suppositions about the mind. That makes for an interesting and unusually lucid book about an under-studied subject. It also makes for a theory that doesn’t work.
Dehumanization is possible, Smith argues, because of “our cognitive architecture — the evolved design of the human psyche.” Our innate predispositions incline us to divide living things into species, he argues, and, with the same mental equipment, to divide humans into ethnic groups. And just as we do not believe that superficial resemblance means bats and birds belong together, neither do we trust that surface appearances determine who belongs where on the ethnic map.  [ETHNOCENTRISM--D]
In other words, in Smith’s account of the research, we are — for better or more often for worse — predisposed to believe that racial or ethnic identity is immutable. That’s because our instincts tell us it is based on an unchanging “essence” at each person’s core, rather than on changeable appearances. Philosophical experiments have shown, for example, that while most people feel sure that a 98-pound weakling can become a strongman, they also intuit that a black person can’t become white, no matter what physical characteristics he changes.
Smith clearly explains why many cognitive scientists believe this tendency is innate and then links it to another predisposition that seems “built in” to the human mind: our inclination to see living things in hierarchies, as in the “great chain of being” of medieval European Christians, with God at its perfect top, human beings above “higher” animals, and so on down to worms and plants. Because we feel that living things are defined by their essence, and because we feel that each creature has its rank in the world, Smith argues, dehumanization comes easily to the human mind: we accept that someone can look human but have a sub­human essence, and we accept that what is not human must be inferior. “When we dehumanize people,” he writes, “we think of them as counterfeit human beings.”
Bringing philosophy to bear on this issue has its benefits, even if philosophy’s methods — the strict definitions of concepts, the search for inconsistencies, the application of logic to language — don’t seem an easy fit with kulak parasites and Tutsi cockroaches. “Although searching for the necessary and sufficient conditions that define everyday concepts is ultimately quixotic,” Smith argues, “it’s still a worthwhile ideal, because the closer we can come to them the more precise and nuanced our understanding will become.”
This is true, but this approach also has a flaw: it assumes people’s thoughts and behaviors are consistent and coherent enough for rigorous analysis. Smith’s ethnic “essences” are those of a philosopher — they’re based on logical definitions (this is human, that is not) and, being eternal essences, they’re forever. “Subhumanity,” he writes, “is typically thought to be a permanent condition. Subhumans can’t become humans any more than frogs can become princes.”
These requirements leave much of the reality of dehumanization outside Smith’s tent. For example, he writes of the immense guilt of soldiers who have dehumanized their enemy in combat, but then, back in peacetime, recognize their victims as actual people, just like the folks at home. Shrewdly, he notes how military training and rituals aim to undermine this feeling that the enemy is human. But he seems not to recognize that this sort of soldier — who sees his enemy as human, then subhuman, then human again — cannot exist if dehumanization depends on a stable belief in permanent essences.
Similarly, in Smith’s account of slavery, the ancient Romans viewed their slaves as nonhuman frogs that could never turn into human princes. But for centuries, Romans were accustomed to former slaves re-entering society and rising to responsible and even powerful positions.
Then too, because essences must be consistent and well defined, Smith is forced to claim that all dehumanization makes its targets seem, as his title says, “less than human.” But many forms of dehumanization work by making their targets out to be more than human — to be ageless vampires, for instance, or world-spanning conspirators who control the United Nations and the Federal Reserve.
All these troubles arise because Smith’s insistence on immutable essences is only half right: people do categorize themselves and others using essences, but there’s nothing immutable about them. If, like trained philosophers, we could settle for good who is essentially human and who is a zombie vampire squid, we wouldn’t have, or need, this drama of dehumanization, rehumanization, then more dehumanization, and so on. Instead, the who-is-and-isn’t-human question is never truly settled. In fact, it is the dynamic, even mercurial nature of “real human” status that makes this mystery of our psychology so fascinating. What Amenemhet wants us to remember isn’t that he thought Asiatics were dogs, but that he made them act like dogs.
“We don’t humiliate vermin,” Adam Gopnik has observed, “or put them through show trials, or make them watch their fellow-vermin die first.” Right: we do that to people. Because we readily see others as human, we need reminding that our enemies are supposedly different. Which often works, because we also readily see others as not human. Smith has explored the nature of those conceptual boxes “human” and “not human.” But what really needs explaining is the constant, restless travel that the mind makes between them.
David Berreby is the author of “Us and Them: The Scince of Identity.” He writes the Mind Matters blog for Big Think.
Also see review by Peter Grosvenor  in The Humanist  (Jan.-Feb. 2012)

[Every page of Tirman’s history of US demeaning, enslaving, and exterminating others in its wars illustrates Smith’s Less Than Human.  D]
The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America's Wars by John Tirman
Jun 2011,  In Stock
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*                               Product Details
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Americans are greatly concerned about the number of our troops killed in battle--100,000 dead in World War I; 300,000 in World War II; 33,000 in the Korean War; 58,000 in Vietnam; 4,500 in Iraq; over 1,000 in Afghanistan--and rightly so. But why are we so indifferent, often oblivious, to the far greater number of casualties suffered by those we fight and those we fight for?

This is the compelling, largely unasked question John Tirman answers in The Deaths of Others. Between six and seven million people died in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq alone, the majority of them civilians. And yet Americans devote little attention to these deaths. Other countries, however, do pay attention, and Tirman argues that if we want to understand why there is so much anti-Americanism around the world, the first place to look is how we conduct war. We understandably strive to protect our own troops, but our rules of engagement with the enemy are another matter. From atomic weapons and carpet bombing in World War II to napalm and daisy cutters in Vietnam and beyond, we have used our weapons intentionally to kill large numbers of civilians and terrorize our adversaries into surrender. Americans, however, are mostly ignorant of these facts, believing that American wars are essentially just, necessary, and "good." Tirman investigates the history of casualties caused by American forces in order to explain why America remains so unpopular and why US armed forces operate the way they do.

Trenchant and passionate, The Deaths of Others forces readers to consider the tragic consequences of American military action not just for Americans, but especially for those we fight.
*                  Passionate and sweeping account of the impact of U.S. wars on America's opponents
*                  Tirman's critical account of the American way of war will be very controversial
*                  Highly readable narrative history that covers all of America's modern wars
"This sad and gripping record of crimes we dare not face, and the probing analysis of the roots of indifference and denial, tell us all too much about ourselves. It should be read, and pondered." -Noam Chomsky
"John Tirman has not only written a profoundly important, revelatory work about something that most people in this country ignore; he has looked deep into our history and the American mind to see why we ignore it. I wish I could give this highly readable book to everyone, from general to private to the civilian bureaucrats who send them off to kill, who shares the illusion that war mainly involves soldiers." -Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars
"The Deaths of Others is an incredibly important venture. I know of no other book that
so comprehensively catalogues the victims of U.S. wars . . . Tirman has given us the definitive study of an extremely important but neglected subject. It a must-read for anyone concerned with the lethal impact of U.S. policy on people in all corners of the world." --The Progressive
"Stunning . . . Tirman lays out his strenuously argued case with considerable cogency . . . Tirman renders us great service by providing a fuller picture of the consequences of war and challenging us not to reject data simply because it is not congruent with our favored worldview . . . If Americans today marshal the resolve to enact workable normas ensuring that our use of drones will always discriminate between civilians and legimate enemy targets, then we will at last be facing up to the crucial moral questions raised in this book."
Product Details
416 pages; none; 6-1/8 x 9-1/4; ISBN13: 978-0-19-538121-4ISBN10: 0-19-538121-1
About the Author(s)
John Tirman is Principal Research Scientist and Executive Director of the Center for International Studies, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His books include Terror, Insurgency, and the State: Ending Protracted Conflicts and 100 Ways America Is Screwing Up the World.

John Tirman, The Deaths of Others
Published by Oxford University Press. Got a very nice review in The Progressive, in their July issue.  The legendary Christopher Lydon interviewed me on his radio show. Listen. A long piece in AlterNet on the media's reaction to civilian casualties. An article in the Boston Globe (August 5).  World Streams Radio did a long interview on August 17. More from MIT, including a video interview.  A videotaped interview on "The Autograph" hosted by Susan Modaress on Sky Cable is here.  Dan Rodricks, who interviewed me on NPR, writes a column for the Baltimore Sun and had an interesting piece on 9/11. Read.
         Wrapping up the Iraq war has occasioned a few other opportunities to discuss, such as this in the very worthwhile Canadian International Council site.
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THE END OF THE AFFAIR. The complete withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq has occasioned very little insightful comment in the major news media. Obama's speech at Fort Bragg was saccharine and unconvincing. Naturally, he did not mention the "sacrifice" -- involuntary sacrifice -- of the Iraqi people. The news media has also ignored the Iraqis. As usual, only Americans count. Now that we're out, which is to say, U.S. soldiers and marines are out, the long and bloody affair will be largely forgotten. One million dead and not a mention of that grisly toll. That's the American way.
       Give Obama some credit for having the chutzpah to depart; he'll take some heat from overheated Republicans, but this was the right thing to do and politically he won't suffer for it. But that's a sideshow. The lack of concern or even acknowledgement about the destruction of Iraq is really breathtaking. It's shameful that Obama can't muster the courage to say a word about this. (Dec. 22)

--Hedges, Chris and Laila Al-Arian.   Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians.  Interview by Amy Goodman.

Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian on "Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians"

In their new book, journalists Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian bring us the voices of fifty American combat veterans of the Iraq War and their understanding of the US occupation and why Iraqis are so opposed to it.
Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Senior Fellow at the Nation Institute. He was the former Middle East Bureau Chief of the New York Times. He is the author of several books, including War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists. His latest book is Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians.
Laila Al-Arian, Freelance journalist who has written for several publications including USA Today, The Nation magazine,, and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. She is the co-author of Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians.

Rush Transcript

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AMY GOODMAN: Thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets of Baghdad to protest a proposed deal that would keep US troops in Iraq for years to come. More than five years after the US invasion, the Bush administration is seeking to complete a deal with the Iraqi government that would allow US forces to remain in Iraq past the UN mandate, which expires this July. Well, a new book by journalists Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian brings us the voices of the fifty American combat vets of the Iraq War and their understanding of the US occupation and why Iraqis are so opposed to it. The book is called Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians. Last July, I interviewed some of the veterans whose stories appear in this book. Staff Sergeant Timothy John Westphal served in Iraq for one year. He recalled a house raid he led in 2004 on the outskirts of Tikrit.
STAFF SGT. TIMOTHY JOHN WESTPHAL: I basically just kicked the clump of people there to wake them up, turned on my flashlight, and all my guys did the same thing. And my light happened to shine right on the face of an old man in his mid-sixties. I found out later he was the patriarch of that family. And as we scanned the cluster of people laying there, we saw two younger military age men, probably in their early twenties. Everybody else — I’d say there were about eight to ten other individuals — were women and children. We come to find out this was just a family. They were sleeping outside.
The terror that I saw on the patriarch’s face, like I said, that really was the turning point for me. I imagined in my mind what he must have been thinking, understanding that he had lived under Saddam’s brutal regime for many years, worried about — you know, hearing stories about Iraqis being carried away in the middle of the night by the Iraqi secret service and so forth, to see all those lights, all those soldiers with guns, all the uniform things that we wear, as far as the helmet, the night vision goggles, very intimidating, very terrifying for the man. He screamed a very guttural cry that I can still hear it every day. You know, it was just the most awful, horrible sound I’ve ever heard in my life. He was so terrified and so afraid for his family. And I thought of my family at that time, and I thought to myself, boy, if I was the patriarch of a family, if soldiers came from another country, came in and did this to my family, I would be an insurgent, too.
AMY GOODMAN: Sergeant Bruhns also served in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib for one year beginning in April of 2003.
SGT. JOHN BRUHNS: If you’re on a patrol in a market and somebody opens fire on you and the US military, I mean, if we respond — if we return fire in that direction with overwhelming firepower and, let’s say, a thirteen-year-old girl gets killed, you’re just going to have to assume right then and there that her father and her brother and her uncles — they’re not going to say, you know, Saddam was a bad guy and thank the United States for coming in here and liberating us. They’re going to say, “If the United States never came here, my daughter would still be alive.” And that’s going to cause them to join the resistance. And when they do join the resistance, President Bush says, “They’re al-Qaeda. They’re al-Qaeda.” But they’re not. They’re just regular Iraqi people who feel occupied, and they’re reacting to an occupation.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m joined right now by the two journalists who first spoke to Westphal, Bruhns and forty-eight other Iraq War vets. Their stories are documented in the new book Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians. Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, senior fellow at the Nation Institute, author of a number of books, including War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists, he joins us here in New York. Co-author Laila Al-Arian is a freelance journalist who has written for USA Today, as well as The Nation magazine, and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, joining us from Washington, D.C. We welcome you both. Laila Al-Arian, how unpopular, among Iraqis, is the occupation and the war? What are the numbers?
LAILA AL-ARIAN: Well, Amy, the numbers are that less than one percent of the Iraqis actually support a US presence in Iraq, and this has been demonstrated time and time again in polls and also in the result when troops do withdraw from the region. For example, last December, British troops withdrew from Basra, and we saw a calm in the area and a rapid decrease in violence. Some estimates are that it was a 99 percent decrease in violence. So we do see that the results are very clear once troops do withdraw and that there is some stability in this certain region.
AMY GOODMAN: Chris Hedges, you divide the book Collateral Damage into convoys, checkpoints, raids, detentions, then hearts and minds. Explain. CHRIS HEDGES: These are the pillars of the occupation, and we wanted to give readers a kind of lens or view into the gritty details of how these mechanisms works, such as convoys. I mean, these are just freight trains of death. You have to remain moving once you leave what they call the wire, once you leave the safe perimeter of a base. And so, these heavily armored convoys will drive at breakneck speeds, fifty, sixty miles an hour down the middle of roads, smashing into Iraqi cars, shoving Iraqi vehicles to the side, running over Iraqi civilians, and then, of course, any time an IED goes off, unleashing withering what they call suppressing fire with belt-fed weapons — these are light machine guns like SAWs, .50-caliber machine guns — into a densely populated areas. And so, I think that rather than sort of do a Studs Terkel kind of memoir, we wanted to focus specifically on sort of key mechanisms that make the occupation work, how these mechanisms function, and the effect that these mechanisms have on Iraqi civilians. AMY GOODMAN: For example, Haditha. That was — CHRIS HEDGES: Exactly. AMY GOODMAN: — this tank going through. CHRIS HEDGES: Right. AMY GOODMAN: Gets hit. CHRIS HEDGES: That’s exactly right. AMY GOODMAN: Checkpoints? CHRIS HEDGES: Well, checkpoints are deadly for Iraqi civilians, in part because checkpoints are often put up very quickly, so that you can turn a corner in Baghdad, Fallujah or any other city, and there could never have been a checkpoint there, and there suddenly is a checkpoint there. Also, you know, as a kind of security measure, American forces will often put Iraqi forces before their checkpoints. So there’s actually two checkpoints. So you’ll go through the Iraqi forces, and many Iraqi civilians, by the way, are terrified, because they don’t know who those Iraqis are in the uniform. So sometimes they’ll just try and gun it, which will mean that their cars — American forces or Iraqi forces or both will open fire on their car, or they’ll get through the Iraqi checkpoint not expecting another checkpoint, or it’s night, or their breaks don’t work. And in Iraq, the situation is so volatile and so deadly for the occupation forces that the response is to open fire repeatedly. Checkpoints are a very common form of death for Iraqi civilians, and these, you know, incidents where cars are fired upon and whole families are killed are rarely investigated or documented. MORE.
Reasons to Kill

Why Americans Choose War By Richard E. Rubenstein

What makes Americans fight? Why do the professed first citizen of the free world so often accept armed conflict as a political measure, and how do we justify those choices to ourselves? When is war the right decision?
From the American Revolution to the end of World War II, the United States spent nineteen years at war against other nations. But since1950, the total is twenty-two years and counting. On four occasions, U.S. presidents elected as "peace candidates" have gone on to lead the nation into ferocious armed conflicts. Repeatedly, wars deemed necessary when they began have been seen in retrospect as avoidable‚ Äîandill-advised.
Americans profess to be a peace-loving people and one wary of "foreign entanglements." Yet we have been drawn into wars in distant lands from Vietnam to Afghanistan. We cherish our middle-class comforts and our children. Yet we send our troops to Fallujah and Mogadishu. How is it that ordinary Americans with the most to lose are so easily convinced to follow hawkish leaders-of both parties-into war? In Reasons to Kill noted scholar Richard E. Rubenstein explores both the rhetoric that sells war to the public and the underlying cultural and social factors that make it so effective. With unmatched historical perspective and insightful commentary, Rubenstein offers citizens new ways to think for themselves about crucial issues of war and peace.

New blog post from Rich.

Advance Praise for Reasons to Kill:
“Many of us long for an intelligent and informed conversation about America’s role in the world. Are we going the way of all empires, or is there another way? Richard E. Rubenstein has provided a sane and probing contribution to that conversation. In a time of faux-populism and jingoistic patriotism, it is encouraging to read a critical analysis of our attitude to war and violence from a writer who deeply loves his country.”—Alan Jones, dean emeritus, Grace Cathedral and author of Soul Making: The Desert Way of Spirituality and Reimagining Christianity: Reconnect Your Spirit without Disconnecting your Mind.
excerpt in Alternet – 5 Ways We Should Radically Reconsider War
5Ways We Should Radically Reconsider War
Loving your country does not mean following its leaders’ orders no matter what they are.    August 27, 2010  |  
Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Richard Rubenstein's new book, Reasons To Kill: Why Americans Choose War, with the permission of Bloomsbury Press. The book will be available September 2010.
#1 Refuse to Accept the Normality of War
At the end of the nineteenth century, when the United States first became a global power, the arguments for occupying other nations or bringing them under our control featured assertions of moral and racial superiority -- an American version of Kipling’s “white man’s burden.” Later, most justifications for war were based on the need to defend cherished democratic values and institutions against Evil Enemies bent on world conquest. But America’s emergence as the world’s sole superpower has produced an additional rationale for intervention: our alleged right and duty to save a world of failed and failing states from political chaos and terrorism. As one conservative spokesman put it, “Like it or not, we are the sheriff of the world.”
Embraced by many liberals and centrists as well, this “law and order” rationale aims to legitimize the continuous military intervention represented by the War on Terrorism. Accepting it reduces publicity about specific conflicts, accustoms people to tolerate undeclared wars, and redefines “normal” military activity. At the same time, however, the expansion of what Dexter Filkins calls the “forever war” to new theaters generates objections both practical and moral, driving a majority of Americans to demand the early withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and to oppose new military adventures of this sort in places like Yemen and Somalia.
In all this, one senses a growing understanding that the costs of empire far outweigh the benefits. To position the United States as a global sheriff or superhero actually incites further violence rather than deterring it. The technologically advanced superpower has all the weapons one can dream of, but its rebellious subjects even the score by combining fanatical determination with the ability to use simple weapons against overly complex systems. One might call this the imperial superpower’s “Kryptonite problem.” To overcome it requires taking off the hero’s costume and asking two Clark Kent-like questions:
· What about conflict resolution? Those who resort to violence generally do so because of unsolved problems and unfulfilled human needs, not just out of sheer fanaticism, malice, or power-lust. By giving up the struggle to maintain our superpower status -- an addiction all the more powerful for being largely unconscious -- we free ourselves to assist people to identify their problems and work them out in their own way.
· What about international or regional law enforcement? If conflict resolution doesn’t work, what the world requires is a legitimate source of coercion -- a lawful authority people can accept regardless of their socioeconomic status, political views, religion, or culture. This means new institutions, especially on the regional level, that can be designed and brought into existence relatively quickly, if only we permit people to organize and act free of our control.
# 2 Think Calmly And Strategically About Self-Defense
Almost a decade after the 9/11 attacks, American thinking on self-defense remains fixated on that great trauma. The consciousness that we were subjected to a totally unexpected, bloody assault, and that members of the same organization that attacked us are still at large, has given us the same mindset that afflicts people who have been in a disastrous and unexpected auto accident. For a while, at least, the driver that ran that stop sign and broadsided us becomes the “typical driver,” and ALL other drivers become sources of fear and loathing.   MORE
Watch a Video with Richard.
Friedrich, Ernst.  War Against War!   1924.  Seattle: Real Comet Press, 1987.   Friedrich’s  photographs and text (in four languages) about WWI combat were intended to inspire opposition to war.   He showed “the horrifyingly obvious truth about it” (Vonnegut, who compares him to Goya).   “The Beast of War feeds on all alike: children, women, soldiers, earth.  Ernst Friedrich’s photographs bear terrible witness to this, and serve to remind us that the red badge of courage is, in reality, a scarlet gaping wound of fear and greed” (Barry Moser, illustrator of The Red Badge of Courage).   Friedrich also established the International Anti-War Museum in Berlin in 1924, but the Weimar Government harassed him for his anarchist and pacifist views, and the Nazis closed it, after which he fled Germany.   Friedrich spent his life working in the cause of peace and the proletarian revolution.  
Greg, Harton.  “Can Graphic Images Change the World?  Researchers Advance Idea That Gruesome Photos Can Change Behaviors.”   NAT (Nov. 15, 2010).    Marketing researchers at UofA demonstrated that “highly graphic images of the negative consequences of smoking have the greatest impact on smokers’ intention to quit.”    We need a similar book on the Vietnam War, and another on the Iraq and Afghan wars.    A book graphically illustrating US wars since WWII would require many volumes!  Harton concludes:  “Recognizing some of the horrible things that happen on this planet is often the swift kick in the pants that makes us do something about making the world a better place.”   He also mentions abortion, and car accidents.  But he does not mention US wars. (Dick)