flwyd: (intense aztec drummer DNC 2008)
Senator Bennet,

I am writing you regarding this week’s American missile attack on a Syrian air base in response to President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against the people of Syria. Thank you for your statement on Thursday condemning the attacks and calling for action to be taken only with proper approval.
Senator Gardner,

I am writing you regarding this week’s American missile attack on a Syrian air base in response to President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against the people of Syria. Thank you for your statement on Thursday in support of “saving the Syrian people from slaughter.” I share your goal of ending the suffering of the people of Syria and effecting an end to the civil war which has ravaged their lives for the last six years.

I have three concerns about this situation, and I would like you to address them through the Senate and in conversations with members of the administration.

First—Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress, not the executive, the power to declare war and to punish offenses against the law of nations. President Trump launched this missile strike without Congressional approval and news reports indicate that he didn’t inform any in Congress about the action until it had completed. This attack on Syria was thus unconstitutional and not in accordance with the separation of powers granted by our founding fathers. I urge you to insist that any further military action be taken only after approval from Congress and in accordance with the Constitution. In matters of military action and foreign intervention, the American people deserve to have our voice heard through our elected representatives.

Second—American military intervention in Syria does not have a clear path to success and is likely to make things worse before they get better. Iran, long-term allies of Assad’s Alawite government, and Russia with its sole Mediterranean naval base at Tartus, are unlikely to let the present regime fall. Additionally, the opposition groups best positioned to defeat the government are aligned with Salafist jihadi movements. A military defeat of the Assad government could easily lead to an even bloodier battle between the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda-aligned Army of Conquest factions. An eventual victory by either would likely lead to brutal crimes against religious and ethnic minorities across Syria. Rather than American military escalation, please urge President Trump to apply his famed skill in negotiation through talks with the Syrian factions and their international backers, including Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Successful negotiations will involve groups with which the U.S. is not on friendly terms—including designated terrorist groups—but military de-escalation and broad support for a peace deal is the only path to long-term stability in Syria.

Third—one of the most important actions the United States can take to help the people of Syria is to provide support to the more than 3 million refugees who have fled the country’s conflict in the last six years. President Trump has sought twice to ban Syrian entry into the United States. I urge you to instead support expansion of the U.S. Refugee Admission Program. The Department of State is well positioned to evaluate refugee applications—no traveler to the United States is subject to more rigorous security screening than the refugees the U.S. Government considers for admission.[1] Additionally, I hope you will support humanitarian and financial aid in concert with our allies in Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, and elsewhere who play host to millions of Syrians in refugee camps. The cost of Thursday’s missile attack has been reported at $90 million. A similar sum could provide a great deal of food, clothing, and shelter for those affected by the conflict.

Thank you for your consideration,
Trevor Stone
Boulder, CO 80304

[1] From the State Department’s USRAP FAQ

King and Vietnam

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 12:46 am
flwyd: (Shakespeare bust oval)
There's a danger of the work and ideas of Martin Luther King, Jr. being reduced in the popular consciousness to the I Have A Dream Speech. It was perhaps the best work of oration in 20th Century America, and its anti-segregationist message has become a shared American value, though it was quite radical at the time. Many of Dr. King's speeches were just as radical at the time and yet remain radical and polarizing today. I listened again to King's speech opposing the Vietnam War. I've included some quotes which are kept out of the mainstream political discourse to this day.

I encourage you to read or listen to one you haven't heard in a while.

In international conflicts, the truth is hard to come by because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism.

Millions have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism, to the high grounds of firm dissent, based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Now, of course, one of the difficulties in speaking out today grows the fact that there are those who are seeking to equate dissent with disloyalty. It's a dark day in our nation when high-level authorities will seek to use every method to silence dissent. But something is happening, and people are not going to be silenced. The truth must be told, and I say that those who are seeking to make it appear that anyone who opposes the war in Vietnam is a fool or a traitor or an enemy of our soldiers is a person that has taken a stand against the best in our tradition.

It seemed that there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the Poverty Program. There were experiments, hopes, and new beginnings. Then came the build-up in Vietnam. And I watched the program broken as if it was some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money, like some demonic, destructive suction tube. And you may not know it, my friends, but it is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only fifty-three dollars for each person classified as poor, and much of that fifty-three dollars goes for salaries to people that are not poor. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor, and attack it as such.

We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with a cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same school room. So we watch them in brutal solidarity, burning the huts of a poor village. But we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago or Atlanta. Now, I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence I cannot be silent… America and most of its newspapers applauded me in Montgomery. And I stood before thousands of Negroes getting ready to riot when my home was bombed and said, we can't do it this way. They applauded us in the sit-in movement--we non-violently decided to sit in at lunch counters… There's something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that will praise you when you say, Be non-violent toward Jim Clark, but will curse and damn you when you say, "Be non-violent toward little brown Vietnamese children. There's something wrong with that press!

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies… And when I speak of love I'm not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of John: "Let us love one another, for God is love. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us."

Let me say finally that I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against this war, not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and, above all, with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world. I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America. And there can be no great disappointment where there is not great love. I am disappointed with our failure to deal positively and forthrightly with the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism…
flwyd: (Om Chomsky)
The Pope made a speech to the Queen of England which could be interpreted as comparing atheists to Nazis.
As we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus a reductive vision of a person and his destiny.

I leave open the question of whether Pope Benedict XVI prefers the sobering lessons of religious extremism from the 16th and 17th Centuries. It's true that many of the violent extremists of the 20th Century were explicitly atheistic: Stalin and other Soviets, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and the Khmer Rouge. But many other violent extremists were religious, even if their target selection wasn't motivated by religion. U.S. segregationists and South African apartheid advocates, conflicts in Rwanda, Guatemala, Vietnam... World Wars I and II were not about religion, but aside from the Soviets, all the major players were at least nominally religious. And regardless of the private views of Nazi leaders, their extremist persecutions were largely ethnic and social, not religious: being a nonpracticing Jew didn't buy reprieve, nor did they distinguish between Christian and atheist homosexuals.

Leonard Shlain wrote something interesting in The Alphabet vs. The Goddess: the conflicts between communism/socialism and capitalism in 19th and 20th Century Europe can be seen as a new phase in the continent's history of religious warfare. The communists don't believe in God, but they have religious texts (Das Kapital, for instance), prophets, and a sometimes-violent fervor based on a set of ideas.

So far the 21st Century has provided one major ideological conflict: Wahhabists and other extremist Islamic groups in a decentralized fight against imperialism and secular and insufficiently-religious governments. And there are conflicts which mix nationalism with religion that have spilled over from the last century: Israelis and Palestinians in the near east and Muslims and Hindus in Pakistani/Indian border lands. But the bloodiest conflicts, in eastern Congo and southern Sudan, are about concerns much older than religious conflict: land and resources. And as the world population grows and the climate gets more volatile, these sorts of conflicts can only be expected to spring up more often. The important thing isn't what the folks involved believe, it's what they have and what they want.
flwyd: (bug eyed earl)
Gun advocates often suggest that society would be safer if everyone carried[1] a gun, because would-be attackers would think twice about going after an armed target. I was thinking about this, and it seems like the past three hundred years or so featured plenty of countries who started a war, even though the other side had a bunch of guns.

On a similar subject, a national army is really a form of socialized insurance with an opportunity for high risk investments. If the Nazis invade, it's really not efficient to have each citizen expend the resources for self defense; the collective power of a large organization pooling resources from individual contributors is the way to go. So while the Tea Partiers are on the Electric Kool-Aid Antacid Trip across the country complaining bitterly about the government collecting money to provide services to the general populace, perhaps they should take a department that provides lots of cheap health care[2] and education[3].

[1] And knew how to properly use…
[2] The VA's budget is close to $90 billion
[3] Of course, many recipients must first survive a death panel: A room full of guys at the Pentagon who decide which divisions to send to combat zones.

11/11 11:11

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009 11:11 am
flwyd: (rose silhouette)
91 years ago today, peace was declared in Europe. The war to end all wars left an unstable continent that fell in to war again two decades later.

20 years ago this week, the Berlin Wall, the most tangible piece of the Iron Curtain, was declared open. Although Eastern Europe's transition into capitalism and democracy has not been free of pain and strife, dictators and warmongers have little traction there.

America and its allies, primarily European, are today at war in Asia, in places outsiders have been at war in recent memory. If we do things right, hopefully Iraq's and Afghanistan's next two decades can be like Europe's in the last 20 years, not like Europe's in the 20 years after World War I. If we do (more) things wrong, we may be back for thirds.

Peace takes time. Peace takes work. Peace is worth it.

It's Been Five Years

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008 12:18 am
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
Some links:

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan. Held this weekend with little mainstream media coverage, veterans and active duty military members involved in the current conflicts in Afghanistan provide testimony on what they did, saw, and heard. The site has several video files from the event as does Democracy Now! for the last few days. The event was organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, so the panels obviously display a selection bias. However, the selection is genuine (anecdotes and systematic observations) and worth hearing (it's not just a warmed-over set of talking points).

Tibet Through Chinese Eyes, which I found through a comment on a recent Boing Boing post. That the Chinese government is engaging in violence with Tibetan protesters less than five months before the Olympics start in Beijing could make for very interesting times. If the games are to effect change in Chinese policy toward Tibet, I think something must happen causing officials to lose face to other Chinese.

Plastic People of the Universe, a rock band that was a beacon and symbol for freedom in Czechoslovakia behind the Iron Curtain. Our military isn't very well received by citizens of countries we set out to liberate. Our human rights moralizing is ignored by the countries we preach to. But rock and roll has been one of the best American tools of social change. Perhaps we should establish the Rock Corps. One division could be the Hard Corps.

I saw Les Claypool's current band, Electric Apricot, at the Ogden tonight. It was a great show with a funky version of Shine On You Crazy Diamond (without a sax instead of a guitar and xylophones instead of keyboards) and a totally groovy drum jam. To start the encore, Les came out with a bass that looked like a banjo. He started playing Too Many Puppies and the crowd cheered. He remarked "I wrote this song when I was an impressionable lad of about 19." It was almost a generation ago. The song is older than some of tonight's attendees. It's a protest against a Middle East war for control of oil started by President George Bush. Sound familiar?

We live in a country that's done a lot of bad things, but we've still got hope. We've still got access to independent media. We've still got the right to protest. We've still got rock and roll. When you have something to say, speak out. When you don't know what to say, rock out.
flwyd: (Default)
Rumsfeld: So long suckers!  Have fun cleaning up the mess!  Hussein: My thoughts exactly.

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