Working towards peace and sustainability

Just What are We Celebrating?

Once again some are cheering the news that the U.S. has killed the leader of ISIS in Afghanistan. Word reached us today that the U.S. military had announced they’d killed Abu Sayed. He is “the third ISIS-K (the Afghan affiliate of ISIS) leader killed in the last 12 months by U.S. forces,” according to MilitaryTimes.

In some ways this is like a deadly game of Whack-A-Mole. You kill one, and another pops up. Surely, the group will have a new leader in a matter of days.

In our minds there are really two issues here.

First, is the Pragmatic Question: Is war-making enabling our government to make headway toward its stated objective of ending “terrorism?”

The U.S. has been killing those branded “terrorists” in Afghanistan since 2001, and yet despite dramatically escalated drone attacks, counter-insurgency warfare, the use of U.S.-trained and advised government forces in combat (with access to U.S. artillery and air support), and the use of powerful aerial munitions including the so-called “Mother of All Bombs” (MOAB), these indigenous opposition groups are as strong now as they have been at any point since the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Are we not dealing with the very same issue that plagued the U.S. war on Vietnam five decades ago; the failure to win “hearts and minds?” Will killing even more Afghans, including Taliban and ISIS combatants, and, with them, a great many non-combatants (generally dismissed as “collateral damage”), wipe out opposition to the U.S. and the U.S.-installed government? Or is it more likely to alienate the populace and make it even more difficult to win their support?

We are once again forced to address the question “Are we making more enemies than we’re eliminating?” And its corollary: “Is there any valid reason for a war that requires us to ‘kill the village to save it?’”

And generalizing, for a moment, it must be recognized that it’s not only Afghanistan where U.S. intervention has failed to bring peace and prosperity, let alone meaningful democracy. We can look at Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Libya for starters. All are, after many years of intervention, still caught up in ongoing, deadly conflicts, costly in life, limb and treasure. These interventions have dislocated many millions, leading to an enormous number of refugees, including internally displaced persons and those who’ve fled across borders in search of sanctuary.

Second is the Moral Question:  Are these U.S. wars—conflicts that lead to death and destruction—consistent with our values and moral/ethical grounding?

While some are cheering the death of Abu Sayed, due to the organization and the ideology he fought for, we question celebrating the killing of anyone, and are especially disturbed by this when the killing done in our name; paid for by our tax dollars.

Some Peaceworks members are pacifists who eschew all use of violence. They follow the notion of turning the other cheek when encountering violence.

Most of our members, however, embrace last-resort use of force to protect lives and avoid invasions or the imposition of tyranny. We would seek, whenever possible, to resolve conflict through negotiation and mutual accommodation, but would accept defensive violence if all other alternatives have been exhausted. Ultimately, any time nations go to war it is indicative of a tragic failure; the failure to effectively pursue a non-violent resolution to whatever conflict the war is addressing.

Now, the sort of killing people in our name, as has been done throughout the so-called “War on Terror” has not been defensive; it has neither been necessary, nor has it protected our country. In fact, it really has not even been about fighting “terrorism.” Rather, it has been about the projection of power in the pursuit of geopolitical imperatives; the domination of resource-region regions and the establishment and maintenance of U.S. hegemony and the dominance of U.S./Western-based transnational corporations.

Another moral dimension that should be considered is: What we give up when we decide to collectively kill other people by making war on them? Many would answer: At least a portion of our humanity and our respect for life. And they are, of course correct.

There is another aspect, however, that needs to be considered. The world today spends upwards of $1.7 trillion annually on its militaries and its wars (more than one-third of this is spent by the U.S.). And sums of comparable magnitude have been spent every year for decades. While this number is so big it is virtually meaningless to most of us, this sum, or even half of it, invested in people, infrastructure, efforts to address the climate crisis and, more generally, in sustainable development, would go a long way to addressing the interconnected crises humanity faces.

Even if the weapons were not being used—if hot wars weren’t occurring—there is a moral bankruptcy in spending these many trillions on the military, while allowing poverty, the wasting of lives, the destruction of the environment and the climate crisis to go largely unaddressed. Allowing the Military Industrial Complex in our country and comparable interests in other nations around the world steal from the mouths of the hungry and rob future generations of their rightful inheritance is unacceptable, plain and simple.

When the media and our fellow citizens celebrate the snuffing out of an ISIS leader in Afghanistan, or the killing of any such figure, anywhere in the world, it’s worth pointing out that they are celebrating war with no end; a cycle of violence projected to be with us for decades to come, at the very least. They are celebrating policies that are calculated to keep our economy on a permanent wartime footing and to enable profiteering by those Bob Dylan, decades ago, labeled as the “Masters of War.”

They are also celebrating our collective failure, including a failure of the imagination, to vision and create a world in which humanity lives together cooperatively, sharing the Earth, rather than fighting over it.

This calls to mind the words of former President Dwight Eisenhower who, in a 1953 speech, famously said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children . . .”

Our questions for you are: Do you share a sense that this war without end must be challenged and stopped? And are you willing to get involved in building an effective movement that can address the concerns laid out above? If you are, we’d love to work with you.

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

—Bob Dylan, “Masters of War

Good News on Climate

While the rest of the world engages in addressing the Climate Crisis, Trump is the outlier.

We, here in the U.S., have been struggling for months to deal with the fact that the Trump administration is doing everything in its power to increase consumption of dirty, climate-altering fossil fuels. Not only has Donald Trump appointed climate change deniers—including EPA head Scott Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry—to key positions in his administration, but he has been greenlighting pipelines, eliminating regulations, promoting fossil fuel export, killing the EPA Clean Power Plan, using the bully pulpit to exhort the virtues of coal and withdrawing from the Paris Climate agreement.

So, you may ask, where is the good news? Well, in case you’ve missed it, the rest of the world isn’t joining Trump in rejecting the scientific consensus that climate change is real and represents an existential threat. In fact, at the recent G20 meeting in Germany, when it came to the issue of climate change, according to The Guardian, the “outcome was a 19-1 standoff pitting the US against the rest of the world.” And let us not forget that the G20 includes several nations—Russia, Canada and Saudi Arabia among them—that are major fossil fuel exporters. None, however, aligned with Trump or rejected the Paris Agreement.

Now most governments around the world aren’t yet where they need to be; not by a long shot. But they’ve been moving in the right direction. Almost everywhere, public opinion has shifted decisively in our direction, and political leaders realize they have to, at the very least, pay lip service to the need to end our use of fossil fuels, replacing them with clean, renewably-sourced energy.

And many are doing more than paying lip service. Numerous countries are way ahead of the United States in terms of investment in energy efficiency and renewables. They are finding these investments produce jobs, reduce expenditures on (often imported) fossil fuels, and help create not just a cleaner, healthier environment, but also prosperous, sustainable local economies.

We, here in the States, need to take heart and take action. We can’t allow the deniers to stop progress here. We need to redouble our efforts and move forward on several fronts:

·    Educate, educate, educate. Unlike most countries, a significant fraction of our population has been conned by industry, industry-sponsored politicians and industry-friendly media to believe that Climate Change is a “hoax” or that there still is not enough information to decide if humans are the cause. We in the climate movement need to take seriously the need to educate Americans as to the harm our inaction is causing and simultaneously let them know how beneficial transforming our energy economy will be. Our efforts include public programs, film screenings, our speakers bureau and more. Peaceworks and our allies embrace this work wholeheartedly and invite your participation in our outreach efforts.

·    Inform our elected officials as to the urgency of taking action on climate. Also let them know that their constituents consider this a key concern. This needs to be done at every level of governance, from local to state to federal. Again, we need you to join us in communicating your concerns. Along with this, many of our members may choose to get involved in electoral campaigns to replace climate change deniers and dawdlers with candidates committed to serious and effective climate action now. (Peaceworks is a 501.c.3 and does not, as an organization, support or oppose any candidates.)

·    Keep the Climate Crisis visible. Through public demonstrations, rallies and events like our annual 5K Walk for the Climate (Plan to join us for this on September 24.) we keep the issue in front of our fellow citizens. We also take this issue publicly to politicians’ doors and do what we can to make the citizenry aware of their stances.

·    Work to pursue policies enabling effective climate action at whatever level we can. This includes the municipal. We recently saw the Columbia City Council, with significant input from Peaceworks and our climate action allies, unanimously embrace the adoption of a resolution aimed at moving CoMo forward on the climate front, including the creation of a city climate action plan. This sort of effort should be pursued more broadly in cities and towns across the state and beyond. Likewise, rural electric coops should be pressed to go green and adopt policies that encourage and help fund energy efficiency improvements and the use of clean, renewable power. Again, Peaceworks members have a critical role to play in moving efforts like this forward.

·    Embrace personal actions to live more sustainably. We at Peaceworks, through our Center for Sustainable Living, have been doing what we can for more than a quarter century to educate on the importance of sustainable lifestyle choices. While it is challenging, in our hyper-consumptive culture, to encourage simplicity and the embrace of a more satisfying, less consumerist worldview, we continue to promote use of renewable energy, gardening and the support of local food production, muscle-powered transportation, greener cars, energy efficient homes, less packaging, reuse and durable goods over disposables and many more sustainable practices that not only reduce our personal carbon footprints, but serve as role models for others. We are currently preparing for the October 15, 2017 Sustainable Living Fair and invite your participation in these efforts as well.

The bottom line here is that climate change is arguably the defining issue of the Twenty-first Century. It’s not something that has come up, will be quickly solved and then forgotten. It is a concern we will collectively struggle to address for the rest of our lives. It also is something we can ill afford to either ignore or leave for others to address.

It’s up to all of us to engage in effective, sustainable activism. We invite and encourage your participation. Peaceworks has two standing committees, our Climate Action Committee and our Sustainable Living Committee, both of which are eager to have your input and participation. If you are interested, please contact us at mail@midmopeaceworks.org. We can let you know options for getting involved.

Seeking Truth. Marching for Truth.

Peaceworks is working to organize a local March for Truth (MfT) that will be held here in CoMo on Saturday, June 3 (details below). We hope you’ll come out to participate and help us send a message to our elected officials and our fellow citizens.

The MfT is a national project with more than 135 marches taking place around the country, including six in Missouri. As the national website indicates:

Our goals are simple:
  • An independent commission must be established and Congressional investigations should be properly resourced and pursued free of partisan interests;
  • As much information should be made available to the public as possible, and as soon as possible;
  • Congress should require Donald Trump to release his tax returns to clarify his business interests and obligations to any foreign entity;
  • If crimes were committed or if collusion is discovered, it must be prosecuted.
While Peaceworks focuses primarily on war and peace, climate, sustainability and related issues, we also see the pursuit of justice and the support of democracy as essential parts of our mission.

Each day, it seems, there are new revelations of previously undisclosed contacts between members of the Trump campaign, the Trump transition team or other Trump associates and either Russian officials or other Russian players with close ties to those at the highest levels in the Russian government. Reuters reports there were at least 18 such undisclosed contacts during the last seven months of the campaign. This is disturbing. (More on the connections between Team Trump and the Russians can be found HERE and HERE.)

The head of the FBI was fired by Trump, and, contradicting a false narrative initially offered up, the President, himself, acknowledged to NBC News that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided to fire Director James Comey. Trump also reportedly asked Comey to drop the investigation into his first National Security chief, Mike Flynn, who Trump had to fire, after it became public that he had lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador during the transition. 

These actions by the President both could be found to be obstruction of justice. Trump also fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who brought to light the fact that Flynn had lied to the public and to Mike Pence. She was scheduled to testify before a Congressional committee. Her appearance was initially canceled when she was fired. All these facts are also are deeply disturbing, raising the obvious question, “What do they have to hide?”

We need to know the truth. If there was collusion between the Trump campaign and foreign operatives in an attempt to influence the outcome of the election, this would not only cast in doubt the legitimacy of Trump’s election victory, it could also implicate Trump and/or his campaign associates in a conspiracy to interfere in the election, which could be grounds for impeachment.  

We also are calling for truth and transparency when it comes to Trump’s finances. Every contender for the White House, since Nixon, has disclosed their tax returns. This is more than simply a matter of informing the voters as to where their income comes from or how much wealth they have. Serious allegations have arisen regarding Trump’s connections to—and possible debts owed to—Russian oligarchs or even members of what’s sometimes called the Russian Mafia. There have been allegations leveled that Trump’s business was involved in “laundering” money for some of these Russian interests. These are right now simply allegations, but it is critical for us to know if there is any basis for these claims.

What’s at stake is more than whether crimes have been committed. Rather, there is a very real question as to whether Trump and/or his close associates are in a position where they might be blackmailed. As recently as this week, CNN is reporting
Russian government officials discussed having potentially ‘derogatory’ information about then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and some of his top aides in conversations intercepted by US intelligence during the 2016 election . . .”

These recent allegations are not the only ones hinting that the Russians have something to hold over Trump. In January it was revealed that former British MI6 officer Christopher Steele had compiled an extensive Trump-Russia Dossier that “contains unverified allegations of misconduct and ties between Donald Trump, then President-elect, and the Russian government during the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the period preceding the election.” Perhaps these allegations are baseless, but if the POTUS is being held hostage, subject to blackmail, this is something we need to know.

And, again, the fact that Trump has repeatedly refused to make his tax returns public, with  no legitimate reason provided (his claims of an audit being the reason strain credulity), raises the question: “If all is on the up and up, why won’t he take the simple step of doing what every other presidential candidate has done and release his tax returns?”

Now Some Clarification

Life and politics are sometimes complicated. So, while we favor a thoroughgoing investigation of Trump and his associates’ actions and financial involvements, we do not support the vilification of Russia.

Specifically, we oppose a new Cold War with Russia, we oppose the NATO push into Eastern Europe, and we certainly oppose any military conflict with Russia. This noted, we also oppose Russian, or any other, foreign involvement in U.S. elections.

We know some on the left are pointing out the great frequency of U.S.
intervention in other nations' elections and governance. We have consistently opposed this for decades. The fact that our government engages in illegal and unjustifiable actions, however, does not justify others engaging in similar actions. The fact that we are calling for truth and full disclosure in no way reduces our commitment to promote a non-interventionist U.S. foreign policy.

March Details

We will gather outside the office of Sen. Claire McCaskill, 28 N. Eighth St. on Saturday, June 3, between 3-3:30 p.m. and, at 3:30, we will march to Sen. Roy Blunt’s office. We urge participants to bring signs and letters or cards addressed to Sen. McCaskill, Sen. Blunt and Rep. Hartzler. If staff are present, we will deliver letters, notes and cards that day. If not, we will deliver these on the following Monday. Facebook event for the March, which is co-sponsored by CoMo for Progress is available HERE.