Iraq War – compilation of 9/11/14

“What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in [the Bush] administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne. What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income – to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war.” Barack Obama, State Senator from Illinois, 2002

How the Bush Administration Sold the War – and We Bought It by Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson, The Guardian, February 28, 2013

Presidential administration on 9/11/01 – President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Ari Fleischer, Scott McClellan, Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz plus Senator John McCain, Doug Feith, Marc Thiessen, Robert Kagan, William Kristol and more

The Project for the New American Century. By William Rivers Pitt, February 25, 2003, www.informationclearinghouse.info…The Project for the New American Century, or PNAC, is a Washington-based think tank created in 1997….desires and demands one thing: The establishment of a global American empire to bend the will of all nations… When [George W.] Bush assumed the Presidency, the men who created and nurtured the imperial dreams of PNAC became the men who run the Pentagon, the Defense Department and the White House…. On September 11th, the fellows from PNAC saw a door of opportunity open wide before them, and stormed right through it. The defense contractors who sup on American tax revenue will be handsomely paid for arming this new American empire. The corporations that own the news media will sell this eternal war at a profit, as viewership goes through the stratosphere when there is combat to be shown…Through it all, the bankrollers from the WTO and the IMF will be able to dictate financial terms to the entire planet… There will be adverse side effects. The siege mentality average Americans are suffering…will increase by orders of magnitude as our aggressions bring forth new terrorist attacks against the homeland. These attacks will require the implementation of the newly drafted Patriot Act II…The American economy will be ravaged by the need for increased defense spending…Many people, of course, will die. They will die from war and from want, from famine and disease. At home, the social fabric will be torn in ways that make the Reagan nightmares of crack addiction, homelessness and AIDS seem tame by comparison. This is the price to be paid for empire, and the men of PNAC who now control the fate and future of America are more than willing to pay it. For them, the benefits far outweigh the liabilities….

The Worst Mistake in U.S. History — America Will Never Recover from Bush’s Great Foreign Policy Disaster By Peter Van Buren, Tom Dispatch, March 7, 2013 

The totality of the Bush administration’s failure in Iraq is stunning by Ezra Klein, www.vox.com, June 17, 2014

Timeline highlights — Iraq War — 1965 to 2009 

Neoconservatives

Iraq War Cost U.S. More Than $2 Trillion, Could Grow to $6 Trillion, Says Watson Institute Study By Daniel Trotta, Reuters 3/14/13

The Duplicity of the Ideologues by Andrew J. Bacevich, commonwealmagazine.org,  June 4, 2014

How the US Press Lost its Way By Robert Parry, Consortium News,  May 21, 2012

10 Years After the Invasion: America Destroyed Iraq But Our War Crimes Remain Unacknowledged and Unpunished By Nicolas J.S. Davies, AlterNet, March 15, 2013   

Ten years of questions, outrage, tragedy, grief and change — The Iraq War by Phyllis Stenerson, ProgressiveValues.org e-letter of February 15, 2013

Tony Blair [and George Bush] should face trial over Iraq war, says Desmond Tutu by Toby Helm, political editor, The Observer,  September 1, 2012

Neocons and the Iraq War: Their view then and now 10 years later By Eric Black, Minnpost.com, March 15, 2013

Glenn Beck: ‘Liberals, You Were Right’ About Iraq War By Alana Horowitz, The Huffington Post 06/17/2014 …“From the beginning, most people on the left were against going into Iraq. I wasn’t.… Liberals, you were right. We shouldn’t have.” Glenn Beck

On Iraq, Echoes of 2003 by Nicholas Kristof, The Opinion Pages, New York Times, JUNE 18, 2014  …Our 2003 invasion of Iraq should be a warning that military force sometimes transforms a genuine problem into something worse. The war claimed 4,500 American lives and…500,000 Iraqi lives… latest estimate is that the total cost to the United States of the Iraq war will be $4 trillion. That’s a $35,000 tax on the average American household. The total would be enough to ensure that all children could attend preschool in the United States, that most people with AIDS worldwide could receive treatment, and that every child worldwide could attend school — for the next 83 years…

 

 

 

The Day That TV News Died

by Chris Hedges, TruthDig.com, March 25, 2013

Excerpt

I am not sure exactly when the death of television news took place. The descent was gradual—a slide into the tawdry, the trivial and the inane, into the charade on cable news channels such as Fox and MSNBC in which hosts hold up corporate political puppets to laud or ridicule, and treat celebrity foibles as legitimate news. But if I had to pick a date when commercial television decided amassing corporate money and providing entertainment were its central mission, when it consciously chose to become a carnival act, it would probably be Feb. 25, 2003, when MSNBC took Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq.

Donahue and Bill Moyers, the last honest men on national television, were the only two major TV news personalities who presented the viewpoints of those of us who challenged the rush to war in Iraq. General Electric and Microsoft—MSNBC’s founders and defense contractors that went on to make tremendous profits from the war—were not about to tolerate a dissenting voice. Donahue was fired, and at PBS Moyers was subjected to tremendous pressure…

The celebrity trolls who currently reign on commercial television, who bill themselves as liberal or conservative, read from the same corporate script…Their role is to funnel viewer energy back into our dead political system—to make us believe that Democrats or Republicans are not corporate pawns…

What mattered then and what matters now is likability—known in television and advertising as the Q score—not honesty and truth. Television news celebrities are in the business of sales, not journalism. They peddle the ideology of the corporate state. And too many of us are buying.

The lie of omission is still a lie. It is what these news celebrities do not mention that exposes their complicity with corporate power….They are paid to discredit or ignore the nation’s most astute critics of corporatism, among them Cornel West, Medea Benjamin, Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky. They are paid to chatter mindlessly, hour after hour, filling our heads with the theater of the absurd…Elite media features elite power. No other voices are heard.”

Donahue spent four years after leaving MSNBC making the movie documentary “Body of War” …about the paralyzed Iraq War veteran Tomas Young… Donahue noted that only a very small percentage of Americans have a close relative who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan and an even smaller number make the personal sacrifice of a Tomas Young. “Nobody sees the pain,” he said. “The war is sanitized.”… Donahue was told that the film, although it had received great critical acclaim, was too depressing and not uplifting….I am stunned at how many Americans stand mute.”

Full text

I am not sure exactly when the death of television news took place.

The descent was gradual—a slide into the tawdry, the trivial and the inane, into the charade on cable news channels such as Fox and MSNBC in which hosts hold up corporate political puppets to laud or ridicule, and treat celebrity foibles as legitimate news. But if I had to pick a date when commercial television decided amassing corporate money and providing entertainment were its central mission, when it consciously chose to become a carnival act, it would probably be Feb. 25, 2003, when MSNBC took Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq.

Donahue and Bill Moyers, the last honest men on national television, were the only two major TV news personalities who presented the viewpoints of those of us who challenged the rush to war in Iraq. General Electric and Microsoft—MSNBC’s founders and defense contractors that went on to make tremendous profits from the war—were not about to tolerate a dissenting voice. Donahue was fired, and at PBS Moyers was subjected to tremendous pressure. An internal MSNBC memo leaked to the press stated that Donahue was hurting the image of the network. He would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” the memo read. Donahue never returned to the airwaves.

The celebrity trolls who currently reign on commercial television, who bill themselves as liberal or conservative, read from the same corporate script. They spin the same court gossip. They ignore what the corporate state wants ignored. They champion what the corporate state wants championed. They do not challenge or acknowledge the structures of corporate power. Their role is to funnel viewer energy back into our dead political system—to make us believe that Democrats or Republicans are not corporate pawns. The cable shows, whose hyperbolic hosts work to make us afraid self-identified liberals or self-identified conservatives, are part of a rigged political system, one in which it is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, General Electric or ExxonMobil. These corporations, in return for the fear-based propaganda, pay the lavish salaries of celebrity news people, usually in the millions of dollars. They make their shows profitable. And when there is war these news personalities assume their “patriotic” roles as cheerleaders, as Chris Matthews—who makes an estimated $5 million a year—did, along with the other MSNBC and Fox hosts.

It does not matter that these celebrities and their guests, usually retired generals or government officials, got the war terribly wrong. Just as it does not matter that Francis Fukuyama and Thomas Friedman were wrong on the wonders of unfettered corporate capitalism and globalization. What mattered then and what matters now is likability—known in television and advertising as the Q score—not honesty and truth. Television news celebrities are in the business of sales, not journalism. They peddle the ideology of the corporate state. And too many of us are buying.

The lie of omission is still a lie. It is what these news celebrities do not mention that exposes their complicity with corporate power. They do not speak about Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, a provision that allows the government to use the military to hold U.S. citizens and strip them of due process. They do not decry the trashing of our most basic civil liberties, allowing acts such as warrantless wiretapping and executive orders for the assassination of U.S. citizens. They do not devote significant time to climate scientists to explain the crisis that is enveloping our planet. They do not confront the reckless assault of the fossil fuel industry on the ecosystem. They very rarely produce long-form documentaries or news reports on our urban and rural poor, who have been rendered invisible, or on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or on corporate corruption on Wall Street. That is not why they are paid. They are paid to stymie meaningful debate. They are paid to discredit or ignore the nation’s most astute critics of corporatism, among them Cornel West, Medea Benjamin, Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky. They are paid to chatter mindlessly, hour after hour, filling our heads with the theater of the absurd. They play clips of their television rivals ridiculing them and ridicule their rivals in return. Television news looks as if it was lifted from Rudyard Kipling’s portrait of the Bandar-log monkeys in “The Jungle Book.” The Bandar-log, considered insane by the other animals in the jungle because of their complete self-absorption, lack of discipline and outsized vanity, chant in unison: “We are great. We are free. We are wonderful. We are the most wonderful people in all the jungle! We all say so, and so it must be true.”

When I reached him by phone recently in New York, Donahue said of the pressure the network put on him near the end, “It evolved into an absurdity.” He continued: “We were told we had to have two conservatives for every liberal on the show. I was considered a liberal. I could have Richard Perle on alone but not Dennis Kucinich. You felt the tremendous fear corporate media had for being on an unpopular side during the ramp-up for a war. And let’s not forget that General Electric’s biggest customer at the time was Donald Rumsfeld [then the secretary of defense]. Elite media features elite power. No other voices are heard.”

Donahue spent four years after leaving MSNBC making the movie documentary “Body of War” with fellow director/producer Ellen Spiro, about the paralyzed Iraq War veteran Tomas Young. The film, which Donahue funded himself, began when he accompanied Nader to visit Young in the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

“Here is this kid lying there whacked on morphine,” Donahue said. “His mother, as we are standing by the bed looking down, explained his injuries. ‘He is a T-4. The bullet came through the collarbone and exited between the shoulder blades. He is paralyzed from the nipples down.’ He was emaciated. His cheekbones were sticking out. He was as white as the sheets he was lying on. He was 24 years old. … I thought, ‘People should see this. This is awful.’ ”

Donahue noted that only a very small percentage of Americans have a close relative who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan and an even smaller number make the personal sacrifice of a Tomas Young. “Nobody sees the pain,” he said. “The war is sanitized.”

“I said, ‘Tomas, I want to make a movie that shows the pain, I want to make a movie that shows up close what war really means, but I can’t do it without your permission,’ ” Donahue remembered. “Tomas said, ‘I do too.’ ”

But once again Donahue ran into the corporate monolith: Commercial distributors proved reluctant to pick up the film. Donahue was told that the film, although it had received great critical acclaim, was too depressing and not uplifting. Distributors asked him who would go to see a film about someone in a wheelchair. Donahue managed to get openings in Chicago, Seattle, Palm Springs, New York, Washington and Boston, but the runs were painfully brief.

“I didn’t have the money to run full-page ads,” he said. “Hollywood often spends more on promotion than it does on the movie. And so we died. What happens now is that peace groups are showing it. We opened the Veterans for Peace convention in Miami. Failure is not unfamiliar to me. And yet, I am stunned at how many Americans stand mute.

Copyright © 2013 Truthdig, L.L.C.

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/03/25-0

War or Peace?

Biggest Threat to World Peace: The United States, Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams, December 31, 2013

Why War Isn’t Inevitable: A Science Writer Studies the Secret to Peaceful Societies by Brad Jacobson, AlterNet, March 18, 2012…bio­log­i­cally speak­ing, we are just as likely to be peace­ful as we are to be vio­lent…dis­pelled mul­ti­ple myths about the impe­tus for war [that] sus­tains the insti­tu­tion of war despite ratio­nal thought and an over­whelm­ing human aver­sion to killing…charts a new course for reject­ing the old par­a­digm of war’s inevitabil­ity and finally releas­ing mankind from its destruc­tive grip….this view that war is really ancient and innate has become dom­i­nant in sci­ence…you’ve got this really dra­matic, con­se­quen­tial claim about human nature and about war, this great scourge of human­ityWar really should be seen as a meme, as a self-perpetuating idea or behav­ior that becomes very per­sis­tent and deep-rooted once it emerges in a given region… 

We’re Number 88! US Ranked Low on Global Peace Index — Common Dreams staff, Com­mon Dreams, June 13, 2012 -The just released 2012 Global Peace Index (GPI) from the Insti­tute for Eco­nom­ics and Peace shows that the world has become slightly more peace­ful over the last two years, with Ice­land rank­ing as the most peace­ful coun­try and Soma­lia rank­ing as the least peace­ful place. The U.S. ranks 88 of 158.

5 Ways to Achieve World Peace and Prosperity — 2048: Humanity’s Agreement to Live Together  …One of the most pernicious myths is that peace and prosperity are hopelessly complicated and unattainable…This is untrue. Peace and prosperity can be attained through the realization of five basic fundamental freedoms, for all people, everywhere in the world. They are: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, freedom for the environment, and freedom from fear…The problem is those who are presently profiting…have an interest in maintaining the status quo. It is time for the human rights community to have the strength and daring to band together so that we have the clout to stand up to this narrow-minded view…Awareness can be created with … only 1% of humanity to share the news…This 1% of humanity already exists…now the Internet and 2048 are bringing all these communities together…

Iraq War excerpts updated 3–30–13

Tony Blair [and George Bush] should face trial over Iraq war, says Desmond Tutu


Why War Isn’t Inevitable: A Science Writer Studies the Secret to Peaceful Societies by Brad Jacobson

AlterNet, March 18, 2012

Excerpt

…biologically speaking, we are just as likely to be peaceful as we are to be violent…dispelled multiple myths about the impetus for war [that] sustains the institution of war despite rational thought and an overwhelming human aversion to killing…charts a new course for rejecting the old paradigm of war’s inevitability and finally releasing mankind from its destructive grip….this view that war is really ancient and innate has become dominant in science…you’ve got this really dramatic, consequential claim about human nature and about war, this great scourge of humanity

War really should be seen as a meme, as a self-perpetuating idea or behavior that becomes very persistent and deep-rooted once it emerges in a given region…

Full text

In The End of War, veteran science journalist John Horgan applies the scientific method to reach a unique conclusion: biologically speaking, we are just as likely to be peaceful as we are to be violent. So what keeps humans bound by a seemingly never-ending cycle of war?

In a phone interview with AlterNet from his home in New York’s HudsonValley– situated within earshot of the mortars and howitzers at West PointMilitaryAcademy’s artillery range — Horgan dispelled multiple myths about the impetus for war, the combination of which, he believes, sustains the institution of war despite rational thought and an overwhelming human aversion to killing. A longtime Scientific American writer and director of the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, Horgan also charts a new course for rejecting the old paradigm of war’s inevitability and finally releasing mankind from its destructive grip.

Brad Jacobson: Was there an overriding factor that drove you to write this book?

John Horgan: Yeah, it was my discovery that started right after the U.S.invasion of Iraq: the vast majority of people, both American and people around the world, believe that war is a permanent part of the human condition. That we’ve always fought wars and we always will. I have surveyed thousands of people on this issue now, young and old. I ask people this question: Do you think war will ever end? And usually between 80 and 90 percent of the time people say, “No, war will never end. We’re always going to have wars of some kind or other.” And when I would ask people why they were so pessimistic, they would give me a range of reasons. Often it would be, “War is part of human nature.” “War is in our genes.” Or it would be an environmental explanation: war comes from the tendency of humans to overpopulate different regions, leading to a competition for resources.

There have been other surveys of people’s attitudes toward war going back to the 1980s. I cited those in my book, too. And those found quite a bit of pessimism, but not nearly as much as I found over the last seven to eight years.

So I wrote the book basically to rebut this extremely pessimistic point of view, which is also held by people at the highest levels of power. I quote Barack Obama right at the beginning of my book. At the fucking Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, he’s giving this incredibly pessimistic and wrong view of warfare as dating all the way back to the origin of humanity. And that leads him to say, “Let’s face it, we’re not going to eradicate war in our lifetimes.” Even if you believe that, I think it’s awful for our leader, especially someone like Barack Obama, whom I voted for in part because I thought he would not be a hawkish president and get us out of these terrible wars we’ve been in recently. Even if he is personally pessimistic, I want vision from him, especially when he’s accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. How about a vision of a world without war instead of saying this is just the way it is and you have to accept it?

BJ: Didn’t he also receive the Nobel just days after calling for a troop buildup inAfghanistan?

JH: That’s right. When he was inOslo,Norway, where he accepted the Peace Prize, this was about nine days after he had announced that he was sending 30,000 more troops toAfghanistan.

BJ: You also cite another line from Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech, which you dispel in your book: “War in one form or another appeared with the first man.” Why do you think this belief has become such entrenched conventional wisdom?

JH: That’s a good question. I have been tracking the anthropology of war literature since the late 1980s. And since then, this view that war is really ancient and innate has become dominant in science. There’s a group of scientists at Harvard, in particular, starting with Edward Wilson, also Richard Wrangham, Steven Pinker, Steven LeBlanc. Very influential, very smart, respected scientists who’ve been repeatedly putting out this idea that war, as Obama said, is at least as old as humans, and might even be older and go back millions of years to the common ancestor with chimpanzees. That theory is now accepted and has seeped down to the level of the general population. I hear it all the time. I see it cited in all sorts of popular books about human nature, human psychology, as well as about aggression and warfare.

And I think that really, as a scientific hypothesis, has a lot to do with people’s pessimism these days. In addition to a more obvious reason, which would be that over the last decade we’ve had 9/11, followed by two very serious wars inIraqandAfghanistan, plus the war on terror. So I think this bad scientific theory has a lot to do with people’s pessimism, which is why I devote a chunk of my book to rebutting that.

BJ: I found it fascinating that you not only show in the book that humans are as equally genetically related to chimpanzees as they are to peace-loving bonobos, but also you debunk the idea that chimpanzees are necessarily innately violent to begin with.

JH: And not just violent to begin with, which they can be. The claim is more specific than that: that chimps in one group band together and raid chimps from another group. Usually it’s just ambushing one or two. In most cases, it’s just finding a little baby and ripping it apart.

What I found when I looked at the literature carefully is we’re talking about a very small number of these incidents over the past few decades. Depending on how you count them, just a couple of dozen. And you have literally hundreds of years of human observations, if you count individual scientists watching individual troupes [of chimpanzees], but which has accumulated just a handful of these troupe raids that lead to deaths. Even anthropologist Richard Wrangham — who’s sort of the chief proponent of this idea that human warfare and chimpanzee warfare are very similar — says that this is very rare behavior. And Jane Goodall has suggested that this behavior might be a response to changes in the way that chimps behave as a result of the encroachment of humans on their habitat, even as a result, for example, of Goodall herself putting out bananas and so forth.

So, you know, you’ve got this really dramatic, consequential claim about human nature and about war, this great scourge of humanity, based on really flimsy evidence. I mean I have great respect for Steve Pinker and Ed Wilson and even Richard Wrangham. But they should know better than to be putting out this theory as fact when the facts do not support it.

BJ: If humans are as genetically related to bonobos as we are to chimpanzees, why isn’t that cited more often in discussions on the human impetus for war?

JH: Well, you know, bonobos are getting a lot of press lately. Peaceniks love to cite them, especially peaceniks who think that humans are innately pacifistic and gentle. Actually, I cite the bonobos research to counter all the chimp stuff. But really I think all of that is pretty much irrelevant. We really should be forgetting about the chimpanzee and bonobos stuff — that might’ve evolved very recently. The way that chimps or bonobos act now might have nothing to do with what was happening millions of years ago with the common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans.

The literature that I think is really significant from this question about the origins of war concerns the first appearance of war in the archeological record. The point I make in my book is that, in spite of what is often said about war being very ancient going back to the beginning of humanity, as Obama said, war is quite recent. The oldest evidence for war is 12,000 years ago and even that is kind of an outlier. Really all the evidence for war starts about 10,000 years ago. And war seems to have emerged independently in various parts of the world and then rapidly spread.

So this is a cultural innovation that happened actually quite late. It happened after — well after — the invention of complex tools, the invention of cooking, after we see evidence for religion, after the emergence of art and music. War came after all those things, so in no way is it something that’s an instinct or really deeply embedded in us. It’s a very recent cultural innovation and it’s not something that then became permanent in all human societies.

The fascinating thing about war, too, is that it emerges in some places and then it disappears. And some societies that were once extremely warlike can become peaceful, at least when it comes to group violence, for very long periods after that. Which again, undercuts the whole notion of war being this deeply engrained biological behavior.

BJ: So why does war happen?

JH: After biology, the next most common explanation is that war happens because humans tend to overbreed. We make too many copies of ourselves and then we start fighting over stuff — water, game, land, women have been a source of conflict for fighting among men. Now we fight over oil and other strategic resources. After biology, this resource competition theory is by far the most common explanation of war. And often the two are combined, biology plus resource competition.

The problem is it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. I look at the evidence for the resource scarcity argument and there are some wars where there are clearly some fights over resources, over oil or land or whatever. But there are many wars that aren’t. And the fascinating thing about war that a lot of people fail to understand is that war can arise for almost an infinite variety of reasons. Wars happen because maybe you just got some charismatic sociopath who convinces people in his tribe to go and kick the asses of the tribe next door. And when that happens, you have this new behavior that emerges that rapidly spreads. What does that neighboring tribe do if it’s attacked by the one led by this sociopath? It either has to run away or it has to fight in self-defense. That’s what makes war so insidious.

War really should be seen as a meme, as a self-perpetuating idea or behavior that becomes very persistent and deep-rooted once it emerges in a given region. And I think you can see the evidence of that over the last decade. What have been the motives behind the wars that have happened starting with 9/11? We invadedAfghanistan because we were attacked on 9/11. That was a war of vengeance. We were trying to get the guys who did it to us. The same with the invasion ofIraq. And if you didn’t thinkIraq was revenge for 9/11, well, it was because Saddam Hussein was threatening us. We thought he had weapons. So fear of war, in that case, caused us to launch a preemptive attack.

Now you’ve got the case ofIran, the drums of war are beating again. Why is that? Is it over resource competition? No, not at all. It’s because we thinkIranis going to attack us because they’re building nuclear weapons. And of courseIran, if it is interested in nuclear weapons, is interested in them because they think we’re going to attack them orIsraelis going to attack them. So I think you see clear evidence even right now, if you look around the world, as war as something that perpetuates itself apart from any other causes or factors.

BJ: If the acceptance of war’s inevitability is largely a meme, an idea that self-perpetuates in a culture, how do societies counter that?

JH: Yeah, Jesus, it’s a good question. I think we have already seen over the last century a sea-change in popular attitudes toward war. If you go back before World War I, you can find a lot of people, prominent intellectuals and political leaders, who talked about war as something that was intrinsically good. As something that was worth doing for its own sake because it was good for the character of a nation. Teddy Roosevelt talked that way. And so did a lot of prominent intellectuals. Even [the psychologist] William James, who was a pacifist, granted that war can be very stimulating for character and marshal virtues that are admirable. All that kind of bullshit.

But the idea that war is just something that’s good to do apart from any other higher goal of national purpose or so forth has really diminished. In part because the gigantic industrial scale of wars that we had with World War I and World War II, which really took a lot of the glamour out of war.

We still glorify the macho virtues of war in some ways. I think the number-one movie last week was the one about the Navy Seals who got Osama bin Laden. But it’s not as deep-rooted as it once was. I feel as though there is so much exposure now to the real horrors of war, from the inevitable civilian casualties and so forth. I think morally overall people are more prepared to denounce war once and for all than they were at pretty much at any other time in recent human history.

BJ: Can you describe the implications of the fierce Amazonian tribe, the Waorani, on the ability of mankind to turn away from war?

JH: It was this tribe in Ecuadorian Amazon that was first studied more than 50 years ago by anthropologists and had extraordinary high rates of violence. They were higher than anything that had ever been measured. More than 50 percent of the population died violently, for the most part, in raids of one village on another. It had just always been that way. And of course, as I said, it becomes self-perpetuating. People in each village would be so fearful of everybody else that if you met somebody in the forest, you would immediately need to run away or you’d try to kill them. And they were constantly carrying out preemptive attacks on each other.

But they were smart enough to realize that this was crazy. It was unsustainable. But how do you get out? And these missionaries came up with an ingenious idea. They couldn’t even have peace parleys because any people meeting together from different villages would be worried that the other guy would pull out a spear and stab them. And so the missionaries came up with this ingenious idea of arranging negotiations by flying a plane over each other’s camps to first deliver conciliatory messages. By having people from one village vowing to the other, “Hey listen, we’ve got to stop fighting. What do you say?” And this gradually led to a truce. And this extremely violent society became, not completely non-violent, to be honest, but much less violent. And especially, these rates of group attacks started diminishing in frequency.

It again shows the self-perpetuating nature of war and also the ability of people collectively to come together and say — apart from any other conditions of the society like political, demographic, or economic factors — “We don’t want to do this anymore so let’s stop. It’s stupid. ”

And of course we’ve seen examples of this among very sophisticated modern states.SwitzerlandandSwedenboth about 200 years ago decided that war was stupid and they stopped fighting. They are prepared vigorously to defend themselves. They have an army. But they haven’t been involved in any war in combat.

One of my favorite examples isCosta Rica, which in the 1940s went through a terrible civil war in which the army turned against the people. After the war was over, the victors, who were very progressive, especially in retrospect, said, “We never want this to happen again. Armies in this country seem only to cause trouble. So let’s get rid of the standing army and invest those resources in education and infrastructure and tourism and so forth.” And as you probably know,Costa Ricais in the middle of what has been over the last half century one of the most violent places in the world. It’s right next toNicaragua, nearGuatemala,Honduras,El Salvador. And while war is raging all around it and terrible poverty,Costa Ricahas thrived. And according to lots of so-called social happiness indexes, it’s the happiest place on earth. And again, it was just something they decided to do.

Some people think that for war to end we have to first create a utopia. We have to first have complete social justice and economic equality and get rid of all poverty, have complete freedom and democracy and so forth. But actually I think things work the other way. First, you get rid of war and militarism, and then a lot of these other wonderful things can happen in part as a result of that. And I think that’s what Costa Rica has shown.

BJ: You also debunk the notion of man as a natural warrior, exploring the overwhelming reluctance of soldiers in major wars, including the Civil War, World War I and World War II, to fire their guns directly at the enemy, even with a clear shot and when ordered by their superiors. It was definitely eye-opening to me.

JH: It was eye-opening to me, too. And I love the fact that the person who compiled these data is a guy named Dave Grossman, who is a Special Forces colonel and an instructor at West Point. He’s a soldier and a real hard-ass. And he wrote this book called On Killing, which basically makes the case and presents massive data to show that far from being innate warriors who are just dying to kill people, the vast majority of men are extremely reluctant to kill other people. And this has been a real problem for soldiers in wars going very far back, including the Civil War, as you mentioned. There’s some evidence from the Napoleonic War. There was a big survey done ofU.S. combat veterans in World War II and it found that lots of guys who were infantrymen — these are kind of the grunts in Word War II — they were not firing at all or were firing away from the enemy. They did not want to kill someone.

As a result of that the Army was horrified and they completely revamped their training to boost the firing rates of combat soldiers. They did boost the rates in the Korean War and especially in the Vietnam War. But what Grossman said is that as a result there are higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. For example, inVietnam, because the soldiers were reacting in horror often to all the death they were meting out.

BJ: Weren’t these types of tactics to ensure higher firing rates still employed by theU.S.military inIraqandAfghanistan? And aren’t they, then, continuing to lead to higher rates of PTSD?

Yeah. And so one of the things that’s happened in modern warfare of course is that you’re not shooting somebody 30 passes away as often anymore. Firing or killing has become even more automated. You have bombing. You have very long-range artillery and so forth. I mean that was true by WWII as well. But it’s become even more true today. And of course now you have the ultimate remote killing machine, which is the drone. You got a guy sitting in an office in Nevada and he’s pulling a trigger and blowing away a supposed terrorist in Yemen or Pakistan or Iraq. And what’s interesting is that there have been all these reports that drone operators — who are so far removed from actual bloodshed, and are completely removed from any danger to themselves — are also experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. Which, again, I think shows that most people are not natural warriors. It’s not something that most people want to do.

It’s true also of the origins of war if you go back many thousands of years to right up to the present. There’s this wonderful anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, who has presented evidence about how war, once it emerged in some of these very early tribal societies, became such an important part of culture that it had a profound impact on male and female roles and identities. And it was the emergence of war that led to male macho-ness, the male embrace of the kind of warrior identity and how being really tough and aggressive was the essence of being a man. It wasn’t that males are intrinsically tough and aggressive and that’s why war happens. It was more that the causality, according to Hrdy, was the other way around. War emerges and then the culture tries to elevate the martial virtues because war then becomes such an important part of the culture.

BJ: You cite Abu Ghraib and the actions of, as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld referred to them, a “few bad apples,” the guards who were involved in torture and abuse of prisoners and portrayed in the media as natural born monsters. But you show how many people, including Rumsfeld, failed to either acknowledge or understand that most causal factors of cruelty in wartime settings most often stem not from individuals themselves but from the fact of being immersed in a wartime setting, surrounded by war’s inherent brutality, bloodshed, fear and madness.

JH: So again we’ve been talking about the degree to which humans are biologically predisposed to hurt each other. So one of the questions is: Are there some people who are just bad apples or sociopathic or sadistic?

In the case of Abu Ghraib, this was a real question. Were the people who committed the abuse at Abu Ghraib just bad people, bad apples? There’s this wonderful book written by a very prominent psychologist named Philip Zimbardo called The Lucifer Effect. He made a very good case that it’s not bad apples who generally are responsible. There are bad apples out there, but almost all war crimes, abuse and atrocities and so forth, are a product of the environment of what he called the “bad barrel,” of a situation that almost forces people to act violently and cruelly toward others.

Zimbardo did this really dramatic experiment in the 1970s, one of the most famous experiments in the history of social psychology, called the Stanford Prison Experiment, where he got a bunch of good, clean-cut Stanford students to pretend to be guards and prisoners in a fake prison in the basement of a Stanford building. And within a couple of days the guards were acting like absolute sadistic beasts to the prisoners, who were just other Stanford students. These weren’t sociopaths. These were kids who were just playacting in the beginning but then quickly got into their roles so much that things really got of hand.

I think it’s a very persuasive piece of evidence. You know, war is like the ultimate bad barrel. Once a war breaks out, then good, humane, decent people, in spite of themselves, often end up acting like absolute monsters. And it’s not something innate. It’s not something that’s always there in their genes. It’s something that’s brought out by war itself.

BJ: What is the case for the very small percentage of people who enjoy killing or feel no compunction to kill as being the driving force of war throughout history?

JH: Well, this emerged from a study by a couple of psychiatrists after World War II of combat veterans. They found that the vast majority of people after continuous combat for 60 days basically go crazy. But a very small percent, about 2 percent, are having a great time.

There are some people who would say these natural-born killers or sociopaths are responsible for all war. And some of them end up being leaders, like Stalin and Hitler. Except that the evidence for that is not really good. You can’t underestimate the degree to which these people actually do contribute to certain wars. Another case, for example, is theRwandagenocide [where a small percentage of people actually carried out the majority of the killing].

But I think that when you look at the totality of war through history, including wars that are happening right now around the world, that explanation doesn’t work very well. It’s not like all the American soldiers who are volunteers now in Iraqand Afghanistanare sociopaths. War is more about conformity, or at least as much about conformity as it is about innate aggression and hostility. 

Modern warfare is so disconnected from the kind of basic male aggression that leads to bar fights or hockey fights and that sort of thing. It really needs to be explained more by political, social and cultural factors. It’s much more often that war turns people into sociopaths than sociopaths causing war.

BJ: What about the idea that if there were more women running countries then that would lead to the end of war?

JH: It has a lot of appeal and I kind of was favoring that for a while in the way that I thought if all nations were democratic, then there would be no war. The only problem is that there’s so much counter-evidence. TheUnited Stateshas remained extraordinarily belligerent and militaristic even as women’s rights have advanced. We haven’t had a female president yet, but we’ve had some very powerful female figures in politics, including Hillary Clinton, who, as far as I can tell, is probably more hawkish than Barack Obama himself. And you also have somebody like Condoleezza Rice. And there are very militaristic female war leaders throughout history.

BJ: One main criticism of your book is that you give short shrift to the power and influence of the military-industrial complex, of weapons manufacturers and their lobbyists and friends in government. How do you respond to that?

JH: Yeah, I think that’s a valid objection to my book. The military-industrial complex is extremely important. Some people broaden that and say, “You’re not going to get rid of war as long as you have capitalism because we’ll always have war profiteering, where people are going to benefit too much from war for it to go away.” My response to that would be that the great titans of capitalism right now are companies like Amazon and Google and Apple. Haliburton is like loose change in the pocket in one of these companies. It’s tiny. Even big aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin are tiny compared to these other companies that just see the rest of the world not as places to be conquered through war but as potential markets. They don’t want war. They want free trade and commerce. This is the impetus behind globalization.

Globalization can lead to problems. It can lead to economic exploitation and so forth. But capitalism, in general, and I hate to say this — I’m like a liberal socialist myself — can be a very progressive force, a profoundly antiwar force that I think, with courageous political leadership, will make the problem of the military-industrial complex go away very rapidly. It’s happened in the past. It happened after the Civil War. It happened after World World I. The problem is that since World War II the military-industrial complex has become very powerful and entrenched. But I think with enough collective will of the people and some decent political leadership, that’s not going to be a problem.

BJ: Who is Gene Sharp and how has he influenced your thoughts on war?

JH: He’s one of the great minds and great moral leaders of our time. He’s a political scientist who started in the 1970s. He’s churned out an enormous number of papers and books on the power of nonviolent activism to bring about extraordinary political change — toppling dictators, overcoming injustice within a society. He’s looked not only at the obvious examples of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, but at many other examples through history and compiled all these techniques that people can use to accomplish pretty much any political-social goal in their society. Very quietly he has had an enormous influence on world affairs. Just recently he’s gotten a lot of attention because it turns out that activists inTunisia andEgypt, people who were part of the Arab Spring, had adopted some of Sharp’s techniques.

I wish his writings were better known because I think the world would be a better place. Obviously there is still a lot of tyranny and injustice in the world. But Sharp holds out the hope that that can be overcome nonviolently and that the consequences of nonviolent revolution are almost always much better than violent revolution.

BJ: What type of action do you hope your book inspires?

JH: I mention somewhere in the book and would like this to be discussed among progressive activists: What should your priorities be? You know, do you work on environmental issues, against global warming? Against poverty and world hunger? Do you work on the advancement of women’s rights? I mean all those are worthy causes. But I actually think that in terms of leverage, of focusing on one thing that can then have a cascade of other positive effects, focusing on militarism and war should be the priority. Because if we can really reduce the militarism of this country, really cut back on our military budget, get rid of nuclear weapons and create a more rational international policy, then I think that a lot of these other things will be much easier to address. Environmental issues, economic injustice issues, female inequality, all those sorts of things.

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