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War Stories

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HUNTER OF STORIES

The late Eduardo Galeano’s forthcoming book, Hunter of Stories, has five or ten sentences on each page — each page a tiny story, their combination engaging and powerful. Galeano includes the story of a war resister who chose to die rather than kill, and that of an Iraqi who foretold and pre-grieved the 2003 looting of the National Museum, also the story of former drone pilot Brandon Bryant who quit after killing a child and being lied to that the child had been a dog, not to mention the story of the World War I Christmas truces. These are all true stories, some new and some familiar, all well documented elsewhere, but Galeano doesn’t bother with the documentation here. He simply tells the stories — extremely simply, he tells the stories. He inspires me to offer the following, and to search for more. If you have ideas for the very best incidents to recount that fit into the following pattern, please let me know. The stories below are meant, not to depict every aspect of war or peace, much less to cover the entire history of war and peace. There’s no need to send me the full list of thousands and millions of stories not included here. The stories below are meant to encourage questioning of war-thinking. Send me the best anecdotes that further that project please.

HAVE SOME BLANKETS AND DIE

Jeffrey Amherst, commanding general of British forces in North America, later a Lord, and man for whom Amherst, Massachusetts, is named, wrote this in a letter to a subordinate: “Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those disaffected tribes of Indians? We must on this occasion use every stratagem in our power to reduce them.” Beyond small pox, Amherst proposed “to try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race.” He asked that “Measures to be taken as would Bring about the Total Extirpation of those Indian Nations.” He hoped to “put a most Effectual Stop to their very Being.” His plans were acted upon using infected blankets and handkerchiefs. Total extirpation was not achieved. Hundreds of years later it remains common for members of the U.S. military to describe invaded lands as “Indian Country.” In 2017, President Donald Trump proposed “total destruction” and Senator John McCain proposed “extermination” for North Korea.

NOBODY HAD YET THOUGHT OF A BETTER WAY, EXCEPT THOSE WHO HAD

From 1683 to 1755 Pennsylvania’s European settlers had no major wars with the native nations, in stark contrasts with other British colonies. Pennsylvania had slavery, it had capital and other horrific punishments, it had individual violence. But it chose not to use war, not to take land without what was supposed to be just compensation, and not to push alcohol on the native people in the way that opium was later pushed on China and guns and planes are now pushed on nasty despots. In 1710, the Tuscaroras from North Carolina sent messengers to Pennsylvania asking for permission to settle there. All the money that would have been used for militias, forts, and armaments in Pennsylvania was available, for better or worse, to build Philadelphia (remember what its name means) and develop the colony. The colony had 4,000 people within 3 years, and by 1776 Philadelphia surpassed Boston and New York in size. So while the superpowers of the day were battling for control of the continent, one group of people rejected the idea that war is necessary, and prospered more rapidly than any of their neighbors who insisted it was. (Thank you to John Reuwer for this story.)

LIGHTING A MATCH

It was March 23, 1775, and a wealthy, white man who owned many people as slaves was giving a speech in a church in Richmond, Virginia. What he said was not recorded, but we know that he spoke poorly of rule by England. An account just the next week by a man who had attended the speech tells us that the speaker called King George III, “a Tyrant, a fool, a puppet, and a tool.” This orator may have merely hinted at revolution, as on other occasions, or he may have openly advocated it. He also probably spoke on this day, as he did on others before and after, of the need to militarily suppress slave revolts and to resist any British efforts to free people from slavery, as well as of the need to attack Native Americans to the west, where this man was making a fortune on land speculation. Forty-two years later, a supposed text of the speech was published, having been concocted from decades-old memories solicited second-hand, plus sheer invention. The original speaker had long since died. But now we learned that he had spoken against a metaphorical enslavement to England, and possibly even acted out liberating himself from invisible bondage. Words put into his mouth included these: “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death.” There is no record of Patrick Henry subsequently risking death; he saw no combat action. He did, however, campaign against ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His rallying cry popularizing a war theretofore desired mostly by elites, is sufficient, however, to rank him as a heroic Founding Father of a sort that people in Canada and Australia must deeply regret lacking. (Thank you to Ray Raphael for this story.)

WAS THAT THE RUBICON?

The native people of his country called him Conotocaurious, meaning Town Destroyer. He was the wealthiest man on his continent, and he ruled fiercely over his fighters. Those who misbehaved were often given 100 lashes with a whip. Conotocaurious tried to increase the punishment to 500 lashes. He led a desperate insurgency against the legitimate government, and a turning point came with the crossing of a river. It was Christmas night when he sneaked his fighters across a wide river and marched them on a sleepy camp of government mercenaries. The insurgents, or what the U.S. State Department would today call terrorists, killed 22, wounded 83, and took about 900 prisoners, as well as seizing their supplies. The attackers’ own loses were 5 wounded and 0 dead in the battle, though two died from exposure to the cold during the march. Among the group of freedom fighters or terrorists (choose your term, but apply it also to resisters in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Niger, Philippines, etc.) were James Madison, James Monroe, John Marshall, Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, and their leader whose other name was George Washington. Two hundred and thirty-five years later a giant triumphalist phallic monument to Washington cracked in an earthquake, possibly caused by fracking, while the regime established in that Delaware-River-crossing war long ago, waged wars in several different places around the globe, maintaining a troop presence in 175 countries.

COMPENSATED EMANCIPATION

At the end of the 1700s the world was dominated by slavery. Slavery was the norm. The vast majority of people on earth were in slavery or serfdom. Before the end of the 1800s slavery had been outlawed almost everywhere, and drastically reduced in its actual presence. Most parts of the world that ended or took steps to virtually end slavery and the slave trade did so without civil wars, driven forward by a nonviolent abolitionist movement and some violent slave revolts. The United States dramatically reduced slavery at the cost of 750,000 dead, cities burned, militarism glorified, and seemingly eternal resentment fostered. To suggest that another course was possible is typically met with the facts of how dramatically differently people would have had to think and behave — in other words, an underestimation of the term “possible.” Incredibly difficult though it was to enact, there was someone who had an idea. From 1856 to 1860 Elihu Burritt promoted a plan to prevent civil war through compensated emancipation, or the purchase and liberation of enslaved people by the government, an example that the English had set in the West Indies, and an approach that would be used for Washington, D.C., but not the rest of the United States, in 1862. Burritt traveled constantly, all over the country, speaking. He organized a mass convention that was held in Cleveland. He lined up prominent supporters. He edited newsletters. On June 20, 2013, the Atlantic published an article called “No, Lincoln Could Not Have ‘Bought the Slaves’.” Why not? Well, the slave owners didn’t want to sell. That’s perfectly true. They didn’t, not at all. But the Atlantic focuses on another argument, namely that it would have just been too expensive, costing as much as $3 billion (in 1860s money). Yet, if you read closely — it’s easy to miss it — the author admits that the war cost over twice that much. The cost of freeing people was simply unaffordable. Yet the cost — over twice as much — of killing people, goes by almost unnoticed — as if it were a current Pentagon budget.

THE BROOKS BROTHERS ARYAN

A very popular and famous promoter of wars for the Aryan race had his war costume designed especially for him by Brooks Brothers. In his worldview, the Aryans had come from the Middle East to Germany and from there to England in the form of the Anglo-Saxons, who had moved westward across North America and on to the Pacific, from which they would come full-circle to the eventual (and still longed for) conquering of what is now called Iran. In a 1910 lecture at Oxford, this well-dressed Aryan argued in favor of “ethnic conquest,” claiming that allowing members of conquered peoples to live was slowing the progress of the race. His name was Teddy Roosevelt.

THE YANKEES OF THE FAR EAST

In 1614 Japan had cut itself off from the West, resulting in centuries of relative peace and prosperity and the blossoming of Japanese art and culture. In 1853 the U.S. Navy had forced Japan open to U.S. merchants, missionaries, and militarism. The Japanese studied the Americans’ racism and adopted a strategy to deal with it. They sought to westernize themselves and present themselves as a separate race superior to the rest of the Asians. They became honorary Aryans. Lacking a single god or a god of conquest, they invented a divine emperor borrowing heavily from Christian tradition. They dressed and dined like Americans and sent their students to study in the United States. The Japanese were often referred to in the United States as the “Yankees of the Far East.” In 1872 the U.S. military began training the Japanese in how to conquer other nations, with an eye on Taiwan. Charles LeGendre proposed a Monroe Doctrine for Asia, that is a Japanese policy of dominating Asia in the way that the United States dominated its hemisphere. Japan established a Bureau of Savage Affairs and invented new words like koronii (colony). Talk in Japan began to focus on the responsibility of the Japanese to civilize the savages. In 1873, Japan invaded Taiwan with U.S. military “advisors.” And Korea was next.

IT’S ALL KOREA’S FAULT

Korea and Japan had known nothing but peace for centuries. When the Japanese arrived with U.S. ships, wearing U.S. clothing, talking about their divine emperor, and proposing a treaty of “friendship,” the Koreans thought the Japanese had lost their minds, and told them to get lost, knowing that China was there at Korea’s back. But the Japanese talked China into allowing Korea to sign the treaty, without explaining to either the Chinese or Koreans what the treaty meant in its English translation. In 1894 Japan declared war on China, a war in which U.S. weapons carried the day. China gave up Taiwan and the Liaodong Peninsula, paid a large indemnity, declared Korea independent, and gave Japan the same commercial rights in China that the U.S. and European nations had. Japan was triumphant, until China persuaded Russia, France, and Germany to oppose Japanese ownership of Liaodong. Japan gave it up and Russia grabbed it. Japan felt betrayed by white Christians. In 1904, President Teddy Roosevelt was pleased with a Japanese surprise attack on Russian ships. As the Japanese again waged war on Asia as honorary Aryans, Roosevelt secretly and unconstitutionally cut deals with them, approving a Monroe Doctrine for Japan in Asia and handing Japan Korea as a koronii. Yet Roosevelt backed Russia’s refusal to pay Japan a dime, and he refused to make his Monroe Doctrine for Japan public. Japan began to deeply resent its mentor. (Thank you to James Bradley for this story.)

A NONVIOLENT ARMY IN PAKISTAN

Abdul Ghaffar Khan, or Bacha Khan, was born in British-controlled India in 1890 to a wealthy landowning family. Bacha Khan forewent a life of luxury in order to create a nonviolent organization, named the “Red Shirt Movement,” which was dedicated to Indian independence. Khan met Mohandas Gandhi, a champion of nonviolent civil disobedience, and Khan became one of his closest advisors, leading to a friendship that would last until Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. Bacha Khan used nonviolent civil disobedience to gain rights for the Pashtuns in Pakistan, and he was arrested numerous times for his courageous actions. As a Muslim, Khan used his religion as an inspiration to promote a free and peaceful society, where the poorest citizens would be given assistance and allowed to rise economically. The British Empire feared the actions of Gandhi and Bacha Khan, as it showed when over 200 peaceful, unarmed protestors were brutally killed by the British police. The Massacre at Kissa Khani Bazaar showcased the brutality of the British colonists and demonstrated why Bacha Khan fought for independence. In an interview in 1985, Bacha Khan stated, “I am a believer in nonviolence and I say that no peace or tranquility will descend upon the world until nonviolence is practiced, because nonviolence is love and it stirs courage in people.”

TO HELL WITH SPAIN

“Remember the Maine and to hell with Spain!” That was the cry of the yellow journalists of 1898 who blamed an explosion and sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana harbor on the Spanish. Spain proposed that the dispute over what caused the explosion in or near the ship be sent to a third party for arbitration. Spain committed to abiding by any decision and to making any amends required. To hell with that! The U.S. government preferred to go to war — a war on Cuba, the Philippines, and various Pacific islands. Today, the U.S.S. Maine is as widely dispersed as a medieval saint, with one mast on display as a monument in Arlington, Virginia, and another at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, plus anchors from the ship displayed in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts (2), and Maine, as well as guns, propellers, other parts, and plaques made from melting the ship down now on display in at least 84 other locations around the United States. It is not known whether touching these relics aids one in believing the marketing for the most recent wars.

FREEING THE PHILIPPINES

More Filipinos died in the first day of fighting off their U.S. benefactors than Americans would die storming the beaches at Normandy. In the days that followed, many Filipinos were discovered to be in need of waterboarding. U.S. troops in the Philippines sang a pleasant little song about providing the water torture to the Filipinos. Here’s a verse:

“Oh pump it in him till he swells like a toy balloon.
The fool pretends that liberty is not a precious boon.
But we’ll contrive to make him see the beauty of it soon.
Shouting the battle cry of freedom.”

How could that fail to work?

SUNKEN SHIPS LOOSEN LIPS

Germany sank the Lusitania — a horrible act of mass-murder. The Lusitania had been loaded up with weapons and troops for the British — another horrible act of mass-murder. Most damaging, however, were the lies told about it all. Germany had published warnings in New York newspapers and newspapers around the United States. These warnings had been printed right next to ads for sailing on the Lusitania and had been signed by the German embassy. Newspapers had written articles about the warnings. The Cunard company had been asked about the warnings. The former captain of the Lusitania had already quit — reportedly due to the stress of sailing through what Germany had publicly declared a war zone. Meanwhile Winston Churchill is quoted as having said “It is most important to attract neutral shipping to our shores in the hope especially of embroiling the United States with Germany.” It was under his command that the usual British military protection was not provided to the Lusitania, despite Cunard having stated that it was counting on that protection. U.S. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan resigned over the U.S. failure to remain neutral. That the Lusitania was carrying weapons and troops to aid the British in the war against Germany was asserted by Germany and by other observers, and was true. Yet the U.S. government said then, and U.S. text books say now, that the innocent Lusitania was attacked without warning, an action alleged to justify entering a war.

WAIT JUST A MINUTE

Exactly at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918, people across Europe suddenly stopped shooting guns at each other. Up until that moment, they were killing and taking bullets, falling and screaming, moaning and dying. Then they stopped, on schedule. It wasn’t that they’d gotten tired or come to their senses. Both before and after 11 o’clock they were simply following orders. The Armistice agreement that ended World War I had set 11 o’clock as quitting time. Henry Nicholas John Gunther had been born in Baltimore, Maryland, to parents who had immigrated from Germany. In September 1917 he had been drafted to help kill Germans. When he had written home from Europe to describe how horrible the war was and to encourage others to avoid being drafted, he had been demoted (and his letter censored). He had told his buddies he would prove himself. At 5:00 a.m. on 11/11/1918 the Armistice was signed. As the deadline of 11:00 a.m. approached, Henry got up, against orders, and bravely charged with his bayonet toward two German machine guns. The Germans were aware of the Armistice and tried to wave him off. He kept approaching and shooting. When he got close, a short burst of machine gun fire ended his life at 10:59 a.m. Henry was the last of the 11,000 men to be killed or wounded between the signing of the Armistice and its taking effect. Henry Gunther was given his rank back, but not his life.

ARMISTICE DAY

Each year, for a lot of years, there was a remembrance on November 11th. The U.S. Congress called Armistice Day a holiday to “perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations,” a day “dedicated to the cause of world peace.” When churches rang their bells at 11:00, that was what they meant. It was a holiday for peace, and it lasted as long as the idea of peace did.

OUTLAWING WAR

A lawyer in Chicago named Salmon Levinson had an idea. If you could ban dueling, why couldn’t you ban war? He built a popular movement that did just that. Until 1928, war was legal. Its outlawing, by means of all the wealthiest nations on earth signing and ratifying the Kellogg-Briand Pact, was the biggest news story of 1928. Wars were prevented. After World War II, the losers were prosecuted for the new crime. Wealthy nations never went to war with each other again. Conquest and colonialism virtually ceased. Territorial gains through war were restored to 1928 borders. The number of nations on earth quickly doubled, as it became relatively safe to exist as a small country. But the outlawing of war was never accompanied by disarming of weapons. In fact, the arming and funding of future enemies became a growing industry from that day to this. The law was twisted at Nuremberg and Tokyo, and in the United Nations Charter, into a ban only on aggressive and non-U.N.-authorized wars. The five biggest weapons dealers and war makers were given veto power in the Security Council. Endless rules were invented for proper wars. The idea that war was a crime was intentionally forgotten. If anyone mentions it nowadays, the response is that war exists and is therefore not a crime — a response that seems to work only in this instance and not for any other crimes, all of which exist or there would be no point in criminalizing them.

THE GREAT DEPRESSION/PREPARATION BY MULE

In the 1930s, the U.S. military expanded into the Pacific. In March 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt bestowed Wake Island on the U.S. Navy and gave Pan Am Airways a permit to build runways on Wake Island, Midway Island, and Guam. Japanese military commanders announced that they were disturbed and viewed these runways as a threat. So did peace activists in the United States. By the next month, Roosevelt had planned war games and maneuvers near the Aleutian Islands and Midway Island. By the following month, peace activists were marching in New York advocating friendship with Japan. Norman Thomas wrote in 1935: “The Man from Mars who saw how men suffered in the last war and how frantically they are preparing for the next war, which they know will be worse, would come to the conclusion that he was looking at the denizens of a lunatic asylum.” The U.S. believed a Japanese attack on Hawaii would begin with conquering the island of Ni’ihau, from which flights would take off to assault the other islands. U.S. Army Air Corp. Lt. Col. Gerald Brant approached the Robinson family, which owned Ni’ihau and still does. He asked them to plow furrows across the island in a grid, to render it useless for airplanes. Between 1933 and 1937, three Ni’ihau men cut the furrows with plows pulled by mules or draft horses. The U.S. Navy spent the next few years working up plans for war with Japan, the March 8, 1939, version of which described “an offensive war of long duration.” As it turned out, the Japanese had no plans to use Ni’ihau, but when a Japanese plane that had just been part of the attack on Pearl Harbor had to make an emergency landing, it landed on Ni’ihau despite all the efforts of the mules and horses.

DOWNING STREET PART I

On August 18, 1941, Prime Minister Winston Churchill met with his cabinet at 10 Downing Street, his house. Churchill told his cabinet, according to the minutes: “The [U.S.] President had said he would wage war but not declare it.” In addition, “Everything was to be done to force an incident.” British propagandists had argued since at least 1938 for using Japan to bring the United States into the war. At the Atlantic Conference on August 12, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt had assured Churchill that the United States would bring economic pressure to bear on Japan. Within a week, the Economic Defense Board had gotten economic sanctions under way. On September 3, 1941, the U.S. State Department sent Japan a demand that it accept the principle of “nondisturbance of the status quo in the Pacific.” The Allied blockade cut off about 75% of normal trade to Japan according to the New York Times. By September 1941 the Japanese press was outraged that the United States had begun shipping oil right past Japan to reach Russia. Japan, its newspapers said, was dying a slow death from “economic war.” An October 1940 memorandum by Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum had called for eight actions that McCollum predicted would lead the Japanese to attack, including arranging for the use of British bases in Singapore and for the use of Dutch bases in what is now Indonesia, aiding the Chinese government, sending a division of long-range heavy cruisers to the Philippines or Singapore, sending two divisions of submarines to “the Orient,” keeping the main strength of the fleet in Hawaii, insisting that the Dutch refuse the Japanese oil, and embargoing all trade with Japan. The day after McCollum’s memo, the State Department had told Americans to evacuate far eastern nations, and Roosevelt had ordered the fleet kept in Hawaii over the strenuous objection of Admiral James O. Richardson who quoted the President as saying “Sooner or later the Japanese would commit an overt act against the United States and the nation would be willing to enter the war.” In late October, 1941, U.S. spy Edgar Mower spoke with a man in Manila named Ernest Johnson, a member of the Maritime Commission, who said he expected “The Japs will take Manila before I can get out.” When Mower expressed surprise, Johnson replied “Didn’t you know the Jap fleet has moved eastward, presumably to attack our fleet at Pearl Harbor?” On November 3, 1941, the U.S. ambassador tried — not for the first time — to get something through his government’s thick skull, sending a lengthy telegram to the State Department warning that the economic sanctions might force Japan to commit “national hara-kiri.” He wrote: “An armed conflict with the United States may come with dangerous and dramatic suddenness.” On November 15, 1941, Army Chief of Staff George Marshall briefed the media: “We are preparing an offensive war against Japan.” Ten days later Secretary of War Henry Stimson wrote in his diary that he’d met in the Oval Office with Marshall, President Roosevelt, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, Admiral Harold Stark, and Secretary of State Cordell Hull. Roosevelt had told them the Japanese were likely to attack soon, possibly next Monday. The United States had broken the Japanese’ codes. It was Hull who leaked a Japanese intercept to the press, resulting in the November 30, 1941, headline “Japanese May Strike Over Weekend.” The message that Admiral Harold Stark sent to Admiral Husband Kimmel on November 28, 1941, read, “IF HOSTILITIES CANNOT REPEAT CANNOT BE AVOIDED THE UNITED STATES DESIRES THAT JAPAN COMMIT THE FIRST OVERT ACT.” Joseph Rochefort, cofounder of the Navy’s communication intelligence section, who was instrumental in failing to communicate to Pearl Harbor what was coming, would later comment: “It was a pretty cheap price to pay for unifying the country.” Also on November 28, 1941, Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., gave instructions to “shoot down anything we saw in the sky and to bomb anything we saw on the sea.” On May 24, 1941, the New York Times had reported on U.S. training of the Chinese air force, and the provision of “numerous fighting and bombing planes” to China by the United States. “Bombing of Japanese Cities is Expected” read the subheadline. By July, the Joint Army-Navy Board had approved a plan called JB 355 to firebomb Japan. A front corporation would buy American planes to be flown by American volunteers. Roosevelt approved, and his China expert Lauchlin Currie, in the words of Nicholson Baker, “wired Madame Chaing Kai-Shek and Claire Chennault a letter that fairly begged for interception by Japanese spies.” The 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force, also known as the Flying Tigers, moved ahead with recruitment and training immediately, were provided to China prior to Pearl Harbor, and first saw combat on December 20, 1941. Marshall later admitted to Congress that Japanese codes had been broken, that the United States had initiated Anglo-Dutch-American agreements for unified action against Japan and put them into effect before Pearl Harbor, and that the United States had provided officers of its military to China for combat duty before Pearl Harbor. Henry Luce in Life magazine on July 20, 1942, referred to “the Chinese for whom the U.S. had delivered the ultimatum that brought on Pearl Harbor.”

PEACE VS. HOLOCAUST

Jessie Wallace Hughan, founder of the War Resisters League, was very concerned in 1942 by stories of Nazi plans, no longer focused on expelling Jews but turning toward plans to murder them. Hughan believed that such a development appeared “natural, from their pathological point of view,” and that it might really be acted upon if World War II continued. “It seems that the only way to save thousands and perhaps millions of European Jews from destruction,” she wrote, “would be for our government to broadcast the promise” of an “armistice on condition that the European minorities are not molested any further. . . . It would be very terrible if six months from now we should find that this threat has literally come to pass without our making even a gesture to prevent it.” When her predictions were fulfilled only too well by 1943, she wrote to the U.S. State Department and the New York Times: “two million [Jews] have already died” and “two million more will be killed by the end of the war.” She warned that military successes against Germany would just result in further scapegoating of Jews. “Victory will not save them, for dead men cannot be liberated,” she wrote. (Thank you to Lawrence Wittner for this story.)

LET’S TRY TO STAY FOCUSED

“Anthony Eden, Britain’s foreign secretary, who’d been tasked by Churchill with handling queries about refugees, dealt coldly with one of many important delegations, saying that any diplomatic effort to obtain the release of the Jews from Hitler was ‘fantastically impossible.’ On a trip to the United States, Eden candidly told Cordell Hull, the secretary of state, that the real difficulty with asking Hitler for the Jews was that ‘Hitler might well take us up on any such offer, and there simply are not enough ships and means of transportation in the world to handle them.’ Churchill agreed. ‘Even were we to obtain permission to withdraw all the Jews,’ he wrote in reply to one pleading letter, ‘transport alone presents a problem which will be difficult of solution.’ Not enough shipping and transport? Two years earlier, the British had evacuated nearly 340,000 men from the beaches of Dunkirk in just nine days. The U.S. Air Force had many thousands of new planes. During even a brief armistice, the Allies could have airlifted and transported refugees in very large numbers out of the German sphere.” (Thank you to and quoted from Nicholson Baker.)

ANNE FRANK’S VISA APPLICATION

A ship of Jewish refugees from Germany was chased away from Miami by the Coast Guard. The U.S. and other nations refused to accept most Jewish refugees, and the majority of the U.S. public supported that position. The U.S. engaged in no diplomatic or military effort to save the victims in the Nazi concentration camps. Anne Frank’s family was denied U.S. visas.

KYOTO’S SURVIVAL

U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson kept Kyoto off the list of targets for nuclear bombs. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not more military or less civilian than Kyoto was. And they were considered less ideal locations to demonstrate the new bombs. But Kyoto had cultural significance, and it appears that among those who appreciated Kyoto’s beauty was Henry Stimson, who had visited Kyoto. As far as we know, he had never been to Hiroshima or Nagasaki, which was too bad for them.

WHY ARE THERE TWO KOREAS?

Following World War II, two American colonels, after midnight, on August 11, 1945, pulled out a National Geographic map and picked a place as far north as they thought they could get away with. They chose the thirty-eighth parallel of latitude. They drew a line. They thereby doubled the number of Koreas in the world. The North stopped receiving food from the South, and the South stopped receiving electricity from the North. The North got a leader chosen by the Soviet Union, and the South got one chosen by and imported from Washington, D.C. What could go wrong?

THE VIEW OF NUREMBERG FROM GUATEMALA

Robert Jackson, Chief U.S. Prosecutor at the trials of Nazis for war and related crimes held in Nuremberg, Germany, following World War II, set a standard for the world: “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.” Among the trials held in Nuremberg was one of Nazi doctors accused of human experimentation and mass murder. This trial lasted from December 9, 1946, to August 20, 1947. An important witness provided by the American Medical Association was Dr. Andrew C. Ivy. He explained that Nazi doctors’ actions “were crimes because they were performed on prisoners without their consent and in complete disregard for their human rights. They were not conducted so as to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering.” In the April 27, 1947, New York Times, that newspaper’s science editor Waldemar Kaempffert wrote that human experiments with syphilis would be valuable but “ethically impossible.” Dr. John C. Cutler read the short article. He was at the time engaged in giving syphilis to unsuspecting victims in Guatemala. He was doing this with the funding, knowledge, and support of his superiors at the U.S. Public Health Service. He called the Times article to the attention of Dr. John F. Mahoney, his director at the Venereal Diseases Research Laboratory (VDRL) of the Public Health Service. Cutler wrote to Mahoney that in light of the Times article, Cutler’s work in Guatemala should be guarded with increased secrecy. Cutler had gone to Guatemala because he believed it was a place where he could get away with intentionally infecting people with syphilis in order to experiment with possible cures and placebos. He did not believe he could get away with such actions in the United States. In February 1947, Cutler had begun infecting female prostitutes with syphilis and using them to infect numerous men. In April he began infecting men directly. The motivation was to find better ways to cure syphilis in members of the U.S. military, which clearly was not considering ending its operations simply because the war had ended and the United Nations been established. Many U.S. doctors at this time considered the Nuremberg Code that came out of the Nazi trials to be “a good code for barbarians.” Many went right on human experimenting for decades.

HOW DO YOU GIVE LSD TO AN ENTIRE VILLAGE?

On August 16, 1951, the quiet village of Pont Saint Esprit on the Rhone River in Southern France began to lose its mind. People were hit with insanity, delirium, hallucinations, and horror. A man screamed that his belly was being eaten by snakes. He tried to drown himself. Another yelled “I am a plane!” He jumped from a second-floor window and broke both of his legs. Nonetheless, he got up and continued to roam around ranting. One man said that his heart had escaped through his feet. Hundreds of people were affected, dozens taken to an asylum in straight jackets. Five people died. Decades later, a researcher found U.S. government documents confirming that the CIA had put LSD into the local food as an experiment. Probably the easiest way to hear an apology for the incident from the CIA would be to try some LSD.

WHO IS MOSSADEGH?

Mohammad Mossadegh, the popular, democratically elected president of Iran, visited the United States and the United Nations in 1951. He posed with the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. He was the Time magazine person of the year in 1952. Many respected him, even if begrudgingly. Others truly liked and admired him. But he believed that Iran should profit from its oil, rather than a British corporation grow rich at Iranians’ expense. This proved unacceptable. The British recruited the CIA, with President Dwight Eisenhower’s approval, to overthrow Mossadegh in 1953. The operation was led by Teddy Roosevelt’s grandson, Kermit Roosevelt Jr. The United States replaced Mossadegh with Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the former Shah of Iran, who ruled as a brutal dictator but a good weapons customer until 1979, when he was tossed out by an Iranian revolution. Fearing another U.S. action, Iranians took over the U.S. embassy from which the 1953 coup had been launched. The revolutionaries held U.S. embassy employees as hostages. U.S. Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan made a deal with the Iranians not to release the hostages while Jimmy Carter was president. They were released the day Reagan was inaugurated. Iran’s was one of at least 36 governments that the United States has overthrown since World War II, during which time the United States has attempted to assassinate over 50 leaders and dropped bombs on over 30 countries. The blowback from the Iranian coup — that is to say, the undesirable results in the years that have followed, results that appear spontaneous and irrational to uninformed observers — has been fairly typical of all such operations.

CAN YOU WASH A BRAIN?

During and after the Korean War of 1950 – 1953, the United States had a problem for which the solution was brainwashing — not actual brainwashing, but the creation and popularization of the concept of brainwashing. It became very useful to spread about the idea that the Chinese were capable of things that the CIA only dreamed of and desperately searched for, such as the creation of Manchurian candidates, human beings programed like machines. In particular, it became necessary to convince people that the Chinese could erase someone’s mind and replace it with a bunch of made-up stories that would be sincerely believed. This feat, which is not actually possible in the real world, was called brainwashing. But why was it needed? Well, U.S. troops who had been held as prisoners during the war, had said some pretty terrible things about the crimes they had been engaged in. And now they were free and back home and refusing to recant their testimony. During the Korean War, the United States bombed virtually all of North Korea and a good bit of the South, killing millions of people. It dropped massive quantities of Napalm. It bombed dams, bridges, villages, houses. This was all-out mass-slaughter. But there was something the U.S. government didn’t want known, something deemed unethical in this genocidal madness. We now know that the United States dropped on China and North Korea insects and feathers carrying anthrax, cholera, encephalitis, and bubonic plague. This was supposed to be a secret at the time, and the Chinese response of mass vaccinations and insect eradication probably contributed to the project’s general failure (hundreds were killed, but not millions). But members of the U.S. military taken prisoner by the Chinese confessed to what they had been a part of, and confessed publicly when they got back to the United States. It was quickly discovered, to everyone’s great relief, that these poor souls were victims of brainwashing.

HOW VETERANS DAY GOT ITS NAME

Right up through the Korean War, the United States celebrated Armistice Day. Then Congress turned Armistice Day into Veterans Day. A day for peace became a day on which Veterans For Peace groups are often excluded from war-promoting Veterans Day parades. Not just the day changed. Veterans were changed into props for the marketing of wars, and of a permanent state of war, sold to the public as if it were all for the benefit of the young people sent off to acquire PTSD, brain injury, moral injury, and sometimes amputations and other visible hints at what’s inside.

WHERE DID LYME DISEASE COME FROM?

Less than 2 miles off the east end of Long Island sits Plum Island, where the U.S. government has worked with biological weapons, including weapons consisting of diseased insects that can be dropped from airplanes on a (presumably foreign) population. One such insect is the deer tick. Deer swim to Plum Island. Birds fly to Plum Island. In July of 1975, a disease nobody had seen in the United States before, appeared in Old Lyme, Connecticut, just north of Plum Island. Plum Island experimented with the Lone Star tick, whose habitat at the time was confined to Texas. Yet the Lone Star tick showed up in New York and Connecticut, infecting people with Lyme disease — and killing them. The Lone Star tick is now endemic in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. This disease spread fast. Its source was a mystery, and in U.S. journalism it is treated as such to this day. But Plum Island held a germ warfare laboratory to which the U.S. government had brought former Nazi germ warfare scientists in the 1940s to work on the same evil work for a different employer. These included the head of the Nazi germ warfare program who had worked directly for Heinrich Himmler. On Plum Island these scientists frequently conducted their experiments out of doors. Documents record outdoor experiments with diseased ticks in the 1950s. Even the indoors, where participants admit to experiments with ticks, was not sealed tight. And test animals mingled with wild deer, test birds with wild birds. By the 1990s, the eastern end of Long Island had by far the greatest concentration of Lyme disease. If you drew a circle around the area of the world heavily impacted by Lyme disease, the center of that circle was Plum Island. (Thank you to Michael Carroll for this story.)

DOWNING STREET PART II

On July 23, 2002, British Prime Minister Tony Blair met with his cabinet at his house, 10 Downing Street. Minutes were taken that would be published in May 2005. Top British spy Sir Richard Dearlove was just returned from meeting with the head of the CIA George Tenet. According to the Downing Street Minutes, Dearlove’s report was as follows. “There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.” This document, never disputed by the British government, and later confirmed by numerous other sources, showed that eight months before attacking Iraq, the United States had decided to do so. First, however, would come eight months of claiming to be trying to avoid war while doing everything possible to get a war started.

CAN WE GET ONE OF OUR PLANES SHOT DOWN?

On January 31, 2003, six months after the Downing Street meeting, President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair met in the White House. Bush proposed painting U.S. airplanes to look like United Nations planes, and flying them over Iraq in hopes of getting them shot at, in order to start a war. It is not recorded what Blair replied to this idea. We do know that Blair urged Bush to try for authorization of a war by the United Nations. Bush replied that “the U.S. would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would ‘twist arms’ and ‘even threaten’. But he had to say that if ultimately we failed, military action would follow anyway.” Blair made clear that he’d go along, saying that he was “solidly with the President and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam.” Bush and Blair then walked out together to meet with reporters and cameras. They assured the media that they were working to avoid war. The press conference can be watched on Youtube, by people with strong stomachs.

PAY NO ATTENTION TO SPAIN

Foreign terrorism is always concentrated virtually entirely in nations engaged in foreign wars and occupations. On March 11, 2004, Al Qaeda bombs killed 191 people in Madrid, Spain, just before an election in which one party was campaigning against Spain’s participation in the U.S.-led war on Iraq. The people of Spain voted the Socialists into power, and they removed all Spanish troops from Iraq by May. There were no more bombs. This history stands in strong contrast to that of Britain, the United States, and other nations that have responded to blowback with more war, generally producing more blowback. It is generally considered inappropriate to pay attention to the Spanish example, and U.S. media has even developed the habit of reporting on this history in Spain as if the opposite of what happened happened.

HE SHOULD HAVE HAD BETTER PARENTS

President Barack Obama made clear to the New York Times just before his second election in 2012 that he looked through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays, picking which ones to have killed with missiles from drones. He reportedly — and he did not dispute the report — remarked during that reelection campaign that he was “really good at killing people.” Two weeks after killing a man named Anwar al-Awlaki as punishment for things he had written and said, Obama killed Awlaki’s 16-year-old American son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. Obama campaign senior adviser and former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, when asked about this killing, replied that Abdulrahman “should have [had] a far more responsible father.”

GOOD MORNING. YOU JUST BOMBED MY VILLAGE.

On April 23, 2013, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee hearing on drones was not just your usual droning and yammering. One witness was a young man from Yemen, the site of President Obama’s “successful drone war.” Farea Al-Muslimi had been scheduled to testify for some time, but — as things worked out — just prior to the hearing a U.S. drone attacked his home village. Al-Muslimi described the effects — all bad for the people of the village, for the people of Yemen, and for the United States and its mission to eliminate all the bad people in the world without turning any of the good people against it. Al-Muslimi asserted that U.S. drones were doing more to build support for terrorists in Yemen than those terrorists could have ever dreamed of creating on their own. In fact, in the years that followed, the situation in Yemen deteriorated in a manner consistent with Muslimi’s observations, but not with the statements of the White House. Another witness at the same hearing, a law professor named Rosa Brooks, explained to curious Congress Members that if “drone strikes” are part of war, that’s fine, but if they’re not part of war, then they’re murder. But since the memos that “legalize” the drone strikes are secret, Brooks said, we don’t know whether they’re perfectly fine or murder. Needless to say, nobody asked her what could legalize a war.

WHAT JAPAN NEEDS IS MILITARISM

A U.S. occupying army put the words of the Kellogg-Briand Pact forbidding war into the Japanese Constitution, and the U.S. government quickly began pressuring Japan to violate them. Japan refused to send troops to the U.S. wars on Korea and Vietnam. Japan took ownership of its Constitution. By 2017, however, the President of Japan was intent on “reinterpreting” the ban on war as a license for unlimited war making. The President of the United States supports this effort. After all, what could go wrong?

More articles by:

David Swanson wants you to declare peace at http://WorldBeyondWar.org  His new book isWar No More: The Case for Abolition.

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