28

Jul

Deterrence in the Age of Nuclear Proliferation

By George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger And Sam Nunn

(Wall Street Journal March 7, 2011)

The doctrine of mutual assured destruction is obsolete in the post-Cold War era.

As long as there has been war, there have been efforts to deter actions a nation considers threatening. Until fairly recently, this meant building a military establishment capable of intimidating the adversary, defeating him or making his victory more costly than the projected gains. This, with conventional weapons, took time. Deterrence and war strategy were identical.

The advent of the nuclear weapon introduced entirely new factors. It was possible, for the first time, to inflict at the beginning of a war the maximum casualties. The doctrine of mutual assured destruction represented this reality. Deterrence based on nuclear weapons, therefore, has three elements:

• It is importantly psychological, depending on calculations for which there is no historical experience. It is therefore precarious.

• It is devastating. An unrestrained nuclear exchange between superpowers could destroy civilized life as we know it in days.

• Mutual assured destruction raises enormous inhibitions against employing the weapons.

Since the first use of nuclear weapons against Japan, neither of the superpowers, nor any other country, has used nuclear weapons in a war. A gap opened between the psychological element of deterrence and the risks most leaders were willing to incur. U.S. defense leaders made serious efforts to give the president more flexible options for nuclear use short of global annihilation. They never solved the problem, and it was always recognized that Washington and Moscow both held the keys to unpredictable and potentially catastrophic escalations.

As a result, nuclear deterrence was useful in preventing only the most catastrophic scenarios that would have threatened our survival. But even with the deployment of thousands of nuclear weapons on both sides of the Iron Curtain, the Soviet moves into Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 were not deterred. Nor were the numerous crises involving Berlin, including the building of the Wall in 1961, or major wars in Korea and Vietnam, or the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. In the case of the Soviet Union, nuclear weapons did not prevent collapse or regime change.

Today, the Cold War is almost 20 years behind us, but many leaders and publics cannot conceive of deterrence without a strategy of mutual assured destruction. We have written previously that reliance on this strategy is becoming increasingly hazardous. With the spread of nuclear weapons, technology, materials and know-how, there is an increasing risk that nuclear weapons will be used.

It is not possible to replicate the high-risk stability that prevailed between the two nuclear superpowers during the Cold War in such an environment. The growing number of nations with nuclear arms and differing motives, aims and ambitions poses very high and unpredictable risks and increased instability.

From 1945 to 1991, America and the Soviet Union were diligent, professional, but also lucky that nuclear weapons were never used. Does the world want to continue to bet its survival on continued good fortune with a growing number of nuclear nations and adversaries globally? Can we devise and successfully implement with other nations, including other nuclear powers, careful, cooperative concepts to safely dismount the nuclear tiger while strengthening the capacity to assure our security and that of allies and other countries considered essential to our national security?
Recently, the four of us met at the Hoover Institution with a group of policy experts to discuss the possibilities for establishing a safer and more comprehensive form of deterrence and prevention in a world where the roles and risks of nuclear weapons are reduced and ultimately eliminated. Our broad conclusion is that nations should move forward together with a series of conceptual and practical steps toward deterrence that do not rely primarily on nuclear weapons or nuclear threats to maintain international peace and security.

The first step is to recognize that there is a daunting new spectrum of global security threats. These threats include chemical, biological and radiological weapons, catastrophic terrorism and cyber warfare, as well as natural disasters resulting from climate change or other environmental problems, and health-related crises. For the United States and many other nations, existential threats relating to the very survival of the state have diminished, largely because of the end of the Cold War and the increasing realization that our common interests greatly exceed our differences. However, an accident or mistake involving nuclear weapons, or nuclear terrorism fueled by the spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear materials, and nuclear know-how, is still a very real risk. An effective strategy to deal with these dangers must be developed.

The second step is the realization that continued reliance on nuclear weapons as the principal element for deterrence is encouraging, or at least excusing, the spread of these weapons, and will inevitably erode the essential cooperation necessary to avoid proliferation, protect nuclear materials and deal effectively with new threats.

Third, the U.S. and Russia have no basis for maintaining a structure of deterrence involving nuclear weapons deployed in ways that decrease the danger of an accidental or unauthorized use of a nuclear weapon, or even a deliberate nuclear exchange based on a false warning. Reducing the number of operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles with verification to the levels set by the New Start Treaty is an important step in reducing nuclear risks. Deeper nuclear reductions and changes in nuclear force posture involving the two nations should remain a priority. Further steps must include short-range tactical nuclear weapons.

Fourth, as long as nuclear weapons exist, America must retain a safe, secure and reliable nuclear stockpile primarily to deter a nuclear attack and to reassure our allies through extended deterrence. There is an inherent limit to U.S. and Russian nuclear reductions if other nuclear weapon states build up their inventories or if new nuclear powers emerge.

It is clear, however, that the U.S. and Russia—having led the nuclear buildup for decades—must continue to lead the build-down. The U.S. and its NATO allies, together with Russia, must begin moving away from threatening force postures and deployments including the retention of thousands of short-range battlefield nuclear weapons. All conventional deployments should be reviewed from the aspect of provocation. This will make America, Russia and Europe more secure. It will also set an example for the world.

Fifth, we recognize that for some nations, nuclear weapons may continue to appear relevant to their immediate security. There are certain undeniable dynamics in play—for example, the emergence of a nuclear-armed neighbor, or the perception of inferiority in conventional forces—that if not addressed could lead to the further proliferation of nuclear weapons and an increased risk they will be used. Thus, while the four of us believe that reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective, some nations will hesitate to draw or act on the same conclusion unless regional confrontations and conflicts are addressed. We must therefore redouble our efforts to resolve these issues.

Achieving deterrence with assured security will require work by leaders and citizens on a range of issues, beginning with a clearer understanding of existing and emerging security threats. The role of non- nuclear means of deterrence to effectively prevent conflict and increase stability in troubled regions is a vital issue. Changes to extended deterrence must be developed over time by the U.S. and allies working closely together. Reconciling national perspectives on nuclear deterrence is a challenging problem, and comprehensive solutions must be developed. A world without nuclear weapons will not simply be today’s world minus nuclear weapons.

Nations can, however, begin moving now together toward a safer and more stable form of deterrence. Progress must be made through a joint enterprise among nations, recognizing the need for greater cooperation, transparency and verification to create the global political environment for stability and enhanced mutual security. Ensuring that nuclear materials are protected globally in order to limit any country’s ability to reconstitute nuclear weapons, and to prevent terrorists from acquiring the material to build a crude nuclear bomb, is a top priority.

Moving from mutual assured destruction toward a new and more stable form of deterrence with decreasing nuclear risks and an increasing measure of assured security for all nations could prevent our worst nightmare from becoming a reality, and it could have a profoundly positive impact on the security of future generations.

Mr. Shultz was secretary of state from 1982 to 1989. Mr. Perry was secretary of defense from 1994 to 1997. Mr. Kissinger was secretary of state from 1973 to 1977. Mr. Nunn is former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

——-

I fully agree that it makes absolutely no sense, 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, for the U.S. and Russia to maintain thousands of strategic nuclear weapons at launch-ready status.

I would also suggest that these four famous men consider the recent article, “Smaller and Safer”, published in the Sept/October 2010 edition of Foreign Affairs, which contains a viable proposal that would de-alert and markedly reduce (by 90%) both U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. What is needed is an open discussion of this and other similar proposals, such as “From Counterforce to Minimal Deterrence” (by the Federation of American Scientists). We cannot pretend that nuclear deterrence will work perfectly, forever, and we cannot afford to wait until it fails.

Steven Starr
Senior Scientist, Physicians for Social Responsibility

Not in My Name, Netanyahu

by

As I write these words, my hands tremble from the unspeakable images and stories I’ve witnessed in Gaza. They tremble with worry that those young Israeli soldiers losing their lives, casualties in a war they did not create, will be among those families I know, and that their numbers will grow.

My hands also tremble because, during all this, Israel’s leader – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – has repeatedly claimed to represent me, and all Jews, as Israel continues its brutal assault on Gaza, an assault which, as history shows, will neither achieve its strategic goals nor reap anything but heartache.

No, he does not speak for me.

When Netanyahu said on CNN that Palestinians benefit from “telegenically dead” civilians killed by Israel, that images of carnage helped Hamas because journalists would then ask about Israel’s actions, he did not speak for me.

A doctor cries while standing among the bodies of dead children at Shifa Hospital’s overflowing morgue. [Note: journalists have captured countless disturbing images today, though I’ve chosen not to show them here.

When he said that Palestinians “don’t give any thought” about their children or their welfare, and that Palestinians use their children as though they are inanimate objects, he did not speak for me.

"Palestinian women react during the funeral of four boys, all from the Bakr family, killed during Israeli shelling, in Gaza City." Image via Time.

When Netanyahu blames Palestinians for their own deaths, dismissing them as “human shields” – including the over 100 children who have been lost – rather than note Israel’s choice to obliterate homes in dense, urban areas when it’s known innocents will die, he does not speak for me.

When Netanyahu dehumanizes Palestinians by saying their society celebrates death, whereas my people, Jewish Israelis, only celebrate life – while sending soldiers to war after calling for vengeance – he does not speak for me.

When a top minister in Netanyahu’s cabinet says Palestinians are committing “self-genocide,” admitting something atrocious is indeed occurring in Gaza, but blaming the victims for their plight, his government does not speak for me.

When the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, in Netanyahu’s ruling party, says without reproach that Israel should expel all Palestinians in Gaza and populate it with Jews, his government does not speak for me.

When far-right extremists, incited in part by their leaders’ hateful rhetoric, chant “Death to Arabs” and violently attack anti-war protesters – as is now happening on a daily basis – they do not represent me.

More than anything, though, Netanyahu does not speak for me because, unlike him, I oppose this war.

I oppose it for many of the same reasons cited by Dahlia Scheindlin, an Israeli journalist whose latest piece, which Jeffery Goldberg has called the “best-argued Israeli-written anti-war argument,” makes a compelling case for why the Gaza war is not just tragic, but a tragic mistake.

First, the disproportionate amount of force being used in dense, urban areas is resulting in shocking numbers of civilian casualties. To date, 470 Palestinians have been killed and over 3,000 injured, a staggering 80 percent of which are civilians, as estimated by the U.N.

Second, history has shown that this war will not achieve Israel’s stated, strategic goals of achieving quiet on the border and a deescalation. The opposite has happened, in fact, the last two times Israel has done this to Gaza (in 2009 and 2012). And during all this time, Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza that has collectively punished and virtually imprisoned nearly two-million people. Continuously bombing and impoverishing a people does not lead to quiet. It never has. This war is not only brutal and tragic, it’s also pointless and even counterproductive.

Third, this war has greatly harmed the already-comatose two-state solution. Not only because it is undermining the Hamas-PA agreement which sidelined Hamas from government in the lead up to elections. It’s harming the prospects for peace because of the ongoing national trauma Israel is inflicting upon Palestinians which will reverberate for years. On that, Scheindlin writes:

In the long term, I shudder to think about the souls of people who lost two, three, or 18 family members to Israeli bombs. The sobbing father who begged his child to wake up because he had brought new toys; the woman who told her sister in England to stay away and live, so that at least one of the family members would survive. I see what national trauma has done to the Jewish people more than 60 years following their darkest moments. The manifestations of Palestinian suffering in future generations will be terrible.

Israel is not making itself safe by its actions. Instead, it is tilling the ground for further violence, for further upheaval, and for further threats to its security, as history has shown.

Like Scheindlin, I was asked by a friend, who happened to have his children over for a playdate yesterday, the following question, “What do you want Israel to do today, right now, when Hamas is firing rockets?”

My answer is her answer, an admittedly unpopular one:

There is no such thing as today devoid of yesterday and tomorrow; it is a fiction. The measures of the last ten days grow directly out of the measures in recent years. They will have devastating consequences in years to come. My criticism of this war is not “I told you so,” because some of us have warned for years that the status quo is illusory. Opposition to this war means finding a different response to predictable situations, so that there won’t be a next time.

I’m not going to offer a full array of what those different responses should be – that’s not my job nor within the scope of this piece. (Though embracing the unity deal and backing off unilateral agreements would be a good start.) I will say that Netanyahu’s response, the ground, air and sea invasion of an impoverished, urban enclave for the third time in five yeas, is a response I oppose.

Netanyahu does not represent the Jewish people.

And he certainly doesn’t represent me.

'Silence is Consent': Thousands Worldwide March For Gaza Demonstrations held in condemnation of Israel's 'war crimes' and complicity of international governments

by Lauren McCauley

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Marchers in Dublin voiced their support for Palestinians amid the ongoing Israeli offensive.

As the world watches in horror Israel’s ongoing bombardment of the Gaza strip—which as of Monday has killed over 550 Palestinians trapped in the sealed-off territory—a unified call for an end to the assault has come in the form of worldwide demonstrations because, as one protester wrote, “silence is consent.”

"People across the world are coming out in condemnation of Israel’s crimes and in condemnation of U.S. support for those crimes,” said Hatem Abudayyeh with the Chicago Coalition for Justice. Abudayyeh was one of tens of thousands of Chicago-area residents who took to the streets on Sunday in an outpouring of support and solidarity for those in Gaza.

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Many of the global protests were held by citizens frustrated by what they see as their own government’s complicity in Israel’s military bombardment that has now last two weeks. Observers note that the massive crowds clearly contradict comments made by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that there is “very strong support within the international community for the activity that the IDF is doing.”

Hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered outside the U.S. State Department headquarters in  Washington D.C. on Sunday, demanding an end to the violence in Gaza and criticizing the U.S. government’s continued and “unconditional” support of Israel while ignoring the plight and suffering of Palestinians living under occupation.

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“The U.S. is the primary patron of Israel and provides unequivocal diplomatic and military support,” Noura Erakat, a Palestinian lawyer and professor at George Mason University, told reporters with the Washington Post. “It’s a complicit third party in what amounts to a massacre of the Palestinian population entrapped within the Gaza strip.”

Sixty-four notable figures—including seven Nobel laureates—published a letter on Friday calling on the United Nations and “governments across the world” to implement an arms embargo on Israel. “Israel’s ability to launch such devastating attacks with impunity largely stems from the vast international military cooperation and trade that it maintains with complicit governments across the world,” the statement read.

In London on Saturday, tens of thousands marched from Downing Street to the Israeli embassy to denounce what they said was Israeli “apartheid.” Sarah Colborne, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said the demonstration gave people from “across the country the chance to say enough is enough, Israel’s siege of Gaza and its occupation of Palestinian land has to end now.”

Up to 5,000 protesters marched to the national parliament building in Dublin, Ireland on Saturday where hundreds laid down in the streets in a massive ‘die-in’ to show solidarity with the people in Gaza and to symbolize the number killed during the Israeli assault.

In Los Angeles, traffic along busy Wilshire Boulevard was halted Sunday as a crowd of hundreds marched on the Israeli consulate.
"There’s two sides to every story and unfortunately only one side gets told here," protester Jamal Barakat told local news channel KPCC. "If you’re 7, 8 years-old in Gaza, this is the third major airstrikes you’ve lived through. Imagine the kind of effects that has on a population."

In the West Bank, national and religious institutions called for a Monday general strike in condemnation of the “massacres” suffered by the people in Gaza. Palestinian leaders living inside Israel are taking part in the strike, as well.

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Other protests were held in Amman, Jordan; Santiago, Chile; and in cities across France. Mashable has this round-up of images from the worldwide demonstrations.

25

Jul

Family Date Night

24

Jul

By Erin Niemela

Media frame violent conflict to reinforce certain biases and myths, emphasizing some facts and omitting others to produce compelling, narratives. Good guys and bad guys are crafted and re-crafted in media discourse, and this is especially the case with the protracted Israel-Palestine conflict. Unfortunately, many of these myths enter the public discourse, on both sides, to the detriment of peace.

What’s even worse, well-intentioned authors hoping to dispel these harmful myths also degrade peace efforts by perpetuating harmful assumptions. Chiefly, that violence could be justifiable, depending on who the real victim is. This myth is dangerous, perpetuates violent conflict and seriously hinders peacemaking efforts on both sides.

Nathan Brown, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, addressed five myths about “militant Islamist organization” Hamas in a July 18th Washington Post article.  Brown argued that although Hamas may have some capacity to provoke fear in Israel leadership, it is “absolutely true that Hamas does not pose an existential threat to Israel.” The existential threat of Hamas: myth-busted.

Kim Sengupta and Khan Younis, Belfast Telegraph reporters, exposed the myth of Hamas’ human shields in Gaza in a July 21, 2014 article. They wrote, “Some Gazans have admitted that they were afraid of criticizing Hamas, but none have said they had been forced by the organization to stay in places of danger and become unwilling human-shields.” The use of human shields by Hamas: myth-busted.

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America published a report July 21st on the “top nine Gaza media myths” in current circulation. Among them, in a chicken-and-the-egg analysis, that Hamas’ rockets are not simply responses to Israel’s embargos: “Missiles are not the answer for the embargo, they are the cause for the embargo.” Hamas rockets as retaliation for Israeli blockages: myth-busted.

The problem with these and many other myth-busting analyses, from both sides, is that they impose some under-the-radar assumptions on readers that may seriously hinder conflict resolution and peace processes. If Hamas does not pose an existential threat to Israel, as Brown argued, then Israel’s actions in Gaza are not justified. In other words, if Hamas did pose an existential threat, Israel’s actions would be justified. The Sengupta and Younis argument is similar: If Hamas isn’t actually using human shields in Gaza, then Israel’s actions aren’t justified. Therefore, if Hamas did use human shields, Israel’s actions would be justified.  Per the Committee, if Hamas is firing rockets as a response to Israel embargos on Palestine, then Hamas may be justified. Get the picture?

There’s really only one myth that needs busting around here and it’s this: “Violence is justifiable.” Violence is never justifiable.

That’s the only myth that needs dispelling right now. The philosophical tradition of “Just War,” which serves to perpetuate this myth, is an additional fallacy that needs further dispelling.  However, what we have to immediately address, if we want to prevent another 666 human deaths and sleepless, fearful nights for children, is the practical limitations of the “violence is justifiable” myth on conflict resolution processes.

 If the authors of myth-busting analyses, as well as the original myth-perpetuating journalists, had a foundation in conflict resolution – practical or theoretical – they’d know that arguing over violence justification – who’s good, who’s bad and who “deserves it” – is devastating to peace. It’s the direct violence from both sides, no matter the proportion, that perpetuates the conflict and degrades peace efforts in Gaza, Syria, Ukraine and beyond. Unless the direct violence ends, civil society may not be able to address the actual issues or create a sustainable resolution. Violence only creates additional grievances on all sides and perpetuates a conflict spiral.

Furthermore, what many analysts call “myths” are actually perspectives. These perspectives – such as who the victims and aggressors are and when violence may be justified or legal – are held by people all over the world and, most importantly, by people on the ground coping with the violence on a day-to-day basis.  

Myth-busters need to know what conflict scholars already know: Everyone believes their in-group is the real victim, and everyone is correct.  Trying to convince someone that their reality is false, that they should adopt the reality of their perceived enemy, is conflict resolution-suicide. In peace processes, accepting multiple realities by listening to one another through sustained, mediated dialogue is a more productive force for resolution than any violence, ever.

We must demand that both Israel and Hamas immediately cease all violence (even if one side isn’t very effective in this regard). At the same time, we must reject this assumption that violence can be justifiable. Peacemakers in Gaza need our support in breaking the cycle of violence - listening. Listening leads to dialogue, dialogue leads to transformation, transformation leads to sustainable peace, and it’s really, really hard to hear over the sounds of rocket fire.

Erin Niemela is a graduate student in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University and a PeaceVoice syndicated journalist. Follow on Twitter: @erinniemela

Overcoming the Media Blockade in Gaza

According to the United Nations, one child has been killed in Gaza every hour for the past two days. Overall, the Israeli military has killed close to 700 Palestinians, the vast majority civilians, since the assault on Gaza began more than two weeks ago. Details of the slaughter make their way into the world’s media, with horrific accounts of children killed on the beach, of hospital intensive-care units bombed, of first responders, searching for wounded amid the rubble, killed by Israeli sniper fire. Armed resistance groups in Gaza, most notably that of the area’s elected government, Hamas, have fired thousands of crude rockets that have killed two in Israel. Since Israel began its land invasion of Gaza, more than 30 Israeli soldiers have been killed.  One of the greatest challenges in understanding the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories is getting reliable information. This latest assault on Gaza reaffirms the key role played by the U.S. media in maintaining the information blockade. It also highlights the increasing importance of pressure applied by social networks.

One headline said it all: “Missile at Beachside Gaza Cafe Finds Patrons Poised for World Cup.” That was The New York Times, referring to a missile strike in Gaza that killed at least eight people on the beach in the town of Khan Younis. Ali Abunimah, a prominent Palestinian-American journalist who co-founded the website The Electronic Intifada, mockingly tweeted: “Israeli missile stops by Gaza cafe for a drink and dialogue with its Palestinian friends.” The odd, passive phrasing of the original headline became the subject of a global social-media firestorm. The New York Times replaced the headline with “In Rubble of Gaza Seaside Cafe, Hunt for Victims Who Had Come for Soccer.”

This wasn’t the first time in this latest attack on Gaza that a major news organization got a black eye. On July 16, NBC reporter Ayman Mohyeldin witnessed an Israeli strike on a Gaza beach that killed four young boys who were playing soccer. After the deadly strike, Mohyeldin’s graphic tweets alerted the world to the breaking news: “4 Palestinian kids killed in a single Israeli airstrike. Minutes before they were killed by our hotel, I was kicking a ball with them #gaza.” He tweeted that they were all first cousins. He tweeted their names and ages:

“1) Ahed Atef Bakr 10 yrs old

2) Zakaria Ahed Bakr 10 yrs old

3) Mohamed Ramez Bakr 11 yrs old

4) Ismael Mohamed Bakr 9 yrs old”

Mohyeldin raced to the Al-Shifa hospital and witnessed members of the Bakr family as they learned of the killing of the boys. It would have been normal for the eyewitness to break the story on the “NBC Nightly News.” Instead it was journalist Richard Engel on the screen reporting from Tel Aviv. Pulitzer Prize-winning Glenn Greenwald told me on the “Democracy Now!” news hour what he learned about NBC’s decision-making around Mohyeldin after he reported on the deaths: “What was really stunning was, later that day, after what arguably was his biggest or one of his biggest events in his journalism career, where he really made a huge impact on having the world understand what’s happening in Gaza, they not only blocked him from appearing on the air to talk about it on NBC News, but then they told him to leave Gaza immediately.”

Social media lit up in protest, with the hashtag #letAymanreport. By Friday night, NBC announced that Mohyeldin would be back. Mohyeldin tweeted, “Thanks for all the support. Im returning to #Gaza to report. Proud of NBC’s continued commitment to cover the #Palestinian side of the story.”

But back in NBC’s studios, the trouble was not over. Rula Jebreal is a Palestinian author and political analyst. She has been a paid contributor on MSNBC, where, during an interview this week, she critiqued that cable network’s coverage of Gaza:

“We are disgustingly biased when it comes to this issue. Look at how [much] airtime [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his folks have on air on a daily basis, Andrea Mitchell and others. I never see one Palestinian being interviewed on these same issues.” She tweeted later, “My forthcoming TV appearances have been canceled! Is there a link between my expose and the cancellation?” While MSNBC host Chris Hayes bravely brought her onto his show to discuss her critique, she is unsure if her contract will be renewed.

Early in this latest assault on Gaza, I asked Joshua Hantman, senior adviser to Israel’s ambassador to the United States, about the mounting death toll, the majority civilian. He chillingly replied: “I’ll be honest, the precision is quite outstanding. And there is no military in the history of the world that has actually used such precision targets.” The terror and death wreaked by the precision of which Hantman boasts is made clear, day after day, thanks to the work of too few courageous journalists, supported by an engaged global citizenry, using social networks to overcome traditional media blockades.

By David Swanson

On August 6, 1945, President Harry S Truman announced: “Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of T.N.T.  It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British ‘Grand Slam’ which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.”

When Truman lied to America that Hiroshima was a military base rather than a city full of civilians, people no doubt wanted to believe him. Who would want the shame of belonging to the nation that commits a whole new kind of atrocity? (Will naming lower Manhattan “ground zero” erase the guilt?)  And when we learned the truth, we wanted and still want desperately to believe that war is peace, that violence is salvation, that our government dropped nuclear bombs in order to save lives, or at least to save American lives.

We tell each other that the bombs shortened the war and saved more lives than the some 200,000 they took away. And yet, weeks before the first bomb was dropped, on July 13, 1945, Japan sent a telegram to the Soviet Union expressing its desire to surrender and end the war. The United States had broken Japan’s codes and read the telegram. Truman referred in his diary to “the telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace.” Truman had been informed through Swiss and Portuguese channels of Japanese peace overtures as early as three months before Hiroshima. Japan objected only to surrendering unconditionally and giving up its emperor, but the United States insisted on those terms until after the bombs fell, at which point it allowed Japan to keep its emperor.

Presidential advisor James Byrnes had told Truman that dropping the bombs would allow the United States to “dictate the terms of ending the war.” Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal wrote in his diary that Byrnes was “most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in.” Truman wrote in his diary that the Soviets were preparing to march against Japan and “Fini Japs when that comes about.” Truman ordered the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6thand another type of bomb, a plutonium bomb, which the military also wanted to test and demonstrate, on Nagasaki on August 9th. Also on August 9th, the Soviets attacked the Japanese. During the next two weeks, the Soviets killed 84,000 Japanese while losing 12,000 of their own soldiers, and the United States continued bombing Japan with non-nuclear weapons. Then the Japanese surrendered.

The United States Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that,”… certainly prior to 31 December, 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November, 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”  One dissenter who had expressed this same view to the Secretary of War prior to the bombings was General Dwight Eisenhower. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William D. Leahy agreed: “The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.”

Whatever dropping the bombs might possibly have contributed to ending the war, it is curious that the approach of threatening to drop them, the approach used during a half-century of Cold War to follow, was never tried.  An explanation may perhaps be found in Truman’s comments suggesting the motive of revenge:

“Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, and against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international law of warfare.”

Truman could not, incidentally, have chosen Tokyo as a target — not because it was a city, but because we had already reduced it to rubble.

The nuclear catastrophes may have been, not the ending of a World War, but the theatrical opening of the Cold War, aimed at sending a message to the Soviets. Many low and high ranking officials in the U.S. military, including commanders in chief, have been tempted to nuke more cities ever since, beginning with Truman threatening to nuke China in 1950. The myth developed, in fact, that Eisenhower’s enthusiasm for nuking China led to the rapid conclusion of the Korean War. Belief in that myth led President Richard Nixon, decades later, to imagine he could end the Vietnam War by pretending to be crazy enough to use nuclear bombs. Even more disturbingly, he actually was crazy enough. “The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? … I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes,” Nixon said to Henry Kissinger in discussing options for Vietnam.

President George W. Bush oversaw the development of smaller nuclear weapons that might be used more readily, as well as much larger non-nuclear bombs, blurring the line between the two. President Barack Obama established in 2010 that the United States might strike first with nuclear weapons, but only against Iran or North Korea. The United States alleged, without evidence, that Iran was not complying with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), even though the clearest violation of that treaty is the United States’ own failure to work on disarmament and the United States’ Mutual Defense Agreement with the United Kingdom, by which the two countries share nuclear weapons in violation of Article 1 of the NPT, and even though the United States’ first strike nuclear weapons policy violates yet another treaty: the U.N. Charter.

Americans may never admit what was done in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but our country had been in some measure prepared for it. After Germany had invaded Poland, Britain and France had declared war on Germany.  Britain in 1940 had broken an agreement with Germany not to bomb civilians, before Germany retaliated in the same manner against England — although Germany had itself bombed Guernica, Spain, in 1937, and Warsaw, Poland, in 1939, and Japan meanwhile was bombing civilians in China. Then, for years, Britain and Germany had bombed each other’s cities before the United States joined in, bombing German and Japanese cities in a spree of destruction unlike anything ever previously witnessed. When we were firebombing Japanese cities, Life magazine printed a photo of a Japanese person burning to death and commented “This is the only way.”

By the time of the Vietnam War, such images were highly controversial. By the time of the 2003 War on Iraq, such images were not shown, just as enemy bodies were no longer counted. That development, arguably a form of progress, still leaves us far from the day when atrocities will be displayed with the caption “There has to be another way.”

Combating evil is what peace activists do. It is not what wars do. And it is not, at least not obviously, what motivates the masters of war, those who plan the wars and bring them into being. But it is tempting to think so. It is very noble to make brave sacrifices, even the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life, in order to end evil. It is perhaps even noble to use other people’s children to vicariously put an end to evil, which is all that most war supporters do.  It is righteous to become part of something bigger than oneself. It can be thrilling to revel in patriotism. It can be momentarily pleasurable I’m sure, if less righteous and noble, to indulge in hatred, racism, and other group prejudices. It’s nice to imagine that your group is superior to someone else’s. And the patriotism, racism, and other isms that divide you from the enemy can thrillingly unite you, for once, with all of your neighbors and compatriots across the now meaningless boundaries that usually hold sway.

If you are frustrated and angry, if you long to feel important, powerful, and dominating, if you crave the license to lash out in revenge either verbally or physically, you may cheer for a government that announces a vacation from morality and open permission to hate and to kill. You’ll notice that the most enthusiastic war supporters sometimes want nonviolent war opponents killed and tortured along with the vicious and dreaded enemy; the hatred is far more important than its object. If your religious beliefs tell you that war is good, then you’ve really gone big time. Now you’re part of God’s plan. You’ll live after death, and perhaps we’ll all be better off if you bring on the death of us all.

But simplistic beliefs in good and evil don’t match up well with the real world, no matter how many people share them unquestioningly. They do not make you a master of the universe. On the contrary, they place control of your fate in the hands of people cynically manipulating you with war lies.

And the hatred and bigotry don’t provide lasting satisfaction, but instead breed bitter resentment.

This is excerpted from “War Is A Lie” http://warisalie.org

22

Jul

Israeli and Palestinian Youth Struggle Through Gaza-Israel Conflict

from: www.haaretz.comBy

NEW YORK – Traveling to beautiful seaside San Diego from Jenin or Jerusalem would ordinarily be a huge treat. But right now, for Mariam, Ayala and other Palestinian and Israeli teenagers participating in the Hands of Peace dialogue program, being far from home is excruciating.

“It’s been a hard day for me,” 18-year-old Mariam, who is from a religious Muslim family in Jenin, in the West Bank, tells Haaretz in a Skype interview. “Reading posts on Facebook about children and people dying. My mom just called me. The fact that people are dying and no one is doing anything about it …” Her voice trails off and she begins to cry quietly.

Mariam’s participation in one of Hands of Peace’s programs is controversial in her community. “I come from a very closed-minded society about peace programs,” says Mariam, a computer engineering major at a Nablus college. After her first experience with the program, during the summer of 2012, she was accused by relatives of being “brainwashed.” Her name and those of other participants quoted here have been changed.

She is one of 24 teens in a first-ever Hands of Peace program in California. There are another 43 participants in Chicago, where the organization was founded in 2002; it offers both a summer camp as well as a leadership training program.

HOP describes itself on its website as “an interfaith organization developing peace-building and leadership skills in Israeli, Palestinian and American teens through the power of dialogue.”

The structured dialogue process used in the encounters, in which the Middle Eastern participants, along with American teens of various religious backgrounds, present and defend their people’s narrative before learning to listen to their peers and eventually, in most cases, coming to develop empathy and understanding for them – is always a difficult one, HOP administrators say. But with deadly violence raging in the Gaza Strip and incoming rockets sending Israelis running for shelter – this year the tension has been made far more acute.

When HOP’s programs began on July 6, it was just a few days after Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s burned body was discovered in Jerusalem, and a week after the bodies of the three murdered Israeli youths, Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrah, were found near Hebron.

Though the contents of the dialogue sessions are confidential, the mother of one Israeli Jewish participant said her son told her that a Palestinian participant called Zionism a terrorist movement, and “almost fell off his chair” when the son described himself as a Zionist.

“Everybody did come with a level of intensity that we haven’t seen for a long time,” says Julie Kanak, the program’s executive director. “I really thought that we might get some Middle Eastern parents calling and thinking about pulling their kids out,” she adds, but that didn’t happen. “All of the participants are worried about what’s going on at home,” and they are checking “more often” with their families.

A shift in perspective

Ayala, 17, who is from Rishon Letzion and will be a senior in high school, is considering serving in intelligence in the Israel Defense Forces after her induction.

“While we are having the activities during the day, I don’t think about it or feel it,” she says of the grim reality at home, in an interview also conducted by Skype. But when she has time to herself, Ayala says she has “a feeling of guilt that I’m not there. My family can’t go to the beach, has to go to shelters three or four times a day. Knowing that I have friends that have to be in the army all day [and] my parents are taking care of relatives – it doesn’t feel good. Today I was hearing what’s going on the radio and I started crying.”

Mariam and Ayala are in the HOP Extaordinary Leader (XL) training program for teens who previously participated in a summer session. 

Mariam has had a lot to overcome while getting to know Israeli participants: Her family was kicked out of its home by IDF soldiers five times from the time she was 10 to 13 years old, she says in the interview.

“The first time it was Ramadan and my birthday, there was a knock on the door in the middle of the night and they said only ‘take your stuff, get out of the house.’ We never knew when we’d come back. We went to family houses nearby. They never tell you why. I have two sisters and one brother,” Mariam explains.

"My younger sister, she is 13 now, still lives in fear of soldiers. Every time she hears a gunshot she starts crying. My brother still has nightmares. It’s left a lot of anger and hatred, and a feeling of sadness because you don’t have a normal life."

When Mariam had to tell her story at the first HOP program she attended two summers ago, “there were Israelis who didn’t want to hear it. We had Israelis apologizing and we had [other] people arguing that [certain things] needed to happen. When you grow up with the fact that the only Israelis you see are soldiers, you come here expecting that everyone will abuse you, basically.”

Getting to know some Israeli Jewish peers has, however, helped shift her perspective, Mariam says now: “I still believe that the Israeli soldiers are what they are, but I also say that I met some pretty amazing Israelis who want the best for me, like I want the best for them.”

“The dialogues were really hard,” says Ayala. “Just hearing things that you never heard before. It’s eye-opening. I thought I knew everything about the conflict, and then I realized there are so many things Palestinians see us as, and we see them as. You don’t really know what’s going on until you know someone personally, even if you think you’re open-minded.”

Six of the participants in the 18-day HOP program in San Diego are Jewish Israelis, six are West Bank Palestinians, and three are Palestinian citizens of Israel. There are nine Americans – some Muslim, some Jewish, some Christian and some atheist. The program has operated in the Chicago area since 2003, where at present seven Jewish Israelis, seven Palestinians from the West Bank, four Palestinian citizens of Israel, and 14 American Jewish, Christian and atheist teens are getting to know one another.

The IDF’s ground incursion into Gaza last Thursday began midway through the HOP programs. “There are Palestinian kids who have relatives in Gaza, Israeli kids who have brothers who are soldiers. So far, our kids’ relatives and friends are safe, to the best of our knowledge,” says Scott Silk, the program’s site director at the Pacific Ridge School, in the San Diego suburb of Carlsbad, where he is also a teacher.

When the Israeli army moved in, Azim Khamisa, a California-based trainer in nonviolent communication, and Ami Yares, an American-Israeli who plays music about peace were due to make presentations. Silk and other HOP staff decided to mark the solemnity of the day by asking for a moment of silence to acknowledge the suffering of everyone in the region. Then, Silk says, “an amazing thing happened.” An Israeli-Jewish teenager stood up as a sign of respect. Slowly, one by one, all the others rose as well. “There was not a dry eye in the house,” according to Silk. Jewish kids ended up singing along with Yares in Arabic, and the Palestinian kids in Hebrew, arm in arm.

Last Friday, the group attended services at both a local mosque and a Reform synagogue.

“We as a staff were extremely anxious about this,” says Silk. “We had a three-and-a-half-hour meeting discussing whether or not to attend the services. What would the reaction be from congregants? Would there be dirty stares, someone saying something? What if the Israeli kids got up and walked out of the mosque, and the Palestinian kids from the synagogue? We had tremendous trepidation about what was going to go down.”

But much to the staff’s relief, the visits went smoothly.

The current crisis, Silk notes, “has added a level of heaviness and despair to the program that we hadn’t previously seen, but also shockingly it has really served as a unifier for the kids and has been a very, very powerful thing for them, recognizing the importance of the work they are doing.”

'No one truth'

The launching of Operation Protective Edge led to the cancellation of part of another endeavor in which Americans, Israelis and Palestinians participate: the two-year Building Bridges Middle East-U.S. program for 10th- and 11th-grade girls. Denver, Colorado-based Building Bridges MEUS teaches participants leadership and communication skills that they can employ in their own home communities, and involves regular gatherings in those communities, intense summer sessions, retreats and so on. But don’t call this a coexistence or dialogue program.

“The word coexistence takes on a specific political perspective in Israel and Palestine, and it’s an important part of our approach that we don’t have a particular political ethos or political outcome,” Jennifer Sarche, the co-executive director, told Haaretz. Since 1994, about 1,200 women have graduated from Building Bridges MEUS.

The Israelis and Palestinians in the current cohort were due to gather this week in Turkey. But instead Building Bridges is running an intensive facilitator-training course in Colorado.

“With the current conflict and violence we had concerns about the safety of travelling,” says Sarche. “For the teens it’s very difficult to be away from their families. They want to be with them and it detracts from the community we try to create, which is very focused within.”

Seeds of Peace, operating since 1993, is possibly the longest-running summertime dialogue-and-coexistence program for Israelis and Palestinians operating in the United States. It works with participants from the United Kingdom and South Asia, as well as Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and Yemen, and also focuses on domestic U.S. immigration issues within various communities.

The program for Israeli and Palestinian participants is due to begin in early August, and staffers from the region are being trained now.

“It’s incredibly hard and we are not naïve to think it isn’t harder for young people to participate in this climate,” says Leslie Adelson Lewin, Seeds of Peace’s executive director. Participants range in age from 14 to 17: A total of 60 Israelis, both Jewish and Palestinian, 45 Palestinians and 15 teens each from Jordan and Egypt will attend the camp in Portland, Maine.

“Campers will have been personally affected on a day-to-day basis, by the pressure of their communities and the fear and hatred we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks,” says Lewin. “There is very real anger, very real frustration and very real emotion that is always part of the process and even more so this year.”

Seeds of Peace continues to work with camp alumni in their home countries long after their summer experience, engaging both the teens and their parents in ongoing dialogues, as well as training conflict mediators. The program has about 5,000 graduates, whom they call “seeds,” around the world.

Hagai Efrat, 23, is from Mevasseret Zion, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. He attended the Seeds of Peace camp during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and again in 2008. He was discharged from his army service last March, and in September will begin studying Arabic. He returns to Seeds of Peace this summer as a counselor.

“Both sides are coming from a current trauma, both sides are experiencing war. It will be hard for them to listen to other people,” says Efrat. “It’s hard to hear things whose existence you weren’t aware of.

"I grew up knowing that Israel won the ‘73 [Yom Kippur] War. Egyptians think they know they won. It sounds ridiculous. Hearing that was the first time I understood that there is no one truth. Just different ways of looking at truth,” he adds. “It’s very hard every time it’s done. People are really into their own suffering. It’s going to be especially hard this time.”

Letter written to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sent Today

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,

I am the founding publisher of one of the largest circulation publications in California, The Reader Magazine, which is mailed quarterly to 390,000 people from all possible political backgrounds.  

As you may have heard we are growing this publication to be the first media entity in US history to have a journalistic connection with every single American household.  

We have only been able to achieve what we have from a keen sense— developed over 14 years— of understanding where Americans are politically as well as being fair and even handed in our content.

I am writing to you not as a professional but as a fellow-father, to share with you with my deep concern over the loss of life in the present conflict, and in particular the loss of civilians— families like yours and mine— who have no options, and are being killed in unacceptably high numbers.  

I understand from a New York Times article you recently said in a televised address to Israel, “you had laid the diplomatic foundation that has given us international credit to operate”.  

In truth, I believe you are losing credit with tens of millions of people in the United States who are looking at this conflict with a new perspective, who increasingly find themselves in the position of fighting much stronger forces, and will be siding with those who are most like them.    

Finally, I write to you as a father who understands first hand what it is to lose a son in violent and tragic circumstances; it is a loss that creates a hunger to see that others never lose like this.  

Please do everything you can to end this conflict.  It is an incredible burden you bear and I am grateful to you for everything positive that you are doing.  

Thank you,

Christopher M. Theodore
Founder and Publisher
The Reader Magazine

www.readernation.org