Saturday, June 30, 2012

Corporate Profits at All-Time High; Wages at All-Time Low: Can We Call it Class War Yet?

Corporate Profits at All-Time High; Wages at All-Time Low: Can We Call it Class War Yet?

By Sarah Jaffe, AlterNet

Posted on June 29, 2012, Printed on June 30, 2012

This week, David Segal at the New York Times broke the news to America that not only was Apple -- the computer and gadget manufacturer formerly seen as a symbol of good old American ingenuity -- making its profits on the backs of abused factory workers in China, but also on poorly paid store employees here in the US.

Apple store workers, he wrote, make up a large majority of Apple's US workforce—30,000 out of 43,000 employees in this country—and they make about $25,000 a year, or about $12 an hour.

Lawrence Mishel at the Economic Policy Institute notes that that's just a dollar above the federal poverty level. This for a company that paid nine of its top executives a total of $441 million in 2011.

“The discrepancy between Apple’s profits/executive pay and its compensation to its workers is a particularly glaring example of what is occurring in the wider economy,” Mishel writes.

And he's right. Also this week, Henry Blodget at Business Insider posted three charts that show just how out of whack our economic system really is. Corporate profits are now at an all-time high, while wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low, and fewer Americans are employed than at any time in the previous three decades.

Companies like Apple are squeezing their workers, leaving them to live on less, while lavishing pay and benefits on their executives. The death of lionized Apple chief Steve Jobs seems to have opened a floodgate of reporting and criticism of the company's labor practices, but all this really proves is that Jobs and his empire are no better than, and no different from the rest of the US business elite. Just like everyone else, they're taking their profits directly out of workers' pockets.

“One reason companies are so profitable is that they're paying employees less than they ever have as a share of GDP. And that, in turn, is one reason the economy is so weak: Those 'wages' are other companies' revenue,” Blodget points out. And high unemployment makes workers willing to accept those poverty wages. When you're desperate for a job, any job is better than nothing.

Right-wingers from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul have used high unemployment as an opportunity to call for eliminating the minimum wage entirely, letting companies decide just how little they think their workers are worth. Companies love to claim that if they're forced to pay more, they'll have to eliminate jobs, but these numbers show that actually, they're able to keep wages low and refuse to hire; available cheap labor supposedly leads to more job creation, but it's the hollow, gnawing fear created by ongoing high unemployment that keeps wages low and workers passive. And the rich are getting ever richer.

The “recession” is over—officially it ended in 2009, but for most people the pain was just beginning. Real incomes have continued to fall, governments continue to slash budgets while corporate profits just keep going up. This is the new normal.

And it's only going to get worse.

The rhetoric of austerity, sounded loudest from Republicans but often echoed by far too many Democrats, is a language of belt-tightening, of shared sacrifice, of somber speeches by pompous politicians who proclaim that they feel your pain while announcing budget cuts that freeze salaries, lay off workers and force more work onto those who remain. And CEOs use that same language when sorrowfully explaining why they simply can't create jobs. Morgan Stanley's CEO, James Gorman, beset by New Yorkers at his bank's shareholder meeting, blamed the lousy economy when asked why he hadn't created the jobs his company had promised the city in exchange for massive tax breaks.

Because that's what rich corporations are able to buy with their record profits; politicians who turn around and hand them even more money, often in the form of tax breaks that hollow out city and state budgets and force even more austerity, even more social service cuts that fall on the backs of the same underpaid workers. (Remember FreshDirect, handed $129 million in tax subsidies to create $8-an-hour jobs?)

Corporate taxes, too—at least the ones corporations actually pay—are at a 40-year low, with an effective tax rate paid of 12.1 percent. They've fallen from about 6 percent of GDP to less than 2 percent, according to ThinkProgress's Pat Garofalo. Once again, that's what you can buy when you'd rather pay politicians than your workers.

Chris Hayes, in his new book Twilight of the Elites, notes that the ultra-wealthy have spawned a whole “income defense” industry dedicated to preserving their wealth and power, an industry that works tirelessly to push policies that favor the rich. He writes:

Over the last decade, the political arm of the income defense industry has been wildly successful. The tax cuts passed by Bush and extended by Obama represent a total of $81.5 billion transferred from the state into the hands of the richest 1 percent. Meanwhile, hedge fund managers and their surrogates have deployed millions of dollars to lobbyists to maintain the so-called carried interest loophole, a provision of tax law that allows fund managers to classify much of their income drawn from investing gains as “carried interest” so that it is taxed at the low capital gains rate of 15 percent, rather than the marginal income rate, which would in most cases be more than twice that. It was this wrinkle in the law that helped Mitt Romney, a man worth an estimated quarter of a billion dollars, pay an effective tax rate of just under 14 percent in 2010. In 2008, 2009, and 2010, the House of Representatives passed a bill closing the loophole, only to see it beaten back by an intense wave of lobbying in the Senate.

With Citizens United, the Supreme Court gave the ultra-rich yet another weapon in the class war, another tool by which to control our politics. MIT economist Daren Acemoglu told ThinkProgress, “We already had a very serious problem. Instead of trying to stem that tide [of money in politics], we’ve done the opposite and we’ve now opened the sluice gate and said you can use that money with no restrictions whatsoever.”

It's bad enough when the rich use their money to buy themselves tax breaks that help them get even richer. But millionaires and billionaires from Bill Gates to Betsy DeVos to Mark Zuckerberg are also putting money into pet political ideas; on education, for example, where their money buys them outsized influence over policy. Politics has become a playground for the ultra-rich, where they get to test their pet theories on the rest of us and we're expected to smile and thank them for their charity.

It's not just tax breaks and subsidies that have created massive inequality—it's also full-on war on the only means of organized power that working people ever had: unions. Private-sector union density hovers around 7 percent right now, after years of concerted attacks, and for the last couple of years public sector unions have been in the 1 percent's crosshairs.

From the Supreme Court, where Samuel Alito wrote a majority decision attacking unions' ability to collect money from workers they represent for political activity, to the reelection of Scott Walker in Wisconsin, public-sector unions are under pressure. Politicians keep slashing public-sector jobs, keeping unemployment high and tax revenues low, and stalling the recovery, but they're also part of the attack on the one part of the economy that still has a strong union culture.

As unions declined, so have wages for most people. The Center for American Progress found in a study that as union membership decreases, so does the so-called middle class's share of national income. The middle class long served as a buffer between those at the top and those at the bottom. As long as the majority of Americans were comfortable, had decent jobs and pensions, and could send their kids to school, the wealthy could stay wealthy and the poor were pretty much just ignored. And that middle class was built through decades of union agitation, not just for higher wages and healthcare benefits, but for the eight-hour day, for the weekend, for safety in the workplace and some job security.

But now the middle class has been hollowed out. Increasingly, there are the super-super-rich, and there are the rest of us.

As Hayes writes, we're ruled by an ever-smaller group of elites who not only control all the resources, but all the power. The same people who are pushing wages downward are the ones paying for politicians' campaigns, and they're the same people on the boards of directors and trustees of our universities, our institutions—like JP Morgan Chase's Jamie Dimon, who serves on the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, the Harvard Business School, Catalyst, as well as on the Board of Trustees of New York University School of Medicine.

Meanwhile, for the vast majority of us, the recession that supposedly ended in 2009 looks more like a depression each day, and as long as low wages and high unemployment remain the order of the day, there's no recovery in sight.

Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabblerouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @sarahljaffe.

© 2012 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

View this story online at:

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert June 29 – July 1, 2012

Baltimore Activist Alert June 29 – July 1, 2012

"I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours.

The initiative to stop it must be ours." -Martin Luther King Jr.

Friends, this list and other email documents which I send out are done under the auspices of the Baltimore Nonviolence Center. Go to If you appreciate this information and would like to make a donation, send contributions to BNC, 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218. Max Obuszewski can be reached at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski [at]

Tune into the Maryland Progressive Blog at

1] Books, buttons and stickers
2] Web site for info on federal legislation
3] Join Nonviolent Resistance lists
4] Buy coffee through HoCoFoLA
5] White House vigil – June 29
6] WIB Inner Harbor vigil – June 29
7] WIB Roland Park vigil – June 29
8] Justice for Palestine/Israel vigil – June 29
9] Violence in Congo – June 29
10] Protest at Rwandan Embassy -- June 29

11] Silent peace vigil – June 29

12] Workers’ Rights Forum – June 29

13] Sounds of Hope – June 29

14] No religion of empire - June 29

15] Journey of Hope -- June 29

16] Ballroom dancing – June 29

17] National Occupy Gathering – June 30 – July 5

18] Liberating Life – June 30

19] Olney peace vigil – June 30

20] West Chester, PA demo – June 30

21] Silent vigil at Capitol – June 30

22] Call out on empire – June 30

23] Deep Green Resistance – June 30

24] Peoples Assembly – June 30

25] Nuns on the Bus – June 30

26] Support Public Defenders at O’s game – June 30

27] Labor Night with D.C. United – June 30

28] Report on Humanist Conference – July 1

29] Rally for Global Justice – July 1

30] Get on Bridge for Peace – July 1

31] Philadelphia Peace Vigil – July 1

32] Red Emma’s meeting – July 1

33] Pentagon Vigil – July 2


1] – Buttons, bumperstickers and books are available. “God Bless the Whole World, No Exceptions” stickers are in stock. Donate your books to Max. Call him at 410-366-1637.

2] – To obtain information how your federal legislators voted on particular bills, go to Congressional toll-free numbers are 888-818-6641, 888-355-3588 or 800-426-8073. The White House Comment Email is accessible at

3] – THE ORGANIZING LIST will be the primary decision-making mechanism of the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR]. It will be augmented by conference calls and possibly in-person meetings as needed. It will consist of 1 or 2 representatives from each local, regional, or national organization (not coalitions) that wishes to actively work to carry out the NCNR campaign of facilitating and organizing nonviolent resistance to the war in Iraq.

To join the ORGANIZING List, please send your name, group affiliation, city and email address to Different local chapters of a national organization are encouraged to subscribe.

THE NOTICES LIST will include only notices of NCNR actions and related information and is open to any interested person to subscribe. It will be moderated to maintain focus & will include periodic notices about getting involved in NCNR national organizing. To join the NOTICES List, send an email message to You will get a confirmation message once subscribed. If you have problems, please write to the list manager at

4] – You can help safeguard human rights and fragile ecosystems through your purchase of HOCOFOLA Café Quetzal. Bags of ground coffee or whole beans can be ordered by mailing in an order form. Also note organic cocoa and sugar are for sale. For more details and to download the order form, go to The coffee comes in one-pound bags.

Fill out the form and mail it with a check made out to HOCOFOLA on or before the second week of the month. Be sure you indicate ground or beans for each type of coffee ordered. Send it to Adela Hirsch, 5358 Eliots Oak Rd., Columbia, MD 21044. Be sure you indicate ground (G) or bean (B) for each type of coffee ordered. The coffee will arrive some time the following week and you will be notified where to pick it up. Contact Adela at 410-997-5662 or via e-mail at

5] – A peace vigil takes place every Friday from noon to 1 PM at Lafayette Park facing the White House. Join the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and friends. Contact Art Laffin:

6] – Every Friday from noon to 1 PM, Women in Black, Baltimore, host a vigil at Pratt and Light Sts. in the Inner Harbor. Peace signs will be available. See or write or call 410-467-9114.

7] – There is also a noon vigil on June 29 at Roland Park Place at 830 W. 40th St. Call 410-467-9114.

8] – A vigil for Justice in Palestine/Israel (now in its 8th year) takes place every Friday from noon to 1 PM at 19th & JFK Blvd., Philadelphia (across from Israeli Consulate. It is sponsored by Bubbies & Zaydes (Grandparents) for Peace in the Middle East. Email Go to

9] – Catch the Briefing on the Renewed Violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Fri., June 29 at 2 PM at IPS Conference Room, 1112 16th St. NW, Suite 600, WDC. The briefing will try to address whether the solutions on the table are in the interest of the Congolese people, the role of Rwanda in the conflict, and the US position on these issues. Visit or call 202-787-5229.

10] – There is a ddemonstration at the Rwandan Embassy on Fri., June 29 from 4:30 to 6:30 PM at 1714 New Hampshire Ave. NW. Join Congo Friends this Friday, June 29th, for a peaceful demonstration in front of the Rwanda Embassy in Washington from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm to protest Rwanda's training and arming of rebel groups inside the Congo. Call 1-888-584-6510 or email

11] – There is a silent vigil on Fri., June 29 from 5 to 6 PM outside of Homewood Friends Meeting, 3107 N. Charles St., in opposition to war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Placards say: "War Is Not the Answer." The silent vigil is sponsored by AFSC, Homewood Friends and Stony Run Meetings.

12] – The Maryland Coalition for Workers' Rights Community Forum is happening on Fri., June 29 at 5:30 PM at the Nyumburu Cultural Center on the campus of the U. of Maryland, College Park. The forum takes place in solidarity with U. of Maryland workers who have been on the receiving end of racial discrimination, xenophobic attacks, verbal degradation and sexual assaults. Call 770-330-5953.

13] – On Fridays, from 7 to 10:30 PM at the Potter's House, 1658 Columbia Rd. NW, WDC 20009, enjoy the Sounds of Hope is Good Music, Good Food, for a Good Cause! Go to Contact Mary Shapiro, Sounds of Hope producer, at or 202-294-2906.

14] – On Fri., June 29 from 7 to 9 PM, a Week with Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson continues at the Church of the Savior Festival Center, 1640 Columbia Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20009. The series concludes with a fresh look at the Gospel of Jesus as a “religion of creation” counter-story to both the “religion of empire” narratives in Scripture and of the Roman Empire. Jesus does not oppose “Judaism” or “the Old Testament,” but rather those who would claim God’s approval for violence, economic exploitation and human domination.

15] – The Journey of Hope continues on Fri., June 29 at 7:30 PM at Benedict Hall, St. Charles Borromeo Church, 3304 Washington Blvd., Arlington, VA. Call 703-527-5500. The speakers are Terri Steinberg, Del. Patrick Hope and Bill Pelke. Contact Bill Pelke at

16] – There is an opportunity to participate in ballroom dancing, usually every Friday of the month, in the JHU ROTC Bldg. at 8 PM. Turn south on San Martin Dr. from the intersection of Univ. Parkway and 39th St. Drive on campus by taking the third left turn. The next dance will be June 29. Call Dave Greene at 410-599-3725.

17] – On Sat., June 30, and going through Thurs., July 5, the Occupy National Gathering is in Olde City/Historic District of Philadelphia. Visit All activities will be on Independence Mall (5th and Market) and surrounding parks unless otherwise noted. It begins on Saturday at 9 AM.

On Wed., July 4, the day begins at 9 AM, and at 11 PM, there will be a final camp-out and party. On Thurs., July 5 at 9 AM, there will be courtroom solidarity for a Philly Occupier. Then at 11 AM, March to Wall Street embarks: OWS Guitarmy will be leading an epic 99 mile march from Independence Mall to Wall Street in a quest to deliver the Vision for a Democratic Future!

18] – On Sat., June 30 from 10 AM to noon at the Church of the Savior Festival Center, 1640 Columbia Rd. NW, WDC 20009, Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson will ask how we might encourage, support and challenge those we accompany to live into an empowered, liberating life together? Seek together to envision the transformational journey of companionship.

19] – Friends House, 17715 Meeting House Rd., Sandy Spring, MD 20860, hosts a peace vigil every Saturday, 10:30 to 11:30 AM, on the corner of Rt. 108 and Georgia Ave. in Olney, MD. The next vigil is June 30. Call Chuck Harker at 301-570-7167.

20] – Each Saturday, 11 AM – 1 PM, Chester County Peace Movement holds a peace vigil in West Chester in front of the Chester County Courthouse, High & Market Sts. Go to Email

21] – There will be a peace vigil on the West Lawn of the Capitol at noon on Sat., June 30. Look for the blue banner with the message, "Seek Peace and Pursue It.--Psalms 34:14." The vigil lasts one hour and is silent except when one responds to the occasional questions. Go to or email

22] – On Sat., June 30 from 1 to 3 PM at the Church of the Savior Festival Center, 1640 Columbia Rd. NW, WDC 20009. Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson continue God’s Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond. How then shall we live? Where do we go from here? Where is the hope? The final session of the week will invite your stories, questions and experiences. How do we embody more completely the Word in the midst of empire? We will explore personal, communal, and public practices that enable the Light to shine in the darkness.

23] – Deep Green Resistance: Culture of Resistance Roadshow is on Sat., June 30 at 1:15 PM at Radical Space, 5525 Illinois Ave. NW. DGR, an environmental and social justice group, will be advocating a strategy for resistance to the current political and social structures that are destroying the natural world. DGR recognizes that the current structure of society, with it’s institutions, stiff social hierarchy, and patriarchy, is fundamentally unjust and unsustainable, and that no degree of small-scale remedial actions will stop the systematic destruction of the natural world. The Roadshow workshop will cover the shortsightedness of many mainstream efforts to truly address the fundamental contradictions of our modern struggles, and present concrete steps to an equitable, thriving future. Go to

24] – There is a Peoples Assembly -- Police Abuse, Racism & Misconduct – on Sat., June 30 from 3 to 5 PM at Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church, Dolphin & Ettings Sts., Baltimore 21217 (1206 Ettings St). Email, There is a sense of sorrow and horror at the senseless death of 17 year old, Christopher Brown, a Randallstown teenager, who was strangled to death by an off-duty police officer, who claimed youth threw rocks at his door. There are many more cases of families and victims who will speak out at the Peoples Assembly. Call 410-500-2168.

25] – The Nuns on the Bus will be hosted by the P. Francis Murphy Initiative for Justice and Peace on Sat., June 30 from 7 to 9 PM at the Stony Run Friends Meetinghouse. Stony Run Friends and the Baltimore Quaker Peace and Justice Committee, the Murphy Initiative and others are hosting the Baltimore appearance of Nuns on the Bus at Stony Run Friends Meeting House, 5116 North Charles Street, Baltimore MD 21210, at 7 pm on Sat., June 30. Check

Every hour of each day, Catholic Sisters stand in solidarity with all who live in poverty, and we confront injustice and systems that cause suffering. They cannot stand by silently when the U.S. Congress considers further enriching the wealthiest Americans at the expense of struggling, impoverished families. As part of the campaign for budget fairness, they are taking a bus trip. The bus will travel to places in many states where Sisters actively serve people in need. Support the work to defeat government actions that would add to the suffering of already struggling families. This bus trip has been organized and is sponsored by NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, and the NETWORK Education Program.

26] – Join with fellow travelers on Sat., June 30 at Camden Yard at 7 PM to see the Orioles play Cleveland. Tickets are upper reserved behind home plate, and cost $13. This is a benefit for Legal Aid, Public Justice Center, and MCDAA & NACDL's Foundation for Criminal Justice, two organizations working to reduce wrongful convictions. Call/text Lou Curran at 410-499-8899.

27] – Labor Night with DC United takes place on Sat., June 30 from 7:30 to 9:30 PM at RFK Stadium, 2400 East Capitol St. SE. For the upcoming match against the Montreal Impact, DC United is offering all union members and staffers 25% off the regular sideline ticket price. This deal is available through the following website Moreover, the union that brings the largest number of supporters will receive special recognition by the team. Contact DC United representative James Armold at 202-587-5478 or

28] – Usually, the Baltimore Ethical Society, 306 W. Franklin St., Suite 102, Baltimore, MD 21201-4661, meets on Sundays, and generally there is a speaker and discussion from 10:30 to 11:30 AM. On Sun., July 1, the topic is “Report on the American Humanist Association Annual Conference,” and Emil Volcheck & Kathleen Wilsbach, the new BES president and his wife, will report on the 71st annual Conference, which they attended in early June in New Orleans. Among the subjects addressed at this conference were humanist philosophy, atheist ethics, church-state separation, sexuality, women’s rights and LGBT equality. Plus as Kathleen noted “As a geeky humanist feminist, I just couldn't pass up seeing George Takei and Gloria Steinem [being honored as Humanist of the Year] and, of course, I love New Orleans.” Call 410-581-2322 or visit

29] – There is a NAMAW Rally & March for Global Justice & Peace on Sun., July 1 from 11 AM to 7 PM at the Washington Monument, Constitution Ave. NW. Since the attack on the US on 9/11, Muslims throughout the world have been the targets for revenge. These actions have resulted in more than 5 million innocent Muslims slaughtered, and even more unjustly imprisoned, tortured, and disabled. Join the National Association of Muslim American Women for a march and rally to demand an end to the global genocide against Muslims, an end to the war on Islam, no war on Iran, Northern Sudan, or Syria, an end to the illegal drone attacks, and an end to the illegal occupations of Palestine, Kashmir, and Afghanistan. The day will consist of a march to the Senate, a rally, speeches by noted global justice figures and music and artists on display. 11:00am to 12:00pm- Assemble at the Washington Monument. The march is at noon, the rally at 1:30 PM and from 5 to 7 PM, there will be music. Go to!schedule

30] – Maryland Bridges for Peace welcomes you to stand for peace Sundays from noon (or thereabouts) to 1 PM on the Spa Creek Bridge in Annapolis. Contact Lucy at 410-263-7271 or Signs are not allowed to be on a stick or pole. If there is interest, people will be standing on the Stoney Creek Bridge on Fort Smallwood Road in Pasadena [410-437-5379 or]. Go to

31] – Every Sunday, 4 to 5 PM, there is a Quaker Peace Vigil at Independence Mall, N. side of Market between 5th and 6th Sts., Philadelphia. Call 215-421-5811.

32] – Red Emma’s needs volunteers. Stop in to the weekly Sunday meeting at 7 PM at 800 St. Paul St. or email The next meeting is July 1. There is no meeting on the first Sunday of the month. Call 410-230-0450. If you would be interested in volunteering or becoming a collective member of 2640, send an email to

33] – There is a weekly Pentagon Peace Vigil from 7 to 8 AM on Mondays, since 1987, outside the Pentagon Metro stop. The next vigil is Mon., July 2, and it is sponsored by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. Call 202-882-9649.

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

After Genocide, Stifled Dissent

After Genocide, Stifled Dissent

June 29, 2012


Antwerp, Belgium

WHEN Paul Kagame led Rwandan rebel forces to victory in 1994, he was praised not only for halting a genocide that had killed half a million people, but also for advocating reconciliation rather than revenge. After he became president in 2000, he was acclaimed as a democratic visionary. Under his leadership, Rwanda is attracting investment, fighting corruption and improving health and education.

But a shadow hangs over Mr. Kagame’s Rwanda, in the form of persistent concern about intimidation of the political opposition. Outspoken journalists and politicians have disappeared or died in mysterious circumstances, while the government insists that some thoughts are too dangerous to permit, in the aftermath of genocide.

This week, a court in the capital, Kigali, postponed — for the third time — a verdict in the trial of the opposition leader Victoire Ingabire. Also this week, a panel of United Nations experts found that top Rwandan military officers had helped organize, finance and arm mutinous rebels across the border, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ms. Ingabire, who had lived outside the country since before the genocide and is a member of the Hutu majority, stirred immediate controversy when she returned in 2010 and spoke openly about ethnic politics — a taboo subject since the genocide. She was blocked from running for president. Several weeks after the election, which Mr. Kagame won with 93 percent of the vote, she was arrested for violating a 2008 law that prohibits “genocide ideology.” Ms. Ingabire had suggested that innocent majority Hutus who died during the genocide deserved to be mourned alongside the minority Tutsis who were massacred by Hutu militias. She has said her goal was reconciliation, not historical revisionism.

Ms. Ingabire is only the most recent critic of the Kagame government to face dire consequences. In 2010, Lt. Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former Kagame ally, was shot in Johannesburg, where he was living in exile. He survived, but days later, Jean-Léonard Rugambage, deputy editor of the newspaper Umuvugizi, was shot dead in Kigali after it published an online article linking Rwanda’s security forces to the attack in Johannesburg. Two weeks later, another opposition leader, André Kagwa Rwisereka, was found beheaded in southern Rwanda.

The government denied responsibility for any of the attacks, but they fit a pattern of harassment that included a crackdown on independent media.

Mr. Kagame’s resounding victory did not lessen his government’s distaste for criticism. Early last year, two journalists were sentenced to prison for insulting the president and violating the law against “genocide ideology.”

Last November, an online journalist, Charles Ingabire (no relation to Victoire), received death threats and was then fatally shot as he left a bar in Kampala, Uganda, where he had been living in exile. No one has been charged.

Many outsiders find it hard to understand why Mr. Kagame would allow such human rights abuses, when Rwanda needs international support to meet the challenges of overpopulation and a paucity of natural resources. Mr. Kagame has advocated high-tech investment and promoted education in English instead of French. International investment has risen, and transparency has improved. Visitors to Kigali are invariably impressed by the government officials and businessmen they encounter. Most of these Rwandans, like Mr. Kagame, are repatriated refugees from the ethnic Tutsi minority who returned after the genocide.

Some outsiders, mindful of the intense trauma Rwandans suffered 18 years ago, are willing to tolerate the crackdown on dissent as long as economic growth and the appearance of social calm continue.

But that is a mistake. It is time to worry instead that Mr. Kagame is rebuilding the country with authoritarian practices that could ultimately undermine Rwanda’s economic achievements.

His intolerance of dissent stifles the debate and free thought Rwanda needs if it is to become a modern, technologically advanced economy. The coercive nature of his government’s national unity program could someday drag it back into ethnic conflict.

The government says it wants to create a new identity in which all would see themselves as Rwandans, neither Hutu nor Tutsi. But this strikes many Rwandans as an effort to impose a false unity on them while cynically using the threat of renewed violence to strengthen the government’s position.

An inability to speak openly about ethnic feelings allows ethnic resentments to fester as whispers. Many Hutus privately complain not only that Tutsis monopolize the government but that Tutsis are the sole beneficiaries of Rwanda’s growth.

The Kagame government has a rare opportunity to relax its restrictions on freedom of expression. One reason given for extending Ms. Ingabire’s wait for a verdict is that Rwanda’s Supreme Court has yet to hand down a ruling on a challenge to the constitutionality of the “genocide ideology” law. If the government were to amend or rescind the law, it would be a good first step toward welcoming free and responsible debate.

The government should also respond to concerns about its military interference in Congo by acknowledging its role in the conflict there — particularly human rights abuses in eastern Congo from 1998 to 2002 — and by helping to apprehend Bosco Ntaganda, a Rwandan and a protégé of the Kagame government, whom the International Criminal Court has indicted for war crimes.

Steps like these could safeguard Rwanda’s reputation as an innovative leader for East Africa. In the end, Mr. Kagame’s reaction to growing criticism this summer will show whether he is truly committed to Rwanda’s transformation, or only to preserving his power.

Timothy P. Longman, an associate professor of political science at Boston University, is the author of “Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda.”

© 2011 The New York Times Company

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

2012 on Track to Be the Deadliest on Record for Journalists

2012 on Track to Be the Deadliest on Record for Journalists

By Curtis Brainard
June 29, 2012

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago - With 72 journalists
killed so far this year, 2012 is on pace to be the
deadliest on record, the International Press Institute

(IPI) announced here on Sunday.

The media freedom organization's executive director,
Alison Bethel McKenzie, choked up and struggled to speak
as she addressed the group's annual conference.

"From Somalia to Syria, the Philippines to Mexico, and
Iraq to Pakistan, reporters are being brutally targeted
for death in unparalleled numbers," she said.

The most lethal year so far in the 15 that IPI has been

keeping records was 2009, when 110 journalists died.

Last year was the second worst, with 102 deaths.

Syria, where peaceful protests have turned into a

violent civil war, has been the most dangerous country

in 2012, with 20 professional and citizen reporters,

both local and foreign, killed so far, according to McKenzie.

"It is deeply disturbing that in a year still massively

impacted by the once unimaginable-the overthrow of

brutal Arab regimes through people and media power-

journalists are dying on the job in record numbers," she said.

Unlike the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which

also monitors casualties, IPI counts accidental deaths,

such as those of five Indonesian journalists killed when

a plane crashed during a demonstration flight in May.

Still, the two groups are in rough accord on the violent

pace of 2012. According to CPJ, 46 journalists have died

so far this year, on track to match or surpass the 97

lost lives it recorded in 2009, the highest number in

the 20 years the group has kept statistics.

CPJ figures also finger Syria as the deadliest country

for journalists in 2012. As recently as Wednesday,

gunmen attacked a pro-government TV station near

Damascus, killing three journalists and four others,

according to the Associated Press.

"Local reporters have been savagely eliminated. Many

have been brutally tortured," said IPI's McKenzie of the

general situation in Syria.

Cruelty has been global, however. Mexico, whose gruesome

drug war made it the most dangerous country to cover

last year, according to IPI, continues to be a lethal

environment for the media. Two weeks ago, one of the

powerful cartels there kidnapped and murdered Victor

Manuel Baez Chino, who covered crime in the state of

Veracuz for a local edition of the national newspaper

Milenio. He was the fifth journalist be killed in the

state in the last six weeks, the AP reported.

A few days after Baez Chino's murder and halfway around

the world, assailants in Bangladesh stabbed to death

newspaper reporter Jamal Uddin while he visited a tea

stall, according to CPJ. The list goes on and on, and

even more journalists have only narrowly escaped having

their names added to it.

On Sunday, two unexploded hand grenades were lobbed onto

the premises of a privately owned TV news station in

Greece, The Wall Street Journal reported (the South East

Europe Media Organization, an affiliate of IPI, had

noted an increase in attacks against media in the

country a week earlier). And on Monday evening, gunmen

from the Pakistani Taliban opened fire on a privately

owned TV news station in Karachi, injuring two

employees, according to the BBC.

Other forms of press intimidation-from kidnapping in

Honduras, to a beating in Peru, to imprisonment in

Ethiopia-continue to plague news organizations as well,

IPI reports.

At the group's conference this week, special envoys from

the United Nations, the Organization for Security and

Co-operation in Europe, the Organization of American

States, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples'

Rights issued a joint declaration calling for

international mechanisms to address crimes against

freedom of expression.

"Impunity is winning," UN Special Rapporteur on the

right to freedom of opinion and expression Frank La Rue

told journalists.

Sadly, he's right, and if governments around the world

don't take immediate and strong action to curb violence

against the press, 2012 will be remembered as the

deadliest year in media history.

Disclosure: IPI paid for my travel and lodging to attend

the conference, where I hosted a panel on covering the

environment, part of which addressed recent reports that

journalists on that beat are also under increasing threat.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Baltimore Activist Alert - Part 4

69] Postal Service Rally – June 28

70] Healthy Food Challenge – June 28 – July 13

71] Save the Post Office – June 28

72] Occupy Caravans – June 28 & 29

73] Discussion on Syria – June 28

74] Honduran Coup – June 28


76] Open Space Forum – June 28

77] Religion of Empire – June 28

78] “Intimate Bureaucracies” – June 28

79] Starving for Justice – June 28

80] NOW Annual Conference – June 28 – July 1

81] Cute dog needs a home

82] Stop Smart Meter installation

83] Health care job


85] Sign up with Washington Peace Center

86] Join Fund Our Communities

87] Submit articles to Indypendent Reader

88] Donate books, videos, DVDs and records

89] Do you need a television and/or a computer?

90] Join Global Zero campaign

91] War Is Not the Answer signs for sale

92] Click on The Hunger Site

93] Fire & Faith

94] Join Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil


69] – Be at the US Postal Service Rally on Thurs., June 28 from 8 AM to 6 PM at US Postal Service Headquarters, 475 L'Enfant Plaza. Nine hunger strikers will "starve themselves to demonstrate that Congress is starving the postal service.” Join the AFL-CIO in supporting these hunger strikers and demanding no more cuts and no more closures. Visit

70] – Urbanite Project 2012: Healthy Food Challenge is an exhibition made up of submissions that represent individual and group responses to the Healthy Food Challenge. All submissions address the problem of food deserts in Baltimore and how they can be eradicated. See the exhibit which begins on Thurs., June 28 and continues through Fri., July 13, Tuesdays-Saturdays, 11 AM to 7 PM at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave. Call 410-276-1651 or go to

71] – On Thurs., June 28 at 1 PM, gather at the Main Post Office, 900 E. Fayette St., Baltimore 21233. Greet postal workers, including Debby Szeredy, a hunger striker and president of the Mid-Hudson NY American Postal Workers Union, Gwen Ivey, president of the Philadelphia APWU and community activist from the East Coast. Board the caravan from NYC, Philadelphia, and Baltimore to D.C to join workers and their supporters at the Post Master General’s headquarters for the final week of the Hunger Strike. Leave at 1:30 P.M. RSVP at Occupy 4 Jobs Network/410-218-4835.

72] – Occupy Caravan Solidarity ODC is on for Thurs., June 28 at 2 PM at McPherson Square, WDC 20005. All three Occupy Caravans are stopping in D.C. on the way to the Occupy National Gathering in Philadelphia. This will begin two days of around the clock direct actions in support of its mission to present and find redress for its grievances. After a quick orientation and teach-in, protesters will move to support postal workers at their 3 PM rally. A solidarity march to protest racial profiling and stop-and-frisk will begin at 7:15 PM, culminating in a candlelight vigil at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial.

On June 29 protesters will be on the move early for an 8 AM Notice of Foreclosure action. A march and action to present the Caravans’ grievances will be held at 2 PM. Occupy Caravans will join the ongoing SleepfulProtest overnight on both the 28th and 29th outside a bank which will be announced on those days. Call the Occupy D.C. Resource Center at 202-787-5255.

73] – Coexistence and Dialogue in Syria will happen on Thurs., June 28 from 2:30 to 4 PM at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1st Floor, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, WDC. Syria is a country increasingly in the international spotlight as a result of the government's aggressive approach in confronting protestors. Join the Foundation for Middle East Peace as it hosts Mufti Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun (The Grand Mufti of Syria), Bishop Luka El Khoury (Syrian Greek Orthodox Patriarchate), and Dr. Nasser Ani (chair of the Syrian American Forum) in a discussion about the internal politics of Syria and the rise of democratic movements within the country. RSVP at

74] – The Cold War Legacy Continues: 3rd Anniversary of Honduran Coup will happen on Thurs., June 28 from 6:30 to 9 PM at St. Stephen's, 1525 Newton St. NW. Since the 2009 coup d'etat Honduras has been in a human rights crisis. In the intervening three years, targeted killings and other violence against human rights advocates, journalists, LGBT-identified Hondurans, and women have soared in impunity. And U.S. government support for the Honduran police and military has only made this crisis worse.

The U.S. lends military and diplomatic support to Honduran President Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo, who became president in elections organized by the post coup regime. This is an open community forum to discuss what occurred on June 29th, 2009 in Honduras. Cosita Seria & Tierra Morena will be performing and demonstrating the importance of arts/music as a critical cultural element that is a vehicle for disseminating information about a cause, as well as, a means to mobilize the community around specific ideas to resist oppression and organize effectively! Go to

75] – You are welcome to attend a screening of the Academy Award-winning movie THE PANAMA DECEPTION on Thurs., June 28 at 7 PM at the DCAC Gallery, 2438 18th St. NW, WDC. Afterwards there will be a reception, music, and a party. So come, eat, drink, party, and save the world. This is a Celebrating the Americas: A Council on Hemispheric Affairs summer fundraising event. The suggested donation is from $15 to $1500. RSVP at COHA@COHA.ORG or 202-223-4975.

76] – At the Open Space Forum on Thurs., June 28 at 7 PM at Johns Hopkins at Eastern, 1101 E. 33rd St., the panel will discuss solving current open space needs according to Olmsted Design Principles and strategies for protecting parks and open spaces as a vital part of our communities in the Baltimore metropolitan region.

77] – On Thurs., June 28 from 7 to 9 PM, as part of the Week with Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson - “Come Out, My People!” God’s Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond - Moses’ “Religion of Creation” vs. Solomon’s “Religion of Empire.” The series will focus on the “two religions” with the “religion of empire” narrative of David and Solomon and their claim to a divinely authorized, urban monarchy. Discover the “religion of creation” counter-story in the Exodus narrative, in which YHWH calls a people to walk away from empire and to a new, committed relationship with the Creator God. It will be held at the Church of the Savior Festival Center, 1640 Columbia Rd. NW, WDC 20009.

78] – On Thurs., June 28 at 7 PM @ Red Emma's, 800 St. Paul St., catch Intimate Bureaucracies: a talk by DJ Readies (Craig Saper). The cultural critic and digital media scholar spins a history from the future looking backward at the present moment as a turning point. Our systems of organization and control appear unsustainable and brutal, and we are feeling around in the dark for alternatives. Using experiments in social organization in downtown New York City, and other models of potential alternative social organizations, this manifesto makes a call to action to study and build sociopoetic systems. Saper's new book explores the apparent oxymoron of the intimate bureaucracy, suggesting not only a strategy, but the very basis for the new productive mythology surrounding the electronic World Wide Web. Email or call 410-230-0450.

79] – The 19th annual Starving For Justice Fast & Vigil begins on Thurs., June 28 at 9:30 PM with the Last Supper. At midnight be at the Supreme Court. The fast at the Supreme Court ends on Mon., July 2 at 1 PM. The four-day Fast & Vigil takes place on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, considered by many to be the heart of the legalized killing machines in this country. Join this public education and outreach at the steps of the Supreme Court. Visit or email .

80] – The NOW Annual National Conference starts on Fri., June 29 at 9 AM and continues on Sun., July 1 at 9 AM at the Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport, 1739 W. Nursery Road, Linthicum Heights, MD 20190. The theme is "Energize! Organize! Stop the War on Women. Go to

81] – Ronda Cooperstein rescued a sweet little pit bull mix. She already has two dogs and two cats. She has taken the dog to the vet. He is very cute, brown and white, petite with a very mellow disposition. Contact Ronda at 3105 Northbrook Road, Baltimore, MD 21208/410-486-6307.

82] – Rebecca Hanna is a full time smart meter activist. She wanted to alert consumers about a recent order from the Maryland Public Service Commission. Go to or contact her at or 410 922-6535. The PSC ruled that ratepayers can defer the installation of a smart meter until an official decision has been made. You would have to submit the request in writing.

This could be sent by certified mail to Baltimore Gas & Electric, POB 1475, Baltimore, MD 21203: NOTICE OF DEFERRAL OF INSTALLATION OF SMART METERS PER PSC’S ORDER NO. 84926 DATED MAY 24, 2012 -- I am hereby notifying Baltimore Gas & Electric Company and its agents (including but not limited to Grid One Solutions, Inc.) that you are NOT to install a Smart Meter anywhere on my property pursuant to Order No. 84926 issued by the Maryland Public Service Commission on May 24, 2012. Sincerely, name and address. The PEPCO address is 701 9th Street NW, Washington DC, 20068. It is suggested a copy is sent to Public Service Commission, Attn: David J. Collins, Executive Secretary, William Donald Schaefer Tower, 6 St. Paul Street, 16th Floor, Baltimore, MD 21202-6808.

83] – There is a job available starting in August--Health Care is a Human Right with the United Workers Association. The application deadline is July 2. Email to get a copy of the job description.

84] – HELP MAKE PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST! Since a civil war in 1974 the island of Cyprus has been divided in two with a United Nations patrolled border. Turkish/Muslim Cypriots are in the north; Greek/Christian Cypriots are in the south. Animosities and prejudices run deep. Children throw rocks at each other across the border. Experts believe that Cyprus is at a crossroads between renewed conflict or becoming an example in the Middle East of how two such cultures can live in peace.

The Cyprus Friendship Program, based on the successful model that helped build peace in Northern Ireland, brings over a Muslim and Christian teen to stay with an American host family for the month of July (or ½ month if paired with another host family). This bonding experience in a neutral environment almost always results in a strong friendship. Programming here and after their return to Cyprus turns them into peace builders who are trained in how to influence their peers. The teens are chosen for their maturity, leadership potential, and English speaking ability. You choose the gender and age (from 15 to 17). To learn more contact Tom McCarthy at 301-774-7069 or

This video is only 3 minutes long but gives a good overview of the program. It was made by the US State Department This video is about 8 minutes, gives more info on some of their activities while here, and was made in part by the teens:

85] – The Washington Peace Center has a progressive calendar & activist alert! Consider signing up to receive its weekly email:

86] – Fund Our Communities campaign is a grass roots movement to get support from local organizations and communities to work together with their local and state elected officials to pressure Congresspersons and senators to join with Congresspersons Barney Frank and Ron Paul, who have endorsed a 25% cut to the federal military budget. Bring home the savings to state and county governments to meet the local needs which are under tremendous budget pressures. Go to

87] – The new Indypendent Reader is seeking articles for its web site at Submit an article.

88] – If you would like to get rid of books, videos, DVDs or records, contact Max at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at

89] – Can you use a television set, a computer, monitor etc., luggage or bookshelves? Contact Max at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at

90] – Join an extraordinary global campaign for the elimination of nuclear weapons: A growing group of leaders around the world is calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons and a majority of the global public agrees. This is an historic window of opportunity. With momentum already building in favor of Zero, a major show of support from people around the world could tip the balance. When it comes to nuclear weapons, one is one too many.

91] – WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER signs from Friends Committee on National Legislation are again for sale at $5. To purchase a sign, call Max at 410-366-1637.

92] – The Hunger Site was initiated by Mercy Corps and Second Harvest, and is funded entirely by advertisers. You can go there every day and click the big yellow "Give Food for Free" button near the top of the page; you do not have to look at the ads. Each click generates funding for about 1.1 cups of food. So consider clicking.

93] – Go online for FIRE AND FAITH: The Catonsville Nine File. On May 17, 1968, nine people entered the Selective Service Offices in Catonsville, Maryland, and burned draft records in protest against the war in Vietnam. View

94] – Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil takes place every day in Lafayette Park, 1601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 24 hours a day, since June 3, 1981. Go to; call 202-682-4282.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible. It may or may not be possible to turn the US around through nonviolent revolution. But one thing favors such an attempt: the total inability of violence to change anything for the better" - Daniel Berrigan

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In Ohio, the People Push Back on Fracking

Published on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 by YES! Magazine

In Ohio, the People Push Back on Fracking

Tired of waiting for their leaders to ban the destructive drilling practice, citizens passed their own resolution—and took over the Statehouse to make it heard.

by Joshua Kahn Russell

Anti-fracking activists gathered in the Ohio Statehouse to rally for clean water in their state. (Photo by Josh Lopez)Last week nearly 1,000 people took over the Ohio Statehouse. Joined by others from neighboring states, they came together to protest the destructive gas drilling method called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." After rallying and marching to the Capitol building, hundreds poured in—without a permit—to hold a "People's Assembly" to decide how they, the people, could end the practice in their state.

Jamie Frederick was one of them. She had been told by doctors that it was safe to drink her well water, despite the gas wells surrounding her home. When she got sick, she was told to drink more water. She later discovered it was contaminated with chemicals used in the fracking process. As a result, she has lost her gall bladder and can't risk having children because of fatal health risks and potential birth defects.

"If there had been solar panels and wind turbines surrounding my home instead of gas wells, I never would have gotten sick, and I would be called ‘Mom’,” she told the crowd. These days, she said, her mouth bleeds and it's difficult to talk: “I am losing my voice more all the time. But I seem to have found it today.”

As the Assembly convened, the rotunda, filled to capacity, thundered with stomping, clapping, and chanting that was hushed when families shared experiences of being devastated by the side effects of fracking, as Frederick was. Some had been invited to testify at the Statehouse in the past, only to find empty rooms and legislators who, they felt, did not respect their concerns.

These stories had been shared throughout the lead-up to the action, with three full days committed to workshops, trainings, and cross-movement strategy sessions. Teri Blanton, of Appalachia, connected fracking to another highly destructive extraction process she has been fighting in her own community: mountaintop removal coal mining. "They're trying to do to you what they've done to us," she said. "'Regulation' just gives them permission to do it. If you think regulation works, take a look at the West Virginia strip mining."

The Ohio People's Assembly ended with the passage of a "people's legislation" to ban fracking. Though no actual law backs this resolution, it signifies a commitment by many in the state to organize to stop the practice of fracking.

This July will see thousands more mobilize in Washington, D.C. for the Don’t Stop the Frack Attack rally. Grassroots communities across New York State are already hatching plans to take action against Governor Andrew Cuomo's attempt to turn the Southern Tier of New York into a fracking sacrifice zone. This creative, nonviolent action bubbling across the United States reflects a growing united movement to halt extreme energy development that comes at the expense of both people and the planet.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Joshua Kahn Russell serves as U.S. Actions Coordinator for, and is a longtime facilitator, organizer, and strategist serving movements for social justice and ecological balance. He has written for numerous movement strategy books, and most recently published Organizing Cools the Planet: Tools and Reflections to Navigate the Climate Crisis, with Hilary Moore (PM Press) and Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution ed. Andrew Boyd (O/R Books).

more Joshua Kahn Russell

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert - Part 3

54] Conference on Turkey -- June 27

55] Be at the BDC -- June 27

56] Nuclear Security – June 27

57] Philadelphia peace vigil – June 27

58] Film A SONG FOR WARRIORS – June 27

59] Film THE KINGDOM OF WOMEN – June 27

60] Book THE OBAMIANS – June 27

61] Peace on Earth – June 27

62] Music for Peace – June 27

63] Green Currency Meeting – June 27

64] Chestnut Hill peace vigil – June 27

65] New Jewish Agenda – June 27

66] Where Egypt Is Heading – June 27

67] Summer Lecture Series – June 27

68] Securing Fissile Materials – June 28


54] – The Middle East Institute's Third Annual Conference on Turkey takes place on Wed., June 27 from 8:45 AM to 5 PM at the National Press Club Ballroom, 13th Floor, 529 14th St. NW, WDC 20045. The rise of Turkey as a significant power in the world has raised a lot of questions about its international and national political convictions and actions. Specifically, commentators have become increasingly focused on Turkey's ambition to join the EU, treatment of its Kurdish population, and it's increasingly secular politics. The Middle East Institute will host its third annual conference on Turkey to discuss many of the aforementioned topics about Turkey, and panelists will include journalists from Al-Jazeera and research fellows at the Center for American Progress. There is no charge, and one can register at

55] – "UNITED WE BARGAIN, DIVIDED WE BEG." Rally on Wed., June 27 at 11 AM at the BDC office, 36 S. Charles, at Lombard. Take action against Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), SuperBlock Partnership, and the Dawson Company. The SuperBlock is a $152 million project that is slated to have 296 residential rental units, 217,444 square feet of retail space, and a 650-space parking garage set to be built in the Lexington Market area. Atlanta- based Dawson Co, who will be the "GC" on this project, has asked the city for a tax break (PILOT). On May 10th the Planning Commission recommended adoption of the PILOT, but with the stipulation that would include "an expectation of jobs for city residents." At stake according to BDC's analysis is, 634 construction jobs, as well as 2300 other jobs related to the finished product. This project is slated to last at minimum, 24 months. The Board of Estimates and City Council will have the final say in regards to inserting a local hiring standard as part of the PILOT agreement. There is a demand to include the people in the development of this project. Contact Richie Armstrong at or 443-469-4700, organizer, Community Churches United.

56] – On Wed., June 27 from 1 to 2:30 PM, Khammar Mrabit, International Atomic Energy Agency, will address "Nuclear Security: Why it Matters" at the International Peace Institute, 777 United Nations Plaza, 12th Floor, WDC. RSVP to Beatrice Agyarkoh at

57] – Each Wednesday from 4:30 - 5:30 PM, the House of Grace Catholic Worker holds a weekly vigil for peace in Iraq outside the Phila. Federal Building, 6th & Market Sts. The next vigil is June 20. Call 215-426-0364.

58] – The Saul Landau Film Series continues with “A Song for Dead Warriors ” on Wed., June 27 from 6 to 8:30 PM at IPS Conference Room, 1112 16th St. NW, Suite 600, WDC. The film examines the reasons for the Wounded Knee occupation in the spring of 1973 by Oglala Sioux Indians and members of the American Indian Movement (AIM). The film captures the conflict between AIM, the Sioux militants, the government's Bureau of Indian Affairs and those allied with the US government. It was the winner of the Ann Arbor Film Festival. These screenings are free and open to the public but a suggested $5 donation will be appreciated. Popcorn and beverages will be provided. RSVP to

59] – Voices of Palestine Summer Film Series continues with "The Kingdom of Women: Ein El Hilweh" on Wed., June 27 at 6:30 PM at The Jerusalem Fund, 2425 Virginia Ave. NW. The Jerusalem Fund and the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University are pleased to present their annual summer film series highlighting recent documentary and feature films from and about Palestine that explore the social, cultural and political complexities of Palestinian life and identity. The film tells the story of the women of Ein El Hilweh refugee camp between 1982 and 1984 is an important chapter in the history of Palestinian refugee women in Lebanon. After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the camp was destroyed and its men were imprisoned. Go to Call The Jerusalem Fund at 202-338-1958 or email

60] – James Mann, formerly a writer of 20 years for the Los Angeles Times, has a new book “The Obamians: How a Band of Newcomers Redefined American Power.” He explores the Obama administration's struggle to enact a coherent foreign policy in a time of global turmoil. Don't miss this fabulous event! You can download the book at Hear Mann on Wed., June 27 at 6:30 PM at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Central Library, 400 Cathedral St. Call 410-396-5430. Go to

61] – On Wed., June 27 at 6:30 to 8:30 PM, Peace on Earth Begins With Me. Join discussions on the costs of war, alternatives to conflict, and building peace at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, 3304 Washington Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201--2 blocks from the Clarendon Metro. Contact Marisa Vertrees at 703-527-5500 x 24. Families and individuals can interact with families from Migration & Refugee Services and enjoy a potluck supper.

62] – Music for Peace takes place at 7 PM on the last Wednesday of the month, and it is an opportunity to discover music as a means to communicate and connect across cultures. Listen, play, or learn. The event will feature an open mic forum, guitar lessons, and the chance to meet people to HI Baltimore Hostel, 17 W. Mulberry St. Call 410-576-8880 or visit

63] – The Baltimore Green Currency Association meets every Wednesday at 7 PM at Breathe Books, 810 W 36th St. # A, Baltimore, MD 21211-2554. Call 410-235-7323.

64] – Each Wednesday, the Northwest Greens hold a peace vigil from 7 to 8 PM outside the Borders Book Store, Germantown Ave. at Bethlehem Pike in Chestnut Hill, PA. The next vigil is June 27. Call 215-843-4256 or email

65] – On Wed., June 27 at 7 PM @ Red Emma's, 800 St. Paul St., hear about "Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue: A History of New Jewish Agenda.” This is a people's history of 1980's Jewish activism, published by independent literary press Thread Makes Blanket. Author Ezra Berkley Nepon critically studies the New Jewish Agenda, a national organization from 1980 to 1992 with the slogan "a Jewish voice among progressives and a progressive voice among Jews." NJA also practiced participatory grassroots democracy with over 45 local chapters and 5,000 members, as well as organized a progressive Jewish voice for every political issue of their decade. Email or call 410-230-0450.

66] – Catch the open discussion at the Al-Hewar Center Event: "Where Egypt is Heading After the Presidential Elections.” It takes place on Wed., June 27 at 7:30 PM at the Vienna Community Center, 120 Cherry St. SE, Vienna, VA 22180. Members of the Egyptian media and activists will participate. Email

67] – A Summer Lecture Series will be given by St. John's College faculty and guest lecturers, and topics will vary from Machiavelli, Einstein, and Socrates. It goes through Aug. 1 on Wednesdays at 7:30 PM at St. John's College, 60 College Ave. Call 410-263-2371 or go to

68] – On Thurs., June 28 from 10 to 11:30 AM, Richard Burt, Global Zero USA, Jan Lodal, Atlantic Council, and Joan Rohlfing, Nuclear Threat Initiative, will talk about "A Next Step in Nuclear Arms Control: Securing Fissile Materials" at the Brookings Institution, Falk Auditorium, 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW, WDC 20036. RSVP at Call 202-797-6105.

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

ACLU: The Government’s Pseudo-Secrecy Snow Job on Targeted Killing

ACLU: The Government’s Pseudo-Secrecy Snow Job on Targeted Killing

Published on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 by Blog of Rights (ACLU)

by Nathan Freed Wessler

Just before a midnight deadline on Wednesday, the government filed its legal brief responding to the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking information about the legal and factual basis for the deaths of three U.S. citizens in targeted killing drone strikes last fall.

Our initial reaction to the brief is here, but the government’s position is so remarkable that it warrants further comment.

• We filed this lawsuit on February 1, 2012, after the government responded to our Freedom of Information Act request by refusing to confirm or deny whether it had records about the legal authority or factual basis for the targeted killing of U.S. citizens. The brief the government submitted on Wednesday (literally at the 11th hour and 57th minute) was originally due on April 13, but the government sought a series of extensions of that deadline, twice telling the court that delay was required because “the Government’s position is being deliberated at the highest level of the Executive Branch.” And what did two and a half months of deliberation produce? Virtually nothing. Not disclosure of the Office of Legal Counsel memorandum that provided purported legal justifications for killing U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. Not information about the process by which U.S. citizens are added to “kill lists.” Not the evidence the government relied on to justify the targeting of al-Awlaki. Not information about how and why it killed two other American citizens, including a 16-year-old boy, in drone strikes last fall. Not even an acknowledgment that the CIA conducts targeted killings at all, or that the military took part in the targeting and killing of the three U.S. citizens last year.

Here’s the change in position that officials at the “highest level” decided on: They pointlessly acknowledged that the CIA has in its files copies of recent public speeches by Attorney General Eric Holder and the President’s chief counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan. And they acknowledged that they have identified other documents relevant to our request, but refuse to discuss what those documents are about or even how many there are. The government’s brief amounts to a total secrecy snow job. In every relevant respect, the government’s stonewalling continues. Although in public speeches and in the press government officials have repeatedly acknowledged the CIA and military targeted killing programs and discussed the U.S. responsibility for killing al-Awlaki, in court the government continues to cling to a patently implausible invocation of official secrecy.

• The government’s position is strikingly broad. The government’s brief says that “whether or not the United States government conducted the particular operations that led to the deaths of Anwar al-Aulaki and other individuals named in the FOIA requests remains classified.” But if U.S. responsibility for killing al-Awlaki is classified, someone forgot to tell the Department of Defense. Within hours of al-Awlaki’s death, DOD published a news article stating that “[a] U.S. airstrike . . . killed Yemeni-based terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki early this morning.” President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta have both acknowledged that the U.S. killed al-Awlaki. At this point, refusing to say whether the U.S. was responsible for killing al-Awlaki at all, not even whether the CIA or the military was responsible, is absurd.

• The government goes even further: Incredibly, it appears not to acknowledge even that Anwar al-Awlaki is dead. In a sworn declaration filed with the government’s brief, a representative of the Department of Defense states: “I am not aware of any Executive Branch official having officially acknowledged the nature, depth, or breadth of DoD’s interest or involvement in the deaths, or lack thereof, of Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan, or Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.” Deaths, or lack thereof? Maybe this is just a badly constructed sentence, but if the military is now refusing to acknowledge even that al-Awlaki is deceased, it has truly become unmoored from reality.

• More generally, the government’s claim that it cannot respond to our request “without revealing classified . . . information about the nature and extent of the U.S. government’s interest in” targeted killing of U.S. citizens is belied by the volume and frequency of statements by named and unnamed government officials about the targeted killing program generally and the killing of U.S. citizens in particular. The government is ducking its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act by attempting to selectively disclose information to bolster its image, but refusing to provide meaningful transparency when challenged in court. As we recently explained in a related FOIA case, this is precisely what FOIA was intended to prevent.

The government’s filing is beyond disappointing. Our government persists in carrying out a policy of killing people, including U.S. citizens, far from active battlefields and in violation of international and domestic law. A handful of speeches by government officials roughly outlining legal theories do not constitute adequate transparency. The government must do better.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Hunger Games vs. the Reality of War

The Hunger Games vs. the Reality of War y Captain Paul K. Chappell, U.S. Army (ret.)

June 21, 2012

Author’s Note: I wrote this because the first book in The Hunger Games series has become required reading in many schools. When students are required to read a book for a class they have a reasonable expectation of being educated, but The Hunger Games portrays serious subjects such as war, violence, and trauma in very unrealistic ways. I hope the following will encourage critical thinking, promote discussion, and help people better understand war. I dedicate this to the veterans whose psychological wounds are misunderstood because of unrealistic media depictions of war, violence, and trauma.


Imagine yourself sitting in a doctor’s office. Looking at you remorsefully, the doctor says you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and there is only a four percent chance you will be alive in two weeks. Even worse, he informs you that your death will be incredibly painful. The illness kills most people by violently rupturing one or more of their internal organs, causing them to bleed to death. As if the situation could not get any worse, he then says you must be quarantined in a government laboratory. You will be prevented from communicating with your friends and family members in any way as you lie on your deathbed. You will be forced to face death alone.

How do you think most people would react upon hearing this grim news? And how do you think most people would feel while lying on their deathbed alone, afraid, and on the verge of suffering an extremely painful death? Could you imagine some people having panic attacks, nervous breakdowns, and other severe psychological issues?

The scenario I just described is very similar to the situation twenty-four children must face in the science fiction series The Hunger Games written by Suzanne Collins. In the first book (and film) of the series, twenty-four children from the ages of twelve to eighteen are chosen to compete in a fight to the death called "the hunger games," where they must kill each other with bows and arrows, swords, knives, and other close-range weapons until one person is left standing. Most of the children are selected at random through a kind of lottery, while a few volunteer. Like the terminal illness scenario, each child has only a four percent chance of surviving (1), dying will be extremely painful, and they will be forbidden from seeing their friends and family members while facing death.

If twenty-four children from the ages of twelve to eighteen were told they had a terminal illness – giving them a ninety-six percent chance of dying an extremely painful death in the next two weeks – and then prevented from seeing their friends and family members, do you think many of the children would suffer from panic attacks, nervous breakdowns, and other severe psychological issues? If so, isn’t it odd that not a single child in the first book of The Hunger Games series has a mental meltdown when their situation is in fact worse (for reasons I will explain later) than the terminal illness scenario?

There is a common myth in our society that human beings are naturally violent. In my books I write about the abundant evidence that refutes this myth, and although I cannot offer all the evidence in this short essay, I will share a few examples later on. As a result of this myth, many believe if you simply tell people to kill each other, their natural violent urges will take over and they will massacre each other rather easily. We can see this myth in The Hunger Games, because most of the twenty-four children are given only three days of combat training (a few have been training throughout their lives, which I will discuss later), yet despite this extremely minimal training the children are able to function well in a situation that requires them to kill or be killed. But is a three-day session of combat training enough to prepare people for the trauma of war? During World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, American soldiers who were not children but grown men were given months of combat training (and in some cases years if they were in the regular army). Yet despite this, more American soldiers were pulled off the front lines due to psychological trauma than were killed during the wars.

Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman is a former West Point professor and Army Ranger who has written extensively about combat. He also trains military and law enforcement personnel throughout the country. Grossman’s in-depth research shows that the human mind, rather than the body, is actually the weakest link in war, because in combat our mind is more vulnerable to collapse than our body. Explaining how this can affect soldiers in war, Grossman tells us: "Richard Gabriel, in his excellent book, No More Heroes, tells us that in the great battles of World War I, World War II and Korea, there were more men pulled off the front lines because of psychiatric wounds than were killed in combat. There was a study written on this phenomenon in World War II entitled, ‘Lost Divisions,’ which concluded that American forces lost 504,000 men from psychiatric collapse. A number sufficient to man 50 combat divisions! ... Very few people know about this. While everyone knows about the valiant dead, most people, even professional warriors, do not know about the greater number of individuals who were quietly taken out of the front lines because they were psychiatric casualties. This is another aspect of combat that has been hidden from us, and it is something we must understand." (2)

Lieutenant Colonel Elspeth Ritchie, an army psychiatrist who is the director of the Army Surgeon General’s office for behavioral health, tells us: "In the first months of the Korean conflict, from June to September 1950, both the physical and psychological travails were overwhelming. Many of the soldiers were initially pulled from easy occupation duty in Japan, with inadequate uniforms (including winter clothes), arms, or training. The rate of psychological casualties was extraordinarily high, 250 per thousand per year." (3)

Steve Bentley, Chairman of the Vietnam Veterans of America PTSD and Substance Abuse Committee, describes some of the ways war trauma can affect people’s behavior: "During the siege of Gibraltar in 1727, a soldier who was part of the defense of the city kept a diary. In it, there is mention of incidents in which soldiers killed or wounded themselves. He also describes a state of extreme physical fatigue which had caused soldiers to lose their ability to understand or process even the simplest instructions. In this state, the soldiers would refuse to eat, drink, work, or fight in defense of the city, even though they would be repeatedly whipped for not doing so." (4)

All people in combat are vulnerable to psychological collapse, especially if the combat is intense and extended over a long period of time. Roy Swank and Walter Marchand, who both served as medical doctors in the military during World War II, conducted a study during the war that concluded ninety-eight percent of soldiers became psychological casualties after sixty days of sustained day and night combat. According to their study on combat trauma, the two percent who were not driven insane by war seem to have already been insane. Swank and Marchand said, "All normal men eventually suffer combat exhaustion [also known as "post traumatic stress disorder"] in prolonged continuous and severe combat. The exception to this rule are psychotic soldiers, and a number of examples of this have been observed." (5)

Of course, the children in The Hunger Games are not being subjected to sixty days and longer of continuous combat, so one might assume they would be less likely to suffer from psychological collapse. But there are many reasons why they would be far more vulnerable to having a mental breakdown than soldiers experiencing prolonged combat in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. There are three protective methods that can fortify the minds of soldiers in combat, making them less likely to suffer from a mental breakdown. But the children in The Hunger Games do not have any of these protective methods to guard their minds against the enormous psychological stress of war.


The first protective method that can fortify the minds of soldiers in combat is having reliable comrades. Although soldiers sent to war are taken away from their families, effective military units compensate for this by transforming their soldiers into a tightly bonded family unit. Jonathan Shay, the 2009 Omar Bradley Chair of Strategic Leadership at the U.S. Army War College and a MacArthur Fellow, is a clinical psychiatrist who has dedicated his life to helping traumatized veterans. The author of Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America, from 1999 to 2000 he also performed the Commandant of the Marine Corps Trust Study. In it he says: "Of all groups in America today, military people have the greatest right to, and will benefit most, if they reclaim the word ‘love’ as a part of what they are and what they do… Bluntly put: The result of creating well-trained, well-led, cohesive units is – love. These Marines are ‘tight.’ They regard each other – as explained in Aristotle’s discussion of philía, love – as ‘another myself’ … The importance of mutual love in military units is no sentimental claptrap – it goes to the heart of the indispensible military virtue, courage… As von Clausewitz pointed out almost two centuries ago, fear is the main viscous medium that the Marine must struggle through… the urge to protect comrades directly reduces psychological and physiological fear, which frees the Marine’s cognitive and motivational resources to perform military tasks… The fictional Spartan NCO [non-commissioned officer] named Dienikes, in the acclaimed novel Gates of Fire, puts it very compactly: ‘The opposite of fear… is love.’" (6)

When you can trust your comrades with your life, the benefits are enormous. Not only do you feel more secure when someone is protecting your back, but the urge to protect comrades can make you less concerned about your personal safety. To better understand this, imagine if a massive vicious dog were running toward you. You would probably have a strong urge to get away as fast as you can by running, climbing a tree, or retreating to a safe place. Now imagine if a massive vicious dog were running toward someone you cared deeply about such as your child, sibling, parent, or close friend. You would probably have a strong urge to run as fast as you can toward the dog and your loved one, disregarding your personal safety to protect the person you care about. As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said in the sixth century BC, "By being loving, we are capable of being brave." (7) And as the Greek philosopher Onasander said in the first century AD, soldiers fight best when "brother is in rank beside brother, friend beside friend…" (8)

When soldiers love each other as friends, brothers, and comrades, they often behave courageously. This can be seen when Epaminondas – a Greek soldier from Thebes – fought with the Spartans against the Arcadians. Epaminondas later became a powerful Theban politician and general who defeated the Spartans in two decisive battles after they tried to invade Thebes. The historian Plutarch describes how Epaminondas, as a young soldier fighting with the Spartans, risked his life to save his wounded friend Pelopidas: "Pelopidas, after receiving seven wounds in front, sank down upon a great heap of friends and enemies who lay dead together; but Epaminondas, although he thought him lifeless, stood forth to defend his body… and fought desperately, single-handed against many, determined to die rather than leave Pelopidas lying there. And now he too was in a sorry plight, having been wounded in the breast with a spear and in the arm with a sword, when Agesipolis the Spartan king came to his aid from the other wing, and when all hope was lost, saved them both." (9)

Contrary to popular myths, the gladiators in Rome often fought in teams rather than alone (because people fight more courageously with a comrade by their side), and usually did not fight to the death. According to scientist Karl Kruszelnicki, "The [gladiator] bouts were definitely not undisciplined free-for-alls. The gladiators were carefully matched in pairs… taking into account the attack and defense weapons they carried, and the strength and skill of each individual... Like modern Western boxers who observe the Marquis of Queensbury rules, gladiators had their own very brutal and very strict rules, which two referees would enforce… Gladiator bouts were more like a sophisticated entertainment version of martial arts. They were closer to modern, choreographed TV wrestling, than wild melees… There are many references to the gladiators being trained to subdue, not kill, their opponent. The bout had to end in a decisive outcome, but defeat through death was rare. More likely was defeat through injuries or exhaustion." (10)

The gravestone of the famous gladiator Flamma (which means "Flame" in Latin) states he had twenty-five victories, nine draws, and four losses. (11) With such a high number of draws and losses, it is obvious the gladiators often did not fight to the death. In The Hunger Games the children have a ninety-six percent chance of being killed, but historical records indicate the gladiators in Rome had a much lower chance of being killed in combat. Stephen Dyson, the former president of the Archaeological Institute of America, explains, "Since gladiators were fairly expensive to maintain and train, economically it doesn’t make much sense for them to have been killed off intentionally on a regular basis." (12) Nevertheless, fighting in the arena was still dangerous and some gladiators chose to commit suicide instead. Historian Stephen Wisdom tells us, "One Germanic gladiator choked himself to death by ramming the ancient sponge equivalent of toilet paper down his throat. Symmachus, a wealthy pagan politician eager to win votes by [hosting] a games, mentions the 29 Frankish prisoners he purchased, who strangled each other rather than fight in the arena. The last remaining fighter smashed his head against the wall until he died." (13)

Unlike many soldiers in war and gladiators fighting in the arena, the children in The Hunger Games do not have reliable comrades they can trust with their lives, making them far more vulnerable to panic and psychological collapse. Near the end of the competition a new rule is passed that allows children from the same district to fight and win as a team, but since most of the children are dead at that point only four are able to take advantage of the opportunity. Some of the children in The Hunger Games form temporary alliances with each other, but since there can be only one survivor, the children realize they must eventually kill their comrades or be killed by them. There is no real trust between them, and military history shows that when soldiers cannot trust their comrades, it actually increases rather than decreases their psychological stress. It’s bad enough having to worry about being killed by the enemy in front of you, but having to also worry about your comrades standing to your left and right killing you can push your mind to the breaking point.

The second protective method that can fortify the minds of soldiers in combat is having reliable leaders. If you were sent to war, but felt that your military commanders cared more about your safety than their own and would even risk their lives to protect yours, wouldn’t that make you feel more secure? And if your military commanders were brilliant strategists and tacticians who had the skills to keep you alive, this would further reduce psychological stress and the urge to panic.

The children in The Hunger Games know they only have a four percent chance of surviving since only one out of the twenty-four will be alive at the end. But effective military commanders can convince the soldiers fighting for them that their chances of surviving are very high. In ancient warfare the purpose of a battle was to force the other side to retreat, and the majority of casualties were inflicted when the soldiers on one side turned their backs to flee and were run down by the pursuing army. As long as you did not lose a decisive battle, most of your soldiers would survive in combat.

Hannibal, a North African commander of a mercenary army, spent fifteen years in Italy terrorizing the Roman Republic during the fourth century BC, but he lost less than fifteen percent of his soldiers in combat while in Italy because he never lost a decisive battle. And Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire while losing less than ten percent of his soldiers in combat because during his early military campaigns he also did not lose a decisive battle. Furthermore, Alexander and Hannibal inspired their soldiers by fighting at the most dangerous point on the battlefield. Alexander was wounded eight times in combat, and the Roman historian Livy tells us that Hannibal was "the first to enter battle [and] the last to leave once battle was joined." (14) The children in The Hunger Games do not have reliable leaders to inspire, protect, and guide them, making the children far more vulnerable to panic and psychological collapse.

The third protective method that can fortify the minds of soldiers in combat is having reliable and realistic training. This kind of training relies heavily on repetition, such as shooting a target shaped like a human being over and over again. This not only helps people overcome their aversion to killing another human being by desensitizing them, it also enables them to develop new "automatic reflexes" such as quickly aiming a rifle and pulling the trigger the moment anything shaped like a human appears in the distance. For training to be reliable and realistic, it also has to be challenging and cover a variety of potential scenarios. Most of the children in The Hunger Games are given only three days of combat training, but a person cannot get reliable and realistic training in three days. Around six of the twenty-four children in The Hunger Games have been training for most of their lives, but their training pales in comparison to the Spartans, who were among the most highly trained soldiers in human history.

Spartan boys left home at age seven to begin military training, and they served in the military from ages twenty to sixty. (15) An average thirty-year-old Spartan soldier had more than a decade of combat training and military experience over the most experienced child in The Hunger Games. Despite their extreme training, however, even the Spartans sometimes panicked in combat. In The Hunger Games some of the children make a calculated decision to retreat into the woods and hide as part of their strategy, and in the film one child screams and seems to freeze in fear before being killed. But unlike the children in The Hunger Games – who always seem to be in complete control of their mental faculties in combat (16) – the Spartans retreated on numerous occasions due to uncontrollable terror.

During the Battle of Thermopylae when three hundred Spartans and their allies defended a narrow pass against an invading Persian army, the Spartans did not retreat and died to the last man. But this is extremely rare and one reason why the Battle of Thermopylae is so greatly admired and celebrated around the world. Less than one percent of battles in history ended with the losing side dying to the last man. Usually the battle ended when one side panicked and retreated. At the height of their military power, the Spartans retreated in three battles against Thebes – a rival Greek city-state. In the Battle of Tegyra in 375 BC, the Greek historian Plutarch tells us that a Spartan army numbering between 1000 and 1800 soldiers attacked a small Theban army of only three hundred. (17) Although the Spartans greatly outnumbered the Thebans, the Theban soldiers made the Spartans panic and retreat.

A friend once asked me, "But how were ancient armies able to make their opponents panic?" I replied, "Well… they made their opponents panic by trying to kill them. When you try to stab people to death it tends to freak them out." The greatest problem of every army in history has been this: when a battle begins, how do you stop soldiers from running away? Where our fight-or-flight response is concerned, the vast majority of people prefer to run when a sword is wielded against them, a spear is thrust in their direction, a bullet flies over their head, or a bomb explodes in their vicinity. People often compare chess to war, but there is a major difference. Imagine playing chess and seeing your pieces run off the board. Imagine your pawns moving backwards and your knights being so filled with fear they refuse to do what you tell them. Then chess would more accurately reflect the reality of war.

The Thebans also made the Spartans retreat during the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC, even though the Spartans again outnumbered the Thebans. And the Spartans retreated yet again during the Battle of Mantinea in 362 BC, when the Theban politician and general Epaminondas, who was now fifty-six years old, charged the Spartan army with a small group of his best soldiers. The Greek historian Diodorus described what happened: "After the battle had continued long, and none were able to judge who would be the conquerors, Epaminondas … resolved to decide the matter, with the hazard of his own life. To that end taking a choice band of the most able men he had with him, and, drawing them up in close order, he forthwith charged at the head of them, and was the first that cast his javelin, and killed the [Spartan] general, and then broke into the midst of his enemies… The fame of Epaminondas, and the strength of [the soldiers] he then had with him, struck such a terror into the [Spartans], that they turned their backs, and began to make way." (18)

What happened next reveals how ferociously people will fight to protect a wounded comrade. As Epaminondas and his soldiers pursued the retreating Spartans, he was seriously wounded when a javelin struck him in the chest. The Spartans tried to capture him, but the Theban soldiers fought furiously to protect him, again forcing the Spartans to retreat. The Thebans pulled Epaminondas to safety, and he died from his chest wound soon after the battle ended. When Epaminondas and his soldiers defeated the Spartans, they demonstrated the power of having reliable comrades willing to die for each other, reliable leaders willing to sacrifice for their subordinates, and reliable and realistic training.

It might seem unrealistic for a fifty-six year old man such as Epaminondas to fight on the front lines in war, or for the Spartan soldiers to serve in the military until age sixty, but it is far more realistic than twelve and thirteen year old children fighting with bladed weapons in The Hunger Games. Tragically, child soldiers have become common during the age of rifles and machine guns, but ancient armies did not use child soldiers because it would have been completely impractical. Children do not have the upper body strength necessary to effectively wield a sword and shield, let alone carry heavy armor. A man in his fifties if he was well trained and in good shape could wield a bladed weapon with the strength necessary to kill an armored opponent. Lack of upper body strength is also a reason women were not recruited to fight in ancient armies, unlike today, when a woman can use a seven-pound rifle to kill a much larger and stronger man. I met countless women in the army who possess a strong warrior spirit. And when we look at the many women serving in modern militaries around the world today, we realize that lack of upper body strength, not lack of a strong warrior spirit, was one reason (19) women did not fight in ancient wars.

Although the children in The Hunger Games do not have to wear heavy armor, in a sword fight a muscular eighteen-year-old boy weighing over two hundred pounds is going to have a significant advantage over a twelve-year-old boy or girl weighing less than ninety pounds. The Hunger Games character Cato, a very athletic older boy who has been training in combat since his early childhood, would also be much faster than the younger children. So the truth is that some of the children would have much less than a four percent chance of surviving, yet despite the near certainty of a violent death none of them are shown having mental breakdowns. Isn’t that odd?

In addition to the high probability of dying alone away from loved ones, along with their lack of reliable comrades, lack of reliable leadership, and lack of reliable and realistic training, many of the children in The Hunger Games would have had mental breakdowns because of other reasons. One reason is because close-range fighting with bladed weapons is the most terrifying form of combat. Another reason is because the human brain does not fully develop until we are in our twenties, making children more vulnerable to trauma and psychological stress than adults. The average age of an American soldier in World War II was twenty-six, whereas the children chosen to fight to the death in The Hunger Games are from the ages of twelve to eighteen. Psychiatrist Bruce Perry says, "Unfortunately, the prevailing view of children and trauma … that persists to a large degree to this day – is that ‘children are resilient.’ If anything, children are more vulnerable to trauma than adults." (20) Another reason is because instead of being naturally violent, we actually have a phobia of human aggression and violence when it is up close and personal.


Although a small percentage of people are afraid of snakes, spiders, and heights, around ninety-eight percent will have a phobic-level reaction to human aggression. Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman calls this the universal human phobia. In fact, this is one reason fear of public speaking is so common: we might say something that evokes an audience’s aggression. What if the worst-case scenario happens and the audience shouts at us angrily or laughs cruelly at our expense?

Fear of human aggression can be even more terrifying than fear of death. For example, every year hundreds of thousands die from the effects of smoking, but every day millions of people smoke without worrying. Every year tens of thousands die in car accidents, but every day millions of people drive casually to work. But a few murders by a serial killer will cause a city to go on alert, striking terror in many of its citizens. One terrorist attack in America created so much fear that our country has never been the same since.

What makes terrorism so dangerous is not the terrorist act itself, but our reaction to it. If Osama bin Laden had asked us to betray our democratic ideals by sanctioning torture, spying on U.S. citizens, and infringing on our civil liberties, we would never have agreed. But by attacking us on 9/11, many Americans willingly betrayed our democratic ideals because Osama bin Laden ignited the universal human phobia. Why is the universal human phobia so frightening? Why is our reaction to terrorism often more dangerous than the terrorist act?

Grossman asks us to consider two scenarios. Imagine that a tornado knocks down your house, destroys everything you own, and causes injuries severe enough to put you and your family in the hospital. Next imagine that a gang breaks into your house, beats you and your family so badly that you all end up in the hospital, and then burns down your house. In both cases the result – your house and possessions being destroyed and your family being in the hospital – is the same, but which scenario is more traumatic?

Is it more traumatic to fall off a bicycle and break your leg, or for a group of attackers to hold you down and break your leg with a baseball bat? In both cases the result – a broken leg – is the same, but which scenario is more traumatic? Obviously, when people hurt us the trauma is much more severe. But why? Grossman explains: ‘The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III-R), the bible of psychology, states that in post-traumatic stress disorders ‘the disorder is apparently more severe and longer lasting when the stressor is of human design.’ We want desperately to be liked, loved, and in control of our lives; and intentional, overt, human hostility and aggression—more than anything else in life—assaults our self-image, our sense of control, our sense of the world as a meaningful and comprehensible place, and ultimately, our mental and physical health. The ultimate fear and horror in most modern lives is to be raped or beaten, to be physically degraded in front of our loved ones, to have our family harmed and the sanctity of our homes invaded by aggressive and hateful intruders. Death and debilitation by disease or accident are statistically far more likely to occur than death and debilitation by malicious action, but the statistics do not calm our basically irrational fears… In rape the psychological harm usually far exceeds the physical injury… far more damaging is the impotence, shock, and horror in being so hated and despised as to be debased and abused by a fellow human being." (21)

If human beings are naturally violent, why do so many people have a phobia of human aggression? If we are naturally violent, why is war one of the most traumatizing things a human being can experience, and why does war drive so many people insane? If we were naturally violent, wouldn’t people go to war and become more mentally healthy? If we were naturally violent, why did the U.S. Army implement combat rotations after World War II so that soldiers could recuperate psychologically, and why did the military change combat operations and training in an attempt to reduce psychological trauma? Although human beings are not naturally violent, we can certainly become violent through conditioning. In my books I describe the many ways people can be conditioned to be violent, and the situations that compel people to resort to violence. Just as doctors who promote health must study and understand illness, if we want to promote a safer and more peaceful world we must study and understand violence.


Seventeenth-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes had a negative view of human nature, leading many people to believe we are natural killers. Because of Hobbes, many people assume human beings in the "state of nature" were clubbing each other over the head in a violent free-for-all. Hobbes said that early humans were "in that condition which is called War; and such a war, as is of every man, against every man… where every man is Enemy to every man… and the life of man, solitary [emphasis added], poor, nasty, brutish, and short." (22) But military history shows that when untrained human beings must face lethal combat alone as solitary individuals they usually fall apart mentally. Consequently, Hobbes’ view of human nature is not only negative but unrealistic, because he did not study military history, human psychology, or anthropology (Douglas Fry’s book Beyond War offers thorough anthropological evidence that early humans rarely killed each other).

In addition to countering the myth that human beings are naturally violent, I am writing about The Hunger Games and contrasting it with the reality of war for several other reasons. One reason is because a seventh-grade teacher told me her students were reading the first book in The Hunger Games series in class and asked me to provide some thoughts that could sharpen their critical thinking skills. Furthermore, The Hunger Games is now being used as required reading in many middle and high school classes around the country. This got my attention, because when students are required to read a book in school they have a reasonable expectation of being educated. If students are reading a book in school that grossly misrepresents very serious issues such as war, violence, and trauma, it is the responsibility not only of teachers but citizens as a whole to provide the students with accurate information, because the fate and survival of our country and planet depend on an educated and informed population.

But can inaccurate depictions of war, violence, and trauma really cause any harm, or are these misrepresentations mostly harmless? War, violence, and trauma destroy millions of lives, and whenever serious issues that destroy so many lives are depicted in inaccurate ways that neglect their real psychological harm, the results can be damaging. What if serious issues such as racism, sexism, drug addiction, rape, and slavery were depicted in grossly inaccurate ways that neglected their real psychological harm? And what if these misrepresentations were then brought into a classroom where students have a reasonable expectation of being educated?

A major problem with inaccurately depicting violence is that these misrepresentations tend to glamorize violence, war, and killing. Lieutenant Colonel Grossman tells us: "The American Soldier, the official study of the performance of U.S. troops in World War II, tells of one survey in which a quarter of all U.S. soldiers in World War II admitted that they had lost control of their bladders, and an eighth of them admitted to defecating in their pants. If we look only at the individuals at the ‘tip of the spear’ and factor out those who did not experience intense combat, we can estimate that approximately 50 percent of those who did see intense combat admitted they had wet their pants and nearly 25 percent admitted they had messed themselves. Those are the ones who admitted it, so the actual number is probably higher, though we cannot know by how much. One veteran told me, ‘Hell, Colonel, all that proves is that three out of four were damned liars!’ That is probably unfair and inaccurate, but the reality is that the humiliation and social stigma associated with ‘crapping yourself’ probably results in many individuals being unwilling to admit the truth. ‘I will go see a war movie,’ said one Vietnam veteran, ‘when the main character is shown shitting his pants in the battle scene.’ Have you ever seen a movie that depicted a soldier defecating in his drawers in combat?" (23)

Think about it. Have you ever seen an action movie where the hero urinates or defecates in his pants? Ever? The first book in The Hunger Games series also heavily distorts the reality of war trauma – commonly referred to as post traumatic stress disorder. Many people think war trauma only takes effect after combat, not realizing that soldiers can collapse mentally during combat. The main character in The Hunger Games goes through therapy in the later books, but children reading the first book are given the unrealistic impression that our minds are virtually immune to trauma during combat. I have not read the other books, and I am focusing only on the first book because it is the one most commonly used in schools. Too often war trauma is either presented in a shallow way (as it is in the first book of The Hunger Games series), or veterans are stereotyped as being "damaged goods." Both misrepresentations are inaccurate and dangerous. The most common features of serious war trauma are a chronic sense of meaninglessness, losing the will to live, mental breakdowns, an inability to trust that leads to self-destructive behavior, and going berserk. Jonathan Shay calls going berserk "the most important and distinctive element of combat trauma," (24) and it can cause people to mutilate corpses and commit other atrocities.

If teachers do not give their students accurate information about war, violence, and trauma, some of the students reading The Hunger Games in school may think, "None of the children in The Hunger Games have mental breakdowns in combat, so I don’t see why soldiers in war have so many problems." The situation in The Hunger Games is so extreme that at least some of the children would experience serious war trauma and have mental breakdowns during or even prior to the battle. In the Iliad, composed by Homer around three thousand years ago, the highly trained Greek warrior Achilles suffers from serious war trauma during the war. (25) Jonathan Shay explains: "Profound grief and suicidal longing take hold of Achilles; he feels that he is already dead; he is tortured by guilt and the conviction that he should have died rather than his friend; he renounces all desire to return home alive; he goes berserk and commits atrocities against the living and the dead. This is the story of Achilles in the Iliad." (26)

It might seem like the children in The Hunger Games do not break down mentally because they still have a miniscule chance of surviving if they take the right actions, and unlike the terminal illness scenario, this gives them some control over their fate. But military history shows that when soldiers have a miniscule chance of surviving they are more likely to lose the will to live and become suicidal. This is why it is so important for military commanders to encourage their soldiers, give them hope, and maintain high morale. Most human beings want to have a reasonable level of control over their lives, and losing almost complete control can cause some people to believe the only control they have left is the decision to take their own lives.

When soldiers have almost no chance of surviving and are pushed to the breaking point they can also go berserk. This is why Sun Tzu – who wrote The Art of War over two thousand years ago – advised military commanders to never trap their opponents into a corner, but to always give them an escape route because berserking soldiers are extremely dangerous. There is no indication in the first book of The Hunger Games series that any of the characters go berserk, because they always seem to act rationally. Common characteristics of berserker rage are suicidal behavior (because the person going berserk feels invincible), a severe lack of self-control that resembles intoxication, and the mutilation of corpses. The author makes a vague reference to participants in past events eating each other’s hearts, but it is unclear whether this is a reference to berserker rage.

When books are used in schools they must be held to a higher standard. To Kill a Mockingbird is taught in schools because it provides an accurate commentary on racism, but what if the book instead grossly misrepresented the harm caused by racism and segregation? Violence has become so normalized and glamorized in our society that depictions of violence are rarely assessed for their accuracy, but when the United States is involved in multiple wars overseas and American soldiers are returning home with physical and psychological wounds, we must seriously question what students are being taught about war, violence, and trauma.

Several people have suggested to me that the first book does in fact teach students about war, violence, and trauma, because the "hunger games veteran" Haymitch – who won the competition when he was younger and serves as a mentor to the main character – is an alcoholic. But if he really has war trauma, why is his alcoholism always portrayed in a comical and harmless way in the first book? Haymitch seems like the stereotypical "alcoholic war veteran," except that his drunken antics come across as clownish. My father had severe war trauma from the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and his violent rages were truly terrifying. If Haymitch is supposed to represent the effects of war trauma, students who read the book in school are given the impression that war trauma looks funny, rather than frightening.

People have also suggested to me that Haymitch is less affected by war trauma because he – like most of the other competitors in The Hunger Games – came from poverty. But do the poor value their lives less than the rich? My father, who was half white and half black, grew up under segregation in the South during the Great Depression. Many of the World War II and Korean War veterans also lived in poverty during the Great Depression. And soldiers throughout history did not have the luxuries we enjoy in the twenty-first century, while many were poor. So military history gives us overwhelming evidence that coming from poverty does not make people immune to war trauma.

Perhaps The Hunger Games is a blessing in disguise, because it can give students an opportunity to think critically and discuss serious issues such as war, violence, and trauma. The Hunger Games also has several noble themes and offers some useful critiques on society. I am not analyzing the writing quality, character development, or any part of the book other than its depiction of violence – one of its central themes. I don’t think Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games, had any bad intentions or intentionally misrepresented war, violence, and trauma. There are many reasons to believe she tried to make the book as serious and realistic as possible. For example, she describes injuries in gory detail, and she explains physical adversities such as thirst and hunger with impressive thoroughness. But like many people in our society who have been misled by the myths of war, she has emphasized the physical adversity of war but greatly underestimated the psychological adversity. Inaccurate depictions of violence have been around for a long time, but The Hunger Games is unique because it distorts the psychological reality of war, violence, and trauma more than any book I have ever seen used in school.

For example, The Lord of the Rings trilogy has been around for over fifty years, and although it glosses over many aspects of war, it portrays war and violence far more realistically than The Hunger Games. In The Lord of the Rings, the ability of soldiers to fight courageously is more believable because they have reliable comrades, reliable leaders, and have had military training. Furthermore, killing monsters that don’t look like us is less psychologically stressful than killing our own species, and this is why war propaganda often portrays the enemy as inhuman monsters. And although the hobbits aren’t highly trained in combat, their ability to fight ferociously is believable because they are trying to protect their friends who are in immediate danger. I am certainly not saying The Lord of the Rings portrays war or trauma accurately. Instead, I am saying The Hunger Games is unique, because it is far more unrealistic than The Lord of the Rings and many other violent depictions in the past.

The Hunger Games is also unique because it is being taught in schools during a critical time in history when the destructive capacity of nuclear weapons makes war a threat to human survival. During this critical time in history it has never been more important for people to understand the reality of war.


Paul K. Chappell graduated from West Point in 2002. He served in the army for seven years, was deployed to Baghdad in 2006, and left active duty in November 2009 as a Captain. He is the author of Will War Ever End?, The End of War, Peaceful Revolution, and The Art of Waging Peace (publication date: March 2014). He lives in Santa Barbara, California, where he is serving as the Peace Leadership Director for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and he speaks throughout the country to colleges, high schools, veterans groups, churches, and activist organizations. His website is


1. They actually have a 4.16 percent chance of surviving, but I am rounding the number to the nearest whole percentage.

2. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman with Loren W. Christensen, On Combat (Milstadt, IL: Warrior Science Publications, 2008), 12.

3. Lt. Col. Elspeth Ritchie, “Psychiatry in the Korean War: Perils, PIES, and Prisoners of War.” Military Medicine. Vol. 167. November 2002, 898.

4. Steve Bentley, “A Short History of PTSD.” The VVA Veteran, January 1991.

5. Roy L. Swank and Walter E. Marchand, “Combat Neuroses: Development of Combat Exhaustion.” American Medical Association: Archives of Nuerology and Psychiatry, 1946, 243.

6. Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps Trust Study – Final Report, Appendix E: Cohesion Essay, 2000.

7. Lao Tzu, Tao de Ching.

8. Victor Hansen, The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989), 209.

9. Plutarch, Plutarch Lives, trans. Bernadotte Perrin (Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library, 1917), 351.

10. Karl Kruszelnicki, “Gladiator Myths”, ABC Science,

11. Stephen Wisdom, Gladiators (Oxford U.K., Osprey Publishing, 2001), 47.

12. Jennifer Viegas, “Gladiator Truths Counter Movie Myths,” Discovery Channel,

13. Stephen Wisdom, Gladiators (Oxford U.K., Osprey Publishing, 2001), 44.

14. Livy, Hannibal’s War, trans. J.C. Yardley (New York: Oxford World’s Classics, 2006), 5.

15. Thomas F.X. Noble, Western Civilization: Beyond Boundaries, 5th. Ed. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2008), 66.

16. It is eerie how rarely the characters in the first book feel fear. The closest any character comes to losing his or her mental faculties is Clove right before Thresh kills her. At first it seems like her ability to think is being overwhelmed by fear and shock, but she still has enough wits to lie to Thresh by telling him she didn’t kill Rue, and when he doesn’t believe her she does the next logical thing by calling for help. She still seems rational and calculating, unlike soldiers who have mental breakdowns in war. During World War II Swank and Marchand witnessed many soldiers suffering from “combat exhaustion” who “ran around wildly, even toward the enemy’s line or the artillery impact area. Some fell to the ground, clawing the earth, or, finding a slit trench, remained there, crying and trembling, impossible to control.”

17. Plutarch, “Pelopidas,” trans. John Dryden, The Internet Classics Archive,

18. Diodorus, The Fragments of Diodorus, trans. G. Booth (London: W. McDowall, 1814), 68.

19. The oppression of women also prevented them from serving in the military. Today there are still oppressive societies where women cannot serve in the military.

20. Bruce Perry, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog (New York: Basic Books, 2007), 38.

21. Dave Grossman, On Killing (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995), 77.

22. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Digireads: 1st Touchstone Edition, 2004), 56.

23. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman with Loren W. Christensen, On Combat (Milstadt, IL: Warrior Science Publications, 2008), 9, 10.

24. Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994), 76.

25. Part of Achilles’ war trauma is the death of his friend Patroclus. When soldiers love their comrades, the downside is that the death of those comrades can cause serious trauma.

26. Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994), xxi.


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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs