Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Pentagon's Threat to the Republic

The Pentagon's Threat to the Republic

Monday 28 June 2010

by: Melvin A. Goodman, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed


(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: herzogbr, Skechie)

The New York Times' David Brooks minimized General Stanley McChrystal's remarks in Rolling Stone magazine as "kvetching." For the Times' Maureen Dowd, McChrystal and his "smart-aleck aides" were merely engaging in "towel-snapping" jocularity. The Washington Post editorial board noted that Afghan President Hamid Karzai called McChrystal the "best commander of the war," and concluded that the general should be retained as the Afghan commander. The Post and Times' editorial boards have called for the replacement of President Obama's key civilian advisors on Afghanistan. Meanwhile, these papers and many others have downplayed the critical issue that dominates this sad affair - the fundamental importance of civilian supremacy in military policy and decision-making.

There is no more important task in political governance than making sure that civilian control of the military is not compromised and that the military remains subordinate to political authority. Unfortunately, President Obama has demonstrated too much deference to the military, retaining the Bush administration's secretary of defense as his own; appointing too many retired and active-duty general officers to such key civilian positions as national security adviser and intelligence tsar; and making the Pentagon's budget sacrosanct in an age of restraint.

The reappointment of General David Patraeus as commander of forces in Afghanistan places the general on an extremely high political plateau that makes it more difficult to discuss alternatives to the failed counter-insurgency strategy, and places too much influence in the hands of the Pentagon on decisions involving war and peace. President Obama recognized the McChrystal affair as a challenge to civilian control and leadership, but the appointment of Petraeus enhances the political power of the military and could become an obstacle to the president's exercise of civilian control in the near term. Too many influence people view Petraeus as the answer to our Afghan problems; he isn't.

The imbalance in civilian-military influence is far more threatening to the interests of the United States than any developments in Afghanistan. President Nixon's ending of the draft has created a professional military, which has fostered the very cultural behavior that General McChrystal demonstrated in his contempt for civilian leadership. The Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986 created regional commanders-in-chief (CINCs) who expanded the martial reach of the United States in the post-Cold War world; these CINCs have become more influential than U.S. ambassadors and assistant secretaries of state in sensitive Third World areas. The Act created a powerful chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and, during Desert Storm in 1991, the chairman often ignored the secretary of defense and personally briefed war plans to the president. It is noteworthy that the Act passed the Senate without one vote of opposition.

The contemptuous remarks of McChrystal and his aides are very familiar to anyone who has spent a great deal of time around senior military officers, particularly special operations officers. Upon arrival at the National War College in 1986 to join the faculty after a 20-year career at the Central Intelligence Agency, I assumed that the major threats to U.S. security emanated from the Soviet Union, China, and various Third World trouble spots. I soon learned that the typical U.S. military officer believed the major threats to U.S. security were the media, the Congress, and liberal Democrats. Since the end of the draft, the officer corps has become increasingly conservative and libertarian, and it is a rare officer who votes as a Democrat. In the 1970s, more than half of all senior officers considered themselves independents; currently, the overwhelming majority of senior officers are registered Republicans, and there are very few registered Democrats.

Special operations officers are even more conservative than their traditional brethren, and it is noteworthy that the nickname for all commanders of the Joint Special Operations Command, like McChrystal, is "The Pope." Ironically, McChrystal is a registered Democrat, a social liberal, and an Obama supporter in the 2008 election.

Key congressional figures and influential journalists are already calling for the resignation of the president's representative in Afghanistan, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, who provided the White House with two important cables in November 2009 warning against any additional military deployments to Afghanistan. Eikenberry's advice was lapidary: he warned that Karzai was not an "adequate strategic partner" and that his government lacked the "political will or capacity to carry out basic tasks of governance;" he said that we have "overestimated the ability of Afghan security forces to take over by 2013...and underestimated how long it will take to restore or establish civilian government;" and he argued that "more troops won't end the insurgency as long as Pakistan sanctuaries remain...and Pakistan views its strategic interests as best served by a weak neighbor." He bluntly argued against a premature decision regarding a troop increase, favoring "alternatives beyond strictly military counterinsurgency efforts within Afghanistan."

Eight months later, the situation in Afghanistan has worsened, and Eikenberry's diagnosis has become more prescient. Even McChrystal has said that there's no way we can kill our way out of Afghanistan. And there is no way that U.S. forces will be able to build a civilian government in Afghanistan and then mediate between the government and the Afghan people, objectives that are central to the Petraeus-McChrystal counter-insurgency strategy.

It is time for President Obama to remind the Pentagon that decisions regarding national security must be made by civilian officials and that the service academies and the war colleges must stress the central importance of civilian control. During my 18 years at the National War College, various commandants steadily cut back the number of hours devoted to the U.S. political process, and made it more difficult to introduce contrarian lecturers who understood the importance of disagreement and diversity of perspective. The military culture may require an authoritarian and hierarchical structure, but it must understand the importance and sanctity of the egalitarian and individualistic values of U.S. democracy.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower's profound and prophetic Farewell Address in 1961 warned against the excesses of the military-industrial complex, and he also expressed the hope that his successors at the White House understood the demands of the military and the necessity for limiting and restraining those demands. Unfortunately, our most recent presidents in the wake of the end of the Cold War have not been willing to limit the influence of the military and have placed too much power in the hands of the Pentagon. President Obama must take note.

Melvin A. Goodman is national security and intelligence columnist for Truthout. He is senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University. His 42-year government career included service at the CIA, State Department, Defense Department and the US Army. His latest book is "Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA."

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


"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


Lessons from the Godfather: Interview with Gene Sharp

Lessons from the Godfather: Interview with Gene Sharp

interview by Jeff Severns Guntzel

The following is part of  a series of articles on activism in the United States. For more, read Tea Party Crashers and The New Face of Activism.

When political scientist Gene Sharp published his three-volume study The Politics of Nonviolent Action in 1973, his dream was to seed global grassroots nonviolent movements.

How wildly he has succeeded. Over the past four decades, revolutionaries from Belgrade to Tehran have cited Sharp’s work as a key tool in their struggles. His writings on nonviolent strategy have been translated into 40 languages. All are freely accessible on the website of the Albert Einstein Institution, a nonprofit Sharp founded in 1983 “to advance the worldwide study and strategic use of nonviolent action.”

In 2009 the government of Iran pointed with fury to Sharp’s seminal list “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action,” calling it the blueprint for the popular uprisings there. The Farsi translation of a more recent treatise, “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” which includes the list, was downloaded more than 3,000 times as the protests raged. The Christian Science Monitor recently called Sharp “the godfather of non­violent resistance.”

Now 82 years old, Sharp carries on his lifetime project. Of late he has finished the manuscript of a “dictionary of civilian struggle,” which he labored over for years, meticulously defining more than 800 terms. Utne Reader spoke with Sharp about lessons activists can glean from centuries of nonviolent struggle around the world. 

Explain your enduring obsession with nonviolence. You’ve been wrestling with it for decades.

It has been a long time—because I recognize its fundamental power and what a difference it has made in various parts of the world.

Imagine if Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and the Baltic countries had risen up using violence. They would have been slaughtered by the Soviet power. Eastern Europeans could still be under Russian control, but they aren’t because people chose a different way to struggle.

And this technique can be refined—it can always be made more effective.

I sometimes get the sense that people are worried that they would have to give up something to engage in nonviolent struggle.

Sure, and this is partly the fault of the pacifists. They say you have to be willing to die. Most nonviolent struggles don’t involve marching down the street toward machine guns.

I was actually thinking of the idea that nonviolence is “for the weak.”        

Oh, that’s all over the place. That’s why I don’t like the word non­violence—it’s sloppy, confusing, and can mean all kinds of things. To many people it means being weak and passive—and that’s the opposite of what it really is. Nonviolent struggle opens the door to greater control over your society and makes democracy durable.

We need to develop a different terminology. Maybe we shouldn’t get rid of the word nonviolence as an adjective, but you can talk about “nonviolent struggle” or “non­violent action.”

When you look at contemporary domestic movements, both on the left and on the right, what do you see?

People don’t have a good idea of what kind of social change they want. They assume that you get major social change simply by voting every four years.

When I lived in Brooklyn many years ago the people in my neighborhood would always find something to complain about and then end with the same phrase: “What are you going to do?” That’s a tragic situation.

Is there a single mistake you see over and over again?  

Yes. The failure to properly analyze political power; nobody understands political power. All power has its sources. And if you can identify the sources you can cut them off.

It’s a fundamental distinction that leads to a totally different approach to waging political struggle.

What do these sources of power look like?           

There is moral authority: Do the people giving the orders have the right to give them? There is economic power. There is control of the masses. Hitler didn’t have three brains, you know; he got other people convinced that what he was doing was important and that they should help.

Rather than protest the actions of those with political power, you can cut off the sources of their power—and this is rarely understood.

This seems like an approach that demands strategy.         

Well, it should, but not everybody who uses nonviolent action knows a thing about strategy. People often think that if they can just show the world how terrible an opponent is, they’ll be able to get rid of the opponent. That’s nonsense.

And the opposite of identifying the sources of power.            

That’s a totally different trip. There’s also a big issue [in nonviolent movements] of how people define success and failure. I remember cases where people didn’t succeed at all in achieving their objectives but say they felt better afterward. That’s not success. It’s important to feel that you’ve done something worthwhile, but it isn’t good enough.

You have to learn as much about nonviolent struggle as possible; know your own situation as well as possible; and know your opponent’s objectives, needs, and weaknesses as well as possible—and then make a plan.

You shouldn’t have an objective like total justice or complete peace. You have to think in smaller bites. Work out a plan that will weaken your opponent, but also strengthen your people and give them the capacity to carry on the struggle—to achieve the next objective.

So if you haven’t defined a realistic objective before you’ve launched into a struggle using nonviolent methods, you’ve already failed.


Nonviolent actions were a major component of the movement to stop the invasion of Iraq. Activists failed to stop the war; does that mean the movement was a failure?

You don’t get rid of war by professing against it—though professing against it should be done. You can’t get rid of war until you have a substitute tactic. And once war is breaking out, it’s usually too late to apply a substitute means.

With Iraq, there needed to be an effective nonviolent movement to oust Saddam Hussein. There wasn’t a need for a war in Poland [when the country broke away from Soviet control], for example; they didn’t need a foreign military power to intervene because they did it themselves and they did it nonviolently.

You’ve been a consultant to movement leaders in other countries trying to oust dictators. It’s a strange role—an American flying into another country to advise. How do you carry yourself?

I focus on helping people learn to build their own strategies so that they’re not dependent on outsiders. Maybe the worst possible thing to do is follow the advice of an outsider.

I also try to understand what I’m coming into. How much do people already know? I went to the West Bank several years ago for a conference and I prepared my presentation in Boston. I didn’t realize how tuned in many of the Palestinians were to nonviolent struggle. I had to scrap my speech completely. What I was going to say was too elementary for them.

When I was working on The Politics of Nonviolent Action, which took many, many years, I was hoping that people who were in tough situations—economically, politically, and socially—and needed means of fighting would find the book and learn from it.

We continue that work [at the Albert Einstein Institution]. People ask us to spend one week or two weeks with them and give them a workshop, and while I’ve done some of that, I don’t think it’s effective. What works best is extensive correspondence. Long letters: You’ve got to study this or that, you’ve got to know your own situation.

Again, you need to figure out where your opponent is weak. Nobody talks about the weaknesses of dictatorships—but they sure as hell have them. If you know their weaknesses, then you know where to concentrate resistance using your strengths and legitimate objectives.

You spent time in jail for refusing to serve in World War II and you once told an interviewer that you “don’t think it did a damned thing to get rid of the war system.” Do you regret your resistance?

It was effective only in keeping my sense of personal integrity together—[knowing] that I hadn’t sold out and that I hadn’t compromised. I didn’t run away. That was important to me.

How long were you in prison?         

Nine months and ten days.

Is that time something that comes up much these days?

I don’t think about it at all. It might come up with people who think that I only work in academia and that I’m not facing the real dangers of the world. I don’t engage people in arguments over that. I feel like, “Been there, done that; now where do we go from here?”




First Thursday antiwar vigil/ZNet Commentary: Think Outside The Bomb By Robert Jensen

 The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore hosts an End the War! End the Occupation! rally on Thurs., July 1 from 5 to 6:30 PM in Mount Vernon at Centre & Charles Sts.  The Pledge gathers in Mount Vernon on the first Thursday of the month to protest the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Call Max at 410-366-1637.


Think Outside The Bomb

June 29, 2010 By Robert Jensen

[A version of this essay was delivered to the “Think outside the Bomb” event in Austin, Texas, on June 14, 2010.]

If we are serious about the abolition of nuclear weapons, we have to place the abolition of the U.S. empire at the center of our politics.

That means working toward a world free of nuclear weapons demands we not only critique the reactionary wing of the U.S. power structure, the Bushes and Cheneys and Rumsfelds -- call them the reckless hawks. A serious commitment to a future free of nuclear weapons demands critique of moderate wing, the Obamas and Bidens and Clintons -- call them the reasonable hawks.

The former group is psychotic, while the latter is merely cynical. After eight years of reckless reactionary psychotics, it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security by reasonable moderate cynics. But we should remember that a hawk is a hawk.

The next step is asking whose interests are advanced by the hawks. Even though in the post-World War II era the hawks have sometimes differed on strategy and tactics, they have defended the same economic system: a predatory corporate capitalism. Let’s call those folks the vultures.

Different groupings of hawks might be associated with different groupings of vultures, giving the appearance of serious political conflict within the elite, but what they have in common is much more important than their differences. The political empire of the contemporary United States serves the corporate empires that dominate not only the domestic but the global economy, and it all depends on U.S. military power, of which the nuclear arsenal is one component.

George W. Bush was the smirking frat-boy face of the U.S. empire. Barack Obama is the smiling smart-guy face of the U.S. empire. Whoever is at the helm, the U.S. political/economic/military empire remains in place, shaky at the moment, but still the single greatest threat to justice and peace on the planet. Any serious project to rid the world of the particular threat of nuclear weapons has to come to terms with the more general threat of the empire.

We shouldn’t expect our leaders, Republican or Democrat, to agree with that assessment of course. And they don’t. Here’s a paragraph from the Obama administration’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review:


The conditions that would ultimately permit the United States and others to give up their nuclear weapons without risking greater international instability and insecurity are very demanding. Among those conditions are success in halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, much greater transparency into the programs and capabilities of key countries of concern, verification methods and technologies capable of detecting violations of disarmament obligations, enforcement measures strong and credible enough to deter such violations, and ultimately the resolution of regional disputes that can motivate rival states to acquire and maintain nuclear weapons. Clearly, such conditions do not exist today.



Nowhere on the list is a recognition of a more crucial fact: nuclear abolition depends on the death of the American empire.

The reason that is not on the list is because nuclear weapons are a key component of U.S. empire-building. That is as true today as it was when Harry S. Truman dropped the first nuclear weapon to end World War II and begin the Cold War. Although tonight we want to focus on the present, it’s useful to return to that moment to remind ourselves of the harsh reality of empires.

Though the culture can’t come to terms with this history, the consensus of historians is that the U.S. decision to drop atomic weapons on Japan had little to do with ending WWII and everything to do with sending a message to the Soviet Union. The barbaric act that ended the barbarism of WWII opened up a new chapter in the tragedy of empire, leading to more barbarism in the U.S. assault on the developing world over the past six decades.

Even though it was clear that after WWII the United States could have lived relatively secure in the world with its considerable wealth and extensive resources, the greed that drives empire demanded that U.S. policy-makers pursue a policy not of peace but of domination, as seen in this conclusion of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff in 1947: “To seek less than preponderant power would be to opt for defeat. Preponderant power must be the object of U.S. policy.”[1]

Preponderant power means: We run the world. We dictate the terms of the global economy. Others find a place in that structure or they risk annihilation. No challenge from another system or another state is acceptable.

In service of this quest, elites created the mythology of the Cold War -- that we were defending ourselves against a Soviet empire bent on destroying us -- which was grafted easily onto the deeper U.S. mythology about a shining city upon the hill and Manifest Destiny, about the divine right of the United States to dominate.

As a result, much of the U.S. public is easily convinced of the righteousness of the U.S. imperial project and persuaded to believe the lie that we maintain nuclear weapons only as a deterrent. The reality should blunt the self-congratulatory instinct: U.S. nuclear weapons were created to project power, not protect people.

In his book Empire and the Bomb, Joseph Gerson lists 39 incidences of “nuclear blackmail,” of which 33 were made by U.S. officials.[2] That helps explain the subtitle of his book, “How the U.S. Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World.”

Not surprisingly, Obama has said he does not envision abolition in the foreseeable future. In his famous 
Prague speech in April 2009, he said:


So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. I’m not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly -- perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, “Yes, we can.”



Yes, the world can change -- if the dominant military power in the world, the United States, can change. If the United States could give up the quest to consume a disproportionate share of the world’s resources and disavow its reliance on securing that unjust distribution of wealth through the largest and most destructive military in the history of the world, things could change.

That’s why most U.S. elites are interested in non-proliferation, not abolition. The goal of abolition will remain safely out of reach, on the horizon, just beyond our ability to accomplish in the near future -- while the United States continues to imagine a future in which the rest of the world accepts U.S. domination.

Since countries threatened by the empire won’t accept non-proliferation unless there is a meaningful commitment to abolition and a scaling back of imperial designs, the U.S. policy will fail. That’s because it’s designed to fail. U.S. policy is designed to keep a hold on power and wealth, and the people running the country believe nuclear weapons are useful in that quest.

That’s why the Nuclear Posture Review of the Obama administration is not all that different from the Bush administration’s, as Zia Mian (an analyst at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security) pointed out at a gathering of activists preceding the May 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. That’s why Obama’s policy includes a commitment to nuclear weapons, conventional missile defense, and modernization of the nuclear complex. That’s why Obama is increasing expenditures on nuclear weapons, now over $50 billion a year, for modernization.

Our task is to make sure we aren’t conned by politicians, either those who push the fear button or pull on our hope strings. When we take up questions of military strategy and weapons, our task is to understand the underlying political and economic systems, name the pathologies of those systems, identify the key institutions in those systems, withhold our support from those institutions when possible, create alternative institutions when possible, and tell the truth. We may support cynical politicians and inadequate policy initiatives at times, but in offering such support we should continue to tell the truth.

This commitment to telling the truth about our leaders, Republican and Democrat alike, also means telling the truth about ourselves. I have argued that any call for the elimination of nuclear weapons that does not come with an equally vociferous call for the elimination of the U.S. empire is empty rhetoric, and that a call for the end of an empire also must come with a deep critique of our economic system.

I want to end by taking the argument one step further: Such critiques ring hollow if we don’t engage in critical self-reflection about how many of us in the United States have grown comfortable in these systems. We decry injustice but spend little time talking about how our own material comfort is made possible by that injustice. A serious commitment to the end of nuclear weapons, the end of empire, the end of a predatory corporate capitalist system demands that we also commit to changing the way we live.

We cannot wake up tomorrow and extract ourselves from all these systems. There are no rituals of purification available to cleanse us. But we can look in the mirror, honestly, and start the hard work of reconfiguring the world.

[Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He is the author of All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice, (Soft Skull Press, 2009);Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen is also co-producer of the documentary film 
Abe Osheroff: One Foo! t in the Grave, the Other Still Dancing
, which chronicles the life and philosophy of the longtime radical activist.]


[1] Quoted in Melvyn Leffler, A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War (Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press, 1992), pp. 18-19.

[2] Joseph Gerson, Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World (London: Pluto Press, 2007), pp. 37-38.

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Why We Talk to Terrorists

The New York Times

June 29, 2010

Why We Talk to Terrorists


NOT all groups that the United States government classifies as terrorist organizations are equally bad or dangerous, and not all information conveyed to them that is based on political, academic or scientific expertise risks harming our national security. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court, which last week upheld a law banning the provision of “material support” to foreign terrorist groups, doesn’t seem to consider those facts relevant.

Many groups that were once widely considered terrorist organizations, including some that were on the State Department’s official list, have become our partners in pursuing peace and furthering democracy.

The African National Congress is now the democratically elected ruling party in South Africa, and of course Nelson Mandela is widely considered a great man of peace. The Provisional Irish Republican Army now preaches nonviolence and its longtime leader, Martin McGuinness, is Northern Ireland’s first deputy minister. Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestine Liberation Organization have become central players in Middle East peace negotiations.

In the case of each of these groups, there were American private citizens — clergymen, academics, scientists and others — who worked behind the scenes to end the violence.

The two of us are social scientists who study and interact with violent groups in order to find ways out of intractable conflicts. In the course of this work and in our discussions with decision makers in the Middle East and elsewhere we have seen how informal meetings and exchanges of knowledge have borne fruit. It’s not that religious, academic or scientific credentials automatically convey trust, but when combined with a personal commitment to peace, they often carry weight beyond mere opinion or desire.

So we find it disappointing that the Supreme Court, in Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project, ruled that any “material support” of a foreign terrorist group, including talking to terrorists or the communication of expert knowledge and scientific information, helps lend “legitimacy” to the organization. Sometimes, undoubtedly, that is the case. But American law has to find a way to make a clear distinction between illegal material support and legal actions that involve talking with terrorists privately in the hopes of reducing global terrorism and promoting national security.

There are groups, like Al Qaeda, that will probably have to be fought to the end. The majority opinion of the Supreme Court reasonably conjectures that any help given such enemies, even in seemingly benign ways like instruction about how to enhance their human rights profile, could free up time and effort in pursuit of extremist violence.

Yet war and group violence are ever-present and their prevention requires America’s constant effort and innovation. Sometimes this means listening to and talking with our enemies and probing gray areas for ways forward to figure out who is truly a mortal foe and who just might become a friend.

It is important to realize that in a political struggle, leaders often wish they could communicate with the other side without their own supporters knowing. Thus the idea that all negotiation should be conducted in the open is simply not very practical. When there are no suitable “official” intermediaries, private citizens can fill the gap.

Conditions, of course, should be stringent — there must be trust on all sides that information is being conveyed accurately, and that it will be kept in confidence as long as needed. Accuracy requires both skill in listening and exploring, some degree of cultural understanding and, wherever possible, the intellectual distance that scientific data and research afford.

In our own work on groups categorized as terrorist organizations, we have detected significant differences in their attitudes and actions. For example, in our recent interactions with the leader of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad Ramadan Shallah (which we immediately reported to the State Department, as he is on the F.B.I.’s “most wanted” list), we were faced with an adamant refusal to ever recognize Israel or move toward a two-state solution.

Yet when we talked to Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas (considered a terrorist group by the State Department), he said that his movement could imagine a two-state “peace” (he used the term “salaam,” not just the usual “hudna,” which signifies only an armistice).

In our time with Mr. Meshal’s group, we were also able to confirm something that Saudi and Israeli intelligence officers had told us: Hamas has fought to keep Al Qaeda out of its field of influence, and has no demonstrated interest in global jihad. Whether or not the differences among Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Hamas and other violent groups are fundamental, rather than temporary or tactical, is something only further exploration will reveal. But to assume that it is invariably wrong to engage any of these groups is a grave mistake.

In our fieldwork with jihadist leaders, foot soldiers and their associates across Eurasia and North Africa, we have found huge variation in the political aspirations, desired ends and commitment to violence. And as one of us (Scott Atran) testified in March to the emerging-threats subgroup of the Senate Armed Services Committee, these differences can be used as leverage to win the cooperation of the next generation of militants, who otherwise will surely become our enemies.

It’s an uncomfortable truth, but direct interaction with terrorist groups is sometimes indispensable. And even if it turns out that negotiation gets us nowhere with a particular group, talking and listening can help us to better understand why the group wants to fight us, so that we may better fight it. Congress should clarify its counterterrorism laws with an understanding that hindering all informed interaction with terrorist groups will harm both our national security and the prospects for peace in the world’s seemingly intractable conflicts.

Scott Atran, an anthropologist at France’s National Center for Scientific Research, the University of Michigan and John Jay College, is the author of the forthcoming “Talking to the Enemy.” Robert Axelrod is a professor of political science and public policy at the University of Michigan, and the author of “The Evolution of Cooperation.”

Copyright 2010 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]


"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 29, 2010

Ex-Chicago policeman guilty of lying about torture/Vote for Community Mediation Maryland



Ex-Chicago policeman guilty of lying about torture

Mon, Jun 28 2010


CHICAGO (Reuters) - A retired Chicago police commander suspected of using electric shocks, suffocation and mock executions to force suspects to confess was found guilty on Monday of lying about the brutality.


Jon Burge, 62, was tried on perjury and obstruction of justice charges because the alleged torture occurred too long ago for him to be directly accused of those crimes.


The guilty verdict on all three counts in a federal indictment means he could face up to 45 years in prison.


Burge, who was dismissed from the police department in 1993 after a decorated two-decade career, was accused of perjuring himself during civil lawsuits brought by some of his victims.


Testifying for two days during the five-week trial in U.S. District Court, the white-haired Burge repeated denials that he and other Chicago detectives under his command physically abused suspects.


Five of the dozens of African-American inmates who alleged they were tortured by Burge or his men testified they were subjected to being "bagged" with plastic typewriter covers placed over their faces, had guns stuck in their mouths, were held against hot radiators, or were given painful shocks from a homemade device.


Attorneys for Burge, who lives on his police pension in Florida and once owned a boat he named "Vigilante," argued that the suspects concocted the torture allegations while in jail together to help their cases and to help win money settlements from the city.

(Reporting by Andrew Stern)


© Thomson Reuters 2010. All rights reserved.


Dear Friends,


Your regular vote during the month of June could bring in $50,000 for Community Mediation Maryland to support Violence Prevention and Conflict Resolution For and By Youth in Maryland.  With these funds, CMM will train more teens to serve as mediators in centers throughout Maryland, train more teens in basic conflict management skills, and conduct a comprehensive outreach campaign to encourage youth to use mediation.


Here’s what we need you to do. 

1)      Go to or go to and search for “mediation”.

2)      Click on “Join Refresh Everything” (on the lower left hand side). Create an account.

3)      Vote for CMM’s Youth Conflict Resolution Project.

4)      Click on the Facebook and Twitter links so everyone you know can be reminded to vote.

5)      Add a tag at the end of all of your e-mails which says: “I voted for youth violence prevention at  You can too.  Do it today! And again tomorrow, and every day in June!”

6)      Forward this e-mail to everyone you know.


Lorig Charkoudian, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Community Mediation Maryland
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The Mass Arrests, the Security State and the Toronto G20 Summit

The Mass Arrests, the Security State and the Toronto G20 Summit


Socialist Project * E-Bulletin No. 377

June 28, 2010


The massive police presence in Toronto over this week

has been officially justified on the basis of

protecting the leaders of the G8 and G20 countries

meeting in Huntsville and Toronto. We were told that

the creation of the fenced-in fortress, the massive

mobilization of police (estimates ranging from

10-20,000) from across Canada, and even the passing of

a secret law on policing (by the executive of the

Ontario government without reference to the Legislative

Assembly and the opposition parties) that made it a

crime to appear within five metres of the security

fence, would protect our right to protest as well.


This is not what unfolded in Toronto over the weekend.


Thousands of protesters marched peacefully on Friday,

challenging the purpose and agenda of the G20, although

completely hemmed on all sides by thousands of heavily

armed police over the entire march (and severely

hampering the freedom of assembly). On Saturday, in the

midst of a larger demonstration (estimated at between

10-25,000), organized by the labour, anti-privatization

and peace movements, a series of unwarranted acts of

vandalism by a small number of protesters against

stores, vehicles and buildings, was used as an excuse

for a massive unleashing of repression and attacks by

police against the democratic rights of both

protestors, and Torontonians as a whole. (Like what

happened at the Montebello Summit of North American

leaders in August 2007, it will come out over the next

weeks how widely the police had infiltrated some of the

key groups - especially the so-called Black Bloc, knew

the planning and participated as agent provocateurs.)


There seemed to be no real effort on the part of the

police to stop the attacks on the stores. As well, none

of the massive police contingents tried to stop some of

the small groups from burning three of their police

vehicles. It was as if the police weren't all that

concerned with these actions. Reporters from European

broadcasters and newspapers reported that this was

totally out of keeping with any real concern to prevent violence.


The police then unleashed waves of repression against

the legitimate protesters. This included those who

wished to push toward the security fence - in an effort

to challenge the militarization of the streets and

demand that the G20 leaders respond to concerns about

austerity and attacks on poor and working people; those

who were simply voicing their concerns about the G20

agenda (with its radical austerity agenda of having the

public sector and the poor pay for the bailout of the

banks); and journalists and even innocent and curious

bystanders. In one attack on a "free protest" zone

(previously negotiated with the police) rubber bullets

and tear gas was used, and people were indiscriminately

taken down, beaten and arrested.


In all, by Sunday morning estimates were that some 500

people were arrested (and there have been hundreds more

over the course of the day bringing estimates up to 900

detainees). It is impossible for anyone to know how

many of these were instigators of violence and how many

were people simply exercising their right to protest.

But clearly the mass majority were only protesting and

exercising their rights to assembly and free speech,

which the Toronto police and the wider security forces

have been systematically violating.


The temporary jail that protestors have been placed in

is located at the old Toronto Film Studios on Eastern

Avenue on the eastern edge of the downtown, converted

into a series of cages in essentially a huge warehouse.

The jail is described by inmates as a kind of

Guantanamo North: cold, dirty and especially

humiliating for those who were said to have refused

arrest. People have been held for hours without

recourse to legal representation, of which there has

been a large legal team at hand. Protesters hoping to

provide some type of support for those incarcerated,

have themselves been attacked, tear-gassed and

dispersed by police violence, with several more being arrested.


Listening to the mass media and the interviews with the

police and security spokespeople for the City of

Toronto and the Canadian state, one would have thought

that there was full scale rioting, and that the

massive, billion dollar spending spree on security for

the Summit - that angered people across the country -

was somehow worth it. As part of this, all protesters

are being demonized and the police are being portrayed

as heroes, notably by the political leadership and the

Mayor of Toronto, David Miller.


The message of the protests (and of the thousands who

protested across the week at hundreds of talks,

meetings, protests, cultural events) - that the G20

meeting reflected the underlying agenda of the

corporations and the political elites, to make sharp

cutbacks across the public sector, to impose wage cuts,

to not raise significant (or any) new taxes on

financial capital and to impose new forms of hardship

in the form of higher taxes and cuts in benefits for

working people and the poor - was drowned out in a

demonizing of the entire project of the protest. The

ruling classes in the G20 were doing everything in

their power to have the working classes pay for the

crisis and their project of re-constructing

neoliberalism and the political hegemony of the banks

and financial capital.


The police and much of Toronto's political and economic

establishment sought to use the incidents to change the

entire discourse of the G20 week.


Socialists, of course, take their distance from the

foolish acts of the few who confuse violent attacks and

trashing with revolutionary politics. This is to

substitute individual acts of dissent for the working

class and the mass movement as a whole. It is the

adventurism that calls forth the most violent features

of the security and policing apparatuses of the state,

catching hundreds of innocents in the wake, and helps

justify the endless expansion of the security state. To

challenge the neoliberal globalization agenda of the

G20, and overturn all the undemocratic exploitative

relations of capitalism, we need to build a political

movement in Canada, based among the working classes who

don't earn their income from capital ownership, and who

also are oppressed by the unequal relations of race,

gender, sexuality and nationality.


At this moment, it is a point of fundamental solidarity

to denounce, as forcefully as possible, the police

repression being unleashed against G20 protesters. We

insist that those incarcerated on Eastern Avenue have

their full civil rights restored and that civilian

authorities take control from the Toronto Police

Services of oversight of these proceedings. They have

proven incapable of protecting - and understanding -

basic civil rights (starting from the special emergency

powers asked for by Police Chief Blair, and granted by

stealth by Premier Dalton McGuinty). The accused should

immediately be released without charge, or be freed on

bail and given the right to defend themselves in open

courts (not the kangaroo courts with limited or no

public access that have been operating over this week).


The police occupation of Toronto should end

immediately, and our full civil rights - and especially

our rights to our city and streets - be restored. There

clearly will need to be a full and independent

investigation about the role of the police in the

violence of the last few days, the role of agent

provocateurs and plants in the planning of these events

and the astonishing violation of the rights of ordinary

people and protesters alike on the streets of Toronto

over the last week. *


Socialist Project Toronto is Burning! Or is it? Judy Rebick


For people sitting at home and watching TV news last

night, Toronto was burning. The same police car on

Queen St W. burned and blew up over and over again. The

same image of a young man very violently smashing

Starbucks windows appeared over and over again. Windows

smashed all along Yonge St. None of us had ever seen

Toronto like this. It was shocking.


Full article at Understanding Anarchism

and Policing


David McNally, political science professor at York

University, interviewed by CBC-News on The Black Bloc.

Appeal for Broad Political Support for the G20

Arrestees June 27, 2010 - 3:00pm | by movementdefence


The MDC's Summit Legal Support Project is appealing to

the movements it supports to mobilize a show of

political strength and solidarity for the nearly 500

people arrested in the last four days. The Toronto

Police and the ISU appear to have lost control of their

'prisoner processing center,' denying arrestees

meaningful and timely access to counsel while beating

and arresting those peacefully protesting their

detention outside.


Despite assurances to the contrary, only a handful of

people have been released, including those held for

many hours without charge. Arrestees are given

incorrect information about the bail process they will

be subjected to, and friends and family members gather

hours early at the courthouse, located far from the

city center and inaccessible via transit.


Our lawyers call in and are told that there is no one

available to make decisions or wait for hours at the

detention centre, only to be denied access to their

clients. Almost 500 people are in custody and we know

from experience that the vast majority of those charges

will disappear and yet the cell doors remain shut.


We need to step it up and build a political response.

We need many more voices - especially prominent ones -

to say that the abuse and incompetence at 629 Eastern

Avenue must stop. We must demand that all levels of

government take control of the police forces under

their command. We need to ensure that courts and crown

attorneys act to enforce constitutional rights rather

than collude in their violation.


Free the Toronto 500!


The Movement Defence Committee

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