Sunday, July 31, 2016

Video of my talk on exit polls/wild discrepancies in the "machine-recorded" vote at the First Unitarian Universalist Church last Sunday

        This is the video of a talk including questions and answers about exit polling and the vast discrepancies in 9 Democratic primaries this year.  It speaks to the question of whether each of our votes now counts or can be easily stolen.  It is tied to the question raised by Hiawatha Bray, the technology reporter at the Boston Globe, here, of whether if the Russians hacked the DNC's grotesque emails, they might hack the election, too.  Perhaps that fear will allow the bipartisan consensus, corporate media yelling "American elections are fair, fair"; "the initial exit polls aren't reliable; anybody who thinks otherwise is a conspiracy theorist" (so we don't have to think about evidence and argument).  Anybody who thinks Hillary was a clear winner over Bernie or that Bush won the 2004 election should listen to this talk, read my careful piece on this fundamental issue about democracy - Why a Tyrant would dance a jig at American exit "polls"  or how can citizens ever know that American elections are fair?  the three stories of Joe Lenski here, and provide some answers to the reasonable worries, some clarity about how our votes, without a paper trail even on optical scan machines, are now counted.

   People stayed for a long long time asking questions or raising arguments.  These, too, are in the video.  Once again, see  here or

h/t Sean Ray

Friday, July 29, 2016

merchants of death: media/politician silence about the booming American arms trade

           This morning I got an article from William Hartung on a subject given even less publicity in the corporate press than Bernie Sanders campaign: the arms trade.  When Obama was getting the economy going, he went to India and sold them weapons - Bush had previously helped with their nuclear program - and then closed a massive $65 billion deal with Saudi Arabia.  In the article Hartung notes that the vast increase in arms to Israel - the US government will spend 4.5 billion a year instead of 3 billion in "aid" - will entirely be spent at Boeing, Raytheon, Consolidated Systems, Inc.  and Israeli arms manufacturers have been cut out of these deals (the Israeli government has played a major role in drones and in the militarization of the American place).  

      Mentioning exit polls (heavy profits to companies on voting, no public supervision about voting) - it figured in the fine Conyers' report on Preserving Democracy: what went wrong in Ohio after the Presidential "results" in 2004  - is comparatively a subject of media conversation: denouncing "conspiracy theorists" without investigating.  But as with 1180 military bases abroad, as well as  drones, the merchants of death, spurred by the government (the military-industrial-congressional complex, as Eisenhower's initial draft for his farewell address initially had it), are the "strongest" aspect of the American economy.

     And while Clinton is vastly preferable to Trump domestically, her inclination towards war - flooded by neocons like Victoria Nuland and Robert Kagan -  is dangerous.  Yes, many soldiers as many police are heroic.  No, American occupations and wars far away in the world often make things only worse (see Andrew Bacevich's new book on wars in the Middle East).  And occupying "hostile" territory often leads to atrocities, as a former soldier reports below.


There's No Business Like the Arms Business
By William Hartung, TomDispatch27 July 

            As is often the case, I opened the Monday newspaper curious to find out how the weekend had gone at the movies.  The headline read, “‘Ghostbusters’ Is No. 2 Behind ‘Secret Life of Pets.’”  That meant Universal Studios’ animated film had again been the big winner, taking in an estimated $50.6 million for a two-week domestic total of $203.2 million.  In the industry, it was feared that China, the world’s number two market and gaining fast, might not let another hit, Ghostbusters, be shown, given its paranormal themes.  Still, all in all, it had been an upbeat week for one of the two dominant American product lines that go boom in the night and also have a remarkable grip on their respective global markets.  The first of those -- think action films, superhero movies, and space operas -- comes out of Hollywood and, in multiplexes globally, one thing is guaranteed: you’re not going to get the next Avengers sequel or Fast and Furious 23 from Russia, France, or China. Not surprisingly, since Hollywood rakes in billions of dollars annually from the rest of the planet for entertaining us all, weekly news about its business successes and failures is a regular feature of our world.And, oh yes, then there’s that other business, the one that actually makes things that go boom in the night.  I’m talking, of course, about the weapons trade.  As TomDispatch regular Bill Hartung, author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex, points out today, it has an almost monopolistic grip on its global market and, like Hollywood, regularly has cheery news to offer about the billions of dollars it pulls in from countries at war or fearing future conflicts.  In fact, for a business that -- bottom line -- kills people rather than simply thrilling them with bloody mayhem, it, too, has a remarkably upbeat sense of itself

       Take Thomas Kennedy, CEO of Raytheon, a major arms maker, presently cleaning up when, as Defense News reports, it comes to the "missile defense interceptor, as well as air-to-ground missiles and air-to-air combat missiles fired by fighter jets” that it’s selling across the Middle East (and in some cases in Asia, too).  The company is projecting a revenue rise of 3%-5% this year and, according to Defense One, “When investors visiting Raytheon’s factories ask ‘How’s business?’ Kennedy tends to respond like this: ‘Did you notice you couldn’t get a parking space?... ‘Where else can you find a factory in America that you can’t get a parking space?’”

So here’s the puzzle: two major industries with certain similarities grip their global markets in similarly overwhelming ways.  One is the focus of almost constant reportage and attention, the other largely avoids notice in our world.  Why is that?  Fortunately, TomDispatch can call on Hartung’s expertise when it comes to the remarkably little known “success” story of America’s weapons makers to offer the sort of picture of one of this country’s stellar industries that you won’t find anywhere else.-Tom Engelhardt, TomDispat

There’s No Business Like the Arms Business
Weapons “R” Us (But You’d Never Know It)
William Hartung

When American firms dominate a global market worth more than $70 billion a year, you’d expect to hear about it.  Not so with the global arms trade.  It’s good for one or two stories a year in the mainstream media, usually when the annual statistics on the state of the business come out.

It’s not that no one writes about aspects of the arms trade. There are occasional pieces that, for example, take note of the impact of U.S. weapons transfers, including cluster bombs, to Saudi Arabia, or of the disastrous dispensation of weaponry to U.S. allies in Syria, or of foreign sales of the costly, controversial F-35 combat aircraft.  And once in a while, if a foreign leader meets with the president, U.S. arms sales to his or her country might generate an article or two. But the sheer size of the American arms trade, the politics that drive it, the companies that profit from it, and its devastating global impacts are rarely discussed, much less analyzed in any depth.

So here’s a question that’s puzzled me for years (and I’m something of an arms wonk): Why do other major U.S. exports -- from Hollywood movies to Midwestern grain shipments to Boeing airliners -- garner regular coverage while trends in weapons exports remain in relative obscurity?  Are we ashamed of standing essentially alone as the world’s number one arms dealer, or is our Weapons “R” Us role such a commonplace that we take it for granted, like death or taxes?

The numbers should stagger anyone.  According to the latest figures available from the Congressional Research Service, the United States was credited with more than half the value of all global arms transfer agreements in 2014, the most recent year for which full statistics are available. At 14%, the world’s second largest supplier, Russia, lagged far behind.  Washington’s “leadership” in this field has never truly been challenged.  The U.S. share has fluctuated between one-third and one-half of the global market for the past two decades, peaking at an almost monopolistic 70% of all weapons sold in 2011.  And the gold rush continues. Vice Admiral Joe Rixey, who heads the Pentagon’s arms sales agency, euphemistically known as the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, estimates that arms deals facilitated by the Pentagon topped $46 billion in 2015, and are on track to hit $40 billion in 2016.
To be completely accurate, there is one group of people who pay remarkably close attention to these trends -- executives of the defense contractors that are cashing in on this growth market.  With the Pentagon and related agencies taking in “only” about $600 billion a year -- high by historical standards but tens of billions of dollars less than hoped for by the defense industry -- companies like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and General Dynamics have been looking to global markets as their major source of new revenue.
In a January 2015 investor call, for example, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson was asked whether the Iran nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration and five other powers might reduce tensions in the Middle East, undermining the company’s strategy of increasing its arms exports to the region.  She responded that continuing “volatility” in both the Middle East and Asia would make them “growth areas” for the foreseeable future.  In other words, no worries.  As long as the world stays at war or on the verge of it, Lockheed Martin’s profits won’t suffer -- and, of course, its products will help ensure that any such “volatility” will prove lethal indeed.
Under Hewson, Lockheed has set a goal of getting at least 25% of its revenues from weapons exports, and Boeing has done that company one better.  It’s seeking to make overseas arms sales 30% of its business.
Good News From the Middle East (If You’re an Arms Maker)
Arms deals are a way of life in Washington.  From the president on down, significant parts of the government are intent on ensuring that American arms will flood the global market and companies like Lockheed and Boeing will live the good life.  From the president on his trips abroad to visit allied world leaders to the secretaries of state and defense to the staffs of U.S. embassies, American officials regularly act as salespeople for the arms firms.  And the Pentagon is their enabler.  From brokering, facilitating, and literally banking the money from arms deals to transferring weapons to favored allies on the taxpayers' dime, it is in essence the world’s largest arms dealer. 
In a typical sale, the U.S. government is involved every step of the way.  The Pentagon often does assessments of an allied nation’s armed forces in order to tell them what they “need” -- and of course what they always need is billions of dollars in new U.S.-supplied equipment.  Then the Pentagon helps negotiate the terms of the deal, notifies Congress of its details, and collects the funds from the foreign buyer, which it then gives to the U.S. supplier in the form of a defense contract.  In most deals, the Pentagon is also the point of contact for maintenance and spare parts for any U.S.-supplied system. The bureaucracy that helps make all of this happen, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, is funded from a 3.5% surcharge on the deals it negotiates. This gives it all the more incentive to sell, sell, sell.
And the pressure for yet more of the same is always intense, in part because the weapons makers are careful to spread their production facilities to as many states and localities as possible.  In this way, they ensure that endless support for government promotion of major arms sales becomes part and parcel of domestic politics.
General Dynamics, for instance, has managed to keep its tank plants in Ohio and Michigan running through a combination of add-ons to the Army budget -- funds inserted into that budget by Congress even though the Pentagon didn’t request them -- and exports to Saudi Arabia.  Boeing is banking on a proposed deal to sell 40 F-18s to Kuwait to keep its St. Louis production line open, and is currently jousting with the Obama administration to get it to move more quickly on the deal.  Not surprisingly, members of Congress and local business leaders in such states become strong supporters of weapons exports.
Though seldom thought of this way, the U.S. political system is also a global arms distribution system of the first order.  In this context, the Obama administration has proven itself a good friend to arms exporting firms.  During President Obama’s first six years in office, Washington entered into agreements to sell more than $190 billion in weaponry worldwide -- more, that is, than any U.S. administration since World War II.  In addition, Team Obama has loosened restrictions on arms exports, making it possible to send abroad a whole new range of weapons and weapons components -- including Black Hawk and Huey helicopters and engines for C-17 transport planes -- with far less scrutiny than was previously required.
This has been good news for the industry, which had been pressing for such changes for decades with little success. But the weaker regulations also make it potentially easier for arms smugglers and human rights abusers to get their hands on U.S. arms. For example, 36 U.S. allies -- from Argentina and Bulgaria to Romania and Turkey -- will no longer need licenses from the State Department to import weapons and weapons parts from the United States.  This will make it far easier for smuggling networks to set up front companies in such countries and get U.S. arms and arms components that they can then pass on to third parties like Iran or China.  Already a common practice, it will only increase under the new regulations.
The degree to which the Obama administration has been willing to bend over backward to help weapons exporters was underscored at a 2013 hearing on those administration export “reforms.”  Tom Kelly, then the deputy assistant secretary of the State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, caught the spirit of the era when asked whether the administration was doing enough to promote American arms exports.  He responded:
“[We are] advocating on behalf of our companies and doing everything we can to make sure that these sales go through... and that is something we are doing every day, basically [on] every continent in the world... and we’re constantly thinking of how we can do better.”
One place where, with a helping hand from the Obama administration and the Pentagon, the arms industry has been doing a lot better of late is the Middle East.  Washington has brokered deals for more than $50 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia alone for everything from F-15 fighter aircraft and Apache attack helicopters to combat ships and missile defense systems.
The most damaging deals, if not the most lucrative, have been the sales of bombs and missiles to the Saudis for their brutal war in Yemen, where thousands of civilians have been killed and millions of people are going hungry.  Members of Congress like Michigan Representative John Conyers and Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy have pressed for legislation that would at least stem the flow of the most deadly of the weaponry being sent for use there, but they have yet to overcome the considerable clout of the Saudis in Washington (and, of course, that of the arms industry as well).
When it comes to the arms business, however, there’s no end to the good news from the Middle East.  Take the administration’s proposed new 10-year aid deal with Israel.  If enacted as currently planned, it would boost U.S. military assistance to that country by up to 25% -- to roughly $4 billion per year. At the same time, it would phase out a provision that had allowed Israel to spend one-quarter of Washington’s aid developing its own defense industry.  In other words, all that money, the full $4 billion in taxpayer dollars, will now flow directly into the coffers of companies like Lockheed Martin, which is in the midst of completing a multi-billion-dollar deal to sell the Israelis F-35s.
“Volatility” in Asia and Europe 
As Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson noted, however, the Middle East is hardly the only growth area for that firm or others like it.  The dispute between China and its neighbors over the control of the South China Sea (which is in many ways an incipient conflict over whether that country or the United States will control that part of the Pacific Ocean) has opened up new vistas when it comes to the sale of American warships and other military equipment to Washington’s East Asian allies.  The recent Hague court decision rejecting Chinese claims to those waters (and the Chinese rejection of it) is only likely to increase the pace of arms buying in the region.
At the same time, in the good-news-never-ends department, growing fears of North Korea’s nuclear program have stoked a demand for U.S.-supplied missile defense systems.  The South Koreans have, in fact, just agreed to deploy Lockheed Martin’s THAAD anti-missile system.  In addition, the Obama administration’s decision to end the longstanding embargo on U.S. arms sales to Vietnam is likely to open yet another significant market for U.S. firms. In the past two years alone, the U.S. has offered more than $15 billion worth of weaponry to allies in East Asia, with Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea accounting for the bulk of the sales.
In addition, the Obama administration has gone to great lengths to build a defense relationship with India, a development guaranteed to benefit U.S. arms exporters.  Last year, Washington and New Delhi signed a 10-year defense agreement that included pledges of future joint work on aircraft engines and aircraft carrier designs.  In these years, the U.S. has made significant inroads into the Indian arms market, which had traditionally been dominated by the Soviet Union and then Russia.  Recent deals include a $5.8 billion sale of Boeing C-17 transport aircraft and a $1.4 billion agreement to provide support services related to a planned purchase of Apache attack helicopters.
And don’t forget “volatile” Europe.  Great Britain’s recent Brexit vote introduced an uncertainty factor into American arms exports to that country. The United Kingdom has been by far the biggest purchaser of U.S. weapons in Europe of late, with more than $6 billion in deals struck over the past two years alone -- more, that is, than the U.S. has sold to all other European countries combined.
The British defense behemoth BAE is Lockheed Martin’s principal foreign partner on the F-35 combat aircraft, which at a projected cost of $1.4 trillion over its lifetime already qualifies as the most expensive weapons program in history.  If Brexit-driven austerity were to lead to a delay in, or the cancellation of, the F-35 deal (or any other major weapons shipments), it would be a blow to American arms makers.  But count on one thing: were there to be even a hint that this might happen to the F-35, lobbyists for BAE will mobilize to get the deal privileged status, whatever other budget cuts may be in the works.
On the bright side (if you happen to be a weapons maker), any British reductions will certainly be more than offset by opportunities in Eastern and Central Europe, where a new Cold War seems to be gaining traction.  Between 2014 and 2015, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, military spending increased by 13% in the region in response to the Russian intervention in Ukraine. The rise in Poland’s outlays, at 22%, was particularly steep.
Under the circumstances, it should be obvious that trends in the global arms trade are a major news story and should be dealt with as such in the country most responsible for putting more weapons of a more powerful nature into the hands of those living in “volatile” regions.  It’s a monster business (in every sense of the word) and certainly has far more dangerous consequences than licensing a Hollywood blockbuster or selling another Boeing airliner.
Historically, there have been rare occasions of public protest against unbridled arms trafficking, as with the backlash against “the merchants of death” after World War I, or the controversy over who armed Saddam Hussein that followed the 1991 Persian Gulf War.  Even now, small numbers of congressional representatives, including John Conyers, Chris Murphy, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, continue to try to halt the sale of cluster munitions, bombs, and missiles to Saudi Arabia.
There is, however, unlikely to be a genuine public debate about the value of the arms business and Washington’s place in it if it isn’t even considered a subject worthy of more than an occasional media story.  In the meantime, the United States continues to hold onto the number one role in the global arms trade, the White House does its part, the Pentagon greases the wheels, and the dollars roll in to profit-hungry U.S. weapons contractors.

William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and a senior advisor to the Security Assistance Monitor. He is the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.


The Ghosts of Direct Action
by , July 27, 2016
In early 2009 I was walking away from a compound a platoon from the Second Ranger Battalion had just assaulted when a staff sergeant I knew held up something in the dark.  I couldn’t tell exactly what it was.  It was small and he was bragging about it.  I tried to make it out but was soon distracted.  It wasn’t until I got back to Forward Operating Base Salerno and saw his pictures that I realized that he had been showing me a square piece of flesh that he had cut out of a dead woman’s neck.
Mutilating the corpse of a female noncombatant was just the final act in a horror show that night put on by this young Ranger.  He had killed several people.  One was a military-aged male, the rest were women; one looked to be about thirteen.      
Why did they die? Sadly, all too often when people die in Afghanistan that question is a lot harder to answer than it should be.  There are as many truths about that mission as there were people on it.  But, they didn’t have to die.  It could have been avoided.  And the war crime that occurred after the deaths gives you an idea of the mentality of the shooter.
I had other experiences with horror.  I saw children accidentally bitten by military working dogs.  I saw detainees beat.  I saw a boy that couldn’t have been older than fourteen killed in front of me as I talked to him through an interpreter.  Every single civilian death I witnessed was unnecessary and could have been avoided if the forces I was supporting had made it a priority to reign in soldiers that enjoyed killing.
One particular incident that remains vivid in my memory concerns an unarmed man who resisted when unknown assailants (Rangers) burst into his home.  He was beaten badly and some of his property was destroyed.  After it was determined that he had no links to any “bad guys” he was given a small sum of money as compensation.  It made me think of a mob movie where a tough guy beats the shit out of someone and then pulls out a wad of money, peels off a few bills and drops it on the limp body writhing on the floor in front of him.   
These are some of the highlights of my tour of duty supporting the 75th Ranger Regiment in Eastern Afghanistan.  They, along with numerous other horrors replicated throughout the JSOC direct action task force in Afghanistan, are what I call the ghosts of direct action.   
The ghosts of direct action are largely ignored in the United States but in rural Afghanistan, they are everywhere.  For years, Afghan villages targeted by the Rangers and Navy Seals were subjected to numerous atrocities.  These operations released shockwaves throughout entire communities as collateral damage became murderous aggression to Afghans.  Afghans were killed, abused, humiliated in front of their families.  And they haven’t forgotten.  
I often think of young boys that I interrogated, manipulating them to get information.  I wonder how many of them, especially the ones that were left orphans, have joined the Taliban.  
Although I haven’t been to Afghanistan in a few years and I’m now a veteran with PTSD, not a soldier, I still can’t forget these Afghans who surely can’t forgive the things I saw done to them.  And America’s mission in Afghanistan, whatever it is anymore, will always be complicated and maybe futile until the ghosts of direct action are dealt with.
The ghosts of direct action make nation-building in Afghanistan very difficult.  Rural Afghans see Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and American troops as one in the same.  They don’t trust the ANSF and in many cases they believe the Taliban is more likely to respect their cultural values.  They harbor resentment and distrust as a result of the many pre-dawn raids in their communities and they have no reason to believe they will end when America leaves Afghanistan for good.  
Rural Pashtuns in the South and East of Afghanistan simply don’t believe the Afghan government is even functional because it was utterly powerless for years when it came to controlling direct action missions.  When a particularly appalling atrocity occurred when I was in Afghanistan, our task force would be shut down for two weeks.  Then everything would resume as before until another atrocity.  This has left Afghans with absolutely no faith in their government.  
Other aspects of how direct action forces operated are never discussed but had a huge impact on Afghans.  For example, the Rangers I worked with – and I worked with over a dozen platoons from all three battalions – routinely took detainees that would be held at most for a few days on the outside chance that they might provide important information (most never did).  Once released, these men were often far from home and faced with a journey back to their families fraught with danger.  It’s likely that some never make it back.  Even when they did, their loved ones had been without a provider for days or weeks, some may have lost their jobs or had their crops destroyed, and others likely found that their families had been targeted by criminals.  
The death, hunger, dislocation, and destruction that years of direct action missions have left in their wake undo any supposed progress the United States claims to have made in building a stable Afghanistan.  And if a stable Afghanistan is what American policy-makers want, they must confront the ghosts of direct action and find a way to make amends for the injustices inflicted on Afghans.  Reconciliation is necessary so that Afghans and Americans (who will likely be in the country at least in small numbers for years to come) can work together to build a stable, prosperous, and extremist-free Afghanistan.  
Healing takes time but if there’s a concerted effort to reach out to Afghans and atone for the actions of some U.S. troops, not only will Afghans be better off but maybe, just maybe, the ghosts of direct action won’t haunt veterans like me quite as much.  
Anthony Walker served 8 years in the Army as a psychological operations specialist, doing three tours in Afghanistan and one in Yemen attached to the embassy in Sana’a. He is currently a college student at Arizona State.  Visit his blog.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Healing and a Weakness in Obama’s Dallas Eulogy: mass nonviolent versus violent resistance to injustice

       President Obama gave a moving tribute to the 5 police officers who were killed by a soldier in Dallas, making the profound point that they, too, had done decent things, had families.  They protected a march protesting the wanton police murders of Philando Castile and Alton Stirling.  And they did their jobs despite chants like “no justice no peace” which indicted police criminality and the government’s ordinary shielding of murders by police.  Lorne Ahrens had bought dinner to a homeless man the night before.  Others had said goodbye to children and family, as Ted Cruz said in speech in Cleveland last Wednesday, not to return home.

       And several of the black leaders who have done serious work against murders by police and for justice, for example, State Senator Nina Turner of Ohio, has a husband who is a retired cop and a son who was assigned to protect the Republican convention.  Her anguish about Castile and Stirling and their families was great; so was her fear for her relatives.  Marilyn Mosby, the Baltimore DA, put the 6 cops who murdered Freddie Gray on trial – a real first in the United States, even though today charges were dropped (guess Freddie killed himself in police custody…).  When attacked initially, Mosby pointed out that she applied the law fairly in making the indictments – a rare thing - and that both her parents are police. 

      If their husbands, sons, mothers, fathers had been killed even in a justified resistance, would there be a Nina Turner or a Marilyn Mosby?

        Speaking to the families and the police in Dallas, Obama brought the good part of what these men and women did to the fore:

        “When the bullets started flying, the men and women of the Dallas police, they did not flinch and they did not react recklessly.  They showed incredible restraint.  Helped in some cases by protesters, they evacuated the injured, isolated the shooter, and saved more lives than we will ever know.  (Applause.)  We mourn fewer people today because of your brave actions.  (Applause.)  “Everyone was helping each other,” one witness said.  “It wasn’t about black or white.  Everyone was picking each other up and moving them away.”  See, that’s the America I know.

      The police helped Shetamia Taylor as she was shot trying to shield her four sons.  She said she wanted her boys to join her to protest the incidents of black men being killed.  She also said to the Dallas PD, “Thank you for being heroes.”  And today, her 12-year old son wants to be a cop when he grows up.  That’s the America I know.  (Applause.)” 

          Her son’s response does not betray the black men murdered by racist police, but reflects their real heroism in this situation. And one hopes that he would retain both insights as a future officer.

        When one strikes violently at the “enemy,” one also harms innocents, deters others from joining movements, breeds vengeance in relations and friends.  This is a terrible meaning of Mao’s famous statement: “revolution is no tea party; it is nothing as kind and courteous as that.”

    Obama also said rightly: “And today, in this audience, I see people who have protested on behalf of criminal justice reform grieving alongside police officers.  I see people who mourn for the five officers we lost but also weep for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.  In this audience, I see what’s possible -- (applause) -- I see what's possible when we recognize that we are one American family, all deserving of equal treatment, all deserving of equal respect, all children of God.  That’s the America that I know.”

      All of this is real, and a profound argument  - more, obviously than Obama offers, for a mass, militant, nonviolent movement against injustice.  Such a movement is what King led, what Black Lives Matter represents. Yet Obama’s words do not erase the string of racist murders receding far into the past.  They do not cancel Philando Castile’s four year old daughter trying to comfort her mother and saying  that Philando was gone, or Alton Stirling’s 15 year old supporting his mother, but then weeping uncontrollably and calling for his father who would not return…

     Obama said to the police at the eulogy in Dallas:

   “ No, the reward comes in knowing that our entire way of life in America depends on the rule of law; that the maintenance of that law is a hard and daily labor; that in this country, we don’t have soldiers in the streets or militias setting the rules.  Instead, we have public servants -- police officers -- like the men who were taken away from us.”

     Unfortunately, Obama as President mourning the gunning down of innocent officers, did not name the plain racism involved in the wanton police murders of Sterling and Castile.  In fact, he goes on oddly to contrast the shootings of black civilians by racist police officers almost neutrally – mentioning the protests – and then the shootings by the black former soldier: “an act not just of demented violence but of racial hatred.” We all know – as Obama thinks, even though he is President – that the murders of Stirling and Castile were motivated by racism.  And it is fair to say, though Obama speaks here as the chief law enforcement official, that the Dallas shootings were “demented violence.”

    But there are deep issues about violent resistance to unjust authority which are raised in this crime and the one committed by the other former soldier in Baton Rouge.  Further, Obama’s clear term “racial hatred” – as if it were the only “racial hatred” – is mistaken.  In lynching people, the Klan does feel racial hatred.    Those who oppose and stop them, even who kill them in self-defense, might or might not dislike or fear all whites.  But even if they do, they are not the authors of the initial crime or the elite in the oppressive system behind it.  Instead, they act in self-defense.  

     Here are Barack’s words:

    “I know that Americans are struggling right now with what we’ve witnessed over the past week.  First, the shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, and the protests, then the targeting of police by the shooter here -- an act not just of demented violence but of racial hatred.  All of it has left us wounded, and angry, and hurt.  It’s as if the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed, perhaps even widened.  And although we know that such divisions are not new -- though they have surely been worse in even the recent past -- that offers us little comfort.”

    “Faced with this violence, we wonder if the divides of race in America can ever be bridged.  We wonder if an African-American community that feels unfairly targeted by police, and police departments that feel unfairly maligned for doing their jobs, can ever understand each other’s experience.  We turn on the TV or surf the Internet, and we can watch positions harden and lines drawn, and people retreat to their respective corners, and politicians calculate how to grab attention or avoid the fallout.  We see all this, and it’s hard not to think sometimes that the center won't hold and that things might get worse. I understand.  I understand how Americans are feeling.  But, Dallas, I’m here to say we must reject such despair.  I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem.  And I know that because I know America.  I know how far we’ve come against impossible odds. “

     Obama here plays a very unusual role in  achieving conflict resolution and beginning healing.  He calls us to understand the point of view of the other, put yourself in her shoes, not just fall into prejudice.  As at Emmanuel AME church last year, what Obama said was enormously moving and healing.

    And yet – blacks do not “just feel they are unfairly targeted by the police.”  They are, and have been, horrifically, for ages, unfairly targeted (slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration). That is just the truth. Yes, things have improved through the long fight from below; it’s not slavery or Jim Crow. But as Obama said, every parent still must have “the talk” with a boy or girl about being very, very obedient and cautious with the police, or often being hurt or dying for walking while black…

     In contrast, police feeling “unfairly maligned for doing their jobs,” often have a problem.  For some have conducted their “job” as one of keeping blacks and other poor people down,  even of shooting them wantonly as in the case of Trayvon Martin or Sandra Bland or Michael Brown or Tamir Rice or Philando Castile or Walter Scott…(Listen to the Mothers at the Democratic Convention last night here).

    And other cops and DAs and judges have cooperated with them, protected the shooters.  That is why, contra Barack, many see here, rightly, a system of injustice.

         Still, as Hillary Clinton said at the NAACP a week ago, Montrell Jackson was a young black cop who found looks of hate in Baton Rouge when in uniform and looks of fear - mainly from whites - when he was not.  There is a tension to be overcome here by changing the police, of which community policing would be one important step forward.

        Still, the source of the tension is the fearsome effect of black lives being unnoticed, tossed away, arrested, jailed, and sometimes shot down wantonly. And that is coupled with black communities being a wider system of occupation and oppression, massive unemployment and bad (tracked) education. Not law, but unjust law or enforcement of law, piling fine after fine, jailing people for money, creating a past record of plea-bargains (who can afford a lawyer), and on and on.  

   But that Obama, being the chief executive officer of an oppressive government, could not say.

     Obama’s and common, seemingly pragmatic arguments about an equivalence of  the racism of the police and the nationalism of the shooters is wrong.   For the racism of the oppressor often justifies, in response, violent resistance and the idea that black people must free themselves in whatever way promises success.  In Dallas and Baton Rouge, this idea is blurred because former soldiers with big guns can shoot a lot of innocent police officers.  Innocent: officers who did them or their community no direct and murderous harm.  Such shooting is murder, just as the killing of innocents by the oppressors is murder.  Still nationalism against the oppressor is not the same as resistance to  oppression.  For nationalism can sometimes fights oppression. But nationalism is also misguided, as in this instance, and can sweep away innocent officers or even those of the oppressor nationality who oppose oppressive policies.  Further, nationalism can cut off allies and is politically counterproductive as well as wrong. 

      When is violence justified against oppression?  When actual oppressors are targeted (terror bombing of civilians is never justified, never anything but crime).  Even so, we must then ask a further question.  Will violent resistance, however morally and even legally justified if there were really a rule of law in this country, end oppression? Or will it simply lead to larger and more violent police attacks and be counterproductive?  For instance, wanton shooting of the police could spawn the racist ferocity of a Trump Presidency and much larger scale repression.

     And mass nonviolent resistance is, in fact, a much more serious – as Black Lives Matter has shown – and effective alternative.

     But contra Obama, the police are an occupying army in nonwhite communities (and in general, an oppressive force which serves a tiny elite, not “all of us”).  See Ta-Nahisi Coates  Between the World and Me, and his article on black violence as a response to a “long and unbroken pattern of abuse” by the police here.    Coates just says that wanton police murder eventually and understandably produces a violent response.  His account is compelling.  The oppression is longstanding and deep, and includes slavery and Jim Crow. 

     Yet there have been only two such shootings in recent weeks.  For such things are very unusual in American history.  Even the Black Panthers, once upon a time, though armed in self-defense, did not shoot police.  Instead, they were wantonly murdered by the police and FBI.  All this reveals that violence has not been a first, second or third resort in America of a people who are very oppressed (indigenous people repeatedly tried to make peace, were massacred and did also, often, fight back against the genocide, but entirely in self-defense…).

     I should add: as Frederick Douglass says, from the Revolution on (see my Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War of Independence), blacks have participated in public, patriotic uprisings and wars  Through being leading soldiers as well as through nonviolent protests, they and their allies have won increased freedom.  So charges about the supposed likely violence of blacks – the panicked babbling of Trump, the Republican Convention, and Klan leader David Duke-  are belied by a straightforward, nonracist telling of American history.

        Barack’s statement about the “racial” violence of the shooters is negated for a system where ordinary blacks are harmed by and not protected by the police.  Barack did rightly say that the Congress  does not provide jobs and education needed in what are in fact occupied communities.  And that is an important evil, and hardly the fault of the police.  And many individual police officers do stand up for non-racist application of the law. 

        The police – and the elite  - could, however, break up violent intra-black crime especially murders, but don’t.  Mainly they occupy and harass/list as “gang members” and lock up and shoot ordinary people.  With a criminal record – for marijuana, for example – one cannot get a job or live in public housing.  Mass incarceration and probation (2.3 million prisoners – 25% of the world’s prisoners – and another 5.1 million on probation…See Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow).

   We know,” Barack says, “that the overwhelming majority of police officers do an incredibly hard and dangerous job fairly and professionally.  They are deserving of our respect and not our scorn.  (Applause.)  And when anyone, no matter how good their intentions may be, paints all police as biased or bigoted, we undermine those officers we depend on for our safety.  And as for those who use rhetoric suggesting harm to police, even if they don’t act on it themselves -- well, they not only make the jobs of police officers even more dangerous, but they do a disservice to the very cause of justice that they claim to promote.  (Applause.)”  

     No, in occupied communities, the police are first and foremost instruments of oppression.  They either carry out unjust laws, and use their authority unjustly (rampant police murders, gang identifications, false convictions – one’s stomach assaults the policeman’s billyclub…. 

    The American police originated out of slave patrols, long ago. This was also an initial motivation for the Second Amendment, in which civilian militias, especially in the Southern colonies, were slave catchers, a la Patrick Henry – see Black Pqtriots and Loyalists, pp. 6, 17.

   In Chicago, in the late nineteenth century, the first urban police force was to oppress immigrant workers, Italian and German, sometimes anarchists who strove to form unions and fight for an 8 hour day,  See Sam Mitrani here and hereThe Haymarket massacre of  early May, 1886, emerged from this history.

      In poor communities, and especially non-white communities, the American police is an oppressive force.  Former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper has written of the origins of this under Nixon.  The US government had often pushed drugs - the epidemic of heroin in Harlem and other ghettos in the early 1960s  – to stop rebellions among soldiers in Vietnam and in American cities (see Alfred McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade here.  But Nixon suddenly claimed to “war” on them. See Norm Stamper here.

    As Michelle Alexander has emphasized in The New Jim Crow, this was an attempt, led by Southern newly-minted, anti-Lincoln Republicans to reverse the successes of the civil rights movement.  Mass incarceration was a new effort, parallel to Jim Crow, to throw away black people, particularly young people, through mandatory sentencing. 

     The militarization of the police, as Stamper says, began in the “war on drugs.”  But after 2001, he continues, the use of military equipment – armored vehicles – penetrated sleepy, though poor suburbs of St. Louis like Ferguson, and all over the country.  Young people, mainly nonwhite but also poor white, were harassed even in schools, through repeated stops. racial profiling and labeling as “gang members."  A school to prison pipeline emerged. 

     Even middle class blacks, even former Attorney Gerneral Eric Holder, have “the talk” with teenagers. And for many – and we have now seen the videos thanks to cell phones, the police come and shoot them, and walk away without punishment.

     American capitalism is a system of oppression of young people.  Blacks are hurt worst by it – according to the Justice Department, the chance of a black child born in 2001 of being involved in the prison system was 1 in 3, of a Chicano 1 in 6 and of whites, a smaller but still outrageous 1 in 17.  (The Justice Department did not bother to collect figures on native americans, but it is high).  Young blacks can find few jobs.  In New York, just after Obama was elected, the unemployment rate for poor black teenagers was 96%.... Young black men and women are often treated as enemies in the schools or warehoused (see Jonathan Kozol’s descriptions of the resegratation of American schools in The Shame of America: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America here.  In the streets, “stop and frisk” is normal for black people…

    Contra Obama, we must contrast the racism which serves as an instrument or “justification”  of murder and just hostility to the establishment from oppressed people.  Read Charles Blow’s account in the New York Times of Tahj, his son, a student being confronted on the Yale campus by a New Haven cop with his gun drawn hereThis would not have happened had Tahj been white.

     As a legal and moral matter, if somebody tries to kill you, you fight them, and they die, you are not guilty of murder. This is a case of self-defense. Had Trayvon Martin killed his hunter, that would have been just. Trayvon would have had a difficult time with the case in an American “court.” Yet since his hunter had been warned by the policewoman whom he was speaking with  by phone not to follow this “suspicious” teenager in a hoodie who had gone out in the rain to buy skittles, perhaps a living Trayvon could have successfully made the case.

     And if as in the case of the American Revolution against Britain, blacks had had a revolution against slavery, Jim Crow or the current system of oppression, that, too, would be self-defense. The British crime is called aggression and occupation.  Collective self defense against aggression is the paradigm of just war. It is wrong to say, as Obama did in his eulogy of police in Dallas - a very hard place to say exactly what is true - that racism of the oppressors and a reactive nationalism on the part of the victims are equivalent.  They are not.

     Now the shooters in Dallas and Baton Rouge, both soldiers, were, once again, influenced by a bizarre nationalism and enabled by big weapons.  They shot white and black police officers and demonstrators who had done them no direct harm. Their act is still murder.  And in isolation, each was ultimately suicidal.  But had these police been guilty of oppression – and one is, in part, simply by doing the job of occupation, even cautiously – then the act, however unwise and horrible, might perhaps still be one of self-defense.

      Further, someone who sought to defend even these (crazed) actions could say, look the whole police and judicial apparatus defends killer cops.  The thin blue line means that even officers who don’t kill falsify evidence or fail to not investigate shootings by their fellow officers.  The DAs use the police in making cases.  Except for Marilyn Mosby, they let the plainest murderers walk. And courts acquit police as in Baltimore  – Freddie Gray died in police custody, but no cop is guity of anything…Talk about a racist police state…

       Further, this person might note, mass revolutionary violence, when directed against the instruments of an oppressive state, is just a broad-based form of what these isolated killers did.

    But even if this were true – and it is a big stretch to think it is – the main result of such killing is to legitimize or widen support for a large-scale violent response by the police against the community.  That is what the entire “Republican” convention, a racist one, is urging.  That is what the “law and order” candidate meant when he said he would stop all crime upon his inauguration.   

        Now racists also charge nonviolent protests, like Black Lives Matter, with being violent.  But everyone can see that they are not. Black Lives Matter protests racist murder..

     When there is actual violent resistance, however, and  innocents are killed, their families are often incensed and want vengeance.  And that can lead to much more killing as a kind of counterrevolution.  It can also generate lurking hatreds which pervert or strike out against  even successful revolution.

     Since the Chinese (70 years ago) and Vietnamese Revolutions (40 years ago), most great social and political changes have occurred by mass, nonviolent resistance.  Consider the fall of the tyrannies in Eastern Europe or Arab Spring in Tunisia, where the parliament is now half women.  Consider the vast movement led by Martin Luther King and other nonviolent resistors.  The rebellions/”riots” in American cities also played a large role in the civil rights movement. They involved massive destruction of property by rebels, but the relatively few killings were mostly by police. What Obama said – that there have been great changes in all of our lifetimes about racism – is true.  And consider the enduring impact of Black Lives Matter.

      Thus, the wisest and likeliest to succeed way to change the entrenched racism/murder by the police is to organize mass nonviolent civil disobedience and other forms of protest from below. 

      In addition,  there are some who are working to reform police departments.  For example, in Dallas, Chief Brown had a son who killed two police officers and was killed.  Brown himself has led – challenging others – a movement toward community policing. As Obama underlined, reports of “excessive police force” – a police category -  have fallen 64%.  Further, the chief has advertised for more black police officers. Not everyone is a Montrell Jackson whose words Hillary Clinton movingly discussed at the NAACP last Monday.  But a police force more like the community is better than a separated from the community, hierarchical, militarily armed, infiltrated by the Klan and neo-Nazis, egged on by Donald Trump, Occupying force – consider Ferguson and many many other suburban and urban police departments.

     As Dallas shows, some real reform is possible in even hierarchical police departments; mass nonviolent noncooperation/civil disobedience could force much greater changes.  But in any month in the United States, more people are shot by the police, and many of them murdered, and with little or no investigation, than in Britain or Finland in the last 16 years.  In 2014, there were officially 475 police murders in the US, 0 in Britain.  America has a culture of gun violence, propagated on the Right - the NRA - for white people.  It is a sickeningly racist culture.  But note, there was not a single peep at the Republican Convention or by the NRA about Philando Castile, a very popular cafeteria worker in a Montessori school in Minnesota, stopped for a broken taillight, and shot when he reached to get his wallet.

     If we take guns off the street as other societies do, that would limit police murders. It might also go along with the US becoming a less warlike country abroad.  For even Obama, who admires Gandhi and King, currently wages war in 7 countries. Hillary Clinton wants control of guns internally and opposes murers by police, but is a dangerous war-maker, neo-con abroad (Trump is obviously much more dangerous).  See here

       Now mass nonviolent resistance might be able to force serious reform about guns.  John Lewis’s and other representatives’ sit-in on these issues seemed good – until they forgot about banning even assault weapons.  Instead,, they zeroed in on restricting people on “no fly” “terror” watchlists from buying weapons.  So some Republicans could make the smart rejoinder that the watchlists themselves contain a lot of people who are innocent, that is, have fallen “under suspicion” but without serious evidence.  Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement, did many very courageous things, and launched something here of real promise.  But he forgot himself and it fizzled. 

     Still, mass militant nonviolence by ordinary people, challenging the government in Washington and elsewhere, until there are real restrictions on guns, could accomplish a lot.

     Now, as in the case of Martin Luther King, one can get shot urging nonviolence, just as Malcolm X, urging violent self-defense, was.  So one had better figure out which strategy will work.  Nonviolent protest has the defect that the police often bully  – and that innocents, those who have not trained in nonviolent protest or meditated on it, just good-hearted participants in the movement - are often killed.   But many fewer are killed than in violent movements.  Compare Arab spring in Egypt or Tunisia to the long liberation of Vietnam (in the American aggression, some 3 million were slaughtered).

       In mass nonviolent movements, many more come to participate (h/t Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stepan).  Very large changes, even revolutionary ones as in Tunisia or Eastern Europe, can be forced through nonviolently. 

     Nonviolence is a way of stopping the oppressor while still protecting their lives.  And because of that, it has a unique power.  It forces some oppressors and many who go along with them, to change.  It also isolates diehard reactionaries who can’t change.  Finally, it can achieve great healing even in the face of the most terrible racist divisions like apartheid  (see the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and Desmond Tutu’s No Future without Forgiveness).  It is worth meditating on and pursuing. 

      For nonviolent resistance leaves fewer children without a father or mother. And as with the four year Daeanna who comforted Diamond Lavish Reynolds, or the 15 year old, who, in trying to support his mother broke down that Philando Castile, his dad, was gone, if you kill people wantonly, you breed lasting resentment and in others related to them, often renewed violence.  In contrast, the effect of responding to police violence with mass militant nonviolence, a determined effort to stop the oppression yet honor the souls of the oppressors, and reknit the community – watch Indomitable, the film on Nelson Mandela and rugby – is amazing, breathtaking, capable of pointing a way forward…