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SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

If the vast majority of the public in the US and the UK doesn’t have a clue about the death toll from the Iraq war, then how can they make an informed decision about the probable consequences of western intervention in Syria or anywhere else?

The default stance of the public is, quite rationally, against foreign military adventures. For reasons that range from moral to pragmatic, people are not easily convinced that a poor country thousands of miles way needs to be bombed – especially when that country poses no credible threat to them. It takes quite a propaganda campaign to change their minds and the big corporate and state media outlets are reliably there to provide one. It is heartening to see from recent polls that war is as hard a sell as ever. But how much more widespread, and more importantly, how much more intense would public opposition to war be if the vast majority were not completely misinformed about the human costs of war?

Dear President Obama,

I supported you in both elections, with my vote and financial giving.  When you were elected, I was overjoyed that the US had a leader in the White House who was bright, articulate and honest.  After the Bush years, many of us were very discouraged about our country, but you brought hope. 

 Now in 2013, you are faced with a difficult situation.  Chemical weapons have been used Syria.  Although no one is certain who instigated this unconscionable act, this is illegal, immoral and demands a response.  However, the answer need not be limited to "doing nothing" or "a military strike."  Clearly, this situation demands a reaction, and I commend you for waiting to make a decision until after consulting Congress. I imagine you are hearing comparisons to Iraq, and nothing could be more painful. However, the US must not consider any action before the UN completes its report and without the support of the international community. Additionally, even if Congress votes to authorize military action, I urge you to consider other options.  Many of your advisors seem to see solutions only in terms of military operations.
Sep 09

Should Some Missile Strikes Be Criminalized?

By Dallas Darling, Truthout | News Analysis

“Smoke pours out of the civilian shelter for days while rescue workers collapse in grief excavating the remains, pitching their dead cargo to the ground. Some vomit from the stench of the sizzling corpses, nearly all women children, and babies, burned beyond identification.”(1) -1991 Persian Gulf War One, where a U.S. missile strike against Baghdad, Iraq hit a neighborhood residential shelter mistakenly thought to be a military command post.

As a result of the Nuremburg and Tokyo War Crimes Tribunals, wars against peace and humanity were finally criminalized, at least for the defeated and vanquished. Is it now time to also criminalize missile strikes that murder and maim innocent civilians? Should missile strikes that later cause tens of thousands of civilian casualties and enormous environmental degradation be considered unlawful and against international laws? And should the actions of such perpetrators be criminalized too?

No matter how many times we’ve seen it before, the frenzy for launching a military attack on another country is -- to the extent we’re not numb -- profoundly upsetting. Tanked up with talking points in Washington, top officials drive policy while intoxicated with what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism,” and most media coverage becomes similarly unhinged. That’s where we are now.

But new variables have opened up possibilities for disrupting the repetitive plunge to war. Syria is in the crosshairs of U.S. firepower, but cracks in the political machinery of the warfare state are widening here at home. For advocates of militarism and empire by any other name, the specter of democratic constraint looms as an ominous threat.

Sep 09

This War Too Is A Lie

By David Swanson, War Is a Crime | Op-Ed

Some smart people thought, and perhaps some still think, that the 2003-2011 war on Iraq was unique in that it was promoted with the use of blatant lies.  When I'd researched dozens of other wars and failed to find one that wasn't based on a foundation of similar lies, I wrote a book about the most common war lie varieties. I called it War Is A Lie.

That book has sold more than any of my others, and I like to think it's contributed some teeny bit to the remarkable and very welcome skepticism that is greeting the U.S. government's current claims about Syria.  The fact is that, were the White House telling the truth about the need for an attack on Syria, it would be a first in history.  Every other case for war has always been dishonest.

SAN FRANCISCO — Abu Ghazi is a man who brings smiles to people’s faces. Last December, while giving inexpensive haircuts and shaves to passersby, including journalists who spent time with him and his family, he made almost all those watching laugh. Today, some nine months removed from the onset of that freezing winter, Abu Ghazi has little to smile at.

With the Obama administration pressing Congress to approve its plans to attack the Syrian government, Abu Ghazi and his family are not convinced the strikes will bring anything but more hardship and a “trail of blood.” 

Greece1Ancient Abdera, Abdera, Thrace.Greece in 2013 is an occupied country. But there's no occupation army anywhere in Greece. Yet the occupation is as real as if barbarians were at the gates.

Enemies captured Greece simply by money debt. Greek leaders, innocent of or stupid about economic warfare, bought the poisoned pill of borrowing from Western banks. Now those banks ordered the Western governments to be tough with Greece.

Sep 08

Obama: The Guy Who Called Wolf

By James and Jean Anton, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

He's proved over and over again that he's a wolf.

If at this point you don't agree, you are negligently naïve. Take a look at some of the facts: He was in office only a few days when he started the war in Afghanistan. Detainees in Guantanamo, who have been officially cleared for release, will die there. He said he ended torture, but prisoners are still being tortured by force-feeding. Black sites, where detainees are rendered, still exist. He stated the treatment of whistle-blower Chelsea Manning was appropriate, even though she was kept in solitary confinement, and severely mistreated for nine months before any charges were even brought against her. He has ordered the assassination of Americans and their children without even the pretext of due process (his due process is that he "thinks" about it.)

President Obama has sidestepped the political hole he had dug for himself (what we might call the "red line" hole) over his proposed attack on Syria. Having insisted there must be "consequences" for a breach of international law, specifically the alleged use of banned chemical weapons by the Syrian government, he was faced with both popular American reluctance to support military action and Congressional pique over not being included in the decision process.

As a consequence President Obama announced on 31 August 2013 that he now supports a Congressional debate and vote on the issue of attacking Syria. Then he told us how he sees the situation, "This [Syrian chemical] attack is an assault on human dignity.... It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.... Ultimately this is not about who occupies this [White House] office at any given time, its about who we are as a country."

The finding of a long-term study that questioned the reason there are so few women in Science, Technology and Engineering professions was recently released (1). Electrical Engineering is my professional career, and sometimes in the role of engineering manager, I had often wondered why this was the case; I could find no rational reason for this phenomenon. What the study found was that in the absence of simply the thought of an engineering career, the possibility of such a career never entered into the conversation. In addition, the lack of role models in the local community also contributed to women not even considering an engineering profession - it just never entered into their consciousness as a possible career choice.