The maligned Warren Harding commuted Eugene V. Debs’ prison sentence and then invited the socialist anti-war felon to join him for breakfast in the White House. Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon, who otherwise might have landed in Leavenworth. George H.W. Bush pardoned Elliott Abrams after Iran-Contra. Bill Clinton, neither moralist nor saint, pardoned the fugitive crook Marc Rich. Barack Obama, who forgave all our chicken hawks, neocons, and torture lovers who lied us into Iraq, has offered not one word of understanding about the hard choices taken by Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning except to say he didn’t “think Mr. Snowden was a patriot” and that Manning “broke the law.” Continue

Democratic presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee is making waves with his odd foreign policy proposals – he’s put forth a daring plan to “Wage Peace”. The plan is daring only because it’s so rare for an American presidential candidate to make unconditional peace the cornerstone of his foreign policy.

On Rhode Island Public Radio this week, one local politico said that Chafee’s desire to wage peace “sounds nice – but one wonders how long we can maintain that position.” In other words, war is inescapable for whoever is elected President. It’s terrifying that this has become the default political position in the United States.

Chafee has gone so far as to say he would look to return Americans’ civil liberties, ban drones, bring Edward Snowden home, and end capital punishment (yes, this too is part of peace). Chafee’s platform went one step too far, however, when he said he’d consider talking to ISIS. This last idea is supposedly the one that proves everyone’s longstanding suspicion that Chafee is a few cards short of a full deck.

If talking to ISIS is a crazy idea, throw me in the insane asylum. Chafee’s suggestion that he’d explore “rapprochement” should give Americans hope that at least one public official, somewhere, is not seeking to become the next Murderer-in-Chief. Instead of blindly continuing his predecessors’ failed War on Terror, Chafee would make diplomacy America’s first option.

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Hisham Yahya, 13, is an eager student. As we sat in the large, empty yard of his school in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, with weapons debris scattered about, he said he missed going to class. “I just sit at home, it is so boring, and we have no electricity, nothing,” he said. “I want to go back to school so I can start learning again.”

It doesn’t look like Hisham’s school will be up and running again any time soon.

On March 26, the first day of airstrikes by a Saudi-led international coalition against the Houthi rebels who control the capital and much of the rest of the country, Yemen’s education ministry suspended all classes in Sanaa. Many other areas subject to coalition attacks and fighting between the Houthis and other armed groups soon followed suit. Across Yemen, 3,600 schools – 76 percent of the country’s total – have closed due to insecurity, according to the United Nations. As a result, about 1.85 million children cannot take this year’s final exams.

The school closures not only harm children’s access to education but make children more susceptible to recruitment by the many armed groups and tribal militias in Yemen that continue to use child soldiers.

Eighty-one schools have also been damaged in the fighting, UNICEF says. Hisham’s school, the Bilal primary school for boys in the Nuqum neighborhood, escaped relatively lightly, mostly with broken windows. It was damaged on May 11, when a coalition airstrike hit an arms depot on nearby Nuqum Mountain. Thirty-eight civilians were killed, including six children.

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“Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world… Shall we say the odds are too great? … the struggle is too hard? … and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message — of longing, of hope, of solidarity… The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Beyond Vietnam

Kabul – I’ve spent a wonderfully calm morning here in Kabul, listening to bird songs and to the call and response between mothers and their children in neighboring homes as families awaken and prepare their children for school. Maya Evans and I arrived here yesterday, and are just settling into the community quarters of our young hosts, The Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs). Last night, they told us about the jarring and frightening events that marked the past few months of their lives in Kabul.

They described how they felt when bomb explosions, nearby, awakened them on several mornings. Some said they’d felt almost shell-shocked themselves discovering one recent day that thieves had ransacked their home. They shared their intense feelings of alarm at a notorious warlord’s statement condemning a human rights demonstration in which several community members had participated. And their horror when a few weeks later, in Kabul, a young woman, an Islamic scholar named Farkhunda, was falsely accused in a street argument of desecrating the Koran, after which, to the roared approval of a frenzied mob of perhaps two thousand men, members of the crowd, with apparent police collusion, beat her to death. Our young friends quietly sort through their emotions in the face of inescapable and often overwhelming violence.

I thought about how to incorporate their stories into a course I’ve been preparing for an international online school that intends to help raise consciousness among people, across borders and share the results. I hope the school will help develop movements dedicated to simple living, radical sharing, service and, for many, nonviolent direct action on behalf of ending wars and injustices.

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Nearly 65 percent of Americans believe Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons program should be officially acknowledged. Almost 55 percent believe the program should be subject to international inspections.

The IRmep poll, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percent, was fielded June 4-6 by Google Consumer Surveys and received 1,518 responses.

In May, 2015 the US, UK and Canada blocked a United Nations initiative to create a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East in order to avoid any review of Israel, which is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In contrast, the new poll finds broad popular American support for bringing the region’s only existing program out of the shadows.

Israel maintains a “nuclear ambiguity” policy of neither confirming nor denying possession of nuclear weapons. Since the Nixon administration, American presidents have enforced a gag policy in the US. Federal employees are currently banned from discussing Israel’s arsenal under threat of losing security clearances, job loss and criminal prosecution. Major news media organizations generally fail to cover Israel’s impact on proliferation citing lack of official acknowledgment. In 2009 President Obama refused to answer a direct question about the arsenal.

Presently, according to the poll, only 35% of Americans support such continued official silence on the program.

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In mid-May, facing growing public complaints about the militarization of local police forces, President Obama signed an executive order that would ban the Pentagon from transferring certain “inappropriate” military gear, notably grenade launchers and bayonets, to police departments.

Because apparently anything with the word military or any derivatives is going to have support from someone on the Hill, Sen. Pat Toomey (R – PA) today announced a bill aiming to block the president from making any restrictions at all on the transfers.

Toomey complained in an open letter that the White House was weighing the lives of police against the public backlash against militarization and police crackdowns on dissent, insisting the government should never even consider the idea that police are causing unrest through their tactics.

Toomey in particular objected to the banning of certain armored military vehicles from usage except under “certain circumstances.” The ban signed by the White House was related only to vehicles with tank treads.

Interestingly, though Toomey insisted he had no objection to the ban on bayonets, he is insisting on removing all restrictions, including those on bayonets provided to police forces.