Strategies for Change

Articles about strategies for change.

We All Must Become Zapatistas

Introduction by HealthWrights staff

We need not ask for permission: The genius of the Zapatistas


Subcomandante MarcosSubcomandante MarcosI remember when I was in grade school I would sometimes find my bladder in urgent need of being emptied while I was still in the middle of a class. When I came to the point of realizing that I was not going to be able to make it to the end of the hour without an accident, it created quite a dilemma for me. I had to raise my hand, get the attention of the teacher, and ask her, in front of all my peers, if I could go to the bathroom. It was especially embarrassing if she asked me if I couldn't wait. That really annoyed me. After all, my hand would not have been franticly waving in the air hadI believed I would be able to wait. Generally speaking I was able to get permission to go, though the cost was considerable.


I might have learned a number of lessons from this experience. For example not to drink a whole soda during recess. But I think the major lesson I learned was that it is necessary to ask permission from the authorities to do those things that will provide for my basic needs. This was precisely the lesson that that Zapatistas unlearned, as is described in the article below. They stopped asking the authorities for permission to create a communal life pattern that met their own needs and the needs of their compatriots. Not only do we have a great deal to learn from them with regard to what the desired social arrangements might be, but also with regard to how we might affect social change. The basic idea seems remarkably simple. Don't bother to ask the authority for permission. Simply get up out of your desk, walk down to the restroom, and pee.


The Zapatistas, as described in the article below, were inspired by theMayan spiritual tradition. I saw an parallel here with the Christian tradition. Perhaps not the Christian tradition as it is manifested in the simpleminded hysterical screaming on TV programs and the like, but the Christian tradition as one might find it by actually examining the words of Jesus in so far as we can discern what in all probability they were. The scholar, Marcus J. Borg, wrote a book that was simply entitled “Jesus” in which he attempted to do this. His conclusion was rather striking. The kingdom of heaven that Jesus proclaimed was not a place to which some went to after death and others did not. The best translation in modern terms for the term "Kingdom of Heaven" might be the “Reign of God.” Since God is love, it might also translated as the “Reign of Love. Jesus was interested in the Reign of Love becoming manifest here and now on the Earth withinus and between us. In other words Jesus was a political agitator endeavoring to liberatehis people both from the Roman Empire, and from a Jewish hierarchy that had been co-opted by it. Jesus appears to have been interested in the establishment on this earth of a social order that was based on love rather than domination and exploitation.


This Reign of Love was not to be ushered in by Jesus appearing in the sky some centuries later, to separate the sheep from the goats. Nor was it going to be realized by guns and bombs. It was something quieter.


Suppose the Kingdom came one breezy day
Like dandelion fluff amidst the hay, 
A quiet and familiar seed---
Too commonplace for us to heed.

Suppose that while we passed our time away
In sleep, the Kingdom came one fleecy day
As unobtrusive as the sap---
Too mild to rouse us from our nap.

Do you suppose that then we'd ever find
A single clue that we'd been left behind?

I see this same understanding operating within Mayan tradition as understood by the Zapatistas. They are wanting to establish on this earth a Reign of Love. On the social level this means a society built on the radical notion that social and economic forms should provide the opportunity for all people to get their basic needs met, and that caring for each other should be built into the very fabric of the social space that we share. Why anybody should be opposed to this idea is hard to understand. Well, not so hard, really. If people posses hugely disproportionate share of the material and social benefits a society has to offer,then one can see what they might want to maintain the status quo.


At one point the Zapatista movement considered the possibility that a violent overthrow of the established order might be the road that would lead to a Reign of Love. Later they set this aside this understandable but perhaps misguided strategy. Undoubtedly some of them also considered asking permission from the authorities to establish the kind of community that they believed would meet everybody's needs. Although such a request would not be unethical, most realized that it was not likely to be responded to in a positive manner. So they came to the conclusion, if I may return to the metaphor with which I began this reflection, that if we need to pee, we should just get up and go do it without bothering to ask for permission. Authorities be damned. And we should attempt to create a world in which others can do the same.


As the article below clearly shows, we have a great deal to learn from the Zapatistas.


The Main article
By Chris Hedges


June 02, 2014 "ICH" - "Truthdig" -  Subcomandante Marcos, the spokesman for the Zapatistas (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, or EZLN), has announced that his rebel persona no longer exists. He had gone from being a “spokesman to a distraction,” he said last week. His persona, he said, fed an easy and cheap media narrative. It turned a social revolution into a cartoon for the mass media. It allowed the commercial press and the outside world to ignore traditional community leaders and indigenous commanders and wrap a movement around a fictitious personality. His persona, he said, trivialized a movement. And so this persona is no more.

The entire system, but above all its media, plays the game of creating celebrities who it later destroys if they don’t yield to its designs,” Marcos declared.

The Zapatistas form the most important resistance movement of the last two decades. They are a visible counterweight to the despoiling and rape of the planet and the subjugation of the poor by global capitalism. And they have repeatedly reinvented themselves—as Marcos has now done—to survive. The Zapatistas gave global resistance movements a new language, drawn in part from the indigenous communal Mayan culture, and a new paradigm for action. They understood that corporate capitalism had launched a war against us. They showed us how to fight back. The Zapatistas began by using violence, but they soon abandoned it for the slow, laborious work of building 32 autonomous, self-governing municipalities. Local representatives from Juntas de Buen Gobierno, or Councils of Good Government, which is not recognized by the Mexican government, preside over these independent Zapatista communities. The councils oversee community programs that distribute food, set up clinics and schools and collect taxes. Resources are for those who live in the communities, not for the corporations that come to exploit them. And in this the Zapatistas allow us to see the future, at least a future where we have a chance of surviving.

"This figure was created, and now its creators, the Zapatistas, are destroying it,” the EZLN spokesman said to roughly 1,000 people who turned out for a May 24 memorial in the village of La Realidad for a Zapatista teacher, José Luis Solís López, who was murdered by Mexican paramilitary members. “And we saw that now, the full-size puppet outfit, the character, the hologram, was no longer necessary. Time and time again we planned this, and time and time again we waited for the right moment—the right calendar and geography to show what we really are to those who truly are.”

The May 2 murder of the teacher—known by his nom de guerre as “Galeano”—appears to have been part of a drive by a government-allied paramilitary group, CIOAC-H, to assassinate rural Zapatista leaders and destroy the self-governing Zapatista enclaves. The Fray Bartolome Human Rights Center said that 15 unarmed Zapatista civilians were wounded May 2. Attacks on that day also saw the destruction of a Zapatista clinic, a school and three vehicles.

The address last month was the first public appearance by Marcos since 2009. He spoke to the crowd in a downpour in the early hours of May 25. He has been the public face of the Zapatistas since the group emerged as an insurrectionary force Jan. 1, 1994, in Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico. Marcos, who is mestizo rather than Mayan, spoke about his rise as a media figure following the uprising and how the movement had catered to the demands for an identifiable leader by a press that distorts reality to fit into its familiar narratives.

Just a few days later [after the uprising], with the blood of our fallen still fresh in the city streets, we realized that those from outside did not see us.
Accustomed to looking at the indigenous from above, they did not raise their eyes to look at us.
Accustomed to seeing us humiliated, their heart did not understand our dignified rebellion.
Their eyes were fixed on the only mestizo they saw with a balaclava, that is to say, one they did not look at.
Our bosses told us then:
They only see their own smallness, let’s make someone as small as them, so they may see him and through him they may see us.”
A complex maneuver of distraction began then, a terrible and marvelous magic trick, a malicious play of the indigenous heart that we are, the indigenous knowledge challenging modernity in one of its bastions: the media.
The character called “Marcos” started then to be built.

The clandestine movement began, like all rebellions, with a handful of idealists.

When the first group arrived in 1983, 1984, we were in the densest part of the jungle,” Marcos said in “Remembering Ten Years of Zapatismo,” a documentary produced by the Chiapas Independent Media Center and Free Speech Radio News. “We are talking about a group of four or five, six people that repeated to themselves every day ‘this is the right thing to do,’ ‘the right thing to do.’ There was nothing in the world telling us this was the right thing to do. We were dreaming that someday all of this would be worth something.”

Early Jan. 1, 1994, armed rebels took over five major towns in Chiapas. It was the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect. The EZLN announced that it no longer recognized the legitimacy of the Mexican government. It denounced NAFTA as a new vehicle to widen the inequality between the poor and the rich, showing an understanding of free trade agreements that many in the United States lacked. It said it had resorted to violence because peaceful means of protest had failed. The Mexican government, alarmed and surprised, sent several thousand members of the military and police to Chiapas to crush the uprising. The military handed out food to the impoverished peasants. It also detained scores of men. Many were tortured. Some were killed. There were 12 days of heavy fighting in which about 200 people died. By February the Zapatistas, who had hoped to ignite a nationwide revolution and who were reeling under the military assault, agreed to negotiate. Most had retreated into the surrounding jungle. The insurgency, Marcos said, faced a fundamental existential choice. He spoke about this choice at last month’s memorial to his assassinated comrade:

Should we prepare those who come after us for the path of death?
Should we develop more and better soldiers?
Invest our efforts in improving our battered war machine?
Simulate dialogues and a disposition toward peace while preparing new attacks?
Kill or die as the only destiny?
Or should we reconstruct the path of life, that which those from above had broken and continue breaking?
Should we have adorned with our blood the path that others have charted to Power, or should we have turned our heart and gaze toward who we are, toward those who are what we are—that is, the indigenous people, guardians of the earth and of memory?
Nobody listened then, but in the first babblings that were our words we made note that our dilemma was not between negotiating and fighting, but between dying and living.
... And we chose.
And rather than dedicating ourselves to training guerrillas, soldiers, and squadrons, we developed education and health promoters, who went about building the foundations of autonomy that today amaze the world.
Instead of constructing barracks, improving our weapons, and building walls and trenches, we built schools, hospitals and health centers; improving our living conditions.
Instead of fighting for a place in the Parthenon of individualized deaths of those from below, we chose to construct life.
All this in the midst of a war that was no less lethal because it was silent.

The movement’s shift from violence to nonviolent civil disobedience was evidenced during the memorial. Zapatista leaders said they knew the identities of the vigilantes who had carried out the attacks. But those in the crowd were cautioned not to turn their vengeance against the killers, who, they were told, had been manipulated to murder in the service of the state. The focus had to remain on dismantling the system of global capitalism itself. The shift from violence to nonviolence, one also adopted half a world away by the African National Congress (ANC), is what has given the Zapatistas their resiliency and strength. Marcos stressed this point:

Small justice looks so much like revenge. Small justice is what distributes impunity; as it punishes one, it absolves others.
What we want, what we fight for, does not end with finding Galeano’s murderers and seeing that they receive their punishment (make no mistake this is what will happen).
The patient and obstinate search seeks truth, not the relief of resignation.
True justice has to do with the buried compañero Galeano.
Because we ask ourselves not what do we do with his death, but what do we do with his life.

This transformation by the EZLN, chronicled in some astute reporting by the Mexican novelist Alejandro Reyes, is one that is crucial to remember as we search for mechanisms to sever ourselves from the corporate state and build self-governing communities. The goal is not to destroy but to transform. And this is why violence is counterproductive. We too must work to create a radical shift in consciousness. And this will take time, drawing larger and larger numbers of people into acts of civil disobedience. We too must work to make citizens aware of the mechanisms of power. An adherence to nonviolence will not save us from the violence of the state and the state’s hired goons and vigilantes. But nonviolence makes conversion, even among our oppressors, possible. And it is conversion that is our goal. As Marcos said:

Maybe it’s true. Maybe we were wrong in choosing to cultivate life instead of worshipping death.
But we made the choice without listening to those on the outside. Without listening to those who always demand and insist on a fight to the death, as long as others will be the ones to do the dying.
We made the choice while looking and listening inward, as the collective Votán that we are.
We chose rebellion, that is to say, life.

Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.


Growing Change


Note by HealthWrights Staff:

The mainstream media would have you believe that there is no viable alternative to the predatory capitalism that dominates the western world. As this article shows, an economy with a mixture of government owned enterprises, worker owned cooperatives and small to medium sized capitalist businesses can work quite well. The current system in Venezuela certainly meets the needs of the majority of its citizens much more effectively than the brutal "free market" economies that the World Bank and the IMF attempt to force on developing countries. The example of Venezuela shows that such a mixed economy provides a context within which creative and sustainable solutions to the growing food crisis in the world can be developed. As was the case with Yugoslavia under Tito, the US is determined to crush any example that demonstrates that there are real alternatives to our exploitive, unsustainable and failing system.

Click here to go to original site of this article.

Documentary Investigates Our CurrentFood Systemand the Solutions to WorldHunger

September 01 2012

ven_foodSimon Cunich's documentary film Growing Change: A Journey Inside Venezuela's Food Revolution investigates our current food system as he tries
to understand why hundreds of millions of people go hungry each day.

Is it true that there's simply not enough to go around? And as the world faces an increasing number of environmental challenges, how will we feed a global
population of more than seven billion people?

Can We Grow a Fair and Sustainable Food System?

The film begins by looking at the underlying causes of food shortages, such as what we saw in 2008 when food riots broke out in about 30 countries. The
situation actually wasn't bad news for everyone. Major food corporations made record-breaking profits during this difficult time.

Many believe the answer to world hunger is further expansion of large-scale agriculture; others place their bets on genetically engineered (GE) crops. But is
large-scale GE farming really going to solve the problem?

Evidence suggests the answer is a resounding NO. In fact, our modern agricultural system is the very heart of the problem...

What we're looking at is "a human-induced land management disaster," according to Walter Jehne, Director of Healthy Soils Australia. Modern
monoculture has severely depleted soils of essential nutrients and microorganisms, and poor soil quality is a core problem facing farmers across
the globe, Cunich discovered.

The Earth's soil is depleting at more than 13 percent the rate it can be replaced due to our chemical-based agriculture system. Massive monoculture has also
led to the extinction of 75 percent of the world's crop varieties over the last century. Additionally, modern agriculture is extremely energy dependent.
According to statistics in the film, every consumer in the Western world eats the equivalent of 66 barrels of oil per year. That's how much oil is needed to
produce the food on your plate.

Playing "Chicken" with Mother Nature

In the words of Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and a number of other bestsellers: "Mother Nature destroys monocultures."

Story at-a-glance

Growing Change: A Journey Inside Venezuela’s Food Revolution investigates our current food system and the solutions to world hunger

Contrary to popular belief, modern agriculture techniques are not a solution, but rather the very heart of the problem. Poor soil quality is a core
problem facing farmers across the globe, and the Earth's soil is depleting at more than 13 percent the rate it can be replaced due to our chemical-based agriculture system

The film offers inspiration and hope, and demonstrates how communities can take back control of the food supply and gain independence, as well as feed those who would otherwise not be able to afford to eat

Monoculture (or monocropping) is defined as the high-yield agricultural practice of growing a single crop year after year on the same land, in the absence of rotation through other crops. Corn, soybeans, wheat, and to some degree rice, are the most common crops grown with monocropping techniques. In fact, corn, wheat and rice account for about 60 percent of human caloric intake, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Monoculture is detrimental to the environment for a number of reasons, including the following:

It damages soil ecology by depleting and reducing the diversity of soil nutrients
It creates an unbuffered niche for parasitic species to take over, making crops more vulnerable to opportunistic pathogens that can quickly wipe out an entire crop

It increases dependency on chemical pesticides and fertilizers It increases reliance on expensive specialized farm equipment and machinery that require heavy use of fossil fuels It destroys biodiversity By contrast, polyculture (the traditional rotation of crops and livestock) better serves both land and people. Polyculture evolved to meet the complete nutritional needs of a local community, and when done mindfully, automatically replenishes what is taken out, making it sustainable with minimal effort.

The Venezuelan Experiment

"After hearing about efforts in Venezuela to develop a more equitable and sustainable food and agriculture system, the filmmaker heads there to see if it's working and find out what we might be able to learn from this giant experiment." 1

Venezuela, like so many other nations, is dependent on food imports to feed its citizens as its agricultural sector has fallen into neglect after decades of urbanization. Here, Cunich finds a movement underway to reconstruct a more equitable food system.

"In lush coastal villages we meet cocoa producers who are now protected against being paid below the minimum price and are now involved in the local processing of chocolate rather than just exporting raw beans. We head out to sea with fisherfolk who are benefiting from new regulations that ban industrial trawling. In the chaotic metropolis of Caracas we find urban gardens thriving and supplementing diets with fresh organic produce. We go inside shops where the urban poor have access to affordable food.

It's all part of a country-wide process towards 'food sovereignty,' driven by communities and the government. At the core of the process are principles of social justice and sustainability." 2

Agricultural Experts are in Agreement: Organic Farming Can Feed the World

A question often asked about organic agriculture is whether it can be productive enough to meet the world's food needs. While many agree ecological agriculture is desirable from an environmental point of view, fears remain that it will not produce sufficient yields. Time and again, however, agricultural studies have shown that such fears are unfounded.

In fact, according to a report compiled by some 400 of the world's top scientist , in order to feed the world, we cannot continue relying on the industrial agriculture currently in use. It is, quite simply, unsustainable. We need farming methods that rebuild our ecological systems rather than demolish them. Other studies have come to the identical conclusion. We CAN feed the world, but we must be willing to give up large-scale, chemical-based industrial agriculture in order to do so. For example, one 2008 study4 found that on average:

In developed countries, organic systems produce 92 percent of the yield produced by conventional agriculture In developing countries, organic systems produce 80 percent more than conventional farms
Another review of 286 projects in 57 countries found that farmers who used "resource-conserving" or ecological agriculture increased their agricultural productivity by an average of 79 percent.

In light of this, when I hear someone extolling the virtues of modern agriculture and wondering how organic or ecological farming could possibly be the solution, I argue the real question is how in the world did we come to accept LESS efficient industrial practices (which includes dousing our food with chemical fertilizers and pesticides) as a viable way to grow food! That's the real wonder... There's more to it than just changing the way the food is grown, of course, and the film discusses these factors as well, such as:

Fair distribution
Fair trade
Community power and independence
Access to land, resources, markets

The film really speaks for itself, so I urge you to take the opportunity to watch it now, free of charge. It offers inspiration and hope, and demonstrates how communities can take back control of the food supply and gain independence, as well as feed those who would otherwise not be able to afford to eat.

The documentory is availble here for a small fee.

Change Is Possible

Farmers and lovers of real food show us that change IS possible. But your help is needed! If each of you purchased only 10
dollars of food each week from your local farmer's market or organic food stand, the market impact would be tremendous.
There are actions you can take in order to live a more sustainable lifestyle:

1. Buy local products whenever possible. Otherwise, buy organic and fair-trade products.
2. Shop at your local farmers market, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or buy from local grocers and
co-ops committed to selling local foods.
3. Support restaurants and food vendors that buy locally produced food.
4. Avoid genetically engineered (GMO) foods. Buying certified organic ensures your food is non-GM.
5. Cook, can, ferment, dry and freeze. Return to the basics of cooking, and pass these skills on to your children.
6. Drink plenty of water, but avoid bottled water whenever possible, and do invest in a high quality water filter to filter the
water from your tap.
7. Grow your own garden, or volunteer at a community garden. Teach your children how to garden and where their food
comes from.
8. Volunteer and/or financially support an organization committed to promoting a sustainable food system.
9. Get involved in your community. Influence what your child eats by engaging the school board. Effect city policies by
learning about zoning and attending city council meetings. Learn about the federal policies that affect your food choice,
and let your congressperson know what you think.
10. Spread the word! Share this article with your friends, family, and everyone else you know.

Fighting Doom: The New Politics of Climate Change

Labor Network For Sustainability

Note by HealthWrights staff:

This article is noteworthy in two ways: One, despite being realistic about the dangers of climate change, is offers a guardedly optimistic assessment regarding the possibility of our coming to terms with this issue in a positive manner, and two, despite being realistic about how badly progressive efforts have fared during the last decades, it offers some down to earth strategy suggestions for turning this around. For all of us who struggle against despair, it may provide both hope and direction. Minimally it should open up some productive discussion on strategies for health during these dangerous times.

I am not an environmentalist. But all I think about these days is the
climate crisis.

I admit I have arrived late to the party. Only recently have I begun to
realize what  others have known for decades: The climate crisis is not, at
its core, an  environmental issue. In fact it is not an issue at all; it is
an existential threat to  every human and community on the planet. It
threatens every job, every economy in  the world. It threatens the health
of our children. It threatens our food and water  supply. Climate change
will continue to alter the world our species has known for the  past three
thousand years.

As an oyster farmer and longtime political activist, the effects of climate
change on  my life will be neither distant nor impersonal. Rising
greenhouse gases and ocean  temperatures may well force me to abandon my
60-acre farm within the next forty  years. From France to Washington state,
oystermen are already seeing massive die-offs of seed oysters and the
thinning shells science has long predicted. I can see the  storm clouds and
they are foretelling doom.

But my political alter ego is oddly less pessimistic. Rather than
triggering gloom, the  climate crisis has surprisingly stirred up more hope
than I have felt in twenty years as  a progressive activist. After decades
of progressive retreat it is a strange feeling. But I  am haunted by the
suspicion that this coming crisis may be the first opportunity we  have had
in generations to radically re-shape the political landscape and build a
more  just and sustainable society.

The Power of Doom

The modern progressive movement in the U.S. has traditionally grounded its
organizing in the politics of identity and altruism. Organize an affected
group   minorities, gays, janitors or women  and then ask the public at
large to support the  cause  prison reform, gay marriage, labor rights, or
abortion  based on some  cocktail of good will, liberal guilt, and moral
persuasion. This strategy has been  effective at times. But we have failed
to bring these mini-movements together into a  force powerful enough to
enact broad-based social reform. It takes a lot of people to  change
society and our current strategy has left us small in numbers and weak in

The highlights of my political life  as opposed to oystering  have been
marked  by winning narrow, often temporary, battles, but perennially losing
the larger war. I  see the results in every direction I look: growing
poverty and unemployment, two  wars, the rise of the right, declining
unionization, the failure of the Senates climate  legislation and of
Copenhagen, the wholesale domination of corporate interests. The  list goes
on and on. We have lost; its time to admit our strategy has been too tepid
and begin charting anew.

This time can be different. What is so promising about the climate crisis
is that  because it is not an issue experienced by one disenfranchised
segment of the  population, it opens the opportunity for a new organizing
calculus for progressives.  Except for nuclear annihilation, humanity has
never faced so universal a threat where  all our futures are bound
inextricably together. This universality provides the mortar  of common
interest required for movement building. We could literally knock on  every
door on the planet and find someone  whether they know it or not  who  has
a vital self-interest in averting the climate crisis by joining a movement
for  sustainability. With all of humanity facing doom, we can finally
gather under one  banner and count our future members not in the thousands
but in the millions, even  billions.

But as former White House Green Jobs Czar Van Jones told the New Yorker in
2009, The challenge is making this an everybody movement, so your main
icons are  Joe Six-Pack, Joe the Plumber, becoming Joe the Solar Guy, or
that kid on the street  corner putting down his handgun, picking up a caulk
gun. The climate crisis is  carrying us into uncharted waters and our
political strategy needs to be directed  toward making the climate movement
an everybody movement.

Let me use a personal example. As an oysterman on Long Island Sound my way
of  life is threatened by rising greenhouse gases and ocean temperatures.
If the climate  crisis is not averted my oysters will die and my farm will
be shuttered.

Saving my livelihood requires that I politically engage at some level.
Normally I  would gather together my fellow oyster farmers to lobby state
and federal officials  and hold a protest or two. Maybe I would find a few
coalitions to join. But we would  remain small in number, wield little
power, and our complaints about job loss would  fall on largely
unsympathetic ears in the face of so many suffering in so many ways.  And
what would we even petition our government to do about the problem? Buyouts
and unemployment benefits? Re-training classes? Our oysters will still die
and we  will still lose our farms.

To save our lives and livelihood we need to burrow down to the root of the
problem:  halting greenhouse gas emissions. And halting emissions requires
joining a  movement with the requisite power to dismantle the fossil fuel
economy while  building a green economy.

To tackle such a large target requires my support for every nook and
cranny effort to  halt greenhouse gases and transition to a green economy.
I need to gather up my  fellow oyster farmers and link arms with students
blocking new coal-fired power  plants while fighting for just transition
for coal workers; I need to join forces with  other green workers around
the country to demand government funding for green  energy jobs, not more
bank and corporate bailouts; I need to support labor movement  efforts in
China and elsewhere to climb out of poverty by going green not dirty. I
have a stake in these disparate battles not out of political altruism, but
because my  livelihood and community depend on stopping greenhouse gases
and climate change.

In other words, the hidden jewel of the climate crisis is that I need
others and others  need me. We are bound together by the same story of
crisis and struggle.

Some in the sustainability movement have been taking advantage of the
power of  doom by weaving together novel narratives and alliances around
climate change.  Groups in Kentucky are complementing their anti-mountain
top removal efforts by  organizing members of rural electrical co-ops into
New Power campaigns to force  a transition from fossil fuels to renewable
power  and create jobs in the process.  Police unions in Canada,
recognizing their members will be first responders as  climate disasters
hit, have reached out to unions in New Orleans to ensure the  tragedies
that followed Katrina are not repeated. Artists, chefs, farmers, bike
mechanics, designers, and others are coalescing into a green artisan
movement  focused on building vibrant sustainable communities. Immigrant
organizers, worried  about the very real possibility of ever-worsening
racial tensions triggered by millions  of environmental refugees flooding
in from neighboring countries, are educating their  membership about why
the climate crisis matters.

My hope is that over the coming years we will be able to catalog
increasing numbers  of these tributaries of the climate crisis. Our power
will not stem from a long list of  issue concerns or sponsors at events  we
have tried that as recently as the October  2nd Washington D.C. One Nation
Working Together march with little impact.  Nor, with the rise of
do-it-yourself organizing, will our power spring from top-down  political
parties of decades past. Instead oystermen like me, driven by the need to
save our lives and livelihood, will storm the barricades with others facing
the effects  of the climate crisis. We will merge our mini-movements under
a banner of common  crisis, common vision and common struggle. We will be
in this fight together and  emerge as force not to be trifled with.

This Time We Have an Alternative

I am also guardedly optimistic because this time we have an alternative.
My  generation came of age after the fall of communism, and as a result, we
have been  raised in the midst of one-sided debate. We recognize that
neoliberalism has ravaged  society, but besides nostalgic calls for
socialism, what has been the alternative? As  globalization swept the
globe, we demanded livable wages and better housing for the  poorest in our
communities; we fought sweatshops in China; we lobbied for new  campaign
finance and corporate governance laws. But these are mere patchwork
reforms that fail to add up to a full-blown alternative to our current
anti-government,  free-market system. Never being able to fully picture the
progressive alternative left  me not fully trusting that progressive
answers were viable solutions.

But when I hear the proposed solutions to the climate crisis, the fog
lifts. I can track  the logic and envision the machinery of our
alternative. And it sounds surprisingly  like a common sense rebuttal to
the current free-market mayhem: We face a global  emergency of catastrophic
proportions. Market fundamentalism will worsen rather  than solve the
crisis. Instead we need to re-direct our institutions and economic
resources toward solving the crisis by replacing our carbon-based economy
with a  green sustainable economy. And by definition, for an economy to be
sustainable it  must addresses the longstanding suffering ordinary people
face in their lives, ranging  from unemployment and poverty to housing and

For years I have tossed from campaign to campaign, but the framework of
our new  progressive answer to the climate crisis now provides a roadmap
for my political  strategy. It helps chart my opponents  coal companies and
their political minions,  for example  as well as my diverse range of
allies. It lays out my policy agenda,  ranging from creating millions of
new green jobs to building affordable green  housing in low-income
communities. I finally feel confident enough in my bearings  to set sail.

The Era of Crisis Politics

While building a new green economy makes sense on paper, it is hard to
imagine our  entrenched political system yielding even modest progressive
reform, let alone the  wholesale re-formatting of the carbon economy. But I
suspect this will change in the  coming years, with our future governed by
cascading political crises, rather than  political stasis.

We are likely entering an era of crisis politics whereby each escalating
environmental  disaster  ranging from water shortages and hurricanes to
wildfires and disease  outbreaks  will expose the impotence of our existing
political institutions and  economic system. In the next 40 years alone,
scientists predict a state of permanent  drought throughout the Southwest
US and climate-linked disease deaths to double.  As Danny Thompson,
secretary-treasurer of the Nevada AFL-CIO, told the Las  Vegas Review
Journal, "the ever-worsening water crisis could be the end of the  world
that could turn us upside down, and I dont know how you recover from  that".

As if that is not enough, these crises will be played out in the context
of a global  economy spiraling out of control. Each hurricane, drought or
recession will send  opinion polls and politicians lurching from right to
left and vice versa. Think of how  quickly, however momentarily, the
political debate pivoted in the wake of Katrina,  the BP disaster, and the
financial crisis.

As White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel famously said "Never let a
serious  crisis go to waste" Its an opportunity to do things you couldnt do
before. While  addressing the climate crisis requires radical solutions
that cannot be broached in  todays political climate, each disaster opens
an opportunity to advance alternative  agendas  both for the left and
right. While politicians debate modest technical  fixes, ordinary people
left desperate by floods, fires, droughts and other disasters will
increasingly  and angrily  demand more fundamental reforms. While our
current  policy choices appear limited by polls and election results, in an
era of crisis politics  what appears unrealistic and radical before a storm
may well appear as common  sense reform in its wake.

My generation has been raised in the politics of eternal dusk. Except for
a passing ray  of hope during the Obama campaign, our years have been
marked by the failure of  every political force in society  whether it be
political elites or social movement  leaders  to address the problems we
face as a nation and world. They have left us  spinning towards disaster.

We can forge a better future. Climate-generated disasters will bring our
doomed  future into focus. The failure of political elites to adequately
respond to these  cascading crises will transform our political landscape
and seed the ground for social  movements. And if we prepare for the chaos
and long battle ahead, our alternative  vision will become a necessity
rather than an impossibility.

As a friend recently said to me, God help us, I hope youre right.

Can Revolutionary Pacifism Deliver Peace?

Note by HealthWrights staff


Noam Chomsky was awarded the 2011 City of Sydney Peace Prize on November 2, 2011. The following article was the message he delivered on that occasion.


As always, in this article Chomsky provides useful information and insights. The hard question, as he suggests, is how to fight fascism and imperialism without violence. Its the same question that Howard Zinn identified as the central one for those who are concerned with issues of social justice. In this article Chomsky exposes how the imperialist double standard is used to justify state terrorism, violence and hypocrisy. He shows us why we must ask the question that he poses in the title of the article, and he points toward the inadequacy of violent solutions. But he doe not really answer the related question: how can non-violence be effective in the face of overwhelming military and financial power? That is perhaps the hardest question of all. It is the question that progressives and all those interested in social justice must begin to address in a more rigorous manner.


The Source of the article was Reader Supported

picture of noam chmomskyNoam Chompskys we all know, the United Nations was founded "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war." The words can only elicit deep regret when we consider how we have acted to fulfill that aspiration, though there have been a few significant successes, notably in Europe.

For centuries, Europe had been the most violent place on earth, with murderous and destructive internal conflicts and the forging of a culture of war that enabled Europe to conquer most of the world, shocking the victims, who were hardly pacifists, but were "appalled by the all-destructive fury of European warfare," in the words of British military historian Geoffrey Parker. And enabled Europe to impose on its conquests what Adam Smith called "the savage injustice of the Europeans," England in the lead, as he did not fail to emphasise.

The global conquest took a particularly horrifying form in what is sometimes called "the Anglosphere," England and its offshoots, settler-colonial societies in which the indigenous societies were devastated and their people dispersed or exterminated. But since 1945 Europe has become internally the most peaceful and in many ways most humane region of the earth - which is the source of some its current travail, an important topic that I will have to put aside.

In scholarship, this dramatic transition is often attributed to the thesis of the "democratic peace": democracies do not go to war with one another. Not to be overlooked, however, is that Europeans came to realize that the next time they indulge in their favorite pastime of slaughtering one another, the game will be over: civilisation has developed means of destruction that can only be used against those too weak to retaliate in kind, a large part of the appalling history of the post-World War II years. It is not that the threat has ended. US-Soviet confrontations came painfully close to virtually terminal nuclear war in ways that are shattering to contemplate, when we inspect them closely.

And the threat of nuclear war remains all too ominously alive, a matter to which I will briefly return.

Can we proceed to at least limit the scourge of war? One answer is given by absolute pacifists, including people I respect though I have never felt able to go beyond that.

A somewhat more persuasive stand, I think, is that of the pacifist thinker and social activist A.J. Muste, one of the great figures of 20th century America, in my opinion: what he called "revolutionary pacifism." Muste disdained the search for peace without justice. He urged that "one must be a revolutionary before one can be a pacifist" - by which he meant that we must cease to "acquiesce [so] easily in evil conditions," and must deal "honestly and adequately with this ninety percent of our problem" - "the violence on which the present system is based, and all the evil - material and spiritual - this entails for the masses of men throughout the world." Unless we do so, he argued, "there is something ludicrous, and perhaps hypocritical, about our concern over the ten per cent of the violence employed by the rebels against oppression" - no matter how hideous they may be.

He was confronting the hardest problem of the day for a pacifist, the question whether to take part in the anti-fascist war. In writing about Muste's stand 45 years ago, I quoted his warning that "The problem after a war is with the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay. Who will teach him a lesson?" His observation was all too apt at the time, while the Indochina wars were raging. And on all too many other occasions since.

The allies did not fight "the good war," as it is commonly called, because of the awful crimes of fascism. Before their attacks on western powers, fascists were treated rather sympathetically, particularly "that admirable Italian gentleman," as FDR called Mussolini. Even Hitler was regarded by the US State Department as a "moderate" holding off the extremists of right and left. The British were even more sympathetic, particularly the business world. Roosevelt's close confidant Sumner Welles reported to the president that the Munich settlement that dismembered Czechoslovakia "presented the opportunity for the establishment by the nations of the world of a new world order based upon justice and upon law," in which the Nazi moderates would play a leading role.

As late as April 1941, the influential statesman George Kennan, at the dovish extreme of the postwar planning spectrum, wrote from his consular post in Berlin that German leaders have no wish to "see other people suffer under German rule," are "most anxious that their new subjects should be happy in their care," and are making "important compromises" to assure this benign outcome.

Though by then the horrendous facts of the Holocaust were well known, they scarcely entered the Nuremberg trials, which focused on aggression, "the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole": in Indochina, Iraq, and all too many other places where we have much to contemplate.

The horrifying crimes of Japanese fascism were virtually ignored in the postwar peace settlements. Japan's aggression began exactly 80 years ago, with the staged Mukden incident, but for the West, it began 10 years later, with the attack on military bases in two US possessions. India and other major Asian countries refused even to attend the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty conference because of the exclusion of Japan's crimes in Asia - and also because of Washington's establishment of a major military base in conquered Okiniwa, still there despite the energetic protests of the population.

It is useful to reflect on several aspects of the Pearl Harbor attack. One is the reaction of historian and Kennedy advisor Arthur Schlesinger to the bombing of Baghdad in March 2003. He recalled FDR's words when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on "a date which will live in infamy."

"Today it is we Americans who live in infamy," Schlesinger wrote, as our government adopts the policies of imperial Japan - thoughts that were barely articulated elsewhere in the mainstream, and quickly suppressed: I could find no mention of this principled stand in the praise for Schlesinger's accomplishments when he died a few years later.

We can also learn a lot about ourselves by carrying Schlesinger's lament a few steps further. By today's standards, Japan's attack was justified, indeed meritorious. Japan, after all, was exercising the much lauded doctrine of anticipatory self-defense when it bombed military bases in Hawaii and the Philippines, two virtual US colonies, with reasons far more compelling than anything that Bush and Blair could conjure up when they adopted the policies of imperial Japan in 2003. Japanese leaders were well aware that B-17 Flying Fortresses were coming off the Boeing production lines, and they could read in the American press that these killing machines would be able to burn down Tokyo, a "city of rice-paper and wood houses."

A November 1940 plan to "bomb Tokyo and other big cities" was enthusiastically received by Secretary of State Cordell Hull. FDR was "simply delighted" at the plans "to burn out the industrial heart of the Empire with fire-bomb attacks on the teeming bamboo ant heaps of Honshu and Kyushu," outlined by their author, Air Force General Chennault. By July 1941, the Air Corps was ferrying B-17s to the Far East for this purpose, assigning half of all the big bombers to this region, taking them from the Atlantic sea-lanes. They were to be used if needed "to set the paper cities of Japan on fire," according to General George Marshall, Roosevelt's main military adviser, in a press briefing three weeks before Pearl Harbor.

Four days later, New York Times senior correspondent Arthur Krock reported US plans to bomb Japan from Siberian and Philippine bases, to which the Air Force was rushing incendiary bombs intended for civilian targets. The US knew from decoded messages that Japan was aware of these plans.

History provides ample evidence to support Muste's conclusion that "The problem after a war is with the victor, [who] thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay." And the real answer to Muste's question, "Who will teach him a lesson?," can only be domestic populations, if they can adopt elementary moral principles.

Even the most uncontroversial of these principles could have a major impact on ending injustice and war. Consider the principle of universality, perhaps the most elementary of moral principles: we apply to ourselves the standards we apply to others, if not more stringent ones. The principle is universal, or nearly so, in three further respects: it is found in some form in every moral code; it is universally applauded in words, and consistently rejected in practice. The facts are plain, and should be troublesome.

The principle has a simple corollary, which suffers the same fate: we should distribute finite energies to the extent that we can influence outcomes, typically on cases for which we share responsibility. We take that for granted with regard to enemies. No one cares whether Iranian intellectuals join the ruling clerics in condemnation of the crimes of Israel or the United States. Rather, we ask what they say about their own state.

We honored Soviet dissidents on the same grounds. Of course, that is not the reaction within their own societies. There dissidents are condemned as "anti-Soviet" or supporters of the Great Satan, much as their counterparts here are condemned as "anti-American" or supporters of today's official enemy. And of course, punishment of those who adhere to elementary moral principles can be severe, depending on the nature of the society.

In Soviet-run Czechoslovakia, for example, Vaclav Havel was imprisoned. At the same time, in US-run El Salvador his counterparts had their brains blown out by an elite battalion fresh from renewed training at the John F. Kennedy School of Special Warfare in North Carolina, acting on explicit orders of the High Command, which had intimate relations with Washington. We all know and respect Havel for his courageous resistance, but who can even name the leading Latin American intellectuals, Jesuit priests, who were added to the long bloody trail of the Atlacatl brigade shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall - along with their housekeeper and daughter, since the orders were to leave no witnesses?

Before we hear that these are exceptions, we might recall a truism of Latin American scholarship, reiterated by historian John Coatsworth in the recently published Cambridge University History of the Cold War: from 1960 to "the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those in the Soviet Union and its East European satellites." Among the executed were many religious martyrs, and there were mass slaughters as well, consistently supported or initiated by Washington. And the date 1960 is highly significant, for reasons we should all know, but I cannot go into here.

In the West all of this is "disappeared," to borrow the terminology of our Latin American victims. Regrettably, these are persistent features of intellectual and moral culture, which we can trace back to the earliest recorded history. I think they richly underscore Muste's injunction.

If we ever hope to live up to the high ideals we passionately proclaim, and to bring the initial dream of the United Nations closer to fulfillment, we should think carefully about crucial choices that have been made, and continue to be made every day - not forgetting "the violence on which the present system is based, and all the evil - material and spiritual - this entails for the masses of men throughout the world." Among these masses are 6 million children who die every year because of lack of simple medical procedures that the rich countries could make available within statistical error in their budgets. And a billion people on the edge of starvation or worse, but not beyond reach by any means.

We should also never forget that our wealth derives in no small measure from the tragedy of others. That is dramatically clear in the Anglosphere. I live in a comfortable suburb of Boston. Those who once lived there were victims of "the utter extirpation of all the Indians in most populous parts of the Union" by means "more destructive to the Indian natives than the conduct of the conquerors of Mexico and Peru" - the verdict of the first Secretary of War of the newly liberated colonies, General Henry Knox.

They suffered the fate of "that hapless race of native Americans, which we are exterminating with such merciless and perfidious cruelty ... among the heinous sins of this nation, for which I believe God will one day bring [it] to judgement" - the words of the great grand strategist John Quincy Adams, intellectual author of Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine, long after his own substantial contributions to these heinous sins. Australians should have no trouble adding illustrations.

Whatever the ultimate judgment of God may be, the judgment of man is far from Adams's expectations. To mention a few recent cases, consider what I suppose are the two most highly regarded left-liberal intellectual journals in the Anglosphere, the New York and London Reviews of Books.

In the former, a prominent commentator recently reported what he learned from the work of the "heroic historian" Edmund Morgan: namely, that when Columbus and the early explorers arrived they "found a continental vastness sparsely populated by farming and hunting people.... In the limitless and unspoiled world stretching from tropical jungle to the frozen north, there may have been scarcely more than a million inhabitants." The calculation is off by tens of millions, and the "vastness" included advanced civilizations, facts well known to those who choose to know decades ago.

No letters appeared reacting to this truly colossal case of genocide denial. In the companion London journal a noted historian casually mentioned the "mistreatment of the Native Americans," again eliciting no comment. We would hardly accept the word "mistreatment" for comparable or even much lesser crimes committed by enemies.

Recognition of heinous crimes from which we benefit enormously would be a good start after centuries of denial, but we can go on from there. One of the main tribes where I live was the Wampanoag, who still have a small reservation not too far away. Their language has long ago disappeared.

But in a remarkable feat of scholarship and dedication to elementary human rights, the language has been reconstructed from missionary texts and comparative evidence, and now has its first native speaker in 100 years, the daughter of Jennie Little Doe, who has become a fluent speaker of the language herself. She is a former graduate student at MIT, who worked with my late friend and colleague Kenneth Hale, one of the most outstanding linguists of the modern period.

Among his many accomplishments was his leading role in founding the study of aboriginal languages of Australia. He was also very effective in defense of the rights of indigenous people, also a dedicated peace and justice activist. He was able to turn our department at MIT into a center for the study of indigenous languages and active defense of indigenous rights in the Americas and beyond.

Revival of the Wampanoag language has revitalized the tribe. A language is more than just sounds and words. It is the repository of culture, history, traditions, the entire rich texture of human life and society. Loss of a language is a serious blow not only to the community itself but to all of those who hope to understand something of the nature of human beings, their capacities and achievements, and of course a loss of particular severity to those concerned with the variety and uniformity of human languages, a core component of human higher mental faculties.

Similar achievements can be carried forward, a very partial but significant gesture towards repentance for heinous sins on which our wealth and power rests.

Since we commemorate anniversaries, such as the Japanese attacks 70 years ago, there are several significant ones that fall right about now, with lessons that can serve for both enlightenment and action. I will mention just a few.

The West has just commemorated the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and what was called at the time, but no longer, "the glorious invasion" of Afghanistan that followed, soon to be followed by the even more glorious invasion of Iraq. Partial closure for 9/11 was reached with the assassination of the prime suspect, Osama bin Laden, by US commandos who invaded Pakistan, apprehended him and then murdered him, disposing of the corpse without autopsy.

I said "prime suspect," recalling the ancient though long-abandoned doctrine of "presumption of innocence." The current issue of the major US scholarly journal of international relations features several discussions of the Nuremberg trials of some of history's worst criminals.

There we read that the "U.S. decision to prosecute, rather than seek brutal vengeance was a victory for the American tradition of rights and a particularly American brand of legalism: punishment only for those who could be proved to be guilty through a fair trial with a panoply of procedural protections." The journal appeared right at the time of the celebration of the abandonment of this principle in a dramatic way, while the global campaign of assassination of suspects, and inevitable "collateral damage," continues to be expanded, to much acclaim.

Not to be sure universal acclaim. Pakistan's leading daily recently published a study of the effect of drone attacks and other US terror. It found that "About 80 per cent [of] residents of [the tribal regions] South and North Waziristan agencies have been affected mentally while 60 per cent people of Peshawar are nearing to become psychological patients if these problems are not addressed immediately," and warned that the "survival of our young generation" is at stake. In part for these reasons, hatred of America had already risen to phenomenal heights, and after the bin Laden assassination increased still more.

One consequence was firing across the border at the bases of the US occupying army in Afghanistan - which provoked sharp condemnation of Pakistan for its failure to cooperate in an American war that Pakistanis overwhelmingly oppose, taking the same stand they did when the Russians occupied Afghanistan. A stand then lauded, now condemned.

The specialist literature and even the US Embassy in Islamabad warn that the pressures on Pakistan to take part in the US invasion, as well as US attacks in Pakistan, are "destabilizing and radicalizing Pakistan, risking a geopolitical catastrophe for the United States - and the world - which would dwarf anything that could possibly occur in Afghanistan" - quoting British military/Pakistan analyst Anatol Lieven. The assassination of bin Laden greatly heightened this risk in ways that were ignored in the general enthusiasm for assassination of suspects. The US commandos were under orders to fight their way out if necessary.

They would surely have had air cover, maybe more, in which case there might have been a major confrontation with the Pakistani army, the only stable institution in Pakistan, and deeply committed to defending Pakistan's sovereignty. Pakistan has a huge nuclear arsenal, the most rapidly expanding in the world. And the whole system is laced with radical Islamists, products of the strong US-Saudi support for the worst of Pakistan's dictators, Zia ul-Haq, and his program of radical Islamization.

This program along with Pakistan's nuclear weapons are among Ronald Reagan's legacies. Obama has now added the risk of nuclear explosions in London and New York, if the confrontation had led to leakage of nuclear materials to jihadis, as was plausibly feared - one of the many examples of the constant threat of nuclear weapons.

The assassination of bin Laden had a name: "Operation Geronimo." That caused an uproar in Mexico, and was protested by the remnants of the indigenous population in the US. But elsewhere few seemed to comprehend the significance of identifying bin Laden with the heroic Apache Indian chief who led the resistance to the invaders, seeking to protect his people from the fate of "that hapless race" that John Quincy Adams eloquently described. The imperial mentality is so profound that such matters cannot even be perceived.

There were a few criticisms of Operation Geronimo - the name, the manner of its execution, and the implications. These elicited the usual furious condemnations, most unworthy of comment, though some were instructive. The most interesting was by the respected left-liberal commentator Matthew Yglesias. He patiently explained that "one of the main functions of the international institutional order is precisely to legitimate the use of deadly military force by western powers," so it is "amazingly naïve" to suggest that the US should obey international law or other conditions that we impose on the powerless.

The words are not criticism, but applause; hence one can raise only tactical objections if the US invades other countries, murders and destroys with abandon, assassinates suspects at will, and otherwise fulfills its obligations in the service of mankind. If the traditional victims see matters somewhat differently, that merely reveals their moral and intellectual backwardness. And the occasional Western critic who fails to comprehend these fundamental truths can be dismissed as "silly," Yglesias explains - incidentally, referring specifically to me, and I cheerfully confess my guilt.

Going back a decade to 2001, from the first moment it was clear that the "glorious invasion" was anything but that. It was undertaken with the understanding that it might drive several million Afghans over the edge of starvation, which is why the bombing was bitterly condemned by the aid agencies that were forced to end the operations on which 5 million Afghans depended for survival. Fortunately the worst did not happen, but only the most morally obtuse can fail to comprehend that actions are evaluated in terms of likely consequences, not actual ones. The invasion of Afganistan was not aimed at overthrowing the brutal Taliban regime, as later claimed.

That was an afterthought, brought up three weeks after the bombing began. Its explicit reason was that the Taliban were unwilling to extradite bin Laden without evidence, which the US refused to provide - as later learned, because it had virtually none, and in fact still has little that could stand up in an independent court of law, though his responsibility is hardly in doubt. The Taliban did in fact make some gestures towards extradition, and we since have learned that there were other such options, but they were all dismissed in favor of violence, which has since torn the country to shreds. It has reached its highest level in a decade this year according to the UN, with no diminution in sight.

A very serious question, rarely asked then or since, is whether there was an alternative to violence. There is strong evidence that there was. The 9/11 attack was sharply condemned within the jihadi movement, and there were good opportunities to split it and isolate al-Qaeda. Instead, Washington and London chose to follow the script provided by bin Laden, helping to establish his claim that the West is attacking Islam, and thus provoking new waves of terror. The senior CIA analyst responsible for tracking Osama bin Laden from 1996, Michael Scheuer, warned right away and has repeated since that "the United States of America remains bin Laden's only indispensable ally."

These are among the natural consequences of rejecting Muste's warning, and the main thrust of his revolutionary pacifism, which should direct us to investigating the grievances that lead to violence, and when they are legitimate, as they often are, to address them. When that advice is taken, it can succeed very well. Britain's recent experience in Northern Ireland is a good illustration. For years, London responded to IRA terror with greater violence, escalating the cycle, which reached a bitter peak. When the government began instead to attend to the grievances, violence subsided and terror has effectively disappeared. I was in Belfast in 1993, when it was a war zone, and returned a year ago to a city with tensions, but hardly beyond the norm.

There is a great deal more to say about what we call 9/11 and its consequences, but I do not want to end without at least mentioning a few more anniversaries. Right now happens to be the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's decision to escalate the conflict in South Vietnam from vicious repression, which had already killed tens of thousands of people and finally elicited a reaction that the client regime in Saigon could not control, to outright US invasion: bombing by the US Air Force, use of napalm, chemical warfare soon including crop destruction to deprive the resistance of food, and programs to send millions of South Vietnamese to virtual concentration camps where they could be "protected" from the guerrillas who, admittedly, they were supporting.

There is no time to review the grim aftermath, and there should be no need to do so. The wars left three countries devastated, with a toll of many millions, not including the miserable victims of the enormous chemical warfare assault, including newborn infants today.

There were a few at the margins who objected - "wild men in the wings," as they were termed by Kennedy-Johnson National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, former Harvard Dean. And by the time that the very survival of South Vietnam was in doubt, popular protest became quite strong. At the war's end in 1975, about 70% of the population regarded the war as "fundamentally wrong and immoral," not "a mistake," figures that were sustained as long as the question was asked in polls. In revealing contrast, at the dissident extreme of mainstream commentary the war was "a mistake" because our noble objectives could not be achieved at a tolerable cost.

Another anniversary that should be in our minds today is of the massacre in the Santa Cruz graveyard in Dili just 20 years ago, the most publicized of a great many shocking atrocities during the Indonesian invasion and annexation of East Timor. Australia had joined the US in granting formal recognition to the Indonesian occupation, after its virtually genocidal invasion. The US State Department explained to Congress in 1982 that Washington recognized both the Indonesian occupation and the Khmer Rouge-based "Democratic Kampuchea" regime. The justification offered was that "unquestionably" the Khmer Rouge were "more representative of the Cambodian people than Fretilin was of the Timorese people" because "there has been this continuity [in Cambodia] since the very beginning," in 1975, when the Khmer Rouge took over.

The media and commentators have been polite enough to all this languish in silence, not an inconsiderable feat. A few months before the Santa Cruz massacre, Foreign Minister Gareth Evans made his famous statements dismissing concerns about the murderous invasion and annexation on the grounds that "the world is a pretty unfair place,... littered ... with examples of acquisitions of force," so we can therefore look away as awesome crimes continue with strong support by the western powers. Not quite look away, because at the same time Evans was negotiating the robbery of East Timor's sole resource with his comrade Ali Alatas, foreign minister of Indonesia, producing what seems to be the only official western document that recognizes East Timor as an Indonesian province.

Years later, Evans declared that "the notion that we had anything to answer for morally or otherwise over the way we handled the Indonesia-East Timor relationship, I absolutely reject" - a stance that can be adopted, and even respected, by those who emerge victorious. In the US and Britain, the question is not even asked in polite society.

It is only fair to add that in sharp contrast, much of the Australian population, and media, were in the forefront of exposing and protesting the crimes, some of the worst of the past half-century. And in 1999, when the crimes were escalating once again, they had a significant role in convincing US president Clinton to inform the Indonesian generals in September that the game was over, at which point they immediately withdrew allowing an Australian-led peacekeeping force to enter.

There are lessons here too, for the public. Clinton's orders could have been delivered at any time in the preceding 25 years, terminating the crimes. Clinton himself could easily have delivered them four years earlier, in October 2005, when General Suharto was welcomed to Washington as "our kind of guy." The same orders could have been given 20 years earlier, when Henry Kissinger gave the "green light" to the Indonesian invasion, and UN Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan expressed his pride in having rendered the United Nations "utterly ineffective" in any measures to deter the Indonesian invasion - later to be revered for his courageous defense of international law.

There could hardly be a more painful illustration of the consequences of the failure to attend to Muste's lesson. It should be added that in a shameful display of subordination to power, some respected western intellectuals have actually sunk to describing this disgraceful record as a stellar illustration of the humanitarian norm of "right to protect."

Consistent with Muste's "revolutionary pacifism," the Sydney Peace Foundation has always emphasized peace with justice. The demands of justice can remain unfulfilled long after peace has been declared. The Santa Cruz massacre 20 years ago can serve as an illustration. One year after the massacre the United Nations adopted The Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which states that "Acts constituting enforced disappearance shall be considered a continuing offence as long as the perpetrators continue to conceal the fate and the whereabouts of persons who have disappeared and these facts remain unclarified."

The massacre is therefore a continuing offence: the fate of the disappeared is unknown, and the offenders have not been brought to justice, including those who continue to conceal the crimes of complicity and participation. Only one indication of how far we must go to rise to some respectable level of civilised behaviour.

"The Truth Will Always Win"

Note by HealthWrights staff:

Although Assange states in this editorial that he believes in the “just war” theory, his actual practice represents one of the best examples imaginable of aggressive non-violent action. He is to be commended. If there is to be any hope for the social, political and ecological health of our world, then a great deal of this sort of non-violent but aggressive action will be required. Revealing or telling the truth, even when it is unpopular and dangerous to do so, must be our point of departure toward a democratic and sustainable world.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange wrote this Op-Ed for The Australian today:


n 1958 a young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide's The News, wrote: "In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win."

His observation perhaps reflected his father Keith Murdoch's expose that Australian troops were being needlessly sacrificed by incompetent British commanders on the shores of Gallipoli. The British tried to shut him up but Keith Murdoch would not be silenced and his efforts led to the termination of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.

Nearly a century later, WikiLeaks is also fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public.

I grew up in a Queensland country town where people spoke their minds bluntly. They distrusted big government as something that could be corrupted if not watched carefully. The dark days of corruption in the Queensland government before the Fitzgerald inquiry are testimony to what happens when the politicians gag the media from reporting the truth.

These things have stayed with me. WikiLeaks was created around these core values. The idea, conceived in Australia, was to use internet technologies in new ways to report the truth.

WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?

Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.

People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies. If a war is justified, then tell the truth and the people will decide whether to support it.

If you have read any of the Afghan or Iraq war logs, any of the US embassy cables or any of the stories about the things WikiLeaks has reported, consider how important it is for all media to be able to report these things freely.

WikiLeaks is not the only publisher of the US embassy cables. Other media outlets, including Britain ‘s The Guardian, The New York Times, El Pais in Spain and Der Spiegel in Germany have published the same redacted cables.

Yet it is WikiLeaks, as the co-ordinator of these other groups, that has copped the most vicious attacks and accusations from the US government and its acolytes. I have been accused of treason, even though I am an Australian, not a US, citizen. There have been dozens of serious calls in the US for me to be "taken out" by US special forces. Sarah Palin says I should be "hunted down like Osama bin Laden", a Republican bill sits before the US Senate seeking to have me declared a "transnational threat" and disposed of accordingly. An adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister's office has called on national television for me to be assassinated. An American blogger has called for my 20-year-old son, here in Australia, to be kidnapped and harmed for no other reason than to get at me.

And Australians should observe with no pride the disgraceful pandering to these sentiments by Prime Minister Gillard and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have not had a word of criticism for the other media organisations. That is because The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel are old and large, while WikiLeaks is as yet young and small.

We are the underdogs. The Gillard government is trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn't want the truth revealed, including information about its own diplomatic and political dealings.

Has there been any response from the Australian government to the numerous public threats of violence against me and other WikiLeaks personnel? One might have thought an Australian prime minister would be defending her citizens against such things, but there have only been wholly unsubstantiated claims of illegality. The Prime Minister and especially the Attorney-General are meant to carry out their duties with dignity and above the fray. Rest assured, these two mean to save their own skins. They will not.

Every time WikiLeaks publishes the truth about abuses committed by US agencies, Australian politicians chant a provably false chorus with the State Department: "You'll risk lives! National security! You'll endanger troops!" Then they say there is nothing of importance in what WikiLeaks publishes. It can't be both. Which is it?

It is neither. WikiLeaks has a four-year publishing history. During that time we have changed whole governments, but not a single person, as far as anyone is aware, has been harmed. But the US, with Australian government connivance, has killed thousands in the past few months alone.

US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates admitted in a letter to the US congress that no sensitive intelligence sources or methods had been compromised by the Afghan war logs disclosure. The Pentagon stated there was no evidence the WikiLeaks reports had led to anyone being harmed in Afghanistan. NATO in Kabul told CNN it couldn't find a single person who needed protecting. The Australian Department of Defence said the same. No Australian troops or sources have been hurt by anything we have published.

But our publications have been far from unimportant. The US diplomatic cables reveal some startling facts:

The US asked its diplomats to steal personal human material and information from UN officials and human rights groups, including DNA, fingerprints, iris scans, credit card numbers, internet passwords and ID photos, in violation of international treaties. Presumably Australian UN diplomats may be targeted, too.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia asked the US Officials in Jordan and Bahrain want Iran ‘s nuclear program stopped by any means available.

Britain's Iraq inquiry was fixed to protect "US interests."

Sweden is a covert member of NATO and US intelligence sharing is kept from parliament.

The US is playing hardball to get other countries to take freed detainees from Guantanamo Bay. Barack Obama agreed to meet the Slovenian President only if Slovenia took a prisoner. Our Pacific neighbour Kiribati was offered millions of dollars to accept detainees.

In its landmark ruling in the Pentagon Papers case, the US Supreme Court said "only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government." The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.

Julian Assange is the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.

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