Newsletter: Creating “Positive Peace”

This weekend the Bilderberg Group is holding its secretive annual retreat in Dresden, Germany. The invitation-only gathering of elites from North America and Northern Europe includes heads of finance and industry, heads of state and intelligence officials. Who knows what schemes they’ll cook up? They don’t keep minutes or allow the press in and attendees can’t quote what was said. It can’t be good for the people or the planet.

Graph 8The Global Peace Index was just released for 2016 and it shows that the decade-long trend of increasing violence is continuing. Of note, the inequality between countries is growing; the most violent countries deteriorated by a greater degree than in the past. Countries that are the most peaceful also have the greatest resilience.

The greatest violence is in the Middle East and Africa. Also of note is that the world spends much more on conflict than it does on peace. The report recommends greater investment in “Positive Peace” by setting “goals to target poverty, inequality, injustice and climate change by 2030.”

Escalating Conflict

According to Nick Turse, military operations have increased 145% under the Obama Administration from what they were during the Bush Administration. This includes a military presence in 53 of 54 African nations. This is not part of the national discussion in the US, perhaps in part due to what Turse calls the ” new light-footprint Obama doctrine”, which includes the use of drone attacks, that is less visible to the public. Retired Colonel Ann Wright calls the use of drones Obama’s “personal assassination tool”. Military operations in Africa are causing a rise of proxy armies and mercenaries who are committing human rights abuses.

The Obama Administration is also seriously antagonizing Russia. Last week NATO began ten days of military exercises including more than 30,000 troops from twenty countries (14,000 of them from the US) targeting Russia in the largest military exercise since the Cold War. This comes just a few weeks after the US opened the first of two missile systems pointed at Russia, which Russian President Putin calls a “direct threat.” Putin has reached out to Obama, but Obama refuses to talk. The US is also launching major war games off the coast of Hawaii with Pacific Rim allies as part of the Asia Pivot designed to provoke China.

13403906_10210030099255186_4527653467713048841_oThis past week Popular Resistance protested with visiting members of the Corean Alliance for Independence Reunification and Democracy in front of the South Korean embassy in Washington, DC. They are calling for an end to the Korean War, for US troops to leave South Korea where military exercises targeting North Korea terrorize the people and for the release of prisoners arrested for peaceful protest. One prisoner in particular, Kim Hye-young has been held in jail in Seoul since last July and suffers from cancer and panic disorder. Click here to send an email to the South Korean ambassador calling for her release.

In Uruguay, activists held a powerful “March of Silence” to remember the hundreds who were disappeared and tortured in the 1970s and 80s. The US had a hand in this violence as it did in many other Latin American countries. And recently a judge allowed a case to go forward by families of victims killed in Colombia by death squads funded by Chiquita Banana. The case would hold Chiquita’s executives accountable.

Many are wondering if the recent impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was aided by the US. Either way, the illegitimacy of the new government is coming to light through leaks and the new leader, Michael Temer, was just charged with election fraud. He will not be allowed to run for office for eight years. The Brazilian government is now trying to pass legislation to prevent leaks.

snowden_8Preventing whistleblowers in the US

This week marked three years since Edward Snowden exposed the warrantless spying by the NSA on millions of people. He currently lives in exile to avoid being tried on ridiculous charges of espionnage. Vice News obtained emails under a Freedom of Information Act request which show that Snowden tried to report his concerns to authorities but was ignored, and then the government tried to hide this. A Senate report found that FBI employees are not included in the Whistleblower Protection Act and this has created a hostile attitude towards whistleblowers within the FBI.

Digital privacy groups started a campaign to pressure Congress to allow the legislation authorizing warrantless spying to expire in 2017. Digital rights groups are also using legislation and the courts to try to protect privacy in other ways.  Just the opposite seems to be happening at present. The Department of Defense is trying to prevent future whistleblowers by building a database of people with security clearances that will help to predict who might leak information. The FBI is also creating a biometric database using criminal and non-criminal records of people in the US called Next Generation Identification. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is concerned that the data will be disproportionately used to target people of color.

Colorlines Screenshot of Black Lives Matter organizer Jasmine Richards, taken from Vimeo on June 3, 2016.

Criminalizing people of color

Alicia Garza, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, writes about the history of black struggle against police violence and the resurgence of that struggle over the past six years, starting with the murder of Oscar Grant. Alicia says, “The so-called emancipation of Black people from slavery transformed physical bondage into systems of economic, political and social disenfranchisement.”

In a real perversion of justice, a young Black Lives Matter activist in Los Angeles, Jasmine Richards, was sentenced with “attempted lynching” for trying to prevent a woman from being arrested last year. The charge was created to protect black people from hanging and torture. Jasmine went to trial last week and was sentenced to 90 days minus time served.

Keith Davis Jr. in the hospital after being shot three times, including in the face, by Baltimore police officers in June 2015. Photo: Courtesy of Kelly Holsey

Keith Davis Jr. in the hospital after being shot three times, including in the face, by Baltimore police officers in June 2015. Photo: Courtesy of Kelly Holsey

Another case that’s taking place in Baltimore needs greater public attention. Last summer, Keith Davis, Jr. was in an area where a taxi driver was robbed. When police arrived they chased Keith and cornered him in a garage where they shot at him 44 times, hitting him with three bullets. Keith survived and has been in jail ever since even though the taxi driver cleared him and there was no other evidence. In trial, most of his charges were dropped, but instead of releasing him, police charged Keith with murder for a crime that happened in another part of town. It appears that police are trying to cover up their mistake of shooting and arresting him in the first place.

According to Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, the prison industrial complex rivals the military industrial complex. She writes, “With both corporate profits and government salaries at stake, it will be equally difficult to shrink or transform.” Kelly and other activists are walking 150 miles to raise awareness of a supermax prison being built in Thomson, IL. But transformation is happening. 

The prison commissioner in North Carolina is reducing the use of solitary confinement because it is ineffective at improving behavior and is harmful to people with mental illness. And the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Bobby Moore from Texas who was sentenced to the death penalty 35 years ago and has been held in solitary. His lawyers argue that this is cruel and unusual punishment. Inmates at a number of prisons are protesting the violation of their rights with mass work stoppages, which they believe are more effective than hunger strikes. 

Positive Peace

Imagine if the US invested more in peace than it did in war. Imagine if the US also invested more in lifting people up with access to education and living wage jobs than it did in incarcerating people and forcing them to work for extremely low wages. This is what the Global Peace Index calls Positive Peace.

1982.33.5Photo of homes burning during the Tulsa Race Riot, 1921.Sadly, under the current system those at the top profit from the prison industrial and military industrial complexes in many ways. History shows that the system is cruel to those who challenge it. For example, Linda Christenson, a high school teacher, teaches her students about the brutal attack on the thriving black community in the neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, OK in 1921. Greenwood was known as the “Black Wall Street”. She writes, “We wanted [the students] to connect the current economic struggles of people of color by staying alert to these dynamics from the past. We wanted them to see that in many ways Tulsa, or other historical black communities are still burning, still being looted.”

CkHPtd9UoAEL7rJAnother important piece of history to understand is about boxer Muhammad Ali who died this week. One of Ali’s most courageous acts was to refuse to serve in Vietnam at a time when support for the war was high. He lost his boxing license as a result, and many of his friends turned against him. Despite the pressure he stayed firm in his position. Ali understood that it was the elites who sent the poor and people of color to fight their wars for profit.

Ali’s clarity is something that we must bear in mind today. As the elites gather behind closed doors to plot their wars and exploitation of people and the planet, we can refuse to participate and can instead work together to reduce the wealth divide, protect the planet and build wealth in our communities. We can say no to the war culture and do the work of building positive peace.

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