Archive | war

So long to the Seattle March for Science

I am so disappointed with the Seattle March for Science. Not surprised, but still disappointed. t

A few years ago, I rolled up to the parking booth to pay after shopping in Uwajimaya in Seattle. On the side of my car I had a sticker that said “Scientists Against War” and the parking attendant laughed and laughed at it. He asked me how I could have that sticker, as scientists were the people who came up with the nuclear bomb, who continued to work on weapons, and who continue therefore to support war.

Well, I am a scientist, but I don’t make weapons, and am an antiwar activist. We had a good, though brief talk- because we knew that we were both correct. Science is a process and a technique. It is not inherently good or bad: the users of science, and the people the science is used for/against bring the morality to the application of science.

This thought- that science nor its applications might not be perfect- was not allowed to sully the Seattle March for Science (SMfS) or its Facebook group. Solidarity in the belief that SCIENCE IS GREAT might have made a good banner or motivating phrase, but it sure falls short in effectiveness for change.

Donald Trump is blamed for everything, for bad science, or unscience, or ignoring science. Lordy, he is about as bad as could have been predicted. But he is a manifestation, not a cause, of political horror in the USA. Blaming him for everything might seem to build solidarity, but it isn’t true. Water quality has been terrible in Flint for years, for example. How can we approach problems with science if we don’t look at the origins of the issues?

SMfS has evolved its own list of what is allowed to be posted. The plight of the refugees in Europe is horrible, yes- that US and its scientists involvement in war might be responsible, no. The first is Truth, the latter is “political.”

GMO is GREAT, and pesticides are GREAT, and there is no discussion of good things that may be done badly. (Perhaps all corporations are also GREAT, as anything done with any test tube or chemical is science and is GREAT.) I realize that some of the MfS reaction is the way arguments go in the USA, partisan arguments in which no one will give an inch from the line they have drawn as that might imply their whole idea is wrong. And MfS folks can’t seem to admit that not all science is good.

There seems to be no shortage of men telling women just what science is. Someone yesterday posted a request from a woman from Indivisible, searching for an economics/tax professional to speak on a panel about the “TrumpTax scam.” Among the dozens and dozens of anti-Trump postings, it was a very small calm and small requests for an actual expert. One guy answered “This has nothing to do with science. Please refrain from using this page for such posts.” Another guy wrote “Everything can be studied by science- that does not mean it becomes de facto on topic. Trump’s tax dodging isn’t a science matter. You are not looking to talk about economics, you are looking to accuse someone of a scam. I hope you find the person you are looking for, but this isn’t the area to talk about that. Thanks for understanding”-and then an administrator (perhaps the same person commenting, one of the 2 hosts) turned off comments on the post, so no one could even point out how capricious the shut down was. Of course, there are many, many posts on Trumps’ plan to tax graduate students.

In the last couple of years there have been firings and scandals of scientists for sexual harassment. Despite all the women who have weighed in with their own stories, the interpretation persisted that these were aberrations. With the flow of stories from science as well as from politics, journalism, entertainment, and sports, I hope it is clear that the culture of science suffers the same systemic problems as those examples. Science is not special. It can be a marvelous tool, but it only has only as much integrity as we humans bring to it.

And it will require a lot less self-interest to be an international movement, a happening that seems as likely as hitting those C02 goals, and for the same reasons.

 

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Make Art not War- or Both? Poppy Kohner

Guest post by anthropologist and activist Poppy Kohner

Make Art Not War… or both?

Poppy Kohner

The Fringe festival has always been eclectic. Not an inch of Edinburgh is wasted as the whole city becomes a stage and all the people, merely players. But this year, on its 70th anniversary, the well-regarded Fringe venue Summerhall collaborated with a newcomer: the British Army. The Army Reserve Centre and Drill Hall in East Claremont Street transformed into a performance venue that was programmed and staffed by serving soldiers. This was billed as an opportunity to demystify the military, but should we be concerned that this particular kind of militainment is only the beginning of the Army’s engagement in the arts in Scotland and the UK?

I’m an anthropologist of militarism and a theatre-maker, so I felt I had to wander down Leith Walk and make a visit to the drill hall-cum-theatre venue to take a closer look.

Many of the shows programmed by Army@theFringe dealt with subject matters such as race, gender, disability, mental illness and even imperialism. But here I am not interested in reviewing the shows as much as I am reviewing the politics of the Army hosting audiences at the Fringe.

On entering the drill hall I am greeted by soldiers. Lots of soldiers – more than are necessary. There is a relaxed, jovial, slightly disorganised atmosphere that is fairly welcoming. From the research I have done inside military bases the playful banter between soldiers on shift feels fairly familiar to me. Contrary to the marketed image of travel and adventure, being in the army usually entails a lot of waiting around.

I chat to a small crowd of friendly soldiers loitering in the entrance by the makeshift box office. I ask if they are paid any extra on their normal salary to staff the venue. “No,” they tell me, “but we volunteered to do it.” A Superior Officer catches wind of our conversation and strides between us with a brisk yet casual air of importance. He extends his finger in the air and without stopping or looking in my direction he bellows, “All our British soldiers are volunteers! Every single one of them wants to be here!” and continues to walk out the front door.

Compared to a larger conscription army, a volunteer force is easier to train, discipline, and retain. A smaller army also allows for public perception to be controlled by the military public relations team, as a smaller percent of the population actually experience army life. This notion of a professional army full of patriotic volunteers bolsters the cogency of the hero myth that makes up a central tenant of militarism. Once inside the military, individuals have a different (and limited) set of rights compared to civilians, and it is extremely difficult to leave once a contract is signed. In an era of austerity, increasing precarity, and the privatisation of social services such as higher education and healthcare, the army successfully presents itself as a fast track means towards social and economic mobility. So in response to the Superior Officer, how free is a choice between a vanishing number of options?

Inside the drill hall’s Mess there are Chesterfield sofas, a long table complete with tartan tablecloths, cut glass, candelabras, statuettes, trophies and other silver ornaments. The massive stuffed head of a caribou stares over us with glazed eyes and sprawling antlers, framed either side by pictures of Queen Liz and Prince Phillip. Despite all the twee, it feels sterile, solemn and stuffy.

The exhibition at the venue was a celebration of soldiers in both training and operations, including a bigger-than-life-sized photograph of a small child in army camouflage crouching in long grass, without explanation. The Army were keen to assure me that this endeavor was not a recruitment exercise but about public engagement. Lt Col Jo Young, the British Army’s Officer for the Arts commented, “The impact of this is not something we can measure in terms of how many more people will join us as a result.” Lt Col Gordon McKenzie, head of public engagement, described it as “deepening the public understanding of who we are and what we do. So that people can know that behind the uniform we are also human beings”. But focusing on the person behind the uniform diverts the audience’s attention away from the Army as an institution. “Don’t worry about what we might be doing in the Middle East,” it says, “just remember: we’re people too.” In this way, the army’s engagement with the arts is a means to depoliticise the image of a soldier; a deeply political and strategic move.

Theatre is always in danger of becoming an apparatus of the state. Theatre operates on our sensibilities in ways that can evoke deep emotional responses and has the potential to change perceptions and consequential actions (or inaction). Aristotle called this catharsis: an empathetic connection towards the protagonist of a story, which, as the play comes to a resolution, arouses a potent mix of pity and fear in the hearts of the spectators.

Militarism is a kind of theatre in and of itself; a domestic military operation of public relations to recruit our hearts and minds. It communicates a simplified and highly censored story of British exceptionalism and moral righteousness of state sanctioned violence. It transforms violence into something to celebrate. The tragic heroes of this story are service members and we the civilians are a captive audience.

Lt Col Young commented that “Human spirit and human resilience is the common thread that runs throughout our programming. But we are also keen to have conversations with the public about what the forces looks like in the 21st Century. We want to show the public a different side of us. We are society’s army, and so its important that those we serve know about what the army does”.

My research has shown that there is often a disjuncture between imagined and lived military identities. As the protagonists in the narrative of militarism, soldiers and veterans are silenced by idealised notions of their lives and experiences. The more confounding and painful lived realities of post-9/11 military experience get blocked out by the noise of militarism and quickly become unspeakable, un-hearable and invisible. A romanticized public perception of military life can further injure soldiers who are trapped in a traumatic silence, unable to speak their contrary truths.

Lt Col Young and her team are proud to act as programmers, and not actors, writers or directors. Over a gin and tonic Lt Col McKenzie told me that if they become the theatre makers they would be more vulnerable to criticism, but they are not ruling this out for the future. The narratives of militarism that we find at Army@theFringe presents the Army as being inclusive, diverse and open to dialogue. However there is something more at work – the claim to inclusivity conceals the fact that the Army@theFringe is a carefully constructed, morally manageable, imitation of the Army which is difficult to challenge.

Public engagement exercises like the Army@TheFringe venue distance the military from the realities of what it does and disciplines the nation from critically engaging with war, and the implications of our arms trade. “What is often missing from theatre and film depictions of the army” says Iraqi-British playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak “is the voice of those who are/were at the receiving end of military power, namely Afghani, Iraqi, Libyan and Yemeni civilians.”

This is a beginning of much wider programme of work orientated around military engagement in the arts. Army@theFringe is a part of worrying trend of the British military using US-style techniques of garnering public support for the troops. Some of these include the creation of Armed Forces Day in 2009, the commercialization of the Remembrance Poppy, army engagement in schools, learning packs that celebrate British military history for school children, increasing cadet forces across the UK, and a recruitment campaign that exploits young people’s desire to belong.

The Fringe is an open access festival, and this is important for nurturing creative freedom and expression, as was the ethos it was borne out of 70 years ago. I am not advocating censorship or blacklisting. However, this entanglement between the arts and the forces is an issue of censorship – we need to ask, what becomes censored when elite institutions take on the programming and hosting of the arts? Can we really expect to have a meaningful dialogue when the armed forces are calling the shots? How critical can embedded artists really be when in a relationship of gratitude to their military hosts?

The MoD did not have direct influence on four of the shows in their programme, with the exception of Rosie Kay’s dance company for their production of 5 Soldiers: the body is the frontline and the writers of Wired, who visited in the army for a period of time in the research and development stages of their creative process.

So what’s the pull for producers to choose the Army drill hall as the venue to host their show? Lt Col Young tells me that many of the costs involved in putting on a show at the Drill Hall have been subsidised and artists have been further helped out with access to free rehearsal space. The Army@theFringe have already started planning for next year’s Fringe noting in their brief that 2018 is designated Year of the Young Person by the Scottish Government. As part of their package to attract artists they have promised: to organise visits to Army bases or exercises to assist development of productions; access to rehearsal space in army halls across the UK; army personnel and musicians to take part in productions; promotional support from army media and marketing teams, including free distribution of leaflets by uniformed flyer teams; army accommodation being made available for the duration of shows, free meals for casts at the venue; and the possibility of being selected for post-Fringe tours of the Scotland and the UK, supported by the Army.

How to resist being seduced by these offerings that give emerging artists opportunities in a competitive arena like the Fringe? I wanted to ask Summerhall whether, in a time of escalating fear, xenophobia and military activity, is it not the responsibility of arts institutions to make choices that counter, not aide, a growing culture that idolises militarism and war? Despite leaving many messages and sending emails, I’m yet to get an answer.

Militarism operates in innocuous ways that normalise military imaginaries as a part of our everyday lives. At these first stages of the British Armed Forces moving into arts engagement we have a moment to act. Now is the time for artists, writers, directors and arts organisations in the UK and Scotland to come together to make a collective and public declaration on the ethics of collaborating with the Army.

Dr P Kohner is an anthropologist and has a PhD in Applied Social Science specializing in the anthropology of militarism and trauma from the University of Glasgow.  She is also a co-founder of The Workers Theatre cooperative.

https://www.forceswatch.net/blog/make-art-not-war-or-both  This article was posted first on Forces Watch, an activist UK group that works to mitigate the recruiting of minors.

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UMass Lowell Kuwait campus will be built to reward Raytheon weapon sales to Kuwait

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This story- that Raytheon would build a campus in Kuwait for Mass-Lowell  – is over 2 years old. But it is just as shocking as it was then, and makes more sense in light of the recent news that Qatar is being squeezed by 5 other Arab states  and is undoubtedly being pushed by the USA alliance with Saudi Arabia . Buried within that article is the interesting statement “Qutar has also built deep ties to American academia, providing funding and real estate to build Middle Eastern campuses for six major universities, including Cornell, Georgetown and Northwestern.”

Sounds innocent, right? Building universities is a win-win for all, it might seem, a way to bring people together from around the world, sharing expertise. Ah, but what expertise- and who is funding these universities? This is not easy information to find.

But sometimes, a window opens, and you can see all the way back in a dark, foul, smelly cave of vested interests.

The Mass Lowell campus is being funded by defense contractor Raytheon. It is being funded by a defense offset, a bribe that defense contractors use to convince a country to buy their weapons. So, in order to sell their weapons to Kuwait, Raytheon agreed to build a campus for Kuwait. And it is building in in partnership with the Lowell campus of the University of Massachusetts, with which it already has a close relationship. So the campus will be funded by the sale of weapons. Overtly, clearly, UMass Lowell is being built on the bloodshed of Yemen.

The Mass/Lowell campus doesn’t shirk from protest. The UMass system, including Lowell, was the first public university to divest from fossil fuels . They protested the visit of Donald Trump . Adjunct faculty protested their pay inequities and the high pay given to an outgoing president. But there hasn’t been a remark against this weapon-funded campus that I could find. I contacted reporter Rick Sobey, who writes about the deal for the Lowell Sun, and he has not heard of any protests. I also contacted the UMass Lowell Undergraduate Society of Science Students (USSS) , as several members were involved in the Trump protest, but received no answer. I am not surprised- it seems everything is fair game for protest except war and militarism. I would expect the same lack of response in dealing with Boeing- University of Washington relationships here in Seattle, for the same reason- defense contractors are a great source of funding.

It is not clear who, besides the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development  is funding the Cornell, Georgetown, Texas A&M, Virginia Commonwealth, Northwestern, and Carnegie Mellon Qatar campuses . We know the NYU- Abu Dhabi campus in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is funded by multiple UAE groups, and this includes The Innovation Institute (which does scientific research in collaboration with aerospace defense contractors who have sold weapons to the UAE): The Innovation Institute then grants funds to NYU research scientists for university research with military applications (Archer, John M, NYU in Abu Dhabi: The Future is Upon Us. The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 27, 2012. Letter to the Editor).  Though defense offsets must be reported to the Bureau of Industry and Security, part of the Department of Commerce, they do not have to be publicized and are difficult to find- for example, in the NYU example given above, Archer found out about the defense offset through the minutes of the NYU Faculty Senate. Undoubtedly, more are out there, with USA universities, contractors, and organizations.  The relentless and  cheerful championing of Saudi Arabia by the AAAS  sure is suggestive of, at least, a state department link.

I expect to read more about science, academia, and scientists profiting from defense offsets for weapons sales. And I am hoping for some protest against the increasing amount of military funding of academic research on campuses all over the country….

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Japanese scientists are leading a path to peace- and see dual use research as an obstacle.

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April 10, 2017

The Science Council of Japan (the equivalent of the National Academies of Science in the USA) has released a statement that calls for academic scientists to refuse funding for military research.

They have done this not for a political reason, but for a deeply ethical and philosophical one- to avoid war.

The Japanese scientists on the Science Council understand that they, as scientists, bear responsibility in the effort to avoid war. Scientists are very much part of the technological part of waging war, and must look to themselves as one of the forces that must police itself. But few scientists across the world are willing to risk they power they hold as advisors to the military, or the money they receive from the government, to speak against war.

Some scientists simply haven’t questioned the effectiveness or morality of war. This is particularly easy to do in the USA, which has not had a massive war in its borders since the civil war in the 1860’s, and which hides its huge and expensive militarism (with the largest military in the world) behind a facade of consumerism. Although WW2 was over half a century ago, the atomic bomb devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the firebombing of Tokyo and other large cities have left psychological scars that have helped support a culture of pacifism.

Not all people in Japan are determined not to go to war. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, citing concerns about North Korea and China (and supported in this by the United States ), has been trying to justify a polity of re-militarization. He has arrested activists still protesting the many military installations the US military has in Japan, particularly the ones in Okinawa . In 2015, Abe’s governing legislative coalition made changes to the pacifist post WW2 constitution to allow it to rearm and fight beside allies. Geochemist Morihisa Hamada has noted that these changes to the constitution also permit the manufacture and sale of weapons, sales that can bring lots of money into the country.

Abe  has tried to re-introduce military research on university campuses in Japan through funding for dual use projects. Curiously to Americans (who seldom question funding from the military), it was the concept of funding dual-use research in academia that caused such agitation among Japanese scientists. Dual use research is constantly being redefined: it originally meant research that brought benefit to both the military and to civilians , but has come to mean in the USA and Europe the hostile use of a biological agent that is usually used to promote health.  It is the first, pure definition- research that can benefit the military as well as civilians- that is the subject of the Japanese scientists’ proposed boycott.

So the funding for research that has military as well as civilian application has been offered since 2015 to scientists in Japan through the government’s Acquisition & Logistics Agency, and the money was increased dramatically this year. Each university must decide whether or not to accept funds: so far, 10 universities allow researchers to accept defense grants, and 15 do not allow it. The temptation to take the money will be strong, and so the Science Council of Japan has called upon academics to decide for themselves whether it is moral to accept the money, a step they believe will bring closer the likelihood  of war.

Imagine the National Academies of Science doing the same!

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Not even the proposed FY2018 discretionary budget can induce scientists to talk about war.

In spite of the growing realization that the political is part of science, that scientists can be activists and that racism and climate change are suitable topics for activism, that protection of refugees is paramount, and that research will be defunded as over half the discretionary budget already goes to war, there is a shocking silence from scientists against militarism and war.

Why?

It wasn’t always so. During the war against Vietnam, for example, scientists protested, started food banks, and worked to stopped military funding on campuses. Linus Pauling, who was awarded not only the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry but also the 1962 (awarded in 1963) Nobel Peace Prize, famously in 1962 held a sign about the test ban treaty outside the White House, before going in to dine with President Kennedy to celebrate his Chemistry Nobel Prize with other laureates. Science for the People was only one of many scientific organizations that openly opposed the war and militarism.

But  right now, the silence is deafening. Scientists have spoken out against individual wars: many were activists against the Iraq Wars. But they spoke as if that particular war, and that particular president, were aberrations. Many have spoken out against nuclear weapons, but without even mentioned the military mindset and the war that would lead to the use of those weapons.

And it isn’t as if the military hasn’t already been taking up a huge portion of discretionary funding. In the Bush years, in the Obama years, there has been a steady increase in military funding. (The blue part of the pie is the over 50% of discretionary funding proposed for war by Obama.) Scientists have remained passive.

Scientists are speaking out about racism and the plight of refugees, but don’t mention that any come from the bombs, drones, weapons, “advisors” the USA has sent to the middle east and northern Africa. Stopping the devastation we are causing would go a long way towards helping refugees. It is terrific that scientists are finally speaking against the Muslim ban, but they need to explore the problem more deeply to be effective…and scientific.

Our organizations do not speak against war. Now, as deep cuts to research in favor of funding the military are put forward, there is still no protest against war. The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB)  statement on Trump’s proposed budget spoke against the 6 billion dollar cut to the NIH and other cuts made in favor of defense, and also mentioned that basic science research had helped many soldiers: this almost reads like a defense of war. The American Geophysical Union (AGU) in its statement about Trump’s budget also justifies the needs of the military (“Who will the military turn to when they need information to support effective troop movements?”) as a reason to support basic research. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest scientific organization, has said nothing about the madness of an increased military budget  and in their graphic, they list the increase in budget for the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons, apparently as a bright point.

The National Priorities Project (NPP), a non-partisan organization that looks at funding, issued a statement on Trumps FY2018 budget proposal does mention that the USA military budget is already larger than the next 7 countries combined.  The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) does not mention the deflection of money to the military in a blog statement on the budget, but does in the action center in its letter to Congress for scientists :

“This budget calls for a $54 billion increase in defense spending, while making cuts in the same amount to non-defense programs from science research to diplomacy efforts. At the same time, President Trump has endorsed the idea of a nuclear spending spree, which would be dangerous and wasteful. The United States should be investing more in diplomacy and science–not new nuclear weapons.”

I take heart from this.

But the organizational responses may just be completely honest on one level: scientific research walks arm in arm with the military and with war. Scientists are funded by war, they work on war, they are needed for war. If we called it genocide instead of war, would scientists feel less that they don’t need to rationalize their complicity with the military? Genocide is not an aberration is war, nor is rape, hunger, or torture. Or the creation of millions of forces refugees. War is the mass murder of civilians: 90% of the deaths are civilian deaths.

Graphic “Trump’s Budget: Winners and Losers” from the Los Angeles Times .

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Can climate survive adherence to war and partisanship? By David Swanson

Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?

By David Swanson
http://davidswanson.org/node/5448
For the past decade, the standard procedure for big coalition rallies and marches in Washington D.C. has been to gather together organizations representing labor, the environment, women’s rights, anti-racism, anti-bigotry of all sorts, and a wide array of liberal causes, including demands to fund this, that, and the other, and to halt the concentration of wealth.

At that point, some of us in the peace movement will generally begin lobbying the PEP (progressive except for peace) organizers to notice that the military is swallowing up enough money every month to fund all their wishes 100 times over for a year, that the biggest destroyer of the natural environment is the military, that war fuels and is fueled by racism while stripping our rights and militarizing our police and creating refugees.

When we give up on trying to explain the relevance of our society’s biggest project to the work of reforming our society, we generally point out that peace is popular, that it adds a mere 5 characters to a thousand-word laundry list of causes, and that we can mobilize peace groups to take part if peace is included.

Often this works. Several big coalition efforts have eventually conceded and included peace in some token way in their platforms. This success is most likely when the coalition’s organizing is most democratic (with a small d). So, Occupy, obviously, ended up including a demand for peace despite its primary focus on a certain type of war profiteers: bankers.

Other movements include a truly well informed analysis with no help from any lobbying that I’ve had to be part of. The Black Lives Matter platform is better on war and peace than most statements from the peace movement itself. Some advocates for refugees also seem to follow logic in opposing the wars that create more refugees.

Other big coalition actions simply will not include any preference for peace over war. This seems to be most likely to happen when the organizations involved are most Democratic (with a capital D). The Women’s March backs many other causes, but uses the word peace without suggesting any preference for peace: “We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.” There is also, one might note, no justice or equity for anybody living under bombs.

Here’s a coalition currently trying to decide whether it dare say the word peace: https://peoplesclimate.org.

This group is planning a big march for the climate and many other unrelated causes, such as the right to organize unions, on April 29. Organizers claim some relationship among all the causes. But, of course, there isn’t really an obvious direct connection between protecting the climate and protecting gay rights or the rights of workers. They may all be good causes and all involve kindness and humility, but they can be won separately or together.

Peace is different. One cannot, in fact, protect the climate while allowing the military to drain away the funding needed for that task, dumping it into operations that consume more petroleum than any other and which lead the way in poisoning water, land, and air. Nor can a climate march credibly claim, as this one does, to be marching for “everything we love” and refuse to name peace, unless it loves war or is undecided between or uninterested in the benefits of mass murder versus those of nonviolent cooperation.

Here’s a petition you can sign to gently nudge the People’s Climate March in the right direction. Please do so soon, because they’re making a decision.

The struggle to save the climate faces other hurdles in addition to loyalty to militarism. I mean, beyond the mammoth greed and corruption and misinformation and laziness, there are other unnecessary handicaps put in place even by those who mean well. A big one is partisanship. When Republicans have finally proposed a carbon tax, many on the left simply won’t consider it, won’t even tackle the problem of making it actually work fairly and honestly and aggressively enough to succeed. Perhaps because some of the supporters seem untrustworthy. Or perhaps because some of the supporters likely don’t believe you need labor unions in order to tax carbon.

And which ones would you need, the ones advocating for more pipelines or the ones working in other fields?

Scientists, too, are planning to march on Washington. The scientific consensus on war has been around as long as that on climate change. But what about the popular acceptance? What about the appreciation among grant-writing foundations? What do the labor unions and big environmental groups feel about it? These are the important questions, I’m afraid, even for a scientists’ march.

But I appreciate the scientific method enough to hope my hypothesis is proven wrong.

David Swanson, who has already answered your concerns about impeaching Trump at http://firedonaldtrump.org, is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.

Help support DavidSwanson.org, WarIsACrime.org, and TalkNationRadio.org by clicking here: http://davidswanson.org/donate.

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Riyadh Lafta, scientist, doctor, activist finally got a US visa to speak at the University of Washington

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When the US 2003 invasion of Iraq was underway, University of Washington (UW), Associate Professor of Global Health Amy Hagopian thought it would be a good idea to bring an academic from Iraq to explain what was actually happening to people in Iraq as a result of that invasion. She worked with other academics at UW, Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, and Johns Hopkins, as well as with community groups who worked with Iraq refugees and the anti-war movement. She spoke with politicians, and wrote letters, and in 2007, it almost seemed as if Lafta would be able to come. He was scheduled to give a talk at UW, but the USA still refused his visa. Canada agreed to give Lafta a visa, and he spoke at Simon Fraser University, with a crowd at UW in Seattle watching the lecture via the internet.

It is likely that one of the main reasons Lafta was denied an USA visa is his 2004  and 2006 Lancet papers  on the mortality of citizens in Iraq as a result of the US invasion. Doing rather dangerous door-to-door surveys, Lafta and colleagues found mortality to be far worse than that reported by the US, which downplayed the effects of war on civilians, and there was a hostile reaction to their papers.

Lafta continued to examine the effects of war on Iraq, and Hagopian continued to work with academic and community members to bring him over. After years of effort, Lafta was awarded a US visa in 2016. On October 27, Lafta gave a talk at the University of Washington.

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There was no pretending in the auditorium that politics was unconnected to science and research: lives are not saved by science or medicine alone. Hagopian and Pramila Jayapal (who is running for Wa State Senator) spoke of politics and war and healthcare, and the possibilities of change. Lafta himself was very clear about the origin of the health problems in Iraq, and about how difficult it would be to improve life for Iraqis. Physicians fear for their lives and most leave the country. With no functioning government, the country is run by militias. He ended his talk with a short film that showed before and after footage of Iraq, once busy streets and markets reduced to rubble. There was a lively question and answer session, and perhaps the sadness and hopelessness of the situation was summed up by Lafta in response to a question about his exceptions of the election on Iraq policy.

He answered simply, “No American President has ever done anything beneficial for Iraq.”

Lafta’s talk has been scheduled for November 3 at Simon Fraser University  in Vancouver, Canada- but as of October 28, his visa application has been refused. He will be speaking at the American Public Health Association meeting in Denver this week.

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October 28, 2016

Riyadh Lafta’s talk can be viewed on YouTube.

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Will scientists at Japanese universities again do military research? Article from The Japan Times about pending Science Council decision

The Japan Times: Science Council of Japan considers overturning long-held opposition to military research

The Japan Times

The nation’s largest and most powerful group of scientists has started discussing lifting its decades- old ban on defense-related research as the government seeks more collaboration with civilians in the development of weapons technology.

The move comes as the Defense Ministry, under the “proactive peace” policy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is pushing for the development of dual-use technology by funding research that can be used for both civilian and military purposes.

It also comes on the heels of a report concluded this month by the national defense committee of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which recommended drastically increasing the ministry’s annual budget for dual-use grants to ¥10 billion from the current ¥600 million.

The Science Council of Japan, a group of some 2,000 scientists in fields ranging from engineering to the humanities to the natural sciences, announced last week it has set up a 15-member panel to discuss abandoning its long-held stance against military research.

Established in 1949 as a special organization under the jurisdiction of the prime minister but operating independently of the government, the SCJ has vowed “never to engage in scientific research to be used in war,” based on the bitter lessons of World War II, in which Japanese scientists contributed, directly or indirectly, to the ravages of war at home and abroad.

But in recent years, “it is becoming increasingly difficult to draw a clear line of demarcation between technologies and knowledge for military and civilian uses,” Takashi Onishi, president of SCJ and the president of Toyohashi University of Technology in Aichi Prefecture, wrote in his May 20 proposition to create the panel. “It has also been widely shared that such deepening of ties between academia and defense could threaten the foundations of science.”

page1image20576 page1image20736 page1image20896 page1image21056 The panel, comprising Onishi and 14 other people, including former astronaut Chiaki Mukai and Kyoto University President Juichi Yamagiwa, will discuss whether to amend statements by the council in 1950 and 1967, in which it vowed “never to engage in military research.”

It will also discuss the burgeoning field of dual-use technology.

Known for having spawned such innovations as the Internet and GPS, dual-use technology is common in the West but has long remained low-profile in postwar, pacifist Japan, with many institutions banning such research for fear of re-militarization.

A big turning point came in December 2013, when Abe, after returning to power the year before, had his Cabinet adopt the new National Defense Program Guidelines, said Morihisa Hamada, a volcanologist working at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and one of scores of scientists opposed to defense research.

The guidelines, in a marked departure from previous versions, spelled out the government’s plan to “actively utilize dual-use technologies in enhanced cooperation with universities and research institutes.”

In fiscal 2015, the Defense Ministry began seeking grant applications from civilian researchers for basic research in dual-use technology. The ¥300 million budget rose to ¥600 million this fiscal year.

Meanwhile, universities across the nation have faced a series of funding cuts from the central government, producing growing ranks of researchers starved for alternative funding.

Hamada said a range of universities and research institutes have conducted joint research with Defense Ministry-affiliated agencies in recent years.

For example, the Ground Systems Research Center, which conducts research on firearms, ammunition, ballistics and blast-resistant structures, vehicles and their fittings, and engineering equipment, has tied up with a range of academic institutions, including Kyushu University, Chiba Institute of Technology and Chiba University in such areas as explosives detection, robotics and engine simulation.

“The reason universities are now wavering is because research budgets have been slashed,” Hamada said.

He believes any research in the name of defense will end up aiding wars and urges concerned researchers to join an ongoing campaign led by Satoru Ikeuchi, an astrophysicist and professor emeritus at Nagoya University, to sign an online petition against military use of science.

While some scientists argue for lifting the research ban under certain conditions, such as using their technology only for defense, not offense, Hamada said such distinctions mean little.

“We should never forget the history of Japan, which waged a war under the name of self-defense,” he said. “All wars start with defense. To ban military research, the most nonconflicting stance to take is refuse any research funds from military institutions, be it the Defense Ministry or agencies tied to the U.S. military.”

The SCJ panel’s discussion will be open to the public, with the first meeting scheduled for June, an official with the group said.

The official added that it may take a year or so to reach a decision. 

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You can leave a comment on line at The Japan Times.
Please consider signing the Japanese anti-militarism declaration.

 

 

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Military recruiting at the 2015 Experimental Biology convention

Photo

Military recruiting at the 2015 Experimental Biology convention.

Curiously placed among the “Publishers” in the Exhibition Hall at the 2015 Experimental Biology Convention in Boston was the Army Medical Recruiting table.

Military recruiters are ubiquitous in high schools (the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 section 9528 stated that military recruiters must be allowed in high schools and must be given student home contact information or the school could lose federal funding.) They are present in colleges and universities, where the targets’ brains are closer to maturity, and where  there is still occasionally protest about their presence.

During and for several decades after the Vietnam War, many scientists refused to take military money for research, but no dissent was shown at this conference. Most passing scientists didn’t seem to notice the table or the 2 soldiers staffing it. But really, how could they miss the incongruity of a gigantic photo of a soldier with gun among the books and journals?

The Army section that was recruiting was the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, in nearby Natick. Its mission is to “Provide solutions to optimize Warfighter health and performance through medical research,” and the vision is “Recognized by the Department of Defense as the trusted leader in medical research for Warfighter health and performance optimization.”

Many partners are listed, from military, universities, and companies. For some, helping with the US’s constant wars might be deliberate and idealogical, but money is probably the main motivator: over half of the discretionary US budget goes to war, even as the NIH and NSF budgets barely move. This ready money has blinded scientists to the implications of taking Department of Defense (DoD) money for their research.

15p R D Pie

 

There are 4 research divisions in USARIEM, and glossy pamphlets were available for each: Biophysics & Biomedical Modeling, Military Nutrition, Military Performance, and Thermal & Mountain Medicine. From traumatic brain injury to improving soldier’s running styles (!), the projects range from the mundane to the tragic, with a presumptive trickle-down benefit to civilians. Or not- do civilians even matter, these days?

We need to think more about war, and science’s (and our own) place in that war. We might have a range of opinions, but we need to be thoughtful and deliberate about participation in something as devastating and all-encompassing as war.

 

 

 

 

 

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World Science Day for Peace and Development is November 10

Peace day

Today, November 10, is World Science Day for Peace and Development!   What a great idea, United Nations!

After World War II, the United Nation adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 27, the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, was declared to be one of those rights.

The 1999 World Conference on Science: Science for the for the Twenty-First Century was held in Budapest and committed itself to using science to benefit mankind. Since then, UNESCO (The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has affirmed that commitment to the role of science in bringing peace and safety to all on November 10 every year. In 2000, and in a  follow-up report in 2002, UNESCO has detailed what the issues are, and how peace and development can be furthered by science.

But why did the UN hedge on its description of peace? Can we meaningfully talk about quality of life for all people, the effects of climate change and poverty, the unforeseen effects, good and bad of technology to happiness of mankind- and not mention the effects of militarization and war? This is especial bizarre because of the role of science and technology in building and selling the weapons of war.

The main report put out by the 1999 conference is the “Declaration of Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge.”   The report itself acknowledges war, but doesnt come out to say that scientists could work towards ending it.

The Introduction  tiptoes around the issue of war:

“However, scientific and technological progress has also made possible the construction of sophisticated arms that have the potential to destroy life on the entire planet.” And so? There is no response in the report to its own statement.

The Introduction does quote Einstein. “Military applications of science have been of enormous consequence. Therefore, scientists can no longer claim today that their work has nothing to do with social issues. It is interesting to recall the plea made by Albert Einstein back in 1931: ‘concern for humankind itself and its fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavours. . . . Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations’.”  But then, this quote hangs alone, with no connection to the rest of the Introduction.

The follow-up report in 2002  “Harnessing science to society,” makes NO mention of the effects of war and the incompatibility of war with peace.

There is more overt mention in the earlier (1988) resolutions adopted on the reports of the Special Political Committee of the General Assembly:

“43/61. Science and peace

The General Assembly,

Considering also the political and economic decisions have a decisive effect on the direction of scientific research and the use of the results obtained thereby,

Recalling that scientific and technological achievements must be used to advance socio-economic progress and the effective enjoyment of human rights throughout the world,

Considering further that the arms race absorbs a substantial proportion of the scientific talent and financial resources used in related research and development, which, in a more peaceful and secure world, could be used to solve other pressing problems facing mankind…”

But even this needs to be stronger. Neither scientists or politicians should be shy about being absolutely overt about the need to prevent war, and the political and scientific will that will be needed to do this.

It would help to have our leading organizations and journals and professional groups spell it out- we will not have peace without war, and scientists can help bring that peace.

 

 

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