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Original used by the kind permission of the artist. Source

Because I need to get it off my chest … .

“John F. Kennedy went to San Francisco in June of 1945 as a special writer for the Hearst press to watch the founding of the United Nations. For a young veteran, with stabbing memories of violence and death, it was in a way a disenchanting experience. But for a student of politics it was an indispensable education.

“‘It would be very easy to write a letter to you that was angry,’ he observed afterward to a PT-boat friend who had sought his opinion of the conference … ‘The international relinquishing of sovereignty would have to spring from the people – it would have to be so strong that the elected delegates would be turned out of office if they failed to do it…. We must face the truth that the people have not been horrified by war to a sufficient extent to force them to go to any extent rather than have another war…. War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.’“

—“A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House”, page 87-88, Arthur M. Schlesinger

By 1945 my father had served honorably in a Quaker fire camp as a conscientious objector. Two-and-a-half years later I was born, and would become a second generation pacifist and conscientious objector, serving as a civilian C.O. during the Vietnam War era.

I could go on and on about the insanity of war, which is tantamount to human sacrifice, but you all get that, don’t you? I mean, do I have to talk about the walking wounded, like my brother, David, whose heart, I swear, was broken by 9-11.

Or that exclusive club of those veterans who can’t wait for their heart to take them out (For every soldier killed on the battlefield this year, about 25 veterans are dying by their own hands. An American soldier dies every day and a half, on average, in Iraq or Afghanistan. Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes. More than 6,500 veteran suicides are logged every year - more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since those wars began. —“A Veteran’s Death, the Nation’s Shame”, Nicholas D. Kristof, NY Times, April 14, 2012)

You get it, don’t you?

And at a million bucks per soldier, how many hungry children’s mouths could be fed, how many teachers could be put back to work? Not to mention the 45,000 deaths that could be saved, due to our criminally inadequate health management system.

“Why Do They Hate Us?” Newsweek Magazine once queried. Well, all we had to do was to listen to bin Laden, who told the last American journalist to interview him that it was sanctions against Iraq, support for Israel’s apartheid imposed upon the occupied Palestinian Territories and the presence of American military bases on holy Saudi land.

We scream “Terrorism” at the top of our lungs, but Pogo had it last century, who the enemy really is.

But I’m not writing this to push my bleeding heart liberal cant.

No, it’s worse than that:

I’m asking you why the hell we still need to have a military, anyway.

Toward a National Conversation on the Military

Okay, this is just a “for instance”: Say, the masses are starving, the streets are teeming with the homeless, our education and our health care systems and our infrastructure are a shambles. There’s rioting the National Guard can’t even quell, cars and buildings are burning in every major city in the nation.

And we’re blowing a million smackers a pop on those GI Joe’s over there.

What is wrong with this picture? Cut the military budget in half and we’re back to the Happy Days – minus McCarthyims and the lynchings.

So I ask you, why do we need a military? We need a national conversation something fierce, and here’s a good place to start:

We have no enemies at either of our borders.

NATO’s taking us to the cleaners – let ’em defend themselves, against … whom, exactly?

What are those “national (read: ‘corporate’) interests” we’re supposed to be defending with our military might?

Why was it we still needed those thousands of nuclear devices? Against whom?

If your town were burying its dead from malnutrition and disease and fatal injuries from internecine strife at a sickening rate that makes the third world look like paradise, and some U.S. Congressperson is telling you that we need a “strong defense against those who would destroy our liberties”, just where would you tell him or her to shove it?

If dismantling our military and strengthening our National Guard and keeping an elite force representative of our military branches “just in case” would mean stopping the dying and turning us back into a “first world” country, might you not ask that person to defend the existence of our military?


I’m waiting.

Let’s hear the arguments. And while we’re at it, ask ourselves, honestly, just how enemies are created in the first place?

I don’t care if you’re the biggest Tom Clancy fan on God’s green earth, how ‘bout playing the devil’s advocate against your own most cherished beliefs. Pretend you’re on a high school debating team, arguing for a national pacifist policy, and scouts from Harvard are in the audience, just waiting to give you a full scholarship if you win one for the Gipper. Argue against yourself as if your life depended on it.

Because it does.

What if your family members and friends, and other family members and friends across the nation were being slaughtered by military from an Islamic democracy who insisted they were killing you to save you from fundamentalist Christians who would force on you summary execution for crimes such as being gay?

And you could talk to their Muslim leader, person to person, and cry, “Stop!”?

If you and your family and neighbors and friends’ lives depended on your convincing a national leader that an army and a navy really aren’t needed, what arguments would you muster?

Your Afghan brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles, innocent civilians to a man and woman and child are being slaughtered by your million dollar GI Joe’s at the behest of your Fearless Leader. (Well, just how fearless can he possibly be if he is such a coward as to use un-manned drones against wedding parties, as if one of the musicians could shoot the pilot down with a hurled fiddle bow, or fatally puncture the fuel tank with a well-thrown guitar pick, were the kid from Creech to actually have the courage to actually fly it, instead of sitting in air conditioned comfort while Abdul the goatherd (and his 3-yr-old niece and month-old daughter) and his sister, Fatima get blown to paradise because his buddy the oud player is suspected of being related to a cousin of the best friend of someone who used to brag about belonging to al Qaeda (but who was really just a low-level Taliban bureaucrat.) Land of the brave. Sheesh.)

Don’t bloody talk to me about absurd.

Just think about how we can stop it.

Let’s have a long and deep conversation about it. As if your life depended on it.

Because it does.

Peace, bro’ & sis’,
Daniel ben Avrám MacJean for I am my parents’s son
Bay Point, Sacramento Delta Bio-region, California, Alta México

… and furthermore …

I DON’T GET IT are we Americans a bunch of wimps, or what? Where’s our faith, the courage of our Christian (or Jewish or [fill in the blank]) convictions? We cower under a canopy of high-tech weaponry as our Top Guns bomb some poor third-world country even further into the stone age and glow with pride as if they [we]’ve just done something patriotic or humanitarian.

Where does the Golden Rule fit into this picture, or am I just thinking of religion from another planet? Why are we so squeamish about the words “forgiveness” and “compassion”?

If we had any guts, we’d all be pacifists. But we don’t have the stones. We’re too afraid we’ll lose something if we don’t defend it, whatever it is, with fists or bullets or bombs. We lack the integrity to follow our conscience, which tells us that loving is right and killing is wrong, or did I misunderstand Jesus and the Big Ten Cs.?

Hey, Cultists of the Two Sacred Tablets: What part of “Thou shalt not kill” do you not understand?

Just what is our idea of a hero, anyway? Is the BBOP (that’s, Big Boy On Playground) a hero because he can beat the snot out of anybody on the block! Or is the Militiaman with the AK-47 a hero because he’s not too chicken to point it at a (temporarily) live person and hold down the trigger? Is a general a hero because he isn’t too afraid of collateral damage to point a smart bomb at a milk factory, or a water treatment plant?

Hero, shmero, I’ll take Mohandas K., Martin or César any day of the week over any one of these creeps. Now they had guts. So did Dorothy Day and Mother Jones, for that matter, as if gender mattered, although a woman head-of-state out to prove that she has a Johnson after all scares me more than the man who just wants you to know the jumbo size of his.

So I’m here to issue America a challenge: I’m from Pacifist Nation and I say, stand up for your conscience! Stand up for love and compassion! Stand up for tolerance and forgiveness! Stand up for truth and consequence.

And be warned: Pacifist Nation is a tough ’hood, no place for wimps. Better not mind a little pain. Some Neanderthal fool will likely bloody your nose on account of being afraid you just may be right. Like he’s got to protect his ignorance as if his manhood depended on it or something. Sheesh. Stop acting like punks and grow up. No guts, no glory. Be a man. Be a woman. Be a pacifist.

So, what is Pacifist Nation about?

Mission Statement
(Yeah, inexcusable pun.)

Pacifist Nation endeavors to explore how we may bridge the gap between what we profess to believe and how we act, by bringing the subject of pacifism into the mainstream of public discourse.

Just what is pacifism?

Superficially, one may define it as the belief in and practice of solving conflict through non-violent means. One may consider oneself a pacifist even though one might participate in what one considers a “just war.” We all compromise our beliefs; doing so does not invalidate them. A committed pacifist, however, will refuse any such participation. But under the skin, pacifism informs all that we are, all that we believe, all that we do. It manifests itself such that one cannot just be for peace. One must be for social and economic justice, for all the freedoms we profess to cherish. We must love our children, honor our parents, and respect all living things, including that which is called Gaia, our Mother. We must allow our pacifism to infuse our lives in a way that mirrors and manifests our relationship with the divine.

Pacifism as a prophylactic

The goal of pacifism is the prevention of war. We are not passivists, as is the citizen who lets the war machine roll on without a peep. We practice our pacifism in how we act in our everyday lives, much as a Jew, Christian or Moslem practices the paramount values demanded by their faith, such as treating people justly and with dignity and forgiveness, throughout the week and throughout the year.

We get pissed off and are outraged, just like regular people. We just use our vocal chords, pen, ballot, etc., rather than our fists or an Uzi.

There cannot be peace without justice

Pacifists are the front line of our nation’s defense against war. As much as recognizing the root causes of war and doing something about them, injustice must be recognized and dealt with.

Corollary: There cannot be freedom without responsibility

Well, there can be, and, all too frequently, is. Freedom implies choice; responsibility implies choice with full knowledge of the consequences and acceptance of that responsibility. A pacifist is not necessarily a non-violent person, but one who consciously chooses the path of non-violence. How closely one hews to the path is up to that person. With knowledge of fallibility comes humility, compassion for others’ failings, and for their choices as well. One must accept others’ choices, made responsibly. If you read this to mean that a pacifist must be pro-choice, then one may begin to understand that one may be anti-abortion yet pro-choice, and to appreciate my joy at encountering pro-life advocates on a vigil against capital punishment outside the gates of San Quentin on an otherwise somber occasion.

Tolerance can only go so far

Pacifist Nation has zero tolerance for racism, bigotry, sexism or homophobia. Pay close attention to that last one. All too few people do, or else fail to make the connection.

Pacifism is not for wimps

Gandhi was not a wimp; nor was Martin Luther King, Jr. or César Chávez. You declare yourself and take the heat, be it verbal abuse, Bull Connor’s dogs, prison or death. We’re lucky here; we just have to face prison, as did I during the Vietnam war, or endure it, as did my father during WW II. Nazi Germany’s pacifists weren’t so lucky. We must be grateful for our liberty, but constant vigilance is the price. What happened there can happen again. We have our work cut out for us.

Police and those in the military are not our enemies

We must respect their choice and their willingness to put their lives on the line for us. In turn, they must realize that neither are we the enemy. We are simply warriors in a different arena, trying to make their job a bit easier, or eliminate it altogether.

In defense of Defense

One could argue logically that pacifism doesn’t necessarily preclude acting in one’s defense. It’s only slightly less slippery a slope than justifying a “just war” and don’t think I, as a Jew, haven’t grappled with that one into the wee hours. A police officer is within the bounds of the law to commit justifiable homicide. Do I advocate abolishing the police? The answer to that thorny issue is, what might the nature of defense be? Gun-less constabulary have been successful before, and in a society that puts our crime statistics to shame. But that begs the Hard Question, and we pacifists can get nervous and defensive when it comes to the Hard Questions, like: For instance, if we all turned pacifist wouldn’t we become defenseless? As if! Actually, that’s an easy one and I tire of that old whine. Logically, if we are successful, the threat of war will no longer exist. Look. if my goal is to become independently wealthy, do I quit my day job? Hardly. And do I cease striving because I have to earn a living in the meantime? I am but a thread in the fabric of society. The woof may go on policing and soldiering, but this warp is damn well going to keep on keeping on until violence is no longer an image in the pattern. Ouch. Sometimes my rhetoric pinches. Silimile me.

Bottom line: War is hell

We’ve heard that before. But we romanticize it anyway.

An enemy soldier is just a statistic unless he is our brother. A bombed building is just a picture on the news unless it’s the water purifying plant that keeps our infants from falling prey to a host of diseases, or the apartment building we live in. A dead Serbian soldier was someone’s son, father or brother, nephew or uncle; a dead Iraqi infant has a mother weeping over its grave, next to its father’s. There but for the grace of God go you or I.

Think of your child, brother or sister. Some faceless bureaucrat on the other side may refer to him or her as “collateral damage.” We justify such a death at our hands at our own peril.

Bottomest line: War is human sacrifice.

What nobler calling can there be but to see that such a thing becomes unthinkable by anyone under any circumstances.

I am a pacifist, and proud of it.


“Mankind must put an end to war
    or war will put an end to mankind… .

–John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Post script: I’m reminded of a college friend of mine, a conscientious objector who nonetheless allowed himself to be drafted into the Vietnam war. His reasoning was unassailable: were he to take advantage of all that being a middle-class white male makes it a piece of cake to avoid such unpleasantness, one of his black or brown brothers from the ghetto or barrio would simply take his place. He felt that that would be blood on his hands.

To my shame, I cannot recall enough of his name to know his fate. I just hope it’s not on the Wall.

A braver lad than I.

Daniel, when the World was Young. Photo by David Lawrence.

The Rev. Earl Johnson (¡Presente!); my hirsute self; global peacemaker, David Hartsough; my mother, Jean, and my father, Abraham in front of the Naval Weapons Station, Concord (California), January 16, 1992 [Photo by Gary Reyes, copyright © 1992, used by permission.]

The prophet, Abraham

Peace Theology

A Christian Pacifist Response to World War II

by Tim Grimsrud

World War II was the biggest catastrophe ever to befall humanity. Think of it like this: say a meteorite crashes into my hometown of Harrisonburg, Virginia, and kills everyone, around 40,000 people. This would be incredible news. America’s worst ever natural disaster. But then, imagine that something like this happens every single day for five years. You can’t imagine that? Well, that’s what World War II was—40,000 people killed every single day for five years.

But World War II wasn’t a natural catastrophe—it was something human beings did to each other. These 75 million people didn’t just die due to impersonal nature run amok. They were killed by other people. World War II was an intensely moral event. Human choices. Human values. Human actions.

And World War II has cast a long shadow. We’re still in its shadow. As William Faulkner wrote, “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Just one example. In Barak Obama’s acceptance speech upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, he alluded to the necessity for America to fight in Afghanistan—and cited the war against Hitler as one key rationale. That war was obviously a necessary war, our nation’s “good war,” and it helps us see our current war as necessary as well.

Because World War II was—and is—so big and devastating and epoch shaping, it is a theological issue. But we aren’t getting a lot of theological reflection on it. I am just completing the first phase of a long-term project on responding theologically to this war.

I have not yet actually begun to address one big type of question—what does World War II tell us about God? Where do we see God in this oh-so-big event—and what about the ways in which we don’t see God?

I have begun with another type of question—stated a bit facetiously: What does God tell us about World War II? But I haven’t really gotten to the “God” part. That will be step two, to reflect on this war and its long shadow in light of my explicitly Christian and explicitly pacifist convictions.

Moral values that justified World War II

Step one, though, is to ask the question more in terms of general and, we could say, public, convictions. What do key stated moral values in the United States say about World War II? Let’s start with this more general moral theology, which, I believe, gives us enough substance to begin a critical evaluation that could speak to many Americans.

The key moral values were stated famously on two occasions during 1941 by president Franklin D. Roosevelt. These statements were circulated widely and provide us with stable moral criteria for our reflections on the moral legacy of World War II.

In his January 1941 State of the Union address, Roosevelt outlined his famous “Four Freedoms”—freedom of speech, of worship, from want, and from fear, the freedoms, he said, “we seek to make secure…everywhere in the world.” Then in August, Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill drew up the Atlantic Charter. This agreement articulated what came to be the Allies’ war aims after the U.S. entered the war in December. The key goals were “the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live” and that the nations of the world would disarm once “a wider and permanent system of general security” would be established.

So, these are the moral criteria for evaluating the war—did it lead to increased freedom everywhere in the world, to political self-determination, and to disarmament?

I will address five questions concerning World War II’s moral legacy:

(1) Was the American involvement in World War II necessary? Did it have just causes? (2) Were the means Americans used to fight this war just? (3) What were the costs of this war? (4) What was the aftermath of the War? How did it impact, for example, American foreign policy and attitudes toward war and peace? (5) Have there been alternatives to achieve freedom and self-determination apart from such violence?

Was the cause just?

In traditional moral reasoning concerning warfare, two central categories shape the discussion. Were the causes just (in Latin, the jus ad bellum—just entry into war)? And were the means just (the jus in bello—just actions in war). When we ask, was this war necessary, we ask the first question, about just cause.

Many people insist that it is simply a no-brainer. These are the words of historian Eric Bergerud: “I find it almost incomprehensible that anyone would claim to discover moral ambiguity in World War II….Machiavelli…was quite right when describing a necessary war as a just war. If World War II was not necessary, no war has been.”

Others do believe there is moral complexity but conclude that the war was necessary, all things considered. Another historian, Kenneth Rose, expresses it this way: “World War II was the greatest disaster in human history, but was this a just war that Americans had to fight despite its appalling price?” Well, yes, Rose concludes. Because the Germans were perpetuating “an abomination on the human species….The dire consequences of a German victory don’t make this war ‘good,’ but they do make it just, and necessary.” For Rose, indeed this war was necessary because of what we learned about what the Nazis did. But were German atrocities actually why America entered the War? Did opposition to German abominations determine American strategy during the War? These are important and complicated questions.

In present-day conversations, Americans tend to give three main reasons for this war’s necessity. (1) To maintain our national autonomy. “If it wasn’t for this war, we’d all be speaking German now!” (2) To further democracy in the face of global tyranny and totalitarianism. (3) To save the Jews from the Nazis. What about these reasons?

Neither Germany nor Japan appear actually to have intended to invade and conquer the U. S. Crazy both nations may have been, but their leaders all knew such an invasion would be impossible. The incredible logistical challenge faced by the Allies in invading France in 1944 in negotiating only a few miles across the English Channel show that invading the U. S. across vast oceans simply couldn’t have been done.

Plus, neither seem to have wanted to conquer the U. S., in any case. Both wanted to dominate their own regions, not the entire world. They desired some sort of coexistence with the U.S.—and decided war was necessary when Americans had no interest in that kind of coexistence and actively opposed their actions.

But wasn’t the U.S. then wanting to back democracy against totalitarianism? Wasn’t that why America aided the British against the Germans and the Chinese against the Japanese? This is a complicated question. Certainly, most Americans supported democracy. But in terms of U.S. foreign policy, the picture is ambiguous. China under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek was an authoritarian dictatorship. Britain was a democracy—internally, but also ruthlessly ruled over a global empire that, at least for its non-white subjects, utterly resisted ideals of genuine self-determination.

And, during the war, the U.S. made common cause with the Soviet Union. Stalin’s empire was about as far from democracy as any major nation has ever been. The American fight against Germany furthered the reach of Soviet totalitarianism. As well, defeating the Japanese helped open the path for a Communist takeover in China.

Then there is the fate of Poland. In the 1930s, Poland was a military dictatorship. Britain allied with Poland against Germany for reasons of realpolitik, not out of a quest for democracy. Germany invading Poland trip-wired World War II and caused Britain to declare war on Germany. This war utterly devastated Poland. It led directly to 20% of the Polish population being killed. When the war ended, the Western Allies acquiesced to the annexation of Poland into the Soviet Empire and the imposition of a totalitarian Communist government. Poland was on the “winning side”—and was crushed.

What about saving the Jews? This is also complicated. General Dwight Eisenhower, the Allied supreme commander in Europe said, on the site of a newly liberated concentration camp at the end of the war, “This is why we were fighting.” But in fact, Eisenhower’s own policies during the War ignored the fate of the Jews in the Nazi death camps, even though the Allies’ leaders knew from early on at least some of what was happening. Nothing was done to stop the holocaust as it was happening.

The Allies’ position was that the best hope for the Jews was to end the war in decisive victory as soon as possible—and only then turn to liberating the camps. In fact, though, by insisting on “unconditional surrender,” the Allies prolonged the war for many months, during which time the Nazis desperately accelerated the killing.

So, if the U.S. involvement in World War II was not about protecting the country from invasion, not about furthering democracy in face of totalitarianism, not about rescuing Jews—was it really necessary? Why did the U.S. fight? This is a simplistic and brief answer, but let me suggest four main reasons: (1) The conflict of American imperialism with Japanese imperialism over dominance of the Far East, especially China. (2) The strong alliance the U.S. had with Britain and its non-democratic global empire. (3) Concerns on the part of American corporations that the Germans were proving after all to be a threat to their interests. (4) The growing awareness that a war would be highly economically profitable, as it proved to be beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. None of these reasons would pass muster with just war philosophy.

Were the means just?

Now to my second question. Were the means just? Is a “necessary war” just regardless of the tactics? The moral tradition of thinking about warfare has insisted that necessity alone does not make a war just. Two key criteria in particular measure the justifiability of tactics in warfare: the criterion of proportionality (that the damage done by the tactics does not outweigh the good accomplished by their implementation) and the criterion of noncombatant immunity (wars should not be waged on civilian populations).

American military people were aware of these moral criteria concerning the waging of war. At the beginning of the European war, President Roosevelt broadcast to Western Europe a call for the belligerents not to target civilians. He feared “hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings who have no responsibility for, and who are not even remotely participating in, the hostilities” would be killed. Let the belligerents “determine that [their] armed forces shall in no event, and under no circumstances, undertake the bombardment from the air of civilian populations or of unfortified cities.”

By early 1942, the U.S. joined the European air war. The British were intentionally bombing population centers, and the Americans argued instead for focusing on military objects. By the summer of 1943, new American leaders were more open to civilian bombing. The British created a list of German cities to be smashed, beginning with Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg. In July, for the first time, air attackers intentionally created a firestorm that incinerated everything in its path—including tens of thousands of old people, children, and other non-combatants.

The second intentional firestorm was loosed on Dresden early in 1945—an attack immortalized in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse Five. Vonnegut, a prisoner of war, witnessed the destruction of this “unfortified” city that was full of war refugees.

In the cases of both Hamburg and Dresden, Allied awareness of jus ad bellum criteria led to attempts to present the attacks as having military purposes. However, with Hamburg, which was a center for war manufacturing, the attacks actually focused on the city center. As an ironic consequence, survivors of the bombing, deprived of their normal livelihoods due to the destruction of the central city, flocked to the suburban weapons plants for work, alleviating what had up to that time been a chronic labor shortage in those plants. So, the bombing actually assisted the German war effort.

With Dresden, the only possible military-related significance of the city was its role as a transportation center. Again, the actual focus of the bombing mostly ignored the railroads. Within three days, Dresden’s transportation facilities were back in full swing and in fact large numbers of German troops and supplies passed through the city not long afterward on their way to battle to the east.

Whatever reluctance Americans had for targeting civilians was gone by the time they attacked the Japanese mainland early in 1945. The first and most destructive attack was on Tokyo, March 9. The U.S. dropped 2,000 tons of incendiary bombs. They burned Tokyo’s most densely populated districts to the ground in a ferocious firestorm that killed more than 85,000 people. Over the next five months, the Americans pursued a city-bombing campaign across Japan. Up to 900,000 people were killed and maybe 20 million rendered homeless. “The principal cause of civilian deaths,’ says the postwar US Bombing Survey, “was burns.” The commander for this campaign was General Curtis LeMay. This is what he had to say about the campaign: With our attacks, hundreds of thousands of people were “scorched and boiled and baked to death.”

It was only one more step to the attacks that obliterated any pretense of operating according to moral criteria in war tactics—the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Debate continues about the military necessity of those bombs. Regardless of its military necessity, these weapons brought immediate death to tens of thousands of noncombatants and brought lingering death to tens of thousands more in the months to come, and poisoned the genetic legacy of most who were exposed to that radiation. Their use clearly violated the jus in bello criteria. [Editor’s note: Historians overwhelmingly agree that the atomic assault on Japan was not necessary. See this article by the Institute for Historical Review: “Was Hiroshima Necessary? Why the Atomic Bombings Could Have Been Avoided”]

Not only do we see during the years of World War II steady accommodation to tactics that drastically violated the criteria of proportion and noncombatant immunity, the use of these tactics had a major impact on the practice of warfare for the United States in the years following. I’ll offer just one example. During the entire course of World War II, with the kind of devastating consequences I have alluded to, the United States and Britain dropped about 3.4 million tons of bombs on Germany and Japan. Twenty years later, during the Vietnam War, the U.S. dropped 6.7 million tons of bombs on Indochina.

British philosopher A.C. Grayling’s careful consideration of the evidence in his book Among the Dead Cities concludes that the Allied bombing of Germany during World War II constituted a war crime. Former American Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who worked during World War II analyzing targets for the American air war, stated not long before his death that the firebombing of Tokyo was also a war crime. Is any war requiring war crimes ever “necessary.”…

What were the costs of the War?

What were the costs of this war. Actually determining the “cost” of World War II is, of course, an impossible task. However, if we are to conclude that the “good war” achieved in some genuine sense surpasses its cost, we must have some sense of what that cost was. It’s too easy to say, hey, we won, so it was worth it. An approach based on moral criteria has actually to weigh the costs before determining “it was worth it.”

We may start with the number of deaths. Of the major belligerents in the War, the United States suffered by far the fewest. Even so, over 400,000 Americans died. Great Britain lost about 450,000 (proportionately about three times more than the U.S.) and the Soviet Union perhaps as many as 26 million (65 times more than we did). Of the Axis powers, Germany lost as many as 10 million lives and Japan close to 3 million.

Some of the nations caught in the crossfire sustained casualties greater than most of the belligerents—most notably Poland (5.8 million), China (20 million), the Philippines and Yugoslavia (1 million each), French Indochina [Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos] (1.5 million), India (2.6 million), and the Dutch East Indies [Indonesia] (4 million). Perhaps 80 million died in all.

On top of the direct deaths, we must note the tens of millions of people injured, driven from their homes, and who suffered disease or hunger. Plus the incalculable weight of grief and other emotional traumas. On top of the human casualties, we must also note the deaths of domestic and wild animals plus the immense damage done to the physical environment. I am aware of no estimates of these costs.

One notable fact about the death toll of World War II is the astounding number of non-fighting civilians who lost their lives. Eighty percent of the deaths caused by the War were noncombatants. Perhaps one reason Americans can call this a “good war” is that only 1,700 American noncombatants were killed. A high percentage of deaths came to people who lived in nations who were not partisans in the conflict. For example, the number of British, American, and Japanese war deaths combined were fewer the war deaths suffered by Indonesians. India suffered six times the deaths that Great Britain did. Was the alleged good that resulted from this war possibly worth their deaths? How would this be answered from God’s perspective?

Let me very briefly touch on three other costs of this war. The Holocaust was an atrocity totally to be lain at the murderous feet of the Nazis. However, the war itself made the Holocaust possible. This is the conclusion of Holocaust historian Doris Bergen: “War…exponentially increased the numbers and kinds of victims….War provided killers with both a cover and an excuse for murder; in wartime, killing was normalized, and extreme, even genocidal measures could be justified with familiar arguments about the need to defend the homeland. Without the war, the Holocaust would not—and could not—have happened.” Bergen’s assertion cannot be proved—but she reminds us that violent means generally tend to increase the situation’s violence.

Then there was the spread of Communist totalitarianism in Central and Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia. We cannot imagine the creation of the Warsaw Pact and the “Iron Curtain” except for World War II. The U.S. supposedly went to war for the sake of democracy and disarmament. As far as Central and Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia were concerned, in relation to these purposes, the War was an abject failure.

Another cost may be seen in the war’s impact on American democracy. President Roosevelt, in his quest to move the country in the direction he desired, often ignored the will of the people and their congressional leaders. He subverted democracy, engaging ever more in clandestine behavior and public misrepresentation of the facts.

Americans, prior to World War II, would enter a war, mobilize, and then at war’s end demobilize and return to a civilian-centered, more democratic political economy. Not this time. Directly linked with Roosevelt’s desire for more unhindered power, American military leaders desired to leave behind the limits to military power that characterized the U.S. in the 1930s. Due to key unilateral presidential actions that did not pass through the legislative process, and without informing the public, the United States moved seemingly irrevocably from a democracy to a “national security state.”

A key step was the construction of the Pentagon, which expanded to become the true center of power in the U.S. government. The centralization and tremendous expansion of military power in the United States were central costs of the War.

Another key structure of militarism was the nuclear weapons program. It absorbed enormous amounts of resources—all hidden from Congressional scrutiny. This program was so top secret that Vice President Harry Truman knew nothing of it until after Roosevelt’s death and he ascended to the presidency. Truman then made his secret decision to drop two nuclear bombs on Japan with no input from Congress. The decisions to expand the American nuclear arsenal and to share nuclear capabilities with various countries have all been made outside of democratic processes.

In the late 1930s, the U.S. had a relatively small military. The president felt constrained by the Constitution and democratic accountability to rely on a formal declaration of war by Congress before committing American forces to war. By the end of the War in 1945, both of these elements of American politics were gone forever. [Editor’s note: A discussion on the cost of war cannot be complete without reading the classic work of Major General Smedley Butler, “War Is a racket!”]

The War’s long shadow

In understanding World War II’s moral legacy, we need to ask not only about the 1940s but also the long-term impact of that war, especially on how the U.S. has related to the rest of the world since 1945. We may call this legacy the War’s “long shadow”.

At the end of the War, the U.S. stood as the world’s dominant power economically and militarily. The American political system had unmatched prestige in the world. More than any other time in American history, the nation was in a position to move the world toward the stated ideals the war effort was based on—self-determination, disarmament, genuine democracy.

The U.S. also had a monopoly on the most powerful weapon the world had ever seen. In the months after August 1945, Secretary of War Henry Stimson advocated that America treat its nuclear capability as a kind of global trust. The U.S. should ask the Soviets and the British to join them and have joint stewardship over this new mega-weapon. In the end, those who wanted to expand the American nuclear arsenal and retain their monopoly defeated this proposal. We can only imagine our world now if Stimson had carried the day.

Up until 1947, the U.S. had a War Department. This name implied a role that would to come into prominence only in the rare instances where America found itself at war. After 1947, it was the Defense Department, with ever-expanding prominence. The country always needs to pour major resources into defense. So, World War II bled into the Cold War, the Cold War bled into the War on Terror, never-ending war footing fueled by war-oriented agencies permanently expanded by World War II: the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency, the nuclear weapons program.

In 1947, President Truman announced what came to be known as the “Truman Doctrine.” This doctrine locked America into an adversarial path in relating to the Soviet Union. It said, in effect: Anywhere in the world where Communism arises, it constitutes a direct threat to the security of the United States and must be met with force. This doctrine led to interventions against many peoples’ efforts at self-determination worldwide, since virtually all such efforts would be labeled “communist.” The past 65 years are a litany of one Truman Doctrine-inspired intervention after another.

Soon, the doctrine was invoked to justify massive military engagement in faraway Korea, in which about 4 million Koreans lost their lives; 75% of whom were non-combatants. Many military interventions were more covert—such as overthrowing democratically elected governments in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954. Both interventions led to decades of violent, authoritarian, anti-democratic governments.

Another intervention begun in the 1950s ultimately became the greatest American foreign policy disaster ever—the war in Vietnam. Throughout the 1960s, the U.S. expanded its military role. This war brought down both President Johnson and President Nixon. It resulted in 50,000 American deaths and millions of deaths in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Finally in 1975, the Vietnamese drove the U.S. out.

The 1970s and 1980s saw massive American-generated violence in the Western Hemisphere, from the CIA-engineered coup in Chile to the U.S.-sponsored Contra War in Nicaragua; all justified by Truman Doctrine logic.

However, in the late 1980s, came an unexpected turn. Due in large part to the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union more or less unilaterally withdrew from the Cold War. Though it wasn’t Gorbachev’s initial intention, he actually in the end presided over the peaceful dismemberment of the Soviet empire.

With Gorbachev taking the Soviets out of the Cold War, the U.S. emerged again as the world’s one superpower. As in 1945, the U.S. stood in a position to exert immense influence in moving the world toward genuine peace. And, as in 1945, the actual choices of American policy makers moved the world in the opposite direction.

The moment that focused these choices came in the summer of 1990. Many hoped for the dawning of a new era. One symbol of this hope was the clock of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. This clock, using minutes to the midnight of nuclear war, measured the world’s danger. When the clock was first created, in the late 1940s, it showed just six minutes until midnight. It got as close as two minutes. But in 1990, it showed seventeen minutes until midnight.

Even though the George H. W. Bush Administration supported militarism, they faced increasing pressure to draw down. And they seemed to relent. However, just days after major American military cuts were announced, Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein, who had operated for years with American support, invaded Kuwait. This problem could have been resolved diplomatically. But Saddam’s move presented the war forces with an opportunity not to be missed. Early in 1991 the Gulf War erupted, resulting in a great victory for the U.S. military—especially in reversing the movement toward disarmament.

Ten years later, the attacks of September 11, 2001 provided more opportunities for the forces of militarization to expand their power, to the point that about a year and a half later they could lead the U.S. into a war of naked aggression on Iraq. [Editor’s note: On the convenience of 911 as an “opportunity”, read what structural engineers have to say about World Trade Center Bldg. 7: “The Third Building Which Collapsed on 9/11 Was Not Hit By a Plane”]

So, back to the moral legacy of World War II. That war permanently enhanced American militarism. It led directly to the creation of new, extraordinarily powerful structures devoted to sustained dependence on force: the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the nuclear weapons regime. Most recently, President Obama, elected as a peace candidate, has expanded military spending, even in face of huge budget deficits and a general economic crisis.

In a nutshell, we may characterize the impact of World War II on America’s way of being in the world this way: it powerfully pushed U.S. policy-makers to view problems that arise in international affairs as problems to be solved mainly through the projection of force. Military might worked well in the 1940s—and that success seems to justify trying the same kind of approach over and over….

Reflecting theologically on the War

I suggest the most elementary step in a theological response to World War II is to say we apply stable or objective values in assessing that event. We assume that these values apply to our side as well as the other actors. When we do this, we come up with a result that is disconcerting for Americans. The war effort violated the Americans’ stated values and aims, and it violated the generally accepted values of the just war tradition—not only the values of pacifists.

The U.S. war effort transformed the nation—and made the stated war aims of political self-determination and disarmament “everywhere in the world” impossible to attain. To come to such a conclusion is not about passing judgment on the past. What is done is done. But it challenges today’s assumptions that this was a just or necessary war that in some powerful sense validates our present wars and preparations for war.

Still, if we reflect theologically on its World War II’s damaging legacy, probably our key step will be to challenge negative fatalism. We do not live in a closed, iron-cage like universe. So, as we look at World War II, we ask for signs of life.

It’s true, the story evokes an image I learned from my friend, Andy Schmookler. This image is what Andy calls the parable of the tribes. Imagine several tribes living as neighbors. Then one tribe wants what another has and takes it by force. The attacked tribe has two options, both tragic: fight back and be like the attacking tribe or flee and allow the attacking tribe to get what it wants. In either case, violence wins. This initial attack, Andy says, sets off a dynamic in social evolution that leads to a continual victory for violence and force, and becomes the ever-expanding dynamic of human social life.

So, we have an ever-growing momentum toward un-freedom, increased coercion, movement toward the abyss. Well, I want briefly to mention a theme that counters the fatalism and despair of this story. This is a counter-narrative, an alternative story to the story of American militarization that exists side-by-side with it over the past seventy years. While clearly the alternative story is tiny and marginal compared to the dominant story, it does provide a basis, when seen with eyes of faith, for possibilities for what visionary David Korten calls “the great turning.”

The alternative story

The alternative story has roots in World War II as well. It is, you could say, the minority report on the moral legacy of that war. Some 16 million Americans served in the military during this war—and about 18,000 formally refused to serve (that includes 12,000 who performed legally accepted alternative service and 6,000 who went to prison as draft resisters). So, for every potential soldier who said no to participation in this war, nearly one thousand said yes.

However, this tiny group of objectors provided the spark, provided inspiration, and certainly provided people power for the emergence of powerful efforts to construct a different kind of legacy than ever-expanding militarization and unending violence, a different vision of politics, a method of seeking self-determination and disarmament directly, rather than indirectly through the state’s coercive force. The key starting point that unites all who take part in the counter-narrative is simply to refuse to consent to the warring state—in the 1940s and ever since.

There were two distinct tendencies among most of the objectors: those with predominantly “servant tendencies” who focused more on works of service to address hurting people’s needs and those with “transformer tendencies” who focused more on social change. These tendencies may be seen in two different types of activity in the postwar years—though they complement each other and many have embodied elements of both. The transformer tendencies, for example, may be seen in direct action for social change such as civil rights and peace movements.

Examples of servant emphases may be seen in the relief, development, and witness efforts of several organizations that emerged from World War II primed for peace work in a severely damaged world. Three “servant” groups are the American Friends Service Committee, the Mennonite Central Committee, and the Catholic Worker. Quite different from each other in many ways, they nonetheless share an emphasis on caring for people in need, a grounding in faith traditions and communities, and a desire to impact the surrounding world in ways that remain consistent with their core nonviolence-centered values.

These two peacemaking streams, the servants and the transformers, have contributed in major ways to the emergence of a tremendous amount of ferment around the world—the possibilities of people power, the world’s other superpower, the civil society movement, a force more powerful, world and local social forums. These movements have created possibilities for a different kind of story, a different kind of moral legacy that could yet emerge from the rubble of World War II.

In conclusion, let me mention the book of Revelation. Chapter 13 gives us as vivid an image of the spiritual power behind World War II and the momentum towards the abyss as we could ask for: “A beast rising out of the sea” with heads, and horns, and crowns, the epitome of militarist violence. “Who is like the beast, and who can stand against it?” Indeed, as we look at the last seventy years of American foreign policy from the perspective of peace, we can’t help but join in this question. “All the inhabitants of the earth will worship it”—the power of the sword reigns supreme.

But Revelation then shows a counter-vision. “I looked, and there was the Lamb!” The imagery here is complicated, but I believe that we are being shown, standing with the Lamb, multitudes from all nations who trust in his way instead of the Beast’s. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes, even in the face of the mighty power of the Beast. They are the ones who trust in “the force more powerful,” the force of love and compassion, of human solidarity and the rejection of weapons of war.

Those who said no to the “good war,” small as their number may have been, witnessed to this force more powerful. We see this force emerge even in the face of the seemingly all-powerful story of redemptive violence that is generally taken to be World War II’s moral legacy. This other moral legacy, one of genuine peace, can become history’s final verdict on those terrible events that marked the twentieth-century.

June 05, 2014
At Sarajevo, 100 Years Later

The Abolition of Militarism


We are all aware that this is the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo which led to the start of the First World War in l9l4.

What started here in Sarajevo was a century of two global wars, a Cold War, a century of immense, rapid explosion of death and destruction technology, all extremely costly, and extremely risky.

A huge step in the history of war, but also a decisive turning point in the history of peace. The peace movement has never been as strong politically as in the last three decades before the break-out of WW I. It was a factor in political life, literature, organization, and planning, the Hague Peace Conferences, the Hague Peace Palace and the International Court of Arbitration, the bestseller of Bertha von Suttner, ‘Lay Down your Arms’. The optimism was high as to what this ‘new science’ of peace could mean to humankind. Parliaments, Kings, and Emperors, great cultural and business personalities involved themselves. The great strength of the Movement was that it did not limit itself to civilizing and slowing down militarism, it demanded its total abolition.

People were presented with an alternative, and they saw common interest in this alternative road forward for humankind. What happened in Sarajevo a hundred years ago was a devastating blow to these ideas, and we never really recovered. Now, 100 years later, must be the time for a thorough reappraisal of what we had with this vision of disarmament, and what we have done without it, and the need for a recommitment, and a new ambitious start offering new hope to a humanity suffering under the scourge of militarism and wars.

People are tired of armaments and war. They have seen that they release uncontrollable forces of tribalism and nationalism. These are dangerous and murderous forms of identity above which we need to take steps to transcend, lest we unleash further dreadful violence upon the world. To do this, we need to acknowledge that our common humanity and human dignity is more important than our different traditions. We need to recognize our life and the lives of others are sacred and we can solve our problems without killing each other. We need to accept and celebrate diversity and otherness. We need to work to heal the ‘old’ divisions and misunderstandings, give and accept forgiveness, and choose nonkilling and nonviolence as ways to solve our problems. So too as we disarm our hearts and minds, we can also disarm our countries and our world.

We are also challenged to build structures through which we can co-operate and which reflect our interconnected and interdependent relationships. The vision of the European Union founders to link countries together, economically in order to lessen the likelihood of war amongst the nations, is a worthy endeavour. Unfortunately instead of putting more energy into providing help for EU citizens, we are witnessing the growing Militarization of Europe, its role as a driving force for armaments, and its dangerous path, under the leadership of the USA/NATO, towards a new ‘cold’ war and military aggression. The European Union and many of its countries, which used to take initiatives in the UN for peaceful settlements of conflicts, particularly allegedly peaceful countries, like Norway and Sweden, are now one of the US/NATO most important war assets. The EU is a threat to the survival of neutrality. Many nations have been drawn into being complicit in breaking international law through US/UK/NATO wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.

I believe NATO should be abolished. The United Nations should be reformed and strengthened and we should get rid of the veto in the Security Council so that it is a fair vote and we don’t have one power ruling over us. The UN should actively take up its mandate to save the world from the scourge of war.

But there is hope. People are mobilizing and resisting non-violently. They are saying no to militarism and war and insisting on disarmament. Those of us in the Peace Movement can take inspiration from many who have gone before and worked to prevent war insisting on disarmament and peace. Such a person was Bertha Von Suttner, who was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in l905, for her activism in the Women’s rights and peace movement. She died in June, l9l4, 100 years ago, just before WW l started. It was Bertha Von Suttner who moved Alfred Nobel to set up the Nobel Peace Prize Award and it was the ideas of the peace movement of the period that Alfred Nobel decided to support in his testament for the Champions of Peace, those who struggled for disarmament and replacing power with law and International relations. That this was the purpose is clearly confirmed by three expressions in the will, creating the fraternity of nations, work for abolition of armies, holding Peace Congresses. It is important the Nobel Committee be faithful to his wishes and that prizes go to the true Champions of Peace that Nobel had in mind.

This 100 year old Programme for Disarmament challenges those of us in the Peace Movement to confront militarism in a fundamental way. We must not be satisfied with improvements and reforms, but rather offer an alternative to militarism, which is an aberration and a system of dysfunction, going completely against the true spirit of men and women, which is to love and be loved and solve our problems through co-operation, dialogue, nonviolence, and conflict resolution.

Thanks to the organizers for bringing us together. In the coming days we shall feel the warmth and strength of being among thousands of friends and enriched by the variety of peace people, and ideas. We shall be inspired and energized to pursue our different projects, be it arms trade, nuclear, nonviolence, culture of peace, drone warfare, etc., Together we can lift the world! But soon we shall be back home, on our own, and we know all too well how we all too often are being met with either indifference or a remote stare. Our problem is not that people do not like what we say, what they understand correctly is that they believe little can be done, as the world is so highly militarized. There is an answer to this problem — we want a different world and people to believe that peace and disarmament are possible. Can we agree, that diverse as our work is, a common vision of a world without arms, militarism and war, is indispensable for success. Does not our experience confirm that we will never achieve real change if we do not confront and reject militarism entirely, as the aberration/dysfunction it is in human history? Can we agree to work that all countries come together in an Agreement to abolish all weapons and war and to commit to always sort out our differences through International Law and Institutions?

We cannot here in Sarajevo make a common peace program, but we can commit to a common goal. If out common dream is a world without weapons and militarism, why don’t we say so? Why be silent about it? It would make a world of difference if we refused to be ambivalent about the violence of militarism. We should no longer be scattered attempts to modify the military, each one of us would do our thing as part of a global effort. Across all divisions of national borders, religions, races. We must be an alternative, insisting on an end to militarism and violence. This would give us an entirely different chance to be listened to and taken seriously. We must be an alternative insisting on an end to militarism and violence.

Let the Sarajevo where peace ended, be the starting point for the bold beginning of a universal call for peace through the wholesale abolition of militarism.

Mairead Maguire is a Nobel Peace Laureate and a co-founder Peace People.

Was Hiroshima Necessary?

Why the Atomic Bombings Could Have Been Avoided

By Mark Weber

On August 6, 1945, the world dramatically entered the atomic age: without either warning or precedent, an American plane dropped a single nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion utterly destroyed more than four square miles of the city center. About 90,000 people were killed immediately; another 40,000 were injured, many of whom died in protracted agony from radiation sickness. Three days later, a second atomic strike on the city of Nagasaki killed some 37,000 people and injured another 43,000. Together the two bombs eventually killed an estimated 200,000 Japanese civilians.

Between the two bombings, Soviet Russia joined the United States in war against Japan. Under strong US prodding, Stalin broke his regime’s 1941 non-aggression treaty with Tokyo. On the same day that Nagasaki was destroyed, Soviet troops began pouring into Manchuria, overwhelming Japanese forces there. Although Soviet participation did little or nothing to change the military outcome of the war, Moscow benefited enormously from joining the conflict.

In a broadcast from Tokyo the next day, August 10, the Japanese government announced its readiness to accept the joint American-British “unconditional surrender” declaration of Potsdam, “with the understanding that the said declaration does not compromise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler.”

A day later came the American reply, which included these words: “From the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the State shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers.” Finally, on August 14, the Japanese formally accepted the provisions of the Potsdam declaration, and a “cease fire” was announced. On September 2, Japanese envoys signed the instrument of surrender aboard the US battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

A Beaten Country

Apart from the moral questions involved, were the atomic bombings militarily necessary? By any rational yardstick, they were not. Japan already had been defeated militarily by June 1945. Almost nothing was left of the once mighty Imperial Navy, and Japan’s air force had been all but totally destroyed. Against only token opposition, American war planes ranged at will over the country, and US bombers rained down devastation on her cities, steadily reducing them to rubble.

What was left of Japan’s factories and workshops struggled fitfully to turn out weapons and other goods from inadequate raw materials. (Oil supplies had not been available since April.) By July about a quarter of all the houses in Japan had been destroyed, and her transportation system was near collapse. Food had become so scarce that most Japanese were subsisting on a sub-starvation diet.

On the night of March 9-10, 1945, a wave of 300 American bombers struck Tokyo, killing 100,000 people. Dropping nearly 1,700 tons of bombs, the war planes ravaged much of the capital city, completely burning out 16 square miles and destroying a quarter of a million structures. A million residents were left homeless.

On May 23, eleven weeks later, came the greatest air raid of the Pacific War, when 520 giant B-29 “Superfortress” bombers unleashed 4,500 tons of incendiary bombs on the heart of the already battered Japanese capital. Generating gale-force winds, the exploding incendiaries obliterated Tokyo’s commercial center and railway yards, and consumed the Ginza entertainment district. Two days later, on May 25, a second strike of 502 “Superfortress” planes roared low over Tokyo, raining down some 4,000 tons of explosives. Together these two B-29 raids destroyed 56 square miles of the Japanese capital.

Even before the Hiroshima attack, American air force General Curtis LeMay boasted that American bombers were “driving them [Japanese] back to the stone age.” Henry H. (“Hap”) Arnold, commanding General of the Army air forces, declared in his 1949 memoirs: “It always appeared to us, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse.” This was confirmed by former Japanese prime minister Fumimaro Konoye, who said: “Fundamentally, the thing that brought about the determination to make peace was the prolonged bombing by the B-29s.”

Japan Seeks Peace

Months before the end of the war, Japan’s leaders recognized that defeat was inevitable. In April 1945 a new government headed by Kantaro Suzuki took office with the mission of ending the war. When Germany capitulated in early May, the Japanese understood that the British and Americans would now direct the full fury of their awesome military power exclusively against them.

American officials, having long since broken Japan’s secret codes, knew from intercepted messages that the country’s leaders were seeking to end the war on terms as favorable as possible. Details of these efforts were known from decoded secret communications between the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo and Japanese diplomats abroad.

In his 1965 study, Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam (pp. 107, 108), historian Gar Alperovitz writes:

Although Japanese peace feelers had been sent out as early as September 1944 (and [China’s] Chiang Kai-shek had been approached regarding surrender possibilities in December 1944), the real effort to end the war began in the spring of 1945. This effort stressed the role of the Soviet Union … .

In mid-April [1945] the [US] Joint Intelligence Committee reported that Japanese leaders were looking for a way to modify the surrender terms to end the war. The State Department was convinced the Emperor was actively seeking a way to stop the fighting.

A Secret Memorandum

It was only after the war that the American public learned about Japan’s efforts to bring the conflict to an end. Chicago Tribune reporter Walter Trohan, for example, was obliged by wartime censorship to withhold for seven months one of the most important stories of the war.

In an article that finally appeared August 19, 1945, on the front pages of the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Times-Herald, Trohan revealed that on January 20, 1945, two days prior to his departure for the Yalta meeting with Stalin and Churchill, President Roosevelt received a 40-page memorandum from General Douglas MacArthur outlining five separate surrender overtures from high-level Japanese officials. (The complete text of Trohan’s article is in the Winter 1985-86 Journal, pp. 508-512.)

This memo showed that the Japanese were offering surrender terms virtually identical to the ones ultimately accepted by the Americans at the formal surrender ceremony on September 2 — that is, complete surrender of everything but the person of the Emperor. Specifically, the terms of these peace overtures included:

  • Complete surrender of all Japanese forces and arms, at home, on island possessions, and in occupied countries.
  • Occupation of Japan and its possessions by Allied troops under American direction.
  • Japanese relinquishment of all territory seized during the war, as well as Manchuria, Korea and Taiwan.
  • Regulation of Japanese industry to halt production of any weapons and other tools of war.
  • Release of all prisoners of war and internees.
  • Surrender of designated war criminals.

Is this memorandum authentic? It was supposedly leaked to Trohan by Admiral William D. Leahy, presidential Chief of Staff. (See: M. Rothbard in A. Goddard, ed., Harry Elmer Barnes: Learned Crusader [1968], pp. 327f.) Historian Harry Elmer Barnes has related (in “Hiroshima: Assault on a Beaten Foe,” National Review, May 10, 1958):

The authenticity of the Trohan article was never challenged by the White House or the State Department, and for very good reason. After General MacArthur returned from Korea in 1951, his neighbor in the Waldorf Towers, former President Herbert Hoover, took the Trohan article to General MacArthur and the latter confirmed its accuracy in every detail and without qualification.

Peace Overtures

In April and May 1945, Japan made three attempts through neutral Sweden and Portugal to bring the war to a peaceful end. On April 7, acting Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu met with Swedish ambassador Widon Bagge in Tokyo, asking him “to ascertain what peace terms the United States and Britain had in mind.” But he emphasized that unconditional surrender was unacceptable, and that “the Emperor must not be touched.” Bagge relayed the message to the United States, but Secretary of State Stettinius told the US Ambassador in Sweden to “show no interest or take any initiative in pursuit of the matter.” Similar Japanese peace signals through Portugal, on May 7, and again through Sweden, on the 10th, proved similarly fruitless.

By mid-June, six members of Japan’s Supreme War Council had secretly charged Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo with the task of approaching Soviet Russia’s leaders “with a view to terminating the war if possible by September.” On June 22 the Emperor called a meeting of the Supreme War Council, which included the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and the leading military figures. “We have heard enough of this determination of yours to fight to the last soldiers,” said Emperor Hirohito. “We wish that you, leaders of Japan, will strive now to study the ways and the means to conclude the war. In doing so, try not to be bound by the decisions you have made in the past.”

By early July the US had intercepted messages from Togo to the Japanese ambassador in Moscow, Naotake Sato, showing that the Emperor himself was taking a personal hand in the peace effort, and had directed that the Soviet Union be asked to help end the war. US officials also knew that the key obstacle to ending the war was American insistence on “unconditional surrender,” a demand that precluded any negotiations. The Japanese were willing to accept nearly everything, except turning over their semi-divine Emperor. Heir of a 2,600-year-old dynasty, Hirohito was regarded by his people as a “living god” who personified the nation. (Until the August 15 radio broadcast of his surrender announcement, the Japanese people had never heard his voice.) Japanese particularly feared that the Americans would humiliate the Emperor, and even execute him as a war criminal.

On July 12, Hirohito summoned Fumimaro Konoye, who had served as prime minister in 1940-41. Explaining that “it will be necessary to terminate the war without delay,” the Emperor said that he wished Konoye to secure peace with the Americans and British through the Soviets. As Prince Konoye later recalled, the Emperor instructed him “to secure peace at any price, notwithstanding its severity.”

The next day, July 13, Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo wired ambassador Naotake Sato in Moscow: “See [Soviet foreign minister] Molotov before his departure for Potsdam … Convey His Majesty’s strong desire to secure a termination of the war … Unconditional surrender is the only obstacle to peace … .”

On July 17, another intercepted Japanese message revealed that although Japan’s leaders felt that the unconditional surrender formula involved an unacceptable dishonor, they were convinced that “the demands of the times” made Soviet mediation to terminate the war absolutely essential. Further diplomatic messages indicated that the only condition asked by the Japanese was preservation of “our form of government.” The only “difficult point,” a July 25 message disclosed, “is the … formality of unconditional surrender.”

Summarizing the messages between Togo and Sato, US naval intelligence said that Japan’s leaders, “though still balking at the term unconditional surrender,” recognized that the war was lost, and had reached the point where they have “no objection to the restoration of peace on the basis of the [1941] Atlantic Charter.” These messages, said Assistant Secretary of the Navy Lewis Strauss, “indeed stipulated only that the integrity of the Japanese Royal Family be preserved.”

Navy Secretary James Forrestal termed the intercepted messages “real evidence of a Japanese desire to get out of the war.” “With the interception of these messages,” notes historian Alperovitz (p. 177), “there could no longer be any real doubt as to the Japanese intentions; the maneuvers were overt and explicit and, most of all, official acts.” Koichi Kido, Japan’s Lord Privy Seal and a close advisor to the Emperor, later affirmed: “Our decision to seek a way out of this war, was made in early June before any atomic bomb had been dropped and Russia had not entered the war. It was already our decision.”

In spite of this, on July 26 the leaders of the United States and Britain issued the Potsdam declaration, which included this grim ultimatum: “We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces and to provide proper and adequate assurance of good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.”

Commenting on this draconian either-or proclamation, British historian J.F.C. Fuller wrote: “Not a word was said about the Emperor, because it would be unacceptable to the propaganda-fed American masses.” (A Military History of the Western World [1987], p. 675.)

America’s leaders understood Japan’s desperate position: the Japanese were willing to end the war on any terms, as long as the Emperor was not molested. If the US leadership had not insisted on unconditional surrender — that is, if they had made clear a willingness to permit the Emperor to remain in place — the Japanese very likely would have surrendered immediately, thus saving many thousands of lives.

The sad irony is that, as it actually turned out, the American leaders decided anyway to retain the Emperor as a symbol of authority and continuity. They realized, correctly, that Hirohito was useful as a figurehead prop for their own occupation authority in postwar Japan.


President Truman steadfastly defended his use of the atomic bomb, claiming that it “saved millions of lives” by bringing the war to a quick end. Justifying his decision, he went so far as to declare: “The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.”

This was a preposterous statement. In fact, almost all of the victims were civilians, and the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (issued in 1946) stated in its official report: “Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen as targets because of their concentration of activities and population.”

If the atomic bomb was dropped to impress the Japanese leaders with the immense destructive power of a new weapon, this could have been accomplished by deploying it on an isolated military base. It was not necessary to destroy a large city. And whatever the justification for the Hiroshima blast, it is much more difficult to defend the second bombing of Nagasaki.

All the same, most Americans accepted, and continue to accept, the official justifications for the bombings. Accustomed to crude propagandistic portrayals of the “Japs” as virtually subhuman beasts, most Americans in 1945 heartily welcomed any new weapon that would wipe out more of the detested Asians, and help avenge the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. For the young Americans who were fighting the Japanese in bitter combat, the attitude was “Thank God for the atom bomb.” Almost to a man, they were grateful for a weapon whose deployment seemed to end the war and thus allow them to return home.

After the July 1943 firestorm destruction of Hamburg, the mid-February 1945 holocaust of Dresden, and the fire-bombings of Tokyo and other Japanese cities, America’s leaders — as US Army General Leslie Groves later commented — “were generally inured to the mass killing of civilians.” For President Harry Truman, the killing of tens of thousands of Japanese civilians was simply not a consideration in his decision to use the atom bomb.

Critical Voices

Amid the general clamor of enthusiasm, there were some who had grave misgivings. “We are the inheritors to the mantle of Genghis Khan,” wrote New York Times editorial writer Hanson Baldwin, “and of all those in history who have justified the use of utter ruthlessness in war.” Norman Thomas called Nagasaki “the greatest single atrocity of a very cruel war.” Joseph P. Kennedy, father of the President, was similarly appalled.

A leading voice of American Protestantism, Christian Century, strongly condemned the bombings. An editorial entitled “America’s Atomic Atrocity” in the issue of August 29, 1945, told readers:

The atomic bomb was used at a time when Japan’s navy was sunk, her air force virtually destroyed, her homeland surrounded, her supplies cut off, and our forces poised for the final stroke … Our leaders seem not to have weighed the moral considerations involved. No sooner was the bomb ready than it was rushed to the front and dropped on two helpless cities … The atomic bomb can fairly be said to have struck Christianity itself … The churches of America must dissociate themselves and their faith from this inhuman and reckless act of the American Government.

A leading American Catholic voice, Commonweal, took a similar view. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the magazine editorialized, “are names for American guilt and shame.”

Pope Pius XII likewise condemned the bombings, expressing a view in keeping with the traditional Roman Catholic position that “every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man.” The Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano commented in its August 7, 1945, issue: “This war provides a catastrophic conclusion. Incredibly this destructive weapon remains as a temptation for posterity, which, we know by bitter experience, learns so little from history.”

Authoritative Voices of Dissent

American leaders who were in a position to know the facts did not believe, either at the time or later, that the atomic bombings were needed to end the war.

When he was informed in mid-July 1945 by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson of the decision to use the atomic bomb, General Dwight Eisenhower was deeply troubled. He disclosed his strong reservations about using the new weapon in his 1963 memoir, The White House Years: Mandate for Change, 1953-1956 (pp. 312-313):

During his [Stimson’s] recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of “face.”

“The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing … I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon,” Eisenhower said in 1963.

Shortly after “V-J Day,” the end of the Pacific war, Brig. General Bonnie Fellers summed up in a memo for General MacArthur: “Neither the atomic bombing nor the entry of the Soviet Union into the war forced Japan’s unconditional surrender. She was defeated before either these events took place.”

Similarly, Admiral Leahy, Chief of Staff to presidents Roosevelt and Truman, later commented:

It is my opinion that the use of the barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan … The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons … My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.

If the United States had been willing to wait, said Admiral Ernest King, US Chief of Naval Operations, “the effective naval blockade would, in the course of time, have starved the Japanese into submission through lack of oil, rice, medicines, and other essential materials.”

Leo Szilard, a Hungarian-born scientist who played a major role in the development of the atomic bomb, argued against its use. “Japan was essentially defeated,” he said, and “it would be wrong to attack its cities with atomic bombs as if atomic bombs were simply another military weapon.” In a 1960 magazine article, Szilard wrote: “If the Germans had dropped atomic bombs on cities instead of us, we would have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them.”

US Strategic Bombing Survey Verdict

After studying this matter in great detail, the United States Strategic Bombing Survey rejected the notion that Japan gave up because of the atomic bombings. In its authoritative 1946 report, the Survey concluded:

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs did not defeat Japan, nor by the testimony of the enemy leaders who ended the war did they persuade Japan to accept unconditional surrender. The Emperor, the Lord Privy Seal, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and the Navy Minister had decided as early as May of 1945 that the war should be ended even if it meant acceptance of defeat on allied terms … .

The mission of the Suzuki government, appointed 7 April 1945, was to make peace. An appearance of negotiating for terms less onerous than unconditional surrender was maintained in order to contain the military and bureaucratic elements still determined on a final Bushido defense, and perhaps even more importantly to obtain freedom to create peace with a minimum of personal danger and internal obstruction. It seems clear, however, that in extremis the peacemakers would have peace, and peace on any terms. This was the gist of advice given to Hirohito by the Jushin in February, the declared conclusion of Kido in April, the underlying reason for Koiso’s fall in April, the specific injunction of the Emperor to Suzuki on becoming premier which was known to all members of his cabinet … .

Negotiations for Russia to intercede began the forepart of May 1945 in both Tokyo and Moscow. Konoye, the intended emissary to the Soviets, stated to the Survey that while ostensibly he was to negotiate, he received direct and secret instructions from the Emperor to secure peace at any price, notwithstanding its severity … .

It seems clear … that air supremacy and its later exploitation over Japan proper was the major factor which determined the timing of Japan’s surrender and obviated any need for invasion.

Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945 and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945 [the date of the planned American invasion], Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.

Historians’ Views

In a 1986 study, historian and journalist Edwin P. Hoyt nailed the “great myth, perpetuated by well-meaning people throughout the world,” that “the atomic bomb caused the surrender of Japan.” In Japan’s War: The Great Pacific Conflict (p. 420), he explained:

The fact is that as far as the Japanese militarists were concerned, the atomic bomb was just another weapon. The two atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were icing on the cake, and did not do as much damage as the firebombings of Japanese cities. The B-29 firebombing campaign had brought the destruction of 3,100,000 homes, leaving 15 million people homeless, and killing about a million of them. It was the ruthless firebombing, and Hirohito’s realization that if necessary the Allies would completely destroy Japan and kill every Japanese to achieve “unconditional surrender” that persuaded him to the decision to end the war. The atomic bomb is indeed a fearsome weapon, but it was not the cause of Japan’s surrender, even though the myth persists even to this day.

In a trenchant new book, The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb (Praeger, 1996), historian Dennis D. Wainstock concludes that the bombings were not only unnecessary, but were based on a vengeful policy that actually harmed American interests. He writes (pp. 124, 132):

… By April 1945, Japan’s leaders realized that the war was lost. Their main stumbling block to surrender was the United States’ insistence on unconditional surrender. They specifically needed to know whether the United States would allow Hirohito to remain on the throne. They feared that the United States would depose him, try him as a war criminal, or even execute him … .

Unconditional surrender was a policy of revenge, and it hurt America’s national self-interest. It prolonged the war in both Europe and East Asia, and it helped to expand Soviet power in those areas.

General Douglas MacArthur, Commander of US Army forces in the Pacific, stated on numerous occasions before his death that the atomic bomb was completely unnecessary from a military point of view: “My staff was unanimous in believing that Japan was on the point of collapse and surrender.”

General Curtis LeMay, who had pioneered precision bombing of Germany and Japan (and who later headed the Strategic Air Command and served as Air Force chief of staff), put it most succinctly: “The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war.”

From The Journal of Historical Review, May-June 1997 (Vol. 16, No. 3), pages 4-11.


War Is A Racket
By Major General Smedley Butler

Chapter 1: War Is A Racket
Chapter 2: Who Makes The Profits?
Chapter 3: Who Pays The Bills?
Chapter 4: How To Smash This Racket!

Chapter 5: To Hell With War!

Smedley Darlington Butler

  • Born: West Chester, Pa., July 30, 1881
  • Educated: Haverford School
  • Married: Ethel C. Peters, of Philadelphia, June 30, 1905
  • Awarded two congressional medals of honor:
    1. capture of Vera Cruz, Mexico, 1914
    2. capture of Ft. Riviere, Haiti, 1917
  • Distinguished service medal, 1919
  • Major General – United States Marine Corps
  • Retired Oct. 1, 1931
  • On leave of absence to act as
    director of Dept. of Safety, Philadelphia, 1932
  • Lecturer – 1930’s
  • Republican Candidate for Senate, 1932
  • Died at Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, June 21, 1940
  • For more information about Major General Butler,
    contact the United States Marine Corps.

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War Is A Racket

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few – the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill?

This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.

Again they are choosing sides. France and Russia met and agreed to stand side by side. Italy and Austria hurried to make a similar agreement. Poland and Germany cast sheep’s eyes at each other, forgetting for the nonce [one unique occasion], their dispute over the Polish Corridor.

The assassination of King Alexander of Jugoslavia [Yugoslavia] complicated matters. Jugoslavia and Hungary, long bitter enemies, were almost at each other’s throats. Italy was ready to jump in. But France was waiting. So was Czechoslovakia. All of them are looking ahead to war. Not the people – not those who fight and pay and die – only those who foment wars and remain safely at home to profit.

There are 40,000,000 men under arms in the world today, and our statesmen and diplomats have the temerity to say that war is not in the making.

Hell’s bells! Are these 40,000,000 men being trained to be dancers?

Not in Italy, to be sure. Premier Mussolini knows what they are being trained for. He, at least, is frank enough to speak out. Only the other day, Il Duce in “International Conciliation,” the publication of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said:

“And above all, Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. . . . War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the people who have the courage to meet it.”

Undoubtedly Mussolini means exactly what he says. His well-trained army, his great fleet of planes, and even his navy are ready for war – anxious for it, apparently. His recent stand at the side of Hungary in the latter’s dispute with Jugoslavia showed that. And the hurried mobilization of his troops on the Austrian border after the assassination of Dollfuss showed it too. There are others in Europe too whose sabre rattling presages war, sooner or later.

Herr Hitler, with his rearming Germany and his constant demands for more and more arms, is an equal if not greater menace to peace. France only recently increased the term of military service for its youth from a year to eighteen months.

Yes, all over, nations are camping in their arms. The mad dogs of Europe are on the loose. In the Orient the maneuvering is more adroit. Back in 1904, when Russia and Japan fought, we kicked out our old friends the Russians and backed Japan. Then our very generous international bankers were financing Japan. Now the trend is to poison us against the Japanese. What does the “open door” policy to China mean to us?Our trade with China is about $90,000,000 a year. Or the Philippine Islands? We have spent about $600,000,000 in the Philippines in thirty-five years and we (our bankers and industrialists and speculators) have private investments there of less than $200,000,000.

Then, to save that China trade of about $90,000,000, or to protect these private investments of less than $200,000,000 in the Philippines, we would be all stirred up to hate Japan and go to war – a war that might well cost us tens of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives of Americans, and many more hundreds of thousands of physically maimed and mentally unbalanced men.

Of course, for this loss, there would be a compensating profit –fortunes would be made. Millions and billions of dollars would be piled up. By a few. Munitions makers. Bankers. Ship builders. Manufacturers. Meat packers. Speculators. They would fare well.

Yes, they are getting ready for another war. Why shouldn’t they? It pays high dividends.

But what does it profit the men who are killed? What does it profit their mothers and sisters, their wives and their sweethearts? What does it profit their children?

What does it profit anyone except the very few to whom war means huge profits?

Yes, and what does it profit the nation?

Take our own case. Until 1898 we didn’t own a bit of territory outside the mainland of North America. At that time our national debt was a little more than $1,000,000,000. Then we became “internationally minded.” We forgot, or shunted aside, the advice of the Father of our country. We forgot George Washington’s warning about “entangling alliances.” We went to war. We acquired outside territory. At the end of the World War period, as a direct result of our fiddling in international affairs, our national debt had jumped to over $25,000,000,000. Our total favorable trade balance during the twenty-five-year period was about $24,000,000,000. Therefore, on a purely bookkeeping basis, we ran a little behind year for year, and that foreign trade might well have been ours without the wars.

It would have been far cheaper (not to say safer) for the average American who pays the bills to stay out of foreign entanglements. For a very few this racket, like bootlegging and other underworld rackets, brings fancy profits, but the cost of operations is always transferred to the people – who do not profit.

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Who Makes The Profits?

The World War, rather our brief participation in it, has cost the United States some $52,000,000,000. Figure it out. That means $400 to every American man, woman, and child. And we haven’t paid the debt yet. We are paying it, our children will pay it, and our children’s children probably still will be paying the cost of that war.

The normal profits of a business concern in the United States are six, eight, ten, and sometimes twelve percent. But war-time profits – ah! that is another matter – twenty, sixty, one hundred, three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent – the sky is the limit. All that traffic will bear. Uncle Sam has the money. Let’s get it.

Of course, it isn’t put that crudely in war time. It is dressed into speeches about patriotism, love of country, and “we must all put our shoulders to the wheel,” but the profits jump and leap and skyrocket – and are safely pocketed. Let’s just take a few examples:

Take our friends the du Ponts, the powder people – didn’t one of them testify before a Senate committee recently that their powder won the war? Or saved the world for democracy? Or something? How did they do in the war? They were a patriotic corporation. Well, the average earnings of the du Ponts for the period 1910 to 1914 were $6,000,000 a year. It wasn’t much, but the du Ponts managed to get along on it. Now let’s look at their average yearly profit during the war years, 1914 to 1918. Fifty-eight million dollars a year profit we find! Nearly ten times that of normal times, and the profits of normal times were pretty good. An increase in profits of more than 950 per cent.

Take one of our little steel companies that patriotically shunted aside the making of rails and girders and bridges to manufacture war materials. Well, their 1910-1914 yearly earnings averaged $6,000,000. Then came the war. And, like loyal citizens, Bethlehem Steel promptly turned to munitions making. Did their profits jump – or did they let Uncle Sam in for a bargain? Well, their 1914-1918 average was $49,000,000 a year!

Or, let’s take United States Steel. The normal earnings during the five-year period prior to the war were $105,000,000 a year. Not bad. Then along came the war and up went the profits. The average yearly profit for the period 1914-1918 was $240,000,000. Not bad.

There you have some of the steel and powder earnings. Let’s look at something else. A little copper, perhaps. That always does well in war times.

Anaconda, for instance. Average yearly earnings during the pre-war years 1910-1914 of $10,000,000. During the war years 1914-1918 profits leaped to $34,000,000 per year.

Or Utah Copper. Average of $5,000,000 per year during the 1910-1914 period. Jumped to an average of $21,000,000 yearly profits for the war period.

Let’s group these five, with three smaller companies. The total yearly average profits of the pre-war period 1910-1914 were $137,480,000. Then along came the war. The average yearly profits for this group skyrocketed to $408,300,000.

A little increase in profits of approximately 200 per cent.

Does war pay? It paid them. But they aren’t the only ones. There are still others. Let’s take leather.

For the three-year period before the war the total profits of Central Leather Company were $3,500,000. That was approximately $1,167,000 a year. Well, in 1916 Central Leather returned a profit of $15,000,000, a small increase of 1,100 per cent. That’s all. The General Chemical Company averaged a profit for the three years before the war of a little over $800,000 a year. Came the war, and the profits jumped to $12,000,000. a leap of 1,400 per cent.

International Nickel Company – and you can’t have a war without nickel – showed an increase in profits from a mere average of $4,000,000 a year to $73,000,000 yearly. Not bad? An increase of more than 1,700 per cent.

American Sugar Refining Company averaged $2,000,000 a year for the three years before the war. In 1916 a profit of $6,000,000 was recorded.

Listen to Senate Document No. 259. The Sixty-Fifth Congress, reporting on corporate earnings and government revenues. Considering the profits of 122 meat packers, 153 cotton manufacturers, 299 garment makers, 49 steel plants, and 340 coal producers during the war. Profits under 25 per cent were exceptional. For instance the coal companies made between 100 per cent and 7,856 per cent on their capital stock during the war. The Chicago packers doubled and tripled their earnings.

And let us not forget the bankers who financed the great war. If anyone had the cream of the profits it was the bankers. Being partnerships rather than incorporated organizations, they do not have to report to stockholders. And their profits were as secret as they were immense. How the bankers made their millions and their billions I do not know, because those little secrets never become public – even before a Senate investigatory body.

But here’s how some of the other patriotic industrialists and speculators chiseled their way into war profits.

Take the shoe people. They like war. It brings business with abnormal profits. They made huge profits on sales abroad to our allies. Perhaps, like the munitions manufacturers and armament makers, they also sold to the enemy. For a dollar is a dollar whether it comes from Germany or from France. But they did well by Uncle Sam too. For instance, they sold Uncle Sam 35,000,000 pairs of hobnailed service shoes. There were 4,000,000 soldiers. Eight pairs, and more, to a soldier. My regiment during the war had only one pair to a soldier. Some of these shoes probably are still in existence. They were good shoes. But when the war was over Uncle Sam has a matter of 25,000,000 pairs left over. Bought – and paid for. Profits recorded and pocketed.

There was still lots of leather left. So the leather people sold your Uncle Sam hundreds of thousands of McClellan saddles for the cavalry. But there wasn’t any American cavalry overseas! Somebody had to get rid of this leather, however. Somebody had to make a profit in it – so we had a lot of McClellan saddles. And we probably have those yet.

Also somebody had a lot of mosquito netting. They sold your Uncle Sam 20,000,000 mosquito nets for the use of the soldiers overseas. I suppose the boys were expected to put it over them as they tried to sleep in muddy trenches – one hand scratching cooties on their backs and the other making passes at scurrying rats. Well, not one of these mosquito nets ever got to France!

Anyhow, these thoughtful manufacturers wanted to make sure that no soldier would be without his mosquito net, so 40,000,000 additional yards of mosquito netting were sold to Uncle Sam.

There were pretty good profits in mosquito netting in those days, even if there were no mosquitoes in France. I suppose, if the war had lasted just a little longer, the enterprising mosquito netting manufacturers would have sold your Uncle Sam a couple of consignments of mosquitoes to plant in France so that more mosquito netting would be in order.

Airplane and engine manufacturers felt they, too, should get their just profits out of this war. Why not? Everybody else was getting theirs. So $1,000,000,000 – count them if you live long enough – was spent by Uncle Sam in building airplane engines that never left the ground! Not one plane, or motor, out of the billion dollars worth ordered, ever got into a battle in France. Just the same the manufacturers made their little profit of 30, 100, or perhaps 300 per cent.

Undershirts for soldiers cost 14¢ [cents] to make and uncle Sam paid 30¢ to 40¢ each for them – a nice little profit for the undershirt manufacturer. And the stocking manufacturer and the uniform manufacturers and the cap manufacturers and the steel helmet manufacturers – all got theirs.

Why, when the war was over some 4,000,000 sets of equipment – knapsacks and the things that go to fill them – crammed warehouses on this side. Now they are being scrapped because the regulations have changed the contents. But the manufacturers collected their wartime profits on them — and they will do it all over again the next time.

There were lots of brilliant ideas for profit making during the war.

One very versatile patriot sold Uncle Sam twelve dozen 48-inch wrenches. Oh, they were very nice wrenches. The only trouble was that there was only one nut ever made that was large enough for these wrenches. That is the one that holds the turbines at Niagara Falls. Well, after Uncle Sam had bought them and the manufacturer had pocketed the profit, the wrenches were put on freight cars and shunted all around the United States in an effort to find a use for them. When the Armistice was signed it was indeed a sad blow to the wrench manufacturer. He was just about to make some nuts to fit the wrenches. Then he planned to sell these, too, to your Uncle Sam.

Still another had the brilliant idea that colonels shouldn’t ride in automobiles, nor should they even ride on horseback. One has probably seen a picture of Andy Jackson riding in a buckboard. Well, some 6,000 buckboards were sold to Uncle Sam for the use of colonels! Not one of them was used. But the buckboard manufacturer got his war profit.

The shipbuilders felt they should come in on some of it, too. They built a lot of ships that made a lot of profit. More than $3,000,000,000 worth. Some of the ships were all right. But $635,000,000 worth of them were made of wood and wouldn’t float! The seams opened up — and they sank. We paid for them, though. And somebody pocketed the profits.

It has been estimated by statisticians and economists and researchers that the war cost your Uncle Sam $52,000,000,000. Of this sum, $39,000,000,000 was expended in the actual war itself. This expenditure yielded $16,000,000,000 in profits. That is how the 21,000 billionaires and millionaires got that way. This $16,000,000,000 profits is not to be sneezed at. It is quite a tidy sum. And it went to a very few.

The Senate (Nye) committee probe of the munitions industry and its wartime profits, despite its sensational disclosures, hardly has scratched the surface.

Even so, it has had some effect. The State Department has been studying “for some time” methods of keeping out of war. The War Department suddenly decides it has a wonderful plan to spring. The Administration names a committee – with the War and Navy Departments ably represented under the chairmanship of a Wall Street speculator – to limit profits in war time. To what extent isn’t suggested. Hmmm. Possibly the profits of 300 and 600 and 1,600 per cent of those who turned blood into gold in the World War would be limited to some smaller figure.

Apparently, however, the plan does not call for any limitation of losses – that is, the losses of those who fight the war. As far as I have been able to ascertain there is nothing in the scheme to limit a soldier to the loss of but one eye, or one arm, or to limit his wounds to one or two or three. Or to limit the loss of life.

There is nothing in this scheme, apparently, that says not more than 12 per cent of a regiment shall be wounded in battle, or that not more than 7 per cent in a division shall be killed.

Of course, the committee cannot be bothered with such trifling matters.

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Who Pays The Bills?

Who provides the profits – these nice little profits of 20, 100, 300, 1,500 and 1,800 per cent? We all pay them – in taxation. We paid the bankers their profits when we bought Liberty Bonds at $100.00 and sold them back at $84 or $86 to the bankers. These bankers collected $100 plus. It was a simple manipulation. The bankers control the security marts. It was easy for them to depress the price of these bonds. Then all of us – the people – got frightened and sold the bonds at $84 or $86. The bankers bought them. Then these same bankers stimulated a boom and government bonds went to par – and above. Then the bankers collected their profits.

But the soldier pays the biggest part of the bill.

If you don’t believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit any of the veteran’s hospitals in the United States. On a tour of the country, in the midst of which I am at the time of this writing, I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are a total of about 50,000 destroyed men – men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital; at Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed at home.

Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were remolded; they were made over; they were made to “about face”; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and, through mass psychology, they were entirely changed. We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think nothing at all of killing or of being killed.

Then, suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make another “about face” ! This time they had to do their own readjustment, sans [without]mass psychology, sans officers’ aid and advice and sans nation-wide propaganda. We didn’t need them any more. So we scattered them about without any “three-minute” or “Liberty Loan” speeches or parades. Many, too many, of these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not make that final “about face” alone.

In the government hospital in Marion, Indiana, 1,800 of these boys are in pens! Five hundred of them in a barracks with steel bars and wires all around outside the buildings and on the porches. These already have been mentally destroyed. These boys don’t even look like human beings. Oh, the looks on their faces! Physically, they are in good shape; mentally, they are gone.

There are thousands and thousands of these cases, and more and more are coming in all the time. The tremendous excitement of the war, the sudden cutting off of that excitement – the young boys couldn’t stand it.

That’s a part of the bill. So much for the dead – they have paid their part of the war profits. So much for the mentally and physically wounded – they are paying now their share of the war profits. But the others paid, too – they paid with heartbreaks when they tore themselves away from their firesides and their families to don the uniform of Uncle Sam – on which a profit had been made. They paid another part in the training camps where they were regimented and drilled while others took their jobs and their places in the lives of their communities. The paid for it in the trenches where they shot and were shot; where they were hungry for days at a time; where they slept in the mud and the cold and in the rain – with the moans and shrieks of the dying for a horrible lullaby.

But don’t forget – the soldier paid part of the dollars and cents bill too.

Up to and including the Spanish-American War, we had a prize system, and soldiers and sailors fought for money. During the Civil War they were paid bonuses, in many instances, before they went into service. The government, or states, paid as high as $1,200 for an enlistment. In the Spanish-American War they gave prize money. When we captured any vessels, the soldiers all got their share – at least, they were supposed to. Then it was found that we could reduce the cost of wars by taking all the prize money and keeping it, but conscripting [drafting] the soldier anyway. Then soldiers couldn’t bargain for their labor, Everyone else could bargain, but the soldier couldn’t.

Napoleon once said,

All men are enamored of decorations . . . they positively hunger for them.

So by developing the Napoleonic system – the medal business – the government learned it could get soldiers for less money, because the boys liked to be decorated. Until the Civil War there were no medals. Then the Congressional Medal of Honor was handed out. It made enlistments easier. After the Civil War no new medals were issued until the Spanish-American War.

In the World War, we used propaganda to make the boys accept conscription. They were made to feel ashamed if they didn’t join the army.

So vicious was this war propaganda that even God was brought into it. With few exceptions our clergymen joined in the clamor to kill, kill, kill. To kill the Germans. God is on our side . . . it is His will that the Germans be killed.

And in Germany, the good pastors called upon the Germans to kill the allies . . . to please the same God. That was a part of the general propaganda, built up to make people war conscious and murder conscious.

Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. This was the “war to end all wars.” This was the “war to make the world safe for democracy.” No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with United States patents. They were just told it was to be a “glorious adventure.”

Thus, having stuffed patriotism down their throats, it was decided to make them help pay for the war, too. So, we gave them the large salary of $30 a month.

All they had to do for this munificent sum was to leave their dear ones behind, give up their jobs, lie in swampy trenches, eat canned willy (when they could get it) and kill and kill and kill . . . and be killed.

But wait!

Half of that wage (just a little more than a riveter in a shipyard or a laborer in a munitions factory safe at home made in a day) was promptly taken from him to support his dependents, so that they would not become a charge upon his community. Then we made him pay what amounted to accident insurance – something the employer pays for in an enlightened state – and that cost him $6 a month. He had less than $9 a month left.

Then, the most crowning insolence of all – he was virtually blackjacked into paying for his own ammunition, clothing, and food by being made to buy Liberty Bonds. Most soldiers got no money at all on pay days.

We made them buy Liberty Bonds at $100 and then we bought them back – when they came back from the war and couldn’t find work – at $84 and $86. And the soldiers bought about $2,000,000,000 worth of these bonds!

Yes, the soldier pays the greater part of the bill. His family pays too. They pay it in the same heart-break that he does. As he suffers, they suffer. At nights, as he lay in the trenches and watched shrapnel burst about him, they lay home in their beds and tossed sleeplessly – his father, his mother, his wife, his sisters, his brothers, his sons, and his daughters.

When he returned home minus an eye, or minus a leg or with his mind broken, they suffered too – as much as and even sometimes more than he. Yes, and they, too, contributed their dollars to the profits of the munitions makers and bankers and shipbuilders and the manufacturers and the speculators made. They, too, bought Liberty Bonds and contributed to the profit of the bankers after the Armistice in the hocus-pocus of manipulated Liberty Bond prices.

And even now the families of the wounded men and of the mentally broken and those who never were able to readjust themselves are still suffering and still paying.

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How To Smash This Racket!

WELL, it’s a racket, all right.

A few profit – and the many pay. But there is a way to stop it. You can’t end it by disarmament conferences. You can’t eliminate it by peace parleys at Geneva. Well-meaning but impractical groups can’t wipe it out by resolutions. It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war.

The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labor before the nations manhood can be conscripted. One month before the Government can conscript the young men of the nation – it must conscript capital and industry and labor. Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted – to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get.

Let the workers in these plants get the same wages – all the workers, all presidents, all executives, all directors, all managers, all bankers – yes, and all generals and all admirals and all officers and all politicians and all government office holders – everyone in the nation be restricted to a total monthly income not to exceed that paid to the soldier in the trenches!

Let all these kings and tycoons and masters of business and all those workers in industry and all our senators and governors and majors pay half of their monthly $30 wage to their families and pay war risk insurance and buy Liberty Bonds.

Why shouldn’t they?

They aren’t running any risk of being killed or of having their bodies mangled or their minds shattered. They aren’t sleeping in muddy trenches. They aren’t hungry. The soldiers are!

Give capital and industry and labor thirty days to think it over and you will find, by that time, there will be no war. That will smash the war racket – that and nothing else.

Maybe I am a little too optimistic. Capital still has some say. So capital won’t permit the taking of the profit out of war until the people – those who do the suffering and still pay the price – make up their minds that those they elect to office shall do their bidding, and not that of the profiteers.

Another step necessary in this fight to smash the war racket is the limited plebiscite to determine whether a war should be declared. A plebiscite not of all the voters but merely of those who would be called upon to do the fighting and dying. There wouldn’t be very much sense in having a 76-year-old president of a munitions factory or the flat-footed head of an international banking firm or the cross-eyed manager of a uniform manufacturing plant – all of whom see visions of tremendous profits in the event of war – voting on whether the nation should go to war or not. They never would be called upon to shoulder arms – to sleep in a trench and to be shot. Only those who would be called upon to risk their lives for their country should have the privilege of voting to determine whether the nation should go to war.

There is ample precedent for restricting the voting to those affected. Many of our states have restrictions on those permitted to vote. In most, it is necessary to be able to read and write before you may vote. In some, you must own property. It would be a simple matter each year for the men coming of military age to register in their communities as they did in the draft during the World War and be examined physically. Those who could pass and who would therefore be called upon to bear arms in the event of war would be eligible to vote in a limited plebiscite. They should be the ones to have the power to decide – and not a Congress few of whose members are within the age limit and fewer still of whom are in physical condition to bear arms. Only those who must suffer should have the right to vote.

A third step in this business of smashing the war racket is to make certain that our military forces are truly forces for defense only.

At each session of Congress the question of further naval appropriations comes up. The swivel-chair admirals of Washington (and there are always a lot of them) are very adroit lobbyists. And they are smart. They don’t shout that “We need a lot of battleships to war on this nation or that nation.” Oh no. First of all,they let it be known that America is menaced by a great naval power. Almost any day, these admirals will tell you, the great fleet of this supposed enemy will strike suddenly and annihilate 125,000,000 people. Just like that. Then they begin to cry for a larger navy. For what? To fight the enemy? Oh my, no. Oh, no. For defense purposes only.

Then, incidentally, they announce maneuvers in the Pacific. For defense. Uh, huh.

The Pacific is a great big ocean. We have a tremendous coastline on the Pacific. Will the maneuvers be off the coast, two or three hundred miles? Oh, no. The maneuvers will be two thousand, yes, perhaps even thirty-five hundred miles, off the coast.

The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased beyond expression to see the united States fleet so close to Nippon’s shores. Even as pleased as would be the residents of California were they to dimly discern through the morning mist, the Japanese fleet playing at war games off Los Angeles.

The ships of our navy, it can be seen, should be specifically limited, by law, to within 200 miles of our coastline. Had that been the law in 1898 the Maine would never have gone to Havana Harbor. She never would have been blown up. There would have been no war with Spain with its attendant loss of life. Two hundred miles is ample, in the opinion of experts, for defense purposes. Our nation cannot start an offensive war if its ships can’t go further than 200 miles from the coastline. Planes might be permitted to go as far as 500 miles from the coast for purposes of reconnaissance. And the army should never leave the territorial limits of our nation.

To summarize: Three steps must be taken to smash the war racket.

  1. We must take the profit out of war.

  2. We must permit the youth of the land who would bear arms to decide whether or not there should be war.

  3. We must limit our military forces to home defense purposes.

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To Hell With War!

I am not a fool as to believe that war is a thing of the past. I know the people do not want war, but there is no use in saying we cannot be pushed into another war.

Looking back, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected president in 1916 on a platform that he had “kept us out of war” and on the implied promise that he would “keep us out of war.” Yet, five months later he asked Congress to declare war on Germany.

In that five-month interval the people had not been asked whether they had changed their minds. The 4,000,000 young men who put on uniforms and marched or sailed away were not asked whether they wanted to go forth to suffer and die.

Then what caused our government to change its mind so suddenly?


An allied commission, it may be recalled, came over shortly before the war declaration and called on the President. The President summoned a group of advisers. The head of the commission spoke. Stripped of its diplomatic language, this is what he told the President and his group:

There is no use kidding ourselves any longer. The cause of the allies is lost. We now owe you (American bankers, American munitions makers, American manufacturers, American speculators, American exporters) five or six billion dollars.

If we lose (and without the help of the United States we must lose) we, England, France and Italy, cannot pay back this money . . . and Germany won’t.

So . . .

Had secrecy been outlawed as far as war negotiations were concerned, and had the press been invited to be present at that conference, or had radio been available to broadcast the proceedings, America never would have entered the World War. But this conference, like all war discussions, was shrouded in utmost secrecy. When our boys were sent off to war they were told it was a “war to make the world safe for democracy” and a “war to end all wars.”

Well, eighteen years after, the world has less of democracy than it had then. Besides, what business is it of ours whether Russia or Germany or England or France or Italy or Austria live under democracies or monarchies? Whether they are Fascists or Communists? Our problem is to preserve our own democracy.

And very little, if anything, has been accomplished to assure us that the World War was really the war to end all wars.

Yes, we have had disarmament conferences and limitations of arms conferences. They don’t mean a thing. One has just failed; the results of another have been nullified. We send our professional soldiers and our sailors and our politicians and our diplomats to these conferences. And what happens?

The professional soldiers and sailors don’t want to disarm. No admiral wants to be without a ship. No general wants to be without a command. Both mean men without jobs. They are not for disarmament. They cannot be for limitations of arms. And at all these conferences, lurking in the background but all-powerful, just the same, are the sinister agents of those who profit by war. They see to it that these conferences do not disarm or seriously limit armaments.

The chief aim of any power at any of these conferences has not been to achieve disarmament to prevent war but rather to get more armament for itself and less for any potential foe.

There is only one way to disarm with any semblance of practicability. That is for all nations to get together and scrap every ship, every gun, every rifle, every tank, every war plane. Even this, if it were possible, would not be enough.

The next war, according to experts, will be fought not with battleships, not by artillery, not with rifles and not with machine guns. It will be fought with deadly chemicals and gases.

Secretly each nation is studying and perfecting newer and ghastlier means of annihilating its foes wholesale. Yes, ships will continue to be built, for the shipbuilders must make their profits. And guns still will be manufactured and powder and rifles will be made, for the munitions makers must make their huge profits. And the soldiers, of course, must wear uniforms, for the manufacturer must make their war profits too.

But victory or defeat will be determined by the skill and ingenuity of our scientists.

If we put them to work making poison gas and more and more fiendish mechanical and explosive instruments of destruction, they will have no time for the constructive job of building greater prosperity for all peoples. By putting them to this useful job, we can all make more money out of peace than we can out of war – even the munitions makers.

So … I say,



      The Third Building Which Collapsed on 9/11
      Was Not Hit By a Plane

Clipboardwtc7 WTC 7 Was An Asymmetric Shape
                        . . . So Why Did it Collapse Symmetrically?


Top Experts Say Official Explanation Makes No Sense

Numerous structural engineers – the people who know the most about office building vulnerabilities and accidents – say that the official explanation of why building 7 at the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11 is “impossible”, “defies common logic” and “violates the law of physics”:

  • Two professors of structural engineering at a prestigious Swiss university (Dr. Joerg Schneider and Dr. Hugo Bachmann) said that, on 9/11, World Trade Center 7 was brought down by controlled demolition
  • Alfred Lee Lopez, with 48 years of experience in all types of buildings:

I agree the fire did not cause the collapse of the three buildings. The most realistic cause of the collapse is that the buildings were imploded

  • John D. Pryor, with more than 30 years experience:

The collapse of WTC7 looks like it may have been the result of a controlled demolition. This should have been looked into as part of the original investigation.

  • Robert F. Marceau, with over 30 years of structural engineering experience:

From videos of the collapse of building 7, the penthouse drops first prior to the collapse, and it can be noted that windows, in a vertical line, near the location of first interior column line are blown out, and reveal smoke from those explosions. This occurs in a vertical line in symmetrical fashion an equal distance in toward the center of the building from each end. When compared to controlled demolitions, one can see the similarities.

  • Kamal S. Obeid, structural engineer, with a masters degree in Engineering from UC Berkeley and 30 years of engineering experience, says:

Photos of the steel, evidence about how the buildings collapsed, the unexplainable collapse of WTC 7, evidence of thermite in the debris as well as several other red flags, are quite troubling indications of well planned and controlled demolition.

  • Steven L. Faseler, structural engineer with over 20 years of experience in the design and construction industry:

World Trade Center 7 appears to be a controlled demolition. Buildings do not suddenly fall straight down by accident.

  • Ronald H. Brookman, structural engineer, with a masters degree in Engineering from UC Davis, writes:

Why would all 110 stories drop straight down to the ground in about 10 seconds, pulverizing the contents into dust and ash – twice. Why would all 47 stories of WTC 7 fall straight down to the ground in about seven seconds the same day? It was not struck by any aircraft or engulfed in any fire. An independent investigation is justified for all three collapses including the surviving steel samples and the composition of the dust.

  • Graham John Inman points out:

WTC 7 Building could not have collapsed as a result of internal fire and external debris. NO plane hit this building. This is the only case of a steel frame building collapsing through fire in the world. The fire on this building was small & localized therefore what is the cause?

  • Paul W. Mason notes:

In my view, the chances of the three buildings collapsing symmetrically into their own footprint, at freefall speed, by any other means than by controlled demolition, are so remote that there is no other plausible explanation.

  • David Scott says:

Near-freefall collapse violates laws of physics. Fire induced collapse is not consistent with observed collapse mode . . . .

  • Nathan Lomba states:

I began having doubts about, so called, official explanations for the collapse of the WTC towers soon after the explanations surfaced. The gnawing question that lingers in my mind is: How did the structures collapse in near symmetrical fashion when the apparent precipitating causes were asymmetrical loading? The collapses defies common logic from an elementary structural engineering perspective. “If” you accept the argument that fire protection covering was damaged to such an extent that structural members in the vicinity of the aircraft impacts were exposed to abnormally high temperatures, and “if” you accept the argument that the temperatures were high enough to weaken the structural framing, that still does not explain the relatively concentric nature of the failures. Neither of the official precipitating sources for the collapses, namely the burning aircraft, were centered within the floor plan of either tower; both aircraft were off-center when they finally came to rest within the respective buildings. This means that, given the foregoing assumptions, heating and weakening of the structural framing would have been constrained to the immediate vicinity of the burning aircraft. Heat transmission (diffusion) through the steel members would have been irregular owing to differing sizes of the individual members; and, the temperature in the members would have dropped off precipitously the further away the steel was from the flames—just as the handle on a frying pan doesn’t get hot at the same rate as the pan on the burner of the stove. These factors would have resulted in the structural framing furthest from the flames remaining intact and possessing its full structural integrity, i.e., strength and stiffness.

Structural steel is highly ductile, when subjected to compression and bending it buckles and bends long before reaching its tensile or shear capacity. Under the given assumptions, “if” the structure in the vicinity of either burning aircraft started to weaken, the superstructure above would begin to lean in the direction of the burning side. The opposite, intact, side of the building would resist toppling until the ultimate capacity of the structure was reached, at which point, a weak-link failure would undoubtedly occur. Nevertheless, the ultimate failure mode would have been a toppling of the upper floors to one side—much like the topping of a tall redwood tree—not a concentric, vertical collapse.

For this reason alone, I rejected the official explanation for the collapse of the WTC towers out of hand. Subsequent evidence supporting controlled, explosive demolition of the two buildings are more in keeping with the observed collapse modalities and only serve to validate my initial misgivings as to the causes for the structural failures.

  • Edward E. Knesl writes:

We design and analyze buildings for the overturning stability to resist the lateral loads with the combination of the gravity loads. Any tall structure failure mode would be a fall over to its side. It is impossible that heavy steel columns could collapse at the fraction of the second within each story and subsequently at each floor below. We do not know the phenomenon of the high rise building to disintegrate internally faster than the free fall of the debris coming down from the top.

The engineering science and the law of physics simply doesn’t know such possibility. Only very sophisticated controlled demolition can achieve such result, eliminating the natural dampening effect of the structural framing huge mass that should normally stop the partial collapse. The pancake theory is a fallacy, telling us that more and more energy would be generated to accelerate the collapse. Where would such energy would be coming from?

  • Antonio Artha, with 15+ years of experience in building design:

Fire and impact were insignificant in all three buildings. Impossible for the three to collapse at free-fall speed. Laws of physics were not suspended on 9/11, unless proven otherwise.

  • Steven Francis Dusterwald:

The symmetrical “collapse” due to asymmetrical damage is at odds with the principles of structural mechanics.

  • John S. Lovrovich:

It is virtually impossible for WTC building 7 to collapse as it did with the influence of sporadic fires. This collapse HAD to be planned.

  • Travis McCoy, M.S. in structural engineering
  • James Milton Bruner, Major, U.S. Air Force, instructor and assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Mechanics & Materials, USAF Academy, and a technical writer and editor, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Christopher Michael Bradbury:

It is very suspicious that fire brought down Building 7 yet the Madrid hotel fire was still standing after 24 hours of fire. This is very suspicious to me because I design buildings for a living.

  • David Anthony Dorau, practicing structural engineer with 18 years’ experience in the inspection and design of buildings under 5 stories tall, who worked as a policy analyst for the Office of Technology Assessment, an arm of the U.S. Congress providing independent research and reports on technological matters
  • Russell T. Connors, designed many buildings and other types of structures
  • Lester Jay Germanio, 20+ years experience
  • Daniel Metz, 26+ years experience
  • Jonathan Smolens, 11 years experience, with a specialty in forensic engineering
  • Marshall Casey Pfeiffer
  • Paul A. Thomas
  • Steven Merritt
  • Kers Clausen
  • Dennis Kollar, American structural engineer
  • David Topete

The above is just a sample. Many other structural engineers have questioned the collapse of Building 7, as have numerous experts in other disciplines, including:

  • The former head of the Fire Science Division of the government agency which claims that the World Trade Centers collapsed due to fire (the National Institute of Standards and Technology), who is one of the world’s leading fire science researchers and safety engineers, a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering (Dr. James Quintiere), called for an independent review of the World Trade Center collapse investigation. “I wish that there would be a peer review of this,” he said, referring to the NIST investigation. “I think all the records that NIST has assembled should be archived. I would really like to see someone else take a look at what they’ve done; both structurally and from a fire point of view. … I think the official conclusion that NIST arrived at is questionable."
  • Harry G. Robinson, III – Professor and Dean Emeritus, School of Architecture and Design, Howard University. Past President of two major national architectural organizations – National Architectural Accrediting Board, 1996, and National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, 1992. In 2003 he was awarded the highest honor bestowed by the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the Centennial Medal. In 2004 he was awarded the District of Columbia Council of Engineering and Architecture Societies Architect of the Year award. Principal, TRG Consulting Global / Architecture, Urban Design, Planning, Project Strategies. Veteran U.S. Army, awarded the Bronze Star for bravery and the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in Vietnam – says:

The collapse was too symmetrical to have been eccentrically generated. The destruction was symmetrically initiated to cause the buildings to implode as they did.

  • And a prominent physicist with 33 years of service for the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC (Dr. David L. Griscom) said that the official theory for why Building 7 collapsed “does not match the available facts” and supports the theory that the buildings were brought down by controlled demolition.


Appendix to “Puebla”—even the Nazis caved in to the application of nonviolent action!

“Let Our Husbands Go!”

Excerpted (pages 236-238) from
A Force More Powerful – A Century
of Nonviolent Conflict

by Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall

On February 27, 1943, SS soldiers and local Gestapo agents began seizing the Jews of Berlin in an operation called “the Final Roundup.” They were loaded onto trucks and taken to the Jewish community’s administration building at Rosenstrasse 2-4, in the heart of the city. The goal was finally to make the city judenfrei (free of Jews), necessitating the forcible collection of Jews with German spouses and their Mischling (mixed ancestry) children. For two years these Jews had escaped the jaws of the Holocaust because they or their German spouses were essential for the war effort, and the regime wanted no unpleasantness on the home front. But the stunning military defeat at Stalingrad earlier that month shattered German morale and led Hitler to call for “Total War,” against Jews inside Germany as well as Allied armies.

Word spread quickly about the abductions in Berlin, and before long a group of non-Jewish German women had gathered on the Rosenstrasse with food and other personal items for their Jewish husbands, whom they believed were being held inside. One of the women, Charlotte Israel, arrived and found 150 women already huddled outside. She asked on of the guards for her husband’s potato ration cards, which he went to get. On the back of a card, her husband Julius wrote, “I’m fine.” Other women began asking for personal effects to confirm that their husbands were inside and soon after, began demanding their release. One woman’s brother, a soldier on leave, approached an SS guard and said, “If my brother-in-law is not released, I will not return to the front” The crowds grew considerably despite the winter chill, and soon women waited outside day and night, holding hands, singing songs and chanting, “Let our husbands go!” By the second day of the protest over 600 women were keeping a vigil on the Rosenstrasse.

This was not the first time many of these women had voiced dissent. For over a decade they and their families had challenged Nazi racial policies through letters and small demonstrations, insisting that the regime would be hurting fellow Germans by persecuting their Jewish spouses. Hitler and his circle had always tried to minimize unrest and avoid the kind of domestic opposition that German rightists saw as the “stab in the back” that had crippled the German efforts during World War I. Until this point the regime had largely managed to keep the genocide against the Jews a secret. But when it affected a group who were unafraid to speak out against Nazi policies that secrecy was jeopardized.

What gave further resonance to the wives was that it was happening in the heart of Berlin, a city that had never been enthusiastic about Nazism. Cosmopolitan Berliners had always seen it as a crude Bavarian aberration. Moreover, Berlin was the German base for foreign news organizations that still operated during the war. If political malcontents or the wire services were to get wind of the protest the myth of the omnipotent Nazi state would be exposed. In fact, London radio did report on the demonstrations.

By the third day SS troops were given orders to train their guns on the crowd but to fire only warning shots. They did so numerous times, scattering the women to nearby alleyways. But the wives always returned and held their ground. They knew the soldiers would never fire directly at them because they were of German blood. Also, arresting or jailing any of the women would have been the rankest hypocrisy: According to Nazi theories women were intellectually incapable of political actions. So women dissenters were the last thing the Nazis wanted to have Germans hear about, and turning them into martyrs would have ruined the Nazi’s self-considered image as the protector of motherhood.

The campaign soon expanded to include women and men who not in mixed marriages. The ranks of protesters bulged to a thousand, with people chanting to let the prisoners go and taunting the SS soldiers. Joseph Goebbels, seeking to stop more from arriving, closed down the nearest streetcar station, but women walked the extra mile from another station to reach Rosenstrasse 2-4. By the end of the week Goebbels saw no alternative but to release the prisoners. Some thirty-five Jewish male internees, who had already been sent to Auschwitz, were ordered to gather their belongings and board a passenger train back to Berlin.

Without fully realizing what they had done, the Rosenstrasse women had forced the Nazis to make a choice: They could accede to a limited demand and pay a finite cost—1,700 prisoners set free, if all the intermarried Jewish men were released. Or they could open a Pandora’s box of heightened protest in the center of the capital and brutalize German women in the bargain. For the Nazis, maintaining social control was more important than making sure every last Jew made it to the gas chambers. The regime that terrorized the rest of Europe found itself unable to use violence against a challenge on its very doorstep. The Nazis were savage but the were not stupid.

As it happened, many more than thirty-five Jewish men were eventually set free. The protest confronted Nazi officials with an unresolved question: What to do with the other intermarried Jews. Goebbels wanted them deported from Berlin so he could tell Hitler the city was judenfrei. Himmler prevented the deportations, but Goebbels lied and told Hitler that it had happened—and then tried to get Jews still in Berlin to stop wearing the Star of David. A month later Adolf Eichmann’s deputy in Paris wanted to know what he should do about French intermarried Jews. On May 21 Himmler’s deputy released them all, everywhere, from the camps. Five years earlier Gandhi had been asked about the Nazis. “Unarmed men, women and children offering nonviolent resistance,” he predicted, “will be a novel experience for them.”

In February 1943 Ruth Gross was a ten-year-old girl who went down to the Rosenstrasse so she could catch a glimpse of her father, one of the Jewish men interned there before being shipped for a time to the camps. One day she saw him, and he waved back. “This thing with Rosenstrasse,” she said years later, “that was always a bond between us, my father and me.” When she would visit him in the hospital at the end of his life, each time she left he would stand up and wave at her. “I have always been convinced, that he too was always thinking about this scene there on Rosenstrasse. About how he stood there and waved.” When love comes to rescue life, no one forgets.

Postscript: I have composed a jazz piece for clarinet quintet, titled “Rosenstrasse”, inspired by this account. I am attempting to have it recorded, however it is currently available online in both PDF and Finale 2002 format (for those of you who have, or have access to, that program.) Just click on either of the logos below:

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan 1890-1988

Nonviolent Soldier of Islam

Badshah Khan, A Man to Match His Mountains

by Eknath Easwaran

[Book ordering information below]

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988), a Pathan (or Pushtun) of Afghanistan, a devout Muslim, raised the first nonviolent army in history to free his people from British imperial rule. He persuaded 100,000 of his countrymen to lay down the guns they had made themselves and vow to fight nonviolently. This book tells the dramatic life-story of this heroic and too-little-known Muslim leader. It gives at the same time a glimpse of the Pushtuns, their society, 100 years of their recent history, and describes the rugged terrain in which they live.

Khan’s profound belief in the truth and effectiveness of nonviolence came from the depths of personal experience of his Muslim faith. His life testifies to the reality that nonviolence and Islam are perfectly compatible.

Nonviolent Soldier of Islam tells Khan’s life-story through narrative, 58 photos and Khan’s own words.

Excerpt from Nonviolent Soldier of Islam
From Chapter Nine of

Nonviolent Soldier of Islam, Badshah Khan
by Eknath Easwaran

They called themselves Khudai Khidmatgars, “Servants of God.” Their motto was freedom, their aim, service. Since God himself needed no service, they would serve his people.

The Khudai Khidmatgars, under the leadership of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, became history’s first professional nonviolent army – and its most improbable. Any Pathan could join, provided he took the army’s oath:

I am a Khudai Khidmatgar; and as God needs no service, but serving his creation is serving him, I promise to serve humanity in the name of God.

I promise to refrain from violence and from taking revenge.

I promise to forgive those who oppress me or treat me with cruelty.

I promise to refrain from taking part in feuds and quarrels and from creating enmity.

I promise to treat every Pathan as my brother and friend.

I promise to refrain from antisocial customs and practices.

I promise to live a simple life, to practice virtue and to refrain from evil.

I promise to practice good manners and good behavior and not to lead a life of idleness. I promise to devote at least two hours a day to social work.

For a Pathan, an oath is not a small matter. He does not enter into a vow easily because once given, a Pathan’s word cannot be broken. Even his enemy can count on him to keep his word at the risk of his own life. Nonviolence was the heart of the oath and of the organization. It was directed not only against the violence of British rule but against the pervasive violence of Pathan life. With it they could win their freedom and much more: prosperity, dignity, self-respect.

Khan drew his first recruits from the young men who had graduated from his schools. They flocked to him. Trained and uniformed, they snapped in behind their officers and filed out into the villages to seek recruits. They began by wearing a simple white overshirt, but the white was soon dirtied. A couple of men had their shirts dyed at the local tannery, and the brick-red color proved a breakthrough. It did not dirty easily, the dye was cheap, and – best of luck – it had style. Villagers dropped their plows to see who these glowing figures were.

Recruits did not come easily, but Khan and his eager young volunteers persisted. Within a few months they had five hundred recruits – not enough for a Raj-shattering holy war, but a beginning. Volunteers who took the oath formed platoons with commanding officers and learned basic army discipline – everything that did not require the use of arms. They had drills, badges, a tricolor flag, the entire military hierarchy of rank – and a bagpipe corps.

Khan set up a network of committees called jirgahs, named and modeled after the traditional tribal councils that had maintained Pathan law for centuries. Villages were grouped into larger groups, responsible to district-wide committees. The Provincial Jirgah was the ultimate authority. Since all the committees were filled by elected officers, the Provincial Jirgah became a kind of unofficial parliament of Pathans.

Officers in the ranks were not elected, since Khan wanted to avoid infighting. He appointed a salar-e-azam or commander-in-chief, who in turn appointed officers to serve under him. The army was completely voluntary; even the officers gave their services free. Women were recruited too, and played an important role in the struggles to come.

Volunteers went to the villages and opened schools, helped on work projects, and maintained order at public gatherings. From time to time they drilled in work camps and took long military-style marches into the hills. As they marched, they sang:

We are the army of God,

By death or wealth unmoved.
We march, our leader and we,
Ready to die.
We serve and we love
Our people and our cause.
Freedom is our goal,
Our lives the price we pay.
Watching the narrow columns threading a curving mountain pass, one could easily imagine that some angry mullah was unleashing another holy war against the foreigners. But these Pathans, who for years had carried rifles and tucked small armories of revolvers and knives inside their waistbands, now carried only a stick for walking. They armed themselves only with their discipline, their faith, and their native mettle.

“The Holy Prophet Mohammed came into this world and taught us ‘That man is a Muslim who never hurts anyone by word or deed, but who works for the benefit and happiness of God’s creatures.’ Belief in God is to love one’s fellow men.” – Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

“There is nothing surprising in a Muslim or a Pathan like me subscribing to the creed of nonviolence. It is not a new creed. It was followed fourteen hundred years ago by the Prophet all the time he was in Mecca.” – Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

Khan and Mahatma Gandhi worked closely together with great mutual respect using and shaping the practical tool of nonviolence to gain independence for their people. They both believed that the uplift of their people was essential preparation for independence. Khan opened schools, brought the women out of the home into roles in society, and included a vow taken by his nonviolent soldiers to do at least two hours a day of social work.

“To me nonviolence has come to represent a panacea for all the evils that surround my people. Therefore I am devoting all my energies toward the establishment of a society that would be based on its principles of truth and peace.” – Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

“Today’s world is traveling in some strange direction. You see that the world is going toward destruction and violence. And the specialty of violence is to create hatred among people and to create fear. I am a believer in nonviolence and I say that no peace or tranquility will descend upon the people of the world until nonviolence is practiced, because nonviolence is love and it stirs courage in people.” – Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan to an interviewer in 1985

From the Introduction:

“It my inmost conviction,” Badshah Khan said, “that Islam is amal, yakeen, muhabat” – selfless service, faith, and love.” Yakeen, faith, is an unwavering belief in the spiritual laws that underlie all life, and in the nobility of human nature – in particular, in the ability of every human being to respond to spiritual laws. It implies a profound belief in the power of muhabat, love, to transform human affairs, as Badshah Khan, like Gandhi, demonstrated with his life. This is not the sentimental notion of love portrayed in films. It a spiritual force which, when drawn upon systematically, can root out exploitation and transform anger into love in action. Badshah Khan based his life and work on this profound principle, raising an army of courageous men and women who translated it into action. Were his example better known, the world might come to recognize that the highest religious values of Islam are deeply compatible with a nonviolence that has the power to resolve conflicts even against heavy odds.

The Shahur Pass in Waziristan

Badshah Khan and Mahatma Gandhi during Gandhi’s tour of the Frontier in 1937.

Badshah Khan and Jawaharlal Nehru, 1946

Badshah Khan with Mathama Gandhi bringing people together in Bihar during the riots of 1947

Badshah Khan working with a tribal council in the 1950s

Badshah Khan, shown here at age 95 in 1985, continued to campaign for human rights in his last years

Praise for Nonviolent Soldier of Islam:

“Eknath Easwaran’s great achievement is telling an international audience about an Islamic practitioner of pacifism at a moment when few in the West understand its effectiveness and fewer still associate it with anything Islamic.” – The Washington Post

“A vivid portrait of a too-little known associate of Gandhi, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a charismatic pacifist Muslim who led the Pathans of India and Pakistan in a nonviolent resistance to British rule.” – Booklist

“By his example, [Khan] asks what we ourselves, as individuals made from the same stuff as he, are doing to shape history.” – The New Yorker

“He was a Muslim voice for tolerance. He was revered by Gandhi, who viewed Khan and his Pathan followers as an illustration of the courage it takes to live a nonviolent life. This book opened me to a perception that Islam can be in harmony with nonviolence.” – Friends Journal

“Few are aware of the nonviolent tradition in Islam. Fewer still know the story of its greatest modern exemplar, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, better known as Badshah Khan. Easwaran’s excellent biography deserves the widest possible reading.” – Fellowship

“In these days when one tends to associate the Islamic world with violence, it is refreshing to read the life of a great nonviolent Muslim. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the ‘Frontier Gandhi’ as he came to be known.” – The Friend

You may order this book (I did!) by clicking on the box below:

© 1997–2002 by The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation*

Folks, here’s why we musicians do what we do.

Monday, March 02, 2009
Karl Paulnack’s Speech to Boston Conservatory

Welcome address to freshman class at Boston Conservatory given by Karl Paulnack, pianist and director of music division at Boston Conservatory:

One of my parents’ deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn’t be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer, I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician. I still remember my mother’s remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school-she said, “You’re WASTING your SAT scores.” On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they LOVED music, they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren’t really clear about its function. So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the “arts and entertainment” section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it’s the opposite of entertainment. Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works.

The first people to understand how music really works were the ancient Greeks. And this is going to fascinate you; the Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us. Let me give you some examples of how this works.

One of the most profound musical compositions of all time is the Quartet for the End of Time written by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1940. Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered the war against Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Germans in June of 1940, sent across Germany in a cattle car and imprisoned in a concentration camp.

He was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose. There were three other musicians in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist, and Messiaen wrote his quartet with these specific players in mind. It was performed in January 1941 for four thousand prisoners and guards in the prison camp. Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire.

Given what we have since learned about life in the concentration camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture-why would anyone bother with music? And yet-from the camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art; it wasn’t just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art. Why? Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art. Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, “I am alive, and my life has meaning.”

On September 12, 2001 I was a resident of Manhattan. That morning I reached a new understanding of my art and its relationship to the world. I sat down at the piano that morning at 10 AM to practice as was my daily routine; I did it by force of habit, without thinking about it. I lifted the cover on the keyboard, and opened my music, and put my hands on the keys and took my hands off the keys. And I sat there and thought, does this even matter? Isn’t this completely irrelevant? Playing the piano right now, given what happened in this city yesterday, seems silly, absurd, irreverent, pointless. Why am I here? What place has a musician in this moment in time? Who needs a piano player right now? I was completely lost.

And then I, along with the rest of New York, went through the journey of getting through that week. I did not play the piano that day, and in fact I contemplated briefly whether I would ever want to play the piano again. And then I observed how we got through the day.

At least in my neighborhood, we didn’t shoot hoops or play Scrabble. We didn’t play cards to pass the time, we didn’t watch TV, we didn’t shop, we most certainly did not go to the mall. The first organized activity that I saw in New York, that same day, was singing. People sang. People sang around fire houses, people sang “We Shall Overcome”. Lots of people sang America the Beautiful. The first organized public event that I remember was the Brahms Requiem, later that week, at Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic. The first organized public expression of grief, our first communal response to that historic event, was a concert. That was the beginning of a sense that life might go on. The US Military secured the airspace, but recovery was led by the arts, and by music in particular, that very night.

From these two experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of “arts and entertainment” as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds.

Some of you may know Samuel Barber’s heartwrenchingly beautiful piece Adagio for Strings. If you don’t know it by that name, then some of you may know it as the background music which accompanied the Oliver Stone movie Platoon, a film about the Vietnam War. If you know that piece of music either way, you know it has the ability to crack your heart open like a walnut; it can make you cry over sadness you didn’t know you had. Music can slip beneath our conscious reality to get at what’s really going on inside us the way a good therapist does.

I bet that you have never been to a wedding where there was absolutely no music. There might have been only a little music, there might have been some really bad music, but I bet you there was some music. And something very predictable happens at weddings—people get all pent up with all kinds of emotions, and then there’s some musical moment where the action of the wedding stops and someone sings or plays the flute or something. And even if the music is lame, even if the quality isn’t good, predictably 30 or 40 percent of the people who are going to cry at a wedding cry a couple of moments after the music starts. Why? The Greeks. Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can’t talk about it. Can you imagine watching “Indiana Jones” or “Superman” or “Star Wars” with the dialogue but no music? What is it about the music swelling up at just the right moment in “ET” so that all the softies in the audience start crying at exactly the same moment? I guarantee you if you showed the movie with the music stripped out, it wouldn’t happen that way. The Greeks: Music is the understanding of the relationship between invisible internal objects.

I’ll give you one more example, the story of the most important concert of my life. I must tell you I have played a little less than a thousand concerts in my life so far. I have played in places that I thought were important. I like playing in Carnegie Hall; I enjoyed playing in Paris; it made me very happy to please the critics in St. Petersburg. I have played for people I thought were important; music critics of major newspapers, foreign heads of state. The most important concert of my entire life took place in a nursing home in Fargo, ND, about 4 years ago.

I was playing with a very dear friend of mine who is a violinist. We began, as we often do, with Aaron Copland’s Sonata, which was written during World War II and dedicated to a young friend of Copland’s, a young pilot who was shot down during the war. Now we often talk to our audiences about the pieces we are going to play rather than providing them with written program notes. But in this case, because we began the concert with this piece, we decided to talk about the piece later in the program and to just come out and play the music without explanation.

Midway through the piece, an elderly man seated in a wheelchair near the front of the concert hall began to weep. This man, whom I later met, was clearly a soldier—even in his 70’s, it was clear from his buzz-cut hair, square jaw and general demeanor that he had spent a good deal of his life in the military. I thought it a little bit odd that someone would be moved to tears by that particular movement of that particular piece, but it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard crying in a concert and we went on with the concert and finished the piece.

When we came out to play the next piece on the program, we decided to talk about both the first and second pieces, and we described the circumstances in which the Copland was written and mentioned its dedication to a downed pilot. The man in the front of the audience became so disturbed that he had to leave the auditorium. I honestly figured that we would not see him again, but he did come backstage afterwards, tears and all, to explain himself.

What he told us was this: “During World War II, I was a pilot, and I was in an aerial combat situation where one of my team’s planes was hit. I watched my friend bail out, and watched his parachute open, but the Japanese planes which had engaged us returned and machine gunned across the parachute chords so as to separate the parachute from the pilot, and I watched my friend drop away into the ocean, realizing that he was lost. I have not thought about this for many years, but during that first piece of music you played, this memory returned to me so vividly that it was as though I was reliving it. I didn’t understand why this was happening, why now, but then when you came out to explain that this piece of music was written to commemorate a lost pilot, it was a little more than I could handle. How does the music do that? How did it find those feelings and those memories in me?

Remember the Greeks: music is the study of invisible relationships between internal objects. This concert in Fargo was the most important work I have ever done. For me to play for this old soldier and help him connect, somehow, with Aaron Copland, and to connect their memories of their lost friends, to help him remember and mourn his friend, this is my work. This is why music matters.

What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year’s freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this:

“If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevys. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.”

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Leonard Bernstein on the Only True Antidote to Violence and His Moving Tribute to JFK

“This must be the mission of every man of goodwill: to insist, unflaggingly, at risk of becoming a repetitive bore, but to insist on the achievement of a world in which the mind will have triumphed over violence.”

On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Three days later, as a devastated nation processed its shock and grief, the United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York transformed its 25th annual fundraising gala, “Night of Stars,” into a memorial. Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson had been scheduled to speak, but canceled. Instead, legendary composer Leonard Bernstein (August 25, 1918–October 14, 1990) delivered the address to 18,000 of the country’s most distinguished artists, writers, and other public figures. His speech was not only a passionate tribute to JFK and his vitalizing support of the arts, but also a piercing meditation on violence, tussling with the same eternal questions that Tolstoy and Gandhi pondered in their correspondence on why we hurt each other and which Einstein and Freud addressed in their letters on violence and human nature.

Bernstein’s beautiful speech that November evening, which was eventually included in The Leonard Bernstein Letters (public library | IndieBound) — the fantastic volume gave us the revelations of Bernstein’s dreams and his prescient vision for crowdfunding the arts — forever entrenched Mahler’s symphonies as a symbol of mourning in the popular imagination.

New York, NY
November 25, 1963

My dear friends:

Last night the New York Philharmonic and I performed Mahler’s Second Symphony — the Resurrection — in tribute to the memory of our beloved late President. There were those who asked: Why the Resurrection Symphony, with its visionary concept of hope and triumph over worldly pain, instead of a Requiem, or the customary Funeral March from the Eroica? Why indeed? We played the Mahler symphony not only in terms of resurrection for the soul of one we love, but also for the resurrection of hope in all of us who mourn him. In spite of our shock, our shame, and our despair at the diminution of man that follows from this death, we must somehow gather strength for the increase of man, strength to go on striving for those goals he cherished. In mourning him, we must be worthy of him.

I know of no musician in this country who did not love John F. Kennedy. American artists have for three years looked to the White House with unaccustomed confidence and warmth. We loved him for the honor in which he held art, in which he held every creative impulse of the human mind, whether it was expressed in words, or notes, or paints, or mathematical symbols. This reverence for the life of the mind was apparent even in his last speech, which he was to have made a few hours after his death. He was to have said: “America’s leadership must be guided by learning and reason.” Learning and reason: precisely the two elements that were necessarily missing from the mind of anyone who could have fired that impossible bullet. Learning and reason: the two basic precepts of all Judaistic tradition, the twin sources from which every Jewish mind from Abraham and Moses to Freud and Einstein has drawn its living power. Learning and Reason: the motto we here tonight must continue to uphold with redoubled tenacity, and must continue, at any price, to make the basis of all our actions.

It is obvious that the grievous nature of our loss is immensely aggravated by the element of violence involved in it. And where does this violence spring from? From ignorance and hatred — the exact antonyms of Learning and Reason. Learning and Reason: those two words of John Kennedy’s were not uttered in time to save his own life; but every man can pick them up where they fell, and make them part of himself, the seed of that rational intelligence without which our world can no longer survive. This must be the mission of every man of goodwill: to insist, unflaggingly, at risk of becoming a repetitive bore, but to insist on the achievement of a world in which the mind will have triumphed over violence.

We musicians, like everyone else, are numb with sorrow at this murder, and with rage at the senselessness of the crime. But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same. This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. And with each note we will honor the spirit of John Kennedy, commemorate his courage, and reaffirm his faith in the Triumph of the Mind.

A month later, Bernstein premiered his next major symphony with the Israel Philharmonic and dedicated it “to the beloved memory of John F. Kennedy.” Half a century later, in times as troubled as ours and a world as war-torn as today’s, his message of Learning and Reason endures as a potent and urgently needed antidote to the hatred and ignorance that drive the impulse for violence.

For more of Bernstein’s timeless wisdom, see his meditation on motivation and why we create.

I sit at my desk with a pencil poised on the manuscript paper, trying to sort and sift ideas. I close my eyes, attempting in vain to keep my brain focused on the music, but I feel overwhelmed by the events unfolding around me. Back in February 2003, I marched through the streets of New York City, one of a million people who demonstrated to express outrage at our militaristic U.S. foreign policy. The entire East Side of Manhattan shut down; buses, taxis, and police vehicles were rendered helplessly immobile in a sea of people waving signs and chanting for judicious restraint. Now, three and a half years after the Defense Secretary predicted a quick victory that would take “a matter of weeks, not months”, American soldiers are caught in a bloody civil war with violence on the rise. 3,500 Iraqis died just this month, more than the total number of Americans who died on Sept. 11, 2001. Our own military casualties will soon surpass that number as well. Each day, mothers and fathers – Iraqi, Afghani, and American – lose their children, and an endless war is raging, on my behalf – on our behalves as U.S. citizens.

In the wake of John F. Kennedy’s murder, Leonard Bernstein wrote “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before…Sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same.” This statement, an artist’s sincere and earnest attempt to find a response to national crisis, has been used to promote the notion that creating music is powerful enough to overcome violence. For artists, the notion that creative acts are a valid and equal response to destructive ones, is an attractive idea. At times it has helped me to feel heroic simply by going about my daily business of writing, playing, and generally making music.

And yet the violent acts continue. How can I continue to scribble sixteenth notes under those circumstances? Is it possible to respond to such violence simply by making music? How deeply is this war dehumanizing us all, little by little, hour by hour?

A friend recently bolstered Bernstein’s pronouncement by pointing out that if we all played violins continually, we wouldn’t be able to kill or inflict pain (unless, I suppose if we all played violin as badly as I do…). This is true, but as the fighting goes on, that hypothesis seems more and more irrelevant. I write and play music passionately; others wage war passionately. I pick up a clarinet; someone else picks up a gun. The two acts are essentially unrelated, yet unfortunately, in the end, the guns are more plentiful. It’s not only easier to learn how to shoot than to compose, it’s also cheaper (join the army!) and it’s the path to greater glory. Making music may have been heroic to Lenny, but to most Americans the soldiers are the heroes.

Of course, the very story of Bernstein’s life is a rejection of passivity. It is only the frequent citation of this statement in times of war that irks me. For it reveals a troubling implication about the American psyche: that we profess to conquer violence while refusing to acknowledge its deeper roots in cultural conflict, poverty, imperialism, and turf battles over control of natural resources. John F. Kennedy’s assassination was no accident; nor was 9/11. Both events were part of an opposition’s calculated political agenda, and both events were responses – however unjust and cruel – to U.S. policy.

If therefore, as individuals, we abhor violence, we cannot bury our heads in the sand. Protesting it cannot be left to our elected representatives. The government will always indicate that our sole role is to ‘keep living our lives’, continuing to be productive taxpayers, ‘stimulating the economy’; in short, during a time of war we should do what we always did, only with more conviction and sense of purpose. Those who make music play more devotedly, farmers farm with greater fervor, bankers bank even more intensely. And of course, shoppers shop with renewed vigor and determination.

Remember how, in the wake of 9/11, George W. Bush commanded us to go shopping? That would be our victory over the terrorists. “Shop!” we were fitfully instructed, as if carrying out that sacred command would prove that we hadn’t given in, that our lives hadn’t been disrupted by terrorist tactics. Dubya suggested that we answer violence thus: “Do your business around the country. Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots. Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.” In the meantime, the federal government would respond to the violence for us, with a brutal ‘shock and awe’ preemptive war. Bush’s spokesperson Ari Fleisher had an additional, slightly more sinister, piece of advice for us citizens: “Watch what you say.” Accept the collective response of war. And accept the costs, the priorities. Our government spends more each day for the war in Iraq than we spend each year funding the arts.

What’s the difference whether we shop or make music? Either choice constitutes a Pyrrhic victory if it is accompanied by political passivity. I worry that Harold Pinter uttered a great truth in describing America as “a salesman…out on its own, and its most saleable commodity is self love.” How can we be so smug as to believe that the proper response to cataclysmic events is to continue with ‘business as usual’? In a democracy, how can we be so unmotivated to excoriate the policies of our own government and the conduct of our elected representatives? Has our lexicon become so distorted by Karl Rove’s doublespeak that we actually believe that doing nothing is equivalent to taking bold action?

The question becomes not merely whether – but when and how – we should stand up and say ‘enough!’ War is a confusing situation, because withdrawal seems as fraught as “staying the course.” As predicted by many analysts from the start, a civil war has now broken out in Iraq, and the situation is now far beyond our control. What remains is a hopelessly anarchic unrest, its graveness ignored by the warmongers of this administration, whose corporate and political interests benefited from the onset of hostilities. In all the hand-wringing over what to do next, it is easy to forget that the pretexts of self-defense under which we attacked Iraq have long since faded into the sunset. The only remaining excuse for continuing to occupy Iraq is to retroactively justify our misguided invasion.

I often muse over the complex and intertwined relationship between art and politics. I once brought a newly finished piano work to my very ‘political’ teacher Louis Andriessen. He looked at the dedication and grinned wryly.

“What‘s this?” He pointed to my inscription, which read, ‘For Yitzhak Rabin.‘ It was the week after Rabin had been shot, and I felt pained by his death.

“I wanted to do something,” I said solemnly, “to express something … about his death… .”

“Did you know him?” he queried, amusedly.

“No… ,” I replied.

“Then you shouldn‘t use his name,” he snapped. “This is silly.”

At first I thought he was just being deliberate and contrarian, but now I think he was probably right (and he is Dutch, after all… .) Our politics doesn‘t always belong in our art, at least not in that way. It‘s tricky.

One book that had a profound effect on me was Antonio Tabucchi’s novel ‘Sostiene Pereira’ (there’s also a movie version, with Mastroiani). The story begins as fascism creeps slowly into Portuguese pre-war politics. The protagonist Pereira is a middle-aged newspaper editor who begins to encounter violence more and more in the headlines; he finds his conscience torn, and one day he decides that he can no longer calmly go about his daily routine; he is drawn inextricably toward the only possible effective response – activism. Around the same time, in 1936, Llorca, the great Spanish poet and playwright, lost his life fighting with the Communists; his body was dumped in a ditch. Should he have balked at fighting for a cause in which he believed, and instead continued to write more and more beautiful poetry? Did he accomplish more through his ‘heroic’ death than he would have through his writing? It’s hard to know.

For who is to say that composing – or making music of any kind, for that matter – isn’t itself an act of violence? Why romanticize and tranquilize creativity? Composing, it seems to me, is largely about upheaval, about disturbing the status quo. The transfer of sensation, information, and emotion from one person to another may feel profound, even spiritual, but it is certainly not peaceful.

Artaud, in fact, was convinced that our most violent urges could be quenched and quelled by means of art. His “Théâtre de la cruauté” supposed live theatre to be the medium by which we might exorcise our antisocial instincts, returning home thereafter to properly behaved homes. In his world, art would not attempt to erase violence, but would instead serve as the catharsis by which violence could be experienced in a transformed – and physically harmless – form.

Being an artist demands a temperment that is sensitive to the joys and cruelties of the outside world. Ironically, artists sometimes seem desensitized to what goes on around them, but I believe that this remoteness – sometimes even manifesting itself in outwardly hostile behavior – can be a self-defense mechanism employed by extraordinarily vulnerable souls who decry injustice and tyranny.

In 1988, shortly before his death, Bernstein offers an eloquent – and now eerily prescient – rant against tyranny. In a New York Times essay he enumerates the dangers of fascism lurking within our own political system, especially during election years. “To call for war at the drop of a pipeline (while secretly dealing for hostages); to teach jingoistic slogans about armaments and Star Wars; to prescribe the weapons industry for the health of our doped-up credit card economy; to spend a dizzying percentage of the budget on arms at the expense of schools, hospitals, cultural pursuits, caring for the infirm and homeless – these are all forms of tyranny.”

The tyrant to whom he referred of was none other than George Bush the First.

One could argue that the ‘tyrant’ neocons have in fact taken a rather artistic approach to foreign policy, though it is played out in the theatre of war rather than the theatre of cruelty. They imagined a world as they’d like to see it, and they have been trying to fit the real world – our world – into that fantasy, inconsistencies notwithstanding. Or as the Downing Street Memo illuminated it: “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”. Artists must likewise believe in the world that they manufacture out of thin air. When our faith wanes in the fabricated worlds of our making, the ‘vision’ is lost. So Dick Cheney, too, is a dreamer, albeit a tyrannical and authoritarian one.

At the end of his essay, Bernstein strikes a hopeful note. He writes: “I love my country – so much, in fact, that I am putting all my energies into seeing it to a better day, a more tranquil night, a shining and limitless future. And I abide by the words of that splendid liberal Thomas Jefferson that are inscribed on his monument in Washington: ‘I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.’”

Time to write some music.

Posted by Derek Bermel at 7:24 AM

The ruins of the cathedral at Nagasaki

From Blessing Bombs to Preaching Peace: Fr. George Zabelka

by Daniel Nichols

June 1, 2012

God, Christ, lives in every human being. Our Lord tells us that what is done to the “least” is in fact now done to Him (Mt 25). I believe that! That is the only kind of God that I could adore and love, a God who lives in human history and suffers with people. I could only fear a god that sat as a depersonalized king above the anguish of humanity. This is part of what the Incarnation is all about. Christ suffers and dies at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Therefore to condone or support war is to condone or support the call to “Crucify Him.” To kill in war is, in fact, to be a “Christ-killer.” I’m sorry I can say nothing else —if Calvary is a holy place, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are holy places. -Fr George Zabelka

I was baptized in Sacred Heart church on the north side of Flint, Michigan. My family attended the parish until we enrolled in nearby St Agnes school, but my grandparents remained parishioners of Sacred Heart for the rest of their lives.

When I was two, Fr George Zabelka became pastor of Sacred Heart. I had no idea at the time, but Fr George was not your typical priest. I knew him only as a kindly pastor. I had no idea until many years later what a burden he carried.

Fr George Zabelka, you see, had been a military chaplain in the Pacific during World War II. He had been with the crew of the Enola Gay, the plane that bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Indeed, he had blessed the bombs.

Fr George Zabelka as a chaplain

He did so, apparently, as an unquestioning American nationalist, blinded at the time to the enormity of what he was participating in. Gradually, through counseling men who were tortured by the horror of what they had done, and by a later visit to Nagasaki, where he came to understand that a Catholic pilot, blessed by a Catholic priest, had bombed the most Catholic city in Japan into oblivion. He saw the ruins of the cathedral and of convents; he found not a single nun left where there had once been flourishing congregations.

Father George spent the rest of his life repenting for his cooperation in total war, and preaching and practicing peace.

But he always, until his death in 1992, spoke with courage and honesty. Here is an interview with him by Father Emmanuel Charles McCarthy


A Military Chaplain Repents
by Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

In August of 1945 Rev. George B. Zabelka, a Catholic chaplain with the U.S. Army Air Force, was stationed on Tinian Island in the South Pacific. He was assigned to serve the Catholics of the 509th Composite Group. The 509th Composite Group was the Atomic Bomb Group. He served as a priest for those who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After 22 years as a military chaplain he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. What follows is an interview with him by Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy. Rev. George B. Zabelka went to meet his God on April 11, 1992.

Fr. McCarthy: Father Zabelka, what is your relationship to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945?

Fr. Zabelka: During the summer of 1945, July, August and September, I was assigned as Catholic chaplain to the 509th Composite Group on Tinian Island. The 509th was the Atomic Bomb Group.

Q: What were your duties in relationship to these men?

Zabelka: The usual. I said Mass on Sunday and during the week. Heard confessions. Talked with the boys, etc. Nothing significantly different from what any other chaplain did during the war.

Q: Did you know that the 509th was preparing to drop an atomic bomb?

Zabelka: No. We knew that they were preparing to drop a bomb substantially different from and more powerful than even the “blockbusters” used over Europe, but we never called it an atomic bomb and never really knew what it was before August 6, 1945. Before that time we just referred to it as the “gimmick” bomb.

Q: So since you did not know that an atomic bomb was going to be dropped you had no reason to counsel the men in private or preach in public about the morality of such a bombing?

Zabelka: Well, that is true enough; I never did speak against it, nor could I have spoken against it since I, like practically everyone else on Tinian, was ignorant of what was being prepared. And I guess I will go to my God with that as my defense. But on Judgment Day I think I am going to need to seek more mercy than justice in this matter.

Q: Why? God certainly could not have expected you to act on ideas that had never entered your mind.

Zabelka: As a Catholic priest my task was to keep my people, wherever they were, close to the mind and heart of Christ. As a military chaplain I was to try to see that the boys conducted themselves according to the teachings of the Catholic Church and Christ on war. When I look back I am not sure I did either of these things very well.

Q: Why do you think that?

Zabelka: What I do not mean to say is that I feel myself to have been remiss in any duties that were expected of me as a chaplain. I saw that the Mass and the sacraments were available as best I could. I even went out and earned paratrooper wings in order to do my job better. Nor did I fail to teach and preach what the Church expected me to teach and preach ? and I don’t mean by this that I just talked to the boys about their sexual lives. I and most chaplains were quite clear and outspoken on such matters as not killing and torturing prisoners. But there were other areas where things were not said quite so clearly.

Q: For example?

Zabelka: The destruction of civilians in war was always forbidden by the Church, and if a soldier came to me and asked if he could put a bullet through a child?s head, I would have told him absolutely not. That would be mortally sinful. But in 1945 Tinian Island was the largest airfield in the world. Three planes a minute would take off from it around the clock. Many of these planes went to Japan with the express purpose of killing not one child or one civilian but of slaughtering hundreds and thousands of children and civilians ? and I said nothing.

Q: Why not? You certainly knew civilians were being destroyed by the thousands in these raids, didn?t you?

Zabelka: Oh, indeed I did know, and I knew with a clarity that few others could have had.

Q: What do you mean?

Zabelka: As a chaplain I often had to enter the world of the boys who were losing their minds because of something they did in war. I remember one young man who was engaged in the bombings of the cities of Japan. He was in the hospital on Tinian Island on the verge of a complete mental collapse.

He told me that he had been on a low-level bombing mission, flying right down one of the main streets of the city, when straight ahead of him appeared a little boy, in the middle of the street, looking up at the plane in a childlike wonder. The man knew that in a few seconds the child would be burned to death by napalm which had already been released.

Yes, I knew civilians were being destroyed, and knew it perhaps in a way others didn?t. Yet I never preached a single sermon against killing civilians to men who were doing it.

Q: Again, why not?

Zabelka: Because I was “brainwashed”! It never entered my mind to publicly protest the consequences of these massive air raids. I was told it was necessary; told openly by the military and told implicitly by my Church?s leadership. To the best of my knowledge no American cardinals or bishops were opposing these mass air raids. Silence in such matters, especially by a public body like the American bishops, is a stamp of approval.

The whole structure of the secular, religious, and military society told me clearly that it was all right to “let the Japs have it.” God was on the side of my country. The Japanese were the enemy, and I was absolutely certain of my country?s and Church?s teaching about enemies; no erudite theological text was necessary to tell me. The day-in-day-out operation of the state and the Church between 1940 and 1945 spoke more clearly about Christian attitudes towards enemies and war than St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas ever could.

I was certain that this mass destruction was right, certain to the point that the question of its morality never seriously entered my mind. I was “brainwashed” not by force or torture but by my Church?s silence and wholehearted cooperation in thousands of little ways with the country?s war machine. Why, after I finished chaplaincy school at Harvard I had my military chalice officially blessed by the then Bishop Cushing of Boston. How much more clearly could the message be given? Indeed, I was “brainwashed”!

Q: So you feel that because you did not protest the morality of the bombing of other cities with their civilian populations, that somehow you are morally responsible for the dropping of the atomic bomb?

Zabelka: The facts are that seventy-five thousand people were burned to death in one evening of fire bombing over Tokyo. Hundreds of thousands were destroyed in Dresden, Hamburg, and Coventry by aerial bombing. The fact that forty-five thousand human beings were killed by one bomb over Nagasaki was new only to the extent that it was one bomb that did it.

To fail to speak to the utter moral corruption of the mass destruction of civilians was to fail as a Christian and a priest as I see it. Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened in and to a world and a Christian Church that had asked for it ? that had prepared the moral consciousness of humanity to do and to justify the unthinkable. I am sure there are Church documents around someplace bemoaning civilian deaths in modern war, and I am sure those in power in the church will drag them out to show that it was giving moral leadership during World War II to its membership.

Well, I was there, and I?ll tell you that the operational moral atmosphere in the Church in relation to mass bombing of enemy civilians was totally indifferent, silent, and corrupt at best ? at worst it was religiously supportive of these activities by blessing those who did them.

I say all this not to pass judgment on others, for I do not know their souls then or now. I say all this as one who was part of the so-called Christian leadership of the time. So you see, that is why I am not going to the day of judgment looking for justice in this matter. Mercy is my salvation.

Q: You said the atomic bombing of Nagasaki happened to a Church that “had asked for it.” What do you mean by that?

Zabelka: For the first three centuries, the three centuries closest to Christ, the Church was a pacifist Church. With Constantine the church accepted the pagan Roman ethic of a just war and slowly began to involve its membership in mass slaughter, first for the state and later for the faith.

Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants, whatever other differences they may have had on theological esoterica, all agreed that Jesus? clear and unambiguous teaching on the rejection of violence and on love of enemies was not to be taken seriously. And so each of the major branches of Christianity by different theological methods modified our Lord?s teaching in these matters until all three were able to do what Jesus rejected, that is, take an eye for an eye, slaughter, maim, torture.

It seems a “sign” to me that seventeen hundred years of Christian terror and slaughter should arrive at August 9, 1945 when Catholics dropped the A-Bomb on top of the largest and first Catholic city in Japan. One would have thought that I, as a Catholic priest, would have spoken out against the atomic bombing of nuns. (Three orders of Catholic sisters were destroyed in Nagasaki that day.) One would have thought that I would have suggested that as a minimal standard of Catholic morality, Catholics shouldn?t bomb Catholic children. I didn?t.

I, like that Catholic pilot of the Nagasaki plane, was heir to a Christianity that had for seventeen hundred years engaged in revenge, murder, torture, the pursuit of power and prerogative and violence, all in the name of our Lord.

I walked through the ruins of Nagasaki right after the war and visited the place where once stood the Urakami Cathedral. I picked up a piece of a censer from the rubble. When I look at it today I pray God forgives us for how we have distorted Christ?s teaching and destroyed His world by the distortion of that teaching. I was the Catholic chaplain who was there when this grotesque process, which began with Constantine, reached its lowest point — so far.

Q: What do you mean by “so far”?

Zabelka: Briefly, what I mean is that I do not see that the moral climate in relation to war inside or outside the Church has dramatically changed much since 1945. The mainline Christian Churches still teach something that Christ never taught or even hinted at, namely the Just War Theory, a theory that to me has been completely discredited theologically, historically, and psychologically.

So as I see it, until the various churches within Christianity repent and begin to proclaim by word and deed what Jesus proclaimed in relation to violence and enemies, there is no hope for anything other than ever-escalating violence and destruction.

Until membership in the Church means that a Christian chooses not to engage in violence for any reason and instead chooses to love, pray for, help, and forgive all enemies; until membership in the Church means that Christians may not be members of any military, American, Polish, Russian, English, Irish, et al.; until membership in the Church means that the Christian cannot pay taxes for others to kill others; and until the Church says these things in a fashion which the simplest soul could understand — until that time humanity can only look forward to more dark nights of slaughter on a scale unknown in history. Unless the Church unswervingly and unambiguously teaches what Jesus teaches on this matter it will not be the divine leaven in the human dough that it was meant to be.

“The choice is between nonviolence or nonexistence,” as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, and he was not, and I am not, speaking figuratively. It is about time for the Church and its leadership in all denominations to get down on its knees and repent of this misrepresentation of Christ’s words.

Communion with Christ cannot be established on disobedience to His clearest teachings. Jesus authorized none of His followers to substitute violence for love; not me, not you, not Jimmy Carter, not the pope, not a Vatican council, nor even an ecumenical council.

Q: Father Zabelka, what kinds of immediate steps do you think the church should take in order to become the “divine leaven in the human dough”?

Zabelka: Step one should be that Christians the world over should be taught that Christ?s teaching to love their enemies is not optional. I?ve been in many parishes in my life, and I have found none where the congregation explicitly is called upon regularly to pray for its enemies. I think this is essential.

I offer you step two at the risk of being considered hopelessly out of touch with reality. I would like to suggest that there is an immediate need to call an ecumenical council for the specific purpose of clearly declaring that war is totally incompatible with Jesus? teaching and that Christians cannot and will not engage in or pay for it from this point in history on. This would have the effect of putting all nations on this planet on notice that from now on they are going to have to conduct their mutual slaughter without Christian support ? physical, financial, or spiritual.

I am sure there are other issues which Catholics or Orthodox or Protestants would like to confront in an ecumenical council instead of facing up to the hard teachings of Christ in relationship to violence and enemies. But it seems to me that issues like the meaning of the primacy of Peter are nowhere near as pressing or as destructive of Church credibility and God?s world as is the problem of continued Christian participation in and justification of violence and slaughter. I think the Church?s continued failure to speak clearly Jesus? teachings is daily undermining its credibility and authority in all other areas.

Q: Do you think there is the slightest chance that the various branches of Christianity would come together in an ecumenical council for the purpose of declaring war and violence totally unacceptable activities for Christians under all circumstances?

Zabelka: Remember, I prefaced my suggestion of an ecumenical council by saying that I risked being considered hopelessly out of touch with reality. On the other hand, what is impossible for men and women is quite possible for God if people will only use their freedom to cooperate a little.

Who knows what could happen if the Pope, the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the President of the World Council of Churches called with one voice for such a council? One thing I am sure of is that our Lord would be very happy if His Church were again unequivocally teaching what He unequivocally taught on the subject of violence.

Q: Fr. Zabelka, why after 39 years did you now decide to return to Japan and join in a peace pilgrimage that will culminate for you in Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9, 1984?

Zabelka: I am old now. Soon I will go to meet my God. When the invitation came to join this peace pilgrimage, I felt that God had offered me “a great grace,” as we used to say. So, I accepted.

Q: What do you mean, God has offered you “a great grace” by an invitation to join a peace walk?

Zabelka: I do not mean to quibble about words but I did not experience the invitation as a request to join a peace walk. The invitation entered into my soul as “pilgrimage” not “walk.” A pilgrimage is a journey one undertakes to holy places for holy reasons.

Q: But what holy places are you going to visit in Japan? My understanding was that you were going to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Zabelka: Calvary, the place where Christ suffered and died at the hands of the civil and religious politicians of His day, is the holiest shrine in Christianity. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are Calvaries. For here, Christ in the bodies of the “least” was again tortured and put to death hundreds of thousands of times over by exactly the same dark and deceitful spirit of organized lovelessness that roamed Jerusalem two thousand years ago.

Q: But Calvary is where Christ suffered. He did not suffer in Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Zabelka: God, Christ, lives in every human being. Our Lord tells us that what is done to the “least” is in fact now done to Him (Mt 25). I believe that! That is the only kind of God that I could adore and love, a God who lives in human history and suffers with people. I could only fear a god that sat as a depersonalized king above the anguish of humanity. This is part of what the Incarnation is all about. Christ suffers and dies at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Therefore to condone or support war is to condone or support the call to “Crucify Him.” To kill in war is, in fact, to be a “Christ-killer.” I’m sorry I can say nothing else — if Calvary is a holy place, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are holy places.

Q: You said that a pilgrimage must not only be to a holy place but for holy reasons. What are your reasons?

Zabelka: Peace! Peace is the fruit of communion with God. It is obvious to me that I, as well as humanity in general, are not in full communion with God, that we need to be reconciled with God. Jesus tells us that the condition now for reconciliation with God is reconciliation of human beings with each other. The Christian is explicitly called to be an agent of reconciliation. The first step in the reconciliation process is repentance for one?s sins, for what one has done to separate people from each other and thereby separate humanity from God. The reason I am going to Hiroshima and Nagasaki is to repent and to ask the forgiveness of those living and dead whom I have damaged by my failure to love Christically.

Q: But you were not actually on the planes that dropped the atomic bombs on those cities, were you?

Zabelka: No, but that is irrelevant moral thinking in the 20th century. Modern war and oppression are carried out by a long chain of individuals, each doing his or her job meticulously while simultaneously refusing to look at the end results of his or her work. There is no state or corporate evil that is not the result of personal sinfulness. In August of 1945, I, as a Christian and as a priest, served not as an agent of reconciliation but as an instrument of retaliation, revenge and homicide. My explicit and tacit approval of what was being done on Tinian Island that summer was clearly visible for anyone to see. Beyond this, I was the last possible official spokesman for the Church before the fire of hell was let loose on Hiroshima on the Feast of the Transfiguration 1945 — and I said nothing. I was the officially designated Catholic priest who by silence did his priestly patriotic duty and chose nationalism over Catholicism, Caesar over Christ, as the “Bockscar,” manned! by Christians in my care, took off to evaporate the oldest and largest Christian community in Japan — Nagasaki. No, the fact that I was not physically on the planes is morally irrelevant. I played an important and necessary role in this sacrilege ? and I played it meticulously. I am as responsible as the soldier who stuck the spear in the side of Christ on Calvary. I come to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to repent and to ask forgiveness from the Japanese people, from my faith community at Nagasaki and from God.

Q: Isn’t it a bit of rhetorical exaggeration to say you were a priest that played a role in a sacrilege?

Zabelka: Not at all. I mean it literally. If someone walks into a church and destroys the altar and statues, etc., it is called a sacrilege. A sacrilege is the desecration of what is considered holy. But for the Christian, the ultimate place of the holy is the human person. We are the “temples of the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, every act of violence toward a human being is an act of desecration of the temple of God in this world. War for the Christian is always sacrilege. There is no such absurdity as a Christian ethic of justified sacrilege. I am a priest who played a role in a sacrilege and that must be said by me and others like me without equivocation or else the future is a nightmare.

Q: What do you mean that the future is a nightmare unless you and others like you acknowledge your role in the sacrilege of war?

Zabelka: Look, I am a Catholic priest. In August of 1945, I did not say to the boys on Tinian, “You cannot follow Christ and drop those bombs.” But this same failure on the part of priests, pastors and bishops over the past 1700 years is, I believe, what is significantly responsible for Hiroshima and Nagasaki and for the seemingly unceasing “Christian” blood-letting around the globe. It seems to me that Christians have been slaughtering each other, as well as non-Christians, for the past 1700 years, in large part because their priests, pastors and bishops have simply not told them that violence and homicide are incompatible with the teachings of Jesus. On the contrary, I would say that the average priest, pastor and bishop communicates that violence and homicide can be compatible with Jesus. After all, a machine gun is no more lethal than a broomstick without the will to kill and the fact is that we so-called Christian “leaders” by commission and omission, for 1700 years,! have been guilty of supplying a significant piece of the motivational apparatus necessary to execute the mass slaughter of war. Let?s be honest, to justify an evil is to promote an evil. And let?s face it, we priests, pastors and bishops have been justifying the butchery of war in the name of Christ for a long time. I might also add here that where more is required priestly silence is sinful, because silence gives consent and consent motivates toward the evil.

Q: What do you think must be done to begin to address this situation, Father Zabelka?

Zabelka: Unless the legitimate successors to the apostles proclaim fearlessly what the apostles proclaimed fearlessly, that is, that Christ?s teachings are teachings of nonviolent love and mercy ? and unless they unequivocally repent of their failure and the failure of their predecessors to explicitly teach this, then a long night of high-tech terror, torture and desolation is assured all humanity ? first world, third world, East and West. What has to be done is that we Christian “leaders” have to admit openly that we have been engaged in propagating a bloody moral blunder for the last 1700 years: the Just War Theory.

Q: Specifically, how does your pilgrimage to Japan for this August 6th and 9th in 1984 respond to this need?

Zabelka: If my priestly silence spoke for the Church in 1945 to the fellows on Tinian, perhaps my priestly request for forgiveness at Hiroshima and Nagasaki can speak for the Church in 1984. You see, I want to expose the lie of “Christian” war. The lie I fell for and blessed. I want to expose the lie of killing as a Christian social method, the lie of disposable people, the lie of Christian liturgy in the service of the homicidal gods of nationalism and militarism, the lie of nuclear security. I want to expose it by looking into the faces of the hibaksha and saying, “Brother, forgive me for bringing you death instead of the fullness of life. Sister, pardon me for bringing you misery instead of mercy. I and my Church have sinned against you and God.” It is hope in the Power of that small moment of truth, repentance and reconciliation that moves me to pilgrimage East by the grace of God.

A one hour British documentary on Rev. George Zabelka, THE RELUCTANT PROPHET, is available in a DVD or VHS format from the Center for Christian Nonviolence.

Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy is a priest of the Eastern Rite (Byzantine-Melkite) of the Catholic Church. Formerly a lawyer and a university educator, he is the founder and the original director of The Program for the Study and Practice of Nonviolent Conflict Resolution at the University of Notre Dame. He is also co-founder, along with Dorothy Day and others of Pax Christi-USA. He has conducted retreats and spoken at conferences throughout the world on the issue of the relationship of faith and violence and the nonviolence of the Jesus. He was the keynote speaker at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee for the 25th anniversary memorial of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. there. He is author of several books, including these: All Things Flee Thee because Thou Fleest Me: A Cry to the Churches and their Leaders to Return to the Nonviolent Jesus and His Nonviolent Way; Christian Just War Theory: The logic of Deceit; August 9: The Stations of the Cross of ! Nonviolent Love. He has also authored innumerable articles on the subject of violence, religion and the nonviolent love of friends and enemies taught by Jesus by word and deed. His audio/video series, BEHOLD THE LAMB, is almost universally considered to be the most spiritually profound presentation on the matter of Gospel Nonviolent Love available in this format. BEHOLD THE LAMB is now available on mp3CD through his website, either at the cost of $5.00 for a disc or it can be acquired directly by an mp3 downloaded from the website for no cost. Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his life‘s work on behalf of peace within people and among people. He may be reached and his work may be accessed at the Center for Christian Non-Violence.

WARNING: This is pretty scary stuff, though I should be safely dead by the time Gaia turns into Venus. —Daniel

    Pogo got it right.

    On 10 September 1813, after defeating the British fleet in the Battle of Lake Erie, Oliver Hazard Perry, commander of the American fleet, dispatched one of the most famous messages in military history to Maj. Gen. William Henry Harrison. It read: “Dear Gen’l: We have met the enemy, and they are ours, two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop. Yours with great respect and esteem. H. Perry.” In 1970 cartoonist Walt Kelly famously paraphrased the statement as “We have met the enemy, and he is us” in a poster for the first Earth Day that featured characters from his long-running strip Pogo gazing on a garbage dump and mourning the sad state of the environment.

Those of us who grew up reading science fiction were heartened by stories of alien invaders uniting humanity against a common enemy. Well, those prophetic words of Walt Kelly ring true once again.

For millennia, homo sapiens has been getting under the skin of Mother Earth. Then, in what amounts to microseconds in geological time, the depths of our intrusions went from feet — to miles.

We know how the body reacts to intruders, kiddies, don’t we: A foreign object is surrounded by pus, then expelled. Foreign agents are attacked by antibodies. Then there’s … the fever.

Friends of mine have recently been battling an infestation of bedbugs. The solution? Heat each room to 152o Fahrenheit. That’ll get the little buggers! Same thing with flu and fever, except that if you get hotter than what’s needed to kill what need eliminating, it’ll kill you.

I have heard that the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) an esteemed panel of climate scientists, conservative, mind you, not folks prone to flights of fancy, but sober, God-fearing folk, have determined that within fifteen years of exponential environmental degradation, Planet Earth will be terminally choked by methane and Life As We Know It will be royally fricasseed. The atmosphere will de-stabilize and all Creation will go topsy-turvy.

To paraphrase Pete Seeger quoting Robert Fulgham, “There’s no hope but maybe I am wrong — not.” Suck it up. We may be history and cockroaches will rule the earth.

Okay, maybe that’s just wishful thinking on Gaia’s part. But consider the fellow in “the Graduate” who goes up to Benjamin Braddock and whispers, “Plastics.” Well, the word is actually … methane.

“Essentially we have passed the methane hydrate tipping point and are now accelerating into extinction as the methane hydrate ‘Clathrate Gun’ has begun firing volleys of methane into the Arctic atmosphere”

The Earth is a giant convecting planet, the underlying molten magma being heated by deep-seated radioactivity and the oceans and atmosphere are its cooling radiator which allows the Earth the facility to vent this heat into open space. Mother Earth has carefully held the atmospheric temperature within a stable range necessary for oceans to exist for at least 4 billion years and nurtured the earliest bacteria to evolve into today’s space-faring humans.

The fouling up of the Earth’s cooling radiator from Human emissions of greenhouse gases derived from fossil fuels will be counteracted by Mother Earth in her characteristic fashion by emitting vast volumes of deadly methane into the atmosphere from the Arctic regions. This will lead to the total extermination of all harmful biological species that produce greenhouse gases in the same way that Mother Earth did during the Permian and other extinction events. In this case, however, we have totally tipped the balance with our extreme carbon dioxide and methane emissions so that there will be no chance of recovery for the Earth in this time-frame.

    The Non-Disclosed Extreme Arctic Methane Threat Malcolm P.R. Light, December, 2013

Let me put it this way:

    I wrote this tale close to the anniversary of the 6.9 San Francisco Bay area Loma Prieta earthquake. Personally, I think Gaia was just warming up, maybe suggesting a game of ten-pin with the cosmos, like, send a squirrely gutter-ball whizzing past us with enough gravitational mass to treat Planet Earth like a global martini, James Bond-style, shaken, not stirred. Earthquakes, volcanoes, tornados and hurricanes, flip it on its axis and adios muchachos y muchachas.

    Think about it. How long, in geological time, have we been pricking the earth? We’ve not been miles-deep shafting, uranium-mining, global warming for that very long. The human body can ignore mosquitoes, but takes a dim — and serious view of massive infection. How do you think Gaia will deal with us as a species, realizing that we pose a real, credible threat to her health, her very existence?

    The only question, really, being, will we be given a second, stone-age chance, or will we be traded for a player to be named later, like, say, Cockroach? Enquiring minds want to know.

      —Daniel, May 12, 2013


ne day God and the Dragon were hoisting a few, talking about Things (they didn’t just talk about “things”—they talked about THINGS— and there’s a lull in the conversation. Then the Dragon speaks:

“Say, yer G’ness, this Universe jazz—how did it all come about, anyway. Like, how long have you been around?”

“Forever, Jack, and that’s a fac.” God belched and raised a glass for the barkeep to refill.

“Landlord,” the Dragon added, in a reasonable W.C. Fields impression, “while you’re at it, pour me another one, too. And raise the octane a tad. I’ve barely got enough flame to light my ceegar. Come on, God. You can do better than that. Anyone who can write something as convoluted as the Bible’s got a hell of an imagination.”

“Okay, squirt, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll tell you the beginning if you can answer a simple question.”


“Which came first–the dragon or the egg?”

Scheisse … merde … Griffin pucky,” growled the dragon. “Do I look like an egghead to you? Okay. There were fish eggs before there were dragon. No, that’s not quite right. the answer is … Dragon.


The Dragon chuckled, adjusted his scales (ran through an E flat Dorian to scratch an itch), flicked his tail (a couple dozen shooting stars that evening!) and put another cushion under his rump. Brushing an ash from his considerable belly he began.

“It was a dark and stormy night,” he rumbled in dragon baritone.

“Hoo!” God interjected. “How original.”

“Hey. My story.”

    child was sleeping, dreaming fantasy and science fiction, and its dream-mind wandered through myriad universes when it came to one that was simply quite … empty. And it dreamed a dragon—a tiny one, really, just this small. The dragon squeaked and that Universe turned just so and the little child winkled out of the creature’s existence, leaving it all alone with nothing but emptiness surrounding it.

    Her eyes gazed all about, looking for something to grasp onto, but there was nothing there. And so she began to cry diamond tears and those tears were sprinkled across the heavens and became the stars. They twinkled and jingled crystalline starry-bell sounds. And winked at her. ;-) A gleam shot across her miniature orbs and she puffed a tiny dragon puff and out shot inter-stellar debris. “Oo!” she cried and reached into her belly and drew some fire together, rolled it around, pulled it stretched like salt-fire taffy and shot it up and around and through her tiny dragon teeth.

    The flame swirled around her head and fell into itself, rolled into a ball. “Sun!” she cried in baby dragon-talk, choked a bit on the word and coughed up the moon for an encore. All this was very exciting, but abruptly, Nature called and out the other end plummeted a great fertile gob of Dragon-doo. Turning about she singed it an oven-broiler singe and barbecued it good.

    It cooked and ripened and sprouted. Dragon-piss splashed into lakes and rivers and seas. Microscopic creatures split into multitudes, Time grew wings and creatures Changed and Changed and there were seven and twenty-nine and one hundred and two of them and then in two and several blinks of her ever-widening dragons’ eyes, vast quintillions of different kinds, all frolicking and eating and shitting and great grand rutting and over-all plentifying the earth.

    And the sounds! “Cahyee!” “Gehh!” “Yayayaya!” “Cooy, Cooy!” “Hootnhoot!” all rumbled and splattered around her dragon ears and mixed themselves together. “Gaia. Gaia. Gaia.”

    “Gaia. I am Gaia.” And so, quite satisfied with herself and ready for an afternoon nap, she stretched and rolled and turned around and around, dropping planets and moons and comets and such as she moved, outward, outward. And just beyond the orbit of Pluto she yawned, belched a volcano, smoked and simmered and drifted off to sleep.

“Where the hell am I while all this is going on,” mumbled God, scratching her left tit and taking another swallow of Ambrosia Lager Dry Lite (even God has to watch Her weight.)

“You were always here, don’tcha know. Always the impartial observer. Least ‘til you sent down that Jesus jerk. Somebody should’ve taught you the Prime Directive.”

“That’s my Son you’re talking about—”

“Son, schmun. Why couldn’t you have sent a Daughter. Maybe a couple dozen less wars. Who knows.”

“Asshole. Talk to Allah next door about that Mohammed error-in-judgment.”

“Hey, that’s You! Yahweh, God(ess), Allah … same dif‘. ’Sides, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was cool. It’s the pricks who took their cue from the Crusaders’ playbook that gave Islam a bad rep. Petty human expletive-deleteds,” grouched the Dragon. “Should learn to worship the message and not the messenger. Where was I, anyway?”

“Gaia in Lullaby Land.”

“Oh. … Landlord! (W.C. Fields again.) Another shot of Vulcan’s finest. My throat’s too damned dry and cool.”

“Right away, your Scalyness.”

“Lovely man. An angel of mercy to the parched of Paradise.”

    And she slept, dreaming of innocence, and ah, what mischief idle planets doth … .

“God, what’s the third person present of ‘wrought’?”

“Sorry. I lost interest in grammar after Aramaic.” (Dragon gives Her a quizzical sneer.) “Whaaat. Do I look like a fucking high school English teacher?”

“We’re talking in Dragonish.”

“Mono-lingual puppet-slave down there at the word processor’s stuck in English. Forget it. Pick another word.”

“If you say so.”

    While little Gaia slept, Evil was born. From the Primordial Soup kitchen a creature emerged and was called Man.

“Whoa, whoa, Whoooaaaa! In My image we’re talking here. And this ‘man’ shit. It’s the 90s downstairs and I don’t mean 18.”

‘Man’s deliberate and, hey, I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em. Buddhas and Gandhis are well and good, but, hey, from balls-the-size-of-Outer-Mongolia Ghengis Khan to prissy-smarmy ‘Read my lipshit’ George (don’t remind me it’s the 90s) Indira, Maggie and Imelda were outclassed beyond redemption in the `Let’s go to Hell and take the world with us’ department. And I’m a nominal male. … Sheesh. Put me on a fucking menstrual cycle and join me on Your Harley. … Saint fucking George! Heard of him? Of course. Poor Gaia. Busted a nice frolicky dream about Puff on Hanalei beach, woke up and had to deal with that prick.

    Gaia awoke and sensed something was wrong, tippy-toed back to Planet Earth and gazed below in dismay. Darkly-glowing fires with a homo sapiens cast dotted the landscape. Wheels and machines and roads. And weapons.

    “No, no, no!” she cried and flew in a streak through the clouds below. Down, and down, and down she plummeted, past mountain peaks and eagles and sparrows. Past clean, blue sky into brown, choking air saturated with the evil of civilization. Across the land she raced, guided by instinct to a village to a forest to a clearing where stood …

    “I am Saint George and I deny you!” he challenged.

    “What have you done?” she cried, meaning ‘you of sword and longbow and instruments of torture.’

    “I?” he shouted in his blind arrogance. “I have called you, and you have answered my summons and today you shall die.”

    “You!” she pleaded in dismay. “From my guts I bore you, gave you heat and light, pissed a gentle rain to green your lands. You mock me and know not what you say. You would kill your own mother?”

    “You are a whore,” blathered the saint, “and I shall part you in twain from your hole to your larynx.”

Dragon snorted in aggregation, tossed back a few lingering drops of nectar and continued. “Never one for logical process this paragon of intelligent life, Saint Georgie girded his polluting loins, dropped his visor, dug his sharp-shod heel into his charger-accomplice’s flanks and launched himself into history. Unused to air current and thermal dynamics, poor Gaia slipped on a wind sheer and dropped like an unlucky parachutist onto the speeding point of George’s iron prick, not a messenger of fuck but of hot gushing death.

“Or nearly so. You cannot slay the dragon. You cannot slay your mother. You can flay her in strips of mining, render her asthmatic and scald her tender skin with acid rain.

“You cannot slay the Dragon. You cannot slay your mother. You can disease her seas and brand her land and dry her sky but she lives and breathes. And waits. And waits.”

    Up and up and up she spiraled, spied with sharp of eye a welcoming, beckoning fissure, blew a blessed passage into herself and plunged. Into the heart of the ball and made herself at home. Rested, breathed, drank of the cool, deep wells, warmed by the fires of the molten core. And slept. And dreamt. And healed. And waited.

    Dragon is merciful, Dragon is kind. Dragon is compassionate and loves her children, loves her brats, listens to their squalls, feels them grow, senses their learning, feels the joy of their Worshipness, those who love their Mother, love their Dragon. And waits. And balances.

    And says to herself, “Maybe I should start all over again from scratch.” And it is October 17, 1989.

“Last year, right?” queries God, never at a loss for observation. “Quite the cock-up, that Loma Prieta.”

“Never was an egg, your Throneness. I am her doppelgänger, her eye in the sky, so to speak. I am a cellular phone call from Hell, to abuse the vernacular.

“Who do you represent, God?” he sneers, “The Christians? Got you outnumbered. I’m the whole enchilada, amigo. I’m the Earth entire and I’m hoisting a few with you, well, because it amuses me. I can make you disappear. One good fart from my Dragon bowels, a tectonic shake, rattle and roll and Christianity goes out the window with civilization and learning and monks and quills and you’re non-history and all our kiddies down there have to learn to make matches all over again.

“Hey, baby, who loves ya? Happy Anniversary, San Francisco.”

Daniel B. Zwickel
Pittsburg, California
2:51 am, Friday the 14th, September 1990

One month, three days, fourteen hours and sixteen minutes to go.

In case you missed it, I am a Unitarian Universalist as well as a Jew. Why this is pertinent is because I am also An American. And that’s not all.

My name is Shakur Daniel Beck Zwickel ben Avrám ben Chayim MacJean of Hoss-Winter & Wicks: which is to say, Shakurallah (grateful for the many blessings of Allah) Shakur (Gratitude), my Sufi name, being one of the ninety-nine names of Allah; Dani-El, meaning God (El) is my judge (Dan), and matriarchally descended from the Becks, who begat the mother of my grandmother, Lula Beck Hoss; son of Abraham, son of Chayim (meaning ‘life’, called Charles) of Brooklyn, of Tailor clan Zwickel of Galicia, and husband of Rebecca Winter; and of Jean, clan Campbell, of St. Louis, daughter of the Rev. Dr. Scott Corey Wicks of Indianapolis and a namastëan life-affirminist rationalist mystic ovo-lacto activist-pacifist eco-feminist Zen-neo-pagan non-Abrahamic Judeo-Christian religious humanistic Unitarian bio-theistic Trinitarian pan-theistic existentialist Universalist trans-gender/generationist troubadour of jazz and a birthright Jewnitarian, member of the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church of Walnut Creek, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Bio-region, Pacific Central District of the Unitarian Universalist Association, since April of 1976 and a damn good musician and composer and renaissant jazz violinist.

Daniel ben Avrám
Vallejo, California
13 August, 2014

Addendum: This just in!

Unitarian Universalism may well be the most psychologically healthful church in America.

We welcome the marginalized, the non-conformists, the queer community, particularly youth. If not outright condemned, queer youth are made to feel out of place in many churches. The fact that they are welcomed and respected as individuals is not just a healthy thing — it can be a preventative to those who are prone to suicide, which is epidemic among queer youth throughout the nation. We teach our children, from early on, about other religions and faith traditions — how many churches to that! Knowledge of others, understanding and respect fosters goodwill and lessens fear of “the other”, which is the cause for so much hatred in the world.

We have a curriculum called “OWL” (Our Whole Life), which teaches age-appropriate sexuality, fostering a better understanding of the students’ bodies which also leads to healthy relationships. Above all, we treat our youth as people, encouraging their growth and integrating them into the decision-making process in our church governance. We grow healthier, well-adjusted adults, and how cool is that!