On The Monitor this week:
- Howard Zinn‘s 2009 speech at The Progressive Magazine‘s 100th anniversary
- Part of a talk by Noam Chomsky from 1990 describing propaganda terms in the media and what they mean
Howard Zinn was an American historian, political scientist, social critic, activist and playwright. He is best known as author of the best-seller ‘A People’s History of the United States’. Zinn has been active in the Civil Rights and the anti-war movements in the United States. Howard Zinn passed away on January 27, 2010. Zinn was raised in a working-class family in Brooklyn, and flew bombing missions for the United States in World War II, an experience he now points to in shaping his opposition to war. In 1956, he became a professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, a school for black women, where he soon became involved in the Civil rights movement, which he participated in as an adviser to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee SNCC and chronicled, in his book SNCC The New Abolitionists. Zinn collaborated with historian Staughton Lynd and mentored a young student named Alice Walker. When he was fired in 1963 for insubordination related to his protest work, he moved to Boston University, where he became a leading critic of the Vietnam War.
Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and political activist. Sometimes described as “the father of modern linguistics”, Chomsky is also a major figure in analytic philosophy and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. He is Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he has worked since 1955, and is the author of over 100 books on topics such as linguistics, war, politics, and mass media. Ideologically, he aligns with anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism.
Born to middle-class Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants in Philadelphia, Chomsky developed an early interest in anarchism from alternative bookstores in New York City. At the age of 16 he began studies at the University of Pennsylvania, taking courses in linguistics, mathematics, and philosophy. From 1951 to 1955 he was appointed to Harvard University’s Society of Fellows, where he developed the theory of transformational grammar for which he was awarded his doctorate in 1955. That year he began teaching at MIT, in 1957 emerging as a significant figure in the field of linguistics for his landmark work Syntactic Structures, which remodeled the scientific study of language, while from 1958 to 1959 he was a National Science Foundation fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study. He is credited as the creator or co-creator of the universal grammar theory, the generative grammar theory, the Chomsky hierarchy, and the minimalist program. Chomsky also played a pivotal role in the decline of behaviorism, being particularly critical of the work of B. F. Skinner.
An outspoken opponent of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, which he saw as an act of American imperialism, in 1967 Chomsky attracted widespread public attention for his anti-war essay “The Responsibility of Intellectuals”. Associated with the New Left, he was arrested multiple times for his activism and placed on President Richard Nixon’s Enemies List. While expanding his work in linguistics over subsequent decades, he also became involved in the Linguistics Wars. In collaboration with Edward S. Herman, Chomsky later co-wrote an analysis articulating the propaganda model of media criticism, and worked to expose the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. However, his defense of unconditional freedom of speech – including for Holocaust deniers – generated significant controversy in the Faurisson affair of the early 1980s. Following his retirement from active teaching, he has continued his vocal political activism, including opposing the War on Terror and supporting the Occupy movement.
One of the most cited scholars in history, Chomsky has influenced a broad array of academic fields. He is widely recognized as a paradigm shifter who helped spark a major revolution in the human sciences, contributing to the development of a new cognitivistic framework for the study of language and the mind. In addition to his continued scholarly research, he remains a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy, neoliberalism and contemporary state capitalism, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and mainstream news media. His ideas have proved highly significant within the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movements, but have also drawn criticism, with some accusing Chomsky of anti-Americanism.
In 2006 The Progressive Magazine published a text by Howard Zinn that is well worth a read today.
Hammering for Peace
by Kathy Kelly
May 25, 2016
Last winter, at the Voices home/office in Chicago, we welcomed two friends who were in town for a Mennonite church gathering focused on the symbol of beating swords into plowshares. Their project embraces a vision from the biblical “Book of Isaiah” which longs for the day when “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they study war anymore.” Our friends quite literally enact this vision. They use saws to cut guns and rifles in half and then hammer on the broken weapons, turning them into useful tools for gardening and light construction.
Throughout the service, one of the men could be seen, on a screen, standing outside the Mennonite church hall, fashioning, with hammer and anvil, a rifle into a garden tool. Sparks flew with his hammer, but no-one was inflamed into anger. The fire our friends wanted to ignite was inside us. With what work can we replace war? If we are no longer training for war, what else could we be doing?”
That winter night, at the Mennonite church, I couldn’t help but think of another activist who had swung a tool last December, in this case, a sledgehammer, because she was inspired to confront weapon makers and encourage alternatives to war. Jessica Reznicek, age 34, didn’t own the weapon system she wanted to transform. But she felt responsible to help the general public own up to its complicity with weapon systems funded by U.S. taxpayers. She took a sledgehammer to the doors of a major weapon producing company, Northrop Grumman, outside Offut Air Force base. In a written statement explaining why she swung her tool at the plate glass, Jessica asks people to understand that Northrop Grumman’s weapon systems shatter and destroy the lives of people the world over.
As one of the manufacturers with the largest share of the global Unmanned Aerial Systems market, (18.9%), Northrop Grumman profits immensely from peddling complex weapon systems often designed to be eyes in the skies monitoring targets for assassination. This kind of surveillance and extrajudicial execution generates intense anger and backlashes in other lands. It also promotes proliferation of robotic weapons. But the U.S. military and acquiescent institutions encourage us to feel that we’ve been made safer by complex weapons of destruction, and we should instead be frightened of a young woman wielding a sledgehammer to break a plate glass window.
On May 24, Jessica Reznicek went go to a trial in Nebraska, expected to last two days, for her action. She has chosen to go “pro se,” – to defend herself. Courts in the U.S. seldom allow the necessity defense. If the judge in Jessica’s case does so, Jessica could try to defend herself saying she acted to prevent a greater harm. She could establish that the U.S. government consistently provides Northrop Grumman with lavish funding, devoting immense resources of materials and scientific ingenuity to the study of war, all desperately needed elsewhere. Northrop Grumman steadily experiments in perfecting the high-tech advantage of an empire bent on endlessly dominating the world through endless war.
I wish that the testimony of my friends who literally beat guns into garden tools could be part of the courtroom proceeding. They urge us to make guns and other weapons unnecessary, using raw tools of compassion and service to heal the conflicts in which weapons are used. I wish my young Afghan friends here in Kabul, who live under constant surveillance of Unmanned Aerial Systems, could testify about their desire to refine tools of peace making and constructive service.
They could assure the court that it’s far more worthwhile to develop raw tools for producing needed goods and services than to develop weapon systems of mass destruction.
Jessica’s action makes me wonder if the “norm” in our society is the opposite of the biblical plowshares exhortation. Our major institutions study the ways of war comprehensively and our “top crop” in the U.S. has become weapons. Jessica encourages, one might even say provokes, discussion of the role militarism plays in our world.
I hope the words of a legendary barrister in Ireland, Mr. Nix, who defended “The Pitstop Plowshares,” can be recalled as Jessica’s trial nears conclusion. Shortly before the U.S. led coalition began bombing Iraq in 2003, five activists invoked the swords to plowhsares saying from the Book of Isaiah and hammered on a U.S. warplane parked on the tarmac of Shannon airport. Ireland is a neutral country, and they believed that the U.S. Navy warplanes making “pitstops” en route to a war zone violated that neutrality. They undertook the action shortly after attending a retreat during which the Sisters of St. Brigid, in Kildare, Ireland had asked me to speak about Iraqis who suffered under 13 years of U.S. led UN economic sanctions. Before returning to Baghdad, I gave them enlarged, laminated photos of Iraqi children who were among the half million who died, according to the U.N., as a direct result of economic sanctions along with photos of children killed by an earlier U.S. aerial attack on the city of Basra. They used these photos to set up a memorial shrine next to the warplane they had damaged. Mr. Nix, preparing for trial, asked that I come to Dublin as a witness to help establish the defendants’ motivations. I will never forget his closing statement in which he delivered a fiery indictment of war makers and described the hideous punishment wars inflict on innocent people, especially children. He ended his remarks by addressing everyone assembled in Dublin’s Four Courts, saying: “The question isn’t ‘Did these five have a lawful excuse to do what they did?’ The question is ‘What’s your excuse not to do more? What will rise ye?!’ The Irish jury acquitted the defendants on all charges.
No matter what the outcome of Jessica’s trial, Mr. Nix’s question, “What will rise ye?” abides. How can we, each of us, help lift the hammer of justice, cultivating a world at peace.
Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence. (www.vcnv.org)She is writing from Kabul where she is a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. (ourjourneytosmile.com)
On The Monitor this week:
- Gareth Porter on How Putin’s leverage shaped the Syrian ceasefire
- Max Blumenthal on Israel, BDS, and U.S. media coverage of Israel and Palestine
There is an event on Tuesday the 29th of March that is probably of interest to our listeners: The Ervin Frederick Kalb Lecture in History at Rice University. The title is “America, Energy and War” and the speaker is Toby C. Jones. The event starts at 7:00PM. Get all the details here and come along, if you can. See you there!
More about this week’s guests:
Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian who specializes in U.S. national security policy. He writes regularly for Middle East Eye and has also published investigative articles on Salon.com, the Nation, the American Prospect, Truthout and The Raw Story. His blogs have been published on Huffington Post, Firedoglake, Counterpunch and many other websites. Porter was Saigon bureau chief of Dispatch News Service International in 1971 and later reported on trips to Southeast Asia for The Guardian, Asian Wall Street Journal and Pacific News Service. He is the author several books, including Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in 2005, and Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare in 2015. He has taught Southeast Asian politics and international studies at American University, City College of New York and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Follow him on Twitter
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author whose articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Independent Film Channel, The Huffington Post, Salon.com, Al Jazeera English and many other publications. He has written several books, including The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party (a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller). He also recently completed a short documentary with James Kleinfeld in which they speak to far right activists in Finland. Watch it here. Follow him on Twitter
On The Monitor this week
- Assessing the gap between rhetoric and policy – just how “extreme” is Trump’s discourse? We discuss the topic with Arun Kundani
- A journey from Zionism to peace activism with Miko Peled
More about this week’s guests:
This week’s episode of The Monitor features two guests discussing issues related to the Middle East. Our first guest, Amr Hamzawy, discusses the Egyptian political scene. Our second guest, Paul Gottinger, talks about the impact of the “War on Terror” on the number of terrorist attacks around the world.
More about this week’s guests:
Amr Hamzawy is a visiting scholar at Stanford University, and associate professor of Political Science at Cairo University. He is a former member of the People’s Assembly in the Parliament of Egypt and the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights. He previously served as a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His research focuses on democratization processes, political movements and civil society in Egypt as well as contemporary debates in political thought and governance in the Arab world. He holds a B.Sc. in political science from Cairo University, M.A. degrees in developmental studies from the University of Amsterdam and the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, and a Ph.D. in political science from the Free University of Berlin. You can find him on Twitter: @
Amr spoke at Rice University’s Baker institute last week. You can watch the talk and Q&A session below.
Paul Gottinger is a journalist based in Madison, WI, USA. He can be reached onTwitter @paulgottinger. He recently wrote an analysis of the”war on terror”: “Despite 14 Years of the U.S. War on Terror, Terror Attacks Have Skyrocketed Since 9/11,” which states: “Terror attacks have jumped by a stunning 6,500 percent since 2002, according to a new analysis by Reader Supported News. The number of casualties resulting from terror attacks has increased by 4,500 percent over this same time period. These colossal upsurges in terror took place despite a decade-long, worldwide effort to fight terrorism that has been led by the United States.
“The analysis, conducted with figures provided by the U.S. State Department, also shows that from 2007 to 2011 almost half of all the world’s terror took place in Iraq or Afghanistan — two countries being occupied by the U.S. at the time.
“Countries experiencing U.S. military interventions continue to be subjected to high numbers of terror attacks, according to the data. In 2014, 74 percent of all terror-related casualties occurred in Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Syria. Of these five, only Nigeria did not experience either U.S. air strikes or a military occupation in that year.
“The U.S. invasion of Iraq destabilized Iraq and Syria, creating the conditions for the emergence of ISIS, which now controls large parts of the two countries. The invasion of Afghanistan has not been able to wrestle large sections of the country from the Taliban, leaving Afghanistan in state of perpetual war. And the air war to oust Muammar Gaddafi has left Libya in a state of chaos.
“The instability caused by these wars, along with the atrocities perpetrated by U.S.-led forces, which can be exploited for terrorist recruitment, have played a significant role in the increase of terrorism worldwide.”
On The Monitor this week:
- Former Soldier and current Peace Activist Ellen Barfield on her transformation and the activism of Resisting Drones
- Writer, Academic, Activist, and Commentator Yasmin Nair on The Supreme Court same-sex ruling and “The Secret History of Gay Marriage”
More about this week’s guests:
Ellen Barfield grew up in Texas. Like so many, she joined the Army to get the money to
finish college. While in the army she was stationed in Germany and Korea. She served in the U.S. Army from 1977-1981. She has been a full-time peace and justice activist for nearly thirty years. In addition to being on the board of the War Resisters League, Ellen is the coordinator of the Veterans for Peace Baltimore Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter, and works on national committees of VFP, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and School of the Americas Watch.
Since 2010 Hancock has been the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the NY National Guard – an MQ9 Reaper drone hub piloting weaponized drones 24/7 over Afghanistan and likely elsewhere. Also since 2010 Hancock has been the scene of twice-monthly anti-drone demonstrations outside its main gate as well as occasional larger demonstrations and scrupulously nonviolent civil resistance organized by Upstate Drone Action, a grassroots coalition. These have led to over 160 arrests, and numerous trials in DeWitt as well as $375 fines, Orders of Protection, and numerous incarcerations. Read more about anti-drone actions www.upstatedroneaction.org
Ellen Barfield was among 31 arrested in the driveway to Hancock’s main gate on East Molloy Rd on April 28, 2013 for “dieing-in” with bloody shrouds or for attempting to read aloud to the military personnel behind Hancock’s barbed wire fence a list of children killed by U.S. drones. The activists said they sought to “prick the conscience” of base personnel and the chain of command responsible for the war crime originating there.
On June 27th, after deliberating a couple hours, a six-person jury found four of those arrested, including Ellen, not guilty of obstructing government administration (OGA) at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse, New York, but guilty of trespass, a violation carrying a maximum 15-day imprisonment.
Yasmin Nair is a co-founder and member of the editorial collective Against Equality; she contributed essays on gay marriage, hate crime legislation, and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to their book, Against Equality: Queer Revolution, Not Mere Inclusion. She is also a member of the Chicago grassroots organisation Gender JUST (Justice United for Societal Transformation) and serves as its Policy Director (a volunteer position). Nair was, from 1999-2003, a member of the now-defunct Queer to the Left. Her activist work includes gentrification, immigration, public education, and youth at risk. Her recent article is called “The Secret History of Gay Marriage“
Yasmin Nair‘s writing and organizing focuses on neoliberalism and inequality, queer politics and theory, the politics of rescue and affect, sex trafficking, the art world, and the immigration crisis. You can read her work in various anthologies and journals, including Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters and How to Stop It, Windy City Queer: Dispatches from the Third Coast, Arab Studies Quarterly and Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Newspapers in America.
On The Monitor this week:
- Music to build peace and dialogue – an interview with Shani Rigsbee
- Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), what is the movement about and what is it trying to achieve? – an interview with Marjorie Cohn
I hope listeners are going to think and interact with the show on this topic. The questions I want to start out with in the context of this show:
Are these two efforts compatible? Can you be for peace and sanctions as well?
Send in your thoughts and comments to email@example.com
More about this week’s guests:
Singer / Songwriter Shani Rigsbee and her music have been featured in highly acclaimed feature films such as the Academy Award Winning CRASH, and many other studio and independent films and television. Having an International fan base from her numerous albums and single releases, she has toured the globe extensively singing in multiple languages playing in some of the world’s most exclusive venues in both concerts and plays and has committed herself to many charitable organizations.
She is the Writer / Producer of “We Hear Your Voice”
Her website: http://www.shanimusic.com/
Watch “We Hear Your Voice” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZTQwGRV7Uc
Marjorie Cohn is a former president of the National Lawyers Guild and a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, where she teaches criminal law and procedure, evidence, and international human rights law. She lectures throughout the world on human rights and US foreign policy. A news consultant for CBS News and a legal analyst for Court TV, she also provides legal and political commentary on BBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, Air America and Pacifica Radio. In addition, Professor Cohn is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and co-author of Cameras in the Courtroom: Television and the Pursuit of Justice and Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent. Her latest book, The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse, was published in January 2011 by NYU Press.
Her articles have appeared in numerous journals such as Fordham Law Review, Hastings Law Journal and Virginia Journal of International Law, as well as The National Law Journal, Christian Science Monitor and Chicago Tribune. Professor Cohn is a contributing editor to Jurist, MWC News and National Lawyers Guild Review, and her frequent columns appear on Huffington Post, Truthout, AlterNet, CommonDreams, Counterpunch, OpedNews, AtlanticFreePress, ZNet, and GlobalResearch, and are archived at http://www.marjoriecohn.com/.
On the show this week we talk about her recent article on the BDS movement