THE ENVIRONMENTAL DECLARATION – WAR ABOLITION
June 22, 2016
I ask the environmental community to wake up and recognize that war and preparation for war is the biggest threat to life on our precious planet. All that we know and love will be gone in an afternoon when nuclear war starts. A conflict with Russia and the US is not necessary. A war between India and Pakistan will do.
A colleague at the Houston Independent School District remarked that if you do not ask, you do not receive. In this plea, I am asking for the sun, the moon, the stars and half the planet.
War Abolition - Necessary for Human Survival
War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of 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 masses.
Major General Smedley Butler, USMC
Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
Of course people don’t want war. Why should a poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best thing he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece?
Hermann Goering, interrogations with the US Army at Nuremberg.
Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.
The basic problems facing the world today are not susceptible to a military solution.
John F. Kennedy
When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war. War settles nothing.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
The difficult we do today. The impossible takes a little longer.
Father James Collins, CSB
Under current circumstances, there will be no life on earth in 2050. By that time, nuclear war, climate change, poverty or environmental contamination will kill us all. Nikita Khrushchev observed that in a nuclear war, the survivors will envy the dead. Those living in the 2040-2050 period will feel the envy that Mr. Khrushchev was talking about. A nuclear war among the major powers is not necessary. One between India and Pakistan will induce nuclear winter.
Humans can start the path to lasting peace by:
starting a world wide anti-poverty program,
2) taxing international arms sales,
3) beginning a moratorium on weapons research,
4) reducing the bloated US military budget by 50%,
5) training our armed forces for disaster relief,
6) establishing a cabinet level Department of Peace,
7) reducing nuclear weapons to zero or nearly zero, and,
8) negotiating for all the world’s nuclear weapons to go off hair trigger alert.
Prime Minister Lloyd George remarked at the Versailles Conference that making peace was harder than making war. This is a complex task. However, there is no room for fatalistic excuses. Operation Overlord (D-Day) was the most complex task ever followed by Apollo 11 with its two million moving parts.
There is a fatalistic assumption that war has always been with us and always will be, an integral element in the human condition. These individuals fuse impulsive homicide as seen in barrooms, family disputes and road rage with war. Weapon development and planning requires years by sober well paid people. Military contractors and Pentagon officers are not rageaholics.
The D-Day landing took place after much planning and coordination. It was not happen because Winston Churchill gave a rousing speech in London on June 5, 1944.
There will be no lasting peace as long as people are poor. Abolishing poverty is the most effective anti-terrorist policy that any nation can have. Terrorists will have a small recruiting pool when all citizens are gainfully employed.
Foreign aid programs have been around for a long time. It is time to learn from successes and failures. The organization Global Marshall Plan has some good ideas.
I propose concentrating on two small counties each in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Some countries with low corruption are the best places to start. The failed and near-failed states will be the most difficult to resolve.
The book Why Nations Fail makes a compelling case that an honest competent government is the key to prosperity. The authors pointed to East and West Germany, Nogales, Arizona, USA, and Nogales Sonora Mexico and North and South Korea. The resources and cultures were about the same on both sides of the borders. One side had an honest competent government and the other didn’t.
One key is to have honest competent government employees who are well paid. People who are not paid much will not do much. If they are well paid, they are more bribe-resistant.
Everyone should have access to clean water, sanitary toilets, education and basic health care. Foreign aid programs should consider these as top priority items.
When people can make a decent living at home, they will not crash the gates to become illegal immigrants to the US and the European Union. After a while, countries will seek foreigners to do the tough jobs.
International Arms Sales Tax
By international treaties, impose a 50% sales tax on all arms sales to other countries. The proceeds would go to the poverty abolition fund. If you have enough to kill some people, you have enough to help some others.
Moratorium on Weapons Research
I hope that parliaments and congresses approve no more weapons research.
Reduce the Bloated US Military Budget by 50%
The American people have never had a peace dividend. Since there is no creditable adversary, the military budget is a welfare program for the defense contractors.
Train the Armed Forces for Disaster Relief
There are enough volcanos, earthquakes, droughts and other disasters. The logistics to restore electricity, water, medical supplies, drinking water shelter and clothing are good training for the real thing when people are shooting at you.
Give the soldiers incentives to learn the more difficult languages, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic and others.
Establish a War Abolition Department
As the armed forces have specialized education for officers, like West Point, the society specialized education for people who deal with conflict resolution and seeking conditions that lead to peace. These individuals would learn what works in poverty reduction. Throughout the world, there are peace studies departments usually sponsored by Rotary International.
Nuclear Weapons Elimination
At one time, only Martin Luther King and the hippies were interested in eliminating nuclear weapons. Times have changed. This was a goal for President Reagan. See ¨ A World Free of Nuclear Weapons¨ by George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn the Wall Street Journal’s January 4, 2007 issue.
I propose that the major powers maintain 300 nuclear weapons each and deactivate the rest.
Some countries develop nuclear weapons due to national pride. Look what we can do. Encourage national pride by recognizing efforts in improving education, health care and living standards. After a while, having nuclear weapons will be uncouth.
I am hoping that the world’s environmental organizations participate in the peace movement. Otherwise, all the fine work that they do can go up in smoke in an afternoon with a nuclear war. The peace effort described here is ultimately an environmental effort. Combat and combat preparation are the most environmentally destructive activities that exist.
Changing the History Courses
I ask that history departments everywhere offer a course on war and its demise. Up to now, history departments, with few exceptions, have presented war uncritically. It seems like natural phenomena, like floods and hurricanes.
This coincides with the military industrial complex’s presentation:
1) War is necessary,
2) War is fought for the common good,
3) War is glorious, and,
4) A more just world will emerge after the current war.
Each above statement is false but they are accepted as routine truth by people who write textbooks and teach history courses at all levels.
Educators like to think that they offer intriguing thoughts to their students. In fact, the discussion range is narrow. They praise that people like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Urban II, Christopher Columbus and Bismarck who made things happen. In fact, they are all war criminals and should be treated as such. A Nuremberg type tribunal would convict every one for war crimes.
Those who write history books and texts belong at the same Nuremberg type trials as accomplices. A specific case is Samuel Eliot Morison in his classic, Admiral of the Ocean Sea: a Life of Christopher Columbus. He never mentioned the genocide that Christopher Columbus carried out on the Indians who welcomed them.
Exploiters give the idea that they are doing the exploited a favor by bringing telegraphs, telephones, better roads, better ports, banks, Christianity, public health and civilization to the underdeveloped world. Remembering Ruyard Kipling’s White Man’s Burden, it is a tough job but someone has to do it. Karl Marx had it right. He said that the class struggle explained history better than any other theory.
The military industrial complex has performed the best con job ever done by anybody anywhere.
The best war propaganda ever made was the 1952 NBC series Victory at Sea. The editors reviewed 11,000 miles of film, prepared a stirring musical score and narrative making 26 episodes lasting about 26 minutes each. Television reviewers wondered who would want to watch war documentaries on a Sunday afternoon. By the second week, they got their answer: just about everybody.
On YouTube see the finale for the episode, Beneath the Southern Cross, which described the successful efforts by the American and Brazilian navies to protect convoys in the South Atlantic.
Find this episode on Youtube by going to:
Victory at Sea Beneath the Southern Cross
Start playing at 19:20.
This is the ending narrative:
And the convoys come through,
Bearing the wealth of the Southern Hemisphere,
Refusing to pay one cent for tribute but willing to spend millions for defense,
The American republics have swept from the ocean highways of the South Atlantic their common foe.
Spread wide across the sea
Guarded by the might of nations that can fight side by side because they have learned to live side by side.
The ships stream toward their goal - Allied victory.
Progressives must offer a peace vision through songs, poems, short stories, movies and plays. Offer contests with some prize money and much recognition. My favorite peace vision comes from the 1969 hit, Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and the Shondells:
You can find this song by going to Youtube by inserting;
Crystal Blue Persuasion
Although environmental groups hardly have two nickels to rub together, I hope the make a common effort to hire a public relations firm to learn how to appeal to a public that is indifferent to war abolition. Otherwise, we are talking to each other with the same ideas.
Almost all national anthems deal with armed violence in liberation from a foreign power or revolution. I advocate that each country have more than one. There will be the historic one and others that deal with climate change and the defense contractors’ welfare state.
I invite bookstores to feature a war abolition section. See three in my references.
Conservancies on Land and at Sea
Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa proposed making a vast conservancy in his country. Since his country is poor, the rich countries would pay Ecuador not to drill for oil to preserve the forests.
Establish no-fishing and no-whaling areas at sea. Outlaw many fishing nets that destroy the ocean floor and unnecessarily kill sea animals.
Social Security for All People Reaching 65
Every person should be able to retire in dignity. The wealthy countries can include this in their Global Marshall Plan.
I invite the Chinese government to declare Tibet an autofocus area, withdraw the troops and pay compensation for social and environmental crimes.
Tax All Income Over 10,000,000 USD
Some three billion people live in poverty. Extremely wealthy people can buy the politicians and get legislation that serves their purpose but is harmful to everyone else. Ten million USD is enough to live on.
No More Tax Havens
Secure international agreements to abolish tax havens. Make all numbered accounts illegal. People are using them for tax evasion and every illegal activity known, including terrorism. From now on, the individuals must be identified with a business address and a telephone number. There will be no more post office boxes and phony corporations. The entity that does not respond to a court order will be declared an outlaw institution. Anyone dealing with that institution after the public announcement will be dealing in criminal activity.
Trickle Down Economics
This theory has always resulted in the rich getting richer and the rest getting the crumbs that fall off the table. If institutions are too big to fail, they are too big to exist.
The best investment is having educated, skilled, healthy individuals who see brighter future. This is the caring society where it is only necessary for one parent to have one job.
Mainstream Accounting and Economics Are Detrimental to Human Survival
In generally accepted accounting principles, accountants only recognized the income and expenses for the entity. They do not recognize social and environmental costs. If a company were to clear cut the trees in the Amazon basin, the only counted items are revenues and expenses. There would be no counting contamination, droughts, freak storms, increased carbon dioxide or health effects. These are externalities, a fancy way to say that someone else is paying your bills.
Gross domestic product does not measure increasing or decreasing health standards, clear air, prisons, suicides, educational standards or any social measure. I ask the accountants and economists truly engage in full cost accrual accounting showing the entity’s total effects. The Genuine Progress Index is a good start in this endeavor.
Loans to Dictatorships
Under current circumstances, banks make loans to dictatorships. When the dictator and his entourage flee the country, the banks put pressure on the new government for the loans while the dictator is living on money from his numbered Swiss bank accounts. All this has to end. Make the international agreements to relieve the new government from this debt. Let it be known that there is no one who going to bail you out.
All prisoners have the right to be treated under conditions offered in the Geneva Conventions. This applies to all jailers, whether they are recognized authorities, guerilla groups or outlaw gangs. What goes on in most prisons are human rights violations committed by the state itself.
Above all, torture is never allowed. There are no excuses for terrorism or any other flimsy explanation. Those who torture think that do-gooders like you and me do not live in the real world. They are protecting the naïve. They ignore actual experience from successful interrogators who get useful information from rapport building. Unsuccessful interrogators think that only brute force works. When it does not work, it is because you have not used enough.
I ask the FARC group to release all its hostages now without fanfare or negotiations. I ask the US government to close Guantanamo. Put prisoners on trial or release them. Pay compensation to all unjustly imprisoned.
Responsive Government and Quasi-Monopoly Companies
Justice delayed is justice denied. The governmental units, the insurance companies, the banks and similar entities must employ enough trained people to solve difficulties. I ask that the days with ¨Your call is important to us, ¨ end.
I ask that all bureaucracies have understandable rules and simple procedures. The US has Small Claims Courts for $5,000 and under disputes. There is no need for an attorney and rules are simple.
Tax codes are terribly complex to represent the vested interests. Make them simpler. Health insurance policies are purposely complex to deny coverage.
Pay Poor Kids to Stay in School
The number one reason for leaving school is that the family needs their children to work. Some countries are paying poor families to keep their kids in school. Make this for all countries.
Kids should be able to play in parks and practice sports in safe neighborhoods. At most, they should have one parent with one job and not parents with two or more jobs. The society must provide summer camp for all kids to impart the rural experience.
Streamline adoption procedures. I am trying to figure out why it cost $25,000 to adopt a child in Texas.
I ask you to be pro-life and not just pro-fetus. Make the social, economic and political changes necessary for children to be happy.
I ask you to work to abolish capital punishment. What was wrong for the convicted prisoner is also wrong for us.
I ask you to help me abolish war.
The globalization effort is to help the multinational companies at everyone else’s expense. I recommend cancelling all existing treaties and abolishing the World Trade Organization. Start all over with workers’ and environmental protections having the highest priority.
Clean Air, Clean Water and Uncontaminated Soil
Humans have an unalienable right to clean air, clean water and uncontaminated soil. Those exceed established limits should pay the victims and spend a reasonable time in jail.
Pay Attention to Scientific Evidence
People in the petrochemical industry spend millions every year to tell us that global warming is not occurring.
Scientists concluded years ago that humans have a major role in global warming. The formal announcement was in Science Magazine’s December, 2004 issue in the article, “Beyond The Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus On Climate Change.” Naomi Oreskes analyzed 928 abstracts published in selected scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, listed in the ISI database with the keywords, “climate change.” She divided the 928 articles into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Surprisingly, not a single paper disagreed with the consensus position.
The scientific debate ended with this article. The public relations battle will go on as long as corporations lie and misrepresent scientific evidence.
Maturity for the Media
To reverse current conditions, the media must show results in the current situation and achievements in improving the human condition. Everyone wants to know about flight MH370 but have some balance. The concern for some 239 individuals and their families should not crowd out efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons and abolish poverty.
I ask the media to show the maturity to cover stories that have a lasting effect on the world society, to recognize the scientific evidence that global warming is happening and it is serious.
All Ideas Start Out As Quixotic
The old story is that all new ideas are considered impossible. After they are achieved, people look at them as inevitable. Former state representative Paul Colbert described how this works in the Texas legislature:
Session One: This is a crazy idea. It will never work.
Session Two: I have heard that idea before.
Session Three: That idea has been around for a while. I think it will pass in this session.
When Alexander Graham Bell visited London, merchants considered his invention to be a toy. They remarked that there were enough messenger boys in London in those days. The airplane was a technological curiosity until the US Army extended a contract to the Wright brothers in 1908. The automobile industry predicted that the Automobile Safety Act in 1965 would bankrupt the industry.
Man’s Search for Meaning
In this famous bestseller, Viktor Frankl tells us that there is no single meaning for everyone. As an existentialist, he tells us that each has to find his or her own purpose. We cannot agree on which religion or philosophy is the best suited for humans. We can agree that we are in this together. When there is nuclear war, we will all perish, the rich, the poor and everyone in between. Our best survival strategy is put our resources in relieving suffering and bringing happiness to all.
Under current circumstances, the One Percent will be moving to Siberia, northern Canada, Scandinavia, Chile and Argentina, possibly starting in 2030. This is only a delaying action. The area between the two poles will be like Houston in July. We may easily experience the nuclear holocaust before then.
As an alternative to certain destruction, I propose The Caring Society as people can see in the old song I’ll Be Home for Christmas and Robert Frost‘s Death of a Hired Man. Home is the place you go and they have to take you in.
Abraham Maslow’s needs hierarchy is simple and elegant. I wonder why a Jewish prophet, Aristotle, Confucius or someone else did not see it first. Our society exists to help each other in our triumphs and difficulties.
The Twelve Step programs have a basic premise that members share their “experience, strength and hope.” We all get in over our head at some time in our lives. We go through unemployment, addictions, divorce and other misfortunes. Teachers, clients, supervisors or others expect more than we can deliver. May there be a format safety net and an informal one where we help others in a pinch.
Some worry that ant-poverty programs will encourage people to be lazy. The late Wendell Gordon at the University of Texas had an answer for these concerns, ¨Give them a bunk in an opium den.¨ When there is collective living, the food and medical costs are small. What makes prison expensive is the guard service. The One Percent receive more welfare than anyone else and they do not seem to be lazy.
The Golden Rule and the 11th Commandment
The Rotary Club offers depth in the Golden Rule in their 4 Way Test:
1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
I encourage the Rotary Club and non-Rotarians to add a 5th Way: Is it environmentally sustainable?
I ask everyone to add an 11th Commandment: Thou shall develop a social and environmental conscience.
I look at the universe in all its vastness, mystery and awe. In our own galaxy, the Milky Way, it takes one hundred thousand light years for light to travel from one end to another. Let us endeavor to understand what we can.
See this excerpt from Wangari Maathai´s Nobel Lecture, delivered in Oslo, 10 December 2004:
¨In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other.¨
What I offer here is also in all faith and humanitarian traditions. May the religious people, atheists, agnostics and everybody work to this common goal that Isaiah offered in turning swords into plowshares. In a well-known speech, Winston Churchill foretold that after Allied victory that we would walk in broad sunlit uplands. The Allies went on to win the war. With what I have outlined her, we can achieve the peace. We can walk in broad sunlit uplands. We can get to there from here.
There is no geographic cure. We are all on the same planet. There are no safe havens. This was mostly true even decades ago. There was a paragraph or two in Reader’s Digest in the 1950s describing a British couple who could foresee another war coming in Europe in the 1930s. They wanted to get away from all that. The husband got a job on a plantation in the South Pacific which was far away from everything. The plantation was on Guadalcanal.
Ed O’Rourke, former Houston resident, is a retired certified public accountant living in Medellin, Colombia. In Houston when working with the Houston Independent School District, he was treasurer for two environmental organizations. He is currently writing a book, World Peace, The Blueprint: You Can Get to There from Here.
Dyer Gwynne, War: the Lethal Custom, Carroll & Graf, New York, 2004, 484 pages.
Kurlansky, Mark (with a forward by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Nonviolence: Twenty-Five Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea.
Regan, Geoffrey. Picking the Past: Reclaiming the Past from Politicians. The Spanish language title is better: Guerras, Politicos y Mentiras: Como nos enganan manipulando el pasado y el presente (Wars, Politicians and Lies: How They Deceive by Manipulating the Past and the Present).
I adapted this story from a science fiction comic book that I read around summer, 1957. As in any fiction story, if you are too critical, you cannot enjoy it. I am hoping that someone like Stephen Spielberg will make a movie on the theme you see here.
A space ship visited our planet. The crew quickly learned humans’ history and did not like what they saw. Half the people on the planet lived in poverty, there were 21,000 nuclear weapons that could end civilization in an afternoon and there was constant war.
The ship’s captain and officers shook their heads and agreed that humans would go on to develop technologies that could destroy the universe. There were many good people but they had no say-so on what went on. Some countries had formal democracies but the rich bought and paid for the politicians and media.
The ship’s captain announced that he would destroy the humans and attempt to keep the animals and vegetation unharmed. World leaders gathered at the United Nations. They issued a challenge to come out and fight in an uninhabited area. The best place was the South Pacific, between Chile and New Zealand.
Since the space ship showed its military capabilities, namely a ray gun that would vaporize any naval ship in one blast, military leaders on Earth knew that there would be few if any survivors in the upcoming battle.
Earth’s military leaders and the ship’s captain agreed to the date, July 26, 9 AM local time, which was six weeks off. For the ships coming the longest distance, the crews had a final week to be with their families for the last time. Then, it would be off to the battle zone, never to come back.
On July 26, the space ship arrived at the battle zone at 7:55 AM. At 8 PM, the crew performed a radar scan to find the zone to be empty. No freighters, no fishing boats, nothing. The ship’s captain remarked what selfish the earthlings were. Each nation was willing for someone else to fight while their navy stayed at home.
At 8:01 AM, the crew identified a British cruiser entering the zone. At 8:02 AM, the entire French fleet arrived. At 8:03 AM, 97 Russian ships entered the zone. At 8:04 AM, 53 Americans ships arrived. At 8:05 AM, 73 Chinese and Japanese ships approached from the southeast. At every minute after that, a new swarm would appear. At 8:55 AM, a widened radar scan showed that every naval ship on the planet that weighted more than 2,000 tons was in the zone or an hour’s sailing distance away.
The captain and the officers met to assess this unexpected cooperation. At 9:15 AM, the captain issued the announcement that he would postpone military action for one year to give time to reform.
Military cooperation was the incentive for political cooperation. In the six weeks, when military activities were being organized, nations’ political and business leaders gathered at the United Nations making plans for abolishing poverty, war and injustice. Facing certain annihilation made the leaders consider and carry out actions that would have been considered radical or crazy before the ultimatum. Some funds to the poor actually started flowing before the showdown in the South Pacific and defense contractors started examining products that would reduce poverty and humans’ environmental footprint.
Remembering the Cold War and the space race to the Moon, there was an agreement that the rich countries would start a Second Marshall Plan to end world poverty. Each country took the primary responsibility for a small country or a region in a big poor country. For example, some countries like India were too complex for any single rich country to manage.
During the Cold War, both the Soviet Union and the United States achieved feats that could have been only dreamt about in the early 1950s. Other countries applauded when there was the first satellite, the first man in space, the first space walk and on July 20, 1969, the world held its breath when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon and all astronauts returned alive.
Anyone who was about seven years old or older that day can remember where they were. For a while both empires engaged in a competition not dealing with a military or political struggle. The Second Marshall Plan was what the Space Race was previously. There would be accomplishments, providing drinking water to all homes in a certain country, abolishing illiteracy, primary school education for all citizens.
In the comic book, lasting world peace was achieved for the first time in human history.
It was Arthur C. Clarke or someone like him who thought that a perceived threat would solidify humans and a real one would be even better.
We must never forget, that under modern conditions of life, science, and technology. All war has been greatly brutalized, and that no one who joins in it, even in self-defense, can escape becoming also in a measure brutalized. Modern war cannot be limited in its destructive method and the inevitable debasement of all participants… A fair scrutiny of the last two World Wars makes clear the steady intensification of the weapons and methods employed by both, the aggressors and the victors. In order to defeat the Japanese aggression, we were forced, as Admiral Nimitz has stated, to employ a technique of unrestricted warfare, not unlike that which 25 years ago was the proximate cause of our entry into World War I. In the use of strategic air power the Allies took the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Germany and Japan…. We as well as our enemies have contributed to the proof that the central moral problem is war and not its methods, and that a continuance of war will in all probability end with the destruction of our civilization.
Harry L. Stimson (US Secretary of State from 1929-1933, Secretary of War from 1911-1913 and 1940-1945) “The Nuremberg Trial: Landmark in Law” Foreign Affairs, January – February, 1947 Verify January-February