Monday, November 11, 2019

#VeteransDay Or Armistice Day -- Glorify War Or Work For Peace?

"Glorify peace, not war: Armistice Day vs. Veterans Day" by Rory Fanning via
Repost with light editing of my post from 2018.

It is Armistice Day again, 11/11, the ceasefire that ended the imperial war that ushered in the death and destruction of the 20th century. 

The seeds of violence, industrialized killing, and wars for peace (or to end all wars, or to save the innocents of Belgium, or of your country here ____) were sown.

The activist Bernarda Shahn once told me that her mother said prior to the outbreak of what would be known as World War I, "This whole thing is about nothing more than Mosul Oil."

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

My own grandfather went to the war fresh out of Skowhegan High School. He was a popular, good-looking boy who looked forward to getting right back to Maine to help his family run their ice business. He was injured on the last day before the Armistice, catching shrapnel in his leg and then being gassed as he lay wounded on the field.

It took his family over a year to locate him in a hospital in New York; eventually he returned home, went to college, and married a registered nurse. He served in the Maine House and Senate while running the Skowhegan Ice Company. His leg was saved by fusing the knee so that all his life he was unable to bend it. His lungs and heart were permanently affected too, and he died of heart failure when his only child, my father, was 19.

"Don't believe them when they say the next war is a good war," my father reported his father told him. "There is no such thing."

My own father believed the gung-ho propaganda hyping the "Good War" of his youth -- World War II, which grew directly from the bloody roots of WWI. He believed the recruiters, who told him Korea was a good war, too -- the front line in stopping the march of China and Communism.

Because his father begged him to go to college and not enlist, he didn't make it to Seoul until after his father had died and combat had been ended by a ceasefire that perpetuates the war to this day. My father went to Korea as an occupier and was profoundly affected by the poverty and suffering observable in the wake of a war that had killed more than 4.5 million people.

My dad taught me that wars are a way for the rich to get richer, and the poor to get poorer.

Every year I take the flag off his grave, and that of his father, and that of my brother -- a man who never went to war at all. The cemetery workers who take orders from the VFW don't know who was actually a veteran. I guess they figure that any man between the ages of 18 and death was some kind of a soldier.

Every year now, I share this video of veteran father Will Griffin addressing his children's teachers about what he would like them teaching (here's a direct link for those of you reading this blog post as an email: ).

Most of the veterans I know don't want to be thanked for their service. Like Will Griffin, they don't want to be used to glorify war on behalf of U.S. corporations who profit. They wish we would give peace a chance.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Preparing For Conflict Produces Climate Change -- Professor Neta Crawford, Costs Of War Project

Professor Neta Crawford (second from left) spoke on October 26 in Portland to Peace Action Maine, receiving an award for her research into Pentagon greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Mark and I traveled to Portland to attend Peace Action Maine's annual awards ceremony and to hear a talk about research we've been following with interest. As a past recipient of PAM's award (most recently for writing this blog), I was pleased to see Prof. Crawford recognized for her work as well as local climate organizers Anna Siegel and Cassie Cain.

Anna Siegel of Climate Strike, Cassie Cain of 350 Maine and PAM board member Stephen Oliver

The talk was well worth the trip,

Professor Neta Crawford is co-director of the project which began in 2010 at Brown University. The project now includes Boston University where she is a member of the faculty. An update of her landmark paper "Pentagon fuel use, climate change, and the costs of war" will be published on the site next month.

Quantifying the human, financial, and environmental costs of the seemingly endless "global war on terror" led Crawford to focus for the past year on counting the contribution of Pentagon base operations plus overseas contingency operations (the federal government's preferred euphemism for wars) to climate change.

No one had computed the Pentagon’s climate footprint comprehensively before, so she wanted to do it.

Crawford noted that the global war on terror operates in 80-90 countries. She figures that 70% of fuel use is for base military operations, and 30% for overseas contingency operations i.e. wars.

Jet airplanes are heavy GHG emitters, especially military aircraft because they carry special equipment and fly at higher altitudes. Their consumption of fuel is so inefficient that it is measured, not in miles per gallon, but in gallons per mile.

The question most interesting to me that was posed by Prof. Crawford: Why don’t we know these numbers?

Some of her answers: Department of "Defense" personnel are explicitly told not to tell Congress their numbers. The Kyoto Protocol set the standard for how emissions are tallied, explicitly exempting the military, and there is still no legal treaty mechanism to compel states to give their military emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not aggregate the data on this, and EPA web site has no breakout by military. Congressional research service doesn’t provide them either, nor does the Congressional Budget Office.

The highly useful carbon computing website Drawdown also excludes military emissions because those numbers are unavailable. Media outlets likewise cannot report on what they do not know. (Investigative reporters out there: maybe give Prof. Crawford a call?)

Based on what she has been able to count, there was a GHG dividend parallel to the so-called peace dividend at the end of the Cold War period. Similarly, withdrawal from Iraq drove non-standard i.e. war-related emissions down beginning in 2011. And, facilities energy use has seen a steep decline as military bases close to the current level of around 800.

She did not count these significant contributors:

Which way will we go from here? Reform our current practices, transform our energy use and sourcing, or just keep barreling down the road toward Hell in a handbasket (Crawford noted that popular culture is fond of imagining dystopian futures)?

As early as 1990 the Navy began monitoring sea level rise. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is especially vulnerable and the Pentagon is well aware of this. Yet, protecting the Persian Gulf remains a primary Pentagon goal even as dependence on Middle East oil has declined.

The U.S. military prepares for the consequences of climate change, with little focus on the role of their own consumption and emissions as drivers of climate change. According to Crawford:

“Preparing for conflict produces climate change...Everything you do to reduce fuel use increases security”

Conclusion: we should be pushing our representatives and senators to focus on climate emergency as the real threat to our national security, and to act accordingly.