Tag Archives: North America

‘A Terrible Mistake’: Key Dems in US Oppose Biden’s Move to Send Cluster Munitions to Ukraine


An article by Kenny Stancil in Common Dreams (reprinted under license Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Several high-ranking House Democrats have joined human rights groups in expressing dismay over President Joe Biden's decision to supply Ukraine with cluster munitions—weapons that more than 120 countries have banned due to their devastating and long-lasting impacts on civilians.

Biden on Friday defended his move to send cluster bombs to Ukraine as part of a new $800 million weapons package, tellingCNN it was "a very difficult decision" made because "Ukrainians are running out of ammunition" needed to stave off Russia's invasion.

Biden's comments came after top Democrats on the House Rules Committee and the panels that fund the Pentagon and State Department denounced the White House in rare statements broadcasting discord within the president's party.

"The decision by the Biden administration to transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine is unnecessary and a terrible mistake," said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. "The legacy of cluster bombs is misery, death, and expensive cleanup generations after their use."

"These weapons should be eliminated from our stockpiles, not dumped in Ukraine," she added.

"The Biden administration will probably think twice when the pictures start coming back of children who have been harmed by American-made cluster munitions."

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), ranking member of the House Rules Committee, said that he continues "to strongly support helping Ukraine stand up to Russia's brutal war of aggression."

"But cluster munitions won't help," he stressed. "They are indiscriminate weapons that disperse hundreds of bomblets which can travel far beyond military targets and injure, maim, and kill civilians—often long after a conflict is over. I urge President Biden to listen to our NATO allies, such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Spain, who oppose sending cluster munitions to Ukraine for the same reasons."

One hundred twenty-three nations—including 23 of NATO's 31 members—have joined the United Nations Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits all production, stockpiling, transfer, and use of the weapons. The treaty entered force nearly 13 years ago, but the U.S., Russia, and Ukraine have yet to sign it.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday published a report detailing the catastrophic effects that cluster bombs with exceptionally high bomblet failure rates used by both Russian and Ukrainian forces since the start of the war last year have already had and will have in the years ahead. Mary Wareham, the organization's acting arms director, said that "both sides should immediately stop using them and not try to get more."

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, said Thursday that she was "alarmed" Biden was even "considering sending cluster bombs to Ukraine." She pointed out that more than three dozen human rights and anti-war organizations had urged Biden in June to "remain steadfast" in opposing any transfer of the widely condemned weapons despite growing calls from congressional Republicans and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to send them to Kyiv.

U.S.-made cluster munitions have been used around the world for decades—including during Washington's wars on Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia—unleashing widespread destruction and littering landscapes with unexploded ordnance that still endangers unsuspecting civilians and hinders socioeconomic development generations later. HRW has documented how U.S.-made cluster bombs continue to cause grievous harm in various countries, including Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen.

The subcommittee Lee previously chaired has long blocked the transfer of cluster munitions, which were last exported from the U.S. in 2015. Although the U.S. destroyed roughly 3.7 million cluster bombs from 2008 to 2017 and they are no longer produced by any U.S. companies, the Pentagon is estimated to still possess about 3.7 million "obsolete" cluster bombs containing over 300 million submunitions.

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Questions for this article:

Can cluster bombs be abolished?

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As Arms Control Association executive director Daryl Kimball explained Thursday: "In 2008, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates issued an order to phase out by 2018 cluster munitions with an unexploded ordnance rate of greater than 1%… [and] in 2011, the Obama administration affirmed this policy."

"The Pentagon has, unfortunately, dragged its feet and in 2017 the Trump administration announced the 2018 deadline for phasing out non-compliant cluster munitions would not be met," said Kimball. "No new deadline for meeting that goal was set by the Trump administration or the Biden administration."

In December, Lee and McGovern were among the 11 Democratic members of Congress who wrote in a letter to Biden that the U.S. "should be leading the global effort to rid the world of these weapons, not continuing to stockpile them."

Congress has passed legislation forbidding the export of cluster bombs that leave behind more than 1% of their submunitions as "duds." However, Biden is using a rarely invoked provision of the Foreign Assistance Act to bypass the restriction on so-called "national security" grounds, increasing the chances that Ukrainian neighborhoods and farms will be polluted with de facto landmines. Ukraine is already facing a multibillion-dollar cleanup effort, de-mining experts say.

According toThe Washington Post:

The principal weapon under consideration, an M864 artillery shell first produced in 1987, is fired from the 155mm howitzers the United States and other Western countries have provided Ukraine. In its last publicly available estimate, more than 20 years ago, the Pentagon assessed that artillery shell to have a “dud” rate of 6%, meaning that at least four of each of the 72 submunitions each shell carries would remain unexploded across an area of approximately 22,500 square meters—roughly the size of 4½ football fields. . . . The Pentagon now says it has new assessments, based on testing as recent as 2020, with failure rates no higher than 2.35%. While that exceeds the limit of 1% mandated by Congress every year since 2017, officials are ‘carefully selecting’ munitions with the 2.35% dud rate or below for transfer to Ukraine, Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said Thursday.

"It's dismaying to see the long-established 1% unexploded ordnance standard for cluster munitions rolled back as this will result in more duds, which means an even greater threat to civilians, including de-miners," Wareham told the newspaper.

"The lack of transparency on how this number was reached is disappointing and seems unprecedented," she added.

As Politico reported:

Marc Garlasco, a former Pentagon official and military adviser at PAX Protection of Civilians, a Dutch NGO, noted that the actual dud rates in the field are much higher than those recorded during tests “conducted under perfect and unrealistic conditions.”

Comments from U.S. officials defending the decision do not allay the fears of many in the community, Garlasco said, expressing skepticism about the Pentagon’s latest test data showing lower dud rates.

Arms control advocates who were on a call with administration officials on Friday said that despite claims the cluster munitions being sent would have lower dud rates, there were no details about the types and sources of the cluster munitions the U.S. plans to send.

Congressional Democrats' December letter urging Biden to join the majority of the world's countries in outlawing cluster bombs was also signed by Reps. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

On Thursday, Jacobs and Omar introduced an amendment to the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act recently approved by the House Armed Services Committee that would prevent the sale or transfer of cluster munitions.

Jacobs, Lee, McGovern, and Omar are all members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. But even some hawkish Democrats such as Rep. Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania are not hiding their disgust with Biden's about-face.

"There are some who will say that these weapons are necessary to level the battlefield given Russia's reported use of them," said Houlahan, co-chair of the bipartisan Unexploded Ordnance and Demining Caucus.

"I challenge the notion that we should employ the same tactics Russia is using, blurring the lines of moral high ground," she continued. "And I challenge all of us to remember that this war will end, and the broken pieces of Ukraine will need to be rebuilt."

Biden's move was praised by John Bolton, a notorious warmonger who has served in every GOP-led White House since the Reagan administration. It was also welcomed by some congressional Republicans, including far-right Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.), whose only complaint was that "it took too long."

Sarah Yager, HRW's Washington director, toldThe Hill that those "legislators, policymakers, and the Biden administration will probably think twice when the pictures start coming back of children who have been harmed by American-made cluster munitions.

Songs Dedicated to Abolishing War, Establishing Justice, and Fighting Climate Disaster


An email to CPNN from Mistahi Corkill


I link below my anti-war music video, No to NATO. I hope my song is useful for the anti-war movement to build up forces and strength to oppose those who wish to keep us in perpetual war. Build a people’s lasting victory for peace! Disband NATO! Bring the troops home! 

All the best!


page for Mistahi Corkill at Peace and Planet News

Question for this article:

What place does music have in the peace movement?

Video: No to NATO

Other released videos

Rome is Burning – Song written and recorded for the mass movement which erupted after George Floyd was killed
Move On
Killer Drones

The Trillion Dollar Silencer: Why There Is So Little Anti-War Protest in the United States


A book by Joan Roelofs on sale by Clarity Press.

The Trillion Dollar Silencer investigates the astounding lack of popular protest at the death and destruction that the military industrial complex is inflicting on people, nations, and the environment, and its budget-draining costs. Where is the antiwar protest by progressives, libertarians, environmentalists, civil rights advocates, academics, clergy, community volunteers, artists, et al? This book focuses on how military largesse infests such public sectors’ interests.

Contractors and bases serve as the economic hubs of their regions. State and local governments are intertwined with the DoD; some states have Military Departments. National Guard annual subsidies are large. Joint projects include aid to state environmental departments for restoration, and government-environmental organization teams to create buffer zones for bombing ranges. Economic development commissions aim to attract military industries and keep the existing bases and corporations. Veterans Administration hospitals are boons to their communities.

Universities, colleges, and faculty get contracts and grants from the DoD and its agencies, such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The Minerva Initiative. Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs are subsidized by the DoD. Civilian jobs in the DoD provide opportunities for scientists, engineers, policy analysts, and others.

Every kind of business and nonprofit, including environmental and charitable organizations like The Nature Conservancy and Goodwill Industries feeds at the DoD trough via contracts and grants.

Individuals, arts institutions, charities, churches, and universities succumb to the profitability of military-related investments. Pension funds of public and private employees are replete with military stocks.

Philanthropy is another silencer. The DoD itself donates equipment to organizations, especially those of youth, and lends equipped battalions to Hollywood. The weapons firms give generously to the arts and charities, heavily to youth and minorities. They also initiate joint programs such as providing tutors and mentors for robotics teams in public schools.

Our militarized economy is destructive and wasteful. How can we replace the multitude of dependencies on military funding and restore the boundary between it and civil society? Surely a first step is to see how military spending results in the complicity of civil society in its pernicious outcomes. That is what this book tries to reveal.

* * *

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Questions related to this article:
The peace movement in the United States, What are its strengths and weaknesses?

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Reviewer comments

“It is perhaps the most fraught question of our time, whatever happened to the anti-war movement? In this provocative and illuminating book, Joan Roelofs penetrates deep into the inner-workings of the vast political economy of war-making, revealing how the arms cartel has consolidated its power, captured our political system, infiltrated the media and stifled dissent. At a perilous moment in history, Roelofs has given us a call to action, loud and clear enough to awaken our anesthetized consciences.” JEFFREY ST CLAIR, Editor of CounterPunch, Author, Grand Theft Pentagon

“The Trillion Dollar Silencer is a masterful primer on an institution – the United States military — that has literally thousands of facets and functions, and about a thousand billion dollars each year to support its role in preparing for and making war around the world. Rich in explanatory images, charts and maps, the pieces of the puzzle that Joan Roelofs identifies are so many and so complex that even the most informed readers will learn something in every chapter. The book’s central question is how the military industrial complex has been able to acquire so many taxpayer dollars year after year and so much cultural assent to its overwrought, violent mission. The answers she gives will help us to reverse our otherwise continuing deadly and expensive course.” CATHARINE LUTZ, Professor Emerita of Anthropology and International Studies, Co-Director, Costs of War Project, Brown University

“The world’s leading weapons dealer and warmaker, the United States, may also have the least popular resistance to militarism. Why the quiet acceptance? This book helps us to become aware that darn near every inch of U.S. society has been infiltrated by the normalization or celebration of war preparations, that essentially our culture, not just our elected officials, has been bought. This book also provides guidance on what we can do about it.” DAVID SWANSON, Executive Director of World Beyond War and author of War Is A Lie

“Why is there so much acceptance of, and so little protest against, our war policies and all the other tactics of subversion employed by the military-intelligence-industrial complex to sustain hegemony. While the peace movement answers this question with reference to propaganda, fear and distractions, this book focuses on the enormity of the war machine’s penetration into numerous aspects of civilian life. The sections in the book on this penetration into philanthropy, nonprofit organizations and NGO’s are probably the most eye-popping portions of the book. Roelofs shows that the real goal is the construction of “the normal” in ways functional to the interests of the Pentagon, unconventional warfare institutions and military contractors.” PAUL SHANNON, Executive Committee of Mass[achusetts] Peace Action

“Now is exactly the right time for her highly recommended book.” W.T. WHITNEY, Counterpunch

“…for individuals and collectives who are already politically initiated and opposed to the US imperialist war machine, the present book would be of immense help to widen the cracks of this mighty system…” MANALI CHAKRABARTI, Research Unit for Political Economy, India

(Editor’s note: It has been called to our attention that another article published at this time describes a report on how American military contracts to so-called “think tanks” are able to inject their propaganda into the mass media. The article is Report Shows How Military Industrial Complex Sets Media Narrative on Ukraine. The report shows that Ukraine War coverage in the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, from March 1, 2022, through January 31, 2023 quotes 33 think tanks, all but one of which receive military funding.)

Daniel Ellsberg Has Passed Away. He Left Us a Message.


An article by Norman Solomon in Common Dreams (republished according to Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

When  Daniel Ellsberg died on Friday, (June 16) the world lost a transcendent whistleblower with a powerful ethos of compassion and resolve.

Daniel Ellsberg giving the peace sign in front of the White House during a 2011 demonstration calling for the end of the war in Afghanistan.
(Photo credit should read Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images)

Ellsberg’s renown for openly challenging the mentalities of militarism began on June 23, 1971, when he appeared on CBS Evening News ten days after news broke about the Pentagon Papers that he’d provided to journalists. Ellsberg pointedly said that in the 7,000 pages of top-secret documents, “I don’t think there is a line in them that contains an estimate of the likely impact of our policy on the overall casualties among Vietnamese or the refugees to be caused, the effects of defoliation in an ecological sense. There’s neither an estimate nor a calculation of past effects, ever.”

And he added: “The documents simply reflect the internal concerns of our officials. That says nothing more nor less than that our officials never did concern themselves with the effect of our policies on the Vietnamese.”

Ellsberg told  anchor Walter Cronkite: “I think we cannot let the officials of the Executive Branch determine for us what it is that the public needs to know about how well and how they are discharging their functions.”

The functions of overseeing the war on Vietnam had become repugnant to Ellsberg as an insider. Many other government officials and top-level consultants with security clearances also had access to documents that showed how mendacious four administrations had been as the U.S. role in Vietnam expanded and then escalated into wholesale slaughter.

Unlike the others, he finally broke free and provided the Pentagon Papers to news media. As he said in the CBS interview, “The fact is that secrets can be held by men in the government whose careers have been spent learning how to keep their mouths shut. I was one of those.”

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Questions related to this article:

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

The courage of Mordecai Vanunu and other whistle-blowers, How can we emulate it in our lives?

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Ellsberg’s mouth, and heart, never stayed shut again. For the 52 full years that followed his release of the Pentagon Papers, he devoted himself to speaking, writing, and protesting. When the war on Vietnam finally ended, Ellsberg mainly returned to his earlier preoccupation—how to help prevent nuclear war.

This spring, during the three months after diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, Ellsberg made the most of every day, spending time with loved ones and speaking out about the all-too-real dangers of nuclear annihilation. He left behind two brilliant, monumental books published in this century—“Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers” (2002) and “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner” (2017). They illuminate in sharp ghastly light the patterns of official lies and secrecy about military matters, and the ultimate foreseeable result—nuclear holocaust.

Ellsberg was deeply determined to do all he could to help prevent omnicide. As he said in an interview  when “The Doomsday Machine” came out, scientific research has concluded that nuclear war “would loft into the stratosphere many millions of tons of soot and black smoke from the burning cities. It wouldn’t be rained out in the stratosphere. It would go around the globe very quickly and reduce sunlight by as much as 70 percent, causing temperatures like that of the Little Ice Age, killing harvests worldwide and starving to death nearly everyone on earth. It probably wouldn’t cause extinction. We’re so adaptable. Maybe 1 percent of our current population of 7.4 billion could survive, but 98 or 99 percent would not.”

During the profuse interviews that he engaged in during the last few months, what clearly preoccupied Ellsberg was not his own fate but the fate of the Earth’s inhabitants.

He was acutely aware that while admiration for brave whistleblowers might sometimes be widespread, actual emulation is scarce. Ellsberg often heard that he was inspiring, but he was always far more interested in what people would be inspired to actually do—in a world of war and on the precipice of inconceivable nuclear catastrophe.

During the last decades of his life, standard assumptions and efforts  by mainstream media and the political establishment aimed to consign Ellsberg to the era of the Vietnam War. But in real-time, Dan Ellsberg continually inspired so many of us to be more than merely inspired. We loved him not only for what he had done but also for what he kept doing, for who he was, luminously, ongoing. The power of his vibrant example spurred us to become better than we were.

In a recent series of short illustrated podcasts  created by filmmaker Judith Ehrlich—who co-directed the documentary  “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”—Ellsberg speaks about the growing dangers of global apocalypse, saying that nuclear war planners “have written plans to kill billions of people,” preparations that amount to “a conspiracy to commit omnicide, near omnicide, the death of everyone.” And he adds: “Can humanity survive the nuclear era? We don’t know. I choose to act as if we have a chance.”

United States: Workers Rising in the South


A blog from the United Steel Workers

Workers at Blue Bird Corp. in Fort Valley, Ga., launched a union drive to secure better wages, work-life balance and a voice on the job.

The company resisted them. History defied them. Geography worked against them.

But they stood together, believed in themselves and achieved an historic victory that’s reverberating throughout the South.

About 1,400 workers at the electric bus manufacturer voted overwhelmingly this month to join the United Steelworkers (USW), reflecting the rise of collective power in a part of the country where bosses and right-wing politicians long contrived to foil it.

“It’s just time for a change,” explained Rinardo Cooper, a member of USW Local 572 and a paper machine operator at Graphic Packaging in Macon, Ga.

Cooper, who assisted the workers at Blue Bird with their union drive, expects more Southerners to follow suit even if they face their own uphill battles.

Given the South’s pro-corporate environment, it’s no surprise that Georgia has one of the nation’s lowest union membership rates, 4.4 percent. North Carolina’s rate is even lower, 2.8 percent. And South Carolina’s is 1.7 percent.
Many corporations actually choose to locate in the South because the low union density enables them to pay poor wages, skimp on safety and perpetuate the system of oppression.

In a 2019 study, “The Double Standard at Work,” the AFL-CIO found that even European-based companies with good records in their home countries take advantage of workers they employ in America’s South.

They’ve “interfered with freedom of association, launched aggressive campaigns against employees’ organizing attempts and failed to bargain in good faith when workers choose union representation,” noted the report, citing, among other abuses, Volkswagen’s union-busting efforts at a Tennessee plant.

“They keep stuffing their pockets and paying pennies on the dollar,” Cooper said of companies cashing in at workers’ expense.

The consequences are dire.

States with low union membership have significantly higher poverty, according to a 2021 study by researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of California, Riverside. Georgia’s 14 percent poverty rate, for example, is among the worst in the country.

However, the tide is turning as workers increasingly see union membership as a clear path forward, observed Cooper, who left his own job at Blue Bird several months ago because the grueling schedule left him little time to spend with family.

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Question related to this article:
What is the contribution of trade unions to the culture of peace?

The right to form and join trade unions, Is it being respected?

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Now, as a union paper worker, he not only makes higher wages than he did at Blue Bird but also benefits from safer working conditions and a voice on the job. And with the USW holding the company accountable, he’s free to take the vacation and other time off he earns.  

Cooper’s story helped to inspire the bus company workers’ quest for better lives. But they also resolved to fight for their fair share as Blue Bird increasingly leans on their knowledge, skills and dedication in coming years.

The company stands to land tens of millions in subsidies from President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and other federal programs aimed at putting more electric vehicles on the roads, supercharging the manufacturing economy and supporting good jobs.

These goals are inextricably linked, as Biden made clear in a statement congratulating the bus company workers on their USW vote. “The fact is: The middle class built America,” he said. “And unions built the middle class.”

Worker power is spreading not only in manufacturing but across numerous industries in the South.

About 500 ramp agents, truck drivers and other workers at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina just voted to form a union. Workers in Knoxville, Tenn., last year unionized the first Starbucks in the South.

And first responders in Virginia and utility workers in Georgia and Kentucky also formed unions in recent months, while workers at Lowe’s in Louisiana launched groundbreaking efforts to unionize the home-improvement giant.

“I wouldn’t hesitate to tell any worker at any manufacturing place here that the route you need to take is the union. That’s the only fairness you’re going to get,” declared Anthony Ploof, who helped to lead dozens of co-workers at Carfair into the USW earlier this year.

Workers at the Anniston, Ala., company make fiberglass-reinforced polymer components for vehicles, including hybrid and electric buses. Like all workers, they decided to unionize to gain a seat at the table and a means of holding their employer accountable.

Instead of fighting the union effort, as many companies do, Carfair remained neutral so the workers could exercise their will. In the end, 98 percent voted to join the USW, showing that workers overwhelmingly want unions when they’re free to choose without bullying, threats or retaliation.

“It didn’t take much here,” said Ploof, noting workers had little experience with unions but educated themselves about the benefits and quickly came to a consensus on joining the USW.

“It’s reaching out from Carfair,” he added, noting workers at other companies in the area have approached him to ask, “How is that working out? How do we organize?”

As his new union brothers and sisters at Blue Bird prepare to negotiate their first contract, Cooper hopes to get involved in other organizing drives, lift up more workers and continue changing the trajectory of the South.

“We just really need to keep putting the message out there, letting people know that there is a better way than what the employers are wanting you to believe,” he said.

(Thank you to Nation of Change for calling our attention to this article.)

United States: Labor’s Uptick Isn’t Just Hype


An article by Eric Blanc in Labor Politics (reprinted by permission)

Is the current labor uptick just more hype than reality? Numerous articles have recently made this   case, pointing to the continued decline in union density in 2022. This skepticism also appears to be the prevailing view among most national union leaders. Though rarely stated publicly, labor’s continued routinism suggests that few people up top see our moment as particularly novel or urgent.

Fortune 500 Companies Targeted by Unionization, 2021-2022

But contrary to these skeptics, there is compelling data indicating that things really are changing — and, therefore, that unions should immediately make a major turn to new organizing.

Consider, for instance, the statewide 2018 educators’ strikes, which were largely begun over viral rank-and-file Facebook groups. These were the first US strike wave since the 1970s, impacting millions of students and involving hundreds of thousands of school workers. Strike activity in 2018 rose to its highest peak since the mid-1980s and it remained high in 2019 as the wave spread to blue cities like Los Angeles and Chicago. The qualitative shift was even more significant: unlike in the Reagan era, the red state revolt consisted of work stoppages that were mostly illegal, statewide in scope, offensive in their demands, and generally victorious in their outcomes. 

Union membership numbers present a grimmer picture.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 273,000 workers joined unions last year. Yet because total employment rose at a faster rate, union density fell from 10.3 to 10.1 percent from 2021 to 2022. Clearly, we are not currently in an upsurge analogous to the 1930s. As exciting as recent campaigns may be, we should be sober about their very real limitations. 

Dwelling only on the continued decline of union density, however, misses the forest for the trees. One of the reasons why recent worker-driven campaigns are so qualitatively important is that they have won union elections at some of the largest corporations in the world. Amazon’s 1.1 million employees, for example, constitutes the country’s second largest workforce and Starbucks’ workforce is the eighth largest. 

Winning elections at these types of firms is a major development that is not captured by membership rolls alone. National unions have for decades generally avoided pushing for union elections at such large companies, believing not unreasonably that they were simply too powerful to defeat — at least under our current, threadbare and barely-enforced, labor laws. As such, the vast majority of years since the Fortune 500 was established in 1955 have witnessed zero, or at most one, union drives at the non-union companies on the list. In contrast, 2021 saw three such drives and 2022 saw eight. 

Given labor’s overall risk-aversion, it is not surprising that a majority of those organizing efforts were instances of what I call DIY Unionism — strikes and union drives that are initiated by self-organized workers and/or in which workers take on key responsibilities traditionally reserved for union staff.

(article continued in right column)

Question related to this article:

What is the contribution of trade unions to the culture of peace?

The right to form and join trade unions, Is it being respected?

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Labor’s opponents are well aware of this increase in worker-to-worker organizing. In a 2022 report, the notorious union-busting firm Littler Mendelson sounded the alarm:
“There has been a shift in how people are organizing together to petition for representation. What was once a top-down approach, whereby the union would seek out a group of individuals, has flipped entirely. Now, individuals are banding together to form grassroots organizing movements where individual employees are the ones to invite the labor organization to assist them in their pursuit to be represented.”

To be sure, workers at Amazon, Starbucks, Apple, Google, and other mega-corporations are still a long way away from winning a first contract. That will likely take many years, more intervention from state actors, and greater resources from established unions towards boosting, and defending, new organizing. But it is a major historical development that unionizing the US private sector’s biggest players no longer seems like a distant fantasy. 

The fact that these recent drives have won elections against such economic heavyweights helps explain why news coverage of unions shot up in 2022 — as does the fact that media outlets have become one of labor’s most dynamic growth areas.

Increased publicity about David versus Goliath workplace organizing, and negative publicity about union busting, is bad news for corporate America. Stories of ordinary workers taking on billionaire CEOs tend to spur copycat attempts. And coverage of illegal (or morally reprehensible) union busting tarnishes company brands, while increasing pressure on elected officials to defend and enforce labor law. 

When it comes to fomenting today’s pro-union zeitgeist, the growth of pro-union sentiment over social media is no less significant. To cite just a few examples: Antiwork — a misleadingly named Reddit group focused on exposing bad working conditions and promoting unionization — shot up from 80,000 members in early 2020 to 2.3 million members by late 2022. The labor-focused media outlet More Perfect Union has received 150 million views on its YouTube and TikTok videos. And videos of Starbucks workers walking out in response to illegal firings now regularly go viral, racking up millions of views and exposing the hypocrisy of a nominally progressive corporation. Starbucks’ Vice President of Partner Resources thus recently admitted that she had to turn off social media because it “has been very disheartening. And yet perception is reality in some way shape or form.”

Media attention on its own will not turn things around for unions, but it is nevertheless critical for keeping up momentum and bringing “the labor question” back to the center of US politics. Millions of workers are finally beginning to see that non-union jobs can become union jobs — and that they personally could play a role in making that happen.

No less important, coverage of recent union drives among white-collar and (largely female) pink-collar care workers has undercut the still-common myth that unions are just for white men in hard industry. Multiple worker organizer interviewees explained to me that the first thing they had to do was disabuse themselves and their colleagues of the assumption, to quote a New York Times tech worker named Vicki, that “unions are just for coal miners or something — not for us.”

Google analytics allows us to measure the increase in search queries last year asking the question: “How do I form a union?” The following graph captures a surge in bottom-up unionization interest, particularly in the wake of the highly publicized union win at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island. Today’s active interest in unionization constitutes a major contextual difference from the 1990s and 2000s when labor’s halting turn to new organizing stumbled over the high staff resources required to spark workers to unionize.

Qualitative data also indicates that there has been an increase in individual workers directly reaching out to unions asking them to organize them — what unions usually call “hot shops.” To quote a cannabis industry worker turned Teamsters organizer in Illinois, “these workers are reaching out to us for help, so that’s unusual. It used to be we were seeking them out and now they’re coming to us. Our phones are ringing constantly with workers who want protection, higher wages, better benefits and accountability from these companies.” 

Put simply: despite the immense power of the forces arrayed against them, rank-and-file organizers today are continuing to take big risks to win power and democracy at work. Unions should follow their lead.

The Washington Consensus Supporting Sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela Is Breaking


An article by Branko Marcetic in Jacobin

Twenty-one members of Congress last week called for lifting US sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela, including most of the Squad. The pushback is needed: sanctions are a cruel economic weapon that hurts average people — and has spurred a surge of economic refugees.

Activists carry Venezuelan and Cuban flags during a protest rejecting President Joe Biden’s policy of sanctions on June 10, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Ringo Chiu / AFP via Getty Images)

One of the defining features of our era has been the loss of a domestic political appetite for more US wars. But a similar pushback to Washington’s use of sanctions has been slow to follow, despite the fact that US sanctions are demonstrably cruel, indiscriminate, ineffective, and often illegal.

The near-term prospects for a groundswell of US opposition to sanctions are basically nonexistent at this point. But we may be seeing the beginnings of one taking shape: last week saw twenty-one House Democrats send Joe Biden a letter calling on the president to end US sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela and review Donald Trump–era sanctions policy more generally, in light of the “border crisis,” which has seen a surge in migrants at the southern border (though one that is lower than expected ) since the expiration of the Donald Trump–era Title 42 order.

Calling the sanctions “a critical contributing factor in the current increase in migration,” the letter points to “their grave humanitarian toll on the peoples of those countries” and the “significant logistical challenges” it is creating for US authorities. But the letter also stresses that “there are also strong moral grounds” to lift the sanctions and that US policy should seek to not “exacerbate the suffering of the innocent people whose freedom we seek to advance.”

Organized by two representatives of border states, Reps. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) — a cochair of Biden’s 2024 campaign and Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) very first congressional endorser, respectively — the letter was cosigned by a number of progressive elected officials, including Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Chuy García (D-IL), and six of the newly expanded “Squad” of progressive and socialist members of Congress.

The signatures of Squad members Ilhan Omar, Summer Lee, and Ayanna Pressley were missing from the letter. Massachusetts representative Jim McGovern, who has repeatedly called on Biden to lift sanctions against Venezuela in the past, also didn’t sign the letter, and his Northampton office was met by protests from the Anti-Imperialism Action Committee, an anti-capitalist activist collective based in Western Massachusetts, and other activists as a result.

Some of the progressive signatories have taken this message to other platforms. At a May 11 House Agriculture Committee meeting, Rep. Greg Casar (D-TX) — one of the newly minted Squad members who won his seat in these past midterms — spoke about the failure of the decades-long US blockade on Cuba in fostering democracy and called for “revisiting our policies that push people out of their home countries,” emphasizing the economic costs to the US economy that result.

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Question related to this article:

Are economic sanctions a violation of human rights?

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“I don’t think that it serves us to be starving people abroad,” he said. “I think it helps Americans for us to be feeding people all over the world.”

Khanna similarly took this message to a venue where viewers are unlikely to have heard criticism of Biden’s continuation of Trump–era sanctions policy: MSNBC, on the Morning Joe  show.

“Look at what’s causing people to flee Venezuela and Cuba,” he urged. “The Republicans are saying, ‘let’s sanction them more.’ That’s causing more people to actually leave. Let’s look at rational sanction policy so we’re not causing the influx.”

Progressive criticism of sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela — both of which are explicitly aimed at fomenting regime change in the countries — have been backed up by Ben Rhodes, a foreign policy advisor for former president Barack Obama.

“This is an obvious thing that is sitting right in front of the Biden administration, to just go back to the kind of openness that we had at the end of the Obama years [and] make life better for the Cuban people,” he said in a recent MSNBC appearance, warning that the political cost for Biden stemming from events at the border would be worse than for lifting Trump’s “maximum pressure” sanctions.

This course has also been endorsed by leftist Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who said he had personally urged Biden to attack the root causes of migration to the US southern border, namely the “poverty and abandonment” endemic to those countries — and which US sanctions have unquestionably played a major role in causing. This comes a month after the US envoy of the Venezuelan opposition itself, which only a year ago was demanding that Biden not waver on Trump’s policy, implored the administration to end the sanctions, lest it turn Venezuela into “another Cuba.”

Despite this diverse chorus of voices pushing for sanctions to be lifted, it’s also running into a wall. That’s because, according to the Washington Post, the Biden administration is worried about alienating Cuban-American Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who wrote a counterletter claiming, as all sanctions enthusiasts do, that the policy has nothing to do with the exodus of people from both countries.

Menendez is a hard-line supporter of Trump’s sanctions policy, and is currently under federal investigation eight years after already once being indicted on separate bribery charges. When he finds time away from potential criminal prosecution, Menendez is a full-time hawk who teams up with neocon Lindsey Graham to push legislation undermining peaceful coexistence with China and Iran. Since it relies on him to push through appointments blocked by the GOP and to pursue its wider geostrategic goals, the administration has tended to give Menendez enormous leeway in driving its own foreign policy decision-making, something that likely won’t change anytime soon.

Still, the fact that there’s any disquiet being heard at all in Washington toward the ruinous and largely pointless US overuse of sanctions — a weapon that the Biden administration has used with record frequency — is an important development. Political shifts in the halls of Congress don’t happen overnight and are usually the fruit of months and years of small, symbolic measures like this letter, adding up bit by bit to slowly shift what’s politically acceptable. This progressive challenge to a president — one who’s otherwise enjoying near-dictatorial levels of obeisance from fellow elected Democrats — is a first step, and one that couldn’t have happened without the election of progressive insurgents to Congress.

United States: Six years as a ‘City of Peace’: Happy anniversary, Ashland!


An article by David Wick in Ashland News

Tuesday, May 16, is the sixth anniversary of Ashland officially becoming a City of Peace and joining the International Cities of Peace Association. On May 16, 2017, Mayor John Stromberg, with a unanimous vote of the Ashland City Council , proclaimed that “…the City of Ashland, Oregon is a City of Peace in perpetuity and encourage city and community leaders to develop policies and procedures that promote a culture of peace in our region.”

City officials and Ashland Culture of Peace Commission Executive Director David Wick, center, tie the ribbon at the International City of Peace Ribbon Tying Ceremony in 2017, as a symbol of joining together. Graham Lewis photo

The focus and engagement on this accomplishment has lessened over the last three years due to the impact of COVID, but the legacy of Ashland, the 163rd International City of Peace, has never lessened internationally nor in the hearts of many community members.

Among the current 380 International Cities of Peace in Peace in 70 countries on all six inhabited continents, Ashland has always been held in high regard as an example to learn from. With the guidance of the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission (ACPC), working closely with the City of Ashland, many segments of our community, and other peacebuilding organizations, we are seen as an ideal way of co-creating an infrastructure of peace.

International Cities of Peace (ICP) is an association of citizens, governments and organizations who have by proclamation, resolution, or by citizen advocacy established their communities as official Cities of Peace. The fundamental focus of a City of Peace is on safety, prosperity and quality of life.

There is no 100% peaceful city — rather, all are on the path to “becoming” a more peaceful city. Various forms of violence or hostility affect every community, yet as Mahatma Gandhi reminded, “…acts of love and service are much more common in this world than conflicts and quarrels.” Hundreds of cities around the world are building on their legacy of peacebuilding in a forward commitment to work toward a community-wide culture of peace. Establishing a community as a peace city recognizes past achievements, encourages current initiatives, and inspires future generations for practical peace building.

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Question related to this article:
How can culture of peace be developed at the municipal level?

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The Ashland community and city have taken many steps to manifest a City of Peace, many more than can be listed here. This list includes: Options for Helping Residents of Ashland (OHRA) and others assisting people in need, establishment of the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission, Chamber of Commerce action to support businesses, wildfire protection action by Rep. Pam Marsh, Travel Ashland (VCB) Advisory Committee initiatives, installation of the World Peace Flame with middle school Flame Keepers, initiation of the Police2Peace program, Ashland Food Bank, Peace House initiatives and Uncle Foods Diner, Peace Village Festival, the Peace Wall and climate action by The Geos Institute, among many others.

Being a City of Peace is a continual state of making daily choices individually, organizationally, systemically, every one of us. On May 16, 2023, what does this look like in Ashland now and moving forward? How do we want to increase the safety, prosperity and quality of life for all in Ashland, in our region? This can begin with a smile for the next person each of us sees.

Ashland.News Editor Bert Etling and Ashland Police Department Chief Tighe O’Meara both served as Ashland Culture of Peace Commission (ACPC) Commissioners and were recently asked what they value about taking steps to co-create Ashland as a City of Peace.

Bert Etling responded: “I value ACPC’s raising awareness of values that too-often go unspoken and unrecognized, which makes them more likely to fall into disuse. The very existence of ACPC prompts people to think about qualities worth affirming and practicing. On a more concrete level, organization of and participation in events offering the opportunity for people of diverse backgrounds to share their perspectives and harmonious space builds peace in the community. And, of course, the Peace Flame as an ongoing reminder of that energy (in the wonderful Thalden Pavilion space), and sustaining learning about, sharing and passing along those values through the students tending to the site.”

Chief O’Meara’s reply is: “One of the things I value most about the ACPC is that through it we promote conversations, connections, and better mutual understanding. We may not always be able to agree, but unless we come together, we certainly won’t. In those connections and conversations, we have our best chance at understanding, and through that peace.”

As a city and community, we have gone through some rough patches and there are more to come in the challenging times we live in. And the choices and directions are in our hands both individually and collectively. Let’s co-create the very best ongoing City of Peace that we can, together.

An International City of Peace information center is being created at Catalyst Ashland, 357 E Main St., Ashland, 541-625-6565 by owners Precious Yamaguchi and Andres Rivero, and myself, David Wick of the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission.

David Wick is executive director of the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission (Ashlandcpc.org) and president of the Rotary EClub of World Peace. Email him at info@ashlandcpc.org.

Leaks Reveal Reality behind U.S. Propaganda in Ukraine


An article by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies in TRANSCEND Media Service

The U.S. corporate media’s first response to the leaking of secret documents about the war in Ukraine was to throw some mud in the water, declare “nothing to see here,” and cover it as a depoliticized crime story about a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman who published secret documents to impress his friends. President Biden dismissed the leaks as revealing nothing of “great consequence.”

Leaked document predicts a “protracted war beyond 2023.” Image credit: Newsweek

What these documents reveal, however, is that the war is going worse for Ukraine than our political leaders have admitted to us, while going badly for Russia too, so that neither side is likely to break the stalemate this year, and this will lead to “a protracted war beyond 2023,” as one of the documents says.

The publication of these assessments should lead to renewed calls for our government to level with the public about what it realistically hopes to achieve by prolonging the bloodshed, and why it continues to reject the resumption of the promising peace negotiations it blocked in April 2022.

We believe that blocking those talks was a dreadful mistake, in which the Biden administration capitulated to the warmongering, since-disgraced U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and that current U.S. policy is compounding that mistake at the cost of tens of thousands more Ukrainian lives and the destruction of even more of their country.

In most wars, while the warring parties strenuously suppress the reporting of civilian casualties for which they are responsible, professional militaries generally treat accurate reporting of their own military casualties as a basic responsibility. But in the virulent propaganda surrounding the war in Ukraine, all sides have treated military casualty figures as fair game, systematically exaggerating enemy casualties and understating their own.

Publicly available U.S. estimates have supported the idea that many more Russians are being killed than Ukrainians, deliberately skewing public perceptions to support the notion that Ukraine can somehow win the war, as long as we just keep sending more weapons.

The leaked documents provide internal U.S. military intelligence assessments of casualties on both sides. But different documents, and different copies of the documents circulating online, show conflicting numbers, so the propaganda war rages on despite the leak.

The most detailed assessment of attrition rates of troops says explicitly that U.S. military intelligence has “low confidence” in the attrition rates it cites. It attributes that partly to “potential bias” in Ukraine’s information sharing, and notes that casualty assessments “fluctuate according to the source.”

So, despite denials by the Pentagon, a document that shows a higher death toll on the Ukrainian side may be correct, since it has been widely reported that Russia has been firing several times the number of artillery shells as Ukraine, in a bloody war of attrition in which artillery appears to be the main instrument of death. Altogether, some of the documents estimate a total death toll on both sides approaching 100,000 and total casualties, killed and wounded, of up to 350,000.

Another document reveals that, after using up the stocks sent by NATO countries, Ukraine is running out of missiles for the S-300 and BUK systems that make up 89% of its air defenses. By May or June, Ukraine will therefore be vulnerable, for the first time, to the full strength of the Russian air force, which has until now been limited mainly to long-range missile strikes and drone attacks.

Recent Western arms shipments have been justified to the public by predictions that Ukraine will soon be able to launch new counter-offensives to take back territory from Russia. Twelve brigades, or up to 60,000 troops, were assembled to train on newly delivered Western tanks for this “spring offensive,” with three brigades in Ukraine and nine more in Poland, Romania and Slovenia.

But a leaked document from the end of February reveals that the nine brigades being equipped and trained abroad had less than half their equipment and, on average, were only 15% trained. Meanwhile, Ukraine faced a stark choice to either send reinforcements to Bakhmut or withdraw from the town entirely, and it chose to sacrifice some of its “spring offensive” forces to prevent the imminent fall of Bakhmut.

Ever since the U.S. and NATO started training Ukrainian forces to fight in Donbas in 2015, and while it has been training them in other countries since the Russian invasion, NATO has provided six-month training courses to bring Ukraine’s forces up to basic NATO standards. On this basis, it appears that many of the forces being assembled for the “spring offensive” would not be fully trained and equipped before July or August.

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Question related to this article:
Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

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But another document says the offensive will begin around April 30th, meaning that many troops may be thrown into combat less than fully trained, by NATO standards, even as they have to contend with more severe shortages of ammunition and a whole new scale of Russian airstrikes. The incredibly bloody fighting that has already decimated Ukrainian forces will surely be even more brutal than before.

The leaked documents conclude that “enduring Ukrainian deficiencies in training and munitions supplies probably will strain progress and exacerbate casualties during the offensive,” and that the most likely outcome remains only modest territorial gains.

The documents also reveal serious deficiencies on the Russian side, deficiencies revealed by the failure of their winter offensive to take much ground. The fighting in Bakhmut has raged on for months, leaving thousands of fallen soldiers on both sides and a burned out city still not 100% controlled by Russia.

The inability of either side to decisively defeat the other in the ruins of Bakhmut and other front-line towns in Donbas is why one of the most important documents predicted that the war was locked in a “grinding campaign of attrition” and was “likely heading toward a stalemate.”

Adding to the concerns about where this conflict is headed is the revelation in the leaked documents about the presence of 97 special forces from NATO countries, including from the U.K. and the U.S. This is in addition to previous reports about the presence of CIA personnel, trainers and Pentagon contractors, and the unexplained deployment of 20,000 troops from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Brigades near the border between Poland and Ukraine.

Worried about the ever-increasing direct U.S. military involvement, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz has introduced a Privileged Resolution of Inquiry to force President Biden to notify the House of the exact number of U.S. military personnel inside Ukraine and precise U.S. plans to assist Ukraine militarily.

We can’t help wondering what President Biden’s plan could be, or if he even has one. But it turns out that we’re not alone. In what amounts to a second leak that the corporate media have studiously ignored, U.S. intelligence sources have told veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that they are asking the same questions, and they describe a “total breakdown” between the White House and the U.S. intelligence community.

Hersh’s sources describe a pattern that echoes the use of fabricated and unvetted intelligence to justify U.S. aggression against Iraq in 2003, in which Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan are by-passing regular intelligence analysis and procedures and running the Ukraine War as their own private fiefdom. They reportedly smear all criticism of President Zelenskyy as “pro-Putin,” and leave U.S. intelligence agencies out in the cold trying to understand a policy that makes no sense to them.

What U.S. intelligence officials know, but the White House is doggedly ignoring, is that, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, top Ukrainian officials running this endemically corrupt country are making fortunes skimming money from the over $100 billion in aid and weapons that America has sent them.

According to went to Kyiv to meet with him. Burns allegedly told Zelenskyy he was taking too much of the “skim money,” and handed him a list of 35 generals and senior officials the CIA knew were involved in this corrupt scheme.

Zelenskyy fired about ten of those officials, but failed to alter his own behavior. Hersh’s sources tell him that the White House’s lack of interest in doing anything about these goings-on is a major factor in the breakdown of trust between the White House and the intelligence community.

First-hand reporting from inside Ukraine by New Cold War has described the same systematic pyramid of corruption as Hersh. A member of parliament, formerly in Zelenskyy’s party, told New Cold War that Zelenskyy and other officials skimmed 170 million euros from money that was supposed to pay for Bulgarian artillery shells.

The corruption reportedly extends to bribes to avoid conscription. The Open Ukraine Telegram channel was told by a military recruitment office that it could get the son of one of its writers released from the front line in Bakhmut and sent out of the country for $32,000.

As has happened in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and all the wars the United States has been involved in for many decades, the longer the war goes on, the more the web of corruption, lies and distortions unravels.

The torpedoing of peace talks, the Nord Stream sabotage, the hiding of corruption, the politicization of casualty figures, and the suppressed history of broken promises and prescient warnings about the danger of NATO expansion are all examples of how our leaders have distorted the truth to shore up U.S. public support for perpetuating an unwinnable war that is killing a generation of young Ukrainians.

These leaks and investigative reports are not the first, nor will they be the last, to shine a light through the veil of propaganda that permits these wars to destroy young people’s lives in faraway places, so that oligarchs in Russia, Ukraine and the United States can amass wealth and power.

The only way this will stop is if more and more people get active in opposing those companies and individuals that profit from war–who Pope Francis calls the Merchants of Death–and boot out the politicians who do their bidding, before they make an even more fatal misstep and start a nuclear war.

Celebrating Rachel Corrie


Excerpts from the website of the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice

Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American peace activist from Olympia, Washington, was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer on 26 March 2003, while undertaking nonviolent direct action to protect the home of a Palestinian family from demolition.

Her 44th birthday was celebrated on April 10, 2023 at the Rachel Corrie Foundation in Olympia with speakers and discussion to remember her and the commitment of the Foundation to continue her work for Palestine.

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Question for this article

Presenting the Palestinian side of the Middle East, Is it important for a culture of peace?

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Rachel’s parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie, who established the Foundation, were the special guests at a virtual discussion March 22 on their fight for justice fo Rachel over the decades.

Video of event Remembering Rachel 20 years later

(Editor’s note: In a related development, a new Gallup poll shows that for the first time more American Democrats sympathize with Palestinians than Israelis.)