The other superpower?

The Free Press WV

“I’m so honored to be alive at such a miraculous time in history. I’m so moved by what’s going on in our world today.”

This was 2003. The words were those of Robert Muller — the other one, the one from Costa Rica, former assistant secretary general of the United Nations — who was speaking just after George W. Bush invaded Iraq, to the horror and outrage of most of Planet Earth. Millions of people took to the streets, in the U.S. and around the world, to protest the invasion. Muller called this movement “the other superpower.”

“Never before in the history of the world,” he went on, “has there been a global, visible, public, viable, open dialogue and conversation about the very legitimacy of war.”

Oh! Such ancient history, right? Yet in the wake of current events — in particular, the Trump administration’s release of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review — I feel an urgent need to summon Muller’s words back to the present moment. Is this moment empty of all hope and sanity, occupied as it is by the forces of empire and a militarized presidential ego? Or was Muller right? Is there a global, evolutionary counterforce out there as well, equal to or greater than the corporate militarism that seems to have a stranglehold on the future?

To talk about outrage — over war, over poverty, over environmental devastation — is one thing. It’s reactive, emotion-driven and without either a long-term plan of action or a reliable flow of funding. To talk about “the other superpower” implies something far more coherent and focused — or at least, something with enough power to seriously challenge the aims of . . . for instance, the nuclear arms establishment, which begins with the unacknowledged certainty that war is inevitable and winning the next one is always the first order of business.

As the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation pointed out in a press release following last week’s release of the new Nuclear Posture Review, the document “represents a reckless realignment of an already dangerous U.S. nuclear policy.

“The review specifically calls for the development of new, low-yield nuclear weapons that have lower explosive force. Many experts warn that such smaller weapons would blur the distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons, representing a significant and dangerous increase in the likelihood of their use. . . .

“The review seeks to deter nuclear war by making it easier to start nuclear war,” the press release noted.
“Last year, the price tag for a 30-year makeover of the U.S. nuclear arsenal was estimated at $1.2 trillion. Analysts say the expanded plan put forth in the Trump NPR review would push the cost vastly higher.”

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation was one of numerous organizations to express shock and outrage about the document. And psychiatrists Bandy X. Lee and James R. Merikangas, in an op-ed in USA Today published shortly after the NPR’s release, pushed the concern about it beyond the political realm.

“Trump,” they write, “with the psychological vulnerabilities he displays, in an office that invests enormous power in one individual, may present a situation of unusual risk. Our military ensures that every officer handling nuclear weapons has the mental capacity to do so — but does not take the same precautions regarding the person who can command a strike. . . .

“There has already been a shift in international norms regarding nuclear weapons due to Trump. He has bragged about them, threatened to use them and expressed a desire to increase his stockpile in ways that suggest more psychological than policy-driven motives.”

Add to this the U.S. bombing going on throughout the Middle East and Trump’s recent orders to the Pentagon to organize a huge military parade in Washington, D.C., summoning, it seems, the glory of dictatorships past and present, and I found myself trying to reach for something beyond outrage. I started to feel a cold chill in my soul. What matters here is the emergence of a different sort of power that understands the reality of peace: It’s not something forced on the loser by the winner’s superior weaponry.

That’s the building block of nationalism. “What’s deeply engrained in our emotional makeup,” writes Barbara Ehrenreich in Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War, “is something that’s very positive — the capacity to band together to experience a kind of euphoria from collective defense against a common enemy. . . . Those are the emotions we bring to wars and (they) are very noble and generous and altruistic.”

The paradox of reaching beyond war, as I noted in the wake of the Iraq invasion, is that doing so disrupts “the mobilized public at its level of deepest bonding” and sows “doubt in the psychic well of patriotism.”

In a world organized as a conglomerate of nations, we bless our worse instincts — to strike out in weaponized fear, to kill en masse — with our best instincts: generosity, altruism, cooperation, sacrifice. Those who support the war of the moment do so from their largest, most selfless instincts, just as do those who oppose the war.

The “other superpower” Muller envisioned a decade and a half ago is still in the process of creating itself out of this paradox. Love thy enemy as thyself? Actually, the creation process has been going on for a few thousand years now.

Robert Koehler, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

From PyeongChang to Lasting Peace on the Korean Peninsula

Perhaps the most moving moment in the opening days of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics was when Kim Yong-nam, the president of the Presidium of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly, quietly wiped his tears as North and South Korean singers sang in unison at a concert celebrating the winter games. South Korean k-pop star SeoHyun held hands with North Korean singers as images of tearful North-South family reunions played in the backdrop of the finale of the North Korean Samjiyeon Orchestra’s historic performance in Seoul on February 11. As the concert came to a close, they sang, “Be well, let us meet again. Go safely, let us meet again,” and waved their hands as the audience waved back and Kim silently wept.

Sometimes, art can point to answers that the stuffy logic of policy wonks cannot. Those who have truly felt, even for a passing moment, the pain of seventy years of artificial national division, probably felt a stir in the pit of their hearts at seeing the ninety-year old North Korean statesman’s rare display of emotion. The sense of excitement at the fleeting inter-Korean reunion, followed by pain and sorrow at not knowing when or if the two Koreas will ever meet again, is shared by Koreans on all sides of the division. And therein may be the answer to the perpetual and seemingly unresolvable conflict on the Korean peninsula. That shared sense of longing for reunification will ultimately prevail over threats of maximum pressure and a “bloody nose strike.”

Prospect for North-South Summit

Kim Yong-nam, accompanied by Kim Yo-jong, the vice deputy director of the Central Committee of North Korea’s Worker’s Party and sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, sat next to the South Korean First Lady and President Moon Jae-in at the concert. He reportedly turned to President Moon and said,

“As we have created opportunities for exchange of ideas and frequent reunions in the future, I am hopeful that we shall meet again,”

to which President Moon reportedly replied,

“Let us foster the spark created by our meeting.”

The day before, the North Korean high-level delegation had met with President Moon at the Blue House and delivered an official letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un proposing an inter-Korean summit in the near future. If realized, the meeting would be the third inter-Korean summit following the historic meetings between former leaders Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il in 2000 and Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong-il in 2007. It is safe to assume that as long as the North and South remain in talks and continue to mend relations, the North would refrain from further testing of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. And a North-South summit could pave the way for peace talks between the United States and North Korea.

There is a precedent for this. In 2000, then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung traveled to Pyongyang to meet with the North Korean head of state. Then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il personally greeted Kim Dae-jung at the airport, and after three days of meetings, they produced the June 15 North-South Joint Declaration, which outlined shared principles for peaceful reunification. The summit was followed by a series of North-South ministerial and military working-level talks as well as reunions of separated families in Pyongyang and Seoul in August 2000. South Korean President Kim Dae-jung received the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the summit.

On the heels of the historic summit, the United States eased sanctions on North Korea, which reciprocated with a pledge not to flight-test its long-range missiles. Just four months after the inter-Korean summit, in October 2000, North Korea’s Vice Marshall Jo Myong-rok traveled to Washington and met with then-President Clinton. They signed the US-DPRK Joint Communique, which stated that in light of the “changed circumstances on the Korean Peninsula created by the historic inter-Korean summit,” both sides agree to “remove mistrust and build mutual confidence” based on the principles of “respect for each other’s sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.” U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright subsequently traveled to Pyongyang to pave the way for a summit between Kim Jong-il and then-President Clinton. This took place during President Clinton’s last days in office, and he unfortunately ran out of time to make the summit a reality. The momentum toward rapprochement was then quickly scuttled by George Bush Jr, who scrapped all agreements with North Korea as soon as he took office.

Almost two decades later, we have another rare opening for peace. If the North and South are able to build on the momentum of good will from their cooperation in PyeongChang, they could, once again, reunite separated families and resume cross-border economic cooperation. They could also create the conditions for detente and talks between the United States and North Korea. The main obstacle, as plainly exhibited in PyeongChang, however, is the obstinate Trump administration, unwilling to veer off its warmongering path.

Ugly Behavior at the Olympics

On his way to PyeongChang, U.S. Vice President Pence met with Japanese Prime Minister Abe in Tokyo on February 7, then vowed to “unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever.” As if waging a one-man protest, Pence then toured South Korea’s Navy 2nd Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek, where he met with North Korean defectors. He prompted international rebuke after he sat dour-faced and refused to applaud during the Unified Korean team’s introduction at the opening ceremony of the Olympics. That’s not all. After arriving fifteen minutes late to a reception for world leaders hosted by President Moon, Pence made an awkward point of shaking everyone’s hands except for those of Kim Yong-nam, then decided to skip out on the dinner altogether to avoid sitting across from the North Korean official.

In lock-step with Pence, Japanese Prime Minister Abe, too, tried to rain on South Korea’s parade. He caused a commotion by ordering an inspection of underground parking garages around the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium in preparation for evacuation of Japanese tourists in the event of a North Korean missile attack during the winter games. At a meeting with Moon on February 9, he insisted South Korea resume its joint Key Resolve Foal Eagle military exercise with the United States after the Olympics. He also demanded South Korea uphold the “final and irreversible” bilateral pact on the comfort women issue and remove statues of comfort women that have been installed in several countries, including the United States, Australia and Germany. In reply, Moon essentially told him not to meddle in South Koreas’s “sovereignty and internal affairs” and suggested that Japan instead ought to reflect on history. This fraught exchange was probably fresh in Moon’s mind as he watched Hyun Song-wol, the leader of North Korea’s Samjiyon Orchestra, in a surprise performance in the finale of the February 11 concert, revise the lyrics of a North Korean song to sing, “Dokdo, too, is my country” (referring to the contested Dokdo/Takeshima Islands between Korea and Japan in the East Sea).

U.S.-led War Games: the Greatest Obstacle to Peace

The United States and Japan are currently conducting joint military exercises even as the Winter Olympics are still ongoing. The dock landing ship USS Rushmore, with elements of the U.S. 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (SDF), concluded five days of amphibious landing exercises off the Southern California coast on February 7. The annual Cope North exercise, involving more than 100 aircraft and 2,850 personnel of the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, as well as the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force, began on February 14 and will take place in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands through March 2. The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force and the US Navy will also hold a four-day computer-simulated joint missile defense drill on board Aegis destroyers starting February 16.

Key Resolve Foal Eagle, the joint US-ROK war games that happen every year in the Spring have been delayed this year due to the Olympics but are scheduled to resume in April. Ulchi Freedom Guardian, another massive joint military exercise, is scheduled for August. These exercises are offensive war games. Last year’s Foal Eagle involved 300,000 South Korean and 15,000 US troops, including the notorious SEAL Team six, the unit that assassinated Osama Bin Laden. It also involved B-1B and B-52 nuclear bombers, F22 and F35 stealth fighters, as well as an aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine. These exercises rehearse OPLAN 5015, a war plan that includes special forces assassinations, contingencies for North Korea’s regime collapse, preemptive strikes, and the so-called Korea Massive Punishment & Retaliation (KMPR) battle plan, which involves surgical strikes against key North Korean leadership figures and military infrastructure.

The upcoming military exercises pose the greatest obstacle to efforts for peace and North-South reconciliation in the current moment. If they move ahead as planned, North Korea will almost certainly respond by resuming nuclear and/or ballistic missile tests. Moving forward with the joint war games, in other words, is the surest way to undermine the process of detente that has begun between the North and South through their Olympic cooperation.

A North-South summit that can pave the way for talks between the United States and North Korea is our only chance at peace on the Korean peninsula. It is essential, therefore, for those who desire genuine peace in Korea to raise a unified voice urging the White House and the Pentagon to halt the provocative joint war games and support the Korean initiative for dialogue. Let us nurture the seed sowed in PyeongChang to take root for lasting peace.

~~ Hyun Lee ~~

Pat’s Chat

The Free Press WV

ATTENTION:  Former and retired employees of DHHR from Clay and Braxton Counties will meet for lunch at the Flatwoods Shoney’s at 12 o’clock noon on Friday, February 23, 2018.

The Buckhannon Seventh-day Adventist Church was a joyful place to be yesterday!  There were plenty of visitors to enliven the Sabbath School classes, and then an emotionally charged sermon by Rick Cutright, the pastor, talking about the baptism that would follow the sermon.  He mentioned the “steps” to baptism, one of which is teaching them and then baptizing them (Matthew 28:20).  He, along with his wife, Bonnie, had studied with the family for several weeks, Rick teaching the adults and Bonnie teaching the children.  Then the baptismal candidates and the pastor entered the baptistery together, his nephew, Nicholas Cutright with his wife, Tonja and son, Darren.  (Their daughter, Bridgett, is a first grade student and also wants to be baptized later.)  Following was a delicious Fellowship Covered-Dish dinner at which time we recognized those who had February birthdays.  Among them was Elder Robert Toms, a retired minister who will be 97.  I am enclosing some pictures of the activities.

The Free Press WV
Darren Cutright,Nicholas Cutright, Pastor Rick Cutright and Tonja Cutright

You are always welcome to meet with us on Sabbaths.  Although there may be various changes in our program format depending on the circumstances and visiting speakers or musicians, the following is a general look into our church services.  We begin with a song service starting at 9:30 (not every member makes it to this), then at 9:45 the Sabbath School opens with our theme song, welcome and opening song.  Prayer and scripture is followed by the Superintendent’s report and remarks and/or special music or mission video reports or other activities or various programs.  At approximately 10:00 the adult members separate into two classes, while children are enjoying their own groups in separate classrooms; cradle roll and kindergarten, primary, young adult.  After the closing song and prayer, there is a short intermission when we can share personal testimonies and praise from random members.

The Free Press WV
Pastor Rick Cutright with retired pastor Robert Toms who is 97 years old

At approximately 11:10 the Worship Service begins with a Call to Worship, a Bible text or responsive reading, followed by our congressional Hymn of Praise.  Dedication through Giving (the regular collection) follows.  Our morning prayer, which includes prayer requests from ​the ​audience, all are invited to kneel (though it is certainly not compulsory) with the pastors at a certain place in our prayer song.  All children are asked to help collect an offering, part of which helps Highland Adventist School in Elkins.  After that the children sit on the front seat for the children’s story.  Special Music is next on the agenda.  A Scripture is read and last but not least, the sermon.  A congressional Hymn of Consecration follows.  After prayer all visitors are invited to share in a Fellowship Covered-Dish Dinner.

I have included this description of our Sabbath services to introduce those of you who have told me you have never attended a Sabbath service and some of you have said you never even heard of Seventh-day Adventists. We don’t want anyone to feel “strange” or “out-of-place.”  Most of you have similar services in your own church on Sundays.  We would enjoy sharing the blessings of Sabbath with you.


Trumped up treason

The Free Press WV

“Somebody said ‘treasonous.’ I mean — yeah I guess, why not. Can we call that treason? Why not. I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”
Donald Trump on Democratic Senators and Congress members who didn’t clap for him in his State of the Union speech.

Really? We have a temporary resident of the White House whose definition of loyalty to the United States of America is loyalty to, and expressed enthusiasm for, his boneheaded ideas and false claims of greatness? We would expect such autocratic monomaniacal pronouncements from Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Rodrigo Duterte, or any other egomaniac warlord. Hitler and Stalin were such demented oppressors. Saddam Hussein, Augusto Pinochet—the anti-democratic autocrats are easy to name.

If the new definition of treason is being willing to not clap for Trump’s utterances, I hereby formally and publicly admit to treason.

If we still live in a democracy, I charge Trump with treasonous statements. If there were one united value embedded in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, it is the right to dissent, politically and publicly, without fear of reprisal. Let the views contend in our public discourse.

Instead, this is how a country slides from democracy toward dictatorship, one thought control episode, one veiled threat, after another. We are on a very slippery slope here and the signs are not good.

We have zero guarantees of the future of democracy in the US. Indeed, Freedom House, a nonpartisan think tank which measures and ranks all countries on Earth every year in the aggregate values and indices of democracies, has us sliding downward. They analyze both the US role in promoting democracy worldwide and practicing it at home. They note that this slide began slowly in 2010—the year the Republican rightwing gained control of the House–and is accelerating dramatically since Trump took office.

Meanwhile, we see the strongman sort of government using Trump’s tactics now and in history. In Cambodia in September, dictator Hun Sen trumped up charges of treason against a candidate for office, Kem Sokha, who dared to call for peaceful changes toward more democracy and more human rights. Sokha faces 30 years in prison, where he has been since his arrest five months ago.

In Venezuela in August, despot Nicolas Maduro engineered a path to charge political opponents with treason, targeting Julio Borges and other opposition leaders with potential arrest and imprisonment. Borges is out of office as of last month.

This is a slippery slope toward tyranny. Trump is the most treasonous occupant of the White House since Richard “Break-and-Enter” Nixon. He too deserves a swift exit from power for his foul rule, his abdication of responsibilities to defend democracy and right to dissent, and his lies about collusion with Russian government operatives to steal our election.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.

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