I was on RT, Russia’s 24/7 English-language news channel, today to talk about the news that the US has stepped up its covert war in Yemen in recent weeks with increased strikes by fighter jets and armed drones. Click here to watch the video.
June 5, 2010
CelebityDialogue: Which news publications do you write for?
Eric: I’ve written for The Guardian, Mother Jones, The Nation, Huffington Post and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, among others.
CelebityDialogue: What is your beat?
Eric: I don’t have one beat in any traditional sense. My interests are quite varied. I generally critique US foreign policy, our outrageous military budget, the privatization of war, including the use of mercenaries, and the growing use of robotics, both on the ground and in the air, in modern warfare. I also regularly write about nonviolent movements around the world for Waging Nonviolence, a blog that I helped start last year.
CelebityDialogue: What would you say to the critics who may view your writing as mostly anti-government?
Eric: I would say that would be an inaccurate way of characterizing my work. I’m not against all government. I’m against government that is destructive, dysfunctional and unresponsive to the will of the people, and that’s unfortunately where we’re at in the United States. On issue after issue the policies of the US government are in direct opposition to the demands of social and economic justice. To take just one example, we spend upwards of a trillion dollars every year on the Pentagon and war while tens of millions of Americans live in poverty and have no access to health care. That is immoral and unacceptable.
December 17, 2009
In Oslo last week, President Barack Obama ironically used his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize to deliver a lengthy defense of the “just war” theory and dismiss the idea that nonviolence is capable of addressing the world’s most pressing problems.
After quoting Martin Luther King Jr. and giving his respects to Gandhi — two figures that Obama has repeatedly called personal heroes — the new peace laureate argued that he “cannot be guided by their examples alone” in his role as a head of state.
“I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people,” he continued. “For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”
Unfortunately, this key part of Obama’s speech, which the media widely quoted in its coverage of the award ceremony, contains several logical inconsistencies and historical inaccuracies that tragically reveal Obama’s profound ignorance of nonviolent alternatives to the use of military force.
September 19, 2007
One of the many stories that could be mentioned in this regard comes at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. Just before Jesus was capitally punished by the Roman Empire, he gave his followers an unequivocal lesson about violence that we can ill afford to ignore today.
When the authorities came to arrest Jesus, the apostle Peter did what most of us would do under similar circumstances. He drew his sword in defense of the life of his friend and teacher — who he also believed was the Son of God — and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear.
For Christians still wedded to the just war theory, a more “just cause” for the use of violence in all of history is hard to imagine.
Jesus responded, however, not with approval, but by emphasizing once again the centrality of love, even for the enemy, to his teachings. He rebuked Peter, saying: “Put your sword back in its sheath, for all who take the sword shall perish by the sword.”
The key word there is “all.” Jesus was not only condemning Peter’s violence in that moment some two thousand years ago, but explicitly issuing a warning to anyone, anywhere who chooses violence.
This story should make Christians in this country uncomfortable, because no other nation is currently taking up the sword with more zeal or recklessly wielding it around the world than our own.
April 5, 2007
TomPaine.com, and a shorter op-ed version was published in: Topeka Capital Journal, KS; Hereford Brand, TX; Northwest Arkansas Times, AK; Asheville Citizen-Times, NC; Portland Observer, OR; Newberg Graphic, OR; Morris Sun Tribune, MN; Daily Globe, MN. Distributed by Minuteman Media.
Forty years ago this week, on April 4, 1967, and a year to the day before his tragic assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. rose to the pulpit of New York’s Riverside Church to deliver one of the most controversial speeches of his life.
Entitled ” Beyond Vietnam,” the address was King’s first public antiwar speech, and he gave it only after much trepidation and prayer. Believing that silence in the face of injustice is in fact complicity with evil, King wrote in his autobiography that, “The time had come—indeed it was past due—when I had to disavow and dissociate myself from those who in the name of peace burn, maim and kill.”
As anticipated, King was roundly criticized at the time for straying from civil rights, not only by the mainstream media, but also by allies such as the NAACP. “It was a low period in my life,” he wrote. “I could hardly open a newspaper.”
Now, however, history has vindicated the truths that King so bravely spoke that day, and his testimony is rightfully seen as a prophetic masterpiece.
While still mesmerizing, listening to the speech today can also be somewhat disconcerting. It painfully reveals how little has changed and how politicians, both then and now, use the same rhetorical devices to scare the public into supporting misguided policies. By simply swapping the word ” Iraq” for “Vietnam,” and “terrorism” for “communism” King’s speech could be given today, with little need for editing.
September 10, 2006
While most Americans associate September 11th with violence, in one of history’s great coincidences, that date also marks the centennial of one of the most significant steps in humanity’s long quest for peace.
On September 11, 1906, 3,000 people, mostly Indians, packed the old Empire Theater in Johannesburg, South Africa. They came to protest a draft of the Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance that would require that every Indian over the age of 8 be fingerprinted and carry a registration card. Moreover, the law stipulated that the police could enter the home of any Indian at their discretion and fine, imprison or even deport those found without proper identification.
A young lawyer, Mohandas K. Gandhi, took the stage to explain a resolution that he had helped draft that pledged that no Indian would cooperate with the proposed law if it passed. In the heat of the moment, one of the speakers following Gandhi vowed “in the name of God” that he would never comply with the degrading law and urged everyone present to do the same.
Being a deeply religious man, Gandhi was startled. Not knowing what he was going to say, but feeling compelled to explain the gravity of invoking God in such an oath, he rose again to address the audience.
“It is not at all impossible that we might have to endure every hardship that we can imagine” without resorting to violence, Gandhi warned. The crowd sat in solemn silence. While “everyone must only search his own heart” about taking the vow, Gandhi announced that there was only one course open to him: “to die but not submit to the law.” Nevertheless, Gandhi was an optimist. “I can boldly declare, and with certainty,” he assured, “that so long as there is even a handful of men true to their pledge, there can be one end to the struggle, and that is victory.”
Awestruck by the eloquence and power of Gandhi’s words, all present in the theater that fateful afternoon stood together with their hands raised and took an oath of nonviolent resistance.
May 12, 2004
Topeka Capital-Journal, KS; Garden City Telegram, KS; Chanute Tribune, KS. Distributed by Minuteman Media.
At the 9/11 Commission there was a great deal of finger pointing over who is at fault for the worst acts of terrorism on American soil in history. Richard Clarke, former White House counter-terrorism chief, took center stage with his inflammatory rhetoric. “Your government failed you,” he stated, accusing the Bush administration of not considering terrorism an “urgent issue” before the attacks of September 11th, despite numerous warnings.
Clarke’s credible accusations may damage the successful “war president” image that President Bush plans on using for re-election, but they do not get to the heart of the issue.
What are the root causes of terrorism, and why was the United States attacked that fateful morning? Nobody wants to truly examine these questions, because just as the Spanish reacted with rightful anger by ousting the ruling Popular Party in their recent elections for pursuing a foreign policy that provoked the horrific train bombings in Madrid, the blame for September 11th falls almost solely on U.S. government policies.
The Bush administration offers a simple answer to these complex questions: “The terrorists don’t like our values. They are enemies of freedom and civilization. They are evil.”
“Evil” is a convenient response because it can have no reason. If “they are evil,” there is no need to look in the mirror or re-examine our policies.