H. Patricia Hynes – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Tue, 29 Nov 2022 03:20:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.8 A Letter to President Joe Biden: About that pledge you Made of “Diplomacy First” https://www.juancole.com/2022/11/letter-president-diplomacy.html https://www.juancole.com/2022/11/letter-president-diplomacy.html#respond Tue, 29 Nov 2022 05:08:22 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=208452 Greenfield, Mass. (Special to Informed Comment) –

Dear Joe,

Remember the mid-March snowball fight with some boys in our 8th grade class at St Helena’s School in Wilmington, Delaware? The snow was wet and made for hard, icy snowballs, so I hid my young sister Monica behind a parked car. You joined me against the other boys who had started pitching snowballs; but none of us on both sides, all classmates, really wanted lasting enmity. When over, no resentments, no grudges.

It’s the contrast of this youthful experience with your foreign policy today – specifically your perilously hostile attitude toward China and Russia, both nuclear powers, and China, an economic giant, in need of constraint as US national security overlords warn, that I want to address.

You ran on “diplomacy first” (US people having wearied of “forever wars”), “no more support for the Yemen war” and negotiating a U.S. return to the multi-sided accord governing Iran’s nuclear programs. These pledges were swept under the Oval Office rug, as was the recent letter of the Democrats’ Progressive Caucus suggesting direct talks with Russia toward a ceasefire and negotiated settlement while continuing US military support for Ukraine.

You have sustained the war in Ukraine since February 2022 by massively arming Ukraine with $54 billion in weapons and aid. Thus, the US is a party to the war and, consequently, in a strong position to be proactive in insisting on a ceasefire and negotiations as the UN Charter calls for. In fact, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley “ has publicly voiced support for diplomacy between Ukraine and Russia,” while your Secretary of State Anthony Blinken pushes for sustaining the war. Isn’t the State Department mission to lead in diplomacy not war?

Via Pixabay.

This war has become your war, while the majority of Americans now support negotiations to end the war in Ukraine “as soon as possible.” And you risk – in remaining inflexible to negotiations – nuclear war and ongoing recession, inflation and food shortages for millions in Africa and Asia, while the country Ukraine is being wrecked by Russian bombing. All to bring down Putin, as you said in an unsupervised moment. Let’s call it regime change, a haplessly failed habit of the US government in at least three of our recent wars of aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Joe, do read and heed the words of someone you putatively admire: On November, 4, Pope Francis tweeted: “In the garden of humanity, we are playing with fire, missiles and bombs, with weapons that bring sorrow and death, covering our common home with ashes and hatred. I extend my heartfelt appeal to everyone that the war in Ukraine be ended and that serious peace negotiations begin.”

Why are you ramping up tensions with China at a time of climate breakdown when the two largest climate polluters need to collaborate on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, if humans and other life are to survive this century? Further, the US military is the largest institutional contributor to the climate crisis in the world; and as the US continues to expand its military budget, so also do NATO and China, worsening climate-threatening emissions. The hot war with Russia and economic war and enmity with China, then, threaten the world with climate catastrophe, while the U.S. fails to meet its pledge to fund climate resilience and alternative energy sources for developing countries.

The world of nations is not the simplistic binary that you persist in describing: “rule-of-law” democracies mainly the West (good) versus authoritarian regimes elsewhere (bad). There are many weak democracies, especially our own in which billionaires determine elections about 90% of the time and wealth determines the votes of Congress for legislation – making the U.S. a plutocracy. Some consider it a political and economic oligarchy essentially at the bid of giant corporations, freed by the Citizens United decision inviting massive corporations “to take ownership of … much of the American political process.” The preamble to the Constitution might as well begin “We the Corporations” not “We the People,” notes Ralph Nader. A recent federal report revealed that the authoritarian United Arab Emirates has spent $154 million since 2016 to “push policies in Washington that favor it.” Big money in politics, which goes to both parties, is toxic for democracy.

The top European Union foreign affairs and security appointee Josep Borrell defies your binary worldview, Joe, admitting that Europe has a “lot of authoritarian regimes.” Similarly, France’s former ambassador to the United States and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York Gerard Araud warns that the U.S “frequently violates international law” and violates its “so-called” ‘rules-based order’ with no consequences. Why must the U.S. insist on being the world’s unipolar “leader,” he posits, and not work “on an equal basis” with countries of the Global South. Try to put yourself in your alleged enemy’s shoes, he advises; ‘”try to see the world from Beijing.’”

Reverend Liz Theoharris, co-founder of the Poor People’s Campaign, designates the US ”an impoverished democracy.” And she ponders why “few candidates (democrat and republican in 2022) bothered to talk about poverty, food insecurity, or low wages” or to run on platforms such as renewing the Child Tax Credit to lift families out of poverty. Forty million by government statistics live in poverty, but an addition 95-100 million live one paycheck from health crisis and eviction and poverty. “Bobby Kennedy, even Lyndon Johnson, spoke about the poor. Now you can’t say the word poor and get elected,” observed Father Michael Doyle pastor in Camden, New Jersey, one of the e poorest cities in the United States.

To your credit, Joe, you have tried on the domestic front with your ambitious Build Back Better bill and have succeeded with the lesser Inflation Reduction Act. But in this plutocratic democracy of ours, we cannot even achieve what so-called authoritarian regimes have. How is it that China and Cuba, for example, have achieved higher life expectancy than ours; have provided Covid vaccines to developing countries when your government has not; provide free health care, including abortion, and education to their citizens; and do not have the extremes of wealth and inequality that our country does?

Which legacy do you want – plutocracy, impoverished democracy, record inequality, ever-expanding militarism, or a just economic recovery, a livable world, peace and diplomacy in Ukraine before a brutal winter sets in, and the U.S. as member of the family of nations, not its self-deemed patriarch? The boy I remember would choose the latter.

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The Other Way of Celebrating Armistice Day: Soldiers and Vets for Peace https://www.juancole.com/2022/11/celebrating-armistice-soldiers.html Fri, 11 Nov 2022 05:08:16 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=208055 Greenfield, Mass. (Special to Informed Comment) – The first Armistice Day November 11, 1919 was a celebration of the moment – the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918 – that the brutality of that first industrial war, World War I, which robbed 40 million soldiers and civilians of life, ended; and peace began. In 1926 the US Congress declared an Armistice Day resolution calling for “exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding…inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.”

All public ideals of peace with all other peoples were discarded on June 1, 1954, when the US government renamed Armistice Day as Veterans Day. This erasure of Armistice Day tragically matched our country’s history of militarism after World War II: first bombing North Korea nearly out of existence and metastasizing into a pathological military-industrial-government complex that claims the lion’s share of our discretionary federal taxes.

But many thousands of soldiers and veterans of major US wars of the 20th and 21st centuries have turned against war and revived the intent of Armistice Day: “friendly relations with all other peoples.”

World War 1: War Is a Racket

War profiteering in World War I was mammoth; and no one nailed the profiteers and racketeers so head-on as the straight-talking, bemedaled Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler. As Butler saw it, war is first and foremost about making the world safe for war profits, being the oldest, most profitable racket in which billions of dollars are made for millions of lives destroyed. Of the estimated $52 billion cost of World War I, industry war profiteers pocketed nearly one-third. More than 21,000 new American millionaires and billionaires emerged from the human ashes of the war, while the federal government was mired in post-war debt – a debt paid for by working people’s taxes.

World War II: The Good War Gone Bad

The probing journey made in 1966 by World War II veteran Howard Zinn to the French Atlantic coast town of Royan – a town he had helped to destroy as a bombardier in a 1945 Allied air-ground assault – sheds piercing light into military culture and the inevitable inhumanity of war.

His April 1945 bombing mission took place three weeks before the end of the war in Europe. Jellied gasoline, known as napalm, was previously used by the US Eighth Air Force on Royan, serving as a trial test of the Air Force’s new skin-burning incendiary weapon.

Zinn collates the venal motives – both French and American – behind the assault on the small town: blinding military ambition and pride in compiling victories, the quest for honor and glory even in militarily useless battles, the irresistible urge to try out new weapons and a habit of obedience to duty. All generate … the one-way momentum of war beyond the bounds of just war principles and international conventions – even for the “good guys.”

Vietnam: Resistance, Regret and Redemption

Not until the Vietnam War, did soldiers resist and revolt massively against the war and sustain their defiance throughout the war, despite the transfer, discharge and jailing of protest leaders.

While still a teenager, Claude Anshin Thomas killed hundreds of Vietnamese as a door gunner on an assault helicopter, for which he received numerous medals and the Purple Heart. “My involvement in this war … scarred my body … my heart … my soul…. But as I pieced together the shrapnel of my life … I discovered that there is no justified killing…and no rectitude in war.” After years of homelessness and profound isolation, drugs, alcohol and exploiting women for sex, he studied Buddhism and was ordained a monk in the Soto Zen tradition. As a mendicant, he made pilgrimages in war-torn regions of the world, including Vietnam where he met with Vietnamese war veterans suffering the same cumulative sorrow of war, to promote peace and nonviolence.

Vietnam: I am the generation of witness and fire

…I was a hospital corpsman during the Vietnam War

and, though far from combat,

the war haunts

me and my generation…

I hold the memory of two million

Vietnamese children, men and women

Killed during the War of Liberation.

…I burn with the shame

Of our wars!

Our shame should burn as bright

as the phosphorous bombs

that we dropped in Vietnam

I burn with rage!

…How will our actions of

atonement and justice

lead to healing?


Iraq: Moral Injury

Thousands of US soldiers turned against the war and declared themselves COs, went AWOL, refused to re-deploy, risked prison, spoke out and returned their war on terrorism medals in a public act of conscience. Their voices have a uniquely moral tenor.

As a member of Bravo Company 2-16, Ethan McCord rescued two injured children from a van in Baghdad, riddled with bullets by American helicopter gunners. The video of this massacre, Collateral Damage, was leaked to Wikileaks by then-Private Bradley Manning. Later, McCord and fellow soldier Josh Stieber published “An Open Letter of Reconciliation and Responsibility to the Iraqi People.” Their letter concluded:

With such pain, friendship might be too much to ask. Please accept our apology, our sorrow, our care, and our dedication to change from the inside out. We are doing what we can to speak out against the wars and military policies responsible for what happened to you and your loved ones.

Both have since worked in reparation and reconciliation efforts with Iraqi Health Now, which provides direct medical and health aid to people in Iraq.

Afghanistan: Refusal, Regret and Reconciliation

What could have happened if the atrocity of September 11, 2001 had been treated as a crime with a coordinated international intelligence investigation and not as the case for war in Afghanistan? 9/11 was a crime committed by non-Afghan individuals.

Bottom of Form

Nao Rozi left the US Army rather than kill other soldiers, strangers whom he was supposed to hate.

“I held a weapon before people I didn’t know and who didn’t know me. … We weren’t enemies because we didn’t even know one another. … There were so many dead young bodies, and all of them were strangers to me. I thought, why did we do this to one another? …Weren’t their mothers waiting for them at home?… Those US veterans who committed suicide had a conscience.”

Rozi became a peace activist. He lived and worked with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, “seeking a better life, seeking a better world.”

Undoubtedly, the voices of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers and vets turned war resisters will emerge in protest against that war.

War cannot be humanized, it can onlybe abolished. Albert Einstein

Quotes from Listening to Soldiers and Vets by H Patricia Hynes, with permission from Truthout and from Vietnam: I am the generation of witness and fire with permission from http://namayaproductions.com/agent.

Pat Hynes is a board member of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice in western Massachusetts, a former Professor of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health and author of recently published Hope, But Demand Justice, Haley Publishing.

All the Victims of the Ukraine War https://www.juancole.com/2022/09/all-victims-ukraine.html Fri, 16 Sep 2022 04:08:24 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=206999 “They will beat their swords into plowshares . . . Nor will they train for war anymore.” Isaiah2:3-4.

Greenfield, Mass. (Special to Informed Comment) – What’s wrong, so profoundly wrong with war that compelled Isaiah to implore for peace (without debate over just and unjust war) almost 3,000 years ago?

War breeds a plague of ills and evils. Most immediate is the acute tragedy for those directly killed, soldiers and civilians alike, with civilian deaths often being in excess of soldiers’ deaths in recent wars due to urban, aerial and guerrilla warfare.

For US veterans who have returned from war with “soldier’s heart” (Civil War), “shell shock” (1st World War), “PTSD” and “moral injury” (Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan), Veterans for Peace captures poignantly the lifelong agony of fighting and killing in war. “Many of us continue to suffer physical and spiritual wounds from multiple wars; we can tell hard truths. War is not the answer – it is mass murder and mayhem. War dehumanizes soldiers and scars survivors for life. Nobody wins in war but the profiteers. We must end war or it will end us.”

War fuels rape, sexual torture, and sexual exploitation of women and girls by male soldiers and civilians. Every documented war holds accounts of this acute sexual injustice, including the current Russia-Ukraine war. “For predators and human traffickers, the war in Ukraine is an opportunity – and women and children are their targets,” states UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. In Germany, where prostitution and pimping are legal, social media has been soliciting Ukrainian refugee women into the sex trade since the onset of the war. Google searches for terms like “Ukrainian girls,” “Ukrainian porn,” and “war porn” spiked in the first days of the conflict. Further, men in border countries at train stations have been observed offering refugee women with children transport and accommodation, only to disappear when police arrived.

War accelerates climate catastrophe. Militarism is the most oil-intensive activity on the planet, growing more so with faster, bigger, more fuel guzzling planes, tanks, and naval vessels. At the outset of the Iraq War in March 2003, for example, the Army estimated it would need more than 40 million gallons of gasoline for three weeks of combat, exceeding the total quantity used by all Allied forces in the four years of World War I. Between 2003 and 2007, the Iraq war generated more carbon dioxide equivalent in greenhouse gas emissions each year of the war than 139 of the world’s countries released annually. Re-building Iraqi (and Afghani, Syrian, Yemeni and Ukrainian) schools, homes, businesses, bridges, roads, and hospitals pulverized in these wars will require millions of tons of cement, the most fossil fuel intensive of all manufacturing industries.

Further, the global impacts of more drilling and fracking for fossil fuels to offset sanctions on Russian oil and gas; war-related inflation; and war-related extreme food shortages for millions in Africa and the Middle East have undermined countries meeting their climate targets

Yet, mainstream US and British media have all but eclipsed the record climate temperatures, drought, floods and fires of 2022 across the world with their preoccupation on militarizing Ukraine to defeat Russia. No doubt this same “monoculture media” will sideline, as before, the many hundreds of Isaiah-like climate scientists across the world, strategizing more non-violent, civil disobedience actions, to wake up the world to the accelerating climate emergencies.

“The first casualty, when war comes, is truth,” are the words of Hiram Johnson (1866-1945), a Progressive Republican senator in California, at the outset of World War I. The current war in Europe, illegally initiated by Russia, is no exception. From the popular media and government news releases, who knew that promising negotiations to end the war in late March 2022-early April between Ukraine and Russia mediated by Turkey, were torpedoed immediately after by Great Britain and the US? Both then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Pentagon chief, General Lloyd Austin met separately with President Zelensky and insisted that Ukraine, with both countries’ providing military weapons and training, should stay in the war to defeat and weaken Russia and Putin, specifically. Zelensky acquiesced. Since the war began neither the US nor Britain has ever engaged in or shown any interest in diplomacy to bring an early end to this tragedy, with its plague of ills and evils, that has by now grievously harmed millions of lives. This war is their war too and also a consequence of a two-decade long broken commitment.

The US has failed in its promise given by U.S. Secretary of State James Baker to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, of “not one inch eastward”- a commitment not to expand NATO east of reunified Germany. This assurance has been violated time after time with an eastward expansion of NATO that is critically threatening to Russia’s security if Ukraine joins NATO, given their shared borders.

“If Ukraine and Russia can negotiate grain exports, prisoner exchanges and a nuclear reactor inspection, they can negotiate an end to this crisis,” states the national feminist peace network CodePink. But only if the US, the major provider of advanced weapons, training and supplies to Ukraine (worth over $110 million per day), supports peace negotiations.

US presidents and presidents-to-be used to boast that the US is the greatest democracy in the world, a beacon to other nations, and the greatest military in the history of the world. Today, they mainly vaunt our country for its military prowess – despite having barely won a war since World War II, all of which wars the US has illegally initiated. Isn’t it time to repair our dangerously divided, sinfully unequal country, besieged with mass murders and to join the family of nations as a sibling, not a patriarch; time to become a country that will beat our swords into plowshares, our weapons into windmills…nor train for war anymore.

Peace Literacy: Every Student Needs It https://www.juancole.com/2022/09/peace-literacy-student.html Fri, 02 Sep 2022 04:08:52 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=206727 Greenfield, Mass. (Special to Informed Comment) – Philadelphia is “awash in guns”: More people were shot there in 2022, hundreds fatally, than in larger cities including New York and Los Angeles. In this “country’s poorest big city,” most shootings take place in neighborhoods shattered by multiple forms of racial discrimination and endemic poverty. The market in legal gun sales is also booming there, the culture of fear driving citizens to carry guns for safety. Further complicating solutions is the progressive district attorney’s and the chief of police’s disagreement over models of crime enforcement in the city.

On the other side of our country, a miraculous alternative to the seeming nihilism of West and North Philadelphia neighborhoods breeds hope. The winter 2022 Boston College magazine carries the story of Fr. Gregory Boyle who began working 34 years ago as a pastor in the poorest neighborhood in Los Angeles, one with the highest gang activity and “shootings morning, noon and night.” He started a school at his church for youth dropped out or expelled from their schools, offering a growing number of services. Beginning with Homeboy Bakery, he initiated nine more businesses employing youth from rival gangs under the umbrella of Homeboy Industries. The program, which helped lower the gang-related homicide rate in LA, is “the largest gang intervention, rehab and reentry program in the world.”

A simple wisdom infuses Fr. Boyle’s success: “I’ve learned that kindness is a universal language…Seemingly small acts like visiting people in the hospital or juvenile hall are never forgotten. I’ve also learned that violence is often sparked by a lethal absence of hope…At Homeboy, we seek to cherish the wounded…because making someone feel cherished often leads them to the best version of themselves.”

Many studies and lived experiences, like Fr. Boyle’s, refute the prevailing perception that violence–whether male violence against women, gang violence, or war between countries–is inevitable. Among those challenging the inevitability of human violence is West Point graduate, Iraq war veteran, and now peace activist Paul Chappell, who has dedicated his life to incorporating peace literacy into educational curricula. In his book Soldiers of Peace Chappell recounted that he had 12 years of math through Calculus II, yet uses few of his math skills in daily life; but he graduated from high school illiterate in peace, a literacy he desperately needed.

As a mixed race, Korean/African-American/white child growing up in Alabama, he felt himself a racial outcast. By high school, he was full of rage. He reflects with irony and regret that “the education system had not given me a single hour of training to help me understand the nature of rage… In fact, much of what I learned in school taught me to suppress my empathy and conscience and to view purpose in the narrow context of accumulating material wealth.”

Peace literacy is as crucial as learning reading, writing and mathematics, and it cannot be left only to parents, Chappell cautions. Schools must teach the history of strategic non-violent campaigns that won civil rights and women’s rights; the arts of listening, asking questions to achieve clarity and understanding, cultivating empathy and mutual communication; the skills of disciplined resolution of conflict, and recognizing verbal and advertising manipulation. As Gandhi avowed, “If peace schooling were taken as seriously as military schooling, our world would be a much different place.”

Active Bystanders

Here in western Massachusetts, we have a proven model of learning peace skills, the Active Bystanders’ Training offered by Quabbin Mediation located in Orange. (See https://quabbinmediation.org) Those trained gain insight and skills needed if they decide to act when they witness something they see as unfair, or wrong, or troubling. The training prompts participants to recognize those who create harmful situations, those who are the targets and those who witness it as bystanders. They discuss what inhibits bystanders who stay silent and then guide participants to create action plans to overcome their silence. The training encourages them to examine what’s needed to become active in addressing the harm in the situation – moral courage, inclusive caring, responsibility for others, reciprocity – and assists participants to discover their positive power. Lastly, participants are supported in developing a variety of intervention techniques, with the goal of analyzing situations in the future and acting when harm doing is encountered.

What if all of our schools required training in skilled conflict resolution as a form of peace literacy for their students. Would that not be one of the most useful education skills for life that we could give them?

The Unbearable Weight of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Where We Stand on August 6 and 9, 2022 https://www.juancole.com/2022/08/unbearable-hiroshima-nagasaki.html Sat, 06 Aug 2022 04:08:32 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=206172 August 6 and 9 mark the 77th year since the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, annihilating instantly an estimated 170,000 women, men and children and sentencing tens of thousands more to eventual death from radiation poisoning and injuries.

American military leaders from all branches of the armed forces strongly dissented from the decision to use the bombs, some before August 1945, some in retrospect, for both military and moral reasons. On Armistice Day 1948, Army General Omar Bradley captured the soulless militarism ruling the US government: “Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.”

Who are the “ethical infants,” the “we” who “know more about war than… about peace, more about killing than about living?”

Not the 122 Countries

that voted in 2017 to approve the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, despite heavy pressure by nuclear nations, foremost the United States, not to do so. By August 2022, 66 countries have ratified the Treaty; many more are in the process of doing so. Consider this a marathon for disarmament to outpace the current insane nuclear arms race in which all nine nuclear-armed countries are, in lockstep, upgrading their weapons.

Not the US Conference of Mayors

a hugely influential group, representing 1,400 US cities of more than 30,000 citizens, that in August 2021 unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Washington to embrace the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as a step toward finally ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction.

Not the Majority of the American Public

which, according to the 2020 Chicago Council Survey, believe that no country should be allowed to have nuclear weapons. These include majorities of Republicans (54%), Democrats (78%) and Independents (64%).

Not Climate Scientists

who recently committed civil disobedience, desperately warning that we have only a few years to stabilize emissions and then reduce them in order to avoid climate catastrophe. They were ignored by mainstream press and their western governments, which have focused exclusively on Russia’s war against Ukraine. As a consequence of that war, the U.S. has undertaken new drilling for oil on federal lands, while it has been failing miserably to meet its goal of reducing climate change emissions 50% below 2005 emissions by 2030.

Not Veterans for Peace

who, while holding differing opinions about the roots of the ongoing war in Ukraine and the relative culpability of Russia, US and NATO, are unanimous in ending the conflict as soon as possible.

Many of us continue to suffer physical and spiritual wounds from multiple wars; we can tell hard truths. War is not the answer – it is mass murder and mayhem. War indiscriminately kills and maims innocent men, women and children. War dehumanizes soldiers and scars survivors for life. Nobody wins in war but the profiteers. We must end war or it will end us.”

Not the World Food Program:

whose director David Beaseley rages against an unprecedented food crisis for hundreds of millions in Asia and Africa as a result of Covid, climate crisis, and the lack of grain and cooking oil from Ukraine and Russia. “We are facing hell on Earth…The best thing we can do right now is end the damn war in Russia and Ukraine and get the port open in Odesa.”

Not the Bees

The bees
Do not stop
Collecting pollen
When humans
Murder each other
With guns.
The bees think:
How strange,
How low
On the evolutionary scale
Must those humans be,
That they haven’t yet
Figured out
How to make honey
Or peace.
Bees by Alden Solovy

Not the Trees

which communicate, share nutrients and water, and act to protect each other from pests and other threats by releasing repelling chemicals. Trees connected in forests by underground networks of fungi live far longer lives than isolated trees.

Who, then, are the “ethical infants” who “know more about war than… about peace, more about killing than about living?”

The Masculinized, Militarized Nuclear Nations

among them Russia for its resort to war against Ukraine and US/NATO determined to bring Russia down by feeding the scourge of war with billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Ukraine.

The Weapons Industry

Public Citizen released a new report estimating that military contractors’ contributions to US Congressional members in 2022 “could see a nearly

450,000% return on their investment.”


The upgrading of nuclear weapons by nine countries and morbid fantasy of a military solution to the Russian-Ukraine conflict risk life on Earth. Only determined diplomacy, only ethical giants can save us from that.


Pat Hynes, a former Professor of Environmental Health at Boston University, is a board member of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice and a member of Women’s International League for Peace and Justice. Her recently published book is Hope, But Demand Justice.

Stop the Wars. Save the Planet https://www.juancole.com/2022/04/stop-wars-planet.html Tue, 26 Apr 2022 04:08:50 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=204281 Greenfield, Mass. (Special to Informed Comment) – This report “is an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.” Such was the response of UN secretary general Antonio Guterres to the February 28, 2022 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) documenting the present and future impact of the climate crisis on humans and society. Half the world’s population–more than 3.6 billion people, mostly poor Africans and south Asians–live with heightened risk of life-threatening floods, wildfires, heatwaves, rising sea levels, droughts, and climate-related respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses due to the apathy of the wealthy, powerful governments. The privileged governments, most answerable for impending climate catastrophe, fail yearly to meet their pledged greenhouse gas emissions targets and fall short in promised climate adaptation money to developing countries.

Moreover, President Biden recently ordered more production of oil and gas on public lands, betraying his campaign promises to “tackle the climate emergency,” a move that is moral madness.

We have barely enough time to save the planet and ourselves, the recent IPCC report underscores. By 2025–just three years from now–if we have not stopped increasing greenhouse gas emissions, we will fail to keep climate crises from “putting us on track toward an unlivable world.”

Article continues after bonus IC video
How climate is a casualty of the war in Ukraine l ABCNL

But who, except climate scientists and the most climate-vulnerable of the world, are paying attention? Since February 20, western news media has fixated exclusively on the brutal Russian war in Ukraine, a European war putting some 40 million Ukrainian people at risk, with barely a back page mention of the IPCC report and the billions of people of color in the deadly path of climate Armageddon. The fossil-fueled war in Ukraine has preempted our global climate crisis and the crucial need for action.

On April 6 more than 1000 climate scientists engaged in unprecedented civil disobedience–occupying the steps of government agencies, blocking bridges, and chaining themselves to fossil fuel-friendly banks and the White House fence. Their central message is that world leaders are not diminishing their use of fossil fuels [in fact, they are expanding it now with the Russian/Ukrainian conflict], and that we are in the “11th hour in terms of Earth breakdown.”

“I feel terrified for my kids and terrified for humanity,” said climate scientist Peter Kalmus chained to the front door of major fossil-fuel funder JPMorgan Chase building in Los Angeles. “Everything we love is at risk…including even civilization itself and the wonderful, beautiful cosmically precious life on this planet.” Kalmus and his fellow protesters were arrested by 100 Los Angeles police officers in riot gear.

The April 6 action and subsequent weeklong climate scientists’ protests received minimal news coverage.

Follow the Money

Federal budgets are moral documents; they mirror a nation’s values and more tangibly, its heart and soul. President Biden’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 allocates $813 billion to the Pentagon for weapons making and war–our weapons and wars and our allies’ (some of which are autocrats and criminals) weapons and wars.

Between 2002 and 2021, the five major weapons industries spent $1.2 billion on federal lobbying and campaign funding, which earned them $2.3 trillion in Pentagon contracts, all for our illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, dozens of undercover military campaigns across the globe, and 750 military bases worldwide.

The proposed State Department budget for 2023 is $60.4 billion, about 7 percent of the Pentagon’s budget. What does this say about the value we place on peace negotiations for the goal of resolving conflict, allocating 7 cents for conflict resolution for every dollar dedicated to weapons of war. It’s not even 7 cents for peace negotiations since the State Department–allegedly our non-militarized arm in conflicts–negotiates arms deals and military training, as they are currently doing in Ukraine.

Further, the 100+ independent-of-government peace organizations in the United States run on small budgets, if any, and rely on many volunteers. Peace work is mainly funded by sweat equity–of great worth, but non-monetary: meeting with elected officials and their staff, drafting legislation, mobilizing letter-writing and lobbying campaigns, public protests, public speaking, publishing op-eds and letters to the editor; and conducting goodwill visits to so-called enemy countries.

The same proposed 2023 budget allocates $45 billion for clean energy, preparing for climate crises, and helping developing countries ready for climate crises. The budget, then, proposes to spend little more than a nickel for climate crisis spending for every dollar spent on war and ever more lethal weapons. In a recent election cycle, (2017-2018), oil, gas and coal industries outspent renewable energy companies 13-1 on federal lobbying and campaigns.

If the federal budget mirrors a government’s heart and soul, which I think it does, our national government is riddled with heart disease and soul decay. If humanity and much of life on Earth is to survive, we need a climate revolution and a peace revolution, a direction that the majority of Americans prefer. We do not need another Cold War with Russia and China, nor hundreds of fossil fuel and weapons lobbyists lining the pockets of members of Congress, nor an elephant-sized US military budget (the sole budget item Republicans and Democrats can agree on) in 2023, with crumbs from the master’s table left for diplomacy and clean energy.

Can sanctions ever be just — let alone effective? https://www.juancole.com/2022/04/sanctions-alone-effective.html Mon, 18 Apr 2022 04:04:26 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=204137 ( Fellowship of Conciliation/ Waging Nonviolence ) – As a result of its brutal invasion of Ukraine, Russia is now the most sanctioned country in the world, leading one former Obama administration Treasury official to describe the situation as “financial nuclear war.” Western European countries, however, depend on Russian oil and gas, so they have had to carve out an exception in order to purchase fuel from Russia, thus allowing Russia to gain substantial export revenue to sustain its military. It is possible, then, that Russian citizens will suffer more from deprivation due to the economic sanctions than will the government coffers.

History suggests the West’s sanctions on Russia will only hurt vulnerable people. Movements offer a better approach to economic penalties.

Because the world cannot risk actual nuclear war by engaging Russia militarily, Western Europe and the U.S. have been constrained to giving weapons and training to Ukraine. Consequently, in the eyes of security and economic analysts, this conflict is testing “whether economic retaliation can make an aggressor back down or whether only armed force can stop armed force.”

In the ideal, economic sanctions can provide a policy tool short of military force for punishing or forestalling objectionable actions. However, economic sanctions can also be a blunt and ineffective policy tool, disproportionately harming the most vulnerable populations while not changing the targeted government.

Economic sanctions are penalties levied against a country, its officials or private citizens, in an effort to provide disincentives for the targeted policies and actions and to force it to obey a law or public policy. The widespread economic sanctions against the apartheid government of South Africa in the 1980s, including boycotts and divestment, is exemplary of the potential of sanctions to achieve a more just and free society, without resorting to violence. Many other sanction regimes are not.

In 1990, the United Nations imposed sanctions that banned world trade with Iraq after that country’s invasion of Kuwait. The sanctions continued after the Gulf War in 1991 because of Saddam Hussein’s refusal to comply with the terms of the ceasefire. By 1997 one-third of Iraqi children were malnourished, and by 1999 the economy was shattered. Former U.N. official Denis Halliday called the sanctions “genocidal” and quit his post to speak out against them. Thirteen years of U.N. sanctions contributed to a serious reduction in Iraq’s per capita income, but dictators like Hussein generally ignore sanctions — and thus ensued a slow economic war that impoverished the civilian population. As one study noted, this resulted in the U.N. Security Council invoking more targeted, rather than comprehensive, sanctions.

In principle, sanctions are invoked to stem terrorism, narcotics trafficking, human rights violations, weapons proliferation and violations of international treaties. They have ranged from comprehensive economic and trade sanctions to more targeted measures such as arms embargoes, travel bans, boycotts, divestment and financial or commodity restrictions. Since 1966, the U.N. Security Council has established 30 sanctions regimes in many African countries, the former Yugoslavia, Haiti, Iraq, Lebanon, as well as against ISIS, Al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Notably the U.N.-sanctioned countries have not included powerful Western countries, though many have been involved in criminal war — including the U.S. war in Vietnam, the 20-year U.S./NATO war in Afghanistan and the U.S. war in Iraq, which included a handful of other European countries.

The Brookings Institute has noted that the United States uses sanctions increasingly “to promote the full range of American policy.” This somewhat neutral statement acknowledges that the U.S. commonly employs sanctions for geopolitical purposes — that is, to amass military or economic power against a rival and to promote regime change. Cuba is among the most notable failures of regime change. Six decades of a U.S. trade and travel embargo on Cuba accomplished none of Washington’s policy objectives: the overthrow of the Communist government, promotion of capitalism and stopping foreign investment by other countries. Currently, in the U.N. General Assembly, only the United States and Israel support the sanctions against Cuba. Moreover, studies have found that the longer sanctions last, the less likely they are to succeed.

Many studies conclude that sanctions are more effective against states with coherent structures of power and social cohesion — while being much less effectively used against dictatorships and failed states. However, that has not been the case with three of the longest sanctioned functioning countries with varying degrees of one-party rule in the cases of Cuba and North Korea and a combination of strong theocracy and weaker democracy in Iran. Note that in each of these countries the United States has historically had an oversized imperialist role: the Spanish-American War in the case of Cuba, the Korean War to contain Communism and the CIA-planned coup in Iran against the left-leaning, democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. 

After withdrawing from its devastating and futile 20-year war in Afghanistan in August 2021, the U.S. quickly enacted economic sanctions against the brutal Taliban government, while also withholding Afghan people’s money deposited in the New York Federal Reserve Bank. According to Mark Weisbrot of Just Foreign Policy, these punitive sanctions, inevitably being borne by the Afghan people, “are on track to take the lives of more civilians in the coming year than have been killed by 20 years of warfare.”

Double standard sanctions

The Palestinian BDS National Committee that leads the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, “opposes war,” as they stated recently, “whether it is Russia’s illegal aggression in Ukraine today…or the many patently illegal and immoral US- or NATO-led wars of the past decades which have devastated whole nations and killed millions.”

They contrast their own BDS movement against Israel “to end complicity in Israel’s regime of oppression” that denies Palestinians “freedom, justice and equality” with that of current Western, xenophobic, McCarthyite boycotts and sanctions against ordinary Russians. Examples include banning Russian films and literature, removing Russian music conductors, refusing Russian patients in a German hospital, banning Russian citizens living in Russia from the Boston marathon, etc. The U.S. company Airbnb withdrew from Russia immediately when its invasion of Ukraine began, as did McDonald’s and recently American Express, even as these companies continue to do business in Israel and the illegal Israeli settlements.

According to South African jurist and former Judge Ad Hoc of the International Court of Justice John Dugard, “If the West fails to show concern for [Palestinian] human rights … the [non-Western rest of the world] will conclude that human rights is a tool employed by the West against regimes it dislikes and not an objective and universal instrument for the measurement of the treatment of people throughout the world.”

Perspectives on the outcomes of sanctions

Sanctions were not employed as an independent tool of foreign policy until the 20th century — and they were increasingly used after World War II, being viewed as a low risk (for whom, we must ask), high-profile response to aggression.

According to Robin Wright of The New Yorker, sanctions “generate meaningful change only 40 percent of the time” and can take a very long time to have effect. However, opinions on whether sanctions were the determining factor in resolving conflict or effecting foreign policy goals can vary. Take the case of South Africa: Many analysts agree that the demise of South Africa’s apartheid regime was largely due to widespread economic sanctions on South Africa in the 1980s. Others argue that a “highly mobilized Black-led coalition was the key.”

One of the most comprehensive studies of 170 cases spanning a century of economic sanctions “concluded that sanctions were partially successful only 34 percent of the time.” Where goals were modest, for example, the release of a political prisoner, the rate of success was 50 percent — whereas success in regime change or efforts to disrupt a military action was much lower.

The contradictions and ethical dilemmas of sanctions

Sanctions over time can cause similar devastation to civilians as war, punishing them more severely than their government. Moreover, they are often imposed by the U.S. — the most sanctioning country in the world — to seek regime change. The U.N. has estimated that U.S. sanctions against Cuba — the longest sanctioned country in the world — have dispossessed that country of “an estimated $130 billion in lost revenue,” consigning it to decades-long poverty.

Sanctions against other countries can be a consequence of past U.S. actions. In 1954, left-leaning democratically-elected Jacobo Árbenz was overthrown as president of Guatemala by a CIA-planned coup to protect the profits of the United Fruit Company. Brutal, U.S.-supported regimes since have committed well-documented widespread torture and genocide, for which Guatemala has been sanctioned by some countries, including, ironically, the U.S.

Similarly hypocritical is the sanctioning of countries — such as North Korea and Iran — for possessing or pursuing nuclear weapons, as if it is more a matter of who possesses these weapons of mass destruction than simply their existence that’s posing a threat to life on Earth. U.S. efforts at the state level to criminalize the BDS movement are likewise duplicitous, given the U.S. annual practice of selling weapons and giving more than $3 billion military aid to Israel and doing likewise for Saudi Arabia during its criminal war against Yemen. Sanctioning some countries for human rights violations while abetting others sullies the alternative-to-war potential and credibility of sanctions.

Sanctions infused with ethical intent

How do we help ensure that sanctions are both just and more likely to be effective in sustaining justice? A handful of disparate ethical sanctions movements — those of the 1980s South Africa movement against apartheid and the current Palestinian BDS movement, as well as the international fossil fuels divestment campaign — share certain characteristics. They were/are inspired by citizen-led grassroots groups and were joined in time by NGOs and institutions to differing degrees. Thus, they are largely free from the power politics of big countries and the U.N. (whether economic, military or geopolitical) that infect and undermine the justice intent of sanctions.

Given that many sanctions, especially U.N. sanctions, are intended to defuse and resolve conflict, there is a lesson to be learned from a sister effort in Liberia and the landmark 2000 U.N. Resolution 1325, which is focused on engaging women equally with men in peace and security within their countries. No one has spoken out more strongly in support of U.N. Resolution 1325 than Liberian Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, who brought Christian and Muslim women together in her country to end its vicious civil war.

According to Gbowee, interventions and sanctions to maintain or restore international peace and security have been most effective when they are applied as part of a comprehensive strategy encompassing peacekeeping, peace building and peacemaking. Ending conflict through force, sanctions, and negotiation is only the first step to achieving enduring peace. Ongoing peace building and peacemaking at the community and neighborhood level sustain conflict resolution more reliably and build more lasting solidarity among people.

What do these ethical examples suggest for peace movements across the world regarding the current Russian-Ukraine conflict? We can mobilize to demonstrate unified international solidarity with antiwar protesters in both Russia and Ukraine. Our support should use media boldly and creatively to foreground our shared conviction that war is not the answer, and that war only breeds endless war. Post-war exchanges can bring Russians and Ukrainians together, as Palestinian and Israeli resisters to apartheid have done. Community-based peace building work, as the women’s movement in Liberia continues to do, is crucial for lasting reconciliation within former conflict-ridden societies.

Via Fellowship of Conciliation/ Waging Nonviolence

Have We Forgotten . . . the people of Afghanistan? https://www.juancole.com/2022/03/forgotten-people-afghanistan.html Mon, 14 Mar 2022 04:04:49 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=203467

Empires destroy themselves in the effort to prove they are indestructible. – Reinhold Niebuhr

Greenfield, Mass. (Special to Informed Comment) – The US 20-year war and occupation in Afghanistan, waged to avenge the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, has taken the lives of more than 71,000 Afghani and Pakistani civilians. A massive increase in civilian deaths ensued there in 2017 when the US military loosened its rules of war regarding airstrikes. After the US withdrawal in 2021, in part because of severe US sanctions, millions there face food insecurity.

The country is left littered with unexploded ordnance, which kills and injures unknowing civilian adults and children as they move through their land. The war also forced six million people to flee their homes, almost half as refugees to other countries.

None of this tragedy of the US war in Afghanistan has been in our mainstream news. Could it be because at the war’s onset, George W Bush advised Americans to “go shopping” and forget about our war in a poor, remote, non-Western country?

During the war in Afghanistan, the US poured money into the country, money that flowed to oligarchs within regimes our government propped up, and to US military contractors, civilian contractors and warlords, for which there is little to show. The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction concluded, in his March 2021 assessment of the 20 year war, that much of the [US] spending has been “woefully out of touch at best, and delusional at worst” and much of it has gone to simple graft and corruption by US and Afghan profiteers.

When the US fled Afghanistan eight months ago, most foreign funding upon which the country was dependent for its GDP and 75 percent of its public funding also left. According to the UN, Afghanistan has a 41% rate of stunting in children under five, among the world’s highest; and one-half the population of 40 million are suffering a record level of acute hunger.

After fleeing the country, the US quickly enacted economic sanctions against the brutal Taliban government. These sanctions, inevitably borne by the Afghani people, “are on track to take the lives of more civilians in the coming year than have been killed by 20 years of warfare,” according to economist Mark Weisbrot.

Why is our news media silent on the US inhumane economic war there?

On February 11, 2022 President Biden signed an Executive Order to free $7 billion of frozen Afghani assets held in the Federal Reserve in NYC – savings of ordinary citizens not the Taliban government – and to split them between humanitarian aid for starving, sick Afghanis and legal fees of surviving relatives of the September 11 attacks. Even the former US-supported Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called on Biden to reverse his decision and to return the full $7 billion to the Afghanistan Central Bank.

His words: “Withholding money or seizing money from the people of Afghanistan…is unjust and unfair and an atrocity against the Afghan people.”

Half of Afghani citizens were born after the US launched war in Afghanistan. And yet, they are being punished by our homicidal economic sanctions and the subsequent theft of Afghani citizens’ savings in the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City. Further, the Afghani people did not plan and attack the United States on 9/11. It was primarily Saudi Arabian members of al-Qaeda, who hatched their plot in Germany out of anger for the US setting up military bases in their country and perpetrating war in the Middle East. No Afghan people were involved. Why didn’t the US use the CIA, noted for sleuth, entrapment, and assassination of its targets in foreign countries and governments, to capture or, more to their habit, assassinate, Osama bin Laden?

The logical and ethical response to compensating 9/11 victims’ families would be to withhold the millions of dollars in military aid that our government gives to Saudi Arabia each year to finance their purchase of U.S. military training and equipment, and to use that “blood money” for the 9/11 victims. Doing so, the US would also limit our government’s collusion with Saudi Arabia in the most extreme humanitarian crisis today – the military war on Yemen with its bombing of hospitals and schools and blockades of food and medical supplies. Two-thirds of the 20 million Yemeni people are in critical of food, shelter, medicines, and health care.

And why is none of this in our news media?

Because the greatest military empire in history failed in Afghanistan?

Because poor, darker-skinned, Muslim, non-Western people on the other side of the world are of no financial or security value to our government?

Because the 700 Congressional lobbyists for the weapons industry have turned Congressional attention to their new business opportunity – war in Ukraine?

Because the US government has now subordinated its War on Terror to a testosterone-filled Great Power conflict with Russia and China, now inflamed by Russia’s threat of using nuclear weapons.

Women have had the Right to Choose in America for a Large Part of its History https://www.juancole.com/2022/02/choose-america-history.html Wed, 02 Feb 2022 05:04:19 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=202749 Greenfield, Mass. (Special to Informed Comment) – Did you know?

…Abortion has been legal for a large part of US history and was significant in the history of women’s reproductive health care: Not a single state banned abortion in our country’s first century. Women used abortion-inducing herbs and medications described in early pharmacological literature and were assisted by skilled midwives, nurses, and women’s health care providers. Half of these skilled women were African-American, some enslaved; and others were indigenous and white. Enslaved black women, however, never had the freedom to choose an abortion: their pregnancy meant another slave, another financial asset for their white slave owner who raped them and prohibited their having an abortion. Thus, black women developed an underground of herbal abortifacients and skilled women’s health care.

…Not until the 1860s, with the end of the Civil War and the rise of Jim Crow laws did some states pass anti-abortion laws, forcing women to seek covert abortions. By 1910 abortion was illegal in all existing states.

…The Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion reversed its historical position in that same period, the late 1860s, and banned abortion from the moment of conception. Prior to that ban, prominent churchmen debated the point of ensoulment – that is when a fetus gained a soul. For some it was at the moment of conception; for others, it was months, with fewer months for girls than boys, given they deemed girls underdeveloped humans compared to boys. When the Catholic Church moved to standardize its teaching condemning all abortion, historians have pointed out that it was losing its secular empire of Vatican lands and needed to reassert spiritual power in the face of this defeat. Pope Pius IX then established that all abortion was sinful, and excommunication the penalty; simultaneously he established the dogma of “papal infallibility” – that is, on matters of church doctrine, the Pope is infallible.

White supremacy and patriarchy asserted full control over women’s bodies until 1973.

Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision, recognized a woman’s constitutional right to decide whether or not to terminate her pregnancy, acknowledging that women have autonomy to make that decision. The 1973 ruling established that women can abort in the first trimester (12 weeks) and the states could regulate but not ban abortion in the 2nd trimester (13-24 weeks); and that the state could regulate or ban abortions in the 3rd trimester (25-36), except when necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother. When Roe v. Wade came into effect, 46 states had to abandon their restrictive abortion laws.

Do you know?

…Today, a majority of US adults–including Catholics, non-Evangelical Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Unaffiliated, Asian, Black, Latino and White adults, moderate and liberal Republicans, and a strong majority of Democrats, both women and men, agree that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

…Despite the fact that the majority of Americans support abortion, 21 states are certain to attempt to ban or limit severely abortion rights, and five more are likely to do so, if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court. Most have pre- and post-1973 laws poised to go into effect.

Government is ignoring the will of the people.

… A majority of these 26 states are among the worst states for women’s employment and earnings and include the eight poorest states for women. They are also among the most restrictive states in which to vote. Women from Louisiana and Florida, states prepared to ban abortions, and from Texas, which already does so beyond six weeks – would have to travel from 542 to 666 miles to reach a clinic that provides abortions.

… In surveys and interviews with women who have had abortions, most women report multiple reasons for their decision. These include financial and other responsibilities – not able to afford raising a child or another child; the need to finish education, to work, or to care for those they already care for; and problems with the male partner, including lack of support or relationship difficulties.

…Misogyny and injustice fuel the control of women’s bodies.

· There is no comparable moral or medical control of men’s bodies.

· The moralistic urgency to preserve life in the womb evaporates once a poor child is born. One in seven children lives in poverty; four million youth are homeless; the enhanced child tax credit has expired thrusting millions more children and families into poverty, while studies show that cash assistance to poor mothers improves their children’s learning; and the U.S. has one of the highest infant mortality rates among (so-called) developed countries.

Two final ironies:

Las Libres (“the free ones”), a Mexican feminist network, has been providing abortion pills to women across the border in Texas and other US states since 2000. Mexico’s Supreme Court ruling in September 2021 that abortion is no longer a crime eased this cross-border reproductive rights activism. So also is Austria-based Aid Access assisting by prescribing abortion medication for women in Texas, who receive the pills from a pharmacy in India.

Our government kills innocent children, women and men with impunity in its Global War on Terror–giving the Pentagon a blank check for military murder, while many states and the Supreme Court are poised to criminalize women’s reproductive rights.


Abortion rates have dropped over the last quarter century in countries with liberal abortion laws and more easily accessible contraception, according to a 2018 Guttmacher Report. Stricter abortion laws do not result in fewer abortions, only less safe ones. Abortion rights activists, including SisterSong, dedicated to reproductive justice for women of color, and Indigenous Women Rising, are tirelessly on the move and will never abandon the fight for reproductive justice for all women.

Bio: Pat Hynes, a retired Professor of Environmental Health, is a board member of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice. Haley’s Press, Athol, MA, will publish her new book, Hope But Demand Justice, in late February 2022.

A shorter version was published in The Recorder /

Reprinted with the author’s permission.