A letter written by the Green Party US Peace Action and International Committees to the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been endorsed by the Green Party US. This letter urges the court to investigate Israel for war crimes against the Palestinian people and will be delivered to the ICC at the Hague in November. The letter will be circulated to peace and justice organizations and influential individuals around the world requesting their endorsement prior to delivery.
Our goal is to convince the ICC to investigate Israel for war crimes against the Palestinian people.We also want to demonstrate to the world that there are people in the United States who want to hold Israel accountable. We are in the process of forming a delegation of US Greens to deliver the letter. Thus far we have a tentative agreement from Ajamu Baraka, Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, Miko Peled, and Marie Spike.
We do not want the world to think the views of the Democratic and Republican Parties on Israel are the views of all people in the United States. We will demonstrate that the Green Party of the United States disagrees with the corporate duopoly. This will also send a message to people in the United States that there is a political party that stands for the human rights of Palestinians and against the war crimes of Israel. We expect this effort will begin to change the political dialogue in the United States and garner international and domestic media coverage.
The Green Party has endorsed the School of the Americas Annual Border Encuentro to be held on November 16-18, which has gathered for the past two years in Ambos Nogales, Arizona/Sonora for nonviolent protest against U.S. intervention in Latin America. The Annual Border Encuentro is sponsored by School of the Americas Watch (SOAW), which has advocated over 27 years for the closure of the School of the Americas/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation in Ft. Benning, Georgia.
“We’ve endorsed the Annual Border Encuentro to highlight the disastrous effects of U.S. political, economic, and military intervention in Latin America,” said Dee Taylor, Co-Chair of the Green Party Peace Action Committee, which sponsored the endorsement. “The School of the Americas has trained over 80,000 Latin American military and police officers since its founding in 1946. These officers have been connected to some of the worst violations of human rights in the region and include nearly a dozen Latin American dictators, some of whom have overthrown democratically elected leaders in coups.”
A military coup led by graduates of the School of the Americas and enabled by U.S. leaders including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton overthrew the democratically elected president of Honduras in 2009. Since then, subsequent administrations have facilitated corruption and criminal control of the country, and thousands of indigenous community activists, peasant leaders, trade unionists, reporters, environmentalists, lawyers, judges, opposition political candidates, and human rights defenders have been murdered.
“U.S. policies under the guise of “border security” have driven migration as people from Central America seek to escape the violence and repression created by U.S. militarization and intervention in their countries,” said Dr. Rodolfo Cortes Barragan, Green Party candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, District 40. “The current administration’s immigration policies, including the recent order by Attorney General Jeff Sessions ending asylum for victims of domestic abuse and gang violence, will prevent these immigrants from seeking protection in the United States.”
A former Salvadoran army colonel trained at the School of the Americas was extradited to Spain from the United States last November to stand trial over the killing of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter in El Salvador in 1989. Nineteen officers involved in the killings were trained at the school.
“The School of the Americas continues its long tradition of undermining democratic governments and human rights,” said Joy Davis, Green Party Co-Chair. “It’s time to close the school and commit to a foreign policy based on the Green Party principles of ecological wisdom, social justice, grassroots democracy, and non-violence.”
The following is the prepared text of remarks Rich Whitney made on behalf of the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism at a press conference on July 24th, 2018 in Grant Park in Chicago, near the statue of John A. Logan, General John Logan Statue in Grant Park, scene of one of the most iconic protests against the Vietnam War during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
The CCAWR has issued a Call for a demonstration against war and police violence on August 25th, marking the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, when the movement against the Vietnam War was suppressed inside the convention hall, and brutally attacked by Mayor Richard Daley’s police on the streets of Chicago. If you can, won’t you please come to Chicago, and help change the world, on August 25th!
In calling for this demonstration, the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism declares that in many respects we are confronting worse evils today than we were 50 years ago — but we are still confronting the same institutional barriers to peace and progress.
Just 11 days ago, U.S.-led coalition warplanes in Syria conducted intensive airstrikes near Abu Kamal in the Deir ez-Zor province, with estimates of civilian casualties ranging from 30 to 54, the higher estimate coming from The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. All too typically, this received little media attention. It was not part of the so-called “national conversation.” But acts like these, occurring on a regular basis, need to become part of the national conversation, and that is part of what motivates us to call for this protest. These acts of aggressive war are not somehow magically transformed into moral acts simply because relatively few U.S. personnel are at risk of harm.
In 1968, the U.S. government was engaged in one illegal war. Now the U.S. illegally bombs, drone-strikes and/or occupies territory in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen. It is responsible for millions of casualties, horrific devastation and suffering, and the displacement of millions of refugees. It has also been financing covert destabilization, “regime change” and support for repressive governments in much of Central and South America –and then it cruelly imprisons and punishes the hundreds of thousands of refugees who come to this country seeking safety and the opportunity to work. It spends $10.3 million a day of our tax dollars in military support for the repressive, now officially apartheid regime in Israel.
Every single one of these attacks on countries that never attacked the United States are illegal under established international law, including the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the Nuremberg Charter and the United Nations Charter. As in 1968, we have no right to attack other nations that never attacked us.
Let us be clear. These wars are not only thoroughly immoral and illegal in their direct impacts, they are also part of a war at home against the American working class, and especially its most oppressed members, people of color. We spend over $1.3 trillion a year on wars and maintaining a military machine, including about 1,000 military bases in about 135 different countries — while working people and students are being driven into poverty and debt, and while millions of people go without access to health care, decent schools, higher education, decent and affordable housing, safe drinking water, decent public transportation and other necessities. And our government spends these colossal sums on what amounts to corporate welfare, to help ensure the continued profits of giant energy corporations, weapons manufacturers and others, to maintain an empire and continue policies of global domination that actually make us all less safe.
Read the rest of the article here or continue reading below.
The Green Party of the United States has endorsed actions called for by a coalition of peace organizations in opposition to President Trump’s plan for a military parade to be held in Washington, DC on November 10th.
Stop Trump’s Military Parade in Washington on November 10. Celebrate Armistice Day and Peace Everywhere on November 11.
If you can be in Washington, D.C., to oppose the Trump military parade, please sign up at notrumpmilitaryparade.us. There will be family-friendly, permitted, pro-peace events. There may also be opportunities to try to prevent the weapons parade. Or our public commitment to be there may discourage the parade planners from holding it. So it is important that we commit now en masse.
Click here to read on the GPUS site or continue reading below.
It is an imperative for US foreign policy to seek cooperation between Russia and the US to make a more safe, healthy and secure world. To accomplish that the stranglehold of the duopoly war parties must be broken.
All of humanity is being put at risk by the duopoly of Democrats and Republicans opposition to dialogue with Russia. The combination of Russophobia and the Democratic Party’s compulsion to criticize Trump’s every action, even when he accidentally does something sensible, is preventing the two largest nuclear powers, with the two most advanced militaries in the world, from working together to create a safer and more secure world.
President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin finally met for a lengthy meeting. Not much was accomplished, but it might be the beginning of an important dialogue, which could have significant positive impacts.
Russia and the United States are involved in many conflicts where de-escalation is possible if a working relationship is established. There are global crisis situations that could be reduced if the two nations work together, and bring other nations with them, to confront those problems.
There are too many potential conflicts that could lead to war and too many crisis situations impacting millions for the United States and Russia not to be talking. Presidents Trump and Putin should meet again. Before their next meeting the two governments should negotiate progress on at least the following issues so their talks will be meaningful:
These are seven top priorities for diplomacy between the United States and Russia. There are many other crisis issues that the world is facing that a positive relationship between Russia and the US could ameliorate if not resolve — imagine the potential of a world where peace broke-out.
The Green Party Peace Action Committee (GPAX) has endorsed the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights’ Petition demanding a congressional investigation into the excessive and lethal use of force against the Palestinians demonstrating at the Gaza border prison fence since March 30, 2018 for their legal right of return. As of July 13, 2018, IDF snipers have killed 138 and injured more than 160,000 others.
Israel is the largest recipient of US military aid, 3.7 billion a year, and the Leahy Law requires the imposition of sanctions against any government which uses US military aid to commit human rights abuses.
The German Luftwaffe’s Panavia Tornado fighter jet.
WBW’s Pat Elder is encamped with antinuclear resisters just outside the gate of Büchel Airbase in Germany and he sends us this report.
Early in the morning, when I approached this sprawling airbase that employs 2,000 civilians and soldiers, the bucolic setting was reminiscent of the rolling foothills of the Blueridge Mountains in western Maryland and Virginia. Scattered large, well-kept farmhouses amid the beautiful rolling land planted in wheat and corn reflected this prosperous and peaceful country.
The Airbase (Der Fliegerhorst Büchel) is located in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of western Germany, about 60 km from the border with Belgium and Luxembourg. About 20 US thermonuclear nuclear weapons, fitted to the German Luftwaffe’s Panavia Tornado fighter jet, are ready to be deployed in a moment’s notice. German pilots will take off with these weapons if the order comes from President Trump through NATO. The Germans will drop them on their targets, presumably in Russia. The Tornado is capable of delivering the B-61 nuclear bomb with a yield of up to 180 kilotons. That’s 12 times the size of the Hiroshima blast.
Everything seemed normal very early this morning until I reached the access road to the main gate of the base located off a sleepy country road. A stream of cars carrying German soldiers and civilians proceeded into the base at a snail’s pace. As the traffic that engulfed me inched closer, I heard the deafening noise of the Tornado as it lifted off the runway just a few hundred meters away. It is a ghastly and frightening assault to the ears, Like Dylan described,
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world.
After several minutes of single-lane bumper-to-bumper traffic I came within a hundred meters of the main gate and took a sudden and sharp right into the Peace Camp. This is one of the most extraordinary places on earth.
A prototype B61-12 with its newly designed GPS-guided tail-kit.
The Peace Camp is located on public land adjacent to the base, completely shrouded by a healthy hedge of brush and trees. It has been here, on an acre of land, for five years. There are several camper-trailers and a few large tents with bathrooms and a kitchen. The place has a solar panel that provides electricity to power the satellite and electronic devices. The internet these peaceniks have developed is lightning fast. Leave it to Germans. I’m impressed with this country. Everything is better here.
I think this Peace Camp and the Peace Park, on the corner at the entrance to the base, demonstrate the guilty conscience of the German people. These great people, perhaps the pinnacle of human civilization, have learned many lessons in their tumultuous history, but this may be beyond their comprehension and/or resolve. They don’t have the courage to stand up to the American empire.
The organization behind the Peace Camp and the Peace Park is the Nonviolent Action Nuclear Weapons Abolition (Gewaltfreien Aktion Atomwaffen Abschaffen, GAAA). It has organized a remarkable twenty weeks of actions to represent the twenty nuclear bombs readied to kill millions. Vigils, rallies, prayer services, flyering, mass demonstrations and civil disobedience actions have been planned for the period that extends to August 9, 2018, Nagasaki Day. People and groups from throughout the continent check in and out. These peace warriors and prophets were greatly encouraged by the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The leaders, including Marion Kuepker, say they are emboldened by the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This coming weekend a half-dozen local churches, with a healthy mix of Catholics and Protestants, are expected to bring 500 parishioners to the main gate for religious services. Last year, a Catholic Mass brought 60 to the main gate.
The Peace Park is positioned on the corner off the main road that all traffic must pass when it enters the base. The Peace Park carries a strong religious message, reflecting the region’s Catholic identity.
This Catholic shrine in the Peace Park is seen by 2,000 soldiers and civilians as they enter Büchel every day. It is just 200 meters from the main gate.
The shrine depicts Jesus breaking a gun in two. It says, “Think – Atomic weapons are a crime against God and Humanity.”
The Trump administration is in the process of upgrading the nuclear arsenal at Büchel. The Americans plan to produce the new B 61-12 nuclear weapon by 2020. The B 61-12 will also be deployed with NATO forces in Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland, and Turkey.
The B 61-12’s thermonuclear warhead will reportedly have a maximum yield of approximately 50 kilotons, (three times Hiroshima) but war planners are expected to be able to reduce that using a so-called “dial-a-yield” feature that effectively limits the extent of the nuclear reaction when the weapon detonates. The weapons may be as small as 0.3 kilotons – about 2% of the size of the 15-kiloton bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima. This feature makes nuclear warfare much more likely – and much more attractive for use as a strategic weapon.
There is often confusion between “tactical” nuclear weapons and the traditional “strategic” nuclear weapon. The new B 61-12 may be considered a tactical nuclear weapon because its blast is generally smaller, and it is designed to be used on a battlefield after a ground war has begun. A strategic nuclear weapon may be several hundred times larger than a tactical weapon and is designed to completely destroy an enemy’s ability to exist or wage war. The largest strategic weapon in the US stockpile is the B-83 with a yield of 1.2 megatons, about 80 times the size of the Hiroshima bomb.
Since the end of World War II, the Germans have dealt heavily with matters of conscience. Germany committed itself in the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970 and all fractions of the Bundestag voted in 2010 for the disarmament of nuclear weapons. Last year 122 states voted for a UN nuclear weapons ban, while Germany abstained.
Nonviolent Action Nuclear Weapons Abolition calls for the German federal government to withdraw all nuclear weapons from Büchel and all nuclear weapons from German soil. The overwhelming majority of Germans – a staggering 93% – want nuclear weapons to be banned just as chemical and biological weapons have been banned, according to an opinion poll commissioned by the German chapter of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).
About 50 German peace groups are involved in a long-term campaign to prevent the switch to the more user-friendly B 61-12. There is a deep and genuine fear of this new weapon. The core element of the campaign is the Declaration of Commitment signature campaign where people declare on the website:
I will come to Büchel once a year and take part in an action until nuclear weapons are withdrawn, and I will actively commit to seeking a nuclear weapons-free world in the place where I am living.”
The brilliant German organizers are holding an international week of action next week, from July 10th to the 18th. If you are interested in joining, please contact: Marion Kuepker: email@example.com
World BEYOND War is honored to be associated with these actions.
Speaking of nuclear weapons, Pope Francis has categorically condemned not only “the threat of their use” but also “their very possession.”
Above Photo: Fist raised, Spenser Rapone displays a slogan written inside his cap after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in May 2016. (Courtesy of Spenser Rapone via AP)
Editor’s note: On the outside, Spenser Rapone’s West Point graduation uniform looked like all the other cadets’. Underneath his dress uniform, however, was evidence of his political views: a T-shirt bearing Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara’s image, and a cap that read, inside, “Communism will win.”
The shirt and hat made waves in the U.S. military community after Rapone posted photos of them on social media in September, and now he has been given an “other than honorable” discharge. According to The Associated Press, he was charged with “conduct unbecoming of an officer” after an Army investigation determined that he “went online to promote a socialist revolution and disparage high-ranking officers.”
In the following statement for Truthdig, Rapone explains his political beliefs.
I am a combat veteran with the First Ranger Battalion, a recent graduate of West Point and a former second lieutenant who was stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y. Since identifying myself as a socialist, there has been much controversy generated by a number of my public statements.
It began with my post on social media, in which I expressed my full and enthusiastic support of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in his fight against racial injustice, white supremacy and police brutality. After revealing a picture of myself in uniform with the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick, I was met by solidarity from my fellow soldiers, as well as harsh blowback from my chain of command.
To this day, I stand by my convictions, despite the efforts of ranking officers to pressure me into silence. I believe that standing up for the exploited and the oppressed is the most honorable thing we can do as people. No job should hinder or repress this pursuit, which is why I decided to resign my commission as an officer in the United States Army. My conditional resignation was denied by the secretary of the Army. Instead, the military forced me into either submitting an unconditional resignation or appearing before a board of inquiry—an adversarial trial in which a jury of senior officers would determine my fate. Rather than submit to the antics of what amounts to a show trial at best, I tendered my unconditional resignation. Passing judgment on me one last time, the military determined the character of my service to be “other than honorable.” Despite the brass prolonging my time in service, I have come to the conclusion that leaving the military altogether, whatever the circumstances, is the only moral way forward. During this ordeal, I have learned that I am far from alone in my feelings of disillusionment and betrayal within the rank and file of the U.S. military.
As a teenager, I believed the United States military was a force of good for the world. I thought that I signed up to fight for freedom and democracy, to protect my loved ones and my country from harm. My experiences showed me otherwise.
After bearing witness to the senseless destruction in Afghanistan during my combat deployment to Khost Province in the summer of 2011, I knew that our wars must be stopped. I was assigned to my platoon as an assistant machine-gunner. I took part in missions where human beings were killed, captured and terrorized. However, the horror wrought by the U.S. military’s overseas ventures is not limited to combat engagements alone. Some nights, we barely did anything at all but walk through a village. As such, the longer I was there, the more it became apparent that the mere presence of an occupying force was a form of violence. My actions overseas did not help or protect anybody. I felt like I was little more than a bully, surrounded by the most well-armed and technologically advanced military in history, in one of the poorest countries in the world. I saw many of my fellow soldiers all too eager to carry out violence for the sake of violence. There is no honor in such bloodlust; quite the contrary. I saw firsthand how U.S. foreign policy sought to carry out the subjugation of poor, brown people in order to steal natural resources, expand American hegemony and extinguish the self-determination of any group that dare oppose the empire. Idealistic and without a coherent worldview yet, I thought that perhaps pursuing an officer’s commission would allow me to change things and help put a stop to the madness. I was wrong.
It soon dawned on me how pervasive the military-industrial complex is. I studied, examined my own experiences and began to grasp more completely the horrors and impact of U.S. imperialism. Learning that over a million people have lost their lives since 9/11—the vast majority being innocent civilians—began to haunt me. Seeing that up to a trillion dollars a year were being diverted from education, health care and infrastructure in the U.S. to support our 800 military bases around the world began to feel increasingly maddening. Within the Army itself, one out of three women are sexually assaulted. The death of football player and later soldier Pat Tillman by friendly fire was covered up to sell a war. Generals responsible for war crimes—from the unbridled destruction of Afghan and Iraqi villages to the construction of torture prisons—are rewarded with accolades and political power. These sad and dishonorable truths increasingly grew impossible to ignore. The military was not the noble and selfless institution the commercials and Hollywood movies made it out to be—far from it.
At West Point, I soon found myself at odds with my future role as someone tasked with the responsibility of leading soldiers into battle. However, leaving West Point after my junior year would have meant returning to the enlisted ranks or finding a way to come up with a quarter-million dollars to pay the academy back. So I stuck it out, hoping I would find a way to reconcile this contradiction. Again, I was wrong. Upon returning to Fort Benning, Ga., to begin my training as an infantry officer following graduation, I was filled with dread. It was like I was in a place simultaneously familiar and unknown. There were things I noticed that my 18-year-old self could not have recognized before. Most strikingly, I observed the scope of the brainwashing within the ranks, from bald, buzz-cut, mostly teenage infantrymen fresh out of training, to college graduates eager to lead those naïve soldiers into America’s next war. I felt witness to a collective delusion—one that I was once a part of, but had somehow miraculously escaped. After nearly a year there, as I prepared to move to my new duty station at Fort Drum, one thing became clear: I cannot be a part of this any longer. I cannot kill or die for the U.S. military—no one should.
I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. My feelings and experiences are not an anomaly. I know, because I have had conversations with others who have expressed the same sentiments.
You are out there, and should you take the same steps that I have, I am with you. While the prospect is daunting, united together we have far more power than all of the generals and politicians combined. We possess the ability to grind this entire military machine to a halt. It is high time we live up to the trust and respect bestowed upon us by the people. Let our mutual love of humanity and our desire for liberation and peace be our guiding principles.
Most importantly, let us find common cause with the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Libya and so many others who have suffered at the behest of the United States. To those soldiers who I’ve heard from, and to those I haven’t yet, I hope that you too find the courage to lay your weapons down with me, and refuse your orders to kill and die for the benefit of a handful of ruling-class elites at the great expense of the rest of us. Freedom lies on the other side. Together, let us fight to put a stop to these endless trillion-dollar wars, and let us join our brothers and sisters around the world in putting a stop to all forms of exploitation, oppression and senseless violence.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaks Tuesday at the Department of State in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images
Updated at 6:15 p.m. ET
After more than a year of complaints and warnings — some subtle and others a little less so — the Trump administration has announced that the United States is withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley announced the decision in a joint statement Tuesday.
“I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from human rights commitments,” Haley told the media. “On the contrary, we take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.”
The move comes as little surprise from an administration that frequently has lambasted the 47-member body for a gamut of perceived failures — particularly the dubious rights records of many of its member countries, as well as what Haley has repeatedly called the council’s “chronic bias against Israel.”
Haley harked back to a speech she delivered to the council one year ago this month, in which she laid down something of an ultimatum. At that point, she told members that they must stop singling out Israel for condemnation and must clean up their roster — which includesVenezuela, China and Saudi Arabia, among others — or the council could bid the U.S. farewell.
In remarks to the Graduate Institute of Geneva, given the same day as her council speech, Haley made the matter plain.
“If the Human Rights Council is going to be an organization we entrust to protect and promote human rights, it must change,” she said. “If it fails to change, then we must pursue the advancement of human rights outside of the council.”
In the year that has elapsed since those speeches, such reforms never happened. Instead, she said, the council stayed silent on violent repression in Venezuela, a member state, and welcomed another country with a problematic record of its own, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“The council ceases to be worthy of its name,” Haley said, explaining the U.S. withdrawal. “Such a council in fact damages the cause of human rights.”
Trump’s diplomatic team is not the first within the U.S. to voice such criticism.
When the council was first established in 2006,the administration of George W. Bush withheld its membership over similar concerns. And when the Obama administration announced in 2009 that it would reverse course and seek membership, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time, Susan Rice, said the decision was made out of a belief “that working from within, we can make the council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights.”
Several U.S. critics, in condemning the decision Tuesday, echoed precisely this desire for reform as a principal reason to stay in the council, not leave it.
“The UN Human Rights Council has always been a problem. Instead of focusing on real human-rights issues, the council has used its time and resources to bully Israel and question Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign state,” Rep. Eliot Engel, the ranking Democratic member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said in a statement Tuesday. “But the way to deal with this challenge is to remain engaged and work with partners to push for change.
“By withdrawing from the council, we lose our leverage and allow the council’s bad actors to follow their worst impulses unchecked — including running roughshod over Israel.”
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said the U.S. focus on Israel’s treatment has actually caused American officials to lose sight of the good work the council has done elsewhere.
“The U.N. Human Rights Council has played an important role in such countries as North Korea, Syria, Myanmar and South Sudan, but all Trump seems to care about is defending Israel,” Roth said in a statement to NPR. “Like last time when the U.S. government stepped away from the Council for similar reasons, other governments will have to redouble their efforts to ensure the Council addresses the world’s most serious human rights problems.”
Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images
And Richard Gowan, a fellow at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, told NPR’s Michele Kelemen that there is another potential issue muddying the waters of this decision: the recent condemnations leveled at the Trump administration’s immigration policies by international human-rights officials.
In a span of less than two months, U.S. officials have separated some 2,300 children from their parents after they crossed the border into the U.S., according to the Department of Homeland Security. And the administration’s policy has attracted a sharp rebuke from the U.N. high commissioner on human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein.
“The thought that any State would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” he said Monday, in comments opening the 38th session of the Human Rights Council.
“I don’t think [Tuesday’s withdrawal] is linked to Prince Zeid’s criticism of U.S. immigration policies,” Gowan acknowledged, explaining that the high commissioner is technically separate from the council. But, Gowan added, “The timing looks just awful for Nikki Haley and Secretary Pompeo.”
Pompeo, however, said the matter is simple: The U.N. Human Rights Council is not capable of fulfilling its mission without reform — and those desired reforms remain unfulfilled.
“The Human Rights Council has become an exercise in shameless hypocrisy, with many of the world’s worst human-rights abuses going ignored and some of the world’s most serious offenders sitting on the council itself,” he said Tuesday. “The only thing worse than a council that does almost nothing to protect human rights is a council that covers for human-rights abuses — and is therefore an obstacle to progress and an impediment to change.”
In early April, more than 3100 Google employees signed a letter that begins with the words “Google should not be in the business of war”. The letter is a response to the company’s participation in a new US Department of Defense artificial intelligence program called Project Maven, which it describes as a “customized AI surveillance engine” designed to interpret visual images from drones, and concludes with a powerful request from Google employees to their management:
“Recognizing Google’s moral and ethical responsibility, and the threat to Google’s reputation, we request that you:
1. Cancel this project immediately
2. Draft, publicize, and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology”
This brave act of protest and social responsibility is remarkable for its clarity, and deserves to be recognized as one of the few known cases of active scientists or workers directly objecting to their participation in the horrors of war, along with the Russell-Einstein manifesto of 1955, which urged the abolition of war as the only path forward for a world now armed on all sides with nuclear weapons.
This remarkable letter, along with the resignation of dozens of Google employees, proved its power over a month later when Google management announced that it would not renew Project Maven after the contract is completed in March 2019, and acknowledged the “backlash” against Google’s public reputation as the primary reason behind this management decision. While this response does not satisfy the demands in the original letter, it is clearly a step in the right direction, and shows the potential of the Google employee act of protest as a foundation to build upon as the world grapples with the realization that the US military (and, presumably, other military forces as well) are moving quickly to weaponize artificial intelligence.
The best way to imagine these worst case scenarios is to think about the militarization of two capabilities in which artificial intelligence already touches our everyday lives: facial recognition and driverless vehicles. As you know if you’ve ever tagged a photo on Facebook, artificial intelligence has already reached the point at which you can be easily and immediately identified by algorithm. “Safety cameras” have also gone up all over the world, suddenly granting unknown organizations the unchecked ability to gather and match faces with “identity databases” that contain our information without our permission, knowledge or control.
The technology of driverless vehicles has also progressed with little involvement or awareness on the part of the public commons. The first death in a driverless car was in 2016, when a Tesla crashed into a truck. The first case of a pedestrian killed by a driverless vehicle was only three months ago, in March 2018, when an autonomous Uber struck down a woman crossing the street in Arizona.
These facts explain the urgency behind the Google letter, which reflects a technology industry obsessed by profit, competition and shareholder value. Here are some other points that must be understood to gain a full picture of the dilemma our world is now already in, and the harsh consequences we currently face.
Project Maven is a small project. JEDI is the larger project.
The Google letter called attention to Project Maven, which the company now says it will not renew. Even more importantly, the letter called attention to the existence of a larger US Department of Defense project called JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure), which should be the primary focus of continuing attention to this topic. There is little public information about this secret project, but its scope includes both artificial intelligence and cloud computing, which indicates massive computing power and scalability, as well as access to a bottomless supply of databases containing geographic and individual personal information.
Like most military technology projects, JEDI is not meant to be visible even to the taxpayers who pay for it, but we should hope that information about this large and expensive project will be released to the public. The craven choice of a project name obviously meant to invoke “Star Wars” suggests that the Department of Defense views this project with a disturbing level of grandeur and self-flattery. Yoda would not be impressed.
Google employees spoke up. Where are Amazon and Microsoft employees?
The letter signed by 3100+ Google employees calls out other companies by name:
“The argument that other firms, like Microsoft and Amazon, are also participating doesn’t make this any less risky for Google.”
Indeed, in the very lucrative field of cloud computing, Amazon is even bigger than Google. While most people think of Amazon as the world’s largest online store, software developers and technologists know of a completely different Amazon. This company leads the world in cloud computing, allowing both small and large organizations to purchase and use server capabilities quickly and easily. Ten years ago, most companies ran their own servers. Today, most companies rent server space from Amazon. Government and military organizations are among those who rely on Amazon’s cloud services, which also include advanced artificial intelligence and database capabilities. We should hope that Amazon employees will be inspired by their peers at Google and begin to speak up in public about the social consequences of the work they do. Will any employees of Amazon declare, as their Google peers have, that “Amazon should not be in the business of war”?
Companies like Google and Amazon have a unique commitment to open source communities.
All corporations are not alike, and indeed Google’s famous self-imposed rule to “Not Be Evil” has been taken seriously by countless open source developers who may not be Google employees but do contribute and interact with Google on open source libraries such as TensorFlow, which provides deep learning capabilities.
This is one reason why the Google employees letter was such a shock wave to the global community of open source developers. While a traditional military contractor like Raytheon or General Dynamics typically carries out all its work in private, artificial intelligence libraries like TensorFlow are unique collaborations between corporations and the public commons. The global open source software community has been integral to the development and healthy growth of the entire Internet, and this community has always stood for an explicit sense of social responsibility. When employees say “Google should not be in the business of war”, they speak not only for their fellow Google employees but also for the international community of open source developers who contribute to their projects.
Weaponized AI is now a reality, and not just in USA.
We should not have needed a letter from 3100 Google employees to warn us about the fact that the age of weaponized artificial intelligence is already upon us, and not just in the United States of America. In USA, this will inevitably result in a growing public fear and hysteria about what other countries are doing in the field of weaponized AI. Military profiteers all over the world are surely counting on this arms race to escalate. This is the terrible reality of the situation we are already in.
The only sane answer is the abolition of war.
The manifesto about nuclear proliferation signed by Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein and others in 1955 pointed to an answer that still eludes us. The only path to sanity for a world gripped by fear and primed to explode is the abolition of war. This was perfectly clear in 1955, but the leaders of the time were not capable of delivering on this hope.
Today, 63 years later, we see as clearly as ever that war only brings more war, and that technological advancements will continue to raise the stakes. The sickening vision of killer drones connected to massive real-time databases and equipped with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence capabilities chasing human beings down is no longer a vision of the future (as it was in the frightening “Metalhead” episode of “Black Mirror”, which aired only last year). All the pieces are in place to make this sickening vision of a reality, and the courageous act of 3100+ Google employees has now revealed to us that even some corporations that have pledged to uphold a moral standard are moving forward at full speed towards this future that nobody wants. The stakes are raised, yet again. The responsibility is on all of us – not only Google employees, not only software developers, but all of us – to solve the worst problem the world has ever known and work towards the complete abolition of war.