What It Would Take to End Racism and War?

Remarks at
George Mason University on September 13, 2017, by David

What It Would Take to End Racism and War

you very much for inviting me.

May I see a show of hands
of those who believe we should eliminate all racism?

you, and now those who think we should eliminate all

Thank you.

In a typical U.S. crowd, I suspect, many
more will raise their hands for ending all racism than for
ending all war.

Despite the notion that we live in a
democracy being largely fraudulent, I think those shows of
hands represent very roughly how far along we are in
abolishing what we think of as racism and war. That is to
say, I find some significance in the studies that have found
the U.S. government to be in reality an oligarchy. The
policies favored by wealthy elites are generally acted upon.
The views of the broader public hardly matter at the
national level (a bit more so at the state level and much
more so locally) unless they are accompanied by intense
activism and/or they line up with those of some wealthy
elites. If we had direct democracy, government by public
referendum, then, based on the trends of opinion polls, by
definition reflecting the miserable state of our
communications systems but not reflecting any heavily funded
campaigns to sway any public votes, we would have less
investment in wars, more in education, more in clean energy,
more taxes paid by big corporations, less taxes paid by
struggling working people, a higher minimum wage, an end to
mass surveillance, more mass transit, strict restrictions on
carbon emissions, a ban on weapons in space, a ban on
nuclear weapons anywhere, current wars ended, public
financing of election campaigns, gerrymandering banned,
voter registration made automatic, citizenship application
open to immigrants, et cetera.

And yet, I think that
public opinion reflects roughly where the U.S. is headed on
racism and war, in part because public activism can
influence government, in part because government propaganda
influences public opinion, and in part because education —
both formal and through the general presence of ideas
throughout a popular culture — can influence both
government behavior and public opinion.

Let’s try this.
Raise your hand if you think we should eliminate all child
abuse. Thank you.

How about all rape? Thank you.

about all torture of kittens? Thank you.

There are things
that most people believe should be entirely eliminated. And
they are often things that few powerful interests teach us
are ineliminable.

But, remember that I said that I was
talking about how far along we are in abolishing what we
think of as racism and war. What happens when we look
closely at what we think of as, for example, child abuse.
There is a single nation on earth that has not ratified the
Convention on the Rights of the Child. There are parties to
the convention that are violating it. But only one country
has, as a matter of principle, refused to join it and at
least claim to be making an effort to respect children’s
rights. I don’t think I’m being very sneaky here: who
can tell me which country it is?

Now, if the United States
were party to the convention, it would be forbidden to give
life prison sentences to minors no matter what horrible
things they had done. It might be forbidden to use its
military recruitment techniques to prepare children for
later recruitment. It would have to respect the rights of
child refugees and the children of immigrants. It would have
to ensure that children all have healthcare, and good
nutrition, and housing, and education including access to
higher education, and a safe environment. Its corporations
would be further barred, as they already are, from using
child labor. The U.S. government might even be bound to
weigh the rights of children in the balance when subsidizing
the use of fossil fuels. There have been a number of
class-action lawsuits already filed by children against the
U.S. and state governments on the grounds that their public
commons are being willfully destroyed. Those suits have been
unable to appeal to a treaty that the U.S. hasn’t
ratified. And then, of course, there is the reason you’re
more likely to hear articulated by opponents of the
Convention on the Rights of the Child, namely that neither a
bunch of foreigners nor even the U.S. government should say
anything about children, as children are the sole and sacred
responsibility of the — guess what? — the F word, but
the good F word, what is it? Right, the Family.

So, now,
if refusing to join the Convention on the Rights of the
Child is child abuse, but joining it is an affront to the
beloved institution called the family, should we end all
child abuse? Are you against families? Do you want liberal
foreigners determining U.S. law enforcement policies and
impeding military recruitment in the good old USA? Do you
want anyone questioning the honor of uniformed generals
visiting elementary schools? Should evil international law
be allowed to prevent toxic waste dumps near schools if
Congress says they’re perfectly safe?

OK, raise your
hand if you still want to end all child abuse when refusing
to ratify this treaty counts as child abuse.

Thank you. If
you still raised your hand, please understand that my point
is that some people will not, that it depends how we define
our terms.

I want to argue that it’s possible to favor
ending all racism but not realize all the places racism
exists, and that it’s possible to oppose ending all war by
failing to recognize alternatives to war. I also want to
argue that, while racism or war could be ended while leaving
the other in place, the two are so closely interlocked that
one without the other would look very different from how it
looks today.

I drove up here from where I live in
Charlottesville, a town lately overrun by Nazis and other
racists from around the country come to defend a giant
heroic statue of Robert E. Lee on a horse that stands in the
middle of town, as well as a similar one nearby of Stonewall
Jackson. Those statues are now covered with giant black
tarps but remain standing.

Raise your hand if you know why
they remain standing.

It’s not because of a public vote.
It’s not because their defenders own more guns than their
opponents. It’s not because Charlottesville City Council
wants them there. Those fine people have voted to take the
statues down and sell them. So, why are they still standing
there, albeit covered with giant garbage bags of

Some of you have heard but many of you may not
have, because the reason they are still there is something
thoughtlessly accepted by all parties. It has nothing to do
with the case being made by the Nazis or the KKK, and
nothing to do with the case being made by Black Lives Matter
or any of the opponents of the statues. When something is
universally accepted, it isn’t much talked about. Most of
the world’s nations are just now putting together a treaty
to ban nuclear weapons. How much debate have you heard on
that in the U.S. Congress? Or go back to the war that Lee
and Jackson fought in. The North and the South had a
disagreement over slavery, but not primarily over slavery in
existing territories. It was largely because all sides
universally assumed without question that the United States
had to be an expanding empire, that a disagreement over how
to ban or allow slavery in new territories was disastrously
developed into an escapade of mass killing and

Now, because I said that, I have no choice
but to speak briefly about the U.S. Civil War before
returning to the statues that were put up 60 years after the
Civil War in the cause of racism and against the wishes of
at least some of the then-dead people depicted in the
statues. Attaching a just and urgent cause like ending
slavery to a war, as Lincoln really did mid-war, when
killing and dying for the Union had worn thin, doesn’t
actually make a war just. Slavery was ended more effectively
without war—through compensated emancipation, for
example—in the colonies of Britain, Denmark, France, and
the Netherlands, and in most of South America and the
Caribbean. That model also worked in Washington, D.C. And of
course the Northern U.S. states had ended slavery without

On June 20, 2013, the Atlantic Magazine published an
article called “No, Lincoln Could Not Have ‘Bought the
Slaves’.” Why not? Well, the slave owners didn’t want
to sell. That’s perfectly true. They didn’t, not at all.
But The Atlantic focuses on another argument, namely that it
would have just been too expensive, costing as much as $3
billion (in 1860s money). Yet, if you read closely—it’s
easy to miss it—the author admits that the war cost more
than twice that amount. So, the cost of freeing everyone
enslaved in the South was not unaffordable, especially when
compared to the cost of the Civil War. If—radically
contrary to actual history—U.S. enslavers had opted to end
slavery without war, it’s hard to imagine that as a bad
decision for them or for anyone concerned.

Had Congress
found the decency to end slavery through legislation alone
(it did pass the relevant legislation after fighting a war),
perhaps the nation would have ended slavery without
division. Or had the U.S. South been permitted to secede in
peace, and the Fugitive Slave Law been easily repealed by
the North, it seems unlikely slavery would have lasted much
longer. The pressures of international morality and of
industrialization were against it.

The war did not, in
fact, end slavery. As documented in Douglas Blackmon’s
book, Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black
Americans from the Civil War to World War II, the
institution of slavery in the U.S. South largely ended for
as long as 20 years in some places upon completion of the
U.S. Civil War. And then it was back again, in a slightly
different form, widespread, controlling, publicly known and
accepted—right up to World War II. No statute prohibited
slavery until 1950, and the 13th Amendment permits slavery
for convicts to this day. This is not to say that the
emancipation at the end of the war was not a very positive
step, only that it did not end all slavery, and some of the
slavery that persisted was actually worse than what had gone

Five days after the Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor, the U.S. government took legal actions to end
slavery, to counter possible criticism from Germany or
Japan. Five years after World War II, a group of former
Nazis, some of whom had used slave labor in caves in
Germany, were invited to set up shop in Alabama to work on
creating new weapons technologies. They found the people of
Alabama extremely forgiving of their past deeds. This team
of rocket scientists would later become the core of

Of course a nonviolent movement was needed to end
Jim Crow.

Had the United States ended slavery without the
war and without division, it would have avoided the bitter
post-war resentment that has yet to die down. Ending racism
would likely have been a very lengthy process, regardless.
But that process might have been given a head start rather
than an enormous hurdle.

My point is not so much that our
ancestors could have made a different choice (they were
nowhere near doing so, the North could not have done so
without the South, et cetera), but that their choice looks
foolish as one to emulate in the future, knowing what we
know of the costs and risks of war, and knowing what we now
know about the tools of nonviolence. If tomorrow we were to
wake up and discover a large majority of the populace
appropriately outraged over the horror of mass
incarceration, would it help to find some large fields in
which to kill each other off in large numbers, after which
we would pass legislation? Or would it make more sense to
skip right ahead to passing the legislation?

Now back to
those miseducational statues.

The reason the statues are
still there in Charlottesville is that a state law in
Virginia bans taking down any war memorials, and courts have
yet to rule on whether that law applies retroactively to
memorials put up before the law was passed. And no movement
has developed to overturn that law. Nobody’s even talking
about it. We do not, by the way, have a law banning the
removal of peace monuments. It would also be pretty hard to
find a peace monument to take down if you wanted

Charlottesville has several monuments around town and
on the campus of UVA, and they are almost all war monuments.
Ninety-nine percent of our history, all of our activism,
artistry, scholarship, athletics, music, industry,
architecture, education, and all of our non-war glories and
tragedies are missing.

Now, if you look around
Charlottesville for the racist war monuments to take down
and the non-racist war monuments to leave up, you run into
another big problem, other than the law. Who can tell me
what it is?

That’s right. There aren’t any non-racist
war monuments. We have monuments to the wars on the Native
Americans. We have a memorial to the war that killed almost
4 million Vietnamese plus hundreds of thousands of Laotians
and Cambodians — though “Vietnamese” was not the most
common word used to designate the people being killed in
Vietnam. We have a monument from World War I, a war promoted
as a race war against the evil race of Huns. In fact, it
turns out that racism is a very effective tool for building
war support, and it’s quite difficult to find any war that
did not make use of racism or related types of bigotry.
It’s simply too difficult to get people to kill large
numbers of human beings, and far far easier to get them to
kill something subhuman.

So, if any of you raised your
hands to say we should end racism but not to say we should
end war, you may effectively be proposing a new kind of war
unlike anything we’ve seen before.

When former Secretary
of State Madeline Albright said that killing a half a
million children was “worth it,” whatever the it may
have been, she meant a half a million dark-skinned,
Arabic-speaking, Muslim children. When President Obama said
he was really good at killing people, as he bombed eight
different countries, as candidate Donald Trump promised to
kill more of those people’s families, and as a debate
moderator last year asked candidates for U.S. president
whether they’d be willing to kill hundreds and thousands
of innocent children, everybody meant and understood foreign
people, dark children, creatures of the wrong religion and
language and dress. Not because the U.S. government wants to
pursue genocide (although sometimes it or parts of it
clearly do — see John McCain’s threat of
“extinction” for North Korea earlier this week), and not
because the weapons companies make more money if non-white
people die, but because public support for bombing and
shooting and torturing human beings is much harder to
generate than is public support for waging war on those who
are not thought of as human.

Look at how the war on
Afghanistan is labeled the longest U.S. war, as though wars
on Native Americans were not real wars because those killed
were not real people. I just watched a documentary about the
1893 Chicago World’s Fair that noted that at the time,
Germany and France were great friends, and the U.S. was
great friends with the Muslim nations of the Middle East,
and the U.S. was not engaged in any “multi-national
wars.” What, you may ask, is a non-multi-national war?
Presumably it is a war against people who don’t count as
having a nation. The massacre of Wounded Knee happened
during the planning of the World’s Fair. The Apache also
were far from giving up. The Apache, like many other Native
Americans, by the way, are now the name of a U.S. military
weapon used to attack new enemies often described as natives
and Indians. Killing Osama bin Laden was called Operation

The U.S. Senate voted down today 61-31 a
proposal to repeal the so-called authorization for the use
of military force that has served as a legalistic excuse for
16 years of war in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The racism
of these wars comes home through media and entertainment,
through the actions of some returning veterans, through the
military training given to police departments. The racism at
home fuels the wars through public support, through torture
techniques exported from U.S. prisons, and through
willingness to give up rights in the name of pursuing

So it makes perfect sense for those pursuing
peace to also pursue the end of racism. Similarly it makes
sense for those opposing racism to address the problem of
war — something addressed very well in the platform of
Black Lives Matter, which I recommend everyone read.

your hand if you know something, anything at all, about Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr.

Thank you.

He said that we needed
to go after three evil things together. One of them was
racism. One was militarism. What was the third? Raise your
hand if you know.

This is more important than knowing that
he had a dream. This is more important than knowing that his
dream was not for immigrants to become citizens if they
either found enough money for college or participated in
fighting wars. The so-called Dream Act, in my humble
opinion, should be called the Well It Could Be Worse

But what was the third thing?


What is that? Who can tell me?

I’d say
pursuing riches over friendships. Conspicuous consumption.
Brand consciousness. Shopping as fun or therapy. Honoring
the hoarding of vast filthy piles of wealth. Electing people
president who claim to be better than you because they’re
rich. Allowing a concentration of wealth beyond medieval
levels. Letting single individuals hoard money that could
otherwise transform the world for the better, and praising
them for it. Shunning any collective good even when more
efficient, even when it makes everyone better off, things
like universal healthcare and education and retirement and
everything else shunned by the Mercatus Center of George
Mason University and formerly of UVA. Or, how about this,
the willful destruction of the earth’s climate, air, soil,
and water for the short-term monetary profits of a small
number of people? If that’s not extreme materialism, I
don’t know what is. How about tax cuts for billionaires as
an answer to hurricanes?

And how do King’s evil triplets
relate to each other? Wars are fought for, among other
things, profits. Racism is fueled by, among other things,
economic insecurity and greed. Extreme materialism seeps in
to fill a void in lives lacking the pursuit of peace,
justice, community, generosity, and the curiosity needed to
learn from those who are different, and its worst impacts
are imposed on people and communities with the least wealth
and power.

Is it possible to get rid of all racism and
war? What about extreme materialism?

While we can point to
numerous hunter-gatherer societies that have lived without
war or extreme materialism, for obvious reasons of their
isolation we cannot claim they have lived without racism.
Yet we can point to countless examples of people living
without apparent racism, and of people of every description
risking their lives to help end racism. There has never been
anything found in human biology to mandate racism for all or
any segment of our population. Children are not born blind
to superficial features of human appearance any more than
they are to behavioral differences. But whether they
attribute racist significance to those features depends
entirely on whether anyone teaches them to do so. Therefore,
there is no reason grounded in our genetics to prevent our
living without racism.

The same is true for war. War has
only been around for the most recent fraction of the
existence of our species. We did not evolve with it. During
this most recent 10,000 years or so, war has been sporadic.
Some societies have not known war. Some have known it and
then abandoned it.

Just as some of us find it hard to
imagine a world without war or murder, some human societies
have found it hard to imagine a world with those things. A
man in Malaysia, asked why he wouldn’t shoot an arrow at
slave raiders, replied “Because it would kill them.” He
was unable to comprehend that anyone could choose to kill.
It’s easy to suspect him of lacking imagination, but how
easy is it for us to imagine a culture in which virtually
nobody would ever choose to kill and war would be unknown?
Whether easy or hard to imagine, or to create, this is
decidedly a matter of culture and not of DNA.

According to
myth, war is “natural.” Yet a great deal of conditioning
is needed to prepare most people to take part in war, and a
great deal of mental suffering is common among those who
have taken part. In contrast, not a single person is known
to have suffered deep moral regret or post-traumatic stress
disorder from war deprivation.

War in human history up to
this point has not correlated with population density or
resource scarcity. It’s not simply created by powers
beyond our easy control. The idea that climate change and
the resulting catastrophes will inevitably generate wars
could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is not a prediction
based on facts. The growing and looming climate crisis is a
good reason for us to outgrow our culture of war, so that we
are prepared to handle crises by other, less destructive
means. And redirecting some or all of the vast sums of money
and energy that go into war and war preparation to the
urgent work of protecting the climate could make a
significant difference, both by ending one of our most
environmentally destructive activities and by funding a
transition to sustainable practices. In contrast, the
mistaken belief that wars must follow climate chaos will
encourage investment in military preparedness, thus
exacerbating the climate crisis and making more likely the
compounding of one type of catastrophe with another.

societies have been known to abolish institutions that were
widely considered permanent. These have included human
sacrifice, trial by ordeal, blood feuds, duelling, slavery,
the death penalty, and many others. In some societies some
of these practices have been largely eradicated, but remain
illicitly in the shadows and on the margins. Those
exceptions don’t tend to convince most people that
complete eradication is impossible, only that it hasn’t
yet been achieved in that society. The idea of eliminating
hunger from the globe was once considered ludicrous. Now it
is widely understood that hunger could be abolished — and
for a tiny fraction of what is spent on war. While nuclear
weapons have not all been dismantled and eliminated, there
exists a popular movement working to do just that.

what would a world without racism or war look like?
There’s no way to actually predict, but I can propose one
way it could look. Without racism, we’d have more
community, more security, more love and enlightenment, less
fear and resentment. But without racism people struggling
with poverty, injustice, and insignificance would have to
find somewhere else to vent their anger and blame, or some
way to overcome it, or they’d have to reinvent racism and
other similar hatreds. Without war, we’d have more global
community, more security, less fear and violence. But
without war we’d have a gigantic pile of money almost too
big to possibly figure out what to do with. We hear about
the wealth of the billionaires sometimes, when people make
enough noise in the streets. But you could tax all their
wealth away once, and it’d be gone — and we absolutely
should do that — but you wouldn’t have anything like the
kind of money you could take away from U.S. military
spending each and every year. Tiny fractions of it could
transform this country and the world. It was doubled after
the events of 16 years ago this week, and we’re much the
worse off for it.

People don’t engage in racism simply
because they are financially insecure, and such contributing
factors to racism don’t excuse it, but people who are
living well and securely in a relatively egalitarian society
don’t have to blame any problems they don’t have on
other racial groups. So if you’re going to end war, why
not also create universal healthcare, education through
college, retirement, vacation, unemployment insurance or
basic income, etc., and not create these things for whites
only as so many government programs were in the United
States in the last century, and not create them for other
groups only even as reparations, but create them equally for
all with no bureaucracy needed to identify the worthy.

fact that historical injustices have left us with a vast
racial wealth gap is a problem, and some form of reparations
is probably part of the best answer. Affirmative action as
it has been done is a problem as well, in so far as it
creates resentment among whites. Basic human rights like
education should not be parceled out as weak reparations.
Even aid to the poor creates vicious resentments, especially
when combined with racist thinking that falsely imagines the
poor as of a particular race, and especially when combined
with the ideology of a place like the Mercatus Center that
sees assistance as theft and suffering as irrelevant or
educational. All of this is transformed if we consider the
possibility of using all or part of the U.S. military budget
for something else. If college and healthcare were
guaranteed to all, and the land of opportunity offered the
opportunity to improve that some other nations do,
reparations of past wrongs would be less resisted, including
perhaps reparations to people like Iraqis whose countries
have been damaged or destroyed.

We are often distracted
from the fact that war is the primary thing our country
does. War and militarism and bases and ships and missiles
and sanctions and nuclear threats and hostility make up the
filter through which much of the other 96% of humanity
experiences this 4%. The U.S. Congress chooses how to spend
a great deal of money each year, and chooses to put 54% of
it into war and preparations for war. The wars demonstrably
increase rather than reduce or eliminate anti-U.S. sentiment
and violence. They endanger us rather than protect us —
and those dangers may last in foreign lands as long as the
U.S. Civil War is lasting here. Gallup polling finds the
U.S. widely considered the greatest threat to peace in the
world. The wars are a top cause of death and injury in the
world, and a top cause of famines and disease epidemics and
refugee crises that cause massive additional

But war kills most by diverting resources.
Small fractions of U.S. military spending could end
starvation, provide clean water, end diseases, even make
major strides toward ending the use of fossil fuels
worldwide. Military spending also reduces jobs in comparison
to other spending or not taxing working people in the first

The U.S. military consumes more petroleum than most
entire countries and has a bigger budget than most
governments and about the size of all other militaries
combined. The U.S. military destroys areas of the earth on
an unfathomable scale, including back home where it is
responsible for 69% of environmental disaster superfund
sites. Yes, the top destroyer of the U.S. natural
environment is the U.S. military.

By the way, we are
organizing a flotilla of kayaks to the Pentagon on September
17th to hold up giant banners in front of it protesting its
role in climate change. You don’t need your own kayak or
skills. You just need to sign up at WorldBeyondWar.org or
BackboneCampaign.org. And we’re planning a big conference
at American University on September 22-24 bringing together
top environmental and peace activists, and you can come if
you sign up at WorldBeyondWar.org.

While Trump threatens
nuclear war, scientists say that a single nuclear bomb could
cause climate catastrophe, and a small number of them could
block out the sun, kill crops, and starve us to death. There
is no such thing as threatening nuclear war on someone other
than yourself, and no the nukes are not less damaging if
Congress authorizes their use.

The erosion we are seeing
in our civil liberties, the mass surveillance, the
militarized police: these are symptoms of a criminal
enterprise called war. It fuels and is fueled by racism,
bigotry, hatred, and violence. The excuses made for it are
so weak and its horrors so inexcusable that the top killer
of U.S. participants in war is suicide.

And yet, Trump
proposes to move another $50 billion from just about
everything good and decent into war, and the Democrats run
around denouncing the supposed cuts without mentioning the
existence of the military or the fact that it’s not cuts
at all, but moving the money into war. The Democratic
Congressional candidates that have lost all their special
elections this year to warmongering Republicans have in each
case presented platforms that did not mention any foreign
policy whatsoever. The same goes for their new hero Randy
Bryce. The Progressive Caucus’s dream budget increases
military spending. And of course a certain former Senator
from New York who seems to still be running for the 2016
Democratic presidential nomination never met a war she
didn’t love.

Even Bernie Sanders, just went on Stephen
Colbert’s show and rattled off his list of progressive
goals three different times without ever mentioning war or
peace, just as he has done thousands of times. Even the
question of whether to end or continue current wars just
doesn’t come up. During the campaign, Senator Sanders said
that he thought Saudi Arabia should “get its hands
dirty” and pay for more of the wars, as if Saudi
Arabia’s hands weren’t drenched in blood, as if it
weren’t funding wars on the same and opposite side as the
U.S. already, and as if wars were some sort of philanthropy
the world depends upon. Senator Sanders falsely as well as
immorally defends the murderous F-35 airplane as a jobs
program for Vermont where it will damage the hearing and the
brains of the children in the school it takes off over. And
when Senator Sanders was asked “How will you pay for all
your ponies?” (Ponies is Hillary Clinton’s word for
basic human rights) he didn’t reply “I’m going to make
a slight reduction in military spending.” Instead he gave
a complex answer that produced endless media screaming about
tax increases. Contrast that with the popular performance of
the next prime minister of the United Kingdom Jeremy Corbyn
who explains that the wars are illegal and

So, we have to move the best and the
worst of the politicians in the U.S., and we have to do so
with a popular movement that changes the culture.

someone will object, there is a big difference between
ending war and ending racism. You can end racism one person
at a time. War you have to end in the whole world all at
once, or somebody else will wage war on you when you’re
not ready. Or as someone recently emailed me: if I’m not
willing to nuke North Korea I’d better get ready to learn
to speak North Korean.

That’s a statement that would
still be nonsense yet have a lot more sense to it if spoken
outside the United States. The United States so dominates
the field of war that the notion that it must wait for
someone else to end war doesn’t fit the facts. The U.S.
not only leads the sale of war weapons to the world,
including to the regions of the world with most of the wars
and where weapons are not manufactured at all, but also
leads the world in its own spending on wars and primarily on
war preparations, spending about as much as the rest of the
world put together. The U.S. spends close to $1 trillion per
year across numerous departments. Other countries that spend
$10 billion or more — that is, 1 percent of U.S. spending
— may number 19 or 20. Of those, eight are NATO members,
eight more are U.S. allies with U.S. troops stationed in
them. The U.S. actively lobbies these nations to spend more
on war, not less. Were the U.S. to take a lead in scaling
back military spending it would certainly spark a reverse
arms race.

The United States could also further that
agenda by scaling back its wars and its permanent basing. At
least 95% of the military bases in the world that are on
foreign soil are U.S. bases. Nobody else installs bases in
other countries.

Since World War II, the U.S. military has
directly killed some 20 million people, overthrown at least
36 governments, interfered in at least 82 foreign elections
(but obviously not in the bad Russian way), attempted to
assassinate over 50 foreign leaders, and dropped bombs on
people in over 30 countries. The United States is
responsible for the deaths of 5 million people in Vietnam,
Laos, and Cambodia, and over 1 million just since 2003 in
Iraq. For the past almost 16 years, the United States has
been systematically destroying a region of the globe,
bombing Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen,
and Syria, not to mention the Philippines. The United States
has “special forces” operating in two-thirds of the
world’s countries and non-special forces in three-quarters
of them. For the U.S. to make a move toward scaling back the
war making would have a major impact. 122 countries are
trying to ban nuclear weapons. Only one nuclear country
voted to start that treaty process and it was not the U.S.,
and you wouldn’t believe me if I told you who it was. Were
the U.S. to scale all the way back to a military resembling
those of other countries, were it to do away with offensive
weapons, were it to guard its borders rather than the globe,
others would respond accordingly. And going the rest of the
way would look more and more realistic.

Doing so would
look even more realistic if we understood that war is not
needed for defense. Studies like Erica Chenoweth’s have
established that nonviolent resistance to tyranny is far
more likely to succeed, and the success far more likely to
be lasting, than with violent resistance. So if we look at
something like the nonviolent revolution in Tunisia in 2011,
we might find that it meets as many criteria as any other
situation for a so-called Just War, except that it wasn’t
a war at all. One wouldn’t go back in time and argue for a
strategy less likely to succeed but likely to cause a lot
more pain and death. Perhaps doing so might constitute a
Just War argument. Perhaps a Just War argument could even be
made, anachronistically, for a 2011 U.S. “intervention”
to bring democracy to Tunisia (apart from the United
States’ obvious inability to do such a thing, and the
guaranteed catastrophe that would have resulted). But once
you’ve done a revolution without all the killing and
dying, it can no longer makes sense to propose all the
killing and dying—not if a thousand new Geneva Conventions
were created, and no matter the imperfections of the
nonviolent success.

Despite the relative scarcity of
examples thus far of nonviolent resistance to foreign
occupation, there are those already beginning to claim a
pattern of success. Here’s Stephen Zunes:

resistance has also successfully challenged foreign military
occupation. During the first Palestinian intifada in the
1980s, much of the subjugated population effectively became
self-governing entities through massive noncooperation and
the creation of alternative institutions, forcing Israel to
allow for the creation of the Palestine Authority and
self-governance for most of the urban areas of the West
Bank. Nonviolent resistance in the occupied Western Sahara
has forced Morocco to offer an autonomy proposal
which—while still falling well short of Morocco’s
obligation to grant the Sahrawis their right of
self-determination—at least acknowledges that the
territory is not simply another part of Morocco.

“In the
final years of German occupation of Denmark and Norway
during WWII, the Nazis effectively no longer controlled the
population. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia freed themselves
from Soviet occupation through nonviolent resistance prior
to the USSR’s collapse. In Lebanon, a nation ravaged by
war for decades, thirty years of Syrian domination was ended
through a large-scale, nonviolent uprising in 2005. And . .
. Mariupol became the largest city to be liberated from
control by Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine, not by bombings
and artillery strikes by the Ukrainian military, but when
thousands of unarmed steelworkers marched peacefully into
occupied sections of its downtown area and drove out the
armed separatists.”

One might look for potential in
numerous examples of resistance to the Nazis, and in German
resistance to the French invasion of the Ruhr in 1923, or
perhaps in the one-time success of the Philippines and the
ongoing success of Ecuador in evicting U.S. military bases,
and of course the Gandhian example of booting the British
out of India. But the far more numerous examples of
nonviolent success over domestic tyranny also provide a
guide toward future action.

What about claims that we
need, not just defensive wars, but humanitarian wars? Well,
we have yet to see one that benefited humanity. And
supporters of humanitarian wars are still far outnumbered by
supporters of racist wars. The fact that both groups support
the same wars should worry both groups, by the way.

if not war, then what? Diplomacy, cooperation, aid, the rule
of law, arbitration, mediation, truth and reconciliation,
conversion to prosperous peaceful economies. We’ve started
building the needed institutions and practices. Much more is

Raise your hand if you think war is sometimes

War was banned in 1928, and again but with
loopholes in 1945, but none of the current wars qualify for
the loopholes. Developing an understanding of this is a
necessary step. Also illegal is threatening war, even if you
call it “fire and fury.”

There’s a medieval doctrine
called Just War Theory that has held on in the West beyond
any of the rest of the worldview of the people who created
it. Its criteria for making a war just are each either
unmeasurable, impossible, or amoral. For some future war to
actually be just, it would have to be so just as to outweigh
all the killing and destruction it did, plus all the unjust
wars inevitably created by keeping the institution of war
around, plus the risk of nuclear apocalypse maintained by
the institution of war, plus the murderous impact of the
diversion of trillions of dollars every year in military
spending, trillions more in lost economic opportunities, and
trillions more in property destruction by war, plus all the
environmental destruction, the government secrecy, the
erosion of civil liberties, the corrosion of culture with
violence and bigotry, etc. Nothing in the history of the
world has ever been that just and nothing can be.

I think
in many cases it does not take much to dissuade racists,
which is why Trump’s apparent sanctioning of racist
violence, promising to pay legal bills for thugs at rallies
etc., is so damaging. People can be shown directly that
others they despise are intelligent, generous, friendly, and
on their side. People can be taught that racism is
unacceptable. That can be all it takes.

We need greater
efforts put into anti-racist, pro-humanist education and
rallies and counter-rallies. We need the right to assemble
and speak unarmed and without threats of violence. We need a
major nonviolent and disciplined movement that invites
supporters of racism to dialogue, even while insisting that
they disarm and be held to the rule of law. Just today,
Charlottesville’s daily paper finally acknowledged that
the First Amendment might not include the right to speak and
assemble while armed to the teeth.

People can be shown
similar things about war. Every time we’re told we
urgently need a war on Iran, and public pressure helps
prevent it, and the world does not end, we can ask people to
notice that and to question the urgent cries to start that
war the next time they arise. And yet some will still
imagine that a war might be needed, or that once an unneeded
war is begun they must cheer for it or be on the side of the
enemy. So when we think of ending war, people imagine ending
it only by defeating enemies, not by turning enemies into
friends. This won’t work any more than punching Nazis will
work to end Nazism, or shooting guns at hurricanes will turn
climate change into a liberal myth.

Now, I’ve said that
you cannot have a just war, and our entire culture is
founded on the myth of the Justest War Ever, World War II,
so before I take questions I have to say a few words about
that. Here are 12 points that can help begin challenging
what we’ve learned:

World War II could not have happened
without World War I, without the stupid manner of starting
World War I and the even stupider manner of ending World War
I which led numerous wise people to predict World War II on
the spot, or without Wall Street’s funding of Nazi Germany
for decades (as preferable to communists), or without the
arms race and numerous bad decisions that do not need to be
repeated in the future.

The U.S. government was not hit
with a surprise attack. President Franklin Roosevelt had
quietly promised Churchill that the United States would work
hard to provoke Japan into staging an attack. FDR knew the
attack was coming, and initially drafted a declaration of
war against both Germany and Japan on the evening of Pearl
Harbor. Prior to Pearl Harbor, FDR had built up bases in the
U.S. and multiple oceans, traded weapons to the Brits for
bases, started the draft, created a list of every Japanese
American person in the country, provided planes, trainers,
and pilots to China, imposed harsh sanctions on Japan, and
advised the U.S. military that a war with Japan was
beginning. He told his top advisers he expected an attack on
December 1st, which was six days off.

The war was not
humanitarian and was not even marketed as such until after
it was over. There was no poster asking you to help Uncle
Sam save the Jews. A ship of Jewish refugees from Germany
was chased away from Miami by the Coast Guard. The U.S. and
other nations refused to accept Jewish refugees, and the
majority of the U.S. public supported that position. Peace
groups that questioned Prime Minister Winston Churchill and
his foreign secretary about shipping Jews out of Germany to
save them were told that, while Hitler might very well agree
to the plan, it would be too much trouble and require too
many ships. The U.S. engaged in no diplomatic or military
effort to save the victims in the Nazi concentration camps.
Anne Frank was denied a U.S. visa. Although this point has
nothing to do with a serious historian’s case for WWII as
a Just War, it is so central to U.S. mythology that I’ll
include here a key passage from Nicholson

“Anthony Eden, Britain’s foreign secretary,
who’d been tasked by Churchill with handling queries about
refugees, dealt coldly with one of many important
delegations, saying that any diplomatic effort to obtain the
release of the Jews from Hitler was ‘fantastically
impossible.’ On a trip to the United States, Eden candidly
told Cordell Hull, the secretary of state, that the real
difficulty with asking Hitler for the Jews was that
‘Hitler might well take us up on any such offer, and there
simply are not enough ships and means of transportation in
the world to handle them.’ Churchill agreed. ‘Even were
we to obtain permission to withdraw all the Jews,’ he
wrote in reply to one pleading letter, ‘transport alone
presents a problem which will be difficult of solution.’
Not enough shipping and transport? Two years earlier, the
British had evacuated nearly 340,000 men from the beaches of
Dunkirk in just nine days. The U.S. Air Force had many
thousands of new planes. During even a brief armistice, the
Allies could have airlifted and transported refugees in very
large numbers out of the German sphere.”[i]

The war was
not defensive. FDR lied that he had a map of Nazi plans to
carve up South America, that he had a Nazi plan to eliminate
religion, that U.S. ships (covertly assisting British war
planes) were innocently attacked by Nazis, that Germany was
a threat to the United States.[ii] A case can be made that
the U.S. needed to enter the war in Europe to defend other
nations, which had entered to defend yet other nations, but
a case could also be made that the U.S. escalated the
targeting of civilians, extended the war, and inflicted more
damage than might have occurred, had the U.S. done nothing,
attempted diplomacy, or invested in nonviolence. To claim
that a Nazi empire could have grown to someday include an
occupation of the United States is wildly far fetched and
not borne out by any earlier or later examples from other

We now know much more widely and with much more data
that nonviolent resistance to occupation and injustice is
more likely to succeed—and that success more likely to
last—than violent resistance. With this knowledge, we can
look back at the stunning successes of nonviolent actions
against the Nazis that were not well organized or built on
beyond their initial successes.[iii]

The Good War was not
good for the troops. Lacking intense modern training and
psychological conditioning to prepare soldiers to engage in
the unnatural act of murder, some 80 percent of U.S. and
other troops in World War II did not fire their weapons at
“the enemy.”[iv] The fact that veterans of WWII were
treated better after the war than other soldiers before or
since, was the result of the pressure created by the Bonus
Army after the previous war. That veterans were given free
college, healthcare, and pensions was not due to the merits
of the war or in some way a result of the war. Without the
war, everyone could have been given free college for many
years. If we provided free college to everyone today, it
would then require much more than Hollywoodized World War II
stories to get many people into military recruiting

Several times the number of people killed in
German camps were killed outside of them in the war. The
majority of those people were civilians. The scale of the
killing, wounding, and destroying made WWII the single worst
thing humanity has ever done to itself in a short space of
time. We imagine the allies were somehow “opposed” to
the far lesser killing in the camps. But that can’t
justify the cure that was worse than the

Escalating the war to include the all-out
destruction of civilians and cities, culminating in the
completely indefensible nuking of cities took WWII out of
the realm of defensible projects for many who had defended
its initiation—and rightly so. Demanding unconditional
surrender and seeking to maximize death and suffering did
immense damage and left a grim and foreboding

Killing huge numbers of people is supposedly
defensible for the “good” side in a war, but not for the
“bad” side. The distinction between the two is never as
stark as fantasized. The United States had a long history as
an apartheid state. U.S. traditions of oppressing African
Americans, practicing genocide against Native Americans, and
now interning Japanese Americans also gave rise to specific
programs that inspired Germany’s Nazis—these included
camps for Native Americans, and programs of eugenics and
human experimentation that existed before, during, and after
the war. One of these programs included giving syphilis to
people in Guatemala at the same time the Nuremberg trials
were taking place.[v] The U.S. military hired hundreds of
top Nazis at the end of the war.[vi] The U.S. aimed for a
wider world empire, before the war, during it, and ever
since. German neo-Nazis today, forbidden to wave the Nazi
flag, sometimes wave the flag of the Confederate States of
America instead.

The “good” side of the “good
war,” the party that did most of the killing and dying for
the winning side, was the communist Soviet Union. That
doesn’t make the war a triumph for communism, but it does
tarnish Washington’s and Hollywood’s tales of triumph
for “democracy.”[vii]

World War II still hasn’t
ended. Ordinary people in the United States didn’t have
their incomes taxed until World War II and that’s never
stopped. It was supposed to be temporary.[viii] WWII-era
bases built around the world have never closed. U.S. troops
have never left Germany or Japan.[ix] There are more than
100,000 U.S. and British bombs still in the ground in
Germany, still killing.[x]

Going back 75 years to a
nuclear-free, colonial world of completely different
structures, laws, and habits to justify what has been the
greatest expense of the United States in each of the years
since is a bizarre feat of self-deception that isn’t
attempted in the justification of any lesser enterprise.
Assume I’ve got numbers 1 through 11 totally wrong, and
you’ve still got to explain how an event from the early
1940s justifies dumping a trillion 2017 dollars into war
funding that could have been spent to feed, clothe, cure,
and shelter millions of people, and to environmentally
protect the earth.


[i] War No More: Three
Centuries of American Antiwar and Peace Writing, edited by
Lawrence Rosendwald.

[ii] David Swanson, War Is A Lie,
Second Edition (Charlottesville: Just World Books,

[iii] Book and Film: A Force More Powerful,

[iv] Dave Grossman, On
Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War
and Society(Back Bay Books: 1996).

[v] Donald G. McNeil
Jr., The New York Times, “U.S. Apologizes for Syphilis
Tests in Guatemala,” October 1, 2010,

Annie Jacobsen, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence
Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America (Little,
Brown and Company, 2014).

[vii] Oliver Stone and Peter
Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States (Gallery
Books, 2013).

[viii] Steven A. Bank, Kirk J. Stark, and
Joseph J. Thorndike, War and Taxes (Urban Institute Press,

[ix] RootsAction.org, “Move Away from Nonstop
War. Close the Ramstein Air

David Swanson, “The United States Just Bombed Germany,”

David Swanson is an
author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director
of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for
RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He
blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk
Nation Radio.He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize

Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and

Help support DavidSwanson.org, WarIsACrime.org,
and TalkNationRadio.org by clicking here:

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The sheriff in Pasco County, Florida warned residents about the dangers of shooting guns into Hurricane Irma after a Facebook event advocating such picked up steam over the weekend.

More than 50,000 people expressed an interest in the satirical Facebook event “Shoot at Hurricane Irma” as the powerful storm started to cross the Florida Keys, USA Today reported.

“Let’s show Irma that we shoot first,” the description read.

But the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office chimed in to says that’s probably not a smart idea.

“To clarify, DO NOT shoot weapons @ #Irma,” the sheriff’s office tweeted late Saturday. “You won’t make it turn around & it will have very dangerous side effects.”

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said he was trying to reach residents who may not have the common sense to refrain from shooting at the storm.

“Over 99 percent of the people out there have common sense and are listening, but we in law enforcement deal with the 1 percent, so we are trying to get the message to them,” he told USA Today.

One of the organizers of the event, Ryon Edwards, of DeLand, said he couldn’t believe some people actually thought the event was serious.

“Well guys, it’s here,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “The moment we’ve been waiting for. It was cool to see the response this got from facebook. On another note, I’ve learned that about 50% of the world could not understand sarcasm to save their lives. Carry on.”

The curfew in Pasco County, just north of Tampa, was lifted Monday.

On the surface, Savannah, Georgia, and Syracuse, New York, don’t have much in common beyond their size. Both are smaller cities, with populations hovering around 145,000 people. Yet their streets share a grim reality: Teenagers are being killed or wounded by firearms at rates far higher than in most U.S. cities, according to an Associated Press and USA Today Network analysis of shootings compiled by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive.

From 2014 through this past June, 57 youths aged 12 to 17 in Savannah and 48 in Syracuse were killed or injured in gun violence. The cities’ rates of teen shootings per capita are more than double those seen in the vast majority of U.S. cities with populations of 50,000 or more.

“It’s getting worse,” said Barbara O’Neal, who started the group Mothers of Murdered Sons in Savannah. “They’re still shooting. And they still don’t care.”

Her son, Alan O’Neal Jr., survived his teenage years, only to be shot dead during a robbery attempt six years ago at age 20.

The unrelenting gun violence in both cities is tearing at the adults who struggle to find answers and the kids who try, often in vain, to avoid mayhem.

Sheryl Sams speaks with a mix of weariness and disbelief about teen shootings in Savannah. She directs a program called Youth Intercept, which dispatches volunteers to the hospital emergency room to offer assistance to young people being treated for gunshot wounds.

Some successes

Sams says Youth Intercept has its share of successes; roughly 75 young people have graduated from the program since 2010. But she estimates only about 1 in 3 victims accepts the program’s help.

“We have a kid who’s been shot three times and his mom finally tried to enroll him, but she hasn’t done all the follow-through,” Sams said, adding the mother and son stopped answering phone calls and knocks at their door. “He’s 14 now and he’s been shot three times. To them it’s a way of life.”

Founded in 1733, Savannah is Georgia’s oldest city, and its downtown area forms the largest National Historic Landmark district in the U.S. An estimated 13 million visitors pumped $2.8 billion into the local economy last year. But beyond the Greek Revival mansions and manicured public squares, nearby neighborhoods struggle with poverty and violence.

In a case that typifies Savannah’s shootings, 17-year-old Wayne Edwards was on his way to a party in August 2014 when he got into an argument with another teen standing outside his car. That teen raised a gun and fired five shots, with one bullet killing Edwards. He wasn’t shot over money or drugs; the evidence pointed to violence sparked by tough talk and bluster.

The 18-year-old shooter was sentenced to life in prison, but the crime still makes no sense to Edwards’ father.

“It’s still hard after three years,” Wayne Blige said of his son’s slaying. “You know what happened, but you still don’t know why.”

Worse in smaller, midsize cities

The Gun Violence Archive compiles information on shootings nationwide from media and police reports. The AP-USA Today Network analysis of those cases found that smaller and midsize cities have higher rates of teenage gun violence than major American cities. Chicago, plagued for years by teen violence, is the exception.

Wilmington, Delaware, a city of 72,000, had by far the highest rate of teenage gun violence, nearly twice that of Chicago.

Syracuse sits just beyond the vineyard-rich hillsides of the Finger Lakes region of central New York, a tourist destination of spectacular waterfalls, deep gorges and rolling hills. The city has a grittier past, built not by pressing Riesling grapes but by stamping out parts for automobiles and air conditioners.

Most of those factories have closed. The city is now known mostly for Syracuse University and its basketball team.

The university’s stately halls sit atop a hill that looms over the city’s South Side, a sprawling mix of neighborhoods that are often blemished by boarded-up clapboard homes sitting in overgrown lots. Many of the shootings cataloged by the Gun Violence Archive occurred here.

On one South Side street corner, mourners piled teddy bears where 15-year-old Akil Williams was shot and killed this summer during an argument. The corner is blocks away from where another 15-year-old was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2015. A year ago, 18-year-old Tyshawn Lemon was killed as he talked to a girl on her porch nearby.

‘It can happen to anyone’

“When I was growing up … if you were a regular kid and going to school and working, it didn’t happen to you,” said Lateefah Rhines, Tyshawn’s mother. “But now it’s touching everybody’s lives. And I feel like if it can happen to Tyshawn, it can happen to anyone.”

Researchers have linked high poverty rates to gun violence, and some South Side neighborhoods are plagued by both. They are among the poorest areas in a city with a poverty rate of 35 percent, well above the national average.

Despite the reasons for despair, some residents are not ready to give in to the violence.

Over the slap of boxing gloves at the Faith Hope Community Center, Arthur “Bobby” Harrison said some teens who get mixed up with guns are good kids, but confused. His gym offers a place where neighborhood youths can shoot hoops, lift weights or spar in a ring next to a wall plastered with pictures of local boxers and role models such as Muhammad Ali and former President Barack Obama.

Harrison, who was serving a sentence in Attica state prison during the infamously deadly uprising in 1971, provides a firm hand for the teens who train here. But the gym also is a sanctuary for teens such as Quishawn Richardson.

“It doesn’t remind you of all the violence that’s going on outside,” said Quishawn, a lanky 15-year-old who dreams of playing basketball up the hill at the university. “It shows you that Syracuse has got some places you can go to without getting hurt.”

The Daily Mail has a shocking update for tourists who like to go south-of-the-border for their winter vacations: “Attackers armed with machine guns murdered three men on a Mexican beach packed with tourists on Sunday. The terrifying assault, which also left two injured, occurred at Playa Palmilla, a popular beach near San Jose del Cabo at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, the local prosecutor said.”

So much for Mexico is safe for tourists as long as you avoid the cartel-occupied areas.

It’s beginning to look like the entire nation is cartel-occupied.

In the past tourists from El Norte, that’s the USA, Canada, and Europe could visit Mexico’s tourist hotspots relatively secure in the knowledge they would be in a tourist “bubble” and insulated from the lawlessness that characterizes so much of the rest of the country.

That is certainly no longer true and not just in Cabo. Earlier I wrote about crooked resort owners in Cancun and Playa del Carmen preying on unsuspecting tourists by serving them adulterated, poisonous alcohol that resulted in at least one death. Details here.

These most recent and public deaths in San Jose del Cabo are blamed on fighting between the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation cartel. Mexican authorities admitted the beach was packed with tourists when the shooting started.

The total carnage from the gunfire was three dead and two wounded.

Any time an attack like this occurs the public is always fed the ‘police and officials are searching diligently for the perpetrators and there is no cause for alarm’ line. But there is cause for alarm.

Why would anyone want to travel to a country where in some tourist areas you’re served adulterated alcohol by the people you are paying to provide you with an excellent vacation experience and in other tourist areas you run the danger of being caught in a machinegun crossfire?

One often wonders if these stories have any effect on potential tourists? I can tell you with certainty this story is having a great impact on the Reagans. I loved going to Cabo. The beaches, the weather, and the food are hard to beat, which is why we’ve vacationed there for years.

In fact we were planning to go again this November, but that’s over now. So I don’t know what the rest of potential Cabo tourists are going to do this year, but I can assure you the Reagans will be going elsewhere until Mexico can stop drug violence.

Michael Reagan, the eldest son of President Reagan, is a Newsmax TV analyst. A syndicated columnist and author, he chairs The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Michael is an in-demand speaker with Premiere speaker’s bureau. Read more reports from Michael Reagan — Go Here Now.

By Juliet Linderman, Brittany Horn, Esteban Parra and Larry Fenn, The Associated Press

WILMINGTON, Delaware — When the shots rang out — “pop, pop, pop,” and then a thunder roll of gunfire — Maria Williams hit the floor.

The bullets sprayed through her front door and window, leaving perfectly cylindrical holes in the glass. They blasted across the nursery, where her 2-year-old daughter’s toys were strewn on the carpet. They burrowed into the kitchen cabinetry — and hit her teenage son and daughter.

Amid their screams, “All I could think of was, ‘I’m not losing another child,’” Williams recalled, tears streaming down her cheek.

Her 18-year-old stepson — William Rollins VI, known as Lil Bill — had been gunned down two years before, another victim of Wilmington’s plague of teens shooting teens. His shooter was 17.

Wilmington isn’t Chicago or Los Angeles, Baltimore or Detroit. It is a city of less than 72,000 people known primarily as the birthplace of chemical giant DuPont and as a cozy home for big banks and Fortune 500 firms. But an Associated Press and USA TODAY Network analysis of Gun Violence Archive data — gathered from media reports and police press releases, and covering a 3— year period through June of this year — reveals that Wilmington far and away leads the country in its rate of shootings among young people ages 12 to 17.

“It’s nonstop, just nonstop,” said William Rollins V, father of the teenagers. “Around every turn, they’re taking our kids.”

Of the 10 cities with the highest rates of teen shootings, most had populations of less than 250,000 people. Among them were Savannah, Georgia; Trenton, New Jersey; Syracuse, New York; Fort Myers, Florida; and Richmond, Virginia. Chicago was the lone large-population city high on the list.

Poverty and a sense of hopelessness in the most violent neighborhoods is a common thread. Syracuse, a university town that once cranked out air conditioners and televisions, now has a poverty rate of 35 percent.

Rayquan Briscoe sits outside his home ...

Patrick Semansky, The Associated Press

Rayquan Briscoe sits outside his home in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. On Nov. 3, 2015, he was walking down Maryland Avenue for an appointment with his probation officer on a drug conviction. He heard gunshots. Briscoe tried to run, but his legs failed him: He’d been struck in the back, just to the right of his spinal column. He was paralyzed from the waist down. He was 17 years old.

Others, like Savannah, are deeply divided. While its antebellum mansions, gnarled live oaks and marble monuments to war heroes drew more than 13 million visitors last year, away from picture-postcard oasis of Southern Charm the scenery here quickly shifts to decaying neighborhoods, abject poverty and deadly violence.

Size may play a role. In tightly packed neighborhoods, insults and perceived insults ricochet like shots in an echo chamber. One shooting inevitably leads to speculation about who will be targeted next.

“The streets remember,” said Mark Denney, a state prosecutor who is trying to end Wilmington’s retaliatory warfare.

Social media accelerates the threats, and the danger. Teenagers whose brains are years from fully maturing are roaming the streets with a gun in one pocket and a smartphone in the other.

“A juvenile with a gun is a heck of a lot more dangerous than a 24- or 25-year-old with a gun,” said James Durham, the acting U.S. attorney based in Savannah.

During a recent presentation, Chaz Mollins, coordinator of violence prevention programs for Christiana Care Health System in Wilmington, showed a group of teens a map of Wilmington studded with pushpins, each marking the location of a shooting: white for injuries, red for homicides.

The pins, clustered in a handful of high-poverty neighborhoods, showed the kind of pattern you might see in an outbreak of some infectious disease, like Zika or Ebola, Mollins said.

“So,” he said, “we are in the midst of an epidemic.”

The problem facing Wilmington and these other cities: How to stop the spread?


01 A.M. EDT FRIDAY, SEPT. 8; ...

The Associated Press

Graphic shows U.S. cities with highest rates of teen gun violence.

For Malik Walker, the best thing about turning 18 wasn’t the birthday party he threw for himself at a local hotel. It’s the fact that, as an adult, he can now legally buy a gun.

Malik was just 12 when he dodged his first shootout on Wilmington’s notorious west side. At 15, he was kneeling on a sidewalk, calling an ambulance as he pressed his shirt against his best friend’s bloody chest. The friend had been shot 13 times on the corner where Malik had just been standing.

Three years later, the tall, slender teenager with an easy smile still shudders at the thought that, had he not stopped into a store for a juice, he could have been lying there, too.

“I’m scared to even tie my shoe, because I don’t know who might creep up behind me,” Malik said as a police car’s strobing red-and-blue lights illuminate the unfurnished room where he and several friends have gathered on a sticky, summer night. “It makes me want to take these two eyes and make two more, and put them in the back of my head.”

For teens in the First State’s largest city, this is life.

In Wilmington, data from the Gun Violence Archive show that roughly 3 out of every 1,000 adolescents are injured or killed annually from gun violence. That is almost twice the rate reported from Chicago and just over 9 times the national average as reported for 2015 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The news organizations sought to measure teenage gun violence in America’s cities because it is something the federal government does not track on a regular and comprehensive basis.

Nearly a quarter of Wilmington’s residents live below the poverty line. Eighty-six percent of the city’s youth receive some form of state assistance.

Single-parent families live packed together in old-style housing projects or dilapidated brick row houses. Already separated from the more prosperous parts of town, Wilmington’s poorer and largely black neighborhoods are divided physically by Interstate 95, which bisects the city, and by cliques that carve those neighborhoods into rival sections: Hilltop and West Center City; “The Hill” and “Down Bottom.”

About 30 active street crews exist in Wilmington today, estimated David Kennedy, a national expert in criminology who has for years studied the city’s crime problem. Prosecutors say these crews, made up of roughly 20 people per group, are responsible for most of Wilmington’s crime.

A yearlong investigation by The News Journal, Gannett’s Wilmington newspaper that is part of the USA TODAY Network, detailed a veritable war between two groups — Only My Brothers and Shoot to Kill. A News Journal analysis of court records, social media and the newspaper’s internal database found that a third of the shooting victims under age 21 during the first seven months of 2016 had links to the rivalry.

In this July 27, 2017 photo, ...

Patrick Semansky, The Associated Press

In this July 27, 2017 photo, Maria Williams stands on her front porch in Wilmington, Del., the day after her teenage son and daughter were shot and wounded while standing on the same porch. As she took cover inside and heard her kids’ screams, “All I could think of was, ‘I’m not losing another child,’” Williams recalled. Her 18-year-old stepson had been gunned down two years before, another victim of Wilmington’s plague of teens shooting teens. His shooter was 17.

The feud began in January 2015 with the death of 16-year-old Jordan Ellerbe, gunned down while listening to music with friends on a front porch in the city’s Hilltop neighborhood. The same home was targeted again two days later, leaving three mourners wounded.

The war escalated in the months that followed. One gang member would shoot at a rival; weeks later, fire would be returned. In May 2016, 15-year-old Brandon Wingo was shot and killed on his way home from school.

A month later, three alleged members of Shoot to Kill were charged with the popular basketball player’s death. Between July and September of 2016, officials arrested 28 alleged OMB members on charges of gang participation, carrying concealed guns, robbery and attempted assault. An additional teen was later charged as part of OMB, bringing the total to 29.

Wilmington’s new police chief, Robert Tracy, says the city needs to do more of this — identifying those committing crimes and getting them off the street. It’s a strategy employed in other cities.

“There’s a small percentage of individuals that are going back and forth causing this violence in the city,” Tracy, Chicago’s former top crime strategist, said earlier this year during a vigil for a 6-year-old boy who had been shot. “And all the good people are tired of it, and they’re outraged.”


Unlike larger, more organized criminal enterprises such as the Crips, the Bloods or the Mexican Mafia, feuds among teenage gangs in Wilmington don’t revolve around drugs, or territory, or even money. It’s about respect.

In the internet age, bad blood can spring up and spread instantly online with the double tap of a thumb on a smartphone screen or a hastily tapped-out Tweet. Teenagers in Wilmington don’t sport gang colors or uniforms, but identify themselves with emojis and hashtags.

“Technology’s evolution has made it easier for criminals to get guns,” said Deputy Attorney General Joseph Grubb. “It also has made it easier for young people to get offended by something, causing them to go grab a gun and shoot up a block as opposed to, ‘Meet me in the school yard and let’s fist fight.’”

And every shooting opens up the possibility for another, as the thirst for retaliation creates a bloody game of back-and-forth: a life for a life for a life. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research, young men under the age of 34 who have been shot in Wilmington are 11 times more likely to commit gun violence in their lifetimes.

Mayor Mike Purzycki said some of the blame can be laid on a “fractured education system” that sends children on buses to schools in rival neighborhoods. Many fathers are either in prison or have past convictions that make it difficult for them to find good jobs.

All of this leads to hopelessness and powerlessness, said the Rev. Derrick Johnson of the Joshua Harvest Church. “Pastor D,” as he’s known on the streets, understands that feeling, because he too has been there. Johnson was a 17-year-old drug dealer when he fatally shot a man. He was freed after serving 15 years.

At 59, Johnson’s ministry is as much in the streets as it is in the pulpit.

One afternoon, Johnson strolled down the stairs of the William “Hicks” Anderson Community Center in the city’s troubled West Center City neighborhood. A group of little girls, licking Popsicles, stood on the landing, leaning against the railing and peering down at the pastor. He reached into his pocket and handed each child a dollar bill.

“What you be doing when they be shooting around here?” he asked the children.

“Running home,” said a girl with pigtails.

“You run?” the minister said, “you’re supposed to duck.”

“I learned that in school,” another girl shouts. “I duck my head, somewhere where they won’t find me.”


01 A.M. EDT FRIDAY, SEPT. 8 ...

The Associated Press

Graphic shows U.S. cities with highest rates of teen gun violence and poverty.

On Nov. 3, 2015, Rayquan Briscoe was walking down Maryland Avenue for an appointment with his probation officer on a drug conviction. He heard gunshots. Briscoe tried to run, but his legs failed him: He’d been struck in the back, just to the right of his spinal column. He was paralyzed from the waist down. He was 17 years old.

“Bullets don’t have no names,” he said.

Although Briscoe said he’s never carried a gun himself, guns have had an outsized impact on his young life.

Last year, Briscoe’s father was shot to death. Rayquan’s younger brother, Raymire, was just 14 when he was charged with murder in the May 2014 killing of a 29-year-old man; he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Despite all that, Briscoe said there are legitimate reasons for teens in Wilmington to arm themselves.

“Somebody after you with a gun, your only other option is to pick up a gun,” he said. “If somebody, for instance, has a brother and they know that their brother’s been shot or killed from a gun, then that’s a legitimate reason for them to want to do something to somebody else, or carry a gun,” he said. “That might be their only way of feeling better or dealing with life after that.”

Unless and until guns are outlawed, Briscoe said, he doesn’t see anything changing.

“It’s the world,” he said. “As long as killings keep going on, it’s gonna be more killings. As long as more guns made, it’s gonna be more guns.”

Wilmington officials have desperately cast about for solutions — without success, at least so far.

In December 2013, City Council President Hanifa Shabazz asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate. It would be the agency’s first-ever inquiry into gun violence as a public health epidemic. The agency found that, between 2009 and 2014, 15 percent of the people arrested in Wilmington for a firearms crime were under the age of 18.

The CDC recommended that agencies share information such as school truancy records, child welfare reports and emergency room visits to identify youth who need help earlier in life to avoid violence later. But after closing a $400 million budget gap through a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts, Gov. John Carney said the state doesn’t have the money to execute the CDC’s plan.

A CDC advisory council proposed linking four city schools with community health and social services in New Castle County. In May, the mayor announced a neighborhood stabilization program he hopes will revitalize the city’s roughest neighborhoods by beefing up the police presence, cracking down on liquor stores and increasing trash pickup.

The community, meanwhile, is pressing forward on its own.

Derrick Reed, owner of His Image Barber Lounge near Wilmington’s Little Italy, began holding sessions for teens at his shop on Monday evenings. He calls the program Born for Brothers.

“We’re actively talking to these young guys when they get in the chair,” said Joel Payne, one of the barbers. “We teach them about respect. We’re teaching about morals. We teach them about values. We teach them about success.”

Payne, now 31 and a father, speaks from personal experience: “I used to live that life.”

In this Aug. 9, 2017 photo, ...

Patrick Semansky, The Associated Press

In this Aug. 9, 2017 photo, Keishonna Williams, age 18, uncovers a bandage revealing a bullet wound on her leg in Newark, Del. Williams and her brother Keshon were shot July 26 on the front porch of their home in nearby Wilmington, Del., a city that leads the country in shootings among young people under 18.

He was just 12 when he stole his first gun — a chrome-plated, pearl-handled .380-caliber semi-automatic. At 16, he pistol-whipped a man during a home invasion. By 17, he’d graduated to shooter: He shot another boy in the leg during a robbery.

Payne was 11 when his father got back from a prison stint for drugs. His mother was working all the time to support him and his seven siblings. Missing meals, wearing his sisters’ hand-me-down sneakers, watching the drug dealers flash their jewelry and cars. It all added up.

“When you grow up with a reality of rejection, and feeling alone, and nobody there to really like talk to and express your feelings, you look for other ways to express yourself,” he said.

Latisha Jackson, too, speaks from personal experience. She organized 302 MAFIA (302 is Wilmington’s area code; MAFIA stands for Mothers and Fathers In Action) to create a support system for those returning home from prison. But Jackson said it is also meant to awaken parents like her, who were “walking blind” while their children drifted toward violence.

With their father away in prison, Jackson worked two full-time jobs to provide for her boys, Jahlil and Na-Quan Lewis. She took them on vacations, got them involved in football and basketball. She forbade violent video games, never allowed so much as a squirt or BB gun in the home.

To no avail.

Jahlil was just 16 when he grabbed a pistol and set out with other OMB members to the house of a rival gang member. Police got wind of their plan, and Jahlil and three others were arrested en route to their intended target.

Investigators later found images of Jahlil and Na-Quan brandishing guns on social media and in cellphone pictures.

Earlier this year, Jahlil pleaded guilty to felony charges of gang participation, possession of a firearm by a prohibited juvenile, carrying a concealed deadly weapon and second-degree conspiracy for planning criminal acts with gang members. He was sentenced to two years in prison. Na-Quan, now 20, pleaded guilty in July to possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and a probation violation on a 2014 robbery conviction. He was sentenced to three years, plus four years and 11 months for breaking probation.

Each time Jackson visits Jahlil, the routine is the same.

“I hold his hands and tell him how cold his fingers are,” she said. “And then I look at him and say, ‘I just cannot believe that my baby is in adult penitentiary.’”

Following the break-in and attempted suicide at the Pima Community College Downtown Campus, it was clear that secu- rity measures needed to be reviewed.

On the early morning of July 23, a suspect broke into the PCC Downtown Cam- pus and attempted suicide. Paramedics rushed the man to the hospital. Officials have provided no updates on his health since the incident.

Immediately after the incident, PCC Alerts sent a text message that said not to go on the campus and to stay away during the early morning hours.

“It’s designed to gets students timely info about stuff that is an immediate danger,” Vice Chancellor Bill Ward said. “It’s also used for construction emergencies, road shutdowns, campus shutdowns. We mainly use it for facility safety.”

Shortly after the incident, Chancellor Lee Lambert sent out an email that stated, “We are looking into additional safety training and communications during the upcoming Academic Year.”

After the incident, a review was requested by PCC Chief of Police Christopher Albers. The review was sent back from the Loaned Executive Management Assistance Program, or LEMAP, about the college’s police department.

Under guidance from the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and LEMAP, a general review looked at key aspects of what PCCPD was doing right and what it was doing wrong.

The 71-page review and a condensed 17-page executive summary can be viewed online on the PCCPD webpage at pima.edu.

The review was broken down into 19 areas that consisted of recommendations from the LEMAP team. The recommenda- tions were given after the LEMAP team spoke with staff members from PCC and PCCPD.

The report includes an intro- duction that summarizes what PCC and PCCPD are and how the review was conducted.

It moves on to a general observation of PCCPD: “Seldom has this LEMAP Team found so much support and appreciation for the work done by a police department.”

The report also cites a vice president, but does not provide a name, saying the PCCPD staff “are more professional and competent than any police force,” and that “officers go above-and- beyond in their handling of situations.”

After the observation, the recommendations from the LEMAP team took up the next 16 pages, as well as responses from PCCPD as to what it will do or what it already has done.

The rst observation from the LEMAP team read “college administrators and staff members were unsure as to the jurisdiction of the PCCPD of cers.” It added that there were no communica- tions between PCCPD and other agencies.

PCCPD’s response was that there has not been a formal in- tergovernmental agreements or memoranda of understanding in 15 years, but formal agreements will be drafted and signed.

“That’s not entirely accurate,” Albers said. “There are formal agreements that exist, but they are outdated and they need to be updated.”

Another note in the report added that the LEMAP team “was not able to identify a policy on investigating sexual assaults.” However, a policy was found but was kept in archives and has al- ready been updated, according to Albers.

PCCPD gave a time frame of threeto veyears,astowhenall, if not most of, the items in the report will be worked on as well as overall safety measures for the campus.

“We’ve actually started now,” Ward said. “We’ve been imple- menting things and working on stuff related to the safety of the college since about 2013.”

The thing that Ward is talking about deals with new classes that of cers can take to further their education.

“We’ve already begun to im- plement some of the recommen- dations in the LEMAP report, although is hard to put a timeline on many of the recommendations because they’re resource depen- dent,” Albers said.

Filed Under: News


Seattle Seahawks star Michael Bennett claimed police threatened to shoot him last month in Las Vegas for “being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

The Super Bowl-winning defensive end has claimed the incident occurred as he returned to his hotel after attending the Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor fight.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department have confirmed they are investigating the incident, after Bennett posted a statement on Twitter.

Bennett, who won the NFL’s biggest prize with Seattle in 2014, said he and others were running away from the sound of gunfire when he was stopped by officers.

“I ran away from the sound (of gunshots), looking for safety,” said Bennett in his social media statement.

Bennett made the claims in a tweet

“Las Vegas police officers singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“A police officer ordered me to get on the ground. As I lay on the ground he placed his gun near my head and warned me that if I moved he would ‘blow my f****** head off’. A second officer came over and forcefully jammed his knee into my back, making it difficult for me to breathe.”

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department confirmed they were looking into the incident via social media.

The LVMPD tweeted: “Reference a statement made by Michael Bennett, this case is under investigation. Reserve judgement. We will address this publicly today.”

Media outlet TMZ released a video of the incident, while Bennett, 31, said he had contacted civil rights lawyer John Burris over handling the case.

“It is important to note, Mr Bennett was unarmed, sober and not involved in any altercations or dispute at the time the police officers arrested and threatened to use deadly force against him,” Burris said in a statement.

“The officers’ conduct is particularly outrageous in that there was no basis upon which to select Mr Bennett from a crowd of people all running for their lives. He did nothing wrong.”

A vocal critic of racial injustice, Bennett revealed his fears as he was detained by police.

“I felt helpless as I lay there,” continued Bennett’s statement. “All I could think of was ‘I’m going to die for no other reason than I am black and my skin colour is somehow a threat’.”

Bennett claimed to have been detained in the back of a police car before being released when officers recognised him as an NFL star, not “a thug, common criminal or ordinary black man”.

Bennett has supported fellow NFL star and current free agent Colin Kaepernick after he refused to stand for the national anthem last season.

Kaepernick backed Bennett on social media, tweeting: “This violation that happened against my brother Michael Bennett is disgusting and unjust.

“I stand with Michael and I stand with the people.”

Michael Bennett’s letter in full

Dear World,

On Saturday, August 26, 2017 I was in Las Vegas to attend the Mayweather-McGregor fight on my day off. After the fight while heading back to my hotel several hundred people heard what sounded like gun shots. Like many of the people in the area I ran away from the sound, looking for safety. Las Vegas police officers singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A police officer ordered me to get on the ground. As I laid on the ground, complying with his commands to not move, he placed his gun near my head and warned me that if I move he would “blow my f****** head off.” Terrified and confused by what was taking place, a second officer came over and forcefully jammed his knee into my back making it difficult for me to breathe. They then clinched the handcuffs on my wrists so tight that my fingers went numb.

The officers’ excessive use of force was unbearable. I felt helpless as I lay there on the ground handcuffed facing the real-life threat of being killed. All I could think of was ‘I’m going to die for no other reason than I am black and my skin colour is somehow a threat.’ My life flashed before my eyes as I thought of my girls. Would I ever play with them again? Or watch them have kids? Or be able to kiss my wife again and tell her I love her?

Bennett sits during the national anthem before games

I kept asking the officers “What did I do?” and reminding them that I had rights they were duty bound to respect. The officers ignored my pleas and instead told me to shut up and then took me to the back of a nearby police car where I sat for what felt like an eternity until they apparently realised I was not a thug, common criminal or ordinary black man but Michael Bennett a famous professional football player. After confirming my identity, I was ultimately released without any legitimate justification for the officers’ abusive conduct.

I have always held a strong conviction that protesting or standing up for justice is just simply, the right thing to do. This fact is unequivocally, without question why before every game, I sit during the national anthem – because equality doesn’t live in this country and no matter how much money you make, what job title you have, or how much you give, when you are seen as a ’n*****’, you will be treated that way.

The incident allegedly took place after the Mayweather-McGregor fight

The system failed me. I can only imagine what Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Charleena Lyles felt.

I have retained Oakland Civil Rights Attorney John Burris to investigate and explore all my legal options including filing a civil rights lawsuit for the violation of my constitutional rights.


Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett speaking at a news conferenceImage copyright Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports via reuters
Image caption Michael Bennett is one of the NFL’s most well-known players, having won the Superbowl in 2014

A high-profile NFL star has accused Las Vegas police of excessive force during an incident after a major boxing event.

Michael Bennett, who plays in defence for the Seattle Seahawks, said he ran away from “what sounded like gun shots” after the Mayweather v McGregor fight in Las Vegas on 26 August.

In a statement he alleged he was forced to the ground at gunpoint by police and suggested he was singled out by race.

Bennett has previously publicly protested against racial injustice.

Warning: explicit language

A video of the alleged incident was released by TMZ – a US-based celebrity news website.

The BBC has contacted the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for comment, but has not yet had a response. In a tweet, the police force said the case was under investigation, and that a statement would be made later on Wednesday.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Bennet said: “Las Vegas police officers singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“A police officer ordered me to get on the ground. As I laid on the ground, complying with his commands to not move, he placed his gun near my head and warned me that if I moved he would “blow my fucking head off”.

“Terrified and confused by what was taking place, a second Officer came over and forcefully jammed his knee into my back making it difficult for me to breathe. They then cinched the handcuffs on my wrists so tight that my fingers went numb.

“The Officers’ excessive use of force was unbearable. I felt helpless as I lay there on the ground handcuffed facing the real-life threat of being killed. All I could think of was ‘I’m going to die for no other reason than I am black and my skin color is somehow a threat’.”

Image copyright AlLSPORT/GETTY
Image caption Mr Bennett said the incident happened as he was returning to his hotel after the Mayweather-McGregor fight

Bennett said he was eventually released “without any legitimate justification” after police “realised I was not a thug, common criminal or ordinary black man but Michael Bennett, a famous professional football player.”

He said the police had engaged in “abusive conduct”.

Bennett, 31, is one of the league’s best-known players, and won the Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks in 2014.

In the statement, he also referenced a string of high-profile cases involving African-Americans who had been killed by US police.

He also said he was exploring “all my legal options including filing a civil rights lawsuit for the violation of my constitutional rights”.

Last month, Bennett joined a number of black US football players by sitting during the US national anthem at a pre-season game to protest against racial discrimination.

Image copyright Joe Nicholson, USA today via Reuters
Image caption The 31-year-old refused to stand during the anthem on 25 August

“I just want to see people have the equality that they deserve. And I want to be able to use this platform to continuously push the message of that,” he said last month.

“I’m being vulnerable to show every person that no matter [what] you believe in, keep fighting for it. Keep fighting for equality. Keep fighting for oppressed people. And keep trying to change society.”

He was following the lead of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who divided US public opinion by staging protests during the US national anthem throughout the 2016 season.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour,” Kaepernick explained in a 2016 interview.

Bennett said “most people know why” Colin Kaepernick had been sidelined from the NFL.

Kaepernick labelled Bennett’s treatment as “disgusting and unjust” in a tweet on Thursday.

Both of the player’s tweets have been shared tens of thousands of times.