No amount of weapons can end the Ukraine war, but a peace mindset might

Check out this Op-Ed published in the The Brown Daily Herald by co-founder and co-president of Brown War Watch Babak Hemmatian.

In it he argues that a peace mindset is necessary to minimize the suffering caused by the Ukraine invasion, but it is largely absent in Western discourse about the war, where grandstanding moral frames predominate.

If you are interested in helping spread the message of peace The RI anti war committee vigils every Friday 4-5PM in front of the RI statehouse (mall-side) calling for peace and diplomacy in Ukraine.

Here is the text of the Op-Ed:

In 2017, I co-founded Brown War Watch, a student-led activist group driven by the vision of a more peaceful world. One mechanism for advancing this goal has been to strive for a change in U.S. public discourse, and consequently a less aggressive foreign policy. This strategy is driven by the outsized influence that U.S. opinions and policy have on life across the globe. For instance, I am keenly aware how much an election in the United States affects my loved ones in Iran — far more than their votes in Iran ever would. The war in Ukraine is likewise shaped in no small part by discourse in the United States and the government’s consequent involvement in diplomatic and military efforts. 

My heart breaks for Ukrainian lives that burn in the flames of imperialism, fueled by nationalist rhetoric. What is to be done when a powerful country like Russia ravages a much weaker nation while denying the legitimacy of its very existence? It takes more space than the current piece can afford to even begin to articulate a principled, peace-oriented policy position in response to such a sadly common turn of events, but Brown War Watch’s latest collective attempt at formulating such a position is available on our website. Approaching acts of aggression with a peace-oriented rather than a war-oriented mindset can help make the policy recommendations set forth in our statement a reality. 

The atrocities in Ukraine do not set the war apart from other recent conflicts. The war in Yemen, in which the U.S. has been involved in support of a brutal dictatorship for many years, has shown that no Yemeni weddinghospital or school bus is safe from airstrikes. What sets Ukraine apart is the intense grandstanding of Western framings of the war: a clash of civilizationsa battle for the future of the West or the fight between freedom and tyranny itself. While sacred values that we are reluctant to compromise are invoked to justify nearly all military engagements, the intensity of the current rhetoric is arguably only matched by that surrounding the post-9/11 War on Terror. When conflicts are consistently cast in such extreme and inflexible terms, victory begins to mean achieving submission rather than compromise, barring the path towards peace. In such atmospheres, dehumanization takes hold, reflected for instance in professional repercussions for Russians who have even condemned the war and its atrocities. It is this totalist mindset that prompted Ukraine’s finance minister, for instance, to wish suffering on every ordinary Russian — as if within a political system that is shedding any last veneers of democracy they had any say in the war. 

I was born less than two years after the culmination of Iran and Iraq’s disastrous eight-year war. I have seen firsthand the results of sacred, civilization-defining framing of conflicts. Iraqi depictions of the war considered Iranians Zoroastrians disguised as Muslims, suggesting its invasion of Iran was a war of necessity waged by the Islamic world against an incompatible, aggressive culture. Partly through the success of his ideological framing of the conflict, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein garnered massive military support from both the Soviet Union and the United States. Iran in turn named the war The Holy Defense, suggesting that Iranian national and religious identity was at stake. Such frames extended the war for six more painful years once Iraqi forces  retreated from Iranian lands, past the point at which any pragmatic considerations could justify its continuation and until both sides were broken and unable to continue with hostilities. Judging from recent Russian and Ukrainian statements, I fear the gruesome Ukraine war will proceed in a similar manner, lasting far longer than even the involved parties expect. The Iran-Iraq war facilitated Iran’s metamorphosis from a budding democracy into an authoritarian regime, a shift that proved irreversible and the effects of which haunt Iranians to this day. I am afraid I see the same happening not only in Russia, but also in Ukraine, where the government recently banned 11 opposition parties and is aiming to consolidate mass media. 

Even if total victory were possible in a war waged between a major world power and a country heavily supported by a superpower and its allies, can we truly believe that the resulting peace would be lasting? The humiliation such endings inflict on the loser threaten to bring about further, more vicious rounds of violence, sometimes generations later, unless proper reconciliation occurs. Consider how the terms decided at the end of World War I set the stage for World War II, or how the continued U.S. occupation of Afghanistan after the Taliban had offered to surrender in 2001 led to the latter’s victory twenty years later.

I therefore invite us to ask ourselves if moral grandstanding is in the interests of Ukrainians, whose ravaged lands have become testing grounds for all manners of weapons, training grounds for unsavory extremist groups and the source of millions of refugees. Should the goal not be peace as soon as possible, rather than pummeling one side into submission? If lasting peace is the goal, I have difficulty seeing it in mainstream media. 

Instead of being whipped into a frenzy by the civilizational narratives and overly moralized war cries of commentators, politicians and war profiteers who support them, we should keep the supreme goal of this moment in mind: ending the war as soon as possible to minimize the incredible suffering that it engenders. That means earnestly negotiating with those whose actions we abhor, making difficult geopolitical compromises, not dehumanizing people based on nationality and not preventing those who live amongst us from engaging in professional activities. No amount of weapons poured into Ukraine can sustainably stem the tides of hatred and blood, but with a peace-oriented mindset, the horrors inflicted by Russia’s invasion may end more swiftly.

Babak Hemmatian can be reached at babak_hemmatian@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.



POSTPONED: Chelsea Manning at Brown: March 23-24

UPDATE:

Dear peace lovers,

Regrettably and due to unforeseen circumstances Chelsea Manning will not be able to travel to Brown University for her much anticipated keynote address and associated events on March 23rd and 24th, 2022.Unfortunately we are cancelling all events scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

We apologize for any inconveniences that may have arisen from this scheduling change. We look forward to hosting Chelsea early in the Fall semester and hope you will join us then! We will update the community on the confirmed dates of her visit in the coming months.

Brown War Watch


Brown War Watch is excited to welcome to Brown’s campus the famed technologist and transgender political activist Chelsea Manning for a series of free events on March 23-24, with a keynote speech titled “The Future of Privacy and Data”, followed by smaller meet-and-greets. See the attached posters for details and ways to contact us with questions or concerns about the events. Physical space at the meet-and-greet events are limited, so please reach out as soon as possible for your seat.

The events are open to the Brown university community (Brown ID required) or by invitation to broader community members.

The main event:

Get your FREE tickets HERE or use the QR code on the poster below.

About this event

This event is exclusively for the Brown university community; Brown ID or personal invitation required.

Brown War Watch is honored to present to you The Future of Privacy and Data, a talk by Chelsea Manning.

Doors will open at 4:15 , Doors close at 5:00 pm so so please try to be early!

No photography or weapons permitted at the event

Intro:

Chelsea E. Manning is a technologist and network security expert whose actions showed the world that the conscience of individuals can make urgent change through bravery and determination. She speaks on the social, technological, and economic ramifications of Artificial Intelligence, and on the practical applications of machine learning. She is a vocal advocate for government transparency and queer and transgender rights as @xychelsea on Twitter and through her op-ed columns for The Guardian and The New York Times.

History:

Chelsea E. Manning worked as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense where she publicly disclosed classified documents that revealed human rights abuses and corruption connected to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon being sentenced to 35 years for unauthorized disclosure of government documents—an unprecedented amount of time for the charges alleged—she publicly identified as a trans woman and asserted her legal rights to medical therapy. After serving 7 years in military prison, President Barack Obama commuted her sentence to time served. She was released in 2017. After release in 2017, she ran in the 2018 Maryland state senatorial primary, receiving the second highest number of Democratic votes (just over 6%). In 2019, she was the subject of the documentary film XY Chelsea. In March 2019, she refused to testify before a federal grand jury on ethical grounds. She was jailed for a year and forced to pay a civil fine of $256,000. In 2021, Manning worked as a security consultant for Nymtech, a privacy oriented technology project, before transitioning to an employee for Nym as a hardware optimization and security advisor.

Abstract:

Chelsea E. Manning shares her insights on the paradox presented by rapid advances in technology: On the one hand, we have greater access to information, connection, entertainment, and innovation in the fields of communication, and healthcare than we have ever had before, and this capacity is only growing. On the other hand, technological advances can and have been used to surveil, control, anticipate, and sometimes even kill. This capacity too, is growing. The wild diversity of cultures, languages, lifestyles, and relationships that are so often cited as some of the miraculous outcomes of our connectivity is also shrinking due to these same advances. Here, we think about statistical “nudges” in big data algorithms that create gender, racial, ethnic, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious, political and other biases across large swaths of the online population, intensifying polarization. We think about the heavy focus on precision targeting swing voters in the political realm. In short, no technology is neutral, and internal biases necessarily shape the outcome of technological change. Real people in real places in real time are affected – sometimes on an immense scale. Manning discusses the importance of the human element in development of technology and the imperative to operate with responsibility, accountability, and a strong moral compass, for the sake of not only our privacy, but for the future of humanity, which may very well depend on it.

This event was made possible by lots of co-sponsors. Big thanks to all of the following who made this event possible:

  • Brown University History Department
  • Brown University Math Department
  • COGUT Center
  • Data Science Initiative
  • oSTEM
  • Pembroke Center
  • Political Theory Project
  • Watson Institute


The activist meet and greet:

BWW statement on Ukraine


We at Brown War Watch condemn warmongering in any shape or form.

We strongly oppose the Russian invasion of Ukraine which is driven by odious nationalistic and imperialistic ambitions, and shows disregard for the lives, livelihoods and aspirations of the Ukrainian people. The horrific human costs of the war are already apparent and will only grow more grim with every day of war; the animosity it engenders will poison the region and the international policy arena for the foreseeable future and accelerate war profiteering, the climate crisis, and the gross misallocation of resources toward human suffering and away from human uplift.

We call on the Russian government to agree to an immediate ceasefire and retreat from the occupied Ukrainian territories, while also committing to serious diplomatic negotiations about the underlying tensions. We decry President Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons and castigate the use of weapons that break the Geneva conventions and cause horrific human suffering. We revere the courage of Russian anti-war protestors and activists and hope a wave of Russian citizens may be inspired by them, and act with them.

Our heart breaks for the millions of war refugees created by this unjust act of aggression, and we denounce in the strongest terms the racist treatment of refugees at the Ukrainian border. We call on all countries to welcome and support refugees from this and all conflicts across the globe regardless of their race or religion. We denounce the embedded racism in the media’s coverage of this conflict, and its perpetual willingness to ignore serious and ongoing conflicts and oppressions across the globe because of this deep-rooted racism.

Wars do not happen in a historical and international relations vacuum. We oppose the long-standing bellicosity of US foreign policy toward Russia, including their support for the overthrow of the Ukrainian government in 2014. We oppose the steady and relentless expansion of NATO toward the Russian borders despite the successive generations of statesmen assuring Russia this would not happen. We urge the United States and its partners to show a serious commitment to non-intervention in Ukrainian affairs, so that a peaceful resolution to the crisis may prevent the loss of more lives to violence. The United States must lead a path of de-escalation.

Preventing the wasteful escalation of a new Cold War, with Ukraine as a pawn and proxy war, must be an international priority. Given the urgency of the climate crisis we face and the ongoing global pandemic we have not a moment to lose. Brown War Watch urges everyone to work for peace.

Stop the War in Yemen protest (March 1st)

At the same time the tragic violence in Ukraine wages as a result of the violent imperialism of both Russia and the US, we are coming up on a national day of action regarding Yemen (March 1st), a humanitarian catastrophe not to be forgotten. Please stay tuned the next couple days for announcements on upcoming actions regarding Ukraine.

END US/SAUDI WAR ON YEMEN

Dear Rhode Island-Area Peace Activists,

Please join us on Tuesday March 1 from 2:00 to 3:00 pm at Raytheon’s facility at 1847 West Main Road in Portsmouth, RI 02871 as part of a national call to protest the U.S.- enabled bombing and blockade of Yemen.

And help end the U.S, supported war on Yemen by insisting that our Congressmen support a war powers resolution for Yemen.  Two members of Congress will introduce a war powers amendment.  They explain why and describe current conditions in Yemen here

After seven years of war in Yemen, hundreds of thousands of civilians have died, 2 million children are suffering from acute malnutrition, and a blockade is preventing fuel, food, aid and medical supplies from reaching the Yemeni people. The US has been providing maintenance and logistical support for the Saudi coalition’s airstrikes which have not only targeted vital civilian infrastructure including hospitals, food depots, dams, and communication centers but large gatherings like weddings and funerals.  Since Congress greenlighted the sale of weapons to the Saudis and UAE in late 2021 the bombing has risen to its highest rate since the first few months of the war.  President Biden promised that the US would end its support for the Saudi coalition’s war on Yemen on Feb. 4, 2021, but he has not fulfilled that promise. 

A war powers resolution for Yemen, like the one that bi-partisan majorities passed in both the House and Senate in 2019 (but was blocked by Trump’s veto), can put a stop to US complicity in the world’s largest humanitarian disaster and Saudi coalition war crimes against civilians.

You can help in many ways:

1)  Join us at Raytheon on March 1.  Bring signs calling for Congressmen Cicilline and Langevin to co-sponsor a war powers resolution for Yemen or calling for an end to the bombing or an end to the blockade. Raytheon bombs have been used in many of the attacks on civilian targets, Raytheon has played an integral part in lobbying for more arms sales both with Congress and within the executive branch and their executives have, at times, lauded how the war is good for business.  Signs addressing that would also be appropriate.

2) E-mail your Congressmen using this link

3) Call your Congressman and both our Senators by using this link and following the instructions you find there.  A short script is provided to help you make your calls.  

Please see the attached note linked below on parking near Raytheon which contains important safety and logistical information.

This will be a peaceful demonstration.  We intend to respect ourselves, others and our community while forcefully advocating that our elected officials stand up to end US participation in the war.  And we do need to remind the community that military weapons manufacturers are providing the bombs and missiles that are killing Yemeni civilians every day and that their complicity in violence against innocent people must not be forgotten or ignored. 

This call is being put out by an ad-hoc coalition of local people, including:

Nancy Hood, East Bay Citizens for Peace
Jonathan Daly-Labelle, No Endless War or Excessive Militarism
William Smith,  III, Pax Christi-RI
Nancy Houston, FCNL
Tyler Barnes-Diana, Brown War Watch
David Oppenheimer

For inquiries, please contact David Oppenheimer at oppyman@gmail.com or 401-527-1851 or riadvocacyteam@gmail.com

For more on Raytheon and Yemen check out these links:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/16/us/arms-deals-raytheon-yemen.html   
https://masspeaceaction.org/yemen-crisis-linked-to-weapons-maker-raytheons-influence-on-us-foreign-policy/
https://inthesetimes.com/features/us-saudi-arabia-yemen-war-arms-sales.html

PARKING – If you want to attend please check out this section!

  • Rt. 144 (West Main Rd.) in Portsmouth is a heavily travelled road and vehicles drive fast. Cross the road only at the pedestrian crossing. 
  • The entrance to Raytheon is a turn to the west at a traffic light on Rt 144 There is a guard-house set back about 30 yards. Beyond the guard-house (besides Raytheon) are the Newport Car Museum (large parking lot to the left), an indoor golf place, and a credit union. All these are open to the public.
  • Parking Option #1: In theory we could go to the guard, say we’re going in to the Car Museum, park, and walk back past the guard to the grassy edge of Rt. 114 for our demonstration. However, the guard might not let us walk back into the area to retrieve our car after the demo.  I haven’t yet tried that one. 
  • Parking Option #2: Turn to the east at the traffic light into the entrance to the BoysTown complex. There is room for several cars on the grassy edge of the driveway. Police have allowed us to park there, but there is not room for lots of vehicles. 
  • Parking Option #3: South of the Raytheon entrance, there is a gravel lot on the east side of Rt. 114 which appears to be a Town public works area.  There is a lot of room to park, however we would need to walk back about 300 yards to the light and pedestrian crossing. 
  • If you’re carpooling, there is room to pull into the Raytheon entrance, stop before the guardhouse and let passengers out, then make a U-turn, go back onto Rt 114 to park either at BoysTown or at the gravel lot. 


No war with Russia Rally 1pm Saturday Feb 5th at the RI statehouse (mallside)

Hello fellow peace lovers!

As tensions mount with Russia over Ukraine, and the US plans to ramp up military assistance to Ukraine we alongside many other activist groups will be outside the RI statehouse (mall side) this Saturday at 1pm. 

Also be sure to check out the flyer below, where you can find the numbers of the RI congressional delegation if you’d like to call and demand they don’t support additional military assistance to Ukraine, and check out the codepink petition as well. 

Check out the facebook event page as well to keep up with updates should they come up.

BWW Discussion Meeting: Thursday December 2nd

This Thursday December the 2nd at 7pm (via zoom) Brown War Watch welcomes to our discussion of the coup in Sudan Marine Alneel, Mental Health Professional, and social and political activist, founder and President of Afia Institute for Community and Psychological Wellness Services and Studies. If you have any questions or would like the Zoom address please write to us at brownwarwatch@brown.edu

Marine is a Sudanese national living in New York who has been part of the protests in Sudan to establish civilian rule for years. In 2019, she was interviewed by Hassan Minhaj as part of the Netflix show Patriot Act, discussing her experiences and predictions for the future of the movement.

Since then, much progress was made until a recent coup undermined the transition to civilian rule and cast the future of Sudan into uncertainty once more. With internet and media blackout engulfing the country, it is difficult to find reliable information about the current state of affairs. Therefore, we are excited to receive up-to-date information from Marine and learn more about how we may aid the revolutionaries in Sudan by amplifying the voices of Neighborhood Resistance Committees.

The video linked above provides helpful information about the background of the protests until 2019. For more in depth overviews of the history as well as the more recent events, please see the following articles: 

https://africanarguments.org/2021/11/creatures-of-the-deposed-connecting-sudans-rural-and-urban-struggles/

https://longreads.tni.org/why-it-hasnt-fallen-yet-lessons-from-the-sudanese-revolution



BWW FALL SEMESTER INFORMATION

Brown War Watch meets every Thursday night at 7pm for the Fall Semester.

We alternate weekly meetings between in-person, where we meet in Brown Campus Room BioMed 212, and online meetings (via Zoom). If you have any questions about our weekly meeting, or would like the Zoom address please write to us at brownwarwatch at brown dot edu .

UPCOMING BWW DISCUSSANTS:

Brown War Watch is honored to host the following experts in discussion:

THURSDAY NOV 4th 7pm (VIRTUAL): BWW hosts Costs of War Co-Director Dr Stephanie Savell. Dr Savell joins us to discuss the ongoing and devastating War on Terror in Africa with a focus on the Sahel region, and Burkina Faso specifically, where she has recently completed field research.

MONDAY NOV 15th 12 noon (VIRTUAL): BWW hosts Associate Professor Ieva Jusionyte of the Watson Institute. Dr Jusionyte joins us to discuss violence at the Mexican Border, as well as her current research project on the circulation of firearms between the US and Mexico.

WE HOPE YOU WILL JOIN US FOR THESE COMPELLING AND URGENTLY CONTEMPORARY DISCUSSIONS!

BWW Discussion Meeting: Thursday October 7th



Brown War Watch will meet online this Thursday evening at 7pm to discuss ongoing conflicts, developments in the military industrial complex, tension amongst superpowers, and pathways to peace.

All political and spiritual beliefs welcome, united in the quest for a more peaceful planet. End the Endless Wars!

Please email brownwarwatch@brown.edu for the Zoom link.

Also please note the time change! Our discussion meetings will be 7PM this semester!

THIS WEEK’S DISCUSSION: US military industrial complex

We will be joined this week by special guest Christian Sorenson.

Christian will be speaking about his new work on how US military corporations foster and encourage the development of myriad fascisms, fascistic structures and processes in American society. As always – there will be lots of time for Q & A. 

Christian is a preeminent expert and reporter on the Military Industrial Complex, Brown & BWW alum, and military veteran. He is the author of the recently published “Understanding the War Industry,” by Clarity Press.

His work can be found at https://warindustrymuster.com .You’ll recall the robust and enlightening discussion that ensued the last time Christian joined us – we hope you can make it to the discussion Thursday night for his return!:crossed_fingers:

BWW Discussion Meeting: Thursday September 23rd



Brown War Watch will meet online this Thursday evening at 8pm to discuss ongoing conflicts, developments in the military industrial complex, tension amongst superpowers, and pathways to peace.

All political and spiritual beliefs welcome, united in the quest for a more peaceful planet. End the Endless Wars!

Please email brownwarwatch@brown.edu for the Zoom link.

THIS WEEK’S DISCUSSION: Nuclear

So much to talk about, here is some of the stuff we’ve been looking

Nuclear Modernization:

On the costs of nuclear modernization (a bit sanitized but has some useful info):
https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/USNuclearModernization

https://thebulletin.org/2021/02/why-is-america-getting-a-new-100-billion-nuclear-weapon/

The nuclear club – who’s in it and who is not:

The world’s nuclear arsenal:
https://www.icanw.org/nuclear_arsenals

On Iran: Iran nuclear program timeline (similarly sanitized but has useful info):
https://kesq.com/news/2021/09/22/irans-nuclear-capabilities-fast-facts-2/

Why doesn’t the US want Iran to have nukes?
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/oct/02/iran-nukes-deterrence (the real reasons)
https://www.adl.org/resources/fact-sheets/the-iranian-nuclear-threat-why-it-matters (the mainstream narrative if you can stomach an ADL piece)

Israel/Iran tensions (related to what I think is the real reason the US won’t let Iran have nukes, they don’t want Iran to be protected from attack by the US or Israel):
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/20/world/middleeast/iran-israeli-attacks.html
https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-business-iran-middle-east-united-nations-16666e8d97ed6e4571ae6d01785c00fc



US recklessness/Broken Arrows:

US “Broken arrow” incidents:
https://www.atomicarchive.com/almanac/broken-arrows/index.html

Historic and Ongoing Environmental and Human Destruction:
https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2020-07-01/us-says-nuclear-waste-safe-marshall-islands-runit-dome
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QcFRHk8ZOU&t=1s

The UN ban of nuclear weapons:
https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/tpnw/

Online Resources on the Nuclear Issue:
https://isis-online.org
https://www.ctbto.org/nuclear-testing/history-of-nuclear-testing/world-overview
https://www.icanw.org
https://www.wjperryproject.org

Nuclear Arms Race – China & Russia (especially the quest for “small” or “low-yield” nuclear warheads:
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/26/us/politics/china-nuclear-weapons.html?referringSource=articleShare
https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/561786-why-nuclear-arms-control-is-dead?rl=1
https://www.npr.org/2019/01/28/689510716/trump-administration-begins-production-of-a-new-nuclear-weapon
A bit more historical: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLCF7vPanrY
Russia: https://carnegieendowment.org/2020/01/29/russia-is-updating-their-nuclear-weapons-what-does-that-mean-for-rest-of-us-pub-80895