How Norway Avoided Becoming a Fascist State by George Lakey — YES! Magazine
Donald Trump’s obvious affection for authoritarians is prompting worried comparisons of our polarized country to the polarized Germany of the 1920s and ’30s. Since I’m known to see in polarization both crisis and opportunity, my friends are asking me these days about Hitler, the worst-case scenario.
I grant the possibility of the United States going fascist, but argue that will not happen if we choose the practical steps taken by progressive Nordic social movements when they faced dangerous polarization. Consider the Norwegians, who experienced extreme polarization at the same time as the Germans did.
The Norwegian economic elite organized against striking laborers and produced a polarized country that included both Nazi Brown Shirts goose-stepping in the streets and Norwegian Communists agitating to overthrow capitalism. Many Norwegians were flattered by the Nazi belief that the tall, blue-eyed blonde was the pinnacle of human development. Others vehemently denounced the racism underlying such beliefs.
The politician Vidkun Quisling, an admirer of Hitler, organized in 1933 a Nazi party, and its uniformed paramilitary wing sought to provoke violent clashes with leftist students. But progressive movements of farmers and workers, joined by middle class allies, launched nonviolent direct action campaigns that made the country increasingly un-governable by the economic elite.
Quisling reportedly held discussions with military officers about a possible coup d’etat. The stage was set for a fascist “solution.”
Instead, Norway broke through to a social democracy. The majority forced the economic elite to take a back seat and invented a new economy with arguably the most equality, individual freedom, and shared abundance the developed world has known.
The key to avoiding fascism? An organized left with a strong vision and broad support.
The key to avoiding fascism? An organized left with a strong vision and broad support.
In some ways Norway and Germany were similar: predominantly Christian, racially homogeneous, and suffering hugely in the Great Depression. But Germany’s workers movement failed to make common cause with family farmers, unlike Norway’s alliance. The German left was also split terribly within itself: Communist vs. Social Democratic.
The split was over vision for the new society. One side demanded abolition of capitalism, and the other side proposed partial accommodation. They were unwilling to compromise, and then, when the Social Democrats took power, armed rebellion and bloody repression followed. The result was the Third Reich.
Meanwhile in Norway, the Norwegian Workers’ Party crafted a vision that seemed both radical and reasonable and won majority support for their view despite the dissent of a very small Communist Party. Grassroots movements built a large infrastructure of co-ops that showed their competency and positivity when the government and political conservatives lacked both. Additionally, activists reached beyond the choir, inviting participation from people who initially feared making large changes.
Norwegians also took a different attitude toward violence. They chose nonviolent direct action campaigns consisting of strikes, boycotts, demonstrations, and occupations—a far less fearsome picture than Nazi Brown Shirts and street fighting. Norway therefore lacked the dangerous chaos that in Germany led the middle classes to accept the elite’s choice of Hitler to bring “law and order.”
The Norwegian set of strategies—vision, co-ops, outreach, and nonviolent direct action campaigns—is within the American skill set.
The Movement for Black Lives recently proposed a new vision for the United States that is attracting attention for the scope of its agenda, its commitment to inclusion, and fresh strategic thinking. The Black Lives movement showed its commitment to coalition-building when it gathered in solidarity at Standing Rock this fall, connecting two massive progressive movements. Standing Rock showed the world march by march how nonviolent direct action campaigns win hearts and minds. And Bernie Sanders’ gift to electoral politics is an inspired, energized, unified movement built around the desire for economic equality and opportunity. He pulled people from the right as well as the left. The election is spurring many more people to be involved in struggle, and infrastructure like co-ops are prospering. Polarization is nothing to despair over. It’s just a signal that it’s time for progressives to start organizing.
Hello friends, community members, activists, social justice and environmental groups, service organizations, people of faith, families and students,
Below is the Facebook event page:
And an event webpage for those that don’t use social media:
Hiroshima Day, August 6, 2016 at Riverfront Park, Corvallis
I am so grateful to the organizers and all of you for allowing me to share this space with you.
As a historian of science at Oregon State I research the intersection between human rights, radiation exposure and nuclear history, but my life’s goal is to see global nuclear disarmament before I die. I hope all of you here will help me, because sometimes it seems we are moving farther and farther away from what we need to do to get there.
But I know in my heart it is what we must do to survive climate change and create a world we all want to live in, where resources are used for human needs and sustainability, not preparing for war and destroying the planet in the process.
Unbeknownst to many Americans we are standing at the precipice of a $1 trillion dollar modernizing plan for nuclear weapons with new air, sea and land delivery systems. We are in a new nuclear arms race and these weapons are still on hair trigger alert. It is important to inform each other as this news is not being well televised. This year the leadership of Senators Wyden and Merkley to cut some of this nuclear weapons budget might make a real difference, and I want to encourage all of you here to write letters to the editor and to them and to do what you can to support disarmament.
Another thing many Americans are not aware of is the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons based on their catastrophic humanitarian threat. A new nuclear weapons ban has international momentum. When I saw the ban introduced to the NonProliferation Treaty Prep Com in 2012 in Vienna there were only a handful of countries that endorsed it. Now there are over 127 countries and 440 non-governmental organizations working at the UN to ban nuclear weapons.
The need for the ban is due to the lack of progress by nuclear weapons states to reduce their arsenals to absolute zero, as previously agreed in the Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968. To learn more about what you do to support a nuclear weapons ban see the website ICANW.org and sign up for their newsletter.
Learning more and sharing peace literacy and nonviolence is imperative to create a more just world. This year at OSU there will be a year of peace literacy events including Paul Chappell, a veteran who teaches ways to wage peace, who will be speaking on campus November 16.
We all must learn more, and we must help our neighbors and politicians see as clearly as Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King saw a continuum of violence, as he explained in his Nobel Peace Prize lecture of 1964. For him, nuclear weapons were intimately connected to injustice and poverty. Resources going to nuclear weapons and war creates poverty and injustice, compounded by deficits in education and peace literacy as resources are diverted from what humans need to thrive.
And then there is the question of leadership. What does it mean to lead with nuclear arms?
Vice President Jo Biden implored this summer that it is time for “profound introspection and dialogue” about violence in America in the wake of the Orlando shootings, disproportionate police killings of African Americans and the murders of Dallas police officers. Where does our countries own leadership with nuclear weapons fit in the conversation about violence? What does it mean when the country that you love can destroy the world, several times over?
Two weeks ago I visited one of our three new National Parks, the Hanford B-Reactor. In 2014 the US created the Manhattan Project National Historic Park. The park is composed of the B-Reactor and two additional sites so far, Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Oak Ridge Tennessee. The B-Reactor is about five hours northeast of us, near Richland Washington.
The B-Reactor created the plutonium used for the Nagasaki bomb.
Because of creating plutonium, Hanford is one of the most contaminated places in the world, with a 150 billion dollar intergenerational cleanup effort. I call it a nukescape. I cannot possibly list all of the human rights violations that have been involved with nuclear weapons, extending from the bombings to the uranium miners, atomic soldiers, human radiation experiments and those contaminated and neglected by the nonsensical quest for nuclear security, but I mourn for all these wrongs done in my name here today.
My precious friend Hideko Tamura Snider on this day seventy-one years ago lost her mother, her best friend, her best friend’s mother, her cousin Hideyuki, other relatives and the entire city she knew and loved. Hideko is one of only 120 surviving American Hiroshima victims. She is in despair over these new Manhattan Project parks.
She wonders what this enshrinement of the places that created the bombs used to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki means about our country. It seems we have an obsession with erasing our own nation’s history of violence from the many genocides of indigenous people as I stand and speak on Kalapuya land to genocidal weapons. We must without distortion face history to repair our relationships with each other and the earth.
Hideko spoke here at OSU this past fall. She gave an amazing message of resilience. In so many words, she explained she had survived an atomic bomb, losing her loved ones and her whole world. Dig deep within yourselves, she said, not only can we work together to ban nuclear weapons, but we can survive the things that seem like we cannot survive them. She will be sharing her survivor story on Tuesday evening in Portland on Nagasaki day at Waterfront Park.
Tonight I am very honored to share with you her poem One Sunny Day, but before I do I want to set the stage. The night before the Hiroshima bombing, Hideko had just returned from the country. She was only ten years old. During the war many Japanese children were sent out of the cities away from their families to rural areas to be safer during the war. She was so happy to be back at home the morning of August 6.
Douglas Gillison, Nick Turse, Moiz Syed
July 13, 2016
Leaked Data Reveals How the U.S. Trains Vast Numbers of Foreign Soldiers and Police With Little Oversight
U.S. Special Forces members advise and assist soldiers assigned to the Belize Special Assignment Group during a marksmanship range exercise near Belize City, Belize, April 12, 2010., U.S. Department of Defense,
At 9:30 a.m. on a gray winter Monday, the State Department officials began certifying the names at a rate of one every two minutes and 23 seconds.
In rapid succession, they confirmed that 204 police officers, soldiers, sailors, and airmen from 11 countries had committed no gross human rights violations and cleared them to attend one of more than 50 training efforts sponsored by the U.S. government. The programs were taking place at a wide variety of locations, from Italy, Albania, and Jordan to the states of Louisiana and Minnesota.
Thirty-two Egyptians were approved for instruction in, among other things, Apache helicopter gunship maintenance and flight simulators for the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. Azerbaijanis were cleared for a U.S. Army course on identifying bio-warfare agents in Maryland and underwater demolition training with Navy SEALs in San Diego. Thirty-three Iraqis were certified to attend a State Department training session for bodyguards, held in Jordan. Bosnians were bound for Macedonia to prepare for deployment to Afghanistan. Ukrainian police were selected for peacekeeping training in Italy. Romanians would study naval operations in Rhode Island and counterterrorism in Skopje.
This was only the beginning of one day’s work of vetting security personnel for U.S. training. A joint investigation by The Intercept and 100Reporters reveals the chaotic and largely unknown details of a vast constellation of global training exercises, operations, facilities, and schools — a shadowy network of U.S. programs that every year provides instruction and assistance to approximately 200,000 foreign soldiers, police, and other personnel. The investigation exposes the geographic and political contours of a U.S. training system that has, until now, largely defied thorough description.
The data show training at no fewer than 471 locations in 120 countries — on every continent but Antarctica — involving, on the U.S. side, 150 defense agencies, civilian agencies, armed forces colleges, defense training centers, military units, private companies, and NGOs, as well as the National Guard forces of five states. Despite the fact that the Department of Defense alone has poured some $122 billion into such programs since 9/11, the breadth and content of this training network remain virtually unknown to most Americans.
The contours of this sprawling system were discovered by analyzing 6,176 diplomatic cables that were released by WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011. While the scope of the training network may come as a surprise, the most astounding fact may be that it is even larger than the available data show, because the WikiLeaks cables are not comprehensive. They contain, for example, little information on training efforts in Colombia, the single-largest recipient of U.S. training covered by the human rights vetting process that produced these records. Other large recipients of U.S. security assistance, such as Pakistan, are vastly underrepresented in the cables for reasons that remain unclear.
“What you have stumbled across is a systematic lack of strategic thinking, a systematic lack of evaluation, but a massive commitment of people and money and time in a growing number of countries,” said Gordon Adams, formerly a senior White House official for national security and foreign policy budgets. “I think the word ‘system’ is a misnomer. This is a headless system,” he said.
The investigation raises serious questions about U.S. government oversight, safeguards, and accountability. The investigation found:
• A global training network without any coherent strategy, carried out by scores of agencies and offices with no effective oversight, centralized planning, or a clear statement of objectives.
A Rand Corp. analysis from 2013 found that the Pentagon alone has 71 different authorities under which it provides foreign aid as a means of “building partner capacity,” or BPC — part of a system that the report criticized as akin to “a tangled web, with holes, overlaps, and confusions.” The Pentagon, for example, maintains no master list of the people it trains nor does it keep aggregate figures.
“The way we do security cooperation has been a patchwork that we’ve added to over and over,” said Rachel Kleinfeld, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former member of the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board. “There are more than 180 authorities and scores of agencies working in these areas, and the way it has evolved over time has made it absolutely impossible for anyone to know what’s going on. … There really is no oversight.”
Details on the U.S. government’s training programs have long been lacking. In 2012, the Obama administration submitted a one-time report to Congress on foreign police training that covered just two fiscal years — and it was never made public. Annual disclosures by the State Department about foreign military training programs cover many volumes but are often vague and difficult to analyze, with information frequently missing or reported inconsistently.
The diplomatic cables that were mined for this investigation were written between December 1999 and February 2010 and were among a far larger batch of documents leaked by Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning; a military court subsequently sentenced Manning to 35 years in prison. The cables provide the identities of nearly 60,000 trainees and units from 129 countries (today, the number stands at more than 150 countries) who were selected by U.S. government entities as varied as the FBI, the Defense Department Fire Academy, the Patent and Trademark Office, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the National Park Service. Only some of the cables contained enough information to appear on the accompanying map, which depicts the planned movements of just under 39,300 people and units between 2003 and 2010.
The cables also reveal that more than two-thirds of the State Department’s vetting approvals were granted for training programs carried out overseas rather than in the United States. Domestically, training was conducted in 39 U.S. states as well as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the District of Columbia. At least 57 domestic Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps bases were involved in these domestic training efforts. Additional research by The Intercept and 100Reporters indicates that little has changed in the years since the cables were released; the global U.S. training system remains sprawling, opaque, and in disarray.
William Hartung, a senior adviser to the Security Assistance Monitor, which tracks American military aid around the globe, said the scale of the training efforts was “just mind boggling.”
“It’s sort of a question of, ‘Where aren’t we training people?’” he said. “It’s hard to imagine any other country in the world being in a position to do all this and to do it with so little scrutiny.”
A soldier of the Iraqi army’s 16th Division kicks in a door during a training exercise at Besmaya Range Complex, Iraq, March 21, 2015. Photo: U.S. Army Central
The WikiLeaks cables examined in this investigation were written to comply with the so-called Leahy Law — a vetting process meant to weed out foreign trainees or units implicated in “gross human rights violations.” While the Leahy Law has prevented some aid from reaching units in countries like Pakistan and Indonesia, it has been routinely criticized as ineffective and filled with loopholes that are used to circumvent the law’s intent. Its implementation has also been hobbled by a lack of funding. As Lora Lumpe, a senior policy analyst at the Open Society Foundations, has observed, the State Department office that controls the Leahy vetting operated on a budget of just $2.75 million in 2014, while the security projects it oversaw were worth as much as $15 billion. The number of cases it vetted in 2015 was astounding — 191,899. The total number of individuals trained is certainly higher: According to the State Department, a single case can comprise thousands of individuals.
“When you say we have to look at every individual and every unit and you actually have to do the vetting, you get far too many people who are technically vetted, but who we actually know very little about,” said Kleinfeld of the Carnegie Endowment. “So you build a haystack where you’re looking for a needle. And as you build that haystack, the vetting necessarily becomes worse.”
Questions about the vetting process are accompanied by concerns about the effectiveness of the training programs. Last year, a $500 million Pentagon effort to train and equip Syrian rebels, slated to produce 15,000 fighters over three years, yielded just a few dozen before being scrapped by the Obama administration. A 13-year effort in Afghanistan has resulted in an army filled with “ghost” soldiers, wracked by desertions and continuing to suffer setbacks and lose territory to a relatively unpopular insurgency. And then there was the spectacular collapse of the Iraqi army in 2014 to the much smaller forces of the Islamic State (though the territory lost at the time is beginning to be won back).
These failures call into question whether these far-flung programs “can ever achieve their desired effects,” according to a 2015 report by the Congressional Research Service. “Despite the increasing emphasis on, and centrality of, BPC in national security strategy and military operations, the assumption that building foreign security forces will have tangible U.S. national security benefits remains a relatively untested proposition.”
A 2015 report by the Center for a New American Security similarly concluded that many “security assistance and cooperation interventions fail to accomplish U.S. objectives as a result of both strategic and structural deficiencies.” It found that training goals are often poorly articulated and sometimes in conflict with each other. In 2013, a State Department advisory panel also found that American security aid had no coherent system of planning or evaluation and no overall strategy. It compared the “baffling” array of federal funding sources to “a philanthropic grant-making process by an assemblage of different foundations with different agendas.”
That year, the Obama administration attempted to bring order to foreign security assistance through a directive that, according to the Congressional Research Service, calls on national security agencies “to improve, streamline, and better organize” all American international security assistance and cooperation. According to the National Security Council, the administration directed the State Department to “synchronize” foreign security aid programs. The State Department, in response, has said it “continues to play a leadership role” in carrying out the still-unpublished 2013 directive, but the results have been murky and basic information from various agencies is still lacking. The Department of Justice, for example, said it does not track foreign training at the department-wide level.
The failure of the State and Justice departments to meaningfully manage and track their training programs is mirrored by similar deficiencies at the Department of Defense. Despite its claims that programs are “closely overseen,” the Pentagon can’t even say how many foreign troops it mentors. According to Lt. Col. Joe Sowers, a Department of Defense spokesperson, “Because training is provided through multiple authorities, appropriations accounts, and geographic combatant commands, there is currently no single database that provides a total figure for the number of foreign security forces trained.”
Kleinfeld, from the Carnegie Endowment, describes the situation as a strategic failure. “No one knows how many people are being trained because of the lack of centralization — because State does some training, National Guard does some, the FBI, the DOD,” she said. “No one has any idea what’s going on.”
This story was co-published with 100Reporters as part of its series investigating chronic failures in the U.S. training of foreign police and military personnel.
Story by Douglas Gillison and Nick Turse. Data visualization by Moiz Syed.
Research: Lewam Dejen, Aishvarya Kavi, Chloee Weiner, and Drew Williams of 100Reporters.