Thursday, January 14, 2016

Another Look at Building 7




Another Look at Building 7
Winslow Myers
The shock of President Kennedy’s assassination back in 1963 on my impressionable 21 year old mind led me to the usual articles, fictional films, and documentaries about who did it and why. Did Oswald act alone? Was there something on the grassy knoll? More than 50 years later, definitive answers are as elusive as ever. Then in 1968 we lost both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. Again, conspiracy theories became legion, but nothing has ever been nailed down. 

John Kennedy’s mysterious death began decades of mistrust between citizens and government, intensified by evasions and outright lies on the part of many subsequent U.S. administrations, from Watergate, to the Gulf of Tonkin, to overestimates of success in Vietnam, to the realization that a gigantic secret bureaucracy is trawling who we email and telephone. 

Our leaders often urge us to become civically engaged beyond mere voting, as Obama did in his latest State of the Union address. But there has been a divisive tension between a presumed need for secrecy and an informed citizenry—a tension that encourages conspiracy theory at its most paranoid. 

A further grave wound to our civil cohesion came on September 11, 2001. The dust had barely settled before the conspiracy theorists were once again hard at work. Such theories, considered far-fetched by most Americans, gained some traction by way of the Bush administration’s perverse response to 9/11.  While 15 of the conspirators who brought down the twin towers were Saudi, George W. Bush and colleagues began to beat the drums for an invasion of—Iraq. 

Like millions around the world, I could see no connection to 9/11 and no good reasons for war. Aluminum tubes? Uranium in Niger? Weapons of mass destruction? The evidence seemed flimsy. But the U.S. attacked anyway, cobbling together a “coalition of the willing” to employ “shock and awe.” The result was the greatest foreign policy disaster in our country’s history. The Iraqis didn’t greet us as liberators. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Every rationale the cocksure Bush administration gave for the invasion has been proven bogus. And the blowback, all the way forward to the contemporary rise of ISIS, is still unfolding. 

Though it was obvious that what Bush and Cheney told us about Iraq wasn’t true, when the 9/11 Commission Report was published in 2004, I registered the gravitas of the Commission members and accepted their findings. However, at the urging of a friend in the construction business, I recently watched the 15 minute film narrated by Ed Asner, about one huge loose end in the events of 9/11: the collapse of World Trade Center Building No. 7: (Solving the Mystery of Building 7, produced by AE9/11Truth  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkc5w-eP39E). (Make into link?)

Leaving conspiracy aside, the hard facts are very troubling. Everyone remembers the horror of the twin towers collapsing on the morning of 9/11 shortly after being struck by two hijacked planes. But a third skyscraper, Building 7, collapsed at 5:20 that afternoon. The impact of the two jet airplanes and the large quantities of burning fuel were given as the reason for the fall of the twin towers, but there was no airplane or jet fuel involved in Building 7’s collapse. Strangely enough, the 9/11 Commission Report published in 2004 didn’t even mention Building 7. A 47-story building collapsed straight down into its own footprint for no apparent reason, and there wasn’t a word about it in the initial 9/11 official story.

Finally, after loud protests, the government produced a lengthy report in 2008 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that claimed office fires were responsible for the collapse of Building 7. The two thousand architects and engineers of AE9/11Truth, however, don’t buy the NIST explanation. In the Asner film, some of these experts in their respective fields present credible explanations in the areas of structural steel, demolition, fire fighting, fire protection, metallurgy and explosives. Their evidence is overwhelming that the building came down in a controlled demolition. 

As someone who would prefer to avoid conspiracy theory, I find it congenial to stay with the established scientific facts. I’d like to see experts on opposing sides of the issue going toe to toe and arguing openly about who is right. The issues are based in established principles of science and engineering. It shouldn’t be that hard to determine the truth.

Pondering the implications of the collapse of Building 7 ought to remain a separate step altogether, avoiding the temptation to wonder about inside jobs, Al Quaeda, and all the other suspicions native to our experience of deception from whatever quarter. But if a further step leads downward into that darkness, it will be easier to face it armed with the truth about how the collapse actually occurred. Kudos to those persistent architects and engineers calling for a new independent investigation of what happened to World Trade Center Building No. 7.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How Does It End?

 

As North Korea dug tunnels at its nuclear test site last fall, watched by American spy satellites, the Obama administration was preparing a test of its own in the Nevada desert. A fighter jet took off with a mock version of the nation’s first precision-guided atom bomb. Adapted from an older weapon, it was designed with problems like North Korea in mind: Its computer brain and four maneuverable fins let it zero in on deeply buried targets like testing tunnels and weapon sites. And its yield, the bomb’s explosive force, can be dialed up or down depending on the target, to minimize collateral damage.
                                                      The New York Times, January 10, 2016
        
Is there no bottom to the depth of our hypocrisy, we masters of war and merchants of death? We whited sepulchers who grind the faces of the poor, who tax them to pay for world-destroying weapons to “pacify” millions across the waters who are more desperate than our own poor? Who would “make the desert glow,” forgetting that it is our own small planet we would irradiate?

The New Yorker cover this week showed an infantile Kim Jong-un at play in a sandbox with nuclear toys. Talk about mote and beam! By what logic do we assume we are one jot or tittle different from or better than the North Koreans? What makes our own arrogant and pompous leaders one wit less adolescent than theirs? We are subject like the North Koreans to the same self-perpetuating paranoia, the same lack of moral imagination, the same suppression of truth-telling, the same wildly unnecessary secrets and lies, the same demagogic rationalizations of the status quo, the same folly of an endless arms race, the same nuclear dictatorship that leaves citizens without a voice when world-ending decisions are made. It’s my planet too!

Pontius Pilate, confronted by one mute, disheveled, apparently revolutionary Jew, knowing not what he had before him, washed his hands of him. We have the death of the whole planet clearly before us; how much more reprehensible is our own smug hand washing!

How long will the nations and the generals and those who call themselves statesmen stall and stall again, grossly abrogating their obligations to live up to signed treaties committing them to the abolition of these weapons? How long will they passively acquiesce to the march of doom quickened by the mindless greed of the arms makers? Who will throw these moneychangers out of the temple of our one irreplaceable planet and restore it to life-reverence? 

We partake in a cult of death as nihilistic as ISIS, disguised like a thin layer of rose petals on a pile of horse manure, by our obtuse pretensions to exceptionalism—we assume our thousands of nuclear weapons are a force for good, while those of North Korea or Iran are a force for evil.

Who will speak for the right of mothers and children not to be irradiated and poisoned even by the atomic tests—any nation’s atomic tests—let alone annihilated by a war into which we could slip so much more easily than we can possibly imagine? We adults ourselves are children, in the worst, not the best sense. We are active and complicit deniers of the real. Even the missile crisis of October 1962, behind us by a half-century, failed utterly to wake us up. How much closer do we want to come to ending everything that we love?

How long will we call ourselves Christians, setting aside an hour a week to worship Christ, or a day a year to remember King, our own living embodiment of the teachings of Jesus, at the same time that we deploy submarines that can wreak destruction on a scale unimaginable by ISIS terrorists.  We never come within a country mile of considering what the Christian message of creative non-violence might do to help us, all of us on the planet, to survive in the context of realistic international diplomacy—help the West reconcile with the “Muslim world” and not reduce it to fearful stereotypes.

The fundamental illusion that confronts us, whether trying to act upon the challenge of domestic gun violence, or radical Islamic terrorism, or the prevention of nuclear war, or global climate change, is the illusion of “us-and-them.” By paying only lip-service to figures like Gandhi and Jesus and Martin Luther King, we deny ourselves the practical usefulness of wanting our “enemy’s” security as much as we want our own, wanting it because we see our life-and-death interdependency with our “enemy”—this is irrefutable on the level of climate change and nuclear war. We have met the enemy and he is us. If it is irrefutable on that level, the logic works at any level of conflict: we need police and a military trained to de-escalate and resolve conflict, not perpetuate it by the constant use of overwhelming force.

Will we all be secure if more and more nations have nuclear weapons or if none do? Any general worth his stars in any military on earth ought to be calling for the negotiated abolition of these weapons down to zero—and not after they retire and it becomes safe to speak out.  Redirecting the vast sums sucked up by nuclear weapons to a global Marshall Plan addressing real human needs would enhance the survival of our own nation and all nations.



Friday, January 8, 2016

The Pyramid of Violence




President Obama’s frustrated tears over the endless flood of victims of mass shootings seemed human and appropriate.  When it comes to gun violence, our country is in the grip of a collective madness. Imagine constitutional law prohibiting automobile regulation: no licenses, age limits, training, turn signals, insurance, or traffic lights. In the highway anarchy that would ensue, millions of us would begin to demand some common-sense changes to end an unacceptable chaos.

But because one powerful organization with murky motives holds sway over a majority of legislators, nothing is allowed to change in the gun-control arena. The Second Amendment actually uses the word “regulate”: “a well-regulated militia. Were I a Supreme Court originalist, would it be so difficult for me to consider such language a solid precedent for stricter gun control? It seems hard to tell for certain what motivates Wayne La Pierre’s objection to even a sliver of gun law reform. Signs point to an unspoken confederacy between dealers, manufacturers, congress people, and the NRA, using the Second Amendment as convenient cover for making millions.

Something similar exists in the gross lack of progress toward the reduction and worldwide abolishment of nuclear arms. Legislators represent states where weapons manufacturing counts for significant employment, so the momentum for renewing our nuclear arsenals contributes to a perpetual motion machine divorced from common sense. The tail of presumed economic necessity wags the dog of international policy. Decades pass as the world grows ever more dangerous. Generals like Colin Powell, admirals like Eugene Carroll, secretaries of state like George Shultz or Henry Kissinger, retire from office and suddenly start speaking out for abolition, because they know from experience that the weapons are strategically useless—either against other nuclear powers, or against terrorism. Demagogues use fear to silence anyone who dares to say our international system of deterrence is without clothes, forgetting that if even one percent of the world’s arsenals are detonated, the entire earth will suffer the agricultural effects of the tons of nuclear soot in the atmosphere.

In a recent TEDx talk, Daniele Santi imagined a pyramid of violence with nuclear weapons at the top. “As the pyramid spreads downward, it reaches into our daily lives. Conflict and mistrust between communities, crime, domestic violence and abuse, even a single rude comment to someone, are all part of a larger culture of violence. The broad base of the pyramid is the silent violence of apathy, our willingness to live comfortably while ignoring others who are in pain.” The notion of a seamless continuity between world-ending weaponry, down through the pain of the thousands of unnecessary gun deaths plaguing a nation which prides itself on its exceptionalism, to the wide bottom holding up everything above it by means of the “silent violence of apathy”: this is a profoundly useful metaphor to help us begin to overcome our assumption that we cannot make a difference.  We can’t help making a difference. We make a difference by doing nothing—by allowing ourselves to be the foundation on which the pyramid is built.

Much evidence (see Stephen Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature) suggests that we are gradually evolving toward less violence as a planet, even taking into account the horrors of groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. An overwhelming majority of earth’s citizens heartily fear and hate war. Thousands of organizations are working for environmental sanity, for an expansion of universal human rights, for equality of race and sex. The international system is awakening to the need for a new level of cooperation on climate change if we are going to pass the planet on to our grandchildren in reasonable shape.

Nuclear weapons, as the late philosopher of nuclear extinction Jonathan Schell emphasized, are a smaller subset of the environmental challenge. If nations can see the need for progress on the larger issues of rising seas and starvation-inducing droughts, nuclear abolition starts to look almost easy by comparison. It even looks easier, at least numbers-wise, than reducing the grotesquely unnecessary pile of weaponry owned by American citizens. There are only about 17,500 nuclear weapons in the world. In 2009 it was estimated that there were 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns in private possession in the U.S. alone. Just as the planet would be safer if no nation possessed nuclear weapons, the United States would be safer if strict regulation limited guns to hunters and a few others who needed them for protection. And far fewer of us would need them for protection if there were less guns overall—duh!

Change begins with you and me, especially if we have participated in the “silent violence of apathy.” We can change our thinking from an us-and-them mindset (“They” are trying to take our guns; “they” will attack us if we don’t have thousands of world-ending weapons) to a mindset that says “we’re all in this together; let’s work toward the common goal, at every level of the pyramid, of creating a safer world for ourselves and our kids. Absent this change of thinking, get ready for more tears.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s "Between the World and Me"

Toni Morrison calls this book required reading, and it is. Even if it first germinated before the many police murders of African American boys and men over the last year, it could not have entered the cultural scene at a more fateful moment.

The book takes the form of a letter from Coates to his son, overflowing with mingled anger, despair, and love, about the experience of growing up in a country where our foundational heritage is the ongoing freedom of whites to kill blacks with impunity. This injury is complemented by the insult of hundreds of years of rank economic injustice extending back to the origins of our “exceptional” political experiment, conceived, with due respect for their good intentions, by slaveholding white men.

To define whiteness, Coates uses the provocative phrase “people who believe they are white,” by which I take him to mean that there is a negative part of some of us that needs to feel superior to, and therefore also fearful of, some “lower” order.  No peak without a valley. The pain caused by this illusory mis-identity is unfathomable. Nina Simone wanted to become a classical pianist, but was turned down by the Curtis Institute of Music for being the wrong color.  That she became a jazz and blues artist of astounding virtuosity did not change how the initial blow echoed outward through her lifelong experience of American racism, driving her move to Europe and Africa, but finally driving her raving mad (watch her film bio, “What Happened, Ms. Simone?”).

After the latest mass shooting in San Bernardino, the African-American president of the United States spoke from the Oval Office trying to calm the fears of citizens anxious about the random terror of ISIS. He appealed to our best tendencies: “We were founded upon a belief in human dignity that no matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or what religion you practice, you are equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes of the law.” While acknowledging the reality of terrorism, he cautioned against separating Muslims and non-Muslims into a stereotypical “us and them.” Because “us and them” sadly forms a big chunk of our only partly-acknowledged heritage, Obama was immediately attacked by presidential candidates of the opposing party with the fear-mongering version of our national identity—our superiority over some “lower” order, now a Muslim “other” as well as a black “other.”

The violence of this ongoing exceptionalism, built upon so much insufficiently processed history, continues to assume grotesque forms: the Senate cannot even pass a bill forbidding people on terrorist watch-lists from buying weapons, because the National Rifle Association is so powerful. What are the roots, if not raw fear of the “other,” of this white obsession with the Second Amendment?  

At my Ivy League college fifty years ago, the hundred or so young white men with whom I shared meals were served by a phalanx of young black men in white coats. Did we speak a friendly word to them? Did we see them as people with the same potentialities as ourselves? We did not.

Now I have become part of a family where I have four mixed-race adoptive grandchildren. My love for them is just as fierce and fearful as Ta-Hehisi Coates’s for his son. Suddenly it is of more than academic interest that the oldest of my four is approaching the adolescent moment when he will start to look dangerous to the police.

The knotted heritage of our nation cannot be loosed by the descendents of slaves who endured it and endure it still. Instead the knot must be newly owned by those who have too long disowned it: can we who think we are white emerge from the dreamy pretension of our effortlessly assumed privilege? Can we admit that our perverted form of exceptionalism has cut a swath of destruction not only through our national history but also through such diverse haunts of otherness as Vietnam and Iraq?

Those who think they are white came wherever they are now, by free migration not by slave ships, out of the common pool of all humans from the savannas of Africa. In that shared origin story may reside some hope of post-racial—or post-religious for that matter—interrelationship among equals. Meanwhile we have Coates’s authentic cry of the heart from which to learn and grow.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Only Way to Win is Not to Play


As the possibility grows that Russian and American, or NATO, forces will inadvertently clash over or in the Syrian chaos, it is hard not to be reminded of Eric Schlosser’s electrifying 2013 book Command and Control, a comprehensive account of the development and deployment of nuclear weapons over the last sixty years. It might be the most frightening book you will ever read.

Schlosser walks us through the bizarre ambiguities of deterrence, always in the context of the tension between the need for fail-safe mechanisms to prevent misuse and the even more pressing military need for split-second readiness. This tension has left an all too lengthy trail of close calls, misunderstandings, hair-raising false alarms, and one-micro step-away-from accidental thermonuclear detonations. Our planet’s having been spared apocalypse—so far—approaches the miraculous.

The threat of mutually assured destruction has almost certainly had a major role in preventing yet another world war—again, so far. Given the inability of the victorious powers at the end of World War II to trust one another enough to see where an all-out arms race would end up, they chose instead to slide down the slippery slope of adversarial proliferation .

Even as safety specialists focus upon protecting the weapons from the possibility of detonation by someone who has lost his mind, they deny the stark insanity of the deterrence system itself. Nuclear protocol remains so hair-trigger that it feels as if the weapons possess a kind of almost-independent eagerness to show what they can do.

Pick your poison: the knife-edge Cold War balance of terror, where at least elite forces like the Strategic Air Command took enormous pride in their professionalism, or the present era of bored, restless crews in missile silos smoking dope and cheating on readiness tests.

Only if we face such realities honestly can we hope to change them, beginning with foundational principles congruent with our actual condition:

In the pre-nuclear world, international relations emerged from the conflict of national interests. In a post-nuclear world, national self-interest is intimately connected with planetary self-interest. The possibility of even a small number of nuclear detonations anywhere on earth causing “nuclear winter” underlines this radical change.

In both the pre-nuclear and post–nuclear world it has been of primary strategic interest to try to psyche out the mentality of the “enemy”—almost always leading to projective distortions like “they support brutal regimes, we do not.” In the post-nuclear world, the desire not to appear weak common to all sides in a conflict has become a recipe for psychological war—credibility—sliding into real war. Diplomacy must found itself both upon the shared threat of nuclear winter and admitting the universal tendency toward macho posturing.  The only way anyone wins is if everyone wins.

In a pre-nuclear world, greater strength in arms made victory a strong likelihood; in a post-nuclear world, victory is a phantom. Schlosser’s book is full of military leaders in the U.S. and elsewhere, General Curtis Lemay of SAC first among them, who entertained the folly of believing that total victory was possible in a nuclear war. Only President Kennedy pushed back against Lemay’s relentless pressure to launch an air attack on Cuba during the Missile Crisis of 1962, which would almost certainly have started WW3.

A half century later, there is still no person on earth possessing sufficient wisdom to be able to make sensible decisions once a nuclear war begins, just as no military or civilian commander can say with assurance that the thousands of nuclear weapons around the globe will never be involved in an accident that tips us into a war that no one can win. Past time to convene an international conference that pushes the nine nuclear nations to accelerate a reciprocal, verifiable disarmament process. It is perfectly possible to do, and crazy not to.

Friday, October 2, 2015

A (Not So Hidden) Assumption


Another mass shooting in the U.S.; Russia attacking whomever it thinks most threatens Assad; the carnage across vast swaths of the Middle East, where a Hobbesian chaos reigns so complete that one can no longer tell the players apart enough to decide upon rational strategic policy—these disparate events are united by one primal cultural assumption: that humans murdering other humans represents an effective way to resolve conflicts.

Someday we will understand how the grotesque distortion of reality within the mind of an insane person spraying bullets randomly among his innocent fellow-citizens is not all that different from Assad dropping barrel bombs on his fellow citizens. Or Putin dropping bombs on whomever his planes are targeting today—or Obama firing extra-judicial missiles from drones.

Killing solves nothing. But the not-so-hidden pervasive assumption is that killing solves many things—based upon might makes right.

This is such a given in the media that “objective” reporting of the “facts” doesn’t even need to set violence in the context of values—except when the murderousness results in unavoidable tragic consequences like a mass exodus of refugees. Journalism proudly seeks the objective, the “real.” The “real” is a cold accounting of death and dismemberment without any possible blurring of the “facts” by human values like pity, compassion, and shame.

Whether motivated by fear, revenge, offense as best defense, or any of the major rationalizations for the insanity of war or the insanity of “private” murderousness, humans live, move and have their being within a vast sea of justification of killing.

It extends into the highest reaches of our technological prowess, and thus we have designed and deployed extraordinary instruments of death like the Trident submarine, 600 feet of pure potential destruction, a kind of holocaust in a can administered with an elite and proud professionalism that we would be happy to see emulated elsewhere in our institutions and activities. We justify the necessity of this deterrent bulwark, just as the others who possess these infernal machines, the Russians, the French, the British, the North Koreans, feel equally justified in keeping at the ready their own apparatus of mass murder.

This is our human paradigm on a small planet. But paradigms can shift. We once thought that drilling holes in peoples’ skulls was the most effective way to heal chronic headaches, or that werewolves were as “real” as present journalistic “objectivity,” or that the sun revolved around the earth, or that cholera germs were airborne and not waterborne.

We humans evolved from mammals who slowly learned compassion and care for their young over millions of years. Within the ecological systems into which these creatures fit, there is constant conflict, but also a level of cooperation in favor of the survival and health of the system as a whole. From this life support system we still have much to learn. And the capacity to learn is native within us, for we evolved from the same system.

It is difficult to gauge how much power for positive change is contained in the mere assertion that killing solves nothing. Surely the vast majority of people believe it to be true. An impractical thought experiment can be performed: imagine that every news story about war and murder simply began with the phrase “Killing solves nothing.” To have a wide-ranging dialogue about whether killing solves anything is to open the door to as yet unimagined or at least unchosen possibilities—and perhaps, someday, to close the door for good on humans killing each other.

Nuclear weapons are a perfect place to start, because it is so crystal clear that their use in conflict resolves nothing, and would inevitably make things a great deal worse, worse even to the extent of our very extinction. It is past time for an international conference, attended by those in the military and in high civilian positions in the nuclear nations who are the decision-makers, to address the perfectly feasible abolition of these obsolete weapons. Success in this regard, so much easier than the level of cooperation required to mitigate global climate instability, could become a model of non-violent conflict resolution replicable in regional and local domains, including addressing the NRA-driven gun-culture in the U.S. with common-sense laws. Killing solves nothing.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

An Alien Addresses the U.N. on Nuclear Deterrence

 “Representatives of the nations of earth, I greet you in the name of the Local Group Intergalactic Council. As your Hubble telescope has told you, the Local Group, 10 million light years across, comprises about 30 galaxies, your own Milky Way being the largest.

Perhaps it will not surprise you that around the hundreds of billions of stars in these galaxies spin many planets that support life. I hope it will be a wake-up call for you to know that just within the Local Group, a tiny fraction of the total universe, there have already been 87 planets which have annihilated themselves with weapons of mass destruction.

Try to take this in. An immense struggle of life, exactly like yours, evolving over millions of years out of inert matter on a small sphere in orbit around its own star, slowly developing into forms of mammalian care, self-conscious awareness, and love —but then unleashing complete self-destruction. Some of these worlds had their equivalent Shakespeares, their Mozarts, their Van Goghs, but their masterpieces are as extinct as they are.

We have watched with growing alarm since we received the signal of your first atomic explosion on earth in 1945—immediately followed by the use of nuclear bombs on two cities full of civilians.

Fifty two years beyond the Cuban Missile Crisis, my fellow-citizens of the Milky Way, you refuse to take in its foreboding lesson. You have not seen that all nations share a common problem, which is that the weapons systems you have developed as your bastions of security have become the gravest threat to that same security.

Yes, for many decades deterrence did indeed work, by a miracle of good fortune, to prevent a third world war. But if nine nuclear powers should turn to fifteen, to twenty one, to thirty five, all connected to complex electronic systems, and the systems are all connected to thousands upon thousands of fallible human beings, your chances of survival will diminish to zero. Will you passively assent to visiting this doom upon your children and grandchildren?

The unworkable paradox of deterrence is that the purpose of nuclear weapons is meant to ensure that they will never be used, but at the same time nuclear strategists require them to be on hair-trigger alert for deterrence to be credible.
This is a holocaust waiting to happen.

In the very midst of your democratic institutions you tolerate thermonuclear absolute monarchies, where one person has the power to decide whether to annihilate millions. And where that same person may have to decide within minutes whether to counterlaunch if attacked.

But even without a counterlaunch, computer models have warned you about nuclear winter, which posits that if less than 1% of your weapons are detonated, the soot and ash could spread around your planet and shut down agriculture for a decade—in effect, a death sentence for your species, exactly what happened in the case of three other planets in the local group. Therefore the shared problem of nuclear winter should be the foundational talking point of abolition.

Your planet continues to drift downriver on a raft toward an immense waterfall. You have oars, but you have not learned how to row together toward shore. You foolishly believe that you won’t go over the falls, that you will be the exception.
You have not learned to row together because you have locked yourselves into obsolete identifications. You think of yourselves as Jews or Muslims or Persians or Republicans or Palestinians or Africans, each with their separate, tribal story of origin or inviolate holy texts.  Such tribalism served your survival instincts for thousands of years. But having seen photographs of your blue planet from space, you know now you are one human tribe facing challenges that no single nation can solve alone.

Many planets in the local group made it through the stage in which you find yourselves by realizing that “enemy” is not a productive concept—especially when it became clear that hurting the enemy only means hurting oneself. When you fear and preoccupy with those who hate you, you do harm to them that makes them hate you more, and you fear them more, perpetuating an endless, futile cycle. You have built your security systems upon this cycle.

No one will be secure until all are secure. Conflict on your planet will not cease. The task is to resolve conflict without fear, hate, and killing, knowing that my survival depends upon yours, and yours upon mine.

I am not here to force dominion upon you, but only to set before you a free choice between further maturation or suicide: evolve your thinking or die. We have the technical means to destroy every one of your warheads, but without your own species-wide change of hearts and minds, you would only build them again.  Change must come from you. You must learn to love your children, including the children of your adversaries, more than you fear those adversaries.  Ask yourselves what benefits all children, and that will point the way.

Whatever happens, you can’t say that you haven’t been told.


Winslow Myers, the author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide,” writes on global issues and serves on the Advisory Board of the War Prevention Initiative.