Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Remembering Eugene V. Debs’ Imprisonment for Speaking Against War

By Adam Dick | Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity | September 3, 2014

Eugene V. Debs nearly 100 years ago was a political prisoner in the United States for the “crime” of opposing the United States government’s participation in World War I and conscription of people to fight in that war. In March of 1919, the US Supreme Court, pointing to the Espionage Act of 1917 for justification, upheld Debs’ conviction by a trial jury and ten-year prison sentence for making antiwar comments in a June 16, 1918 Canton, Ohio speech.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote the Supreme Court’s short Debs v. United States opinion that upheld the conviction and ten-year prison sentence of Debs for two charges that Holmes described as follows:

This is an indictment under the Espionage Act of June 15, 1917… It has been cut down to two counts, originally the third and fourth. The former of these alleges that on or about June 16, 1918, at Canton, Ohio, the defendant caused and incited and attempted to cause and incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny and refusal of duty in the military and naval forces of the United States and with intent so to do delivered, to an assembly of people, a public speech, set forth. The fourth count alleges that he obstructed and attempted to obstruct the recruiting and enlistment service of the United States and to that end and with that intent delivered the same speech, again set forth.

In effect, Debs was incarcerated for exercising his right to free speech regarding two political matters — the US government choosing to participate in World War I and the US government using the draft to help fight that war. One may expect the justices to have reread the First Amendment to the US Constitution and promptly overturned Debs’ conviction. However, Holmes explains that a prior Supreme Court decision had already settled the inapplicability of Debs’ First Amendment defense.

The prior Supreme Court decision, announced just seven days earlier, was for the case Schenck v. United States. The Supreme Court’s Schenck opinion allowed Holmes in the Debs opinion to bypass offering ridiculous contortions of logic to justify throwing a prominent labor and political leader in prison for criticizing the heart of the US government’s war policy. Instead, Holmes could just summarily deem Debs’ conviction and sentence constitutional and legitimate based on precedent. Here is how Holmes, again writing for the Supreme Court, argued in the court’s Schenck opinion that a flier opposing the draft was not protected under the First Amendment:

We admit that, in many places and in ordinary times, the defendants, in saying all that was said in the circular, would have been within their constitutional rights. But the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done. Aikens v. Wisconsin, 195 U.S. 194, 205, 206. The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force. Gompers v. Bucks Stove & Range Co., 221 U.S. 418, 439. The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree. When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right.

So there you have it: the First Amendment protects your free speech so long as that speech cannot affect US government policy, or at least so long as your free speech cannot pose a serious threat to something the Supreme Court thinks it is very important to promote, such as the US government participating in World War I and forcing Americans to fight in that war.

Debs was an eloquent opponent of this war, and for that, coupled with his prominence in American labor and politics, he was imprisoned.

In addition to his labor union activities, Debs had run four times as the Socialist Party nominee for US president before his conviction, winning more votes each time. In his last pre-imprisonment run in 1912, Debs won over 900,000 votes — 6.0% nationwide.

In 1920, while serving his prison term, Debs again ran for president, winning a few thousand more votes than in 1912 and 3.4% nationwide.

Debs knew his June 16, 1918 Canton, Ohio speech — despite his care in presenting the speech such that it would comply with US government speech restrictions — could lead to his imprisonment. Indeed, in his speech, Debs talks of other individuals who had been imprisoned for the “crime” of exercising their right to free speech. Debs explains near the beginning of the speech why he spoke anyway:

I realize that, in speaking to you this afternoon, there are certain limitations placed upon the right of free speech. I must be exceedingly careful, prudent, as to what I say, and even more careful and prudent as to how I say it. I may not be able to say all I think; but I am not going to say anything that I do not think. I would rather a thousand times be a free soul in jail than to be a sycophant and coward in the streets.

Debs’ complete speech may be read here.

Watch here actor Mark Ruffalo present a reading of some excerpts concerning war from the speech:

September 14, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | Leave a comment

NATO members start supplying weapons to Kiev – Ukrainian Defense Minister

RT | September 14, 2014

NATO member states have started supplying weapons to Ukraine, the country’s Defense Minister said on TV. His comments came a few days after a similar statement by a Ukrainian presidential aide sparked a diplomatic scandal and a rash of denials.

In an interview with Channel 5, Ukrainian Defense Minister Valery Geletey said that he had held verbal consultations with the defense ministers of the “leading countries of the world, those that can help us, and they heard us. We have the supply of arms under way.”

“This process has begun, and I feel that this is exactly the way we need to go,” the minister said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who attended the Sept. 4-5 NATO summit in Wales, announced that he had negotiated direct modern weapons supplies with a number of NATO member states.

Poroshenko claimed that some of the NATO member states said during bilateral consultations they are ready to supply Ukraine with lethal and non-lethal arms, including “high precision weapons,” as well as with medical equipment.

NATO has had repeatedly said that the alliance is not going to supply any weapons or military equipment to Ukraine. At the same time, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the alliance would not interfere if member states made decisions of their own regarding arms supply to Ukraine.

When Poroshenko’s aide Yury Lutsenko wrote on his Facebook page that the US, along with France, Italy, Poland and Norway, would supply modern weapons to Ukraine, the news prompted all the countries mentioned in Lutsenko’s post to say they had no information about supplies.

Last Sunday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was the first to deny the arms delivery, saying he was not aware of a secret deal to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons.

Shortly afterward, Norway, Italy, and Poland also denied the report.

September 14, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

Jordanian parties oppose fight against Islamic State

MEMO | September 14, 2014

The six parties, which formed what is known as the “Nationalist and Leftist Parties Coalition”, said in a statement that the Jordanian government needed to fight radical thinking by cultural, economic and social means.

Six Jordanian political parties on Saturday warned the government of their country against joining an international coalition being formed by the United States against the militant Islamic State (IS) organization.

They said they opposed any foreign military intervention in the region, calling on Arab resistance movements to fight against what they described in their statement as “colonial plans.”

Jordan was one of ten Arab countries that attended a meeting in the western Saudi city of Jeddah on Friday on means of countering IS, which had overrun large territories in both Syria and Iraq.

In a communiqué issued following the meeting, the U.S. said each of the ten states were essential in the fight against IS, which seems to be getting close to Jordan too.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the radical movement was getting closer to his country’s eastern border, in an apparent reference to Jordan.

September 14, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Say ‘no’ to war and media propaganda

By Mairead Maguire | Inter Press Service | September 12, 2014

While the United States, United Kingdom and NATO are pushing for war with Russia, it behooves people and their governments around the world to take a clear stand for peace and against violence and war, no matter where it comes from. We are at a dangerous point in our history of the human family and it would be the greatest of tragedies for ourselves and our children if we simply allowed the war profiteers to take us into a third world war, resulting in the death of untold millions of people.

NATO’s decision at its summit in Wales (September 4-5) to create a new 4,000 strong rapid reaction force for initial deployment in the Baltics is a dangerous path for us all to be forced down, and could well lead to a third world war if not stopped. What is needed now are cool heads and people of wisdom and not more guns, more weapons, more war.

NATO is the leadership which has been causing the ongoing wars from the present conflict in the Ukraine, to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and others.

NATO’s latest move commits its 28 member states to spend two percent of their gross domestic product on the military, and to establish a series of three to five bases in Eastern Europe where equipment and supplies will be pre-positioned to help speed deployments, among other measures.

This decision by the United States/NATO to create a high readiness force with the alleged purpose of countering an alleged Russian threat reminds me of the war propaganda of lies, half-truths, insinuations and rumors to which we were all subjected in order to try to soften us all up for the Iraq war and subsequent horrific wars of terror which were carried out by NATO allied forces.

According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE) observation team, NATO’s reports, including its satellite photos which show Russian combat forces engaged in military operations inside sovereign territory of Ukraine, were based on false evidence.

While NATO is busy announcing a counter-invasion to the non-existent Russian invasion of Ukraine, people in Ukraine are calling out for peace and negotiations, for political leadership which will bring them peace, not weapons and war.

This spearhead military force will be provided by allies in rotation and will involve also air, sea and special forces. We are also informed by a NATO spokesperson that this force will be trained to deal with unconventional actions, from the funding of separatist groups to the use of social media, intimidation and black propaganda.

No doubt the current Western media’s demonization of President Vladimir Putin and the Russian people, by trying to inculcate fear and hatred of them, is part of the black propaganda campaign.

NATO’s latest proposals of 4,000 soldiers, and a separate force of 10,000 strong British-led joint expeditionary force also proposed, is a highly aggressive and totally irresponsible move by the United States, United Kingdom and NATO. It is breaches the 1997 agreement with Moscow under which NATO pledged not to base substantial numbers of soldiers in Eastern Europe on a permanent basis.

NATO should have been disbanded when the Warsaw Pact disintegrated but it was not and is now controlled by the United States for its own agenda. When speaking of NATO, one of President Bill Clinton’s officials said “America is NATO”. Today NATO, instead of being abolished, is re-inventing itself in re-arming and militarizing European states and justifying its new role by creating enemy images – be they Russians, IS (the Islamic State), and so on.

In an interdependent, interconnected world, struggling to build fraternity, economic cooperation and human security, there is no place for the Cold War policies of killing and threats to kill and policies of exceptionalism and superiority. The world has changed. People do not want to be divided and they want to see an end to violence, militarism and war.

The old consciousness is dysfunctional and a new consciousness based on an ethic of non-killing and respect and cooperation is spreading. It is time for NATO to recognize that its violent policies are counterproductive. The Ukraine crisis, groups such as the Islamic State, etc., will not be solved with guns, but with justice and through dialogue.

Above all, the world needs hope. It needs inspirational political leadership and this could be given if President Barack Obama and President Putin sat down together to solve the Ukraine conflict through dialogue and negotiation and in a non-violent way.

We live in dangerous times, but all things are possible, all things are changing … and peace is possible.

September 14, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | 4 Comments