Shadow World, a documentary about global arms dealing, airs tonight


Shadow World, a documentary based on the book, The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, by Andrew Feinstein, will air tonight, November 20, 2017, on Independent Lens on PBS.  I highly recommend watching it.  I also highly recommend reading the book.

Here is a portion of the description from the book’s cover:

“The Shadow World is the behind-the-scenes tale of the global arms trade, exposing in forensic detail the deadly collusion that all too often exists among senior politicians, weapons manufacturers, felonious arms dealers, and the military–a situation that compromises our security and undermines our democracy.

There is so much information in this book that is helpful to understanding what drives war and conflict around the world.  If the documentary includes even a fraction of that information, watching it will be an eye-opening experience.  Don’t miss it!

The Trouble With Today


cereals-100263_1920Katie Aguilera

Veterans Day is hard for me.  I am not a veteran.  I’m not close with very many veterans.  And, I don’t believe we should be fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and all the other places around the world where we have troops active.  But, I care very much for all the lives affected by war.  So, the trouble with today is how to express that care without celebrating or glorifying war and militarism?

A simple “thank you for your service” feels hollow, it doesn’t feel genuine.  Because, I don’t feel thankful for what my country is doing around the world with its military.  I do, however, feel immense gratitude for people who are willing to serve their communities and countries, in large and small ways.

Some say that opposing the war on terror somehow suggests that those who have died fighting died for nothing.  I myself have felt this, a heart-breaking sadness that young men and women have died senseless deaths for no good reason.  I don’t believe that anymore, though the sadness is no less heart-breaking.  I don’t believe soldiers have died fighting over there to protect my freedoms.  I do believe that soldiers die, not for nothing, but rather for each other.

I don’t know how to make peace with all the lives lost to those caught in the middle.  I don’t know how to make peace with the fact that our Congress refuses to do anything to bring this war on terror to an end.  I don’t know how to make peace with the apathy of the American public, who largely seems to forget we are still at war.  But, I make peace with Veterans Day by reflecting back to the original intent of creating a holiday on November 11th.

The cessation of hostilities of World War I officially ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.  A year later, November 11th was declared Armistice Day in commemoration of that.  The war to end all wars was over, and the world celebrated peace.  President Woodrow Wilson stated, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

On May 13, 1938, Armistice Day became an official holiday, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.”  In 1954, the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day to honor those who served in World War II and the war in Korea as well World War I.

Veterans For Peace states,

“Almost a hundred years ago the world celebrated peace as a universal principal. The first World War had just ended and nations mourning their dead collectively called for an end to all wars. Armistice Day was born and was designated as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated.”

After World War II, the U.S. Congress decided to rebrand November 11 as Veterans Day. Honoring the warrior quickly morphed into honoring the military and glorifying war. Armistice Day was flipped from a day for peace into a day for displays of militarism.”

In today’s world of never-ending conflict, it’s hard to imagine celebrating genuine world peace.  But today, Veterans Day, to all who have served and are serving in the military, I pray you have a day of peace.  For the world, I pray we find the courage to put a stop to the fighting.


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Senator Rand Paul Speaks Some Truth in the Senate

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has called on Congress to end the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force.  Paul opened his speech on the senate floor by saying,

“I rise today to oppose unauthorized, undeclared, and unconstitutional war.  What we have today is basically unlimited war, anywhere, anytime, any place upon the globe.”

He went on to discuss the involvement of the US military in seven countries and the devastating results.  Death, destruction of infrastructure, destabilization, disease outbreaks, etc.  Paul also pointed out the toll that 16 years of nonstop war has had on US finances.

Paul concluded his statement by stating, “I hope senators will think long and hard about the seven ongoing wars…and go on the record to uphold their oath of office…and defend the constitution and it’s requirements with regard to war,” and “I hope they will finally vote to do their constitutional duty.  It is the least we can do to honor the service of our brave young soldiers.”

It’s the best thing they can do for the entire world.  And it’s long overdue.  So, yes, please Congress, do this.

Watch all of Sen. Paul’s speech here.

Bare Feet, Not Arms?


Bare feet, not arms.  It was a bumper sticker that occupied prime real estate on the rear window of my little orange van for many years.  In light of today’s events, I felt the need to write about another profound 180 degree journey I have been on recently, one that has, until now, been largely a private one.  Today, after San Bernardino.  After Roseburg.  All the others…you know what I’m talking about.  Shootings.  Mass killings.  Those scary guns.

I  think I first need to give some back story to my journey.  I grew up in rural Oregon, where it seems that pretty much everyone has guns.  It is a place far, far away from inner cities, and gun violence for the most part.  I remember guns in racks in the back windows of pick-up trucks.  My father’s rifles were often in a coat closet, unloaded but in reach.  I never learned to shoot, I never even held a gun, they held no interest for me.  I really didn’t think twice about them.  But, they weren’t scary back then.

Then, Columbine happened.  And closer to home, Thurston.  School shootings, drive by shootings, work place shootings, became common on the nightly news.  Not because they were dramatically increasing, but because the reporting of them was increasing.  And increasingly alarmist in style.  Guns became scary.  I began to believe that no one except law enforcement and the military should be allowed to own handguns and assault rifles.  It made sense to me then, make those illegal, and the problem will go away.

Never mind that I have always supported the right to hunt for food, and have always thought that people should be allowed hunting rifles, which could also suffice for home protection.  Those were just the sort of gun everyone used to have in their coat closet, or their rear windows.  Not the scary sort.

I held onto this belief for many years.  Bare feet, not arms.  I thought that people who wanted an armory were paranoid and crazy.  And this allowed guns to remain a scary bogeyman that I didn’t understand.

The argument that it is necessary to be armed to protect oneself from the government when they decide to round us all up some day seemed absurd to me.  And, it really still doesn’t work for me today.  If the government decides to round us all up, well, I’ll just say that I accept the fact that the government is much better armed than I could ever be.  Or want to be.  Guns aren’t the solution to our power-hungry, corrupt government.  But does that mean that it is worth giving the government the power to take them away?

My 180 degree journey on guns, I think, really began with Sandyhook.  My oldest child was in Kindergarten at the time, and I spent the day trying not to bawl as I waited for the school bus to bring him home safe.  I don’t care about all the conspiracies around Sandyhook.  I believe that babies died, and it was horrible.  At first, it reinforced the thoughts of gun control for me.  But, it also started conversations that led me to challenge my own beliefs.

Around the same time, I was deep in research for the novel I’ve been working on for years.  Research that has made me aware of how serious our situation is, we the people of this nation.  Research that has made me aware of just how corrupt our government really is.  I began to understand some of the pro-gun arguments.

So, I decided that I needed to do some ‘experiential’ research. I decided that, as part of that research, I needed to learn how to shoot a rifle, to learn how they work.  So, I did.  Then, I decided that I needed to experience the full process of legally obtaining a gun of my own.  So, I did.  As I turned to walk out of the gun store with my new purchase in hand, a friendly policeman applauded my choice and an elderly couple cheered me on.  It was bizarre, awkward, and kind of fun all at the same time.  Since then, I have discovered that target shooting is really fun.  And those guns that terrified me?  I know a lot more about them now.  I can pick them up, take them apart, clean them, put them back together, just like I can my bicycles.  They don’t scare me anymore.

As I said, I am still not sure where I am on this journey.  But, I have come to understand what I believe to be the true meaning of a ‘well-regulated militia.’  Yeah, the so-often forgotten part of that amendment everyone loves to argue about, especially after a mass shooting.  I don’t believe it really has so much to do with protecting our right to own weapons as it does with addressing the need for citizens who can defend this nation from attack.  Because, the original intent, I believe, was for our country not to maintain a standing army, but to be able to call up the citizenry in the event of an attack. To defend our borders, to defend our homes, to defend our families.

Now, I find myself a long ways down the road of this 180 degree journey, once again questioning my direction.  The guns don’t scare me anymore.  What does, what truly terrifies me, is this culture of violence we seem to be wrapping ourselves in.  This culture that lacks empathy for one another.  We raise our kids on violent entertainment, we allow them to avoid humanizing face-to-face interaction with their peers by giving them cell phones, tablets, computers, talking robots.  When they act like kids, we freak out and drug them.  We don’t even seem to mind that when a commercial during our nightly news isn’t about pharmaceuticals, it is about the violent program that will come on after the news.  We just sit blankly, letting our kids watch and absorb it.  We normalize violence, we make it acceptable, and then, we scream and yell about the weapons when somebody unleashes.

But, in all of the yelling, no one will tell me exactly how they see increased gun control successfully putting a stop to mass killings.  How will increased gun control keep illegal guns out of criminal hands?  How will increased gun control keep the next Dylann Roof from simply building a bomb to detonate inside the church of those he hates?  It is the anger, the hatred, the violence, the lack of compassion.  It is not the method used to unleash those.

I am still open on this debate.  I want to put a stop to babies dying in their schools.  I would love to hear some legitimate ideas.  Sure, I’m enjoying shooting red cups, paper targets, and rotten produce, but if somebody can present me with a true argument in support of disarming the citizens who are supposed to be our national defense, I might be willing to consider giving up my gun.

But you had better be ready to explain to me how you are going to address the root causes of these violent killings because I hate band aids.  And, you had also better be ready to explain to me why you aren’t ‘up in arms’ over all the people, all the babies, dying around the world as a result of the bombs, and moderate rebels, our own government is unleashing on them.  You better be ready to tell me why you are silent about their deaths.


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