Tags: anti-nuclear, anti-war, Criminal Justice, dissent, doj, eric holder, fran quigley, greg boertje-obed, megan rice, michael walli, non violence, nuclear, nuclear weapons, oak ridge, pacifism, peace, peace protestors, ramsey clark, roger hollander, swords into plowshares
Roger’s note: if this doesn’t send a chill up the spine of anyone with spine enough to peacefully challenge US war mongering, then I don’t know what will. This case is Lewis Carroll, Orwell and Kafka rolled up into one. Don’t fail to realize that this is happening under a president who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In just ten months, the United States managed to transform an 82 year-old Catholic nun and two pacifists from non-violent anti-nuclear peace protestors accused of misdemeanor trespassing into federal felons convicted of violent crimes of terrorism. Now in jail awaiting sentencing for their acts at an Oak Ridge, TN nuclear weapons production facility, their story should chill every person concerned about dissent in the US.
Here is how it happened.
In the early morning hours of Saturday June 28, 2012, long-time peace activists Sr. Megan Rice, 82, Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, and Michael Walli, 63, cut through the chain link fence surrounding the Oak Ridge Y-12 nuclear weapons production facility and trespassed onto the property. Y-12, called the Fort Knox of the nuclear weapons industry, stores hundreds of metric tons of highly enriched uranium and works on every single one of the thousands of nuclear weapons maintained by the U.S.
“The truth will heal us and heal our planet, heal our diseases, which result from the disharmony of our planet caused by the worst weapons in the history of mankind, which should not exist. For this we give our lives — for the truth about the terrible existence of these weapons.”
- Sr. Megan Rice
Describing themselves as the Transform Now Plowshares, the three came as non-violent protestors to symbolically disarm the weapons. They carried bibles, written statements, peace banners, spray paint, flower, candles, small baby bottles of blood, bread, hammers with biblical verses on them and wire cutters. Their intent was to follow the words of Isaiah 2:4: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
Sr. Megan Rice has been a Catholic sister of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus for over sixty years. Greg Boertje-Obed, a married carpenter who has a college age daughter, is an Army veteran and lives at a Catholic Worker house in Duluth Minnesota. Michael Walli, a two-term Vietnam veteran turned peacemaker, lives at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker house in Washington DC.
In the dark, the three activists cut through a boundary fence which had signs stating “No Trespassing.” The signs indicate that unauthorized entry, a misdemeanor, is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
No security arrived to confront them.
So the three climbed up a hill through heavy brush, crossed a road, and kept going until they saw the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF) surrounded by three fences, lit up by blazing lights.
Still no security.
So they cut through the three fences, hung up their peace banners, and spray-painted peace slogans on the HEUMF. Still no security arrived. They began praying and sang songs like “Down by the Riverside” and “Peace is Flowing Like a River.”
When security finally arrived at about 4:30 am, the three surrendered peacefully, were arrested, and jailed.
The next Monday July 30, Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli were arraigned and charged with federal trespassing, a misdemeanor charge which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail. Frank Munger, an award-winning journalist with the Knoxville News Sentinel, was the first to publicly wonder, “If unarmed protesters dressed in dark clothing could reach the plant’s core during the cover of dark, it raised questions about the plant’s security against more menacing intruders.”
On Wednesday August 1, all nuclear operations at Y-12 were ordered to be put on hold in order for the plant to focus on security. The “security stand-down” was ordered by security contractor in charge of Y-12, B&W Y-12 (a joint venture of the Babcock and Wilcox Company and Bechtel National Inc.) and supported by the National Nuclear Security Administration.
On Thursday August 2, Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli appeared in court for a pretrial bail hearing. The government asked that all three be detained. One prosecutor called them a potential “danger to the community” and asked that all three be kept in jail until their trial. The US Magistrate allowed them to be released.
Sr. Megan Rice walked out of the jail and promptly admitted to gathered media that the three had indeed gone onto the property and taken action in protest of nuclear weapons. “But we had to — we were doing it because we had to reveal the truth of the criminality which is there, that’s our obligation,” Rice said. She also challenged the entire nuclear weapons industry: “We have the power, and the love, and the strength and the courage to end it and transform the whole project, for which has been expended more than 7.2 trillion dollars,” she said. “The truth will heal us and heal our planet, heal our diseases, which result from the disharmony of our planet caused by the worst weapons in the history of mankind, which should not exist. For this we give our lives — for the truth about the terrible existence of these weapons.”
Then the government began increasing the charges against the anti-nuclear peace protestors.
The day after the Magistrate ordered the release of Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli, a Department of Energy (DOE) agent swore out a federal criminal complaint against the three for damage to federal property, a felony punishable by zero to five years in prison, under 18 US Code Section 1363.
The DOE agent admitted the three carried a letter which stated, “We come to the Y-12 facility because our very humanity rejects the designs of nuclearism, empire and war. Our faith in love and nonviolence encourages us to believe that our activity here is necessary; that we come to invite transformation, undo the past and present work of Y-12; disarm and end any further efforts to increase the Y-12 capacity for an economy and social structure based on war-making and empire-building.”
Now, Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli were facing one misdemeanor and one felony and up to six years in prison.
But the government did not stop there. The next week, the charges were enlarged yet again.
On Tuesday August 7, the U.S. expanded the charges against the peace activists to three counts. The first was the original charge of damage to Y-12 in violation of 18 US Code 1363, punishable by up to five years in prison. The second was an additional damage to federal property in excess of $1000 in violation of 18 US Code 1361, punishable by up to ten years in prison. The third was a trespassing charge, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison under 42 US Code 2278.
Now they faced up to sixteen years in prison. And the actions of the protestors started to receive national and international attention.
On August 10, 2012, the New York Times ran a picture of Sr. Megan Rice on page one under the headline “The Nun Who Broke into the Nuclear Sanctum.” Citing nuclear experts, the paper of record called their actions “the biggest security breach in the history of the nation’s atomic complex.”
At the end of August 2012, the Inspector General of the Department of Energy issued at comprehensive report on the security breakdown at Y-12. Calling the peace activists trespassers, the report indicated that the three were able to get as far as they did because of “multiple system failures on several levels.” The cited failures included cameras broken for six months, ineptitude in responding to alarms, communication problems, and many other failures of the contractors and the federal monitors. The report concluded that “Ironically, the Y-12 breach may have been an important “wake-up” call regarding the need to correct security issues at the site.”
On October 4, 2012, the defendants announced that they had been advised that, unless they pled guilty to at least one felony and the misdemeanor trespass charge, the U.S. would also charge them with sabotage against the U.S. government, a much more serious charge. Over 3000 people signed a petition to U.S. Attorney General Holder asking him not to charge them with sabotage.
But on December 4, 2012, the U.S. filed a new indictment of the protestors. Count one was the promised new charge of sabotage. Defendants were charged with intending to injure, interfere with, or obstruct the national defense of the United States and willful damage of national security premises in violation of 18 US Code 2155, punishable with up to 20 years in prison. Counts two and three were the previous felony property damage charges, with potential prison terms of up to fifteen more years in prison.
Gone entirely was the original misdemeanor charge of trespass. Now Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli faced up to thirty-five years in prison.
In a mere five months, government charges transformed them from misdemeanor trespassers to multiple felony saboteurs.
The government also successfully moved to strip the three from presenting any defenses or testimony about the harmful effects of nuclear weapons. The U.S. Attorney’s office filed a document they called “Motion to Preclude Defendants from Introducing Evidence in Support of Certain Justification Defenses.” In this motion, the U.S. asked the court to bar the peace protestors from being allowed to put on any evidence regarding the illegality of nuclear weapons, the immorality of nuclear weapons, international law, or religious, moral or political beliefs regarding nuclear weapons, the Nuremberg principles developed after WWII, First Amendment protections, necessity or US policy regarding nuclear weapons.
Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli argued against the motion. But, despite powerful testimony by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, a declaration from an internationally renowned physician and others, the Court ruled against defendants.
Meanwhile, Congress was looking into the security breach, and media attention to the trial grew with a remarkable story in the Washington Post, with CNN coverage and AP and Reuters joining in.
The trial was held in Knoxville in early May 2012. The three peace activists were convicted on all counts. Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli all took the stand, admitted what they had done, and explained why they did it. The federal manager of Y-12 said the protestors had damaged the credibility of the site in the U.S. and globally and even claimed that their acts had an impact on nuclear deterrence.
As soon as the jury was dismissed, the government moved to jail the protestors because they had been convicted of “crimes of violence.” The government argued that cutting the fences and spray-painting slogans was property damage such as to constitute crimes of violence so the law obligated their incarceration pending sentencing.
The defense pointed out that Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli had remained free since their arrest without incident. The government attorneys argued that two of the protestors had violated their bail by going to a congressional hearing about the Y-12 security problems, an act that had been approved by their parole officers.
The three were immediately jailed. In its decision affirming their incarceration pending their sentencing, the court ruled that both the sabotage and the damage to property convictions were defined by Congress as federal crimes of terrorism. Since the charges carry potential sentences of ten years or more, the Court ruled there was a strong presumption in favor of incarceration which was not outweighed by any unique circumstances that warranted their release pending sentencing.
These non-violent peace activists now sit in jail as federal prisoners, awaiting their sentencing on September 23, 2012.
In ten months, an 82 year old nun and two pacifists had been successfully transformed by the U.S. government from non-violent anti-nuclear peace protestors accused of misdemeanor trespassing into felons convicted of violent crimes of terrorism.
An update on Kimberly Rivera and other U.S. Iraq War resisters November 23, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Canada, War, Peace.
Tags: Stephen Harper, Canada, roger hollander, Iraq war, Kimberly Rivera, Canada Tories, jason kenney, war resister, desmond tutu, harper government
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It has been a period of intensive work on many fronts since the Harper government told Kimberly Rivera and her family they had to leave Canada.
In spite of a national mobilization with events in 8 cities, an op-ed in the Globe and Mail by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in support of Kim, and tens of thousands of people writing letters, faxing, sending emails and phoning Immigration Minister Jason Kenney calling on him to let the Riveras stay in Canada, the Conservative government forced Kim and her family – including two children born in Canada – to leave this country.
But Kim’s case confirmed once again that there is a broad and deep support for the stand that Kim and other U.S. war resisters have taken in refusing to participate in an illegal and immoral war. And we are more determined than ever to build on the support for Kim to give voice to that majority of Canadians who opposed the Iraq War and who want a provision made for US war resisters to stay in Canada.
Below is a brief update on Kim’s situation, and an APPEAL to help the War Resisters Support Campaign continue to mobilize in support of the many other U.S. war resisters who still face the threat of deportation. •
Following her arrest, Kim was taken to Fort Drum, N.Y. and shortly after, to a county jail. After several days she was transported to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is separated from her husband and four young children who are in Texas and are missing Kim terribly. In a recent interview, Kim’s husband Mario Rivera explained how difficult it has been for himself and, especially, for the children to be separated from their mother.
“I explained to them that Mommy is away for a while and she will come back as soon as she can. Katie thinks she’s lost and wants to go rescue her. She is anxious and nervous about it. She closes herself off from people as she’s missing her mom real bad… Gabriel too. He misses his mom real bad. He holds a picture of her and kisses it and tries to reach through the picture to grab her.”
Kim and her family are receiving support from the U.S.-based organization Courage to Resist as well as the War Resisters Support Campaign, and there is a dedicated group of supporters in Colorado Springs who visit her regularly at Fort Carson. James Branum, who has worked on many U.S. war resister cases, is Kim’s civilian lawyer. Supporters in the U.S. have been working hard to facilitate Kim’s family visiting her in Colorado Springs.
• There are still many other U.S. war resisters and their families in Canada who are facing the threat of deportation, and we urgently need to continue to build support for them. The Harper government’s attack on the Rivera family has produced a groundswell of support for war resisters in Canada. Many people were disgusted and angered by the scene of Conservative MPs applauding the news that Kim and her family had been forced to leave the country on September 20th. In their push for increasing militarization of Canada, the Conservative government is criminalizing war resisters and silencing anti-war voices. Millions of Canadians disagree with this. The outpouring of support for Kim has shown once again that people care deeply about this issue, and many are prepared to take action for war resisters. We need to keep up the pressure to achieve what two votes in Parliament and a majority of Canadians have demanded: that Canada should enact a provision to allow U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.
Over the next weeks and months, the War Resisters Support Campaign will be initiating a broad outreach campaign to build on the mobilization of the past few weeks. A signature ad by prominent Canadians including Andy Barrie, Alexandre Trudeau, John Polanyi and many others will publicly call on the Canadian government to stop deporting U.S. war resisters. And we will continue to build the campaign to repeal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s discriminatory Operational Bulletin 202: http://resisters.ca/resources/
To do all of this, WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT! Please consider making a contribution to the War Resisters Defense Fund, which will allow us to carry out this work. To donate on-line please click on this link: http://resisters.chipin.com
Or you can send a cheque to:
War Resisters Support Campaign 427 Bloor Street West, Box 13 Toronto, ON M5S 1X7
The stakes are high for those US soldiers who have risked their futures by refusing to participate in a war Canadians rejected. The Harper government threatens to rip apart their families and facilitate their ‘rendition’ to harsh punishment, as they did to Kim Rivera. The Conservatives are determined to close the door on the tradition of Canadian asylum for US war resisters, and to override the overwhelming opposition to the Iraq War, by driving Iraq War resisters out of Canada. But they have NOT succeeded in changing public opinion on either front. That is because of war resisters’ voices, and the movement of people who support them. We need to make sure those voices continue to be heard in the period ahead.
War Resisters Support Campaign – www. resisters.ca – 416.598.1222 – email@example.com Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s op-ed in The Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/dont-deport-war-resister-kimberly-rivera/article4544856/
Nobel Peace Prize Jury Under Investigation February 4, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Peace, War.
Tags: alfred nobel, fredrik heffermehl, nobel fooundation, nobel peace, obama novel, peace, peace prize, roger hollander, war
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Probe: Has Nobel Peace Prize Lost Its Way?
Today marks the 2012 deadline for nominations for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, but as the prize committee meets this year to discuss what individual or group has “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace,” they will be under heightened scrutiny to be sure their choice fulfills the original intent of its founder, Alfred Nobel.
The reason for the heightened pressure rests on an investigation by the Stockholm County Administrative Board of the committee’s recent choices prompted by ‘persistent complaints’ by author and peace researcher, Fredrik Heffermehl, and roundly criticized choices by the committee in recent years — most notably US President Barack Obama, a war commander governing over numerous military conflicts at the time he was awarded the auspicious “peace” prize in 2009.
* * *
Heffermehl, author of the book The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted and a Norwegian lawyer, argues that the Nobel committee has violated the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will, which established the prize. He states that for decades, the parties in the Norwegian parliament have misused the Nobel committee seats to reward party veterans lacking insight in the peace ideas that Nobel wished to support. Heffermehl writes that over half of the awards since 1946 have not conformed with the intention of Nobel, who wished to change the international system in order to end wars and armaments.
Heffermehl said today:
The Swedish inquiry responds to a complaint against mismanagement that I lodged last month. The Nobel Foundation has been asked to comment in particular on the secret private diaries of former committee chair Gunnar Jahn which indicate that no attention is paid to the directives in Nobel´s will. These diaries, [which were published for the first time by Heffermehl] show that Jahn repeatedly protested in vain against awards that ignored the intentions of Nobel. The diaries clearly demonstrate that the Norwegian awarding Committee already 50 years ago ceased to pay any regard to Nobel and what he wanted.
The Norwegian Parliament had already then taken over the Nobel award and started using it as their own. I have now struggled for four years to have the committee respect the rights of the intended recipients, but I’ve found that in Norway there is no interest in Alfred Nobel and what he wanted.
The Swedish inquiry also encourages the Board of the Nobel Foundation to comment on an article by a member of the Nobel family, Michael Nobel, who in an article last month in Aftenposten said that Norway may be deprived of control over the prize if the mismanagement continues.
* * *
According to Reuters:
“Do you see Obama as a promoter of abolishing the military as a tool of international affairs?” -Fredrik Heffermehl
Sweden Questions Nobel Peace Prize Selection Basis
…In [Heffermehl's] view the last qualified peace prize winners were the United Nations and its then-secretary general, Kofi Annan, in 2001.
Heffermehl [...] won the ear of Stockholm County Administrative Board, whose duties extend to making sure the country’s 7,300 registered foundations fulfill the wishes of their dead benefactors.
“Mr. Heffermehl has a couple of good arguments,” Mikael Wiman, the board’s attorney, told Reuters after he sent a letter this week to the Stockholm-based Nobel Foundation board seeking comment.
Heffermehl’s approval did not include Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who won the prize jointly in 2007 for their work on climate change, and certainly not to Barack Obama, who won the prize in 2009 for “extraordinary efforts” in international diplomacy.
“Do you see Obama as a promoter of abolishing the military as a tool of international affairs?” Heffermehl asked rhetorically.
* * *
The Associated Press reports this morning:
Nobel Peace Prize Jury Under Investigation
Nobel Peace Prize officials were facing a formal inquiry over accusations they have drifted away from the prize’s original selection criteria by choosing such winners as President Barack Obama, as the nomination deadline for the 2012 awards closed Wednesday. [...]
If the Stockholm County Administrative Board, which supervises foundations in Sweden’s capital, finds that prize founder Alfred Nobel’s will is not being honored, it has the authority to suspend award decisions going back three years — though that would be unlikely and unprecedented, said Mikael Wiman, a legal expert working for the county.
Obama won in 2009, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won in 2010, and last year the award was split between Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen.
Happy 71st John! Imagine Peace Tower lights up today October 9, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Peace.
Tags: anti-war, bjork, iceland, imagine, john lennon, peace, peace tower, reykjavik, yoko ono
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Imagine Peace Tower will be relit by Yoko Ono on October 9th 2011 in memory of John Lennon. He would have been 71 today (Sunday). The tower will be lit at 8pm Reykjavik time and the event will stream live on the internet.
The site at Viðey, Reykjavík, Iceland was chosen because Iceland is regarded by Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono as an eco-friendly and peaceful nation. She will light the beam at 8pm local time (9pm London, 4pm New York, 4pm Toronto, 1pm Los Angeles, 5am Tokyo). A live EarthCam feed can be viewed here. The Imagine Peace Tower is a tall “tower of light”, and considered a work of art, projected from a white stone monument that has the words “Imagine Peace” carved into it in 24 languages. Ono will remain in the country to perform with her band, the Plastic Ono Band, at the Iceland Airwaves Festival, which will also see Iceland’s premier pop superstar Bjork performing.
Ono has also requested anyone can send wishes and messages of peace on Twitter (@IPTower) and Facebook. There is also a live world map showing white glowing dots, each one representing a real live person, online at that moment watching the Imagine Peace Tower web page. The light beam often reaches cloud base and can often be seen penetrating through the clouds. Buried underneath the light tower are over half a million written messages or wish trees.
Roger’s note: the first step is Imagination, breaking what William Blake referred to as “mind forg’d manacles.” Genuine imagination leads to action. The war mongers and war profiteers and corporate media and pundits and their political frontmen in the presidency, congress and courts want us to believe that a peaceful world is impossible due to human nature. Imagination confronts that cynicism head on. Happy Birthday, John Lennon!
Why I Can’t Celebrate the End of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell October 8, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Peace, War.
Tags: Afghanistan War, Civil Rights, civilian casualties, dadt, gary lehring, gay bomb, gay rights, Iraq war, lesbian rights, lgb, lgbt, militarism, roger hollander, war
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Many are applauding the repeal of DADT as an advance for gay and lesbian civil rights. And while any advance in civil rights is difficult to oppose, I am troubled by the celebration and fanfare that has accompanied the repeal of this policy. After eighteen years of such a costly and repugnant policy, why do I not rejoice at this step forward in legal protections for LGB individuals? Why can’t I celebrate the end of DADT as an advance in civil rights?
Part of my reticence to celebrate comes from the current news coverage that suggests that the repeal of DADT is the final victory of a monolithic LGBT community that has been fighting for inclusion in the military for decades. But the gay community has never been uniform in its support for military inclusion. Eighteen years ago Clinton’s decision to lift a ban on homosexuality in the military was met with reservation from many quarters of the LGBT communities who opposed the creeping militarization o f our lives and communities . This reticence and resistance from within our communities is missing from this celebration of civil rights. While “inside the beltway” activists honor and defend as a civil right every individual’s decision to serve their country through military service, are LGBT communities obligated to support such a corrupt, misogynistic, and homophobic institution? Have we forgotten the Pentagon’s plan in 1994 to develop a “gay bomb” that would release female pheromones on the battlefield, thereby triggering uncontrollable lust among enemy combatants on the battlefield, rendering this newly created gay enemy unable to fight? Such adolescent misunderstandings of masculinity, sexuality, and human nature should be enough to make LGBT communities question if the military is really an institution worth joining.
What might a progressive and/or a radical LGBT community response to the repeal of DADT look like today? We might begin by acknowledging that while ending this ban will make it easier for LGB people in the military to stay there, and easier for others to join, there are larger political implications to this inclusion. This civil rights victory entitles LGB persons to serve as “the mercenaries of a military industrial complex” as Barbara Smith said. These “mercenaries” have succeeded in killing more than 110,000 civilian non combatants in Iraq, and more than 10,000 civilian noncombatants in Afghanistan. Is this truly progress, and if so for whom? Our military leaders claim that the creation of a stable democratic society is the goal in these countries. Nonetheless the Pentagon was slow to condemn anti-gay honor killings in Iraq and seems not to think that rampant violence directed at sexual minorities is incompatible with a democratic society. Should progressive LGBT communities not also be globally engaged ones? Should civil rights victories here manipulate us into abandoning our moral courage and outrage at homophobia and sexual violence abroad ? When Abu Ghraib revealed homosexual rape to be part of the military’s humiliation of prisoners, I wondered if that could have happened if an LGBT service member had been present. Yet, today, I fear that misplaced patriotism, jingoism, demonization of the enemy– all well worn practices of the United States Military–will create camaraderie among queer and straight soldiers long before it would help gay servicemen and women see their own connection to sexually subjugated enemy combatants.
A truly radical LGBT response would go further still. We might be working to dismantle the military industrial complex and shift those billions of dollars to help the very economically distressed communities and individuals that military recruiters target to make their monthly enlistment quotas– sites which will now include LGBT community centers. Deploying promises of a steady income, high tech training, college grants, and upward social mobility, the US Military targets the highest risk populations in our society for recruitment. Suspect under normal conditions, during a prolonged recession this strategy is simply dishonest and exploitive. It seems even more exploitative when one realizes that all of these promised benefits have become comparatively less generous and less effective in recent decades.
A radical LGBT community movement might also demand that the savings from the repeal of DADT be directed toward those LGBT community centers that are now targeted for recruitment: a kind of queer combination of a Peace dividend and reparations to a community for historically egregious official discrimination. With more than 13,000 GLBT service members fired under DADT and an average investment in their training priced at $52000 per service member, a queer dividend of $383 million invested at the community level over the next 18 years could help address the many forms that LGBT discrimination takes today.
But of course no such dividend will be forthcoming. In the current budget debate as the military insists that any cuts to its budget will cripple its readiness, we should remember that this $383 million was money the military squandered upholding a discriminatory policy. Surely, this is a painless budget cut that all taxpayers can applaud. Unfortunately, like the Cold War “Peace dividend,” the end of this war on LGBT people by the US military will bring no advantage to these communities nor to American taxpayers. The military will simply find another unneeded weapons system in which to invest, another politically connected Halliburton to which to funnel taxpayer dollars.
Although it is tempting to see any advance of civil rights as a good thing, I cannot celebrate the repeal of DADT. If the goal is the advance of LGBT civil rights, many areas exist where national leadership and congressional action would make a more significant impact on the lives of beltway activists, progressive GLBTs and Radical queers all. National laws making it illegal to discriminate against LGBT people in housing, in adoption, in civil unions, in immigration or in the workplace would have far reaching consequences for many. A law that ends discrimination in the workplace could bring truly progressive change to greater numbers of people in the United States and might also have been applied to the military as one of the country’s largest employers. When finally the Employment Non Discrimination Act, or some future incarnation of it, passes and becomes the law of the United States, I will celebrate. Until then, consider me “Section 8,” but the military is no place for queers.
Gary Lehring, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Government and Gender Studies at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. He is the author of Officially Gay: The Political Construction of Sexuality by the US Military.
Truman Lied, Hundreds of Thousands Died August 8, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in History, Nuclear weapons/power, Peace, War.
Tags: anti-war, atomic bomb, david swanson, eisenhower, harry truman, hiroshima, history, nagasaki, nuclear arms, nuclear war, nuclera nonproliferation, peace, roger hollander, world war II, world war two
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On August 6, 1945, President Harry S Truman announced: “Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British ‘Grand Slam’ which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.”
When Truman lied to America that Hiroshima was a military base rather than a city full of civilians, people no doubt wanted to believe him. Who would want the shame of belonging to the nation that commits a whole new kind of atrocity? (Will naming lower Manhattan “ground zero” erase the guilt?) And when we learned the truth, we wanted and still want desperately to believe that war is peace, that violence is salvation, that our government dropped nuclear bombs in order to save lives, or at least to save American lives.
We tell each other that the bombs shortened the war and saved more lives than the some 200,000 they took away. And yet, weeks before the first bomb was dropped, on July 13, 1945, Japan sent a telegram to the Soviet Union expressing its desire to surrender and end the war. The United States had broken Japan’s codes and read the telegram. Truman referred in his diary to “the telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace.” Truman had been informed through Swiss and Portuguese channels of Japanese peace overtures as early as three months before Hiroshima. Japan objected only to surrendering unconditionally and giving up its emperor, but the United States insisted on those terms until after the bombs fell, at which point it allowed Japan to keep its emperor.
Presidential advisor James Byrnes had told Truman that dropping the bombs would allow the United States to “dictate the terms of ending the war.” Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal wrote in his diary that Byrnes was “most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in.” Truman wrote in his diary that the Soviets were preparing to march against Japan and “Fini Japs when that comes about.” Truman ordered the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th and another type of bomb, a plutonium bomb, which the military also wanted to test and demonstrate, on Nagasaki on August 9th. Also on August 9th, the Soviets attacked the Japanese. During the next two weeks, the Soviets killed 84,000 Japanese while losing 12,000 of their own soldiers, and the United States continued bombing Japan with non-nuclear weapons. Then the Japanese surrendered.
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that,”… certainly prior to 31 December, 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November, 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.” One dissenter who had expressed this same view to the Secretary of War prior to the bombings was General Dwight Eisenhower. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William D. Leahy agreed: “The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.”
Whatever dropping the bombs might possibly have contributed to ending the war, it is curious that the approach of threatening to drop them, the approach used during a half-century of Cold War to follow, was never tried. An explanation may perhaps be found in Truman’s comments suggesting the motive of revenge:
“Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, and against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international law of warfare.”
Truman could not, incidentally, have chosen Tokyo as a target — not because it was a city, but because we had already reduced it to rubble.
The nuclear catastrophes may have been, not the ending of a World War, but the theatrical opening of the Cold War, aimed at sending a message to the Soviets. Many low and high ranking officials in the US military, including commanders in chief, have been tempted to nuke more cities ever since, beginning with Truman threatening to nuke China in 1950. The myth developed, in fact, that Eisenhower’s enthusiasm for nuking China led to the rapid conclusion of the Korean War. Belief in that myth led President Richard Nixon, decades later, to imagine he could end the Vietnam War by pretending to be crazy enough to use nuclear bombs. Even more disturbingly, he actually was crazy enough. “The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? … I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes,” Nixon said to Henry Kissinger in discussing options for Vietnam.
President George W. Bush oversaw the development of smaller nuclear weapons that might be used more readily, as well as much larger non-nuclear bombs, blurring the line between the two. President Barack Obama established in 2010 that the United States might strike first with nuclear weapons, but only against Iran or North Korea. The United States alleged, without evidence, that Iran was not complying with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), even though the clearest violation of that treaty is the United States’ own failure to work on disarmament and the United States’ Mutual Defense Agreement with the United Kingdom, by which the two countries share nuclear weapons in violation of Article 1 of the NPT, and even though the United States’ first strike nuclear weapons policy violates yet another treaty: the UN Charter.
Americans may never admit what was done in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but our country had been in some measure prepared for it. After Germany had invaded Poland, Britain and France had declared war on Germany. Britain in 1940 had broken an agreement with Germany not to bomb civilians, before Germany retaliated in the same manner against England — although Germany had itself bombed Guernica, Spain, in 1937, and Warsaw, Poland, in 1939, and Japan meanwhile was bombing civilians in China. Then, for years, Britain and Germany had bombed each other’s cities before the United States joined in, bombing German and Japanese cities in a spree of destruction unlike anything ever previously witnessed. When we were firebombing Japanese cities, Life magazine printed a photo of a Japanese person burning to death and commented “This is the only way.”
By the time of the Vietnam War, such images were highly controversial. By the time of the 2003 War on Iraq, such images were not shown, just as enemy bodies were no longer counted. That development, arguably a form of progress, still leaves us far from the day when atrocities will be displayed with the caption “There has to be another way.”
Combating evil is what peace activists do. It is not what wars do. And it is not, at least not obviously, what motivates the masters of war, those who plan the wars and bring them into being. But it is tempting to think so. It is very noble to make brave sacrifices, even the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life, in order to end evil. It is perhaps even noble to use other people’s children to vicariously put an end to evil, which is all that most war supporters do. It is righteous to become part of something bigger than oneself. It can be thrilling to revel in patriotism. It can be momentarily pleasurable I’m sure, if less righteous and noble, to indulge in hatred, racism, and other group prejudices. It’s nice to imagine that your group is superior to someone else’s. And the patriotism, racism, and other isms that divide you from the enemy can thrillingly unite you, for once, with all of your neighbors and compatriots across the now meaningless boundaries that usually hold sway.
If you are frustrated and angry, if you long to feel important, powerful, and dominating, if you crave the license to lash out in revenge either verbally or physically, you may cheer for a government that announces a vacation from morality and open permission to hate and to kill. You’ll notice that the most enthusiastic war supporters sometimes want nonviolent war opponents killed and tortured along with the vicious and dreaded enemy; the hatred is far more important than its object. If your religious beliefs tell you that war is good, then you’ve really gone big time. Now you’re part of God’s plan. You’ll live after death, and perhaps we’ll all be better off if you bring on the death of us all.
But simplistic beliefs in good and evil don’t match up well with the real world, no matter how many people share them unquestioningly. They do not make you a master of the universe. On the contrary, they place control of your fate in the hands of people cynically manipulating you with war lies.
And the hatred and bigotry don’t provide lasting satisfaction, but instead breed bitter resentment.
This is excerpted from “War Is A Lie”
War Resisters Inject Truth into Military Recruitment July 21, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Peace, War.
Tags: anti-war, conscientiousw objector, eleanor j. bader, honorable discharge, military, military recruiters, military recruiting, military recruitment, peace, peace activists, roger hollander, school recruiters, school recruitment, selective service, stop-loss, truth-in-recruiting, war, War Resisters
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The setting changes but the scene does not: Men and women in crisply pressed uniforms enter public high schools across the country and cajole the teenagers they meet into signing on the dotted line to serve Uncle Sam.
Thanks to Section 9528 of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, recruiters from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy have the same access to secondary school students as college recruiters or potential employers. This, in concert with mandatory Selective Service registration for all 18-year-old males and the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery [ASVAB] exam that is given to nearly three-quarters of a million high school juniors and seniors each year, has prompted many domestic peace activists to organize opposition to the militarization of youth. They advocate “truth-in-recruiting,” arguing that lofty promises made at the time of enlistment — extensive travel, scholarships or an easy route to U.S. citizenship — often fail to materialize once service begins.
What’s more, these peace activists say that they are paying particular attention to female recruits, warning them of potential pitfalls: The risks associated with wartime service even in “non-combat” positions, as well as the too-common experience of sexual harassment and assault by unit supervisors and peers.
The War Resisters League, an 88-year-old national group with more than 25 chapters across the U.S., targets students and, when possible, tables at schools to provide little-known facts about the military: One in four soldiers gets a less than honorable discharge, making them ineligible for college money; nearly one-third of females seeking health care from the Veteran’s Administration report experiencing a rape or attempted rape while conscripted.
“Up until the economic recession began, the military had a hard time finding recruits,” says Kimber Heinz, National Organizing Director of the War Resisters League. “But now the military is not only meeting its quota, it’s a de facto jobs program and you have recruiters preying on students who can no longer afford college or find work.”
One of its brochures, Know Before You Go, offers this information for those thinking of signing up: “The military contract states, ‘Laws and regulations that govern military personnel may change without notice. Such changes may affect pay, benefits, and responsibilities as a member of the Armed Forces regardless of the provisions of the enlistment document.’” In other words, beware: Even though a recruit has signed a contract, the terms can be modified at the military’s discretion.
“We let people know that if we’re at war a recruit can be stop-lossed and might end up on multiple tours,” Heinz continues. “The recruit has no control over this. We always remind people that the military is the only job where if the worker quits, he or she goes to jail.” The organization also provides data on what it means to be a conscientious objector and outlines the penalties for failing to register for Selective Service.
Other truth-in-recruiting messages are also hammered. For one, despite promises to the contrary, Heinz reports that skills learned in the military are rarely transferable to the civilian world. “We make it clear that many, many people come out of the military traumatized or disabled,” Heinz continues. “We ask people to think about what it means to be an occupier of someone else’s land and we try to get people to consider whether they’ll be able to live with killing someone or seeing someone killed.”
It’s a heavy message, and it is repeated by more than 75 local organizations throughout the 50 states.
Joanne Sheehan is an adult advisor to YouthPeace, a student-led social justice group at the Norwich Free Academy, a public, regional high school in eastern Connecticut. Since 1998 YouthPeace has raised issues including military recruitment and Islamophobia with the student body.
Students Can Opt-Out
For the past seven years, members have also coordinated an annual opt-out campaign to inform students that the law allows them to request that their contact information be withheld from recruiters. “Schools typically send student names, addresses, and phone numbers to the military in October, so we have about a month once school starts to publicize the opt-out provision,” Sheehan says. “A few years ago we pushed the superintendent to put information about opting-out in the first paragraph of a letter that is sent to parents at the beginning of the year. We want to be sure they understand that their children don’t need to provide data to recruiters, that it’s something they can opt-out of.”
In some schools recruiters have free rein in the hallways
The peace groups also broach a broader anti-militarist agenda, even in places like San Diego with a heavy military presence and 110,000 military employees. There, the school board recently voted to ban students enrolled in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps [J-ROTC] from taking in-school marksmanship classes. “Fifteen of the 18 high schools in San Diego have ROTC. One of them, Lincoln, was temporarily closed for rehabbing and when we saw the plan for the renovation, we saw that it included a firing range. We brought this to the community’s attention and formed the Education Not Arms Coalition,” says Rick Jahnkow, coordinator of Youth and Non-Military Opportunities, known as Project YANO.
The consensus, Jahnkow says, was to focus on ending gun classes rather than campaigning against ROTC more generally because group participants felt an anti-ROTC campaign would fail. Education Not Arms pointed to the pervasive gun violence already plaguing the Lincoln area and denounced planned cutbacks in Advanced Placement classes needed by college-bound pupils. The efforts paid off: The school board ended all in-school gun training.
Boosted by this victory, Project YANO and Education Not Arms next turned their attention to school-based recruiters. In late 2010 San Diego activists succeeded in restricting recruiters to two school visits per year, similar to policies in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland. As a result, recruiters must schedule specific times to meet with potential conscripts and cannot disrupt “normal school activities.”
“In some schools the recruiters eat lunch with the kids, hang out and chill in the parking lot, and have free rein in the hallways,” says Pat Elder of Maryland’s PeaceAction Montgomery. “In most places, what they get to do depends on the principal. I’ve seen schools where male recruiters are always around, playing one-on-one basketball with kids who don’t have fathers.”
This scenario led New York City’s Youth Activists-Youth Allies Network to monitor recruiters to ensure that they obey the regulations that circumscribe their access to individual students.
YA-YA Network staff — all but one of whom are between 15 and 19 — also lead workshops about U.S. foreign policy and the costs of war and militarism. “Several years ago I asked participants what their peers thought about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” says YA-YA advisor Amy Wagner. “The wars were not very present for them. I talked about how during the Vietnam War when you turned on your TV you always heard the number of dead soldiers. They thought about this and concluded that facts were being hidden from them on purpose. They did a lot of research and the result was a short video now up on YouTube, called The War Will Not Be Televised.
Terms can be modified at the military’s discretion
The YA-YA Network is presently focused on making sure that schools abide by regulations that mandate that a school staff person be appointed to provide guidance on military recruitment in each high school. “We first want to investigate and see if this is being done,” Wagner says. “If not, why not. If it is, we want to know where these people are getting their info and who’s training them. We want to give students the information they are entitled to so that they fully understand their range of options.”
Indeed, it is this idea of options that propels organizing against militarism. Take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, a four-hour recruiting tool used in nearly 12,000 high schools nationwide. To date, Maryland is the only state to require schools to select a provision that stops student scores from being sent directly to recruiters.
“Look, if you take even moderate Democrats and sit them down and ask them who they think should give student data to the military — mom and dad or the Pentagon – they’ll all support parental decision making,” says Pat Elder of PeaceAction Montgomery.
They want students to understand that becoming a soldier is not necessarily the best way to show personal strength or valor. “A lot of people want to be tough and powerful, so they enlist,” says the War Resisters League’s Kimber Heinz. “They ultimately learn that enlisting is not a good way to test how strong they are.”
Obama Wins Nobel War Prize June 25, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Peace, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, afghanistan troops, Afghanistan War, anti-war, drone missiles, Iraq, Iraq war, libya, libya war, military resistance, nobel peace, obama nobel, obama war, pakistan, partriot act, peace, roger hollander, troop withdrawal, us military bases, war
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“The President Will Begin By Thanking Congressional Democrats
‘For Campaigning In 2006 On The Antiwar Agenda, And Then Turning Around
Once In Office And Funding The War They Claimed To Oppose’”
Obama Wins Nobel War Prize by Sandy K, Military Resistance Organization.
As the July 2011 deadline for Afghan troop withdrawal nears,
President Barack Obama is gearing up for another significant milestone,
the Nobel War Prize awards ceremony, which will be held in Oslo next
Obama has been selected as this year’s winner of the first inaugural
prize to commemorate the world leader who has “best advanced the goals
of war and militarization across the globe,” amongst a notable cast of
runners-up that includes NATO’s head Anders Fogn Rasmussen, China’s
premier Wen Jiabao, and former President George W. Bush.
The selection committee includes a host of venerable war-makers in
their own right, including Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah
Saleh, and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi — each of whom will be honored in a
special category celebrating the “Leaders that Wage War on Their Own
Among Obama’s list of war accomplishments, the committee highlighted
Obama’s decision to double the number of troops and expand the number of
private contractors in Afghanistan, as well as his dramatic escalation
of drone strikes and targeted assassinations in Yemen and Pakistan.
According to one committee member, “Two years ago, we worried that
President Obama would rollback Bush administration policies and pursue a
peace agenda, but in fact he’s expanded the militaristic Bush approach
to counterterrorism. He’s managed to get the U.S. involved in three wars
in the Middle East, keep Guantanamo open, and dramatically expand the
use of covert CIA capture/kill operations across the globe. We could not
think of a more worthy candidate for this award.
” News this week that the CIA is building a secret military base in the Middle East had the committee buzzing with excitement.
One judge noted, “We applaud Obama for presiding over 865 military
bases abroad at a cost of over $102 billion annually. At a time when the
country is faltering from the economic crisis, Obama’s decision to
approve the construction of more bases deserves praise.”
Obama’s speechwriters are hard at work preparing his acceptance
remarks, and PolicyMic managed to obtain a preview of the speech from a
source inside the White House.
The president will begin by thanking congressional Democrats “for
campaigning in 2006 on the antiwar agenda, and then turning around once
in office and funding the war they claimed to oppose.”
He will also thank Congress for “stepping aside and allowing me to go
to war in Libya without Congressional approval and once again approving
the Patriot Act despite years of supposed opposition.”
Ceremony organizers carefully timed the event in order to nudge Obama
toward breaking his pledge to begin a significant troop withdrawal in
July — a course the president is strongly considering.
They are urging the president to permanently take the Nobel Peace
Prize down from his bookshelf and replace it with the war prize next
Extracted from Military Resistance, (formerly GI Special), the magazine of the Military Resistance Organization. See the next post for more information about the organization
Obama: Turn In Your Phony Nobel Peace Prize March 28, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Peace, War.
Tags: nobel, nobel peace, Obama, obama nobel, peace prize, peace.roger hollander, war
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I have begun a petition to demand that President Obama return the Nobel Peace Prize, the awarding of which was a gross error. His continued warmongering in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and now Libya tells us that he has adopted the Bush Doctrine of permanent war. That such a person should hold the world’s most prestigious peach prize is a cruel joke. Demanding the return of Obama’s Nobel is a symbolic gesture, but such gestures can be a powerful means of expressing outrage.
You can sign that petition at the following link.