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Obama please note: Those who fail to ‘master the past’ are guilty, too March 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, Foreign Policy, Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Latin America, Vietnam, War.
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Japan Times, March 1, 2009, http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20090301rp.html

In “Guilt About the Past,” based on guest lectures that Bernhard Schlink gave at Oxford University last year, the University of Berlin law professor describes the “long shadow” cast by the perpetrators of war crimes on their descendants.

“The act of not renouncing, not judging and not repudiating carries its own guilt with it,” he states in the book published in January by University of Queensland Press.

Last week in this column I discussed issues of guilt and atonement as they relate to Germany and Japan. This week I will examine how concepts of responsibility and self-questioning apply to the United States of America.

U.S. presidents, secretaries of state and defense, and members of Congress are certainly quick to point out perceived human rights’ abuses and political crimes committed in other nations. The assumption is always that the U.S. occupies the moral high ground of human dignity — so allowing Americans to believe in themselves as altruistic and selfless.

OK, they tell themselves, we have made mistakes; but our actions have always stemmed from pure motives. Others’ evil actions are motivated by intolerance and greed; our own regrettable actions are aberrations.

In fact, buried deep in America’s moral high ground are the bones of millions of victims of whom most Americans seem purposefully oblivious.

Schlink speaks of the need to “master the past” — that is, to come to terms with your nation’s crimes through law, atonement and reconciliation for all involved. If Americans wish to avoid repeating the tragic blunders and crimes committed in Vietnam and Iraq (to name just two war zones), they would do well to heed his message:

“Guilt also reaches those who do not actively separate themselves from the perpetrators and participants through dissociation, judgment or repudiation.”

In other words, it is not sufficient to merely “regret” past actions and believe that “looking forward” and “getting the country moving again” are substitutes for atonement. Future generations must, to use Schlink’s term, “master the past” by taking responsibility for it. Americans demand this of others — why not of themselves?

Let’s get specific.

The U.S. is guilty of conducting the most massive campaign of chemical warfare since World War II — far exceeding anything perpetrated by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds of Iraq. Between 1962 and 1970, American planes sprayed the countryside of Vietnam with dioxin in order to defoliate wooded areas its opponents used to hide themselves and their supply routes from aerial observation.

Of the 3 million Vietnamese estimated to have been exposed directly to this dioxin (known in the U.S. as Agent Orange), 1 million are acknowledged to have suffered serious health problems as a consequence. In addition, some 150,000 children have been — and continue to be — born with birth defects attributed to the use of this weapon of mass destruction.

However, all appeals by Vietnamese officials to the U.S. to apologize and pay reparations or compensation have fallen on deaf ears. The U.S. government has awarded up to $1,500 a month to the 10,000 U.S. service personnel adversely affected by Agent Orange. Why hasn’t this been extended to non-American victims?

What is the difference between this and Japan’s discrimination against non-Japanese radiation victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Why are Americans so averse to recognizing guilt for actions toward others?

This tendency to bury, rather than master, the past is all the more conspicuous when crimes are being committed in the present.

The U.S. spearheaded an illegal war, based on false premises, in Iraq, and for the past six years has killed, maimed and traumatized millions of that country’s citizens. Most Americans now consider the war a strategic error. But has anyone in power, even President Barack Obama, who opposed it from the beginning, spoken in terms of guilt and atonement? Do Americans care about the fates of those millions of people whose lives their state’s actions have ruined?

Several weeks ago, Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, proposed the establishment of a truth commission to investigate illegal practices by members of the Bush administration. Yet President Obama has repeatedly stated his opposition to this, instead declaring that he wants “to get it right [by] moving forward.”

There’s the political rub. By proposing “change we can believe in,” as Obama has, you emphasize the importance of the future by bypassing serious reflection on the past. It’s as if you go to the PAST file, highlight it and hit the DELETE button. Then you simply create a new file headed NEW IDEALS.

As Schlink puts it, ignoring past crimes has entangles you in them whether you like it or not. He writes:

“The principle is as follows: to not renounce the other includes one in that person’s guilt for past crimes, but so that a new sort of guilt is created. Those in the circle of solidarity who are themselves not guilty through actions of their own, bring about their own guilt when . . . they do not respond by dissociating themselves from those who are guilty.”

For instance, Americans are naturally perturbed by the intense animosity expressed toward them by Iranians — yet they seem ignorant of the fact that their Central Intelligence Agency, together with British intelligence, engineered a coup against Iran’s democratically elected government in 1953. Similarly, if the governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Chile have vented criticism against the U.S., wouldn’t it be helpful if Americans were aware of their country’s active intervention in Latin America to subvert the development of democratic processes?

These are old stories. Yet they need to be analyzed not as strategic or tactical errors, but as seriously unethical transgressions.

The Obama ideology of “moving ahead” without attempting to redress past wrongs implicates those in the present all over again. Even as the Obama reboot sweeps the old icons from the screen, Americans would do well to remember that the virus remains deep in the system.

What, then, is to stop them from instigating new fiascoes that result in untold misery and death? The smiling face of President Obama on the screen saver is no protection against the virus.

The era of U.S. exclusivity and pre-emption, so misinterpreted and degraded by George W. Bush and his advisers, is over. This means that Americans will be judged worldwide by the same standard once — and still — applied to Germans and Japanese.

“One deserves to be proud only of what one achieves, not of what one is,” writes Schlink in “Guilt About the Past.”

“Instead of assuring the younger generation that they have the right to be proud or denying them the right, we owe it to them to integrate the past into our collective biography.”

What will be the world’s collective view of post-Bush America? Americans should take a cold hard look at their past, as they so require of others. The world will forgive what is admitted to and atoned for. Without admittance and atonement, there is no moving forward. The positive example of Germany and the negative example of Japan should be ample testimony to that.

“SOA 6″ Sentenced to Federal Prison for Nonviolent Direct Action to Close the SOA/ WHINSEC January 26, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Latin America.
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North and South, the People Say, Close the SOA! Donate
SOA Watch News &   Updates
“SOA 6″ Sentenced to Federal Prison for Nonviolent Direct Action to Close the SOA/ WHINSEC
Today, on January 26, six human rights advocates appeared in a federal courthouse in Georgia. The “SOA 6,” ranging in age from 21 to 68, were found “guilty” of carrying the protest against the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) onto the Fort Benning military base. The six were among the thousands who gathered on November 22 and 23, 2008 outside the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia to demand a change in U.S. policy towards Latin America and the closure of the SOA/WHINSEC.

The “SOA 6″ spoke out clearly and powerful in court today. They made a compelling case for the closure of the school and creation of a culture of justice and peace, where there is no place for the SOA mindset that promotes military “solutions” to social and economic problems. The six spent the weekend preparing for their trials with a team of lawyers, legal workers and volunteers, and today they stood up for all of us working for a more just world.

The “SOA 6″:
Father Luis Barrios, 56, from North Bergen, NJ, was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison and a $250 fine
Theresa Cusimano, 40, Denver, Colorado, found guilty and awaiting sentencing
Kristin Holm, from Chicago, Illinois, was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison and a $250 fine
Sr. Diane Pinchot, OSU, 63, from Cleveland, Ohio, was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison
Al Simmons, 64, from Richmond, Virginia, was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison
Louis Wolf, 68, from Washington, DC, found guilty and awaiting sentencing

Support the “SOA 6″


Fr. Luis Barrios

Father Luis Barrios is the Chairperson of the Department of Latin American & Latina/o Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice-City University of New York and a Board Certified Forensic Examiner with the American College of Forensic Examiners. He is also an Associate Priest at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Manhattan, New York City. Fr. Barrios, as well is a Board Member of Interreligious Foundation for Community Organizing-Pastor for Peace. Professor Barrios is a columnist with El Diario La Prensa and has been honored with the Media Award-2006-GLAAD as an Outstanding Spanish Language Newspaper Columnist and was nominated again in the year 2008. He teaches courses on gangs, criminal justice, cultural criminology, forensic psychology, US foreign policy in Latin America, Puerto Rican Studies, race and ethnicity, and Latina/os Studies.

Click here to read Fr. Luis Barrios’ trial statement


Theresa Cusimano

Theresa M. Cusimano, J.D., served as a public interest advocate for twenty years. Her Italian/Irish passion for social justice has led her to work with: the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops on immigration and refugee issues, the federal Department of Education on the Americans with Disabilities Act and more recently with Colorado Campus Compact to support college campus engagement in community problem solving. Cusimano was born in New York, raised outside of Philadelphia and has the joy of living in the Rocky Mountain state of Colorado. She is both honored and extremely humbled to have participated in nonviolent civil disobedience with her five co-defendants who together, face trial on Monday, January 26th.


Kristin Holm
On November 23rd, 2008, Kristin Holm, a first year student at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), along with five others, entered the base of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation’s (WHINSEC).

Kristin is the third seminary student from Chicago to stand trial for civil disobedience at the WHINSEC vigil in the past five years. The others are Elizabeth Deligio, CTU, 2005; and Le Anne Clausen, CTS, 2008.


Sister Diane Therese Pinchot, OSF

Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, second oldest of six children, Diane Pinchot entered the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland after graduating from Villa Angela High School in 1963. She graduated from Ursuline College with a BA in Art Education in 1968 and has been teaching since. Her assignments have included Saint Ann’s School in Cleveland Heights, Lake Catholic High School in Mentor, Beaumont School in Cleveland Heights and, for the last 26 years, Ursuline College in Pepper Pike. After completing several degrees — an MALS at Wesleyan University in Conn. concentrating in metals and a terminal degree an MFA in Ceramic Sculpture in 1990 at Ohio University — the Diocesan Cleveland Mission Team in El Salvador in 1992 asked her to come and help design and build an altar on the spot where the Churchwomen were found in a shallow grave after they were raped and killed. This significant action slowly changed Diane’s life and over time the Central American martyrs, especially Dorothy Kazel, a member of the Ursuline community, inspired her to become more active in social justice groups within the community and other national organizations. Her artwork has also reflected this transformation, becoming more narrative and engaging the viewer to question the meaning behind the form. She has exhibited her work internationally, nationally and regionally and has come to realize the sacred connection of justice and art making especially when it is grounded in Peace and Love.

Click here to read Sister Diane Therese Pinchot’s trial statement.


Al Simmons

I’ m a 64 year old pre-school teacher who retired last year. I was a teacher and director in pre-school programs in Richmond, VA. I have been married for 32 years to Marcia Deckinson.

We enjoy birding, camping, scrabble, reading, silliness and each other.

I’m a Vietnam Veteran from 1968 and it was then that’d realized there had to be a better way. The past forthy years I’ve been involved in peace, social and economic justice, gay rights, woman’s rights and death penalty issues.

As I had said often to my four year olds in pre-school “Don’t hurt- use words”. I have been saying that, in various ways, to my government for many years.

Read Al Simmons’ bio information


Louis Wolf

Born October 31, 1940 in Dresher, Pennsylvania (then some 30 miles outside of Philadelphia), and grew up on a farm there. Attended Goddard College in Vermont (1958-63), graduated BA in 1963.

Spent one year (1961) in Denmark in work-study program. Job Training Officer (1964) with Flanner House, Indianapolis. Alternative service as a conscientious objector to military service in Laos (1964-67) building wells, water-seal latrines, and a school.

Did postgraduate studies (1967-72) at the University of the Philippines, College of Agriculture. Freelance correspondent in the Philippines.(1969-72) with Dispatch News Service International and American Report. Freelance writer and researcher in London (1972-77) with Transnational Research Associates International.

Co-founder and research director (1978-2005) of CovertAction Information Bulletin renamed CovertAction Quarterly, Washington, DC. Staff member (2007-present), Rock Creek Free Press, Bethesda, MD. Co-editor of two books, “Dirty Work: The CIA in Western Europe” (1978) and “Dirty Work II: The CIA in Africa” (1980). Have traveled throughout the Third World.

Read Luis trial statement

Converge on Washington, DC in February 2009

Make Your Voice Heard: Ensure True Change in Latin America Policy

Join grassroots activists and organizers for a series of events calling for a new Latin America policy and opposing militarization.

SOA Watch is working with other Latin America Solidarity and social justice groups on a series of events from February 15-17, 2009 to push the U.S. Congress and the White House to close the School of the Americas and to bring real change to U.S. Latin America policy.

Schedule of Events

Saturday, February 14
7pm Meet and Greet at the SOA Watch office

Sunday, February 15
9am – 4:30pm SOA Watch Encuentro / Strategy Meeting
dinner break 4:30pm – 6:00pm
6:00pm – 9:00pm Anti-Militarization Program
organized in cooperation with the Latin America Solidarity Coalition (LASC) and the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA)

Monday, February 16
9:00am – 11:00am Grassroots Lobby Training
1:00pm – 4:00pm Arts and Action Workshop
Lobby Visits and Street Theater on Capitol Hill

Tuesday, February 17
Lobbying on Capitol Hill

Click Here to Register
for the February 15-17 Events


Winter/ Spring 2009 Issue of ¡Presente! Out Now:
Winter 2009
We appreciate your interest! You are subscribed to this list as rogerholla@easynet.net.ec.

Click here to unsubscribe, or reply to this email with “unsubscribe” in the subject line.

Contact us.

Our mailing address is:
SOA Watch, PO Box 4566, Washington, D.C. 20017, USA

Our telephone:
(202) 234 3440

Donate to Support the Campaign to Shut Down the SOA/WHINSEC


Not Just Change But Justice: Toward a New Foreign Policy January 13, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Barack Obama, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Foreign Policy, Latin America, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela.
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Click here to register for the February 15-17, 2009 Events in Washington, DC
Not just Change but Justice - Towards a New Foreign Policy
Join the February 2009 Events in Washington, DC:

  • February 15: SOA Watch Encuentro (9:00am – 4:30pm)
    Anti-Militarization Program (6:00pm – 9:00pm)
  • February 16: Grassroots Lobby Training (9:00am – 11:00am)
    Arts and Action Workshop (1:00pm – 4:00pm)
  • Feb. 16 and 17: Lobby Days to Close the SOA
    and Street Theater on Capitol Hill.

    Not just Change but Justice!

    Toward a New Latin America Policy

    The election of Barack Obama provides an opportunity for the United States to change its relationship with the other nations of the hemisphere. It is up to us, as advocates for justice in the hemisphere, to push the Obama administration to end the long legacy of using Latin America’s blood and gold for U.S. ends. Now is the time to ensure that the next administration brings to the Americas not just change, but justice. 

    During the presidential campaign, the LASC sent a letter to Obama in which it articulated 11 policy changes we would like to see happen under the new administration. The January/February issue of NACLA Report on the Americas will also feature articles advocating a new U.S. relationship with Latin America. The LASC and NACLA realize that in order to achieve these goals, it will take more than a change in the White House – it will take the kind of hard and persistent grassroots organizing that has brought the victories that we are seeing in Latin America.

    The two organizations have decided to combine their efforts to organize three events featuring activists and scholars aimed at building grassroots power and educating the public and policy makers on three broad topics, tentatively scheduled as follows:

    Topic: Anti-Militarization
    City: Washington, DC
    Date: February 15-17, 2009
    Co-sponsors and endorsing organizations: SOA Watch, CISPES, the Alliance for Global Justice, SHARE El Salvador, ElEnemigoCommun.net, ImaginAction.org, and the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

    Topic: Sovereignty and Democracy Manipulation
    City: Chicago
    Date: March
    Co-sponsors: Mexico Solidarity Network, Chicago Free the Five Committee, Campaign for Labor Rights, Nicaragua Solidarity Committee, and US-El Salvador Sister Cities

    Topic: Trade/Washington Consensus
    City: Bay Area
    Date: April
    Co-sponsors: Marin Task Force on the Americas, Nicaragua Information Center-Community Action, and Nicaragua Network

    We want you to be involved! This is an invitation for your organization, university, Latin American studies department, or student group to sponsor, host, and participate in planning these important events aimed at promoting a new U.S. policy toward our neighbors based on respect for sovereignty and self-determination, respect for democracy and elections, and respect for human rights.

    For more information, contact LASC c/o Alliance for Global Justice at AfGJ@AFGJ.org or NACLA at info@nacla.org.

    To endorse, sponsor, or offer to host one of the events, send an email to info@lasolidarity.org or call 202-544-9355.

    For general information visit www.LASolidarity.org and www.NACLA.org

  • Anti-Militarization
    February 15-17, 2009
    Come to Washington, DC!
    SOA Watch, the Latin America Solidarity Coalition (LASC), and the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) are planning a gathering during Presidents Day weekend in February.
    Join grassroots activists and organizers for a series of events for a new Latin America policy, against empire and militarization.

    The events start on Sunday, February 15 with reflection, discussion, and strategizing around the campaign to close the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC). The campaign is at a critical stage and we need everyone’s ideas, creativity and energy.

    The SOA Watch Encuentro will be followed by a 6:00-9:00pm Anti-Militarization Program, featuring activists, distinguished academics, and writers. The evening program will be looking at issues of US-Latin America relations specifically in the areas of militarization.

    On Monday, February 16, a Grassroots Lobby Training and an Arts and Action Workshop will take place in preparation for lobby visits and street theater on Capitol Hill on Monday and Tuesday, February 16/17, 2009.

    Click Here to Register Now!

    Click here for Housing in Washington, DC!

    Click here for Travel and Transportation Information

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