To the Winter Patriot November 23, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Occupy Wall Street Movement, War.
Tags: #occupy movement, abby zimet, first amendment, Freedom of speech, mitch green, occupy wall street, ows, peace movement, police brutality, roger hollander, universal soldier, veterans for peace, winter patriot, winter soldier
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by Abby Zimet, www.commondreams.org, November 23, 2011
An impassioned open letter from Army vet and PhD economics student Mitch Green to his “brothers and sisters in the armed forces,” asking, What will you do when your bosses call you to put down the Occupy movement? Powerful.
The Obama Doctrine and the Dangers of the $185 Billion Increase in US Nuclear War Preparations August 5, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
Tags: arms race, bric, first-strike, joseph gerson, military budget, nuclear, nuclear proliferation, nuclear war, nuclear weapons, obama doctrine, peace movement, roger hollander, test ban, test ban treaty, U.S. imperialism, war, war president
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Roger’s note: below this article I have posted Gar Alperovitz’s arugment against the official rational for droping the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
We continue to face the urgent imperative of eliminating the world’s nuclear arsenals before they eliminate us.
World Conference Against A- and H- Bombs, Hiroshima, August 3, 2011
Minosan Konichi-wa. I come with deep sympathy for all that the people of Japan have suffered as a result of the March 11 catastrophes and I am inspired by the resilience of the Japanese people and the Japanese peace movement.
I return to Hiroshima with humility and anger at what the government that speaks in my name has inflicted here and is preparing for the future. And, who cannot but feel rage at the ways Japanese lives have been sacrificed and your economy undermined. Like the decision to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki, human ambition and greed, not simply nature, were responsible for what you, your friends and communities have suffered from Fukushima.
Also see: “Nuclear War or Real Security?“
Let me begin with a few words about the US political landscape, the fluid state of the global (dis)order and the emerging Obama Doctrine.
The sad truth is that President Bush has been succeeded by another US war president. The US remains at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama escalated the Pakistan and Yemen wars and the aggressive military exercises in the Yellow and South China Seas. Washington has deepened its alliances across the Asia-Pacific with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Australia and India and in Europe with NATO’s new “strategic concept.”
Recall that during last winter’s Korean crisis, the US sent the nuclear powered and nuclear capable USS George Washington into the Yellow Sea, which Beijing claims as its exclusive territorial waters. As former US Ambassador R. Stapleton Roy put it, “we poked China in the eye because we could.” Whether we agree with Beijing’s claim or not, competing international claims should be addressed through law and diplomacy, not by signaling possible future nuclear attacks.
The strategic debate in US elite circles focuses on the relative US decline and the rise of China and the other BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India and China] nations. The dominant question is whether war with rising powers – especially China – is inevitable or if there are alternatives. Of course, the Know Nothings of the Tea Party are focused on cutting essential human services, and some may not even know where to find Japan or China on a map.
It is in this context that a recent article in Foreign Affairs asserted that after an initial phase of “multilateral entrenchment, we now have an Obama Doctrine: aggressive “counterpunching.”
Obama arrived at the White House with the US having become an isolated pariah nation. His initial priorities were to “Wind down [the Iraq and Afghanistan] wars, reestablish American standing and leadership … and focus on a broader set of priorities, from Asia and the global economy to a nuclear-nonproliferation regime.”(1) This included embracing the G-20, re-engaging Asia-Pacific multilateral organizations and Obama’s Prague and Cairo speeches. The BRICs were unimpressed.
Now, having revitalized its alliances, especially in the Asia-Pacific and Europe, Obama and company have turned to “counterpunching,” reasserting US power and influence across the world “when challenged by other countries, reassuring allies and signaling resolve to potential rivals ….”(2) In addition to the poking of China in its Yellow Sea eye, this includes deepening economic and military ties with most of China’s neighbors, declaring freedom of navigation in the South China Sea a core US interest and the accelerated pace of “military exercises” in contested waters.
In the Middle East, the Obama administration has used military and other leverage to limit the Arab Spring. In North Africa, Libya is the first of NATO’s new “strategic concept” wars, with European allies having increased war-fighting responsibilities.
Where do nuclear weapons fit into this picture and why was the deal made with Congressional Republicans to spend an additional $185 billion to “modernize” the US nuclear arsenal and its delivery systems?
While some believe that, “the Obama administration’s nuclear weapons policy appears to be schizophrenic,” that is not the case. Obama’s Prague speech was part of a diplomatic offensive designed to achieve the nation’s pre-eminent strategic goal: preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and thus reducing the risk of nuclear attacks against the United States. Following the recommendations of Shultz, Kissinger, and others, Obama acknowledged the Untied States’ Article VI NPT abolition obligations and demonstrated commitments to at least limited disarmament. We had Prague, Obama’s special Security Council session, the Nuclear Security Summit, New START and preparations for CTBT ratification.
But there is a less visible operational side to US nuclear strategies: the first strike doctrine and the administration’s commitment that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, we the United States will maintain a[n] … effective nuclear arsenal.” The US is building the nuclear arsenal needed to enforce empire for decades to come. The deal that secured New START ratification committed Obama to “a major modernization effort to revitalize” the nation’s genocidal strategic nuclear warheads and its massive arsenal of stockpiled nuclear weapons. The extra $185 billion will pay to expand the nuclear weapons production infrastructure, train a new generation of nuclear weapons designers and technicians, extend the murderous “life” of aging nuclear warheads and replace so-called “old delivery systems.”(3)
While it seems counterintuitive, in addition to maintaining enough strategic warheads to completely destroy Russia or China and bring on nuclear winter, the Pentagon will be modernizing low-yield nuclear weapons and make them deliverable by the new nuclear-capable F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and cruise missiles. B-61 nuclear bombs will be converted to lower-yield warheads. Funding will be there to replace the fleet of Trident submarines and to increase the accuracy of the missiles they carry. There are also plans for a new generation of nuclear-capable drones and air launched cruise missiles.
We are warned that “as nuclear weapons proliferate, it becomes increasingly likely that the United States will find itself in conventional conflicts with nuclear-armed adversaries. So, senior analysts tell us that “deterring weak, desperate adversaries from using their nuclear trump card will be a major challenge” and that the US “must possess nuclear weapons that a president might actually use.”(4) The $185 billion program is there to reinforce US nuclear threats and to increase the probability that future US presidents will not fear pushing the nuclear button.
Of course, Washington is not the only power preparing for nuclear war. Despite last year’s NPT Review Conference, all the nuclear powers are modernizing and/or expanding their arsenals. We continue to face the urgent imperative of eliminating the world’s nuclear arsenals before they eliminate us.
In the US, both elite and community-based forces are campaigning for abolition. Our movement is committed to winning negotiation of a nuclear weapons abolition convention, and we have long made the links between nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Some are preparing for Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty ratification.
But with the massive US budget reductions and the resulting loss of essential government services, our greatest chance for near-term success lies in the growing movement to cut Pentagon spending so that human needs are met. President Obama and the Tea Party Republicans are rehashing the policies that led to the Great Depression. The military budget – already 60 percent of discretionary spending is being increased, while trillions needed for under funded schools, railways, health care, jobs and environmental safety are being cut.
Reinforced by the calls of the US Council of Mayors for abolition and to slash Pentagon spending, we now have a growing popular wave of organized labor, faith communities and the peace movement demanding “Move the Money” and “Fund Our Communities – Not War!” One of AFSC’s [American Friends Service Committee's] unique contributions is highlighting the need to put spending for nuclear weapons on the chopping block.
Other organizing includes an extended national Nuclear Free Future month. We began early in Boston with a Nuclear Free Festival on Trinity Day. There, as an expression of solidarity with your responses to Fukushima and Gensuikyo’s abolition campaigning, activists signed this banner. In the fall, we will be exhibiting Hiroshima Hibakusha Kayashige Junko’s paintings at Harvard University. And to build the our movement’s capacity to challenge militarization in the Asia-Pacific, we have organized a Peace Forum with the Chinese People’s Association for Disarmament and Peace, in which Gensuikyo will play leading roles.
Friends, none of this is enough. The 3-11 catastrophes mark a third great turning point in modern Japanese history, after the Black Ships and the Meiji Revolution and the 15-Year War and its resulting calamities. How will Japan recreate itself? With the peace marchers from Tohoku and this World Conference we are assured that the people of 21st-century Japan will continue to serve as the vanguard for the abolition of nuclear weapons and nuclear power.
Together, with imagination and persistence, WE SHALL OVERCOME!
No More Fukushimas! No More Hiroshimas! No More Nagasakis! No More Hibakusha!!
1. Daniel W. Drezner, “Does Obama Have a Grand Strategy?” Foreign Affairs, July/August 2011.
3. Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, “The Case for Modernizing America’s Nukes,” Foreign Affairs, July 6, 2011.
Dr. Joseph Gerson is disarmament coordinator of the American Friend Service Committee and director of its Peace and Economic Security Program. His most recent book is “Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World.”
On the Sixty-Sixth Anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima
Today is the 66th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Though most Americans are unaware of the fact, increasing numbers of historians now recognize the United States did not need to use the atomic bomb to end the war against Japan in 1945. Moreover, this essential judgment was expressed by the vast majority of top American military leaders in all three services in the years after the war ended: Army, Navy and Army Air Force. Nor was this the judgment of “liberals,” as is sometimes thought today. In fact, leading conservatives were far more outspoken in challenging the decision as unjustified and immoral than American liberals in the years following World War II.
By the summer of 1945 Japan was essentially defeated, its navy at the bottom of the ocean; its air force limited by fuel, equipment, and other shortages; its army facing defeat on all fronts; and its cities subjected to bombing that was all but impossible to challenge. With Germany out of the war, the United States and Britain were about to bring their full power to bear on what was left of the Japanese military. Moreover, the Soviet Union—at this point in time still neutral—was getting ready to attack on the Asian mainland: the Red Army, fresh from victory over Hitler, was poised to strike across the Manchurian border.
Long before the bombings occurred in August 1945—indeed, as early as late April 1945, more than three months before Hiroshima—U.S. intelligence advised that the Japanese were likely to surrender when the Soviet Union entered the war if they were assured that it did not imply national annihilation. An April 29 Joint Intelligence Staff document put it this way: “If at any time the U.S.S.R. should enter the war, all Japanese will realize that absolute defeat is inevitable.”
For this reason—because it would drastically shorten the war—before the atomic bomb was successfully tested (on July 16, 1945) the U.S. had strongly and repeatedly urged the Soviet Union to join the battle as soon after the defeat of Hitler as possible. A target date of three months after Germany’s surrender was agreed upon—which put the planned Red Army attack date at roughly August 8, the war in Europe having ended on May 8. (In late July the date was temporarily extended by a week.)
Nor was there any doubt that the Soviet Union would join the war for its own reasons. At the Potsdam Conference in July (before the successful atomic test) President Truman entered the following in his diary after meeting with Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin on July 17: “He’ll be in the Jap War on August 15. Fini Japs when that comes about.”
The next day, July 18, in a private letter to his wife, the President wrote: “I’ve gotten what I came for—Stalin goes to war August 15 with no strings on it…I’ll say that we’ll end the war a year sooner now…”
The President had also been urged to offer assurances that the Japanese Emperor would be allowed to remain in some form of powerless figurehead role by many top advisers—including, importantly, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, the man who oversaw the development of the atomic bomb. Before the bomb was used he explicitly urged the President that in his judgment the war would end if such assurances were given—without the use of the atomic bomb.
Nor were there insuperable political obstacles to this approach: Leadings newspapers like the Washington Post, along with leaders of the opposition Republican Party were publically demanding such a course. (Moreover, the U.S. Army wanted to maintain the Emperor in some role so as to use his authority both to order surrender and to help manage Japan during the occupation period after war’s end—which, of course, is what, in fact, was done: Japan still has an Emperor.)
As the President’s diary entry and letter to his wife indicate, there is little doubt that he understood the advice given by the intelligence experts as to the likely impact of the upcoming Russian attack. Further evidence is also available on this central point: The American and British Joint Chiefs of Staff—the very top military leaders of the two nations—also met at Potsdam to consolidate planning for the final stages of the war in the Pacific. General Sir Hastings Ismay, Chief of Staff to the British Minister of Defence, summarized the latest (early July) combined US-UK intelligence evidence for Prime Minister Churchill this way: “[W]hen Russia came into the war against Japan, the Japanese would probably wish to get out on almost any terms short of the dethronement of the Emperor.”
The July joint intelligence finding, of course, for the most part simply restated what had been the essential view of American intelligence and many of the President’s top advisers throughout the spring and summer months leading up to the July meeting at Potsdam.
Among the many reasons the shock of Soviet entry was expected to be so powerful were: first, that it would directly challenge the Japanese army in what had been one of its most important strongholds, Manchuria; second, it would signal that there was literally no hope once the third of the three Great Powers was no longer neutral; and third, and perhaps even more important, with the Japanese economy in disarray Japanese leaders were extremely fearful that leftist groups might be powerfully encouraged, politically, if the Soviet Union were to play a major role in Japan’s defeat.
Furthermore, U.S. intelligence had broken Japanese codes and knew Japanese leaders were frantically hoping against hope as they attempted to arrange some form of settlement with Moscow as a mediator. Since their strategy was so heavily focused on what the Russians might or might not do, this further underscored the judgment that when the Red Army attacked, the end would not be far off: the illusory hope of a negotiation through Moscow would be thoroughly dashed as Soviet tanks rolled into Manchuria.
Instead, the United States rushed to use two atomic bombs at almost exactly the time that an August 8 Soviet attack had originally been scheduled: Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9. The timing itself has obviously raised questions among many historians. The available evidence, though not conclusive, strongly suggests that the atomic bombs may well have been used in part because American leaders “preferred”—as Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Martin Sherwin has put it—to end the war with the bombs rather than the Soviet attack. Impressing the Soviets during the early diplomatic sparring that ultimately became the Cold War also appears likely to have been a significant factor.
Some modern analysts have urged that Japanese military planning to thwart an invasion was much more advanced than had previously been understood, and hence more threatening to U.S. plans. Others have argued that Japanese military leaders were much more ardently committed to one or more of four proposed ‘conditions’ to attach to a surrender than a number of experts hold, and hence, again, would likely have fought hard to continue the war.
It is, of course, impossible to know whether the advice given by top U.S. and British intelligence that a Russian attack would likely to produce surrender was correct. We do know that the President ignored such judgments and the advice of people like Secretary of War Stimson that the war could be ended in other ways when he made his decision. This, of course, is an important fact in its own right in considering whether the decision was justified, since so many civilian lives were sacrificed in the two bombings.
Moreover, many leading historians who have studied both the U.S. and Japanese records carefully (including, among others, Barton Bernstein and Tsuyoshi Hasegawa) have concluded that Japan was indeed in such dire straits that–as U.S. and British intelligence had urged long before the bombings–the war would, in fact, have likely ended before the November invasion target date once the Russians entered.
It is also important to note that there was very little to lose by using the Russian attack to end the war. The atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9. There were still three months to go before the first landing could take place in November. If the early August Russian attack did not work as expected, the bombs could obviously have been used anyway long before any lives were lost in the landing.
(Since use of the atomic bombs and Russia’s entry into the war came at almost exactly the same time, scholars have debated at great length which factor influenced the surrender decision more. This, of course, is a very different question from whether using the atomic bomb was justified as the only way to end the war. Still, it is instructive to note that speaking privately to top Army officials on August 14 the Japanese Emperor stated bluntly: “The military situation has changed suddenly. The Soviet Union entered the war against us. Suicide attacks can’t compete with the power of science. Therefore, there is no alternative…” And the Imperial Rescript the Emperor issued to officers and soldiers to make sure they would lay down their arms stated: “Now that the Soviet Union has entered the war, to continue under the present conditions at home and abroad would only result in further useless damage… Therefore…I am going to make peace.”)
The most illuminating perspective, however, comes from top World War II American military leaders. The conventional wisdom that the atomic bomb saved a million lives is so widespread that (quite apart from the inaccuracy of this figure, as noted by Samuel Walker) most Americans haven’t paused to ponder something rather striking to anyone seriously concerned with the issue: Not only did most top U.S. military leaders think the bombings were unnecessary and unjustified, many were morally offended by what they regarded as the unnecessary destruction of Japanese cities and what were essentially noncombat populations. Moreover, they spoke about it quite openly and publicly.
Here is how General Dwight D. Eisenhower reports he reacted when he was told by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson that the atomic bomb would be used: “During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.”
In another public statement the man who later became President of the United States was blunt: “It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”
General Curtis LeMay, the tough cigar-smoking Army Air Force “hawk,” was also dismayed. Shortly after the bombings he stated publically: “The war would have been over in two weeks. . . . The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.”
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, went public with this statement: “The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. . . . The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan.”
I noted above the report General Sir Hastings Ismay, Chief of Staff to the British Minister of Defence, made to Prime Minister Churchill that “when Russia came into the war against Japan, the Japanese would probably wish to get out on almost any terms short of the dethronement of the Emperor.” On hearing that the atomic test was successful, Ismay’s private reaction was one of “revulsion.”
Shortly before his death General George C. Marshall quietly defended the decision, but for the most part he is on record as repeatedly saying that it was not a military decision, but rather a political one. Even more important, well before the atomic bombs were used, contemporary documents record show that Marshall felt “these weapons might first be used against straight military objectives such as a large naval installation and then if no complete result was derived from the effect of that, he thought we ought to designate a number of large manufacturing areas from which the people would be warned to leave–telling the Japanese that we intend to destroy such centers….”
As the document concerning Marshall’s views suggests, the question of whether the use of the atomic bomb was justified turns not only on whether other options were available, and whether top leaders were advised of this. It also turns on whether the bombs had to be used against a largely civilian target rather than a strictly military target—which, in fact, was the explicit choice since although there were Japanese troops in the cities, neither Hiroshima nor Nagasaki was deemed militarily vital by U.S. planners. (This is one of the reasons neither had been heavily bombed up to this point in the war.) Moreover, targeting was aimed explicitly on non-military facilities surrounded by workers’ homes. Here we can gain further insight from two additional, equally conservative military leaders.
Many years later President Richard Nixon recalled that “[General Douglas] MacArthur once spoke to me very eloquently about it, pacing the floor of his apartment in the Waldorf. He thought it a tragedy that the Bomb was ever exploded. MacArthur believed that the same restrictions ought to apply to atomic weapons as to conventional weapons, that the military objective should always be limited damage to noncombatants. . . . MacArthur, you see, was a soldier. He believed in using force only against military targets, and that is why the nuclear thing turned him off.”
Although many others could be cited, here, finally, is the statement of another conservative, a man who was a close friend of President Truman’s, his Chief of Staff (as well as President Roosevelt’s Chief of Staff), and the five star Admiral who presided over meetings of the Combined U.S.-U.K. Chiefs of Staff during the war—William D. Leahy: “[T]he 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. . . . [I]n being the first to use it, we . . . adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”
Gar Alperovitz is the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland and co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative. Among his most recent books are America Beyond Capitalism and (with Lew Daly) Unjust Deserts: How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance and Why We Should Take It Back.
FBI Raids Homes of Antiwar and Pro-Palestinian Activists in Chicago and Minneapolis September 28, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Peace.
Tags: amy goodman, anti-war, antiwar, civil liberties, coleen rowley, doj, fbi, first amendment, inspector general, jess sundin, joe iosbaker, patriot act, peace, peace movement, roger hollander, war on terror
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DEMOCRACY NOW! September 27, 2009
Jess Sundin, longtime antiwar activist in Minneapolis. Her home was raided by the FBI early Friday morning. She’s a member of the Anti-War Committee, whose offices were also raided.
Joe Iosbaker, employee of the University of Illinois in Chicago and a steward for SEIU Local 73. He helped coordinate buses from Chicago to the protests at the Republican National Convention in 2008. His home was one of two raided in Chicago Friday.
Coleen Rowley, former FBI special agent and whistleblower based in Minnesota. She was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2002.
AMY GOODMAN: Antiwar activists are gearing up for protests outside FBI offices in cities across the country today and tomorrow after the FBI raided eight homes and offices of antiwar activists in Chicago and Minneapolis Friday.
The FBI’s search warrants indicate agents were looking for connections between local antiwar activists and groups in Colombia and the Middle East. Eight people were issued subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago. Most of the people whose homes were searched or who were issued subpoenas had helped organize or attended protests at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, two years ago.
The federal law cited in the search warrants prohibits, quote, “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.” In June, the Supreme Court rejected a free speech challenge to the material support law from humanitarian aid groups that said some of its provisions put them at risk of being prosecuted for talking to terrorist organizations about nonviolent activities. Some of groups listed by name in the warrants are Hezbollah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The warrants also authorized agents to to seize items such as electronics, photographs, videos, address books and letters.
Friday’s raids come on the heels of a Justice Department probe that found the FBI improperly monitored activist groups and individuals from 2001 to 2006.
For more, I’m joined now by three guests.
Joining us from Minneapolis, longtime antiwar activist Jess Sundin, whose home was raided by the FBI early Friday morning. She’s a member of the Anti-War Committee, whose offices were also raided.
Joining us via Democracy Now! video stream from Chicago is Joe Iosbaker, whose home was one of two raided in Chicago Friday. He’s an employee of the University of Illinois in Chicago and a steward for SEIU Local 73. He helped coordinate buses from Chicago to the protests at the Republican National Convention in 2008.
Also in Minneapolis we’re joined by former FBI special agent and whistleblower Coleen Rowley. Time named her Woman of the Year, Person of the Year in 2002.
We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Let’s begin in Minneapolis with Jess Sundin. Tell us what happened.
JESS SUNDIN: Friday morning, I awoke to a bang at the door, and by the time I was downstairs, there were six or seven federal agents already in my home, where my partner and my six-year-old daughter had already been awake. We were given the search warrant, and they went through the entire house. They spent probably about four hours going through all of our personal belongings, every book, paper, our clothes, and filled several boxes and crates with our computers, our phones, my passport. And when they were done, as I said, they had many crates full of my personal belongings, with which they left my house.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you the only one there that morning?
JESS SUNDIN: No, my partner and my first-grade daughter were also there.
AMY GOODMAN: And what exactly did they show you to get in?
JESS SUNDIN: Well, we have a porch where you can’t see exactly who’s outside. And so, they had already let themselves into the porch by the time my daughter—my wife opened the door. And when they came in, they showed us this four-page document that listed, as I said, all the kinds of things that they were entitled to look—to search for in my home, as well as a subpoena to appear before a grand jury. My name was listed on the search warrant, but both myself and my partner received subpoenas for the grand jury in Chicago.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Chicago, to Joe Iosbaker. Describe what happened to you on Friday morning.
JOE IOSBAKER: Well, it’s the exact same story. It was a nationally coordinated assault on all of these homes. Seven a.m., the pound on the door. I was getting ready for work, came down the stairs, and there were, I think, in the area of ten agents, you know, of the—they identified themselves as FBI, showed me the search warrant. And I turned to my wife and said, “Stephanie, it’s the thought police.”
AMY GOODMAN: And they came in?
JOE IOSBAKER: They came in, and they proceeded to set up their operation in our living room, and they proceeded to photograph every room in our house. And over the next, I don’t know, thirty or forty-five minutes, they proceeded to label every room and then systematically go through every room, our basement, our attic, our children’s rooms, and pored through not just all of our papers, but our music collection, our children’s artwork, my son’s poetry journals from high school—everything.
AMY GOODMAN: And were they explaining to you what they were doing as they were raiding your house?
JOE IOSBAKER: There was—there were—some of the officers, you know, were telling us what they were doing. Most of them were not. But they gave us some explanation.
AMY GOODMAN: What exactly did they say to you?
JOE IOSBAKER: Well, they—all they said in terms of the content of what they were looking for is that they—you know, they showed us the search warrant, and I was—my wife and I were both subpoenaed, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: What organizations are you involved with, Joe? What do you think they’re looking for?
JOE IOSBAKER: Well, as you said at the start, I’m a trade unionist primarily. That’s how most people know me. I’m also the staff adviser at UIC for the Students for a Democratic Society chapter.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s University of Illinois, Chicago.
JOE IOSBAKER: Correct. And, you know, I’ve been a political activist for thirty-three years, so I’ve been a member of a lot of organizations and campaign.
AMY GOODMAN: Coleen Rowley, you’re a former FBI agent, whistleblower, named Time Person of the Year in 2002. Can you explain what you think is happening here? And also, put it in the context of this very interesting Justice Department IG—Inspector General—report that has just come out on their surveillance of whistleblowers—rather, the surveillance of activists over the last almost decade.
COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, I can’t really detail all of the legal factors that have changed since 9/11, but there simply has been a sea change. For instance, when I taught constitutional rights in the FBI, one of the main top priorities was First Amendment rights. And while this is not the first time that you’ve seen this Orwellian turn of the war on terror onto domestic peace groups and social justice groups—actually, we had that begin very quickly after 9/11, and there were legal opinions, Office of Legal Counsel opinions, that said the First Amendment no longer controls the war on terror—but even so, this is shocking and alarming that at this point we have the, you know, humanitarian advocacy now being treated as somehow material support to terrorists.
We’ve also just seen, ironically, four days before this national raid, we saw the Department of Justice Inspector General issue a report that soundly criticized the FBI for four years of targeting domestic groups such as Greenpeace, the Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh, different antiwar rallies, even involving a finding that the FBI director had given them a falsehood to Congress as to the justification for the FBI to monitor a peace group.
AMY GOODMAN: What about what’s happened in Iowa, Coleen Rowley?
COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, that’s another instance. And that one is actually after the scope of the IG investigation. The IG investigation only went to 2006. There have been requests for that IG to go further. Obviously there’s been four more years. And in 2008, we found out through a Freedom of Information request that there’s 300 pages of—I think it was four or five, six agents trailing a group of students in Iowa City to parks, libraries, bars, restaurants. They even went through their trash. So, this is another reason why peace groups, and certainly law professors, have to be very concerned now about this misinterpretation that says advocacy for human-rights—I just have to mention, we have a famous Minnesotan who wrote Three Cups of Tea. And he obviously sets up schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. His name is Greg Mortenson. Obviously, people like him and Jimmy Carter are even at peril, given this wide discretion now to say that anyone who works in a foreign country, even for peace or humanitarian, anti-torture purposes, could somehow run afoul of the PATRIOT Act.
AMY GOODMAN: The Church Committee in the 1970s really blew the lid open on CIA spying at home, and also guidelines then, regulations, were passed afterwards. How do they apply today, when Americans are being surveilled, infiltrated, spied on at home?
COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, that’s another one of the factors, besides this Supreme Court ruling. Right after 9/11, the Attorney General began to erode those guidelines. He basically said that FBI agents could go into mosques and places like that to monitor, so that was the beginning. The very—almost the last official act that Bush did in 2008 was that he totally erased those prior AG guidelines. There is really no need to even show factual justification now. The presumption is entirely reversed. And basically the FBI need only say that they were not targeting—that they were not targeting a group solely based on their exercise of First Amendment rights. So the presumption really did, again, a complete flip-flop.
And, of course, that’s why you see these various scandals now coming out. It should be no surprise to someone that if there’s no restraints, the green light is on, that you see, of course—I actually kind of sympathize with the FBI. I used to train these agents, and I can understand the enormous pressure they’re under. And, of course, this is why it’s so incredibly important to get the word to the officials who are in charge of using their discretion that they should use their discretion to look for real terrorists instead of to go after peace groups.
AMY GOODMAN: Jess Sundin, what are your plans now? I mean, over the weekend I saw online the video of your mass emergency meeting—many people came out for this, rallying around—and also talked about the RNC 8, the eight people who were preemptively arrested in the lead-up to the Republican convention, all charged on terror counts. All of those terror counts have been dropped now. But it certainly was a very frightening time. What are your plans now?
JESS SUNDIN: Well, as you mentioned, in the Twin Cities we had a meeting the night that the raids happened. There were more than 200 people who gathered, and really every organization in the Twin Cities. But I’d say countless organizations across the country have contacted us to ask us how they can help. There will be, today and tomorrow, as you mentioned earlier, demonstrations in at least twenty cities around the country. We’ve had word of plans for demonstrations at embassies in other countries, as well, at US embassies.
So, one of the things we’re doing is trying to call attention to what’s happened and really make it clear to people that we have done nothing wrong. There is no basis to the claim that we’ve in any way given support to terrorist organizations. But in fact, we are being—we are being—there is attention on us because of our work in the antiwar movement, and in particular, our perspective of solidarity with people in the countries where the US war and militarism are happening.
We, following up on these demonstrations, are going to be pulling together a network of people from many of these organizations that have expressed their concern. Folks who want to get tied into that can find us through the Anti-War Committee website, which is very outdated. We’re doing our best to get it up. Of course, as we explained, all of our computers were seized. So we’re doing a lot of catch up, trying to get ourselves organized.
And, of course, we’re also very concerned with making legal plans to protect ourselves. A number of people have been called before a grand jury in Chicago. And we, you know, don’t want to be—you know, a case to be framed up around us. All of us are quite confident that nothing that was found in our homes will give substantiation to the claims against us. And there’s, in fact, no charges against us. But we want to do everything we can to both protect ourselves legally while at the same time working with the movement to call attention to what’s happened.
AMY GOODMAN: Joe Iosbaker, I wanted to ask you about the other house that was raided. Just looking at an AP piece, FBI agents in Chicago took a laptop and documents from the home of Palestinian American antiwar activist Hatem Abudayyeh, who is the executive director of the Arab American Action Network. His attorney, Jim Fennerty, said, The government’s trying to quiet activists. The case is really is scary,” he said. Abudayyeh is an American citizen. Can you talk about your work on Israel-Palestine, who Hatem Abudayyeh is?
JOE IOSBAKER: Well, I actually have to talk about my wife’s work. My wife is a longtime solidarity activist in the Palestine solidarity movement. And—
AMY GOODMAN: Stephanie Weiner.
JOE IOSBAKER: Correct. She was also subpoenaed. And really everyone in the antiwar movement in Chicago knows Hatem. You know, if you look back online at video of the protests here of thousands of people marching when Israel assaulted Gaza two years ago, Hatem was the emcee at almost every major rally. And the Arab American Action Network was the first center of the Arab community in the city, founded back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. So Hatem is the most prominent Palestinian activist in the city of Chicago. It’s no surprise that they targeted him.
AMY GOODMAN: And you’re organizing, Joe Iosbaker, around Colombia. In a minute we’ll be joined by Ingrid Betancourt, who was, well, as you know, held captive—
JOE IOSBAKER: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —for more than six years. But what about your work around Colombia, since it seems that Israel-Palestine and Colombia were major focuses of this FBI raid?
JOE IOSBAKER: Well, I actually think that I should defer that question to Jess, who has much more experience in Colombia solidarity work.
AMY GOODMAN: Jess Sundin in Minneapolis.
JESS SUNDIN: Yeah, the antiwar movement has long been concerned with places that the US funds wars abroad, and there’s a major civil war unfolding in Colombia, and it’s the third-largest recipient of US military aid, so Colombia is very much an issue for the antiwar movement. I have traveled to Colombia and understand that it’s the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist. And, in fact, anyone involved in the social movement there is viewed by the government, as well as the paramilitary death squads, as a rebel and treated as such. And so, I know that the investigation is very interested in travel—I have traveled to Colombia—and [it] tried to establish some sort of organizational ties, which there aren’t. But that said, I do support the Colombian struggle and have been very involved in that.
AMY GOODMAN: Coleen Rowley, how do civil rights compare, what you’re seeing today under the Obama administration, to President Bush, someone you certainly blew the whistle on?
COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, I can’t talk for another couple hours here, because that’s how long it would take me. I actually urged the FBI from early on—I even wrote a chapter, “Civil Liberties and Effective Investigation.” And unfortunately, these warnings have just been largely—of myself and many others—have been largely ignored. Even the 9/11 Commission focused—three of their recommendations, out of forty-one, were on creating a privacy and civil liberties oversight board. And Bush pulled the rug from under that board early on. And Obama, two years later, has never appointed any people, any of the five seats to that board, which is just incredible in light of what’s gone on, even including the revelations of torture and warrantless monitoring.
What people need to do is to basically ask for more than just an IG investigation. They need to ask for Congress to actually take on something like a new Church Committee. And that’s actually been asked for. Barbara Lee, I think, actually had a proposal a year ago for something like that. So we should all contact our elected representatives and ask for Congress to take on greater oversight of this—what’s going on.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we will certainly continue to follow this case as it unfolds. I want to thank you, Coleen Rowley, former FBI agent, whistleblower, named Time Person of the Year in 2002. Jess Sundin and Joe Iosbaker, thanks so much for being with us. I know this is a very difficult time for you. Both of their homes were raided, computers, notes, other things taken. That happened on Friday morning. And, of course, we’ll continue to follow both these cases.
Peace Grannies Invade Brooklyn’s Target Store with Song and Protest Regarding War Toys December 19, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Peace, Uncategorized, War.
Tags: activism, Afghanistan, Afghanistan War, anti-war, christmas, christmas gifts, grannies, Iraq, Iraq war, joan wile, no war toys, peace, peace brigade, peace movement, raging grannies, roger hollander, toys, war, war toys
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12.19.09 – 12:09 PM
by Joan Wile
Weary Brooklyn Christmas shoppers were unexpectedly enertained on Friday afternoon, Dec. 18, when a troupe of approximately 20 Granny Peace Brigade members and Raging Grannies sang revised Christmas carols condemning war toys at the TARGET Store in Flatbush’s Atlantic Shopping Center simultaneously with a serious demonstration against the toxic playthings. This was the second protest in the grannies’ recently-launched campaign called “NO MORE WAR TOYS, NO MORE WARS.” The first action took place on December 4 at the Times Square Toys “R” Us store,
Although warned by the police earlier in the day to not attempt to conduct any mischief inside TARGET, the grannies nevertheless “invaded” the store at approximately 4 p.m. and quickly went to the toy department where they filled up four carts and some baskets with the most violent toys ever conceived.
The grannies then rode them down the escalator while unfurling many bright yellow banners imprinted with the black letters, “WAR IS NOT A GAME” and “NO MORE WAR TOYS.” As they rode down to the next floor, they sang the famous John Lennon refrain, “Give Peace a Chance.”
Granny Peace Brigade singing while riding escalator with banners, TARGET, Dec. 18
They intended to leave the toy-filled carts and baskets at the check-out counter, but by the time the elderly crusaders and the carts reached the bottom of the escalator, however, a bevy of policemen was awaiting them and requested that they leave the store, which they did, singing and displaying their many banners as they wended their way outside.
The toys they gathered are disgraceful, to say the least — guns with repeat bullets, grenades and all manner of killing machines designed to arouse the bloodlust of impressionable young children and teen-agers. The grannies, who have been trying for years to end the destructive and immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, feel these toys militarize America’s young and pave the way to more and more killing in the guise of protecting our homeland, a presumption the grandmothers reject.
Once outside, on Flatbush Avenue, the grandmothers opened their special songbooks and sang a number of Christmas carols which the women have revised with lyrics pleading that people not buy war toys. For, instance:
HARK, THE HERALD ANGELS SING
HARK, THE HERALD ANGELS SING
NOW, AT LAST, LET FREEDOM RING.
PEACE ON EARTH AND MERCY MILD,
NATIONS MUST BE RECONCILED.
LET US PUT THE BOMBS AWA-A-Y!
BRING OUR TROOPS HOME, NOW, TODA-A-Y
WARS ARE NOT FOR TOYS, OR A GAME.
DON’T TEACH OUR KIDS TO KILL AND MAIM!
GIVE THE CHILDREN TOYS OF PEACE,
HELP THEM TO LEARN THAT WARS MUST CEASE.
Passersby stopped to enjoy the concert, and many told the grandmothers that they agreed with them. The protesters gave out hundreds of leaflets listing appropriate toys for parents to buy rather than the horrendous ones glorifying lethal battle.
Other members of the grannies’ audience included the eight or so cops assigned to protect Brooklyn from the dangerous aged terrorists. The officers stood across from the women throughout their entire songfest trying without success to hide their delight at the grandmas’ vocal offerings.
Said the oldest singer, Lillian Pollak, hale and active at 94, “We won’t be here forever, and if we can’t stop these deplorable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in our lifetime, we must at least do all within our power to convince our grandchildren that they must end the cycle of killing and waste we have been engaging in for far too long. We’re determined to continue this struggle to bring back appropriate and healthy toys.”
Peace Granny Joan Wile is the author of, “Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies And Standing Up For Peace” (Citadel Press ’08)
The Campaign Cash Behind the Afghanistan Escalation December 1, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, Afghanistan escalation, afghanistan surge, afghanistan troops, Afghanistan War, arms industry, boeing, defense budget, defense industry, democratic party, democrats, general dynamics, lockheed, northrop, obama speech, peace, peace movement, Raytheon, roger hollander, sue sturgis, war, war profiteers
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by Sue Sturgis
President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech to the nation tonight from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in which he’s expected to announce he’s sending up to 35,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
Anti-war groups are already planning protests against the escalation. United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of more than 1,400 local and national groups, is holding numerous protest actions around the country today and tomorrow, as is the anti-war group Code Pink.Some are calling the president’s plan to ratchet up the war a betrayal of the Democratic base, which overwhelmingly opposes sending more troops. For example, a recent Gallup poll found that 60% of Democrats want the president to begin reducing troop levels in Afghanistan.
But while the president may be showing disloyalty to his political base, he’s remaining faithful to the defense industry interests that so generously funded his campaign.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org database, the top recipient of defense industry money in the 2008 election cycle was Barack Obama, whose haul of $1,029,997 far surpassed Republican contender Sen. John McCain’s $696,948.
During the 2008 cycle, the industry contributed a total of $23.7 million to federal candidates — far more than the $17.4 million it invested during the 2006 cycle or the $18.1 million in the 2004 cycle.
The top five defense industry contributors during the 2008 elections were Lockheed Martin at $2.5 million, Boeing at $2.1 million, Northrop Grumman at $1.8 million, and Raytheon and General Dynamics at $1.7 million each.
And it appears their investment may be paying off: The Associated Press reports that analyst Howard A. Rubel of the global investment bank Jefferies & Co. sent out a client note today stating that the fiscal 2010 Defense Department Budget will likely boost demand for precision munitions, communications gear, helicopters, armor and surveillance systems.
Among the companies whose stock Rubel rated as “Buy”? General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.
Confessions of a War Resister April 25, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
Tags: afghanistan invasion, Afghanistan War, Franz Jägerstätter, geneva conventions, International law, Iraq invasion, Iraq war, ivaw, james branham, kathleen gilberd, margorie cohn, matthis chiroux, military resistence, nuremburg tribunals, peace, peace movement, roger hollander, u.n. charger, US constitution, war resister, warrior writers, winter soldier
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www.commondreams.org, Published on Saturday, April 25, 2009
by Matthis Chiroux
“When asked why I thought the war was unconstitutional, I pulled from my back pocket my Constitution. I opened it and told them I’d read from Article 6, Paragraph 2, the Supremacy Clause. The ‘government’ objected immediately, insisting the document was irrelevant.” (emphasis added)
“We were taught that people from the middle east were Haji’s, Sand Niggers and Rag Heads, and that terrorists were going to kill our families if we didn’t go kill them and theirs first. We were taught that civilians could never understand and should never be trusted. We were taught the “Army family” was all we had.”
“I will not conform to war crimes. I will not confirm to sexism, racism and homophobia. I will not conform to injustice nor ignorance. I will not be silenced by fear. I will share my life, for better or for worse, like an open book, for people are not meant to live in shame. We are meant to live proud and free as individuals of principle and courage. But even people of principle and courage are wrong sometimes, and when we can realize it, apologize if necessary, and confess that which we are ashamed of, we can know peace, both in our hearts and in our world.”
Yesterday was a great victory for me, the entire peace movement and for troops and civilians all over the world. I faced the military for my refusal to deploy to Iraq, and I walked away a free man with a general discharge from the Army’s Individual Ready Reserve.
This does not affect my discharge from Active Duty Service, however, which is the term of enlistment from which my G.I. Bill does derive. My benefits are mine, and I will use them to attain education, as all people have the right to do and should not have to fight in any armies to realize.
The hearing was attended by my three JAG attorneys, my civilian representation, James Branham, Prof. Marjorie Cohn, the President of the National Lawyers Guild, and my mother Patricia, both of whom testified on my behalf. The hearing was also attended by Mike McPherson, Executive Director of Veterans for Peace, Bill Ramsey, of St. Louis Instead of War, and Alexandra, by beloved.
My eyes were glued to the board the whole time. I looked those officers in the eyes, and I could see the humanity in each of them. I don’t know if they agreed with me, but there was humanity, and their hearts and minds were open.
The prosecution, or literally ‘government,’ opened by reading a list of when they sent me the call-up, when I contacted them in Feb. 2008 and asked for a delay to finish a semester of school I had just paid $4,500 for. They tracked when they issued me several delay orders until the final orders were issued for June 15th. They tracked when they sent me several failure to appear notices and when they finally initiated the discharge process against me.
After this, they showed the youtube video of my refusal to deploy after Winter Soldier on the Hill. They followed it by a portion of my speech from Fathers Day, the day I was supposed to report, and then a Democracy Now interview I did the day after.
They questioned a young Captain about the paperwork process, and then they called me to testify.
I thought I’d be more nervous than I was, but I very much felt relieved. You know, there’s all kinds of nifty ways to communicate now-a-days, and maybe call me old fashioned, but there’s nothing like looking someone in the eyes and telling them what’s in your soul. And I bared it for them.
I told them I believe that the war is illegal, and that as a Soldier, I thought it was my responsibility to resist it. I told them I was originally planning on deploying, despite my belief that the war is illegal, but that after I was exposed to Winter Soldier, Iraq and Afghanistan, I found clarity, and I found courage.
We later submitted the Winter Soldier book, as well the IVAW-produced Warrior Writers book to the record as exhibits that I believe can be referenced by future IRR boards, at least in the Army, which would take place in the same building as my hearing did.
When asked why I thought the war was unconstitutional, I pulled from my back pocket my Constitution. I opened it and told them I’d read from Article 6, Paragraph 2, the Supremacy Clause. The ‘government’ objected immediately, insisting the document was irrelevant.
After much deliberation, the lead council of the board, a civilian lawyer, shut down debate and said the board wouldn’t hear the constitution, and that questioning should continue.
So I said fine, I can just quote it, and I quoted, “this Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”
I said when we violated the U.N. Charter to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, when we systematically defy the international laws of war to wage occupation, we violate U.S. Law and the Constitution, and that it is every Soldiers’ responsibility to resists the crimes of our Government for which we are ultimately responsible.
I focused upon the eyes of each board member as I spoke. I told them I was there because they needed to know that we are not cowards, and we are not traitors, we are people who are dedicated to doing what’s right beyond any measure.
Startlingly, they stared back at me with no disgust in their eyes. They heard me, and they considered what I said, and they did not threaten, nor did they smile. They listened, and I beared my soul with no fear of persecution. And I felt so relieved, as every word rolled off my tongue. I felt a world of weight lifted from me. I suddenly felt the solidarity of millions there in the room with me.
And not just from now, or from the people demonstrating outside the hearing, but since the beginning of organized warfare. Military resistence has been heralded for millennia by the premier scholars, poets, philosophers, scientists and spiritual leaders of humanity.
I thought of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian citizen who refused to fight in Hitler’s army. His head was removed after every chance was given him by the authorities to accept some duty, even if without a weapon.
I thought of those brave G.I.’s in Vietnam who stood against the system, who worked to prevent the victimization of their brothers and sisters by resisting the continued genocide. Many went to jail. One was shot and killed while trying to escape.
I thought of my brothers and sisters in IVAW. Those who realize the humanity in us all deserves to be respected beyond what the military trained us to think. We are sacred; we are beautiful. We are not killers, we are women and men of dignity and justice.
The ‘government’ tried to rattle me by asking if I’d have objected to simply taking photos, and I told him any act to support an illegal war, from the front lines to a state-side base, was a violation of the Oath of Enlistment.
I took my leave of the witness chair feeling satisfied that everything I had come to say and do had been done, and then Marjorie Cohn walked in!
Prof. Cohn gave the most thorough, detailed, understandable and spot-on breakdown of the illegalities of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan I’ve ever heard. She focused on the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremburg Tribunals, U.S. Federal and Constitutional law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
She spoke with elegance and grace about some very hard subjects, and when the ‘government’ asked if she thought every Soldier in the Army who had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan or supported the occupations from the states were a party to war crimes, she answered honestly.
Marjorie will always be a hero to me, as well Kathleen Gilberd of the NLG, who has provided me priceless council and support since the earliest stages of my resistance.
After we broke for lunch, my mother was given a chance to testify, during which she nearly broke my “military bearing” when she recounted the last thing I said to her in July of 2002 before I got out of the car to catch a ride to basic training: “I have to go be a grown-up now.” I had no real idea what I was being led in to.
My mother told them how much she loves me and that I am a man of honor. She said I am kind and principled, and that I take everything I do very seriously. She told them I am not selfish, nor am I vain. She said that I had sacrificed much to be there and that she was ever so proud of me.
My mother has always been my hero for reasons only she and I could ever understand. I love you, Mama.
The closing arguments were laid out. The ‘government’ accused me of trying simply to get attention for myself so that I could launch a career in politics. They said I didn’t care about the law, that I just wanted to get out of doing my duty, and that they should give me a dishonorable discharge as a result.
My lead JAG attorney told a story of his father, a retired sergeant major. He said he was shocked to learn one day that his father supported Mohammad Ali’s decision to refuse deployment to Vietnam, despite the fact that he had done two tours himself.
His father told him that he disagreed with Ali’s decision but had respect for any man who would stand up for what he believed in and be held accountable by his own will. His father told him this is what it means to be honorable. “Sgt. Chiroux is an honorable man,” said John Adams. “He could have stayed home. He’s here. He’s a man of honor. He deserves an honorable discharge.”
With this, we were sent off for the board to deliberate. Upon our return I stood as the decision was read.
The Army found me guilty of misconduct for refusing to deploy to Iraq, but recommended I only be discharged from the reserves with a general discharge under honorable conditions.
I left the building with the biggest smile I’ve had for years. I feel truly vindicated, in more ways than one. My ass is mine, and so is my soul. I’m not guilty of misconduct, but that board is human and bound to make mistakes. Perhaps it’s a decision than can be overturned in time. But they got the overall principle right. My refusal was not an act that falls outside of honorable conditions.
Which brings me to Winter Soldier, St. Louis, which occurred later that afternoon. I’ve been hesitant for years to talk about certain details of my military service, and my life prior to the military. The time finally came that I felt I could share, and IVAW was there, and so was the town of St. Louis.
On the afternoon of April 21st, 2009, I, Matthis Chiroux, did confess to a number of secrets that I had not made broadly known to the public before this date, but I brought forward at Winter Soldier (of which video will follow as soon as it’s processed).
I confessed to having been physically abused by my father from a young age until 13 and emotionally abused until well after. I confessed to having had extensive problems with the authorities in Alabama beginning after I smoked my first joint at age 16.
I told the world that before I graduated high school, I had been incarcerated for nearly six months over several periods of time in juvenile prison, correctional boot camp and a state-run drug rehabilitation facility for minors. My crime: The possession of one eighth of a GRAM of marijuana and a pipe in the middle of the woods, or as they put it, private property.
I confessed that upon graduating high-school, I was kicked out of my house and did move into a tent in the woods near the center of town, and that shortly after, I did sell a small amount of psychedelic mushrooms I had gathered from a cow field to a few friends and to my step-brother for food money. My step brother returned home to be caught by my father under the influence and did inform him that I was the source.
As a result, I was brought into the courthouse, specifically before my probation officer, where I first met Sgt. Whitetree, the man who would put me in the Army. I was threatened with serious prosecution, though the state had no physical evidence against me. I was told I could be looking at 10 to 20 years in “big boy pound you in the ass prison,” as Sgt. Whitetree put it, or I could enlist for a term in the Army.
While I believed I could beat the charges, I saw myself as a young man with very few options by design. I agreed to enlist, but I spent the weekend in jail anyway.
It almost felt like home sweet home at that point. I’d been on that same block so many times before, and this time, I was staring into a system that I at least thought could surely be no worse than where I was coming from. I was mistaken.
Before I was released from custody Monday morning, the Judge presiding in Lee County, Judge Richard Lane, willfully back-dated my release from probation 30 days so that I could proceed directly to the recruiting station and sign my butt into the Army.
After signing initial papers and attaining waivers for my juvenile marijuana conviction, and before heading to MEPS for the first time, Sgt. Whitetree bought me a system flushing drink so that I would not test positive for marijuana on my initial drug test to get into the Army. At every step it was made totally clear to me that should I choose not to enlist in the military, I would face charges stemming from the incident with my step-brother.
What happened to me was illegal, and I am not alone. I am living proof we do not have an all-volunteer Army, and I’ve met countless throughout my time in the military that could tell similar to identical tales. And if not forced by the police, then because they saw themselves on a destructive path and were in fact seeking a way out similar to me. Or those who really just wanted to go to college, which should be a basic human right for all anyway. Or those with mouths to feed other than their own. Or those who just never knew any other way. Or those who were lied to and told they would serve freedom and justice.
War is not a natural state for man. We are propelled to war and destructiveness in all forms by forces which seem beyond our control; that reach into our lives and move us to some drastic end. That is why in a truly just society, war would not exist. But when the sacrifice of war becomes less than the sacrifice of life, we must look at ourselves and ask, “what have we created?”
I confessed, I was tortured by the Army, as are we all. We are beaten down, we are brutalized and dehumanized in all forms, physically, emotionally and sexually. We are taught that human life is cheap, and that all things burn if you get them hot enough. We are taught where and how to stab bayonets into people, we are taught to kill from great distances using bullets and bombs, we are taught that napalm sticks to kids.
We were taught that people from the middle east were Haji’s, Sand Niggers and Rag Heads, and that terrorists were going to kill our families if we didn’t go kill them and theirs first. We were taught that civilians could never understand and should never be trusted. We were taught the “Army family” was all we had.
We were taught that woman were objects, and were to be treated like objects, and though we had cute little classes about sexual harassment and racial sensitivity, the practice of male chauvinism and exploitation of women was rampant, especially in Japan and the Philippines, which I believe to be indicative of racism in the military toward non-whites.
I confessed that while I was stationed overseas four and a half years, I saw rampant prostitution on and around military bases. I confessed that my conscience is not clean of this disgusting act. Twice in Japan, I solicited prostitutes with fellow members of my unit. These were acts not only meant to make us feel powerful as men and Americans, they were to bond us together as a unit that works together, plays together, eats together and even ‘fucks’ together.
I’m happy to say on both these occasions my conscience got the better of me and I could not produce an erection. For fifty dollars each time, I was supposed to have sex with those women, and instead I asked them to rub my back for the half- hour while I listened to my comrades on the other side of hanging sheets defile the miracle of life.
I’ll never forget on the second occasion the piercing, painful and sustained scream of one women being taken on by my comrade whose name I will not share. After ferocious laughter erupted from his throat, he said in a very matter of fact kind of way, “she doesn’t like it up the ass!”
I remember laughing because I couldn’t believe what was going on. I knew something was wrong, but it’s like I didn’t know I was supposed to care. As long as it wasn’t me doing it or receiving it, I felt free to giggle away. These were prostitutes, I was taught, and they were there to service us as men, even if it was just to rub my back because I couldn’t ‘get it up,’ which is a fact I did not share with my comrades out of shame. Little did I know it was evidence to be proud of, that even when my mind forgot what is right and wrong, my body did not, or not in Japan, anyway.
The first of the two prostitutes I did have sex with was in the Philippines. This act has haunted my conscience for years. It continues to haunt me even now. Even though I have publically confessed it and asked for the forgiveness of all who I treated like objects, including my those former girlfriends of mine who I was unfaithful to in all of these acts.
After weeks of working in the Joint Information Bureau with American and Philippine military personal in Puerto Princesa, the officers of the operation decided they wanted to reward us for a job well done. I was told to put on civilian clothes and meet in front of our building immediately following work.
At the time we had orders not to leave the base unless under armed guard by Philippine Soldiers as there were rebel forces in the area likely to target American forces if given the opportunity. So we were met by a squad of armed Soldiers with a military vehicle which we rode in off base to a local disco.
Upon arrival, the armed soldiers took up post in front of the door, and I was given beer and invited to display my dancing moves to my comrades and the women present in the club. When one came up to me and started dancing, I thought nothing too fishy of it. A Philippine officer came over and put his hand on my shoulder. He asked me if I thought the girl was pretty, and I said yes and continued dancing.
This officer, after a few more minutes of observing, whistled to a woman behind the bar and pointed at the girls me and the other Americans were dancing with. He made the international sign for money and he pointed toward the vehicle. It was then that I knew, I had just been purchased a human being.
Our armed escort drove me, two other enlisted guys and the officers to a collection of one-room bungalows that was the hotel. Each troop retired to a bungalow with a woman, and soon, the sounds of men having their way with women filled the damp night air.
I sat in my bungalow with a young girl, who couldn’t speak a word of English, which is strange for people from the Philippines, which makes me believe this young girl was a victim of human trafficking. She was obviously frightened that I would push myself on her in some violent way, which made me feel sick and uneasy.
To ease my churning stomach and scared heart and her as well, I began teaching the girl English. I thought her to say “how are you,” and “I am 18.” I taught her to say “Love” and “I have to pee,” when she did so in a bucket in the back of the room. I then kissed her, because I wanted to, and she kissed me back.
I left the room, when I heard my comrades talking outside under the palm trees in dark. They were drinking from a bottle of whiskey and talking about the sex they just had with “their” women. And they were talking with the officers, who had also had their way with several women. When they asked me what I had done, I told them I taught the girl to speak a little English, and that I’d watched her pee in a bucket and kissed her, but that was about it.
They laughed and told me I was a nice boy, but that they hadn’t paid for the woman so that I could teach her English. They said if I didn’t go back inside and “be a man” with that girl, they’d be offended. In one moment, I felt every ounce of not only my manhood questioned, but also my main mission of “fostering positive relations with Philippine counterparts.”
I went back inside the bungalow, and I had sex with a person who I treated like an object. But I did it, and will forever feel violated for it. I had unprotected sex with a woman who’s only purpose in being with me was money that she may not have even been receiving. I broke her heart, and I broke my own. I sold out on my manhood that night.
When it was done I wanted to hug her, but I could tell she wanted to lie nowhere close to me. She didn’t love me, she didn’t want to be with me. We had defiled a beautiful act of creation and intimacy without ever having taken any responsibility for ourselves. I felt as though I had raped her. I felt as though I had raped myself.
But we did it, and it was what it was. We didn’t stand near to each other after that, though she sat with me in the front seat of the van as we took the women back to the disco. I vaguely remember someone in the car commenting that they’d never “pissed in a whore’s ass before,” before a very angry woman started screaming in Tagalog. I was so ashamed. I couldn’t hold her hand. I could barely hold the contents of my own stomach. I knew I had done wrong, and it killed every relationship I had from that point forward.
I couldn’t come to grips with myself as a man after that. I couldn’t feel like a sacred thing, anymore. We’re all miracles; burning, walking miracles, but we cover ourselves in thick robes of guilt, isolation and despair, and we forget to see the spiritual wholeness and actualization of a human being as sacred, as it is, as we are. And if we did, we wouldn’t do things like I did, we wouldn’t do things like we do, and like what’s still being done by our good boys and girls in untenable situations.
But this followed me, and I took it to Germany where one evening while I was out in Frankfurt with a Major and a former Provost Marshal (like the chief of the military police), I found myself in a legal, medically-approved brothel where I did have sex with a Columbian girl. Almost immediately after we started, however, I snapped out of what felt like a haze and told her I really wanted to leave and that I’d pay her the money anyway. I knew I didn’t want to be there. I realized I was just trying to impress some Major who turned out was actually trying to hit on me, though I was a little slow on the uptake at the time.
I apologize from the bottom of my heart to the women I’ve hurt as a result of my sexual dehumanization. This includes every one of my girlfriends while in the Army, all of whom I cheated on when they got too close to my heart, and I broke many of their hearts in doing so. This includes my girlfriend, my love, Alexandra, who has stood so bravely and non-judgmentally by me during these revelations. My apology includes my mother and my sister, both of whom I know will be hurt by this information that I refuse to conceal anymore. This includes every woman who reads this horrible testament to the truth of sexuality in the U.S. military. This includes every woman who has ever been sexually preyed upon by U.S. troops in countries all over the planet. This includes every woman, every where, those who hate me and those who love me. Those who will never know my story. I’m sorry for the wrong I have done to womankind. I am not the careless, heartless, thoughtless and highly-trained boy I once was. My heart weeps everyday for the wrong I have done in this world.
Since I left the Army in August of 2007, I have struggled severely with Depression, probably due to post-traumatic stress. In fact, the night before I returned from Germany to Brooklyn not really knowing what I was going to do, I confessed to my then girlfriend that I was having suicidal feelings. I confessed to her that I had an image of myself blowing the back of my skull out with a .45 that I could not get out of my head. This would become somewhat of a recurring image to me, as I struggled to get my feet under me in Brooklyn.
Even with my freedom, I was struggling, and I didn’t know why. I wondered why I didn’t want to talk to people or get to know anyone at my school. I couldn’t figure out why no matter how much weed I smoked, or other shit I dabbled in, I couldn’t find peace of mind. I was on the road to being a student, which is all I thought about, all those years in the military, and yet I was crashing in on myself, and that damn .45 kept going off in my mouth!
And then I got my call-up orders for Iraq, and I disappeared into my room for days and days upon end. I felt so trapped. So cornered, and I had nowhere to turn. I had no family in New York, one of my only friend was struggling with PTSD herself from two deployments in Iraq, and all she could talk about was wanting to go back. I felt doomed, and I broke into pieces. That’s the closest I’ve ever come to suicide, and my greatest fear to this day is that I will die by my own hand.
But then I found IVAW, and slowly started peeling off my blankets of guilt and isolation. And with every blanket I shed, I found the strength to shed a few more and a few more. And now I stand before the world today, a free man, free of the military, free of his secrets, free to be whoever I choose to be.
And I choose to be a good man. I choose to be one who sees all women and men as created equal, and as equally miraculous in this universe of ordered chaos and deserving of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness through all means which have been withheld from us. I feel great remorse for the wrong that I have done but will WORK to make right those things I HAVE made wrong.
I felt like a coward for years in the military because I knew what we were doing was wrong, but I simply couldn’t find the legs to stand against it. Conformity was valued above all else, and though for years the quote above my desk read, “Whoso wouldst be a man must be a non-conformist,” those words never really took root before this past year.
I will not conform to war crimes. I will not confirm to sexism, racism and homophobia. I will not conform to injustice nor ignorance. I will not be silenced by fear. I will share my life, for better or for worse, like an open book, for people are not meant to live in shame. We are meant to live proud and free as individuals of principle and courage. But even people of principle and courage are wrong sometimes, and when we can realize it, apologize if necessary, and confess that which we are ashamed of, we can know peace, both in our hearts and in our world.
I’m sorry for the wrong I have done and forgive the wrong that has been done me. I will learn from my mistakes and live as a man of conscience. I will love without limit and share all I have with those who need and may not even know it. I will be humble until the end of my days and thankful for all that I have, including a woman who loves me despite all of these things and who IS the love of my life and has set me free more than she’ll ever understand. And she was at my hearing, and she was my cornerstone. I love you Alexandra like I’ve never before been capable of feeling.
But I will struggle. I will struggle until all my brothers and sisters all over the world are free from militarization and imperialism. I will struggle to see the end of Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and the commodification of the human body in all forms. I will struggle to see that our planet is left to our Grandchildren in FAR better shape than it was left to us. I will struggle to free the world of economic inequality. I will struggle to prevent any more war resisters from being jailed by the military and for the freedom of those who are currently incarcerated. I’m looking at you, Robin Long (among MANY others)!!! You’re still a hero of conscience and we can’t wait for your return to freedom!!!
The battle is won, but the war is FAR from over. Please continue to struggle to end our illegal occupations and horrible practices all over the world, from Iraq to Japan to the Philippines! The U.S. military must be brought home in its entirety and reformed into a force for purely national defense and not murder, rape, torture and war!
We are not bad people. We are not war criminals. We are the victims of lies, brutality, dehumanization and exploitation. We know the true war criminals by their hoards of bloody money and oil barrels overflowing with the tears of Iraqis, Afghans and servicemembers world-wide who have had their lives stripped from them by these criminal occupations and policies.
And that is why I’m releasing the remainder of my legal defense fund, I believe around $2,000, as well I’m turning over the remainder of the money I’ve collected from my website, just over four hundred dollars which represents nearly half of the money which has been donated to me through my paypal since I started it last summer, to Iraq Veterans Against the War.
IVAW represents the voices of conscience for an entire generation of Americans, and really our entire society. We, the Winter Soldiers of the War on Terror, who will speak our truths, no matter what the personal cost, and stand our ground no matter what adversity we may face, and reflect openly and honestly upon ourselves, we represent hope for this nation.
In South Africa after Apartheid fell, truth and reconciliation commissions were set up to investigate crimes committed by both Apartheid forces and rebel forces. To bring about witnesses to reveal crimes which they participated in or knew about, the commission had to grant amnesty to a large number of people who testified to things not greatly different than we do.
And we risk everything to come forward and are asking for NOTHING but an ear to hear us, and the means to carry on, and the willingness to know the truths of our government’s policies. And it lays so many of us so very low, as we struggle in a society that would rather shut our real histories, us, who we are, out, for a lie, one big murderous soul-sucking lie.
Well we’re done taking it, we’re done being victims, and we are organizing a victory, for truth, for the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, for our nation in distress, for the people of the world who we have treated like dispensable objects for too long! For the troops, who languish and grow further away from us while our nation worries about paying rent! For the veterans, who are sleeping homeless on the streets and stuck with the image of a gun in their mouth, or with the sounds of screaming babies. For the women, who are first and most being made the victims of these policies and occupations, and for the female Soldiers in Iraq, don’t ever forget that THIS IS NOT NORMAL!!! And for the Muslim people in the United States who have languished in this climate of racism and hate. We are sorry! Your liberation is most important to us!
IVAW represents hope for all these people, and it represented hope for me, when I needed it most, and it continues to represent so much hope to me. We are going to end this war and we need the support right now folks, more than ever, and we need your energy as we move into Spring and Summer.
We are strong, and we are determined. We acknowledge there are still illegal occupations being waged, and human rights violations occurring at the hands of Americans world wide, and we pledge to bear witness to the truth and nature of our experiences to bring about change from the front lines of the real struggle, right here at home.
May we stir now with the coming Spring and blossom hope for all the world to see. Hope in acknowledging we’ve done and are doing wrong, taking responsibility for ourselves by halting the wrong from occurring and seeking the forgiveness and to offer healing to those we know we’ve hurt.
Onward with the struggle, forever!
Tags: Afghanistan, Afghanistan War, democratic party, harry reid, Iraq, iraq bases, Iraq mercenaries, Iraq occupation, Iraq oil, Iraq war, iraqi government, obama withdrawal speech, pakistan, peace, peace movement, pelosi, Pentagon, phillis bennis, president obama, roger hollander, SOFA, status of forces, stiglitz, war on terror, war profiteering
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(Roger’s note: I beleive this article says in a much more polite and restrained manner essentially what I posted on the Blog on March 1 — http://rogerhollander.wordpress.com/2009/03/01/barack-obama-iraq-and-the-big-lie/?. The author is too cultured, where I am just plain angry and cynical, to call Barack Obama a liar. Yes, I agree it is for the peace movement to put the pressure on; but I do not exonerate Obama for his failure to stand up to the military-industrial complex once and for all and to speak the Plain Truth to the country. Of course, the proof is in the pudding. I would love to believe that President Obama is using a pragmatic gradualist approach that in the long run will result in the complete withdrawal from Iraq. But, as I pointed out in my article, the U.S. has an enormous investment in Iraq; and it is hard to believe that anything less than standing up to the military and corporate interests will change what appears to be a predetermined course that will keep U.S. military presence in Iraq for generations. From what I have seen and heard of Obama, it is hard to believe that he is up to it).
Talking Points Published March 6, 2009
Institute for Policy Studies, www.ips-dc.org
President Obama’s speech to Congress was a good first step, but we still have a lot of work to do to end the war in Iraq.
The meaning of President Obama’s Iraq withdrawal speech, and its influence on real U.S. policy in Iraq, will not be determined solely by his actual words. The import of the speech — and whether its promises become real — will be determined by a fluid combination of what Obama says, his own definitions of what he says, AND the disparate ways his speech is heard, perceived, described and contested by others — the mainstream media, Congress, the military, other centers of elite power, and crucially, the peace movement.
The words of the speech were quite amazing: “And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home.”
After eight years of reckless slaughter proudly justified in the name of a “global war on terror,” it was stunning to hear the president of the United States announce what he called “a new strategy to end the war in Iraq.” That moment was something we should celebrate. It was ours. The statement was a recognition of the powerful antiwar consensus in this country, a consensus that helped define the powerful constituency so key to Obama’s election. Obama may not acknowledge, even to himself, that it was the organized antiwar movement that helped create and build and strengthen that consensus — but still his speech reflected the new political reality that requires him to speak to the demands of that antiwar community.
Ending the War: A Definition
From the vantage point of the peace movement, the speech was and remains insufficient, and shot through with wiggle room and loopholes. We know that President Obama’s definition of “ending the war” is not ours. Our definition has not changed:
- Withdraw all the troops and bring them home (don’t redeploy them to another illegal and unwinnable war in Afghanistan).
- Pull out all the U.S.-paid foreign mercenaries and contractors and cancel the remaining contracts.
- Close all U.S. military bases and turn them over to Iraq.
- Give up all efforts to control Iraq’s oil.
While he laid out partial versions of some of these issues (withdrawal and oil), others (mercenaries and bases) were left out entirely. And at the end of the day, President Obama did not make a single real commitment to meeting our definition of ending the war. As The New York Times columnist Bob Herbert described Obama’s plan for Iraq and Afghanistan, “we’re committed to these two conflicts for a good while yet, and there is nothing like an etched-in-stone plan for concluding them.”
Understanding all the problems, limitations, and dangers of President Obama’s speech is crucial. (For a fuller analysis of the dangers in Obama’s speech, see my February 26th talking points — http://www.ips-dc.org/articles/1117.)
But understanding those limitations does not tell us how to respond to this new moment, a moment when the president of the United States is telling Americans that he is ending the war, that he intends to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq, telling Iraqis that the U.S. “pursues no claim on your territory or your resources,” and telling the world that the U.S. plans to engage with everybody in the region including Iran and Syria.
We may — we must — understand all the reasons that those words don’t constitute a firm commitment. But the reality is that the vast majority of people hearing those words, who already believe in what those words should mean, will assume President Obama means the same thing they do. That perception provides a huge opportunity for the peace movement. And it is for that reason that the assertions in his speech remain contested terrain.
Who Opposes, Who Supports?
Leading Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid, criticized Obama’s plan for leaving 50,000 or more U.S. troops in Iraq after the withdrawal of “combat brigades.” Their critique was powerful, public, and their first substantive break with the president — breaking to his left. Although they will likely back down, indeed they have already gone silent on this issue, their initial response opens the possibility for their greater engagement with more progressive members of Congress whom they had consistently dissed throughout the Bush years, and perhaps ultimately with the peace movement directly. The “speak with one voice” posture of the Democratic Party may be eroding with a Democrat in the White House.
Perhaps not so surprisingly, it was key Republicans — including Senator John McCain — who voiced immediate support for Obama’s withdrawal plan. Clearly they understand the huge loopholes inherent in the “withdrawal” strategy. They recognize the limited character of Obama’s pledges. But what they have officially endorsed, on the record, is a strategy that includes the language of “remove all U.S. troops from Iraq,” “our combat mission will end,” etc. They will never be our allies — but they are stuck with those words. Certainly they can — and surely will — reverse themselves if partial withdrawal moves threaten to turn into a real end of U.S. occupation. But they will pay a high political price when they do — and risk being dubbed flip-floppers on the Iraq War.
Military leaders, including top U.S. generals in Iraq and the region, heads of the joint chiefs of staff, and the Republican secretary of defense, have also expressed support. Of course they are the most familiar with all the wiggle room in the plan. They know the likelihood of renegotiating with a compliant Iraqi government virtually any or all of the terms in the U.S.-Iraq agreement — on which Obama based his intention to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq. But whatever their understanding, the fact that the military brass is standing publicly behind what is being touted as a complete withdrawal plan strips an important weapon away from those who oppose any withdrawal at all.
On its February 28th front page, The New York Times referred to the speech as “the beginning of the end of one of the longest and most divisive wars in American history.” The Times went on to describe how Obama “announced that he would withdraw combat forces from Iraq by August 2010 and all remaining troops by December 2011.” Not that he “intended,” but that he “would” withdraw all troops. The San Francisco Chronicle headline was “Obama Makes it Plain: Troops Out by End of 2011.” The Washington Post headlined “Obama Sets Timetable for Iraq.”
We have to recognize that even reports accurately depicting the too limited withdrawals, the too long timelines, the continuing occupation by U.S. troops, etc., will still be widely understood as consistent with what President Obama called “a new strategy to end the war.” And while it’s vital that as a movement we harbor no illusions, and recognize all the loopholes and wiggle room and pitfalls, our most important job is not to convince the people of this country that there is no way President Obama will end the occupation of Iraq. Our job will be to convince people that the only way President Obama will be able to overcome the powerful pro-war opposition inside and outside his administration and among his congressional allies, the only way he will be willing to even try to accomplish what he has promised, is if we all mobilize to demand it, to hold him accountable to his pledges, his promises, his speeches, and even his intentions.
Our Job: Make Him Do It
It’s the story of FDR who, at the height of popular mobilization by trade unionists, communists, community activists and a host of others, finally told his demanding supporters, “okay, I get it. I know what we have to do. Now get out there in the streets and make me do it!” Our job is to constantly hold President Obama and his administration accountable to what appear to be promises: withdraw all the troops, respect Iraqi sovereignty, give up Iraqi oil…even as we ratchet up our push for a faster, fuller troop withdrawal, closure of bases, and more.
At the same time our movement must take on other challenges as well.
We need to oppose Obama’s call for expanding the military. If he were really worried about the stress on military, the best solution is to bring them home — not ship them from Iraq to another illegal and unwinnable war two borders away. And at this moment of economic devastation across the U.S. and around the world, the issue of the financial costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan must be addressed directly; those hundreds of billions represent perhaps the largest single pot of money to pay for the health care/environment/energy priorities of the new administration. If things continue as they are, Stiglitz’s Three Trillion Dollar War in Iraq will turn into a $4 trillion dollar set of wars, as Afghanistan and Pakistan continue to swallow more troops, more bombs, more lives. We need to demand replacement of the war budget with a people’s budget that cuts the military budget by eliminating the Pentagon’s network of foreign bases that cost billions and destroy lives and environments around the world, getting rid of all our nuclear weapons, and eliminating all the giant weapons systems that have been obsolete for years.
Afghanistan: Not a “Good” War
And, perhaps most urgently, we must mobilize powerfully to oppose and reverse Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan. That war was never a “good war,” and it turns out that most Americans no longer think it is. Military leaders from NATO to the Pentagon have already acknowledged that there is no military solution; escalating the war with 17,000 new U.S. troops, with plans for a strategy discussion after their deployment, is completely backwards. We must reclaim Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s lonely, brave, and prophetic opposition to authorizing force in response to the terror attacks of 9/11. The problem in Afghanistan, then and now, was never insufficient troops. It was the creation of the so-called “global war on terror,” that shaped a militarized framework for responding to every problem in the world (as well as here at home — remember the “war on poverty,” the “war on drugs,” the “war on crime,” etc?).
Obama gave us hope that a new foreign policy, based on negotiations and diplomacy, not military force, was possible. He said he would talk to everyone. Our job now is to mobilize stronger than ever — no post-inauguration vacations! — to demand that this new administration make good on the promises people heard. If the perception of tens of millions of people in this country is that President Obama promised to withdraw all troops, it doesn’t matter that we know his “intention” is not a commitment. That perception is a starting point. If everyone assumes complete U.S. troop withdrawal is already official U.S. policy, it will make renegotiating terms of the U.S.-Iraqi agreement much harder for the Pentagon — because people will believe they’re trying to reverse a promise. It makes our job easier.
After the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, our movement began immediately to mobilize against the war we knew was coming. Organizations like the Center for Constitutional Rights moved quickly to challenge the “global war on terror” framework as illegal, and to demand that the attacks be dealt with as international crimes, rather than war. The first national demonstration was held October 7, led by the people who would soon form 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, those who had lost loved ones three weeks before, and by those who would soon create United for Peace and Justice. The war began the same day, with the bombing of Kabul launched just as the antiwar rally began in the streets of New York. We have been working ever since. But most of our movement left Afghanistan more or less in the background as we tried to stop the U.S. invasion and then mobilized to end the war and occupation in Iraq.
It’s time to come back. We hear accusations that the war in Iraq was a “distraction” from the “real war,” the “just war,” the “good war” in Afghanistan. Not everyone believes it was a “good war” anymore. But we have a lot of work to do to stop them both.