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General Shinseki’s Resignation Will Solve Nothing: The Real Problem is a Decade of War May 30, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Mental Health, Peace, War.
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Roger’s note: this is a press release issued by Veterans for Peace.  These former soldiers know from first hand experience what are the real costs of war, i.e. precious human life.  They refuse to see themselves as pawns, but rather as thinking and caring human beings, capable of understanding the dynamics of warfare and who profits by it.

 

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Saint Louis. General Eric Shinseki has resigned from his position as Secretary of the Veterans Administration. Now what? When will we start the real debate the nation must have about turning away from war?

The resignation of General Eric Shinseki is not the answer to the challenges facing the Veterans Administration. Yes the department has serious problems of mismanagement, incompetence, indifference and fraud. All these issues must be fixed immediately. Someone must be held accountable and apparently that someone is Eric Shinseki. But we must get to the root of the problem.

Why is the VA overwhelmed by greater numbers of wounded veterans that it can effectively serve? The answer is more than a decade of war. “War is the real culprit in this crisis,” said Michael McPhearson, Executive Director of Veterans For Peace. “We must stop war mongers and corporate profiteers from controlling our foreign policy.”

“We must stop throwing our children, and the children of the world into the meat grinder of war. Every soldier and every victim of war is someone’s child.”

There is a clear pattern of neglect of veterans and troops by both Democrats and Republicans, who have systematically underfunded healthcare in their war budgets. These same problems plagued the agency long before Shinseki.

We must acknowledge that U.S. service members are facing dire stress as reflected in historically high rates of suicide, sexual assault and rape in the military. Military personnel are exhausted and depleted, with many of them having deployed more than five times, and some as many as ten.

These war policies are killing innocent people who are not a threat and will never be a threat to U.S. security or legitimate interests. For many service members, this is the most debilitating aspect of their sacrifice. Many thousands of our soldiers and veterans are suffering from “moral injury,” produced by the immoral nature of the wars they execute, as exemplified by indiscriminate killing, indefinite detention, targeted assassinations and torture.

Moreover, the Bush and Obama Administration’s war policies have failed. Afghanistan is far from secure. Violent deaths are a daily occurrence. Women are severely oppressed by Taliban and U.S.-backed warlords alike. Iraq is in utter turmoil, with sectarian violence killing scores of people on an almost daily basis. As outlined in the State Department’s annual report on global terrorism, a decade of war has failed to end or reduce terrorism. The State Department report, released in April, showed that worldwide terrorism increased by 43% in 2013.

“Why does President Obama want to keep 9,800 U.S. troops and untold numbers of contractors in Afghanistan?” asked Gerry Condon, Vice President of Veterans For Peace. “Continuing this failed policy is another grave disservice to our soldiers. If we really want to ‘Support the Troops,’ we should bring them all home now and give them the care they need and deserve.”

As Vietnam veteran John Kerry said while testifying before Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

We keep asking our service members to be the last person to die in Afghanistan. The ones who make it back home are neglected. Bring Them Home Now and Take Care of Them When They Get Here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, May 30, 2014

For more information:

Michael McPhearson, Interim Executive Director, 314-725-6005, mcphearson@veteransforpeace.org

Gerry Condon, Veterans For Peace Vice President, 206-499-1220, projectsafehaven@hotmail.com

Camilo Mejia, Former Veterans For Peace Board Member, 786-302-8842, black65d@aol.com(Spanish Interpreter)

Sam Feldman, Former Veterans For Peace Board Member, 305-632-0036, SAMFELDMAN@THE-BEACH.NET(Spanish Interpreter)

The primary cause for the disaster in care is more than a decade of war! May 24, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Peace, War.
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Roger’s note: I cringe when in Canada or the US and I see one of those “support our troops” bumper stickers.  I think of the hypocrisy of the governments who send men and women to kill and be killed in illegal imperialist wars, then abandon them when they come home broken physically and mentally.  As the song goes: “When will they ever learn?”

 

Veterans for Peace (VFP) press release, May 22, 2014

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Veterans For Peace calls on the President and Congress to stop using the lives and deaths of veterans and troops for political points and gain, and to cease using military force and war as the means for solving international conflicts. Yes, we must address the incompetence, indifference and inefficiencies of the Veterans Administration. However, the primary cause for the disaster in care is more than a decade of war.

VFP Interim Executive Director Michael McPhearson said, “Veterans’ deaths and secret waiting lists uncovered by the current round of Veteran Administration scrutiny are tragic and outrageous, but come as no surprise to Veterans For Peace. This abuse is nothing new. For more than a decade, since the first service members returned from Afghanistan and Iraq,VFP has called for adequate attention, healthcare and services for returning veterans.” Presidents Bush and Obama, Congress and military leaders then and today claim they will do more, yet the problems continue to grow and more service members and veterans fall through cracks and gaping holes in the system, with many of them dying.

But this latest scandal is really the tip of issues plaguing an abused military force. For more than eight years, Veterans For Peace has called into question military policies and culture that put both men and women in danger of sexual assault and rape. There are countless well documented cases of service members reporting abuse and facing retaliation for reporting; thus many others do not report at all. There are well documented reports of female soldiers in Iraq refusing to drink water because they were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they went to use the women’s latrine after dark. Many cases of assault have been swept aside or under-investigated. Yet today women and men continue to face growing rates of sexual assault in the face of ineffective responses by the Pentagon and political leaders.

“The suicide crisis among veterans and service members continues to grow. Veterans For Peace has called attention to this issue at least since our 2006 Veterans and Survivors March for Peace and Justice from Mobile, Alabama to New Orleans, Louisiana. Calling for an end to the wars and for the money used for war to be diverted to human needs, we highlighted the similar rates of high unemployment, PTSD and suicide among recent veterans and Hurricane Katrina survivors. Suicide was heavy on participants’ minds as we had recently lost Douglas Barber, an Iraq veteran, to suicide,” McPhearson commented.

There is a clear pattern of neglect of veterans by both Democrats and Republicans. The best evidence of the negligence is a decade of war that has failed in its objective to end or reduce terrorism as outlined in this year’s State Department’s annual report on global terrorism. The report released in April showed a worldwide increase of 43% in 2013. Yet we have service members who have undertaken multiple tours, some up to ten times, like Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg. The standing ovation and pats on the back during this year’s State Union saluting his service do little if anything to help him contend with a broken mind and body, caused by broken and immoral polices controlled by the people who celebrated him. Perhaps more debilitating to many service members is the moral injury produced by the immoral nature of the wars they execute, exemplified by indefinite detention, torture, indiscriminate killing and targeted assassinations.

As troops and veterans die, who benefits from these policies? War profiteers make out like bandits and politicians build their political careers. The primary reason for these wars are greed and pursuit of power. The war economy is not working for the vast majority of U.S. citizens. To repeat our mantra since 2003, coined with Military Families Speak Out, “Bring our troops home now and take care of them when they get here.”

 

My Road to Conscientious Objection May 16, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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Roger’s note: I too was a conscientious objector for my opposition to the Vietnam War.  When I was drafted I was required to do two years of “civilian service” in lieu of serving in the armed forces.  After putting in one year, I “deserted” my civilian work in order to spend full time in oppositon to the War as well as organizing for the Civil Rights Movement and the United Farm Workers.  Eventually I was arrested by the FBI, and I fled to Canada.  I returned to the U.S. for personal reasons prior to the amnesty and was put on trial.  I was convicted of violation of the Selective Service Act, given an eighteen month suspended sentence during which time I was required to complete my civilian service obligation.  For a time I was a convicted felon and was required to report periodically to a probation officer without whose permission I was not allowed to travel.  Eventually I was granted a full pardon by Gerald Ford.

 

Trey Kindlinger, veteran member of VFP Chapter 99 in Asheville NC and Conscientious Objector wrote this piece for International Conscientious Objector’s Day (May 15).

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A few years after high school, I received a bulk mail card from the Navy. I had been the salutatorian in my small high school class in East Texas. I couldn’t afford to go to college, was stuck in dead-end low wage work, and had never seen much of the world. I spoke with a recruiter and joined – two weeks later I was in boot camp in Orlando, Florida. In nearly nine years of service, I visited many countries, living overseas for five years in active duty. I was stationed overseas in Europe and Asia and visited ports all over the world, including Egypt and the Occupied West Bank.

I was stationed overseas on September 11, 2001. Everything changed in a single day: we were suddenly on a war footing. That November I transferred to a base that broadcast news sources besides American mainstream media. Chinese, Japanese, Australian, and British media had a bleaker view of invading Iraq. Through this milieu of media, I realized that invading Iraq was a war crime. With the help of a friend (an anarchist who was also active duty), I learned how to become a conscientious objector. We were on the precipice of risk and turning our backs on the military, when the base police ransacked my friend’s barracks room for anything political — including anything colored red or black. They took all of his writing, computers, and any clothing that was the wrong color. He was discharged for “commission of a serious offense” and lost most of his benefits even though he never went to court-martial or Captain’s Mast.

It was then that I saw we weren’t fighting “for freedom” or anything the recruiters said. We were fighting for a narrow view of what the military considered to be right. Most of the leadership of the military took a very dim view of anything that wasn’t pro-capitalist, conservative, and Protestant Christian. I could no longer consent – I completed the Conscientious Objector packet and turned it in to the command. I was terrified of rejecting the military, losing my job and benefits, and having to confront my local brass on what I felt to be an unjust war…but after about four months they granted me an honorable discharge.
Getting out of the military was definitely freeing, at least for a time. I was suddenly a “civilian” and could engage with groups and people who were coming to the same conclusions as me. The world started to make sense, and my political understandings were shaped by involvement with organizations such as Veterans For Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and particularly the International Socialist Organization. They showed me what was really going on with the wars in the Middle East and historically with American wars in general. Reading other media outlets, especially Socialist Worker, provided honest reporting on the imperial project that both political parties were engaged in – remember, the Democrats got the military into World Wars I and II, Korea, and Vietnam, not to mention so many other smaller conflicts that overthrew democratically elected leaders for American puppets.

Eventually, all the little things that anyone trains for in the military came to the fore in my civilian life. I started sleeping less and less, wasted precious time on being 15 minutes early (because, really, who has 15 extra minutes when you have a family?), and generally losing patience with “civilians” and with having no “mission” in life. It was, ironically enough, through loads of counseling with a VA mental health provider that I slowly returned to a normal life.

I am but one person who tried to face down an immoral and illegal war. Others, such as Victor Agosto, paid much more of a price than I. But those who went before us, who objected to the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea, and Vietnam, laid the groundwork for those of us who objected to this latest round of wars. Becoming a conscientious objector truly helped develop my sense of action and my ability to gird those actions with theory, helped me become better prepared to be an activist.

Trey Kindlinger was born and raised in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. After graduating from high school, he served in the US Navy from 1994-2003. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Excelsior College in 2008 and now lives in Asheville, NC, with his two children.

Biggest Threat to World Peace: The United States January 3, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Peace, War, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: Wouldn’t it be interesting and enlightening if a similar poll had been taken in the 1930s so that we could compare the U.S. numbers here with those of Nazi Germany then?  If this article interests you, you may want to go to the original and read the comments at the end, most of which are informative and right on (http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/12/31-6).

 

 

International polls shows that world, including significant portion of Americans, deem US as greatest obstacle to peace

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

U.S. soldiers stop traffic on the road to the governor’s compound in Kandahar, scene of a deadly battle on April 28, 2012 (Photo: AFP / Getty Images)

Over 12 years into the so-called “Global War on Terror,” the United States appears to be striking terror into the hearts of the rest of the world.

In their annual End of Year survey, Win/Gallup International found that the United States is considered the number one “greatest threat to peace in the world today” by people across the globe.

The poll of 67,806 respondents from 65 countries found that the U.S. won this dubious distinction by a landslide, as revealed in the chart below.

The BBC explains that the U.S. was deemed a threat by geopolitical allies as well as foes, including a significant portion of U.S. society.

Predictable in some areas (the Middle East and North Africa) but less so in others. Eastern Europe’s 32% figure may be heavily influenced by Russia and Ukraine, but across most of Western Europe there are also lots of figures in the high teens.

In the Americas themselves, decades of US meddling have left an awkward legacy. Its neighbours, Mexico (37%) and Canada (17%), clearly have issues. Even 13% of Americans see their own country as a danger.

 

Stratcom Slide 15

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Christmas Truce of 1914 December 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Peace, War.
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ROGER’S NOTE: MERRY PEACEMAS.

 

 

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December 2014 will mark the 100 year anniversary of the Christmas Truce of 1914. During 2014 VFP (Veterans for Peace) National will plan activities to share with chapters to celebrate this memorable moment in history.

During World War I, on and around Christmas Day 1914, the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places along the Western Front in favor of holiday celebrations in the trenches and gestures of goodwill between enemies.

On Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.

Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task: the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s land between the lines.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

During World War I, the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield, but even a world war could not destory the Christmas spirit.

Courtesy of History website

Why Is VFP Involved?

Who better than veterans who work for peace to tell the story of these soldiers’ celebration of peace in the midst of war? Our society needs to hear this story that peace is possible. Use the great resources listed in the sidebar to reach out in a new way to new and old allies.

Mario Rivera speaks out the Army’s decision to separate his wife from their newborn baby December 1, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace.
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Roger’s note: Kimberly Rivera is one of those rare soldiers who understands the Nuremberg principles.  After serving a tour in Iraq, she refused to go back to participate in the commitment of further war crimes.  After years living in Canada the corrupt and unjust Tory driven refugee process made a final negative determination.  When a bill in the Canadian parliament was introduced to prevent the deportation of American war resisters, a bill with majority support from the three opposition parties, it was defeated when the current Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and some other Liberals failed to show up for the vote.  When it was finally announced in parliament that Kimberly had been deported, the Tory (Conservative) members burst out in applause.

But as this letter from Kimberly’s husband demonstrates, the Canadian Tories have nothing over the American military when it comes to mean spirited vengeance.  A disgusting way to treat a strong and courageous woman.

 
By (about the author)

http://www.opednews,com, November 30, 2013

 
The following statement was written by Kimberly Rivera’s husband Mario about what has happened these last few days and about how  the decision of Brig. General Michael A. Bills to deny clemency has affected this family.

After reading this letter, please make plans to participate in the International Day of Action in Solidarity with Kimberly Rivera.


When I arrived at the hospital I checked in to see my wife deliver the baby.  Upon entering the room the staff sergeant proceeded to tell me that because Kim is a prisoner she is not allowed any visitations period but she said she would allow me an hour like it was some sort of favor.  I politely agreed and proceeded to visit with Kim who was very upset at how they were treating her.  And then I got upset too when I found out that I wasn’t going to be allowed to be there for the delivery.

Once the hour was up she kicked me out of the room.  I then called our attorney and anyone else I thought might help to tell them about the situation.  While I was in the waiting room I overheard a lieutenant talking with the staff sergeant and some nursing staff about Kim and what they were going to do with me. They were not happy because I had called the social worker, who called the staff sergeant to find out why I was being kept out. So I walked up to the lieutenant and asked him how I could see my son be born and bond with him. He then made me go with him to another room with another soldier and then they locked the door. They then said that had to stay in there because of SOP (standard operating procedure) and that they would need more manpower for me to be in the room, and that they already had the staff sergeant in there with Kim at all times. I continued to explain my situation and how I felt. I told him I understood that Kim had to stay under guard since she was a prisoner, but that I believed my rights as a Dad were being violated.

The lieutenant said he was “on my side” but it didn’t seem like he wanted to really listen either.  He did tell me that he would put a request in with the admiral. He then took me down to security where I sat and waited.

20 minutes or so later he came back. He said the admiral approved me being in the delivery room with the stipulation that I not be allowed to have my cellphone with me, and that I would of course have to follow their rules and medical rules.  I of course complied with these conditions so I was allowed to be with Kim and our baby for the rest of the day.

The following day I came back to the hospital. I did not have anyone to watch my other kids, so I brought them with me. They held me at gate for about 20 minutes before letting us on base.  At security, I checked my phone (as agreed) and they told me it would be no problem for me to bring our kids with me, but when I got to Kim’s floor they said that it was a problem and that we would not be allowed to see Kim or the baby until they talked to the Admiral. After a two hour wait, the Admiral gave the ok and our family got to be together.

The next day I was told that Kim was being discharged at 4 p.m. but the Brig actually came to get her at 9 a.m. The baby is now with me.

As you can imagine this whole experience has been horrible for our family. Our children are deeply traumatized from being continually separated from their mom and they are scared that if I leave without them, that they will not see me again either. Two of the younger kids, Katie and Gabriel are taking it really hard. And Christian now has depression and anxiety from this.  They cry when they think of Kim and miss her a great deal.  Christian has told me, “The military is supposed to protect us so why are they hurting us?  Why did they take momma?”

Rebecca, a young lady now, misses her mom very much as well and is having to go through her female changes without her momma around. Katie always says she wants to rescue mommy from the bad people who put her in jail” and Gabriel, he just looks for her still not understanding why she is gone.

This has hit us all very hard.  My kids are hurting and traumatized from all this and now my son Matthew cannot breastfeed.  He is separated from his mom who carried him the last 8 and a half months.  All night last night he cried looking for her, for her touch, for her smell.  It breaks my heart.  Matthew did not sleep well because of the separation and I am afraid it could impact him psychologically since he is unable to be calmed by his momma.  I do not have her smell or touch that he is needing.  I cannot breastfeed him and to give him those vital nutrients.  Only my wife can and because of the Fort Carson general, Matthew can’t have that.

Take action — click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:
Join the International Day of Action in Solidarity with Kimberly Rivera

Click here to see the most recent messages sent to congressional reps and local newspapers

http://www.jmbranum.com

Attorney/Legal Director of the Center for Conscience in Action Minister of Peace & Justice, Joy Mennonite Church of Oklahoma City

 

Pregnant war resister seeks early release from military prison on humanitarian grounds November 5, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Criminal Justice, Peace, Women.
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495 supporters from around the world write letters in support of clemency application

From the Center for Conscience in Action

November 4, 2013  http://www.opednews.com


Mario and Kimberly Rivera by James M. Branum

 

Fort Carson, Colorado — Imprisoned war resister PFC Kimberly Rivera has submitted a clemency application seeking a reduction by 45 days in the 10 month prison sentence she received for seeking asylum in Canada rather return to her unit in Iraq.

The request for clemency was based on humanitarian reasons due to pregnancy. Unless clemency is granted, Private First Class Kimberly Rivera will be forced to give birth in prison and then immediately relinquish custody of her son while she continues to serve the remainder of her sentence.

Unfortunately military regulations provide no provisions for her to be able to breastfeed her infant son while she is in prison.

Fort Carson Senior Commander Brigadier General Michael A. Bills will be making a decision on PFC Rivera’s clemency request in the coming weeks.

PFC Rivera’s case made international news when she was the first female US soldier in the current era to flee to Canada for reasons of conscience. After a protracted struggle through the Canadian legal system, she was deported back to the United States in September 2012. She was then immediately arrested and sent back to the Army to stand trial.

In an interview conducted on the eve of her court-martial, Rivera said, ” When I saw the little girl [in Iraq] shaking in fear, in fear of me, because of my uniform, I couldn’t fathom what she had been through and all I saw was my little girl and I just wanted to hold her and comfort her. But I knew I couldn’t. It broke my heart. I am against hurting anyone” I would harm myself first. I felt this also made me a liability to my unit and I could not let me be a reason for anyone to be harmed—so I left” Even though I did not fill out the official application to obtain conscientious objector status, I consider myself a conscientious objector to all war.”

On April 29, 2013, PFC Rivera pled to charges of desertion. She was sentenced by the military judge to fourt een months in prison, loss of rank and pay, and a dishonorable discharge; thanks to a pre-trial agreement her sentence was reduced to an actual sentence to ten months of co nfinement and a bad-conduct discharge.

Kimberly Rivera has been recognized by Amnesty International as a “prisoner of conscience.” She is the mother of four children, ages 11, 9, 4 and 2.

Kimberly Rivera’s request for clemency was accompanied by 495 letters of support, written by family members, friends, as well as members of Amn esty International from 19 countries.

” We have many organizations to thank for the outpouring of support for Kimberly Rivera, including Amnesty International, Courage to Resist, the War Resisters Support Campaign of Canada, Veterans for Peace and Coffee Strong,” said James M. Branum, civilian defense attorney for PFC Rivera. “We also want to recognize the tireless efforts of local supporters in Colorado Springs and San Diego who have taken the time to visit Kim in prison as well as to provide important support to Kim’s family in her absence.”

While the official clemency request is now complete, supporters of PFC Rivera are still encouraged to continue to speak out on her behalf. Letters in support of PFC Rivera’s clemency request can be sent directly to:

Brigadier General Michael A. Bills

c/o Fort Carson Public Affairs Office
1626 Ellis Street
Suite 200, Building 1118
Fort Carson, CO 80913

(fax: 1- 719-526-1021)

Supporters are also encouraged to sign an online petition posted at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/752/756/678/free-a-pregnant-war-resister-from-us-military-prison/

Donations to assist the Rivera family can be made online at: https://co.clickandpledge.com/sp/d1/default.aspx?wid=58528

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War Resisters League Sings at the Cutting Edge of History October 20, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Peace.
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Image: War Resisters LeagueOn October 18, War Resisters League celebrated its 90th birthday by honoring Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte and Daniel Ellsberg in a bash held at the 1199/SEIU Penthouse in New York City, which I had the great good fortune to attend.  Being in the same room as Joan Baez, the closest thing to an idol that I’ve got, is already safely tucked away as one of the joys of my life. (Other joys being standing out with the peace folks and my daughter.)

Harry Belafonte spoke about coming home after his service during WWII to a nation that still lynched African Americans and how he learned about non-violence from Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King.  When, later in life he met with Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, Belafonte’s experiences in the civil rights movement were of help during their struggle to rid South Africa of the apartheid regime.

Joan Baez told about the ten years of the Vietnam War that she did not pay war taxes, during which there was a lien on her house and car.  She sang two songs – Joe Hill and Gracias a la Vida – and shared an anecdote about having said on stage that her feet were tired from so many marches and being visited by two women after the concert, one of whom was 107 years old, and scolded her for saying her feet were tired!

Daniel Ellsberg spoke of how important it is to speak out when, as an individual, you know that there is wrongdoing by institutions.  Despite risks, dangers and consequences, it is crucial that human beings take action to tell the truth publicly, as Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have been doing and as Ellsberg himself did when he released the Pentagon Papers.

It was a beautiful evening of sharing and honoring WRL history as well as these three individuals who have lived up to the highest ideals in their lives and art.

Harry Belafonte told us about how a time came when Martin Luther King was criticized for preaching to the choir, to which King replied that if he didn’t preach to the choir they might not keep singing.

Belafonte looked out at the crowded room of pacifists, many of whom are no longer young and said, “Keep on singing.”

Founded in 1923 by Jessie Wallace Hughan and some others as a secular pacifist organization, War Resisters League is the oldest secular peace association in the United States.  Not only is WRL an historical organization, it is an organization that has made history.

A few examples from the impressive history of WRL:

Refusing to heed air raid sirens by seeking shelter, WRL members, including WWII resister and eventually WRL staff person, Ralph DiGia stood with Dorothy Day and A.J. Muste in New York’s City Hall Park protesting the futile pretense of surviving an atomic bomb during the early years of the Cold War.

WRL staff person Bayard Rustin took a leave to play a crucial role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, perhaps best remembered for Martin Luther King’s extemporaneous “I Have a Dream” speech.  Both Joan Baez and Harry Belafonte were on that stage that day in August 1963.

The first peace group to call for U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam was WRL.  Throughout the long years of that war, WRL organized what became mass draft card burnings (with staff David McReynolds being one of the first to burn his draft card in 1965), coordinated major rallies, initiated civil disobedience actions and brought tens of thousands into the streets in opposition to the war.

WRL does pioneering work in nonviolence training preparation for nonviolent direct action.  From protests at induction centers during the Vietnam War, to the historic anti-nuclear power protest at the Seabrook Nuke, to the Women’s Pentagon Action protests, to training members of ACT UP in the days when AIDS was being ignored, WRL trainers and materials have been indispensable.

The War Resisters League pie chart shows where our income tax dollars go each year (48% on past and current military, over a trillion dollars in FY 2012).

In short, War Resisters League has been involved in every movement for peace and social justice for generations. It is a venerable organization.  Although the people involved in this exalted work may not be “household names,” they are not only the backbone, but a rock of movements for nonviolent social change.

WRL puts out a quarterly publication, WIN magazine, that covers resistance to war abroad as well as resistance to violence and militarism within the United States.

WRL is part of War Resisters International, which has a Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns that is highly useful for all activists interested in a well-documented crash course in social change organizing.

The War Resisters League pledge:

The War Resisters League affirms that all war is a crime against humanity.  We therefore are determined not to support any kind of war, international or civil, and to strive nonviolently for the removal of the causes of war, including racism, sexism and all forms of human exploitation.

Long may WRL live and work!

In Oval Office Meeting, Malala Yousafzai Tells Obama to End Drone Strikes in Pakistan October 13, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, Peace, War, War on Terror, Women.
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ROGER’S NOTE: I TURN OVER MY “ROGER’S NOTE” SPACE TODAY TO “TUTTLE,” WHO COMMENTED ON THIS ARTICLE IN COMMONDREAMS.ORG:

President Obama in conversation with Malala in the Oval Office

“Well Malala, it goes like this. I am the Ruling Elite and you are not. Your life is yet just another mere commodity to be used as fodder to heat the machine that devours the planet and the rest of your class. Posing with you here today is like posing with the Turkey I pardon every year when the American people celebrate the genocide carried out on the original peoples that inhabited this country. These people are now just an embarrassment and a nuisance. Which brings me back to you and your people. You see Malala your life is worthless to me and my investors. These photo-ops are just to keep the illusion going that we care. And you are now a willing participant in that fairytale. If you threaten me or my class or their ability to make a profit… I have a list… Where is that list?…Malia, darling could hand your father that piece of paper… thank you. See Malala, I have the right to Kill anyone in the ENTIRE world. ANYONE. yes, even U.S. citizens… see here, I killed a young man no more than a couple years older than you. And that was because of who his father was! hahaha! Imagine! Now Imagine, if you, Malala truly stood up and spoke out against me and my friends. So just to let you know, I will drone anyone anywhere I feel like because that’s just apart of my job as Ruler of the free world. Now smile for the camera.
Say Freedom!”

 

 

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

 

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughter Malia meet with Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head by the Taliban a year ago, in the Oval Office, Oct. 11, 2013. PETE SOUZA — Official White House photo

Malala Yousafzai, the sixteen-year-old Pakistani girl who survived a gunshot to the head by members of the Taliban for speaking out on women’s right to education, told President Barack Obama in an Oval Office meeting on Friday that he should stop drone strikes in countries such as Pakistan.

In a statement released after the meeting, Yousafzai said that she told Obama that she is concerned about the effect of U.S. drone strikes in her country—a portion of the conversation that was omitted from White House statements so far.

 

“I [expressed] my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism,” Yousafzai said in a statement released by the Associated Press. “Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”

 

Yousafzai—the youngest ever nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize—was invited to the White House “for her inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls education in Pakistan,” according to a White House statement.

 

Yousafzai also recently called on the U.S. and U.K. governments to end military attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan in an interview with BBC.

 

“The best way to solve problems and to fight against war is through dialogue,” she told BBC. “That’s not an issue for me, that’s the job of the government… and that’s also the job of America.”

 

Yousafzai was awarded a prestigious international human rights award—the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought—on Thursday, but did not win the Nobel Peace Prize, as was announced on Friday.

 

 

How the US Turned Three Pacifists into Violent Terrorists May 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Nuclear weapons/power, Peace, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
2 comments

 

 

Roger’s note: if this doesn’t send a chill up the spine of anyone with spine enough to peacefully challenge US war mongering, then I don’t know what will.  This case is Lewis Carroll, Orwell and Kafka rolled up into one.  Don’t fail to realize that this is happening under a president who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. 

 

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From left, Greg Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice, and Michael Walli. (Photo: Saul Young/News Sentinel)

In just ten months, the United States managed to transform an 82 year-old Catholic nun and two pacifists from non-violent anti-nuclear peace protestors accused of misdemeanor trespassing into federal felons convicted of violent crimes of terrorism.  Now in jail awaiting sentencing for their acts at an Oak Ridge, TN nuclear weapons production facility, their story should chill every person concerned about dissent in the US.

Here is how it happened.

In the early morning hours of Saturday June 28, 2012, long-time peace activists Sr. Megan Rice, 82, Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, and Michael Walli, 63, cut through the chain link fence surrounding the Oak Ridge Y-12 nuclear weapons production facility and trespassed onto the property.  Y-12, called the Fort Knox of the nuclear weapons industry, stores hundreds of metric tons of highly enriched uranium and works on every single one of the thousands of nuclear weapons maintained by the U.S.

“The truth will heal us and heal our planet, heal our diseases, which result from the disharmony of our planet caused by the worst weapons in the history of mankind, which should not exist.  For this we give our lives — for the truth about the terrible existence of these weapons.”
– Sr. Megan Rice

Describing themselves as the Transform Now Plowshares, the three came as non-violent protestors to symbolically disarm the weapons. They carried bibles, written statements, peace banners, spray paint, flower, candles, small baby bottles of blood, bread, hammers with biblical verses on them and wire cutters. Their intent was to follow the words of Isaiah 2:4: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Sr. Megan Rice has been a Catholic sister of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus for over sixty years.  Greg Boertje-Obed, a married carpenter who has a college age daughter, is an Army veteran and lives at a Catholic Worker house in Duluth Minnesota.  Michael Walli, a two-term Vietnam veteran turned peacemaker, lives at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker house in Washington DC.

In the dark, the three activists cut through a boundary fence which had signs stating “No Trespassing.”  The signs indicate that unauthorized entry, a misdemeanor, is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

No security arrived to confront them.

So the three climbed up a hill through heavy brush, crossed a road, and kept going until they saw the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF) surrounded by three fences, lit up by blazing lights.

Still no security.

So they cut through the three fences, hung up their peace banners, and spray-painted peace slogans on the HEUMF.  Still no security arrived.  They began praying and sang songs like “Down by the Riverside” and “Peace is Flowing Like a River.”

When security finally arrived at about 4:30 am, the three surrendered peacefully, were arrested, and jailed.

The next Monday July 30, Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli were arraigned and charged with federal trespassing, a misdemeanor charge which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail.  Frank Munger, an award-winning journalist with the Knoxville News Sentinel, was the first to publicly wonder, “If unarmed protesters dressed in dark clothing could reach the plant’s core during the cover of dark, it raised questions about the plant’s security against more menacing intruders.”

On Wednesday August 1, all nuclear operations at Y-12 were ordered to be put on hold in order for the plant to focus on security.  The “security stand-down”  was ordered by security contractor in charge of Y-12, B&W Y-12 (a joint venture of the Babcock and Wilcox Company and Bechtel National Inc.) and supported by the National Nuclear Security Administration.

On Thursday August 2, Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli appeared in court for a pretrial bail hearing.  The government asked that all three be detained.  One prosecutor called them a potential “danger to the community” and asked that all three be kept in jail until their trial.  The US Magistrate allowed them to be released.

Sr. Megan Rice walked out of the jail and promptly admitted to gathered media that the three had indeed gone onto the property and taken action in protest of nuclear weapons.  “But we had to — we were doing it because we had to reveal the truth of the criminality which is there, that’s our obligation,” Rice said. She also challenged the entire nuclear weapons industry: “We have the power, and the love, and the strength and the courage to end it and transform the whole project, for which has been expended more than 7.2 trillion dollars,” she said. “The truth will heal us and heal our planet, heal our diseases, which result from the disharmony of our planet caused by the worst weapons in the history of mankind, which should not exist.  For this we give our lives — for the truth about the terrible existence of these weapons.”

Then the government began increasing the charges against the anti-nuclear peace protestors.

The day after the Magistrate ordered the release of Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli, a Department of Energy (DOE) agent swore out a federal criminal complaint against the three for damage to federal property, a felony punishable by zero to five years in prison, under 18 US Code Section 1363.

The DOE agent admitted the three carried a letter which stated, “We come to the Y-12 facility because our very humanity rejects the designs of nuclearism, empire and war.  Our faith in love and nonviolence encourages us to believe that our activity here is necessary; that we come to invite transformation, undo the past and present work of Y-12; disarm and end any further efforts to increase the Y-12 capacity for an economy and social structure based on war-making and empire-building.”

Now, Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli were facing one misdemeanor and one felony and up to six years in prison.

But the government did not stop there.  The next week, the charges were enlarged yet again.

On Tuesday August 7, the U.S. expanded the charges against the peace activists to three counts.  The first was the original charge of damage to Y-12 in violation of 18 US Code 1363, punishable by up to five years in prison.  The second was an additional damage to federal property in excess of $1000 in violation of 18 US Code 1361, punishable by up to ten years in prison. The third was a trespassing charge, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison under 42 US Code 2278.

Now they faced up to sixteen years in prison. And the actions of the protestors started to receive national and international attention.

On August 10, 2012, the New York Times ran a picture of Sr. Megan Rice on page one under the headline “The Nun Who Broke into the Nuclear Sanctum.”  Citing nuclear experts, the paper of record called their actions “the biggest security breach in the history of the nation’s atomic complex.”

At the end of August 2012, the Inspector General of the Department of Energy issued at comprehensive report on the security breakdown at Y-12.  Calling the peace activists trespassers, the report indicated that the three were able to get as far as they did because of “multiple system failures on several levels.” The cited failures included cameras broken for six months, ineptitude in responding to alarms, communication problems, and many other failures of the contractors and the federal monitors.  The report concluded that “Ironically, the Y-12 breach may have been an important “wake-up” call regarding the need to correct security issues at the site.”

On October 4, 2012, the defendants announced that they had been advised that, unless they pled guilty to at least one felony and the misdemeanor trespass charge, the U.S. would also charge them with sabotage against the U.S. government, a much more serious charge. Over 3000 people signed a petition to U.S. Attorney General Holder asking him not to charge them with sabotage.

But on December 4, 2012, the U.S. filed a new indictment of the protestors.  Count one was the promised new charge of sabotage.  Defendants were charged with intending to injure, interfere with, or obstruct the national defense of the United States and willful damage of national security premises in violation of 18 US Code 2155, punishable with up to 20 years in prison.  Counts two and three were the previous felony property damage charges, with potential prison terms of up to fifteen more years in prison.

Gone entirely was the original misdemeanor charge of trespass.  Now Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli faced up to thirty-five years in prison.

In a mere five months, government charges transformed them from misdemeanor trespassers to multiple felony saboteurs.

The government also successfully moved to strip the three from presenting any defenses or testimony about the harmful effects of nuclear weapons.   The U.S. Attorney’s office filed a document they called “Motion to Preclude Defendants from Introducing Evidence in Support of Certain Justification Defenses.”  In this motion, the U.S. asked the court to bar the peace protestors from being allowed to put on any evidence regarding the illegality of nuclear weapons, the immorality of nuclear weapons, international law, or religious, moral or political beliefs regarding nuclear weapons, the Nuremberg principles developed after WWII, First Amendment protections, necessity or US policy regarding nuclear weapons.

Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli argued against the motion. But, despite powerful testimony by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, a declaration from an internationally renowned physician and others, the Court ruled against defendants.

Meanwhile, Congress was looking into the security breach, and media attention to the trial grew with a remarkable story in the Washington Post, with CNN coverage and AP and Reuters joining in.

The trial was held in Knoxville in early May 2012. The three peace activists were convicted on all counts.  Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli all took the stand, admitted what they had done, and explained why they did it.  The federal manager of Y-12 said the protestors had damaged the credibility of the site in the U.S. and globally and even claimed that their acts had an impact on nuclear deterrence.

As soon as the jury was dismissed, the government moved to jail the protestors because they had been convicted of “crimes of violence.” The government argued that cutting the fences and spray-painting slogans was property damage such as to constitute crimes of violence so the law obligated their incarceration pending sentencing.

The defense pointed out that Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli had remained free since their arrest without incident. The government attorneys argued that two of the protestors had violated their bail by going to a congressional hearing about the Y-12 security problems, an act that had been approved by their parole officers.

The three were immediately jailed.  In its decision affirming their incarceration pending their sentencing, the court ruled that both the sabotage and the damage to property convictions were defined by Congress as federal crimes of terrorism.  Since the charges carry potential sentences of ten years or more, the Court ruled there was a strong presumption in favor of incarceration which was not outweighed by any unique circumstances that warranted their release pending sentencing.

These non-violent peace activists now sit in jail as federal prisoners, awaiting their sentencing on September 23, 2012.

In ten months, an 82 year old nun and two pacifists had been successfully transformed by the U.S. government from non-violent anti-nuclear peace protestors accused of misdemeanor trespassing into felons convicted of violent crimes of terrorism.

Fran Quigley

Quigley is an Indianapolis attorney working on local and international poverty issues. His column appears in The Indianapolis Star every other Monday.

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