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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Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare.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.

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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To the Winter Patriot November 23, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Occupy Wall Street Movement, War.
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11.23.11 – 9:03 A

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.

“Sadly, society has placed a twin tax upon you by asking that you sacrifice both your body and your morality…Now, more than ever we need your sacrifice. But, I’m asking you to soldier in a different way. If called upon to deny the people their first amendment right to peaceably assemble and petition their government for a redress of grievance, disregard the order.  Abstain from service.  Or if you are so bold, join us.”
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Posted by Erroll
Nov 23 2011 – 9:37am

During the Vietnam conflict many African-American soldiers refused to be sent from Vietnam to the United States where they would have been part of a force that would have had to crack down on those who were taking part in demonstrations outside the Democratic presidential convention in Chicago in 1968. Many of them, just like those who participated in the GI movement back then, went to jail because of the principled stand that they had taken. So the members of the armed forces have to ask themselves if they feel that they belong, as Mitch Green inquires, to the world of humanity or to the world of the state.

Posted by jessia
Nov 23 2011 – 10:13am

The “general” mentality of those in these chosen types of work, fits well with what they are told to do.  I suspect the percentage that will think for themselves and then have the courage to act on it ,will be few- unfortunately.

Posted by RV
Nov 23 2011 – 10:16am

Great open letter. Exceptionally well written. Whether the very important distinction between sworn allegience to the constitution and allegience to the command structure will be well and fully appreciated by most ordinary “grunts” remains to be seen.  But, if it is, the real American Revolution – Part II might be getting closer.

Posted by XGenman
Nov 23 2011 – 11:03am

It’s about time we saw more of this.  Huzzah Mitch Green and all of the other patriots who understand your duty.  Those of us who took the oath need now more than ever to recognize who the enemy of the Constitution is.  Is it those in Afghanistan or Iraq or many other locations in the world we are told are the enemy, or those who openly assault the Constitution as our current leaders so brazenly have done, some even calling it mere paper.

Thank you Mitch!

Posted by hummingbird
Nov 23 2011 – 11:07am

“Sadly, society has placed a twin tax upon you by asking that you sacrifice both your body and your morality…Now, more than ever we need your sacrifice. But, I’m asking you to soldier in a different way. If called upon to deny the people their first amendment right to peaceably assemble and petition their government for a redress of grievance, disregard the order.  Abstain from service.  Or if you are so bold, join us.–Mitch Green

♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ He’s 5 foot 2 and he’s 6 feet 4 He fights with missiles and with spears He’s all of 31 and he’s only 17. He’s been a soldier for a thousand years

He’s a catholic, a Hindu, an atheist, a Jain A Buddhist, and a Baptist and Jew. And he knows he shouldn’t kill And he knows he always will kill You’ll for me my friend and me for you

And He’s fighting for Canada. He’s fighting for France. He’s fighting for the USA. And he’s fighting for the Russians. And he’s fighting for Japan And he thinks we’ll put an end to war this way.

And He’s fighting for democracy, He’s fighting for the reds He says it’s for the peace of all. He’s the one, who must decide, who’s to live and who’s to die. And he never sees the writing on the wall.

But without him, how would Hitler have condemned him at Dachau? Without him Caesar would have stood alone He’s the one who gives his body as a weapon of the war. And without him all this killing can’t go on

He’s the universal soldier And he really is the blame His orders comes from far away no more.

They come from him. And you and me. And brothers can’t you see. This is not the way we put an end to war –Buffy Sainte-Marie ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪

Posted by queerplanet
Nov 23 2011 – 11:10am

Okay, nice letter.   It is the question of the day for sure.  In fact, it is the question that has gone unasked for many decades.

However, if you take a good look at the photo above what do you see?

Take a good look.  Look at the details.

The upper one and the lower one both show well dressed people in affluent surroundings, (compared to say, most of Africa.)     Both the police and the students have some access to money, obviously from the photos.

Now where does all this stuff come from?   The nice jackets.   The t shirts.  The helmets, the guns, the backpacks, the glasses and the flag.

It comes from resources from the planet, which are delivered through supply chains, which are then made into products, which are then delivered through supply chains, and then put into the stores for people to buy.

Supply chains being the key factor here.   Do you really think that if protestors block ports, as they did in Oakland, that is going to be allowed?

Do you want to starve in the next two weeks?   Where do you think your food comes from?   Where do you think all the jobs come from that make the t shirts, the glasses, the backpacks, the helmets, and all the rest?

Also, if the military and police stand down, at what point do you want them to stand back up?   When YOUR job fails due to a strike, or maybe when your laptop isn’t delivered on time.

We live in an intricate network of resources and supply chains that crisscrosses the planet.   Shut down this, and over here people will starve, or go to war.

Yes, people have a right to assembly, but yes, if you even THINK about shutting down the supply chains, you will face the full wrath of the world police, starting with the one’s closest to you, and working their way into more lethal fare.

What else would happen?   Do you think people who own factories and stores will just let you shut them down out of principle?

Yes, the climate is changing.  Yes resources are running out.

So, that’s the real trick.   How do you change the system, without first shutting it down?  And stay peaceful.  (Because honey, they have weapons and weapons and weapons and weapons to deal with any kind of violence.)

How do you change the system that is destroying the environment and the economy, but at the same time prevent massive famine.   If you fuck with the supply chain, you will cause massive famine.   If you don’t change the system, the climate and environment are going to cause lots of trouble.

THAT is the question facing the young intelligent people today.

Soldiers who stand down will also have to face it.

Posted by guitarist
Nov 23 2011 – 11:34am

Shutting down the supply with general strikes is EXACTLY what needs to happen if the occupies are anything more than a bourgeois hissy fit, I must admit I am starting to have my doubts.  When workers start occupying factories like in Argentina (see the excellent film The Take Down) then I’ll be truly impressed.  And the latest moves to roll up and become an old style day protest that disdains the actual occupation campers let by aging white middle class ex campus radical like Chris Hedges?

Not so much…

Prognosis gloomy I don’t think Americans have the balls for a general strike to shut down the supply chain that is raping the planet and third world workers, and our own workers though out sourcing.

Posted by RV
Nov 23 2011 – 12:11pm

Maybe not, but “queerplanet” seems extremely concerned about the possibility, and not alone one suspects.

Keep the resistance “passive”, folks.  Do nothing that might actually cause inconvenience for your masters.

Posted by Sundome
Nov 23 2011 – 12:39pm

No wonder we have all the problems we do today – what with people like you letting their rights be trampled in the name of security, I have no doubt fascism will rule.

Figures you’d look at those two pictures,  and instead of a seeing bunch of out of work people protesting and police abuse, you see products the terrible possibility that you may not be able to obtain them.

Posted by SkDoTo
Nov 23 2011 – 12:44pm

Yes, let’s everyone get arrested, beaten, all to just elect our elite’s hand-picked leaders.  See what happens?  If you would just sign the damn pledge that you’ll get up and pull that lever for Special X candidate, then we wouldn’t be demanding that you get arrested, get beaten, pepper sprayed, sound cannoned, soon to be tank/horse trampled, tasered, shot-at/on, etc, etc, etc…  (In other words, if the polls were showing a landslide victory, we wouldn’t ask you to do this in the first place.  You need the coaxing and prodding to get you to the voting booth, I predict….)

Posted by dkshaw
Nov 23 2011 – 1:33pm

>>Where do you think all the jobs come from that make the t shirts, the glasses, the backpacks, the helmets, and all the rest?<<

The jobs are in CHINA, of course, where the corporate bastards have sent all of our jobs. It’s part of the reason for the OWS protest movement.

Posted by moonpie
Nov 23 2011 – 2:33pm

Nice posting, QP. Interesting…thoughtful & insightful.

But, everyone knows, revolution is never easy,  pretty or tidy.

If it happens, it will truly be something to see.

Posted by rosemarie jackowski
Nov 23 2011 – 11:26am

Nice letter, BUT I have no doubt that uniformed troops will NOT be on the side of the people.   Think about it.  Little children glorify them. They have been awarded medals and honored with parades because of their willingness to kill.  Very few will side with us. Those who do will be in prison, or worse.    Think about Bradley Manning.

I am a vet and a member of VFP.   Military training is very effective in removing any taboo against killing, and they do it in a matter of weeks. That’s what military training for officers and enlistees is all about.

Posted by queerplanet
Nov 23 2011 – 11:31am

Yeah, and for how long has the US sent troops around the world as if it were a football team that gets cheered on by the US citizens?

In a bizarre way the photo of the police holding weapons at the students is sadly amusing. What goes around comes around.

It was fine when those weapons are pointed at everyone else in the world to keep the resources and supplies flowing.

Yeah, some people knew it was happening and yeah, we knew people were being slaughtered OVER THERE, but then you go have more kids and go shopping and it drops from the front of important issues.

Only now…. good gawd…. holy fuck…..they are pointing the guns at OUR CHILDREN!!!

Oh gosh, how did that happen?

We are the ninety nine percent!   Just keep chanting.   Maybe they will go away.

Posted by rosemarie jackowski
Nov 23 2011 – 11:58am

queerplanet…GREAT COMMENT.   The chickens have come home to roost.

And I agree with the other comment here…US citizens do not have the courage to resist in an effective way.    In the US the brain washing starts very early – in day care centers, then in elementry schools, and on and on.   Try this experiment…over the dinner table or on Main Street, mention the 500,000 Iraqi children who died because of US policies.  See how many will deny that that ever happened – even though the official addmission is on tape and was seen around the world.

Posted by SkDoTo
Nov 23 2011 – 1:07pm

I talked to a 20s-something, PhD, well educated, Democrat Dept of Energy physicist who completely feels that oil must, MUST be sought out on every inch of this planet in order to fulfill all energy needs, because in his mind, there are no other energy alternatives to oil.  I explained the 500K children dead in Iraq for that policy.  He balked, and said Iraq had nothing to do with oil and our energy needs.  KID YOU NOT!  I explained the the Dept of Energy has its own “intelligence unit,” as one of 17 known intelligence agencies openly funded by our gov’t.  He balked again, not believing such matters, saying Iraq is a terrorist security issue, and not an energy issue.

AND THIS FROM OUR SUPPOSED BEST AND BRIGHTEST!  Imagine what the lesser educated, lesser informed, the lesser critical-thinking are understanding about such matters…

Posted by dkshaw
Nov 23 2011 – 1:41pm

>> Imagine what the lesser educated, lesser informed, the lesser critical-thinking are understanding about such matters<<

Such as Fox “News” watchers…

Posted by dkshaw
Nov 23 2011 – 1:37pm

>>mention the 500,000 Iraqi children who died because of US policies.<<

“We think it was worth it.” — Madame Defarge … er … I mean Madeleine Albright

Posted by jclientelle
Nov 23 2011 – 2:33pm

There were no children on Madame Defarge’s list.

Posted by NateW
Nov 23 2011 – 11:32am

This is one of the existential struggles of Occupy: to neuter the elite’s ability to clamp down, as police brass are not numerous enough to do the actualy dirty work.  There are halting signs already this is occuring, as two of the more notorious pepper spraying incidents (New York & UC Davis) were carried out by command personel.

Posted by Paul Revere
Nov 23 2011 – 11:50am

Excellent letter by Mitch Green.

He is taking is oath seriously: I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.

Mitch has it right, we need protection from America’s domestic terrorists now. That would be the 1% that are traitors to the Constitution, the Bill Of Rights, and the 99%.

Posted by bornfreemen
Nov 23 2011 – 12:16pm

Army vet and PhD economics student Mitch Green

Thanks Sir, You are an American Patriot, unlike those who vote for , support, and profit from  the Patriot Acts. The DHS, TSA, Chertoff and his scanner contracts, Fusion centers, etc.etc.etc.

The worst legislation in American history , created in 30 days by Bush/Cheney. An amazing mount of work done in 30 days, or were they just rewriting Hitlers manifesto.

This is the United States of America , the country that nurtured men who wrote the greatest Deceleration of Independence ever penned, and a constitution that forbids legislation like the Patriot Acts. This is not the Unites Stasi of America, or the United Spys of America.

Protest everything.

Posted by Truthseeker58
Nov 23 2011 – 12:15pm

Bravo for the impassioned plea to your fellow comrades, Mitch Green!!!

The reality is that when ALL these foot soldiers refuse to brutalize the peaceful protesters, we have WON.  So all those foot soldiers who are too cowardly to deny their orders or have a mental illness inside that makes them sadists, if you could sum up that courage to JUST SAY NO just this once in your life, you would have saved this country from this brutal fascist reign!  So THINK OF IT.  YOU CAN SAVE THIS COUNTRY, Soldiers, if you just say no.

Posted by Chuck
Nov 23 2011 – 12:32pm

I do not understand….

How does a man/woman put on a uniform and dismiss their conscience and their sense of justice..?

Posted by Sundome
Nov 23 2011 – 12:34pm

Excellent letter. Thanks Mitch!

Posted by martha
Nov 23 2011 – 1:10pm

Well, soldiers do take an oath to defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign AND domestic (emphasis on domestic), and they also have the right to refuse to obey an UNLAWFUL order…

Winter Soldiers Confront the White House: Mass Arrests as They Put Their Bodies on the Line for Peace December 23, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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by: Linda Pershing, t r u t h o u t | Report

 

Winter Soldiers Confront the White House: Mass Arrests as They Put Their Bodies on the Line for Peace
Vietnam veteran Bill Homans chained himself to a lamppost near the White House fence. (Photo: Linda Pershing)

On Thursday, December 16, the term “winter soldier” took on special meaning. Blanketed by snow flurries and enduring freezing temperatures, several hundred military veterans and peace activists gathered in the nation’s capital to stage a dramatic political protest. As they have done many times since George W. Bush announced the military attack of Afghanistan in 2001, concerned citizens from across the country traveled to Washington, calling for an end to US military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as drone attacks on Pakistan and Yemen.

Since 2001, I have joined thousands of Americans to raise our voices against the wars at peace actions in Washington, DC, including marches from the White House to the Capitol, vigils at the White House and civil disobedience in the streets and in the halls of Congress. This event felt different. Responding to a call from the leaders of Stop These Wars(1) – a new coalition of Veterans for Peace and other activists – participants came together in a large-scale performance of civil resistance. A group of veterans under the leadership of Veterans for Peace members Tarak Kauff, Will Covert and Elaine Brower, mother of a Marine who has served three tours of duty in Iraq, sponsored the event with the explicit purpose of putting their bodies on the line. Many participants were Vietnam War veterans; others ranged from Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans in their 20s and 30s to World War II vets in their 80s and older. They were predominately white; men outnumbered women by at least three to one. After a short rally in Lafayette Park, they formed a single-file procession, walking across Pennsylvania Avenue to the solemn beat of a drum. As they reached the police barricade (erected to prevent them from chaining themselves to the gate, a plan they announced on their web site), the activists stood shoulder to shoulder, their bodies forming a human link across the “picture postcard” tableau in front of the White House.

 

Veterans for Peace activist and event organizer Will Covert, reading the Veterans for Peace Statement of Purpose and Pledge of Nonviolence at the rally in Lafayette Park, Dec. 16, 2010. 

Veterans for Peace activist and event organizer Will Covert, reading the Veterans for Peace Statement of Purpose and Pledge of Nonviolence at the rally in Lafayette Park, Dec. 16, 2010. (Photo: Linda Pershing)

The powerful symbolism of the event focused on reclaiming public space, dissenters lining the fence that separates the presidency from the populace. For several minutes, activists, sang and chanted the customary peace songs and slogans; all the while, the park police seemed calm and relatively unconcerned. Then, suddenly, one of the veterans breached the waist-high barricade, lurching toward the White House fence and calling others to join him. Within moments, all 131 activists jumped over or maneuvered around the barricade, staking their claim to the fence. The visual effect was stunning and eerie, particularly in the falling snow. Some activists secured their wrists to the fence with metal handcuffs. Former Veterans for Peace President Elliott Adams affixed a metal, u-shaped, bicycle lock around his neck and fastened it to a post. He explained, “We’re trying to stop these stupid wars. We’ve (Veterans have) been in the wars, we fought the wars and now know they’re stupid. They’re bad for the nation, they’re bad for the people, they’re bad for the economy and they are only good for the filthy rich. And, it’s time we quit killing people of other nations and killing our own children just to make a few people rich.”(2) Veteran Bill Homans (aka Watermelon Slim) echoed an action he took in 1972, when he chained himself to the captain’s cabin of the USS Constitution to protest the Vietnam War. With the help of a fellow veteran, Homans fastened himself to a lamppost near the White House fence with a thick metal chain.

 

Journalist and author Chris Hedges speaking at the rally in Lafayette Park, Dec. 16, 2010. 

Journalist and author Chris Hedges speaking at the rally in Lafayette Park, Dec. 16, 2010. (Photo: Linda Pershing)

The park police brought in eight officers on horseback, four on either side of the crowd, presumably to intimidate. They also tried to contain the action by placing metal barricades not only in front of the fence, but also vertically across Pennsylvania Avenue, narrowing the accessible area to a small section of the street directly in front of the White House. As they moved in to make arrests, they used yellow caution tape (with the words “POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS”), preventing supporters, especially those with cameras, from closely observing or documenting the arrest process. They parked large buses and vehicles along the curb on the far side of the street, blocking the view of onlookers, who were forced onto the sidewalk of Lafayette Park. Few were able to see the action up close. A handful of journalists and others managed to hold their places on the sidelines; several were harassed by the police as they attempted to document the arrests. One by one, the police detained the activists, securing their wrists behind their backs with plastic ties. If they refused to walk to the buses awaiting them, two police officers dragged resisters across Pennsylvania Avenue. Many activists, men and women alike, declined to walk of their own free will and accepted the consequences. The process could have been carried out much more quickly, but it took nearly four hours for police to complete the final arrest. Those remaining at the fence for the duration were wet from the snowfall and extremely cold, reinforcing the clear message from the authorities: if you exercise civil resistance of this kind, we will make it extremely uncomfortable for you.

 

Peace activists begin their procession from Lafayette Park to the White House gates. 

Peace activists begin their procession from Lafayette Park to the White House gates. (Photo: Linda Pershing)

Journalists focused their attention on the well-known public figures who participated to support the effort, especially Daniel Ellsberg (former military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War and subject of the recent film “The Most Dangerous Man in America”), Chris Hedges (Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and war correspondent) and Ray McGovern (27-year CIA analyst and Army intelligence officer). Ellsberg refuted Obama’s assertion that increasing the number of US troops in Afghanistan will help keep Americans safe. He countered, “I regard that last assurance as a lie, as a big lie,” noting that Obama was aware the war was unwinnable in December 2009, when he decided to deploy 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. According to Ellsberg, the “surge” strengthened the Taliban and, by extension, al-Qaeda, who responded by bolstering their recruitment. Hedges spoke eloquently about hope and the importance of civil resistance in response to indifference and deception by our country’s leaders:

Hope will not come in trusting in the ultimate goodness of Barack Obama, who, like Herod of old, sold out his people…. Hope will only come now when we physically defy the violence of the state. All who resist, all who are here today, keep hope alive. All who succumb to fear, despair and apathy become an enemy of hope. They become, in their passivity, agents of injustice…. And those who resist with nonviolence are the last thin line of defense between a civil society and its disintegration.(3)

 

 

Veterans and peace activists form a line at the barricade in front of the White House fence. 

Veterans and peace activists form a line at the barricade in front of the White House fence. (Photo: Linda Pershing)

Paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., McGovern cautioned, “If we don’t do activism, democracy is out the door…. We’re going to do all we can to stop the violence being perpetrated in our name. And so, if the making of peace means prison, that’s where you’re going to find us.” Several speakers at the rally in Lafayette Park called for the release of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the young Army soldier suspected of giving secret US documents about the wars to WikiLeaks. They also denounced the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, comparing Internet publication of classified information to The New York Times’ 1971 publication of the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg argued, “I think they [Manning and Assange] provided a very valuable service. To call them ‘terrorists’ is not only mistaken, it’s absurd.” Ellsberg noted: since President Obama has a responsibility to launch an investigation of atrocities once they are reported, he “has a very personal reason to be concerned” about the release of documents that reveal the use of torture and unnecessary killings by American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

Activists move past the barricade to their goal:  the White House fence. 

Activists move past the barricade to their goal: the White House fence. (Photo: Linda Pershing)

Ellsberg and Hedges inspired the crowd. However, the most striking feature of this gathering was the leadership provided by activist veterans, as well as their decision to be arrested in large numbers. Recognizing that more benign forms of protest have had little effect, Dr. Margaret Flowers of Physicians for a National Health Program told the crowd, “We’ve tried the traditional tools. We’ve tried others ways of advocating. We’ve tried educating and organizing. And while all of these tools are important, they are not sufficient.” Former Army Sgt. Crystal Colon, who served two tours of duty in Iraq, urged active duty soldiers to refuse to fight: “Civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan are dying on a daily basis. These wars need to end and the only way we’re going to end them is if veterans and soldiers take a stand and say ‘No more!’ We’re not doing this anymore. We’re not fighting these wars. We’re not dying for political greed or corporations.” Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans spoke out about their experiences and why they oppose US military involvement in those nations. One young veteran commented on his experiences, “Helping the people of Iraq was the driving factor for me going there. And then occupying their country and doing consistent raids and pulling their homes apart … and watching the infrastructure degrade, instead of improve, it was kind of a sharp realization that there was nothing that was … benefiting the people, by any means. In fact, consistent night raids, check points and harassment [were] the daily routine for what we were doing to the people of Iraq.”(4)

 

Peace activists cover the fence, refusing to move or leave. 

Peace activists cover the fence, refusing to move or leave. (Photo: Linda Pershing)

March Forward member Zachary Choate, who was deployed to Iraq in 2006, injured by an IED and deployed back to Iraq after rehabilitation in the US, stood at the center of the fence dressed in a military uniform, plus a Palestinian scarf tied around his neck. Carrying an American flag, folded in the triangular formation used at military funerals, Choate explained why he joined the action: “I’ve been out of the military now for two-and-a-half years, and I’ve been speaking out ever since. Today, I just feel that it’s time for me to take a stand, risk arrest, whatever it takes. Why today? I can’t sit idle anymore, I can’t. I can’t sit by anymore and let these atrocities continue.”(5)

 

Daniel Ellsberg at the White House fence. 

Daniel Ellsberg at the White House fence. (Photo: Linda Pershing)

Ironically, while dissidents chained themselves to the fence to decry the wars, President Obama and his staff held a press conference at the White House, commenting that the fighting in Afghanistan “continues to be a very difficult endeavor,” but that the US is “on track to achieve our goals.” When reporters questioned Defense Secretary Robert Gates about the summer 2011 timetable to begin withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan, he back peddled: “The president has made clear” that the withdrawal “will be conditions-based.” Regarding how quickly US troops will move out of Afghanistan, Gates responded, “The answer is, we don’t know at this point,” adding that the pace will depend on the progress of Afghan security forces.(6)

Iraq Veteran Zachary Choate, denouncing U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan 

Iraq Veteran Zachary Choate, denouncing U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan (Photo: Linda Pershing)

The American public doesn’t seem to be buying it. An ABC/Washington Post poll indicates that general dissatisfaction with the Afghanistan war, the longest in US history, has risen by seven points just since July 2010. A record 60 percent of poll respondents believe that the war has not been worth fighting. “The public’s increasingly negative assessment comes after a new strategy, including a surge of US and allied forces, led to the Afghanistan war’s bloodiest year. According to icasualties.org, nearly 500 US soldiers have been killed and 4,481 wounded in 2010, compared with 317 killed and 2,114 wounded in 2009 and 155 killed, 793 wounded in 2008.”(7)

 

Women joined the action by handcuffing themselves to the fence. 

Women joined the action by handcuffing themselves to the fence. (Photo: Linda Pershing)

 

Police film the activists and arrests while simultaneously blocking the view of observers, who were forced to stand behind large busses and trucks parked in front of Lafayette Park. 

Police film the activists and arrests while simultaneously blocking the view of observers, who were forced to stand behind large busses and trucks parked in front of Lafayette Park. (Photo: Linda Pershing)

Mindful of the determination of our nation’s leaders to prolong US militarism in Afghanistan and Iraq, journalist and war correspondent Hedges reminded participants about a central principle of nonviolent activism: civil resistance and the hope it brings often requires risk and a willingness to sacrifice ones own security:

Hope has a cost. Hope is not comfortable or easy. Hope requires personal risk. It is not about the right attitude. Hope is not about peace of mind. Hope is action. Hope is doing something. The more futile, the more useless, the more irrelevant and incomprehensible an act of rebellion is, the vaster and more potent hope becomes.

 

 

Police used barricades to keep observers and photographers from getting close to the activists during the arrests. 

Police used barricades to keep observers and photographers from getting close to the activists during the arrests. (Photo: Linda Pershing)

As he was cuffed by police at the White House gate, Ellsberg, age 79, commented that this marked his 80th arrest for civil resistance. Not one to “go gentle into that good night”: despite the freezing weather, he used his bare hands to flash two peace signs behind his back. Among the 131 who were arrested, between 40 and 50 activists refused to pay the $100 fine for “failure to obey a lawful order,” choosing instead to appear in court and present their case. Ellsberg encouraged the resisters: “We can say by being here, no longer does this war go on silently with the appearance of universal consent. We withdraw our consent to carry on this war. You must do it over our bodies.”

 

Park police arrest a member of CodePink and take her to the bus. 

Park police arrest a member of CodePink and take her to the bus. (Photo: Linda Pershing)

Event organizers are hopeful that the arrests of the 131 military veterans and activists will spark a growing movement to oppose the government through increasing acts of civil resistance. Ellsberg agreed: “I hope this’ll be the beginning of a wave of civil disobedience, which we haven’t seen and should have seen, with respect from this atrocious war. It’s overtime, but it’s not too late.”(8)

Footnotes:

1. See “Stop the Wars,” retrieved 19 December 2010.
2. You Tube video by robkall, 17 December 2010, retrieved 19 December 2010.
3. For a full version of Chris Hedge’s essay, from which his speech on December 16, 2010. was adopted, see “Real Hope is Doing Something,” Truthdig, 29 November 2010, retrieved 19 December 2010.
4. “‘Hope Is Action’: Hedges and Ellsberg Arrested at White House Protest” (You Tube video), Truthdig, 17 December 2010, retrieved 19 December 2010.
5.You Tube video by ebecker2000. “Veterans for Peace White House Civil Disobedience to End War,” 16 December 2010, retrieved 19 December 2010.
6. Memmott, Mark. “Obama: U.S. Is ‘On Track To Achieve Our Goals’ In Afghanistan,” NPR, 16 December 2010, retrieved 19 December 2010.
7. Phelan, Julie and Gary Langer. “Poll: Assessment of Afghanistan War Sours,” ABC News, 16 December 2010, retrieved 19 December 2010.
8. “Veterans For Peace Protest War Outside White House,” The Real News, 17 December 2010, retrieved 19 December 2010.

‘They Kill Alex’ September 6, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Immigration, Iraq and Afghanistan, Latin America, Peace, War.
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by Chris Hedges

Carlos Arredondo, a native Costa Rican, stands in a parking lot of a Holiday Inn in Portland, Maine, next to his green Nissan pickup truck. The truck, its tailgate folded down, carries a flag-draped coffin and is adorned with pictures of his son, Lance Cpl. Alexander S. Arredondo, 20, a Marine killed in Iraq in 2004. The truck and a trailer he pulls with it have become a mobile shrine to his boy. He drives around the country, with the aid of donations, evoking a mixture of sympathy and hostility. There are white crosses with the names of other boys killed in the war. Combat boots are nailed to the side of the display. There is a wheelchair, covered in colored ribbons, fixed to the roof of the cab. There is Alex’s military uniform and boots, poster-size pictures of the young Marine shown on the streets of Najaf, in his formal Marine portrait, and then lying, his hands folded in white gloves, in his coffin. A metal sign on the back of the truck bears a gold star and reads: “USMC L/CPL ALEXANDER S. ARREDONDO.”

“This is what happens every week to some family in America,” says Carlos. “This is what war does. And this is the grief and pain the government does not want people to see.”

Alex, from a working-class immigrant family, was lured into the military a month before Sept. 11, 2001. The Marine recruiters made the usual appeals to patriotism, promised that he would be trained for a career, go to college and become a man. They included a $10,000 sign-on bonus. Alex was in the Marine units that invaded Iraq. His father, chained to the news reports, listening to the radio and two televisions at the same time, was increasingly distraught. “I hear nothing about my son for days and days,” he says. “It was too much, too much, too much for parents.”   

Alex, in August 2004, was back in Iraq for a second tour. In one of his last phone calls, Alex told him: “Dad, I call you because, to say, you know, we’ve been fighting for many, many days already, and I want to tell you that I love you and I don’t want you to forget me.” His father answered: “Of course I love you, and I don’t want-I never forget you.” The last message the family received was an e-mail around that time which read: “Watch the news online. Check the news, and tell everyone that I love them.”

Twenty days later, on Aug. 25, a U.S. government van pulled up in front of Carlos’ home in Hollywood, Fla. It was Carlos’ 44th birthday and he was expecting a birthday call from Alex. “I saw the van and thought maybe Alex had come home to surprise me for my birthday or maybe they were coming to recruit my other son, Brian,” he says. Three Marine officers climbed out of the van. One asked, “Are you Carlos Arredondo?” He answered “yes.”

“I’m sorry, we’re here to notify you about the death of Lance Cpl. Arredondo,” one of the officers told him. Alex was the 968th soldier or Marine to be killed in the Iraq war.

“I tried to process this in my head,” Carlos says. “I never hear that. I remember how my body felt. I got a rush of blood to my body. I felt like it’s the worst thing in my life. It is my worst fear. I could not believe what they were telling me.”

Carlos turned and ran into the house to find his mother, who was in the kitchen making him a birthday cake. “I cried, ‘Mama! Mama! They are telling me Alex got killed! Alex got killed! They kill Alex! They kill Alex! They kill Alex!” His mother crumbled in grief. Carlos went to the large picture of his son in the living room and held it. Carlos asked the Marines to leave several times over the next 20 minutes, but the Marines refused, saying they had to wait for his wife. “I did this because I was in denial. I think if they leave none of this will happen.” Crazed and distraught with grief, the father went into his garage and took out five gallons of gasoline and a propane torch. He walked past the three Marines in their dress blues and began to smash the windows of the government van with a hammer.

“I went into the van,” he says. “I poured gasoline on the seats. I pour gasoline on the floor and in the gas tank. I was, like, looking for my son. I was screaming and yelling for him. I remember that one day he left in a van and now he’s not there. I destroy everything. The pain I feel is the pain of what I learned from war. I was wearing only socks and no shoes. I was wearing shorts. The fumes were powerful and I could not breathe no more, even though I broke the windows.”

As Carlos stepped out of the van, he ignited the propane torch inside the vehicle. It started a fire that “threw me from the driver’s seat backwards onto the ground.” His clothes caught fire. It felt “like thousands of needles stabbing into my body.” He ran across the street and fell onto the grass. His mother followed him and pulled off his shirt and socks, which were on fire, as he screamed “Mama! Mama! My feet are burning! My feet are burning!” The Marines dragged him away and he remembers one of them saying, “The van is going to blow! The van is going to blow!” The van erupted in a fireball and the rush of hot air, he says, swept over him. The Marines called a fire truck and an ambulance. Carlos sustained second- and third-degree burns over 26 percent of his body. As I talk to him in the Portland parking lot he shows me the burn scars on his legs. The government chose not to prosecute him.

“I wake up in the hospital two days later and I was tied with tubes in my mouth,” he says. “When they take the tubes out I say, ‘I want to be with my son. I want to be with my son.’ Somebody was telling me my son had died. I get very emotional. I kept saying ‘I want to be with my son’ and they think I want to commit suicide.”

He had no health insurance. His medical bills soon climbed to $55,000. On Sept. 2, 2004, Carlos, transported in a stretcher, attended his son’s wake at the Rodgers Funeral Home in Jamaica Plain, Mass. He lifted himself, with the help of those around him, from his stretcher, and when he reached his son’s open casket he kissed his child. “I held his head and when I put my hands in the back of his head I felt the huge hole where the sniper bullet had come out,” he says. “I climbed into the casket. I lay on top of my son. I apologized to him because I did not do enough to avoid this.”   

Arredondo began to collect items that memorialized his son’s life. He tacked them to his truck. A funeral home in Boston donated a casket to the display. He began to attend anti-war events, at times flying the American flag upside down to signal distress. He has taken his shrine to the Mall in Washington, D.C., and Times Square in New York City. He has traveled throughout the country presenting to the public a visual expression of death and grief. He has placed some of his son’s favorite childhood toys and belongings in the coffin, including a soccer ball, a pair of shoes, a baseball and a Winnie the Pooh. The power of his images, which force onlookers to confront the fact that the essence of war is death, has angered some who prefer to keep war sanitized and wrapped in the patriotic slogans of glory, honor and heroism. Three years ago vandals defaced his son’s gravestone.

“I don’t speak,” he says. “I show people war. I show them the caskets they are not allowed to see. If people don’t see what war does they don’t feel it. If they don’t feel it they don’t care.”

Military recruiters, who often have offices in high schools, prey on young men like Alex, who was first approached when he was 16. They cater to their insecurities, their dreams and their economic deprivation. They promise them what the larger society denies them. Those of Latino descent and from divorced families, as Alex was, are especially vulnerable. Alex’s brother Brian was approached by the military, which suggested that if he enlisted he could receive $60,000 in signing bonuses and more than $27,000 in payments for higher education. The proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, is designed to give undocumented young people a chance at citizenship provided they attend college-not usually an option for poor, often poorly educated and undocumented Latino youths who are prohibited from receiving Pell grants-for at least two years, or enlist and serve in the military. The military helped author the pending act and is lobbying for it. Twelve percent of Army enlistees are Hispanic, and this percentage is expected to double by 2020 if the current rate of recruitment continues. And once they are recruited, these young men and women are trained to be killers, sent to wars that should never be fought and returned back to their families often traumatized and broken and sometimes dead.

Alex told Carlos in their last conversation there was heavy fighting in Najaf. Alex usually asked his father not to “forget” him, but now, increasingly in the final days of his life, another word was taking the place of forget. It was forgive. He felt his father should not forgive him for what he was doing in Iraq. He told his father, “Dad, I hope you are proud of what I’m doing. Don’t forgive me, Dad.” The sentence bewildered his father. “Oh my God, how can I forgive you? … I love you, you’re my son, very proud, you’re my son.”

“I thought, when he died, my God, he has killed somebody,” Carlos says quietly as he readied for an anti-war march organized by Veterans for Peace. “He feels guilty. If he returned home his mind would be destroyed. His heart would be torn apart. It is not normal to kill. How can they do this? How can they take our children?”

© 2010 TruthDig.com

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

Courage to Resist: an Appeal for Support February 24, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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lazare-150

By Sarah Lazare, Courage to Resist Project Coordinator
February 24, 2009
www.couragetoresist.org/donate

We are entering a critical period for G.I. resistance. The recent elections showed that a clear majority of Americans are fed up with the war. Now that Obama has been elected on the anti-war ticket, the peace and anti-war movement must define what that means. It is vital that we push for a real end to the war, including a pullout of all “non-combat” troops and independent contractors from Iraq.

We are also entering a time of heightened aggression in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere, with Obama planning to send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan this spring and summer, in addition to the 36,000 that are already there. Not only is the Global War on Terror not “working,” but it is turning into a war of attrition with no end in sight, causing great hardship for people living in occupied lands, as well as for the troops being sent overseas. Now is a vital time to be developing strategies to stop the escalation before it becomes a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy.

Let me take a moment to introduce myself to those of you I have not had the opportunity to meet. I came to this work with a background in anti-war, labor, and community organizing. During the buildup to the Iraq invasion and after the bombing started, I was heavily involved in organizing anti-war war protests. However, as the war dragged on, despite public opinion and mass mobilizations against it, I became more and more interested in anti-war strategies that focus on building a mass movement to directly withdraw military support for the war.

My experience in labor and community organizing gave me a sense of the importance of movements grounded in building the voices and power of most-affected communities. When I learned about the work that veterans and resisters are doing to withdraw support from, and speak out against, the war, I was convinced that this was exactly the kind of organizing that needs to be happening right now.

We have been working with war resisters and civilian ally networks to help support the G.I. resistance movement. It has been a busy, exciting, and extremely fulfilling six months since I started. Here are some highlights of my job so far:

  • Working with war resisters Benjamin Lewis, Brandon Neely, and Andrew Gorby to build an information campaign about the facts of resisting the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR).
  • Meeting many anti-war veterans and war resisters at the Veterans for Peace / Iraq Veterans Aganist the War Convention and the Republican National Convention protests in Minneapolis last August.
  • Helping war resisters get their personal stories of refusal out to the media.
  • Coordinating an open letter of solidarity from Iraq and Afghanistan War resisters to Israeli Shministim (high school youth) conscientious objectors.

War resisters are on the front line of efforts to stop unjust war and occupation. By directly withdrawing military support, resisters slow down the machinery of war, and, as demonstrated during the Vietnam War, can ultimately bring it to a halt.

Moving forward, here are a few things that we at Courage to Resist are working on right now:

  • Reaching out to active duty GIs at military bases and induction centers.
  • Articulating a clear and effective strategy for ending the war in Afghanistan.
  • Organizing a national week of letter-writing parties March 16-23 to show support for war resisters.
  • Unfolding a sanctuary for war resisters effort, with the help of community members, unions, and churches.
  • Launching a campaign to eventually win amnesty for war resisters in the U.S.

Service members are getting in touch with us daily, to learn about their rights, ask for support, and share their stories. We are working hard to make sure that the troops who refuse to fight do not have to go it alone.

We are excited about where we are at with our collective. We just welcomed three new collective members who I think will add a lot to our organization:

  • Benji Lewis, a former Marine who is currently resisting involuntary activation from the IRR
  • Michael Thurman, former Airman who won a conscientious objector discharge from the Air Force last year with our assistance.
  • Bob Meola, a life-long peace activist and current National Committee member of the War Resisters League.

That being said, we have a lot of work to do. Chris Teske and Cliff Cornell have been forced out of Canada by the Harper Administration and will likely face military court martial. Several more U.S. war resisters, including Kimberly Rivera and Jeremy Hinzman, continue to fight their deportation orders in the Canadian courts. Meanwhile, Robin Long, the first U.S. war resister deported from Canada since Vietnam, is serving a 15-month sentence for refusing to fight in Iraq.

The current economic climate presents obvious challenges for sustaining this kind of work. Yet, it is exactly because of the impending economic troubles that our work is so important now. If our government did not waste trillions of dollars on wars abroad, we would be better equipped to take care of each other at home. It is time for our society to stop wasting resources on immoral and unjust wars and start genuinely tending to problems right in our own backyard.

Thank you for all you have done to help Courage to Resist sustain our work. With your assistance, I’m confident we’ll be able to continue to build G.I. resistance against unjust war.

Sincerely,
Sarah Lazare, Courage to Resist Project Coordinator

P.S. I’m asking that you consider a contribution of $100 or more, or become a sustainer at $25 or more a month. Regardless of the amount, it’s your tax deductible gift of whatever you can afford that is critical to our efforts in support of the troops who refuse to fight.

www.couragetoresist.org/donate

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