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Helen Keller: Socialist, Pacifist, Women’s & Workers’ Rights Advocate July 1, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Socialism, Uncategorized, War, Women.
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Roger’s note: last week we celebrated Helen Keller Day, celebrating the 136th anniversary of her birth.  Like Albert Einstein, perhaps the greatest mind of the 20th century, Keller’s disavowal of capitalist economic relations and her commitment to socialism and pacifism are virtually absent when her life and achievements are discussed.  These are inconvenient truths that corporate media and educational establishments love to ignore.  It is a phenomenon similar to the expunging of Martin Luther King’s biting anti-war and economic justice critiques and the beatification of Muhammad Ali absent any analysis of his anti-Vietnam war heroism as relative to today’s permanent wars and military adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the globe.

Virtually all my adult life it has been evident to me that capitalist economic relations are unsustainable and responsible for massive economic and social injustice, immeasurable suffering and murderous warfare; and that the survival of the human race and the planet we inhabit depends upon nothing less than the creation of a New Society based upon communal values, once cancerous and voracious world capitalism is uprooted.

These are not new ideas, and it is comforting to know that they were held by some of our greatest humanitarians.

 

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Keller was celebrated as a miracle, but her intelligent and articulate views and opinions were denounced as irrational, misguided thinking that came as the result of her afflictions. Keller railed against these charges. Responding to one attack in the Brooklyn Eagle, she wrote:

“At [one] time the compliments he paid me were so generous that I blush to remember them. But now that I have come out for socialism he reminds me and the public that I am blind and deaf and especially liable to error. I must have shrunk in intelligence during the years since I met him. … Oh, ridiculous Brooklyn Eagle! Socially blind and deaf, it defends an intolerable system, a system that is the cause of much of the physical blindness and deafness which we are trying to prevent.”

Keller was highly adept at connecting the dots between the issues, understanding the relationship of war and militarism to economic injustice and the abuse of women, workers, children, and others. She also understood the power of nonviolent struggle, noncooperation, and organized direct action.

In her famous 1916 “Strike Against War” speech, Keller said to the workers of the nation, “It is in your power to refuse to carry the artillery and the dread-noughts and to shake off some of the burdens, too, such as limousines, steam yachts, and country estates. You do not need to make a great noise about it. With the silence and dignity of creators you can end wars and the system of selfishness and exploitation that causes wars. All you need to do to bring about this stupendous revolution is to straighten up and fold your arms.”

Helen Keller Day commemorates her birth on June 27,1880. On this day, one way to honor her life and legacy is to share the story of her commitment to pacifism, ending war, equality, women’s rights, labor and workers’ rights, suffrage, and more. Remember her as a woman who understood the relationship between systems of injustice, and the challenges of being deaf, blind, or mute. Keller clearly saw that while she had lost sight and hearing through illness, many people were becoming deaf or blind through workplace injuries, poverty-related sicknesses, and lack of access to affordable healthcare. To honor and commemorate her life, find a way to work for social justice in your community, and tell her story wherever you go.

Rivera Sun is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network.

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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.
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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.

Daniel Berrigan: A Lifetime of Peace Activism May 9, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Peace, Religion, War, War on Terror.
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Published on Monday, May 9, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

 
by Deena Guzder

Jingoistic crowds erupted with frat-boy glee shortly after President Barack Obama announced the extrajudicial assassination of Osama Bin Laden earlier this month. After all, America’s public enemy Numero Uno — our own veritable Darth Vadar – had lost what the mainstream media depicts as a Manichean battle ten years in the making.  The lone voices in the wilderness that dared to point out the covert operation violated elementary norms of international law were quickly dismissed as “fanatics”. 

According to prevailing wisdom in the United States today, the best way to eradicate the world of a hateful ideology is by deploying 80 commandos on the home of an unarmed suspect and murdering him on the spot.  Yet, we already see the entirely predictable consequences of the Osama bin Laden raid.  In Portland, Maine, a mosque was defaced just hours after the news broke of bin Laden’s death. The graffiti read, “Osama Today, Islam tomorow” [sic].  Less than a week later, any misconception that the so-called Global War on Terror was winding down was dispelled when a drone attack killed at least eight people in Pakistan’s North Waziristan.  Meanwhile Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disingenuously conflated al-Qaeda with the Taliban and, with bellicose bravado, declared the U.S. would continue its war in Afghanistan. And, in Pakistan, hundreds of Jamaat-ud-Dawa activists prayed in Karachi for their new martyr: Osama bin Laden. 
 
Many great minds have questioned the logic of retributive violence, but perhaps none as persistently and unwaveringly as Father Daniel Berrigan. Today, the lifelong social justice activist and renegade Jesuit priest turns 90 years old. At a time when self-proclaimed Christian politicians espouse a Tea Party-inspired theology of xenophobia and vengeance, Berrigan is a rare soul that continues tirelessly opposing violence in its many forms.  Along with his late brother Phillip, he has publicly opposed aid to alleged anti-Communist forces in Southeast Asia, the use of American forces in Grenada, the installation of Pershing missiles in West Germany, aid to the Contras in Nicaragua, intervention in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion, the Cold War, and the Gulf War.  Berrigan also vocally opposed the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.[1]  For Berrigan, Christianity is a counter-cultural practice directly at odds with the prevailing national culture of retributive justice. Arrested more times than he can count — but “fewer than I should have been,” Berrigan says — he has spent over half a century digging mock graves on the Pentagon’s front lawn, pouring vials of his own blood on Capitol Hill, vandalizing army airplanes, hammering on nuclear nosecones, turning his back on judges during his sentencing hearings, staging hunger strikes in prisons, undergoing strip searches for educating his fellow inmates, and standing in court on charges ranging from “criminal mischief” to “destruction of government property” to, most egregiously, “failure to quit.” [2]  Berrigan fears moral suicide over physical death and regards moral autonomy as more liberating than physical freedom. 
Last year, after badgering members of the Catholic Worker community across the country, I tracked down America’s most famous living priest. When I arrived at Berrigan’s Lower West Side friary in Manhattan, I half expected to find a Bible-toting warrior, but on that clement morning, I walked into the friary’s cozy hallway to find a slightly hunched elderly man with a meek smile and skin crinkled like aluminum foil. Greeting me with the softest, gentlest “hello” that I’ve heard since my first day at Montessori school, Father Berrigan clasped my hand and led me into his tastefully decorated office. The walls of his office showcased posters of freedom fighters such as Mahatma Gandhi, a child’s drawing of a circus clown, and framed quilts of butterflies. Among his impressive collection of books are volumes by his longtime heroes: Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., and Thomas Merton. Just shy of his ninetieth birthday, Berrigan spoke with me for an hour and a half, patiently answering my many questions and stopping only twice or so to cough.
 
Berrigan told me of surviving a Depression-era boyhood, an abusive father, and countless wars to emerge with a startlingly simple message: stop the violence. If Berrigan had lived during slavery, he would have fought with the abolitionists, but he would not have joined John Brown in leading violent slave insurrections. Even at the height of his Vietnam antiwar activism–or, as his detractors would say, the height of his arrogance–Berrigan never condoned violence. A tape-recorded message to the Weatherman Underground, attributed to Berrigan in 1971, pleads with the militant group to return to nonviolence, warning,: “No principle is worth the sacrifice of a single human being.”
 
In a world still wracked by violence, Berrigan’s peace testimony remains largely unheard and his pacifist views are too often dismissed as naïve.  As we celebrate his lifelong commitment to social justice activism on his birthday, may we remember his startlingly clear message that violence is not the answer even when it’s seems most tempting and most justified.  As Berrigan and so many others have noted, our convictions matter most when they’re tested on the crucible of life — not when they are easy, safe, and fashionable. If we believe in a world in which international law triumphs over unilateral action; mercy triumphs over vengeance; and clemency over sacrifice then Berrigan’s lifelong testimony teaches us that there are no exceptions.  

Notes:
[1] Joe Sabia, “The Cornell Catholic Community is in Crisis” Cornell Daily Sun. September 23, 2003

[2] For more see Gary Smith, “Peace Warriors,” The Washington Post Magazine, June 5, 1988, W22. June 5, 1988. 

 

Deena Guzder

Deena Guzder is an independent journalist who has reported on human rights issues across the globe. She is the author of Divine Rebels (Chicago Review Press 2011), which includes a profile of Daniel Berrigan. Please visit her website: www.DeenaGuzder.com

Midshipman, Then Pacifist: Rare Victory to Leave Navy February 23, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Peace, Religion, War.
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Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

Shortly after Michael Izbicki, now 25, graduated from the Naval Academy in 2008, he decided that his Christian beliefs would not permit him to take part in war.

By PAUL VITELLO
Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

Shortly after Michael Izbicki, now 25, graduated from the Naval Academy in 2008, he decided that his Christian beliefs would not permit him to take part in war.

Published: February 22, 2011 

NEW LONDON, Conn. — The question that changed Michael Izbicki’s life appeared on a psychological exam he took not long after graduating in 2008 near the top of his class at the United States Naval Academy: If given the order, would he launch a missile carrying a nuclear warhead?

Ensign Izbicki said he would not — and his reply set in motion a two-year personal journey and legal battle that ended on Tuesday, when the Navy confirmed that he had been discharged from the service as a conscientious objector.

In the process, Mr. Izbicki, 25, went from Navy midshipman in the nuclear submarine fleet here, studying kill ratios, to resident of a small Quaker peace community a few blocks from the Thames River, where he prays several times a day, studies Hebrew and helps with the organic garden.

He is one of only a few graduates of the nation’s military academies to be granted conscientious objector status in recent years. And while every case is deeply personal, his long struggle for an honorable discharge offers a glimpse of a rarely viewed side of military experience in the post-draft, all-volunteer era: the steep challenge facing any service member — and especially a graduate of a service academy — who signs up as a teenager to become a warrior and then changes his mind in adulthood about his willingness to kill.

The Navy fought his request hard, in much the same way that the Army contested the conscientious objector application of Capt. Peter D. Brown, a West Point graduate and an Iraq war veteran who was discharged in 2007 after a protracted court battle.

Academy graduates accounted for only a dozen of the roughly 600 applicants for the special status between 2002 and 2010, spokesmen for the service branches said. Of those requests, fewer than half were approved. And like many of the other academy applicants, according to lawyers who handle such cases, Mr. Izbicki won his discharge only by taking his petition to federal court.

The Navy rejected Mr. Izbicki’s application twice, questioning the sincerity of his beliefs despite the support of several Navy chaplains and the testimony of two Yale Divinity School faculty members who said his religious convictions seemed to be mature and sincere.

One Navy commander suggested that the pacifist strain of Christianity that Mr. Izbicki embraced was inconsistent with mainstream Christian faith. The same commander likened the Quakers, who supported Mr. Izbicki, to the Rev. Jim Jones and his People’s Temple, a suicide cult.

J. E. McNeil, executive director of the Center on Conscience and War, a nonprofit group in Washington that helps service members navigate the conscientious objector process, said that a case like Mr. Izbicki’s posed a profound challenge to the military. “You were someone they thought was going to be a leader,” Ms. McNeil said. “They spent four years training you. Now you want nothing to do with that world.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, which filed a federal lawsuit on Mr. Izbicki’s behalf in November seeking a reversal of the Navy’s decision, announced on Tuesday that the Navy had granted Mr. Izbicki his discharge. Mr. Izbicki, who has continued to work at a Navy desk job, may have to reimburse the service for all or part of the cost of his education, said his lawyers, Sandra Staub, legal director of the A.C.L.U. of Connecticut, and Deborah H. Karpatkin and Vera M. Scanlon, of New York.

Mike McLellan, a spokesman for the Navy, said Mr. Izbicki had been discharged as a conscientious objector because “the Navy Personnel Command determined there was sufficient evidence to satisfy the requirements for this designation, and determined that it was in the Navy’s best interests to discharge him.”

Mr. Izbicki, a National Merit Scholarship finalist in high school, chose the naval academy at Annapolis, Md., over a bevy of colleges, including the California Institute of Technology, that offered him four-year scholarships, because he felt an obligation to serve his country during wartime, he told investigators in his application for discharge.

He grew up attending nondenominational Christian services in San Clemente, Calif., and remained a regular churchgoer during his four years at the academy, where Christianity is the dominant faith. Cadets are required in their junior year to study the “just war” theory, a doctrine justifying military action, based largely on the writings of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Not until his senior year did Mr. Izbicki register a sense of unease over what he would refer to in his application as “the frankness with which people talked about killing.” He wrote: “The training did not live up to the ideals of the just war as I envisioned them. I saw formulas for calculating the number and types of casualties that would result from using each of our weapons systems. We calculated the extent of civilian casualties and whether these numbers were politically acceptable.”

Still, Mr. Izbicki said, he remained convinced that his Christian beliefs could be reconciled with military culture, and that as an officer he would be able to effect change from within.

After graduating from the academy, he earned a master’s degree in computer engineering at Johns Hopkins University in preparation for what he said he expected to be a career in nuclear submarines.

But Mr. Izbicki said he also began exploring his commitment to Christianity. He studied the Gospels, read widely about the early history of the church, took up Hebrew so he could read the Old Testament in the original, and started to measure his faith according to the evangelical touchstone “What would Jesus do?”

It was in that light that he encountered the exam question about launching a nuclear missile in early 2009, shortly after he was assigned to submariner school at the Nuclear Power Training Command in Charleston, S.C. Seeing the question spelled out like that, he said, made it impossible to hide his emerging pacifism any longer.

“I realized that I could not be responsible for killing anyone,” he later explained.

His answer flagged him for psychological testing, and a consultation with a Navy chaplain, who was the first to suggest that Mr. Izbicki consider applying for discharge as a conscientious objector.

“I had never really heard of it,” Mr. Izbicki, a reserved, soft-spoken man, said in an interview last week at St. Francis House, a Quaker residence. “It was one of those things people did in the ’60s.”

The transcripts of the hearings on his two applications for a discharge — which read partly like a court-martial, partly like oral exams for a doctor of divinity degree — run to more than 700 pages. They include esoteric queries about “just war” theory, the letters of St. Paul and the protocols known as the Six Capabilities of the United States Navy’s Maritime Strategy.

Mr. Izbicki’s beliefs are probed intensely for inconsistencies and deviations from conservative Christian belief.

One investigator, Lt. Cmdr. John A. Price, expresses surprise when Mr. Izbicki says he is not convinced that every word in the Bible is inspired by God. He questions how Mr. Izbicki can be sure, then, that the Sermon on the Mount, on which he bases his claim to know what Jesus would do, is accurate: “You realize that there’s a danger when you start believing that some stuff in the Bible’s not true, because then we might start believing that Jesus is not true.”

At another point, Commander Price asks, “If Jesus was a pacifist, why didn’t he tell all Roman soldiers to leave the army?”

Navy officers tried to persuade Mr. Izbicki to consider alternatives to discharge: Could he become a Navy medical officer or dentist? He replied that his pacifist beliefs were irreconcilable with any effort to prepare troops for battle. “I could not contribute in any way whatsoever,” he said.

Mr. Izbicki said he had made no plans for the future other than a return to his parents’ home in California. His discharge, he said, “has opened the whole world up to me.”

FBI Expands ‘Witch Hunt’ Against Antiwar Activists December 22, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Peace, War, War on Terror.
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Published on Wednesday, December 22, 2010 by Change.orgby Charles Davis

The FBI on Tuesday added four more names to the list of antiwar activists subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury as part of an investigation into whether members of the peace movement provided “material support” for terrorism.

[Photo Credit: Committee to Stop FBI Repression]Photo Credit: Committee to Stop FBI Repression

In all, 23 people have been subpoenaed since September 24, when the FBI raided the offices and homes of prominent activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. None has been charged with a crime. Several have also refused to testify in what they say is a witch hunt aimed more at intimidating those who dare speak out against U.S. foreign policy than uncovering actual ties to terrorists. 

And they’re probably right.

Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling this past June, the definition of “material support” for terrorism is now so broad as to include any sort of “advice” to a State Department-designated terrorist group, even if that advice is “stop engaging in terrorism and embrace nonviolence.” Former President Jimmy Carter and groups such as the ACLU and Human Rights Watch have spoken out against the ruling.

Because the definition is so broad, though, it provides the perfect legal basis for the government to go after those opposed to its policies abroad. And as the Bush administration ably demonstrated, there are plenty of people in government who would be all too happy to equate opposition to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen – just to name a few – as de facto support for terrorism.

“We are being targeted for the work we do to end U.S. fundig of the Israeli occupation, ending the war in Afghanistan and ending the occupation of Iraq,” says Maureen Murphy, editor of the news outlet The Electronic Intifada and one of those subpoenaed on Tuesday. “What is at stake for all of us is our right to dissent and organize to change harmful US foreign policy.”

Meredith Aby, another prominent antiwar activist who had her home raided by the FBI, likewise believes she is being targeted for exercising her right to free speech, not because the government actually believes she and other committed pacifists would actually support terrorist violence. She says that the questions U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald wants activists to answer – like which activists they met with abroad and what ideas did they express – proves as much. And like other activists, she said she wasn’t interested in answering.

“I’ve never killed anyone,” Aby says in an interview. “I have no blood on my hands. The blood is on the hands of the U.S. government, on the Israeli government, on the Colombian government. I’m not interested in helping kill people, and so there’s no way that I can testify at a grand jury about what people’s political ideas in places as dangerous as Colombia and Palestine.”

“We need to send a message that this has gone far enough,” she said. “We need to send a message to politicians that they will understand.”

Her advice? Tell Attorney General Eric Holder, President Obama and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald that you oppose using the law to intimidate committed, nonviolent peace activists whose only crime is exercising their right to dissent. Fitzgerald’s office can be reached at (312) 353-5300, while Obama and Holder can be contacted by signing this petition.

“At the end of the day, these men are politicians,” Aby says, “and they will make their decision in a political fashion about … how wide this investigation will go.”

© 2010 Change

A Just Cause, Not a Just War January 29, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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Published on Thursday, January 28, 2010 by The Progressiveby Howard Zinn

Editor’s note: The following essay appeared in the December issue of The Progressive in 2001, and was reposted here at CommonDreams.org shortly after, just three months following the events of September 11th.  As Rudyard Kipling long ago and famously observed, you can recognize wisdom amidst crisis by locating those who ‘keep their heads when all about are losing theirs.’  Zinn’s work is too vast and too incalculable to paraphrase or compile, but when you read his Violence Doesn’t Work or Changing Obama’s Mindset you easily recognize the wisdom and integrity of a man who saw beyond the hysteria of a moment.  Howard Zinn, as Daniel Ellsberg has said, “was the best human being I’ve ever known. The best example of what a human can be, and can do with their life.” We could not agree more.

A Just Cause, Not a Just War (December, 2001)

I believe two moral judgments can be made about the present “war”: The September 11 attack constitutes a crime against humanity and cannot be justified, and the bombing of Afghanistan is also a crime, which cannot be justified.

And yet, voices across the political spectrum, including many on the left, have described this as a “just war.” One longtime advocate of peace, Richard Falk, wrote in The Nation that this is “the first truly just war since World War II.” Robert Kuttner, another consistent supporter of social justice, declared in The American Prospect that only people on the extreme left could believe this is not a just war.

I have puzzled over this. How can a war be truly just when it involves the daily killing of civilians, when it causes hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children to leave their homes to escape the bombs, when it may not find those who planned the September 11 attacks, and when it will multiply the ranks of people who are angry enough at this country to become terrorists themselves?

This war amounts to a gross violation of human rights, and it will produce the exact opposite of what is wanted: It will not end terrorism; it will proliferate terrorism.

I believe that the progressive supporters of the war have confused a “just cause” with a “just war.” There are unjust causes, such as the attempt of the United States to establish its power in Vietnam, or to dominate Panama or Grenada, or to subvert the government of Nicaragua. And a cause may be just–getting North Korea to withdraw from South Korea, getting Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait, or ending terrorism–but it does not follow that going to war on behalf of that cause, with the inevitable mayhem that follows, is just.

The stories of the effects of our bombing are beginning to come through, in bits and pieces. Just eighteen days into the bombing, The New York Times reported: “American forces have mistakenly hit a residential area in Kabul.” Twice, U.S. planes bombed Red Cross warehouses, and a Red Cross spokesman said: “Now we’ve got 55,000 people without that food or blankets, with nothing at all.”

An Afghan elementary school-teacher told a Washington Post reporter at the Pakistan border: “When the bombs fell near my house and my babies started crying, I had no choice but to run away.”

A New York Times report: “The Pentagon acknowledged that a Navy F/A-18 dropped a 1,000-pound bomb on Sunday near what officials called a center for the elderly. . . . The United Nations said the building was a military hospital. . . . Several hours later, a Navy F-14 dropped two 500-pound bombs on a residential area northwest of Kabul.” A U.N. official told a New York Times reporter that an American bombing raid on the city of Herat had used cluster bombs, which spread deadly “bomblets” over an area of twenty football fields. This, the Times reporter wrote,”was the latest of a growing number of accounts of American bombs going astray and causing civilian casualties.”

An A.P. reporter was brought to Karam, a small mountain village hit by American bombs, and saw houses reduced to rubble. “In the hospital in Jalalabad, twenty-five miles to the east, doctors treated what they said were twenty-three victims of bombing at Karam, one a child barely two months old, swathed in bloody bandages,” according to the account. “Another child, neighbors said, was in the hospital because the bombing raid had killed her entire family. At least eighteen fresh graves were scattered around the village.”

The city of Kandahar, attacked for seventeen straight days, was reported to be a ghost town, with more than half of its 500,000 people fleeing the bombs. The city’s electrical grid had been knocked out. The city was deprived of water, since the electrical pumps could not operate. A sixty-year-old farmer told the A.P. reporter, “We left in fear of our lives. Every day and every night, we hear the roaring and roaring of planes, we see the smoke, the fire. . . . I curse them both–the Taliban and America.”

A New York Times report from Pakistan two weeks into the bombing campaign told of wounded civilians coming across the border. “Every half-hour or so throughout the day, someone was brought across on a stretcher. . . . Most were bomb victims, missing limbs or punctured by shrapnel. . . . A young boy, his head and one leg wrapped in bloodied bandages, clung to his father’s back as the old man trudged back to Afghanistan.”

That was only a few weeks into the bombing, and the result had already been to frighten hundreds of thousands of Afghans into abandoning their homes and taking to the dangerous, mine-strewn roads. The “war against terrorism” has become a war against innocent men, women, and children, who are in no way responsible for the terrorist attack on New York.

And yet there are those who say this is a “just war.”

Terrorism and war have something in common. They both involve the killing of innocent people to achieve what the killers believe is a good end. I can see an immediate objection to this equation: They (the terrorists) deliberately kill innocent people; we (the war makers) aim at “military targets,” and civilians are killed by accident, as “collateral damage.”

Is it really an accident when civilians die under our bombs? Even if you grant that the intention is not to kill civilians, if they nevertheless become victims, again and again and again, can that be called an accident? If the deaths of civilians are inevitable in bombing, it may not be deliberate, but it is not an accident, and the bombers cannot be considered innocent. They are committing murder as surely as are the terrorists.

The absurdity of claiming innocence in such cases becomes apparent when the death tolls from “collateral damage” reach figures far greater than the lists of the dead from even the most awful act of terrorism. Thus, the “collateral damage” in the Gulf War caused more people to die–hundreds of thousands, if you include the victims of our sanctions policy–than the very deliberate terrorist attack of September 11. The total of those who have died in Israel from Palestinian terrorist bombs is somewhere under 1,000. The number of dead from “collateral damage” in the bombing of Beirut during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 was roughly 6,000.

We must not match the death lists–it is an ugly exercise–as if one atrocity is worse than another. No killing of innocents, whether deliberate or “accidental,” can be justified. My argument is that when children die at the hands of terrorists, or–whether intended or not–as a result of bombs dropped from airplanes, terrorism and war become equally unpardonable.

Let’s talk about “military targets.” The phrase is so loose that President Truman, after the nuclear bomb obliterated the population of Hiroshima, could say: “The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.”

What we are hearing now from our political leaders is, “We are targeting military objectives. We are trying to avoid killing civilians. But that will happen, and we regret it.” Shall the American people take moral comfort from the thought that we are bombing only “military targets”?

The reality is that the term “military” covers all sorts of targets that include civilian populations. When our bombers deliberately destroy, as they did in the war against Iraq, the electrical infrastructure, thus making water purification and sewage treatment plants inoperable and leading to epidemic waterborne diseases, the deaths of children and other civilians cannot be called accidental.

Recall that in the midst of the Gulf War, the U.S. military bombed an air raid shelter, killing 400 to 500 men, women, and children who were huddled to escape bombs. The claim was that it was a military target, housing a communications center, but reporters going through the ruins immediately afterward said there was no sign of anything like that.

I suggest that the history of bombing–and no one has bombed more than this nation–is a history of endless atrocities, all calmly explained by deceptive and deadly language like “accident,” “military targets,” and “collateral damage.”

Indeed, in both World War II and in Vietnam, the historical record shows that there was a deliberate decision to target civilians in order to destroy the morale of the enemy–hence the firebombing of Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo, the B-52s over Hanoi, the jet bombers over peaceful villages in the Vietnam countryside. When some argue that we can engage in “limited military action” without “an excessive use of force,” they are ignoring the history of bombing. The momentum of war rides roughshod over limits.

The moral equation in Afghanistan is clear. Civilian casualties are certain. The outcome is uncertain. No one knows what this bombing will accomplish–whether it will lead to the capture of Osama Bin Laden (perhaps), or the end of the Taliban (possibly), or a democratic Afghanistan (very unlikely), or an end to terrorism (almost certainly not).

And meanwhile, we are terrorizing the population (not the terrorists, they are not easily terrorized). Hundreds of thousands are packing their belongings and their children onto carts and leaving their homes to make dangerous journeys to places they think might be more safe.

Not one human life should be expended in this reckless violence called a “war against terrorism.”

We might examine the idea of pacifism in the light of what is going on right now. I have never used the word “pacifist” to describe myself, because it suggests something absolute, and I am suspicious of absolutes. I want to leave openings for unpredictable possibilities. There might be situations (and even such strong pacifists as Gandhi and Martin Luther King believed this) when a small, focused act of violence against a monstrous, immediate evil would be justified.

In war, however, the proportion of means to ends is very, very different. War, by its nature, is unfocused, indiscriminate, and especially in our time when the technology is so murderous, inevitably involves the deaths of large numbers of people and the suffering of even more. Even in the “small wars” (Iran vs. Iraq, the Nigerian war, the Afghan war), a million people die. Even in a “tiny” war like the one we waged in Panama, a thousand or more die.

Scott Simon of NPR wrote a commentary in The Wall Street Journal on October 11 entitled, “Even Pacifists Must Support This War.” He tried to use the pacifist acceptance of self-defense, which approves a focused resistance to an immediate attacker, to justify this war, which he claims is “self-defense.” But the term “self-defense” does not apply when you drop bombs all over a country and kill lots of people other than your attacker. And it doesn’t apply when there is no likelihood that it will achieve its desired end.

Pacifism, which I define as a rejection of war, rests on a very powerful logic. In war, the means–indiscriminate killing–are immediate and certain; the ends, however desirable, are distant and uncertain.

Pacifism does not mean “appeasement.” That word is often hurled at those who condemn the present war on Afghanistan, and it is accompanied by references to Churchill, Chamberlain, Munich. World War II analogies are conveniently summoned forth when there is a need to justify a war, however irrelevant to a particular situation. At the suggestion that we withdraw from Vietnam, or not make war on Iraq, the word “appeasement” was bandied about. The glow of the “good war” has repeatedly been used to obscure the nature of all the bad wars we have fought since 1945.

Let’s examine that analogy. Czechoslovakia was handed to the voracious Hitler to “appease” him. Germany was an aggressive nation expanding its power, and to help it in its expansion was not wise. But today we do not face an expansionist power that demands to be appeased. We ourselves are the expansionist power–troops in Saudi Arabia, bombings of Iraq, military bases all over the world, naval vessels on every sea–and that, along with Israel’s expansion into the West Bank and Gaza Strip, has aroused anger.

It was wrong to give up Czechoslovakia to appease Hitler. It is not wrong to withdraw our military from the Middle East, or for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories, because there is no right to be there. That is not appeasement. That is justice.

Opposing the bombing of Afghanistan does not constitute “giving in to terrorism” or “appeasement.” It asks that other means be found than war to solve the problems that confront us. King and Gandhi both believed in action–nonviolent direct action, which is more powerful and certainly more morally defensible than war.

To reject war is not to “turn the other cheek,” as pacifism has been caricatured. It is, in the present instance, to act in ways that do not imitate the terrorists.

The United States could have treated the September 11 attack as a horrific criminal act that calls for apprehending the culprits, using every device of intelligence and investigation possible. It could have gone to the United Nations to enlist the aid of other countries in the pursuit and apprehension of the terrorists.

There was also the avenue of negotiations. (And let’s not hear: “What? Negotiate with those monsters?” The United States negotiated with–indeed, brought into power and kept in power–some of the most monstrous governments in the world.) Before Bush ordered in the bombers, the Taliban offered to put bin Laden on trial. This was ignored. After ten days of air attacks, when the Taliban called for a halt to the bombing and said they would be willing to talk about handing bin Laden to a third country for trial, the headline the next day in The New York Times read: “President Rejects Offer by Taliban for Negotiations,” and Bush was quoted as saying: “When I said no negotiations, I meant no negotiations.”

That is the behavior of someone hellbent on war. There were similar rejections of negotiating possibilities at the start of the Korean War, the war in Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the bombing of Yugoslavia. The result was an immense loss of life and incalculable human suffering.

International police work and negotiations were–still are–alternatives to war. But let’s not deceive ourselves; even if we succeeded in apprehending bin Laden or, as is unlikely, destroying the entire Al Qaeda network, that would not end the threat of terrorism, which has potential recruits far beyond Al Qaeda.

To get at the roots of terrorism is complicated. Dropping bombs is simple. It is an old response to what everyone acknowledges is a very new situation. At the core of unspeakable and unjustifiable acts of terrorism are justified grievances felt by millions of people who would not themselves engage in terrorism but from whose ranks terrorists spring.

Those grievances are of two kinds: the existence of profound misery– hunger, illness–in much of the world, contrasted to the wealth and luxury of the West, especially the United States; and the presence of American military power everywhere in the world, propping up oppressive regimes and repeatedly intervening with force to maintain U.S. hegemony.

This suggests actions that not only deal with the long-term problem of terrorism but are in themselves just.

Instead of using two planes a day to drop food on Afghanistan and 100 planes to drop bombs (which have been making it difficult for the trucks of the international agencies to bring in food), use 102 planes to bring food.

Take the money allocated for our huge military machine and use it to combat starvation and disease around the world. One-third of our military budget would annually provide clean water and sanitation facilities for the billion people in the world who have none.

Withdraw troops from Saudi Arabia, because their presence near the holy shrines of Mecca and Medina angers not just bin Laden (we need not care about angering him) but huge numbers of Arabs who are not terrorists.

Stop the cruel sanctions on Iraq, which are killing more than a thousand children every week without doing anything to weaken Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical hold over the country.

Insist that Israel withdraw from the occupied territories, something that many Israelis also think is right, and which will make Israel more secure than it is now.

In short, let us pull back from being a military superpower, and become a humanitarian superpower.

Let us be a more modest nation. We will then be more secure. The modest nations of the world don’t face the threat of terrorism.

Such a fundamental change in foreign policy is hardly to be expected. It would threaten too many interests: the power of political leaders, the ambitions of the military, the corporations that profit from the nation’s enormous military commitments.

Change will come, as at other times in our history, only when American citizens– becoming better informed, having second thoughts after the first instinctive support for official policy–demand it. That change in citizen opinion, especially if it coincides with a pragmatic decision by the government that its violence isn’t working, could bring about a retreat from the military solution.

It might also be a first step in the rethinking of our nation’s role in the world. Such a rethinking contains the promise, for Americans, of genuine security, and for people elsewhere, the beginning of hope.

© 2010 The Progressive

Howard Zinn (1922-2010) is the author of “A People’s History of the United States,” “Voices of a People’s History” (with Anthony Arnove), and “A Power Governments Cannot Suppress.”

Quakers involved in aiding U.S. War Resisters in Canada December 10, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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By Dave Grossman and Pat Moauro

War resisters Kim Rivera and Chris Vassey spoke frankly in London Nov. 26 about their experiences while serving with U.S. military forces, and their disillusionment with the effects those military actions were having on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kim, a young mother of three who served in Iraq, and Chris, who served in an airborne army unit in Afghanistan, spoke to about 40 people in the Wemple Lounge at King’s University College after the showing of a video, War Resisters Speak Out.

The 55-minute video included Andy Barrie, host of CBC Radio 99.1’s Metro Morning, and former U.S. draft dodger from the Vietnam War, interviewing a panel of 15 War Resisters. Included on the panel in the video were Kim Rivera and Jeremy Hinzman, who attends Toronto Monthly Meeting.

Despite the seriousness of the topic, Kim Rivera, 27, displayed a sense of humour, smiling warmly as she engaged in lively conversation with us. For a “battle-hardened” military person, she also exhibits a humility that few would notice, unless you heard her speak at length. As we chatted with her after her talk to the group, she recounted how nervous she was last week while introducing and sitting next to Malalai Joya (the Afghan woman MP who was banned from her parliament post).

This peace circle that some of us are involved in really is a small one – Ottawa Quakers were preparing last weekend to billet Joya – click here and here to see how this comes full circle with accusations in the testimony of Richard Colvin against Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay and former Chief of the Defence Staff, Rick Hillier.

Kim Rivera said that if she had not gone through the Iraq-and-to Canada-routine, she probably wouldn’t have experienced the peace in her heart that she now enjoys. She would have just been one of those “we’re-number-one-and-we-deserve-everything-Americans”.

Assigned to a U.S. army artillery unit and sent to Iraq in 2006, Kim changed her views and feelings about fighting there, especially after seeing the effects the war was having on the Iraqi civilians. In early 2007, while on leave, she and her husband and their two young children (they have since had a third) drove north from their Texas home and crossed the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls.

 

Chris Vassey’s story is a littledifferent. Born and raised in New Jersey, he joined the U.S. army right after his 17th birthday. Now 23, he has already put in five years as a soldier and member of the 82nd Airborne Division, jumping out of planes and doing reconnaissance work. He was destined to becom an officer but decided he wanted to be a private first, so he could understand what they have to go through.

Instead of going to Iraq, he went to Afghanistan. But he knows full well the horrors that Joya talks about; he was similarly horrified by war and could not in conscience stay in the military. So, in August, 2008, he came to Canada to join his fellow War Resisters.

In his comments at the Nov. 26 meeting, Chris shared some insights into the lack of empathy and compassion displayed by some American soldiers he served with in Afghanistan. I (Dave) won’t share those reflections with you (unless you ask). His comments about fellow soldiers took my breath away, forcing me to look down and sigh.

Chris is intelligent and articulate, as he relates his military experiences and how he became disillusioned with his country’s involvement in Afghanistan. While he’s learning construction on the job, he foresees being sent back to the U.S., convicted in a military court and having a lifelong record that will blacklist him from most jobs, thus making his construction experience come in handy.

Chris, Kim and other War Resisters seeking refuge in Canada said they are concerned about being sent back to the U.S. If Canada refuses to allow them to stay here, the War Resisters could face a military court martial and be sentenced to at least one year in jail. Such a conviction would wreck havoc with their future.

The London War Resisters Support Group sponsored the meeting with Kim and Chris at King’s College. David Heap, a professor of French and linguistics at the University of Western Ontario, introduced the video and Kim and Chris. Prof. Heap said some War Resisters are able to stay in Canada because they have been sponsored by a spouse. Many others, however, are “staring down removal” from Canada and being returned to the U.S.

Upwards of 70 U.S. War Resisters are in the public eye, but “a lot of them are underground,” he said, adding that an estimated 300 to 500, or possibly more, are currently in Canada. Prof. Heap noted that a majority of Canadians – an estimated 65% – are in favour of allowing the U.S. War Resisters to remain in Canada. “The (Canadian) government is out of step on this one.”

 

Dave Grossman is a member of Yarmouth Monthly Meeting. Pat Moauro is a member of Coldstream Monthly Meeting and editor/publisher of an electronic newsletter, Quaker Gleanings.

Pete Seeger at 90 May 3, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Peace.
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pete-seeger

by Peter Rothberg

Sunday, May 3, 2009,  The Nation

In January, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Pete Seeger was the oldest person to perform as part of Barack Obama’s inauguration festivities. 

Singing the “greatest song about America ever written” (Bruce Springsteen’s words) before 500,000 people live and tens of millions more on television, the then-89-year old legend crooned two little-known verses of his friend Woody Guthrie’s 1940 patriotic standard, “This Land is Your Land” — both about Depression-era poverty — restoring the song to its former glory over the sanitized version that ruled for too many years.

Over the course of a remarkable lifetime, Seeger has been an ambassador for peace, social justice and the best kind of patriotism. A uniquely American mix of blueblood and bluegrass — a product of Harvard University and the son of a violinist mother and musicologist father — Seeger has lived the story of the American left in the 20th century. The celebrations of his 90th birthday on Sunday offer a good opportunity to showcase and celebrate the causes to which he’s devoted his great life.

Defiantly leftist, pacifist–and for a decade or so, Communist–Seeger has embraced and supported virtually every major progressive advance of the 20th century. He’s sung and spoken out for organized labor, against McCarthyism, in support of racial justice, on behalf of nuclear abolition and against the Vietnam War; his voice put early wind into the sails of the environmental movement.

The right to dissent in a democracy has been a cornerstone of Seeger’s activism. In the fourth episode of the video series This Brave Nation Seeger talked about the infamous 1949 riot in Peekskill, NY, and the impact it made on his political development and commitment to free speech.

 

Seeger’s songs have engaged people, particularly the youth, to question the value of war, to ban nuclear weapons, to work for international solidarity and against racism wherever it is practiced, and to assume ecological responsibility.

A particular hero to the civil rights movement on whose behalf he’s worked so tirelessly, Seeger made his first trip south at the invitation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1956, and returned in ’65, again at King’s personal invitation, to join the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Amid the tension and heat, Seeger went from campfire to campfire when the marchers stopped for the night, raising morale with rollicking sing-alongs of new freedom songs.

Seeger also vigorously joined protests against the Vietnam war, playing countless benefits and protests and recording “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” the lyrics of which have renewed relevance today: “But every time I read the papers/That old feeling comes on/We’re waist deep in the Big Muddy/And the big fool says push on.”

Sometime soon after King’s assassination in 1968, Seeger began to focus his energies locally around the town of Beacon, New York and the notoriously polluted Hudson River. Gathering together friends and colleagues, he picked up a literal hammer, this time to build the sort of sailing ship that hadn’t been seen on the river in decades to raise consciousness of environmental issues. They named it the Clearwater. Seeger also established Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a group which sponsors annual eco-festivals and acts as a bulwark against polluters in the area. Today, people can swim in the Hudson again.

Seeger birthed a folk revival that remains strong and relevant, and the music he championed is still sung on marches and picket lines coast to coast. As he moves into his tenth decade, it’s worth celebrating the music he has made–and the changes he has helped to bring about.

Peter Rothberg writes the ActNow column for the The Nation. ActNow aims to put readers in touch with creative ways to register informed dissent. Whether it’s a grassroots political campaign, a progressive film festival, an antiwar candidate, a street march, a Congressional bill needing popular support or a global petition, ActNow will highlight the outpouring of cultural, political and anti-corporate activism sweeping the planet.

Israeli Lawmaker and Conscientious Objector Nephew of Ex-PM Benjamin Netanyahu Denounce Israeli Attack on Gaza Strip January 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Peace, War.
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www.democracynow.org, December 31, 2008 

Israel has rejected a French proposal for an immediate emergency forty-eight-hour ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. As Israeli air and sea attacks against the Strip continued into its fifth day, basic food supplies in Gaza are running low, and hospitals are struggling to cope with the rising casualties. We speak to two Israelis opposed to the assault: Dov Khenin, a Knesset member with the Jewish-Arab party Hadash; and Jonathan Benartzi, an Israeli conscientious objector who spent more than a year in prison for refusing to serve. He also happens to be the nephew of Benjamin Netanyahu, a leading proponent of attacking Gaza and a favorite to win the upcoming Israeli elections.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel has rejected a French proposal for an immediate emergency forty-eight-hour ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. As Israeli air and sea attacks against the Strip continued into its fifth day, basic food supplies in Gaza are running low, hospitals are struggling to cope with the rising casualties. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor said any plan for a truce would have to make certain minimum demands on Hamas.

    YIGAL PALMOR: They need to guarantee the cessation of rocket shooting. They need to guarantee the cessation of terror activities by Hamas from Gaza. They need to contain some sort of guarantee that will stop the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza. Short of that, no truce plan can hold water.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Four Israeli citizens, including two Arab Israelis, have been killed by rockets from the Gaza Strip since Israel began its offensive on Saturday. Nearly 400 Palestinians have been killed and at least 1,600 injured. Latest reports indicate Israeli bombs have hit the network of tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border that many have described as a “lifeline for the Palestinian people,” because it’s been a major channel for smuggling in basic supplies from Egypt. Israel maintains the tunnels are used to smuggle weapons in.

 

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, released a video statement Tuesday warning it would increase rocket attacks if Israel considers a ground invasion or the bombing doesn’t stop.

    ABU OBAIDA: [translated] If you enter the Strip, the land of Gaza will turn into a volcano and explode in the faces of your defeated soldiers. We promise you that if you enter Gaza, the children of Gaza will collect pieces of your soldiers.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said international peace efforts are too focused on equating the situation in Gaza and Israel.

    FAWZI BARHOUM: [translated] Regarding the talk about the ceasefire and engaging in calm, as they say, at the current circumstances, is an act of equating between the victim and the jailer. What is required at this moment and immediately is an Arab Islamic international effort to stop this aggression, lift the siege, open the crossings, and a rebuilding of the Gaza Strip.

 

AMY GOODMAN: And inside Israel, the hawkish Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffed calls for a truce. He said on Tuesday the international community had to choose between Hamas and “the rest of humanity.” Netanyahu, who is leading the polls ahead of the elections in February, said a government under his leadership would use “all means necessary” to end Hamas’s rule in Gaza.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: So now the international community has a question, and I turn it back to the—to our critics, and I say you have to take a stand today. You have to tell the terrorists that this is an illegitimate operation. You cannot say both Israel and Hamas are symmetrically to blame. They’re not. One side is to blame, the side that targets civilians and hides behind civilians. That’s Hamas. The other side represents the rest of humanity. Now choose.

 

AMY GOODMAN: I’m joined right now on the phone from Tel Aviv by the Israeli lawmaker Dov Khenin. He is a member of the Hadash party, a Jewish-Arab party also known as the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality. Khenin has been speaking out against Israel’s military operation.

We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Dov Khenin.

DOV KHENIN: Hello. How are you?

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. We are also joined via Democracy Now! video stream by the nephew of Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s at Brown University. We’re speaking to him in Providence, Rhode Island. He’s an Israeli conscientious objector. His name is Jonathan Ben-Artzi. He also is a member of the Hadash party.

I’m going to start with the member of parliament in Israel. I’d like to start off by asking, the response in Israel right now to the pounding of Gaza by the Israeli military, Dov Khenin?

DOV KHENIN: Well, the most important thing to realize is that there is an opposition inside Israel to the war and to everything going on around right now in Gaza. This position is a Jewish-Arab one. On Saturday night, we had a demonstration in Tel Aviv of 2,000 young people, mainly Jews, and there are a lot of demonstrations all over Israel of Jews and Arabs opposing the war policy of the current government. This opposition is growing steadily. It is very important to know this and to understand that there are other voices in Israeli society who do not express [inaudible] a war, and they believe there is a better alternative for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

AMY GOODMAN: Jonathan Ben-Artzi, as you listen to your uncle, who is vying to lead Israel in the February elections, Benjamin Netanyahu, what are your thoughts today?

JONATHAN BEN-ARTZI: Well, it’s not—you know, it’s not only my uncle. It’s the voices of most Israelis. And what’s worrying is that it’s the voices of many—although there are many who, as Dov said, many Israelis who do oppose this, there are far more Israelis who blindly support this. And, you know, even given the war in Lebanon of two-and-a-half years ago, where Israel killed so many people and yet emerged the loser, by all accounts, of that endeavor, they once again support something similar, which is bound for failure, only after collecting hundreds or thousands of bodies of dead innocent people.

So, you know, I’m speaking to you here not as anyone’s nephew or anything like that, but just as someone who’s, you know, speaking as an Israeli—I’m not an American—and trying to speak out to Americans to tell them you don’t have to support Israel blindly. Not everything that Israel does is holy. And sometimes you have to speak firmly to Israel and tell us, tell our government, you know, stop doing this.

AMY GOODMAN: Jonathan Ben-Artzi, you are the first Israeli soldier to be court-martialed and jailed. Explain what your refusal was first about.

JONATHAN BEN-ARTZI: I refused to join the military for pacifist reasons, and I was joined by others who refused for pacifist and also political reasons regarding the occupation. And this was around 2002. And I was jailed for roughly one year and a half in Israeli military prison. Of course, it didn’t—it never made it to mainstream American media. It did make it to European media. But America—in that sense, America is actually even worse than Israel, because in Israel it was a public discussion. In America, it was completely blocked from the American people.

AMY GOODMAN: Dov Khenin, the response of the Israeli government is that this is not equal, that it was Hamas that broke the ceasefire, that they continue to fire rockets into Israel, they have killed four Israelis, two of them Arab Israelis, that this is their fault. Your response to that?

DOV KHENIN: Well, my response is, of course, I do not accept the politics of Hamas. I think that Hamas is a disaster for the Palestinians, and, you know, it doesn’t have any political program of how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, when I hear these speeches of right-wing Israelis, you know, it makes me wonder. You know, they do not see the fault of the Israeli government and the Israeli army in whatever is happening in Gaza. And, you know, the things happening there are really bad, you know? A lot of people are dead there. What is their fault, you know?

And the most important thing to realize is that there is an alternative. We should not go along the line of the extremists. We should not go along the line of total war between Israelis and Palestinians for generations. We should have another option, which is much better and possible, and that is the option of achieving a real and substantive peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. This is the possibility that the Israel government do not accept. This is the problem.

AMY GOODMAN: Benjamin Netanyahu, the opposition leader running to head Israel in February, said Hamas openly declared its goal to eradicate the state of Israel from the face of the earth. They’re aligned with Iran, that openly declares its goal to eradicate Israel from the face of the earth. You make peace with those of your enemies who are reconciled to peace. Jonathan Ben-Artzi, your response?

JONATHAN BEN-ARTZI: Well, you know, maybe someone should go to Israel and poll Jewish Israelis how many of them think Palestinians should be eradicated off the face of the earth. You’d be surprised at the results, you know? So these, you know—

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that further.

JONATHAN BEN-ARTZI: Well, when you’re in Israel, people there are very—you know, I’m not a sociologist, so I would be—I would find it very hard to explain. It would be very interesting to hear someone try to explain this. But for some reason, the Israeli population, the Jewish Israeli population is very much—has a lot of hatred towards these people, although, by all accounts, I would say that they’re actually very nonviolent. If instead of Palestinians we had as neighbors Irish people and we had to deal with the IRA, I think Israel would have a much rougher time. Relatively, there is so little violence coming from the Palestinians and such terrible violence coming from Israel.

You know, it’s easy to say the Palestinians are targeting civilian Israelis, when you, as the Israeli Air Force, you know, you have huge one-ton bombs and you can drop that bomb into a crowded neighborhood, say you were targeting, you know, this and that person, and at the same time you also kill twenty other people, and that’s—how is that called?—collateral damage. So, and then you’re OK, because you targeted that one person, whereas, you know, at the same time, Israel has to remember that it does have military bases right smack in the middle of Tel Aviv, and these are also, you know, by Israel’s standards, would be legitimate military targets. So if you go into that game, you might end up being the loser. So it’s a very dangerous road.

AMY GOODMAN: Dov Khenin, you’re a member of the left-wing Hadash party, the Jewish-Arab party in the Israeli Knesset, in the parliament, known as the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality. Can you explain the Israeli government’s position on the press, the Foreign Press Association filing the challenge on behalf of 400 reporters barred from the Gaza Strip, saying an unprecedented restriction of press freedom, the world’s media unable to accurately report on events inside Gaza at this critical time? Here in the United States, Reuters, the New York Times, BBC and other publications also have complained to the Israeli prime minister. Why are journalists not allowed in Gaza?

DOV KHENIN: Well, I think that journalists are not allowed into Gaza, in order to not—to not make it possible for people around the world to see whatever is happening in Gaza right now. The situation in Gaza is terrible. You know, the people are doing surgery without, you know, any tools, without anything needed to take care, medically, of people wounded. The situation there is really terrible.

The most—the saddest thing of all is, you know, that the Israeli population also suffers, you know, because in Israel a lot of people in the southern part of Israel are now under the threat of the missiles and the rockets fired from Gaza. It is only proof that this war is a disaster. It is, of course, also a disaster for the Palestinians in Gaza, but it is also a disaster for the Israelis themselves. The only option is to stop this war and to go in the opposite direction.

AMY GOODMAN: And what would that be? What would that look like, Dov Khenin?

DOV KHENIN: Well, the first thing to do right now is to decide on immediate and total ceasefire. Now, such ceasefire should include not only the stop of bombing and the missile rockets, it should include also a lifting on the blockade on Gaza, because it is impossible to continue the situation existing before the war when one-and-a-half million Palestinians were, you know, in impossible conditions under a blockade.

And another thing that should be agreed immediately is an agreement on the release of prisoners, both Palestinian prisoners and Gilad Shalit, bringing him back to his family. Such an agreement is also possible.

Now, if we stop the war and move forward into a total and real ceasefire and lifting the blockade on Gaza, it can create the first condition for the restart of peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. Such a peace process is very, very important, because if Israelis and Palestinians will not have the horizon of hope—and the horizon of hope can be achieved only with the vision and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel—if such a region of hope will not be opened to the Israelis and Palestinians, things will continue to deteriorate, and the extremists will gain more and more political strength.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, Dov Khenin, member of the Hadash party, Jewish-Arab party known as the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, speaking to us from inside Israel; and Jonathan Ben-Artzi, Israeli conscientious objector, first to be tried by an Israeli military tribunal, served in jail for over a year, now at Brown University, a graduate student and nephew of the opposition leader running for prime minister in February, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Tragedy Repeats Itself December 30, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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 Dec 28, 2008, www.truthdig.com

Waltz with Bashir
iffkv.cz

By Sheerly Avni

Several months ago, when Ari Folman was promoting his new animated documentary, “Waltz With Bashir,” the film screened for a Palestinian audience in Ramallah, less than 40 miles from his home in Tel Aviv. 

The director was asked not to attend.

Folman had already traveled far and wide to promote the movie, which had received wildly enthusiastic accolades everywhere from Cannes to Auckland. But the French company presenting in Ramallah had asked the 45-year-old war veteran not to come to this screening so close to home, because it was not sure it could guarantee his safety. The company had a point: “Waltz With Bashir,” a graphic and violent series of recollections of the 1982 war in Lebanon, told almost entirely from the point of view of Israeli soldiers, culminates in bloody live footage of the aftermath of the infamous Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp massacres in which thousands of Palestinian men, women and children were murdered by Christian militia with Israeli troops stationed directly outside the camps.

As it turned out, the audience response in Ramallah, though passionate, was the kind every filmmaker dreams of: There was high demand for more screenings, because there wasn’t enough room in the theater for all the people who wanted to see the film.

This did not surprise Folman, whose intent for his documentary was always to tell a universal story, not a specifically political one: “I show how stupid wars are,” he said in a telephone interview. “I wanted to make a movie that no teenager could watch and think ‘Oh, sure, war sucks, but those soldiers are cool.’ There is nothing cool or glamorous about war.”

Folman should know. He was just 19 when he was flown over the Lebanese border for the Israeli offensive in 1982, and as we learn in the film, he passed the flight daydreaming about a romantic death in battle, hoping to inspire regret in the heart of the girlfriend who had just dumped him. What the boy found instead was fear, and absurdity, and enough trauma to blot out his memories.

It would be 20 years before Folman, now a successful screenwriter and director who barely even thought about his time as a soldier, would be forced to grapple with the meaning of his wartime experiences. He was 40 years old and tired of his time in the Israeli reserves, where he’d been put to work writing scenarios for military videos explaining, among other things, the proper care and feeding of gas masks. The army agreed to let him go—but only if he would agree to a series of exit interviews with a therapist.

Thought not a big believer in psychotherapy, he took the deal. Over the course of eight or nine sessions, he realized that he had no memory whatsoever of the massacres themselves, even though he had been stationed nearby. He then set out on a quest, both personal and professional, for answers to the questions that had come up in therapy: What had happened to him in Beirut? What had he seen? Why couldn’t he remember? What had the war done to him?

Folman sought out classmates, as well as men from his old unit and the first Israeli reporter on the scene of the massacres, and gathered their stories. He consulted an expert in post-traumatic stress disorder. He reached out to his best friend, Ori Sivan (listed in the credits as “filmmaker and shrink”), and he set out to make a film that would capture the surrealism of war and the fluidity of memory. He had already experimented successfully with animation for his popular Israeli TV show “The Material That Love Is Made Of,” and so he hired the artist Yoni Goodman, a gifted illustrator, and then set about trying to raise the money to get his movie made. Despite the modest $2 million budget of “Waltz With Bashir,” potential investors were reluctant to back the film—the first feature-length animated documentary ever made, and Folman ended up having to mortgage his house.

“I knew it had to be this way,” he explained. “If I couldn’t animate the film, I couldn’t do it at all.”

Folman and his animators filled the movie with dreams, memories and nightmares, all set to a soundtrack that alternates between rock music and Max Richter’s haunting score: A pack of dogs running rabid and wild though the streets, an exhilarating sequence of young soldiers boogie-boarding at the beach (Folman admits this was an intentional homage to “Apocalypse Now”), a teenage soldier dreaming that he’s being swum to safety by a giant naked woman, and, finally, Folman’s only clue to his blocked memory: a recurring dream about emerging naked from the sea.

The film owes much of its visual impact to the artistry of Goldman and his animation team, but its dramatic tension derives from Folman’s own Jason Bourne-style search for his missing memories. But when it comes time for the moment of revelation, the “Bourne moment” that might unlock his memory, Folman’s friend Ori hits him with an apparent anticlimax: the suggestion that his obsession stems from a much earlier moment in history—that his dreams are connected to an earlier massacre, an earlier nightmare.

“It’s all about those camps,” Ori suggests in the film. “Your parents were in Auschwitz. The massacre has been with you since you were 6 years old. … You felt guilty; you were cast for the role of the Nazi. It’s true you didn’t massacre. You just fired flares.”

As a child of survivors, said Folman, he had long been preoccupied by questions of circles of responsibility during the Holocaust. “How much did they know? Did they realize there was a mass murder happening? How many knew what was going on in the camps?

The same questions plagued him as he searched for his own memories of the Palestinian massacre, and as he spoke with soldiers who had been nearby. “What I learned was that people had all the elements, but they found it too complicated to put it together in one frame, because mass murder is not in our system. … You don’t think that things like that are happening just around the corner, even if you are participating in a war.”

In part, this is a particularly Jewish/Israeli problem, one which Folman does not shy away from: Is a culture that has experienced genocide more likely to recognize it the next time it appears? Not necessarily, says Folman, speaking personally again. “For us who grew up in those kinds of families, are we more ready to listen to those kinds of stories? On the contrary, I think it is harder. The Holocaust was like a one-time experience in the history of humankind for us. We are not ready for anything else.”

But Folman is adamant in insisting that there are no easy comparisons to be made between the Nazi murder of the Jews and the massacre at Sabra and Shatilla. “There is no comparison, there can be no comparison. But mass murder is mass murder, and it is something that the imagination cannot believe or accept, even while it is happening.”

War is horror beyond human comprehension: This is the theme of “Waltz With Bashir. “This film,” insisted Folman, “could have been made by an ex-American soldier in Vietnam, a Russian in Afghanistan, an American today in Iraq. … It could have been made by anyone who wakes up one morning and finds himself hundreds of kilometers away from home, in a remote city that has nothing to do with him or his life, nothing whatsoever. He doesn’t know what he’s doing there, he is terrified, and he has no clue.”

Asked if working on the film had turned him into a pacifist, Folman answered: “For that I didn’t need to make a movie. I became a pacifist by my second day in Lebanon.”