jump to navigation

Why body bags prompt support for war September 19, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Media, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: those of us who experienced the Vietnam slaughter remember the notorious episode where CBS, under pressure from Lyndon Johnson, refused to allow Pete Seeger to sing the anti-war song, “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” on the notorious (ly wonderful) Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.  “We were knee deep in The Big Muddy / But the Big Fool said to push on.” 

 Full lyrics are posted below the article.

Monday, Sep 19, 2011 14:01 ET

Research confirms the pathology of staying the course

By David Sirota


“One of the things that’s very important … is to never allow our youngsters to die in vain. And I’ve made the pledge to their parents. Withdrawing from the battlefield of Iraq would be just that. And it’s not going to happen under my watch.” — George W. Bush, April 14, 2004

In this memorable quote — which was one of many similar statements –George W. Bush gave us probably history’s most explicit example of how the “sunk cost” argument suffuses today’s national security politics.

While logic suggests mounting casualties should be a reason to end wars, the “sunk cost” phenomenon posits that the more casualties a nation suffers during a war, the more that nation is psychologically committed to the war. The idea is that because we simply don’t want to face the possibility that our countrymen “died in vain,” our natural instinct is to not only push away evidence that they died for lies (WMD), misguided theories (the Vietnam “domino” effect) or petty personal vendettas (“this is the guy who tried to kill my dad!”), we also are prone to “stay the course” for that elusive victory that will supposedly make all the blood and pain and suffering worth it. As Sen. Barack Obama said in criticizing the Bush administration in 2007, the sunk-cost phenomenon basically says, “We’re doubling down; we’re going to keep on going … because now we’ve got a lot in the pot and we can’t afford to lose what we put in the pot.”

Behavioral economists have long hypothesized about this psychological pathology in many different parts of human interaction. In investing, it’s called “throwing good money after bad.” In casino gambling, it’s refusing to cut your losses, and instead trying to big-bet your way back to profitability. I could go on with examples, but you know what I’m talking about because you’ve seen it in your own life.

Until now, the “sunk-cost” impulse was seen as entirely reflexive — a natural human reaction hard-wired into our brains and therefore determinative of our politics, whether we like it or not. But this week, a social psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis published the results of a study that is “thought to be the first non-anecdotal demonstration of the ‘activation’ of the sunk-cost effect”–and how that activation can be entirely manufactured.

Here’s the crux of their findings:

Subjects were put into two groups; in one they were asked to solve three decisions, all related to sunk-cost effects; in the other, they solved three different problems, not related to sunk costs …

Those participants exposed to the sunk-cost scenarios unknowingly were being primed to think of the aversiveness of throwing away previous investments, what Lambert calls “the don’t-waste” goal.

In Phase II of the experiment, all subjects were assigned one of two short reading assignments: One assignment was about war casualties, the other about the weather. Next, all subjects took an attitude questionnaire of 25 generic questions about the particular war. Lambert and his group found that those subjects exposed to the don’t-waste goal who read the story about war casualties tended to be significantly more in favor of the war than those controls who weren’t primed the same way.


Considering this, we see that standard calls by politicians to “stay the course” lest we “allow our youngsters to die in vain” are less reflections of the country’s natural psyche than sophisticated efforts to artificially “prime” that psyche for an emotional lurch toward a desired pro-war policy position.

With the Obama administration now threatening to break its Iraq withdrawal promises, and with the Afghanistan war still going strong in the face of record casualties, this priming remains powerful. Though the current president (to his credit) isn’t explicitly referencing the “sunk-cost” effect in his rhetoric, that effect still defines our emotional reactions to yet more militarist status quo.

For conservative warmongers, that emotional reaction means remaining steadfastly behind these conflicts, painful consequences be damned. For liberals and independents naturally suspicious of the wars, it means opposing the conflicts in theory (as polls show the country does), but giving up the kind of intense protests and activism that marked those early war years before the costs and casualties skyrocketed — that is, before the huge costs were “sunk” into the endeavors.

The result is exactly the neoconservatives’ original desired effect — a kind of passive preference for “stay the course.” Indeed, we are now so programmed to see news of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan as reason to continue those wars — so fearful of “losing” our investment of blood and treasure — that we barely even discuss what “winning” actually means.

  • David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book “Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now.” He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at http://www.davidsirota.com. More: David Sirota

Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

Words & Music : Pete Seeger
TRO © 1967 Melody Trails, Inc. New York, NY

It was back in nineteen forty-two

I was a member of a good platoon

We were on maneuvers in-a Loozianna,

One night by the light of the moon.
The captain told us to ford a river,

That’s how it all begun.

We were — knee deep in the Big Muddy,

But the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, “Sir, are you sure,
This is the best way back to the base?”

“Sergeant, go on!  I forded this river

‘Bout a mile above this place.

It’ll be a little soggy but just keep slogging.

We’ll soon be on dry ground.”

We were — waist deep in the Big Muddy

And the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, “Sir, with all this equipment

No man will be able to swim.”

“Sergeant, don’t be a Nervous Nellie,”

The Captain said to him.

“All we need is a little determination;

Men, follow me, I’ll lead on.”

We were — neck deep in the Big Muddy

And the big fool said to push on.

All at once, the moon clouded over,

We heard a gurgling cry.

A few seconds later, the captain’s helmet

Was all that floated by.

The Sergeant said, “Turn around men!

I’m in charge from now on.”

And we just made it out of the Big Muddy

With the captain dead and gone.

We stripped and dived and found his body

Stuck in the old quicksand.

I guess he didn’t know that the water was deeper

Than the place he’d once before been.

Another stream had joined the Big Muddy

‘Bout a half mile from where we’d gone.

We were lucky to escape from the Big Muddy

When the big fool said to push on.

Well, I’m not going to point any moral;

I’ll leave that for yourself

Maybe you’re still walking, you’re still talking

You’d like to keep your health.

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 to push on.

Waist deep in the Big Muddy

And the big fool says to push on.

Waist deep in the Big Muddy

And the big fool says to push on.

Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a

Tall man’ll be over his head, we’re

Waist deep in the Big Muddy!

And the big fool says to push on!

Words and music by Pete Seeger (1967)

TRO (c) 1967 Melody Trails, Inc. New York, NY



Soldiers Speak Our on Memorial Day: Remember Sgt. Kirkland! May 30, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment


more deaths from Wall Street’s wars!’

their own words
Kevin Baker

lives do not matter to the officers and politicians in charge. Those who mocked
Kirkland, and the doctors who neglected him still go unpunished. They are going
on with their lives while Kirkland’s family is without their loved one. But
Kirkland’s case is not isolated. The abusive behavior that is thrown onto us is
organic to the military; it is organic because this military fights for a lie.
We in March Forward! will fight for justice for Kirkland and all other soldiers
with PTSD, but we will also fight to make sure no more of us are traumatized in
the first place by being sent to these wars based on lies. I demand justice for
Kirkland and an immediate end to these wars for profit.

Joseph Chroniger

good friend Derrick Kirkland was deployed to Iraq and was going through more
than just a difficult time. He was found in his room in Iraq with a shotgun in
his mouth about to pull the trigger. Derrick was sent home, and attempted
suicide on that day as well. Upon reaching Fort Lewis he was hospitalized, and
almost immediately cleared for active duty. When he reported to rear detachment
he was met with more hatred than malcontent. There where numerous people in the
room when he was humiliated and basically beat down emotionally. Not three days
later Derrick hung himself in the barracks room that he was given by himself.
Let me repeat: my suicidal friend was give a room in the barracks to himself.
There are many more instances of what I would call more that misconduct that I
have witnessed while in the service of this Battalion, and want to speak out. I
demand justice for Kirkland and his family.

Andrew Bussy

is a serious problem with the US Army medical care system. The problem is not
with financial coverage, as most any visit to the doctor is paid for, but with
the quality of care and of the many stigmas which are attached to seeking
treatment. Physicians prescribe medicines which only mask the symptoms, but if a
condition is not immediately life-threatening it goes unaddressed until it
worsens. Sadly, when a suicidal soldier’s situation “worsens,” he is dead; When
a soldier with a spinal injury “worsens,” he is irrevocably paralyzed. These are
the end results when our only goal for wounded soldiers is to get them back to
work. I demand justice for Kirkland and all wounded soldiers.

Cary Ellis

Chain of Command made fun of Kirkland in front of everyone, saying “he can’t
take it” and was “a horrible soldier.” They never cared or attempted to help,
they put him in a room by himself. Regulation states that if a soldier attempts
suicide he should have a roommate, but they said it was just him “wanting
attention” and “there’s nothing wrong.” They wanted to clear him and send him
back to duty. I demand justice for Kirkland and accountability for those
responsible for his death.

Staff Sergeant

been deployed to Iraq three times, once with Kirkland. Shortly after I came back
from my first tour I was diagnosed with PTSD, sleeping disorder and night
horrors. All the doctor did was give me three different medications, one for
each symptom. After more deployments, all they did was gave me pills of all
colors. I demand justice for Kirkland, and I demand that nobody else be put
through what we’ve been through.

The following is a statement from veterans and
active-duty troops in the organization March
, an affiliate of the ANSWER Coalition.

On Memorial Day, we are asked to remember those who
have died in Washington’s wars. Of course, we’re only asked to remember the
lives of U.S. troops; the lives of civilians killed in the current wars are
supposed to not exist. As veterans, we know the human toll all too well, and
cannot forget the more than one million innocent Iraqis, and the tens of
thousands of Afghans, including an entire home just obliterated yesterday by
NATO that killed ten children–cut from life before it had even begun.

In the United States, there are many families who
will be mourning a loved one this Memorial Day: over 6,000 U.S. troops have been
killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past ten years. That number is climbing by
the day as casualties hit record numbers in the hopeless Afghanistan war, and
troops continue to be killed in the “ended” Iraq war.

today to March Forward! Support a movement of anti-war veterans and service

But what this government doesn’t want us to remember
is the record number of troops who have lost their lives to suicide. They, too,
are victims of the U.S. military’s wars. Over the past two years, more
active-duty troops have killed themselves than have been killed in combat.
Outside the military, veterans commit suicide at a rate of 18 per day.

This epidemic is the result of criminally negligent
mental health care from the U.S. military and Veterans Affairs—but no matter how
much the mental health care system is improved, it doesn’t stop the constant
flow of thousands of young people who are sent to be traumatized in the first
place in two imperial wars. A recent study found that now 80 percent of soldiers
and Marines have witnessed a friend killed or wounded in combat. Morale is down
the drain.

Under these conditions, the wave of suicides can only
get worse.

Active-duty troops are standing up and fighting back.
This Memorial Day, let’s remember those killed by the U.S. government’s actions,
and honor those who are memorializing a fellow soldier by speaking out and
fighting to punish those responsible for his death.

Sgt. Derrick Kirkland, from 4-9 Infantry at Fort
Lewis, Wash., deployed to Iraq twice. He was rated a “low risk” for suicide
after three consecutive suicide attempts, was publicly ridiculed for seeking
help by his superiors, then placed in a barracks room alone in violation of Army
regulations. Days later he killed himself, on March 19, 2010.

Kirkland’s mother, Mary Corkhill, told March
Forward!: “the Army has massively failed him … I am very angry at the Army and I
feel they killed my son.”

here to read the powerful interview with Sgt. Kirkland’s mother.

March Forward! members in 4-9 Infantry immediately
sprung into action upon his death to expose those responsible. They have been
heroically organizing and speaking out. They are still working today to expose
Sgt. Kirkland’s case and the criminal treatment given to all troops, and to
organize against the wars.

You can help their voices be heard by signing their
petition and circulating their statements widely.

here to sign the petition demanding justice for Sgt. Kirkland.

Help build the campaign to win justice for Sgt.
Kirkland, to hold the government accountable for their mistreatment of
traumatised soldiers, and to end the wars!

For more on the Kirkland

to read the original statement March Forward! members circulated in the barracks
after Kirkland’s death.

to read a speech given on the anniversary of Kirkland’s death.

to read the interview with Kirkland’s mother.


Lies About the US Civil War 150 Years Later April 13, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in History, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Wednesday 13 April 2011, www.truthout.org
by: David Swanson, War Is A Crime

Tuesday marks 150 years since the start of the US Civil War. Newspapers everywhere are proclaiming it the deadliest war in US history, the costliest US war in terms of the loss of human life. That claim, like most things we say about the Civil War, is false.

Most humans, it will surprise our newspapers to learn, are not US citizens. World War II killed 100 times as many people as the US Civil War, with World War I not far behind. US wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq are among those that have killed far more human beings than the Civil War killed.

The South, we’re told, merely wanted to be independent; slavery had nothing to do with it. Of course, this is nonsense. The South wanted to be independent in order to maintain slavery.

The North, we’re told, merely wanted to free the slaves; power, empire, profit, and politics had nothing to do with it. Of course, this too is nonsense. The war was well underway before Lincoln “freed the slaves.” Actually he did not free those slaves whom he actually could free in the border states, but only those he could not free unless the North won the war. Freeing the slaves, like bringing democracy to Iraq or saving the Jews from Hitler, was a belated justification for a war that had other motivations. Adding that moral mission to the war helped keep European nations from backing the South and helped keep Northerners killing and dying in sufficient numbers.


 Regardless of who said what when, the war did end slavery and was therefore justifiable. Or so we’re told. Yet, every other nation that ended slavery did so without a civil war. Similarly, we justify the American war for independence because it brought independence, even though Canada and countless other countries achieved independence without war. If we had used a war to create public schools, we would denounce critics of that war as opponents of education. To seriously justify a war, however, would require showing that anything it accomplished could not have been accomplished without all the killing, wounding, traumatizing, and destroying. What if the North had allowed the South to secede and repealed the fugitive slave law? What if an independent North had used trade, diplomacy, and morality to pressure the South to end slavery? Would slavery have lasted longer than the Civil War raged? If so, we are still talking, at best, about a war to hasten the end of slavery.

Even if the war was really launched for national power, to keep states together in a nation for the nation’s sake, we are all better off as a result. Or so we’re taught. But is it true? Most Americans believe that our system of representative government is badly broken, as of course it is. Our politicians are bought and sold, directed by corporate media outlets, and controlled by two political parties rather than the citizenry. One reason it’s difficult to bring public pressure to bear on elected officials is that our nation is too darn big. Most US citizens can’t join a protest in their nation’s capital if they want to. A resistance movement in Wisconsin can’t very well spread to other key cities; they’re all hundreds or thousands of miles away. In the years that followed the “preservation of the union,” the United States completed its conquest of the continent and began building an overseas empire, driven in large part by pressure from the same interests that had profited from the Civil War.

Secession has as bad a name as socialism, but Wisconsin could secede, ban foreign (US) money from its elections and create a government of, by, and for the people by next year. A seceded California could be one of the most pleasant nations to live in on earth. Vermont would have a civilized healthcare system already if not for Washington, DC Yes, the North helped end Jim Crow in the South, but the South did most of that on its own, and we all helped end Apartheid in South Africa without being South Africa. In the absence of viable representative government, we won’t do much else on a national scale that we can be proud of. We now, in the United States, imprison more people of African descent than were enslaved here at the time of the Civil War, and it is national policies, completely out of the control of the American people, that produce that mass incarceration.

Those who fought in the Civil War, regardless of the politics or results, were heroes. Or so we are told. But most of the men who killed and died were not the generals whose names we are taught. They were soldiers, lined up like cogs in a machine, killing and dying on command. The vast majority of them, as with soldiers on both sides of all wars prior to late-20th century conditioning, avoided killing if at all possible. Many simply reloaded their guns over and over again, fetched supplies for others, or lay in the dirt. Killing human beings does not come easily to most human beings, and many will avoid it — unless properly conditioned to brainlessly kill — even at risk to their own lives. To be sure, many killed and many who did not kill died or lost their limbs. There was much bravery and sacrifice and even noble intention. But it was all for a tragically pointless exercise in collective stupidity, lunacy, and horror. Reassuring as it is to put a pretty gloss on a tragedy like this, we would be better served by facing the facts and avoiding the next one.

A century and a half after this madness burst forth, the United States has established a permanent military and permanent war time, with military bases in over 100 other countries, multiple major wars, and numerous small-scale secretive wars underway. Our weapons industry, born out of the Civil War, is our biggest industry, the world’s biggest arms supplier, and the source for the armaments used by many of the nations we fight our modern wars against. The civil liberties, the right to habeas corpus, everything that Lincoln temporarily stripped away for the War Between the States, also known — quite accurately — as the War of Northern Aggression, has now been stripped away for good by Justice Department lawyers and prostituted pundits pointing to Lincoln’s example. The legacy of the Civil War has been death, destruction, the erosion of democracy, and the propaganda that produces more of the same. Enough is enough. Let’s get our history right. Let’s glorify those years in our past during which we did not all try to kill each other.

War Crimes against Women: A Private Hell May 16, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, War, Women.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Published on Sunday, May 16, 2010by Laura Carlsen

Gender justice is an unfamiliar term to most people. Many assume it is merely a feminine (and therefore diminutive) form of justice, created by adding an awkward adjective to an abstract ideal.

But thanks to years of documenting gender-based crimes, pressure from women’s movements, testimony from victims and legal arguments, there is now a body of jurisprudence and a history of movements that define gender justice and promote it internationally. At an historic conference in April, organized by the Women’s Initiative for Gender Justice (WIGJ) and the Nobel Women’s Initiative, fifty women gathered in a Mexican beach town to evaluate the progress of gender justice and set forth a three-year work agenda.

I had the good fortune and tremendous responsibility of being among the luchadoras -women who struggle-charged with beginning this task. Participants made a collective promise to work closely with organizations back home and with the International Criminal Court and other bodies to end gender-based crimes in armed conflict and attain justice.

No small task. In a place as orienting as the edge of the Pacific Ocean, I often found myself disoriented by the enormity of it. I was part of a world linked by common values, but fragmented by hundreds of seemingly senseless wars-each with a political complexity and historical intransigence that defied solutions. The room filled with the stories of how women from diverse cultures, rich in resistance but plagued by discrimination and traditions of gender violence, seek peace and justice in equally diverse ways.

Some are immersed in internationally recognized conflict situations, others in peace processes, and others in rebuilding post-conflict societies. The law provides some framework, albeit insufficient, for their demands for punishment and reparations for gender-based crimes. They are learning to use those legal tools.

But many of us from Latin America came from countries where conflict situations are not internationally recognized; peace in Honduras and Colombia has been restored, we are told, even as murder, displacement and crimes against women continue on a daily basis. Mexico’s growing violence against women in the context of the drug war and impunity is the dirt that is routinely swept under the political rug. We grappled with questions of where we fit into the international legal system, how we could build movements to stop gender-based crimes in low-level local conflicts, how a stronger gender perspective could help fend off the growing militarism that marks our lives.

Some women spoke the language of the courtroom and explained the international instruments that have been developed to document and punish gender-based war crimes. Other women talked of grassroots organizing tactics and how to build peace movements that take women’s demands and realities into account. Their experiences combined provided a broad and complex range of strategies. They reflected what Brigid Inder of WIGJ called “the tension between the punitive formal justice model and the more comprehensive and complex agenda for what we call transformative justice, where the finding of guilt or innocence is accompanied by efforts to transform both communal and gender relations.”

Common themes soon emerged. Testimonies from brave women revealed that within the hell of war lies a private hell. The hell of sexual violence-an inner circle shielded from scrutiny by the socially imposed shame of its victims and the willful ignorance of legal and political systems.

Our Latin American perspective required us to interpret from a framework of recognized conflict with an applicable body of international law, to a continent of emerging threats including the drug war and local battles over natural resources. The thread that united our experiences was the role of women as the leaders of social justice movements and the victims of conflict.

The sands beneath our feet shifted during the conference. Not when the tide rolled over during early morning walks on the beach-although those moments were also an important part of forging a common commitment-but when we heard survivors´ stories and statistics like these, from Joan Chittister:

* At the turn of the 20th century, 5% of war casualties were civilians
* In World War I, 15% were civilians
* In World War II, the figure leapt to a 65% civilian death toll, as whole cities were bombed
* By the mid-nineties, 75% of war deaths were civilians
* Today, 90% of the human war toll are civilians-the majority women and children

Forget the complaints of “collateral damage”. As military leaders brag that modern technology has produced the most accurate weapons in history, during war strikes in places like Iraq or Afghanistan, women and children die.

They are not the collateral damage-they are the targets.

When finally, through the efforts of women like those at the Dialogue, international agencies produce some statistics on rape and other forms of sexual violence in conflict situations, the figures are so staggering, the stories so shockingly brutal, that all attempts to explain away the phenomenon as the acts of a few rogue soldiers or part of the pillage of war fall away. Rape is a calculated weapon of war. It decimates communities, destroys families, spreads disease and leaves deep physical and psychological scars. That is the purpose.

No geographic region has a corner on barbarity when it comes to gender-based crimes. For example, women reported sex crimes and violence by paramilitary and military forces against displaced populations in Burma, Colombia and Sudan.

Many speakers noted that the use of women’s bodies as both the spoils and the battlefields of war appears to be on the rise. In some cases, women organizers for peace and justice have made progress, such as the fight against land mines and for peace in Northern Ireland, but new and terrible challenges have emerged in unexpected points of the planet, like Honduras. The opportunity to compare notes, to learn what works, what doesn’t work, who are allies and who are enemies gave renewed commitment and shared knowledge to women peace organizers who girthed themselves to return home to local battles.

Gender Justice is now an international issue

The International Criminal Court as a Tool of Gender Justice

The timing of the Dialogue responded to an immediate challenge: in early June the Assembly of State Parties will hold a 10-year Review Conference of the International Criminal Court. In addition, the year marks the fifteenth anniversary of the Beijing World Conference on Women, the tenth anniversary of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, and the dawn of a new “gender architecture” within the UN to promote women’s rights. As the organizers explained, “This is an opportune moment to reflect on the progress and work of the ICC, the possibilities embodied in the Rome Statute for the accountability of conflict-related crimes, and the responsibilities of the United Nations for the deterrence and resolution of armed conflicts, women’s global citizenship and gender-inclusive international justice.”

The ICC is currently hearing cases from four armed conflicts-Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Sudan-and all include charges of gender-based crimes. It has provided a forum to seek justice and to create public awareness of these crimes and has launched innovative projects, including the ICC Trust Fund for Victims. For women involved in giving testimonies-women and girls who live with the scars of war-time rapes and mutilations-the work of the court may be far away but the concept of justice that it seeks to provide is at the core of their daily lives.

The ICC takes a case when national systems of justice will not or do not function. It can be a blow against impunity. It is easy to think of impunity as a sin of omission. The hand not raised in protest appears genteel alongside the hand stained with the blood of the victim. And yet we learned from the testimonies of women on the frontlines of the battle for gender justice that impunity not only perpetrates crimes against women, it teaches generation after generation how to continue the practice.

Dialogue members noted that the international system offers both opportunities and limitations. Joanne Sandler of UNIFEM warned that Resolutions are not always proof of resolve. Since the Security Council issued Resolution 1325, there have been 24 formal peace processes. Women have been only 10% of the negotiators and 2% of the signatories. Worse yet, she said, there doesn’t seem to be progress. More formal mechanisms are needed to assure compliance with gender policies. Without permanent pressure from women organizers and experts, legal advances could remain a dead letter.

From the Courts to the Streets and Back Again

Gender-based crimes require responses in three areas: Prevention, protection and reparation. Experts working in the international legal system noted that prevention, the most important of all, is given fewer resources because it does not have measurable benchmarks. How do you measure the number of lives not nearly destroyed by horrors we can scarcely imagine? Participants agreed that although bureaucrats have yet to come up with a formula, prevention should be our ultimate goal.

To prevent sex crimes requires nothing short of a revolution in cultural, political and social norms. This group has demonstrated its willingness to step up to the task. The Nobel Women’s Initiative was founded by six women Nobel Prize winners who refused to rest on their laurels. Then there is Yanar Mohammed of Iraq, who went out into a Baghdad street to speak on International Woman’s Day in a bullet-proof vest, following numerous death threats, and then went on to denounce the rape of women in detention centers and sex trafficking, and create a vibrant cultural movement for youth.

Or Gilda Rivera, who was kidnapped and beaten during Honduras´ dirty wars of the eighties, then saw the nightmare return when a military coup d’état took over her country in June of 2009. It would be enough to drive anyone into exile or retreat. It drove Gilda into the streets of Tegucigalpa. Every morning she marched against the coup and every afternoon organized with Feminists in Resistance to protect women and document the crimes against them.

Too often the cry is not heard. Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, in a taped message, called rape “the silent crime against communities.” Then she immediately questioned the terminology, asking “Is rape really silent?” Women scream, yet far too often no one hears. Just sharing stories was a sort of catharsis for women who see far too much suffering in their work and lives. The Dialogue provided a forum to cry out to a gathering that will not only hear, but act.

What to do faced with such a daunting challenge?

The question was on the table, and since this was an action-oriented gathering there was no escaping it. The International Gender Justice Dialogue sketched out ideas for the coming years in three areas: peace talks and implementation, justice and jurisprudence and communications. Dialogue members came up with lists of tactics, hints, strategies and challenges for the coming years, from Nobel Laureate Jody Williams´ creative messaging in the successful campaign to ban land mines, to lawyers´ advice on using the court.

But the key message was just one: Don’t give up. Ever.

As I write this, we have just received word that human rights defender Bety Cariño was murdered by paramilitary forces in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. She was part of a humanitarian aid caravan and is the third woman murdered in the conflict in this region recently. Bety wasn’t necessarily singled out as a woman, but it’s no coincidence that she was one. The same concerns and qualities that make it imperative for women to be among the peace negotiators and the leaders in social reconstruction and justice proceedings are the qualities that led Bety to become a defender of grassroots movements and to be carrying aid to an autonomous indigenous community when she was shot to death.

Bety´s assassination, the recruitment of girl soldiers in the DRC, rape in Sudan all are issues of gender justice. Jody William points out that that doesn’t mean they are “women’s issues.”

Gender justice is not a subcategory of social justice; it’s an essential component.

This article was originally published by Open Democracy.

Copyright © Fluxxus Digital Limited 2010

Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen(at)ciponline.org) is director of the Americas Policy Program (www.americaspolicy.org) in Mexico City, where she has been an analyst and writer for two decades. She is also a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist.

America’s Imperial Wars: We Need to See the Horrors April 11, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Vietnam, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

by Dave Lindorff

When I was a 17-year-old kid in my senior year of high school, I didn’t think much about Vietnam. It was 1967, the war was raging, but I didn’t personally know anyone who was over there, Tet hadn’t happened yet. If anything, the excitement of jungle warfare attracted my interest more than anything (I had a .22 cal rifle, and liked to go off in the woods and shoot at things, often, I’ll admit, imagining it was an armed enemy.)

But then I had to do a major project in my humanities program and I chose the Vietnam War. As I started researching this paper, which was supposed to be a multi-media presentation, I ran across a series of photos of civilian victims of American napalm bombing. These victims, often, were women and children-even babies.

The project opened my eyes to something that had never occurred to me: my country’s army was killing civilians. And it wasn’t just killing them. It was killing them, and maiming them, in ways that were almost unimaginable in their horror: napalm, phosphorus, anti-personnel bombs that threw out spinning flechettes that ripped through the flesh like tiny buzz saws. I learned that scientists like what I at the time wanted to become were actually working on projects to make these weapons even more lethal, for example trying to make napalm more sticky so it would burn longer on exposed flesh.

By the time I had finished my project, I had actively joined the anti-war movement, and later that year, when I turned 18 and had to register for the draft, I made the decision that no way was I going to allow myself to participate in that war.

A key reason my-and millions of other Americans’–eyes were opened to what the US was up to in Indochina was that the media at that time, at least by 1967, had begun to show Americans the reality of that war. I didn’t have to look too hard to find the photos of napalm victims, or to read about the true nature of the weapons that our forces were using.

Today, while the internet makes it possible to find similar information about the conflicts in the world in which the US is participating, either as primary combatant or as the chief provider of arms, as in Gaza, one actually has to make a concerted effort to look for them. The corporate media which provide the information that most Americans simply receive passively on the evening news or at breakfast over coffee carefully avoid showing us most of the graphic horror inflicted by our military machine.

We may read the cold fact that the US military, after initial denials, admits that its forces killed not four enemy combatants in an assault on a house in Afghanistan, but rather five civilians-including a man, a female teacher, a 10-year-old girl, a 15-year-old boy and a tiny baby. But we don’t see pictures of their shattered bodies, no doubt shredded by the high-powered automatic rifles typically used by American forces.

We may read about wedding parties that are bombed by American forces-something that has happened with some frequency in both Iraq and Afghanistan– where the death toll is tallied in dozens, but we are, as a rule, not provided with photos that would likely show bodies torn apart by anti-personnel bombs-a favored weapon for such attacks on groups of supposed enemy “fighters.” (A giveaway that such weapons are being used is a typically high death count with only a few wounded.)

Obviously one reason for this is that the US military no longer gives US journalists, including photo journalists, free reign on the battlefield. Those who travel with troops are under the control of those troops and generally aren’t allowed to photograph the scenes of devastation, and sites of such “mishaps” are generally ruled off limits until the evidence has been cleared away.

But another reason is that the media themselves sanitize their pages and their broadcasts. It isn’t just American dead that we don’t get to see. It’s the civilian dead-at least if our guys do it. We are not spared gruesome images following attacks on civilians by Iraqi insurgent groups, or by Taliban forces in Afghanistan. But we don’t get the same kind of photos when it’s our forces doing the slaughtering. Because often the photos and video images do exist-taken by foreign reporters who take the risk of going where the US military doesn’t want them.

No wonder that even today, most Americans oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan not because of sympathy with the long-suffering peoples of those two lands, but because of the hardships faced by our own forces, and the financial cost of the two wars.

For some real information on the horror that is being perpetrated on one of the poorest countries in the world by the greatest military power the world has ever known, check out the excellent work by Professor Marc Herold at the University of New Hampshire (http://cursor.org/stories/civilian_deaths.htm and http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2008/10/06/the-imprecision-ofus-bombing-and-the-under-valuation-of-an-afghan-life.html).

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. He is author of Marketplace Medicine: The Rise of the For-Profit Hospital Chains (BantamBooks, 1992), and his latest book “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net