Archive for April, 2010

Talking with Josh Steiber about the war, morality, and protest

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We Are Not Your Soldiers Banner at the March 20 Protest

We had a lively conference call this past week (apologies to everyone who couldn’t get on or got bumped off due to the number of calls coming in) with people from around the country listening to a conversation between Elaine Brower, leader of WCW, and Josh Steiber, conscientious objector who has been speaking out about being a part of the unit that carried out the now notorious massacre captured in the Wikileaks “Collateral Murder” video. Josh refused to go on that mission and later, as Janis Joplin sang, felt he had “nothing left to lose” after so many atrocities, fighting to get out of the military because he “was so internally torn up that I was at a point that I was willing to do whatever I needed to in order to stop doing these things.”

Now, he is righteously calling out this whole immoral war and using the video to make the point that

such acts were “not isolated incidents” and were “common” during his tour of duty. “After watching the video, I would definitely say that that is, nine times out of ten, the way things ended up,” Steiber was quoted as saying in an earlier press release on the video, “Killing was following military protocol. It was going along with the rules as they are.”

Steiber was not with his unit, who were the soldiers on the ground in the video. He was back at his base with the incident occurred. While not absolving of responsibility those who carried out the killing, Steiber blames the “larger system” of the US military, specifically how soldiers are trained to dehumanize Iraqis and the ROE.

“We have to address the larger system that trains people to respond in this way, or the same thing will probably happen again,” Steiber told Truthout.

Josh Steiber has been speaking out in other places too. Listen to or read his interview with Glenn Greenwald. Elaine asked Josh about how he became a conscientious objector, and how we can get more troops to take that step and resist the military. Josh talked about the responsibility that this society as a whole has for what the US military does and how it does it. Educating people is the key, he said. He talked about the military cadences that troops learn in basic training: songs about killing children and blood flowing. Target practice not on bull’s-eyes, but on the silhouettes of Middle Eastern stereotypes.

For him, it took 2 years before he even found out that conscientious objecting was an option at all.

“There’s a lot of feeling of betrayal, that we can tap into,”

with the troops, he said. To understand the psychology drummed into troops he recommended this video on YouTube, “Die Terrorist Die.” He also recommended that we use the Wikileaks video to show potential recruits what exactly they will be expected to do in the military.

Callers expressed anguish over the situation and the depths of the moral dilemma facing this society. One woman talked about her fears that people are just filtering out the video and that it isn’t necessarily affecting people. Another talked about counter protesting the Tea Party earlier in the day and having conversations with them:

“I don’t fall into this category and probably those of you on the call don’t, but there’s this mentality out there that brutal violence is just a part of humanity and we just have to make sure that it’s OUR brutal violence and no one does it to us.”

She also emphasized how important it is that some troops are speaking out; changing their views, resisting, and leaking these videos.

A Vietnam era veteran on the call said,

“Moments come along that break through the media blackout, like with the photo of the little Vietnamese girl who got napalmed, that give people a taste of the crimes that are being carried out in their names. We have to challenge the troops not to be torturers and murders. Josh talked a lot about betrayal. It’s not the people who betrayed the soldiers it’s the military and the government that betrayed them. The more we can interact with them on that level the more we can break through with them.”

Emma Kaplan underscored this point, responding to the question, “How did the soldiers react after the mission in the video:”

“Josh talks about this in his DN interview – afterwards there’s a process where it sinks in, and they go through a justification in their minds. The point about challenging the troops that Joe made is very important. Troops are thinking people who can change their minds and resist. We have a tremendous responsibility to tell the truth.”

We talked more about the need to go into the morality of the war and the participation in it with soldiers:

“Male bonding forges this brainwashing family structure. It is really difficult. The family structure just constantly reinforces the idea that if you step out of line here that you are betraying your brothers. We have to frame the question in moral terms so that they can truly follow their consciences.  The really important thing that WCW is doing is going into high schools and colleges and creating a movement among the youth. Denying the military a section of these kids. Youth can have a tremendous impact among their peers.”

A student from UCSB talked about the speakout they held on their campus earlier that day, and their plans to project the video onto a wall outside on Monday. They also plan to bring the We Are Not Your Soldiers tour to speak before the end of the semester.

The call ended with some more discussion of our plans going forward: the Crimes Are Crimes statement, visible protest such as when General Petraeus comes to NYC later this week, and other ideas people have, for creating video responses to the Wikileaks video, to talking to soldiers.

The We Are Not Your Soldiers tour came up again and again, as a crucial way to impact this situation. One person said,

“It’s not just a point of going to the troops themselves, but making it a question in society at large. Dragging it out into the light of day. This is not just bad apples but what the troops are doing in our name. This is the nature of this war. The more we make this a question in society, that will give the troops who are conflicted air to breathe and room to act.”

Thank you to Josh Steiber and everyone who participated in this call.

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Crimes Are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them

Collateral MurderI invite you to join Cornel West, Cindy Sheehan, Ray McGovern, Carl Dix, Bill Quigley, William Blum, Ann Messner, Joyce Kozloff and hundreds more in signing a new statement: Crimes Are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them (see below). We are going on record to separate ourselves from the direction Obama is heading, and giving voice to the growing opposition to the crimes still being carried out in our names.

We are considering publishing this statement in the NY Review of Books and other outlets where people who would be inspired and challenged need to see it. If you have thinking on other places this statement needs to be published, please contact me, Director of World Can’t Wait, at debrasweet@worldcantwait.net

It is time to end the silence and say clearly: that which was a crime under Bush is a crime under Obama.

See Crimes are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them.

You may sign by going to the link above, or emailing debrasweet@worldcantwait.net.

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Crimes Are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them

In the past few weeks, it has become common knowledge that Barack Obama has openly ordered the assassination of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, because he is suspected of participating in plots by Al Qaeda. Al-Awlaki denies these charges. No matter. Without trial or other judicial proceeding, the administration has simply put him on the to-be-killed list.

During this same period, a video leaked by whistleblowers in the military showing U.S. troops firing on an unarmed party of Iraqis in 2007, including two journalists, and then firing on those who attempted to rescue them – including two children – became public. As ugly as this video of the killing of 12 Iraqis was, the chatter recorded from the helicopter cockpit was even more chilling and monstrous. Yet the Pentagon said that there would be no charges against these soldiers; and the media focused on absolving them of blame – “they were under stress,” the story went, “and after all our brave men and women must be supported.” Meanwhile, those who leaked and publicized the video came under government surveillance and are targeted as “national security” threats.

Also during this period, the Pentagon acknowledged, after denials, a massacre near the city of Gardez, Afghanistan, on February 12, 2010, in which 5 people were killed, including two pregnant women, leaving 16 children motherless.  The U.S. military first said the two men killed were insurgents, and the women, victims of a family “honor killing.”  The Afghan government has accepted the eyewitness reports that U.S. Special Forces killed the men, (a police officer and lawyer) and the women, and then dug their own bullets out of the women’s bodies to destroy evidence. Top U.S. military officials have now admitted that U.S. soldiers killed the family in their house.

Just weeks earlier, a story broken in Harper’s by Scott Horton carried news that three supposed suicides of detainees in Guantánamo in 2006 were not actual suicides, but homicides carried out by American personnel. This passed almost without comment.

In some respects, this is worse than Bush. First, because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of “terrorism,” merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly. Second, Obama says that the government can detain you indefinitely, even if you have been exonerated in a trial, and he has publicly floated the idea of “preventive detention.” Third, the Obama administration, in expanding the use of unmanned drone attacks, argues that the U.S. has the authority under international law to use such lethal force and extrajudicial killing in sovereign countries with which it is not at war.

Such measures by Bush were widely considered by liberals and progressives to be outrages and were roundly, and correctly, protested. But those acts which may have been construed (wishfully or not) as anomalies under the Bush regime, have now been consecrated into “standard operating procedure” by Obama, who claims, as did Bush, executive privilege and state secrecy in defending the crime of aggressive war.

Unsurprisingly, the Obama administration has refused to prosecute any members of the Bush regime who are responsible for war crimes, including some who admitted to waterboarding and other forms of torture, thereby making their actions acceptable for him or any future president, Democrat or Republican.

We must end the complicity of silence and say loud and clear:

The things that were crimes under Bush are crimes under Obama.
Outrages under Bush are outrages under Obama.
All this MUST STOP.
And all this MUST BE RESISTED by anyone who claims a shred of conscience or integrity.

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Abortion Empowers You!

Abortion Changes You anti-abortion messages

Anti-abortion messages from Abortionchangesyou.com

Currently anti-abortion ads are running on NYC subways.  Abortionchangesyou.com perpetrates confusion, shame, guilt, and disinformation to discourage women from having abortions.

Here are some things we’re doing to challenge these ads:

1) A new campaign, hatched moments ago at the “From Abortion Rights to Social Justice; Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom”  is AbortionEmpowersyou.com.  What is your abortion story?  How did abortion change your life?  How would you do a creative alteration of the AbortionChangesYou ads?

We’re collecting responses right now at the conference — look for the site to be updated tonight!  Collaborators are Heather Ault of 4000yearsforchoice.org and Jennifer Klozik DeCapua of 45millionvoices.org and Debra Sweet of WorldCantWait.net

2) From organizers for “From The Burkha to the Thong, Everything Must, and Can, Change– WE NEED TOTAL REVOLUTION!” A national campus tour by Sunsara Taylor:

Saturday April 17th, 2010

Protest “abortionchangesyou.com
& its anti-abortion, anti-woman message
in the New York City subways

Speak out for Abortion Rights
and Women’s Liberation!

Abortionchangesyou.com promotes an aura of shame and guilt around abortion and contributes to the lie that to have an abortion is to murder a baby.  This comes in the guise of concern for women and providing emotional support for them. The anti-abortion agenda of these ads has been exposed in a New York Times article, which points out that the site directs people to pro-life groups with the Catholic Church and the site’s founder has collaborated with Feminists for Life.

Our response:
“forced childbearing changes you”
Abortion on demand and without apology!

Join us April 17th to break the silence and shame and declare that women are human beings, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with abortion!

A fetus is NOT a baby!
Women are NOT Incubators!
Abortion is NOT Murder!

Meet at 2pm near the subway entrance – SW corner of Union Sq. Make your own pro-abortion/pro-choice ad and we’ll spread our message through the subway, stopping at Columbia University, in Harlem and Williamsburg

From organizers for “From the Burkha to the Thong, Everything Must, and Can, Change– WE NEED TOTAL REVOLUTION!” — a national campus speaking tour by Sunsara Taylor

Contact– Sunsara_tour@yahoo.com 347-721-8980

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Anti-Abortion Movement Aims to Control Black Women

In my decades of escorting women through anti-abortion protesters and into abortion clinics, I’ve  observed that there are a variety of culturally different responses to the bullying, whining, pushing and threats.  I’ve seen Latinas dissolve into tears and confusion when confronted at the clinic entrance by a priest saying the rosary over them, when they are told they’ll go to hell for “killing their babies.”  Russian women tend to breeze by the antis as if they’re invisible, while white American women, more than any others,  feel they have to answer for their personal actions to obnoxious and complete strangers.

Antis' billboard

The billboard that Georgia Right to Life has been putting up all over Atlanta

Black women (African American and West Indian) are the most likely, in my experience, to challenge the antis to “stay the f— out of my way!”  Their anger at being interfered with comes out righteously.  They don’t need anyone to tell them about their business.  The anti-abortion movement has historically had a very difficult time getting support in the Black community, for this and other reasons (their own racism, for one).

As part of the overall society-wide assault on abortion rights with includes murdering doctors, devising ever more state laws to restrict access, and the work of Democrats both overtly anti-choice and those who just seek common ground, the anti-abortion movement has recently put a lot of money and PR talent into blaming Black women for having abortions.

Of course, they don’t say that directly.  Several anti-abortion groups are  funding a campaign to cast Black children as an “endangered species” because Black women have abortions.  And more than that, they assert there is a concerted campaign of “Black genocide” fostered by an “abortion industry” that targets Black women who abort unintended pregnancies.

There is so much incorrect, dangerous, and outrageous about every one of their contentions and methods, that I can only begin here a sketch.

(Parenthetically, what if we suggest to the antis that they focus on a group who is really “endangering” their fetuses? Catholic women, as identified on medical admission forms, who use abortion more than any other religious group, perhaps?  I know most Catholics say they don’t listen to the Vatican on sexual matters — and why would they, given the revelations of the Pope’s protection of pedophiles?  But it’s likely that the 12th century teaching that birth control is a sin is at least a major factor in the higher number of unplanned pregnancies among Catholics, and the various miseries they lead to.  Let’s tell the Right to Life movement to do some truth in advertising on that!)

At the heart of the campaign to shame and control Black women is a film called Maafa 21.  See the trailer at blackgenocide.com (striking footage and dramatic music: high production values and serious funding behind this effort). It starts from the assumption that slavery of Black people in the United States was followed by an attempt by “America’s wealthy elite” to make Black people disappear.

Well, that’s true.  An unemployment rate of 50% for African American men in NYC.  2.4 million people incarcerated, a huge proportion of them Black.  The lowest life expectancy among any group in the US, and a higher infant morality rate.  Higher rates of deadly diseases, and lower levels of health insurance.  Higher rates of combat death in every war from the Civil War on.  This is systematic oppression of Black people!

But those behind Maafa 21 don’t care about any of that, least of all actual living Black people.  The film weaves aspects of true facts — including the scientifically wrong eugenicist views of Margaret Sanger who fought in the early 20th century to bring birth control to poor women and founded Planned Parenthood — into a conspiracy by abortion providers today to “sell” abortions to Black women in order to reduce their birth rate.

This is all wrong, backwards, and very dangerous.

And we need to answer it.  There is a professional promotion effort of this film especially to to HCBU’s (historically Black colleges and universities) with cuts of it on YouTube and comments indicating people are being taken in by the argument.  See Abortion and Black Genocide (Barack Obama and the Negro Project),

I would challenge anyone giving this film any credence to look at who made it, and how it’s being used.  Credit goes to “Life Dynamics,” a group in Texas run by one Mark Crutcher.  After a career in “promotion of automotive products” (used car salesman), Crutcher branched out to targeting abortion doctors over the last two decades, and sending a threatening pamphlet to medical students in the 1980′s.  He specializes in “intelligence” against abortion providers.  He has no history or connections with any movement endeavoring to protest, nor better, the lives of Black people in this country.

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Black children are BEAUTIFUL - the billboard is corrected.

This aggressive disinformation campaign goes beyond a film.  Georgia Right to Life put $20,000 into 80 billboards in Atlanta in January calling black children an “endangered species.”  Some of the billboards are still up, and there are plans to spread them to other cities with large Black population.  I see one got a welcome alteration last week (Black children are beautiful members of the HUMAN species!).

Cindy Cooper writes in Anti-Choicers, the Media, and Race, on another aspect of the assault on women in Georgia:

the billboards are propaganda for an anti-abortion legislative assault, a bill in Georgia titled the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, and called “PreNDA” by its anti-choice sponsors. The bill would create a new felony of “criminal solicitation of abortion.” Under it, a person commits a crime punishable by five years in prison if the individual “solicits or coerces” another person to have an abortion ‘based in any way on account of the race, color, or sex of the unborn child or the race or color of either parent of that child.’ Under the bill, a doctor commits “criminal abortion,” punishable by 10 years in prison, for performing an abortion based on those factors or ‘with knowledge that the pregnant woman’ based it on them. In addition, abortion is defined as ‘the homicide of an unborn child,’ and civil actions are extended for damages.”

For more on the actual restrictions this will place on women who need abortions, see Black Abortion: Battleground Georgia on RH Reality Check. We must and will answer the lies in this “Black genocide” argument.  Leaders in the fight for reproductive justice are already doing so.

Loretta Ross, of Sistersong, says:

“They tell African American women that we are now responsible for the genocide of our own people … We are now accused of ‘lynching’ our children in our wombs and practicing white supremacy on ourselves… This is what lies on steroids look like.

…The sexism in their viewpoints is mind-boggling. To them, Black women are the poor dupes of the abortion rights movement, lacking agency and decision-making of our own. In fact, this is a reassertion of Black male supremacy over the self-determination of women…. It is about re-enslaving Black women by making us breeders for someone else’s cause.”

Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a Princeton professor, looks at Black women’s situation in this society in A Right to Life for the Living:

A recent study by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development revealed that single black women have on average only $100 in personal wealth, compared with $41,500 for single white women. With less disposable income, many black women are shut out of the booming reproductive technologies market available to their white peers. In this twisted sense even college education could be argued to constitute racial genocide.

This past Saturday I sat around a table in Harlem with an abortion provider and a dozen people who escort at an abortion clinic in the Bronx.  I asked how people thought we should answer this “Black genocide” campaign.  Francesca was really outraged at the idea of the anti-abortion movement talking to Black women about “life” for unborn fetuses.  She asked, “what about the epidemic of Hep(atitis) C? Black women are out here struggling with life and death!  They don’t need to tell us anything.”

A student said “we have to make an unapologetic case for abortion rights!” We talked about the antis’ so-called “science” and how it’s used to confuse and lie to people about our bodies.  Others said the “genocide” argument is used, and has historically been used, to manipulate people against abortion.  Sharon, who provides abortions, said that we have to explain the actual reality for women of color.  “We have more unintended pregnancies, for economic reasons.”

Everyone agreed that women — including women of color — can determine what they need to do for each pregnancy.  And no government, husband, father, religion, Pope, or group of lunatic murderers with a budget should force motherhood on any woman.

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