Archive for March, 2013
Six anti-war activists and leaders, aged 30 through 75 were sentenced on March 19 to eight hours “community service,” and $125 court costs for a disorderly conduct conviction arising from a protest 300 people made December 1, 2009, when Obama announced, inside the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a huge expansion of US troops to Afghanistan.
Elaine Brower, Matthis Chiroux, Tarak Kauff, Alison Beth Levy, and Richie Marini agreed to serve the time, washing Highland Falls, NY, ambulances and police cars, and pay the fee. Beverly Rice asked that she be able to send funds instead to the National Lawyers Guild, and when that was denied, she took jail time, on the basis of conscience. Her sentence was ten days at the Orange County jail, where she was taken immediately. The sheriff says Bev, 75, will be released early.
The case had gone on for more than 3 years. After one of two disorderly conduct convictions was overturned on a pro se appeal, a new judge delayed sentencing because court records were “lost” in Hurricane Irene. He then forced the defendants to appear two more times with an attorney before sentencing. The courtroom in Highland Falls was packed with mostly young people charged with traffic and other violations, at least one in an Army uniform. Everyone listened quietly as most of the defendants made pre-sentence statements to the judge.
Elaine Brower said she had been outside the gate at West Point to “petition my government” to stop the war. “My son did ten years in the Marine Corps, two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He has done horrible things” as part of the U.S. war on those countries. She said “I am seeing that injustice in the eyes of my son who is emotionally wounded.”
Elaine went on to say that “we have no recourse” to get the government’s attention except our legally permitted right to assemble. “They keep sending young men and women to kill. We protested at West Point when Bush was president, and we had to be there when Obama expanded the war on Afghanistan. And we’ll be here when the next president invades a sovereign nation. Humanity and the planet come first. Crimes are crimes, no matter who does them.”
Richie Marini’s statement included:
The United States has an incredibly violent history as we stand here today on land acquired through Genocidal means and can claim title to the only country to ever use an atomic weapon of mass destruction against another. The United States government continues down this trajectory of violence today with it’s use of torture, extraordinary rendition and drones that murder innocent civilians every day. It commits these violent acts to sustain itself by creating new markets, obtaining resources and enslaving people into it’s system in order to prevent itself from collapsing at the expense of innocent lives abroad…
Despite the penalties imposed upon me here today I will continue to work effortlessly to organize the citizens of Highland Falls and elsewhere to put stop the crimes of this government. As an Humanitarian, this is the greatest service that I can do for the citizens of Highland Falls, the United States, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere… Read more
Bev Rice said she would not apologize for the protest:
A total of 2177 American soldiers have been killed during the eleven years we have been fighting in Afghanistan.
1230 have been killed since we were arrested three years ago? How many more have been wounded? How many more have been sent home suffering emotional and mental illnesses? Consider, 22 veterans commit suicide each day! Consider also the sorrowful loss for the family and friends of our dead and wounded soldiers. I consider these each and every day.
I am proud to have been involved in the protest, and to have participated in the defense of the West Point Six. We need more people willing to speak the truth, and put themselves on the line to stop the crimes of our government.
Yes, I know it wasn’t all of the countries of the Americas which made war on Iraq. It was the United States of America, as Barack Obama is so fond of saying, dragging along with it the coalition of the bribed and coerced. Just as it was for the Vietnamese people an American war, while we called it the Vietnam War, this one is known in Iraq as the American War. We have to accept that.
It was the U.S. government that heaped crippling economic sanctions, and lots of missile strikes, on Iraq, through the 90′s, leading to the deaths of an estimated 500,000 children. Using the 9/11 attack as an opportunity, George W. Bush, “Dick” Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and the rest of the regime concocted their “yellow-cake uranium” and “secular Saddam Hussein befriending al Qaeda” stories, with the aim of rolling through Iraq toward Iran, strengthening U.S. control of the strategic Middle East.
The 2003 war, says Larry Everest, author of Oil Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda
was not waged to eliminate “terrorism,” destroy weapons of mass destruction, or liberate the Iraqi people. Instead, it was an unjust war of aggression, conquest and greater empire.
We know this, but sometimes we forget that this war destroyed the infrastructure, cultural history and morale of an advanced, literate society with a long history, in the name of removing a despotic ruler the U.S. at one time supported heavily.
The American war on Iraq was our war to stop — had people living in this country responded as we should have, with sustained protest, making the prosecution of the war, and the legitimacy of the Bush regime itself, a fundamental question for tens of millions. Indeed, the mass protests denied Bush the coalition he wanted, and weakened the U.S. efforts globally so much that the war went very badly for the U.S. But at what a price for the people of Iraq!
Michael Otterman’s book Erasing Iraq: The Human Cost of Carnage, written with Robert Hill and Paul Wilson, is one of the few to look at what the U.S. did to Iraq. Otterman was interviewed in the Washington Report on the Middle East Affairs:
A study published in October 2006 by the prestigious medical journal Lancet provides the most reliable estimate to date. Their methodology, Otterman explained, “was the same the U.S. government uses to count the dead in conflict areas, including Kosovo.” The study’s findings were that approximately 655,000 excess Iraqi deaths had occurred, including both militants and civilians.
But much violence has occurred since then, Otterman noted, and by extrapolating the data through to the present, a rough estimate of one million deaths can be made.
“When you combine this figure with the more than five million displaced since 2003,” he said, “you begin to get a sense of the deep, permanent level of destruction the United States has unleashed.”
Describing the level of trauma as “truly incalculable,” Otterman asked: “How do you quantify this human toll? The answer: Simply by reading and accessing the narratives of Iraqis that have lived through this very real sociocide. In Erasing Iraq, we quote dozens of refugees in Syria, Jordan, and Sweden, plus a slew of Iraqi bloggers who lived through the carnage in real time. These narratives exist in sharp contrast to the bland, misleading, or propagandistic accounts of war featured heavily in the mainstream news outlets. Only by engaging directly with Iraqi narratives can outsiders get a true sense of the human costs of war in Iraq.
See The Fallujah Project, which writes:
The U.S. occupation has had horrible effects on the Iraqi population, but Fallujah has suffered more than any other Iraqi city. Fallujah is to the Occupation of Iraq, what My Lai was to the Vietnam War, and what Hiroshima and Nagasaki were to World War II.
In the video below, which World Can’t Wait posted to YouTube in 2006, and which has been viewed more than 700,000 times since then, a scene much like that captured in the notorious Collateral Murder is seen from the gunsights of a US F-16, as a crowd of people in Fallujah is gunned down:
As we mark 10 years since the “shock and awe” beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, a massive assemblage of war crimes carried out in our name, let’s fully look at what was done.
If you read only a bit of this post, make it the following paragraph, and then buy your ticket here. Revolution newspaper asks and answers:
“Why go to this film premiere? Simply: It’s by far the most important thing people could be doing that day–it’s dealing with the most important thing there could be–because it’s about the real possibility of bringing into being a radically different world, where all this madness, all the oppression and injustice, all the abuse and degradation that is so much a part of life now, would be done away with. If anybody can think of anything more important than that–let’s hear it!”
My personal invite to you is based on what’s possible, and necessary, and what’s true.
Often, people ask me why I haven’t quit trying, in discouragement, to change the world, or even to just stop the crimes of the US government through a mass movement of people, as supporters of World Can’t Wait are working on. The challenges are obvious, and I am aware of how rare – much too rare — it is to refuse to give in.
Part of the answer to why I’ll never give up is that I’m continually outraged, and don’t accept this as the “best” of all possible ways the world could be. I came of age in the 60′s, amongst the struggles of Black people, women, people around the globe struggling for justice and liberation, which set the stage for being a rebel.
More significantly, I saw the possibility of a much better society because the largest country in the world then was socialist – The Peoples’ Republic of China. The most vibrant, scientific, inspiring propagators of revolution internationally were the revolutionary communists who came out of that worldwide movement. At the center of that ferment was Bob Avakian, BA, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Cornel West introduced BA in a recent interview as “one of the few coming out of the 60′s who never sold out, he never caved in, he never gave up, held on to his forging of a rigorous, scientific analysis of the objective realities that are driven by a revolutionary love – because he has such a deep love for poor people, oppressed people, all around the world.”
I heard him speak late last year. BA made an extremely deep-going call to get with the movement for revolution, calling out the crimes of the imperialist system, envisioning how society could be, outlining the strategy to work through the huge challenges in how to get there. He said something that has stuck with me, and I’m paraphrasing here, that if you see all those horrors, and you know it doesn’t have to be that way, why would you not want to be working and struggling to end this? He talked about the need to confront reality, looking at the horrors this system creates, continually, and then applying science to transform the contradictions to create a whole different world. That resonates with me. You can get more, right now, from BA by listening to an interview with Michael Slate on KPFK, where he went into these points.
Avakian and the RCP are leading a movement for real revolution, with a Constitution for the Socialist Republic in North America, (draft proposal), which aims to bring about a:
socialist state which would embody, institutionalize and promote radically different relations and values among people; a socialist state whose final and fundamental aim would be to achieve, together with the revolutionary struggle throughout the world, the emancipation of humanity as a whole and the opening of a whole new epoch in human history–communism–with the final abolition of all exploitative and oppressive relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise.
Hearing BA in BA Speaks: REVOLUTION-NOTHING LESS! in a theater with hundreds of others on the road to discover what can be done to end this madness and bring about the emancipation of all humanity is something I invite you to join me in doing. What could be more important?
This trailer is playing at the Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem, where the film will premiere Saturday:
The film is simultaneously premiering in Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in addition to Harlem. Details and tickets here.
I was sitting in a Brooklyn court room last week, listening to police testify for prosecution of freedom fighters who protest NYPD stop-and-frisk. (Later that day charges were dropped by the judge). At the same moment, Bradley Manning was giving a first public statement on releasing documents on U.S. war crimes, including what came to be called the “Collateral Murder” video, the U.S. diplomatic cables, material on indefinite detention in Guantanamo, and Afghan War Diaries and Iraq War Log.
Manning accepted responsibility for some of the charges the US government has made, opening himself to two years prison on each of ten counts. What is most disturbing is the government’s intention to try him on June 1 for the remaining, more serious charges, and to ask for life in prison.
Monitoring my phone on breaks in the trial, we heard via Twitter that Bradley had tried the Washington Post, The New York Times, and Politico, before uploading the data to Wikileaks, with the urgent intent of getting the public in the U.S. to engage in a debate about war policy, based on knowing what their government is doing. Alexa O’Brien provided a transcript of the statement Bradley Manning made in military court last week, well worth reading through.
On Collateral Murder, he said of the U.S. military on the ground and in the Apache helicopter in 2007:
Preparations to rally at Ft. Meade, Maryland, site of the trial are being made now. The Bradley Manning Support Committee reports on international support actions February 23, 2013.
They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as quote “dead bastards” unquote and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers. At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seems similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.
While saddened by the aerial weapons team crew’s lack of concern about human life, I was disturbed by the response of the discovery of injured children at the scene. In the video, you can see that the bongo truck driving up to assist the wounded individual. In response the aerial weapons team crew– as soon as the individuals are a threat, they repeatedly request for authorization to fire on the bongo truck and once granted they engage the vehicle at least six times.
What the video depicted was the truth of war. There were completely inhuman things—laughing about killing people, laughing about rolling over dead bodies with tanks. It was just abominable and reprehensible and sickening. When you watch it, it just makes you gasp to hear the language. But this is not an aberration. This is the truth of war. And that’s what we need to convey to people. What Bradley Manning did was a huge service to the world, to let people know the ugly, awful truth of war.
I have no doubt the government will continue to pile on Bradley Manning with all the force they have. That an Army private, so articulate, so clearly out for the benefit of humanity, as opposed to personal gain, could begin a mass public reaction that brought down reactionary governments in the Middle East, and expose the U.S. for its illegitimate use of military force the world over, is dangerous to them. Much more dangerous, than say, CIA torture of thousands or the destruction of whole countries.
Virtually no one is being prosecuted for those crimes; yet, Bradley Manning faces life in prison for exposing them.
Glenn Greenwald, on Democracy Now, captured a lot of what the US is doing to this person of great moral conscience:
This is a case of extraordinary prosecutorial overkill. The government has never been able to identify any substantial harm that has come from any of the leaks that Bradley Manning is accused of and now admits to being responsible for. Certainly nobody has died as a result of these leaks, even though the government originally said that WikiLeaks and the leaker has blood on their hands. Journalists investigated and found that there was no evidence for that. So, just the very idea that he should spend decades in prison, let alone be faced with life on parole, given what it is that he actually did and the consequences of it, is really remarkable.
But even more specifically, the theory that the government is proceeding on is one that’s really quite radical and menacing. That is, that although he never communicated with, quote-unquote, “the enemy,” which the government has said is al-Qaeda, although there’s no evidence that he intended in any way to benefit al-Qaeda—he could have sold this information, made a great deal of money, had he wanted to. All the evidence indicates that he did it for exactly the reason that he said, with the intent that he said, which was to spark reform and to bring attention to these abuse…
In the chat logs that were published over a year ago with the government informant who turned him in, he said very much the same thing while he thought he was speaking in complete confidence, to somebody who had promised him confidentiality, about what led him on this path, that he had become disillusioned first about the Iraq war when he discovered that people they were detaining weren’t really insurgents but were simply opponents of the Maliki government, and he brought it to his superiors, and they ignored him. He then looked at documents that showed extreme amounts of criminality and deceit and violence, that he could no longer in good conscience participate in concealing. It was really an act of conscience, pure conscience and heroism, that he did, knowing he was sacrificing his liberty.
The government has insulated its conduct from what are supposed to be the legitimate means of accountability and transparency—judicial proceedings, media coverage, FOIA requests—and has really erected this impenetrable wall of secrecy, using what are supposed to be the institutions designed to prevent that. That is what makes whistleblowing all the more imperative. It really is the only remaining avenue that we have to learn about what the government is doing
Speaking for thousands of us who have protested Manning’s trial, from signing petitions to civil disobedience, I think we can say with even more determination now, after hearing him, “FREE Bradley Manning!”
The Senate Intelligence Committee voted to send the nomination of John Brennan as CIA Director to the full Senate, as we knew they would. After sparring with the Obama administration over how much information the Committee would be given on the U.S. drone program, they got some, though the public did not.
What the public got was a statement by Attorney General Holder, in response to an inquiry from Senator Paul of Kentucky which says that in an “entirely hypothetical” situation, the president could authorize the military to use lethal force within the U.S., presumably by drone. The Huffington Post reported that:
The Obama administration, Holder said, rejected the use of military force where “well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat.” But in theory, it’d be legal for the president to order such an attack under certain circumstances, Holder said.
Brennan answered Paul’s inquiry with a statement that the CIA, unequivocally, “does not conduct lethal operations within the United States, nor does it have any authority to do so.” Adam Serwer, in Mother Jones, reported:
Holder’s answer was more detailed, however, stating that under certain circumstances, the president would have the authority to order lethal attacks on American citizens. The two possible examples of such “extraordinary” circumstances were the attack on Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Which leaves the U.S. military, which specifically is now authorized to operate in the United States via the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012.
A NATO helicopter killed two children herding cattle. The Wall Street Journal reported:
Toor Jan, 11 years old, and Andul Wodood, 12, had been walking behind their donkeys in Oruzgan Province when the helicopter fired on them, Afghan officials said. The two donkeys were also killed.
General Dunford said that coalition forces thought they were firing on insurgent forces, and killed the boys by accident.
More “collateral murder,” not mediated by a NATO apology.
The response of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, reported by Voices for Creative Nonviolence, was to say “we are those 2 Children,” and to find donkeys, make signs, and take to the public square to protest the killings.
If children can make this protest under conditions of war and great deprivation, what does that challenge us to do?