Posts Tagged antiwar

Malalai Joya: The U.S. Occupiers Should “Get Lost” from Afghanistan

What a fascinating series of events here in NYC with Malalai Joya.  She spoke to students at CUNY and NYU; at the UN, to anti-war activists, and in conversation with Eve Ensler of V-day.

Malalai Joya October 4, 2013 New York City

Malalai Joya October 4, 2013 New York City

“There are countless NGO’s in Kabul,” but Malalai spoke of the situation in Afghanistan as disastrous for women.  Joya follows the stories of individual women, including young women raped, killed, and deprived of rights through a combination of religious superstition, war-time brutality, and subjugation to international empire.  She refers constantly to the “justice-loving” people of the world, and to the people of Afghanistan as those she tries to represent.

Joya lays blame for this whole disaster with three sources: the Taliban, created by the U.S. in the 70′s; with the warlords supported first by the Soviet Union, and now by the U.S, and most importantly with the U.S. occupation which tends to reinforce the Taliban and the warlords.  She calls them all enemies of the Afghan people, and says very strongly, the U.S. occupiers should “get lost” so that the Afghan people can struggle on their own for what kind of society they will have.

We heard some examples; of the massacre in Farah province, her home province, where 150 were killed by a U.S. airstrike, with evidence of the use of white phosphorous by the occupiers. “$2,000 bloody dollars is how they count a life,” referring to the payments by U.S. military to families.  They urinate on corpses, and people are “fed up” with them.

A man in one of the audiences told me afterward of his experience in the U.S. military in Afghanistan, at a Forward Operating Base.  A women had come begging at the gate to be let in and protected from family and villagers who wanted to punish and perhaps kill her for a real or imagined violation of tribal law.  But the soldiers didn’t let her in, saying they did not want to piss off the tribal elders or get involved in local disputes.  The man told me of his outrage at her situation, and his comrades’ reaction.  If he would have been at the gate, he would have let her in and taken the consequences, but admitted that they general tenor of U.S. forces was not to protect the people.

At the same time, there is a big source for hope in the actions of people working for a just society.  Specifically, she said, there are people collecting evidence of war crimes for future prosecutions by the International Criminal Court (of which the U.S. is not a member).   Afghans want an end to the occupation, and, if they go from the frying pan into the fire after the U.S. leaves, “at least the corrupt puppet mafia regime in power won’t have U.S. to keep them in power any longer.”

Go see Malalai on her U.S. tour this month.  Follow her on Facebook or on her website.

Rodrigo Guim is making a film of Malalai’s life.  See a clip here and support it.

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Collateral Murder in Military Court: Bradley Manning’s Story

Closing Arguments by Clark Stoekely

More than 60 of us filled the courtroom, and spilled into the overflow trailer, at Ft. Meade last Thursday (July 25).  The chief prosecutor for the government, a sneering Major Fein, in closing argument called Bradley Manning a “traitor” for the first time, and also a “hacker,” an “anarchist,” and a “humanist who does not care about humans.” He mentioned Julian Assange – who is not publicly indicted with any U.S. crime – dozens of times.

The government’s claim is that when Manning was sent to Baghdad in fall 2009 as a 22 year old Army intelligence specialist, he went to work “for Wikileaks,” digging through classified documents to supply material for Wikileaks’ “Most Wanted” List for 2009.  Fein claimed that Manning “chatted” with Julian Assange about what he could supply Wikileaks, and that both Wikileaks and Manning intended to make the material available to “the enemy,” specifically, Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula via the internet.

The danger in this characterization of Manning and Wikileaks’s actions or intentions, beyond it being clearly false and unsupported by any evidence, is that any information posted on the internet, or in print, could be argued, under the same logic to be intentionally directed at “the enemy.”  The government claims that information from Wikileaks was found in possession of Osama bin Laden when he was executed in 2011.  They do not say if information from any other news sources were also found.  The chilling prospect, of treason charges against journalists, is not so remote, says Glenn Greenwald:

“Harvard Law Professor Yochai Benkler explained in the New Republic in March why this theory poses such a profound threat to basic press freedoms as it essentially converts all leaks, no matter the intent, into a form of treason.”

Sitting about ten feet behind Bradley — who is not allowed any contact, eyes or otherwise, with supporters — we ached with anger and sorrow.  His last few weeks in a room with people besides other prisoners and guards are passing, with the threat of life + 154 years in prison hanging heavy.

On Friday, we rushed to get one of the 36 passes to be inside the courtroom for Defense Attorney David Coombs’ closing argument.  We were buoyed by the appearance on Thursday of a full-page ad “We Are Bradley Manning” in the New York Times, tangible evidence of the millions supporting Bradley worldwide.

The drama of Coombs’ conversation with the judge — which is how he approached his closing argument —  surpassed that of July 8, when he opened the defense case by showing the footage from Collateral Murder, or the Apache video, as it’s called in the government’s exhibit.  I’ve showed this video dozens of times to audiences from middle-school to churches, and to people on the street who wanted to watch it, to learn.  Coombs chose the three excerpts to show that always get people the most upset, directing the judge to try and see the scene as Bradley first saw it in fall 2009.  At that time Reuters, for whom two of the men killed on screen worked, had still not been allowed to know what happened, though they had gone through “proper channels” for two years in a Freedom of Information Act request.

Bradley learned that, saw the footage, and decided that the public, particularly those of us in the U.S., needed to see it too.  I’ll turn the story over to Kevin Gosztola, who has covered this story diligently, and cogently, for years.  See Clips from ‘Collateral Murder’ Video, Defense Attempts to Show ‘Truth’ About Bradley Manning, and watch the three clips that Coombs showed and the significant parts of Coombs’ explanation to the judge about what the clips represent.

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Protecting Humanity from US Drones

The April month of protest against US drone warfare and surveillance ended very strongly in Syracuse Sunday with a protest of hundreds of us at Hancock Air Force Base, where drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — are piloted over Pakistan, Afghanistan, and perhaps Yemen, Somalia and other countries.  Picture the starkness of the political clash:

  • On the empire’s side, the richest, strongest, most dangerously armed military in world history.  A worldwide network of perhaps 1,100 bases and hundreds of thousands of troops with the most sophisticated weapons of mass destruction, extending from space; networks of surveillance, secret operations, indefinite detention, with political cover of compliant politicians justifying more and more.  At Hancock, this power was expressed through police forces arrayed around us, photographing from every angle, threatening arrest and prison terms for stepping over an arbitrary line on the street.
  • On the side of humanity, in opposition to the war OF terror, a few hundred people, many with white hair, deploying the means of song, speech, costumes, music, symbolism, and appealing for justice, at pains to recycle and not harm the grass. The protesters carried the names and photographs of people actually killed by the drones, reading their names aloud, and symbolically dying on the street. Their weapons, the truth that the war on terror is illegitimately destroying whole countries and people.

The serious and dignified march of people wearing black, carrying mock coffins representing the countries attacked by the U.S. was staged to dramatize the gap between what the U.S. promises — “democracy” — and what it delivers: domination and destruction.  As a press release from the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and Stop the Wars said:

People who participated in the demonstration, including some who were arrested, came from all over the country to raise an outcry against the proliferation of drone strikes abroad, including countries with whom the US is not at war. Drone use violates the US Constitution, Article 6, and International Law, which the U.S. has signed on to. Demonstrators also object to the militarization of the police and the growing domestic use of drones.

For crossing the arbitrary police line in the street by the base, 31 people were arrested and charged mostly with Obstructing Government Administration, a Class A misdemeanor often used against protesters, which carries 12 months in jail, and with Disorderly Conduct, another catch-all anti-protest charge.  Almost all were given bail, up to $3500, and forced to sign “order of protection” which disallows them from returning to the base.  Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, shared the content of the order that protesters:

“refrain from assault, stalking, harassment, aggravated harassment, menacing, reckless endangerment, strangulation, criminal obstruction of breathing or circulation, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, forcible touching, intimidation, threats or any criminal offense or interference with the victim or victims of, or designated witnesses to, the alleged offense and such members of the family or household of such victim(s) or witness(es) as shall be specifically named Greg Semmel.”

Greg Semmel is commander of Hancock AFB.

AS IF the Air Force needs the same type of protection from peaceful political protest that a battered woman needs from her abuser(!)

What does the US military and the government fear from political protest at the gates of the base, such that people engaged in non-violent speech and actions would be banned from being on the street near it?  Likely, they fear that thousands will come with the same message.  But nothing they do can make the US war on terror, with its drones and concentration camps, legitimate, just, or moral.

One way to support the protest is to contribute to the bail fund from wherever you are:

 The thirty-one arrestees were arraigned in De Witt Town Court before Judges Benack, Gideon, and Jokl, who imposed bails ranging from $500 – $3500, totaling $34,000. Some of the defendants were released with appearance tickets   Others are refusing to post bail and will be held in jail until the next court date of May 7th & 8th. Donations may be sent to the Syracuse Peace Council, with checks made out to Syracuse Peace Council, note: Upstate Drone Action Bail Fund.  2013 E. Genessee St., Syracuse, NY 13210.

 

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March 17-19 Iraq War Protests

I’m listening to an MLK speech from 1967, where King says that the United States, at that point, had committed “more war crimes than almost any other nation.”

'Obey or Die' by Christopher Brown - more at Peace Vigil Paintings

This little girl’s parents were killed at a checkpoint in Iraq. Conservative estimates of Iraqi deaths are 76,000 to 94,000 verified media reported deaths. Separate survey techniques studies estimate 75,000 to 125,000 Iraqi deaths since 2003. Victory in Iraq is a mass media lie. The military presence continues to fuel violence. When the armed forces leave Iraq, Iraqis can begin to assert control over their own destinies, rebuild their country, reconstruct their social institutions and improve the security and welfare for all Iraqis.

Add 44 years of invasions, CIA-engineered coups, and occupations, from Vietnam through Afghanistan.  Add the development of weapons and training for modern counter-insurgency — night vision, drones, depleted uranium, cluster bombs — means that an even higher percentage of civilians are dying and suffering in these aggressive wars the U.S. pursues.

People, it’s time to put political opposition to these wars back on the map, in a mass, visible, and determined way. Veterans for Peace kicked off something very significant last December 16, with mass civil resistance at the White House, as Barack Obama gave his report on the war in Afghanistan.  Leah Bolger, Vice President of Veterans for Peace, captured the mood in Failure to Obey a Lawful Order:

Although it is we who were treated like criminals—handcuffed, arrested and charged, we are not the ones ordering drone strikes or sending in troops. We are not the ones using illegal weapons and poisoning the earth. We are not the ones with blood on our hands. The real criminals continue unabated, shamelessly claiming that they are “making progress,” and unabashedly announcing that they plan to continue their crimes for many years to come.

The next nodal point for our efforts to STOP these wars is the anniversary of the Shock & Awe on Baghdad, March 19, 2003.  A war begun on the basis of monstrous lies against a country weakened already by 15 years of sanctions, brought tremendous loss of civilian life.

Chris Floyd brings some of that home to us in A World in Flames: the Endless Echoes of America’s Atrocities where he continues his series on the American use of chemical weapons in the assault on Fallujah, just after George Bush was re-selected in 2004.

Even without the WMD, the attack itself was one of the most horrific events of the still-unfolding act of aggression in Iraq. Presented in the U.S. press as an old-fashioned, gung-ho, WWII-style “battle,” it was in fact a mass slaughter, largely of trapped civilians; almost all of the “terrorists” and “insurgents” in the city had long escaped during the months-long, oddly public build-up to the assault. It seemed clear that the intent was not to quash an insurgent nest, as stated, but to perpetrate an act of condign, collective punishment — primarily against civilians — in order to terrorize the rest of Iraq into submission…

Vets for Peace Leah Bolger at the White House fence December 16th

Vets for Peace Leah Bolger at the White House fence December 16th

Larry Everest, writing in Revolution, continues digging into the U.S. diplomatic cable releases in WikiLeaks Files Shine Light on U.S. Accountability for Torture in Iraq. One cable released in November shows

beyond doubt that the U.S. military in Iraq and the U.S.-controlled Iraqi army were given an official green light for the systematic use of torture, as well the cover up of those war crimes…The WikiLeaks files reveal that prisoners were also routinely burned with cigarettes, electrocuted, raped, and beaten with any available implement, such as steel rods, wire cables, television antennas, chains, water pipes, fan belts, and rubber hoses, as well as fists and feet. Some were executed.

Stepping out boldly in protest this March against this legacy is more important than ever.  We know from our work that many people living in this country think the Iraq war is “over” because some troops were moved to Afghanistan, and the trail of dead U.S. military has slowed.  The occupation, still 50,000 U.S. troops strong, with added combat capability of U.S. State Department troops, and tens of thousands of private contractors in 17 U.S. bases, is huge and permanent.  Unless it is exposed and stopped by U.S. public opinion and action.

On the 8th anniversary of U.S. war on Iraq, we strengthen our demand to end the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, and the secret bombing and black operations of Pakistan and Yemen.

In U.S. Raids: High Tech Terror in Afghanistan, Everest looks into what the U.S. diplomatic cables say about the US forces occupying Afghanistan. One example:

A January 19, 2009 cable describes the outcry after “at least six operations since mid-December” led to charges of “civilian casualties” and “wrongful detentions.” The cable also reports, “Two special operations missions in December 2008 in Arghandab district allegedly displaced up to 200 families, who fled to Qalat [a town of some 10,000 people and the capital of Zabul province].” (“WikiLeaks cables: Afghan elders threaten to display civilian victims’ bodies,” Guardian UK, December 3, 2010)

In case you missed the tremendously down-played Pentagon announcement, Obama just sent more troops to Afghanistan.  Ken Theisen, in Obama Escalates War in Afghanistan

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal on January 6, 2011, President Obama is planning on a further escalation of the U.S. war of terror in Afghanistan. Obama’s “surge” will bring the total of U.S. forces in this war ravaged nation to almost 100,000.  The Journal reports that, “Defense Secretary Robert Gates has decided to send an additional 1,400 Marine combat forces to Afghanistan…”

Here are things you can do the next two months:

  • We Are Not Your SoldiersMarch 17-19, that’s a Thursday through Saturday, will be protest days in Washington D.C., organized by the ANSWER Coalition, Veterans for Peace, World Can’t Wait, and other groups.  Start making your plans now to mark that anniversary, in DC, or wherever you can be visible.
  • There are high school students to reach out to.  World Can’t Wait is putting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans on tour, leading up to the anniversary, and has resources available now through the We Are Not Your Soldiers tour.
  • Troops are being deployed to Afghanistan all this spring.  Don’t they and their families need to hear from us that they’re going to an illegitimate, unjust, immoral war, and they can resist!
  • Drones are being manufactured and controlled around the U.S.  Protests are ongoing against their use, and you can join them.
  • Bradley Manning may be put before a military court in March 2011.  Stay tuned for the ways in which you can support the person the U.S. charges as a whistle blower on these illegitimate wars of occupation.

Obey or Die

Obey or Die. This little girl’s parents were killed at a checkpoint in Iraq. Conservative estimates of Iraqi deaths are 76,000 to 94,000 verified media reported deaths. Separate survey techniques studies estimate 75,000 to 125,000 Iraqi deaths since 2003.

Victory in Iraq is a mass media lie. The military presence continues to fuel violence. When the armed forces leave Iraq, Iraqis can begin to assert control over their own destinies, rebuild their country, reconstruct their social institutions and improve the security and welfare for all Iraqis.

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