Posts Tagged protest
Thanks to Medea Benjamin, Code Pink, Reprieve, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the attention and energy of 400 who gathered this past Saturday at Georgetown Law School, we were able to consider Drones Around the Globe: Proliferation & Resistance. It was a very worthwhile weekend which will impact how people act on and respond to U.S. use of drones.
Most movingly, we heard from three people who traveled from Yemen to speak of U.S. drone strikes. Kevin Gosztola on Faisal bin Ali Jaber’s calm, deliberate description of the attack that killed his brother and nephew, just after his own son’s wedding:
Five men were gathering behind a local mosque in their village of Khashamir in southeast Yemen when a US drone launched Hellfire missiles at them. Four of the men were instantly killed, their bodies blown into pieces. The fifth man was killed as he tried to crawl away.
The attack took place on August 29, 2012. Yemen’s Defense Ministry initially claimed that three members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had been killed. Two of the individuals killed, according to a Human Rights Watch report, turned out to be Salim bin Ali Jaber, “a cleric and father of seven,” who “had long preached against AQAP’s violent methods.” Another man killed was Walid bin Ali Jaber, “one of the village’s few police officers.” They had been participating in a meeting because “three alleged AQAP members” wanted to meet with him about a recent “strong denunciation of AQAP at the local mosque.”
Marjorie Cohn, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, presented on the claim that the U.S. drone programs violate international law. She recounts in Voices from the Drone Summit:
Baraa Shaiban, a human rights activist who works with REPRIEVE, revealed that 2012 was a year that saw “drones like never before” in Yemen. He described the death of a mother and daughter from a drone strike. “The daughter was holding the mother so tight, they could not be separated. They had to be buried together.”
Two members of Al Qaeda were in Entesar al Qadhi’s village, one of the most oil rich areas of Yemen. Villagers were negotiating with the two men. A drone killed the chief negotiator, scuttling the negotiations and leaving the village vulnerable to Al Qaeda. “The drones are for Al Qaeda, not against Al Qaeda,” al Qadhi said.
Former military intelligence Analyst Daniel Hale told us that he was 14 on 9/11/01. When he reported to work in 2012, he passed constant photos of 9/11, aimed at directing his “mission” to kill terrorists. He related an incident in 2012 where the military’s qualification for a drone strike was whether the target was “of military age.” “This struck me as ridiculous” he said, that children were considered targets. My tweeted note: “Hale had thought he was defending US interests, told terrorists were cowards, but began to think US military shooting drones are cowards.”
Pardiss Kebriaei and Mary Ellen O’Connell joined Cohn in speaking about the legal challenge to drone strikes, exposing the Obama/Bush administration’s legal justification as very basically counter to the Geneva Convention and the UN Charter (which themselves are effectively U.S. law).
Very interesting to me was a presentation by Dalit Baum (@dalitbaum) on the use of autonomous weapons by Israel. Baum described unmanned bulldozers knocking down homes. Why? The Israeli military needed to remove human operators because 1) they might talk afterward, and 2) they might lose their nerve. Baum also showed a chilling video clip of a drone killing of several Bedouin youth near the Wall in Gaza by Israeli drones. We learned that the major drone producing countries are the U.S., the U.K., and Israel, with Israel producing 41% of the world’s drones.
There’s more. We worked hard on Sunday on how to spread opposition to drones way beyond the existing too tiny movement. Monday night, The Illuminator and Granny Peace Brigade lit up midtown:
The U.S. War on Afghanistan — I refuse to call it the “Afghanistan war” because Afghans didn’t start it — is now 12 years old. Longer than the official American war on Vietnam; it’s gone on half a generation, or more.
In 2001, on October 6 (a Sunday) George Bush announced the attack on Afghanistan. Some perceived the action as revenge for 9/11, though that was just a pretext for an action Rumsfeld, Cheney and other neo-cons had planned for years. On the morning on 9/11, Rumsfeld said it was time to “go massive.” “Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”
US destruction went massive, leaving one of the poorest countries in the world, already torn up by an occupation by the Soviet Union, with a brutal civil war between war lords, still impoverished, threatened by continued U.S. domination, Islamic fundamentalism, and the same warlords having been enriched by U.S. billions.
People born after 1990 don’t really remember a time when there wasn’t a US war on Afghanistan. Many people think the war is “over” or “ending” thanks to Obama.
Will it be over in 2014? What does “over” mean, and have any of the promises the US made come true for the people of Afghanistan?
We’ll talk reality, history, share what people think, and what plans we are making to stop this crime of our government. Register for dial-in info.
We’ve culled the comprehensive section on worldcantwait.net about Afghanistan. These articles paint a picture that no NATO or U.S. general can successfully cover over with words about “winning hearts and minds.”
Kathy Kelly, Afghanistan: The Ghost and the Machine
Glenn Greenwald, Another Afghan Family Extinguished by a NATO Airstrike
Kevin Gosztola, Reflecting on the Afghanistan War Logs Released by WikiLeaks
Larry Everest, Made in America: The Gardez Massacre
The report from the United Nations seems to indicate a large amount of deadly gas was aimed at Syrian civilians on August 21. The U.S. has already concluded the gas came from the Assad government, and not the rebels. If that is true, by what authority does the U.S. claim the right to bomb Syrian civilians in the name of stopping chemical weapons? Or keep arming rebels in Syria or the military in Egypt?
Larry Everest says this crisis is not really about chemical weapons, but about global aims of the U.S. in the region in Syria: Diplomacy… and Ongoing Danger of a U.S. Attack
The tyrannical, murderous regime of a small, oppressed country is being forced under threat of bombardment to partially disarm by reactionary powers with far, far, far greater arsenals of death and destruction—including nuclear weapons that are qualitatively more savage and dangerous than chemical weapons—precisely in order to preserve their monopoly over these weapons of cataclysmic death and destruction…The Obama team may be calculating that because it lacks any good or easy options in Syria, striking this deal can be to its advantage, including because by appearing to “give peace a chance” it can build greater support for a possible military assault later if that is deemed necessary.
Everest does not say that any one course has already been determined, is inevitable, or without grave risk for the U.S. war planners. It’s very worth watching Everest speak last week, just before Obama’s speech and the announcement of “negotiations.”
Dennis Loo, in a 2 part series, looks at what scenarios the U.S. may be considering re Syria and Iran in Syria: Jubilation is Unwarranted:
Obama has not suddenly found his Nobel Peace Prize persona and people should not jettison their hard won disillusionment for what he has done since being elected president in 2008.
This is the same Obama who proposed bombing Syria irrespective of Congress, irrespective of international law, the Nuremberg Tribunal, and the UN Charter..
Negotiations and “peace” agreements are all part of the arsenal of weapons that Empires use to get what they want. And what the U.S. Empire wants is not really the disarming of Assad’s chemical weapons but the removal of Assad from office. As reactionary as Assad is (very), he has become an obstacle to (especially) U.S. and Israel’s plans for the region.
In part 2, Dennis quotes Zbigniew Brezezinsky (who was National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter and “author of the U.S. policy of backing the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan from 1979-1989. This policy gave birth to al-Qaeda whose revenge for having the rug pulled out from under them after the U.S. got what it wanted with the Russian withdrawal is most spectacularly known as 9/11.”):
I think the problem with Syria is its potentially destabilizing and contagious effect—namely, the vulnerability of Jordan, of Lebanon, the possibility that Iraq will really become part of a larger Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict, and that there could be a grand collision between us and the Iranians. I think the stakes are larger and the situation is far less predictable and certainly not very susceptible to effective containment just to Syria by American power.
It’s imperative we step back from assumptions that this crisis is about chemical weapons, just about Syria or regime change there, or… that it’s over.
Amnesty International and the Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning Support Network initiated a petition on WhiteHouse.gov calling on Barack Obama to “grant clemency to Pvt. Bradley Manning.” The petition requires 100,000 signatures by September 20 for the White House to have to comment on it, or it will die. So far there are just over 24,000 signers.
We are almost 25% of the way to 100,000 signers, and must pick up momentum quickly. On Monday September 16, #PardonManning Day, will you sign the peititon, and do the work to be sure that 5 of your friends, family, or colleagues do so?
President Obama has already granted pardons to 39 other prisoners, and a White House spokesperson said he would give consideration to PVT Manning’s request. Showing public support for PVT Manning’s application is the best way to give her a real chance of being released in 3 years, or even sooner. Sign our petition on Whitehouse.gov, and then submit your photo with a personal message at pardon.bradleymanning.org
You can steal (copy + paste) tweets to promote the action here like this:
#PardonManning Day. 76,000 signers needed Now. Do the work to get 5 more to sign for justice 4 #Manning https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/restore-united-states%E2%80%99-human-rights-record-and-grant-clemency-pvt-bradley-manning/L7zHZv4r …
You KNOW how to reach your people. Let’s come together by Monday with a mass outpouring for Chelsea Manning’s freedom.
We’ve gotten some response that supporters of Manning don’t with to give the White House their email addresses. We are all for privacy rights. But have you read the news since June 5? The NSA via direction by the Obama administration already has so much more than your email address. Defense of Manning and Edward Snowden is exactly what’s called for in response to the government’s vast surveillance against whole populations.
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It is a good thing that thousands of people protested and many more voiced their opposition to a U.S. strike on Syria. But it’s not good that some are relaxing, much less celebrating, in the delusional idea that somehow diplomacy has “worked” to prevent the Obama administration from going forward with this attack. It would be very bad if people recede into passivity and acceptance, thinking that the danger of war is lessened, when it could well be higher, as Obama works the world for support.
Wednesday’s New York Times headline, accurate in this case, said “Obama Delays Syria Strike to Focus on Russian Plan,” while reporting that Obama argued harder than ever for a strike to punish Syria, and didn’t give any timetable for how long he would wait to act, or go back to Congress. This is not “no war” from Obama. It’s “let us work on this harder.”
Larry Everest, speaking Monday pre-empted Obama’s assertion that “the world’s a better place” because for “nearly seven decades the United States has been the anchor of global security by going into the historical precedent of the plan Bush & Cheney pursued in 2002/03, playing at diplomacy, while ever tightening the vice on Iraq; promising a 90 day war that would end with cheering Iraqis. It is that disaster which is making a lot of people in this country at least hesitate to say “yes” to Obama.
World Can’t Wait gathered voices of conscience Bob Bossie, Ted Jennings, Kathy Kelly and Mario Venegas to speak out Wednesday morning in Chicago. I appreciate Kathy’s comment that “anyone who goes along with the idea of a ‘surgical strike’ needs a second opinion.” Ted & Mario spoke of their support for Obama on some matters, but absolute opposition to aggression against Syria. The speakers, with experience all over the world on U.S. diplomacy and duplicity accurately assessed that the danger of a US attack is not over.
It would be one thing if the speech was anything but a war-mongering attempt to justify what Obama has planned. But what a bunch of lies! Revolution in More Lies for War from the Liar-in-Chief described “libraries full of books, decades of documentaries, and the testimony of hundreds of millions of victims of what the U.S. has brought to the world would hardly begin to reveal the extent to which these are all LIES.” After citing some of those decades of U.S. actions, it continued
Speaking to a world population that is much more aware than are people in the U.S. of the legacy of U.S. violent crimes around the world, and speaking to (and embracing) the “hawks” in the ruling class and good ole boys watching on TV, Obama put on his stern face, looked into the cameras, and made this ominous declaration and threat:
“Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn’t do pinpricks.”
U.S. diplomacy rests on violence and threats of violence, and is aimed at the same ends as violence of enforcing exploitation and oppression, fending off rivals, and keeping people enslaved. If Tony Soprano establishes the freedom to set up and run drug dealing, prostitution, and extortion in a district by threatening to strangle someone (a threat that only means something because everyone knows he actually strangles people), how is that something to celebrate?
Hearing this should make us all more determined to stop this illegitimate strike on Syria, covered by diplomacy, or not.
While protesting in Times Square Saturday, we listened amid the noise to Obama’s speech of mostly stick, and a little carrot. Some of the protesters took his “largesse” at offering Congress the chance to endorse his plan to attack Syria (the carrot) as a concession by Obama. They say we should seize the moment and “let Congress know” how many people are against this strike and potential regional war.
Congress knows, as they read the public opinion polls too, and there could be an actual political fight in Congress over Obama’s plan, leading to a political damage for his agenda. But, as John Kerry, the former anti-war veteran turned Secretary of ruling class warmongering said,
“We don’t contemplate that the Congress is going to vote no,” Kerry said, but he stressed the president had the right to take action “no matter what Congress does.”
That was the stick of Obama’s message, backed up by his assertion that as Commander in Chief, his military is ready today, tomorrow, or in the near future to strike.
It is true Obama is having difficulty selling the plan of Tomahawk missile strikes narrowly targeted at the Assad regime’s air power, as war-planners, other governments and political observers alike are questioning the inherent unpredictability and dangers Obama’s plan poses. But is his move toward Congress actually motivated by his respect for the “constitutional democracy” which is how he described the United States?
Larry Everest says in Lies to Justify an Immoral War:
What is going on here IS an exercise in democracy—but it is an exercise in capitalist-imperialist democracy, which is in essence the dictatorship of the imperialist ruling class. The Obama team felt it had the freedom, but also the NECESSITY, given the widespread public cynicism about yet another case of “slam dunk” evidence, yet another U.S. military adventure, and unresolved concerns in the ruling class over where an attack on Syria would lead, to give this speech and launch this process he calls for, along with a need to make a case to an international audience and push allies into line and deal with a complex international alignment of forces.
Dennis Loo describes Obama’s approach in O-bomb-a Syria as an exercise for public consumption:
When governments such as the U.S. decide to go to war, by the time that they announce publicly that they are seriously considering whether or not to launch the missiles and send the ships, etc., they have already behind closed doors decided to commence hostilities. Modern warfare requires months of painstaking, protracted, and laborious military planning and placing equipment and personnel in place. These logistical matters dictate that no government planning to launch aggressive war as the U.S. is doing is doing so only now because all of a sudden they have “discovered” that chemical weapons have been used. They have been placing assets in place for weeks and months ahead of time and drawing up attack plans for similarly long periods of time.
The public show of debating, discussing, and rattling the sabers are a PR exercise designed specifically to win over the public to supporting what the rulers have behind closed doors already determined is in their best interests to do.
I appreciated Glenn Greenwald’s wry take in Obama, Congress and Syria, too, although he doesn’t have the same critique of democracy:
It’s a potent sign of how low the American political bar is set that gratitude is expressed because a US president says he will ask Congress to vote before he starts bombing another country that is not attacking or threatening the US. That the US will not become involved in foreign wars of choice without the consent of the American people through their representatives Congress is a central mandate of the US Constitution, not some enlightened, progressive innovation of the 21st century.
David Swanson goes to an essential, systemic problem, in Caveman Credibility and its Costs, that whatever Congress does, it can’t establish legitimacy for US military action through a mere vote.
If Congress were to say yes, the war would remain illegal under both the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact. And if Congress were to say no, President Obama has indicated that he might just launch the war anyway.
If you look at the resolution that Obama has proposed that Congress pass, it doesn’t grant permission for a specific limited missile strike on a particular country at a particular time, but for limitless warfare, as long as some connection can be made to weapons of mass destruction in the Syrian conflict. The White House has made clear that it believes this will add exactly nothing to its powers, as it already possesses open-ended authorizations for war in the never-repealed Afghanistan and Iraq authorizations, which themselves added exactly nothing to White House war powers, because the president is given total war power through the Constitution in invisible ink that only the White House can see.
The dangers here are obvious in the Obama strike, most especially to those under fire directly. I don’t agree with putting all our efforts — much less hopes — in Congress. The main factor in what the US empire is forced to do — whether it’s the talk shop of Congress, or the Commander in Chief — starts with what people living in this country think, and then do, in response to these outrageous war moves.
World Can’t Wait is posting key articles on the U.S. intervention against Syria. We call on everyone to join in mass protest.
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.
“I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son” said Barack Obama a day after the verdict of “not guilty” in the George Zimmerman trial. “we are a nation of laws, and the jury has spoken.”
Attorney General Eric Holder assured the NAACP that he is concerned about the case, and that “the Justice Department has an open investigation into it.”
The message here is that we — those righteously outraged at the stalking death of a black youth being justified by a jury — should remain calm. And we are told to wait on justice at the hands of a system built on slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and the New Jim Crow of mass incarceration. Our protests are the problem, not the underlying injustice, particularly according to Democratic Party leaders, whose purpose is to keep us passive, while they appear to “handle” the problem.
Turning your attention back to 2009, Barack Obama took office in the wake of — and because of — the disaster of the Bush regime laying waste to whole countries, attacking civil liberties, and establishing a system of indefinite detention, black sites, rendition and torture which affected tens of thousands of prisoners. Obama famously said he wanted to “look forward, not backward,” and starkly disappointed people who were under the illusion that justice would be served on the Bush regime — or at least someone in charge of torture — by the new administration.
Obama and Holder did make some promises which turned out to be aimed at pacifying critics. The Justice Department “investigated” the CIA torture in Guantanamo, captured on videotape, allowing the perpetrators to get away with destroying the tapes. They decided not to release the photos of the military torture at Abu Ghraib. The Justice Department, presumably, looked into the legal justification, practice, and individual orders and responsibility for a wide range of illegitimate actions, known to be against international law, involving thousands of victims.
And then, snooze, they found nothing really wrong, or at least nothing they would prosecute. See Justice Department Ends Investigation on Alleged Use of Torture by CIA.
It’s the same old story. The rights of people under the empire don’t matter. And Trayvon Martin, to quote the 1857 Dred Scott Decision of the US Supreme Court, will likely be found to have “no rights the white man was bound to respect.”
I am not exaggerating here. WHEN has a federal investigation brought justice in a situation where crimes have been carried out, supported, or excused by government?
We indict the U.S. government. Example: For the mass incarceration of over 2.4 million people in the United States, mainly Black and Latino, a program with a genocidal impact against these groups, including torture, solitary confinement, and unjust executions.
Is it true that “protest for justice doesn’t do any good?” No, a thousand times, no.
People in groups, in the streets – or in state houses screaming — articulating a strong political message changes the terms of how people see things, bringing out viewpoints that are not given voice in managed debate in ruling class media. People arguing passionately for a cause and sometimes putting their lives on the line – especially when their message hits deeply at a sharp fault-line underlying conflict in a society – can change how whole societies view whether what a government is doing, or not doing, is legitimate.
Street protest is not the only element needed for major social change, but it’s the one feature of mass political mobilization that’s essential. It’s so essential that people in most of the world know to gather together, raise demands, and make noise, marching together to show determination and urgency.
Two recent examples from within the United States:
One. In spring 2012, when the news spread that 17 year old Trayvon Martin had been shot in the heart by a vigilante, wanna-be cop named George Zimmerman, and that no charges had been filed in the killing, it struck a nerve. Was the life of a young black man really worth… nothing and of no consequence? Hundreds, then tens of thousands rallied, marched, made popular a hoodie as a symbol of protest, and demanded Zimmerman be charged.
That is the only reason there’s a trial going on now in Florida. And if the prosecution failed to put on a case convincing the jury beyond a reasonable doubt to convict, there better be more protest (see stopmassincarceration.org).
Two. Texas legislators tried to push through a law against abortion after 22 weeks, which would close down most of the women’s clinics, and enforce motherhood for thousands of women. Wendy Davis filibustered, and women — I know because I have friends who did this — jumped in their cars and drove from all over the state to fill the State House in support. This support for abortion galvanized others to stay up all night, and led to much different headlines. The bill, at that point at least, was stopped.
Just as important, people began to feel like the troops had finally come out to change the terrible direction of anti-abortion legislation, finally, and are echoing it elsewhere (see stoppatriarchy.org).
There is no substitute for determined protest against the outrages which come at us. The actions of a few can ignite the outrage of many. Otherwise, the status quo holds, and people conclude “there is nothing you can do.”
And it’s particularly important to come out at certain moments when days and hours matter.
Such as when the government of the world’s largest empire revokes the passport of a whistle-blower who happens to have exposed vast criminal surveillance of whole populations by that government, and threatens the governments of any country who might provide him asylum.
I’ll be speaking at the rally for Bradley this Saturday June 1, two days before his trial begins. Join me at Ft. Meade, or find a solidarity rally near you.
On Wide Lens
Host Jolie Diane interviews Debra Sweet of World Can’t Wait and Jeff Patterson of Courage to Resist about the actions and detention of Bradley Manning.