Posts Tagged rally
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.”
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…
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:
- March 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.
Since hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. marched against the Iraq war in 2002/2003, I’ve been part of hundreds of conversations with people who wonder: what happened? Those mass mobilizations (which happened because the Democrats were so paralyzed they could neither get out in front of them nor offer a peep of resistance to the oncoming war themselves) were not futile. Worldwide, that was the largest, quickest mobilization against a war in history. Our combined action deprived the Bush regime from having the coalition it wished for, when the “willing” nations dwindled in the face of world public opinion.
But yes, Bush & Cheney, surely the most unpopular leaders in generations, held on, wreaking havoc abroad and here. We failed to mount to level of protest necessary to drive them from office in disgrace; instead, Bush was succeeded by an unlikely Democrat, elected largely to overcome the outrage at the Bush regime. Two occupations, and a couple of secret wars, continue – in the longest-running active military campaign by the largest-ever military (I know “combat” troops have left Iraq; yet 17 U.S. bases remain, along with 50,000 troops and uncounted private contractors).
All sorts of protest, from weekly vigils, to large street protests, civil disobedience, active duty military resistance, droves of soldiers going awol, high school walk-outs, protests inside Congress, dramatic die-ins, involving tens of thousands of arrests have not stopped them. I know people are agonized, and wonder which tactics will work. If we avoid Saturday protests and focus on weekdays, will that get their attention? If we put all our energies into one great Saturday march, will that be enough to get national media attention? If we throw our bodies across arbitrary lines to get arrested? Will they who make the wars ever be made to stop?
All those actions – and more – are part of what it would take to force the U.S. to withdraw from Afghanistan, and to abandon the ground war and drones in Pakistan. It’s not a matter of protest tactics. We need controversy dividing every institution in society, from religious to educational, over whether these wars, and those who advocate them, are legitimate. We must find a way to bring in those under 18, who may not even remember the evil Bush regime, but who will be pressed into service for Obama’s successor.
We can’t rely on mainstream media to relate our demands; we can’t fail to challenge them to do so. We’ve got to use every outrage as a way of educating people to understand that these wars are fundamentally against the interests of the people living in this country, and of those who are occupied… and that your government is lying to you.
All that said, World Can’t Wait will continue to be in the streets with visible protest, weekdays, weekends, and when it can make a difference. We’re determined to expand the We Are Not Your Soldiers program, bringing veterans of Iraq & Afghanistan into high school classrooms.
There is nothing like coming face to face with someone who has “been there” to burst illusions about what being an occupier is like. There’s an 85% chance that someone joining the military now will be sent to a combat zone. They will be trained to follow orders that involve the commission of war crimes and violations of civilians’ rights, and not to question those orders. Someone who has seen what that training does to themselves and those they occupy can stop kids from going into the military.
That’s a worthwhile effort to stop the wars. I hope you’ll donate to the World Can’t Wait end of year fund-raising drive. Designate your donation for “We Are Not Your Soldiers” if you wish.
I was with a small group of protesters today at the new Army Recruiting Center downtown near Ground Zero. Two police cars were called by the recruiters; apparently holding signs saying “Don’t Enlist! Resist!” and handing out hundreds of flyers seemed very dangerous.
A young German literature student stood for a long time, offering help from afar, and asking why people in the US are so quiet about the war. Just then a woman pushing a baby stroller sped by, took a flyer, and said that the recruiters have been open for weeks already — “where have you been?” I had to ask where she had been if it bothers her so much.
400 people took flyers in an hour, dozens of people thanked us, 4 cops glowered at us, 3 self-described ex-Marines screamed at us. The Marine recruiters down the street started sending their guys in dress uniforms to strut up and down the block, so we went down there for awhile, discussing with two new recruits why they were joining. “To keep America safe.” “Because I can learn discipline.”
Elaine Brower told them about her son’s two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, with the Marines. “You’re just going to be killing people there. How is that going to make anyone safe?” She ran it down. They got more and more quiet. After 20 minutes, the Staff Sergeant pulled them back inside, under orders not to engage with us.
We’ll be back on Chambers Street Wednesdays at noon. No doubt this will all get more interesting, and important a thing to be doing.
For immediate release December 17, 2009
Contact: Elaine Brower 917-520-0767
Anti-War Protest at Army’s New Chambers St. Recruiting Center
What: Picket line / Speak-out / Photo op
Where: 143 Chambers Street @ West Broadway
When: 12:00 pm, Friday December 18, 2009
In response to the opening today of the Army’s new recruiting center in downtown Manhattan, opponents of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq announced a protest tomorrow.
World Can’t Wait, Code Pink, Veterans for Peace and members of Military Families Speak Out/NY will be protesting.
Elaine Brower, mother of a US marine who has been deployed to both war zones, said.
“We know that President Obama wants to increase the size of the military by 92,000. The current military is tired and war-weary. They can’t keep sending these same guys back four times. They’re going nuts. The Army needs to fill those spots, and they will get them any way they can, whether it’s through teaching kids to play violent video games that simulate the killing of other human beings at the Army Experience Center trial project in Philadelphia or setting up near a college where kids are graduating with so much debt and no jobs.”
The Army says it chose the Chambers Street location to be near the Borough of Manhattan Community College and Stuyvesant High School, both located further west on the street.
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On Saturday, December 12, 2009, an antiwar rally was held at Lafayette Square Park by the White House. Speakers included Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney, Ralph Nader, Chris Hedges all speaking out against the recent escalation of troops into Afghanistan and against Obama’s wars. This is my speech.
Americans may think that after Obama’s speech at West Point Academy to call for 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and after Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech,which laid out clear guidelines for waging a just war and how those guidelines will be followed during the oncoming surge in Afghanistan, there is no reason for Americans to voice their disapproval of the war.
However, a coalition of antiwar organizers, peace and justice advocates, and citizens of conscience disagree and are not willing to accept Obama’s efforts to deflect criticism and tamp down outrage toward the Afghanistan War. Hundreds if not thousands of people will be in Lafayette Square nearby the White House in Washington, D.C. today at 11 am ET.
Rally organizers have put together a roster of speakers that include consumer advocate Ralph Nader, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, former Sen. Mike Gravel, Kathy Kelly, Chris Hedges, David Swanson, Gael Murphy, Debra Sweet, and others opposed to current U.S. war policies in the Middle East.
The rally will directly call for vigorous opposition to the military escalation in Afghanistan and a rejection of defeatist thinking and futile rationales, which have been hampering the anti-war movement in America.
Laurie Dobson, a lead organizer of the rally believes it is the peace community’s responsibility “to focus on peace and justice for the world’s people and for our people. And the reason she and others are taking action is because the peace movement must be the consciences for our leaders” especially when they choose expansion of war rather than a phased withdrawal of war.
Speakers will directly challenge Obama’s bizarre justifications for continuing the war in Afghanistan especially the idea that expanding a war is the best way to prepare for a withdrawal.
For example, Ralph Nader recently wrote in his In the Public Interest column, “To say as Obama inferred in his Oslo speech that the greater plunge into Afghanistan is self-defense, with proportional force and sparing civilians from violence is a scale of self-delusion or political cowardliness that is dejecting his liberal base.”
There is no real way to gauge right now how disenchanted liberals and progressives might become with Obama but if he stays the course, this surge could create a trap for Democrats in this country.
Cynthia McKinney says in Congress Republicans may be willing to support Obama and vote for his war legislation now but come 2012 they will put up their own candidate. She suspects that voters will remember Obama’s actions on U.S. wars and Obama could be in trouble.
Elaine Brower, who is with Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) and who will be speaking at the rally, thinks many didn’t expect Obama to do this because his rhetoric suggested he would act differently when elected president.
Brower suggests people of this country look past his rhetoric and see the politician. She says Obama is trying to sell the American people a war that isn’t really a war because we aren’t really fighting anybody; we are really just waging a massive occupation that is resulting an enormous loss of human lives.
Those participating in the rally see this as a way of reigniting the fire within a movement that unfortunately chose to temper their opposition during Obama’s presidential campaign and now his first year in office.
For those wondering why they should be participating in any actions that allow people to show they oppose the Afghanistan War, Matthis Chiroux, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War who will be speaking at the rally, thinks the Nobel Peace prize speech Obama gave should give people reason to oppose this war.
Chiroux hopes all would resist this war because “Americans did not elect Obama to wage war but to wage peace instead.”
Kathy Kelly, a peace advocate who has visited and witnessed firsthand the impact of conflict in Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Sarajevo is convinced that “if the U.S. public can recognize the folly of the war in Iraq, followed by the folly of the war in Afghanistan, and then recognize the folly of maintaining 700-900 bases around the world” then we will be able to stop these wars.
She hopes people that are retired and still have a lot of energy will “use their twilight years to ensure that there will be an inhabitable world for those grandchildren.” And she hopes parents who love their children will begin to recognize the choices ahead, engage in the community, change their lifestyle, and let the elected leaders know Americans won’t accommodate their ruthless warmongering behavior anymore.
Chris Hedges, Truthdig.com columnist and author whose most recent book is The Empire of Illusion, will also be a speaker at the rally and suggests that, “A lot of this is about doing something rather than doing nothing and attempting to influence events because it’s clear the Democratic Party has betrayed us.”
Hedges understands no antiwar organizer or leader can promise it will work but “if we do nothing, we’re guaranteeing that the imperial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will go on for years.”
“It’s all we have left,” says Hedges. “Unless people get out in the street and actively build grassroots opposition against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s going to be never-ending war.”
“So let us reach for the world that ought to be – that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. Somewhere today, in the here and now, a soldier sees he’s outgunned but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams.”
-President Barack Obama, December 10th, 2009, from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech
When Obama remarked on young protestors awaiting the brutality of their government, he probably wasn’t thinking about the hundreds of Afghan university students who have been rallying against a U.S.-led raid earlier this week, an act of brutality that resulted in civilian deaths. He probably wasn’t referring to how four civilians protesting the raid were gunned down by Afghan troops, which NATO and the U.S. are using to successfully wage war and occupation in Afghanistan.
How does one reconcile the acceptance of a peace prize with the deployment of 30,000 more troops to a country for a war? How does one rationalize the continued use of NATO forces and Afghan security forces to further destabilize and ruin one of the poorest countries in the world with rhetorical flourishes that reference historic peace advocates like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr.?
A new coalition of antiwar organizations, peace and justice advocates, and citizens of consience in America aim—the End U.S. Wars Coalition—aims to address such questions and will come together this weekend for a rally on Saturday, Dec. 12th, in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. Not far from the White House, they will challenge the Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama and his administration to halt the escalation in Afghanistan and stop the war crimes being committed in countries throughout the Middle East by U.S. forces.
Laurie Dobson, a lead organizer for the rally, intends to make sure Obama knows there is a consequence for his decisions. Dobson wants leaders from Congress to the White House to know the antiwar movement will respond to decisions for escalation or expansion of U.S. wars.
Organizers behind this End US Wars Rally also seek to engage and energize fellow citizens to challenge this “war party mentality” and also reject defeatist thinking and futile rationales, which have had a demobilizing effect on the antiwar movement in the past year.
Lynne Williams, a Green Party candidate for governor in Maine who will be speaking at the rally, says, “There’s a need for visibility.”
Williams explains, “A lot of people including a lot of progressive democrats really believed Barack Obama’s rhetoric and thought, ‘Let’s give him a chance. It can’t be worse than Bush and Cheney.’ Yeah, it can. It can be at least as bad if not worse. And the way it can be worse is not because Barack Obama does not have perhaps more of a moral compass but because so many people in the movement at least until recently” were not out visibly protesting war because Obama is president.
National World Can’t Wait leader Debra Sweet, who will be speaking at the event, explains that World Can’t Wait is participating in the first national rally since Obama announced the surge of the troops to Afghanistan because his campaign promise to make Afghanistan into a good war and increase U.S. forces should not be tolerated.
Sweet, along with other organizers, are compelling all Americans, from those who didn’t vote for Obama to those who still believe in the power of Obama to bring peace to the world, to come and join in the antiwar movement’s action this weekend.
“I really welcome the people who voted for Obama and in a sense the people still hoping for the best to be a part of it,” says Sweet. She adds, “Those of us who did not vote for Obama and were concerned for this very thing—We have to stick to our principles and keep making a noise about it and pull as many people into reality if we can.”
Sweet and others speaking and organizing for this rally believe the time is now for Americans to assess the reality of the situation. The people of this country should be educating their friends and neighbors on the situation in Afghanistan and at home. They should be providing information for understanding the true implications for expanding the Afghanistan War.
“Whether Obama stated something in his campaign or not, that doesn’t mean we fall behind his campaign promises whether they went in a certain direction or not. We have to hold him to account to be the best representative of the people that we can,” says Dobson. “The campaign is over but the process of becoming a respectable president has begun and he has fallen so short and it has become apparent to even the most hardened Democrats that he never was a true antiwar candidate.”