Posts Tagged war

Occupying, Everywhere, to STOP U.S. Occupations

An irony acutely felt this week:

Tens of thousands of people in the U.S., taking the lead from millions in the Middle East, are “occupying” public spaces, seeking change in the the world as it is, standing up to authority, power, and blowing the ceiling off expectations that the vast disparity in global income “has to” be as it is.  We’ve got to spread these occupations!

Hundreds of thousands of U.S. military, support staff and private contractors are “occupying” two countries in the Middle East, in a mission to enforce, with a vengeance, U.S. domination over the region, employing night raids, torture, and terror towards the civilian population.  We’ve got to end those occupations!

We marked the 10th anniversary of the Bush regime’s bombing and invasion of Afghanistan last week, with protests across the U.S. which were in many cases intermingled with the Occupy Wall Street protests, and in all cases influenced by the outpouring of public anger at the system.

Significantly, a protest in Kabul by Afghans demanded the occupiers leave.

Protesters march in Kabul

Watch Reuters video of the protest in Kabul against U.S. occupation

Yesterday, the United Nations released a report on the detention system in Afghanistan, bought, run and paid for by those who occupy the Pentagon. The New York Times reports that it

paints a devastating picture of abuse, citing evidence of “systematic torture” during interrogations by Afghan intelligence and police officials even as American and other Western backers provide training and pay for nearly the entire budget of the Afghan ministries running the detention centers.

Detainees — and we’ve known this since November 2001, when the U.S. first set up operations at an old Afghan prison in Bagram — are hung by their hands and beaten with cables, their genitals twisted until they lose consciousness.  Because of the Obama administration’s successful argument that the prisoners are not entitled to habeas corpus rights, they have no way out.

This is in no way a departure from all the rest of the Bush war crimes begun 10 years ago.  The NY Times, which editorially opposes torture, while supporting the wars in which the U.S. uses it, said today

such widespread use of torture in a detention system supported by American mentors and money raises serious questions about potential complicity of American officials and whether they benefited from information obtained from suspects who had been tortured….There have been a number of instances that raise similar questions in other places, including Uzbekistan, Pakistan and El Salvador, according to a RAND Corporation report in 2006.

This systematic abuse must be working for the United States government.  According to Glenn Greenwald, the Obama administration

unveiled plans for “the construction of Detention Facility in Parwan (DFIP), Bagram, Afghanistan” which includes “detainee housing capability for approximately 2000 detainees.”  It will also feature “guard towers, administrative facility and Vehicle/Personnel Access Control Gates, security surveillance and restricted access systems.”  The announcement provided: ”the estimated cost of the project is between $25,000,000 to $100,000,000.”

This occupation won’t be ended by Obama, or any presidents to follow him, unless people in this country demand it.

Raise your voice!  January 11, 2012, we’ll be back in Washington on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. prison in Guantanamo, marking it with a protest/human chain of 2,200 people.  We’ll stand for the 171 prisoners in Guantanamo, with no way out, and the 2,000 some at Bagram, with no legal standing. Join in!

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Occupying Wall Street & Resisting State Execution

Over the last few years, people have looked around at the movement for social justice and said, often, “Where are the youth?”  This past week, in NYC they have been out on the streets, crackling with frustration, outrage, energy, and some hope and joy at just standing against what they can’t bear to be a part of.

Mourning Troy Davis, Union Square, September 22, 2011

Monday through Thursday evenings last week in NYC, they turned out for rallies, vigils, and marches at Union Square, Columbia University, NYU, in Harlem, and down to Wall Street, against the “legal lynching” of Troy Davis.

Beginning last Saturday, hundreds of mostly young people, including students, have been occupying Zuccotti Park (Broadway & Liberty) as part of the Occupy Wall Street action.

Though they don’t have an organization, or a set of demands, they are organizing themselves into a structured effort to wake up the population to the vast disparity between wealth and poverty, saying that they speak for the “99%” who have no power in the society.  People are arriving to join in from around the U.S., and from around the globe.

Today, hundreds of mostly young people marched from lower Broadway to Union Square as part of Occupy Wall Street.  It was a loud, energetic, even boisterous, but peaceful crowd chanting “we are the 99% — and so are you!” and “join us!”

Marching up Church Street, NYC, September 24, 2011

Thousands of shoppers in SOHO and tourists and New Yorkers were snapping photos and waving thumbs up.  Cab drivers were honking in rhythm with the drummers.  Troy Davis was present via signs, as people refused to resign ourselves to his execution.

After we made it to Union Square with only about 6 arrests, the NYPD pulled out the orange plastic nets and pepper spray, and arrested upwards of 80 people, for nothing but being in the street, and in some cases, on the sidewalk.  They staged a mass arrest reminiscent of the police state atmosphere they created in 2004 at the Republican National Convention where George W. was crowned again.  It appears from video that people with cameras were specifically targeted for arrest, as they were in 2004.

The New York Times blog reports

Protest organizers estimated that about 85 people had been arrested and that about five were struck with pepper spray. Among those was Chelsea Elliott, 25, who said that she was sprayed after shouting “Why are you doing that?” as an officer arrested a protester at East 12th Street.

“I was on the ground sobbing and couldn’t breathe,” she said. The ongoing protests, against a financial system that participants say favors the rich and powerful over ordinary citizens, started last Saturday, and were coordinated by a New York group called the General Assembly.

The mass arrests are outrageous!  You can see more here, including live feed from Zuccotti Park, where people are feeding themselves and the homeless, playing music, talking to tourists, and working to free their arrested friends, with the help of the National Lawyers Guild.

As of this evening, up to 100 people remain in police custody.

The occupation of Wall Street will soon be joined by an occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C. on October 6.

In 10 days, it will be 10 years since the Bush regime began its bombing and invasion of Afghanistan; an illegitimate, unjust, immoral targeting of one of the poorest countries on earth.

Sign up to be part of World Can’t Wait’s dramatic visual antiwar presence at the Thursday, October 6 encampment October2011.org at Freedom Plaza, Washington DC.  See more at TenYearsandCounting and worldcantwait.net.

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Determination is Part of Stopping Unjust Wars

2003 NYC Protest

In 2002 and 2003 millions flooded the streets around the world, trying to stop the Bush regime

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.

narrating collateral murder

Veterans speaking to high school students: We Are Not Your Soldiers

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.

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US Response to Wikileaks: Diplomacy as Another Means of Warfare

Can  you imagine the conversation in the Obama administration since the cables have been released by Wikileaks.org?   Attorney General Eric Holder, who can’t find a reason to prosecute anyone for actual torture, says ominously, referring to the legal difficulties in possible U.S. prosecution of Julian Assange,

“To the extent there are gaps in our laws, we will move to close those gaps, which is not to say that anybody at this point, because of their citizenship or their residence, is not a target or a subject of an investigation.”

Wikileaks Release Evidence of War Crimes

Read/Sign Petition: In Support of Julian Assange

But Robert Gates, whose Pentagon has been threatening Wikileaks openly since the Afghan War Diaries release in July, said on November 30:

“I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought… Many governments — some governments — deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation…Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.’’

The refrain from the government goes: Wikileaks is guilty of terrible crimes which “endanger national security;” they have blood on their hands…but, for damage control purposes, it’s not such a big deal when what they revealed.  Yet pressure was placed on Amazon.com this week to remove Wikileaks from its servers.  The site is up now, after being removed from Amazon.com’s servers Wednesday December 1.

The Department of Justice no doubt exerted pressure on Interpol to put out a warrant for Julian Assange on sexual misconduct charges from a prosecutor in Sweden that have been off and on again.  Jennifer Robinson, one of Assange’s British attorneys, said the warrant from Sweden was highly unusual for the charges, and that Assange is not in hiding, but is taking care of his personal safety, given threats by people in power against him.  See more today on Democracy Now.

Glenn Greenwald, on Salon.com writes about the kinds of attacks on Assange and takes them on:

“The group demanding that Julian Assange be murdered without any charges, trial or due process.  There was Sarah Palin on on Twitter illiterately accusing WikiLeaks — a stateless group run by an Australian citizen — of “treason”; she thereafter took to her Facebook page to object that Julian Assange was “not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders” (she also lied by stating that he has “blood on his hands”:  a claim which even the Pentagon admits is untrue).  Townhall’s John Hawkins has a column this morning entitled ”5 Reasons The CIA Should Have Already Killed Julian Assange.”  That Assange should be treated as a “traitor” and murdered with no due process has been strongly suggested if not outright urged by the likes of Marc Thiessen, Seth Lipsky (with Jeffrey Goldberg posting Lipsky’s column and also illiterately accusing Assange of “treason”), Jonah Goldberg, Rep. Pete King, and, today, The Wall Street Journal.

Those who demand that the U.S. Government take people’s lives with no oversight or due process as though they’re advocating changes in tax policy or mid-level personnel moves — eradicate him!, they bellow from their seats in the Colosseum — are just morally deranged barbarians. There’s just no other accurate way to put it. These are usually the same people, of course, who brand themselves “pro-life” and Crusaders for the Sanctity of Human Life and/or who deride Islamic extremists for their disregard for human life.”

In addition to the New York Times and other US mainstream media who are spinning the story of the cables in support of US domination of other countries, there are journalists analyzing the content of the cable leaks from the standpoint of justice.  Scott Horton, on Democracy Now December 1, talked about what was revealed over the last years, when the U.S. strongly pressured Spain not to prosecute Bush regime officials over rendition and indefinite detention.  Democracy Now summarizes:

U.S. officials were especially alarmed when prosecutors in Spain and Germany began comparing notes on their investigations into CIA extraordinary rendition flights. U.S. officials said, quote,  ‘This co-ordination among independent investigators will complicate our efforts to manage this case at a discreet government-to-government level.’  The investigation in Germany was in regard to the CIA abduction and rendition of German citizen Khaled El-Masri. He was wrongly abducted and flown to Afghanistan, where he was held for months without charge. When it looked like 13 CIA agents might be charged in the case, the U.S. embassy in Berlin stepped in and, according to one leaked cable, threatened, quote, that ‘issuance of international arrest warrants would have a negative impact on our bilateral relationship.’

Gareth Porter dug into the disinformation U.S. diplomats put out on Iran in Russians Refuted U.S. Claim of Iranian Missile Threat to Europe. Glen Ford takes apart US policy towards Iran in American Racism on Display in WikiLeaks Iran Cable:

Jeremy Scahill, this morning on Democracy Now, spoke to the open lies of the United States, specifically the Obama administration, in denying that the U.S. has military operations going on now in Pakistan.  The cables show otherwise.  Democracy Now.  Scahill exposes the Pakistani government’s blatant lies to its own people, while the U.S. behind the scenes, orchestrates two drone programs in Pakistan, allegedly a sovereign country.

Julian Assange, Wikileaks, and Brad Manning – whose execution is now being demanded by Mike Huckabee — must be defended, as a really key part of our movement to end the wars and war crimes.   This is just the beginning, on both sides of this battle over truth and empire.

We — all of us– need to keep digging into those cables and exposing the real crimes they cover.

I signed this statement, New Evidence Demands End to Wars, and urge you to come out to The White House on Thursday, December 16.

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Telling the truth vs. the election game

It’s election time, and our problem, as people who care about humanity, is not that the Democratic Party is likely to lose big at the polls. Our problem is that the crimes of our government continue under the Democrats, and far too few of the millions in this country who know this are acting to stop these crimes by independent, mass action.

Case: October 2nd. As thousands of people streamed towards the One Nation Working Together rally at the Lincoln Memorial, they saw a bright orange banner with the words “War Crimes Must Be Stopped – No Matter Who Does Them!” In the crowd of union workers, teachers, and progressive minded people brought to Washington by the NAACP and unions, they might have just nodded agreement, or shaken their heads at the mugshot of George Bush on the banner.

World Can't Wait at One Nation Rally

World Can't Wait at One Nation Rally

But next to the image of Bush on that banner is a mugshot of Barack Obama. This stopped many hundreds of people to take photos and gather around. The World Can’t Wait supporters, some wearing orange jumpsuits to symbolize the indefinite detention and torture still going on at Guantanamo, distributed thousands of flyers detailing a few of the war crimes in 2010, and struggled ably and with persistence, over what the facts are. Some who stopped agreed that the image was truthful, shaking their heads over how disappointed they are with the Democrats. But, of those who stopped, more disagreed, and some were disbelieving or angry at the comparison. “You can’t say that about Obama! Obama wouldn’t do any of those things! You should have been out here when Bush started it! You’re just helping the Tea Party!”

Case: October 7th: On the ninth anniversary of the day the Bush regime sent US forces to invade Afghanistan, World Can’t Wait ran an ad in The New York Times. “Crimes are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them!” it said, “End the silence of complicity,” with three examples from 2010 of how the Obama administration is “in some respects, worse than Bush:”

“Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of “terrorism,” merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly. Second, Obama says that the government can detain you indefinitely, even if you have been exonerated in a trial, and he has publicly floated the idea of “preventive detention.” Third, the Obama administration, in expanding the use of unmanned drone attacks, argues that the U.S. has the authority under international law to use such lethal force and extrajudicial killing in sovereign countries with which it is not at war.”  The ad was signed by an impressive list including Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, Cindy Sheehan, Mark Ruffalo, Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Hedges, and Roseanne Barr.

When World Can’t Wait ran seven full page ads in The New York Times and USA Today during the Bush years, calling for a mass movement to “Drive Out the Bush Regime,” the response was strong and immediate, with hundreds calling, donating and volunteering. Then, the campaign and election of Barack Obama sucked in much of the leadership and base of the mass anti-war movement. The effect of that has been to demobilize, confuse, and silence many. We knew this ad would get a different response, but also, we know that a minority of that movement is really deeply angry to the point of feeling betrayed by Obama. So we expected that the appearance of such a message in The New York Times would polarize and challenge readers, drawing a strong response.

We did this statement, and continue to push out with its content because:

People have been lied to, and are not paying attention. Many people don’t get the truth from mainstream media. World Can’t Wait puts priority on going out to people way beyond the “movement,” so we know that huge numbers of people are bombarded in the media with everything but the truth about the crimes of our government. From National Public Radio to every commercial network, magazine and blog, people get a version of the “official story” which leaves out what the US is really doing in the world. The destruction of Iraqi and Afghani society is systematically portrayed as “bringing democracy.” The photos from Abu Ghraib, which many people vaguely remember from 2004, were never fully released, nor was the story followed. The Obama administration refused to release the rest of those photos in 2009, because they had such a devastating effect on people’s opinion of the legitimacy of the US occupation of Iraq. So, people who don’t seek out the reality tell us things like, “Obama’s for peace. He ended the war, and closed Guantánamo.”

Willful “ignore-ance.” A donor to the ad wrote that she has “very few friends left” because of her criticism of Obama as not bringing change for the better. “I can’t tell you how much it means to mean to know there is a group espousing what I have been saying to my 250 people email list since right after Obama was elected and I noted who he was putting in his administration. Your ‘Crimes are Crimes…’ is the sad reality that so many do not want to face which I see as the reason for the lack of a real movement at the moment.”

I am reminded of what Bob Avakian, the revolutionary communist leader, writes about the problem of people “living in the house of Tony Soprano,” not wanting to know how all the “goodies” in the house were acquired. In that case, Avakian says, we have a responsibility to challenge them:

“There is a place where epistemology and morality meet. There is a place where you have to stand and say: It is not acceptable to refuse to look at something—or to refuse to believe something—because it makes you uncomfortable. And: It is not acceptable to believe something just because it makes you feel comfortable.”

Noam Chomsky, in a video on why he signed the Crimes are Crimes statement, referenced Judge Robert Jackson’s writing in the Nuremberg principles on war crimes, and put the challenge this way: “The principle of universality holds whatever the scale of the crimes, those who rightly condemned the crimes of George W. Bush should be judged by history and by their own consciences by how well they apply the same principles to his successors.”

The “politics of the possible” preclude any criticism of Obama, because he’s being attacked from the right. Even people who are very critical of the Obama administration and the Democrats repeat the mantra that if the Democrats “lose” Congress, things will be “worse.” This is not a “spontaneous” response, by the way. In the last 24 hours, the Obama campaign has sent out mass emails urging people to “get into the game” to “fight as hard as we ever have” against “special interests who want to put their conservative allies in control of Congress.”

OH NO! Like, the war in Afghanistan might be expanded; Guantánamo won’t be closed; the government’s powers to spy on the people via the Patriot Act and FBI raids would increase? Threats to Iran, support for the deadly siege on Gaza, subsidies to major banks would flow while 15 million people are out of work? There might be NO progress on stopping global warming? “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will stay in effect? The Supreme Court would find corporations are people entitled to give election money, but not people who can be held liable for human rights atrocities? All that might happen if Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are replaced with Republicans?

The situation is so much worse than that. The Democrats have firmly united behind the illegitimate so-called “War on Terror,” and have done terrible crimes based on the conferred “legitimacy” of the first African American president. And the right-wing threat is not from “special interests” but from a hard core of the ruling class who challenge even the legitimacy of Obama as president, and are seeking to remake the cohering norms of US society with a program of aggressive war on the world, racist attacks on immigrants, suppression of the rights of the people to unfettered capitalism, Christian theocracy, and suppression of science, all of which the Democratic Party capitulates and will not fight because they basically agree. The right has a mobilized, armed, racist base, in the form of the Tea Party movement, which is scary. And they have the political initiative. The problem isn’t that people don’t want to stand up against the Tea Party – it’s that they are being told to seek common ground and terrible compromises with that reactionary agenda.

Many people, in that crowd of people who attended the “One Nation” rally are deeply shaken and frustrated that the change they worked for in 2008 not only didn’t happen, but things are worse. What they got at the rally was speaker after speaker telling them that the “protest march” they came to make against the Tea Party – and also against the Obama policies that haven’t brought they change they hoped for – will only happen on November 2 when they “march” to the polls. Clearly, the Democrats didn’t want that rally to happen, as almost no politicians participated, but still, people were led to come begging from a party that wants them only to shut up and get out the vote.

Expecting change through the framework of elections when the game is rigged is delusional. It’s the same old trap every two years. Get in the game?? When the Democrats are out of power, it’s “get us back so we can deliver change”, and when they are in power, it’s the threat of how much worse it will be if they lose. This is not the game we need to be in.

“Worse” than under Bush? Many people still active against the wars and torture point out that, if McCain had ordered an expansion of the war in Afghanistan, there would have been much more visible protest. As the Crimes are Crimes statement puts it, “Such measures by Bush were widely considered by liberals and progressives to be outrages and were roundly, and correctly, protested. But those acts which may have been construed (wishfully or not) as anomalies under the Bush regime, have now been consecrated into “standard operating procedure” by Obama, who claims, as did Bush, executive privilege and state secrecy in defending the crime of aggressive war.

A woman wrote to thank World Can’t Wait for getting the Crimes are Crimes message “past the gatekeepers of the mainstream press.” In describing why she donated to the ad, she explained that, as a progressive, she had voted for Obama, even though she knew he wouldn’t bring change. But, it’s worse than she expected. “Instead of surrounding himself with progressives, he surrounded himself with reactionaries. Instead of looking for creative ways to disengage our country from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he relied on good old-fashioned ways to keep those wars going with American troops as “advisers” and mercenaries as contract killers. Worst of all, perhaps, as you point out, is his refusal (and that of Nancy Pelosi) to bring to justice those who lied to us about WMDs and who finalized the unleashing of greedy corporate monsters on the world, an unleashing begun under Ronald Reagan. George W. Bush and his accomplices are murderers but instead of the harsh punishments dealt out to street thugs, they have been richly rewarded for their criminal acts.”

One ad does not make a movement, nor does one voice, nor a series of protests. But the importance and achievement of hundreds donating, and thousands signing this statement appearing in the “paper of record” has to be appreciated for the strong statement of principle that it is – and then we need to go out and amplify this message. This is the time for fearless truth-telling, on a bigger stage, and more visibly.

If people don’t know what their government is doing – or think the problem is that Obama’s a socialist, the immigrants are taking “our jobs” or such nonsense — we need to tell them, and not get quiet if they disagree. We need to show them Collateral Murder, important because it shows the US military killing Iraqi civilians and because soldiers have come forward to condemn those acts. We need energy and effort behind speaking the truth and mobilizing people to act on it, despite its popularity at any given moment. “History is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious.” Write to me with your thoughts and ideas for spreading this challenging message boldly – in the spirit of not silencing ourselves when people disagree.

World Can’t Wait is unique in saying in what we’re saying and in going out very widely to people with that message. We know there are people that agree and thank us for being willing to speak the unpopular truths that need to be said and to organize the protests, educational forums, and public statements like The New York Times ad, but there needs to be more of this. Those of you that do get it, those of you that were moved by the ad, who agonize over these continuing crimes, have a disproportionate responsibility to go out and change people’s minds.

There is much more to do. Funds are needed to print the Crimes are Crimes ad more widely, produce more DVD copies of Collateral Murder, and to webcast World Can’t Wait’s national broadcast of October 20: Stop the Crimes of Our Government: Collateral Murder & Targeted Assassination with Ethan McCord and Pardiss Kebriaei, and to bring veterans and activists with the We Are Not Your Soldiers tour to high schools.

Friday, October 8, 2010 the ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights filed a response to the Obama administration on behalf of Nasser al-Aulaqi, the father of Anwar al-Aulaqi, targeted for assassination by Barack Obama.  The administration argues for the dismissal of the lawsuit on the grounds of “national security:”

“The government’s brief seeking the dismissal of this case runs to nearly sixty pages but can be summed up in a single sentence: No court should have any role in establishing or enforcing legal limitations on the executive’s authority to use lethal force against U.S. citizens whom the executive has unilaterally determined to pose a threat to the nation. The government has clothed its bid for unchecked authority in the doctrinal language of standing, justiciability, equity, and secrecy, but the upshot of its arguments is that the executive, which must obtain judicial approval to monitor a U.S. citizen’s communications or search his briefcase, may execute that citizen without any obligation to justify its actions to a court or to the public.”

History will judge our actions – or silence – in the face of this.

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Iraq War is Over But the Occupation is Endless

Sunday August 22, the Associated Press reported, “BAGHDAD — An American solider was killed in a rocket attack in southern Iraq on Sunday, the U.S. military said, marking the first American fatality since the last combat unit in Iraq pulled out of the country.”

As the “last” combat brigade left Iraq, President Obama prepares to give a major speech this week.  He probably won’t claim victory; that would be laughable.  He will claim that the U.S. is taking responsible action, now that the Iraqis are ready to “step up” and run “their own” country.  This is the same plan the Bush regime had, but framed and re-branded, Obama-style, to cover  a thoroughly illegitimate occupation.

Jeremy Scahill said on Democracy Now earlier this month, that the combat role is shifting to the State Department which “has plans to remake some US bases into what they call ‘enduring presence posts,’ EPPs. And so, you’ll have these outposts around the country that are essentially—what is essentially unfolding here is a downsized and rebranded occupation, Obama-style, that is going to necessitate a surge in private forces. The State Department is asking for MRAP vehicles, armored vehicles, for Black Hawk helicopters and for these paramilitary forces. So, yes, you can say that officially combat has ended, but in reality you’re continuing it through the back door by bringing in these paramilitary forces and classifying them as diplomatic security, which was Bush’s game from the very beginning.”

But don’t think the military is really leaving.  General Ray Odierno, who’s in charge in Iraq, says they’ll stay or come back at the discretion of the administration.  More troops left Ft. Hood this morning, see below.

There are still 50,000 troops “advising” the Iraqi government which rules through US backing; the biggest embassy in the world ever; civil society in shambles, and no stability for the people.  Adil E. Shamoo, a professor of ethics, writes in What You Will Not Hear About Iraq, ” Iraq has between 25 and 50 percent unemployment, a dysfunctional parliament, rampant disease, an epidemic of mental illness, and sprawling slums. The killing of innocent people has become part of daily life. What a havoc the United States has wreaked in Iraq…For the past few decades, prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the percentage of the urban population living in slums in Iraq hovered just below 20 percent.  Today, that percentage has risen to 53 percent: 11 million of the 19 million total urban dwellers.”

Chris Floyd in The Peace Laureate’s Prayer: War Without End, Amen

So while the “last full U.S. combat brigade” have left Iraq, just under 50,000 soldiers from specially trained heavy, infantry and Stryker brigades will stay, as well as two combat aviation brigades …

There are seven Advise and Assist Brigades in Iraq, as well as two additional National Guard infantry brigades “for security,” said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Craig Ratcliff. …

The Army selected brigade combat teams as the unit upon which to build advisory brigades partly because they would be able to retain their inherent capability to conduct offensive and defensive operations, according to the Army’s security force assistance field manual, which came out in May 2009. This way, the brigade can shift the bulk of its operational focus from security force assistance to combat operations if necessary.

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Stephanie Tang from World Can’t Wait joined anti-war veterans Josh Stieber and Ethan McCord on the Lettieri & Poole show, KGO Newstalk Radio (San Francisco) Saturday August 21, for a talk about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and WikiLeaks.

Josh and Ethan were in Iraq with Bravo Company 2-16, the unit whose Apache helicopter attack on civilians is now known to the world thanks to the Wikileaks “Collateral Murder” video. Ethan is seen in that video, carrying a wounded Iraqi child to find a medic. After returning from Iraq, Josh and Ethan wrote An Open Letter of Reconciliation and Responsibility to the Iraqi People: From Current and Former Members of the US Military.

Listen/Download (36 minutes)

Scott Trent answers an article, “Eight things Obama has done to make the world a more peaceful place” with The Truth About Obama’s “Accomplishments” and the Need to Build a Mass Movement PDF

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Marching in Protest of 7 Years US Occupation of Iraq

Protesting John YooSeven years of U.S. war and occupation of Iraq were marked with varied protests in the U.S. last weekend. There were more of us than last year, in 2009, when people widely believed the election of Barack Obama was going to end these wars.  It’s important we’re out there to go against the tide.

Today, Obama is in Afghanistan, on dark-of-night unannounced trip to twist the arms of Hamid Karzai, the president who didn’t win the recent election, but nevertheless is the US’ best hope to secure Afghanistan firmly under the domination of the U.S. empire.  Even Fox News notes today that

Both of Karzai’s vice presidents are former warlords whose forces allegedly killed thousands of people in the civil war of the 1990s that paved the way for the rise of the Taliban.

Few people, including those against the wars, are paying attention to the US offensive in Marja, Afghanistan, which is now being spread north to Kandahar.  The U.S. is already warning people there to leave, or else they will be considered Taliban sympathizers…in the second largest city in the country!  Where should people go? It’s impossible not to kill civilians in an occupation, as reported Friday in Tighter Rules Fail to Stem Deaths of Innocent Afghans at Checkpoints.

“The people are tired of all these cruel actions by the foreigners, and we can’t suffer it anymore,” said Naqibullah Samim, a village elder from Hodkail, where Mr. Yonus lived. “The people do not have any other choice, they will rise against the government and fight them and the foreigners. There are a lot of cases of killing of innocent people.”

Still Waitin on that ChangeYes, Obama and General Stanley McChrystal report the occupation is now “winning” even while they tell us to expect more casualties.  While the headline is US deaths double in Afghanistan as troops pour in, the news is that more people in the US support the offensive than in December 2009

After a summer marked by the highest monthly death rates of the war, President Barack Obama faced serious domestic opposition over his decision in December to increase troops in Afghanistan, with only about half the American people supporting the move. But support for his handling of the war has actually improved since then, despite the increased casualties.

The latest Associated Press poll at the beginning of March found that 57 percent of those surveyed approved his handling of the war in Afghanistan compared to 49 percent two months earlier.

The Washington Post today polls 53% in favor of Obama’s policy in Afghanistan, so Obama feels he can get away with telling the troops in Afghanistan that people at home support the war there.  I think that support is shallow, and temporary, and that we have a great responsibility to bring reality to people on why the U.S. is occupying Afghanistan.  See A War for Empire – Not a “Good War” Gone Bad by Larry Everest.

The Iraq War was Illegitimate from Bush’s Invasion On

The Bush regime’s war on Iraq was, and remains, completely illegitimate by all measures.  Yet, too few people, even those against the wars, stop to look at  how the Iraq war began.  As we said in Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime in 2005, “YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in its sights.”  Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet and the whole cabal openly lied about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction and a link to al Qaeda and 9-11 in an attempt to bully other countries into joining the invasion.

The Bush regime carried out the destruction of civil society in Iraq.  The electrical, educational, sewage, water, and security systems.  In the process 1.2 million, displaced more than 4 million, tortured unknown numbers directly in detention, and made the country unlivable.  The Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war amounted to a war crime on its face, of aggressive war.

Should we stop talking about that?  Much of this country thinks the war is a) over or b) ending because Obama is withdrawing troops, even though private contractors are still pouring in for a permanent US military occupation.  Foreign policy is gone from the headlines, except for that minor problem Obama has with Netanyahu.

I am still thinking about the piece in the Christian Science Monitor by Michael Ollove, reporting on the war from York, PA

After seven years in Iraq and nine in Afghanistan, residents of York, Pa., talk about how the wars have become like a screen saver: always there but rarely acknowledged.

So, that’s why our visible protests are important. A survey of the ways in which people protested:

Washington, DC:

Stop the KillingCindy Sheehan set up Camp OUT NOW on the national mall as part of the ongoing Peace of the Action effort to have continuous protest in Washington until the wars end.  The action resumes April 6.

The Iraq War Memorial came to the Washington Monument, stopping thousands of tourists with the names of those killed in Iraq, both US military and Iraqis.

ANSWER Coalition 7,000 rallied and marched around the White House, depositing symbolic coffins at the offices of Haliburton (where an effigy of Dick Cheney was trampled); the offices of the Washington Post and Veterans Administration; and in the front of the White House.  Cindy Sheehan, Elaine Brower, Matthis Chiroux and 5 others were arrested for not moving from in front of the White House, held for 48 hours, and banned from the White House area for six months. Read AP report. Watch the AP video. Flickr Gallery.

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans marched along with military families.  While speaking at the rally, Elaine Brower, a leader of World Can’t Wait; Robynn Murray, an Iraq veteran, and Matthis Chiroux, an Afghanistan veteran and Iraq war resister, said the American flag stands for empire, and burned one. See The Nightmare Will End When We Wake Up! Watch the video.

Marches in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle:

Thousands marched.  See Stephanie Tang of World Can’t Wait: Obama’s War is Killing the Afghan People, not Saving Them.

In San Francisco, Daniel Ellsberg spoke to a rally of thousands on the importance of protest:

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the top-secret Pentagon Papers study of the Vietnam War and is the subject of the recent documentary film, “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” likened the protest and others like it around the country Saturday to a day of demonstrations organized against the conflict in Vietnam in 1969.

“They thought it had no effect,” he told the crowd in San Francisco, referring to the 1969 protesters. “They were wrong.”
Ellsberg said President Richard Nixon was planning to escalate the war around that time, but held off.

In Los Angeles, thousands also marched, including a We Are Not Your Soldiers contingent carrying a banner signed by many more youth pledging to resist military recruiters.

Charlottesville, VA:

Friday, March 19, John Yoo made two speeches at the University of Virginia, and was disrupted at both by questions and objections to his authorship of the Bush torture memos; his promotion of aggressive war; and his theory of presidential powers.  150 people protested outside.  See David Swanson, John Yoo: A President Can Nuke the United States for an account, photos & video.

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March 20: STOP these Wars & Torture Now!

Sisters & Brothers:

Seven years after shock and awe in Iraq, and 14 months into the “change you can believe in,” things are going in a terrible direction.

One outrage after another:

Obama’s expansion of the war in Afghanistan to 100,000 troops  is not saving Afghan civilians, but killing them.

His use of secret operations and unmanned drones in 5 countries is not only illegal, unjust, and immoral, but against all of humanity.  Revelations that the president claims the right to assassinate US citizens, and that private contractors are running black ops outside the chain of command.

His defense of the Bush era torture lawyers and war crimes in the name of “executive privilege” is unconscionable.

His refusal to allow more than 600 detainees in Bagram, Afghanistan to be identified, and to be denied habeas corpus rights or lawyers to challenge their detention put the lie to the claim he made a year ago that “we do not torture.”

Yes, the right wing IS breathing down Obama’s neck, questioning the legitimacy of his presidency because he’s Black.  The racist Tea baggers get more press for one convention of 600 than we’ve ever gotten for anti-war marches.  The neo-cons have all the intitiative, and the only promise Obama has kept is the one to spread the illegitmate occupation of Afghanistan.

But we have no skin in the game to save Obama, war president.

And there is no solution to this in Congress so don’t look there.   Changing the face in the White House only made the poison go down easier.

What we need — what only we can do — is make a change in what people in this country will accept being done in our names.  If people have gotten confused about whether the Iraq war is over, tell them, no — it’s becoming a permanent occupation!

If people are listening to the “Dick” Cheneys and John Yoos that torture is necessary to keep us safe, and thinking, maybe they agree, tell them, no — torture and aggressive war are never acceptable.

If kids you know are joining up with the military now because fighting for Obama sounds better than fighting for a president that hated, or because Don’t Ask Don’t Tell might finally be ended, tell them no!  Don’t join up for a military occupation where you will be trained and ordered to commit war crimes!

Want to stop the war?  Stop the recruiters!  Bring the We Are Not Your Soldiers! Tour bringing veterans to tell students the reality of the occupations, and help them resist the recruiters.  If you want to stop the wars, start at your school.  Wearenotyoursoldiers.org!  March with the contingent and sign up to bring the tour to your school.

Only we can reverse this dynamic.  The future is unwritten. Which one we get is up to us.  The world STILL can’t wait!

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Why you should join protests on March 20, wherever you are

Why you should join protests on March 20, wherever you are:Afghanistan

If you can find news of the largest U.S./NATO offensive of the past 8 years in Afghanistan last week, it’s likely to be profiles of the soldiers and Marines who are up against tough odds, but “sure to prevail.” Those odds described by the US command, and repeated endlessly on FOX News, are that the “Taliban uses civilians as cover” and that the Afghan military and police really aren’t ready to “step up” and run their own country.

This offensive on Marja in southern Afghanistan is led by General Stanley McChrystal, the counter insurgency expert brought into Afghanistan by Obama last year to address U.S. military debacle, and who led widespread secret operations, reported by Esquire last year to include torture, under General Petreaus in Iraq.

“We’ve got a government in a box, ready to roll in,”says McChrystal, now worried about avoiding civilian casualties.  As I wrote last week, in Why the U.S. is (and should be) Losing in Afghanistan.

How is the occupation going? Reminders: Obama kept Bush’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has promoted the expansion into Afghanistan.  He’s expanded Bush’s quiet drone war, and is now has two unmanned drone programs (run by the military and the CIA), making far more attacks than Bush ever did.  The administration endorsed the “election” of Hamid Karzai over widespread, incontrovertible evidence of massive fraud in it.

The operation in Marja has killed up to 20 civilians, even though many thousands fled the area. The airstrike which killed 12 civilians is now claimed as not a mistake. NATO Commanders on Afghan Civilian Deaths: Rockets “Hit Their Intended Target.”

David Lindorff writes in Counterpunch on The Battle for Marja: Why the U.S. Has Already Lost:

In the war in Iraq, and in Afghanistan until recently at least, the American war-fighting style has been for troops to go into an area, seeking to draw enemy fire, and then to call in long-range artillery or air support, and simply blow up the area with heavy explosives, devastating anti-personnel bombs that shower an area in flesh-shredding flechettes, burning white phosphorus projectiles, and a brutal rain of machine-gun fire from fixed-wing and helicopter gunships. Inevitably with such tactics, countless innocent men, women and children get killed and maimed.

Iraq, where US troops have just now dipped under 100,000 strong are not leaving.  President Obama promised during the campaign that they would leave in 2010, then 2011.  But a base force of 50,000 at least, will stay indefinitely, fitting into the plan of permanent U.S. occupation.  They are still killing civilians, as Jason Ditz reports on antiwar.com.

JOIN World Can’t Wait in Washington March 19/20 with Peace of the Action and the ANSWER Coalition.  Friday March 19 is a day of action & outreach.  Saturday is a mass march on the White House.  World Can’t Wait is also supporting the marches in Los Angeles and San Francisco on March 20. More here.

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Why the U.S. is Losing Afghanistan

As people who follow World Can’t Wait know, we’ve been opposed to Barack Obama’s plans to expand the US occupation of Afghanistan since the 2008 campaign began.  Now that Obama has expanded the US occupying forces beyond 150,000 (not including all the contractors outside the US military) and is pressuring European allies to send more troops, how is the occupation going?

Reminders:  Obama kept Bush’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has promoted the expansion into Afghanistan.  He’s expanded Bush’s quiet drone war, and is now has two unmanned drone programs (run by the military and the CIA), making far more attacks than Bush ever did.  The administration endorsed the “election” of Hamid Karzai over widespread, incontrovertible evidence of massive fraud in it.

So how is all that working?  I had a chance to hear Anand Gopal speak Monday night, at a Brooklyn for Peace event.  I hope his talk will be broadcast, but in the meantime, I’ll report from my notes.

Anand Gopal gave us important information with “America’s Secret Afghan Prisons,”  a piece based on 24 interviews with detainees and families of those held at Bagram Air Force Base, called “Obama’s Gitmo.”  See a ten minute interview by Russia Today (who surely has an interest in counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan) with Gopal.

Gopal stated that the Taliban had virtually been removed from Afghanistan in 2001-02 with the US invasion, relatively easily.    Now, they once again dominate 1/2 of the country.

The main reason for this he cited was the civilian casualties caused by US/NATO attacks.  He said that the Taliban also kills civilians, directly or indirectly, but that the civilian population thinks the US occupation is what’s responsible for the deaths.  There have been major protests in all the cities, and every time that a group of civilians are killed by NATO or US forces, with American flags and effigies of Obama burned.  People are very angry.

Another reason the US occupation will fail, Gopal said, is that they are supporting the “corrupt and predatory” Karzai government, which is viewed as the enemy by much of the country.  During the 1990′s civil war, the Northern Alliance, and other warlord groups now allied with Karzai were responsible for horrific treatment of women.  In areas they controlled, girls not married by the age of 12 were raped,

When the people protested the treatment of women, so bad that in 2003 hundreds of women drowned themselves rather than be raped by the Northern Alliance, the Karzai government did nothing, because Karzai needs the warlords to hold onto power. Because people in the country are preyed upon by the warlords, get no help from the Karzai government or the U.S. government, they have turned increasingly to the Taliban, despite the crimes against people they have committed.

Another reason for the U.S. lack of success in “winning hearts and minds” of the Afghan people Gopal cited is the “lack of reconstruction.”  He said that 85% of the billions marked for reconstruction goes to US contractors.   Of the remaining 15% much goes to the warlords.  He said the major Kabul-Kandahar highway built by the Bush regime a few years ago is falling apart from shoddy construction.

Gopal said the only solution for the people of Afghanistan is the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The Toronto Star reported Sunday February 7 in Afghans flee ahead of planned NATO offensive

Mohammad Hakim, a 55-year-old tribal leader in Marjah, said fear has risen over the past two weeks and he knows at least 20 families who had left. He himself planned to take his wife, nine sons, four daughters and grandchildren to live with relatives in Lashkar Gah.

“Everybody is worried that they’ll get caught in the middle when this operation starts,” he said in a telephone interview.

Hakim said he was worried about the length of the operation.

“I can stay for one or two weeks,” he said. “But if I have to leave my agriculture land for months and months, then how will I feed my family?”


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