To contact Bartolo email firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally Posted at PopularResistance.org
(Note: this is an episode clip. Watch the full show here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKMjT0zB5aM)
Christina Tobin, the founder and chair of Free and Equal, sits down with Dennis to discuss our Democracy in crisis and the United We Stand Festival Tour.
The motto of Free and Equal is More Voices, More Choices.
By Elliott Adams, WarIsACrime.org
June 6th came once more. D-day was a long time ago and I didn't intend to make anything of it. I was surprised by the emotional turmoil I felt, by how I felt about that day in my gut. I realized that while I was born after the war was over, D-day and World War II were a real and tangible part of my childhood. It was part of my family's life, my teachers lives, my friends parent's lives. It wasn't just old men who remembered it, every adult in my youth had stories from that war. It was amputees on street corners selling pencils and people all around me still dealing with it. It was part of my life and it played a role in my enlistment for Vietnam. Of course I felt this day in my guts. Why did I think it would be otherwise?
The stories were part of the world I grew up in; stories of D-day, of every counter-espionage agent for a year saying the first attack will be a feint, of the phantom 1st Army with decoy tanks, fake radio chatter and empty tents looking like an army poised for an imminent invasion, of Omaha Beach, of Utah Beach. The death, the military blunders, the maimed, the successes, the “discovery” of the concentration camps, the Battle of the Bulge, these stories were tangible and a part of my childhood. Many of the stories were told after I was in bed, at breakfast they were alluded to quietly by my parents, and we children were told never to ask the adults about them.
So what is the legacy of WWII? For the people around me in my youth it was not D-day or even VE day or VJ day. Those were just markers of relief, of joy, that the war would come to an end. The war was not fought just to win the war. No, the adults of my youth knew there was a bigger issue – how do we keep this from ever happening again? In their experience, the world could not live through another world war, and it could not afford another war at all. The legacy of World War II was the question of how we assure that the next crazy, the next despot, the next aggressor nation does not start another war.
The Allies discussed this. Stalin believed that we should take the top 50,000 living Nazi leaders and execute them. That would send a clear message to not only the heads of state, but to the people who did the work to implement their aggression. Churchill, who incidentally had not personally been touched by the 30 million deaths on the Eastern Front, thought that Stalin was being excessive. Churchill proposed that executing the top 5,000 Nazi leaders would be enough death to make those who might support an aggressive nation's acts of war think twice. Truman thought we needed the rule of law, that we needed to establish that these acts of war were crimes and that people could expect to be prosecuted for them. Thus the Nuremberg Tribunals were formed. The Tokyo Tribunals followed, but it was Nuremberg that set the standard and established the law.
Robert H. Jackson, a US Supreme Court Justice who took a leave from the court to become a main architect of the Nuremberg Tribunals, said on August 12, 1945 “We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify a resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.” This, not D-day, is what the people of my youth talked about. This was the legacy the war, this was the high ideal that made the whole war effort worth while.
I was recently talking with some US Airmen and found that they did not know what the Nuremberg Tribunals were, even when I prompted them with leads like WWII and trials. Is it possible that after all that blood and gore, the lasting legacy, the summation of what WWII was fought for has been lost? Lost even to our people in uniform.
In preparation for the tribunals the Allied powers passed the Nuremberg Charter. This set out the process of the trials and the crimes that would be prosecuted. There would be no revenge summary executions. The process established was for fair and open trials in which each defendant was presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, with right to present evidence of defense. The Nuremberg Charter went on to establish the crimes that would be prosecuted, thus we have words familiar to us today, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace.
It was the intent of the Nuremberg Tribunals to make starting a war illegal and prosecutable, even planning a war of aggression was a crime. The new laws established by Nuremberg were summed up in the seven Nuremberg Principles, among them that the sovereign or the head of a sovereign state is not above the law, and could be tried for war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace. Up until then they were generally considered above the law, or more accurately were considered to be the law, thus could not be prosecuted. Principle IV says if you participate in a war crime, you can not be absolved of guilt by claiming you had just followed orders; if you were part of the war crime you can be prosecuted. These two principles alone radically changed the prospect for the officials and functionaries of an aggressor state and hopefully would would keep rogue leaders from starting wars and their subordinates from going along with them.
At the opening of the Nuremberg Tribunals on November 10, 1945, Robert H. Jackson, US Chief Prosecutor at the Tribunals, on leave from the US Supreme Court, said ”The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.”
Returning to June 6th and what it means, the veterans and people I grew up among in the shadow of World War II did not talk about winning another war, they believed the world could not even survive another war – they talked about Nuremberg, what it meant and the hope that Nuremberg brought. As we remember that day, D-day, let us not loose sight of what all those lives were lost for, of what the people who lived through that war did to keep the scourge of war from ever consuming our world again. Make June 6th your day to study the Nuremberg Tribunals. Look up the Nuremberg Charter (also called the London Charter), the Nuremberg Tribunals and perhaps most importantly, the Nuremberg Principles. It would be wrong, no it would worse than just wrong, for us to let the loss of 72 million lives, the pain, and the destruction wrought by World War II to be for naught by our forgetting about Nuremberg.
Elliot Adams is a Veterans For Peace (VFP) member from New York State and past president of VFP’s National Board.
Daniel Hyslop is research manager at the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) where he coordinates research and manages IEP’s research team (see http://economicsandpeace.org ). IEP produces the Global Peace Index (see http://visionofhumanity.org ). He discusses the economic costs of war and violence.
Total run time: 29:00
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Producer: David Swanson.
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By Larry Johnson
Long ago people learned to make bowls of clay, to eat and drink from. Accident and experimentation taught them that tapping the bowls made sound, and metals, especially bronze, made better sound. An inverted bowl became a bell to sound danger, or call to meal or meeting. In times of war, too many bells have been melted down to make weapons of violence to further, in a paraphrase of Eisenhower’s famous quote, a theft of food from the bowls of too many people of the world.
Thanks to the State Arts Board and the voters of Minnesota, thru a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund, veterans and activists worked with sculptor Gita Ghei this year to make their own bell of peace. Our long, hard work of restoring the peaceful symbolism of the 1918 Armistice, became the backdrop for allowing this to happen. Over 6 months we built a solid community as we drew designs, made wax molds, mixed and poured a plaster casts, and finally poured the bronze that became each bell. Bruce Berry, Matt Bockley, Heinz Brummel, Stephen Gates, Ted John, Larry Johnson, Steve McKeown, Lorrie O’Neal, Jim Ricci, John Thomas, Chante Wolf, and Craig Wood, all did the peaceful, meditative, artistic work of creating their own bell to ring out peace. I also can’t thank our great treasurer, Tim Hansen, enough for managing all the finances of the special arts grant. The message and the symbolism is so important, but it falls out of sight if the support work fails. Tim makes it work.
Stephen Gates, veteran and bellmaker, said, “After spending years in denial about the meaning of my military experience, I landed on the desire to create peace on earth. I’m a visual artist, but always wanted to do some casting. This project allowed me to do that, helping to make some sound ripple into the pond of peace”. I’m not a visual artist, and would not have signed on to this, except for what it was about. I’m a storyteller, a “word artist”, so my own bell has a simple design, good sound, and the words “Ring Out Light”. I researched the songs and stories, the history of bells. The Liberty Bell (bell of freedom) was cast 3 times, and each time it cracked, thus Leonard Cohen’s song, “Ring the bells that still can ring; forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”. I was thinking of the saying, “First casualty of war is truth”, and the New Testament saying, “Know the truth that will make you free”. When someone says, “Thank you for fighting for our freedom”, I say, “I’m fighting for the truth that makes us free; the light that shines into the darkness”. My bell rings out the light of truth.
The peace bells grant called for a culminating public event, so we staged an evening on March 20, World Storytelling Day, at Plymouth Congregational Church. World Storytelling Day grew from an earlier 1990s annual event in Scandinavia, and began in 2003, as the United States was preparing to invade Iraq. Every year since then, on or around March 20, there are events in 25 or more countries worldwide, all in the spirit of “If I can hear your story, it’s harder for me to hate you”. Our event began with the Plymouth Bell Choir, led by Cammy Carteng, playing Dona Nobis Pacem. As we gave a Kellogg-Briand Pact banner to Plymouth minister, Jim Gertmenian, we were still putting down extra chairs for the over 125 people who filled the room. Steve McKeown told the history and deep meaning of our work with Armistice Peace Bells. VFP member, Wes Davey, rang a bell made from a World War I artillery shell. We had failed at getting discarded shells to melt into the mix that our bells were cast from, so this contribution from Curt Oliver, former music director at Macalester Plymouth Church, added that element. Jack Pearson, musician/storyteller, led us in “If I Had a Bell to Ring”, and played music on a jaw harp made from melted down pieces of a crashed B-17. Rose McGee, storyteller/musician, told the story of her father, African/American World War II Veteran, coming back into life. Elaine Wynne, storyteller, told the Irish Folktale “Peddlar of Ballaghadreen”, with the old Peddlar’s deliberate “putting one foot ahead of another” to get where St. Patrick said he needed to be going, so reminiscent of the hard, painstaking work it is to make peace happen. The inspirational evening ended with words of meaning from the bellmakers, who then rang the bells they made, simultaneously, 11 times.
We thought March 20 was our closing, celebratory event, but even as we were planning it, we were asked to be a part of the annual Festival of Nations at River Centre in St. Paul. The Festival of Nations is an enormous event, with two days for students and teachers, and two open to the general public. It’s organized by the International Institute each year, and draws thousands of visitors from the five state area. The theme this year was “Peace Among the Nations”, and Linda DeRoode, Festival Director, asked us to have a Peace Bell Exhibit and to ring Bells of Peace each day at 11. Dale Rott, retired Bethel College Professor, and Festival mainstay, found our work on the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and asked Steve McKeown to help build a Kellogg exhibit at the Festival. He also built an indoor Peace Garden with Walter Enloe of Hamline, and asked Elaine and I to tell the Sadako story we have told for many years at the August 6 Hiroshima Remembrance at the Lake Harriet Peace Garden. We asked, “Well, then how about the Frank Kellogg story too”, so 3 of the 4 days we told, each hour, either the story of Sadako, the young girl in Hiroshima who inspired the world to fold cranes for peace, or the story of Frank Kellogg, the only Minnesotan to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The other day, Margi Preus, of Duluth read her children’s book about the Duluth Peace Bell.
It was an amazing experience which we could not have planned. We talked with many teachers with interest in having us come speak, or help them do their own November 11 Armistice remembrance. Some talked of having a kiln in school and of engineering their own casting of peace bells. Steve arranged for us to give copies of David Swanson’s When the World Outlawed War to a number of teachers who clearly had the interest and commitment to use it in their teaching and share with others in the school.
Chante created a beautiful photographic table display of the bellmaking process, and all in all, we were well received. Our message, framed by the visual of casting bells for peace, was delivered in the spirit of a 1929 speech by President Calvin Coolidge at Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day. Coolidge, President when the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed, said, “We are gathered to remember those who gave their lives in service to the country, and there is no greater tribute we could pay than to do everything possible to keep such wars from happening again”. Elaine worked the table a couple days and said, “So many students asked about the bells. When I said veterans made them because they’re looking for better ways to solve conflict than war, they said, ‘ Cool. Just like Gandhi’. Many were clearly from countries torn by war, and their faces brightened to learn that veterans of war were trying to turn that around”.
Dale Rott gave us multiple comp tickets for workers to enter the festival. I won’t try to name them here, but thanks to all the members who came to be at our exhibit and talk to festival visitors about what we do and why. I hope you all got to also get out and visit the festival. The day I managed that, I found many wonderful stories from around the world. Taiwan’s exhibit focused on Kinmen Memorial Park, where they have a Peace Bell made from shells fired at them in a 1958 battle. Italy showcased St. Francis, and Maria Montessori, who built an outstanding educational system in Italy, but was chased out when she refused to let it serve the fascism growing up in Europe. Wherever she went, she sowed the seeds of educating children to be “whole” creators of peace, and when government systems didn’t want her, she moved on, hoping her efforts would secretly keep growing. Czechoslavakia highlighted Vaclev Havel, the great artist/leader, whose “velvet revolution” had a whole lot more to do with the end of the Berlin Wall than did the supposedly famous Reagan “Tear down that wall” speech. When Havel died, candles burned all over the country, and then some artists gathered all the wax and built a 7 foot candle, celebrating Havel’s leadership. As a writer/playwright, he said many memorable things, but as an activist leader of his country, he said things like “I really do live in a world where words are more powerful than 10 military divisions”. May our Bells of Peace keep ringing out such light.
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Hunter College High School will be giving its Distinguished Graduate award to the Deputy Director of the CIA, Avril Haines, at this year’s senior commencement. The administration has tried to keep it quiet, hoping to avoid criticism.
Haines is a top official of an agency guilty of torture of detainees, launching drone attacks that have killed or maimed thousands of civilians and that has a long record of complicity in the overthrow of governments and the occupations of many countries. Millions of people have suffered from the dictatorships that followed in their wake.
A lead article on CNN today reads as follows: ‘Fellow soldiers call Bowe Bergdahl a deserter, not a hero.’
It seems that one is defining the term ‘hero’ in a rather odd way, if one can’t consider a deserter a hero. Let’s look first at what desertion from the U.S. military means, in terms of actions and possible consequences, and then more specifically at Mr. Bergdahl’s particular situation, or at least what is currently known of it.
It’s Not the American Way
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch.com
The United States has been at war -- major boots-on-the-ground conflicts and minor interventions, firefights, air strikes, drone assassination campaigns, occupations, special ops raids, proxy conflicts, and covert actions -- nearly nonstop since the Vietnam War began. That’s more than half a century of experience with war, American-style, and yet few in our world bother to draw the obvious conclusions.
Originally Posted at PopularResistance.org
More than half of respondents in the survey, released by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, said they think elected officials don’t share their priorities, and almost two-thirds said elected officials seem motivated by selfish reasons. Less than a quarter of the millennials polled said they will definitely be voting in November.
Read more: http://bit.ly/TAWHR7
On Acronym TV this week, two individuals working to fix our Democracy in crisis.
(APN) ATLANTA -- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is close to finalizing plans to accept highly radioactive commercial spent nuclear fuel from Germany to be deposited at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, according to news reports that were buried deeper than the plutonium itself.
However, it is not only Germany that is sending, or has sent, nuclear waste to SRS, but also Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Canada, and perhaps other countries not yet known, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
Atlanta Progressive News can report that South Carolina’s Savannah River Site is quietly becoming the world’s nuclear dumping ground, and de facto nuclear waste storage site, despite the facts that frequent rain and an overlapping earthquake zone make the site extremely dangerous, especially to our water supply.
There is no long-term storage plan for the waste in the U.S., with the Yucca Mountain proposal on the rocks, as it were, and with a temporary nuclear waste storage site in New Mexico having been closed to new shipments indefinitely.
SRS is already quietly storing plutonium brought in from other countries, and is now also planning to import 23,000 liters of liquid high-level waste from the Chalk River Laboratories in Canada, which would end up in the already stressed high-level waste tank system, according to an SRS Watch news release.
Shipments of foreign plutonium appear to have been secretly brought in via Charleston, South Carolina, in February and March 2014 of this year, according to an article by the Ottawa Citizen, dated March 29, 2014.
The article has a photo of PNTL transport ship Pacific Egret, noting that the ship carried guns and cannons, and that the ship--which originated in Italy with sensitive nuclear material-- disappeared from an online marine tracking system after entering Canadian waters:
Italy and Belgium have announced the transfer of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) to the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site. The Italy and Belgium imports are admitted to in two respective statements posted to the White House’s website, just days before the Ottawa Citizen report:
Meanwhile, according to Reuters and other reports, Japan will transfer HEU and plutonium to the U.S., but that the destination is not known. However, based on the closure of the New Mexico facility, it is highly reasonable to suspect that the Japanese shipment will also be dumped at SRS.
At the National Security Summit at the Hague on March 24 and 25, 2014, a priority item on the agenda was to reduce the amount of dangerous nuclear material in the world. They issued a statement that countries should repatriate highly enriched uranium (HEU) to its country of origin, thereby reducing the number of locations that terrorist groups could target to obtain it.
With the U.S. being the country of origin for much of the world’s nuclear material, this means all our nuclear chickens are coming home to roost.
After the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, the U.S. and Sweden announced the successful removal of plutonium (PU) from Sweden to the U.S.
According to the White House fact sheets, this is the first shipment of plutonium to the U.S. under the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), and can be a model for other countries seeking to permanently dispose of nuclear material. This was probably the model at the 2014 NSS that Italy and Belgium used to ship their nuclear waste to SRS.
A powerful agency inside the DOE, called the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is responsible for getting nuclear material out of the other nations’ inventories and transporting it to the U.S.
However, SRS is not acknowledging that other countries’ nuclear waste is coming to them for public relations reasons, Clements said.
"They are claiming it’s for nonproliferation but the Germans don't know what to do with this unusual kind of spent fuel. On the German side, it is nuclear dumping and on the U.S. side the primary motivation is to make money for the SRS to continue operating the so-called H Canyon reprocessing plant,” Tom Clements, Director of SRS Watch, told APN.
"The SRS already has more nuclear waste than it knows how to deal with… We should not be putting more nuclear waste into the waste system at SRS,” Clements said.
The German nuclear waste will come in canisters containing graphite pebble fuel elements from a closed facility that operated from 1967 to 1988. The U.S. provided the HEU to Germany between 1965 and 1988.
Construction on SRS began in 1951 and H Canyon began operations in 1955. The 310 acre site is over sixty years old and holds millions of gallons of high level nuclear waste already from reactors that produced plutonium for nuclear weapons from 1953 to 1989.
Clements’s group claims that while it is unclear if such unusual high-level nuclear waste can even be processed at SRS, there is no disposition plan for the waste. Though DOE claimed that the material would be disposed of safely, there is no disposal plan for such high-level nuclear waste, so it is essentially being sent to SRS for long-term storage or dumping.
"My fear is we are turning South Carolina and Georgia into a long term nuclear waste dump for other people's problems… What do you do when it leaks off site? Historically, every one of these sites have leaked. You can't call Germany up and say, 'Come and get your waste, it’s now half way down the Savannah River.' Once we take this stuff, it’s ours forever and some of these isotopes stay in the environment for more than a thousand years… and plutonium hangs around for 240,000 thousand years," Arnold Gundersen, Chief Nuclear Engineer of Fairewinds Energy Education, told APN.
"It does not belong in Georgia or South Carolina because it rains here and the best place for plutonium is in a place where it does not rain much like the New Mexican desert," Gundersen said.
SRS sits on an earthquake fault and the largest aquifers in the South. They have had problems with old storage tanks leaking and contamination at the facility. The soil is sandy with rainy, swampy conditions that are vulnerable to waste seepage.
Until this year, the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico was the nation's only permanent repository for the U.S. government's stockpile of nuclear waste.
But then on Valentine's Day this year, one of the canisters blew up and contaminated the entire underground cave system. It is uncertain, at this time, when or if it will reopen to receive thousands of drums of waste from around the country waiting to come to WIPP.
The explosion is blamed on the wrong kind of cat litter being used to absorb radioactive material. They switched from clay to organic cat litter, which caused the explosion.
"We are wasting money and increasing the risk of a terrorist accident if we build that MOX plant at SRS. Plutonium fuel cost more than uranium fuel and there's plenty of uranium on the planet. So we are taking other people's plutonium to keep a MOX plant running and no one wants to buy the output from it," Gundersen told APN.
Plutonium is a man made element derived from the transformation of uranium through fission. Plutonium, Pu-239, has a half life of 24,100 hundred years; that's the time it will take for half of the plutonium to radioactively decay. Radioactive contaminants are dangerous for ten to twenty times the length of their half-lives, meaning that if plutonium gets into the environment, it will be dangerous essentially forever. If ingested into the body, it causes DNA damage in tissue, and cancer.
The use of MOX fuel does not get rid of plutonium; instead it becomes part of the lethal soup of ingredients termed "high level nuclear waste." There are no safe long-term storage for nuclear waste, only interim storage solutions for waste that will remain hazardous for thousands of years.
"When I hear plutonium in the environment, it becomes a problem not only for the next generation - we were not even a [human] species a quarter of a million years ago - we might be a new species before this stuff completely disintegrates from the environment,” Gundersen said.
Citizens living downstream from the site have complained for years of high levels of cancer and death in their community, which they attribute to the SRS and Plant Vogtle's nuclear reactors across the river on the Georgia side.
“The DOE is more interested in jobs this year and totally forgetting about the environmental costs for the next 300 or a thousand years. It’s unfair to the people of Georgia and South Carolina to make some money now and pollute the Savannah River for a thousand years,” Gundersen said.
"Why we have to take it [nuclear waste] from Germany, Belgium, or Italy makes no sense. They can put it underground just as easily as we can, but their populations are more environmentally sensitive than we are. We are becoming the dumping ground for nuclear waste," Gundersen said.
According to SRS Watch, the import may be a violation of the International Convention on Nuclear Safety, as well as the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.
A public meeting on the the issue, “Environmental Assessment for the Acceptance and Disposition of Used Nuclear Fuel Containing U.S.-Origin Highly Enriched Uranium From the Federal Republic of Germany,” is scheduled for Tuesday, June 24, 2014, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the North Augusta Community Center, 495 Brookside Drive, North Augusta, South Carolina 29841.
To submit written comments: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-06-04/pdf/2014-12933.pdf
The public is encouraged to attend the June 24 meeting and make comments on both the proposed import of the German waste and also the trend of SRS to accept foreign nuclear waste and plutonium.
For more information on this subject visit www.srswatch.org
To contact Bartolo email firstname.lastname@example.org
David Swanson from the Coordinating Committee of WorldBeyondWar.org will be visiting London from the United States on July 2nd before heading up to speak in Northern England with CAAB.org.uk on the Fourth of July. Swanson is an author whose books include: War No More: The Case for Abolition (2013), War Is A Lie (2010), When the World Outlawed War (2011), and The Military Industrial Complex at 50 (2012). See http://davidswanson.org
July 2, 2014, 8:00 p.m., Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Holburn.
David Swanson from WorldBeyondWar.org
Also speaking: Ben Griffin of Veterans For Peace UK (http://veteransforpeace.org.uk) Ben is a former SAS soldier who refused to return to Iraq in 2005. He is now the coordinator of Veterans For Peace UK.
Hosted by London Region Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (http://cnduk.org) Chair: Jim Brann
Organized by Movement for the Abolition of War (http://abolishwar.org.uk)
RSVP to Bruce Kent email@example.com
NSA MENWITH HILL BASE:
July 4, 2014, from 5 to 9 p.m.
Annual Independence FROM America Demonstration at the main entrance to NSA Menwith Hill HG1 4QZ.
Speakers: Caroline Hughes, David Swanson, Annie Machon
Learn more: http://caab.org.uk
Comedian Lee Camp premiered a never-before-televised video of former CIA Director General David Petraeus — who now serves as Chairman of the Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR)'s Global Institute — introduced in front of the North Dakota National Guard by Treasurer Kelly Schmidt at an April 29 event in Bismarck, North Dakota.
Leaving the USS Liberty Crew Behind
June 8, 2014
Editor Note: Justifying the swap of Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bergdahl, President Obama cited a principle of never leaving U.S. soldiers behind, but that rule was violated in the shabby treatment of the USS Liberty crew, attacked 47 years ago by Israeli warplanes.
By Ray McGovern
On June 8, 1967, Israeli leaders learned they could deliberately attack a U.S. Navy ship and try to send it, together with its entire crew, to the bottom of the Mediterranean – with impunity. Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats attacked the USS Liberty, a state-of-the-art intelligence collection platform sailing in international waters off the Sinai, killing 34 of the 294 crew members and wounding more than 170.
By Dave Lindorff
The staff of the ThisCantBeHappening! collective have just learned that our little news organization was listed, in an alert fired off to all 78 Fusion Centers by Kelly Wilson, Director of the Washington DC Fusion Center's Regional Threat and Assessment Center, as a potential threat.
VIDEO: Toward the Sisi Era: A New Page in U.S.-Egypt Relations? Three experts offer recommendations for the future direction of U.S. policy and aid dollars - The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
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By Debra Sweet As he gave vague outlines of developing US military strategy while speaking at the West Point commencement last week, President Obama affirmed that he believes “in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.” The previous day, he had announced that instead of all U.S. troops leaving in 2014, as had been the mantra, 9,800 would stay at least until 2016. We don't know what they will be doing, but securing the bases they've built from where secret operations — drones? missions into Pakistan? — are launched from is one likely explanation.
By Debra Sweet Memorable moments from the World Can't Wait panels this weekend at the Left Forum, attended by 240, and soon to be available on video:
Keynote address by Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, at Sarajevo Peace Event Sarajevo. (6th June, 2014)
We are all aware that this is the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo which led to the start of the First World War in l9l4.
What started here in Sarajevo was a century of two global wars, a Cold War, a century of immense, rapid explosion of death and destruction technology, all extremely costly, and extremely risky.
A huge step in the history of war, but also a decisive turning point in the history of peace. The peace movement has never been as strong politically as in the last three decades before the break-out of WWl. It was a factor in political life, literature, organization, and planning, the Hague Peace Conferences, the Hague Peace Palace and the International Court of Arbitration, the bestseller of Bertha von Suttner, ‘Lay Down your Arms’. The optimism was high as to what this ‘new science’ of peace could mean to humankind. Parliaments, Kings, and Emperors, great cultural and business personalities involved themselves. The great strength of the Movement was that it did not limit itself to civilizing and slowing down militarism, it demanded its total abolition.
People were presented with an alternative, and they saw common interest in this alternative road forward for humankind. What happened in Sarajevo a hundred years ago was a devastating blow to these ideas, and we never really recovered. Now, 100 years later, must be the time for a thorough reappraisal of what we had with this vision of disarmament, and what we have done without it, and the need for a recommitment, and a new ambitious start offering new hope to a humanity suffering under the scourge of militarism and wars.
People are tired of armaments and war. They have seen that they release uncontrollable forces of tribalism and nationalism. These are dangerous and murderous forms of identity and above which we need to take steps to transcend, lest we unleash further dreadful violence upon the world. To do this, we need to acknowledge that our common humanity and human dignity is more important than our different traditions. We need to recognize our life and the lives of others are sacred and we can solve our problems without killing each other. We need to accept and celebrate diversity and otherness. We need to work to heal the ‘old’ divisions and misunderstandings, give and accept forgiveness, and choose nonkilling and nonviolence as ways to solve our problems. So too as we disarm our hearts and minds, we can also disarm our countries and our world.
We are also challenged to build structures through which we can co-operate and which reflect our interconnected and interdependent relationships. The vision of the European Union founders to link countries together, economically in order to lessen the likelihood of war amongst the nations, is a worthy endeavour. Unfortunately instead of putting more energy into providing help for EU citizens, we are witnessing the growing Militarization of Europe, its role as a driving force for armaments, and its dangerous path, under the leadership of the USA/NATO, towards a new ‘cold’ war and military aggression. The European Union and many of its countries, who used to take initiatives in the UN for peaceful settlements of conflicts, particularly allegedly peaceful countries, like Norway and Sweden, are now one of the US/NATO most important war assets. The EU is a threat to the survival of neutrality. Many nations have been drawn into being complicit in breaking international law through US/UK/NATO wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.,
I believe NATO should be abolished. The United Nations should be reformed and strengthened and we should get rid of the veto in the Security Council so that it is a fair vote and we don’t have one power ruling over us. The UN should actively take up its mandate to save the world from the scourge of war.
But there is hope. People are mobilizing and resisting non-violently. They are saying no to militarism and war and insisting on disarmament. Those of us in the Peace Movement can take inspiration from many who have gone before and worked to prevent war insisting on disarmament and peace. Such a person was Bertha Von Suttner, who was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in l905, for her activism in the Women’s rights and peace movement. She died in June, l9l4, 100 years ago, just before WWl started. It was Bertha Von Suttner who moved Alfred Nobel to set up the Nobel Peace Prize Award and it was the ideas of the peace movement of the period that Alfred Nobel decided to support in his testament for the Champions of Peace, those who struggled for disarmament and replacing power with law and International relations. That this was the purpose is clearly confirmed by three expressions in the will, creating the fraternity of nations, work for abolition of armies, holding Peace Congresses. It is important the Nobel Committee be faithful to his wishes and that prizes go to the true Champions of Peace that Nobel had in mind.
This 100 year old Programme for Disarmament challenges those of us in the Peace Movement to confront militarism in a fundamental way. We must not be satisfied with improvements and reforms, but rather offer an alternative to militarism, which is an aberration and a system of dysfunction, going completely against the true spirit of men and women, which is to love and be loved and solve our problems through co-operation, dialogue, nonviolence, and conflict resolution.
Thanks to the organizers for bringing us together. In the coming days we shall feel the warmth and strength of being among thousands of friends and enriched by the variety of peace people, and ideas. We shall be inspired and energized to pursue our different projects, be it arms trade, nuclear, nonviolence, culture of peace, drone warfare, etc., Together we can lift the world! But soon we shall be back home, on our own, and we know all too well how we all too often are being met with either indifference or a remote stare. Our problem is not that people do not like what we say, what they understand correctly is that they believe little can be done, as the world is so highly militarized. There is an answer to this problem,- we want a different world and people to believe that peace and disarmament is possible. Can we agree, that diverse as our work is, a common vision of a world without arms, militarism and war, is indispensable for success. Does not our experience confirm that we will never achieve real change if we do not confront and reject militarism entirely, as the aberration/dysfunction it is in human history? Can we agree to work that all countries come together in an Agreement to abolish all weapons and war and to commit to always sort out our differences through International Law and Institutions?
We cannot here in Sarajevo make a common peace program, but we can commit to a common goal. If our common dream is a world without weapons and militarism, why don’t we say so? Why be silent about it? It would make a world of difference if we refused to be ambivalent about the violence of militarism. We should no longer be scattered attempts to modify the military, each one of us would do our thing as part of a global effort. Across all divisions of national borders, religions, races. We must be an alternative, insisting on an end to militarism and violence. This would give us an entirely different chance to be listened to and taken seriously. We must be an alternative insisting on an end to militarism and violence.
Let the Sarajevo where peace ended, be the starting point for the bold beginning of a universal call for peace through the wholesale abolition of militarism.
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, www.peacepeople.com
Originally Posted at PopularResistance.org
(Note: this is an episode clip. The full show will air on Monday, June 9)
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in McCutcheon V. FEC, the court struck down a limit on how much cash an individual could give to all federal candidates during an election cycle.
In the 5-4 decision, the majority of justices on the Roberts court ruled that individuals could buy elections. Or, in the words of Chief Justice Roberts, “government regulation may not target the general gratitude a candidate may feel toward those who support him or his allies, or the political access such support may afford.”
A unique conference is planned in Charlottesville, Va., featuring the latest technologies for the practice of large-scale killing. The Daily Progress tells us that,
"to allow participants to speak more freely about potentially sensitive topics, the conference is closed to the media and open only to registered participants."
Well I should think so! Registered participants? How does one get registered for such a thing?
"From a local perspective, this industry is really growing in Charlottesville," says one expert, speaking with great objectivity, as if this growth were a matter of complete moral indifference.
Exactly how many people will be there?
"About 225 people are expected to attend the inaugural event, which is attracting government, business and academic leaders, said conference chairwoman and organizer Joan Bienvenue, who is also the director of the UVa Applied Research Institute."
Wait, what? The University of Virginia has an "applied research institute" for applying research to the practice of mass murder?
Is there no shame left in any institution?
"Sen. Timothy M. Kaine and Rep. Randy Forbes, R-4th, are also scheduled to give key speeches at the conference."
I guess that answers my question.
And where exactly will this blood-soaked confab take place?
"Located in Albemarle County, Rivanna Station is a sub-installation of the Army's Fort Belvoir. The local base employs mostly civilians and houses operations of the National Ground Intelligence Center, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency."
The National Ground Intelligence Center, previously downtown in what became the SNL Financial building, is now north of Charlottesville, and the University of Virginia has built a "research park" next door, where this conference will be held. The NGIC famously played an utterly shameless role in marketing the war on Iraq that took at least a half a million lives and destroyed that nation.
When the experts at the Department of Energy refused to say that aluminum tubes in Iraq were for nuclear facilities, because they knew they could not possibly be and were almost certainly for rockets, and when the State Department's people also refused to reach the "correct" conclusion, a couple of guys at the NGIC were happy to oblige. Their names were George Norris and Robert Campus, and they received "performance awards" (cash) for the service.
Then Secretary of State Colin Powell used Norris' and Campus' claims in his U.N. speech despite the warning of his own staff that they weren't true. NGIC also hired a company called MZM to assist with war lies for a good chunk of change. MZM then gave a well-paid job to NGIC's deputy director Bill Rich Jr, and for good measure Bill Rich III too. MZM was far and away the top "contributor" to former Congressman Virgil Goode's campaigns, and he got them a big contract in Martinsville before they went down in the Duke Cunningham scandal. Rich then picked up a job with a company called Sparta, which, like MZM, was conveniently located in the UVA Research Park.
Local want ads in Charlottesville offer jobs "researching biological and chemical weapons" at Battelle Memorial Institute (located in the UVA Research Park). As you may know, researching such weapons is rarely if ever done without producing or at least possessing them. Other jobs are available producing all kinds of weaponry for all kinds of governments at Northrop Grumman. Then there's Teksystems, Pragmatics, Wiser, and many others with fat Pentagon contracts.
From 2000 to 2010, 161 military contractors in Charlottesville pulled in $919,914,918 through 2,737 contracts from the federal government. Over $8 million of that went to Mr. Jefferson's university, and three-quarters of that to the Darden Business School. And the trend is ever upward. The 161 contractors are found in various industries other than higher education, including nautical system and instrument manufacturing; blind and shade manufacturing; printed circuit assembly; real estate appraisers; engineering services; recreational sports centers; research and development in biotechnology; new car dealers; internet publishing; petroleum merchant wholesalers; and a 2006 contract with Pig Daddy's BBQ.
Have we at long last no sense of decency? War has taken 200 million lives in the past 100 years, costs the world $2 trillion a year and the United States half of that. It is the top destroyer of our natural environment and undergirds all the removal of our civil liberties and the creation of mass surveillance. Military spending produces fewer jobs that other government spending or even tax cuts. Numerous top officials say it produces more enemies than it kills.
And who does it kill? Over 90% are civilians of all ages. Over 90% are on one side of conflicts between wealthy and poor countries. These one-sided slaughters leave behind devastated nations: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya. A poll of 65 nations found the U.S. most widely viewed as the greatest threat to peace. For 3% of what the United States spends on a program of killing that endangers us, impoverishes us, and erodes our way of life, starvation could be eliminated worldwide. It wouldn't take much to become the most beloved nation rather than the most feared.
And wouldn't it be nice to live in a society where our top public program didn't have to be kept hush-hush to protect "sensitive topics"?
Anybody who thinks the Supreme Court will protect us from the TSA is dreaming. More accurately, he has his head somewhere other than above his shoulders. People keep claiming in comments here at TSA News that (paraphrasing): "We just need a case to make it all the way to the Supreme Court. Then the 4th Amendment can be upheld."
By Norman Solomon
Blowing the whistle on wrongdoing creates a moral frequency that vast numbers of people are eager to hear. We don’t want our lives, communities, country and world continually damaged by the deadening silences of fear and conformity.
I’ve met many whistleblowers over the years, and they’ve been extraordinarily ordinary. None were applying for halos or sainthood. All experienced anguish before deciding that continuous inaction had a price that was too high. All suffered negative consequences as well as relief after they spoke up and took action. All made the world better with their courage.
Whistleblowers don’t sign up to be whistleblowers. Almost always, they begin their work as true believers in the system that conscience later compels them to challenge.
“It took years of involvement with a mendacious war policy, evidence of which was apparent to me as early as 2003, before I found the courage to follow my conscience,” Matthew Hoh recalled this week. “It is not an easy or light decision for anyone to make, but we need members of our military, development, diplomatic and intelligence community to speak out if we are ever to have a just and sound foreign policy.”
Hoh describes his record this way: “After over 11 continuous years of service with the U.S. military and U.S. government, nearly six of those years overseas, including service in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as positions within the Secretary of the Navy’s Office as a White House Liaison, and as a consultant for the State Department’s Iraq Desk, I resigned from my position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the escalation of war in 2009.”
Another former Department of State official, the ex-diplomat and retired Army colonel Ann Wright, who resigned in protest of the Iraq invasion in March 2003, is crossing paths with Hoh on Friday as they do the honors at a ribbon-cutting -- half a block from the State Department headquarters in Washington -- for a billboard with a picture of Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. Big-lettered words begin by referring to the years he waited before releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971.
“Don’t do what I did,” Ellsberg says on the billboard. “Don’t wait until a new war has started, don’t wait until thousands more have died, before you tell the truth with documents that reveal lies or crimes or internal projections of costs and dangers. You might save a war’s worth of lives.”
The billboard -- sponsored by the ExposeFacts organization, which launched this week -- will spread to other prominent locations in Washington and beyond. As an organizer for ExposeFacts, I’m glad to report that outreach to potential whistleblowers is just getting started. (For details, visit ExposeFacts.org.) We’re propelled by the kind of hopeful determination that Hoh expressed the day before the billboard ribbon-cutting when he said: “I trust ExposeFacts and its efforts will encourage others to follow their conscience and do what is right.”
The journalist Kevin Gosztola, who has astutely covered a range of whistleblower issues for years, pointed this week to the imperative of opening up news media. “There is an important role for ExposeFacts to play in not only forcing more transparency, but also inspiring more media organizations to engage in adversarial journalism,” he wrote. “Such journalism is called for in the face of wars, environmental destruction, escalating poverty, egregious abuses in the justice system, corporate control of government, and national security state secrecy. Perhaps a truly successful organization could inspire U.S. media organizations to play much more of a watchdog role than a lapdog role when covering powerful institutions in government.”
Overall, we desperately need to nurture and propagate a steadfast culture of outspoken whistleblowing. A central motto of the AIDS activist movement dating back to the 1980s -- Silence = Death -- remains urgently relevant in a vast array of realms. Whether the problems involve perpetual war, corporate malfeasance, climate change, institutionalized racism, patterns of sexual assault, toxic pollution or countless other ills, none can be alleviated without bringing grim realities into the light.
“All governments lie,” Ellsberg says in a video statement released for the launch of ExposeFacts, “and they all like to work in the dark as far as the public is concerned, in terms of their own decision-making, their planning -- and to be able to allege, falsely, unanimity in addressing their problems, as if no one who had knowledge of the full facts inside could disagree with the policy the president or the leader of the state is announcing.”
Ellsberg adds: “A country that wants to be a democracy has to be able to penetrate that secrecy, with the help of conscientious individuals who understand in this country that their duty to the Constitution and to the civil liberties and to the welfare of this country definitely surmount their obligation to their bosses, to a given administration, or in some cases to their promise of secrecy.”
Right now, our potential for democracy owes a lot to people like NSA whistleblowers William Binney and Kirk Wiebe, and EPA whistleblower Marsha Coleman-Adebayo. When they spoke at the June 4 news conference in Washington that launched ExposeFacts, their brave clarity was inspiring.
Antidotes to the poisons of cynicism and passive despair can emerge from organizing to help create a better world. The process requires applying a single standard to the real actions of institutions and individuals, no matter how big their budgets or grand their power. What cannot withstand the light of day should not be suffered in silence.
If you see something, say something.
Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, which launched ExposeFacts.org in early June. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”
The following interview is reprinted by permission from Inquiring Mind: The Semiannual Journal of the Vipassana Community, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Spring 2014). © 2014 by Inquiring Mind.
We encourage you to order a copy of Inquiring Mind's Spring 2014 “War and Peace” issue, which explores mindfulness and the military, nonviolence, and related themes from a Buddhist perspective. Sample issues and subscriptions are offered on a pay-‐what-‐you-‐can basis at www.inquiringmind.com. Please support Inquiring Mind's work!
KARMA OF DISSENT:
AN INTERVIEW WITH ANN WRIGHT
After many years in the U.S. military followed by the Foreign Service, Ann Wright is now a peace activist whose pivotal resignation from the U.S. State Department was influenced by Buddhist teachings. She is a unique voice on issues of war and peace. Wright served thirteen years in active duty in the U.S. Army and sixteen years in the Army Reserves, rising to the rank of colonel. After the army, she served sixteen years in the State Department in countries from Uzbekistan to Grenada and as Deputy Chief of Mission (Deputy Ambassador) at the U.S. embassies in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In March 2003 she was one of three federal government employees, all State Department officials, who resigned in protest against the war in Iraq. For the past ten years, Wright has courageously spoken out on a wide variety of issues including nuclear power and weapons, Gaza, torture, indefinite incarceration, Guantanamo Prison and assassin drones. Wright’s activism, including talks, international tours and civil disobedience, has been of particular power in the peace movement. Fellow activists bolstered by her advocacy can assert, as she puts it, “Here’s somebody that’s spent a lot of years of her life in the military and the diplomatic corps and is now willing to speak about peace and challenge the rationale that America needs to have war in order to be the dominant power in the world.”
Wright works with organizations such as Veterans for Peace, Code Pink: Women for Peace, and Peace Action. But drawing on her background both in the military and in the U.S. diplomatic corps, she speaks as an independent voice.
Inquiring Mind editors Alan Senauke and Barbara Gates interviewed Ann Wright via Skype in November 2013.
INQUIRING MIND: Your resignation from the U.S. State Department in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War coincided with your beginning study of Buddhism. Tell us about how you got interested in Buddhism and how the study of Buddhism influenced your thinking.
ANN WRIGHT: At the time of my resignation I was Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia. I had begun to study Buddhist texts in order to better understand the spiritual underpinnings of Mongolian society. When I arrived in Mongolia, it was ten years after the country had come out of the Soviet sphere. Buddhists
were digging up relics that their families had buried decades earlier when the Soviets destroyed Buddhist temples.
I had not realized before I arrived in Mongolia the extent that Buddhism had been a part of the life of the country prior to the Soviet takeover in 1917. Before the twentieth century, the interchange of Buddhist thought between Mongolia and Tibet was substantial; in fact, the term Dalai Lama is a Mongolian phrase meaning “Ocean of Wisdom.”
While most lamas and nuns were killed during the Soviet era, in the fifteen years since the Soviets loosened their hold on the country, many Mongolians were studying the long-prohibited religion; new temples and strong Buddhist medicine and art schools were established.
Ulan Bator, the capital city and where I lived, was one of the centers for Tibetan medicine. Whenever I had a cold or flu I would go to a temple pharmacy to see what the doctors there would recommend, and in my conversations with the monks and the Mongolian civilians who helped run the pharmacy, I learned about different aspects of Buddhism. I also took an evening class on Buddhism and did the recommended readings. Probably not surprising to most Buddhists, it seemed like every time I would open up a booklet in one series of readings, there would be something that was like, oh, my goodness, how incredible that this particular reading is speaking to me.
IM: What were the teachings that spoke to you?
AW: Various Buddhist tracts had great relevance for me during my internal debate on how to handle my policy disagreements with the Bush administration. One commentary reminded me that all actions have consequences, that nations, like individuals, ultimately are held accountable for their actions.
In particular, the Dalai Lama’s September 2002 remarks in his “Commemoration of the First Anniversary of September 11, 2001” were important in my deliberations on Iraq and even more relevant in our approach to the Global War on Terrorism. The Dalai Lama said, “Conflicts do not arise out of the blue. They occur as a result of causes and conditions, many of which are within the antagonists’ control. This is where leadership is important. Terrorism cannot be overcome by the use of force, because it does not address the complex underlying problems. In fact, the use of force may not only fail to solve the problems, it may exacerbate them; it frequently leaves destruction and suffering in
IM: He was pointing towards teachings on cause
AW: Yes, the cause-and-effect issue that the Bush administration dared not acknowledge. The Dalai Lama identified that the United States must look to the reasons why bin Ladin and his network were bringing violence to America. After Gulf War I, bin Laden had announced to the world why he was angry with America: U.S. military bases left in Saudi Arabia on the “holy land of Islam” and U.S. bias toward Israel in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
These are causes that are still unacknowledged by the U.S. government as reasons why people continue to harm Americans and “U.S. interests.” It is a blind spot in the
American government’s look at the world, and tragically I’m afraid that it’s a blind spot in the psyche of many Americans that we don’t recognize what our government does that causes such anger around the world and causes some people to take violent and lethal action against Americans.
I do believe America had to respond in some manner to the violent methods used by al-Qaeda. The destruction of the World Trade Towers, part of the Pentagon, the bombing of the USS Cole, the bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, and the bombing of the U.S. Air Force Kobar Towers in Saudi Arabia could not go without a response. That said, until the U.S. really acknowledges that America’s policies— particularly the invasion and occupation of countries—cause anger in the world, and changes its manner of interacting in the world, I’m afraid that we’re in for a much longer period of reprisals than the twelve years we’ve suffered through already.
IM: As a member of the armed forces and as a diplomat and now as a politically engaged civilian, you’ve indicated that you believe it’s sometimes appropriate to draw on military force. When is that?
AW: I think there are some specific situations in which military force may be the only way to stop violence. In 1994 during the Rwanda genocide, nearly a million people were killed during one year in the fighting between the Tutsis and the Hutus. In my opinion, a very small military force could have gone in and could have stopped the slaughter by machete of hundreds of thousands. President Clinton said his biggest regret as president was not to have intervened to save lives in Rwanda and this terrible failure would haunt him the rest of his life.
IM: Wasn’t there a United Nations force in Rwanda?
AW: Yes, there was a small United Nations force in Rwanda. In fact, the Canadian general who was in charge of that force requested authorization from the UN Security Council to use force to end the genocide but was denied that authorization. He has post- traumatic stress and has attempted suicide because of his regret that he did not go ahead and act decisively, using that small force to attempt at the very beginning to stop the massacre. He now feels that he should have gone ahead and used his small military force anyway and then dealt with the aftermath of possibly getting fired by the UN for not following orders. He is a strong supporter of the Genocide Intervention Network.
I still feel the world is better off when unlawful, brutal actions against civilian populations are stopped, and generally, the fastest, most effective way to end these brutal actions is by military operations—operations which unfortunately also may result in loss of life in the civilian community.
IM: Since your resignation from the State Department in opposition to the Iraq War, as a responsible and sometimes outraged citizen, you have been traveling around the world articulating your views as a critic of the policies of the administrations on various international issues, including the use of assassin drones.
From the point of view of Buddhist commitment to Right Action, to awareness of, and a sense of responsibility for, the consequences of one’s actions, the use of drones is particularly reprehensible.
AW: The issue of assassin drones has been a big focus in my work over the last two years. I’ve made trips to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen talking with the families of victims of drone strikes and speaking about my concerns on U.S. foreign policy. It’s important to travel to those countries to let citizens there know there are millions of Americans that totally disagree with the Obama Administration on the use of assassin drones.
The U.S. now has the ability for a person at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada to sit in a very comfortable chair and, with a touch on a computer, assassinate people halfway around the world. Little kids are learning killing technology from the time they are four or five years old. Computer games are teaching our society to kill and to be immune from the emotional and spiritual effects of remote-controlled killing. People on a screen are not human beings, our computer games say.
Every Tuesday, known in Washington as “Terror Tuesday,” the president gets a list of people, generally in countries with which the U.S. is NOT at war, that the seventeen intelligence agencies of the United States have identified as having done something against the United States for which they should die without judicial process. The president looks at brief narratives describing what each person has done and then makes a checkmark beside the name of each person he has decided should be extrajudi- cially killed.
It’s not George Bush, but Barack Obama, a constitutional lawyer no less, who as President of the United States has assumed the role of prosecutor, judge and executioner—an unlawful assumption of powers, in my opinion. Americans, as a society, think we are good and generous and that we respect human rights. And yet we are allowing our government to use this type of assassination technology to destroy people half a world away. That’s why I have felt compelled to try to educate more people in the United States and in other parts of the world about what’s going on, because certainly the technology is going from country to country to country. Over eighty countries now have some kind of military drone. Most of them are not weaponized yet. But it’s just the next step to put weapons on their drones and then perhaps even use them on their own coun- trymen and women as the United States has done. The United States has killed four American citizens who were in Yemen.
IM: Then there’s the blowback, the extent to which this technology, which is immediately accessible to everybody, can easily be used against us by others. That’s cause and effect. Or you might call it karma.
AW: Yes, the whole issue of karma is one of the things that has been a motivating factor for me. What goes around comes around. What we, the United States, are doing to the world is coming back to haunt us. The Buddhist readings I did while in Mongolia certainly helped me see this.
At many talks that I give, one of the questions that I get from the audience is, “Why did it take you so long to resign from the State Department?” I spent virtually all of
my adult life being a part of that system and rationalizing what I did in the government. I didn’t agree with all of the policies of the eight presidential administrations I worked under and I held my nose to plenty of them. I found ways to work in areas where I didn’t feel like I was harming anybody. But the bottom line was, I was still part of a system that was doing bad things to people all over the world. And yet I didn’t have the moral courage to say, “I will resign because I disagree with so many of these policies.” When you really look at how many people ever resigned from our government, there are very few—only three of us who resigned over the Iraq War, and others who resigned over the Vietnam War and the Balkan crisis. I never would have imagined that the readings I did in Buddhism, and particularly on karma, would have had such an influence in making my decision to resign and led me to advocate for peace and justice in the world.
IM: Thank you. It’s important for people to know your journey. Many people come to Buddhism as they grapple with suffering in their lives. But these teachings spoke to you at the exact intersection of your personal life and the urgent issues of society. And you were moved beyond contemplation to action. That’s a valuable lesson for us.
Reprinted by permission from Inquiring Mind: The Semiannual Journal of the Vipassana Community, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Spring 2014). © 2014 by Inquiring Mind. www.inquiringmind.com.
STAR-ADVERTISER "KEEPING FAITH"
KAT WADE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER
A Memorial Day prayer breakfast included a number of faith leaders: Paul Gracie, left, Rabbi Peter Schaktman, Bishop Stephen Randolph Sykes, Rev. Jonipher Kupono Kwong, Robert Cody, and the event’s speaker, retired Army Col. Ann Wright.
Ann Wright, a retired Army colonel and former U.S. diplomat who resigned from the State Department 11 years ago in protest against the Iraq War, told local faith leaders on Memorial Day that they are not doing enough to fight for world peace.
Six years ago Wright, who had served in the military and in diplomatic service for many years, co-wrote "Dissent: Voices of Conscience," about government insiders and active-duty military personnel who challenged the Bush administration's reasons for invading Iraq in 2003. Since resigning, Wright has traveled extensively as a peace activist and has been arrested 15 times for civil resistance.
On Monday, at a Memorial Day prayer breakfast co-sponsored by the Honolulu Friends Meeting (Quakers) and The Interfaith Alliance Hawai'i, Wright spoke about the increasing militarization of society and her recent trip to Vietnam. Other representatives of various faiths also shared their personal perspectives on war.
Wright said the interfaith event, held at the Quakers' Manoa meeting house, served as an opportunity "to see if these religious communities are doing all they can do to stop this scourge on humanity we call war."
She continued, "Members of our congregations are in the military; we have a huge military community here in Hawaii and particularly Oahu, with the four major military bases here. It takes a lot of chutzpah to stand up to say, 'No, these things are wrong.'
"I appreciate the fact that our nation honors those who sign up and say, 'I agree to do what our political leaders tell me to do.' On the other hand, I think that we should be challenging that concept, too," she said.
"We as American civilians have to be even more vigilant, we have to be pushy and ... to hold accountable those who do cause these wars, who do cause torture, these indefinite detentions, who do cause assassin drones, to hold those administrations accountable. It's not a Democratic or Republican thing; it's a human thing."
Wright has spoken frequently at Quaker events as, in her words, "Quakers are such a strong anti-war group," and she has worked with the American Friends Service Committee to promote social justice. Raised a Methodist, she aligns more with Quaker and Unitarian Universalist views, she added.
The Honolulu Friends Meeting conducts unprogrammed worship in silence, without choirs or sermons. Quakers do not have creed or dogma.
Last month Wright presented her research on restoring a sunken Quaker peace ship, The Golden Rule, at the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage. The boat played a key role in changing public opinion about nuclear testing more than 50 years ago, Wright said.
In 1958, after the U.S. government announced plans to set off nuclear bomb blasts near the Marshall Islands, Quaker pacifist Capt. Albert Bigelow and three crew members sailed the 30-foot vessel from California, stopping over in Hawaii before pushing on to the Marshall Islands in an attempt to stop the testing.
Renie Lindley, lay leader of the Honolulu Friends, said local Quakers were "very much involved in supporting the crew," whose members were convicted and imprisoned. The sunken ship was discovered in 2010 in Northern California's Humboldt Bay. Veterans for Peace is restoring the ship with the intention of one day launching it on a mission of education for peace.
"Quakers are unequivocal on the question of violence," Lindley said. "We totally oppose all wars, all preparation for war, all use of weapons. But refusal to fight with weapons is not surrender. We are not passive when struggling to remove the causes of conflict, working to address all forms of cultural and economic oppression, which lead to violence."
In her recent trip with the Veterans for Peace to see how Vietnam has recovered from the war that ripped the country apart from the 1950s to '70s, Wright said she was stunned to see ill effects of Agent Orange showing up in fourth-generation Vietnamese residents as well as U.S. veterans who sprayed the defoliant. She also saw civilians crippled by the tons of unexploded ordnance left behind and accidently detonated after the war.
"The U.S. has finally acknowledged there are Agent Orange hot spots and began its first remediation after 50 years to remove dioxin contamination ... and our veterans are finally getting compensated" for 19 different diseases that were manifested from contact with the residual toxin, she said.
Wright said wherever the veterans group went it was met not with reproach, but with forgiveness by the Vietnamese, who lost 4 million people in the war, an overwhelming number of them civilians. She said the Vietnamese people advised Americans, "You need to forgive yourselves, and you need to work so it doesn't happen again."
To contact Bartolo email Peaceloversingle@Gmail.com