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Leah Bolger's blog
The situation in Egypt has broad implications for U.S. foreign policy and military aid, and should be seen as an opportunity to make a major shift from an aggressive policy footing to a human rights based model.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the most expensive weapons system the US military has ever pursued. With massive delays, cost blowouts and performance failings, the F-35 has become a symbol of the excess of the military industrial complex. It has also become a flashpoint of popular opposition to runaway military spending, and now the Burlington City Council may vote to take a stand, by prohibiting the basing of the aircraft at the city-owned airport in Northern Vermont.
The following article outlines the problems with the F-35 Project, the situation in Vermont and the opportunity arising for people power at a local level to challenge militarism across the United States.
The Drones Quilt Project exhibit made its debut appearance at the recent Veterans For Peace convention in Madison, WI. The exhibit consists of four quilts of 36 blocks each, four informational posters, and a Resource/Take Action handout. Each block was individually made from people all over the country and memorializes the victim of a U.S. combat drone strike. Currently only about 20% of the drone victims have been identified. More blocks are being created and more quilts are being made as the identities become known. For more information about the Drones Quilt Project, see www.dronesquiltproject.wordpress.com. If you are interested in making a block for the quilt, or hosting the exhibit in your town, please contact Leah Bolger: email@example.com.
The Drones Quilt Project is a way to memorialize the victims of U.S. combat drones, and to educate and inform the public.
Each square of the quilt is made by someone like you who puts their name and then the name of a civilian victim on a square of fabric. These are then sewn together to create a quilt panel that can be used in many ways:
Dear Senator Hagel,
Congratulations on your recent nomination to the office of Secretary of Defense. As you await the Senate’s decision on your confirmation, I would like to express to you some ideas about the office of Secretary of Defense, and what I would like to see from this office. I am the member of an organization called Veterans For Peace (VFP), which has been around since 1985. VFP was formed by a Viet Nam veteran with the intention of creating a bridge between the peace movement and veterans. VFP members believe that our collective experience as veterans allows us to speak about the true costs and consequences of war and militarism with a voice of credibility and true standing. We feel a responsibility to speak out against war and militarism, particularly when it is manifested in illegal and immoral wars of choice and aggression. I appreciate very much that President Obama has chosen you--someone who has seen first-hand the horrors of combat--to fill the position of Secretary of Defense. Like the members of VFP, your voice will carry an extraordinary credibility, because you understand war in a way that a civilian cannot. It will not be easy to dismiss your words when you caution against military force, or speak in favor of abiding by the Geneva Conventions. I hope that you will become a force for reshaping the Department of Defense, by consideration of the following:
1. Refuse to put troops into harm’s way as part of an illegal, immoral war of aggression. The 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), signed as a knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 has been used, first by the Bush administration, and now by the Obama administration, as a blank check for perpetual war. As the Secretary of Defense, you should refuse to deploy any combat troops until Congress provides a legally binding authorization to do so. As a combat veteran, you truly understand that no one should be asked to kill or be killed for a war of choice, particularly one that has not even been legally authorized. Demand adherence to the War Powers Act.
2. Take responsibility for the deaths, damage and harm done by the U.S. The “Collateral Murder” video leaked to Wikileaks showed the world just one instance of war crimes conducted by U.S. forces. For the United States to have any moral credibility whatsoever, we must take responsibility for our actions.
3. State unequivocally that the U.S. will abide by the Geneva Conventions and will not torture, or participate in the extraordinary rendition of prisoners.
4. Stop the illegal use of combat drones that are responsible the extrajudicial assassinations of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
5. Call for the closure of all U.S. military bases in foreign countries. The U.S. currently has military troops stationed in more than 150 countries around the world. Bringing U.S. troops back to the U.S. will send a strong message to the international community that the U.S. is not interested in hegemony, or in being the world’s policeman.
6. Call for the dismantlement of all nuclear weapons, and immediately take nuclear weapons off of naval vessels. There can never be a justified use of a nuclear weapon and if the U.S. is going to demand that other countries refrain from obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities, then it needs to lead the way in disarmament.
7. Stop the use of Depleted Uranium weapons. “DU” weapons violate the Geneva Conventions. Once exploded, DU particulates enter ground water, travel on air currents, and are inhaled by innocent civilians. DU weapons are responsible for a huge spike in deformities, birth defects and other ailments in Iraq where they were widely used.
8. End foreign military sales to countries who violate international laws and basic human rights, and who have child soldiers.
9. Push to become a signatory to the Land Mine treaty. The international community recognizes land mines and cluster bombs as weapons that kill a high number of civilians, often long after the “official” conflict is over.
10.Slash the Pentagon budget. The U.S. spends more on the military and war than the rest of the world combined. Bring our war dollars home.
In summary, I hope that you will use your unique qualifications and experience to push this administration into adherence with international law. I urge you, as a fellow veteran, to use your voice, your influence, and your power to guide and inform this administration towards a new type of Department of “Defense…” one that uses military force only for its actual defense.
“We’ve worn out our welcome.” I actually heard some television political pundit make this absurd comment about the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. Well, duh. The latest outrageous act that has everyone in a tizzy and wondering if we should “rethink” our presence in Afghanistan is the mass murder of 16 unarmed civilians, including 9 children by a soldier who supposedly went berserk. Before that, it was the “accidental” burning of the Qurans, the desecration of corpses, and the “kill team” murders. Though innocent people are routinely killed as a matter of course as part of war, it is only the sensational atrocities that disturb the conscience of the American public and cause the government damage control teams to scramble. Senior military officials, in this case including the President, offers its heartfelt apologies and condolences, and tries to explain it all away as an accident--an anomaly. Speaking about this recent incident, President Obama said: "This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan." How is it that President Obama does not see that the senseless deaths of Afghan civilians by U.S. drone strikes, bombs or bullets must be equally tragic and shocking for the Afghan people? No matter how “exceptional the character” of our military, when it is used in an illegal, immoral war of choice, it is being used wrongly. It is our foreign policy that does not bear up under the scrutiny of a moral lens. It is our aggressive war that does not respect the people of Afghanistan.
Innocent civilians are killed by the U.S. military routinely--so routinely that it usually doesn’t make the news. Whether the killing was at the hand of a deranged soldier or by drone missiles--it hardly matters. By trying to come up with explanations or justifications for these “unfortunate incidents,” we avoid confronting the real issue--the fact that for 10 years the U.S. has illegally waged war of aggression on a sovereign country. Albert Einstein said: “It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”
The Afghanistan War. War itself is inherently immoral, but especially so when the fight is not between two state-sponsored militaries, but rather between a military superpower and a third-world country with 70% of its populace living in rural areas without electricity or running water and whose citizens do not even know why they are being attacked. It has been illegal from the outset in that it was waged against a sovereign country which was no threat to us, ignoring international law, and without adequate Congressional approval. And by the DoD’s own admission, it has not been effective. In fact, many experts believe that it has been counterproductive; that by killing thousands of people and destroying property and infrastructure we are creating enemies. We are propping up a government which is as corrupt as a crime syndicate, and labeling anyone who opposes us an “insurgent,” and therefore justifying their deaths.
There is finally a solid proposal in Washington for a budget that defunds the wars, cuts the base Pentagon budget, taxes corporations, creates jobs and saves services people need. It’s called the People’s Budget.
On June 5 the New Priorities Network launched a summer campaign to shift our nation’s priorities from war to jobs and human needs. The campaign has two legs:
An online poll where people can choose between the GOP budget, Obama’s budget, and the People’s Budget. Poll results by state and congressional district will go to Congresspeople, Senators, and the media.
Town Hall Meetings on the People’s Budget Budget in our congressional districts over the summer.
Take the poll and vote for the America YOU want!
Remembering the Nakba
About this time each year, millions of Israelis and Jews around the world celebrate Israel ’s independence in 1948. But what is a time of celebration for Jewish Israelis is a very different kind of anniversary for over one and a half million Palestinians in Israel, over four million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza - 40% of whom live in refugee camps, some 650,000 in refugee camps elsewhere in the middle east, and over 3 million around the world with UN-registered property claims against Israel who are now living in what is known as the Palestinian Diaspora. For them - the largest and longest-standing registered refugee population in the world - March 14 marks the remembrance of their greatest collective tragedy.
The day after the mass demonstration at Quantico in Support of Bradley Manning, some activists in Portland, Oregon held our own solidarity action. Many thanks to Joe Anybody for his videography.
News from Veterans For Peace
216 S. Meramec Avenue St. Louis, MO 63105 (314) 725-6005 www.veteransforpeace.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Leah Bolger, firstname.lastname@example.org
VETERANS’ GROUP DEMANDS APOLOGY FROM SECRETARY OF STATE
HILLARY CLINTON WATCHES AS POLICE MANHANDLE PEACEFUL PROTESTER
George Washington University, Washington D.C., February 15, 2011.
Imagine you are taking a walk in a park and you witness a mugging. What would you do? Would you look the other way or would you try to stop it? If you are one who would try to stop it, then what would you do when it is your government that is committing the crime? As citizens we are told that we should call our Congressman or write a letter to the editor when we are dissatisfied with our government. But writing a letter to the editor is no more effective at stopping the crimes of our government than it is at stopping a mugging.
During the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King called our government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." That was true then--and is even more so today.
A few years before that, in 1964 Mario Savio made his great speech at Berkeley; at the end he says, "There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"
I'm just back from the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, where the economic cost of war is so readily apparent. Thousands of abandoned buildings while thousands of homeless people are living in the street. Unemployment at 15% and jobs are still being cut. The people of Detroit have spent $2 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is madness!
This is a video of a VFP action which happened on Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E962T3ZDl00&NR=1
I was just reading through the Defense Appropriations bill that the House passed on 5/28, and I happened to come across a section that caught my eye: "SEC. 1062: JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS OF TORTURE AND TERRORISM." I thought, "This is quite remarkable! Our country is finally owning up to its crime of torture, and we are going to try to compensate our victims as a first step in regaining some sort of moral highground!"
But then I started reading:
"...that the Secretary of State `should work with the Government of Iraq on a state-to-state basis to ensure compensation for any meritorious claims based on terrorist acts committed by the Saddam Hussein regime against individuals who were United States nationals or members of the United States Armed Forces..."
Last Thursday, May 20th, the House voted 410 - 4 to pass HR 5327, giving Israel an additional $205 million in military aid so that they could purchase an "Iron Dome" missile defense system. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c111:2:./temp/~c11180CEBa::
This is on top of the $3 billion that we will be giving them this year as part of a 10-year package.
Here's just one of the "findings" in the bill:
"(4) Regional stability and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians requires that Israel can ensure the safety of its population against rocket, missile, and other threats."
Oh, I get it now! So really by giving Israel $3,205,000,000 in military aid, we're really helping the Palestinians be safer and more secure. Right.
The City Council of my town, Corvallis Oregon, has to cut $2.4 million dollars from the municipal budget. This may involve the laying off of personnel from the fire and police departments, closing of the library on Sundays, reducing the operating hours of the swimming pool, cutting funding for the Environmental Center, the Arts Center, the Senior Center, a program which employs developmentally challenged people, the homeless shelter and public transportation. For $2.4 million we could have all of these services and more...or we could fund 2.4 soldiers in Afghanistan for one year.