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Veterans For Peace Strongly Condemns the New Round of Sanctions Against the People of Iran

On Friday November 30th, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a new round of sanctions against Iran as an amendment to the so-called Defense Authorization Act. This amendment, sponsored by U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), broadens the scope of current sanctions on Iran to include Iran’s shipping industry and ports. According to Menendez, “By passing these additional measures ending sales to and transactions with Iranian sectors that support proliferation — energy, shipping, ship-building and port sectors as well as with anyone on our specially designed national list — we will send a message to Iran that they can’t just try to wait us out.”

This criminal act of collective punishment of the people of Iran is being taken at a time when the existing economic sanctions have already caused a tremendous amount of suffering for the Iranian people without having any impact on nuclear weapons proliferation in the Middle East.

Veterans For Peace Appeals to Israeli Soldiers to Lay Down Their Arms

Israel's military has in recent days attacked the Gaza strip with drones and F-16s, and has apparently been preparing for a possible ground war. Israel is using weaponry provided by the United States at the expense to U.S. taxpayers of $3 billion per year. Veterans For Peace member Doug Rawlings addresses the following statement to members of the Israeli military:

"I have been to where you are going. From my heart, I beseech you not to join me. In 1969, I was sent to Vietnam as a reluctant soldier, a draftee, who did not have the courage of my convictions. I chose to follow the orders of my government rather than to follow the dictates of my conscience. It’s been over forty years now, and I still remember the faces of the Vietnamese people who were victimized by my lack of moral autonomy. I became one of Pharaoh’s army, and, to this day, I have been wading through the miasma of that murderous indecisiveness. Had I heeded Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. instead of General William Westmoreland, I would have refused to serve as a pawn in my government’s immoral invasion and occupation of Vietnam.

"Westmoreland was one of many who appealed to some kind of base sense of national self-righteousness that relegated a whole people – the “enemy”-- to a form of sub-human existence. He, too, heard from chauvinist generals like yours who demanded that we '…bomb the Vietnamese people back to the Stone Age.' Dr. King, on the other hand, was imploring us to not exploit others, to recognize the sacredness of all people, and to not 'trample over others with the iron feet of oppression.' He recognized that '…peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.'

"You, my friends, have become the means of your government, and it is up to you to say that you would rather be warriors for peace than serve in Pharaoh’s legions. Follow the lead of the Dr. Kings of the world, not the generals who are willing to use the blood of others to seek some kind of political goals. Rejoin the 'beloved community' of world citizens who recognize the sanctity of all human life. Reject the immoral orders of those who would send you to do their bloody bidding. Refuse orders to attack Gaza. The world is waiting for the first army of peace-makers to turn back the tide of war. Why not start with you?"

Veterans For Peace is a national organization, founded in 1985 with approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.

Armistice Day in the M.I.C.

Remarks at the Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center on November 10, 2012.

Thank you to Sergio for inviting me and helping set up this little trip I'm on. 

Before I forget, tomorrow is Armistice Day, so we'll be celebrating by dying in front of Senator Feinstein's house at 10 a.m. at Vallejo & Lyon Streets before walking across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Please come.  And at 1:30 Medea Benjamin and Cindy Sheehan and I will be speaking on the question of whether U.S. wars are legal at the main public library in San Francisco.  We can talk about that question today, if you want, but I won't make it the main focus of my opening remarks.

Ninety-four years ago tomorrow on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, fighting ceased in the "war to end all wars." Thirty million soldiers had been killed or wounded and another seven million had been taken captive during World War I.  Never before had people witnessed such industrialized slaughter, with tens of thousands falling in a day to machine guns and poison gas.  After the war, more and more truth began to overtake the lies, but whether people still believed or now resented the pro-war propaganda, virtually every person in the United States wanted to see no more of war ever again.  Posters of Jesus shooting at Germans were left behind as the churches along with everyone else now said that war was wrong.  Al Jolson wrote in 1920 to President Harding:

"The weary world is waiting for

Peace forevermore

So take away the gun

From every mother's son

And put an end to war."

Congress passed an Armistice Day resolution calling for "exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding … inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples." Later, Congress added that November 11th was to be "a day dedicated to the cause of world peace."

While the ending of warfare was celebrated every November 11th, veterans were treated no better than they are today.  When 17,000 veterans plus their families and friends marched on Washington in 1932 to demand their bonuses, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower, and other heroes of the next big war to come attacked the veterans, including by engaging in that greatest of evils with which Saddam Hussein would be endlessly charged: "using chemical weapons on their own people."  The weapons they used, just like Hussein's, originated in the U.S. of A.

It was only after another war, an even worse war, a war that has in many ways never ended to this day, that Congress, following still another now forgotten war -- this one on Korea -- changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day on June 1, 1954.  And it was six-and-a-half years later that Eisenhower warned us that the military industrial complex would completely corrupt our society.  Veterans Day is no longer, for most people, a day to cheer the elimination of war or even to aspire to its abolition.  Veterans Day is not even a day on which to mourn or to question why suicide is the top killer of U.S. troops or why so many veterans have no houses at all in a nation in which one high-tech robber baron monopolist is hoarding $66 billion, and 400 of his closest friends have more money than half the country.  It's not even a day to honestly, if sadistically, celebrate the fact that virtually all the victims of U.S. wars are non-Americans, that our so-called wars have become one-sided slaughters.  Instead, it is a day on which to believe that war is beautiful and good.  Towns and cities and corporations and sports leagues call it "military appreciation day" or "troop appreciation week" or "genocide glorification month."  OK, I made up that last one.  Just checking if you're paying attention.

This year, Veterans For Peace is celebrating Armistice Day in over 50 cities, including by ringing bells at 11 a.m. tomorrow.  Up in Auburn, Washington, however, Veterans For Peace Chapter 92 was been banned from marching in the Veterans Day Parade today.  Auburn said that other applicants more closely met the parade's goals and purpose.  Among the applicants accepted were a motorcycle club, a Corvette club, the Optimists and Kiwanis International, the Sons of Italy, and a Daffodil Festival float.  Veterans For Peace was too off-topic.  But VFP and the ACLU sued and won, so Vets For Peace 92 is marching.

Veterans For Peace president Leah Bolger had remarked: "Look at the choice that Auburn is setting up for people who have seen war for themselves.  Either play along with the deadly lie that war is good and glorious, or be banished from the community and excluded from public events. Imagine the position that puts people in who know that, as Ben Franklin said, there has never been a good war or a bad peace. We should honor their courage in saying so, not deny them First Amendment rights that our highest courts now tell us even corporations can claim!"

On the original Armistice Day in 1918, much of the world ended a four-year war that served no useful purpose whatsoever while costing the lives of some 10 million soldiers, 6 million civilians, 21 million soldiers wounded, an outbreak of Spanish influenza that took another 100 million lives, environmental destruction that is ongoing today, the development of new weapons—including chemical weapons—still used today, huge leaps forward in the art of propaganda still plagiarized today, huge setbacks in the struggle for economic justice, and a culture more militarized, more focused on stupid ideas like banning alcohol, and more ready to restrict civil liberties in the name of nationalism, and all for the bargain price, as one author calculated it at the time, of enough money to have given a $2,500 home with $1,000 worth of furniture and five acres of land to every family in Russia, most of the European nations, Canada, the United States, and Australia, plus enough to give every city of over 20,000 a $2 million library, a $3 million hospital, a $20 million college, and still enough left over to buy every piece of property in Germany and Belgium.  And it was all legal.  Incredibly stupid, but totally legal.  Particular atrocities violated laws, but war was not criminal.  It never had been, but it soon would be.

One of the soldiers who died in World War I was a young British man named Wilfred Owen.  Ninety-four years ago last Sunday he was shot and killed.  The news of his death reached his parents home in England as the Armistice bells were ringing 94 years ago tomorrow.  When the war had begun, many fools were fond of quoting an old Latin saying: dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, meaning, "it is sweet and right to die for your country."  During the war, Owen wrote a poem about how sweet and right it was to suffer from poison gas for no apparent purpose.  I'm sure you've heard it, but I think it could be well directed to most U.S. corporate media outlets in business today, so if you don't mind, it went like this:

 

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots

But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,

And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est

Pro patria mori.

 

And it's not as if nobody knew.  It's not as if wars have to be fought in order to learn each time that war is hell.  It's not as if each new type of weaponry suddenly makes war evil.  It's not as if war wasn't already the worst thing every created.  It's not as if people didn't say so, didn't resist, didn't propose alternatives, didn't go to prison for their convictions.

In 1915, Jane Addams met with President Wilson and urged him to offer mediation to Europe.  Wilson praised the peace terms drafted by a conference of women for peace held in the Hague.  He received 10,000 telegrams from women asking him to act.  Historians believe that had he acted in 1915 or early in 1916 he might very well have helped bring the Great War to an end under circumstances that would have furthered a far more durable peace than the one made eventually at Versailles.  Wilson did act on the advice of Addams, and of his Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, but not until it was too late.  The Germans did not trust a mediator who had been aiding the British war effort.  Wilson was left to campaign for reelection on a platform of peace and then quickly propagandize and plunge the United States into Europe's war.  And the number of progressives Wilson brought, at least briefly, to the side of loving war makes Obama look like an amateur.

It was not a new story.  From 1856 to 1860 Elihu Burritt had promoted a plan to prevent civil war through compensated emancipation, or the purchase and liberation of slaves by the government, an example that the English had set in the West Indies.  Burritt traveled constantly, speaking all over the country.  He organized a mass convention that was held in Cleveland.  He lined up prominent supporters.  He edited newsletters.  And he was right.  England had freed its slaves in the Caribbean without a war.  Russia had freed its serfs without a war.  Slave owners in the U.S. South would almost certainly have preferred a pile of money to five years of hell, the deaths of loved ones, the burning and destruction of their property, and the uncompensated emancipation that followed, not to mention the century and a half of bitter resentment that followed that.  And not only the slave owners would have preferred the way of peace; it's not as if they did the killing and dying.  What does being right get you? Forgotten.  Who's ever heard of Elihu Burritt?

But the victories are as forgotten as the failures, and that's probably what hurts us the most.  The Outlawry Movement of the 1920s—the movement to outlaw war—sought to replace war with arbitration, by first banning war and then developing a code of international law and a court with the authority to settle disputes.  The first step was taken in 1928 with the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which banned all war.  Today 81 nations are party to that treaty, including ours, and many of them comply with it.  I'd like to see additional nations, poorer nations that were left out of the treaty, join it (which they can do simply by stating that intention) and then urge the greatest purveyor of violence in the world to comply.

I wrote a book about the movement that created that treaty, not just because we need to continue its work, but also because we can learn from its methods.  Here was a movement that united people across the political spectrum, those for and against alcohol, those for and against the League of Nations, with a proposal to criminalize war.  It was an uncomfortably large coalition.  There were negotiations and peace pacts between rival factions of the peace movement.  There was a moral case made that expected the best of people.  War wasn't opposed merely on economic grounds or because it might kill people from our own country.  It was opposed as mass murder, as no less barbaric than duelling as a means of settling individuals' disputes.  Here was a movement with a long-term vision based on educating and organizing.  There was an endless hurricane of lobbying, but no endorsing of politicians, no aligning of a movement behind a party.  On the contrary, all four -- yes, four -- major parties were compelled to line up behind the movement.  Instead of Clint Eastwood talking to a chair, the Republican National Convention of 1924 saw President Coolidge promising to outlaw war if reelected.

And on August 27, 1928, in Paris, France, that scene happened that made it into a 1950s folk song as a mighty room filled with men, and the papers they were signing said they'd never fight again.  And it was men, women were outside protesting.  And it was a pact among wealthy nations that nonetheless would continue making war on and colonizing the poor.  But it was a pact for peace that ended wars and ended the acceptance of territorial gains made through wars, except in Palestine.  It was a treaty that still required a body of law and an international court that we still do not have.  But it was a treaty that in 85 years those wealthy nations would, in relation to each other, violate only once.  Following World War II, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was used to prosecute victor's justice.  And the big armed nations never went to war with each other again, yet.  And so, the pact is generally considered to have failed.  Imagine if we banned bribery, and the next year threw Sheldon Adelson in prison, and nobody ever bribed again.  Would we declare the law a failure, throw it out, and declare bribery henceforth legal as a matter of natural inevitability?  Why should war be different?  We can and must be rid of war, and therefore incidentally we can and must be rid of bribery, or -- excuse me -- campaign contributions.

Activists in St. Paul, where Secretary of State Kellogg was from, and Chicago, where Salmon Levinson who led the movement for Outlawry was from, are working on getting their cities to make August 27th a holiday for peace.  In the meantime, we need to reclaim Armistice Day and Mother's Day and Martin Luther King day, as well as the International Day of Peace, because we're up against Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Yellow Ribbon Day, Patriots Day, Independence Day, Flag Day, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Military Spouses Appreciation Day, the Iraq Afghanistan Wars Holiday, and dozens of others for every day of the year -- and this time I didn't make any of those up.

World War II changed everything, has never ended, and needs to be ended by us before we are ended by it.  The horror and costs of World War II make World War I look like child's play.  And yet the response of the nation has not been to radically expand the campaign to abolish war.  Instead we've allowed war to become so much our new "normalcy" that we can't distinguish between war time and peace time anymore, and abuses justified by war time are justified for all time now.

On August 14, 1941, the military brought before the Senate plans to build a permanent building that would be the largest office building in the world and would be called the Pentagon.  Senator Arthur Vandenberg asked for an explanation: "Unless the war is to be permanent, why must we have permanent accommodations for war facilities of such size?" Then he began to catch on: "Or is the war to be permanent?" he asked.

We weren't supposed to have standing armies, much less armies standing in everyone else's countries, much less armies fighting wars over the control of fuels that destroy the planet and armies that themselves consume the greatest quantity of those fuels, even though the armies lose all the wars.  Before the Nobel Peace Prize was handed out to war makers, it was intended for those who had done the best work of removing standing armies from the world.  World War II changed everything.

We never went back to pre-WWII taxes or pre-WWII military or pre-WWII restraint in foreign empire or pre-WWII respect for civil liberties or pre-WWII notions of who deserved a Nobel Peace Prize.  We saw advances in civil rights for minorities, including the right to vote, but we saw the virtual elimination of any way to elect anti-war candidates.

We never saw another declaration of war from Congress, but we never stopped using those of 1941, never left Germany, never left Japan, never dismantled the Pentagon.  Instead, as William Blum documents in his remarkable new book, "America's Deadliest Export: Democracy," since the supposed end of WWII, the United States has tried to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of them democratically elected; interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries; attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders; dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries; and attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 nations.

Oh, but we meant well, and we mean well.  Absolutely not so.  There's no "we" involved here.  The U.S. government meant and means global domination, nothing else.  And yet, even foreigners buy the U.S. snake oil.  Gaddafi thought he could please Washington and be spared.  So did the Taliban, and Saddam Hussein.  When Hugo Chavez heard about the coup planned against him in 2002, he sent a representative to Washington to plead his case.  The coup went ahead just the same.  Subcomandante Marcos believed Washington would support the Zapatistas once it understood who they were.  Ho Chi Minh had seen behind the curtain when Woodrow Wilson was president; World War II didn't change quite everything.  Maurice Bishop of Grenada, Cheddi Jagan of British Guyana, and the foreign minister of Guatemala appealed to Washington for peace before the Pentagon overthrew their governments.  "We" don't mean well when we threaten war on Iran any more than we meant well when "we" overthrew Iran's government in 1953.  The U.S. government has the very same agenda it had in 1953 because it is still engaged in the very same war, the war without end.

At the very moment of supreme moral pretense in 1946, as the United States was leading the prosecution of Nazi war crimes including the crime of war, and killing the Nazis found guilty, at the very moment when Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson was declaring that those who sat in judgment at Nuremberg would be subject to the same standard of law, the United States was giving Guatemalans syphilis to see what would happen to them, and importing Nazi scientists by the dozen to work for the Pentagon.  The war to save 6 million Jews that in reality condemned them and 60 million others to death, the war of innocence that followed the arming of the Chinese and the British, and before that the arming of the Nazis and Japanese, the war against empire that in reality spread the largest empire the earth has known, the war against inhumanity that in reality developed and used the greatest weapons ever directed against humans: that war wasn't a triumph; it IS a triumph.  It has never ended.  We've never stopped making our children pledge allegiance like little fascists.  We've never stopped dumping our money into the complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned us would exert total influence over our society.  We've never stopped to consider whether attacks on a finite planet must end someday.  Truman showed Stalin a couple of bombs, and the flags haven't stopped waving yet.

The Marshall Plan was a plan for domination—smarter and more skillful domination than some other attempts—but still domination.  U.S. capitalist control was the highest purpose.  Sabotage of leftist political gains was the primary approach.  It's never changed.  Dictators that play along have "our" full support.  Don't go looking for "humanitarian" attacks by NATO in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia or Jordan or UAE or Qatar or Kuwait or Yemen, any more than Obama was willing to turn against Ben Ali or Mubarak or Gadaffi or Assad until doing so appeared strategic for the pursuit of global domination.  The United States does not intervene.  It never intervenes.  It is incapable of intervening.  This is because it is already intervened everywhere.  What it calls intervening is actually switching sides.

The branches are blurring.  The military, CIA, State Department, and Drug Enforcement Agency are becoming a team that operates in secret at the behest of the President.  The Pentagon now has its own "intelligence" agency, while the State Department has its own office of proxy war making.  U.S. Special Forces are active in 70 nations on any given day, on behalf of the President, without the authorization of Congress, and in the name of the uninformed people of the United States.  The "special" forces, operating under the acronyms SOCOM and JSOC, are no longer special for being smaller.  They're special for having the power to operate in greater secrecy and without the apparent limitation of any laws whatsoever.

Remember that raid that killed Osama bin Laden?  Yay! Hurray! Whooo Hooo! Murder is sooooooo cool.  But did you know that soldiers working for you do at least a dozen such raids somewhere in the world on any given night?  Are you confident that everyone killed in a dozen raids a night deserves execution without charge or trial?  Are you certain that this practice sets a good example?  Would you support other nations adopting its use?  "Our" "special" forces are now larger than most nations' militaries, and we don't have the slightest idea what those forces are doing.  "Our access [to foreign countries]," says Eric Olson, former chief of Special Operations Command, "depends on our ability to not talk about it."

The U.S. military has set up dozens of bases all over the world from which to fly killer robots known as drones.  And there are dozens of bases all over the United States involved in the drone wars.  At Fort Benning in Georgia, where the annual protest of the School of the Americas torture school is coming up soon, they're testing drones that can shoot to kill without human input.  What could go wrong? 

Not only has the blowback begun, but it's how we learn where some of the drone bases are.  In 2009, a suicide attack killed CIA officers and mercenaries at Forward Operating Base Chapman in the Khost province of Afghanistan, and only then did we learn that the base was used for targeting drone murders in Pakistan.

This is of course apart from the usual blowback of greatly heightened hostility which is being produced by the U.S. military in nations all over the world.  The 2010 attack on Libya, for example, resulted in well-armed Tuareg mercenaries, who had backed Gadaffi, heading back to Mali, destabilizing that country, and producing a military coup by a U.S.-trained officer, as well as parts of the country being seized by the latest al Qaeda affiliate.  And that's in Mali.  Never mind what a paradise Libya has become post liberation!

Many of the bases the U.S. military uses abroad are in nations less heavily occupied than Afghanistan.  They are permitted to operate where they do by the nasty governments of those nations, thanks to U.S. support for dictatorship.  This explains why the Arab Spring produced so much footage of U.S.-made armored personnel carriers, tanks, helicopters, and tear gas.  The Obama administration is eagerly increasing supplies of U.S.-made weaponry to the very regimes beating, jailing, and killing pro-democracy activists.  Repeat after me: "But it's a jobs program."

In fact, it's a major jobs program.  The Pentagon/State Department markets U.S. weapons abroad, and the U.S. tripled its sales of weapons abroad last year, now accounting for 85% of international weapons sales.

But the weapons sales are the least of it.  The United States now maintains its own troops in most nations on the earth and engages in joint training exercises with the local militaries.  The biggest areas for base construction today are probably Afghanistan and Africa.  Despite the supposed "winding down" of the war on Afghanistan over the next 2 or 12 years, base construction is moving ahead full steam, including new "secret" bases for "special" forces, new "secret" drone bases, and new prisons.  The thinking—and I use the term generously—in Afghanistan and around the globe is that the United States should let the locals do more of the killing and dying.  Of course, this hasn't worked in Afghanistan or Iraq, any more than it worked in Vietnam.  In Afghanistan, a proxy war in the 1980s produced notable blowback that can only be appreciated by fanatics for continued war, not by residents of New York or Washington.

The hurricanes and the rising ocean are our own creation.  If we want to turn this trend around we will have to shut down the Department of so-called Defense and create a new department aimed at defending us from dangers that actually exist.

We are up against a military industrial complex that barely existed before World War II and now dominates our government.  Over half of federal discretionary spending is dumped into it every year.  It funds campaigns and it creates jobs that can easily be eliminated.  It creates fewer jobs than any other use of the same dollars, but any other use would be socialism because it wouldn't kill anyone.  The jobs are as permanent as the spending.  We don't even pretend the wars will end all war anymore.  Our Nobel laureates proclaim the permanence of war in their peace prize acceptance speeches.

We can take on the military industrial complex, but it will mean forming a very large coalition of interested but fearful parties.  There's a group co-founded by a friend of mine in this area called Environmentalists Against War.  But most big environmental groups won't take on our biggest environmental destroyer.  In fact, they won't even mention climate change if the president asks them not to, as he did in 2009.  The war preparation spending is what drives the torture and imprisonment and assassinations, but the ACLU won't recognize its existence.  Wars drive immigrants out of their countries and then exploit them when they get here, but immigrants rights groups won't touch war.  If we were to cut war preparations by 80%, leaving the United States with still the biggest military in the world, we could have a green energy program that might just save us, not to mention the best quality housing, transportation, education, healthcare, and retirements to be had.  We could invent a dozen important human rights merely by reducing what we spend on the worst crime yet conceived.  But where are the anti-poverty groups, the education groups, the housing groups when it comes to opposing the Pentagon.  They're cowering.  Not all together, but all separately.  Together we could turn this thing around.

We've now voted down the racists and yet our government's primary function remains killing dark people.  Do we object to racism only in domestic policy?

We are supposedly standing beside something called a fiscal cliff.  You know what this makes me think of?  I picture a person standing near the top of a cliff, and tied to the person's legs are two chains.  Each chain runs over the edge of the cliff and supports a massive weight.  The person is struggling to remain standing as these two enormous weights pull downward.  One of the weights is war preparations spending.  The other is tax cuts for the super rich that we are apparently required to name for Bush no matter how long Obama is around.  Now the person is falling and being dragged backwards, face-down toward the edge.  But then I picture an endless number of other people in exactly the same situation, and very close to each other.  And we are able to take the chains off each other's ankles.  This is what we now need: massive cuts to war spending, and massive increases in taxation of plutocrats -- plus massive spending on green energy and all things good and decent.  Demanding that cuts to Social Security be a little smaller than they might be is not going to save us.

We should remember at a time like this that when the slightly less funded of two corporate funded candidates wins, we don't win.  President Obama publicly and illegally instructed the Attorney General not to prosecute the CIA for torture.  We accepted that.  Obama told unions not to say "single payer" and they didn't.  The peace movement spent the first Obama year muttering about how it was too early, the second worrying about the midterm elections, the third trying to focus the Occupy Movement on our collective antagonists, and the fourth being scared of Mitt Romney.  Now we're being told we must not demand military spending cuts or the prosecution of war crimes or the immediate withdrawal of forces abroad.  Progressive groups want to pretend to take a stand on Social Security and Medicare before caving.  Their opening pretense doesn't even touch military spending.  It's our job to add that to the conversation.

So, I don't want any more emails telling me to help Obama succeed at progressive efforts he is working hard against.  I want Billionaires for Bush brought back as Oligarchs for Obama.  I want the Bush Crimes Commission revived as the Obama Crimes Commission.  I want John Conyers's threat to push for the impeachment of Bush if he attacks Iran applied to Obama.  And I want the peace movement back!

I propose that we pledge right now to protest and vote against anyone in Congress or the White House who gives an inch on protecting Social Security and Medicare, who votes for current levels of military spending or anything above 75% of current levels, or who fails to oppose wars or to act against climate change.  No more honey moons.  No more veal pens in which the public servants tell the public organizations how to serve them.  And no more promises to vote for someone no matter what they do to us or to our brothers and sisters around the world. We need to use nonviolent action not only to end war but also to provide an alternative path for our young people who might otherwise sign up to kill and die.  Nonviolence requires more bravery, more commitment, more morality, and is far more satisfying than joining the Marines, no matter how benevolent the TV advertisements look.

The Declaration of Independence says we have the right to institute new government.  It's getting to be about that time.

Veterans For Peace Sues to March in Veterans Day Parade

Veterans For Peace Chapter 92 in Greater Seattle is represented by the ACLU of Washington in suing the city of Auburn for the right to participate in this year's Veterans Day Parade.

Veterans For Peace chapters are participating in events on or around this November 11th in over 50 U.S. cities, many of them honoring the tradition of Armistice Day, the earlier name for what is now called Veterans Day.

Veterans For Peace has participated in the Auburn parade every year since 2006. 

Auburn rejected VFP's application to march in the parade this year, saying that other applicants more closely met the parade's goals and purpose.  Among the applicants accepted are a motorcycle club, a Corvette club, the Optimists and Kiwanis International, the Sons of Italy, and a Daffodil Festival float. 

The suit asserts that the City of Auburn is discriminating against Veterans For Peace because of the group’s viewpoint, and seeks a court order to allow VFP to march.

Michelle J. Kinnucan, President, Greater Seattle Veterans For Peace, said, "When VFP 92 asked for more information about why its application had initially been denied, the City explained in an email dated October 25, 2010, that ... 'staff reviewed [VFP 92’s] current website as well as photos and the parade video from 2009 and felt that [VFP 92’s] entry could be considered controversial and may not positively focus on honoring our country’s veterans and active military personnel.'"

"Look at the choice that Auburn is setting up for people who have seen war for themselves," said national VFP president Leah Bolger.  "Either play along with the deadly lie that war is good and glorious, or be banished from the community and excluded from public events.  Imagine the position that puts people in who know that, as Ben Franklin said, there has never been a good war or a bad peace.  We should honor their courage in saying so, not deny them First Amendment rights that our highest courts now tell us even corporations can claim!"

Veterans For Peace is a national organization, founded in 1985 with approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries.  It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.

Read the legal complaint and news coverage:

ACLU of Washington State

Seattle Times

News Tribune


Veterans Plan Armistice Day Events in Over 50 U.S. Cities

Veterans for Peace chapters across the nation are meeting in major cities to celebrate the original Armistice Day as was done at the end of World War I, when the world came together in realization that war is so horrible we must end it now.  

Game Meant to Oppose War on Iran Builds in Pro-War Propaganda

Veterans For Peace supports the abolition of war.  We therefore have mixed feelings about opposition to a particular war when that opposition supports the institution of war making as an acceptable tool of public policy, and when the opposition builds into its assumptions much of the propaganda it should be exposing.

Veterans For Peace Illegally Spied on By Boston Police Fusion Center

Veterans For Peace in Boston, the late VFP member Howard Zinn, and several other peace organizations in Boston have been routinely spied on for years, and records kept on their peaceful and lawful activities.  The Boston Police Department and the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, BRIC, (the local "fusion center") have collected and kept so-called "intelligence reports" documenting constitutionally protected speech and political activity.  While not a single report refers to any engagement in or plans for violence, peace rallies are called "Criminal Acts," and the reports are labeled as dealing with "Extremists," "Civil Disturbance," and "HomeSec-Domestic."

Fusion center employees working for the Boston Police, the FBI, and the Homeland Security Department have been a constant presence at peace events and have interrogated peace activists about purely legal activities.  The ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild have obtained documents and videotapes after suing on behalf of five organizations and four individuals.  One of the organizations is Veterans For Peace – Chapter 9 Smedley D. Butler Brigade.  The ACLU/NLG report and a related video are here: http://aclum.org/policing_dissent

The video includes commentary by Pat Scanlon, Coordinator of Veterans For Peace, Chapter 9. Pat is a decorated Vietnam Veteran, a graduate of the United States Army Intelligence School at Fort Holabird, Maryland. He was an Intelligence Analyst, held a top-secret clearance and worked in Intelligence at MACV headquarters in Saigon for the year of 1969.

“While in the Army," says Scanlon, "I was in Military Intelligence. I saw and handled numerous files of investigations conducted by the U.S. Army on U.S. citizens and students participating in local peace activities in their communities and on college campuses. This recent revelation of the Boston Police monitoring peace activists in Boston is proof of what I believe is a continuation of forty years of this kind of surveillance and monitoring of peace groups and individuals around the country by police and other government agencies."

Scanlon objects to being labeled an "extremist" for opposing war.  "Who are the real extremists here, let me get this straight. Members of Veterans For Peace, veterans who have dutifully served our country, many in the line of fire, many with military decorations, who have personally experienced the horrors of war and now stand for peace are labeled as extremists and monitored by local police departments as a threat. While those who illegally took this country to war in Iraq resulting in over 4,700 deaths of our young men and women, 30,000 wounded, 30% suffering from PTSD, suicide rates increasing 15% each year, 1,000,000 Iraqis killed, 3,000,000 Iraqi refugees now scattered in countries around the world: These folks are not considered extremists, yet members of Veterans For Peace are? What is wrong with that picture?"

Michael T. McPhearson, National Coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, and a Veterans For Peace Board Member, added, "I am saddened that my nation which I have served as a soldier in the army has wandered so far off track that calling for peace, justice and respect for life and liberty is considered an extreme position. Is the next step to quiet my voice and take my right to free speech?"

Leah Bolger, national president of Veterans For Peace, was dismayed to learn of these practices. "To learn that Veterans For Peace has been labeled as an 'extremist' organization is absolutely shocking," said Bolger.  "Veterans For Peace is an organization of military veterans who, from the day of our inception in 1985, have dedicated ourselves to using non-violent means to end war and militarism.  Our experiences with combat and the military have taught us that war is immoral and counter productive; we now use our voices as veterans to denounce and resist the illegal and immoral military actions of our own country.  It is quite disturbing to learn that our government is so threatened by our voice that they have resorted to spying on us, and characterizing us as 'extremists.'  This is a very sad commentary."

Fusion centers that combine federal and local departments and militarize policing are all over the country, not just in Boston.  The ACLU/NLG report provides some context:

"These revelations come on the heels of a report by a bipartisan US Senate subcommittee, which found that the federal government’s work with state and local fusion centers — among them the BRIC — 'has not produced useful intelligence to support Federal counterterrorism efforts.' 'Fusion centers' were created in the aftermath of 9/11, ostensibly so the federal government could 'share terrorism-related information with states and localities.' One of two 'intelligence fusion centers' in Massachusetts, the BRIC was created in 2005 as 'a way to further integrate the intelligence capabilities of Boston, local, state and federal law enforcement partners.' Since then, it has received millions of dollars in federal funding and operated entirely absent independent public oversight or accountability. According to the Senate subcommittee report released earlier this month, the lack of accountability at fusion centers nationwide has translated into poor results: the report found that the millions of dollars poured into centers like the BRIC have failed to uncover a single terrorist plot. Instead, fusion centers have 'forwarded "intelligence" of uneven quality  — often times shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens' civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already-published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.'  When they were related to terrorism, intelligence reports produced by fusion centers 'duplicated a faster, more efficient information-sharing process already in place between local police and the FBI-led Terrorist Screening Center.'  One Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official told investigators that fusion centers produce 'a lot of…predominately useless information,' and at times, said another, 'a bunch of crap.'"

Watch WHDH-Channel 7 news report: http://bit.ly/TfIhnf

Listen to WBUR-90.9 news report: http://bit.ly/WEoUnb

Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries.  It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.

Charges Dismissed Against Nuclear Missile Launch Protesters

Charges were dismissed on Wednesday in federal court in Santa Barbara, Calif., against fifteen people, including four members of Veterans For Peace, who were scheduled to face trial on Wednesday as a result of their nonviolent protest of nuclear warheads at Vandenberg Air Force Base.  The 15 had been arrested on February 25th for protesting the launch of a Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile from Vandenberg to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  Video: http://youtu.be/sGYVee9yW9Y

The Veterans For Peace facing trial were Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg of Berkeley, Calif.; Fr. Louie Vitale of Oakland, Calif. and Las Vegas, Nev.; John Amidon of Albany, N.Y.; and Mark Kelso of Las Vegas, Nev.

The district attorney moved to dismiss all charges.  Two of the defendants, John Amidon and Toby Blome, wanting to raise their concerns about the Minuteman III missiles in court, offered motion not to dismiss.  The judge sided with the district attorney.

Some of the same people will be among those protesting again on November 13th when another missile test is scheduled:

http://www.facebook.com/events/464316103593122

McGregor Eddy, one of the defendants, called the dismissal a victory.  "The military," she said, "wants to avoid drawing attention to thermonuclear warheads that serve no purpose and cost a great deal of money.  Many young people don't even know about these nuclear weapons.  When we say 'nukes' they think of nuclear power."

Fr. Louie Vitale agreed, calling the dismissal "a great victory."  Vitale added, "I've been on trial here several times and always lost.  This was a victory.  And we'll be there in November to protest the next launch."

Vitale said that the public in Santa Barbara had learned a great deal through the work of the coalition formed around this protest and near-trial, including with the help of David Krieger and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

At 7 p.m. PT on Tuesday, October 16th, a free public event called "Putting U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policies on Trial: A Forum with the Vandenberg 15" was held at Faulkner Gallery, 40 E. Anapamu Street, Santa Barbara, Calif.  Speakers included Daniel Ellsberg, Fr. Louie Vitale, Cindy Sheehan, and David Krieger.  The event was cosponsored by Code Pink, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Nevada Desert Experience, Progressive Democrats of Santa Barbara, Veterans for Peace, Western States Legal Foundation, and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (Santa Barbara).

"We were protesting a rehearsal of a holocaust," said Ellsberg. "Every minuteman missile is a portable Auschwitz."  Video of Ellsberg: http://youtu.be/E-s0_JI8Dp4

"We have 450 land-based Minuteman III nuclear missiles on high alert," said Amidon.  Despite hundreds of near-disasters due to human and mechanical mistakes over the years, these nuclear-armed missiles could be sent by a U.S. president in 13 minutes or less.  Thirteen minutes, with the very real possibility that false information, an electronic glitch or bad signal, or an error in human judgment, would bring the world as we know it to an end.  Minuteman III missiles would not, and nothing can, prevent retaliation.  Even without retaliation, their unilateral use would ruin the earth's atmosphere -- all over the earth.  The missiles' only function is to kill others in a process that kills us too."

"An easy immediate step toward sanity," Amidon continued, "would be to de-alert the missiles so that 24 to 72 hours would be needed to launch.  This would increase our security by reducing the likelihood of an accidental or unauthorized launch.  Those intent on achieving nuclear doomsday could rest assured that U.S. submarines and bombers would remain able to complete that job many times over.

"A second needed and obvious step that would also work wonders for our federal budget would be to decommission these missiles.  We are also calling for a cancellation of the November 14, 2012, missile (thermonuclear warhead delivery systems) test at Vandenberg Air Force Base. This will save between $20 to $30 million for this one launch."

RootsAction.org has set up an online action page through which people can email the government on this topic:

http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6741

Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries.  It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.

##

Veterans For Peace Go to Trial for Protesting Missile Launch

At 7 p.m. PT on Tuesday, October 16th,a free public event called "Putting U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policies on Trial: A Forum with the Vandenberg 15" will be held at Faulkner Gallery, 40 E. Anapamu Street, Santa Barbara, Calif.  Speakers will include Daniel Ellsberg, Fr. Louie Vitale, Cindy Sheehan, and David Krieger.  The event is cosponsored by Code Pink, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Nevada Desert Experience, Progressive Democrats of Santa Barbara, Veterans for Peace, Western States Legal Foundation, and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (Santa Barbara).

At 9 a.m. PT on Wednesday, October 17th,fifteen people, including four members of Veterans For Peace, will face trial in federal court at 1415 State Street, Santa Barbara, Calif.  They were arrested on February 25th for protesting the launch of a Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  Video: http://youtu.be/sGYVee9yW9Y

The Veterans For Peace facing trial are Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg of Berkeley, Calif.; Fr. Louie Vitale of Oakland, Calif. and Las Vegas, Nev.; John Amidon of Albany, N.Y.; and Mark Kelso of Las Vegas, Nev.  

"We were protesting a rehearsal of a holocaust," said Ellsberg. "Every minuteman missile is a portable Auschwitz."  Video of Ellsberg: http://youtu.be/E-s0_JI8Dp4

"We have 450 land-based Minuteman III nuclear missiles on high alert," said Amidon.  Despite hundreds of near-disasters due to human and mechanical mistakes over the years, these nuclear-armed missiles could be sent by a U.S. president in 13 minutes or less.  Thirteen minutes, with the very real possibility that false information, an electronic glitch or bad signal, or an error in human judgment, would bring the world as we know it to an end.  Minuteman III missiles would not, and nothing can, prevent retaliation.  Even without retaliation, their unilateral use would ruin the earth's atmosphere -- all over the earth.  The missiles' only function is to kill others in a process that kills us too."

"An easy immediate step toward sanity," Amidon continued, "would be to de-alert the missiles so that 24 to 72 hours would be needed to launch.  This would increase our security by reducing the likelihood of an accidental or unauthorized launch.  Those intent on achieving nuclear doomsday could rest assured that U.S. submarines and bombers would remain able to complete that job many times over.

"A second needed and obvious step that would also work wonders for our federal budget would be to decommission these missiles.  We are also calling for a cancellation of the November 14, 2012, missile (thermonuclear warhead delivery systems) test at Vandenberg Air Force Base. This will save between $20 to $30 million for this one launch."

Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries.  It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.

##

US / NATO OUT OF AFGHANISTAN NOW!

How Many More Will Die for a Lie?

Veterans For Peace opposed the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001.  We did not believe it was justified.  As military veterans, we did not think that war and occupation were what the world needed.  Eleven years later in our nation's longest war, it is apparent that the US / NATO occupation of Afghanistan has been based on a series of lies.  One of the biggest lies today is that the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is succeeding, and the American people should therefore be patient with a phased withdrawal over several years.

The Pentagon’s Afghanistan strategy is up in smoke, more exposed than ever in recent news reports. The now-ended “surge” failed to break the momentum of the Afghan resistance, and officials have now abandoned their hope for a peace deal with the Taliban. Even so, there are twice as many U.S. troops, contractors and mercenaries in Afghanistan as when Obama took office.

A “withdrawal” strategy based on training Afghan police and military has been smashed by “insider killings.The Afghan people, like all people, do not want to live under foreign occupation.

The generals and politicians know their war can never be won, and they admit this behind closed doors.  But they refuse to take responsibility for a 'military defeat' on their watch. So they lie to the public, say all is going as planned, and continue sending young men and women into a failed mission to save face.

Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed and maimed.Innocent civilians, including children, are killed by US/NATO forces on a regular basis. The Afghan people had no role in the 9/11 attacks.  Rather, 9/11 was made the rationale for an invasion that was already in the planning—not for freedom, democracy or human rights, but for Washington's and Wall Street's economic and geostrategic interests.

Over 2,134 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistanmore than 250 so far this year alone,  This figure does not include another one thousand NATO deaths, or contractors and mercenaries.

The seen and unseen wounds of this unjustified and failed war are killing soldiers at a higher rate than combat. A June New York Times articlereported more suicides among active duty troops than soldiers dying on the battlefield with at that time 154 taking their own lives, averaging one a day. This is in contrast to 124 fatalities from fighting in Afghanistan. The deaths continue at home as veterans return to devastated communities with services cut, no jobs to be found and suffering from physical and mental injuries. According to a widely cited VA report, 18 veterans commit suicide every-day. Or to put it another way, 1 every 80 minutes.

How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding?” asks Army LTC Daniel Davis, who traveled 9,000 miles through 8 provinces in Afghanistan before writing a grim assessmentof the US/NATO occupation. Colonel Davis is right—nobody else should be sacrificed in a lost cause.

Withdrawing all U.S. troops immediately—as favored by a large majority of American people– would be the right thing to do. Instead, our elected 'leaders' in government and unelected 'leaders' in the Pentagon are forcing troops into multiple deployments simply because they don’t want to be embarrassed.

Soldiers have alternatives to going to war, and Veterans For Peace is actively engaged in reaching out to GIs about those alternatives. For example, they may seek to be discharged as Conscientious Objectors.  Or they can demand real treatment for their physical and psychological wounds, instead of redeployment to war.

Tens of thousands of military personnel have gone AWOL since 2001.Many are living discreetly in the U.S. or seeking sanctuary in Canada, Germany and elsewhere.  We support war resisters. And in contrast to cynical politicians and generals, we actually do “support the troops.”

Veterans For Peace is joining forces with the young veterans of March Forward in the Our Lives Our Rights campaign.  We are reaching out to active duty GI's with a message of hope.  “If you wish to avoid returning to war, we will help you.  You don't have to go to Afghanistan.”

For more information about Our Lives Our Rights,

Call Mike Prysner at 813-785-3179 or Gerry Condon at 206-499-1220

Email projectsafehaven@hotmail.com, orvisitthe campaign website at www.ourlivesourrights.org.

Veterans and Allies Arrested in New York as Afghanistan War Enters Year 12

Veterans and Allies Arrested in New York as Afghanistan War Enters Year 12

Twenty-five people, most of them U.S. military veterans, were arrested while laying flowers at a war memorial in New York City Oct. 7. They were engaged in a peaceful vigil to honor those killed and wounded in war and to oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan as it entered its 12th year.

The vigil was held at Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza in lower Manhattan and began with a program of music and speakers including Vietnam veteran Bishop George Packard, Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Chris Hedges, and Iraq combat veteran Jenny Pacanowski. At 8:30, the protesters began reading the names of the New York soldiers killed in Vietnam who are commemorated at the plaza and the military dead in Afghanistan and Iraq.

At 10:15 pm, the police informed the group that the park was officially closed and that if they remained they would be arrested. Many chose to continue reading names and laying flowers until they were handcuffed and taken away.  One of the arrestees was Word War II Army combat veteran, Jay Wenk, 85, from Woodstock, NY.

The veterans had four aims:

  • Demand an end to the 11-year war in Afghanistan
  • Demand an end to all U.S. wars of aggression
  • Remember all those killed and wounded by war
  • Stand up for our right, and duty, to assemble and organize

Photojournalist, poet and Vietnam veteran Mike Hastie was the first arrested, after appealing to police not to force the veterans out of the war memorial: “This is a sad day. I was a medic in Vietnam. I watched soldiers commit suicide. I had soldiers’ brains all over my lap. How can you do this? How can you arrest me for being at a war memorial?”

Former VFP President Mike Ferner said, “I bet a lot of the arresting officers tonight were also military veterans; a number of them didn’t look too happy with the job they were told to do.”

“War is a public health problem, not only because of those killed directly, but also for the lingering trauma it causes,” said leading health care activist Dr. Margaret Flowers. “Ending war would be a good preventive health care measure.”

Poet Jenny Pacanowski read part of her poem “Parade,” which began “The funeral procession from Syracuse airport to Ithaca NY was over 50 miles long./Dragging his dead body through town after town of people, families and children waving flags./The fallen HERO had finally come home./I wonder how many children who saw this, will someday want to be dead HEROS too./I did not wave a flag that day or any day since my return.” She went on, “I live in a dream called my life. Where the good things don't seem real or sustainable./I live in the nightmares of the past called Iraq and PTSD that never run out of fuel./Is it better to be dead hero?/Or a living fucked up, addicted, crazy veteran?”

“As long as we keep exposing the truth about these wars, then these people will not have died in vain,” said VFP board member Tarak Kauff.

Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters across the U.S.  VFP has official "Observer" status at the United Nations, and is the only national veterans organization calling for the abolition of war.
 

Americans in Pakistan Meet Families of Victims Obama Says Don't Exist

Thirty-two U.S. peace activists, including 6 members of Veterans For Peace are taking part in a peace delegation to Pakistan organized by the anti-war group Code Pink.

See video: http://vimeo.com/50666774

Wednesday the delegation met with U.S. Charge d'Affaires Richard Hoagland.  U.S. peace activist Robert Naiman asked about reports of secondary attacks on rescuers of drone victims.  Ambassador Hoagland denied that rescuers are targeted, but not that strikes are launched on the same location just struck minutes before.

Hoagland also said that he agreed with President Obama that the number of civilian deaths was near zero, but later seemed to contradict himself when he said that number he believed was accurate was in "two digits."  When asked to be more specific as to whether that number was closer to 10 or 99, he declined.

WAR, VETS AND MORAL INJURY

It’s not just suicide. It’s also drug overdose, car crash — quasi- or secret suicide, carried out in fearful isolation.

Young Iraq and Afghanistan vets are dying in increasing numbers by their own hands in “a largely unseen pattern of early deaths that federal authorities are failing to adequately track and have been slow to respond to,” according to a recent story in the Austin American-Statesman based on a six-month investigation of the causes of death of 266 Texas veterans, out of the 345 known to the Veterans Administration to have died since their return from duty. At least 142 of those deaths were self-inflicted in one way or another.

After Years-Long Media Black-Out, The Prosecution of an American President Opens at US Theaters

After a years-long media black-out and a grueling battle to get the film shown in the US, The Prosecution of an American President, the brainchild of the Los Angeles County prosecutor who prosecuted Charles Manson, opens at theaters this week.  In its long trek to the American big screen, the movie was originally scheduled to be run on HBO before the channel dropped it at the last minute.  Bugliosi then had to go outside the country to find a producer, Windsor Ontario NAFTC Studios.

Yahoo News:

Veterans For Peace Now in Pakistan Opposing Drone War

Seven Members of Veterans For Peace are part of a 40-member delegation organized by Code Pink now in Pakistan through October 10th. VFP members Leah Bolger, Dave Dittemore, Bill Kelly, Jody Mackey, Rob Mulford, and Ann Wright are meeting with drone victims' families, elected officials, tribal elders, and residents of South Waziristan, where U.S. drone strikes have killed thousands, while injuring and making refugees of many more. Code Pink's Medea Benjamin is an associate member of VFP.

The relentless drone war continued with a U.S. drone strike in the Mir Ali area on Monday, reportedly killing three unidentified people.

At the same time, the Pakistani media is full of accounts of the U.S. delegation and their planned participation in a march to the heaviest hit areas, a story also appearing in British and other world media.  The English language Pakistani newspaper Dawn reports:

"ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan said that a 30-member foreign delegation had reached Islamabad on Sunday which would participate in PTI’s 'peace rally' in South Waziristan, DawnNews reported.

"The PTI Chairman Imran Khan said that people who do not want peace are against PTI peace rally.

"Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Khan said Mehsud, Burki and Bhittani tribes of  Waziristan have welcomed the peace rally. The tribal leaders had also assured the security of the participants of the rally, he added.

"He complained that the government was not issuing visas to the foreign journalists and human right’s activists who wanted to attend the rally.

"Speaking on the occasion, US citizen Ann Wright, who is a former diplomat and military woman, said most of the American people were against drone attacks.

“'Drone attacks are illegal and criminal. We request the people of Pakistan to raise their voice against them. We will go to Waziristan to apologise to the relatives of those killed by drones,' said Ms Wright, who is also the spokesperson for the Anti-War Movement.
"She said the US had been violating the sovereignty of Pakistan. 'There is travel warning for the US citizens but we have come here and will go to the places where our government does not want us to go,' she said.

Other US citizens who have reached here to take part in the PTI rally include Paki Wieland, a social worker (Massachusetts); Linda Wenning, a graduate from the University of Utah; Lorna Vander Zanden and Pam Bailey (Virginia); Jolie Terrazas, Judy Bello, Katie Falkenberg, Daniel Burns and Joe Lombardo (New York); Barbara Briggs, Tighe Barry, Sushila Cherian, Dianne Budd and Toby Blome (California); Leah Bolger, Tudy Cooper and Michael Gaskill (Oregon); Medea Benjamin, Jody Tiller and Alli McCracken (Washington DC); Anam Eljabali (Illinois), Patricia Chaffee (Wisconsin), Joan Nicholson (Pennsylvania), Robert Naiman and JoAnne Lingle (Indiana); Rob Mulford (Alaska), Lois Mastrangelo (Massachusetts) and Billy Kelly (New Jersey).

"Meanwhile explaining the route of the rally, the PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said  thet the march will start from Islamabad’s Blue Area and will proceed towards Balkasar, Talagang, Mianwali and DI Khan on October 6.

"On October 7, the rally will gather at Tank and then head towards South Waziristan where a public meeting will be held at Kot Kai, he added."

 

Veterans For Peace President Leah Bolger reports that, in addition to Ann Wright, Bill Kelly, Rob Mulford, and herself took part in the press conference representing VFP.  Wright was introduced by Khan and spoke about the purpose of the delegation, and answered questions from the press.  Bolger reounts:

 

"Ann did a fantastic job of describing the purpose of the delegation and responding to reporters' questions which included asking us if we were concerned for our own safety, given the strong anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.  She was very candid in saying that we were opposed to the policies of our own government which we consider to be illegal and immoral, and that as citizens of the United States we apologized for the deaths of Pakistanis because of the drone strikes.  She went on to say that the U.S. government does not want us to be here in Pakistan, but that despite official State Department warnings not to travel here, we are determined to meet with the people who have been harmed by our government, and in our name."

Rob Mulford sent in this comment:

 

"Love is the seed from which the flower of peace grows. Prior to coming to Pakistan, I was often asked by friends, family, loved ones the rhetorical question: why, what do you hope to accomplish, what is the efficacy? Sometimes when put on the spot I struggle for answers grounded in the technical without seeing the ubiquitous truth. I am here to say 'I love you' to a people who have for too long and too often been wrongly vilified. But words are empty without action. The warmth of tacit contact, the handshake, the hug, the reflection of an other's beauty in ones own eyes, and openly sharing one's own vulnerability. This is peace.

"Peace requires courage. Saturday we met with the anthropologist / filmmaker Samar Miniallah Khan. Samar, a Pashtun, tirelessly and courageously works to comfort and protect some of the most venerable people on the face of the earth, women and children who have had no part in the making of a world where they suffer. Her documentary 'Women Behind the Burqa' may just be the most powerful statement that I have ever seen in opposition to war. It needs to be seen by everyone in the United States, shown in schools, to those who govern, and on the popular media. It lays bare the lie that 'we' (US military forces) are involved involved in protecting women.

"Drones are robot assassins, murders. They are not tools of the just."

Pam Bailey reports on her blog:

"Monday evening, I will fly from New York City to Abu Dhabi, and then on to Islamabad. On Oct. 6, I and about 30 others from the United States and the UK will join PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or 'Movement for Justice') Chairman Imran Khan on a convoy into South Waziristan, the 'no-man’s land' along the border with Afghanistan where extremists hide and U.S. drones most often strike.
"Before founding the PTI party in 1996, Khan played international cricket for two decades (at 39, Khan led his teammates to Pakistan’s first and only World Cup victory in 1992) and became a much-beloved philanthropist, including the founding of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre. Foreign Policy magazine described him as 'Pakistan’s Ron Paul.'
"The original plan was for the convoy to penetrate deep into North Waziristan, the heart of the unrest and military response, allowing us to visit the families caught in the crossfire at 'Ground Zero.'
"However, after threats of suicide attacks were received, the plan was revised to limit the convoy to South Waziristan – a path that the Hakimullah Mahsud-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, or the Pakistani Taliban) has pledged to protect. The question now is whether the Pakistani government will allow the convoy to go ahead. In light of Khan’s criticism of the Pakistani government’s tacit complicity with the U.S. drone attacks, several international journalists already have been denied visas. Stay tuned."

Veterans For Peace member Ray McGovern, not on the trip, provides context here.

VFP is part of a coalition organizing an online petition in support of banning weaponized drones.  VFP members are delivering over 16,000 signatures on the petition to those they meet with in Pakistan: PDF.

In addition, Veterans For Peace is a member organization of UNAC (the United National Antiwar Coalition, a U.S. group), and Leah Bolger represents VFP on the UNAC Administrative Committee.  Joe Lombardo and Judi Bello, also part of the delegation to Pakistan, are also UNAC Administrative Committee members.  UNAC has just released a statement opposing the use of drones: PDF.

Participants are available for interviews by email and phone, and in-person after the trip.

Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries.  It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.

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PTSD, The Grand Scapegoat

By Joseph Tarantolo, M.D.

The diagnosis of PTSD was created in response to pressure from Vietnam veterans who wanted to be sure of their right to receive medical and financial benefits as befitting any man (the military was minimally integrated at that time) who fought in an unpopular and hateful war. We must be clear about this to be able to take PTSD out of the sphere of medical diagnoses and place it where it belongs:  a social, political, and moral position in a country ambivalent about its warriors.

Veterans to Stand Firm as Afghan War Enters Year 12

Dedicated and disciplined nonviolent activists, and in particular military veterans, are being openly invited to join members of Veterans For Peace in a peaceful vigil in New York City that will as likely as not result in their wrongful arrest and prosecution.

The time will be 6 p.m. on October 7, 2012, as the United States and NATO complete the eleventh year of the current occupation of Afghanistan and launch the twelfth.  The crowd at the Republican National Convention cheered for complete immediate withdrawal, but the nominee's plans don't include it.  The crowds at rallies for President Obama's reelection cheer for both the continuation of the war and its supposed status as "ending," even though the timetable for that "ending" is longer than most past wars, and a massive occupation is supposed to remain after the occupation "ends."  Veterans For Peace, an organization dedicated to the abolition of war, is hoping to inject a discordant note into this happy discourse -- something that the ongoing reports of deaths just don't seem to manage.

The place will be Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza, 55 Water Street, New York City.  It was there that some of the same veterans gathering this October were arrested last May First.  The memorial is normally open around the clock, but on that day the New York Police Department decided to close it at 10 p.m. in order to evict the Occupy Movement's nonviolent general assembly.  Eight members of the Veterans Peace Team and two members of Occupy Faith were arrested for refusing to leave.  Since that day, a small metal sign has been posted at the park stating that it closes at 10 p.m.  This October 7th, the veterans have a permit for sound equipment lasting until 10 p.m., but they intend to remain overnight.

Vietnam vet Paul Appell says, "War veterans, loved ones of the fallen, and certainly those living in war zones do not have the option of closing down their memories at 10 p.m. There is a good reason why suicide is an attractive option for many. It is truly the only sure way of ending the memories. For a memorial to shut down at some convenient time for the city is an insult to all those who do not have the luxury of shutting down their war memories at a specific time. I know that many want us war vets to go out of sight and not bother them, except when we are needed for some parade. Some of us are not going away at 10 p.m. or any other time. If they do not like it, maybe they should have thought of that before they sent us to war.

Tarak Kauff, U.S. Army, 1959-1962, and one of the organizers of VFP's Veterans Peace Team, says, "We will be there standing together and getting arrested again if necessary for our right to remember the fallen, to oppose and 'abolish war as an instrument of national policy' and to affirm our right to do so in a public place of remembrance that has great meaning for all veterans."

The plan is not for a mass demonstration.  In fact, many are explicitly not invited.  Non-veterans are enthusiastically welcome, including associate members of Veterans For Peace and anyone else dedicated to ending violence in the world.  But "diversity of tactics" is unapologetically rejected.  Anyone inclined toward violence, provocation, or threats, including violence to inanimate objects, is kindly asked on this day, to respect the Memorial, the veterans, and the commitment to nonviolence.  This event will involve hundreds of activists who intend to peacefully vigil all night, and who will not respond to police violence with any violence of their own.

Speakers at the vigil will oppose a single additional day of U.S. warmaking in Afghanistan.  Speakers will include Leah Bolger, Margaret Flowers, Glen Ford, Mike Hastie, Chris Hedges, George Packard, Donna Schaper, Kevin Zeese, and Michael Zweig. Dr. Cornel West has also been invited.  At 9:30 p.m. participants will lay flowers for the fallen.

The purpose of this action, which will succeed whether the police interfere or not, is well expressed by several vets planning to take part.  Mike Ferner, Navy Corpsman 1969-1973, and past president of Veterans For Peace, says, "I'm coming to NYC October 7th because I need to do more for myself and the world than just get angry at the misery and suffering.  Being with my comrades again and standing up for peace uplifts my spirit."

Rev. George E. Packard, Retired, Bishop for the Armed Forces of the Episcopal Church, asks, "How can we, as Americans and compassionate human beings, tolerate even one more day creating a toxic battle environment in that southwest Asian country? We increase the lethality of our weaponry -- more drones, more firepower -- so we can protect our troops and not face the bad news of casualties at home. But it is a useless scheme and one that sacrifices the lives primarily of Afghan women and children, the real collateral damage.  Also, this destruction becomes latent in our culture as the postponed agony of PTSD in thousands of troops extends to their immediate families in the United States. Entire segments of our population are sentenced to living addicted or arrested lives because we weren't wise enough to figure out a more humane and effective foreign policy."

Ellen Barfield, Heavy Equipment Mechanic Sergeant, U.S. Army, 1977-1981, adds, "I will mourn the New York U.S. soldiers dead from Vietnam whose names are there on that wall, and the thousands of U.S. and other soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in these more recent wars, and the millions of civilians who were killed in Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan. But I will also express our right to visit memorials and speak out against wars at any time of the day or night. Sadly, war trauma does not sleep, so setting arbitrary curfews at war memorials is cruel and unjust. We will object with our bodies to the repression of mourning and dissent."

Erik Lobo, Navy veteran, remarks, "I will be at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial because the oath I took -- both in the Navy and during 28 years in law enforcement -- to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, does not have an expiration date."

David Ross, Vietnam veteran, explains, "Once again I will be honored to stand with my sisters and brothers and our friends regardless of the inconvenience. I owe this and, looking back over 40 years of veteran organizing, the need to take a stand has never been greater."

William P. Homans, a.k.a. Watermelon Slim, Vietnam veteran, says, "I will be returning to the New York Vietnam Memorial to play Taps. . . .  I will also be there because the American right to dissent from 'business as usual' is at risk. I was in the anti-Vietnam War movement back in the early '70s when I returned from Vietnam, and I never considered the absolute right to speak and dissent to be threatened. . . . But mostly I will be there to mourn."

John Spitzberg of Ashville VFP, puts it this way: "I speak for those who have died and for those who are so infirm that they are unable to come to New York on October 7th. We are the living and able who rally for you so that your voices are heard and are not in vain. We come to say 'Enough of this travesty of mindless war, mindless mayhem and devastation.'"

Finally, Kauff, who is doing a lot to organize this event, says, "I have a fury inside me against war and those rich fat cats who perpetrate wars and militarism. Yes, I take it personally.  These wars are not about defending freedom or democracy. They have nothing to do with that -- just the opposite. The top-down leaders, the corporate warlords, the politicians, the Masters of War don't give a damn about freedom and democracy, about the lives and money going from the poor and middle class to fight and pay for these wars. They and their kids don't fight, die and come home wounded in body and soul. No, they make fortunes selling weapons while destroying the world. It pains and angers me deeply, and I want to stop it.  On October 7th, while grieving for, remembering and respecting the fallen, I will take a stand for my and others' right to peacefully and nonviolently affirm this whenever and wherever we want to, especially at this hallowed place, where memories and reminders of the futility of war never cease, not at 10 p.m., not at any time."

The website is StopTheseWars.org  There you can register to participate, whether you wish to stand with the vets after 10 p.m. or to serve in a supporting role.

Mr, President, Why Is My Son in Afghanistan?

Anna Berlinrut
Maplewood, New Jersey

September 17, 2012
President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

He's been in Afghanistan for two weeks, but I feel as though I've aged 10 years. This is my only son's sixth deployment in harm's way.

I was supposed to get together with friends Saturday night. But when I read that two more NATO troops were killed in Helmund Province in a green on blue attack, I cancelled my plans. Then I found out they were Brits. This morning I heard that four American troops were killed by Afghans in uniform. Another mother's son is dead. Not mine.

I don't understand why our troops are there. First we were told it was to destroy al Qaeda. But Bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda has not been in Afghanistan in large numbers in many years. They are now scattered around the world in many countries.

Minnesota Has Model Action for Armistice Day

 
For almost 25 years, Veterans For Peace Chapter 27, in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, has celebrated November 11 as the original ARMISTICE DAY,  ringing bells 11 times at 11, as was done at the end of World War I, when the world came together in realization that war is so horrible, we must end it now.   Four years ago, our national Veterans for Peace  organization (www.veteransforpeace.org)  adopted a resolution encouraging all VFP Chapters to join in.  As always,  we encourage groups and individuals everywhere to join us in the ringing of bells on or around November 11, coupled with a personal or organizational commitment to peace.
 
This year, our peace commitment is partnered with Move to Amend at www.movetoamend.org, knowing that too much of the corporate money, influencing ourelectoral process and democracy, is heavily tied up in maintaining the infrastructure that wants us to be in perpetual warfare.
 
We are also partnered with the Minnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project at www.mnasap.org,  calling for local and national legislators to shift excessive war spending (benefitting mainly the 1%), back to meeting the essential needs of the majority of the American people, and indeed, the world.
 
We are also partnered with the work of David Swanson, particularly through his latest book, WHEN THE WORLD OUTLAWED WAR, available at www.davidswanson.org.  This tells the story of Frank Kellogg, U.S. Secretary of State (from Minnesota), and Aristide Briand of France, working together to pass the 1928 Kellogg/Briand Pact, still binding, to make war illegal as a means of settling international differences. 
 
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO HOLD YOUR OWN 11 BELLS CEREMONY, simply gather on November 11 (or near that time).  Read the statement below,ring bells 11 times at 11, and pause for a moment of silence, or a larger discussion, to formulate your own commitment to peace:
 
The Armistice of 1918 ended the terrible slaughter of World War I.  The U.S. alone had experienced the death of over 116,000 soldiers, plus many more who were physically and mentally disabled.  For one moment, at the 11th hour of the llth day on the 11th month, the world  agreed that World War I must be THE WAR TO END ALL WARS.  There was exuberant joy everywhere, and many churches rang their bells'some 11 times at 11 a.m. on November 11, when the Armistice was signed.  This went on for many years, and then slowly it was forgotten, not everywhere in the world, but certainly in the United States.  Now we commemorate this moment again, ringing bells 11 times, followed by a moment of silence, to remember the many soldiers and civilians killed and injured in warfare, and to make our own commitment to work for peace in our family, our community, our nation, and our world.
 
The You Tube link below is Jack Nelson Pallmeyer, founder of MnASAP,  speaking at last year's Chapter 27 vigil on November 11, when 11 of us slept/stood watch at  the Occupy site in downtown Minneapolis:

 
Chapter 27 contacts for Armistice Day, 11 Bells are --
     Larry Johnson,  larryjvfp@gmail.com or 612-747-3904
     Steve McKeown,  s.h.mckeown@hotmail.com or 612-869-2040

We Are Not Your Soldiers Starts A New Semester In The Schools

We Are Not Your Soldiers is gearing up for the fall semester to visit more high schools and colleges with veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Students will learn about the vets' experiences and why they should not enlist to fight in these ongoing wars. As the occupation of Afghanistan and "sanitized warfare" through kill lists and drone-bombings continues n o matter who will be president, we need to intervene in the lives of young people before they are signed away to the war machine. See wearenotyoursoldiers.org.

Find out more about the We Are Not Your Soldiers tour—watch this overview:

About Face, Bloody Hell

"About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War," is a book that should be stacked up on a table in every high school cafeteria, next to the vultures.  Sorry, I mean the war pushers. Sorry, I mean the good recruiters for the services of the profiteers of death. Sorry, you know the people I mean.  That is, unless useful books can make it into classrooms, which would be even better.

Most G.I. resistance in Vietnam, this book points out, came from those who had willingly signed up, not from draftees.  It is often those who believe the hype, who are trying to benefit the world by going to war, who find the will try to benefit the world when their blinders have been removed and they've seen what war is and what war is used for. 

"About Face" collects stories of recent resistance within the "volunteer" U.S. military.  These are young people with few job options who choose military "service" but discover it isn't a service.  They all have stories, many of them highlighting particular moments of conversion.  The reality is usually more complex and gradual, but the stories make the point.

Benji Lewis was a Marine in Iraq.  After two "tours" he gave some thought to things that had happened on his first tour, including this:

"They were shooting at this lady who was walking up to our posts waving her arms and asking for help in Arabic.  So I came up close and talked to her, and her face looked like death itself.  She had salt crusted all over her face.  It was obvious that she had been crying for quite a bit.  I kind of got the story that she had a family.  We were like, 'Go back home, go to your family.'  And then it came out that she was asking for help.  Three days ago, her entire family, her children, had been pretty much buried in the rubble of their house, and she was asking for help.  I asked my staff sergeant, 'Can we help her?'  He said to tell her to walk to the Red Cross aid station, which was a few miles away.  We couldn't leave our posts to help her, so we gave her a couple of bottles of water and wished her luck, you know.  It downed on me later on that me being the adjusting gunner for the mortar section, there was a good probability that I was the one that put those rounds on her house." 

Lewis refused orders for his Individual Ready Reserve recall and was discharged with no penalties.  While some resisters are punished, that does not seem to be the norm.  Often the resistance takes the form of going AWOL, and in some cases later turning oneself in.  Andre Shepherd sought refugee status in Germany:

"I made a decision during [a] two-week period that I would have to walk away from the service rather than either get myself killed or get somebody else killed in a war that was based on a pack of lies."

Some resisters don't believe they should request conscientious objector status, because that requires opposing all wars.  Having come to see through the lies and horror of one war, they still fantasize that some other war might be a good idea.  Those who do apply for conscientious objector status don't always receive it, but many do.  Hart Viges joined up in 2001, gung ho for the war on terra.  He was honorably discharged as a conscientious objector three years later.  "I am opposed to all wars," he says.  "When anybody picks up a tool to violently fight their brother or sister, I am opposed to it and do not support it.  I finally found my fight, my good fight.  It's the path that I am most comfortable with, more comfortable with myself than I have ever been in the rest of my life."  Telling the truth about war turns out to be great therapy for veterans and for our whole society.

But the stories should perhaps be taken in small doses.  Reading through these books without pause can make you understand why it is sometimes the counselors who hear all the soldiers' stories who end up losing their own minds.  "About Face" informs potential recruits and those already recruited that they have options, as well as informing aging peace activists where the young ones are: they're among the veterans.  Many other books and videos can add to the reality that needs to be communicated to a culture increasingly viewing war as a harmless sport.  Probably the most powerful collection of veterans' stories I've read is "Bloody Hell" by Dan Hallock.  This is essentially an uncensored view of what can become of you if you don't resist.

"Bloody Hell" shows us homeless men, men mad with nightmares, in prison, on death row, drunk, weeping, drugged, screaming, suicidal, and unable to prevent themselves from harming those they love.  A Vietnam veteran identified as Lee married and had a little girl with a Vietnamese woman while stationed in Vietnam during the war.  That wife and daughter, plus drug use, were what carried him through the hell he was a part of, the killing and the dying all around him.  But the Army denied the legitimacy of his marriage and made clear he would have to leave his wife and daughter behind or desert:

"Chi and I met one last time before I was supposed to leave.  We both cried our eyes out.  It was so bad, so much pain.  We trembled in each other's arms.  I left her and went back to my unit.  Then she sent me a note saying to meet her at a cliff above the South China Sea, a very beautiful place where we had gone a lot.  I went.  I was leaving tomorrow, so I had to see her today.  I took an officer's jeep and drove to the cliff.  There they were, waiting, crying.  We didn't talk, we just held each other, with Le in between us.  We cried so much.  I reached into my pocket and took out my pistol, put it to Chi's head and pulled the trigger.  There was a splatter -- then her blood gushed out -- all over me.  I held her tightly -- with Le screaming still between us.  I held her as long as I could -- then let her go -- over the cliff and into the sea they both fell.  I pounded the earth as hard as I could -- I screamed till I had no voice.  I had nothing left inside me when I drove back.  I should have died in Vietnam instead of living the thousands of deaths that I have.  Back at the hooch no one said a word to me.  I had walked in covered with blood and looked pretty bad -- no one said a word."

Lee recounts his life back in the United States as a veteran, with a new wife, and a new child.  You can imagine.  But you should read it.  Everyone should.  Especially everyone who's 17 and not the child of a billionaire.

Shooting Your Own Side

Veterans' stories often depict war differently from what the television told us.  Drones won't talk, of course, but human warriors tell us how early the 2003 invasion of Iraq began, how the Gulf of Tonkin incident didn't happen, and how countless families have been murdered rather than liberated.  "Bloody Hell" includes an account from a veteran named Doug of the 1989 U.S. attack on Panama.  I had known that the war plans had been in place months before an incident that was used to justify this "intervention" against long-time U.S.-backed dictator Manuel Noriega.  Some drunk Panamanian soldiers had beaten up a U.S. navy officer and threatened his wife.  But listen to this account from Doug:

"At Fort Bragg I was ordered to go on a mission against a group of people I had never dreamed of -- our own soldiers.  I was assembled along with Michael and four other men whom I never had met before.  We were among the few soldiers in the U.S. Army at the time with combat experience, with confirmed sniper kills; we were also the best of the best.  The thinking at the Pentagon was that to get the soldiers stationed in Panama to fight, they had to have very good reasons.  We're talking here about soldiers who have never experienced combat before.  And the best way to get them riled up was to attack them.  When Michael asked what the other four men in our mission were doing, we were told it was none of our business.  You see, American soldiers, especially infantry soldiers, stick together.  If one of them gets into a predicament in a bar -- I mean a fight -- the others don't walk away, they join in.  You don't fight one of them, you fight all of them.  Their training has taught them to be a team; they depend on each other, and it doesn't matter if it's a barroom brawl or not.  They depend on each other to get home.  So what better way to get them all worked up than to take pot shots at them?  We were told that we would be saving lives by doing this.  For weeks leading up to the invasion of Panama, Michael and I took pot shots at soldiers during the night." 

There's wrong.

And then there's Army wrong.

Navy Vet Responds to Navy Week P.R.

By Mike Ferner

All this summer, the U.S. Navy has put on a multi-million dollar dog and pony show called “Navy Week” in 15 cities across the country.  Six stops on the Great Lakes featured guided missile frigates, coastal patrol boats and the historic brig “Niagara,” the ship Oliver Hazard Perry transferred to during the War of 1812’s Battle of Lake Erie (“Don’t Give Up the Ship”), when the “Lawrence” was blown out from under him.

At each stop, Navy officers and enlisted gave numerous press interviews, visited kids in hospitals, played musical concerts, helped build projects for the disabled and everywhere displayed banners with its motto, “America’s Navy: A Global Force for Good.”

Remembering Joshua Casteel

published by Jose Vasquez on 08/26/12
 
Iraq Veterans Against the War mourns the loss of our brother Joshua Casteel, 32, of Cedar Rapids, IA. Joshua was diagnosed in early November 2011 with stage IV lung cancer (adenocarcinoma), that was also present in his liver, spine and adrenals. He died in New York City where he was seeking experimental treatment, on August 25th at 3:30 PM accompanied by his mother Kristi, and sisters Rebekah and Naomi. Funeral services are being arranged.

For updates, visit Joshuacasteel.com

To make donations online:

Paypal

Or mail a check to:

Casteel Family

285 34th Street SE

Cedar Rapids, IA 52403

Joshua was trained as an Arabic translator and deployed with the 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion to Abu Ghraib prison working as an interrogator from June 2004 to January 2005. Upon his return, Joshua applied for conscientious objector status and was honorably discharged in May 2005. His story is featured in the documentary film Soldiers of Conscience:

Joshua enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves at age 17, and later enrolled in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The rigidity and conformity of West Point was a turnoff so he left after just three months. The University of Iowa helped Casteel land on his feet, but his ROTC experience was similar to West Point.

With the military a lesser priority, Joshua enrolled at a university in Colorado for a year before returning to Iowa to earn his B.A. in Literature, Science, and Arts in 2002. He then earned a dual M.F.A. in Playwriting and Non-Fiction Writing, also from the University of Iowa in 2008. Joshua was working as a Graduate Arts Management Fellow at the University of Chicago before he was diagnosed with cancer.

Joshua served on IVAW’s Board of Directors in 2006. In addition, he stood with war resister Ricky Clousing at a press conference before Ricky turned himself in to the military. (Starting at 16:00 min)

In March 2008, Joshua led a panel on Racism and Dehumanization at Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2010, he testified at the Truth Commission on Conscience and War.

Joshua believed his illness was a result of his service in Iraq where he was exposed to the toxic fumes from burn pits and had submitted a compensation claim with the Veterans Administration.

Joshua was invited to speak at over 50 venues worldwide, including the UK, Sweden, South Korea, as well as two national tours of Ireland. In 2006, Joshua appeared on the stage of the Royal Court Theatre for Human Rights Watch’s Cries From the Heart performing a monologue from his play Returns, which premiered at the University of Iowa in February 2007, and then at Columbia College in Chicago. Some of Joshua’s essays on war and Christian ethics have become part of course curricula at Wheaton College and Duke Divinity School. He was also featured in the documentary film Iraq for Sale.

Joshua was an accomplished author who published a book of writings home while deployed in his Letters from Abu Ghraib in 2008. He was also active with Warrior Writers.

He grew up a in a devoted evangelical Christian household. His father Everett “Rick” Casteel, also an Army veteran, founded Caleb Ministries, a counseling and mediation agency in Cedar Rapids. Sadly, Rick also succumbed to cancer in 2010 and Joshua was with his father during those difficult days.

Our deepest sympathies go out to his loving family. Joshua was an inspiration to many of us in the military and veterans community. His conviction and willingness to speak the truth was an example to us all. Joshua was truly a soldier of conscience. May he rest in peace.

Related links:

http://www.facebook.com/Joshua.casteel (Joshua's Facebook page)

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/Joshuacasteel/journal (Caring Bridge journal)

http://paxchristiusa.org/2012/08/25/obituary-Joshua-casteel-presente/ (Pax Christi obituary)

Other videos :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=fM8jjqxtSpY

Should More of the Blood Be on the Train Tracks?

At this year's Veterans For Peace convention in Miami, VFP President Leah Bolger challenged members to take risks: "Many of you have risked a lot for war.  What will you risk for peace?"

One VFP member, S. Brian Willson, gave his legs and part of his skull for peace.  It was 1987, and the U.S. military was shipping weapons to port, in order to ship them to El Salvador and Nicaragua, where they would be used to slaughter the people of those nations, where, in Willson's words "In one country, we supported a puppet government against a people's revolution; in the other, we supported a puppet revolution against a people's government." 

Willson had decided that his own life was not worth more than the lives of non-Americans, that they were losing their lives and limbs as a direct result of our inaction, and that he had a moral responsibility to act.  Willson and others sat down on a train track in front of a train full of weapons.  The train usually traveled at 5 miles per hour.  The train would stop.  The protesters would be removed from the tracks.  That was the standard practice, and that was the law.  But that's not what happened the day Willson lost his legs.

It seems that the military had decided that nonviolent protesters did not exist, that everywhere in the world the only tool available was violence.  Therefore, Wilson must be a violent terrorist.  Therefore, he and his companions must be planning to jump aboard the train.  Therefore, the train must speed up and stop for nothing and nobody.  That was the order given.  The other protesters moved out of the way in time.  Willson, sitting cross-legged, could not.  The train ran him over.  And then the men driving the train sued Willson for causing them to suffer post traumatic stress. 

But something else happened too.  Hundreds of people ripped up the track and built a monument out of the railroad ties.  People formed blockades of trains on that track for years to come.  Every train and nearly every truck was blocked until January 1990.  Celebrities showed up and held rallies.  Ronald Reagan's daughter wrote a kind letter to Wilson, as did professional sports teams and other big whigs congratulating him on his courageous stand.  And similar actions sprang up around the country.  Visiting Nicaragua, Willson was treated as a national hero. 

But Willson is from our nation, and he's a global hero.  Probably his most valuable act, however, has been performed behind a keyboard.  "Blood on the Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson," with an introduction by Daniel Ellsberg, is an epic.  This is the long and careful transformation from an eager soldier accepting of rightwing dogma to a principled and courageous advocate for peace and ecological justice.  Willson now strives to live sustainably, and brings the reader to question not only the paying of war taxes but the consumption of corporate products generated by the cruel threat of force in foreign lands. 

"One day," Willson writes, "the corporations that allow and often enable terrorism in countries like Colombia will be pushed out of those countries.  We will no longer be able to buy one-dollar Cokes or ninety-nine-cent-a-pound bananas.  Maybe when that day comes, we will finally realize that we do not even desire cheap goods at the cost of others' lives.  Maybe we will finally realize that we all share a common humanity."

Willson's book is a tour, with him, of much of the world, from the killing he participated in in Viet Nam, to that he has tried to prevent in Latin America, Palestine, and elsewhere.  It’s a philosophical journey, through the course of which Willson learns much from the people he is trying to help.  The Zapatistas, the Cubans, and others are not just victims of imperialism, but pioneers in sustainable (and enjoyable!) living.  If that idea strikes you as crazy but you're willing to consider a careful argument from someone who began far to your right and doesn't change easily … or if the idea strikes you as plausible and you like to see it laid out in a very human story … either way, you can't do better than to read "Blood on the Tracks," and perhaps we as a people -- and I mean the human people, not the people of some nation -- would be better off if a little more of the blood we are still spilling in such great quantities were spilled on railroad tracks for peace. 

 

Why Veterans For Peace Will Protest the RNC and DNC

 

Veterans For Peace
216 South Meramec Ave
St. Louis MO 63105
http://veteransforpeace.org
(314) 725-6005(office)
(314) 725-7103 (fax)

Veterans For Peace will have members protesting at both the Republican National Convention in Tampa and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.  VFP President Leah Bolger explained why:

"Social change, including the abolition of war, does not come from supporting one political party over another, but from changing the culture and influencing all major parties.  Women did not vote themselves the right to vote.  The civil rights movement did not trade in nonviolent action, education, and mobilization for electoral campaigns.  The labor movement was not built by what the labor movement spends its money on today.  And when our grandparents passed the Kellogg-Briand Pact banning war, they did so by placing the criminalization of war in the platforms of the four largest parties in the country.

"A peace movement that only opposes wars when the president belongs to one party is not a peace movement.  It's a partisan campaign that uses the pretended desire for peace as bait and activists as props.  What we need far more than campaigning is movement building.  We need to organize people to bring our popular demands to the government as a whole.  The government is no longer divided into the three traditional branches.  The two branches are the two major parties.  Congress members and even Supreme Court Justices are loyal to their parties.  We must demand that both parties adopt platforms for peace.  Our economy cannot withstand further war preparation any more than our consciences can bear the consequences.

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