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The CIA has been so busy consulting on Zero Dark Thirty, not to mention funding Hamid Karzai, bribing Russians, lying about weapons, and conducting humanitarian drone murders, that it didn't have any time at all to help out with Hit and Stay, and yet arguably the latter turned out to be the better film despite such a severe handicap. You can check it out at http://hitandstay.com
This is a film about people taking risks to prevent killing rather than to engage in it. The focus is on the Catonsville Nine action on May 17, 1968, 45 years ago this Friday. That action, in which activists burned draft cards and apologized for burning papers rather than children, was preceded by the Baltimore Four action of October 27, 1967, in which four activists poured their blood on draft papers. It was followed by countless other actions, leading right up to the Transform Plowshares action in Tennessee for which three are currently awaiting sentencing.
The Catonsville action received so much publicity that it had something of an Occupy effect. That is, others who felt the same way about the slaughter of the Vietnamese people but didn't believe they could do anything, suddenly began doing something. Some did very similar actions. Others tried their own approaches to the same problem. Catonsville Nine inspired other tactics, enlarged marches and rallies, and generally moved the peace movement forward. The creativity and novelty of the action even made people think about the war who hadn't before.
Draft records were destroyed, preventing the drafting of those people. So, this was substantive resistance that couldn't be undone. At the same time it was educational and inspirational. It didn't inspire sadistic shouts of "Bin Laden's dead!" It inspired people to act on their moral outrage. There were over 100 actions taken at draft boards over the next few years. Many thousands of people's draft records were destroyed, saving them from the draft and saving those they would have killed from that fate. Some of the draft offices were shut down permanently. In the end the Selective Service declared it was under assault, and Nixon declared that the military would now be volunteer.
Some of the actions went after FBI offices and U.S. attorneys offices. Activists never yet apprehended stole COINTELPRO documents and sent them to the media, exposing the FBI's abuses and creating a major news story that lasted until it was overshadowed by the Pentagon Papers -- released by Dan Ellsberg, himself inspired by the activism shown in Hit and Stay. The people shown engaging in these actions are, in many cases, still active today -- although they look a bit older. In other cases, their sons and daughters are still involved.
The name "Hit and Stay" comes from the method of engaging in civil disobedience (or civil resistance for those who prefer to point to laws being upheld through the violation of other laws deemed less important) and then staying at the scene of the crime to take responsibility. This was a communications strategy, not a masochistic drive toward suffering. Some of the Catonsville Nine went into hiding to avoid their trial and remain active, even after having stood still long enough to be arrested and charged.
The film shows us the Milwaukee 14, the DC 9 who went after the Dow Chemical Company, and the New York 8. The New York activists hit more than one location and chose not to stay. Instead, they held a press conference to claim responsibility without identifying who was at which location or agreeing to answer questions. They were not prosecuted.
We see the Boston 2, the Rhode Island Political Offensive For Freedom (RIPOFF) -- modeled after the New York 8. We see the Rochester Flower City Conspiracy, the Buffalo, the Camden 28. That last one was encouraged, assisted, and then busted by an informant, but in the trial the judge allowed defense witnesses including people like Howard Zinn. The jury nullified the law by acquitting defendants who openly admitted to their actions. The jury joined in singing "Amazing Grace," and the foreman threw a party for the defendants.
Activists have not entirely figured out how to counter the brilliant move of creating a "volunteer" poverty draft, but neither has it shut down resistance in quite the way as is generally imagined. The stories of these long-ago actions and so many thousands of actions since still inspire. And resistance is in many ways greater now. Wars are protested before they even start, and sometimes prevented from starting. There is much to inspire us in independent media reports of nonviolent actions today, but I suspect this movie has the power to inspire us further.
By Stephen C. Webster - Raw Story
An 83-year-old nun who broke into a Tennessee depleted uranium storage facility in 2012 and splashed human blood on several surfaces, exposing a massive security hole at the nation’s only facility used to store radioactive conventional munitions, was convicted Wednesday and sentenced to a term of up to 20 years in prison.
The only regret Sister Megan Rice shared with members of her jury on Wednesday was that she wished 70 years hadn’t passed before she took direct action, according to the BBC. She and two other peace activists, 64-year-old Michael Walli and 56-year-old Greg Boertje-Obed, were convicted of “invasion of a nuclear facility” in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, even though investigators admitted they did not get close to any actual nuclear material.
The three activists are part of a group called “Transform Now Plowshares,” a reference to the book of Isaiah, which says, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares. They shall learn war no more.” All three face individual sentences of up to 20 years, along with a litany of fines.
As they invaded the Y-12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge, a perimeter fence was cut, several surfaces were spray-painted, banners were hung and activists read from the Bible. They also spread human blood on several surfaces, saying its use was symbolic, meant to remind people “of the horrific spilling of blood by nuclear weapons.”
“The shortcomings in security at one of the most dangerous places on the planet have embarrassed a lot of people,” the activists’ attorney, Francis Lloyd, told members of the jury according to the BBC. “You’re looking at three scapegoats behind me.”
Sister Rice has been arrested between 40 or 50 times committing acts of civil disobedience, according to The New York Times, including once in Nevada after she physically blocked a truck at a nuclear test site.
Depleted uranium munitions like the kind stored at the facility Sister Rice targeted are blamed for some of the worst birth defects and soaring cancer rates seen in post-war Iraq, particularly in the city of Fallujah following the siege of 2004, in which U.S. soldiers killed thousands of civilians.
The city has never recovered, particularly from the use of depleted uranium munitions, and to this day residents suffer from health effects “worse” than those seen following the nuclear detonations at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, according to a study by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
“I believe we are all equally responsible to stop a known crime,” Sister Rice said from the witness stand, according to quotes published by her group. She called herself a “citizen of the world” and reportedly smiled as the verdict was read.
This video is from ABC News, aired August 2, 2012.
It took a jury about 2 ½ hours to find the three protesters guilty of a charge of sabotaging the plant and second charge of damaging federal property in July the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge in July.
Defense attorneys said in closing arguments that federal prosecutors had overreached in the charges because of the embarrassment caused by the break-in.
This past Saturday morning felt like mid-winter in Asheville, North Carolina, but was actually some weeks past tax day, and dozens of people were gathered in front of a federal building to say something about what federal income taxes are used for -- something much more unusual than one would expect.
Posters carried messages including: "War steals from the poor" and "Defund Militerrorism." This in itself was not so unusual. Opponents of war often use tax season to inform their friends and neighbors that roughly half of income tax dollars go to war preparation. We could have the educations and health and happiness that other nations have if we didn't waste our money on the military, we say. We'd have more and better jobs, and jobs we could feel better about, we tell people.
If only our taxes weren't put to such bad ends.
But the people gathered from across the country in Asheville on Saturday were in town for a meeting of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. They had gathered on Saturday morning to announce the awarding of grants of thousands of dollars to a long list of great humanitarian causes -- all the things we wish our taxes were going to. For these people, this is in fact what their taxes are going to. Many of them have put the dollars they owe in taxes into one of a number of funds set up for this purpose. They can take their money back if they choose, but meanwhile the interest it earns goes to worthy causes of their choosing in the form of these grants announced in something more like a celebration than the usual tax-day lamentation that war opponents are all familiar with.
Following the announcements in front of the federal building, the small crowd stretched out in a long single-file line walking through Asheville, posters held high, making a tour of locations in the lives of the homeless and destitute, locations in need of the money that went to buy the bombs Israel was just then dropping on Syria.
This is part 2 of the workshop. Part two is the discussion portion of the workshop and it is an audio file.
Related Rochester Indymedia articles: Anti-Drone Banner Drop in Syracuse, NY | 31 protesters arrested for blocking drone base | Bruce Gagnon: Stop the Militarization and Nuclearization of Space! | Sarah AK Ahmed, an Iraqi, grew up through Two Decades of War | An interview with Kathy Kelly from Voices for Creative Nonviolence | Hancock Drone Resisters Found Guilty; Sentencing is April 24 | On Guard! Your Government Isn't Trustworthy! An interview with Col. (ret.) Ann Wright | We Can Make Change - Debra Sweet Interviewed | Stopping the Billionaires, the Bombers, and the War Machine--an interview with David Swanson | Everyone Must Resist! An interview with Elliott Adams | Nick Mottern Discusses Drone Warfare and His Consciousness Raising Efforts | 10 Years Ago: Hundreds say no to US aggression | Martin Luther King: "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam" | Anti-Drone Protest Draws Police Attention | Anti-Drone Demonstrators Return to Brighton | Anti-NATO coverage by Rochester Indymedia in Chicago | From Disney to Drone Wars - a critical settler perspective | Anti-Drone Demonstration Draws Hundreds; 37 Arrested for Civil Disobedience
By Bruce K. Gagnon, www.space4peace.org
I was honored to be involved in the weekend drone conference and protest in Syracuse, New York organized by the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars. I've just returned home after spending Sunday night in jail (with maybe one hour of sleep) and the long eight-hour drive back to Maine. So my mind is slipping a few gears, my wrists still hurt after about 11 hours of wearing handcuffs, but my heart and soul feel strong from the experience.
The drone conference began on Friday evening at a local community center in the Syracuse black community. More than 200 folks showed up for the event that featured some of the great activists from around the county like Col. Ann Wright, Kathy Kelly, David Swanson, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, Charley King, Mark Johnson, Elliott Adams, Howie Hawkins, Nick Mottern, Joe Lombardo, the Grady sisters, Tighe Barry, Debra Sweet and a large delegation of Veterans for Peace members from many states.
I spoke Saturday morning on a plenary panel along with Kathy Kelly and David Swanson. This gave me the chance to put drones into the larger context of US strategy and space technology development that is being used to advance the "interests" of corporate globalization and their effort to control resources around the planet. I suggested that we might think of military space satellites as being the "triggers" that makes it possible for drones to fire their deadly "Hellfire" missiles that frequently kill innocent civilians in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.
In addition I did a workshop entitled "Full Spectrum Dominance" that allowed me the time to thoroughly cover the nuclearization and weaponization of space issues.
On Sunday morning we gathered for a meeting on the planned civil resistance action later that day at Hancock Air Field from where the "Reaper" drone is flown over Afghanistan by military personnel sitting in front of computer terminals at the base - all hooked up by military satellites and Space Command down-link stations spread around the world.
Hundreds gathered in Dallas to reject the Bush Lie Bury, and three went to jail. I flew from Dallas to Syracuse, where hundreds protested Obama's drone-murder program, and 32 went to jail and are still there (and will stay until trial unless bail can be raised) -- some of them risk major jail time because they violated a protective order that the commander of a U.S. military base gained to protect himself from nonviolent peace activists. Another drone protester in Missouri, Brian Terrell, is just finishing a six-month sentence. Climate activist Tim DeChristopher just got out. The people locked in Guantanamo are refusing to eat, and groups around the world are making plans to fast with them. The people of Vieques are rallying on May 1st to demand that the U.S. military truly depart their island. Big plans are being made to rally for Bradley Manning on June 1st. This week I'm heading to the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee's meeting in North Carolina, after which -- just over in Tennessee -- three courageous activists go on trial, facing major time in prison, for having entered and protested a nuclear weapons facility.
The revolution will not be televised.
Oak Ridge, Tenn., was created during World War II as a secret city (actually two, it was segregated by race) for producing nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons have a history that marches hand-in-hand with U.S. human experimentation programs. I just had a chance to read Susan Griffin's A Chorus of Stones, and she recounts a nuclear test in 1957, when the U.S. government was still marching Marines to various distances from nuclear explosions in Nevada to find out what would become of them. Marines with their eyes closed saw the bones in their hands. They died of leukemia years later, but not before speaking about what else they saw: 10 or 12 people in a stockade formed by chain link fence and barbed wire, their faces and hands deformed, their hair falling out, their skin peeling off. Or this: men on the ground in agony, the smell of burning flesh, blood running from mouth, ears, and nose, a man trying to tear away wires that had been attached to his head.
In the late 1960s, Oak Ridge Associated Universities did radiation experiments on cancer patients, children of military personnel. NASA provided the funding, wanting to know how much radiation would produce nausea, in preparation for sending astronauts to the moon. And, boy, having sent astronauts to the moon has sure allowed us to take care of poverty and illness and environmental destruction. I don't know how we'd survive at all if we hadn't killed those children to send astronauts to the moon.
On July 28, 2012, Michael R. Walli (63), Megan Rice (82), and Greg Boertje-Obed (57) entered the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge undetected. You can't walk down the street without being filmed, but these three senior citizens were able to walk at night right up to a nuclear weapons facility. They hung up banners that read "Transform Now Plowshares" and "Swords into Plowshares Spears into Pruning Hooks–Isaiah." They strung up red crime tape. They hammered on the cornerstone of the newly built Highly-Enriched Uranium Manufacturing Facility (HEUMF), splashed human blood and left four spray-painted tags on the recent construction which read: "Woe to the empire of blood," "The fruit of justice is peace," "Work for peace not for war," and "Plowshares please Isaiah." When finally confronted by guards, they offered the guards bread and roses. They sang while forced to kneel for a long period of time.
"We come to the Y-12 facility because our very humanity rejects the designs of nuclearism, empire and war," the activists said in a statement. "Our faith in love and nonviolence encourages us to believe that our activity here is necessary; that we come to invite transformation, undo the past and present work of Y-12; disarm and end any further efforts to increase the Y-12 capacity for an economy and social structure based upon war-making and empire-building."
Vigils and other events are planned in Knoxville as the trial begins.
While the revolution is not televised, there is a calendar of events: http://warisacrime.org/content/upcoming-events
The thirty one arrestees were arraigned in De Witt Town Court before Judges Benack, Gideon, and Jokl, who imposed bails ranging from $500 - $3500, totalling $34,000. Some of the defendants were released with appearance tickets Others are refusing to post bail and will be held in jail until the next court date of May 7th & 8th. Donations may be sent to the Syracuse Peace Council, with checks made out to Syracuse Peace Council,note : Upstate Drone Action Bail Fund. 2013 E. Genessee St., Syracuse, NY 13210.
UPDATE: The thirty one arrestees were arraigned in De Witt Town Court before Judges Benack, Gideon, and Jokl, who imposed bails ranging from $500 - $3500, totalling $34,000. Some of the defendants were released with appearance tickets Others are refusing to post bail and will be held in jail until the next court date of May 7th & 8th. Donations may be sent to the Syracuse Peace Council, with checks made out to Syracuse Peace Council,note : Upstate Drone Action Bail Fund. 2013 E. Genessee St., Syracuse, NY 13210.
275 People at Protest; 31 Arrested
DeWitt (NY) town court Judge Robert Jokl sentenced five Hancock drone resisters April 24 for peacefully blocking the main entrance of Hancock air field last October 5. Jim Clume, Brian Hynes, Ed Kinane and Mark Scibilia-Carver all were sentenced to fifteen days in jail and $125 Court surcharge. Julienne Oldfield was sentenced to 50 hours of community service, the $125 surcharge and given a one year conditional discharge.
Judge Jokl found the five guilty of “trespass” in an April 18 bench trial. The five were among ten who had attempted to deliver a citizens’ indictment to the Hancock base commander and personnel for ongoing war crimes being perpetrated with weaponized hunter/killer Reaper drones over Afghanistan.
Noting that the October 5 defendants weren’t disobeying the law, but rather seeking to enforce international law, defendant Jim Clune told Judge Jokl, “We have no need to work at cross purposes here. Law is a wonderful instrument when it safeguards and promotes life, and it should be used for that purpose.”
The October 5 action is one of a half dozen such initiatives at Hancock by Upstate Drone Action, a grassroots group opposing Reaper war crimes.
Those sentenced tonight: Jim Clune of Binghamton, Brian Hynes of the Bronx, Ed Kinane of Syracuse, Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse, Mark Scibilia-Carver of Trumansburg.
By Sally McMillan
As we work through our shock and grief over the bombings at the Boston Marathon, as we express our admiration for the courageous response of the people of Boston to this tragedy, as we watch the ongoing tv broadcasts about the manhunt, as we praise the work of police, FBI, firefighters, and other first responders to these events, let’s also take a little time to reflect on the “why” as well as on the “who” and the “who else” of what happened.
This is an important question. President Obama raised it when he said, “ Why would two young men who were raised in the United States and went to school here do this kind of thing?” We could also ask, “What have they not been learning here in the United States that would have deterred them from committing this action?”
By Brian Terrell
In the final weeks of a six month prison sentence for protesting remote control murder by drones, specifically from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, I can only reflect on my time of captivity in light of the crimes that brought me here. In these ominous times, it is America’s officials and judges and not the anarchists who exhibit the most flagrant contempt for the rule of law and it is due to the malfeasance of these that I owe the distinction of this sabbatical.
As I share in the perspectives gained from residing in the federal prison camp in Yankton, South Dakota, it is important to disclose that as a political prisoner sent up on trumped misdemeanor charges for a few months, my situation is not the same as my fellow inmates! All nonviolent “offenders”, most by far are prisoners of the war on drugs and most are serving sentences of many years. I also try to avoid the temptation to exaggerate the hardships and privations I’ve suffered here. Certainly, doing time in a minimum security camp is easier time than in most other kinds of jails. If basic necessities are barely met, they are met. I am in good company and time is passing with little drama and without fear. For me, these months have been more a test of patience than of courage.
Still, this is a hard place to be in many ways and it would be wrong to minimize what people suffer here. Among these are the basic humiliation of being numbered and then counted at intervals through the day, frequent shakedowns, random frisks (stranger’s fingers fumbling with a lacerated heart, Solzhenitsyn remembered) and strip searches, separation from family and friends, severely limited visits, intercepted mail and interrupted phone calls, incessant noise and overcrowding, petty rules arbitrarily enforced.
The regime here is one of omnipresent and unrelieved bureaucracy. What I am experiencing over a few months as inconvenience and minor irritation, cumulative over years can amount to a crushing and ruinous burden.
“A concentration camp is the complete obliteration of privacy,” wrote Czech novelist Milan Kundera. It is “a world in which people live crammed together constantly, night and day. Brutality and violence are secondary, and not the least indispensible characteristics.”
At Yankton and in camps and prisons like it, the federal government has achieved the complete obliteration of privacy as the drug war has increased America’s already bloated prison population sevenfold over the last twenty years. No country locks up more of its citizens for so long sentences as the United States and it can be said, too, that the government is taking strides to extend the obliteration of privacy to the general population.
What the government has not been able to accomplish by locking up suspected drug users and dealers by the thousands is any reduction in addiction or in the sale and use of illegal drugs. There is little doubt that jailing drug related “criminals” causes more and not less drug use and crime and yet the so-called criminal justice system is expending an increasingly greater fortune in human and material resources on prisons, contrary to the ends of public safety or rehabilitation.
Before he retired, President Eisenhower warned of the emergence of a self-perpetuating “military industrial complex” producing weapons and provoking conflict for the sake of ensuring a market for more weapons. Likewise, America is increasingly in the grip of what some call a “prison industrial complex,” building and filling prisons for the purpose of ensuring fodder for more prisons.
The United States government does not run its foreign policy on any more enlightened or humane premise than it does its prisons.
The refrain “we are creating enemies faster than we are killing (or capturing) them” is a bit of truth that gets leaked to the media occasionally in recent years. Sometimes the sentiment is voiced by even the most senior military commanders and applied variously to any of several strategies, including night raids in Afghanistan, check points in Iraq, the prison at Guantánamo, and drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan.
As with prisons, United States military and diplomatic policies run contrary to their stated objectives of peace and public safety and yet they persist with little question. Prisons and the military, America’s dominant institutions, exist not to bring healing to domestic ills or relief for foreign threats but to exacerbate and manipulate them for the profit of the wealthiest few, at great cost and peril for the rest of us.
One of many discouraging moments of the presidential campaign that ended just before I surrendered to authorities here in November, was in a debate where Mr. Obama stated that Americans need to “decide for themselves” whose sanctions against Iran would be “more crippling,” his or Mr. Romney’s. This was an obscene and unacceptable choice.
Sanctions are portrayed as a diplomatic alternative to war but in their application can be as lethal, warfare by another name. Sanctions that extend beyond trade in armaments to include embargoes on food, medicine, educational materials, and other necessities of life can constitute weapons of mass destruction in themselves.
It is often said that such comprehensive and indiscriminant sanctions make prisons of the countries targeted with them. While the regime of sanctions against inmates here at Yankton is less severe than the brutal conditions I witnessed in Iraq in 1998 or that the United States imposes on the people of Iran or Gaza (by proxy), the comparison is apt. Sanctions and prisons are both about imposing economic and social isolation and both can raise levels of tension and fear when applied without conscience.
Meaningful employment, decent housing, support of loved ones, education and self-respect would be helpful responses to the scourge of addiction and the crimes that ensue from it. Providing these for people at risk would be a priority for a responsible society but all these are robbed from inmates in federal prisons. Threats of war and terrorism are provoked by sanctions and invasions and can be countered only by addressing root causes.
“What father,” Jesus asked, “would give a stone to a child who asks for bread?” We know the answer and it is to our shame.
“The choice is no longer between violence and non-violence,” said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As resources dwindle, the climate warms and nuclear arms proliferate, even more clearly now than in King’s time, “the choice is between non-violence and non-existence.”
The quality of life and the very existence of all of us depends on the security and well being of each person, especially of those we label criminal or enemy. The admonition from the Hebrew book of Proverbs to give food to our enemies when they are hungry and drink to them when they are thirsty, echoed in the Sermon on the Mount and the universal Golden Rule to treat others as we would be treated is no romantic, unobtainable dream. “Love is the only solution” to the human predicament, said Dorothy Day. Love in our time has become a hard, pragmatic, gritty requisite for survival.
Brian Terrell, a Catholic Worker and Co-Coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence will be released from prison on May 24, 2013. After that he can be reached at email@example.com.
On April 18, in Dewitt (NY) Town Court, Judge Robert Jokl found five Reaper Drone resisters guilty of trespass at Hancock Air Base. The five were among ten who last October 5 peacefully blocked the main entrance of the base as they attempted to deliver a citizens’ indictment [ http://upstatedroneaction.org/
The five – who had defended themselves without attorney representation – must return to court at 6 pm, Wednesday, April 24 for sentencing. Noting that the defendants on October 5 weren’t disobeying the law, but rather seeking to enforce international law, defendant Jim Clune told Judge Jokl, “We have no need to work at cross purposes here. Law is a wonderful instrument when it safeguards and promotes life, and it should be used for that purpose.”
A sixth defendant, Martha Hennessey, a New York City Catholic Worker, was found not guilty in absentia.
The October 5 action is one of a half dozen such initiatives at Hancock by Upstate Drone Action [www.upstatedroneaction. org], a grassroots group opposing Reaper war crimes.
Those standing trial were
~ Jim Clune of Binghamton….Brian Hynes of the Bronx….Ed Kinane of Syracuse….Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse….Mark Scibilia-Carver of Trumansburg
Getting involved versus Calls For Vengeance Citizen First-Responders: Models For Responsible Democracy
By John Grant
I write a lot of critical things about militarism, our unnecessary wars and our growing surveillance/police state. So it was heartwarming to watch the videos and listen to the stories from the Boston Marathon bombing about civilian “first-responders” who chose not to flee but to wade into a very messy situation.
By Helen Jaccard and David Swanson, http://warisacrime.org/vieques
Ten years ago May 1, the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico and their supporters from around the world defeated the most powerful military machine ever, through mass civil disobedience and without firing a single shot. On May 1, 2003 the bombing stopped and the bases were officially closed. People from all over the world supported the struggle on Vieques, and the activists and residents have an incredible victory to celebrate.
There were decades of resistance, civil disobedience and arrests. But those hoping and laying the groundwork for greater resistance were given an opportunity on April 19, 1999, when a U.S. Marines pilot missed his target and killed civilian security guard David Sanes Rodriguez. That spark lit a fire of nonviolent resistance that brought together Viequenses, Puerto Ricans, and supporters from the United States and around the world. A campaign of non-violent civil resistance that began in 1999 lasted four years, including a year-long occupation of the bombing range, and saw over 1,500 people arrested. The Navy was forced to close the bombing range on May 1, 2003. Peace loving people had won most of the first of their demands for the island: demilitarization.
A huge commemoration is planned in Vieques for the anniversary from May 1 – 4, 2013.
Beautiful Vieques island is only 21 miles across and 5 miles wide, and 7 miles from the main island of Puerto Rico. It is home to about 9,300 people, as well as endangered turtle species, rare Caribbean plants and animals, bio-luminescent bays, and miles of what look like unspoiled beaches.
But crabs with three claws, grossly deformed fish laden with heavy metals, once-beautiful coral reefs, and beaches and seas that have been decimated by military activity tell a story of environmental disaster with huge health impacts on people, plants, and animals.
An incredible three-quarters of the island was appropriated in the 1940s and used by the U.S. Navy for bombing practice, war games, and dumping or burning old munitions. This was a terrible attack on an island municipality, one the United States was not at war with.
Now, Vieques Island, a paradise in trouble, is one of the largest superfund sites in the United States, together with its little sister island of Culebra, which took the brunt of the bombing until 1973, when the Culebra bombing range closed (also due to protests) and the bombing practice was transferred to Vieques.
In 2003, the Navy did not return the land to the people, but transferred its Vieques land to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates beaches that were never used for military activities.
Viequenses fear that keeping the U.S. Government in control of their lands could result in future re-militarization of the island. Residents aren't happy that their land has not been returned to them and that they are fined for staying on their land past sunset or collecting crabs -- a mainstay of their historic diet. There are also two military occupations of lands -- a ROTHR radar system and a communications area, and the people want these closed as well. You can add your name to Viequenses' demand for peace here.
For over 2,000 years people known as Taino inhabited Vieques, which they called Bieque. The Taino found and left behind them a paradise of fertile soil, fresh water, and trees. In 1493, the conquistadors arrived. In 1524, the Spanish killed every remaining resident. Vieques was then left uninhabited by humanity for 300 years, interrupted by a few British, French, and Spanish attempts to set up forts or destroy each other's efforts.
From 1823 into the 1900s, Vieques was used by the Spanish and French to grow sugar. English-speaking people of African origin, from nearby islands, were kept in slavery or the nearest thing to it, and forced to grow the sugar cane. They revolted in 1864 and 1874, and in the 1915 Sugar Strike. The United States took Puerto Rico from the Spanish in 1898 and made residents U.S. citizens in 1917. The depression of the 1930s, together with two hurricanes in 1932, brought on harder times than ever.
In 1939 the United States bought 26,000 of the 30,000 acres of land on Vieques from big sugar plantation owners. Living on that land were 10,000 to 12,000 workers who also raised crops to feed themselves. The U.S. Navy gave families $30 and one day's notice before bulldozing houses. Most people were left without means of subsistence, but many stubbornly refused to leave the island.
Carlos Prieta Ventura, a 51-year-old Viequense fisherman, says his father was 8-years-old in 1941 when the Navy told his family their house would be bulldozed whether or not they accepted the $30. Ventura says he has always resisted the Navy's efforts to force people off the island.
From 1941 to 2003, the U.S. military flew planes from aircraft carriers based on the main island of Puerto Rico dropping bombs over Vieques. Bombs "rained down," and you could feel the ground shake within the base, as one U.S. veteran told CNN. Bombs fell at all hours, all day, all week, all year, amounting to approximately a trillion tons of ordnance, much of which (some 100,000 items) lies unexploded on land and in the sea. Vieques was systematically poisoned by heavy metals, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium, and who knows what all else that the Navy has not announced publicly -- having falsely denied using depleted uranium before finally admitting to it, and having dumped barrels of unknown toxic substances into the clear blue Caribbean.
The arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, and aluminum in the bombs are also found in hair samples of 80% of the people living on Vieques, who suffer at far higher rates than on the main island (and possibly anywhere else on earth) from cancer (30% higher than Puerto Rico), cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, hypertension (381%), diabetes (41%), birth defects, stillbirths, and miscarriages.
The impact of the U.S. occupation that began in 1941 was felt far more swiftly than cancer. According to Ventura, some 15,000 troops were routinely set loose on Vieques looking for booze and women. Women were dragged out of their homes and gang raped. A boy was killed by gang rape. Ventura says people had only a machete and a hole in the wall by the door where they could try to stab the Marines who would come to take women. A dozen people were killed over the years directly by the U.S. weapons testing. And the Navy banned fishermen from various areas, advising them to try food stamps instead. Fishermen attempted civil resistance actions, and many were arrested during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.
Lydia Ortiz, a Viequense who grew up in the small town of Esperanza, recalls the bombing: "A lot of houses had their roofs falling in and everything as a result of the vibrations from the bombs for many years. It was pretty nerve wracking because you never knew what was going to crash down in your house. We lived quite close to where the bombing was happening. When I was a child they were dropping bombs near me. In the school, you could hear the bombing. You couldn't even hear the teacher because of the noise. People were afraid to go anywhere near the base or the beach so it was very difficult for many years. It seems like just yesterday or only 5 or 6 years ago that the bombing stopped, even though it is really almost 10 years ago."
A celebration of the 10-year anniversary is indeed in order. We must remember victories as they have remarkable power to motivate others around the world.
But the Navy's presence and the environmental disaster it created continue to afflict Vieques today. The U.S. government has not cleaned up the poisons and bombs and continues to use practices that further endanger the people. There is no bomb explosion chamber on the island. The United States has disposed of what unexploded bombs it has disposed of by blowing them up, further spreading the contaminants that are killing the people of the island.
There is also no hospital on the island, few ferries to the island, few and overpriced airplanes, a handful of taxis and public vans, and very limited tourist facilities. There is no college or university, and very few jobs of any kind. Business licenses are issued in San Juan and require bribes. Viequenses' families are ravaged by cancer, but also by illiteracy, unemployment, violent crime, and teen pregnancy. All of the water -- like all electricity -- comes in a pipe from the main island. Two of the residents said that the one resort on Vieques sometimes uses all the water. Seven thousand Viequenses sued the U.S. government over their health problems, but the U.S. Supreme court refused to hear the case.
With very little land available for farming, Vieques, like all of Puerto Rico, imports almost all of its food. Some people have become so desperate that they gather old munitions to sell for a little money to someone who will melt the metal for aluminum cans. But heavy metals and depleted uranium endanger the metal gatherers and whoever later drinks from the cans.
Presidential candidate Obama wrote to the Governor of Puerto Rico in 2008: "We will closely monitor the health of the people of Vieques and promote appropriate remedies to health conditions caused by military activities conducted by the U.S. Navy on Vieques." But that promise remains unfulfilled.
Robert Rabin Siegal of the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques writes in a letter to President Barack Obama,
"Although I cannot claim the Navy and military toxics caused my cancer, you don't have to be a quantum physicist to understand how decades of exposure to heavy metals in the food chain, air, water and land, combined with the socio-economic pressures from the loss of two thirds of the island’s lands, would clearly contribute to high cancer rates. The Navy dropped radioactive uranium projectiles here, we believe, in large quantities, in preparation for military actions in the Balkans and the Middle East. The list of dangerous chemical components from munitions dropped on Vieques is extensive, as is the number of illnesses they cause.
"Mr. President: you received the Nobel Peace Prize; we demand peace for Vieques. An island and people used to protect U.S. interests since WWII, forced to sacrifice its land, economic prosperity, tranquility and health, deserves at least the hope of peace for this and future generations."
". . . A handful of powerful US based corporations have pocketed most of the more than 200 million dollars spent on clean-up over the past decade. We urge you to order technology transference to promote the creation of Puerto Rican and Viequense companies to carry out the clean-up of Vieques, thereby transforming that process into part of the economic reconstruction of the island as well as assuring community confidence in this crucial element in the healing of Vieques."
People anywhere in the world can take one minute to sign a petition to the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House in support of justice, at long last, for Vieques:
"I join the people of Vieques in demanding:
"Health Care -- Provide a modern hospital with cancer treatment facilities, early screening and timely treatment for all diseases. Create a research facility to determine the relationship between military toxins and health. Provide just compensation to people suffering poor health as a result of the Navy's activities.
"Cleanup -- Fund a complete, rapid cleanup of the land and surrounding waters, still littered by thousands of bombs, grenades, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium and other explosives left by the Navy. Cease the ongoing open detonation of unexploded ordnance. Guarantee community participation in the cleanup; train Viequenses as managers, administrators, and scientists, and foster Viequense companies to do the work.
"Sustainable Development -- Support the Master Plan for Sustainable Development of Vieques which promotes agriculture, fishing, eco-tourism, small guest houses, housing, collective transportation, archaeology, and historic and environmental research, among other things.
"Demilitarization and Return of the Land -- Close the remaining military installations still occupying 200 acres of Vieques. Return to the people of Vieques all land still under the control of the U.S. Navy and the federal government."
For extensive documentation, see the attachments below and others at this link.
Helen Jaccard is Chair of the Veterans For Peace -- Environmental Cost of War and Militarism Working Group. She spent October, 2012 in Vieques doing research about the environmental and health effects of the military activities. Her previous article about Sardinia, Italy can be found at http://www.warisacrime.org/sardinia .
At 5 pm, Thursday, April 18, 2013, six anti-drone activists from across New York State will stand trial in the DeWitt Town Court. Charged with Trespass for blocking the entrance of Hancock Air Base on October 5, 2012, the activists will go pro se, i.e. defend themselves, in this bench trial presided over by Judge Robert Jokl.
Along with four others (who are pleading guilty), the six sought on October 5 to deliver a citizens’ war crimes indictment [http://www.
From Hancock the Reaper, a weaponized hunter/killer robot, is piloted over Afghanistan, killing and terrorizing non-combatants. The defendants have argued in previous trials that such terrorism violates international law and that their actions are in accord with the Nuremburg principles requiring citizens to expose their nation’s war crimes.
The October 5 action was one of about six such events conducted by the grassroots anti-drone group, Upstate Drone Action, over the last couple years. Besides this trial, two more such trials are in the offing at the DeWitt Town Court.
At a March 20 pre-trial hearing Judge Jokl told the defendants that those found guilty on April 18 would begin jail sentences that evening. Having found Upstate Drone Action defendants guilty of Trespass previously, the Judge may well follow through on his threat.
Those standing trial:
~ Jim Clune of Binghamton
~ Brian Hynes of the Bronx
~ Ed Kinane of Syracuse
~ Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse
~ Mark Scibilia-Carver of Trumansburg
~ Martha Hennessey of New York City
Destroying Public Education in Chicago
by Stephen Lendman
It's on the chopping block for elimination. It's happening nationwide. Chicago perhaps reflects the epicenter of what's wrong.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel spent years waging war on progressive politics. He's a former investment banker. He's a corporate predator turned politician. He's an unindicted war criminal. He belongs in prison, not City Hall.
While March Madness Captivates Las Vegas Air Force suffers unprecedented defeat at the hands of Unheralded Peace Activists
Original article at http://wagingnonviolence.org/
As April 15 approaches, make no mistake: The tax money that many of us will be sending to the U.S. government pays for drones that are killing innocent civilians, for “better” nuclear weapons that could put an end of human life on our planet, for building and operating more than 760 military bases in over 130 countries all over the world. We are asked by our government to give moral and financial support to cutting federal spending for our children’s schools, Head Start programs, job training, environmental protection and cleanup, programs for the elderly, and medical care for all so that this same government can spend 50 percent of all our tax dollars on wars and other military expenditures.
My wife Jan and I have been war tax resisters since the war in Vietnam. We cannot in good conscience pay for killing people in other parts of the world.
By Dan DeWalt
Corporate America just received the confirmation that they've been waiting for.
By Felton Davis
I recently attended a conference on drone warfare, and when one of the speakers there, former Colonel Ann Wright, was asked what we need to stop this runaway weapons program, she said unhesitatingly, "Irish juries!" The blank looks of the audience suggested that unfortunately, her allusion did not ring a bell.
By Dave Lindorff
I’m fed up with the trashing of the Baby Boom generation.
Sure you can find plenty of scoundrels, freeloaders, charlatans and thugs who were born between 1946 and 1964, but you can find bad and lazy people in every generation. In fact, the so called “Greatest Generation” who preceded the Boomers abounds in them. That doesn’t prove anything.
Greetings from the Federal Prison Camp in Yankton, South Dakota! As of this writing, I am two months into a six month sentence imposed due to my protest of war crimes committed by remote control from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri against the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Betsy accompanied me here to Yankton on November 29, and that evening the Emmaus House Catholic Worker community, Beth Preheim, Michael Sprong and Dagmar Hoxie, hosted an evening of music, good food and good company to see me off. Activists from around the Midwest attended, including some sisters from the Benedictine monastery here.
In the morning after a great breakfast and Gospel prayer, Betsy and Dagmar and Michael, along with Renee Espeland and Elton Davis, Catholic Workers from Des Moines, and Jerry Ebner, a Catholic Worker from Omaha, walked a “last mile” with me to the gate of the prison where I expect to remain until the end of May.