You are hereNonviolent Resistance
By Matthew Hoh
If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.
This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible.
-- Henry David Thoreau
This will be the first year I willfully and intentionally do not pay my full share of income tax. I certainly have no illusions that I am Henry David Thoreau -- frequent readers of mine will attest to that -- nor do I believe that withholding a portion of my federal income taxes will cause the American war machine to grind to a halt, or that the sufferings of millions in wars around the world, wars supported, directly and indirectly, by the U.S. government and U.S. industry, will be ended. However, no longer can I look past the reality that my annual voluntary forfeiture of money to my government pays for violence around the globe, at astounding levels, and I am not able to provide any more excuses or rationalizations that paying without protest, that being complicit in funding war without resistance, is not contradictory to my faith and to my conscience. Quite simply put, I can no longer ignore the basic, yet just, wisdom and truth found in the war tax resisters' dictum: "If you work for peace, stop paying for war."
I fought in our Global War on Terror with the marines, and I even worked as a modern day colonial administrator, at one time having $26 million in cash in two safes in my bedroom in Tikrit, Iraq. My participation in these wars has left me with moral injury, a condition that is, thankfully, becoming better understood in the veterans and medical communities. In 2009, while serving with the State Department in Afghanistan, I could no longer go along with the war, let alone its escalation, and I resigned in protest. For the last five and one half years I have worked as a peace advocate in various degrees and capacities. As I have progressed in my healing from the psychiatric wounds of war, I have continued on my own path of advocacy for peace. I relate this personal information to you, not to proselytize myself, but, rather, to illustrate that the decision to willfully resist taxes to oppose war is not one I have entered into lightly or one that comes as a singular event in my life, but one that is a culmination of my life's experiences.
As I have come to accept that I can no longer justify providing money to my government to pay for the bombs and bullets our forces use to kill millions abroad, or contribute to the funds that supply and resupply the arsenals of our allies, such as Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia, as they kill others and repress their own people, my choice to willfully not pay taxes has crystallized. It has been aided, in great part, by the testimonies of those who have practiced war tax resistance, in some cases, for several decades, and who by their courage and dedication to laws of love and peace have risked the authority of the federal government to follow what is right. I am also indebted to peers like Rory Fanning and Logan Mehl-Laturi and old friends, like Count Leo Tolstoy, who, by articulating their convictions, have helped not just to educate me, but to embolden me.
I do not have a legal issue with taxation, and I have no interest in self-enrichment. I want to pay my fair share for the services our government provides, so utilizing the information provided by the War Resisters League, I will calculate the income tax I owe, as I have done in any previous year, and pay only the portions our federal government utilizes for services other than war. I will file my taxes and include a letter to the IRS explaining why I am not paying in full and why I will not pay in full. If they want the money for killing, then they will have to take that share.
As a recipient of Veterans Administration assistance, and as someone who thoroughly understands the need to heal the wounds of war, my contribution will include payment for veterans services. I will also pay for the debt owed to past wars, as that is something that cannot be undone. What I do not pay to the government for the functions of war I will redirect and donate to a five star-rated veterans charity.
I do all this with the complete understanding that our government will just allocate the amount I pay to war functions anyway, and that the small amount I am withholding will not cause Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to lay awake at night. However, it is an act I take pride in, as I can now rest my conscience knowing that I am no longer fully and voluntarily participating in wars that are not just immoral, but counter-productive. For how many more millions will we kill just to keep seeing terrorist groups metastasize and ensure kleptocracies remain in power? There is also some edification in putting some element of myself and my life, however small this really is, in the path of militarism and its counterparts: death, suffering and waste.
It is not very common for war tax resisters to have property seized by the IRS, and even more rare for someone to face jail time. The most common consequences that thousands of war tax resistors face each year are accrued penalties and interest, wage garnishment and property liens, plus lots of unfriendly letters. Everyone's case is different and, so, I wonder whether my VA disability pay will be docked or my utility of the GI Bill to pay for attendance at seminary or graduate school thwarted. If so, so be it, I'm done with taking part in war. I urge you to follow your conscience, listen to your heart, find strength in your faith and in humanity, as well as in the brave individuals who have journeyed before us, and join me in a peaceful revolution of conscience.
War Tax Resistance predates Christianity and has, within our own American history, many chapters. I hope this essay makes a difference for someone in their own personal journey of peace advocacy, just as others who have made known their resistance have positively influenced me. The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee is a great place for individuals who are struggling with issues of war, faith and conscience to turn to, as it has been a great source of support for me, both educationally and inspirationally. Additionally, you can add your voice of support for those who find their conscience violated by paying for war by supporting Representative John Lewis and asking him to re-introduce his Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act and by supporting the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
A March 24 hearing prior to the passage of a controversial bill out of committee that preempts cities in Texas from regulating hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") for oil and gas obtained from shale basins, featured numerous witnesses who failed to disclose their industry ties, including some with ties to the Koch brothers.
Why does nonviolent action work? And how good was Mohandas K. Gandhi as a nonviolent strategist? If you want high quality evidence in your search for answers to these two questions then I encourage you to read Professor Mary E. King’s latest book on the struggle against untouchability, unapproachability and unseeability in the south Indian village of Vykom during the 1920s. See ‘Gandhian Nonviolent Struggle and Untouchability in South India: The 1924–25 Vykom Satyagraha and the Mechanisms of Change’.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Over sixty people participated in Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr's life and legacy on Saturday, January 17, 2015. The event concluded with a vigil and nonviolent direct action at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Silverdale, Washington.
Under the theme “Building the World House,” the day focused on Dr. King’s commitment to nonviolence and his opposition to war and nuclear weapons. Dr. King's essay "The World House" may very well be the best summation of Dr. King's teachings.
The Trident nuclear weapons system was designed during the height of the Cold War and was predicated on the theory of Strategic Nuclear Deterrence, a doctrine that no longer applies long after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Continued deployment of Trident increases the risk of either accidental or intentional nuclear war, and building a new generation of ballistic missile submarines is increasing global proliferation of nuclear weapons at a time when the nuclear armed powers should be reducing reliance on nuclear weapons and making good faith efforts toward disarmament.
The Trident submarine base at Bangor, just 20 miles from Seattle, contains the largest concentration of operational nuclear weapons in the US arsenal. Each of the 8 Trident submarines at Bangor carries up to 24 Trident II (D-5) missiles, each capable of being armed with as many as 8 independently targetable thermonuclear warheads. Each nuclear warhead has an explosive force of between 100 and 475 kilotons (up to 30 times the force of the Hiroshima bomb). It has been estimated that by the time the new generation of ballistic missile submarines are put into service, they will represent 70 percent of the nation's deployed nuclear warheads.
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action holds three scheduled vigils and actions each year in resistance to Trident and in protest of U.S. nuclear weapons policy. The group is currently engaged in legal actions in Federal court to halt the Navy’s construction of a Second Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor. Ground Zero is also working with other organizations to de-fund the Navy’s plans for the next generation ballistic missile submarine.
For over thirty-seven years Ground Zero has engaged in education, training in nonviolence, community building, resistance against Trident and action toward a world without nuclear weapons.
Photos attached. Photo Credit: L. Eiger, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (Note: High resolution images available)
Contact: Leonard Eiger, Media and Outreach
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
The U.S. Senate has voted 89-11 to approve the Defense Authorization Act of 2015, following the December 4 U.S. House of Representatives' 300-119 up-vote and now awaits President Barack Obama's signature.
Photo Credit: C-SPAN Screenshot
The 1,648-page piece of pork barrel legislation contains a provision — among other controversial measures — to streamline permitting for hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") on U.S. public lands overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a unit of the U.S. Department of Interior.
Buried on page 2,179 of the bill as Section 3021 and subtitled "Bureau of Land Management Permit Processing," the bill's passage has won praise from both the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and comes on the heels of countries from around the world coming to a preliminary deal at the United Nations climate summit in Lima, Peru, to cap greenhouse gas emissions.
Alluding to the bottoming out of the global price of oil, Naatz further stated, "In these uncertain times of price volatility, it’s encouraging for America’s job creators to have regulatory certainty through a streamlined permitting process.”
Streamlined permitting means faster turn-around times for the industry's application process to drill on public lands, bringing with it all of the air, groundwater and climate change issues that encompass the shale production process.
At the bottom of the same press release, IPAA boasted of its ability to get the legislative proposal introduced initially by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) as the BLM Permit Processing Improvement Act of 2014 after holding an "educational meeting" with Udall's staffers. Endorsed by some major U.S. environmental groups, Udall took more than $191,000 from the oil and gas industry during his successful 2014 re-election campaign.
IPAA's publicly admitted influence-peddling efforts are but the tip of the iceberg for how Big Oil managed to stuff expedited permitting for fracking on U.S. public lands into the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015.
In a recent article, full of insight, Professor Bill Quigley identified ten different illegal actions police often take ‘to prevent people from exercising their constitutional rights’ to take nonviolent action to address a grievance. He noted that these police tactics are commonly used by law enforcement agencies in big protests across the US. See ‘10 Illegal Police Actions to Watch for in Ferguson’.
Just as a police officer in a heightened state of panic surrounded by the comfort of impunity will shoot an innocent person, the Governor of Missouri has declared a state of emergency preemptively, thus justifying violence in response to something that hasn't happened. Bombing Iraq in response to nonexistent weapons and Libya in response to nonexistent threats worked out so well, we may as well try it domestically, the Governor is perhaps thinking. "There Is No Way That This Ends Well" is a headline I actually just read about Ferguson.
Well, why not? Who says it can't end well? The police may want continued impunity. The justice system may be rigged against any sort of reconciliation. The government may want -- or believe it rationally expects -- violence. But all of those parties are capable of changing their behavior, and the people of Ferguson are capable of determining their own actions rather than following a script placed before them.
We should understand that the violence in Ferguson is not new and is not limited to Ferguson. It did not begin with a particular shooting. It did not begin with any shooting. It began with a system of oppression that keeps people in misery amidst great wealth. Just as that injustice is inexcusable, so is any violence in response to it. But the outrage at an angry man knocking over a trashcan conspicuously exhibited by people who cheer for mass-murder in Iraq isn't well thought-through or helpful. And the disproportionate focus on such small-scale violence misses more than the larger picture. It also misses the courageous, disciplined, principled, and truly loving actions of those resisting injustice creatively and constructively. Such actions are not always successful and not always well-planned to the satisfaction of scholars. But they have long been far more common than is acknowledged on the television or in the history books.
Back in 1919 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, some 30,000 textile workers went on strike for decent pay. The mill owners and the police sought to provoke them, infiltrate them, intimidate them, and brutalize them. The workers held strong. The police set up machine guns along the streets, toying with the model of domestic war now exhibited in Ferguson. Organizer A.J. Muste spoke to the workers on the morning that the machine guns appeared:
"When I began my talk by saying that the machine guns were an insult and a provocation and that we could not take this attack lying down, the cheers shook the frame building. Then I told them, in line with the strike committee's decision, that to permit ourselves to be provoked into violence would mean defeating ourselves; that our real power was in our solidarity and in our capacity to endure suffering rather than give up the fight for the right to organize; that no one could 'weave wool with machine guns'; that cheerfulness was better for morale than bitterness and that therefore we would smile as we passed the machine guns and the police on the way from the hall to the picket lines around the mills. I told the spies, who were sure to be in the audience, to go and tell the police and the mill management that this was our policy. At this point the cheers broke out again, louder and longer, and the crowds left, laughing and singing."
And, they won. The powers that owned the mill and put the weapons of war on the streets of that town conceded defeat, and conceded it without the bitterness that would have come had the workers and their supporters somehow been able to defeat the machine guns with violence.
That type of incident is as common as water, but little recounted. It's what organizers in Ferguson are calling for right now, and they are being preemptively ignored by the media. But it doesn't come easy. And it doesn't come without solidarity. If the people of the United States and the world chip in to support the people of Ferguson in their struggle for full justice, if we nonviolently and smilingly take on the forces of militarism and racism everywhere at once, and in Missouri in particular, we need not defeat the police or the Governor. We need only defeat cruelty, bigotry, and brutality. And that we can do. And that would be ending well.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
A controversial government contractor once again finds itself in hot water, or in this case, melting glacier water.
TransCanada chose Environmental Resources Management Group (ERM) as one of its contractors to conduct the environmental impact statement for Keystone XL on behalf of the U.S. State Department. ERM Group also happens to have green-lighted a gold mining project in central Asia that is now melting glaciers.
ERM Group has a penchant for rubber-stamping projects that have had tragic environmental and public health legacies. For example, ERM formerly worked on behalf of the tobacco industry to pitch the safety of its deadly product.
A January 2014 study about Keystone XL's climate change impacts published in the journal Nature Climate Change paints a drastically different picture than ERM Group's Keystone XL tar sands study.
The Kumtor Gold Mine, owned by Centerra Gold/Cameco Corporation, was provided a stamp of approval from ERM Group in October 2012. Similar to the TransCanada arrangement with the State Department on Keystone XL, Centerra served as the funder of the report evaluating its own project.
"The mine sits at an altitude of 4,000 meters above sea level, in the Tien Shan mountain range and among some of Kyrgyzstan's - and the region's - most important glaciers," explained an October 28 story published in Asia Times.
"Centerra Gold has consistently dismissed as untrue that operations at Kumtor have had negative implications for the glaciers, which are reportedly melting with observable speed due to years of dumping rock tailings onto the ice sheet. The Canadian company has backed its position with expert evaluations from consultancies such as Environmental Resources Management."
Danielle Yaor is 19, Israeli, and refusing to take part in the Israeli military. She is one of 150 who have committed themselves, thus far, to this position:
We, citizens of the state of Israel, are designated for army service. We appeal to the readers of this letter to set aside what has always been taken for granted and to reconsider the implications of military service.
We, the undersigned, intend to refuse to serve in the army and the main reason for this refusal is our opposition to the military occupation of Palestinian territories. Palestinians in the occupied territories live under Israeli rule though they did not choose to do so, and have no legal recourse to influence this regime or its decision-making processes. This is neither egalitarian nor just. In these territories, human rights are violated, and acts defined under international law as war-crimes are perpetuated on a daily basis. These include assassinations (extrajudicial killings), the construction of settlements on occupied lands, administrative detentions, torture, collective punishment and the unequal allocation of resources such as electricity and water. Any form of military service reinforces this status quo, and, therefore, in accordance with our conscience, we cannot take part in a system that perpetrates the above-mentioned acts.
The problem with the army does not begin or end with the damage it inflicts on Palestinian society. It infiltrates everyday life in Israeli society too: it shapes the educational system, our workforce opportunities, while fostering racism, violence and ethnic, national and gender-based discrimination.
We refuse to aid the military system in promoting and perpetuating male dominance. In our opinion, the army encourages a violent and militaristic masculine ideal whereby ‘might is right’. This ideal is detrimental to everyone, especially those who do not fit it. Furthermore, we oppose the oppressive, discriminatory, and heavily gendered power structures within the army itself.
We refuse to forsake our principles as a condition to being accepted in our society. We have thought about our refusal deeply and we stand by our decisions.
We appeal to our peers, to those currently serving in the army and/or reserve duty, and to the Israeli public at large, to reconsider their stance on the occupation, the army, and the role of the military in civil society. We believe in the power and ability of civilians to change reality for the better by creating a more fair and just society. Our refusal expresses this belief.
Only a few of the 150 or so resisters are in prison. Danielle says that going to prison helps to make a statement. In fact, here’s one of her fellow refuseniks on CNN because he went to prison. But going to prison is essentially optional, Danielle says, because the military (IDF) has to pay 250 Shekels a day ($66, cheap by U.S. standards) to keep someone in prison and has little interest in doing so. Instead, many claim mental illness, says Yaor, with the military well-aware that what they’re really claiming is an unwillingness to be part of the military. The IDF gives men more trouble than women, she says, and mostly uses men in the occupation of Gaza. To go to prison, you need a supportive family, and Danielle says her own family does not support her decision to refuse.
Why refuse something your family and society expect of you? Danielle Yaor says that most Israelis do not know about the suffering of Palestinians. She knows and chooses not to be a part of it. “I have to refuse to take part in the war crimes that my country does,” she says. “Israel has become a very fascist country that doesn’t accept others. Since I was young we’ve been trained to be these masculine soldiers who solve problems by violence. I want to use peace to make the world better.”
Yaor is touring the United States, speaking at events together with a Palestinian. She describes the events thus far as “amazing” and says that people “are very supportive.” Stopping the hatred and violence is “everyone’s responsibility,” she says — “all the people of the world.”
In November she’ll be back in Israel, speaking and demonstrating. With what goal?
One state, not two. “There’s not enough space anymore for two states. There can be one state of Israel-Palestine, based on peace and love and people living together.” How can we get there?
As people become aware of Palestinians’ suffering, says Danielle, they should support BDS (boycotts, divestments, and sanctions). The U.S. government should end its financial support for Israel and its occupation.
Since the latest attacks on Gaza, Israel has moved further to the right, she says, and it has become harder to “encourage youth not to be part of the brainwashing that is part of the education system.” The letter above was published “everywhere possible” and was the first many had ever heard that there was a choice available other than the military.
“We want the occupation to end,” says Danielle Yaor, “so that we can all live an honorable life in which all of our rights will be respected.”
As fascism is being intruded more widely and deeply into key areas of world politics, it is important to identify this trend, to explain the psychology of fascism and to nominate key elements of any strategy to defeat it.
After the historic and inspiring People’s Climate March and Flood Wall Street actions showed the potential of our growing movement, discussion is taking place about how to put that power into action. The power demonstrated on the streets of New York was a signal that we are big enough and strong enough to take our government out of the grip of the fossil fuel industry. Without question we need to step it up and organize campaigns and actions that are at the scale and boldness needed, including multi-day direct action at specific targets.
We are writing to urge participation by as many people as possible in one such initiative: a week-long series of confrontational activities in Washington, D.C. November 1-7—Beyond Extreme Energy.
By taking these actions during election week, we will be sending a message to both parties in Washington that supporting extreme energy extraction is no longer the path of least political resistance. We recognize that party loyalty is incompatible with political power for a social movement, and we have been taken for granted for too long by politicians who are scared to stand up to the fossil fuel industry. It’s time to make it clear that a politician who green lights the fossil fuels industry’s attempts to poison our communities and ruin our climate will not get our votes under any circumstances.
The week will begin on Saturday, November 1, as the Great March for Climate Action concludes its cross-country walk, begun in early March in Los Angeles. These heroic marchers have inspired us with their determined, day-after-day commitment over what will be eight months when they march into DC.
Then, from November 3-7, following a day of meeting, planning and training on November 2, there will be nonviolent direct actions every morning to block the two entrances to FERC. On July 14th 25 people did this and were successful in disrupting business-as-usual for two hours until they were arrested. That experience will inform the bigger and stronger actions being planned for November.
There will also be demonstrations at other locations—perhaps the Energy Department, Dominion Resources, the White House, the American Petroleum Institute, Democratic National Committee headquarters, and neighborhoods in DC impacted by environmental and racial injustices—in the afternoon, challenging the web of denial throughout the government and industry about the seriousness of the emergency we are in.
Our invitation to you is this: Join the Beyond Extreme Energy actions for one or more days in Washington DC, November 1-7. Help sound a call for stepped-up multi-day actions and campaigns commensurate with the scale of escalating fossil fuel extraction, rampant environmental injustices in low-income and people of color communities throughout the world, and the emergencies inherent in climate change. Help model for others what necessary and effective climate action looks like as atmospheric carbon climbs ever faster on its way past 400 parts per million. Help build a movement that is more committed to climate justice than the fossil fuel industry is to profits.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Oh my friends, there are resources in us on which we have not drawn.” Let’s engage those vast resources of people power in our struggle for climate justice so we can keep fossil fuels in the ground. We know we have the power to stop extreme energy extraction, and now is the time to use it.
Tim DeChristopher and Rev Lennox Yearwood
Tim DeChristopher is a co-founder of Peaceful Uprising. His trial and subsequent two year prison sentence for disrupting a 2008 federal auction of oil and gas leases was the subject of the award winning documentary "Bidder 70".
The Reverend Lennox Yearwood is the President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, a national nonprofit organization that equips young people to participate in elections, policy analysis, and service project.
As we celebrate Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday on 2 October, the International Day of Nonviolence, we have the chance to reflect on our progress in creating a nonviolent world. Obviously, creating a nonviolent world has many facets and is a long-term work-in-progress. But if we are to regenerate human society in accord with principles of love, nonviolence, justice, equity and sustainability, it is emphatically clear that we need to dramatically recreate much of our culture, particularly in the West, where hatred, violence and injustice are ‘built-in’. How can we do this?
Wall Street is fertile ground for a movement: Liberals and Liberation on a Weekend of Climate Action in New York
By Dave Lindorff
OCCUPY THE U.N. CLIMATE SUMMIT
Join us at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
Between 46th & 47th Sts and 1st and 2nd Aves, across from U.N.
The Climate March is only the prelude.
Throughout the day people will be leaving the March to assemble in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across the avenue from the U.N. While it is impossible to predict how events there will unfold, there will be a significant number who will attempt to occupy the plaza for the duration of the U.N. Climate Summit, which ends on Wednesday, September 24.
This action is not intended to compete with the messages of either the People's Climate March on Sunday the 21st or the FLOOD WALL STREET action the following day, Monday the 22nd. Please feel free to join any two or all three. All three actions amplify a common message:
THE PEOPLE DEMAND ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE
AND ITS ROOT CAUSES
Why demonstrate at the UN?
The UN represents the nations of the world. Nations are not people. They are political constructs that reflect the interests of those who keep them in power. WE ARE PEOPLE. We want our presence felt throughout the Summit. We want the world to see our resolve and understand our sense of urgency.
PLEASE JOIN US & PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD
Eve Tetaz, 83, found NOT GUILTY last night in De Witt town court for opposing Reaper Drone War Crime at 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse, NY
Immediately after Onondaga County prosecutor Jordan McNamara rested his case against DC peace and justice activist Eve Tetaz, DeWitt town judge David Gideon granted Ms Tetaz’ motion to dismiss. Ms Tetaz represented herself pro se with the support of DC attorney Mark Goldstone.
Ms. Tetaz had been arrested on April 28, 2013, along with 30 others as she stood reading aloud Preamble to the UN Charter and the First Amendment of the Constitution on the edge of the driveway leading into the Hancock Reaper drone base on East Molloy Rd., Town of De Witt. The prosecution’s video of Ms Tetaz’ arrest showed the arresting officer grabbing those documents from her hands and tossing them aside.
When police ordered her to stop, Ms Tetaz continued her reading aloud, facing the base, thereby expressing her First Amendment right to peacefully “petition my government for redress of grievances” – i.e. the war crimes being committed by the weaponized Reaper drone robots piloted over Afghanistan by the Hancock Attack Wing.
Ms. Tetaz’ trial is one of the ongoing series of trials of those arrested on April 28, 2013 scheduled through spring of 2015. Many will be jury trials due to the misdemeanor charge of obstruction of government administration. The next jury trial -- that of Bronx Catholic Worker Mark Colville -- will begin at 8:30 a.m. this Thursday, Sept 18.
By Robert C. Koehler, http://commonwonders.com/
“I think if we had a gun we would have been shot immediately.”
This is as good a place to start as any, at the logical limits of violent self-defense. The speaker is Andres Gutierrez of Nonviolent Peaceforce, a nonprofit organization that has engaged in peacekeeping work in troubled regions of the world for the last decade. Gutierrez, the organization’s team leader in South Sudan, along with colleague Derek Oakley, got caught in the chaos last April when the city of Bor was attacked, with armed men overrunning the perimeter of a U.N. base where thousands of civilians had sought protection. The two took shelter inside a mud hut.
More than 60 people were killed in the ethnic massacre, but Gutierrez and Oakley, the unarmed peacekeepers, kept that total from being higher. Four women and nine children were inside the hut as well.
As noted on the Nonviolent Peaceforce website: “On three separate occasions men with guns came and ordered the peacekeepers out so they could kill the women and kids. The peacekeepers refused, holding up their (Nonviolent Peaceforce) IDs and saying they were unarmed, there to protect civilians and would not leave. After the third time the armed men left. The people were saved.”
The armed men gave up; thirteen people, plus the two peacekeepers, are still alive. This calls for a moment of awe. This calls for reverence and, most of all, remembrance.
Mel Duncan, a cofounder of Nonviolent Peaceforce, brought the incident to my attention because I had lamented last week that “the popular imagination doesn’t even entertain the possibility” that there are effective, nonlethal forms of keeping order in a community or on the planet. Safety, as proscribed by Hollywood and the media — the vast public-relations industry of the military-industrial complex — requires good guys with guns (and bombs) continually blowing evil to Kingdom Come. It doesn’t matter that this is an obscene oversimplification of the real world, that violence generally expands the scope of human misery and comes back to haunt the perpetrator. We all harbor darkness in our souls, but we’re socially addicted to violence.
So how did the two unarmed peacekeepers save the lives of thirteen women and children? Intense training in nonviolent methods and strategy helped them keep their cool in a dangerous situation. If they’d been armed, as Gutierrez said, the attackers would have killed them without further thought.
But being unarmed doesn’t mean being disempowered. This is worth paying attention to. In South Sudan, unarmed, international peacekeepers have credibility. They stand above the local conflict, facilitating communication between the various sides but not taking sides themselves. In addition, Gutierrez and Oakley were in sync with one another and didn’t panic.
“We also had a humanitarian mandate,” Gutierrez said in an interview. Being unarmed “opens the doors to look for solutions. If we were armed peacekeepers, the solution is you shoot back. Because we were unarmed we could find other ways. (We knew) that the people who were attacking don’t want the blood of ex-pat humanitarians on their hands.”
They were, it seems to me, representatives of the collective human conscience, standing their ground against men with the AK-47s. Without their presence, that conscience would have been absent and the civilians in the mud hut would have been slaughtered, along with the other civilians who were killed in the attack.
This is worth deep consideration as we think about the human future. Perhaps such a courageous, unarmed stance will not work in all circumstances, but it worked here — and not because the two were “lucky.” It worked because brute, linear force and physical domination aren’t the only factors involved in creating safety. Life is far more complex than that. So is “evil.” Armed killers often have functioning consciences, which can be addressed.
Gutierrez and Oakley not only saved thirteen people’s lives, they also saved the gunmen from further violation of their consciences. This could mean they will be less likely to kill again.
Building real peace requires such effort, over and over and over. The military definition of peace is that it’s the uneasy lull between violence. Thus, only violence is inevitable. I don’t believe this. I believe there is a better definition of peace: that it is the creation of healthy souls, put together slowly, one courageous and loving action at a time.
We need to embrace such effort, socially, politically, financially. I mean this column to be such an embrace. I also believe that peacebuilding efforts are far more prevalent than we realize — and more prevalent, certainly, than the mainstream media notice and acknowledge.
Another response I received from last week’s column, which was about the Ferguson protests, the militarization of police departments nationwide and “the courage to disarm,” was from Eli McCarthy, who told me about an organization called the DC Peace Team, an unarmed civilian peacekeeping effort in the nation’s capital.
One of the team’s projects involved identifying neighborhoods in the city where conflicts are likely to erupt. Their website describes the team’s effort in Gallery Place, a booming downtown neighborhood full of stores, theaters and restaurants — and teenagers, whom the merchants see as a threat.
“Between the police, the security guards, and Metro transit police, the area bristles with uniforms,” the website notes. “At least some of the time, young people respond to the defensiveness and occasional hostility they encounter by pushing the limits or applauding those who do. Violent incidents between youth and police have occurred, iPhone and wallet snatchings are not uncommon, even with the police presence, and violent incidents continue.”
Peace Team members took it upon themselves to add a different sort of presence to the neighborhood: “We practiced proactive presence by talking with the merchants, guards, and police as well as young people, adult residents, and tourists. Our intention was to offer respect for our equal dignity, active compassionate listening, and conflict transformation skills to all the parties involved and to be seen as non-partisan with resources to provide.”
Creating peace requires this kind of effort — and I will continue to explore these efforts of ordinary citizens representing not “the state” or the limited interests of those in power, but a future that values everyone.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
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Rising Tide Seattle along with participants who attended Backbone Campaign's Localize This! Action Camp launched a technical blockade action early this morning effectively halting both Oil and Coal Trains!!
Tired of inaction by politicians?
Call Govenor Inslee to tell him actions like this inspire you not his foot-dragging.
***Demand Govenor Inslee Stops Stalling and Declares a Moratorium on all Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Projects - 360-902-4111
***Action Alert*** Oil Train HALTED!
It is the fearless defense of what we love by ordinary people that will bend our society towards justice, not the inaction of politicians embedded in the establishment.
Are you ready to take meaningful action?
EVERETT: Five local residents have stopped work at a Burlington Northern Santa-Fe Rail Yard in Everett by erecting a tripod structure on the outbound railroad tracks, directly in front of both a mile-long oil train and a coal train. Seattle resident Abby Brockway - a small business owner and mother - is suspended from the structure 18 feet above the tracks while four other residents are locked to the legs of the tripod. The group is demanding an immediate halt to all shipments of fossil fuels through the Northwest and calling on Governor Inslee to reject permits for all new fossil fuel projects in Washington, including proposed coal and oil terminals.
"People in the Pacific Northwest are forming a thin green line that will keep oil, coal and gas in the ground," said Brockway, "Just one of these proposed terminals would process enough carbon to push us past the global warming tipping point - we won't let that happen."
Today's protest has shut down work at BNSF's Delta Rail Yard in Everett. With the increase of fossil fuel transport in recent years the yard has become a crucial staging ground for coal trains headed to Canadian export terminals and oil trains bound for Washington refineries. An oil train carrying explosive bakken crude oil sat stalled while the protest continued.
"Exploding oil trains running through my town are just a reminder of how out of control the fossil fuel industry really is," said Jackie Minchew an Everett resident and retired educator locked to one of the tripod's poles.
In a controversial move, Burlington Northern Santa Fe recently announced a tentative deal with union leaders to reduce train crews from an engineer and conductor to a single engineer. The oil train that derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec was crewed by a single engineer. BNSF claims that oil trains will continue to have two-person crews, but critics point out that nothing in the proposed contract binds the company to that statement. Under the proposed deal, coal trains would be operated by a single crew-member.
"BNSF is endangering workers, communities and our environment. They should keep the conductors and lose the oil trains," said Brockway.
The surge in oil train traffic is already impacting passenger rail and agricultural shipments. Farmers from the Midwest to Washington State have faced what they call "unprecedented" delays in moving Wheat and other products to West Coast ports. Amtrak service through fossil-fuel train corridors has also suffered significant disruption, and officials have expressed concern that the problem will only get worse as more terminals come online.
"Railroads can be part of the solution, transporting crops and people or part of the problem with coal and oil. We should make that decision, not the fossil fuel companies," Said Patrick Mazza, a longtime climate activist also locked to the tracks.
Mazza says he is taking this action for his daughter, who will turn 18 tomorrow.
"My last act as a father before my daughter reaches full adulthood tomorrow is to put my body on the line today," Said Mazza, "It is up to us of the parental generation to do our absolute best to leave the least climate disrupted world we can, to put our bodies on the line to give our kids a fighting chance to deal with what we have left them."
Development of extreme energy projects--like the Alberta tar sands, Bakken Shale oil and coal from the Powder River Basin--has fueled an explosion in proposed fossil fuel infrastructure in the Northwest. More than twenty new or expanded coal, oil, and gas terminals are proposed between British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. In both states and British Columbia, these proposals have been met with fierce local resistance. Local communities have challenged both the safety of transporting coal, oil, and volatile gas through their communities and the role of fossil fuel export in fueling catastrophic climate disruption. Proposed coal terminals in Longview and Bellingham, and oil terminals in Vancouver and Gray's Harbor, would lead to more carbon emissions than produced in the state of Washington each year.
"We could pass every climate initiative proposed by Governor Inslee, but if we let these terminals be built our future is on the chopping block," said Liz Spoerri a Seattle middle school teacher also locked on the tracks.
While proposed coal and oil terminals have been controversial for years, climate activists in the Northwest have significantly intensified their tactics this summer. In Montana, residents sat on the tracks to block a coal train last April, and again on August 16,. In early July a woman locked herself to a 55-gallon barrel filled with concrete, blocking oil-trains at a Portland facility. In a similar action on July 28, three people blocked oil-trains at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes by locking themselves to concrete filled barrels. Most recently, three Seattle residents, including state legislative candidate Jess Spear, were arrested blocking oil and coal trains near the Seattle Waterfront.
"People in the Northwest are not going to allow this region to become a fossil fuel superhighway," said Mike LaPoint, an Everett small business owner locked on the tracks. "This is just a sample of the resistance that will happen if any large fossil fuel project is permitted."
Despite controversy, the number of fossil fuel trains on Washington's rails continues to rise. While larger coal and oil terminals are undergoing lengthy environmental reviews, projects at Washington's refineries have brought approximately two oil trains per day to communities like Seattle and Everett. While the Department of Ecology conducts a study on the safety of oil-by-rail construction continues on a new terminal at the Phillips 66 refinery in Ferndale, and local officials are attempting to fast-track an oil train terminal at Shell's Puget Sound Refinery without environmental review. Each of these projects could add up to six oil trains per week to the rails. Expansions at the Fraser Surrey Docks coal export facility in Vancouver, Canada, would increase the number of coal trains moving through Washington. Activists are demanding an immediate moratorium on all new fossil fuel terminals.
"Politicians play a blame game and talk about safety, but new terminals keep getting rubber stamped and built," said LaPoint, "If elected officials won't stop the fossil fuel takeover, we'll have to do it for them."
Rising Tide Seattle is a grassroots, all-volunteer collective dedicated to taking direct action to confront the root causes of climate change, and support communities on the frontlines of extractive industries.
This is from National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance:
As part of Campaign Nonviolence (which has over 150 actions scheduled across the country the week of September 21-27) NCNR is organizing an action of nonviolent civil resistance at the White House on Tuesday September 23.
On September 23 we will gather on Pennsylvania Ave. mid-morning (exact time to be announced) for a short program before crossing to the White House to deliver the letter below and demand changes in policy that will bring about profound transformations in the areas of war, poverty, and the climate crisis.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org by S
Please sign onto the letter by September 8 and join us at the White House on September 23. And please share this letter with all your networks. For more information on Campaign Nonviolence, go to campaignnonviolence.org In hope for a better world, Joy NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE 9635 Overland Rd. Mount Horeb, WI 53572 President Barack Obama August 21, 2014 Dear Mr. President, We write to you as people committed to nonviolent social change with a deep concern for a variety of issues that are all interrelated. As representatives of organizations that normally do not have a voice and have little influence in the places of power in Washington, DC, we are organizing under Campaign Nonviolence, a campaign that is pulling people together across the country to nonviolently bring about change in the areas of poverty, war, and climate crisis. These issues are too urgent to delay and not attend to immediately and so we would like to meet with you or a senior representative at the White House and discuss our concerns on September 23. During the week of September 21, we will be joined in solidarity with hundreds of actions around the country focusing on war, poverty, and the climate crisis organized under Campaign Nonviolence.. Poverty is adversely affecting the quality of life for too many Americans. The people are suffering from lack of food, health care, education, a living wage, adequate housing, and the list goes on. For example, tens of millions of Americans represent just part of the 842 million hungry people in the world according to the United Nations World Food Programme. According to recent statistics from the US Department of Agriculture almost 15 percent of US households are food insecure. It is unconscionable that we have children in the United States going to bed hungry. These numbers do not reflect the recent cuts in food stamps that is now wreaking havoc across the country. Just a portion of the bloated Pentagon budget redirected towards human need could alleviate this suffering. Unending war and imperialism is destroying both our country and the world. Within the last 13 years we have experienced how the United States has responded to international crisis with violence. Our government has waged wars in violation of international law with a failed Middle East policy that leaves a whole region mired in violence and instability, launched an illegal drone war, tortured and illegally detained individuals, and refused to get rid of nuclear weapons capable of annihilation of all life on the planet. Our disregard for the causes of climate chaos is leading to the destruction of the planet. Being controlled, in part, by the fossil fuel industry our government has not been willing to sign onto international treaties to end climate chaos or to stand up against the Keystone Pipeline. In the article Greenwashing the Pentagon, Joseph Nevins states, “The U.S. military is the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, and the single entity most responsible for destabilizing the Earth’s climate.” We believe that another way is possible and that there are alternatives to the life threatening policies that our government has promoted and that have been so destructive to the people of the world. When you were elected president, people had such hope for a change. Yet what we got was a government that continued the policies of the Bush administration. You are NOT the people’s president, and the voices of the people are not being heard. We demand that you change course with the present policies and listen to the people and not the corporations. Here are three policy changes that we want to see implemented before you leave office. These changes would make the world a better place for all of our children and grandchildren, including yours. These changes would only be a beginning, but would provide a good start. 1. End all drone warfare. It is illegal and immoral. We have not had access to the decision-making process like the oil lobby, the financial and corporate sector, and the arms industry have over the years. If people and groups such as ours had this same kind of access we very well may not have rushed to war and occupation on false pretense, "tortured folks", continued to operate the criminally complicit Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, had the devastating and destructive oil spills in addition to still considering the Keystone Pipeline, or had civil unrest caused by American society's structural violence, unresolved racism, and failed economic policies. A new approach to leadership is required to address the problems and crises we all face. We have the audacity to hope that you or a senior representative will meet with us on Tuesday September 23, 2014. This is the day we will come to the White House from all around the country to meet with you. Thank you President Obama. Sincerely, Ken Butigan, Pace e Bene Executive Director
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
2. Establish a living wage for all workers.
3. Initiate and work for an international treaty for swift verifiable action to reverse climate change. Listen to the scientific community and not the fossil fuel industry.
John Dear, Pace e Bene Outreach Director
Joy First, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
Malachy Kilbride, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
Max Obuszewski, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
Please sign onto the letter by September 8 and join us at the White House on September 23. And please share this letter with all your networks.
For more information on Campaign Nonviolence, go to campaignnonviolence.org
In hope for a better world,
NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE
9635 Overland Rd. Mount Horeb, WI 53572
President Barack Obama
August 21, 2014
Dear Mr. President,
We write to you as people committed to nonviolent social change with a deep concern for a variety of issues that are all interrelated. As representatives of organizations that normally do not have a voice and have little influence in the places of power in Washington, DC, we are organizing under Campaign Nonviolence, a campaign that is pulling people together across the country to nonviolently bring about change in the areas of poverty, war, and climate crisis. These issues are too urgent to delay and not attend to immediately and so we would like to meet with you or a senior representative at the White House and discuss our concerns on September 23. During the week of September 21, we will be joined in solidarity with hundreds of actions around the country focusing on war, poverty, and the climate crisis organized under Campaign Nonviolence..
Poverty is adversely affecting the quality of life for too many Americans. The people are suffering from lack of food, health care, education, a living wage, adequate housing, and the list goes on. For example, tens of millions of Americans represent just part of the 842 million hungry people in the world according to the United Nations World Food Programme. According to recent statistics from the US Department of Agriculture almost 15 percent of US households are food insecure. It is unconscionable that we have children in the United States going to bed hungry. These numbers do not reflect the recent cuts in food stamps that is now wreaking havoc across the country. Just a portion of the bloated Pentagon budget redirected towards human need could alleviate this suffering.
Unending war and imperialism is destroying both our country and the world. Within the last 13 years we have experienced how the United States has responded to international crisis with violence. Our government has waged wars in violation of international law with a failed Middle East policy that leaves a whole region mired in violence and instability, launched an illegal drone war, tortured and illegally detained individuals, and refused to get rid of nuclear weapons capable of annihilation of all life on the planet.
Our disregard for the causes of climate chaos is leading to the destruction of the planet. Being controlled, in part, by the fossil fuel industry our government has not been willing to sign onto international treaties to end climate chaos or to stand up against the Keystone Pipeline. In the article Greenwashing the Pentagon, Joseph Nevins states, “The U.S. military is the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, and the single entity most responsible for destabilizing the Earth’s climate.”
We believe that another way is possible and that there are alternatives to the life threatening policies that our government has promoted and that have been so destructive to the people of the world.
When you were elected president, people had such hope for a change. Yet what we got was a government that continued the policies of the Bush administration. You are NOT the people’s president, and the voices of the people are not being heard.
We demand that you change course with the present policies and listen to the people and not the corporations. Here are three policy changes that we want to see implemented before you leave office. These changes would make the world a better place for all of our children and grandchildren, including yours. These changes would only be a beginning, but would provide a good start.
1. End all drone warfare. It is illegal and immoral.
We have not had access to the decision-making process like the oil lobby, the financial and corporate sector, and the arms industry have over the years. If people and groups such as ours had this same kind of access we very well may not have rushed to war and occupation on false pretense, "tortured folks", continued to operate the criminally complicit Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, had the devastating and destructive oil spills in addition to still considering the Keystone Pipeline, or had civil unrest caused by American society's structural violence, unresolved racism, and failed economic policies.
A new approach to leadership is required to address the problems and crises we all face. We have the audacity to hope that you or a senior representative will meet with us on Tuesday September 23, 2014. This is the day we will come to the White House from all around the country to meet with you. Thank you President Obama.
Ken Butigan, Pace e Bene Executive Director
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Just over a month before the United Nations convenes on September 23 in New York City to discuss climate change and activists gather for a week of action, the Obama White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) argued it does not have to offer guidance to federal agencies it coordinates with to consider climate change impacts for energy decisions.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
In little-noticed news arising out of a recent Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas lease held by the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the floodgates have opened for Gulf offshore hydraulic fracturing ("fracking").
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
State Dept. Overseers of Contentious Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline Workaround Have Industry, Torture Ties
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
The Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and other green groups recently revealed that pipeline giant Enbridge got U.S. State Department permission in response to its request to construct a U.S.-Canada border-crossing tar sands pipeline without earning an obligatory Presidential Permit.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
A DeSmogBlog investigation reveals that Kristina Moore, the Senate staffer listed as the author of U.S. Sen. David Vitter's (R-La.) "green billionaire's club" report published by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) on July 30, has career roots tracing back to the Koch Brothers' right-wing machine.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Just a day after the Oregon Department of State Lands shot down a proposal to export 8.8 million tons per year of coal to Asia from the Port of Morrow in Boardman, Oregon, the Long Beach City Council achieved the opposite.