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In a historic decision, five Catholic Worker activists were acquitted Thursday of disorderly conduct charges for blocking the main entrance to Hancock Air Base, home of the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard, Syracuse, New York.
Hancock is a Reaper drone hub whose technicians pilot weaponized drones over Afghanistan. The five went “pro se," defending themselves in the De Witt town court of Judge Robert Jokl. In his closing statement Fr. Bill Picard said, "We pray for you, Judge Jokl, to have the courage to do the right and courageous thing."
After the verdict was announced, the D.A. objected, and the judge said to him that he hadn’t found mens rea, Latin for "guilty mind." The five defendants, with powerful eloquence, convinced the judge that their intent was to uphold, not break, the law. This acquittal marks a major breakthrough by those who have sought to strengthen international law, and stop U.S. war crimes, including extra-judicial murder by the illegal drones.
Defendant Carmen Trotta said, "We are happy to be part of a groundswell of opposition to the drones. What a joy to win such a verdict on what is officially United Nations day. We told the judge that we were not alienated citizens, but rather engaged citizens! Ultimately it seems he was moved by our consciences." Carmen noted the recent groundswell included Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and the head of the Jesuits Order, Alfanso Nicolas, UN Special Rapporteur Mr. Emmerson, and the Nobel Peace Nominee, the young Pakastani girl shot for promoting education for women and girls, in Pakistan, all of whom have condemned drone U.S. drone strikes.
Defendant Linda LeTendre stated, "My hope is that dissent is once again welcome in the US and we turn away from killing to caring as a country."
Ellen Grady stated, "We pray and will continue to act that the children of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and all countries will some day soon be without the terror of drones or any wars!"
~ Fr. Bill Frankle-Streit of Virginia;
~ Linda Le Tendre of Saratoga Springs; NY
~ Ellen Grady of Ithaca, NY;
~ Carmen Trotta of New York, NY;
~ Fr. Bill Pickard of Scranton, PA.
Ash Wednesday Statement - Feb. 13, 2013
We come to Hancock Airfield, home of the National Reaper Drone Maintainence and Training Center, this Ash Wednesday, to remember the victims of our drone strikes and to ask God's forgiveness for the killing of other human beings, most especially children. The killer drone strikes and the US's killer drone policies have taken the lives of thousands in a number of countries, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq and Somalia. These strikes are illegal and immoral. Under international agreements, which the US has signed, the killing of civilians, extra-judicial murders, violations of national sovereignty, and violations of due process are ALL illegal acts.
We come to Hancock Airfield this Ash Wednesday to repent for the actions of our government and to ask God's forgiveness and the forgiveness of the people we daily terrorize with these drones. We remind ourselves that our lives are brief and mysterious, and that "from dust we were created and to dust we shall return!" The significance of our brief animation is the degree to which we love one another.
Lent is a time to repent--literally, to change our minds. It is a time to REMIND ourselves of Jesus' command to love our neighbors and our enemies. It is a time to REMIND ourselves of Jesus' radical, non-violent message love.
Stop the Killing. Ground the Drones. STOP the Wars.
What is the measure of a human being? Is it their wealth? Their wisdom? Their spirituality? Is it something that can be measured from the outside? What if it is something else altogether?
Each human being is genetically programmed with a drive to seek and find meaning in life and it will endeavour to do this throughout its life if it is allowed to do so. What constitutes ‘meaning in life’ varies from one individual to the next and is dependent on many factors (including the genetic endowment, social context and the natural environment) but the ultimate outcome would be what is sometimes described as consciousness or Self-realization in a form that would be unique for each individual.
WHO: Members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR] have been active in challenging U.S. invasions and attacks of Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries. Frequently NCNR members have been arrested, and then in court speak out against such U.S. policies. On May 23, 2013 members of NCNR filed a criminal complaint with the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia against the CIA’s use of drone strikes to assassinate people in various countries, including Pakistan. The citizen activists never received a response.
WHAT:Subsequently, NCNR gathered some 200 signatures on a letter to CIA Director John Brennan seeking a meeting to discuss ending the assassination program. Again there was no response. On June 29, 2013 six activists went to the Central Intelligence Agency hoping to arrange a meeting with CIA officials. While a CIA representative accepted the letter, he would not speak with the petitioners. Sothese petitioners engaged in a die-in to represent the victims of the assassination program. The police then arrested Joy First, Mt. Horeb, WI, Malachy Kilbride, Arlington, VA, Max Obuszewski, Baltimore, MD, Phil Runkel, Milwaukee, WI, Cindy Sheehan, Vacaville, CA, and Janice Sevre-Duszynska, Lexington, KY, and charged them with “enter or remain on installation without authorization.” Now they are scheduled for trial.
WHEN: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 9 AM
WHERE: U.S. District Court, 401 Courthouse Square, Alexandria, VA
WHY: Activists across the country continue to work to bring an end to the illegal and immoral killer drone strikes which have killed around 3500-4500 people, including hundreds of children, around the globe with no due process. The National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance is one of the groups working against this assassination program.
When the citizen activists went to the CIA, over 60 people rallied at the gates of the CIA with speakers who have been to Pakistan and who have spoken to families affected by drone strikes.Of course, the CIA would refuse to meet with the activists, as the assassination program wreaks of unlawfulness. In court the defendants will argue they were authorized to be at the CIA, and should not have been arrested. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution confirms that they were authorized to engage with government representatives: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
NCNR citizen activists believe they have the right and a Nuremberg responsibility to highlight perceived illegal government operations. Moreover, the Nuremberg trials pointed out that citizens must act to prevent their government from further illegal activities.
It seems a child has said what most politicians choose to ignore. Malala Yousafzai met with President Obama. Philip Rucker of THE WASHINGTON POST on Oct. 11, 2013 wrote this: “Yousafzai said she was honored to meet Obama and that she raised concerns with him about the administration's use of drones, saying they are ‘fueling terrorism.’" And killer drone strikes are a blatant disregard of due process and an absolute waste of taxpayer dollars. The defendants intend to raise these points in court, and will continue their efforts to end the CIA’s assassination program, regardless of the verdict.
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
In a major ruling that's flown under the radar, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit - based in Denver, Colorado - decided not to grant the Sierra Club and Clean Energy Future Oklahoma a temporary injunction on the construction of the southern half of Transcanada's Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline.
The Court's decision hinged on an "injury" balancing test: Would Transcanada be hurt more financially from receiving an injunction? Had it lost, it would be stuck with one until Sierra Club, et al receive a U.S. District Court decision on the legality of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant Transcanada a Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) for construction of what's now called the Gulf Coast Pipeline in February 2012.
Or would ecosystems suffer even greater and potentially incalculable damage from the 485-mile, 700,000 barrels per day pipeline crossing 2,227 streams?
In a 2-1 decision, the Court sided with Transcanada, and by extension, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Court ruled, "the threatened environmental injuries were outweighed by the financial harm that the injunction would cause Transcanada."
Commenting on the case brought by Sierra Club, et al, Judge Jerome A. Holmes and Judge Paul J. Kelly, Jr. - appointees of President George W. Bush and President George H.W. Bush, respectively - shot down the arguments sharply.
U.S. Appeals Court for the 10th Circuit Judge Jerome A. Holmes; Photo Credit: The White House
Holmes and Kelly ruled that Sierra Club, et al failed to show how the pipeline will have a significant environmental impact despite the fact it's been deemed a "fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet" by retired NASA climate scientist James Hansen.
Construction of Keystone XL's southern half - subject of significant grassroots activism by the Tar Sands Blockade and others - is now nearly complete. Tar sands dilbit is slated to begin to flow through it in early 2014.
NWP 12: "New Normal" for Tar Sands Pipeline Approval
After protestors succeeded initially in delaying Keystone XL, Big Oil has chosen a "new normal" stealth approval method: the non-transparent NWP 12.
This avoids the more strenuous National Environmental Protection Act permitting process overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires public hearings and public comments for major federal pipeline projects. NEPA compels the EPA to take comments into account in response throughout the Environmental Impact Statement phase, allowing robust public participation in the process.
Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes explained in an interview with DeSmogBlog that NWP 12 is for utility projects with up to a half an acre of stream or wetland impacts, and has never been used for tar sands pipelines before Keystone XL's southern half.
The southern half of the pipeline was approved via Executive Order by President Barack Obama in March 2012, directly after Obama gave a speech in front of a Cushing, OK pipeyard.
President Barack Obama speaks in Cushing, OK in March 2013; Photo Credit: White House
"The Corps is abusing the nationwide permit program. Nationwide permits were intended to permit categories of projects with truly minimal impacts, not tar sands oil pipelines crossing several states," said Hayes.
Utilizing tricky legal loopholes, Transcanada used NWP 12 to push through Keystone XL's southern half in February 2012, calling each half acre segment of Keystone XL's southern half a "single and complete project." The Army Corps of Engineers agreed despite the fact that Transcanada refers to the pipeline at-large as the "Gulf Coast Pipeline project."
"What the Corps is doing is artificially dividing up these massive pipelines, treating them as thousands of individual projects to avoid environmental review," Hayes explained. "In this case, there were 2,227 crossings of federal waterways, so the Corps has treated the Gulf Coast Pipeline as 2,227 'single and complete projects,' each of which qualifies under NWP 12."
Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes; Photo Credit: Sierra Club
Why, I asked Hayes?
"The Corps artificially treats these massive pipelines as thousands of individual projects so as to qualify under NWP 12 and avoid NEPA compliance."
NWP 12 has also been utilized by Enbridge for the Flanagan South Pipeline, a 600-mile, 600,000 barrels per day pipeline set to shuttle tar sands crude from Flanagan, IL to Cushing, OK, crossing over 2,000 streams. That pipeline is scheduled to begin operations in mid-2014, demonstrating how NWP 12 is the "new normal" way to fast-track domestic tar sands pipelines.
Dissent: Laws Violated, Economic Harm Transcanada's Fault
Perhaps the biggest irony of the Appeals Court decision is that Judges Holmes and Kelly barely grappled with the central issue of the legal challenge to begin with: using NWP 12 rather than going through the NEPA process.
"The majority opinion avoided addressing the legal questions that are central to this lawsuit - whether the Corps violated the law in permitting this pipeline - and instead it was based on how much money a delay in construction would cost TransCanada," said Hayes.
Though Judges Holmes and Kelly stayed mum about these issues, dissenting U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez - an Obama appointee - did not, pulling no punches in doing so.
U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez; Photo Credit: Judgepedia
"Given the totality of the circumstances...I believe the...Gulf Coast Pipeline required a comprehensive NEPA analysis," Martínez wrote.
"There are also no specific findings in support of the Corps' conclusion that the Gulf Coast Pipeline, as a whole, would have minimal cumulative impact. The failure to consider the cumulative effects of all of the water crossings involved in the Gulf Coast Pipeline violates the terms of NWP 12, and, therefore, the approval of the use of NWP 12 for construction of the Gulf Coast Pipeline violated the law."
Though Judges Holmes and Kelly grappled with the issue of water crossings - belittling the amount of water Keystone XL's southern half would cross over - Martínez said it's about much more than just water.
There is "real and signifcant harm caused by the actual construction of the pipeline, including the clearing of trees and vegetation, removing topsoil, filling wetlands, building access roads, and clearing an eighty-five foot construction right-of-way for the length of the pipeline," he stated.
Hayes agreed with this assessment, pointing to examples of things the Judges simply ignored in their assessment.
"[T]he court's balancing test ignored the host of environmental impacts associated with this pipeline, including the risks of tar sands oil spills," said Hayes.
"Remember that the 2010 tar sands pipeline spill in Michigan is still being cleaned up, and so far has cost over a billion dollars. It's a bit of a Catch-22 to say that this is all just about a few acres of wetlands loss, when the whole point of this lawsuit is that the Corps avoided analyzing any of the pipeline's environmental impacts as required by NEPA."
Lastly, Martínez put the onus on Transcanada for its economic decision-making.
"Transcanada chose to incur its economic harm by entering into contracts for services before the Gulf Coast Pipeline was approved, even in light of the controversial nature of the Pipeline," said Martínez (emphasis his).
U.S. District Court Decision Forthcoming, Activism Persists
Sierra Club, et al now await a summary judgment from the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on whether Keystone XL failed the dictates of NEPA. It's a key decision, Hayes says, because "a ruling in our favor could prevent the Corps from doing this in the future."
While they await this lower court judgment, activists continue efforts to fend off these pipeline projects.
"This decision yet again demonstrates why direct action is necessary. The permitting process for Keystone XL's southern leg was illegal, yet regulators, inspectors, Obama, and the courts are failing to do what is necessary to protect the people and ecosystems threatened by this toxic pipeline," said Ron Seifert, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesman.
"If all the branches of government are so helplessly captured by industry that they will do nothing to stave off climate change, then the people must rise up and take the defense of the environment into their own hands."
Violence is the most pervasive and destructive human problem of them all. It has been present for as long as history records. We are mired in it, all over the world, every day of our lives. It now threatens to obliterate us from the historical record within decades, if not sooner.
What is violence? Let me define this phenomenon more precisely so that we might tackle it more effectively.
Violence is social interference in the genetically programmed feelings, thoughts, sensing and/or behavior of another organism. It might be inflicted by an individual or an institution.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
On the first day of the federal government shut-down, as hundreds of tourists were turned away from the shuttered Liberty Bell and other fabled sites within the Independence National Historical Park in downtown Philadelphia, Richard Dyost stood near the building housing the Bell and received a big laugh.
By Ken Meyercord
Prior to the new constitution, Syria was officially a one-party state: the Baathist party, to which the current and former president belonged, being that party. In 2007 the nomination by the Syrian parliament of Bashar al-Assad as President of Syria was approved by 98% of the electorate with a 96% turnout rate - just the sort of mandate you would expect of an authoritarian regime. Under the new constitution Syria became a multiparty state; elections to parliament were open to any political party.
In May of last year parliamentary elections under the new constitution were held. There were two blocs contending for the vote: the pro-government National Progressive Front, comprised of 6 parties, and the oppositional Popular Front for Change and Liberation, which included two parties. Of the 250 seats in the assembly, the Baathists won 134 seats with 34 seats distributed among the other parties in the National Front, including 6 seats for the two factions of the Communist Party. The opposition shared 5 seats. Seventy-seven members of the new parliament were not affiliated with any party. The constitution stipulates that at least half of the members of the assembly must be workers or farmers.
In other words, the Syrian parliament encompasses a diversity of opinion we can only dream of seeing in our own Congress - quite a coup for the nonviolent opposition. An election for President is scheduled for next May, quite a concession for a man our media labels a "thug", "dictator", "tyrant", especially as most governments, including our own, when facing a stressful situation become more authoritarian (e.g., Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, Palmer Raids of the 1920s, the Patriot Act, etc.) . It can be argued that the Syrian peaceful revolution is the most successful transition to democracy of the Arab Spring. What more does the violent opposition want? No wonder they have to rely on foreign Jihadists to do their fighting!
Critics of the Syrian regime will claim the elections were fraudulent, or, as the Obama administration put it, "ludicrous". I have no idea whether this is the case and would welcome the views of those better informed than me. I suspect critics of the elections seldom offer any supporting evidence for their claims. Every country grapples with seeing that their elections are fair (cf. Voter ID laws). Before we dismiss the newfound democracy in Syria as a sham, maybe we should give it a chance, especially as the lives of thousands of people - mostly Syrian but perhaps some of our own - are at risk. If the administration's goal in Syria is regime change, maybe it should wait and see whether the Syrian people effect it in a peaceful manner next spring or, if the incumbent is re-elected, accept the fact that democracy doesn't always work out the way we would like.
Postscript: If you didn't know about recent political developments in Syria, don't feel bad. I attended an event the other day where none of the speakers - neither Cole Bockenfeld and Stephen McInerney of the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) nor Shadi Hamid, Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution - were aware of the elections held under the new Syrian constitution.
Ken Meyercord produces a public access TV show called Worlddocs which "brings the world to the people of the Washington, DC area through documentaries you won't see broadcast on corporate TV." He has a Master's in Middle East History from the American University of Beirut.
By John Grant
All we are saying is give peace a chance
- John Lennon
Whether war or cooperation is the more dominant trait of humanity is one of the oldest questions in human discourse. There are no satisfying answers for either side exclusively, which seems to suggest the answer is in the eternal nature of the debate itself.
As we approach the International Day of Nonviolence on 2 October, which recognizes Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, one challenge we face is to celebrate his life in a way that Gandhi himself would have found meaningful. Gandhi was not a man of token gestures. His life was dedicated to his search for the Truth and guided by his passionate belief that nonviolence was the means to reach it. He was a visionary who was profoundly aware of the damage human violence is doing to ourselves, each other and the Earth.
Despite his example, most of us are familiar with those horror lists that reveal the extent of our ongoing violence. Here is a sample just to refresh your memory.
Spectacle Actions Continue in Washington, DC to Expose Secret Trade Agreement; Fast Track Sought by Obama Administration
Washington, DC – A fourth day of action will take place today as energy builds to expose the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and pressure Congress to vote “no” on granting Fast Track (Trade Promotion Authority) to the President. Fast Track would allow the President to negotiate and sign the TPP without Congressional hearings or amendments on the full content of the text and without full consideration of the impact the TPP will have on laws that protect consumers, workers and the environment.
Activists are also demanding that the text of the TPP be released to Congress, the media and the public. It is unprecedented that the text of a trade agreement is classified as secret and kept from the public. The TPP is the largest agreement since the World Trade Organization was created in the mid-1990s, and it has the potential, because of its docking agreement that allows more countries to join it, to grow larger. Leaked portions of the text raise concerns that the TPP is a rigged corporate trade deal that will undermine national sovereignty and place the public’s safety at risk.
As part of the Stop Fast Track Action Camp put together by the Flush the TPP campaign, actions started on Friday with a lively rally outside of the office of the US Trade Representative. On Sunday evening, the spectacle actions began when a light projection team shined messages on a government building saying “TPP Dismantles Democracy,” “Toxic for People and the Planet,” among others. See photos here: http://www.
Yesterday, eight activists scaled the office of the US Trade Representative and dropped four banners calling for democracy and transparency. See reports with photos and videos here: http://www.
Today, a lively, spectacle march will connect the institutions responsible for promoting trans-national corporate profits at the expense of real human suffering and death and destruction of the planet. Activists, with help from the Backbone Campaign, constructed a 32 foot “TPP Express” to illustrate the dangerous consequences of the TPP if it is passed in secrecy and without fully examining its impact on laws from the local to the national levels. The “Don’t Fast Track a Train Wreck” march will begin at Lafayette Park in front if the White House and end at the Capitol, among the stops along the route will be the US Chamber of Commerce and the US Trade Representative. A rally will be held at 11 ambefore departing in Lafayette Park. Activists will continue to pressure Congress and promise to escalate nonviolent direct action tactics as necessary to stop rigged corporate trade from continuing and succeed in gaining fair trade that puts the needs of people and the planet first.
Today, a lively, spectacle march will connect the institutions responsible for promoting trans-national corporate profits at the expense of real human suffering and death and destruction of the planet. Activists, with help from the Backbone Campaign, constructed a 32 foot “TPP Express” to illustrate the dangerous consequences of the TPP if it is passed in secrecy and without fully examining its impact on laws from the local to the national levels.
The “Don’t Fast Track a Train Wreck” march will begin at Lafayette Park in front if the White House and end at the Capitol, among the stops along the route will be the US Chamber of Commerce and the US Trade Representative. A rally will be held at 11 ambefore departing in Lafayette Park.
Activists will continue to pressure Congress and promise to escalate nonviolent direct action tactics as necessary to stop rigged corporate trade from continuing and succeed in gaining fair trade that puts the needs of people and the planet first.
Message for the Air Force Association Arms Bazaar (9-18-13)
by Bob Cooke
My name is Bob Cooke and I am with Pax Christi Metro DC- Baltimore.
Thank all of you for coming out here tonight as military leaders, military contractors and representatives of foreign counties again gather for the annual Air Force Arms Bazaar to show the world the new weapons of destruction we have developed and in order to sell them throughout the world. As we know, these new weapons will not make the world safer, as many in the banquet room will be saying. They will only increase the level of violence our world knows, since violence begets violence.
I also thank the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker for once again this year calling us out here. Even though our numbers are relatively small, our presence is very important. In the words of Daniel Berrigan, it is important that we “fracture the good order” of the Air Force Arms Bazaar Dinner, to the degree that we can, and witness to the fact that the selling of advanced arms around the world should not go on as “business as usual” without at least some outcry of protest from those who oppose violence, and especially from those who claim to follow the nonviolent Jesus, the Prince of Peace, such as Pax Christi members. We thank the DDCW for calling us out here each year to witness against this great evil.
While we are here tonight, let us also remember the thirteen victims of gun violence who died within a couple of miles from here on Monday at the Washington Navy Yard. Domestic violence and international violence, which is being advocated within the walls of the Gaylord National Convention Center this week, are closely aligned. Is it any wonder that in a world where the countries of the world, lead by the United States, advocates the use of military force as the main way to “RESOLVE” conflict, that many people in this country, lead by the NRA and gun manufacturers, have successfully stopped even the most basic, common sense steps to try to alleviate the level of domestic gun violence and oppose any attempts to make it harder for any U.S. citizen to buy and carry virtually any gun they so desire?
As a member of Pax Christi, I would also like to remind us all of the words of St. Paul, who saw the fight we are involved in as a spiritual one that must be won by changing the hearts, minds and spirits of people. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus: Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood; but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the
whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph. 6:12,13).
Let us remember, as we are here tonight, that the “world rulers of this present darkness” can only be defeated by the power of love and non-violence, which have been shown to us in the lives of Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many, many others, who have walked this earth before us and who are walking in our midst today, including those of us gathered here tonight.
Let us pray that some of those people sitting at this dinner tonight will have a change of heart, mind and spirit and realize the utter madness and futility of the “solution” they propose to make the world safe by killing our alleged “enemies”. Let us remember the words of Jesus, who called us to love our enemies. It is only through such love that people’s hearts, minds and spirits can be changed. So we pray for those in that dinner tonight, that one, or more, of them will realize the great evil they are partaking in and will one day join us on the outside calling for an end to the selling of these weapons of destruction.
Thank all of you for being witnesses to the power of love. Let us continue to work together with increasing vigor to help win this spiritual battle by using love’s weapon of nonviolence to defeat the evil powers of greed, militarism and domination.
By Robert C. Koehler
Indeed, imagine if we knew that doing this was an option. Mel Duncan, cofounder of an organization called Nonviolent Peaceforce, was talking about Syria, the country we almost bombed and maybe still will. In lieu of tossing godlike lightning bolts at Bashar al-Assad, “The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration,” the WashingtonPost reported last week. “The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.” So our war with Syria is only partially averted, apparently. It plunges back into something covert, minimally publicized, silently lethal, silently insane: our normal relationship with so much of the world. “. . . the efforts have lagged because of the logistical challenges involved in delivering equipment in a war zone and officials’ fears that any assistance could wind up in the hands of jihadists.” The aim of peacebuilding is peace, not strategic advantage. It’s not an “international chess game” or any other sort of game. It’s basic humanity. With an extraordinarily small commitment of money — and a large commitment of courage — we could have peace and stability on this planet in relatively short order. The main problem is that peacebuilding, at least in the volatile, resource-rich, up-for-grabs regions of the world, is also a complete irrelevance to most of the world’s elite political and corporate players, who are interested mainly in gaming the situation for strategic advantage — our children and our future be damned. I doubt we have any chance of moving out of this spiral of global violence until we figure out how to bypass them, that is to say, until we stop being spectators. In the wake of the aborted U.S. missile assault on Syria, I heard encouraging talk about “the other superpower” — the ordinary people of the world, tired of war, organizing for peace. The late Dr. Robert Muller, former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, used that term in 2003 to describe the millions of people around the planet who took to the streets to protest the invasion of Iraq. The idea was: Now they’re back, demanding a non-military solution in Syria. I believe there is another superpower out there, but it has to do better than show up once a decade to protest a looming war, then disappear when the headlines fade. This leads me back to my conversation the other day with Mel Duncan, whose U.N.-sanctioned NGO has been doing fieldwork in troubled regions of the world — such places as South Sudan, the Philippines, Myanmar and Sri Lanka — for the last 10 years. The work is intense, culturally engaged, disciplined and professional. Field workers, who receive serious training before they are placed, build trust with every side in local conflict situations. They have succeeded in defusing violent tribal feuds and establishing weapon-free zones — always the long, slow, hard way, from the ground up, by working with local peacemakers and convincing all parties that their best interests are served by cooperation. This isn’t easy, but it’s doable. “Peace can never be achieved using a one-size fits-all model, and effective, long-term projects that last are those that are created by the communities themselves,” concludes a Nonviolent Peaceforce paper on the establishment, by widespread mutual agreement, of a weapon-free zone in the town of Yirol, South Sudan. Compare this slow, painstaking work with the U.S. government’s approach: When missiles are too politically awkward to use, it ships weapons and hopes they remain in the hands of our alleged allies among the rebels, which, of course, will never happen. All it’s doing is fueling the violence in yet one more country it fails to understand. Yet there’s no discussion in the mainstream media about alternative courses of action; and those who support “doing something” generally can’t imagine any form of intervention except military. This is a failure of imagination of enormous proportions. The good news is that not everyone among the “other superpower” is content being a spectator. “We are advancing our exploration of a peacekeeping project in Syria,” Duncan told me. A group of Nonviolent Peaceforce members visited the country in May. On their return, Duncan wrote in MinnPost: “At this very moment, courageous Syrian women and men are working for a peaceful settlement. They are mostly ignored by the world. Most of them are opposed to the government. Some lean toward the regime. They are doing peacebuilding and reconciliation work. They are establishing local cease-fire zones. While differing in viewpoints, they share a commitment to a peaceful, pluralistic and democratic Syria.” If an international team of trained peacemakers could assist the locals and, at the same time, give their efforts global credibility and a place at the negotiating table — my God, give women a place at the table — the gangbangers wouldn’t have it all their way. As another Nonviolent Peaceforce paper notes: “. . . in many cases, belligerent parties are not necessarily legitimate representatives of their societies.” Duncan told me that it costs his organization about $50,000 a year to keep one peacekeeper in a given country. Compare this to the million dollars per year it costs the United States for each soldier in Afghanistan, or the billion dollars per month that Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated it would cost to maintain a full-scale military operation in Syria of the sort originally planned. “We’re the fiscal conservatives in this equation,” Duncan said. “We’re not your big-spending militarists.” The Post article about weapons delivery notes that the U.S. has committed itself to “a $250 million effort to support moderate factions of the Syrian opposition” — a mere trickle of spare change, in Defense spending terms. Yet that’s what it would cost to sustain Duncan’s vision of sending 5,000 trained peacekeepers to Syria for a year. This sounds like the next thing we, “the other superpower,” should demand. We stopped a war, or at least drove it out of the headlines and back into the shadows. Now let’s turn our effort toward building real peace. Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press) is now available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit his website at commonwonders.com or listen to him at Voices of Peace radio. © 2013 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.
Indeed, imagine if we knew that doing this was an option.
Mel Duncan, cofounder of an organization called Nonviolent Peaceforce, was talking about Syria, the country we almost bombed and maybe still will. In lieu of tossing godlike lightning bolts at Bashar al-Assad, “The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration,” the WashingtonPost reported last week.
“The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.”
So our war with Syria is only partially averted, apparently. It plunges back into something covert, minimally publicized, silently lethal, silently insane: our normal relationship with so much of the world. “. . . the efforts have lagged because of the logistical challenges involved in delivering equipment in a war zone and officials’ fears that any assistance could wind up in the hands of jihadists.”
The aim of peacebuilding is peace, not strategic advantage. It’s not an “international chess game” or any other sort of game. It’s basic humanity. With an extraordinarily small commitment of money — and a large commitment of courage — we could have peace and stability on this planet in relatively short order.
The main problem is that peacebuilding, at least in the volatile, resource-rich, up-for-grabs regions of the world, is also a complete irrelevance to most of the world’s elite political and corporate players, who are interested mainly in gaming the situation for strategic advantage — our children and our future be damned. I doubt we have any chance of moving out of this spiral of global violence until we figure out how to bypass them, that is to say, until we stop being spectators.
In the wake of the aborted U.S. missile assault on Syria, I heard encouraging talk about “the other superpower” — the ordinary people of the world, tired of war, organizing for peace. The late Dr. Robert Muller, former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, used that term in 2003 to describe the millions of people around the planet who took to the streets to protest the invasion of Iraq. The idea was: Now they’re back, demanding a non-military solution in Syria.
I believe there is another superpower out there, but it has to do better than show up once a decade to protest a looming war, then disappear when the headlines fade. This leads me back to my conversation the other day with Mel Duncan, whose U.N.-sanctioned NGO has been doing fieldwork in troubled regions of the world — such places as South Sudan, the Philippines, Myanmar and Sri Lanka — for the last 10 years.
The work is intense, culturally engaged, disciplined and professional. Field workers, who receive serious training before they are placed, build trust with every side in local conflict situations. They have succeeded in defusing violent tribal feuds and establishing weapon-free zones — always the long, slow, hard way, from the ground up, by working with local peacemakers and convincing all parties that their best interests are served by cooperation. This isn’t easy, but it’s doable.
“Peace can never be achieved using a one-size fits-all model, and effective, long-term projects that last are those that are created by the communities themselves,” concludes a Nonviolent Peaceforce paper on the establishment, by widespread mutual agreement, of a weapon-free zone in the town of Yirol, South Sudan.
Compare this slow, painstaking work with the U.S. government’s approach: When missiles are too politically awkward to use, it ships weapons and hopes they remain in the hands of our alleged allies among the rebels, which, of course, will never happen. All it’s doing is fueling the violence in yet one more country it fails to understand. Yet there’s no discussion in the mainstream media about alternative courses of action; and those who support “doing something” generally can’t imagine any form of intervention except military. This is a failure of imagination of enormous proportions.
The good news is that not everyone among the “other superpower” is content being a spectator. “We are advancing our exploration of a peacekeeping project in Syria,” Duncan told me.
A group of Nonviolent Peaceforce members visited the country in May. On their return, Duncan wrote in MinnPost: “At this very moment, courageous Syrian women and men are working for a peaceful settlement. They are mostly ignored by the world. Most of them are opposed to the government. Some lean toward the regime. They are doing peacebuilding and reconciliation work. They are establishing local cease-fire zones. While differing in viewpoints, they share a commitment to a peaceful, pluralistic and democratic Syria.”
If an international team of trained peacemakers could assist the locals and, at the same time, give their efforts global credibility and a place at the negotiating table — my God, give women a place at the table — the gangbangers wouldn’t have it all their way. As another Nonviolent Peaceforce paper notes: “. . . in many cases, belligerent parties are not necessarily legitimate representatives of their societies.”
Duncan told me that it costs his organization about $50,000 a year to keep one peacekeeper in a given country. Compare this to the million dollars per year it costs the United States for each soldier in Afghanistan, or the billion dollars per month that Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated it would cost to maintain a full-scale military operation in Syria of the sort originally planned.
“We’re the fiscal conservatives in this equation,” Duncan said. “We’re not your big-spending militarists.”
The Post article about weapons delivery notes that the U.S. has committed itself to “a $250 million effort to support moderate factions of the Syrian opposition” — a mere trickle of spare change, in Defense spending terms. Yet that’s what it would cost to sustain Duncan’s vision of sending 5,000 trained peacekeepers to Syria for a year.
This sounds like the next thing we, “the other superpower,” should demand. We stopped a war, or at least drove it out of the headlines and back into the shadows. Now let’s turn our effort toward building real peace.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press) is now available. Contact him at email@example.com, visit his website at commonwonders.com or listen to him at Voices of Peace radio.
© 2013 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.
Judge Doesn't Send Obama Drone Protesters to Prison, Agrees to Allow Them to Do Community Service After 'Beale 5' Refuse to Pay Fines
SACRAMENTO– Five peace advocates convicted of trespassing at a demonstration opposing the Obama Administrations killer drone program at Beale AFB near Marysville were sentenced here Monday to only 10 hours community service – after they said they rather go to prison than accept a fine and probation.
Judge Carolyn Delaney listened to passionate statements (Available upon request) by the defendants, who told the judge they were willing to go to federal prison rather than pay any fines or accept 3 years probation. They faced up to six months in federal prison and a $5,000 fine each for trespassing at Beale.
Interview by Dave Lindorff
As Syrian expatriate Dr. Rim Turkmani was watching President Barack Obama give his brief nationally televised address to the American people and the people of the world last night, she says she had two contradictory feelings. “I felt good that it was not a war speech,” says this British-based member of the political office of an organization called The Syrian State Current, a movement that is seeking non-violent democratic change in Syria. “But what upset me was his repeated referring to what is happening in Syria as a ‘civil war.’ There is an element of civil war in the violence in Syria, but more importantly it is a proxy war between the US and Russia, and it has to be acknowledged that the US and Russia are the key players.”
By Brian Terrell
On May 23, President Obama gave a major address from the National Defense University, ON THE FUTURE OF OUR FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM, in which he acknowledged for the first time the US government’s still officially secret program of assassination by remotely controlled drones. I was able to watch this televised speech from the privileged vantage of a federal prison on the last day of a sentence resulting from my protest of drones lethally operated from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri over various countries around the world.
Over the previous six months in the Federal Prison Camp at Yankton, South Dakota, I had watched from afar as the discussion on drone warfare emerged from the fringe and into the mainstream. Fellow prisoners brought me clippings on the subject from their local newspapers and kept me apprised of what they heard on the evening news. The American people seemed to be just awakening to the reality and consequences of wars being fought and assassinations carried out by unmanned but heavily armed planes controlled by combatants sitting at computer screens at stateside bases far from the conflict.
My own anti-drone activism began with protests at Creech Air Force Base in the Nevada desert in April, 2009. Even some otherwise well informed people were skeptical, back then, that such things were even possible, much less happening daily. Many who were aware accepted the simple and happy narrative of drone warfare as a precise new high-tech system in which soldiers from a safe distance of thousands of miles can pin point those who mean us imminent harm with little or no collateral damage.
Even some among our friends in the peace movement questioned the wisdom of focusing attention on drones. Must we protest every new advance in weaponry? Can’t we allow for methods that are at least improvements on indiscriminate carnage? Is not a precisely aimed and delivered drone attack preferable to carpet bombing? Is it not preferable to invasion? Does it make a difference to the victims, in any case, whether there is a pilot in the plane that bombs them or not?
The fact that four years later on the day before my release from prison, the president of the United States was defending the use of drones before the country and the world is truly remarkable. This is not a discussion that he or anyone else in the government, politics or the military encouraged or one that the media was anxious to take on. The fact that the issue is up for discussion at all is due to considerable efforts of the few here in the US and the UK in solidarity with many in the streets in Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan protesting this foul weaponry. Communities of protest and resistance in Nevada, New York, California, Missouri, Wisconsin, England and Iowa thrust the issue into local forums, courts and media through creative actions and legal stratagems, effectively demanding that grievance over drone killing be heard. The president’s own speech was itself only rescued from being the cleverly constructed but empty litany of alibi, half-truth and obfuscation that it was intended to be by the interruption by our friend, Medea Benjamin.
In his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., noted that often a society like ours “bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue,” requires “nonviolent gadflies” in order to “create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal.”
As with the issue of segregation 50 years ago, so today the parameters of discussion allowed by politeness and good manners or sanctioned by the police and courts simply cannot abide the objective appraisal of drone warfare that the times require. Such as it is, the discussion is made possible only by some who dare speak out of turn, as Medea, or who use their bodies to intrude on the orderly commission of criminalities in our midst. Before the president’s lecture drone warfare’s approval rating was at the top of the polls but a month later drone pilot Col. Bryan Davis of the Ohio Air National Guard noted a turn of the tide. “We are not popular among the American public, every other base has been protested,” he lamented to a local paper. “It doesn’t make you feel warm inside.”
The narrative of humanitarian war via drone had begun to unravel in the public eye in the months leading up to the president’s speech and has since fallen further into disrepute. Months before the president made the assertion in his May 23 speech that “by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life,” his administration had already revised earlier claims that the drone programs in Yemen and Pakistan had yielded zero known noncombatant deaths to one death to finally admitting to a death toll in “single digits.” By almost any accounting the noncombatant tolls in those countries have been at least in the hundreds.
Just weeks after the president spoke at the National Defense University, a journal published by that institution published a study that debunked his assurance that “conventional airpower and missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to cause more civilian casualties and local outrage.” Drone strikes in Afghanistan, the study found, were “an order of magnitude more likely to result in civilian casualties per engagement.”
Another assurance given in this speech, that “America cannot take strikes wherever we choose; our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty,” was discredited on June 8 when the US ambassador to Pakistan was summoned by the prime minister of that country angry over a US drone attack that killed nine people. “It was conveyed to the US chargé ď affaires that the government of Pakistan strongly condemns the drone strikes, which are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs. “The importance of bringing an immediate end to drone strikes was emphasized.”
“We act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people.” Formerly the word “imminent” referred to something about to happen at any moment and using the generally accepted definition of the word one might construe in the president’s words a guarantee that drone strikes are used only to stop “terrorists” engaged in acts that would cause immediate harm to Americans. John Brennan, now director of the CIA, suggested in September 2011 that “a more flexible understanding of ‘imminence’ may be appropriate when dealing with terrorist groups.” This more flexible understanding of imminence justifies the assassination not only of those caught in the act, but also of targets who are suspected of having written something or said something to make someone think that they might have something to do with an attack on the US someday. A person who is caught on the drone’s video feed from 7,000 miles away as acting in a manner consistent with someone who might harm one day may now be eliminated as an imminent threat.
Referring to the killing of Anwar Awlaki, an American citizen in Yemen, the president assured us that “for the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any US citizen -- with a drone, or with a shotgun -- without due process.” The general usage of the words “due process” would cause the misapprehension that the right of a citizen to have trial by jury before being executed is being reaffirmed here. “This is simply not accurate,” says Attorney General Eric Holder. “‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.” The burden of “due process” can now be met when the president decides based on secret evidence that a citizen should die.
Drone technology is changing our language beyond redefining terms like “imminence” and “due process.” We have progressed, too, beyond Orwellian euphemisms such as naming an intercontinental nuclear missile “Peacekeeper.” These new “hunter-killer platforms” bear names like “Predators” and “Reapers” and may soon be supplanted by “Avengers” and “Stalkers.” The ordinance they deliver is a missile named “Hellfire.”
In Iowa where I live, the Air National Guard unit based in Des Moines has replaced its F-16 fighter planes with a Reaper drone control center. This transformation was marked by changing the unit’s name from the “132nd Fighter Wing” to the “132nd Attack Wing.” This change is more than symbolic- a “fight” by definition has two sides and the word implies some kind of parity. There is such a thing as a fair fight (of course the 132nd’s F-16s were used only on all but disarmed populations in places like Iraq and Panama) and a fight usually has some kind of resolution. An “attack” however, is just that. An attack is one-sided, something that a perpetrator inflicts on a victim. A fighter might sometimes be justified, an attacker, never. There is no “just attack” theory. The parsing out of innocent and guilty drone victims is in a sense a waste of time. All alike are victims.
George Kennan, might have seen this coming in a policy paper he wrote for the State Department in 1948. In order to preserve the global disparity of wealth post World War II (“We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population”) he suggested that “we should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.” While the speech at the National Defense University was an embarrassment of idealistic slogans, it also used chilling pragmatism to deal with straight power concepts.
“For me,” the president said on May 23, “and those in my chain of command, those deaths will haunt us as long as we live.” Those words had a truer ring a few days later spoken on NBC news by Brandon Bryant, an Air Force drone operator who confessed to being haunted by 1,600 deaths he took part in. Bryant admitted that his actions made him feel like a “heartless sociopath,” and he described one of his first kills, sitting in a chair at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada when his team fired on three men walking down a road in Afghanistan. It was night in Afghanistan, and he remembers watching the thermal image of one victim on his computer screen: “I watch this guy bleed out and, I mean, the blood is hot.” Bryant watched the man die and his image disappear as his body attained the ambient temperature of the ground. “I can see every little pixel, if I just close my eyes.” The remoteness of the drone warrior is no protection from the moral damage of war, and these people are victims as well, and it is on their behalf as well that we protest.
We cannot know the hearts of President Obama and those in his inner circle but it is not hard to wonder whether they are truly haunted by the deaths of those killed by drones at their commands. If they may not be haunted by their own consciences, perhaps the responsibility of haunting them falls to us.
Brian Terrell is a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, www.vcnv.org, and lives on a Catholic Worker Farm in Maloy, Iowa
My four friends and I were sentenced today to ten hours each of community service by the judge who convicted us last month of trespassing onto Beale Air Force Base during an anti-drone protest. Judge Carolyn K. Delaney in U.S. District Court in Sacramento acknowledged that we were motivated by conscience and by “deeply held ethical and religious beliefs.” We were delighted with the light sentence, which sets a precedent for other protesters. The judge could have imposed up to six months in jail, a $5,000 fine, and/or five years probation.
Shirley Osgood, Janie Kesselman, David and Jan Hartsough and I had engaged in civil disobedience by crossing a line onto Beale Air Force Base last October during a demonstration against the U.S. drone warfare program. Global Hawk surveillance drones, based at Beale, assist in finding targets for weaponized drones. Here is the statement I made in court today:
Sharon Delgado’s Statement at Sentencing
Judge, although you did not allow us to use the necessity defense or to appeal to international law or to use expert witnesses, the facts are still there. My faith compelled me to act, and I’m willing to accept the consequences.
We stepped onto Beale property because of conscience. US drones are killing people, including children. US drones are creating enemies who will want to take revenge. US drones are not making us more secure, but less secure. By acting outside of international law we are making the world a more dangerous place.
The classic metaphor when talking about the necessity defense is the image of a house on fire. There’s a house on fire, with a child crying from the window and a No Trespassing sign on the door. What is the right thing to do in such a situation? Can a person ignore the sign and enter the house in order to save the child? That’s what we’re talking about here.
In 2011, Brian Terrell was arrested with 14 others for protesting drones at Creech Air Force Base. At their trial, Brian said, “The house is on fire. And we fourteen are ones who have seen the smoke from the fire and heard the cries of the children. We cannot be deterred by a No Trespassing sign from going to the burning children.”
People are dying. The house is burning. We crossed the line at Beale to try to stop the conflagration and keep it from spreading. We were obeying a higher law.
Judge, I am non-repentant. I do not regret standing in front of the gate at Beale and holding our sign. I think our action was a success. More people are talking about the drone program than they were before this action. I would do it again. In fact, I encourage others to take action, including nonviolent direct action, to interfere with the U.S. drone program and to stop the most recent rush to war.
I will not pay a fine, but I will gladly go to jail or accept community service. My faith compelled me to act, and I’m willing to accept the consequences.
Previous blogs that give an in-depth account of this case can and of the harm caused by drone warfare can be found at Sharon Delgado’s blog. The statements of the other defendants will be posted there over the next few days.
“Follow” this blog by signing up to receive an email message when a blog is posted or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell FaceBook Page.
Cross-Posted from FireDogLake
On September 9, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director David Petraeus -- who also formerly headed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) International Security Assistance Force for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and co-wrote the Counterinsurgency Field Manual -- began a new job as an adjunct professor at City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College.
David Hartsough’s statement at sentencing Sept 9 for his nonviolent protest against Drones at Beale Air Force Base
David was arrested along with eight others blocking two entrances at Beale Air Force Base where they closed the main entrance for over three hours.
by FRANKLIN LAMB
While the history of the involvement of psychiatrists and psychologists in torture programs for political purposes is, tragically, extensive (see, for example, ‘Political Abuse of Psychiatry: An Historical Overview’ and ‘Psychiatry during the Nazi era: ethical lessons for the modern professional’), the tragedy, with more variations, continues worldwide as you read this article.
An appeal to the conscientious citizens of the world who are against the American attack on Syria:
Egyptian citizens, activists, artists and intellectuals are launching an initiative to gather volunteers to protect the Syrian infrastructure targeted by the impending American attack.
The volunteers will surround targeted buildings, airports and other critical sites, acting as human shields, in an attempt to expose the atrocities of war, and the hypocrisy of the American administration.
Egyptian writer and activist Eyad Harfoush, who started the initiative, is naming it after the Syrian officer Gol Gamal, who volunteered to help the Egyptian army during the 1956 War, sacrificing his life defend the Egyptian borders.
Harfoush is calling conscientious citizens from all over the world to participate in the initiative, to say NO to the American attack on Syria: “Let’s not stand helpless while the American administration launches another war, and destroys another Arab country.”
Earlier this week, the American President Barak Obama said he decided that the US should take military action against Syria in response to an alleged use of chemical weapons. Using the same rhetoric behind the War on Iraq Obama said “We are the USA, we can not and must not turn a blind eye on the massacre of countless civilians in Damascus.” However, he will first seek an authorization from the Congress.
The congress will meet on September 10th, 2013 to make their decision. If they approve the attack, the volunteers will fly to Beirut and travel from there to Syria.
If you want to volunteer to protect the Syrian infra structure, in order not to repeat what happened in Iraq, if you have suggestions for people who could be interested in joining in sign up on Facebook.
Eyad Harfoush, Egyptian Writer
Mohamed Amre Mohamed Adel
Hatem Mohamed Khaled
Dalia Basiouny, Egyptian University Professor
Dina El Ghamry, Egyptian Publisher
Haitham El Banna
A 40-year reunion is being planned for the end of this month in Gainesville, Fla., of the Gainesville 8. Sadly, Richard Nixon won't be able to join them, although his presidential library has just released more audio recordings of his descent into madness -- or what we like to call today: standard government practice.
The Gainesville 8 were eight men, seven of them members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), who planned to nonviolently demonstrate at the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami. They were wrongfully prosecuted for planning violence, and they were all acquitted by a jury on August 31, 1973, in a highly publicized trial.
Under the shadow of the chaos that surrounded the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, VVAW took extra steps to avoid violence at the '72 RNC, meeting with the Miami police and with right-wing groups in an effort to prevent conflicts. And yet, prior to the convention, President Nixon's FBI began preemptively arresting VVAW leaders, accusing them of plotting murder and mayhem, and attempting to prevent them from taking part in what they were really plotting: a nonviolent march to the convention, where they would request to meet with the president.
Many VVAW members managed to pull off the march, during the course of which they came upon an activist carrying weapons; they turned him in to the police. Three vets, including Ron Kovic, made it into the convention to pose some uncomfortable questions to some long-distance, stay-at-home war supporters.
Just prior to the arrests of the VVAW members in Florida, burglars working for Nixon had been arrested breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate. When the Watergate burglars were captured, one of them, James McCord, explained that they were investigating a link between the Democrats and the VVAW which they believed was planning trouble at the upcoming Republican National Convention. McCord submitted an affidavit to the Gainesville 8 defense team restating this. The Gainesville 8 defense argued that their prosecution was aimed at strengthening Nixon's thugs' phony case for the Watergate break-in.
One of several infiltrators and would-be provocateurs who made up the fabricated case against the Gainesville 8 was Vincent Hanard. He said that Nixonian henchmen Howard Hunt, Bernard Barker, and Frank Sturgis had asked him to infiltrate VVAW and cause trouble. Another hired trouble-maker, Alfred Baldwin, was employed both monitoring a bug at the Watergate and infiltrating VVAW with a goal of embarrassing Democrats if VVAW demonstrated at the RNC.
Another professional provocateur named Pablo Fernandez was summoned to a grand jury investigating Nixonian henchman Donald Segretti. Fernandez said he'd tried to sell the VVAW guns and been turned down (something the Miami police confirmed), and that he'd spied on the veterans using electronic devices. In fact, he'd tried to record a conversation with VVAW leader Scott Camil, but Fernandez' hidden microphone had failed.
Other of the government's many infiltrators in the VVAW included William Koehler, Karl Becker, Emerson Poe, and William Lemmer. Poe had become best friends with Camil (or so Camil thought). Poe sat in meetings with the defendants right up until he was called as a prosecution witness, thus blowing his cover -- about which the government had previously lied under oath. Lemmer was the star witness, however, alleging wild tales of violent plans. He was himself violent and unstable. Lemmer had already set up a 17 year old to vandalize a building in Arkansas and arranged to have the FBI waiting for him. Lemmer had helped bust six people for marijuana. His specialty was talking people into considering the use of violence. He just wasn't very convincing as a witness.
Scott Camil was the southeast regional coordinator of VVAW. His lawyer's office was broken into during these proceedings, and his file taken. Also, FBI agents with electronic gear were found hiding in a closet of the room that the defendants and lawyers were meeting in during the trial.
"It's not really 11 years till 1984," Camil said in his closing statement (PDF) in court. "It's a lot closer than that."
This sounds odd to us, living in 2013. Technology, if not morality, has made great leaps forward. There's no more need for bungling idiots with brief cases full of spy gear hiding in closets. The government can spy on us without making its presence known. But provocateurs are still employed to manufacture crimes, and much of what was considered illicit under Nixon is treated as acceptable established practice under Obama.
A careful study of the FBI's own data on terrorism in the United States, reported in Trevor Aaronson's book The Terror Factory, finds one organization leading all others in creating terrorist plots in the United States today: the FBI. Peace groups today, including chapters of Veterans For Peace, have been redefined as "security threats" and "potential terrorists." The police have been militarized. Free speech cages are established at great distance from political conventions. Preemptive detentions before demonstrations don't always bother with charges or prosecutions at all. And the corporate-state media has internalized these practices as normal. In 1973, CBS sued for the right to cover the Gainesville 8 trial. Today I think it would be easier to find a media outlet willing to pay money to avoid having to cover something. Chelsea Manning's trial was covered by bloggers.
Camil represented himself in court, and included no apologies, as observers of Chelsea Manning's trial might have expected. Camil's opening statement should be read in full (PDF). He put the government and the war and President Nixon on trial. Here's an excerpt:
"The evidence will show that the seven of us who went to Vietnam spent a total of 111 months over there, received 57 medals and citations, and were all honorably discharged. The evidence will also show that we threw our medals away out of shame, because we knew that what they stood for was wrong. For myself, the throwing away of the medals I once cherished was the cutting of the umbilical cord between myself and the government lies, such as, 'We are helping the people of Vietnam,' 'Our purpose is honorable,' the covering up, such as, 'We are not bombing Cambodia,' 'We are not murdering unarmed civilians,' 'We are not bombing hospitals,' the immorality, such as 'free fire zones,' where all life was fair game, to show the American people back home that we were winning the war by giving them a tool of measurement to judge, and that tool of measurement was the use of dead human beings -- it was called 'body count.'"
On August 31st the jury quickly acquitted all of the defendants. VVAW said at the time:
"The government needed, first of all, to defuse the anti-war issue in the 1972 presidential campaign. What better way to do this was there than by portraying a leading anti-war group as a bunch of vicious killers? With the public outcry caused by the Watergate scandal, a secondary purpose for the trial can be found: an attempt to partially divert attention away from the Watergate affair by fabricating a phony 'threat to national security.' James McCord specifically named VVAW/WSO as the chief villain in this 'threat to national security' and as a justification for their actions."
The Gainesville 8 were John Briggs, Scott Camil, Alton Foss, John Kniffin, Peter Mahoney, Stanley Michelson, William Patterson, and Don Perdue. All but Briggs were Vietnam veterans. Kniffin and Patterson are now deceased.
Four of the eight are gathering for a reunion in Gainesville this month: Peter Mahoney, Don Perdue, Alton Foss, and Scott Camil. Joining them are three of the lawyers who worked on the defense: Larry Turner, Nancy Stearns (Center for Constitutional Rights), and Brady Coleman (Texas National Lawyers Guild). Also coming are jurors from the trial: Donna Ing, and the husband of Jury Foreperson Lois Hensel who is now deceased. Plus members of the defense committee: Nancy Miller Saunders, Nancy Burnap, and Carol Gordon. And John Chambers who spent 40 days in jail for refusing to answer questions from the grand jury. And Richard Hudgens who was subpoenaed to the grand jury. The Oral History Department at the University of Florida will be doing interviews.
I went ahead and did my own interview of Scott Camil. "We came home from Vietnam," he said, "and saw that the government was not telling the truth about the war. We exercised the Constitutional rights that we fought to protect and tried to educate the public to the truth. The government came after us with a vengeance, trampling on our rights in an effort to silence and intimidate us. We stood up to the government and prevailed."
And what has happened since?
"Things have gotten much worse since then -- the illegal activities that brought down President Nixon are now legal. Then the press accepted its role as the 4th estate. Today the press has become a propaganda arm of the National Security State. Today the National Security State wipes its boots on the Constitution. And the public, rather than standing up for the Constitution, cowers and hides its head in the sand.
"Today's whistleblowers trying to educate the public to what is being done in our name with our tax money are under attack as we once were. I hope that they are able to prevail as we once did."
Dear Friends and Bradley Manning Supporters,Thank you for for being one of the 4,140 who signed our petition to serve part of Bradley Manning's sentence. Thanks also to all of you who have told us you are interested in taking further action! This morning, August 21, we were told what sentence Bradley must serve. There are a number of actions planned today and your best source for information on these is http://www.bradleymanning.
orgHere, I will update you on what we have planned for people who signed our petition.
After reading your ideas Kevin Zeese, Malachy Kilbride and I agreed to have Malachy take the lead for the next phase of our plan. He explains the plan,
"We will deliver the petition you signed to appropriate authorities and request a meeting withthe individual(s) in a policy position who can discuss the sentencing of Bradley Manning with us. If they refuse to accept the petitions or meet with us, we will continue our peaceful assembly by sitting down and refusing to leave until they meet with us. If you have never done this we are able to provide you with information about the process and how risking arrest works. If you do not want to risk arrest there will still be a role for you."
We want to draw attention to the fact that many people want to see Bradley Manning pardoned and released from prison.
The date of the action is Wednesday the 28th of AUGUST. We will gather in Washington, DC and go to The White House. Will you join us?
If you cannot make it to Washington, DC but want to be in solidarity with us actions are being planned around the country also. If you would like find out about these actions or to organize an action in your area let us know. Our gatherings will be peaceful, but we will be defiant in our protest to Bradley's prison sentence demanding he be pardoned and released.
If you have questions about this action, like time and specifics, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are doing this to support Bradley but we also want to demonstrate to our government that we support truth tellers, people who promote transparency in government; people who have the courage to report the War Crimes being committed by our country.
Join us. Release Bradley Manning!Charlotte Scot, Malachy Kilbride and Kevin Zeese
IN SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HEARING CONFIRMING JOHN BRENNAN
They are asking the local DC area activist community to come to court as they are able to support them.
They have issued the following statement:
Three of the activists who were arrested at the Feb 7, 2013 Senate Confirmation Hearing of John Brennan as CIA Director are currently on trial in DC. The last trial day is likely to be Monday, Aug 19, or Tuesday at the latest;. Drone Czar, John Brennan, was ultimately confirmed to head the CIA, but our commitment for peace and justice is relentless and "SHALL NOT BE MOVED."
The three co-defendants, David Barrows, Joan Nicholson and Toby Blome are representing themselves pro se, with terrific assistance from their legal advisors, DC attorneys Ann Wilcox and Mark Goldstone. The co-defendants are arguing they did not have specific intent to disrupt the hearing, along with other arguments, Please join us at DC Superior Court, Courtroom 112 (Judge Patricia Broderick). The courthouse is at 500 Indiana Ave., NW, Washington DC.
For details of the CodePink anti-drone action that the defendants were part of, refer to the media links below.
Please hold us all in your thoughts,
Toby Blome, Bay Area CodePink
CodePink speaks out at John Brennan Confirmation Hearing: