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Army Credits Quakers, Mennonites & Anti-War Veteran Groups with Discouraging Young People from Enlisting

10:49 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

quaker

The government has infiltrated antiwar groups like the Quakers that discourage young people from joining the military

Remarkably, the U.S. Army War College has published a report (PDF) that makes an overwhelming case against enlisting in the U.S. Army. The report, called “Civilian Organizational Inhibitors to U.S. Army Recruiting and the Road Ahead,” identifies counter-recruitment organizations that effectively discourage young people from joining the military.

This is the highest honor the Army could give these groups, including Quaker House, the Mennonite Central Committee, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, and Courage to Resist. Activists often disbelieve in the effectiveness of their own work until the government admits it explicitly. Well, here is that admission. And counter-recruitment activists really do seem to appreciate it.

No doubt someone quickly sent the report along to the NSA and the FBI. The report is, in fact, a few years old, and we have seen the government infiltrating at least some of the organizations named in it during the past few years.

But who really should be reading this excellent report is potential recruits. In laying out the arguments of the counter-recruitment groups and then trying to refute them, the report’s author, Lieutenant Colonel Todd M. Jacobus, makes their case persuasively and his own weakly in the extreme. I’m not sure if this is intentional subterfuge, drug-induced self-parody, or just intellectual debility. Regardless, the government will have new appreciation for its standard disclaimer that says the views expressed are the author’s alone.

Some highlights:

Hundreds of organizations throughout our Country [sic] have a negative influence on our recruiting efforts, using techniques and strategies that frequently depict professional military recruiters in an ill light, disillusion influencers and dissuade potential applicants from looking into military service as a viable option.

The typical Army reaction to any such challenge is, Jacobus says, to cut and run:

Too often, the tactic of our recruiting force when engaged by a hostile force, is to break contact, and re-focus efforts and resources where those hostile to military recruitment are less likely to be confronted, and therefore where success is more likely.

Jacobus calls the Army “all-volunteer” before noting the absurdity of that claim:

The manner in which the Quaker House illustrates their support for their Quaker ideals is by endeavoring to hurt our Army’s recruiting and retention efforts by: 1. providing reference material to potential Soldiers and centers of influence that negatively portrays the military recruiter and the enlistment process; 2. counseling enlistees in the delayed entry program on how they can terminate their enlistment; 3. counseling Soldiers on active duty on how to adjudicate their situation when they are in an unexcused absence or absent without leave status; 4. counseling to Soldiers on how they can quickly adjudicate a conscientious objector status with the Army; 5. providing expertise to Soldiers on discharge procedures and regulations.

Surely a volunteer service would not require such elaborate assistance for someone attempting to stop volunteering.

Jacobus presents the arguments of counter-recruiters at some length and never counters most of them in any way at all:

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Veterans For Peace to Hold 28th National Convention

8:45 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Veterans For Peace, a leading antiwar organization with chapters in every U.S. state and several other countries, will hold its 28th national convention in Madison, Wisconsin, August 7-11, 2013, at the Concourse Hotel at 1 Dayton Street.

The convention, open to veterans and non-veterans, will feature speakers, entertainers, and workshops on a wide variety of topics related to the advancement of peace and the abolition of war.

Free public events include:

Lanterns for Peace, commemorating Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Aug. 6, 7-9:30 p.m. Tenney Park Shelter
Poetry Night, Aug. 7, 8-10:30 p.m. Room of One’s Own Bookstore, 315 W Gorham Street
Activist Night with national and local speakers, open mic, music, Aug. 8, 7-10 p.m., Concourse Hotel Ballroom
Rally and Peace Parade, families invited, bring peace banners, Aug. 10, 4 p.m., State Street and Capitol Square
Tribute to Lincoln Grahlfs, Aug. 11, 9-11 a.m., Capitol Lakes Retirement Center, 333 West Main Street
Iraq Veterans Against the War Art Exhibit, Aug 7-11, Rainbow Bookstore, 426 W. Gilman Street

Speakers at the convention (and available for interviews) include:

Nick Turse, journalist, historian, and author.
Diane Wilson, Vietnam veteran, author, activist, fisherwoman, hungerstriker for Gitmo.
James Yee, former U.S. Army chaplain, falsely accused of “aiding the enemy.”
Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
John Peck, executive director of Family Farm Defenders.
Paul Chappell, Iraq War veteran, author, peace leadership director at Nuclear Age Peace Fdtn.
Ben Griffin, UK war resister.
S. Brian Willson, Vietnam veteran, author, activist, hungerstriker for Gitmo.
John Kinsman, president of Family Farm Defenders.
Paul Soglin, mayor of Madison.
Mike Wiggins Jr., tribal chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe.
Carlos Arredondo, Costa Rican-American peace activist and American Red Cross volunteer.
David Newby, founder of U.S. Labor Against the War and former President of WI AFL-CIO.
Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine.
Scott Olsen, Iraq War veteran, shot in the head at Occupy Oakland.

Entertainers at the convention:

Lem Genovese, Ryan Harvey, Solidarity singalong, Forward Marching Band, Madison Raging Grannies, Watermelon Slim, Honor Among Thieves, Jim Walktendonk.

Workshops:

Some of the topics will be: Veterans farming, Creating a culture of peace, Educating the community, Agent Orange, Nonviolent bioregional revolutionary strategies, Debt and death: making clear the costs of war, Labor’s role, Environmental disaster, the United Nations, Helping homeless veterans, Palestine, Veteran suicide, Military sexual trauma and suicides, Voices of Iraq: resolution, reconciliation, reparation, The written word for peace and reconciliation, Bradley Manning and G.I. resisters, The perversion of just war reasoning, U.S. policy in the Middle East, The long war for central Asia, Building peace in Vietnam, and Abolishing war as an instrument of national policy.

The full program is available at http://VFPNationalConvention.org

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

Veterans For Peace Opposes Military Intervention in Syria

5:58 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Veterans For Peace urgently calls on the United States and NATO to cease all military activity in Syria, halt all U.S. and NATO shipments of weapons, and abandon all threats to further escalate the violence under which the people of Syria are suffering.

Fists raised in a crowd of activists.

Veterans raise their fists in protest after throwing away their medals at the May 2012 NATO protests in Chicago.

NATO troops and missiles should be withdrawn from Turkey and other surrounding nations.  U.S. ships should exit the Mediterranean.

Veterans For Peace is an organization of veterans who draw upon their military experiences in working for the abolition of war.  We have not entered into this work without consideration of many situations similar to the current one in Syria.

Peace negotiations, while very difficult, will be easier now, and will do more good now, than after greater violence.  Those negotiations must come, and delaying them will cost many men, women, and children their lives.

No good can come from U.S. military intervention in Syria.  The people of Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, Vietnam, and dozens of other nations in Latin America and around the world have not been made better off by U.S. military intervention.

While experts have great doubt that the Syrian government will use chemical weapons, while accounts of past use are dishonest, and while claims that such use is imminent are unsubstantiated and highly suspicious, the most likely way to provoke such use is the threat of an escalated foreign intervention.  Required now by practicality, morality, and the law is de-escalation.

The possession or use of one kind of weapon cannot justify the use of another.  Were the Syrian government to use chemical weapons against Syrians, the United States would not be justified in using other kinds of weapons against Syrians.  The United States possesses chemical and biological weapons, as well as nuclear weapons, and possesses and uses cluster bombs, white phosphorus, depleted uranium weapons, mines, and weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles  — none of which justifies military attacks on the U.S. government.

The United States’ own military actions kill far more civilians than combatants.  The United States facilitates and tolerates governments’ abuses of their own people in nations around the world and around Western Asia, notably in Bahrain — not to mention in Syria, to which the United States has in recent years sent victims to have them tortured.  The world does not believe U.S. motivations for intervention in Syria are humanitarian.  The motivation has been too openly advertised as the overthrow of a government too friendly with the government of Iran and insufficiently subservient to NATO.  Syria has been on a Pentagon list for regime change since at least 2001.

The threat of war, like the use of war, is a violation of the U.N. Charter, to which both the United States and Syria are parties.  War without Congressional declaration is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Another U.S. war will not only breed hostility.  It will directly arm and supply those already hostile to the U.S. government.

How many times must we watch the same mistakes repeated?

The options are not limited to doing nothing or escalating warfare.  Nonviolent resistance to tyranny has proven far more likely to succeed, and the successes far longer lasting.  Nations and individuals outside of Syria should do what they can to facilitate the nonviolent pursuit of justice.

But Syria’s struggles should be controlled by the Syrian people without military intervention.  The first step is a cease-fire and de-escalation.  The U.S. military and NATO can assist only by departing.

Photo by Debra Sweet released under a Creative Commons license.

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

10:38 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

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

Fighting ceased in the “war to end all wars” on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Thirty million soldiers had been killed or wounded and another seven million had been taken captive during World War I. Never before had people witnessed such industrialized slaughter. Congress responded to a universal hope among Americans for no more wars by passing a resolution calling for “exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding … inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.” Later, Congress added that November 11th was to be “a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.”

On June 1, 1954, Congress changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day.  This year, on November 11th, Veterans For Peace chapters and their allies all over the country intend to restore the tradition of Armistice Day.
And so it will be, with events planned in over 50 cities, many of them including the ringing of 11 bells at the 11th hour on November 11th.  In some cities, Veterans For Peace is partnering with MoveToAmend.org to advance the cause of removing money from politics — understanding such corruption to be a major driving force behind wars.  In some cities, groups will be striving to revive awareness of the Kellogg-Briand Pact which grew out of the antiwar sentiments after the Great War and which bars our nation and over 80 others from “recourse to war for the solution of international controversies.”

Events are planned in Bangor, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Albany, Santa Cruz, Houston, Tuscon, Gainesville, Tallahassee, Washington DC, Northern N.J., Southern Wisc., Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Miami, New York, Cape Cod, Columbia Mo., Santa Barbara, Southern N.H., Wyoming, Oregon, Nashville, Broome County, San Diego, Seattle, Southeast Ark., Evansville, Orange County Calif., Sheboygan, Red Wing, Tampa, Potsdam, Atlanta, Buffalo, Pueblo, Tacoma, St. Augustine, Bandon, Fairbanks, Memphis, North Carolina triangle, Lane County, Iowa City, East Bay, Mansanita, Berks County, Linn County, Wenatchee Valley, Berkeley, Harrisonburg Va., Charlottesville, Va., St. Louis, San Jose, Marin County, Walnut Creek, and San Francisco.

In Minneapolis,
VFP and many allies will hold a ceremony at the First Shot Memorial on Minnesota’s Capitol grounds at 11 a.m. on the 11th.

In St. Louis, churches will ring their bells at 11 a.m. on the 11th.  Drummers will play at 11 a.m. in Keiner Plaza.

In Iowa City, bells will be rung at 11 a.m. on the 11th at the Clinton Street entrance to Old Capitol on the Pentacrest.

In Chicago, VFP, VVAW, and I/AVAW will hold a ceremony at 11 a.m. on the 11th at Wabash Avenue at Wacker Drive along the river.

In Boston, VFP will lead a parade, gathering at noon in Boston Commons, at the corner of Beacon and Charles Streets.  The parade kicks off at 1 p.m. and leads to a rally and music at Faneuill Hall – Sam Adams Park from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

In St. Augustine, Fla., the city is expected to issue an official proclamation designating November 11th Veterans/Armistice Day and encouraging churches in the area to ring their church bells at 11:00 a.m. on November 11th inorder to reconsider the original intent of a public recognition of November 11th to honor peace and encourage their congregations to denounce war as a means of settling differences.

In Charlottesville, Va., VFP is co-sponsoring and co-organizing a display of Eyes Wide Open, the acclaimed “cost-of-war” display of hundreds of pairs of boots representing US service members from the area that were killed in ongoing occupations of the Near East.  The project will be staffed for three days, in downtown Charlottesville, at the University of Virginia, and at Immaculate Conception church.  In the spirit of Armistice Day, bells will be rung in conjunction on November 11th.

In Harrisonburg, Va.
, VFP plans a parade contingent for the Harrisonburg Veterans Day Parade.  They will also be co-hosting and co-sponsoring the Eyes Wide Open project on Monday, November 12th, at Eastern Mennonite University.

Five Related Events in the Bay Area, November 10-11, 2012:

November 10, 2:00 p.m., Walnut Creek
David Swanson
Mt. Diablo Peace Center, 55 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek, CA 94596 – (925) 933-7850http://mtdpc.org
Free and open to the public.

Drone Warfare Protest and Golden Gate Bridge March
Sunday, November 11, 10 a.m. Die-in at Senator Dianne Feinstein’s mansion in Pacific Heights (Vallejo & Lyon Street) then caravan to monthly march across the Golden Gate Bridge. Noon: March begins!

Armistice Day
Sunday, November 11, 11 a.m.
Corner of Fourth & Santa Clara Street
San Jose, CA
Veterans for Peace chapters across the nation are meeting on street corners in major cities to celebrate the original ARMISTICE DAY by ringing bells 11 times at 11:00 on November 11 as as was done at the end of World War I, when the world came together in realization that war is so horrible we must end it now. Veterans for Peace Chapter 101 invites those with a personal or organizational commitment to peace to join us in the ringing of bells on the morning of November 11 to focus on the desire to end the horror of war rather than celebrate it. This event is co-sponsored by the San Jose Peace and Justice Center, Woman’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Code Pink, Move to Amend.

Sunday, November 11, 1:30-4:30 p.m. San Francisco
Medea Benjamin, Cindy Sheehan, and David Swanson
On the traditional Armistice Day, the War and Law League (WALL),
http://warandlaw.org, presents a forum on the theme, “U.S. Wars — Are They Lawful?” Admission is free. The forum, highlighting WALL’s biennial general meeting, is endorsed by the S.F. American Friends Service Committee and East Bay Peace Action. Main Public Library, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin Street at Grove Street, San Francisco, CA, near Civic Center BART/Muni station.

November 11, 7:00 p.m. Marin County
Medea Benjamin and David Swanson
“Stopping War: The Next One?  Forever? — An Armistice Day Instead of Veterans Day Event”
Sponsor: Marin Peace & Justice Coalition.  Co-sponsors: Social Justice Center of Marin and Community Media Center of Marin.
Olney Hall, College of Marin, 835 College Ave, Kentfield, CA
Admission $10 (No one turned away for lack of funds).

About the speakers at these events:

David Swanson will sign books including “When the World Outlawed War.” Swanson blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.

Medea Benjamin is Co-Founder of Code Pink and Global Exchange and author of “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.”

Cindy Sheehan is a gold star mother, peace activist, host of Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox, and author of “Revolution: A Love Story.”

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

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Drone War Protesters Arrested at Hancock Air Field

6:57 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Drone nose (photo: Feuillu / flickr)

Once again nonviolent protesters of U.S. drone wars have been arrested at the gates of Hancock Air Field in New York State.  Thursday morning, 19 people blocked the three gates to the base for a period of hours beginning at 8 a.m.  Eventually, the front gate was opened after 11 people were arrested, including Elliott Adams of Veterans For Peace, as well as James Ricks, Bonny Mahoney, Paul Frazier, Ed Kinane, Mike Perry, Judy Bello, Andrea Levine, Dan Vergevin, Paki Weiland, and one other.

Signs held up to block the gates said: “Drone war crimes: extrajudicial killing,” “Drone war crimes: killing civilians,” “Drone war crimes: wars of aggression,” “Drone war crimes: violations of national sovereignty,” and “We will not be complicit in our government’s war crimes.”

Eight people continued to block two other gates after the first 11 arrests.  Four of them were arrested at around 10:15 a.m., including Brian Hynes, Clare Grady, Mary Anne Grady, and Martha Henessy.  Henessy is Dorothy Day’s granddaughter.  Adams is a descendant of Sam Adams, as well as being Past President of Veterans For Peace, and current Nonviolent Training Coordinator.  Adams has been arrested repeatedly at Hancock.  Adams told a judge earlier this year:

“I am proud to accept the consequences of my acts and any jail time.  I do not want any suspended sentence. If you give me one, also please let me know how I can violate it before I leave the courtroom.”

“It is outrageous,” Adams remarked upon one of his arrests last April, “that on the other side of this fence people are being murdered, albeit at long distance, and the Sheriff will not even investigate. On this side of the fence we are arrested for a ‘violation of permit requirement.’”

Present on Thursday were the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department, the DeWitt Police, and the New York State Police.

BACKGROUND:

Veterans For Peace Members Arrested Protesting Drones
http://www.veteransforpeace.org/pressroom/news/2012/06/29/veterans-for-peace-members-arrested-protesting-drones

Veterans For Peace Among 33 Arrested Outside Drone Base in New York State
http://www.veteransforpeace.org/pressroom/news/2012/04/23/veterans-for-peace-among-33-arrested-outside-drone-base-in-new-york-state

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

Veterans For Peace Illegally Spied on by Fusion Center

8:40 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

For more on this story, see Kevin Gosztola’s Dissenter article on spying on activist groups. -myFDL Editor

A row of Veterans for Peace with their logo flags and an American flag.

Veterans For Peace at Occupy Boston (Photo: Weekly Dig / Flickr).

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

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

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

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

Scanlon objects to being labeled an “extremist” for opposing war.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. and U.K. Veterans Against Drones

7:33 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

“What, quite unmanned in folly?” –Lady MacBeth

A drone (Photo: Charles McCain / Flickr)


This past Thursday was a beautiful day for a protest, both in London, England, and in San Diego, California.  Fortunately for those of us who still care about peace and justice in the world — even to the point of opposing cold-blooded murder no matter who does the murdering or how far away the victim is — Veterans For Peace has become an international organization.

General Atomics is the manufacturer of the Predator and Reaper UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) in service with the U.S. and U.K. militaries. These drones have  been used in numerous attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other countries. People targeted by these weapons are killed from above without warning and without due legal process. Numerous entirely innocent people including women and children have been killed by these weapon systems.  Here’s a former British drone pilot who just admitted that he was minutes away from murdering “an insurgent” when he realized it was a little kid playing in the dirt.

Many of us remember taking over General Atomics’ offices in Washington, D.C., last October (video).  That’s me and Tighe Barry, with filmmaker Dennis Trainor Jr., going in the side door and opening the front door for the crowd.

As it happens, General Atomics does its evil work in San Diego and London.  Veterans for Peace has no tolerance for murderous robot planes, wherever they’re made.  Mike Reid, executive director of Veterans For Peace, said on Thursday, “If we oppose murder at close range, we should oppose it at long distance.  If we oppose it when it’s risky and difficult, we should be horrified of a practice that makes it trivial and easy.  Imagining that drone wars don’t damage the very culture of the people engaged in them is naive.  Those manufacturing these instruments of death, in particular, should think long and hard about the road they are on.”

They had a chance to do just that on Thursday.  “On a bright autumn afternoon,” reports Ben Griffin, “VFP UK headed to Tower 42, which contains the offices of General Atomics in London. We took our placards bearing the slogans ‘GROUND THE DRONES’ and ‘GENERAL ATOMICS, DEATH FROM ABOVE.’  We unfurled our VFP flag donated by Gerry Condon and set about handing out our flyers.”

 

“Within minutes we were joined by over 20 nuns from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. They had heard about our protest and wanted to join in. They were soon into full song and dealt with an inquiring policeman effectively. Folks from Occupy, Friends of Bradley Manning, London Catholic Worker and supporters of Julian Assange also turned up.”

Griffin’s remarks to that crowd included this:
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U.S. Veterans Urge Canada to Let War Resister Stay

7:34 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

OPEN LETTER TO THE CANADIAN PEOPLE AND GOVERNMENT

Dear Canadians,

We are writing you on behalf of thousands of military veterans in the United States who believe that Kimberly Rivera and her family should be allowed to remain in Canada.

As a U.S. soldier, Kimberly Rivera spent six months in Iraq where she witnessed the injustice caused by illegal U.S. war. Home on leave in the U.S., she decided that she could not in good conscience continue to be part of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Kimberly Rivera drove to Canada hoping to find a safe haven for herself, her husband, and their two young children.

Since arriving in Canada five years ago, the Riveras have had two more children, who are Canadian citizens by virtue of being born in Canada. How tragic it will be if these children are deported to the U.S. and then separated from their mother, who would be court-martialed and imprisoned.

Veterans For Peace includes members who fought in the Vietnam War, and also veterans who refused to go to Vietnam and found a safe haven in Canada.

We are extremely grateful to the Canadian people for providing us with sanctuary, along with so much understanding, love and care. Thirty thousand Americans who immigrated to Canada during the Vietnam War are now Canadian citizens who have led productive lives in the arts, academia, media, business and law.

We also want to thank the many Canadians who have supported our young men and women who did not want to return to the carnage of war in Iraq. According to polls, two-thirds of the Canadian people believe that U.S. war resisters should be allowed to remain in Canada. We are very grateful to the community groups, churches, unions, and Members of Parliament who have given so much support to these young people of conscience.

According to the UN Handbook on Refugees, soldiers who refuse to fight in wars that are widely condemned by the international community should be considered as refugees. Unfortunately, the Immigration and Refugee Board in Canada has yet to grant asylum to a single person who refused to kill in the war against Iraq, a war that has most certainly been condemned by peoples and nations around the globe.

Surely there are humanitarian grounds that the Canadian government might invoke to keep Kimberly Rivera and other Iraq and Afghanistan war resisters from being deported to certain imprisonment in the United States.

Veterans For Peace believes that nobody who conscientiously refuses to be part of war should be punished. At our recent national convention, we called on the U.S. government to grant an unconditional amnesty to all war resisters. We will be working toward this goal in the coming months. In the meantime, we call upon the Canadian government to show compassion for these courageous conscientious objectors.

Please do not deport Kimberly Rivera and her four young children to the U.S., where she will face persecution and imprisonment, and her children will experience the trauma of separation from their mother.

The mission of Veterans For Peace is to abolish war altogether. We believe that this goal can be realized and must be realized if human civilization is to survive. Those powerful people who pursue wars of mass destruction are the ones who should be punished, not the poor people we are forced to fight wars for the one percent.

We hope the Canadian government will do its best to represent the will of the peace-loving Canadian people. Please let Kimberly Rivera stay. You will be glad that you did.

Sincerely for Peace,

Leah Bolger, President
Gerry Condon, Board of Directors
Veterans For Peace

Veterans to Stand Firm as Afghan War Enters Year 12

1:00 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Day 12 Occupy Wall Street September 28 2011 Shankbone 32

(Photo: David Shankbone/flickr)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8:32 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

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

Blood on the Tracks' cover shows the aftermath of the train crash

Blood on the Tracks by S. Brian Willson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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