Photo: A previous civil resistance action with veterans in front of the White House on March 20, 2010 by messay.com

(updated below)

This morning, on December 16th, military veterans will lead a nonviolent act of civil resistance against the ongoing U.S. wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Led by Veterans for Peace, the organizers expect this to be the largest veteran-led resistance since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

A rally will be held in Lafayette Park. Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame; Ray McGovern, retired CIA analyst; Mike Ferner, Veterans for Peace National President; Chris Hedges, author and former New York Times war correspondent; Mike Prysner, Iraq vet and co-founder, March Forward!; Coleen Rowley, former FBI agent and whistleblower who was TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2002; and Dr. Margaret Flowers, Congressional Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program will all speak at the rally. They will then join the veterans and risk arrest in an action in front of the White House that is expected to involve nearly one hundred people chaining themselves to the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The action takes place as the International Red Cross warns, “We are entering a new, rather murky phase in the conflict in which the proliferation of armed groups threatens the ability of humanitarian organizations to reach the people who need their help.” The Red Cross reports civilian casualties are at high levels. It raises questions about whether Afghanis are able to get proper medical services or whether civilians being held in detention are receiving humane treatment. But, more importantly, it indicates that a war in Afghanistan continues to spiral out of control and bring brutality and horror to an impoverished nation.  . . .

I spoke with Elaine Brower, one of the lead organizers, and Matthis Chiroux, a veteran. They both will be risking arrest tomorrow. I asked them what they had been thinking over the past weeks as they finished planning this action, which had been in the works for two months, and the U.S. began to persecute Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for leaking hundreds of State Department cables.

“Over the past weeks, as we’ve been planning this, WikiLeaks has been releasing cables about what our government is doing and how really secretive and corrupt their actions are and how they are handling things around the world and who is talking about Iran and who is talking about Iraq,” said Brower. “A lot of it points to Hillary Clinton, a lot of it points to many of the officials in the Obama Administration.”

Chiroux expressed excitement at the thought that WikiLeaks might be pushing people to act because of their outrage at what WikiLeaks has been revealing now and in the past months. He said, “You know, it’s been a while since we had an action of this scale (on a weekday no less). For me, it’s important not only to continue to stand against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the continued torture, but, to me, this is such an important time to be doing this because, while this country is currently stuck in two illegal occupations, we are standing on the brink of yet another war with North Korea.”

Brower explained how the rally would be tied into Private Bradley Manning’s incarceration in a military prison for supposedly leaking classified information (the war logs, the cables and the “Collateral Murder” video to WikiLeaks):

“We have to tie-in Bradley Manning to this. Bradley Manning has been locked up since May, and he’s been accused of leaking documents to WikiLeaks. He’s in Quantico and we’re demanding his release. [The U.S. government is] silent on his charges. He’s been in there a very long time. Supposedly they’re going to go forward with a court-martial coming up in 2011. But, we don’t really know what he’s done. Everyone is saying he’s the one who leaked these documents. Whether or not he did, he’s a hero and he needs to be freed. Julian Assange should not be the scapegoat. It’s a very similar situation to what happened with the Pentagon Papers and Daniel Ellsberg. So, we have to look at these people as our heroes for giving us information to act upon and fortunately we were planning this action for the past two months and now we have all this support because people are very outraged with what’s happening. [emphasis added]

It was recently reported by Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald that Manning has been experiencing solitary confinement for 23 out of 24 hours of the day, treatment that essentially amounts to torture.

When asked whether they felt more people were expressing interest in the action than normal, both Brower talked about how this action had already surpassed expectations.

Brower explained that she had run a website urging people to send a message if they were interested in participating in the resistance. The response was overwhelming. And, on the night before the action, she saw people from California, Georgia, Florida, from Vermont, and from Texas in D.C. ready to participate in the action. She even said that she was thrilled that two women left on Monday from Seattle and were driving all the way to D.C. to engage in resistance and that five people from Michigan were driving to D.C. to participate as well.

She said people are saying, “I’m coming. I’m sick and tired of what Obama is doing and I’m getting arrested at the White House. This is my first time getting arrested and I don’t care.” She wasn’t sure if you classify these people as liberals or not, but these are people disgusted with the wars, who have not gotten the change they voted for, and who are likely disgusted with the contents of the WikiLeaks cables and they are now willing to risk arrest and resist U.S. wars.

Chiroux said of these people, “They’re seeing Obama not only fail to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but now they’re seeing him begin to position for yet another war with North Korea. Not only is that not doing what his constituents wanted him to do in the first place, but, in fact, that is taking the Bush legacy of illicit wars of aggression one step further.” He hoped that the action would signify a “sea change” in American society. He also expressed a hope that this would be a way to “leverage power” and make government respond to widespread antiwar sentiments in the nation.

I asked Chiroux about the utility of the action and whether he thought he would actually create any kind of change by engaging in civil resistance. He said, “We never can really know what’s going to happen. We never know the results that are going to come out of something like this. Even if we can’t say for certain this is going to be the demonstration that will be remembered as a turning point, this demonstration I can say with absolutely certainty will be, to the people who participate in it, an event that hopefully drives them back into further resistance.”

Hedges, author of the recent book “The Death of Liberal Class” and someone who will be risking arrest, has recently suggested, “No act of rebellion is wasted.” Chiroux agreed with that statement and said, “In fact, we do have a moral responsibility to resist even if we don’t think it’s going to do anything. But, I don’t think that is the case.”

He went on, “I think there are very clear gains to be made here. At the same time, we can’t just go and do this and call it quits. This needs to be a beginning of something big. And, so any act of rebellion is worthwhile. Those with which can be followed upon are even that much more exciting.”

Update 1

Common Dreams has photos posted of Daniel Ellsberg being arrested at the resistance action.

Video from the action in front of the White House today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUtFF9R6808

Update 2

From the Huffington Post’s Dan Froomkin, a report on today’s action –

Hoping to spark the country’s silent majority into action, 131 antiwar protesters got themselves arrested Thursday, in one of the larger acts of civil disobedience in front of the White House in some time.

Carrying signs that frequently included question marks — “Peace on earth?” and “How is the war economy working for you?” — protesters organized by a Missouri-based veterans groupmarched up to the White House gates and refused to disperse, holding their ground for several hours on a snowy and blustery day.