February 27, 2009

Artists of Torture

-thanks to 100 Days To Close Guantanamo and End Torture

War Resister Cliff Cornell Charged With Desertion

Cliff Cornell, the second US war resister deported from Canada by the Harper Government, has been charged with desertion. There will now be an investigation which will determine whether or not he'll be court martialled.

Cliff is being represented by James Branum, a lawyer who works for peace and for soldiers' rights. Branum also represents Robin Long and other prisoners of conscience.

I'm not surprised to read that Cliff's commander considered him a model soldier. Cliff's employer and neighbours on Gabriola Island in BC loved and respected him as a valued member of the community.

Another war resister, who chose not to be public while he was in Canada, recently turned himself in to his US army base. He is being held in "restrictive custody," and has learned he'll be court martialled. I hope Cliff has better luck, but I fear for him.

* * * *

Until Cliff is sentenced, we won't receive direct word from him and he won't be able to speak publicly. But we can speak up for him.

Cliff shouldn't be in the US. He shouldn't be treated like a criminal. He should be safe in Canada, his country of choice. And if the Harper Government believed in democracy, he would be.

Let's not forget Cliff. Let's pledge to redouble our efforts to honour the sacrifice he's made. Let Them Stay!

From the Sun papers, via AP:

U.S. army commanders have filed a desertion charge against a soldier accused of fleeing to Canada four years ago to avoid the war in Iraq, a spokesman for the Fort Stewart army post said Thursday.

Specialist Cliff Cornell, 29, will now face an investigation to determine whether his case should be handled administratively or sent to a court martial, said Maj. Lee Peters, a Fort Stewart spokesman.

Cornell, of Mountain Home, Ark., returned to the army two weeks ago after the Canadian government denied him asylum as a war objector.

Cornell acknowledges he left his unit with the army’s 3rd Infantry Division in 2005 and fled to Canada, where he found work at a grocery store on Gabriola Island in British Columbia. He returned across the U.S.-Canada border earlier this month.

Cornell has continued to perform regular duties with his new unit since he turned himself in at Fort Stewart on Feb. 10, and he was not jailed after charges were filed. Peters said Cornell’s commander has praised his performance since he returned.

“In his opinion, Cornell’s been a model soldier,” Peters said. “He’s shown up, performed his duty and done exactly what the company’s asked him to do.”

James Branum, Cornell’s lawyer, said he hopes his client’s good behaviour will persuade the army to show him some leniency.

Military law defines desertion as leaving the military with no intent to return or to avoid hazardous duty. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, compared to a maximum of 18 months imprisonment for soldiers convicted of being absent without leave.

"He did turn himself in, which is an important factor," Branum said. "Another important thing in Cliff’s case is why he left. He had really good reasons to do what he did, and those reasons should excuse part of the punishment."

In an interview before he returned to Fort Stewart, Cornell said he decided to flee because he didn't believe the war was helping Iraqi citizens. He also said he couldn't stomach the thought of killing.

"I'm just not a fighter," Cornell told The Associated Press on Feb. 9. "I know it sounds funny, but I have a really soft heart."

Fort Stewart commanders have a wide range of options for handling Cornell’s case. They could opt not to punish him at all, punish him administratively or seek a prison sentence by prosecuting him in a court-martial.

Cornell is just one of the dozens of American soldiers who have fled to Canada in the wake of the Iraq war.

Michelle Robidoux, a spokeswoman for the Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign, says the group has worked with about 50 U.S. service members seeking refugee status or political asylum in Canada.

The group says more than 200 have fled to Canada, most of them hiding out illegally.

Posted by L-girl at We Move To Canada

February 26, 2009

Watch Oscar-Nominated Short "I Met the Walrus"

by: Loren Lankford, Paste Magazine
John Lennon in "I Met the Walrus" illustrated by James Braithwaite and Alex Kurina.
In 1969, 14-year-old Beatles fan Jerry Levitan tracked his idol, John Lennon, from a Toronto airport to his room at the King Edward Hotel. Inside, he convinced Lennon to do an impromptu interview. Thirty-eight years later, Levitan teamed with director Josh Raskin to create and edit a five-minute short film entitled I Met the Walrus based on the interview. Amazing, right?

Using the interview as the actual dialogue for the film, the pair hired illustrators James Braithwaite and Alex Kurina to do a pen art work that plays off the interview as the background for the film. Raskin later told the EyeOpener.com, "I just wanted to literally animate the words, unfurling in the way I imagined they would appear inside the head of a baffled 14-year-old boy interviewing his idol."

The film went on to premiere at a nightclub in Toronto and has since played at several festivals, ending with a 2008 Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short. Over the summer, the film popped up on YouTube, and you can watch it in full below:

-thanks to Truthout

February 25, 2009

"opt in" vs "opt out" letter exchange about Rochester School policy and military recruiters

Dear VFP Friends,
As you all know, the Rochester School Board will have a hearing at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday) on replacing the current "opt-in" policy, for which we fought three years ago, with the old "opt out" policy that puts the burden on parents (most of whom are inadequately informed) to keep their children's private info out of the hands of predatory military recruiters.

I hope you all will plan to go and
make clear that this is NOT about being anti-military, but rather about the right of parents to maintain control over who receives personal info about their children, and about not allowing the military to determine school policy. If you plan to speak, you MUST sign up by noon Thursday at (585) 262-8525. Even if you don't plan to speak, it would be great if you could show up to support those who do. And if you DO go, please wear your uniform (or at least your VFP hat) so that it is clear to the Board that we are not anti-military. If you read the following exchange, you'll see why that's important....

I wish I could be there with you.
Best regards to all,
Vicki Ryder

Yesterday, I sent a letter to Ms. Cynthia Elliott, chair of the Board's Policy Committee, which said in part:
"We ask for your strong leadership in protecting Rochester students' right to privacy. Students who are interested in military service have ample opportunities to (gain that) information. We believe that a career in the military is a life-changing decision that should be made with full, factual information without any undue pressure from overly aggressive recruitment tactics or abuses. Please retain the current policy."
It is obvious that she does not understand the issue, because this is what she sent back:
"...I submit to you that I don't see the harm in having the Military contacting our students to consider as a career opportunity the armed services. There have been men and women who love this country so much that they are willing to give their lives for you and me. There also are those men and women who have chosen to be police officers and firefighters knowing that these careers are high risk and life threatening. But we have citizens that choose these fields everyday. You or I many not choose these high risk life threatening positions as career choices, but their (sic) are citizens who do. I don't think that you would disagree with me that our communities and nation need protecting. These citizens who choose these professions are the ones who protect our communities so that you and I can live in safety. If our students in fact consider the military as a career opportunity, we should be honored."

My answer to her follows:
Dear Ms. Elliott,
Thank you for your prompt response to my e-mail message. I'm afraid, however, that you miss the point entirely.

The question I raised is NOT about whether or not the military provides a noble service for our country. (My husband is a Vietnam veteran who served admirably upon his graduation from high school.) We believe that students should, indeed, have the freedom to select a career in the military if they so choose. What we are objecting to is the School District's blind obedience to a Federal policy that makes available personal information about students to military recruiters who have proven to be belligerent and unscrupulous in their recruitment practices, and that effectively keeps parents from being adequately informed of their options in this matter.

There are many ways that students can be of service to their country. As you point out, they can become police officers or fire fighters, or forest rangers or teachers or health care providers. They can drive trucks to transport goods from one place to another, or pick fruit for our tables. But in none of these careers do we have recruiters hounding students, calling them at home (often more than once a week), lying to them about the dangers they will face and the benefits they will receive.

You have written that you "don't see the harm in having the Military contacting our students to consider as a career opportunity the armed services." As someone who has made a careful study of the current practices of our military recruiters, I can tell you that there often is great harm done by today's recruiters who are not always truthful with the young students they pursue. Much like used car salesmen working on commission, these recruiters, who receive a bonus for each person they recruit, deceive our young men and women into thinking that they will receive full college tuition, good jobs, medical care, and other benefits, which more often than not never are received. They neglect to tell our young people of the dangers involved in modern combat, including exposure to depleted uranium, the potential for horrific physical and psychological harm, and -- for women -- the high rates of sexual harassment and rape in the military. They neglect to tell them of the staggering rates of suicide and homelessness among returning veterans, or of the many other avenues opening up to them for college funding and job training.

Students who wish to pursue a military career can enlist at any recruitment station, on line, or at any of the many other venues such as shopping malls where recruiters ply their trade. They do not need to come into our schools. As those entrusted to guide the education of our youth, the members of the City School Board must take seriously their obligation to be sure that students and their parents be fully and truthfully informed when making life-and-death decisions such as these. For this reason, I urge you to give more careful consideration to our position, and not just assume that we are "anti-military." To do that is to trivialize the very real concerns we have for our young people.

Most sincerely,
Vicki Ryder

Her response (in full):
I maintain my position.
photos of our fallen soldiers from IVAW

PLEASE go tomorrow night and set this poor woman straight!
As Sen. Moynihan used to say,
"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they're not entitled to their own facts."
Thanks, Friends!

February 24, 2009

. . . we are about bury Peter DeMott's body in the ground, but nobody can ever bury his spirit.

A simple pine box made by a couple of friends sat in the back of a small pickup truck in front of the Church in Ithaca, NY on a cold February morning.

The large church filled with friends from all around the country. We shared a service, sang songs and listened to speakers.

“I am Peter’s mother.” The entire church stood and applauded. She told us how she knew he was meant to do something special. It took ten months for him to be born. He was eleven pounds, twelve ounces and twenty-three inches long. She was not a big woman.

Then she and the other speakers shared their memories of him, his wise counsel, hard work, devotion to his faith and his family and his commitment to stopping war and violence.

The priests spoke from a place that shared a deep understanding of Peter’s connection between his faith and his need to act in the face of a violent society. You just knew they had discussed it all at one time or another. The church was filled with people who shared his commitment and many had supported or participated in some of these actions over the years with Peter. 

Liz McAllister noted that we were about bury Peter’s body in the ground, but nobody can ever bury his spirit.

His four daughters spoke lovingly of their dad and read from letters he sent from prison. They teamed up to read,  Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, a poem by Wendell Berry:

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.
These were kids who really knew their dad.

Later there was another gathering and potluck at the Women's Community Building. We listened to more stories, ate and chatted with family and friends. We met the people from those places we read about over the years where the non-violent protests happened. Picketing and climbing fences at military bases, planting gardens on top of missile silos, pouring their blood at the recruiter's offices, crashing a van into a Trident sub and hammering on the subs, protesting the depleted uranium at Vieques, Puerto Rico - the list where civil disobedience actions took place seemed endless. Many of the people here told their stories and Peter was part of most of them. 

Hundreds of people came. Of all the things we shared in common there was one thing that stood out. Whether we only met him a few times or knew him for thirty years, we all loved Peter. What a community!

February 23, 2009

Funeral Mass for Peter DeMott

February 23, 2009    1:00 pm
Father Simon Harak, S.J. will celebrate the Mass for Peter, Feb. 23rd, Monday at 1 p.m., Immaculate Conception Church, 113 N. Geneva St (corner of Geneva and Seneca Sts.) in Ithaca, NY, 14850.

The burial will be at 3pm at Greensprings Natural Cemetery, 293 Irish Hill Road, Newfield, NY 14867. Dress for very cold and muddy conditions at the cemetary. Directions to Greensprings can be found on their website. 
Their phone number is 607-564-7577.

We will be gathering again at the Women’s Community Building afterwards at approx. 5pm, for a potluck meal. Bring food for the Monday evening potluck, by 4:45 pm.

In lieu of flowers please send donations to:.
The De Mott Grady Family.
133 Sheffield Rd.
Ithaca, NY, 14850

For out of town travelers please call Leslie Schultz at 607-272-6482 for a place a stay.

February 21, 2009

US: 13 Civilians Killed in Afghan Operation
Saturday 21 February 2009
by: Jason Straziuso, The Associated Press

An Afghan woman and her daughter mourn after the death of a relative during an air strike in Herat province, Afghanistan in 2008. The US has admitted that an airstrike earlier this week killed 13 civilians in Herat. (Photo: Fraidoon Pooyaa / AP)
Kabul - U.S. military airstrikes in western Afghanistan killed 13 Afghan civilians and only three militants, the U.S. said Saturday, three days after an American general traveled to the site to investigate.

Civilian casualties have been a huge source of friction between the U.S. and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has stepped up demands that U.S. and NATO operations kill no civilians and that Afghan soldiers take part in the missions to help prevent unwanted deaths.

A U.S. military statement said the fact that a U.S. general traveled to the western province of Herat to investigate shows how seriously the U.S. takes civilian casualties.

The U.S. rarely releases the findings of civilian casualty investigations, and the disclosure this time could show the effect of Karzai's criticisms.

The U.S. military originally said 15 militants were killed Tuesday in a coalition operation in the Gozara district of Herat province, but Afghan officials said six women and two children were among the dead, casting doubt on the U.S. claim.

Afghan officials say the group targeted in the airstrikes were living in two tents in a remote area. An ethnic group of Afghans known as Kuchis travel the countryside with livestock and live in tents.

Photographs obtained by The Associated Press from the site showed the body of a young boy - bloodied and dirtied - lying on a white shroud.

In response, Brig. Gen. Michael Ryan traveled to the site to meet with Afghan elders. Investigators found weapons and ammunition at the site, but concluded that 13 civilians were killed along with three militants, the U.S. said.

The U.S. on Saturday released photos of Ryan talking with Afghan elders and hugging a mourning Afghan man.

"We expressed our deepest condolences to the survivors of the noncombatants who were killed during this operation," Ryan said in a statement. "Our inquiry in Herat demonstrates how seriously we take our responsibility in conducting operations against militant targets and the occurrence of noncombatant casualties.

"Our concern is for the security of the Afghan people. To this end, we continually evaluate the operations we conduct during the course of our mission in Afghanistan and have agreed to coordinate our efforts jointly," Ryan said.

After increasingly angry demands by Karzai for more U.S.-Afghan military cooperation, the American and Afghan militaries announced plans this month to increase the number of Afghans who will take part in U.S. operations.

The Afghan Defense Ministry condemned the civilian deaths in a statement Wednesday but noted it would take more time to implement the agreement. But it urged U.S. forces to "be very careful during their operations."

The investigative team's trip to Herat came one day after the U.N. released a report saying 2,118 civilians died in the Afghan war last year, a 40 percent increase over 2007 and the most in any year since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 that ousted the Taliban's hard-line Islamist regime.

The report said U.S., NATO and Afghan forces killed 829 civilians, or 39 percent of the 2008 total. Of those, 552 deaths were blamed on airstrikes. Militants were blamed for 55 percent of the deaths, or 1,160.

President Barack Obama this week announced the deployment of 17,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan to bolster the 38,000 already in the country to fight an increasingly violent Taliban insurgency. A higher number of troops in the country also means that civilian casualties could increase.
 -thanks to Truthout
To all friends of Peter DeMott and the DeMott-Grady Family.
Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009

It is with very heavy hearts that we share the news of the death of our dear brother Peter DeMott. Peter passed away this evening after an accident falling from a tree. We invite the community to wait for an email as to when services will be held. Please hold Ellen and their beautiful daughters in your thoughts and prayers. We thank the Jonah House Community, in Baltimore, for their loving note below. 
The Grady and DeMott Family

How do we say it? How can we begin to absorb, much less communicate, the news we have to share? Peter de Mott did not make it through surgery. He died - as best we can understand it - in surgery this evening.

Peter, well named "the rock", is gone from us. A rock, an anchor? Both! And then some. We reach out in grief to Ellen, to their stunning daughters, to all the Gradys, to the whole Ithaca community, to the DeMott family that has endured so very much. He was there for all of us.

Lets hold Peter's family within the circle of our love. And let us hold one another in love and compassion. Maybe it's the best way to hold Peter among us. How will we make it without him?

Love from us all at Jonah House

A community celebration of the St. Patrick’s Four and their families at the Southside Community Center in Ithaca, N.Y., September 17, 2006. Two days before the invasion of Iraq, four Catholic Workers from Ithaca (NY), in an act of non-violent civil resistance, entered a military recruiting center and carefully poured their own blood around the vestibule. The four, all parents, were tried in Tompkins County Court in April 2004 on charges of criminal mischief. Nine of the twelve jurors voted to acquit. However, almost a year later, the US government decided to retry the four on charges of conspiracy.

I met Peter and his family last spring. We all walked to Fort Drum. His daughter danced and laughed along the road with us.  I was with the group from Rochester, they were with the Ithaca group. Since then I  often saw him or his work for peace appear somewhere. 
The more I got to know about him, the more I realized how blessed we were. A veteran of the Army and the Marines, he became one of the country's leading anti-war activists. As an ex-Marine, I see hope. Peter’s love and compassion was endless. He was always there -all the time sharing his deep felt conviction to end the killing. His life was about non-violence.

Although his passing will be a tremendous loss to Ithaca, to New York, to the world and to all those who work for peace and justice, we all gained so much because of his time with us.

Thank you Peter.

February 20, 2009

Organizing training for active duty troops

By Courage to Resist. February 20, 2009

This past weekend, Courage to Resist organizers helped conduct training for Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) members who are currently on active duty. We focused on the practical legal (military law) aspects of GI resistance, including: speaking out from within the military, ramifications of going AWOL, refusing orders, and resisting the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). Other sessions covered how to build IVAW chapters on military bases, often the most hostile places to organize GI resistance to the occupation of Iraq. Ten active duty members representing five military bases participated in the training held at the Coffee Strong G.I. coffeehouse and Internet café across the highway from Fort Lewis, 45 miles south of Seattle, Washington.

Rochester school board fights over military recruiting policy

Erica Bryant • staff writer

The Rochester School District has sent a letter to parents that may reverse a 3-year-old "opt-in" policy governing the release of information about high school students to military recruiters.

The topic led to a shouting match between Board of Education members Cynthia Elliott and Willa Powell at a Wednesday meeting where district general counsel Charles Johnson said that the district has been out of compliance with a federal law saying it must provide "directory information" about high school students to military recruiters unless parents opt out by returning a form.

In 2005, the district adopted a policy that said information would not be shared unless parents filled out a form requesting it be shared.

"It's the opposite of what federal law requires," Johnson said, noting that only a handful of parents have sent in forms allowing the district to share their children's information with recruiters, and the military has not been satisfied.

He said an official from the Marine Corps had called the district last week and that continued noncompliance could have consequences in terms of federal funding.

In a January policy committee meeting, committee members Willa Powell and Thomas Brennan voted not to change the policy. Elliott, who is also on the policy committee and voted to amend the policy, wants the issue to be considered by the full board.

Johnson said the district plans to act whether the board changes the policy or not.

In January, the district sent a letter telling parents they had until Feb. 6 to request that their high school children's information be withheld from military recruiters. The information that may be shared includes a student's name, address, phone number, date and place of birth, major field of study, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, dates of attendance, awards received and names of previous schools the student attended.

"If you do not return this completed and signed form by this date, the school district will provide the directory information to military recruiters," the letter reads.

Powell believes that such a move would represent insubordination on the part of Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard. "His job is to comply with policy as written," she said after the meeting.

Powell, who was involved in the development of the 2005 opt-in policy, said the federal opt-out requirement, part of the No Child Left Behind Act, runs counter to privacy protections in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. She said the military's stance regarding homosexuals runs counter to a district policy regarding organizations that discriminate, and that an opt-out policy is not sound for the city school district, which has trouble getting parents to turn in forms. "We don't even get good change-of-address (form returns)," she said. "How can we be sure we're supporting parents' intentions?"

She said the district has the database of students' information that it can give to the military in the event that funding is truly threatened.

Elliott said the school district must honor federal law. "In my view, this is not a fight that we should take on," she said. "They're not coming to draft students; they're coming for recruitment." She said students have a right to information about different options.

School board President Malik Evans fought to maintain order at the meeting as Powell interrupted Elliott and the two board members proceeded to shout over each other with their differing opinions. After the meeting, Elliott accused Powell of not having the children's best interests in mind, and Powell responded with an expletive phrase.

Evans said that the board needs to discuss the policy when Brizard is present and that he may call a special meeting just to deal with the issue. "Military recruitment is always a hot topic," he said.

"It's (Brizard's) job to bring to us what it is we're supposed to do."

Gary Pudup, director of the Genesee Valley Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, attended Wednesday's meeting and expressed concern about the potential change.

He said that extensive databases of personal information have been abused in the past and that students deserve privacy protection.

He also said that information about the military is readily available to high school students who are interested in signing up. "Is there any question of how easy it would be to find a recruiter?" he asked.

Members of Rochester Students for a Democratic Society said they plan to speak against the policy change at next Thursday's board meeting.

"It's this dollar bill being dangled in front of lower-class schools," School Without Walls graduate Julia Fairchild said of military recruitment efforts. She believes that the military unfairly targets schools with poorer students. "Students aren't being taught that they're being lied to by recruiters."

Nadine Morch, a student at Ithaca College who also attended the meeting, agreed that the policy should stay the same. "The default should be privacy."

So far, about 100 Rochester School District parents have returned forms requesting that their children's personal information be kept from military recruiters.


-thanks to Ken Braley

Veterans for Peace Activists Engage with Army Experience Center

At 11:30 AM on Monday, February 16th, around 30 peace and anti-war activists from New York to Washington DC, collected in the food court at the Franklin Mills Mall in Northeast Philadelphia. They pasted pre-printed signs on their chests that said: WAR IS NOT A GAME. At noon, they walked 100 yards to the Army Experience Center and took up positions inside the $12 million experimental Army recruitment store that takes up 14,000 square feet of mall space with 80 video game stations and three shooting simulators, where kids can have fun as a gunner on an apache, a blackhawk or a humvee. >>read more


From: Veterans For Peace Chapter 31, Brandywine Peace Community, Lehigh-Pocono Committee of Concern (LEPOCO) Date: Monday, February 16, 2009 Contact: John Grant, Veterans For Peace; 610-832-7028; 610-564-7628 Balancing The Army Experience Center

As tax-paying citizens and veterans who have consistently opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq and who believe Afghanistan is becoming a classic quagmire for our young soldiers, we are disturbed by the Army Experience Center at the Franklin Mills Mall. Many of us know and work with returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. We know what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is, how insidious it can be and how soldiers obtain it. We know of the pain and emotional struggle soldiers who have been wounded or maimed in these war zones go through. We know what it means to be the point of the spear in wars that politicians and most citizens only see media glimpses of and understand only as controversial national policy that really doesn t affect them.

We understand the cultural climate young people live in these days where they are overwhelmed by all manner of electronic media saturated with artificiality and fantasy whether it be TV, movies or ever-more sophisticated computer games. As should be clear to anyone who has witnessed it, the Army Experience Center is intended to take advantage of our youth s psychological immersion in this incredible media and computer game culture to seduce them into the military, especially during this time of severe economic dislocation and anxiety about the future.

Because we fully recognize the Army Experience Center s seductive power for our young people and because we know the costs of war, we are convinced that it cries out for an alternative view, something not purely devoted to seducing youth into the Army, something that offers a balance and some discussion as to what, beyond all the dazzle and bang, joining the Army might actually mean for the young person s future.

Reports put the cost for this Center at $12 million. We might facetiously ask whether the Army is designing an equally expensive and slick Veterans Experience Center in which a person can hit touch screens to locate across the country where all the wounded and maimed soldiers try to regain the lives they ve permanently lost and, in many cases, where they have to struggle to get the medical help they need and the education they deserve. Where is the slick computer game that a kid can play to walk through the challenges faced by a returning soldier suffering from PTSD as he or she confronts one mundane challenge after another until it all piles up and there is an explosion Where is the real information beyond the sexy pyrotechnics

The idea of a PTSD video game is, of course, absurd. But what we would like to see and what we are requesting of the Army is that they agree we have the right as citizens and tax-payers to set up a modest table in one corner of the Army Experience Center or just outside the door under a sign that says WAR IS NOT A GAME, at which a young person could talk with a veteran about some of these matters, receive some of our materials and raise any questions he or she might have in order to get some balance to the slickness of the Army Experience Center.

We want young people coming to the "army experience center" to receive the entire picture and understand the full consequences of war and their enlistment in the Army. We want them able to make clear, informed choices as to their futures based on all the evidence. Our tabling here at the center, with alternate literature and information, would be setup and maintained in a non-confrontational manner respectful of the young people visiting the center and the Army.

February 19, 2009

About Bellingham's Sanctuary City proposal

The people of Bellingham are calling for an ordinance that will provide legal sanctuary for members of the military who exercise their duty to object to an illegal war. To that end, we hope to have grassroots community effort to urge City Council to pass resolutions to not waste public funds on the arrest or detention of service members who are absent without leave.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Sanctuary City?
Increasing numbers of people in the US military are questioning the US role in Iraq, and some are exercising their right to refuse to participate in an illegal war. These brave soldiers are now forced to live underground or flee to Canada. Army desertion rates have risen 80 percent since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, according to the Associated Press.

Bellingham is already on record with a strong city council resolution calling for an our Troops to come home, and another supporting diplomacy with Iran. Making Bellingham a sanctuary city is the next step in voicing our opposition to the war and showing our support for troops who refuse to participate in the occupation of Iraq. Let’s make history by making Bellingham the first sanctuary city for GI resisters in the US and help lead the nation away from illegal war.

What is the need for sanctuary?
People in the US military today face unprecedented hardship. Two, three or even four tours of duty to war zones are becoming common, tours have been lengthened to up to 15 months and stop-loss prevents soldiers from leaving when their agreed terms are up. National Guard members who joined to assist in disasters within the US are being called oversees for duties they never signed up for. More than 50% of returning veterans face serious health issues such as post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury and veterans’ suicide rates are skyrocketing. Sexual, mental and physical abuse and harassment within the military is at a high level and conscientious objector status is increasingly difficult to obtain. More and more soldiers are going AWOL for a variety of reasons including family and health issues as well as opposition to the war. As civilians, we can be allies to soldiers who are brave enough to reject this destructive system by providing a sanctuary city for GI resisters.

How will the sanctuary city work?
The most common way that AWOL soldiers are turned into the military is by being pulled over at routine traffic stops or through other minor infractions. When local police run a soldier’s license and find a federal AWOL order, they have the option to detain the soldier and turned them over to the military. To make Bellingham a sanctuary city, we are asking the Bellingham City Council to pass an ordinance that instructs Bellingham police to not act upon AWOL orders. This will provide a measure of security to AWOL soldiers in Bellingham and send a message that we support those with the courage to resist.

The sanctuary city campaign is also developing resources for soldiers and veterans in Bellingham, including help with jobs, housing, legal, medical and psychological issues.

Is a separation of power in Bellingham's best interest?
By defining Bellingham as a sanctuary city, we are asking our local police not to act on Federal AWOL orders. This will make a statement that the job of the local police is to serve and protect the local community and not take on responsibilities of the Federal Government. These soldiers are members of our community with families and relatives living in Bellingham. Similar laws have been enacted in other community campaigns to create sanctuary and separate the powers of law enforcement, especially in regards to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

-thanks to Gene Marx of Veterans for Peace for this update

A "People's Amnesty" for War Resisters

by Gerry Condon

Last week the Customs and Border Police in Blaine arrested a young American who was returning home from Canada. Cliff Cornell, 28, was arrested because he is AWOL from the U.S. Army. He fled to Canada four years ago after realizing he had been lied to when he joined the military. The Army recruiter lied to him when he said he would never be deployed overseas. And President Bush lied to him when he said Iraq was connected to the terror of 9-11. The next thing Cornell knew, he had orders to deploy to Iraq and “shoot to kill anyone who gets near your vehicle.”

In 2002, Cliff Cornell raised his right hand and swore to uphold the U.S. Constitution. He swore to defend the U.S. from all enemies, foreign and domestic. He didn’t swear to invade other peoples’ countries on behalf of Exxon Mobil or Halliburton. “He signed a contract,” some people declaim emphatically. But it was President Bush who broke that contract when he lied to the American people about why he was sending their sons and daughters into harm’s way. And it is Cliff Cornell who is being punished.

After spending the night in the Whatcom County Jail, Cornell was released on his own recognizance on Thursday . He then hopped on a Greyhound bus for a sleepless, three-day ride across the U.S. On Tuesday, he surrendered himself to Army authorities at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Cornell hopes the Army will just discharge him “for the good of the service,” as they do to many returning AWOLs. But Cliff Cornell has been a vocal opponent of the Iraq War. The Army will likely court-martial and imprison him, as it did Robin Long, another Iraq War resister who was deported from Canada in July. Long was convicted of desertion and is serving a 15-month prison sentence.

The American people became disenchanted with the U.S. war in Iraq a long time ago. Almost everyone knows the war was based on lies. Candidate Obama called it a “dumb war” and promised to end it promptly. But the dictates of empire may see U.S. troops fighting and dying in Iraq for years to come. President Obama will attempt to manage a gradual draw-down of U.S. troops in Iraq, while simultaneously escalating the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Obama inherited these twin wars from George Bush, but they could easily drag down his own presidency.

President Obama should immediately withdraw all U.S. troops, mercenaries and contractors from both Iraq and Afghanistan. Both wars are unjust and un-winnable. Both wars target civilians with weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. military is torturing prisoners and violating human rights in both wars. And the vast majority of the people in both countries want U.S. troops to leave.

Uncle Sam has also failed on a massive scale to care for his own soldiers who have been physically and psychologically wounded, and are now caught up in an epidemic of suicide, murder and spousal abuse. President Obama must act to ensure adequate medical care and benefits for all veterans.

President Obama should also do the right thing by those troops who refused to be part of this madness. With the stroke of a pen, he can grant amnesty to Cliff Cornell and thousands of young men and women who are fugitives from injustice. Presidents Ford and Carter granted measures of pardon and leniency to Vietnam draft resisters and deserters. President Obama can do the same.

And the American people should not be lulled into passivity by the changing of the guard at the White House. We must continue to demand that our leaders end these horrible wars immediately. Not one more day of war will undo the damage we have already done.

There will be no amnesty until the troops come home. In the meantime, we must provide sanctuary for war resisters in our own communities. The people of Bellingham, Washington, near the U.S.-Canada border, are providing a perfect example. Their proposed Sanctuary City ordinance would not only welcome war resisters to Bellingham, it would bar the use of city resources for the apprehension of GIs who refuse to fight. Similar efforts are taking place in several cities around the country, including Portland, Oregon. Ithaca, New York has already declared itself a Sanctuary City for soldiers who are speaking out against war.

Veterans For Peace is one of several organizations that are helping war resisters find housing, jobs, and treatment for PTSD. Many of these young GI’s are suffering from the wounds of war; they do not need to return to the scene of the crime. We owe them our understanding and our help.

President Obama may not be ready to act, but We The People can show compassion for our young soldiers of conscience. George Bush may never have to answer for his treason or the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. But Cliff Cornell should not be the one who is imprisoned.

You can contribute to Cliff Cornell's legal defense fund here.

Gerry Condon lived in Sweden and Canada for six years after refusing Army orders to deploy to the U.S. war against the people of Vietnam. He now lives in Seattle and serves as director of Project Safe Haven, a war resister advocacy group.

IVAW Ft. Hood chapter Members Mysteriously Receive Simultaneous Honorable Discharges

“I told them [commanding officers] I would go to jail before I would go back to Iraq,” said Ronn Cantu, former Staff Sergeant and president of the IVAW Ft. Hood chapter, who had already served two tours in Iraq. While such a statement would normally be grounds for court martial, instead Ronn was given an honorable discharge. Four other chapter members, all who wanted out of the Army, also received discharges within weeks of each other. While it served to dismantle the Ft. Hood chapter, it also released the members from the difficult choices confronting them as GI resisters. Ronn is now active in the Austin, TX chapter which considers Ft. Hood its satellite chapter and reaches out to the remaining active duty members there. An important lesson can be drawn from this experience: IVAW remains a palpable threat to the active duty military. Stay tuned for the Austin, TX Winter Soldier Hearings, coming up on February 28.

February 18, 2009

Upcoming Winter Soldier Events

Sat, 02/28/2009 - 1:00pm

Wed, 03/11/2009 - 6:00pm

Sat 03/14/2009 - 10:00am
Contact e-mail: ivaw.germany@gmx.net

What can we do to help these people?

Although the Riveras have gotten a temporary stay since this video was made in January, they could be deported any day. 

I am filled with sadness and outrage daily as I constantly think about the ongoing injustice. Every time we escalate, my memories of Vietnam boil in my head.

I am also filled with love and compassion for the resisters. We (the US) threaten the people who make courageous, moral decisions. They are the kind of people we want living in our neighborhoods. They raise their families and work hard to create a secure and loving home, all the while understanding that the future they are planning is fragile. They face separation and prison.

We allow the war criminals like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, to name a few, to travel freely and make huge amounts of money speaking around the country and building monuments to their criminal legacy of occupation, torture, injustice and killing. (George is currently building his library twice as big as his fathers and I can't imagine enough intelligent material from his administration to fill a closet.)

What can we do to help these people? We need to be discussing this with our friends and coworkers. Obama has just ordered an increase of 17,000 troops to Afghanistan. Smells like Johnson and Vietnam.

February 17, 2009

Alison Des Forges Memorial Service
A Memorial Service will be held for Alison Des Forges this Sunday, February 22. It will be held at 3 pm at St. Joseph University Catholic Church, 3275 Main St. near the University at Buffalo Main Street campus.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Human Rights Watch in memory of Des Forges. Donations can be made via the internet or by sending them to: Human Rights Watch, 350 Fifth Ave., 34th floor, New York, New York 10118-3299.
Take a few moments to read the thoughts of her friends and colleagues on her tribute page. You will discover an amazing woman. 

February 16, 2009

Former Guantanamo Guard Tells All

On December 4, 2008, Specialist Brandon Neely approached CSHRA with testimony he wished to contribute to the Guantánamo Testimonials Project. He believed that insufficient attention had been paid to "the hell that went on at Camp X-Ray." He would be in a position to know, as he arrived in Guantánamo while the cages of Camp X-Ray were still being welded, and escorted the second detainee to hit the prison grounds. In this interview, Specialist Neely provides testimony of the arrival of the detainees in full sensory-deprivation garb, sexual abuse by medical personnel, torture by other medical personnel, brutal beatings out of frustration, fear, and retribution, the first hunger strike and its causes, torturous shackling, positional torture, interference with religious practices and beliefs, verbal abuse, restriction of recreation, the behavior of mentally ill detainees, possible isolation regime of the first six children in GTMO, utter lack of preparation for guarding individuals detained during the War on Terror, and his conversations with prisoners David Hicks and Rhuhel Ahmed.

I have seen and done many horrible things, 
either at Guantánamo or in Iraq, 
and I know what it is like 
to try and move on with your life. 
It's hard. 
--Spc. Brandon Neely 

by: Scott Horton, Harper's Magazine

Former Guantanamo prison guard Brandon Neely. Army Private Brandon Neely served as a prison guard at Guantánamo in the first years the facility was in operation. With the Bush Administration, and thus the threat of retaliation against him, now gone, Neely decided to step forward and tell his story. "The stuff I did and the stuff I saw was just wrong," he told the Associated Press. Neely describes the arrival of detainees in full sensory-deprivation garb, he details their sexual abuse by medical personnel, torture by other medical personnel, brutal beatings out of frustration, fear, and retribution, the first hunger strike and its causes, torturous shackling, positional torture, interference with religious practices and beliefs, verbal abuse, restriction of recreation, the behavior of mentally ill detainees, an isolation regime that was put in place for child-detainees, and his conversations with prisoners David Hicks and Rhuhel Ahmed. It makes for fascinating reading.

Neely's comprehensive account runs to roughly 15,000 words. It was compiled by law students at the University of California at Davis and can be accessed here. Three things struck me in reading through the account.

First, Neely and other guards had been trained to the U.S. military's traditional application of the Geneva Convention rules. They were put under great pressure to get rough with the prisoners and to violate the standards they learned. This placed the prison guards under unjustifiable mental stress and anxiety, and, as any person familiar with the vast psychological literature in the area (think of the Stanford Prison Experiment, for instance) would have anticipated produced abuses. Neely discusses at some length the notion of IRF (initial reaction force), a technique devised to brutalize or physically beat a detainee under the pretense that he required being physically subdued. The IRF approach was devised to use a perceived legal loophole in the prohibition on torture. Neely's testimony makes clear that IRF was understood by everyone, including the prison guards who applied it, as a subterfuge for beating and mistreating prisoners-and that it had nothing to do with the need to preserve discipline and order in the prison.

Second, there is a good deal of discussion of displays of contempt for Islam by the camp authorities, and also specific documentation of mistreatment of the Qu'ran. Remember that the Neocon-laden Pentagon Public Affairs office launched a war against Newsweek based on a very brief piece that appeared in the magazine's Periscope section concerning the mistreatment of a Qu'ran by a prison guard. Not only was the Newsweek report accurate in its essence, it actually understated the gravity and scope of the problem. Moreover, it is clear that the Pentagon Public Affairs office was fully aware, even as it went on the attack against Newsweek, that its claims were false and the weekly's reporting was accurate.

Third, the Nelly account shows that health professionals are right in the thick of the torture and abuse of the prisoners-suggesting a systematic collapse of professional ethics driven by the Pentagon itself. He describes body searches undertaken for no legitimate security purpose, simply to sexually invade and humiliate the prisoners. This was a standardized Bush Administration tactic-the importance of which became apparent to me when I participated in some Capitol Hill negotiations with White House representatives relating to legislation creating criminal law accountability for contractors. The Bush White House vehemently objected to provisions of the law dealing with rape by instrumentality. When House negotiators pressed to know why, they were met first with silence and then an embarrassed acknowledgement that a key part of the Bush program included invasion of the bodies of prisoners in a way that might be deemed rape by instrumentality under existing federal and state criminal statutes. While these techniques have long been known, the role of health care professionals in implementing them is shocking.

Neely's account demonstrates once more how much the Bush team kept secret and how little we still know about their comprehensive program of official cruelty and torture.

February 15, 2009

Last night a friend from Long Island told me that he read about a Marine committing suicide in Canada. He was wondering if I heard about it and was it one of the resisters we have been writing about. Immediately I checked all the blogs that might have mentioned it and could find nothing. I told him it would have been on one of these blogs if it was true. A few minutes later, L-girl posed four questions at the end of the troubling post on her blog, We Move To Canada:

A U.S. Marine wanted by the military for abandoning his unit, who fatally shot himself after sneaking across the border into Canada, had served two terms in Iraq, officials said Saturday.

Timothy Scott, 22, turned a gun on himself Thursday at his mother's home near Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

A statement released by the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on Saturday said Scott had been deployed to Iraq for eight months in 2007 and for seven months in 2008.

The Marine rifleman, who was assigned to headquarters and the support battalion at Camp Lejeune, had joined the Marine Corps in 2005, said the statement.

Police said Scott, who left his unit sometime around Feb. 10, entered into Canada from Woodstock, New Brunswick, on Feb. 11. He arrived at his mother's home the next day, where he initially threatened her before turning the gun on himself, said RCMP Staff Sgt. Mark Furey.

The Marine Corps. statement said Scott lived in Alexandria, Virginia, close to where Furey said his parents owned another home in Norfolk, Virginia.

Furey said the handgun the soldier used on himself was reported stolen from the Norfolk home.

Cpl. Melissa McCoy at Camp Lejeune said he had been listed as leaving the unit in what the military deems an "unauthorized absence," meaning he had been away from the base for less than 30 days. After that, he would be considered a deserter.

Scott's death represents a larger trend of rising rates of suicides within the U.S. Army as the strained military wages war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army had its highest rate of suicide on record in 2008 and is investigating a spike in the number in January.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point in upstate New York recently addressed the growing rate of suicides after a four cadets took their own lives earlier this month. In the last seven months, two cadets, a faculty member and a staff member at the academy have taken their own lives at the school.

Top Veterans Affairs Committee Sens. Daniel Akaka and Richard Burr have asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki to convene a joint oversight committee meeting to address military suicides.

How can a man who served two tours in a war, and has had enough, be a deserter?

How can the desire to leave the military and lead a new life be against the law?

How can we turn our backs on people whose pain is this great?

How can we live with a government that won't listen to the people?

-thanks to War Resisters Support Campaign

February 14, 2009

in which your correspondent stops crying and breathes a massive sigh of relief

The story is so convoluted I only half-understand it myself, so I won't try to explain. Suffice to say that last night, I thought Patrick and Jill Hart had exhausted all legal avenues to stay in Canada. Their application for leave to appeal the negative decisions in their PRRA and H&C were dismissed; they are only resisters this has happened to, to date.

I was told that was the end of the line.

To make it worse for me (because you know it's all about me!), I thought this information wasn't yet public. So I spent the evening sniveling and depressed, and unable to share. I'm not very good at that!

Earlier this evening, I learned that Jill Hart has filed a second Humanitarian and Compassionate application. I don't know how or why she was able to do that, but it's done. Hope lives.

There is some other resister news in the works - very strange and very disturbing. It's still in process; I await an update. On top of that, the news from the Harts - or what I was told was the news, or what I thought was the news, or something - was just too much. I thought the whole thing was slipping away.

But no. Hope lives.

I had a temporary lapse of optimism, but tonight I'm back in fighting trim.

Stay tuned, and make sure Stephen Harper knows how you feel.

Posted by L-girl at We Move To Canada

Meanwhile, here's an excellent essay written by an Iraq War veteran, originally published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Thank you, Evan Knappenberger, for speaking out - and for your moral clarity.

Acknowledge soldier's right to object
by Evan Knappenberger

When I joined the Army shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, my friends and family raised many serious questions that, after almost four years on active duty and two years of college, I have only now started addressing.

As an 18-year old, I deferred answering morally charged questions like "are you ready to kill human beings?" and "what if you change your mind?" partly because the Army recruiters claimed that I would not kill in my chosen occupation. As easy, however, as it is to blame faulty recruiting practices for the dysfunctional ethics of my past, honesty dictates a more thorough self-disclosure now.

As a high school senior I was unaware of the potency of the moral dilemmas to which my community was attempting to alert me. Neurobiology tells us that the capacity for reasoning is not fully developed in the human brain until the mid-twenties or later. It was illogical for my elders to expect me -- as an 18-year-old -- to be capable of comprehending the moral complexities of the war I was eager to join; just as today it is unreasonable to expect any teenager to be capable of understanding death, violence, the codes of military justice, or military obligations. It is an irresponsible society that binds its sons and daughters to a lifestyle of military discipline and the rigors of combat without acknowledging the imminence of their natural cognitive and moral development.

Considering this, as well as our nation's foundational principle of individual self-determination, it is profoundly hypocritical that we refuse to recognize the natural rights of the war resister. In an "all-volunteer" military, refusal to serve for any reason should be honored and recognized as the milestone of a mature mind, just as refusal of any voluntarily violent civilian occupation would be honored.

It should be noted that refusal to serve can take forms other than conscientious objection. The praxis of personal experience is a powerful teacher, especially to soldiers who believe that the occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan is unjustifiable in itself. Though they volunteered, they retain the right to change their minds, just as they retain the right to change political and religious affiliations.

Soldiers objecting to specific wars should be given the same conscientious objector status as those who stand against all war, and honorably discharged without prejudice. Were this doctrine fairly practiced, perhaps political-military expeditionism would become as militarily impractical as it is financially unrewarding. And, if the soldiery was able to exercise an independent and informed judgment, maybe military operations would be more successful than they have been at times.

In the years since I was first asked those challenging questions, I have come to a hard-won conclusion that conventional values do not follow the rules of conventional wisdom. I believe now that the mistaken equation of war-resistance to cowardice is an outdated and primitive notion, as barbaric and uncivilized as racism and patriarchy. In fact, true cowardice often hides behind a weapon, a flag, a uniform, or a particular shade of skin, and rarely behind matters of conscience.

I know now that there is no ethics that can balance the right of individual self-determination with the subjective pragmatics of military law. It is illogical to believe that an Army that does not recognize the right of its soldiers to object can defend the right of dissent at all. I did not earn the prerogative of social protest, as some tell me, through my service. It was there all along.

Until our country accepts and affirms the rights of war resisters, teenagers will continually be forced (as I was) into choosing between the unjust consequences of breaking the silence, or committing injustices themselves. Our young soldiers deserve better than this catch-22.

Evan Knappenberger is an Iraq War veteran and a Davis-Putter Scholar at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham.
Posted by L-girl at We Move To Canada