April 30, 2009

61 arrested today protesting Guantanamo

Witness Against Torture concluded its 100-day campaign with nonviolent civil disobedience at the White House today at noon.  In previous actions on behalf of the detainees, people have voluntarily withheld all identification and given the police the names of those still held at Guantánamo. This could result in a long weekend of solidarity inside the DC cellblocks!

61 Americans, dressed in the orange jumpsuits and black hoods that have become the symbol of Guantanamo detainees, were arrested in front of the White House in a nonviolent demonstration this afternoon.

The demonstrators each had the name of a detainee stenciled on the back of the jumpsuit. 55 of the detainees represented were cleared for release by the Bush administration but not released; an additional 5 died at the prison.

This event capped the 100 Days Campaign to Close Guantanamo and End Torture, which pressured President Obama to close the prison and end America's policies of torture and indefinite detention within his first 100 days in office.

The day began with a march from the Capitol to the White House, organized by Witness Against Torture, Amnesty International, TASSC, the ACLU, and other groups.

Protesters against torture are arrested by U.S. Park Police officers after moving their rally from Lafayette Park to the sidewalk in front of the White House. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Oregonians: Benji is touring the state to share what he knows with soldiers, veterans and community members

Iraq Veteran: 
"We Can Say No"
Photo by Jim Lommasson
A Linn-Benton Community College Student will speak about his Military service in Iraq and why he refused involuntary activation after being “honorably discharged.”

Benji Lewis, a Marine Corp veteran, who served two tours, including the first siege in Fallujah,
will speak in the College Center board rooms (CC103) on Thursday April 30 from noon to 1 p.m. as part of his statewide “We Can Say No” speaking tour.

“The Nature of my resistance was a conscious decision to no longer participate in the makings of empire, to help raise consciousness of service members as well as question the legitimacy of the largest military force in human history,” said Lewis.

Lewis looks forward to his discussion here at LBCC and feels that this is an important conversation to have with his fellow community college students because of the need to address the “realities and the questions of what we, as a society, are asking our generation to do for our interests.”

Doug Clark, LBCC Peace Studies director and Political Science professor, feels that this will be a useful experience for students and community members who attend.

“We have a special opportunity here to listen in on and interact with a conversation that is taking place across the country, a conversation about the consequences of people enlisting and serving in the military,” Clark said.

According to a press release from Amanda Shank of the Rural Organizing Project, a co-sponsor of the statewide speaking tour, Lewis will discuss “The Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) system that allows for involuntary reactivation, GI rights, and resistance in general.”

After the event here at LBCC, Lewis will move on to speak in Ashland, Medford, Grant’s Pass, McMinnville, Tillamook, Portland, and Corvallis.

The event at LBCC is being sponsored by Veterans for Peace Chapter 132 and LBCC Peace Studies. For more information e-mail LBCC Peace Studies: Doug.Clark @ linn-benton.edu.
- thanks to Ryan Henson -The Commuter

April 28, 2009

Iraq war resister Cliff Cornell sentenced to 12 months

This Is Outrageous ! 
Locked up for doing the right thing.  

U.S. Iraq war resister Cliff Cornell was sentenced today to 12 months and received a bad conduct discharge for his refusal to participate in the war in Iraq. Cliff came to Canada in January 2005 because he knew he could not take part in the illegal and immoral war in Iraq.

Cliff was forced out of Canada in January 2009 by the government of Stephen Harper. In spite of a motion passed by the House of Commons calling on the government to allow war resisters to stay in Canada, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney refused to intervene in Cliff's case and forced him to return to the U.S. where he faced certain court martial and puninishment for his refusal to deploy to Iraq.

More details to follow.

-thanks to War Resister Support Campaign

Free Our Prisoners of Conscience !

End the U.S. Army’s Prosecution of War Resister, Lt. Ehren Watada

The Justice Department Can Say No to Army’s Legal Appeal
Ad Hoc Campaign to Free Ehren Watada -Submitted by Chip
In June 2006, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada refused orders to Iraq on the grounds that the war was illegal and immoral. His court martial in February 2007 ended in an Army-contrived mistrial. In October 2007, the Army attempt to have a second court martial was stopped by a Federal judge who ruled that a second court martial would be double jeopardy. But the Army has not allowed Lt. Watada to leave military service. Instead, they have notified the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit of their plans to appeal the double jeopardy ruling. The Army has also threatened to revive old charges stemming from Lt. Watada’s speech in Seattle to the 2006 convention of Veterans For Peace.

Justice Department to Decide If Army Will Appeal Double Jeopardy Ruling

The U.S. Solicitor General’s office in the Department of Justice will soon decide whether the Army can go ahead with its plans to appeal Federal Court rulings in Lt. Watada’s favor.

A campaign of public pressure is being called by Lt. Watada’s supporters in the peace movement. The ad hoc campaign is being spearheaded by two Vietnam War resisters, Mike Wong and Gerry Condon, who are active members of Veterans for Peace in San Francisco and Seattle. The Call to Action is being issued in the name of Asian Americans for Peace and Justice, formerly the Watada Support Committee, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Project Safe Haven, a war resister support group.

We ask you all to phone, write, and email Solicitor General Elena Kagan and Deputy Attorney General Neal Katyal immediately.

1. Ask the Solicitor General: Tell the Army to drop the appeal and any other charges against Lt. Watada, and to release him from the Army with an honorable discharge.

If we all act quickly, we can flood the Solicitor General’s office with hundreds of phone calls, letters and emails, which could tip the balance in Ehren Watada’s favor.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan, 202-514-2201
Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal, 202-514-2206

Send letters to  U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20530.

E-mails to AskDOJ@usdoj.gov will reach the Solicitor General and Attorney General Eric Holder. A sample letter is included below. Feel free to edit as you wish, or to write your own.

It is possible that both the Solicitor General and her Deputy may be open to our plea. Please be respectful and polite in all your communications with these Obama appointees.

2. Please forward this alert to all activists, friends, and organizations you know that would be supportive. If you are involved in an organization, please ask that it forward this alert to its entire membership.

3. We will approach the friendliest of our allies in Congress and ask them to make inquiries to the Justice Department. If you or your organization has contact with any members of Congress, please email Gerry Condon at projectsafehaven@hotmail.com so we can coordinate our Congressional outreach.

4. Various groups may also wish to mount demonstrations, press conferences, lobby, or use other means of peaceful political pressure. You may also call for an end to the persecution of all war resisters.

Mike Wong, Vice President, SF Bay Area Veterans For Peace; Asian Americans for Social Justice
Gerry Condon, Greater Seattle Veterans For Peace; Project Safe Haven

Sample letter:

Solicitor General Elena Kagan
Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal
U.S. Department of Justice,
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Solicitor General Kagan and Deputy Solicitor General Katyal,

I am writing to urge you to direct the U.S. Army to drop its appeal and any other charges in the case of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, and to release him from the Army with an Honorable Discharge. Lt. Watada was the first Army officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq, because he believes the U.S. war in Iraq is illegal and immoral, and that orders to participate in it are therefore also illegal and immoral.

Lt. Watada’s Army court martial in February 2007 ended in a mistrial that was illegally construed by the Army judge, Lt. Col. John Head. When the Army then attempted a second court martial in October 2007, U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle halted the proceedings on double jeopardy grounds. Judge Settle had just been appointed to his position by George W. Bush and was a former Army JAG lawyer. I urge you to uphold U.S. and international law by directing the Army to end its prolonged prosecution of Lt. Ehren Watada. Thank you very much.

Sincerely yours,
Mike Wong

For more background on Lt. Ehren Watada, go to info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ehren_Watada ).

For updates on the Campaign to Free Ehren Watada, go to www.SoldierSayNo.blogspot.com

Questions & Answers about Guantanamo and the Detainees

from the NPR Legal Affairs 

An example of the NPR Q & A is the following:
Q: How many people are being held prisoner at Guantanamo Bay?
At least 520, according to the Pentagon. But the military will not release an exact figure. Several Members of Congress have tried to find out the exact figure, but they haven't succeeded.
Q: What are they charged with? 
Only four men have been Charged. . .
Can that be possible? Only 4 out of at least 520 have even been charged?

Court Agrees with Obama Administration that Detainees Still Have No Constitutional Right Not to Be Tortured . . .
. . . In its first filing on detention and torture under the Obama administration the Department of Justice filed briefs in March urging the Court of Appeals to reject any constitutional or statutory rights for detainees. The Obama Justice Department further argued that even if such rights were recognized, the Court should rule that the previous administration's officials who ordered and approved torture and abuse of the plaintiffs should be immune from liability for their actions.
-thanks to We Move To Canada for their help.

April 27, 2009

Rochester war tax protest. 2 demonstrators and 3 witnesses arrested by police

Emily climbed the tree outside the IRS on  Tax Day evening. She unfurled a banner that read, "CUT WAR $PENDING".

Nobody said anything for about half an hour. Then the police came. They threatened to taser her while she was up in the tree and place her under mental health arrest if she didn't come down on her own. They kept trying to intimidate her as only an extremely unskilled negotiator could do. Then more police came.

They also arrested Mary, Emily's fellow activist, for trespassing. Mary had been under the tree with an anti-war sign leafletting people coming out of the IRS building. Later other local activists arrived. Out of this group, chanting support for Emily and Mary, the police arrested Ben and Jake. It is interesting to the Rochester activist community that the police picked them out of the group - Ben is a man of color and Jake has dreadlocks. Then they arrested Ted, a member of Rochester's Indymedia for asking what the charges were against Ben and Jake.

The police proceeded to forcefully remove Emily from the tree without any consideration of the fact that she was very concerned about her safety and what these incompetent cops would do to her since they had threatened to taser her while she was up in the tree.
After a fire truck arrived and provided a ladder they went up and maced her directly in the face as she was coming down. 

I met Emily at a workshop the other night in Rochester. For the short time I worked with her it was hard for me to believe there could have been a less threatening woman. She was passionate about ending the wars. She climbed a tree with a banner. There was no need to threaten her and endanger her life. She would have to come down eventually.

The whole thing played out like some crazy metaphor. it reminded me of the war resisters vs the war criminals issue.

This woman in the tree was trying to stop the killing and maiming of innocent people. So she unfurls a banner and refuses to descend to waiting, hostile, armed police. So they further threaten to place her under mental health arrest and lock her up for her harmless behavior. On the other hand, these policemen who clearly are not only threatening her verbally, but they threaten to taser her while she is up in a tree and, in fact, actually spray her directly in the face with mace as she descends.

Now we need to step back and look at this for a moment. Who is endangering whom? They were going to place her under mental health arrest and lock her up while they continue to roam the streets of Rochester with guns, mace and tasers. 

The military war resisters have a similar predicament. They don’t want to participate in the illegal war and occupation. So they are forced to hide from the most powerful military in the world. At the same time the people who orchestrated the whole criminal event in Iraq and Afghanistan hunt them down and lock them up. Why isn’t it obvious to everyone?

April 26, 2009

War Resister Cliff Cornell to be courts martialed Tuesday

Cliff Cornell was denied sanctuary in Canada. He will face general courts martial Tuesday, April 28 at Ft. Stewart, Georgia

Donate to Cliff's legal defense [ here ]
56 people have given $2,270 as of April 22. Goal: $3,000

By Friends of Cliff Cornell. Updated April 22, 2009
The U.S. Army has charged Specialist Clifford Cornell, with desertion. Cornell, 28, surrendered himself to authorities at Fort Stewart, Georgia on February 17, after being denied refugee status in Canada. The Arkansas native left Fort Stewart four years ago, when his artillery unit was ordered to Iraq. According to family and friends, Cornell did not want to kill civilians, and said that Army trainers told him he must shoot any Iraqi who came near his vehicle.

Cornell’s attorney and supporters believe the Army’s charges are excessive. “Cliff Cornell is a conscientious objector who voluntarily turned himself in to Army authorities,” said attorney James Branum.. “The Army is engaging in overkill in order to make an example of my client.”
Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson disputed Spc. Cornell's claims that he would have been expected to kill civilians. ''Indiscriminately shooting people is not what the Army does,” Larson told the New York Times. “That's not how we train and not how we fight.” The Army is leaning toward trying Cornell in a General Court Martial, which could sentence him to years in prison.
“This is outrageous,” said Jeff Paterson of Courage To Resist, a war resister support group that has established a legal defense fund for Cornell. “The U.S. war against the Iraqi people remains illegal today, just as when George Bush and Dick Cheney started it,” said Paterson. “President Obama should bring all our troops home now. And he should grant amnesty to Cliff Cornell and hundreds of GI’s who refused to take part in an occupation that has killed untold tens of thousands of men, women and children.”
U.S. war resisters in Canada were distressed to hear of the serious charges against Cornell, as were many Canadians who have been pressing their government to provide sanctuary to the war resisters. “Cliff Cornell is a very gentle man who made many friends in Canada,” said Michelle Robidoux of the War Resisters Support Campaign in Toronto. “Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government is absolutely wrong to claim that war resisters do not face persecution in the United States.”

A large majority of Canadians, 64% according to several polls, want to provide a safe haven for soldiers who refused to fight in the Iraq War, just as Canada itself refused to do. Most Members of Parliament also support the resisters. In June of last year, the House of Commons passed a motion calling on their government to provide sanctuary to “conscientious objectors who refuse to fight in wars not sanctioned by the United Nations.” But the minority Conservative government ignored the non-binding motion and began to deport war resisters.

War resister Robin Long was the first to be deported last July, and is now serving a 15-month prison sentence in the Miramar Naval Consolidated Brig near San Diego. Cliff Cornell was being threatened with deportation when he left Canada. Several other AWOL soldiers and their families are appealing their deportation orders in Canada’s Federal Courts.

"Cliff Cornell should not be the one who is going to jail,” said Gerry Condon of Veterans For Peace. “He had the guts to follow his conscience, and unlike President Bush, he obeyed international law."

An estimated 250 U.S. war resisters are now living in Canada, and AWOL GI’s continue to arrive there.
“You can still apply for refugee status and expect to remain legally in Canada for at least one year,” said Condon. “It may not be easy, but it beats going to war or going to jail.”

-James Branum, GI Right Lawyer, 866/933-2769, www.girightslawyer.com

-Jeff Paterson, Courage To Resist, 510/488-3559, www.couragetoresist.org

-Michelle Robidoux, War Resisters Support Campaign, 416-856-5008,        www.resisters.ca

-Gerry Condon, Veterans For Peace, 206-499-1220,  www.SoldierSayNo.blogspot.com

April 24, 2009

Canadian federal Court hands down negative decision for War Resister, Jeremy Hinzman

I just got back from printing some 'adopt resistance' t-shirts for a meeting in Rochester tomorrow morning. I hopped on the internet to see what happened today. Not good. 

As the US is about to release more photos of our abuse of war prisoners around the world, we continue to imprison our own soldiers who spoke out against the war and occupation. 

Although there are some individual victories, our war resisters remain locked up in our prisons and other continue to face the same eventual fate. 

Jeremy Hinzman and his family lost an important appeal. Jeremy was the first Iraq War Resister to seek sanctuary in Canada and speak out publicly against the war.

This good man faces prison in the states and separation from his beautiful family.  Obama decides not to pursue war criminals and torturers while he locks up the people who refused to kill, torture and illegally occupy other lands. I can't grasp this. What can we do to help this family? We should be writing all the politicians, newspapers and bring it to the attention of the members of our churches and organizations while we figure out how we can fight this injustice. We need to act immediately. 

In the meantime here is a little bit of information about Jeremy Hinzman's situation. When I find more details, I'll post it. This is Laura's post at We Move To Canada:

We've just heard that the federal court has handed down a negative decision in Jeremy Hinzman's case. That is, the judge upheld the negative decision in the Hinzmans' Humanitarian & Compassionate application.

The bad news comes late on a Friday, as usual, locking us out of an immediate media response.

This is a real blow, even more so because the decision was rendered by the same judge who recently granted Kim Rivera leave to appeal, Justice James Russell.

At this time, we don't know what legal options remain for Jeremy and Nga. Our job is to get the word out and keep the pressure on.

Today, Jason Kenney was confronted by mothers and children at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. He was there for some government PR, but he got nailed about the case of a Korean woman who is facing deportation.

Minister agrees to review mother's deportation>

Mothers and children confront Jason Kenney at Sick Kids media conference

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney agreed today to review the deportation of a Korean woman after a dozen determined mothers and children confronted him in a hospital cafeteria.

"The mothers of the community are here to ask if the hearts of mothers can move the mind of a politician," said Marie Foley, holding her daughter Camille.

Camille is the best friend of Eugene, the 8-year-old Canadian born daughter of Kim Suk Yeung, who is scheduled to be deported to Korean Saturday night.

"This is really urgent," Foley told Kenney after an unrelated news conference at the Hospital for Sick Children. "There is a Canadian child in jail. We don't jail Canadian children."

Kim has been in the Immigration holding centre on Rexdale Blvd. since Feb. 18 after losing her refugee appeal. Eugene, a Grade 2 student at Dovercourt junior public school, joined her there Wednesday night.

When Kenney told the Davenport mothers he had no information on the case, they responded his office had received hundreds of letters and emails since March.

Tell it!

Let's tell it, too. Canadians are sick to death of this minority government forcing their will on the rest of us. We need action and we need it now! Parliament has now voted TWICE to let the war resisters stay in Canada and it's high time the government respected the will of Parliament. Is Canada a democracy or isn't it?

Speak out! Speak out loudly! Demand that Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney respect democracy!

There's a lot more you can do, if you are so inclined. There are several ways to get involved: contact me for details. But now, right now, call, write, email. Go to it!

April 22, 2009

Federal Court gives Kim Rivera and her family several more months in Canada and a new appeal possibility.

The recent federal court decision in Kim Rivera's case, granting the Riveras leave to appeal the negative decision in their Pre-Removal Risk Assessment, gives the family several more months in Canada, and a new legal avenue on which to fight.

It also demonstrates - yet again - that the IRB and the Ministry of Immigration are not properly considering all the evidence in the war resister cases. And how could they be expected to, when the head of that agency, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney, has made his animosity towards these cases a matter of public record? Every refugee case is supposed to be decided on its own merits. But how can we expect impartiality, when the Minister of Immigration - the IRB's boss - has declared all the cases "bogus"?

We are still waiting for a decision in Jeremy Hinzman's case, the hearing I blogged about here, appealing the negative decision in the family's Humanitarian and Compassionate application. Patrick Hart and his family are still at imminent risk. Dean Walcott's deferral of removal will expire. And we have another important court case coming up in late May, for war resister Dale Landry.

I am increasingly hopeful about the federal court cases, but each one is time-consuming, nerve-wracking - and expensive. The government is hoping to wear us down by attrition. We won't give up - but there is a better way.

Here's the recent media release from the War Resisters Support Campaign.

On Tuesday afternoon the Federal Court of Canada granted Kimberly Rivera leave to appeal the decision in her Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA). The Federal Court will hear the appeal on July 8.

The War Resisters Support Campaign is renewing its call on the federal government to implement the motion that was passed by Parliament on June 3, 2008 and again on March 30, 2009.

"Regardless of Jason Kenney's personal animosity toward those who've refused to fight George W. Bush's war in Iraq, the majority of Canadians want these war resisters to stay in Canada," said Michelle Robidoux. "Parliament has voted twice to let them stay and if Stephen Harper were committed to fairness and justice like most Canadians, he'd implement the vote of Parliament today."

Kimberly Rivera is the first female Iraq War resister to seek refuge in Canada. Kimberly, along with her partner Mario, son Christian (7 years old) and daughter Rebecca (4 years old), fled to Canada in January 2007 when Kimberly refused redeployment. In late November 2008 Kimberly gave birth to her Canadian daughter Katie (5 months old). She served in Iraq in 2006 and experienced, firsthand, the reality of this illegal war.

"I want to stay in Canada, with my family, because the Iraq War is immoral, illegal and I couldn't in good conscience go back," said Kimberly Rivera. "The amount of support I'm getting from Canadians is amazing. The parents of my kids' friends, MPs and even strangers on the street keep telling me that they can't believe the votes in Parliament aren't being respected."

Last June, a public opinion poll conducted by Angus Reid Strategies found widespread approval for the House of Commons’ vote in support of war resisters. Sixty-four per cent of Canadians, and a majority of voters in every region of the country, agree that the federal government should immediately stop the deportation of Iraq War resisters and establish a program to facilitate their requests for permanent resident status.
-thanks to We Move To Canada 
Special thanks to War Resisters Support Campaign for all the work they have done for our resisters.

Good things come to those who struggle! -Matthis Chiroux

April 22nd, 2009
Today (Apr. 21), I stood before the Army. I looked a board of officers in the eyes, and I told them I thought they were sending people off to participate in war crimes. And what did they say? Get out of here, Sergeant, and keep your damn G.I. Bill!!!

Indeed, folks! The Army awarded me a recommendation for a general discharge under honorable conditions from the Individual Ready Reserve for my refusal to deploy to Iraq last summer. This landmark decision means not only am I a free man, I’m free to continue school this fall with the “new” G.I. Bill that I earned while on active duty.

Though this discharge is identical to the one I refused in exchange for having this hearing, I can now rest easy knowing I never submitted, I never backed down and the Army has heard my story.

And not just my story, but the stories of those brave veterans at Winter Soldier and those who’ve participated in IVAW’s Warrior Writers’ program. Full texts of both books were submitted to the Army this morning, and I can only imagine the fun they’re having transcribing them into the record.

I testified, Marjorie Conn, the president of the National Lawyers’ Guild, testified, and my mother Patricia testified as to why my refusal to deploy was quite legitimate and not deserving of attack by the military.

Though Maj. Laws, the prosecution, did everything he could to keep my legal arguments from the ears of the board (he even prevented me from reading to them from my Constitution calling the document irrelevant), our voices were heard loud and clear by a board of gentlemen who’ve given me a new respect and hope for our nation and servicemembers world-wide.

The hearing, which lasted around four-and-a-half hours, cemented in my mind that not only is military resistance to our illegal occupations righteous, it is finding new breath amongst troops who are fed up with the status quo.

This all came after a provocative appearance this morning on the local Fox News Channel (http://www.fox2now.com/ktvi-ap-soldier-on-trial-042109,0,1094348.story) in which I wore a patriotic symbol of distress (an upside-down flag) on my uniform.

During the hearing, my girlfriend Alexandra among others were present in the board room to offer moral support. Having them there made all the difference as I squared off with the military over human slaughter that we’ve all been forced to bow down to.

So what does this mean for the military? RESIST!!!! Now’s the time, ladies and gentleman. The flood-gates are open. Your leaders are listening, and more and more, they are agreeing. Resisters are moving away from being the exception, and slowly becoming the norm.

If I can refuse to go to Iraq, climb monuments, march into presidential debates, lobby congress, face the military, not go to jail and not even loose my G.I. Bill, we just don’t have any excuses anymore! Resistance is rising, and IVAW will stand firm underneath it. My story is now history, and I humbly pass the torch.

More to follow soon on my testimony at Winter Soldier and the juicy details of my hearing. Now, I’m going to sleep like I haven’t in a year!

Peace and Solidarity,

Matthis Chiroux

Soldiers facing an IRR recall and don’t want to return to the military should contact one of these organization:

   -GI Rights Hotline at (800)379-2679 or (877)447-4487

   -NLG Military Law Task Force at (619)463-2369

   -Courage To Resist at (510)-488-3559

Many of the IRR Resisters, including Matthis Chiroux are members of IVAW. The can be contacted at (215)241-7123


Canadian Federal Court Grants Kimberly Rivera Leave to Appeal PRRA Decision

The Federal Court has granted war resister Kimberly Rivera and her family leave to appeal the decision in her Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA). The Federal Court will hear the appeal on July 8.

This is very unexpected, and very welcome news!

We Move To Canada

Father Louis Vitale of Pace e Bene and Jeff Paterson of Courage to Resist Video Interview

I need to figure out why I can't embed this video, but in the meantime you should go to the Democracy Now website and watch it. 

Amy Goodman interviews Father Louis Vitale, a California activist with Pace e Bene who has been arrested hundreds of times as a peacemaker. He just came back from Creech AFB in Nevada where he was arrested protesting the drones used in Afghanistan and Pakistan that are controlled here in Nevada. 

The other person in the interview is Jeff Paterson, the program director for Courage to Resist. Jeff, a resister himself from the Gulf War, helps the soldiers who refuse to fight. 

They discuss the soldiers, what they do and the impact of killing civilians halfway around the world has on them. After the kills the drones stay up there recording everything for them to watch. Then they go home to their families each day and try to be normal. The next morning they're back tracking and killing. 

It's worth watching if you want to get a quick picture of what this drone war is about. 

Also you might want to check out the following from Jeff back at the beginning of the Iraq War. Although we have a different president now, the Iraq War continues and the War in Afghanistan and Pakistan expands and the comments are worth revisiting:

Advice From a Gulf War Vet. 
A Message to Troops, Would-be Troops and Other Youth

by Jeff Paterson

Do you know anyone in the military, or thinking about signing up soon? Pass this along to them. They may or may not appreciate it, but they deserve a heads up.

In August of 1990, I was an active duty U.S. Marine Corps Corporal. I was ordered to the Middle East; we were on the verge of the Gulf War...

...When the U.S. launched the Gulf War, I realized that the world did not need or want another U.S. troop deployment. Although they did not look much like me, I found that I had more in common with the common peoples of the Middle East than I did with those who were ordering me to kill them. My Battalion Commander's reassurance that "if anything goes wrong we'll nuke the rag-heads until they all glow" was not reassuring.

Up against that, I publicly stated I would not be a pawn in America's power plays for profits, oil, and domination of the Middle East. I pledged to resist, and I pledged that if I were dragged out into the Saudi desert, I would refuse to fight.

A few weeks later, I sat down on an airstrip as hundreds of Marines, many of whom I had lived with for years, filed past me and boarded the plane. I fought the Gulf War from a military brig, and after worldwide anti-war protesters helped spring me, we fought the war in the streets. [READ MORE >]

April 21, 2009

I wish he had found this earlier

I came across this blog tonight:
It starts out with this post on March 30:
A Melancholy Mashup

Soldiers called back (or, “relieved from your current inactive status,” as the army tries to soften the blow in the notification letter) from the IRR are a melancholy mash-up of the unmotivated, indifferent and, in some cases, in remarkably poor health. Being the closest thing the U.S. has to a conscripted army anymore, these are not the soldiers you see demonstrating shock and awe against defenseless fields of grain in recruiting commercials. During morning formations, I half expect to hear Bill Murray to chime in from the last row and march with his thumb in his mouth. Much of the group often seems to be thinking about one of only two things: getting home at the end of deployment, and getting beer at the end of the day.

The most shocking thing thing about some of these soldiers, though, is that the army has forced them here at all. No, it’s not surprising that since returning to civilian life, some soldiers have added some padding around their waists. What is surprising is to see the army recall soldiers who originally enlisted in 1977 and left the service in the 1990s. Or to see the army deploy someone with 75% hearing loss, and others who are collecting disability pay for mental and physical injuries from earlier deployments. Maybe all this shouldn’t be so surprising, though. After all, have I told you the story about the guy who was forced to report for duty even though he was being treated for lung cancer at a VA hospital?
Mar 30, 2009

The next day he posted some advice to Drill Instructers:

A Letter to Drill Instructors

Here’s a word of advice to any future drill instructors who might one day be training soldiers recalled from the IRR: if you think it might be neat to kill time by showing these folks videos of American military vehicles being blown to pieces in Iraq and Afghanistan, take a minute to rethink.

These video montages have been popular, especially among rear echelon and non-deployed personnel for a few years now, for three reasons: 1) they’re always set to the heaviest and trendiest hard rock of the time. Everybody likes to rock out to this stuff. 2) Blowing shit up is cool, right? How many people joined the Army without some degree of fascination in seeing big explosions? 3) Inevitably, the people that take greatest satisfaction in watching limp pieces of flesh and metal cartwheel out of clouds of dirt and fire are those that have never seen the mangled and torched bodies of their friends after they fall back from the sky.

If that’s the kind of thing that entertains you, then so be it. But consider who’s watching when you play it on an auditorium projector screen. Remember that a good number of your captive audience probably have nightmares, chronic back pain, lost hearing and the brain-numbing effects of multiple concussions, primarily because of these explosions.

A number of them probably tried to leave the military to avoid dealing with these things again, and they’re only here in front of you because they’ve been forced against their will to go back into the fire and risk ending up on a video you’ll show the next bunch that comes through.

Then he jumps to April 6th. It adds to my appreciation of the work of organizations like Courage to Resist and War Resisters Support Campaign and IRR Resisters like Mattis Chiroux and Benji Lewis. They're all challenging the military's unjust policies. 

He references material from our blog in his next post. That information was written by Benji.

Wish I Had Found This Earlier

My heart sank when I read in a blog yesterday that the military essentially has no legal recourse against soldiers who do not answer IRR recall orders. My fate, though still unknown to me and my loved ones, has been sealed by someone at Army Human Resources Command (HRC) in St. Louis. For others, though, I hope the information is useful. Be careful what you do with this information. I cannot verify its authenticity, and highly recommend you confirm its claims.

During the first week at the replacement mobilization center, the battalion commander tried to congratulate us for all honoring the commitments of our contracts. To be honest, that’s bullshit. I’m only here because I thought the army had me by the balls and I might face jail time or at least surrender all federal benefits as a veteran and a citizen if I didn’t report.

Today still, I look for even the smallest hole I might jump through and return to my life and my freedom. Yes, I did volunteer long ago, and deployed without complaint. Then, when it was time for me to re-enlist, I and everyone else in the IRR made a conscious decision to leave the military. I did not volunteer to be here today, and to likely be held even beyond the eight year mark at the end of my inactive time later this year.

Anyway, from the Adopt Resistance blog:

Since IRR members are not subject to the UCMJ, the military has no formal jurisdiction to take action against IRR individuals if they do not voluntarily report—and there are no corresponding civilian laws requiring IRR individuals to report.

If an IRR member does report—even if only to apply for a waiver from activation—they can again be punished under the UCMJ for being absent without leave and unauthorized absence (AWOL/UA), missing movement, conduct unbecoming, etc. if they later decide to resist.

I wish I had been able to find this kind of information before I reported back for duty. I left the military for a host of reasons, which mean a whole lot to me but mean nothing to the army now that it has me back under its control. 

Rethink Afghanistan (part 3)

-thanks to Brave New Films

April 18, 2009

Keep Oregon's Guard in Oregon Since the Basis for Federalizing National Guards No Longer Exists

...and the central legal principle behind the Campaign: the 2002 AUMF can no longer be used as the means for federalizing the National Guard. The AUMF has expired because its mission has been fulfilled. Saddam Hussein ceased to be a threat years ago, and Iraq never had weapons of mass destruction. With the Authorization fulfilled, the basis for federalizing National Guards no longer exists. This is not an opinion; Title 10 requires that the President receive legal authorization to federalize the National Guard. The AUMF of 2002 was held to be such authority; the Campaign to Keep the Guard in Oregon asserts that authority has long since lapsed.

If President Obama and the Congress want to federalize the Oregon National Guard, they need only pass the appropriate legislation. If they believe they are just in sending the Guard to Iraq and Afghanistan, an authorization to that end should be a simple matter. If they cannot, or will not, pass a new and valid authorization, then they have no business attempting to federalize the National Guard in violation of the law.

-Posted about a month ago by T.A. Barnhart of Portland, Oregon.

April 17, 2009

a Lexicon for the Hopeful? Learning to count on our collective selves and our collective selves.


This article appeared in the May 4, 2009 edition of The Nation. April 15, 2009

All is not well in Obamafanland. It's not clear exactly what accounts for the change of mood. Maybe it was the rancid smell emanating from Treasury's latest bank bailout. Or the news that the president's chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, earned millions from the very Wall Street banks and hedge funds he is protecting from reregulation now. Or perhaps it began earlier, with Obama's silence during Israel's Gaza attack.

Whatever the last straw, a growing number of Obama enthusiasts are starting to entertain the possibility that their man is not, in fact, going to save the world if we all just hope really hard.

This is a good thing. If the superfan culture that brought Obama to power is going to transform itself into an independent political movement, one fierce enough to produce programs capable of meeting the current crises, we are all going to have to stop hoping and start demanding.

The first stage, however, is to understand fully the awkward in-between space in which many US progressive movements find themselves. To do that, we need a new language, one specific to the Obama moment. Here is a start.

Hopeover. Like a hangover, a hopeover comes from having overindulged in something that felt good at the time but wasn't really all that healthy, leading to feelings of remorse, even shame. It's the political equivalent of the crash after a sugar high. Sample sentence: "When I listened to Obama's economic speech my heart soared. But then, when I tried to tell a friend about his plans for the millions of layoffs and foreclosures, I found myself saying nothing at all. I've got a serious hopeover."

Hoper coaster. Like a roller coaster, the hoper coaster describes the intense emotional peaks and valleys of the Obama era, the veering between joy at having a president who supports safe-sex education and despondency that single-payer healthcare is off the table at the very moment when it could actually become a reality. Sample sentence: "I was so psyched when Obama said he is closing Guantánamo. But now they are fighting like mad to make sure the prisoners in Bagram have no legal rights at all. Stop this hoper coaster--I want to get off!"

Hopesick. Like the homesick, hopesick individuals are intensely nostalgic. They miss the rush of optimism from the campaign trail and are forever trying to recapture that warm, hopey feeling--usually by exaggerating the significance of relatively minor acts of Obama decency. Sample sentences: "I was feeling really hopesick about the escalation in Afghanistan, but then I watched a YouTube video of Michelle in her organic garden and it felt like inauguration day all over again. A few hours later, when I heard that the Obama administration was boycotting a major UN racism conference, the hopesickness came back hard. So I watched slideshows of Michelle wearing clothes made by ethnically diverse independent fashion designers, and that sort of helped."

Hope fiend. With hope receding, the hope fiend, like the dope fiend, goes into serious withdrawal, willing to do anything to chase the buzz. (Closely related to hopesickness but more severe, usually affecting middle-aged males.) Sample sentence: "Joe told me he actually believes Obama deliberately brought in Summers so that he would blow the bailout, and then Obama would have the excuse he needs to do what he really wants: nationalize the banks and turn them into credit unions. What a hope fiend!"

Hopebreak. Like the heartbroken lover, the hopebroken Obama-ite is not mad but terribly sad. She projected messianic powers onto Obama and is now inconsolable in her disappointment. Sample sentence: "I really believed Obama would finally force us to confront the legacy of slavery in this country and start a serious national conversation about race. But now he never seems to mention race, and he's using twisted legal arguments to keep us from even confronting the crimes of the Bush years. Every time I hear him say 'move forward,' I'm hopebroken all over again."

Hopelash. Like a backlash, hopelash is a 180-degree reversal of everything Obama-related. Sufferers were once Obama's most passionate evangelists. Now they are his angriest critics. Sample sentence: "At least with Bush everyone knew he was an asshole. Now we've got the same wars, the same lawless prisons, the same Washington corruption, but everyone is cheering like Stepford wives. It's time for a full-on hopelash."

In trying to name these various hope-related ailments, I found myself wondering what the late Studs Terkel would have said about our collective hopeover. He surely would have urged us not to give in to despair. I reached for one of his last books, Hope Dies Last. I didn't have to read long. The book opens with the words: "Hope has never trickled down. It has always sprung up."
And that pretty much says it all. Hope was a fine slogan when rooting for a long-shot presidential candidate. But as a posture toward the president of the most powerful nation on earth, it is dangerously deferential. The task as we move forward (as Obama likes to say) is not to abandon hope but to find more appropriate homes for it--in the factories, neighborhoods and schools where tactics like sit-ins, squats and occupations are seeing a resurgence.
Political scientist Sam Gindin wrote recently that the labor movement can do more than protect the status quo. It can demand, for instance, that shuttered auto plants be converted into green-future factories, capable of producing mass-transit vehicles and technology for a renewable energy system. "Being realistic means taking hope out of speeches," he wrote, "and putting it in the hands of workers."

Which brings me to the final entry in the lexicon.
Hoperoots. Sample sentence: "It's time to stop waiting for hope to be handed down, and start pushing it up, from the hoperoots"

-thanks to the Nation

Rethink Afghanistan (part 2)

-thanks to Brave New Films

Center for Constitutional Rights Decries Immunity for Torture, Secrecy

April 16, 2009, New York  
In response to President Obama’s decision to guarantee immunity to CIA officials who carried out the drowning torture known as waterboarding, which his attorney general has classified as torture, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:

“It is one of the deepest disappointments of this administration that it appears unwilling to uphold the law where crimes have been committed by former officials. Whether or not CIA operatives who conducted waterboarding are guaranteed immunity, it is the high level officials who conceived, justified and ordered the torture program who bear the most responsibility for breaking domestic and international law, and it is they who must be prosecuted. In the president’s statement today, the most troubling contradiction is the contrast of the words, ‘This is a time for reflection, not retribution,’ followed shortly by, ‘The United States is a nation of laws.’ Government officials broke very serious laws: for there to be no consequences not only calls our system of justice into question, it leaves the gate open for this to happen again.”

Since the first days of the public revelations regarding the Bush administration’s torture program, the Center for Constitutional Rights has made efforts to hold high level officials and their lawyers accountable for their crimes. CCR, along with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), has tried three times, twice in Germany and once in France, to bring criminal cases in Europe against former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, former CIA director George Tenet, and former White House Counsel/Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as well as the other lawyers who were part of the conspiracy that authorized the torture program in Guantanamo, Iraq, secret CIA sites, and elsewhere. The German case is still pending. CCR also has torture cases pending in U.S. courts.
For more information on the German case, click here. For a fact sheet on prosecutions and accountability for torture and other war crimes, click here.

-thanks to the Center for Constitutional Rights

Obama's "War on Terror"

As a candidate for president, Barack Obama promised a new direction.

Just days after taking office, the new US president issued a series of executive orders banning all acts of torture, discontinuing the use of CIA black sites, and calling for the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay to be closed.

But what will it really take to dismantle the Bush administration's legacy of torture when there is the same leadership at the Pentagon, the same rhetoric about protecting "state secrets", and the same refusal to allow victims of rendition to file lawsuits in US courts - not to mention a fully functional US military prison at Bagram air base in Afghanistan?

Rather than repudiating his predecessor's violations of the Geneva Conventions, the new Obama White House is embracing some of the worst abuses carried out by the Bush administration in the name of the global "war on terror".

Among other things, since taking office, the Obama administration has asserted in court that prisoners held at Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan have no right to challenge their detentions in US courts, pre-empted a supreme court ruling on whether a legal US resident can be imprisoned indefinitely without trial, and argued to dismiss cases brought by alleged victims of rendition on the grounds that they might pose a threat to US "national security".

The litany of disappointing actions on human rights and civil liberties seems to be growing longer every day.

This week on Fault Lines, we talk to people on all sides of the so-called "war on terror" - from human rights lawyers to former Bush administration officials; from a former US detainee who was rendered to torture to the CIA analyst who helped author his fate.

Where at first glance the US appears to be heading in a new direction, to what extent has the Obama administration turned its back on the abusive policies of the Bush era? And to what extent can we expect more of the same?
Just days after taking office, the new US president issued a series of executive orders banning all acts of torture, discontinuing the use of CIA black sites, and calling for the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay to be closed.

But what will it really take to dismantle the Bush administration's legacy of torture when there is the same leadership at the Pentagon, the same rhetoric about protecting "state secrets", and the same refusal to allow victims of rendition to file lawsuits in US courts - not to mention a fully functional US military prison at Bagram air base in Afghanistan?

Rather than repudiating his predecessor's violations of the Geneva Conventions, the new Obama White House is embracing some of the worst abuses carried out by the Bush administration in the name of the global "war on terror".

Among other things, since taking office, the Obama administration has asserted in court that prisoners held at Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan have no right to challenge their detentions in US courts, pre-empted a supreme court ruling on whether a legal US resident can be imprisoned indefinitely without trial, and argued to dismiss cases brought by alleged victims of rendition on the grounds that they might pose a threat to US "national security".

The litany of disappointing actions on human rights and civil liberties seems to be growing longer every day.

This week on Fault Lines, we talk to people on all sides of the so-called "war on terror" - from human rights lawyers to former Bush administration officials; from a former US detainee who was rendered to torture to the CIA analyst who helped author his fate.

Where at first glance the US appears to be heading in a new direction, to what extent has the Obama administration turned its back on the abusive policies of the Bush era? And to what extent can we expect more of the same?
-thanks to Commondreams

April 16, 2009

The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq

Book tells of female U.S. soldiers raped by comrades
Apr 16, 2009 
 By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Female U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have more to fear than roadside bombs or enemy ambushes. They also are at risk of being raped or sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers.

"The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq," a book based on 40 in-depth interviews, recounts the stories of female veterans who served in combat zones and tells of rape, sexual assault and harassment by male counterparts. 

Some were warned by officers not to go to the latrine by themselves. One began carrying a knife in case she was attacked by comrades. Others said they felt discouraged to report assaults.

"The horror of it is that it is their own side that is doing this to them," said the book's author, Helen Benedict, a journalism professor at Columbia University in New York. The book was released in the United States on Wednesday.

One in 10 U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are female, and more women have fought and died in the Iraq war than any since World War Two, according to U.S. Department of Defense statistics cited in the book.

Benedict said the book's title comes from the isolation female U.S. soldiers experience when combining the trauma of their combat duties with sexual harassment by fellow soldiers.

"Because women are under so much more danger now and actually in the battle, it's a particularly tragic situation because all soldiers are supposed to be able to rely on one another to watch their backs," Benedict said.

"And how can you feel that way if your fellow soldiers are harassing you all day or trying to rape you or actually even raping you?"

One such soldier, Marti Ribeiro, was a third-generation Air Force sergeant who served in Afghanistan in 2006 as a combat correspondent with the Army's all-male 10th Mountain Division. Her story includes an account of being attacked and raped by a U.S. soldier in uniform while guarding a post.

After completing the shift and not showering to substantiate the attack, she reported it to authorities, only to be told if she filed a claim she would be charged with dereliction of duty for leaving her weapon unattended. She left the military.

"I had dreams of becoming an officer one day, like my father and grandfather," she says in the book. "Unfortunately, because I'm female, those dreams will not come true."


The number of reports of sexual assault in the U.S. military rose by 8 percent in fiscal 2008 from the previous year and by 25 percent in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report released by the Pentagon in March.

There were 2,908 reports overall of sexual assault by members of the military. Such assaults include rape, indecent assault and attempted rape, the report said.
Of the 40 women Benedict interviewed who served between 2003 and 2006, 10 said they had been raped, five said they were sexually assaulted including attempted rape, and 13 reported sexual harassment.  

A new play based on Benedict's work was performed in New York and may tour the United States. After a recent performance, real soldiers hugged the actors who portrayed them. Some wiped away tears.

U.S. officials said the increase in assaults was due to efforts to make it easier to report them.
Cynthia Smith, a Department of Defense spokeswoman, said the department was committed to eliminating sexual assault from the military through prevention and response policies and eliminating barriers to reporting assaults.

"The Department of Defense's goal is to establish a climate of confidence that encourages victims to report sexual assault and get the care they need," she said in an e-mail.

Benedict and some researchers say U.S. government figures are much lower than their findings because the government only counts those brave enough to report the assaults.

The problem is not new to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A 2003 survey of more than 550 female veterans who served in wars from Vietnam to the first Gulf war found that 30 percent said they suffered from rape or attempted rape and 79 percent reported being sexually harassed, according to the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.
(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Eric Beech)
-thanks to Meike Capps-Schubert for posting the Reuters story