August 31, 2009

10 excellent reasons not to join the military



1. You may be killed

2. You may kill others

3. You may be injured

4. You may not receive proper medical care

5. You may suffer long-term health problems

6. You may be lied to

7. You may face discrimination

8. You may be ordered to do things against your belief

9. You may find it difficult to leave the military

10. You have other choices

Help Veterans For Peace put this book in your high school or public library.

For a donation of only $18.95, we can put a copy of the book "10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military" into a public or high school library of your choice. A letter and bookplate will let readers know that your donation help make this possible.

Putting a book in either a public or school library ensures that students, parents, and members of the community will have this valuable information when they need it.

Don't have a library you would like us to put it in? We'll find one for you!

Visit the Veterans For Peace and sign up to make a donation and have this book put into the library of your choice.

-thanks to Veterans For Peace

August 28, 2009

Sheehan Returns to Rebuke Obama

Peace activist Cindy Sheehan in front of the White House (undated) (Photo:

Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts - After spending weeks dogging George W. Bush's presidential vacations, anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan is now trying to make life uncomfortable for President Barack Obama.

Sheehan used to pitch a peace camp near Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, becoming a symbol of the anti-war movement after her son Casey died in action in Iraq.

On Thursday, she and a band of anti-war protesters turned up outside the media center used by journalists covering Obama's vacation on the well-heeled east coast resort island of Martha's Vineyard.

"The reason I am here is because ... even though the facade has changed in Washington DC, the policies are still the same," Sheehan told a handful of journalists, against a backdrop of her "Camp Casey" banner.

She told US peace activists to wake up and protest Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan, and complained that despite the president's anti-war stance, US troops remained in Iraq.

"We have to realize, it is not the president who is power, it is not the party that is in power it is the system that stays the same, no matter who is in charge."

"We are here to make the wars unpopular again," she said.
-thanks to truthout

August 25, 2009

"When the Grandmothers speak, the land will heal." (Native American prophecy)

Call to Seniors:
Come to West Virginia.
Stop MountainTop Removal.

I met Roland on a 10-day march to Fort Drum a couple of springs ago. All those days walking and talking with him. What a light. I agree with Vicki, he is a very special human being. Once again he has attached himself to a very special cause. Consider the possibility. -Russell

Dear Friends Over 50,
Please read carefully this invitation from my friend Roland, who is organizing a march of senior citizens to protest Mountaintop Removal in West Virginia. The 45-mile march will be gentle on our knees and on the environment, and is scheduled to begin in late September. If any of you are free to join with other elders in this important action, I encourage you to do so. Roland is a very special human being, and he is offering us an opportunity to do something that might actually make a difference. Please respond directly to him (contact info below) if you are interested, and please help spread the word.
Roland writes:
I have been here in West Virginia since June as part of an ongoing, non-violent, direct action campaign to stop the practice of mountaintop removal. This is an operation in which the crowns of mountains from as much as 1,500 ft. from the peak are blown off to expose underlying seams of coal. A toxic mixture of ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel is used, and millions of tons of rock and other debris are dumped into the streams and valleys below.

Prior to use of explosives, the area is stripped of all vegetation, including trees ranging in size from forest giants to saplings. Once the coal is harvested, the coal company is legally obligated to reclaim the land —
a next-to-impossible task once the topsoil and vegetation have been stripped away. Abandoned sites have all the starkness and austerity of a lunar landscape.

Communities down slope from MTR sites have to contend with contaminated drinking water, damage to homes, and respiratory problems from breathing airborne fallout from explosions. During an age when climate change is our outstanding environmental problems, we here at our encampment realize that deforestation and coal — both end results of MTR — are the major contributors to global warming. And considering what science is telling us about accelerating climate change, along with the molasses-slow pace at which our leaders are addressing the issue, it is easy to appreciate the sense of urgency that permeates our campaign.

Yet, against the wishes of every West Virginian we have met (except the well-paid workers who are doing the MTR) the practice continues. There is collusion between government and the coal industry that is very difficult to get around, and this is the situation we have to work with as we plan our strategy.

Most of my fellow-activists here are of my granddaughter's generation, and they are veterans of various actions that have been ongoing since February. They have blocked access to roads leading to MTR sites, chained themselves to mining equipment, and spearheaded protests at various agencies, such as the West Va. Department of Environmental Protection, which has been a little less than diligent in controlling the excesses of the mining industry. We have three groups here working on the MTR issue, and are using a combination of both legal and illegal tactics.

As a Christian and a law-abiding citizen, I have had to question my own motives for being here and participating in actions judged unlawful by society. I was arrested along with 28 others for blocking a road to a coal processing facility, but my transgression pales into insignificance compared to the legal crimes of Massey, Peabody, Independence, and others of the coal industry who are destroying the mountains. And in my role as a steward of Creation, in keeping with God's mandate that we not abuse that which has been given us, I have no other choice but to adopt non-legal but non-violent means in implementing what I perceive to be my stewardship obligations.

I have taken on the role of raising awareness and mobilizing senior citizens to take action against MTR. Toward this end, I am organizing a 45-mile protest march that will start in Charleston, West Va.) and end at a coal processing facility a short distance from our headquarters here at Rock Creek. The marchers will be wholly or primarily senior citizens, and the march will culminate in acts of civil disobedience by any who are willing to engage in such. The march will begin at the beginning of the last week of September, and depending on the pace, will end from 7-10 days later. Motorized support vehicles will accompany the walkers, and the public — including the coal companies — will be informed of our plans well in advance of the target dates.

We are modeling this action after a similar one by Gandhi, who marched over 200 miles to a seacoast, where he committed the illegal act of making salt. He announced his intentions to the British rulers before beginning the march, and though over 200 of the people who joined him were arrested, as was Gandhi himself, the law was eventually evoked. The most impressive aspect of this march was the lack of rancor and bad will toward those whose laws Gandhi and his followers were countermanding, and it is in this spirit that our march will be conducted, and only in this spirit is there hope for the changes that we see needed will come about. Oppressors are completely flummoxed by an opposition that refuses to hate them, but which demonstrates an iron clad determination to thwart activities of oppressors which are self-serving, destructive to human life and the environment, and downright wrong by the standards of any civilized society. And this is what the MTR issue is all about..

I am requesting the content of this letter be made available to all members of your group, in hopes that many of you who are frustrated about the general failure to seriously address issues critical to our survival as a functional society now have an opportunity for some meaningful action. Especially you seniors, who with the wisdom of your years would complement the idealism and perspectives of what has by-and-large been a youth-run campaign.

Please respond. We need you.

Roland Micklem
PO Box 163
Rock Creek, WV 25174

"When the Grandmothers speak, the land will heal."
(Native American prophecy)

August 24, 2009

August 23, 2009

Amnest International calls for Peltier's immediate release

USA: Denial of parole to Leonard Peltier after more than 32 years in prison, disappointing

21 August 2009

Amnesty International today regretted the US Parole Commission’s decision not to grant Leonard Peltier parole despite concerns about the fairness of his 1977 conviction for murder. The organization called for the immediate release on parole of the activist, who is serving two consecutive life sentences and has spent more than 32 years in prison.

A prominent member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), Leonard Peltier was convicted of the murders of two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, during a confrontation involving AIM members on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota on 26 June 1975. While Leonard Peltier admits having been present during the incident, he has always denied shooting the agents at point blank range as alleged by the prosecution at his trial.

Amnesty International recognizes the seriousness of the crime for which Leonard Peltier was convicted. However, having studied the case extensively over many years, the organization remains concerned about the fairness of the process leading to his conviction, including questions about evidence linking him to the point-blank shootings and coercion of an alleged eye-witness.

One of Amnesty International’s concerns is that Leonard Peltier’s extradition from Canada in 1976 -- where he had fled following the shootings -- was secured on the basis of the coerced testimony of an alleged eye-witness which the FBI knew to be false.

The witness, Myrtle Poor Bear, later retracted her testimony that she had seen Leonard Peltier shoot the agents but the trial judge did not allow her to be called as a defence witness at his trial.

Other concerns include the withholding by the prosecution of evidence, including potentially key ballistics evidence that might have assisted Leonard Peltier’s defence.

"The interest of justice would be best served by granting Leonard Peltier parole,” said Angela Wright, US Researcher at Amnesty International. “Given the concerns around his conviction, the fact that appeals before the courts have long been exhausted and that he has spent more than 32 years in prison, we urge the Parole Commission to reconsider its decision.”

The parole hearing, which took place over four hours on 28 July, was the first full parole hearing to be held in the case since 1993. In addition to the concerns about the fairness of his conviction, parole was sought by Peltier and his lawyer based on his good conduct record in prison and arrangements made by the Turtle Mountain tribe to receive him into their community on his release.

Background Information:

Leonard Peltier is an Anishinabe-Lakota Native American who was a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), an activist group involved in promoting the rights of “traditionalist” Indians during a period of intense conflict in the 1970s.

In the two years prior to the confrontation in which the agents were killed, more than 60 Indians on the Pine Ridge reservation had been killed, allegedly by paramilitary squads connected to the tribal government, without anyone being brought to justice for the crimes.

AIM members who had come to the reservation to assist “traditionalists” opposing the tribal government were also allegedly threatened. Relations between AIM and the FBI were also tense, with accusations that the authorities had not done enough to protect those at risk on the reservation.

The confrontation in which the two FBI agents were killed took place after the agents entered the reservation with an arrest warrant for four people and started following a van. A fire-fight ensued. Evidence was presented at trial to show that the agents received multiple shots and were quickly disabled before being shot dead at point-blank range.

Two other AIM leaders, Darelle Butler and Robert Robideau, were initially charged with the agents’ murders and were tried separately: no evidence was presented to link them to the point-blank shootings.

The jury acquitted them after hearing evidence about the atmosphere of violence and intimidation on the reservation and concluded that, arguably, they might have been acting in self-defense when they were involved in the exchange of gunfire. Following their acquittal, the FBI renewed its efforts to pursue Leonard Peltier, who had fled to Canada.

At his trial, the prosecution alleged that the rifle which killed the agents belonged to Peltier. During post-trial investigations, the defence team discovered a teletex message suggesting that the rifle in question contained a different firing pin from the one used to kill the agents; this was raised on appeal and an evidentiary hearing held at which the significance of the teletex was contested by the government.

On appeal, the government also argued that sufficient evidence had been presented to the jury at trial to show that Leonard Peltier had “aided and abetted” the killings even if he had not been the actual killer.

However, Amnesty International believes that the outcome may well have been different had Peltier been able to challenge the ballistics evidence linking him to the fatal shots more effectively.

____Amnesty International, International Secretariat

1 Easton Street

London WC1X 0DWU.K.

-thanks to Censored News

August 22, 2009

Rebuttal Statement by War Resister and POW, Travis Bishop, August 21, 2009

Travis received word today that his C.O. claim has been recommended for disapproval by the investigating officer. Travis has 10 days to rebut this finding (which I am assisting him on as we speak), however Travis has drafted a personal rebuttal statement, which he has asked me to share here. (once completed, we will also scan and post (1) the full C.O. packet, (2) the recommendation for approval by his psychologist, (3) the recommendations for disapproval by members of the command chain, Chaplain Lenninger (an absurdly ridiculous statement by a man who was proven in Travis’ court-martial to not understand the basics of the C.O. regs or the role of faith and conscience in any kind of meaningful way), (4) the final recommendation for disapproval by CPT Mein (the investigating officer). and (5) our full rebuttal.
Rebuttal Statement
21 Aug 09
To whom it may concern,

To say that my claim to be a conscientious objector is insincere and completely false is confessing blind ignorance to the words of my claim itself. My feelings and my ever-broadening belief structure are echoed through every paragraph and question on my C.O. Application. And continuing to ignore my words, (my words and mine alone), shows complete disregard to the C.O. Process itself. Those who continue to ignore my words are not doing justice to the C.O. Application process.
As to my videos: I am a war resister, and a conscientious objector. I do not have to choose. As to my cheerful demeanor, my decision was an incredibly difficult one, but once made, I still felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I am allowed to feel good about that.
The statement made by SGT Carter is 100% false. Carter was facing UCMJ charges for marijuana abuse and it is my firm belief that his statement was coerced, and that his statement would lessen my punishment. He was chaptered out of the Army as an E-4 for marijuana abuse. I think that is the lightest sentence for drug abuse I have ever heard of. I never told him that I intended not to deploy. He lied in his sworn statement, and I believe his “punishment” is a testimony to that.
My timing is regrettable, I know that. But to say my claim insincere based on timing is wrong. 100% wrong, and an insult to the C.O. Process. I have lost friends, good friends, alienated family members, And yet I press on. Someone who is insincere does not pay the prices I have paid, and yet I am here, writing this rebuttal.
I have been punished for my crimes. The UCMJ saw fit to put me in jail. And now I will be there the next year of my life, and nothing will change that. But it is still important to me to be classified as a C.O., even though it will not affect my sentence. And why is it so important to be recognized as a C.O.? Why do I still fight for this title? It’s simple.
Because I truly am a conscientious objector.
My statements are mine and mine alone. I am handwriting this statement in a jail cell, no lawyer to “coach” what I am saying. This is all me.
A lot of soldiers, I’m sure will see the C.O. Process as a way out; a loophole. But I do not. Regrettable timing or not, as soon as I realized what a C.O. was, and that my belief structure was the same as a C.O.s, I applied to be one. Do not listen to the indoctrinated words of the recommending authorities. Listen to mine. Or come to my prison. Look into my eyes. Grant me this status, for it is who I truly am.
Thank you.
PVT David T. Bishop, 
Bell County Law Enforcement Center
-thanks to Free Travis Bishop, Fort Hood War Resister (prison blog)

“Enough Already”... "Enough Already?"... “Enough Already”

“And you look at somebody like that and you think here's somebody who's just trying to find some meaning in her son's death. And you have to be sympathetic to her. Anybody who has given a son to this country has made an enormous sacrifice, and you have to be sympathetic. But enough already.”
-ABC Nightly News Anchor, Charles Gibson August 18, 2009

posted by Cindy Sheehan August 20th:
Enough already?” Hmmm…I don’t know Charlie Gibson and I don’t pay any attention to his career, but I seem to agree with him on this one: “Enough already.

Enough with the killing, torturing, wounding and profiting off of the backs of our troops and off of the lives of the people of Iraq-Af-Pak: as our brothers and sisters in Latin America say: “Basta!”

Somehow, I don’t think that this is what Charlie Gibson meant, though. I am sure that he just wants me to go away like most of the rest of the anti-war movement has done under the Obama presidency.

One of the things I hear quite often from people from all over the political spectrum is: “Why don’t you just go away, you’ve had your 15 minutes of fame.”

Yes, that’s exactly what I thought as soon as I heard that my son was killed in the US’s illegal and immoral war in Iraq: “this is a perfect opportunity to get my 15 minutes of fame.” Actually, after I slowly recovered from the shock and horror, the pain always remains, I thought that I had to do everything I can to end this nightmare so other mothers/families wouldn’t have to go through what I was going through and what I am going through.

I certainly am not the anchor of a major network news show, but last time I checked, people are still dying at a heartrending clip in Iraq-Af-Pak.

If my goal was “15 minutes of fame,” I could have gone quietly away a long time ago. I started because I wanted the wars to end, and I will figure I can go away when the wars end…but when is that going to be? In my lifetime, probably not.

I am cutting my writing-staycation short to head to Martha’s Vineyard because I think the new titular head of the empire needs to know that his policies are devastating people as much as the same policies did when Bush was president.

I would rather be able to go away and spend the rest of my life worshipping my grandchildren, writing, reading, resting, and doing humanitarian work where I am needed.

I wish the wars would go away, but they aren’t going away if we the people don’t get more militantly insistent.
see 2 more posts on her blog about this < HERE > and < HERE>

Cindy Sheehan will arrive on the Vineyard on Tuesday, August 25th.

-thanks to
Cindy Sheehans Soapbox
"Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love...”Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1958
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal…” Dr. King, 1967

August 21, 2009

CIA outsourced assassinations to Blackwater

Texas Resisters: 3 in a row under the hood

~Saturday, August 22

Jail Demo for Travis & Victor, Aug 22nd
1:00 - 2:00 PM, Bell Co. Jail Annex, 110 W. Central Ave., Belton, Texas (less than an hour away from Austin)

Over the last few weeks, two soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas were court martialed and jailed for their public refusal to deploy to Afghanistan. Victor Agosto is serving a 30-day sentence in a Bell Co. jail, and last week Travis Bishop received a bad conduct discharge and a one-year jail sentence for his refusal to deploy. Both men have taken a courageous stand in following their moral conviction that the US war in Afghanistan is illegal and immoral. This Saturday, stand with antiwar GI’s and civilians in a solidarity vigil at the jail where Travis is being held.
More info:
an article by Dahr Jamail on Travis’ court martial

~~Saturday, August 29

Guest Speaker Ann Wright, Army Colonel, Foreign Diplomat, Anti-war Activist, Peace Advocate.
“I have served my country for almost thirty years in some of the most isolated and dangerous parts of the world. I want to continue to serve America and cannot—morally and professionally—defend or implement them. It is with heavy heart that I must end my service to America and therefore resign…”
Ann Wright will speak at Under the Hood at 7pm on Saturday, August 29th. All are invited for an Outdoor Barbeque, August 29, 6–8 p.m.
@ Under the Hood, 17 S. College St. Killeen, TX.
Plates: chicken, mex-rice, beans, potato salad, drink. $5 suggested donation.
exciting news from Under the Hood...
...word has it that Victor Agosto, who was sentenced to 30 days in the Bell Co. jail for refusing orders connected with deployment to Afghanistan, is scheduled to be released early for good behavior that same day. Please join us to welcome Ann Wright and to celebrate Victor’s release!
-thanks to & Under The Hood

~~~ then on Sunday, August 30

Hoodstock: A benefit for Under the Hood.

5-9 p.m., Sunday, August 30,

Jovita’s, 1617 South First St., Austin, TX.

Featuring: Castro’s Beard, Will T. Massey, Shootin’ Pains, Gary Graves.

$10 suggested donation at the door.

August 20, 2009

This Is The Time For Us To Do Our Best Work

I read this in the June Veterans For Peace newsletter. Michael speaks directly from my heart and my soul. I thought I should share this with those who would take the time to read it.

We owe it to the all those who have died in war to ensure their deaths have meaning.

Executive Director’s Report

This Is The Time For Us To Do Our Best Work

Michael T. McPhearson

The June 16 passing of the $106 billion war supplemental in the U.S. House of Representatives should tells a great deal about the challenges we face as peacemakers and the importance of Veterans For Peace in this period. Democrats voted overwhelming for the bill with a majority of Republicans voting against it. However, their nay vote was not to stop further funding rather it was to protest $5 billion added to the bill for the International Monetary Fund. Responsibility for the occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan and the widening war in Pakistan now belong to both Democrats and Republicans with very little opposition.

In the April 2005 Newsletter I wrote, “The long-term challenge is to sustain the momentum to fight for change. The current administration’s outrageous actions fuel the present movement. But what happens when things return to ‘normal?’ How do we take the discomfort created by the current crisis and turn it into dissatisfaction with the status quo?”

I believe today that challenge stares us squarely in the face. Since the election of Barrack Obama, there has been confusion and soul searching. For now, the urgency and outrage of the occupations have subsided and there is uncertainty about what to do. Obama’s campaign and eventual ascendancy to the White House has sucked much of the apparent energy of the peace/anti-war movements and now it seems that many are sitting back and waiting to see what will happen next, or believe President Obama will take care of everything.

Never thinking in 2001 that we would still be resisting U.S. wars in 2009, many of us have lost faith in the struggle. In the wake of the financial collapse and subsequent economic recession, much of the public is struggling to make ends meet and fear the loss of their jobs. They are addressing concerns that are closer to home and the war has become secondary. Likewise, with Democrats in control of the legislative and executive branches, our allies have decided it is time to focus on their individual issues. Single payer healthcare, environment, housing, education, the Employee Free Choice Act, equal access to marriage and so on have moved to the front of the political dialogue pushing the occupations and war to a second or third tier issue.

What do we do? Returning to my words in 2005,

“We must do two things. First, we continue to do what we do best. Tell the truth about war. Share our experiences. Speak truth to power. Second, we must challenge others and ourselves to engage and continue in the struggle for peace.”

Four years later, I would change that just a bit.

We must keep the wars and occupations visible. The keepers of the status quo want the people to forget that our nation occupies Iraq and Afghanistan and is expanding war into Pakistan. They want us to forget about the torture, death and destruction wreaked upon the people of those countries and our service members. They want us to ignore the broken homes, PTSD and homelessness plaguing our troops and the people of the nations we have invaded. We will not let the nation forget. We will not let our political leaders distract us with the politics of the moment. We will not go away.

We must reach out and educate about the full horrors and impact of war. We must tell the stories seldom told. We must be witnesses to the waste of minds, bodies, resources and money war brings and the destructive toll it takes on our souls.

We must provide and live alternatives to war. We must become examples of conflict resolution in all aspects of our lives and building solidarity with allies in search of justice. We must help our nation and the world envision a day when war is no longer acceptable and its abolition is celebrated. Perhaps most essential, we must live at minimum the beginnings of the world we seek. This is walking the path of peace. It is not necessary to be saints as we attempt to walk this path, but if we are not intentional in our steps as peacemakers and justice seekers, we have no business critiquing others as they walk a path of war.

These three activities are at the core of what we must always do, no matter the time, no matter the political environment, no matter who controls Congress and no matter the president. The critical question is not what should we do, but how we do it? What is the tone of our message? What is the best vehicle to tell our stories? How do we reach out to our allies? How do we build strong and effective coalitions that win together in the struggle for peace and justice? How do we build a better VFP to carry on our campaigns? The answers to these questions change from period to period to meet the mood of the people. I do not have the space here to outline specifics, but this is the discussion we should all have within our chapters and with other members.

This is the time for the peace movement to do its best work. If we do not hold our government accountable on Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan who will? If we do not keep the occupations in the public eye who will? If we do not stand up to militarism and the drumbeats of war who will? The answer is no one. The peace movement, among all other movements, is the only one poised to connect allies and their struggles in an effort for a peoples’ march towards full spectrum peace and justice.

The mission of Veterans For Peace to abolish war and our voices as veterans is uniquely placed to lay a foundation for this mass movement of the people. We may not know exactly what peace looks like, but we know there is no peace with war. The realization of our mission will act as a plateau for a new era of progress for humanity. We cannot let the enormity of the challenge and the slow pace of change stop us. We owe it to the all those who have died in war to ensure their deaths have meaning. I owe a direct debt to those who died and suffered in Vietnam as I grew up in the midst of that war and its struggles. The Vietnam and civil rights struggles shaped my political awareness. I am a veteran for peace because of the movements that sprung from that time. My mother and the history of my people have taught me to never give up in the struggle. My experience with VFP has strengthened my resolve.

In time our steadfastness will prevail. We will abolish war.

Thank you for all you do.

-thanks to Veterans For Peace


I was looking through the June issue of the Veterans For Peace newsletter. I was looking for a report by VFP Executive Director, Michael T. McPhearson, when I came across this poem and realized that I should have posted it when I first read it.


Its me, Lindy, the one who helped you peck your way
From the cell so many years ago.
I have come, so you may take flight again.
I was your co-conspirator then and I call you now,
My hummingbird, my jailbird, my escapee.
Hover about in the garden. Check the flowers.
Peer in the window from time to time,
Then flit on, as you will.
I’m here to remove our secret “bar of soap.”
Here’s my hand, Brother, step up.
Wiggle through the hole to freedom.
I have come for you.
When the guards turn their backs,
I’ll give you the signal, and once you’re gone,
I’ll replace the bar to mask your retreat.
Free Spirits will always escape

This poetic tribute to Lindy Blake, one of the Presidio 27
mutineers, was written by his friend and comrade Randy
Rowland (who, along with Keith Mather, told the story of
the Presidio 27 in Sir! No Sir!). Lindy died recently at his
home in Canada, where he has lived since escaping the
Presidio stockade in 1968.

August 19, 2009

Columbia's Red Juvenil resists the state's right to force youth to fight in civil war

The Red Juvenil uses antimilitarist street theater and music to connect with widely divergent youth and take their message to the military and the public.

In one of the improvised poor neighborhoods that cling to the bare mountain slopes on the edge of Medellín, Colombia’s second largest city, the paramilitary was preparing to forcibly recruit a local youth named Alberto. Most people can’t imagine resisting such a demand. But Alberto said no, he was not interested, so the paramilitary threatened him. Alberto contacted the Red Juvenil de Medellín (Medellín Youth Network), with whose support he organized a community bonfire in his neighborhood. Around the fire that night, he talked about the network, saying he had a different vision and refused to join any armed group. He asked for everyone’s solidarity and respect for his decision. “He converted the community,” says Leonardo Jiménez, a leader of the network. Alberto still has his support group. And if he has some difficulty or security problem, he contacts his support group, which has a plan to put him in someone’s house. Some put word out on the Internet, while others compile his case and do legal work if needed.

Alberto’s situation and hundreds like his have inspired a youth movement in Colombia that is challenging the state’s right to force youth to participate in the country’s bloody civil war, which has been going on for more than four decades. The movement’s premises are simple: they want the right to say no to participating in Colombia’s cycles of violence.

One of the pioneering organizations of this movement is the Red Juvenil de Medellín, or the Medellín Youth Network. The Red Juvenil is a youth organization that operates explicitly on principles of nonviolence. In doing so, the organization challenges the status quo in Colombia, which dictates that youth from a barrio popular, or poor neighborhood, have three options: fulfilling their mandatory service to the military and perhaps dying or killing in the conflict between the state, paramilitary groups, and the FARC and ELN (guerrilla groups); joining the paramilitaries, the drug trade, or a guerrilla group; or being part of the masses of unemployed.

Started in 1990 by young people who had lost loved ones to the armed conflict, the group trains youth in nonviolence and cooperative play; supports young men who refuse to serve with the police, military, or illegal armed groups; and promotes nonviolence, civil disobedience, human rights, and conscientious objection by means that contribute to the construction of a demilitarized society. A core group of about 30 young people works out of the group’s office and gathering space, a large house not far from the city center. Another 150 youth organized into neighborhood and issue groups are regularly involved in their activities.

Sandra Grisales, an organizer with the Red Juvenil, explained, “We are here as a group of young people imagining that a different world is possible … because we think the same way, and because we are celebrating our right to think freely. For me, injustice doesn’t help me at all, and I will not be part of continuing it.”

The Red Juvenil’s first members came together for mutual support. They wanted to challenge the stigma that equates youth with violence by making their pacifist views public. Their first actions were spontaneous responses to violence in the city and included processions from the poor hillside neighborhoods that ring the city, with music and theater that expressed the participants’ rejection of violence.

Later, members of the organization learned about other conflicts around the world and about ideas that were new to them, such as nonviolence and conscientious objection. Some members visited antimilitarist groups in Spain and learned more. They decided that the time for simply criticizing the state of affairs in their country had passed and that they needed to demonstrate affirmatively the kind of world they wanted to live in. They started offering nonviolence training outside of their own gatherings, taking their workshops into schools and neighborhoods where there was conflict. At the same time, they began to expand their antimilitarism and human rights work to include nonviolent direct action.

The network’s activities have included evocative and powerful sidewalk theater performances, public draft-card burning, and leafleting induction lines under the gaze of soldiers. Preparation for these actions is intensive and includes coaching, role-playing, and other exercises designed to build confidence and to teach the principles and practice of active nonviolence. The organization has also spoken out against U.S. military policy in Colombia, for example, publicly criticizing the U.S. government’s recent decision to relocate the U.S. military base in Manta, Ecuador, to Colombia.

The heart of the network’s mission is to encourage young people’s to value all human life, to work together to overcome fear, and to be empowered to live and espouse these values. Their conscientious objection project exemplifies this approach. Male Colombians graduating from secondary school are required to serve a year in the police or the army, and there is no provision for alternative service or refusal on grounds of conscience. Those who do refuse are barred from higher education and from many jobs. The network provides support to conscientious objectors in addition to publicizing the issue of conscientious objection in the media and on the street.

Support for conscientious objectors in Colombia is crucial because every armed group in the Colombian civil war—paramilitaries, guerrillas, and the “official” state army—carries out forced recruitment, or obligatory service. For the members of the Red Juvenil, visiting barrios populares and seeking out youth means meeting up with the armed groups, who often challenge them. Some youth who have gone to neighborhoods to promote the network have experienced armed battles.

Says Leonardo Jimenez, a conscientious objector, “The majority of the youth in the network have a history with the violence. They have been victims; a family member has been killed, or a friend, or they’ve seen killing directly. They are people who have lived the presence of violence, have lived that pain. And they are looking for another possibility. It is as if you were in a gray panorama, and then there is this group that fills you with colors. You would want to stay involved, wouldn’t you?

“There is talk in Colombia about an armed revolution. But for us, revolutions are not made with weapons. ‘Revolution,’ what is it? To renovate, to create, to invent. … But war was invented long ago, and so were weapons. There’s no revolution; they are not revolutionizing anything. To us, they are all just armies.”

Moira Birss is a current volunteer and Janice Gallagher is a former volunteer with the Fellowship of Reconciliation Colombia Program’s human rights accompaniment team, which works with grassroots organizations and communities in Colombia that are resisting and creating living alternatives to Colombia’s decades-old internal conflict.

... it’s time to sit up straight.

When an 11 year-old gets the privilege of going to The White House to interview the president and the kid respectfully observes, “I notice as president you get bullied a lot,” it’s time to sit up straight.
editors comment from War in Context

Nonviolent Direct Action, Solidarity and Struggle

Published on Tuesday, August 18, 2009 by Electronic Intifada
by Ramzi Kysia
A year ago, 44 ordinary people from 17 different countries sailed to Gaza in two small wooden boats. We did what our governments would not do -- we broke through the Israeli siege. During the last year the Free Gaza Movement has organized seven more voyages, successfully arriving to Gaza on five separate occasions.

Regardless of Israeli threats and intimidation, Free Gaza volunteers will continue sailing unarmed boats to Gaza. Ours remain the only international ships to reach the Gaza Strip in more than 42 years. By directly challenging the Israeli military with our small boats, we have concretely demonstrated that this siege has nothing whatsoever to do with security and is simply an illegal act of collective punishment.

But the siege of Gaza cannot be separated from the crisis of checkpoints and home demolitions in Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, nor from the oppression of Palestinian citizens of Israel, nor from the harsh and unjust conditions of the millions languishing in refugee camps across the Middle East, nor from the plight of the more than 11,000 political prisoners held by Israel, nor from the calamity of extra-judicial killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces, particularly the killings of Palestinian children, nor from Israel's ongoing theft of Palestinian natural resources, nor from the right of return for all Palestinians in the Diaspora. Gaza is but one bitter element of the struggle for justice for all of Palestine.

Contrary to its presentation in the mainstream media, this conflict is neither a righteous war against terrorism, nor a long-standing religious or ethnic dispute. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the struggle of two irreconcilable and unequal causes: the struggle of an oppressed people for freedom, justice and self-determination against their oppressors' struggle to maintain their domination.
The purpose of nonviolent direct action and civil resistance is to take risks and put our selves in the way of injustice. We take these risks well aware of what the possible consequences may be. We do so because the consequences of doing nothing are so much worse. Any time we allow ourselves to be bullied, every time we pass by an evil and ignore it, we lower our standards and allow our world to be made that much harsher and unjust for us all.

Other international solidarity and action campaigns preceded ours, such as the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, and more have begun in recent months, such as Viva Palestina, the International Movement to Open Rafah Border, Code Pink's delegations to Gaza, and the Gaza Freedom March.

These campaigns are all important. Working together, we have been able to complement and multiply our efforts, drawing the world's attention to the suffering caused by Israel's illegal blockade. We have been able to bring in limited amounts of needed aid, and bring out of Gaza a handful of Palestinian students, medical patients and others. These are worthwhile labors, but they are not enough. As the great Indian resistance leader Mahatma Gandhi stated on 11 September 1924: "[The people] are as yet untouched by [our] politics ... Their politics are confined to bread and salt ... We must share their sorrows ... Then and not till then shall we truly represent [them] ..."

The truth is that all our work combined has yet to significantly impact the daily lives of the Palestinian people.

As solidarity campaigners, it's our job to take our direction from comrades already struggling inside occupied Palestine. But as internationals we should also remind ourselves that our primary work lies in our own communities. In the end, our struggle is not about charity; the Palestinian people need justice and political action, not charity.

Viva Palestina's journey through North Africa, on their first mission from Britain to Gaza, helped mobilize countless individuals. Their planned journey through Europe this December will mobilize countless more. Volunteers working and traveling with Viva Palestina have begun dozens of twinning projects between their communities in the West and communities inside Palestine. The fruits of these efforts are unknowable. However, there are tremendous possibilities for not only providing concrete assistance to those in need, but also for politicizing and mobilizing individuals across the world to get involved in the struggle for justice in Palestine.

Similarly, the Free Gaza Movement is working to mobilize individuals through the Right to Read campaign, and through direct lobbying of governments and the international community to actually enforce international law in regards to Palestine. We are reaching out to existing social movements and labor unions in the West, complementing existing efforts to establish and broaden boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against apartheid Israel.

The continuing failure of the international community to enforce its own laws and protect the Palestinian people demands that we as private citizens directly intervene to take action commensurate with the crisis.
What is needed in our world today is not simply protest against the violence of occupation and oppression. What we need is a greater resolve -- a new militancy rooted in the profound respect for human life, and sustained by profound disrespect for any government or group that terrorizes our sisters and brothers around the world.

More than at any time in recent memory, ordinary people around the world seem to be answering this call.
Ramzi Kysia is an Arab-American essayist and an organizer with the Free Gaza Movement (

August 18, 2009

US Troops to Return to Iraq Despite Barack Obama’s Withdrawal Plan

Published on Tuesday, August 18, 2009 by TimesOnline/UK
by Oliver August
The US military plans to send thousands of American soldiers back to the oil-rich north of Iraq to prevent a civil war between Arabs and Kurds.

Kurdish and Arab leaders have agreed in principle to allowing US soldiers into unsettled areas around Mosul and Kirkuk, according to General Ray Odierno, the top US military commander in Iraq. The troops will form joint units with Iraqi counterparts to subdue what has become the most volatile part of the country.

Many leaders in the region disagree about where the border should run between their territories and how oil revenues should be shared. "We have al-Qaeda exploiting this fissure that you're seeing between the Arabs and the Kurds, and what we're trying to do is close that fissure, that seam," General Odierno said.

Despite the developments in Iraq President Obama told a group of US veterans in Phoenix yesterday that he will stick to his plan.

"As we move forward, the Iraqi people must know that the United States will keep its commitments," he said. "And the American people must know that we will move forward with our strategy. For America, the Iraq war will end."

The veterans did not applaud this line in his speech but he was given a warmer reception when he pledged to reform the procurement process so that troops have the best equipment possible.

There was laughter at his example of military waste - a billion- dollar helicopter that would allow the President to cook during a nuclear war: "If the United States is under nuclear attack, the last thing on my mind will be whipping up a snack," he said.

More than 100 people have been killed in mixed Arab-Kurdish areas this month, including car bombings that have destroyed villages near Mosul. Inside the city, armed men killed two policemen and wounded one civilian at a checkpoint yesterday.

"I'm still very confident in the overall security here," General Odierno said. "Unfortunately they're killing a lot of innocent civilians."

In yet another sign of how unstable the region is, the authorities have cancelled a census to determine the division of land and oil. It was feared that it would inflame tensions by revealing which side had the better chance of winning a referendum.

Ali Baban, the Planning Minister, said: "After hearing the fears, concerns and reservations of political groups in Kirkuk and Ninevah, we decided to slow down the process and the census has been postponed indefinitely."

The deployment of the US protection force will start in Ninevah province, which includes Mosul, and extend to Kirkuk. General Odierno discussed the plan, which appears necessary in military terms but unpopular with voters, with officials from Iraq and the Kurdish region on Sunday.

Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, is trying to win re-election in January on the back of a programme of security improvements.

Under the plans drawn up by the US, control of the unstable areas would return to the Arab and Kurdish forces. The emergency move, however, has the potential to change the dynamic of the US withdrawal and it will almost certainly require a rewriting of a bilateral security agreement made by the Iraqi Government and President Bush last year.

© 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd.
-thanks to Commondreams

'Blackwater' continues to murder innocents in Afghanistan under the name Xe

Afghan Civilians Soured on US Security Contractors
by David Zucchino
KABUL -- Mirza Mohammed Dost stood at the foot of his son's grave, near a headstone that read: "Raheb Dost, martyred by Americans." His son was no insurgent, Dost said. He was walking home from prayers on the night of May 5 when he was shot and killed on a busy Kabul street by U.S. security contractors.
"The Americans must answer for my son's death,"
Dost said as a large crowd of young men murmured in approval.

The shooting deaths of Raheb Dost, 24, and Romal, 22, who used just one name, by four gunmen with the company once known as Blackwater have turned an entire neighborhood against the American presence here.

Enraged by the deaths of civilians in military airstrikes, many Afghans are demanding more accountability from security contractors who routinely block traffic and bark orders to motorists and pedestrians.

As the war escalates in Afghanistan and the U.S. seeks to win over a wary public, incidents such as the one that left Raheb Dost dead raise uneasy ghosts of the Iraq war.

A June report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan found serious deficiencies among private security companies in Afghanistan in training, performance, accountability and effective use-of-force rules.

The report said U.S. authorities in Afghanistan have not applied "lessons learned" in Iraq after a 2007 incident in which Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. Iraq revoked the firm's license, and five contractors face federal manslaughter and weapons charges in the U.S. The company is now known as Xe.

The Afghan Interior Ministry has stepped up licensing of security contractors and is demanding stricter monitoring. The ministry says it wants limits on the number of contractors here, even as the Pentagon considers hiring a private security firm to provide more guards for its military bases.

Members of Parliament, responding to complaints from constituents, have proposed legislation cracking down on contractors.

Since February, oversight of security contractors in Afghanistan has been entrusted not to Congress or the Pentagon, but to a British-owned private contractor, Aegis. The company was hired by the American government after the U.S. military said it lacked the manpower and expertise to monitor security contractors. Aegis is supposed to help U.S. authorities ensure contractors are properly trained, armed and supervised.

The Interior Ministry has licensed 39 security companies employing 23,000 people who are assigned 17,000 weapons. More than 19,000 of the employees are Afghans.
In all, there are more than 71,000 security contractors or guards, armed and unarmed, in Afghanistan, said P.W. Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively on the subject.
-thanks to The Chicago Tribune & Common Dreams

Court Date and Vigil for Dean Walcott POSTPONED

War resister Dean Walcott's court date has been postponed for administrative reasons. That means there's no vigil tomorrow, so don't show up!

Instead, why not use the time to support Rodney Watson?
Tomorrow, Wednesday August 19, is a day to raise our voices in protest and plea: stop the deportation of US war resister Rodney Watson.

The Conservative government continues to ignore the direction of Parliament by deporting Rodney back to the US where he faces punishment for refusing to redeploy to Iraq.

Rodney, who currently lives in Vancouver, served a year in Iraq. His contract was unilaterally - non-voluntarily - extended for an additional year. He refused a second deployment to Iraq.

"I realized the war had nothing to do with 9/11 or helping Iraqis or stopping terrorists," said Watson. "It's all about guarding oil for the U.S."

Canada's Parliament, supported by a majority of Canadians, has repeatedly called on the Harper government to stop the deportations and allow war resisters to stay.

The recent Federal Court decision in the case of Iraq war resister Kimberly Rivera reflects the broad consensus in this country opposing the punishment of those who refused to participate in this illegal and immoral war.

On August 19, let's send a message from all across the country that Canadians want the deportations to stop now.Even if you have written or called before, it is very important that you contact these politicians again.

Please call or email the Immigration Minister, the Parliamentary Secretaries to the minister, and the Prime Minister.

Ask them to honour the will of Parliament, and stop the deportation of Rodney Watson and the other war resisters.

Remind them that 64% of Canadians feel that US war resisters should be allowed to stay.

Remind them that all three opposition party immigration critics have called on the government to not use the summer recess to disregard the expressed will of Parliament.

Rally for Rodney contact details

Please call, email, or write a letter to:

The Hon. Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1
613.954.1064 (Ministry office) or 613.992.2235 (Parliamentary office) AND

Alice Wong, Parliamentary Secretary to Minister Kenney
604.775.5790 (riding office) or 1.877.775.5790 (Ottawa office) AND

Rick Dykstra, Parliamentary Secretary to Minister Kenney
905.934.6767 (riding office) or 613.992.3352 (Ottawa office)

The Right Hon. Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa K1A 0A2

Please cc the opposition party leaders:
Liberal party leader Michael Ignatieff:
Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe:
NDP leader Jack Layton:

Rally in every way you can think of: write letters to your local newspaper, blog, Facebook, Twitter. But most importantly, contact the Government. Tell them to respect democracy and Let Them Stay!

-thanks to We Move To Canada

August 16, 2009

Afghanistan War Resister, Travis Bishop, Sentenced.

When asked by the defense what he thought of religions or causes like the civil rights movement that required people to follow their conscience - even if it meant they would have to break the law
- Chaplain Leininger said, "perhaps, but that it would be sad for them to do so. Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, was executed for breaking Roman law in order to follow his conscience."
Just refusing to participate in illegal wars should trigged commendations from all over. Instead a soul-less jury was duped by a devious military, dishonest to its soldiers, the public and the entire world. The jury chose to send this man to prison for a year. And it sounds like his Army Chaplain, Leininger, is suggesting that as an Army man, he would have nailed Jesus to the cross. Evidently the chaplain didn't get the horrifying Rumsfeld memos explaining that this was a religious 'crusade' and his troops were supposed to be killing Muslims not Christians. -Russell

Sunday 16 August 2009

by: Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t | Report

Sergeant Travis Bishop.
(Photo: Eric Thompson)

Sergeant Travis Bishop, with the US Army's 57th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, pled not guilty at a special court martial on Thursday to two counts of missing movement, disobeying a lawful order and going absent without leave (AWOL). Friday, in a trial full of theatrics from the jury, prosecution witnesses and the prosecution, he was found guilty on all counts.

Sgt. Bishop is the second soldier from Fort Hood in as many weeks to be tried by the military for his stand against an occupation he believes is "illegal." He insists that it would be unethical for him to deploy to support an occupation he opposes on both moral and legal grounds, and has filed for conscientious objector (CO) status. A CO is someone who refuses to participate in combat based on religious or ethical grounds, and can be given an honorable discharge by the military.

Last week, Specialist Victor Agosto was sentenced to 30 days in a county jail for his refusal to deploy to Afghanistan. Agosto, like Bishop, feels the war is illegal, something that James Branum, the civilian lawyer for both soldiers, agrees with.

"The war in Afghanistan does not meet the criteria for lawful war under the UN Charter, which says that member nations who joined the UN, as did the US, should give up war forever, aside from two exceptions: that the war is in self defense, and that the use of force was authorized by the UN Security Council," Branum told Truthout in an earlier interview, "The nation of Afghanistan did not attack the United States. The Taliban may have, but the nation and people of Afghanistan did not. And under US law, the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution, any treaty enacted by the US is now the 'supreme law of the land.' So when the United States signed the UN Charter, we made that our law as well."

Bishop, unlike Agosto, applied for CO status due to his religious and moral convictions. Bishop told Truthout he was "opposed to all war," based on his religious beliefs, that "as a real Christian, I must be opposed to all violence, no matter what, because that is what Jesus taught."

After receiving his orders to deploy to Afghanistan, Bishop needed time to prepare his application for CO status, so he went AWOL for a week "because I didn't have time to prepare to file for CO status. So, while AWOL, I prepared a statement and filled out my application for CO [status]. Then I went back [to Fort Hood] with Branum and turned myself in. I never planned on staying AWOL. They gave me a barracks room and assigned me to a platoon and told me to show up to work the next day. That was it. They started the CO process, but they also started the Uniform Code of Military Justice process, and that's where it gets shifty."

Bishop told Truthout that he had serious doubts about his views on war for a long time, but was unaware of his right to file for CO status until just before he was scheduled to deploy.

One of the main points Branum made in defense of Bishop was that Bishop had never been given proper training that would have informed him of the CO option.

"Travis was never told about his option of conscientious objector status," Branum explained to Truthout. "If an enlisted soldier isn't informed that he has a right, then he effectively does not have that right. Just one to two days before he was set to deploy, in the midst of moral questions, he heard about CO status."

On Thursday, Bishop's defense called two witnesses to the stand, Pfc. Anthony Sadoski and Specialist Michael Kern, both of whom are active duty soldiers at Fort Hood who said that they, too, had never been informed that filing for CO status was an option.

Captain Matt Kuskie, the prosecuting attorney, argued, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." The judge, Major Matthew McDonald, said that whether Bishop was notified or not about his right to file for CO status was not relevant to the case.

"If every soldier in the Army who disobeyed an order could claim it was because they weren't notified of conscientious objector status, we probably wouldn't have a military any more," he added.

Branum told Truthout he is attempting to establish a precedent with the trial, regardless of the outcome. "We want to change the law, and I would argue that when soldiers are informed of their deployment, which is generally two to six months in advance, they should be giving training about CO status. I will argue that if you don't do the training, you can't deploy."

Despite Sgt. Bishop's commander, Captain Christopher Hall's admission to the court that he had never provided CO training to Bishop's unit, the jury, who were all officers of much higher ranks (six to seven ranks higher) than Bishop, therefore, not necessarily a jury of his peers, appeared hostile to Bishop's plight.

For example, one of the jurors had to be woken up during the trial. Another, a Lt. Col. Atkins, rolled his eyes and shook his head throughout most of the defense's time of making their case.

The prosecution argued that Bishop's searching of his conscience that led to his decision to apply for CO status was "a misguided intellectual journey."

During mitigation of Sgt. Bishops sentence, Lt. Col. Ron Leininger, a chaplain at Fort Hood who recommended that Bishop be denied his CO status, was called as a witness in an unexpected move by the prosecution, in order to counter several witnesses by the defense who each testified to Bishop's character and sincerity in his pursuit of CO status.

Leininger stated that he did not feel Bishop had a deep enough or sincerely held religious belief to establish grounds for recommending him CO status. Leininger's written report of his interview with Bishop had several mistakes, including having called Sgt. Bishop "Sgt. Bush" in one section.

Leininger claimed that his interview with Bishop lasted 45 minutes, and that he did not receive phone calls while it was occurring. Sgt. Bishop appeared shocked by this, and later, when Truthout asked him about his reaction he said, "The Chaplain only spoke with me for 20 minutes, took two calls on his cell phone, and was texting the whole time."

One of Leininger's critiques of Bishop was that he was not a member of a local church, despite the fact that for a soldier to apply for CO status, they do not have to be affiliated with a local church. Atheists, for example, can apply for CO status and be granted the status, if they can prove deeply held moral convictions that oppose violence.

When asked by the defense what he thought of religions or causes like the civil rights movement that required people to follow their conscience - even if it meant they would have to break the law - Chaplain Leininger said, "perhaps, but that it would be sad for them to do so. Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, was executed for breaking Roman law in order to follow his conscience."

The jury had already found Sgt. Bishop guilty of all charges, and sentenced him to one year in prison, a rank reduction to Private, forfeiture of two-thirds of his pay for one year and a bad conduct discharge.

A disappointed Branum told Truthout that he plans to take the result of the trial to the Military Court, the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals, the US Military Court of Criminal Appeals and "then Habeus Review and take it to a civilian court, then, if necessary, the Supreme Court."

Branum added, "If Travis goes to jail, he wants it to be for something. He wants it to count." The attorney said he will continue to demand the Army provide CO training, "and my hope is that when troops are going to be deployed, they'll be read their Bishop rights."

After receiving his sentence, Sgt. Bishop met with a group of friends and supporters outside the courtroom and said,

It means a lot to me you are here in my support. This is not the end, by any means. This is the beginning. When I get out, I'm going to be louder, more active, and pissed off.

Shortly thereafter, he was shackled and escorted out of the building. While walking to a van to take him to prison he flashed a peace sign, while several soldiers, one of them active duty and most of them combat veterans, stood at attention and saluted him for his actions.

Statement by Sergeant Travis Bishop

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Panel,

The prosecution raised the point that 'ignorance of the law is no excuse for the crime.' And here is proof of that. Case presented, verdict rendered, Sgt. Bishop is guilty. I have been convicted of the crimes that I committed, and I cannot argue that.

All I can say is this: If I had a Soldier that acted on impulse and did something illegal that I, his Sergeant, could have trained him on, there is no doubt in my mind that I would be in the First Sergeant's office the next morning explaining how I 'failed' the Soldier, leaving this Soldier untrained and, ultimately, unprepared.

Since the day I was promoted to this rank that is now in jeopardy, the idea of the Sergeant being responsible for even the individual actions of the Soldier has been drilled into me; especially on the issue of training your Soldier. My rank would be in jeopardy if my Soldier was doing things that I could have, according to my superiors, prevented, as long as I had taken an interest in my Soldier's life, and trained my Soldier as best as I possibly could.

But today, I stand alone. My actions and decisions, based on a seemingly unapproachable command structure, and a lack of training of my rights as a Soldier, remain defended by myself only. I have defense counsel, but the 'buck' stops with me and me alone, and I don't believe that this would be true in any other situation in the Army.

So why is that? Why is there such a stigma around the words? Conscientious Objection. To me, for the longest time, it was only an archaic term from somewhere back in the Vietnam Era; not something that applied to me, the modern Soldier. COs were the butt ends of jokes; they were punch lines. But why?

Maybe it's because since day one of anyone's career in the military, fierceness and bravado are pounded into every potential Soldier, and fear and doubt are viewed as weaknesses. This leaves Soldiers that feel as I feel in quite a predicament.

Does a Soldier who feels as I feel tell someone in their Command? Or a peer? And risk persecution and ridicule? I have never heard the word 'coward' used more than when I say the words conscientious objector around a group of Soldiers.

But what most Soldiers don't realize is that CO is not only a regulation, it's a right. To file for conscientious objector status is an individual right of every Soldier in the Army. This right ensures that Soldiers with the beliefs that I share have the opportunity to request to be discharged due to said beliefs. But, unlike other regulations in the military, this one remains unpublicized.

Ladies and gentlemen of the panel, there are many regulations that offer Soldiers individual rights that without these regulations, they might not ultimately have, even though the average Soldier has no idea these regulations and rights exist. And yet, regardless of knowledge of these regulations, they still fall under these rights given to them by the military.

My key point is this: AR 195-6 covers Army polygraph procedures. If a Soldier doesn't know their rights covered and protected under this regulation, does this give persons giving the polygraph test free reign to ask whatever they want? Just because they don't know the regulation?

If a Soldier doesn't know that, under AR 600-8-22, they are entitled to receive a Good Conduct Medal after 3 years of outstanding service, does that mean that it is ok to not award this Soldier?

If a Soldier doesn't have a clear understanding of AR 600-8-3, Unit Postal Operations, does that mean that the Soldier isn't entitled to receive mail in theaters of combat?

It is my firm belief that the Conscientious Objector regulation is not a regulation only, but an individual right of every Soldier, and that the responsibility to teach this regulation falls on Unit Command Teams. There are plenty of regulations that we do teach Units about, sometimes quarterly even. Why not this one?

In closing, I am not trying to say that I did not commit these crimes. The point I'm trying to convey is that, had I known that the process for applying to be a CO was still alive and well in the Army, I would have applied to be discharged as such a long time ago.

The truth is, as soon as I discovered that the process existed, I acted upon it. I left because I did not feel that I would have a sympathetic, understanding command structure to fully take my problems to, and also to give myself time to prepare for my CO application process, and the legal battle I'm currently fighting.

These are not excuses. These are explanations. My hope is that you truly treat them as such during your sentencing deliberations. Godspeed.

-thanks to Dahr Jamail and Truthout