November 29, 2009

Flying Blind

Sunday 29 November 2009

by: Winslow Myers, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: hyperion327)

Predator drones kill al-Qaeda leaders without risk to American soldiers; dangerous plotters of terror are efficiently annihilated; and those not yet killed are kept off-balance, in a constant state of fear. What's not to like?

For starters, the moral indecency of it. Which is why we ought to feel a palpable queasiness when we think about these machines hovering over Pakistan like angry all-seeing dragonflies, slicing and dicing people in our names.

In 70 Predator strikes so far in Pakistan, 600-odd people have been killed, including 17 in the al-Qaeda high command. Turn it around the other way and imagine that Pakistan conducted similar strikes within the sovereign boundaries of the United States, causing a 600 to 17 ratio of what we callously call "collateral" damage. Our outrage quotient would quickly equal and surpass what we felt after 9/11. War would be declared on Pakistan so fast it would make our heads spin.

Even supposing we could strike so "surgically" (another popular but euphemistic phrase) that we never harmed a single innocent bystander - is it right to kill terrorists "extra-judicially"? Will it make us safer? No and no.

Especially when alternatives are available that can prevent us from sinking to the level of the terrorists themselves. The extraordinary technology of the Predator's "eye," enabling the military to identify individuals from two miles overhead, suggests that, having located a person of interest, we could send in a helicopter, make an arrest and try the defendant in our courts, showing the world our best face. Leaving aside that a live terrorist might be a better source of information and motivation than a dead one.

Instead, what we are doing to extremists and those unlucky enough to be in their vicinity looks oddly indistinguishable from terrorism itself - sanctioning a vicious cycle of brutality that will only end when our nation realizes that "going over to the dark side" leaves us in a state of ethical blindness.

The Pentagon ordered three thousand copies of "Three Cups of Tea," the best-seller about Greg Mortenson's efforts to build schools for girls in wild parts of the Af-Pak region, because they understood the book provided a useful model of cultural empathy. But they missed the point if their premise was to integrate the disinterested good will of a Mortenson with murder by remote control.

A fully accessorized Predator goes for 40 million dollars, for which sum Greg could hire 15,000 teachers for ten years, at his going rate of $20 a month. We have to choose one or the other, bombs or books, because we can't do both and win hearts and minds.

Which choice will lead to less terrorism?

-this article is from truthout

November 28, 2009

U.S. journalist, Amy Goodman, grilled at Canada bordercrossing.

What's going on? That's two reporters, Laura and Amy, held and interrogated by border guards in the same week. See other story <HERE>

Listen to Part 1 of Amy's talk, Dissent is what will save us <HERE>
-thanks to

Thursday, November 26, 2009

CBC News
U.S. broadcaster and author Amy Goodman said she is concerned a journalist
would have to undergo an interrogation while trying to enter Canada. (CBC)
U.S. journalist Amy Goodman said she was stopped at a Canadian border crossing south of Vancouver on Wednesday and questioned for 90 minutes by authorities concerned she was coming to Canada to speak against the Olympics.

Goodman says Canadian Border Services Agency officials ultimately allowed her to enter Canada but returned her passport with a document demanding she leave the country within 48 hours.

Goodman, 52, known for her views opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, told CBC News on Thursday that Canadian border agents asked her repeatedly what subjects she would cover at scheduled speaking engagements in Vancouver and Victoria.

'You're saying you're not talking about the Olympics?'
—Canadian border agent
Goodman said she told them she planned to speak about the debate over U.S. health care reform and the wars in Asia.

After much questioning, Goodman said the officials finally asked if she would be speaking about the 2010 Olympics.

"He made it clear by saying, 'What about the Olympics?'" said Goodman. "And I said, 'You mean when President Obama went to Copenhagen to push for the Olympics in Chicago?'"

"He said, 'No. I am talking about the Olympics here in 2010.' I said, 'Oh I hadn't thought of that,'" said Goodman.

"He said, 'You're saying you're not talking about the Olympics?'"

"He was clearly incredulous that I wasn't going to be talking about the Olympics. He didn't believe me," Goodman said.

The CBSA declined comment on the incident Thursday.

Searched car, computer and notes

Goodman said her car was searched and the officials demanded to look at her notes and her computer.

Goodman is best known as the principal host of Democracy Now, a U.S. syndicated radio broadcast.

She was coming to Canada as part of a tour to promote a new book, Breaking The Sound Barrier.

"I am deeply concerned that as a journalist I would be flagged and that the concern – the major concern – was the content of my speech," said Goodman.
-thanks to CBC

November 26, 2009

Federal Court rules in favor of Bethany Smith, lesbian US war resister

Bethany Smith (a.k.a: Skyler James) welcomes positive news in her effort to avoid deportation to the US military

OTTAWA—A Federal Court in Ottawa ruled that the Refugee Board must re-assess the case from lesbian US war resister Bethany Smith (a.k.a "Skyler James"). Her story was first captured in a feature article by Capital Xtra soon after her arrival in Ottawa over two years ago.
James came to Canada to escape what she describes as "daily humiliations" and "constant threats of physical violence" in the US military. Her lawyer has made a persuasive case against deporting her back to a situation where her very life could be at risk. As of today a Federal Court in Ottawa has compelled the Refugee Board to re-assess James's case based on new criteria. The decision is seen by supporters as major breakthrough in James's efforts to avoid deportation to the US military.

CONTACT: Jamie Liew, Legal Counsel for Ms James, 613-244-9592. * Please note: interviews can be arranged with Ms. James on request.

Bagram Prison Exposed

SOAW 09 - post-presente!

November 25, 2009

Detained, harassed and threatened at the border

Here is a story worth reading and thinking about.

Laura, a writer from Toronto, was crossing the border at Buffalo. Among other things, she works with our War Resisters. She helps them get homes and jobs while they attempt to immigrate to Canada. It's all legal. She is an incredibly wonderful and compassionate woman. I hope everyone who reads her story is outraged at the harassment she experienced by our border guards. Even, as she states, "I'm sure glad I'm wearing my white skin and my non-Muslim-sounding last name. I'd hate to be walking in here without those protective devices."

Try to put yourself in the shoes of the Palestinians who encounter checkpoint after checkpoint and face harassment, intimidation, imprisonment and the real possibility of death everyday by the US-funded Israeli forces who occupy Palestinian land.

The best plans we have for Iraq and Afghanistan include dangerous checkpoints and home invasions by our troops in the middle of the night, armed to the teeth and trained to mistreat. If we don't send our own troops, we arm, train and pay others to carry out our dirty work.

How do we manage to allow the people who design and run these programs to find their way into these positions Our country is full of beautiful, loving people. I see them every day. Whey did we turn over the keys to these monsters?

This is what Laura wrote today in her blog:
"the gray area": in which i am detained, harassed and threatened at the border

In September, I helped a war-resister friend of mine take care of some paperwork. Unable to obtain his birth certificate, he needed a friend with a US passport to attest to certain facts. As I slid my passport under the window at the US Consulate, I thought to myself, I wonder what will happen the next time I use my passport...? I was aware I was taking a slight risk. I didn't think it was a big deal. I still don't.

Two days ago, on Monday, November 23, Allan and I drove our usual route down the QEW to the Buffalo border crossing. The female border guard in the booth asked us the usual questions - where we're going, reason for our visit, how long we're planning to stay. Then she swiped our passports, and that's when things changed.

We saw her writing - a lot of writing. She asked Allan for the keys and to pop the hatchback (which was already unlocked). A group of guards descended on the car with mirrored devices used to check under the car. I was in the passenger seat. Someone tapped on the window. I turned around to see a border guard in full paramilitary get-up motioning for me to get out and come with him. Without a word of explanation, he led me across the parking area into a building. I asked, "Can you tell me what this is about?" He said, "If I knew, I would tell you. I was only instructed to bring you in."

He led me through a waiting area with numbered wickets - like at a Motor Vehicles or other kind of processing centre - and into a separate, more secure waiting area, behind a plexiglass wall, that he had to get buzzed into. He asked if there was anything in my pockets; there was not, because my cell phone was in the car. Had I been carrying anything, I would have had to surrender it to him. He told me have a seat. I sat.

So I sat there, by myself. No ID, no phone. Just sitting there by myself. At that point I was a little nervous. After a while, I saw guards escorting Allan into the outer waiting area, which I could see through the glass. We nodded and smiled to each other, and I felt a little better.

I waited in this inner waiting room for quite a while. Eventually a guard came out - a big tall guy, shaved head, reflecto glasses - and walked me to the far corner of the room. He said they were short on space and he would question me right there. He stood directly under the TV, which was blasting the whole time, and had me sit in a chair in front of him, so I had to crane my neck to see his face, and try to hear over the TV noise.

"Do you want to tell me about some of the trouble you've been in?"

That was his first question.

"I haven't been in any--"


Do you want to tell me about some of the trouble you've caused?"

"I haven't caused--"

"Did you try to cause trouble at the US Consulate?"

"I went with a friend--"

And that's how it went. He would ask me a question, I would say three words, and he would interrupt with his next question. After a few rounds I realized he wasn't interested in what I had to say, and I just sat there while he delivered a lecture in question form.

"The US government doesn't look kindly on military deserters, or on people who help them. Did you think you were just going to waltz into a US facility and help a military deserter? You could be in a lot of trouble. You can't just break the law and think that because you're in Canada it won't matter." Read more HERE

Dennis Kyne: Depleted Uranium (DU) and Very Sick Soldiers and the Cover-up

-thanks again to Meike Capps-Schubert

November 23, 2009

protesting the reaper drones in Syracuse, NY

On November 15, 2009 the Syracuse Peace Council organized a demonstration against the deployment of Reaper drones on a nearby air force base. Members of Hudson Mohawk Indymedia were there to document, interviewing Kathy Kelly, Dan Berrigan, organizers and protesters about the drones and the future of the antiwar movement.

Jose Diaz, age 5. . . presente! . . . we cry!

Five year old Jose Diaz was killed in El Salvador by graduates of the School of the Americas in Columbus, GA. I don’t know anything about the circumstances. That was all the information written on one of the thousands of crosses at the funeral procession.

I selected this one because it was about the age of the little boy we shot in the head in Vietnam. It wasn’t meant to be, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A bullet entered right in the middle of his forehead and created a leaky exit in the back of his head. Unlike all the women and children around him, he was alive and babbling when we found him. I don’t know what happened after that, but I never imagine he is alive when I think of him and his family - and I think about them a lot.

I walked down the street, outside the Fort Benning gate, waiting for the funeral procession to begin. Young people were opening boxes of crosses and placing them on the grass for people to pick up. Each cross had a different person’s name on it with some additional information. Some only had “unknown” with or without a location. There were thousands of them. They represented the people in Latin America who were murdered by the people trained by Americans at Fort Benning’s School of the Americas (SOA) or as many called it, the “School of Assassins”.

One man had a Jewish Star listing the Jews that were killed in Argentina. Other years he carried a cross, but this year he said he wanted to honor the Jewish victims. Many of the people have been coming here for years while others like me were here for the first time. I looked into the eyes of the aging nuns in wheelchairs and the young high school and college kids. These were the people who really cared. They each had their cross; some were decorated with flowers, others with words. They all knew about the sisters and priests that were murdered in the different countries.

People were waiting for the funeral procession. The drummers were practicing, the Puppetistas were putting together their props and climbing into the frame work of the giant puppets. Way down the street the crowd was thinner so I turned around and started the walk back to the gate.

I had arrived early in the morning. walking in with the Veterans for Peace. We left the Days Inn at 7:15 and marched together that mile and a half to the gate, chanting a cadence that expressed our thoughts about war and militarism. Like the others on the street, many of these men and women had been coming here for years and were passionate about closing down the SOA.

Back at the stage there was a constant stream of musicians and speakers. The Buddhists had just completed a 100 mile walk from Atlanta. They were chanting and drumming on the stage and they were beautiful. The day before they had stopped at the Stewart Detention Center where about 1800 immigrants were awaiting deportation. (See story below). Their crime was trying to improve their lives and feed their families. We don’t allow that here anymore.

I was walking back, toward the gates, when this sheriff stops me. He says I can't carry that down the street. I didn't know what he was talking about when he pointed to the cross and said it was a weapon and I couldn't have it. I told him it was a cross representing a little boy that we were responsible for killing and I planned to honor him by placing it on the fence when we sing the presente part of the funeral. He didn't intimidate me, but he was about to deprive this little boy one more time. He had a gun and a weird, disrespectful attitude, so I took the cross to the curb and filed the point off and this incredibly small-minded gunman of the ruling class seemed satisfied.

I'm sure he wasn't aware of how complicated this was for me. I can't stop thinking about the little Vietnamese boy. About how the same forces that killed him, killed Jose. About how this gunman wanted to step on this little boy one more time.

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote something that has helped me deal with all this. To paraphrase him, he said that we cannot bring these people back to life. There is nothing they can do now to make the lives of their family members or people better. It is our job to serve them by doing it for them. (If somebody has that exact quote, please send it to me).

After the solemn moving funeral, we put our crosses on the fence. There were way too many of them for anybody to feel good about Fort Benning and the horrendous crimes that are deviously hatched here.

I became attached to Jose. When I got to the fence I kissed the cross and placed it with the others. We cry!

No mas, no more.

Procession and Vigil at Stewart Detention Center, Friday 11/20


This weekend's activities got started on Friday morning. SOA Watch activists joined over 100 social justice and immigrant rights activists in a procession from Lumpkin Town Square to the Stewart Detention Center to call attention to the abuses perpetrated at this commercial prison which in the last year have killed one prisoner and hurt many. Prisoners are continuing to participate in hunger strikes to demand better conditions.

In a powerful and emotional vigil, survivors of detention centers, family members of detainees and human rights activists gathered to listen to those families torn apart by raids and forced detention, including the family of one detainee whose three children went in to visit him following the vigil.

Many immigrants to the United States are victims of U.S.-sponsored military training and atrocities in Latin America. In our fight to close the SOA, we continue to work towards a world that is free of suffering and violence. We recognize the SOA as a part of the same racist system of violence and domination that operates US immigration policy. We ally ourselves with victims and survivors of state violence and their families in our effort to create a better world.

Powerful Weekend Resisting Violence & Oppression

Four Line-Crossers Arrested Today; Hundreds of Demonstrators Penetrate Police Barricades


This weekend was a truly inspirational and powerful gathering made possible only by the collective work of thousands of activists like you.

Photo by Linda Panetta.

This morning, we came together at the gates of Ft. Benning to solemnly remember those killed by the graduates of the SOA. Four carried their witness across military lines and were arrested on the base: Nancy Gwin of Syracuse, NY; Ken Hayes of Austin, TX; Fr. Louis Vitale of Oakland, CA; and Michael Walli of Washington, DC.

Michael is refusing to post bail, and will remain in custody at least until the trial in January 2010. Nancy, Ken and Louis have been released and will soon be headed back to their communities to spread the truth about the SOA/WHINSEC. You can join them! Keep your eyes out for further updates with messages about their journeys.

Following the procession, several hundred activists risked arrest, marching into the street beyond the confines of the protest to carry their message of resistance and people power even further. Puppetistas carrying large puppets of the six Jesuit martyrs alongside Cakalak Thunder and other drumming groups led a march together beyond police barricades to lift of the spirit of life so as to better remember the work and ideas of those who we have lost. Resistencia, Presente!

November 19, 2009

How to make Combat Paper - Christopher Arendt

click on graphic to enlarge
-thank you Christopher

Shut down the SOA

November 18, 2009

Burlington City Council trashes veterans

Article from the Rutland Herald:
Burlington City Council Apologizes To Veterans

The Associated Press - Published: November 17, 2009
BURLINGTON — The Burlington City Council is telling veterans it's sorry for comments made last week during a Veterans Day ceremony by a stand-in for Mayor Bob Kiss.

In an 11-3 vote Monday, the council approved a resolution sponsored by two Republican council members.

The Burlington Free Press says the council’s three Progressive Party members voted against the resolution.

During the Veterans Day ceremony, peace activist Jon Hausrath advocated conscientious objection and praised war resisters.

Burlington Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander Bob Colby says the comments weren’t appropriate to the occasion.

About 15 veterans attended the council meeting.

I was outraged when I read that “the Burlington City Council is telling veterans it's sorry for comments made last week during a Veterans Day ceremony by a stand-in for Mayor Bob Kiss”.

The City Council has an obligation to protect the rights of its citizens and free speech is one of the most valuable. It is ironic that on a day set aside to honor veterans who believed they were fighting for our rights, the City Council and an organization purporting to support those veterans would move to dishonor their service by depriving them of their freedom here at home.

The Burlington VFW said “the comments weren’t appropriate for the occasion”.

Although the VFW can do whatever they want, I'm wondering what the VFW is about ? I thought they were supposed to help the soldiers who fought in foreign wars. Not all combat wounds are visible. What about the soldiers coming home from the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan? The veteran who refuses to return after experiencing the horrors of that particular war or who questions its legitimacy is still a veteran of that foreign war.

The military argues that there is no excuse for a soldier to go AWOL since they can apply for consciencious objector status. They deny that harassment exists for those who apply. We know the truth about the administrative delays and personal harassment the applicants face and I would hope the VFW does too. Instead this organization, the VFW, that should be helping these same soldiers, turns their back on them and objects to having them mentioned at a Veterans Day ceremony.

Shame on the Burlington VFW.

But also, shame on the Burlington City Council marching lock-step and condemning these soldiers, some locked up in prison, others struggling to support their families while remaining under the radar. They should be proud to have these conscientious, caring men and women in their community. We sent them to war and many experienced horrors nobody should see. Burlington needs to share their soldiers' burdens, not ostracize them.

Who gets to tell the Veterans we are sorry the City Council voted to deny them their right to free speech.

See DBKP's article HERE

November 16, 2009

Dialogues Against Militarism report from Israel/Palestine

DAM activists Stephen Funk, Sarah Lazare, and Clare Bayard. Bil’in, Israel/Palestine 11/13/09

Update from Sarah Lazare, Courage to Resist Project Coordinator, and Iraq War resister Stephen Funk who are traveling throughout Israel/Palestine with the Dialogues Against Militarism project.

By Sarah Lazare and Stephen Funk. November 11, 2009

About 25 of us trudged towards military prison 400, just outside of Tel Aviv, coils of razor wire and lookout towers looming above us, fields of mud and dry grass to our right. As we walked past, soldiers in the towers yelled out to us in Hebrew: “We are prisoners, too” and “We don’t like the cops either!” referring to the two police vehicles trailing us. When we reached our destination – an opening in the field, nestled between the fences marking the perimeter of the prison – we began setting up the sound system and preparing for the day’s goal of reaching earshot of Or Ben-David, a young Israeli being held in prison for refusing the army draft.

Our gathering consisted predominantly of young Israelis who had themselves been conscientious objectors, some of whom had been held in that same prison quite recently, some of whom had just refused and were scheduled to report to prison in a few months. The crowd also included some older radicals, a smattering of internationals, and of course us – U.S. War resisters, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and anti-militarist organizers, here to lend our support to Israeli and Palestinian movements against occupation.

Raz Bar-David, a military resister who had spent time behind those bars, explained that we were at the point where we could best be heard by Or. And it is a good thing she could, because the sounds being emitted over this barren military landscape were worth hearing.

Solar powered speakers attached to a bicycle blasted reggae and punk songs as people sang along over a hand-held microphone. The music stopped at several points so that people could chant in unison, “Don’t worry, the occupation will one day end.” And a special ritual of support, crystallized in the most recent generation of refusers involving changing the lyrics to popular Disney songs to infuse them with political meaning, turning the Pocahontas theme song into a ballad of struggle. Later, we found out that Or called her brother from within military prison to let him know that she was thrilled to hear her friends and supporters singing.

Iraq War vet Eddie Falcon
Israeli youth find themselves situated in the middle of one of the world’s most contested occupations. With mandatory conscription for all graduating high school seniors, their bodies are used to enforce Israeli occupation and war: 18 and 19 year-olds become the arms of an apartheid state. In the United States, young people, often from low income or marginalized communities, are sent off to die in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, with sharper distinctions maintained between military and civilian life. Here, the war is in your face, with every city, town, bus station, and beach crawling with teenagers with machine guns slung over their shoulders.

Our hosts explained that the darker skinned Israeli soldiers are given the most undesirable jobs, being used as border police, and known for routinely beating and injuring Palestinians. As in the U.S., sexual assault in the military runs rampant, and suicide is a major killer, as those who traumatize others are themselves traumatized in the process.

The occupation here is present everywhere, from the all-white neighborhoods where residents never have to see a Palestinian, to the Dheisheh Refugee Camp, where the wall in the distance marks the boundary between those lives deemed valuable and others deemed dispensable by the Israeli state. As we move through this painful terrain, we are getting a better sense of just how high the stakes are for those resisting occupation from within Israel, as well as those fighting for their homes, their lands, and their lives.

An increasing amount of Israeli youth are refusing to lend their bodies to Israeli policies of occupation. In August of last year, 100 Israeli high school students signed an open letter to the government of Israel stating they would not enter into the mandatory two years of service in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) upon graduation and instead risk imprisonment. Another group of high school students made a similar refusal this August, citing their refusal to participate in the Israeli occupation. An increasing number of soldiers are speaking out about the atrocities they witness in combat, with several coming forward during the recent attacks in Gaza to testify about war crimes, through organizations like Breaking the Silence. An untold number of Israelis quietly refuse with 56% percent avoiding military service for different reasons. Many conscientious objectors are being released on “mental health” grounds (Profile 21) so that the Army does not have to publicly acknowledge ethical objection.

We have come representing the growing ranks of U.S. soldiers refusing orders or deployment. Army soldiers are refusing to serve at the highest rate since 1980 with an 80% increase in desertions (defined as absence for more than 30 days) since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to the Associated Press. Over 150 G.I.s have publicly refused service, facing the threat of court-martial, severe prison terms, and dishonorable discharge rather than fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. An estimated 250 Iraq war resisters are residing in Canada, one of whom was deported and court-martialed last month. A 2006 Zogby poll, the most recent poll of its kind, found that 72% of all U.S. troops serving in Iraq wanted the U.S. to exit within the next year. While there have been no polls since then, evidence suggests that such sentiments continue.

During our time in Tel Aviv, we have learned much about Israeli war resistance movements and how they are situated in the broader movement against occupation. Local activists tell us about dialogues amongst the Shministim emphasizing the importance of following Palestinian leadership when fighting the occupation. Refusers have talked to us about being isolated from their families and peers, in a society where military refusal is often treated like high treason. Former soldiers talk about their experiences carrying out acts of brutality and occupation, and the work they do now to fight for justice.

Just as in the U.S., Israelis understand the importance of showing solidarity for those making difficult choices and facing harsh consequences. The solidarity action had a heavy emotional caliber, despite the fun and dancing, as many of the demonstrators have been recently released from prison or are slated for detention in the coming months. We have witnessed a strong collective sensibility amongst the Shministim, who write letters of unity and refusal with each other and turn out en masse for each others’ jail support actions or off-to-prison parties. I think that GI resistance support movements in the U.S. have much to learn from this collective approach.
At the military prison solidarity action, Stephen Funk, Iraq War resister who spent time in prison for his refusal to serve, was struck by the similarities between U.S. and Israeli resister solidarity, and remembered how important it was to him to have support. Here are his reflections:

When I was imprisoned for refusing to participate in the war in Iraq, I nearly had my ‘good time’ taken away because a protest was being convened outside the base in my honor. The “Free Funk” protest was the first time during the war that a rally had been organized outside a military base in support of a war resister. I was shackled, handcuffed, and brought before the commanding officer of the brig who threatened to extend my time in prison unless I called off the protest. They also told me they would not let my mom visit because she was coming down in a caravan of activists who were coming from New York City and Washington D.C. and would therefore be likely to cause trouble. This macho Marine with a strict high-and-tight was afraid of my little 5′1” Asian mother. I didn’t play along with his game. I told him that I couldn’t call off a protest that I didn’t even organize, that they couldn’t take away my good time and that I would tell the media if they tried. I also asserted that my mom posed no threat and that she couldn’t be prevented from visiting me.

The day of the protest I beamed from ear to ear the entire day. Knowing that people were just on the other side of a wall supporting my freedom and the conscientious choices which landed me in prison gave me moral support to make my time more bearable. Other prisoners found out about it which made them curious about me and helped me make more friends. More importantly, the Free Funk protest signaled to future war resisters that they would receive support by the antiwar community. It was nice to see my mom as well.

Today was incredible. Having the chance to return the support from the other side of the wall for an Israeli resister reminded me of how much it meant to me and why this type of support is crucial to ending war. DAM is about building international solidarity in the demilitarization of the world.
-thanks to Courage to Resist

Five torture resisters cross line for arrest at Fort Huachuca Army Base

Fort Huachuca Army Base: Vigil against US torture and torture training
here, near Sierra Vista, southeast of Tucson. (Photo Brenda Norrell)

"Because the Obama administration has failed to close Guantanamo and the U.S. continues to imprison and interrogate thousands of captives at military prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and places unknown, we renew our call for civilian, human-rights centered oversight of all interrogation training and practice.

(statement and link to slide show, below)

More than 150 people rallied against torture on Sunday, November 15,
at Len Roberts Park in Sierra Vista, Arizona. After listening to
speakers and music, the group carried signs and candles remembering
the victims of torture in a one mile procession to the main gate of
Ft. Huachuca, home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center where
interrogators are trained. Along the way, names of people killed as a
result of torture were called out, and the group responded with
"Presente!". The procession stopped at the office of CACI, a private
military contractor implicated in the abuse of Iraqi detainees.

Soon after the protesters arrived at the gate, five people, including
two Roman Catholic priests, crossed the street and entered the base
with a message for military personnel and civilian employees. They
carried a statement (below) opposing the cruel treatment and abuse of
detainees from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and calling for the
civilian oversight of all military interrogation practices. The
statement also condemned the use of armed drones in warfare.

Arrested were Joshua Harris, 33, Santa Barbara, California; Mariah
Klusmire, 20, Albuquerque, New Mexico; John Heid, 54, Fr. Jerry
Zawada, 72, and Fr. Bob Carney, 66, all of Tucson, Arizona. The five
received a formal letter barring them from entering the base for one
year. Four were released within an hour. Joshua Harris initially
refused to identify himself, instead saying he was there representing
a victim of torture. He was released that evening and charged under
Arizona law with trespass and refusing to provide a truthful name.

Three people arrested at last year's Ft. Huachuca protest were given
ban and bar letters but never prosecuted, because "the Ft. Huachuca
Commander does not want the potential negative publicity", according
to a May 15, 2009 letter to the FBI from Robert Fellrath, Assistant
U.S. Attorney for Arizona.

During the vigil to halt US torture, soldiers remove one of five persons who crossed the line into
Fort Huachuca Army Intelligence Center, to expose US torture training here. (Photo by Brenda Norrell)

Thousands of people will gather at Ft. Benning this coming weekend,
November 20-22, for the annual vigil to close the School of the
Americas. Human rights abuses in Latin America, including torture and
murder, have been carried out by graduates of the school. The torture
manual that was used at the School of the Americas came from Ft.

Statement carried into Fort Huachuca
November 15, 2009

We return to Fort Huachuca to call for an end to torture.

We are here because we desire dialogue with soldiers and commanders

engaged in interrogation training.

We are here because we still question whether soldiers are provided

with adequate training about international human rights law so they

would know to refuse illegal orders and other pressure to torture

captives (including a guarantee that speaking out would not lead to

retaliation or punishment).

We are here in the hope that healing can take place - healing for the

victims of torture, as well as the men and women who have been

involved in carrying out torture.

Because the Obama administration has failed to close Guantanamo and

the U.S. continues to imprison and interrogate thousands of captives

at military prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and places unknown, we renew

our call for civilian, human-rights centered oversight of all

interrogation training and practice.

Ft. Huachuca is also implicated in the rapidly expanding, legally

questionable and morally reprehensible use of remotely-piloted

aircraft, or drones, as a weapon of war. We're told that currently

the Army only trains for the operation and maintenance of

reconnaissance and surveillance drones at Ft. Huachuca. But we also

know that the Army plans to weaponize some of these same drones.

Drone attacks have killed many more innocent civilians in Iraq,

Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, than alleged terrorists. The

U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions has asked whether

the use of drones in targeting terrorists to be killed constitutes

"arbitrary extrajudicial executions", or rogue assassinations in

violation of international law.

We are here today to call for an end to the use of armed drones in

warfare. We believe this terrorizing and killing generates deep

resentment in the region that incites hatred for the U.S., boosts

recruitment for Taliban, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and may

spawn decades of retaliation.

We act in solidarity with the campaign to close the School of the

Americas/Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation at Ft.

Benning, Georgia, where the testimony of torture survivors has

informed our outrage and moved us to action. We also act in

solidarity with people in New York protesting the presence of Reaper

drones at a NY Air National Guard base outside of Syracuse today.

Rogue assassinations and torture have damaged the soul of our nation

and tarnished our image around the world. We know that a world without

torture, without violence and without war is possible. We invite you

to help us create that world.

-Torture on Trial slideshow HERE
-Brenda Norrell photos and comments HERE
-thanks to Brenda Norrell, Ellen Grady, & Torture on Trial

Hundreds of Upstate New York peacemakers protest the drones in Syracuse. Carmen Trotta arrested kneeling outside the entrance to base.

A small group of us from communities around the state gathered at the ArtRage Gallery; we decided to walk the 5 or 6 miles to the gates of the base where we would meet the larger group. We came earlier than the others so we could meet at the protest site at 1:30. The others would carpool to the site. The main group met at the gallery at noon. Jeffrey reports that they had lunch before carpooling to the base. There were:
“four different choices of soup and a packed house at the ArtRage Gallery (great name). Kathy Kelly was there but the brightest star was Dan Berrigan, who was really cool. The action at the base was really impressive for being almost entirely upstate NY activists. I would say at least 250 people, lots of drums and strong energy for saying no to the drones in upstate NY."
The walk was short, the weather was perfect and the community was supportive. The purpose was inspiring: Begin the work to Ground the Drones in NY State. Work with other groups to Ground the Drones everywhere.

As Elliot Adams put it:

Drones are regularly used to commit assassinations. Assassinations are illegal in part because they violate our principal of "innocent until proven guilty." There is no trial, there is no evidence, there is no defense, there is not even positive identification to the intended person, there are just bodies. And usually many bodies, from recent reports often 100 innocent citizens are killed before they kill a person they think is the person they suspect is guilty.

We leafletted along the way. Many people didn’t know what the drones were. Others didn’t realize that they would be conducting assassinations right from their community. Most people seemed very interested.

As we arrived at our destination we were greeted by more people than I expected to see there. We all walked to the gates. There was an effort to meet with the base commander to present a letter. Although she agreed to come out and meet with us, she sent a lesser ranked soldier to collect. The soldier quickly snagged the letter and slipped back through the gates. Vicky had some letters from kids in Buffalo, but the soldier wouldn’t come back throught the gates, so the security collected them.

Then Dan and Jerry Berrigan came to the gate to present their letter, but security wouldn't allow them to meet with the base commander. When the security tried to send Carmen Trotta back, he said he was not leaving Jerry Berrigan, who was in a wheelchair. When they threatened to remove him, he knelt down and was arrested.

We went back to ArtRage and celebrated Cynthia Banas’ birthday. She sat up front with three other people. They were part of the 2002 Iraq Peace Team , a group of antiwar activists who chose to stand with the Iraqis when the Americans started the "shock and awe" bombing started.

We shared cake and planned to fight the drones.

It was a wonderful gathering; there were people from Canaan, Binghamton, Cortland, Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, Albany, Saratoga, Chatham, Vernon, Ithaca and elsewhere. This is another step in the effort to ground the drones.
see Ed Kinane's article HERE

Last year about 3 dozen people were arrested protesting the drones at Creech AFB in Nevada. Now that the military plans to operate the drones used in the wars right from Syracuse, more people have become aware of the automated warfare that is being developed. Many of the peacemakers here have been working to stop the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan since before the George Bush phase started. Many will be in Fort Benning, Georgia this weekend working to shut down the School of the Americas (WHIN/SEC).

Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.
-Edward Abbey

-thanks to essential dissent for the video

November 15, 2009

Army Sends Infant to Protective Services, Mom to Afghanistan

Army has mom, Alexis Hutchinson, arrested and 11-month old son put into county foster care system. Alexis has now been ordered to deploy to Afghanistan on Sunday, November 15, where she will be court martialed.

Action Alert: Contact Congresswoman Barbara Lee to urge her to "Request that the Army not deploy Alexis Hutchinson to Afghanistan so that she can care for her son."From the 9th District (Oakland/Berkeley, CA) phone: 510-763-0370 (fax: 510-763-6538). Nationwide: 202- 225-2661 (fax: 202-225-9817).

Donate to the Alexis Hutchinson Defense Fund

(photo: Alexis Hutchinson and son Kamani / Facebook)

by: Dahr Jamail | Inter Press Service
Friday 13 November 2009
Ventura, California - US Army Specialist Alexis Hutchinson, a single mother, is being threatened with a military court-martial if she does not agree to deploy to Afghanistan, despite having been told she would be granted extra time to find someone to care for her 11-month-old son while she is overseas.

Hutchinson, of Oakland, California, is currently being confined at Hunter Army Airfield near Savannah, Georgia, after being arrested. Her son was placed into a county foster care system.

Hutchinson has been threatened with a court martial if she does not agree to deploy to Afghanistan on Sunday, Nov. 15. She has been attempting to find someone to take care of her child, Kamani, while she is deployed overseas, but to no avail.

According to the family care plan of the U.S. Army, Hutchinson was allowed to fly to California and leave her son with her mother, Angelique Hughes of Oakland.

However, after a week of caring for the child, Hughes realised she was unable to care for Kamani along with her other duties of caring for a daughter with special needs, her ailing mother, and an ailing sister.

In late October, Angelique Hughes told Hutchinson and her commander that she would be unable to care for Kamani after all. The Army then gave Hutchinson an extension of time to allow her to find someone else to care for Kamani. Meanwhile, Hughes brought Kamani back to Georgia to be with his mother.

However, only a few days before Hutchinson's original deployment date, she was told by the Army she would not get the time extension after all, and would have to deploy, despite not having found anyone to care for her child.

Faced with this choice, Hutchinson chose not to show up for her plane to Afghanistan. The military arrested her and placed her child in the county foster care system.

Currently, Hutchinson is scheduled to fly to Afghanistan on Sunday for a special court martial, where she then faces up to one year in jail.

Hutchinson's civilian lawyer, Rai Sue Sussman, told IPS, "The core issue is that they are asking her to make an inhumane choice. She did not have a complete family care plan, meaning she did not find someone to provide long-term care for her child. She's required to have a complete family care plan, and was told she'd have an extension, but then they changed it on her."

Asked why she believes the military revoked Hutchinson's extension, Sussman responded, "I think they didn't believe her that she was unable to find someone to care for her infant. They think she's just trying to get out of her deployment. But she's just trying to find someone she can trust to take care of her baby."

Hutchinson's mother has flown to Georgia to retrieve the baby, but is overwhelmed and does not feel able to provide long-term care for the child.

According to Sussman, the soldier needs more time to find someone to care for her infant, but does not as yet have friends or family able to do so.

Sussman says Hutchinson told her, "It is outrageous that they would deploy a single mother without a complete and current family care plan. I would like to find someone I trust who can take care of my son, but I cannot force my family to do this. They are dealing with their own health issues."

Sussman told IPS that the Army's JAG attorney, Captain Ed Whitford, "told me they thought her chain of command thought she was trying to get out of her deployment by using her child as an excuse." '

Major Gallagher, of Hutchinson's unit, also told Sussman that he did not believe it was a real family crisis, and that Hutchinson's "mother should have been able to take care of the baby".

In addition, according to Sussman, a First Sergeant Gephart "told me he thought she [Hutchinson] was pulling her family care plan stuff to get out of her deployment".

"To me it sounds completely bogus," Sussman told IPS, "I think what they are actually going to do is have her spend her year deployment in Afghanistan, then court martial her back here upon her return. This would do irreparable harm to her child. I think they are doing this to punish her, because they think she is lying."

Sussman explained that she believes the best possible outcome is for the Army to either give Hutchinson the extension they had said she would receive so that she can find someone to care for her infant, or barring this, to simply discharge her so she can take care of her child.

Nevertheless, Hutchinson is simply asking for the time extension to complete her family care plan, and not to be discharged.

"I'm outraged by this," Sussman told IPS, "I've never gone to the media with a military client, but this situation is just completely over the top."
-thanks to Truthout and Courage to Resist

November 11, 2009

Kathy Kelly speaks about the drones

Kathy Kelly, lifetime peacemaker, was the keynote speaker at the WNY Peace Center's annual dinner Saturday night. I listened to this strong peaceful woman share her first hand accounts again at lunch on Sunday.

If you were unable to come to one of her speaking events, listen to her here. She shares her experiences with the occupied and attacked people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Gaza with an emphasis on the drones. She also tells us about the Peaceable Assembly Campaign.

Hopefully you will be moved to take action and develop a strategy to ground the drones used to assassinate and kill people thousands of miles away.

Join us to let them know we don't want Syracuse to become a frontline, war-fighting city.

We won't allow them to kill innocent people from our communities.

We don't want to be killing them from anywhere.

After the demonstration, come to plan how, together, we can ground the drones. Put yourself in the way of this horrifying evolution of warfare.

-thanks to the WNY Peace Center for bringing her to Buffalo and providing the recording.