December 25, 2010

They’re “slow-torturing” Bradley Manning right under our noses

the following post is from This Can't Be Happening

On December 18, David House, an MIT researcher, visited Bradley Manning at the Quantico, Virginia, military prison where he is being held in solitary confinement. Other than Manning’s attorney, House is the rare person allowed to visit him.

House’s report is quite thorough in pointing out instances where the military authorities are lying -- or to use philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s formulation, “bullshitting” -- about how the 23-year-old Army intelligence worker is being treated.

Here’s some of psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Kaye’s comment on House’s report:

"The human nervous system needs a certain amount of sensory and social stimulation to retain normal brain functioning. ... From what can be ascertained, the effects of solitary confinement are having some effects already on Bradley Manning. His concentration and thinking processes appear somewhat slowed. He avoids certain topics. He has little access to humor. His color is pale, and his musculature is starting to look soft and flabby.”
There is, unfortunately, a long and sordid history behind this kind of “slow torture,” and the use of it should be a battleground for all Americans still interested in compassion, fairness and justice.

Iraq vet Josh Stieber speaks to protesters outside Quantico prison (Mary Davidson/Potomac Local)

Iraq vet Josh Stieber speaks to protesters outside Quantico prison (Mary Davidson/Potomac Local)

(Iraq infantry veteran Josh Stieber, in the photo above, was a member of the ground unit shown cleaning up after the Apache strike released by WikiLeaks as "Collateral Murder" that showed two Reuters videographers being gunned down, plus two kids being wounded.)

In his book A Question Of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War On Terror, Alfred McCoy connects decades and billions of dollars of “black” US torture research with the current sophisticated techniques Global War On Terror jailers are using to torture human beings without laying a finger on them.

The key is absolute control -- and time. These are clearly the methods now being employed against Manning, who is accused of leaking the WikiLeaks material. The question is, given Manning's high-profile status, do his jailers at the Quantico, Virginia, military facility have the necessary control and time to really scramble young Manning's mind? And what are they after: his mental breakdown and/or his giving up of larger prey like Julian Assange?

House’s account from his visit with Manning suggests Manning's jailers, within the limitations they have, are doing their best to break Manning psychologically, Their primary limitation is the publicity surrounding the Manning case and the fact he has a strong, and hopefully growing, support network.

Some of the restrictions House reports would be quite absurd if they didn't make such sense as slow torture tactics.

Guards apparently enter Manning's cell and physically prevent him from doing exercises, which he is permitted to do only for one hour a day -- and that amounts to walking around in a circle in leg irons. He is not permitted any personal items in his cell. His clothes are confiscated at night and he must sleep in boxer shorts under a very heavy, scratchy blanket that causes carpet burns on his skin if he moves too much. A light always shines brightly into his cell, and he is checked on periodically all night by guards, who often enter his cell and wake him. This is his life day-in-day-out.
The fact Manning's jailers are compelled to allow people like House into the prison to talk with Manning makes "slow torture" that much more difficult, since absolute control and the exclusion of human contact are the keys to effective slow torture. Strong advocacy and loud public support can be life-savers.

Matt Southworth, an Iraq vet with the identical intelligence MOS as Manning, speaks in support of Manning

Matt Southworth, an Iraq vet with the identical intelligence MOS as Manning, speaks in support of Manning

During the mid-2000s, in the case of American citizen Jose Padilla, an entire wing of the South Carolina military brig he was imprisoned in was expensively re-designed for the special requirements ("theater") of his incarceration/interrogation. From the moment of his arrest for planning a "dirty bomb" attack Padilla was a pariah. He reportedly went three years with absolutely no contact from family, friends or lawyers. His only human contact was his interrogators. By the time of his trial for charges unrelated to those he was arrested for he was a walking zombie.

Here's how Alfred McCoy describes the process:

"(S)ensory deprivation has evolved into a total assault on all sense and sensibilities - auditory, visual, tactile, temporal, temperature, survival, sexual, and cultural. Refined through years of practice, the method relies on simple, even banal procedures -- isolation, standing, heat and cold, light and dark, noise and silence -- for a systematic attack on all human senses."
Over decades, CIA research delved into the ways these techniques create "a synergy of physical and psychological trauma whose sum is a hammer-blow to the fundamentals of personal identity."

McCoy quotes Otto Doerr-Zegers, a psychologist who treated torture victims of the regime of Chilean General Augusto Pinochet, where victims suffered "a loss of interest that greatly surpasses anything observed in anxiety disorders." The subject, Doerr-Zegers reported, "does not only react to torture with a tiredness of days, weeks or months, but remains a tired human being, relatively uninterested and unable to concentrate." Doerr-Zegers discovered that "the psychological component of torture becomes a kind of total theater, a constructed unreality of lies and inversion, in a plot that ends inexorably with the victim's self-betrayal and destruction."

Over decades, with their secret, black budget tax resources, the CIA contracted university professors and psychology departments in the US and Canada to analyze and break down the sensory deprivation process. The goal for the CIA was to achieve the psychic destruction Doerr-Zeger spoke about without resorting to the crude and atavistic methods of physical torture. They discovered that parrot’s perches and thumb screws were not needed. The goal was a form of "no touch" psychological ju-jitsu in which the victim's own internal make-up could be manipulated and leveraged so that over time the victim effectively destroyed himself or herself.

"Once the CIA completed its research into no-touch torture," McCoy writes, "application of the method was codified in the curiously named Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual in 1963. The agency then set about disseminating the new practices worldwide."

McCoy quotes from the Kubark Manual that effective interrogation involves "methods of inducing regression of the personality to whatever earlier and weaker level is required for the dissolution of resistance and the inculcation of dependence." The effort is to disrupt the normal psychic process. "Such confusion can best be effected by attacking the victim's sense of time, by scrambling the biorhythms fundamental to every human's daily life." The goal is the "creation of existential chaos."

They want “to manipulate the subject’s environment, to create unpleasant or intolerable situations, to disrupt patterns of time, space and sensory perception ... to drive him deeper and deeper into himself, until he is no longer able to control his responses in an adult fashion." This last is Kubark thinking from a CIA training manual used in Honduras during the Contra War in the 1980s.

Kubark and this nefarious research is one of America’s dirty little secrets. "The American public has only a vague understanding of the scale of the CIA's massive mind-control project," McCoy writes. "There is a willful blindness, a studied avoidance of this deeply troubling topic."

Since the 1960s when the Kubark Manual appeared and the 1980s when its findings surfaced in places like Central America we've had 9/11 and its reactive Global War On Terror which led to an even wider dissemination of “slow torture” ideas and practices into all sorts of places -- to the point elements of it have been standardized and adapted into the day-to-day practices of prisons all over the United States, most especially in the notorious federal supermax prisons.

Since absolute control of inmate visitation and inmate cultural access is difficult in the United States, thanks to things like the Bill Of Rights, the process has become an imperfect back-and-forth struggle. In the case of Bradley Manning and his high-profile status, that struggle is now on-going. Contact and advocacy from outside is critical. In fact, it may not be excessive to say his sanity and the future integrity of his personal identity are at stake.

Once the fog clears, there are two sides to the Bradley Manning/WikiLeaks story, one legal and one moral. The United States government is playing the legal game because it has a lot to hide under its overwhelming regime of secrecy, which of course is all legal. Evidence suggests they are employing nefarious methods to crush a key voice on the moral side of the dialogue.

Concerned US citizens should do all they can to prevent the government from succeeding.

-thanks to This Can't Be Happening (emphasis mine)

Christmas message from Bradley Manning

"I greatly appreciate everyone's support and well wishes during this time. I am also thankful for everything that has been done to aid in my defense. I ask that everyone takes the time to remember those who are separated from their loved ones at this time due to deployment and important missions. Specifically, I am thinking of those that I deployed with and have not seen for the last seven months, and of the staff here at the Quantico Confinement Facility who will be spending their Christmas without their family."

December 24, 2010

Artvoice: predictions for the year to come.

The Buffalo weekly, Artvoice, has a feature, Predictions for the Year to Come.

"Last year, we asked a dozen or so friends and contributors to offer their predictions for 2010 and the decade to come. We’ve done the same thing this year, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t provide some sort of scorecard to measure last year’s prognostications."

One of the people they asked was Bruce Beyer, compassionate peace activist, former exile and draft resister from the Vietnam War. This is what he had to say:

My precognitive abilities have never been very sharp. I’ve rarely voted for a political candidate who won an election or chosen an issue to support which has prevailed. Nevertheless, I am flattered to be asked to make predictions for the coming new year even though I find little hope in making them.

I predict:

The acronym IWOT will join the lexicon of the mass media as a way of describing American interventionist foreign policy going back as far as the Gulf War and Somalia and extending into further incursions into Pakistan and Iran. No longer will I be able to object to the war in Afghanistan or the occupation of Iraq, rather I will face the daunting task of opposing the International War On Terrorism.

Thousands of veterans of the IWOT will be revealed to be suffering the long term effects of war. I believe that IWOT veterans will become an increasing demographic in the makeup of our homeless, hospitalized, and prison populations.

The number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans afflicted with traumatic brain injuries will dramatically increase the longer we allow ourselves to be manipulated by fear. I believe that disability claims submitted by these vets will peak in the year 2040 - unless, of course the war drags on for far longer than I care to predict.

The military will continue to order thousands of our sons and daughters to multiple deployments despite alarming increases in the number of suicides and reported PTSD claims.

The Veterans Administration will spend $42.2 billion over the next 10 years to treat Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange sprayed over the lush landscape of the Indochina peninsula. This expenditure takes place more than 40 years after the end of the war.

An increasing number of Americans will subscribe to the belief that “war is peace” and will come to believe that “broke is rich.” How’s the war economy working for you?

Finally, on a local note, I predict that Public Works Commissioner Stephan Stepniak and his duplicitous duplicitous Deputy Commissioner Andy Rabb will bury the issue of a small East Side children’s playground so deep in legal razzmatazz and phony environmental issues that children in the Emslie/Bristol neighborhood will be left without swings, slides and seesaws.

Read more:

Inhumane treatment of Pfc. Manning.

-clip tip thanks to Jeremy, an ex-Marine tormented, abused and forced into exile by the same Marine Corps.

According to the Guardian,
The United Nations is investigating a complaint on behalf of Bradley Manning that he is being mistreated while held since May in US Marine Corps custody pending trial. The army private is charged with the unauthorised use and disclosure of classified information, material related to the WikiLeaks, and faces a court martial sometime in 2011.

The office of Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur on torture based in Geneva, received the complaint from a Manning supporter; his office confirmed that it was being looked into. Manning's supporters say that he is in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day; this could be construed as a form of torture. This month visitors reported that his mental and physical health was deteriorating.
-thanks to Laura at wmtc for this info

December 17, 2010

Veterans for Peace Take Demand to White House Fence - 131 arrested

131 people were arrested at the White House yesterday in an action to End The Wars, including the board executive committee of Veterans for Peace. It is estimated that 2/3rds of those arrested were veterans. Of those arrested a number of women from Code Pink were also arrested. Approximately 500 folks attended the rally. There were dozen of speakers including Daniel Ellsberg and Ray McGovern who were also arrested.

Thanks to all who supported or participated in this inspiring event and all who have provided footage of the peaceful rally to us, including Bill Hughes, David Swanson and Ellen Davidson

View Bill Hughes' Slideshow of 33 Photos from the Rally at the White House on Dec. 16, 2010

I was unable to make it to DC for the 5pm meeting scheduled for Wednesday. I had a commitment and was needed someplace else earlier in the day. I headed out late in the afternoon and arrived at St Stephan’s at 2am. It was cold outside and cold inside. I made it to the room with cacoons scattered about the floor. Everyone was asleep in their sleeping bags. I found a spot in the room, took off my boots and socks, wiggled into my blanket and closed my eyes. I woke about 7 or 8 in the morning and observed the hatching of these beautiful peacemakers.

What a peaceful feeling. The warmth from these strong but gentle creatures was worth the trip alone. These were the women and men who would be among those who would risk arrest later in the day. It broke my heart to know that I wouldn’t be standing with them as I wasn’t able to be arrested that day. If there was a cause, a place and a group of people to act with, surely this was all of that.

As the day went on, meeting old friends, listening to the speakers and watching it unfold, it was a struggle to not hop the barrier, climb up on the fence or lay down in the snow to be dragged away and booked with my friends. Hopefully today's action will serve as an invigoration of the peace movement with actions and opportunities springing up across the empire. We know that we won’t end the current wars and occupations or avoid future ones if we just count on the legislators or elected and appointed officials. It isn’t going to happen since most of them are members of the wealthy class and are tied and committed to our adversaries - the warmakers.

Just as we need to look to our GI resisters and provide assistance to them and their families when they resist the repressive policies of the military/corporate/legislative machine, we also need to act and resist when and where we can.

We need to organize in our schools and communities to keep our children out of the reach of the predator military recruiters. They are trained psycho-hackers there to install a kill worm in our kids developing brains. Later the military will use them to torment, mutilate and kill other innocent people around the world -- eventually sacrificing their own bodies and minds to these perverted organizations.

We need to stop the development, construction and deployment of the drones, like the predator and the reaper, the intruments of illegal assassinations directed by our president, the military and the CIA. We need to find out where these exist in our communities and force them to end research and production or shut them down.

Lots of work!
Lots of opportunities!
Many more of us.

December 14, 2010

Robert Shetterly: Why I Choose to Risk Arrest December 16, 2010

by Robert Shetterly

"If you lessen your anger at the structures of power, you lower your love for the victims of power." -- William Sloane Coffin

The old saw about being doomed to repeat your history if you neglect to learn it is a portentous way to advise one to learn from mistakes. Any animal, from a paramecium to a peccary --- even a human occasionally, will learn from mistakes. The real dilemma is what happens to a people who are willfully taught false history so that they will repeat the mistakes --- a people, who can be led fearfully and patriotically into the same disastrous, moral cul-de-sac again and again. Why a government and its media would teach false history is as stupidly obvious as why a person in the car repair business would want half the people taught that red is green.

When Barack Obama proclaimed in February of 2009 that he would not prosecute the previous administration for war crimes, for crimes against our Constitution, and for crimes against humanity so that we could proceed into the future with our "core values" intact, he was condemning this country to have no moral future. He was speaking as a lawyer who had no understanding of the purpose of the law. He was speaking as a politician whose understanding of compromise was not for the common good, but for the next election. He was speaking as a person cravenly obedient to the corporate/military complex. He was, in effect, saying that our core values worth defending are imperialism, unregulated capitalism, and hypocrisy. These values can only flourish in a climate of no accountability. And they all share the similar ethic of necessary collateral damage. People exploited and killed as collaterals share the unique distinction of being martyrs for someone else's policy and profit, sacrificing their lives unwillingly ( i.e., murdered) for someone else's beliefs. We have allowed to prosper a political system whose core value is collateral damage --- which is the core value of empire, not democracy.

We have laws that forbid jailed felons from profiting from the sale of books about their crimes. When there is no accountability, criminals like George Bush and Condoleezza Rice can make millions peddling their self-justifying memoirs, do the white limo thing from talk show to talk show being asked respectful questions about the necessity of torture, preemptive war and unwarranted surveillance to keep us all safe.

Because there was no accountability for the lies that created the Mexican War, the Spanish- American War, the Vietnam War, Iran-Contra, countless incursions into Central America and now the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, we have become a country whose only transparency is its determination to inflict its power for control and profit.

On Thursday December 16th, war veterans and citizens will gather in protest in front of Obama's White House to demand an end to the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. I have no illusion that getting arrested in this demonstration will change all that I decry, but it doesn't have to. Acts of civil resistance are not symbolic. They are proof that conscience still must be acted on. They are part of a strategy for peace and justice whose only success may be to inspire the next action. They are a step in the process of defiant resistance, a process that is, and always has been, the only safeguard of our real values.

Robert Shetterly [send him mail] is a writer and artist who lives in Brooksville, Maine. He is the author of Americans Who Tell the Truth. See his website.

-thanks to Commondreams

Michael Moore: Why I'm Posting Bail Money for Julian Assange

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010


Yesterday, in the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, the lawyers for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange presented to the judge a document from me stating that I have put up $20,000 of my own money to help bail Mr. Assange out of jail.

Furthermore, I am publicly offering the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.

We were taken to war in Iraq on a lie. Hundreds of thousands are now dead. Just imagine if the men who planned this war crime back in 2002 had had a WikiLeaks to deal with. They might not have been able to pull it off. The only reason they thought they could get away with it was because they had a guaranteed cloak of secrecy. That guarantee has now been ripped from them, and I hope they are never able to operate in secret again.

So why is WikiLeaks, after performing such an important public service, under such vicious attack? Because they have outed and embarrassed those who have covered up the truth. The assault on them has been over the top:

**Sen. Joe Lieberman says WikiLeaks "has violated the Espionage Act."

**The New Yorker's George Packer calls Assange "super-secretive, thin-skinned, [and] megalomaniacal."

**Sarah Palin claims he's "an anti-American operative with blood on his hands" whom we should pursue "with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders."

**Democrat Bob Beckel (Walter Mondale's 1984 campaign manager) said about Assange on Fox: "A dead man can't leak stuff ... there's only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch."

**Republican Mary Matalin says "he's a psychopath, a sociopath ... He's a terrorist."

**Rep. Peter A. King calls WikiLeaks a "terrorist organization."

And indeed they are! They exist to terrorize the liars and warmongers who have brought ruin to our nation and to others. Perhaps the next war won't be so easy because the tables have been turned -- and now it's Big Brother who's being watched ... by us!

WikiLeaks deserves our thanks for shining a huge spotlight on all this. But some in the corporate-owned press have dismissed the importance of WikiLeaks ("they've released little that's new!") or have painted them as simple anarchists ("WikiLeaks just releases everything without any editorial control!"). WikiLeaks exists, in part, because the mainstream media has failed to live up to its responsibility. The corporate owners have decimated newsrooms, making it impossible for good journalists to do their job. There's no time or money anymore for investigative journalism. Simply put, investors don't want those stories exposed. They like their secrets kept ... as secrets.

I ask you to imagine how much different our world would be if WikiLeaks had existed 10 years ago. Take a look at this photo. That's Mr. Bush about to be handed a "secret" document on August 6th, 2001. Its heading read: "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US." And on those pages it said the FBI had discovered "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings." Mr. Bush decided to ignore it and went fishing for the next four weeks.

But if that document had been leaked, how would you or I have reacted? What would Congress or the FAA have done? Was there not a greater chance that someone, somewhere would have done something if all of us knew about bin Laden's impending attack using hijacked planes?

But back then only a few people had access to that document. Because the secret was kept, a flight school instructor in San Diego who noticed that two Saudi students took no interest in takeoffs or landings, did nothing. Had he read about the bin Laden threat in the paper, might he have called the FBI? (Please read this essay by former FBI Agent Coleen Rowley, Time's 2002 co-Person of the Year, about her belief that had WikiLeaks been around in 2001, 9/11 might have been prevented.)

Or what if the public in 2003 had been able to read "secret" memos from Dick Cheney as he pressured the CIA to give him the "facts" he wanted in order to build his false case for war? If a WikiLeaks had revealed at that time that there were, in fact, no weapons of mass destruction, do you think that the war would have been launched -- or rather, wouldn't there have been calls for Cheney's arrest?

Openness, transparency -- these are among the few weapons the citizenry has to protect itself from the powerful and the corrupt. What if within days of August 4th, 1964 -- after the Pentagon had made up the lie that our ship was attacked by the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin -- there had been a WikiLeaks to tell the American people that the whole thing was made up? I guess 58,000 of our soldiers (and 2 million Vietnamese) might be alive today.

Instead, secrets killed them.

For those of you who think it's wrong to support Julian Assange because of the sexual assault allegations he's being held for, all I ask is that you not be naive about how the government works when it decides to go after its prey. Please -- never, ever believe the "official story." And regardless of Assange's guilt or innocence (see the strange nature of the allegations here), this man has the right to have bail posted and to defend himself. I have joined with filmmakers Ken Loach and John Pilger and writer Jemima Khan in putting up the bail money -- and we hope the judge will accept this and grant his release today.

Might WikiLeaks cause some unintended harm to diplomatic negotiations and U.S. interests around the world? Perhaps. But that's the price you pay when you and your government take us into a war based on a lie. Your punishment for misbehaving is that someone has to turn on all the lights in the room so that we can see what you're up to. You simply can't be trusted. So every cable, every email you write is now fair game. Sorry, but you brought this upon yourself. No one can hide from the truth now. No one can plot the next Big Lie if they know that they might be exposed.

And that is the best thing that WikiLeaks has done. WikiLeaks, God bless them, will save lives as a result of their actions. And any of you who join me in supporting them are committing a true act of patriotism. Period.

I stand today in absentia with Julian Assange in London and I ask the judge to grant him his release. I am willing to guarantee his return to court with the bail money I have wired to said court. I will not allow this injustice to continue unchallenged.

Michael Moore

P.S. You can read the statement I filed today in the London court here.

P.P.S. If you're reading this in London, please go support Julian Assange and WikiLeaks at a demonstration at 1 PM today, Tuesday the 14th, in front of the Westminster court.

December 13, 2010

Trinity Church in Buffalo: End Torture - Forever

I drove past this sign several times last week. Yesterday I pulled over and snapped a picture with my phone. It's in front of the Trinity Church in downtown Buffalo. What was odd about it was that none of the other churches have any signs similar to this. It shouldn't stand out, it should be the norm.

I remember sitting in on this meeting a while ago. It was mostly Catholic priests and nuns. They were trying to figure out how they could get the Bishops of the Catholic Church to enforce the Fifth commandment, Thou Shalt Not Kill. (In many other religions it is usually the Sixth Commandment and says, You Shall Not Kill/Murder.)

But I like to imagine, what if the Catholics decided to abide by their own rules? Imagine how decimated the military's ability to occupy, terrorize, and torture would be. And if the other religions also enforced it? It would be difficult to imagine or comprehend.

One of the priests suggested dropping condoms with the bombs. "Maybe then the Church would demand an end to the bombing (and killing)".

Chris Hedges: No Act of Rebellion Is Wasted. Go to Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, at 10 am Dec. 16. Join dozens of military veterans...

Thousands of Czechs gather in Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Nov. 21, 1989, during
the so-called Velvet Revolution that bought an end to decades of repressive Communist rule.

By Chris Hedges / Posted on Dec 13, 2010 / truthdig

I stood with hundreds of thousands of rebellious Czechoslovakians in 1989 on a cold winter night in Prague’s Wenceslas Square as the singer Marta Kubišová approached the balcony of the Melantrich building. Kubišová had been banished from the airwaves in 1968 after the Soviet invasion for her anthem of defiance, “Prayer for Marta.” Her entire catalog, including more than 200 singles, had been confiscated and destroyed by the state. She had disappeared from public view. Her voice that night suddenly flooded the square. Pressing around me were throngs of students, most of whom had not been born when she vanished. They began to sing the words of the anthem. There were tears running down their faces. It was then that I understood the power of rebellion. It was then that I knew that no act of rebellion, however futile it appears in the moment, is wasted. It was then that I knew that the Communist regime was finished.

“The people will once again decide their own fate,” the crowd sang in unison with Kubišová.

I had reported on the fall of East Germany before I arrived in Prague. I would leave Czechoslovakia to cover the bloody overthrow of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. The collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe was a lesson about the long, hard road of peaceful defiance that makes profound social change possible. The rebellion in Prague, as in East Germany, was not led by the mandarins in the political class but by marginalized artists, writers, clerics, activists and intellectuals such as Vaclav Havel, whom we met with most nights during the upheavals in Prague in the Magic Lantern Theater. These activists, no matter how bleak things appeared, had kept alive the possibility of justice and freedom. Their stances and protests, which took place over 40 years of Communist rule, turned them into figures of ridicule, or saw the state seek to erase them from national consciousness. They were dismissed by the pundits who controlled the airwaves as cranks, agents of foreign powers, fascists or misguided and irrelevant dreamers.

I spent a day during the Velvet Revolution with several elderly professors who had been expelled from the Romance language department at Charles University for denouncing the Soviet invasion. Their careers, like the careers of thousands of professors, teachers, artists, social workers, government employees and journalists in our own universities during the Communist witch hunts, were destroyed. After the Soviet invasion, the professors had been shipped to a remote part of Bohemia where they were forced to work on a road construction crew. They shoveled tar and graded roadbeds. And as they worked they dedicated each day to one of the languages in which they all were fluent—Latin, Greek, Italian, French, Spanish or German. They argued and fought over their interpretations of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Goethe, Proust and Cervantes. They remained intellectually and morally alive. Kubišova, who had been the most popular recording star in the country, was by then reduced to working for a factory that assembled toys. The playwright Havel was in and out of jail.

The long, long road of sacrifice, tears and suffering that led to the collapse of these regimes stretched back decades. Those who made change possible were those who had discarded all notions of the practical. They did not try to reform the Communist Party. They did not attempt to work within the system. They did not even know what, if anything, their protests would accomplish. But through it all they held fast to moral imperatives. They did so because these values were right and just. They expected no reward for their virtue; indeed they got none. They were marginalized and persecuted. And yet these poets, playwrights, actors, singers and writers finally triumphed over state and military power. They drew the good to the good. They triumphed because, however cowed and broken the masses around them appeared, their message of defiance did not go unheard. It did not go unseen. The steady drumbeat of rebellion constantly exposed the dead hand of authority and the rot and corruption of the state.

The walls of Prague were covered that chilly winter with posters depicting Jan Palach. Palach, a university student, set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square on Jan. 16, 1969, in the middle of the day to protest the crushing of the country’s democracy movement. He died of his burns three days later. The state swiftly attempted to erase his act from national memory. There was no mention of it on state media. A funeral march by university students was broken up by police. Palach’s gravesite, which became a shrine, saw the Communist authorities exhume his body, cremate his remains and ship them to his mother with the provision that his ashes could not be placed in a cemetery. But it did not work. His defiance remained a rallying cry. His sacrifice spurred the students in the winter of 1989 to act. Prague’s Red Army Square, shortly after I left for Bucharest, was renamed Palach Square. Ten thousand people went to the dedication.

We, like those who opposed the long night of communism, no longer have any mechanisms within the formal structures of power that will protect or advance our rights. We too have undergone a coup d’état carried out not by the stone-faced leaders of a monolithic Communist Party, but by the corporate state. We too have our designated pariahs, whether Ralph Nader or Noam Chomksy, and huge black holes of state-sponsored historical amnesia to make us ignore the militant movements, rebels and radical ideas that advanced our democracy. We opened up our society to ordinary people not because we deified the wisdom of the Founding Fathers or the sanctity of the Constitution. We opened it up because of communist, socialist and anarchist leaders like Big Bill Haywood and his militant unionists in the Industrial Workers of the World.

We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture, and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state. Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored by a media that caters to the needs and profits of corporations, chips away at corporate power. Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for larger movements that follow us. It passes on another narrative. It will, as the rot of the state consumes itself, attract wider and wider numbers. Perhaps this will not happen in our lifetimes. But if we persist, we will keep this possibility alive. If we do not, it will die.

All energy directed toward reforming political and state structures is useless. All efforts to push through a “progressive” agenda within the corridors of power are naïve. Trust in the reformation of our corporate state reflects a failure to recognize that those who govern, including Barack Obama, are as deaf to public demands and suffering as those in the old Communist regimes. We cannot rely on any systems of power, including the pillars of the liberal establishment—the press, liberal religious institutions, universities, labor, culture and the Democratic Party. They have been weakened to the point of anemia or work directly for the corporations that dominate our existence. We can rely now on only ourselves, on each other.
Go to Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, at 10 a.m. Dec. 16. Join dozens of military veterans, myself, Daniel Ellsberg, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern, Dr. Margaret Flowers and many others who will make visible a hope the corporate state does not want you to see, hear or participate in. Don’t be discouraged if it is not a large crowd. Don’t let your friends or colleagues talk you into believing it is useless. Don’t be seduced by the sophisticated public relations campaigns disseminated by the mass media, the state or the Democratic Party. Don’t, if you decide to carry out civil disobedience, be cowed by the police. Hope and justice live when people, even in tiny numbers, stand up and fight for them.
There is in our sorrow—for who cannot be profoundly sorrowful—finally a balm that leads to wisdom and, if not joy, then a strange, transcendent happiness. To stand in a park on a cold December morning, to defy that which we must defy, to do this with others, brings us solace, and perhaps even peace. We will not find this if we allow ourselves to be disabled. We will not find this alone. As long as a few of us rebel, it will always remain possible to defeat a system of centralized, corporate power that is as criminal and heartless as those I watched tumble into the ash bin of history in Eastern Europe.

Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “Death of the Liberal Class.” You can find out more about the Washington protest at

-thanks to Chris Hedges and Truthdig

December 12, 2010

12-8-10 Veterans for Peace Sends Obama a Letter

NATIONAL OFFICE: 216 S. Meramec Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63105
PHONE: (314) 725-6005 FAX: (314) 725-7103 E-MAIL:

December 3, 2010

Dear President Obama,

A week ago, I wrote you on this same subject but since I've not yet received a reply either personal or automated, I felt I should try again.

As president of Veterans For Peace (VFP), a national organization of military veterans, I want to convey to you our serious opposition to your administration's policy of ongoing wars, proxy wars, occupations and drone strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine and Yemen.

Your policies are taking innocent lives, causing untold, lifelong suffering, rapidly destroying our economy, our environment, and ultimately making all of us considerably less safe.

Since there are no logical reasons rooted in human or planetary betterment for these policies, we are left to conclude what is logical and obvious: that their purpose is to maintain and advance what has sadly become the global U.S. Empire.

VFP has voiced our opposition to these wars at every national demonstration and with countless local actions, letters, faxes, emails and phone calls.

We requested a meeting with you shortly after your inauguration, to no avail. We are now requesting another meeting. And since we have tried all the above many times over, this is what we now propose.

If, within 10 days from now, we do not hear a positive response to our request for a meeting, we are prepared to bring a large delegation of our members to Washington before the end of this month. We will come in person to the White House to meet with you or until we are dragged away in full view of our nation and the world -- military veterans, carrying their nation's flag, seeking a meeting with their president in the season of Peace.

Like the bonus marchers of the 1930's, we demand our bonus be paid. The bonus for our service and the many sacrifices of our comrades is peace.

In this season of Peace I remain
Most sincerely yours,
Mike Ferner, National President
Veterans For Peace
USN Hospital Corps 1969-73
Organized locally.
Recognized nationally.

Exposing the true costs of war and militarism since 1985.

Mike Ferner
Leah Bolger
Nate Goldshlag
Elliott Adams
William Collins
Darcella Craven
Cherie Eichholz
Sam Feldman
Mike Hearington
Joey King
Patrick McCann
Hart Viges
Dennis Lane

Editor's note: You can join in this action on December 16th. See

A letter from Ron Kovic to young veterans and GIs

By: Ron Kovic / Sunday, December 09, 2010

'Raise your voices, protest, stop these wars'

The following is a personal appeal from Ron Kovic, Vietnam War veteran and author of Born on the Fourth of July, to Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and active-duty service members. Kovic issued the appeal to bring more veterans and GIs into the anti-war struggle and to support the work of March Forward! To learn more about March Forward! visit their website.
As a former United States Marine Corps infantry sergeant, who was shot and paralyzed from the mid-chest down on Jan. 20, 1968, during my second tour of duty in Vietnam, and someone who has lived with the wounds of that war for over 40 years, I am writing this letter to ask you to join me as we begin a critical new phase in the growing anti-war movement.

Many of you have already served multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. You have been coming home now for almost 10 years. Many have begun to question, to doubt these wars and our leaders. Over two million of you have served honorably in both theatres of conflict. Though many years separate us, we are brothers and sisters.

Though we have fought in conflicts generations apart, we have all been to the same place. We know what war is. We understand it, and for many of us, our lives will never be the same again. In many ways, we represent a very powerful force in our country—a moral, spiritual, and political high ground that is unassailable, a potential to transform our nation that is undeniable. No one knows peace or the preciousness of life better than the soldiers who have fought in war, or been affected by it directly: the mother of a son who has died, a wife who will never see her husband again, a child who will never have a father, a father who will never see his son again.

For, it is we who live with the physical and emotional scars of war, and we who live with these wounds everyday, and feel their weight and pain every morning. It is we who have walked and wheeled through the streets of our country and watched children stare at us and wonder why. And it is we who cry out now for the future, for a world without war.

We are the reminders of what war can do, of how it can wound and hurt, and diminish all that is good and human. We struggle everyday to believe in a life that was almost taken away from us. We know that even though we have lost, though parts of our bodies may be missing, though we may not be able to see or feel, we are important men and women, with important lessons to teach, with important things to share.

Those of us lucky enough to have survived combat yearn for life now, for beauty, for all that is decent and good, for in war we saw the worst in the human being. We saw poverty and death, killing and savagery, the darkest sides of the human soul, the most hated parts of our humanity.

I, like many Americans who served in Vietnam and those now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan (and countless human beings throughout history), had been willing to give my life for my country with little knowledge or awareness of what that really meant.

Like many of you who joined up after 9/11, I trusted and believed and had no reason to doubt the sincerity and motives of my government. It would not be until many months after being wounded, and while recovering at a veterans’ hospital in New York that I would begin to question whether I and the others who had gone to that war had gone for nothing.

Change does not come easily, and opposing one’s government during a time of war is often very difficult. You've been taught to follow orders, to obey and not question, to go along with the program and do exactly what you’re told. You learned that in boot camp. You learned that the day the drill instructors started screaming at you. It is "Yes Sir” and “No Sir” and nothing in between. There is the physical and verbal abuse, the vicious threats and constant harassment to keep you off balance. It is a powerful conditioning process, a process that began long ago, long before we signed those papers at the recruit stations of our hometowns, a process deeply ingrained in the American culture and psyche, and it has shaped and influenced us from our earliest childhood.

The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that, "A time comes when silence is betrayal." King went on to say that, "The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty. Even when pressed with the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within ones own bosom and the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are often on the verge of being mesmerized but we must move on."

Over 40 years have passed since Dr. King spoke those words to an overflow crowd at the Riverside church in New York City in 1967, and the tragic lessons of Vietnam continue to go unheeded. The same patterns of wars, lies, aggression and brutality continue to repeat themselves. Another country, another occupation, another reason to hate and fear, but in the end it is the same crime being committed over and over again, the same innocent civilians being killed, the same young men and women returning home in caskets and body bags and wheelchairs.

We have petitioned our government time and time again. We have peacefully marched and demonstrated for over a decade yet the killing and mayhem continues. Precious lives continue to be wasted as another generation of young men and women are squandered in this, our latest foreign policy debacle.

Our leaders refuse to listen. They refuse to learn. How many more senseless wars, flag draped caskets, grieving mothers, paraplegics, amputees, stressed-out sons and daughters, innocent civilians slaughtered before we finally decide to break the silence of this shameful night? Many of us trusted and believed that change would come, these wars would end, and that we would finally we be listened to but that is not at all what has happened. We have been tragically misled.

We have been deceived and betrayed. We have been promised peace and we have been given war. We have been told there would be change and nothing is changing. Rather than learning the lessons from the disastrous fiasco in Iraq, our government continues down the path of destruction, brutality, aggression and war, dragging us deeper into another senseless and unnecessary conflict in Afghanistan. The physical and psychological battles from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan will rage on for decades, deeply impacting the lives of citizens in all countries involved.

As the 43rd anniversary of my wounding in Vietnam approaches, in many ways I feel my injury in that war has been a blessing in disguise. I have been given the opportunity to move through that dark night of the soul to a new shore, to gain an understanding, a knowledge, a completely different vision. I now believe that I have suffered for a reason, and in many ways I have found that reason in my commitment to peace and non-violence. We who have witnessed the obscenity of war and experienced its horror and terrible consequences have an obligation to rise above our pain and sorrow and turn the tragedy of our lives into a triumph.

I have come to believe that there is nothing in the lives of human beings more terrifying than war, and nothing more important then for those of us who have experienced it to share its awful truth.

A time comes when a people can no longer wait. A time comes when the agonies, the suffering, have become too great. A time comes when a people must act and do what is necessary. Lives are at stake. No longer can we trust the President or politicians to end these wars. No longer can we believe them when they say the troops will come home soon. They have long since lost their credibility.

Each day that passes another life is lost. Each hour that this war drags on the need for a daring new approach by the anti war movement becomes more apparent. Bold, creative, and imaginative leadership is needed, and I do not believe there is a group more suited for that task at this time than the veterans of our nation’s most recent conflict.

At exactly 10:00 a.m., Thursday morning, Dec. 16, 2010, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, including troops now serving in the armed forces of the United States, will be leading a dramatic act of non-violent civil disobedience in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. with other brave veterans and citizens, protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, calling for all troops to be brought home immediately and without delay. (Click here to learn more about this action)

May this action and other actions like it in the days ahead represent a growing awareness by the American people that only they can end these wars and begin to redirect the priorities of our nation toward more positive and life affirming goals.

I am writing this letter to you today asking you to join them on that day—and the difficult days ahead, to bravely, and with great dignity step over that line you've not stepped over before and begin to exert that powerful moral force you as veterans and active-duty troops represent; to raise your voices, to protest, to demonstrate, to end these wars and make our country a better place.

This is my hope. This is my prayer.

With great admiration and respect,

Ron Kovic
Vietnam veteran
Author, Born on the Fourth of July
-thanks to March Forward

December 10, 2010

"Ban Fracking"

photo from Albert Brown's album

Demonstrators gathered in front of National Fuel (gas company) in Buffalo yesterday demanding hydraulic fracturing (fracking) be banned in New York State. The state legislators passed a temporary moratorium until May. It awaits the governor's signature. Local supporters have been out in the snow and freezing weather leafleting and petitioning door to door throughout Erie County. New York will be the first state in the country (and in the world) to have a moratorium against fracturing. There are many people organizing throughout the state who are committed to protecting the drinking water. If you have the opportunity to see the film, 'Gasland', you will understand why.

December 9, 2010


The following report and observations are from MaryAnne Coyle:

DATELINE: December 8, 2010 Tacoma, WA via Buffalo, NY

PLAYLIST: Steve Earle, “The Revolution Starts Now”, everything in my library by Marvin Gaye, Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell”

Yesterday began the trial of STATE vs. Steve Kelly, Susan Crane, Bill Bichsel, Anne Montgomery, and Lynne T. Greenwald. The antiseptic legalistic words of the case are thus: the five are accused of conspiracy, trespass, destruction of property on a naval installation, and depredation of government property ( Our friends Steve, Susan, Bill, Anne and Lynne were arrested after trespassing onto Kitsap Bangor Complex, (Bangor, WA). Part of the Plowshares disarmament movement, they act to demand that every one of us, as citizens of this planet, take some part of the movement for universal nuclear disarmament.

The reader wonders: Why Bangor? Russell Brown’s Adopt Resistance blogspot ( of December 6, 2010 provides the following details about Bangor: “The Trident submarine base at Bangor, just 20 miles west of Seattle, is home to the largest single stockpile of nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal, housing more than 2000 nuclear warheads. In November 2006, the Natural Resources Defense Council declared that the 2,364 nuclear warheads at Bangor are approximately 24 percent of the entire U.S. arsenal. The Bangor base houses more nuclear warheads than China, France, Israel, India, North Korea and Pakistan combined.

The base has been rebuilt for the deployment of the larger and more accurate Trident D-5 missile system. Each of the 24 D-5 missiles on a Trident submarine is capable of carrying eight of the larger 455 kiloton W-88 warheads (each warhead is about 30 times the explosive force as the Hiroshima bomb) and costs approximately $60 million. The D-5 missile can also be armed with the 100 kiloton W-76 warhead. The Trident fleet at Bangor deploys both the 455 kiloton W-88 warhead and the 100 kiloton W-76 warhead.” (I share Russell’s format emphases.)” writes of activities on Monday night, the eve of the trial. Some of the text within was part of Tuesday morning’s press conference. As one our community who was devastated by the untimely death of Allison desForges (as if the death of anyone as monumental as Allison could ever be timely), Tony Conrad’s characteristically acute reference to “advocates for civil society” occasionally frames my thinking. Unsurprisingly, remarks addressing the responsibility of a citizenry in a democratic society to stand against the excesses of a State resounded clearly as a true bell.

I would be remiss in my assignment to report on the trial if I did not share one final post after the first day of the trial: includes comments of one of the legal support team. After acting as court support in the Las Vegas trial of the Creech 14 I was yet again struck by the sensitivity, intelligence, perspicacity, style, and wit of the advocates for universal justice in the legal community that stand with us as we all struggle for a world in which we can all share equally in the beauty, bounty and wonder of Creation. Many of us are cynical about a legal system that seems to perpetuate an unjust order of domination and inequality, but it is abstraction to conceive of it that way. There are people with prejudices and interests of their own who act within it; and that it is morality, the mores of the people that produce the legal system, which can propel us into a better future.

MaryAnne Coyle

A few friends and I went to a presentation on PTSD being delivered by an employee of the Buffalo Vet Center. We hoped it might help us with our work with GI resisters. We came with a couple of leaflets to share - one of a video interview we are showing next week about an ex-Marine who deserted to Canada with his family and suffers from severe PTSD.

The other is the issue-appropriate graphic supporting IVAW’s Operation Recovery.

It got a bit strange when this counselor made a comment something to the effect that you could tell that a vet with PTSD was improving when he would show up clean shaven, without his beard. A couple comments later a woman professor at the college made some correlation about recidivism and beards among prisoners. Bruce, a draft resister from the Vietnam War who is clean shaven and was sitting behind me, kicked my chair. Since I have a scruffy beard, I wondered if they thought I was a disengaged veteran. I asked them if I was supposed to draw any conclusions about their view of me based on those beard comments.

photo of me later that day by Pat Sorbini

The Vet Center counselor and the man from VVA couldn’t offer any useful advice for the war resisters who chose to desert rather than redeploy or be stop-lossed. They couldn’t hear that these soldiers had exhausted all their legal options and it was no longer possible for these men and women to "talk to their chaplain" or their chain of command rather than desert. Both seemed to agree that there wasn’t any help - other than peer counseling available ( which means no help from the VA) - for these soldiers in their current status. I had already approached the Buffalo VA's Suicide Prevention office about a particular GI and they said if a deserter comes in they will see him, but they will need to notify their military outfit. That sounded more like suicide assistance than prevention.

I doubt that if I had mentioned that all of the women and most of the men soldier-resisters and their families that I met in Canada didn’t have a beard, they would have cared any more. They couldn't see them as soldiers who served in combat because these counselors seemed to be blinded by the fact the soldiers' situations caused them to become deserters.

My point is that these men and women joined the service to serve their country for one reason or another. They experienced something in the occupied countries that affected their ability to kill and/or occupy any more. I would like to see the counselors care as much about these men and women and their families as they would any soldier 'damaged' by war.

What will it take to stir some compassion and empathy among these workers in the huge bureaucratic organizations that are supposed to serve veterans? Although I didn't expect it, I was hoping I could get some help and information - instead I left more convinced that this was a hopeless situation and these counselors needed help.