March 31, 2010

Berkeley City Council recommends universal and unconditional amnesty for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan war military resisters and veterans

Courage to Resist. March 30, 2010

On Tuesday, March 9, 2010, the Berkeley (California) City Council passed Resolution No. 64,803 N.S. recommending “Universal and Unconditional Amnesty for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan War Military Resisters and Veterans Who Acted In Opposition to the War for Matters of Conscience.”

It was adapted, with some changes, from the original resolution passed by the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission on November 2, 2009. The resolution recommends that all military personnel, serving since October 7, 2001, be granted Universal and Unconditional Amnesty amounting to forgiveness for all convictions or pending charges of desertion or Absence Without Leave (AWOL) or Unauthorized Absence (UA) if such leave or absence is determined to be caused by matters of personal conscience in opposition to the illegal wars in Iraq and/or Afghanistan and/or Pakistan.

The resolution also recommends that military personnel who have been convicted of charges stemming from their exercise of free speech regarding their opposition to the wars in Iraq and/or Pakistan since October 7, 2001 be granted amnesty for those convictions. And it supports granting amnesty for all veterans with less than honorable discharges for absence offenses determined to be due to personal conscience regarding opposition to the wars commencing on or after October 7, 2001 and that those veterans have their discharges automatically upgraded to honorable discharges or to general under honorable conditions and that those veterans be granted all benefits otherwise due to them.

This is the first time the subject of Universal Unconditional Amnesty has been brought up since President Jimmy Carter granted Unconditional Amnesty amounting to “full, complete and unconditional pardon” to draft resisters following the Vietnam War. Universal Unconditional Amnesty had been the demand of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Berkeley’s resolution called for copies of it to be sent to President Obama, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, and Congressperson Barbara Lee.

Bob Meola, Berkeley Peace and Justice Commissioner and immediate past Commission Chairperson, who wrote the original draft of the resolution, stated,
“I hope this resolution will serve as a model and inspire cities and towns across the United States to pass similar resolutions and ignite a movement which will result in Universal and Unconditional Amnesty for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan war resisters and veterans. The troops who have had the courage to resist have been traumatized enough. They have followed their consciences and deserve healing and support and appreciation from people everywhere. The GI Resistance movement is growing. Its members are heroes and sheroes and should be treated as heroes as they are welcomed back into civilian society.”

Berkeley has been a sanctuary city for conscientious objectors since 1991. In 2007, it became a sanctuary city for military resisters to immoral and illegal wars, even if those resisters were not traditional conscientious objectors, and for draft registration resisters and for draft resisters if the draft should be reinstituted. May 15th is International Conscientious Objectors Day. In 2007, Berkeley also proclaimed May 15th of every year as Berkeley CO and War Resisters Day.

-thanks to Courage to Resist

March 29, 2010

Ton Hayden: The 'Long War' quagmire

The doctrine, which posits an 80-year or so war against insurgents in the Middle East to South Asia, needs more scrutiny.

Tom Hayden / The Los Angeles Times / March 28, 2010
Without public debate and without congressional hearings, a segment of the Pentagon and fellow travelers have embraced a doctrine known as the Long War, which projects an "arc of instability" caused by insurgent groups from Europe to South Asia that will last between 50 and 80 years. According to one of its architects, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are just "small wars in the midst of a big one."

Consider the audacity of such an idea. An 80-year undeclared war would entangle 20 future presidential terms stretching far into the future of voters not yet born. The American death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan now approaches 5,000, with the number of wounded a multiple many times greater. Including the American dead from 9/11, that's 8,000 dead so far in the first decade of the Long War. And if the American armed forces are stretched thin today, try to conceive of seven more decades of combat.

The costs are unimaginable too. According to economists Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, Iraq alone will be a $3-trillion war. Those costs, and the other deficit spending of recent years, yield "virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors," according to a New York Times budget analysis in February. Continued deficit financing for the Long War will rob today's younger generation of resources for their future.

The term "Long War" was first applied to America's post-9/11 conflicts in 2004 by Gen. John P. Abizaid, then head of U.S. Central Command, and by the retiring chairman of the Joint Chiefs of State, Gen. Richard B. Myers, in 2005.

According to David Kilcullen, a top counterinsurgency advisor to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and a proponent of the Long War doctrine, the concept was polished in "a series of windowless offices deep inside the Pentagon" by a small team that successfully lobbied to incorporate the term into the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, the nation's long-term military blueprint. President George W. Bush declared in his 2006 State of the Union message that "our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy."

The concept has quietly gained credence. Washington Post reporter-turned-author Thomas E. Ricks used "The Long War" as the title for the epilogue of his 2009 book on Iraq, in which he predicted that the U.S. was only halfway through the combat phase there.

It has crept into legal language. Federal Appeals Court Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a darling of the American right, recently ruled in favor of holding detainees permanently because otherwise, "each successful campaign of a long war would trigger an obligation to release Taliban fighters captured in earlier clashes."

Among defense analysts, Andrew J. Bacevich, a Vietnam veteran who teaches at Boston University, is the leading critic of the Long War doctrine, criticizing its origins among a "small, self-perpetuating, self-anointed group of specialists" who view public opinion "as something to manipulate" if they take it into consideration at all.

The Long War has momentum, though the term is absent from the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review unveiled by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February. One commentator has noted the review's apparent preference for finishing "our current wars before thinking about the next."

Still we fight wars that bleed into each other without clear end points. Political divisions in Iraq threaten to derail the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops scheduled for 2012.

As troop levels decline in Iraq, they grow to 100,000 in Afghanistan, where envoy Richard C. Holbrooke famously says we'll know success "when we see it." The Afghan war has driven Al Qaeda into Pakistan, where U.S. intelligence officers covertly collaborate with the Pakastani military. Lately our special forces have stepped up covert operations in Yemen.

It never ends. British security expert Peter Neumann at King's College has said that Europe is a "nerve center" of global jihad because of underground terrorists in havens protected by civil liberties laws. Could that mean NATO will have to occupy Europe?

It's time the Long War strategy was put under a microscope and made the focus of congressional hearings and media scrutiny. The American people deserve a voice in the strategizing that will affect their future and that of their grandchildren. There are at least three important questions to address in public forums:
* What is the role of the Long War idea in United States' policy now? Can the Pentagon or president impose such war-making decisions without debate and congressional ratification?

* Who exactly is the enemy in a Long War? Is Al Qaeda (or "Islamic fundamentalism") considered to be a unitary enemy like the "international communist conspiracy" was supposed to be? Can a Long War be waged with only a blanket authorization against every decentralized group lodged in countries from Europe to South Asia?

* Above all, what will a Long War cost in terms of American tax dollars, American lives and American respect in the world? Is it sustainable? If not, what are the alternatives?

President Obama has implied his own disagreement with the Long War doctrine without openly repudiating the term. He has pledged to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by 2012, differing with those like Ricks who predict continuing combat, resulting in a Korean-style occupation. Obama also pledges to "begin" American troop withdrawals from Afghanistan by summer 2011, in contrast to those who demand we remain until an undefined victory. Obama told West Point cadets that "our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended, because the nation that I'm most interested in building is our own."

Those are naive expectations to neoconservatives and to some in the Pentagon for whom the Long War fills a vacuum left by the end of the Cold War. They will try to trap Obama in a Long War by demanding permanent bases in Iraq, slowing American withdrawals from Afghanistan to a trickle and defending secret operations in Pakistan. Where violence flares, he will be blamed for disengaging prematurely. Where situations stabilize, he will be counseled it's because we keep boots on the ground. We will keep spending dollars we don't have on wars without end.

The underlying issues should be debated now, before the future itself has been drafted for war.
Tom Hayden, a former California state senator, teaches a course on the Long War at Scripps College. He is the author of "The Long Sixties: From 1960 to Barack Obama."

March 26, 2010

Soldier of Conscience, Travis Bishop, Granted Clemency, Released

Sgt. Travis Bishop. (Photo: via Travis Bishop)

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

Last August, Travis Bishop refused to serve in Afghanistan. Having filed for Conscientious Objector (CO) status, Bishop, based at Fort Hood, Texas, in the US Army's 57th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, was court-martialed and sentenced to 12 months in a military brig. He was released from the brig today.

Bishop served his time in Northwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Lewis, Washington. This military brig is notorious for being a particularly difficult jail to serve time.

While in the brig, Bishop was recognized by Amnesty International and received support from hundreds of people from around the world who wrote letters of encouragement to him and wrote letters to Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, the commanding general of Fort Hood, asking for Travis to be released from prison.

During his court-martial at Fort Hood last August, Bishop was tried by the military for his stand against an occupation he believes is "illegal." He insisted that it would be unethical for him to deploy to support an occupation he opposed on both moral and legal grounds, thus his decision to file for CO status. A CO is someone who refuses to participate in combat based on religious or ethical grounds, and can be given an honorable discharge by the military.

In February, Bishop was granted a three-month reduction in his sentence by General Cone as a result of a successful clemency application.

In a letter to Truthout from prison, Bishop wrote this of his being granted clemency:
"Three months clemency. Wow. I am truly astonished. Great for me? Sure. Great for future resisters? Even more so. I cannot believe that I told the Army "No," refused to deploy, pleaded not guilty, and then indicted the entire system and blamed my command in court, and still merited clemency."
Bishop's case brings to light an important question for those serving in the US military today - that of the soldiers' ability, while serving, to follow their conscience during a time of war.

This topic was the focus of a recent conference, Truth Commission on Conscience in War, that took place March 21-22 at the Riverside Church in New York City.

The conference brought together veterans and national religious, academic and advocacy leaders to honor and protect freedom of conscience in the military. It featured testimony from recent veterans and national experts on the moral, psychological and legal dimensions of conscience and war.

According to a press release about the event, "The March 21 public hearing will launch the Commission's eight-month campaign to bring national attention to decisions of moral and religious conscience facing American service members, culminating with the Veterans Day release of the Commission's Final Report."

During his court-martial, Bishop told Truthout he was "opposed to all war," based on his religious beliefs, that "as a real Christian, I must be opposed to all violence, no matter what, because that is what Jesus taught."

The Truth Commission chair, Rev. Dr. Kaia Stern, who is also the director of the Pathways Home Project at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, announced before the commission:
"The United States of America is founded on principals of political and religious freedom. When we punish the soldier who heeds his or her moral compass, our democracy is in grave danger."
During the commission, Truthout spoke with Ian Slattery, who is a member of the planning committee for the commission, and is an associate producer of the nationally broadcast film "Soldiers of Conscience."
"From our point of view, Travis's story is indicative of something that is a broader issue, and that is that every service member has a conscience," Slattery explained to Truthout, "The meeting we had this week in New York, and in the private meetings to follow, we looked at stories across the board that service members are experiencing. His story is like some of the other CO's we've seen, who've had their claims denied or approved. These are folks who have chosen the harder road - to follow the call to conscience they've heard within themselves."

According to Slattery, Bishop's story is "a good example of service members' consciences not being honored."

One of the main points James Branum, Bishop's civilian lawyer, made in defense of Bishop during his court-martial was that Bishop had never been given proper training that would have informed him of the CO option.

"Travis was never told about his option of conscientious objector status," Branum, told Truthout last August.

Branum explained to Truthout. "If an enlisted soldier isn't informed that he has a right, then he effectively does not have that right. Just one to two days before he was set to deploy, in the midst of moral questions, he heard about CO status.

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

The judge in Bishop's court-martial, Maj. Matthew McDonald, said that whether Bishop was notified or not about his right to file for CO status was not relevant to the case.

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

Branum told Truthout at the time that he felt Major McDonald was attempting to establish a precedent with the trial, regardless of the outcome.
"We want to change the law, and I would argue that when soldiers are informed of their deployment, which is generally two to six months in advance, they should be giving training about CO status. I will argue that if you don't do the training, you can't deploy."
Questions like this and others are what Slattery and others at the Truth Commission hope to bring to the national stage. (READ MORE)

March 25, 2010

Leah Bolger: At least they quoted me correctly even if the focus of the article is on the wrong thing.
Shielding Mullen & Gates from Leah Bolger (VFP) according to Stars and Stripes.
photo: Stars and Stripes

It's interesting how they avert focus. Follow the link; note their coverage and the comments that follow.

March 23, 2010

Elaine, Matthis and Robin demonstrate their feelings about US foreign policy at March 20th rally in Washington, DC

from Victor Agosto's photos

Iraq Veterans Against the War members, Robin and Matthis and Military Families Speak Out member, Elaine, burn the symbol of something they once respected. The symbol turned out to be not only an illusion, but for them something representing war and occupation, death and destruction.

GI Lawyer, James M. Branum:
"wow that's a powerful image. I normally would be hesitant to praise this (I think flag burning tends to polarize folks so much that it shuts down the chance for further dialogue) but seeing vets do it, I don't know it feels different to me. An act of revolution of the mind, a tangible way of making one's different loyalties be made manifest."

Victor Agosto (GI Resister and VFP member):

"The flag represents the U.S. but it does not represent us. The flag represents the state, a tool the ruling class uses to further its interests. This state has killed its indigenous inhabitants and has enslaved its people. It is a state which serves the interests of insurance companies rather than the interests of the people who are ill. It bails out banks but not hard working people who face foreclosure. It facilitates corporate exploitation of workers all over the world. It engages in wars for control and profit. I am for the people who live within the territorial bounds of the "republic". I am proud of their struggles for an eight-hour work day, gender equality, racial desegregation, ending child labor, and ending wars. However, we are not better than the rest of the world's people. We are all one human family.

Our biggest enemies are not people in foreign lands who speak unintelligible languages. Our primary enemies are domestic - a ruling class that exploits our labor for profit and channels our love for the homeland to have us kill our sisters and brothers in other parts of the world.

May many more burning flags light the path to a world without war."

Update: by Victor Agosto | 03/28/2010
The flag represents a primary instrument of class oppression, but I'm prepared to concede that burning it may not be in the best interests of building a broad-based movement. I condemn all threats against the flag burners, and I support their right to express their anger at a government that has failed them. I will not publicly burn a flag.

March 15, 2010

Meet the peacewalkers Monday evening in Buffalo

There will be a potluck and discussion with the participants of the Walk for a Nuclear Free Future. The potluck starts at 6 pm, followed by a discussion at 7 pm. It will be at the Network of Religious Communities located at 1272 Delaware Ave. (near Gates Circle).

Peacewalkers arrive in Buffalo Sunday

Walkers vigil Across from NYSERDA on Exchange Street

An excellent dinner together at the end of the day

War Resister League and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review at the UN

Another group with plans for the beginning of the NPT Review at the UN:
Kimber Heinz of the War Resisters League wrote:
Join us as we lead up to WRL actions at the NPT Review Conference this May!

Join the War Resisters League in NYC April 30-May 3 for four days of creative nonviolent protest and support a call for unilateral U.S. disarmament at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference at the UN Headquarters.

In 1982, the War Resisters League initiated "Blockade the Bombmakers," organizing mass actions at the Missions to the United Nations of each of the five nuclear powers on the first day of the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament. In total, nearly 1,700 people were arrested in the blockades, which followed a march involving an estimated one million people.

Today, there are nine nuclear powers and the dangers of nuclear proliferation are even more acute than 28 years ago. Despite the White House's pledge to seek a world without nuclear weapons, the 2011 federal budget for nuclear weapons research and development is likely to be more than $7 billion and could (if the Obama administration has its way) reach $8 billion per year by the end of this decade. This steady and growing investment stands in stark contrast to the promising U.S. rhetoric of disarmament.

The 2010 NPT Review Conference represents a key juncture in the work for nuclear disarmament and a vital opportunity to put pressure on the U.S. government and kick-start the anti-nuclear movement. The War Resisters League is organizing a Monday, May 3rd action to deliver a strong message to the United Nations delegates. We are also organizing a WRL contingent and panel discussion for the Disarm Now! international march and alternative conference happening that weekend as WRL joins with thousands of anti-nuclear activists from around the world in resistance to nuclear build-up and global militarism.

Join us to demand complete and unilateral nuclear disarmament and to insist that action for disarmament, not more talking, is needed. We will be meeting in-person and by phone to shape and finalize the action over the next month and will offer nonviolence training on Sunday, May 2nd. To find out more and to sign up or get involved, please email WRL Organizing Coordinator Kimber Heinz at
-thanks to After Downing Street

March 14, 2010

Stand up to the Generals! Marc Hall has and he sits in a prison in Kuwait waiting for us to step up.

Marc will have his Article 32 hearing this week; the best guess is maybe Tuesday. Then they will more than likely schedule his court martial in four to six weeks. The military sent him to be tried in the Middle East so he would be denied public support and witnesses for his defense. We need to raise thousands of dollars to send his lawyer, ptsd psychologist, his mom, and expert witnesses.

Marc faces many years in prison. Don't allow the military to win this nasty attack on one of our soldiers who chose not to go back when he was stop lossed. We want the war to end. The soldiers need to refuse to participate since the politicians don't seem to care how many they send to die and be wounded for these illegal wars and have no intention of bringing to an end. They certainly don't seem to care how many Iraqis, Pakistanis and Afghanis are terrorized and killed.

If we want to end these wars we need to support the soldiers who take a stand. Marc Hall has done just that. Read his story and make a donation as soon as possible.

We want our soldiers to have a creative way to express their anger without brutalizing themselves, their families and their communities. Marc has chosen a creative expression of his anger. He wrote a hip hop song and sent it to the Pentagon.

The generals are concerned that the soldiers will start refusing like they did near the end of the Vietnam War. Dahr Jamail says that at least half of the soldiers were refusing their orders in Vietnam. It wasn't just the peace movement that finally brought that war to an end; it was the GI Resistance combined with the peace movement back home and the resistance of the Vietnamese people the brought the war to an end.

How many times do the generals have to send these men and women back to the war zones before we allow them to say "enough".

Let's bring these wars to an end. Support the GIs who are resisting the illegal wars.

March 13, 2010

The NPT walk Goes On

New Jersey's Jules

A break along Rte 5

Yesterday the walkers started at the reservation. They were joined by two dozen enthusiastic children from the middle school. The kids walked the first 8.5 miles. ( I didn't get any photos - I had an appointment elsewhere in the morning)

In the evening they partied with the Senecas at a community dance.

Look at Jerome's arm go!

The circle at the end of each day's walk

If you would like to join the peacewalkers for a day, a week or the rest of the way, check out the Map and Stops.

March 12, 2010

British War Resister, Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, jailed for nine months

Send messages of support to:
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton
Military Corrective Training Centre, Berechurch Hall Camp
Colchester CO2 9NU, UK
By Peter Walker,, March 5, 2010
A British soldier who refused to return to duty in Afghanistan and went on to speak at anti-war rallies was today sentenced to nine months' detention in a military prison.

A panel of three officers and a judge advocate, Emma Peters, conducting the court martial at Colchester in Essex, also reduced Joe Glenton's rank from lance corporal to private.

He pleaded guilty to going absent without leave in January after the more serious charge of desertion – which carries a maximum jail term of 10 years, rather than two years for awol – was dropped at the last minute.

Glenton, 27, had intended to deny desertion, and his legal team believe the charge was reduced to avoid a potentially embarrassing full trial at which he planned to defend himself on the grounds that the entire Afghan war was illegal under international law.

This would have been particularly sensitive at a time when the status of the Iraq war is being examined by the Chilcot inquiry, to which Gordon Brown is giving evidence today.

Glenton remains a cause celebre for the anti-war movement, writing to Gordon Brown to express his views and claiming support among other troops. A group of Stop the War activists protested outside the army base this morning, with others supporting him in court.

Glenton served in Afghanistan for seven months with the Royal Logistics Corps in 2006. The following June, shortly before he was due to return to the country for a second tour, Glenton fled to Bangkok. He remained in Asia and Australia for just over two years before handing himself in to military authorities in June last year.

The custodial sentence was imposed despite mitigation evidence today that Glenton had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder which, along with his increasing doubts about the Afghan conflict, meant he did not want to return to the country. Glenton's psychiatric condition had been largely ignored by his commanders, said his defence counsel, Nick Wrack.

The only advice Glenton was given on his return from Afghanistan, Wrack told the hearing, was a speech from a padre who said: "Don't go out and drink too much and beat up your wife." Wrack said Glenton had then faced bullying and intimidation when he tried to tell his sergeant his wider concerns about the conflict.

"When he raised his objections to going back he was called a coward and a malingerer. He is neither of those," Wrack said.

Glenton had never been a pacifist, Wrack explained, and had joined the army in 2004, aged 22, while idealistic and "a bit naive". He had looked forward to going to Afghanistan, where he had been told UK forces were helping the local population.

"Over the course of his seven months [in Afghanistan] … his experiences began to conflict with what he had been told," Wrack said. "More and more he began to see the conflict in Afghanistan was wrong."
Despite these doubts he had worked diligently in Afghanistan, and the court heard testimony from officers who praised Glenton as ambitious, intelligent and a good leader, promoting him from private.

Lars Davidsson, a consultant psychiatrist, testified that he had diagnosed Glenton as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Although he had not served on the front line, Glenton's base in Helmand province came under rocket and mortar attack, and his work preparing coffins for dead soldiers left him with feelings of "guilt and helplessness".

The condition manifested itself in symptoms including nightmares and heavy drinking, Davidsson said. The court martial heard that Glenton had seen an army GP and was due to see a psychiatric nurse before he fled. The decision was not the best in retrospect, but had been motivated by his psychiatric condition, Wrack said.

Glenton returned voluntarily after meeting his now wife, Clare, in Sydney. She wept as Wrack read aloud her letter to the court pleading with them not to jail him so they could restart their lives. She was comforted by Glenton's mother, Sue. Glenton wished to leave the army and had a provisional university place to study international relations, Wrack added.

-thanks to the Guardian

Peace Cranes at West Valley Nuclear Waste Site

March 11, 2010

walking, healing, walking - 700 miles for a Nuclear Free Future

They are walking the 700 mile Northern Route, from Salamanca in Western New York to the United Nations in NYC. The came from around the country and as far away as Japan and France. They started walking with the Senecas, The Keepers of the Western Gate, and plan to visit the Six Nations territories along the way.

They will end this walk attending a rally at the UN on May 2nd calling for the elimination of all nuclear weapons forever. They will be joined by a 900 mile walk from Oakridge, Tennessee; another from Burlington, Vermont; and one from Washington DC. The United Nations begins its review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty on May 3rd.

At the end of the day, some of the walkers were stretching, massaging and treating their aching muscles, joints and super blisters with Moxa rolls so they could continue their journey in the morning. The burning mugwort gives off heat and a healing herbal smoke.

As I watch the dedication and compassion exhibited by these international peacemakers, I am left hoping more of us are inspired to act in personal or collective ways to work to relieve the suffering of so many. The elimination of nuclear weapons forever seems like a great place to start.

I watched the walkers pray for the health and safety of the workers and guards at West Valley and those who will hopefully be cleaning it up in the near future as they prayed to see the site cleaned up and the earth healed.

I remember decades ago when I first heard about the mission of a group called Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. We were standing outside the Tavern on the Lake after the Crestmen finished their set. Mike drove by standing up on his motorcycle drunk out of his mind and people were laughing commenting on how he wasn't going to make it through the night. Months later he died in a car crash. I remember thinking how impossible the MADD goal seemed. But now, decades later, so many people no longer laugh at the drunk driver, not only headed to his grave, but all the other innocent people he will take with him. It took a long time and their job isn't completed, but it doesn't look as impossible as it did back then.

When I think about the huge odds against us challenging the nuclear proponents, they remind me of the drunks who don't care who they take with them or how much fear they put in people's lives. The walkers help me see the necessity of acting together and acting now. Some of the changes coming up will not be reversible.

If you get the chance walk for a day, a week or the rest of the way. It will give you some time to think about it. Visit with them when they come to your community on the way to NYC.

The walkers will get to Buffalo Sunday afternoon and vigil outside the NYSERDA, The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, offices at 726 Exchange Street. Then they will end their days walk in front of the City Hall. On Monday everyone is invited to a potluck and discussion, Since "the Department of Energy may be announcing its decision on the West Valley Clean-up that very day, this promises to be an even more significant gathering".

Schedule and map for the Northern Route.

Marjah: The Non-Existent City the Military Said We Conquered in Afghanistan

Marjah isn't even a town, but rather one of the clearest and most dramatic examples of a war of perception as outlined in the US's counter-insurgency doctrine.

WASHINGTON - For weeks, the United States public followed the biggest offensive of the Afghanistan war against what it was told was a "city of 80,000 people" as well as the logistical hub of the Taliban in that part of Helmand. That idea was a central element in the overall impression built up in February that Marjah was a major strategic objective, more important than other district centers in Helmand.

It turns out, however, that the picture of Marjah presented by military officials and reported by major news media is one of the clearest and most dramatic pieces of misinformation of the entire war, apparently aimed at hyping the offensive as an historic turning point in the conflict.

Marjah is not a city or even a real town, but a few clusters of farmers' homes amid a large agricultural area that covers much of the southern Helmand River Valley.

"It's not urban at all," an official of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), who asked not to be identified, admitted to Inter Press Service (IPS) on Sunday. He called Marjah a "rural community".

"It's a collection of village farms, with typical family compounds," said the official, adding that the homes were reasonably prosperous by Afghan standards.

Richard B Scott, who worked in Marjah as an adviser on irrigation for the US Agency for International Development as recently as 2005, agrees that Marjah has nothing that could be mistaken as being urban. It is an "agricultural district" with a "scattered series of farmers' markets", Scott told IPS in a telephone interview.

The ISAF official said the only population numbering tens of thousands associated with Marjah is spread across many villages and almost 200 square kilometers, or about 125 square miles.

Marjah has never even been incorporated, according to the official, but there are now plans to formalize its status as an actual "district" of Helmand province.

The official admitted that the confusion about Marjah's population was facilitated by the fact that the name has been used both for the relatively large agricultural area and for a specific location where farmers have gathered for markets.

However, the name Marjah "was most closely associated" with the more specific location, where there are also a mosque and a few shops.

That very limited area was the apparent objective of "Operation Moshtarak", to which 7,500 US, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Afghan troops were committed amid the most intense publicity given any battle since the beginning of the war.

So how did the fiction that Marjah is a city of 80,000 people get started?

The idea was passed onto news media by the US Marines in southern Helmand. The earliest references in news stories to Marjah as a city with a large population have a common origin in a briefing given on February 2 by officials at Camp Leatherneck, the US Marine base there.

The Associated Press published an article the same day quoting "Marine commanders" as saying that they expected 400 to 1,000 insurgents to be "holed up" in the "southern Afghan town of 80,000 people". That language evoked an image of house-to-house urban street fighting.

The same story said Marjah was "the biggest town under Taliban control" and called it the "linchpin of the militants' logistical and opium-smuggling network". It gave the figure of 125,000 for the population living in "the town and surrounding villages".

ABC news followed with a story the next day referring to the "city of Marjah", claiming that the city and the surrounding area "are more heavily populated, urban and dense than other places the marines have so far been able to clear and hold".

The rest of the news media followed with that image of a bustling, urbanized Marjah in subsequent stories, often using "town" and "city" interchangeably.

As "Operation Moshtarak" ("Together") began, US military spokesmen were portraying Marjah as an urbanized population center. On February 14, on the second day of the offensive, US Marine spokesman Lieutenant Josh Diddams said the marines were "in the majority of the city at this point".

He also used language that conjured images of urban fighting, referring to the insurgents holding some "neighborhoods".

A few days into the offensive, some reporters began to refer to a "region", but only created confusion rather than clearing the matter up. One report referred to "three markets in town - which covers 80 square miles".

A "town" with an area of 80 square miles (207.2 square kilometers) would be bigger than such US cities as Washington, DC, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

The decision to hype up Marjah as the objective of "Operation Moshtarak" by planting the false impression that it is a good-sized city would not have been made independently by the marines at Camp Leatherneck.

A central task of "information operations" in counter-insurgency wars is "establishing the COIN [counter-insurgency] narrative", according to the Army Counter-insurgency Field Manual as revised in 2006 under General David Petraeus, the head of US Central Command.

That task is usually done by "higher headquarters" rather than in the field, as the manual notes.

The COIN manual asserts that news media "directly influence the attitude of key audiences toward counter-insurgents, their operations and the opposing insurgency". The manual refers to "a war of perceptions, conducted continuously using the news media".
Marjah isn't even a town, but rather one of the clearest and most dramatic examples of a war of perception as outlined in the US's counter-insurgency doctrine.

General Stanley McChrystal, commander of the ISAF, was clearly preparing to wage such a war in advance of the Marjah operation. In remarks made just before the offensive began, McChrystal invoked the language of the counter-insurgency manual, saying, "This is all a war of perceptions."

The Washington Post reported on February 22 that the decision to launch the offensive against Marjah was intended largely to impress US public opinion with the effectiveness of the US military in Afghanistan by showing that it could achieve a "large and loud victory".

The false impression that Marjah was a significant city was an essential part of that message.

-thanks to Alternet

March 10, 2010

meet the walkers

Some of the walkers have been on long walks for peace before. Some are on their first one. The enthusiasm and caring is incredible and contagious. They came from many states and other countries.

There are three other NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty talks) walks happening, one from Vermont, one from Tennessee, and one from Washington DC. They all plan to arrive in NYC for a rally at the United Nations on May 2. The NPT talks begin on May 3rd.

I talked with these two walkers on the second day of the walk and they are about to have dinner at a church in Ellicottville.

snow spirit

After a walk to West Valley Nuclear Waste site and back and on, we took a break on the side of the road. A cool, refreshing break.

March 9, 2010

The Walk for a Nuclear Free Future - 700 miles from a Seneca longhouse near Salamanca to the United Nations in NYC

We drove down to the opening ceremony at a Seneca Longhouse in Steamburg, near Salamanca, NY. We met the peacewalkers who were there for the start of the walk and joined in the ceremony. There were walkers from Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and California in the group. Seven walkers came from Japan and one man from France. I didn't get to meet all the walkers yet; other geographical locations may be represented here. They would be weaving through Upstate NY and eventually end up in at the United Nations in NYC for a rally on May 2.

The purpose of the walk is to call attention to the 2010 NPT Review Conference that begins on May 3rd at the UN. The hope is to increase support and public opinion to abolish nuclear weapons.

The Senecas requested that the walk start in their communities rather than Buffalo. Native people have been victims on both ends of the US nuclear chain. The uranium mines on their lands have exposed them to hazardous waste. On the other end of the chain the leaking and dumping of radioactive waste and the testing of nuclear weapons often takes place on their land. The walk will visit Six Nations of the Native American territories in New York State.

The walk will visit the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site, 30 miles south of Buffalo, where the leaking storage threatens the Seneca's (and all of our) water supply. NY State will be deciding whether to clean up the entire site or wait 10 years and then make a decision. This decision should come this month. People are urged to contact their elected officals and demand they support the complete cleanup.

We could feel the connection between the Senecas and the Japanese, both of whom have been victims of US nuclear policies.

Tim Bullock from the New England Peace Pagoda gave a detailed explanation of the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) review process. (I will put up a link to it later)

Dianne D'Arrigo presented an excellent history of the West Valley site (and I will post a link to her presentation here).

March 8, 2010

Iraq War combat veteran, Marc Hall, writes from jail

After filing an official complaint with the Army Investigator General over inadequate mental health services at Ft. Stewart, Spc Marc Hall was jailed on the pretext of an angry song and since been shipped to Kuwait for an upcoming virtually secret trial.
February 2009

I never thought that I would join the Army only to one day be incarcerated by the Army. I have never been to jail in my life, until now. The Army is charging me with an article 134-communicating a threat towards my chain of command. I was only communicating how I felt about what I have experienced in the Army and how I felt about the Army's "Stop-loss" policy. That policy meant that I could not leave the Army when I was supposed to--after I had already served in Iraq for 14 months.

I guess this all started with a hard core "rap" song I made about this very unpopular "Stop-loss" policy in July 2009. Like any "rap" or rock song, I was expressing my freedom of expression under the US Constitution. Being that the Army's "Stop-loss" policy was a Pentagon decision from what I had heard on the news, I decided to send a copy of my song directly to the

Later in 2009 when we trained in the field in Georgia and at the National Training Center (NTC) in California I was made to train without a weapon due to the song. At that time of training without a weapon I felt a surprising sense of peace, and a distance from the other soldiers, for the first time.

I spoke to our 2-7 IN [2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment] chaplain and I informed him of my feelings and all the domestic things I had experienced with my estranged spouse and my three-year-old daughter over the last four years. I let him hear the "Stop-loss" song and I explained that he shouldn't take anything in the song personally. He said he liked the song but wished
it was not "gangster".

At NTC in October 2009 I spoke again to our 2-7 IN chaplain after attending services one night. I explained to him how I still felt hurt by the Army polices and our chain of command. He said 90% of the things in file we can't control and that the chain of command had already forgiving me about the later and the "Stop-loss" song. And like I said earlier my song entitled "Stop-loss" was not a threat. It was meant to be a wakeup call to America and her Mafia like ways that seemed to be aimed toward its very own citizens and used up American Soldiers, primarily the poor--people that serve our country, but hardly have anything to show for it when we get out.

1st Sgt Chrysler and Capt Cross, our company commander at B-CO 2-7 IN [Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment] at that time, just recommended me for mental counseling and evaluation. I started my mental counseling at the behavioral health clinic on Ft. Stewart--from the end of July 2009 through November 2009. I had about four visits to the clinic, but I couldn't attend all the appointments because we were always training in the field. Yet this counseling still left me feeling the same way about Army life, "Stop-loss" and war in general.

After we came back from NTC in November 2009 I got to go on leave. I thought maybe two weeks leave would do me some good. But during my leave from November 21 to December 7 a deep depression sunk into me. I just wanted to be alone. I did not want to be around people. I stayed at home alone. My friends and family were worried that I had turned my phone off. I did not feel like talking to people. I barely made it to my mother's house for Thanksgiving. I thought about all the depressing things that brought me to this state of mind. I thought about how it all pertained to war. I thought about the times I spoke to my chaplain at basic training at Ft. Knox, and the legal assistant at Ft. Stewart about my divorce and the safety of my daughter and my rights as a father, and how neither of them could help me. I thought about "Stop-loss" more and more. I started drinking hard and more everyday to help me forget the hurt and pain I was feeling. I thought about how war brought me to this war, and the war I would have to face to remove myself from the presence of war in order to keep my sanity.

When I returned to Ft. Stewart on December 7, 2009 I really felt from that point on that I did not belong there. I realized that I was not fit for war anymore. I was burnt out and war was the cause of it. I was feeling a little unstable and shaky and I didn't know what to do about it. The very thought of holding and being around a loaded weapon again gave me the chills. I did not know who my enemies were anymore.

About a week later I spoke to my commanding officer Captain Wynn of F-CO BSB about how I am still feeling. I explained to him that I felt a little unstable, angry and depressed about war and how unfit I was for war. I said I did not want to get anybody hurt in this war--being that my battle buddies might have to depend on me. I did not want to be a misfortune to anybody. I
explained that I had made an official IG complaint (with the Army Investigator General) about the treatment that I felt I have not received from my last visit to behavioral health, and the unfair treatment and words that came from my direct NCOs. Behavioral health just rushed me out the door and left all decisions up to my chain of command to decide if I was fit or not.

I felt and knew that my behavior health treatments where pushed to the side so that 2-7 IN could have more bodies for this deployment. I believe that this was not fair to me, and it's not fair to my battle buddies to put a troubled solder on the battlefield knowing that I still have issues.

Capt. Wynn got me in to speak to the Lt. Colonel about my mental state. I tried to explain about the indirect way I might hurt other soldiers in uniform due to how I was burnt out. But he took it as a threat, basically read me my rights, and put me in the Liberty County Jail in Hinesville, Georgia.

I realize now how going to war can bring unwanted results. Now as I sit in jail at the hands and mercy of our US Government VS little old Marc A Hall on a charge that was not a threat before, but all of a sudden became a threat now. I communicated an extended need for mental evaluation--not a threat.

The negative sworn statements used to jail me are false. One of the Soldiers who wrote a negative statement told me that same day that he did so because he thought it was a way to "help me out" as he knew what I was going through. Another Soldier who wrote a statement said that I was "his hero" because I stood up for what I believed. These negative statements were also the results of jokes that my battle buddies said about me--and I had played
along with them at the time when the jokes were presented-while passing long boring hours at the NTC in California. I do appreciate the "help" guys, but the Army is now saying that talk were real threats, and now they have in confinement awaiting court martial.

I have to say that I have never been so humiliated in my whole entire life. I'm in jail with and next to people who have committed real crimes ranging from felonies to murder. And I'm in here for trying to get real treatment, voicing my feelings, and asserting freedom of expression through the art.

Marc A Hall

March 5, 2010

Walks for a Nuclear-Free Future 2010

Starting on May 3rd the United Nations will be reviewing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. To bring the issue to the attention of the American People there are three walks that plan to arrive in NYC on May 1 and are having a rally on the 2nd. One of the walks started in Oakridge, TN weeks ago. There is one coming down from Vermont and one from Western NY. Here is the info from the 700 mile WNY walk. The map and stops along the way are on their website. People are encouraged to walk part of the way if you can't make the whole trip.

Northern Route Initiated by Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order

Western New York to the United Nations in New York City (March 7 – May 2, 2010, a total of 700 miles)
Each Step Will Be A Prayer Toward A Nuclear-Free Future
▪ ABOLITION OF ALL NUCLEAR WEAPONS ▪ AN END TO NUCLEAR POWER ▪ We wish to call attention to the 2010 NPT Review Conference at UN in May 2010. With increased support of public opinion, our new US President will be encouraged to abolish the use of nuclear weapons.
►Western New York to NYC: West Valley Nuclear Waste Site, Six Nations Native American territories, Syracuse (National Guard base, soon to be a home to MQ-9, the first hunter-killer unmanned aerial vehicles), Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. (See reverse side for the complete itinerary and a list of supporting organizations.)
■ Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
This treaty’s objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. A total of 190 parties have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States (US, UK, Russia, France, China). The Treaty has been reviewed at the UN every five years and the next review conference is scheduled to begin May 3, 2010.
■ Think Outside the Bomb
The nuclear fuel cycle is an inherently dangerous process that is destructive to the health, environment and economies of all peoples irrespective of political boundaries. Many of toxic and radioactive wastes, both from nuclear weapons and energy production, will remain radioactive for tens of thousands of years, if not for millions of years. Despite no place or technology to isolate the waste as long as it is radioactively hazardous, the nuclear industry creates more and more.
■ Suffering of Indigenous People
The Walk will visit Six Nations of Native American territories in New York State. Historically and currently, the native communities—from uranium miners to tribal communities targeted with nuclear waste dumps—bear a disproportionate burden of risk from the nuclear fuel cycle.
■ West Valley
West Valley is a complex radioactive waste site located 30 miles south of Buffalo. The site has high-level, so-called “low- level,” transuranic and mixed (radioactive and hazardous) wastes buried, stored and leaking. Geologically the site is in a bedrock valley that is expected to erode into the Great Lakes in centuries to come, but the nuclear waste buried at the site will remain dangerously radioactive much longer than the projected erosion rate.
Please join us by walking for an hour, a day, or for the entirety. You can support us by organizing a community potluck, a sharing circle, a visit to your mayor, a place for our walkers to sleep, or a coverage by the local media. Also please keep this walk in your thought and prayer.
Nipponzan Myohoji
PEACE WALK ROUTE (Northern Route)
Route Map
No Drugs, No Alcohol, No Weapons.
We will typically walk 12-18 miles per day.
Jun Yasuda Nipponzan Myohoji Grafton Peace Pagoda Phone: 518-658-9301
Jules Orkin Phone: 201-566-8403 Email:
This is a part of collaborated interfaith peace walks toward NPT conference in NYC. There are two other routes: from Oak Ridge, TN (Southern Route) and from Burlington, VT (Eastern Route).
Walk for a Nuclear-Free Future 2010 Northern Route (3/7/10-5/2/10)

Supported by:
Catholic Workers; Center for Health, Environment & Justice; Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Citizens' Environmental Coalition; CODEPINK; Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR); FootPrints for Peace; Global Network Against Weapon and Nuclear Power in Space; Grandmothers for Peace; Indigenous Women’s Initiatives; Mayors for Peace; New York Regional AFSC; Nuclear Information & Resource Service (NIRS); Pax Christi; Peace Action; Sierra Club; Syracuse Peace Counsel; Veterans for Peace; Western New York Peace Center.

March 2, 2010

Peace activist, Ann Wright, crossed the border into Canada; it hasn't been easy.

What's that about? They finally let Ann Wright into Canada. A woman on FBI watch list for promoting peace. A risky move for the Prime Minister since Canada is busy occupying Afghanistan, as is the toppled Netherlands who won't be occupiers for long.

Photograph by: Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun

The following article is from The Province:
WINDSOR, Ont. — A prominent U.S. peace activist who has previously been refused entry to Canada crossed the border into Windsor Monday afternoon after three hours of questioning by Canadian border agents.

"I guess they didn't find my offences so offensive," joked Ann Wright shortly after emerging from the tunnel into Windsor.

The 63-year-old former U.S. army corporal was denied access to Canada three times in recent years after Canadian immigration agents noticed her name on an FBI watch list.

Wright has been arrested several times in the U.S. during protests against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During one protest, she was arrested in front of the White House for refusing to move when police instructed her to leave. On another occasion, Wright was arrested after standing up during a congressional hearing to shout, "Stop the war." She said her participation in the protests has always been "peaceful and non-violent."

Though her criminal history includes only misdemeanours, Wright said her name was placed on a list of citizens who had committed federal felonies.

The resident of Honolulu, Hawaii, served in the U.S. army for 29 years, including 13 on active duty. After she retired, she served as a member of the U.S. diplomatic corps, but resigned from that position in 2003 in opposition to the war in Iraq.

She will speak at the University of Toronto on Tuesday to share her thoughts on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and on war resisters in Canada.

"I'm strongly opposed to the wars and I think it's important to speak out. If we don't, the government won't know the feelings of citizens."

A spokesman for Code Pink Toronto, one of the organizations sponsoring Wright's presentation, said Wright chose the Windsor-Detroit border crossing because she had received letters of support from local MPs Joe Comartin and Brian Masse.
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

-thanks to The Province