January 21, 2011

My Country Right or Wrong: Conscientious Objector Josh Stieber on Being Wrong About the Military

Josh Stieber in photo from Slate.

Here is an interview with Josh Stieber in the column, The Wrong Stuff: What it means to make mistakes posted in Slate last month. Josh would have been on the patrol that walked into the US massacre of innocents (Collateral Murder) - exposed by Wikileaks last year - except for the fact that he refused to participate in war crimes only days earlier and wasn't allowed on this action.

January 20, 2011

video: Naomi Klein: Addicted to Risk. Take 20 minutes to watch this. Then take some time with friends to figure out how to stop the insanity.

Nuclear waste, tar sands, Guantanamo, mountaintop removal, drone assassinations, war, torture, occupation, depleted uranium, water pollution -the list goes on and on. Surely you can find an issue of importance that interests you. Perhaps you can get together with friends and neighbors and work to resist crimes against humanity and nature. You can't do it all, but together we can all do it.

January 16, 2011

Def Poetry - Suheir Hammad - What I Will

Before You Enlist

Witness Against Torture midway through 11 day fast and vigil in DC

protesters on January 11, 2011 in Washington, DC


“The existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained... By any measure, the costs of keeping Guantanamo open far exceed the complications involved in closing it... That is why I ordered it closed within one year.”
- President Barack Obama, May 21, 2009


President Barak Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo and End Torture is broken. January 11, 2011 marks the beginning of the 10th year of confinement, abuse and injustice for the men at Guantanamo.

On Tuesday, January 11, 2011 Witness Against Torture gathered at the White House for a press conference, then proceeded in a “prisoner procession” to the Department of Justice for nonviolent direct action. 174 men are imprisoned at Guantanamo.

From 1.11‐1.22, we will fast and hold daily vigils and demonstrations throughout Washington, haunting the sites of power with the specter of Guantanamo’s cruel injustice.

Why These Dates? On January 11th, 2002, the first men came to the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba‐ which the Bush administration had established as a permanent holding facility for those dubbed enemy combatants. The notion was that U.S. law‐ like the writ of habeas corpus, the right of due process, freedom from torture and abuse‐ would not extend to Cuba.

Then, on January 22, 2009, President Obama committed his administration to closing the prison camp at Guantanamo within a year. Since then, the process of releasing, relocating, or prosecuting the men there has been mired in bureaucratic machinations, Congressional grandstanding, fear‐mongering, and political backsliding. Despite his claim to break from the past, President Obama has upheld many of the worst Bush policies – from the denial of habeas corpus, to immunity for torturers, rendition, and indefinite detention without charge or trial.

That this abrogation of the law has been allowed to continue under Obama is a galling outrage. Guantanamo continues—and worse, is being replicated and extended in Afghanistan where the United States administers at least nine prisons. We need principled, nonviolent witness and action to secure due process, accountability, and a world without torture, cruelty, and endless warmaking.

PLEASE JOIN US Come to Washington and participate, or plan an event in your own community. Contribute to the Campaign, Co‐sponsor our effort, Learn more about our work.

January 12, 2011

The politics of Targets. From Binh Thuy to Tuscon

The POLITICS of TARGETS. Palin's bulls eye targets of 20 Congr candidates to be defeated because they support health care ("don't retreat, Instead RELOAD) conceivably is outrageously illegal hate speech. Map on rt shows targets of "enemy" in Binh Thuy environs - inhabited villages in Viet Nam's Mekong Delta slated for likely bombings, 9,000 miles fm Wash, DC. Pilots carrying out bombings win promotions.

Motto: "Our business is killing, and business is good."

This intelligence map was updated everyday in our bunker in Binh Thuy in 1969, with a similar one at our intelligence HQ at Tan Son Nhut along with maps of all 10 7th Air Force bases in country.

My point is that we are targeting human beings all over the world, murdering and maiming millions of them, all considered by our political & military leaders & many of our citizens as legal policy carried out by acts of patriotism. It is our model, and it starts at the top, and works it way down as part of the USAmerican ethos of exceptionalism, self righteousness, and rationalized hubris. It is all sick, all a product of some very severe ubiquitous mental illness created by an obsession to control covering over deep insecurities about our own "original sin" humanity. Theologian Mathew Fox wrote some time ago the antidote: "Original Blessing." But we, at least in the materialist West, do not believe that yet.

As I said, our national bi-partisan model - displayed constantly right from the top - is targeting people and cultures all over the world. Since 1798, the US has overtly militarily invaded more than 100 countries at least 560 times, and 390 of them have occurred since WWII, mostly in what we describe as "Third World" cultures. Also since WWII the USA has covertly intervened thousands of times in over a hundred countries while bombing 28 of them. Millions have been murdered; billions impoverished, all inflicted with total impunity.

And since the Civil War the US has made thousands of threatening military port calls around the world. Now with a doctrine of full spectrum dominance, the US has military ships in every sea space, planes in every airspace, troops in 150 countries, and is actively militarizing space.

This pathology is called, in Jungian terms, as "projection," a dirty trick used to avoid looking at ones own dark shadows by projecting them on others "out there," devising various schemes of demonizing and creating evils de jour.

-thanks to S Brian Willson for photo and comment

IVAW: Why Jeff Hanks deployment was postponed.

From IVAW's Operation Recovery Campaign Team:
"We last reported to you that Jeff's deployment date was postponed. Now we know why.

Overwhelmed by the pressure and anxiety of his pending deployment that night, Jeff had a mental break-down on Sunday afternoon. He is now receiving care at a civilian mental health facility where he will be for at least the next ten days. The Hanks' are feeling more optimistic about Jeff's care now that he is out of the Army's reach and getting in-patient treatment by civilians.

We are relieved that Jeff was not deployed given the state of his mental health.

But we are outraged that it had to go this far.

Let us be clear - the U.S. Army command at Fort Campbell, specifically Captain Jason Ambrosino, pushed this soldier to the brink. And they need to be held accountable.

We know that your emails to Cpt. Ambrosino are having an effect. To date his inbox has been flooded with over 2,400 messages, letting him know that people from around the country are monitoring his actions closely. (After about the 1500th email, it appears that he has set up an auto-reply message referring people to the Public Affairs Office at Fort Campbell.) He also is required to respond within 15 days to the Article 138 redress request we submitted charging him with various violations of Jeff's rights.

Presently, Army officials at Fort Campbell are remaining quiet about what Jeff could face when he returns from the hospital. They could choose to punish him for going AWOL back in October. They could try to discharge him without any benefits. They even could set a new deployment date.

We are preparing to increase the pressure should Jeff's commanders take such negative action, but first we need to give Jeff and his family a little space and time for Jeff to get the care that he needs.

Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers. We will keep you informed as soon as there are new ways to take action.

Jeff is one of thousands of soldiers right now who are being forced into combat despite suffering from serious mental health problems. The Army is denying treatment to soldiers in Jeff's situation every single day. That is what the Operation Recovery campaign aims to stop. Over the next few months, we will be sending outreach teams to military bases with high rates of suicide, letting GIs know that they have the right to heal and holding those accountable who are denying that right.

Your support is what makes this work possible.

Thank you,

The Operation Recovery Campaign Team"

January 11, 2011

IVAW: Jeff Hanks was not deployed to Afghanistan as scheduled.

If you signed the letter for Jeff Hanks, you received the following email from IVAW yesterday. I'm reposting it for those who didn't get a chance to sign, but were concerned about the outcome. Thanks to all of you and especially the people who worked so hard to accomplish this.

Late last night (Sunday night), we learned that Jeff Hanks was not deployed to Afghanistan yesterday as scheduled.

Thank you for the hundreds of emails that you sent to his unit commander, Cpt. Ambrosino. His email inbox was flooded over the weekend with 2,000 emails!

Our Operation Recovery Team down at Fort Campbell spent all day Saturday delivering copies of the Article 138 redress request to Jeff's Division Command office and the Army Behavioral Health clinic that failed to treat Jeff. And we distributed flyers to every room of the Barracks on Fort Campbell.

We have yet to learn the full details of the delay of his deployment, but will keep you posted as soon as we learn anything.

One thing we can be sure of is that Jeff is not out of the woods yet.

If you have not yet gotten a chance to email Captain Jason Ambrosino, the commander responsible for denying Jeff Hanks' medical treatment, we encourage you to do so now.

Click here to send him an email.

We will be letting you know of our next moves to step up the pressure and make sure that Jeff's chain of command gets the message: No more deployment of traumatized troops! Soldiers have a right to heal!

You have helped us get this far. We will let you know what you can do next to keep the momentum going.

THANK YOU! (And stay tuned...)

In Solidarity,

The Operation Recovery Campaign Team

January 10, 2011

Even Lost Wars Make Corporations Rich

By Chris Hedges

Power does not rest with the electorate. It does not reside with either of the two major political parties. It is not represented by the press. It is not arbitrated by a judiciary that protects us from predators. Power rests with corporations. And corporations gain very lucrative profits from war, even wars we have no chance of winning. All polite appeals to the formal systems of power will not end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We must physically obstruct the war machine or accept a role as its accomplice.

The moratorium on anti-war protests in 2004 was designed to help elect the Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry. It was a foolish and humiliating concession. Kerry snapped to salute like a windup doll when he was nominated. He talked endlessly about victory in Iraq. He assured the country that he would not have withdrawn from Fallujah. And by the time George W. Bush was elected for another term the anti-war movement had lost its momentum. The effort to return Congress to Democratic control in 2006 and end the war in Iraq became another sad lesson in incredulity. The Democratic Party, once in the majority, funded and expanded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Barack Obama in 2008 proved to be yet another advertising gimmick for the corporate and military elite. All our efforts to work within the political process to stop these wars have been abject and miserable failures. And while we wasted our time, tens of thousands of Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani civilians, as well as U.S. soldiers and Marines, were traumatized, maimed and killed.

Either you are against war or you are not. Either you use your bodies to defy the war makers and weapons manufacturers until the wars end or you do not. Either you have the dignity and strength of character to denounce those who ridicule or ignore your core moral beliefs—including Obama—or you do not. Either you stand for something or you do not. And because so many in the anti-war movement proved to be weak and naive in 2004, 2006 and 2008 we will have to start over. This time we must build an anti-war movement that will hold fast. We must defy the entire system. We must acknowledge that it is not our job to help Democrats win elections. The Democratic Party has amply proved, by its failure to stand up for working men and women, its slavishness to Wall Street and its refusal to end these wars, that it cannot be trusted. We must trust only ourselves. And we must disrupt the system. The next chance, in case you missed the last one, to protest these wars will come Saturday, March 19, the eighth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Street demonstrations are scheduled in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. You can find details on www.answercoalition.org/national/index.html.

We are spending, much of it through the accumulation of debt, nearly a trillion dollars a year to pay for these wars. We drive up the deficits to wage war while we have more than 30 million people unemployed, some 40 million people living in poverty and tens of millions more in a category euphemistically called “near poverty.” The profits of weapons manufacturers and private contractors have quadrupled since the invasion of Afghanistan. But the cost for corporate greed has been chronic and long-term unemployment and underemployment and the slashing of federal and state services. The corporations, no matter how badly the wars are going, make huge profits from the conflicts. They have no interest in turning off their money-making machine. Let Iraqis die. Let Afghans die. Let Pakistanis die. Let our own die. And the mandarins in Congress and the White House, along with their court jesters on the television news shows, cynically “feel our pain” and sell us out for bundles of corporate cash.

Michael Prysner, a veteran of the Iraq War and one of the co-founders of March Forward!, gets it. His group is one of those organizing the March 19 protests. Prysner joined the Army out of high school in June 2001. He was part of the Iraq invasion force. He worked during the war in Iraq tracking targets and calling in airstrikes and artillery barrages. He took part in nighttime raids on Iraqi homes. He worked as an interrogator. He did ground surveillance missions and protected convoys. He left the Army in 2005, disgusted by the war and the lies told to sustain it. He has been involved since leaving the military in anti-recruiting drives at high schools and street protests. He was arrested with 130 others in front of the White House during the Dec. 16 anti-war protest organized by Veterans for Peace.

-thanks to Truthdig

January 8, 2011 was a tough day . . .

. . . six people were killed and many more wounded in a cowardly act of unspeakable violence.

These people awakened on that day, ate their breakfasts, played with their children / grandchildren / parents / friends, made love, brushed their teeth, used the toilet, and any number of other “normal” activities we do every day, and they probably didn’t even imagine that it would be their last day on earth—beating hearts silenced by hatred, ignorance and bigotry. Lives cut short and futures canceled by a murderous and unconscionable massacre.

I hope for the sake of the victim’s families and for international justice that those responsible for this massacre will be held accountable, but unfortunately, they are not even in custody—or even “persons of interest” in this despicable crime.

Oh, did you think I was talking about the “massacre in Tucson” that has been in all the news? Although, that was also a horrible, unspeakable act of violence, I am actually talking about the fact that at least six people were killed in North Waziristan by a Hellfire missile dropped from one of Obama’s drones.

-from Violence: From Tucson to Datta Khel

by Cindy Sheehan

January 9, 2011

Article 138 Complaints / GI Rights Hotline (877-4487)

See GI Rights Hotline to learn about Article 138 Complaints

Veterans" White House arrest greeted by nationwide news blackout.

I came across this letter written by Sandy. The arrest happened back on December 16th. I chat with friends and family all across the country. Just yesterday I was talking to a friend from Long Island. We had joined the Marines together in '65 and spent many years protesting the war we participated in. As was the case for many of my other friends, the ones who don't read my blog, he heard nothing about the December 16th action.

I thought the letter was worth posting.

By Sanford Kelson

On December 16, approximately 100 honorably discharged American Armed Forces veterans, members of Veterans For Peace, myself included, and 30 some supporters were arrested at the White House gate while an additional five to seven hundred vets and supporters stood outside the restricted zone. It was the largest action of its type in many years.

The message of “Operation Peace on Earth” was direct: “President Obama Stop these Endless Wars.” Our government has been at war, overtly or covertly, since Vietnam was liberated. Only the scenery and the color of the corpses have changed – the suffering remains constant. Veterans For Peace repeatedly asked for a meeting with our President, who never served his country in uniform, and repeatedly he has not even had the civil decency to acknowledge our communications. So much for his “honoring America’s veterans.”

As word spreads around about the local area I have been repeatedly asked why I subjected myself to arrest. Let me explain:

During twelve years of public school education I estimate I said the Pledge of Allegiance approximately 2000 times. I remember it well. I was especially proud to recite the ending phrase… with liberty and justice for all.

Upon graduation from high school in 1962, I joined the US Army and proudly took the soldiers’ oath to …support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…

After serving honorably, having attained the rank of sergeant, I graduated from law school in 1974 where I learned about the rule of law and the Bill of Rights which includes the right of freedom of speech and press, the right to assemble and petition for redress, the right to be free from unreasonable searches, the right not to be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, the right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment and the right to a speedy and public criminal trial.

I then took the lawyer oaths to be admitted to the Pennsylvania and Federal Bars, again, swearing…I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States…

The same pledge and oaths exist today but things have changed drastically in America since the time I took them.

The current president lists people, including US citizens, for assassination without any due process protections. The previous president and the current one both kidnapped people and secretly vanished them to torture chambers in dictatorial regimes that the USG supports over the will of the people in those countries. The USG violates the prohibition against unreasonable searches. Peace activists exercising their constitutional rights are spied upon and harassed. The US makes war in violation of the Constitution and solemn treaties. The USG authorizes cruel and unusual punishment in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen

Government officials have admitted engaging in acts that violated the law and their oaths of office but there have been no attempts by appropriate government officials to hold them accountable, e.g., former president George W. Bush acknowledged authorizing water boarding. Law suits filed by victims of these abuses are regularly summarily dismissed.

Henry David Thoreau was in jail for refusing to pay taxes in protest of the Mexican-American War. Ralph Waldo Emerson visited Thoreau and asked through the bars:

“Henry, why are you in jail?”
Thoreau, knowing that was the wrong question, replied with the right question:
"Waldo, why are you not here?"
I too ask all Americans who prize traditional American values the same question: Why weren’t you arrested with the rest of us?

To paraphrase Howard Zinn, the late famous historian and professor, I feel as if I live in an occupied country.

January 8, 2011

URGENT! Army Specialist Jeff Hanks faces imminent redeployment to Afghanistan - Your help needed TODAY

Less than two months after surrendering himself at Fort Campbell from AWOL status, and without having received treatment for his war wounds, Jeff Hanks was told this week that he is scheduled for redeployment to Afghanistan TOMORROW. Today, Iraq Veterans Against the War's Operation Recovery Campaign is hand-delivering an Article 138 Redress Request to Hanks’ commander detailing numerous violations of Jeff's right to heal.

Send a message to Jeff's unit commander, Captain Jason Ambrosino: STOP REDEPLOYING WOUNDED WARRIORS!

Since being back at Fort Campbell, Jeff has been a good soldier, all the while struggling with symptoms of severe PTSD and presumed Traumatic Brain Injury:

  • He suffers from hearing loss and bad headaches daily.
  • He experiences extreme anxiety in crowds and while driving.
  • He has such graphic nightmares that he doesn't want to sleep near his family members for fear of hurting them.

Jeff has tried doggedly to get the health treatment he needs, but consistently has faced roadblocks erected by Captain Ambrosino. Jeff started to get some relief when he began seeing a civilian counselor off-base, but Captain Ambrosino put an end to that.

Four separate medical professionals have diagnosed Jeff with PTSD, but Army Behavioral Health personnel and Captain Ambrosino refuse to acknowledge this fact.

Jeff's lawyer charges that Captain Ambrosino has failed to meet the accepted standards of care for soldiers suffering from PTSD, has interfered with the care that Hanks was receiving from a civilian counselor, and has violated Department of Defense regulations.

Tell Captain Ambrosino that he is violating the rights of soldiers and breaking the law.

Jeff's pre-deployment health screenings two days ago denied his PTSD, and results of an MRI for suspected head trauma will not be available until after he is in Afghanistan. The Army behavioral health specialist who conducted the screening told Jeff he should seek treatment while deployed in Afghanistan. But Jeff knows that it getting treatment in-country is a joke!

The way Jeff has been treated is OUTRAGEOUS, and he is not the only one who's had this experience at Fort Campbell. In fact, in 2009, Fort Campbell led the Army in suicides and had to shut down the base for three days when a series of suicides occurred after troops had returned home from deployment.

Well, 3,000 soldiers returned home to Fort Campbell yesterday, and unfortunately we may expect a similar situation to un-fold in the coming weeks.

The Operation Recovery campaign is setting up shop at Fort Campbell

Late yesterday, members of the Operation Recovery team arrived at Fort Campbell to take action on behalf of Jeff Hanks and all soldiers who are in a similar situation at Campbell.

Today, we are holding a press conference, and serving Captain Ambrosino notice in-person that we will no longer allow him to violate soldiers' right to heal.

Take action now, by letting Captain Ambrosino know that the public is watching his actions, and we will stand up for the rights of wounded warriors.

We plan to be in Fort Campbell for several weeks, where we will outreach to soldiers and their families who are dealing with PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Military Sexual Trauma. And we will continue to hold Captain Ambrosino and any other officer accountable who dares to deny soldiers their right to heal.

In Solidarity,

The Operation Recovery Campaign Team

-thanks to Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW)

Shame on you, Sarah Palin and Barach Obama

To Sarah Palin: Your call for the assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was answered today. Your protégé, alleged terrorist Jared Lee Loughner, seems to have taken heed of your instructions. Several people died, many more were seriously injured. I am guessing that the 9-year-old child who was murdered had no impact on passing the health care bill you so vehemently opposed, but why would you care. Hunting and killing innocent animals has been your life. What kind of notch goes on your weapon for her?

To President Obama: I saw you on TV tonight commenting on the assassination attempt on Congresswoman Giffords. I have never seen you come on tv when innocent people are killed by our drones. You need to revisit your policy of assassinating suspected terrorists, freedom fighters, mistaken identity civilians, their families and friends in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Almost daily if not weekly we hear about these people being killed in their homes, vehicles, etc by our drones. These assassinations have increased tremendously under your direction as our military's Commander in Chief.

Aside from the ‘collateral damage’ - the people you murder while targeting others - what right do you have killing whomever you want, when and where you want. Your policy sets up a climate in our country that says our government approves of assassinating those we don’t agree with even though they never were tried, let alone found guilty.

The atmosphere of violence that permeates our society is additionally stoked by leaders like those calling for the killing of Wikileaks’ Assange and the abusive treatment of Bradley Manning for exposing US war crimes, etc. Exposing war crimes is not a crime, nor should it be.

We need to curtail our threats of violence and our actual violent policies - locally, nationally and internationally. We need to provide our children (and adults) with examples of a more just and peaceful resolution to our differences. We need to stop mistreating and slaughtering people.

Palin told her supporters to "reload" and "aim" for Democrats.

Palin put up a map with targets on it and the names of Democrats who voted for healthcare reform.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford's Republican Tea Party opponent, Jesse Kelly, had an event encouraging voters to shoot an assault rifle with him as part of the campaign to remove her from office.

Palin pulled her map down after the shooting today.

-thanks to TPM for the graphics

January 6, 2011

January 5, 2011

Judge Dismisses Cases Against Military Veterans and Antiwar Activists Following December 16 Washington, D.C., Arrests

Washington, D.C., January 4, 2011–Antiwar military veterans and other activists celebrated a breakthrough victory today in DC Superior Court, when charges were dropped, following arrests in front of the White House, on December 16, 2010. Over 130 people were arrested in a major veteran-led protest while participating in non-violent civil resistance in a driving snowstorm. U.S. Park Police charged all 131 protesters with “Failure to Obey a Lawful Order,” when they refused to move from the White House fence. The protesters were demanding an end to the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and further U.S. aggression in the region.

Among those arrested were members of the leadership of the national organization Veterans For Peace, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, former senior CIA analyst Ray McGovern, and, Dr. Margaret Flowers, an advocate for single-payer health care.

Forty-two of those arrested opted to appear in court and go to trial with the first group appearing in DC Superior Court on January 4, 2011. Prosecutors from the DC Attorney General’s office stated that the government “declined to file charges due to missing or incomplete police paperwork.” Presiding Magistrate Judge Richard Ringell confirmed that the cases were dropped and defendants were free to leave.

Those who participated in this action make this statement:

“This is clearly a victory for opposition to undeclared wars, which are illegal under international law, have led to the destruction of societies in Iraq and Afghanistan, bled the U.S. Treasury in a time of recession, and caused human rights violations against civilians and combatants. Many of us will return to Washington, D.C., to support an action on Tuesday, January 11, 2011, to protest the continued use of Guantanamo detention facility, including torture of detainees in violation of international law.”

The defendants were represented by co-counsels Ann Wilcox, Esq., and Mark Goldstone, Esq. Ms. Wilcox stated: “Clearly the government and police felt that these veterans and their supporters acted with the courage of their convictions and did not wish to spend the time and funds necessary for a trial proceeding. This is a major victory for the peace movement.”

-thanks to Stop These Wars

January 4, 2011

Failure to Obey a Lawful Order

by Leah Bolger

Imagine you are taking a walk in a park and you witness a mugging. What would you do? Would you look the other way or would you try to stop it? If you are one who would try to stop it, then what would you do when it is your government that is committing the crime? As citizens we are told that we should call our Congressman or write a letter to the editor when we are dissatisfied with our government. But writing a letter to the editor is no more effective at stopping the crimes of our government than it is at stopping a mugging.

On December 16th, 2010, I participated in an act of civil resistance in an attempt to stop my government from continuing to commit crimes—namely the ongoing wars of aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the middle of a heavy snowstorm, I was arrested along with 130 other people in front of the White House who refused to move off the sidewalk when ordered to by the police. We were not violent, we carried no weapons, and we damaged no property. We were, however, willing to disobey the police as an act of resistance to our government; as a way of saying “No” to the senseless slaughter of innocent people; “No” to outrageous war profiteering, “No” to our government’s flagrant disregard of international law, ”No” to the squandering of hundreds of billions of dollars.

Although it is we who were treated like criminals—handcuffed, arrested and charged, we are not the ones ordering drone strikes or sending in troops. We are not the ones using illegal weapons and poisoning the earth. We are not the ones with blood on our hands. The real criminals continue unabated, shamelessly claiming that they are “making progress,” and unabashedly announcing that they plan to continue their crimes for many years to come.

None of us expected that these illegal wars of aggression would immediately stop due to our simple action, but we did hope that we would send a message--a message that there are citizens who do not support our government’s illegal wars and occupations; a message to the world that we are shamed by the actions of our government and we will do everything we can to stop it. It is our sincere hope that this action will be a spark that ignites the consciousness of others; that our refusal to obey and willingness to put our liberty on the line will give them the courage of their own convictions and they will also begin to act in resistance as well.

We will continue to defy and disobey, to resist and to rebel. We will not stop until the real criminals have been stopped. We will keep pushing the public to wake up to the horror of war and to take responsibility for ending it. We will rail against these crimes of inhumanity with all the force we can muster. We will continue to try with our voices and our bodies, to throw ourselves onto the machine of greed and killing.

“Failure to Obey a Lawful Order” is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of a $1000 fine. So what is the penalty for failure to obey international law?
Leah Bolger spent 20 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy and retired in 2000 at the rank of Commander. She is currently a full-time peace activist and serves as the National Vice-President of Veterans For Peace.

January 2, 2011

Gorgon Stare: watching everyone - anywhere - whenever they want

"This winter, the Air Force is set to deploy to Afghanistan what it says is a revolutionary airborne surveillance system called Gorgon Stare, which will be able to transmit live video images of physical movement across an entire town."
See Washington Post story about the Gorgon Stare

Source: Retired Lt. Gen David A Deptula, former deputy chief of staff for Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance - Jan 2, 2011

-thanks to the Washington Post

January 1, 2011

VFP pres, Mike Ferner, in Afghanistan advocating for immediate pullout.

The following article is from the Toledo Blade and was published December 31, 2010"

"Dear Afghanistan:” A New Year's Call for Peace

Ferner to aid in global call-in awareness campaign
Mike Ferner, second from right, was arrested for civil disobedience during a Dec. 16 protest in front of the White House. Holding the banner with him is Daniel Ellsberg, center, former military analyst who released the ‘Pentagon Papers' in 1971.

KABUL, Afghanistan — The man who nearly became Toledo's mayor was in handcuffs two weeks ago outside the White House.

Now the full-time activist is spending 16 days touring "the graveyard of empires," trying to bring a speedier end to the U.S. presence on Afghan soil.

Speaking with The Blade by phone from Kabul, Mike Ferner, 59, said that starting tonight he will help lead a 24-hour global call-in campaign aimed at raising support for immediately ending the United States and NATO military involvement in the country
"If we were truly concerned about the Taliban and al-Qaeda, we would quit doing such a good job of recruiting for them, and that's exactly what we're doing now with our tactics," Ferner said by cell phone from his hotel.

The former Toledo councilman and one-time mayoral candidate disagrees with President Obama's decision last year to ramp up the military's counterinsurgency campaign before a July, 2011, deadline to begin drawing down troops. Ferner wants them out now.

"When we pull our troops out, the people of Afghanistan would have to sort things out amongst themselves, and they're going to have to do that whenever we go, whether that's in three weeks or 10 years," said Ferner, a Vietnam-era veteran and president of the national group Veterans for Peace.

The Point Place resident was one of 131 people arrested outside the White House on Dec. 16 while protesting the war in Afghanistan.

The arrest occurred during a Veterans for Peace-sponsored rally. Also handcuffed that day was Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon's secret history of the Vietnam War to the media. Ferner said he was among a group of protesters who refused to step away from a ledge as another group chained themselves to the White House fence. He said he was charged with failure to obey a police officer and has a future court date.

Ferner's letter
VIEW LETTER: Dear Afghanistan

"We wanted to make a point that we are very concerned about U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that was the way that we could express our concern in the strongest terms nonviolently," Ferner said.

Activist and author
The trip is Ferner's first to Afghanistan, but not his first to a war zone. He visited Iraq twice last decade, the first time on the eve of the 2003 U.S. invasion and again the following year. His observations and interviews with numerous Iraqis were compiled for his 2006 book
Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran for Peace Reports from Iraq.

But before his book made it off the press, Ferner was arrested three times for protesting the war. The first arrest in January, 2006, was for spray-painting the anti-war slogans "Troops Out Now!" and "Bye Bush!" on Toledo-area highway bridges.

Two months later, he and other activists were arrested for disrupting a congression al hearing on war funding by reading the names of soldiers and Iraqis killed in the war. He was arrested again that June while participating in a demonstration at a Veterans Administration medical facility in Chicago.

For the graffiti incident, a Lucas County Common Pleas Court jury found Ferner guilty of felony vandalism and possession of criminal tools. He was sentenced to house arrest for 60 days as well as probation. He also had to wear a monitoring ankle bracelet.

Mike Ferner, left, and others gathered downtown in April, 1999, in front of the now demolished federal building to protest NATO's handling of the Kosovo conflict. He has been a full-time activist and writer for the past five years.

It's an unlikely rap sheet for a man who once considered entering the priesthood. A 1969 graduate of St. John's Jesuit High School, Ferner joined the Navy as a hospital corpsman. He was honorably discharged in 1973 as a conscientious objector. He worked as a union organizer in the 1980s and was elected to City Council in 1989 as an independent. In 1993, he dueled Carty Finkbeiner to become Toledo's first strong mayor, losing by just 702 votes.

He said he has been a full-time activist and writer for the past five years.

A ‘huge blunder'
Afghanistan was commonly seen as the good war for many Americans like President Obama who opposed the Iraq invasion. But Ferner believes both wars were wrong. He said the United States should have treated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as criminal acts and focused on bringing to justice those responsible, rather than invading Afghanistan to root out al-Qaeda.

"Had we done that we could have saved countless numbers of lives and injuries," he said. "We made a huge blunder by invading Afghanistan."

While in Washington he visited the Afghan consulate and paid $100 for a visa and filled out a short questionnaire. On Dec. 18 he flew from New York to Moscow then to Dubai, and landed in Kabul Dec. 20.

Ferner said he arrived with six members of the group Voices for Creative Nonviolence. The delegation includes Mary Ann Wright, a former U.S. Army colonel and State Department official who resigned in 2003 over the Iraq invasion. Ms. Wright spoke at the University of Toledo in 2008.

Ferner said he met with a few high-profile Afghans during his first week in the country, including a former member of parliament who ran unsuccessfully for president and a female member of parliament who was expelled and has gone underground.

‘Call for Peace'
The highlight of their trip begins at 7:05 p.m. Eastern time today with "‘Dear Afghanistan': A New Year's Call for Peace." The activists are asking people from around the world to call or e-mail them and a group of Afghan youth. Ferner said the activists and youth will describe for callers the situation in Afghanistan.

"We are trying to generate as many phone calls and e-mails as possible from around the world to show that people are supporting the idea of stopping the killing here," he said.

Mike Ferner was sentenced Aug. 4, 2006, in Lucas County on two counts of felony vandalism for spray-painting anti-war slogans on Toledo area highway bridges.

Ferner said his flight home is Jan. 5. He plans to spend his remaining time in Kabul interviewing Afghans and writing about the experience.

"There's obviously a good number of people who are getting killed under our bombs, and it seems to me the least we can do is know their names and find out a little bit about their lives," he said.

Steve Miller, a founding member of the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition, credits Ferner with doing the right thing in Afghanistan.

"I think anytime you make a human connection like that you accomplish something," said Mr. Miller, who has demonstrated against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. "The effect you have is you present Americans as human beings and you relate to Afghans as human beings too."

But the Rev. Patrick Rohen, a Toledo-area Catholic priest who is a retired Army captain and former chaplain, said a U.S. pullout from Afghanistan now would be a mistake.

A unique war
"My thing is, we were attacked on Sept. 11 almost 10 years ago," he said. "This is a war unlike any war we have ever been in before. The mountains there are up to 20,000 feet in that country. You can't win a war there overnight. We have to stop these people because if we pull out of there unilaterally, the Taliban will take over and we will have a complete chaotic bloodbath like we had before."

Father Rohen, who served as chaplain at the Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky, noted that he has met Ferner and "I respect him and I respect his right to do what he's been doing, but I disagree. As a priest, I disagree with him in the area of social justice. We need to finish this war. I don't agree with him going over there and protesting."

For Ferner, getting troops out of Afghanistan is just half the fight. The next battle is getting the United States to pay war reparations to the Afghan people.

"We spent about a trillion dollars tearing the place up, so we ought to be prepared to pay some pretty stiff reparations too," Ferner said.

Staff writers JC Reindl and Carl Ryan contributed to this report.