January 9, 2011

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.

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