July 23, 2011

video from the October 2011 Coalition

-thanks to Vernon Huffman

July 22, 2011

Ethan McCord On 'New York' Magazine Profile of Bradley Manning: It 'Erases' His Political Motives

Greg Mitchell, July 10, 2011:
For months I have followed the story of Ethan McCord, a former US Army specialist who took heroic actions to help save the two children in the van badly injured in the incident captured in the “Collateral Murder” video released by WikILeaks in April 2010. He has since spoken out against the Iraq war and is featured in a new documentary that won a top prize at the recent Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

Now he has responded to the lengthy profile of Bradley Manning published in last week's New York magazine. On its site the magazine has printed brief excerpts, but we have obtained the full letter and here it is (below).

By Ethan McCord

Serving with my unit 2nd battalion 16th infantry in New Baghdad Iraq, I vividly remember the moment in 2007, when our Battalion Commander walked into the room and announced our new rules of engagement:

"Listen up, new battalion SOP (standing operating procedure) from now on: Anytime your convoy gets hit by an IED, I want 360 degree rotational fire. You kill every [expletive] in the street!"

We weren't trained extensively to recognize an unlawful order, or how to report one. But many of us could not believe what we had just been told to do. Those of us who knew it was morally wrong struggled to figure out a way to avoid shooting innocent civilians, while also dodging repercussions from the non-commissioned officers who enforced the policy. In such situations, we determined to fire our weapons, but into rooftops or abandoned vehicles, giving the impression that we were following procedure.

On April 5, 2010 American citizens and people around the world got a taste of the fruits of this standing operating procedure when WikiLeaks released the now-famous Collateral Murder video. This video showed the horrific and wholly unnecessary killing of unarmed Iraqi civilians and Reuters journalists.

I was part of the unit that was responsible for this atrocity. In the video, I can be seen attempting to carry wounded children to safety in the aftermath.

The video released by WikiLeaks belongs in the public record. Covering up this incident is a matter deserving of criminal inquiry. Whoever revealed it is an American hero in my book.

Private First Class Bradley Manning has been confined for over a year on the government’s accusation that he released this video and volumes of other classified documents to WikiLeaks — an organization that has been selectively publishing portions of this information in collaboration with other news outlets.

If PFC Bradley Manning did what he is accused of doing, then it is clear—from chat logs that have been attributed to him—that his decision was motivated by conscience and political agency. These chat logs allegedly describe how PFC Manning hopes these revelations will result in “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms.”

Unfortunately, Steve Fishman's article Bradley Manning's Army of One in New York Magazine (July 3, 2011) erases Manning’s political agency. By focusing so heavily on Manning's personal life, Fishman removes politics from a story that has everything to do with politics. The important public issues wrapped up with PFC Manning’s case include: transparency in government; the Obama Administration’s unprecedented pursuit of whistle-blowers; accountability of government and military in shaping and carrying out foreign policy; war crimes revealed in the WikiLeaks documents; the catalyzing role these revelations played in democratic movements across the Middle East; and more.

The contents of the WikiLeaks revelations have pulled back the curtain on the degradation of our democratic system. It has become completely normal for decision-makers to promulgate foreign policies, diplomatic strategies, and military operating procedures that are hostile to the democratic ideals our country was founded upon. The incident I was part of—shown in the Collateral Murder video—becomes even more horrific when we grasp that it was not exceptional. PFC Manning himself is alleged to describe (in the chat logs) an incident where he was ordered to turn over innocent Iraqi academics to notorious police interrogators, for the offense of publishing a political critique of government corruption titled, "Where did the money go?" These issues deserve “discussion, debates, and reforms” — and attention from journalists.

Fishman's article was also ignorant of the realities of military service. Those of us who serve in the military are often lauded as heroes. Civilians need to understand that we may be heroes, but we are not saints. We are young people under a tremendous amount of stress. We face moral dilemmas that many civilians have never even contemplated hypothetically.

Civil society honors military service partly because of the sacrifice it entails. Lengthy and repeated deployments stress our closest relationships with family and friends. The realities, traumas, and stresses of military life take an emotional toll. This emotional battle is part of the sacrifice that we honor. That any young soldier might wrestle with his or her experiences in the military, or with his or her identity beyond military life, should never be wielded as a weapon against them.

If PFC Bradley Manning did what he is accused of, he is a hero of mine; not because he's perfect or because he never struggled with personal or family relationships—most of us do—but because in the midst of it all he had the courage to act on his conscience.

Greg Mitchell

-thanks to The Nation

July 18, 2011

Pride, a picnic

photo from Wikipedia

Every once in a while I wander out to a sidewalk in Buffalo and hold up some signs about the drones - "Ground the Drones" or "Stop the Assassinations". I get to chat with people who pull over in their cars or stop as they walk along the sidewalk. I am still surprised that so many ask what a drone is. Most people are friendly and interested, but I used to think everyone knew about them.

If my sign said “Ground the MQ-9 Reapers or the MQ-1 Predators, I would expect less familiarity, but “Drones”. How come everybody doesn’t know about them. The people in other countries know about them. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen to name a few. Obama uses them to assassinate innocent people in these countries all the time.

I shared a booth yesterday at the Pride Picnic in Rochester with an ex-corpsman (3-tours) who deserted before his enlistment was up for principled reasons. He now works with Rochester IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War). He is one of those people easy to talk with, built solid on principles and yet manages to avoid the crippling rigidity of sectarianism. Although the world is full of wonderful people like him I was lucky to spend a few hours with him. The other person at our table was a woman from MFSO (Military Families Speak Out). Another wonderful person. She glowed with relief when she talked about her son completing his four years in the near future. Later, when I dropped the literature off at her house, I had the added pleasure of viewing and shooting some pictures of her fun, colorful hubcaps posted around her yard.

At the picnic, I put up a banner about Bradley Manning. Handed out some stickers. Talked to people

Nobody knew who Bradley Manning was. I wished I had a stack of dvd’s of “Collateral Murder”. I will definitely have them the next time I do a table. That’s the video they arrested him for. Locked him up in May, 2010. He spent some time at Quantico being tortured by Marines. Now he is locked up at Leavenworth. Still no trial.

photo from The New Yorker

The video was automatically filmed and recorded by a military camera on an Apache helicopter. Like those cameras they have on police cars. If in fact Bradley leaked it to Wikileaks as they suggest, he should be recognized as a hero for exposing war crimes. Instead there are members of Congress who want him executed.

Watch the video and decide for yourself.


While you are at the site, watch the interview with Ethan McCord. He was the marine who came upon the site of the massacre and rescued the little boy and girl who were severely wounded in the van. They are both ok now thanks to him. He was chewed out on the scene for paying attention to the kids.

You don’t see Obama pinning any medals on Ethan.

July 16, 2011

Congratulations to peace activist, Brian Willson

He just completed his 800 mile handcycling book tour from Portland, OR to San Francisco, CA.

photo: Brant Ward / The Chronicle

Gliding slowly along the back roads of the Bay Area this week is a white-haired man on a strange, low-slung tricycle powered by hand cranks. His two metal prosthetic legs poke out under his shorts to rest in stirrups, and he never musters more than 10 mph.

Most drivers have blown by in Sonoma, Marin and Contra Costa counties with barely a glance. Some stare. The cyclist never notices, cranking, always cranking - and usually with a big smile on his face.

Little do they know this is one of the most renowned antiwar protesters of the past quarter-century.

He is Brian Willson, and he is on a tour to promote the autobiography he released this month, "Blood on the Tracks." It's a book 24 years in the making - ever since Sept. 1, 1987, when he was run over by a munitions train at the Concord Naval Weapons Station while trying to block it from delivering bombs headed for Central America.

Lost his legs

Willson lost both legs below the knees and suffered a fractured skull that day. In the years since, he has been in demand at lecture halls and hailed as a pre-eminent voice of peace advocacy by people ranging from activist actors Ed Asner and Kris Kristofferson to Pentagon Papers figure Daniel Ellsberg, who wrote the foreword to his book.

But now, at the age of 70 - his birthday was the Fourth of July - and living in a solar-powered house he built three years ago in Portland, Ore., Willson feels his life is about more than peace protest.

His 440-page book traces his journey from high school baseball star in Ashville, N.Y., to Air Force captain in Vietnam to antiwar figure - and on to today, when he says his most important message is that "we have to all live more simply, because our lifestyle in America is totally unsustainable."

Living small

"After all the things I've experienced in my life, I think the neolithic village is our model," Willson said the other day as he stopped for lunch at the Sebastopol home of a longtime protest pal, Eszter Freeman. "We'd all be better off living in small, local, self-sufficient communities, using simple tools.

"The lifestyle we've had for the past century, based on fossil fuels that are disappearing and polluting our planet and causing wars, is unhealthy and killing the earth," Willson said. "There's only one ultimate solution - radical downsizing of our lives."

That, Willson said, is why he has undertaken this book tour not in rented cars or buses, but by hand-cycling the 800 miles from Portland to San Francisco, with side routes, over the course of a month.

He started June 25 and will speak at San Francisco's First Unitarian Church at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. After hitting a few final lecture spots, he will board a train July 23 headed back home.

Appeal to young

He said younger people at his book stops often tell him they didn't know who he was before seeing notices advancing his appearances. The conflicts from the 1980s over El Salvador and Nicaragua have long since given way to arguments over Afghanistan and Iraq, and though Willson still rails against war, his wider mantra of going green and questioning authority means more to some of them than peace activism.

"Brian was much more focused on Central America 25 years ago, but now he's gone deeper into the American way of life," said David Hartsough, a fellow protester in 1987 who protected Willson's exposed brain as he lay, head cracked open, on the tracks.

On Wednesday, Willson's journey brought him back for the first time in many years to the Concord Naval Weapons Station, now mostly shuttered and awaiting civilian re-use. He and Hartsough had a few hours before a book talk, so they drove up to the exact spot where Willson's life changed 24 years ago.

Visit from the law

They'd been on the tracks for one minute before six Contra Costa County sheriff and U.S. Army security cars swarmed them. They wanted to know if the man with the artificial legs and his companion were terrorists - a label once used by the military to describe Willson back when he was blocking munitions trains.

The whole thing blew over quickly. One cop called Willson "a legend when I was in school," and said he was glad to meet him.

"After all these years, to be stopped like that again," Willson mused with a small chuckle. "I mean really - after all these years?"

Tour blog

A trip blog, tour schedule and description of "Blood on the Tracks," by Brian Willson, can be found at:


E-mail Kevin Fagan at kfagan@sfchronicle.com

-thanks to SF Gate

July 13, 2011

Jeremy Scahill on Democracy Now! talking about the CIA's secret sites in Somalia. Parts 1 & 2

Part 1

Part 2

-thanks to Democracy Now!

Three short videos about drones, the assassination weapon.

Ed Kinane:
"Bob Miller. a Syracuse University photojournalism student, shadowed some of us local drone activists a few weeks ago and made three short videos with footage from interviews and our drone tableaux."

Drones: Part 1: The Robotics Revolution from Bob Miller on Vimeo.

Drones: Part 2: Accountability from Bob Miller on Vimeo.

Drones: Part 3: Responsibility from Bob Miller on Vimeo.

July 12, 2011


Charges of "Disorderly Conduct-Blocking Passage" Not Presented in Timely Fashion by Prosecution
On March 19, 2011, 113 activists were arrested while demonstrating, and petitioning our government, to end the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to free whistleblower Bradley Manning. The protestors were challenging the U.S. government's effort to quash their right to "petition for redress" by arresting them while peacefully assembled at the White House fence. Demonstrators included whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, philosopher Chris Hedges, and health care activist Dr. Margaret Flowers, members of Veterans for Peace, and other long-time peace activists.
Washington, DC—The pro se trial scheduled to begin today for 19 peace activists – including members of Veterans for Peace and one World War II veteran – stemmed from arrests made on March 19, 2011, on the sidewalk near the White House, and has been postponed after the two sides disagreed on the version of the law that should be used in the trial.

DC Superior Court Judge Russell F. Canan continued the trial until 9:30 am, Monday, August 29, 2011 – only after defense attorneys Ann Wilcox and Deborah C. Anderson raised concerns that Assistant Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Tamara Barnett, brought forth new charges just days before the start of the trial date. The judge was concerned that the defendants had not been properly arraigned and notified of these charges.

Judge Canan chastised defense for not checking the filing of the charges even though prosecution did not attempt to deliver these charges until the weekend before today's trial. Wilcox and Anderson are concerned that the new law will make it easier to convict the defendants, and asked for additional time to investigate which law should be used and to prepare their clients for a pro se trial.

Prosecutors strongly urged Stay Away orders from the White House for all defendants, but Judge Canan did not grant their request.

-thanks to Veterans for Peace

July 5, 2011

Alice Walker: At Sea on the Audacity of Hope

By Alice Walker, Reader Supported News, July 2, 2011
Alice Walker posted the article and poem below on the Facebook page, US BOAT TO GAZA. The page has recently been updated to announce:
"Our boat's captain has been put in jail, charged with disturbing sea traffic - which includes endangering the lives of those on the ships - and disobeying a police order to remain at dock. The crew is being detained on the boat, which is being held at a military dock just outside Athens. Most of the 36 passengers remain on the ship in solidarity with the captain and crew."

Today is, I think, the 31st of June (Friday?) or is it the 1st of July?

We have been in Athens since the 21st - trying to get to Gaza. Many impediments orchestrated by the Israeli government. But what a wonderful group of humans.

Therefore: We've won. We're in Gaza. To be in Gaza is to feel this love. To know there is always a part of humanity that is awake even though the overburdened or the bewitched remain sleeping.

My throat is sore from breathing the tear gas that drifted into our hotel windows, as Greeks, mostly young, battle police, their brothers and sisters who are paid to keep them in line. This is the tragedy. I feel so much compassion for both sides my eyes tear and not only from the gas.

It was hard to breathe. My lungs were fighting hard to protect me. How I adore them, my lungs. And so many of our group tried to protect us, my lungs and me, too. A lovely young man named Steve gave me his own gas mask and someone else, a beautiful young woman with straw colored hair and blue gray eyes gave me the benefit of her knowledge of how to wear it.

I do not like calling such angels "blonde" as I feel the word is so loaded now and it sets them outside of Nature and somehow diminishes them.

I spent a blissful hour yesterday massaging Hedy's feet. She has the most wonderful gray eyes - full of humor and light. She'd never had a foot massage before, she said. And she is eighty-seven! Hard to imagine.

Hedy, I said - when she told everyone who passed by us: "I'm being spoiled" - I have a full body massage at least once a week!

This was a high point for me, as it is well established by now in myself and among my friends, that I like to massage the feet of anyone who stands up for us. Humanity, I mean.

Or the other animals.

Hedy, holocaust survivor, inhaling the gas in Greece, but even more poignant, anticipating being tear gassed by the Israelis who are doing everything they can to threaten our boat.

I have no computer - they said not to bring one on the boat because it would likely by destroyed or confiscated - only this small notebook in which I have been avoiding writing the poem that starts and stops in my head:

US writer Alice Walker in Gaza City in 2009. Photograph: AP
Sailing the Hot Streets of Athens, Greece
It has been so
Is it hot
where you are?
Penned up
in a destroyed
In Gaza?

The whole world
by its weathers
& other
still is watching
as we yearn
towards each other.

Trying to embrace
each other
to give each
to ourselves
a simple

The whole world
is watching
& it is
wondering how
turn out.

They are making
it hard
for us to move
& sometimes
we are
in despair
but I remind
that you
of all people

They know this place
we are in
of not
being able to move.
They know it
This place of stalemate
& stagnation, so unbearable
to any heart
that's free
is where they

They will forgive
if we do not
on time.

having left our
own homes
we are

I believe
with all my heart
in the magic
and the power
of intention.

The women & men
with cameras
to record
our dreams
& our frustrations.
most of them are
& we are glad
of this.

We want them
to see their
& their elders
attempting to make
this voyage
to endure
this crossing.

We pray they
are of good heart
& balanced
the spies
among them
we hope
will learn
they may never
have guessed

That a boat
with love letters
from children
is a threat
to those
little memory
of youth
or experience
of love.

I have given
my word that I would
and so I do - if not
on our boat
that is not so far
allowed to go
to sea,
then through
the air sending
thoughts and feelings
I sail:
We all sail.
We sail the hot, sticky
of Athens, Greece
longing to see
the faces
& deliver
love letters
to the people
of Gaza.

Written on our beautiful boat whose canopy is a giant peaceful American flag, as we sail the waters off the coast of Greece and are intercepted by the Greek coast guard.