Monday, November 29, 2010

Solidarity and Hope: The Ongoing Saga To Close ‘School of the Assassins’


Bearing Witness, Making Solidarity:

5000 Turn Out vs. Torture and Murder

At Fort Benning’s ‘School of the Americas’

By Carl Davidson

CCDS Field Organizer

The annual School of the Americas Watch vigil and procession are a unique and powerful event in America political life

Going on for 20 years now, the mobilization against the training of torturers and killers in Fort Benning, GA is part peace mobilization, part solidarity with Latin America event, part religious pageant, part public face of the Catholic left, and part gathering of the tribes for newly radicalized youth. The gathering draws thousands of people, including nuns and priests, veterans and labor organizers, along with other peace and solidarity activists. They all come for a two-day creative mixture of diverse events that leaves everyone politically transformed and emotionally peaked.

This year’s event was no different. Over the weekend of Nov 19-21, close to 5000 people took part is a series of colorful and dramatic actions. Thirty were arrested and held several days by police. Four of these were arrested after intentionally committing civil disobedience by climbing over a fence topped with barbed wire at the entrance to Fort Benning. Others were arrested for simply straying off a sidewalk in an attempt to march to downtown Columbus, GA. Local courts imposed heavy fines and maximum sentences.

Why is the U.S military training torturers and death squads? The answer is an old one: wealth, power and intimidated, non-union labor.

“For the past several decades, the US has allied with dictators in Latin America who helped that region’s small, elite group of wealthy landowners,” said SOAW founder Father Roy Bourgeois, a Louisiana native, who lives just outside the gates of the school in Fort Benning where he carries on his work.

“We got involved militarily with these countries because they were rich in natural resources, with coffee in Colombia, bananas in Central America, copper in Chile, petroleum in Venezuela and tin in Bolivia. With their militaries, the U.S. joined with them to exploit those natural resources and to pay workers $1 a day. There were no labor laws there,” Bourgeois noted. “We were like the new conquistadors.”

The high point of the weekend was the Sunday procession of thousands, each carrying a white cross with the name of a slain Latin American peasant, worker or child, and a number of priests and nuns, including Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, slain by those trained in Fort Benning’s SOA facility. Teams of singers mournfully sang the names and ages, and after each one, everyone raised their crosses, and answered with the classic salute of the living to those who have fallen in battle: “Presente!”

The procession lasted for hours as the column of mourners bearing crosses of the dead walked from the front of the stage up one side of the street to the police barriers and back down the other side of the street to the back of the stage. There they placed the crosses into the chain link fence blocking the entrance to the military base. Many mourners cried. Some raised their fists. Some knelt in prayer or meditation as the singing of the names and the chant of “Presente!” continued. Behind the stage a theatre group staged a scene of murdered members of a religious order, their bodies spattered with blood. Others snapped pictures or stood quietly.

Hands Off the DPRK, No More War!

US Troops Using Blimp to Practice Airborne Jumps in Korea

Keeping Perspective on North Korea

By Matthew Rothschild
Beaver County Peace Links
via The Progressive - Nov 27, 2010

When the current Korean crisis emerged, I immediately contacted the wisest person I know on the subject. His name is Gene Matthews, and he spent decades in South Korea as a missionary who was active in the pro-democracy movement there.

He's a contributor to a great new book called "More Than Witnesses: How a Small Group of Missionaries Aided Korea's Democratic Revolution."

Here's what he has to say about the current standoff.

"North Korea has always felt threatened by joint military exercises of the U.S. and South Korea, and has always protested against them," he says. "This time, North Korea stated that the exercises were taking place in North Korean territory and that if shots were fired during the exercise they would retaliate. Shots were fired (not at the North, it should be pointed out but out toward the ocean) and the North retaliated."

What's saddest about this standoff, he says, is that it shows how far relations have slid in the last fifteen years.

Korea Crisis: Need For Talking, Not fighting

Kim Jon IL Greets Madeline Albright

North Korea's

Consistent Message

to the U.S.

By Jimmy Carter
Washington Post
Nov 24, 2010

No one can completely understand the motivations of the North Koreans, but it is entirely possible that their recent revelation of their uranium enrichment centrifuges and Pyongyang's shelling of a South Korean island Tuesday are designed to remind the world that they deserve respect in negotiations that will shape their future. Ultimately, the choice for the United States may be between diplomatic niceties and avoiding a catastrophic confrontation.

Dealing effectively with North Korea has long challenged the United States. We know that the state religion of this secretive society is "juche," which means self-reliance and avoidance of domination by others. The North's technological capabilities under conditions of severe sanctions and national poverty are surprising. Efforts to display its military capability through the shelling of Yeongpyeong and weapons tests provoke anger and a desire for retaliation. Meanwhile, our close diplomatic and military ties with South Korea make us compliant with its leaders' policies.

The North has threatened armed conflict before. Nearly eight years ago, I wrote on this page about how in June 1994 President Kim Il Sung expelled International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors and proclaimed that spent fuel rods could be reprocessed into plutonium. Kim threatened to destroy Seoul if increasingly severe sanctions were imposed on his nation.

Desiring to resolve the crisis through direct talks with the United States, Kim invited me to Pyongyang to discuss the outstanding issues. With approval from President Bill Clinton, I went, and reported the positive results of these one-on-one discussions to the White House. Direct negotiations ensued in Geneva between a U.S. special envoy and a North Korean delegation, resulting in an "agreed framework" that stopped North Korea's fuel-cell reprocessing and restored IAEA inspection for eight years.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Survey: Most Afghans Unaware US Invaded Because of 9/11

Afghan War and Its Mindsets

Ignorance There … and Here


Beaver County Peace Links via Kasama

The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS), a think tank with offices in London, New Delhi, Rio de Janeiro and Sharjah (UAE) has just released the results of a survey involving 1500 Afghan men interviewed in October. Conducted in the northern provinces of Parwan and Panjshir, and the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, it contains a major surprise.

92% of respondents in the Pashtun-dominated south are unaware of 9/11 events, or their relationship to the presence of foreign troops.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at the 92% figure. After all, Afghanistan is one of the least literate societies on earth, and  a 2005 report indicated that any “press is scarce in rural areas.” The radio is the most widely used method of communication in Afghanistan, but there are fewer radios per capita than in any other country on earth.

There are only 5.6 radios per 1000 people in the country. (Bhutan, ranks immediately ahead of Afghanistan on a list of 212 nations. There there are three times as many radios—16.5—per 1000 people. In Haiti and Somalia there are more than 50 radios per 1000 people.) The Afghans are not just benighted in their illiteracy, but terribly lacking in access to basic communications technology.

As we will see the illiteracy problem, and general lack of education, has become a major headache for the invaders who arrogantly toppled the old regime and imposed an occupation seeking to remake Afghan society.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How ‘Whiteness’ Dehumanizes Everyone

Rediscovering 'The Souls of White Folk'

90 years later in the era of the Tea Party

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Progressive America Rising

“But what on earth is whiteness that one should so desire it?”  Then always, somehow, some way, silently but clearly, I am given to understand that whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and ever, Amen!

—W.E.B. Dubois, from “The Souls of White Folk”

I am not sure what led me back to it.  I had read W.E.B. Dubois’s The Souls of White Folk (originally published in Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil, 1920) years ago.  At the time I was moved by this often ignored essay but simply filed it away in the recesses of my memory.

Yet I returned to it.  I had been thinking about right-wing populism and white nationalism in the USA and at some point I found myself Googling this piece.  There were three things that immediately struck me:  (1) by coincidence, it was published exactly 90 years ago, (2) it read, in many respects, as if it had been written yesterday, and (3) it was both passionate and poetic in its style, but equally biting in its critique of white supremacy and imperialism.

“The Souls of White Folk” was an essay written in the aftermath of World War I and the despicable Versailles Treaty of 1919 which formally ended the war.  Mainstream historians often focus on the mean-spirited punishment that the Allied Powers brought upon Germany, thereby laying the foundation for World War II.  Little attention is given, however, to the hypocritical attitude of the Allied Powers with respect to the colonial world, the ‘darker races,’ to borrow from the title of Vijay Prashad’s excellent book.  Representatives of the colonial world (including from Black America) gathered in Versailles to ascertain whether the Allied Powers (USA, Britain, France, Italy) would be true to their commitment to support the right of national self-determination.  The future leader of the Vietnamese Revolution, Ho Chi Minh, was one such person who made the trek to Versailles, hoping that Vietnam, and the rest of Indochina, would secure self-determination.

Monday, November 15, 2010

‘Jobs Not War’ Is the Progressive Caucus Priority


Progressive Caucus

Co-Chair Vows Dems

Democrats Won't Roll

Over to the GOP

In an exclusive interview, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), co-chair of the Progressive House Caucus, talks with New American Media Political Analyst and Huffington Post Contributor Earl Ofari Hutchinson about the group's strategy in the new, Republican-controlled House. The interview was conducted by New America Media.

Many are not familiar with the Progressive House Caucus. How big is it?

LW: We had 83 members before the election. It is bicameral, with House and Senate members. It's by far the largest caucus in Congress. We lost four members this election. But we also gained a couple of new members. We will not have less than 80 members in the next Congress. The Blue Dog Democrats lost almost two-thirds of their members.

What are the major issues that the Caucus will press Congress and the Obama Administration on?

LW: It is clear that we represent the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. So, the first item is jobs. We have to have a robust jobs bill. One that we should have had when President Obama first took office and his popularity was at its height. He had a big majority in the House and Senate. We would have doubled the amount of money allocated for the jobs bill that came out of the House, which the Senate cut to shreds. The other priority is combating the notion that the timetable for ending the Afghanistan War is 2014. The war is killing our budget, killing our people, and killing our relations with our allies.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

US Military Faces Checkmate in Afghan ‘Great Game’

Britain's Top Soldier Says

al-Qaeda Cannot Be Beaten

The new head of Britain's armed forces, Gen Sir David Richards, has warned that the West cannot defeat al-Qaeda and militant Islam.

By Sean Rayment

Beaver County Peace Links via Telegraph (UK)

Nov 13, 2010 - He said defeating Islamist militancy was "unnecessary and would never be achieved".

However, he argued that it could be "contained" to allow Britons to lead secure lives.

Gen Richards, 58, said the threat posed by "al-Qaeda and its affiliates" meant Britain's national security would be at risk for at least 30 years.

The general, who will tomorrow lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in Whitehall in memory of Britain's war dead, said the West's war against what he described as a "pernicious ideology" had parallels with the fight against Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Afghan War: No Patience for Obama’s Foot Dragging


The Drain of Blood, Taxes

and Hope in Afghanistan

By Tom Hayden

Beaver County Peace Links

A version of this article originally appeared in The Nation on Nov. 12, 2010.

Persistent waffling on dates for American troop withdrawals has eroded any remaining patience with the Obama White House among peace activists and voters, a majority of whom favors a timeline for US troop withdrawals. 

Nancy Youssef of McClatchy reports that the White House has decided to de-emphasize its pledge to begin withdrawing US forces by next July, and adopt a new goal of withdrawing by 2014. The New York Times on Nov. 11 described the new policy as “effectively a victory for the military.” Seeming to miss the point entirely, the White House immediately declared it was “crystal clear” that there will be no change to the July 2011 date for beginning the drawdown.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Warning to Obama: This Is A Government of War and Austerity Few Will Defend

McCain, Lieberman Urge Obama

to Drop 2011 Afghan Drawdown Date

Warren P. Strobel
Beaver County Peace Links via McClatchy Newspapers

Nov. 10, 2010 - KABUL, Afghanistan — A delegation of four U.S. senators, asserting that the U.S. counterinsurgency is making headway in Afghanistan, heightened pressure Wednesday on President Barack Obama to abandon his pledge that the United States would begin withdrawing troops in July 2011, a deadline that seems increasingly wobbly.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Obama was "wrong to set the date of July, mid-2011," to begin a phased withdrawal of roughly 100,000 U.S. troops. He said the president should unequivocally state that any U.S. pullback would be based on conditions in the country.

"He hasn't done that to my satisfaction," McCain said.

Offering a different perspective, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, told reporters that the 2011 date should not be a focal point.

"A better date to think about is 2014," he said, when Afghan President Hamid Karzai has proposed that Afghanistan take control of its own security.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Setting Aside Despair: Time for the Us to Get Serious About Ourselves

Van Jones: We Must Prepare for Battle

By Adele M. Stan
Progressive America Rising via AlterNet, Nov. 9, 2010

In a darkened space bedecked with impressionistic portraits of the progressive movement's great heroes, Van Jones -- community organizer, environmental activist and erstwhile presidential adviser -- steps onto a tiny stage that has just been warmed up by two local teenage poets and graced by Amy Goodman, the voice of Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!" The audience is filled with Washington activists, including the comedian and civil rights leader Dick Gregory, CodePink founder Medea Benjamin and Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president of the Hip-Hop Caucus.

The room is packed, and a line snakes along the sidewalk outside Busboys and Poets, a restaurant designed as a gathering place for progressives, even as the event begins.

In a passionate speech focused mainly on the costs and horrors of America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Goodman sets the stage for Jones' talk by imploring activists to organize. While a portrait of Rosa Parks by Anna Rose Soevik glimmers behind her, Goodman debunks the mythology surrounding the woman whose refusal to give up her seat on a bus sparked the civil rights movement. "Yes, she was a tired seamstress," Goodman says, "but Rosa Parks was an organizer."

It's the evening after the big Rally to Restore Sanity hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and an odd mixture of exhilaration and anxiety fills the room -- the thrill of having been part of a gathering of like-minded people who flooded the National Mall in a repudiation of the harsh rhetoric of the Tea Party and cable news media, and anxiety about the Republican tide about to come crashing into the nation's capital in the midterm elections.

Jones has taken the temperature; he knows the score. But he's not about to let anybody off the hook.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wars Make Us Poor, Block New Job Creation

Philadelphia Town Meeting For Jobs Not Wars is a Rousing Success

By John Grant

Over 100 people attended the eight-hour Town Meeting For Jobs Not Wars on Saturday, October 30th from 9AM to 3PM in an auditorium at Philadelphia Community College. On the same day, Jon Stewart had a major rally in Washington D.C. and President Obama made an appearance at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Organizers from the Coalition For Jobs Not Wars, the group that sponsored the town meeting, declared it a rousing success and a propitious beginning for the newly created coalition. So far, the coalition is made up of 13 Philadelphia community and activist groups. The list is expected to grow in the coming weeks and months. A follow-up meeting will be scheduled soon to evaluate the meeting and plan for the future.

The Town Meeting featured twelve speakers divided into morning and afternoon panels. US Congressman Chaka Fattah was one of the speakers. The speakers focused on the need to finance job programs, alternative energy development and other domestic needs.

Elections, The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Interests

The Nobleman and the Horse

By Uri Avnery
Beaver County Peace Links via Ma'an News Agency

Nov. 6, 2010 -  “HALF AND HALF,” the late Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol, is said to have answered, when asked whether he wanted tea or coffee.

This joke was intended to parody his hesitation on the eve of the Six-day War. (Though secret documents published this week show Eshkol in a very different light.)

The American public now resembles the man in the joke. They sent to Washington a large group of Tea Party types, but the coffee drinkers in the White house are still in control.

The Israeli leadership did not know how to treat the results of this election. Are they good for the Jews or bad for the Jews?

THE BIG winner of the American election is none other than Binyamin Netanyahu.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Shades of Difference Dept: GOP on Afghan War



Republicans want Troops in Afghanistan to Stay

Beaver county Peace Links via DAWN.COM / Pakistan

Nov 5 2010 - WASHINGTON: Republican lawmakers who now control the US House of Representatives said on Thursday that they would try to prevent President Barack Obama from withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan as he planned.

Congressman Buck McKeon, who will now take over the House Armed Services Committee from the Democrats, has also announced his party’s plan for Afghanistan and Iraq. He said that under the Republicans the committee’s top priority would be to continue the US military presence in Afghanistan. Mr McKeon pledged to work directly with Gen David Petraeus, the US commander in Afghanistan, to commit more equipment and resources to the war effort.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Wars Are Unwinnable and Unjust


Elections a Setback for Peace

By Tom Hayden

The Peace and Justice Resource Center

Nov 3, 2010 - The November election was a setback for the peace movement, not only because of the defeat of Senator Russ Feingold but for deeper reasons.

Both parties collaborated in keeping Afghanistan out of the national election debate and media coverage - while during the period June-November alone, 274 American soldiers were killed and 2,934 were wounded on the battlefield.

[The official American toll under Obama in Afghanistan has reached 732 deaths and 6,480 wounded; the taxpayer costs under Obama are currently $12.5 billion per month, and Obama estimates $113 billion in direct costs/per year at current U.S. troop levels of 100,000.]

Democratic candidates this year chose not to use Afghanistan-Iraq as an issue perhaps because they have become Obama's wars. According to the New York Times, the US even plans to orchestrate an invitation to remain in Iraq after the current 2011 deadline, but desperately wanted to keep the controversy out of the election debates. [NYT, Aug. 18]