Sunday, November 23, 2014

Emperor: We Are Determined To Go To Our Grave In #Afghanistan

Bagram airfield, Parwan.  Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Of course President Barack Obama is not really an emperor. He is celebrity spokesman for an empire of oligarchs that spans the globe, makes all its big decisions in secret, and uses nation-states and their heads as puppets to effect control of the movement of people, resources and information.

But since he's the lame duck head of the empire, it's his lack of clothes I'll focus on today. The war in Afghanistan is over! Except, long live the 13+ year war in Afghanistan!
Post-Afghan presidential elections, Ambassador Cunningham and the new Afghan national security adviser, Hanif Atmar, congratulate each other after signing the Status of Forces Agreement that Hamid Karzai would not.
(Photo: Shah Marai/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)
It's been way too long since I blogged about Afghanistan. It has been too dispiriting how the citizens of the empire have accepted bland announcements of the faux closure of that particular battlefield in the endless war on terror. Discouraging how they ignored the continued operation of Bagram Air Base and its state of the art torture prison. Demoralizing how they spouted the propaganda line about NATO upholding the rights of women and girls -- while security deteriorated with each passing day, and even Kabul became unsafe for an uncovered woman to walk out from home. Depressing how the standard of living and life expectancy and infant mortality rates continued to shame us, the imperial occupiers. Dubious how my fellow citizens continued to pretend to believe that "we" had brought "democracy" to a country that ought to be grateful. Grateful for a bumper opium crop!

Just this week I heard a 25 year old veteran bragging about how he never went outside the wire during his entire tour of duty in Afghanistan. But he was chock full of information about that country and its culture that he couldn't wait to share with teenagers. Imperial hubris in the flesh, with tormented eyes that made it difficult to meet his gaze.

I nearly blogged about the outcome of the recent presidential elections in Afghanistan, tragic as they were. Outgoing President Hamid Karzai was a man hard to admire, but damn if he didn't hold out until the bitter end in his refusal to sign the Status of Forces Agreement that the U.S. was trying to ram down his throat. Ok, maybe he did so out of fear of assassination rather than any kind of principled stand. But still, wasn't the refusal to submit to the SOFA one of the small victories in the Iraq debacle, a war that has been prematurely declared over several times, too? Because the SOFA we bully our subject nations into signing guarantees immunity from prosecution for military personnel and contractors: their impunity yet another stain on the USA's soul.

The election was long and drawn out, plagued by violence, racked by accusations of fraud. The future of SOFA was never really in doubt, because both candidates had already promised to do what the empire required. Here, in the empty words of the White House press office, is the visible part of the agreement:
Statement by the President on the Signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement and NATO Status of Forces Agreement in Afghanistan 
Today we mark an historic day in the U.S.-Afghan partnership that will help advance our shared interests and the long-term security of Afghanistan. After nearly two years of hard work by negotiating teams on both sides, earlier today in Kabul the United States and the new Afghan Government of National Unity signed a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). This agreement represents an invitation from the Afghan Government to strengthen the relationship we have built over the past 13 years and provides our military service members the necessary legal framework to carry out two critical missions after 2014: targeting the remnants of Al Qaeda and training, advising, and assisting Afghan National Security Forces. The signing of the BSA also reflects the implementation of the Strategic Partnership Agreement our two governments signed in May 2012. 
Today, Afghan and NATO officials also signed the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, giving forces from Allied and partner countries the legal protections necessary to carry out the NATO Resolute Support mission when ISAF comes to an end later this year.
So, how surprised are we by news that Obama has secretly agreed to send more troops back into Afghanistan? Not that surprised, at all.
Obama paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan last May, receiving adulation from the military personnel stationed there.
Lest we become too discouraged to even contemplate the next decade(s) of war on the people of Afghanistan, here's tireless peaceworker Kathy Kelly on the view from Kabul:
I wish that NATO’s commander could have joined Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs) Afghanistan as they visited an extraordinarily sustainable project, called “Emergency.” This Italy—based network of hospitals and clinics has been particularly remarkable for effectively saving and improving the lives of many Afghan people, over the past 13 years, while at the same time rejecting any form of war or use of weapons within its facilities.
Read the rest of her fine piece "Uncomplicated, in Afghanistan" to find more news about people making love, not war in Afghanistan. Then, you can donate to the Afghan Peace Volunteers' Duvet Project to provide warmth and employment to people who will try and survive yet another winter of war.
Seamstresses deliver finished duvets for distribution to those in need. Photo source: Voices for Creative Nonviolence website
As the emperor congratulates himself on wading ever deeper into the graveyard of empires.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dr. Mads Gilbert In Maine: #BDS Supports Palestinian Struggle To End Israeli Occupation

Maybe you remember the Norwegian doctor whose shocking reports from a hospital in Gaza City this past summer detailed the hundreds of children being wounded and killed in Israel's so-called "Operation Protective Edge" bombings. Dr. Mads Gilbert has been on a tour in the U.S. speaking to those he addressed as "you good people" concerned about human rights abuses in occupied Palestine, and I was lucky enough to be in the audience in Portland, Maine last night to hear him.

Lucky to hear one of the most difficult presentations I have ever sobbed through. Gilbert is a skillful presenter who speaks excellent English, and he eased us into his difficult material by presenting data and historical context. He has been a firsthand witness of the series of air wars on Gaza's trapped civilians because Tromsø, his hometown in Norway, is sister city to Gaza City, and his government subsidizes the work of medical caregivers who travel to Gaza.
Gaza, August, 2014  photo by Dr. Mads Gilbert
Gilbert described the samoud or steadfastness/resilience of his Palestinian colleagues at the hospital with great respect. Similarly, he shared his own photos of Gazans picking through the rubble of their homes, medical clinics and factories as evidence of the samoud that he observes characterizing Palestinian culture.

Only then did he show us the worst of the images he recorded during July and August, 2014. Photos of little children with ghastly shrapnel wounds, burned and panicked; Gilbert included the audio track of a child screaming in fright while doctors and nurses work on intubating him over a background of constant drone noise and massive explosions.

It was his third appearance of the day, having already come from Cambridge where he spoke at Harvard. He noted the sea change in public opinion turning against Israeli aggression: not a single Zionist screamed at him from the audience, and he was able to move around on the Harvard campus without police security protecting him. Unthinkable two years ago, he said. Things are changing. Keep contacting your government officials.

Meanwhile, not uncoincidentally, Gilbert has been banned from entering Gaza -- despite a valid visa and years of humanitarian work as an anesthesiologist and emergency room doctor at Al-Shifa Hospital. At his last attempt to cross into besieged Gaza from the Erez crossing in Israel, he was turned back; yet another blow to the health and well being of Gazan children and their families. He has also been turned back from Rafah, the only other entry point to Gaza, now controlled by the Sisi regime in Egypt.

Gilbert seriously objected to the narrative of Israel's "self-defense" in its repeated attacks on Gaza. If you missed him on his speaking tour, you can watch his testimony from Norway. 

A quote from the above video recorded back in Norway at the end of July, 2014 sums up what I heard Gilbert say in Portland last night:

"This is not a battle between terrorism and democracy. Hamas is not the enemy Israel is fighting. Israel is waging a war against the Palestinian people’s will to resist. The unbending determination not to submit to the occupation."
He also recommended we read the Gaza Initial Rapid Assessment  published August 27, 2014 by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Israel's fatalities during "Operation Protective Edge"

Gaza's fatalities during "Operation Protective Edge"
Gilbert ended by urging those of us living in the wealth and relative security of the U.S. to support the Palestinian struggle by contacting our government officials to stop enabling Israel's violence, and by engaging in boycott, divestment and sanctions work (BDS) to bring economic pressure on Israel. 

I note several BDS wins in recent weeks: blocking Zim ships from coming into port to unload in California; getting SodaStream to announce the closure of their factory located in a West Bank settlement; and getting online retailer GILT to drop Ahava cosmetics, which are made of pillaged materials taken from the occupied territory around the Dead Sea.

To find out more about BDS and how to get involved, go here. If you're in Maine, join us in the Maine BDS Coalition here. You can also like the Maine BDS Coalition on Facebook.

And starting this week, check out Codepink's latest campaign targeting RE/MAX realtors a company which brokers the sale of property confiscated from Palestinians. Send a message to Dave Liniger, Chairman of the Board of Directors of RE/MAX International, and tell him to stop RE/MAX Israel's illegal sales of Jewish-only settlement homes on Palestinian land. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Democrats In Maine Ashamed Of Supporting Obama's Wars

In the most Orwellian of protest venues, outside the Portland Expo center October 30, where President Obama was scheduled to make a campaign appearance for a fellow Democrat. Staffers constantly exhorted those in line to keep their cell phones turned on, and a large screen tv erected in sight of the queue played a series of ads attacking Gov. Paul LePage so loudly it drowned out normal conversation.

When I referenced the propaganda stream a 20-something Democratic staffer attempted to straighten me out about the (false) dichotomy of corporate party politics saying, "You're on their side. They are the good guys." This is what passes for political discussion in our age.

Twenty-five of us stood for a couple of hours engaging with the crowd. Friend Bruce Gagnon brought a message about the folly of making our state economy so dependent on military contracting and spending more than 50% of the federal discretionary budget each year on the Pentagon. He called out to those in line about these problems and asked, "What does it say about the soul of our nation?" One decorated veteran told Bruce, "I fought so you would be free to say that." Bruce noted that he, himself, is a veteran -- a Veteran for Peace, that is.

It was one of the most interesting protests I've attended because of the interaction with the party faithful and the simply curious. I had a spool of pink ribbon with the message "President Obama: keep your promises for peace!" and I walked the length of the line asking who would like a ribbon. About 100 people took one.

Many reached for a ribbon after hearing me say, "Do you think it is ok to drop a bomb because it says Democrat on it? Are Democratic bombs falling on children in Syria and Iraq better than Republican bombs?" People's body language said these questions made them uncomfortable. Sometimes I added, "I don't believe you think bombing civilians is ok." Their shamed faces told the tale.

Children especially wanted a ribbon. Not all parents allowed them to take one, but some families were in harmony.

One Portland family including mom in a wheelchair were happy that we had brought extra signs.

There was a lone Tea Party protester when I first got there. She probably has a different reason than I do for not wanting the Maine National Guard sent to Africa.

There were two tv news crews there who filmed our signs and interviewed protesters. But their editors must have killed the stories when they got back to the station because coverage of our presence and our messages is nowhere to be found.

Bringing some authentic news to the people is what motivates me to drive two hours and stand around getting cold after I've worked all day. One guy in line said about Obama and peace, "He was doing great until ISIS." I said Obama has drone bombed Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and I hoped he could find some sources of information for himself besides corporate news.

Most squirm inducing message? That the U.S. is preparing to use depleted uranium weapons in Syria and Iraq. This seemed to be new information for most of our listeners. I guess all the election reporting kind of drowns out news of nuclear warfare being waged in our name, with our tax dollars. As intended.

Thanks to our friends from Peace Action Maine who showed up with their banner. It was also neat to meet some newcomers to Portland who enthusiastically helped us hold signs and banners."I didn't know how to support peace because I just moved to Portland from Georgia," a young man named Matt told me. "A friend told me about this event and so I just came down." Matt spent quite a long time talking to Tim who had driven up from New Hampshire to join us. Both were interviewed by a t.v. news crew, but I guess you won't get a chance to hear their voices.

REVISED Nov. 1: Apparently I was wrong, and I am delighted to say so. Bruce Gagnon's interview did turn up on WGME's 6pm t.v. newscast.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

#Inequality Soars, Corporations Profit While Children Go Homeless #BAD14

graphic: US Uncut
Unequal access to natural resources, to a living wage, and to education have skyrocketed during my lifetime in the empire currently hogging the planet. The U.S. has seen income disparity growing by leaps and bounds, and child poverty ballooning as a result. A working class parent can no longer keep food on the table in many of our communities. A working class college student can no longer keep a roof over her head. Even if she works two jobs.

How did this happen?
graphic: Jan Kloub
Moneyed interests have bought influence in all the highest offices of the nation. No candidate for Congress or the White House gets there without endorsement from the corporate "persons" with the big bucks for campaign finances.

This situation has a lot of bad consequences. Let's examine one: billions of taxpayer money gone missing in Iraq. How many low income housing vouchers or school lunches would $14 billion have funded?

The number of homeless students in the U.S. has now reached a record breaking 1.26 million. This was reported to me by the National Education Association, the union I belong to as a teacher. The NEA has never managed to connect the dots between their slavish support of the Democratic Party and its policies of endless enrichment for military contractors on the backs of the poor.

My Codepink associate Janet Weil just shared news that CP joined 999 others (including the NEA) to sign a petition calling for more funding for children's nutrition programs. Her comment says it all:
Proud of us for signing on, sad this is even necessary. Meanwhile, nuclear weapons get $100 billion for "modernization" and Lockheed Martin et al. are seeing big profits.
graphic: Katie Falkenberg, CODEPINK Colorado

This blog post is part of Blog Action Day 2014. See more at .

Sunday, October 5, 2014

How A Nice, Middle Class Girl Became A War Tax Resister

Remarks to the 29th Annual Gathering of New England War Tax Resisters & Supporters                     Oct 4, 2014    The New School      Kennebunk, Maine

The title of my talk today is: How a nice, middle class girl become a war tax resister, and my choice of words is deliberate.

As a privileged member of the ruling class in the empire of the United States, I was brought up to be nice. My New England grandmother told me a few things that stayed with me: Fools’ names and fools’ faces are often seen in public places. And, pretty is as pretty does. These things were meant to elaborate the concept of nice behavior: don’t call attention to yourself, be discreet in word and deed, and know that your actions speak louder than your hairstyle or grooming or attire. Although those things should also be nice.

My grandparents voted Republican and went to church on Sundays. At home they might drink and even curse, but in public they were pillars of the community: she on the public library board of directors, he in Augusta at the state house, representing. My father, their only child, was a little less nice, a little more rowdy. But he passed on the wise words of his father, a World War I vet who walked with a limp and died young of heart failure after being gassed while laying in killing field in France, wounded at 19. My grandfather told his son, No war is a good war. Don’t believe them when they tell you the next war is a good war. There is no such thing. But he paid his taxes. As did my grandmother after he died.

My other grandparents were very poor, migrant farm workers out of Oklahoma. They nurtured a deep distrust of all forms of government. But my grandmother was in thrall to the authority of evangelical preachers, and both she and her husband understood that to render unto Caesar’s what is Caesar’s was a necessity of living in this country. My California grandfather was drafted into WWII, leaving two children and a wife to fight in the Pacific theater. He was among the first troops sent into Nagasaki after it was destroyed by an atomic bomb. When he returned home he never spoke of it. He never spoke of much of anything in my experience. My California grandparents both worked hard, bought land and built a home, though my grandfather refused his GI bill benefits. But he paid his taxes. As did his widow after him.

My father and mother debated politics at the dinner table, and for years they were Republicans. Mostly because they thought of the Democratic Party as racist. They voted for Richard Nixon twice, and defended the Vietnam war – for a while. In the end, the civil rights movement changed their thinking. My father warned me that the US would become a police state in my lifetime. He ran for city council in our small town in California, and after he retired to Maine he ran for the state legislature. He probably cheated a little on his federal income taxes, but he paid them. After he died, my mother had a tax accountant help her pay her taxes. She had lost any scrap of faith she might have once held in the federal government, but she was afraid of authority. She didn’t actually care all that much about being nice. She had survived the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, gotten a college education as an adult, and lived the middle class life in a split level with a view of the Pacific Ocean and four rebellious children. She wasn’t going to rock the boat.

When my middle son was a college student we visited him together, my mother and I. He was reading Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky, and we both wanted to read it after he was finished. My mother took it home with her and for months I would ask if she had finished it yet so that I could have my turn. She was a voracious reader, and it was a slim volume. Eventually she sent it along with the confession: It was very difficult to read this book, because I was overwhelmed by feelings of shame on every page. While I was busy raising kids and paying the mortgage and getting supper on the table, this was being done in my name. And, I looked the other way.

I, too, looked the other way when Reagan used my tax dollars to terrorize our neighbors in Central America. I filed a 1040 form year after year as I worked to keep bread on the table and a roof over our heads, while the US toppled democratically elected governments around the globe, installing friendly dictators instead. I paid state and local taxes in Los Angeles as the LAPD, a notoriously racist policing organization, beat up Rodney King and countless others like him. I paid a lot of taxes the year 9/11 was allowed to happen and Bush Jr. announced that we would retaliate against a country whose harbors would no longer be safe. Didn’t he know that Afghanistan, which we invaded and bombed and have been occupying ever since, was a landlocked country? Ok, maybe Bush didn’t know. But surely his speechwriters did?

I was a history major at Bowdoin, a scholarship student. I studied the tax revolt that become the war for independence from the empire of Great Britain. I now see that we are the inheritors of their imperial mantle, an upstart colony with mad natural resources that, like Carthage, grew up to eclipse the mother country. The British Parliament and Crown made the mistake of overtaxing their colonial subjects to pay for wars that started on one continent and finished on another. In college I also studied the revolutions of Europe, people rising up against the French monarchy which had bankrupted the nation waging wars, against the Austro-Hungarian Empire with its boot on their necks. I studied how the Ottoman Empire bankrupted itself piling up debt to wage wars defending its far flung colonies, and how Europe and the US scrambling to grab those colonies led to the war my Maine grandfather suffered in. I studied how the people of India used creative nonviolent methods to kick out the British, and how much violence they endured as the price of freedom. I studied how the civil rights movement in this country organized to struggle together to achieve their ideals, making history when a teenaged girl and then a grown woman refused to give in to apartheid on the bus.
Rosa Parks, arrested for a second time and charged with violating a law against boycotts.
But I still went to work – as a journalist, an arbitration administrator, an advertising executive, and then as a small business owner – and I still paid my taxes.

In 1994, I left the business world and became a public school teacher. It was a great job for me because I’ve always been fascinated by learning and I enjoy working in a field that allows me to be creative. Surviving the bureaucracy became my challenge and, so far, I have. But there was a major bump in the road, a bump which educated me mightily. And I believe it led, indirectly, to my becoming a war tax resister.

In 2000 the state of Maine decided that in order to continue working as a public school employee I would need to give my fingerprints to the FBI database. It was not that I or other employees had been accused of a crime – in this case, child molestation – but we were to be deemed guilty until proven innocent.

This seemed to me and to many others a clear violation of the Constitution, and a struggle ensued. The Maine legislature twice rescinded the law, but the governor twice vetoed their legislation. I learned about organizing and resistance from my children’s teacher, Bernie Huebner, who resigned from teaching the gifted and talented students of our district, a job he loved. Eventually I, too, resigned from my job in protest of this gross violation of privacy and the rule of law. But after a year working in the private sector a family health crisis sent me back to public education. With inky fingers I again filled out a W-4 form claiming my allowances for dependents and rendering up a hefty portion of every paycheck to Uncle Sam, who was bombing any number of civilians and funding any number of warlords on any given day with my hard earned money.

I had protested the first Gulf War with an infant in my arms, astonished at how quickly sabre rattling and chauvinism swept through my community in central Maine. As the second round of fighting Saddam Hussein for control of Iraq’s oil fields approached, I found myself one evening clutching a candle on the Margaret Chase Smith Bridge in Skowhegan, shivering in the chilly March twilight. I’d been joining a group standing each Sunday afternoon with signs against the impending shock and awe campaign being pushed through Congress and the United Nations. That particular Sunday the US was very close to concluding a decade of sanctions against Iraq that had killed thousands of innocent children. The bombs would begin falling on Baghdad quite soon.

A nice man stood beside me on the bridge and saw that my sign was about to blow away in the wind. He grabbed it and held it, a plastic lid with NO WAR rendered in duct tape, and we talked. A young man driving by parked his car and came back on foot to ask why we were standing there. He had a cousin in the Army, and a friend about to ship out for Kuwait. Why were we against this war against a vicious dictator who gassed his own people?

My husband to be, Mark Roman, whom I had just met told the young man: When I was your age the government was trying to draft me to fight in Vietnam. I watched the Bay of Tonkin coverage on tv and I became aware that the government was lying to me. That’s what it feels like now, too. The government is pushing to go to war based on lies. It sounds the same now as it did back then.

Mark and I have been together now for 11 years. We’re married and we file a joint tax return. For the first several years together we filed our 1040 and we protested Bush’s, then Obama’s, wars. We stood on bridges and marched down highways. Along with many others here in Maine we waged the Bring Our War $$ Home campaign. Responding to the economic downturn in 2008, we pointed out that domestic budgets were being slashed to pay for a few hours or days of US military action in Afghanistan and Iraq. We helped pass resolutions at the local and state level calling on Congress to stop spending 51%, then 54%, then 57% of its annual allowance on the Pentagon and its greedy contractors, so wealthy they are statistically the .001% income bracket. We visited our so-called representatives with our demand to fund butter, not guns. We wrote about it in the newspaper, talked about it on local access tv, and spoke about it in public squares. I began to get involved with Codepink when I saw women like me confronting war criminals like Condoleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld in Congressional hearings broadcast on C-SPAN.

We stopped being nice. On one of the anniversaries of shock & awe Mark and I got arrested at the White House for failure to disperse. I hovered behind Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner with a pink sign that said GIVE US OUR $$$$$ BACK as he testified about where the taxpayers’ bailout of his Wall St. buddies had gone. I crashed Chellie Pingree’s posh fundraiser in a towering pink wig, and handed out BringOur War $$ Home leaflets to her supporters. I helped organize Draw-a-thons and printed posters and t-shirts and learned to make videos and speeches and how to manage email listservs.

But I still paid my taxes.

It was during Obama’s first administration that my husband and I decided to heed the call of war tax resisters like Larry Dansinger, and take the risk of putting – or not putting, as the case may be – our money where our mouth is. Showing no taxable income isn’t an option for us because I still want to work as a school teacher. Mark is self-employed and each April 15 we usually wrote a hefty check for the amount of federal incomes owed in addition to what has already been withheld from my paychecks all year. Writing that check is what we stopped doing. Larry’s advice was to keep it all above board, to let the IRS know what we were doing and why, and in his words “make them come after it.” That they have done, twice garnishing Mark’s social security benefits and sending innumerable threatening letters. We have piled up fines and interest, and I’m sure there will be more fun to come. I worry about leaving this as a giant problem for my heirs when I’m gone. As we “know” there are only two sure things in this life: death, and taxes.

Before Mark shares the letter we send the IRS along with our 1040 form each year, I’ll leave you with one last family story. Last summer I visited my uncle in Australia, they first time I had made that journey since he emigrated when I was a kid. He and his wife are folkies, musicians with a wide circle of friends who emigrated from various parts of the British Isles, mostly, and are lefty leaning. One of their friends asked me tentatively if I would be offended by the Australian perception that I live in something approaching a totalitarian state. I said that I would not take offense, and that I spent a good part of my spare time agitating against military spending. Also that my husband and I are war tax resisters. This news frightened them. They reacted with shock. How could I get away with that? Wasn’t it dangerous? Why didn’t we end up in federal prison?

I acknowledged that it’s not without risks but that it goes at least partway to settling the moral queasiness of being a tax paying citizen of the US empire. I like to think the taxes that I do pay go to education and health care, housing and job training, environmental protection and sustainable energy development – not to  revenue for General Dynamics, Halliburton, Blackwater and the rest of the war profiteers. I know the real portion of the federal budget spent on nuclear weapons research plus the Pentagon (including the NSA) plus caring poorly for veterans is way more than 50% -- probably more like 2/3. But I take comfort in knowing that I take a stand and insist that this could be, and should be, a republic and a democracy, as promised.

Because right now what we have is taxation without representation. And you know where that kind of thing leads.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Our true foes–– those endlessly gunning for war"

There Is No Future In War: 
Youth Rise Up, a Manifesto

By Ben Norton, Tyra Walker, Anastasia Taylor, Alli McCracken, Colleen Moore, Jes Grobman, Ashley Lopez, Sara Al Harbi, Sophia Arman

Once again, US politicians and pundits are beating the drums of war, trying to get our nation involved in yet another conflict. A few years ago it was Iran, with “all options on the table.” Last year it was a red line that threatened to drag us into the conflict in Syria. This time it’s Iraq and Syria.

We, the youth of America, have grown up in war, war war. War has become the new norm for our generation. But these conflicts–declared by older people but fought and paid for by young people–are robbing us of our future and we’re tired of it.

There is no future in war.We, the youth of America, are taking a stand against war and reclaiming our future.War does not work. Period.

War does not work from an economic perspective.In 2003 US politicians orchestrated the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq based on blatant lies—lies that have cost the American people over $3 trillion.Imagine what we could have done with this money:

With $3 trillion dollars, we could have guaranteed free higher education for all interested Americans. Instead, we are wallowing in over $1 trillion in outstanding college loan debt.With $3 trillion, we could have created a system of universal health care. Instead, affordable health care is still out of reach for many Americans and we have no idea if there will even be a Medicare system when we are old enough to retire.

With $3 trillion we could have renovated our decrepit public schools and crumbling public infrastructure, giving us the kind of foundation we need for a thriving nation in the decades to come.

With $3 trillion we could have created a national energy grid based not upon environmentally destructive fossil fuels, but upon renewable energy sources–something that our generation cares passionately about.

Our true foes–– those endlessly gunning for war–– have been waging an economic war against us. Our foes are the ones who say we must increase Pentagon spending while we cut food stamps, unemployment assistance, public transportation, and low-income housing. They are the ones who want to destroy the social safety net that past generations have worked so hard to build. They are the ones who underfund our public schools – which are more segregated today than they were under Jim Crow – and then privatize them. They are the ones who throw hundreds of thousands of young people in prison, thanks to the racist and classist war on drugs, and then privatize the prisons to exploit and profit off of incarcerated citizens who make close-to-zero wages.

Throwing money at war does nothing to address the real issues we face. We, the youth of our country, are the ones who will feel this pain. The cost of war is sucking us dry; it is burdening us with debts we will never be able to pay back.

And war doesn’t even work to create jobs. Politicians say they can’t cut the Pentagon budget because the weapons manufacturers create much-needed jobs. Yes, our generation need jobs. But if members of Congress really wants to use federal spending to help us find employment, the military is the worst investment. A $1 billion investment in military spending nets 11,600 jobs. The same investment in education reaps 29,100 jobs. Whether it’s education, healthcare or clean energy, investments in those sectors create many more job opportunities than the military. The military-industrial complex does a great job lining the pockets of politicians; it does a lousy job creating an economy that works for all.

War does not work from a national security and defense perspective.The war apologists claim war makes our future “safer” and “freer.” But since the tragic 9/11 attack, the US military response has made the world a more dangerous place. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the NATO bombing of Libya, the use of predator drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, and countless other examples of military operations have only increased violence and hatred. Iraqis and Afghans are certainly no safer and freer; we are certainly no safer and freer.

We refuse to let our brothers and sisters, both here and abroad, die for access to cheap Persian Gulf oil. The Iraqis, the Afghans, the Iranians, the Libyans, the Somalis, and the people of any other country our military circles like vultures, are not our enemies. We must oppose US intervention not because we don’t care about them, but because we do.

War does not work from an environmental perspective.War is not environmentally friendly. It never has been, and it never will be. Bombing destroys the environment. It damages forests and agricultural land. It ravages ecosystems, endangering species, even forcing some into extinction.

Bombing contaminates water and soil, often leaving it unsafe to use for centuries, even millennia. This is especially true with nuclear and chemical weapons, such as those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the missiles containing depleted uranium the US used in Iraq. And because of weapons like these, infant mortality, genetic mutation, and cancer rates are exponentially higher in the civilian areas targeted. Children in Fallujah, Iraq, a city hit hard by these weapons, are born without limbs and missing organs.

The environmental costs of war are clearly not limited to isolated moments; they persist for many lifetimes. Heavy military vehicles, in conjunction with deforestation and climate change, lead to the emission of toxic dust from the ground. Even if their homes and livelihoods haven’t been destroyed by bombs, citizens who inhale these toxins are much more susceptible to a wide variety of diseases and health problems.

The US Department of Defense has long been the country’s largest consumer of fossil fuels. Military vehicles consume obscene quantities of oil for even small tasks. If we truly care about reversing, or at least mitigating, anthropogenic climate change—what many scientists recognize as a literal threat to the future of the human species—eliminating war would be an incredibly effective first step.

War does not work from a human rights perspective.The world isn’t any safer and freer for the million Iraqi civilians who died. How is freedom supposed to come at the tip of a bomb?

The debate rages back and forth; “specialists” fill the TV airwaves, repackaging the same tired excuses we’ve heard for years. Most of these “experts” are old white males. The people actually affected by our bombs and our guns–mostly young people of color–are nowhere to be seen. Their voices are silenced, their voices shouted over by the corporate media, by hawkish politicians, and by the profit-hungry military contractors.

War does not work from a historical perspective.War has never been about freedom and liberation; war has always been about profit and empire. American historian Howard Zinn once said “Wars are fundamentally internal policies. Wars are fought in order to control the population at home.”

Military intervention gives US corporations free reign in the countries we destroy. We bomb the country, targeting public infrastructure, and our corporations build it back up again. Fat cat CEOs make millions, even billions; the country, the people of the country, are left with mountains of debt. Our corporations own their infrastructure, their industrial capital, their natural resources. War is always a lose-lose for the people. Economic and political elite in both countries will make a fortune; the people of both countries will be the ones who have to pay for this fortune.

In 1935, Smedley Butler, the highest ranking official in the Marines and the most decorated Marine in US history in his day, published War Is Racket, a book repudiating war and exposing it for the charade that it is. It famously opens with the powerful lines “War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”

Defenders and purveyors of war have always done empty lip service to ideals like “freedom” and “democracy”; they have always repeated tired, vacuous tropes about “assisting,” or even “liberating” peoples.

How can we trust a country that says its brutal military invasion and occupation is “humanitarian,” when, at the same moment, it is supporting repressive dictators around the world? Saddam Hussein was on the CIA payroll since the 1960s. While we were invading Iraq to “overthrow tyranny” and “free” the Iraqi people, we were supporting the KingFahd’s theocratic tyranny in Saudi Arabia, the brutally repressive Khalifa family in Bahrain, and Mubarak’s violent regime in Egypt, among countless other unsavory dictators.

When we invaded Afghanistan to “free” the Afghan people from the Taliban, the corporate media failed to mention that Ronald Reagan had supported the Mujahideen, who later became the Taliban, and the Contras throughout the 1980s. He called the latter “the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers,” while they were disemboweling civilians in a campaign of terror.

These historical events are absolutely pertinent to contemporary discussions of war. We must learn from them, as to not repeat them in the future, as to not fall for the same past political tricks.

Our naysayers say we are against the troops. We are not against the troops. US troops are disproportionately from less-privileged backgrounds. Military recruiters target impoverished communities of color, and there are many recorded instances of them using deceptive tactics to get young citizens to sign long binding contracts. These are the troops that die in US military operations. They are not our enemies. We refuse to let our brothers and sisters be cannon fodder. The real people against the troops are the ones who send our country’s poor to die in rich people’s wars.

How many times do we have to be lied to, how many times do we have to be tricked, how many times do we have to be exploited until we say enough is enough? We are tired of war! War accomplishes nothing. War only fattens the wallets of economic and political elites, leaving millions dead in its wake. War only leads to more war, destroying the planet and emptying the national treasury in the process.

We, the youth of the United States of America, oppose war.

We oppose war not because we don’t care about the rest of the world; we oppose war precisely because we do.

We oppose war not because we don’t care about our security; we oppose war precisely because we do.

We oppose war not because we don’t care about our troops; we oppose war precisely because we do.

We oppose war not because we aren’t concerned with our future; we oppose war precisely because we do.

There is no future in war. Join us.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Want A Missile "Defense" Base In Maine, NY, Ohio Or Michigan? None Of The Above!

Rangeley, Maine

I am re-blogging my friend Bruce Gagnon's excellent piece on behalf of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. I told him I am tempted to send yet another public comment myself: The grassroots resistance to this proposal in either Maine or upstate NY will be so fierce and unrelenting that you will be sorry you ever thought of attacking our environment in this way. (I can't speak knowledgeably abut Ohio or Michigan, but I expect it would be similar.)


Comments to Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Continental United States Interceptor Site

TO: Missile Defense Agency
Our organization is opposed to any of the four proposed interceptor sites in Maine, Ohio, Michigan or New York.

First reason is because of enormous cost, especially at the time of severe economic hardship for people across the nation.

Secondly, the proposed GMD program is severely underperforming in its testing phase and has long suffered from corruption.

Thirdly, development of the interceptor base at any of these proposed sites would have severe environmental consequences.

In particular I want to address the proposal for Rangeley, Maine since I live and work in this state.

Culture: The proposal to put the base in Rangeley would have enormous negative impact on the local culture by essentially doubling the size of the existing community.  Local schools and other human resources would be overwhelmed by the influx of personnel estimated to work at the proposed base.  There would be an obvious detrimental impact on tourist haven Rangeley area and against Maine's life giving tourist industry.

Environment:  The ridiculous notion of driving interceptor silos and missiles on already bad Maine roads would further destroy these roads that the state already cannot keep in good condition.  The idea of widening these roads in some places to make it possible to transport silos and missiles would have severe negative impact on the environment.  The state would not be able to maintain even wider roads since they can’t already handles their existing road network.  Blasting mountain areas to place the silos underground would also have severe impact on wildlife, native vegetation and water quality would be impacted.  It is my understanding that Poland Springs has a 1,000 acre water well near this area that would certainly be negatively impacted. Where's the enormous amount of gravel needed for this project going to be mined?

Liquid rocket fuels:  The toxic liquid fuels to be used in the interceptor missiles would have to be transported, stored, and then placed inside missiles.  This process would allow many opportunities for toxic spills in the area contaminating local water sources.  Liquid Hydrazines are most commonly known for their use in rocket fuels. They are highly toxic, colorless, flammable liquids with an ammonia-like odor. There are several types of hydrazines, including hydrazine, monomethylhydrazine (MMH) and 1,1-dimethyl-hydrazine, also known as unsymmetrical dimeth-ylhydrazine (UDMH). Hydrazine is unstable and is usually handled as an aqueous solution for safety reasons. Exposure to hydrazines can cause central nervous system effects as well as kidney and liver damage. Hydrazine and UDMH are listed as probable human carcinogens and classified under Group B2 by the U.S. EPA.

Solid rocket fuels: An analysis of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicates that a toxic chemical in solid rocket fuel has severely contaminated the nation's food and water supply - read the Environmental Working Group study  Scientists warn that the chemical, known as perchlorate, could cause thyroid deficiency in more than 2.2 million women of childbearing age. This thyroid deficiency could damage the fetus of pregnant women, if left untreated. Perchlorate, the explosive ingredient in solid rocket fuel, has leaked from military bases and defense and aerospace contractors' plants in at least 22 states, contaminating drinking water for millions of Americans. Despite massive complaints, defense contractors have done little or nothing to clean up the pollution. Perchlorate has also been widely detected in milk, lettuce, produce and other foods. In an alarming study, the CDC found perchlorate in the urine of every person tested. The Organic Consumers Association has mobilized thousands of consumers to pressure the EPA and government officials to begin a massive clean up of perchlorate. The Environmental Working Groups report is an analysis of data originally released in 2005, when the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its long anticipated report on the human health effects of perchlorates. Perchlorates have been found in 93% of lettuce and milk.... 97% of breast milk samples taken randomly from around the U.S. have tested positive for perchlorates. The government funded NAS report reveals that perchlorates are roughly ten times more toxic to humans than the Department of Defense has been claiming. Perchlorates can inhibit thyroid function, cause birth defects and lower IQs, and are considered particularly dangerous to children. The NAS report recommends human exposure at no more than .0007 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. The EPA has responded to the report by recommending a water standard reference dose of 24.5 ppb for perchlorate. This is bad news for military sites and rocket fuel plants around the country, including Henderson, Nevada, where EPA well monitoring has found perchlorates at a level 30,000 times higher than that. There are over 12,000 military sites in the U.S. that are used for training with live explosives.

GMD Program:  The Ground-based Midcourse missile defense system has been riddled with failure and corruption since its inception. In early 2000, the GAO received a request from former Rep. Howard Berman of California to review certain allegations of fraud in the missile defense program. Dr. Nira Schwartz, an Israeli-born scientist made the allegations while working at TRW - a defense contractor based in Los Angeles. TRW was a subcontractor to the defense behemoth Boeing Company. She was promptly fired from her job after she made the allegations. She alleged that a key component in the missile defense system – software to process signals collected by an infrared sensor - did not perform as advertised by TRW and Boeing.  She was intimately involved in the development of the software, which was used in a crucial test of the missile defense program in 1997 at a cost of $100 million. The contractors Boeing and TRW falsely claimed it was a total success. Many of the so-called “successful” tests over the years have been what scientists call “strap down rabbit” tests as they placed a beacon on the dummy missiles so that the interceptors could identify them in deep space at 15,000 mph.  For all these reasons and more this program should not be building any permanent deployment installations anywhere.  It is a huge waste of taxpayers dollars.

Public Hearings: I attended one of the two “public meetings” that were held in Rangeley and spoke to others who attended them in Farmington.  In every case people who attended complained to me that the nature of the meetings had nothing to do with “public”.  The poster sessions, where people were swarmed with MDA and contractor personnel, were not very informative.  Many of my questions were not answered by those staffing the event.  (Such as what is the weight displacement on a road of a truck hauling silos or interceptor missiles.  I was told I’d be informed but I never heard from anyone with an answer.  This is why I’ve waited until the last minute to send in my comments.)  In most real public hearings there is a formal time when testimony can be taken from the public and citizens can listen and learn from one another.  The average citizen is not able to go into such a “hearing” like these and understand the many technical variables involved.  A real public hearing would allow citizens to learn from one another.  That is how true democracy works.  It was clear to me, and others that I spoke with who attended these events, that the MDA and its contractors intentionally and effectively limited the public participation process.  For that reason alone this public comment period should be extended and the hearings should be redone in a proper way.

No Decision: Our organization thus opposes the selection of any of the four sites and proposes that no selection be made.

September 13, 2014

Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

- Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth. - Henry David Thoreau