Sunday, August 29, 2010

speech at VFP rally Sun 8/29 Portland, ME

BRING OUR WAR $$ HOME speech for rally at VFP 25th, Portland 8/29/10

Thank you. I feel grateful to Veterans for Peace for their 25 years of organizing, and for bringing us all together here today. I feel grateful to all of you for making time and space in your life to be here today.

I am the daughter of a veteran, granddaughter of two veterans. My grandfather who was among the first troops to enter Nagasaki after the nuclear attack on that city and its civilian population never spoke of it. My other grandfather who lay injured on a battlefield in France in November of 1918 told my father, who passed it on to me and my siblings: “There are no good wars. Don't believe them when they say so. War is not the solution to anything.” No one in my generation of my family enlisted; no one in the next generation of my family has enlisted either. Thank you to the veterans with the courage to tell the truth.

I feel compassion for all the hurting, confused citizens who know there's something wrong and don't know what to do about it. That's what I'd like to speak to you about today.

I think the U.S. as a whole is suffering from traumatic stress disorder. How can we attack and destroy whole countries without feeling the effects? We are traumatized by violent video games, gunmen attacking school children, domestic violence. We're all trying as best we can to cope, many by looking away.

Here in Maine a coalition of activists responded to our collective trauma by adopting the Bring Our War $$ Home campaign. Nearly every active peace group in the state has contributed energy to this effort by now. The campaign was originally planned to last 3 months, but by tax day in April it had already gathered so much momentum that we saw that we should carry on.

Many similar efforts are underway to call on Congress to stop funding wars and instead fund education, jobs, health care, green energy and infrastructure repairs. Let a thousand campaigns bloom! Ongoing budget crises at the national, state and local levels afford us a special opportunity to reach out to our fellow citizens.

I speak to you as fellow activists. I love to march with you and it always lifts my spirits. But the job ahead of us is to reach out to our neighbors and co-workerswith a message that speaks for them.

The central strategy of the BOW$H campaign is the local resolution. The City of Portland passed one 7-1 this year, calling on their representative in the House to redirect funding. Other towns voted the resolution up or down, or voted to table it – but in every case, the effort to bring a resolution opened a space for conversations.

My husband Mark Roman and I traveled around Maine this month photographing some of the many elementary schools that were closed this year due to budget shortfalls. Most closings saved between $200,000 and $400,000 for the school district in the coming year. That is between 5 and 10 minutes of the cost of war and occupation in Afghanistan.

Nearly all the schools had new, colorful playgrounds built with primary school children's needs in mind. Parent organizations raised the funds to build them, knowing the cash strapped school districts never would. Now the kindergarteners are bused almost an hour each way to attend larger schools in the district, leaving their playgrounds behind.

In some towns the schools are shuttered. The town that owns them can't afford the heating and insurance costs to keep them open for the many community activities that have been held there for years.

These harsh conditions create an opportunity for us, activists. A person whose 5 or 6 year old grandchild now rides the bus far away each day knows there is something wrong. A parent who worked to build a playground that now stands idle knows there is something wrong. In the barrage of mass media disinformation, they are bewildered and confused about where exactly the problem lies, and what the solution might be.

Here's why I think the BOW$H message is so powerful at this point in history.

“Bring” is an active verb. It's a demand aimed at the branch of Congress charged with minding the purse strings. It's a demand that can be made by anyone: a child who lost her school, a voter who writes to her representative, a school board trying to make ends meet.

“Our war $$” is a noun with two modifiers. The money IS ours, because we pay it out in income taxes. Maine taxpayers have now contributed over $2.5 billion to fund the wars in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The lie that we have exited from Iraq is spun by the mainstream media a hundred times a day. 50,000 combat troops are renamed, and private contractors will guard an embassy the size of Vatican City. Does this sound expensive?

“War $$” means money that is used to kill people. It does not mean money that we are morally obligated to offer for the rebuilding of infrastructure we destroyed in our scramble to control global energy resources.

Yesterday I saw an article by Adil Shamoo, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who was born and raised in Bagdhad. He cited a report on world cities published by UN-HABITAT, an agency of the United Nations. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the percentage of the urban population living in slums in Iraq hovered just below 20 percent. Today, that percentage has risen to 53 percent. Half the population in Iraq who want to work are unemployed. Iraq today – America tomorrow?

War $$ have made us all poorer.

“Home” is the best word in my message today. "Home" is where the grandmothers have nurtured the human race for millions of years. Home can be temporary or last a lifetime. It is mobile. It's where we are fed. It's where the heart is.

Finding words to communicate with our neighbors is the opportunity I leave you with. Simple, direct words that refute the lie of mainstream media that war makes us safe, and that building weapons of mass destruction makes good jobs and prosperity. It's a teachable moment right now, my peaceful friends. Let's make the most of it. Please join me in raising our voices so loud they will hear us all the way in Washington:

Bring our war $$ home!
Bring our war $$ home!

Thank you.

Lisa Savage
CODEPINK Maine Local Coordinator

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Getting the message out

UFPJ and CODEPINK activists in Rep. George Miller's office, Martinez, Calif.
Love the back of their BOW$H signage!

Mulling over what I will say to the activists marching in Portland, Maine this Sunday at the conclusion of the Veterans for Peace 25th anniversary convention. Bring Our War $$ Home is a campaign that started last January on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the statehouse in Augusta. It was supposed to last only three months (until Tax Day) but has spread like wildfire.

Evidence: these recent photos (above) from northern California where the message visited the office of Rep. George Miller, and southern California (below) where it appeared in a caravan by members of CODEPINK, VFP and allies from the federal building to a V.A. facility where they met with veterans. Here's some of their report back:
People... yelled, honked and thanked us, it was a wonderful greeting. We returned to the buildings near the entrance and spent some time with a gathering of the Vets. They were warm and welcoming... Cars were honking non-stop as we slowly moved through traffic . ...there was applause for blocks.
CODEPINK is often criticized for just trying to be the center of attention. I think people miss the point about getting the message out in a society saturated by mainstream media disinformation. It's a communication strategy.

The slogan "Bring Our War $$ Home" is another strategy. It's a succinct statement of what people can do in the face of a deteriorating economy, and refutes the enormous lie that we must depend on "defense" contracts for jobs and prosperity. The average U.S. citizen does not question this falsehood, and quakes each time a military base closes or a contract for building WMDs ends.

"Bring" is a positive verb, an action we can take to improve quality of life.

"Our War $$" is a noun with two modifiers; we're not asking to leave Iraq in ruins and neglect to rebuild the infrastructure we destroyed. We just want our tax revenue to stop funding destruction halfway around the planet.

"Home" is the best word in the slogan. "Home" is where the grandmothers have nurtured the human race for millions of years. It can be temporary or last a lifetime. It is mobile. It's where we are fed. It's where the heart is.

Thanks to Tighe Barry for painting the vehicles for the LA parade. More photos here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

$1 Trillion and counting -- what didn't get funded?

From the former school’s website. "Burnham Village School houses four sessions of kindergarten. This small building offers a unique experience for students. It is a Kindergarten Center with all programs centered on the developmental needs of the five-year-old child."

The tally for combined price tags of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan reached $1 trillion this year (if you can stand it, check the madly running counter here and note that we've added $38 billion to that figure already). It's such a large number, it's hard to relate to it.

Mark and I decided to come at it from a different direction by documenting some of the things that did not get funded while borrowing for more war spending raged on. We drove around photographing elementary schools closed for lack of funds at the end of the '09-10 school year.

On our travels we spent the night at some of Maine's state park campgrounds, where newish facilities to shower and wash dishes had signs thanking the state's voters for approving a bond issue that made the construction possible. This represents borrowed $ to be paid back by state taxes that increase rather than decrease quality of life.

We also drove over an astonishing number of re-paved roads, several of which boasted signs stating that the project represented federal recovery act $$ at work. People in Maine joke that we have only two seasons: winter, and construction. I imagine many of these road improvement projects were "shovel ready" and had been put off for lack of funds. There were so many of them, including Interstate 95, state highways, and just plain county roads, it was hard not to get the feeling that projects that stimulate demand for petroleum products (and even use a lot of petroleum in the asphalt) were a big priority for allocation of recovery funds.

Palmyra Consolidated School was closed this year for an estimated savings of $448,292. That's equal to the cost of about 10 minutes of the war in Afghanistan.

Mark in front of the former Monson (Maine) Elementary School, closed June 2010. Isaac Crabtree turned up as our park ranger that night. He lives across from the school, which is now a community center for the town of Monson. When asked his opinion he said, "I just think it's a shame for Kindergarteners to have to ride the bus for 45 minutes each way."

Our own local school district closed Embden Elementary, which had the best test scores in reading in math of all the schools in our district. Estimated savings: $200,000.
The community school that got us started on our photo essay project. It closed its doors in June. Some small family members of ours and grandchildren of our friends were heartbroken.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tax Dollars at Work


The incredibly talented creator of the animated movie Sita Sings the Blues blogged her encounter with Lincoln Center security when she attended a concert there in May. This illustration to accompany her musings on what REALLY makes us safe vs. what is intended to drain our pocketbooks while instilling yet more fear seemed perfect for the Bring Our War $$ Home campaign. BOW$H has now been picked up by CODEPINK and reaches from coast to coast.

Nina likes information, including creative output, to be free. All her work has a Creative Commons share and share alike license. I think she likes people to be free, too. Free to keep their money. Free from fear.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bravest Man I Know

l to r: Joe Lombardo, Kathy Kelly, Medea Benjamin, Dahlia Wasfi, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Ethan McCord

How much courage does it take to give the speech that Ethan McCord gave at the Albany National Peace Conference in July?

In it he talked about the day of the events shown in the Wikileaks video "Collateral Murder" which he witnessed from the ground as a soldier pulling bleeding children from the rescue van where their dad lay dying. He walked us, step by step, through the video and explained what was happening. He told us: "If this video disgusts you, it should. It happens daily."

I met Ethan in Albany when he spoke briefly at the opening news conference. It was clearly difficult to talk about something that had happened years ago but that he says he lives with every day.

When we have to talk to a crowd of strangers about things that touch us deeply, most of us are afraid we will break down and cry. You could hear Ethan's voice tremble at times when he spoke. He was taking responsibility for his participation in a military occupation he has come to see as inhuman and immoral. That is hard to do in public also.

I can't think of a better way to bring the truth of military enlistment to young men seduced by the barrage of glamorous ad campaigns, and subjected to the sophisticated hard-sell tactics of recruiters who prey on them. Recruiters are in your shopping centers, on your websites, and in your public schools, in the lunchroom even.

How to be a man when you will not find a steady job to maintain a home and contribute to a family? How to afford even transportation to go out and look for work? How to get a college education without the G.I. bill? These are the choices young American men face today.

Young women face hard economic choices, too. But nobody implies they are less of a woman for not enlisting. There are special problems young males have in this messed up culture of ours. Ethan testified that when he told his commanding officer he wanted to talk to someone to get help for his PTSD he was told, "Stop being a pussy. Get the sand out of your vagina and get back to duty."

My youngest son just told me the other day he would like to have a T-shirt that World Can't Wait is selling as a fundraiser. It says "MILITARY RECRUITERS, GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME!" on the front and "We are not your soldiers" on the back. I went online here and ordered him one.

Personally I'm thinking about making and wearing a T-shirt of my own: "Proud to be a Pussy."

My heart goes out to everyone caught in the military machine our society has become. Support our troops -- bring them home. And hope they get to talk to someone brave like Ethan McCord when they return to us.

Monday, August 9, 2010

NATO Forces in Afghanistan Can't Deny They Killed Civilians in Sangin An...

Truth 1st Casualty of War

photo credit: Laurel Jensen Photograpy

About 100 people turned out for a rally to support PFC Bradley Manning, the leaker of the "Collateral Murder" video from Iraq among other truths. It is unclear whether or not he had a hand in the recent Afghan War Diary released by Wikileaks. He's being held in military prison Quantico, VA now and CODEPINK helped organize the rally, which was covered by the NYTimes even. You can contribute to Brad's defense fund plus learn more here.

It is totally clear that this kind of bravery is needed for world citizens to learn the truth about war crimes. Watch the Rethink Afghanistan video about official NATO accounts vs. eyewitness accounts on the bombing of civilians (including infants) in Sangind on July 23 that killed 52 people. One witness said that one or two members of nearly every family in the village died in the attack; NATO denied any civilian deaths, and sent no medical help following the bombardment.

Your tax $$ at work...

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I once had to protest an administrator in my old school district who was gung-ho to hang a flag of our state, sent from Iraq by a National Guards-mom whose daughter had been a student of ours.

The principal was going to hang it proudly in the gym because as she explained, "It had flown over Fallujah!" She had already read aloud a letter from soldier mom to her kid at graduation the previous spring. (The use of high school graduation ceremonies for recruiting purposes is a topic I will leave for another day.)

As the U.S. prepares to "exit" Iraq at the end of this month, leaving behind only 50,000 troops and the largest embassy compound ever built (fortifed, natch) I am reflecting on the battle of Fallujah. Some years have passed since my country used my tax dollars to bombard the city with weapons of mass destruction. Many of the WMD's were made of depleted uranium; because it is a very dense material, D.U. is used to make missile points that will penetrate strongly. Then the explosion turns the D.U. to fine dust that becomes part of the local environment for a very long time.

One of my stalwart fellow vigilers held a sign for years that said: D.U. = war crime. We used to tease him by saying that those driving by us on the bridge probably thought it said "Duh" because no one knew what D.U. meant.

The children that have been born in Fallujah since the U.S. attacked know what D.U. means, because they are living with birth defects caused by radioactivity levels that scientists who studied the situation describe as "worse than Hiroshima." Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009 was published here in June. The little girl pictured above was lucky to be born with deformed feet rather than a misplaced eye or nose -- I guess. Wonder what will happen if she tries to have children of her own someday?

Nuclear Detonation Timeline "1945-1998"
A horrible, strangely beautiful rendering of historical data
by Isao Hashimoto (

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Who Lies? Who Dies? Who Pays? Who Profits?"

The great duo emma's revolution gave us the perfect guide for considering the "end" of the occupation of Iraq, which has been "ending" ever since the last decider declared mission accomplished.
From their collection roots, rock, & revolution:
who lies

People in a bind, unemployment line
Promise of relief from the military minds
Bechtel, Halliburton, Carlyle, more
Emptying the shelves of the company store
Who lies? Who dies? Who pays? Who profits?...

©2005 Pat Humphries, Sandy O
Moving Forward Music, BMI

Who lies? Condoleezza Rice lies for $150,000 a speaking engagement, while Karl Rove receives $25,000 to speak lies at University of California campuses. The deliberate hoodwinking of the public by means of false intelligence and media manipulation to start the attack on Iraq goes unpunished to date. So much for the rule of law. Maybe that's why activists turn out for the chance to perform citizen's arrests on Rove and Rumsfeld from coast to coast to coast.

Who dies? A large number of Iraqi moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, cousins, babies and kids died. The number that can be documented is around 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths by war related violence. Other estimates range upward by as much as a factor of 10, for a total more like one million. Either number represents too much needless suffering to families, and too many enemies created.

Who pays? You and me, sister.

The National Priorities Project tallied the cost of war including the most recent supplemental funding bill. As of the end of September this year, the price tag to U.S. taxpayers is a whopping $749.9 billion for Iraq, $337.8 billion for Afghanistan, for a total of $1.09 TRILLION. How many school closings could have been avoided with a trillion dollar budget?

Who profits? Well, it sure as hell isn't the soldier who staggers home from multiple deployments and stop-loss to try to make ends meet on his or her salary. Top pay for an U.S. Army Corporal is $36,174 a year, while a Sargeant can get up to $47,574 (a minute of our Afghanistan occupation costs more).

"Bechtel, Halliburton, Carlyle, more/Emptying the shelves of the company store." Bring Our War $$ Home!

Monday, August 2, 2010

War with Iran next on the agenda?

source: "Iran Encircled: Two US Congressional Resolutions, One World War" by Ruqayyah Shamseddine at Global Research, August 1, 2010

Reports on H.R. 1553, submitted July 22 to the House Foreign Affairs Committee by 49 representatives, trickled in to the National Unified Peace Conference in Albany. Tighe Barry of CODEPINK told us something about it at dinner on Saturday.

You may share CODEPINK's alarm at the purpose of the res: "Expressing support for the State of Israel's right to defend Israeli sovereignty, to protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, and to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time to protect against such an immediate and existential threat to the State of Israel."

I have just now gotten to checking that neither of Maine's reps signed on. The sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Louis Buller Gohmert of Texas, has defended the State of Israel's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla boat Mavi Marmara, where nine people were killed by Israel's military forces in an attack carried out in international waters. (According to retired Col. Ann Wright, who was on the flotilla, the State of Israel also confiscated and kept records of what really happened, including her computer.) Gohmert has also reportedly traveled to Israel for educational visits, or perhaps to oversee some of the spending of the $3 billion in U.S. aid to Israel each year -- really a credit line for weapons systems.

You may begin to see, as I do, an overall pattern that explains the no-end-in-sight occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the enabling of Israel's militant occupation of Palestinian territories. Yes, I know the U.S. is on schedule to "exit" Iraq on the last day of August. Left behind will be the largest fortified "embassy" ever built on Earth, five "Enduring Presence Posts" outside the capitol, and U.S. State Department private military squads.

This calls into question the false justification offered for our escalation of the ten year war on Afghanistan, that of improving the lot of women there. Is anyone else embarrassed that women and girls' rights were so much better after a decade of Soviet occupation than they are after a decade of NATO? Ann Jones, who wrote the excellent Kabul in Winter exploring this subject, has a new book due out next month: War is Not Over When Its Over: Women and the Unseen Consequences of Conflict. She also recently applied to be an embedded journalist and posted a fascinating account here that explains why COIN isn't working and won't work, but why young Americans keep enlisting anyway.

Camp Hermana, AZ visits Gov. Jan Brewer's home with a message of love, not hate

Camp Hermana Interrogation
Originally uploaded by caterliz
CODEPINK women from all over joined AZ residents to bring love, not hate into the town where Gov. Jan Brewer lives. Gov. Brewer signed SB 1070, portions of which have been blocked by the federal govt. as unconstitutional. The law encourage racial profiling by making law enforcement officers like this one accountable if they do not demand proof of citizenship from people who "appear illegal."

This officer is probably asking himself if these women look illegal...

Camp Hermana with LOVE
Originally uploaded by caterliz
CODEPINK woman deliver love, not hate to AZ.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Driving around waiting to get blown up

1st PHOTO: Leslie Smith, 30, talks to a veteran contemplating suicide during a shift at the Department of Veterans Affairs suicide prevention hot line in Canandaigua, N.Y. Ashley Gilbertson/VII Network, for The New York Times

2nd PHOTO: U.S. Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division work to save a comrade after an Improvised Explosive Device exploded just outside Combat Outpost Nolen in the Arghandab Valley north of Kandahar July 30, 2010. One soldier lost a leg in the blast and another was wounded in the face by shrapnel. REUTERS/Bob Strong

Just finished reading a piece on the hundreds of calls veterans made to a suicide support line in one month. Just after reading about a bi-partisan (false dichotomy alert any time you see that word) call to build up the U.S. Navy, which mentioned that Secty. of "Defense" Gates "focused his effort on winning the wars we are in today. But we cannot do that at the expense of preparing for the future..."

I guess it's okay if we do it at the expense of the mental health of the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who, when asked to describe what their mission is, respond: "Driving around waiting to get blown up."

Then my morale was refreshed by a fascinating article on military intelligence from a former classmate of Bradley Manning. It's not that his article didn't have horrific details about our tax $$ at work in Iraq, because it does. But it was refreshing because it cut through the Obama administration's b.s. about how wikileaks reporters have "blood on their hands" by revealing Afghan informant names from years gone by. Definitely worth a read. I sent author Evan Knappenberger a note
that he deserved an A+ on his paper -- even if it was turned in a few years late.