Thursday, March 29, 2012

What kind of country have we become?

"What kind of country have we become when we are killing and maiming women and children halfway around the globe at the same time were abandoning poor women and children here at home? It's time we stopped this madness and brought our war dollars home." 

Hall of Flags, State House, Augusta, Maine  March, 2012.   Marching Against Fiscal Madness: Fund Human Needs rally and news conference with Occupy Maine and Bring Our War $$ Home campaign.

Videos by OccupyMaine TV


Sung as the governor looked on:

"Don't believe the governor, don't listen to his lies!
The middle class ain't got a chance unless we organize."

"Bring war dollars home to protect and clean up the environment."

Is the U.S. doing the right thing fighting in Afghanistan? 69% Say NO

Qais Usyan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
It's not too surprising that the recent cascade of bad news from the graveyard of empires has resulted in even mainstream media reporting that the people are fed up with war in Afghanistan. Of course Afghan people have been fed up for a long time. But who in the Obama administration listens to them?
Source: RAWA
The 99% in the U.S. are another matter. They are the ones being taxed to buy the drones and pay the salaries of the soldiers pressed into service for their third or fourth tours. Now a whopping 69% of the 99% responded NO when asked "Is the U.S. doing the right thing fighting in Afghanistan?" by a CBS News/New York Times poll. Add in the 8% who responded that they weren't sure and you've got a mere 23% still in favor of continuing the longest war this country has ever paid for. Taxation without representation?

Rep. Barbara Lee and colleagues, including both Maine's reps Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree, have sponsored a resolution calling to limit funding to the rapid, safe and responsible return of all U.S. troops and "Defense" Department contractors. What, just as constructing an even bigger, maximum security prison at Bagram Air Base was getting underway? I applaud the effort that HR 780 represents, but I'm betting those who profit from building the infrastructure of occupation have a lot more influence in Congress than 69% of my fellow citizens. (Let's call Congress anyway: 202-224-3121.)

The alleged lone gunman of Kandahar got a lot of press -- once they had whisked his wife and kids on base, shut down public access to her blog about life as a military spouse, and tried to erase Robert Bales from the Internet. That may have soured some hearts and minds here at home, along with the creeping suspicion that he wasn't acting alone, and that the government is lying to us about it.

It's also hard not to notice the increasingly frequent attacks on NATO soldiers by men wearing the uniforms of our supposed partner the Afghan army. Or maybe "Green on Blue" violence is just being reported more in the mainstream press these days?

The narrative of the lone gunman who has had enough and snaps and goes on a killing rampage was eloquently questioned by Chris Hedges in a recent AlterNet piece "Murder Is Not An Anomoly in War". It is an essay update to the thesis of his book War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, as applied to both soldiers and the journalists who cover their stories. When does killing stop being seen as an anomoly, and start being seen as business as usual?

General John Allen, commander of both U.S. and NATO forces as quoted by CBS reporting on the results of their poll:
"I worry that the complications from these recent events can distract us from the larger strategic imperative of this campaign," Allen said.
Or maybe that should read the larger $trategic imperative.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Maine Bring Our War $$ Home Speaker: "I Am 17 Years Old, And I Am The 99%!"

Young voices dominated the Marching Against Fiscal Madness: Fund Human Needs rally and news conference in Maine's State House Hall of Flags on March 20. Singer/Songwriter Morgana Warner Evans of West Bath, about to graduate from high school, serenaded Tea Party Governor LePage and a crowd of about 100 who joined in singing the chorus to her adaptation of the union anthem "Which Side Are You On?" The event was co-sponsored by Occupy Maine and the Bring Our War $$ Home campaign coalition.

High school senior Alaena Merrill also wowed the crowd, drawing sustained applause several times (full disclosure: I edited out much of it because my camera work got shaky during those intervals) with her remarks about what funding can do for public school programs, and what war spending does to school budgets.

College senior Nicole Moreau of CODEPINK Maine and Veterans for Peace delivered stunning testimony about the high cost of education and the astronomical levels of debt today's students are graduating with -- into a bleak landscape with few job prospects.

College student Curtis Cole captioned this photo I shared on his facebook page: "Pic of my speaking with members of the ruling class looking on."

His speech also drew cheers and prolonged applause -- though not from the governor (at left in blue shirt with hand on his mouth).
Stagnation: War Money and Maine Society
I’m here today on a simple mission: that mission is to tell all of you of the obsolete and deceitful nature of the 1%. You see, the 1% would like us to believe it is in our best interest to spend billions of dollars annually on a defense budget. They would like students to believe that it is in the student’s best interest to maintain funding occupation soldiers’ salaries; they want us to believe that we can ‘suffice’ without quality healthcare, education, civil servants, and decent infrastructure. Yet, most of all, they would like society at large to swallow the ultimate lie: that maintenance of the Imperialist Murder Machine, i.e. The Military Industrial Complex, is needed for our safety.
Such words are blasphemous to the truth. We, the 99%, need a military in the same way that hell needs more fire. No, we do not need to spend any amount, let along such obscene proportions, on war. Here in the Great State of Maine, the taxpayers are gouged of 1.3 billion dollars annually. This drain is directed towards the military defense budget. A budget which is so over bloated that our nation’s budget alone dwarfs that of the rest of the world’s-combined!
You see, the ‘Powers that be’ needs the young to believe that without an armed force breathing down their necks at all times society as we know it will collapse. Masterful propaganda has made our modern world one of such sharp distortions that even breaking away and glimpsing the truth is a daring feat.
To accomplish this they saturate the media with horrifying claims. Claims of mass murder, genocide, and land hungry entities annexing their neighbors accompany images of tactical maps indicating the supposed threat to American safety. Without a strong police state, the warmongers argue, society will inevitably be taken over by foreigners, communists, Queers, Muslims or whatever new scapegoat the liberal/ conservative alliance dreams up; dreaming being the primary method of thinking and data collecting for the elites who create such fantasies.
Fantasies such as this condemn people to live in poverty and indignation. Mainers must fight against these draconian measures otherwise nearly no one would have access to healthcare (as the sum would readily be reallocated to the wars). As Many as 1 in 5 Mainers2 live in rural areas, and are unable to even locate a healthcare provider; let alone pay the exorbitant post-procedure costs. With Maine Care being slashed left and right, it is becoming increasingly impossible to afford vital treatment. Yet, under our current system such low-income people are disregarded as lazy, underachievers because of their socio-economic class. A designation labeled onto them despite rigorous efforts at improving their lot through education. This task would be easier if working class and young people were actually able to access higher education.
I believe the term ‘mediocre’ is a fitting word to attribute to an administration which views funding state sanctioned murder as a more pressing concern than providing for its citizens. You see, the Military Industrial Complex exists for two reasons and two reasons only: To start wars and for capitalists to make profits. That’s it! The government controls over 1000 military bases worldwide; bases which they use to dictate the world stage of affairs3. Each base must be filled with troops, small arms and ammunition, weapon systems, and food. Obviously this is all expensive and is indicative of only a single base.4
This total amounts to over 800 billion dollars, however, this tally doesn’t include the amount spent financing expansionist wars, “donations” to sympathetic armed factions, and the salaries of “fighting men.” Instead this marks only the expenditures for the Navy, Air Force, Marine, and Army branches; the strain of them purchasing battleships, tanks and fighter jets, small arms and protective gear. When one adds in the amount of this “hidden” waste the sum skyrockets; total war in Iraq and Afghanistan, covert operations in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, as well as the continued defense of client states Israel, South Korea, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the true total, while breathtaking, is at least four trillions dollars!
Hear that? That was trillion, with a “t.” For the same amount over 530thousand children could receive low- income healthcare, 15.2million elementary school teachers and 17.4million firefighters could receive salaries for a year, over 939million households could revive renewable wind- powered electricity, and over a 131million college students could receive year ‘round scholarships.
This is the reality of life in Maine so as long as we continue to allow the para-fascist 1% to dictate our future. Such people need the 99% to believe the delusion they spread -delusion about capitalism, about wealth distribution, and resource allocation-because they need all afraid of foes which do not exist. They need all brainwashed into believing this manufactured fairytale about terrorists all while ignoring the fact the United States is the world’s biggest funder of actual terrorism. The truth is stark: we have no enemies; we make our own future and if we are to create, as some here wish, a horizontal workers democracy, than what we must do is rise up and overthrow the 1%.



Mayor Karen Heck was introduced by MC Mark Roman as the person currently holding the office last held by the governor. Her remarks stressed the local impact of budget cuts that continue to roll out of Augusta:

My name is Karen Heck and I am the Mayor of Waterville. Our city is facing an $800,00 shortfall between our expected revenue for the city and $1.6 million less this year than last for our schools…and that’s without spending the money we should be investing in our youngest residents, those 0-3, at a time when they are developing 85% of their brains. If we could be fully supporting their healthy development, we could be reaping the benefits within a few short years of lower special education costs, higher fourth grade achievement scores and higher graduation rates. Instead, we are being forced to cut 12 more teachers in our K to 12 system, don’t have enough money to staff an available infant and toddler classroom, and are facing the elimination of two head start classrooms due to proposed elimination of state funded Head Start. 

What kind of country have we become when we are killing and maiming women and children half way around the globe at the same time we are abandoning poor women and children here at home? It is time we stopped this madness and brought our war dollars home.

An issue even closer to my heart than the lost revenue for our struggling cities and towns, is the disruption of families and the loss of life. Two years ago, the family of Alan and Mary Slack received the kind of news no parent should have to hear. Their 19 year old son Wade had been killed in Afghanistan. A year and a half later, Alan Slack died of a broken heart leaving the family coping with the loss of two of its members due to the war. Another family in our town, is now on pins and needles praying for the safe return of their father and husband. Dr. Joseph Lopes was called up to return to the war for the fourth time in the past 5 years. 

You can bet if we had a draft and the sons and daughters of Congressional leaders were being called to duty, we would have been home years ago. I am sick to death of watching old men send young men and now women to war while they do nothing more than wear flag lapel pins and drive around with yellow ribbons on their cars. We need to stop this madness. We need the President to overrule the generals, stop the fighting and bring our war dollars home now.

Tammy Trask of MAIN gave stirring testimony of the effects on Maine's poorest families while the governor looked on.
Loren Snow from Food AND Medicine, a retired state worker, gave the gritty facts of barely surviving on a pension and health care benefits that are being whittled away year after year. Loren thought he had worked many years to earn a secure retirement caring for an ailing spouse and a disabled adult child who still lives at home.

The governor, who had been halted by some in the crowd chanting "shame, shame" as he scurried into his office near the rally, gave this non-verbal response (zoom in to see what the governor learned in Kindergarten):
photo credit: Peter Woodruff
 Full coverage of all speakers at the rally will soon be available from Occupy Maine TV. Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Story Of Why There Are Burned Children's Corpses in Afghanistan Stinks

Source: Al Jazeera, from a US military newsletter.
This blurb about the supposedly lone gunman in the Kandahar massacre caught my eye in Al Jazeera's coverage of the ongoing controversy about whodunit to 16 civilians in the middle of the night:
Bales was flown from Kuwait to a military base in Kansas where he will be held in solitary confinement awaiting charges, the US army said.

"The Army confirms that Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Bales is being held in pre-trial confinement," the army said in a statement on Friday.
So Bales is now locked up in the same facility with inconvenient truth teller Bradley Manning. And being held in the same torturous conditions as Manning was at Quantico before being transfered to Leavenworth. Manning's pre-trial hearing resumed this week; he's now been in detention for 664 days. Why was he kept in solitary for so long before being charged or tried?

There are two plausible reasons for this type of cruel and unusual punishment:

1) To keep the prisoner from talking to anyone who might be able to leak the truth to the rest of us.

2) To induce psychological deterioration that will render the prisoner unfit to defend himself from the lies the government plans to tell about him and his actions.

On the other hand, maybe it's not so unusual anymore.

In 2012 nonviolent protesters can be physically assaulted, have their coats confiscated, and be locked up overnight in a freezing cell with no bed or chair, merely for calling out Bank of America's defrauding of the 99%. In other words, for speaking the truth in public -- dangerous for all concerned.

Your government is so serious about this that they will fire you for linking to Wikileaks.

This proved to be a big problem for the prosecution in the Manning case because they failed to get several important emails from the court since government spam filters block out anything with the word Wikileaks! (Stuff like this makes me wonder how the humorists at The Onion hope to write headlines funnier than that. You cannot make this shit up.)

In the Bales case, President Karzai told family members of the 16 victims that U.S. officials  'did not cooperate' with Kandahar probe. Many in Afghanistan doubt that the massacre could possibly have been effected by someone acting alone, considering the multiple locations and timing. Some are suggesting an investigation by Afghan officials uncovered evidence that as many as 15 or 20 Special Forces soldiers were involved, possibly as retaliation for an IED event that produced troop casualties.
But would the U.S. military lie about how many were involved? What do you think?

In a week of bad news another incident was swept under the carpet but, the bulge still shows: Secretary of Defense Panetta landed in country on Friday, but his high ranking military welcome committee had to hit the deck to avoid being run over by an Afghan translator who had stolen an SUV just minutes prior. The interior of his vehicle ignited shortly after missing them, and he died of burns later that day, so we'll never know his side of the story. But here's what top brass put out for info on the incident, as reported by AP via

Very shortly after Gurganus dodged the car, the commander spoke to reporters at Camp Leatherneck, which is adjacent to Bastion, a British air field. And despite repeated questions about security in the area, did not reveal the incident. Instead, he told reporters that there had been no violence in his area in the wake of the shooting spree by a U.S. soldier that killed 16 Afghans last weekend.
"We've had zero incidents," Gurganus said. "We've not so much as even had a two man protest at this point in time." He later added that, "You can't get a whole lot safer than right here when you're surrounded by everybody else on the base."
Really? Is that why he took everyone's rifles away from them?
Let's just end with the third fishy story of our week in the graveyard of empires, this one about a NATO helicopter that crashed killing, among others, 12 Turkish soldiers, and two unfortunate young women that were in the house it landed on in Kabul. Why did it crash? As reported by AP via Common Dreams:
the Turkish military said in a statement "Twelve of our military personnel on board were martyred,"...

There was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash, NATO said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the helicopter was one of two that took off on Friday. "Unfortunately, the one in front came down for an unknown reason," he said.
Wreckage from the helicopter crash depicts your tax $$ at work in Afghanistan after more than a decade of war. SOURCE: Euronews

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Beware Pressing Reset Button On Moral Authority On The Ides of March

Judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason.
Ah, hubris. The two celebrity spokesmen of the Anglo-American empire had a chummy time stroking each other's egos today. Neither the Kandahar massacre nor the Ides of March appeared to faze them a bit. As Business Week reported it:
The prime minister [Cameron] responded by all but endorsing Obama’s re-election in his own nine-minute toast. He cited the U.S.-led coalition effort in Libya, the surge in Afghanistan and the troop withdrawal from Iraq. The president “has pressed the reset button on the moral authority of the entire free world,” he said.
Fucking A. Our male heads of state are now so powerful they command the very moral universe to do their bidding. Like in a video game, all they have to do is press reset, and all the dead souls that are marked down on their side of the ledger lift them up to be exalted by us commoners.

This is an old phenomenon.

The Ides of March put me in mind of Shakespeare's opening scene for Julius Caesar, in which the 99% are standing around in their dress clothes and are scorned by a couple of patricians for waiting to cheer triumphant Caesar when "many a time and oft" they had cheered Pompey, whom Caesar has just slain.
Source: Daily Mail, UK
I imagine what the Bard might say about my friends and countrymen who still fawn over Obama and pledge their fealty, joining their fortune to his, basking in the supposed glory of raining down death all over the globe:

"You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things"
Like the poor fool who snapped during his 4th deployment and went about murdering children, tipping the longest invisible war on Afghanistan into the public arena long enough for a wave of revulsion to sweep over us.

It didn't last long. Before 48 hours had passed we were back to the gross canard of a moral reset button, and could get on with the real business of government-media-weapons production.

But the titan stumbles once again. In what Ralph Lopez blogging at described as a
bombshell report which is to Afghanistan what the Pentagon Papers were to Vietnam, "Dereliction of Duty II: Senior Military Leaders’ Loss of Integrity Wounds Afghan War Effort" [Lt. Col. Daniel] Davis all but calls his top commanders skilled, habitual, wouldn't-know-truth-if-it-hit-them-in-the-head bald-faced liars about the situation in Afghanistan.
See, the empire needs a permanent base in Afghanistan, and to control Pakistan, in order to capture the central, plummy prize: Iran. For what reason? Why, to make you safer.

So ours is not to reason why the Boston subway that moves the 99% to work and school is being slashed again while the CEO of Bank of America earned $6 million+ this year.

Ours is not to reason why the U.S. can have South Korea deny entry to three Vets for Peace organizers headed to defend Jeju Island from being entombed in concrete so Aegis nuclear destroyers can ply the South China Sea.

Ours is not to reason why Bradley Manning is charged with aiding Al Qaida when George W. Bush undoubtedly and Barack Obama certainly have aided all violent terrorist organizations by continually creating new militantly grieving survivors of aerial bombing and night raids and depleted uranium. And rape. Etc. (Besides which, Al Qaida? Really? We are still the laughing stock of the world for our colossal ignorance of facts on the ground.)

Ours is but to do and die in the graveyard of illusory empire.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What Do You Do When Your Country Goes Around Killing Children At Night In Their Beds?

This will be my campaign poster. It ran on Reuters yesterday with the caption:
Nancy Mancias, of the anti-war group Code Pink, looks into U.S. President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters during a vigil in the wake of a massacre of 16 villagers by a suspected rogue American soldier in Afghanistan, in Oakland, California March 12, 2012.
Debate raged on the Afghanistan Working Group listserve yesterday regarding the best response to the massacre, as news trickled out of the soldier's repeated deployments, marital problems, and brain injury. Ralph Lopez reminded peace activists of the campaign they had waged to stop deployment of injured soldiers back into the battlefield. Some wanted to write letters of apology to Afghanistan and wondered where they could be sent. The terrific Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers were nominated; even though they live in a different part of the country, they've reached out repeatedly to hold conversations with people around the globe in the belief that connecting leads to love.

My good friend CODEPINK staffer Janet Weil pointed out that such an apology might seem as insincere as those issued by the Commander in Chief with depressing regularity lately, upon news of each new atrocity or offense against decency. She suggested we instead contact our own government officials and demand: troops out now. Also that we blog or write op eds to communicate with our fellow citizens about the mess in Afghanistan.

I decided to combine the two suggestions, sending a copy of my blog post about the incident to the Youth Peace Volunteers. In the post I named names of just some of the officials I hold responsible for the wanton destruction endured during our decade long war against the people of the region. President Obama topped the list; he has made Afghanistan his war in way that Iraq never was. Of course he has also started bombing and sending Special Forces and assassins into other countries: Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Uganda, Bahrain. It is sickening. My taxes help pay for it. It has to stop.

Now that Obama has signed HR374 -- which has been called "the CODEPINK law," referring to my organization's penchant for speaking up -- I will no doubt be a felon soon, for demonstrating at the White House, or at a campaign stop of the death dealing Obama. (See you in Portland on March 30!) If convicted, I would lose my right to vote. Oh well.

Monday, March 12, 2012

"anyone who is found to have committed wrongdoing is held fully accountable"

School children in Kabul are arout the age of several killed by a deranged gunman in uniform, supported by your tax dollars. Source: French navy photo by Master Petty Officer Valverde
One could forgive the people of Afghanistan -- really, the world -- for thinking that U.S. soldiers are vicious beasts. This week's news that an Army man in at least his fourth deployment snapped and began executing small children in a gruesome night raid of his own making was chilling enough before details emerged of his attempted burning of several of the corpses. Did he mistake them for Qurans? Did he piss on them, too? We may never know.

We are told that he turned himself in. The Guardian reported:
It is not the first time that US soldiers have intentionally killed Afghan civilians but the toll is unprecedented for a single soldier. The soldier, who was reported to be a staff sergeant and father of three who has done three tours of duty in Iraq, was arrested after the assault. He appears to have made no attempt to cover up the shootings.

The commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, promised a thorough investigation. "I am absolutely dedicated to making sure that anyone who is found to have committed wrongdoing is held fully accountable," he said, but his response is unlikely to do much to dampen the fury of Afghan officials or people.
To assist General Allen I offer here a partial list of those who should be investigated for wrongdoing in this matter:

President Barack Obama -- his record on escalation of the horrors in Afghanistan is abysmal. Only a partial list would include sending in thousands more troops (many redeployed for the nth time), using drone strikes that kill civilians wantonly, continuing the odious night raids so rightly loathed by Afghan families, squandering U.S. tax dollars to, among other things, build an even bigger prison at Bagram, looking away while torture occurs in that prison, continuing pressure on the downward slide of Afghan life expectancy, and  failing to protect the legal rights of Afghan women under the regime he continues to support.

Former President George W. "I happen to think it was worth fighting" Bush, who oversaw the initial attack on Afghanistan following his post-9/11 speech warning that their harbors would no longer be safe (a D student in geography, apparently).

Former Vice President Dick "Hidden Hand" Cheney. When he speechified that, "“Freedom still has enemies here in Afghanistan" those listening must have felt pretty sure he was one of them.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The glue holding together the Bush era and Obama era Afghanistan strategies.  Photo op!

Defense Secretary Leon "Let me be very clear" Panetta. He said in February at the Univ. of Louisville: "The brutal attacks that we have seen over the last few days on our troops will not change and will not alter our commitment to get this job done.” What exactly is meant by "this job" I assume means permanent occupation a la Iraq. (A glance at a map shows we've got Iran in a pincher movement if we can just nail down Afghanistan.)
Former head commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal who is currently raking in bucks strutting around teaching Leadership (sic) at Yale. “The point of today is to understand trust and relationships, which underpin the difference between success and failure,” he told students.

Back to school, boys. You're going to lose this one, because you didn't understand trust and relationships.
Source: Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Community Leaders, 99% Speak Out Against Fiscal Madness To Demand: Fund Human Needs, Not Wars

Hall of Flags rally to bring war dollars home to Maine, April 2011
The Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home and Occupy Maine have announced a rally in the Statehouse Capitol Building Hall of Flags on March 20 from 2-4pm to hear testimony from citizens affected by cuts to vital services and programs. These cuts are presented as necessary by Governor LePage's administration and Tea Party legislators, but are in fact the result of years of excessive spending on the U.S. military and its wars abroad.

The event is intended to remind citizens in Maine that our state's share of war spending since 2001 comes to $3.4 billion. Testimony from local government officials, educators, students and Occupy Mainers will be heard.

Mayor Karen Heck of Waterville released a preview of remarks she plans to deliver on March 20: “I see one of my jobs as mayor as connecting the dots for the people of Waterville between what’s happening nationally and the effects of those decisions on our lives locally and I believe it’s past time to bring our military dollars home. We need that money for our local schools, for our infrastructure improvements and to support people are suffering from budget cuts to education, health and welfare services.”

Our requests for General Assistance are increasing and local food banks and soup kitchens are serving more people than ever before. We are facing cuts to Head Start at a time when we are only able to serve 23% of those families who are eligible...we need to make our voices heard that spending on the war must stop now,” wrote Mayor Heck.

Representatives from Occupy Maine in Portland, Augusta and Bangor will testify as well. Curtis Cole, a student at UMaine, Augusta who participated in the encampment in Capitol Park until its eviction in December, will speak on March 20 as follows: “The 1% would like us to believe it is in our best interest to spend billions of dollars annually on a defense budget. They would like students to believe that it is in their best interest to maintain funding occupation soldiers’ salaries; they want us to believe that we can ‘suffice’ without quality healthcare, teachers, firefighters, and decent infrastructure. Yet, most of all, they would like society at large to swallow the ultimate lie: that maintenance of the... Military Industrial Complex, is needed for our safety.”

The Bring Our War $$ Home campaign began two years ago in Maine with a rally inside the Hall of Flags in Augusta, and has now spread nationally. Last summer the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting passed a Bring Our War $$ Home resolution, the first time they have taken a foreign policy position since the Vietnam War. Bring Our War $$ Home resolutions have passed in Maine by the Deer Isle Town Meeting, Solon School Board and the Portland City Council. Similar resolutions have also passed city councils in Hartford, Ct, Amherst and Northampton, MA, Eugene, OR, and Los Angeles, CA.

Last fall the campaign held a series of 17 local events in 14 Maine communities, supported by a radio ad campaign featuring Maine's Humble Farmer, Robert Skoglund on five Maine stations from Portland to Presque Isle.

According to Bring Our War $$ Home co-coordinator Bruce Gagnon, "Recent national polls show that 70% of the American people want us out of Afghanistan and they want the $10 billion we waste on that war every single month to be brought back to our local communities and states to help solve our fiscal crisis. We are not going to have an economic recovery as long as we keeping flushing people's hard-earned tax dollars down the endless war hole. We are organizing this action in order to help people apply pressure on all of our elected officials to publicly say - Bring Our War $$ Home."

The Bring Our War $$ Home campaign is waged by a coalition of about twenty groups including CODEPINK Maine, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, Veterans for Peace, PeaceWorks of Greater Brunswick, Peace Action Maine, the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine, and the Midcoast Peace and Justice Group.

Contact: Bruce Gagnon (207) 443-9502
Lisa Savage (207) 399-7623

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mic Check Inside AIPAC: "No War On Iran!"

For Immediate Release 
March 5, 2012
Rae Abileah, CODEPINK codirector & Occupy AIPAC organizer, 415-994-1723
Rick Colbath-Hess, 617-354-6471

Citizens Occupy AIPAC Policy Conference and Mic Check Cong. Ros-Lehtinen:
Use Diplomacy, Not War on Iran

Washington, DC—An AIPAC Policy Conference panel titled “Stopping Iran” had some unexpected speakers: activists with Occupy AIPAC who stood up and “mic checked” Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Israeli Ambassador Jeremy Issacharoff.  At about 2pm on March 5, four activists called out AIPAC for pushing for American support for an Israeli attack on Iran.  One activist was violently attacked by an AIPAC member who used his tie to strangle the peaceful protester.  Later in the afternoon two activists unfurled a "Don't Bomb Iran" banner inside the AIPAC hall.  Security promptly pushed them out of the hall, and also forcefully removed an AIPAC delegate who had nothing to do with the action, but was taken out for being a bystander. 

The full People’s Microphone inside the panel said:
“Mic check!
Ros-Lehtinen is pushing war
based on lies.
We are the 99%
Wars benefit the 1%
Don’t bomb Iran!
Diplomacy not bombs.
AIPAC supports endless war.
We support peace.
Occupy Wall Street not Iran.
Occupy Wall Street not Palestine.
No war on Iran.”
Shortly after the people's mic began, the crowd of AIPAC attendees reacted forcefully. Some of them climbed over chairs to reach the demonstrators, and one of the disruptors, Rick Colbath-Hess, was violently yanked down to the floor by his necktie. After the mic-check, Laura Kacere of Occupy DC and Ridgely Fuller of CODEPINK and Occupy Boston both stood on top of chairs and chanted “Don’t bomb Iran!” The AIPAC crowd responded by singing the Israeli national anthem, led by Representative Ros-Lehtinen, and the activists were eventually escorted out.

“As an active member of the Occupy movement, I believe it is important for people to recognize that AIPAC doesn’t represent American or Jewish interests, but the interests of the 1%,” said Laura Kacere, 25 years old from Washington DC. “AIPAC demonstrates this through its powerful grip over Congress, influencing our government to make choices that do not reflect the best interest of the 99%. In this case, AIPAC is pushing for war on Iran which would be disastrous not only for Iran, Israel, and the entire Middle East, but for the US as well.”

According to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Cong. Ros-Lehtinen has received $243,240 in campaign contributions from the Israel Lobby, including $34,500 in the last election alone. She recently introduced a House companion to Senator Lieberman’s Senate Resolution 380, which seeks to lower the threshold for the US attacking Iran. 

“The Obama administration needs to focus on diplomacy rather than be dragged into another war we can’t afford,” said Rick Colbath-Hess, 52 from Cambridge, MA.  “In the past three years, the Obama administration has had discussions with the Iranian government for only 45 minutes –that is hardly what one would call ‘diplomacy.’”
Outside the convention center, Occupy AIPAC demonstrations continued today with a protest against war on Iran staged in front of the White House, where President Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss Iran.

The Occupy AIPAC coalition is gathering to urge Obama to reject the Israeli administration’s push for war on Iran and insist on respect for Palestinian rights. Timed to coincide with the annual AIPAC policy conference from March 3-6, Occupy AIPAC aims to draw attention to the dangerous role of AIPAC as a special interest lobby that maintains a stranglehold over US policies. As the Occupy Movement has focused public ire on the role of large corporations and powerful lobby groups, hundreds have gathered in DC to protest AIPAC’s push for war.

Monday, March 5, 2012

How The Israel Lobby Harms The 99%: Occupy AIPAC

Hundreds chanting outside AIPAC's annual conference after Israel's best buddy Obama spoke March 4. Besides threatening Iran with military action, the U.S. president absurdly maintained: “we will always reject the notion that Zionism is racism."
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has more influence over your government and your tax dollars than you do. Each year they hold a conference in Washington DC where they train thousands to lobby Congress for continued military aid to Israel in the form of credits for weapons systems. This is a 1% dream scenario, corporate welfare for defense contractors.

And if you're going to sell weapons, you need to have wars. So a major focus of the AIPAC conference this year is also promoting a preemptive strike on Iran. Because they might be developing the capability to build nuclear weapons of mass destruction. If this claim gives you the sensation of deja vu, it's because AIPAC was a key player in making similar claims about Iraq in the run up to attacking that country in 2003.


Occupy AIPAC is this year's version of an annual effort to bring attention to the immense, pernicious influence of the Israel lobby. CODEPINK organizer Rae Abileah explained:
Each year at AIPAC's policy conference in Washington, D.C., the president, powerful senators and members of Congress parade across the stage in order to prove their loyalty to the Israeli government... AIPAC Director Howard Kohr will likely appear on stage this March at the 2012 AIPAC conference to make the annual roll call, rattling off the names of congressional representatives, diplomats and dignitaries present in the room as if he is the auctioneer at an estate sale. And in a way, he is.
Jeffrey Blankfort summed it up at the excellent Occupy AIPAC summit on Saturday when he said that the role of AIPAC is to "shape the opinion of the American public, and keep Congress in line as well." How this is accomplished was the focus of the summit, and I promise to report in more detail on excellent contributions from Phyllis Bennis, Allison Weir, Chris Hedges, and many more. (Go here for my live-tweets from the summit using the hashtag #OccupyAIPAC.)

A good weekend of action which allowed me to meet people who regularly contribute to my education (Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss! Josh Ruebner of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation ); the chance to hug people I was formerly only facebook "friends" with (Elizabeth Barger of The Farm! Nancy Krickorian of the Stolen Beauty Ahava boycott campaign!); and the chance to be in action with my Pink sisters (Ann Wright, Joan Stallard, Ridgely Fuller and Desiree Fairooz to name only a few that were on hand) as well as CP's hard-working staff, and a slew of new acquaintances.
Strong leadership by Palestinian young women was a feature of this year's protest of AIPAC.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How Are Smoldering Qurans Like Tallow-Greased Rifle Cartridges?

Source: Press TV article "Afghanistan protests to continue until expulsion of US troops"
Could the smoldering Quran pages discovered in the Bagram garbage dump be like the tallow-greased rifle cartridges of the Sepoy Mutiny? Tainted ammunition changed the hearts and minds of Hindu and Muslim sepoys who worked as mercenaries for the East India Company, and caused an uprising that was a bloodbath for both sides in 1857. The fact that the offending cartridges were replaced with a non-greased variety didn't much matter; when soldiers thought they had lost caste or violated their religious beliefs by putting beef and/or pork fat in their mouths, they were angry at the disrespect. As a result the company lost its governing powers, and the British Raj took another step toward its imperial grave. Later historians saw the rebellion as India's First War of Independence.

Hearts and minds across Afghanistan were similarly outraged by an insult to Islamic sacred texts. Reports of workers at the site burning themselves to rescue the Quran from the flames called to mind Jewish scholars diving into Nazi bonfires to rescue the Torah. As word spread of the “mistake” and apologies were issued, violent outbreaks rolled across the country. The latest occurred yesterday when a literacy teacher at a military base for both NATO and Afghan troops opened fire, killing two foreign soldiers and wounding another. The preceding week saw riots resulting in U.S. troop deaths, an attack on U.S. citizens inside the Afghan interior ministry, an attack on a UN building, and a populace so aroused that President Karzai dared not rebuke them -- as he was called upon by his NATO “allies” to do.

Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers have published a critique of the sidelining of Afghan people from official negotiations which have the stated aim of winding down combat operations in their country. An excerpt:
If a war was being waged in the U.S. we would expect Americans to demand an end to the war and to have a say as to how it should end.
Likewise, the people of Afghanistan want to have a say in the negotiations to end the Afghan war.
After all, in 2011, a record number of 3021 Afghan civilians lost their lives. Afghans who risk losing their lives should have a say in the negotiations, ironically engineered by the very players who are killing them ( the UN reported that ‘anti-government elements’ – the Taliban and other insurgent groups – were responsible for 77 per cent of conflict-related deaths in 2011, while 14 per cent were caused by ‘pro-government forces’ – Afghan, U.S. and international security forces ).

But, fatally, the 30 million people of Afghanistan have no say in these negotiations. They are not represented at the negotiation table.
Source: article
by Kelley B. Vlahos
Reading this, one can't help but feel that people denied a legitimate voice in their own affairs will speak through demonstrations and violent attacks on symbolic targets instead. The Youth Peace Volunteers are resourceful in finding ways to communicate with others. Their regular conference calls via Skype and telephone have allowed them to converse with people in the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Australia, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Germany, Italy, South Sudan, South Africa, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, France, Mexico, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, India, and others. I have had the pleasure of speaking with them myself, hearing their joyful voices, and saying that I haven't forgotten about them.

Of course the interests of U.S. people aren't represented at the imperial negotiating table, either. The decade long remote control war with its emblematic weapon, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), or drone, manufactures its own enemies and is hugely expensive. But no hearts and minds are needed to contribute to the effort. Just file your 1040 on time -- or else.