"We will redeem the soul of this nation," said a woman standing near the Washington Monument, next to a field of crosses that had been planted in the grass to commemorate the nearly 2,000 American soldiers killed so far in the Iraq war.
She was holding a candle, and she was surrounded by other women like her, mothers who had lost their kids to an American war of choice that they, like a majority of Americans, now view as a mistake. It was evening, and somewhere in the dusk Joan Baez was making her way across the grand lawns in front of the White House and toward the vigil, to sing with the mothers. The next day, September 24, a huge antiwar march was to move through the nation's capital, demanding that troops be brought home from Iraq (another sentiment now shared by a majority of Americans, according to recent polling). Tonight, however, was meant to be solemn and reflective. I stood on the lawn with the mothers and their supporters, the warm evening filled with candlelight and nervous expectation--all of us had traveled to D.C. because we sensed that if something big was going to happen the time was now.
The next morning, the day of the march, the air was different. Nervous anticipation had been replaced by frenzied chaos. It was becoming clear that this was going to be an enormous protest; all morning long, thousands of people had been streaming into the capital carrying signs ("Make Levees Not War," "How Many Lives Per Gallon?") and the area around the start of the march was now packed with people--standing, sitting, chanting, banging drums, shouting into bullhorns about cowardly Democrats, hanging from lamp posts dressed in all black, perched atop ornamental columns demanding action, now! What was unclear, given how thick the area had suddenly become with various liberal agendas (Native Americans against drilling in Alaska, young women against death in Iraq and in the womb), was whether the plan to keep the march focused on an antiwar message would work.
Bonnie e-mailed to note the above from Eli Sanders's "Marching to the Left: Cindy Sheehan Helped Bring 150,000 Protesters to D.C.Where Do They Go From Here?" (Seattle Stranger). It's Thursday, it's indymedia roundup.
Wally e-mails to note Trevor Aaronson "Vested Interests : War has been good for Pompano Beach's" (Broward - Palm Beach New Times)
Like a number of companies nationwide that consider the Department of Defense their largest customer, DHB Industries has seen sales skyrocket since 9/11. Thanks to Point Blank's lucrative military contracts to manufacture body armor for thousands of troops stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Djibouti, DHB, a publicly traded company, has grown lightning fast, from $70 million in sales in 2000 to $340 million last year. During that period, DHB's chief executive and board chairman, David H. Brooks (whose initials he shares with his company), rewarded himself with a roughly 3,000 percent raise, from $525,000 in 1999 to $70 million last year.
The war has been good for DHB and its Point Blank Body Armor, which receives roughly 84 percent of its business through government contracts. During a recent deposition, an attorney asked Point Blank Vice President Dan Power to define the goal of his company. "To make the world's best body armor," he answered.
Whether the company succeeds at that goal is debatable. Although the government has not reported deaths or serious injuries attributable to defective body armor, the U.S. military in May recalled more than 5,000 pieces of body armor manufactured by Point Blank. Tests by the government revealed that Point Blank's body armor did not meet necessary safety requirements. And despite demands from military brass that Point Blank increase the quality of its armor, the company continued to send substandard products overseas, according to internal memos from military commanders.
The New York Police Department and the Southern States Police Benevolent Association (SSPBA) have also reported quality problems with Point Blank's body armor. In April, the SSPBA settled a lawsuit with Point Blank after the company agreed to replace an estimated 2,609 potentially defective pieces of body armor. What's more, on August 24, the National Institute of Justice, the federal agency that enforces standards for body armor, issued a study that found that nine of 12 vests manufactured by Point Blank Body Armor failed to meet safety requirements.
The quality concerns at Point Blank should come as no surprise to its low-wage workers. As early as 2002, employees submitted sworn affidavits alleging that Point Blank routinely cut corners to boost profits. In some cases, the company shipped improperly sized vests to fill orders more quickly, the affidavits claim. In others, Point Blank shipped allegedly defective body armor that exposed the shoulders or other parts of the body that should have been protected.
Yet none of these quality concerns has stopped Point Blank from raking in millions in taxpayer dollars. In December 2004, the company won another $190 million contract to supply body armor to the military through 2006.
"We have concerns with Point Blank," says David Goldenberg, legislative director for U.S. Rep. Alcee L. Hastings. "The congressman for a long time has had concerns about the quality of the product that has been coming out of the company and going to the troops overseas."
Micah e-mails to note Sydney H. Schanberg's "How Many More Will Die in Iraq?: The sacrifices are being made on the other side of the globe" (Village Voice)
We are a nation at war--globally--against terrorism. But here at home, except for extra security at travel terminals, one could hardly guess it.
There is no war footing to be seen. Washington has not mobilized Americans on the home front. President Bush has made it clear that he wants it that way.
Yet the war is real. And the sacrifices are being borne solely by the roughly 160,000 men and women in uniform who are risking--and losing--their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. And by their grieving and worried families. National politicians, though they lavish the country's military population with warm rhetoric in public, privately do not regard them as a voting bloc to worry about.
As of early this week, 1,918 American soldiers have died in Iraq and another 236 in Afghanistan, for a total of 2,154. The count of wounded is has passed 15,000--more than 14,000 of them in Iraq. There is no official count of Iraqi civilian deaths in this war, but independent surveys put the death figure somewhere between 26,000 and 30,000. No reliable casualty figures on Afghan civilians are available.
While our soldiers die, the policies of the Bush administration call for virtually no sacrifices or commitments from the 300 million other Americans. To the contrary, they are told that their taxes will continue to be reduced--even as the war goes on, costing upwards of $5 billion each month.
The closest President Bush has come to seeking a nationwide commitment was a speech in which he asked Americans to use the Fourth of July to "find a way to thank the men and women defending our freedom by flying the flag, sending a letter to our troops in the field, or helping the military family down the street." A professor emeritus of military sociology at Northwestern University, Charles Moskos, calls this "Patriotism Lite." "That's what we're experiencing now in both political parties," he was quoted as saying in a recent New York Times story. "The political leaders are afraid to ask the public for any real sacrifice . . . "
So what does this failure to seek shared sacrifice mean? It seems to mean that our leaders—not only the Republicans but the Democrats, who followed meekly behind—knew that if they had spoken candidly to the public and told them that the threat from Iraq was not only not imminent but minimal and that therefore this was not a war of necessity but one of choice for other, unexplained reasons, then voters might have been aroused enough to rally and block the White House's rush to invasion. This would indicate that President Bush was convinced that, after the invasion, continued support for his crusade had to be conditioned on demanding little from the public. Meanwhile, our soldiers are being killed and crippled every day. In our system of democracy, this leaps out as a perversion. Are these volunteer men and women in uniform to be regarded simply as mercenaries? Or do we care about them?
Jonah e-mails to note Steve Peacock's "Reflections: March on Washington" (Binghamton IMC)
What is the significance of the Sept. 24th antiwar march on Washington, D.C.? Some view the event in terms of thousands of individuals publicly opposing what they feel is an illegal and immoral war that the Bush Administration justified based on lies. But according to Stephen Schweitzer, a Binghamton Independent Media Center co-editor and videographer, this historic day of protest symbolizes something broader than simply a large demonstration.
"It's about community," Schweitzer explained on that rainy Saturday evening, sharing his post-event thoughts with riders aboard a bus chartered by the Broome County Peace Action organization. It's about community in action. A community of creativity. A community -- national in scope -- emboldened with righteous indignation about a conflict that has claimed the lives of nearly 2,000 U.S. soldiers and 100,000 Iraqi civilians.
The B.C. Peace Action group filled one of three separate buses that transported Binghamton-area residents to the Nation's capitol last weekend. In the darkness of the rear parking lot at Oakdale Mall in Johnson City, one-by-one the cars and vans of participants started trickling in around 5:30 a.m. While most of the group came from the Triple Cities region of New York's Southern Tier, several drove in from the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania. A few even came from as far away as Towanda, Pa., and the Finger Lakes region, some of whom made the trip when seats on D.C.-bound charter buses from Ithaca and other upstate cities were quickly reserved in advance. The travelers ranged in age from 17 to 70 and beyond. Joining Peace Action were members of other groups such as Veterans for Peace and Presbyterians for Peace. Some individuals, such as Bonnie Carlson of Cortland, N.Y., were attending a protest for the first time. Others, particularly long-time peace activist George Haeseler of Binghamton, have been marching on Washington since the Civil Rights and Vietnam war protests of the 1960s.
Martha e-mails to note Emmily Bristol's "Make Music, Not War: Circle Park peace rally organized by Las Vegas Peace Now mixed politics and punk" (Las Vegas City Life):
Members of the group Peace Now took to Circle Park on Maryland Parkway on Sept. 24 for an all-day peace rally, one of many coordinated protests around the country from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C.Cindy Sheehan, the woman who brought the American peace movement to the doorstep of President George W. Bush's Crawford, Texas vacation home, led the protest in the nation's capital. Sheehan's son is one of the 1,914 American soldiers (as of press time) who have died in the Iraq war. On Sept. 26 the Associated Press reported Sheehan was arrested Monday during an anti-war demonstration in front of the White House.
The Las Vegas rally boasted a healthy turnout and no arrests. There were a few hundred - hippies, punks, goth kids and college students mingled among military veterans and homeless people snoozing in the shade - assembled in the grass in front of a flatbed-truck-turned-stage surrounded by bright yellow banners heralding familiar anti-war slogans. "Bring the troops home!" "End the occupation of Iraq!" And, "Money for education! Not for War!"The rally was organized by Las Vegas Peace Now members, who paid for the event through fund-raising and donations.
[. . .]
Those interested in Las Vegas Peace Now can go to www.lvpeacenow.org.Another event, organized by a different political organization, is in the works for Nov. 2. For more info on that event, go to www.worldcantwait.org.
Mark e-mails to highlight J. David McSwane's "An Army of Anyone: You need a high school diploma to enlist -- or a recruiter willing to bedn the rules" (Denver Westworld):
For Private Kevin Shane Heitman, the completion of Army National Guard basic training last month was a day of sweet reward. After what he describes as "six months of hell," Heitman was done with basic training and advanced infantry training, ready to be a soldier. Boot camp had been the most arduous test he'd ever encountered; graduating from high school was so much easier.
He'd just faked his diploma -- at his Army recruiter's suggestion.
Heitman dropped out of school in the eighth grade and doesn't have a general-equivalency diploma. For him to be a soldier in the Arkansas Army National Guard contradicts the rules and regulations that the Armed Forces set for themselves and reaffirmed this past spring.
But they didn't take into account Sergeant Lloyd Spears of the Little Rock Army recruiting office. Heitman's family says that Spears not only told Heitman a fake diploma would work, he made it for him.
The recruiter "does nothing but try to help people fix their lives," Heitman insists when asked about the faked diploma. Spears's advice, however, could ultimately cost Heitman his chance at an Army career.
Spears claims he had nothing to do with the faked diploma and has signed a sworn affidavit to that effect, according to the Arkansas Army National Guard.
Heitman's family says that Spears came into Cafe Lauren, the Little Rock restaurant where Heitman and his mother, Laurie Bennett, worked, and created the diploma using a scanner and a co-worker's high school diploma. After a few minutes of cut-and-paste with a Photoshop program, Kevin S. Heitman was a graduate of Beebe High School in Beebe, Arkansas -- a feat that takes most Beebe teens four years.
"He would say, 'Get on the computer and just make up a diploma,'" remembers Bennett. "I was there."
Beebe High School confirms that Heitman was never there. The school has no record of him attending, and the date on the diploma, which was changed to 1997, isn't consistent with the signatures on the diploma. "I've been here eighteen years, and I don't know him," says Beebe principal Mike Tarkington. "[Superintendent] Marshall wasn't here in 1997. That would tell me this is fake."
The signatures on the diploma correspond to people working at the school about five years earlier, when Nicole Goforth, Heitman's former co-worker, graduated from Beebe.
"Kevin did exactly what the recruiter said to do," says Heitman's father-in-law, Robert Edl. "I talked to the recruiter. He wanted me to make a copy of it and blow it up to 8 1/2 x 11. He made the copy here at my print shop."
Anne gives a heads up to Bill Anderson's "Madison Police are Out of Control" (Madison IMC):
Today Stop the War had a counter-military-recruitment protest at the Kohl Center, during a career fair. We were not interupting or otherwise infringing upon the rights of anyone at the fair, simply holding signs and passing out literature. The Marines, Airforce, and CIA were there. The UW police came and told us to leave.
Bill Linville (Stop the War member) asked to see the policy which stated why we couldn't be there. They showed us a copy of the UW administrative code, which we were in full compliance with. He asked what rule we were breaking, and they refused to tell us, at which point the police officer pointed to two random people in the group, and told Bill they would be arrested if we didn't leave.
I was seperate from the main group, but was escorted out several minutes later. No one was arrested, but we wrote down the names and badge numbers of several officers. Another police officer showed up in an undercover minivan, and was tape recording us while picketing outside. There were also two animal rights activists, with a handheld screen showing videos of animal abuse, relating to a corporation at the career fair.
This is the second time this has happened in the last year. Blake Trimbell was arrested without any cause at the Memorial Union in the Spring, also while counter-recruiting, for daring to ask for the rule stating we couldn't protest. She hasn't been involved in activism since.
Its a simple First Amendment rights issue. When Free Speech is under a clear and direct assault, by the government against its critics, its obvious that something is severely wrong. We do not live in a democracy.
Anyone harboring the illussion that pulling a lever for one of two candidates, whom you never selected, both of whom get their campaign funding from large multinational corporations, in a highly commercialized media spectacle every two or four years, constitutes "democracy"... WAKE UP!!!
Jason e-mails to note Javier "2nd Rochester Anti-War Conference" (Rochester Indymedia):
The Second Regional Rochester Anti-war conference took place Saturday September 17th at the School Without Walls. The Event, was organized by R.A.W. (Rochester Against War), with the broad goal of "empowering us, ordinary people, to take a stand for justice and equality and effect the course of history, toward a more peaceful and equitable society."
The opening Panel ; "Strategies for Rebuilding the Anti-War Movement" consisted of a talk and discussion with Victor Parades, brother of Pablo Paredes a Navy War Resister and Brian Lenzo, member of "Rochester Against War" (RAW) and the International Socialist Organization (ISO)" The participants of the conference then divided into four groups, each group addressing a different topic in a facilitated workshop. The workshop titles consited of ; "The War on Terror: Behind the Rhetoric", "Forgotten Voices: Veterans and GI Dissent", "Military Out of Our Schools" , "Troops Out Now: The Case for Withdrawal."
Víctor Paredes’ speech in the opening session was very practical in terms of mentioning specific strategies for the movement. His thesis was based on a cycle whose components are: resistance, public attention and education. In the resistance component individual activism is very important: you focus on a target that you can cause an impact and you strike with full force. An example Paredes gave was the actions of Cindy Sheean. Another participants brought up was the incident two weeks ago when ISO members confronted some recruiters at RIT ultimately making it impossible for the recruiters to continue their activities. Individual actions such as these are ones that lead to mass activities like the September 24th at DC. These rallies catch the public attention because the mass media covers them. In the Cindy Sheean example we have a clearer idea about what public attention means for the movement. This type of attention helps by educating people and attracting them to the movement. But education can’t end here. We need to organize forums in the communities, schools and universities. Conferences like this one are a start, this allows for education which informs resistance actions which capture public attention which should then be funneled into more education and analysis of the effectiveness of actions.
Cedric passes on "a great article and photo essay" by a voice from the wilderness (text) and Jeff Paterson (photos) at Colorado IMC entitled "Two thousand rally in Denver: 'Get US Out Now!'"
Pru e-mails to note Jim Lobe's "Can the US Military Presence Avert Civil War?" (IPS):
The growing spectre of a full-scale civil war in Iraq -- and the likelihood that such a conflict will draw in neighbouring states -- has intensified a summer-long debate here over whether and how to withdraw U.S. troops.
Some analysts believe that an immediate U.S. withdrawal would make an all-out conflict less likely, while others insist that the U.S. military presence at this point is virtually all there is to prevent the current violence from blowing sky-high, destabilising the region, and sending oil prices into the stratosphere.
The Bush administration continues to insist it will "stay the course" until Iraqi security forces can by themselves contain, if not crush, the ongoing insurgency.
But an increasing number of analysts, including some who favoured the 2003 invasion, believe Washington will begin drawing down its 140,000 troops beginning in the first half of next year, if for no other reason than the Republican Party needs to show voters a "light at the end of the tunnel" before the November 2006 elections.
Indeed, reports in the British press over the weekend strongly suggested that London is already planning a major drawdown next May, although Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted Sunday that "no arbitrary date has been set".
Even these plans, however, could be rendered irrelevant if the current slide towards civil war in Iraq accelerates, as a growing number of experts believe it will. In fact, some of these analysts believe that a civil war -- pitting Sunnis against the Kurdish and Shia populations -- has already begun. "
A year ago, it was possible to write about the potential for civil war in Iraq," wrote Iraq-war booster Niall Ferguson in the Los Angeles Times. "Today that civil war is well underway," he asserted. While that remains a minority view, the likelihood and imminence of civil war in Iraq is no longer questioned by analysts outside the administration.
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