Wednesday, April 25, 2007

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Lost amidst the celebrity clamor and heightened security concerns was a dramatic coming-out by Terri Johnson, a young Greensboro woman who disclosed her recent desertion from the US Army to avoid deployment to Iraq.
The 18-year-old Johnson, who is the granddaughter of past Greensboro NAACP President Gladys Shipman, deliberately failed to complete her final fitness test at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, and then went AWOL on Sept. 28, 2006, the day before graduation.
"I'm not anti-war one hundred percent because some wars are worth fighting for," Johnson said in a tearful address at Governmental Plaza. "But this war is not worth fighting for.
"I really don't look at myself as a hero," Johnson explained. "I was just doing it for me because [the war] wasn't for me. There were a lot of my buddies who didn't want to finish. I wanted to them to drop out like me, but they didn't have the courage to make the decision I did."
She called her family in Greensboro for support often during those difficult days.
"I was like, 'Look, I got to get out of here,'" she said. "A lot of girls and guys wanted to figure out how to get out. People was talking about getting pregnant, getting shot."
Getting out of the Army during basic training is easier than people might think, Johnson suggested.
"All you got to do is leave," she said. "Throw the towel in. They cannot stop you. Stay gone for thirty-one days. Get you a two-way ticket to Louisville, Kentucky. The MPs will meet you there and pat you down. You will be there [in detention at Fort Knox] for four days and eat this horrible food. The only thing you cannot do is get a federal job. Okay, I wasn't that interested in working for the federal government anyway. The other thing you can't do is re-enlist in another branch of the military."

The above is from Jordan Green's "A homegrown war resister emerges" (Yes! Weekly). The photo is via North Carolina World Can't Wait where it's featured in a post by entitled "She Said NO!" by jarnocan who quotes Johnson's grandmother, Gladys Shipman, stating, "Terri didn't want to kill people who had done nothing to her." Terri Johnson, part of a growing movement of war resistance within the military.
With more on that movement (today and historically), Courage to Resist's Susan Galleymore's "Resistance then and now" (Left Curve Journal via Courage to Resist):

One of the best kept secrets of our time is the ferocious GI resistance to the war in Vietnam. It covered the gamut from individual, passive, and unorganized to overtly active, collective, and organized. It sprouted in military barracks and on aircraft carriers. It flourished in army stockades, navy brigs, and in the dingy towns that surround military bases. It penetrated elite West Point, spread through Vietnam's battlefields and, according to a Vietnam-era military officer, by 1971 it had infested the entire armed services. Until the recent screening of the documentary, Sir, No Sir!, the American public knew little about the resistance to that war.
Today, there is budding GI resistance to this war, the Global War on Terror (GWOT). So far, resistance has not blossomed into the near-epidemic of that time but the ground is fertile and thanks to
Sir, No Sir! GIs are learning their history and emulating their forebears.
As a counselor on the GI Rights Hotline, I know that, for every GI in the news refusing to fight, there are thousands more GIs quietly saying, "No!" to this war. I predict that, despite the monolithic nature of the military, GI resistance to the GWOT will be active, individual, public, and persistent. It will also be supported by a parallel and collaborative civilian resistance -- irate mothers, fathers, and grannies, for example -- and facilitated by the Internet and the widespread recognition that our nation has been had by cynical radical neoconservatives. I predict this as I am one of those irate mothers.
An Army of one
My association with the U.S. military and the Global War on Terror began very personally. I come from a long line of men enlisted into war from the British Raj in India, the second Anglo-Boer War, WW I and II, and South Africa's covert war against the Frontline States. Seeing first hand the physical and psychological devastation wrought on my family's males, I came to believe that -- given the opportunity -- motivated individuals and nations can resolve conflict without resorting to government sanctioned violence. Ironically, I am also a military mom: my son is a highly trained soldier and a U.S. Army medic. When he enlisted in 1999 I was not pleased about his choice but, as he pointed out, there was no war on the horizon. "Besides," he said, "I am not going to change my mind about serving." Little knowing my prescience, I responded, "We're at the end of the Clinton presidency. Who knows who the next president may be or what disastrous policies he may inflict upon us?"
My son was deployed to Afghanistan in 2003. I struggled through that six-month tour of duty and the additional three-month extension. Six months later he was deployed to Iraq. At that point, I engaged the war from the point of view of a warrior mother: I traveled to Iraq to learn first hand about how the invasion was affecting our troops -- and Iraqi families. That trip grew into MotherSpeak, an organization that shares the stories of mothers around the world affected by war and terror. Then I trained as a counselor on the GI Rights Hotline and have spent more than two years counseling troops and decoding military rules and regulations. I also co-founded Courage to Resist to support the troops that refuse to fight.

Just the facts
Official Pentagon numbers state that over 8,000 soldiers troops have gone Absent without Leave (AWOL) since the start of the GWOT in March 2003. They also state that over 25,000 troops from all branches of the military have gone AWOL or taken Unexcused Absences (UA) since 2000.
I believe the unofficial numbers for all troops are even higher. In 2005, for example, GI Rights Hotline counselors answered over 38,000 calls nationally. Today, the Hotline has more than doubled the number of trained counselors to cope with the volume of calls. In 2006, over 75 percent of the calls answered came from troops already AWOL or UA or about to go AWOL or UA. In telephone conversations with administrators at military Personnel Control Facility (PCFs) around the nation, Ive learned that, at minimum, approximately 25 to 50 AWOL or UA troops await processing out of the military each week. This does not include the six to eight "catchers" -- military personnel who travel around the country -- retrieving and returning troops to bases for non-judicial punishment. The majority of reluctant GIs are either discharged or reattached to their units and their stories never reach the public.

That's an excerpt. Agustin Aguayo, Darrell Anderson and others are covered and Helga Aguayo has noted that Sir! No Sir! had a very strong impact on her husband. Aguayo is out of the brig but not out of the military (the conviction launched an automatic appeal). Aguayo attempted (repeatedly) to be granted CO status. He qualified for it, those tasked with determining that by the military who spoke with him agreed. But higher up, they thought they could question someone's religious awakening/process which -- by law -- they cannot. For that and other reasons, we'll again note this from the Center on Conscience & War:

"Lobby Day for CO Rights May 14, 2007"
Advocating for the Rights of Conscientious Objectors in the Military
Time: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Our voices together are magnified when we gather and organize to lobby congress for the sake of rights for the conscientious objector. It is important to support servicemembers who become conscientious objectors, to lobby for a place for conscience in an inherently violent organization suffering from a dire lack of it.
A law to protect the rights of conscientious objectors (CO) in the military is needed. With no end in sight to the brutal wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places around the globe, the number of COs in the military is increasing. The GI Rights Hotline has experienced a sharp increase in the number of calls from those seeking a CO discharge. The current military policy for COs is not working: they face harassment, they are forced to violate their beliefs and they are denied CO status for arbitrary reasons. A law passed by Congress is needed to fix the broken system and to put specific procedures in place for the CO discharge process. May 16th will be a day for voters to make their voices heard for the proposed bill, the Military CO Act.
Come and lobby in Washington, DC or lobby your member of Congress at their local office near your home.
Click here to sign up for lobby day.
Click here for information on the Military CO Act
Information on subway access, directions and parking.
Map of the Area
Driving Directions
Metro Access
On May 15th, International CO Day, CCW is participating in 2 events:
Congressional Briefing: 9:00 am - 12:00 pmAn Aspect of Religious Freedom: Conscience in the Military,sponsored by FCNL, Peace Tax Fund, and John Lewis
Advisory Council, 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm @ Church of the Brethren (tentatively)
Church of the Brethren337 North Carolina Ave. SE Washington, DC 20003

Erika e-mailed with a highlight and to share a few thoughts. Her thoughts first.

Erika: I look around and look around and see a few feminist standing up but it really does seem like just a few. But then I started thinking "token" and I think a lot of the "feminists" who are "tokens" at other magazines aren't really feminists. Once I started looking at it that way, the fact that Katha Pollitt, for instance, can't write about the illegal war, can't write about Abeer being gang-raped and murdered by US soldiers, makes a lot of sense. I don't think a feminist would be working at a magazine that publishes 1 woman for every 4 men anyway, but Katha Pollitt has been a slow and steady decline. So I was thinking through those things (shout out to Martha!) and really surprised to see something at Common Dreams. I saw Naomi Wolf's name and the title and I thought, "Alright now." Feminists need to be using their voice not writing crap, not speaking crap. I talk to my mother and hear about how she and her friends protested Vietnam, raged against the machine and I'm really tired of the Mud Flap Gals, the Katha Pollitts and all the other little girls who are far too immature to be called "women" despite their chronological age. So alright now, Naomi Wolf, tell it like it is.

Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody. They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy -- but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.
As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.
Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree -- domestically -- as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government -- the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors - we scarcely recognize the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don’t learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security -- remember who else was keen on the word "homeland" -- didn't raise the alarm bells it might have.
It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realize.
Conason eloquently warned of the danger of American authoritarianism. I am arguing that we need also to look at the lessons of European and other kinds of fascism to understand the potential seriousness of the events we see unfolding in the US.

Wolf's article lists and explains the 10 steps. And women who stay silent aren't the only ones making themselves useless. It's also the gas bags of all genders who inflate reality because they have to get behind a flavor of the month. Reality flies out the window when it comes to the phenomenon Elvis Costello once dubbed "This Year's Girl." Kendrick notes Glen Ford's "Obama, the Phony Anti-War Candidate: Kucinich is the Real Deal" (Black Agenda Report):
Barack Obama has delivered the third of his long national security speeches, and has once again revealed that he is an imperialist at heart. Speaking at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Obama envisioned a century in which the U.S. would "lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good." Battling "evil"..."promoting the ultimate good" - sounds very much like George Bush's rationale for doing whatever the United States pleases in the world, under the assumption that the Americans know what the "ultimate good" is.
Of course, Obama also called for more respect for the United Nations and other international institutions, and for increased efforts to forge alliances whenever the U.S. finds it necessary to go to war. But that's all empty talk, a cover for his real intention to increase U.S. capacity to meddle in other people's affairs. The U.S., he says, "must maintain the strongest, best-equipped military in the world in order to defeat and deter conventional threats." The United States already spends more on war-fighting capacity than all the other nations on the planet, combined! The U.S. maintains
730 military installations in 50 countries around the globe!. But that's not enough for Barack Obama, who calls for an enhanced "ability to put boots on the ground." He told the Chicago foreign policy crowd he strongly supports the expansion of American ground forces by adding 65,000 new soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines. In other words, while Obama gives lip service to disentangling most - although by no means all - U.S. troops from Iraq, as president he would send them elsewhere and add nearly one hundred thousand more to the mix.

Glen Ford's commentary can be read or listened to (text and audio). And still on the topic of Kucinich, Charlie notes "When Others Were Silent" from Dennis Kucinich's campaign site:

You were right. You knew that invading Iraq would damage our country's reputation and ruin our economy. You pleaded for our government to stop the war, to stop the funding, and to put a stop to the illegal quest for oil. It's been 5 years since your warnings were left unanswered. Our country is bleeding money and bleeding lives, yet our legislators continue to approve plans that string out our occupation and continue to line the pockets of war profiteers.
Many people of this country were blinded by the flash of fear brought on by 9/11, but their vision is returning and they see the damage that has been done, the loss of life, the loss of liberty, and the loss of the American dream. You know this person. It could be a family member, a friend, a co-worker, the shop owner at the corner, or someone from the gym.
Now is the time to talk to them and tell them the facts about the invasion. Tell them how this was no mystery, and that your presidential candidate was the only one saying "NO" all along. Tell them how your candidate is the only one who has proposed legislation,
HR1234, to put an immediate end to the occupation and bring our troops home.
Here are some tools to help you to educate others:
A video timeline you can email to friends and family
iPod-ready video and audio timelines that you can download and carry with you
A printer-friendly version of the
Dennis Kucinich 12-point plan to end the occupation of Iraq
Full text of House Resolution 1234

The e-mail address for this site is And if you're one of the many (too many to count) noting community highlights and saying, "What the . . .!" -- they're noted here.
If you haven't already, please check out Rebecca's "dear katrina," Elaine's "On the exclusion of women," Mike's "Jake Kovco," Cedric's "Talking with Cheney's Talking Points," Wally's "THIS JUST IN! CHENEY SAYS 'THIS IS WINNING!'" (joint-post), and Kat's "Questions Amy Goodman should have asked?" All wonderful, all worth reading but big thank you to Mike for covering Jake Kovco. We'll link to that in the snapshot today and cover other things instead.

Added: Gina called. Roundtable for Friday's gina & krista round-robin will revolve around what Gina calls "White women who pose as feminists while they slam African-Americans and bore us all with their drivel." That's one who felt the need to tell the NAACP that media representation isn't an issue and that's Stab (who fancied herself an African-American male so she could use the n-word and also dismissed the racial elements of Imus' comments). Gina has already called Martha, Erika and Betty who've agreed to participate. She notes it is not just for African-American female members but she especially wants them to weigh in. It's scheduled to begin at 6:30 pm EST on Thursday and if you're unable to participate for the full roundtable, that's fine. If you're not able to participate but you have something you want addressed e-mail Gina or Krista.