Thursday, October 04, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

The Bonhoeffer Moment of nonviolent civil resistance and disobedience to the world war being waged by the United States is clearly at hand. As Congress considers an additional $190 billion to fund the Iraq--Afghanistan war through September 2008 and as the threats of war against Iran become increasingly loud, it is time for us to learn lessons from the German resistance to Hitler, to the Nazi regime and to the war waged by the German nation-state. We must engage in the Long Resistance to this current world war, using every nonviolent means to bring about its end.
I was set to be tried on October 2 for an act of nonviolent civil resistance at the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command. The judge dismissed the charge the day of the trial. Following is the closing statement I prepared for the jury trial in Waukegan, Illinois.
Our Bonhoeffer Moment:
In 1942, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian engaged in resistance work to bring about an end to the Nazi regime, penned the following lines in his letter "After Ten Years". He was in prison and under investigation when he wrote:
"We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds; we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use? What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, straightforward men. Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?"
Silence is golden.
Silence is Death.
Silence in the face of our country waging a world war is complicity in the war; is complicity in the deaths of thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens; is complicity in a crime against humanity.
I chose to break the silence at the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM) on July 5, 2006. I choose to break the silence today.

The above is from Jeff Leys' "Our Bonhoeffer Moment" (CounterPunch) and Mia noted it. War resistance isn't something minor or something that only three or four are taking part in. It is a big deal and it is news even if some don't treat it as such. Robin Long should have been a big story this week. Friday comes and goes shortly. Who's bothered to cover Robin Long? Or for that matter, the other war resister arrested (last month) who has just gone public? Yes, there is another one. Someone splash a little cold water on The Nation, the color just drained from its face.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3801. Tonight? 3809. Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed during a small arms fire attack while conducting combat operations in a southern section of the Iraqi capital Oct. 4." Just Foreign Policy's total for the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war stood at 1,068,035. Tonight? 1,080,903.

Meanwhile Susan Cornwell (Reuters) reports:

Widespread corruption in Iraq stretches into the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, an Iraqi investigating judge told U.S. lawmakers on Thursday, and an American official said U.S. efforts to combat the problem are inadequate.
Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, who was named by the United States in 2004 to head the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity, said his agency estimated corruption had cost the Iraqi government up to $18 billion.

Returning to the topic of war resistance. Ehren Watada is scheduled to face a second court-martial next Tuesday -- despite the Constitution's explictly forbidding double-jeopardy. Mike Barber's "Federal judge weighs jurisdiction in Watada case" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) reveals the latest developments on the appeal:

U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle on Thursday afternoon heard arguments from Watada's lawyers and a lawyer from the U.S. Attorney's Office about whether he has jurisdiction in the case.
Settle held the hearing after Watada's defense attorneys, Jim Lobsenz and Ken Kagen, sought an emergency halt to next Tuesday's court-martial. They said they were compelled to go to federal court after receiving no word from the military justice system's highest appellate court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, concerning Watada's challenge to his court-martial.

And the Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorializes "Watada Court-Martial: Let him go:"

However the defense appeals turn out, we think there is a case for letting Watada leave the Army without further ado. That could be taken as a statement of higher-level confidence, a choice to focus on the larger military mission that President Bush and Gen. David Petraeus insist is making new progress. At a minimum, many of those who oppose the Iraq war would welcome the leniency for someone they view as a person of conscience.

War resister Robin Long was arrested this week. Kyle Snyder was arrested earlier this year (February) and the US military went into Canada to track down Joshua Key (they were unsuccesful) and thought the 'honorable' thing to do was to attempt to intimidate Winnie Ng while they lied and posed as Canadian police officers. Another war resister in Canada has come forward to reveal that he was arrested as well: Brad McCall. From Charlie Smith's "U.S. soldier refuses to kill" (Vancouver's Straight):

An American war resister has claimed that he was packed off to jail for two nights after he filed a refugee claim at the Canadian border last month. Brad McCall, a 20-year-old U.S. army private, told the Georgia Straight in an exclusive interview that he abandoned his army company in Colorado Springs because he didn't want to commit "war crimes" in Iraq. He said that when he arrived at the border on September 19, he was taken into custody and driven to a jail in Surrey.
"I don't know what kind of police officer he was," McCall said during an interview at the Georgia Straight office. "He put me in handcuffs in front of all these people that were watching that were trying to get into Canada also."
After he was released from jail, he returned to the border to pick up his car. At that point, he said, Canadian Border Services Agency officials asked him if he wanted to return to the U.S. "I told them, 'Why are you playing the part of the hound dog for the U.S. army?,'" he recalled. "They didn't know what to say. They just started stuttering and mumbling."
Faith St. John, a spokesperson for the Canadian Border Services Agency, told the Straight that federal privacy legislation prevents her from commenting on McCall's allegations. "I can't talk about specific cases if someone has applied for refugee status," she said.
McCall, who is originally from Alabama, said he is staying at the East Vancouver home of Colleen Fuller, a health-policy analyst, as he awaits the outcome of his refugee claim. He's one of the few U.S. army deserters who has settled in Vancouver and gone public with his outrage over the war in Iraq. "It's a gruesome war," he said. "I consider it to be this generation's Vietnam. There are barbaric acts committed on a daily basis over there."

The movement of resistance within the military continues to grow. It grows in the shadow of other important stories and, frankly, in the shadow of a lot of nonsense. How many will be ignored before All Things Media Big and Small takes the issue seriously? Covers it seriously?

An e-mail to the public account today refers to some entry up here without quoting it and they're questioning it. It's a point that's been raised here repeatedly so I have no idea what they saw today (we've made the point forever). The e-mail wonders if "we" shouldn't all just "get behind" veterans who speak out against the illegal war? I would have thought we were supportive but the e-mailer meant something different. We don't hide in this community. We don't couch our objections to an illegal war on others (regardless of whom they are) and we don't worship at the crotch of the military. Support means awareness, means getting the word out, means support. It does not mean silence. And in a democracy, we are all supposed to be equal. The e-mailer identified himself as a recovering fan of Baby Cries A Lot. Al Franken pushed the illegal war day after day on his crappy radio program -- arguing over and over that the US could not withdraw because . . . Insert blubber. Insert nonsense about his children (who are not in the military). Go to commercial break. The e-mailer finally gets that the illegal war needs to end and expresses his opinion that Baby Cries A Lot lied to him over and over, day after day. But his solution is to hide behind the military. In this instance, those who resist. (Baby Cries A Lot featured pro-war veterans on his show and when anyone didn't stick to the script, he'd cut them off. Not unlike his mirror image Bill O'Lielly.)

For approximately three years, Baby Cries A Lot hid behind the US military on the airwaves. That's not reality. That's not democracy. The e-mailer will hopefully continue to think about the subject's he's currently pondering. War resisters are important. But, unlike Baby Cries A Lot, we don't elevate one group here. For the illegal war to end, it's going to take as many voices as possible, it's going to require everyone. Playing a cheerleader on the sidelines is an easy out -- the sort Baby Cries A Lot took -- but it's abdicating each of our responsibilities. It is not up to war resisters or veterans who are now speaking to end the illegal war. It is the responsibilty of all of us. When we abdicate that responsibility by becoming cheerleaders -- as flattering as some might think that appears -- we disregard our own power and our own responsibilities.

The e-mailer was commenting on the divisions in the peace movement. Divisions can be good. They can draw clear lines. They can also provide more voices. Who speaks to you may not speak to your neighbor. A rainbow has divisions and it still 'works'. The peace movement is not in disarray. It's not collapsing. The divisions are raising issues (which need to be raised) and they are allowing space for voices that want something more than what's largely been done in the last four years. New groups are emerging to fill the gaps and to push the movement further.

I speak a great deal with students on campuses across the country. No divisions would mean they would opt out of the peace movement because most of the older tactics are not speaking to them. The candle light vigils are a joke to them. (I think those silent vigils are an embarrassment as well. Silence is rarely the answer.) Other tactics are as well. Divisions are a sign of growth. It's not growing pains -- it's a natural part of growth. I am tired and I don't feel like doing links. Any groups I mention in the following are linked to in the permalinks on the left. United for Peace and Justice does have their ear to the ground. They are aware of the rumbles. They're not going to start adapting because they already are adapting and have been for some time. Other groups may not be so fortunate. It's not 2004. And the timidity that passed for 'action' won't cut it with most people. That's people weary of the same gathering with the same speeches and the same action and the same location. Iraq Veterans Against the War has really enlived the movement. Leaving aside the peace groups, think of the veterans group that existed prior, the ones that got serious attention. There was no group like IVAW. There were a lot of groups that grumped a little, insisted the war was fought badly and needed to be fought better and 'smarter.' Those groups are useless. But they were hailed as groups against the war (by the Baby Cries A Lot) because they often said, "Vote Democratic!" IVAW is about ending the illegal war. The spirit and drive they have brought to the movement are strengths. SDS is something most campuses are curious about and you can see that curiousity and interest in the growth of SDS already. On the latter, students do feel shut out. They do feel they are 'bodies' to up the count at rallies but shut out of the decision making. So you will see more groups like SDS that will say, "We get a seat at the table if we're part of this coalition." That's not the 'ego' of a few individuals. That's the reality that they (and other groups) represent students and students have a big role to play in the movement.

Students have never been apathetic to the illegal war. That was a little myth that was retold and retold. Students were waiting (a significant number) for leadership. None was really provided. So they're providing their own now. But if you think about all the carping (false) about "Where are the students?" . . . Think about where were the students on stage, where were the students at the microphones? Students were always part of the peace movement but if a lot of desk jockeys couldn't grasp that, one reason might be because students weren't included in the leadership. If you open a club tomorrow and you only send out invites to people over forty, if your club gets a reputation for only catering to them, you really have no right to
complain that young people aren't flocking to your club. If students aren't given visibility, it sends a message.

There are a host of other issues and categories where the peace movement has not been reflective (on stage, in interviews) of the audiences they wanted to turn out. The divisions that are sprouting are attempts to address that. The divisions will only make the peace movement stronger, not weaker. The message will be stronger and more diverse and that's the only way to continue to reach people and to continue to expand on the number of people reached.

Hiding behind the military is an easy out. It says, "I'll cheerlead but you need to do all the work." That's not reality in a democracy. In a democracy, when an illegal war is ongong, it's the responsibilty of everyone to call it out and work towards ending it. When we reject an active role and stand on the sidelines we give up our own power and we put too much of a burden on others. Cindy Sheehan (click on Camp Casey on the left) was someone a lot of people hid behind (and distorted). That wasn't fair to her. Had other voices stepped forward, it would have been more difficult for the attacks on her (from the center and center-left) to be launched. They honestly thought they could get away with it. They thought she'd be rendered alone for calling out the inaction of the Democratic leadership. She does not stand alone. People who cast themselves in the role of cheerleaders for Cindy may have thought they were helping her but by refusing to use their own voices, they allowed her to become the bull eye when she strayed from the accepted script of "Democrats will save us!" The gas baggery on the election that refuses to call out War Hawks is just more rendering the people as spectators. Everyone needs to be using their own voice to call out the illegal war. It may be 'safer' to hide behind someone but that leaves them way out in front and easy to pick off by those who would gladly ditch calls to end the illegal war in order to cheer "Vote Democrats!" The polls consistently demonstrate that the American people are very displeased with the way Democrats have handled their majorities in both houses. Cindy Sheehan's critiques are not out of the norm. While we're used to hearing that nonsense from the mainstream, we're not used to supposed 'independent' outlets doing the same. Cindy's given a great deal to the movement and the big development over the summer was exposing some realities, being attacked and demonstrating it doesn't end you. She's not only still going, she's running for Congress. It's worthy of applause. But until we stop applauding from the sidelines and create our own paths, we make it very easy for the attacks to continue or for Tina Richards (Grassroots America) to be attacked next.

I'm glad the e-mailer realizes he was lied to by Baby Cries A Lot for years. But I hope he grasps his own power soon and doesn't turn it over in order to root from the sidelines. The movement needs as many voices as possible, raising as many issues about the illegal war as possible, taking action. That's how it will continue to grow and how the illegal war will finally come to an end.

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