August 24, 2015
Women Veterans’ Wartime Memoirs: A Writing Workshop
Women veterans of all ages are invited to join this free memoir-writing workshop designed to help them craft their military stories through prose or poetry. Led by Shari Wagner, a published writer and instructor for the Indiana Writers Center, each two-hour session will include prompts and models, in-class writing activities, discussion, and feedback. Women at all levels of writing experience are welcome. It’s only necessary that they have the desire to develop their writing skills and share their stories. The best work from each veteran will be published in a book by the Indiana Writers Center and celebrated at a public reading in May.
To register, contact Shari Wagner at email@example.com. To read her faculty bio, go to www.indianawriters.org/pages/Shari-Wagner.
August 21, 2015
Veterans For Peace Chapter 49 in Indianapolis has worked hard to promote Peace With Iran, including meeting with Sen. Donnelly’s staff and asking you to make your voice hear for peaceful alternatives to conflict. We greatly appreciate that in his statement, Sen. Donnelly actively considers the costs of war to our troops and their families. One of our major concerns is that America’s world leadership in pursuing peaceful alternatives is at stake if this deal fails because of a dysfunctional polarized Congress.
We at Veterans For Peace thank Senator Donnelly for his support of the Iran nuclear deal, and stand behind in in this decision. We know that this was a challenging assessment by the Senator and his staff, and appreciate his careful consideration of the deal with Iran and evaluating what options best promote the long-term potentials of America.
August 19, 2015
Letter to the Editor in Courier Journal by #168 member Harold Trainer
After nearly 14 years of war and huge military sacrifices by our troops, the President and Defense Department have submitted their budget proposals to Congress. The House and Senate bills do not agree. The Senate wants to cut the active duty pay raise from 2.3 percent to 1.3 percent. This would be the third consecutive year of pay raise reductions. It also wants to cut military housing allowances, commissary funding and increase the cost of TriCare prescriptions.
This shifts much of the costs of war onto our troops and their families. It also is used to pay for more weapons systems used to support our ongoing wars and military interventions.
August 19, 2015
“A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will "thingify" them—make them things. Therefore they will exploit them, and poor people generally, economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have foreign investments and everything else, and will have to use its military to protect them. All of these problems are tied together. What I am saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, 'America, you must be born again!'” - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Speaking on behalf of indigenous people in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, earlier this summer, Pope Francis apologized for the role the Catholic Church played in oppressing Latin America’s indigenous people. He called for a worldwide grass roots movement that would shatter global corporate abuses of “the new colonialism.” Political elites in the U.S. should follow his lead and apologize for the genocidal destruction U.S. people waged against indigenous peoples. They should look toward indigenous people for guidance about ways to make reparations.
In early August, people assembled outside of the Los Alamos nuclear weapon laboratories listened to Beata Tsosie Pena’s advice and perspective during a gathering organized by Campaign Nonviolence.
August 12, 2015
I am grateful to Veterans For Peace (VFP) for the life-changing experience they gave me at the VFP 30th Annual Convention recently held in San Diego, CA., and for honoring me with an invitation to speak before the Korea Peace Campaign about projects I’ve done on the Korean Peninsula - or as I call it “the worlds most advanced propaganda war.”
On my arrival, a Vietnam veteran was reciting his smell-of-war poem “Piss, Shit, and Blood.” A few more Vietnam veterans followed; a female vet spoke of rape by superiors, and a former officer spoke on the suicide of his brother that couldn’t “get over” the war to the satisfaction of his father.
A former British SAS soldier who fought in Afghanistan sat in the front row next to an Iraqi Freedom double-amputee, and a WWII D-day survivor. The SAS soldier disobeyed gag orders against sharing things he’d seen and done. Threatened with punishment, he went on to denounce his Oath of Allegiance, returned his medals to the British Empire, and shared his stories with the world regardless.
August 11, 2015
The US Peace Memorial Foundation has awarded its 2015 Peace Prize to The Honorable Kathy F. Kelly for inspiring nonviolence and risking her own life and freedom for peace and the victims of war. Michael Knox, Chair of the Foundation, presented the award on August 9 during an event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Nagasaki, at the site where the first atom bombs were built.
August 06, 2015
TEHRAN (FNA)- The assassination drone campaign on the tribal areas of Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan has been one of the controversial plans of the US government in the recent years.
The White House, State Department and Pentagon officials maintain that the drone attacks are aimed at targeting the Al-Qaeda terrorists in these countries and crushing their strongholds; however, figures indicate that the majority of the victims of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles dispatched to the region are civilians. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has recently revealed that between 2004 and 2015, there have been 418 drone strikes against Pakistan alone, resulting in the killing of 2,460 to 3,967 people, including at least 423 civilians. That’s while some sources put the number of civilian casualties in Pakistan during the 11-year period at 962.
An American peace activist and speaker tells Fars News Agency that the drone strategy was not a blunder which President Bush committed, rather it was a “crime” that he perpetrated and President Obama perpetuated.
According to the 58-year-old Brian Terrell, the US government is not only claiming innocent lives through drone attacks, but endangering its own security and undermining its public stature.
“The reality that US drone strikes are a recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda is good news for war profiteers, even as it is alarming to anyone who is interested in the security of the US and the peace and stability of the counties where they are occurring,” he said.
“Instead of manufacturing weapons in order to wage war, the US is now waging war in order to manufacture more weapons,” Terrell noted.
Brian Terrell lives and works on a small farm in Maloy, Iowa. He has traveled to many regions across the world for public speaking events, including in Europe, Latin America, and Korea. He has also visited Palestine, Bahrain, and Iraq and returned from his second visit to Afghanistan last February. He is a co-coordinator for Voices for Creative Non-Violence and event coordinator for the Nevada Desert Experience.
FNA talked to Mr. Terrell about the US government’s military policy and its conduct with regard to the crisis-hit Middle East, the drone attacks and the legacy of the “War on Terror.” The following is the full text of the interview.
Q: The US drone attacks in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen have taken a heavy toll on the civilian population of these countries, although it’s being purported that the drone campaigns are aimed at targeting the Al-Qaeda strongholds. Has the US government been able to achieve this goal through dispatching unmanned drones to these already impoverished and underdeveloped areas?
A: If the goals of US drone strikes were actually to destroy Al-Qaeda and bring stability to the regions under attack, then the drone campaign would need to be acknowledged a failure. Nabeel Khoury, the deputy chief of mission in Yemen from 2004 to 2007, has noted that “given Yemen’s tribal structure, the US generates roughly forty to sixty new enemies for every AQAP [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] operative killed by drones” and this perception is shared by many former diplomats and military commanders experienced in the region.
Before he retired in 1960, US President Eisenhower cautioned of the emergence of a self-perpetuating “military-industrial complex.” The profit to be made by the private sector in the production of armaments was growing out of proportion to the economy and he warned that this gives incentive to provoke conflict. Since that time, the profitability has grown along with corporate influence on the electoral process and corporate control over the media. President Eisenhower’s fears for the future are today’s reality.
Instead of manufacturing weapons in order to wage war, the US is now waging war in order to manufacture more weapons. The reality that US drone strikes are a recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda is good news for war profiteers, even as it is alarming to anyone who is interested in the security of the US and the peace and stability of the counties where they are occurring.
In February of this year, for example, the US Navy’s $122.4 million contract modification to Raytheon Missile Systems Co. to buy more than 100 Tomahawk missiles to replace those fired into Syria was celebrated in the media and by members of Congress without regard to the moral, legal or strategic efficacy of those attacks. The only justification needed for these lethal attacks, it seems, is that they sell missiles.
Q: In October 2013, a group of countries at the United Nations, led by Brazil, China and Venezuela, officially protested against the deployment of unmanned aerial attacks against sovereign nations by the Obama administration. The debate at the UN was the first time when the legality of US’s use of remotely piloted aircraft and its human cost was discussed on a global level. Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions warned about the proliferation of UAVs among states and terrorist groups. What’s your reaction to this ongoing debate regarding the legal basis of using drones and the fact that the international community has started to voice its opposition to this dangerous practice?
A: Every state employs lawyers to give justification for that state’s actions, no matter how egregious, but there is no real debate about the legality of the use of drones to attack or surveille over countries where the US is not at war. The official policy is that before lethal force can be used against someone who is not a combatant on a battlefield, it must be made certain “that he or she poses ‘an imminent threat of violent attack’ against America.” This might give the mistaken impression that at least an effort is made to conduct the drone campaign in compliance to international law.
In February 2013, however, a US Department of Justice White Paper, “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who Is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or an Associated Force,” was leaked that elucidates the administration’s new and more flexible definition of the word “imminent.” “First,” it declares, “the condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”
The position of the US government is that it can kill anyone anywhere whether their identity is known or not, if their “patterns of behavior” or “signature” is consistent with that of someone who might possibly pose a threat at any time in the future. The “signature” of an imminent threat “is a male between the ages of 20 and 40,”says former US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter. “My feeling is one man’s combatant is another man’s - well, a chump who went to a meeting.”Another senior State Department official has been quoted as saying that when the CIA sees “three guys doing jumping jacks,” the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp.
There is clearly no legal support to the claim that these killings are legitimate acts of war. When the military acts outside the law, it is a gang or a mob. Whether the victims of drone attacks are known and positively identified – this rarely happens – or suspicious due to their behavior or “collateral damage,” men, women and children unintentionally killed, these are no more than gang style hits or drive by shootings. When a lawless mob kills someone because of suspected misconduct without a trial, [then] that is called lynching. Among the most horrific violations of law and human values is the practice of “double tapping,” where drones hover above their original victims and then strike the first responders who come to the aid of the wounded and dead, following the logic that anyone coming to the aid of someone who was following a suspicious pattern of behavior is also following a suspicious pattern of behavior.
One more layer of criminality encrusting this program is the fact that often drone attacks are carried out by members of the uniformed military on the orders of the CIA, bypassing the ordinary chain of command.
As deployed by the US, drones are proving to be a weapons system with little or no defensive capability, useful for assassinations, but “useless in a contested environment,” admitted the chief of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command two years ago. It may be arguable that even the possession of such weapons is illegal.
These killings are simply murders. They are acts of terror. They are crimes. It is gratifying that some in the international community and in the US are speaking out and attempting to put an end to them.
Q: Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism noted in a report that as of October 2013, there were 33 drone strikes by the United States, which caused the massive killing of civilians in violation of the international law. Are the United Nations and its associated bodies capable of holding the United States accountable, or is it that the international law is not necessarily going to be observed in this specific matter?
A: This is an essential question, is it not? If the US is not held accountable for its crimes, what credibility do the UN and other international institutions have? How can international law be applied to any nation?
The drone technology allows for war crimes to be committed from the midst of American communities- if the victims are in Yemen, Pakistan or Afghanistan, the perpetrators are right here at home and stopping them is also the responsibility of local law enforcement. The Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the US Constitution reads: “…all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” I have been arrested while nonviolently protesting at drone operation bases in Nevada, New York and Missouri and no judge has ever considered that those actions are justified as attempts to stop a crime from being committed. Before sentencing me to six months in prison for the petty offense of trespassing, one federal judge ruled, “Domestic law always trumps international law!”
Allowing the US to get away with murder threatens public order and security at home as well as abroad.
Q: Some UN officials have warned that technology is being misused as a form of “global policing”. The US government has expanded its drone operations in the recent years and taken its unpiloted aerial vehicles to areas such as Iraq, Libya and Gaza Strip. Even there’ve been cases that the American drones have flown over Iran’s airspace. Won’t such actions create mistrust between the United States and the nations in the region whose countries are subject to drone attacks?
A: The concept of any one nation taking the role of “global policing” is troubling in itself, even more so when that nation has shown such distain for rule of law as the US has. Drone strikes, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, torture, testing nuclear weapons on native treaty lands, all call into question the US role of world police.
The US polices the globe the same as it increasingly polices its own streets. The federal government issues attack weapons, even armored cars and tanks, to local police departments in cities large and small and police are trained to view the people they are supposed to be protecting and serving as enemies.
With less than 5% of the world’s population, the US has more than 25% of the world’s prisoners and the prison population is disproportionally made up of people of color. Police departments in the US often arrest and all too often kill American citizens on American streets based on “racial profiling,” which is only a domestic version of the “signature strike.” Young men of certain demographics can be killed based on their “patterns of behavior” in Baltimore as in Waziristan.
A large portion of the residual US troops and contractors in Afghanistan are there to train the Afghan police! The irony of this may be lost on American’s, but not on the world community.
Q: A recent study indicates that 74% of the Pakistanis, especially following the intensification of drone attacks under President Obama, consider the United States an enemy. This is while the government of Pakistan is cooperating with the United States in the “War on Terror” scheme. Does the drone campaign have an influence on the public image of the United States in the countries that become the subject of unpiloted aircraft missiles?
A: While cooperating with the US in the “war on terror,” Pakistan has also been actively protesting the drone killings and has repeatedly ordered the US to stop them. Last year, the UN adopted a resolution, jointly presented by Pakistan, Yemen and Switzerland, against drone strikes, to no avail. The administration’s position is that the government in Islamabad has to tell the people of Pakistan that they are objecting to the strikes, but secretly they approve of them. What can it mean for a government to give secret permission to anyone to do anything? Still, more, for a government to give permission to a foreign military to use its skies to summarily execute its citizens? Whether this is true or not, for the US to operate lethally inside Pakistan against the expressed orders of its government is an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty and undermines its institutions. Of course, these actions have an appropriate influence on the public image of the US in the countries subject to drone strikes and around the world.
Q: Generally, what do you think about the civilian cost of the US government’s project of the War on Terror? It was a movement started by President Bush, and although President Obama had criticized it during the 2007 presidential debates, he continued the practices of his predecessor, including an intensive military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and maintaining the overseas detention facilities where the terrorism suspects are kept. President Obama had criticized Mr. Bush’s “foreign policy based on a flawed ideology” but it seems that he is repeating the same mistakes. What’s your perspective on that?
A: In the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama told a rally in Iowa, the state where I live, that it might actually be necessary to “bump up” the military budget beyond the record levels established by the Bush administration. The cost of bumping up the already bloated military budget is borne by the poorest people here and abroad. In several ways, Obama signaled before he was elected that he would continue some of Bush’s worst policies. These policies were not “mistakes” when Bush implemented them, they were crimes. Maintaining them are not mistakes now.
The US will not solve its domestic crises or find internal security, nor will it be able to make any contribution to the peace of the world without reordering its priorities and pursuing what Dr. Martin Luther King called a “radical revolution of values.”
Interview by Kourosh Ziabari
July 31, 2015
A second round of peace talks between Afghan government officials and Taliban representatives, expected to begin before the end of July, 2015, suggests that some parties to the fighting want to declare a cease fire. But even in the short time since the first round on July 7th, fighting has intensified. The Taliban, the Afghan government forces, various militias and the U.S. have ramped up attacks, across Afghanistan.
Some analysts say the Taliban may be trying to gain territory and clout to give them leverage in ‘peace talks.’ Taliban forces, apparently beginning to splinter since the supposed death of Mullah Omar, are now competing with a new Islamic State presence in Afghanistan as various armed groups try to recruit new fighters from among ultra-conservative sectors of the regional population. Spectacular and frightening suicide bombings, hostage taking and a demonstrated capacity to force Afghan government soldiers into retreat or surrender might bolster a group’s claim to be effectively ejecting foreigners from Afghanistan.
July 31, 2015
Veterans for Peace, Iowa Chapters
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
FBI Whistleblower Coleen Rowley and Former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern to Speak at Organized Events in Nine Iowa Cities Beginning Sept. 24
IOWA CITY — The three Iowa chapters of Veterans for Peace announce a nine-city tour of Iowa by former FBI agent and whistleblower Coleen Rowley and retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern beginning Thursday, Sept. 24.
McGovern and Rowley seek to raise the level of Iowans understanding of current national security issues. They will focus on specific issues that Iowa caucus-goers may raise at the February caucuses, and on specific questions that Iowans may ask of presidential candidates visiting the state.
The speaking tour includes stops in Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Davenport, Parnell, Iowa City, Ames and Des Moines.
Between them, Rowley and McGovern have 51 years of service in the highest levels of the FBI and CIA. Since leaving the agencies, they have worked relentlessly for peace and justice. Their nine-city tour begins Sept. 24 in Dubuque and ends in Sept. 30 in Des Moines. The tour is sponsored by the three Iowa chapters of Veterans for Peace.
July 30, 2015
Syracuse, N.Y. Four anti-drone resisters were sentenced last night on July 29th, 2015 in Judge Joseph J. Zavaglia’s DeWitt (NY) Town Court for alleged trespass at a “die-in” on April 28, 2013 at Hancock Air Base, home to the 174th Attack Wing of the NY National Guard, just north of Syracuse, NY. At their four-day trial this past June trial the six-person jury acquitted the four of disorderly conduct and obstruction of government administration.
The four are members of Upstate Drone Action Coalition – a scrupulously nonviolent, loosely-knit grassroots network which, since 2009 has actively opposed the Hancock Reaper drones flying missions over Afghanistan. The Reaper, an unmanned robot, is notorious for violating international law by killing, maiming and terrorizing civilians in several U.S. undeclared wars.
There have been over 160 anti-drone arrests at Hancock resulting in bails as high as $10,000, numerous trials, many incarcerations, and Orders of Protection (a legal device usually meant to protect spouses and other vulnerable persons against violence).
The four defendants are: Joan Pleune of Brooklyn, Beverly Rice of Manhattan, Ellen Barfield of Baltimore, and Jules Orkin of Bergenfield, New Jersey. Pleune is a former Freedom Rider; Barfield, Rice and Orkin are active with Veterans for Peace.
All four were identically sentenced to one year’s conditional discharge, $250 fine, $125 court costs and a two-year order of protection. Both Pleune and Rice told Judge Zavaglia, through their attorney Lewis Oliver, that they would not agree to the conditional discharge – which led him to sentence the two women to 15 days in Jamesville Penitentiary. Pleune and Rice were taken from court in handcuffs.
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