Monday, July 30, 2012

Sh*t Obama Supporters Say On Summer Vacation

Supporters of the Warrior in Chief pause in their summer vacation long enough to catalog some of their current justifications.

Spoiler alert: No one mentions Bradley "Who?" Manning.

Or Anaheim.
Source: Daily Kos

It's Happened: Paramilitary Police vs Civilians in Anaheim

Slideshow on Flckr

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On The Farm With Bradley Manning: How to Be Human

Flyer from last spring by Elizabeth Barger, CODEPINK Local Coordinator and co-founding member of The Farm
The Farm is an eco village established decades ago by a group of idealistic, intelligent people who wanted to learn how to be more human. My family came here to rest after the punishing heat and militarism of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which was full of strip malls with recruiting offices offering “careers” to low income youth. Their glossy posters were paid for by the beleaguered U.S. taxpayer, who is about to pony up another $606 billion for “defense” in fiscal year 2013.

This glossy poster was given to us by one of the Kansas City area activist artists, Marc Saviano. It was made at his own expense and will go home to Maine to stand on the bridge with us on Sundays – because dissent is patriotic.
Today we'll get a full tour of The Farm including its sustainable water system, composting toilets, adobe style buildings, and the internationally famed Midwifery Center established by the revolutionary of humane birthing in the U.S., Ina May Gaskin. She and her husband Steven were among the group with Eliz and Joe Barger that drove out of the SF Bay area in the early 1970's, headed away from the mean city streets and back toward the countryside. Besides The Farm they founded Plenty, an economic justice project, and Kids to the Country.

Yesterday we chilled out by The Farm's swimming hole with a slew of city kids, mostly from Nashville, that were enjoying consensual splashing while learning to swim, share, and make bead geckos and squid. Oh, and there was also crawdad catching and a snake watching walk. Our grandson, who is 7, was included in their games and swimming lessons just as if he belonged to the group. Which he did. He was recovering from a hot morning mixing straw and red clay with the building crew, daubs of which remained after sluicing off in a solar shower.

The Farm is a teaching center offering all kinds of lessons in sustainable living. What I hope my grandson takes away is the notion that children are welcome, and that everyone cooperating makes for the best kind of life possible.

At each river or stream I've been grateful to rest beside I find Bradley Manning in my mind's eye, and I invite him to walk free with me beside the water.

Because exposing war crimes is not a crime, it is an act of courage and humanity.

Recorded interview on Press TV about Manning's imprisonment and alleged crimes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bradley Manning Supporters At Fort Leavenworth Sticker Up Sign At Main Gate

For more coverage of yesterday's action, see Press TV You.S Desk "People Know Best" article
The most significant political prisoner of our time has been in prison now for three years. Bradley Manning is currently held in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas which he returns to between pre-trial hearings at Fort Meade in Maryland.

Manning is in prison for allegedly revealing the truth about U.S. war crimes, including the notorious "Collateral Murder" video showing soldiers shooting down on civilians, including journalists and children, gleefully, in Baghdad. Many believe he is the source of thousands of files on U.S. foreign policy published by Wikileaks. Its founder, Julian Assange, has also been the target of harassment by the U.S. and UK, and is currently holed up at Ecuador's embassy in London battling extradition.

One of the reasons Manning is so significant is that he is all President Obama's political prisoner. Despite the fact that charges had not yet been brought, Obama said on camera of Manning: "He broke the law."  Thus spake judge, jury, and executioner; so much for due process.

We stopped on our cross country journey yesterday to stand with local supporters of Bradley Manning outside Fort Leavenworth's main gate in 108 degree heat. Mark and I agreed that the coldest day on the bridge in Maine was more comfortable than an hour on the pavement outside of Leavenworth.

But it was well worth it for the chance to support Manning, imprisoned for trying to bring a few shreds of truth to the fabulously ignorant U.S. public. (Those who take the time to read blogger Kevin Gosztola can get some real information.)

We also met up with a terrific group of activists from the Kansas City area, part of the Trifecta Resista that includes protesting at Leavenworth and other sites of the galloping militarization of our nation.

Afterwards Marc, Jane, Alan, David, and our family went our for Kansas City-style barbeque and great conversation.  We were honored to join this dedicated group in action yesterday, and the dinner that followed made me wonder why people think peace workers don't have fun. My husband and I agreed: you meet the nicest people doing this work wherever you may find yourself. (Special thanks to CODEPINK Local Coordinator Priti and her friend Jim, who were with us in spirit and had helped organize the action.)

We were especially impressed by activist Marc Saviano's graphic of Manning with PATRIOT underneath his face, and the poster Marc gave us will be shared in a future blog post.
The Trifecta Resistas are gearing up for a Hiroshima and Nagasaki remembrance on August 5 in Kansas City, Missouri that will include testimony from Ann Wright, -- clearly a local she-ro based on our conversations at dinner -- Kathy Kelly, and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark. We'll be back on the bridge in Maine by then, but we'll be thinking of them.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Countering the U.S./NATO Narrative About "Protecting" Afghan Women

Just as I was writing this post came word that a regional head of women's affairs in Afghanistan had been assassinated.
NANGARHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A regional head of women's affairs was targeted and killed by a car bomb in Afghanistan's east on Friday, officials said, the latest act of brazen violence against women in the country.

Hanifa Safi was killed while driving through the capital of Laghman province, Mehtar Lam, when a bomb attached to her car exploded, provincial governor spokesman Sarhadi Zwak said.

Update on CODEPINK coordinated  efforts to counter NATO and the U.S. State Dept narrative that NATO's continued presence supports security for women in Afghanistan:

This week Amnesty-USA staff and board members received copies of an open letter to the board signed by many individuals and organizations. The press release reviewed on a June 27 conference call on Afghan women which I coordinated was also sent out yesterday to multiple press contacts.

This morning in NYC two Codepink women -- Local Coordinator Cristina Castro and CP co-director Rae Abileah -- stood in front of Amnesty-USA as board members arrived for two days of meetings. They also hand delivered the letter, as CP co-founder Jodie Evans had done at a donor meeting Tuesday in Los Angeles (full report on that action in Alternet).

Here are the banners held by Cristina and Rae this morning in NYC:
Inline image 2
Inline image 1

Here is Rae's report on the action:

We got many positive responses including a long conversation with board VP Jessica Carvahlo Morris. All the board members I spoke with had received the letter by email and read it as well. Jessica said thanks for holding us accountable. She has been with amnesty a long time; her father was tortured. 

The Amnesty interns at first were offended and then said they agreed (after I proved I was not the enemy by qualifying that I volunteered with Amnesty & Doctors without Borders in college). 

Lots of support from people on the street. Opposition was from people who said, If US/NATO leaves Afghan women will suffer more.
(Amnesty's board) is also discussing Israel/Palestine today, and all the budget cuts and firings.
Also, many are signing this petition that mirrors a protest from Amnesty-USA members and staff about recent layoffs and closing of regional offices. Thanks to longtime member Carlos Salinas for the link:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Letter to Board of Directors, Amnesty International-USA

to: Board of Directors, Amnesty International USA

We, the undersigned, protest Amnesty International USA's decision to portray NATO as defending women’s rights in Afghanistan. Amnesty and its members are in no way served by supporting U.S. foreign policy or NATO ambitions at the expense of the truth about how Afghan women and girls are faring after more than a decade of violent occupation.

Bus shelter ads with the slogan "NATO: Keep The Progress Going!", a letter to the same effect signed by, among others, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and the remarks of panelists at the Shadow Summit in Chicago seem to dovetail nicely with US State Department's “Responsibility to Protect (R2P)” doctrine – otherwise known as “humanitarian intervention” – as well as its newly created “Atrocity Prevention Board."

It seems quite likely that the advent of Suzanne Nossel as Amnesty's Executive Director influenced Amnesty's change of direction. Nossel, credited with coining the term “Smart Power,” published a 2004 Foreign Affairs article in which she outlined the concept of the U.S. using military power as well as other forms of “soft power,” an approach which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced at her confirmation as the new basis of State Department policy.

Could influencing the direction of a prestigious international human rights organization such as Amnesty to legitimize invading and occupying Afghanistan be an example of soft power?

We call on Amnesty board members to call for Suzanne Nossel’s resignation; her loyalty to powerful government players can only be a hindrance to the true work and mission of Amnesty.

If this is not accomplished by July 31, 2012, we will be forced to publicly withdraw our future support from Amnesty's programs and campaigns until Amnesty USA removes Ms. Nossel from her position and retracts its laudatory statements concerning the U.S. and NATO presence benefiting women and human rights, and to urge others to do the same.

Medea Benjamin
Ann Wright
Coleen Rowley
Jodie Evans
Kathy Kelley
Lisa Savage
David Swanson
Ralph Lopez
Mary Beaudoin
Sara Flounders
Leah Bolger
Samantha Deer
Mark D. Stansbery
Patrick Kennelly
Jess Sundin

Executive Committee, Veterans for Peace
Women Against Military Madness, MI
International Action Center
Columbus, Ohio Campaign for Arms Control
Marquette University Center for Peacemaking
Middle East Crisis Committee (CT)
Anti-War Committee
Pittsburgh Thomas Merton Center Antiwar Committee


Monday, July 9, 2012

Lip Service to Security for Afghan Women and Girls, Billions For Contractors Plus Arming Men

When international donors got together in Tokyo last weekend to talk about who would pledge -- and maybe even remit -- $16 billion in aid through 2015, only two of the thirty-seven delegates from Afghanistan were women: Humaira Ludin Etmadi, and Nahid Surabi.  Neither are prominent leaders, but the former works closely with Hamid Karzai, and the latter is closely linked with Afghanistan's Finance Ministry. So a whopping 5.4% of delegates were women representing...the Afghan national government.

Who represented the common people of Afghanistan, women and their families suffering under attacks from three sides? Victimized by 1) NATO bombing, drones and night raids; 2) insurgent attacks, IEDs and suicide bombings; and 3) corrupt national and provincial government officials, like police who raped teenager Lal Bibi -- and then claimed a mullah married them right beforehand, so it was perfectly legal.

And let's not forget the most recent outrage: video of an execution by shooting of a woman about an hour from Kabul, reportedly by Taliban leaders though spokesmen denied they were responsible. Witnesses in the area say the woman was the sexual prey of two different Taliban leaders, and that she was brutalized and ultimately killed in a contest between them last month. A crowd of men cheer as she dies, but we never see her, crouching beneath the blue burqa.

So this is where matters stand after ten years of violent occupation, which followed ten years of U.S. armed civil war (many of those who participated are now seated in Parliament), which followed ten years of proxy war funded by the U.S. in opposition to the Soviets.

But, hey, NATO, keep the progress going!
Source: The Guardian's excellent coverage of the Tokyo summit.
Here's U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with an Afghan woman. Oops, no, on second glance that is Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar at one of many side talks in Tokyo. Because Pakistan's government has been so good for Afghan stability and security over the years, assassinating civil leaders, and  harboring violent extremists. To ensure future stability, Pakistan agreed to re-open supply lines for NATO running across Pakistan. These had been closed to protest repeated drone bombings killing many civilians and alleged militants. Ironically, there were reports of a drone attack in Pakistan's tribal area bordering Afghanistan that very day. Hmm, maybe some more "aid" money changed hands.

Where will the aid money pledged to Afghanistan go? President Karzai swore, and EU delegates insisted, that corruption would be reined in or else funds would not be forthcoming. What about the respectable corruption of paying out millions to contractors from the U.S. and other Western powers who take a hefty profit margin? That will be swept under the carpet by corporate owned media, but it's a huge factor. It's much more useful to focus on the endemic corruption at high levels in the Afghan government, and to pretend that buying ordinary Afghan men weapons and uniforms builds up the ranks of properly trained police or soldiers who would actually provide security and enforce the rule of law for everyone.

Instead of what it actual does: provide impoverished fathers with an opportunity to sell the gun, fade back into their village, feed their children, and then reappear elsewhere to go through the whole cycle again. Afghanistan is supposed to have now armed and trained around 300,000 either security forces, with little to show for it.

But not to worry. Clinton also zoomed into town a day early to meet Karzai and designate Afghanistan a "major non-NATO ally." According to the Guardian: "Declaration on eve of donor conference allows for streamlined military co-operation including access to weapons and training."

So Afghan women and girls get screwed again. Your tax dollars at work!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Tweet For #AfghanWomen As We Occupy Sisterhood

by Favianna Rodriguez, Oakland, CA
It was a rocking good time to be with women and feminists at the Occupy National Gathering in Philadelphia during the run up to 4th of July. Besides being there with some of my favorite women from occupies everywhere (SF, LA, NYC, Maine, New Haven, etc) I got to have a workshop which amounted to a long conversation on how our government is using Afghan women's rights as a cover to keep military forces in Afghanistan. About 35 people sat down around a pink Bust Bank Of America banner laid on the shady grass of Franklin Plaza in 100 degree heat, and shared what we knew.

This photo is funny because, like at many Occupy gatherings, there seem to be more media recorders than there are participants. But the great thing about it is, that OccupyFreedomLA was not only livestreaming the workshop discussion, but also archived it here. So that makes it a bigger conversation that goes beyond the temporal space we were in beneath our pink flag (created to help people find the various workshops).

Since I was facilitating and not taking notes, I'll share the things that stayed with me that other people said (what I said is mostly summarized here in an article published July 3 on Common Dreams). A young veteran shared that war is designed to destroy things, not protect people's rights. Also that women are treated horribly both in and by the U.S. military. An older vet shared that Status of Forces Agreements with the governments of countries with military occupations grant immunity to the acts of soldiers, and this is a danger to everyone living there.

Gasps from those listening when I shared that Afghan women currently have an average life expectancy of 51 years, and that the war on Afghanistan costs U.S. taxpayers $230,000+ a minute.

Sarah from OWS saying at the end: "This workshop was really rad!"

I also shared that a bunch of us from CODEPINK and MADRE would be tweeting about how #AfghanWomen should be at the table in talks on security and development (90% of that funding currently goes to army and police instead of toward real development) in Tokyo July 8-9. You can follow that hashtag and join in if you want to help make this demand.

Then I was so hot and exhausted that I retreated to the oasis of a Vietnamese restaurant to enjoy fresh  lemonade and cold noodles. A short nap on the grass and some yoga (thanks to a new friend from OWS who lent me her mat) which may have baffled police who were lurking around but revived me enough to participate in the first ever national level Feminist GA!

About 200 people came together to say how patriarchy affects them and their communities, and what visions they hold for the future of Mother Earth and her humans. Because there were so many of us, introductions happened in groups of three, which joined to make slightly larger breakout groups to discuss why we had come to a public feminist discussion, and the kind of world we had in mind for the future. My group was composed of a young women from South Korea who emigrated to escape the stultifying patriarchy of her own culture, a young man from OWS, a young man from France, a young woman studying science and marveling at its past uses as a tool to manipulate, control and destroy life. Robin, a new contact I had heard give the most rousing call to citizen journalism in front of Fox News during an earlier March to End Corporate Personhood, an older man who seemed like an academic, bringing a queer perspective, and a young man with strong views on mass media images of women. We had a great discussion, mostly because of the engaged listening.

Then came time for the report backs. At first these were shouted out ("Access the collective wisdom of women worldwide!") but eventually people lined up at the microphone to be audible while telling something they had heard in their breakout discussion.
Chris Hedges, who described the blinders of privilege, another guy who started talking about himself at length and was eventually shushed, and Ivanaka, a major organizer of the FemGA. I forget the name of the woman in the hat, who spoke eloquently about how frustrating living under patriarchy can often be.

Eventually from this work came a Feminist Declaration that was read out in public on July 4.

When I find the text of it I'll share, along with the video I'm working on of the Feminist GA from footage shot by me and Curtis Cole. There are also livestream recordings of the GA where you would hear even more voices -- with so many small breakout groups, it would have been nearly impossible to capture them all on video. Check out OccupyFreedomLA's Ustream channel for those.

Did I mention that I got to meet Lisa Fithian, one of my organizing she-ros? She spoke earlier in the day during assembly about being pissed off and using that energy to organize ourselves. Inspiring! Unfortunately I was gone by the time Medea Benjamin arrived so I missed the workshop on how to Occupy Peace (recording here in case you did, too).

A couple of final pictures to show -- better than words could do -- Why We Occupy:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

CODEPINK Observes the 4th of July in Japan: No More Fukushimas!

Reposted from CODEPINK Local Actions page, a 4th of July report from Japan's coordinator Hisae Ogawa in the city of Osaka:
This weekend I visited the college I graduated from. It is close to US Air Force Base YOKOTA. The base is still there interfering with the peaceful life of the people.

Today, July 4th, I joined the 'Peace March heading to Hiroshima'. We walked through downtown Osaka. The mayor sent us a message of support but the governor of Osaka prefecture did not support our efforts.

We cried out 'No more Hiroshimas', 'No more Nagasakis', 'No more Fukushimas', 'No more nukes', 'No more nuclear power plants.'

More actions will follow in August.