Quotable

"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Resistance To All

Friends,

You haven't seen much activity on this Blog lately because I have been rather busy supporting the Disarm Now Plowshares 5 whose trial ended on December 13th with their convictions on all counts in the U.S. District Court's mock trial. I say mock trial because the Disarm Now Plowshares defendants were hamstrung by the government (both the court and the prosecution), which limited their ability to utilize valid defense arguments, among them the necessity defense and Nuremberg Principles.

The government would neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons at the Bangor Trident submarine base and Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific (SWFPAC) that are known far and wide to be home to one of the largest concentrations of nuclear weapons in the world.

And yet, the efforts of the Disarm Now Plowshares are not in vain. Their actions are helping build public awareness and galvanize the nuclear abolition community. Many others also resist our government's illegal activities on many fronts.

Fr. Louis Vitale and others continue to engage in nonviolent resistance to the U.S. School of the Americas (SOA), now euphemistically termed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation by the U.S. government.

Fr. Vitale is once again in jail for trying to uphold the law at SOA just as the Disarm Now Plowshares 5 did at Bangor. Our government, which would rather not have a discussion surrounding the real issues, continues to reduce them to charges such as trespassing while it continues to feed masses of innocent victims to its war machinery.

What follows is Fr. Vitale's Dec. 8th message from jail. It is a fitting Christmas message as it calls on us to declare peace amidst the cacophony of war making; to move the world towards peace in the year.

May it be so. Peace,

Leonard

Photo Credit: Fr. Louie Vitale by Cindy Callahan

***************

by Fr. Louis Vitale, Dec. 8 2010


HERE WE ARE AGAIN

Two weeks have passed since David Omondi and I began our sojourn here
at Irwin County Detention Center in southern Georgia. Some may say, "Vitale has protested himself back into the pokey below the Mason-Dixon line" and "He has been jailed again in an effort to bring peace and social justice." SF Chronicle 11/28

Many ask, "Why do you keep doing this?" We try to respond: "Because the oppression goes on and our nation is a major participant in that oppression of the poor and of all creation." Specifically this manifestation of mourning focuses on the School of the Americas (WHINSEC) at Ft. Benning, Georgia, where U.S. military have taught counter-insurgency techniques, including torture and disappearance, to Latin American military. It still goes on, as recently observed with the outrageous coup in Honduras carried out by graduates of the School of the Americas. In fact, our involvement in oppressive militarism extends throughout the world!

But why so many times at Ft. Benning (my fourth arrest and incarceration, and so far from my home base)? The School of the Americas is an icon of our intrusion into developing countries over many years and the source of horrific massacres including religious leaders and thousands of peasants. Also Ft. Benning is a major military base feeding vast numbers into the war machine. Thousands gather annually to mourn the victims and to call for an end to our war machine that continues to grow into more bases, nuclear weapons manufacturing facilities, even into space war (and the new X-37B militarized version of the space shuttle).

Are we ready to declare peace and act in its presence? Let's call - with all our energy - for nonviolent solutions now, transforming many peoples' lives and our world. Our work is cut out for us as we must be vigilant and active with nonviolent resistance. May we move towards peace in the new year.
Vitale is serving a 6 month sentence for trespass at Ft. Benning. He is temporarily at Victorville until they move him to Lompoc Prison. Until then you can send notes of support to Fr. Louie c/o the Nuclear Resister, PO Box 43383, Tucson, AZ 85733.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

RESTRAINT: What the World Needs Now!

Friends,

The Korean War, which officially ended in 1953, never really ended at all. It continued to simmer, and although eclipsed by the Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union, tensions have continued to build for roughly 57 years, and the situation now rivals the worst moments of the Cold War. The situation is as tense as it has ever been.

I have been busy supporting the Disarm Now Plowshares five who will soon face trial in U.S. District Court for their 2009 Plowshares action intended to bring to light the immoral and illegal nuclear weapons on which the U.S. government continues to not only maintain and deploy as a "deterrent", but focuses on building up the existing nuclear weapons infrastructure (which signals a focus on nuclear weapons far into the future).

All this focus on nuclear weapons provides me with a thorough understanding of the potential of these terrible, omnicidal weapons. Even a limited nuclear exchange between any two nations would have not only devastating effects on the immediate populations, but would also affect surrounding nations and quite probably regions around the globe, not only with the drifting radioactive clouds, but also due to dramatic effects on climate (at least one study documents the massive crop failures that would result).

The opening salvo from North Korea on November 23rd that now appears to be escalating into unknown territory, as the U.S. immediately sent a carrier task force to the aid of South Korea, is a sober and chilling reminder of how tenuous our existence is on this small planet we all share. The joint military exercises (U.S. and South Korea), particularly in a time of crisis, will only exacerbate tensions between South and North Korea, and the results could be catastrophic.

This is a time for serious international diplomatic intervention, diplomacy and negotiation; it is a time for (serious, nonviolent) TALK - NOT a time for saber rattling! There are no military solutions (that will not result in the North and South committing collective suicide, and dragging other nations into the maelstrom).

Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) has issued a statement on "The Need for Talks to Avoid Escalation of the Crisis on the Korean Peninsula." (scroll down at the link for the English version) They call for the following:

1) An immediate cessation of hostilities to be declared.

2) A further investigation to be held into all aspects of
the artillery exchange before any judgment or action is made.

3) All sides to refrain from military provocation that
could lead to further escalation of tension or violence, including military
drills in the area.

4) An emphasis on dialogue, both bilaterally between the DPRK and ROK, and regionally,
including the resumption of the Six Party Talks as the only existing framework
for dialogue on peace and security in the Northeast Asian region.

5) Civil society participation in dialogue processes
related to this conflict.

6) World leaders to build bridges to calm the situation
rather than reenact the language and barriers of the past.

Do these 6 points make sense? Indeed, only a non-violent, non-military approach will resolve this crisis, and the only way to convince our (U.S.) government to change course (and send the carrier task force home) is through a massive involvement of civil society. We must call for immediate de-escalation and an immediate end to the U.S./South Korean war games!!!

Join the National Campaign to End the Korean War (www.endthekoreanwar.org)
in a coordinated "online demonstration"!!!

On Sunday, November 28, from 12 noon to 3 pm EST (9 am to 12 noon PST) and Wednesday, December 1 from 7 pm to 10 pm EST (4pm to 7 pm PST).

Barrage the White House and State Department with emails (and phone calls) and urge President Obama and State Secretary Clinton to immediately stop the joint U.S.-South Korean war maneuvers, and sign a Peace Treaty to end the state of war that has existed for sixty years on the Korean peninsula!

White House email White House switchboard: 202-456-1414

State Department email State Department phone: 202-647-4000

Click here for more details of the ONLINE DEMONSTRATION.

We can (and must) be voices for sanity in the midst of this madness. Please forward this on to as many people in your network as possible NOW.

Towards Peace,

Leonard

Resources:

National Campaign to End the Korean War

[Translation] Korean organizations' statement: Immediately cancel the joint ROK-US drill mobilized with an aircraft carrier in the West Sea!



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Breaking Down Doors for National Security

Dear Friends,

These are dark times. We fight wars in far flung reaches of the world, destroying those nations which we invade) for far less than noble purposes, while we morally and economically bankrupt our own nation. While most of this nation goes about its business as the military runs amok, some groups and individuals do their best to call on people to demand peace (with justice) rather than the current state of perpetual war.

While most (I hope) would agree that speaking out for peace and justice should be considered a sacred right in a "free" country, and a First Amendment right at that, it seems that many in our own government did not study the Constitution. I think that the Founding Fathers are rolling in their graves right now.

A recent study by the Justice Department's Inspector General, A Review of the FBI's Investigations of Certain Domestic Advocacy Groups, found that the FBI improperly investigated a number of peaceful "domestic advocacy groups". Brace yourselves; these are some DANGEROUS groups (and one individual) such as Greenpeace, PETA, The Merton Center, The Catholic Worker and "Quaker Peace Activist" Glen Milner.

Are you seeing terrifying visions of mushroom clouds yet??? Yes folks, we have gone completely nuts in this post 9/11 nation. Soon we will be seeing signs on every street corner - "Report suspicious Quaker activity at your nearest Homeland Security phone kiosk... report anyone resembling (or acting like) Dorothy Day to your local FBI office." But I digress...

In a September 20th ACLU news release about the Inspector General's report Michael German, ACLU Senior Policy Counsel and former FBI agent is quoted:

The FBI has a long history of abusing its national security surveillance powers, reaching back to the smear campaign waged by the American government against Dr. Martin Luther King. Americans peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights were able to become targets of FBI surveillance because spying guidelines that were established after the shameful abuses of the 60s and 70s were loosened in 2002. Unfortunately, they were loosened again in 2008, even after this abuse was uncovered.

Unless the rules regulating the FBI are strengthened to safeguard the privacy of innocent Americans, we are all in danger of being spied on and added to terrorist watch lists for doing nothing more than attending a rally or holding up a sign.

And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, IT DOES! As if it isn't bad enough for the FBI to be squandering our tax dollars on surveillance of peace activists exercising their first amendment rights, the FBI has been at it again, but this time it is much more serious!

The FBI gave the Inspector General the proverbial "finger" as agents raided homes and offices of antiwar activists in Chicago and Minneapolis Friday, September 24th. We aren't talking about "knock, knock, FBI, open up please!" No, we're talking SWAT teams breaking down doors, shoving warrants in people's faces and taking evidence without even a "thank you for your cooperation."

This is chilling folks. The FBI said that the searches were part of a joint task force probe of terrorism, and that they were “seeking evidence relating to activities concerning the material support of terrorism.” This is what happens when you get mired in an endless Global War on Terror in which laws have been successively weakened (by a weak and fearful Congress).

Here are the groups targeted in Friday's raids: Palestine Solidarity Group, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, and Students for a Democratic Society. Perhaps your organization will be next??? Of course we should give the FBI the benefit of the doubt, right? Based on history, I don't think so!

People have already taken to the streets in many U.S. cities in protest of the FBI raids. More events will likely occur. Here are ways we can all act and speak out (Thanks to Fellowship of Reconciliation for these):
  • Call the Attorney General's office at 202-353-1555 and demand an end to political intimidation of peace activists.
  • Call or write the "newspapers of record" such as the New York Times and Washington Post, asking them to give full and prominent coverage to this story.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper, explaining why this kind of intimidation is a danger to democracy.
  • Call your local members of Congress to demand that the FBI stop harassing peace activists.
  • Participate in any local actions to protest these raids. Click here for a list of protest events around the country.

You can also send an email to the Department of Justice courtesy of Veterans for Peace.

Historian and author Henry Steele Comager once said that, "Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive." Let us never stop being subversive so long as those in authority are not serving the people.

Peace,

Leonard

More Reading:

Here is a thorough summary of the Inspector General's report in The Atlantic: OIG: FBI Inappropriately Tracked Domestic Advocacy Groups

FBI searches homes as part of terrorism probe at CNN Justice.

It Is Official: The US Is A Police State at Countercurrents.org

Anti-War Activists Targeted by FBI Speak Out by the Associated Press

Everyone should read If An Agent Knocks from the Center for Constitutional Rights!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Peace = Future

Friends,

September 21st is the United Nations International Day of Peace ("Peace Day"), a day on which individuals, organizations and nations are called upon to create practical acts of peace on a shared date. It was established by a United Nations resolution in 1981 to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly.

In this year's Peace Day message UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says that "this year's observance... focuses on youth and development, under the slogan, 'Peace = Future.'" Indeed, if we are to have a future we must create peace.

Moon acknowledges the crucial role that young people already play in peacemaking, while challenging them to do even more. He goes on to make a prophetic statement when he calls on young people to, "Expand on your work to build peace. Share your ideas with creativity and passion. The world's concerns will soon be in your hands."

Young people are a treasure; with knowledge and passion, prepared to venture out with conviction and courage to take on the world. They have much to offer even those of who have been at this thing for many years. We need to listen to their ideas and welcome them into our midst. We are all in this together.

As previous generations of peacemakers approach the end of their peacemaking days it will be up to the young people to take the torch and keep that bright light shining. I hope that young peacemakers will seek out the experienced elders of the movement and learn all you can. I also call on my fellow peacemakers, most of whom have had many more years of experience than me, to seek out young people with whom you can share your wealth of knowledge and experience.

It is my deepest hope that this year's Peace Day gatherings around the world will bring together the many generations of peacemakers to share our collective experience and learn from each other. May these gatherings be opportunities for us all to re-energize and redouble our efforts to build a world at peace with justice for all.

Click here to find an event happening near you on Peace Day.

Watch this video International Day of Peace message from UN S-G Ban Ki-moon.



Peace = Future,

Leonard

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Crushing COST of WAR!

Dear Friends,

Guess how much the U.S. government spends in a year to send just one soldier to Afghanistan? Thanks to hard working number crunchers at the American Friends Service Committee we have some accurate figures. While you are thinking about it ponder the approximate total number of U.S. soldiers there - 78,430 (AFSC's estimate, although I've seen numbers as high as 100,000). That number doesn't include the number of private contractors (can you say "mercenaries"?) that seem to get a rare mention in the newspaper articles.


O.K. folks. Brace yourselves for this nice, large, round number - $1,000,000! That's right; $1 Million!!! That is the 2010 cost to maintain each soldier in Afghanistan. Now, aside from the moral and ethical implications of our colonial incursion into Afghanistan, if I were the CEO of this company, the shareholders would be at my door like the angry villagers in Mel Brooks movie, Young Frankenstein.

This is insane!

According to the
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) here are just a few positive things our nation could be doing with all that money rather than squandering it on a futile mission (whatever that mission is; can anyone tell me???). Let's do the numbers; $1 Million could provide :
  • Renewable energy for 127,964,602 homes

  • Health care for 588 children

  • Salaries for 17 school teachers

  • Head Start for 132 children

  • School lunch for 1,602 children

  • Health care for 227 adults

  • Four-year Pell grants for 48 college students, or

  • Affordable homes for 9 families

Perhaps you can think of some other peaceful uses for $1 million. And if those statistics don't shake you up a little, don't forget to multiply that $1 million by at least 78,430!!! Of course I wouldn't dream of cutting back on body armour and all the important things our troops need. I'm talking about supporting them in a different way - BRING EM HOME!!!

Despite President Obama's pledge to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011, Pentagon plans are in the works for three $100 million air base expansions in Afghanistan that will ensure that U.S. troops will be entrenched there for years to come.

The House of Representatives has approved the money for these bases, but the Senate still must vote on it. It's time to say STOP!!! No more money for "enduring base" construction. Send your Senators a clear message to reject any such funding.

It is time to stop squandering both our human and financial treasure on senseless wars and start spending it on programs of social uplift, both at home and around the world. Why not start today???

Peace,

Leonard

Read Air base expansion plans reflect long-term investment in Afghanistan in the Washington Post.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Peace Fleet Meets War Fleet. Nonviolence IS the (ONLY) Answer!

Friends,

Yesterday a small flotilla of hearty, seafairing folk gathered to express their displeasure with the arrival in Seattle's Elliott Bay of the U.S. Navy, a yearly ritual at Seattle's Seafair celebration (I personally prefer the arrival of the Seafair pirates over the Navy...Oooh Argh!!!). Longtime peace activist and salty dog Glen Milner calls the gathering a "water-based NONVIOLENT protest against the glorification of weapons of war."

As I gazed at the photos at the Seattle Post Intelligencer's Website I found the juxtaposition of the naval ship bristling with firepower and the two diminuitive protest vessels a powerful metaphor for U.S. projection of power around the globe. The parading of these "men-o-war" in front of the public is essentially a major (and extremely expensive) public relations and recruiting event.

Captioned photos from Seattle PI Website

With approximately "331,682 personnel on active duty and 124,000 in the Navy Reserve", the U.S. Navy has 284 ships in active service and more than 3,700 aircraft (Source: Wikipedia). It was once said that the sun never set on the British Empire, and although that empire has long since waned, the phrase is an apt one for the ever expanding U.S. Empire.

The U.S. has at least 1000 military bases overseas (roughly 700 if one subtracts bases in Iraq and Afghanistan) encircling the globe. Current plans for new (naval) bases include Guam and Jeju Island in South Korea. The globe's military waistline (courtesy of the U.S. military) is ever expanding.

The U.S. Navy brought four vessels to Seafair this year: a newer Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and three older vessels, all three commissioned in 1994 and 1995. Two of the older vessels have likely fired depleted uranium munitions in their 20 mm Phalanx guns, radioactive rounds which the Navy still stocks according to recent inventory reports. Mighty impressive stuff; the kids love it! The folks who live with the aftermath of depleted uranium are not so thrilled.

According to GlobalSecurity.org, one Arleigh Burke destroyer costs approximately $2.2 billion in 2009 dollars. The vessels cost approximately $25 million per year to operate. According to Global Security, there are currently 58 Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyers in the U.S. fleet with 4 more ships scheduled for completion. Each Arleigh Burke destroyer is armed with 56 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

But hey - It's only money, right??? Of course it's a whole lot of money. The bottom line is that we are spending far more money on the military than everything else combined. "Military spending's share of discretionary spending was 50.5% in 2003, and has risen steadily ever since." Just think of how this is affecting you, your family, your neighbors and people all over the country of every socio-economic status. Even small shifts in military spending would reap huge benefits to other important domestic needs. Ben Cohen's short Oreo cookie video demonstrates this quite graphically:

President Obama said, during the 2008 presidential race, that, "I don't want to just end the [Iraq] war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place." All rhetoric aside (and his rhetoric is pretty good), the President's actions have essentially reinforced the deeply embedded mindset that there are military solutions to the global problems that we face, and he has continually increased overall military spending, while programs of social uplift have suffered.

Changing the mindset that continues to throw military solutions (which are not really solutions at all, at least from a long term standpoint) at every conflict we face requires huge changes in the way we see the world around us and those with whom we share this small planet. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated this quite well in his concept of a "World House" in which a rather large and dysfunctional family is crowded together into this house that it has inherited. We are "a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace."

So there is our challenge - to learn to live together as brothers and sisters in this house of ours, to unlock the door to a peaceful world for our children. Nonviolence is one of the keys.

Peace,

Leonard

Note: Many thanks to Glen Milner for much of the information in this post. Glen has, for many years, put his heart and soul into his work for peace, including the yearly Peace Fleet event at Seafair. Thanks to Karol Milner for the photos in the following slide show.


View all

Read Dr. King's essay, The World House by clicking here.

See photos of the Peace Fleet and U.S. Navy's arrival at Seafair at the Seattle PI.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Are These People Crazy???

Friends,

A madness has taken hold of the U.S. House of Representatives, so far just the Republicans. Republicans in the house have introduced a measure (HR 1553) that would throw the support of the U.S. Congress behind military strikes by Israel against Iran. A who's who of Neoconservatives from John Bolton to William Kristol are behind the bill that already has the support of "nearly a third of House Republicans." The bill essentially expresses:
...support for the State of Israel’s right to defend Israeli sovereignty, to protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, and to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time to protect against such an immediate and existential threat to the State of Israel.
The Huffington Post reported the scary news on July 23rd. The article mentioned the obvious point that U.S. military experts have been stating (and which those pushing this bill ignore at all our peril) - that Israeli military action against Iran "could be catastrophic to US national security interests and could engulf the Middle East in a 'calamitous' regional war," and would most likely draw the U.S. into such a war.

You don't suppose that's just what these folks have in mind??? They are obviously unhappy that President Obama has chosen sanctions rather than the military option. Sanctions are causing enough friction as it is, but this is just nuts! The Middle East situation is unstable enough as it is, and now we have reports of Israeli submarines (loaded with nuclear Cruise missiles) patrolling off the coast of Iran. Great!!!

Well, right now the best thing the Israelis can do is keep their missiles in their pants. And if the recent attack on the humanitarian aid flotilla is any indication, no one should underestimate their potential actions, and absolutely NO ONE should be supporting military action against Iran.

Let's stop this madness before it gains any more momentum. CLICK HERE to send a message to demand that House Republic Leader John Boehner denounce this resolution and oppose another war in the Middle East.

Click here to read the full text of House Resolution 1553.

Pushing Peace,

Leonard

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Deficit Doves vs. Deficit Hawks

Dear Friends,

It is becoming more and more evident that endless wars are creating endless spending that is ever so surely leading us to bankruptcy, both economic and moral. War spending keeps taking a bigger slice of the budget (and therefore tax) pie, until one day the people are left with crumbs.

A few in Congress like Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma are calling for cuts in Pentagon spending, while Florida Congressman Alan Grayson has introduced the War Is Making You Poor Act (HR5353). Others in Congress are trying to cut every social program possible in order to fund continued warmaking.

Amy Goodman calls them "Deficit Hawks", and that is exactly what they are. The following article speaks to all you "Deficit Doves" out there, and calls on all of us to speak out, confront the lies of the Deficit Hawks, and show another way.

When you have read Amy's article, learn more about HR5353 and support the bill at Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Peace,

Leonard

***********

Originally published on Wednesday, July 21, 2010 by TruthDig.com

Deficit Doves
by Amy Goodman

Getting out of the red is the new black. Deficit hawks have swooped down on the U.S. budget. This week, they attacked unemployment benefits.

Ultimately, they are going after Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, the venerable programs once considered untouchable "third rails" of U.S. politics. These have been replaced by a new third rail, the defense budget. To really deal with annual deficits and a surging national debt, we are going to need to cut military spending.

We need some deficit doves.

First, let's call it what it is: the war budget. The government formed the Department of War in 1789, and only in 1949 renamed it the Department of Defense. The war budget President Barack Obama recently sent to Congress, for fiscal year 2011, is $548.9 billion, with an additional $33 billion, which is the 2010 supplemental that is currently being debated in Congress, and $159.3 billion more "to support ongoing overseas contingency operations, including funds to execute the President's new strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan." Recall, "overseas contingency operations" is how the Obama administration rebranded the "global war on terror."

This is just the publicly available war budget. There is also a "black budget," kept secret, for clandestine operations that former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair revealed was about $75 billion. As The Washington Post exposed this week, the post-9/11 security state has grown into a massive, unmanageable and largely privatized "enterprise."

Over 2,000 for-profit firms and over 850,000 people with top-secret clearance are engaged in military and intelligence activities, ostensibly for the U.S. government, with seemingly little or no oversight.

Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., has submitted a bill, H.R. 5353, called "The War Is Making You Poor Act." Grayson, with a few Republicans and a number of progressive Democratic co-sponsors, wants to force Commander in Chief Obama to run his two wars with "only" the $548.9 billion base budget. The $159.3 billion saved would be turned into a tax break, making the first $35,000 of income tax-free, and anything left over would be directed to paying down the national debt. The bill is in committee now and may generate genuine bipartisan support. Grayson, when introducing the bill, highlighted a fact worth repeating: The U.S. war budget is greater than the military spending of every other nation on Earth, combined.

Meanwhile, at the National Peace Conference to be held in Albany, N.Y., this weekend, people are targeting the military budget. Students are organizing around the connection between war expenditures and education budgets that are being slashed, sparking protests at campuses nationwide. Another effort, called "Bring Our War Dollars Home," promotes action at the city council and statehouse level, along with grass-roots campaigns to pressure members of Congress to stop funding war.

The cost of the Iraq war was estimated by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, with his colleague Linda Bilmes, at $3 trillion, calculating not only hard, current costs, but also the cost to society of caring for wounded veterans, and the long-term costs of having so many families disrupted by caring for their injured loved ones, or having a breadwinner killed in action. And that's just Iraq. As of May, the monthly cost of the war in Afghanistan surpassed, for the first time, the cost of war in Iraq.

Stiglitz was one of the many economists who said the economic stimulus package (at $787 billion) was too small. He argues that deficit spending, when done wisely, creates long-term returns for an economy.

Conversely, he wrote recently, "Deficits to finance wars or give-aways to the financial sector ... impos[e] a burden on future generations."

Economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research says President Obama's Deficit Commission, formally the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, is a major cause for concern. The co-chairs are former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles, who is on the board of Morgan Stanley, one of the bailed-out Wall Street firms. Baker told me: "Both are on record saying they want to cut Social Security. This should have people very, very worried. That isn't a balanced commission."

Cutting Social Security isn't the answer. Cutting war spending, and bringing the troops home, is. This is the job for the deficit doves.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

© 2010 Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 800 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

For the Earth: A Great Urgency

Dear Friends,

Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th generation keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle and spiritual leader among the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota People, recently sent out an extremely important message, A Great Urgency: To All World Religious and Spiritual Leaders. It is a message in response to the terrible environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, but goes far beyond that and calls on religious and spiritual leaders to lead people in prayer in the hope that we will be changed, and learn to live in harmony with each other and our Mother Earth. He calls on people to "make a prayer for all life, for good decision making by our Nations, for our children¹s future and well-being, and the generations to come."

At a time when the world watches as millions of gallons of oil flow into the ocean from a single disaster, countless other environmental disasters - and though many are small in comparison, they are all at very least cumulative - unfold daily around the world. Whether oil production in Nigeria, gold mining in Peru or uranium mining in the U.S., the environment and the people who live on the affected land invariably suffer.

Chief Looking Horse asks us to look around us at the "bleeding of Grandmother Earth" and then deeply within and ask ourselves to find it within our hearts to work to stop our destructive path, to heal this bruised world and create wholeness for future generations. Therein lies the native wisdom - that we own nothing; that we hold all things in trust for future generations, and must therefore care for them. That is our task. May we understand and accept it.

Peace,

Leonard

May 12, 2010

A Great Urgency: To All World Religious and Spiritual Leaders

My Relatives,

Time has come to speak to the hearts of our Nations and their Leaders. I ask you this from the bottom of my heart, to come together from the Spirit of your Nations in prayer.

We, from the heart of Turtle Island, have a great message for the World; we are guided to speak from all the White Animals showing their sacred color, which have been signs for us to pray for the sacred life of all things. As I am sending this message to you, many Animal Nations are being threatened, those that swim, those that crawl, those that fly, and the plant Nations, eventually all will be affect from the oil disaster in the Gulf.

The dangers we are faced with at this time are not of spirit. The catastrophe that has happened with the oil spill which looks like the bleeding of Grandmother Earth, is made by human mistakes, mistakes that we cannot afford to continue to make.

I asked, as Spiritual Leaders, that we join together, united in prayer with the whole of our Global Communities. My concern is these serious issues will continue to worsen, as a domino effect that our Ancestors have warned us of in their Prophecies.

I know in my heart there are millions of people that feel our united prayers for the sake of our Grandmother Earth are long overdue. I believe we as Spiritual people must gather ourselves and focus our thoughts and prayers to allow the healing of the many wounds that have been inflicted on the Earth.

As we honor the Cycle of Life, let us call for Prayer circles globally to assist in healing Grandmother Earth (our Unc¹I Maka).

We ask for prayers that the oil spill, this bleeding, will stop. That the winds stay calm to assist in the work. Pray for the people to be guided in repairing this mistake, and that we may also seek to live in harmony, as we make the choice to change the destructive path we are on.

As we pray, we will fully understand that we are all connected. And that what we create can have lasting effects on all life.

So let us unite spiritually, All Nations, All Faiths, One Prayer. Along with this immediate effort, I also ask to please remember June 21st, World Peace and Prayer Day/Honoring Sacred Sites day. Whether it is a natural site, a temple, a church, a synagogue or just your own sacred space, let us make a prayer for all life, for good decision making by our Nations, for our children¹s future and well-being, and the generations to come.

Onipikte (that we shall live),

Chief Arvol Looking Horse
Click here to read a biography of Chief Arvol Looking Horse.

Click here to learn about the Wolakota Foundation.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Peace Poles: Planting Seeds of Peace

Friends,

The recent (May 6, 2010) gathering at University of Washington, Tacoma was truly an auspicious occasion. Following the testimony of the Hibakusha (survivor of the atomic bombing) of Hiroshima, Ms. Tokie Mizuno, we moved outside to the site of the new Peace Pole for the dedication ceremony.

A Peace Pole is a hand-crafted monument that displays the message and prayer "May Peace Prevail on Earth" on each of its four or six sides, usually in different languages. There are tens of thousands of Peace Poles in countries all over the world dedicated as monuments to peace. They serve as constant reminders for us to visualize and pray for world peace.

This particular day was one of great remembrance and reconciliation. Besides remembering (and learning about) the horrors of the use of nuclear weapons on our fellow human beings, we also remembered the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II (Tacoma's Japanese Language School was used to process internees at the beginning of the war) and the fact that the University of Washington, Tacoma campus rests on land that was originally inhabited by (and by all rights still belongs to) the Puyallup Tribe.

The dedication ceremony was a beautiful sharing of many traditions, including Native American, Buddhist, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish and Protestant. The words and music were offered as prayers for peace and reconciliation, and at the end of the ceremony everyone "passed the peace" to each other. Watch a brief video of the ceremony by Rodney Herold:



The Peace Pole is like a tree in that people who pass by or sit by it and read those words, "May Peace Prevail on Earth," will eat the fruit, and it can nourish them on their journey. Who knows how many more seeds of peace they will continue to plant. Let us hope that many more Peace Poles will be planted, and may their message one day overwhelm the damaging messages of fear, hatred and violence so ubiquitous in our world. You can plant one anywhere - in your front yard, church or school, wherever people will see it.

May Peace Prevail on Earth,

Leonard

Click here to learn more about the Peace Pole Project.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Hear, Oh Israel: ENOUGH Already!!!

Friends,

The best military U.S. money (also known as "security assistance") can buy went well beyond what any sane person would deem appropriate in its response to the approaching Gaza Freedom Flotilla early this morning. Under cover of darkness Israeli military commandos boarded the largest of the Flotilla's ships using Black hawk helicopters and small craft (we're talking "shock and awe" here folks) while the ship was still in international waters. At this point at least nine activists have been confirmed killed and dozens more were wounded. The Israelis seized all six boats and everyone on board (including human rights workers, diplomats, journalists and academics).

The State of Israel has, through this brazen and illegal action, demonstrated its complete and total disregard for international and humanitarian law; of course it has been doing this for years, but this morning's act was its most brazen action to date. Why could they have not pulled alongside during daylight hours and asked to come aboard for tea with the ship's captain to discuss the options for delivering the tons of humanitarian aid supplies weighing down the ships???

Speaking as a Jew I have had enough of this (I'm sure God had enough of this madness long ago) and must speak out against the atrocities that my people perpetrate against others. How little we have learned through centuries of oppression and atrocities against our own. The powerful pro-Israel lobbies (such as AIPAC) keep U.S. aid flowing in the form of money and weapons systems (President Obama has requested $3 billion in "security assistance" to Israel for fiscal year 2011). And to make matters worse the Christian Zionist cheering section fans the flames even higher (What's up with that? First they blame the Jews for that crucifixion incident ages ago, and now they're in love with Israel. Motive???).

The U.S.-Israel alliance is stronger than ever, and the Israelis know they can continue to get away with murder (quite literally; remember the attack on the USS Liberty in 1967!!). As everyone screams for sanctions against Iran, we continue to look the other way regarding Israel's nuclear program (as we have since the 1950s).

It is time to rise up and take to the streets and call on our government to hold Israel accountable for its actions. No more blank checks. It is time to call on our members of Congress to stop accepting blood money from pro-Israel lobbying groups and start being accountable to the American people (instead of the Israeli government).

Today many of us took to the streets around the United States; here in Seattle we stood (and marched) in solidarity with the Palestinian people and the people of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The actions will continue, and we will continue to try to help people see this madness and understand why we all must work to stop it. Watch for actions in your area. If you are in the Seattle area come out tomorrow (Tuesday): 4:30 PM, meet at Westlake Plaza (4th Avenue and Pine Street). 5:00 PM, walk together to Federal Building (2nd and Marion).

Here is a brief slide show of today's protest rally in Seattle.




Raise your voices for our common humanity!

Call for an end to the blockade!

Call The White House at (202) 456-1414 or click here to send President Obama an email.

Call or email your members of Congress. Find their contact information by clicking here.

Or lodge a protest with the U.S. State Department at (202) 647-4000.

And if you are in the writing mood, write a letter to the editor!

Peace,

Leonard

Read the latest editorial (and find more) at The Electronic Intifada.

Find out more about the Freedom Flotilla at WitnessGAZA.com.

Get news at ALJAZEERA.

Learn more at Voices of Palestine.

Updates since this post:

Read Dennis Kucinich's June 2nd Letter to President Obama regarding the incident.

Friday, May 28, 2010

War Is Making You Poor - No Kidding!!!

Dear Friends,

For many years a number of organizations have highlighted (and attempted to engage in a public dialogue regarding) the cost of war. The rather indigestible pie shown below (courtesy of Women's Action for New Directions) is right out of Little Shop of Horrors; one can almost hear the man-eating plant screaming "Feed meeeeee!!!" as it devours everything in sight, including the U.S. Treasury (Your Tax Dollars).


Well, move over Tea Partyers! You've been dumping stuff off the wrong boat. You want to talk about taxation without representation??? Perhaps I should qualify that; defense contractors are definitely well (and overly) represented. For those of us who believe that this kind of military spending is unsustainable (besides making the world a far less stable place) it's like some guy just rode into town on a white horse. I'm rubbing my eyes, wondering if I'm dreaming folks.

Florida Congressman Alan Grayson has had enough of allocating tens of billions of dollars in endless defense spending without so much as a "Hey, can we talk about this???" in Congress. He has introduced legislation to change this sorry state of affairs. The War Is Making You Poor Act (HR 5353). Although he voted for the 2009-2010 Defense Appropriations, Grayson is now trying to make an important statement and begin a long-needed discussion about how we fund our global military machine and endless wars. Check out the video below where Congressman Grayson introduces HR 5353:

I find it hard to argue with Grayson's straightforward, simple math. Grayson's bill "demands that the Pentagon live within its budgeted means, cancels next year’s $159 billion budget allocation for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and gives everyone a $35,000 income tax credit (couples get $70,000)."

For those of us who want to bring the discussion and debate about military spending out into the open, here is our opportunity. If you agree, please support Grayson's bill. Click here to join the more than 29,000 people who have signed the petition supporting The War Is Making You Poor Act! Then share this with 10 more people; it's time to initiate a public debate. And don't forget to tell your Representative to support Grayson's bill.

War is bankrupting our nation! It is time to fund Peace (for real, sustainable returns).

Toward Peace,

Leonard

Note: Read more about HR 5353 (and take action) at Friends Committee on National Legislation.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"The hand not raised in protest..."


Friends,

War is, indeed, hell. Here in the United States, the nation that has been making most of the war these days (in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan), we regularly see coverage in the newspapers and on TV of U.S. soldiers who have suffered injury and death - casualties of war. Yet we pay less attention to the civilian casualties, the "collateral damage" of war (especially modern warfare). It is not unlike the near daily front page coverage of the Gulf oil spill contrasted with the news vacuum surrounding (documented) massive oil spills in places like Africa's Niger Delta. Not our problem folks.

It seems that we have not paid attention as the percentage of civilian deaths in war has increased during the past century. At a recent international meeting on gender justice Sister Joan Chittister shared these sobering statistics*:
  • At the turn of the 20th century, 5% of war casualties were civilians
  • In World War I, 15% were civilians
  • In World War II, the figure leapt to a 65% civilian death toll, as whole cities were bombed
  • By the mid-nineties, 75% of war deaths were civilians
  • Today, 90% of the human war toll are civilians-the majority women and children
For all the U.S. investment in high tech weaponry and rules of engagement allegedly intended to reduce collateral damage, it just ain't so! And we wonder why people don't like us??? As we see the increased use of drones and other unmanned/robotic war machinery (and make the killing easier), so the most recent numbers cited by Sr. Joan are bound to seem paltry in years to come.

And yet most of us go about our daily business, untouched by war's violence, without so much as raising a hand in question or protest. Laura Carlsen, in an article titled Within the hell of war lies a private hell, stated that, "The hand not raised in protest appears genteel alongside the hand stained with the blood of the victim." Although Carlsen was speaking in a specific context of violence against women (and we must not forget that women and children are the disproportionately affected in violent conflicts), I believe this quote also speaks in a universal sense to all of us: If we feign ignorance and do not raise our hands in protest, those genteel hands are,indeed, stained with the blood of the victims.

As the U.S. Congress prepares to rubber stamp another $33 billion for Afghanistan (wonder why Karzai was in town last week?) we should be raising our hands (perhaps dipped in red paint for emphasis) in protest, writing letters to the editor and flooding Congress (and The White House) with phone calls and emails calling on our "leadership" in D.C. to stop this madness. Remind them that if they choose to continue on this murderous course, the blood on their hands will not wash off.

If you aren't already tied in to Peace Action, FCNL, Just Foreign Policy, United for Peace and Justice, or a host of other organizations working to change our nation's disastrous militaristic course, check out the list of "Actions You Can Take Right Now!" on this blog. Raise your hands for PEACE NOW!

Peace,

Leonard

* The statistics quoted from Joan Chittister are from Laura Carlsen's article titled Within the hell of war lies a private hell. Laura is the Director of the Americas Program of the Center for International Policy.

Photo: "The face of US 'collateral damage' in Iraq, 22 March 2003"; Source: Asia-Pacific Network

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nobody Wins in War!

Friends,

I was fortunate to recently host a delegation from the Japan Council against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo) which had come to the Seattle area to bring its message of peace and a nuclear weapons-free world. One of the high points was learning the word "Peace" in Japanese - "Heiwa". The delegation's message of peace and a world free of nuclear weapons was well received by everyone they met.

Meanwhile (and in stark contrast), the U.S. keeps fighting its endless War on Terror, which is currently manifested in its entrenched presence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan as well. Of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal, who not long ago boasted of military success in, changed his tune last week when he said that, "nobody is winning".

Ironically, no one (except those who profit financially) has been "winning" all along (in any war). As for the U.S., we are sending our sons and daughters off to either die or return physically, psychologically and spiritually wounded. In addition we are bleeding the Treasury and squandering resources (including oil) that would be better used for peaceful purposes.

As for the countries we invade and occupy, their losses are incalculable. We have no idea how man men, women and children we have murdered (courtesy of General Tommy "We don't do body counts" Franks). From the human losses to the destruction of their infrastructure to the environmental damage, we have wrought an extreme tragedy on them.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues with its knee jerk (and impotent) responses to each new "terrorist" attack, trying out something new each time in a frenzy of retaliatory drone attacks and reductions of civil liberties back on the "homeland".

Of course, the worse casualty for the United States is the loss of our collective soul, our humanity. We ignore the pain and suffering of others so long as they are far out of sight (except for the sanitized media images and brief news bits). We are not much different, if any, from the world of Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" in which citizens watch news of their wars in neighboring lands on huge wall screens. Only in the end does war come home to roost.

Following the Gensuikyo delegation's presentation at First United Methodist Church of Seattle I had a delightful conversation with Tom Bruhns, the person who handled the sound system for us. Tom later shared a photo he took while in Scotland; in the email he said that:
There is a Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland, just down from the castle. It’s a bit off the street on a pedestrian walkway, with a bit of a courtyard out front. In the courtyard are set some paving stones inscribed with writings of some Scots writers. One caught my attention, and I took a picture of it… The inscription: "Weird hou men maun aye be makin war insteid o things they need." -- Tom Scott (1918-1995) (Scots dialect: hou = how; maun = must)
Indeed, it is high time we start making things we need instead of making war. We can start by ending the absurd and self-defeating War on Terror. To that end we will need to change course and work on diplomatic rather than military solutions; killing lots of civilians with drone strikes and Special Forces raids tends to make more enemies than friends. Ending the occupation of Iraq and creating a comprehensive exit strategy for Afghanistan are necessary if we are to move in this more positive direction. If we succeed, the only losers will be the war profiteers. And as for us??? Perhaps we will win back our humanity.

TAKE ACTION!!! Learn more and get engaged at Just Foreign Policy's Website. Urge Congress to stop funding war, and create a just, lasting foreign policy.

Peace,

Leonard

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Brief Primer on Social Justice (In response to Glenn Beck)

Friends

First - A confession. For quite a few years I ran a social justice ministry at a United Methodist Church. O.K. So you say, "What's the big deal with that?" Well, according to recent statements by Glenn Beck, that makes me either a Nazi or a communist. Since I'm (technically) a Jew, that rules out the Nazi thing (I hope). I'll go for one out of two. I can deal with being a communist if that means I'm hanging out at the intersection of justice and mercy.

According to Beck, al those years I was promoting social justice I was covertly promoting Nazism and communism. At least now I know why a few right wing, arch-conservative people in that church were constantly attacking my work. At any rate, all this made me think that some folks (and obviously a large percentage of Christians based on my own experience) need a primer on social justice. So here goes Leonard's One Minute Social Justice Lesson:

Just a little over 2000 years ago there was this guy named Jesus. He was born in a manger to poor parents; we're talking dirt poor. Things back then were not much different than they are now. There were some people at the very top living high, some in the middle doing reasonably well and doing the bidding of those on top, and finally there were a whole lot way down at the bottom slaving for crumbs and making those at the top filty rich (and keeping them in power). The trick was (and is) keeping enough people doing well enough to protect the people at the top. Sound familiar???

Jesus grows up, sees what's going on and says, "Whoa! This is not right. So he associates with anyone and everyone who is on the fringes (the least of these) as well as the occasional tax collector (hey, they were in a tough spot). He was the original social (and economic) justice radical. That really, really scared those rich, powerful guys (and they were men) running the show. And the rest is history. The End.


So - Was Jesus a Nazi??? Or a communist??? I think not. He was just trying to show us that we are all equal in the eyes of God, and therefore should be treated that way by each other. Yes really - We should see God in each other. Pretty radical stuff! When you get right down to it, labels do not do justice to anyone. In fact, labeling people merely demeans them; reduces them to something less than human. It's a slippery slope that (I would argue) leads to bigotry and racism and all sorts of other ugly things. It is a form of violence, and is in itself an injustice.

My experience in the church demonstrated that nearly everyone is happy to show mercy (charity) towards those who are less fortunate. It makes them feel good to put money in an envelope to help someone in need. But as soon as many of those same people are asked to take the next step and advocate to help change the conditions that create the need for charity in the first place they get fidgety. They become uncomfortable. After all; charity is easy, justice is hard. It was the Roman Catholic Archbishop Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara who once said:

When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a Communist.

In defense of the church, there are many wonderful religious people who understand and walk the path that balances mercy and justice. And if I'm not mistaken, you could go through your Bible and find countless passages that refer to doing justice (in both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament). My favorite is Micah 6:8:

...and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you God?
Perhaps Glenn missed that one.

Peace,

Leonard

P.S. - Check out this great Colbert Report video that gives a Jesuit perspective on the matter.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Glenn Beck Attacks Social Justice - James Martin
http://www.colbertnation.com/
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Reform

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Selma to Montgomery: Praying With Their Feet


Friends,

On Sunday, March 7, 1965, approximately 600 people began a fifty-four mile march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama (the state capital). They marched to demonstrate for voting rights for African Americans. They were also marching in honor of Jimmie Lee Jackson, who had died three weeks earlier after being shot by a state trooper while trying to protect his mother during a civil rights demonstration. After crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the outskirts of Selma, the marchers were brutally assaulted by heavily armed state troopers and sheriff's deputies.

Footage of the violence in Selma was broadcast by ABC News, which (rather ironically) interrupted its broadcast of the Nazi war crimes documentary, Judgement in Nuremburg. In just two days demonstrations in support of the Selma to Montgomery marchers were held in eight cities, and thousands of religious and lay leaders, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. travelled to Selma where, on March 9 they once again travelled to the Edmund Pettus Bridge where they knelt and prayed. That night one of the ministers, who had travelled to Selma for the march, was killed by white vigilantes.

The uproar and response by the citizenry to events in Alabama was so great that President Lyndon Johnson addressed the nation before a joint session of Congress, saying,"There is no issue of States rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights…We have already waited a hundred years and more, and the time for waiting is gone…" Just two days later Johnson sent the Voting Rights bill to Congress.

On March 17 a Federal judge ruled that the demonstrators must be permitted to march, and ordered that the National Guard protect them. On March 21, the voting rights demonstrators once again left Selma under Federal protection, and arrived in Montgomery on March 25 with some 25,000 demonstrators flooding the state capital. The Voting Rights Act was signed into law on August 6, 1965. Among other things, the Act banned discriminatory literacy tests and expanded voting rights for non-English speaking citizens.

Today, 45 years later, people still commemorate the historic Selma to Montgomery march, and the struggle for the right to vote continues. One of the participants raised the issue of voting rights for felons. Monks from the Bainbridge Island Nipponzan Miyohoji Buddhist Temple were among those who made the trek this year. One of the monks, Gilberto Perez, sent me a few photos (see slide show below). For the monks, this is just one leg of a long journey, praying with their feet as they walk for peace, justice and the abolition of nuclear weapons. For them, every step is a prayer for peace, and they take countless steps on their long journey.

Los Angeles firefighter Tony Wright bandages the foot of Buddhist monk Gilberto Perez as Erica Fox watches at Fire Station No. 14 in Montgomery on Friday. (Alvin Benn)

After the Selma to Montgomery march, they will begin the next leg of their journey that will take them to New York City, where they will join with thousands of other peacemakers to call on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference to make good on the promises made in the NPT. In the continuing struggle for human rights, they will remind the nuclear-armed nations that the world's citizens have the right to be free of the fear of nuclear omnicide that still hangs over the world like a nuclear Sword of Damocles.

And so the monks and those who walk with them continue their journey, beating their drums and chanting with a nonviolent spirit like those who walked from Selma to Montgomery 45 years ago. May their nonviolent spirit touch everyone they meet along the way, disarming hearts and building a path to a world at peace with justice.

Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo.

Peace,

Leonard

Photographic Credits: Panorama of marchers at top of post by James Karales (American, 1930–2002). Selma-to-Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965. Photographic print. Located in the James Karales Collection, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University. Photograph © Estate of James Karales. Thanks to Gilberto Perez for photos used in the slide show.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Waihopai ANZAC Ploughshares - INNOCENT!!!

Friends,

Wonderful news for all plowshares activists and supporters! The Waihopai Ploughshares activists have been acquitted on all counts by trial jury on March 17th!

In April, 2008 the three Waihopai Ploughshares activists cut through three security fences at the Waihopai satellite monitoring facility in New Zealand, deflated one of the dome's covers using sickles, then knelt down beside it to pray "to remember the people killed by United States military activity." The Waihopai facility is part of the ECHELON spy network, and the Waihopai activists claimed that it "is an important part of the U.S. government's global spy network and we have come in the name of the Prince of Peace to close it down."


Tholus Deflationis (apologies to Latin scholars)
Plowshares Performance Art

Here is the statement posted on the Ploughshares Aotearoa blog on March 17 following their acquittal on all charges:

Adrian Leason, Father Peter Murnane and Sam Land – the three men who were
charged with intentional damage and unlawful entry at Waihopai spy base – have
today expressed their thanks to the jury, the judge, and the prosecution and
defence lawyers.

At the conclusion of the trial, Father Peter, Sam and Adrian said they feel privileged to have helped uncover the true nature of the spy base. “Our actions in disabling the spy base and stopping the flow of information helped save lives in Iraq”, added Adrian.

“What has been humbling for us to realise is how our witness has impacted on so many people around the world and at home”, said Sam.

“We did not try to avoid the consequences of our actions, because we respect the rule of law although we do believe we are ultimately accountable to a higher authority. We damaged property at the spy base in order to save victims of war and torture. It’s all about Jesus’ command for us to treat all people as our brothers and sisters”, said
Father Peter.

The jury heard that the Waihopai Echelon spy base is New Zealand’s largest contribution to the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. The ongoing war has resulted in horrific war crimes, including more than one million dead Iraqi civilians, torture, and permanent poisoning of parts of Iraq by the use of depleted uranium munitions.

The jury also heard evidence from a former British Echelon intelligence analyst, Katherine Gunn. She blew the whistle on secret Echelon spying operations when she was instructed by the US National Security Agency to spy on United Nations Security Council members leading up to the US invasion in 2003.

“Evidence presented in the court confirmed that the ongoing war in Iraq is illegal, and causing massive human suffering”, said Adrian. “As an outcome of this trial, we hope that New Zealanders will insist on an enquiry into the activities of the spy base and its links to US-led illegal wars”.

Father Peter, Sam and Adrian expressed gratitude for all the support they have received from family, friends and the New Zealand public.

Commenting at the conclusion of the trial, Graham Bidois Cameron, Waihopai Ploughshares media spokesperson, said this Ploughshares action is part of an ongoing tradition: “The practice of non-violent resistance and direct action in the cause of peace has a long history in this country – the peaceful resistance to the invasion of Parihaka, and non-violent direct action against nuclear armed warships entering our harbours being just two examples”, he said.

“The actions of Waihopai Ploughshares also need to be understood in relation to an international movement for disarmament and peace”, said lawyer Moana Cole, herself a Ploughshares activist. “Adrian, Sam and Father Peter are part of rich history of activism in support of those without a voice and the movement is certainly growing”.

Deflating the Waihopi dome was a powerful symbol of resistance to New Zealand's support of the U.S. in its endless War On Terror. Let us hope that this legal decision will be heard around the world by all who resist war (as well as those who make war). May it also strengthen our resolve to continue the good work of turning swords into plowshares.

Peace,

Leonard

Learn more about the Waihopai Ploughshares at http://ploughshares.org.nz/ as well as http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/plshares.htm.

Click here to read about the trial, including daily trial updates.

Click here to learn more about Peace Movement Aotearoa, the national networking organisation in Aotearoa New Zealand for people interested in peace, social justice and human rights.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lead us from War to Peace

Friends,

Last week a number of peace activists gathered in front of the U.S. District Courthouse in Tacoma, Washington before the trial of fellow activist Lynne Greenwald, to vigil, leaflet and encircle Lynne with our collective nonviolent spirit.  Although Lynne's trial was a serious occasion, and one which none of us took lightly, we gathered with a sense of joy - a sense of joy that comes from the knowledge that our deep commitment to peace through the practice of nonviolence helps us move beyond the bondage of fear, hatred and violence that leads to despair.
As we gathered in the ecumenical spirit to center ourselves before the trial, we read the International Prayer for Peace.  As I reflected on it I found myself thinking how prayer is often a static process in which we ask for something and then wait for some miraculous intervention. Yet here I was, surrounded by people for whom the miracle of prayer is its self-transformative power.  Here were people for whom prayer helps move them through the very transformations uttered in this peace prayer, and to transformative action in the world.

These are people who embody that Biblical admonition to put faith into action.  So, I share with you here the prayer spoken by peacemakers on March 3rd.  I hope you find it useful in your travels.
Lead me from death to life, 

from falsehood to truth.
 
Lead me from despair to hope, 

from fear to trust.
 
Lead me from hate to love, 

from war to peace. 

Let peace fill our heart, 

our world, 

our universe.
Peace,

Leonard