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

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

News Flash! 3 wise men stopped at border


I hope you all survived the commercial onslaught that passes for Christmas every year.  This offering from Rev. Jim Rigby is a funny (and tragic) parable for our time.  Yes Virginia - One person's wise man is another's terrorist.  Of course, giving Mary and Joseph a room at your inn these days would get you thrown in jail under the Patriot Act (and Heaven knows how many other obscure and Draconian laws of der Homeland). 

Let us hope that the true meaning of Christmas touched (at least in some small way) those who serve the empire rather than humanity, and so continue the steady march to oblivion as the walls of the empire slowly crumble under their own weight.
Until the day we learn to live in peace with justice, and without fear,


Office of Homeland Security Cancels Christmas

by Jim Rigby

Ellis Island - The three wise men were arrested today attempting to enter the country. The Iraqi nationals were carrying massive amounts of flammable substances known as "frankincense" and "myrrh." While not explosives themselves, experts revealed that these two substances could be used as a fuse to detonate a larger bomb. The three alleged terrorists were also carrying gold, presumably to finance the rest of their mission.

Also implicated in the plot were two Palestinians named Joseph and Mary. An anonymous source close to the family overheard Mary bragging that her son would "bring down the mighty from their thrones and lift up the lowly." In what appears to be a call to anarchy, the couple claims their son will someday "help prisoners escape captivity."

"These people match our terrorist profile perfectly," an official source reported.

All of the suspects claimed they heard angels singing of a new era of hope for the afflicted and poor. As one Wall Street official put it, "These one-world wackos are talking about overturning the entire economic and political hierarchy that holds the civilized world together. I don't care what some angel sang; God wants the status quo - by definition."

A somber White House press secretary announced that it might be prudent to cancel Christmas until others in the plot are rounded up. "I assure you that this measure is temporary. The president loves Christmas as much as anyone. People can still shop and give expensive gifts, but we're asking them not to think about world peace until after we have rid the world of evil people. For Americans to sing, 'Peace on earth, good will to all,' is just the wrong message to send to our enemies at this time."

The strongest opponents of the Christmas ban were the representatives of retail stores, movie chains and makers of porcelain Christmas figurines. "This is a tempest in a teapot," fumed one unnamed business owner. "No one thinks of the political meaning of Christmas any more. Christmas isn't about a savior who will bring hope to the outcasts of the world; it's about nativity scenes and beautiful lights. History has shown that mature people are perfectly capable of singing hymns about world peace while still supporting whatever war our leaders deem necessary. People long ago stopped tying religion to the real events in the world."

There has been no word on where the suspects are being kept, or when their trial might be held. Authorities are asking citizens who see other foreigners resembling nativity scene figures to contact the Office of Homeland Security.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Following the Ways of Peace (an offering by Kathy Kelly)

Published on Friday, December 23, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

Amid War, Following Yonder Star Towards Peace

Beneath our flat, here in Kabul, wedding guests crowded into a restaurant and celebrated throughout the night. Guests sounded joyful and the music, mostly disco, thumped loudly. When the regular call to prayer sounded out at 5:20 a.m., the sounds seemed to collide in an odd cacophony, making all music indistinguishable. I smiled, remembering the prayer call’s durable exhortation to live in peace, heard worldwide for centuries, and went back to sleep.
Through most of my life, I’ve found it easy to resonate with the ringing and beautiful Christmas narrative found in the Gospel of Luke, but less so with that jangling discord with which westerners are so familiar—the annual collision between (on the one hand) the orgy of gift-purchasing and gift-consumption surrounding the holiday and the the sweeter, simpler proclamations of peace on earth heralded by the newborn’s arrival. I've found myself quite surprisingly happy to spend many Christmases either in U.S. jails or among Muslims living in places like Bosnia, Iraq, Jordan and now Afghanistan. My hosts and friends in these places have been people who are enduring wars or fleeing wars, including, as in the case of U.S. jails, a war against the poor in the United States.

The Christmas narrative that imagines living beings coming together across divides, the houseless family with no room at the inn, the shepherds and the foreign royals arriving, all awakening to unimagined possibilities of peace, comes alive quite beautifully in the community with which I'm graced to find myself here in Kabul.

Five of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers are spending winter months in the apartment here which accommodates their group as well as visiting guests such as our small Voices delegation. In recent months, the place has evolved into a resource center for learning languages and exchanging ideas about nonviolent movements for social change. I am filled with fond and deep admiration for these young people as I watch them studying each other’s languages and preparing their own delegation to visit other provinces of this land on the brink of civil war, meeting with other young people wherever they can.

I’ve often described Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers as having bridged considerable ethnic gaps in their steadfast aspiration to someday live without wars. It’s quite impressive, during this trip, to learn from them about how close several of them came to becoming armed fighters.

One young friend recalls having spent three weeks, at age 12, as part of a Taliban group. He had no choice but to go with the Taliban as a conscript. He was given a rifle, as well as adequate food, and assigned to be a sentry. "I loaded the weapon and I fired warning shots," said our young friend, who is now 21 years of age, "but I didn’t feel good about it.” A village elder intervened, saying the new recruits were too young, and the Taliban released my friend and the other young teens.

We watched a film together in which another youngster, about seven years previously, had acted the role of the leader of a group of children imitating Talib fighters. Carrying sticks, the young actors had harassed a little girl over her determination that she would learn to read. Now we asked the young man, himself a Hazara, how he felt about playing a Taliban child. He acknowledged having grown up believing that anyone who was part of an ethnic group that had persecuted his people could never be trusted.

The father of another youngster had been killed by the Taliban. Still another describes how he watched in horror as Hazara fighters killed his brother.

Last week, the AYPVs welcomed a new friend who lives in a neighboring province and speaks a different language to join them and help them learn his language. Asked about NATO/ISAF night raids and other attacks that have occurred in his area, the new friend said that families who have suffered attacks feel intense anger, but even more so people say they want peace. "However, international forces have made people feel less secure," he added. "It’s unfortunate that internationals hear stories about Afghans being wild people and think that more civilized outsiders are trying to build the country. People here are suffering because of destruction caused by outsiders."

The air, the ground, the mountainsides, the water, and even the essential bonds of familial living have been ravaged by three decades of warfare here in Afghanistan. People living here have suffered the loss of an estimated two million people killed in the wars. 850 children die every day because of disease and hunger.

Amid excruciating sorrow and pain, it’s good to see people still find ways to gather for celebrations, even when the sounds seem curious and the dances seem, to some, forbiddingly exotic. Differences between insiders and outsiders become less relevant as people meet one another to celebrate.

Peace can surprise us when it comes, and that alone is abundantly sufficient cause for celebration in this season, wherever we are. Dr. King wrote that "the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice," and we should not be surprised as new and growing movements around us reveal an unquenchable and ineradicable longing for simple justice. The killing fields that scar our earth and sear the memories of survivors beckon us to look and listen for new ways of living together. Massacres of innocents call to us to reject the easy and familiar and go home by an other way.

The desires to live more simply, to share resources more radically, and to prefer service to dominance are not unique to any place, season, or religion. Such desires may yet herald unions previously unimagined and a better world for every newborn, each one bringing an astonishing potential - as we do if we strive to fulfill it - for peace.
Kathy Kelly
Kathy Kelly, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Kathy Kelly's email is kathy@vcnv.org

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Joseph, Mary & Jesus pitch at tent at Trinity Wall Street Church!!!

Church and lay activists install guerrilla gift in front of Wall St. church

Today [Thursday, December 15, 2011] at 2pm, prominent New York religious figures along with Occupy Wall Street activists will erect a nativity scene outside Trinity Wall Street Church. The scene—which activists are calling a "peace offering" in advance of this Saturday's planned occupation of a sliver of unused Trinity land—will feature Joseph, Mary, and Jesus within an Occupy Wall Street tent adorned with relevant scripture.

"The story of Christmas starts with Mary and Joseph's search for a home," said Reverend Michael Ellick of Judson Church. "It's thus especially ironic, and tragic, that Trinity Church—one of the largest landowners in New York City—refuses even a tiny, unused piece of its vast land to OWS, which points to the same spirit of transformation that Jesus represented."

"This is truly a theological line in the sand," added Ellick. "The gospel is about real-world transformation, not cosmetic charity. How is it that Trinity's real estate is worth over 10 billion dollars, and all they can do for Occupy is hand out hot chocolate?"

Rev. Ellick and other participants will also deliver a petition from over 12,000 Faithful America members urging the church to offer sanctuary to the protesters. Faithful America is an online community of people of faith taking action for social justice.

"Trinity is faced with a choice: are they a church or are they a real estate company with a religious storefront?" said Andrew Huckins, one of the organizers of this Saturday's planned occupation. "We truly hope that Trinity moves beyond charity and joins the Occupy movement in its quest for social and economic justice."

According to Max Page, author of The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, in the early 20th century Trinity "offended the sensibilities of elite New Yorkers by ignoring the squalor over which it was landlord... and unjustly redistributing the wealth of the church to its uptown parishioners." In short, the book notes, Trinity acted "like a big business and not a religious institution."

"Trinity can use this opportunity to act according to the beliefs we all espouse," said Ellick. "We deeply hope that they do so."

Rev. Michael Ellick (Judson Church): 646-734-0162
Andrew Huckins (OWS): 413-522-1129
Sean Devlin (Yes Lab): sean@yeslab.org

For more information: http://occupyfaithnyc.com/

Monday, December 12, 2011

Nativity,circa 2011

Dear Friends,

It is that time of year once again when Christians ponder the story of the birth of Jesus and all the events surrounding that miracle birth. As many times as I have seen the story of the Nativity I don't think I have ever seen anything more than a sanitized version, one that glosses over the ugly yet very real parts of the story.

It is much the same for so much of history, whether it be the story of Columbus (and just about every other story of colonization), or that of the genocide of Native Americans or Aboriginal Peoples of Canada. I am grateful to Gary Kohls for sharing the following story by Kevin Annett, called "Nativity." It is much more than a modern take on the Nativity; it is also a telling, between the lines, of the treatment of aboriginal peoples and of those who take Jesus' life and teachings seriously, and often suffer tremendously as a result.

In a modern world not unlike that of the time in which Herod ruled, one has to wonder how much (or how little) we have learned in roughly 2000 years. As many times as we hear (or see) the story of the Nativity, do we really get it? And if we do, as so many (who call themselves Christians) claim, then why do so we still turn away the stranger, the immigrant, the homeless...???

A former minister of the United Church of Canada, Kevin Annett has helped give voice to the long suffering First Nations Peoples of Canada. Here is Kevin's offering for yet another desperate Advent as we wait in the stillness of these dark days.  Here is a link to Kevin's Website, Hidden from History: Canada's Holocaust, www.hiddenfromhistory.org.

In Peace,


By Kevin D. Annett

The last Christmas we were all together hangs over memory like the fog did that year in the Alberni valley. It was a time of gathering, two years and more of labor summoning so many together where once there were but a few. And it was a time of ending.

The church stewards had warned me to expect an overflow crowd at the Christmas eve service, and like overgrown elves they had busied themselves around the building, stringing wires and sound systems in the cold auditorium kept that way to save money. The snows had come early, and our food bank was already depleted.

With my eldest daughter who was but five, I had walked to the church one morning in the week before yule, pondering the cold and the sermon, when I met the one who would pierce the fog that year for us. She stood patiently at the locked door, her brown eyes relaxing as we approached. Her bare hand gestured at me.

“You’re that minister, ain’t you?” she mumbled to me, as daughter Clare fell back and grabbed my hand.

Before I could answer, the stranger smiled and nodded, and uttered with noticeable pleasure at her double entendre, "They say you give it out seven days a week!”.

I smiled too, gripping Clare’s hand reassuringly and replying, “If you mean food, we’re a bit short, but you’re welcome to whatever’s left.”

She nodded again, and waited while I unlocked the door and picked up Clare, who was clinging to me by then. The basement was even more frigid than the outside, but the woman doffed her torn overcoat and sighed loudly as we approached the food bank locker.

“For all the good it’ll do …” she said, as I unlocked the pantry and surveyed the few cans and bags lying there.

I turned and really looked at her for the first time. She was younger than she had sounded, but a dark, cancerous growth marred her upper lip, and a deep scar ran down her face and neck. Her eyes were kindness, and in that way, very aboriginal.

“I’m sorry there’s not more …” I began, since back then I still saw things in terms of giving. But she shook her head, and instead of saying anything, she looked at Clare, and the two of them exchanged a smile for the first time.

I stared, confused, at the cupboard so bare, and heard her finally utter, “Them people in church, you know what they need?”

I set Clare down and shook my head.

“They need Him. They sing about Him, and pretend they know Him, but hell, they wouldn’t spot Him even if He came and bit ‘em on their ass.”

I smiled at that one, and even dared a mild chuckle.

“You doin’ a Christmas play for the kids?” she continued.


“I bet it’s the usual bullshit with angels and shepherds, right?”

I nodded.

“That don’t mean nuthin’ to those people. Why don’t you do a story about … well, like, if He came to Port Alberni to be born, right now.”

I finally laughed, feeling very happy. She smiled too, walked over to the cupboard and picked up a small bag of rice. Donning her coat, she nodded her thanks, and said, “My bet is Him and Mary and Joseph, they’d end up in the Petrocan garage, down River road. The owner there lets us sleep in the back sometimes.”

And then she was gone.

I didn’t try explaining the stranger to anyone, ever, or what her words had done to me. All I did was lock the food cupboard and lead Clare up to my office, where I cranked up the heat and set her to drawing. And then I sat at my desk and I wrote for the rest of the day.

The kids in church were no problem at all. They got it, immediately. The Indians who dared to mingle in the pews that night with all the ponderous white people also took to the amateur performance like they had composed it themselves, and laughed with familiarity as the holy family was turned away first by the local cops, and then hotel owners, and finally by church after church after church.

It was mostly the official Christians who were shocked into open-mouthed incredulity at the coming to life of something they thought they knew all about. As the children spoke their lines, I swear I saw parishioners jump and writhe like there were tacks scattered on the pews.

“Joe, I’m getting ready to have this kid. You’d better find us a place real friggin' quick.”

“I’m trying, Mary, but Jehovah! Nobody will answer their door! I guess it’s ‘cause we’re low lifes.”

“Look! There’s a church up ahead. I bet they’ll help us!”

If you believe the Bible, whoever He was loved to poke fun at his listeners and shock them out of their fog, and our play would have made him proud. As the eight-year old girl who played Mary pleaded fruitlessly for help from a kid adorned in oversized clerical garb, and was covered in scorn by the young “priest”, I heard a sad moan rise from the congregation.

But things took a turn when Mary and Joe came upon an Indian, played by one of the aboriginal kids.

“Sir, will you help us? My wife’s going to have a baby …”

“Sure!” replied the native kid with gusto. “I got a spot in a shed behind the gas station down the road. The owner lets us all sleep in there!”

And in a contrived scene of boxes and cans scattered where our communion table normally stood, Mary had her baby, as erstwhile homeless men with fake beards and a stray rez dog looked on, and one of the witnesses urged Mary to keep her newborn quiet lest the Mounties hear his cries and bust everyone for vagrancy.

Voices were subdued that night in the church hall over coffee, cookies and Christmas punch, and the normally dull gazes and banalities about the time of year were oddly absent. The Indians kept nodding and smiling at me, saying little, and not having to; and the kids were happy too, still in costume and playing with the local stray who had posed as the rez dog in the performance that would always be talked about. It was the white congregants who seemed most pregnant that night, but they couldn’t speak of it.

It was one of my last services with them, and somehow they all knew it, since we had all entered the story by then. For a churchly Herod had already heard a rumor, and dispatched assassins to stop a birth, and me, even though it was already too late.

My daughter Clare was not running and rolling with the other kids, but in her manner joined me quietly with her younger sister Elinor in tow. Our trio stood there, amidst the thoughtful looks and unspoken love, and person after person came to us and grasped our hands, or embraced us with glistening eyes. An aging Dutch woman named Omma van Beek struggled towards me in her walker and pressed her trembling lips on my cheek, and said something to me in her native tongue as the tears fell unashamedly from both of us.

Later, when we were scattered and lost, I would remember that moment like no other, as if something in Omma’s tears washed away all the filth and loss that were to follow. And perhaps that looming nightfall touched my heart just then, for I gave a shudder as I looked at my children, almost glimpsing the coming divorce, and I held my daughters close as if that would keep them safe and near to me forever.

The snow was falling again as we left the darkened building, kissing us gently like it had done years before when as a baby, Clare had struggled with me on a toboggan through the deep drifts of my first charge in Pierson, Manitoba, on another Christmas eve. The quiet flakes blessed us with memory, and settled in love on the whole of creation, even on the unmarked graves of children up at the old Indian residential school.

The old Byzantine icon depicts Jesus as a baby, hugging his worried mother while she stares ahead into his bloody future: her eyes turned in grief to the viewer, yet his loving eyes seeking her, past the moment, past even his own death.

The image may still hang in the basement of my church, where I left it.


Kevin Annett
260 Kennedy St.
Nanaimo, BC Canada V9R 2H8

Ed Note [from Gary Kohls]: Reverend Kevin Annett was fired, without cause, from his successfully rejuvenated United Church of Canada (UCC) parish in Port Alberni, British Columbia (the United Church of Canada has no connection to the United Church of Christ [UCC] in the United States) when he refused to stop his probing into his church’s role in the abusive Residential Schools for Aboriginal children in Canada, where as many as 50,000 children died. (The Residential School system in Canada was essentially the same as the racist church-operated Mission School system for American Indian children in the US).

Rev Annett’s persistence in this investigative work has resulted in two books and an award-winning documentary (entitled “Unrepentant”) about the sobering history of the Canadian government’s and the Canadian Christian church’s genocidal activities against First nation’s children. A feature film depicting Rev Annett’s powerful story has been produced but has yet to obtain a distributor.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Time to Occupy War Street - Here's Why!!!


The Occupy movement is facing a huge range of inequities in our world, among them the huge Military-Industrial Complex that sucks both the spiritual and economic life from the citizenry.  Robert Greenwald has done an excellent job of succinctly presenting the GREED and dizzying influence of the corporate giants that dominate the killing industries.  Read it and then OCCUPY WAR STREET!!!




Meet the 0.01 Percent: War Profiteers

By Robert Greenwald
There’s the top 1% of wealthy Americans (bankers, oil tycoons, hedge fund managers) and there’s the top 0.01% of wealthy Americans: the military contractor CEOs.

If you’ve been following the War Costs campaign, you already know that these corporations are bad bosses, bad job creators and bad stewards of taxpayer dollars. What you may not know is that the huge amount of money these companies’ CEOs make off of war and your tax dollars places them squarely at the top of the gang of corrupt superrich choking our democracy. These CEOs want you to believe the massive war budget is about security — it’s not. The lobbying they’re doing to keep the war budget intact at the expense of the social safety net is purely about their greed.

In many areas, including yearly CEO salary and in dollars spent corrupting Congress, these companies are far greater offenders than even the big banks like JP Morgan Chase or Bank of America.
Egregious Military Contractor CEO pay

The top 0.01% of earners make at least $9.14 million per year, a rarefied strata of income that includes defense company CEOs and Wall Street bank chieftains alike. But a deeper dive demonstrates how defense companies outpace the big banks’ knack for enriching themselves at the expense of everyone else.

Military Contractor CEO Pay in 2010
Just to put that in context, consider how these annual payoffs compare to the people we’re used to thinking of as poster children for the top 1 percent:

Financial Sector CEO Pay in 2010
Considering how they stack up to financial sector heads, war industry CEOs aren’t just members of the 1%; they’re the super-elite among them, the one-hundredth of a percent.

Lobbying Domination

Disgusted by the overwhelming corporate influence in Congress? Look no further than the big military contractor companies, whose flagship companies spend enough on lobbying to dwarf even financial sector titans.

War Industry Lobbying Expenditures for 2010
Again, just to provide some context, here are the same lobbying totals for some of the most recognized names in the financial sector.

Financial Sector Lobbying in 2010
The war industry gets away with blowing our money on job-killing spending because it can bend Congress to its whim. In the process, the industry is like a vacuum sucking up brain power and engineering resources that could and would establish and grow entirely new wholesome industries. It’s no surprise that Americans confront a 9.1% unemployment rate and an under-employment rate flirting with 20 percent this year.

Want to know where all the money went that could be putting people back to work or keeping U.S. manufacturing industries competitive? The war industry CEOs dumped lobbying cash on Congress and diverted all that wealth to their private bank accounts.

Striking a blow for democracy

The war contractors’ iron grip on the wealth and politics of our country has caught the attention of our friends at Occupy Wall Street, who are targeting war profiteers in its draft list of demands with a call to bring home “all military personnel at all non-essential bases” and to end the “Military Industrial Complex’s goal of perpetual war for profit.”

We’re allies of the Occupy movement, which swells from the 99%’s disgust and dysfunction with our system. A democracy for and of the people that favors the 0.01% at the expense of the 99.99% of us is no democracy at all.

We here at Brave New Foundation and the War Costs campaign have been inspired by the incredible work of the Occupy movement, so we created our latest video to help push this critical piece of their message: war for profit has to end. We’re asking viewers to share our video with their local Occupy groups and organize a guerrilla screening at an Occupy protest in your city.

The Occupy protests have a lot to teach us, and the leaderless movement is at minimum an indictment of our political system. They’ve stopped whispering, and we’ve all started shouting.

Occupy your city and show this video to your community.

Article printed from speakeasy: http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Editor'sNote:  The following post, "A Pastoral Lament for my Country", was written by Rev. Rich Lang, a United Methodist minister who brings The Word to life, and who challenges the church to lift itself out of its collective "passivity and fear" and be in the world the way Jesus lived and taught. The church cannot serve both the empire and God.  Rich's words are a prophetic call to nonviolent direct action.

Rich was pepper sprayed while engaged as a peacekeeper at a nonviolent protest by Occupy Seattle on November 15th along with 84 year old peace activist Dorli Rainey and many other protestors.


America, America, my country ‘tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty
Of thee I sing
America, oh America
America the Beautiful has fallen.

You could feel the tension and raw energy crinkling throughout the air as the marchers once again began their journey into downtown Seattle. The Occupy Movement is the prophetic voice of God calling out to the nation to “repent” and turn from its ways of corruption. Those who camp are a rag-tag, motley crew made up of mostly young adults, mostly unemployed, almost all of whom are alienated and cast out of America’s promise of liberty and justice for all. They are our canaries, the first fruits being devoured by the Beast of Empire. 

The police were once conceived to be a citizen force created to serve and protect the public. Today however, the police have been militarized and view the populace as enemy combatants, as threats to their well being. The police, like our Armed Forces, are well trained, disciplined and exceptionally talented. They follow a chain of command and are increasingly apprenticed into a culture of institutional conformity. Because America has always affirmed the right of dissent, the role of the police is to keep the peace. They are trained to enter the protesting arena as unfeeling protectors of property and people. What has changed in our time is that the police are entering the arena of protest as agents of provocation. They push and shove at will, they ride their bicycles up the backs of protesters, they engage in verbal abuse. Their commanders allow this breach of discipline. Their comrades silently condone the bullying. The police become the agitators encouraging violence. It is as if they are spoiling for a fight --- a fight mind you against the citizenry, against the youth, the unemployed, and those who are trying to return America back to its promise, and dare I say it, return America to its covenant with God, “we hold these truths to be self evident …”

On Tuesday night a small group of the rag-tag campers of Seattle’s Occupy Movement left their camp to protest the destruction inflicted upon the Wall Street Occupy site. Throughout the march I, as a Pastor in full clergy alb, stole and cross, acted as a peacekeeper placing myself between the police line and the Occupy Movement. On four occasions I stepped between verbal battles between the police and the protesters. The point being that it was evident to all who I was and what my role was in this non-violent march of the few escorted by the many.

The incident was minor in nature. A girl, dressed in Anarchist black waving the Anarchist black flag was plastered side by side with an officer on the bike. They were jawboning each other. At one point her flag was thrust in his direction --- a provocation yes – threatening?—no. The officer grabbed the flag and in the pulling, pulled down the girl. Her friends reacted jumping in to pull her away from the officer. It was at this point that the first wave of pepper spray went off.

Point --- one might think the officer acted within reason, that the officer was suddenly threatened. But with what? By whom? The friends of the offender were grabbing for the girl, they were not grabbing at the police. Basically the officer, and his comrades, were trigger happy as if they couldn’t wait for just this moment. And so the spray went forth.

I leapt to the front and tried to place myself between the parties --- with spray in the air the protesters were also fleeing. Separation between the police line and the protesters was clearly visible … there was certainly no threat of the “mob” suddenly rampaging into the well armed police. The separation had occurred (as can be clearly seen on the video captured by King 5 News). But the spray continued. I walked between the lines, I was alone, I was in full clergy dress, everyone knew who I was and what I was --- with the protesters fleeing and the police line holding --- with my back to the police and my hands waving the protesters to get back --- alone in full alb, stole and cross --- six officers turned their spray on me thoroughly soaking my alb and then one officer hit me full throttle in the face.  

I praise the courage and compassion, the discipline and the decency of the Occupy Movement. Out of the rag-tag mob came help, grabbing my hands, leading me (I was blind by then) to the wall and administering care and concern for my well being. The protesters were assembled around all the wounded, and maintained the discipline of nonviolence (granted the nonviolence was in behavior but not language). And they were not afraid. The spraying had been a baptism sealing them into the security of knowing that their prophecy of repentance was indeed the Spirit-Word through them --- it is as if they did not prophecy their very bones would melt within them. Against the wall in increasing pain and burning I realized I was in the midst of church.

The police, on the other hand, were afraid. Their quick use of chemical warfare reveals how cowardly they are. The unwillingness of their commanders to maintain discipline reveals how incompetent they are becoming --- the only tool in their bag is brutality and like a drunken raging father beating wife and kids, the police have increasingly disgraced themselves. Step by step they are being shaped into the front face of fascism, the emerging police state that protects the property interests of the Marie Antionette’s who have seized control of our government, commerce, media, military and increasingly the Church itself.

My question to my clergy colleagues is this: Where are you? How much longer can you preach without practice? How dare you remain protected in your sanctuary while your people (the rag-tag mob of the least, last and lost whom Jesus loved) are slaughtered doing that which God has commissioned you to do (prophecy!). Where are you? Who have you become in this age of baptism by pepper spray? Do you not know how much power you have to stop our national descent into chaos? Don’t you realize that the world is your parish and right before your eyes the Spirit of God is doing a new thing? Can’t you hear that God’s judgment is upon the land? God is against the thieves that bankrupted our nation. God is against the armies of the Beast who pillage other lands in our name, and turn and destroy our people on our own soil. Are you blind? --- Perhaps you need a baptism of pepper spray in your eyes to restore your vision.

And to the police I say this --- there are always the brutal ones in our midst. As colleagues you have the moral responsibility to police your own. If your commanders order you to brutalize your people you have a Higher Command that says, “disarm yourself, turn away from your sin, renounce the orders of unrighteousness.” And in doing so, cross the line, come over and join us because we are the winning side of history. And we welcome your repentance and heal you of your shame.

And to the church, beloved church I say, you cannot sing the hymns of faith if you are too afraid to live that faith. In Amos it says to silence your sacred assemblies and let JUSTICE burst forth. Our nation, with the nations of the world, are under an assault of tyranny and treason of the 1% against creation itself. You may not worship God until and unless you care for the image of God living in those tents and prophesying on your behalf. Once the Powers sweep the Tents away, if you dare to lift your voice even a peep, you too will be swept away. But the destiny of the church, the Body of Christ, is not one of quiet passivity and fear, our destiny is to bear witness having no fear of the Cross because even now we have crossed over into resurrection.

Rev. Rich Lang
University Temple United Methodist Church




Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Military Spending is NOT a Jobs Program!!!


While people are out occupying Wall Street the people on War Street, which is essentially the same entity, are busy maintaining War Street's Full Spectrum Dominance of the U.S. economy.  As the Senate's Supercommittee meets to figure out just where to cut the war industry, that same industry is waging a slick campaign to derail any "defense" cuts.

Second to None, a slick Website funded by the Aerospace Industries Association, spells out, in no uncertain terms, the economic doom we face should Congress make deep cuts in defense-related spending (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!!!).   

On the other hand, Heidi Garrett-Peltier, assistant research professor at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and co-author of the report “The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities: An Updated Analysis,” Garrett-Peltier said on October 26th in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, “My calculations show that the arms industry’s claims about increased unemployment are vastly exaggerated. A billion dollars spent on military production created about 11,000 jobs, compared to about 17,000 from clean energy, 19,000 from health care, and 29,000 from education.”
Data presented to House Armed Services Committee on October 26th

Miriam Pemberton, a research fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, also testified at the same committee hearing: “This committee needs to get back to the task of figuring out how much we need to spend to keep our country safe, not pushing unlimited military spending as a jobs program.”

To whose voice will the Senate give greater weight - the academics or those who stand to reap huge profits while driving our economy to ruin through the inflationary effect of war spending? We need to keep sending a clear message to the Supercommittee, and indeed every member of Congress - Cut war spending, not human needs!  Click here to send your suggestions to the Supercommittee.

Let's cut through the smoke and mirrors.  Don't let the war profiteers pull the wool over everyone's eyes.  Take action now.



Click here to read a brief Fact Sheet based on the study cited in this post: WHAT KINDS OF FEDERAL SPENDING CREATE THE MOST GOOD JOBS?

P.S. - Many thanks to the Institute for Public Accuracy for the news release presenting the data used in this blog post.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The War ISN'T Over by any Stretch!!!


As the corporate press falls all over itself as it rings the clarion of the end of the Iraq War the TRUTH is everywhere if only people take off their blinders.  Mike Ferner's article (printed in its entirety here) provides a sobering and important perspective.  Nothing is over in any sense of the word.  And no matter what really does happen in Iraq, our nation will continue to bring war to country after country in an endless cycle of warmaking that only We The People can - and must - END!





By Mike Ferner
America’s war in Iraq is over. The last U.S. troops will leave by year’s end, “with their heads held high, proud of their success and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops.” So sayeth President Obama.

A “sham of a mockery of a sham,” is what Groucho would call Obama’s announcement and he would be right. 
For several reasons Mr. Marx would be much closer to the truth than Mr. Obama.

1) Even with “all” troops pulled out…well…who knows about Special Forces since their presence in a country never seems to really equal a “troop presence.” But even if all the “non-combat” combat troops leave and even if we don’t count the Marine Corps’ standard complement of guards at the world’s largest embassy, 5,000 armed mercenaries will remain indefinitely. The State Department, not the War Department will be responsible for them, but a killer for hire is not likely to become a diplomat at the stroke of midnight on December 31.
2) Summing up nearly a decade of butchery, Obama chooses to hide behind the worn-out “support the troops” smokescreen by saying the last troops will hold their heads high, proud of their success and the American people will be “united in our support for our troops.” How many will question nine years of war and $800 billion, when placed in that context?

3) In truth, if the administration actually got its way, we would never have heard this news. Washington wanted to stay well beyond the end of this year but the people of Iraq, through their parliament, forced the U.S. to get (mostly) out of Iraq, by saying as of January 1, foreign troops will be prosecuted in Iraqi courts for crimes committed in their country. Given our lengthy criminal record in Iraq, the only viable choice for Obama was to get out.

Anybody who thinks the war will really be over has never been in one nor had a loved one in war. The American War in Iraq will never end for over 4,000 families of U.S. troops killed, tens of thousands of wounded and their families and the hundreds – yes, hundreds of thousands of young men and women who will suffer the terror of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury for the rest of their lives. 
Here is how one Iraq War vet, Matt Southworth puts it. Matt now works for the Friends Committee on National Legislation and is on the Veterans For Peace board of directors.

“I lost my first friend to the U.S. war in Iraq by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in February 2004. I lost my most recent friend to the U.S. war in Iraq by suicide in September 2011. This war will never end for me. I will live with its scars and traumas from now until the end of my life whether I want to or not. This battle, for me and so many others, is life long.”

Tragic indeed, but not quite on the order of magnitude for the millions who lived under our sanctions for 12 years and our bombs for nine years after that. It is impossible to comprehend the suffering we bought in Iraq, so let’s not even guess at the number of killed, wounded and homeless Iraqis we’ve created.

Instead, let’s contemplate the scale of devastation that would occur in our country if a similar war had been visited on us. What would be the comparable impact? Based on reports from UNICEF, the UN and studies carried out by Johns HopkinsUniversity field researchers published in the British medical journal, Lancet, here are the figures as of five years ago.

If you’re not already sitting, you may want to take a seat.

In the former cities of Atlanta, Denver, Boston, Seattle, Milwaukee, Fort Worth, Baltimore, San Francisco, Dallas and Philadelphia every single person is dead.

In Vermont, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, Kansas, Mississippi, Iowa, Oregon, South Carolina and Colorado every single person is wounded.
The entirepopulations of Ohio and New Jersey are homeless, surviving with friends, relatives or under bridges as they can.

The entire populations of Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky have fled to Canada or Mexico.

Over the past three years, one in four U.S. doctors left the country. Last year alone 3,000 doctors were kidnapped and 800 killed.

In short, nobody “out there” can come to save us. We are in hell.

4) And finally, there is one way in which the U.S. peace movement must simply not allow this war to be over. It’s spelled r-e-p-a-r-a-t-i-o-n-s. We have to pay a full measure of reparations to repair what we have destroyed of Iraq’s agriculture and infrastructure and leave a sizable trust fund to at least partially deal with the deformities and childhood cancers caused by our depleted uranium munitions.

In so many places, like Nicaragua two decades ago for example, we terrorized whole populations, laid waste to their society, destroyed their currency…and then just walked away. “That war is over,” we joyfully repeat after the President. Another country has been given freedom and democracy. We brush off the misery and stride forward to the next and the next and the… We cannot let this happen again to our brothers and sisters in Iraq.

Maybe in Obama’s dreams; maybe in the minds of his spin doctors prattling on Sunday morning talk shows; maybe in the minds of pundits comfortably opining from New York and Washington. Perhaps for them the American War in Iraq is over. But not to the millions living it out in reality.


Mike Ferner is a former Navy corpsman, acting director of Veterans For Peace and author of “Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran For Peace Reports From Iraq.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

Who needs the UN???


Remember John Bolton?  As U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations he once said “There's no such thing as the United Nations. If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference.”  This from a lawyer who once boasted that he never took any international law classes while in law school!  Some ambassador (not much of a lawyer either).

Well, the U.N. bashing continues, this time from (who else???) our very own Congress!

Just yesterday the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives voted 23-15 for the United Nations Transparency, Accountability and Reform Act (pretty much right down party lines).

The bill would require Washington to cut 50 percent of funding for the U.N. unless it converted to a voluntary contribution system permitting Washington to fund only those agencies and programmes "that advance U.S. interests and values" (hmmmm... wonder what those are???).

The bill would also require Washington to quit the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC); withhold contributions to any U.N. agency or programme that upgrades the current "observer" status of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO); and end U.S. contributions to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the U.N. body charged with aiding Palestinian refugees since 1949.  (Hey, we don't need no stinking human rights, and surely the Palestinians don't need any - RIGHT?!?!?!?!)

Wow!!!  This is something Bolton and all the rest of the neoconservatives (not to mention War Street) must be loving!  Let's face it - The U.S. is already doing whatever it wants to do around the world, and the U.N. just gets in the way.

Of course, if one looks at the U.S. track record of de facto weakening of the U.N. through various means, including withholding contributions for many years, it is obvious that the National Security State has trumped any desire to work in concert with other nations in the spirit of the intent of the U.N.

In 2008 President Obama attempted - and I suppose he's "attempted" many positive things in his tenure as President - to raise the status of the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. to a cabinet level position as it had been in the Clinton administration.  But alas, that got shot down.  The corporate media quoted Bolton (and no one else that I could find) in one story as saying it was unwise to elevate the position to the cabinet again. “One, it overstates the role and importance the U.N. should have in U.S. foreign policy.”  In another story he questioned whether the U.N. — whose culture he said is “impervious to change” — should be so central to U.S. foreign policy.

Well, it certainly can't be "central" to a U.S. foreign policy awash in targeted assasination, torture, illegal detention, illegal wars, conducting covert operations inside the borders of sovereign nations, and that's barely a partial list of transgressions. 

We really do live in what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. referred to as The World House, this huge dysfunctional family that has to learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools, and with the horrendous tools of death that we have created (e.g. nuclear weapons) he was not understating the case.  The statue at the U.N. that depicts the beating of swords to plowshares should be a reminder of why the United Nations was formed and of its mission. 

You can read the propaganda at the Committee on Foreign Affairs Website about what they call "landmark legislation."  Then click here to see if your member of Congress is on the committee, and let him/her know what you think we should do regarding the United Nations.

Working Together for Peace,


P.S. - By the way, a recent poll by the UN Foundation and Better World Campaign shows strong support across the political spectrum in the U.S. for the United Nations.  Click here to read more about it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Haiti - The World Has Moved On...

Report from Haiti: Where’s the Money?

By Bill Quigley. Bill is a law professor and human rights lawyer at Loyola University New Orleans and with the Center for Constitutional Rights. He volunteers with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and the Bureaux des Advocats in Port au Prince. You can reach him at quigley77@gmail.com.

Broken and collapsed buildings remain in every neighborhood. Men pull oxcarts by hand through the street. Women carry 5 gallon plastic jugs of water on their heads, dipped from manhole covers in the street. Hundreds of thousands remain in grey sheet and tarp covered shelters in big public parks, in between houses and in any small pocket of land. Most of the people are unemployed or selling mangoes or food on the side of every main street. This was Port au Prince during my visit with a human rights delegation of School of Americas Watch – more than a year and a half after the earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands and made two million homeless. 

What I did not see this week were bulldozers scooping up the mountains of concrete remaining from last January’s earthquake. No cranes lifting metal beams up to create new buildings. No public works projects. No housing developments. No public food or public water distribution centers.

Everywhere I went, the people of Haiti asked, “Where is the money the world promised Haitians?”

The world has moved on. Witness the rows of padlocked public port o lets stand on the sidewalk outside Camp St. Anne. The displacement camp covers a public park hard by the still hollow skeleton of the still devastated St. Anne church. The place is crowded with babies, small children, women, men, and the elderly. It smells of charcoal smoke, dust and humans. Sixty hundred fifty families live there without electricity, running water or security.

I talked with several young women inside the camp of shelters, most about eight feet by eight feet made from old gray tarps, branches, leftover wood, and pieces of rusty tin. When it rains, they stand up inside their leaky shelters and wait for it to stop. In a path in front of one home, crisscrossed with clotheslines full of tiny children’s clothes, a group of women from the grassroots women’s group KOFAVIV told us Oxfam used to help administer the camp but quit in May. When Oxfam left, the company that had been emptying the port o lets stopped getting paid and abandoned the toilets. Some people padlocked them and now charge a couple of cents to use the toilets, money most residents don’t have. There is no work to earn the money for pay for toilets. The Red Cross has just visited the camp that morning telling them they would be evicted October 17. Where will they go, we ask? We have no idea they told us. Jesus will provide, they told us.

Where has the money raised for Haiti gone? What about the Red Cross? What about the US government? What about the money raised in France, Canada and across the world? What about the pledges to the UN? Where is the money? The people of Haiti continue to be plagued by the earthquake of more than 20 months ago. They are our sisters and brothers. They deserve answers. They deserve help.

Editor's Note:  Bill Quigley highly recommends the Institute for Justice and Decocracy in Haiti, an organization working hard for the human rights of Haiti's poor.  Check out their Website where you can learn more and take action to make a positive difference in the lives of the Haitian people.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What Moves the Heart to Action???

Greetings fellow Peacemakers,

I woke up this morning with many things on my mind.  First and foremost was yesterday's execution of Troy Davis, another name in a litany of killings that has come to identify the U.S. retributive justice system.  We have personally seen the machinations of what passes for a justice system in the trials of Disarm Now Plowshares, Y-12 resisters, and many, many more. We have seen (and continue to witenss) the dirty underbelly of the U.S. industrial-prison complex. 

Of course there are tens of thousands, if not millions, of (mostly) nameless victims of our nation's retribution on a global scale as we continue to seek out those we call terrorists in every nook and cranny of the globe and hunt them down with our hunter-killer drones and wage senseless, endless wars that only serve to build up the very Military-Industrial Complex that is the only real benificiary of such madness. 

Dennis Duvall, one of the Y-12 July 2010 Resistance Action defendants, said something in his elocution before the judge this morning during his sentencing hearing that stuck with me in this respect (and beyond): “I’ve done a lot of thinking over the past four months,” Dennis began, after thanking his supporters, “and I conclude that we get what we deserve. Not the Y12 defendants, but humanity..."

Last night in his talk at the World Peace Day event in Bellevue, Washington, Paul Chapell of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation referred to the less than one percent of the population that has always been engaged in movements that have brought about change - abolition of slavery, civil rights movement, etc. - and in reality it is probably far less than one percent.  I don't know the exact numbers of people engaged in peacemaking locally, nationally or globally, and on a certain level I don't even care.  I am grateful for each and every one person who is moved beyond words to action.  We are the ones who will not sit back and wait for "what we deserve" because our hearts move us beyond apathy, beyond propaganda, beyond the the crushing weight of the other 99 percent. 

David Perasso and Gunnel Clark put together a beautiful video about Joe Colgan's continuing Tuesday vigils in front of Seattle's Federal Building.  Joe is another of those individuals whose heart moved (and continues to move) him to action.  This is (for me) a video worth sharing; it is about action, compassion and communication - all keys to change. 

In gratitude for each of (YOU) my fellow peacemakers,


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nearing our goal to send Ashley Joppa-Hagemann to MIC at 50


I've already received many email pledges to help send Ashley Joppa-Hagemann to the MIC at 50 conference (see previous post for details).  Thank you all!!!  Thank you one and all.  I've already gone ahead and purchased Ashley's tickets and the conference organizers have added her to the list of speakers, which includes Ret. Col. Ann Wright, Ray McGovern and Bruce Gagnon.

I'll update the thermometers below as we receive both pledges and as the money rolls in.  Things are heating up.  Thanks!!!



P.S. - The second half of Amy Goodman's 9/30 interview with Ashley on Democracy Now is now posted at the Democracy Now Blog.  Watch  Army Widow Calls for Recognition of Husband’s Service After He Commits Suicide Ahead of Redeployment.  The interview includes Jorge Gonzalez, Executive Director of Coffee Strong, a veteran owned and operated coffeehouse across from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Note: Both thermometers updated 9/3 at 12:30 pm)

school fundraisers


simple fundraisers

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Help send Ashley Joppa-Hagemann to MIC-50

Dear Friends and Fellow Peacemakers,

I am requesting your help to send Ashley Jopp-Hagemann, Staff Sgt. Jarod Hagemann's widow, to speak at the MIC at 50 conference in just over two weeks. This has all happened very quickly, so please read further to learn more.

The Short (but important) Story: Ashley Joppa-Hagemann's husband Jarod committed suicide after his seventh deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, and before he was due to be deployed once again. Jarod was yet another victim of the lies and deceit that has sent countless men and women to fight immoral and unnecessary wars, only to have them return home physically and emotionally wounded.

Just over a week ago, on August 23rd, Ashley spoke at the State of the Soldier forum in Tacoma, and gave her testimony of her husband's struggle after multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan that led to him taking his life.

Just three days later Ashley confronted Donald Rumsfeld at his book signing event at Joint Base Lewis-McChord about his lies that led her husband to enlist in the Army. All he said was "Yeah, I heard about that." Ashley and Jorge Gonzalez (who had accompanied her) of Coffee Strong, a local GI coffee house, were forcibly removed from the book signing. Amy Goodman interviewed Ashley on Democracy Now yesterday about that experience and her husband's struggle.

The organizing committee for MIC at 50, a national conference on the Military Industrial Complex after 50 years, just invited Ashley to speak at the conference on September 17th. This is an important opportunity to hear the human side of war that the people who plan wars do not include in their calculations. She has accepted the invitation.

The Urgent Request: The conference organizers can only provide for lodging and hospitality at the conference, but cannot pay for Ashley's transportation from the Seattle area to Virginia. It took courage for Ashley to do what she has done, and she is willing to continue to tell this important story.

I have offered to put the call out for financial help and put together enough pledges before the end of this week to pay for Ashley's transportation. If I can get even close to the goal of approximately $700 (estimated cost) by the end of this week I can notify the conference organizers that it is a GO! My family is making a contribution to get things rolling.

At such short notice I do not have an organizational resource available to accept contributions, so I am asking anyone willing to help financially to:

  1. pledge whatever you are able (we welcome any level of contribution; no amount is too small),
  2. email me (at subversivepeacemaking@gmail.com) and let me know how much you will contribute so I can predict our success.
  3. make checks payable to Leonard Eiger; write "Ashley JH for MIC at 50" on the memo line,
  4. and mail your check to Leonard Eiger, PO Box 1115, North Bend, WA 98045.
I will carefully account for every dollar contributed, and will send any amount over what we spend for Ashley's transportation to Coffee Strong to further its work supporting soldiers.

Coffee Strong is a veteran-owned, veteran-operated GI coffeehouse. Veterans provide a safe place for soldiers to share the effects of disastrous wars, within 300 meters of the gates at Ft Lewis. The unique coffeehouse welcomes soldiers with a free cup of coffee. There is access to the Internet, an informative library, and many referrals are available to community resources, including GI Rights counseling and Veterans Benefits. Free legal and educational resources are available.

Please contact me with any questions. I will respond quickly. And please - if you are able to contribute - follow the instructions 1 - 4 above. I will provide funding updates at the top of this Blog as we move toward our funding goal.

Many Thanks and Peace,


The Inhumanity of Those Who Make Wars


It should come as no surprise that those in power who send men and women off to fight their wars think of them (and treat them) as no more than commodities.  That they are human beings with feelings, families, and have faces means nothing in a very real sense.  They cannot truly look them in the face, because then they would have to confront their own lack of humanity and question the morality of their actions.

Ashley Joppa-Hagemann, whose husband Jarod Hagemann recently committed suicide before what would have been his 8th or 9th deployment, confronted Donald Rumsfeld the other day about her husband's suicide and Rumsfeld showed that he is one of those cold, calculating scoundrels who are more than willing to treat those who serve our nation in the armed forces as mere commodities to be manipulated into serving their twisted purposes through carefully deception.

There is ample evidence that this is exactly what Rumsfeld and others in the Bush administration did in the days following 9/11 and in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.  And now Rumdsfeld shows his true colors when a war widow hands him the memorial bulletin for her husband and confronts him about how her husband joined the Army because of the lies he told, and all he can say is, "Oh yeah, I heard about that."   As Ashley say's in the following interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, Rumsfeld didn't say "him" or "Jared".  No, he could only say "that," as if Jared was only a thing to him.  He probably couldn't even (or didn't bother to) look at Jared's face on the bulletin.  The heartless core of the warmaker.

Watch the Democracy Now video interview with Ashley or read the transcript following it .  Besides the obvious issue of how we treat our men and women in the armed forces as they attempt to grapple with the psychological effects of war, there is a far deeper issue of how we allow people like Donald Rumsfeld to get away with sending them off to wars of deception in the first place.  It is time for the people to speak out: "No More Wars!!!"



Army Ranger Widow Confronts Rumsfeld over His Lies that Convinced Her Husband to Join the Military (from Democracy Now, August 30, 2011)

We speak with the widow of a U.S. Army Ranger who confronted former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about her husband’s suicide on Saturday. Ashley Joppa-Hagemann introduced herself to Rumsfeld during a book signing by handing him a copy of her husband’s funeral program at a base south of Tacoma, Washington. She says Rumsfeld inspired her husband to join the Army after 9/11, but he later became disillusioned with the reasons for the war. Her husband, 25-year-old Staff Sergeant Jared Hagemann, killed himself ahead of what his wife says was his eighth deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. His body was found on June 28, 2011, at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State. More than 18,000 soldiers returned to the Joint Base Lewis-McChord from combat tours last year. And while the Army says it is trying to shore up mental health services there, Joppa-Hagemann questions its success. "I want to confront the man whose lies led my husband to join the military, and so many other soldiers," says Joppa-Hagemann. "That’s what I wanted to do, and that’s what I did." [includes rush transcript]


Ashley Joppa-Hagemann, the widow of 25-year-old Staff Sgt. Jared Hagemann, who committed suicide on June 28, 2011, ahead of his eighth redeployment to Iraq & Afghanistan. She confronted former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Friday about his role in inspiring her husband to enlist after 9/11.

Jorge Gonzalez, executive director of Coffee Strong, a veteran-owned, veteran-operated GI coffeehouse just outside of Ft. Lewis, Washington. He’s a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Related Links:
•Coffee Strong: Veteran-owned and veteran-operated GI coffee houses
•Democracy Now!’s news archive of our reports on the Iraq War

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the widow of a U.S. Army Ranger who on Saturday confronted former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about her husband’s suicide. Ashley Joppa-Hagemann introduced herself to Rumsfeld during a book signing by handing him a copy of her husband’s funeral program at a base south of Tacoma, Washington. She says Rumsfeld inspired her husband to join the Army after 9/11, but he later became disillusioned with the reason for the war.

Her husband was 25-year-old Staff Sergeant Jared Hagemann. He killed himself ahead of what his wife says was his ninth deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. His body was found June 28th at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State.

More than 18,000 soldiers returned to Fort Lewis from combat tours last year. And while the Army says it’s trying to shore up mental health services there, Ashley Joppa-Hagemann questions its success. She joins us now from Seattle, Washington, to talk about her husband, Jared.

We also called an official from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington to join us on the show, but they were unable to accommodate our request.

Ashley, our condolences on the death of your husband, first off. Thank you very much for being with us.

ASHLEY JOPPA-HAGEMANN: Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what you did with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld? Explain the scene this weekend.

ASHLEY JOPPA-HAGEMANN: I just had information that Donald would be here on Fort Lewis doing a book signing. And it was someone’s idea to actually go and see him at the book signing, and I was excited, and I agreed. I was like, "Yeah, let’s go. Let’s do this. I want to confront the man whose lies led my husband to join the military, and so many other soldiers." And that’s what I wanted to do, and that’s what I did. And for me, that was a really exciting moment, for me. For my husband, I know it was, too.

AMY GOODMAN: You handed him the funeral program of Jared, of your husband, Staff Sergeant Hagemann?

ASHLEY JOPPA-HAGEMANN: Yes, I did. I told him that I wanted him to see my husband, and so he would know—he could put a face with at least one of the soldiers that had lost their lives because of his lies from the 9/11.

AMY GOODMAN: And what was his response?

ASHLEY JOPPA-HAGEMANN: All I remember is him saying, "Oh, I heard about that." And after that, all I remember is being bombarded with security personnel and being pushed out and told not to return. It would have been maybe not so difficult, if maybe he had actually made my husband feel—or made it sound like my husband was an actual person. But to call him and say "that" rather, not "I heard about him" or "heard about, you know, Jared," that was a blow. That one really hurt. But it just proves that our soldiers don’t mean anything to anybody who’s in power.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you actually taken away from the former secretary of defense, from Rumsfeld?

ASHLEY JOPPA-HAGEMANN: Yes. They grabbed us by our arms and pushed us along. And on the way out, I had stopped, because Jorge had gone with me, and I had stopped to try and see where he was at, because I didn’t know where he was, because we had so much security around us, and they just kept, like, pushing me along. And he just said, "Keep moving." And we were peaceful, we were calm. And so, I just kept doing what he said.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about Jared. How many tours of duty did he serve in Iraq and Afghanistan? He was an Army Ranger, like Pat Tillman.

ASHLEY JOPPA-HAGEMANN: Yes. He was just an amazing person. He was so charming and so—he loved life. He loved—he had so much respect and love for everybody, and he put everyone before him. And he was just—he was an amazing person.

AMY GOODMAN: How many—

ASHLEY JOPPA-HAGEMANN: I mean, when I first met him—I’m sorry?

AMY GOODMAN: How many tours of duty did he serve?
ASHLEY JOPPA-HAGEMANN: Like I said before, possibly—you know, around eight or nine. I’m thinking it’s more around the eight mark, but it’s, yeah, eight or nine, this would have been.

AMY GOODMAN: And he was in Patrick—he was in Pat Tillman’s battalion?

ASHLEY JOPPA-HAGEMANN: Second of the 75th Ranger Regiment, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Did he know him?

ASHLEY JOPPA-HAGEMANN: No, I don’t believe so.

AMY GOODMAN: What was it about Donald Rumsfeld that inspired Jared to go into the military?

ASHLEY JOPPA-HAGEMANN: Pretty much the whole Bush administration and their lies about, you know, WMDs. And my husband was the kind of person who stood up for what he believed in, and he loved this country. And he thought he was doing what needed to be done. And over the years, he found out the truth. And it—every tour just ruined him. It took a part of him every time.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about whether Jared sought help? Talk about his suffering through the continued tours.

ASHLEY JOPPA-HAGEMANN: After the first few tours, he didn’t—he changed. He was cold. He didn’t want to talk. It was really rough. And I’d have to say, in '09, when he finally came back from maybe his fourth deployment—I'm not sure—he actually tried to tell—he told the Rangers that he quit. He didn’t want nothing to do with them. And he admitted himself to Five North, and they gave him counseling for his drinking. And after a while, they told him that he had to do it on his own time. It was interfering with his work. They put him in the S-5 shop in order to accommodate his counseling. And a few times, they had given him some antidepressants, some sleeping pills, which only made it worse, because it was like a 30-day supply. Then, as soon as it ran out, he had to go through the process all over again to get anything. So, it was just more of a hassle than anything.

AMY GOODMAN: Ashley, your husband was not alone. At Fort Lewis, July saw a peak of suicides—five in one month. There were nine in 2009, nine in 2010, five in just July alone. Yet the military is not calling your husband’s suicide a suicide, though they are saying it’s a self-inflicted wound?

ASHLEY JOPPA-HAGEMANN: There are suicides at JBLM every month. Whether or not they report them as suicides, I don’t—I can’t comment on that. I don’t know. So I wouldn’t say it spiked. I would say that it’s probably pretty—pretty high every month. It’s not anything new. And yes, it was self-inflicted. Whether or not that they had any—not thing, but any take or part in my husband taking his life, that’s what the investigation is investigating.

AMY GOODMAN: Ashley, we have to leave it there, but we’re going to do an interview and put it online at democracynow.org. Thanks so much for joining us.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rumsfeld: War Criminal - Known or Unknown???

Blogger's News Flash!  Since writing the following post I've learned that Ashley Joppa-Hagemann, about whom the post was written, really did confront Donald Rumsfeld at his book signing event, and was forcibly removed by "security agents and military police officers."   Read Ranger's widow ejected from Rumsfeld book signing in The News Tribune.  Also see Veteran and Military Spouse Dragged from Rumsfeld Book Signing at the Coffee Strong Blog for another perspective from someone who was there.  The executive director of Coffee Strong accompanied Ashley to the signing and was "ejected" with her.  Coffee Strong is a veteran-owned, veteran-operated GI coffeehouse - veteran owned, Pro-GI and AntiWar.  Learn more at CoffeeStrong.org.

Photo courtesy of The News Tribune


Where's the International Criminal Court when you need it???  War criminal and one-time U.S. Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld was at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to tout his new book "Known and Unknown," and meet with local soldiers and airmen, many of whom he sent off to wars that he and others (you know who) illegally manufactured. 

What is known to many is that Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney and others should be held accountable for their conspiracy to engage in immoral and illegal actions while sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

What is unknown is how so many, especially so many of the men and women who have come back from Rumsfeld's endless wars damaged physically and psychologically, would even want to meet the man except perhaps to give him a piece of their minds. Said Rumsfeld about his upcoming visit, “One of the real enjoyable aspects of writing a book and then going to various places is that people come up who I’d met in Iraq or Afghanistan or around the world, and it gives me a chance to thank them again for their service for the country." (source: Seattle Times)

Perhaps Rummy would like to meet Ashley Joppa-Hagemann and thank her for her dead husband's service to his country.   Her husband Jared, an Army Ranger, committed suicide in June after countless deployments to Afghanistan (the next would have been possibly his 9th!!!).  Ashley told her husband's story at the State of the Soldier forum in Tacoma on August 23, 2011, and you can watch the video here (Thanks to Todd Boyle for documenting this testimony).

We must end these endless wars, take care of all who have been affected, and prosecute those who brought about (and profited from) all this suffering. 

And by the way, the Seattle Times article said that "although Seattle is a favored stop of authors on book tours, Rumsfeld will not appear at any locations in the city."  Hmmm... Maybe he thinks Seattle is a War Criminal-Free Zone.



Blogger's Note:  Read more about Jared here: Army Ranger killed himself to avoid another tour, wife says at OregonLive.com.  Rumsfeld to tout his book at Joint Base Lewis-McChord at the Seattle Times.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Solidarity with the people of Jeju Island - an URGENT PLEA!

Dear Friends of Jeju Island – Island of WorldPeace,

Last week, we heard reports that 700 police from the South Korean mainland arrived at Jeju Harbor with buses and trucks bearing three large water cannons. The villagers have been vigilantly waiting for the police to strike.

They did the morning of August 24th. Retired U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright wrote to us from Gangjeong village, “The sirens are blaring for citizens to come to the main gate of the Naval Base where construction is about to begin in an area that will destroy pristine lava fields and endanger marine life. The siren sounds like a tsunami siren in Hawaii signaling an emergency. And that is what it is.”

At 2 pm that day, Gangjeong Village Mayor Kang Dong-kyun approached military contractors who started the operation of a 250-ton crane that had been smuggled into the village in the middle of the night years ago. In asking that the illegal crane be dismantled and removed, the Mayor was forcefully taken into a police vanalong with a villager, Mr. Kim Jong-Hwan, and other civil society activists.For 10 hard and long hours, 100 villagers and peace activists used their bodie sand cars to prevent the police from taking away the Mayor and others. While two activists have been released, the Mayor, Mr. Kim, Dongwan and Father Moon are still detained.  

The villagers at Gangjeong know that orders have been sent from the top. Their resistance must be dealt with once and for all.

Why now? Because we’re starting to win the battle of public opinion. In one week, The New York Times published an Op Ed and the International Herald Tribune published another, both supporting the peaceful four-year resistance ofthe villagers with facts showing that this naval base would destroy unique environments, provoke China by surrounding it with a US anti-ballistic system, but would be incapable of protecting South Korea from North Korea.

One was by Gloria Steinem, a women’s movement organizer and peace activist. The other was by Christine Ahn of the Korea Policy Institute. Their factual pleas have set off more voices, including an Op Ed in the conservative-leaning KoreaTimes entitled, “Save Jeju Island – Island of Peace,” and an Open Letter from South Korean opposition leader Chung Dong-young, who not only opposed the naval base but once it is defeated, pledged to make its site into a peace park.

And with more voices has come greater coverage, from a feature article in The New York Times to CNN and Al-Jazeera’s coverage of recent protests.

As the world learns more and more about the danger to its treasure of global environment and culture, Jeju Island, and also more about the heroic efforts by ordinary farmers, fishermen, the legendary women sea divers and children to preserve their home and way of life, all are inspired and emboldened to believe that the side of peace, the environment and democracy does have a chance of prevailing.

But with more visibility comes fear and greater repression for those who are accustomed to dictating from above. That’s what we are now witnessing as hundreds of police join forces with the 1,000 already on Jeju.

In order to stay one step ahead, we need the support of friends far away, justas the military has friends in the Pentagon.

All of us—the nearly 5,000 people from 50 countries who have signed the petition to President Lee urging him to stop the naval base – are building global awareness of the danger to our global natural and cultural heritage on Jeju Island.

This takes regularly communicating with the world on what is happening in Gangjeong village, sowing seeds of peace in the media and among allies in the peace, environmental, human rights and women’s rights communities, and regularly updating the www.savejejuisland.orgwebsite with bilingual and multi-lingual bulletins.

We have an urgent appeal to all of you to join us in our effort to Save Jeju Island.

Please go to this website to get more informationon how you can act now:
Just as no human being is an island, Jeju belongs to us all.

With hope,

Global Campaign to Save Jeju Island Advisory Board
Christine Ahn, Korea Policy Institute
Imok Cha, M.D.
Wooksik Cheong, Korea Peace Network
MacGregor Eddy, Women’s International League forPeace and Freedom (WILPF)
Bruce Gagnon, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
Matt Hoey, Save Jeju Island Campaign Coordinator 
Gilchun Ko, Jeju artist
Iara Lee, filmmaker and founder of Cultures ofResistance
Regina Pyon, Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea (SPARK)
Gloria Steinem, author and co-founder of Women’s Media Center
Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army Colonel

Blogger's Note: Click here to see the Jeju Island Press Packet.  To learn more and get involved, check out the SAVE JEJU ISLAND Website!