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

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.