LAKE MACBRIDE— From Nov. 11, 1919 until June 1, 1954, we commemorated Armistice Day with a moment of silence to recognize the 20 million who died during World War I. A second moment of silence was dedicated to those left behind. Beginning in 1954, All Veterans Day replaced Armistice Day as an official U.S. holiday to honor all veterans, and has become a time to pay tribute to our perpetual wars.
I appreciate the thank yous for my service, however, the better effort would be to work to reduce the number of military veterans being produced through adjusted national policy. On days like today that is heard almost nowhere.
I’ll head to town to participate in the Armistice Day observance organized by Veterans for Peace, and work toward that end. That will have to do for today.
The corporate media became fixated on an aspect of Chelsea Manning’s defense by attorney David Coombs, that he suffered from gender identity disorder, after the verdict was rendered Wednesday. It’s news that Manning read a statement titled, “The Next Stage of My Life,”on the NBC Today Show yesterday. What is getting lost in the media frenzy is what Manning did, and whether his time served is adequate punishment.
If Manning had done nothing more than release the video clips of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad Airstrikes to Wikileaks, history would have been well served. (Note: the videos linked at these websites are graphic depictions of modern warfare, and not suitable for all audiences).
Manning also released 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, and 500,000 army reports that came to be known as the Iraq War logs and Afghan War logs. He was a whistle blower on what he felt was, and clearly were, war crimes. In the Uniform Code of Military Justice, whistle blowing on war crimes is permissible, and encouraged, at least it was when the author was trained in the post-My Lai massacre military.
By the sheer volume of documents released to Wikileaks, all of which Manning could not have read, she showed recklessness that equates to the criminality for which she was tried and convicted. That she got caught by writing about what she did in an Internet chat room demonstrated the naivety of youth. Unlike the actions of our military, that’s no crime.
“A court-martial sentenced Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison for leaking government secrets. Manning is to be dishonorably discharged. He loses all pay. He is convicted of six Espionage Act violations. The sentence is expected to be appealed.
Manning, 25, is eligible for parole. He must first serve at least a third of his sentence. He has more than three years’ time served and has been credited 112 days for his “inhuman” treatment in a Quantico brig in 2010-2011. In a best-case scenario for Manning, he might be released before he turned 35.
The sentence was “more severe than many observers expected, and is much longer than any punishment previously given to a U.S. government leaker,” the Guardian’s Paul Lewis writes.
Judge Denise Lind announced the sentence in a hearing that lasted about two minutes. Manning had no visible reaction to the verdict. There were gasps from the crowd. As Manning was led out, supporters shouted “we’ll keep fighting for you, Bradley,” and “you’re our hero.”
The ACLU, Amnesty International and other rights advocates and Manning supporters decried the verdict. It is unjust for Manning to spend decades in prison when the perpetrators of the wartime atrocities he exposed go free, Manning supporters argue.”
Chelsea Manning is expected to request a pardon from President Obama, who is expected to deny it.
A 35-year sentence is harsh, as were the conditions of 1,293 days of pretrial imprisonment. Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network provided pretrial support to Manning, and are expected to continue supporting her. The sentence won’t deter whistle blowers.
The question posed by Chelsea Manning’s actions is one we all must answer for ourselves. When there is wrong in the world do we attempt to right it? Although Manning, like every human, is imperfect, if we don’t try to right wrongs in our lives, who will? That’s why I too am Chelsea Manning.
CORALVILLE— The Peoples’ Coalition for Social, Environmental and Political Justice walked in the July 4 parade here. The photos don’t include everyone, but you can get the flavor. The Peoples’ Coalition forms once a year for the purpose of getting peace and justice people together to interact with and get our messages to everyday people in the community. The parade entry was strong, with folks from Veterans for Peace, Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, PEACE Iowa, Yahoo Drummers, Green World Biofuels and others, all committed to peace, and social, environmental and political responsibility.
The Yahoo Drummers provided background during the entire parade route, and the group sang songs that included “We Shall Overcome,” “If I had a Hammer,” and “This Land is Your Land.” The songs were familiar and uplifting. Parade watchers joined in singing from time to time, and provided positive feedback to the group.
Contact Paul Deaton at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to get involved with any of the groups, or be part of next year’s parade.
LAKE MACBRIDE— The garage door opened on a wet driveway. The rain had stopped, leaving a pool of water that crept under the door. I swept it outside. The nearby seedling trays were filled with rainwater, so I dumped them into the flowerbed and moved the trays into the garage. I need to plant the next iteration of leafy green vegetables soon. No damage was done to the plants by the hail that fell around 4 a.m.
President Obama spoke in Berlin this week, and I have been waiting to listen to the speech, doing so this morning. Friends have been talking about Obama’s call for a new series of steps toward nuclear abolition. One friend, who is not an Internet user, called and left a voice mail message saying he hoped that Obama’s speech would generate new energy around nuclear abolition within Veterans for Peace. I don’t know about that. The speech was less than inspiring, even if filled with lofty ideas, many of which have been heard from this president before. Referring to the global AIDS initiative, Obama spoke about peace with justice,
“Peace with justice means meeting our moral obligations. […] Making sure that we do everything we can to realize the promise– an achievable promise– of the first AIDS-free generation. That is something that is possible if we feel a sufficient sense of urgency.”
That last part, “a sufficient sense of urgency,” is always the problem in our consumer society, isn’t it? At the same time, we can’t ignore the president’s call for new energy around what threatens life as we know it— nuclear proliferation, a warming and increasingly polluted planet, and social injustice. Obama touched on all three in the speech.
The heavy lift of the New START Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation was a signature achievement of Obama’s first term. I was proud to have been part of the effort toward ratification. There was a sense in the conference calls with key State Department leaders, even shortly after Russia’s parliament ratified the treaty, that it was the last big thing regarding nuclear abolition for this president. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how I heard it from people in a position to know.
Nuclear abolition matters, so it is important to consider the president’s announcement in Berlin, his plan to move forward in slowing nuclear proliferation. The U.S. will negotiate further reductions in deployed strategic nuclear weapons, by up to one third, with the Russian Federation; the U.S. will negotiate with Russia a reduction in tactical nuclear weapons in Europe; we must reject the nuclear weaponization that North Korea and Iran may be seeking; the U.S. will host a summit in 2016 to secure nuclear materials in the world; the administration will build support for ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; and the president called on all nations to begin negotiations on a treaty that ends the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. These are all continuations of previous administration policies.
The day after the speech at the Brandenburg Gate, Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, posted an article in Foreign Policy titled, “Death by Cuts to a Thousand.” He wrote, “while (the president’s) remarks are overdue and welcome, the pace and scope of his proposals for further nuclear reductions are incremental at best and changes in the U.S. nuclear war plan are less than meets the eye.” I met Kimball in Washington in Fall 2009, and he is a key person among the non-governmental organizations that work on nuclear weapons issues. One suspects he was putting the best face on what was a disappointing policy announcement.
Despite this, as Kimball wrote in the article, “doing nothing in the face of grave nuclear weapons threats is not an option.” My work with others toward nuclear abolition will go on. It is a core part of working toward sustainability in a turbulent world.
IOWA CITY— About 50 people gathered at the intersection of Clinton and Washington Streets to witness against our wars on Friday. Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV) stopped by to join the vigil as part of their peace action called “Covering Ground to Ground Drones,” a 190-mile walk from the Rock Island Arsenal to the Iowa Air National Guard Facility at the Des Moines airport, planned site of a new drone command center. The purpose of the witness is to call attention to the fact of non-combatant casualties resulting from the U.S. weaponized drone program in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, something the corporate media has not adequately done.
The Central Intelligence Agency has acknowledged they don’t always know who their drone targets are, or what, if any connection they have to U.S. national security interests, so there is a specific and public reason for the protest. The information about drone targeting was only recently revealed after an investigation of classified documents by NBC News.
Voices for Creative Nonviolence coordinator Kathy Kelly was on hand at the vigil, chatting with people gathered. In a Sept. 8, 2010 article on Huffington Post, she summarized the challenge her group faces, “corporate media does little to help ordinary U.S. people understand that the drones that hover over potential targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen create small ‘ground zeroes’ in multiple locales on an everyday basis,” comparing drone strikes to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Kelly is one of a small number of people who made an effort to see the civilian perspective of the U.S. drone program by traveling to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In the background, a Veteran for Peace, his banner waving in the wind on the University of Iowa Pentacrest, coordinated his trial for trespassing at a drone piloting unit in New York state on his telephone. Several people at the vigil had previously been arrested for civil disobedience while protesting the drone program. The legal aspect of the peace movement is not insignificant, with its intentional arrests and trials. It is a drain on time and resources, but is part of the gig.
Peace activist and Catholic Worker, Brian Terrell was present. He had just been released from a six-month prison sentence for trespassing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., where he attempted to deliver an indictment of the U.S. drone program to Brigadier General Scott A. Vander Hamm, the base commander. John Dear S.J. of the National Catholic Reporter wrote in a Jan. 8 story about Terrell, “they tried to make the case that dropping bombs on women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan will not lead to peace— much less improve our own security— but will inspire thousands of people to join the violent movements against the United States.” Like on so many issues, neither the corporate media nor the public is paying much attention to the work of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Catholic Worker, Veterans for Peace and others in the peace movement.
When we compare the U.S. anti-drone protests to other political unrest, it is pretty tame. Part of it is its nonviolent aspect. Part of it is the lack of underlying tensions in society like those that caused a nation-wide protest over the Gezi Park development in Istanbul, Turkey, where tens of thousands of people turned out in protest across the country. While one can have deep respect for nonviolent action against injustice, there is little depth to the current drone protests outside the core groups. This renders them ineffective at best, a drain on resources that could be more effectively applied to more significant targets at worst.
After the vigil, the group slow-marched to the Iowa City Public Library for a potluck meal and to hear speakers. In the end, it was another day in the county seat of the most liberal county in Iowa. Outside the small enclave of peace activists, few were paying attention, and that is unfortunate.
BIG GROVE TOWNSHIP— The flood water is receding on the Atherton Wetland, bringing hope the Iowa River and Coralville Lake have crested despite today’s rain. It’s good news at a time we need it.
All hell is breaking out on the national scene, and it is not good. Where to start?
Sergeant Robert Bales’ cold-blooded killing of 16 non-combatant men, women and children in Kandahar province in Afghanistan came to light and defies reason. According to NBC News, Bales didn’t know why he did it. According to the article, “Bales’ lawyers have said the married father of two suffered from PTSD and brain injury after four combat deployments and was under the influence of drugs and alcohol the night of the raids on family compounds in Kandahar province.” There had to have been more wrong than this. The massacre points to another failure of military leadership.
There was news that the Central Intelligence Agency didn’t always know who it was targeting and killing with drone-launched Hellfire Missiles in Pakistan. The article reported, “about one of every four of those killed by drones in Pakistan between Sept. 3, 2010, and Oct. 30, 2011, were classified as ‘other militants’… The ‘other militants’ label was used when the CIA could not determine the affiliation of those killed, prompting questions about how the agency could conclude they were a threat to U.S. national security.” That non-combatants were the target of the CIA drone program was no surprise to those of us following reports from inside Pakistan, but the revelation was shocking nonetheless. The news makes timely the Covering Ground to Ground the Drones action this week in Iowa by Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
Finally, the news that the N.S.A. is monitoring metadata from our phone calls and information from a number of major Internet service providers was chillingly Orwellian. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd quoted George Orwell’s 1984 yesterday, “there was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to.”
For one, I was prepared to be constantly monitored by God’s omniscience by my Catholic upbringing. The federal government is no one’s god, and this intrusion on privacy, while apparently supported by all three branches of the federal government, just isn’t right.
In a turbulent world, these national issues are a distraction from work toward sustainability. As the Ada Blenkhorn/J. Howard Entwisle song the A.P. Carter family used to sing goes,
There’s a dark and a troubled side of life;
There’s a bright and a sunny side, too;
Tho’ we meet with the darkness and strife,
The sunny side we also may view.
Here’s to keeping on the sunny side as it will help us every day and may brighten our way. At least the flood waters are abating… for now.
BIG GROVE TOWNSHIP— In May 2011 I wrote a post on Blog for Iowa that represents my thoughts about Memorial Day. This morning’s rainy forecast brought no new ideas on the topic, so read it there if you have an interest. It’s my best offering regarding our war dead, whose lives we remember today.
The American Legion ceremony is at nine o’clock. The flags at Oakland Cemetery have been flying in anticipation since Saturday. Each flagpole bears a plaque with the name of a deceased local veteran. For the first time, as a trustee of the cemetery on Memorial Day, I feel I should attend. At our recent board meeting there was discussion about the landscaping service preparing the grounds, although these things seem to take care of themselves in rural Iowa once the contract is let. Yesterday the cemetery looked ready for the expected crowd from the highway.
As years pass, the unchanging order of service and empty language have eroded my interest in the local legion’s ceremony. It is more for the friends and relatives of the World War II and Korean Conflict generation, who show up each year in diminishing numbers. Aging veterans take it easy in a row of chairs along the course of service flags while speakers utter hackneyed pabulum for those gathered. The ceremony has become a reflection of the distance society has put between the visceral reality of war and the ersatz patriotism of 21st century American society. We honor our war dead, but should we honor the living who enable our government to prosecute war? Perhaps my expectations are greater than rural Iowa can deliver upon.
Before we get wrapped up in the flag and “honor their service,” as is the commonplace, it is important to recall that war deaths are no abstraction. The living may decorate the graves of our war dead, but come tomorrow, some part of our lives must be devoted to waging peace. Otherwise those that died while defending our freedom will have died in vain.