Category Archives: In Action!

Check out updates from WRL’ers and our partner antimilitarist organizations.

Uranium-impacted Communities Call for No Nukes!

Today, in commemoration of the 69th anniversary of the US dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, WRL lifts up the voices of uranium-impacted communities through the 2012 Nuclear Free Zone Declaration from Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE).

Since the boom of nuclearism in the 1950s, indigenous communities have resisted the contamination of their land by US government collaborations with uranium mining companies. Indigenous led coalitions like MASE have been organizing their communities in the US Southwest to hold government agencies and companies accountable, demanding the clean up of the toxic legacy of uranium mining that has lead to a host of life-threatening health problems for people living near former mining sites. They are also engaged in an ongoing struggle to stop new mining operations on land that has already been poisoned by nuclearism. On October 20, 2012, with support from WRL, MASE adopted a Nuclear Free Zone Declaration, asserting the sovereignty of people’s rights to safe drinking water and to be free from exposure to hazardous and toxic substances.

MASE

NUCLEAR FREE ZONE DECLARATION for Northwest New Mexico/Grants Uranium Belt

Uranium mining and milling activities in the Grants Uranium Belt of New Mexico form a critical link in the nuclear fuel chain that supplies nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons development. Radioactivity is released at every stage in the nuclear fuel chain, including uranium mining and milling.

The 1872 Mining Act, originally created to help small miners has become a form of corporate welfare, and has turned cultural landscapes throughout the United States into National Sacrifice Areas, where local communities have been disregarded and the need for ongoing reclamation has resulted in a legacy of contaminated air, water and soil.

Legacy contamination from historic mining and milling in the Grants Mining District has not been completely assessed, nor has the region has been restored to pre-mining and milling conditions.

Whereas:

Uranium legacy contamination poisons our water, land, and lives through ongoing radioactive releases that will continue to plague our cultural landscape and future generations,

There are better job opportunities for local populations in cleaning up the existing legacy of contamination and exploring alternative energy economies,

A 2011 National Academy of Science report made it clear that there is no “safe level” of human exposure to radiation,

Past and present generations residing in the Grants Mining District have been disproportionately affected by uranium mining and milling activities that went unregulated for at least two decades,
Aquifers and waterways contaminated by uranium mining and milling can never be fully restored to pre-mining and milling conditions,

The continued removal of uranium from regional aquifers will result in a permanent loss of water from these deep water sources,

Renewed uranium mining in the Grants Uranium Belt will jeopardize the public health, natural ecosystems, and traditional cultural landscapes by further degrading our air and water quality,
The toxic waste generated from new uranium mining and milling will create an additional legacy for future generations,

Uranium mining violates our basic human rights to a clean and usable water supply, endangers our many traditional cultures, the public health, and interferes with the natural cycles of Earth and Water.

We are committed to protect and restore our shared water resources that are so critical to our continued survival in an arid desert environment, our quality of life, and multi-cultural preservation,

Therefore:

We, the undersigned, join a growing global movement to limit the use of nuclear power and transform National Sacrifice Areas into Nuclear Free Zones.

We endorse the development of renewable energy sources that sustain- not destroy- our public lands, multi-cultural landscapes, and natural ecosystems.

We will provide direction to our lawmakers and private industry to invest in renewable, clean energy that conserves and protects our forests, watersheds and cultures.

We further encourage investment and job creation in the cleanup of the historic uranium legacy contamination that still exists within our shared watersheds.

We further urge all federal and state regulatory agencies to promote the right to a clean, sustainable water sources within their jurisdictions as an element of their public trust to further the best interests of the public welfare, including those poor, minority populations already overburdened by legacy contamination from uranium mining and milling in the Grants Mining District.

We urge the United States Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division not to approve any new mining plans of operation on public lands in New Mexico until the complete reclamation of ground water, soil, and air contamination from historic uranium mining in the Grants Mining District is fully achieved.

In Conclusion,

We, the undersigned, pledge to work in solidarity with all people who wish to break free of their nuclear fuel chains and dependency on non-renewable, polluting sources of energy and move towards the development of renewable and sustainable energy that does not threaten the public health, public water supplies, or our special landscapes.

 

Want to support the Navajo movement for creating a Nuke-free nation?

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With thanks to Earth People’s Blog for the declaration text!

 

Tear gas is NOT nonlethal: ways to resist US tear gas shipments

Five years ago today, Tristan Anderson, from Oakland, California was critically wounded in the Palestinian village of Ni’lin after Israeli forces shot him in the head with a high-powered tear-gas canister as Israeli forces attacked a demonstration against the construction of the annexation wall through the village of Ni’lin’s land. 

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Berkin Elvan

Since Tuesday, Turkey has once again been filled with popular protest against government repression following the death and funeral of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who suffered a blow to the head from a tear gas canister during last summer’s Gezi Park uprising while he was buying bread in Istanbul. He had been in a coma since last June. People in the streets yesterday in protests that erupted in 32 towns were met yet again with a massive amount of tear gas and pepper spray.

The Facing Tear Gas campaign stands in solidarity with the people of Palestine and Turkey in their struggle against repression and militarization and the friends and family of activists who have been killed or injured while supporting these struggles. We wonder how many people will be hurt and killed before we stop calling tear gas a “nonlethal” weapon? In the way of offering something concrete, though small, to these movements, we send a reminder about US government support to repressive regimes globally and ways to resist tear gas and other weapons shipments from inside the US, since US tear gas has been used against people around the world, including in Palestine and Turkey.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in 2013, President Obama said, “The United States will at times work with governments that do not meet, at least in our view, the highest international expectations but who work with us on our core interests.” The US government gives military aid to governments and regimes, regardless of their human rights record, if it’s in the best interests of the state. No surprise there.

What you might not know is the link between the US weapons manufacturers and the US government and how tear gas and other weapons get from the US into the hands of other repressive governments throughout the world.

We compiled some of the trusted research that has been done about US tear gas shipments for a quick guide to US tear gas shipments and possible ways to resist. Thanks goes to our friends with Adalah-NY and the Global Justice Working Group of Occupy Wall Street and to journalists Anjali Kamat and Nicole Salazar for the bulk of this information. The “how to resist” section comes out of our 2 years of work on this issue through the Facing Tear Gas campaign.

How does tear gas get from American manufacturers to various governments overseas?

You could see it as a sort of triangular relationship between the U.S. government, U.S. corporations, and other governments. These three points are always involved. One thing to emphasize here is the complicity between state and corporate interests: government policies actively work in war profiteers’ favor.

Here are some of the ways by which tear gas moves from manufacturers to clients in different countries. The U.S. government’s role usually consists of one or more of the following: authorizing a sale, arranging a sale, subsidizing it, or funding it directly with taxpayer money:

First, some tear gas is transferred between governments through Foreign Military Sales, overseen by the Pentagon. The State Dept. can approve, reject, or halt any purchase. In 2012, the fiscal year racked up $69.1 billion in foreign military sales, including massive sales to the Israeli and Egyptian governments. The amount of military hardware shipped to Egypt actually increased in 2013.

Second, through Foreign Military Financing, another form of US military aid, The U.S. government does more than just approve sales. American taxpayers directly finance foreign governments’ purchases of U.S. military products via “military aid”—essentially grants and loans to foreign governments for arms purchases. In most cases, financing is available only for the sale of U.S.-made products. So, in effect, these are taxpayer-financed subsidies of private weapons manufacturers and defense contractors. In some exceptions, a recipient country can use the a limited portion of the aid to fund purchases of its own domestic products–this is the case with Israel. In 2007, the Bush Administration and the Israeli government agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package spanning from Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 to Fiscal Year 2018. During his March 2013 visit to Israel, President Obama pledged that the United States would continue to provide Israel with multi-year commitments of military aid subject to the approval of Congress Israel currently receives $3.1 billion annually in Foreign Military Financing.

Finally, there are purchases negotiated directly between the client country and the manufacturer, though Direct Commercial Sales (DCS). The U.S. State Department approves each and every one of these. Compared to Foreign Military Sales (FMS), this route is usually quicker, sometimes cheaper and always entails less government oversight. In addition, the State Department is much less transparent about DCS than the Pentagon is about FMS. Minimal information about price and quantity is classified as “confidential business information” and kept from the public. This secrecy undermines the ability of Congress and the interested press and public to exercise proper oversight on industry-direct arms transfers. The existence of these two separate programs also makes gaining an accurate count of arms exports in a given year exceedingly difficult. This is the best information we have: The top DCS totals for fiscal 2009: Egypt ($458,000 for tear gas and other riot control agents, $101 million total); Israel ($1.05 million for tear gas and other riot control agents, $602.6 million total); and Kuwait ($1.24 million for tear gas and other riot control agents, $923 million total).

Even when it’s a commercial sale, tear gas (like any other weapon) is subject to export controls, so U.S.-made tear gas cannot be shipped abroad without government approval.

What are the US companies behind the tear gas industry?

Combined Systems Inc. (CSI):
Combined Systems Inc. (CSI) calls Jamestown, Pennsylvania home. Often marketed and produced under the brand name Combined Tactical Systems (CTS), they provide tear gas to the governments of Argentina, East Timor, Cameroon, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Netherlands, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Sierra Leone and most prominently Israel and Egypt. They say that their “OC Vapor System is ideal for forcing subjects from small rooms, attics, crawl spaces, prison cells.”

AMTEC Less-Lethal Systems Inc. (ALS):
AMTEC Less-Lethal Systems Inc. (ALS) (Formerly ALS Technologies Inc.) is based in Bull Shoals, Arkansas (to be moving to Taylor County, Florida in early 2014.) It is a subsidiary of National Presto Industries, which produces kitchen appliances and is especially known for its pressure cooker. Evidence of tear gas canisters it makes has been found in Puduraya, Malaysia.

Defense Technology/Safariland/Federal Laboratories:
Defense Technology and Federal Laboratories merged in 2001. They are owned by the umbrella company Safariland. Safariland was owned by UK weapons conglomerate BAE systems, which owns some 400 other companies, before it was bought by war profiteer Warren B. Kanders (though the sale was held up by the sentencing of a former Safariland executive for bribing government officials in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East in order to secure business). Safariland-made tear gas has been used against people in Egypt, United States, Bahrain, Palestine, Canada, Tunisia, Yemen, Mexico, Turkey, Venezuela among other places.

Nonlethal Technologies:
Nonlethal Technologies is based in Homer City, Pennsylvania. Its tear gas canisters were a regularly used weapon against the uprising in Bahrain until they were forced to stop direct sales or export by an international campaign. Nonlethal Technologies tear gas has been used in Bahrain, Greece and Turkey.

Sage Ordnance Systems Group:
Sage Ordnance Systems Group (Sage International, Ltd. and Sage Control Ordnance) is headquartered in Oscoda, Michigan. Their weapons are used in the United States, among other places.

What are ways to resist US tear gas shipments?

  • Organize targeted actions against the people and companies invested in tear gas production. Kona brand bicycles, for example, is one small US consumer-based company that has chosen to continue to partner with Safariland.
  • Pressure potentially sympathetic members of Congress to call for the implementation of the Leahy Law, which halts military aid to police units that fail to live up to human rights standards.
  • Stop the shipments, either through campaigning for export controls through putting pressure on Congress and/or working with port workers to organize a blockade and/or picket line at the ports where tear gas is shipped abroad. In terms of recent tear gas shipments, the shipping ports have been those of Wilmington, NC and New York & New Jersey.
  • Research the Port of Oakland to see if they ship tear gas and get in touch with Facing Tear Gas with what you find out! Email us at facingteargas@warresisters.org with any questions or go to facingteargas.org.

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The other “Afghanistan Report”

Whose stories are we telling about the war in Afghanistan?
 

On the day following the White House report on the war in Afghanistan that names the war as a qualified success and calls for the U.S. to “stay the course,” we must lift up the alternative stories and reports of this near-decade of occupation, including yesterday’s Veterans for Peace action at the White House.

The other “Afghanistan Report”:

The U.S.-led occupation has done nothing to improve the conditions for people in Afghanistan. Lives also continue to be lost in Pakistan largely as a result of unmanned aerial drone attacks in the undeclared U.S. war in the country.

Hundreds of Afghan civilians continue to be killed by coalition forces each year under the occupation: According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, the 2009 civilian death toll, close to 2,412 civilian deaths, was the highest of any year since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, and an increase of 24% from 2008. There has been a general increase in violence and civilian deaths because of occupation.

The current Afghan government is implicated in widespread human rights abuses: A Human Rights Watch Press Alert in 2005 stated that up to 60% of law makers in the lower house of Afghanistan’s newly elected parliament are directly or indirectly connected to human rights abuses.

The air-war in Afghanistan has more than tripled since General David Petraeus assumed command over U.S. and NATO troops last summer.

Drones strikes in Pakistan have doubled since 2009, with over 100 this year, and lists of drone targets in Pakistan have been expanded. These strikes have killed close to 500 civilians since the rules identifying targets were loosened in 2008.

Through the end of November 2010, 455 US troops have died in Afghanistan.

The US is spending $120 billion per year on the war, money that is urgently needed at home in our communities and only being used to undermine Afghan democracy and usurp resources that belong to the people of Afghanistan.

From the South Asia Solidarity Initiative: “The Afghan people are capable of creating their own democratic future. Progressive groups and democratic parties in Afghanistan are fighting to reconstruct the peace and safety of their country, and more often than not, are forced underground for fear of their safety…It is from these forces that a larger progressive movement will emerge that could play a role in bringing real democracy to Afghanistan. If the United States continues the occupation, the space for progressive forces becomes increasingly limited.”

Veterans’ Action for Peace:

At the same time that President Obama was announcing the qualified “success” of the war in Afghanistan, hundreds rallied with Veterans For Peace (VFP) at the White House calling on the  administration to “Stop These Wars.”

135 people were arrested, including five Board members from VFP, Daniel Ellsberg, Ray McGovern, Collen Rowley, and Chris Hedges.

Check out stopthesewars.org and the VFP website for more information.

“We have killed over a million innocent people in these wars and made millions more homeless,” said the former Navy hospital corpsman and VFP President Mike Ferner, adding “Millions of Americans are out of work and literally out in the cold. Clearly, our war economy values empire and death over jobs and real security. We are taking a stand for peace. The troops, mercenaries and drones must come home now!”

To find out more about organizing with WRL, contact WRL Organizing Coordinator Kimber Heinz at kimber@warresisters.org.

Join the Online Demonstration for Peace in Korea -Wed 12/1

President Obama is sending the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (carrying 75 warplanes and a crew of over 6000) and other warships for additional war-games with the South Korean military
beginning Sunday, November 28.
 

This only escalates the already tense situation on the Korean peninsula and brings us dangerously closer to an all-out war.

And the blogosphere is already full of hate-mongering rhetoric calling
for “retaliation” after the tragic incident on Yeonpyong Island earlier this week.

Two civilians and two South Korean soldiers have died.  We say NO MORE LOST LIVES.

We need all those who stand for peace to call for de-escalation on the Korean peninsula and an immediate end to the U.S.-South Korean war games.

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

1. Barrage the White House and State Department with emails and urge
President Obama and State Secretary Clinton to immediately stop the
joint U.S.-South Korean war maneuvers, and sign a Peace Treaty to end
the state of war that has existed for sixty years on the Korean
peninsula-
http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
http://contact-us.state.gov

2. Post replies on online media sites and blogs where they are
discussing the issue and beat back the war-mongering rhetoric with
calls for de-escalation and a peaceful resolution.  Refer to the
attached factsheet for talking points.  Some suggested sites are-

www.cnn.com
www.nytimes.com
www.washingtonpost.com
www.huffingtonpost.com
www.npr.org
www.bbc.co.uk
www.news.yahoo.com
www.voanews.com
www.abcnews.go.com
www.foreignpolicy.com

3.  Post links to articles calling for diplomacy on listserves, blogs, facebook-

•       “North Korea’s Consistent Message to the U.S.”
By former President Jimmy Carter in the Washington Post, November 24, 2010
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/23/AR2010112305808.html

•       “Retaliation, Retaliation”
by Paul Liem of the Korea Policy Institute, Nov 25, 2010
http://www.kpolicy.org

•       “Crisis in Korea?”
by John Feffer, Co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus in the
Huffington Post, Nov 23,2010
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-feffer/crisis-in-korea_b_787639.html

•       Tim Shorrock
Posted on the Daily Beast.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-11-24/korea-standoff-barack-obama-only-has-one-choice/?cid=hp:mainpromo1

•       Tim Shorrock
on Democracy Now
http://www.democracynow.org/2010/11/24/tim_shorrock_direct_talks_with_north

•       “A Return Trip to North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Complex”
By Siegfried S. Hecker
http://www.nautilus.org/publications/essays/napsnet/reports/a-return-trip-to-north-korea2019s-yongbyon-nuclear-complex

•       “Review U.S. Policy toward North Korea”
Bob Carlin and John Lewis
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/21/AR2010112102276.html

One Year after Fort Hood: The Missing Story of Muslim Peacemaking

Today, November 5, 2010, marks the one-year anniversary of the Fort Hood shooting, in which former Army psychiatrist Major Nadal Halik Hasan shot and killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, wounding 42 others. As U.S. servicemembers and the families of the victims of this shooting grieved for those who were killed and Americans mourned the loss of life, reports on these crimes riveted the mainstream media. The shootings were certainly newsworthy. The problem is that almost the only time Muslims are featured in the U.S. news media is when a Muslim engages in an act of violence. A one-sided focus on violence committed by some Muslims fuels the racist narrative that “Islam is a religion of violence”—which underwrites the so-called “Global War on Terror.”

In spite of ongoing efforts by many in the Muslim religious community and Muslim-American organizations, the long and vital history of Muslim peacemaking has been lost in the avalanche of reports on Muslims where the mainstream media connects them only with violent extremism. The lack of acknowledgment and recognition in the U.S. of Muslim peacemakers continues to have grave effects on Muslims all over the world as well as those at home in the U.S. In addition, the ongoing hyper-focus by the U.S. state and mainstream media on Islamic militants to the exclusion of those Muslims whose peacemaking efforts oppose militarism of all kinds continues to prop up and justify ongoing U.S.-backed military occupations, including those of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine.

Private First Class Naser Abdo, a 20-year-old Muslim servicemember currently serving in the U.S. Army and seeking Conscientious Objector (C.O.) status on the grounds of Islam, is a Muslim peacemaker. He states, “As I studied Islam and Islam’s commitment to peace, I developed an entirely new perspective on war and conscience… That’s when I realized my conscience would not allow me to deploy.” Pfc. Abdo’s C.O. case still awaits an Army recommendation of discharge from the military based on moral, ethical, and religious objection to all wars. Abdo is facing possible deployment to Afghanistan in spite of his C.O. claim, though Army commanders decided to delay his deployment after he went public with his case. Speaking out as a Muslim, Abdo is against war and has been working with nonviolent antiwar organizations including the War Resisters League and Quaker House in Fayetteville, NC on building public support for his objection to war on the grounds of Islam.

Several Muslim-American organizations in the U.S., such as the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, have been key supporters of Pfc. Abdo’s claim for Conscientious Objector status based on the principles of Islam. In a statement released by this organization in support of Pfc. Abdo, long-time Muslim peacemaker and antimilitarist Ibrahim Ramey states, “We believe that his position is not a product of personal cowardice or disloyalty to his nation, but rather, a coherent expression of his faith and his personal belief in the tenets and laws of the religion of Islam.” In a separate statement, Ramey further underscores the U.S. government and mainstream media blackout of Muslim opposition to militarism: “Major Muslim efforts for peace-making in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other conflict spots are virtually unknown to U.S. news consumers, and even to policy makers. In my opinion, this phenomenon plays into the hands of institutions that seek to permanently militarize the U.S. economy by creating the illusion that Muslims are ‘the enemy’ and must therefore be controlled or eliminated for the sake of ‘democracy.'”

Many other Muslim organizations also attest to the importance of U.S. recognition of Muslim peacemaking efforts. In “An Open Letter to President Obama” sent on the eve of his visit to Egypt to address the Muslim World in May 2009, 1,600 American-Muslim and non-Muslim scholars on the Middle East called on the U.S. government to recognize nonviolent Muslim leaders: “For too long, American policy in the Middle East has been paralyzed by fear of Islamist parties coming to power…However, most mainstream Islamist groups in the region are nonviolent and respect the democratic process.” This letter further urges the U.S. to discontinue its support for violent political regimes in Central Asia and support democracy through peaceful policies: “The United States, for half a century, has frequently supported repressive regimes that routinely violate human rights, and that torture and imprison those who dare criticize them and prevent their citizens from participation in peaceful civic and political activities…There is no doubt that the people of the Middle East long for greater freedom and democracy…What they need from your administration is a commitment to encourage political reform not through wars, threats, or imposition, but through peaceful policies that reward governments that take active and measurable steps towards genuine democratic reforms.”

Despite the ongoing work of Muslim peacemakers and antimilitarists, Muslims living both inside and outside of the U.S. continue to feel the deeply negative effects of the dominant culture’s association of Muslims with terrorism and violence, often referred to as “Islamophobia.” In the U.S. military, Pfc. Abdo experienced a great deal of harassment and discrimination from his fellow servicemembers: “Early in basic training… one soldier repeatedly insulted me and Islam saying, ‘Go pray to your god that doesn’t exist or your pedophile prophet.’…During the training cycle I persistently reassured my comrades that my religion did not make me an enemy of theirs or an enemy of the state. The climax of this harassment occurred when my comrades all made a concerted effort to get me an unwanted discharge because I was not welcome in their ranks.”

These acts mirror the broader U.S. climate of discrimination against Muslims, as evidenced in the media craze surrounding the “Ground Zero Mosque,” otherwise known as the proposed construction of the Park 51 Muslim Community Center in Lower Manhattan. The association of Islam with terror also served to spark the “International Burn-a-Quran Day” controversy out of Gainesville, Florida, which made national headlines on the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Just a few short weeks ago, a white New York City passenger named Michael Enright shouted, “Asalamualaykum, consider this a checkpoint!” prior to slashing the throat of Ahmad Sharif, the Muslim cab driver.

Furthermore, U.S.-backed war and occupation has been disastrous for Muslims living all over the world. The Iraq War Logs, which include close to 400,000 classified U.S. Army intelligence documents, were recently released by Wikileaks and include accounts of the violent deaths of 66,081 Iraqi civilians, along with reports by the military that confirm widespread killing and abuse of Iraqi civilians by U.S. military forces and U.S. contractors. The documents also reveal U.S. military instructions from high up the chain of command to ignore detainee abuse by Iraqi authorities. In the U.S.-led counter-insurgency war in Afghanistan, there has been 31% increase in Afghan civilian deaths and a staggering 55% increase in child casualties so far this year as a result of the war, according to the latest statistics from the United Nations. The U.S. is also conducting air strikes and Special Forces operations in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia and is slated to send $3 billion in military aid to Israel for FY2011 in support of its military occupation of Palestine.

The abuse and killing of Muslims isn’t an accidental byproduct of the U.S. military pursuit of a select group of Muslim extremists. It is the direct result and the intended effect of the U.S. government decision to go to war in pursuit of military-backed power in Central and South Asia. When the mainstream media in the US focuses solely on Muslims as violent extremists, it acts to provide a justification for these wars. The direct link made between Islam and terror also provides cover for waging war against a people, not simply targeting a few individuals, because according to this narrative, any Muslim could be a terrorist.

It is for this reason that we as people living in the U.S. must work to undo the deeply harmful effects of this narrative on the lives of Muslims living both in the U.S. and abroad and construct new narratives not premised on the logic of war and imperialism. We must lift up the stories and ongoing work of Muslim peacemakers like Naser Abdo. We must continue to make the connections between the over-amplification of violent acts committed by small groups of Islamic militants and the ongoing need for the U.S. government to attempt to justify unjust war and occupation. In a statement in a press conference earlier last month, Pfc. Abdo was clear in making this connection:

“In reference to ‘Islamophobia’ as it pertains to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan there is much that I have come to understand as a Muslim Conscientious Objector. As a Conscientious Objector, I am morally disinclined to associate terror with Islam as is often the case during routine training exercises…To a soldier, the association of terror and Islam serves the purpose of falsely justifying ones actions in combat by stripping Muslims of their humanity. The association of terror and Islam is what we now refer to as ‘Islamophobia.’…It is as if the U.S. public is just recently following a trend that has been rampant in the military for years. Only when the military and America can disassociate Muslims from terror can we move onto a brighter future of religious collaboration and dialogue that defines America and makes me proud to be an American.”

For more information on Naser Abdo’s case, go to www.freenasserabdo.org.

Also, check out this article that will appear in the Fall issue of Fellowship magazine by Ibrahim Ramey:
For more info on Muslim peacemaking, see also Rabia Harris’s piece “On Islamic Nonviolence” in Fellowship:

WRL supports G.I. statement on the Iraq War Logs

Join WRL in supporting Iraq Veterans against the War’s official statement on the release of the Iraq War Logs. The voices and leadership of veterans and servicemembers is crucial for building up nonviolent resistance movements to war and occupation.The main point that the War Logs release delivers loud and clear was that the war in Iraq had nothing to do with building up the voices and participation of the Iraqi people in their government, but rather about systematically denying Iraqis the possibly of participation of any kind through U.S.-backed government repression no different from that suffered under Hussein.

To become a civilian ally supporter of IVAW’s campaign work, check out the Operation Recovery webpage at http://www.ivaw.org/operation-recovery.

IVAW Statement on the Iraq War Logs – A Call for Accountability

The recent Wikileaks release–The Iraq War Logs–has shed important light on the high rate of civilian death and widespread atrocities, including torture, that are endemic to the war in Iraq. As veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are outraged that the U.S. government sought to hide this information from the U.S. public, instead presenting a sanitized and deceptive version of war, and we think it is vital for this and further information to get out. Members of IVAW have experienced firsthand the realities of war on the ground, and since our inception we have spoken out about similar atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are asking the U.S. public to join us in calling on our government to end the occupations and bring our brothers and sisters home.

The U.S. government has been claiming for years that they do not keep count of civilian death tolls, yet the recent releases show that they do, in fact, keep count. Between 2004 and 2009, according to these newly disclosed records, at least 109,032 Iraqis died, 66,081 of whom were civilians. The Guardian reports that the Iraq War Logs show that the U.S. military and government gave de facto approval for hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape, and murder by Iraqi soldiers and police officers. These recent revelations, along with the Afghan War Diaries and Collateral Murder footage, weave a picture of wars in which the rules of engagement allow for excessive violence, woven into the fabric of daily life with the U.S. military presence acting as a destabilizing and brutalizing force. The Iraq War Logs, while crucial, are reports produced in real time and themselves may be slanted to minimize the culpability of U.S. forces. Still, they represent an important part of evidence in assessing the reality of the Iraq war, evidence that can only be improved by the further release of documents and information and corroboration by individuals involved. To this end, our members are reviewing both Wikileaks’ Afghanistan War Diaries and the Iraq War Logs to identify incidents we were part of and to shed more light on what really happened.

IVAW has been speaking out about these atrocities and abuses since our inception. Our organization is comprised of over 2,000 veterans and active duty troops who have served since September 11, 2001. We demand immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, reparations for the people of those countries, and full benefits for returning veterans, including mental healthcare. At our March 2008 Winter Soldier hearings in Maryland, more than fifty veterans and active-duty service members publicly testified about the orders they were told to carry out in these countries, sharing stories of excessive violence, trauma, and abuse.
Josh Stieber and Ethan McCord, two IVAW members who were in the unit captured in the Wikileaks “Collateral Murder” video, have spoken out about how the incidents caught on film are not isolated cases of ‘a few bad soldiers’ but rather, part of the nature of these wars. “There has been little accountability in the wars that my friends and I once thought represented everything that was noble about our country,” wrote Stieber in anticipation of the Iraq War Logs. In an open letter, Stieber calls for policy makers to “take accountability for these wars and the full truth about them.” 

As veterans, we know that the violence documented in the Iraq War Logs traumatizes the people living under occupation. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also have been marked by staggering rates of military trauma and suicide among the troops tasked with carrying out these orders. Last year, 239 soldiers killed themselves and 1,713 soldiers survived suicide attempts; 146 soldiers died from high-risk activities, including 74 drug overdoses. A third of returning troops report mental health problems, and 18.5 percent of all returning service members are battling either Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or depression, according to a study by the Rand Corporation. Our Operation Recovery campaign, launched on October 7, seeks to end the cruel and inhumane practice of redeploying troops suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Military Sexual Trauma, Traumatic Brain Injury, and other mental and physical wounds–a practice that underlies the continued occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Critics attacking Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s character are attempting to use ad hominem arguments to detract from the real issues and divert public attention from the content of the Iraq War Logs. We urge honest and thorough discussion of the content of these documents, and we think this discussion must not be sidelined. Furthermore, with past Wikileaks revelations, U.S. administration and military authorities were quick to vilify Army Specialist Bradley Manning who is being accused of leaking these documents to the public. Yet we insist that it is the right of the U.S. public to have accurate information about wars that are being fought in our name and funded by our tax dollars, and we support the public sharing of this information. Exposing war crimes is not a crime.
Government deception is inexcusable. Authorities have kept this information secret in the name of ‘national security,’ but what they really are afraid of is public opinion, which they know will turn against them if the truth about these wars gets out in the mainstream. An accurate count of Iraqi dead, acknowledgment of torture, and full disclosure of the role of private contractors are facts that should be made public in a democracy. We believe that real national security is created where government transparency and accountability, free press, and an end to spending on illegal wars and occupations are the norm. Continued silence and secrecy is a grave threat to the security of the Iraqi and Afghan people, and we demand openness, accountability, and real discussion of these revelations.
We grieve for the Iraqi and Afghan lives that were lost and destroyed in these wars. We also grieve for our brothers and sisters in arms, who have been lost to battle or suicide. The Iraq War Logs bring home part of the harsh reality of these wars, a reality that we–as veterans–live with everyday. We demand a real end to both wars, including immediate withdrawal of the 50,000 “non-combat” troops who remain in the Iraq. The Iraq War Logs underscore the urgent need for peace, healing, and reparations for all who have been harmed by these wars. The first step is to bring our brothers and sisters home. 

In Solidarity, 

Iraq Veterans Against the War

NYC Press Conference–9 Years of Occupation and War in Afghanistan

NINE YEARS INTO AFGHAN WAR, U.S. VETERANS, COMMUNITY GROUPS, AND GLOBAL JUSTICE ACTIVISTS SAY ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Photos available for reproduction at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/54613299@N03/sets/72157625115412508/

Listen to the Free Speech Radio News: Activists outline renewed strategy to end nine-year Afghan war

Washington Square News: Protesters rally against war in Afghanistan

Speakers included:

1. Prachi Patankar — South Asia Solidarity Initiative

2. Malalai Joya — elected to National Assembly of Afghanistan in 2005; the “bravest woman in Afghanistan”; chosen for the 2010 “TIME 100”  (audio statement recorded in Canada the day before)

3. David Wildman — United Methodist Church’s Board of Global Ministries; co-author of the book “Ending the U.S. War in Afghanistan

4. Kimber Heinz — National Organizing Coordinator of War Resisters League

5. Madiha Tahir – journalist reporting from Pakistan; South Asia Solidarity Initiative; Action for a Progressive Pakistan

6. Roger Wareham — Freedom Party of New York State

7. Fatima Hindi — Iraqi refugee organizer based in Chicago

8. Maritza Bravo — Vamos Unidos organizing Latino youth and street vendors

9. Fitzroy Searles — organizer with One Nation Working Together, which mobilized many tens of thousands to Washington DC on Oct 2.

10. Nasser Abdo — U.S. Army Private First Class, and Conscientious Objector [written statement]

11. Selena Coppa — Iraq Veterans Against the War

12. Charles Barron — City Council Member from Brooklyn; candidate for governor, Freedom Party of New York State

13. Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid — Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem

October 7, 2010, New York, NY —On Thursday morning on the ninth anniversary of the U.S.-NATO invasion of Afghanistan, a cross-section of veterans, community groups, and global justice organizations held a press conference in support of the united message that the ongoing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan is bad for Afghan people of all genders, bad for U.S. soldiers, and bad for the people of the U.S.

Former Afghan parliamentarian Malalai Joya issued a statement about the Obama administration’s policy in Afghanistan, citing it as a major cause of the dire situation faced by Afghan women: “During Obama’s [time in] office the death toll increased by 24% as compared to the Bush administration. Their policies are a mirror image of each other. Democracy never comes by occupation forces…by cluster bombs or by white phosphorous. Under the banner of women’s rights, human rights, and democracy they occupied Afghanistan. Today’s situation of women is as catastrophic as it was under the domination of Taliban. Rape cases, acid attacks, killing of women is increasing rapidly.”

Members of the veterans organization Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) spoke on the day of the national launch of their Operation Recovery campaign, which calls for the right of current servicemembers who are experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or other forms of trauma caused by past or current deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan to refuse future deployments. Published medical studies in 2008 and 2010 estimate that 20-50% of all service members deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan have likely suffered from PTSD. IVAW member and organizer Selena Coppa stated, “Veterans are sick and tired of the never-ending occupations. The U.S. military is strained. We are launching a new campaign defending our traumatized brothers and sisters’ right to heal without being deployed [for another tour].”

IVAW organizers also read a statement from current U.S. servicemember and Conscientious Objector Naser Abdo about Islamophobia in the U.S. that has followed the attacks on 9/11 and its connections to war from the perspective of a Muslim C.O.: “To a soldier, the association of terror and Islam serves the purpose of falsely justifying ones actions in combat by stripping Muslims of their humanity. The association of terror and Islam is what we now refer to as Islamaphobia…it is as if the US public is just recently following a trend that has been rampant in the military for years. Only when the military and America can disassociate Muslims with terror can we move onto a brighter future of the religious collaboration and dialogue that defines America and makes me proud to be an American.”

Madiha Tahir with Action for Progressive Pakistan and the South Asia Solidarity Initiative, spoke as a journalist about her recent trip to Pakistan: “What has gone unacknowledged in the war on what is referred to as ‘Af-Pak’ is that there is a war in Pakistan and that it is a separate war than the war going on in Afghanistan. This war goes unacknowledged here [in the U.S.] but there are very real human costs of it in Pakistan…If the concern of the U.S…is democracy in Pakistan, then it must work with the democratic forces in Pakistan—that means elected representatives and democracy movements.”

Maritza Bravo, with the youth project of Vamos Unidos, a Latino immigrant street vendors organization, spoke about the DREAM act, a proposed piece of legislation that would grant undocumented youth the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency if they complete two years in the military or two years at a four year institution of higher learning, as a reinforcing the militarization of young people in the U.S. and the escalation of war abroad: “We, the Vamos Unidos youth, do not support the DREAM Act due to the military component. The DREAM Act is a de facto military draft, forcing undocumented youth to fight in unjust wars in exchange for the recognition as human beings, a Green Card.”

City Councilmember Charles Barron and Roger Wareham from the Freedom Party of NY State spoke to the effects of the war in the U.S. and to the value of social movements against war. Wareham stated that much of our resources at home “are being squandered in Afghanistan and Iraq, resources that need to be put back into this economy for the welfare of the majority of the population.” Councilmember Barron stated,”We are living in the richest city in the world yet we have the number one impoverished district in the country. Enough is enough–people need to rise up and say ‘no’ to war, ‘no’ to any forms of invading the privacy of anti-war activists by way of the FBI, [and ‘no’ to] any forms of that suppression of the right of people to rise up in dissent against an unjust and immoral war.”

Fitzroy Searles, youth and Brooklyn-area organizer for the October 2 One Nation Working Together rally in Washington D.C. also pointed to the costs of the war at home from his perspective as an organizer working closely with labor unions in the run-up to October 2: “We all want to see an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only do they cost us in human lives, but they also cost us in valuable resources that could be used here to improve our economy.”

David Wildman, Executive Secretary, Human Rights & Racial Justice, with the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries referred to the longer history of U.S. involvement in Afghan politics, linking it to military spending and the current U.S. presence in the country: “The U.S. will devote this year over 100 billion dollars [to Afghanistan]. Almost all of it will go to warfare.  The question that we need to ask today to public officials and the world is–what is that money doing to help the well-being of Afghans? Afghanistan has had thirty years of warfare and, sadly, the United States has contributed almost only weapons in that thirty years.”

Other speakers referred to the official end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq as of September 1, saying that there is still much suffering in Iraq due the past and current presence of U.S. forces. Kimber Heinz, National Organizing Coordinator of the War Resisters League said, “In preparation for next month’s elections, the Obama administration has been trying to turn over a number of new leaves– and to convince the American public that the Iraq war is over and the war in Afghanistan is winnable. Neither is the case…The Obama administration has continued to uphold the U.S. government project of global interventionism and endless war that was brought to a fever pitch during the Bush era.”

Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, religious and spiritual leader of The Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, NYC connected the ongoing organizing efforts against the war in Afghanistan to the outcry and demonstrations against the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003: “The antiwar demonstrations that erupted globally before the Iraq war started was the greatest public demonstration of that type in human history. We knew how bad this was going to be.”

Iraqi refugee and Chicago-based organizer Fatima Hindi spoke about her experience as a refugee of U.S. war: “Since the US occupation of Iraq in 2003 the country has been devastated. Millions of refugees have been left without homes, mothers and fathers. I am one of those refugees.”

Many of the groups and individuals who spoke at the press conference gathered later that evening in NYC for a dinner and bridge-building event in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan.