Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Speaking Truth to Power; Cutting Off Warmonger Kissinger

My friend Midge Potts is back in town and doing some fantastic activist work:

I am riding a wave like I can barely describe right now... I went to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this morning knowing it was about "Iraq options," but had no idea Henry Kissinger would be there... My heart was beating SO hard, but could not sit by and listen to Kissinger and a fat cat Republican Senator talk about how we needed to be in Iraq "until the job was done"... SO, I stood up, cutting them off in mid sentence, and yelled, "The American people voted to end the war in Iraq!" and held up a small banner I had made that read "Bring Service People Home Now."

I was escorted out of the room by Capitol Police and went with them peacfully... They detained me for about 10 minutes, then let me go without arrest or citation. In fact, they said I could stay in the building if I would not go back in the hearing. So I hung around outside the hearing room so people could see that I had not been arrested or otherwise harmed.

Peace & Freedom,
Midge

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Washingtonian's Perspective on the Major Peace Mobilization


It was big. It was really really big. The mass media is of course downplaying the numbers, saying it was barely 100,000. Some reports say the Park Police doesn't give figures anymore for demonstrations, but "secretly said it was maybe a little less than 100,000." What kind of reporting is that? Well, it's false. I stood in about the same place I stood at that NARAL abortion rights rally a few years back that everyone said was 500,000 -- well this looked to me to be just as big. As the speakers started, thousands and thousands were still arriving from the Smithsonian Metro station. I would guess the crowd was between 400,000 and 500,000. UFPJ naturally went with the higher end and said it was definitely half a million.

But beyond numbers, I think this whole mobilization with a long list of eloquent speakers made a difference and got enough news coverage to be noticed. Congress cannot ignore that this peace mobilization happened. They cannot ignore that a little more than 60% of Americans want this quagmire in Iraq to end, and for American troops to start coming home now.

There were some notable divisions among the crowd that sunny Saturday. The black block (the angry young anarchists) made an attempt to break a police line. Sorry guys and gals, you are your own worst enemy, wearing scarves to shield your face (when you should be proud of your own dissent) and using *riot shields* at the front of your phallanx, just won't get you very far. Was your main point to get the base of the Capitol Building (which you eventually did), or truly fight with the police? It was a very tense few minutes there on Third Stret, I rushed from the front entrance of the Native American Museum to try and calm what was erupting. For a few moments, I ran to the front between the anarchists and the police. I told the anarchists to calm down, that they were on public property when they rushed the west lawn of the Capitl ont he east side of Third Street. I yelled at the police that if they didn't use violence, the anarchists wouldn't use violence. I told them this didn't have to be a fight right there. I then demostrated to the anarchists that they could go around the fairly small line of police and go much further into the west lawn, I did this first quickly. A few followed me, but most at first wanted to stand behind their riot shield wielding buddies. I said: "Calm down, just walk around quickly." I also kept telling the police they didn't have to use violence and that this was public land. Finally the anarchists slipped around the police line and made it to the Capitol Reflecting Pool at the base of the hill. About 10 minutes later I saw that 200-300 of them made it almost all the way to the top of the hill and were at the base of the Capitol Building. Later reports said there was some scuffling and "wrestling" but no arrests. Here's a hint to the angry young anarchists: If you want to get somewhere don't waste your energy and tarnish your image that much more by engaging in pointless fights -- circumvent, walk around the obstacle. If you use violence, and their own weapons such as RIOT SHIELDS, how are you that much different from them (the police)?

Now the other division I saw that day was the celebs, politicians and the aging UFPJ leadership were allowed to be at the front of the march. The Iraq vets were all relegated to second place. I marched with this contingent. They are angry that this quagmire persists; that their buddies are being shot at and killed in the middle of a civil war they cannot control. They were also annoyed that they were excluded from the lead contingent. As we rounded Third Street, going east onto Constitution Avenue, the mass media finally realized that the vets were a bit *behind* the lead contingent and finally swarmed the vets with video and still cameras. Why the heck is UFPJ treating our vets as second class!? The movement needs to re-think some of its strategies at these marches.

My part in the day involved passing out nearly 1,000 glossy postcards with information about the Declaration of Peace. I saw Danny Malec and Timothy Baer there. Both have been very instrumental in the second phase of the Declaration of Peace, which is focusing largely on defunding the Iraq quagmire and actions in both February and March. It's a great campaign with some truly wonderful people involved.

Overall the march and rally had a very strong visual presence in the heart of the Capital City. Now it's up to Congress to act. Tomorrow, Tuesday, Sen. Feingold chairs a Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the power Congress has to end a war. This is one of the first steps in a move to defund the quagmire of U.S. military engagement in Iraq.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Three Anti-Torture Activists Argue Case Before DC Court of Appeals


Tuesday January 23rd at 11:00am oral arguments were heard in District of Columbia Court of Appeals regarding the conviction of David Barrows, Peter Perry, and Midgelle Potts. The three were arrested while kneeling on the plaza of the US Supreme Court on February 9th, 2005 protesting the confirmation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his part in permitting torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guatanamo Bay. They were convicted in DC Superior Court June 30th 2005 for violating Title 40 sec. 6135 of US Code.

Mark Goldstone delivered oral arguments for Dave Barrows, while Pete Perry was represented by William.Becker, and Midge Potts was represented by William Dansie. In addition an amicus brief was submitted to the court by Czech Ambassador to the United Nations Martin Palous, who contrasted the observance of free speech by the European Union to the lower court’s decision in this case. The appellants’ arguments were focused on the lack of notice and the ambiguity of the statute.

“The statute is unconstitutional and should be thrown out,” said Goldstone.

The three activists view their case as an issue of First Amendment rights. At the time of arrest, Barrows and Potts were dressed as detainees wearing black hoods. Perry carried a sign which read “No taxes for war and torture."

The three judges, Stephen Glickman, Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, and Noel Kramer have up to six months to issue a decision.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The truth about Hillary


The former first lady, Hillary R. Clinton, has announced her formal candidacy for the Democratic nomination of president. If the party selects her as president it would be a grave mistake. It would be a solidifying of the Democrats' timidity, an embracing of a hollow middle ground where it becomes more Republican-lite than a true opposition party. Of course there are the dumbasses that can't resist the cool factor of voting for a former first lady, or the need to vote for any female Democrat running for president. But I think in the end, most Democrats will look into their souls and realize that not only do they no longer want to be the party of timidity, they'll realize that Hillary doesn't really stand for much at all. I mean what the heck are her core values? It sure beats me!

Hillary stepped away from universal health care when it failed during her hubby's tenure in office. Now, in her recent announcement, she says she wants to secure health care for "more" Americans. Well, *more* could be 100 or 1,000 -- sure is a hell of a long way from universal health care. Recent legislation Sen. Kennedy has been introducing goes a longer way toward a more just and progressive goal. This is another sell-out for Hillary.

Hillary has flip-flopped so many times on the Iraq War and Occupation (which I now simply cut down to one word: Quagmire), it makes onlookers dizzy, and makes Kerry look like an innocent altar boy. In her recent announcement she says she wants the "right end" to the military involvement in Iraq. What possibly could be the right end? Another 3,000 U.S. soldiers dead and another 100,000 Iraqis dead? And for what purpose does this quagmire continue for one more day? What could possibly make this tragic and costly quagmire "right"? It seems Hillary wants it two ways here -- and the reality is she can't.

In the final analysis, Obama and Edwards are stronger and more progressive candidates than Hillary. They also would likely appeal to more independents during a general election than the polarizing and often vilified Mrs. Clinton. They have staked out more progressive positions, and clearly posses stronger leadership skills.

I remember reading an article a couple years ago about Hillary and Bill during their school years, it relied on many of their school chums as sources. Turns out Hillary always loved power, and although she fell for a guy who wanted to be a professor, she betrayed her own heart to go for Bill who was going places. Evidence of a true megalomaniac.

I just hope most Democrats see the light, until then this Green will just watch from the sidelines.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Bringing some hope to a land of oppression

Into a land of abuse and repression, a Memphis woman goes with God
By David Waters
Contact
January 16, 2007

After spending a quiet holiday with her parents in East Memphis, Meredith Walsh went back to her work last week at a remote clinic three miles from one of the world's grimmest police states.

It took her 69 hours -- including 50 in the air and nine on a bus -- to get there. Along the way, she found time to read "Finding George Orwell in a Burmese Teashop," a journalist's account of the brutal oppression in Burma's past and present.

Meredith lives and works in Thailand near its border with Burma, whose military regime has been condemned by the

United States and the United Nations. When Meredith left Wednesday, she knew that as she moved farther from Memphis, her fellow travelers would smile less and interest her more.

"It's much harder now to come back home to Memphis than to go," said Meredith, 28, who spent the first 18 years of her life in the relative comfort and safety of East Memphis, where her parents told her to think about using her life to serve God and others, not herself.

"Now that feels more like home than Memphis. It just feels like where I need to be."

Meredith has been working along the Thai-Burma border since the summer of 2005. These are dark times in Burma, a nation the size of Texas with more than twice the population. Civil war has raged for years. The army overthrew the government in 1989, changed the country's name to Myanmar, and refused to recognize a national election won by the opposition. Opposition leader -- and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner -- Aung San Suu Kyi has been held under house arrest since 1989.

Rebel groups continue to battle the military regime, which has recruited more child soldiers than any other country. Hundreds of dissidents have been jailed, thousands of villages destroyed and tens of thousands of people killed. Several million Burmese have fled the country. Tens of thousands of them live in refugee camps in Thailand. Land mines are planted everywhere.

Thailand isn't much safer than Burma. In September, the military overthrew the government. On Dec. 31, bombs exploded at six places in Bangkok. Two more exploded the next day. Three people were killed and dozens injured. The U.S. state department is warning travelers to Bangkok to avoid large gatherings.

"The whole thing amazes us," said Meredith's father, Tom Walsh, an attorney.

"In some ways, Meredith is very different from her parents... It never crossed our minds to be so adventurous and self-sacrificing as to go to remote places in the world, to live without modern conveniences, and to serve others in extreme and sometimes dangerous situations."

Soldiers and rebels aren't the only threats along the Burma-Thai border. Burma's military junta spends 40 times more on weapons than on health care and education. The World Health Organization says Burma is one of the least effective countries in the world in delivering health care to its citizens.

Much of the population lives without basic sanitation or running water. Burmese have some of the highest infant mortality rates and shortest life expectancies in the world. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are growing problems.

Meredith, who has a master's degree in public health from Tulane University, is a technical adviser in the reproductive health program at the Mao Tao Clinic. She helps pregnant refugees in Thailand and inside Burma. The clinic has five physicians and 200 other staff members who see 100,000 patients a year.

"There is a world waiting for acts of compassion, healing and reconciliation, qualities by which I characterize Meredith," said Dr. Paul Dekar, a family friend and a professor at Memphis Theological Seminary.

"Meredith is no mere dreamer. She has acquired experience, knowledge and skills that shape her work with the Burma Medical Association, work that ultimately contributes to bringing the beloved community into being, a world free of war and the things that make for war."

Meredith grew up at Prescott Memorial Baptist Church, where she learned to look for God's hope and love in the most unexpected places. She helped build homes with Habitat for Humanity and deliver MIFA's Meals on Wheels. She provided child care at women's shelters.

In the summer of 1996, her youth group went to the Heifer Project's Global Village in Arkansas to experience for a day what it would be like to live in a Third World village.

She wanted to stay longer.

"The community of faith at Prescott gave me a lens to look at the world through a giving hand, to always be giving back to the community because that's what Jesus taught us to do," Meredith said.

"My faith is as much a part of me as blues and barbecue and baseball."

To get back to work last week, she flew from Memphis to Detroit to Japan to Taiwan. She spent the first night in the air, the second in Taipei. Friday she flew to Thailand and spent the third night in Bangkok. Saturday, she rode a bus nine hours to Mae Sot, a town near the Burma border.

When she got off the bus, she walked about three miles to her small house, dropped her bags and rode her bike to her office. Then she went to a friend's house to retrieve her cat, Frankie, rescued from a nearby refugee camp.

When she got back to her house, stretched out on the hammock on her porch, popped the top on a Leo beer, and celebrated her return by watching the sun set on Burma.

Meredith rides her bike to work. She has a desk and a shelf in a small room with windows on three sides. She greets co-workers by saying "Mingalaba" in Burmese or "Wallagay" in Karen -- the language of the largest and most oppressed ethnic minority in Burma.

About once a week, so goes to a migrant community along the border, or she crosses the border and goes into Burma. She visits traditional birth attendants to talk about safe delivery practices and delivers family planning supplies. She also visits makeshift clinics and talks to health workers there about recent deliveries and complications. She drinks a lot of Burmese tea and sees a lot of suffering.

This isn't Meredith's first journey into a humanitarian crisis on the other side of the world. After college she joined the Peace Corps and spent three years living in a bamboo hut in the jungles of the Philippines, teaching children to read. When she left in 2003, she came back to America and went to graduate school. She knew she wouldn't stay long.

"I got frustrated and eager to get back out there and get my hands dirty again. It's not an easy life but people there rely on each other more for the basic necessities of life -- food, transportation, security. The community is much more important than the individual.

"It's not an easy life. It just seems a richer, more meaningful existence."

Faith Matters explores the spiritual side of people, events and topics in the news. If you have a story idea, contact David Waters by e-mail or at 529-2399.

Update on Chinese dissident Gao


January 1, 2007

2006 Year In Review for Chinese Democracy Mvmt

By John Kusumi

From a China Support Network perspective, what happened this year? 2006 was "Tuidang, Year 2." Tuidang refers to a campaign, ever more insistent, urging all Chinese to quit from the Chinese Communist Party and related organs; and more broadly, for China on the whole to leave behind the CCP. In 2005, "Tuidang, Year 1," 7 million people quit the Communist Party. In 2006, 10 million people quit the CCP, for a total of 17 million resignation statements -- all posted at the Tuidang web site.

The tires have been slashed on China's Communist Party, and it is increasingly unpopular. Those ten million resignations represent excellent news and "the air going out of the tires." Yet, a few more events happened this year, allowing us to claim 10 million and change. The type of change that we would really like to see is China's transition to a democratic, post-communist regime; throughout this year, however, the CCP regime remained stubbornly in place, continuing its Maoist ways of persecution, crimes against humanity, corruption, and propaganda.

In the United States, bought off politicians continued to be bought off; and sold out news media spin doctors continued to be sold out. CNN's Anderson Cooper became "half a hero" with his reporting about Organ Tourism; only half a hero, because he managed to render that report and not breathe one word about Falun Gong persecution. He went half way towards breaking our story. The number of confirmed deaths in the Falun Gong persecution now stands at 2,989, soon to surpass CSN's estimate of 3,001 dead in the Tiananmen crackdown.

The confirmed deaths will be smaller than the number of actual deaths, due to the difficulty of getting reports from within a tyranny that likes to hide its crimes and corruption -- and which holds the levers of state media inside China.

Our big story which broke this year (yet, not on U.S. national TV) dates back to March 9, 2006. That is when the Epoch Times first article appeared, with word of a concentration camp at a medical facility in the Sujiatun district of Shenyang City, Liaoning Province, China. The concentration camp was said to hold Falun Gong practitioners, who were kept as a living organ bank for profitable transplant surgery, which would be performed at the medical facility. Call it organ theft. Call it people farming. Call it organ harvesting. And, call it a genocidal crime against humanity. This practice means that transplants are clearly involuntary, coming from prisoners of conscience who should never be imprisoned in the first place. Falun Gong practitioners do not raise their hands and volunteer to be executed -- we should remember that this is genocidal persecution in the first place. The transplants may occur from people who are still alive as their organs are removed; after surgery, bodies are cremated to remove the evidence.

This means that when CNN's Anderson Cooper, as noted above, reported about Organ Tourism without the matter of Falun Gong practitioners, he didn't report the darker, sinister, more ugly, sickening "other side of the coin." On March 9, the same day I first heard about it, I blogged: "Even though this news is huge and as large as it gets (China vaults into a class with Nazi Germany, and there may be Olympic boycotts if not loss of the Olympics all together), I anticipate the story will grow larger in the sense of a news story. The rising clatter must rise still further, and consequences may ensue for China's relations with the rest of the world. Suffice it to say, it's big." Now, over nine months later, I continue to stand by my initial assessment.

In addition to the allegations about Sujiatun, more word came about organ harvesting as a widespread practice, undertaken at many other facilities. The news of this medical abuse and flagrant human rights abuse is what drove Wenyi Wang to become the loud protester, from the press gallery, on the South Lawn of the White House -- in the April 20 welcoming ceremony for PRC President Hu Jintao. Hers was "the shout heard round the world," a high profile occasion due to the world stage and presence of international media. In addition to being an Epoch Times reporter, Wenyi was already familiar to me as a vigorous rights campaigner, and organizer of prior activism. What I did not know on April 19 was her background as a medical doctor. That background added credibility and gravity to her charges about the regime's practice, and with the newfound attention, Wenyi became a widely traveled, and much interviewed, speaker in behalf of the cause. While U.S. national TV did very little about following up (I saw CNN's Wolf Blitzer seem to scold her like a headmaster), Wenyi was able to make a tour of various ADIs (U.S. cities), and thereby reach a very wide audience through affiliate and local media.

Getting the word out is within the scope of the mission at the China Support Network. This year, Wenyi Wang was not the only one doing the "end around" of U.S. national TV. I am naming David Kilgour and David Matas to be the China Suport Network's "Men of the Year." Why so? Kilgour and Matas stepped up to the plate, independently investigated, and released their "Report into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China." Their findings served as independent confirmation: the allegations are true. They conclude "that there has been and continues today to be large-scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners."

David Kilgour is a former Member of Parliament in Canada, and was Secretary of State for the Asia Pacific region. David Matas is an international human rights attorney. With their political and legal backgrounds, they would know better than to be casual or inexact with public statements. While they knew the stakes in international relations, and while they knew the enormity of the charges against Communist China, they nonetheless undertook to inform the world of their findings. Their tour, to 26 countries, was another way to "end around" the ersatz journalists of U.S. national TV.

They get to be Men of the Year here -- first for taking on the case; second for integrity and courage in standing by their findings; and third for raising awareness, breaking an information blockade, and putting to shame U.S. national TV. Can we gauge the results of their media efforts? Yes, by asking, "How is their clip sheet doing?" From May 9 to December 20 of this year, their web site shows 194 clips in the English language. 129 news outlets were represented, of which 31 ran more than one article. That means that the story has caught the attention to be "followed," and actively followed up, at 31 outlets. The Epoch Times is clearly the most active, and we can say that it is the newspaper of record in the China-rights community. The other 30 outlets are--

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (8), The Calgary Herald (6), The Globe and Mail (4), National Post (4), Ottawa Citizen (4), Sydney Morning Herald (4), CBC News (3), China Post (3), NZ Scoop (3), St. Louis Post-Dispatch (3), The Christian Science Monitor (3), The Ottawa Citizen (3), The Toronto Sun (3), Abbotsford News (2), AFP (2), Asia News (2), Canadian Christianity (2), Chronicle Herald (2), CounterPunch (2), Cowichan Valley News Leader (2), CTV (2), Free Market News (2), Langley Times (2), South China Morning Post (2), Taipei Times (2), The Halifax Daily News (2), The Leader-Post (2), The Vancouver Sun (2), Times Colonist (2), Victoria News (2).

The single-mention outlets are a wide variety, including the Times of India, Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun, the Chicago Tribune, the Irish Medical Times, the Guardian, and the Washington Times.

Who is missing from this list? United States opinion leaders are missing -- the Associated Press, UPI, New York Times, and Washington Post. ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and CNN. There is no sign of these news outlets in the list. Should we write them off as anti-Falun Gong media? Or as closer to Jiang Zemin than to freedom and democracy? Well, suffice it to say that REAL journalists know about our story, and that ersatz journalists continue to live in denial. I truly thank David Kilgour and David Matas, as well as Wenyi Wang, for their work in 2006 to "end around" the minority of journalists who are sticks in the mud. Everyone else knows about China's crimes against humanity; the last to know will be Brian Williams (NBC News anchorman) and Jacques Rogge (IOC President, who cannot be happy as this story tarnishes the Olympics).

The year includes its share of outrages -- sentences meted out to rights lawyers and campaigners by China's [in]"justice" system. Notably, lawyer Gao Zhisheng was arrested on August 15 and released on December 22. He has the relative leniency of house arrest, because Beijing has begun its pre-Olympics charm offensive. There will continue to be efforts to rescue him in 2007, and some chance that Gao will exit from China and reach exile.

To well review 2006, it is important to note that EU / European Parliament Vice President, Edward Scott-McMillan, also stepped up this year and made a fact-finding trip into China. He is alarmed by the human rights conditions of China, and he is joining a chorus of voices against the Beijing Olympics, slated to be held there in 2008. It used to be that U.S. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) seemed to be alone as a politician who also campaigned in our cause. This year, she is joined by David Kilgour (Canadian) and Edward McMillan-Scott (British). And this year, Nancy Pelosi herself gained new stature, as the incoming Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

This year end review is showing us that by several measures -- resignations from the CCP; politician attention; and, media attention -- that our cause is making headway or accelerating. It is arriving at critical mass just prior to the Olympics, which in itself is certain to whip up activists.

Also this year, Microsoft, Cisco, Yahoo, and Google came under fire for assisting the police state in China, with technology that ends up in "the great firewall of China" -- internet censorship that also enables the authorities' internet crackdown.

2006 had one more high note and one more sour note. The high note is that a music video, "Remember Tiananmen Square" appeared, from the rock band NoManZero. The sour note is that the U.S. Congress passed another "PNTR for dictators" bill, this time for Communist Vietnam. The Vietnam trade deal had to be passed, late at night on the last day of the session, by the 109th Congress, because there would be no market for it in the 110th Congress. The new Democratic Congress features "rising protectionist sentiment," where PNTR becomes an impossibly hard sell.

That trade deal means bad things for America, but that is a topic for another column. As it stands, our cause had a good year 2006, and we look forward to an even better 2007. 2007 will feature the 18th anniversary of Tiananmen Square's massacre. --That is exactly one generation later. I hope we will use this year's anniversary to remember the event (for older folks) and to introduce the event (for younger folks). There is a rising new generation, that needs the introduction that explains how our China rights cause became urgent -- and globally known -- in the first place.

This 18th anniversary will be a time for educating people, in advance of the Beijing Olympics that are slated for August, 2008. To all of the campaigners in this cause, I offer kudos, congratulations, and solidarity. Some very good work was done this year, and more is to follow, as ever! Thank yous, and Happy New Year, to one and all who carry on the work of freeing China! :-) JPK
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Published December 31, 2006 by the China Support Network (CSN). Begun as the American response group in 1989, CSN represents Americans who are "on the side" of the students in Tiananmen Square - standing for democratic reform, human rights, and freedom in China. For dissident news; to support a stronger China policy; or get more information, see http://www.chinasupport.net.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Results From Our Military Commissions Act Trial

This was my latest trial, today...

WRRCAT: Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture

For Immediate Release: Jan. 17, 2006

CONTACT: Jean Athey, 301-570-0923 or 202-291-2258 jlathey@hprg.com
See statements and background at: www.wrrcat.org


Charges Dismissed for All Protesters in Oct. White House Action
against Torture and Military Commissions Act of 2006

Washington, DC, Jan. 17, 2007-- U.S. Judge Deborah Robinson dismissed the government’s case against all 16 defendants today in charged with “interfering with agency functions.” The 16 had attempted to present a “People’s Signing Statement” opposing the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006 to President Bush at the White House on Oct. 17, 2006. That morning, Bush ceremoniously signed into law the act defendants said legalizes torture for the first time in our nation’s history and broadly denies Habeas Corpus protection -- a right guaranteed ever since the Magna Carta of 1215.

At a news conference in front of the courthouse Jean Athey, co-coordinator of the Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture, stated, “The Military Commissions Act is an attack on basic American and religious values and the Constitution.” She quoted a line from the Statement of Conscience of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture: “Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions hold dear. It degrades everyone involved - policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation's most cherished ideals.”

“This is the most dangerous law ever passed in the U.S. in my lifetime,” Athey said. “As a patriot and person of faith, it is my obligation to do everything in my power to get this law rescinded. It deeply shames our country.”

Art Laffin of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, another defendant, said, “The Military Commissions Act is an affront to God's command to love one another, an assault on human rights, and a blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Conventions. The real crime here is not the nonviolent action of the 16 people who were arrested at the White House for protesting the signing of this act into law by Mr. Bush, but rather the Bush Administration's policies of prohibiting due process and ordering torture."

The charge carried a maximum penalty of six months in jail, a fine of an unknown amount, plus court costs.

Organizations sponsoring the October protest and supporting the defendants include: The Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture (www.wrrcat.org), in coordination with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, DC Anti-War Network, Witness Against Torture, and PeaceAction Montgomery.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Happy Birthday Dr. King!

Tomorrow I will be risking arrest as we enter a motion in the Federal Court on behalf of the nearly 500 men and boys held illegally and immorally, many tortured, at Guantanamo Bay. Dr. King warned us from his jail cell in Alabama: "An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Sadly, this injustice at Guantanamo and several "black sites" operated around the world by the CIA is being carried out and diligently expanded by our own government. I am morally shocked and totally opposed to this policy of extraordinary rendition, suspension of habeas corpus and torture. And I am glad to learn that Code Pink and Cindy Sheehan are arriving in Cuba as I write this.

If you are anywhere near D.C. tomorrow, please join us!
11:45AM-12:15PM March from Supreme Court to Federal Court, Prettyman Building, 333 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
12:15-3:30PM Rally in the court's plaza with speakers, reading of the names and street theater.

I leave you with this quote from Dr. King taken from his 1967 anti-war Riverside Church Speech:

"Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood. Because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for His suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them. This I believe to be the special privilege and burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls "enemy," for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers."

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

If not now, when?


By Mike Ferner, VFP member

Passing the grim marker of 3,000 U.S. troops killed in Iraq briefly focused Americans' attention on the war. But we live in a big country with lots of malls.

To be sure, the death of 3,000 soldiers is tragic and sickening, yet we are a nation of over 300 million and most families have not lost a loved one. Even with some 32,000 G.I.'s requiring medical evacuation for wounds, most Americans still do not personally know a casualty of this war.

But what if our fellow citizens were killed and wounded at the same rate as people in Iraq? Here's the math.

Last fall the British medical journal "Lancet" published a study done by researchers from Johns Hopkins University estimating that the midrange number of Iraqis dead "as a consequence of the war" was about 2.5 percent of that country's population, or roughly 655,000 people. Over 90% of those died from violence.

Comparable casualties in our country would mean that every person in Atlanta, Denver, Boston, Seattle, Milwaukee, Fort Worth, Baltimore, San Francisco, Dallas and Philadelphia would be dead. Every. Single. Person.

And we are just now getting serious about cutting off money for this war?

Besides that unimaginable death toll, every person in Vermont, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, Kansas, Mississippi, Iowa, Oregon, South Carolina, and Colorado would be wounded. Every. Single. Person.

Would that be the point we stopped politely asking our Congress members to please end the war, and began taking over their offices in every state in the union?

And what if in nightmare America, when you turned on the tap you got a thin stream of sick water; there was no reliable electricity to cool the desert heat or preserve food; no proper hospitals or rehab services to help the wounded become productive members of society once again?

Would we be content to go to our nation's capital for a day, hold our banners aloft, and return home? Or would we sit down in the streets of Washington by the thousands and bring government to a standstill?

Could the rest of our nation deal with everyone in 10 major cities killed and every person in 12 states wounded, if 216,000 doctors had left the U.S. in the last three years, and just last year 3,000 doctors were kidnapped and 800 killed; with our roads, schools, and housing falling apart; with three times as many people out of work as during the Great Depression; with unknown horrors to come from depleted uranium?

Fortunately for our individual and national soul we have the Occupation Project sponsored by Voices for Creative Nonviolence. During February and March, as Congress debates another 90,000,000 dollars for the war, the time-honored "sit-down" will be revived at local congressional offices across America, demanding representatives and senators vote against more blood money.

By the end of March, if we and our friends aren't found guilty of occupying a congressional office somewhere in this great land, we will be guilty of something far worse.

###

Ferner (mike.ferner@...) is a freelance writer and author of "Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran For Peace Reports from Iraq."

Friday, January 05, 2007

State of the Movement and World Can't Wait Press Conference

Hello my readers, my life is changing as '07 begins. I have decided to apply to graduate schools for a Masters in Education or Library Science. I will never lose my love and deep appreciation for the peace and justice movement, but I feel that for the next year and a half to two years my actual organizing will be almost entirely put on hold. Right now, it kind of feels like breaking an addiction, but it won't really take off until the wonderful action on January 11th is over. This date marks five years that men and boys -- some as young as 9 -- have been taken to Guantanamo Bay and held indefinitely with no charges filed. This issue is really inspiring me to do something. And, then, beyond that -- I will be returning to school and trying to get my life back into financial order to some degree.

Here is a paragraph from something I wrote a couple friends a couple days ago:

"To be honest, after our vigil at Memorial Bridge last night I also feel a little bit beaten down by the movement. I feel like we are not gaining much momentum, as the war will simply be re-packaged into one that can "be managed better" by the Dems. Also, there are many in the movement simply not willing and probably never willing to make greater sacrifices to engage in nonviolent civil resistance/disobedience. Therefore a greater burden will always fall upon us who are willing to
do so."


I honestly believe in my heart these words. The movement has a lot of challenges ahead of it. But, frankly I feel these "soft activists" who are not willing to take some risks and offer some personal sacrifice are not going to contribute to the movement -- and since that's probably the majority of the movement most goals will not be won. Many, even within the movement, believe the Democrats can somehow be redeemed -- that somehow they will suddenly stop being cowards. That's not the reality within the Beltway. Sorry to have to break the sad news to you.

Yesterday evening I was at the press conference for World Can't Wait. These folks can turn out a crowd and they had some excellent speakers -- Daniel Ellsberg, Cindy Sheehan -- but where the heck were the mainstream media? They weren't there, so it was just kind of a sad exercise in preaching to the choir once again. I mean, I wanted to believe it was making a difference, but here's Travis Morales and his Revolutionary Communist Party bosses in NYC spending lots of money for the biggest room in the National Press Club -- and it was more of a rally than a real press conference!? I didn't stay until the end, I have to admit. But today I found maybe one sentence mentioning it through Google News. Also, World Can't Wait just seems a little like the new ANSWER to me.

Again, World Can't Wait (RCP) can turn out decent crowds (as ANSWER did in its prime), but their literature comes off as a bit hysterical and they haven't quite caught the media's attention yet. So for all the spending -- I am still thinking of their full-page ad in the New York Times about a year ago -- where's the coverage? But then again, getting real media coverage has been very hard for the movement. But the money -- the money could go to a lot better use by contributing it to the Catholic Workers or another community of resistance such as Jonah House in Baltimore! The other thing with World Can't Wait is the obsession with kicking Bush out of office. As I have said many times the problem is far larger than just Bush/Cheney. It is a culture and economy of violence -- of war profiteering, of destroying our civil liberties at home and pursuing empire abroad. That's front and center on many Democrats' agenda, as well as the neoconservatives.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Declaration of Peace Press Release

The Declaration of Peace

Defund the War and Declare Peace
For Immediate Release

Contact:

Daniel Malec, 850-591-4009

Ken Butigan, 360-402-4761

http://declarationofpeace.org/



WASHINGTON – Today the American people learned of the 3,000th U.S. soldier's death in the war-torn and occupied nation of Iraq. Grassroots peace and justice activists throughout the nation are holding candlelight vigils and mourning the loss of life, both American and Iraqi, in a war they view as both tragically unnecessary and immoral.

"Today, U.S. foreign policy disregards the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis in pursuit of U.S. hegemonic interests," said Danny Malec, organizer with Declaration of Peace, an anti-war coalition, which held more than 350 protests and numerous acts of civil disobedience against the Iraq war and occupation in September. "There is no other way forward than ending the occupation of Iraq and supporting an Iraqi-led peace and reconciliation process."

The Declaration of Peace plans to target an expected $100 billion military supplemental for the continued occupation in February. The coalition incorporates more than 500 grassroots organizations. Its campaign in September demanded elected representatives in both houses of Congress sign its declaration.

The Declaration of Peace's phase two for early 2007 aims to seek peace in Iraq, safely remove U.S. soldiers and provide funding for reconstruction efforts. The cornerstone of this effort has become a plea to stop funding the war and occupation.

"The prompt withdrawal of US troops and the closure of US bases will help quench the fire fanned by the occupation and will pave the way for a comprehensive Iraqi-led peace process," said Ken Butigan, organizer with Declaration of Peace and staff member of Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service. "Now is the time for the US occupation to end, for a peace process to begin, and for the US to shift funding from permanent war to reconstructing Iraq and meeting human needs at home."

Exit polls from November's election clearly revealed the public's disapproval of the Bush administration's handling of the war led to Democrats winning the majority in both houses of Congress. However, leading Democrats have since not emphasized the crucial role this anti-war sentiment played in their victory.

According to CNN exit poll data of more than 13,000 voters across the country, Iraq was seen as the most important issue (60% said extremely important). [1]

Declaration of Peace is being joined by Voices for Creative Nonviolence and the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance in appealing to legislators to vote against the supplemental request. Rather funds should be used to safely withdraw troops, start reconciliation talks and assist with rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, organizers say.

The $100 billion military supplemental, if passed, is believed to be the highest in U.S . history. More than $354 billion has already been spent on the war and occupation of Iraq.

###

Monday, January 01, 2007

Memorial Bridge Vigil Tuesday Evening

"Peace Mom" Cindy Sheehan will join local activists on the Memorial Bridge during a candlelight vigil planned for Tuesday, January 2nd, 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

(Arlington, VA) - Peace activists from Gold Star Families for Peace, Arlingtonians for Peace, Code Pink, Northern Virginians for Peace & Justice, the DC Antiwar Network (DAWN), and other local groups will mark the death of the 3,000th American soldier in the Iraq War on January 2.

They will gather from 5 to 7 p.m. on the Virginia side of the Memorial Bridge to commemorate this loss as well and the loss of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. The solemn event will feature a candlelight vigil. The groups are calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Similar vigils are being planned in several hundred locations across the
country.

Participants are encouraged to bring candles, appropriate signs and props. The Virginia entrance to the Memorial Bridge is a particularly busy and dangerous intersection. Please cross the street in designated areas. You can take the metro to Arlington Cemetery. The vigil is about 4 blocks away. The last metro leaves Arlington Cemetery by 6:50 pm. The Foggy Bottom Metro is about a mile away, 5 blocks north of the Lincoln Memorial on 23rd. There is usually plenty of parking on Ohio Drive along the river in DC.

A massive demonstration calling for an end to the war in Iraq is being planned for Washington on January 27. See www.unitedforpeace.org