Sunday, December 27, 2009

A week ago I was in DC Jail -- This is a reflection

A week ago, I was spending my third and last night in DC Jail. A loud, violent and cruel place. A place populated by young black men, as a white inmate I was an extreme minority. And as a gay white man of somewhat slight build, I elected to get the protective custody order from Judge Lynn Liebovitz upon my sentencing. My sentencing, in retrospect was not that severe, and this is because my pre-sentencing officer had recommended probation and I admitted that my days of being arrested for expressing my moral and ethical beliefs (which put me in complete opposition to the U.S. Government’s foreign policy) were over. Perhaps someday, when I am retired and close to my friend Eve Tetaz’s age I may resume nonviolent civil resistance against the moral bankruptcy and downright evil policies of the U.S. Empire, but for now I choose a different life for my lifetime partner and myself.

Many of you have expressed an interest in discussing my experiences further, and I am open to accepting questions from you once you have finished reading this small essay of mine. However, I was only there a short while, and I am not familiar with the women’s privately run jail. Also, I think Catholic Workers who have done jail time in excess of a year might provide greater insight, especially if you think you will be doing more than a small handful of days in prison.

Why do I say my sentencing was not that severe? Because we are dealing with Judge Liebovitz in this case. She is well known as a harsh sentencer. She gave Ellen Barfield 25 days jail time, and another 50 suspended during her entire year of supervised probation. I only got four days (which in DC jail time is more like three) and nine months supervised probation. Eve’s sentencing was delayed due to health concerns and a possible medical procedure. However, she is likely to not receive much compassion from Judge Liebovitz, who said that our actions were selfish and extremely egotistical. She was also disturbed that Ellen and Eve chose to scatter money with their own blood on it in a Senate hearing room. In my opinion their actions were powerful, as the US Government spends our tax dollars every single day creating more bloodshed in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan. I only spoke out, quoting John Kerry’s own 1971 anti-war words back to him, trying to remind him of who he was and why he was morally outraged during another illegal and immoral quagmire of a war. Such audacity. How dare we?

And yet, the price is rather high. If you are going to jail alone with no other political dissidents with you, it can be an extremely dangerous place. The DC Jail, at least the men’s, has been locked down for nearly three weeks now since they found a handgun hidden there. There are persistent rumors that there is a second handgun hidden somewhere there, as well. Lockdown means you are in your cell for 23 hours, with one hour to shower and look at the TV for a few minutes before returning to your cell. I was in lockdown regardless, because that’s what protective custody is. Also, protective custody means you get your own cell. For those who are gay or transgender, or possibly convicted of a crime that would thoroughly piss off other inmates – they typically receive this status.

They do feed you three meals a day, but the obnoxious sounds of yelling, cursing, and threatening inmates will keep you up all night. As I left the jail, one guard said to me: “No I don’t think you will be coming back. This is hell on earth.”

I heard constant comments oppressive of women, dehumanizing of gays, and extremely disrespectful of each other among the inmates. This is a product of a country, which is seriously ill, which does not seem to care about its poor. Where many of the rest of us pretend poverty and lack of education is not a major issue. Where there are very few opportunities for those who are poor and of color. The statistic I am familiar with in DC regarding incarceration is that at any given time one in five black men under the age of 40 are in prison.

Part of the journey of nonviolent resistance is incarceration. It is a fairly serious sacrifice. I doubt that there are many Americans willing to travel this route now, unless the wars and torture impact their lives directly. How many will go into the jailhouse for altruistic reasons? And how many of us are actually doing this for our own selfish reasons – somewhat of a messiah complex? My words are harsh, but I have though about this topic for a long while now. While I admire Eve, Ellen, and the many great ploughshares activists, I have come to realize two important points for myself. Firstly, while I don’t regret any of my civil resistance actions and do believe that I was trying to highlight the US Empire’s own criminal behavior on a massive scale, I have come to accept that this is no longer my struggle. At this point, I feel that I have done my part and now I am interested in other endeavors, perhaps on a more local level, working in some capacity where the US Government has failed people. Secondly, I basically have no hope that the US Government can be “reformed” or somehow redeemed from the awful and corrupt system that it has become, an engine for the violent and oppressive US Empire.

Many of you, dear friends, will continue with civil resistance actions. However, I urge you to prepare yourselves psychologically for jail. Many of you will endure it alone. I don’t think there will be what many of us had hoped for, a massive wave of growing numbers of people willing to engage in such great actions. Cindy Sheehan continues to hold onto this hope through her planning of Peace of the Action in March. I’ve been at this for about five years now, and I know even progressives are far more forgiving of Obama than they were of the fool from Texas. I just don’t see it happening. But good luck and may God/Goddess smile upon you.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Where I am and my setencing statement

Hello blog-readers! I have not written here for a while. These are tough economic times, and Matthew and are trying to cope with them on a very personal level. I continue to job search for something full-time with a decent salary, but I am glad to have returned to CCHS for now. My own circumstances and feelings about the state of things in our country has lead me to decide to basically quit being an activist-organizer (for free) within the peace and justice movement. Those who continue to carry a lionshare of the load for this movement have my respect. I do not regret any of my actions for peace and justice, but I realize now is the time to start a new chapter in my life.

Here is my sentencing statement in the Kerry case involving Ellen, Eve and myself:

Good morning Judge Liebowitz.

On May 21st, Eve Tetaz, Ellen Barfield, Steve Mihalis and I spoke during a senate foreign relations committee hearing. We provided public testimony. Public witness. Nothing more. Nothing less. We believe it is part of our obligations as citizens to be active participants in our democracy and voice our concerns when it is necessary. Myself, I quoted Senator John Kerry's own 1971 anti-war warning to him. I wanted to remind him of who he was as a young man disillusioned with a tragic and misdirected war he had been embroiled in. I wanted to plead with John Kerry to help end this tragic and misdirected war which has now gone on twice as long as World War II for our nation. We were nonviolent, and there were no victims. We were trying to prevent the continued victimization of innocent Afghans at the hands of our own military might.

I work as an archivist with the Chevy Chase Historical Society. I have a master's degree in library and information science from Catholic University of America where I completed my coursework in 2008 with a 3.93 GPA.

I do not have children of my own, but I do have two nephews and one niece, and I hope for a more peaceful and just world for them when they become adults. They are the main reasons I became involved in the peace and justice movement five years ago, because I believed hope alone was not sufficient. This month, President Obama announced 30,000 more troops will be sent to Afghanistan and tens of billions of dollars more, in addition to what is already being spent on this tragic and misdirected war, will be wasted. This is folly and harmful to our own country where more than half of our tax dollars are spent on past, present and future military expenditures. Obama argues that this is a just war. I disagree. It is a war based on revenge and aggressive domination.

We are people of conscience. We believe in improving our communities, our nation and the world. We are also responsible individuals and we stand before you today to accept our sentence. Thank you.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ellen, Eve and I go to court

Anti-war protestors prosecuted by government

Contact: Ellen Barfield, 410-243-5876; Pete Perry, 202-631-0974 October 11, 2009

WASHINGTON – Three nonviolent anti-war activists go on trial Tuesday, October 13 for an action in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on May 21 of this year.

Ellen Barfield of Baltimore, Eve Tetaz of Washington, DC, and Pete Perry of Fairfax, Virginia will argue their case before a jury of their peers. The three are charged with Disruption of Congress. The trial will be presided over by Judge Lynn Leibovitz in courtroom 310 of the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse.

“We were expressing our dissent to the costly and tragic war in Afghanistan,” Perry said. “This is a war based on revenge that has now clearly lost the support of a majority of Americans.”

Barfield is a military veteran, Tetaz is a retired DC public schoolteacher, and Perry was instrumental in organizing last week's protest against the Afghanistan War in Washington.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


News Release: Non-Violent Peace Demonstrators Brutalized by Secret Service at White House Today


Contact: Kevin Martin, 301-537-8244 (mobile)

Paul Kawika Martin, 951-217-7285 (mobile)

Activists had sought a meeting with the Obama Administration to urge an end to the war in Afghanistan

Washington, D.C. – Twenty-three non-violent peace activists calling for an end to the US war in Afghanistan were violently pushed and dragged away from a White House gate by Secret Service officers this afternoon. The activists, participating in a larger demonstration of over 300 people organized by the National Campaign for Non-Violent Resistance, had sent a letter to President Obama last month requesting a meeting today to discuss their opposition to the war.

After a non-violent “die-in” at the White House gate, the peace activists waited for over three hours while various police departments, including the Washington, DC Metro Police, Park Police and Secret Service, gave conflicting stories about whether the activists would be arrested or not, the group’s request to meet with someone from the Administration having been summarily rebuffed by White House guards.

Suddenly, with no warning and with dozens of other police officers watching, a group of about a dozen Secret Service officers swooped in to push and drag the protesters, who included a number of retirees, away from the White House gate and outside a police perimeter that had been established in the normally public area in front of the White House.

“I wonder how the officers who brought a grandmother to tears with their completely unnecessary, harsh use of force will explain how their day went when they go home to their families at the end of their shift,” asked Kevin Martin, Executive Director of Peace Action. Martin was shoved hard in the back by two Secret Service officers, causing him to fall into National Campaign for Non-Violent Resistance Co-convener Joy First, a grandmother from Wisconsin. First was roughed up by several officers and was still in tears twenty minutes after the incident.

“Clearly, the Obama Administration, which has increased the violence in Afghanistan with its escalation of troops earlier this year, would rather have Secret Service thugs rough up peace activists than to engage in a dialogue with us about Afghanistan,” said Martin. Paul Kawika Martin (no relation), Peace Action’s Policy Director, had just returned from a citizens’ peacemaker delegation to Afghanistan organized by the peace group Code Pink. “But we will not be deterred, and the American people have turned decidedly against this war. We call on Obama to meet with us to discuss Afghanistan and apologize for the brutality of the White House police force, and to begin bringing US troops home so the people of Afghanistan can resolve their country’s problems.”

Peace Action is the country’s largest peace and disarmament group with over 100,000 members nationwide.

The National Campaign for Non-Violent Resistance has worked for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

4 activists resisted at Vermont Yankee

4 women arrested at Vt. Yankee

By SUSAN SMALLHEER Rutland HErald Staff - Published: September 29, 2009

VERNON - Four elderly women living downwind of the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor were arrested Monday afternoon when they walked through the first two security gates at the Vernon reactor and sat down on folding chairs, blocking entry to the plant.

The four women, members of the Vermont Yankee Shut It Down Affinity Group, are no strangers to Vermont Yankee protests, and each said they had been arrested multiple times outside the Entergy Nuclear corporate headquarters in North Brattleboro but never prosecuted.

Entergy Nuclear officials said that the response by the plant's security forces Monday afternoon went well and denied that security had been breached. But the women, wearing tie-dye t-shirts and carrying folding stools and signs, ignored the entreaties of the armed guard at the guardhouse, marched right past him through the second chain-link gate and then sat down with their folding chairs and protest signs.

In about a minute, Vernon Police Chief Kevin Turnley showed up in his cruiser, and eventually three Vermont State Police cruisers showed up. The four women were put in the various cruisers and taken to the nearby Vernon Police Department, where they were processed and released.

At one point, a guard tried repeatedly to manually close the exit gate, but couldn't because it was caught on a metal box. The gates are usually controlled electronically.

Several cars and trucks turned around and backed away from the main entrance to the plant, which declared an internal emergency until the women were arrested and removed, according to John Dreyfuss, director of nuclear safety assurance, who came to the guard station to view the arrests.

Turnley said that the four women were asked to leave and when they refused they were arrested for unlawful trespass. Turnley said they were released with citations to appear in court in late December.

The group was led by Hattie Nestel of Athol, Mass., a former Brattleboro resident. She was the first to be arrested. Others included a 90-year-old retired peace worker, Frances Crowe from Northampton, Paki Wieland, 66, of Northampton, and Ellen Graves, 69, of West Springfield, Mass.

"There is no foolproof nuclear power plant," Nestel said before she was arrested.

"There is no such thing as a peaceful, safe, renewable and cost-effective nuclear power facility," she said, saying the plant should be shut down.

Paki Wieland, 66, the retired social worker and former college professor, said that the only rationale for nuclear power was corporate financial benefit.

"We're downwinders," said Wieland, who said it was a "brilliant" calculated decision to build Yankee so far south and so far east - "it wasn't in Vermont."

Wieland said that the radiation releases from the reactor follow predominant winds - that take the radiation away from Vermont to Massachusetts or New Hampshire.

"We're more at danger than Vermonters are," she said.

Wieland said she started protesting nuclear power back in 1977. "I'm an old Clam," she said, referring to the Clamshell Alliance, which protested the construction of the Seabrook nuclear plant in New Hampshire.

Nestel said she had been watching the plant and realized from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., during a shift change, that the gates were left open, making the plant convenient for a protest.

"People are not looking at Vermont Yankee," said Nestel. "We are casting the spotlight on the danger. We will be breathing in the radiation, but we're willing to risk that."

The four women met beforehand at the Burger King restaurant in Brattleboro to discuss their last-minute plans. They were driven to the plant by a friend, who pulled up and blocked the first gate as all four got out. Another friend accompanied them, but didn't walk past the second gate.

The security guard, who appeared to be armed with a handgun, was heard talking to the women about the benefits of nuclear power, but they were intent on their goal of getting through the second gate and sitting down.

Larry Smith, spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, who also came to the plant gates, said that the protesters didn't get anywhere near the security gate, which is much closer to the reactor itself.

"They trespassed on our property and they were arrested," he said.

Dreyfuss said that the protesters posed a serious threat to the plant and to themselves.

"I'm worried. It's a dangerous thing to do. People are putting themselves at risk," said Dreyfuss, noting that the guards are authorized to use deadly force if necessary.

"It's dangerous, and we had an excellent response," Dreyfuss said.

While police have regularly arrested anti-nuclear protesters, they hardly ever get prosecuted, with county prosecutors saying it would take needed resources away from serious cases.

Turnley, who has been a member of the Vernon department, has seen plenty of protests in those years.

"I've seen a few," he said.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Press release: Protesters demand Obama end Afghanistan War

Anti-war groups demand end to Afghan War,
demonstrate at the White House

For Immediate Release Sept. 27, 2009
Contact: Pete Perry, 202-631-0974; Gael Murphy, 202-412-6700

Washington – Disappointed with President Obama’s unwillingness to significantly change course from the Bush administration in Afghanistan, and alarmed by the recent troop build-up there, national anti-war groups will be joining together October 5th in a day of nonviolent direct action, during the week the Afghanistan War begins its ninth year. The coalition includes the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, Code Pink, Peace Action, the Black is Back Coalition, Progressive Democrats of America, the War Resisters League, the Washington Peace Center, World Can’t Wait, Veterans for Peace, and Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Joining them will be Cindy Sheehan, the mother of Casey Sheehan, a soldier killed in Iraq in 2004.

The White House action — the first such protest aimed specifically at the war in Afghanistan — comes at a time when domestic support for the war is slipping badly and members of Congress are asking that the Obama administration rethink the entire approach to the conflict. The war increasingly appears unwinnable, unnecessary, and misguided, draining American lives and resources, causing immense suffering among Afghan civilians, and rallying a broad-based insurgency whose main goal is to end the US occupation — not to engage in long-range terrorist attacks against the United States. By destabilizing nuclear-armed Pakistan and stoking greater hatred of the United States, the war further weakens American security.

The coalition will deliver a letter to the president and request a meeting with him at 11:45 a.m. on Monday, October 5th. If the meeting is refused, dozens of peace and justice activists are prepared to risk arrest, in the tradition of Gandhi, Dr. King, and Dorothy Day, in order to persuade the commander-in-chief to meet their demands. The October 5 coalition demands:

1) That the U.S. cease its combat operations and military occupation of Afghanistan as well as its military operations in Pakistan, withdrawing all troops as soon as possible.
2) That the U.S. engages in vigorous international aid efforts, particularly medical assistance and infrastructure reconstruction, in Afghanistan.
3) That the U.S. closes the prison at Bagram Air Base, releasing those who have been held with no charges, and prosecuting suspected terrorists in civilian courts. The same should happen immediately at Guantanamo.
4) That money appropriated for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq be used for life-affirming programs in the U.S. and abroad, such as health care and housing for the poor.

“We are coming to the White House to insist that the government confront the realities of the war in Afghanistan and change course,” says Jeff Leys, co-director of Voices for Creative Nonviolence based in Chicago. “How long will the American people be asked to pay for death and destruction there, when we face so many urgent problems at home?”

The action at the White House will be preceded by a rally starting at 10:30 a.m. in McPherson Square. Lifelong war resister Liz McAlister of Jonah House will be the featured speaker.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dear Friends,

10/5 will be a great day and will mark a key step in the revival of
the anti-war movement, post Obama-mania. Altogether we are at
approximately 100 people signed up to risk arrest.

As decided on the last conference call, we will have one final
planning call before the Oct. 5 action.

As Frida noted, we need to talk about media. Are there other specific
things that people want added to the agenda? If so, please forward to

Here is the tentative program for the rally in McPherson Square:
MC Welcome and Intro (5 minutes)
Poet 1 (one poem) (3 minutes)
Song by Emma's Revolution (5 minutes)
Poet 2 (one poem) (3 minutes)
Elizabeth McAlister (10 minutes)
Song by Emma's Revolution (5 minutes)
Black is Back Spokesperson (10 minutes)
Max Obuzsewski -Closing Remarks (5 minutes)
Song by Emma's Revolution (5 minutes)

I will make up the agenda and get it out along with a reminder early next week...

In peace and resistance,

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dialogue with the pres. before Oct. 5th

September 15, 2009

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear president Obama:

We are writing on behalf of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance to seek a meeting to discuss the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan. We are greatly concerned that the people of Afghanistan, like the people of Iraq, are suffering greatly from the U.S. invasion and the continued assault on this beleaguered country.

We feel you are stuck in the same trap, which ensnared President Lyndon Johnson. His decision to continue that awful war in Vietnam brought down his presidency. He failed to listen to the peace movement, and history has not been kind to him.

Today's peace movement is baffled by your persistence to wage war on the people of Afghanistan. Not only is your policy flawed, but it is doomed to failure. Afghanistan surely does not need more killing and destruction. It needs financial assistance and the willingness of the United States to build roads, schools and clinics. The people, especially the women and children, need food, medicine, shelter and an end to the fighting. Moreover, the U.S. military is unsuited to do humanitarian work in Afghanistan.

Please meet with us as soon as possible in order to explain your exit strategy, which must include a plan to provide aid and reconstruction in Afghanistan through nongovernmental organizations. After dialogue with a variety of people in Afghanistan, the U.S. government would then fund international efforts to assist Afghans with the rebuilding of their decimated infrastructure. This would include the funding of medical assistance needed to care for hundreds of thousands of people seriously wounded since the invasion in October 2001.

We protested the belligerency of the Bush administration, and now we are demonstrating against your misguided efforts in Afghanistan. We are mystified that in the midst of a horrible economic crisis, you are wasting precious tax dollars and other resources in a futile war without end. To call this a war of necessity is an attempt to rewrite history.

Develop time lines for the withdrawal of combat troops, close down all military bases, including the notorious prison at Bagram Air Base, and stop the bombing of Pakistan. We need an economic revival in this country, and not a war of choice in Afghanistan. A better use of your time and the country's resources would be to embark on a massive program of promoting clean energy throughout the United States and to get legislation passed guaranteeing health care for all.

Please respond by indicating when and where a meeting can be scheduled. We want to assist you in ending this very tragic chapter in U.S. history. Then you can go about the very painful process of trying to restore the world's trust in the U.S. government. Continuing the war in Afghanistan will further alienate our country from the global community. We look forward to your response and further dialogue.

In peace,

Joy First, Co-Convener, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance

Pete Perry, Co-Convener, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance

Max Obuszewski,Coordinating Committee, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance

Ellen Barfield, Coordinating Committee, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance

Malachy Kilbride, Coordinating Committee, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance

Kevin Zeese, Director, Voters for Peace

Gael Murphy, Co-Founder, Code Pink

Mike Ferner, President, Veterans for Peace

Leah Bolger, Vice President, Veterans for Peace

Elaine Brower, Military Families Speak Out

David Swanson, Co-Founder, AfterDowningStreet Coalition

June Eisley, Coordinator, Delaware Pacem in Terris

Don Muller, Sitkans for Peace and Justice

Patricia Wieland, Nothampton Committee to Stop the War in Iraq

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Resisting a lost war...

President Barak Obama presses on with an escalation in a war he cannot win. A majority of the Afghan people view U.S. military forces as a foreign occupying force, and now a growing majority of Americans no longer support this war. The United States empire can not sustain this military occupation. The facts on the ground and a myriad of historical examples prove this.

Afghanistan's history is replete with the tombstones of foreign occupiers. In the 18th centuries it was the Persians, twice. In the 19th and early 20th century it was the British, three times. In late 20th century the Soviets were thoroughly defeated in what was considered "their Vietnam."

Commander-in-chief Obama tells us this is a just war, a war we must fight to avenge those those killed on September 11th. However, President Karzai in his recent campaign and subsequent re-election has indicated a desire to sit down at the negotiating table with the Taliban. Furthermore, his brother-in-law is a known opium runner, while our military pledges to burn the poppy fields, a fantastical dream of cutting off the Taliban's primary funding source.

The American people tire of war, Osama bin Laden's whereabouts remain unknown, and we decimate civilian populations in both Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan (widening the war) with daily drone bombings. Latest polls show between 51-54% of the American people want this war to end. They are not stupid, they realize there is no "victory" to be had. Who is Obama doing this for? High-ranking military brass? Military contractors (who donated heavily to both his and Hillary Clinton's campaigns)? Surely it is not for the American people who are being told our government cannot afford comprehensive health care reform.

Now we are told August has turned out to be the deadliest month yet for the Afghanistan War. When will it end? It has resulted in lost lives, lost hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, and lost direction and morality.

On October 5th the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance will join with a growing coalition of other anti-war groups by acting in a dramatic civil resistance action at the White House. We, as people desiring a more peaceful and just world, are demanding the following the same week the Afghanistan War begins its ninth year:

1) That the commander-in-chief remove all U.S. combat troops and halt to the occupation of Afghanistan. This would allow the Afghan people full autonomy and self-determination without foreign influence.

2) That the U.S. take part in an international aid effort, focusing on both medical assistance and the rebuilding of Afghanistan's infrastructure. That this work be done for the benefit of the Afghan people, not private contractors.

3) That the U.S. close the prison at Bagram, and those with no charges be freed. Those with charges should be tried in civilian court.

4) Immediately halt the disastrous and blatantly immoral drone bombing of Pakistan. This further threatens the stability of the entire region, and only produces further hatred of the U.S.

Sadly, despite promises of change we have been given continued war and a continuation of indefinite detention. It is now time for all people of conscience to act. It is time we begin forcing Obama's hand. Won't you join us in D.C. on October 5th?

For further information:


~ Pete Perry is a D.C. native and peace and justice activist. He is also the co-convener of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

End these Endless Wars and Occupations -- Oct. 5th at the White House


You participated in the largest arrest action in U.S. Park Police history on September 26, 2005. I was with you. I was one of the 374 people of conscience acting for peace that day, including scholar Cornell West and peace mom Cindy Sheehan. As the present co-convener of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, I want to invite and encourage you to join us again on the week the Afghanistan War will enter its 9th year of lost lives, lost hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars and lost direction and morality. This is a war that can not be won, yet the escalation continues. What are our troops fighting and dying for? Even President Karzai has said during his recent campaign that he wants to sit down at the negotiating table with the Taliban. It is time the war and occupation end, it is time to end indefinite detention at places like Bagram prison and begin the process of building peace and rebuilding infrastructures.

Eight years ago on October 7, 2001, the U.S. and Britain invaded Afghanistan -- and the war on Afghanistan continues today, with President Obama, the “anti-war candidate,” increasing the number of troops. On Monday, October 5, 2009, the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR), working with Witness Against Torture, Peace Action, The War Resisters League, Atlantic Life Community, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and Veterans for Peace, and World Can't Wait will mark the anniversary and speak out against the war with direct action risking arrest at the White House.

On October 5th, we will gather at 10 AM at McPherson Square for a permitted rally and to hear lifelong war resister and widow of Phil Berrigan, Liz McAlister. From McPherson, we will march to Pennsylvania Avenue. Around noon, the various affinity groups will visit the White House calling for withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan and demand an ending of the illegal bombing in Pakistan with US drones and other forms of violence, the closing of the Bagram prison, and an ending to indefinite detention and torture. We are calling for an end to these wars and occupations, including that of Iraq, so that our resources can be used for life-sustaining actions including the funding and the rebuilding of Afghanistan’s and Iraq's infrastructure and medical assistance to Afghans and Iraqis, in addition to poverty reduction programs in the United States and world wide. We are also calling for accountability for those who have committed war crimes.

The White House action is a key component of a number of complimentary actions planned for October.

For more information:
To sign up:
For other events and an ongoing campaign:

In Peace and Resistance,
Pete Perry
Co-Convener, NCNR

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Three of My Friends Held in DC Central Lockup Until Monday

DRAFT PRESS STATEMENT: TASSC Arrests, White House sidewalk, Sat. June 27, 2009::

Today, five persons of conscience were arrested on the White House sidewalk, in connection with a 24-hour Vigil to End Torture, sponsored by the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC). The group gathered at Lafayette Park, bringing messages of solidarity from organizations and individuals - all calling for an immediate end to torture and support for survivors of torture.

Mid-way through the vigil, at about 1:00 p.m., several hundred vigil participants processed from Lafayette Park to the front of the White House, carrying their mesage of an immediate end to torture. Five persons remained on the White House sidewalk, in violation of federal regulations, and were arrested by US Park Police. The five are: Joy First, of Madison, Wisc.; Malachy Kilbride, Eve Tetaz, Harold Nelson, and David H. Barrows, all of Washington, DC.

Nelson and Barrows were released from police custody, after posting a fine of $100. Kilbride, First and Tetaz opted to seek a trial on the charges, and were held over in custody: they are expected to see a magistrate in DC Superior Court, on Monday, June 29, 2009.

Upon learning he would be held over the weekend in jail, Malachy Kilbride made the following statement: "When I got arrested, people knew where I was going and that I would be treated under the law. I did this for the "disappeared," who are treated outside the law."

The TASSC vigil continues until 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 28. It includes remarks by representatives of human rights groups - such as SOA Watch, Witness against Torture, the National Lawyers Guild, and religious groups - as well as statements by survivors of torture in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The 24-hour vigil raises awareness of practices of torture, particularly among the many visitors and tourists visiting the White House and Lafayette Square area.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What is a crime? We go to trial Monday!

I have not written much recently because life has been busy, and I am now beginning to focus on my own career rather than what can easily become (and often did for me) all-consuming activism. I have been arrested again since last I posted -- more on that later. Below is an interesting reflection mentioning our January 6th (first day of Congress) arrest.

Thank you to my friend David Swanson for the following post on his

U.S. Govt. Threatens to Prosecute Waterboarding
By David Swanson

We've been lobbying the Department of Justice all these months without realizing that the key to justice lay in the Department of the Interior, and specifically in the National Park Service, which has told activist Steve Lane he will be prosecuted if he attempts to demonstrate waterboarding at Thursday's anti-torture rally in Washington, D.C. The permit for the rally reads "Waterboarding exhibit will not be allowed for safety reasons."

Of course it's not news that the government views waterboarding as a crime. Attorney General Eric Holder called it torture at his confirmation hearings. But it is news that someone has been threatened with prosecution if he engages in torture. We learn about ongoing torture by the government all the time, and we're told all the time that torture is no longer official policy, and yet in neither type of story is there ever any suggestion that the laws against torture might be enforced, now or in the future. In the government's view, torture must be less safe when performed without the benefit of government resources, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, videographers, and vice presidents. However, street demonstrations of waterboarding have yet to produce a single corpse to add to the pile produced by official U.S. government torture.

Other crimes in Washington are also crimes if you or I commit them, but not if someone else does. When a group of us ordinary citizens spoke against the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine in the lobby of a senate office building on January 6th of this year (video) we were hauled off to jail. Bill Moyers' Journal covered the story. But when tourist groups are spoken to by senators in the same lobby, no crime occurs (video). I'm not talking about the people who hung banners from the balconies, or the passersby who cheered. I'm talking about those of us who stood and read the names of the dead. Seventeen of us (including some who hung banners) were arrested. Some of us paid a fine. On Monday, four face prosecution for unlawful assembly even though freedom of assembly is guaranteed in the Constitution, while warrantless wiretapping -- just to pick one example of ongoing government crimes -- is banned by the Constitution.

The greatest hypocrisy is not that tour groups can make noise whereas citizens with a political message cannot. The greatest hypocrisy is not that our president is speaking up for protesters as long as they are in Iran, while the Pentagon considers protesting to constitute "low level terrorism" when practiced within the United States. The greatest hypocrisy is that laws are being enforced while the most important laws and the most egregious violations are being ignored as a matter of loudly announced principle. When Laurie Arbeiter, Robbie Diesu, Michelle Grise, and Pete Perry appear in court on Monday they will not be able to ask the judge to stop looking backward, even though their "crimes" occurred in January. They will not be able to accuse the judge of petty vengeance for his or her refusal to "look forward." They will be compelled to face the question of whether they violated a law. (Never mind that the Capitol Police arrested us and then figured out hours later something they could most plausibly charge us with.)

Meanwhile, Dick Cheney confesses to felonies every time he opens his mouth, a civil suit against John Yoo has produced a 42-page order that could easily serve as an indictment, and the families our drones keep bombing in Afghanistan could never be persuaded that reading the names of the dead is the most serious crime that has occurred. The House has impeached a judge for groping despite his already having been convicted in court. But another judge responsible for torture is permitted to continue ruling on cases.

Here are two ideas to try to straighten our priorities out:

First, call Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth A. Meyers and ask that the charges against those who read the names of the dead be dropped: 202-727-3500 or 202-727-4783.

Second, take part in Torture Accountability Action Day on Thursday, June 25th, by joining our rally and march in Washington, D.C., (11 a.m. at John Marshall Park) or any of the rallies happening around the country on the same day:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Being Anti-Torture is now mainstream

Myself and some of my dearest friends in the peace and justice movement have been working very hard on our government to acknowledge that it has engaged in torture, and that it will not tolerate it any longer. As we near the conclusion of Witness Against Torture's 100 Days Campaign, we want to acknowledge that while there have been some success there's still a lot going on in places like Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan that we don't know about.

Anyhow, this recent report is promising:

Senate report on prisoner abuse connects dots all the way to the top
Ewen MacAskill in Washington
April 24, 2009 - 12:00AM

AdvertisementA HIGH-LEVEL US Senate report published yesterday directly implicates senior members of the Bush administration in the extensive use of harsh interrogation methods against al-Qaeda suspects and other prisoners around the world.

The 232-page report, the most detailed investigation yet into torture by US military and intelligence personnel, undercuts the claim of Paul Wolfowitz, a former deputy defence secretary, that the abuse of prisoners in Iraq was the work of "a few bad apples".

The report adds to the debate in the US since President Barack Obama, who regards the techniques as torture, opened the way for possible prosecution of members of Bush's government.

Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate armed services committee, which ordered the inquiry, said: "The paper trail on abuse leads to top civilian leaders, and our report connects the dots."

The report says the paper trail goes from Donald Rumsfeld, who was defence secretary at the time, to Guantanamo and to Afghanistan and Iraq. "The abuse of detainees in US custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of 'a few bad apples' acting on their own," the report says. "The fact is that senior officials in the US government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorised their use against detainees."

Pressure to adopt more aggressive interrogation came from the uppermost reaches of the Bush administration, the report says. Mr Rumsfeld authorised the use of 15 interrogation techniques. A handwritten note from him, attached to a memo of December 2002, says: "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?"

The report condemns the techniques adopted: "Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority." It says the methods were lifted from a military program called Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (Sere).

The report says Sere instructors trained CIA and other military personnel early in 2002 in the use of harsher interrogation techniques but warned that information obtained that way might be unreliable.

The internal debate suggests the definition of what was "acceptable" was flexible.

The Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said yesterday that the former vice-president Dick Cheney, who claimed valuable information was obtained through harsher interrogation techniques, should not be viewed as a "reliable source" on torture.

Guardian News & Media

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

My housemate is held over night after dramatic protest at White House

Catholic peace activist, Paul Magno, arrested at
White House while dramatizing the crucifixion

WASHINGTON -- Dramatizing a contemporary 'crucifixion,' a local peace and justice activist was arrested during a Good Friday nonviolent protest at the White House.

After two colleagues helped chain Paul Magno to the fence of the president's home, an assembled group of protesters, many with Witness Against Torture's 100 Day Campaign (, began to sing "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord." The action occured shortly after 12 noon, amid a crowd of tourists.

The activists are calling for the immediate closure of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and the end of all torture. The group has also begun calling for the closure of Bagram, Afghanistan, despite U.S. military plans to double the size of the military prison.

"Just as our Lord Jesus of Nazareth was torture and crucified, men in places such as Guantanamo and Bagram are being tortured and crucified today," Magno said. "Our president must act justly and immediately release those who have never been charged with a crime, but have been held for years."

Magno is being held overnight, and will likely be arraigned Saturday morning in DC Superior Court. It was not clear late Friday afternoon what crime he was being charged.

"We are here today to remember that men are being imprisoned, tortured and run through a sham of a judicial system, just as was Jesus Christ," said Carmen Trotta with Witness Against Torture.

Magno has been associated with the Catholic Worker movement for nearly three decades, and spent 20 months in federal prison for nonviolent resistance to the nuclear arms race following a Plowshares action in Florida in 1984. By comitting the action Friday, he will also be violating an unsupervised probation ordered 10 months ago by Judge Wendell P. Gardner of DC Superior Court, stemming from an earlier protest calling for the closure of the controversial Guantanamo prison camp.

Magno has been actively involved in the Washington Peace Center since 2004 as a former coordinator and currently a board member. He is currently on staff of Witness for Peace, an organization of people of faith and conscience engaged in supporting peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas.

# # #

Thursday, April 09, 2009

My housemate risks arrest on Good Friday

Local activist, Paul Magno, to mark Good Friday with a dramatic nonviolent direct action at the White House

WASHINGTON -- On a day holy to all Christians, a local peace and justice activist will risk arrest during a dramatic protest against the indefinite detention of prisoners at places such as Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. The planned action will attempt to nonviolently recreate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at the White House.

The action will happen at about 12 noon at the White House during Witness Against Torture's daily vigil ( calling for the immediate closure of Guantanamo and the end of all torture. The group has also begun calling for the closure of Bagram, despite U.S. military plans to double the size of the military prison.

"I want to call on the president to do the morally correct and just thing, and release all the prisoners who have never been charged with anything, and to shine an even brighter light on these unlawful places of injustice," said Paul Magno, a Washington activist.

Magno explained that his Good Friday protest is important, because it highlights that Jesus of Nazareth was a victim of torture and a prisoner of an empire.

According to local peace and justice activists, the action will be purely nonviolent and done in a manner of respect, with the aim of calling on President Obama to end the use of abusive tactics which amount to torture and to immediately close "legal black holes" such as Bagram and Guantanamo.

"It is not acceptable to simply close Guantanamo while leaving Bagram open, a place with even less oversight," the Washington activist added.

Magno has been associated with the Catholic Worker movement for nearly three decades, and spent 20 months in federal prison for nonviolent resistance to the nuclear arms race following a Plowshares action in Florida in 1984. By comitting the action Friday, he will also be violating an unsupervised probation ordered 10 months ago by Judge Wendell P. Gardner of DC Superior Court, stemming from an earlier protest calling for the closure of the controversial prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Magno has been actively involved in the Washington Peace Center since 2004 as a former coordinator and currently a board member. He is currently on staff of Witness for Peace, an organization of people of faith and conscience engaged in supporting peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas.

# # #

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Former Uighur Prisoner writes to President Obama

Abu Bakker Qassim's letter to Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,

I express my gratitude and my best respect for the contribution of the United States of America to our Uighur community. At the same time, I express my gratitude for your right and prompt decision to close the jail of Guantánamo Bay. I hope you will forgive my English, which I have tried to learn.

I hope my letter will find you in a good health. Please allow me to express my wish and prayer to read my letter.

My name is Abu Bakker and I'm writing on behalf of Ahmet, Aktar, Ejup, with whom I have lived since May 2006 in Albania, the only country that offered us political asylum from Guantánamo when US courts concluded that we were not enemy combatants.

I would like to write something about myself. The Uighur people have a proverb: "Who thinks about the end will never be a hero." Obviously it is human to think about the end, as it is human for me to remember things long ago.

30.12.2000. My last night in my little home. No one was sleeping … not even my eight-month twins in my wife's womb. No one was speaking … even my two-year old son … I had decided that I would confess that night to my wife the end I had thought of in my heart, but I hesitated because of a question my son had asked me, that I could not answer. It was at the beginning of winter. We were standing near the oven, and I was cuddling his hands. He took with his little hands my forefinger.

Dad! Is a fingernail a bone?

No, I said. The fingernail is not a bone.

It is flesh?

No. Neither is it flesh.

So, the fingernail: what is it, Dad?

I didn't know.

I don't know, I said.

So small was my boy, and I couldn't answer his questions. And when he grows up and the questions are not about the fingernail? How shall I answer then?

31.12.2000. Without telling the end, without turning back my head, without fear I started my long and already known way. "Ah, if only …! Ah, if only I reach Istanbul, am hired in the factory, to work day and night, to save my self and money. God is great! Ah, if only I could bring my wife there, my son and – the most important – to see my twins for the first time in Istanbul. To hold them on my breast, to pick up as I could … to show my son and to tell to them: We are from the place where the sun rises. I would embrace them, I would answer all of their questions, I would teach to them everything my mother taught me, as her mother taught her, to my grandmother her grandmother … as though in a movie with a happy ending: me film director, me scenarist, me at the lead role. The hero of my dearest people … Me."

After three years and a half, questions after questions, the military tribunal in Guantánamo asked me:

If you will die here, what will you think at your last minutes?

I'm a husband and a father that is dying in the heroism's ways, I answered and I asked the permission to put a question of my own:

If Guantánamo Bay were closed today, would you be a hero for your children?

I was proclaimed innocent. The lawyer proposed – meantime we were waiting for a state which will accept us – to live in a hotel in the Military Base of Guantánamo Bay. No way! We were put in a camp near to the jail, which was called "Iguana Camp." We were nine. Sometimes, one of my friends asked the soldiers about the time. Even today, I hadn't understood why he needed to know the time. I asked the time … I had reasons …

In Camp Iguana, there were iguanas. We fed them with bread, so they began to enter in our dormitory. All of us needed their company. Sometimes, when they were late, everyone missed them …

One morning, I had an unforgettable surprise from my friends. They gave to me cake from their meal, since that day was my twins' birthday. The same day, in our dormitory entered two iguanas and I give to them the cake … thinking about my kids … thinking about my end … My dream finished from Istanbul to Guantánamo, from my kids to iguanas …

Finally in 2006 I arrived in Albania, my second homeland. The ring of the telephone! What anxiety! Are they alive? For the first time, I spoke with my wife and my kids. They were alive!

Every morning, I go out of my home before the sun rises and wait for him with the hands up and empty. Since I'm still from the country where the sun rises. I think about the family which perhaps I will never see again and I resolve not to forget my vow, seven years ago, to be their hero.

Yet, Mr. President, seventeen of my brothers remain in that prison today. It is three years since I left the prison, and still they are there. Please end their suffering soon. Your January 22 words were so welcome to us, and I congratulate you for that and for your historic election. But many months have passed.

For the four of us who remain in Albania (one of us is in Sweden today, trying for asylum), life is very hard, and our future still seems far away. I hope that one day soon your government and countrymen will meet our seventeen brothers. Maybe when that day comes there would be hope that we might come to America too.

Mr. President.

In life not everyone will reach his desired end. Perhaps you don't know, but we are similar … Except as to the end. Since you, like me, without thinking abut the end of your long way, managed to be a hero … I'm at Your side … I'm proud of you …

Mr. President.

Please allow me to share with You a thought. Gift a pair of shoes to every child, to every woman, or every barefoot man since the barefoot people doesn't think too much before walking on the dirty mud. Begin with everything from above.

Very truly yours,

Abu Bakker Qassim

Tirana, Albania

March 24, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Congress: Tell Them in Person April 4 - 19

By David Swanson

It's just spring, when the world is puddle-wonderful, and your representative and your two senators pack up their lingerie and come dancing from hop-scotch and toy soldiers to make the trek outside the Beltway for a well-earned vacation sponsored by corporations completely indifferent to legislative news and dedicated to appreciation of nature's bounty in this season of new birth -- er, I mean, to begin a District Work Period dedicated to discovering exactly how much you appreciate the good work they've done so far -- er, that is to say, the last frazzled human threads that our democratic republic hangs by are coming home from April 4th to 19th and if you want to nudge them gently or forcefully in any direction you should call and ask for an appointment NOW.

This is something you have a right and a responsibility to do, either alone or with your friends and family, or with some like-minded neighbors, or with a coalition representing activist groups, labor unions, and other civic bodies. If your polite request for an appointment with your representative or one of your senators does not work, insist on it. Do not take no for an answer. If you cannot get an appointment or you can but cannot get a commitment to better represent your district or state, I highly recommend sitting down in your elected official's district office, phoning the media, and picketing out front. All is not well in our nation, and while there is no point in turning a friendly meeting unnecessarily confrontational, in most districts and states that WILL be necessary.

Why? What are we asking for that they aren't willing to provide? Well, peace, justice, the rule of law, and a fair break for working people, to name a few things. But, of course, every elected official on the planet will agree to those vague values, shake your hand, and blow you kisses out the door. What you want are specific hard commitments, and what they understand committing to are bills. So, where we have bills for them to cosponsor, ask them to cosponsor. Where we don't, ask them to introduce a new bill. Where appropriate, ask them to sign or draft a letter, make a statement, or commit to voting yes or no. Each congress member or senator is unique, as are the needs of each district and state. Knowledge is power: know as much about the person you are meeting with as possible. You can't discuss a dozen things in a meeting. But you can hand them a list of a dozen things and insist that they agree to at least one of them. You can choose to win their support on three minor matters rather than sitting-in at their office over one big one. You can use your judgment, but you should bear in mind that there is no conflict between respectful conversation and public pressure. Pressure is what the public is supposed to provide in a democracy. Disagreement need not and should not look like it does on television shoutfests.

You may want to make clear to your congress member and senators that you want them to have more power, not less, and that you want to help them get it. They've given up the power of war, the power of the purse, the power of treaty, the power to legislate without signing statements and secret laws and executive decrees, and even the power of subpoena. We want Congress to reclaim some powers and we want Congress members to think of themselves as powerful defenders of the first branch of our government, not members of political parties attending a royal court. We want them to envision what Congress could be if it resembled the body described in Article I of the Constitution. Here are steps they can take:

Cosponsor the State Secrets Protection Act
This is a bill to deny presidents the power to keep information secret from even a closed court of law by claiming "state secrets." While this power was abused greatly by President Bush, this bill was reintroduced by leading Democrats because President Obama began abusing this power. This is a rare instance of Congress standing up for itself (er, for the courts, but walking begins with baby steps) despite the party membership of those involved. Your representative and senators should be willing to sign onto this regardless of their party or politics. The House version (HR 984) has 16 cosponsors. The Senate version (S 417) has 6. Learn more:

Impeach Jay Bybee
If Congress wanted all of its powers to start flowing back up Capitol Hill, it would reclaim the power of impeachment, and it has a perfect opportunity. John Yoo didn't write those torture memos alone. His boss was Jay Bybee, and Bybee's signature is on memos that amount to confessions to felonies. Meanwhile, Bybee is serving as a federal judge in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. That the people of San Francisco and their Congresswoman who serves as Speaker of the House tolerate this is a disgrace. Any member of Congress of any party and from any state can introduce an article of impeachment or a bill to initiate impeachment hearings. Learn more:

Ask Eric Holder to Appoint a Special Prosecutor
In June 2008, 56 Democratic Congress members, led by Congressman John Conyers, wrote to Attorney General Mukasey asking for a Special Prosecutor. Conyers and Congressman Jerrold Nadler wrote to Mukasey again in December 2008. Please ask them to re-send these letters to the new Attorney General, Eric Holder. Nadler says he's drafting a new letter. The demand for prosecution has been supported by many members of the House and Senate. Almost 200 organizations are calling for a special prosecutor, as are almost 50,000 Americans. Ask your representative and senators to work with Nadler or on their own to publicly ask Holder to do what the law requires. Learn more:

Co-sponsor the Employee Free Choice Act
This bill would enforce the basic human right to assemble and self-organize, to form a union in the workplace free of intimidation and retribution from employers. This is a bill to restore power beyond Congress, to the people. You don't have to tell congress members that, but you do have to show it to them and compel them to back this. The House version (HR 1409) already has more than enough cosponsors to pass (224), but the Senate version (S 560) has only 39 and needs 50 (or 60 if the Senate leadership chooses to allow a filibuster to block it. If unions won't pressure senators hard for this, that doesn't mean future larger unions can't be made to fight for justice. We know they won't if they don't exist. Learn more:

End the Filibuster
Ask your senators to ask Senator Reid to support changing the filibuster rule (which can be done with a simple majority) to henceforth require only a simple majority to bring a bill to a vote. It is obscene to continue with a system in which senators representing 12 percent of the country can block all the efforts of the House and Senate. Learn more:

Cosponsor Single-Payer Healthcare
The United States National Health Care Act or the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, is a House bill, HR 676, that now has 72 cosponsors. Some members of the Senate supported this bill when they were in the House, but there is not yet any bill in the Senate. Your far-right elected officials will call this "socialized medicine" but it uses private doctors, private hospitals, complete freedom of choice (unlike the current system), saves businesses billions, and nets 2.6 million new jobs. Your moderate-right elected officials will tell you they want to just follow the president's plan, but unless they do their jobs and represent you by pushing for single-payer there will not be even a partial solution to our healthcare disaster in the final compromise bill. You can't compromise unless you have a starting position. And that requires putting your name on the line. Learn more:

Cosponsor Resolution Rejecting Treaties Made Without Congress
Bush made a treaty with Iraq for three more years of war, without congressional approval, and President Obama has declared in a signing statement that he has the power to make treaties without congress "interfering," despite the Constitution's requirement that two-thirds of the Senate approve any treaty. Feel free to mention Bush or Obama depending on who you're talking to. A House resolution (HRes 72) would express opposition to Bush's Iraq treaty unless approved by Congress. It has 6 cosponsors. Many groups and individuals are urging Pelosi to support this. No Senate resolution or bill has yet been introduced. Learn more:

Oppose Escalation of War in Afghanistan
Even when Congress members won't use their powers and choose to behave as advisors to the throne, it is possible for them to say the right thing and for that to help build the willingness to act. A bipartisan group of fourteen members of Congress recently wrote to the president asking him to reconsider his proposal to ship more troops to Afghanistan. Your representative and senators should send similar letters. Learn more:

Promise to Vote No Money for War Escalation, War Extension, Military Enlargement, or Bankers
Congress plans to vote on another supplemental spending bill for 2009 to continue the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and expand the latter. This will be for $75.5 billion on top of the $68.5 billion already stolen from our children and forked over. We want commitments to vote no on appropriating or authorizing any such spending, unless amended to be used purely for withdrawal. Enough is enough. We have seen huge struggles over this in past years that should not be allowed to dissipate because the wars are rebranded with the face of a new commander in chief. We do not have another $75.5 billion to spend on death and destruction and the antagonizing of the Muslim world. That money must go to human needs.

Another $130 billion or so will be marked for war funding in the upcoming FY 2010 budget as well, on top of another $557 billion or so in military spending, not counting various pieces of Pentagon spending and the military spending scattered across various other departments. In other words, the plan is to increase the largest military budget in world history. More than half of every dollar of income tax now goes to killing rather than living, investment in weapons and only weapons is destroying our economy, we desperately need jobs, green energy, mass transportation, healthcare, infrastructure, and schools, our government has already put our grandchildren in deep debt to China, and the plan is to INCREASE this approach. It's time to say No. We need a commitment to vote No on appropriating or authorizing any spending that extends illegal wars and fails to significantly decrease the wasteful spending of the Pentagon. If that means passing an amendment to the budget, so be it. If it means revising the budget until it will pass, so be it. We waste some $140 billion per year maintaining military bases around the world that damage our relations with the world. We dump billions and billions into weapons systems that do not work or are designed to combat enemies we do not have. Investing in non-military areas creates more and better-paying jobs, and without all the blowback. We need change, and we will not get it by voting, or by watching basketball. Change comes through organized public pressure. Learn more:

Cosponsor the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act
Congress passed a law in March permanently banning exports of nearly all U.S.-made cluster bombs. But Congress has not banned the use of cluster bombs by the U.S. military. The Senate version of a bill to do so (S 416) has 23 cosponsors, and the House version (HR 981) has 24. Learn more:

Let Wall Street Bankers Try Working for a Living
We need an understanding in congress that we will not tolerate any more bailouts for bankers, and we need leadership in efforts to undo what has been done, take our money back, allow fraudulent finance companies to fail, and fund the real economy. We want New Orleans rebuilt. We want a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. We want a living wage minimum wage. And we want investment of the size traditionally reserved for weapons makers and now expanded for bankers to go, instead, into the creation of non-military non-Wall Street jobs. We want money for every useful local and state need and pet project any elected representative has in mind, and we want our representatives to begin seeing potential funding for human needs when they look at massive military and Wall Street waste. We want local groups that work on domestic issues to see the same thing, and we should use these visits to build such coalitions. Here are two more things we DO want:

Cosponsor the Universal Prekindergarten Act
This House bill (HR 555) would assist States in establishing a universal prekindergarten program to ensure that all children 3, 4, and 5 years old have access to a high-quality full-day, full-calendar-year prekindergarten education. It has 6 cosponsors.

Cosponsor a Department of Peace
This House bill (HR 808) has 65 cosponsors. Learn more:

You can find your representative and senators at:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Obama reaches out to Iran

This is a positive development. As someone entirely dedicated to peace, I am extremely pleased with the direction Pres. Obama appears to be taking

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What happened at the Pentagon on St. Patrick's Day?

Myself and several other activists associated with the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance visited the Pentagon Tuesday morning taking with us copies of a letter that had been delivered a week earlier to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The letter asked for the U.S. government to pursue peace and just diplomacy over illegal and immoral wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as an immediate cessation of bombing portion of the nation of Pakistan. We also said that if we did not receive a response, we would pay him a visit.

Seven of us approached the doors of the Pentagon, about 30 yards from an entrance to the Metro station. We spoke with a guard monitoring those entering the building, as we did not carry officially-issued Pentagon badges. However, we are all citizens and taxpayers of the U.S., and wished to meet with at the very least someone from Gates' office. We were told to go into a security booth for those arriving at the Pentagon for business where we had to show two forms of ID. Inside this booth a senior Pentagon Police Officer quickly rushed in and started talking with us. He said he recognized three of our group (from previous actions at the Pentagon), and knew why we were there. He ordered us out of the booth where he would speak further with us on the sidewalk.

Once back outside on this sidewalk connecting the Metro to the doors of the Pentagon, he told us a meeting would not be granted but he would do his best to make sure the letter would get to Gates' office. We told him that the letter had already been delivered, and that we were taxpayers, that we paid all of the Defense Department employees' salaries, and we were determined to have a meeting with someone in the secretary's office. He again denied us entrance, and said no meeting would happen. We said that we had already mailed, faxed and petitioned our government to change its disastrous courses in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that we were now trying a more direct approach.

The officer became a little more agitated and warned us that the police would begin making arrests if we did not leave. We then began sitting down on the sidewalk, and continued communicating with this officer, and another one who was on the scene. Manijeh from New Jersey said that her right to petition her government for a redress of grievances was enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution. I said we would keep talking to anyone who would listen, but at the same time we were determined to have that meeting with someone in Gates' office. I also stated that we were remembering Capt. Brian Bunting, from Montgomery County, Maryland, who was killed by an IED in Afghanistan a couple days before, and that he was 10 years younger than me. "I do not want anymore young Americans to loose their lives for illegal and immoral wars based on lies," I uttered loud enough so a couple passersby could hear.

The only response we got at that point was the senior officer to first ask us to move to yet another part of the sidewalk, and when we refused he issued two more warnings that we were about to be arrested. He said we were blocking an entrance to the Pentagon, as dozens of Pentagon workers easily passed by us quickly as they entered the building. Several of us said we were not blocking anything. Both officers started calling for back up to assist with making arrests.

Within a minute, a few police arrived on motorcycles, while our young friends with Our Spring Break watched nearby. The police rushed us, rapidly snatched us up and slapped handcuffs on us. I assured them that we were all nonviolent, and that all of us were compliant. We also in turn asked for illegal wars and immoral occupations to be stopped as they lead us to waiting police cars.

Once we made it to the Pentagon holding cells, the police treated us with respect and I found them to be extremely polite. One officer admitted that he was against the occupation of Iraq. And as another of us was fingerprinted his large, long fingers were compared to the late great activist Peter DeMott's. "You have the same fingers as that farmer, DeMott?" A couple of us shared small recollections of Peter with the police. Peter died in a tragic accident recently, and one of his greatest anti-war actions occurred on March 17, 2003 -- exactly 6 years earlier, and two days before Shock and Awe. He and three other Catholic Workers poured their blood inside a military recruiting station in upstate New York. They shut the station down for several hours that day, and all of them did some time in jail for this powerful witness.

We were all charged with Failure to Obey a Lawful Order. Within two and a half hours, all seven of us were released with a court date of May 8th. That day we will appear in Alexandria Court in order to continue to speak out and resist.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bush, Yoo, Etc tried to destroy our Constitutional rights

This further confirms what many of us activists long believed about the modus operandi of the Bush regime. Of course many of us (including myself and 52 others in Maryland) were tracked and labeled terrorists by the Maryland State Police. And a subset of that group was further spied on by the Department of Homeland (Fatherland) Security. Here it is, Bruce Fein explains what happened to the U.S. Constitution following September 11, 2001.

FEIN: End presidential secrecy
Bruce Fein

Congress should swiftly enact a statute prohibiting secret presidential government.

The urgency was demonstrated last week when nine ill-conceived legal memoranda to justify despotism cobbled together by the pliable Jay Bybee and John Yoo in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush were belatedly released.

Their shelf-life would have been nanoseconds if they had been immediately exposed. Their counterconstitutional reasoning would have been instantly discredited. Instead, the memoranda remained intact until the twilight hours of the Bush presidency when their secrecy could no longer be guaranteed under a successor administration.

Like a death bed conversion, all nine were recanted by then- Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Steven Bradbury in twin disclaimers on Oct. 6, 2008, and Jan. 15, 2009. Similarly, the department backed down from its post-Sept. 11, 2001, claims of presidential authority to torture or to spy on Americans in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) after published leaks to the media. As Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis lectured, sunshine is the best disinfectant.

The common but chilling theme of the memoranda was that only the commander-in-chief clause of the Constitution remained standing after Sept. 11, 2001. The Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures could be disregarded in pursuit of suspected terrorists. The First Amendment's protection of free speech could be subordinated whenever the president thought it helpful to defeating international terrorism.

John Yoo, then deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, advised: "First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully." Moreover, "The current campaign against terrorism may require even broader exercises of federal power domestically." Laws or treaties prohibiting torture, warrantless electronic surveillance, mail openings, or even burglary could be defied under the banner of counterterrorism.

The commander-in-chief power was inflated manifold. Alexander Hamilton, the strongest proponent of a muscular chief executive, in Federalist 69 accepted the modesty of the president's war powers under a Republican form of government. He elaborated that the commander-in-chief authority "would be nominally the same with that of the King of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first general and admiral of the confederacy; while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war, and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies; all which by the Constitution under consideration would appertain to the Legislature."

The department's legal memoranda insist that the president's commander-in-chief authorities exceeds that of the British monarch to include the power to suspend the Great Writ of habeas corpus and to hold American citizens as "enemy combatants" indefinitely without accusation or trial.

Indeed, no limiting principle is articulated that would prevent the president from doing anything he believes might assist in waging war against international terrorism. In other words, to borrow from Cicero, Sept. 11, 2001, silenced all laws but one: the commander-in-chief power.

If the executive branch were infallible, then these constitutional abuses would be less troublesome. The victims of the violations would all have been genuine terrorists, "the worst of the worst" in the words of the Bush administration. But the vast majority of Guantanamo Bay detainees held as "enemy combatants" have been exonerated in habeas corpus proceedings mandated by the United States Supreme Court last year because the government had no evidence.

Exemplary are 17 Uighur adversaries of the Chinese communist government who have been detained for more than seven years without a crumb of evidence of hostility to the United States. The Bush administration's constitutional transgressions justified by the nine legal memoranda made the United States less safe by serving as recruiting agents for al Qaeda and discouraging anti-terrorism cooperation from foreign countries like Great Britain, Germany or Italy.

There were no offsetting counterterrorism benefits. Torture yields false information. Thus, Abu Zubaydah, an al Qaeda cipher according to the FBI's leading expert, confessed to everything to relieve the pain of torture. Every authentic enemy combatant or Sept. 11, 2001, conspirator can be criminally prosecuted in civilian courts with the trappings of due process.

Jose Padilla was initially erroneously detained as an enemy combatant. He was later prosecuted for conspiring to provide material assistance to a foreign terrorist organization. Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called "20th hijacker," was criminally prosecuted and convicted in a civilian court for complicity in the 2001 attacks on America. Every scrap of useful intelligence gathered illegally in violation of FISA could also have been obtained in compliance with the law.

The government also revealed last week that the CIA had destroyed 92 interrogation videotapes of Mr. Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Of that number, 12 involved so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," a euphemism for torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.

Secret government is twice-cursed. Darkness invites lawlessness. And self-government requires public knowledge of what the government is doing. James Madison, father of the Constitution, warned: "A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both."

Congress should enact a statute prohibiting the executive branch from withholding information requested by Congress or the public based on an asserted need for confidentiality. Any adviser whose candor to the president depends on a promise of secrecy should be fired. National security secrets like the Manhattan Project should be disclosed to Congress in executive session.

Sunshine on the presidency has never harmed the United States.

Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer at Bruce Fein & Associates Inc. and author of "Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for our Constitution and Democracy."

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Obama Pressured by Israel Lobby to Boycott World Conference Against Racism

By Roberto Lovato, New America Media
Posted on March 3, 2009, Printed on March 3, 2009

At a time when racial conflict and discrimination are on the rise around the world, the Administration of the world's first black U.S. president will not be attending the world's most important conference on race and racism.

In what may signal a dangerous new, "post-racial" approach to global race relations, President Barack Obama's Administration announced that it will not attend the second World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Geneva next April. According to this article in the New York Times, the Administration will boycott the conference to protest what it deems the unfair equation of Zionism with racism in the outcome documents of the first conference held in Durban, South Africa, and now the second conference, also known as "Durban II, as well." Other concerns cited by Administration officials, some of whom recently attended preparatory meetings in Geneva, in their justification of the boycott include a proposal to place restrictions on the defamation of religions and any language calling for reparations for slavery. According to the Times article, one of the primary reasons for the Obama Administration's decision was that "Israel and some American Jewish groups urged a boycott of the April conference, and several close American allies, including Canada."

Praised by groups that lobbied against Durban II like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), whose leaders applauded the U.S. decision, "for refusing to participate in a process that would in any way brand Israel as a racist country," the Obama Adminsitration's boycott comes at the worst possible time for a planet facing rapidly increasing levels of recession-inspired racism, xenophobia and hatred.

Increasing numbers of experts report that most continents -- Europe, Africa, Asia -- are seeing exponential growth in hate crimes, ethnic tensions and other manifestations of the racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, the kind on intolerance that will be discussed at the Durban II Conference. And in the Américas, the very palpable rise in racial tensions, hate crimes and other discrimination are well illustrated by events here in the "post-racial" United States: the NY Post Chimpanzee cartoon scandal, the U.S. visit (including a film screening in Congress) by Danish racist Veert Wilder and the massive protests against the racial profiling, humiliation and other practices of Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, to name a few taking place in the United States. And these were only the events that the Obama Administration was silent about this past week.

The Obama Administration's silence on both these racial incidents and on such fundamentally racial -and global-problems as the "drug war," criminal justice reform and immigrant detention contrasts with the much-lauded statements on race by Attorney General Eric Holder. In statements made to coincide with the start of Black History Month, Holder called the U.S. "a nation of cowards" when it comes to discussion of race.

Apparently, as indicated by Obama Administration's boycott of the Durban II conference, Mr. Holder's statements are equally applicable to the global discussion of race. Consider, for example, Mr.Holder-and the Obama Administration's relative silence on reversing the abject failure and tragedy that is the global and domestic "war on drugs" (he's actually in favor of pursuing it more intensely) and the unprecedented levels of racialized imprisonment it entails. In the face of the radicalization of racial hatred that is afoot throghout the world, both the Durban response and Holder's Black History Month statements are beginning to sound like the oh so many hollow and jaded "Si Se Puede"'s and other ethnic, racial "History Month"-like slogans designed to gain favor among former minorities, all the while pursuing right-of-center criminal justice policies that devastate these same communities.

And with its very dangerous boycott of Durban II in response to pressure from the very powerful Israel Lobby , the Obama Administration may be giving the green light to governments and other groups practicing their own brand of racial discrimination, promoting hatred and other forms of discrimination. While much of the media is discussing the U.S. boycott, most of these reports neglect to the mention the near universal condemnation of the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians, which United Nations General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto likened to apartheid last November:

"More than twenty years ago we in the United Nations took the lead from civil society when we agreed that sanctions were required to provide a non-violent means of pressuring South Africa. Today, perhaps we in the United Nations should consider following the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel."

Rather than join the rest of the world in Durban and in condemning the killing and discrimination on the part of the Israeli and other governments -- including our own -- Obama's boycott reflects his choice to pursue the more dangerous path to dealing with race, racism and discrimination: symbolism at the expense of real changes to very devastating policies. Such are the perils of our increasingly post-racial presidency in a racially-troubled world.

Political choices like the Durban decision or the blind eye turned to the indiscriminate killing of and discrimination against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank make one wonder if the Obama Administration has also chosen to become the black face of empire.

Roberto Lovato, a frequent Nation contributor, is a New York-based writer with New America Media.

Friday, February 27, 2009


By Max Obuszewski

In 2002, the Iraq Pledge of Resistance was formed to prevent a war
with Iraq. While we failed, we continued to engage in nonviolent
direct action to end the war and the occupation. Eventually, the
group, in expanding its focus, became the National Campaign for
Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR].

In light of the massive Capitol Climate Action on March 2nd, we would
like to take the opportunity to describe what we as a campaign have
committed ourselves to. We celebrate this opportunity to share our
thoughts with other progressive activists.

As a group with lots of direct action experience, NCNR has
consistently encouraged organizations and individuals to recognize the
difference between civil disobedience and civil resistance. We see
the difference as being important in the struggle for nonviolent,
positive social change.

The classic definition of civil disobedience, as practiced by the
civil rights movement, is the breaking of an unjust law with the
intent of changing it. In Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, Rosa Parks
broke an immoral law when she refused to give up her seat on a city
bus to a white person.

It is rare for today's actvists to do "civil disobedience," as it
removes the onus from the government to prove a defendant was engaged
in criminal activity. Doing CD can cause a majority of the people to
plead guilty and pay a protest tax. Doing CD eliminates the argument
that the government, or a corporate entity, is the lawbreaker.

Today, NCNR activists engage in civil resistance, which means taking
action to uphold the law. For example, we repeatedly challenged the
Bush/Cheney government which disavowed the rule of law.

Using the term civil resistance is important for several reasons.
First, in every statement about an action we point out that a
government, or a corporate entity, is breaking the law. Second, we
stress our Nuremberg obligation to act against the government's
lawbreaking. Finally, there is the matter of speaking in court after
the action. A defendant who states s/he was engaged in civil
disobedience not only is pleading guilty, but is letting the
government off the hook for its failure to prosecute the real

If we are arrested, we encourage participants to go to trial and then
use the courtroom to state that the action was lawful since its intent
was to expose actual violations of the law—starting an illegal war,
torturing prisoners or destroying the environment.

In court, we point out citizens have a Nuremberg obligation. At the
Nuremberg trials, the court determined that citizens must challenge
the government when it breaks the law.

Using the term civil disobedience today can confuse activists new to
resistance. An activist would assume first that the rationale is to
get arrested in order to change the law, and second that one is guilty
as charged.

Reporters and prosecutors will make the case, you wanted to get
arrested. No, the intent of the person involved in civil resistance
was to end torture or to close down a nuclear power plant or to uphold
the Constitution. One reason a prosecutor asks such a question is
that most charges have a "mens rea" [guilty mind] component to the
charge. The government will argue that the defendant's intent was to
get arrested. No, the intent, for example, was to try to get a
meeting with a senator who voted to fund an illegal war.

On January 3, 2008 twelve activists arrested on September 15, 2007
outside the Capitol had their case dismissed. Over 180 people
arrested that day pled guilty and paid a citation fee. Once the case
came to court, it became evident that the police line was illegal. If
possible, activists should take these "open and shut" cases to court.
Not only did the Bush administration break innumerable laws, but
police consistently violate First Amendment rights. Even if one is
found guilty after engaging in an act of civil resistance, an
absurdity can become obvious: prosecute an activist who stated the war
is illegal, but ignore the criminality rampant in the Bush

In closing, we reiterate the importance of using appropriate language.
Those of us with experience have a duty to mentor those who are just
now contemplating acts of resistance. And when we act, we engage in
civil resistance.