Occupy Wall Street; Woes and Words

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copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

Occupy Wall Street?  I will not.  However, I am there in spirit.  I believe in the cause, the many grounds protesters have posited.  Countless Grievances, One Thread Howard Zinn stated this shared truth ever so succinctly years earlier, “It is not only Iraq that is occupied. America is too.”  Wall Street,Schools, Classrooms, Hospitals, and Banks, these “Occupations” have gone on for far too long. People in Zuccotti Park and at the Chase Manhattan Plaza understand as most Americans do.  The myriad movement reflects the ninety-niners thirst for dignity.  The cravings are deep.  

I  am one with the unemployed, the scholars, skilled, and service workers who only seek a job.  Independent Laborers and Union folks, your pain is mine. Private Industry and public institutions converted to corporate holdings have hurt me as they have you.  I too, have countless tales to tell.  Consultants, your woes are mine.  Gone are the days of companies being loyal to the workforce.  Pensions went with the wind.

401ks have replaced these for some.  More are less fortunate.  The statistics are startling.  What has occurred in the last year is more astounding. States Cut Public Pension Benefits In Massive Funding Shortfall.  Personal dollar deficits, I have known more than a few, as have those who physically Occupy Wall Street.

In spirit, I am you “Occupiers” of Wall Street.  Homeowners, Renters, and those who have lost a place to live, let alone the will to live, I relate. After a score and eleven years, I purchased my first home. I did so during the boom. The cost was great, the interest high.  I thought I could make do.  Times changed and so too did my circumstances.  Nonetheless, I soon discovered the Banks did not care.  Even employees of financial institutions chose not to lend a friendly ear.

I hear you “Occupiers.”  In many ways, on countless occasions, since Middle School, I have stood against the absurdity of Capitalism out of control.  The Military Industrial Complex is as the Privatization craze.  Each permeates and punishes society.  The powerful have used our nations as their playgrounds.  We see it in policies and practices.  Political realities only further the reason for your, my, our rants and rage.

Indeed, Corporate and Civic Complexes have brought about fear and loathing. Conjoined, these have left our nation’s people poorer.  Over and over again, Americans have done as President Eisenhower warned us against.  We did not “peer into society’s future” when we acted on greed and immediate gain.  When we allowed the affluent and those of authority to divest and divert funds necessary for the common good, we — you and I, and our government – did not “avoid the impulse to live only for today.” We plundered “for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow.”

Contrary to Eisenhower’s cautions, Americans “mortgage[d] the material assets of our grandchildren.” We did more than risk the loss of our “political and spiritual heritage.” We successfully vanquished what was ours, a “democracy” thought strong enough “to survive for all generations to come.”  Our country has “become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”

The gloom and sense of doom felt by the masses who speak out is one I share, only the words differ.  We did not “avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate.”  That is why I ask for a reality once yearned for.  May we be “a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”

Rather than “occupy” might we integrate ideas on an American Avenue, two or three; perhaps more.  Let us “Tear Down Wall Streets.” We need not infiltrate, invade, or emulate the ways of Wall Street.  There has been too much of this.  Internationally, monetary and military Industrial complexes “Occupy.”  We do not liberate, as is evidenced by Iraq.  Nor will we bring freedom to Afghanistan or Wall Street. We occupy.  

United States citizens speak of the German occupation of France, or of Europe. After World War II we spoke of Soviet-occupied Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and eastern Europe. It was the Nazis, and the Soviets, who occupied countries. The United States liberates all others from occupation. Indeed, today we are the occupiers.  The number of small, medium and large oversea military installations combined, as documented in the Department of Defense Base Structure Report (BSR) 2003 Report, totals at least 702. Bases, buildings owned and leased, as stated a decade ago . . .”Ongoing additions to the base structure, including in- transfers, are often not officially recorded until well after the decision.”

Indeed, in recent years alone, the number of occupations has grown substantially.  Some may say, we have been occupiers since settlers first colonized this land.  Tim Wise spoke of this “truth” only days ago.  Wise injects linguistics into the debate.   Language, the use and abuse, or might I say manipulation of a message, looms large in our lives.  I think of DoubleSpeak

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. ~ George Orwell. [Author of 1984]

Be it Corporate Doublespeak, political, or philosophical jargon. Euphemisms expand. This land is your land. This land is my land?  What might the natives of this or any other territory think?

Might we reflect on the words, the wisdom, and our adopted ways?  “Occupy” Wall Street.  Instead, may we “Tear Down Wall Streets.” These exist everywhere in our country and outside our borders.  It is mused worldwide we live within an oligarchy.  Government Establishments and Corporate Enterprises, each and either, have been “Occupied” or “Liberated” [you choose] by an ideology that insists control must be granted to the few, the proud, the elite.  

The notion of all, equality, and as a collective, is void. Equality has been marked “canceled” on bills of fare. Fairness is far from our reality, for worldwide, the rich rule.

We see this in our schools. Privatization has long been in progress.  In 1995, the title appeared prominently, Public Schools: Make Them Private. Domination, the deed done, began decades ago in health care.  “Markets” are closed.  Economic and war policies are not “democratic.”  The question is, has democracy ever been in action. Certainly, Main Street attempted to bring social equality about.  However, classlessness has long been a cause never fully realized.

Thus, “Occupy” Wall Street, I rather not, thank you.  Oh, I intend to travel to the location, from New York to New Jersey.  I will stand on the streets and express my serious disco9ntnt.  From Connecticut to California, I will walk, fly, drive . . . I will strive to speak in support of our shared contentions.  North or South, I will be there.  Midwestern missions will be, is as mine.  

Indeed, I even now sit and take vigil.  I “Tear Down Wall Streets.” Still, I desire to do other than was done to me.  I will not “occupy.”  “occupations” are all that I disdain.  I would not wish to repeat the rape that is America’s history.  Violent destructive doings, be these in words, or in deed, are not me!

Thus, I invite you to do other than inhabit an institution or an ideology that had destroyed democracy.   “Democratization” might be nice; however, that word too has come to mean an occupation.  Integrate, perhaps?  Yet, to assimilate by force, or with the use of forceful language, is but an invasion. “Decolonize” what was captured, possibly?  Yet, I ask, can we grant independence to what never was truly ours . . . Wall Street, Schools, Medical Services, Banks?  

I will “Tear Down Wall Streets” regardless of the configuration.   Please join me; expand horizons so that all might see a glorious vision. . Together, we can and will reach beyond the sky.  

References and Resources . . .

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War and profit: Deciphering what it means to be in the U.S. military



March Forward! Against War and Racism

© copyright 2009 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

From the newsletter of March Forward!

We join the military for many different reasons. Some of us want to have access to a college education. Some of us want job training and a steady paycheck. Some of us join to get U.S. citizenship. Some of us need to get out of debt or need to get off a destructive path. Some of us join out of pride, patriotism and a genuine desire to be a part of some greater, collective good. Many of us made the decision early-while still in high school, enticed by recruiters’ promises of cash bonuses, adventure and opportunity-while some of us joined after years as a worker, drawn by the military’s full health care and housing benefits.

Whatever the reason, we all found ourselves wearing the uniform of the U.S. military. What did we actually join? What is the role of the U.S. military in the world? What does it mean to be a soldier following the dictates of U.S. foreign policy? When we sign ourselves away to the military, what are we being used to do?

In recent years, many of us ended up in Iraq or Afghanistan. We are told that as a soldier in the U.S. military we are defending the interests of the United States. This does have an ounce of truth-but only an ounce. We are defending the interests of a particular class in the United States. It is only a wealthy minority whose interests are being defended in Iraq, Afghanistan and the more than 130 countries where U.S. troops are stationed.

In whose interests do we serve?

I was sent to Iraq believing we would be helping the Iraqi people. Once the illusions of pride and patriotism crumbled, I realized I was never sent to help anyone. I kicked down their doors and dragged them from their homes. I robbed them of their humanity in interrogation cells. I watched the life ripped out of them. I saw children torn to shreds. I witnessed my friends disabled by physical and/or psychological trauma. All this suffering and destruction for “Iraqi Freedom,” which really means the freedom of a new U.S.-installed government to hand over control of its natural resources to U.S. corporations.

It wasn’t much different for those soldiers sent to Korea, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Panama or other countries that have been targets of U.S. intervention over the past half-century and more.

We are taught the United States stands for freedom and democracy, and that military force is used to defend or further those ideals. This is echoed constantly throughout our lives, in school and in the media. It is woven into the fabric of our national identity, making it possible for people to accept the deaths of U.S. soldiers in foreign lands, as long as they are assured they died in the interests of democracy.

History of U.S. conflicts

However, reviewing the history of conflicts in which the U.S. military has been involved tells a completely different story. The U.S. government does not have a history of supporting democratic movements, but rather a history of overthrowing them. Among those countries whose popularly elected governments have been crushed by the U.S. military and replaced by authoritarian and non-elected dictators are the Congo, Grenada, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Chile, Indonesia, Iran, Haiti-and the list goes on. Quite simply, this government – whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican in the White House-has no problem installing and backing oppressive dictatorships.

Understanding U.S. foreign policy becomes much easier if we stop looking at it in terms of “defending democracy,” and start looking at it in terms of economic interests. It is not the form of a foreign government that determines whether it ends up in the crosshairs of the U.S. government, but whether or not that government will give U.S. businesses access to its markets, labor force and natural resources. This explains why the United States supports governments with some of the worst human rights records, like Colombia, or Saudi Arabia, which has never had an election in its history! U.S. corporations reap billions of dollars in profits from these countries.

U.S. foreign policy really boils down to ensuring the extraction of wealth from the developing world by U.S. corporations. In the words of two-time Medal of Honor winner Major General Smedley Butler: “I spent 33 years in the Marines. Most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.”

Claims that the Pentagon only works to defend the United States and spread democracy fall apart when you look at the current use of the military. It is now obvious that Saddam Hussein posed no threat to the United States, nor did the U.S. government care about the well-being of the Iraqi people. A quarter of Iraq’s population of 26 million people has been killed, wounded or displaced since the illegal U.S. invasion on March 19, 2003. Iraq sits atop a massive supply of petroleum, all of which was nationalized and closed to U.S. corporations’ control under Saddam Hussein.

The role of banks and big business

The banks and Wall Street exert dominating influence over U.S. foreign policy. Our “democracy” is reserved for those who have millions of dollars to run for office, and who are funded by (and ultimately beholden to) corporate interests. Our “free press” is owned by only five mega-corporations who directly profit from the military-industrial complex and distort reality to shape public opinion accordingly.

The ruling class of Wall Street CEOs, bankers and their loyal politicians has the power to annihilate an entire country for profit-but they never fight in these wars themselves. So they have to find a way to convince the average worker that these wars are worth fighting. They must find a way to convince working-class people that we should kill and die to make the rich ruling class even richer.

Our enemy is not on the other side of the world; that enemy is in the corporate boardrooms and the Pentagon Brass. Defeating that enemy means refusing to take part in their imperialist plans and organizing together to demand real justice.

Green Zone handover: The farce of Iraqi sovereignty?

© copyright 2009 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally Published, Thursday, January 8, 2009

Only end of occupation can restore self-determination!

The author is an Iraq war veteran.

On the heels of the Status of Forces Agreement, the Iraqi flag was raised for the first time since the 2003 invasion in a symbolic handover of the Green Zone to the Iraqi government.

The Green Zone is a 5.6-square-mile community along the west side of the Tigris River in central Baghdad. It is home to roughly 30,000 residents, including 14,000 U.S. and coalition forces. For nearly six years, the Green Zone has been used to paint a picture of stability and U.S. success in Iraq. When U.S. and foreign politicians visit occupied Iraq, they stroll around the Green Zone, being shown beautiful gardens and lavish palaces that paint a picture of a safe and successful occupation.

But the Green Zone itself is nothing more than a public relations prop and a headquarters for the military brass, private military contractors, and Western corporations to conduct their affairs in luxury. It is off limits to most Iraqi citizens.

Its relative safety is due to a 13-foot concrete wall, miles of barbed wire, machine gun nests every few hundred meters and tightly controlled entry points. Anyone entering the Green Zone is searched thoroughly with high-tech devices such as body scanners. While the Green Zone is frequently attacked from outside with rockets and mortars, there have been few attacks within its walls due to the overwhelming security measures.

The situation just outside the walls of the Green Zone is drastically different. The Green Zone sits in one of the areas where the Iraqi resistance is strongest. Residents outside its walls must cope daily with the severe manifestations of the occupation-extreme poverty and violence.

With U.S. officials coordinating every aspect of Iraqi governance from within its walls, the Green Zone has long been a symbol of U.S. colonial occupation in Iraq. But now, in a move to further tout the occupation, the Green Zone is being manipulated to become a symbol of Iraqi sovereignty.

The handover of the Green Zone, in fact, does nothing except place Iraqi guards in charge of security. Essentially, the “sovereignty” heralded by the handover only gives the Iraqi security forces backed by Washington the sovereignty to protect their occupiers as they continue business as usual within its walls.

Public spectacle changes nothing

Still, Iraq’s puppet president, al-Maliki, declared Jan. 1 a national holiday titled “Sovereignty Day.” A banner at the transition ceremony read in Arabic, “Receiving the security of the Green Zone is a major step toward full independence and the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.” Once the ceremony concluded, the banner was taken down, and behind it was a sign listing a set of rules created by the U.S. military. (Washington Post, Jan. 1)

While the Iraqi security force in the Green Zone-the “Baghdad Brigade”-has supposedly been put in charge, that too is a farce. The Baghdad Brigade is under direct control of President al-Maliki-a U.S. puppet whose government would collapse without Washington’s backing. Furthermore, U.S. forces will continue to be in direct control of security for the next 90 days, at which point the arrangement will be “re-evaluated.” While the Status of Forces Agreement mandates that U.S. forces in the Green Zone come under Iraqi control, U.S. officials have acknowledged that how and when that will happen is uncertain, and unlikely for the time being.

Even if the Baghdad Brigade does officially control security in the Green Zone, it will only be under the strict watchful eye of the U.S. forces. Baghdad Brigade commander Brigadier General Emad al-Zuhairi said, “The Americans will supervise us.” (Washington Post, Jan. 1)

Majid Mola, a resident of Baghdad, commented on how he viewed the newly gained “sovereignty”: “Where are the government services? Where is the electricity? People want practical things.” (Reuters, Jan. 1)

The handover of the Green Zone serves only to improve the public image of a brutal occupation that has killed more than 1 million Iraqis, displaced 4.5 million more, and plunged the Iraqi population into deep poverty. The symbolic handover should be seen for what it is: a public-relations ploy detached from the reality on the ground. While the Iraqi flag now flies over the hub of the occupation, nothing has changed for the Iraqi people.

Raising the Iraqi flag is a symbolic step that brings Iraqis no closer to sovereignty, but is a real step towards cementing U.S. imperialism’s geopolitical and economic goals. Real sovereignty requires an immediate end to U.S. occupation and intervention-a goal the Iraqi people have bravely been fighting for, and for which they deserve our full support.

Hamas, Israelis, Palestinians; People and Peace

As the world watches the combat in Israel and Gaza, in every corner of the Earth, people await peace, or at least the prospect of a cessation.  However, it seems harmony is not likely.  Be it in the Mediterranean or here in the States, persons are quick to pounce.  Caustic conversations fill the airwaves.  In the ethereal sphere, the Internet, one might hear, ‘Palestinians must be our priority.’  Others say, “No.  Israel is right.  It is possible to respect the Arabs who reside in Gaza and still bomb Hamas into oblivion.”

Each stance denies a truth Joe Goedereis expresses in what I believe is a brilliant essay.  We are all people.  For Mister Goedereis, peace is not possible if we, individuals on either side of the issue, exclaim “Enough is enough!”  Joe Goedereis invites us to ponder the conflict from another perspective, a humanitarian truth.

I am honored and privileged to present . . .  

copyright © 2009 Joe Goedereis.  Webmaster, Boca Peace Corner

Sorry, but I’ll take the words of Naomi Klein and Graham Greenwald any day over the sentiments of one who endorses the actions that brought about an unnecessary war.  I firmly believe that the Western media is not reporting this whole conflict fairly and is biased in favor of Israel.  It has been biased in favor of Israel for years because of our close friendship and international relationship with this country and finally the world community is calling Israel out for its actions – something it should have done long ago for the treatment of the Palestinian PEOPLE.  Notice I said PEOPLE, not Hamas.  There seems to be this sentiment that Hamas are the only people in the Palestinian territories and that is not the case at all.  

The notion that Israel accepted the terms of the cease-fire proposal is not correct.  The United Nations [U.N.] has proposed several cease fire agreements and the United States has blocked one proposal and then Israel just today decided not to honor a cease fire proposal.  Israel allowed a whopping 3 hours for the borders to be opened yesterday to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza.  This is not first grade negotiations and it is much more complicated than the media is reporting.  I have friends from Gaza and the West Bank and another who was raised in Lebanon.  They are regular people just like you and me.  They are not Hamas or Hezbollah and they don’t support these groups.  Their families have suffered nearly their entire lives under the occupation of the IDF and have been ripped apart by the violence of Hamas and Hezbollah.

Just 2 days ago, the IDF BOMBED a U.N. school.  They claimed that Hamas had embedded its forces inside the school so they bombed it.  The emergency room doctors have reported no Hamas militants among the women and children who were killed or injured by this bombing.  The school’s GPS coordinates were registered with the Israeli government so it would not be bombed and they bombed it anyway!  This has prompted the U.N. to release a statement condemning these actions and they have put Israel on notice that it will be investigated for possible war crimes.  I don’t care if Hamas was embedded there or not.  You cannot tell me that bombing a school where women and children are likely to reside is the Israeli Defense Force’s [IDF’s] way of taking “any and all necessary precautions to prevent unnecessary civilian casualties.”  Under any conduct of war that is considered a war crime.

So, what can Israel do to stop the rocket attacks?  Well they can start by not making the very same mistakes we have made in Iraq by thinking that everything can be solved at the tip of the sword or the barrel of a gun.  What are they going to accomplish by driving a wedge through the heart of the Gaza other than prevent humanitarian aid from reaching the innocent victims of this violence?  Once they “conquer” Hamas, what will they gain?  Do you really think that an entire generation of impressionable children are going to forget all of the violence perpetrated upon their mothers and fathers?  Israel has just created the next generation of terrorists by conducting this operation.  Children tend not to forget the deaths of their family and friends on a large scale – something Israel itself should realize by now.  

What else can Israel do?  How about seriously trying to work to achieve the Oslo accords of 1988 and start working towards a true two state solution that allows Palestinians to control their OWN borders and not the Israeli Defense Force [IDF]?  Or allow the U.N. to control the border – something Israel has opposed.  What about supporting the right of return on BOTH sides of the border as ordered by U.N. resolution 194?  There are nearly 750,000 refugees that live in abject poverty every day who would like to return to their homes in Israel.  

These were people who either fled or were expelled by Israel during the war of 1948.  There is almost an equal amount of Jews who fled Arab lands who would also like to return as well.  There are now 4 million refugees living in the occupied territories and it is a humanitarian crisis.  Israel is afraid to let these people return to their homes because it threatens their country’s status as a Jewish state.  

Western media outlets also don’t report on the repression inflicted on Palestinians by the IDF.  The IDF has limited the flow of Palestinian workers to Israel to prevent infiltration of terrorists, and by strict checks at border checkpoints.  The border closings and checkpoints drastically reduced the Palestinian standard of living because many cannot travel to work outside of Palestine.  This action has contributed to the horrible conditions of poverty that exist to this day.  

Palestinians are often subjected to humiliating searches and very long waits at checkpoints.  Nervous IDF soldiers sometimes are too quick to open fire on suspicious vehicles, killing innocent civilians.  Checkpoints around Jerusalem make it difficult for Palestinians to get to work in Jerusalem and to travel between Palestinian towns.  In some parts of the West Bank, these people are literally walled in by massive defense walls erected by the IDF.  When a whole people’s movements are controlled to the point where they can’t even work to make a living to put food on the table you’re going to have violence.  So how about working to reduce some of repression inflicted by the IDF on a daily basis.

If the Oslo Accords are not acceptable then Israel should work for peace with Palestine based on the Geneva Accords which were drafted by Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres.  The basic agreement is as follows:

  • Palestinians give up Right of Return of Palestinian refugees
  • Israel gives up sovereignty over the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif, and evacuates Ariel, Efrat, Kiryat Arba, Ofra, Elon Moreh, Bet El, Eli  Har Homa, the Hebron settlement and many others.
  • Access to the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif would be regulated at the discretion of the Muslim Waqf committee as at present.
  • Israel gets to keep the wailing wall, the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus and the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem, as well as Ma’aleh Edumim and the Gush Etzion settlement block and settlements around East Jerusalem.
  • The implementation of the accord will be overseen by an international committee, which would also ensure access to holy places,   and security will be the responsibility of a multinational force.
  • Under the agreement about half of the 220,000  Jewish settlers in the West Bank would have to evacuate their homes while the other half live in settlements that would be incorporated into Israel.
  • The agreement makes no provisions whatever for Israeli Arabs living in portions of Jerusalem that will be given to the Palestinian authority.
  • The Geneva Accord apparently intends to say that Palestinian refugees will be compensated and will be resettled in Palestine or other countries, with only a few coming to live in Israel.
  • A specific stipulation states that the number of refugees returning to Israel will be determined by Israel alone.

This agreement caught the attention of then Secretary of State Colin Powell and had the support of nearly 50% of both Palestinians and Israelis but was killed by right-wing Zionist elements of the Israeli political establishment and the Likud party lead by Benjamin Netanyahu as they felt Israel would be giving up way too much to the Palestinians.

Sorry for the rant, but the point of all of this is that Israel is NEVER going to get a peace settlement with the Palestinians, or stop the violence, if they continue to respond disproportionally to Hamas rocket attacks from rockets that have killed far fewer people in Israel, in lesser populated areas, than the Hellfire missiles (missiles that the U.S. sold to Israel) they are firing upon densely populated areas.  Areas that Israel has created by occupying millions of people in the Gaza onto a tiny strip of land.  They are never going to win the hearts and minds of the Arab street by driving tanks into their city and blowing the hell out of people.  Have we not learned that from Iraq?

Look, no one here is in favor of Hamas or Hezbollah.  I think they have brought terror to their own people just as much as they have to the people of Israel.  However, they filled a void that Israel created when they ignored the advise of the U.N. and the international community when they unilaterally pulled out of Lebanon and the Gaza.  Israel was told not to pull out all at once and was advised to do this in progressive steps so a power void was not left behind in the Gaza and Lebanon.  They didn’t listen to the international community and instead listened to George W. Bush and company who demanded  immediate elections with a conditional withdrawal.  Now you have Hamas and Hezbollah running the show in both of these territories.  

I don’t know what the answer is, but I know it should not include the IDF invading the Gaza and killing hundreds of innocents.  What we need right now is for the United States to get up off of it’s backside and be a strong voice for an immediate cease fire from BOTH sides and get the Arab League, the U.N., and both sides of this conflict to talk to one another.  Standing by and blindly, supporting aggression by EITHER side does no one any good.  Unfortunately, I have my doubts that any of this will happen before January 20th because our lame duck excuse for a President is more than willing to dump this in Obama’s lap instead of handing it like a true leader should.

Peace,

Joe Goedereis

“It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives.

If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is to desist from harming them.”


~ H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama

References . . .

War is Not a Solution

copyright © 2008. Jerry Northington.   Northington website or on the blog.

For the past several years I have been a member of the local peace group, Pacem in Terris.  One outgrowth of membership and action with the group was my recent political campaign.  The driving force for political action was then and remains today my staunch opposition to the ongoing occupation of Iraq.  Our nation has many issues to be resolved today.  We will not be able to address many of those issues so long as we continue to borrow and spend $10 billion a month in Iraq.

Support for the Iraq occupation has waned over the course of the years since the invasion.  The administration keeps much of the activity and the results of war from our eyes.  Our media does nothing to portray war as the real hell on earth so many of us know.  During my time in Vietnam I saw first hand the effects of war on troops from both sides, the people and the land.  War ruins the landscape and kills people without discrimination.

The major insult is not to the troops but is rather to the civilians, the women, the children, and the aged who have no part in military activity.  We must continue to remember every person on either side killed or wounded as a result of our military intervention is a son or daughter, maybe a mother or a father, perhaps a brother or a sister.  Every life lost touches the lives of the many who surround that person.  The damage spreads ripples throughout the surrounding society.

I suggest we look to peaceful means of resolving world conflicts.  The end solutions to terrorism will lie in social and economic change.  We need to begin our pursuit of those measures as soon as possible.  It

is left to each of us to insure our elected officials hear our wishes.  First of all we vote.  Then we must remain vocal and keep in touch with those we elect to remind them they serve us first of all.  Those we elect must lead our nation in the direction we choose.  Only our continued action will insure that course is the one taken.

Peace.

Quote of the week:  

In war more than anywhere else things do not turn out as we expect.

~ Carl von Clausewitz

Northington Notes is a twice monthly e-mail newsletter and commentary.  Subscribe on the website or send an e-mail to JerryNorthington at gmx dot com with subscribe in the subject line.  

Recession and the Iraq War; A Soldier’s Story

A soldier’s story is our story.  On this April afternoon, I attended a memorial.  Americans in my local community, as well as those in every other region of the country, mourned the recession. People pondered the reality; this war affects our daily lives and our fiscal stability.  In my neighborhood, Michael Prysner, an Iraq War veteran offered his theory on the theme, Recession and the Iraq War; A Soldier’s Story.  I share an introduction to his tale and an invitation.  Please peruse the musings of Michael Prysner.

Twas the day before any other day in the lives of average Americans.  It was April 24, 2008.  Countless people traveled about in late model luxury automobiles.  A few could not afford such finery.  Still, those of lesser means were able to retain a vehicle of sorts.  In the United States, a motorized metal chariot is considered a must.  In many nations, car ownership is thought lavish.  Certainly, those with money enough to drive from place to place have not a care in the world.  Yet, here most individuals in carriages are stressed.  

In every neighborhood, numerous persons are now out on the street.  Some only have a car to count on.  They do not have the money to purchase the petroleum needed to run the vehicle.  The price of fuel is high and steadily climbing.  Rates of unemployment have increased.  Job security decreased.  The value of homes has dropped.  However, few citizens can afford to remain in what was once their shelter.  Foreclosures are frequent.  Mortgage brokers and a lack of reasonable banking regulations have helped to create a meltdown within the marketplace.

In America, there is an economic crisis.  The government cannot assist the common folk.  All available funds are spent on wars in the Middle East.  Residents in the richest country in the world are worried.  Will they survive?

This was the question asked at vigils throughout the nation.  In conjunction with MoveOn.org people in this country spoke of how the Persian Gulf wars have affected the economy.  Recession and the Iraq War were the themes.  In Boca Raton, Florida Mike Prysner, an Iraq war veteran spoke of his experience in country and how those relate to the fiscal calamity Americans face.

May I introduce Michael Prysner and his Winter Soldier testimony.  With permission from the informed, informative, and inspirational author, it is my great honor to present  . . .



Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony, Pt1

A soldier’s story?

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally published on Friday, March 21, 2008

Michael Prysner’s Winter Soldier testimony

The following statement was delivered at the Winter Soldier event, organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, and held in Washington, D.C. from March 13 through March 16. The event featured the testimony of numerous Iraq war veterans about their personal experiences. The author is an Iraq war veteran and the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s congressional candidate in Florida’s 22nd District.

When I first joined the army, we were told that racism no longer existed in the military. A legacy of inequality and discrimination was suddenly washed away by something called “Equal Opportunity.” We would sit through mandatory classes, ensuring us that racism had been eliminated from the ranks, and every unit had its own EO representative to ensure no elements of racism could resurface. The Army seemed firmly dedicated to smashing any hint of racism.

And then Sept. 11 happened. I began to hear new words like “towel head,” “camel jockey” and-the most disturbing-“sand n*gg*r.” These words did not initially come from my fellow soldiers, but from my superiors-my platoon sergeant, my company first sergeant, my battalion commander. All the way up the chain of command, viciously racist terms were suddenly acceptable.

I noticed that the most overt racism came from veterans of the first Gulf War. Those were the words they used when they were incinerating civilian convoys. Those were the words they used when this government deliberately targeted the civilian infrastructure, bombing water supplies knowing that it would kill hundreds of thousands of children. Those were the words the American people used when they allowed this government to sanction Iraq-and this is something many people forget. We’ve just learned that we’ve killed over 1 million Iraqis since the invasion; we had already killed a million Iraqis before the invasion throughout the 90s through bombings and sanctions.

‘Haji’ was the enemy

When I got to Iraq in 2003, I learned a new word-“Haji.” Haji was the enemy. Haji was every Iraqi. He was not a person, or a father, or a teacher, or a worker. But where does this word come from? Every Muslim strives to take a pilgrimage to Mecca, called a Haj. A Muslim who has completed that pilgrimage is a Haji. It is something that, in traditional Islam, is the highest calling in the religion-essentially, the best thing for a Muslim made into the worst thing.

But history did not start with us. Since the creation of this country, racism has been used to justify expansion and oppression. The Native Americans were called savages. The Africans were called all sorts of things to excuse slavery. A multitude of names were used during Vietnam to justify that imperialist war.

So Haji was the word we used on this mission. We’ve heard a lot about raids during Winter Soldier, kicking down people’s doors and ransacking their homes. But this mission was a different kind of raid. We never got any explanation for these orders, we were only told that this group of five or six houses were now property of the U.S. military. We had to go in and make those people leave those houses.

So we went to these houses and told the people that their homes were no longer their homes. We provided them no alternative, no place to go, no compensation. They were very confused and scared, and would not leave-so we had to remove them from their houses.

There was one family in particular that stands out: a woman with two young daughters, an elderly man who was bed-ridden and two middle-aged men. We dragged them from their houses and threw them onto the street. We arrested the men for not leaving and sent them to prison with the Iraqi police.

At that time I didn’t know what happened to Iraqis when we put a sandbag over their head and tied their hands behind their back; unfortunately, a couple months later, I had to find out. Our unit was short interrogators, so I was tasked to assist with interrogations.

A detainee’s ordeal

First, I’d like to point out that the vast majority of detainees I encountered had done nothing wrong. They were arrested for things as simple as being in the area when an IED went off, or living in a village where a suspected insurgent lived.

I witness and participated in many interrogations; one in particular I’d like to share. It was a moment for me that helped me realize the nature of our occupation.

This detainee who I was sent to interrogate was stripped down to his underwear, hands bound behind his back and a sandbag on his head-and I never actually saw his face. My job was to take a metal folding chair, and as he was standing face-first against the wall, I was to smash the chair next to his head every time he was asked a question. A fellow soldier would yell the same question over and over, and no matter what he answered, I would smash the chair next to his head.

We did this until we got tired, then I was told to make sure he stayed standing facing the wall. By this time he was in an extremely broken state-he was shaking uncontrollably, he was crying, and he was covered in his own urine.

I was guarding him, but something was wrong with his leg-he was injured and kept falling to the ground. My sergeant told me to make sure he stayed standing, so I would have to pick him up and slam him against the wall. He kept falling down so I’d have to keep picking him up and forcefully putting him against the wall.

My sergeant came by, and was upset that he was on the ground again, so he picked him up and slammed him against the wall several times-and when the man fell to the ground again I noticed blood pouring down from under the sandbag.

So I let him sit, and whenever my sergeant starting coming I would warn the man and tell him to stand. It was then that I realized that I was supposed to be guarding my unit from this detainee, but what I was doing was guarding this detainee from my unit.

I tried hard to be proud of my service. All I could feel was shame.

Face of occupation is laid bare

Racism could no longer mask the reality of the occupation. These were people. These were human beings. I have since been plagued by guilt-anytime I see an elderly man, like the one who couldn’t walk, who we rolled onto a stretcher and told the Iraqi police to take him away. I feel guilt anytime I see a mother with her children, like the one who cried hysterically, and screamed that we were worse than Saddam as we forced her from her home. I feel guilt anytime I see a young girl, like the one I grabbed by the arm and dragged into the street.

We were told we were fighting terrorists. The real terrorist was me. The real terrorism is this occupation.

Racism within the military has long been an important tool to justify the destruction and occupation of another country. It has long been used to justify the killing, subjugation, and torture of another people. Racism is a vital weapon employed by this government. It is a more important weapon that a rifle, or a tank, or a bomber, or a battleship. It is more destructive than an artillery shell, or a bunker buster, or a tomahawk missile.

While all those weapons are created and owned by this government, they are harmless without people willing to use them. Those who send us to war do not have to pull a trigger or lob a mortar round; they don’t have to fight the war, they merely have to sell us the war. They need a public who is willing to send their soldiers into harm’s way, and they need soldiers who are willing to kill and be killed, without question. They can spend millions on a single bomb-but that bomb only becomes a weapon when the ranks in the military are willing to follow the orders to use it. They can send every last soldier anywhere on earth, but there will only be a war if soldiers are willing to fight.

The ruling class-the billionaires who profit from human suffering, who care only about expanding their wealth and controlling the world economy-understand that their power lies only in their ability to convince us that war, oppression, and exploitation is in our interest. They understand that their wealth is dependent on their ability to convince the working class to die to control the market of another country. And convincing us to die and kill is based on their ability to make us think that we are somehow superior.

Soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen have nothing to gain from this war. The vast majority of people living in the United States have nothing to gain from this war. In fact, not only do soldiers and workers gain nothing from this occupation, but we suffer more because of it. We lose the limbs, endure the trauma, and give our lives. Our families have to watch flag-draped coffins lowered into the earth. Millions in this country without health care, jobs, or access to education must watch this government squander over $400 million a day on this war.

The real enemy is here

Poor and working people in this country are sent to kill poor and working people in another country, to make the rich richer. Without racism, soldiers would realize that they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires who send us to war. I threw people onto the street in Iraq, only to come home and find families here thrown onto the street in this tragic and unnecessary foreclosure crisis that is already leaving hundreds of Iraq war veterans homeless.

We need to wake up and realize that our real enemies are not in some distant land; they’re not people whose names we don’t know and whose cultures we don’t understand. The enemy is people we know well and people we can identify-the enemy is the system that sends us to war when it’s profitable; the enemies are the CEOs who lay us off from our jobs when its profitable; they’re the insurance companies who deny us health care when it’s profitable; they’re the banks that take away our homes when it’s profitable.

Our enemies are not 5,000 miles away. They are right here at home, and if we organize and fight with our sisters and brothers we can stop this war, stop this government, and create a better world.



Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony, Pt2

A Day in the Life of a Guantanamo Detainee

copyright © 2008. Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

Imagine for a few moments how your life would change if you were suddenly charged as an enemy combatant and sent to Guantanamo Bay as a detainee.

You’d be transported under conditions of sensory deprivation to maximize your disorientation.





Brooke Anderson, Flickr, Creative Commons (reenactment)



Carlos Ferrer, Flickr, Creative Commons   (reenactment)



Carlos Ferrer, Flickr, Creative Commons   (reenactment)

If you were really unlucky you’d end in Camp Delta.





Lorri 37, Flickr, Creative Commons

In any event there would be guard towers all around the place.





USMarine0311, Flickr, Creative Commons

You might be allowed to exercise, or maybe be gathered as a group in an enclosed pen.





ManilaRyce, Flickr, Creative Commons

Your day would not begin or end with regularity.  From the LA Times the story continues:

It’s a dreary winter afternoon, but the scene could be any time of the day or night. The hour for rec time is one of the few unpredictable features in a day in the life of a detainee.

Reveille is at 5 a.m., when guards collect the single bedsheet allotted to each detainee. That precaution has been in effect since June 2006, when three prisoners were found dead, hanging from nooses fashioned from their bedding.

When they do leave their cells, prisoners are shackled and escorted — to and from showers, recreation pens, interrogation interviews, and a meeting or two each year with their lawyers. They leave their cells in the “hard facilities” of Camps 5, 6 and the new 7 for no other reason, unless they are found to need medical or dental treatment when corpsmen make periodic rounds.

Once a man has refused nine consecutive meals, he is considered a hunger striker and brought to the detention medical center. His head, arms and legs are strapped to a “restraint chair” while a tube is threaded through his nose and throat into the stomach. A doctor-recommended quantity of Ensure is administered.

Under those circumstances forced feeding is one more nice way of saying “torture.”  Put yourself in the prisoner’s place and imagine the pain and distress of being strapped down and having a tube forced into your body.

A schoolroom was added to the predominantly Afghan camp last year to teach basic written Pashtu and Urdu to the illiterate.

Leather-and-steel shackles protrude from the floor beneath each desk where prisoners’ ankles are tethered during classes.





mushroomandrooster, Flickr, Creative Commons  (reenactment)

Lights are kept on in the cells 24/7 for what military jailers said were security reasons.

The full story has many more details than my excerpts.  You should read the entire article.  And put yourself in the  place and time as you read.  Then remember this is our nation at work.  We, the citizens of the United States are represented by the actions of every day in Guantanamo.  We cannot let this continue.





jemstaht, Flickr, Creative Commons

The United States needs to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay as soon as possible.  All detainees deserve the right to a fair trial or release.  We cannot continue to hold human beings in the conditions of Guantanamo if we as a nation hope to hold any measure of moral high ground.

Peace.

103

copyright © 2008. Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

In the first 90 days of 2008 the United States reports 103 troop deaths in Iraq.  Since the invasion we have commemorated the 5th anniversary we have commemorated 5 years and more than 4000 soldiers lost.  Today we hear of costs near $12 billion per month and estimates of $3 trillion overall before all is said and done.  

Meanwhile our mainstream media continues to play down the ongoing failure with barely a mention any more of the deaths let alone stories of the families and friends left behind.  The death count also fails to reflect the numbers of US contractors killed in country.  No mention is made of the many thousands of life altering injuries such as limbs or eyes lost.  Nor do we hear much of the many minds broken beyond repair.  Suicides related to service time are also not counted and often not mentioned.  Coalition losses are not counted in the total.  The Iraqi losses count many thousands more, yet those are dismissed often without a thought.  Every death rends the fabric of humanity a bit more.





activefree, Flickr, Creative Commons



Recent news of increasing violence in Basra is characterized by President Bush as a “defining moment” for the Iraqi forces.  The time is defining alright, but not in the way Bush meant.  US and British troops are being put back into the fray once again.  There are increasing reports of US air attacks in which civilians are killed.  Bombing a populated area always results in casualties among the innocent.

While the ground war continues day by day and our losses mount, the insanity of Guantanamo Bay continues.  Several hundred detainees remain confined in legal limbo.  While the military would have us believe the prisoners are held in relative comfort





US Navy, public domain

we know better.  Reports of abuse may be found most any day.  Justice is a fleeting hope for the detainees as the only court on the horizon is a military proceeding in which the rules of evidence favor the prosecution.  We know the prisoners spend their days in shackles.





US Navy, public domain

Even transport for medical reasons or for exercise may result in the shackling of a detainee.





US Navy, public domain



US Navy, public domain

Razor wire surrounds the compound.





US Navy, public domain

Pictures of Camp Delta suggest conditions far removed from the reality we know exists today.





www.bloomberg.com



US Navy, public domain

In 1970 I came home right off the helicopter pads of Vietnam only a few days out of the field.  I came home a changed person.  In 1967 I enlisted in the US Army filled with the patriotic vigor only the young seem to possess.  I came home well aware of the terrible tragedy war represents.  I saw first hand how war affects the people on both sides as well as the havoc wreaked across the land.  Since those days I have stood firm in my opposition to war for almost all reasons.  Today I stand opposed to the ongoing occupation of Iraq with every fiber of my physical and moral being.  The costs are far too high in both dollars and blood.  We as a nation can ill afford to continue one more day let alone the years predicted by most in the administration.

Today the reaction of the public in our nation reminds me of a line from a song

a nation blinded by its disgrace

Today I am ashamed of my country’s actions.  Recent years have seen a drift in this nation our Founders would never have imagined.  We have watched the atrocities of Abu Ghraib along with the aforementioned Guantanamo Bay and all the damage done in Iraq.  And yet we as a nation continue to survive.





CID image

Is there any hope for us?  Of course there is.  So long as good people stand to fight the good fight our nation will survive this trauma the same way we have survived so many past times of trial and tribulation.

How are we to resolve the morass?  We must withdraw ALL our troops from Iraq.  The Iraqi people do not wish our presence to continue.  The international community does not support our continued occupation.  The time has come to end the occupation and let diplomatic maneuvers replace military force.  We must act to bring stability to the entire region through the cooperation of all nations around the globe.  We stand to be much more successful if we use the carrot rather than the stick approach.

If we withdraw will there be blood shed in Iraq?  Of course.  Will the situation be made worse than the one we see today?  Maybe or maybe not.  Who can predict that future?  The one indisputable fact remains the longer we continue as an occupying force the higher the cost to our nation.

We who believe the war is wrong headed must stand steadfast in our opposition.  The blind stubbornness of the administration will ruin our nation forever if we fail to fight.  We cannot afford to lose this one.  There is no room for failure.

Out the door, people.  Hit the streets.  Talk to every person you encounter.  Tell everyone you can corner the truth.  Show them the images of war and of Guantanamo.  Let them see the facts for a change.  It is only by our continued action and ongoing protest that we stand to win in the end.  

Peace to one and all.

Please remember I am running for Congress, DE-AL.  Please check out the website and consider a contribution  Your help is needed for the effort to succeed.  Contributions of all sorts, both moral and monetary are most appreciated.

Commemorating Five Years in Iraq



On Saturday, the 22nd of March, Delaware Pacem in Terris organized a pair of vigils to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq.  The theme of the events was remembrance of the fallen.



As the group began to gather in the parking lot of the shopping center one very notable car was seen.



The owner was one of our group.

Organizing along the highway (Concord Pike, Route 202 North) took a bit of time as the banner with figurines representing all of the fallen was rolled out.





Motorists traveling north on the highway were greeted by with my wife on point

or

with our friend from Barcelona Spain in the lead.  (That is me on the right hand side of the picture holding the banner in my customary spot with Ed on the other end in what has become his usual place.)

Though the occasion was somber enough, we did respond to the honking horns by returning a wave.

While most in attendance helped hold the banner, some added supporters were standing or sitting along the sidewalk.



The Wilmington protest lasted from 11AM to noon.  The vigil was gathered again in Dover at the North Gate of the Dover Air Force Base at 2PM for another hour.  Once again we gathered in a nearby parking lot before walking around the corner for the vigil.



This time the banner reached around a corner of the intersection directly opposite the gate.



The images on the banner in red just behind the Mourn the Dead sign represent the women who have died in Iraq.



How sad it was to leave space to fill in as more women may die in time.

The overwhelming feeling of everyone involved was one of sadness as we knew each figure on the banner represents one life lost, one family never to see their loved one again, and a group of personal friends left behind forever as all were touched by the tragedy.  

The point was driven home to each of us today.



How many more must die?  How much longer can we the people of this nation support the occupation?  

Peace.