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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

From Japan to Guam to Hawai’i, Activists Resist Expansion of US Military Presence in the Pacific

From: Democracy Now!
May 24, 2010

In Japan, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama sparked outrage this weekend when he announced he has decided to keep an American air base on the island of Okinawa. Before last year’s historic election victory, Hatoyama had vowed to move the base off of Okinawa or even out of Japan. On Sunday, he said he had decided to relocate the base to the north side of the island, as originally agreed upon with the US. Hatoyama’s decision was met with anger on Okinawa, where 90,000 residents rallied last month to oppose the base. A number of activists opposed to US military bases were recently here in New York for the International Conference for a Nuclear-Free, Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World. Anjali Kamat and I spoke to three activists from Japan, Guam and Hawai’i. [includes rush transcript]

Kyle Kajihiro, Program Director for the American Friends Service Committee in Hawai’i. He helps to coordinate the DMZ-Hawai’i / Aloha ’Aina network that opposes military expansion in Hawai’i.

Kozue Akibayashi, professor and activist in Japan and with the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom and the Women’s International Network Against Militarism.

Melvin Won Pat-Borja, educator and poet from Guam and part of the We Are Guahan network opposed to the military base buildup in Guam.

AMY GOODMAN: In Japan, the Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama sparked outrage this weekend when he announced he has decided to keep an American air base on the island of Okinawa. Before last year’s historic election victory, Hatoyama had vowed to move the base off of Okinawa or even out of Japan. On Sunday, he said he decided to relocate the base to the north side of the island, as originally agreed upon with the US. The Japanese prime minister’s decision was met with anger on Okinawa, where 90,000 residents rallied last month to oppose the base.
Hatoyama explained his decision by saying, since taking office, he had learned to appreciate the role that the Marines play as a deterrent in the region, that Okinawa was the most strategic location for them. Half the estimated 47,000 US troops in Japan are stationed on the island.
Well, a number of activists opposed to US military bases were recently here in New York for the International Conference for a Nuclear-Free, Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World. Democracy Now!'s Anjali Kamat and I spoke to three of them. They were from Japan, from Guam and Hawai'i.

Kyle Kajihiro is the program director for the American Friends Service Committee in Hawai’i. He helps to coordinate the DMZ-Hawai’i/Aloha 'Aina network that opposes military expansion in Hawai'i.

Kozue Akibayashi is a professor and activist in Japan and with the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom and the Women’s International Network Against Militarism.
And Melvin Won Pat-Borja is an educator and poet from Guam and part of the "We Are Guahan" network opposed to the military base buildup on Guam.

We began by asking Kyle Kajihiro to explain the broader context of US military bases in East Asia and the Pacific.

KYLE KAJIHIRO: I think it’s important to consider how important the Pacific has been for the expansion of American empire. And Hawai’i was one of the first casualties in 1893, when US troops invaded and occupied the sovereign kingdom of Hawai’i to establish a forward base that enabled the US to defeat Spain in the Spanish-American War and then acquire its colonies, in the Philippines and Guam and also Puerto Rico and Cuba. And that sets up another conflict with Japan during World War II, in which the United States emerges as a global power with nuclear capabilities and acquires new colonies in the Marianas, Marshall Islands and Okinawa. So we see the legacy of that history played out.

And America has always considered the Pacific, similar to Latin America, as its—you know, its own domain, its special domain. They call it the American Lake. And, you know, that’s what we’re struggling against, is that idea that, you know, the US has this dominion and without consideration for the peoples and the human rights of people in that area.
So, right now, we are seeing that the Asia Pacific is even, you know, becoming more important with the rise of China, and the US sees China as its main strategic competitor. And that, I think, is a lot of what’s driving the military realignment in Korea, in Japan, Okinawa and Guam to encircle China and basically neutralize its capabilities.

ANJALI KAMAT: Kozue, can you talk about what happened in Japan last week? There was a major protest, 100,000 people in Okinawa protesting the construction of a new US military base. Explain what’s going on with Japan-US relations and with US military bases in Japan.

KOZUE AKIBAYASHI: Okinawa is a part of Japan. It’s the southernmost part of Japan. It’s a small prefecture, out of forty-seven, where US military—75 percent of US military facilities, exclusively used by the US military, is located. So there is this high concentration of US military in Okinawa, and that is why we are highlighting the problem in Okinawa.
There has been a proposal of building a new base in Okinawa, a completely new one and state-of-the-art military facility in Okinawa, which was protested by people in the community for ten years, by now. We had this regime change last year, and the new administration promised that there will be no buildup in Okinawa. However, what is going on now is that they are negotiating with the US government and saying that we cannot help building this new one.
So that is when—and this has been disclosed in the past month or so, and that is why the Okinawan people are raging against and they felt the need to express their protest against this newly built—buildup of base in Okinawa. And that is how this 90,000 people gathered at this rally. And the population of Okinawa is 1.3 million. That’s a lot of people who gathered. And there are many people who cannot express their protest or against their—their protest, because the US military has been there for a long time. The military economy is part of their life. It’s very difficult for them to publicly say no. But this 90,000 peoples rally was—showed how strong they felt.

AMY GOODMAN: Why are Japanese in Okinawa so opposed to the base there?

KOZUE AKIBAYASHI: The live very close—in Okinawa, they live very, very close to the military base. It’s not an isolated location. The military base is here, and they have to find places where they could build their houses. It affects in many ways of their lives. Noise pollution is one of them. Environmental pollution is one of them.

AMY GOODMAN: The issue of rape?

KOZUE AKIBAYASHI: Yes, yes. That’s more pervasive, but deep-rooted problem that women and children, girls, face in the vicinity. Not only the close vicinity, but the entire island of Okinawa face danger of sexual violence by US soldiers.

AMY GOODMAN: And Melvin, if you can talk about what’s happening on Guam.

MELVIN WON PAT-BORJA: Well, basically, you know, with this proposed base closure in Okinawa, the remedy to this solution is really seen as transferring the bulk of these soldiers from Okinawa to Guam. And that’s kind of where we come in. You know, there’s been a lot of debate about where these Marines should go. And, you know, the United States’ attitude toward this is that, you know, Guam is their territory. You know, they see Guam as sovereign US soil, and it allows them freedom of action, which is one of the major pieces of—or major factors in why they chose Guam, because it allows them to basically operate without having to deal with a foreign government.

And so, they plan to move 8,600 Marines from Okinawa to Guam, plus their 9,000 dependents. They also include an Army ballistic missile defense system, which will bring an additional 600 Army soldiers. And they plan to dredge a—they plan to dredge 71 acres of coral reef in Apra Harbor in order to make room for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. They also have plans to acquire 2,200 additional acres of land, and they already own about a third of the island. And keep in mind, Guam is only about thirty-one miles long and seven miles wide in the narrowest point. Our population is a little bit over 170,000 people. And the military predicts that, at the peak year of the buildup, we will expect a population boom of about additional 80,000 people.
AMY GOODMAN: So a 50 percent increase almost.


ANJALI KAMAT: Melvin, talk about what it was like to grow up in the shadow of these US military bases in Guam. What is everyday life like? How does it impact you?

MELVIN WON PAT-BORJA: Well, you know, the interesting thing about the base presence in Guam is that, you know, we are a United States unincorporated territory. And so, you know, we are US citizens, and I think that’s one of the major—it’s seen as one of the major differences between Guam and Okinawa. But the reality is that, you know, we essentially are second-class citizens. As a, you know, unincorporated US territory, you know, we don’t have representation in the Senate. We have a non-voting representative in Congress. We don’t vote for president. But we still fall under all US federal laws and regulations.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you ever concerned that they were going to move Guantánamo to Guam?

MELVIN WON PAT-BORJA: I mean, you know, it’s definite—really, when it comes to Guam and, you know, military strategy, you really don’t know what’s going happen. And there’s no—we really have no control over what happens. You know, in the military’s plan, in their DEIS, their Draft Environmental Impact Statement, they basically said that, you know, other alternatives for the base relocation from Okinawa included the Philippines, Korea and Hawai’i. And all three of those places said no. But nowhere in the document does it say that we ever had the opportunity to say no. And that’s kind of—you know, that’s pretty much the climate in Guam, is that, you know, we just—we basically are forced to accept whatever it is that the United States federal government and the military decides to do.

AMY GOODMAN: How did the United States come to incorporate Guam as a territory of the United States?

MELVIN WON PAT-BORJA: Guam was purchased by the United States from Spain through the Treaty of Paris. So Guam actually was technically owned by the United States before World War II. Now, during World War II, we were—when the Americans got word that Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and that they were invading, you know, they basically left. They abandoned Guam, and we were occupied then by Japan for two years. And then the United States came back to reclaim Guam, and they basically carpet-bombed the entire island.
And more people—you know, a lot of people kind of look at the personal struggle, you know, in Guam during the Japanese occupation, you know, where we were victimized and killed brutally. You know, a lot of—even my family, my grandfather’s brother was executed for smuggling food into prison to feed their families who were starving. They made him dig his own grave and killed him. And so—

AMY GOODMAN: This was World War II?

MELVIN WON PAT-BORJA: Right, and this is during the Japanese occupation. And so, you know, a lot of folks look at this occupation as a very—it’s a very sensitive issue. And so, in a lot of ways, you know, the Americans were seen as the liberators. But what a lot of people don’t know is that more people died in the reclaiming of Guam than in the entire two-year occupation of Guam by the Japanese. And so, you know, we have this kind of a dual identity, this sense of, you know, being an indigenous person from Guam, being an indigenous Chamorro, and having loyalty to the United States, you know? And that generation is still alive and well, you know, and there’s still a lot of folks who really feel loyal to the United States.

You know, but in a lot of ways, we don’t have the same rights as other Americans. And that’s something that’s really important in the discussion between Guam and Okinawa. You know, a lot of folks kind of see Guam as being America. You know, when they look at the bases in Okinawa, they think, you know, this is an American problem, and these bases should be sent back to America. And so, they look then at Guam and Hawai’i as being America. And so, you know, this is the alternative. But, you know, a lot of folks don’t realize what our political status is and the struggles that we face within the political system. And so, you know, this is not just a simple thing of saying, "OK, this is America. Let’s moves them there. You know, the people of Guam want them." You know, the reality is that there is a lot of resistance to this buildup, and it is going to impact us in so many different ways—socially, culturally, environmentally, financially. And, you know, it’s not just a simple transfer.

ANJALI KAMAT: And Kyle Kajihiro, I want to bring you back into the discussion. Talk about how this political realignment works in Hawai’i? What does it look like from there? And also, talk about the environmental impact of these bases.

KYLE KAJIHIRO: Right. Well, since September 11, we’ve had the largest military expansion since World War II. The military seized about 25,000 acres of land in order to station their Stryker brigade in Hawai’i. And these troops are being trained to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq. So we have, you know, this dual role in Hawai’i of being a victim of the American empire and also an accomplice in the building of that empire. And so, we’re addressing both problems.
The environmental impacts of the military are enormous in Hawai’i. We have—we would argue that the military is the largest polluter, with over 828 contamination sites identified. In Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa, which is the original name of Pearl Harbor, once the food basket for Oahu, with thirty-six fish ponds, is now a toxic Superfund site. More than 750 contamination sites. And we can’t eat from this life-giving treasure that’s there. And so, these are some of the manifestations that are not apparent on the surface. And even economically, with the economic influx that comes in, of course, certain people get paid, but others pay the price. And it’s usually the Native peoples who lose land, who are forced out of their housing, because of the rising cost of living. And we have a growing homeless population on the beaches, mostly Native Hawaiians living in tents. Meanwhile, thousands of acres of military land are just across the street.

AMY GOODMAN: Kyle Kajihiro is the program director for the American Friends Service Committee in Hawai’i. Kozue Akibayashi is a professor and activist in Japan. She’s with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. And Melvin Won Pat-Borja is an educator and poet from Guam. He’s part of the We Are Guahan network opposed to the military base buildup in Guam.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. You can go to our website at democracynow.org to see the entire conversation with the three anti-militarization activists.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Taking drones literally - revisited

In the course of promoting a conference on "Warring Futures: How Biotech and Robotics Are Transforming Today’s Military—and How That Will Change the Rest of Us," a May 24 conference in Washington, D.C.,co-sponsored by Slate, Arizona State University, and the New America Foundation (i.e. George Soros), ASU’s Brad Allenby averred:

"Telepathic helmets. Grid-computing swarms of cyborg insects, some for surveillance, some with lethal stingers. New cognitive-enhancement drugs. (What? Adderall and Provigil aren’t good enough for you?) Lethal autonomous robots. Brain-chip-to-weapon platform control systems on a ‘future force warrior‘ platform. American military technology is getting very frisky."
Further reading.
Earlier posting.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Drones and Democracy

by Kathy Kelly and Josh Brollier

On May 12th, the day after a U.S. drone strike killed 24 people in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, two men from the area agreed to tell us their perspective as eyewitnesses of previous drone strikes.

One is a journalist, Safdar Dawar, General Secretary of the Tribal Union of Journalists. Journalists are operating under very difficult circumstances in the area, pressured by both militant groups and the Pakistani government. Six of his colleagues have been killed while reporting in North and South Waziristan. The other man, who asked us not to disclose his name, is from Miranshah city, the epicenter of North Waziristan. He works with the locally based Waziristan Relief Agency, a group of people committed to helping the victims of drone attacks and military actions. “If people need blood or medicine or have to go to Peshawar or some other hospital,” said the social worker, “I’m known for helping them. I also try to arrange funds and contributions.”

Both men emphasized that Pakistan’s government has only a trivial presence in the area. Survivors of drone attacks receive no compensation, and neither the military nor the government investigate consequences of the drone attacks.

Mr. Dawar, the journalist, added that when he phoned the local political representative regarding the May 12th drone attack, the man couldn’t tell him anything. “If you get any new information,” said the political representative, “please let me know.”
In U.S. newspapers, reports on drone attacks often amount to about a dozen words, naming the place and an estimated number of militants killed. The journalist and social worker from North Waziristan asked us why people in the U.S. don’t ask to know more.

It’s hard to slow down and look at horrifying realities. Jane Mayer, writing for The New Yorker, (“The Predator War,” October 26, 2009) quoted a former C.I.A. official’s description of a drone attack:
“People who have seen an air strike live on a monitor described it as both awe-inspiring and horrifying. ‘You could see these little figures scurrying, and the explosion going off, and when the smoke cleared there was just rubble and charred stuff,’ a former C.I.A. officer who was based in Afghanistan after September 11th says of one attack.”

“Human beings running for cover are such a common sight,” Jane Mayer continues, “that they have inspired a slang term: ‘squirters.’”

Just rubble and charred stuff…

The social worker recalled arriving at a home that was hit, in Miranshah, at about 9:00 p.m., close to one year ago. The house was beside a matchbox factory, near the degree college. The drone strike had killed three people. Their bodies, carbonized, were fully burned. They could only be identified by their legs and hands. One body was still on fire when he reached there. Then he learned that the charred and mutilated corpses were relatives of his who lived in his village, two men and a boy aged seven or eight. They couldn’t pick up the charred parts in one piece. Finding scraps of plastic they transported the body parts away from the site. Three to four others joined in to help cover the bodies in plastic and carry them to the morgue.

But these volunteers and nearby onlookers were attacked by another drone strike, 15 minutes after the initial one. 6 more people died. One of them was the brother of the man killed in the initial strike.
The social worker says that people are now afraid to help when a drone strike occurs because they fear a similar fate from a second attack. People will wait several hours after an attack just to be sure. Meanwhile, some lives will be lost that possibly could have been saved.

The social worker also told us that pressure from the explosion, when a drone-fired missile or bomb hits, can send bystanders flying through the air. Some are injured when their bodies hit walls or stone, causing fractures and brain injuries.

The social worker described four more cases in which he had been involved with immediate relief work, following a drone attack. He didn’t supply us with exact dates, and we weren’t able to find news articles on the internet which exactly matched his accounts. Riaz Khan, an AP reporter covering a drone strike on May 15th, noted differences in details reported by witnesses and official sources. “Such discrepancies are common and are rarely reconciled,” according to Khan.

Exasperated by the neglect and indifference people in Waziristan face, especially those who say they have nowhere to hide, the journalist and social worker began firing questions at us.
“If the US had good intelligence and they hit their targets with the first strike,” Safdar asks, “why would the second one be necessary? If you already hit the supposed militant target, then why fire again?”

“Who has given the license to kill and in what court? Who has declared that they can hit anyone they like?”

“How many ‘high level targets’ could there possibly be?”

“What kind of democracy is America,” Safdar asks, “where people do not ask these questions?”

Reliance on robotic warfare has escalated, from the Bush to the Obama administrations, with very little significant public debate. More than ever before, it is true that the U.S. doesn’t want our bodies to be part of warfare; there’s also not much interest in our consent. All that is required is our money.

But, you get what you pay for in the U.S.A. The social worker and the journalist assured us that all of the survivors feel hatred toward the United States. “It is a real problem,” said Safdar, “this rising hatred.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Meanwhile in India (Bharat)...

India has finally produced indigenous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), with the Indian Air Force (IAF) getting its first lot recently.

The UAVs, however, have not been developed by the state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which the Indian government provides billions of rupees to develop defence equipment. A technology firm in Ludhiana, Bhogal Hobby Tech, a sister concern of Bhogal Cycles Limited, has come up with the design, to be provided at Rs 0.6 million a piece. The firm is in the business of producing aero models and accessories. Experts have tested the UAVs that weigh 28 kilogrammes, have an 80 cc engine and a wingspan of 5.5 metres (18 feet). “We supplied UAVs to forces in March and we have made the defence self-reliant,” says Manjeev Bhogal, managing partner of the firm and the brain behind the project.

The IAF had approached the firm to develop the UAVs, as the Israeli-made ones were too expensive and Israel was not providing spare parts for repairs, Bhogal said. He said the firm developed the vehicles on its own, “as the Indian Air Force made it clear that it will not give any monetary help for the research and development”. The firm already supplies trainer aero models and target aero models to IAF and the Indian Army. It was five years ago that Bhogal was approached by the IAF for aero models and seeing his expertise, was asked to concentrate on producing UAVs.


Monday, May 17, 2010

80 strong Japanese delegation stages vigil in Las Vegas

The following was written on Las Vegas City Life about the visit of the Japanese delegation of Gensuikyo which had also been present during the negotiations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in New York at the beginning of May.

Unfortunately this LV City Life blog is making a comparison with protesting against racist oppression, which is according to us also a valid peace protest. But by lack of any other report on the ground from Nevada about the Japanese delegation, we publish this text here.

Please note that there is a peace vigil every Thursday morning from 8.30 in front of the Federal Courthouse in Las Vegas that you are welcome to attend...

The non-nuclear option
posted by Jason Whited
Thursday, May. 13, 2010

(Photo: Japanese activists rally for nuclear-free world outside the Lloyd D. George Federal District Courthouse May 6)

Latinos taking to the streets to protest Arizona’s racist oppression have continued to dominate headlines across the American West, but a far worse brand of brutality drew scores of international activists to Las Vegas last week: the threat of nuclear annihilation.

More than 80 Japanese activists, fresh off a rally last week outside negotiations for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in New York City, made the trek to Las Vegas to take part in a May 6 peace vigil outside the Lloyd D. George Federal District Courthouse.

The Japanese citizens, part of a delegation from the Japan Council Against A & H Bombs (known as Gensuikyo in their native tongue) banged drums, held signs reading “For the existence of human beings and the future of children: a world without nuclear weapons” and, later in the day, rallied with members of the Western Shoshone Nation at the Nevada Test Site to protest the continuing reliance on nuclear weapons as the ultimate deterrent.

Humiko Mochisuki, spokeswoman for the group, told CityLife through an interpreter, “We came here because of both the existence of the nuclear test site and to share our tales of suffering from nuclear fallout that continues to afflict the Japanese people, people who still suffer from so many diseases as a result of the nuclear weapons used in World War II. It’s really scary because this sickness continues to affect new generations of Japanese. It should not happen again.”

The Vegas delegation was part of a larger contingent of 1,500 Japanese activists who came to the United States last week to pressure world leaders to finally abandon the bomb. Before 80 of them arrived at their Vegas stop, they rallied, demonstrated and paraded outside the United Nations building in Manhattan as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke inside as part of the officially sanctioned nonproliferation proceedings. The activists even tried to present U.N. treaty negotiators with boxes of 100,000 signatures from citizens across the world who were demanding an end to nuclear weapons, but officials only allowed two small boxes inside.

Back in Vegas, Japanese activists said President Barack Obama, despite recent promises, hasn’t done enough to rid the world of the nuclear threat.

“We believe that we all have to achieve a complete ban on nuclear weapons, so we welcome Obama’s proposals, but we need more than proposals,” said Mochisuki. “He needs to act to get rid of all the nuclear weapons. Obama might be controlled by the same powerful interests who only want wage war – the same interests that controlled George W. Bush’s policies – but the power of grassroots people can change things internationally.”

How much the grassroots are getting through to Obama, however, remains to be seen – especially considering the young president has proposed cutting nuclear weapons by just one-third, that he continues to parrot Israel’s hysteria-inducing talking points that Iran will stop at nothing to build a bomb (despite 2009 testimony from Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and former Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Mike Maples that Iran has zero weapons-grade uranium and that its missile tests are not related to its nuclear activities) and, finally, that Obama has said nothing about cementing a nuke-free zone across Latin America (despite Brazil’s three formerly secret nuclear programs from 1975 to 1990, and its recent efforts to deploy a fleet of nuclear submarines). This is to say nothing, of course, about Obama’s new-found reluctance to stop America’s current oil wars, including his May 12 memo, placed in the Federal Register after normal business hours, that seems to indicate troop withdrawals from Iraq will be delayed at least another year.

Still, activists like Mochisuki remain hopeful that human beings can eventually evolve beyond their current desire to murder one another for territory and treasure.

“I have a hope, and I believe, that we can create a world without nuclear weapons, without killing each other. We, as the people of all countries, have the power to demand this of our leaders. It is beginning to happen, this call for nonviolence is beginning to spread around the world. This people’s movement can change governments. We can achieve this,” she said.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Grand Old Flag and the Nevada Test Site

A letter explanation and clarification to the Sheriff of Nye Country and our readers

I received an email from the Nye County Sheriff's Department expressing concern over a recently posted article, "A Grand Old Flag and the Sheriff of Nye County." The concern, as I understand it, is that some readers might not fully understand that the title and use of the phrase, Sheriff of Nye County, is a metaphor and that when referring to the Sheriff, it meant the law enforcement and security personnel at the Nevada Test Site on Easter Sunday. The story also employed a personalized style of writing, a literary device, to heighten interest in it. Since this article was written in the spirit of good will and understanding, to discuss important issues, and that perhaps some readers might not fully understand this, I wish to clearly state this article was not meant to suggest that Sheriff A. DeMeo, was at the Nevada Test Site on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010. Sheriff DeMeo was not at the test site and did not confiscate the American Flag. Again, the phrase Sheriff of Nye County was used as a metaphor representing the law enforcement and security personnel present. I respect the Sheriff and his department and the good work they do. I fully understand they perform an important and difficult job. This too was clear in the original article. To be sure this is understood, I offer my apology to Sheriff DeMeo for any misunderstanding this article may have created.

Since the article was written to discuss a number of very important issue which I still hold very dear and as a Veteran of the USMC and one who still honors the U.S. Constitution and serves his country, I have changed the title to avoid any future possible misunderstanding and have substituted law enforcement personnel for sheriff. The article is immediately below for those who have not yet had an opportunity to read it. Thank you!


John Amidon

A Grand Old Flag and the Nevada Test Site

By John Amidon

Few Americans know that the original lyric in George M. Cohan’s “You’re a Grand Old Flag” was “rag”. Mr. Cohan explained he had a chance encounter with a Civil War veteran who carried “a carefully folded” yet tattered old flag. Mr. Cohan took notice and the veteran responded saying, “She’s a grand old rag.” The public however demanded flag and after all, it is show business.

Yet what does the flag truly represent? And why did law enforcement personnel confiscate the American flag on Easter Sunday from an middle aged woman at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) then later attempt to return it?

In an earlier and simpler time Mr. Cohan’s lyrics might have summed it up pretty well, “You're a grand old flag, you're a high flying flag and forever in peace may you wave. You're the emblem of the land I love. The home of the free and the brave.” Yet somewhere from then to now, the Republic became an Empire and the values which our flag once seemed to clearly represent have for many become a distant memory. We are no longer the brave for we fear each other and our own government. Our freedoms are eroding and our economy is approaching collapse with a staggering 12.5 trillion dollar national debt thanks to ill advised permanent war in the Middle East and because our politicians lack backbone and consistently borrow and spend.

When serving in the USMC, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, along with the Declaration of Independence. I know torture is wrong and that habeas corpus is essential for the rule of law. There is no such thing as secret evidence in the country I know and love, so when the FBI uses entrapment based on secret evidence, I am extremely disturbed. When I carry the flag it is to signify the profound respect for and the dignity inherent in the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech, habeas corpus and the rule of law. I carry the flag as a symbol of protest with the hope those Americans who would limit our freedom, who are comfortable with secret detention camps and extraordinary rendition and secret evidence will somehow remember what we once stood for a nation where all were equal in the eyes of the law. I carry the flag like our forefathers did, in resistance to any would-be King George. Lately it seems there is a would-be King George under every bush. Our nation is grinding and slouching and borrowing its way towards a totalitarian state with militarism, apathy, and greed as its guiding constellations.

For many of us it is clear that nuclear weapons pose one of the greatest if not the greatest threat to all of humanity. As President Obama works to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we might well asked who spawned this epidemic of WMD’s and then take a long hard look it the mirror. Nuclear weapons in their inception and development are a crime against humanity. They are designed to kill all living things without discrimination. This is why, year after year, we return to the Nevada Test Site to insist upon a responsible government and the abolition of nuclear weapons. The choices offered by our government are utterly absurd, mutually assured destruction (MAD) and unacceptable damage (UD). For the sake of our world we must honor and implement the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and decommission all nuclear weapons. We must also act quickly to implement nuclear waste cleanup at sites such as Hanford and our nuclear power plants. Until there is long term containment for nuclear waste, it is time to stop using this dangerous science.

When my friend Catherine carried the flag across the line at the NTS, she carried it proudly knowing all life is sacred and all nuclear weapons are an offense to God and a threat to our nation. Catherine carried the American flag as a flag of protest, like the flag our forefathers created, a flag of profound revolutionary values, which respected the common man and his right to freedom of thought and expression, a government responsive to the will of the people and taxation with true representation. This government would not only tolerate but respect and encourage loyal dissent as a vital and necessary voice for the well being of democracy. When law enforcement personnel confiscated the American Flag, it is likely they understood what was being confiscating and that Catherine was a true American patriot representing the best in America, carrying the flag in loyal and peaceful opposition to the excesses and mistakes of our government. It was right of the law enforcement personnel to recognize the true American values by attempting to return the American flag. That in fact they have failed to recognize, the US government is occupying the Shoshone Nation, that they have no jurisdiction on that land and were there illegally arresting Catherine and others, who were there legally, simply indicates the amount of work that is yet to be done to begin the restoration of “liberty and justice for all.” That the NTS is stark testimony to one of humanities greatest failures, the development and testing of nuclear weapons, that it has created untold death and disease in all of the neighboring states, and killed many ‘down winders” and that this site is protected by law rather than dismantled also shows clearly how much work is still to be done.

One of the most probing essays about, “What the American Flag Stands For” was written in 2002 by Charlotte Aldebron at the age of twelve. It is a very short essay and may be found at: http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0403-01.htm
I would like to quote one paragraph here.

“School children have to pledge loyalty to this piece of cloth every morning. No one has to pledge loyalty to justice and equality and human decency. No one has to promise that people will get a fair wage, or enough food to eat, or affordable medicine, or clean water, or air free of harmful chemicals. But we all have to promise to love a rectangle of red, white, and blue cloth. “

Nearby and not long ago, compassionate Las Vegas passed a law that criminalized feeding the homeless. The law was overturned.

And Arundhati Roy provided us with this provocative and particularly pertinent insight about flags in a time of war.

“Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people's brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.”

One half of one percent bear the immediate burden of our wars waged by this country and the rest of us go on as if the wars do not exist.

We bear no ill to the law enforcement and security personnel at the Nevada Test Site. We know they have a difficult job and we know life presents us with some pretty confusing situations at times. And yes we carried the flag as a flag of protest. It always has been and always will be for those of us who understand what it represents. It really is “A Grand Old Flag.” (We are glad you tried to return it. It shows you are thoughtful.) We just have to remember what our symbol means and carry it in accord with its true meaning like Catherine did at the Nevada Test Site . When we remember that, no one will argue with that old veteran from Gettysburg who once smiled and said, “She’s a grand old rag.”

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Message is simple: No nukes

From: Times Union

Message is simple: No nukes

First published: Saturday, May 8, 2010

Lying on my back, in the middle of the road, crying and wailing, the police looked withdrawn and confused. The strength of the women who joined in this anguished lamentation, our expression of profound grief over nuclear weapons and the poisoning of the land with radioactive waste somehow touched upon the holy mother and the divine feminine. It is Easter Sunday 2010 at the Nevada Test Site. I have returned to protest nuclear weapons and again my behavior has taken me out of the logical and rational. It has left me feeling disoriented and disturbed, yet a powerful healing and life-affirming transformation has occurred. Isn't this what Easter is about?

I want so much for Christianity to find itself, to give up violence and the mistaken belief in the right to kill. Jesus offer loved and the way of the cross. The bomb is the way of the sword, the ultimate weapon in our killing arsenal. Years ago, late Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle said, "Our nuclear war preparations are the global crucifixion of Jesus." Recently the Indian writer Arundhati Roy has simplified this understanding. "If you are religious," she said, "then remember that this bomb is man's challenge to God. It's worded quite simply: We have the power to destroy everything that you have created."

Near the Nevada Test Site exists a spiritual anomaly, the Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet. It is metaphorically and literally an oasis, with natural springs offering life-giving water in the Mojave Desert. A visionary, Genevieve Vaughan, created this temple to Goddess Spirituality. Inside the temple the divine feminine is worshiped, most visibly in the form of Goddess Sekhmet, El Madre Del Mundo and the holy mother.

Genevieve wrote of her experience here in 1986. "I knew almost at once that this was the right place to build a temple to the goddess. The Earth at the test site is wounded underground. You can feel it in your body as you stand at the gate of the test site looking some 40 miles across the desert at the hills ... Mother Earth is injured there, and nuclear waste is being stored in her wounds."
Genevieve talked about wailing the test site. "We name the things we mourn for and moan, and scream our grief like banshees."

The Judaeo-Christian tradition once recognized the need for lamentation more fully. It was past time for us to wail against nuclear weapons. We wailed our grief with our brothers and sisters of the Sacred Peace Walk and the priestess of the Goddess Temple. We writhed and screamed against the destruction of our planet. Hot tears streamed to the asphalt, and as we wailed, a Shoshone chief drummed what seemed like the calming and "steady beat of a human heart."

Last Sunday, thousands of people walked from Times Square to the United Nations calling for nuclear disarmament and the implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Our message was simple and profound, summed up in signs that said, "No Nukes, No Wars, Fund Human Needs, Protect the Planet" and "It's Always Been Wrong," and the words Buckminster Fuller, "We Are Called to Be Architects of the Future, Not Victims."

Some 1,800 people traveled from Japan, including survivors from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Giving the rally a gracious civility and gentle tone, they came bearing friendship and small gifts. Steve Wickham, a peace activist from Guilderland, encountered a woman, a Hibakusha, who survived the blast at Hiroshima. She was 13 years old in 1945. She suffered burns over 25 percent of her body, was rendered infertile by the radioactivity has bone and eye problems in her later life. Her peaceful nature and message was moving.

We cannot leave it to our leaders to abolish nuclear weapons. All of us as common citizens must speak out and insist upon nuclear abolition. Sunday is Mother's Day. Let us all insist that we take care of our holy mother planet Earth, end the threat of nuclear annihilation and restore the balance of the divine feminine.

John Amidon is a member of Veterans for Peace in Albany. Wailing at the Nevada Test Site can be seen on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEGiD2lNiTw

Friday, May 7, 2010

Air Force Paranoia spreading, first Creech now Hancock

Dear Creech Security:

In your April 12, 2010 correspondence responding to my April 3, 2010 article, “Air Force Paranoia at Creech,“ you mentioned the Air Force was paranoid, however not in regard to peaceful demonstrators. Knowing little about Air Force paranoia I decided to research the subject particularly regarding the Predator and Reaper and other drones. You are correct in asserting the Air Force is a paranoid. Unfortunately some of the paranoia is directed at peace demonstrators.

I must admit folks at Creech appear less paranoid than Col. Kevin Bradley at Hancock National Guard Air Field in Syracuse, NY seems. You might want to reference, “Fearing New Threats, Drone Crews Go Top Secret” by Dave Tobin, (12/18/2009, Syracuse Post-Standard) an article discussing the Colonel‘s worries and fears. The Colonel is quoted as saying, “With the increase in the amount of protest at the front gate as well as around the country, the spike in violence against people in uniform, that’s a cause for concern.” So pilots at Hancock are not to be publicly identified. Tobin states, “The change of policy reflects what the unit commander says are worries of threats and harassment of Syracuse-area members of the 174th and their families here.”

After reading this I couldn't help wondering if Air Force paranoia is contagious and carried by drones. There must be some strange goings on at the base that most of the public are unaware of. However, I do know the Syracuse Peace Council, which has been organizing the protests at Hancock has a long, consistent and outstanding record of nonviolence. Apparently the Colonel worries a great deal, but perhaps he is worrying about the increasing discussions whether drone pilots and their chain of command may be charged with war crimes, hence the preemptive need for secret identities. It is possible this will be a security concern at Creech too since it is very well documented that more civilians are killed with drone strikes than are enemy combatants. Of course many of these victims are woman and children

An interesting discussion of some of the legal implications may be found on http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/tag/perils-of-Pakistan/

We also wonder if Col. Bradley and others in the upper echelons of the military chain of command have considered whether this "increase in protest at the front gate and around the country" shows a legitimate concern and reflects serious misgivings among American citizens. Using long range, impersonal, indiscriminate, robotic killing machines causing the death of so many noncombatants is truly objectionable both morally and in terms of national security.

As I continued my research I almost immediately came across the Air Force’s flow chart, “Air Force Web Posting Response Assessment V.2" which provides useful information on when and how to respond to folks like myself who have written about the Air Force on line. The articles surrounding this flow chart also discuss the Air Force’s difficulty in responding to folks, and how this chart was an attempt by the Air Force to guide and shape conversations with bloggers and help improve the Air Force’s public relations. Perhaps this flow chart guided you in your response to my initial post. If you haven’t seen it, the chart is quite amazing and probably would help Col. Bradley with his responses.

For example many of us are wondering about his reference to the spike in violence against military personal. Was the Colonel referencing rape of military women by their male colleagues? The amount of violence in the military against women is quite staggering. Or was he referring to the rash of homicides by military personal against their spouses or the record levels of suicide of active duty personal or veterans? As a veteran of the USMC, I finding it disturbing that veterans commit suicide at twice the rate as the general population.

Pretty soon I felt really nervous for a variety of different and compelling reasons. One frightening prospect is the ever increasing violation of our civil liberties and unparalleled spying on civilians by the government. There is an informative You Tube film clip on the Houston Police department's future plans for police surveillance something which Col Bradley also talks appreciatively about. You can reference, “Police use Drones to spy on Americans!!” on You Tube at:


This is a local news report from KPAC in Houston, Texas. So we really do need to look at the mission and its implications for the United States of America and not just as a preventative approach to stopping potential attacks on our Air Force bases. All of us are being threatened by this new technology and its abuse.

There are other concerns, particularly the lack of due process which make the crews at Creech and Hancock and their chain of command, “witness, investigator, prosecutor, judge and executioner.” Civilians are disregarded and callously referred to as “collateral damage” and due process of law is lost completely.

Finally, I read about the "Al Qaeda suicide cat" that fried a communications node at Creech. "Control over heavily armed US war robots fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan was lost last year after a cat climbed into machinery at an American command base and ‘fried’ everything, a US officer has confirmed." This story may be found at: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/04/19/us_war_robots_out_of_control_cat_strike/

You might also want to read ,“Drones and Death: The Israeli Connection” by Ed Kinane at:

Kinane notes, “To better service Pentagon contracts, Israel even has drone factories in the US at Starkville, Mississippi and Columbus, Ohio.” Most U.S. citizens are unaware of this fact and of course this raises a whole new series of national security concerns.


John Amidon

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hibakusha tour in US

The Francis Underhill Macy Hibakusha Initiative is a month-long educational opportunity for New York City school children to hear eyewitness accounts of one of the most significant events in human history— the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945. The survivors are called Hibakusha.

Sponsored by Youth Arts New York in partnership with Peace Boat and Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, this program coincides with the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at the United Nations in May of 2010. Activities will include:

School visits
A Young Playwrights Initiative
Play readings at New York Theatre Workshop
Cherry Blossom Viewing and Tree Planting
Concert and Reception at the UN
Music In Manhattan: Café Concert for Peace
Further reading.

Note on May 8th: Please also read this article about the visit of the 38 person delegation representing the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo). The delegation consisted of Japanese citizens from many cities, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the Pacific North West and to the Nevada Test Site.

Who is targeted by drones?

44 separate drone strikes in 2009 alone, and dozens of additional ones so far thing year have killed almost no militant leaders of note. Yet far from being an example of CIA incompetence, officials say it is all part of the plan.

What plan? Well according to officials, the Bush Administration came up with a plan to “move beyond” the attempts to assassinate al-Qaeda leaders. Now, officials are attacking a broader set of targets. That, they say, is what President Obama is doing.

This answers the question of why almost no “named” leaders are ever killed, but raises another, perhaps more disturbing question. If the US intelligence on noteworthy men was so shoddy that so many of their attempted assassinations failed, how can they possibly possess the sort of intelligence to accurately hit these minor targets?

The answer is that they can’t, and don’t, and that is why out of those 44 drone attacks some 700 Pakistani civilians were slain. With the plan to kill al-Qaeda leaders in shambles, the US bet on a brute strength method, and it was the populace of North and South Waziristan that paid a heavy price.
(Antiwar Newswire)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

United States Discloses Size of Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

The Obama administration has formally disclosed the size of the Defense Department’s stockpile of nuclear weapons: 5,113 warheads as of September 30, 2009.

For a national secret, we’re pleased that the stockpile number is only 87 warheads off the estimate we made in February 2009. By now, the stockpile is probably down to just above 5,000 warheads.

The disclosure is a monumental step toward greater nuclear transparency that breaks with outdated Cold War nuclear secrecy and will put significant pressure on other nuclear weapon states to reciprocate.

The stockpile disclosure, along with the rapid reduction of operational deployed warheads disclosed yesterday, the Obama administration is significantly strengthening the U.S. position at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

Progress toward deep nuclear cuts and eventual nuclear disarmament would have been very difficult without disclosing the inventory of nuclear weapons.
Further reading.

"For a nuclear free, peaceful, just and sustainable world"




Riverside Church, New York, 1 May 2010

Mr. Gerson, Reverend Thomas, Minister with Education, Ecumenical and Interfaith relations,
Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, mayor of Hiroshima,
Ms. Maris Socorro Gomes, President, World Peace Council,
Ms. Arielle Denis, Co-chair, Le Mouvement de la Paix
Ms. Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Reading the list of organizations and individuals with us this evening, I want to say what an honour it is to be here.

I know of your hard work and dedication.

I know how much you have sacrificed in standing for your principles and beliefs.

I know how much courage it takes to speak out, to protest, to carry the banner of this most noble human aspiration … world peace.

And so, most of all, I am here tonight to thank you.

Let me begin by saying how humbling it is to speak to you in this famous place, Riverside Church .

It was here that Martin Luther King Junior spoke against the war in Vietnam .

Nelson Mandela spoke here on his first visit to the United States after being freed from prison.

Standing with you, looking out, I can see what they saw: a sea of committed women and men, who come from all corners to move the world.

It reminds us that what matters most in life… is not so much the message from the bully pulpit, but rather the movement from the pews.

From people like you.

And so I say: keep it up.

Our shared vision is within reach … a nuclear-free world.

On the eve of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference … beginning on Monday … we know the world is watching.

Let it heed our call . Disarm Now !

Ladies and gentlemen,

From my first day in office, I have made nuclear disarmament a top priority.

Perhaps, in part, this deep personal commitment comes from my experience as a boy in Korea , growing up after the war.

My school was rubble. There were no walls. We studied in the open air.

The United Nations rebuilt my country. I was lucky enough to receive a good education.

But more than that, I learned about peace, solidarity and, above all, the power of community action.

These values are not abstract principles to me. I owe my life to them. I try to embody them in all my work.

Just a few weeks ago, I travelled to Ground Zero — the former test site at Semipalatinsk, in Kazakhstan, where the Soviet Union detonated more than 450 nuclear explosions.

It was strangely beautiful. The great green steppe reached as far as the eye could see. But of course, the eye does not immediately see the scope of the devastation.

Vast areas where people still cannot go. Poisoned lakes and rivers. High rates of cancer and birth defects.

After independence, in 1991, Kazakhstan closed the site and banished nuclear weapons from its territory.

Today, Semipalatinsk is a powerful symbol of hope … it is a new Ground Zero for disarmament, the birth-place of the Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone.

In August, I will travel to another Ground Zero — Mayor Akiba’s proud city of Hiroshima . There, I will repeat our call for a nuclear free-world.

The people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki … and especially the hibakusha … know too well the horror of nuclear war.

It must never be repeated! .

Yet 65 years later, the world still lives under a nuclear shadow.

How long must we wait to rid ourselves of this threat!? How long will we keep passing the problem to succeeding generations?

We here tonight know that it is time to end this senseless cycle.

We know that nuclear disarmament is not a distant, unattainable dream.

It is an urgent necessity, here and now. We are determined to achieve it.

We have come close in the past.

Twenty-four years ago, in Reykjavik , Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev came within a hair’s breadth of agreeing to eliminate nuclear weapons.

It was a dramatic reminder of how far we can go — as long as we have the vision and the will.

Today’s generation of nuclear negotiators must take a lesson from Reykjavik:

Be bold. Think big … for it yields big results.

And that is why, again, we need people like you.

People who understand that the world is over-armed and that peace is under-funded.

People who understand that the time for change is now.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The NPT entered into force 40 years ago.

Ever since, it has been the foundation of the non-proliferation regime and our efforts for nuclear disarmament.

To quote you, Mr. Gerson: It is one of the seminal agreements of the 20th century.

Let’s not forget. In 1963, experts predicted that there could be as many as 25 nuclear powers by the end of the last century.

It did not happen, in large part because the NPT guided the world in the right direction.

Today, we have reason for renewed optimism.

Global public opinion is swinging our way.

Governments are looking at the issue with fresh eyes.

Consider just the most recent events:

Leading by example, the United States announced a review of its nuclear posture … foreswearing the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, so long as they are in compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In Prague, President Obama and President Medvedev signed a new START treaty, accompanied by serious cuts in arsenals.

In Washington, the leaders of 47 nations united in their efforts to keep nuclear weapons and materials out of the hands of terrorists.

And on Monday, we hope to open a new chapter in the life of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In 2005, when leaders gathered for the last review of the NPT, the outcome did not match expectations.

In plainer English, it failed — utterly.

We cannot afford to fail again.

After all, there are more than 25,000 nuclear weapons in the world’s arsenals.

Nuclear terrorism remains a real and present danger.

There has been no progress in establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East .

The nuclear programs of Iran and the DPRK are of serious concern to global efforts to curb nuclear proliferation…

To deal with these and other issues, I have set out my own five-point action plan, and I thank you for your encouraging response.

I especially welcome your support for the idea of concluding a Nuclear Weapon Convention.

Article VI of the NPT requires the Parties to pursue negotiations on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under international control.

These negotiations are long overdue.

Next week, I will call on all countries … and most particularly the nuclear-weapon states … to fulfill this obligation.

We should not have unrealistic expectations for the conference. But neither can we afford to lower our sights.

What I see on the horizon is a world free of nuclear weapons.

What I see before me are the people who will help make it happen.

Please keep up your good work.

Sound the alarm, keep up the pressure.

Ask your leaders what they are doing … personally … to eliminate the nuclear menace.

Above all, continue to be the voice of conscience.

We will rid the world of nuclear weapons.

And when we do, it will be because of people like you.

The world owes you its gratitude.

Thank you.

Note from The Nuclear Abolitionist: P.S. - Thanks to Judith LeBlanc, Field Organizer, Peace Action & Peace Action Education Fund, and NPT Coordinator, Peace Action Fund of New York State, for providing the text of the Secretary General's speech.

NPT Meet Draws Thousands of Anti-Nukes Activists

From: Common Dreams
Published on Monday, May 3, 2010 by Inter Press Service

by Anna Shen

UNITED NATIONS - Japanese women in kimonos carrying signs urging "No More Hiroshima", an 80-year-old grandmother, and 18 mayors from around the world were just some of the almost 15,000 people who marched in New York City Sunday to rally for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

A demonstrator holds a peace sign during an anti-nuclear weapons protest rally and march in New York May 2, 2010. (REUTERS/Chip East)The hot, humid weather did not deter the protesters, who walked from Times Square, passing the United Nations on their way to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza for a peace festival with music and heated discussion over the month-long review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which begins Monday at the U.N.

The crowd viewed the issue from different angles, but they were firmly united on one thing: the urgent need to end the nuclear arms race.

"It is now time to rid the world of all weapons of mass destruction. No more nukes, no more wars. Yes we can, yes we must," said Judith Le Blanc, an organizer with the group Peace Action.

Aug. 9 will mark the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the Japanese city of Nagasaki, said its current mayor, Tomihisa Taue.

Read More Here...

Gonna take Us All, Jon Fromer (RIP

To keep the spirit!


We are all Bradley Manning!